Thursday, June 30, 2011

We are Homeward Bound and One More BIG Prayer Request

Praise the Lord, we will be leaving for home early tomorrow morning.  We will be leaving our "home" at about 3:30 a.m. (or 8:30 p.m. ET today in the U.S.) to head to the airport.  I can hardly believe it!  The medical appointment and embassy took us pretty much all day, but we got it all done.  There is however one small problem with Vika's passport, and that is why we really need your prayers.  Since Eliisa has two middle names, they were unable to put both on her passport in this country.  They were supposed to write out her full name on another page within the passport, but they failed to do so.  So, her immigrant visa and her birth certificate have her full name; however, her passport does not.  The officer at the embassy said, this may be a problem when we immigrate into the United States.  PLEASE PRAY that there will be NO problems.  I know both Eliisa and I will be very worn out by the time we reach immigration after a long day of flying, and there is really nothing that I can do either.  Thank you for praying us through this entire journey and praying us home!  Your love, encouragement, comments, and prayers mean so much to us, and we could never have made it to this point without you!  I am finishing up some last minute packing, and then we will be ready to leave in a few short hours.  I will do my best to let everyone know that we made it home!  I'm sorry, no pictures today.  I did not even take my camera with me today.  Here we come! 

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Still Here! :)

Yes, we are still here, still in the capital city of Eliisa's country and still in the rain, but still hanging in there and still alive!  :)  I'm sorry I did not update the blog yesterday.  I had put Eliisa to bed, and THREE hours later, she was still not sleeping!  I was a little weary to say the least! 
Yesterday, we ventured on the metro to finally meet up with the Colemans.  They were delayed even longer than we were delayed with their interpol clearance, and so the Lord worked it out that we could see each other in "real" life!  We are so thankful for all they did for us!  It was wonderful to meet them, their daughter, Ashley's mom, and their newly adopted son!  Ashley had fixed a wonderful lunch, and we just talked and kept Eliisa entertained for a while.  It was so nice to be able to fellowship and pass the time more quickly.  I think Eliisa also enjoyed being able to get out of the "house."  And although it had rained on and off during the day, both coming and going, we did not get rained on!  What a blessing.

We were not able to go to our second embassy appointment today because Eliisa's passport has not made it here yet.  It is supposed to be on the overnight train right now, and should be arriving in this city tomorrow morning at 6 a.m.  Please pray that there will be no problems, or we could be delayed again. I am so thankful that it was issued today and that it is on the train here!  So, tomorrow, we will have the medical appointment first (it's required in order to obtain the visa), and then at 2 p.m. we will have our embassy appointment.  We may run into the Colemans again for both of those appointments as they are also finishing up tomorrow and Lord-willing traveling home on Saturday.  So, this morning, I planned to get out and do something on our last day of having nothing to do.  It was raining, but not constantly, so I decided to take the Metro with Eliisa and visit a beautiful park.  It took me a while to orient myself once we got off the Metro and it was raining pretty heavy, but we were able to find the park, enjoy playing on the playground, and just walking through the park and enjoying the beauty while the sun peaked through the clouds.  Eliisa really enjoyed the playground, but she has obviously hardly experienced a playground in her life.  She had no idea what she was supposed to do on the slide.  But then once she did it a couple of times, she couldn't get enough of it.  I am glad that I brought the stroller for this adventure, because it would have been way too much walking for her.  We stopped and picked up a late lunch and then headed back to our room in the seminary to skype with Abe and the girls.  Eliisa is definitely seeking any attention she can get, even if it is negative attention. She has a tantrum every time I am on the phone.  It is really amazing how quickly she figured that out.  :)  Lord-willing, things will settle down as we get home and get into a routine as a family!  I took a few pictures of the last couple of days for you to experience these last few days with us.  I will try to update you all with a quick update tomorrow.  Lord-willing, we will be leaving the apartment around 3 a.m. on Friday morning (which is really still Thursday in the U.S.) to get to the airport for our flight to Amsterdam (just for you Leanne!:)), and then from there back to Atlanta.  I am praying that we will be able to get window seats for our transatlantic flight so that it will be a little easier on the people around us.  :) 

Monday, June 27, 2011

Embassy Part 1-DONE!!!

This morning at 9 a.m. was our first embassy appointment.   I was a little nervous with all the paperwork stuff-which turned out to be completely unnecessary!  We have been through so much paperwork-this was a walk in the park!  I was picked up by a taxi, who had a little difficulty finding where I was at, so we had to walk a little to where he was in the rain.  Then we had to get the passport pictures from Y.'s husband, who also had a difficult time finding us.  But we found each other, and eventually the driver found the embassy, and I found Niko-a little late but it was no problem!  He is such a wonderful driver and "helper."  He had all the remaining documents I needed save one.  He checked to make sure that I had everything I needed and walked me inside the embassy past a long line of people standing in the pouring rain waiting for their turn.  Eliisa's ticket out of her country is an easy one as a child of an American citizen.  For most people who want to leave this country even just for vacation to America, it is VERY difficult-most will never be granted permission to leave for fear that they will leave and NEVER return.  If you wonder how I know this for sure, I recently spoke with someone who is from Eliisa's country and how he applied for exactly such a visa to leave this country, and all the hurdles he had to go through to get it.  In the end, it was a divine act of God that he actually got permission to leave. 
Anyways, I went through security screening and then was ushered into another building where a kind officer helped go through all the paperwork to make sure it was completed correctly and that I had everything.  We paid our fees and out the door we were.  We will return either Wednesday or Thursday (depending on when we get the passport) at 2 p.m. for our second appointment where we will officially receive a bundle of paperwork and Eliisa's visa, and we will be FREE to come home!  Hallelujah!!!
The past few days since returning to the capital city have not been an easy transition.  Yes, Eliisa has done extremely well and continues to do well for the circumstances that she is going through.  Over the past five years, she has acquired some very typical though very challenging orphanage behaviors, most of them she probably acquired during the last year in the institution where she was at.  She has a difficult time expressing her needs and controlling her behavior when she is frustrated or hurt or needs something.  She does not know how to understand "No," and that "No" really means "No" in mama's book.  It is my responsibility as her mama to keep her safe, so there are times when I have to say no even when I know all that she has been through and my heart hurts for her.  She is also having a very difficult time going to sleep at night.  NOT because she is not tired, but simply because she is being exposed to so many new experiences.  We have also had a LOT of rain, and getting out is very difficult in the rain in a city where no one speaks your language, and a society that has very little tolerance for children with disabilities.  Eliisa has some very typical food issues as well.  For example, if I give her food in her hand to put in her mouth, she will not put it in her mouth, but rather hold onto it forever in case there is nothing more to come.  Also, when it comes closer to the end of a meal, she will start to just keep the food in her mouth rather than swallow it.  Again for fear that she will not get something else later.  Many of the issues she faces are typical for a 6-12 month old.  It will take time to give her the security she needs to know that we love her unconditionally, and that we will be here to provide for all of her needs-physically, spiritually, and emotionally. 
At no point in this adoption journey, did I doubt that it was God's will for us to adopt Eliisa.  However, I have had plenty of doubts that I/we would be capable to finish this journey, and to bring her home, and to give her what she needed to heal from the past wounds and to overcome the physical and emotional difficulties she has.  However, the Lord is reminding me daily that He is NOT asking me to be capable to give her everything she needs, but He is asking me to be a moldable vessel to be used by Him to give her everything she needs.  I am learning how to be that vessel of clay that the Lord needs me to be, and sometimes, just like in the hands of a potter, it requires some "beating, bending, and stretching."  I have given Him plenty of resistance as He has been trying to mold me. Lately, it has required a lot of bending, beating, and stretching, and I am sure in the weeks to come, there will be much more. :) Please pray for strength and endurance as we make it through these past few days here in Eliisa's country.  I am weary and lonely and ready to come HOME!  I know it is tough on Eliisa to be in this place of transition as well.  There are only so many things you can do in a little room on a rainy day!  :)  Also pray for Abe and the girls as they prepare for us to come home.  This second trip has been harder on all of us, and the lack of communication with each other has made it even harder. 
I have no new pictures of our day today, as it was cold, windy, and VERY rainy, but I have the promised pictures that Alla sent me.  Enjoy!  :) 

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Guess, what I got to hear today?

Well, I heard a lot of things today.  Most of the things I heard, I can very gladly live without, but today, I got to hear this:

Other than that, it was another rainy day in the big city.  :)  Tomorrow morning will be our first embassy appointment.  Please pray that I have all the forms and that they are all filled out correctly.  We are nearing our final day.  PLEASE come quickly FRIDAY!!! 

Saturday, June 25, 2011

A Rainy Day in the Big City

The whole time we were in our region, we did not have ANY rain, and since I have been to the capital city with Eliisa, it has rained every day.  :)  Eliisa did not sleep too soundly during the night as she fell out of bed at least three times.  A couple of times, she went under my bed, and I lifted her back into her bed.  I was debating just setting up a bed on the floor tonight.  :)  When she woke up this morning and after she had had some breakfast, she started to scream and was unconsolable.  I am not sure why or what was bothering her.  I did give her some Motrin and after about 20 minutes, she calmed down and there were no more tears the rest of the day, so that makes me think that maybe she was in some kind of pain.  I am just glad and praise the Lord that she did stop.  Our morning was very quiet after that, and then around noon a group of missionaries to the orphans in another city about two hours away came for a visit.  We went to a traditional restaurant.  The drive there was incredible.  So many cars and buses just gridlocked while it was pouring down rain.  I imagine it would have taken us about fifteen minutes to walk there.  Instead it took us an hour by van.  The problem is that when it rains the sidewalks become very hard to navigate, and virtually impossible to navigate with a stroller.
So, we drove and talked.  Eliisa really loves driving in the car, which will be really great when we get home.  I see a trip to Florida and a trip to the mountains in our near future.  :)  Eliisa got a little anxious while we were getting our food.  It was sort of set up like a buffet style.  You go through the line and pick what you want to eat and then pay and sit down to eat.  It was quite crowded and loud, and Eliisa got impatient.  Thanks to Pastor Misha, she calmed down once he took her somewhere quiet.  We sat down and ate and talked some more and drove back to the seminary, which was again a long drive.   Eliisa slept sitting on my lap for most of the trip.  We got back and Alla, Oksana, Nadia, and Pastor Misha got on their way back home, while Vika and I enjoyed laughing and playing.  She loves to laugh and giggle and once she figures out how to have fun on her own, there will be no stopping her.  It is really interesting how she will just sit and do nothing unless I come and entertain her.  She can have all the toys in her reach and a lot of space to walk around and play in, and yet, she does not know what to do with the freedom she has.  Hopefully, once she sees her sisters playing, she will understand that she is allowed to play and enjoy herself.  Here are some pictures and a couple of videos of our day.  I will add some more later as Pastor Misha and Oksana took quite a few as well.  Tomorrow, Eliisa and I will try to venture to church together.  I am looking forward to and praying for some fellowship. 

Friday, June 24, 2011

How Great is Our God!

To tell you the truth, I was feeling like writing a much different post today.  But the Lord reminded me that dwelling on the negative aspects of my life never brings me anywhere.  However, when I choose to take my eyes of my misery, He has the opportunity to show me all the GREAT things that He has done in my life, and I can keep on moving forward, and He can use those things to work GOOD in my life.  Yes, this second trip has not been easy.  Yes, I am looking forward to home more than I ever thought possible for many reasons.  Yes, I do not enjoy being stretched to my very limit and beyond, physically, emotionally, and spiritually, but I know that through it all, the Lord has blessed me with so much. 

So, I thought I would share some of the wonderful blessings, He has blessed me with on this second trip.  The list would be too long to share in one blog post, but here are some of the highlights:
  • All of the main paperwork is done and we are safely in Kiev.
  • Eliisa Vika has done EXTREMELY well through this whole ordeal.  Remember that she has very rarely been outside the four walls of the orphanage she has been in.  She has not experienced riding in cars, buses, trains, etc.  She does not know about the loud noises that she has heard, like the train blowing his horn right as we walk past it, or cars honking their horns, and buses blowing off steam as we walk directly past them, or dogs barking, etc.  She cannot express her needs, and I am just getting to know her and her needs.  It is much like having a newborn, except that she has learned not to cry for things because it would not do her much good.  She has been very patient with me as I learn to meet her needs, and we get to know each other.
  • How much joy Eliisa Vika has to give me.  How can I be discouraged when I look in her face and she always has a smile or a giggle in spite of all that she has been through?  I am so undeserving of the blessing of her in my life.
  • I got an internet connection, and was able to skype with the girls and Abe today for the first time since leaving home!  How can I even praise the Lord enough for that? 
  • I have been supported and lifted up in prayer and truly been carried by those prayers on this second trip.
  • I have met many wonderful people on this journey, who have given of their time and energy to help out when I had no idea what I was doing.
  • I am able to stay in a dorm at a seminary for a great price.
  • I was able to venture out and go shopping today, and although it rained while I was doing this errand, it rained the whole time I was in the store, but not before and not after.  :)  
  • I was able to navigate potholes, construction zones, busy streets, stairs, etc. with a 5-year-old in a stroller and groceries and water, and I did not even get runover or stuck or worse.  And Eliisa Vika just sat in the stroller quietly the whole time.
  • I was given two CDs with music that I brought with me by my dear friend Ulla that have been wonderful encouragement and given me a renewed strength in the Lord . 
  • I have had wonderful friends and family who have sacrificed so much to be help Abe as he has the girls all to himself for the first time ever.  I think he is looking forward to me coming home.  :)  Sometimes, going away is good for a new perspective of what we mamas do in a day. 
  • The girls have done so well with my being gone.  I am so blessed!  I was at my breaking point today, and then I got the chance to talk to them, and to hear how well they are doing, and how much they love me and their new sister, and my spirit was just instantly lifted.
  • Even though there have been extremely few people who speak any English, I have been able to communicate at least the most important things.
  • Although I have traveled the train by myself on two occassions without any idea who would be in the same compartment with me, the Lord was so good in giving me "good" companions, who have even been willing to help me to get out of the train quickly with all my luggage, printer, and Eliisa Vika. 
  • This morning, I was blessed by a visitor knocking on my door with some freshly prepared food and some markers and paper for Eliisa.  What a blessing from a complete stranger! 
You see, the list could go and on, but this is just from the last couple of days.  I am blessed above measure.  I leave you with a picture, a video, and a song that I have sung many times, but really got a new meaning for me today.  I am sorry about the lack of pictures.  I am obviously NOT the photographer in our family, and it is a little hard to take pictures and take care of our new daughter at the same time, and we really didn't do anything of significance today.  :)  If it wasn't for Abe, we would have NO pictures of our life at all. 

Dear Eliisa Vika...

I am sorry, but once again I was without the internet all day yesterday, last night, and this morning... but I wrote a letter to our precious daughter and wanted to share it with you. 

My Precious Eliisa Vika-Faith,
Today, June 23, 2011, one week after your fifth birthday, almost 7 months after seeing your first picture, and almost 6 months after you became our daughter in our hearts, I had the privilege of becoming your mama FOREVER.  Today, we left behind the life in an orphanage, which is the only life you have ever known, and you are starting a very new life.  I can’t promise that the life that lies ahead of you will always be easy or better than the life you have known.  I can’t promise that I will be able to give you everything you want or need.  I can’t promise that you will be able to talk and communicate one day or do all the other things that your sisters can do.  I can’t promise that you will easily adjust to this new life that is ahead of you.  But I can promise you, that we will ALWAYS love you, unconditionally for all that you are and all that you will ever be, and that I will be right there by your side through the good and the tough times. 
You have four sisters at home, who love you in the same way, unconditionally.  They have prayed for you, pleaded for you to come home, waited patiently on mama and papa to work through the mountain of paperwork, the ups and downs of the process, and the time of being away from them so we could be with you and bring you home.  Undoubtedly, there will be times when you will disagree and argue or when you will feel misunderstood.  But no matter the circumstances, you can know that you have four sisters, who will always love you and be there for you. 
You have a papa back home, who loves you, my precious daughter, with an unconditional, undying love – a love, that was willing to step out in faith and follow God’s leading in our lives; a love, that was willing to be bent and stretched to the very limit and past that so that we could bring you home; a love for your mama, that entrusted her to come back here by herself while taking care of your sisters back home; a love, that will love you forever through all the hard times that may lay ahead of us; a love, that is willing to sacrifice any pleasure or convenience to give you whatever you need; and above all a love, that prays for you daily and for the day to come that you will be able to understand and become adopted into God’s heavenly family, so that we can spend all of eternity together with God. 
You are loved by people around the world, who you may never be able to meet.  People, who have prayed for you, supported us financially, helped us complete paperwork, encouraged us when we were discouraged, watched our girls for countless hours and everything associated with them and our home while we were away, advocated for you when you were still a lost orphan without a family, loved on you even when they knew that they would not be able to take you home with them, and who have raised huge amounts of funds making it possible for us to bring you home.  You were loved by a couple and later an organization, that raised money so that you could have surgery and rehabilitation so that you could learn to walk.  You were loved by people who have followed and prayed through our journey to you, who not even I will ever have the privilege to meet. 
But most of all, you are loved by your heavenly Father, who loved you from the beginning of time; who knew where you were and what your needs were; who spent years molding your mama and papa into a piece of clay that would become a vessel that He could use to bring you into our lives; and who loved you so much, that He gave His only son to die on the cross to pay for the cost of your adoption into His family.  He loves you even above and beyond any love that your Mama and Papa, your sisters, your extended family, and the people around the world together could ever love you. 
Today, you came officially into our family, but it feels like you have been my daughter since the day you were born.   How I long to have been there for you on that day and every day after that before today.  I will never be able to make up for that time, but from here on out, we will only walk forward together.  I promise with God’s help that I will try to be the best mama I can be to you, that you will not go hungry, that you will not hurt without us by your side, that you will always know that Mama and Papa are here for you and love you just the way you are.  There is not a mile I have walked to bring you home that you I wouldn’t walk another thousand miles!
I LOVE YOU, ELIISA VIKA FAITH!!!  Thank you for blessing me with the privilege of calling you my precious daughter and teaching me so many things, simply by your mere existence!  I can’t wait to see what the Lord has in store for your new life.

Once again, I am without an internet connection!  I still haven’t talked to Abe and the girls back home.  How much I can’t wait to get home!  Today was the day I got to take Eliisa Vika out of the orphanage forever.  What an emotional day it was!  It did not start as I had envisioned it because my alarm did not go off, and when my phone rang, I had no idea what was going on.  I was supposed to meet with Erica another adopting mama, who had just gotten to Vika’s region the day before, and I slept in.  I was so thankful that I had packed and prepared everything the night before.  So, I fixed some coffee and quickly got ready and spent some time talking with Erica.  And then, Igor came and we loaded up my stuff once again and checked out of the apartment, and we headed to the orphanage.  I handed off Eliisa’s clothes I had brought with me, and I waited for her to come.  There are no words that can describe how it felt to be able to pick her up and wrap her up in my arms.  I couldn’t hold back the tears!  We said good bye to the orphanage staff.  I think Eliisa was overwhelmed by all the attention she was getting.  And, off we went in the car, and drove out of the orphanage gates for the last time, never to return.  We drove straight to the capital city of the region we were in to finish up the passport application with M., another RR facilitator.  During the drive,  tears were streaming down my face as I sat there in awe looking at Eliisa and realizing that she is really mine/ours.  What a precious gift from the Lord.  Eliisa Vika just snuggled up to me and turned her head to look up to me from time to time and just had the biggest smile and a look on her face that said: “I am really yours.  I can’t believe you are taking me home forever.”  It went quickly, and then Igor brought me to the train station to buy tickets and then we waited on the train back to the capital city.  We did go and walk for a long time and had some Eastern European “fast food.”  It was good.  We made it on the train where we spent the next six hours riding in a car with two more people.  We finally got to our destination at 11 p.m. and Eugene picked us up and brought us to our apartment where we will spend the next week until we can finally pick up the paperwork.  We don’t have anything that we need to do until Monday, when we have our first embassy appointment.  Our second appointment will likely be on Thursday after we get Eliisa’s new passport.  And then, on Friday, very early in the morning, we will be on our way back home!  I can’t wait!  Hopefully, I will be able to update regularly again once I get an internet connection to work.  I am a little lonely without being able to talk or communicate with anyone.  J

I'm getting you out of here!

I don't have time to explain the pictures, but I wanted to at least finally post some again: 

My trip to Eliisa's birth city: 

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Finally an Update!

I finally have internet access, so I will post what I wrote while I was not able to update you.  I am sorry again no pictures!  Tomorrow morning, I will get to see Eliisa Vika Faith and take her out of the orphanage FOREVER.  Tomorrow, there will be 147 million orphans minus one!!  Praise the Lord!  I promise to share that moment with you as soon as I can get online to share it, but it will likely not be before very early on your Friday morning as I will be in transit and again without the internet.  Thank you Ashley and Max for making it possible for me to post this right now!!!  Here is what I wrote earlier today:
I am sorry to leave you all hanging!  I have not had an internet connection since my last post.  I never imagined that being without an internet connection would make me feel so detached from the world!  I haven’t been able to talk to my girls or Abe (though I was able to talk to him for a brief moment on early Tuesday morning) since I left on Sunday, which makes me feel even more detached.  I also have not yet been able to see our precious new daughter again since I have come back.  And I brought my work with me, which I cannot do without an internet connection.  Ahhh!!! I am sorry, everyone!!! 
So, I am sitting here writing this post for when the time comes that I can actually get a connection back.  Yesterday (Tuesday), I finally got the call that the court decree had been issued, making Eliisa Vika Faith officially ours, around noon and that we could apply for her new birth certificate and passport and complete all the rest of the paperwork that needed to be completed before we can bring her home.  I left with Igor, my trusty driver, who hurried to Vika’s birth city.  He got there in record time and not a minute too soon because the vital records office had been waiting on us all day.  Natasha met us, and we started the process.  She was not sure that they would still issue the birth certificate since it was so late in the afternoon.  So, I sat in the office and waited and prayed while Natasha pleaded our case.  Praise the Lord, the lady was gracious, and after much waiting, I held in my hand Eliisa’s birth certificate, declaring Abe and I officially her parents!  It was much like the moments right after I gave birth to my girls when the reality sinks in that we have a new daughter, a precious gift from the Lord.  After six months of waiting, praying, and working from early morning to late at night to redeem one precious life, God rewarded our obedience to His call with a gift so great, we cannot possibly put it into words. 
After we left the vital records office, we had to go to the social security office to apply for a new social security number, which we need in order to apply for her passport.  We got there a couple minutes after they had closed, but again, the Lord was so good to us and the lady came down and completed the paperwork for us.  Then I found out that the number was not going to be issued until the next day, but Natasha was able to convince the lady that she would pick it up so I would not have to spend the night to pick it up the next day.  God is so good!  And then, I got back in the car with Igor and he brought me back to Vika’s city.  When we got back, it was already late at night, and again too late to do any shopping.  So, I resolved to shopping for some groceries first thing in the morning!  What would I do without granola bars?  J   I tried to connect to the internet and was not able to.  I tried and tried and tried everything I could.  I tried to call someone to help me, but I was all out of minutes on the phone.  So, I decided to go to bed for a couple of hours and then try again in a couple of hours.  No success!  I got up at 5 a.m. and tried again.  Still no success!  So, I got ready for the day.  I prayed and pleaded with the Lord to let me get on the internet so I could at least let Abe know that I was okay and just without an internet connection and to let my boss know that I could not get on the internet.  Then, I had a moment of brightness and turned on my cell phone from home to send Abe a text message.  At that moment, I didn’t even care how much it would cost!  J 
I was planning on going to the store as soon as it opened, but Y. came a little before that, and we got busy finishing up some more paperwork and errands.  Poor Y. had come in on the overnight train but was not able to sleep the whole time!  It is amazing how she can still function and keep track of all the many families she is helping!  How glad I was to get some more paperwork done because that means one step closer to taking Eliisa out forever. :)  We went to the orphanage and Y. completed paperwork having to do with the bank and the passport and off to the bank we went to close out Eliisa’s bank account.  The funds are donated to the orphanage, who will use it to send some of the children to another city for rehab and to purchase a freezer, etc.  We waited and waited there, and finally were ushered into a room inside the bank, which looked much like a prison cell (no kidding!).  There they paid out the funds and finally we were done.  Then we went back to the orphanage to pick up the lawyer and then we picked up another lady and then we went to the city passport office where they started part of the process to finish up the application package which I will need to take to the capital city of the region we are in to apply for her passport.  It is a very complicated process, and I don’t understand half of it.  I am just along for the ride.  Sign my name on the dotted line from time to time and wait while poor Y. is constantly running from one place to the next.  Finally, we were at a stopping point for the moment and Y. took another family, who got here this morning to meet their two precious children for the first time.  By now, Y. is hopefully finishing up the rest of the paperwork so that I can pick up Eliisa tonight.  Tomorrow, we will drive to the capital city of the region and apply for the passport and then we will take the train back to the capital city where we will wait on the passport.  We have our first embassy appointment on Monday to apply for the visa.  Sometime after that, we will do the medical appointment, and then Lord-willing we will get the passport on Thursday morning, June 30, and then pick up the visa that day and come HOME on Friday.  I will see where I will stay in the capital city tomorrow as there is another adopting mom waiting to get the last of her paperwork done at the embassy and I may room with her to share the cost of the apartment rental.  Otherwise, I believe I will stay at a seminary, where the missionary we met while we were here has connections.  It will be an important time of bonding with Eliisa before we travel home, but I am a little anxious on how this time will pass. 
There are so many things I want to get done right now via the internet, but I can’t.  Alas, I will have to wait and see what the Lord brings.  I know He has a reason why I can’t get on the internet right now, but I am not being very patiently waiting.  J
When I get the chance to post this, I took some pictures of our drive to Vika’s birth city.  It was quite a beautiful drive, but very bumpy, so most of the pictures did not turn out so well.  I was too tired to take pictures on the way home.  I was just dozing off the entire time.  J  I wonder if I will get caught up on some rest before I get home. 
How I miss home right now!  Next week cannot come soon enough!  Please pray for Abe and the girls, and pray for Eliisa and I as we do our best to make it through the rest of this journey, to finish the race the Lord has laid before us and to bring home the greatest price the Lord could ever bless us with, a precious life redeemed!  Thank you, each one of you for making it possible!  We stand in awe for how much the Lord has blessed us with you, with Eliisa, and with all that He has given us.  Today or tomorrow, I will be able to wrap up Eliisa Vika in my arms and say: “Fear not, for I have redeemed thee, I have called thee by they name: thou art mine.”  (Isaiah 43:1)  I cannot wait to share that moment with you! 

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

I'm Back!!!

After almost 48 hours of traveling, I am very happy to report that I am safely back in Vika's city!  :)  I had started my day early on Sunday morning to finish up some last minute preparations and then we left for the airport around 8 a.m.  It was a lot harder to say good-bye for this second trip.  Thankfully, I had brought some work with me, so I was preoccupied with working on that after I got all checked in and waiting on the first flight.  All of my planes were on-time and the flights went without problems.  Praise the Lord!  By the time I got to the capital city in Vika's country, I was longing for a bed to stretch out in.  But it would be a while before I got there.  Another adopting family and I waited with the driver on one more family to come out, and then they finally came out.  Their luggage was lost!  This family has had a rough start into their journey here.  They found out they were coming here this past Wednesday, then they had to travel two days to bring their kids to where they would stay, and then they got on a plane to come here and then they lost their luggage!  Ahhh....  They were coming for a blind referral (meaning they had not yet chosen a child).  We immediately had to go to an office for them to sign some paperwork, and then we went to the SDA to wait and see if they could still get an appointment to accept their referral.  Our driver Niko came and brought the other family that was waiting with me to their apartment, and I got to stay with them for a little while to fellowship while Niko went back to the SDA to pick up the other family!  They were completely exhausted and I think a little overwhelmed, so if you can remember them in prayer, I know they need it!  Niko came and picked me back up and we headed to the train station.  I was handed some important paperwork and my printer and climbed up to the top bunk of the train cabin I was sharing with two other travelers and off I went.  I didn't care where I would sleep or who I would be traveling with.  I was just so happy to be able to lay down and stretch out.  One of the guys in the cabin had to get out at an earlier stop, so we got  a wake up call at 5 a.m.  Ahh... I think I could have easily slept another couple of hours.  :)  We got to our stop a little over an hour later, and Igor, my driver, was there waiting for me at the train station and helping me with my luggage.  I was so happy to see a familiar face!  He brought me to a very nice apartment, and the landlady immediately started fixing me breakfast!  I was so thankful, I had to hug her!  I had not eaten any "real" food since I was on the plane from D.C. to Frankfurt, Germany (Sunday night).  She fixed me crepes and tea and filled up a whole bowl with chocolates, and then I finally got to take a shower, too.  What more does a girl need???  I am thankful for safe travels and that I am here to finally bring home our daughter.

I do need your prayers!  In order to keep our travel dates home, this final paperwork chase has to go very smoothly.  I am still waiting to get a call that our court degree is ready so that we can get on our way to Vika's birth city (over 150 miles south of here) to get her birth certificate and her social security number changed.  Since it is so far away, I need to get that call here very soon or I will already be delayed by at least a day.  Since there are two holidays and a weekend during my time here, we need to apply for Vika's passport as soon as possible as it takes two business days to complete.  If you would please pray for me the next couple of days for everything to go very smoothly, I would really appreciate it!!!  Abe is home and left in charge of the girls (wasn't that a nice Father's Day gift I gave him? :)).  I know he would appreciate your prayers as well! :)  I know the girls are loving having papa all to themselves.  I am sorry, I have no new pictures of Vika for you yet.  I don't know when I will get to see her again, but I am praying very, very soon-hopefully tomorrow when I pick her up to come home forever!  I do have some pictures of the little taggy lovey and the bean bags I made for Eliisa.  I just got that call I've been waiting for, so off I go... pictures will come another time!  :) 

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Quick Update

I wanted to thank you all for your prayers about Abe's remaining leave.  Thanks to answered prayers and a wonderful HR department, we were able to work out Abe's leave for the next two weeks while I go and finally get Vika home.  We are blessed above measure!

We found out yesterday that the long anticipated closure in Vika's country is really going into effect starting July 11.  There are so many families currently in process that will be delayed by several months and some that may be delayed indefinitely with this closure and the change in the adoption process and which children will continue to be adoptable.  Please pray for these families and the children that will be left behind without a mama or a papa!  For many of these children, time is of the essence, and they do not have a voice to move this process forward!  Pray that this closure will bring about a lot of positive change in a country, who has so many children, who need families! 

Off I go... so many things to do... so little time!  :)

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Happy Birthday!!!

Today, is Eliisa Vika-Faith's fifth birthday!  Today is the likely the fifth time that a birthday came and went without her knowing just how special she is and how thankful we are that on this day, five years ago, she entered this world so that we would have the privilege of becoming her family.  I had prayed for this day to be the day that I would break her out of the orphanage forever, but God had different plans.  His plans are so much bigger than my plans and although I can't always see why, I know it is ALWAYS good.  We will celebrate our sweet Eliisa Vika's birthday when we finally bring you home, along with fireworks (even if they are for the 4th of July and not only intended for you) and with your sister, Elliana, who will turn five right after we finally bring you home. 

Happy Birthday, our precious little girl!  We love you more than we could ever tell you!  We are so thankful that you were born on this day!  Our lives would be incomplete without you!  You have already taught us so many lessons for life, and we are more blessed by your existence than we will ever be able to give back to you!  We miss you so much, our hearts hurt!  We hurt that you don't even know just how special today is!  We are praying for a lifetime of making this day one of the most special days of the year!  Hold on just a little bit longer, and we will come and finally bring you home where you belong!  WE WILL LOVE YOU FOREVER!!!  Above all, we want you to know just how much your heavenly Father loves you.  He created you in His image.  You were created PERFECT in every way in His eyes, even if the world you live in does not view it this way. "I will praise thee for I am fearfully and wonderfully made, marvellous are thy works, and that my soul knoweth right well."  Psalm 139:14

This post would not be complete without a few updates on my second trip.  Once again, our plans were not God's plans, and our second trip will look a little differently from how we had hoped and prayed.  I will be leaving for Vika's country on Sunday morning.  I will arrive on Monday afternoon and take the overnight train to either the city where her she is at right now or directly to her birth city to start the paper chase.  I am praying for Wednesday to be the day that I will go and get her and never look back.  The next few days after that will be spent waiting on the passport.  There will be a weekend and two holidays that we will not be able to accomplish anything, and I was unable to get a ticket home before July 1.  So, our tentative return date is July 1.  Please pray for me as I will be traveling by myself for this trip.  There will be a great many unknowns and also a lot of traveling involved.  There will be no more families in our region from the States when I return, and I am unsure of where Vika and I will spend most of our time waiting.  Please pray for Vika as I am taking her away from the only "home" she has ever known.  As I take her into a whole new world of unknowns.  As she adapts to a new schedule and new freedom she never had before, and most of all as we travel home.  Pray for the preparations I have to make this week.  I have been in a daze, not knowing what exactly to prepare, and now I only have a few short days left.  :)  We also need your prayers for another issue we just found out about this evening.  We found out that because Abe returned to work this week that this officially ends his leave of absence.  We are not sure why no one told us this would happen, but we need your prayers that we can find a workable solution for Abe to be able to take off the last two weeks that I will need to bring Vika home off so that he can stay home with the girls.  We feel that it will be very important for the girls to have this time with their papa before we bring home their new sister, especially because their new sister will need a lot of attention and if they have not had mama or papa for so long, it will be very hard on them to adapt.  PLEASE pray!

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Home, Sweet Home

After too many hours without sleeping, I finally made it home on Thursday evening.  It was a very emotional trip home, but I am so thankful to be home!  If someone had tried to explain to me how good it would feel to be home, I wouldn't have believed them!  :)  How can anyone really describe the appreciation for a car with airconditioning to drive, being understood and understanding everything that is being said to you, eating food and knowing what you are eating, having a LARGE washer and dryer to wash your clothes, that actually come out CLEAN, taking a deep breath and appreciating the fresh, clean air, being able to drive your car wherever you want to go without having to walk on dusty roads or crowded on a bus, being able to open the doors and windows and not hear constant barking and talking but just listen to the quietness of the rain, or to hold my precious girls and not have to let them go.  YES, it is so good to be home, but it was harder to leave Vika behind than it was to leave my girls behind!  I knew our girls were well taken care of!  Yes, I had never left them before except to give birth to one of them, and then I was only gone for a day and they got the chance to see me somewhere in there.  It was incredibly hard to talk to them via skype and not being able to wrap them up in my arms.  But it was infinitely harder to leave Vika where she is because I cannot know for sure that she is well taken care of.  I cannot talk to her via skype and know that she is okay.  But I know that God loves her more than I ever could, and He can take care of her infinitely better than I will ever be able to!  So, for now, I am doing my best to make the most of our time at home!  Abe should be coming home on Sunday afternoon and going back to work on Monday morning.  I am not sure yet when I will be headed back to bring home Vika or what our schedule will be like on the second trip, but I will fill you in as soon as I have some details. 

Now, I promise to write about our whole court experience at some point, but I am not going to take the time to do so right now.  I will tell you that from the short moments we met our judge, we learned that she has a very special heart for the orphans and especially those with special needs.  Having been in Vika's country for almost three weeks and having experienced many orphanages and meeting many people involved with the orphans, I know that this is VERY unusual for Vika's country.  We are so blessed to have met her, and know that the Lord can use her mightily in the position He has placed her in.  I even got to give her a hug and thank her for what she does for these precious children.

Our last visit with Vika was tough.  I had started out my day very early because I knew that we would have to be completely ready shortly after we would get back from our visit with her.  I was feeling very restless inside and just could not get control of my emotions.  We got on the bus as we did every day, and told the driver "nostanovke pashausta" at the place where we always tell the driver so that he will stop at our bus stop.  But on this day, he did not stop.  He just kept on driving and driving and driving, until finally we got him to stop at a bus stop.  The Lord knew I needed a long walk to surrender my emotions and this day into His hands.  All this time, we had no idea that our facilitator was frantically trying to find some documents that somehow got lost from our court paperwork.  We had no idea what she was doing on our behalf so that we really could go to court. It turned out that the documents were there all along where they were supposed to be, they had just been put in the wrong place in our file.  We finally made it to Vika's orphanage and delivered some gifts that we had brought with us for the workers.  Normally, you give these gifts after court, but since we knew we would not be able to come back after court, we brought them with us for our morning visit.  I did not want to bring them with me on my second trip since I will be traveling by myself and will do my best to come with as little as possible.  :)  We waited for a while for them to bring Vika out to us.  Vika was very, very tired, so we just spend a lot of quiet time with her.  The best part of the whole visit was when she snuggled up to me and just rested on me.  Here are a few pictures. 

After we got back, we had some lunch and finished up some cleaning and packing, and soon after that, we got the call that our driver was waiting for us.  We met with the landlady and communicated with our hands and feet and face to tell her how thankful we were for her beautiful apartment. And then we were picked up by our wonderful driver Igor.  Igor then proceeded to pick up several other people and we stopped to make copies or pickup more documents along the way and finally made it to court.  We started court promptly, and it lasted about 1.5 hours from beginning to end.  We then dropped off everyone again and then we found out that we would need to drive back via car in order to make our flights on time.  We traded out the van we were in for a car and Igor got on the way to Kiev.  We had a few short stops and finally arrived at the airport around 10:45 p.m.  We drove through some BEAUTIFUL countryside, too!  If I only had my camera in the backseat with me, I could have recorded Igor and Abe having a "conversation" about cars in Russian!  It was quite amusing!  Good thing, men use their hands more than their mouths to communicate anyways!  :) 

Yes, we did get pulled over by the police!  :)

We found a place to sit down and wait until we could check in for our flights at around 3:30 a.m.  The flight back is just a blur.  I spend a lot of time reading and reflecting and praying on the way home.  I had to wait and wait and wait on my suitcase to finally come so that I could go through customs in Atlanta.  I was so glad to be coming up that escalator and seeing my girls!  Words cannot even begin to describe it.

We got home after spending some time in a traffic jam-welcome to Atlanta! :)  Wanda and Derick had stocked the pantry and cleaned the house!  Somehow there are more groceries in my pantry and the house is cleaner than when I left!  :)  They are way too good to us!  The last couple of days we spend mostly laying low around the house.  We did make a trip to Stone Mountain, and the girls got to play in the water hole and have a picnic.  I have been so tired and my body is definitely not back on this time zone.  There have also been so many emotions that I have had to work through since having time to reflect on all that happened the past three weeks.  I will do my best to share some of the experiences that I have not yet been able to share over the next few weeks to help you understand.  Thank you for all your support and prayers for us!  We are so thankful for you and know that it is only by God's grace and by your prayers that we have made it this far!  Vika has already taught us so many lessons without even saying ONE word.