Adopting Grace

The journey to bring our little girl home

Browsing Posts tagged train

A Blessed Mess of a Year

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This time last year Philip and I had just arrived in Ukraine to start our adoption process. A year ago Thursday we met Leeza for the first time. As I’ve been reading over some of the blog posts from last year it’s reminded me what an insane year we’ve had. In some ways it’s been our best…we’ve seen God move in ways we’ve never experience and got to be a part of something He orchestrated. In some ways it’s been our worst…at many times our lives felt upside down and I’ve been faithless and furious at God for straddling us with more than we can bear. Our pastor has been doing a serious of sermons on the Exodus and I can so clearly see how I’ve been exactly like the Israelites this year, deciding to ‘test the Lord saying, “Is the Lord among us or not?” As our pastor went through the story and compared it to other verses that showed that the Lord allowed them to go through difficult times to test their faith I could see how He’d done the same thing with us this year. And I could see how so many times I’d failed. He was faithful to do the impossible and keep Leeza alive and bring her home before she was transferred, but then I had a child who spoke no English, who screamed anytime I put her to bed or walked more than 2 feet from her and had bathroom issues so bad we couldn’t leave the house for weeks at a time and couldn’t keep her clothes or shoes on because her only mode of mobility was scooting on the floor. He was faithful to bless her with an amazing ability to learn our language, to learn to start trusting us and doctors who knew how to start healing her body and finding equipment to help her walk. Instead of realizing the provision, I’ll admit, I was consumed with doctor’s appointments that just wouldn’t stop, medications that caused more problems than they solved, fighting a stubborn streak in this little girl that turned any instruction from me into a hysterical fit and getting frustrated that she couldn’t remember anything because of the problems she was having in her brain. As we’re nearing the end of this round of tests…doctor’s appointments are fewer and sometimes we even get a week without one, medications are working pretty well right now, her self control is improving and her brain is growing…God has been good to show me how faithLESS I’ve been and how faithFUL He’s been. Over the past few weeks He’s repeatedly put this lesson before me, probably because He knows I’m slow to learn or even recognize a lesson is even happening. It’s not that I didn’t know I was wrong, I just had no idea what to do about it. No matter how hard I tried I couldn’t seem to be enough. I didn’t have enough patience to take all 4 kids to all her appointments, to deal with attitudes and defiance, to keep up with all the extra care she and other kids have required as they go through different stages. I failed daily and felt defeated. As I approached a friend recently about this she gently reminded me why we had chosen to go through this year. It wasn’t to fix Leeza or prove what great parents we were or show how much patience we could muster up…it was to fight for her soul. She wasn’t being raised to know Jesus and we had stepped out in faith to bring her home and give her every opportunity to know the Savior we know.

When that really sunk in I realized just how off-track I had gotten. I had replaced that goal with one that was never going to bring me or our family anything but frustration and exhaustion. It was incredibly humbling, but also freeing because it reminded me that I WASN’T ever going to do this alone. I was going to have to go back to relying on Jesus and His strength and to truly trusting that not only was He going to heal our family, but that He was going to give me the strength and love to raise our children in a manner that glorifies Him. I’m hesitant to say I won’t backslide because I have so many times this year, but for now I can feel His power allowing me to make the right choices. For now I can clearly see the desert of the last year and that it was put there for good reasons…to grow our faith and prepare us for whatever is next. And without the lies before me that I’ve been believing I can start to see the blessings again. I will likely (ok, definitely) spend much time down on my knees asking for grace to get through whatever has happened that day and asking to be reminded that this is a battle for 4 little souls to know their Savior. And today I will rejoice that I have an (almost) 5 year old daughter who speaks English, walks, loves her siblings, feels safe, has learned to recognize the letter ‘L’ (!), is going to school, has an amazing laugh, is beginning to learn who Jesus is and who I am learning to love as my own.

Grace loves to draw as much as any 4 year old. She does a pretty good job of it as well.

We made it to the orphanage today by ourselves, partially walking and partially catching a marshootka. Grace’s groupa was running slow so they still had to eat breakfast and we learned why she wasn’t so excited about the tea cookies we’d brought for snack a few days ago…that’s what they eat for breakfast. They had those and some tea, which I suppose is much easier to clean up after than the yogurt and fruit we do at home. We got to play outside a bit and noticed that she’s occasionally saying ‘yes’ and maybe ‘Daddy.’

After our visit we wanted to see if we could figure out where one of the marshootka routes stopped closer to our apartment so we hopped on and just stayed on, thinking it probably just ran through the

Grace loves the slides as well. We got a lot of "again again," only in Russian.

main part of the city where we live. Ummm…no. We passed the stop we knew, at the train station, and it just kept going. By the time he got to the end of his route we were about a 30 minute drive out of the city and we thought he was telling us to get out so he could take his break. Philip managed to mime a ‘U turn’ and he said he was going to do that and he agreed to let us stay on and had us sit up front so we could tell him when we wanted to get off. He knew a few words in English so we managed to tell him we were from America and he introduced himself as Slava (we think). Like everyone else here we’ve managed to communicate with, he was curious why we had come HERE. They are all trying to get out and can’t fathom why an American would come to their city. He was a very sweet older gentleman and is one of the nicest people we’ve met here so far. He patiently drove us back into town and made sure we got off at the right stop by the train station (I’d had to pull out the picture dictionary to show him where we wanted to go). He refused to let us pay and we’re laughing at the thought that maybe Slava has a blog and tonight he’ll post about these 2 weird Americans who refused to get off his bus. It took an 1.5 hour marshootka ride, but we learned to say train (poyest) and that our town is much larger than we originally knew!

For all of you who were praying for our paperwork, we’ve heard that Sasha was able to get the paper he needed from Grace’s hometown today and it’s on it’s way to Kiev. We’re hoping to maybe hear something about a court date by Wednesday.

A Short Video Update…

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So, some of you might be wise to the fact that most cameras (including ours) shoot pretty good video.  Well, we didn’t forget that either.  However, it can take youtube a little while to process them and make them ready for general sharing.

Fortunately for you, that time has passed and we have some fun videos to share.  For those of you following behind us, hopefully these will shed some light, if only dim, on exactly what goes on over here.  For the rest of you, well, you just get a short glimpse into our time here.  Anyway, I hope you enjoy!

Our first apartment – and some fun doors

First class all the way baby!

Look at me… I am walking!!

Yeah, this little cutie is going to fit right in!!

The Train

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We’re on the train right now and I should be sound asleep like Philip, but for some reason I’m up again. My body is still having trouble getting on this schedule apparently. This day didn’t go quite like we expected, but it all worked out in the end. We had the morning to find some wifi and try the ice cream, which we’d heard was fantastic (it was). We walked around taking pictures of things we found interesting and headed back to the apartment to let our computers charge before Niko was to pick us up. That time came and went and we didn’t hear anything. About the time we decided to call him we got a call saying we would be picked up by a taxi instead. We drug all our stuff outside and he arrived pretty quickly, but spoke no English and the best we could tell he was trying to take us to the train station and we knew we needed to go by the SDA first to get our paperwork. We had to call Niko to translate for us on the phone and finally got it all straightened out. The SDA was very close, but up a very old, very steep road that couldn’t even be described as cobble stone. It’s truly just a bunch of river rock that is sort of fitted together and in the rain that stuff is like trying to drive on a sheet of ice. Our driver did well until he had to stop because a car had decided to park partially in our lane (they park wherever they want) and when he started again the wheels just spun and we started to slide sideways and down. I’ve done this often enough each winter to know there was NO WAY we were making it up that hill. And there was a ton of traffic behind us and in the on-coming lane so we were in a bit of a mess. The guy was obviously nervous so we just sat there and prayed and he finally managed to inch up just enough to pull into a drive way and turn around, but he lost at least half of his tire tread doing it. The only other way to the SDA was a long loop around the city and when we finally got there Yulia was waiting and helped us tell the guy not to leave so we could leave our luggage there. We went int quickly and signed for our papers with several other non-RR families and then she told us to go to the train station and Niko would meet us there with our tickets. It took another 20 minutes of death-defying driving (seriously, they just sort of drive all over the place and with only inches between cars) to get there. For an hour of hard driving that poor man only charged about $6…that’s got to be a hard way to make a living. We waited outside McDonald’s where we were told to…and still no Niko. We called again and were told he’d be there in a bit and to go inside since it was still raining. We stayed there about 45 minutes…and still no Niko. About 20 minutes before our train was scheduled to leave Yulia showed up and practically ran us through the station and onto the train. Our coupe is very nice. We were advised to get a 1st class coupe so we could have space to ourselves; 2nd class is the same size with 2 more people with you (which would be pretty tight) and regular is just open seating. There’s no food on the train so we brought bread and peanut butter for dinner, forgetting that Ukrainian bread is fresh…ours was a couple days old and full of mold. So we ate some of our granola bar stash with peanut butter and reached for the water we bought at the station…only to realize it was their heavily carbonated stuff. It tastes like mouth wash, I have no idea how they drink it. Despite the odd dinner we had a good time and enjoyed just getting to relax together and watch a movie on the laptop. Tomorrow we’ll be in region!