Friday, January 28, 2011


For those of you, who want to know what all is involved in adopting a special needs child from Eastern Europe, I thought I would share some basic information, so you can have an idea. [By the way, I have no idea what I am doing with the layout of this post!  So sorry! :)]
Start at the top, work your way down
Push through the pain

1.  Make a commitment to a child
2.  Notarize, apostille (that's a fancy term for proofing that the notary is really a notary), and mail the first set of documents to Ukraine.
3.  Complete all paperwork required for homestudy. 
4.  Complete three homestudy appointments.  5. Wait on homestudy to be complete.  6.  Submit application to USCIS.  7.  Fingerprinting for USCIS. 8.  Wait on USCIS approval. This can take as little as 3 weeks or as long as 3 months. 
Get all your ducks in a row
Try to make sense of the mess
9.  Compile dossier package-this is a set of documents that will be mailed to Vika's country, translated, and submitted to the Department of Adoption in order to get an appointment to accept her referral.  It has to be done very precisely or it will need to be redone.  All of the documents have to be signed, notarized, and apostilled.
10. Once USCIS approval is received, we mail our dossier to Vika's country, where it will be translated and submitted.
11. Wait some more!
12. We receive a referral appointment in Vika's country.
13. We travel.
14. Upon arrival, we have our referral appointment. 
15. We travel to meet Vika in her orphanage.
16. We wait on a court appointment.
17. We go to court and wait in a determination.
18. Usually, there is a ten day wait period during which time her adoption could be appealed and before we can apply for  her passport, and her visa.  We can go home or stay.  We don't know how we will handle this waiting period yet, but we are praying we won't have to wait at all!  :) 
19. Obtain Vika's birth certificate, passport, and visa. 20. Travel home. 21. Complete our adoption in the U.S.  

What are the costs involved?  Obviously the in-country costs can vary greatly, but here are estimates.
      Homestudy                     :            $1,500 
      Homestudy Paperwork       :         $   100
Commitment Fees          :           $   250
USCIS                              :           $   890
Passports                        :           $   210
Apostilles                        :           $  200
Document Fees               :           $   200
Mailing Fees                   :           $   200
Facilitator Fees               :           $9,000
Flights                             :           $5,000
Accommodations            :           $2,800
Food & Supplies              :           $   600
Transportation               :            $2,000
 Passport                        :            $   600
Medical Exam                :            $   150
Visa                                :            $   404
Orphanage Donation    :              $1,000
Total Estimated Cost   :              $25,104
Are you serious? 

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Don't You Have Your Hands Full?

That's a question we are asked quite often, and it is a very legitimate question.  A question that I sometimes ask myself when I feel like I'm buried under a pile of snow.  Yes, we have four beautiful little girls and our hands and hearts are full!  We couldn't ask God for more.  He has blessed us beyond measure!  We did not know God had more children in store for us after we had Ammadea, our fourth and youngest daughter.  When Ammadea was born, we had four children under the age of four.  Annalee and Ellie had special needs, and Abe was still a very hard working truck driver, and yes, I was busy!  Yet, God started working in our lives to open our eyes that we still had room for more.  After all a handful makes five, right?  :)  We had no idea that God would bring Vika into our lives.  We did not look for any children to adopt, but He started working in our lives so that we would be ready to hear His call when He called us.  When I came across Vika's picture on someone's blog, God stirred my heart to cause me to find out more about her.  I started reading about the country in which she lives and that she had been transferred from the baby orphanage to an institution, which is what happens with pretty much all special needs children around the age of 4.  I found some families, who had personally met her, that were advocating for her so that she would find a family soon.  At that point, I had no idea what kind of "institution" she was placed in.  I read about the happy little girl she was and how she loved to dance and laugh, and I prayed that God would take care of her wherever she was.  That same afternoon, I was working in the office, when Ellie got up from her nap like she always does.  She sat on my lap and saw Vika's picture.  She wanted to know what her name was and where her parents were.  I explained to her that Vika was in an orphanage and that she did not live with her mommy and daddy.  Her very first response was, "Well, then she should just be in our family."  I had not even thought that far yet!  :)  For a child, everything is always so simple.  When Abe came home that evening, I shared Vika's story with him.  I was sure he would think I had lost my mind, but God had already prepared him, too.  After much researching, praying and seeking the Lord , we knew that God was calling us to adopt her.  We found a wonderful missionary who was working in Vika's orphanage and gave us an update with pictures on her.  We learned that she was loved and well taken care of. When God calls us to do something, the only thing that God expects from us is to obey.  He will take care of everything else.  Did I have worries and doubts and fears about how we would accomplish such a call?  Yes, we did!  Do I still have worries and fears?  Yes, I do.  Do we know that this is what God called us to do?  Yes, we do! 
 Whenever we are called to do something by the Lord, there is always someone who wants to keep us from obeying God's call.  And whatever obstacles he could possibly put in our way to keep us from obeying, he will definitely put there.  He wants to keep us where we are comfortable.  And there were many legitimate questions that came up, such as shouldn't you wait for when your kids are older and more independent?  Shouldn't you have a bigger house?  Shouldn't we wait for a job for Abe to be home more?  Shouldn't we save up some money first and do ...?  When Jesus called His disciples to follow Him, He never said, first do this, that, and that.  No, He said, "Follow me." And following Him resulted in blessings untold.  We know that He will do that for our family, and we know that He will do that in your life, too.  Proverbs 24:12 says, "If thou sayest, Behold, we knew it not; doth not he that pondereth the heart consider it? and he that keepeth thy soul, doth not he know it? and shall not he render to every man according to his works?"  God opened our eyes to this beautiful little girl.  We know what her fate will be if she is not adopted, and He will hold us accountable for what we know.   He picked her for our family, and we will hold on for the ride and follow His call.  How can we all have a part to take care of the orphans?  If you want God to show you how you can have a part, ask Him!  "Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you." (Matthew 7:7)  Families that are adopting have many needs, ask God how you can be a blessing, whether that would be financially or watching their kids, running around doing errands, offering advice, managing the paperwork, running a fundraiser, anything that God has given you a gift to do, you can give.  Above all they need your prayers and support, and we can all have a part in that.  When you listen to what He has for you, He will bless you abundantly (Matthew 16:24-27). 

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

I'm Slacking Off

I had all these things running around in my head that I wanted to share for every day this week, and I have already skipped a whole day.  I talked to our social worker yesterday and found out that our homestudy should be done today.  Yippee!  So, suddenly I am overwhelmed thinking of all the things that need to be done.  Yesterday, a wonderful friend came over to notarize a lot of our documents, but there will be more that need to be done.  Our first set of documents should be leaving for Vika's country this weekend, and our USCIS application should be on it's way by the end of the week as well.  So, today, we had some more labs drawn for our medical statement. 

I promised to share some more of our heart on adoption and the Sanctity of life, so here it goes:  Have we ever stopped to consider how this country would be different today with the over 50 million lives, who never got to see this world this side of heaven?  What would they have accomplished today?  What can we (the church) do to show the world that every life is precious, that it has infinite value, and that each life is a reflection of who God is, and that He created each of us with a special purpose? 

There are many things that we can do, but I believe that it first begins in our own lives and families.  Does our family reflect the love of God?  Do we count our children precious like Jesus does?  Do we show to the world that EVERY life has value even that life that may not fit into the standard of "normal?"  Do we reach out to those who are hurting as a result of  the choices they made? Are we showing them that although they deserve judgment before Almighty God, Jesus paid the price for them already because of His infinite mercy?  Are we doing all we can to love, pray for, and support each other within God's family or are we at war with each other, within our churches, within our families? 
Jesus paid with His life so that we could be adopted into His family.  Have we accepted that price?  If you have, you know joy unspeakable that you will want to share with anyone and everyone you meet.  Tomorrow, Lord-willing, I will share some more about why we chose to adopt Vika, although we did not choose, God did!  I will also try to share how we can all be involved in caring for the fatherless and the widowed as God commanded us in His word.  Are we all called to adopt?  No!  But we are all commanded to take care of them! 
Now, I better get busy fixing dinner!  Gyros. Yummy!!!  I'll share the recipe when I get a minute.  If you made it all the way through to the end of this post, you must be hungry by now, too. :)  Stay dry! 

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Every Life Is PRECIOUS!!!

Today, we had the opportunity to share with our church, just how precious every life is born or unborn during our service this morning.  We are so thankful to be loved and supported within our church.  As we were preparing for today, the Lord was really working in our lives as we were reading, praying, and seeking the Lord for what to say.  There are a lot of things that we wanted to share that would never fit into a five minute presentation, and so I thought I would take this week to share with you our thoughts and prayers about adoption and the Sanctity of Life.  Some of these things we were able to share with our church and others just didn't fit into that short period of time. 
The sanctity of life is of course mostly dedicated to address abortion, and I would like to share some thoughts about that throughout this week as well.  But today, I want to share a very personal story of how God protected my own life.  My mom was in a very serious accident thirty-four years ago.  If it was not for a truck driver who saw her car go off the road, she would not be here today and neither would I or my three younger siblings.  This truck driver found my mom's car, but could not find my mom.  People figured that whoever was driving the car probably had already left the scene.  Until the truck driver saw a shoe under the car, and found that my mom had been ejected and was under the car.  This man saved my mom's life.  She had serious injuries, and was left paralyzed on her left side.  Obviously, she had to be on some very heavy medications.  It wasn't long after this accident that she found out that she was pregnant with me.  The doctors' best advice was to have an abortion because of the heavy medications she was on and how pregnancy might affect my mom's recovery or health in general.  These were serious concerns, and yet it was no question for my mom to choose life no matter the outcome.  I believe that God blessed her faith to preserve my life no matter the cost.  God allowed her to "fully" recover, to have a safe pregnancy, deliver a healthy baby, and go on to give birth to three more children.  Today, I am so thankful that my mom chose life for me, as our pastor pointed out today, to see "who I would turn out to be." 
I promised when I got our girls on tape singing "Vika's" song, I would share it with you.  I was honored to hear my girls (minus one-the stage was much too interesting!:)) sing this song for our church today.  Just ignore me!  I had to promise I would sing with them!  :)  Here it is:

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

The Sanctity of Life Sunday

This Sunday, our church services will have their emphasis on the Sanctity of Life, and we are very privileged that our pastor asked us to share our journey to bring home Vika as a part of the service.  Abe and I both are NOT good public speakers, but we really want to share a glimpse of what God is doing in our lives with our church family.  We are both very excited to share, but also seeking the Lord to say exactly the words that He would want us to say.  We have spent much time in prayer.  Once it is all over, I will share with you, what it is that the Lord laid on our hearts.  We would very much covet your prayers for us as we prepare and share with our church family just how precious EVERY life is, born or unborn.  If you have any words of wisdom for us, we would very much appreciate any input as well.  THANK YOU for taking this journey with us!

Monday, January 17, 2011

Pieces of a Puzzle

It has been a long time since we have had the chance to put together a puzzle.  The last puzzle we put together was a 5,000 piece Coca-Cola puzzle for our upstairs Coca-Cola room.  I'll have to take a picture of it for you sometime. 
Last week, I was thinking about how the adoption process is very similar to putting together a puzzle.  It begins with the framework - the finding, the praying, the committing, the paperwork, the homestudy.  Once the frame is complete, there are several different sections that branch from that frame that in the end produce a beautiful and complete picture.  Included in those sections are praying without ceasing, submitting your application to USCIS, preparing the dossier, fundraising, waiting, waiting, waiting, making travel arrangements, traveling, meeting that precious life you have prayed and prepared for, court hearings, more waiting and more paper chasing, and finally bringing that precious life home.  Each section has its own challenges.  Some are easier to complete than others, some seem impossible to figure out but once you get into it, they seem to be much easier than you thought, and some look easier than they really are.  Some take a lot of patience, some take a lot of wisdom, some take several attempts, and some require the ability to see what cannot be seen (Hebrews 11:1).  Sometimes, you can work on several sections at a time, other times, you can complete one section all in one sitting.  And after all that time you spent putting it together, it is so incredibly rewarding to see that completed picture, to place that very last piece into the puzzle. 

As I was thinking about how similar the two processes are, I remembered that last year we bought a Ravensburger (yes, that is a German brand!) puzzle at an after Christmas sale.  I had put in our game closet and ALMOST forgotten about it.  So, I got it out, and we started putting it together as a symbol of our adoption progress, to remind us that in the end, each piece we place, no matter how insignificant it may seem, will eventually become one beautiful, complete picture. 
Fittingly enough, this puzzle includes St. Nicholas-the man who became an orphan at a very young age and was raised by his uncle. He became a man, who would follow God's command to be the father to the fatherless and widows, to care for the least of these, to sell all of what he had and give it to the poor.  The true meaning of what St. Nicholas did is really inspiring.  For those of us going through adoption and those of us that aren't, it is a story worth remembering and sharing with our children. 
In Germany and many other places (including Vika's country), St. Nicholas Day is celebrated on December 6th or 19th (according to the Julian Orthodox calendar) - the day of St. Nicholas' death.  We celebrate it by putting our shoes outside of our front doors on the evening of December 5th and discovering shoes filled with fruit, candy, and small gifts the next morning.  I know that on more than one occasion during my childhood our shoes were filled by people, who followed God's command to do the same as St. Nicholas did more than 1700 years ago.  I think it is wonderful to separate St. Nicholas Day from Christmas because in many cases he has become a replacement for Jesus - the real meaning of Christmas.  Although we know many Christian families who celebrate Santa Claus as a part of Christmas and do it beautifully so, I know that for our family, we will celebrate St. Nicholas Day on December 6th for many reasons - mostly beautiful childhood memories.  You can read about the traditions of St. Nicholas in different countries and his story here
I know this post is a little out of place, because we just passed Christmas and by the time Christmas comes again, this story might be long forgotten, but I had to share it anyway.  :)  Christmas is my favorite time of the year.  Thank you Mom for ALWAYS making Christmas special!!!

Friday, January 14, 2011


We are very happy to report that we completed our final homestudy visit this past Saturday. Now, we can move onto the next step once our homestudy report is complete: submitting our I-600A to USCIS. In the meantime, we will be preparing our dossier, and I am slowly gearing up for that. Of course, we couldn't get anything done for a whole week because we were buried under 5 inches of snow, which for the North is a normal occurrence but in the South, where there are no snowplows, etc., we enter a State of Emergency and everything shuts down.  The biggest problem was that everything would just freeze over at night because of the extremely cold temperatures.  It was really an amazing sight to see everything just glistening from the ice on top of the snow. 
I did not make any special preparations before the snow came, but we had plenty of food and whatever else we could have needed. We tried to sled (without a sled) down our hill unsuccessfully. Too bad as we live on the top of a very steep hill. One of these days, we will just have to find ourselves a sled. Rolling down our backyard had to do. Annalee was having the best time. It is amazing how much she has changed since she can hear! Every day, I praise the Lord for giving us the wisdom to move forward with her BAHA (What's a BAHA you wonder? Stay tuned, I am working on a separate post just for you :)!) Ellie on the other hand was much more afraid, which is very classic for because she does not have depth perception. Although in general she has learned how to know depth, it is impossible in snow because there is no light or darker, etc. (Yes! There is also a separate post coming about strabismus, amblyopia, and the benefits of vision therapy). The two littlest ones had a hard time because they were sinking into the snow and couldn't move anymore (No! There is no post coming about short legs!:)) The girls had a classic case of cabin fever, so we actually ventured out today. No one was harmed, and we made it home safely!  Here are some pictures of the snow, although you all probably have plenty of your own! 

Making a Snow Angel

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

I must be special

I promise to update in another post, but I had to post this song for you.  One day, I pray I can hear little Vika sing this song.  Some days, I just can't wait to hold her in my arms and show her just how special she is!  My girls love to sing this song, but they don't have all the lyrics down yet, so here is a you tube version until I can get a recording of one of them singing it.  :)  Here are the lyrics:

He Paid A Special Price For Me
Yes I must be special, For he paid a special price for me
The one who had it all gave it all, When he died on Calvary
Some may think that I'm not much, But friend they just can't see
That  I must be special, For he paid a special price for me.

I may be as small as a little grain of sand,
And like a piece of puzzle, I fit into God's plan.
And when the picture's finished, It's all plain to see.
Oh I must be special, For he paid a special price for me.

Since my Saviour found me, And took my sins away.
And placed me in the family of God, Oh what a happy day.
Forever I will praise him, For the Blood that set me free.
Yes I must have been special, For he paid a special price for me.

Some may think that I'm not much, But friend they just can't see.
That  I must be special, For he paid a special price for me.
Oh I must be special, For he paid a special price for me.
Yes I must be special, For he paid a special price for me.
 My prayer for you is that you all know just how special you are to Him!  We are snowed in (YES, we are snowed in in Georgia!), so hopefully I will get to post an update for you soon! 

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Homestudy and the Embassy

I wanted to update on our second homestudy appointment.  It was a great way to start the new year, and we are excited to be moving forward another step.  We love our social worker.  She has so much knowledge and she freely shares it with us even though we don't pay her for agency services!  God has been so good to us by directing us to her through another family currently in the process of adopting from Vika's country.  Our next and final appointment is on Saturday pending Abe doesn't have to work as scheduled.  The whole adoption process so far has really brought us together closer as a couple and a family, and we are really thankful.  But I won't say that we haven't hit some bumps in the road either.  Those bumps will continue to come, but I know that God will pick us up and lift us over those bumps every time. 
On a side note, I was doing my devotions this morning, and it had a great idea-keeping a blessings diary.  It suggests to write down two blessings every day and add to it each new day.  Can you imagine what your list might look like at the end of the year?  I get wrapped up so often with the road bumps in my life instead of focusing on the blessings in my life, and this is a great way to document just how good God has been to us in the small ways and the big ways. 
I thought I would share Abe's experience at the German Embassy.  I have decided that I just have to look at this process with a sense of humor because otherwise you just can't make it through.   So, Abe went there to have copies of his passport notarized.  Now, for the preparation of our dossier, we have some very specific instructions on how it needs to be done.  Nothing can be crossed out, written over, double stamped, etc., etc...  Since Abe had the day off, we decided it would be a great time for him to travel there and get it done because this office is only open for a few hours every day.   The lady in the office was not cooperative in any way, and he came home with a stamp that had been crossed out, written over, and probably in the wrong place on the copy.  I just had to laugh because pretty much everything she was not supposed to do, she did. :-)  I have no idea exactly how we will handle the apostille and further handling of this copy, but I have a feeling, we will be sending it to someone in Germany who is a little more cooperative in following the instructions.   Here is hoping that the rest of the documents are a little easier to complete, although I have a feeling there will be more occasions for a good laugh along the way. 
Off I go to fix some dinner.  I will share the recipe if it is any good on the recipe tab: Meatballs with Peppers and Pineapple... hmmm...? Of course this week is busy with preparations for the homestudy at our house, although I promise I will not go crazy.  I'm too tired for that!  :) 

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Happy New Year

We want to wish you all a very happy New Year filled with blessings.  When I think back through this year and the blessings that the Lord has brought into our lives, I am humbled and amazed that Almighty God would care about us and the "little" needs that we have.  He not only cares about our needs, but also about our desires and wants, and He wants to fill even those.  Seven years ago, we celebrated a very lonely Christmas and a sad start into a new year.  We didn't know if we would ever have the privilege to be parents, to celebrate Christmas with our children by our side.  But I had reached a point where I was ready to submit to whatever the Lord had in store for us.  I was tired of trying to get pregnant.  I was tired of always wanting something that I couldn't have, and I was ready to be happy with whatever the Lord would do in our lives. 
To be honest, when something we have been praying so hard for or working so hard to achieve finally comes to pass, it's often very different than we envisioned it.  Having children was no exception.  Within four years we had four little girls, and boy did our lives change!  Yes, we received more blessings than we can count, and we continue to be blessed by God's goodness to us, but life did not suddenly become easy.  Our sorrows did not suddenly disappear when we finally held our first beautiful daughter in our arms. 
I believe that we get too wrapped up in our own desires and in the "thing" that we are pursuing that we forget to count all of the big and small blessings God wants us to see along the way.  Grant it, I am generally an optimist.  It is easier for me to see the postive in something than it is for most people.  As we end this year and begin a new year, I love to reflect on the blessings God has brought into our lives, and I resolve along with many other things to see the blessings that God has in store for me and our family in the new year.  I want to be that one leperd that comes back to tell Jesus "thank you" for healing him before forgetting just how good the Lord has been to me. 
We are excited to share with you in the blessings that God will bring into our lives in this new year!