Monday, August 20, 2012

D Day

It was as hard as I thought it would be.

But God’s grace was evident and your prayers were felt.

The tears started yesterday. She had to say goodbye to “Papa” yesterday. We had known before she ever came that he wouldn’t be here for the goodbye. There was just no way. And it was ok. Really, it was. She said goodbye to him yesterday and then said goodbye to friends at church last night. She bawled the whole way home and I didn’t think my heart would be able to take it. I tried to picture how today would go, but when we picture the future we never account for God’s grace. His grace makes the unbearable seem…well, bearable.

Last night God was loud and clear. I sat down to highlight a few more verses in her Bible. She had helped me previously but I thought I could do it alone. Wow. Translating the verse I wanted into English was easy enough using a translator, but finding it was a whole other story. The books are not in the same order in her Bible. The names of the books are looong. And some of the numbers seemed off. So I *thought* I had found the one I wanted to highlight and I wanted to make sure it said what I thought it said. I began to type the Ukrainian into the translator- which if you haven’t already realized- is a different alphabet. One I am not familiar with! So it was taking for-ev-er and I finally began slowly seeing words appear on the English side. It wasn’t at all the verse I *thought* I wanted to highlight.


Be still and know.

Be still and know that I am God.

Psalm 46:10  

I didn't know whether to cry or laugh out loud. Ok, God. You are right. This one is better. I don’t really know if it was really for me or for her, but I think probably both.

This morning Nana came to watch the littles while Kayla and I met a friend who would ride along to the airport. We ended up in the airport for much longer than I expected because we were given their passports to hold and helped the children check bags. We were with her until she went through security which must have been a couple of hours total. It felt like 47. Tears flowed off and on but there were smiles and giggles too as she reconnected with friends. They shared each others’ photo albums and she rambled on to them in a way she had not been able to ramble in weeks. Every time she looked at me the tears came again. Lots of “I love you’s” and tears, and she said “Mama you are in here (pointing to her heart) forever”. I motioned back the same. I looked to my friend who was no help because she is a tender hearted mercy kind of girl who was crying with me (thanks for that Sharon- you were perfect today). 

I almost made it out of the airport before I broke down the first time and I am sure it won’t be the last. But the ride home was filled with a mix of tears and laughter, reminiscing about the past few weeks and dreaming about the future. I know this is how God wanted us to spend our summer and I can smile about that. I can smile because His plans are good. His ways are higher, and better. Vika’s summer here was His idea - no doubt. Through the hard and the fun and the frustrations, tears, and laughter. God was all over it.  
And it was bigger than us- you all have told me so.

I haven’t had time to come out of the fog or think through things with perspective. I am looking forward to spending time with God and taking time to see it all through His eyes over the next few days and weeks. I went into “her” room tonight to find a message she left.

And I looked around at the empty hangers in the closet and the few items she left- the pictures she forgot to take off the bulletin board and the handwritten Ukrainian notes. And I just backed out and closed the door. Too soon.

It hurts to love. There is almost imminent danger when you invest a part of your heart into another human being. As I am sure you know by now, I am a mess today. But I am not the girl who started this journey 7 weeks ago and I thank God for that. There are so many signs that God has done a work here. I can’t bring myself to call her an orphan because it’s a label and it feels wrong. She is Vika. She is a person with a name, a face, a sense of humor, and feelings and likes and dislikes. And now I see what He saw all along.  The lessons have been so much different and gone so much deeper than I have even been able to articulate so far. We are changed. And I hope that Vika is changed, too. Actually, I know she is. She is not the same kid who came here 7 weeks ago either. 

There are some hard days still ahead. I don't know about your emotions but mine always lag behind everything else and tag along in a much leakier, much more dramatic fashion than I would prefer. Just bear with me for a few days, ok? If you notice something off like, say... my shoes don't match ... be a doll and just pretend its a new fad. I'll be better in a few days. Promise. 

Because I already know it was worth it. 

It was really too early but my friend went there anyway. “Do you think you will ever do anything like this again”?

I told her this had been so hard and costly in so many ways and today has been excruciating. I never want to do this again today.


We all know that His mercies flow in the morning. ;) 

"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."     - Lamentations 3:22-23

"For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared to the glory that is to be revealed to us."  - Romans 8:18 

Sunday, August 19, 2012


Words normally flow easily but the past few days they just wouldn’t come. 

Yesterday Vika and Kayla went to a pool party for the youth that go to our church. I was able to take the time to pack her big bag, as I had told her I would. As a mother of four I can pack more in one suitcase than most people can pack in three and she is only allowed one bag and one carry on. Since she came with nothing you might expect this would be easy, but this child has been loved. And her bag overflows with clothes and small things contributed from all the people who have in some way loved her while she was here. As I packed I could only hope her heart and her “cup” overflows the way her bag does. As I rolled each piece of clothing as tight as it would go and placed it in the bag my dread increased. I knew which things were most important and needed to make it into that bag. Then when I was done I worked steadily to finish her scrapbook of her time here. I pulled together pictures and I knew which memories where her favorites and needed an important place in that book. I knew what verses might be best. Yes, Vika is known. She is loved.

Last week we got to escape reality and take Vika to the beach. The time there was great. It felt like the clock stopped and she stopped counting down her days and stopped asking about when she was leaving. She experienced her first “family vacation”. She had said she had seen the sea before but it was apparent that this was really her first time at the “beach”. Whatever her experience before, it didn't compare to this one. It was also her first time staying overnight. 

Jumping waves. That's a happy face, folks. 

Enjoying the ocean

And the pool. 

We went to the beach in the mornings and we stayed out until late only leaving to alternate with the pool. We never watched the clock and the time was never important. It was so good for all of us to have that week. It was as if God stopped the clock for a few moments.

 On the last day we packed up and as we started the drive home she quietly said "thank you, Mama, Papa" and motioned that she meant for the vacation. I noticed she was a little teary and the dread began to creep in again. All I could think was that I was so thankful for that week when we didn't have to think about the reality that was waiting for us in the coming days. 

And I know I had said I would blog all about it. Last night I finished most of the packing and I finished her scrapbook and I glanced at the computer. I did remember, but I saw my husband sitting on the couch and I decided I didn't have it in me to write. So filled with dread and heartache, I chose instead to lay on the couch with my head in his lap and because he knows me so well he didn't say a word but just ran his fingers through my hair until I fell asleep. 

But morning still came, and this morning held more firsts. The first goodbyes. The first flood of tears. And it was hard to watch. There is no escape, no way to walk away unaffected. No where to go but straight through it. 

I don't even know how to sugarcoat this one. It hurts. It’s awkward and painful and it cuts deep. I wish I could hide and I keep telling God that I don't actually know how to do this. I don't know how to comfort her and there are few things I can actually say. I can't make her promises I don't know to be true and I have no idea what the future looks like for her. I keep praying for that future and I keep confessing to Him that I think he chose the wrong person to do this. I tell Him I feel helpless- and He is going to have to do everything because I can't do this on my own. 

But in the midst of all the chaos, there is this one small voice. And He reminds me constantly that He can be trusted. 

That He is enough

That He is strong when I am weak. 

That we have NEVER walked alone. 

That His ways are higher and better. 

That His plans for her are for good, to give her a future and hope. 

And that He loved her FIRST. 

Pray with us. 

"No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord."  - Romans 8:37-39

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Weddings and Fairy Tales

I just feel like I need to confess to you that I am writing today from a quiet place overlooking the beach. I know, its pretty disgusting how blessed I am. Feel free to revoke my right to complain about anything. It is just what I needed this morning, with less than a week until Vika has to return. As I watch Brian on the beach playing with the kids I can't help but notice how small they look in the scheme of things. By the scheme of things, I mean up against a huge blue sky and never- ending waves. This morning I sat on the balcony and talked to Isabella about how the ocean is so huge yet God tells the waves how far they can come and they go no further. We watched the birds in air and were reminded how He knows the whereabouts of each one of them. As I reminded her, He reminded me. 

Peace is never found in changing our circumstances. It is found in the realization that God is sovereign. He is big, powerful, and He holds all things together. And there we find rest. I'll be sharing about her first beach trip soon but first I had to share about another first that happened last weekend. 

So, last weekend I got to watch a friend get married. It was such a wonderful day for so many reasons. She was beautiful and even though I don't usually cry at weddings I cried at hers. As it worked out neither Kayla or Brian was able to go so I ended up taking Isabella and Vika instead. As God would have it, someone had already given us a dress that was perfect for the occasion. When they gave us the clothes I had thought to myself that it might be a little fancy and we might not have a use for it, but I figured she could wear it to church anyway. Silly me. Didn't I just write about God and details? This is why I write it down, guys. I need reminding, too. 

As we were getting ready I was going to curl her hair under with a curling iron just to make her feel extra special. As I went to curl it I realized the haircut was uneven in many places so I used charades to ask if she would like spiral curls. She did. So I took my time and her eyes were already lit up. She twirled in the living room to watch her dress flare, and when Brian came out she went in for a hug but then pulled away yelling "Papa, no!" and motioned he would mess up her hair. 

She was so excited since it was her first wedding. A wedding is something that was, until this weekend, only in fairy tales for her. I don't think I have the words to describe her face as she walked in and saw all the flowers and beautiful decorations. She ran around wanting her picture taken with friends and I couldn't help but be grateful that she has felt so loved by so many. One of the many is our youth pastor. He and his wife are, in my humble opinion, what every church needs in their youth department. They just embody "Do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with your God". At one point he grabbed Vika's hand and spun her around like only a man with daughters would think to do. She lit up and I asked him to dance with her a little because I wasn't sure she had ever been able to do that before. He did (what a good sport!) and twirled her and she was so lit up that afterward I had to turn around to keep my composure. Or, to try to keep my composure. Unfortunately I locked eyes with a friend who had also been watching her and was all choked up and teary- eyed, too. No help there. 

The highlight of her night was clear though. She begged all night for a picture with the bride. She was so captivated by this beautiful women in her beautiful dress- all radiant with love and happiness. And because my friend is beautiful inside and out, she was happy to oblige. 

I promise to stop taking pictures with my phone. I formally repent of leaving my camera at home and using cheap, red eye inducing phones to capture memories. But this kind of radiance shows even on a cellphone pic! 

Then Vika danced until it was time to go. With sore feet she hobbled out- eyes bright and a smile stretching the length of her face. It was something she would have never thought to ask for but it ended up being one of the  highlights of her time here. Yes, looking at this picture I am reminded that God writes the story of our lives so much better than we would ever be able to dream up on our own. 

Note to self: stop trying to grab the pen. 

Friday, August 10, 2012

The Deepest Wish

“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God.”  - Jesus

I have thought a LOT about the verses above. I had to teach on these verses at a Bible study and I spent a long time meditating on them and studying Matthew 5. They led me to a personal conclusion, too.

I love many of my titles. I love being a wife. I love being a Mom. I love being a friend, a sister, a “siesta” (wink wink) and I love being a disciple. But there is one title I most deeply desire to hold while here on earth.
I want to be a peacemaker.

Allow me to explain. A peacemaker is not the same as a “peacekeeper”. It isn’t the “bend to another person’s will” kind of doormat you might be thinking. No, a peacemaker MAKES peace where there is none. A peacemaker is no coward. They know when to be quiet and when to stand their ground. A peacemaker shows others how to be at peace with one another or with God.

So why a peacemaker? Peacemakers “will be called sons of God.” That’s straight from Jesus’ lips. And yes, it goes for daughters, too. I don’t know how you picture God. I don’t know how you imagine heaven but I will share my deepest, most sacred desire with you. When I picture my great crossover into heaven I do not imagine myself standing in awe of this remarkable place with no pain and no sin. I don’t picture myself immediately searching for loved ones so we can catch up. I don’t picture myself checking out the “mansions” reserved for those who “stored up treasures in heaven”. I am not even looking so much for a “well done, good and faithful servant” like so many like to say.


I want a bear hug. I want to run into His arms and I want a big, giant hug that can only be described as a “Daddy hug”. I want to be greeted as a beloved daughter coming home. If you know me well, this makes perfect sense to you.

And before you get your theological panties in a bunch, can I just say – it’s just a wish. I’m not claiming to have some insight into what heaven will be like. You may say I will fall on my face in worship right away– and I might and that would be awesome. I look forward to worshiping forever but I like to hope that when I am greeted it is as daughter first, one who is known, who is loved deeply, and in my head I think maybe even a spin as He hugs me because He is so happy I am there. And He could. You don’t really know. I am a daughter, and He has a long history of going to great lengths to bring me redemption and joy. He became sin and died to buy me back from darkness so are we going to argue that a spin is inconceivable? Just sayin. After that I could gladly fall on my face and stay there for at least the first 50 billion years. He is that awesome. 

Welcoming my husband home in 2003. See? Hugs. 

I share all that to say that something within me believes that I was created to be a peacemaker. We weren’t created to be puppets. We don’t get adopted into the Kingdom as “servants” or “followers” or “slaves”. Oh, to be a slave of Christ is a worthy aspiration because He is kind, merciful and only chooses best for us. But we are adopted into the Kingdom first as His children. So to be a peacemaker here is just so fitting.

Of all our time with Vika, none has been so rewarding as sharing with her about Jesus. Telling her that she does, in fact, have a loving Daddy has always been willing to adopt her as daughter, desires to protect her, love her, and have a real relationship with her. She has an all-powerful Daddy that can bend the universe in her favor; who sees her future and redeems her past. And I feel sure I know her well enough to know she is hoping for a big “daddy hug” greeting, too.

And yes, sweet Vika, I know it hurts. I know you have a void. I know something about that. But this void is God-shaped and nothing else will fill it anyway. And I am so happy for what has happened here. And I will pray every day that you remember it always and I pray specifically  “that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ” (Phil 1:9-10). And I pray on that day, He greets you with a bear hug.


But I also know we must tell the others. The orphans, the depressed and the weary, the abandoned and abused, the addict, the mother on anti-depressants with skeletons in her closet, the man searching for significance, the runaway and the Sunday morning “faker”….. we need to tell them. They were created for more. They were created for hope, joy and love. It is possible. But we must tell them.

Making a scrapbook to remind her she is known and loved. 

Yes, we were all created for more.

Oh, I am already a daughter. That was sealed years ago and there is nothing here I could or need to earn. Still, somehow I just know I was born to be a peacemaker.

Between you and me, Vika, I think you were, too. 

"Some wish to hear the word of God, others wish to receive it." --Anonymous

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Small Things

It is so hard to believe it has only been five weeks. I have heard a million questions but some are always the same so I thought I would just put the answers out there.

Yes, she has to go back. We received a letter from the Embassy shortly after she arrived stressing the fact that she is here on temporary Visa and she MUST be at the airport to go back with the others.

Yes, she is available for adoption (as far as we know). We are actively advocating for her and hope to help her find a forever family. We will continue to advocate for her even after she returns. I don’t know what God’s plan is for her life. Maybe it is simply to be a light to others there in the Ukraine. Or maybe He has a family picked out for her already. I don’t know at this point. I do know that for us, we feel certain our role is that of advocate.

I know, some of you don’t want to hear that. One thing I wasn’t really prepared for with hosting was that people would have such strong reactions. I mean STRONG opinions. Many of you have been super supportive and you have walked alongside us through this journey encouraging us and praying with us. For that a simple “thank you” just seems so insufficient. 

Others have been very critical of it. I wish I could say “I could care less” but if you have read this blog more than … oh, I don’t know …. ONCE, then you know I am a sensitive girl and that would make me a big fat liar. The criticism has been hard to handle at times but in all fairness I have at times beat myself up more than anyone else ever did. The most hurtful criticism/thought has been that we are “just hurting her more by bringing her here, showing her what she is missing and sending her back.” Yes, a few have voiced the accusation to my face. Ouch. But I will show you how God answered that for me.

“As Jesus was walking beside the sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. “Come, follow Me,” Jesus said, “and I will make you fishers of men.” At once they left their nets and followed Him.    Matthew 4:18-20

Ok, so that might not have seemed so profound for you. Let me show you what I saw. Or rather, what I DIDN’T see. I didn’t see where Jesus sat down for a little pow wow with them and laid out His master plan. He didn’t give them the details of the agreement or ask “so how would you like to see this go?” He walks up to them and says “follow me” and BAM. They do.

And do you know what that tells me? It tells me that you can be in the center of God’s will and have no clue what the heck you are doing other than the fact that you are following. You can be completely unaware of what God is doing in you or through you and yet He might very well be using you anyway. So, yeah,  I wish everyone knew my heart and knew that we only have the best of intentions here. Honestly, we do. At the end of the day I hope what you see is that some completely ordinary, flawed couple was chillin on the lakeside with some fishing nets and God said “Hey, follow me” and BAM. We did, and He used us for His glory because He is God and He can use anybody He pleases no matter how ordinary or quirky. That is what I hope you all see. And if you don’t, it’s cool. Really. 

We still serve an audience of One. 

But personally, I still think you are missing the bigger picture. 

Remember this? Day one at the airport. 

5 weeks later

Gotta love Isabella's face

1000 words, folks.

So have we done more harm than good? I'd be a fool to believe that. Have we done some great work? I'd be a fool to believe that, too. We just aren't big enough to be main characters here. We are just trying our best to follow. We have less than two weeks left and we are going to live it to the full! 

"Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love."  -Mother Theresa