What’s Making Me Smile

I have about 3,462 things I could write about today, but I’m a bit overwhelmed by that thought. I could write about the plans for this summer (it’s gonna be a doozy), or the progress on the Homestead (also a doozy), or about Sara our wonderful massage therapist friend who is visiting (I won’t call her a doozy ’cause that just seems weird…), or about the fact that school is almost out (now that has been a doozy). But instead I decided to write about what is making me smile right now. Because I want to. The doozies can wait.

(“Doozy” is a really strange word when you really think about it)

THINGS THAT ARE MAKING ME SMILE:

Podcasts.  Everyone who has talked to me in the past several months has probably discovered my love/addiction to podcasts. I feel like I’m constantly trying to share my podcast recommendations with friends because I so want them to learn to love podcasts like I do. I love a good podcast! I download them and listen while I walk the dog, while I’m on the bus, while I’m walking to wherever I’m walking (if I’m kidless), while I wash the dishes, while I clean the house. I felt kinda burned out on the music I’d been listening to so I started podcasting. Now I can’t stop! Here are a few of my favorites if you want to join me in the podcast love.

  1. The Daily Audio Bible. We’re still going strong on our daily Bible reading with good ol’ Brian. We listen to the Old Testament during breakfast, and the New Testament in the evening after dinner. I love the rhythm it brings to our life right now in all the crazy.
  2. This American Life. They have interesting stories every week that grab my attention. Sometimes I learn new stuff and sometimes I’m just entertained.
  3. God Centered Mom Podcast. This one is encouraging and informative. It helps me be a more intentional mom.
  4. Two Fat Expats. LOVE IT. Two Australian women host this podcast about the expat life. They talk about all sorts of things from boarding school to keeping long distance friendships alive to social media and the expat child…tons of interesting and applicable info for expats of any sort. Plus they make me laugh. 🙂
  5. The Podcast With Knox and Jamie. This one is just purely for the laughs. I laugh out loud every single episode, which can make things kind of awkward if I’m listening on the bus! Knox and Jamie talk about random pop culture stuff and it’s just stinking’ funny. Their episode about misheard song lyrics is the ultimate. I think I love this podcast because it’s just a little taste of America when I’m so far away. FUNNY.

There are many more I listen to that I could add to that list, but those are the ones that are making me smile right now.

Sara. Okay, I know I said I wasn’t going to write about Sara, but I just have to. Sara makes our whole family smile countless times every day. She is just full of joy and life and spirit and God did an amazing thing when he joined our hearts together.

If you don’t remember Sara you can read about her in this post. She came here two years ago, never having met us before, and spent a few weeks teaching massage at Romaniv. The work she did was beautiful and incredibly meaningful to the boys and they had been consistently asking for her since she left. We are so happy she’s back for the whole month of May! She is working at Romaniv Monday through Friday, and when she’s not at the institution she is loving our family and making us laugh non-stop.

18527701_798967526925788_8194740046669449147_n

In the mornings at Romaniv Sara is teaching the interns specific massage techniques for the individual boys on each of their caseloads, and then she is spending the afternoons massaging the older boys. It’s not just a physical work that she does, although that is important and super healthy for the boys, it’s also a spiritual work. Before the massage and during the massage Sara is praying over the boys. There is peaceful music playing and lovely essential oils. The Sensory Room becomes an oasis of peace for each boy who enters. During their massage they get attention and love and dignity. They are told in that time that they are special, that they are beautiful, that they matter. It’s an important work that I believe is truly life-changing for the boys.

Thank you dear Sara. We love you!

The New Floors at the Homestead. I LOVE how the house is turning out! The downstairs floors were finished last week and they are bringing me loads of joy. They are beautiful and they brighten up the room. I absolutely adore how the house is coming along. Yay! We might be able to move in at that beginning of June. Now that’s something to smile about!

18447251_798290336993507_7785890731067151992_n18528007_798290343660173_307777696051916446_n

Dance Class. Oh my word. Romaniv Dance Class makes me smile from ear to ear. I wish with all of my heart that you could each come visit our class. You would leave changed forever.

A couple of months ago one of our team members, Olya, Addy and I started doing a Friday afternoon dance class with the higher functioning boys at the institution. They love and it and we love it equally as much- maybe even a little more! We gather in the sports room with our music and water bottles and white t-shirts and socks and dance our hearts out. There’s this one part of the class when we all sit down and each boy takes a turn dancing solo in front of all of us. You guys, it is the best thing EVER. I seriously want to bottle up those moments and treasure them for the rest of my life because they are just so darn precious!  To see the boys so free and alive, it’s just incredible. We conga line till we’re exhausted and it’s the highlight of my week.

18221807_793544240801450_8082606812725641523_nfullsizeoutput_5c6218301981_793544297468111_7940550839932927122_n

Honestly, there is a lot that is hard about our lives and work here in Ukraine right now. Sometimes Jed and I look at each other and we wonder out loud if we are going to spend the rest of our lives fighting, or if there will ever be a time when we can just rest. We get weary of fighting for the boys, fighting injustice, fighting broken systems that are designed to beat people down, fighting corruption, fighting heaviness in the culture, fighting to do things that have never been done before. Fighting and fighting and fighting. It’s wearisome, folks. But then we have to choose to lift our eyes up and see all the joy.  There is also a ton that is going right. There is evidence all over the place that God has his mighty hand on this work and that He is going before us. And of course there’s no question that the boys are worth fighting for! But we have to choose to see those things that are right and good. Today I choose joy. I choose to look around me at all the things- big and small- that God has given that make me smile. So.many.things.

So, Happy Wednesday!  What is making you smile today?

 

 

 

Advertisements

UNBELIEVABLE.

I am in awe. My heart is so full it’s about to burst.  

Another one of our boys will soon have a family!!!

I.CAN’T.BELIEVE.IT.

Last March we introduced you to 7 of our boys who were available for adoption in this post, and this post.  I held my breath and hit the publish button, wondering what God planned to do about it.  For many months it seemed that nothing was going to happen.  And then all of a sudden…BAM! The families started rollin’ on in!  We now have FOUR families in process to adopt our boys!

Like I said, I.CAN’T.BELIEVE.IT.

God loves our boys so much!

First Vladik was set free, 

 

then a wonderfully brave family found Alex,  

then a family saw Jonathan and knew he was theirs, IMG_2512

then Ben’s family fell in love,  

 and now Isaiah’s family has found him!
  

I can’t even tell you how much this builds our faith.  We love these boys like they are our own, and we know that adoption will save their lives.  Literally.

The gates of the institution are about to be busted wide open! 

As long as everything moves smoothly, the families should be adopting one after the other in a pretty small window of time.  This is so good!  It’s great for the local government to learn that there are people who love these boys and see their value.  It is also great for us as we work toward opening our group homes and deinstitutionalizing the other boys.  People’s eyes will be opened and we pray that God does His miraculous work in the hearts of government officials in the town. It’s just unbelievable. 

Please pray for the four families who are in process.  All of them are private at this point, but as soon as I am able to introduce you to them you can bet I will.  If you would like to give them a note of encouragement just send it to me and I’ll pass it along.  

To God be the glory for the great things HE has done!!!  

PS: Now only two adoptable boys are left!  I’ll spend the next two Fatherless Fridays on Aaron and Stephan.  My faith is big right now, what about yours?  

IMG_0032IMG_0028

Offended by the Goodness of God

Here are some reflections from Jed. Warning: extreme passion ahead.  I hope you can read this with an an open heart to what the Father wants to say to you.

Church songs are great, right?

  
The lyrics pick us up in hard times, they carry us through the week and we are so glad to have the simple melody and words to express an emotion to God.  
Or, they comfort our broken heart: songs of His goodness, faithfulness, love and on and on.  
We’re walking through Gap whistling the tune, “You make all things work together for my good,” as you find your favorite pair of jeans on sale. The person in front of you buys your drink at Starbucks, “Hallelu,Hallelu, Hallelu.u.Yah.” Ok, that might be a bit off topic. 🙂

Good stuff.
Have you ever had a moment when a dear friend shares the depths of pain as a relationship crumbles, or the newsfeed reads of another child dying while escaping a war torn country, and all of the sudden those worship lyrics start to fall flat?  
For us there is the oh-so-often overwhelming sense that there is not enough time or hands to give each of our boys the time they need. And even when we do get time and have plenty of hands, we still have to return them to their extremely traumatic lives.

  

The religious prose no longer feel robust enough to contain the suffering caused by human injustice. 
You might find yourself saying, as we find ourselves saying “These lyrics don’t ring true. God, you certainly don’t seem like a good, good father. Where are you????”
Or, maybe you’ve been on a missions trip and when you came home you could barely stand under the weight of western excess in light of the severe poverty witnessed afar. Perhaps you found yourself slamming your fist down, “God, how can you allow this injustice?! This inequality! Why have you forgotten those lovely people?”
“I can’t sing these songs to you God.” You may have even felt some bitterness swelling up in your chest. Dare I say, Doubt…?

Well, if you are brave enough to sit with these feelings for a spell and not ‘numb out’, not head back to the mall or app store to ‘buy out’, you may hear God speak his answer to these questions that haunt our faith.

Think of the story of worship leader Kevin Prosch, who met God in the closet his dad locked him in and learned to play the guitar and worship in the midst of the abuse.  
Or, think of the miracle tree growing in the midst of a shanty in the garbage dumps of Nicaragua that provides medicine for the family living there.
Or think of our boys and their amazing capacity to love, despite their circumstances.  
God speaks. Are we brave enough to listen?

But, maybe you need more than testimony. Perhaps you still can’t reconcile the goodness of God.  

This is me, by the way.
 
But are you still brave enough to sit with these questions, these accusations…?  
Most aren’t.  

Many have quietly walked away from God, shaking their heads.
“I’ve just got too many unanswered questions,” is the statement as they make their curtain call from church community. In that case, there is a world waiting with open arms to receive your weary soul, clinking glasses, “Three cheers for one less fool, duped by faith.”

My dear cousin Brett sat outside of the garbage dump in Nicaragua, having seen the immensity of inequality and suffering caused by poverty. But then he noticed the healing tree I mentioned earlier, and he saw the comfort siblings were able to provide their dying baby brother.
As he held these accusations out to God, “How are you working all things together for their good…? How are you perfect in all of your ways?” God met him and said, “You equate my goodness with material wealth and well-being. But goodness looks far greater than what you deem as good. You don’t get to define me and my goodness. You won’t see all that I do for my people and don’t assume that my “lack of material provision” means that I am unmoved by their suffering.”

  

As Kim and I sit in the midst of suffering with our boys, we hear God say, “I am so near to these precious ones. Their capacity to love comes from my nearness to them, despite all that this world has done to their bodies. I am holding them close.”

Yesterday, I was reflecting on this while watching Cousin Brett sing songs with my boys, who were rocking, singing, clapping, crying, screaming, self-harming or off in their own world. 
A thought came to me, maybe a revelation. When time wraps up and we stand before God we will see the truth. We will see how He has been with each of us in our highest joys and our deepest suffering. We will see His goodness, the way He defines it, for everyone, and we will say “God, you are righteous and just in all of Your ways.”  
And at that point some real worship is gonna go down.

Until that day comes, we have some great words in the book of Psalms to help us process, petition and bring our accusations to God. Psalms is a book in the Bible where the writer rages at the sight of injustice, pours his heart out in the places of pain and loss, and at the end of the day he still has a price on his head and a heart full of love.
Maybe Psalms and all its honesty and sometimes offensive accusations might be a little more helpful than quoting pop church songs, when we’re struggling through life’s deep questions. God is not surprised by our questions, nor is He offended by them.  
Maybe that big book in the corner needs a little dusting off.  

About a Boy, and His Love

Do you remember back in January when I came to you with a desperate plea for one of our darling boys who was absolutely wasting away?  I wrote about him here.  We, and the orphanage staff feared for his life.  He was dying before our eyes.  At that time I asked for a family to please step up and adopt him, but then shortly after that post, issues with his documents made him unavailable for adoption.  We mourned that loss of opportunity, but still, God had his way with that post and hundreds of people contacted us, letting us know they were faithfully praying for our sweet Danya.  

Today I want to encourage you and let you know that your prayers have not been in vain!

 

“To the world you may be one person, but to one person you may be the world.”

-Unknown

Meet Mira.

 

Mira first came into our lives when our local Ukrainian church’s discipleship school began to volunteer for Wide Awake.  Wide Awake was the “outreach” portion of their discipleship training, so we instantly had 12 volunteers every week at Romaniv!  Mira was on the team.

Romaniv is a pretty extreme place.  The whole team faithfully served there for this whole past school year whether they liked it, loved it, or…didn’t really enjoy it at all.  We could never thank them enough.  They have been the hugest blessing to our lives!!  Most of the team members had no idea places like Romaniv, and people like our Boys even existed in their country, so hidden is Romaniv from society.  Serving at a mental institution isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, and that’s okay!  But for a few of the team members it was completely life-altering.  Mira was one of those people.

The discipleship school ended a few weeks ago, and still many (most!) of the team members come to Romaniv every chance they get.  In between university exams they’ll squeeze a visit in, filling up our boys’ love cups, and getting their own filled in return.  They are pretty much the best group of teens I have ever known.  I wish I could have been half as cool at that age.  😉

Mira never EVER misses a trip to Romaniv.  During every day of Romaniv day camp, she was there.  Every day of the German medical team’s visit, she was there.  She is just always there.   And she is making a difference.

 

IMG_2210 

 You see, our sweet Danya loooooooves Mira.  And the feeling is quite mutual.  Over the past month or so Mira has been at Romaniv almost every single day, and the changes we have seen in Danya over that time have been nothing short of miraculous!

Mira is not a therapist.  She’s not a medical professional.   She’s just an 18 year old college student with a fierce love for one small boy.

 

IMG_2207 

IMG_2208 

IMG_2213

When she is at Romaniv Danya gets her whole self.  He gets her hugs, her tickles, her eye contact.  They walk together, they run together, they smell flowers together and feel the grass together.  They sit together and rock together.  Mira truly SEES Danya, and Danya comes alive.  His heart is so ready to accept her love, and her heart is being changed in the process.  It is a miracle for them both, and all glory goes to God.

Danya in January, and Danya last week 🙂

I think that sometimes we humans operate under the thought that unless we can do something “big” that is noticeable by a lot of people, and impacts large populations that it’s not important.  I think we miss so many opportunities for love while searching for the next “big thing”.  Me too!

What about the people right in front of us?  What if there is one person out there that is desperate for someone to truly SEE them and your eyes are just the ones equal to the task?  They don’t necessarily need someone more qualified or smarter or more important.  Maybe they just need you- to walk together, smell flowers together, sit together…just BE together.  Maybe.

I know one boys whose life is literally being saved by that kind of love.

Praise God for His never-stopping love for our Danya.  Praise God that He knew just what Danya needed, and praise God that Mira said, and keeps saying YES.

One foot in front of the other, Friends.  One YES at a time, with eyes wide open, with hearts Wide Awake

“I am only one, but I am one.  I cannot do everything, but I can do something.  And because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do the something that I can do.”  -Edward Everett Hale

Mira and Danya from Wide Awake International on Vimeo.

*Please keep praying for Danya.  He still has far to go, but as you can see, he’s on the right track!   THANK YOU!

Revisiting Yes.

A couple weeks ago at church a young guy came up to me that I’d never met before.  He spoke some English and wanted to try out his skills, so we chatted for a bit.  He said “I heard you guys work at the orphanage for sick children and now you will take one of them home to be your son!”  I said yes, he was correct that we are in the process of adopting one of our Boys and then proceeded to proudly show him lots and lots of pictures of our special boy on my phone.  As soon as he saw the pictures his face fell.  He was obviously a little shocked, and obviously a little confused at my proud exclamation of how sweet and cute and special our boy is.

Then he asked the question that I’m sure many have wanted to ask, but so far no one else has been brave enough to utter:

“Why?  Why would you do this?  I don’t understand.  Why?????”

I paused for a second, happy that he had the guts to say what was really on his mind, because it was definitely written all over his face. 😉  I answered with the simple truth:

“Because we love him, God asked us to, and we said yes!”

It’s a simple truth, but there is a lot more behind it, a lot more led up to it, and there is a lot more weight that goes along with it.

This adoption yes was not a simple yes.  Much prayer, many tears, many conversations and sleepless nights led to this yes. In fact, many years of “yeses” led to this yes.

I remember in 2010 when our Ukraine story first began.  We knew that God was asking us to say yes to adopting a little boy from Ukraine with multiple special needs.  Oh boy, that was a hard yes to come to.  There was nothing simple about that.  We had always been open to adoption.  We were fostering our Seth at that time and were really hoping we would be able to adopt him.  Adoption and orphan care was important to us!  But I always said I could never adopt a child with a disability.  No way!!!   Willingly take on a child that would remain a child for life?  Knowingly adopt a child that would never live alone and would need my care for all their life?  Give up the dream of retiring someday with Jed and traveling the world together (child-free!)?  Heck no!  Are you crazy????  Who would do that??????  That would be so hard!  I guess some people are meant for that life, but not us.

Oh how the times have changed…hehe

IMG_6492

IMG_1252

I remember back in those days, praying about that certain boy who needed a family.  I couldn’t get his face out of my mind. I  couldn’t forget him, even if I wanted to.  I began to rethink my reasons for saying no to him.  The more I examined my line of reasoning the more my argument sounded rather lame.  All my reasons for saying no were because I wasn’t willing to lay down my life and my comfort.  I really, reeeeeeeally like to be comfy.  Oh I love comfy clothes, comfy socks, comfy shoes (no heels here!), comfy hoodies, comfort foods, comfy chairs, a comfortable salary, a comfy house, friends I can be super comfy with.  And most of all I love a comfy future.  I like to know what’s coming and I like to like what I know is coming.  I don’t like things that make me uncomfortable- like exercise, hard manual labor, and things that are out of my control.

Misha H.

Saying yes to adopting a child with severe disabilities is the exact opposite of comfy.  It’s inviting stress and pain and hard work and expenses and a lot of “out of control” moments into my life.

BUT,

God doesn’t call us to lives of comfort.  He doesn’t call us to lives of free and easy living where happiness and security are the ultimate goal.  He says to us “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Matt. 16:24-26)

Friends, living a “chasing-comfort” life is no life at all.  Jesus says that the only way we can save our own lives is to give them up for Him. That’s not a call to comfort- it’s a call to sacrifice.  There’s just no way to put it lightly.  Once I considered what Jesus was willing to do for me, how could I say no to a little one so in need, in order to tend to my own comfort?  Ick.

IMG_7033

That original adoption didn’t work out, but you probably know that that is what God used to turn our hearts to Ukraine.  And here we are now, saying yes to our special boy.

Please hear me.  I am soooooo not talking down to you right now.  I am not the pro at sacrificing my comfort- just ask my husband and kids.  I fail at it all the time.  I’m still learning and I thank God for his patience with me.

The thing is, now I see what I almost turned down in favor of my comfort.  I see it in the form of our most precious boys at Romaniv.  I see it in my Dima as he sits on a plywood bed, foot tied to the slats to keep him from falling off.  I see it in my Misha when he cries, so unaccustomed to human touch that a hand on his shoulder is too much to bear.  I see it in my other Misha who has lived at Romaniv since 1987 in one single hallway, his world shrunk by injustice.  I look into the faces of my precious boys who I love like my own children and I mourn how their lives have been stolen from them for the sake of others’ comfort.  I know these boys.  Over and over again I wish I could sit down with you and just tell you all about each of them. They are AMAZING.

IMG_7235

Misha T. (2)

IMG_1141

How could we say no to them in favor of ourselves?  The world has said no to them over and over and over to the point where almost no one even knows of their existence.  It’s just not right.

I usually prefer to keep this blog upbeat, but today I’m calling you out.  I’m asking you to set your comfort aside for the sake of the yes.  This life is not all that there is.

There are boys who sit on wooden slats and never feel the grass on their feet or the sun on their face. Their lives are void of all comfort.  

There are people being sold into slavery for the pleasure of others. No comfort to be had there.

There are children sleeping on county office floors because there is no foster family to take them in.  No mommy and daddy to comfort them when they cry.

What will you do with your yes?  Will you pick up your cross?  Will you sacrifice your life for the One who gave His whole life for you?  Will you see past your comfort and your 401k dreams and your comfy couch and rise up?  We can do something about these injustices!  We must do something.  

Vladik W.

IMG_1029

Your yes means something.  It may mean everything to the someone who needs it, the someone sitting on a plywood bed.

The friend from church, the one who asked us why we would do this crazy adoption thing?  He said yes and visited our boys with us the next week.  As we were riding home in the car he said: “I spent the morning with the boy you are adopting.  Now I see!  I see why you would love him.  He is great!  He is so smart!  He is just…..great!!”

There is so much joy in the yes.  What will you do with yours?

*Several of our boys need adoptive families who will say yes to them.  Would you pray about that yes?  You can read more about those boys here and here.