Thursday, July 30, 2009

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Widows and Orphans

I'm totally stealing this blog post and copying it word for word because the author, Becky , who is the coordinator for the Tulsa Russian Lighthouse Project, is able to say this much more beautifully than I ever could. I've blogged about my friend Justine in the past? Remember her? Well she has amazed me once again. Here is why:

(Written by Becky, Tulsa Coordinator of the Russian Orphan Project)

Widows and Orphans

Having coordinated ten Lighthouse Project trips, I’ve heard every excuse in the book for not hosting. Some reasons are legitimate, some less so. A caller once claimed they couldn’t host because the trip was coming up too soon. Next time they had a few months’ notice, but they couldn’t plan that far ahead. I tire of the charade; sometimes I wish people would just say they’re not interested.

Copious notes taken during the course of myriad phone conversations show I can expect to speak with ten callers to come up with one host family. While I try not to judge callers’ decisions, it appears many people choose not to host when they reasonably could. Others can reasonably host, and do. But my favorite callers have good reasons not to host, and choose to anyway. They understand they can make a difference in the life of a child, and whatever legitimate excuse they might have voiced is silenced by this more substantial realization.

Justine called me for the first time one morning when I was in Missouri with the Lighthouse Project. Running late for Vacation Bible School, I begged out, asking if I could call her later in the day when I had time to do the conversation justice. She agreed, but I fretted all day that her first impression of my availability might discourage her from hosting. Back in my hotel room that evening, we spoke. As she shared her story, I was relieved to find it would take more than a conversation deferred to discourage her.

Justine had always wanted to adopt. She and her husband discussed it, opting to pursue it later after they’d had biological children. Son Alden followed. Two and a half years later she was eight months along in a pregnancy when her husband fell ill; one day later, he died of complications related to diabetes. Justine was left to deliver daughter Lilly alone.

She grieved, but found the hardest part was the demise of her dream of a large family. Over time, she began researching adoption online. Hong Kong stood out based on cost and openness to single mothers, but almost all available children had moderate to severe special needs. Justine decided to wait, believing Hong Kong was not in her future. She bought a house, her parents bought next door, and she began home schooling. Life was good again; she was content and hoping for no changes.

But two years ago, she began a word study of every use of “widow” in the Bible. As the months passed, she handwrote most Biblical references to the subject. God’s concern for widows clarified, she discovered that in almost every passage, orphans, too, received specific mention as recipients of God’s special compassion. Within a year, God rekindled her desire to adopt; Hong Kong was her clear directive. As she shared her plan with her children, family, and friends, she found unanimous support.

Beginning her home study, she hoped to adopt a child between the ages of Alden, now 9, and Lilly, now 6. Her agency balked at her plan to adopt out of birth order, preferring that she make her new child the youngest. Justine was open to physical needs like blindness or cerebral palsy; Down syndrome was on the list of special needs she did not expect to consider. But scanning a list of Hong Kong’s waiting children, an eight-year-old boy with Down syndrome tugged at her heart. Already traveling a circuitous path, both Justine and her agency altered course. The agency allowed her to sandwich a child between her two biological children, and Justine realized the little boy she’d seen with Down syndrome was her son. Wondering why such a precious soul waited alone over eight years, she concluded he was “just reserved for our family.”

In November 2008, Justine heard about the Lighthouse Project trip through a friend’s blog. She hoped to host next time in Tulsa, but we were already in town for the January 2009 trip before she was aware of it. When she got word that we’d be returning to Tulsa a third time, her initial reaction was dismay since she obviously couldn’t host in the middle of her adoption. She might need for her own adoption the $1000 it cost to host a child. Worse, if she hosted, she’d fall in love, want to adopt, and be unable due to Hong Kong law prohibiting concurrent adoptions through other sources. God reminded her she had $1076 in a memorial fund in her husband’s name, and brought conviction that her reason not to host was flimsy. Would she let a child stay in a dismal orphanage with a hopeless future because she might be hurt if she opened her heart? She had the money, and she had the time. The only issue was fear of emotional injury. All the while, God was asking, “How selfish can you be?”

Not very, as it turns out. Justine did call as I flew out the Missouri door toward VBS, and she was still polite when I finally called her back over twelve hours later. When she told me about her special needs adoption, needing to fund her own process, single parenthood, and busyness home schooling, I knew her excuse for not hosting would be more watertight than most. Remarkably, after listening to all the obstacles and mentally rehearsing my speech for when she would end, “God bless you, but I can’t host,” those words never came. Instead, she matter-of-factly told me her husband’s memorial fund had waited for just such a time, she planned to host, and to send her the details. Justine had enough potential excuses to fuel several of my callers who decline to open their homes; she didn’t use even one, choosing to give a little of herself to give a second child a chance at a future. “I’m just going to follow God’s leading,” she declared.

As I struggle to find hosts for kids for whom precious little hope exists outside traveling on such a trip, Justine sends out e-mails to her friends, asking them to consider hosting a child alongside her. She lamented tonight that she hadn’t yet found anyone. Meanwhile, her “yes” is far more moral support for this discouraged coordinator than all the “God bless you”s with which I’ve ever been rejected while promoting the Lighthouse Project.

Oh, that enough families would follow God’s leading so that none of our sixteen Lighthouse Project kids have to stay behind in Russia, staring down hopelessness! God can bless, and I trust He will, but it happens through people who, like Justine, put others before themselves to be part of that blessing.

James 1:27 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.

By the way, Reece's Rainbow mommies, although Justine didn't find her son on Reece's Rainbow, she recently joined the RR yahoo group so be sure to welcome her!

Monday, July 27, 2009

A pony for Christmas?

A towel for a saddle, a dog leash for reigns, and the closest thing to a horse a 9 year old girl could find.......I think somebody really needs a pony for Christmas.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

This and That

The animal lovers who read this blog will be happy to know that we decided to go ahead and treat Nelly's heart worms. I called around and found a vet that would treat her for half of the price the first vet quoted me. (I love half price!)

The downside of this treatment is that Nelly has to remain completely calm for an entire month, since the dead heart worms could dislodge suddenly and kill her if her heart rate increases. Thus she has been tied to the porch for three weeks watching birds fly by and children running around kicking soccer balls.

We went to visit Nanny and we had fun dreaming of her setting up a trailer house on our property where we could go visit her any time we feel like it. When I asked her what was new in her life, she expressed her complete and utter disappointment that she had just been to the doctor and found out her pacemaker is supposed to last seven more years. This is funny, because anyone who knows my grandma knows how much she would like to go home and see Grandpa. She prays every night, "Lord, if you don't need me in the mornin', don't bother waking me up.".........I guess He still needs you, Grandma.

Here, while Nanny is fixing a little crocheted trinket, Hope asks, "Nanny, why is your skin so bumpy? Oh, I know, it's because you're so old." Later Hope told me that Nanny must be even older than me!

One of the highlights of going to Nanny's house is the kids get to pick something out of Nanny's "treasure chest"/i.e. a dresser containing items won at Bingo or found in someone's throw away stash. This activity is way more fun that going to an amusement park. I promise. If you don't believe me, take your kids to Nanny's house, you'll see that it is true. We came home with a whiskey glass, a framed kitten, a couple of wooden spoons, a crocheted thread holder, and a bonnet.

Would you believe we emptied the entire file cabinet looking for a lien release letter from the bank so we could sell our car? We found receipts and bank statements dating back to 1993, but no lien release letter. Guess who had a good time burning papers and documents this weekend?

Oh, and we sold our Suburban. Listed it on Craigslist Saturday night with this photo and it was sold by Sunday afternoon. Man, I love Craigslist!

Goodbye faithful friend. So sorry we outgrew you.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Host a Russian orphan for 10 days

All of the children pictured below are Russian orphans available for adoption. They will be traveling to Tulsa next month to participate in Vacation Bible School programs and hopefully experience, even if for only 10 days, what life is like in a real family and real home. Last year our family attended one of their programs and we all left in tears, vowing that next time they were in town we would try to host one.

So guess what? We are going to have the opportunity to host this year! We are all very excited and anxious to find out which one of these beautiful faces will be "ours".

Can you please do me a favor? If you live in the Tulsa area or know someone who does, please consider hosting one of these children or at least tell someone else who might be interested. Several more homes are needed. If there aren't enough homes, somebody has to stay behind. :( Please, please help me spread the word. Thank you. We are really excited to be a part of this wonderful program. Click here to read more about it and feel free to email me with questions.

Alena, 10, calls herself “optimistic”, a description her delightful DVD demonstrates well. Alena, who wants to be a kindergarten teacher, smiled more as her interviewer’s English translations got longer.

Sergei, 11, knows his birthday is in the fall, but he’s been in the orphanage long enough he was not sure exactly when it was. At the time his interview was done, he had never had cake or ice cream.

Evjeniy Z., 12, wishes for a horse, pig, cat, and dog. He asked God to help him be a good student.

Lidia, 12, and Elena, 14, are sisters. They have lived in the orphanage over three years. Elena says she has gotten used to orphanage life. She finished eighth grade, where she was the best student. Lidia just finished fifth grade. Like her sister, she does well in school.

Dmitry, 11, shares secrets and everything else with his best friend. He likes visiting a teacher who makes crafts with him. Brother Alexander, 6, loves puzzles. He’d like to be a pilot in the future.

Vasily, 10, would like to have a real, little car. He says he once took a car apart with a friend, so he knows how to fix them.

Vitaly, 7, and Alexandra, 5, are siblings. A faith-filled host family is needed as no further information is currently available.

Evjeniy P., 12, said he is “trying so hard” in school. He speaks a little English and would like to practice it more in America. He said he would love to make the world a brighter and happier place.

Dmitry, 6, wants to be a soldier so he can protect people. He says he’s brave, though he is scared of snakes. He likes picking berries and mushrooms.

Dmitry K., 13,would like to be an archeologist because he’d love to go to Egypt. He said he’s read the Bible and knows that Jesus came to earth. He wishes he could help poor people.

Anastasia, 11, would like to be a rescue worker when she's older. She wishes for continued health (Sister of Anna, two photos below)

Confident Andrei, 12, having spent eight years in an orphanage, hopes for a good family. Enjoying both soccer and teaching, he hopes to meld these interests into a career as a soccer coach.

Anna, 9, wishes she could have a doll.

Anastasia, 14, enjoys physical education. If she could change the world, she would make everyone kind and nice. Anastasia was sick when interviewed, but did her best anyway.

Alexander, 12, is described by his orphanage director as a friendly boy, usually in a good mood, who needs a family very much. When asked if he has many friends, he said yes, explaining “the whole orphanage is my friend!”

Jumping for Joy

Sitting on the trampoline while her brothers and sisters jump around her is probably Ava's favorite thing to do in the whole world. Several times a day she looks out the dining room window longingly, looks over at me, and signs "jump". Sometimes I appease her and sometimes I pretend like I have no idea what she is trying to say. Each time I've been on the trampoline with her I tell myself that next time I'll remember to bring my camera out to capture the joy on her face. I finally remembered this time.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Three wilted flowers

Our church has started a ministry to the local children's shelter, and I had the opportunity to go volunteer there tonight for the first time.

The boys were all out on an event so I got to hang out with the girls (plus one boy who lost his going-out privilege. Being outnumbered 15:1 should teach him to behave next time!).

There was one little girl who really latched on to me. She seemed SO sad. I kept trying to distract her with stories and games, talking about what she likes to do, etc. I asked her what was bothering her and she just shrugged her shoulders but continued to follow me around and hold my hand the whole evening.

I remembered a nugget of wisdom from Karyn Purvis about connecting with the hurt child, and I said, "Sweetheart, I would do anything in my power to meet your needs but you have to tell me. What do you need?"

Those were the magic words. She began to cry and she said, "I wish Daddy wasn't in jail. And I wish Mommy would get a job so I could go home. I miss her so much." I didn't know what else to say but "I know you do." And I hugged her and it took everything in me not to cry with her too.

(When I asked her to tell me about her mom, she said, "Well, she's pretty fat." :) Man, I love kids!)

I wish I could grant this little girl a safe and a happy future, guarantee her a wonderful childhood and life. To be honest I felt completely helpless knowing her hurts were obviously so deep and her needs so great, and there was so little I could do in a two hour period. I'll be back next week or next month but she may not be. I may never see her again.

That little girl picked three flowers for me on our walk, three flowers that are already wilted. Three little flowers that almost just went into the trash can, but will instead decorate my bathroom mirror to remind me of that little girl and will remind me to pray for her. I may have no clue where she is next week. I may be not be able to meet her every need and guarantee her a happy life, but I know Someone who loves her far more than I do and is far more capable than I of meeting her needs. You'd better believe I will be praying for her. Maybe you will join me tonight in prayer for my new little friend.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Water balloon volleyball!

A hot day+a bunch of kids+balloons+water+towels=Water balloon volleyball!!

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Future wedding slideshow photos and stories

Two years ago, when Hope and Ashton were 2 and 3, they kissed each other. It was really cute and innocent. The problem is, they both have older brothers and sisters who will never let them forget it happened. Ashton's parents are our good friends, so on the 4th of July weekend our two families set up tents on our property and "camped out" together (Dads and kids in tents and Moms and babies in the house). When my friend Jill came out last week (Hi Jill!), Hope said to her:

"Hey guess what? I slept with a boy and kissed him on the lips!"

Three years later these two are still just as fond of one another. I asked Ashton recently why he holds Hope's hand all the time. He said, "Because I love her. I'm going to marry her someday."

Yesterday I got to babysit Ashton and his three brothers. Hope and Ashton went to the barn and found our first egg!!! You would have thought the rapture had come by all the whooping and hollering that was heard over this brown egg. But what does one do with the very first egg? It turns out there was quite a controversy over what should be done. I felt like it would be perfect in some blueberry muffins. John thought it would be best in an omelette. A couple of the children thought it should stay in the barn to be raised by its mother.

But these two decided to make a "nest" out of feathers and put it under a heating lamp (AKA big brother's bedside reading lamp) and insisted that it was "going to hatch any minute-and be quiet-it's moving.....Oh wait, it is cracking." With a little help from a 4yr. old and 5 yr. old, it did crack alright. I can't even begin to describe the utter disappointment these two experienced when they saw that there was no fluffy yellow chick after all but only a gooey mess.

Is it terrible that I keep collecting photos like these and labeling them:

"For Hope and Ashton's wedding video" ?