Thursday, May 31, 2012

Exercising Faith...the keyword is EXERCISE

I have hesitated to write another post before we were certain of what we were to expect with this trip, but after today I realized that I really wanted the record of what has happened lately...and perhaps this record will help others who will travel a similar road.

Here is the timeline (approximately...because I am doing this from memory!):

April 10--first departure for Ukraine

April 12--SDA appointment/found out we were going to have to go home and wait for Nastia's paperwork

April 17--First visit at orphanage

April 18--Second visit at orphanage

April 20--Arrival home

April 21--Nastia's paperwork had been driven to the regional office to begin the 30 day waiting period.  We hoped her 30 day waiting period would begin on this date, allowing us to return around May 21st.

April 25--We find out that we are likely going to have to wait an extra week to return to Ukraine.

May 15--We get word that our SDA appointment will likely be June 4th...a week later than we were then hoping for and two weeks later than we had originally hoped for.  We also learn that Nastia's availability date is June 1st...far from the original goal of May 21st.  I could be wrong, but it seems to me that this means it took them ten days to register her paperwork after our coordinator drove all the way to get the paperwork from one office to another.

May 21--We find out that the SDA appointment will more likely be June 8th and possibly the 11th. (Anyone seeing a pattern here?)

May 23--We book flights to leave the 6th of June, knowing we don't want to end up missing an appointment on the 8th, because the cost of the tickets is rising by the day and there is concern we won't even find available flights if we don't act pretty fast.  The tickets are already $600 more each than they were for our first flights to Kiev. 

May 30--We find out that it is looking more like June 11th for the SDA appointment and face the decision of whether or not to change our flights because of the extra days of waiting.  The cost is possibly $1000 to change the tickets, with no guarantee we'll get flights for the weekend because they are packed...thanks to the Euro Soccer Championship being hosted in Ukraine.  We decide it is too expensive to change the flights for just a two day wait.

May 31--We find out that, thanks to Ukraine officially joining the European Union, parliament has just declared June 11th a holiday!  Our facilitator suggested that we might end up with an appointment the next day, the 12th, which means we are leaving six days before the appointment. 

I raise the question, "Since the SDA only meets twice a week, Monday and Thursday, are they going to be open on Tuesday to make up for the holiday or will they put us off until Thursday, the 14th?"  We will not have an answer to that question until our facilitator can talk with our coordinator in Ukraine...tomorrow at the earliest.

Our tickets are still for the 6th...possibly 8 days too early.  We will not change a thing until we have a date set in stone, but are still looking at the very real possibility of having to pay up to $1000 for the change.


Here's the deal: we are getting this information in a play-by-play format from our facilitator here in the US who daily talks to the coordinator in Ukraine who is on top of the situation there and speaks directly with the SDA.  Our coordinator is working hard to get as much information as possible as quickly as possible and tries to keep us informed of any possibilities of changes.  The reality is, the 8th is still a possibility.  An outside chance, I'm sure, but still possible.

I have decided to pray for the 8th and pray that someone's heart will be softened and we will be able to get this show on the road...

But if not (one of the best lines of scripture EVER...Daniel 3:17-18), then we will know that it is for a higher purpose that things are happening the way they are.  Even as illogical as they may seem, even as unnecessary as the trials and frustrations appear to be, there is purpose in it all since God does not do anything without purpose.

Isaiah 55:8-11:  "For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neighter are your ways my ways...For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your word...shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it."

So, today amidst the other issues of day-to-day life like car repairs, thawing freezers, school portfolios and eagle projects, I realize that the phrase "exercise faith" was chosen carefully.  For it really feels like exercise and exertion as I remind myself that the Lord is in charge, that I am grateful we are waiting here at home and able to take care of our children, our homestead, our garden and animals and that we are not waiting in Ukraine, that all eight of our children are safe--wherever they may be--and that there is a wise and eternally important purpose to it all...even if it is just so I can exercise faith.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012


Marsh knew I was having a particularly challenging day (thanks mostly to my horrible seasonal allergies!) and played a song for me when he came home. It's called "Blessings" by Laura Story:

While he played it, I sat on the couch folding laundry and crying into the clean washcloths.  I thought of the waiting we have been doing for almost a year now and how difficult it has been recently to have the date continue to be inched back further and further on the calendar.  Then I remembered the thought that came to me the other day that the Lord has a timeframe for a greater purpose than I can see right now.  After I had received that impression, I thought about all the reasons it was good to be home at this time and all the reasons He could be keeping us here for a while longer.

Then I thought of Ruslan and Nastia and the challenges they have been through.  Some might say that an unloving and unjust God allowed them to be orphaned, or even struck them with this tragedy because He is an angry God...or even that, because of this injustice to these innocent children, there is no God at all. 

But, in their specific case, without the tragedy there couldn't have been hope for something better.  Because of the loss of their mother, they will have an intact home, a father and a mother, siblings, grandparents who love and support them, the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the advantages of the United States, the beautiful surroundings of our little town, animals to care for and learn from, work to do on a little farm and the list goes on.  It is painful to describe it that way, that the loss of their mother creates a better life for them, but it is just one more evidence that the Lord has a plan and that our trials can bring about greater joys, greater growth, more compassion, more gratitude, more blessings...if we will let them.

So, our rain drops in this journey are simply bringing about flowers of blessings that we just can't see today.  We may someday understand it all, but the important thing now is to allow the Lord to continue guiding this journey and pay attention to how He is watching out for us along the way.  He doesn't do anything that doesn't have a purpose.  Every creation has its place.  It is our job to rely on His mercies and have joy in the journey.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Got through to Ruslan and have flights!

We tried to call again late last night, to no avail.  So we tried first thing in the morning...6 am...and got him!  He told us that the orphanage staff had let him know we were trying to get in contact with him.  ISN'T THAT NICE???  I was so relieved that someone was looking out for this heart.

His present HAD arrived (those angels were probably needing a breather after all that) and he enjoyed it.  We were able to tell him that we were having to wait until June to come because of Nastia's paperwork so they could understand why it was taking so long.  We also found out from him that school ends on the 25th of May and that "it wouldn't be boring when it's over".  :)  We had a nice little chat and then ended the call.  He's much more talkative than Nastia, but that's not saying very much!  ;)

A word about school:  One of the orphanage staff has, at my request, begun assembling Ruslan's transcript and class information.  Though I homeschool my children and will homeschool him for the most part as well, I think it's important for the children to have a high school diploma.  Without being able to count his 9th grade year, it would set him that much further back in that endeavor.  We are already working with a counselor at our local high school and they are aware of Ruslan and the goals we have for him.  We will have two 10th grade boys next year (our first time with a high school student...and we get to have TWO!) that will homeschool primarily and take sports and an occasional class at the high school.  Talk about baptism by fire!  I will know SO much more next year than I do right now.  :)

We also got word today that we are most definitely needing to count on the 8th as our SDA appointment.  We will travel on the 6th and arrive the 7th, at our facilitator's request.  There is still a possibility that we will not meet with the SDA until Monday, the 11th, but that is just a risk we are going to have to take.  Our facilitator has put us on "the fast track", which is normally used for people who have remained in-country during this type of waiting period.  It allows the SDA to only give a 2-3 day prior notice for the appointment rather than the typical "two weeks or more out" for those they know still have to travel.  This "fast track" has saved us many, many days of waiting, but requires us to gamble a bit on going over a little too early.  I figure that the Lord is working this all out in this way for whatever purpose He has, so we're just going to go with the flow and get over there!

Thank you for your thoughtful emails and wishes of getting through to Ruslan.  We are hanging in there.  Thank you for your prayers! 

Monday, May 21, 2012

Happy Birthday, Ruslan?

Today is Ruslan's birthday.  Nastia's birthday was on the 5th.  Three of our other children have birthdays this month so May is a biggie for us!  Five of our eight children will celebrate in May.  What a Mother's Day month!  :)

I sent Ruslan's present a week ago, hoping it would make it in time for the big day, but I doubt it did.  I had planned to make sure and tell him it was on it's way when we called him to wish him a happy birthday.  That way, he wouldn't feel like we had forgotten. 

A couple of weeks ago, we had sent a package to Nastia for her birthday.  It was all sparkly inside with stickers stuck on the flaps she would open first and gifts and chocolate nestled in tissue paper.  While I was there with her, I had started a little cross-stitch hoping to teach her how to do it.  It was a cute little spray of pink flowers (her favorite color).  She loved the fabric bows so much that we never got to the cross-stitch.  So, I finished it on the train back to Kiev, stitched her name under the little bouquet (thanks to Marsh writing it in Russian), put it in a little frame and included it in her birthday present.  We called her on her birthday, too.  She was at breakfast when we called so we were told to try again 15 minutes later.  When we did, she answered the phone herself and had obviously been anticipating our call.  She was quite and reserved, as usual, but we were able to sing "Happy Birthday To You" in Russian (imagine us sitting on the couch in our pajamas at midnight quietly singing the song...with me trying to pronounce the Russian words Marsh had just helped me cram into my head and not embarrass the poor girl!) and talk for a few minutes.  They were closing the office so we couldn't talk to Ruslan, but were anticipating calling him on his own birthday anyway.

Today was an important milestone because we were hoping to be able to tell Ruslan when we would be coming AND wish him a happy birthday.  Two weeks from today was the first possible SDA appointment we could get so we figured we would have heard by now.  The tickets are skyrocketing in price as we speak thanks to summer vacations and the big Euro Soccer Championships that are happening in Ukraine at the beginning of June.  We are now looking at tickets costing us three times what they were in April.  We are not only counting the minutes, we are counting pennies.

So, with much anticipation we called the orphanage several times between 11pm and midnight.  While the phone was ringing over and over and over I was quietly practicing my Russian birthday song.  We knew it was a school day and weren't sure when anyone would be in the office.  When someone finally answered, Ruslan was already in school.  We decided to try in their afternoon, our morning, hoping not to miss his birthday entirely.  We called over and over this morning, the kids gathered around in their pajamas, never getting an answer.  It was too late over there, apparently, and his birthday was over.  I felt so badly that we had managed to go the whole day without having any contact with him.  If his present made it, the angels would have had to carry it themselves.  I'm not sure what he knew about what we did for Nastia's birthday, but our total lack of apparent effort to make his day special would have paled in comparison, to put it lightly.  I'm not sure he cares or that he would even feel badly about it...but then again, he might.  Someday, hopefully tonight when we call again, we will be able to explain.  Our friend Kevin is over there right now ( waiting out the 10 day period after court so he can bring their boys home.  He has kindly agreed to hunt Ruslan down tomorrow and make sure he knows we love him. 

I was just working out the disappointment of the whole situation when we got word from our facilitator that we would not be able to have an SDA appointment on June 4th like we had hoped.  Now we are looking at the 8th and hoping the SDA will just agree to give us an appointment that day since we have a pretty special circumstance.  They have been meeting with our coordinator in Kiev and even working with him on when to submit our documents for Nastia and giving him an idea of when we might be able to actually get her referral.  Everyone knows there is nothing hindering her paperwork from going through and it would sure be nice if we could get a little common sense going and just let us book some flights!  Sorry...can you feel my blood pressure rising?

The other possibility is that our appointment will not be until the 11th which would, if we went ahead and booked flights as if we were meeting on the 8th, require that we sit around for the whole weekend in Kiev prior to the appointment.  However, we are hoping to also be able to submit our paperwork for our court date before actually leaving for Mariupol, so I know the Lord will work this all out for the best.  Maybe the 11th would be better for that.  Only He knows.

I hope Rulsan's birthday was happy.  It was a bit of a disappointment for me.  It'll all be okay, though, and someday we will all be home together.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Newest News!

This was the day we were waiting for.  We knew that today our facilitator in Ukraine was going to be finding out when Nastia's paperwork would be ready.  We just got word that she will be freed up on June 1st.  It's later than we'd hoped for, but it works out alright with all our other responsibilites here at home so we are grateful.

Our facilitator is now on his way back to Ukraine to help another family with their court appearance this week and will also be submitting paperwork to extend Ruslan's ticking clock. :)  It sounds like all is lined up to make it work for their two timelines.

We do not yet have an exact SDA appointment (which would tell us when we would actually travel back there), but our facilitator figures it will be either June 4th or 7th.  That is only a few days to a week later than we had hoped for.  As anxious as we are to be with these kids again, we know the Lord is in charge and that it will all work out for the best...even though it may differ from what WE want!  :)  There are always so many blessings to be acknowledged, even when things don't quite go according to our plans.  The Lord's way is ALWAYS the better way!

We expect to hear within the next week about our official SDA appointment and will post another update at that point.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Still Waiting...Need Prayers!

Ruslan (left) and friend at a basketball activity.
My friend, Becky, is there awaiting their court date
and snapped this photo of our boy for us!
I've been getting questions about where we are in our process and when we'll return to Ukraine so I thought I'd give a little update...and also ask for your prayers in our behalf for some specific blessings.

As you may know, Nastia's paperwork was not where we expected it to be upon our arrival in Ukraine last month.  It is required that the papers are at the local registry for thirty days, then at the regional registry for thirty days, then they normally have to sit at the SDA for a year.  After all that, the child becomes adoptable.  Because of a fairly new law, Nastia is available for adoption without that year waiting period because her brother has already been through all that and is available for adoption.  She rides on his coat-tails, so to speak.

However, those two thirty day waiting periods at the local and regional levels are still required.  As soon as it was possible (around April 20th), our facilitator drove the 250 km to where her paperwork was and hand delivered it to the regional office so it could begin its thirty day wait.  When it was actually processed and exactly what date her thirty days is over is still something we are waiting to hear.  We had hoped to be back there and into the SDA office getting her referral on May 21st, but it looks like that is too early to hope for.  Now we are hoping for the 31st.  *sigh*

Hopefully, this Tuesday we will have a much clearer picture about what her status is and we will have a more firm date of our return.

However, it's not quite as simple as it seems.  See, Ruslan's referral is aging as we sit here in the good ol' USA waiting for Nastia's paperwork to catch up.  His referral is only good for a period of time.  Our facilitator was making sure not to submit certain papers too early because he knew we had to wait at least a month to return and get things moving.  Though I do not have a clear understanding about everything that needs to happen and all the paperwork that needs to be taken care of, I do know that there is a ticking clock on Ruslan.

Another candid shot by Becky.  This is Nastia on
the playground.  She is the one on the far left in the
green t-shirt and tan cap.  Such a sweet girl.  I
can't wait to be with her again.
Secondly, we are in a difficult spot because we have already spent the cost of two round-trip plane tickets and about a week and a half's worth of housing on a process that hasn't really begun yet.  We had budgeted for two trips and now we are looking at three.  We have already cleared some of the hurdles that are necessary in the process...even one for Nastia.  We are hoping and praying that because of that, everything will now work in such a way to allow us to just get our court request in while we are still in Kiev and not have to travel to the orphanage before we can get that paperwork moving.

Here's how it works:  Our first stop in Ukraine will be the SDA office in Kiev.  We will, like we did for Ruslan, have a meeting where we are approved for receiving the referral for Nastia, then pick it up the next day and head to the orphanage to be with the kids.  Normally, that is when the real hurdles would begin...meeting with the orphange staff about both children (already done), signing necessary papers (some already done), etc.  Then, our request for a court date would go back to Kiev (an overnight train ride away) and be submitted to the SDA.  They then have ten days in which to respond with our court date.  If there is any possible way to avoid having to travel to the region prior to turning in our court request, we could save a few days in the process.  Those days are money.

So, I am formally requesting prayers in behalf of this portion of our process!  :)  I don't know if it is possible to avoid more days of waiting, nor do I know what time Ruslan's ticking clock is reading, but I do know that the Lord can intervene and create miracles if it is His will to do so.  I also know that sometimes those miracles are just waiting for our faith to move them on.  The Lord wants us to come to Him and rely on Him.  Sometimes our need is the vehicle through which He brings us to Him and then He shows us just how mindful He is of us and how powerful He is.  If you can find it in your heart to make this request on our behalf, we would be so grateful!

As soon as we know more about our return, I will post an update.  Thank you for your continued prayers and support.  We are indebted to all of you for your generosity and your emotional and spiritual investment.  You are in our prayers, too.