Kids, on adoption

If you know me at all, you know I love children.  Especially in the first 5 years.  People sometimes shake their heads in disbelief when I say that I love two-year-olds, but I'll tell you why: they are hilarious.  I mean, we all enjoy sweet baby coos, the first laughs, the incoherent but determined babbling of a one year old... but it's after they turn two that things really get good.  Having those kids around is like having a comedy show in your kitchen, every day.

As a daycare provider, it makes the diaper changes, the potty-training, the tantrums, and food pickiness and the nap hating all fade into background noise. I love my job because I laugh every single day.

Which is why I am dedicating this post to a few of the many cute, hilarious, profound, and poignant things the little ones in my "village" have said (and done) about our adoption.  They say it takes a village to raise a child, but I think we can all agree that it takes the children to make the village belly laugh.


On learning about being adopted into versus being born into a family: 
I still laugh at this one.  Reverse identity crisis. 

On hearing that we were going to Russia to meet our little man: 

On seeing pictures of us with our little man in Russia: 


I forget who said this one, but one of my friends said that when their little one saw a picture of me with our son, they said, "Look!  He's getting his new mom!"  Love that.

This is just a sampling of all the adorableness that has come out of the mouths of children.  It thrills me to hear parents talking about adoption to their kids.  Have you heard kids say anything funny or noteworthy about adoption?  Please share because I'm always up for a smile!



Coming home

Between getting stuck in the two middle seats of a four seat row on our longest flight and coming down from the meeting-him-high, the trip home was very long.  I am thankful, however, for the opportunity to make the trip once (and soon twice) without our little man because I've already learned a ton about what I'm going to do and NOT going to do when we bring him home.  For example, on this trip we carried on our luggage and used our checked bags for orphanage donations and some food items.  This plan worked out swimmingly for our trip (and I'll be doing a "packing for adoption travel" post soon so prospective adoptive parents stay tuned!)... however on the trip home we checked through the gate on our first flight and proceeded to walk down three flights of stairs to our plane. 

Unless I grow another set of arms in the next couple months, I know I won't be carrying a toddler, a stroller, a messenger bag, and my roller-board luggage down those steps!  Good to know.

When we also found out that 75 minutes is barely enough time to make a transfer at an international airport.  Between customs, having to re-check our luggage, going through security again (three times in one trip!), and booking it across the airport, we'll be looking for longer layovers for our next 4 flights.  I'll tell you what though, if you're suffering from a little motion sickness, there is nothing like an adrenaline filled power walk through an airport to cure ya!  We made it to our gate just as the plane was boarding.  In John's words, "It wasn't even close."

Tell that to my aneurism.

So aside from our mostly smooth but somewhat stressful trip back, being home has been incredible.

Our friends Dominic and Kristin picked us up from the airport (thank you!) and welcomed our weary selves back with open arms.  When we got back home we found that they had cleaned our house, made us dinner, filled our fridge with necessities like milk, fruit, eggs, and beer (of course), and put gas in our car.  They even mopped our mud room entry way, which is a biannual event for me at best.  There is nothing like good friends. 

Shortly after arriving home I got an I'm-going-grocery-shopping-what-can-I-get-you? text from another friend.  Seriously felt the love.

After a power-nap, dinner, and a shower John and I drove out to his parents' place to pick up our cat who we secretly missed so much.
Instagrammed cat in a carrier.  He's super cute, right?
 My in-laws are beside themselves with happiness for us (and themselves) as they prepare to welcome their first grandchild home.  My mother-in-law took it upon herself to prepare us a giant gift bag filled with frames, a photobook, and tons of prints in every size of the pictures we took in Russia.  Our little man's face will soon be adorning a new photo wall in our living room!  I loved being able to tuck the photos into my bible and show them off at church this morning.

And speaking of church (I'm still tired so let me get away with that terrible transition, alright??), it was awesome.  John and I were both overwhelmed with hugs and excited exclamations as we made our way through the building.  The worship team even asked us to share a picture and a little bit about our trip.  I won't lie- it was pretty amazing to see our little man's smile on the big screen up front!  He is being welcomed into a community with boundless love to give.  I cannot wait to bring him home.

Since John was preaching I was sitting right in the front row and I think I made a couple women in the choir choke up a little, but it really wasn't my fault.  We sang Praise to the Lord, the Almighty and when I saw it on the program, I knew I was doomed.  True to form, when we got to the second verse I could barely hold it together.

Praise to the Lord who o'er all things so wondrously reigneth 
shelters three under his wings he so gently sustaineth
has though not seen  how thy desires e'er have been 
granted in what he ordaineth? 

Why yes I have seen my desires granted in what he ordained. My mouth kept doing the thing where the corners pull down with emotion and I couldn't make it stop.  There was a pile of water in my eyes too but I just refused to blink and let it come out. 

Really if God wasn't so faithful I wouldn't be so emotional.  So I blame him give him the glory.

The encouragement we have received on this blog, on facebook, in texts, emails, messages, and in person has been one giant amen resounding to our adoption prayers.

It is good to be home.  It is good to be moving forward.  I cannot wait to welcome our little man into our community where he is already so deeply cherished and loved.

Let the AMEN! sound from his people again! 
Gladly forever adore him.  



The last day

The only tears were ours today.  Our little man came to us easily and with great affection.  He ran around the playground calling, "Papa!" again and again.  Oh how I love to watch them play!

If we had only met him once we would have thought our little man was a quiet and serious little boy, but today his inner two-year old shone through.   From the sly grin he gives us as he runs off the playground into "forbidden territory" (the grass), to the decided "Daaa!!" he yells as the pigeons get to close ("get out of here birds!"), he is definitely two.  When we first arrived and walked to the playground he gave us a mischievous smile, pressed his mouth together and forced an exhale, flapping his lips like a horse.  Our translator laughed and said, "This is universal!" No need to put that in English.

John and I chased him around all morning: up the stairs, down the slide, under the bridge, in the sandbox.  We will all need a nap this afternoon.

It does our hearts good to see our little man acting like a typical toddler.  Running into our arms for hugs and kisses, laughing hysterically when we blow on his belly, and even pushing our hands away when we try to steady him as he climbs on the playground equipment.  As we prepare to leave, we take comfort in knowing that he is in the good care of his nannies who have done such a great job raising him so far.  It is not a family, but for an institution, this place does well.

We left our board book with the speech therapist because she is the one person who gets one-on-one time with the children.  She received it excitedly and promised to read it to him many times.  It will be our prayer that the Holy Spirit impresses his memory with good thoughts of us until we return.

Ultimately, whether they live in families or not, all children are in the Lord's care.  As parents, this is a lesson we will learn early as we have no choice but to leave him.  We have given him our love, our laughter, our tickles, our chases, our kisses, and our hugs.  Now we leave him, holding him not in our arms but always in our prayers.

It has begun to rain as I type this post.  It is fitting.  As it rains and we cry, our souls are washed.  We give thanks to God for this incredible week with our son, we grieve as we say goodbye for now, and we turn to joy as we move forward day by day until we see him again.

For now, with hearts strangely both heavy with sadness and yet light with joy, we put one foot in front of the other.  We pack our bags; we board our flights.  Your prayers have carried us safely this far; I ask that you continue to pray and carry us home. 



Day 3

Day three is best summed up as Daddy day.  I successfully scared the crap out of our little guy with a rousing game of "I'm-commina-getcha!!"   I guess they don't play that game at the baby house.  Huh.  :-D

In any case, this scare resulted in our little man running and clinging to Papa for comfort.  He did warm back up to me, but Papa was definitely his favourite today.  I'm tempted to scare him a little again just because there is nothing like watching your man be a father.  (Just kidding.... about the first part.)

They played paper airplanes, which led to little man eating the paper airplane, which led to John eating the airplane, which led to this adorable series of events:

I got to read him the board book I made.  He kept pointing to the pictures of me and John and then flipping furiously through the pages as fast as he could.  His nannies said they would read him the story every day until our return.  What an answer to prayer!

The best part of the morning was right before out little man when inside for lunch.  He is very quiet with us, only revealing his little voice for the occasional shout at the baby house's dog or his friends playing nearby.  Before she brought him inside, his nanny told our translator that even though he's quiet with us, as soon as he comes in for lunch she asks him, "Who were you playing with outside?"

And without hesitation he smiles and her and says:

Mama and Papa. 

Oh the ocean depths of this love.



Day 2

They talk about falling in love with your child, but nothing can prepare you for the immediacy.  From those first magical sparks to the ocean depths of love- it takes only hours.  Yesterday I dove off the cliff and today I hit the ocean.

When we got to the baby house our little man was getting dressed to go outside. His "class" of eight or so other children were going to the park, so they all came out of the baby house together.  We stood scanning the group until there he came out from behind a stroller.  His nanny walked him over to us and he began to cry.  Although it might seem strange to be happy over your little one's tears, his tears are a wonderful sign to us of his healthy development, his attachment to his nannies, and his desire for a consistent routine (like any toddler!).  I cherish this opportunity to be the one who soothes his fears.  I take out a yellow squishy ball I brought for him to play with.  He is memorized.  His cry turns to a whimper and soon his tears are gone.  

Our translator motions for us to follow her to the playgrounds.  There are six or seven playgrounds on the property; each class of 8-10 children has their own.  The play structures are so happy; mostly wooden, brightly painted, and well maintained.  The one we use has a slide, two swings, two sea-saws, a merry-go-round type contraption, a sandbox, and a little house filled with toys.  Tall white birch trees shade most of the site.  The ground beneath our feet is made of sand and tiny pebbles which our little man loves to pick up and throw.  I wonder aloud to John if he is allowed to do that when his nannies are around.  We let him do it anyway. 

I have carried him from the baby house to the playground.  At first he does not leave my side.  He plays gingerly with a set of stacking blocks and the squishy yellow ball we brought.  John and I fumble through our phrase book and say things in Russian like what's that?, truck!, and ball!

When he seems comfortable having us around I say his name and start kissing his cheeks.  He cracks a smile.  I pick him up and kiss his cheeks, his eyes, his nose, his head.  He giggles all the while. 

 John wants a turn.  I put our little man on the ground and John crouches down to give him a tender squeeze.  When that goes well John picks him up and lifts him as high into the air as he can.  Our little man is grinning ear-to-ear.  John rinses and repeats until his arms can't do it any more. 

When he comes down for the last time, our little man gives a contented sigh and snuggles into his papa's shoulder.  

We are completely smitten and our little man is now smitten with us.  He trucks around the playground laughing.  His laugh is low and quiet and like the waves of deep love washing over us.  He climbs on the slide and throws his stacking cups down to John, one by one.  We wonder again if he is allowed to do that with his nannies.  And again- we let him do it anyway.  

Every so often in the midst of our play we scoop him up and huddle, the three of us.  I put my hand on my heart and say, "Mama."  I reach across to touch John and say, "Papa."  I put my hand on our little man and say his name.  He gets very quiet when we do this and stares intently into our faces.  Another wave of love sweeps over me as I watch him process the idea that we will be a family.

We play for two hours together: sliding, see-saw-ing, tricycle-ing and just general trucking around.  Toward the end I have him in my arms and he is playing with my necklace.  It is my little shoe necklace, which my parents bought 15 years ago, saving it for the mother of their first grandchild.  He pulls it right off and breaks the chain.  I think to myself that I don't even care; I've been wearing it while I wait for him and in this moment, I'm not waiting any more.

When our play time is done and it is time for him to go back inside, I pick him up and carry him to the baby house.  He sits on my hip with his head on my shoulder and a smile on his face.  I think to myself that he was meant for that spot.

With every step back to the baby house a wave of love washes over me.  I want to walk slower.  I look into his eyes and try to tell him that we will be back tomorrow.  Already I cannot bear to think of leaving him on Friday.  I pray for the strength of the Spirit to sturdy my heart and wrap around our boy.

Two more visits.  Four more hours to swim in this ocean of love.

I have never been so happy.



Meeting my son

The "baby house," as they call orphanages here, sits in a beautiful park- a forest of sorts.  The trees and grass are brilliantly green around us.  The weather is beautiful; blue skies and puffy white clouds float above us while sunshine streams onto our faces.  We walk through a large black iron gate onto the orphanage site.  The baby house is pale yellow with many windows.  Empty baby prams line either side of a ramp toward the front door.  We enter into the foyer and our translator stops to talk to a woman in an office by the door; I think she is the security guard.

We keep walking into a long hallway with shiny white tiles and many doors on either side.  Our translator tells us that we will first talk to the orphanage director and then meet the boy.  The director's office is large and sunny.  He stands and smiles widely as we walk inside.  I take a few steps forward to shake his hand.  John does the same.  He motions for us to sit on a tan leather couch.

We sit for about 10 minutes while the director gives us our little man's history in Russian.  Our translator translates into English.  I write everything down as fast as I can.  In the middle of a sentence about when he was born, I hear footsteps echoing down the white tiled hall.  The orphanage director smiles and our translator says, "That's him coming."

John and I are barely breathing, listening to those footsteps get closer.  It seems like an eternity until suddenly there he is.  Standing before us, clutching his nanny's hand.

He is so beautiful, I think.  He is the most beautiful child I have ever seen.

I am in love with him.

I am sitting on the far left of the couch and he is by the door to the right.  I stand up and step past John to get to him.  I crouch down in front of him and whisper hello.  He looks at his nanny who speaks to him in Russian.  His lip starts to quiver and John quickly passes me the lovey we brought.  I smile and shake the lovey, revealing the rattle inside.  He smiles back.

His nanny speaks again in Russian, this time to our translator.  Our translator tells us what she is saying:

He is very shy with new people. 

He loves to play with blocks and puzzles. 

He does not like music class.  

He is so smart.  

He is a good sleeper and he loves to eat. 

He is our favourite. 

She puts his hand out for me to hold.  I touch him.  I cannot stop thinking how beautiful he is.

I am aware of John beside me saying softly hi there and ohh-ing and aww-ing over his little son.

The nanny speaks again in Russian and starts walking our little man out of the room.  The orphanage director motions for us to follow.  He puts us in a playroom while the nanny takes our little man to the bathroom.  He is potty trained I think.   John and I wait for a moment in the playroom, smiling at one another.  I am willing myself not to cry because I do not want to scare our little man.

The playroom seems like a child's dream world.  There are toys of every kind, a giant stuffed bear in the corner, and a brightly coloured ball pit.  Everything is clean.  Sunlight pours into the room from bright windows.

Our son comes back into the room with his nanny.  She tells him to go play and he does.  He goes right for the puzzles and blocks, just like she said he would.

While he plays I am constantly touching him.  I rub his back.  I hold his hand.  I stroke his head.  His hair is buzzed very short.  Another nanny stops by the room to apologize for his haircut.  He has the most beautiful curls, she says, but they keep the children's hair short for easy care, especially in the heat of the summer.  I clasp my chest at the mention of curls; oh how I cannot wait to see them!

We play for half an hour.  John and I are amazed by everything he does.  How he squats while playing.  How he concentrates so intently and for so long on his project.  How he sighs with little grunts when a toy ring gets stuck on it's stacking tower.  Eventually I pull him onto my lap and I kiss his head.  I breathe him in. I am so happy.

Too soon, his nanny comes to tell us it is time for his lunch.  We put the toys away together.  He amazes us as he works; he is organized and particular already.  Everything goes back in its place.

I want to hug him but I wonder if he is ready.  I take my chances.  To me it feels like he is letting me hug him; John tells me that he put his little arms around my shoulder and hugged me back.

I take his hands and walk him back toward his nanny.  Through our translator she says, "I am amazed.  I thought he would cry.  When he goes to music class without me, he waits until the end and as soon as he hears my voice he runs back to me.  He was so comfortable with them!"

I think to myself that I have been praying that he would bond with one of his nannies and develop a secure attachment.  Here she is- the woman I have been praying for- and he is clearly bonded with her.  I am amazed at the answer to my prayer.

He nanny asks him to wave.  He looks right into my eyes as he does and I think he is looking into my soul.

As quickly as he came, he is gone.  We will see him for two hours tomorrow; tomorrow cannot come soon enough.

My beautiful baby boy.


Follow this link to read the rest of our adoption story. 


The trip here

View from our bedroom window.  
The sun is rising over the city and though it is nearly 10pm at home, I am just waking up from a full night's sleep.  Whether I slept so well from the sheer exhaustion of travelling or whether I have side-stepped jet leg altogether remains to be seen.  Either way, I am thankful to have a full recovery day ahead; nothing to do but eat, drink, sleep, and sight-see.  

Our trip here was nearly perfect.  Every flight left on time and arrived earlier than expected. And ours bags arrived safely too, which is always a great relief.
Waiting for our first flight. 
Taking off!  This is it!! 
 John and I loved seeing the four different airports and watching all the people mill about.  There is a certain electricity in the air at international airports- a palpable mix of excitement, nerves, and anticipation as travellers come and go.  We were especially amused at the frankness of the Dutch at the Amsterdam airport.  When we left Detroit 8 hours earlier a late passenger would hear the announcement, "Mr. Smith please report to gate A40 right away."  But in Amsterdam the voice came across with a much more direct message, "Mr. Van Smith, come to gate D8; You are delaying your flight."   

Wouldn't want to be that person!

Now we know why all our Dutch relatives just tell it like it is.  It's just who they are.  

The Russians have a different public face altogether: namely, silence.  Shortly before our final landing, the flight attendants handed out customs forms to each of us.  John and I were sitting across the plane aisle from each other, communicating with lip reading and hand motions how to fill out the form together.  When we landed and got in line to go through customs, we were happy to see other couples going through together.  We got to the "passport control" agent, ready with clear answers about our visit, remembering not to smile (thank you Russian tourist book); the agent took our passports, read our forms, stared us down- studying our faced to see that they matched our passport photos- stamped, stamped, stamped, and slid the passports back to us.  That was it.  Not a word.  Honestly I wish we could fill out that little form and have such an easy go of thing when we crossed the Canada/USA border.  Cheers for Russian efficiency!

So practically speaking we could not have asked for a better trip.  Physically speaking, we did pretty well too.  Out first flight across state was only 26 minutes long- less than half the anticipated time- due to strong winds, but those winds also made for a very, very bumpy ride.  About 15 minutes into the flight I started feeling a little queasy.  20 minutes in I looked at John and said, "I think we'll need to pick up some Dramamine at the next stop."  He agreed, being a little green in the face himself.  Six minutes later when we landed we were both breathing deeply and willing ourselves to feel better.  Thank goodness we had a long layover with lots of time to walk around, drink some Sprite and chew on peppermints.  We felt much better after that, though a bit of the queasiness lingered, which was probably just as good as it meant we did not fight any hunger pains for the duration of our travels.
Relief from motion-sickness! 
The best part of our flight for me was the emotion of it all.  When we took off from Detriot, leaving the USA behind, I felt as though my heart would burst.  John and I held tightly to each other's hands, both overcome with the realization that this was it.  We were on our way to our son.  It was really happening.  For that entire 8 hour flight I fought back tears every time I thought about meeting him.  I thought about what it took to get us to this point: that moment in my car, the hours in prayer, the discerning conversations with friends, the fundraising, the pancake breakfast, the saving, the paperwork, the waiting.... the meaning of it all was causing my heart to burst in the best possible way.  For the first time I think I felt with full force and all gravity just how beautiful this adoption really is.  And still my heart leaps to think that tomorrow will be the most beautiful moment, the moment when all the power of the past will be met with all the hope of the future and we will finally meet our little boy. 
Flying over the ocean to meet our little boy. 
Yesterday after John and I had gathered our suitcases at our destination, we walked through the airport looking for our facilitator.  We saw her right away holding a sign with our agency's name on it.  A beautiful woman: stylish, warm, and with more than 15 years experience facilitating Russian adoptions behind her: entirely capable.  Tired and weary from our flight, overwhelmed in a strange land, she seemed as much angel as human to us.  After greeting us so kindly, she called her driver to pick us up.  As we waited for the car to pull up, she- with her soft and beautiful Russian accent- said to us, "Your little boy- he is my favourite.  So smart and cute.  We are all so happy when we heard he will have a loving family.  He is all our favourite." 

Be still my mama's heart.  Those were the first words we heard in Russia. And it was the perfect thing to hear.

With a heart so full it could burst,



Calling forth the courage- preparing for international adoption travel.

A path in the sand.  Something so beautiful about a clear path forward.

Not tomorrow, but the next day.  That's when it gets real, doesn't it?  When you've counted down the months to weeks and the weeks to days.... and the 7 to 6 to 5 to 4.... and suddenly the thing you've been waiting for is happening not tomorrow, but the next day. 

 Our first trip- of three- is almost here.  Not tomorrow, but the next day we'll be boarding a plane to fly- well, across the state, and then another plane across the ocean, and finally one last one across the continent.

This is my first trip overseas.  (I thought I'd start out big.)  Overall the peace I wrote about last month has continued to surround me.  I though I'd be a nervous wreck by now, so I am humbled by this gift of peace and assurance the Lord has blessed me with.

But then every once and I while I start to get overwhelmed with the what-if-I-forget-something-important fear or the what-will-we-do-if-we-miss-a-connection fear or (my personal favorite) the what-if-we-get-sick-from-the-water?! fear.

In those moments I need more than a prayer for peace.  I need to call out courage and confidence.  I need the we'll-figure-it-out and God's-got-this assurance.

In those moments, I go back I go back nine months, three weeks, and one day.  I go back to that cool afternoon in September.  I go back to the desperation I felt.  I go back to the thick throaty prayers of Why God?! and What do you want from me?  From us?  For us?  I go back to the silence, the unanswered prayers, and months of waiting for God to act and lead us according to his will.

I go back to that September afternoon, when I- in a moment of desperation completely indistinguishable from the thousand of desperate moments before it that made up my I just want to be a mother existence- prayed, "Please God, allow me to find a moment of encouragement, a word of direction on the radio as I drive to the grocery store."

Praying.  Pleading.  It's not a far drive from our house to the grocery store.  I scanned through radio stations for 10 minutes.  A cheesy Christian radio song.  Sigh. Commercials.  I held my breath. Another cheesy Christian radio song.  Another sigh.

Pulling into the store parking lot, I reached forward to turn the volume down when the song ended and a man's voice came through my speakers.  He introduced the show and then the topic:


At this point my car was parked, my grocery list was in hand, and my seat belt was unbuckled.  All I had to do was turn the key and open the door, but I couldn't.

Out of the place where only silence had been before, came a still, small voice.

Stay in the car.

So I did something I had never done before nor have I since: I sat in a parked car and listened to an entire radio broadcast.  I marvel at the timing; Michigan seasons don't often allow for car sitting and radio listening.  Half and year it's too cold to sit in a parked car and it's much too hot the other half.  There's about a week in September and a week in May when it's comfortable enough to do it.  I guess it was that week.

As I listened I felt a sense of conviction and purpose I can hardly express.  In my heart I knew that this would be a defining moment in my life.  As I listened to a family testify to God's provision for their international adoptions, I began to cry.  They talked about the parts that were hard that they thought would be easy and about the parts they thought would be hard, but turned about to be easy.  Most of all, they talked about the joy. The purpose.  The meaning.  The beauty.

My tears were so hot on my face and it felt like a warm, cleansing bath for my soul.  In that moment all the yuck that had been muddying the water in our path forward was washed away.  I knew exactly the next step to take.

Where moments ago I had plead for guidance, I began to pray my way forward.  I spoke aloud in the car words of praise and promise and understanding. John and I had been talking about adoption for months already, but with little idea about how exactly God wanted us to move forward.  In this moment I knew without a doubt in my mind that God was calling us to international adoption.  Mostly I just prayed the word yes.  I had no idea what this road to adoption would look like and yet I knew exactly what it would look like.

It would look like faith.

After groceries and inviting John into my experience and a dinner I hardly felt like eating, I was online following the radio broadcast to links to websites, clicking through the magic of the web with it's million connections, following the pull in my heart forward: clicking, typing, reading, and then finally seeing his face.

11:51pm on September 26, 2011 I stared into the face of a beautiful 15-month-old Russian baby boy with piercing blue eyes, whispering to God, "Is this my son?"  

Not tomorrow but the next day, we'll get on  a plane to meet this little boy and sign some papers to tell the people who matter that from our end- the answer is, "Yes."

So when I face those fears about preparations or travel or health- I call forth that day in September.  I go back to the surge in my heart and the hot tears on my face that showed me the way forward.  I go back to that moment of total conviction and absolute clarity.  I bring that moment into the present and I am able to call forth all the courage I need to move forward. 

From a woman in a grocery store parking lot, to a baby in Russia, to all the planes in the sky and the germs in foreign water pipes:  he's got the whole world in his hands. 

Not tomorrow.  But the next day.



Toddler adoption: setting up the room

Our little man's room is coming along!  We're only a floating shelf and a bookcase away from being finished.  Setting up his room has been a process in more ways than one.

Of course there's the process of painting and shopping and assembling the furniture, but more importantly- there's the process of getting your hopes up

When we first started this adoption we knew we wanted to pursue our little man's adoption, but of course we didn't know if it would happen.  Actually, we still don't know with 100% certainty that he will become our son, but somewhere along the way we started letting go of the worry and just embraced the joy.  This morning we sang It is Well with My Soul in our worship service and when we got to the lyric: though Satan should buffet / though trials should come / let this blessed assurance control / that Christ has regarded my helpless estate / and has shed his own blood for my soul.. when we got to that part I could think only one thing:

That no matter the outcome of our adoption, it will be well with soul.

It's amazing to me, that how just letting that blessed assurance control me has given me so much freedom.  Christ's control over my salvation gives me the freedom to hope and plan and dream for my family.  It gives me the freedom to put together a room for a little boy, even when the fear of what if this adoption falls through and he never comes home? threatens to undo me.

My eleventh grade English teacher once told my class that the beauty of poetry is that there is so much freedom in the form.  There is a form to poetry- many forms, in fact- form with rules and verse and boundary.  An essay is not a poem.  A paragraph is not a poem.  A book is not a poem.  To write a poem you have to stay within certain boundaries.

But don't think of the boundaries as constricting you, he said, focus on the freedom in form. 

That's the kind of freedom of feel.  Freedom to move around my life, just like I move around in a poem, knowing that Christ has all things held together.  He's got the poetry of salvation history perfectly suspended; he'll never let me fall out of verse.  Let this blessed assurance control. 

In light of this blessed assurance, I've felt the freedom to put our little man's room together.  And here are the it's-coming-along pictures:

The rocking chair in these photos is one my dad bought me when I was just a baby.  You can still see my teeth marks on the top, if you look closely.  (I actually blame my younger brother for that because I am just way too sophisticated to have ever chewed on furniture.)  You can just see a little bit of a wooden box peaking out behind the chair, but that is an old ammunition box from WWII.  John kept various toys (baseball cards, pogs (remember?!), GI joes etc) in that box when he was a child and now his own son will do the same. 
The map on the wall is by Abraham Ortelius, known as the maker of the world's first modern atlas.  The colors are so pretty; I wish maps were still made so beautifully!  John loved pouring over maps as a child and I hope our little man likes to look at the illustrations on this one as he grows.

Details we've collected, clockwise:
1) The Russian nesting doll is from my dear friend Sarah, who I met in college.  She spent a few weeks in Russia as part of a spring college class back in 2006(ish).  She brought this doll back for me.  Who would have known I'd be adopting from Russia all these years later! 
2) The lamp is a new buy.  Because who doesn't love owls?
3) The quilt on the bed was sewn by my sister when she was 16 as my going-away-to-college gift.  Yes she is super talented! 
4) And the three sailboats are actually picture-holders (will fill those after our first trip to Russia next week!)  They were the table favors at my friend Sarah's wedding (same friend who brought me the nesting doll); she was married in the fall of 2010 and when I saw them on the table I immediately thought I'm going to put these in our child's room someday.  I took mine and John's and someone else's who forgot theirs.  Maybe I didn't try very hard to remind them, okay?  I just love them. 

Putting our little man's room together has been a very meaningful experience.  All these items from the past mixed together with new ones for him to call his own... it fills my heart with hope for the future.  And when that hope is threatened to be undone by the fear of what if and failure, I breathe deeply and let the blessed assurance of my salvation control.

It is well, with my soul.



Adoption story book DIY

You won't be shocked to hear that one of the hardest parts about adopting from Russia is having to make three trips to complete the adoption.  Aside from the long flight and being away from home, the leaving your child behind part is.... well, hard.

John and I want to start the bonding process with our little man as soon as possible (yesterday would be great), so we've done two things to facilitate bonding through the distance.

First, we've been sleeping with a little "lovey" which we intend on leaving with our little man at the orphanage.
If he takes to the lovey and plays or sleeps with it himself, it will help familiarize him with our scent.  The hope is that when we see him next he will remember (even if subconsciously) our smell and associate it with good things.

We also hope to take the lovey back home with the three of us on our final trip.  By then the lovey will smell like the orphanage and provide some comfort to our little man as he deals with feelings of homesickness, adjusting to his new life with us.

How well this will work depends on whether the nannies at his orphanage allow him to keep the lovey and then allow him to take it back home with us.  We've heard that most items become "common goods" at orphanages, so we'll see.  It's at least worth a try!

The other thing we've done is put together a board book with our pictures in it!  I originally stumbled upon this great idea via a pinterest pin from blogger Chef Messy.  She has a great tutorial on how to put one of these books together; her idea was for a gift but it works perfectly for our adoption purposes!

I don't have photoshop so I just used photobucket.com to re-size my photos into squares and had them printed on regular paper in 6x6 squares at FedEx.  I bought the blank board book on amazon.

Here's a picture of the finished product (almost, we are going to cover the pages with packing tape to improve durability):

I "translated" using google translate, so I'm not sure the Russian part is grammatically accurate, but the sentences are very simple so hopefully his nannies will be able to read it to him! 

Here are the pages:

Very simple way to help prepare him for the adjustment.  Once again how well this works will depend on his nannies, but we are hoping and praying they will be receptive to it!

Thanks for looking!

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