Unexpected Changes

From the time we began this adoption journey, we were warned to remain flexible and expect the unexpected.  We did not realize at the time exactly what this would mean.  It has been our desire and goal to follow wherever The Lord leads.  A month or so ago, I was given a picture in my mind of Jesus walking a short distance ahead of me, stretching His right arm back, reaching for my hand.  I took my left hand and placed it in His.  We were connected and I knew that as long as I didn’t let go, I would go wherever He would lead me and I would be safe.  He is my guide and my protector.

Our plan and desire has been to adopt Soliel, Anastasia, Delta, and Brandi.  We even considered adding a fifth girl to the plan, a young lady who recently turned 16 and could only be adopted by someone whose paperwork had already been submitted in country.  However, we recently learned that adopting these 5 would mean three different appointments, each a week apart, three different trips to the same orphanage (a 10-hour train ride each way), and three different court dates.  The additional time and expense necessary to do this made the adoption of these particular girls an impossibility for us.  We had expected some measure of difficulty with this adoption, but not this.  We had been warned that sometimes people end up with different children than they intended, but we didn’t really think this would be our case.  What should we do now?  We had to remind ourselves that the goal was to adopt children.  We learned that sibling groups are very difficult to place because most people do not get USCIS approval for 4-5 children.  In the end, we chose to pursue the adoption of a sibling group of 3 girls and 1 boy.  We are sad that the girls we originally intended to adopt are again waiting for families, but we are praying that God will soon rectify that situation.  He has not forgotten them, and we are not likely to forget them either.  Although we were totally surprised by this turn of events, we have to believe that God is leading.  We only want what He wants.  We must go where He leads.

All of you that helped and prayed so desperately for Soliel, Anastasia, Delta, and Brandi, please continue to pray.  Please, also give thanks that these four siblings will have a family and will not need to be separated from each other.  At some point I will have the freedom to share with you who they are.  Thank you for praying for us, too.  It has been an emotional time.

Travel Prep

The weeks sure are flying by!   We’ve had some sickness here this past week.  Eight out of 13 have been affected thus far.  Five of us are still holding out hope that we will escape.  Thankfully the sickness isn’t of long duration, but when it attacks one person at a time, it can take awhile to get through 13 people.  The sick ones have slept a good portion of the time and haven’t wanted to eat, so it would have been more convenient if we all got it at the same time preferably during the snowstorms.  That way we didn’t have to go anywhere and didn’t have to cook!  We could all hibernate for a day or two.  Of course, that is not real life.

I’ve started several lists to help me get organized and stay organized, but I still don’t feel on top of things.  There are so many other responsibilities to deal with.  Today it was taxes.  It’s a relief having them done and out of the way.  Getting that refund will also be a blessing!  I’ve gathered most of the paperwork we need to take with us and have started packing up the gifts for the girls.  Besides a special gift for each one, we are taking several crafts and games to do with them during our visiting time.  It will be quite interesting communicating with them since they don’t know English and we don’t know Russian.  I worked on learning Russian for several weeks, but the past two weeks it has had to take a back seat to other priorities.  I hope I don’t forget everything I learned.

I still need to learn how to use that I-pad.  Hopefully by the time we’re home I’ll have figured it out.  The kids are hoping I figure it out before then so they can communicate with us while we are away.  It’s going to be difficult leaving them all behind for a couple of weeks.  We’ve never been away from them longer than a few days at a time.  Thankfully there are plenty of older ones to take charge and make sure things continue to run smoothly.  I’m sure they will all work together well.

I’ve been looking at this computer a little too long today.  My head is starting to ache.  I’d better move on to something else before I can’t see straight.  Now where are those lists?

Traveling Soon!

This is the third time I have started to write a post and there just wasn’t time to do it justice.  I’ll give it another try.  Our biggest news is that we have received our travel dates! God has also blessed us with traveling companions who live less than an hour from us and are adopting from the same country.  We are excited about that!

There is much to do to get ready.  I’m already experiencing information overload.  I am a list person and my lists are not written as yet, so the preparation seems formidable.  Tomorrow my goal is to sit down and organize all the information, forming check-off lists so I have less chance of forgetting something important.  I still have some shopping to do which should probably be done before the big snow comes that is predicted for Thursday.

Today I finally finished the quilt and made up the fourth bed.  It feels good to have that project completed.  Now if the other projects were only so stress-free.  I still have to learn how to use an I-pad so that we can keep in contact with the family while we are away.  Learning to use today’s technology is physically, mentally, and emotionally draining!  Why just last week, my upper back and shoulders were so tight after sitting at the computer booking our train and flight tickets, that I could barely move without pain.  I determined that it was due to stress for now I am feeling fine.  This adoption has really stretched me technologically.  I’ve experienced a lot of firsts:  scanning and attaching documents to emails, booking travel tickets online, using Facebook (still don’t know what I’m doing with that), and setting up the I-pad (I actually just watched.)

Tonight I decided to learn something less technical, so I sat down with a rainbow loom to practice making rubber band bracelets.  I’m taking a couple looms with me to give to the girls and to have something to do while we are visiting them.  Less technical?!  What a joke!  The printed directions are microscopic making them difficult to read.  “Find the other Band that connects Posts 35 & 38.  Pick the end of that Band that is around Post 38 and loop it over Post 34.”  What?  Which one is 34?  I have to consult the chart.  It would have been nice if the loom itself was numbered.  I managed to get to the “finishing off” section, but when the bracelet fell apart as soon as I removed it from the loom, I decided I did something wrong.  Maybe I was rushing a little too much.  My dad always said, “If at first you don’t succeed, read the directions!”  Thanks, Daddy.  Maybe I’ll try again tomorrow.  Or maybe I’ll just give them to the girls and get them to teach me!

Waiting Again!

Has it really been almost 2 weeks since I last posted?  And I thought time didn’t fly when you were waiting for something!  We expected to have travel dates by this time, but that infamous phone call hasn’t yet come.  For a week or so, I jumped every time the phone rang.  I imagine I will be surprised when it finally does come.

Jim has finished building the beds and they are now in place.  Mattresses and bedding have been purchased and 3 of the beds are made up.  The fourth will be made up as soon as I finish the quilt.  I actually haven’t even started it, but it shouldn’t take too long as it is not a pieced quilt.  I’m taking the easy route by placing batting in between 2 bed sheets and machine quilting the layers together.  Fifteen years or so ago, when we lived in Nebraska, I bought plaid sheets with coordinating colors to make bedspreads for the children for Christmas.   At that time we had 4 boys and 4 girls and were expecting another baby.  I bought pastel plaids for the girls and dark plaids for the boys and added an extra of each since I didn’t know if we were having a boy or a girl.  We had a boy, so the extra dark plaid was eventually utilized.  That son was followed by 3 more sons, so the pastel plaid never did get used.  It has been sitting in the closet all this time.  Today I bought a scrumptious-looking, bubble-gum-pink sheet that perfectly matches the plaid.  Putting this quilt together will be my project for next week.  As soon as everything is done, I will post some new pictures of the rooms.

We are trying to get travel items together, so we will be ready when the call comes.  Although I grew up in family that did a lot of flying, it has been 25 years since I have been in an airplane!  Yikes!  I hear things have changed quite a bit since that time, especially regarding security.  We shall soon see how different it is from what I remember.

Daily I am reminded that God is in control of this adoption.  Everything is moving according to His timing and that is good.  I am resting in the assurance that He knows what is best and will do what is right.  I don’t have to be anxious or fearful.  It doesn’t mean that I don’t get anxious at times.  It means I don’t need to be.  As long as I cling to my Father and keep my eyes on Him, my heart is at peace.

Christmas Reflections

The majority of this post was written several days ago, but because I am not too adept with the computer, I had to wait for Alyssa to remind me again how to get pictures from my camera to this blog.  She walked me through it for the last post during which time I took copious notes so as to be able to do it on my own.  Alas, I can’t find the notes!  Someone (possibly me), in an effort to clean up the table, must have thought the scribbled words were only worthy to be in the trash and that’s why they can not be found.  If Josiah knew how important that paper was to me, I might think that he took it and hid it for a joke.  He’s getting pretty good at hiding things these days.  Why just this week we were scouring the house in order to find my purse that I was pretty sure I brought downstairs, but couldn’t find anywhere.  We were ready to leave for Awana, and I needed my purse.  I was beginning to think my memory was getting bad.  (It is, but not that bad!)  Josiah finally told me he could find it.  Where was it?  Hanging on the shoe rack on the inside of the basement door.  Doesn’t he know that shoes hang on shoe racks, not purses?  Of course he does, but he is a little imp!  Anyway, I can’t blame him for the loss of my precious computer notes.  Poor Alyssa, now she’ll have to walk me through the whole process again.

This was our first week back at school after Christmas and New Year’s.  We usually only take one week off, but this year I was feeling generous (or maybe a little lazy) and we took two weeks.  I don’t think anyone was really excited about getting back to the books, including the teacher.  We just had too much fun relaxing, eating all sorts of sweet treats, and giving gifts to one another.  We managed to keep to our morning schedule of eating breakfast together at 8:00 a.m. for, let’s see, one day?!  Ah, well, there’s always tomorrow!

I thought now would be an appropriate time to think back about what made this Christmas unique.  One special blessing was that we were able to attend the Christmas Eve service at our church this year because Jim was able to be home from work early.  It was a beautiful service and we were glad to concentrate on Jesus, the reason we celebrate Christmas.

The day after Christmas we hosted the Herr family’s Christmas dinner which was a first for us.  We had about 35 people here including Jim’s parents, all but one of his siblings, his nieces and nephews, and our own family.  We had a relaxing evening eating together and getting caught up with everyone’s activities.

Christmas Day was also unique this year because it was our first without our beloved Andrew.  His role of leader for the 5:00 a.m. children’s parade down the stairs to open stockings was transferred to Heidi this year.  I had wondered if his absence would put an end to this event, but no!  TRADITION!!  TRADITION!!  For many years the children have gathered in one of the bedrooms and then “quietly” lined up oldest to youngest before marching down the stairs to find their stockings.  Their goal has been to begin the Christmas festivities while letting their beloved parents sleep in.  Of course, since the stairs are right outside their parents’ bedroom door, and since the whisperings are not really all that quiet, their parents are almost always awake, listening to and enjoying the excitement of the children.  I am so thankful that we still have little ones in the house.  That has been the main reason this tradition has been preserved.  Even the older ones, who would prefer a little extra sleep, are willing to rise early in order for the little ones to experience this momentous occasion.  Next Christmas promises to be even more exciting with 4 new sisters in the line-up.

One of the most heart-warming things about Christmas this year was seeing the gifts that were made by the children and given to their siblings.  There is no obligation for each child to make or purchase something for the others.  Instead, if someone gets an idea for one sibling, he/she is free to give that sibling a gift.  I have never heard any comments of a sibling feeling left out or deprived because he/she did not receive a gift that year.  Instead, there is joy just seeing the response of the person receiving the gift.  That warms my heart.

This year Simeon spent many hours in the woodshop or holed up in his room designing and creating gifts for some of his siblings.  He is very creative and loves detail.  His gifts this year for Elisha, Samuel, and Josiah were pre-made boxes redesigned into little houses for miniature bears.  He fashioned furniture for the rooms, papered the walls, and carpeted the floors.  Each box was painted a different color on the outside and labeled with the owner’s name.

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Simeon also made a bookmark for Hannah and Christmas ornaments for Alyssa, Nathanael, and Isaiah.  For Naomi he made a hobbit key-chain, Lord of the Rings stationery, and a miniature Lord of the Rings board game.  He even made the boxes for the stationery and the board game.

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December 27, 2013 (5)Alyssa’s ornament.

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Nathanael and Isaiah’s ornaments (# 1 and 2).  The other three were made last year for the three youngest boys.

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Heidi finished writing her story, Sir Sam Bam and the Dragon.  She then hand-copied the story onto small sheets of paper, added illustrations, bound the pages into a little book, and presented it to Samuel for Christmas.

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All the gifts created this year were reminders of God’s creativity and purpose in designing each one of us.  We are each uniquely handcrafted by God to bring glory to Him and joy to those around us.  As we look forward to the coming year, let’s make it our desire to be all that God has created us to be.

Abundant Provision

Wow!  Where has this month gone?  Already we are less than a week from Christmas, and as usual I am behind schedule.  But then, most of us around here are wondering when we will ever be on schedule again!  Our first few weeks of school did go according to plan, but since then?….  It’s a wonder school is even getting done.  If it weren’t for my diligent and independent students, I’m afraid we’d be way behind.

Preparing for the adoption has taken a lot of effort.  The paperwork alone was all-consuming at times.  Now that the majority of that is behind us for awhile, we are concentrating on getting the bedrooms in order.  We began by cleaning out the storage closet in order to make room for a dresser and chest of drawers.  The girls then rag-painted the bedroom walls, and Jim built drawers to go under the present bunk bed.  He also built two new bookshelves and is in the process of building a new bunk bed.  When this bed is finished, he will build a trundle bed to go under another bunk.  It’s a blessing to have a husband who is creative and works well with his hands.  Thank you, Jim.

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Wednesday we received some very encouraging news.  We have been given a generous grant from christianorphanfund.org to help with the expenses of our adoption.  We are so thankful to the leaders of this organization who have a heart for orphans and adoptive parents.  We were impressed with the mission statement of this group which says, “We believe Christian parents whom God has given the desire to adopt an orphan, particularly one with special needs, should not be hindered by a lack of funds. We aim to reduce the initial financial burden of adoption for those Christian parents willing to love adopted children and raise them in a Christian environment.”  It is the goal of Christian Orphan Fund (COF) to “solicit, collect, and distribute cash contributions to support orphan adoptions and orphan care, consistent with Christian values.”  We are so blessed to be recipients of these love gifts.

I have been overwhelmed of late with the faithfulness of God and His provision for our family.  Over and over God has reminded me that He owns everything.  I do not have to fear not having enough.  I can give freely knowing that I can never out give God.  The first week of December was an example of God’s abundant provision.  There is a lady who comes into the market where Jim works and brings him day old bread.  That week she brought in the equivalent of 4-6 garbage bags full of bread and bagels!!  We had so much that we were able to share it with 3 other large families.  Jim also brought home a fully-cooked Thanksgiving turkey, donuts, pies, several bunches of bananas and grapes, sticky buns, melons, lettuce, several quarts of strawberries, raspberries, and black raspberries, as well as 7 gallons of milk.  All of these items did not sell and would have been discarded if we did not take them. The same week, more than once, Heidi brought home leftover hotdogs and soft pretzels from her job which our children willingly devoured for lunch.  On Sunday of that week, a family from church offered us not one, not two, but three turkeys which they had in their freezer.  Is God able to provide?  Without a doubt!

We’re Submitted!!

What sweet relief!  Word came around noon today that our dossier has indeed been submitted in country.  It was only then that I realized how nervous and anxious I have been while waiting for the news.  I kept telling myself that God’s timing is best, even if it turns out to be different than what we think is best.  This was the last day for submissions until mid-January.  Appointments in country have been running 8-12 weeks after submission.  Because we made the deadline, it looks as though we could be traveling sometime during the first three months of 2014.  We are happy about that because it is the slower time at the farmer’s market where Jim works and he can more easily be away.  We don’t want to cause any more inconvenience to Jim’s boss than is necessary.

Thank you to all who have prayed for us thus far.  Please continue to remember us.  Right now my mind is feeling a little sluggish and the words are not flowing very well.  Perhaps in the next post I will share a little about the preparations we have made thus far to make room for four more girls.