May 18, 2014

Half a Year -Practically

Posted in Adoption, Blogging, Just Life, Travel tagged , , , , , , at 12:21 am by catsinboxes

Have you ever had this experience?  You stumble across a blog.  You read it.  You enjoy it.  You keep reading.  And then you realize that it has not been updated for months.  As my grandfather reminded me today, my blog is e pluribus unum, one out of many blogs causing this unpleasant experience.  For that I am sorry.

I do have several excellent excuses.
Boyce College

1.  I went off to college.

In January I became a transfer student at Boyce College in Louisville, Kentucky.  Two weeks ago, I finished my first semester.  I absolutely love college.  Not enough said, but I will move on.

2.  I have a job.

Well, I had several jobs before, but this is a writing job, a writing job involving books.  I serve as executive assistant at Redeemed Reader, a Christian book review website.  Over the past year, I have become increasingly involved with Redeemed Reader and my own blog has been, well, neglected.  But I have been writing about books as well as Ukraine!

I could keep going, but you, dear reader, are intelligent and –I hope– understanding.  Should I write about books?  I certainly have been reading!  I have read theology, and I have read history, and I have read quite a bit in between.  That is for another post . . .

Instead, I will tell you what happened after I finished my semester.

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I took a double-decker bus to Chicago, ignoring the mild undertone of vomit aboard the bus.  In Chicago, I narrowly avoided missing my train connection and only made it due to the kindness of helpful strangers and a confident ticket master.  What brought me to Chicago?

It was excellent and worthy of a post in and of itself.  My mom was there, and it was so fun seeing her and getting to enjoy the conference with her.  My favorite part of the conference?  Meeting Christians from around the world who are passionate about orphan care.  Also, getting to see and hear Karyn Purvis, a Christian psychologist.

Following the conference, we did have a little time to spend in Chicago.  It was a gorgeous day, absolutely gorgeous.

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Look at the sky!

 

Ooh, horses!

Naturally, I found the horses.

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It was a beautiful, wonderful day.  And then?  It got better because I went home.  I spent almost two weeks at home, two weeks with family and friends, and I am so blessed.  Now I am back in Louisville for the summer, and ready to work.  What else will I be doing?  Lord-willing, I will be blogging.

There, how is that for a post?  If you lasted through the end of this one, please know, tenacious reader, that it does get better!  Usually I write about much more interesting things, like books.

Your errant blogger and her faithful steed 

 

 

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April 7, 2013

Ukraine: What Did I Know?

Posted in Adoption, Blogging, Faith, Japan, Just Life, Korea, Ukraine at 5:41 pm by catsinboxes

Disclaimer: This is more of a personal post than a list of facts.  For those of you interested in size, population, geopolitical status, and other such information, this will not satisfy you, but I hope to write a post more to your liking in the near future!  

As I got ready to leave for Ukraine, I considered writing a blog post about what I knew -so far- about Ukraine.  It didn’t happen; time and creativity did not meet while waiting for my flight to Kiev at Chicago O’Hare.  Once in Ukraine, there was so much to write about, so much to learn, no time for writing THAT kind of post.  Now that I am home and have had some time for reflection, I am glad I waited.  It is so neat to see how God has been preparing my heart and working in and through my trip to Ukraine.  So, let me tell you, what I did know about Ukraine.

 

3 Years Ago

Ukraine was part of Eastern Europe, I knew that much!  I was too busy getting ready for a trip to Korea to think about Ukraine.  Korea was another trip that had fallen into place, not as quickly as Ukraine, but it was a country that God had given me an excitement and curiosity about, the details had come together, and I was going to Korea!  Ukraine?  No, I wasn’t thinking about Ukraine.

 2 Years Ago

I had been home less than a month from Japan.  My head was too full of Japan and uncertainty to think about traveling anywhere besides back to Japan to resume an internship that had been cut short by the earthquake and tsunami of March 11.  It was a time of uncertainty, so many questions as to what lay in my near future.  Would I go back to Japan?  Would I stay in the States? What would I do during the summer?  Thinking back, there were so many questions and tears, but God was at work.  He taught me patience.  He taught me to rely on His plan, a plan that would not include a return to Japan.  His plan would involve becoming a member of a wonderful church.  So life continued, summer passed, autumn came -and went- and then winter came.  And at about that time, I started to hear about a ministry, a ministry called Reece’s Rainbow which advocated for the international adoption of children with special needs, particularly Down Syndrome.  My mom had visited their website before, and as winter progressed, she did so with increasing regularity.  So I started to hear about children, a number of whom lived in Eastern Europe and Russia.

1 Year Ago

Ukraine?  Oh, I knew about Ukraine!  I had read blogs about Ukrainian adoption, I was praying for Ukrainian orphans, I had started to learn statistics and facts about the Ukrainian orphan crisis.  On March 6, I did my first blog post mentioning Ukraine.

Ukraine had separated itself from the blur of Eastern Europe.  I did have foggy recollections of what I had known about Ukraine, the Orange Revolution of 2004 was slightly familiar as were the faces of Yulia Tymoshenko and Viktor Yushchenko, but I only knew faces, I couldn’t have told you their names!  Who I could name was every child available for adoption and listed on Reece’s Rainbow in one Ukrainian orphanage.  I prayed for them, wished we could add someone to our family, wished I could do more!

And so spring passed, and days grew warmer.  I was still involved in our wonderful church, at that point serving as an interim small group leader in our youth group.  At one youth group, as an icebreaker, we were asked the question, “If you could do anything and go anywhere in the world for one day, what would you do?”   I knew my answer right away, and I almost felt guilty for having such a kitsch answer, but I knew it was true.  If I had one day, I’d go to Ukraine and visit an orphanage; I’d spend a day with the children.  That is what I would do!  (Wait, why not Korea or Japan?  I knew I needed way more than one day in each of those countries, and a trip to either was doable, while this, on the other hand, was a dream.)

Was this something that I developed of my own volition?  I truly believe God was behind it.  He is the one who gave me a heart for orphans over a decade ago.  He is the one who began to stir this love and awaken a desire to learn more and to help orphans, especially those in Eastern Europe . . . particularly those in Ukraine.

In the past year, I read more.  Pieces and facts about Ukraine began to fit together.  Chernobyl happened before my generation and I hadn’t known about it, not until following March 11 as BBC and other newspapers began ranking the situation at Fukishima with other nuclear disasters, the worst of which -to my recollections- was Chernobyl.  I’m embarrassed to admit that as I learned about Ukraine I had two light-bulb moments.

First, connecting Chernobyl with Ukraine -I had thought it was southern Russia.  (Granted, it  was USSR, but we won’t go there right now!)  Then as I learned my Ukrainian geography, came the other realization.  Wait a minute, Crimea is in Ukraine???  That’s where the Crimean War was, all those times I was reading about Florence Nightingale, the whole war was taking place in Ukraine!!!

I learned even more about Ukraine late last year, when my family become involved with New Horizons for Children, a Christian orphan hosting program.  While we hosted two boys from Latvia, many orphans in the program came from Ukraine.  So, I pieced together more, including the reoccurring fact that Ukraine had roads in need of a lot of repair!

Yes, the roads do need work!

I also learned sobering facts: statistics of what happens after orphans age out of the system, the bleak future that any orphan faces, the realities of life after the orphanage.

Early this year, when we decided to host again through New Horizons, Ukraine became more personal because Pasha was from Ukraine.

We will be hosting Pasha this summer; I can’t wait to meet him in person!

I was learning all the time, small facts, more than I could write here.     Some people speak Russian.  The trains can be bad.  The chocolate is good.  People don’t smile at strangers.  There are mountains in western Ukraine.  There are coal mines in eastern Ukraine.  The number of flowers you give someone is very important. . . . Little things, but they were adding up!

Then came the opportunity and at first the uncertainty.  I might be going!  It was so exciting, it was unbelievable, but I didn’t want to get too excited.  Then it was definite, the tickets were booked, it was actually going to happen!  The suitcase was packed, a phrasebook purchased, and a small travel guide downloaded.  Then, less than 48 hours after learning of the opportunity, I was on a plane, headed for Ukraine!  On my last flight of the day, sitting in a window seat on Ukrainian Airlines, surrounded by a lot of people speaking more Ukrainian and/or Russian that I had EVER heard before, I quickly read through my travel guide.

What did I know about Ukraine?  When it came to adoption, quite a lot.  When it came to other things, not that much.  But I learned so much on my trip, and I do not intend to stop learning anytime soon.

Soli Deo Gloria

March 25, 2013

Homeward Bound

Posted in Adoption, Faith, Favorite Quotes, Ukraine at 3:46 pm by catsinboxes

Early tomorrow morning, 2 AM to be precise, we will be leaving for the airport.  We are all looking forward to getting home, but I foresee a long trip in store for two little girls!  I’d appreciate your prayers as we are heading homewards, especially that the girls would be calm and able to sleep on the planes.  It would be so wonderful if they can sleep!  This has been an amazing trip, and it has been so neat how everything has worked out.  God was overseeing all the details, and this has been more than anything I could have ever imagined!

In closing, I’m going to share some words from a hymn that I love to remember each time I travel.

Hitherto thy love has blessed me, thou has brought me to this place,

and I know thy hand will lead me, safely home by thy good grace.

Looking forward to getting back to the earthly home and family that I am so blessed to have!

March 23, 2013

The Past Few Days

Posted in Adoption, Blogging, Ukraine at 4:21 pm by catsinboxes

Well, we have been in Kiev for the past two days.  Before that, on Wednesday, we had our last day in the girls’ city. In the morning, I went out shopping by myself.  There is such a sense of accomplishment, shopping and using public transportation by yourself in a foreign country!

Though quite windy, it was a great day for taking pictures. The sky was gorgeous with the clouds continually shifting.

Then, Wednesday night, it was time to get the girls, “gotcha day” in adoption language.  We had a train to catch, so we didn’t linger long, just picked up the girls and headed for the train station.  Lena, who is older, was so excited to leave that she was crying!  Vika, who is younger and more introverted was quiet, but I’d say she was pretty excited too since she was very ready to march out the door and get into the waiting car.

The train ride itself was uneventful.  We shared a four bed compartment, and the girls managed to sleep.  I really didn’t sleep at all though a couple times I know I dozed fitfully.  I kept thinking back with longing to my first train ride and how, jet lag and all, I had so promptly gone to sleep!  Well, no luck this time.

Early Thursday morning we arrived in Kiev and were met by our driver.  The facilitator who had been helping with the adoption had done her part, so now we were entrusted to the driver’s care.  He loaded up our bags, took us to the apartment, and then to two appointments so Amanda could complete the necessary medicals and paperwork for the girls’ adoption.  Let’s just say it was a long day, but we survived!

Driving through Kiev, I had fun taking pictures out of the car windows!

After the appointments were finished and Amanda and the girls were back at the flat, I was able to nip out for a quick bit of souvenir shopping.  At that point, it looked like we might be leaving Ukraine the next day.  (Little did we know that Spring Break would nix that idea!)

The churches here are so beautiful!

Our driver took me to an outdoor type of market where there were lots of stalls selling Ukrainian souvenirs.  Incidentally, we just “happened” to park near his friend’s stall.  His friend, speaking impeccable English, whisked me over to the stall, showed me everything obligingly, rattled off prices, and was as helpful as could be.  I listened, smiled, selected, and ended up buying several things.  And yes, I did linger just long enough to make sure that I didn’t get too high a price.  I knew I could probably find the same items for less elsewhere, but my time was limited, the exchange rate was very much in my favor, and I was quite amused by the whole situation.

While driving, we passed these street vendors. Can you tell that Ukrainians take their sausages seriously?

As we were wrapping up, I asked if my obliging seller knew what a “racket” meant.  He didn’t.  Perhaps it wasn’t the proper word to use, but I explained it this way.  I said, “It is kind of like this.  I want to go shopping, so my driver takes me here.  And, oh, here is his friend who has a stall.  I could buy something here!  What a coincidence!”  As I explained, I was smiling, and he caught on quickly and started smiling, too!  I beamed at him as I finished and concluded by saying, “I’m not dumb!”  He laughed heartily and wished me a good rest of my visit!

By the end of Thursday, we realized that due to Spring Break, there was no way we could make it back over the weekend.  So, we started to settle down and adjust to life in an apartment with two little girls and lots of suitcases!  Meanwhile, outside it started to snow.  And snow.  And snow.  It snowed all through yesterday.  When we went out, the wind was blowing, whipping snow into faces, almost blinding you at times.  I dug out my fleece headband which I thankfully had decided to pack.  Oh was I glad to have that yesterday!

Today dawned with snow continuing to spiral down.  When we went out for a walk, I realized that we had a LOT of snow.  I knew that it wasn’t quite usual, per what our driver had said, but  only when I found out that Kiev has declared a state of emergency, did I realize that this is very unusual!  Usually the streets are full of traffic, but today there were not many cars out, and the streets still have a lot of snow.  I passed someone skiing down a side street on my way to the grocery store this evening!

Can you say, “buried”?

We went out on a walk with the girls this morning.  While it was called a walk, we did a bit of wading and plowing and trudging with all the snow that had fallen.  I did my best to take pictures.

Vika didn’t approve of my picture taking and marched down the sidewalk after Amanda!

The rest of today has been pretty uneventful, except that we shifted apartments and spent part of the afternoon transferring all of our things two blocks down the street from Apartment A to Apartment B.  But, besides that, not much happened!  We are taking it easy here, and if all goes as planned, we will be flying back to the states on Tuesday.

Let’s just hope the snow decides to stop before Tuesday!

March 19, 2013

Visiting Orphans

Posted in Adoption, Blogging, Faith, Ukraine at 5:38 am by catsinboxes

To adequately describe yesterday’s events, I’m going to rewind in time to something I wrote yesterday afternoon.

If my trip had a soundtrack, I know what one of the songs would be, While I’m Waiting by John Waller.  There’s a lot of waiting here in Ukraine.  Waiting for documents, waiting for buses, waiting for appointments, waiting for phone calls . . .                

This morning, I read this verse in 1 Corinthians:

“To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak.  I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some.  I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings.”

I pray that I can become all things to all people; I will rejoice with those who rejoice, I will weep with those who weep, AND I will wait with those who wait.

Waiting isn’t easy, I don’t think I realized how much I like doing something, especially when in my head I have a list of all the things that I could be doing, that I should be doing, if I wasn’t waiting!  But God has been teaching me to be patient, to wait, and to trust and rely upon His plan and timing, not on my planning!

I wrote that while I was waiting, waiting to see if we could visit an orphanage.  I was learning, I was waiting, but it wasn’t easy at all.  It seemed like we had to wait so long.  But then it was time.  Was I ready?  Ready???  I’d had my bags packed all afternoon!

So we set off to visit the local rehab center.  Yes, it is an orphanage, but it is specifically for children who have gotten into trouble, who have been living on the streets, who for whatever reason are problem cases.  The age range is 5-18.

We took a marshrutka, and then, getting off, walked down an empty lane that curved off the main road.  It was later, I think after 5 o’clock.  After a short walk, we were at the orphanage.

We walked in through a gate, around the building, and then inside into a long hallway.  It was so quiet, eerily quiet.  That’s one thing I’ve noticed about the two orphanages I have visited, when you step inside, it is quiet, far too quiet for a building that is filled with children!

In the hall we stopped by the director’s office, but the director was not there.  Valeriy, our local Ukrainian contact who was coordinating the whole visit, pulled out his phone and called one of the teachers who he had already spoken with about visiting that afternoon.  Within a few minutes, she had arrived in the hall to greet us, beaming and saying “Zdrastvuitye!” and then talking rapidly to Valeriy in Russian.  I listened, rather anxiously.  We had come so far, the children were here, would we be able to see them?  I kept hearing the word, “kharoshov” which means good.  So far so good!  Then the teacher turned and led the way: up the stairs, down a hall, into a room, and there were some children.  The room had shelves on either side, and desks along each wall.  Spread out through the room were older children, lots of boys, most of them looking like they were 12 and up.  We started putting our bags down and taking off our coats.  We were watched with guarded curiosity, you could tell they were interested but didn’t want to show it!  As I looked around at all the boys, many nearing my own height (and I’m not short!) I felt a sinking feeling.  What would they think of what I had, beanie babies?  Still, I remembered what I had heard before, these children would appreciate things that to us seem far past their age.

Then there came noise, an excited babble, footsteps in the hall, and in galloped the younger children.  Valeriy has worked with the children here before, and oh could you tell!  He was mobbed by little boys, the younger ones giving him hugs, talking excitedly in Russian, the older ones hanging back, eyes shining, waiting to shake his hand.  Then all of the children were told to sit down, and three chairs were pulled up to the front of the room.  We sat down, and with Valeriy as a translator, Amanda and I shared a little bit about ourselves.  As we talked, telling about our families, our homes, and our pets, the questions started to fly.  Was I married?  Was Amanda married?  Why was Amanda in Ukraine?  Why did she want to adopt two little girls who couldn’t see?  How could the girls learn to read?  How could they type if they couldn’t see?  Where was Wisconsin?  (Thank goodness for Chicago as a geographical point of reference!)  What could you do in Wisconsin?  Could you go fishing? What do the cows in Wisconsin do in the winter if it’s so cold?  Did I have any children?  How old was my youngest brother?  What kind of a lizard did Amanda have?  How big was it?  What did it eat?  On and on the questions flew!

The interesting thing is that while we talked, the group on the ground was shifting.  At first the children were sitting in groups, the little ones in the front near us, the bigger ones hanging back, ranging all the way to the back of the room, some still sitting at tables.  But, the longer we talked, the more the group moved, shifting, moving closer and closer.  By the time we were finished talking, most of the children were sitting in tight rows, as close to us as possible.  I wanted to sit down in the middle of them, I wanted to be able to understand Russian and be able to speak it as I answered their questions!  But I couldn’t, and I realized that by sitting on a chair, I could see all of them, so I just kept looking, across the faces, making eye contact, smiling, acknowledging questions, answering them, using “Da” and “Nyet” once I’d understood a question.

At one point, I realized that one of the little girls in the front was asking if Amanda had a Yorkshire Terrier.  I nodded to show I understood and mimed that they were little.  She smiled and nodded.  I can’t remember what was said next, but the little girl pointed to herself and said her name.  Then the girl next to her introduced herself in flawless English!   A little boy to the right pointed to himself and said his name, behind him another piped up.  Suddenly there was a murmur of introductions as child after child told me their name.  It was only for a few moments, and then the questions swept back and it was gone, but I won’t forget it.  They each have a name, a story, they are fearfully and wonderfully made, they just want to be known.

“I have called you by name, you are mine.”  Oh, I want to say that someday to a child like one of these!

Then it was time to finish, to pass out the candy and gifts.  For the boys still sitting at tables in the back, I made it a game.  I’d wait for eye contact and then mime throwing.  That caught their attention, and small candy bars were thrown and caught across the room.  It also brought smiles as at times my throws would go awry, or spectacular catches would be made!

Then there was the backpack full of toys and beanie babies.  I was surround by children, it wasn’t chaos, but oh there was excitement!  One by children took toys, pulling back afterward to let others in.  They were polite, they didn’t try to get everything, I would take something out and there would be an excited murmur and then hands would be raised of children who’d like something.  One little boy got a multi-colored highlighter, a bigger boy got an American flag.
(Thank you, God, for the drawer of gifts that I’ve kept in my room, just waiting for an occasion.  They were perfect for yesterday!)  After the big toys were gone, I pulled out a package of bandz.  You should have heard the excited buzz!  I really was surrounded then, not jostled, but surrounded as eager hands reached in, voices asked for certain colors both in Russian and English.  “Black!  Black!  -the older boys liked that color!- Red! Yellow!  Green!  After those were gone, I pulled out the next pack, this one in brighter colors with pinks.  The girls had been excited before, but now they were oohing, reaching in for the pinks, yellows and purples.  The boys weren’t deterred either, and there were still takers until all the bandz were gone.  At the end, a little boy came up to me.  Somehow, he hadn’t received anything, and he didn’t want a bandz.  (I’d say there were a few conscientious objectors among some boys at the idea of a bracelet, and he was one of them!)  I look in my backpack, nothing.  I looked around the children, hoping.  And then I saw one of the older boys, holding two beanie babies.  I didn’t have to say anything because he took matters into his own hands, instantly passing one of them to the little boy.  It might have been a purple bear, but it was accepted instantly.

Passing out bandz

 

Yes, the older boys were happy with their beanie babies!

Then it was time for them to go to dinner.  All this time there had been excitement and scattered thanks.  Now there was a wave of “spacebas” and thank yous.”  Then came the children, slipping closer, a small arm around my waist, giving a hug.  It wasn’t just the girls, there were a lot of little boys.  I gave hug after hug, so thankful I could give them and wishing I could do more!

Then, at the teacher’s prompting all of them chorused SPACEBA!!!  And off went the younger ones.  We picked up our things, waved goodbye, and went out into the hallway.  The teacher was so sweet, so effusive in her thanks.  She told Valerhiy to tell us thank you, thank you so much for the stuffed animals.  The children would love them, would sleep with them . . . Thank you, thank you!  She said if we could, it would be great for us to come back so we could play outside with the children during one of their outside activity times.

We responded that we’d love to, but we were leaving on Wednesday evening, so it would have to be in the next two days.  There was a pause, as the teacher began explaining something to Valerhiy.  It turns out that there are 6 children at the rehab center who are in the hospital right now, sick with something that isn’t too serious (sounds like a cold/cough), but anyway, it has the director worried.  Apparently, she’s afraid that the children might catch something from foreigners, so she wouldn’t sanction as visit.

Do you realize what that means?  If we hadn’t been waiting, and waiting.  If we hadn’t arrived until after 5.  If we had come earlier.  If the director had been there . . . We probably wouldn’t have seen the children.  God has been teaching me to be patient, to wait, and to trust and rely upon His plan and timing, not on my planning!  How little did I know, as I wrote those words yesterday afternoon, just how God would use His timing to orchestrate our visit!

March 16, 2013

Ukraine Update

Posted in Adoption, Blogging, Cats, Ukraine at 11:32 am by catsinboxes

After a busy morning and early afternoon, I’m back in our apartment and have some time to catch up and write a blog post.

The main train station in Kiev was so neat; it has gorgeous architecture.

This is my third full day in Ukraine.  Wednesday evening, I arrived in Kiev.  From Kiev, I took a an overnight train to our city.  Apparently the Germans bombed Kiev’s original train station during WWII, so the current station is post-war era.

I really enjoyed the train.  Amanda, who I’m helping, likened it to the Hogwarts Express, and I agree with her!  I had my own compartment with a door and a lock.  Inside there was a little table coming out from the wall and two seats/beds.  They were pretty narrow, but after all of my traveling, I was ready to sleep on anything!

After a good -though intermittent- night’s sleep (I think I woke up every time the train stopped at a station!), I got up in time to be ready to step off the train when it got to my station.  I did, and shortly thereafter was at the apartment settling in, unpacking, and getting ready for the rest of the day.

I passed this church on the way to the apartment.

Rather than continue to detail a step by step chronology of the past few days, I’m going to share some pictures and initial impressions of Ukraine.

The buildings:

A lot of the apartments are soviet era, so they look very much alike: same architecture, same playgrounds.

All very utilitarian.

This pack of dogs lives near our apartment.

The animals: there are a lot of dogs that are practically feral, but they are not afraid of people, they just roam the streets.  Some get scraps from the old ladies who have little stalls along the sidewalk.  Amanda and I are dog lovers, so if we can, we will stop to pet any dog, or cat.  I know it’s a pretty obvious sign that we’re crazy foreigners, but we don’t care!

We befriended this cat on our walk this morning.

The people:

Typically, Ukrainians don’t smile at a stranger.  I didn’t realize until now how culturally I’m programmed to smile and nod at anyone I pass!  This is such an interesting culture that is quite different from our own.  I love seeing the different sides of Ukrainian culture the longer that I am here.   It’s neat to watch children in any culture, and I’ve loved observing the families here.  You can tell that family is very important, and that children are loved.  At the same time, it is so sad to know that there are over a hundred thousand children in this country who do not have families to call their own.  I’m very glad that I can be here to help with two little girls who are orphans no more!

Spending time with Vika and Lena

March 11, 2013

Ukraine???

Posted in Adoption, Blogging, Faith, Just Life at 9:40 pm by catsinboxes

I just got back from a trip to New Orleans and Mississippi, just got back.  Saturday night, pretty late, I arrived home.  I didn’t have many plans for Sunday, church in the morning, baby shower in the afternoon, and then just take it easy.  After all, I’d just gotten back, and I needed to rest up before the week began.

Things have changed a little since Sunday.  I’m going to Ukraine tomorrow.  Yes, that is correct, you did just read Ukraine.

You see on Sunday evening, my family learned of another family, a family who is adopting two little girls from Ukraine.  This family had a need, an urgent need, for a traveling companion to assist the mom in bringing her two new daughters home.  The necessary qualifications were a passport and an open schedule.  I had both.

So now, in less than 24 hours, I’m getting on a plane for Ukraine.  My suitcase is sitting on the table next to me, waiting for some finishing touches.  My cat can tell that something is brewing, and she does not approve.

Yes, if you can’t tell, I’m very excited.  But I’m not just excited about the trip, no, there is much more to my excitement than that.  I am so excited by God’s plan, by a series of events that fell into place so neatly, so perfectly.  For over a year, it has been my dream to go to Ukraine, to serve in some capacity, doing short-term mission work with Ukrainian orphans.  I had no time-frame for my dream, but since I’m about to start college, I knew it wasn’t going to happen anytime soon.  I just hoped, hoped that someday, in the next 3, 4, maybe even 5 years, I could go to Ukraine.

After I learned about this opportunity to go to Ukraine, as I watched the pieces and details fit into place, I kept thinking of this verse in Isaiah 43:19:

“Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?”

Yes, I do perceive it now, and it is more than anything I could ever imagine!  I am so excited, and I am so humbled by God’s grace and His directing hand in all of this.  I don’t know what the coming weeks will hold, but my desire is that I would continue to look to God first and that I would live for the praise of His glory and grace.

I’ll continue to blog as much as possible during my trip, and I’ll take pictures too, as many as I can!  I would appreciate your prayers, especially for safe travel tomorrow.  Also, please pray for the family who I will be assisting, that all will go well and smoothly as they complete their girls’ adoption.

September 9, 2012

Not an Easy Post

Posted in Adoption, Blogging, Faith, Favorite Quotes at 6:26 pm by catsinboxes

Up front I’m going to admit something; this is not an easy post to write.  I’ve been struggling with this post because to write anything else, no matter how easy or readable or enjoyable it might be, would be a cop-out.  I’ve thought about different approaches, different tactics, but ultimately it doesn’t matter what I do because the only way this post is going to make a difference is by God’s grace.  I can only write, but God can change hearts, and it is my prayer that He uses my weak, mortal pen to make a difference.

 Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.  For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’  Then they also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?’  Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’  ~Matthew 25:41-45

Hearing this, I used to have a mental picture.  There’s a picture, a famous picture, of German civilians walking through a concentration camp.  The Americans forced them to see the images, the stacked bodies.  The civilians are walking and one woman is turning away from the bodies, covering her face, possibly retching.

I used to think of that picture, case in point.  I knew there was resistance among German civilians, but there was also ignorance, many times willful ignorance, at the atrocities being committed.

But that was then, and this is now.  Surely we’re not that bad, surely 21st century Americans will never have to answer for such a blind complacency to evil.  Surely, my friends, some will.

Salvation is not based on works.  Do not mistake me; I believe that we are saved, as my pastor so aptly puts it, “by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone.”  But show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.  A living faith is an active faith, and fellow Christian, we are called to action!

 “Is not this the fast I choose:

to loose the bonds of wickedness,

to undo the straps of the yoke,

to let the oppressed go free,

and to break every yoke?

Is it not to share your bread with the hungry

and bring the homeless poor into your house:

when you see the naked, to cover him,

and not to hide yourself from your own flesh?”  ~Isaiah 58:6-7

Externally the Israelites seemed to be obeying God, they were fasting and paying lip service to Him, but speaking through Isaiah, God shows them the fast that He desires, the fast that He chooses.  Is this fast easy?  No, it is not.  Could it mean getting hurt?  Yes, it could.  But Christian, we are not called to an easy life!

“If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.  For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”  (Matthew 16:24b-25)

Do you want to find your life, and find fulfillment and purpose?  Follow Christ.  And if you are following Him, can you say with Paul that “For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain”?  (Philippians 1:21)

That’s something I still struggle to say, but it is my desire!  I don’t want to live a complacent life.  I want to live a life that is marked by a radical difference, a dependence upon God, a desire to glorify Him alone.   And by grace, I can live like that, and so can you if you are in Christ.  What does this difference look like?  It is marked by courage.

Russell Moore puts it very well:

 As the Spirit of Christ forms the kingdom and clears away the strongholds in your life, you’ll find yourself drawn toward courage over against fearful self-protection . . .

Risk is inherent in every kind of other-directed life.  Marriage could result in infidelity.  Having children means you may well experience the anguish of seeing one of those children killed in a car accident or shipped home in a casket from a foreign war or sentence to life without parole in a federal penitentiary.  Courage isn’t protecting yourself in a cocoon from these possibilities.  Courage is walking forward and embracing others in love even though you may suffer greatly in ways you could never imagine now.  Jesus walked that way before you, and he walks that way now with you.  That’s the way of the cross.”  (Tempted and Tried, pg. 114 & 115)

What does courage look like for you?  How will you act?  How will you live this?  For me, courage is to write.  To write about the need, the desperate need of so many children.  Children who because of their disabilities are orphans.  Children who are shut away on separate floors because Down Syndrome is misunderstood.  Children who because of their age are sent to institutions.  Children who are starving, who are neglected, who are abused.  Children who are dying.

Surely you say, surely it can’t be that bad.  Oh yes, it can.  Don’t take my word for it, listen to this, written yesterday by an adoptive mom.

Sadly we’ve spent the last day since arriving in the hospital with Joey. The doctors at the Children’s Hospital said that it was a miracle that he made it home alive and that his case of malnutrition, dehydration, and physical abuse was horrendous. And this is five days after he last saw that evil group of caretakers at his orphanage. Even now, he has bruises all over him, what appears to be cigar burn scar, many scars and knots on his skull.

Between the existing malnutrition and dehydration state he was in when we got him Monday, his stomach had shrunk to the point that he can only consume about 5-10 small bites of food and a few ounces of liquid at a time- and immediately is besieged by stomach cramps and diarhhea. The runny nose, shakes, muscles jerks and aching body causing him to cry nearly all the flight home and for the past several days is part of the detox, which is almost over. But that complicated it and made him not want food either or liquid. He was in bad shape when we finally cleared Customs Thursday afternoon, but by Friday morning when we woke up (after him being awake every 20-30 minutes all night moaning and crying), we knew he was in bad shape. . . .

You think that is bad?  That’s not the worst of it.  Because there is another little boy, a little boy left behind in the same institution.  A little boy who has a family who wants him, who loves him and is right now racing through paperwork to adopt him.  Listen to this:

 But I need you to pray for Everett. Hard. Because he was in worse condition than my Joey- and every sign that the doctors told us last night was indications that Joey was nearing DEATH- the jerky, unstable walk, the pitching forward like a drunk, the confusion and limited speech, the apparent withdrawal- those were all signs of the high levels of electrolyte instability in his body due to starvation and dehydration. Everett had all of those- even worse than Joey at times. I am absolutely terrified for him- and yes, please continue to give to the Enskat FSP [family sponsorship program] -they need to get over there asap to get him, but more importantly, I need you all PRAY PRAY PRAY- that he survives until they can.

We had no idea that Joey was this bad off. We knew he was malnourished- and suspected he was drugged- but did not realize he was dying.

Please, pray for Everett- Joey is here, safe, with a medical team alert to his every change in status. Everett is in hell on earth- and I am scared.

Please pray; pray for Everett.  Only God knows how his story and the story of so many children like him will end.

For me, courage is sharing this story with you.  Courage is speaking up, even though my words might not make a difference.  Reader, I do not know what your background is, but what does courage mean for you?

So often courage is eclipsed and drowned by fear.  God realizes this, and hear His words, fellow Christian, as I close:

Be strong and courageous.  Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.  ~Joshua 1:19b

March 7, 2012

Rejoicing and Weeping

Posted in Adoption, Blogging tagged , , at 10:10 pm by catsinboxes

Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.  ~Romans 12:15

I hit refresh and start to scroll down on Reece’s Rainbow’s page for Orphanage 39.  I stop.  No . . . I look again.  Yes!!!  Today Duncan is no longer listed in Orphanage 39 . . . He has a family!!!!  It’s so exciting.  First it was Sam and Tyler, now it’s Duncan.  I was thinking of this verse as I thought about Duncan’s new family.  Rejoice with those who rejoice . . . and what a wonderful thing to rejoice about!  Weep with those who weep?  What about that?  That’s becoming increasingly real to me to as I read through the stories on blogs.  Read about children watching as others leave the orphanage.  Read about the emptiness, the longing.

You might ask, how does this affect me?  I’m only a college student, goodness, don’t I have other things to do?  I do, and believe me, I am doing them!  But, when you get involved, when you can rejoice that Duncan has a family, when you can weep for the narrow window of time left to Bernadette and continue to pray . . . It changes you.  It changes the way you look at life.  When you realize that living out the Gospel is a much, much, bigger picture.  When you realize that you (yes, you!) can help.

So, this week, I challenge you: rejoice and weep.  How can you do this?  Renee at But By Grace had a wonderful idea today that I’m going to share:

So here’s my plan- for the next 10 days, I’d like you guys, and anyone you can convince to join you, to traipse over every day to http://reecesrainbow.org and find a child, any waiting child, who is wearing green, and show him or her some love. I’m starting with Alyssa and Yates, two sweet siblings, and she’s wearing the brightest green jacket I’ve seen. I’ll be putting in $50 as soon as I hit publish on this post, because there’s two kids in that sibling group, and my plan is to give $25 a day, but I’d ask you to give whatever God puts on your heart, or if you’re not a believer, whatever you feel good about sharing.But shhhhhhh, don’t tell Reece’s Rainbow. Just like the mythical leprechaun sneaks around, I want us to do the same. Let’s let everyone else wonder why all the kids in green suddenly have rapidly growing donations! They may notice at first, as it stays in the low numbers, but wouldn’t it be cool to see all the kids in green suddenly have substantial funds? Like something that people would notice and think “wha-huh?!?!?”
I’ll post everyday, at the bottom of my post, who I’m giving to wearing green. If you want to comment and tell me who you shamrocked, then I’d love to know!
I love that sentence; let’s do some shamrocking!

March 6, 2012

The Least of These

Posted in Adoption, Blogging, Faith tagged , , at 8:55 pm by catsinboxes

I know I haven’t been blogging for over a month.  I know that many people who find this blog are looking for information about WWII and the Women’s Land Army.  In short, I know that I don’t have much of a voice when it comes to this blog, but I want to try something.

Have you read Matthew 25:40 recently?

And the King will answer them, “Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.”

What does that mean?  Who are the least of these?  They are the hungry, the impoverished, the sick, the prisoners.  And you know, it can be easy to leave it at that.  It can be easy for me to tithe, to help support some children through Compassion International . . . It’s painless, just contribute and know that you’re helping.  But is that the right way to look at it?

I know that each day people around the world are dying in poverty.  In the time that it has taken you to read this, at least two children somewhere in the world will have died from hunger-related causes.  Watch the clock for a moment, and each time 8 seconds pass, remind yourself that a child’s life has ended.  At the end of the day, 22,000 children will have died, the majority from very curable diseases.  Does that make you uncomfortable?

Until about three weeks ago, I knew that there were orphans in Eastern Europe.  I knew that Ukraine as a country had about 100,000 orphans.  I knew facts, I knew some numbers.  I didn’t know faces.  I didn’t know about institutions.  Do you know?

I’m still learning, but let me tell you.  And I’ll make it real.

This is “Duncan.”  He is 15 years old, the same age as my brother.  He has cerebral palsy which affects his legs.

This is “Bernadette.”  She is 15 years old, and she has my brother Joshua’s smile.  She has Down Syndrome.

Two 15 year olds, both living in an orphanage in Eastern Europe.  Two 15 year olds waiting for families.  Do you know what will happen when they turn 16?  They will no longer be available for adoption, they will leave the orphanage and be sent to a mental institution.  An adult mental institution.  Do you have any idea what that means?  For Bernadette:

She will likely have her head shaved, be stripped and placed into institution clothes, taken to a bed or crib and restrained there if she tries to wander. No toys. No books. No one to rub her back or sing her a lullaby. She’ll become a number on a case file, a name on a roster. Forever condemned to a life without a family. At her small size, likely a victim of other, older adults at the institution, as they take her food, hit her, or worse.

That’s a quote, a quote from a wonderful adoptive mother who met Bernadette.  Surely it can’t be that bad, can it?  Oh, it can.  Read about it here, and look at the pictures.  Look at them.  Do you know, as I started to read, I didn’t want to find out more.  I didn’t want to know about how bad it was . . . But we need to know.

No child, for Bernadette really is like a child, should ever receive that fate.  No teenager like Duncan should live with the fact that his birthday (yeah, we call it sweet 16, don’t we?) will mark the end of hope.

And you know, the thing is, it’s easy to just ask, “Well, what can I do?”  If you’re like me, you’re a college student.  You can’t adopt, but does that mean that you should just go on with life?

Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction and to keep oneself unstained from the world.  ~James 1:27

You can visit.  You can contribute, this website is a wonderful resource:  http://reecesrainbow.org/category/waitingbycountry/ee-1/orphanage-39.  And most of all, you can pray.

I want to say something, and I hope it doesn’t offend you.  I hope it makes you think.  In the United States, we don’t have adult mental institutions like in Eastern Europe.  We don’t have a system that condemns teenagers like Bernadette to a living hell in an institution for the crime of having an extra chromosome.  No, we don’t.  We just take care of that problem much earlier.  9 out of 10 babies with Down Syndrome are never born in the United States.  Civilized.  Intentional.  Extermination.  That’s the United States.  Don’t ever forget that we have our own problems.

Please pray, and pray for faces.  It’s much harder to forget, to shake off a face.  A statistic can just slip away, but a face remains.  Look at Duncan.  He’s afraid no one will want him because his legs don’t work.  Look at Bernadette.  She’s so sweet, so happy, so blissfuly unaware of what is ahead.

What will you do for the least of these?