Friday, December 28, 2012

A Heart Set Above

Yesterday I saw a picture at the store.  It looked like an eye chart. I took the time to slow down and stare at it and noticed that the letters strung together from top to bottom to read, "Sometimes we stand too close to see what is right in front of us."

Have you ever found yourself so close to a situation, knowing so many details and yet feeling like you just can't figure it out?  How can I have all of these pieces in front of me and try to make them come together into a picture that is sensible?  If only we could have perspective.

Lord help us to see what we are doing.  Help us to see deeper, to love longer, to wait upon you in worship of who you are so that my soaking is in the vat of grace and truth.  Only then am I able to see what is not of you.

Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Colossians 3:1

Two weeks ago in prayer the Lord highlighted the verse from Matthew 22:44:  “Sit at my right hand until I put your enemies under your feet.” I thought it must be his invitation to rest in Him with all that is so swirly around me.  News that our two in Ukraine were moved.  Then to learn that Maxim had emergency surgery to stop infection that was running through his system from the prolapsed area. Randy's boss at work was fired taking what was once a large department down to two people and Randy taking on the load left behind. Soon to find that paperwork redo's are needed again. With Julia's 16th birthday upon us we have sent in request for extension with our I-600 to USCIS.  With pleas for their cause in Ukraine, we continue to get stalled off.  If I were to hold to the perspective of the world, apathy would be my demise.

God knows I was longing for perspective.  Three more times I would come across this same verse over a matter of days. Again in Mark (12:36) and Acts 2 showed me this:

31 Seeing what was to come, he spoke of the resurrection of the Messiah, that he was not abandoned to the realm of the dead, nor did his body see decay. 32 God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of it. 33 Exalted to the right hand of God, he has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear. 34 For David did not ascend to heaven, and yet he said,
“‘The Lord said to my Lord:
“Sit at my right hand
35 until I make your enemies
a footstool for your feet.”

And then Jesus in only the way he can do in His perfect timing spoke perfectly. 

 I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.

5 You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
6 Surely your goodness and love will follow me
Psalm 23:4-6
And sweetly he reminded me my battle is this:  That no matter what comes at me, the posture I hold during precious soakings with Him when I lay down the weights around me, must also be the posture of my heart for battle.  My only fight must be to lay hold of what is righteous and pure in who He is so that I do not need to find a response from within myself for cursings that come from the outside. 
My surrender is my fight.  My weak and flawed ways postured and determined to see the Light of Life is the power.  My action is to be aware of where my spirit resides at any given moment in time.
Am I in heaven with this thought or has hell seduced me with thoughts of impurified justice? Impurified justice is nothing more than seeking revenge for pain. It is the desire to see someone else pay for their actions.  Or, to make someone else pay for my feelings.  But the truth is my feelings are held by the One who created me.  He can be enough in this time.  He can bring all solace, all love, all grace. 
Jesus took on sin, having not sinned.  Shouldn't I expect injustice in the world?  Yes. There was nothing fair about what Jesus experienced on the cross and yet LOVE RULED HIM.
We do nothing for God.  We rest in Him, respond to His heart and follow.
Learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed. Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow. Isaiah 1:17
The pieces of the puzzle come together.  It's clearer now.
Love comes to those who surrender to it.  To those who know who their Father is. And when love arrives, resides, is nurtured then grows, the fruits of a grace filled life is the garden of mercy where I am unafraid to move in the midst of the battle.
My Jesus, let my reality be the plan you set before me. Let me see the beauty you have for me on this day. In the dark and cold world where death wants to haunt, let me see the bright life you have set at the center of my picture to keep my focus.  Let Love be the refuge I run to for renewed faith that your grace is sufficient and your mercy is forever.  You are GOOD and to goodness I cling.

 The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. Romans 16:20

Saturday, December 22, 2012

The Christmas Letter 2012


 We began our year declaring 2012 would be an adoption free year – a time for rest.  It was sensible and great wisdom seemed to be in that plan except that it wasn’t God’s plan.  And if there ever was a lesson we need to learn it is that if God has called us to something much greater than ourselves – then rest will be involved.  Hemmed inside our “yes” to adopt would be hidden and treasured moments of refreshment to remind us time and again that our obedience is blessed in grace.

We said yes to Maxim (15) and Julia (15) living in the same institution our Maxim (11) resided.  Their needs are great and as I write this we wait to hear when we might travel.  Staye tuned for more updates in their regard.

Grace Haven:    It is messy yet it brings cleansing.  It is chaotic yet brings balance.  It is invisible to the eye yet apparent to the heart.  It is raw wounds met with a love covering.  It is constant need met by a constant God.  It is where I want to be.

    We chose the Christmas card photo because it was “us.”  Looking at that photo brought such a smile to my face. It was totally unplanned.  Rainan had just gotten into my makeup bin and put eye shadow on.  Jubilee hadn’t brushed her hair yet.  None of us matched.  My hair is out of place.  It’s perfect.  We’re even holding candy.  I think I’ve discovered “excellence.”  It’s not by image but by heart.  Will we love well?  Will we be who we are at all times regardless of who is watching?  Don’t get me wrong- I would LOVE a nice put together professional family photo opportunity where we all look like perfection and belong in a magazine.  Minus some of my wrinkles and sun spots would be glorious as well but really God just wants our family to be real to whoever is looking in. 

We be sloppy sometimes!

    Perhaps one of our greatest affirmations this year has come through Grace (10).  In the last six months she has made great strides and has encouraged herself in these accomplishments.  She is getting ready on her own in the morning and taking on more chores that make her proud.  She is the only child that asks me when she can clean around the cat litter box next!  She loves it.  I don’t know why and I don’t ask.  She has learned to ride her bike and this fall she began taking dance classes with her sister Rainan.  Her latest accomplishment is sleeping through the night without Mom’s help and she has graduated to the top bunk in the girl’s room.  The girl who screamed in my arms for months, crammed her fingers up her nose and banged her head against the wall, now prances in my room and sings songs of her love for me.  Chaos turned into balance….truth is pressing in.  And for whatever trials lie ahead with her, I hold on to what I have already seen that I might lay hold of what I have not.  Faith strengthened.

    I could write lengthy reports on all of my jewels as they each teach me more about what love is but here is the breakdown.

  Holden (14 this month) is growing cooler by the inch (he reminds me daily) and juggles his obsessions between studying airports, flight schedules, airplane models and admiring his Gemini jets.  He would be TRAUMATIZED if I said that he played with them. J  He loves his classes at Ecclesia Prep (school for homeschoolers) and this is the first year he’s under someone else’s grading (which Mom loves). He  still strums the guitar, shined on the swim team this summer  and although he doesn’t want attention for it, I’ve found him a time or two sitting with some sisters all curled up on him as he winces a bit.  He’s got a set schedule for everything and still loves to run the laundry room. New discovery – the riding lawn mower.  I will never get it back. 

   Liam (11) loves to be teacher.  He actively organizes the younger one’s games and likes to make all announcements on how things will be done.  It’s certain that he will maintain fair sharing, taking turns and report all disruptions to me immediately.   Like his brother, he’s taking some classes at Ecclesia Prep, picked up an art class he is quite fond of and still plays guitar.  He went to camp all by himself for a week this summer for the first time and acquired a few ribbons in some swim meets.  He loves to cheer up the downcast and is reliable to lead up the thankful game every time.  Yesterday as we were riding along in the van he was trying to explain something to me but I wasn’t getting it.  Finally he said, “It’s okay Mom, let’s get on with life. Isn’t  it a nice day?” J  He just has a way of making everything lighter. 

    Maxim (11) is a BLOOMING reader!  He is so diligent about practicing his new words and wants to know what everything means.  He’s our SPONGE.  He’s undergone 3 rounds with botox injections this year and in September he had his hamstrings cut to straighten his legs.  He’s a “star” wherever he goes and I constantly hear stories about his flashing smile and magnifying personality.  If you are ever feeling down, Maxim will make sure you are cheered up.  He sees the best in everyone for the most part.  He took a try at martial arts right before surgery and he hopes to pick it up again in the spring.  He is all about super heroes and LEGO’s and he wants to be a policeman when he grows up.  Maxim is all HOPE.  There are days I can hardly recognize the little boy with hollowed eyes staring back at me in the orphanage.  He is a beautiful illustration of the transformation of love.

    Jubilee (5), also known as “Jubi”, is still emerging here.  She is testing boundaries and trying to figure out her limits.  She has so many qualities like Holden and she often wants to butt heads with him.  Her big news is that she was fitted with her full length braces this spring and began walking with her KidWalk.  She came to us with a very limited choice of preferred foods: chocolate and sausage.  Now she is loves her fruits and vegetables!  She lost the tire around her tummy and likes to show us her tricks on the floor.  This is real progress for the girl who didn’t want to try new things. She is a smarty with identifying her numbers and already recites my phone number to me in case I forget.  I find myself in a similar role with Jubilee that I once had with Grace, to be the pusher, encourager to try and often it’s not so appreciated.  We have our cries together still but she likes to make up with cuddles and for this I am grateful!  Breakthrough is a process.  Love never leaves. 

    Rainan (3) is JOY!  So much so that she is called “Joyful” most of the time in our house.  When she squeals in disapproval over an “injustice” with her siblings, I will call out, “JOYFUL – is that you?!”  She smiles a bit.  She makes the silliest faces, says the sweetest prayers ever and often acts as the glue between the kids.  She’s our little dancer and has started to put on shows for us in the living room.  She is going to a preschool class once a week which she calls “high school.”  Today when I told her we were making spaghetti and meatballs she told me not to put Froot Loops in there because it wouldn’t taste good.  She has such a special and uniquely designed role in blessing all of us and we see her as a gift that aids in healing.

   Randy and I are celebrating 16 years of marriage this year.  We realize we know less now than we did on our wedding day.  J  The power of prayer and mercies from our Father in heaven has made marriage more precious with every passing day.  We truly know that when we are weak, than we are strong.  Our quiet times are often found in the least romantic places but then again we are discovering romance has a lot more to do with our hearts than it does the setting we find ourselves in.  One day we will find a tropical retreat for a moment but in the meantime we wouldn’t dare miss out on this adventure.  And the adventure we love witnessing is that He makes ALL things NEW!  I will give them an undivided heart and put a new spirit in them; I will remove from them their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh. Ezekiel 11:19

    We pray your heart is kissed from heaven as you celebrate the birth of Jesus – Our Savior.  We thank God for you and bless you for the gift you are to us.  We are so grateful for your prayers and for sharing your hearts with ours.  We hope that wherever God has you right now- even if it's a bit sloppy - that you know you are where you are to be and that He will be with you RIGHT THERE!!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Tough Realities

    For those who are a bit squeamish, it might be very difficult to look at this.  We prayed about whether to share this.  Thought about his own privacy and whether there would be a day he would be upset that we would reveal.  A friend helped to make this as tasteful as possible but the truth is - this is what Maxim is living with.  This is what all of the planning and preparing for we are doing right now. 
    This is why we are asking for help.  Not for anything more than mercy that Maxim will not live one day longer than he needs to like this.  It is grace that he has not become infected.  It is beyond comprehension of ours to even think on living one day of his life. 

    You can imagine the questions Randy and I are working through as you probably share many of the same.  This is why we really need a nurse to come with us and assist us coming home.  In the best of scenarios, traveling overseas has its challenges - but now imagine this. Creativity and out of the box thinking is required for certain.  Conversations with doctors turn into talks on saran wrap and building a custom foam seat with a hole. 

    And however awkward it might all be, it's not only debilitating but life threatening for Maxim to continue living like this without any medical intervention.  We thank God for preserving his life, but we are pressing in and asking (and I won't lie - crying) for a deep compassion to fall on those who hear his plight and to pray for him.  Truly pray for him.  It is all we are asking for tonight.

    Like your child was lost in the woods and you would scream for people to come help you find them- this is my heart cry right now.  It's why it's really hard to answer the question, how is he doing?  This is how he is doing.  And the fact that he can put a smile on his face does not make THIS any better.  Children who live in distress for long periods of time, may get used to living that way, but they DO NOT LIKE IT. 
    I found some appalling information about spina bifida and the history of how society has treated individuals born with this diagnosis.  This link is written by a grown man who is a survivor of having his spina bifida left untreated.    He speaks of a global plague.  We know it is not just an attack on spina bifida but on all who are viewed as weaker and costly to human convenience and pleasure.

    In Armenia, at the baby house where we adopted Jubilee from, tiny precious babies with heads so large lay crying in pain.  The pressure of the fluid continues to build but no shunt means death.  I asked the sister why this was happening.  She said, not all of the children will receive surgery.  But she could not explain why some would and others wouldn't.  Jubilee was one of the very blessed ones.   We know it is an incredible gift from heaven that Maxim must have a mild case of hydrocephaly as it often accompanies spina bifida of his severe degree. 

    I love that he smiles and I love that he sees the world with hope. I love that he hasn't given up. That his spirits are high tells me someone is feeding his heart. Someone is speaking to him. Someone is praying.

    We are in our last week of fundraising and advocating through Ten for Orphans.  For the month of October they have been spreading the word and sharing about our Maxim and Lucia in Ukraine.  I am asking that if you are reading this, will you pray for Maxim and Lucia before you leave this screen?  Will you leave a comment and let me know?  Will you share this link with a friend or bible study group?  I am shameless to cry out on their behalf.  If after prayer you are led to sow into our adoption of Maxim and Lucia you can go to Ten For Orphans to give.  

I rescued the poor who cried for help, and the fatherless who had none to assist them. Job 29:12

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

My Response to a Critic

really Tina do you think you can care for all of these kids?
They have some severe issues and the Ukraine is looking forward to dumping them off. So sad for your bio kids and the American children that lanquish in foster homes waiting to be adopted in the USA that you have turned your back on.
      - Anonymous

The response:

Dear  Anonymous:

    You might be my neighbor, my relative, an acquaintance, or a complete stranger.  You might smile to my face or avoid me when you see me coming.  But whoever you are, I want to thank you for speaking your words even if you could not reveal your identity to me.  I assume it is for reasons of fear that you do not feel comfortable letting me know.  Thank you for the opportunity to address you and I am sharing my response here because I think you are one of several who harbor feelings similarly.   At first, as I read these thoughts I nearly passed on determined not to let this become a distraction by an enemy but then I remembered something written in the Bible.

But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, 16 keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander. 17 For it is better, if it is God’s will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil.  1 Peter 3:15-17

   Anonymous, I do not address from a place of defense but from an angle of edifying my other brothers and sisters who are walking with me or who are just now hearing the Lord call on them to adopt.   I want to strengthen them and encourage them that while on this walk there will be those who will come against them and question their abilities and condemn them for loving children most do not.  I want them to know that days like this will come.  Days when everything seems to go wrong and you receive a report that your child is sick or dying- this will be the day that an email or message like yours will come to them.  And these are the days, they will need to know full well what they were called for and who sent them. 

You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Romans 5:6

11 In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. 12 Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. 13 Do not offer any part of yourself to sin as an instrument of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer every part of yourself to him as an instrument of righteousness. 14 For sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace.  Romans 6:11-14

  I do not believe that I am able to do all things in my own strength.  I do believe that I have been given every provision necessary to care for my children- the children God has entrusted to me and planned for me from before my very body was formed.  I am thankful to have experienced the joy of watching my biological children become transformed in His grace through the blessing of our adopted children with special needs.  Just coming off of a Mother/Son retreat this last weekend, I am refreshed in seeing the attributes my oldest biological sons carry because they have understood the difference between want and need.  They have seen those who have suffered and gone without.  They know that when they receive a gift- it is something to cherish.  They have learned to wait.  They have learned that in waiting- God will answer.  They have learned that perfection is not something to be seen with the naked eye but through the lens of mercy and grace.  While they have given up vacation times so their brother and sister could join our family- they have experienced an enlargement of the heart that only comes when we say no to pleasure for a temporary "high" and trade it in for joy that comes through love of acceptance of family.  My children, biological or not may only experience Disney World once in their life and they might be doomed to sales racks and second hand wear but my children will not suffer for loving more.

Therefore go and make disciples of all nations.  Matthew 28:19 

    My children were chosen not because of where they live.  If my children were in the U.S. foster system the Lord would lead me there.  I have also not turned my back on the children of Africa, China, South America, Russia, Haiti or any other place on the planet.  In fact, because I know we cannot care for every child, we have made it our mission to bless others and pray for others who are called to care for children in every part of God's world.  We do not hinder others by condemnation because they do not adopt from the same place as us.  We understand that all children are precious and therefore worthy of family and love.  I am so hopeful Anonymous, that because you have mentioned that we have turned our backs on the U.S. foster children, that it means your home is filled with them and that you are passionate in seeing them loved and cared for.  For this, I could only praise God more. 

    Anonymous, the irony of your message and the comment that Ukraine is eager to dump these kids on us is this-  I have walked this road before and have met up with some in Ukraine who actually believe that we Americans have no good motive for adopting their children.  Perhaps they think this because they do not see the future hopes that God has promised.  I have the experience of sneers of folks like you and sneers of those in Ukraine too- skeptical that love could be enough.  To this, I can only say that you are precious.  Your life is dear to God and you are priceless.  His love is so abundant it cannot be contained; it only grows.  So let us not limit God's love by location, or by what we think someone else should do, but let us be cheerleaders to one another who would be willing to run the race; those who understand that caring for the hurting, broken, the traumatized, the physically weak, is a marathon of grace to be ran in the power of Christ's word and with the fellowship of the body of Christ called the church. 

Redemption is too good to hinder others from experiencing.  Love too precious to withold.  Life too fragile to dismiss. 

Blessed are those whose strength is in you, whose hearts are set on pilgrimage. Psalm 84:5

12 Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 13 Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. 14 And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. Colossians 3:12-14

Friday, August 31, 2012

Kisses from My Father

As water reflects the face, so one’s life reflects the heart.     Proverbs 27:19
Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart. Jeremiah 1:5

He grew up before him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of dry ground. He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. Isaiah 53:2

The perfect son of our Abba Daddy in heaven,  revealed His majesty in flesh, but it would require faith to see it.

For I will pour water on the thirsty land, and streams on the dry ground; I will pour out my Spirit on your offspring, and my blessing on your descendants.          Isaiah 44:3
Daddy fills His children with LOVE.

He reached down from on high and took hold of me; he drew me out of deep waters. Psalm 18:16

    Daddy bends for us.  He sees us in our weakness and comes near.

The fearful heart will know and understand, and the stammering tongue will be fluent and clear. Isaiah 32:4
Daddy's love calms my heart and brings me peace.

There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear 1John 4:18

I can trust my Daddy because he wants me whole.

My beloved spoke and said to me, “Arise, my darling, my beautiful one, come with me. Song of Songs 2:10

how blessed you will be,
sowing your seed by every stream Isaiah 32:20


Friday, August 24, 2012

Minimal Maxim Confusion and Some "Weird" Talk

See the sweetie in the red shirt?  That's Maxim.  He's still in Ukraine and the little big man we are headed for.

See this handsome guy in blue?  That's Maxim.  He's here in my house and forever my son.
He used to live with the other Maxim in the institution in Torez.  He's 11 and its been 20 months now that he's been living his new life.

I wanted to touch on something that's not spoken to me much but I know it's a real thing and just recently Pat Robertson drove it home when he spoke of adopting children who were brought up "weird."  His word, not mine.  One of the greatest fears I have heard from families adopting is what if the new child does something to my existing children?  What if they require so much that we just can't handle?  (I am quite certain it is more than you can handle. God only calls you to things HE CAN REVEAL MORE OF HIMSELF IN. It was never about you.)

I have had the "weirdest" conversations of my life with an 11 year old.  Weird only because they are conversations you have more like with your 4 yr old or conversations you'd never imagine having, period.  Everything from why there are stoplights to why does my body want to rock when I get into bed?

There is one area that he is most challenged in particular that we've had to work through.  Maxim, you must ASK first!  He's broken many toys in his curiosity.  He's made some dangerous decisions like when he decided to dive headfirst from the trampoline onto the ground.  With a bloody face he didn't bother to come tell me as he didn't think it was a big deal or anything notable. Because of this we have had to set firm limits and remove some freedoms until he could remember to ask before doing something.  We've made good progress.

Without a doubt, Maxim has affected our other children.  They have had a first hand glimpse into the reality of what life is like for a child starting out a decade late in life from a "weird" place. (Thanks Pat!) And to tell you the truth, I don't think it's so bad.  They have had to have more patience than they've wanted to have.  They've had to slow down and wait at times.  I have often found Liam taking the time to teach on the simple things that I am sure he wouldn't have otherwise.  I hear "watch out" and "look where you are going" pretty often from both Holden and Liam as they have learned to keep their own eye closely observant.

Most certaintly sacrifice has been involved.  All great things take some sacrificing, don't they?  I know that anything I have ever really wanted to succeed at required time, patience and diligence and a giving up of what "I feel like."  I'm thankful that we didn't wait until our others were all grown up before we took our "chance" on adoption.  I'd hate for them to miss out on learning all about perseverance and prayer. 

The other night he was angry because he had not obeyed when it was time to get ready for bed.  When he becomes angry sometimes he shuts down and just stares.  His eyes will start to look glassy like I once knew and this is when I know we don't have our Maxim with us.  I didn't want to put him down to bed this way because I knew the rocking would start, being in the frame of mind he was.  Randy and I put the others to bed and had him with us in our room. 

After some fruitless attempts to get his attention, I did something I didn't plan to do.  I just started apologizing.  It went something like this:


I am sorry no one was there for you when you were scared.
I am sorry your birthparents could not take care of you.
I am sorry that you do not remember having birthday parties.
I am sorry that you were not able to go to school.
I am sorry that you did not have a doctor help you with your cerebral palsey.
I am sorry that your feelings were ignored.
I am sorry that you didn't have a family that loved you.
I am sorry that you felt hungry and thirsty.
I am sorry that you felt cold and lonely and scared of the storms at night with no one to comfort you.
I am sorry that no one taught you how to care for yourself.

Everytime I said each of these I paused and looked right into his eyes.
His body began to shake.  Not like a tremble of fear but more like a touch of the Holy Spirit.
The glass look in his eyes began to transform into soft brown yearning eyes.  He was drinking my words.  His spirit NEEDED them.  He didn't have a need to speak but he wanted to hear more.  Whatever I was saying, it was exactly the medicinal application he had longed for.

I continued.....


I love you so much.  Can you believe me when I say, I will never leave you? His eyes grew larger and he said emphatically, "I know you would never leave me."  I knew in my heart that these were not the words trying to please but words he could find immediately because it was truth to him.  "And Maxim, I love you so much, that I want you to learn all of the things that I would have taught you if I had been given the pleasure of having you since your were born." He replied, "I wish I would have learned all of it when I was little too. It's hard. I don't know why I do the things I do sometimes.  I just don't think."  I shared, "Sometimes you think you know, but you don't.  It's better to just ask than to not and find out you messed up."

"Mom, why do I keep rocking when I don't want to?"

                                            Grace at 17 months (size of a three month old)
 Rainan 12 months
And the following is what I shared with him (not the exact words):
Every baby was created to receive love.  When a baby is born they need a mom and dad to care for them.  They learn right away that when they cry because they are hungry, thirsty, startled, dirty, cold, or sick - that Love shows up to help them.  When Love shows up, the baby feels safe and special.  And when a baby experiences Love over and over, they know they can always expect that mom and dad will be there.  This is why Rainan was such a happy baby and why she knows what to do when she is sad or scared or hungry or anything that she needs.  She was learning trust not only in her Mom and Dad but in Love (God).
When a baby does not have Love show up when they have these feelings, they don't know what to do.  It makes them even more scared.  At some point, that little one desperate to locate comfort begins to shut off their feelings because it hurts too much.  Grace didn't rock like you.  She put her fingers on the metal screws in her orphanage crib and stared.  And when she came home she looked for anything metal and circle shaped to scoot up to and shut off.  When I tried to draw her away she shrieked and screamed for hours those first months.  Maxim looked at me in amazement.  "Grace did THAT?"  I went on, "It took a very long time for her to stop too.  She was used to it and it felt good to her, but it was NOT good for her.   I wish you didn't still rock sometimes in your bed, but I know why you do."  "Because I didn't have someone take care of me when I was scared." he replied. "I don't have to rock anymore because I have parents now and when I get scared I can just come to you at night.  Sometimes my brain wants to turn off and I have to tell it not to so I will come to you."
I share all of that with you because the trauma of neglect and lack of affection is very real.  Far beyond his special needs of cerebral palsey, truly the special need we work through the most is just understanding how people were knitted together in relationship.  When we remove relationship, compassion, affection, a sense of belonging - we have a weird upbringing.  We were created by God in love (God is love and we were created in His image.) to know how to recognize love, receive love, understand love, and to relate to one another in love.  When it is void, you are going to have confusion, loss, fear, pain and well- a "weird" upbringing. 
But what troubles me most about the word "weird" is that it turns the reality of millions of orphans in desperate need all over the world and sums it up as a freak show- an eyebrow raising, interesting topic.  It belittles, warps, and misrepresents the vastness of loss these children experience minute after minute, hour after hour, day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year.  How can we KNOW this and simply stop at a mere thought or discussion on the pathetic state our world is in?
God said, "I will not leave you as orphan. I will come to you." Yet oftentimes we are like those who walked by the man lying on the side of the road.  We have other things to do and we have every excuse as to why this is not our problem.  It wasn't our sin.  They live in another country so their people should take care of them.  And now we've got, they're WEIRD and not something I should have to take on.  God crossed every one of those lines for us because God can only move in truth and love.  If convenience, comfort or cost are reasons we stay at a standstill, then we have nothing to stand on.
Any word of sorrow about orphans void of action, is mere pity and I can tell you from the mouths of my own children they do not want your pity.  They want to experience love through touch, words of affection, food, shelter, clothing, prayer, dedication, teaching and equipping.  If I can believe the word of God to live it out loud, than I can be sure that any weird behavior or difficult painful thing my children present to me will be met with the Holy and Living God that dwells inside of me.  The sacrifice is to only flesh, but thankfully we were born of the Spirit!

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Rally for the Hidden One's

We just wanted to give you all an idea on where things are at in our adoption and fundraising.  This isn't the fun kind of post but we wanted to share how our fundraising is going, what our needs are, and where all funds are going.

We know there is no price on a life and that Maxim and Julia's value is priceless!!  They are true jewels and we pray that every dollar given cheerfully and with love is blessed and multiplied and that you are refreshed for how you have sewn into their lives. 

U.S. Costs:

Updated Home Study Fee: $900 PAID
USCIS I-600A: $720 PAID
Fingerprints: $85 x 3 = $255 PAID
Apostilles: $250 PAID

Total: $2,185 PAID


Documents (Sveta):
Translation, Certification, Submission of Dossier, and Communications with SDA regarding dossier, translation of finalized Ukrainian papers into English: $2500 x 2 = $5,000

Ukraine Facilitation (George):
Adoption translator to all required Ukrainian Adoption Authority appointments, institution visits, court appearances, arranging all accomodations, transportation, and taking care of small personal needs, meeting with local inspector in region, obtain final approval from Ukraine authority, court hearing, arrangement of medical exams and transport, travel to child's birthplace and obtaining of birth certificates, all notarizations, escort to US Embassy: $2500 x 2 = $5,000

Legal Fees:
Fees for notary documents certification, copies of all documents for different actors in the process, regional inspector assistance, orphanage documents/lawyer assistance, all taxes: court, documents, legalization, payments for tax code, passport, new birth certificates, legalization of court decision, documents for visa: $1,500 x 2 = $3,000

Total:  $13,000

Estimated Costs:
Court Fee: $800

Airfare: $1300 x 4 = $5,200 (conservative)

In-country Lodging =  $50 per day in region and $100 per day in Kiev = $2,500

Transportation in Country by Train = $600

Taxi/Personal Driver costs =  $500 (transports to children's birth towns)

In-Country Living expenses (food, toiletries, clothes for children, medicines,) =  $1,500
Medical/Visa = $800

Total: $11,500

What we have not budgeted for here is any additional medical needs that may arise due to the kids special needs.  For instance, we do not yet know of any additional airfare costs that may arise to accomodate them or any medical emergencies (that we do not expect).  This is also without the cost of a nurse or additional help to come along to help bring the children home.  Please also note that on the Ten For Orphan page and L2O page the goal we have set is for $35,000.  We did this factoring in the higher end of our estimates (what's listed here is conservative) and also those additional flight changes/costs and medical attendance.  Any funds raised that surpasses our needs will be deposited into Grace Haven's grant fund for another adoptive family.  From our experience of our other adoptions, there is usually some surprises that arise that are not expected so factoring in two with needs we pray $35,000 is accurate.

We also have no funds included here for immediate transport to the hospital in St. Louis for the kids.  All costs are adoption fee and transport only.

Over all TOTAL: $26,685
 Less fees already paid:  $24,500

Funds already raised: $9,461.06 

Less current raised funds: $15,038.94 is what we have left to raise

Please be looking for our online auction that will be starting August 26th at a new blog site thanks to Tabbitha Easley!!  If you would like to donate an item to be auctioned please contact her at  

We will also be starting an online Scentsy fundraiser for the month of September with 25% of the orders going to our adoption.  Thank you Shonda Zimmerman!

AND we will be holding a good ol' fashioned garage sale at our home still the date to be announced so if you have some gentle used items and would like to bring them we are taking now!!

AND we have been given a $500 matching grant opportunity that has not been matched yet! To give to our adoption and receive a tax deduction please go to

Most of all we thank those who have lifted our needs and our families needs during this time!!  We are rich in loving friends.


Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Bafflement: Another Adoption?

I want to be transparent. I want to be vulnerable in this way because I want it to be made known how and why we grow as we have. I dread the criticism really. I don't want to make our life up for debate but to remain silent doesn't bring any clearer insight into what motivates and moves us.

Most of the questions revolving around growing again involve ability. How will you do it? You have more patience than me! How do you afford all of those kids? What about your biological children- how do they feel? How do you travel? I can't believe you guys have a 15 passenger van! You drive a bus now!

I'm not offended by the questions - so if you ask them, don't worry. You aren't the first and won't be the last.

It's just that all of those questions don't even scratch the surface of all that is involved within Randy and my heart. It's simpler, yet much much deeper.

Life is not valued here where we live, on this planet. Money, fame, entertainment, pleasures, credentials, education, prestige, comforts, beauty.... These are esteemed.

People will kill for selfish gain.

Children will die.

It's not drama. No need to dramatize children laying in wait for someone to come to them. Someone to care. Does anyone care? Do I matter? Does God care about me? Who am I? Will I die here?

But Tina, ahem, it's all sweet and all that you care so much, but how are you going to care for so many? I mean really. Everyone has a limit!

Once you step out of the old mindset and into the new, the view changes. While society holds all kinds of standards, God's are quite different. The world says make sure you have your savings filled up, your kids college fund all set in stone, make sure you get your vacations and travels in because you need those! Once everything is lined up and perfect, then, you might see if you can add a child to the house. One you can care for and give a better life. Smells of achievement doesn't it?

While God wants us prepared he cares a whole lot more that our hearts be prepared than our savings account. Money can be provided, but what is needed more? The money to care for a child or the love to do it? In the end, the child still exists. Our decision not to adopt, not to reach out and help means there is another child dying.

Why can't our thinking change? Why don't we first say, I see pain, I see the brokenhearted. I will go to them.

Simple. It's not my calling to adopt one might say. True. Maybe. But I think a whole lot more than not are resting on that excuse.

God said to care for the least. He said to love one another as he has loved us. He loves with a selfless love. He loves first! Out of love, everything else will be motivated. Out of God's love, our love is ignited for the ones who have no voice. The one's hidden from our sight. We can't create love. All the money and fame in the world could not bring our hearts to break for the lost and dying. But the love of God will.

Pure love living in a tent with just enough is better than all the riches without love. Love prospers. Love compels more love. Love radiates truth. And what all humans long for more than anything else is to be recognized for who they are and valued. This is the foundation for all good change.

We have chosen to invest in people. The return is quite high. Actually, it's heavenly.

But you NEED money to live- let's be real here.

I am not saying that money is bad or that we should be poor to adopt. What I AM saying is that I am so saddened by such a loss of perspective us westerners really have. Even Christ following westerners who have bought into the lie that comfort comes first.

The barriers we place on a family before we think they can or should adopt is so SAD! To the child laying in waste, I assure you, they would long to be held with a meager meal than none at all.

But Tina, you need to live in reality. There will always be dying and starving children.

And as long as people choose to live out of that mindset instead of seeing what their own heart could do through Christ, there will always be justification for doing nothing.

Why deny ourselves the opportunity to LOVE MORE?

This is what truly baffles me.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Here we GO Again!


It's been difficult not to shout from the rooftops until now, but we are so thrilled to share our newest adoption journey to a certain spectacular (little) big man in Ukraine. Does he look familiar??

We first met Maxim in the summer of 2006 when we met our FIRST Maxim!! Two Maxim's...Hmmm there have been lots of discussions on this. In some ways it will make MY life easier calling out Maxim but I will have two responses so we are praying on what his new name might be.

Here's a photo of him praying at an Easter program. It's my favorite!! Oh how I cannot wait to see him here in our home and praying with his family. What a day that will be to rejoice in.

When we last saw him in late 2010 we were given permission to take photos of some of the things going on with him that would need to be addressed. I didn't know at that time it was going to be me sharing with a team of doctors at the Spina Bifida Clinic. That's exactly how it has turned to be as God made those connections effortlessly as we already go to them for Jubilee.

And really that's how God did it.... He reminded me of feeling overwhelmed as I spent time with Maxim. That as I took the photos to help him, I prayed for a family for him. To not fear, to not see the hurdles, but to see the boy, the gift, the future. I prayed but I myself was sure it was much. Having Jubilee enter our lives, understanding spina bifida better, I realize it is never about burden. She will NEVER be a burden to care for. Burden comes when grace is gone. And I know about that too.

There will be lots involved with Maxim's adoption. One of the considerations is how he sits. If you can see in the Easter photo they have to maneuver his legs to fit in the chair and he can not sit for long periods of time due to the prolapse. When you see him sitting on the floor you can see too that his legs spread. The prolapse and spread legs are considerations when we plan transporting him.

We are so THANKFUL to Life2Orphans and Alexander, the director for how supportive they have been. Life2Orphans has a fund growing for Maxim as the costs will be a bit higher we expect. We are currently working with L2O on identifying a nurse to travel with us and some creative ways in flying him to America.

Ten For Orphans first sent the call out to support Maxim in April and we cannot tell you how our hearts exploded to see so much advocacy for him. We have now told all of the important family members who needed to hear first before we sent out the broadcast!

You can donate and see more advocacy and fundraising at

I know so many of you have prayed for him and unknowingly been praying for Randy and I as you prayed for his family. It's been such a blessing to know this and we have felt those prayers. As always we also lift up the many adoptive families we know who are in process of bringing their child home. Please pray about supporting a family! We have some families at that you can double your gift through a match.

“The LORD will keep you from all harm— he will watch over your life; the LORD will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore.” Psalm 121:7-8 NIV

Oh that he uses us as we worship him...It's so beautiful!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

The LORD is known by his acts of justice. Psalm 9:16

How do you discern who tells the truth? When everything is swirling how do you peek in and make sense of the chaos?

The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom; all who follow his precepts have good understanding. Psalm 11:10

The LORD confides in those who fear him; he makes his covenant known to them.
Psalm 25:14

I've learned that the loudest voice is not the most trustworthy one. I have also learned that the biggest crowd isn't reliable. The closer I try to peek in, in my tight squint, I realize I have to be careful that I am not looking for fault. Instead, truth comes to me when I am looking at what is good and what is right.

When I worship Him in His truth of who He is, leaving behind all of my thoughts or concerns, I hear Him speak and it is soft and beautiful and it is gentle and holds peace. I am not left feeling angry because I know He is in control of what He spoke to my heart. If I looked to Him in that truth and if I did not seek to prove a thing, than I can rest that what I don't know right now, will soon be made known.

I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. John 15:15

What are they saying? How are they speaking?

Jesus began to speak first to his disciples, saying: “Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy. 2 There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known. 3 What you have said in the dark will be heard in the daylight, and what you have whispered in the ear in the inner rooms will be proclaimed from the roofs.

4 “I tell you, my friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more. 5 But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear him who, after your body has been killed, has authority to throw you into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him. 6 Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God. 7 Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows. Luke 12:1-7

When the crowd gathers, is it in a spirit of unity, leaving self behind, for the sake of what Christ is doing? Or is that crowd bringing self to circle where gossip, innuendo, and accusation rule? Does anger reign or tears for righteousness? Does prayer join them or scheming?

If you had known what these words mean, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the innocent.
Matthew 12:7

I took the picture above when it was completely dark outside. Amazes me how that little flash of the camera reveals so much.