A Christmas Wish: Meet Boris and Vladik

MERRY CHRISTMAS!!

We are having a cozy day at home, just the six of us.  We’re cuddling in, eating yummy food, playing with toys,sipping coffee.  It’s perfect.

Today, on this glorious day, I have just one Christmas wish.  Today I have a wish that all of our Boys at Romaniv would be truly seen.  I have a wish that they would be seen by many as the beautiful souls that they are.

When I first met our Boys all I could see was their outward appearance.  I saw the filth, the snot, the vomit, the disabilities, the deformities.  I smelled the stench.  My ears were full of the awkward noises.  I knew God had called us to give our lives to these Boys, so I prayed that He would help me to see/smell/hear past all that.

And He did!

That was then.  Now, when I see our Boys I see Boris, Slavik, Yaroslav, Misha, Valera, Orhan, Irakli, Ivan, Dima, Andrei, Seriozha, Vova, Zhenya, Vitya, Vladik, Ilya, and Danya.  I see friends.  I see my babies.  I see my treasures.  When I hear the awkward noises they mean something to me.  They are cries of joy or yells of anger or first babbles or moments of sadness and pain.  They are not inappropriate noises now.  They are communication.  They are voices I love.  I’m not gonna lie, I still smell the stench 🙂  Hehe…I’m only human…that’s for stinkin’ sure.  (pun intended)

My Christmas wish is that today you, and many many more will see our Boys as individuals worthy of dignity and love.  I know that if people will really look- past the differences and into the eyes, they will see.  They will see our Boys as they were meant to be seen; as children of God.

And if you really see, then you will never be the same. I’m changed forever for having known them.

So, will you take a Christmas moment and meet my friends?  You won’t be sorry.  🙂

 

 

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ROMANIV DAY CAMP: A Week in Pictures

Last week was a very special week!  We had a week-long day camp at Romaniv orphanage! For the older, higher functioning boys the staff of Mission to Ukraine does a full-on VBS type camp for them with games, snacks, crafts, and lessons about Jesus.  They had Olympic games, opening and closing ceremonies complete with the Ukrainian flag and National Anthem, and LOADS OF FUN.

Since the doors to Romaniv were open to us all week we just had to take advantage of it and spend some special time with our Boys in Isolation.  Our boys could not handle, nor participate in a camp like the bigger boys, so we decided to spend the week taking small groups of boys aside each day in order to have some more intentional interactions with them.  It was AMAZING.  It was like a dream to be able to be with them one on one, to see them every day, to give them the individual attention they need.  Woohoo!

I shared a small glimpse of each day on the Wide Awake Facebook page, but I know many of you aren’t on FB.  Plus, there were sooooo many wonderful pictures to share- totally deserving of a big fat blog post.  Here you go!  I’m just cutting and pasting the FB blurbs and then you can see the pics of that day following the blurb.  Mmmmk?

ROMANIV DAY CAMP, DAY 1: I can’t even express the joy that was today. We decided for the Isolation Room kiddos we would use this week to focus on one-on-one interactions with the boys. So each day we will be taking a group of 5 boys aside and interacting with them more intentionally.

The Directors gave us the use of the sensory room and it was like heaven. Today we heard the first laughs ever (for us) from two of our boys. Big, hearty, belly laughs that we didn’t even know they had inside them. It was like hearing your baby’s first laugh- PURE JOY. These boys are growing and changing. It’s miraculous. Praise God for His love that never fails!!!

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B loves the weighted blanket.

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…and he also loves the ball pit!

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Lesa helped us with the boys on Monday and Tuesday with her 14 year old son Igor. They were awesome. We were so happy to meet them!!

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Sweet S is out of his wheelchair!!!!

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Look at all that eye contact! And a smile!!!!! A few months ago we would have never dreamed smiles like this would be possible from V.

ROMANIV DAY CAMP, DAY 2

Today we fell in love… again. 

It started out a bit rough, with miscommunication and WAAAAAY too many boys with high needs in too small of a space. Ha! We really want the Sensory Room to be a safe place, and boys were stressed and self-harming, so we had to act fast. We switched boys in and out till we has the right mix, and then had a super great time.

Yuroslav, oh sweet boy. He rarely joins us on our Friday visits, content to sit outside in the hall calling out “Mama! Papa!” every so often and sucking his thumb. Today we learned he is strong and he LOVES to play ball. It’s awesome to have the time to connect with the harder-to-reach boys. We can observe them closely and try different ways to make that human connection.

Two days down, three more to go!

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Misha is blind and he loves music. He ADORES music.

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Did I mention music makes him very happy? 🙂

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ROMANIV DAY CAMP, DAY 3: 
Today was interesting and different and goooood. When we arrived, we learned it was “bath day”. We didn’t know, since we never go there on Wednesdays. So, we first waited for baths to be done. It was pouring down rain outside and when we asked the caregivers if we could take a few boys to the other building to the Sensory Room after bath time they WERE NOT having it.  So, we winged it! 

We brought all the boys together and basically did what we normally do on Fridays. At first the caregivers said we could only have one hour with them because they needed to clip their nails and such (remember, it’s Bath Day), but once we got going they relaxed and let stay for the whole time. 

There was some great connection time with several of the boys. Zhenya even fell asleep in my lap! Happy sigh…  We got to connect with a caregiver we had never met before and ease her load for a couple of hours. All in all it was a very sweet time. Thank you for your prayers and encouragement. Pray we have a dry day tomorrow so we can visit the Sensory Room again! Thanks  

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Christina and Maks got to come help on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday. This was Maks’ first time to Romaniv. Thank you dear friends!

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Zhenya loves a good cuddle. 🙂

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ROMANIV DAY CAMP, DAY 4: 
Today was a day of hopes fulfilled, and dreams dreamed.  

The sun was out so we got to take a few boys to the Sensory Room! There were 4 boys in particular we were hoping to work with today and lucky us, the caregivers were like “Go for it! Take whoever you want! Take them all!” Ha! We took our 4, plus sweet Yuroslav and Valera for extra cuteness sake.

We had amazing interactions with two of the boys we brought. They are usually very medicated and they sleep a lot. During our time in the Sensory Room they were alive! They smiled and giggled and responded very well. Just what we had hoped for!

The other two boys are always highly medicated and distant. They don’t interact with others at all. Unfortunately we were not able to break through to them today. Their bodies were in the room, but their minds were far away. We have much work to do before we can connect with them in a meaningful way. We dream of that day- the day we truly see who they are. 

We are not discouraged. We are hopeful! We are thankful for an open Director who cares, willing and cooperative caregivers, those who have paved the way for this work. and most of all for a God who is bigger. NO ONE is beyond His reach! One step at a time…

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Misha was not so sure about the swing at first…then promptly fell asleep.

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Valera loves stuffed animals of all kinds. He is so sweet.

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Hahahahahaha

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Orhan does so well with a weighted vest. He is making good gains these days, learning to be less aggressive…one step at a time…

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Z needs to taste everything

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Oooooh it makes noise!

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Tasting the puzzle…

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Leaning in for the cuddle…

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So sweet…

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Ha! Unexpected kiss! Hahaha

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We had hoped to connect with these sweeties, but they are unreachable right now- locked inside themselves. We’re praying for wisdom in how to help them. Pray with us!

ROMANIV DAY CAMP, DAY 5:
Today was the end of a wonderful week spent with Our Boys. Almost all the boys got to go outside to spend some time in the sun and it was WONDERFUL. Their faces lit up when they saw the team arrive for another day. Like “You guys are here AGAIN???” It’s awesome to see them begin to walk, scoot, and crawl to the door when we arrive, hoping they get to go out to play for a bit. 

Today after camp all the volunteers, the staff of Mission to Ukraine, and a couple of the orphanage staff went to a park for a picnic. We celebrated the wonderful strides that have been made this past year, and began to dream of the work that is yet to be done.

Our dreams are BIG. We dream of each boy having an occupation- a way to spend his time, a way to contribute to the world around him. We dream of the Boys serving each other in greater ways; we dream of boys learning to read, learning to walk, learning to speak. Mostly we dream of a place for the boys to be where they can know the love of their Father God through the love of a family. I could go on and on. 

One day at a time, one boy at a time, one YES at a time. Thank you for sharing in the journey! Today, wherever you may be, may you live this day Wide Awake- ready for the next YES that lies before you.

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Sergey got to come help on Monday, Thursday, and Friday. I can’t even tell you what a wonderful servant he is. Sergey KNOWS the boys well and he loves them very much. Thank you Seriozha!!!

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Our wonderful Nina got to come on Friday!!! Every single boy loves Nina. She has the biggest heart and such a wonderful, peaceful way with them. Thank you Nina!!!

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At the closing ceremonies. Our hope for Ukraine is in God alone. He knows and He cares. 🙂

Our dear friend Olya, from Kyiv, came to stay with our family Monday through Wednesday so Jed and I could both be at Romaniv those days.  On Thursday I went, and Jed stayed home with the kids, and then on Friday Jed went and I stayed home.  We both really wanted to be at the picnic on Friday, so wonderful Dima, the driver for MTU, drove the kids and me out to Romaniv on Friday to meet the team and go to the picnic together.

Our kids have been longing and dreaming of visiting Romaniv.  They hear about the boys all the time.  They see their pictures almost daily.  These boys have become a huge part of our lives and our kids were dying to meet them in person.  We haven’t gotten permission yet for Addy and Ezra to visit the boys with us on Fridays, but we feel like they are ready (Hava and Seth are too young).  I wasn’t so sure before- I was afraid Addy and Ezra would be frightened, we didn’t know the boys as well.  But they have been asking more and more, so Friday was a good chance to give them a little taste of Romaniv to see what they thought.

Dima drove us to Romaniv and I told the kids if the team wasn’t quite finished and if they were still inside we would ask the caregivers if we could come inside to see the boys just for a minute.  You would have thought we had backstage passes to the concert of a lifetime they were so excited!

When we arrived the team was still cleaning up, so I took the kids to the Isolation building.  They were immediately greeted by the boys who were outside and I was so proud of them!  They looked the boys in their eyes and shook their hands- even Hava and Seth!  They looked a little unsure, but not really afraid.  Then Addy and Ezra came inside the building and got to meet several of the boys inside.  They knew them from the pictures and they were OVER THE MOON to meet them!  You could see they were excited, but also nervous.  I mean, it’s a big sensory experience even for adults, so I thought they did really well.  The boys can look kind of scary, it’s super stinky, but they both really loved it.  They have been begging to go back, so we just need to pray and ask God what He has in store for our kids at Romaniv.  I hope soon they can be joining us regularly.  It’s part of who they were created to be!

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Addy and Seriozha. His face lit up when he saw her. I wonder when he last saw a little girl?

IMG_6491Overall it was a fantastic week.  I can’t even tell you how extraordinarily thankful we are for those who have gone before us.  For years, MTU and several volunteers have faithfully poured in to the boys and the staff at Romaniv.  Without their faithfulness and perseverance we would have never had the week that we did.  The Directors are so open to the help- that is a huge answer to prayer.

There is a lot of work to be done.  There are many boys not pictured here because they were too medicated, or too withdrawn to participate at all.  There are many boys still locked inside themselves.  Our boys still spend the majority of each day tied to their beds because there isn’t enough staff to keep them safe from themselves and others.  Many of them only see the sun when we come on Fridays.  Oh there is so much to be done.  BUT weeks like this remind us of just how far things have come.  God has done the miraculous in Romaniv and He’s not about to stop now.

Praise God for his abounding love for these boys and their caregivers.  Praise God that what was once hidden is now brought to light.  Praise God that He has a hope and a future for each boy, for each person He created.  And praise God we get to partner with him that!

 

 

 

 

 

100

Welcome to Post #100 for our wee little blog!!!

Hmmmm…what to do to celebrate the 100th post?  What I really need to do is write about money.  But, I don’t want to do that for post 100.  You’ll have to stay tuned for the big money post.  🙂  Watch out, it’s a’comin’!

The other day I was feeling all inspired to write about building altars in remembrance for all God has done on this journey, but at the end of the day when I sat down to write I just wasn’t feelin’ it.  The post was getting waaaaaay too long because God has just done waaaaaay too much.  I realize that’s a very good thing, it just doesn’t work to make a very long post.  Ha!

Then I thought maybe I would write a list of 100 of something…you know, like kindergartners take 100 buttons to school on their 100th day of kinder….something like that.  But, then I thought that would also make a very long post.  Annnnd considering my living room floor is covered in legos, my Hava-lu is sitting on the couch with the puke-bowl next to her after throwing up at least 10 times this afternoon/evening, the dishes are undone, and there is a new mountain of laundry waiting for my attention (thanks to my too late delivery of the puke-bowl), I really don’t have time for a long post.  Actually, I probably don’t really have time for a short post, but I’m resting my legs and procrastinating, and I’m the Mommy, so I can.  🙂

So….in honor of our 100th post I thought I’d highlight a few of my favorite posts along this journeyIt’s always good to look back and remember all that God has done.  Consider this a shortened version of my way-too-long altar post.  🙂   

Beginnings.  I love this post because it was the first.  I was heartbroken when I wrote it, but I can see God’s smile in it now.  We had lost our baby, our dream. But God knew all along what our true dream was.  I picture Him standing over my shoulder as I cried and typed, waiting on pins and needles to show us what He really had in store for us.  It seems like a lifetime ago!!

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“Jonah” the one who started it all.  We will love you forever sweet baby boy 

My Uncle.  I miss my Uncle Gary.  He was gentle, humble, giving, and loving.  I am so thankful God used what seemed to be an impossible situation to bring our hearts together.  Thinking of him makes me smile.

Foster Care Ponderings 1, Foster Care Ponderings 2, Foster Care Ponderings 3. – Writing this series on foster care and our experiences was super therapeutic for me.  Fostering was the best and hardest thing we’ve ever done.  If you have any interest whatsoever in fostering, please, please read these posts.  Read and ask the Lord how He would have you respond.  He is only asking for willing hearts, not superheros!  Do it! Do it! Do it!  (I get a tad passionate about fostering…)

Introducing…our Son!– This is a fave, for obvious reasons.  Seth changed our lives forever.  He was our unexpected bonus for staying in Salem when all we wanted to do was travel the world- and I would do it all over again in a heartbeat. 

Romaniv.- I have no words.  Amazing day.  Amazing boys.  Even more amazing now that we know we get to back.  🙂

The Day We’ve Been Waiting For.- God moved mountains to make this day happen.  It was absolutely miraculous!!!!!  It just goes to show you that He is able to do more than we could ever ask or imagine.  Man does not have the final say.  God does.  Word.

We Had No Idea.- Seth’s story.  I pray as he grows he will understand how much he is loved, how many people prayed for him, and how hard we fought for him.  Love love love my baby.

Carried.- This post is a good reminder to me that God is there even in our darkest hour.  He speaks life and love into our hearts when we need it most.  He is our healer and His promises are true. Thankful.  🙂


Thanks to all of you for following our journey and encouraging us along the way.  It’s crazy to think about what we initially started this blog for, and what it has become.  His ways are sooooo much higher than our ways.  

I can’t wait to see what life will be like when we write post #200!

Christ is Risen: And Now Everything is Upside Down

HE IS RISEN!


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

(He is Risen Indeed)

Jed

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


Love, Tears, Hope

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

Dream come true…

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

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

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

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

Sasha

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

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

Now we are the ones with tears.  

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

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

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

These children need us to live lives of yes.

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

If we are listening to Jesus and saying yes to Him, the circumstances are right- even if they don’t look it with our human eyes.  “My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the LORD. “And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine.”  Isaiah 55:8
If we are trusting Jesus and saying yes to Him, He gives us peace when we are fearful.  He gives us boldness to step out into the unknown and even joy in the journey.  “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” John 14:27

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


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

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

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

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