BIG, FAT ANNOUNCEMENT!

  

The secret is out! 

The Johnson family is expecting!

We are so happy to share the wonderful news that we are pursuing the adoption of one of our Boys!  This is something that God has had in the works for about 5 years, unbeknownst to us.  We’ve been working fast and furiously since January, and if all goes well we should have a new son this summer! 

Due to the nature of adoptions in this country, and because of our unique living situation and relationship with the insitution, we can’t announce publicly who we are adopting until the judge makes it final.  What a glorious day that will be!

Right now we have compiled our dossier and it is here in country being translated.  All we are waiting on is USCIS (US immigration) approval and then our dossier can be submitted to the adoption authorities here, and we pray pray pray they will accept it!  

Everything about this situation is unique, so we just aren’t sure what will happen.  All we know is that God said to step forward, so that’s what we are doing, and it is our joy.  (Not to say there haven’t been a few sleepless nights during this process!)

Hands of Hope, our friends, and wonderful partners of Wide Awake, have supported our Boys for many, many years.  They were loving our boys before we even knew they existed!  They have been such a support to us during this process, and now they have gifted us with a $4,000 MATCHING GRANT to help with adoption costs!  We are so thankful!!!  YAY YAY YAY!!!

Adoption is super stinkin’ expensive and so many people already support our Boys so faithfully, so it felt a little strange for us to ask for help with adoption costs.  Then Hands of Hope came along and offered this help.  Wow.  God is so amazing.  

Would you like to help us get one of our Boys home?  You would?????  Fantastic!  Here’s how:

An adoption fund/account has been set up for us by Hands of Hope, through Lifesong for Orphans. If enough people give donations to total $4,000, then Hands of Hope will donate another $4,000 for a grand total of $8,000!!!!!
*donations are tax-deductible and 100% of all donations go toward this adoption*

MAIL CHECKS TO
Lifesong for Orphans
PO Box 40
Gridley, IL 61744 

You MUST must note our Family name and account number in the memo so the money gets put in our fund. (Johnson/#5279)

ONLINE
Go to www.lifesongfororphans.org/give/donate , scroll down and select “Give to an adoptive family”. Fill out the form, including our name and account number (Johnson/#5279).

Thank you dear friends and family for loving us, for loving our Boys, and for your support in this YES.  We absolutely can not wait to see what love can do.  We absolutely can’t wait to see how God will use this rescue mission to speak to the hearts of directors and nannies and Ukrainian people.  He is writing a beautiful love story, and we are humbled to our knees to be a part of it.  🙂



PS:  Just an FYI, no Wide Awake funds have been used, or will be used to fund this adoption.  We felt like we needed to make sure you all know that.  If you have questions about the financial part of this at all, don’t hesitate to ask! 


PPS: Did you know you can sponsor our Boys through Hands of Hope?????  Oh yes you can!  I’m working on a big fat post about that.  Look here for a sneak peek.


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The Beauty in the Journey

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If you’ve been reading this blog long enough you know that learning how to mother my kids in a new culture has been a big fat challenge for me. It was something I worried about before we moved, and it was THE something I worried about once we landed. Isn’t worrying awesome? It’s just so productive! Not.

It’s just that parenting is hard enough, and then you throw in lots of factors that make our family really “different” and things get downright confusing! I’ve found that we don’t really fit anywhere these days, when it comes to parenting. We don’t fit Ukrainian standards because, well, simply put, we aren’t Ukrainian! We can speak the language (work in progress) and buy the right clothes and eat the right food, but at the end of the day, we’re still Americans. We think differently than Ukrainian parents and we were raised differently than our Ukrainian peers. Culture is so HUGE. There are things we do similarly to Ukrainian parents, but we are also quite different. We could try to be the same, but at our core we’ll always be different- and that’s okay.

But- now we don’t really fit American standards either! For one thing, we don’t live in America, so that changes a whole heck of a lot right there. Many things that are expected for a “normal” childhood in the US just aren’t available or possible here. Our kids are having a completely different childhood than Jed and I had. It’s difficult not to have the same expectations in my heart for them, because all I know is a typical American childhood…yep, not gonna happen for our crew. And that’s okay!

It can feel very “Lone Ranger”ish, parenting so far away from our home culture. I don’t have mom friends I am close to here who are parenting kids around the same ages of ours. I miss the support of others who were going through the mothering stages alongside me. I miss bouncing ideas off each other over coffee and gaining wisdom from others. I miss my kids having friends. I miss having moms around me who are “one step ahead” on the journey. I miss watching them and learning from them. Most mothering and parenting books are really hard for me to read here. It can be discouraging because so much of what is written is based on the assumption that you live in America and have all that is available there, or that the mom’s only focus is on the home and she has no outside responsibilities.  It’s hard to explain, but when I read those books in the middle of this life we are living, it almost seems like they are books from another planet.

Honestly, parenting in this situation (or any situation) is just stinkin’ hard work.  Awesome, but still stinkin’ hard. Am I right?  People ask “How do you do it all?” Um yeah, I don’t. I can’t. Things fall by the wayside. My house is messy. I just paused writing to tell Seth not to throw knives- truth. My kids get lonely. Laundry piles haunt my dreams. I lose my patience daily (or hourly). Homeschooling can get sporadic and is often unorganized. I get lonely. I read mommy blogs (why do I do that?) and feel guilt that I don’t do crafts with my kids.  I want to get up early but instead I stay up too late at night.  I don’t follow through. And on and on and on.

So, yeah I can’t do it all, but I’m sorta, kinda starting to come to grips with the fact that the Johnson family is on our own journey and ours doesn’t have to look like anyone else’s journey. There is beauty in this particular journey and it’s pointless to waste time wishing it looked differently. I mean, this is the journey God created us to walk. Sooooo I should probably learn to be good with it.

Our kids are loved.
Our kids have each other. They love each other.
Our kids are learning to love and value those who the world has cast aside.
Our kids are learning a new culture and a new way of doing things- and their world is bigger because of it.
Our kids are learning what it is to say YES to Jesus.

I finally feel at peace in mothering, probably for the first time since we moved! I have seen little glimpses lately of the fruit and I see that our journey is beautiful in it’s own way.

-Addy announced to me yesterday “Ezra and I are just best friends lately! We just love each other! We’re hoping to keep this going on for as long as we can.”
-When it was dark out, Seth reached out to help Hava down the stairs to our yard. “I know the dark steps scare you Hava. Hold my arm.”
-Hava asked “Mom, which Romaniv boy would you choose first to come live at our house? I couldn’t choose, they’re all just so cute!”
-Every time we come home from Romaniv Ezra wants to see the pics of the boys right away. He loves them.
-Seth said “Mom, I can share Boris with daddy because he needs a daddy too.”

I write all this to say, own your own journey. God’s Word and God’s grace apply to every life situation- regardless of location. Parenting books and parenting seminars are great (I would love some of that right about now!)- but what is the greatest is saying YES to God when it comes to your children. Don’t compare your journey to your friend’s or your neighbor’s or some random blogger’s. The details of their lives are not the details of your life. Their journey is not your journey. Their kids are not your kids.
(Preaching to myself, FYI)

Teach your kids to say YES to Jesus by saying YES to Jesus yourself.
The rest is sprinkles on top. 🙂

 

Bullet Points on Tuesday

Eleven days since I last came to this space. Wow! Days are flying by.

Since I wrote the last post about being still and trusting that God is on our side we've gone through some stuff that made living out those words pretty stinkin' hard. Sheeesh. This fighting for the orphan thing is rough stuff! But, worth it. But still rough. 🙂 There are seasons of heartache and seasons of joy in every life, right?

Our family as a whole is doing just fine. Our work may be heartwrenching at the moment, but our family is good.

Here's what's been up with us:

  • This is the last week of school for Addy and Ez, and then Christmas break! Their schooling plan will change after the new year, so stay tuned!
  • Havalah and Seth go to a private little kindergarten (Hava won't let me call it “preschool”) twice a week while Jed and I are at Romaniv and they love it. Today when I picked them up the teacher said they understand her so well and that Hava speaks a lot of Ukrainian in class. Yay! Comin' along, comin' along.
  • We are right in the middle of renewing our registration. We have to renew every year in order to keep our temporary residency. Stamps, stamps, and more stamps…woot! Ukraine loves stamps.
  • My cousin, aunt and uncle will be in Uzhgorod (a city in western Ukraine) this weekend and we are trying our best to get there for a visit. We were waiting to see if we could get our residency paperwork done in time to be able to leave town, and we finally got done yesterday…but now there are no available train tickets! The lady at the ticket counter told Jed to come back and check tomorrow morning. The train is really our only option. A bus ride would be at least 12 hours over rough roads and Hava gets super carsick on the short, smooth, two hour ride to Kyiv! We can't torture her like that. The train ride is 16 hours…yikes, but worth it to see family. 🙂
  • Next week is Christmas!!!! We've been rockin' the Christmas music pretty much nonstop around here. This will be our first Christmas alone, just the 6 of us, so that will be really different. Last year Jed's parents were here visiting. Did you know Ukraine doesn't celebrate Christmas until January 7th? Fun fact.
  • Our favorite Tom and Emma are coming for a visit on New Year's Eve! They'll be with us for a week and we're counting down the minutes till their arrival. Eeeeeeek! Tom and Emma visited last February and it was so amazing to have them with us. Best Christmas present ever.
  • My mom secretly asked a bunch of people to send us Christmas cards. Oh my word!! It has been such a special treat! I really can't tell you how special it is when we get mail. Our whole family screams and hoots and hollers and jumps up and down. Seriously. We love mail! Thanks Mom 🙂 And thanks everyone who has sent us cards. It makes our day. Big time.
  • We're working on a couple special Wide Awake videos for Christmas. In the videos we'll introduce you to two of our special boys. I can't wait to share them with you!
  • I've been working hard to get all the details figured out for the boys from Romaniv who are available for adoption. After Christmas we will start really advocating for them and I'm so hopeful we'll find them families. Stay tuned for that too. Children were made for families, not insitutions. 🙂

Welp, I guess that just about does it.

Maybe next time I write it will be from Uzhgorod…if we survive the 16 hours on the train, that is! Ha!

 

 

The Tension

This living-overseas-everythingisnew-missionary-stillawifeandmomfirst-immersion thing can be quite the doozy at times. It’s a rough and wonderful road. Sharing about it though, is fine line to walk.

I want to be real and honest.

But I don’t want to be a complainer.

I want to be me.

But how to “be me” from behind a keyboard?

I want to be respectful of people here in Ukraine.

But there are things here that are difficult for us, since this is not our home culture.

I want to be respectful of the people back in the US.

But I also want them to be challenged and encouraged to think and dream bigger- and act.

I want to share all so people know how to pray.

But I don’t want to share all because I know many Ukrainian friends read this blog and I don’t want them to worry about us or feel bad for us.

I want to share about our Boys and their need and their worth. I want to share about their lives and things that break our hearts and should never have to be endured by a human.

But I don’t want to share too much because I don’t want to disrespect them or exploit them or break relationship with the Directors at Romaniv.

 

Fine line. Tight rope walking.

 

I say all that just so you know that when I write things on this blog I don’t take it lightly. There are many people to consider and many points of view to consider. Many times I write to clarify things in my own mind and heart. Sometimes I don’t really understand my own feelings until I type them out. It’s kind of like a form of therapy for me. Lucky you, my dear Readers! Ha. I also always want to be honest about this journey. Maybe it could help others who are setting out on a journey like ours. I know I love reading honesty from those who have gone before. Somehow it settles my heart to see they struggle with things similar to my own.

Lately I’ve been trying to figure out my heart and feelings surrounding the balance of being a mother and a friend and a cross-cultural-worker here in Ukraine. When we first arrived here Jed and I both jumped right on in to work. We both volunteered at MTU, probably pretty equal amounts. Whoever wasn’t at MTU was home with the kids. It was an important time for us to figure out where we fit into everything here, and to see where God wanted us in the mix.

Then we had the summer, which was basically a whole family affair (which was AWESOME…). And now we have reached the fall, and we have a new norm. I think this new norm will be the norm for some time to come. I LOVE the new norm, but my overachieving, worker-bee, people-pleasing self won’t let me be completely at peace about it and I don’t know what that means.

The new norm is that Jed does most of the work outside the home, and I am home a lot more with the kids, reminiscent of our lives back in Oregon. Of course we both go to Romaniv twice a week, do language tutoring together, and we both work together on our youth nights for graduates, but most of the rest of the work is Jed’s. I get to focus more of my time on the home, the kiddos, and being Mom and Wife. I am in love with this. I know the kids need it and they thrive when I am home more. Focusing more time on our home and our family brings me great joy and fulfillment. When I’m gone from home a lot I feel scattered and yucky.

So, I know this is a good set-up. I know this. But then I start to question myself.

I don’t question if it’s a good thing that I’m home more. I value motherhood and I think stay-at-home moms rock. I have always dreamed of being a stay-at-home mom with no outside work committments, but that has never been what God had for me. It’s not the focus at home that I question, it’s the time spent not focusing outside the home that has me evaluating my heart.

Do I have such peace at home partly because it’s easier to be home than out in the culture that is still difficult for me? Do I have such peace at home because I feel smart at home and I mostly feel dumb as soon as I walk outside my front door? Hahaha…not kidding…hehe. When I’m at home I have this feeling like I should be outside getting to know my neighbors, or taking the kids to the playground so they can have more exposure to language and I can brave it with neighborhood moms. But as it is, I already feel like I’m not investing enough time in to the relationships here that I already have. It’s like that guilty Oregonian feeling you get when the sun finally comes out. You feel like because it’s sunny you should be outside NO MATTER WHAT. Because you never know when you might get sun again! Well, what if I don’t feel like being outside that day? What if I have inside work to do that day? Too bad. If I stay inside on a sunny day in Oregon I am riddled with guilt. (Is that just me, or do other Oregonians catch my drift?) (PS: I think I have some guilt issues)

I’m used to watching over all the friends in my life and making sure everyone is okay and included and taken care of, but I don’t have that role here with friends. Here, we are investing that time in to our Boys, and frankly the work at Romaniv can be emotionally and spiritually exhausting. I love those Boys more than I could have ever imagined and am fully committed to them and their well-being. It’s just that with being a wife and with our kiddos at home and then our kiddos at Romaniv…I don’t have a lot of reserve left on a day to day basis. I love my friends here so stinkin’ much. I just don’t feel like a very good friend here in Ukraine and I hate that feeling…but I feel helpless to change it.

Are all these feelings okay? Or am I relying too much on myself? Maybe I’m being lazy and selfish? It’s like I still have a short-term missions mindset that I have to give up every spare moment to the work and ministry here, but we are here for the longhaul. There will be no longevity if I live this life like a short-term missions trip. I know that, but I still battle. How to find the balance of time and energy spent?

Anywaysssss…balancing focus on the home and focus outside the home and all my feelings surrounding that is exhausting. I know what the answer is: walk in the Spirit. Be available to God and when He says to act, act. Be fully at home when I’m home, but also be aware and listening for the whisper to go outside and talk to the neighbors. Be aware of my friends and listen to promptings in my spirit for when I need to reach out. Stop being a people-pleaser and only live for an audience of One. Say YES. I know these things, it’s just all easier said than done.

So, there you have it: my Monday afternoon therapy session. Ha! I just think it’s important to be honest about this journey. Then you can all know how to pray! 🙂

Oh this road, it’s so unpredictable. Thank you Jesus for walking by my side.

 

A New Place

We are rapidly approaching our one year anniversary of life here in Ukraine.

Has it already been one year?  Has it been only one year????

So much has happened in this past year it feels like a million lifetimes have passed since we touched down in Kyiv that cold November night.

Before we moved we’d been warned by other missionaries and in missionary books and missionary blogs that the first year overseas is a beast. We tried to prepare ourselves for that, but how can you really prepare, emotionally and spiritually, to leave everything you have ever known and held dear- and start over? How can you prepare to go from being a pretty smart person to feeling pretty much dumb pretty much all the time? How can you prepare for what it will be like to watch your children hurt and struggle and feel lonely? How can you prepare to go from being a vital part of a vibrant community of like-minded people to living on the fringes of society?

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You just can’t. You can try, but you just can’t be prepared. You just have to jump and trust that your loving Father will catch you.

This first year has been the hardest time of our lives. It has stretched us and jostled us and turned us upside down.

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And yet…

How can you prepare to have your heart invaded by 80 boys tucked away in the middle of nowhere? How can you prepare for the joy of knowing young men and women with special needs who can light up the room with a single smile? How can you prepare to watch God fling open doors that have been shut for years? How can you prepare to feel the absolute smile of God and joy of the Father as you walk right down the center of His will? How can you prepare to watch young men and women loving your children with utter abandonment?

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You just can’t. You can try, but you just can’t be prepared. These things are what you experience in that catch of the Father.

My heart came to a new place this past week. I was washing the dishes and thinking about our upcoming Ukraine-iversary, and I realized that I’m good. I’m okay. We will most likely live here for a very long time, and I’m okay with it. When we moved here we sold everything except what we packed in our 12 suitcases (and a couple tubs in storage). We came here with the mindset that this is our new home until God says otherwise. We knew then that if we came for a set amount of time we would forever be looking at that deadline and we wouldn’t settle in for the long-haul. We know that about ourselves.

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I can’t know the heart of God, and His ways are higher than mine. Maybe He’ll have us leave here next month, but I highly doubt it. I can’t say I know the future, but I can say that the dreams God gave us are big HUGE dreams that are going to take a loooooooong time. So, as things stand now, I expect us to live in Ukraine for many, many years.

We are here for the long-haul, and I’m good. I’m sad, but I’m good. Thinking about the long-haul a few months ago only made me cry. I’ll be honest. Now it makes me cry and it makes me smile. It makes me cry because I miss my family and my friends across the ocean. I saw pictures of a bunch of my family all together last weekend and I bawled my eyes out. I should be there with them. How can I not be there with them? How can we raise our children so far away from family? How can we bear all the missed holidays, all the missed birthdays, all the joys of daily life? Christmas is coming. How will we bear it? I don’t know and I don’t even want to think about it. I guess I have to trust that God will catch us then too. It’s so hard, but we just have to trust Him that He will fill those empty places- for us and our family in the US.  That part is incredibly hard.  I can’t even tell you how hard.

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The long-haul also makes me smile. It makes me smile because of our dear ones here. How could we ever leave our Boys???? How??? How could we leave and not be a part of their lives? How could we walk away and not know what happened to them, where they lived out their days? How could we stop fighting for them? And what about our young adults with special needs? We love them! How could we leave? And what about all our friends? Our church? Leaving here would be just as devastating as it was to leave Salem. I’ll even dare to say it would be more devastating deep down, simply because our loved ones in America are daily loved and care for by many, but our Boys are not.

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Sigh. There just aren’t any simple fixes. It’s just painful and joyful and trustful and tearful. All we can do is trust and keep hold of the hand of our Father.

So, I’m in a new place. I’m in a place of seeing the long road stretched out before me and feeling okay with walking in that direction for many more years. There will be plenty of tears and joys along the way, I’m sure of that. But oh the peace that comes from saying YES to Jesus- one step at a time. There’s just nothing like it.