Sunday, June 15, 2014

Finally...an update!

Wow-I guess it goes without saying that it was time for me to post on this much-neglected blog! So much has happened since I last posted.

As you know if you have followed our story, we were in process to adopt our beautiful Ana Faith from Russia--we had spent 4 wonderful days visiting her in September of 2012--when Russia enacted an adoption ban on all American adoptions. The ban went into effect on January 1, 2013. Our hearts were broken and we spent 2013 doing anything we could to hold onto hope. We worked through several avenues to try to bring her home-without any success.

We love this little girl so very much. I can close my eyes and still smell her newly-bathed-soapy smell. I smile when I think of the time she finally laid her head on my shoulder. I am often taken back to the wonder she had as she looked into her Daddy's eyes and played with his mustache; and I am still amazed at their almost instant connection.

Ana Faith is still in her orphanage in Russia. Our hearts still long for her and for the chance to watch her grow--to be her Mama and Papa. But for reasons that we will never understand in this life, that has not happened.

There were so many dark moments for us in 2013. We hurt to our very core-a pain that there are no words to describe. Had we heard God wrong? Why had we not gotten our paperwork done more quickly? Maybe she would be home if we had done things differently. The five steps from my bed to the shower were akin to walking through wet concrete in lead boots most mornings. The pain was suffocating. The grief was overwhelming and distracting.

Our God is faithful. He sustains, encourages, leads and heals. Our hearts began to heal and He began to give us hope. Pure hope that only He can give.

We had no idea what our next step was to be, but in late December, 2013,God gave us a "release" from Russia. We love Ana. We still have great hope that adoptions will open up one day. We do NOT have answers about why all of this happened, but we have peace.

God healed just enough to open our hearts to another child. We are thrilled to now be in process for a little beauty from Asia. She is 5, has Down Syndrome, and is just a lovely little girl. We look forward to  bringing this precious one into our family!

We cherish your prayers as we continue to heal and as we pursue our beautiful Asian daughter!

You can see a sneak preview at:  http://reecesrainbow.org/sponsorthomas

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Holiday honesty

As we approach the Holiday season, I looked for something special to write about. Something to encourage you if you are in the midst of a trial, words to comfort you if you have experienced loss, or a special sentiment to bring you peace if you are feeling anxiety. I couldn't find it on the internet, but I found it in my own heart.

The holidays have always been such a favorite time of year for me. I love the pretty tree (although I don't take much joy in the actual decorating of it), I love the relaxed time at home, and I actually love being out in the crowds shopping. When they were young, I especially loved dressing my little girls up in holiday dresses and big hair bows. I loved that proverbial "Christmas Picture" we attempted to take every year. We would often take an entire roll of film (I am aging myself here) and rush to get it developed--hoping for that "perfect" picture. With three little girls (and various pets, pacifiers, tantrums, etc.) there were MANY "out-takes." I, however, would pick out the picture where every hair was in place and they all had perfect smiles, and I would proudly send it out to friends and family. I wanted people to think that we were wonderful parents with wonderful children.  As I look back over the "out-takes" they are the ones I most enjoy today. They are hilarious-- and much more a "picture" of what our real life was like. 

Today those little girls are all grown up. The truth is that we were okay parents. We did a lot of things right, but we made just as many mistakes and missteps in our parenting journey. Our girls have grown up to be very unique and yes, wonderful. But that is truly only because of our Heavenly Father's Amazing Grace. The thing is we were not perfect parents, and they are not perfect "products" of our parenting. I wish we had been more real back then. I wish we would have been more open about our struggles, questions, doubts. I wish we would have not worried so much about what people thought of our parenting,  but more concerned about reaching out to those who were struggling like we were. It is not only freeing to be transparent and real, it is so much more productive in the Kingdom of God. If we would admit when we fail, hurt or question, those who are also failing, hurting and questioning may be a little more open to receiving the love and compassion of our God. 

So today I will be real. You see, we had hoped to have a beautiful little girl home to spend the holidays with us this year. She will not be coming, barring a huge miracle. The door of adoption and guardianship in the European country where she lives are closed, and now seem locked. We are so sad. We have a catch in our throats as we close the door to her room that has been so carefully prepared. We shed a tear or experience a heaviness in our chest as we look at the clothes that she should be wearing, the toys she should be playing with, and the bed she should be sleeping in. We had so many hopes, dreams and plans for this little beauty, and they all seem to be gone now. 

I must be honest in saying that I don't know what our next step will be. I don't even know what it should be. Things are not pretty and "wrapped up in a bow" even when we say things like "God is in control, God will take care of things, God loves her more than we do." We know He is in control, He will take care of things and He certainly loves her in a way we cannot. But the reality is--we hurt.

So, if you are discouraged, hurting, lonely, anxious or sad this season, I am so sorry, but I understand. I am with you and I won't try to dress it up or make it pretty.  

I will however, remind you of the TRUTH that I am reminding myself of:

"The Lord is close to the brokenhearted, and saves those who are crushed in spirit." Psalm 34:18

Okay, I gotta say I love how the Message version puts it:

"If your heart is broken, you'll find God right there; if you are kicked in the gut, He'll help you catch your breath."

Is your heart broken? Is your spirit crushed? Do you feel kicked in the gut? 

Then cry out to Him. Be real with Him. 

He knows your heart is broken and He is close. He will save your crushed spirit... and He will help you catch your breath.

I pray you know His presence this Holiday season.

Blessings,

Donna

Thursday, January 10, 2013

As most of you know we have encountered quite a challenge in our planned adoption. Parts of Eastern Europe are now involved in an adoption ban.

So where does that leave us? Well, I truly wish I knew. News reports are confusing. Some say only those who have passed court will be able to take their kids home.. Some say things will go on as usual until January 2014. Some say each region will interpret and apply the law as they see fit. The truth is we just don't know.

Each night I go into Ana Faith's (not her real name, but the name we will give her) room and I plead with God for this to be her room, her clothes, her toys, her bed. I ask God to speak and I ask Him to lead. And He does speak, and He has led. He remains faithful as I pour out my heart to Him and beg for her to be ours. Then He reminds me that He is THE GOD ABOVE ALL. He sees and knows all. He loves Ana Faith because she is His.

This week as I have been praying, I have comforted myself with thoughts like, "Why would He take us to this point and then halt this adoption?" Followed by doubtful thought like, "Did we hear Him correctly? What if we had worked faster and harder on our paperwork--would she be home now? Why has this happened to us?"  Then I was challenged by the Holy Spirit.  Why not? Am I so different or special that I don't have to suffer heartache in this life?

Then it came. The biggest question that God has ever asked me in this life. "Am I willing to go through this process, lose a child that I felt sure was mine, be confused and devastated...all so His Kingdom can be advanced?"And the questions still come: " HOW IN THE WORLD COULD AN ORPHAN NOT HAVING A FAMILY ADVANCE GOD'S KINGDOM?" I just don't get it.

But my answer depends completely on WHO my life is committed to. This adoption--from the beginning--was God's idea. So, even though it didn't make much sense, we desired to be obedient. And in the process we fell deeply in love with a 23 pound 5-year-old in the middle of Eastern Europe.What do I do with this?

I am truly wrestling with God on this one. My heart is given over to this little girl and I want her. But the bottom line for me is where my heart's desire truly lies. Do I want MY  will over HIS will? Well, honestly there are moments I think I do. But as I pray and remember His perfect love for me, I can only choose to surrender my will to His.

I will assuredly continue to plead for God to show Himself strong on behalf of Ana Faith. But I will seek to allow Him to mold me to desire His Kingdom above all else. Hard to put that down on paper but these are times for hard commitments.

Please continue to pound on the doors of heaven for our Ana Faith.



Sunday, November 25, 2012

"Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts 
and your minds in Christ Jesus." 
Philippians 4:6-7

This scripture has been a favorite of mine for as many years as I can remember.  What it says to me is this: I am allowed to tell God about everything in prayer as I thank Him for His presence and work in my life. I can tell Him what I want. He will listen, He will give me peace beyond my own understanding as I wait for Him to answer and He will guard my heart and mind in the power of Jesus.

Tonight as I write, I have information that most likely we will not return to Eastern Europe until January for our court date. We will come home for our 30 day wait, then return in February to pick little A up and bring her home. 

We committed to adopt A on March 9th, 2012. So a homecoming in February is very good in the adoption world--less than a year. And while we had hoped to have her home for Christmas, our hearts have accepted that she will not be with us. However, I am asking that those who have followed our journey join with us and pray very specifically during these next weeks.

It is not impossible that we could go for court in December, and then pick up in January. Not probable, but not impossible!  I would like to ask that you, along with Rob and I, "let your request be made know to God." If you will, join with us and ask God to let us travel for court in December, and bring  A home in January. 

He will hear our prayers, no doubt. He is omnipotent (all powerful!) and He is able to work this miracle for us. And best of all, He is omniscient (all knowing!).  He has this all planned down to the moment we take custody of A (and beyond).

So we ask you to "ask" with us. And then we will wait for His perfect plan to unfold. Best of all, as we wait, we will have the peace of God that surpasses all comprehension.




Thursday, October 25, 2012

Our God is so faithful. I am in awe tonight of how faithful He remains--even in my unfaithfulness.

I spent some time last weekend with my "Adoption Expense/Donation Spreadsheet." Okay, I know I have come down pretty hard on my sweet husband for his great love of spreadsheets (he thinks in spreadsheets, you know). But I must say that I have come to understand him a bit better (just a bit...) during this adoption process. We have determined that we would document every donation and how every dollar has been spent. We want to be above reproach and be able to show, on paper, how we have used the money that so many have sacrificed to give us.

When we first heard God stirring our hearts for Sweet A, we were puzzled at why He would call us at this time in our lives. Not only are we "older parents, (giggle)" we have had some challenges financially in recent years. Job loss, kids in college, a wedding--things we both mourned and celebrated. Of course we mourned the job loss, but were able to celebrate as God provide a new job quickly. Love seeing my girls follow their dreams through college, but miss them dearly when they leave. Enjoyed every aspect of  wedding planning, details and the big day!  But I do miss my grown up girl at the dinner table (or restaurant table).One thing in common in all of these situations .....money!  Cannot get around it, we were intrigued at how this adoption would come together financially. But He has provided for every need. And He continues to provide.

Last weekend, we were able to participate in the Tarrant County Buddy Walk for Down Syndrome. I was so excited to be a part of this new community and looked so forward to this day!  As we walked around the incredible event, I saw hundreds of beauties with those amazing almond shaped eyes. We so enjoyed the event with our dear friends, but I found myself missing Sweet A so very much. Every time I saw a little one, I would wonder what our little one was doing, how she was doing, and when we would be able to get back to her.

Here is where we are. The paperwork is done on our end. Our adoption agency is doing their final checks and our court dossier (a bunch of papers for the judge to look over) should  be going to Eastern Europe in the next couple of weeks. From there, there is a preliminary court hearing with our representative, and if the judge doesn't ask for more paperwork, our court date will be set. Then we get to go back! We are praying this happens in November or early December. So for now, we wait. 

We still have to prepare her room, and we still need funds. So while we are eager to get back to EE, my mind has begun to ask questions. "What if we don't have all the money when we get the call to go to court?" "How in the world will we ever get this money?" "What should we do?"

After we left the Buddy Walk last weekend, these questions found their way to my lips. I sobbed most of the way home. I write those words out of my total need to be transparent. I am not proud of those questions, and I am not proud of my doubt. But, for me it is part of my journey, and I don't want to paint a picture that doesn't exist.

Here comes the funny part (kind of). As I sat there bawling, Rob first looked at me like I had three heads. But he was very sweet and calmly said, "Sweetheart, God has provided exactly what we needed at the exact time we needed it throughout this whole process. He has called us, and He is going to provide again this time. I know you would like to have all His provision right now, but this will cause our faith to grow."  Then, to lighten the mood, he started singing a scripture song that we taught our girls when they were young. "Trust in the Lord with all of your heart, and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways, acknowledge Him, and He will direct your path." Guess what?  I got mad.

I got really mad at him! I told him he just didn't understand! I told him to stop judging me! I cried some more. OH dear--can you believe that?? Here is the worst....I told him to stop quoting scripture to me!!

NOT my finest moment folks. But you know what? Once again, I came to the end of myself and my own strength. I confessed my doubt and disbelief to my loving Heavenly Father, and decided to rest in His provision. He gave me peace and assurance that He has this whole strangely wonderful situation in His plan and in His hands.

Tonight I got a call and it was from a dear friend informing me that she and her husband had made a donation to our adoption fund. Already done. Sent this week. Done. Sent. We are halfway funded for trip #2. God is good. God provides. God has this.


Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Day 2 and 3

Day two began with A's "Baba" bringing her to us, once again carrying her like a little sack of potatoes!  She doesn't seem to mind at all being carried like this, but it is quite a sight to see her facing forward, with those long skinny legs hanging down! I don't think she gets out of her room a lot, and she was certainly wide-eyed today as she took in her surroundings!

Fun things about our second visit:

  • Sweet A smelled so good!  I mean, she had recently had a bath, and she smelled all "soapy." There is nothing better than a clean baby! Her outfit was interesting to say the least, but she sure smelled good!
  • We brought a little ball on our visit today. It was a cheap ball that we had gotten at the market. (our suitcases--which held more toys--had not yet arrived and we had been there three days at this point) Sweet A LOVED this little ball. It had little grooves in it, and so it was easy for her to grip. She can sure throw a ball!  We have some precious video of her throwing the ball and then laughing as Rob "fetched" the ball.
  • While it was hard saying "goodbye" today, we felt excited because we were only half way through our visits!
God had truly healed my heart and mind. There were no tears on visit two, I simply relaxed and enjoyed her presence. What a sweet little one. Yes, very delayed, and very tiny. But God was with her. So far away, and before we ever knew her, He knew her and loved her. What a God we serve.

We were invited to "tea" with the Orphanage Director and Head Doctor after our visit. These ladies were so hospitable!  As we made our way into what looked like the break room, it was like we were being welcomed into their home. They served us hot tea with honey (from the orphanage's hives) and yummy cakes/cookies. Through our interpreter, they asked us questions about our family (and we proudly showed them pictures of all of our kids) and were genuinely interested in us. I have to say they were absolutely delightful ladies!

Another highlight of day two came when we returned to our hotel. We decided to go and purchase some diapers for the orphanage. On our way, we found a Carl's Junior!  ROB WAS IN HEAVEN as he ate his bacon cheeseburger!  A little taste of home!

Day three brought some concern. It had gotten a bit cooler that day, and rained quite a lot that morning. When we got to the orphanage, it was raining pretty hard. We went to the designated room for our visit, and we noticed a stark difference in Little A today. She was lethargic, and she seemed like she did not feel well. She did not respond like she had on days 1 and 2. I don't know if anyone else has ever experienced this, but when my girls were little and illness was coming on, they had a funny smell to their breath. It almost smelled like rubbing alcohol. I know--weird, but this is how A's breath smelled. We were very concerned and we first asked our interpreter about it. She said it was the weather change. She said that happens with the kids here in EE when the weather changes. Okay--she is a Mom and I trusted her, but I was still concerned. So, I asked  the Head Doctor. She said the same thing--weather change. We enjoyed our visit despite our concerns. Little A drank her juice that we had brought. Actually, she does not know how to drink from a straw, but after some conversation between our interpreter and the doctor, someone brought in a tea cup. I was instructed to pour the juice into the cup. I was intrigued at these instructions. However, I did as I was told!  I gave A the cup and guess what!? She put her little hands around that cup and drank all the juice without spilling a drop!  She slurped loudly (yes we also have video of this) and handed it back to me as if to say "more!" I dutifully poured more in the cup and she drank almost the whole juice box from the cup! Wow--she has some skills we never would have imagined!

Amazing things were happening in our hearts as these days flew by. Rob became more and more confident that we were following God's perfect plan. I realized that it was no accident that we had flown for a total of 17 hours, then driven 2 hours to meet this tiny human being. No accident at all. God was in this--yes, He was and is in every. single. detail.


Friday, September 21, 2012

Meeting Sweet A

Okay so now we are on to Tuesday. We get up, have a very yummy breakfast (buffet, thank goodness) in our hotel restaurant, and we are off with our translator, Anna, to the Ministry of Social Development. We have an appointment with the Director, and we are quite excited!

During this meeting we are told very clearly that Sweet A has severe developmental delays and growth issues. We state clearly that we still desire to visit her, and we are granted permission to visit. Next we are off on the 1 1/2 -- 2 hour drive outside of town to her orphanage. This was a very long drive. We were so eager to meet the little one that it felt even longer. But finally, we arrived.

Now, the orphanage was not at all scary looking to me. However, as we drove up, we saw that there were iron bars to the entrance. The secondary entrance was guarded with security officers. So, not exactly the welcoming committee, but it made me feel good that the kids were clearly protected.

We entered a fairly large room where the older children have various activities. There was a stage and a sound system in this room, and when I asked, I was told that the kids often put on plays and programs in this room. Cool. We met the Head Doctor, the Director, another Doctor and a couple of Social Workers. After a few minutes of Q and A, in walked Sweet A's caregiver, carrying her like a sack of potatoes!  It was quite cute, actually. Little A was dressed in a blue dress with blue tights, and purple sandals. She looked at me, and was content to come to me, though she clearly preferred her caregiver (good news that she has made a bond with her). I took her and was instantly surprised at how tiny she was. She looked and seemed much more like a toddler than a 5 year old.

Rob was literally swooning at her!  "SHE IS PRECIOUS, ISN'T SHE," he gasped!  I was tickled at him and how very instantly he fell in love with her. I was, very honestly, still in a bit of shock.

I sat down on the floor and sat her next to me so I could "check her out." Moms do that. Moms can do a head-to-toe check in about, oh, uh, 2 minutes flat. I noted that the back of her head was flat. Her hair had been cut off, but it was okay--kinda matched what a toddler's might look like. She had a sore on the left side of her nose, she had a bad rash on her hands, and she had a pinpoint rash on the back of her neck. I decided (for my own good mental health) that it was not scabies, just the rash that kiddos with DS often have.Her little legs were very floppy, or hypotonic. Those purple sandals did not match, and her tights were too big for her (oops, time out for a fashion check). She could stand a bit, but could not walk. She used her right hand quite expressively, but in a strange, (but curiously cute) sort of way. She babbled but had no words. She grinds her teeth.The thought that most described my thoughts:  She. Is. A. Baby.

After that quick 2 minute head to toe, I began to look into her sweet eyes, and observe her personality. By now, Rob had scooped her up and she was discovering his facial hair. It was a sweet, sweet sight as she looked quite closely at his chin hair, and softly touched it with those tiny hands. (Kids in orphanages don't see men very often, and so I informed him of this immediately so he would not get the big head and think that she liked him more than me...)

We brought crayons and a coloring book. She was totally unimpressed. (and I did some hard shopping for just the right coloring book too). But then...I got the dolly out. It was not that impressive to me, just a soft doll I got at Big Lots. But she LOVED it!  She chewed on the arm, chewed on the tag, chewed on the leg. Okay, maybe she just loved chewing on it, but she did love it. Since our luggage was MIA, these were the only toys that I had put in my carry on, so that was the end of toys for the day. The doll didn't leave her arms (or mouth).

When I had seen her referral picture, she looked so very sad to me. I wondered if she ever smiled. You could have knocked me over with a feather the first time I saw that sweet smile. It is unadulterated joy. Our Heavenly Father is so so good to us! He has preserved her joy!  She smiles, oh yes sir, she smiles!

Towards the end of our visit, I was holding her and accidentally tickled her. Out of her mouth came the most precious laugh! Well, I wanted more!  So I tickled her and tickled her. I kissed on her neck and I tickled her ribs. We have some of the most adorable video of her giggle. And yes, if you ask me I will certainly whip out my iphone and show you!

It was hard giving her back to her caretaker, but we knew we had three more visits. And we were tired (and yes, hungry too). So, we left and began to make our way back to our hotel in town.

Now I am going to be very, very honest with the emotions I had as we drove home. They are not pretty. You can judge me if you want, but I will not sugar coat how I felt. I think it is essential to tell the whole story with truth.

As we rode home, the weight of the past 6 months fell heavy on me. I could not control my crying. I tried, but the tears came down with abandon. (Rob was on the top of the world at this point, and so he was quite puzzled at my reaction). All I could do was to repeat Proverbs 3:5-6 over and over and over and over again in my head. "Trust in the Lord with all your heart"...okay that means that there is not a corner of my heart that I can withhold trust from my Father..."And do not lean on your own understanding"...my understanding says we are too old, we don't have enough money, we have adult children, this is weird, "In all your ways acknowledge Him"...You are with me, You are with us, I acknowledge that you are here..."And He will direct your path."...Direct our path, direct our path, please, please direct our path. When we finally got to our hotel room and were able to talk in privacy, I came unglued (and I don't cry pretty).

You see, Rob and I have been married for 27 years. And guess what?? We didn't say to ourselves, " Hey, let's wait until all our kids are grown, after we are in our 50's of course and our knees begin to creak when we walk up stairs, and let's go to a far away country and adopt a child with multiple disabilities!!" Nope we didn't. Never did. Not the plan. So, suddenly, here we are--we have flown on three airplanes, taken an almost two hour car trip outside of town, and met a 5 year old who weighs 23 pounds. I mean, really God? HOW DID WE GET HERE? I CANNOT DO THIS. I HAVE  A JOB. I CANNOT DO THIS. I HAVE THREE OTHER CHILDREN WHO NEED ME. THIS IS NOT A 5 YEAR OLD CHILD--I SIGNED ON FOR A PRESCHOOLER, NOT A BABY! WE CANNOT DO THIS. WE CANNOT DO THIS.


And then I told Rob I had something to say that didn't sound nice. I wanted him to understand I really needed to say it. I didn't want to say it. But I needed to say it. So through choking tears, I said it. I said, out loud, "I don't wish we had never met her. She is amazing and I already love her. But I wish I could go back to before I ever saw her picture. Our lives were easy, predictable and we were almost done with raising kids. I cannot do this. We cannot do this. What are we going to do? We cannot leave her here. What are we going to do? We cannot do this." 

I know, shocking and not pretty. Not too "motherly" either. Honestly, I think Rob was pretty shocked too. But, true to his typical form, he comforted me and did not judge me. Thank God. He also did not try to talk me out of my feelings. He simply said, "We are being obedient. We can do this." Then, we took a nap.

I so hope that as you read this, you understand that I was as shocked by my feelings as you probably are. I truly never thought I would have these (what I thought were horrible) feelings. What I learned from that evening was important. First--God was not disappointed in me for having these feelings. Rob was truly "Jesus with skin on" to me that night, and reflected God's perfect love for me, His imperfect daughter. God has redeemed me and He is not going to reject me when I am not pretty. Or nice. Or something to be proud of. He has covered me with His precious blood and He has redeemed me. I am loved. End of story.

So what now? Well, I kept on and kept on meditating on Proverbs 3:5-6 as I drifted off to sleep late that night. And somehow, from no work or act or anything of myself, I was absolutely thrilled to get up the next morning to go see that 23 pound little person. God is good, and His Word heals.