A Week in Photos: March 8th

Oh my goooooodness! What an awesome week we had! It was go go go and packed with amazingness.

Jed was in America for 12 days and just got home last Thursday. He had an awesome time of connecting with supporters and churches. He went with the purpose of building a Wide Awake Medical Advisory Team and made lots of great contacts toward that end. It will be exciting to see what comes of it.  We realize that we are at the far limits of our own personal knowledge for how to best help the boys at Romaniv.  It’s time to pull in the big guns. The people Jed met with were so gracious and excited to help. Our Boys are loved by so many!

These past few days we had an extra special treat. You see Wide Awake gets to partner with some pretty special people, and two of them visited this past week. Suzy and Lois visited from Hands of Hope Adoption and Orphan Care and we had a super great time. We got to talk about how we can best work together and how we, along with Mission to Ukraine, can best join forces to care for our Boys. It was incredible!!! We didn’t want them to leave!  Talk about kindred spirits… I’ll share more about that later. Now for the pics!

On Tuesday we celebrated Valera’s 30th birthday! He was over the moon excited!

That pink box was his only birthday wish 🙂

Suzy, Lois, and Romaniv Directors. All four, so precious to us

Baking, baking, baking in preparation for a BIG party for Romaniv nannies!

Four handsome MEN- all ready for their special performances

Addy and Ez came along to help with the party. They were so happy to see their Romaniv buddies!!!

Sweet nannies. We love them.

Stasik welcoming everyone to the special party!

Hands of Hope gave each nanny their own multicooker! They are all the rage here and cost almost a full month’s salary! The nannies were just a tad bit excited.

Meanwhile, the boys were busy being adorable…

Maxim’s first selfie 🙂

Our Friday afternoon team is back in action!

All in all it was a fabulous week. Good things are happening left and right. We are so blessed to partner with MTU and Hands of Hope.

On another note, our fam is battling some sickness and just all around exhaustion, so we would appreciate your prayer. We’re sick and tired of being sick and tired. Ain’t nobody got time for that! 😉

Till next time! Say yes to Jesus this week, okay?

A Week in Photos: February 10th

Hi Friends!  Time to unload my phone again.  Every time I go to make a picture post I have to first delete like 50 or 60 pictures of Seth.  He’s a selfie-aholic.  Really.  We may have a problem. 🙂

Life here has been quite a ride lately.  Good times, hard times, happy times, scary times.  Mostly I just can’t believe this is my life.  I am the most blessed girl.  Not every day is easy- but sometimes it just hits me that the life I’m living is basically the life I’ve dreamed of since I was a tiny girl.  Wow.

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Our dear friends Andryi and Olya got married! Hava was the flower girl. It was such a fun party!!! We danced and ate and danced and ate. It was awesome. We are so happy for them!

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Addy and Nastya at the reception

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The bride and groom’s table.

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We had to take a jaunt to the Embassy. It felt really strange to be there. I realized it was the first time in 16 months that I didn’t feel guilty for speaking English in public. Wow.

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We need help. Professional help.

 

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My cousin Hannah is teaching English in western Ukraine this year. She came to Kyiv for a visit and then to our house! We ended up being in Kyiv on the same day. Super special!

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Last Tuesday our boy was doing really well. He definitely isn’t declining anymore. Now we just need to pray for more improvement in his health.

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Hannah and Addy. I love my family.

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Helping our boy keep his body safe.

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Seriozha and his accordion. I can’t even tell you what a blessing he is to the Boys- and to us! Ilya obviously likes it! 🙂

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Some friends from church came over to give us girls a “Beauty Night”. They did nails and cut hair and let my girls put makeup on them. It was so special.

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No boys allowed!

 

Swiss Shock and Awe

Welcome December! How did that happen? November was like two seconds long. I was planning to do a Thanksgiving post, but then we lost electricity for 5 days, and then we had Thanksgiving, and then the next day Addy and left for Switzerland!

 

I have a lot to be thankful for. Even more so after this weekend. Oh God, why are you so good to us??? Wow.

I might have told you before about our Switzerland connection, but just in case I didn't, or you forgot, I'll sum it up real quick like.

 

Many moons ago, in my former American life, I loved a little boy in Ukraine. My friends and I desperately wanted to find this little boy a family because he resided in an institution much like Romaniv and we knew he needed out. A few friends and I decided we would organize a day dedicated to this precious boy (who now lives with a wonderful family in Texas!!!) and try to get as many people fundraising for him on one day as we could. Adoption is expensive and many times if the money obstacle is removed, it makes adoption more possible.

Well, as we were fundraising in Oregon a woman in Switzerland, Sandra, contacted me by email and told me that she too was fundraising for the very same boy! She desperately prayed that he would find a family, and our friendship grew as we advocated for our sweet boy.

 

Once we knew we were moving to Ukraine, Sandra chimed in and said if we ever made it over to Switzerland we should share at her church in Lucerne. We highly doubted we would make it to Switzerland, but thought the gesture was nice. Well, God knew better. It turned out that last January we needed to go to Switzerland to get our Ukrainian visas and we got to visit Sandra, her family, and her church.

 

The International Church of Lucerne embraced right from the get-go. They fell in love with our Boys and God broke their hearts. They began to support us in prayer and with some finances. I can not express to you how warm and loving is this awesome community of believers. They are the real deal and I can't believe we get the honor to partner with them.

Jed went to Switzerland in September for a family wedding and got to visit our friends in Lucerne. He told them of our need for a van to transport volunteers to and from Romaniv, and right there on the spot they decided to do a Thanksgiving fundraiser to buy a van for Wide Awake. Awesome.

 

So, this past weekend was the fundraiser and holy moly, I guess I set my expectations just a wee bit too low. God blew my itty bitty expectations out of the water. What a generous, loving, beautiful community we found in the International Church of Lucerne. In one weekend they donated thousands of Swiss Francs. THOUSANDS. Those thousands, in addition to gifts from their body given to Jed in September will buy us a van. Need met in an instant.

Blown away, humbled, joyful, tearful, THANKFUL.

Jed kinda kicked me out the door by sending me on this trip to Switzerland. He knew I needed a breather and a time of refreshment for my spirit. I felt nervous, and unsure, but excited to go. I brought Addy with me, and thought if nothing else it would be a special time for the two of us together.

It was that, and so much more.

Many of you have donated and donated and donated to this cause. Many people have given thousands of dollars to help improve the lives of our Boys. Many people gave before we moved, and many more people have given since. We are thankful for every single cent, and for every single bit of love that goes along with the cents. THANK YOU!! Because of the distance, all that communicating and giving is done online. Yay for internet! This was different though, because this was the first time I had seen a group of people, in the flesh, get behind this cause and get behind our Boys like this since we moved to Ukraine. It's different now that our Boys aren't just an idea or a passion. They are our friends and our loved ones. When I share about them now it's with a knowing that comes from hours spent together. Watching strangers work hard to prepare and then pull off an event like this just for our Boys, after really knowing our Boys is a whole new ballgame.

 

I just sat there, watching pies being auctioned off for my Boys and tears filled my eyes. How is God so good? How is it that He cares so much about our Boys and about us that He put it in the hearts of people thousands of miles away to give so generously and selflessly?

I wish so bad I could tell our Boys how much they are loved from afar. As I sat in that room on Friday night I wondered what each of the Boys would think and feel if they were surrounded by as much love as I was that night. I felt so honored, so loved- to overflowing. My spirit didn't see that coming. 🙂

 

To the International Church of Lucerne- your love and care for our family and our Boys is absolutely amazing. You tell us that you love and you care, and we believe it. Not just because of the money (which of course we couldn't appreciate more!) but because of your warm hearts and open arms. Your love is evident on your faces and we are just so thankful that God has brought our lives together. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts for every bit of generosity poured out last weekend and in the months since we met. You have made a difference.

 

So, there's my Thanksgiving post. I'm not sure I've ever had a Thanksgiving where it hit home more. Praise God, it's time to go van shopping!! Yeehaw!

 

PS: Addy and I also got to spend some very special time with family. Brett and Rachel just got married and it was such a joy to be with them. Serious balm for my soul. Brett and Rachel, we love you and are so proud of you. Addy and I loved and savored every single minute with you. Ukraine is waiting for you!!! 😉

 

On Contrasts and Soul-Feeding

Tuesday was a day of HUGE contrast.

 

We spent the morning at Romaniv, as usual, and then in the evening we had our second Youth Night. This night was for our second group of graduates from Mission to Ukraine (MTU). As MTU focuses more on providing therapy for children, we are taking on the adults who have aged out of their services. There are about 40 graduates all together and we have them broken up in to two different groups, according to developmental level and interest level. The purpose of the Youth Nights is to provide a social opportunity for these young men and women, and for their moms. These guys and gals have grown up together at MTU, and this group of moms and their children are like extended family for each other. They just need a place and time set aside for them to be loved and valued and treasured for the the beautiful people that they are. They need a place to be with their peers where they are accepted and known.

 

We are more than happy to provide that for them.

 

I can't even accurately describe to you my love for this group of grown children and their moms. It felt like my birthday and Mother's Day and Christmas all rolled in to one as I anticipated Tuesday night. Most of these guys we hadn't seen since camp and we have missed them SO MUCH.

 

It's like God has planted them so deeply in to my heart that I am just bursting with love for them. I just want to squeeeeeeeeeze them all! And I did! Hahaha

 

As our awesome volunteers arrived to help set up one of them mentioned that there was a big group of people all huddled together down the street a ways, “Do you think that's them?” He asked. I said I would go check.

 

Oh.My.Word. I ran outside to find a group of like 15 of our youth and their moms all huddled together, in the freezing cold, 20 minutes early, not exactly sure where to go, waiting for everyone to arrive so they could come in together. I ran up to them to invite them inside, and seeing the excitement on their faces was absolutely priceless. SO PRECIOUS!!!!!

 

When God first made an opportunity for me to work with moms at MTU I was hesitant- and not that excited, to be honest. Then at camp He made another opportunity for me to work with moms, and again, I was not that excited (slow learner maybe?). But, He always knows better. Through those times of working with moms I grew to love them deeply. God knew we would be caring for these moms and their kids and He started preparing our hearts for it many months ago. These groups are just as much for the moms as they are for the kids

 

Work with this group is what brings me joy. More than anything else we do here in Ukraine, this group is the most life-giving to me. It feeds my soul- deep, deep down. I love Romaniv. Duh. I adore our Boys there. Duh. But Romaniv is also hard. It is painful. It is joy and sorrow and hugs and pain all at once.

 

This group is just joy. Pure and simple childlike joy.

 

God knew we needed this group just as much as they need us.

 

To go from Romaniv, where the boys are left alone in bed for hours, till we arrive to take them out, to young men and women being lovingly cared for by their mothers is like night and day. To go from Romaniv where Boys are not seen as individually valuable and special, to watching a mother's eyes light up as she watches her daughter laugh with her friends is like icy cold and cozy warmth. The contrasts between our morning and our evening are too many to count.

 

This group is like a salve on my soul. It reminds me of what is possible with love. It fills me with hope for our Boys. It is like a ginormous bear hug that lasts all evening. It makes my face hurt from smiling so big.

 

Thank you Jesus for this group. Thank you Jesus for knowing what we need. Thank you Jesus for the immense privilge of loving and knowing these families.

 

I'm just so happy. Sigh.

 

 

Pure Magic.

The candles were lit, white lights twinkled overhead.  The room was decked out in red and white, tablecloths smoothed, plates laden with treats.  We were ready.  I looked out the window to see the ones I love gussied up in their finest, smiling for the cameras like the stars that they are.  Moms surrounded them with pride in their eyes, snapping photos left and right, attempting to capture this moment and never let it go.

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It was our last night at camp and time for our “Ladies and Gentlemen” evening.  A night created to honor our campers and let them know how we cherish them.  A night without parents, a night to feel young and free, grown up and proud.  A night made for them to take with them for the rest of their lives.

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We opened the doors and applauded our dear ones as they entered the room arm and arm with their precious volunteers.  Oh how their faces beamed with pride and excitement.  They looked absolutely stunning- each one.  Pure magic.

Every volunteer had written something special for their camper, and as each one was called up we cheered and hooted and hollered.  We told them they looked beautiful.  We read beautiful words about them, telling them how they are seen by their friends.  Some had grins you couldn’t wipe off if you tried, some blushed furiously, shy with the praise, a few wept, and I know I joined them.  🙂

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Oleg shared a poem and dessert was served.  I flitted from table to table, wanting to savor each face in my mind, wanting to cement this night in my heart.  Volunteers, our waiters and waitresses for the night, served our guests like royals.  Feeding those who couldn’t feed themselves, holding hands and pushing wheelchairs, wiping drool and crumbs, smoothing skirts and jackets, refilling cups and sharing conversation.  The cream of the crop were there that night- Zhytomyr’s finest- young people who have chosen to ignore their culture’s definition of value and choose to see with eyes of the Kingdom.

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A waltz was shared and all were invited to join.  A tall volunteer bends low as he invites a beauty in a wheelchair to join him in a dance.  She laughs big as another volunteer cuts in. Every soul celebrated and treasured.

We ended the night with fireworks and the joy on each face was indescribable.  Kingdom of Heaven come to earth.  God’s Kingdom come here and now- on earth as it is in Heaven.

I wish I could transport each of you back to that night with me.  I wish you could see and feel the joy in the room.  I want you to meet those we love so.  Roma, Vitaliy, Dasha, Natasha, Luba, Andrei, Vitya, Rostik, Oksana, Vika, Anton, Olya, Maxim…real people with real hopes and dreams. They may be limited by their bodies, but there is no limit to God’s love for them.  They are of infinite value and worth.  They are worth it.  They are worth time and effort and energy and love.  They aren’t a diagnosis or a mystery in a chair.  They are beloved sons and daughters and sisters and brothers and friends, and on Sunday night they were celebrities.  🙂

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I won’t be the same after this last month.  Our whole family is changed.  So much was solidified in our hearts and many, many times this past month my heart knew there is no place else I’d rather be.  Yes, it is often difficult.  Yes, the language barrier makes me want to scream.  Yes, we feel like outsiders much of the time.  Yes, sometimes we are lonely.  Yes, we miss our family (so much).  Yes, we miss our church (so much).  Yes, we miss one-stop shopping and dryers and the coast and the beauty of Oregon.  But our hearts know where they belong. Our hearts belong in a town full of those broken in body but alive and awake in spirit. Our hearts belong in an institution of the broken and forgotten.  Our hearts belong with the royalty of Sunday night and with those who served them.

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Praise God for knowing so much better than we do.  Praise God for those who have gone before us and paved the way in a society that says their work is of little value.  I just can’t thank God enough for placing our family here.  Not every day is lollypops and roses, and someday soon I will share some of our struggles.  But beyond all that I am thankful.  God has flooded our hearts with love that only comes from Him and I can’t even express to you in words how much we love our Ladies and Gentlemen.  They are absolute treasures.

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How is this our life?  Somebody pinch me.  

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