Thursday, February 16, 2012

Longest Post: The End.

She fell asleep tonight holding my hand with a smile on her face. As I set there watching her, listening to the boys' breathing become sweet and slow, I could not help but feel overwhelmed with this work God has done. They have been rescued. God sent us here, brought them out of the darkness, set them in a family. The past two days have been full of kisses, good food, fun, discipline, and joy. They are learning what a family is, and they are happy.

I wanted each of you to know that we will come home with NO DEBT from our adoption. Because of the generosity of God's people, we can bring them home without that burden. The immensity of this fact is hard to state. This adoption cost well over $40,000 and God provided it. We are humbled beyond words by this fact. To see them today and to know that tomorrow they get on a plane and get off surrounded by people who love them, sacrificed to rescue them, prayed for them, and are ready to jump head-first into their lives can only be described as glorious. Because God did it friends, and he loves it!

This past week has been very hard for me. So many delays and waiting, and the fear of the unknown. How could I be afraid, you may think, when it is so obvious that God has been doing this all along? It's a good question that can only be answered one way- I am a wretched sinner who is constantly prone to forget, to wander, to rebel, and to fear. But friends, this thing we have been doing, this rescue, this is what God has done for me. He has taken this unlikely selfish woman, and made her the mamma of eight. He alone has given me the heart to do it, the courage to take each step, and the strength to make it moment by moment.

I was SO VERY reminded today of this reality. We finally had made it to our medical exam for the visas. This is the last, crucial step - fail and you don't go home. I had been given dozens of sets of papers by various people, all very important, all in Cyrillic. Lots of people had also rifled through them, mixing them up into a hopeless jumble. I set aside the court decrees and birth certificates in a special place in my folder to ensure I would not lose them. When we began the "paper-job" at the medical office, our facilitator asked me for the vaccination records. I handed him the medical records I had for the kids and he tells me there are no vaccination records for the boys. No records - no medical clearance - no visa - no home. Since this has not been the first time the team has messed up with our papers, I took a pretty high attitude and insisted that I had given them everything. "Let me look in your folder," he asked. NO. Stop treating me like I am an incompetent idiot. I had HAD IT. I didn't say it to him, but that's what I was thinking. I even told a friend there with us about it. Argh! They messed up again! He pleaded with me to look again as the team is frantically trying to figure out what to do on the phone, and WHAT DO YOU KNOW? I had them, in the folder with the court decrees. I don't think saying "I am sorry, I am an idiot" really made that much difference. Sorry everyone that comes after me for perpetuating the stereotype.

Gotcha day was intense. It began at 6:30 with a 1.5 hour car ride to the boys' orphanage. The time there was really touching. So many tears, so many pictures (the nannies'!), so many goodbyes. The boys are really loved by the people in their orphanage. I am so grateful to them for raising them for us these last 5 years. I know that is what everyone says, but in this case, it is deserved. They only let us leave after they were SURE we knew how to give the medicine "You won't forget?!?" and that we would Skype them soon and often. They even gave us really amazing baby albums with pictures and info about their whole lives. Made with love, truly. Kinda amazing that they are the only kids in the family with baby books. Yeah.

We brought them home and fed them, and tried for a nap. Picture screaming in terror. So, okay, no naps. I then just tried to entertain them with games, iPad, etc. This worked for a while. So, how about a bath? Joyful moment? Picture screaming in terror. That was Gus. Ezra knew what to do and tried to bribe him with candy, but the screaming didn't stop until he was out! Ezra is out to prove that he is an adult who can run the family, so he stripped and hopped right in. He even demonstrated how he was NOT SCARED of the faucet sprayer by putting it on his head while I was shampooing, thus soap in his eyes. Picture screaming in terror. Oh well, I still believed him.

Everett was out doing a "paper-job" and when he got back to stay with the boys, I went for Heidi. This was a totally different experience. We went into the directors office for "paper-job" and a nanny came to get the clothes to change her into (they own nothing, you have to bring clothes to take them home in). I asked to do it myself and was allowed (with huffy frowning). I went upstairs into her groupa where a nanny grabbed her and gave her to me. The look of relief on Heidi's face was telling. The nanny then showed me where to change her and began to pull her clothes off - all businesslike as though she wasn't a person. I was pretty mad so I told her to leave it to me, and she went off (with huffy frowning - they are all good at it there). I looked into Heidi's eyes and told her that NO ONE was going to treat her that way again and that her Mama WAS HERE NOW. She relaxed and I gently dressed her. She even smiled and laughed when she saw her pink boots! I felt obliged to say goodbye, so I went into the room where the nanny and kids were, and Heidi tensed up and almost started to cry. So we waved quickly, turned and never looked back.

I know this account may ruffle some feathers, and I am not trying to say her orphanage is bad. In fact, the director there is great and really loves the kids. Heidi loves him and laughed in his lap while we continued the "paper-job" for the next 75,000 hours. But this is the truth of Heidi's story. I know there was at least one kind nanny, but this girl in my apartment is malnourished, scared of that place, and transforming before my very eyes. To see her laugh at herself for hours in the mirror, to watch her begin to trust me to feed her with gentleness, to see her look up with sweet joy at her daddy playing rough with her brothers - well, it's amazing. She is already not the scared, sad little thing we met in December, and I am so grateful.

The drive home with her included her throwing up about 15 times all over everything. It was a long, intense, smelly ride and I put her in the bath AS SOON as we got home. Picture screaming in terror. Her brothers were amazed when they saw her. Guess we forgot to tell them that was why I was leaving! "Sestra?" they asked. Yes. And after that, pure love. I can not even describe how they have accepted and loved her. We had been told that this was a bad idea, bringing a DS child into a family with typical boys from EE, because they might persecute her. Not only did they totally accept her, the concern they showed for the skinny, screaming stranger was not something the most open-minded adult I know could have topped. They have looked out for her every minute since they met her. Picked her up when she fell, taken things away they knew she shouldn't have, alerted me to the constant "danger" that she is in (they know acceptable behavior, and rooting in the trash and pulling on the blinds is no way for a little girl to behave!!). I am awed by how God has knit this family together. They are perfect for each other.

Bathing the kids was bittersweet. They are not healthy. They look like they are starving, and Heidi has problems. I bet surgery is in her near future, and they all need to gain a lot of weight. I am feeding them a ton, and they eat it all, thank goodness. Green smoothies and 55 doctor appointments, here we come.

We spent the whole day today doing, you guessed it, a "paper-job". We couldn't help, but actually cheer out loud as we left the embassy today. Thank you God, it's over. Visas in hand means we are on the plane in, lets see, 8 hours. I did at one point today wonder if it would actually happen. No, not at the medical office, but later when Everett went out to buy new coats for the boys. I had two coats I got from a friend's goodwill pile, and when one broke, and the other turned out to be pretty much used up, Everett set out to buy new ones. I knew that no one could actually buy a coat in February in the south (clearance cleaned out after Christmas) so our only chance was here, where people sensibly still sell coats in the winter. After he had been gone for 3 hours (leaving the cell at home), I began to wonder. If he didn't come back, would I still leave in the morning? At what time would I call the police? What would I say "There is a missing white guy with a black coat in the city?" That would be EVERYONE. Have I mentioned that there are almost zero non-white people here? On our first trip back home, I almost hugged the first black lady I saw in Charlotte. I digress. Turns out he did come back, with coats, and I never have to tell anyone what I decided I would do.

We get picked up at 3 am for the airport. That means 5 people packed and ready. I will probably get in the shower around 1:30, and the dance party raging next door means I will probably still be awake then. If you read this before we set out, pray. 22 hours of travel, kids, me. That about sums it up. (So glad Everett is Everett and will be sitting at the back of the plane with the kids while I live it up in first-class.)

I want to thank each of you with all of my heart for supporting us, praying for us, caring about us, giving to us, and loving us through this adoption. God is awesome. I love his people and what we look like when we follow him. Friends, this God-thing we are doing, well, it's not just for crazy people, or really nice people, or gifted people. We are none of those things. Not even crazy, though people do tell me that all the time. It's for GOD'S people. We are all called to follow him. That means he will totally change you, your plans, your family, your comfort, your wallet, your everything. And it's good. It's worth it - the only thing actually worth doing. Don't waste your lives - spend them totally and completely and you will not be sorry.

I have no illusions that the next time in our lives will be easy. We left easy when we said "I do". But, God will be there. Suffering is not to be feared, and is the place to find the purest joy. Because he is there. Goodbye friends! I don't know if life will be a bloggy kind, or a desperate hanging-on-for-dear-life kind. But I will end with this: DO IT. GO THERE. If you are his, that means the place that you are scared of, but you know is the path of obedience. He will be there.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

The Great "Paper Jam"

Today finished day 3 in Ukraine of what our driver called "the great paper jam." I think he might have been trying to say the paper job, but jam is much more apt! What is supposed to take only 1 day will continue tomorrow and into next week. One family here quoted a travel guide that said Ukraine has made "bureaucracy into an art form" and I could not agree more! We have spent the last several days driving around and waiting in cars and office buildings for various papers to be signed applying for birth certificates, changing tax codes, and who knows what else. All this could be thought of like labor contractions - painful, but showing that the end is near!

Everett and I are enjoying our time together in the evenings (we are doing paper jams in two different cities) and are really doing well. Many frustrations have happened (like Heidi being named "Electra" because of people misunderstanding English, nothing we can't fix in court here in the US at a later date, but UGH!) and courts taking days instead of hours (dare I say minutes?) to give simple signatures. But overall, things are going well. I have visited with Heidi and tomorrow I will take her for a "scan" (not a picture, no idea what it means) for her passport, so that will be fun! Everett will be taking the boys for the same mysterious scan tomorrow in another city. All the kids seem to be doing well. They will stay in their orphanages until we have the Embassy appointments, and then a couple of days after that, we will be coming home!

Gotcha day will be next week, and I will be sure to post some pictures. For now, we are trying to stay warm (hard to do when it is a "warm" day at 7 degrees and the driver does not keep the car running in order to save gas even when you sit in it for 7 hours!) and loving our time together.

Monday, January 30, 2012

What I'm Doing...

Laundry, making a roast, homeschool, working out, visiting with my sister and niece, making doctor appointments (11!), watching Downton Abbey with Everett, buying car seats , changing diapers, potty training, buying little boy underwear, praying, making green smoothies and eggs, getting my hair done, occupational and physical therapy, enjoying the sunshine and warm weather, waiting, waiting, waiting...

We leave to bring them home on Sunday. Until then, being ever so thankful for the time here with my family and friends. I don't deserve this blessing that I am living, but I will never stop being grateful.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Ezra and Gustav

I am so happy to announce that as of this morning, we have two new sons!! Court went great, and we are getting a bit of sleep (I hope) before we head home at 3 am! The judge, jury, and prosecutor were quite different than last time. He asked many questions and so did the two people who were the jury. They all seemed to not quite believe that we REALLY wanted 8 children. Was I really sure? He even said I was the mother of the most children that had ever been in their court! He told Everett he did not envy him the weddings (we have never heard that before...) and that it was going to be a very huge responsibility. I actually really respected that, because he is so right. It is a huge responsibility for Everett to provide for all of us, and a huge challenge for us to raise them. This is not something we take lightly and would never do apart from the awesome grace and strength of our God. It was a wonderful and sober time. Our picture book (thank you again, Julie!) was a huge hit and everyone told us how beautiful our daughters were. I think seeing them all happy and well cared for made everyone feel safe sending these boys off to a new home far away to be taken care of by obviously crazy people :)

After all the questions, the judge concluded everything and told us to come back that afternoon. I was shocked. And here I thought it had gone so well! I walked out of the room confused and upset and asked what had happened. Our facilitator assured me several times that it was okay, "you are the parents" and that the judge was joking with me. Really? Ha. Ha. After a bit it really sunk in and oh, such joy! It is hard to believe we really have two sons. (And just so you know, no one here ever gets my jokes either!)

We went back to see the boys right away and held them and told them we would be back in 10 days. They were so sweet and glad! I hope they understand a little how much we love them- I can't wait until we get to start showing them what it means to have a family. They are in for a shock! What? You make everyone drink green-smoothies and we don't eat cookies every day? (hehe...)

Monday, January 23, 2012

Heidi Eleta Jacobson

By the awesome grace and kindness of God, we are now the parents of SIX girls!! Yes, today was a wonderful day because Heidi joined our family!

We arrived yesterday and got settled into an apartment, and tried (to little avail) to get some rest. I had pulled a muscle in my neck/shoulder last week, so I was really feeling it and adding in the jet lag did not make for much sleep. We went straight away this morning to visit our girl. We wondered if she would remember us at all- it has been a month since she saw us last. We waited for her in the hallway of her groupa (an area in her orphanage of about 4 rooms where she lives) and they brought her into the hallway and sat her on a stool while they got her shoes. At first, she did not see us - we watched her for a few moments just sitting and wondering what was up. Then she looked our way. As soon as she saw us, her entire face broke into a hug grin and she jumped up and ran right into our arms. It was wonderful.

We played with her on the couch in the hallway (not our favorite place in the world, but where we are required to do our visiting). She was very sweet and interested in us. So many hugs and kisses on that little one! After a while of playing with our things, she climbed up into Everett's lap and clear-as-day said "Papa!". We could not believe it- she has never said a single word in our presence before. I bet you can guess who cried...

We went home for some lunch and to change into some nice clothes. I was so nervous!! But finally the cab arrived and we made it to the court building. (This also took some extra phone calls since the place he took us first was clearly not a court building and we could not communicate!) Once we were all gathered, Everett, myself, our facilitator, the orphanage director, a social worker, and two random people for the jury, we went into the judge's office. A bit of Russian was exchanged and it turned out we were missing a document and had to get it before he would hear our case. BUT the office where you can get that paper was closed today, of course.

Much Russian in the hallway (that looked EXACTLY like the "4th Floor" in Parks and Rec, BTW) and some heartfelt prayer later, we did go in, and for some reason not explained to us, he did hear our case. I am so used to it now. Very few things are explained to us or else just the general idea, no details, which we are now fine with (as long as things keep turning out ok, I guess).

The court itself was really easy. After all the horror stories, I expected drama, and it was more like the judge reading things aloud that he had to say, and everyone saying they wanted us to adopt her, and then he said she was ours. It was, and is, one of the most wonderful moments of my life. To hear them say again that no one wanted her, that no one has ever inquired about her, that she has "conditions" that make her undesirable, made my heart ache. But this is the way God works. He redeems and makes families. We want her, we chose her, we love her exactly like she is. "Eleta" is the name Everett selected for her middle name and it means "chosen". How wonderful it is to be chosen, and I hope someday Heidi will understand that she was chosen, by us, and by God.

We got to go back again and see her this evening, and I must have told her she was mine a thousand times! Oh how we love that girl! While we were there we found out that our court date for the boys has been moved  to Thursday, so another change of plans for us. We had tickets and childcare arranged for a Wednesday homecoming. We trust in God's perfect timing, however, and are thankful for all the chances to be flexible and grow in grace and gratitude :).

Thank you all for your prayers, and continued financial support. Several people have asked how much we are still short for our adoption. We will still owe about $12,000, when all is said and done. It is hard to not have been able to get the tax refund, but we are so thankful for how so many have given to make that number SO MUCH lower!!! We will be hanging out here for a few more days, and I will update again when we finally have court for the boys. Love, and joy, from the proud parents of SIX beautiful and perfect girls.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

And You Thought They Were Cute Before...

We will be leaving on Saturday for our court appointments. Court for Heidi is Monday, the boys on Tuesday. Please pray for a favorable outcome. We hope to be on our way home this time next week legally the parents of eight!! Hope you enjoy this video of the boys during their play practice!

Sunday, January 1, 2012

A Little Update!

I am sorry it has been so long since I updated where things are with our adoption. We came home from Ukraine just before Christmas and are settled in at home waiting for our court dates. It has been so good to come home and be with our girls and our family! We did not find out until after we were home that we did not get the court dates we had hoped for, and currently our dates are set for Jan 23rd and Jan 24th. We will head back on Jan 21st and come home on the 25th. This short trip will be for our court dates only. If we pass court, the 25th begins our 10 day waiting period. When this is over, we will return again to finally bring all the kids home. This trip can be from 1.5- 2 weeks, depending on how quickly we can accomplish the necessary paperwork for them to immigrate.

Our time visiting with the boys, and briefly again with Heidi before we came home was good in so many ways, and hard in others. I do not ever want to be less than candid about our experience, but we are still very much in the middle of this entire process. Nothing is official and until our 10 day wait is over, anything can happen. Because of this, I do not feel free to write much about my impressions or feelings. Many blog posts have come to mind, as the adoption process has stretched me and taught me much about our Rescuer already. I hope to share more when things are more secure.

I do feel confident to say that our God is GOOD, and his plans for these children and for our family will be accomplished. We continue to pray that Ezra, Gustav, and Heidi will be home with us by mid-February. Our time away was very hard for our girls at home, and I continue to ask for prayer for them as we have to leave them two more times! We also know that it is going to be hard for our new children to leave everything they know and enter into this new life. But God is at work, and will be faithful to them and to us as we travel and adjust. The end of this phase is nearly in site, and we move forward this new year with hope and courage. Thank you all for your prayers and for the many people who have supported us financially. It has been awe-inspiring to watch God work in this whole process. We are excited to see what this new year brings for our family!