Monday, May 30, 2011

Update on the Job Front...

So, I guess it’s about time for me to update you all on my job situation. As I’ve mentioned, things have been slow moving but this week has the potential of either yielding some results or, well, bringing me back to square one. A couple of weeks ago I sent out nearly a dozen resumes to different organizations I thought I might be interested in working with. None of these were sent in response to advertised positions but over the next couple of days I’m planning on following up with organizations in hopes that they will agree to meet with me. In the meantime, I have an interview with one of the organizations on Wednesday.

At this point, most of the positions I am looking at are not in the field of adoption and I’m not going to lie, it’s hard. I would describe myself as a passionate person but I have never before been as passionate about anything as I am about adoption. I live, breath and dream adoption and it just feels unnatural when I think about spending 40 hours a week doing anything else. However, after nearly four months of doing nothing, it’s time for me to get a job.

I trust God and His plans for me. This may not be what I expected but it’s certainly not the first time God has led me on an unexpected path and I have learned that God’s ideas are always better than mine anyway. My main concern right now is that I want to be certain. I want to be certain about where God wants me, whatever that may be. If I know what God wants me to do, I can move forward, even if that means giving up a dream at least for now. It’s the uncertainty that makes me anxious.

I know that there are people reading this whom I have never even met who have been praying for God’s guidance in my life and that humbles me beyond words. It’s why I’m laying my honest thoughts and feelings out here for you all to see. I am praying that God would close all the wrong doors and that when the right door, the one that HE wants me to walk through, opens that He would give me the certainty I need to know it’s from Him. So, if you’re praying, I’d love for you to join me in that prayer.

Thanks to all of you who continue to read my blog even as I struggle to find things to talk about and, as always, I’ll keep you posted.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Find My Family Friday - Andrey

Imagine living in a world of complete darkness where your only stimulation is the constant noise of crying and yelling and the occasional elbow in the ribs as another child crawls over you in the communal playpen… That is what life is like for Andrey.


Andrey is four-years-old. He has sandy blond hair, gorgeous blue eyes and two of the yummiest cheeks you have ever seen. He is also blind. Sometimes I think that blind children are the ones at the greatest disadvantage in an orphanage. Right from infancy, babies in the orphanage are not held. They are rarely given the opportunity to listen to music. The only stimulation they receive is what they see as they look around their room, watching the other children, etc. But what about the children who cannot see? Theirs is a dark, empty, lonely world.


After four long years of darkness, Andrey has withdrawn into his own little world. He spends his days rolling back and forth on the floor as you can see him doing here. He has done this so often for so long that he has a huge bald patch at the back of his head. He does not like to be held. Instead, he receives comfort and stimulation by poking at his eyes and sucking his fingers raw.


Andrey was my greatest challenge. He did not like to be held in my arms or sit on my lap and he did not really interact with the toys I would bring. There was one thing that did break through his walls though… he loved to be tickled and would laugh and laugh as I smothered his face with kisses!

 

When I first met Andrey, he would often walk around the edges of the playpen, holding onto the sides. He had the ability to walk while holding onto someone’s hand but because he did not like to be held on to like that, he would most often refuse to do so. During one of our one-on-one times, I stood Andrey up on his feet and managed to get him to take one or two steps without holding onto anything. The next time he took a few more and before I knew it, he was walking all by himself! It was if he had finally developed enough trust in me to know that I would not let him walk into anything and he was loving his newfound freedom. One day I went up to his room to get one of my other kids and there he was walking around the playpen, not holding onto anything, just smiling and laughing. It was one of the greatest moments of my trip…

video

The sad reality is, blind children are often the last to be chosen. Out of the 500 children that have been adopted through Reece’s Rainbow over the past five years, so far only three of them have been blind. I understand the fear, the idea of not being able to see is a concept that is hard for most of us to wrap our minds around. I myself wonder if/how I could parent a child with severe visual impairment. Then I read the stories of others with visual impairment who are simply living their lives doing most of what I can do and more and I am reminded that blindness is only a limiting disability if you let it be. I worry that Andrey’s visual impairment along with his more significant delays will put him at the bottom of the list when it comes to being chosen for adoption. I so don’t want that to be the case. Even if you’re not being called to adopt Andrey yourself, you can help him find his family by spreading the word, donating to his grant fund and remembering him in your prayers. Will you help me make sure this little man has the chance to live a life of joy, meaning and potential? For more information or to donate, click here.


Andrey is listed as “Aiden” on Reece’s Rainbow;
in order to protect his identity, when sharing about him on your own blogs, facebook pages, etc. please use his Reece’s Rainbow name

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Look Who's Met His Mama and Papa!!!


Do you remember Aloysha???



Aloysha was the little boy with hearing impairment who I was asked to hold a couple of times a week while they attempted to have him wear his hearing aids. He was the key that got me into a new group of little treasures where I met and fell in love with not only him but also Artem and big Andrey. It was also the group where I got to spend some extra time with Dasha and baby Andriy when they were released from the hospital.
Anyway, last week Aloysha (soon to be Lucas) got to meet his new mommy and daddy for the first time! I have loved seeing pictures of him with his parents knowing that soon he will officially no longer be an orphan and I wanted to share the joy with all of you…




To see more pictures and video or to read more about his parents’ journey, you can check out their blog here.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Find My Family Friday - Igor

My relationship with Igor took a little longer to develop than it did with some of the other kids. He was a favourite of one of my roommates who I was going to the orphanage with for the first several weeks so I held back while she played with him and focused my time on the other kids. It wasn’t until I started spending time inside the orphanage that Igor really grabbed a hold of my heart.


Outside, Igor does ok. He spends most of his time in the outdoor playpen but he doesn’t really seem to mind being in there. There was one time when I took him out of the playpen so he could walk around a bit and then made the mistake of turning my head for a second at which point he plopped down into the sand. The workers were not happy about him getting dirty and swiftly snatched him up and dumped him back into the playpen which resulted in a very upset little boy. Aside from that however, my observations from those first few weeks were that Igor seemed to be fairly calm and content.


Inside however, was a whole other story. Igor did not do well in the chaos and noise that took place in his room. He dealt with it the only way he knew how, by repeatedly smashing his head on the floor. Igor wasn’t the only one of my kids who banged his head but with Igor it was different. He would sit with his legs spread apart and throw his upper body forward with the full force of his weight, banging his head on the hard floor over and over again until I was sure he would knock himself out. The workers did nothing to stop him, they just say back talking and laughing as if they were oblivious to what was going on. Out of all the things I saw inside the walls of that orphanage, watching Igor suffer day after day without being able to do anything about it was the hardest thing for me.


After seeing what his life was like inside the orphanage, Igor quickly took up permanent residence in my heart. I loved all my kids but Igor was the one I was most concerned about. Many days I would come home from the orphanage and cry in futility and frustration over his situation and I often fell asleep praying for him at night. Here’s the interesting thing though, while Igor was the one who seemed to be suffering the most, he is also the one I saw the most progress from. During our one-on-one times downstairs in the visiting room, Igor became a different kid. Upstairs, rarely did 15 minutes go by when Igor did not bang his head. Even if he was content sitting in my lap, playing with me, eating, etc. he would still use his fist to hit himself in the head every couple of minutes. During our one-on-one time however his self-harming behaviours decreased and eventually he was going a whole hour without hitting himself even once! He still had good days and bad days but on good days he was happy, walking around exploring his environment, snuggling in my lap as I sang to him, laughing as I tickled him, smiling big as he played with my hands (he LOVES hands!) and even making eye contact for seconds at a time! On those days I feel like I got a window into who he really is, a glimpse at his immeasurable potential if only someone would give him a chance.
 

The day Igor was transferred my heart sank to my stomach. Knowing how he reacts when he is upset, afraid, etc. I was heartbroken thinking about him trying to cope in a new environment and, not knowing anything about the facility he was transferred to, I was afraid to think about how the workers might be responding to him. As it turns out, second of course to finding a family, being transferred was the best thing that could have happened to him. When I was finally able to visit him a month later, I couldn’t believe how well he was doing! Igor used to have what I thought were permanent bumps on his head the size of half a ping pong ball but when I saw him at his new orphanage those bumps had gone down considerably. I asked the workers about him banging his head and they told me that he did at first but that wasn’t doing it very often anymore; sure enough, he didn’t hit himself once during the entire hour we were there! There was more to it than that though, he just seemed so much more peaceful and content. He was free to walk around and do what he wanted and every once in a while one of the workers would stop and rub his back or scoop him up into their lap.
 

I’m so thankful that God allowed me to see Igor in his new orphanage and ease so many of my concerns. One concern remains however; if Igor is not adopted by the time he is eight-years-old he will be transferred again. I don’t know where he will be transferred to but, knowing the country he is living in, it is extremely unlikely that it will be as good as the place he is in now. I have seen how Igor reacts in an institutional environment and can’t bear the thought of him being subjected to that again. He needs a family. Again, I’m asking for your help. In celebration of their five year anniversary, helping over 500 children find forever families, Reece’s Rainbow has launched their 5/5/5 Warrior Project to bring greater awareness and grant funds to all of their 5-year old children. Being that Igor is 5-years-old, he is a part of this project and has a “warrior” who is trying to raise $5000 or more for his grant fund. Debbi is selling heart necklaces to raise money for Igor, how fitting since my 'nickname' for Igor is "my heart"...  Let’s rally together and help her out, shall we? A donation of $15 or more will make you the lucky owner of one of those hearts; mine is already on the way :) Right now Igor has $100 in his grant and I would love to see that number go up over the next few days. At the same time, would you help spread the word about this little boy and join me in praying for his family to step forward soon? Together we can see this little boy’s future changed for the better. For more information or to donate, click here.


Igor is listed as “Brody” on Reece’s Rainbow;
in order to protect his identity, when sharing about him on your own blogs, facebook pages, etc. please use his Reece’s Rainbow name

Monday, May 16, 2011

Miracles

Eight months ago I told you about a precious orphan girl in desperate need of a family. All odds were against her but people around the world rallied together, they prayed for a family to step forward and they fundraised the $20,000 needed to cover the cost of her adoption. God did a mighty work on this precious angel’s behalf and today sweet Julia is at home with her forever family.

Julia snugging with her forever mommy...



...and soaking in the love of her forever daddy!

When I heard that a family had stepped forward to adopt Julia, I decided to share with you about another little girl for whom all hope of being adopted and rescued from life in a mental institution was quickly disappearing. Once again God’s people rallied, money was raised, countless prayers were lifted to the heavens and God brought forth the perfect family to rescue not only Tori but also another little girl on the very brink of death. Today, both girls are blossoming at home with their new family.

Tori (now Reagan) meeting her mom
Tori/Reagan with her new little sister

Next came Brady, the little boy whose face I could not get out of my mind. God has been working out a miracle for him as well and last week Brady got to meet his forever mama and papa for the first time. Brady’s parents still have a battle ahead of them before they can bring him home and I know they would appreciate your prayers (you can follow them on their blog here) but I know that God will finish the work He has started and before you know it, Brady too will be home.

Brady (now Judd) discovering beauty with his mama

All smilies for Papa!
















That brings me to Heath, the little guy whose picture has been on my sidebar for far too long. Julia, Tori and Brady all found families within weeks of when the news was spread about their situations but more than six months have passed since Heath was discovered and still he waits.


There are two points to this post… The first is to celebrate the miracles that God has done in the lives of Julia, Tori, Brady and so many other children who are no longer waiting. The second is to ask you to join me in praying for a miracle for Heath and all the children in seemingly impossible situations. Our God is still a God of miracles is this day and age. He loves these children more than we could ever comprehend and nothing is impossible for Him.

Will you pray for miracles with me???

Friday, May 13, 2011

Find My Family Friday - Denis

On the first day that they brought all the special needs children outside, he was the first one I noticed. He was the first one I held, the first one I sang over, the first one I prayed for… the first one to capture my heart.


There he was, lying amongst the others in the outdoor crib. Tiny, frail, ribs protruding from his chest. You have to remember that I had never spent any real time with special needs kids before. I didn’t know what to do with a child like this, he looked so fragile I was afraid I would break him and yet I was drawn to him… I picked him up and he squirmed in my arms, so unfamiliar with what it felt like to be held. He was clearly uncomfortable and to be honest, so was I but I rocked him, I sang, I prayed and by the time I placed him back in that crib, he had taken a piece of my heart with him.


The workers couldn’t remember his name and it took a week or two before someone bothered to look it up for me. His tiny frame made him look like a baby but his features told me he was likely a lot older than his size would suggest. Several weeks later, when I had my translator with me, I found out that he was indeed four-years-old however I was not prepared for the news that followed. The worker told us that Denis had a disease where his organs were not growing and that as a result, he would not live very long. I know to take what the workers say with a grain of salt. They are often not fully informed of the child’s situation and even if they are, doctors over there are not exactly known for their proficiency. Still, their diagnosis made sense and it broke my heart.


Denis was one of the most challenging kids for me to work with. He did not like to be held and he spent most of our time together sitting on the floor rocking back and forth while I sporadically stroked his back, etc. He liked to hold a ball or balloon in his lap and bounce off of it as he rocked back and forth and I discovered that if I had a ball/balloon he would be content to sit on my lap, rocking and bouncing. Then one day I decided to try something new. I lay down on my back and placed him on my stomach, curious as to what he would do. He wasn’t a big fan but for reasons I still don’t know, I decided to lift him up in the air and sort of “fly” him back and forth over my head. That’s when I heard one of the most beautiful sounds I’ve ever heard – he laughed! He loved it! I kept going and he kept laughing and smiling. He still didn’t really like to be held but I had finally found a way to interact with him.


While in his group, Denis spends his days in either the large communal playpen or alone in the small, soft playpen (if you look back at this video, he’s the one by himself in the playpen off to the side). When I first started volunteering inside the orphanage, Denis didn’t seem to care or even notice whether I was there or not. After some time however he would occasionally make his way over to the side of the crib when he saw me coming. A couple of times he even reached out his hand towards me and it melted my heart every time.


Our biggest breakthrough however came just a couple weeks before I left. I took Denis downstairs for our one-on-one time and it quickly became clear that he had a fever and was just generally not feeling well. Because I knew the workers wouldn’t do anything about it until the nurse made her evening rounds I decided to keep him with me so at least he wouldn’t be alone. I placed him on the floor as usual but he was fussy and as I started stroking his back, he actually crawled into my lap. I decided to try holding him and much to my surprise and delight, he actually let me, just relaxing into my arms. For the next hour I held him in my arms and paced back and forth across the room, singing to him, praying over him and hiding my face from the workers passing by so that they wouldn’t see the tears trickling down my face. It was one of the most beautiful moments of my entire trip and I am confident that I will remember it for the rest of my life.


After that day, Denis allowed me to hold him more often, no longer fighting to get out of my arms. But the days passed by too quickly and before I knew it, it was time for me to leave. He was one of the hardest for me to say goodbye to and in the days and weeks after I got home, he was the one I thought of most often, the one I shed the most tears for, the one I most longed to have back in my arms. This sweet angel boy had finally learned to accept love, had finally experienced what it felt like to be safe in loving arms and all I could think was, would he ever get to experience that again?


I don’t know if the workers’ diagnosis is right. I certainly don’t know how much time Denis has left on this earth. What I do know is that he deserves so much more than the loneliness and neglect he is living right now. He deserves a mommy who will hug him and kiss him and hold him close, showing him what love is. He deserves a daddy whose strong arms will make him feel safe, secure and protected. That’s where I need your help. Would you help me spread the word about this tiny angel? He needs a family now. The day after he was listed on Reece’s Rainbow he already had $36 in his grant fund; looks like I’m not the only one whose heart he has captured. The more money in his grant, the more attention he will receive and the faster he will be able to come home once his family steps forward. Every dollar donated, every prayer uttered, every person you tell about this sweet angel, it all makes a difference. For more information or to donate, click here.


Denis is listed as “Ryan” on Reece’s Rainbow;
In order to protect his identity, when sharing about him on your own blogs, facebook pages, etc. please use his Reece’s Rainbow name

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Happy Mother's Day

To all the mothers whose children will gather around the table with you today in celebration of who you are and all that you do…

To all the mothers whose children are far away, grown and gone or still waiting on the other side of the world, and will not be there to celebrate with you around the table today…

To all the stepmothers who have learned to share the role of mother and love children not your own…

To all the foster mothers who are being love and family to children who may one day be taken from you…

To all the expectant, soon-to-be mothers, whether your child is growing in your belly or in your heart…

To all the mothers who have lost a child through death, disappearance, disrupted adoption or broken relationships…

To all the women who in their hearts are already mothers yet find themselves battling infertility, waiting to qualify for adoption, etc….

To all the grandmothers, aunts, sisters, neighbours and friends who have stepped up and taken in children who had nowhere else to go…

To all the teachers, coaches, mentors, extended family members and friends who have taken on the role of “second mom”…

To all the women who should have been celebrating today but instead find themselves grieving a miscarriage or failed adoption…

To all the women who consider themselves mothers, whatever that may look like… I honour you and pray that the Presence of the God who rejoices with us in seasons joy, weeps with us in seasons of mourning and comforts us in seasons of longing would fill your hearts and homes today.

Friday, May 6, 2011

The Big News...

Sorry to keep you all in suspense but I have been waiting too… I have been waiting nine months for this day to come. I guess I should start at the beginning…

As you all know, 9 months ago I embarked on a journey to show the love of God to ‘unwanted’ children in Ukraine. The first orphanage I visited was the local baby orphanage. There was a group of special needs toddlers there. They were the first kids I met, the first kids I fell in love with, the ones who would affectionately become known as “my angels”… It didn’t take long for these kids to capture my heart and I began to pray for them. I prayed for God’s peace, His presence, His healing and His comfort in their lives and I prayed for families to adopt them, thus granting them hope and a future. I soon discovered that most of my kids were not even listed for adoption and what I thought would be a fairly easy task of getting them listed, turned into a never-ending battle. I tried again and again to meet with the director to get the necessary information and each time it was in vain. When the director finally told me to stop asking questions or she would kick me out of the orphanage I felt as though I had been punched in the stomach, my spirit crushed. I felt as though I had failed my kids. I would soon be leaving and with no chance for adoption, they would have no chance for a future.

Fast forward through the part I probably shouldn’t talk about on a public blog and by the time I got home I had their information. The next step was to find out whether or not they were legally available for international adoption and again I was met with wall after wall, delay after delay. I never stopped praying for families for my kids but to be honest, I had started to believe that it would never happen. I had the necessary information for five of my kids (one of whom I’d already found out was not available for adoption) yet even when I was able to muster up the faith that I would eventually hear back about their availability, I did not expect them all to be available. But here’s the beautiful thing – even when these kids were overlooked by others, God never forgot them! Even when I was ready to throw in the towel, He never gave up on them! On Sunday night I received an e-mail containing six of the most beautiful words I have ever read… “all of these children ARE available”!!! I didn’t know whether to laugh, scream or cry so I did all three and praised the Father in heaven for His unfailing love towards His children.

Today, four of the most precious faces appeared on Reece’s Rainbow and I felt as though a huge victory had been won. God must have some pretty amazing plans for these kids because the enemy sure hasn’t made things easy! There is still a huge battle that must be fought… there’s the need for families to step forward for these kids, there’s the $25,000 it will take to bring them home, there’s the ever looming uncertainty surrounding whether or not Ukraine will even remain open for international adoption. Still, at least now they have a chance and I believe that God who brought them this far will continue to carry them the rest of the way home. For the last couple of months I have been praying that God would use this time of waiting to work on the hearts of the families that He has chosen for these children, that by the time they were listed their families would be ready to snatch them up. That continues to be my prayer. As far as I’m concerned, they’ve waited long enough already.

I have been thinking and praying about how I would go about advocating for these now that I know that they’re available. I’m so anxious to tell you all about them but the problem is, I have so much to say I could never squeeze it all into one post. So, starting next week I will be doing “Find My Family Friday” posts where I will highlight one child at a time… I can’t wait! In the meantime, if you want a sneak peak at the newest, sweetest (ok, I’m a little biased) angels on Reece’s Rainbow click here (their names have been changed but I think you’ll recognize some of the faces).

Monday, May 2, 2011

Longing

Today marks three months since I left Ukraine… Three months. It seems like such a long time yet I feel like I am in the same place now as I was when I arrived home three months ago… waiting, longing, yearning for what’s to come. My quest for a job in the field of adoption has been slow and not very promising. Maybe working in adoption is not what God has for me and if that’s the case, I’m willing to accept that but I need some direction on what He wants me to do. For the past four years I haven’t made any big decisions about where to go or what to do without a clear leading from God. I’m not about to change that but right now, I just don’t know what to do.

In the midst of all of this, my inner clock is telling me it must be time to leave again. This past weekend in Kampala, Uganda local police fired live ammunition and teargas into crowds of demonstrators protesting recent inflation. At least five people are reported dead and hundreds more were wounded, including innocent child bystanders. All of this took place just 100 meters from my friend Bonny’s home and two of his children had to be rushed to the hospital for breathing difficulties. While we complain that higher gas prices are causing us to make choices about how far and how often we drive, in Uganda, where families were already struggling to feed their children on about $1 a day, rising costs have now made feeding one’s family impossible. This is my heart’s home, these are the people I love and all I want to do is jump on the next plane… to feed them, to clothe them, to hold them, to love them, to simply be with them and let them know that someone cares.

Then there’s the knowledge that over the course of the next six weeks or so, four different families will be travelling to the orphanages I worked at in Ukraine to bring their children home. I am so happy for the children who are about to meet their forever families and excited to maybe get pictures and updates on “my” kids but deep down, I really wish I was going with them. Not a day goes by when I don’t wish that I could hold my kids just one more time… not that one more time would ever be enough.

I still believe that that my time for overseas missions is over, at least for now. I continue to feel God telling me that it is time for me to settle down here, to get ready to start a family of my own and I am excited about what the future will look like. Still, as I sit in church on Sunday morning and listen to the beautiful Ugandan accents of the Watoto Children’s Choir, as I lay in my bed at night and dream of the precious faces of my Ukrainian angels, my heart longs to go back.

So, that’s where I’m at these days. BUT, last night I got some news that wiped all of my waiting blues away… I can’t say anything yet but stay tuned because this just might be life-changing for some of my favourite kids! In the meantime, please pray for the people of Uganda, for God’s peace and His provision during this time of great hardship and turmoil. And, as always, please pray for families for my kids in Ukraine.