We have been blessed with two special daughters and two sons from Eastern Europe. We welcome you to follow our journey as a family of five, waiting to travel and pick up #6, with the ins and outs of family, education, farm life, and love!

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Orphan Sunday

       Today, many churches acknowledged Orphan Sunday.  A day that children without the love of a Father and Mother are prayed for.  A day that acknowledges the countless children longing for a home.  Waiting children both here in the US and over the entire world. 

Today, I reflected on how four very different children have been brought into our lives and blessed us immensely.  It's hard to convey the heart of an orphan until you know their names and seen their faces.  I've done both.  I know of the countless children we have talked with, interacted with, and held.  There are memories etched in my heart of little ones crying out "Mama" and reachign out for me as I walked past their groupa or their room.  Children laying in cribs, softly rocking themselves because there was no Mama or Papa there to comfort them.


I know of the life our three youngest would have faced after their fifth birthday.  I know one of daughters would have been bed ridden for the rest of her days.  I know all three little ones would have had no formal education.  Our oldest most likely would have ended up in a life of crime.  To think about the what ifs of our children hurts, and gives me great reason to celebrate and advocate for orphans.  Every child deserves the chance for family--to know the love of a family.

Aren't we all orphans in some respect?  Those of us whom are Christ followers know the love of a Heavenly Father and we want others to know that love.  We know what it is like to be loved, cherished, and forgive when we make mistakes.  I once was an orphan-- lost and alone.  But I now know the love of my Heavenly Father as well as the love of my earthly Father and Mother who raised me in the church and showed me love.

Russel Moore states in his book Adopted For Life, "As we become more attuned to the gospel, we'll have more of a burden for orphans".  I carry that burden with me daily.  I want to do more.  I need to do more.  I CAN do more.  It doesn't have to be financial.  I doesn't have to be going across the ocean and adopting.  Praying for and acknowledging orphans is something everyone can do. 

Today is a good reminder for me to continue to talk about orphans.  To continue to advocate for them.  To pray for them daily.  To remember the countless faces, their stories, and their desires.  Today is a good reminder that as a Christ follower we are called to take care of the widows and orphans.  
 "I will not leave you as orphans, I will come to you", John 14:18


Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Mexico mission- The People

The people at Dulce Refugio are wonderful.  The name Dulce Refugio in Spanish means Sweet Refuge.  There is no doubt in my mind that this place is a sweet refuge.  This orphanage is very different than ones I have entered into before.  Three differences I noticed- the children, the staff, and the orphanage grounds.

Keep in mind the four orphanages we have been to adopt our children were government run. Dulce Refugio is a Christian run orphanage.  Two of our children were young enough when we adopted them they were still at a Baby House; for children under the age of 5, mixed with typical and special needs children.  One of our children were at an Intranaut, which is a orphanage and school on one campus for children ages 6-18, only for children without disabilities.Our daughter who is from a different country was in a orphanage for younger children and would have been sent to a institution (much like our other two children with disabilities from another country) at the age of 5.  Once the children moved to the institution, there was no schooling for them.  They would live the rest of their lives there, confined to a bed if they were not mobile.

The grounds-
Dulce Refugio orphanage is very colorful.  No drab and falling apart buildings here.  The concept of the buildings is to resemble a Rubik's cube.  Many different people/backgrounds come together to make an amazing masterpiece.  How awesome!  The rooms are bright and colorful and well taken care of.  The rooms have 6 beds in them.  Each bed has a concrete base so that a child can not hide items in/under his/her bed and so that beds can not be pushed next to another or rooms become overcrowded with children.  The buildings and orphanage grounds are clean.  Daily the hallways and rooms are cleaned and there is a scent of freshness.

This is a drastic difference from the other orphanages we have been in.  I can remember the scent walking into two of four orphanages in Eastern Europe, and fighting back gagging.  (Odd food smells, dirty mop water, shoes that have been worn for days on end in the rain with no socks.  Get the idea?!?)  Kids dropped trash on the ground as the walked.  One of our sons has had a major learnign curve since being home because the kids bathed once or twice a week.

The children-  

The children at Dulce Refugio are wonderful.  Don't get me wrong...they are still kids.  Kids that try to work the system, push the limits, and act out.  They are very typical in that respect.  What was very obvious was the structure they are use to, the respect they are expected to give to the adults, and the strict limits that have been set and should be followed.  Most obvious- the kids are truly cared about and LOVED by all of the staff.  One day as we were pouring concrete, two young boys were arguing over a soccer ball.  A warning was given by an adult, and the scuffle over the ball continued.  A few minutes later, I noticed both boys against the wall in  Castigado. (time out).  The children are all polite and respectful to the adults.  The older girls in each room take time each mornign and do the younger girls hair.  I'm not talking a single, quick ponytail.  These girls has all kinds of neat designs and tiny little rubber bands in the hair each day.  And there weren't two days that it looked alike.  Every child at Dulce Refugio is dressed nicely.  I didn't notice shoes that were falling apart.  No one wore pajamas during the day.  (Both common at other orphanages I have been to.)
     In Ukraine, the location that housed the older children (where we adopted our older son from) you could sense evil.  Children/teens hid behind the building to smoke, they left the orphanage grounds though they knew they were told not to.  Their caretakers, teachers, and orphanage workers were not treated with respect.  They were merely a tool.  It was common to talk back to a teacher or argue with her.  I remember sending our son (who we hosted several times before adopting) back to Ukraine with clothes we had bought for him.  Once he had to take back a pair of Nemo pajamas.  The next summer, I saw pictures of his friends wearing those pajamas as an outfit.



The staff-
At Dulce Refugio, everyone is there because they want to be there.  For the staff, they are not there because it's a job.  Each one of them is there because it's a calling.  Each person wants to be there. 
      The director; Marce, (Marcela) is a wonderful woman.  You can read about her here.  She cooked for us all week.  Some days she made us three meals a day.  The food was delicious!  Marce' has an awesome testimony.  Her testimony is of one who was broken, body full of cancer, and changed and saved by the father/husband who never left her side.  Jesus Christ.  Read Isaiah 54.  This is Marce's life story.  In Isaiah 54:13 it says: All your children will be disciples of the Lord I will make peace abound for your children. Casar Dulce Refugio is like no other place I have been.
My favorite part of the week was Wednesday evening when the kids all came together and had a praise and worship night.  This happens once a week.  Marce leads the evening.  She has so much energy and you can see the Lord shine through her.  She leads the kids in singing and leads them in motions that go along with the songs!

    Duane is an awesome guy with a heart for orphans.  He is a building contractor by trade.  He felt God's calling in his life and thought he could help expand God's kingdom through his work. We worked with Duane each day to pour concrete.  Watching him finish concrete is like watching an artist!  When work is done for the day, he spends time interacting with the kids.  One night he played soccer with all of us.  Duane and his wife; Marybelle, and their two daughters live on the grounds.  Check out this video I found of Duane.  Though it is a few years old, as Duane speaks about his calling, I smiled.  This is still truly the way he feels today, five years later!
Duane and his wife Marybelle and daughters

       Aaron also works at the orphanage.  He showed us which corner store to head to for the coldest Coke!  He was the water guy in the concrete mixing process.  He's a great guy to be around, and you can tell he LOVES the kids.  He enjoyed joking with them and making them smile and laugh.

      Martin shared his awesome testimony.  It is one that reminds us that no matter what choices we make in life or how much we sin, God can turn our life around and make us new again.    Martin lives in the boys dorm and helps oversee the boys.  He has a great rapport with these young men and the boys respect him.  My favorite memory during the week involved Martin, Jared, and a hose.  Martin is dark skinned.  I heard him speak Spanish to the children and adults at the orphanage.  After a rainy evening that had covered all the wheelbarrow loads of dirt we carried to the field, we felt defeated.  Trying to come up with a way to get rid of the pooled water, Jared and I talked about syphoning the water off the field into a nearby drain.  Jared got the hose and began to suck on it, hoping to draw the water into the hose.  After a few minutes and no progress (and Martin walking past several times), Martin said to Jared "as much fun as it is to watch, you're not going to get very far with that hose.  It has several holes in it!"


     And then there is the Beckett family--Jesse, Faith, Silas, Quinn, Ella, and Rowan.  Jesse came on several mission trips.  Little did he know on his last trip, his wife prayed for the Lord to stir his heart.  And HE did--in a big way!  Jesse came home and told Faith he wanted to do more.  She agreed.  This family sold their home and their belongings and moved to another country to be part of something bigger.  I can't help but thinking about the story in the book of Matthew 19 (which was part of Jesse's testimony)-
16 A man approached him and said, “Teacher, what good thing must I do to have eternal life?”
17 Jesus said, “Why do you ask me about what is good? There’s only one who is good. If you want to enter eternal life, keep the commandments.”
18 The man said, “Which ones?”
Then Jesus said, “Don’t commit murder. Don’t commit adultery. Don’t steal. Don’t give false testimony. 19 Honor your father and mother,[d] and love your neighbor as you love yourself.”[e]
20 The young man replied, “I’ve kept all these. What am I still missing?”
21 Jesus said, “If you want to be complete, go, sell what you own, and give the money to the poor. Then you will have treasure in heaven. And come follow me.”


Jesse and Faith's kiddos have adjusted well in the 11 months they have lived in Mexico.  They are learnign the language and often served as interpreters when we didn't know what the kids were saying to us.  They each have bonded with kiddos at the orphanage.  
Rowan
Ella (on the left) with Jordan
Quinn

Silas

The people who work here, want to be here.  It's not a job they come to.  Each of them are at the orphanage because they each feel called by God to be there.  It's their ministry, it's their passion.

Each time I'm around orphans, I get very emotional.  I feel this great sense that God is leading me down a path of ministry.  Many people lovingly comment that we have started our own orphan ministry in our home (via adoption).  This is true, but I want to do more.  Doug and I often talk about what we would do if we hit the lottery.  It has always been a dream to help orphans more than what we already have.  We would love to build/run an orphanage.  A special needs orphanage would be even better.  What better way to be God's hands and feet than to spend each day sharing HIS love to children without a father.  Telling them that there is a heavenly father who will always love them and never leave them.  I, many times am like the rich man in Matthew 19.  It's not about the riches, it's more about the medical needs of our children.  In Eastern European countries, my children would not be welcomed in society.  There is no schooling, no support for families.  In Mexico, I saw a young man in a wheelchair in the market with his family and a little girl with Down Syndrome out shopping with her parents.  I could see our family in Mexico.  I could see our family at Dulce Refugio.  One day there will be a school for all children on the orphanage grounds.  They will include the Bible in their schooling.  One day, there is plans to build a building for children with Down Syndrome.  

James 1:27 has been a favorite verse of mine for quite some time.  It says: Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you.
We know that God is stirring our hearts and preparing us for more.  We know that we have love in our hearts for more children whether it be through adoption or orphan ministry.  We know that our family dynamics make things more of a challenge.  Nothing worthwhile is ever easy.  We fought hard through paperwork and heartache for each of our children.  They are loved.  They are cherished.  We pray that God continues to use us to do good in HIS name.  If he says go, we will go.

Thank you Dulce Refugio for awakening my heart once again, fueling my passion for orphans, and reminding me that Jesus is my superhero and HE can do all things!

Friday, July 18, 2014

Mexico mission-The Work

Let's just say, on this mission trip, I used muscles I haven't used in a LONG time.  I have helped my Dad on the farm over the years, I lift Mila's manual wheelchair daily.  I carry leggy Mila here there and everywhere. None of this compared to the lifting I did in a weeks time in Mexico.

Jared had told us there was concrete to pour.  Somewhere in my mind I though it would be a small job, or play a small part in our week's work.  Instead, we poured concrete almost every day.  Sometimes, we poured concrete twice a day!  I think I could now tell you the mixture in my sleep--three (buckets of) rock, three (buckets of) sand, one (half bag of) concrete, one bucket of water.  Dump and repeat.  While the guys did the lifting of the buckets and carrying the wheelbarrows, the girls shoveled rocks and sand into the buckets and had them ready each time a new batch was made.  On top of mixing and pouring concrete, we dug dirt out of a hillside to put into low spot on the playing field, we tied re bar, painted, and worked with kiddos on English.
Start of day 3 concrete
A determined helper
Taking a break between pours
Long day of pouring concrete




Just one of two sand piles we filled buckets from.
The work was tough.  Looking at a pile of sand and a pile of rocks, one thinks to herself "no biggie".  Well, after countless buckets, it is a biggie.  Advil was my good friend during the week.  Thankfully Jesse commented as he shoved the buckets into the pile of sand (and filled the bucket part way), "I know what it's like to be a bucket filler".  This guy, big muscles and all, who made picking up a filled 5 gallon bucket look like rocks were marshmallows, validated my work.

There was time to spend with the kids each day, but there was lots of work to be done as well.  Truth be told, I loved spending time with the kids, but the work was very rewarding.  A team of twelve extra people arrive.  Heck, if I was on staff at the orphanage, I'd make us work too.  Twelve extra people make a huge difference!  We poured over 10,000 pounds of concrete!!  Seven different slabs.  We became a well oiled Ohio machine.  Looking over our work at the end of the week was very rewarding.  Knowing we made a small dent in the work that is still to be done was gratifying.  With sore muscles at the end of the day, I wish we could have done more in a weeks time.
5 of the 7 slabs we poured.  This will become a sports activity area for the kids.

Slab we poured on the roof and dirt we filled into low areas.

Miguel is 5 and such a helper.  He could sling some dirt.  Sometimes I had to race him to the shovel!

Jared gave one ride....and then Diego wanted one every trip Jared made.




Mexico mission, the trip

Ive been home from Mexico for three weeks.  There has been so much on my heart since that trip, I needed time to process it.  I needed time to pray and thank the Lord for all his great blessings.  I can't wait to tell you all about my trip. There is so much I want to tell, I decided to break it into three parts-- The Trip, The Work, The People.

The Trip

When I heard about the mission trip to Aguascalientes, Mexico, I was determined to go.  I LOVE being in the presence  of kids.  And since the day we stepped in an orphanage in Eastern Europe in 2007 to adopt Hannah, I have never felt closer to God, than when we are adopting and caring for orphans.  So when our church announced the trip, I wanted to go.  What made the trip even sweeter was our good friends, Jared and Bethany were going on the trip.  Jared was leading the trip.  Jared has traveled to the orphanage in Aguascalientes twice before.

Jared- our fearless leader, after one of the many days of lifting buckets of rock and sand to mix concrete.

As with every mission trip, you are encouraged to send out letters to friends and family to ask if they would help fund your trip.  This is the part I always struggle with.  I do not like to ask others for money.  I know what it is like to go through a season of financial struggle.  I also knew that at this point in time, we as a family did not have the funds to finance the trip ourselves.  I sent out some letters and prayed.  Slowly, money came in.  There was a deadline that a certain amount needed to be raised, and I was short of that amount.  I was beginning to question going.  Maybe this wasn't where God wanted me.  Maybe my place was at home with my children.  One evening I texted Jared to say that I wasn't sure if I would go.  The funds were not coming in and we didn't have the money to supplement.  Then he texted me back and said "your trip has been paid in full, stop stressing and have a good evening".  I'll never know who funded the rest of my trip, but I know that God was giving me a true sign that I was going on a trip in June to love on some kiddos.

As time drew near the trip, doubt started to creep in.  Doug will tell you I'm a 'worst case scenario" person.  I plan for the worst case scenario, because if it happens, at least I'll be prepared!!  I began to worry about my kids, my family that I was leaving behind for a week.  And to make matters worse, I have one (we now know two) kiddos that have separation anxiety.  It's interesting how many buried emotional scars our children carry, even after years after being adopted.  Thankfully, our flight out of Columbus was early morning, so I tucked the kiddos into bed the night before and I was gone in the morning when they woke.  I think that is way easier (on both of us) than a teary goodbye at the airport.

I was the only single on the trip.  Every other person took a spouse, son, daughter, or mother with them.  And then there was me.  The single.  The only claim to fame I had was having the most stamps in my passport...and knowing how to pack a suitcase to the max weight without being over 49.5 pounds!
Jordan and I on our first of two flights to Mexico.
Customs was very different in Mexico than the other countries I have traveled to.  No passport control person behind thick glass with a small hole in which you pushed your passport through.  The lady smiled--very unlike the other countries I've traveled to.

Jesse picked us up at the airport.  Jesse and his family are originally from Canal Winchester.  After several mission trips to Dulce Refugio, Jesse and Faith stepped out in Faith and moved their family to Mexico to serve at the orphanage.  Check out their blog here http://thebecxicanwire.wordpress.com/.  We rode about a half hour from the airport into town.  To my surprise, the orphanage is right in town.  WHAT?!?!  Orphanages I have known about are tucked away outside of small villages or on the outskirts of town.  Very rarely are the right in the middle of town.  Our sleeping arrangements were at the orphanage.  The girls had a room in the girls dorm and the guys had a room in the boys dorm.  It was nice.  Though I was a single on the trip, I never was alone.

The view from my bed of the room the girls stayed in.
Boys dorm on the left, girls dorm on the right.
The orphanage is beautiful.  Bright and colorful.  Well kept.  You can tell that the staff and children there take pride in their home.  As I looked around, I felt a sense of calm.  A sense of peace.  In a way, I felt very at home.  In my heart, I know that God has a great plan for me-- a great plan for my family.  He has already lead us to adopt four children.  Four children, who were once orphans.  Now our children are home, loved and part of a forever family. My frist night as I layed in my bed and prayed, my prayer was simple.  "Lord, use me to do your will this week.  Allow me to show love through my actions and everything that I say and do. Amen"

Another picture of the boys dorm and the awesome castle structure built for the kids.
The week went quickly and before you knew it, it was time to come home.  This place made such an impression on my heart.  I look forward to the opportunity to return.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Twelve years, I had no idea.

Today marks an anniversary in our family.  It's the day, twelve years ago that I stood before my friends and family, before the Lord, and committed to love and cherish, for better or worse, in sickness and in health.  Little did I know on that day where the next twelve years would take us.

I had no idea that in our lifetime we would go from praying to God to let us have a baby to something totally different.  At a time in my married life, I wanted nothing more than to birth my own children.  To know what a part of me and part of him would look like. (Dear goodness, I prayed that the child would not come out hairy like my husband!)  I had no idea that God would lead us through sadness when after trying for months, my sister announced she was pregnant.  It shattered me.  And then, God led us towards an open window.  Hosting--an orphan from far away.  Six weeks.  Show him love.  Teach him grace.  Keep a correspondence with him after he returns home to his country.  I had no idea the love I would feel for this little boy who spoke very little of my language and I of his.  I had no idea how hard it would be to put him back on a plane-- the first time, second, third, forth, and fifth time.

I had no idea that God would lead us to him.  For God to lead us to a foreign land, then in the last hour, close a door right in front of us.  I had no idea how I would possibly go on.  How could I love another?  I remember laying in his bed, crying out to God for clarity.  Why?  I have no idea how we pulled ourselves together and went to another country.  It was by the grace of God.  Someone once said to me- "Your son lead you to Ukraine.  Maybe God used him to be a messenger."  I had no idea that five years into our marriage, I would fall in love with a little girl who was not of my own flesh, and never again regret not birthing our own children.  I saw a need she had-- a family, someone to love and care for her.  She saw my need--my brokenness, someone needing love.  A perfect match.

I had no idea that after being home for six months with Hannah, I would be ready to adopt again.  I had no idea, that once again, the child that we thought would be our child, God had different plans-- a different country.  We had no idea what we had gotten ourselves into when we first met Mila in Serbia that June day in 2009.  We thought she would be much like Hannah.  I had no idea that mountains she had to climb.  I had no idea that God would trust me with such a precious, needy one.  He thought I could handle this one?!?

I had no idea, that though God had lead us through such heartache with Max in 2007, that two years later, just weeks before traveling to adopt Mila, we would learn he was back in an orphanage.  I had no idea what this meant for our family.  We had always prayed that someday, somehow, God would lead us back to him.  And here was our opportunity.

I had no idea what it would be like to have two young daughters and a much older son in our home.  He had seen some much turmoil in his life.  I needed reassurance that everyone would get along.  And so, in 2010; eight years into our marriage, we hosted our son, once again.  He got along famously with Hannah and Mila.  And so, before he even left the states, we had papers in hand to begin another adoption.

I had no idea that God would lay on my heart to adopt two at once.  And though I should have learned from previous adoptions, that God's plan is better than mine.  The child that I thought would be ours, was adopted by a Ukrainian family.  I had no idea that for us, the number 42 is magic in Ukraine.  42 days in the country, both in 2007 to adopt Hannah, and in 2011 for the first trip to adopt the boys.  I have no idea where the money continued to come from as the adoption costs continued to add up for the boys adoptions, yet we always had just the right amount.

I had no idea, standing in church on that July day in 2002 (after one of the groomsmen passed out...) where the next years would lead us.  And I'm glad I didn't.  God had, and continues to have a great plan for our lives.  Twelve years, countless stamps in our passports from various countries, and empty wallets from bringing our children home.  I am abundantly blessed with a husband who loves God, orphans in countries far and wide with varying abilities, as well as our children at home.  We make a great team.  I have four great, and wonderfully abled children that God has blessed us with. 

An anniversary is a great time to reflect on where you've come from and where you're headed.  It's time to establish goals for the coming year/s ahead.  As I look at our family, I hope in the coming year to instill the love of acceptance in our children.  We have all come from different pasts.  We all carry different burdens, both visible and unseen.  Rather than judge, we need to accept and love the best we know how.  And as for acceptance, I hope to encourage my children to continue accepting themselves.  They are each beatifically made.  God had a reason for making him/her the way they are.  I know how painful that has been lately for our daughters--to be so different from others.  I hope that one day they learn to accept that God is using their story for HIS glory.

Another goal I have for our family is to make life more accessible for all our children.  I look at our current housing now and as I carry Mila up and down the stairs and bathe her in the tub, I am reminded that there will come a day when I can no longer carry her up the stairs or lift her out of the tub.  I would love to have a house with no limits for Mila.  For her to feel free in her own home.  And with this goal of accessibility for our children, I would hope that they learn to appreciate what they have.  There are many others, both in our country, and countries around the world who do not have the same opportunities that they have.  We are blessed with so much.  It may not be sparkly and new, but there is a roof over our head, food in our bellies, warm water to bathe in, and a safe bed to sleep in at night.  They have the love of a family and the love of a Heavenly father.