Archive for November 2013

Happy Thanksgiving

As I sit down to write this blog post on Thanksgiving evening, I am full to overflowing with thanks. God truly has filled our cup until it runs over. This Thanksgiving, I have more about which to be thankful than any other year in my life so far. I don’t think anything could have made this a better Thanksgiving Day.

Just after court this past Monday, we got a phone call from the pastor of the church we’ve been attending here in our daughter’s city. He and his wife are American, and they invited us to celebrate Thanksgiving with them. We weren’t quite sure what to say. We of course wanted to accept their invitation, but we aren’t usually allowed to take our daughter out of the orphanage on weeknights, and our visitation hours with her are smack in the middle of dinnertime. We decided to tell them we’d get back to them. After all, there was no harm in asking for permission for our daughter to celebrate Thanksgiving with us, and so we tentatively made the call …

… and were SHOCKED when the orphanage director gave us an enthusiastic “yes”! We picked up our daughter at 3:00 this afternoon, helped her with our homework at the kitchen table in our apartment for a little bit, and then bundled up for our trek to the pastor’s house for a bountiful Thanksgiving dinner. It’s freezing (literally) outside today, so our journey there felt a bit more like a Christmas-time journey than a typical Thanksgiving adventure.

The Thanksgiving dinner was incredible. Perhaps because it’s been so long since we’ve had good American homecooking (or perhaps because it was just that good!), it was one of the best Thanksgiving meals I’ve had. The turkey was moist (and was quite a shock for us to see on the table – turkey meat is very hard to find here), the stuffing was homemade and delicious, and the mashed potatoes (our contribution) did us proud.

As good as the food was, the company was even better. Our daughter had a great time and was a complete trouper through the evening, never getting frustrated when the English portion of the conversation lasted too long for her comfort and playfully responding to our less-than-stellar attempts to speak Russian. Much to our joy, she also LOVED the food. We’ve had some minor food issues with our daughter from the very beginning, nothing we can’t handle or didn’t expect, but food has certainly been our biggest struggle to this point. Tonight, it was heartening to see her eating appropriately sized portions of nutritious dishes and enjoying them, particularly since almost everything on the table was traditionally American and therefore completely unfamiliar to her.

We also relished the opportunity to get to know our new friends a bit better. The church here manages an extensive ministry program in the orphanages in the area. The heart these Christians have for ministering to the fatherless is absolutely incredible. I’ve never seen anything like it. The work they do in the lives of these children is truly the embodiment of Christ in these kids’ lives. The Body of Christ is alive and well in this city. The love these Christians shower on these children is inspirational. As the new mother of one of this city’s formerly fatherless children, it is yet one more reason for me to be thankful this Thanksgiving Day.

So, today I am thankful for many things ….

for a beautiful, precious daughter to love and to treasure,

for a loving, supportive, Christ-focused husband to love and to respect,

for family, friends, and church family back home who made this journey possible,

for Christians in this country who have chosen to be the hands and feet of Christ to the fatherless and who loved on and prayed for my daughter years before we knew her name,

and most of all, for a Lord and Savior who love me enough to know that I needed to be taken beyond my comfort zone in order to experience the most amazing of blessings: a family of three.

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We’re officially parents!

It’s late (after midnight here), and today has been a FULL day. But I just can’t go to bed without posting this quick update: we are officially parents, and our daughter is officially no longer an orphan! Court today was stressful, but it had an amazing outcome. They ruled in our favor! Hallelujah! We can’t take custody of our daughter until the court decree goes into effect in 10 days, so we’ll probably bring her home from the orphanage for the first time on December 6th or 7th, depending on paperwork. We still can’t come home to Cincinnati until just before Christmas because of US visa requirements, but everything from this point onward is just paperwork and not anything that would threaten the success our adoption. So, it’s official: we’re now a family of three! Thank you SO MUCH for your prayers and support!

Until we take custody of our daughter, we are not going to announce her name or share photos publically. While there “shouldn’t” be any problem posting photos or announcing her name at this point, since we are officially her parents, we simply don’t want to risk it — too much is at stake. Thanks for your understanding!

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Court on Monday!

We just got a call from our adoption facilitator, and our paperwork is finally complete, meaning we will have our court session on Monday! Hooray!

(momentary pause while I jump up and down in excitement and take time for celebratory a dance break!)

We were waiting on one last piece of paperwork from the US Embassy, which came back today. Now that this final piece of paper has been received, the government adoption regulators can complete the processing of our official adoption recommendation and have it ready for our judge by Friday. We’ll then have our court hearing on Monday, likely in the afternoon local time, which would be early morning US time. If all goes well, the court will legally pronounce us as the parents and legal guardians of our daughter, a proclamation that will go into effect 10 days after our hearing. (The interpretation of this “10 day” rule varies from region to region. Some regions require 10 business days while others require 10 calendar days. We’re not sure which interpretation this particular region follows.) As a result of the 10-day delay, we won’t be able to take custody of our daughter immediately after court, but successfully passing court is the last big hurdle in our custody process. If all goes well, we will either take custody of our daughter on Dec. 5th (under the “10 calendar days” interpretation) or on Dec. 9th (under the “10 business days” interpretation). We are so excited!

Please be in prayer that court on Monday goes smoothly. There are still some questions about how the misunderstanding earlier this month will or will not affect us, and if it does come back to hurt us, it will do so at our court hearing on Monday. As excited as we are, my stomach is also full of butterflies because of the uncertainty.

Thank you all so much for the love, encouragement, support, and prayers you have showered on us throughout this process. The prayers are working, and we appreciate the support more than we can say. Four weeks after arriving in Eastern Europe, three and a half weeks after meeting our daughter, we will go to court to petition for permission to officially welcome her into our family. How exciting! 😀

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A Family of Three

First, a quick update. Thank you all SO MUCH for your prayers, encouragement, and support since we voiced our plea for prayers on Nov. 7th. The picture of our adoption that we can see today is drastically different from the picture we saw that Thursday evening almost two weeks ago, and there is no explanation for this change apart from the grace and mercy of God. We are not out of the woods yet, nor will we be for about another week, but I can now state with reasonable confidence that our adoption will likely proceed without any lasting impact from the issue we faced two weeks ago. God is good, and our/your prayers are daily being answered. Hallelujah!


When we set out in March to adopt from Eastern Europe, we set out on what we thought was going to be a journey to adopt two children. We knew the adoption of our daughter’s biological brother was a toss-up at best and an impossibility at worst, but after much prayer, we still felt the Holy Spirit gently insisting that two children were waiting for “Araya” to be added to their names. We didn’t know quite what to make of this persistent prompting. Adopting a second child other than our daughter’s biological brother wasn’t something we particularly wanted to do. In addition, much adoption literature strongly advises against adopting two unrelated children at the same time. Our social worker told us in no uncertain terms that we should bring our daughter home alone if we were not able to adopt her brother. But still that small voice persisted: “I have two children set aside for you.”

Perhaps in our human way of “fixing” things to match the guidance of God, we tentatively selected a little boy from our daughter’s orphanage that we would consider adopting if the adoption of our daughter’s biological brother didn’t work out. Had you asked me about it during the month of October, before we left on this adoption adventure, I would have told you in no uncertain terms that we were coming home in December as a family of four, that we didn’t yet know whether our second child was going to be our daughter’s biological brother or whether he would be another little boy from her orphanage, but that we were bringing home two precious kiddos. No if’s, and’s, or but’s. We’d prayed, God had told us He has two children for us, and we were getting them both this go-around.

Goodness, God must love laughing at our human folly, at our way of “fixing” things to fit His infinitely wise plan. As I write this, we are working to complete the adoption of only one child, our lovely daughter, and we will be coming home as a family of three.

Just a few days after arriving in Eastern Europe, almost three weeks ago, we were given the news that we had somewhat expected but had always hoped we would not receive: we cannot adopt our daughter’s biological brother. There are many twists and turns to his situation, but the result of it all is that he will not be able to come home with us.

We then naturally turned our attention to the precious little boy we’d had in mind as a possible adoptive brother for our daughter. We met him the day after we met our daughter. He is indeed a lovely, amazing, incredible little boy, just like we knew he was …. but he also has a personality that is the polar opposite of our daughter’s, and from observing him, we can tell that he will need a drastically different parenting style and level of parental support than our daughter will need. This in and of itself wouldn’t be such a bad thing; after all, plenty of parents are raising biological children with polar opposite personalities and who need different parenting styles. But those biological children typically don’t enter their family simultaneously, and they almost never enter their family with the kind of struggles adoptive children face. Watching our daughter and this little boy interact and knowing what we know about the process of bonding in adoption, we knew it would be a huge struggle to bond with both children simultaneously, a struggle that would ultimately be harmful to the adjustment and growth of both children. While I would have loved to mother this precious little boy, we both knew almost instantly upon meeting him that he was not the right fit for our new family.

And God, in His wisdom, knew that, too. Less than 72 hours after we met this little boy, I spoke on the phone to his future mother and father, an amazing couple who have decided to adopt him. They will likely arrive here in early spring to adopt him and bring him home. God is good, and He is providing exactly the family this little boy needs.

So then we turned our attention elsewhere. There are plenty of boys in this orphanage who are available for adoption. One in particular took a liking to Arturo, and he is truly one of the sweetest children I’ve ever had the fortune to meet. But adopting him would come with several distinct complications, none of which I can share here. They weren’t deal-breaking complications, just issues that would make the process quite difficult. We prayed hard, and we discussed for several days, going back and forth. While we both wanted to parent this little boy and wanted to say “yes,” the decision to add him to our family was one about which we felt no peace. We finally asked the Lord to give us guidance so unmistakeable that we couldn’t miss it, and He did, in the form of unsolicted advice from three people whose faith, wisdom about adoption, and experience as adoptive parents we trust completely. All three emails arrived in my email inbox within 15 minutes of each other. Our hearts were heavy, for we truly love this little boy, but we ultimately made the decision not to adopt him, either.

But God, in His wisdom, again had a plan. Less than a week after we decided we would not adopt this second little boy, I received an email from his future mother. An awesome family has committed to bring him home and will likely travel in late spring or early summer of 2014.

At this point in our journey, after considering and ultimately deciding against adoption of two separate children, we took a step back, taking time to pray once again about the elusive “second child.” After those prayers, we finally reached a decision about which we feel complete peace, that “peace that passes understanding.” While we would have never thought it possible before getting here, we will come home as a family of three. Our daughter needs our full attention right now, and God has provided other families for the children we had considered adopting. After a bit more than a week living with this decision, we know it is the right one for us, for our daughter, and for the family God is building within and among us.

We’re not quite sure why the promptings and prayer answers we received for so many months earlier this year indicated we would soon be a family of four. I can honestly say now that we don’t know what God has in store for our family, besides the fact that our daughter is in it. As one of my closest friends commented last weekend, “I can’t wait to see how God fills that second bedroom.”

What I can tell you is that the children here have touched us more deeply than I thought possible. Their beautiful spirits, their hunger for love and family, and their kind souls are a blessing and a beauty to witness. Our daughter has already blessed us beyond belief, and our decision to adopt her, to take that leap of faith, is the best decision we have ever made. At this point, I fully believe that our daughter’s adoption will not be our family’s last. Perhaps God has a son set aside for our family somewhere else, a son that we can only dream about right now. I don’t know. I have no clue where this journey of life as an adoptive family will take us, but I do know that God’s plan is wise and is good, and we’ll find out what we need to know when we need to know it. God is good. Hallelujah.

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Thank you for your prayers. Please keep praying.

Thank you all for the overwhelming response to our last post in which we begged for your prayers. In the last twelve hours, we have felt anew the incredible way God has blessed us with family and friends who support, encourage, and love us with such incredible fervor …. God is so good, and we thank him for all of you.

Unfortunately, the problem we are facing relates somewhat to the level of secrecy that is required of us through this process. As a result, we will be posting nothing but the most generic updates here until we have custody of Shawna and she is finally ours. I know you all are full of concern for us and want to know what is happening, but the risk is too great. We cannot take that chance.

Last night, we spoke to the head of our facilitation team, and he is hard at work on our behalf to overcome this obstacle. It’s a big one, but he is optimistic that it will not affect us in the long run. However, he can guarantee nothing, and we won’t know for sure the full ramifications of this issue for several more weeks.

I have a Bible program on my phone that gives me a “verse of the day” each morning. When I woke up this morning and checked today’s verse, I had a moment of truly feeling your prayers surrounding us. Today’s verse is John 14:18, a verse that has already sustained us numerous times throughout this process: “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.”

Please keep praying for us. We are not out of the woods, nor will we be for the next several days and weeks. But your prayers are working. Your prayers are comforting and strengthening us, and we have faith God would not have brought us this far, would not have allowed us to meet and fall in love with our daughter, if He weren’t going to bring us all safely home.

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Please Pray

Please be in prayer for us, deep fervent prayer, over the next 48 hours. A huge roadblock to our adoption has just appeared, one that we cannot even share here in this password-protected space. (Our parents don’t even know the situation.) But we need your prayers, right now more than at probably any point so far in this process. I am in deep, sobbing tears as I type this. That’s how serious the situation is. Please pray for the grace of government officials and for the will of God to be done in bringing Shawna into our family. We need your prayers. Thank you, and God bless you.

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