Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Only A Dream

The first night without my boy was really tough.  I missed him thumping down the stairs with his pajamas all hiked up like Steve Urkel and his tiny size 8 white, undershirt.  We have no idea why that boy wouldn’t wear the undershirts that actually fit his growing body.  He somehow kept putting on the small ones.   Each night he’d wrap his arms around me and squeeze so hard I thought he’d break my ribs, followed by “I love you, Mommy!!”  Sometimes if we’d had a really fun evening together I’d get 3 or 4 hugs and a few more  “I love you Mommy’s” before he’d thump back up the stairs usually asking if he could play his Nintendo DSI for a little while longer.

While I was lying awake all night crying to the Lord, I begged for Him to give me some comfort. The first verse that came to mind from my childhood was “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come to him” Revelation 3:20.  Later on in the night I got to see a picture, or a dream of Someone knocking on an old door.  Brandon opened the door and his face lit up and he said, “Hey!!!!! I know you!  Mama and Papa tell me about You. Mr. Kellett tell me about You.  Pastor Sean. He tell me about You.  I see it in book at school.”  He was SO excited at Whoever was at that door.  He was looking back and me, pointing and saying “Look!” I acted unenthused.  I couldn’t see anyone.  The emotion was like the million times that he saw airplanes and was freaking out. Somehow I was never quite as excited as he was about the airplanes or helicopters.  He would freak out similarly if he saw someone driving down the road that he thought he knew.  (I didn’t usually look because I was trying not to run into anyone in front of me.) Admittedly, I actually wanted Brandon to stop freaking out about the door and let me sleep. The last thing I saw before I woke up was Brandon vigorously waving at me…like he used to wave at me from the soccer field…like he used to wave at me each morning when I dropped him off for school.  I waved back at him.  It was only a dream.  But I needed it and it comforted me greatly.

Please pray I get a good night’s rest this evening.  I have only slept a few hours since he’s passed.  My head is pounding.  I need rest.

Thank you, Lord, for the comfort that only You can give and for the amazing friends and family who are holding us up right now. 

Monday, January 30, 2012


Feelings? Well.  Honestly, they hurt.  If there was a switch to shut off the feelings right now, I’d use it.  It means a lot that all of you are bearing some of our burdens in love as is taught in the Bible.  It does help alleviate the pain a little knowing all of you care. Thank you. 

For those of you who are wondering what all has happened, our 11-year-old son Brandon went into eternity today around 12:30 in the afternoon.  Obviously we haven’t heard back from the autopsy exam, but he had what appeared to be the flu.  He was vomiting and holding his tummy since last night.  He had a break for about 3 hours before it started up again around lunch time.  He threw up on his bed and carpet.  Then he went in for a shower.  I never saw him alive again.  I believe he was gone before I got the bathroom door unlocked and opened.

I can’t imagine walking through this without my Lord and Savior.  The verse that keeps running through my head is, “The Lord giveth and He taketh away.  Blessed by the name of the Lord.”  Blessed be the name of the Lord.  I am humbled that my Heavenly Father loved me enough to sent His only Son to earth, to die in my place, so that I, and anyone who believes can live eternally.  He giveth life.  He takes life away.  He gives joy.  He takes away sickness and pain.  He gives faith and peace and hope and love and comfort.  He takes away the sin of those who recognize that all of us are lousy sinners in desperate need of a Savior.  Those of us who recognize this, repent and place our faith in Christ and only Christ get to live eternally in Heaven, forever.  He gives eternal life.  

I do not question His goodness.  I was not ready to give my son back.  I only got to enjoy him for 8 months.  But I trust my Heavenly Father.  He’s going to walk me through this.  He’s given me the gift of all of you reading this.  He has given me the gift of thousands of photos of my son….all of which he was smiling.  He has given me my 3 sweet, baby girls.  He has given me my precious husband.  He’s given me my parents (and family) and Tim’s family (all of it).   He’s given me hope: One day He’ll wipe these tears from my eye.

Feelings? Well.  I feel a little better.  Thanks for allowing me to get some of my pain out on “paper.”

The First Tears

The young warrior is down for the count.  Brandon officially came down with the flu late afternoon yesterday.  I knew something was up when he turned down dinner and went upstairs and fell fast asleep.  He threw up most of the night and moaned and groaned from abdominal pain.

Is there anything more pitiful than a sick boy or man?  Even the strongest of warriors appreciate a mother’s care and love when they don’t feel well.  It actually brought my son to tears when I wiped off his mouth and cheek.  “Thanks, Mom” and the tears flowed as he wiped them away immediately.  This was the first time I have ever seen the boy cry tears.  He puts up a macho front. He’s been taught since birth that men don’t cry.  In fact as he had a tooth drilled without any drugs at 7 years of age, the doctor said if he cried, he’d drill harder.  Trying to reprogram that mindset has failed until this point.  Son, real men cry.  Dad cries.  Grandpa and BeBe cry.  Pastor Sean cries.  Even Jesus Christ wept.

 Anyway, I hate that my boy is sick.  I feel so helpless.  However, it’s nice to know that underneath all his fledgling muscles and toughness is a heart of gold, which is soft and tender.   I’m honored to be able to care for him when he needs me the most.


Tuesday, January 24, 2012


This peacock may not look like much to you, but to my almost 7-year-old this is a treasure.  I snicker to myself as I recall right after Christmas an olive-skinned mall vendor was selling these plush toys “at a discount.”  Haley (as well as Kylie) adored this toy and begged to have it.  He said to us, “Online you pay at least $60.  Today, I give you a GOOD deal.  I give it to you for $30 dollars.”  Haley pulled out her wallet and a bunch of one dollar bills and said boldly, “I’ll give you TEN dollars.”  He laughed (a little embarrassed by her precise offer), “Oh, you make deal, huh?”

She was not joking.  She would not be scoffed at.  She would give him TEN dollars and not a penny more.   
He was not willing to budge.  Miss Little Haley Alissa (my cheap accountant mini-me) was not willing to budge either.  We walked away forever!
So, I went online a little while ago “online” and found this beauty at a whopping $11.88.  It sure doesn’t take much to please my Haley.  Oh, how I love this child!
Shh!!  It's a secret.  It's for her birthday on February 3rd.  (Fingers crossed it arrives from amazon.com on time.)

Monday, January 23, 2012

The Journey

A year ago my mind was on traveling to Ukraine.  I could not wait to finish our adoption paper work and hear back from the SDA in Ukraine regarding our travel dates.  I honestly thought that the adoption was the end of our journey and life afterward would be lived happily ever afterward.  Little did I realize that the adoption was just the beginning of the journey.

We’ve had a pretty easy time with adjustment.  From the outside looking in, I guess our family looks happy and healthy.  It really is happy and healthy most of the time.  We are very blessed.  I do have my nagging perfectionism working against me.  The girls taught me long ago that the house is never going to be perfectly neat and truly God placed Brandon in my life to teach me that I am not perfect and neither is anyone else.  So I need to give it up and relax a bit. 

Recently I read a book called The Ragamuffin Gospel by Brennan Manning.  Bear with me.  I will probably talk about this book a few times before I get it out of my system.  There were many things that I gleaned from this book that are too helpful to keep to myself.  One thing I’d like to touch on today is “the perfect image.”  Many Christians try to portray a perfect image.  I see it all the time on Facebook and I see it in person as well.  Some people never admit weaknesses, defeat, or failures.  Conversely others focus only on the negative things.  I think there needs to be a balance between always having a picture perfect life and always being derogatory.  Manning came up with 3 problems with projecting the perfect image.

First, “the perfect image” is not true.  No one is always happy.  No family is ever perfect.  No one always feels optimistic.  I’m sorry, but I am not naturally prone to be optimistic about having a 12-year-old in 3rd grade.  I would tend to think that I would have seen great improvement by now in my son’s academics, especially with the amount of time that is spent with him.  But that’s just not a fair burden to place on a child with my son’s background.  Just because some internationally adopted children have blown through a few grade levels by now does not mean my son wants to or is capable of this type of ambition.  I need to be still and let my son mature and grow at his own pace.  I learned a secret: Those families that always seem to be picture perfect are indeed not perfect.  We need to reach out to them because those “perfect” people are probably really hurting people.  They are afraid to own up to the fact that their “perfect image” is a hoax.

Second, projecting a flawless image keeps us from reaching people who feel we would not understand.  Putting aside adoption and anything to do with adoption, sadly I have messed up big time in my life.  I have struggled with getting back up on my feet after such disasters.  I struggle with guilt and doubt and the devil really tries to throw past failures back in my face ALL OF THE TIME.  I was encouraged when Manning stated that some of the most mature Christians he has met were those who had failed and learned to gracefully live with their failures.  It is my heart’s desire to not linger in the past and not let it cripple my joy or my usefulness to the world.  I would much rather gain maturity and wisdom through past inadequacies.  I’d rather admit my failures and be able to help others through some difficulties in their lives.

Third, Manning says that even if we could live a life without conflicts, sufferings or mistakes, it would be a shallow existence.  Have you ever met a shallow person?  I have.  They are really boring.  Actually, they are often very conceited.  In fact, if you’ll allow me to be blunt—I generally cannot stand to be in their presence.  I really don’t trust shallow people.  I feel like they are hiding something.  I want to say to them, “Come on.  Give me the dirt.  What skeletons are you hiding?”  No one is ever THAT perfect.

Anyway, Manning talked about viewing life like a child.  He told a story about a child who was running from a tiger and fell off of a cliff.  The child landed on a rope and looked below at the sharp rocks.  Immediately in front of the child was a wild strawberry.  Instead of looking back and worrying about the tiger or looking forward at the jagged rocks, the child ate the strawberry.  I need to learn to enjoy the journey.  I need to stop looking back at where I’ve come from both good and bad.  I need to stop counting down the days until the particular trial is over.  I need to focus upon right now.  I can do this because I serve a God that is bigger than any trial I go through.  He’s covered any sins I’ve committed past, present or future.  No matter what, God loves me.

Romans 8:35,37-39 “Who will separate us from the love of [m]Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? 37 But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”


Saturday, January 7, 2012

I'm a Paradox

Guilty as charged! 

I believe and I doubt, I hope and get discouraged, I love and I hate, I feel bad about feeling good, I feel guilty about not feeling guilty.  I am trusting and suspicious.  I am honest and I still play games.

Brennan Manning

I love this!

Merry Ukrainian Christmas!

To Russian speaking countries today is Christmas.  So, Merry Christmas all of you who have adopted Ukrainian children or who are perhaps Ukrianian yourselves.  A year ago I had decided in my mind that we would be celebrating today complete with Ukrainian dishes and decorations.  I wanted the first Christmas to be special.  Well, somewhere between Brandon's homework, American Christmas and traveling to New York and Maryland it slipped my mind.  We will likely visit the Russian Restaurant downtown sometime today.  Surely there will be special decorations and music happening there.

Today is also a very sad day for me.  It is Roman's 10th birthday today.  A year ago I envisioned celebrating his special "double digit" birthday with him.  I wish he were here, but it's bittersweet because if Roman were here, Brandon would not be.  I am afraid  I will always remember "my" sweet Roman.  He is still very close to my heart.  I loved him for almost 8 months as if he were my own child.  Where there is love and then loss, there is also grieving as well.

At any rate, I imagine he is having a fun time today if even his own birthday is not acknowleged at the orphanage, but for Ukrainian Christmas! Perhaps he received a special shoe box sent out by Operation Christmas Child. 

So anyway, Merry Christmas all, and Happy 10th Birthday, Roman.  I love you.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

2011 At A Glance

January—We were awaiting National fingerprint appointment, we were in the middle of the paper chase with the Secretary of State.  We received  a ray of light when we received drawings and letters from the boys saying thank you for the gifts and letters they received and that they looked forward to coming to America.

February—We had a lot more paperwork and then finally the documents were submitted to the SDA office in Ukraine.

March—Our church threw an adoption shower.  It was such a blessing and encouragement in such a dark time where we were weary of paperwork and setbacks and we were discouraged by the long wait.  The end of the month we traveled to Ukraine and met the boys for the 1st time on March 31st.
Maxim said "no"

Roman also said "no"

April—They both said "No." On April 4th we learned the boys would not become our sons.  Yet on April 10th we finally met our precious son, “Sergey.”  April was both the best and worst month of the whole year.

May—“Sergey” said “yes,” we said “yes,” the judge said, “yes” and we brought our son home forever on May  14th. 

June—We enjoyed our sweet summertime—lots of swimming and outdoor activities and lots of family bonding time.

July—We traveled to Tim’s family for the holiday in MD and we enjoyed some hiking, fireworks and more swimming.

August—We took our annual trip to the Blue Ridge Mountains and we all had an absolute blast hiking and relaxing at the cabin.

September—This was perhaps the hardest month to date.  It was stressful on us all namely because of the adjustment to American school. 

October—The Men and Boy’s Retreat was our saving grace.  Brandon got to get away from the pressures of school and hang out with no one but Papa and the other men from our church.

November—We enjoyed packing boxes for Operation Christmas Child.  I was able to conduct  my first heart-to-heart “interview” with Brandon since his English was good enough to both understand my questions and also answer my questions about his life in Ukraine.  He also experienced his first American Thanksgiving.  He’s not a fan of fried turkey, but he loved the classic, baked turkey.

December—Christmas decorating, Christmas program, Christmas presents, Christmas trip to NY….What can I say? We loved every minute of December!

Looking Back at 2011

I have just spent the last few minutes reminiscing over the year 2011.   What a crazy, bizarre, mixed-up, definitely-not-how-I-planned-it year THAT was!!  I remember last year as I watched the ball drop and 2011 was ushered in, I had an unfamiliar dread of the future year and a lump in my throat as I held back tears.  I had never experienced that type of dread.  I think deep down I knew that the year would be one of my hardest years that I would have to face and I also knew that our family dynamics were going to change forever.  It would never be the same and I wasn’t sure if that was good or bad.  I knew I had the power to stop everything with the adoption and not have to change our “perfect little family” at all.  That would be the safe and comfortable thing to do.  I reasoned it may even be the sober and more reasonable thing to do. Unfamiliar dread is very frightening and it hurts your gut in indescribable ways.  However, I felt the still small voice, the Holy Spirit, calming me and moving us forward.  Just because something is scary does not mean we are to back away.  In our weakness God is SO strong!

 Looking back I would have to say that “the change” was good.  Don’t get me wrong.  There are definitely days that I feel as though we were crazy for changing anything.  (And for the record girls are WAY easier to raise than boys.  No one can ever tell me any differently!) But God is faithful to walk us through the difficult days and He has blessed us even more than we can imagine.  Adoption definitely needs to be looked at as a lifelong ministry.  It requires strength, patience, courage, prayer, love, passion, dependence on the Word of God and I cannot ever imagine undertaking such a mission without the power of the Holy Spirit inside of me.  I cannot ever say enough how thankful I am for the calling on our lives to adopt an older child.  I am forever changed.  I am forever different.

As I look forward to 2012, I have a different type of dread.  I’m uncertain why, but I surely could use any and all prayers you can offer on my behalf.  I’ve been around long enough to know that certain trials we experience are simply preparing us for other trials that lie ahead.  Nonetheless, I am hopeful and optimistic.  I’m trusting in His promise that He will never leave us nor forsake us.  I look forward to watching our 4 children grow and thrive this year.  I look forward to falling in love with my husband even more this year.  I look forward to at least one new niece or nephew this year.  I look forward to perhaps getting out of our adoption debt this year.  I look forward to making special memories with our family this year in the mountains and at the beach.  I look forward to new friendships this year.   And finally, I look forward to growing in knowledge and in wisdom and deeper in love with my heavenly Father this year.  Love and peace to all of you.