I think its the earliest childhood memory I have. My small hands gripped the chrome handle in front of me. My thighs aching with tension as I perched astride the yellow tank. The helmet muffling my father's voice as he gave me a warning, "Ready?" My hands, stony gripped on the metal bar, sought a tighter hold as the dirt bike began its ascent up the sand dune. He was the only one I would ride with, the only one I trusted. The motorcycles scared and thrilled me all at the same time. Kristina got her first experience on the motorcycle at my parents' house. She clung to Robert's back squealing as he whizzed across the back acre on the four wheeler. She showed little fear as she tried to ride the mini bike. It didn't take her long to get the hang of it and she spent much of the time asking when it was her turn to ride again.
Having so many brothers at the orphanage gave Kristina just the edge she needed to climb in the trees with the boys and swing from the rope swing until one of them snapped from overuse!
In the last few weeks, Kristina was able to reconnect with several friends who have been adopted by American families. Each Saturday or Sunday she chats endlessly in high pitched Russian with girls that she lived with for years in the orphanage. We're thankful that she has the opportunity to practice and use Russian. A few days ago, we learned that one of her friends would actually be in the Orlando area for a day. Anya and Kristina were very close and we couldn't pass up the chance for the girls to see each other again. We met up with Anya and her family for a few hours. The girls were immediately whispers and hugs. It was good to compare notes with Anya's parents. They're a wonderful family.
We visited Sea World and Busch Gardens (thanks, K!). Kristina still loves roller coasters and she even convinced Hannah to ride every one of them with her. They were drenched after riding the River Rapids, but insisted on going on more rides.
Church has been an exercise in self control for Kristina. She is still a constantly moving bundle of chatty energy. She cradles the song book, following the lines with her finger, belting out words here and there that she recognizes. When its time for the preaching, she turns her face into my arm and I can feel her warm breathe through my sleeve. She tries so hard not to strike up a conversation with me as she studies her church shoes swinging back and forth under the pew. Last Sunday Kristina was able to observe communion. I love the way our church practices this cherished sacrament. We knelt at the front of the church together as a family. She looked around curiously at the other families that were gathering together. Tom knelt before us, took Kristina's hand, and thanked God for bringing her into our family before he reminded us of the significance of the elements we were going to partake of. She watched as we each took the bread and wine and I loved that God would use her curiosity to provide us with a teachable moment.
So, is it all rainbows and lollipops? Of course not. We've had our fair share of growing pains, but the 10 weeks she spent with us in the summer of 2006 laid a very firm foundation. We went through much of the painful transition and willful disobedience back then (just check the past posts if you don't believe me). I appreciate that other adoptive parents like Jim, Beth, and Sean have been so honest about this period of time after adoption. Knitting a family together is not an instantaneous thing. God uses the process to refine all of us, parents, children, siblings. There have been times that I have thrown my hands up in the air and huffed out of the room. Robert has been the real hero in this portion of our journey. He has had the patience of Job, taking the time to speak with the children (over and over) about expectations and compassion for one another.
I returned to teaching this week. That's another story all to itself about the provision and goodness of God. It is so good to be back in the classroom and ministering with the gifts God has given me. All of us are enjoying school. Kristina is doing so well. We consistently reinforce in her that she is the smartest Ukrainian girl in the whole school! She's very proud of that fact!
I promise to try and be more consistent with posting. You all have been so faithful to check in and leave words of encouragement for us. We still believe that this is the beginning of an exciting journey for our family and we are in prayer over the path we think God may be calling us to. Please continue to lift us up in prayer!