Several phone calls back and forth between Robert and I yesterday consisted of, "You're sure?" followed by a text message to confirm in writing that he was indeed on board with another adoption. For those of you who have read my past posts, you'll know Robert wasn't the one who needed the push. We both want to add this little girl to our family, but the financial commitment scares me. We have less than a thousand dollars set aside for another adoption.
However, in my heart, I had already committed. Her picture is the background on my cell phone. I stepped out on Friday and shared with a close friend and co-worker our desire to adopt again (and she didn't faint!). I revamped our family blog and added a new header with all our pictures, including the little girl who would be our daughter.
Late last night I emailed the director of the organization that advocates to find families for these special needs children. I finally fell asleep after 3:30am. When I awoke this morning, I immediately reached for my cell phone to see if she had responded. And she had.
Because of the urgency of finding homes for these children before they are sent away to institutions, they require a financial commitment up front. The money goes into a fund that is returned to the adoptive family once they complete all their paperwork and submit their adoption petition to the Ukrainian government. It is reasonable and understandable. These children are living on borrowed time and need families who are in a position to move forward quickly to complete an adoption. "Our" little girl will be four next month. Four is the magic number that sends these precious children away from baby houses. Many do not survive the first year in these mental institution. If a family can commit to her, the orphanage director may be able to delay her transfer until the end of summer.
I emailed the director back and let her know we weren't in the position to make that commitment, but we would try. And with that, I went back to our family blog and removed the little girl's picture from our family header. I replaced it with a heart and "+1". Then I added a PayPal donation button to the sidebar. This process will be out of our hands. We are praying and asking God to open the door to the child who would be our daughter. Please pray with us.
With that said, we are moving. At least moving blogs. Kristina's Story was meant to chronicle our journey to adopt Kristina. God has seen that through. What was one orphan's story turned into the story of all of us. Please join us at our family blog to continue the journey.
Commit your way to the LORD, Trust also in Him, and He will do it. -Psalm 37:5
One of my blog friends emailed me about a week ago and asked me what my hesitation was with moving forward with this adoption. Even as I clicked away my reply on the keyboard, I realized how ridiculous my response was. I found myself arguing with my own reasoning. The only hesitation we have is the financial commitment that another adoption demands.
And yes, I know what some of you are thinking. We are the same people who adopted Kristina 15 months ago. The same people who God provided those adoption funds for. Finances couldn't be worse (yet we are thankful for what we have). The future couldn't be more uncertain (yet we know God directs our path). I laid awake from 2:30-4:30 last night thinking and praying. I tried to think of what I have of value that I could sell. There are no accounts to tap. Our savings are gone from our Mississippi adventure.
"What you need is a benefactor," Robert teased me as I was wrestling with the numbers in my head. My instant reaction was, "I do. He owns the cattle on a thousand hills." Yet putting that faith into action is easier said than done. This is the conversation that runs through my head. See what I'm dealing with?
We do not have the luxury of time either. The child we are praying over will age out of the orphanage she is in and, due to her disability, will be sent to an institution in a few months. It's not a place she belongs. It's not a place any child belongs. Taking decisive action is of the essence. Yet here I stand, terrified to move. If I could, I would call the facilitator and commit to this adoption tonight. If I could . . .
And Jesus said to him, " 'If You can?' All things are possible to him who believes." Immediately the boy's father cried out and said, "I do believe; help my unbelief." -Mark 9:23-24
My understanding of adoption, and specifically the true spirit of adoption, has been an evolving process. At the last church group we spoke to, I printed handouts that members could slip into their Bibles with a call to action, specific things they could do to minister to orphans. Robert proofread what I had typed up and quickly corrected one of my points, "Honey, you can't say God has called everyone to adoption."
"Yes, I can. He does call us all to adoption."
"But you can't SAY that God is calling each of them to ADOPT."
"And why not?"
Frustrated, he said, "Well, you just CAN'T."
I understood what he was getting at, but quite frankly, I do believe that Christians should be ministering to orphans by bringing them into their families. There is no clearer picture of God's redemptive love than this earthly action. So why is adoption often considered "plan B" for many families? If we as Christians believe that adoption falls to those who cannot conceive otherwise, then we have missed the message of adoption.
Adoption was always God's Plan A. It wasn't an afterthought in the redemptive plan for mankind. And perhaps what is just as humbling is WHO God chose to adopt. God chose the unwanted, the poor, the lame, the lowest of creation to redeem as his sons and daughters. That would be us, chosen to be heirs to the great King. There was nothing we brought to the table. Nothing that made us appealing. God chose us because of His boundless goodness.
There is a waiting list for healthy newborns. Families line up to adopt these precious children. But what about the others? In advocating for older child adoption, I found myself discouraged by families who would consider adopting an infant, but didn't feel as though they were 'equipped' for anything else. Yes, healthy newborns need families too, but we've misunderstood the true spirit of adoption if we limit our role in God's calling in this way.
I was praying to God about this and voicing my frustration months ago, when I distinctly felt Him question me about MY understanding of adoption. Would I be willing to adopt ANY orphan God placed in my path? What about another older child? What about a child of another heritage? What about a child with a disability? If I truly believed the spirit of adoption does not discriminate, then I wouldn't hesitate to say, "yes". But I examined myself and found fear. Was I 'equipped' to handle a child with a disability? Was I one of those potential adopters who put stipulations on a child that would join my family?
And then God reminded me that adoption isn't about the adopter. It's about the orphan. It's not about filling a void in a family. It's about filling a void in a fatherless child. It's about providing a family - safety, security, and acceptance in a hostile world. And God did a strange thing. He opened my frightened heart to the possibility of adopting a child with a disability.
I decided to test Robert on this issue and see what he thought, "I'm going to ask you a question and I don't want you to answer me right away. I want you to really think about what I'm asking you. Okay?"
"Who would you be willing to adopt? Any child?"
I barely got the word 'child' out of my mouth when he replied, "Any child."
"No! I told you to really think about it. Don't give me a gut response. Really think about what I'm asking. Would you be willing to adopt a child with special needs?"
This time he thought for about 10 seconds before he replied, "Yeah. Any child. They need families too, right?"
What does this mean for us? Can we meet the needs of a disabled child? Do we have the strength and resources? Of course. All those things come from God. We have many adoptive friends who have walked this path and adopted children rejected by their mothers, their homelands, and potential families because they weren't healthy infants. Their stories are inspiring testimonies to the goodness of God. In them we see the true spirit of adoption. We see what God intended. We see Plan A.
My brethren, do not hold your faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ with an attitude of personal favoritism. For if a man comes into your assembly with a gold ring and dressed in fine clothes, and there also comes in a poor man in dirty clothes, and you pay special attention to the one who is wearing the fine clothes, and say, "You sit here in a good place," and you say to the poor man, "You stand over there, or sit down by my footstool," have you not made distinctions among yourselves, and become judges with evil motives?
Listen, my beloved brethren: did not God choose the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him? -James 2:1-5
Two are better than one because they have a good return for their labor. For if either of them falls, the one will lift up his companion. But woe to the one who falls when there is not another to lift him up. Furthermore, if two lie down together they keep warm, but how can one be warm alone? And if one can overpower him who is alone, two can resist him. A cord of three strands is not quickly torn apart. -Ecclesiastes 4:9-12
Last Thursday night I was literally at the end of my proverbial rope. I was frantically trying to help Nathanael construct a mosaic for an ancient Rome project and Samuel cook Tiger Sweets for an ancient Egypt project. Somewhere in the midst of supervising wet cement pouring and cooking one of the oldest known recipes to man, I felt myself unraveling. Hannah still needed help with math, Kristina wanted to bounce ideas off of me for a project due next week, Joshua needed a special lunch packed for his field trip the next day, and a stack of ungraded essays beckoned impatiently from the other room. God has brought the above verse to mind when I've felt overwhelmed in the last few weeks. He has reminded me that I'm not alone.
Robert came in Saturday morning and I can honestly say "phew!". We are all so happy to have him here for a few days! We've easily fallen back into our comfortable routine. Robert and the boys watching old horror movies, Robert teasing Kristina like a smitten eight year old, the humor of filling up an entire row of pews at church. It's good to be together again.
Even with all there is to keep me busy, my heart has been heavy recently with adoption issues. We've been talking about adopting again for some time and so the topic isn't necessarily new. I immediately broached the subject to see where he was with all of it.
"Honey, I really feel burdened to return to Ukraine. I know the timing is terrible and finances couldn't be worse, but I really want to go."
"Okay? I mean, I'm not necessarily talking about returning to Odessa. I feel like there's another area I should visit with children in more dire circumstances."
It was the same nonchalance with which he greeted my suggestion about adopting an older child two years ago. Such a sweet man. He humors me, but I know he would buy the plane ticket tomorrow if we could and let me follow my heart. I am so grateful to have a husband who shares my desire to love these children.
And there is a child. This child may simply be another "Sophia" meant to lead our hearts in trusting God, but the child is there nonetheless. I've stared at the photo saved to my laptop repeatedly over the last month. I check my email constantly hoping for some further information or photos from other families who have recently visited the orphanage. Why now? Why am I so drawn? I hesitate to even share this, but I'm hoping you'll pray. Pray that God will make His will clear and fill us with faith for whatever He calls us to. It is not good that any child should be alone. Pray that God will provide a family for this child . . . to lift up, to keep warm, to protect . . . whoever that may be.
Kristina has wanted a cell phone since she arrived here and we have told her "no" repeatedly for several reasons. Mostly, we didn't feel she possessed the maturity to handle the privledge. And we've made it a rule that whenever the kids insist that they "need" something, we put them off until they understand the difference between "want" and "need". Kristina still struggles with that one.
Nathanael and Hannah both have prepaid phones that they each purchased with their own money. They don't use the phones compulsively and they budget their minutes to ensure they keep their phones. Our kids don't receive an allowance. Any money they have, they earn. Kristina pointed to them and claimed it wasn't fair that they had phones and she didn't. Another thing not to say to me: "fair". I explained why we didn't feel she was ready for the responsibility and reminded her that she couldn't afford to buy one anyway.
Well, she saved. Last weekend she had enough to buy the cheapest prepaid phone available and a small pack of minutes to activate it. I had the phone taken apart and was typing the serial number into the online activation page when Kristina exclaimed, "Oh! My phone was made in Korea!" Confused over her enthusiasm, I looked up for more explaination. Seeing my perplexed stare, she explained, "My best friend was made in Korea!" I laughed to myself. Her best friend Isabelle at school is Korean.
Once I had her phone activated and setup, I turned it over to her with a overview of how things worked, how much text messages cost, and voice calls so she could keep up with her account. I reminded her that when her minutes were gone they were gone until she saved up enough to replenish her account. I wasn't thrilled about the whole thing, but Robert thought it would be a good experience for her.
Her phone was activated on Wednesday afternoon and later that evening I logged onto her online account to make sure the promo code for minutes went through. In a three hour period, she had managed to send and receive a total of over 70 text messages. Half of the minutes she had purchased were gone. I was livid. What I thought would happen was happening. I was upset at her lack of stewardship and self control. Robert, however, thought it was great. "What are you so upset over?" he asked, "She's going to be out of minutes in a few days. It will be a great learning lesson for her."
I called her over to see the online account activity on her phone. She knew she did exactly what I told her not to do. I showed her how much money was left on her account and reminded her, "when it's gone, it's gone". Since Wednesday she has sent two text messages: one to a friend telling her she couldn't text for awhile and one to her dad telling him she loves him. Lesson learned.
Okay, let me explain. A month ago I posted some resolutions that I hoped would stick; one of which was to post more often. It's been ten days since my last post (doesn't that sound like the intro at an AA meeting???) and I've already gotten a few "Ahem . . . .?"'s from several of you. So let me fill you in on what's going on.
Many of you know that we moved to Mississippi last summer. Our house has been on the market back in Florida. I started a dream teaching job and Robert had no doubt he would be able to pick up in the construction business once we arrived. Fast forward seven months and the house still hasn't sold (sound familiar, Tami?), the construction industry in South Mississippi has literally dried up because of the economy, and . . . well . . . my job still rocks. Long story short, Robert moved back to Florida a few weeks ago where he is already working on a beautiful 5000 sq foot house. I have been playing single parent in the interim and missing him terribly. In fact, I'm sitting in a public library in Orlando right now typing this. I flew in for a long weekend to spend some time with him and I fly back to Mississippi tonight. So we've all had to be flexible and prayerful about what the future holds. Nothing in stone, but if the house doesn't sell by the time my contract is up at the end of the school year, we will likely need to move back to Florida. It's a bittersweet fact and I am simply laying it all at the Master's feet.
So let me touch on the resolutions and let you know where I stand with all of it: 1. More personal devotion time. I'm actually doing really well with this one. I spend some time reading and praying each morning before the children get up.
2. Specific devotion with the girls. This one hasn't taken off yet. With the current situation, it's been difficult to carve out time for devotion that doesn't include the boys. I'm working on it though!
3. More exercise I'm actually doing really well with this one and enjoying the benefits. I purposely avoid scales like the plague, but I did get on one when I got home. I've lost 12 pounds since I was here over Christmas. Not bad!
4.Raise orphan awareness Still a burning passion in my heart. We're looking at travel options for the Spring/Summer. I've had a few more requests for the DVD and some encouraging emails about the effect of the video on several people. Praise God! YouTube removed the audio from our Orphans of Ukraine video recently which really bummed me out. But hey, the fact that its been seen over 46,000 times is amazing!!!
5. Following a tighter budget Doing good! I'm surprised what we can get by on now that Robert's not part of the household budget. Just joking, hon!!!
6. More home cooked meals Getting better at this one. The kids have been great about chipping in with the cooking more.
7. Writing Still planning on this! It's always in the back of my mind, things I want to tell you about. It seems like from the time we get home from school, exercise, do homework, cook dinner, clean up, and have baths it's already 10pm!
8.Actively seek God about adding to our family. I got several questions on this one and wish I had more details to share. We haven't identified a child/ren at this point. We are prayerfully considering the true spirit of adoption and looking for more than a healthy infant, perhaps even a child with delays or handicaps. Pray with us on that!
So that's where we stand! Lots on going on and a future with lots more to anticipate. Post again soon . . . I promise!
At first, I thought it was one of those annoying spam comments that end up on the blog periodically. You know, the ones that are in a foreign language and point you to some website selling t-shirts. Upon closer inspection, I saw Kristina's name and realized it was a message for her. It was a message from her best friend in the orphanage. A girl who was the closest thing to a sister Kristina has ever known. Karina's adoptive family is in Odessa to claim their daughter and they must have allowed Karina on the computer to send this message across cyberspace.
I knew Kristina would be ecstatic. She jumped up and down reading and re-reading the message on my cell phone. She wanted to get on the computer right away and post a message for Karina on the Nasekos' blog. We were due to youth group though, so I promised she could write as soon as we returned home. Holding me to my promise, she plopped down on her bed with the laptop and began to click away on the keyboard two hours later. She was so happy, I clicked a few pictures of her.
Periodically she'd look up and regale me with a memory of her time with Karina. The clicking on the keyboard became slower and the interruptions to share a memory with me became more frequent. Before I knew it, she was remembering things that made her shake as she spoke. She gripped the sides of the keyboard and her voice grew tense as she struggled to hide her feelings. In her mind's eye she was seeing old photos of her mother, the pigs her grandmother owned, and the first orphanage she lived in. Eyes downcast, she was remembering running away from the orphanage and navigating public transportation back to her father's house. She was seven years old. She was remembering the pain of feeling his anger upon finding her on his doorstep and then him escorting her back to the orphanage. He made sure she understood that the orphanage was her home. The orphanage was where she belonged.
My heart broke watching her relive these memories and share them with me afresh. Sensing my empathy to her pain, she set the computer to the side and made her way into my arms. I reminded her she would never wonder about home again. She would never question where she belonged. Her father had lost out by throwing her away. He had missed out on knowing a beautiful girl and we had been blessed to scoop her up and make her our own.
Kristina has moments where she cannot remember things from the past, even as recently as my first trip to Ukraine in 2006 where we met. She expends a great deal of energy suppressing a painful past. Tonight is the first time in six months that she has chosen to open up and talk. We don't push her to share; we know that things come when she is ready to talk. Please pray for our beautiful jewel of a child. We are so blessed to have her as part of our family.
I blame Debbie and Tami for teaching me in the first place, but I have learned how to make my own blog headers (like the one above) and backgrounds!!! It's a good thing this is a three day weekend. Now I have time to play around and see what I can create. Robert hates the current pink layout. He thinks it looks like a 12 year old's blog. I think he's just jealous. After all, he did ask me if I could custom create one for him. I'm working on my fourth layout for Kristina's Story. He'll just have to wait!!!
I am always fascinated by the locations that pop up daily on our blog's live traffic feed. We have visitors from all over the world! According to Jennifer, one of our adoption buddies, it's National Delurking Week. I've never done this, but I must admit I'm curious. If you're reading this, whether it's your first time stopping by or you're a regular visitor, leave me a comment. Introduce yourself or just say "hi". Did you find us through our website? Another blog? Adoption network? I'm curious to see who we're sharing blog space with!
When we first moved in to our rental in Mississippi, we quickly learned that the property came with a resident cat . . . and she wasn't alone. The gorgeous pale gray tabby was sweet and friendly with large black rimmed eyes. It wasn't hard to tell that she was a little large around the middle so the kids aptly dubbed her "Prego". A few weeks after we arrived, six tiny kittens emerged from the shadows of the porch to find five surrogate "moms" in the kids. Chub Chub, Speedy, Cheetah, Jackie, Daredevil, and Minnie greeted the kids each afternoon as the school bus rumbled to a stop in front of the house. Homework was more palatable done on the floor of the porch as kittens chased each other around your shoes. Books were easier to read when propped on the pile of kittens that clambered into your lap for a nap as soon as you sat down. We lost our beloved Jack cat when we first moved to MS, so the kittens presence has been a balm to sooth that loss. We've enjoyed having these little treats from under the porch!
I always made them in my mind, but rarely shared them. People tend to hold you to these things once you publicize them. "Hey, is that a chili dog you're eating? Weren't you going on a diet?" But maybe that's the point. Putting it out there obligates us somewhat to keeping them . . . or at least trying. So what's on my list this year?
1. More personal devotion time. Do we all make this one? I'm determined to make it the priority it should be.
2. Specific devotion with the girls. We're starting one of Dr. Kistler's publications John Angell Jones' Female Piety this week. I see the girls coming into their own as young women. They're at a cross roads with many issues and this book really provides the ground for conversation on modesty, godliness, and their future calling as Christian women.
3. More exercise We have thoroughly enjoyed all the running and playing we've done over Christmas break. Unfortunately, we couldn't bring the bikes back to MS, but we did bring the football and basketball!
4.Raise orphan awareness We've been so wrapped up in our moving experience in the last 6 months, that we haven't sought opportunities to share like we should. Our speaking engagement a few weeks back resulted in a phone call tonight. Several members would like to travel to Ukraine with us and minister to these children. Praise God.
5. Following a tighter budget This one is a plain necessity!
6. More home cooked meals This falls off the radar more than I'd like to admit. I think the secret is to plan ahead. I love using the crock pot. Any suggestions???
7. Writing Yes, I'm saying I plan to blog more consistently. I really am. Really.
8.Actively seek God about adding to our family. We're ready. We really are. Really.
What's on your list this year? Even if I didn't tag you, feel free to play along; leave me a comment or shoot me an email letting me know so I can check out your blog! I promise, no comments if I see you with a chili dog in a few weeks!
On Friday we decided to test our ability to ride our old bike path: a 21 mile stretch. The wonderful phone Robert gave me for our anniversary has an amazing program that uses GPS to track and map our entire route, measuring miles traveled, time, elevation, calories burned etc. We just had to try it out! We started the path with high hopes, but by the time we reached the trail head roughly 3 miles from the house, we were beginning to wonder if we'd be able to endure the entire journey. Nevertheless, we pedaled on and made it to the 10.5 mile mark and our resting point before we knew it. We took a break and had a light lunch before braving our way back. The girls befriended two horses in a nearby pasture and spent some time cooing to the animals until they managed to entice one to the fence.
Our friend Ulyses met us and decided he would ride all the way back with us. Brave soul! It was perfect weather and we were able to chat and laugh on the way back. That made the going much easier. We were about a mile from the house when Kristina wiped out. She laughed it off though and was more upset about the dirt on her jeans than anything else. Such a girl!