Thankful

November 25, 2009

Thanksgiving, for many of us, is a holiday that brings images of turkey, mashed potatoes, and Steve’s favorite, cranberry sauce. It sparks visuals of sitting around a table with family or friends.

This day on the calendar gives us permission to take time to give thanks and express our gratitude. But for some, this holiday is a difficult one.

I think of a girl in our ministry who just experienced death in her family leaving her with no parents.

I think of a friend who has a strained relationship with her family and is dreading the idea of all getting together on this day.

I think of a little boy in Russia who will wake up on Thursday like any other day and have no family to share the day. And I think of a couple who is longing for the day to finally be reunited with their son forever.

But even amidst the pain of separation, there is so much to be thankful for. This past year has brought pain and heart ache like I have never known, like having to say goodbye to our son without knowing when we would return.

But I have also experienced joy and gratitude and blessing like I have never known. The joy of seeing our little boy’s face for the first time. The blessing of those precious 5 hours with our little one, the giggles, the smiles, the hugs, the bonding. I am so grateful.

in the spirit of eating, here is our little guy feeding Steve

And on this Thanksgiving day, I will sit in awe and humility by the outpouring of love, support and encouragement that we have been given this year through people.

I think of the week before we left for Russia, and every day, people from all over were sending us money, gifts, encouragement cards and prayers.

I think of my parents and Steve’s parents who met us at our layover in the airport in Charlotte on our way home from Russia, to catch a glimpse of pictures of their grandson for the first time.

I think of the women who are planning baby showers for me over the next 2 months.

I think of a dear friend who made me a beautiful story book that has pictures of our little one and his story.

I think of 3 high school girls who raised $500 for our little one’s orphanage. Instead of asking for gifts for their birthday, they threw a fundraiser party and all of their friends brought donations.

I think of a family who sent us a box of gifts. Each child picked out a gift for our little one. One of the gifts that the young boy picked out was a Little People Rescue toy, and he said he picked it out because we were rescuing our son.

I think of one of my friends who drove me up to Cleveland for the second time in one week to get one document authenticated.

I think of the comments like, “I am praying for you.” “This must be so difficult to be away from your son.”

I think our notary, who works at our church, who drops everything she is doing to notarize our documents on a weekly basis, and she does it with a big picture of our little man posted on her wall.

I am grateful. In fact, I can’t even seem to think of a word that would match the gratitude that I feel in my heart. Through the pain of this process, I have experienced the unbelievable joy of poured out love into our lives. There is blessing on the road marked with suffering.

And on this Thanksgiving, we will still long for our son, but we will also have much to be grateful for. Far more than we have ever had. Thank you for being a part of that gratitude.

Updates:

  • all of our paperwork should be in Russia at this time
  • we await for it to be processed, then hope to get a court date soon

Prayer Requests:

  • for patience and strength as we wait to be reunited with our little guy
  • that he would somehow know in his heart that we are coming back for him

Until next Monday, love Kate & Steve.

Orphanage Syndrome

November 17, 2009

This morning Steve and I watched the unedited video footage from our time with our little boy in Russia. We laughed. We cried. We sat in awe of what an amazing time we had with him. Although total, we spent about 5 hours with our son, the connection of our hearts rooted deep into our souls, and we believed they rooted deep in him too.

By the end of the video, his eyes sparkled when he looked at us, a big difference from the confused and curious initial look in his eyes when he saw us on the first day. God truly is the weaver of hearts and lives and we are grateful for giving us far more than we could have asked for or imagined with those few hours.

As we watched we were also reminded of one of the more painful times we had with our son. We were having fun, playing and he went over to touch a nice vase that was in the room. I gently said, “nyet” (which means, “no”).

Suddenly his whole facial expression changed, he quietly sat down, then put his little hands over his eyes and began rocking back and forth. Steve and I immediately scooped him up in our arms and sat with him, holding him tightly, while whispering in his ear that we loved him over and over.

Within seconds (though it felt like hours) his little body just relaxed. He took a big deep breath, and he sat nestled into my chest as I held his sweet body. Then he got up and began to play again with a big smile on his face.

This whole experience broke our hearts and in fact, even writing about it now, brings tears to my eyes. This rocking back and forth is referred to as “orphanage syndrome”. Many children in orphanages do this when they are hurt or afraid. Since they don’t have a mommy or daddy to comfort them,  they have learned how to soothe themselves.

Because there are so many children in the orphanage, and the caretakers are working so hard to meet all of their physical needs, they are unable to address all of their emotional needs. So, the children have learned how to soothe themselves. Our hope and prayer is that when he comes home, he will learn that he doesn’t need to self-soothe anymore…that he has a mom and a dad who will hold him when he’s scared, lay with him when he’s sad, and help him when he’s frustrated.

As I watched the video today, it was as if God was reminding me with a visual, tangible example of His own love for us…for me. Through the frustration and the pain of all this waiting and paperwork, I so often run to other things to bring me comfort. I try to “stay busy” to make time go by faster or vent out my frustrations to friends or through this blog.

I try and try in many ways to make the pain of waiting go away on my own. I self soothe. I suffer from my own kind of orphanage syndrome. I go back to the things of myself to bring immediate relief or satisfaction without first going to the Great Comforter. He’s the One who so longs to hold me in His arms. He’s the One who whispers my name in His ear and speaks His love over me. He’s the One who quiets my soul.

So why do I continue to go back to the things that seem to bring relief,  these temporary, self-made imitations of true Comfort? I am reminded of this verse that has so come alive in my heart after visiting our son.

Romans 8:15, “For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, “Abba, Father.”

I have received a spirit of adoption. It’s a spirit that is no longer a spirit of fear, but of belonging and security. It’s a spirit that now can cry out, “Daddy, Father”. And I know that my daddy, Father is there, always, ready to bring comfort, peace, hope and love beyond anything that this world could offer and anything that I could bring myself.

Updates:

  • we had to make another run up to Cleveland just days after doing it once already, but for now the bulk of our paperwork is done
  • I’ve already received so much encouragement from people who are planning showers for us and our new little man

Prayer Requests

  • for our little boy, that he would somehow know that his mommy and daddy are coming soon to get him
  • for our paperwork to process quickly so we can get a court date

Until next Monday, love Kate & Steve.

Be strong, Take heart

November 10, 2009

Today has been one of those days…the kind where you want to stomp your feet, cross your arms and pout. The kind of day where you would love to revert back to the inhibitions of a 3 year old and throw a nice, big tantrum.

For the last 2 weeks we have been filling out piles of paperwork that needed to be sent out, sent back to us and sent out again.  We were hoping that it would all get back to us by today so we could take it up to Cleveland to get all of the documents state certified. Thankfully it all arrived! The day was going great so far.

I was so excited to get everything finished today.  Normally these documents would need to be mailed to the state secretary in Cincinnati. However, Cleveland has now opened an office (not that you care, but those are the things that excite me these days). So instead of paying lots of postage and having to wait several days, Steve and I were going to make a day of going up to Cleveland, finishing our paperwork, and doing some shopping in the area.

Everything went smoothly. After getting stuck in a parking garage (since they wouldn’t accept credit cards or checks to pay our fee) we got a call from our agency that we still need to complete yet another document.

I know it’s not that big of a deal. In the grand scheme of life and with all the problems in the world, news like this really shouldn’t send me into tantrum mode. But it did.

I was so excited to finally be free from the weight of this 2 year long paperwork. I was so looking forward to taking this stack of papers to the post office tomorrow morning and knowing that my part was finished for a while. Then comes a phone call informing me that it’s not finished. And our whole process gets held up because of one measley document.

It’s no one’s fault, it’s just the way this process goes. We’ve been told over and over again that international adoption is not for the faint of heart, and that you have to be totally flexible while having a sense of humor or you’d go insane. Today, I’m understanding why.

I just want to get over to Russia and be with my little boy. I want to hold in my arms and kiss him and hug him. I want to bring him home and live life with him. I want to rake leaves together and watch him fall in love with his daddy. But unfortunately, this is not a reality right now. One day it will be…and soon! But, my little 3 year old voice is crying out, “I want it right NOW!!!”

So we got home and I spent some time praying, pleading with God to comfort me. Immediately, this verse came to mind, “Wait for the LORD; be strong and take heart and wait for the LORD.” Another version reads, “Wait on the LORD; be of good courage and HE will strengthen your heart.”

I love that the verse uses the word “LORD.” I learned in a Bible study once that when the Scripture has the word LORD in all capital letters, it is referring to God as the covenant-keeping God. I love that so much. The promise in this verse is that God will strengthen my heart as I courageously wait.

God is the heart-strengthening, covenant-keeping, all-loving, ever-faithful God. He knows the depths of my heart and loves me the same.

As I sat tonight, throwing my tantrum before Him, I felt as if He scooped me up in His loving, Fatherly arms and said, “Wait on ME. Be brave. I will give you the strength.” So, I took a deep breath. And here I am, writing, waiting, being brave.

Updates:

  • the sooner this paperwork is complete, the sooner we will receive a court date
  • Until then, our pictures and videos of our little guy have been a treasure chest to us

Prayer Requests:

  • patience – we are so ready to be done with this process
  • for our son – that God would knit his little heart to ours

Thanks for walking this journey with us. Everyone experiences the ups and downs and twists and turns in the paths they walk. I am grateful that so many people have chosen to walk our path with us. We have felt so much love and support and encouragement – it encourages me to be strong as I wait.

Until next Monday, love Kate & Steve.

Joy in Connection

November 3, 2009

It’s hard to believe that it has already been a week since returning from meeting our precious son. In a way it feels like it has been forever since we have seen him, and at times it feels like it was just this morning that we were playing with him and hearing his precious giggle and seeing his glowing smile.

Maybe it’s because Steve and I watch the videos that we took of him while we were there every day. Maybe it’s because God is continuing to prepare our hearts for having him in our home forever. As we watch the video, Steve and I pick up on more and more cute little details of our time with our little man.

When we were with him, we were so in the moment. We weren’t  trying to understand the “why” behind everything that he did. Now we have the luxury of watching these videos and trying to get into the mind of this little two year old.

One moment I absolutely love took place on our last day at the orphanage. It began when Steve picked up our little man and he pressed his check against Steve’s. I was singing a little song while Steve and our son were dancing together. In all of this he would not remove his cheek from Steve’s face. Then while I was holding him, he did the same thing.

embrace

It was so precious because he really wanted to look at me, but he didn’t want to take his cheek off of my face. So, you can see in the video his big eyes looking as far as he can to the left as his face is attached to mine. There was so much connection in that moment.

It was such a picture of joy and enjoyment, experiencing the intimacy and closeness of parent and child. It was unlike any experience I have ever had and I’m sure unlike any he has had either. That picture is one that I will forever carry in my heart as a reminder of how joy is such a byproduct of connection.

I think about that with our son, but I also think of it in family and friendships. As we feel connected with each other, we find enjoyment in the relationship. Ultimately this is how God designed relationships to be.

We are now in a unique period of waiting. We have so much joy and relief in knowing that God has set aside this little man for us, but at the same time there is pain. Sometimes it just hits me during the day or as I go to sleep at night. I’ll often wonder what he is doing, how he is feeling, if he is itchy, if his booboos on his little hands are being kissed and cared for.

In some ways I just want to close my eyes and hibernate for 4 months until it is time to go back and get him. But I know that would not be the fulfilling life that God has for me in these next 4 months. He wants me to find enjoyment in the waiting. I know I can only do that if I am close to Him. If my face is connected to HIS cheek, so I can hear the God of the Universe whispering into my ear, “I love you. I have great things for you. Even NOW.”

I need His truth in my life. I need connection to His heart. I need to feel rest and peace in His arms. Through this, I will experience joy, even amidst the pain of waiting for my son.

I have already seen how the story of our little guy has affected the lives of so many. Last night Steve shared with our high school students an incredible talk on God, our Father’s love, and how His love for us was magnified through experiences in the orphanage in Russia. (If you want to listen to it, here’s the LINK. It requires quicktime).

Afterwards, several students approached me, expressing their desire to adopt, work in an orphanage, or contribute money towards something greater than themselves. I actually received an email today from a high school girl who has a birthday coming up. She said that for her birthday party, she wanted the people who came to give towards something significant, rather than receiving gifts. She asked if she could raise money at her birthday party for our adoption.

My heart is so full…which seems so contrary to my circumstances. I know this is only from God. Only this kind of contentment and joy can come from an all-loving God who has His cheek firmly pressed against mine.

Updates:

  • we have been so deeply blessed by the community of believers. Among the ways we’ve been blessed…
  • people have bought clothes for our little guy
  • One friend is making us a creative memory book containing the pictures we took in Russia
  • friends have given us money, toys, books, encouragement notes
  • we even received a package from a family with young children, each of these kids wrote personal notes to our son. So touching!

Prayer Requests:

  • there are times when we really feel the pain of separation, pray that God would protect our hearts
  • pray for our sweet little boy, that God would keep him strong until we come and get him
  • pray for our court date to come soon!!!

Thanks so much for the encouragement. It has been a life source to us. Until next Monday, love Kate and Steve.