Thursday, September 27, 2012

Day 3 - Love Needs No Translator

Chris and Gretchen quietly snuck out of the hotel room early in the morning on Wednesday. They had court in Moscow, and so we were flying on our own with no translator at the orphanage. We had to check out of the hotel and take our luggage with us, so walking was out of the question. There was some wifi at the hotel so we pulled up a translation program on the phone and played it to ask the receptionist to call us a taxi. Chris had recorded the name of the orphanage on my phone and we played it for the driver. He didn't know if, but made a phone call and gave me a reassuring "Da." And of course, there was a new guard at the gate who stopped us. A simple "Dobre Ootra" didn't do it. So I threw out a "Polina Mama Eee Papa." Apparently it was enough because his phone conversation ended and we passed. The morning caregiver/teacher Galina spoke to us in Russian for the entire 4 hours. We got some, assumed some and probably misinterpreted some.

When we got there, Polina was in class. She was finishing up practicing her writing. We snuck up quietly behind her. The highlight of this day was the surprise on our little girl's face when she saw me. I got it on video!!!

And on this day...Daddy made a mess! He fed her Nutella on little bread sticks. He says she looks like a bird eating out of his hands in the first picture. The rest show just how much of a fun, bonding experience this was for Daddy and his little girl!

Yep - pretty sure the caregivers weren't thrilled about that one! That's okay - it was well worth it!

Day 2 Pictures

Here they are...sorry it took so long, but well worth the wait if you ask me!

LIP GLOSS!!! The girl would NOT let it go!

Sharing with Ma'ma

The girl LOVES the sand box! Can't wait to take her to a beach and let her play in it all day...with toys, so there's more to do than just throw it! You can see my handy language reference in my hand!

And we learned she loves to hand upside down...for a long time...over, and over, and over. Can you say "occupational therapy"?

I was soooo excited when she liked this fruit and berry sauce. Unfortunately, it was the only of the five flavors I took that she liked.

Blowing Raspberries on Ma'ma's arm

One of my fav's

This one is my favorite with Papa! They were having so much fun.

This is a very sweet and able 8-year-old who needs a Ma'ma and Papa of his own. 

Not happy with Ma'ma - showing my sassy side. See me peeking through my arms at the top?

Porridge swimming in butter - not a fan.

How about some sugar cubes with your tea?

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Highlights - Day 2

A few highlights from day 2... Unfortunately the pictures aren't uploading, so I can't share those today.

We arrived shortly after their morning snack. They were already outside and Polina was facing away from us. I called her name and she turned with a huge smile. "Mama, Papa!"

OUR little girl reached up & hugged us!

We gave her a lip gloss and it was a total hit! She put it on herself, then me, and offerred Jason. She wouldn't let go of it, so we taught her to put it in her pocket. It came out many times during the visit and fell out of her pocket for a moment while we searched for it. Papa was the hero!

We took her a squeezable berry sauce (like those apple sauces). When I took the lid off, I squeezed a bit hard and some squirted out. I handed it to her and she proceeded to squeeze it out all over her clothes. I tried to catch it unsuccessfully. It was silly of me not to realize she didn't know what to do with it and that she would do just what I did. We showed her to eat it, and much to my delight, she loved it! The girl made me squeeze every last drop out of it!!!

I also gave her a raspberry on her belly. Her laugh was hilarious, but even better when she did it back to may arm.

And speaking of laughing, our sweet girl laughed so hard when her Papa pushed her on the merry-go-round so much, she couldn't even make noise when she opened her mouth so wide! I really wish I could show you that picture!

She is really loving getting to play on the playground equipment. The caregivers just leave them sitting in their wheelchairs watching the other kids play when they are outside. My hip doesn't like it, but it's every bit worth the sweet girl's smile! We are now in NEED of a swing set with a slide and a sandbox for Christmas!

Blessings from an exhausted Mama!

Monday, September 17, 2012

Crazy special day, part 4

We then gave her a book of our family we had mad e& our facilitator told her "your Mama and Papa have come." it was a little strange of a statement because it kind of sounded like we had always been her parents but were just now showing up. Anyhow, she flipped through the book and was intrigued with her "brat Ca-te" (brother Carter).  She asked for more chocolate & I told her through translation she could have one more and the rest were for tomorrow. She took one and said, "Ok, you're mine now." 

It wasn't until I reached my arms out to pick her up, with which she responded excitedly, that I knew she got it. She gripped around my neck so tightly I thought shed never let go. It was then I knew she knew we were her parents. 

We spent the rest of our time playing with a snack in between. She's sweet, and sassy. She's definitely smart and lives a survival of the fittest lifestyle. I'm excited to bring her home and teach her it doesn't have to be that way. 

Of the many sassy things she said, she told Chris to stop talking to her because she was talking to her parents now. We had to explain that we needed Chris to translate for us because we didn't understand her language. We took her some color wonder coloring pages and she told me flat out she wasnt going to color and she wasnt joking. We worked through some language barriers with body language and facial expressions. 

I'll let the pictures tell the rest of the story. 

Crazy special day part 3

Once we were out of the city, I closed my eyes for a bit (jet lag!) and then we were in her city.

When we arrived at the orphanage, we had to check with the guard who wanted the passport of our facilitator. She couldn't find it and asked us for ours, but then found hers and all was good. we were then united with adoptive parents from Idaho we have been talking with since we started this adventure - the Gillettes. Yeah for the Gillettes!!!

To understand the rest, you have to understand that the Gillettes are only the second and us the third international adoption from this orphanage...EVER. 

We went into the director's office with the doctor and secretary. The director engaged in a loud argument with our facilitator. At first, I was okay, but as it dragged on and the secretary was watching me through the corner of her eye, I began to get nervous and pray. I asked God to please let this orphanage director who was clearly not happy with us being there allow us to see our daughter. I prayed that he would touch her heart. 

And then the questions started - why from Russia, why special needs. Our facilitator answered ,uh more in-depth than I did. At that point, the director called two women from the MOE over. We we,t outside and Chris translated the director's rant while we waited for the two ladies to arrive. They asked right off if the director had been rash to which our facilitator answered "always." 

They had a short discussion - much more merry and then asked Jason I about our house, community, and desires. they went to talk to the director and sent us to go drop our things off at the hotel, grab lunch for the Gilettes and be back in 90 min when the kids would be getting up from their nap. 

We were back at exactly 4:00. Pollina was the second child out the door. I went up to her and she asked if I brought her anything. (they ask all visitors that) Gretchen had tipped me off that she asked her for chocolate, so I was prepared. 

Crazy special day, part. 2

So, those familiar sites...

The beginning of a crazy special day... Part 1

I'm really not sure if it's jet lag or emotional exhaustion...maybe a mix of both, probably a mix of both, but I'm exhausted so please forgive my grammatical errors in advance. Also, blogging on the iPad is a bit difficult, so this is going to come across in a few different posts.

I have three lists of things I want to blog about, but for now, just some highlights (maybe some lowlights) from our first meeting.  But then again, there are things I just can't skip cause it just wouldn't  be right.

We were told last night we would be picked up by Oleg in a nice black BMW who would take us to meet our facilitator who lived 10 min from where we were staying.

To our surprise, as you can imagine, we were picked up by Mikel in a white Ford. Mikel doesn't speak English. And he smokes. But off we went. I asked a yes or no question in Russian and hence he supposed I spoke Russian. I got a whole shpeel about religion and Santa Clause. and 30 min later, he dropped us at a кафе (cafe).... No facilitator. I asked about her by name and he said yes, and said something about his машина (machina aka car) and he left with our suitcases and backpack in his car.

And so we sat there like fish out of water. The waitress offered us drinks to which I replied "I only speak English" before I came up with чай (chai aka tea) and she gave us a teapot without making us pay first, probably because we looked so pathetic.

Thankfully, our facilitator showed up about 30 min later and all was well. 

We proceeded to the Ministry of Education where we waited awhile and then called in. We were asked a couple of easy questions - about our family and jobs and why we "couldn't adopt from the US) which I answered and then our facilitator translated in a better fashion. Money well spent there...little did I know. The lady then read us the profile of our little girl and asked us to sign 5 papers if we wanted to go meet her. We did and she proceeded to tell us спасибо (thank you) for giving this orphan a chance at a life with a family and she hopes we love her very much. I could have cried then. 

Then it was lunch - crepes filled with meat and sour cream and eclairs - and off on the LONG drive to the orphanage with Mikel. We saw a few familiar sites along the way. 

Saturday, September 8, 2012

I Underestimated God Today!

Isaiah 12:4 says, In that day you will say: "Give praise the Lord, proclaim his name; make known among the nations what he has done, and proclaim that his name is exalted. 

While God deserved praise everyday, today is one of the days I can't finish without proclaiming his name & letting you know what he did. This might be a long post, but he deserves it! Forgive my typos, I've been up many hours!

We had an adoption garage sale today after 2 weather postponements. Without a doubt, those postponements were God's timing!

I dread garage sales - not my thing! I went into today knowing that others had made upwards of $1,000 on theirs and feeling I would be content with $400. I'm really good at underestimating God and the graciousness of the people he has strategically placed in my life! 

Our first customer was a woman around my parents age. She hadn't seen our signs and didn't know it was an adoption fundraiser. Upon telling her, she told me her daughter was currently in Ukraine for an adoption. I immediately knew who she was. 

I asked her daughter's name and she answered, "Kristen." when I responded with her last name, her eyes swelled with tears and we engaged in a warm embrace like those who have been waiting to be reunited after a long separation. 

Kristen lives near Chicago. She too is a teacher. We were working on our dossiers at the same time this summer & we have shared on FB how difficult it has been starting a new school year at this part of the journey. I know Kristen only through the adoption community I've been blessed to become a part of on Facebook. However, today, in her mother's tears and our embrace, God has shown me Romans 12:5. So in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. 
We had a short conversation, she shopped, & then told me she would be praying for us when she prayed for her daughter. She then hugged me again before leaving. 

But God didn't stop there. 

While I knew what was happening when I met Kristen's mother, I was clueless when some aquaintemces of ours came walking by with their son in his stroller. I didn't know they lived nearby, but it was nice to see them and I had some work-related issues to ask advice from Mysti. I caught her at the sidewalk and we talked as John went up to the garage with Jason. We talked for a bit, sold some things in the middle.  I got to coo over little Samuel and we talked about our older boys. Then they went on their way. It was nice seeing them. What happenstance that they went by our garage sale on their family walk. 

Kendra!!! Happenstance? Underestimating God, again!

Jason handed me an envelope. I looked at him & told him I didn't realize they'd come with purpose. There was a very generous cash gift in the envelope. But beyond that is the note Mysti wrote that spoke straight to my heart!

Reading it aloud, I had stop as I was too choke up to continue. "We have been very impressed with your hearts, efforts, and unique ways to bring your daughter, sister & princess home!!" 

The tears fall as I type through the blur now. Thank you Mysti! You spoke Deuteronomy 2:7 straight to my heart.  

"The Lord your God has blessed you in all the works of your hands. He has watched over your journey through the vast wilderness. These forty years the Lord your God has been with you, and you have not lacked anything." 

Jason & I knew from the beginning that fundraising the $45,000 with our hands was not going to be possible, but that if we worked diligently and served God through it, he would provide all that we need. The past 10 months since we committed to this, and the time leading up to that have certainly felt like forty years in the wilderness at times. But God, in his divinity, has known the source overy dollar that has already come in and that is yet to come in.

We were getting ready to start cleaning up when the last customer pulled up. I made a sarcastic remark that if that lady just spend $43, we would make my goal. I mean, who spends $43 at a garage sale? maybe if she bought Katie's table, or Kitchen aide mixer. But I had no expectation of that happening. She was looking through the buckets of clothes that had been donated.

Yeah, well, once again, God smacked me with his love!

She left with a car packed full of stuff and while she was sifting through, someone from 4 hours away called and said they were sending someone for the mixer AND wanted to come back for the table at a later date.

I can't leave out that somewhere in the mix of the day, a colleague from another school in my district came by. This was our first meeting. She is going to donate a personal day to me to be used during FMLA, which is worth quite a chunk of money for us.

Wondering how we did on my $400 goal? Well, Romans 9:23 says God will make the riches of his glory known to the objects of his mercy, whom he prepared in advance for glory. He made great strides in my preparation today, and I am so thankful for his mercy in my underestimation of him!

When you add the cash from the yard sale and the gift to the value of the personal day, God provided $1002.

I'm so thankful for the new friends Christ has placed in my life - and also for those who have stuck by Jason and I. Thank you John and Katie for letting us use your yard, and for donating all of your sales to us - it was not expected and it was a HUGE chunk! Thank you Nicole and Tabb for your donations, and thank you Whitney for your ongoing support! May you be blessed and may your hearts rejoice with us as we proclaim the Lord "across the pond" next week. 

Give praise to the Lord, proclaim his name;
make known among the nations what he has done.
Sing to him, sing praise to him; tell all of his wonderful acts.
Glory in his holy name;
let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice.
Look to the Lord and his strength; seek his face always.
Remember the wonders he has done, his miracles, and the judgments he pronounced.
Psalm 105:1-5

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

An Eternal Prize...

"All athletes are disciplined in their training. They do it to win a prize that will fade away, but we do it for an eternal prize. So I run with purpose in every step..." 1 Corinthians 9:25-26

Not prize money, or a medal, or a title. Not a promotion, a bigger house, or more money in the bank.

"So God created mankind in his own image..." Genesis 1:27

But for a life...created in the image of God, and yet deserted as imperfect in the eyes of this world. 

"With whom, then, will you compare God? To what image will you liken him?" Isaiah 40:18

In 13 days, I'll be able to tell you, and post pictures of, the image of God I see - not only in my daughter's face, but in the faces of many fatherless children, abandoned due to worldly imperfection.

"For by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy." Hebrews 10:14

And so, little did their parents know, they are absolutely perfect in the eyes of God!

"And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. ... There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear... We love because he first loved us." 1 John 4: 16, 18, 19

He loves us and thus led us to her. We love her. We are not afraid because she is not worldly perfect.

"Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world."  James 1:27

We've heard from the world (family & friends) many reasons why they believe this might not be the right thing for us. 

"Fear the Lord your God, serve him only and take your oaths in his name." Deuteronomy 6:13

We do not fear what the world tells us to fear. Our fear instead is in not following his lead to her. 

"And his affection for you is all the greater when he remembers that you were all obedient, receiving him with fear and trembling. I am glad I can have complete confidence in you." 2 Corinthians 7:16

His affection. Oh, how we long for that day when we are wrapped in his affection because we have been obedient. We have complete confidence in him...and so we don't have to fear, but follow.

"All these blessings will come on you and accompany you if you obey the Lord your God." Deuteronomy 28:2

She is not a burden, she is a blessing...and I can't imagine all the blessings we would be missing out on if we did not obey.

"All athletes are disciplined in their training. They do it to win a prize that will fade away, but we do it for an eternal prize. So I run with purpose in every step..." 1 Corinthians 9:25-26

And so we will continue in our training as Christ-followers. We will not aim for the prizes of this world. We will aim for the prizes of Heaven with purpose in every step, of every day. We are bountifully blessed. 

Next up - looking into our daughter's eyes, holding her on our lap, listening to her laugh, telling her we have chosen her as God has chosen us.