Sunday, March 31, 2013

Christ is Risen: And Now Everything is Upside Down


As I looked out at the amazing sunrise this morning, I was reflecting on what we are gearing up for this coming year, in light of Easter. This is the day God's Kingdom made a definitive beach head into what we call the ultimate or final experience... death.

In N.T. Wright's Lenten reading today, he highlights the issue with how Christ revealed his risen self.  The gospel accounts have him first appearing to Mary and Mary MagdaleneHe explains that women were considered an unreliable source of information in that culture, at that time.  They were considered weak.  But this was something new and God was turning our systems of thought and best ideas on their ear.

Paul reiterates this point in 1 Corinthians 1:25,   "For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men."

Wright said, "That is part of what Easter is all about.  God is doing a new thing, and, as Jesus said earlier in the story, the first shall be last and the last first.  Easter is a day to put everything upside down and inside out."

This morning I am filled with faith.  I know, again, in my heart and mind that God has called us to serve these beautifully weak and poor disabled orphans.  We get to be a part of His Kingdom-Coming-to-Earth story, His Death-is-Not-Final story, His Wrong-Things-Made-Right story.  (See Matthew 5, blessed are the poor...)

I know that as we serve these precious children, God will continue to move on the hearts of the hopeless;  Hope has come, Love has come and He came for all of us.  Our work of saying "yes" is a tiny sign.  Your work of saying "yes" is a sign too.

As we celebrate the Risen King today, pray for those without hope to hope again, because Love has come for us all.

(He is Risen Indeed)


Images from The Jesus Storybook Bible, a big family fave.   

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Most Exciting News!

We have some amazing news to share!!

After many months of prayer and discussion, emails and letters, we have been invited to come volunteer at Mission to Ukraine in Zhitomir, Ukraine!!!

Zhitomir, (Zhytomyr) is just west of Kiev, the capital

This is our dream come true.  Mission to Ukraine (MTU) is an amazing place where healing happens. Hope is given.  Jesus is glorified.  What better place for us to learn how to serve the disabled in Ukraine, than from the ones who are already doing it, and doing it with excellence?  We are excited to serve the vision of MTU and help them in whatever area they need it most.

From MTU's website: 

"Mission to Ukraine is an indigenously run ministry that serve the Zhitomir region ofUkraine. It ministers to the most marginalized of Ukraine - the unborn and the disabled.  

Children with special needs and their families live in a culture that is just beginning to emerge from the Soviet legacy ofdenying their existence. With limited access to state schooling, poor medical care and inaccessible buildings and transportation, the child with special needs is neglected and isolated by society.Mission to Ukraine offers much needed educational and medical therapies, practical assistance, and community."

After we visited MTU last April we said to each other "We have to be a part of this."  Now God has made a way and we are standing in awe.  

We are starting with a commitment to volunteer for at least one year, while learning and observing what the Father has in store.  MTU may be a launching place for other things, or a partner for the long-term.  We don't know, and we won't try to figure it out (remind us of that in a year from now...okay?).  We are going to serve and give out of our overflowGod is the one doing this work and we say yes, one step at a time, trusting Him to show us what we need to know when we need to know it.  Scary?  Yes.  Peaceful?  Yes.  Exciting?  YES!!!!  Thank you all for praying for us and for God to reveal His next steps.  He is so good.

Praise God for His amazing way-making.  
Praise God for His plans unfolding for the fatherless in Ukraine.  Praise God for His love that never, ever fails.

Zhitomir Ukraine, here we come!

To read more about MTU you can visit their website here.
Read about our visit to MTU last April here and here.
Other awesome accounts of MTU's work can be found here.  

Sunday, March 24, 2013

A Week Full of Hope!

What a week!  

This week has been so amazing that my face almost hurts from all the smiling.  :)

What a change from my last post, right? 

When I wrote that last post things seemed a little hopeless, the need seemed a little a lot, too big.

But this week has been different.  This week God has reminded us that He is in control and nothing, absolutely nothing is too big for Him.

Want the good news first?  You do?  Well, lucky you, because it's all good news!  YAY!!!

#1 On Thursday we celebrated one year since Seth became our legal son.  What a milestone!  We watched the adoption ceremony video that day and remembered all that God did to keep Seth in our family.  Ours is a crazy roller-coaster-of-a-story that only could have ended the way it did because God intervened.  We remembered how man doesn't have the final word.  God has the final word.  Isn't that good news?  Seth thinks so.  :)

 We celebrated "Adoption Day" by taking the kids to frozen yogurt and giving Seth lots of extra kisses and hugs.  I emailed Seth's case worker who fought tooth and nail for him and thanked her again for all that she did for our family.  We love her and will never ever forget her tenacity and persistence.  It made a difference to this one!

#2 On Friday we found out that Sasha's family is bravely moving forward with their adoption.  Of course our support is with them no matter what, and we told them that.  But I'm not gonna lie.  My heart absolutely jumped for joy (and my body too!) when I found out that they had chosen another one of our Lost Boys to take home as their son.  Sweet Alexei will now be called Benjamin.  Sweet Alexei, who was transferred t to the Lost Boys from the same orphanage as Sasha will now be called treasured son and brother. 

alexei update

Still mourning the passing of Sasha, yet bravely trusting and stepping forward in faith.  Now that is awesome. Now that is worth celebrating.  Thank you dear family!  We stand behind you in love and prayers. 

#3 Anddddddddd last but not least!!!  

Oh my word.  Today has been amazing.  It started off with Jed and I having the opportunity to share about Ukraine with our church.  The support we felt in that room was amazing.  Our pastor brought it home that this is something our whole church is doing.  This mission is something God has called our Body to participate in all together.  It was like music to my ears.  We have known the support was there, but hearing it today was such a blessing to our hearts. Thank you Lanny!

After church we headed to some friends' house for a thanksgiving dinner.  Yum.  We were eating and enjoying each other, when all of a sudden my phone started to blow up with texts.  I knew something either really good had happened, or something really bad.  Ha!  The first text was from my friend Sarah and it just had one word "HEATH"!  Then the texts began to pour in from other Reece's Rainbow friends far and wide.  


Our dearly loved Heath is found!  He has a family working right now to rescue him.  Soon he will be an orphan no longer.  


We knew it would happen, I mean God did too many miracles in the fundraising for Heath not to be found, but I can't believe it actually happened.  I came home to at least 17 tags on facebook letting me know it is real.  Heath baby, hold on tight because your world's about to be rocked!

You can follow Heath's adoptive family at their blog here.  I've already let his mom know that I'll try very hard not to stalk her.  :)

I'm so filled with faith and hope right now.  Nothing is impossible for our God.  Nothing.  

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.
Ephesians 3:20-21 

If you would like to help Alexei's family with the expenses of their adoption I know they would really appreciate the help.  They are working hard to raise the money and every little bit helps!  You can give your tax-deductible donation here.  Thank you!!!

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Love, Tears, Hope

In a land across the ocean there's a small town nestled among farms and fields.  It has the look of many other towns and villages just like it dotted across the countryside.  Carts being led by cows meander down the lane.  People go about their lives of work and play.  This place is seemingly insignificant, nothing special to look at upon first glance- yet this town holds our hearts. 

Dream come true...

 You see in this town there is a wall with a gate.  Behind that gate our hearts are held hostage.  They have been captured by a group of boys who most people don't even know exist.  "Our Boys".  I know we have no claim to them, no right to call them "Our Boys", but in our hearts they are that.  They are our loved ones, our calling, our dream.  

One day in 2010 God caught our attention and we learned about The Boys.  Since that first moment they have held our hearts.  We have prayed for them, we have wept for them, we have pleaded to God for them.  Last April we got to touch them, look into their eyes, and whisper prayers over them.  I still can't even believe God did that.  It seems like a dream.  I would give just about anything to be back in that place right this very minute.  Somehow we know God has called us there.  We have no idea what God has in store for us and them...but that place, those boys...He's drawing us, coaxing us, keeping our hearts soft toward them, leading us there in His simple way that says "You'll know my plans when you need to know.  Just trust Me."

Today there is heartache for our dear, sweet Boys we love so very much.  

Today we learned that Sasha, one of the Boys, passed away into the arms of Jesus.  


I can't stop crying.  You see, Sasha had a family who loved him very much.  He was lost no longer! They were working as fast as possible to complete his adoption.  They had just found out last week that they would get to travel to rescue their baby boy in just 5 weeks.  Oh the celebration!  Oh the anticipation!  Oh the devastation.  

Sweet Sasha, who they were going to name Jonathan, would never have the joy of a family here on earth.  Please keep his loving family in your prayers.  They are so grieved, yet trusting God.  Their faith is so inspiring. Sasha was eight years old and had Down Syndrome.  He was not mobile and most likely spent his life in a crib.  Now He is with Jesus- no more pain, no more tears, no more suffering.  

Now we are the ones with tears.  

I know we've said many times, but it still holds true;

 "Do the next thing.  Say yes to Jesus.  Live a life of yes."

These children need us to act.  These children need us to not turn away because the need is too great.  These children need us to look past our ideas of what our lives would look like and be willing to veer left. These children need us to be the hands and feet of Jesus on this earth.  If not us, who?  If not now, when?  

These children need us to live lives of yes.

Not lives of waiting until all the circumstances are just right.  
Not lives lived in fear of the unknown.  
Not lives spent building our own kingdoms.  

If we are listening to Jesus and saying yes to Him, the circumstances are right- even if they don't look it with our human eyes.  "My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts," says the LORD. "And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine."  Isaiah 55:8

If we are trusting Jesus and saying yes to Him, He gives us peace when we are fearful.  He gives us boldness to step out into the unknown and even joy in the journey.  "Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid." John 14:27

"I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”  John 16:33

If we are saying yes to Jesus we are interested in building His kingdom, not our own. "May your kingdom come. May your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven."  Matthew 6:10
"...not my will, but yours be done."  Luke 22:42

I don't want to be harsh.  I hope and pray I don't sound condemning, I just have to speak out.  These children need a voice and because I know them and love them, I simply must speak for them.   

"For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."  Jeremiah 29:11
That verse is not just for you and me.  That verse is not just for the able-bodied.  God has purpose and plans for all people.  He has a hope and a future for all people.   

We recognize that orphans with special needs are our "yes", so we're going to be pretty outspoken about their need.  But the bigger point of all of this is that each of us say yes to whatever it is God is asking of us.  If it's not this issue- then find your issue and go do something about it.  Act.  Say yes.  Don't hold back.  Live life to the fullest for HimYour life, and the lives of others depend on it. 

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Readying the Troops


Preparing to move overseas is quite the task.  It's such a big task that we really have no idea how to tackle it.  Day by day, we just do the next thing that is in front of us- praying that when moving day comes along we'll be as ready as can be.  I'm not necessarily talking about packing and all that (although I have no idea what I'm doing in that area either), more about preparing our hearts and minds for how our lives are going to change. 

When we very first started this process some very wise missionaries told us to do whatever we could to prepare our hearts and lives while we are still here in the US.  "Get your marriage right, work on those selfish areas in your heart, help prepare your kids' hearts".  Basically we were encouraged to do whatever we can do NOW while we are in a familiar situation and we have a great church and tons of friends and family around who love us.  Because although we will still have loads of rough edges to smooth off when we get to Ukraine, it's in our best interest to allow the Lord to do some of the smoothing ahead of time.  Lord knows things will get a lot rougher in some areas once we get there!  Ha! 

Lately I've been thinking more about how to prepare our kids for this major life change.  I want to be intentional about preparations with them, because otherwise I know it simply won't happen.  I know myself.  :)  Like back in February when we first spoke at a church to share the vision, we were on our way to the church and I finally thought to look back at the kids and ask them if they understood what we were doing that day.  Addy understood, but Havalah and Ezra were unsure (Seth was just along for the snacks- as usual).  It was in that moment that I realized that although they are absorbing a lot just by living in the same house and hearing conversations, we must intentionally talk with them all through this process so their little hearts aren't left behind.

Here are some things we have started doing to help our kiddos along this journey.  I'm writing them down partially to keep myself accountable, and partially to encourage other parents to be intentional with your kiddos.  We can't assume our kids will learn what we want them to know about faith and their walk with Jesus by osmosis.  We have to have intentional conversations.  I am sure a work in progress in this area, so I don't claim to be an expert of any kind!  But, you never know who needs to be reminded of that truth.  So here ya go!

Language Study
I started including Addy, Ezra, and Havalah in my language study.  Duh.  That should have been a no-brainer, but I honestly was waiting to find the perfect "kid" language curriculum for them.  Instead I finally realized that I started at square one and they can just join me where I'm at!  Some knowledge of the language is better than none at all.  We study Monday-Friday for maybe 25 minutes or so, and then I let them go play while I do a bit more.  THEY LOVE IT. They are such smarties too!  Addy has an awesome memory and Ezra has a great ear for the language.  It's funny the words that stick out to them.  I'm not sure how helpful it will be to know "cockroach" and "frog" in Russian, but they've got those ones down perfectly!  :)

We use Transparent Russian for our language study.  We bought it many months ago and chose Russian over Ukrainian because the part of the country we ultimately would love to end up in is mostly Russian-speaking, and our tutor we had hired was a native Russian speaker.  Now I wonder if we made the right decision, but ah well.  I think either one is a great start.  The complete program isn't available in Ukrainian anyway, so it is what it is.  :)

Transparent has grammar study, audio helps, and an awesome vocab-building tool called "Byki".  Byki is the only part I use with the kids.  We study our computer flashcards and play little games with the words we've learned.  They are seeing the words, hearing the words, and saying the words.  It seems like the language study has given them more ownership in this process and I love that more than anything. 

We've been lining up speaking engagements at different churches and small groups and have been wondering how to involve our kids more in that process.  Yesterday we had a great answer to prayer in that area!  The kids and I were invited to share about Ukraine at chapel for a local Christian school where my mom is a teacher.  It is missions week for the school, so every day they are learning about different countries and the work being done there.  We opened up the week by sharing about Ukraine.  Addy and Ez helped me prepare the lesson and even shared part of it with the kids!  I was so very proud of them!!! 

Ezra and Havalah...ha!
 Addy talked about where Ukraine is located, what kind of foods are popular there, what the homes are like, and showed pictures of the capital and important monuments. 

Ezra talked about language learning, showed a picture of the Cyrillic alphabet and talked about the sound differences and shared some words he's learned.

 Havalah had planned to show her nesting doll, but got nervous...I pretty much knew that would happen!  Ha! I could see how proud they were to share about Ukraine and it made my heart glad.  I think this was a big leap toward them taking ownership of this mission.  We were very thankful for the opportunity to share with other children!

Prayer and Discussion
Ever since we first learned about the need in Ukraine we have included the kids in prayer for the people of Ukraine. 

Our sweetie, Heath.  Still waiting!  Hint hint

And Hanson, where is your Mommy?

And Porter, we love you sweet baby boy.  Praying every day!!

  There have been seasons when we have been more faithful in that than others, but over all it's been a constant in our family prayers.  The kids have certain orphans they pray for super faithfully, and most of those children have been, or are being adopted!  

My sweet Aiden has a family!

Our love Sasha has a family!

SAMUEL!!!!!  Has a family!!

 That has been a great faith-builder for them!  Now I'm seeing we need to start expanding our prayer time with them to include the caregivers, other believers in Ukraine, and the people we're going to meet and grow to love there.  I want to start praying with them that God will provide them with friends they can love and enjoy life with.  Addy and Ez are particularly nervous that they "won't have any friends".  I know it's not God's heart for them- so it's time to start praying and believing that He will provide friends.

Sometimes I get nervous and think "What are we doing? Are we ruining our kids' lives by taking them away from friends and family??"  But then I think back to all the words God has spoken to our family along this process.  This move is something He has called our whole family to- not just Jed and me.  Life in Ukraine is something He is preparing for our whole family.  When our loving Father created Adelina, Ezra, Havalah, and Seth He knew what life He was creating them for.  He knows how this will grow them and make them into the men and women He has designed them to be.  When I was pregnant with Addy a word was spoken that "This baby will be a bridge to people who don't know Jesus".  I am so excited to watch God fulfill that through Addy.  I can't wait to watch each of our kids blossom and come even more alive as we walk into the destiny God has created for of us. 


Tuesday, March 5, 2013

California Dreamin'

We're baaaaaack!

Holy moly we just had the best time ever!  Sunshine + crazy amounts of friend time + yummy food in mass quantities that I didn't have to cook + Happiest Place on Earth = Heaven on earth.  It was seriously amazing.

We started out on Friday afternoon heading down I-5 for way too many hours.  We ended up stopping over in Sacramento (since we're too old to be driving through the night these days.  I don't care how good the book on cd's not keepin' this Mama awake anymore!) in a cheap hotel and caught a few winks of sleep.  Then we were back on the road!  Our kids are such road warriors.  They amaze me with their bladder capacity and road-longevity.  My kids rock.

Saturday afternoon found us at the Delmore's house.  YAY!!!  We spent a couple nights relaxing, chatting, and eating.  It was fabulous.  We love Ryan Delmore's music.  In fact, Ryan and his daughter Kate wrote a song together that inspired the name "Wide Awake".  You can listen to it here.  I love that song and can't go too many days without listening to it.  :)  They are just great people.  Sarah Delmore and I are basically the same person, so of course we got along tremendously well.  Ha!  Kindred spirits indeed.  Thank you Delmores!  We miss you already!

Sweet Kate.  Our girls fell in love!
Monday evening we got to meet with my high school friend James.  It was AWESOME.  James and I were pals back in the day, and now he pastors a church in Pasadena.  A couple months ago James let us know that he'd been following our story and was interested in learning how he could support us on journey.  Oh my word, we were blown away by his faith and encouragement.  James, you have no idea how much we needed to hear the words you spoke to us.  Our faith is built, our hopes are high, and we are encouraged up the wazoo.  Thank you so much for your friendship and support.  I loved seeing you again!


Tuesday we got to meet Mark Fields, the Director of Vineyard Missions.  We go to a Vineyard church and are being sent out as missionaries from our church, so it was really cool to chat with Mark.  We aren't sure how we'll fit into Vineyard Missions as a whole, since it's primarily been all church-planting in the past.  We're excited to see what God has in store!!

Next up....Disneyland!!!!!
What can I say?  I love Disneyland.  I love everything about it.  What made it even better, was that some of our dearest friends ever joined us for our time at Disney.  Disney with friends brings a whole new level of fun to things.  The giggling quota was met each day by about 9:00am.  We shared many laughs, many screams, many waits in line, and many smiles.  It was F-U-N.  With the combo of fast passes and rider swaps, the three big kids got to ride each big ride approximately 9 times.  Holy Pukeville Batman.  They have guts of steel.  Now, prepare for picture overload...
After weeks of wanting to "hug Mickey" Seth decided "He's too big!"

BUT, he was definitely willing to hug the Princesses!  :)  He was so proud of his Sleeping Beauty autograph.

Waiting for the parade

Passed out after a day of Disney
Jed working on perfecting his Splash Mountain pose

Killing time while the big kids went on Space Mountain

My favorite picture of our time  :)   So much happiness!

 Our trip ended with a fantastic time spent with our friend Rick.  He took us out to lunch and loved on us.  It was the perfect ending to the perfect trip.  Thank you Rick!!

Thus ends our amazing gift of a vacation.  We are so thankful.  It was a huge blessing to our family.  

Now back to tackling post-Disney laundry...  :)