"Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God." ~ Matthew 5:8

Friday, August 31, 2012

Meeting My Siblings

Breakfast at the hotel

*disclaimer: this could be a highly incoherant account; read at your own risk! I can't post pictures of my new siblings for security reasons; just know they are terribly cute.

Shortly after lunch, we (dad, mom, and our translator I___ ) piled into the ancient little Volga with our driver and set off on the 1-1/2 hour trip to the town where my siblings live. The temperature felt more like October than August, with a stiff breeze whipping mist into our faces. However, Sergei kept the temperature almost tropical in the Volga, and I soon succumbed to jet lag.

When I awoke, we had left the city and were driving through countryside that reminded me of my home in Northwest IA in terms of hilliness, of SD in vastness, and ME in vegetation. Not a very succinct description, but it's the best I can do! And countryside it truly was, with cows walking across the road and only a tiny hamlet here and there. Sergei's driving made me wonder why I had paid nearly $5 for a fair ride last week; I got the same adrenaline rush in his tiny vehicle!

Speaking of adrenaline rush, that was certainly what I had when we pulled up to the orphanage. My teeth were literally chattering! Three of my siblings had spent years of their life here, and four more of my siblings still live here. As we stepped inside a wave of memory washed over me; the building smelled just like the crisis center I worked in last August in St. Petersburg. Being exhuasted and emotional, I had to fight back tears as we made our way down the hall to the director's office. No matter how nice the orphanage was, it could never make up for a family.

It was a strange experience sitting in the director's office going over official paperwork; I've heard so much about this room and this woman from my roomate and sister, Daria! The director was kind and warm, and had only good words for the children.

And then...it was time to meet them. Talk about butterflies in your stomach! We walked into their group room, and when I saw their freckled little faces looking eagerly toward the door, I felt as though I had met them before. They hugged us gingerly but willingly, and though quite a few awkward pauses occured in the hour and a half we spent with them, most of it was quite comfortable.

Aren't they great at coloring? And I apologize, no matter how I try, my computer will not rotate this picture!
They showed us their room (all 4 sleep together), proudly pointing out their bunks. We showed them picture albums of the family, and they were happy to recognize Oksana, Daria, and Alexander, and tried to learn the names of everyone else. The boys produced their portfolio of drawings, and though I am a biased new sister, I can honestly say they are talented young artists! Despite my broken Russian, I enjoyed talking about their drawings with them. My new sister was more reserved, but now and then a dimpled smile would appear and I could see she was pleased.

We sat around a tea table with my four new siblings and five other children (two other sibling groups). My youngest new brother made me a cup of tea, and the next oldest passed me candy while the oldest cared for his little sister. The kids all reached eagerly for apple slices and oranges, chattering all the while. It was difficult to be showering all the attention on my new siblings while the other children looked on; though they seemed to harbor no resentment.

All too soon it was time to say goodbye. Tomorrow we will see them once more, after they have their first half day of school; for my sister, it will be her first day of school ever! I already know how wrong it will be to leave them there, but I am beyond grateful to have met them.


Almost Time to Meet Them...

Dear Siblings,
I miss you so much! Last time we were on an adoption adventure we were all together. This time it is God's plan for us to be separated, but I feel like I am seeing everything through all of our eyes. I can't wait until I can tell you everything, but here are a few pictures of our nice hotel. Although we thought our new siblings were coming here to stay with us, plans have changed and in a few minutes we will head to their home to be with them. Please pray that everything goes well and we bond quickly! I love you all and miss you.
Our living room.
Mom and Dad's room.
The view outside our window.
The first gifts we will give the kids-coloring and stuffed animals.

Our mom and dad-don't they look great after 48 hours of travel??
My omelet; so yummy! And a bit crunchy with egg shell.
Some delicious rolls with our breakfast; we definitely thought of you, Joe!

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Well Done

In New York City, en route to Moscow:

It finally has hit me: I really am going! Part of me is anything but ready; it was unbelievably hard to say goodbye to my siblings, and I am way more comfortable living a "normal" American life. If I were only going to teach, I wouldn't bother. If I were just going for the adventure, I'd probably choose a different country than the one I'm going to!

But I'm going because of Him who first loved me. I'm going because I've tasted of His goodness and discovered that the only happiness, the only way to happiness and Heaven is through complete dependence on Jesus as Savior from my shortcomings and sins. I want His name to be magnified through me! Someday, I want to hear, "Well done, good and faithful servant."


Sunday, August 19, 2012

A Trip Before a Trip

In light of the fact that I am about to spend the school year in Central Asia teaching these dear kiddos, my gracious parents allowed me to travel out to Denver to visit both sets of grandparents. Yes, I realize I just announced a huge new stage in my life quite casually, but I think instead of explaining what I'm up to, I'll just try to keep track of the adventure along the way. ;)

I took Daria (17) and Alexander (13) along as company, and they sure kept me awake on the 12 hour drive! They definitely kept me laughing, and we had a lot of good conversations along the way (probably 60% of it in Russian, which I loved!).

You know you're good friends when you're willing to share straws! This was taken somewhere in a rare non drought-scorched location in NE.

We spent the night in North Platte NE, and stayed at a great hotel (thanks Dad!). We enjoyed the pool, stretched our legs in town a bit, and finished the night with pizza--it felt so strange to get just one pizza--and some intense watching of the Olympics; it was women's gymnastics finals and we were pretty pleased that the U.S. and Russia ended up taking the top spots on the podium!

Our first day or so in town were spent with my mom's parents, Nana and Papa. I love my Papa's keen sense of humor, Nana's laugh, and the amazing love they've always shown me.

Papa and I share a love of history, and I think his tales of adventure from his travel to 51 countries has infected his grandchildren with a similar love of travel!

Nana always remembers things about my life, even little things, and never forgets to ask about them. She's a world champion hugger, an inspiring housekeeper, and my favorite person to play "Hearts" with. We often laugh ourselves to tears together!

Later in the week, Daria, Alexander, and I picked Cassandra and Jaynie up from a worldview camp in CO Springs, and then swung our way back up to Aurora CO to spend a day or two with my dad's mom and her sister-two of my best friends!

No, this is not me on a bad hair day. We went to the zoo. Sorry to disappoint you, but all pictures of me on a bad hair day are strictly classified!

Giraffes make me smile. They are a funny mixture of graceful elegance and understated comedy. But how can you look at such an intricately formed beast and not know it was designed by a great and Creative Being?

I've always loved seahorses.

Go ahead, enjoy the expression of the fellow on the far right. I laughed so hard when I looked back through my pictures!

Grandma and Alexander spent well over an hour working on a puzzle. I loved the way he would find a piece that fit, and would look up at his "new" grandma with a happy crinkle around his eyes; her beautiful happy laugh rang often through the house during that time!

My beautiful grandma. Though she suffered the loss of her beloved husband when my dad was only 7 years old, she didn't give up and worked incredibly hard to be the best mom possible to her three boys. Best yet, she is defined by a deep and growning love for Jesus; it is a great joy to me to be sisters in Christ with my grandma and aunt!

Aunt Jean brings a new definition to the word "sweet." Gentle, compassionate, always ready to put the best light on people's actions, Aunt Jean has taught me so much about loving unconditionally! She has always been there for my daddy, my uncles, and my grandma since my grandpa died, and has a beautiful servant's heart. The very mention of the name of Jesus brings a light to her face and tears to her eyes, and it is beautiful to see her hunger for His word.

As you can see, I was blessed by a wonderful time and some great memories and pictures to carry with me overseas. I am so blessed by my grandparents and their love for me!


Friday, August 17, 2012

The Bigger Picture of Adoption





Can you tell how I feel about 700 Club co-host Pat Robertson's advice that you should be cautious about adopting because you're taking on "damaged goods"? Honestly, I feel frustrated. But perhaps I feel even more sad. Because Robertson is missing a beautiful truth; when we were "damaged," God took us on and adopted us in love (Ephesians 1:4-5).