Saturday, January 29, 2011

Domino Thoughts

  • We are begging you to keep praying this week more steadfastly than ever. Pray for the judge specifically. We have felt a powerful urge to pray for her as a person, not just her decision about our adoption, and we believe that the Spirit is working on her in bigger ways than we ever imagined. We were so strengthened by your prayers last week. I literally felt the arms of God's love around me; especially when I would start to lose a little bit of my faith. I'm not a strong person naturally, so it was obviously God's strength carrying me. So please friends, continue to offer up those prayers. If you feel inclined to fast, I know there will be many fasting again this Tuesday for our adoption and the adoptions of the other three children from our region whose adoptions hang in the balance. I'm not trying to be sensational or dramatic when I say that; I just want you to understand the seriousness of what we are facing. We know that spiritual warfare is being battled over the lives of these children, as it is in all of our lives. Prayer is our weapon in this war.
  • We have been told by our adoption agency that she will give our facilitator an answer about our court date on Wednesday (which is Tuesday night in the U.S. since we are anywhere from 7-10 hours behind EE time, depending on where in the U.S. you live). This means we probably won't find out any news about her decision until Wednesday afternoon or Thursday morning. I will do my best to update the blog and post on Facebook as soon as we hear something. If the answer is no, then it may take a little time for me to process this and I might not update immediately. But I promise I will do my best to let everyone know as soon as I'm able to post.
  • We got our fingerprinting date to have our USCIS fingerprints re-done. It's going to be February 7th at 8 a.m. I'm very thankful it's so quick. We sent in our application on January 6. So it took about a month to get the date. I hope we get the results back as quickly after we get the fingerprints done. Ours expire on February 27th. We cannot adopt without the results so it's kind of a big deal. If you're not familiar with FBI fingerprinting and adoptions, these are one of the big things you do at the beginning of the process. They are good for 18 months. We had ours done for the first time in November of 2009. Never in my wildest dreams did I think we would have to have them redone...I just couldn't have imagined that we wouldn't have our child home after 18 months. 
  • We are already hearing stories of how Kirill's story has changed lives and glorified God. Praise God! We would love to hear any stories you have. We also love I said, the prayers are sustaining us...and we love to hear that you are praying!
  • THIS SERMON (Unstoppable) has carried me through the last week. I'm urging you to listen to it. It will change your life, I promise, especially if you are wondering why God seems to be ignoring your prayers or wonder why suffering is a part of your life. 
  • I have a huge food baby from this past week. My initial reaction to bad news/stress/worry is not eating for a day or two. Then as I embrace the stress, I embrace carbohydrates and sugar. Gigi's cupcakes just opened in my town and I think I've single-handedly kept it in business for the past three days. I need an intervention or people are going to ask if I'm expecting.
  • We lost another Reece's Rainbow child this week. Sandra died in an orphanage without ever knowing the love of parents, family, brothers or sisters. She has been a child that I've always looked at fondly. Something about her angelic face touched me. I'm not sure exactly how many children from Reece's Rainbow have died this winter, but it seems like more than in past years. Children in EE orphanages are especially susceptible to death during the harsh winter months because of illness and lack of medical care. Outbreaks of flu and pneumonia can take children quickly when there isn't medicine to treat the illness and the child is already fragile from lack of nutrition, love, and routine health care. Add in the medical fragility of heart conditions that many children with DS have, and it's a tenuous situation. Simple surgeries and medicines widely available in the U.S. could save these children. There is no reason they should die. None. What is your excuse? Is God calling you to adopt? Think about it and if your reasons are all selfish (e.g., it will change my lifestyle, it will require me to sacrifice financially, it will take up my time), then that, my friends, is just plain wrong. I'm sorry if I sound too assertive but I just don't feel like we have time to beat around the bush on why adoption is so important.
  • And finally, In Christ Alone is probably my favorite worship song. I'm listening to it with new ears during this season of our adoption. I love the ethereal, wispy blend of the words and the music. The first and last stanzas are really powerful and have become my theme song for the week.

In Christ alone my hope is found
He is my light, my strength, my song
This Cornerstone, this solid ground
Firm through the fiercest drought and storm
What heights of love, what depths of peace
When fears are stilled, when strivings cease
My Comforter, my All in All
Here in the love of Christ I stand

No guilt of life, no fear in death
This is the power of Christ in me
From life's first cry to final breath
Jesus commands my destiny

No power of hell, no scheme of man
Can ever pluck me from His hand
'til He returns or calls me home
Here in the power of Christ I'll stand

Wednesday, January 26, 2011


Psalm 33:18-22
18 But the eyes of the LORD are on those who fear him,
   on those whose hope is in his unfailing love,
19 to deliver them from death
   and keep them alive in famine.
 20 We wait in hope for the LORD;
   he is our help and our shield.
21 In him our hearts rejoice,
   for we trust in his holy name.
22 May your unfailing love be with us, LORD,
   even as we put our hope in you.

Psalm 27:13-14
13 I remain confident of this:
   I will see the goodness of the LORD
   in the land of the living.
14 Wait for the LORD;
   be strong and take heart
   and wait for the LORD.

Psalm 40:1-3
1 I waited patiently for the Lord to help me,
      and he turned to me and heard my cry.
 2 He lifted me out of the pit of despair,
      out of the mud and the mire.
   He set my feet on solid ground
      and steadied me as I walked along.
 3 He has given me a new song to sing,
      a hymn of praise to our God.
   Many will see what he has done and be amazed.
      They will put their trust in the Lord.

Lamentations 3:22-33
22 Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed,
   for his compassions never fail.
23 They are new every morning;
   great is your faithfulness.
24 I say to myself, “The LORD is my portion;
   therefore I will wait for him.”
 25 The LORD is good to those whose hope is in him,
   to the one who seeks him;
26 it is good to wait quietly 
   for the salvation of the LORD.
27 It is good for a man to bear the yoke
   while he is young.
 28 Let him sit alone in silence,
   for the LORD has laid it on him.
29 Let him bury his face in the dust—
   there may yet be hope.
30 Let him offer his cheek to one who would strike him,
   and let him be filled with disgrace.
 31 For no one is cast off
   by the Lord forever.
32 Though he brings grief, he will show compassion,
   so great is his unfailing love.
33 For he does not willingly bring affliction
   or grief to anyone.

Today's news was clear: wait. To quote our agency worker, "it is neither good nor bad. The judge took your case and will have an answer in a week. So we wait." I disagree that it was neither good nor bad. It was good news. It was an answer to our prayers: wait.

We tend to focus on ourselves and what this means to us personally. But what if this process isn't about us at all? What if this entire process is for someone else? I'm not even talking about K. What if this process is for the judge? What if it's for a complete stranger that hears our story and is moved? What if it's for people we meet in K's country who see us giving everything we have emotionally and physically to adopt our son? What if it's for the orphanage workers who are being changed by taking care of our son in our absence? Are we willing to put our own desires aside to further God's kingdom according to HIS perfect time?

So please, if you've been praying for this situation, do not lose heart! Yes, it would have been awesome if God had granted our pleas in the way we asked and we got a court date today. But won't it be that much more awesome when he answers according to HIS will and in HIS time? How much better are his ways than ours?

So we wait.

God's Comfort Is...

  • 13 families gathering around us to pray over our adoption last night
  • 14 college students gathering during the night to pray over our adoption
  • a friend texting me scripture every hour, on the hour, all day and into the night
  • over 30 text messages from friends offering encouragement and support
  • over 20 emails offering encouragement and support...2 from strangers
  • lots of Facebook messages & posts
  • many people, I'll never know how many for sure, fasting all day for our adoption
  • phone calls from people throughout the day offering words of comfort and strength
  • Reece's Rainbow Yahoo Group
  • two other adoptive mommies from our region staying up in prayer all night long
II Cor 1:3-7
3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. 5 For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ. 6 If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer. 7 And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

All We Can Do

Wow...this is a hard post to write. I've tried to come up with a creative way to start but I just don't have any words that seem to do justice to the enormity of my emotions. I think I'm the closest to being empty of myself and control that I've ever been. That's a great thing; a very peaceful feeling. I know that regardless of the outcome, I'm HIS and HE IS MINE. I have no fear in this life, because to die is gain. Soak that in...let it marinate...

Tonight while our country sleeps, our facilitator will be meeting with the judge to ask her to assign us a court date. This will also affect the adoption of other families in our region, as K and one other little girl will be the first children with Down Syndrome ever adopted out of that region. One other family trying to adopt from that region will not be allowed a first travel date until our adoptions are final.

Adopting children with DS is new & foreign to the people there. Our children will open the door for many others if we are allowed to adopt them. I can't stress enough the importance of this meeting. When we were at the orphanage, we were told that we were the first visitors to the orphanage in SEVEN YEARS. Seven years since anyone had wanted a child from this orphanage full of 98 precious little souls. Ninety-eight children that were labeled as "damaged" by their society and placed as far out of sight and mind as possible. 

People have been praying, fasting, sending texts, emails, phone calls...I'm overwhelmed with the support and the love we've been given. K is going to have such a great extended family of people who have labored in prayer for him. I don't think you will ever know how humbled, blessed, and strengthened we have been by your prayers. I know K is feeling the prayers as well. 

I've heard people say, "Well, all we can do is pray" about situations before. God has taught me something very important through all of this: that is a crappy expression. I think I'm changing it around. I'm going to start saying: "We can do ALL when we pray." Prayer is HUGE. PRAYER IS DOING SOMETHING. PRAYER IS DOING THE MOST IMPORTANT THING. WE ARE TALKING TO THE GOD OF THE UNIVERSE!

God forgive me for not praying more. For not praying when things are "good" and I think I'm in control. God controls it all. Even the judge...

Proverbs 21

    1. The Lord can control a king's mind as he controls a river;
        he can direct it as he pleases.

As soon as we know anything, I will let you all know by any and all means, Facebook, text, email, will actually probably be able to hear me yelling from our apartment if we get a court date. Remember though, no matter what, God is still God. We are only here by his hand to carry out his purpose, which is spreading the Gospel of Christ. We will continue to live out our purpose no matter what! Thank you for being faithful in prayer for us & K.

Monday, January 24, 2011


Psalm 20

 1 May the LORD answer you when you are in distress;
   may the name of the God of Jacob protect you.
2 May he send you help from the sanctuary
   and grant you support from Zion.
3 May he remember all your sacrifices
   and accept your burnt offerings.[b]
4 May he give you the desire of your heart
   and make all your plans succeed.
5 May we shout for joy over your victory
   and lift up our banners in the name of our God.
   May the LORD grant all your requests.
 6 Now this I know:
   The LORD gives victory to his anointed.
He answers him from his heavenly sanctuary
   with the victorious power of his right hand.
7 Some trust in chariots and some in horses,
   but we trust in the name of the LORD our God.
8 They are brought to their knees and fall,
   but we rise up and stand firm.
9 LORD, give victory to the king!
   Answer us when we call!

Psalm 82

 1 God presides over heaven’s court;
      he pronounces judgment on the heavenly beings:
 2 “How long will you hand down unjust decisions
      by favoring the wicked?
 3 “Give justice to the poor and the orphan;
      uphold the rights of the oppressed and the destitute.
 4 Rescue the poor and helpless;
      deliver them from the grasp of evil people.
 5 But these oppressors know nothing;
      they are so ignorant!
   They wander about in darkness,
      while the whole world is shaken to the core.
 6 I say, ‘You are gods;
      you are all children of the Most High.
 7 But you will die like mere mortals
      and fall like every other ruler.’”
 8 Rise up, O God, and judge the earth,
      for all the nations belong to you.

This Love by Mandi Mapes

(You should go to iTunes immediately and download this song if you're adopting!)

I’ve never felt this way before
funny how you found your way to my door   
and suddenly my prayers are coming true
and these arms are not letting go of you

this love this love is the deep kind
you’re my baby, you’re my sunshine
I’ll hold your hand, be your biggest fan
and I’ll love you all of the time

our eyes are not quite the same shade
and your hair blows in the wind a different way 
but I am your mother and 
I love you just the same 
so I’ll take your hand honey 
and you can take my name

my heart has been redeemed,
adopted and now I know my Father
this grace that I’ve received 
I want to show you
I want to show you

this love this love is the deep kind
it hangs on through the storm and the sunshine
I’ll hold your hand, be your biggest fan
and I’ll love you all of the time
© 2010 Mandi Mapes

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Can You Hear the Children?

I found this poem on John Piper's website. I absolutely love it.

Do you hear the children crying?
I can hear them every day,
Crying, sighing, dying, flying
Somewhere safe where they can play.
Somewhere safe from all the dangers,
Somewhere safe from Crack and AIDS,
Safe from lust and lurking strangers,
Safe from war and bombing raids.
Somewhere safe from malnutrition,
Safe from daddy's damning voice,
Safe from mommy's cool ambition,
Safe from deadly goddess, Choice.
Do you hear the children crying?
I can hear them every day,
Crying, sighing, dying, flying
Somewhere safe where they can play.
* * * *
Do you see the children meeting?
I can see them in the sky,
Meeting, seating, eating, greeting
Jesus with the answer why.
Why the milk no longer nourished,
Why the water made them sick,
Why the crops no longer flourished,
Why the belly got so thick.
Why they never knew the reason
Friends had vanished out of sight,
Why some suffered for a season,
Others never saw the light.
Do you see the children meeting?
I can see them in the sky,
Meeting, seating, eating, greeting
Jesus with the answer why.
* * * *
Do you hear the children singing?
I can hear them high above,
Singing, springing, ringing, bringing
Glory to the God of love.
Glory for the gift of living,
Glory for the end of pain,
Glory for the gift of giving,
Glory for eternal gain.
Glory from the ones forsaken,
Glory from the lost and lone,
Glory when the infants waken,
Orphans on the Father's throne
Do you hear the children singing?
I can hear them high above,
Singing, springing, ringing, bringing
Glory to the God of love.
* * * *
Do you see the children coming?
I can see them on the clouds,
Coming, strumming, drumming, humming
Songs with heaven's happy crowds.
Songs with lots of happy clapping,
Songs that set the heart on fire,
Songs that make your foot start tapping,
Songs that make a merry choir.
Songs so loud the mountains tremble,
Songs so pure the canyons ring,
When the children all assemble
Millions, millions, round the King.
Do you see the children coming?
I can see them on the clouds,
Coming, strumming, drumming, humming
Songs with heaven's happy crowds.
* * * *
Do you see the children waiting?
I can see them all aglow
Waiting, waiting, waiting, waiting,
Who of us will rise and go?
Will we turn and fly to meet them
In the light of candle two?
I intend to rise and greet them.
Come and go with me, would you?

Saturday, January 22, 2011

A Series of Unfortunate Events

One of the things that I'm most afraid of in this adoption process is that our story is going to be a discouragement to other families considering adoption. Our adoption has been extremely arduous, this is true. But I want you to understand something; I would do it all over again in a heartbeat. I want to take some time to explain WHY our process has been so difficult. We sometimes joke, between our tears, that it has been "a series of unfortunate events."

First of all, our adoption is NOT typical for Eastern European adoptions. Most EE adoptions, from start to finish, take about 8-12 months. We are on month 19. If you've been following our journey from the beginning, you already understand all of the ups and downs that we've experienced. If you are new to this blog, I want to take this post to explain our unique experience and why our adoption has been anything BUT typical.

In the summer of 2009, we committed to adopt a little 2-year-old boy named Sergey from the same country as Kirill (whom we are currently adopting). Our homestudy was completed in a couple of months and we completed our dossier by Christmas. It was submitted to our country and we anticipated we would travel sometime in January 2010.

Days and weeks passed and I began to worry. I was reassured by our adoption agency that everything was fine and we would receive our travel date "any day now." However, I knew something was up after February came and went and still no travel date. On March 16, 2010, I received a phone call while running errands. I will never forget where I was or the words from our social worker, "We have received devastating news about little Sergey." Basically everything after that was a blur, but I heard enough to know that Sergey wasn't going to be ours. He never should have been listed on his country's registry of orphans because all of his family members had not been notified of his orphaned status. When the Minister of Education discovered this error, he contacted the family members who decided to adopt Sergey. This was probably one of the worst days of my life. I just couldn't understand how such a terrible mistake could happen. However, God revealed many things to us through this experience. We are adopting because we are following what we believe is God's command to care for orphans. Our goal is to help solve the orphan crisis by adopting a child and hopefully inspiring others to adopt. We feel that because of our interest in Sergey, his family members were notified and he is now one less orphan. We choose to look at this situation as a blessing because through our adoption process, there will be two children in homes, out of orphanages, and with loving families.

We took some time to grieve the loss of our hopes and dreams to make Sergey a part of our family. We knew we still wanted to adopt a little boy with Down Syndrome, but we had no idea of where to begin as far as choosing another child. We knew we didn't want to change agencies or countries because a) we were very happy with our adoption agency and b) we didn't want to have to redo all of our paperwork, which would result in a loss of time and money. Our adoption agency works in more than one region of the country Sergey was from, so we asked them to help us identify a child. They gave us several names and photos of children, but we really only considered one...a four-year-old boy named Kirill. It's a long story that you can read about HERE, but Kirill was just supposed to be ours and we knew it right away.  So we committed to adopt Kirill and began making the necessary changes to our dossier due to K being in a different region and being a different age. This was the first round of redoing paperwork...there would be many, many more. The main things we had to do: update our homestudy to reflect our desire for and ability to parent an older child AND update our USCIS approval for an older child. This paperwork was done rather quickly and we had re-submitted our dossier to Kirill's region by mid-April.

But mid-April was the same month that Torry Hansen decided to send her adopted child back to Eastern Europe, all alone, on a plane, because she couldn't parent him. Now I want to take an opportunity here to clarify something that has been bothering me for a long, long time. The Torry Hansen case makes me extremely angry. Her careless actions have caused many, many children to remain in orphanages when they could be home with their families. Does this mean I don't empathize her? Absolutely not. I totally get that she was probably overwhelmed and felt desperate. I have worked with families in my professional life, and I also have personal connections to families who have had to dissolve their adoptions. It is a hellish thing to go through, there is no doubt. However, I WILL NEVER CONDONE CHILD ABANDONMENT AS JUSTIFIABLE. What she did was WRONG. Period. There is never an excuse to abandon a child. If you disagree, that's your opinion. I have a very different one. There are measures that adoptive parents can take to dissolve an adoption. Ms. Hansen did absolutely nothing to try to follow the procedures for dissolving an adoption. She did not disclose to ANYONE that she was having difficulty with her child. In fact, when follow-up visits were done by the social worker, Ms. Hansen did not report any problems at all. There are many other details of the case that I won't go into because it really doesn't pertain to this post. I'm sorry I'm off on a tangent, but I just want people to understand that it's o.k. to be angry with someone for doing something so wrong. You can still love them and pray for them, but you do not have to condone their actions. I've had several people try to tell me that she had her reasons and as Christians we should be understanding of her and not be angry with her. I disagree. I think Christ got angry when he was on earth and saw injustice, sin, and mistreatment of children. I think it's o.k. if that makes us angry. Do I hate Torry Hansen? Absolutely not. I am hopeful that she is getting the help she so desperately needs. Am I angry at her actions and the pain it has caused the families and children whose adoptions have been halted because of her? Absolutely. Do I think Satan used her to his advantage? Absolutely.

Back to the the Torry Hansen situation caused adoptions to come to a screeching halt. We were told that it might me months before adoptions resumed and we would be able to travel to meet Kirill. It was a 1-2 punch to the gut to get that news so soon after we lost Sergey. I just couldn't believe it was happening.

There was so much confusion during this time.  We really weren't sure what was going on with adoptions in K's country because there were so many conflicting reports coming from the media.  Our adoption agency really couldn't give us much information because they didn't know anything for certain. So we waited...

As we waited we started to hear that other regions were moving and processing adoptions, but not ours. Finally, in July 2010, we got a phone call that we would be traveling in August to meet Kirill and accept our referral. Finally! We were seeing the light at the end of the tunnel...or so we thought.

While we were in country, we were told that the judge in our region was not issuing new court dates. The U.S. and K's country had been working on a treaty regarding intercountry adoptions. Until that treaty was signed an official, our judge didn't feel comfortable issuing court dates. However, we were also told that our judge would be going to a meeting of the supreme court and that she might change her mind after that meeting. We left not knowing when we would return, but we knew it probably wouldn't be as soon as we had originally thought.

Our agency remained hopeful that the judge would change her mind and we would have K home by Christmas. So they advised us to go ahead and get the necessary paperwork and medicals for our second trip. This was expensive and we knew the documents would expire in three months. We hoped to be back in country before they expired. However, the days and weeks came and went and we were finally notified that our judge was not going to change her mind. Another story had broken about a family abusing their adopted children, all of whom were from K's country. This time the story was even more horrific. The three teenage girls were tortured by their adoptive parents. This story caused our judge to remain firm in her decision. There are other reasons that played into her decision, we were told. These reasons made sense and even though we felt defeated, we kind of understood the judge's hesitation to process adoptions. So we did all we could do...prayed and prayed and prayed..

Then in December we received wonderful news that our judge had decided to go ahead with adoptions and start issuing court dates again. We were beyond ecstatic. We scurried to get the paperwork, which had expired by this time, redone and sent to our judge. God had answered our prayer, but Satan was waiting to mess it all up again. There were more paperwork issues and I won't go into detail, but it delayed getting our court date again.

That brings us to the present. Now we have received word that our facilitator will meet with the judge this coming Wednesday to ask her for a court date for us. This meeting is so important. I don't think I can stress enough how much we need prayers. My friend Ashley has written an excellent post on her blog with more details. I'm not going to re-invent the wheel since she has written about it already, but I would encourage you to hop on over to her blog HERE and read about the imminent need for prayers.

I want to leave you with a verse that has become my strength over the last few days. It is Psalm 112:6-8:

6 Surely the righteous will never be shaken;
   they will be remembered forever.
7 They will have no fear of bad news;
   their hearts are steadfast, trusting in the LORD.
8 Their hearts are secure, they will have no fear;
   in the end they will look in triumph on their foes.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Tips for Traveling in Eastern Europe

I have traveled quite a bit in my life...12 different countries on three different continents. I'm a very adventurous traveler...I'm not boasting, but I want you to understand where I'm coming from here. Travel in EE is very different from any other country/region, in my opinion-especially if you are going to rural areas. Here are some of the things that we learned while traveling in Eastern Europe. If you have been to EE and want to add your own, please comment!

  1. People smoke everywhere, all the time. EVERY. WHERE. ALL. THE. TIME. You cannot escape it. Your clothes and hair will perpetually smell like you've been clubbing all night long. While we were there, I kept saying to Greg, "EE has a smell about it. It smells the same everywhere. I can't put my finger on it." He replied, "Yeah, it's called cigarette smoke."
  2. Your pee will smell funny. Ok, I don't know why this is, but trust me. Your pee and poop will smell funny there. I'm not sure if it's the smoke or the food or a combination of both, but just take my word for it and don't be surprised when you go potty.
  3. Rooster Offal are rooster testicles. No matter how much mushroom gravy is on them, I don't recommend eating them.
  4. Smoked meat is either wet smoked or dry smoked. Go with dry. Wet looks and tastes like raw hamburger meat.
  5. There will be things floating in your drinks. Random fruits and bits of food that are unidentifiable. They drink a lot of these super sweet juice drinks...think the syrup from frozen strawberries. If this concerns you, stick with bottled water.
  6. The EE way is to push and shove your way to the front of a line. If you tend to be courteous, this will be extremely difficult for you. Just keep in mind that if you don't do as the EE's, you will never get to the front of the line. So check your manners at the concourse in the airport when you arrive. You won't be needing them.
  7. Women dress EXTREMELY provocatively in the summer months. Pray you travel in the winter. Summer is worse that the Victoria's Secret fashion show. This is not an exaggeration. I promise. I saw more hiney cheeks and boobage than I care to ever see again. Greg said he needed blinders as he felt wrong just seeing all these body parts exposed in broad daylight everywhere he looked.
  8. TAKE FOOD. Ok, I cannot stress this enough. We packed our large suitcase that we checked with toys for the orphanage and food. That's it. Take a variety. We took almonds, trail mix, protein bars, beef jerky, peanut butter, dried fruit, and other individually packaged items that traveled well. The reason I say this is not because you can't find food over there. You just don't ever know when you will be able to go to the store. For example, we took an overnight train from Moscow to K's city in EE. It was 12+ hours. There is no food on the train. Even if there was a dining cart, you couldn't read the menu. Then we were picked up and taken immediately to the orphanage. So if we wouldn't have had snacks, we would not have eaten for almost 24 straight hours. There just wasn't an opportunity to find food. As a diabetic, I would have been in a WORLD of trouble had we not taken a lot of food.
  9. Having said that, when you do eat, you do have some good choices. I recommend soups and stews, fish, or chicken. The food isn't bad, it's just different. There is a lot of mushroom, dill, and sour cream used in recipes. I do not eat mushrooms or sour cream, so if I can tell you that you can find things you like, you can believe it. :) I'm not picky, it just so happens that two of the maybe five foods I don't like are staples in EE.
  10. Traffic is nuts. No, cannot understand until you've been there. Think NASCAR meets monster truck obstacle course in the middle of New York City. I honestly thought I was going to meet Jesus on several occasions. We saw many serious wrecks. They drive FAST and the roads are TERRIBLE as far as their condition. There are more potholes than actual blacktop and the average speed at which you travel over them is 90 mph. We went airborne twice. I'm dead serious. Greg thought it was fun. Me, not so much.
  11. There is no use to try to learn the language. Learn "please, thank you, water, hello, and goodbye." That's about all you need to know. Remember, you will have an interpreter the whole time. The times when they are not around, you can use sign language. Nothing is in prepared for that. Not even in the airports or train stations. But you will be fine with sign language, I promise. I have a great story about trying to find a hair dryer...
  12. Do not over pack. Just don't. You will regret it if you take too much. Here's what I took and I felt like it was the perfect amount for one week in the summer months: a pair of black loose-fitting pants that could go dressy or not, a pair of khaki Columbia travel pants, a pair of brown pants, two travel dresses, black shorts, 2 camis, 2 t-shirts for sleep/lounging, a cardigan, a white t-shirt, a brown tank top, 8 pair of underwear, 2 bras, TOMS shoes, and black Volitile wedges. Looking back, I could have made it with one t-shirt for lounging and one travel dress. But I did wear everything at least twice so I probably would pack the same since it all fit in my suitcase. People in EE wear the same thing for days at a time. Our interpreter wore the same dress the entire time we were there. So if you change a lot, it will make you stick out. With what I took, I could mix and match for an entire week with clothes to spare if something got especially dirty. I washed underwear in the hotel sink at one point because I did change those a lot to keep me from feeling too gross. We were lucky to travel in summer because I didn't have to worry about coats, socks, or other warm clothes. I packed everything I needed for a week in a 15-in. rolling carry-on and only checked our big suitcase that had food and toys in it. It can be done.
  13. Anything goes as far as clothing. We were told to dress in black or dark colors as to not stand out. I totally think this is some kind of old rule that Americans still believe to be true. Maybe it used to be like this during communist times, but not now. We saw everything over there. EE's are very tall, thin, and have a distinct "sharp" look about them. We were just rounder and shorter so we stood out because of that. No way you can change those things to blend in!
  14. Contrary to popular belief, most places do not take U.S. currency. We were told by our agency that our hotel and most other places would take U.S. currency. We didn't find anywhere that took it. So go ahead and change money that you think you will need. We got stuck with no rubles on a couple of occasions and it was not fun borrowing money from our facilitator and/or scurrying to find a bank.
  15. Xanax is your friend. Get some for the flights. Especially if you get stuck on the same flight as 70 American teenagers returning from a summer in EE. Yeah, I double-dosed for that.
  16. There is internet service everywhere. You can easily find an internet cafe or get internet service at most hotels for little or no charge.
  17. Check with your cell provider and be careful about buying international service plans. We were told by AT&T that for $30/month we could have 50 text messages and unlimited data on our phones. That was bull. When we got home we were greeted by a $400 bill for just my phone. Greg's was through his work so that was not good either. These international plans do not apply in some EE countries. Even though I specifically asked about ours and was assured that it would be covered, it was not. So next time we will leave our phones off and just use the internet to communicate. AT&T did remove the charges because I called and raised cane and told them the name of the customer rep that sold me the plan. Bottom line...just be very careful with cell plans.
  18. Take a travel blanket, a sheet and a pillowcase if you are going to be on the train overnight. It also comes in handy at the hotel. I'm not a real germ freak (well, I kinda am), but you just feel better putting your face on a surface that doesn't smell like it was washed in cigarette butts.

That's all I can think of off the top of my head. I'm sure there are tons more things that I'm forgetting! My best advice is be sure to pack your sense of humor. Know that there are going to be times when things are going to go wrong. It's fine. It's a part of the fun of travel!

5 Months Later

If you've been following our adoption journey from the beginning, you've probably noticed lots of ebbs and flows on this blog. Adoption tends to be a series of excrutiating wait time followed by periods of frantic activity followed by more waiting followed by more waiting...and on and on it goes. So somewhere in the waiting/frantic cycle, I totally forgot to chronicle the rest of our trip to meet Kirill back in August. I'm only 5 months late. In adoption time, that translates to roughly a week and a half. Good thing I'm functioning on adoption time.

To pick up where I left off in this post, we left Moscow at 6 p.m. on an overnight train bound for the Eastern European city where K lives. Moscow is the closest airport to this city, which isn't saying much since we had to take LONG train ride to get there after we left Moscow. We were picked up the next day by our facilitator, Marina, and our interpreter, Elena. They were both LOVELY women that we really grew to love over the next few days.

As they drove us to our hotel, Marina began to explain our itenerary for the next few days. I have to insert here that I was SO NERVOUS at this point. It's just so surreal to be in a car with complete strangers (at the time), trusting them to navigate your life for the next few days. It was a HUGE test of my faith and my reluctance to give up control. We were completely at the mercy of stangers and were 100% reliant on them to tell us what to do, where to go, what to eat, etc. The only thing I could remotely relate it to is being blind. I'm not trying to compare what we experienced to something as profound as blindness, but I'm just trying to somehow convey how we were so dependent on God at this point because we had absolutely no way to communicate or understand the culture without these women. We just had to let go completely and trust that God was working through them.

As Marina was explaining what we would be doing for the rest of the day, she inserted that our train was late and we would need to go straight to the Minister of Science and Education's office without cleaning up at the hotel. So we literally dropped our bags at the hotel and headed to a very formal government building. To say we were disgusting is an understatement. We had been riding on a smoky (people smoke everywhere in EE...inside, outside, on trains, in hotels...there's no such thing as a "no smoking" the forrest fires had covered all of Moscow and the outlying areas in a thick blanket of smoke) train all night after spending a day walking around Moscow the day before. We had not showered since the morning before and by the time we got to the orphanage it was late afternoon. Talk about took me back to the semester I spend in Europe in college. We backpacked and wouldn't shower for like 6 days at a time...but we weren't trying to prove that we were fit parents back then either.

We met with the Minister of Science and Education to sign a form stating our intent to visit with K and review his referral. She was such a pleasant lady. She asked us some tough questions about why we wanted to adopt a child with special needs. But I could tell that she was in our corner and wanted to see K go to a family. She even had his picture on a bulletin board in her office. She explained to us that she keeps photos of all the children in the process of adoption on that board and is happy when they are placed with their families. I thought that spoke volumes about her heart. As we left, she said, "I think you will be wonderful parents to K and I wish you the best." We left from her office and went straight to the orphanage to meet K.

Driving to the orphanage took about an hour and a half by car from the city. We drove on paved roads most of the time but about ten miles from the orphanage we turned onto a dirt road which took us to a very secluded area in the woods. the. woods. That was where the orphanage was located, deep in the woods...very secluded. So we pull up to the orphanage. I'm going to probably just tell you the facts here and leave out emotion since this blog is public. The orphanage was a group of three buildings. One building was where the children lived. The other building looked like some sort of storage facility or something like that. One building looked abandoned.

When we pulled up there were about twenty children playing outside. One of them, a little girl, ran up to Greg and put her arms up for him to hold her. He picked her up and she squealed with delight. She was so thin and frail. I also took a turn holding her. The orphanage workers came and took her as they shooed the children inside. It's not acceptable to see or photograph the other children, so the workers were following the rules and trying to keep us from seeing the other children. Still, we were so haunted by those faces that we did see. I can't really put it into words. I kept telling Greg they looked like ghost children. Their skin was almost transparent and they were all very small and frail with hollow eyes. I could go into more detail, but quite frankly it's painful and I just can't do it because my son is still there and will continue to be one of those children until we go back to adopt him.

We were ushered into the orphanage director's office. He was a very gentle and kind man. We were allowed to ask questions and he also was allowed to ask us a few questions. We were told that K had just been transferred to this orphanage from a baby orphanage. This orphanage was for 4-18 year-old children with special needs. That is how much we DIDN'T know coming into this trip. We didn't even know the name of the orphanage or where it was located. We had no idea that K had been transferred to an older child orphanage. We thought he was still at the baby house. So this was kind of shocking to us. Still, we just took it in stride and continued our visit with the staff. After a few minutes, the social worker came in and we were allowed to ask her questions. She knew more about K than the director because she had more contact with the children on a day-to-day basis. Then the medical director came in and she answered medical questions. As a part of her questioning, she read us the document that K's parents had to fill out to relinquish custody and declare him an orphan. There are no words for what that did to my heart. I truly felt for his parents; to them there was no other choice but to give up their son. I also felt an overwhelming gratitude to them for giving us such a precious gift. It's a very strange and emotional experience to hear their words read aloud.

As we met with these people, I could tell they were somewhat leery of us. However, by the end of our time together, I really felt comfortable with them and I think we were able to explain to them why we wanted to adopt a child with special needs. We left the director's office and the social worker took us to a room where we would be visiting with K. She left us there while she went to get K. We could hear the social worker and K's caregiver coming up the stairs with him and the first time I laid eyes on him...oh my word. I'm in tears just typing this. I cannot tell you what it was like watching this tiny boy walk up the stairs toward us. The boy I'd seen for months in pictures and imagined in my mind was now in front of me in person. It was surreal.

As he toddled toward us, he head-planted into a corner of the wall. He started screaming immediately and my heart broke. I was thinking, "great, his first meeting with us and he's traumatized!" But his caregiver consoled him and he recovered pretty quickly. I tried not to snatch him up because I didn't want to startle him. It took all the restraint I had, but Greg and I both let him just explore the room and stayed very close to him until he got used to us. We would touch him gently or pick him up for short moments, but we didn't want to smother him because we knew we were strangers to him. At one point, I was taking pictures and Greg was videoing. This is the moment that I will cherish forever. I'm so glad Greg captured it on video. I'll let the video speak for itself.

That's where I'll close for now. I'm sure you're tired of reading and I'm certainly tired of typing. Plus, putting this all out of my head onto paper is really emotionally draining. It forces me to think about K and about the fact that it's been five long months since I saw his precious face, stroked his buzzed little head, and kissed his sweet little cheeks. At times it feels like my heart will literally crack into pieces so I avoid thinking about it a lot in order to cope. When I'm dying inside, I have to remember Christ and the pain he endured to adopt me. Getting up every morning is only possible through my Lord. Thank God he paved the way for me on this journey.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011


A friend recently told me about Drawn From Water, an orphanage in Africa that rescues "mingi" children from genocide. What are "mingi" children, you ask? They are children with "defects" that cause their tribe to consider them to be possessed by demons. These "defects" can be anything from unplanned pregnancy by the mother to top teeth coming in before their bottom teeth. Yes, you read that right...they can be killed because of the order in which they cut their teeth. How are they killed? They are cast into a nearby river and left to drown or abandoned in the bush and left to die. The orphanage literally rescues them from these terrible deaths and takes them into their orphanage.

Pick up your bottom jaw. THIS. REALLY. HAPPENS. And it grosses me out.
Why it grosses me out may surprise you though. I'm not grossed out by the tribe. They do not know any better. Drawn From Water is trying (and succeeding!) in teaching these tribes the truth about "mingi" children. They are changing their hearts and beliefs. It is wonderfully amazing to read their success stories. What grosses me out is that this is happening while I'm sitting in my nice, warm apartment with my latte in hand, watching football. I'm grossed out with myself for having closed eyes to the reality of what is going on in our world. I know I can't change the world entirely, but I can do my part. And I'm not. Drawn From Water, like Reece's Rainbow, stirs a passion in me. I'm not sure what God is trying to tell me yet, but I do know that I have been trying for two months to get this orphanage out of my head and I cannot. It's nagging at me all the time, especially when I lay down at night and pray for the children there.

Why am I blogging about this? Well, there are a couple of reasons. First, I've been thinking a lot about passions lately. Why do we have them? Why do some come and go? Why do some stay forever? Why do we lose passion? Why do some people live their entire lives for one passion, wholly sold-out to this one thing that impacts all areas of life?

I don't have the answers to that. I don't want to live my life frantically chasing one passion after another. I have a tendency to get on "kicks". Can anyone out there relate? You know, I'm the person that will jump head-first into something without really thinking about it and then drop it like a hot potato after a couple of months. I really don't like that personality trait. It can also drive the hubs crazy. When we were talking about adoption, he sort of jokingly, sort of seriously asked, "Are you really sure about this or is it one of your kicks?" Obviously now he knows it wasn't a kick, but I really did understand his concerns because I know myself pretty well and I'm a kicky kind of gal.

So how do you figure out the difference between a "kick" and a passion??? I definitely think we can have more than one passion, and God is teaching me about more of mine. I know that God has made me passionate about one thing: children with special needs. I'm 100% certain of that. I've known it since I was 16 years old. There's nothing else that stirs my soul like seeing an individual who is "differently abled." I just want to go talk to them, find out about their interests, become their friend. It's not in a "I feel sorry for that person" kind of way. It's like I just have to get to know them because I want to be a part of their life. No clue's a chemistry that I can't explain with words.

I think that's why I can't get Drawn From Water off my mind. I love their purpose of not only saving children who are labeled as different, but also educating the tribes. I think that's why I love Reece's Rainbow too. I look at all the faces of those orphaned children with special needs and ache physically when I think about them spending their lives outside of a family. There's also the common thread of orphaned children. I'm passionate about children having families. So I guess that's my other passion...I cannot stand the thought of a child not having a loving family.

So as the new year begins, what is your passion? What is it that you cannot get out of your mind, out of your soul? What keeps you up at night? If you don't know, maybe you (like me), drown out your passions with lattes and football. I would really encourage you to read this blog post about finding your passion. It was part of the inspiration for this post, along with Drawn From Water. Let's all resolve to find our passions and get to work this year! Deal?!?

*Feel free to leave a comment about what your passion is and what you plan to do about it in 2011. It's such an encouragement to each other to hear each other's passions. Plus, you may inspire a passion in someone else!