Saturday, July 29, 2017

Happy 14th Birthday Keira!

      I really cannot believe this little girl is now 14 and not so little anymore!  It was only three years ago this month that we met her for the first time.....


   She was so little....not just in size, but in so many ways.  I'll always treasure that we were able to experience some of her "littleness" and give her the opportunity to just be a kid.  It was really a small window, and I see it as such a gift.  We made a lot of great memories during that time.  Today I couldn't help but think of what we should be doing.....it's a beautiful day, we could be having a birthday party in the yard with all her friends!....and doing our annual photo shoot...and....but what struck me as Luke and I visited with her today, was how many times she said "remember when we ____.....remember when you.....____."  However small it may be in comparison to her former life, we still have developed a history with her....and it means a lot.  I'm thankful for that.

We set up a little mini birthday party when we arrived today....


But before we started, I braided her hair.  I used to do so almost every day...it felt so nice to be able to, I was glad she still wanted me to!  


I could tell she was excited, though she tried to be a little bit reserved at first.  Oh teenagers!  As the minutes passed, she let go a little and became her silly self :)



I had found another copy of a children's book Levi has that refers to adoption.  I hesitated because it's really for younger children, but I really felt that she would enjoy it.  When she opened it, I was shocked that she sat and read each page....with presents still left to be opened...pointing out phrases like "always and forever, no matter what" that we've used countless times these past few years.  <3 



She was eager to open everything and try them on/use them.  Soon we had a lava lamp plugged in and a girl in goggles and shin guards :) 



And then we sang "Happy Birthday" and enjoyed her favorite cake!





We had a good visit together...I think it was really good for all of us....

I'm not sure what's next for our girl, but my prayer will always be that she can heal and lead a happy, healthy life.....that she will know how loved she is, how valuable and precious her life is, and most of all that she will see herself as God sees her...because really that would change everything.

We love you Кирочка....forever....no matter what..... навсегда!
С днем ​​рождения
Happy 14th Birthday!




Thursday, July 27, 2017

Life These Days: Us Edition

      It seems that most of my posts never actually make it from my mind to this blog these days. A few mentioned the absence of an update on what was going on with us.  Of course the happenings of the kids are intertwined with ours, but I suppose we do exist outside of being their parents, ha!  I guess it's sometimes easier to talk about them....to share the fun and exciting things that we experience as their parents.  And honestly, ours just feels so messy these days.  To share feels like complaining or trying to elicit sympathy...and the way in which ones life is so connected with others makes it even more complex.  So for the sake of being sensitive to others....we'll keep it vague....but for the sake of honesty and being real....this has been the hardest year of our lives.  And yet, even in admitting that, I feel blown away that we are not defeated.....the hardships of life have not consumed us.  For one reason and one reason only - God's constant, unending love for us...."Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness." Lamentations 3:22-23.

    There were times this year when I felt like we were in the middle of the ocean...drowning...calling out for help....and ship after ship would pass by with the same message....we can't help, but we'll be sure to get someone who can....and as soon as they were out of sight, we were out of mind.  Yet while I may have felt that way in the moment, I knew that was not the case....because beneath my flailing feet was the One who kept us from sinking.  He did not forget about us for a moment.  Our circumstances came as no surprise to Him, and He was Always....Always....ALWAYS...there.  He was there in the friends and family who lent an ear.....those who offered a meal.....the ones who offered to watch our kids....in the answers to prayer....He was there as He put just the right person in our path to share what we needed to hear in the moment, whether encouragement or a new lead to help us.....He reminded us constantly of His love, mercy and provision.

     It's hard to put into words the things that I have learned....the way I feel God refining us.  I have felt my own resistance....my reluctance to accept some drastic changes in our life.  This wasn't the way we saw things....how will this bring God glory?......Why?....How?  But it's so painful.  And as has often been the case for me....it takes drastic measures to remind me that I'm not in control....that I can't see the big picture, and even more..I don't NEED to.  I simply have to trust.  And rest on His promises.  I am reminded time and again in these trials that I answer to One.  And how much simpler that makes everything.  It's a constant process of bringing my focus back to Him.

    There's an old hymn that comes into my mind often....the chorus says "Turn your eyes upon Jesus.  Look full in His wonderful face, and the things of earth will grow strangely dim, in the light of His glory and grace."  I have found time and again that if I just turn my eyes to Him....take my focus off of my circumstances and set them on Him...everything can change in an instant.  The problems may remain, but they no longer control me.....and in light of Christ, His love, His power, His promises....they look "strangely dim."  It's pretty incredible.

    I've learned a lot about what I need to work on....and I've also learned more about how much I have to be thankful for.  A while back I spent so much time working on gratitude....being thankful...accepting everything as a gift.  I counted my one thousand gifts and beyond.....and it really changed me.  God knew I would need that foundation when the storms really hit.  But part of me feels like it all went out the window.....have I really been thankful in this?  Far from it, I'd say.  But it's never too late...and as we've begun to have a chance to breathe, I've started to reflect.  And I keep coming back to how thankful I am that God really does provide for us in every way, in every circumstance.  If I had known the events of this past year were coming, I would have wanted to crawl in a hole....I'm fairly certain I wouldn't have thought it possible to make it through.  But here we are.....we can sit and share how God protected our kids time and again....how, hey, He prepared us for this particular situation in these ways....how, wow....He knew that this would happen just then....or how it seemed like things were turning around but even though they didn't, God gave us that much needed respite when we thought we would just crumble.....again and again, over and over....His love and mercy.  And those in our life that He has so blessed us with....thankful just doesn't cover it.  We are forever indebted to those who have dropped their lives in many ways alongside of us to be there.



    This year held a couple of big milestones for us....ten years of marriage and we've reached the tipping point....as in we've officially been in each other's life longer than we have not.  It's been quite the journey!  And this man....I'm so very grateful that God chose him for me to do life with.  We are two very different people, yet our hearts are much the same.  Many have asked me how he in particular has held up over this past year especially.  He's really had it so much harder than any of us, in many ways....but he would never say so.  He's Mr. Steady.  I'm often this rollercoaster of emotions, and he brings me back to reality and reminds me of all the truths I need to hear.  He has his emotional moments too....when he's so passionate about something....when something matters so very much....but it's different.  My emotions lead me to extremes where one moment I have no idea what on earth we were thinking and the next I couldn't be more committed.  But he holds true to his convictions...both when the storms are raging and when things are as peaceful as can be.....and any emotion that emerges is simply the passion behind those convictions....and love.  I think what blows me away the most is that even with all of that being said....he's not too prideful to step back and admit when he may have been wrong.  I can recall one very difficult, frustrating (understatement) meeting at the hospital regarding our oldest....the doctor's words were appalling.....his suggestions just crazy.....one professional would bet their life on this theory and now a new one?....Luke kept pushing....he wanted to understand...wanted answers....and then there was a breakthrough...some understanding on both sides.  I would have just given up....left frustrated and in total disagreement with the doctor.  But he cared too much to just walk away.....he wasn't angry with the doctor for his views, but he pressed until he could understand and walk away feeling like we had some answers.  The answers were not perfect....but it was a valuable experience.   I watch as my husband continually checks himself....seeking godly advice from mentors in his life and prayerfully seeking God's will above all else.  I've never met anyone who loves others and is willing to fight for justice as much as him....no matter the cost.

   I remember early on in our relationship when he'd mention that he called so and so.....I'd say "what? why? you never see them anymore."  I would think to myself....geesh, I can barely keep up with the relationships I have right here and now.....why is he calling all these people that haven't really ever kept in touch with him.  Because he cares.  Way more than most.  And he'd drop everything to be there for anyone if they needed it.  It's funny how some of the things that used to bother me are some of the things I admire most about him now.  There would be days when he'd come home a little bit late when I was expecting him for something....and still now, though I usually get a phone call letting me know :) because he'd stopped to give someone a ride.  He'll often point out people on the street as we drive that he's given a ride to....and share some of their story.....because it wasn't just about meeting a tangible need, it was about hearing their story and caring about who they are.  We started doing something called "Laundry Love" several months ago when he was working with the youth....it was a way for us to get together and serve those in the community.  To again meet a physical need of washing their laundry, but with the focus being to just serve them and love them.  I really only helped behind the scenes, but I was blessed to be able to take the kids and be a part of it this month.  It was incredible.  There's a reason why God tells us to serve others....to look to the interests of others....to care for others....to love them.  There is just nothing like being a part of that.  I watched as my husband so naturally spent time with the people there.  He only sees them once a month, but you would have thought they were lifelong friends.  He joked with them, made them feel special....comfortable....cared for.  He has that way about him, but I was just blown away.  I felt so awkward....unqualified.....what would I say?  Thankfully I took some tips from him and it wasn't so hard after all.....and the kids?  They were amazing.  What an opportunity to serve together as a family.  To see my kids loving people they didn't know.....eager to help them....just because.  They are blessed with having a dad that is a great example of Christ's love.

    I guess this kind of turned into a build up my husband post....but really it's just gratitude...it's what I'm seeing as I reflect on life these days for us.....and while he's an amazing guy, these things are just evidence of Christ working in and through him.  If ever you see good in our lives, I can promise you we don't deserve the credit.  I'd rather not write a post about all of our shortcomings and the things I've said or done that are so not of God.....all of that comes from me.  How good is God that He allows us to be used by Him so that we can experience the joy and blessing that comes as a result?  My prayer, among many, for us these days, is that we will always say yes to those opportunities and that God will be given the glory He deserves. (Galatians 1:5)