The Family Blind Date-Love at First Sight

Have you ever been on a blind date?
I never had- until this past weekend.
On Friday we met our friends Ben and Melanie for the first time and let’s just say, it was love at first sight.  πŸ™‚
Let me back up.
When our adoption plans did not turn out how we had hoped and we were praying and waiting for God’s direction and leading, our hearts kept coming back to one place, one specific group of people:  “The Lost Boys”.  We knew that we knew God had placed these boys deeply in our hearts for a reason.  We had no clue, and still aren’t certain what His plans are for us and those boys, but honestly, the main reason that drew us to eventually visit Eastern Europe in April, and the main thing that is drawing us to move our family overseas is those boys.  So, we contacted the people had been there before.  That was quick, because there are only 2 families that have adopted from there: Rob and Julia, who adopted Aaron, and Ben and Melanie who adopted Judd.  We contacted those families and I don’t even remember all what we said, but it was along the lines of “God has put your son’s former home deeply in our hearts…can we be friends?”  (I’m sure it was more detailed than that, since I’m a talker, but you get the idea)
Out of that developed very special friendships (after they all  figured out we aren’t weirdos).  We became co-laborers for the Kingdom; united for a group of boys that most people don’t even know exist. 
 Go team go!!!
All along our journey so far Ben and Melanie have been our encouragers extraordinaire.  Although we only knew each other over emails and blogs, it was apparent that God was doing something.  He was knitting our hearts together in a very special way.  When we finally got to Eastern Europe in April Ben and Melanie’s emails were like huge spots of sunshine.  They prayed, they encouraged.  When we thought we weren’t going to be able to see The Boys Melanie actually gave us directions to just head to the institution ourselves.
 (HA!  You go girl!) That is how passionate they are about what God is doing in that place.
Ben and Melanie live only a few hours from us, so we had decided that when we got back to the US we would meet.  The long-awaited meeting happened this weekend and it was all we hoped it would be.
 Ben joked to Melanie on their way to our town that it was like a “Family Blind Date”- kind of like our own version of + 7 kids ages 8 and under.  Jed texted me Friday afternoon before they arrived and asked if I was excited.  My reply “Yep!  I hope they’re not weird.”  I was joking…sort of.  πŸ™‚
It was amazing.
When God knits hearts together He goes all out.
They arrived at our house Friday evening and when they pulled up I may have cried a little bit.  Then when Judd got out of the car and I saw his sweet face in front of me I know I cried a little bit.  We hugged, we laughed, kids ran a muck.  It was fabulous.  Judd, Ruger and Abraham are as cute as can be.  In Addy’s words “I love Abraham, his eyes are so shiny!” 
We had a great evening together, chatting, laughing, watching the kids jump on the trampoline.  Unfortunately the SD card to our camera was stuck in our Wii, so we don’t have any pictures of that night. 
The next morning we met at a park for the fun to continue.  We also got to meet up with a very special family who has a very special connection to all of us.  It’s a BIG FAT secret that I’ll be able to tell you about soon enough.  For now let’s just say that there are no accidents with God and He is too stinkin’ good to us.  He loves His kids and He loves the orphan more than we realize.
Sweet Judd
The littles playing together, pre-drama  πŸ™‚
A good time was had by all, minus the little spat between Ruger and Havalah.  Typical boy/girl drama that ended with Havalah wanting to talk it out, Ruger responding “I’m done with this nonsense”, and Havalah running off to pout.  Oh the drama…  πŸ™‚  They are so cute.
After the park we said good bye to the very special secret surprise family and headed off to lunch downtown (where my camera died…so no pics of lunch) then home for little rests before resuming the fun.
Pool time!
Proof that Addy and Ez were there!
Oh my word, Judd is such a water baby!  I think he drank about a gallon of pool water.  He would just face plant into the water with his mouth wide open and laugh and laugh.  He and Havalah were our fearless ones.  I think both of them were convinced they could just jump in and swim on their own and were slightly annoyed at our attempts to keep them safe.  Ha!
Judd jumping to Mommy!!!
Next up was pizza at our house.  I think I loved this time the best.  The kids played happily and we got to just sit around the table and chat, encouraging each other, understanding each other.  It was sweet.  We told Ben and Melanie then, and I’ll say it again, their encouragement to us on our journey has meant the world to us.  They have seen the children, they have touched them, they have loved on them.  Their hearts ache like ours.  To hear them say “What can we do?  How can we help you?” were the most precious words they could say.  Any and all encouragement along this journey has been meaningful and amazing (keep it coming dear friends!!)  :), but there is something extra special about it when it comes from ones who have seen and know the huge mountains we are facing.  But- more than once Ben and Melanie reminded us that NOTHING is impossible with God.  Amen and amen.
Abraham and his “shiny” eyes
This weekend brought so much hope to my heart.  Hope that God has His big plan in place and it is better than we could ever imagine.  He brought us friends who instantly felt like family.  I can not wait to see what He wants to do with our relationship in the years to come.  Woohooo!!   This weekend brought hope in what God is able to do.  He is a miracle-worker.  When I watched Judd jumping on the trampoline, swimming in the pool, giggling in the kitchen, kissing on his Mommy it made me want to laugh and cry at the same time.  What a miracle!  God has redeemed Judd’s life.  When I think about where Judd was and where he would still be had he not been rescued it’s almost too much.  God has taken a boy who was invisible to the world, lost in a village, abandoned by earthly parents and given him abundant life.  
Judd signing “happy”.  Melt my heart!!
He is loved.
He is cherished.
He is learning.
He is happy.
He is thriving. 
He is Ben and Melanie’s sweet baby boy and we got the privilege of celebrating with them.
To God be ALL the glory for the great things HE has done!!!!
Love you Ben and Melanie.  Thank you for coming all that way to love on us.  You rock!!!!
Judd loved Havalah!
Lucky Jed πŸ™‚
Seth jumps high!!!
Judd lovin on Hazel

For Porter

My friend Melanie, who I get to meet face-to-face in 2 DAYS (WOOHOOOOO!!!), wrote a very important post.
You see, Melanie and her husband Ben adopted their son Judd from the institution that Porter was recently transferred to.  Remember the “Lost Boys” we talk about so much around here?  Yep, they adopted from that place.  That place that we love, that place that we pray for, that place that we cry for, that place we can’t wait to return to.
Ben and Melanie love those boys like we do, and their hearts break for dear, sweet Porter.
Please take a moment and read Melanie’s thoughts on Porter’s new life.  
After you read it, please pray about how you can help.
Thank you friends!!!!

Rumblings and Ramblings

God is on the move.
I feel the rumblings.
I have realized something about myself as we’ve traveled along on this journey over the past 2 years. Right before God does something big, or says something big to me I get restless.  I start to feel like everything in my life is wrong, I get irritable.  I cry a lot.  Poor Jed!  I don’t have any explanation for why that happens.  Maybe God is trying to prepare my heart for what He’s about to do or say and instead of reacting in quiet obedience, waiting before Him, I freak out because I love to be in control.  I’m a wee bit of a control freak, I’ll admit.  πŸ™‚  I’ve had to give up a lot of control over the past 2 years and while it’s felt great, I’m aware that I still have a long way to go. 
For whatever reason, that’s how my frail, far-from-perfect self reacts to the rumblings I feel when God’s about to move.  About a week and a half ago the rumblings began.  For the first time ever I quickly recognized what was going on.  Then I got excited!  God’s about to do or say something big!  I don’t have a clue what He’s up to, but I want to be ready.  As the rumblings have come it has pushed me to prayer and worship.  My times with the Lord have never been so sweet.  I love His ways. 
On Friday night we went to the Regional Vineyard Conference.  As we worshiped with other believers I was remembering the only other Vineyard Conference we’ve ever been to- in Ukraine! 
 “I want to be there so bad.  I just want to pack up and go.  Who cares about our house?  Who cares about finances?  I just want to be there.”
Those were some of the things I was chatting about with the Lord during worship.  
“I feel such urgency to get there.  The need is URGENT.  Those children need help now!  Those Ukrainians doing the stuff need help now!  I just want to go!” 
As I was praying for the children I saw a clear picture in my mind that I know was a gift from Him.  I saw a picture of the Lost Boys orphanage, like I was looking in at the grounds from the front gate.  All of a sudden I saw Jesus round the corner, walking along the paths.  He had a gentle smile on His face as He walked along, past the eating sheds, past the spot in the garden where we spent time with the boys.  He walked along, touching the flowers, smiling to Himself.  It was approaching evening and I knew that the boys were inside asleep.  I saw Jesus approach their building where they slept and He almost winked at me as He entered the building where He walked among their beds and cribs, touching each one on the head.  As they slept He walked among them, loving them, seeing them, knowing each one by name.
It was beautiful.
He is there.  He sees.  He knows.  Yes, He wants us to act.  Yes, He wants us to be his hands and feet.  But we simply can’t be there yet.  We are working as hard as we can, but we aren’t there yet.  As He winked at me it was like He was saying, “It’s okay, I’ve got this.  You work hard, you get here as quick as you can- but I’ve got this.” 
He’s got it!  
Jed and I know we aren’t those children’s salvation.  We are just willing bodies.  He’s got it.  HE is their Savior and He is there RIGHT NOW.
Praise God for that.
So, we will keep plugging along, preparing our lives and our hearts for our move.  We aren’t gone yet though, so while here we will do whatever we can from afar.  We will pray, we will give, we will share the children with those who haven’t yet heard of their plight.
Will you join us?
Please remember Porter.  Please share about Porter so his Mommy and Daddy can see his face.  Please give money to his grant so when he’s found he can be rescued as quickly as possible.
Please pray that as Jesus walks among the boys that they would feel His presence and that the love of the Father would surround them, invading their hearts and minds, holding them close.
Father of orphans, champion of widows, is God in his holy house. 
Psalm 68:5

Home Again, Home Again Jiggity Jig

Whenever someone says “Home again, home again” I always think of my friend Cody.  When we lived together after college she would always say that as we pulled into the driveway, “Home again, home again, jiggity jig!”  That was a bit of a side note…love you more than words Cody.  πŸ™‚
So, we made it home safe and sound late Wednesday night.  Now I’m up quite early blogging and Jed already left to go exercise.  Jet lag can actually increase your productivity, you know- or it can cause you to fall asleep on the couch at 7:15….before the kids are even in bed.  Yikes.
Being with our kids again is unbelievable.  Oh my word we missed them like crazy.  I know the Lord was totally in this though because although we missed them, it was never unbearable.  We were able to focus on what God was doing where we were at because we knew our kids were loved and cared for at home.  My mother-in-law rocks the house.  Seriously, she took such amazing care of our babies.  Every time we skyped they were so happy and so excited to tell us about their adventures with Grammy.  We are so blessed by this gift she gave to us.  Love you Grammy!!!!
We are happy to be home, but already missing Ukraine.  We left a big part of our hearts there.  I don’t know how God did it, but it’s like He supernaturally knit our hearts with the believers there.  Some people we knew less than a week, but if felt like we were old friends.  It felt like we had history together…and we had just met.  Crazy.  I guess that’s how it goes when your hearts beat for the same things.  We were so blessed by the friendships we found in Ukraine.  Honestly, that wasn’t something we expected.  We were going with a heart for the orphans there and were surprised to find many kindred hearts along the way.  We miss them already.
God alone knows exactly how this story is going to play out.  We know Ukraine is in our future, we just need step-by-step instructions about how that is going to come about and what it will look like.  At the conference, on our last night there, an awesome new friend from UK Vineyard was praying for us and he felt like God wanted us to dream big, not to think the dreams God has given us are too big, basically not to hold back.  He also felt we needed to know that the resources and provision would be right there when we needed it.  We’ve heard those promises from God many times in the past few months along this journey. It was so great to hear it again.  Thank you Lord that you know just what we need, right when we need it.  I’m not sure if you all remember, but the first verse God gave us on this journey was in
 Isaiah, chapter 54:
β€œEnlarge the place of your tent,
    stretch your tent curtains wide,
    do not hold back;
lengthen your cord, strengthen your stakes.  
 For you will spread out to the right and to the left;
    your descendants will dispossess nations
    and settle in their desolate cities.
We’ll keep you posted as this journey unfolds.
Before I go, I wanted to give an accounting for the money that we took along for orphan care.  It was given by all of you and I want to make sure you know where it went!  Thank you thank you thank you again from the bottom of our hearts for your generosity.  Really, after seeing the need firsthand, and the people God is using to be the hands and feet to meet the need, you can be assured that this money will be used wisely and 100% will be used for His children.  He’s got some awesome workers out there doin’ the stuff!
So, here’s the accounting; if you have any questions or want any more clarification feel free to email us at johnson commune AT gmail DOT com (no spaces).
We went with $2200.
$70.00- charge at airport for extra bag carrying donated items for the children
 (craft kits, fluoride varnish, stuffed animals, exercise balls…)
$200.00- donation to Mission to Ukraine, specifically for their work in the Romaniv Orphanage
$70.00- to pay for the trip to see the Lost Boys (Praise God again for that miracle!!!)
$400.00- bought diapers and soda (a very special treat!) for the Lost Boys
$750.00- left for Slavik and Alyona to pay for 3 future visits to the Lost Boys.  When they go they normally take a large team of people, clowns, etc.. so they have to rent a van.  It costs about $250.00 a trip just to go there.
That leaves $710- this money was left for Slavik and Alyona to buy needed items for the Boys when they go on those next 3 visits.  After the visits Alyona will let us know that they went and what they bought to take along with.  When she shares that with me I’ll make sure to pass it on to all of you.  They really want to be accountable and we trust them that they love the boys and will use the money in the best way possible.  We love those two and you all would too!!!  πŸ™‚  
So, there you have it!  That money was given with such love, compassion, and generosity and we know that as Slavik and Alyona go they bring light and darkness is defeated.  Praise God for His workers in the fields.  Our prayers are so important…keep it up!


Tonight we head out to another town, a new adventure.  What an absolutely fantastic time we have had here.  We had high hopes for this city and God went above and beyond what we expected.  Yay!  All along we’ve had anticipation and higher expectations for this portion of out trip…I think many things factor into this.  First of all, our sweet little love that first turned our hearts to this country was from here.  Second of all, the Lost Boys are in this region, so we knew if we were going to meet them it would have to happen this week.  Thirdly, we were super excited to meet Slavik and Alyona.  Everything we had read about them and what they do for the Lord really hit us in the guts (in a good way!).  We couldn’t wait to meet face to face.  God did something in our hearts while we were here.  He confirmed, encouraged, broke our hearts in a new way, and connected our hearts to the people here.  It has been awesome, and as much as I miss everyone at home…specifically the 4 cutest kiddos on the face of the planet…I am very sad to leave this place.  That’s how great our time has been!!!
Here’s some snippets from the week. 
Friday afternoon after we saw the Boys (still freaking out about that miracle) we met Slavik for lunch and had our first taste of Chinese food here.  It was surprisingly good!  Then we headed down to see the Black Sea.  It feels like summer has come early here.  It has been pretty warm the past couple days and all the elderly people decided it was time to head down to the beach in their string bikinis.  Lucky us!  Ooooooooh my word, we had some big laughs together about that.  I mean, it was either laugh or cry, right?

Alyona and Mark….don’t look too closely at the background.  Oops!  Ha!

After the beach we said goodbye to Slavik and Alyona.  Booohoooooo.  We’ll see them again.  I’m not sure how I’ll make it till Wednesday though without some baby thighs to squish.  Their baby Maria is seriously Havalah’s Eastern European twin- so soft, so squishy.   πŸ™‚
Mark, loving Maria TO DEATH.  Ha!  Sibling love is the same all over the world…

A little taste of home….they are such sweet kiddos.  We loved them.
 Yesterday we spent the morning exploring the city, then in the afternoon we met Michelle, the American missionary we talked about before.  She took us to meet some other American missionaries here in the city.  One couple we met has been here for a little less than a year and they have 3 small children.  It was cool to hear their perspective and what God is doing through them.  Then we met a couple older ladies at McDonalds.  One of them, Darlene, has been here with her husband for 15 years and they raised all their children here.  It was great to talk with them too.  We just wanted to meet as many people as we could and hear their stories.  
After our meetings we went to the Opera!  It was kind of funny, actually.  Our seats were pretty bad.  Like, laughable bad.  We could only really see if we stood, and seeing how the Operas are like 3 hours long, that was kind of a bummer.  We left at intermission…I mean, it’s not like we understood what was going on anyway.  It was still a great adventure and the opera house was GORGEOUS!  The sound was great, the tickets were cheap, it was definitely not a waste.  
View from our seats…standing up πŸ™‚
The ceiling

 Another great time we didn’t get a chance to write about was about Thursday when we got to go with Nastya to an orphanage nearby our apartment.  She goes there weekly to spend time with the children, do some songs and a craft, basically to be a presence in their lives.  She really desires to build relationships and love on them.  The Director there is very cooperative and open to help, so that is great!  We had just a great time with those kids.  This is a nice orphanage where the kids get a fairly good education and we could tell their teacher really loved them.  What cuties!!!  Here some of their sweet faces…

Listening closely

This little guy…oh my word is he not the ultimate in squeezability?  He is absolutely adorable and so funny.  He was playing soldiers and was definitely the leader. 

So proud of her work.  She was a hoot too.  What a cutie!
Ultimate poser πŸ™‚
Alright, time to get out of my jammies and start packing for our trip tonight.  Off to meet new people and have new adventures!