Archive for December 2014

Christmas of Four

Today may be Christmas Eve, but for our family, it was our first Christmas as a family of four. Because of how the scheduling worked out, we celebrated Christmas today, and oh what a wonderful day it was! We celebrated with several very dear friends we met last year (we spent Thanksgiving with them then) who graciously invited us to join in their Christmas festivities. We ate *way* too much food, opened gifts, and read the Christmas story and discussed the “reason for the season.” We Skyped with many family members back home in America and chatted around the Christmas tree. Best of all, Shiloh was able to join us for the entire afternoon and evening. We have officially spent our first Christmas together as a family of four. It was absolutely lovely. Still not the same as Christmas at home, but it had a charm all its own, full of memories I will forever treasure..

This morning, I had a moment of absolute Christmas bliss, if I can call it that. Arturo was gathering the ingredients for our contributions to the Christmas Eve dinner. Shanti was awake, oohing and aahing over the Christmas gifts Arturo and I wrapped late last night. I had my favorite Christmas music queued up on iTunes and was hard at work cooking for our festivities. We hadn’t yet picked Shiloh up from the orphanage, but he was on my mind. Our tiny little Christmas tree was blinking merrily in the corner of the room. And for the first time all season, it felt like Christmas to me. It felt like the wonderful celebration of love and generosity that should characterize this time of year. My heart was overflowing with gratitude for my family, for my friends, for the many blessings God has given me, and most of all for the incredible gift of His Son, my Savior, Messiah, and friend.

Christmas away from home isn’t an easy thing. Even with the full recognition of how blessed I am in our current circumstances, I would still rather be home for the holidays than here in Eastern Europe miles away from our family and closest friends. But this season is an important one for our family, a time of transition and growth that isn’t easy for any of us but that will shape us into the tight-knit family unit we hope to become. God is doing an incredible work in our lives. I am so happy to have celebrated a “Christmas of Four.”

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We have a court date! … maybe.

Hello friends. We have a court date: December 26 at 3:30 am EST time!! Praise God! This court date is a huge miracle all on its own, and we’re so excited. But … by no means does it actually ensure we will have court on that day. Our paperwork must be processed by the central authorities first, and to have our paperwork ready by the 26th would require them to move WAY faster than is usual. We continue to pray for a miracle.

If we are able to have court on the 26th, we will likely be home the third or fourth week of January. If we miss the 26th deadline, court will happen on January 12th, and we won’t be home until the second or third week of February. (Just saying that feels like a punch in the gut …) Praying hard!

We’ve had some up and down days with Shiloh recently, and we would very much appreciate your prayers. He has zero trust of authority figures and doesn’t even believe us on the most basic of statements (like telling him that we’ll see him again tomorrow, for example). It will take time to build his felt safety and teach him to trust. We are prepared for the task (as prepared as we can be, at least), but it’s still very hard to experience in the moment and extremely hard to watch him struggle while not knowing really how to help. The orphanage atmosphere and the short length of our daily visits definitely are not helping the situation, but until we take custody of him, we have no other options.

This morning, we went to church at the little protestant church in town, and it was wonderful. We sang “angels we have heard on high” and “o holy night” in Russian, we lit advent candles, we heard a wonderful sermon about the reason for Christ’s coming, we fellowshipped with wonderful fellow believers. It was one of the most refreshing and soul-recharging services in my recent memory, exactly what I needed after this past week’s rollercoaster ride. We are so blessed by this little church.

Arturo has had no more kidney stone pain since Wednesday, thank God. Hopefully this is the only attack of our stay here. My homesickness has abated somewhat – buying a Christmas tree on the way home from church certainly helped! – but Shanti is still struggling, still wants home more than anything else. To top it all off, she got sick after lunch today. 🙁 Arturo went on to the orphanage to visit with Shiloh, which had been the plan for all of us, and I’m home nursing our sick darling. She’s asleep on the couch for now and should be just fine by tomorrow, but I feel so bad for her. She just can’t seem to catch a break. Poor thing!

Thank you all for your prayers, and merry Christmas!

PS — A quick shout out to my brother, who is GRADUATING TODAY WITH HIS PhD!!! I am SO stinkin’ proud of him and all he’s accomplished, We’re sending huge shouts of love and congratulations across the ocean to my brother, his wife, and their cuter-than-should-be-legal little boy. We’re going to watch the graduation tonight on live stream. Gotta love modern technology! 🙂

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Update: We’re in-country, and we’ve met Shiloh!

Goodness, has it really been over a month since I’ve posted here? I am so sorry for the delay. Life since our last post has been … well, full. We held two incredibly successful benefit concerts, by which I was overwhelmingly humbled and filled with gratitude for the love and support of friends, family, and strangers. God is so good.

While we were in VA for the second benefit concert, Shanti got to see Nastya, one of her best friends from her orphanage life, and I got to see my sister and nieces. Oh what a wonderful weekend it was! My parents played host and hostess to the large gathering, and I was once again reminded how incredibly blessed we are by our wonderful support network. Jill and Rebecca, thank you both so much for making the trip to attend our concert with your kiddos in tow. It was SO good to see you both.

The weekend after our second benefit concert, on a Saturday morning no less, we got the call we’d been hoping and praying for: we got our date. We were scheduled for our appointment with the central adoption regulators in Shiloh’s country at 11:00 am local time on December 8th. Oh my! It was much earlier than we’d expected to receive our appointment, so we had lots of figuring and re-arranging of our schedule to do in order to make it work. Arturo and I were supposed to play a concert on December 6, and my music students were to perform their studio recital the afternoon of December 6. We spent over 2 hours on the phone with a travel agent trying to find some way we could leave Cincinnati on the 7th and make it in time for our appointment, but no such luck. We had to leave on the 6th. We did the rescheduling we needed to do, and we made it work. Our plane tickets were bought just a few days later. So exciting!

We then left all adoption thoughts behind and spent an incredible 4 days in New York City celebrating the 13th birthday of one very special girl. Before her 12th birthday, which we celebrated with Shanti in 2013 at her orphanage, Shanti asked us to take her to NYC for her 13th birthday. In the book of photos we brought for Shanti, she saw a photo of me in front of the Statue of Liberty and immediately decided she wanted to go there herself. So go to NYC we did. We saw the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade (so cool!), took an open-air bus tour of Manhattan (more fun than I expected, and Shanti loved it), rode the subway (required for every visitor of NYC), visited friends in NYC (who were gracious enough to allow us to enjoy Thanksgiving dinner with them), spent an afternoon at the Queens science museum (which was AWESOME — absolutely worth the admission price and more), saw the Macy’s window displays (WOW!), bought lots of souvenirs (we did have a 13yo with us, after all!), saw the World Trade Center Memorial (so moving), and took the Staten Island Ferry for a great view of the Statue of Liberty. It was a wonderful trip, and I’m so glad we had that intensive family bonding time with Shanti before our travels to Eastern Europe.

Just a few days after we arrived home from New York, our silent auction ended, with a final tally of well over $1,000. Wow! At this point, almost 2 weeks after the auction’s conclusion, not quite all of the winning bids have been paid, but most of them have, and that money will pay for our return plane tickets home as a family of four. I cannot thank enough those who donated to and bid in our auction. You literally provided the way for us to return home with our son.

No sooner had the auction concluded than we packed and hopped on a plane to Eastern Europe. We arrived in early afternoon on December 7, had our appointment without conflict on December 8, and met our son on December 10. On December 15, “Shiloh” signed his new name (which I can’t yet share) on the document stating that he wants to join our family. On December 17 (today), our request for a court date was submitted back to the central government adoption regulators. We are praying for a miracle that would allow us to have court before the courts and government offices close on December 31, as a delay in our court date until after the holidays would require us to stay in-country for at least an extra 3 weeks. At this point, we are expecting to be here until the 3rd or 4th week of January if we have court before December 31 and until the 2nd or 3rd week of February if we have court after the holiday break. Prayers are much appreciated.

“Shiloh” is wonderful and is indeed a perfect fit for our family. He and Shanti definitely hit it off, and their relationship is already growing well. Shiloh is fun, energetic, and all-around a great little boy. We are so excited to call him our son. I can’t share photos or details now, but I will as soon as we pass court and take custody, making us officially a family of four.

This adoption trip has definitely been different than Shanti’s in a number of ways, not least of which that we have Shanti with us and have her daily needs and schoolwork to monitor. Perhaps the biggest difference relates to our trips to and from Shiloh’s orphanage. For Shanti’s adoption, we were a mere 5 minute walk from her orphanage. Even on days when we spent 3 or 4 hours at her orphanage, the rest of our days still felt empty. Such was our free time (and level of boredom) that I knitted no less than 5 scarves, 6 hats, and 3 pairs of mittens during the 6 weeks when we were visiting Shanti’s orphanage each day.

Our visiting experience this time couldn’t be more different. Shiloh’s orphanage is over 1 hour away from our apartment, making for a 2-hour+ round trip each day just to see him, and nearly 40 minutes each way is walking, for a total of 80 minutes a day walking along the cold, muddy streets of Eastern Europe. While the weather hasn’t been terribly cold, it has definitely been cold enough to make the walk unpleasant. By the time we get home each night after our visit with Shiloh, we are completely spent and have no energy for anything other than making a quick dinner and falling into bed. I brought my knitting supplies for our trip this year, but I have a feeling little knitting will actually get done, unless we find a way to boost our energy levels significantly.

Shanti and I are also somewhat homesick. We both miss the comforts of our friends and family during the holiday season. I’m going to go shopping for Christmas decorations for our apartment today or tomorrow, which will hopefully help things significantly. Arturo is also struggling, although of a different sort. He’s had trouble in the past with kidney stones (including one terrible episode during Shanti’s adoption trip), and it appears the kidney stones are rearing their ugly heads once again. We would like to ask for prayers for Shanti and I to find comfort from the homesickness and for Arturo to find relief from the pain.

I’m now going to be a horrible blogger and end this post with not a single photo. It’s time for lunch and then the mandatory hour+ trip to Shiloh’s orphanage, so photos will just have to wait for another day. Greetings to all of you from Eastern Europe. Thank you for your prayers and encouragement. I can’t wait to introduce you to our new son!

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