As for me, I know of nothing else but miracles. - Walt Whitman

Monday, January 28, 2013

The Lord is My Shepherd

Jalen and Jordan's memory verse:

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Wednesday Randomness.....

1. Shana got braces yesterday! Somehow, I think they make her look older:

2. I found this adorable picture of Jalen on my computer that I just had to share. What a cutie!

3. One of the kids made this snowman picture and hung it upside down on the fridge. The first thing I thought when I saw it this morning was, "I'd better turn the poor thing right side up so all the blood doesn't rush to his head!" Which was quickly followed by, "Wait a second. It's not a real snowman, it's only a piece of paper." Which was then followed by, "And snowmen don't even have blood!" Be afraid, people. Be really afraid. This is my brain at work lately.

4. I snapped this picture of Malia recently. When I went back and looked at it later, it struck me how grown up she looks in it. She's still holding one of her beloved dolls, but something about the photo gave me a brief glimpse of what she'll look like when she gets a little older. And it took my breath away. My baby girl needs to stop growing up so quickly!

5. I had to smile recently when I noticed that Malia was reading a story to Jordan. I guess it works best to use your toes as a book rest!

6. Jordan brought his Bible story book to me, open to the page below. "Is this the crooked man?" he asked. "We learned in Sunday School about how Jesus healed him." I had to laugh when I told him that yes, Jesus did heal him, but I think he's referred to as the "crippled man."

And that's enough randomness for one day. Have a great Wednesday!

Monday, January 21, 2013

Connecting the Dots in God's Story.....

"God sets the lonely in families..." Psalm 68:6.

I stand amazed at God's goodness and how He uses seemingly tiny details of our everyday lives to create a big, beautiful, and perfect picture. Some details are so hard and seem to be so confusing as we're dealing with them, but God takes them and molds them into a magnificent portrait of redemption. Sometimes we never see the details merge into the masterpiece, but I firmly believe that all things happen for a reason. We may not see how our actions impact others' lives, but I know that when we get to heaven, our eyes will be opened and we will be in awe of the ripple effects that happened in the world simply because we said "yes" to a simple task that God set before us. At other times, we can see the picture coming together, and God reveals to us certain dots and details that we can connect. This is happening in God's story of Vitaly, and I can only marvel as the pages and chapters emerge.

It actually goes back further than this, but I will start at a point in time 3 years ago when God called us to adopt our boys. The two boys that He had picked out for us happened to live with 2 other little boys, who were brothers, at an orphanage in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. I became friends with the boys' mother, H, on Facebook. Because I was an adoptive mother, I attended the Created 4 Care retreat in Atlanta, Georgia, last year, where I met another adoptive mother, H. We also became friends on Facebook. This past fall, both of these mothers posted a photo on their Facebook pages of a little boy named Vitaly who needed a family to host him over Christmas. God touched our hearts with his picture, and 2 days later we agreed to host him - that day happened to be his deadline for getting chosen. Vitaly came and spent a month with us, during which time we prayed that God would show us whether or not we were supposed to be his forever family. We did not get the signal to move forward, so I started advocating for Vitaly. I posted his picture and bio on Facebook, which was then shared by over 40 people on their Facebook walls.

A lot of people saw V's information over the next few days, and I started answering phone calls and messages from people who had an interest in him. Two couples seemed especially interested: G and C from Fort Wayne, Indiana, and N and V from Van Wert, Ohio. I was thrilled that both couples lived close to us, and we met with G and C for several hours on a Saturday so that they could meet Vitaly. They were a wonderful couple, and we really enjoyed our time with them. That night, C texted me with the exciting news that they wanted to move forward with hosting Vitaly again this summer. N and V called us back with the same intentions. That night, we received an email from a family in Mississippi that had actually already started the process to adopt V and his friend the year before. Their story had taken some twists and turns as well, but they had recently started the paperwork again. She had been trying to get in touch with me for weeks, but didn't have my contact information. She had prayed that she would be able to contact me before Vitaly left for Ukraine again. Her friend saw a blog post with Vitaly's information and my email address included (some of our advocating efforts), and forwarded the link to her. As it turns out, this mother and I have a mutual friend, who I also met at Created 4 Care and who adopted a little boy from the same agency as we did. This little boy happened to be friends with my nephew, Sintayehu, at the same orphanage in Ethiopia that my boys were from. The world definitely kept getting smaller as I learned more and more details.

I was thrilled that Vitaly had a family! We had prayed so hard for him! And it was so encouraging to me that so many people wanted to make him a part of their families - he is certainly loved! When I first received this email, however, I was a little confused as to why God would call us to host this little boy that already had a family out there. Why not another orphan that would never have a chance otherwise? But God knows exactly what He is doing, and sometimes He chooses to work in mysterious ways. We contacted the families from Van Wert and Fort Wayne and told them of this new development. While they were a little disappointed, they were also thrilled for Vitaly.

This brings me to last night. We were at my mother-in-law's when I got a call from V, the lady in Van Wert. Her family had prayed and decided to adopt another child after reading Vitaly's story! She had filled out some application forms with Loving Shepherd Ministries, an organization affiliated with the church I go to, that does background adoption research. They tell families which countries will accept them into their adoption programs based on family size, income, etc. and provide the information of the agencies that work in those countries. I was thrilled! Because Vitaly came to us, another family was pursuing God's call to adopt a child. The world would have one less orphan! A few minutes after my conversation with her, C, the lady from Fort Wayne, called. Her family had decided to move forward with adopting another little boy from Ukraine! I was blown away. She had decided to use Gateway Woods in Leo, Indiana to write their home study. Gateway Woods is also affiliated with our church. As I gathered the details from these two women, my heart overflowed at God's goodness, and I could not stop smiling. He does have a perfect plan. Because He called us to host Vitaly, there will be two more orphans coming home to their forever families. And who knows the ripple effect that will occur because of that?

I can't wait until Vitaly comes home to his family. I can't wait until he learns English. I can't wait to have the conversation with him about how God used his life to touch others. This dear boy is most likely sitting in his orphanage right now, missing America, and longing to come back again this summer. He has no idea the turn his life is about to take and how many lives he has already touched at his young age. What an amazing story. And my great God is the Author of it all.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Cardboard Promises

All of the orphan children that were hosted this winter are now back in Latvia and Ukraine. We are praying that they will always hold onto God's promises. Below is the New Horizons For Children's Christmas 2012 Cardboard Promises video. Loved getting another glimpse of our sweet Vitaly!

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

A Piece of My Heart Flew Away Today.....

He's gone, and there is a V-shaped hole in my heart. Vitaly wanted us to stay strong at the airport, and told us that we could cry later when we got home. He was excited about flying again, but was not excited about going back to Ukraine and told us that he wanted to stay here. He assured us over and over that it would be ok, though, because he was going to come back to us in the summer. I didn't have the heart to tell him that wouldn't be the case. :-(

My handsome Ukrainian at the hotel last night - he was so excited to be able to spend the night in a hotel (probably his first time ever.)

The chaperone, Olga, and the hosted kiddos that flew to/from Detroit:

Waiting to check in:

Goodbye, Chocolatka! (What V called the twins)

V and Olga:

Vitaly assured us that he would always remember to say his prayers before meals and bedtime.

We hugged him goodbye, and I gave him several extra hugs for some special people that requested it. ;-) We love you so much, V! Don't ever forget us!

Going toward security:

Goodbye, little one! Have a good life!

The house is awfully quiet this afternoon. There seems to be a void here. I'm sure that over the next few days I'll miss Vitaly's constant, very appreciative "Sank you!!!", followed up with his own "Ya Velcome!!!" Malia's name will still probably be pronounced MAH-lia for awhile instead of Ma-LEE-a, since that is the way we've heard it said for a month now. The twins will still talk about how V always called them "chocolatka," and we will still catch ourselves saying "da" and "nyet" instead of yes and no. My mind is still programmed to buy lots of extra bananas and yogurt, and the tunes of Russian songs will still fill our heads. Vitaly is a wonderful boy, and our lives will be forever changed because of him. We are so thankful that God gave us the wonderful opportunity to be his host family.

If there is anyone else out there that wants to have the experience of a lifetime, love on a special child, and make a difference in their life, please consider being a host parent. The New Horizons pre-application is up and running for hosting a Latvian, Ukrainian, or Chinese orphan this summer, and can be found by clicking here.

Monday, January 14, 2013

"Don't Cry Because It's Over, Smile Because It Happened." -Dr. Seuss

Today is our last day with Vitaly. During his stay here, he went from a scared little boy to an important member of our family. He went from standing outside our bedroom door looking in, unwilling to step inside, to running in, jumping on the bed and snuggling with us under the covers. He went from keeping all of his things close by his bed to spreading them all over the house. He even went from protecting his medicine in a special little spot in his bedside table to leaving it on the kitchen counter. He went from this...... this.

And from this...... this.
A last-minute family photo taken last night after we were all in our pj's. And no, I have not had time to take down my Christmas decorations yet; hopefully that will happen this week after things settle down a bit!

Vitaly wanted spaghetti last night for dinner on his last night here (tonight we will stay at a hotel close to the airport since he has to be there early in the morning.) I found it interesting that he ate the same thing on his first and last nights here. He was very good at stalling when it was time for bed last night, and just wanted to lay in our bed talking to us through the translator app. Chris was emotional, and Vitaly kept telling him not to cry because he is coming back to our house this summer. However unlikely that is, this boy has hope that he will see us again. I have no doubt that he is right - someday, we will meet him again. 

Please say a prayer for Vitaly as he prepares to go, and for our children as they say goodbye to one of their brothers. And to Vitaly, wherever life may lead you, we love you and are so thankful that God brought you to us for a time. Always remember that He will be there for you, no matter what. Surrender your life to Him, and prepare to be blessed.

To my faithful blog followers, stay tuned as the story of V is not over. God works in mysterious ways, and soon I may have some great news to share with you all. :-)

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Trying to Process.....

We were in Illinois for the past few days for grandpa's funeral (which was beautiful, by the way). While there, we stayed with some friends who have an indoor pool, so Vitaly was able to go swimming. He walked immediately to the diving board and jumped in, and we quickly realized that he does not know how to swim. So while all of the other kids jumped and played in the deep end, Vitaly stayed on the shallow side. Adrian and Ashton played basketball in the pool, and kept swooshing the ball through the hoop. Vitaly tried a time or two as well, but couldn't make it happen. Again, I found myself grieving the fact that this dear boy has never had anyone to teach him how to swim or how to shoot a basketball. He has missed out on so many of life's little experiences that we take for granted with our kids. He certainly had fun, though, and stayed in the pool for over 2 hours.

Vitaly has been acting out a little more this week, and we can tell that he is nervous about his trip back to Ukraine. He has become comfortable with our family, and he's not too sure about leaving behind the love and opportunities he has had while in America. We can feel him trying to distance himself from us a bit more, which we learned is a typical reaction with hosted kiddos. He is trying to prepare himself, but it is hard for him to process his feelings. We have experienced some tears in the past couple of days, which is not normal for this usually happy child.

The other day, V accidentally broke something that belongs to Chris. He was scared that he would get into trouble, so he hid the item. Last night we were looking for it, and asked V if he knew where it was. He lied and said he didn't. We later found it in the trash can, and we could tell that V was scared and nervous. We used it as a teaching moment, though, and Chris explained that he always needs to tell the truth, no matter what. He explained to V that mommy, daddy, and Jesus would forgive him, and that we love him unconditionally. V sobbed and was so sorry for what he had done, and there were lots of hugs and tears all around. It was a great bonding moment, and he was so relieved when Chris told him that it was not a big deal - the item could be fixed. He told us that he loved us, and went to bed a happy boy again.

Every child needs a family, and we know that Vitaly would thrive in a home that could provide unconditional love and direction. We are advocating for him, and earlier this week I posted a write-up and photo on Facebook that I would like to share here as well. If you know anyone who may be interested in this dear young man, please don't hesitate to contact me. 

Vitaly is a happy 11 year-old orphan boy from Ukraine. He is a wonderful and energetic child who loves to help around the house, listen to music, play musical instruments, sing, and eat (especially bananas)! His favorite color is yellow, and he loves to play outside and visit new places. We have been hosting him for the last 3 weeks, and he has adapted very quickly to his life in America, bonding well with adults and children. Vitaly speaks both Russian and Ukrainian, and is quickly learning some English words as well. His favorite school subject is math. He has a medical condition, but strictly follows his medicine schedule and seems very healthy and active. We would love to help Vitaly find his forever family! Thanks!

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Our Weekend in Photos.....

The kids started off the weekend by having a dance party and listening to V's Russian children's songs.....

.....which he listens to and sings along with all. the. time.

Malia found a Memory partner!

V loves to play outside, even when the other kids think it's too cold.

On Saturday, the kids had fun at a local science museum:

Try saying the words in the color they're written in, rather than reading the word:

Also, congratulations to Shana for winning the National Geographic Bee school finals! She is the school district champion, and will soon take a written test that will be submitted to the state. If she scores well, she will attend the state finals. Way to go, Shana!