Friday, November 26, 2010

Coming home!

Our facilitator took me to the embassy this morning just before they opened. He was not sure we would be able to get our visas as the embassy is not officially open on the last Friday of the month. I prayed and went in. Once I got to the immigration section I pushed the buzzer, not sure if anyone would be there. A man came to the window and I told him my name and why I was there. He said to take a seat, and that the visas were ready to print and the officer would call me up when done.

Honestly, I was amazed at the Lord for that. I had allowed myself to focus on our circumstances the previous day, which was Thanksgiving day, and had not felt very thankful. I fully expected to be chastised by the Lord for having such a bad attitude by finding out the visas were still not available. Instead, our compassionate and gracious God moved another mountain for us, and I was humbled. As I was waiting for the visas, I was reading scripture and was further convicted for my lacking faith in God's plan. Despite my failings, our never changing and forever faithful God chose to allow the visas to be handed to us today. Again, I am humbled and extremely grateful.

We met another adoptive family for lunch today at TGI Fridays. We very much enjoyed their company and fellowship, and will be praying for their adoption. There is something special about the adoption community, and we are very blessed to be a part of it.

I want to say something to prospective adoptive families. Keep in mind that I am not perfect (refer to second paragraph), but I feel I must say this. First, this process is not easy, but, if the Lord is calling you to it, you must set aside any of your fears and worries and follow His leading. Do not worry about finances. Do not worry about how to parent a child from hard places. Do not worry about what your friends and family may think. You must obey the calling and then watch the Lord move mountains for you. No, it will not be easy, but we are never promised an easy life. Yes, it could be a heart breaking experience, but He promises to be with us always. You may not be called to adopt from Ukraine. You may end up adopting from Ethiopia, Haiti, or domestically, but if your are called, you must answer that call. There are so very many children who need families. If I could have, I would have scooped everyone one of them up. Honestly. So many people struggle with what God's will is for their lives. Scripture is clear:

"Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world." James 1:27

We will be flying home tomorrow. We are very excited to be able to tightly hug each and every one of our boys and see our friends and family again. A special thanks to Sheri's Mom and Dad, and to our good friend Tonya, who have given so much by caring for our boys while we have been here. Thank you to those who have prayed for us, sometimes even in the middle of the night. Thank you all so very much. May God bless you for your service to Him.

To God be the glory. His name is worthy to be praised! Thank you Lord for who you are, for your love for us, and you patience with me when my faith fails and I started getting wet as I look at the troubled waters rather than focus on You. Thank you Lord for all of my children, my boys, and now my girls. Thank you.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Did I, or did I not?

Did I, or did I not give my life to the Lord? Do I not tell Him to lead me, that I would do what He wanted and when He wanted? I did, but it is hard.

We did not get the visas today, but we did get the medical clearances. There was a worldwide computer problem that stopped the embassy from completing the process and printing the visas. As tomorrow is Thanksgiving, we cannot do it tomorrow. We are having to change our tickets to the weekend and pray that we get the visas on Friday.

It was hard to here the gentleman at the embassy tell me he could not give me the visas. I had one of those pity-parties for an instant and had to stop myself. I am not my own. If the Lord wants us to stay, then we stay until He says go.

In perspective, we have some internet friends who are here in Ukraine for adoption as well and were just told by the oldest of the sibling set they are feeling led to adopt that she not sure she wants to go. Their blog is http://thelibbyfamily.wordpress.com/ If you have an adopted child from Ukraine, live in States, and are willing to have your child call this girl to share about what it is like in the States, leave a comment with your contact information and I will forward it to the Libby's.

I know the pain they are going through. It is still very fresh in my mind. I am comforted by the two beautiful girls sitting next to me here and reminded that God's plans are always better than ours.


Sunday, November 21, 2010

Things I am thankful for

Now, of course my Savior, my husband and my family come first and Babuska and Tonya, but this is ranking pretty high right now.


and as soon as I find an ooey gooey chocolaty brownie, it will be next on the list!
(if anyone knows where to find one in Kiev, let me know...there could be a reward)

posted by Sheri

Church!


Numbered List
Rich and Cheri Strahm

We were able to go to church this morning. We contacted Rich Strahm who was gracious enough to arrange to come to the Metro station nearest us and escort us and our friends the Albritton's to his church. The day went something like this:

1. Add at least 40 minutes to the get ready time to account for the girls needs.
2. Encourage the girls to get ready and actually get out of the apartment....discuss who will push the button on the elevator.
3. Try to explain to the Albritton's where the Metro station is- like the blind leading the blind since neither of really knows where we are going, or where we have been.
4. Walk the 3 blocks to the Metro station...UPHILL~ note to self (Sheri), begin exercise program.
5. Meet the Albritton's and wait for Rich (we were early, Yeah!)
6. We entered the Metro station and rode an incredibly long, fast escalator way down
underground. (The girls are still getting used to riding and getting on and off of escalators, and elevators make them dizzy)
Almost at the bottom

7. The Metro stations are beautiful (so are our girls)

8. We rode the metro, We all almost fell down in one big lump when the train started.
9. After the Metro we rode a bus, then walked again for about 3 blocks.
10. We arrived at the church about 30 minutes early which gave us all some time to dry off (did I mention it was misty and wet today?)


11. We were greeted warmly and felt very welcome.
12. There is just something about being around fellow Christians, you just feel like family.
13. The Worship music was great even though we could not understand it....that didn't matter.
14 Rich introduced us to the congregation and asked James to share a bit. He shared a short testimony and shared about our family and the adoption. He cried :)
15. The message was given by a American, and translated to Russian. Usually the other way around, but they had a guest today.
16. The girls were very good during the service, they even sang some of the songs. Seeds being planted :)
17. After the service we went to a buffet lunch. YUM!
This is the dessert that Natasha chose, I thought it was worthy of a picture.

18. The fellowship was Awesome, the day was great!
19. Rich took us on the bus back to the Metro station and put us on the train with instructions to get off on the 7th stop. We all spent the ride chatting, while carefully counting stops.
20. We were all relieved when we exited the train and saw the familiar station. Back up the long escalator and we said our goodbyes and walked to the market and then to our apartment.

Just a side note, all three women are named Sherrie, Cheri, and Sheri!
posted by Sheri

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Shopping and food and wow, how did that happen

We are taking the opportunity we now have because of the delay to get to know our daughters better without other family members around. It is much different being in a store with a child than just sitting around a classroom. They are showing more and more of who they are, and they are still very sweet. We are very humbled that God has chosen us to be their parents. We rely on Him for wisdom in parenting.

Since we did not leave today, we needed to buy the girls more clothes so that they can actually have a change of clothes. Yesterday we spent 6 hours out of the apartment shopping for clothes and food. We had already figured out that parents should add 10 minutes per child to how long any activity should take, but we now are coming to the conclusion that 10 minutes is not enough for the girls. I think we will add 35 minutes per girl :)



Yesterday, after walking to the underground mall (40 minutes uphill both ways-no kidding) at Independence Square and looking in most of the very overpriced shops, we found jackets for the girls at a store around the block from our apartment. They were right in our price range and the girls were happy. We were exhausted!

The girls in their new jackets. This market is just below where our first apartment was.


Today we went out again to an area near our apartment to look for a few more things. We found undergarments, a few extra shirts and sweaters, and are still looking for socks. Oh Target and Wall-mart, where are you? :) We also found a large supermarket that sells the Mibiha (mivina, it's like top ramen). The girls love this and it is cheap. We also bought potatoes and other healthy food :)

Sheri and Nastia cooked some potatoes and such for lunch/dinner. The girls ate enough this morning for 2 or 3 meals. We don't mind so much. They need the nutrition. They like bananas and apples a lot. They have also been eating bread with mayonaise (maybe not so good) and sandwiches made with the same, along with "solsiski" (hot dog like things that are cheap).



Nastia wanted to cook the potatoes so Sheri helped her in the kitchen. Nastia did very well and told Sheri she helped at the internat. She also said that she watched he mother make potatoes when she was little. She peeled the potatoes and cut the onion. Sheri helped her fry them up. Then she added cut up hot dogs. She spent a lot of time working on the presentation of the meal which turned out wonderful.

I was sitting next to Natasha who was busy happily coloring with her new markers, and it hit me. We are the parents of EIGHT children! How did that happen? It seems just yesterday we were newly married and "planning" how many children we would have. I am SO very glad the Lord has chosen to work His plan and not ours.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Introducing our daughters!

I wanted to make sure I went back and posted a picture of our daughters, now that they are officially ours.

Please let me introduce to you our daughters, Natalia Rebekah Fontes and Anastasia Grace Fontes! Here is a picture of our beautiful daughters taken on the day of court.


They are both very sweet, we are so very blessed to be their parents. We know that once you meet them, you will love them. Will try to fill in more details when we can (I'll make Sheri post something - she is more likely to include more info). If you have ever adopted here before, I know you can imagine the normal drama that is aside from our particular set of circumstances.

Pray we can take them home SOON!

Not going home yet

Nothing surprises God. He knew what would happen today including our 14+ hour bus ride to Kiev getting pulled over by the police 3 times with one stop being about an hour, making us late this morning to Kiev. So here is the details: one of our daughters show something "suspicious" on the x-ray today for the medical exam (req'd for visas). The doctor said we have to get a 3 day test. Can't start test till Monday, meaning results come in Wednesday afternoon. We have to then scramble to get visas from embassy before they close for the 4 day Thanksgiving weekend, leaving us here another week. The doctor was not a kind person, at all. She made my daughter cry, which made me not a happy papa! We have another route we (our facilitator) is going to ask about tomorrow. Pray. We would like to come home now, but trust in His timing.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Gotcha!

Will post details later.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Closer to home

Here is where things are at now. We have all the documents we need now except one saying that our oldest girl is not a criminal (required if the child is 14 or over and she is 14), the passports, and we need to sign documents stating that we are taking "delivery" of our new daughters from the orphanage. We pray that we do get the passports tomorrow. If so, we will working our way back to Kiev tomorrow afternoon or evening!

We will get the girls at 8 AM at the orphanage and do more paper chasing here, then drive to bigger city in this region to finish the passports. We will have to pay for two taxis to take us all, as an official from here has to hand deliver something for the passports and then needs a ride back. Also, the little Lada we are riding in is a bit small to carry the girls, Sheri and I, and our facilitator for a one-hour drive, so we can split up a bit and make the ride more comfortable. Please keep praying. We have been so blessed to know that many of you have given up sleep to pray for us. Thank you! I praise to our God for moving mountains today!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Quick update

So it looks like we won't get the girls from the orphanage until Wednesday. This will actually (Lord willing) speed up our trip home by getting all the paperwork done in one day rather than spread out over two (because of the time it takes to pickup the girls). Pray we can get it all done in one day and be on our way to Kiev with the girls on Wednesday night, and then on our way home this weekend.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Happy Birthday Jacob and Elijah!

I am praying that this will a very busy week. If we are able to get the older style passports, there is a small, very small chance we could head home this weekend. I am praying for that of course, but preparing for a longer wait.

If there are no appeals and no other issues, we should be getting our final documents from the court sometime tomorrow and be able to pickup the girls from the orphanage, and we cannot wait!

Because I foresee that this could be such a busy week, I am posting this happy birthday message to our sons Jacob and Elijah, who will both have birthdays in the coming week. Boys, we are so sorry we are not able to be there with you on your birthdays. We love you both so much! We will have another birthday party for you when we get home. I hope you like the gifts we got you before we left.

We are so blessed with each of our children and are very ready to be with them again.

Elijah, we love your creativeness with Legos, and how you always have a gun (toy) in hand ready to handle any enemies that show up :)


Jacob, we love how you can see completed projects in a pile of random items (like when you built a Wall-E robot out of scrap items), and how you love to tell us what you are thinking about :)

HAPPY BIRTHDAY BOYS!

Friday, November 12, 2010

Sardines


No, we did not eat sardines. But yesterday we felt like them!
Around 2:00pm on Thursday we got a call from our friends the Weese's, (they are staying in a town near us and adopting a girl from the same orphanage that we are) they were in our town and wanted to stop by for a visit. Oh! How that made my (Sheri's) day. Well, we met them down near the market and were able to show them around the outdoor market area near us. It felt funny being the one's who were doing the "showing". I think we feel a bit more comfortable now, I do say just a bit. Well, after a while it was time to head to the orphanage for our visiting time and their facilitator was not back yet from his errands. We thought, "no problem," we would just ask (more like play charades with) our taxi driver to get the Weese family a taxi too. There are ALWAYS lots of taxi's waiting when we come down, except today! So after playing charades for a minute, we just motioned to the driver that we would all just try to fit into his little Lada. It looks like a little station wagon. So Brian sat in front and I got in back and scooted into the middle with James on one side and Sonya on the other, all was good, except we still had to get Brian and Sonya's 13 year-old son Harrison into the car. We thought of strapping him on top, but alas Sonya thought it would be better if he sat on her lap. He ended up kind of draped across the three of us, which worked well. We considered opening the windows so he could stretch his legs, but none of us could reach the window crank due to the sardine-like way we were packed in. The ride was very nice and full of laughter as we went over bumps and wondered aloud if the wheel wells were scraping, or was that the exhaust pipe? Our driver just kind of shook his head and did his best to avoid bumps. We arrived at the orphanage and as soon as we were able to locate the door handles we all fell out and righted ourselves.
We are thankful for this little bit of fun as well as the fellowship with like-minded believers we were given yesterday.

Earlier in the day (Thursday) we ventured out to try to buy some clothes for the girls to wear when we pick them up on Tuesday. We started at the outdoor market and were excited to find two very nice sweaters for 130 grivna each. We also found some warm tights for 25 grivna. We went into the market downstairs from our apartment to look at shoes. This market is like a little mall, there is a little grocery area as well as lots of other kiosk sort of things with different things for sale. Toys, cosmetics, pet food, flower/plants, office supplies, YARN :), knick knacks, lingerie, clothes, shoes, books and more. So we went to the shoe area and tried to explain that we wanted to try on a pair of shoes. The girls' feet are as big as Sheri's or bigger, so we figured Sheri could try on the shoes and we would have a good idea that they will fit. Well, they had some nice shoes, just not the right size. We are pretty sure the ladies at the lingerie counter were laughing at me as I tried on the little girls shoes. Oh well, we are getting used to being laughed at. So, we couldn't find shoes or jeans and we still needed undershirts, and undies as well as something for the girls to sleep in. We planned on going to a different shopping area Friday.

So today is Friday and we left at 2 pm and had our taxi driver take us to a shopping area near the court house. We arranged for him to pick us up at 3:15pm to take us to the orphanage. We started at the outdoor market there thinking we could find a better price that a big store. We were sad to see that most of the little shops were already closing up! We wish we would have started sooner. We did find two blouses and some undies there. So from there we went into a big building that we figured had clothes inside since we could see some from the windows. We were right, but we surprised to see that it again was like a mall, just with little tiny stores..and most of them were closed already. :(
James found a toilet and went in without paying!!!! He realized his error and paid when he came out (.75 grivna) it apparently is cheaper to use the toilet here rater than Kiev where I paid 2 grivna. I'm just glad the ladies didn't go in after him and drag him out for not paying :)
I found a store that sold jeans and cautiously went in on the just mopped floor (people here are always mopping and we always seem to walk in RIGHT after they mop!) The Lady didn't speak English (of course) and was NOT understanding that I wanted help figuring out how to find jeans in the right size!!! I noticed the price of the jeans and quickly exited. Wow! They must have been designer jeans. We left there and walked around the corner and saw a store with shoes so we went in. (it was open until 5:00pm yeah!) Again we were faced with trying to communicate and the lady just kind of stared at us for a minute. After explaining that we wanted girls shoes and realizing that we were in a mens shoe store. She finally was able to get us to understand that there was a store across the street that might have what we were looking for, but by this time we were a bit tired so we wandered back to wait for our taxi.

We visited with the girls this evening and had a good time. Our younger girl like to take Daddy's pen and have him chase her all over the room to get it back. Daddy likes this game too. We try hard not to break anything in the room full of desks as they race around at top speed. It usually ends with someone getting a minor injury and lots of hugs and such. We are planning a little party tomorrow for our anniversary. We will bring pizza and cake and hopefully share this time with our friends the Weeses
Posted by Sheri


Wednesday, November 10, 2010

No more Wednesdays

Lord willing, the girls will never spend another Wednesday in the orphanage. Our facilitator confirmed with us yesterday that we will pick up the final court decree, if there are no problems, sometime on Tuesday the 16th. We cannot wait.

Yesterday our regular taxi dropped us off and told us another taxi would be picking us up. He said he would call another taxi. This has happened before and has never been a problem. After another great visit we came down to meet the taxi, but there was no taxi. After waiting for awhile in the wind, we called called our facilitator (not with us right now) who then talked with one of the girls and told her to call a taxi for us, which she did. The first guy said he was not working and gave her another number. As best as we can tell, the next taxi said no (wonder why - a young girl asking for a taxi to come to the orphanage). The facilitator ending up called the taxi that said no, and 10 minutes later the taxi showed up.

Tonight during our visit the power went out at the orphanage. We had been told about power outages here, but so far had not had a problem. It was only out for a short time.

Our younger girl had been complaining about her nose hurting yesterday and today it was worse. The tip of her nose was red and there was a little dried blood just on the inside of her nose. She felt to us to have a low grade fever, but she insisted she was fine. We called our facilitator to have him ask her about it and she told him it was no big deal and the nurse has put some cream in her nose. We want to help her, but we can't do much yet. Please pray for healing for whatever is causing her problems.

God is good and continues to carry us along. We trust He will give us our daily measure of grace as we wait to pickup the girls and wait for passports after that. We talked to our younger boys today. Our youngest sounded very sad. I wanted to reach through the phone and hug and kiss, but obviously could not. Hang in there little man (all my little/young men), Mommy and Daddy will be home soon.

We bought a rotisserie chicken at the little chicken hut today. It was 45 grivna and worth every coin. Very good. We'll be stopping by there again as we can get several meals out of one chicken, and it was good. Way better than our attempt at spaghetti the other day. Not so good.

Thank you all for your continued prayers.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Why we should...

Please take the time to read the post at the below link. It shares what I wish I could say, but never seem to have the words.

http://www.nogreaterjoymom.com/2010/11/reckless-abandon.html

Sunday, November 7, 2010

The start of week 6 and another great visit

Today starts the sixth week here in Ukraine. We are ready to see our boys again (actually, we were ready right after we arrived).

We are so blessed to have been brought here to these two wonderful girls. We saw them again today for about 3 hours. They are both growing more and more comfortable with us. Sheri and I are both getting hugs when we first arrive and several throughout the visit. We even get a few kisses on the cheeks now. We just hung out today. It felt more natural and less like getting to know each other.

We found another family who is in this region right now adopting one of our girl's friends (and her brother who is in another orphanage) and we have been chatting with them. We hope to meet up this week. We just missed each other at the orphanage today.

The Lord has provided several new friends in the last day or so, just when we needed encouragement. We are both very grateful to the Lord for giving us another boost of His love through His children.

I am greatly looking forward, Lord willing, to post the girls names and pictures on the 16th when we should be getting our final court decree. We are praying still for no problems during this waiting period and for quick passports.

Sheri made a grilled cheese sandwich tonight. How did she do that in a kitchen that only has a sink and a fridge? With the iron and a foil wrapper from a chocolate bar of course! She enjoyed that sandwich almost as much as she would a burger from home :)


We have been listening to a lot of sermons (I brought 131 with us, I hope it is enough) and have truly felt and seen the Lord through all of this. This, along with staying in the Word, has helped us stay focused. As I look back on the last few weeks, I can tell you exactly when I felt closest to the Lord. It was when I woke up in tears the morning before the N and S first told us no. The Lord had woken me up, and I woke up praying. On my knees I gave it all to Him. I am not smart enough to write out how that felt. I can only say that while my heart was truly aching, He was there, holding me. I do not want that ache again, but that intimacy with my God I long for daily. When we are at our weakest is when He can truly show us who He is. Really, He shows us who He is all the time, we just aren't paying attention. We are so very grateful for the daughters He brought us to. When you meet them, you will love them I am sure.

We plan to go looking for a set of clothes for the girls tomorrow. We'll have to guess at their sizes, but I know Sheri can guess pretty accurately. It will be good to get out and go for a good long walk too. We'll probably take them out to buy a second set once we get the final court decree. I'm sure they will love that! I think we will take them out to pizza to celebrate too!

Here are a few pictures (not the girls yet, sorry):


Here is our kitchen. Notice there is nothing to cook on :)

This was a gift to Sheri from one of the girls.

A meal made in our non-cook kitchen :)

One of the bedrooms (the one with windows)

James washing the darks. We dry them on the folding drying rack that is in the bathroom.

The living room. Sheri is working away at chatting with someone on the computer.

The cats in the cradle and the silver spoon, little boy...oh, sorry. Our oldest girl met us one day with a lump in her coat. Guess what that lump was? Yep, a kitty. The kitty spent the visit with us and spent some time in the cradle that is in the classroom.





Saturday, November 6, 2010

The Adventures of Puddles

When our son Elijah was born, he received a little stuffed dog by the name of Puddles. He grew very attached to that little dog, so we bought a backup dog just in case Puddles was ever misplaced. We decided to bring the backup Puddles along for our adoption trip and take random pictures of him. Perhaps we will continue this on family trips. Sounds fun :)

Here are some pictures of Puddles:

Puddles, waiting to get on the plane at FYI



Puddles is tucked in safe and sound for the flight to Portland


We are getting close to Amsterdam! "I can't wait to get off this plane!"
Those were Sheri's thoughts, Puddles was quite happy on the plane, but Sheri didn't sleep much and was VERY uncomfortable.


The last leg of our flight to Ukraine. The view from our plane in Amsterdam.


Our first apartment in Kiev. Puddles was happy to have made a friend.


The kitchen was very stylish, Retro I think?



Our first overnight train ride...again Sheri did not sleep...and don't EVEN ask about the bathroom!

Things got very busy for a few days and sadly Puddles didn't get out much. He was very happy when we bought these two guys to keep him company!
We were back in Kiev and ready to head to our new region and meet the girls.


Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Court went well - now in the waiting period

"I cried unto the LORD with my voice, and He heard me out of His holy hill. Selah" Psalms 3:4.

Thank you all for joining us in prayer. We had court. It took about an hour and then the judge, two jurors, and prosecutor left the court room to make their decision. They came back about 20-25 minutes later. The judge read a document that pretty much summed up everything that was in our paperwork and what was said, and then said that the court agrees that it is in the best interest of the girls...for us to adopt them!!!!!! We praise the LORD for being our shield and our confidence. We still have the just over 10 day appeal period to go through, but if there are no appeals, we will be the proud parents of two daughters! Thank you Lord for the kindness you showered on us this day!

Monday, November 1, 2010

Court getting close

We have court this Wednesday. We appreciate all of your prayers that it will be completed in one day, and that we will have no more delays during this adoption.

We did not visit the girls Sunday as it was election day here and the orphanage was a polling place. We saw them today. We are getting to know them a bit more each visit and are really enjoying our time with them.

I think not having anything to do yesterday was tough on us. It was a very long day. We miss our boys a lot (a lot). We have started week 5 now and had thought we would be almost going home by now. God is sovereign, and nothing that has happened, nor anything that will happen, surprises Him (right Renee?) and we take great comfort in that solid fact.

One of the girls (A) likes rap music and tried to get me to repeat a rhythm she was doing. So she has me thumping my chest, snapping and clapping. It was a comedy routine as a tried to learn what she was doing. She must have thought I was musically hopeless (I am, and I have the "Harmonica for the Musically Hopeless" book to prove it). She did it pretty well though. We'll have a challenge finding rap music that we will allow. We downloaded Toby Mac's Irene and they both seem to like that one, given that they will play it over and over again. We need to download another one so they have another option.

I hope to upload some pictures soon. Maybe it will add some color to this blog :)

Grace and peace to you.