Good medicine

Two years ago this summer John and I met three other couples at a park. We were brand new to our church and so were these six.  All young couples, all awkwardly unsure about where we belonged in the midst of things.

Our church is big on "small groups" which is essentially a group of people with whom you can work through Bible studies and sermon series, meeting to pray and discuss.  Our small group was born out of coincidence: we were all new and we were all about the same age.  We learned about each other though the Small Groups Coordinator at church and decided to meet, with the children, at a park for a picnic to get to know each other.

The deal was we were all supposed to bring our own meat and a dish to pass.  The reality was that we were all so nervous about meeting each other that we all just at our own meat and potluck dishes while making small talk.  There were lots of uncomfortable silences.  John and I left that first park meeting wondering if the group would ever get together again.

We did.  And six months later we picked up one more couple to make an even 10 people in our group.

Over the last 2 year we have done life together. We have welcomed three new babies and have 3 more (including our little man!) on the way.  We have seen each other through job changes, health scares, surgeries, moves, and of course- an adoption.  We have laughed over coffee on many a Sunday afternoon and we have passed each others babies up down the chair aisles during worship.  We've brought meals to each others homes and shared drinks on front porches and back decks.  We've written hundreds of emails and texts.

Since that first awkward picnic, we've come a long way.

Even before John and I left for our court trip, our small group started dreaming about a celebration.  A night to breathe in the relief and the joy and anticipation of bringing our little man home.  A way to say, "We've made it!"  A way to revel in the gratitude of answered prayers.  A way to basically yell, "WOOO HOOO!!!"

That's what we called it: our "woo hoo!"  We went back and forth a bit about how exactly we could best "woo hoo" the crap out of a long year of worry and support and heartfelt prayer.  And it came down to Thanksgiving.  John and I are missing both our respective Thanksgivings- Canadian and American- due to adoption travel, so what we decided was to celebrate with a delicious, indulgent Thanksgiving feast.

Although they all wanted to make it a potluck, our small group indulged me in letting me cook the meal myself because let's face it- I need to keep busy these days! I need time to fly by and what better way to fly through a week than by planning and shopping and cooking a feast for 10?

On Saturday morning I slept in (only three more Saturdays to do that!) and then began my kitchen extravaganza at 11am, with John as my sous chef.

Pumpkin rolls.
Sauteed collard greens. 
Garlic-chive mashed potatoes.
Fennel-apricot stuffing. 
Turkey with sage stuffing. 
And (bakery bought) apple, pumpkin, and pecan pies for dessert.

A true feast.

 John's prayer of thanksgiving was followed with both an "amen!" and a champagne cheers.  And lots of eating.

 We have a lot to be thankful for.  The money raised, the adoption procedures completed, our big "da!" in court, but tonight- most of all- our friends.  Through the highs and the lows of this adoption they have been there.  These eight received our adoption announcement with joy, they listened to our complaints about the paperwork and the waiting, they rejoiced with me when I told the last January that I felt like I was falling in love with my son (even though I only had his picture).  They've prayed.  They've emailed.  They've brought gifts.  They've shared hopes and dreams for the future.  And tonight we celebrated every inch of that goodness.

With food.

With stories. 

 With laughter.

 With love.

Life is hard.  It is filled with drudgeries and sorrows and pains and grief.  There is much to weep over in life.

There is also much to celebrate.  There is hope and there is a future.  There is grace.  There is joy.

In adoption as in life, there are both the best of times and the worst of times.  People often ask me for words of wisdom when it comes to enduring the adoption process and I've begun to say the same one thing over and over again: celebrate every chance you get.  When you hand in your application or complete your home study or finally get that dossier together- break out the champagne and celebrate the heck out of it.  There will be enough reasons to hate this process; choose to celebrate the good moments.  Thank God for them.  "A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones" Proverbs 17:22.  Truth. 

In the very hardest times of our adoption John and I have drunk deeply from the well of good medicine: from the well of good friends and deep laughter, of delicious food and a micro brew or piece of pie.  And of a Thanksgiving celebration on one late October eve. Good gifts from a very good God. 



Finding a doctor

My son, demonstrating a true Russian medical exam?

Finding a doctor when adopting, especially your first, is kind of a strange experience.  The adoption process is very non-medical- unless you count our (in huge quotations) "medical exam" in country on our last trip.  It's not like being pregnant and regularly seeing your midwife or OB and then seamlessly transitioning to a pediatrician.  It feels very abrupt to me.  We'll be bringing our son home and rejoicing in his arrival and then bringing him away to get stuck with needles and have a cold stethoscope put down his back. 

I think I have an idea- however misguided- that having your baby's newborn exam is a special thing, a time to rejoice in her perfection- while bringing in our adopted son will be sort of nerve wracking, wondering how the past 2.5 years of medical care have helped or hurt him.  Actually as I write this I'm thinking to myself that biological parents probably worry a bit about that first exam too, so this is probably just a new mom thing.

In any case- it was a bit strange, but also a moment to be proud.  When I was first welcomed in by the nurse practitioner she asked me how long I'd lived in the area.

"About two years now."

"Oh... are you transferring from another practice?"

"Oh! No. We're adopting our son!"

The fact that he's two throws people off.  But I LOVE getting to say that we're adopting because I'm so proud of our little man.  I was even lame and brought pictures to brag show.  Ha.

Then she gave me that typical response of, "Oh what a lucky little boy!" and I smile, but really I want to just say that's we're the lucky ones.  My son doesn't get to grow up with his birth parents and he has had to live two and a half years in an orphanage, so I don't really think he's that lucky.  But us- yes, we're lucky.  Or blessed, as I prefer to say.  To fetch this little boy from a far way land and call ourselves his mom and dad.  To revel in his childhood and watch him grow.  To love him and be loved in return.  John and I- we are the blessed ones in this adoption.

After a brief intro from the nurse practitioner, the doctor comes in and she greets me warmly.  I pull out the long list of questions I brought with me and she answers confidently through them all.  The NP comes back in to finish the session, which ends up being an hour long.

It's a good fit.  The practice seems very hardcore "medicine" and not at all "homeopathic," which honestly is where I tend to lean, but since we're bringing home an institutionalized two year old and not a healthy newborn, I'm all give-me-the-very-best-medicine-you-got.  If I want to soothe his sore throat with honey I'll look it up on pinterest.  (Just kidding homeopathic friends, I know it's more than that!)

This practice was also very "we immunize on schedule and we don't mess around."  And I was all, "But I read this on the internetz about those," and the NP was all, "I will send you ten thousand links to prove my point." And I was all, "Well you don't mess around and here's my email address and I love that you aren't giving me any BS and woah I'm sorry I just hugged you."

Not really, but I love a confidant woman and this lady was it. And I really do want to read that info about vaccines because woah there's a ton of (mis)information out there.

So in the end, their no BS approach won me over and I made our first appointment while grinning like an idiot because I got to tell someone "official" my son's name and birth date like it was no big deal, because he's my son and moms know these kinds of things.

One more thing checked off my list, mom-style.  Bringing my kid to the doctor y'all.  No big deal.




Once you were fatherless, but now...

How cute is that little tongue?? :-)

One month from today we will have our little man.

We will drive to the baby home for the last time,
sign in at the front door for the last time,
shake the director's hand for the last time,
take off those communal clothes our little man's been wearing for the last time.

We'll dress him up in the outfit we so carefully picked out just for that day.
We'll roll up his pant legs which I'm sure will still be too long.
We'll zip up his brand new winter coat and slip warm mittens onto his little hands.
We'll walk out those heavy metal doors,
down the cement steps,
and outside the black gate.

We'll climb all three of into the backseat of the car.
And we'll drive away, forever.

The words on the chapter in our little man's life-without-a-family, all written. Finished.
The proverbial page, turned.
A thousand empty pages waiting to be filled with a hope and a future.

A year ago I found this one couple who had chronicled their Russian adoption journey via youtube videos.  The video of this couple leaving the orphanage with their little boy for the last time contains one incredible, poignant moment: as they head down the staircase to leave the baby home, their translator tells them to open the door and bright, white light from outside floods into the dark hallway.

"The door to the world.  To a new life."  she says.

And in the background of the video, a song with these lyrics:

Sin has lost it's power,
Death has lost it's sting.
From the grave you've risen

Into marvelous light I'm running...

This moment- this moment of leaving the old and starting the new- this is the picture of salvation. In my son's story, I see my own.  I see my rescue.  I see my ransom.  I see the life I've been given, the gift of the Father.  For I was once fatherless, but now I am a child of God.

When John and I walk through those orphanage doors with our son in our arms, we will be living in a moment we'll remember forever.  A moment that will forever cause us to worship.  A moment made of new clothes, and footsteps on tile floors, and the weight of a child in arms, and cold winter air, and three in the back seat....

but mostly it will be a moment made of grace.

Through the door.  To a new life.  Into marvelous light.

This is all of our story, who know the Lord.  Once we were not a people, but now we are God's people.

One month to begin a story that has been written for all eternity.  Praise the Lord.


PS: You really should watch the video I reference above.  It might just be my adoption hormones saying this, but a tissue could come in handy.


Processing (stream of consciousness)

Taken from our rental apartment window at 5am as we finished packing before our flight home.
I am in the aftermath of last week, still processing it all. This is a stream of consciousness post. Coherency not promised. Read at your own discretion.  :)

We're home again.  We pulled into our driveway at 11pm on Saturday night, after being awake for 26 hours.  John drank a 5-hour-engery shot AND a Starbucks coffee after we landed at the airport (in preparation for the 3 hour drive home) so he was pretty wired when we walked in the door and immediately started ironing his clothes and reviewing his sermon notes for the morning.  I, on the other hand, was so tired I kept feeling like the ground was shifting underneath me. I walked in the door, dropped my bags and immediately ran a bath to get all the travel off me.  I think I could have slept the night covered in warmth and bubbles, but for fear of drowning I forced myself up the stairs and into bed.

All the while I kept thinking I hope God gives me a special mothering grace when we bring our little man home because I can barely get myself in bed right now, let alone a toddler!

Maybe I'll join John in his caffeine abuse next trip.

We already booked our flights for the final trip and if all goes well we should come home with our little man around 1am on November 25.  It will be 9 in morning for him.  Please God reset his internal clock for us. 

Due to exhaustion, the joy of our successful court trip has been coming in waves.  It is sort of like the experience after completing a final exam, when you have these little moments of panic, trying to remember what you studied or thinking you don't know something you should, and then suddenly it hits you: the exam is over and you don't have to remember all those details anymore! In fact, you could recycle all your lecture notes if you wanted to! YES!!!

Yep, I keep thinking Oh no what if they ask me XYZ in court and I don't know what to say?? and then I remember OH YEA!  It's OVER!!  We got our "da!"

Best feeling ever.

Side note: when adoption court sessions are scheduled in Russia, the orphanage director, the orphanage social worker, the regional social worker, and agency representative all have to come together to book the date.  Our little man's orphanage director was on vacation this week, but back when they scheduled the court session he agreed to come back from his vacation early just so we wouldn't have to wait another week.  The moment John and I first met this man we immediately felt his warmth but hearing this news from our translator moved us so deeply.  In our region not all directors agree with international adoption so the fact that this man not only supported us, but cut his vacation short for us and our son is truly amazing!  I will never forget his kindness.

 Although we had hoped and prayed for the opportunity to bring our little man home after our court session, I feel no sense of sadness that we did not get that miracle.  I am at peace and I am actually experiencing some relief that he is not home yet.  The court trip was exhausting on every level: physically, emotionally, even spiritually.  I am so grateful to have a month to restock my reserves before we being our daily parenting journey.

John and I both commented that we keep having to remind ourselves to relax.  This is why:

We started off the trip by traveling for almost 24 hours.  Navigating international airports, getting through security checkpoints, finding our luggage, our driver etc etc... it all requires a heightened sense of awareness.  Then we had our medical exams which we couldn't help but be nervous about.  Between the language barriers, the blood draw, the x-rays, and the 6 hours it took to finish... that's just tiring.  We had about 10 minutes to feel the relief of passing our medicals before we started preparing ourselves to see our little man again.  The will he recognize us? and the I hope he hasn't changed too much! thoughts are constant.  Seeing him again was an emotional high like no other and saying goodbye brought its own roller coaster of emotions.  After a sleepless night we were getting dressed and ready for our court hearing- stomachs turning, cold and sweaty hands shaking, answers being rehearsed.  Lots of praying.   Hearing that "adoption granted" sentence was like breathing for the first time all week.  When we got back to our hotel room that afternoon John crawled into bed and slept for three hours.  I got online to write my "verdict" blog post and called my parents to celebrate.  My whole body was buzzing with emotion.

After John woke up we packed our baggage and slept a short night before our driver came and brought us back to the airport!  On the plane I noticed that all my muscles were tight from the stress of it all and I would have to work my way down my body to relax them.

Loosen your neck. 
Drop your shoulders. 
Relax your hands. 
Lean back into the seat. 
Un-tense your legs. 
Relax.  It's over.  She said, "da." 

All this to say: as much as I'd rather just be exhausted and have our little man home right now, I'm going to drink up the silvery lining around this cloud and say I'm glad I don't have to start my parenting journey with no reserves.  I'm blessed to have a month to pour into my physical, emotional, and spiritual wells before bringing my son home. This trip showed me just how deep those wells ago and I plan to fill them to the absolute brim before we get him.  Vitamins and sleep and good food and mediocre wine.  Friendship and date nights and laughter and reading and preparation.  Scripture and prayer and hymns and meditating.  Fill me up, Lord, so that I will overflow in abundance on my son. 

32 days until forever.  I want to be a mom who determines in her heart to rejoice and be glad in each day as the day the LORD has made.  That's an attitude that requires practice and I think these 32 days are the perfect time to start. 



And the verdict is...


Gotcha Day November 19
Bringing him home forever November 24!

The details of the court session are confidential as per Russia law, but it went wonderfully. We slept terribly last night, felt so nervous we thought we were going to puke this morning (I literally put a plastic bag in my purse in case I actually did) and are beyond elated now! We could not have asked for a better court session.  When the translator said the words "request for adoption granted" I nearly fell over with joy.

Thank you for your prayers; I am deeply moved by how many of you set your alarms to wake up in the middle of the night to pray for us!  Knowing you were praying was a great encouragement; you sustained our every step.

What God has known forever and what I have hoped in my heart for the last year is finally official:  I'm a mom. My husband is a dad.  Our little man is ours, forever.  Praise the Lord.



Seeing him again

His hair is a lot longer!  And there was lots of laughter.

But let me start at the beginning...

As we pull up to the black iron gate I remember so well from our last visit, I notice that everything looks exactly the same except the grass is covered in fallen yellow leaves from the white birch tree forest.  The very first time we came here the sky was brilliantly blue and the sun shone warmly on our faces.  Now, in mid-October, the sky is overcast, the wind is cold, and the ground is wet from a recent rain.  In the air hangs the familiar autumn smell of damp leaves and soil.

On our way inside, one of the baby home's dogs approaches to greet us.  We stop briefly to pet him and carry on. In the small lobby we remove our coats and shoes and place the slippers we brought on our feet.  Our translator signs us in at the security office and we make our way to an empty playroom.  It is the same playroom we used on that very first visit almost 3 months ago.

A beautiful  woman, I'd guess about 30 years old, joins us in the playroom as we wait for our little man. She speaks quickly in Russian to our translator with lots of laughter and exaggerated body language.  When her story is finished our translator tells us that this lady is the psychologist and she is saying that our little man is very intellectual- so much so that he hates to do physical activities.  She laughs as she tells us that when the physical therapist takes the children to play, our little man mostly just stands grumpily until it is over and he can work on a puzzle or look at a picture book.  Right now, she says, he is finishing his physical therapy and when she went to tell the therapist that we had arrived, she saw our little man playing ball with the therapist and another child- except the other child was having a blast catching the balls while our little man caught it once or twice and a while and threw it back with great disinterest.

If you know me at all, you know that this is my son! I am grinning ear-to-ear listening to this story and I tell the psychologist that he will fit in GREAT with me! Another person to couldn't-care-less-about-sports with.  Everyone laughs at my delight.

A few minutes later we hear some shuffling in the hall and our therapist tells us, "He is coming!"

The psychologist opens the door and our little man stops in the door frame when he sees us.  I crouch down in front of him smiling and saying, "Privet!" Hi! He studies my face for a minute, then John's- who is behind me- then mine again. He is looking at us as though we are familiar but he is not quite sure about us- almost like he can't place us.  What is gone, however, is any of the shyness or fear we saw when he met him in this room before.  He is still quiet at first, but there is no concern on his face. I take his hand to walk him into the room and he immediately begins to play.

First, we play with the blocks. Just like last time. While he plays the psychologist tells us that his language is really coming along.  At our last visit, he spoke 20 words and now he has many and can repeat any word they give him.  On cue, he opens a toy medical kit which is mis-filled with play tools.  Holding up the saw I say, "Saw!"  "Saw!" he repeats.

He is the smartest child ever.

We play for a while.  John and I reach out to rub his back and stroke his hair at every chance we get.  We softly kiss his cheeks and tell him we are Mama and Papa.

Soon I take out the bag of clothes and shoes I have brought with me to try on him.  I'm fairly certain he's going to fit 3T but I've brought along 2T and 24 month sizes as well, just in case.  The 24 month shirt fits and the 24 month pants are too long!  I know he will grow very quickly once we provide better nutrition for him (one adoptive mom said her toddler son grew four inches in the first month he was home!), but I am a little bit happy that he is still so small because he is my baby and I might be able to fit him into 18-month old baby pants for a while! The adorable size 6 shoes saddle shoes I brought fit him perfectly. If he still fits them in a month, he will wear them every chance I get!

The hat and mitts we brought fit him well but the coat is huge.  I guess I will have to go shopping when we get home. Oh the horror.  I can't wait.

Our little guy is so patient as I undress, dress, undress again, and re-dress him.  The way he obediently lifts his arms for his shirt and steps into his pants for me makes me wonder about his daily routines and who dresses him in the morning and puts his pajamas on at night.  I am aching to be that person and I tell myself to remember this moment when he is home and throwing a tantrum about what he wants to wear.

I ask John to put our little man's socks and shoes back on.  "Oh boy, " says John- a man who has never had the privilege of delighting in tiny toes or the challenge of putting a small shoe on a squirming foot.  John pulls him onto his lap and reaches for the sock.  I know this man is a true father when I see him reach down to tickle that little foot before the sock goes on.  Our little man is delighted and throws his head back into his papa's chest as he succumbs to a fit of ticklish giggles.

John is laughing just as hard.

Clothes and shoes back on, we return to the task of playing for the next hour.  We play with the doll house and our little man delights to show me a thimble sized doll cup and how it fits inside a tiny wooden cabinet.  Not the mention the sound it makes when shaken.

John and I eat a feast worth of play food and ohhh-and-ahhh over the skill our little chef demonstrates as he opens and slams the play oven oven door to bake a wooden apple, a plastic sausage, and the detachable staircase from the doll house.  Yum.

Too soon, a nanny comes to the door to call our little man for lunch.  He goes obediently to her and turns back to wave goodbye.  We both feel as though our hearts have dropped from the ceiling to the floor as we tidy up all the toys.

John says to me softly, "This is the last time we'll ever do this."

He means this is the last time we'll ever visit and say goodbye.  Next time we see him, all the fallen leaves from the birch trees will be covered in Russian snow and he'll be coming home with us.

Tomorrow we will go to the courts. We need your prayers.  We feel like our nerves are shot and we are so tired from both the jet-lag and the emotion of this trip.  Pray for our strength- both physically and of spirit.  We go before the judge at 10am which is 2am at home.  Our session should last about an hour, says our translator.  We are looking forward with great expectation to the rush of emotion and relief when it is over.

Thank you for your encouragement and support. You hold us up.  xo



Waiting outside the medical building. 
Medicals done! We are so tired, but very glad to have that step behind us (and excited to see our little guy tomorrow!).

Our apartment is very close to the medical center so we met our translator outside and walked there.  It was chilly and a bit rainy this morning, although the sun is peaking out now.  We got to the building around 10:30am and began the process.

The process is mostly waiting.  The medical center is in a big old building with beautiful architecture on the outside and a gleaming marble floor inside.  While our translator got us registered, John and I waited in the lobby on a burgundy leather sofa and watched a woman mop the already meticulous floors until they shone.  I have found here that while the outside of buildings are often stained with pollution or showing various signs of disrepair (like broken downspouts), people seem to take great care to clean and polish the interior of their buildings.  Perhaps this is because of the long, snow covered winters here, but I'm just speculating.

Once registered, we made our way upstairs to see a series of 7 doctors. We first had our blood drawn in a small room decorated with old calendar pictures of cats of dogs- good to focus on instead of the needle prick.  We had to take our "bandage" off later in the morning to have our blood pressure taken, but I wish we could have taken a picture!  Three giant wads of cotton pressed against the inside of our arms, held on by a mummy's worth of gauze. We looked like we were suffering from a WWII battle wound! All for a tiny need prick. Good grief.

We then had our chest x-rays taken. I had heard from other adoptive moms that they do not provide a gown for the women.  This is true.  Sort of a literal "grin and bare it" moment.  As our translator said, "We do this for the children."  Only for our little man!

Then began the office visits.  The offices were all located in a long, long yellow hall.  One side of the hall was lined with brown office doors and signs with the doctors' names.  The opposite side was lined with modern looking turquoise couches.  We were the only English speaking people there; the rest were Russian residents applying for different visas or citizenships, said our translator.

The doctors visits were very different than in the US/Canada.  The doctor does not come out to call you; instead you knock and walk in the office to see if he or she is free. Above the office doors were lights that turned green; I suppose the lights were to indicate that the doctor was free, however no one seemed to abide by the lights. People just knocked and poked their heads in and if you were having an exam they would just step outside and close the door to wait until you finished.  I think that breaks like a million HIPPA rules!

We saw the first six doctors pretty much right in a row.  In my research prior to this trip I heard an adoptive mom describe the experience like being examined by Willy Wonka.  Yes, that describes it pretty well.  My dermatology exam was a brief look at my hands, neck, and chest followed by the question, "You don't have any problems with your skin or nails?"  "No."  Done. I forget the title of the doctor who used a reflexology hammer, but that exam consisted of her hitting our wrists, knees, and ankles (through my leather calf-high boots, mind you).  It was all we could do to keep from giggling while we waited in the hallways. But, better this easy than too hard!  Thankful for that much.

The guy we paid our $1,000 (each) fee to was the assistant director who strode in with a boisterous smile, leather jacket and blue jeans. When he asked if we wanted a receipt we said yes so he pulled out a scrap paper for us to write our email address on.  I'll let you know if we get it. He did give us some sight seeing tips though, so there's that.  ;-)

We finished seeing the first 6 doctors at 1:30pm but the last doctor was not going to be in until 3:30pm, so we did some sight seeing at a nearby attraction and ate the lunch we had packed.  At 3:30 we went in to see the last doctor- the surgeon- who felt our armpits- and we were done! One step closer to our forever family.

Tomorrow we go to see our little man at 10am!  Our translator was at his baby house 10 days ago, delivering a post-placement report from another family and she looked in on him.  She said he is doing wonderfully and looks a lot more mature than the last time we saw him! I can't wait to see how he's grown and I can't wait to see him, knowing that this is how big he's going to be when he comes home!  Only one more month growing up without us.

Thank you for your continued prayers!  Our spirits are greatly encouraged by them.  xo


The (second) trip here

Our view
We flew here on the wings of your prayers, once again.  Another perfect trip.

Last time we made this journey we took three planes; one from a nearby city to a bigger city, from the bigger city to Amsterdam and Amsterdam to our destination in Russia.  This time we skipped the first flight and just drove 3 hours to the bigger city, so we only had to transfer once in JFK.  What a difference!  First of all, just having one less flight, one less pass through security, and one less layover hugely increased my energy level. And second, I can't believe how much more user-friendly JFK was than the airport in Amsterdam.  I was a bit nervous about being able to figure out how to get around to different terminals, but the airtram was a breeze.  There were lots of restaurant choices, comfortable seating, and the officers orchestrating security were actually friendly to us. No stark "fish bowl" to sit in after security like Amsterdam. Throw in the clean bathrooms and I am one happy traveler. We will definitely be taking this same route when our little man comes home!

On our flight to JFK we had a good laugh when an airline attendant came over the intercom to announce the drink service and used a rather poorly place pause:

"Today we also have pink lemonade for sale and my colleague will now explain breast cancer

-long pause and confused looks on passengers faces-

.... awareness which is highlighted in October.  Proceeds from the lemonade sales go to breast cancer awareness."

Ha! And no one ever did explain breast cancer awareness anyway.

Aboard the Russian airline we were invited to join their airmiles type club by visiting them "in the internet."  And then immediately wished an "adorable" day.  Why thank you, I will have an adorable day.

Getting through customs was a breeze, after a slight confusing moment when the only lines through passport control were labeled "Russian Citizen" or "diplomat."  Not knowing what else to do, we got in the diplomat line with a few other confused passengers.  Thankfully a non-Russian citizen line opened up just it was our turn to present our passports.  I am impressed again with Russian efficiency; last time we had to fill out a little customs form on the plane but this time "there has been a new technology" and they just printed out our little form for us when we got to passport control.  So easy.

Our luggage arrived safely (always a relief) and once we had it loaded on our cart John said, "Alright we found our luggage.  Now let's find our Igor!"

Our driver Igor was waiting in plain sight as soon as we exited the baggage claim and walked us quickly to the car. Igor is an amazing driver with a sense of depth perception like I have never seen. I think the rules of driving here are just "the boldest wins" and Igor always wins.  I am not exaggerating when I say we came within 2 inches of other vehicles (on all sides!) on multiple occasions.  The lane lines on the road appear to be suggestions only. I don't know why we don't see more accidents here!  Aggressive offensive driving at its best (worst?).  My defensive driving instructor from my teenage years would not be impressed with Igor.  But I am.

We stopped off at a grocery store to pick up water and some groceries.  I can't wait to have an egg in the morning; they are so good here!  Like free range, farm fresh eggs at home with rich orange yolks.

We rented an apartment again to save on hotel costs and it is very comfortable with a wonderful view.  Neither Igor nor the apartment representative spoke any English but you would be amazed at what a person can communicate with body language.  Including how to pry open the broken washing machine door with the room key.  Hopefully we won't need to do any laundry because I'm not sure I'd ever be able to get my clothes out!

It is evening now and tomorrow mid-morning we will walk with our translator to the medical building to have our exams done.  She called to tell us when to meet her downstairs. "This is not fun, but don't worry.  I will be with you."  I love our translator; she has that mama bear comfort thing going on and makes us feel safe in a strange land.

Thank you again for your wonderful prayers and encouragement.  You lift us up.



Court Trip

We leave on Monday. One week from today we will be in court, praying for that long awaited "da" from the judge.

We had some nerves on the last trip, but were mainly just beyond excited to meet our little man.  Anticipating this trip has been more nerve-wracking.  We've been spending our evenings preparing our answers for court and reviewing all our home study documents to make sure we're able to answer the judge's questions.  I've always hated math and memorizing gross income, net income, monthly income, insurance information, retirement info etc... that's been the worst part for me. For once in my life I've been very thankful that our financial situation is pretty simple without a dozen different investments to memorize!

We can now speak succinctly about our motivation to adopt (you can imagine how hard it was for me to get that answer down to a couple sentences!) and about our plan for raising our son.  Between my anxiety about giving the right answers, the formality of the court hearing, and the need to have everything mediated by a translator, I'm full of nerves about our court date.

I've been reflecting on a story in Luke 21 where Jesus talks to his disciples about impending persecution and how they will defend themselves.  While I don't feel persecuted per say, I am experiencing a sense of injustice.  It's not injustice on any judge's behalf- certainly these regulations exist to protect the children- but does feel rather unfair that millions of people around the globe walk into parenthood with such ease, many of whom will go on to be terrible parents and abuse or neglect their children- while we have had to struggle and fight and prove ourselves again and again to provide a loving home for a child who needs one.  Again, I'm not saying this process is unnecessary, but it certainly does highlight the brokenness of the world.

This sense of injustice that I'm experiencing, and my confidence in the belief that God has led us to this adoption, has me applying Jesus' words to our own situation:

...you will bear testimony to me. But make up your mind not to worry beforehand how you will defend yourselves. For I will give you words and wisdom that none of your adversaries will be able to resist or contradict.

In all our preparation, when it comes time for us to stand before the judge and open ourselves up to her evaluation- to let her decide whether we will be this little boy's mama and papa- at the time, Christ will give us the words and wisdom to say.

So I'm making up my mind not to worry beforehand and I'm going to ask for your prayers to carry us through.  If you are willing to hold us up in prayer for this trip, I'm going to ask you to print this out or write it down or bookmark this post and pray us through.
  • Monday: traveling! Please pray for our safe journey.  Praise God for providing us the money for these plane tickets; we have not forgotten how others gave so generously to get us to this point! Pray for our peace of mind as we travel and that we will feel healthy as we do so. 
  • Tuesday: arrival. Pray that the arrival will be smooth, from passing through customs, collecting our luggage, to getting into our apartment and getting groceries.  Another prayer for our health is appreciated as we again navigate the headache of not drinking the water or eating anything that's been rinsed or washed. (Probably my least favorite part of traveling.) 
  • Wednesday: medicals. We will be seeing a number of doctors, having blood drawn, and getting x-rays done. This process takes 3-4 hours.  Pray for patience, peace of mind and body, and that we pass! Praise God for our good health which means we are not worried about passing these medicals. 
  • Thursday: we see our little man. Pray that God has prepared his heart and mind to see us.  We would love it if he remembers us.  Pray that we will be able to show him our love and affection and that he continues to bond with us. I really hate the fact that we are telling him that we are Mama and Papa and then leaving. Please pray that he will not feel any sense of abandonment when we leave and that somehow God will protect him from confusing feeling about us so he can just accept our love. Praise God for keeping him safe and for providing him with good care while we cannot care for him ourselves.  Praise God for being a Father to the fatherless. 
  • Friday: our court date. Pray for our nerves. We want the peace that passes understanding.  Pray that Christ will help us to remember all the things we have prepared and give us the right words to say. Pray that the judge's deliberations will not be long so we do not have to endure waiting for that "da!" 
  • Saturday: we fly home.  More prayers for safe travels and praise for provision for them.  
We continue to pray for a miracle so that we can bring our little man home on this trip.  God has given us peace about bringing him home in November, so we are ready to come home without him, but we have prepared the right paperwork for his visa and packed a few outfits and diapers just in case we are given a miracle. Once we get that coveted "da" from the judge we will be on cloud nine and I think that incredible rush will carry us through the next month until we can bring him home again. 

Our location in Russia is 9 hours ahead of our timezone in the States, so if you are praying at night before bed you can pray for the following day and you will be carrying us in prayer as we wake up and prepare for the day ahead. 

If the Lord impresses a scripture passage or a hymn or song on your heart for us, please share it!  We love the encouragement we receive from our brothers and sisters in Christ. 

With a profound gratitude,


Adoption and marriage

I haven't written much about the impact of adoption on marriage because in most of my posts I like to share a little bit of advice- something good I've learned along the way in this journey- and when it comes to the topic of how to maintain a strong marriage through the adoption process, my best advice (my only advice?):

Marry John Burden.

Well, don't really marry him because I already did, but I honestly attribute the strength of our marriage mostly to him. I'm a pretty average wife.  I do the things wives shouldn't do like nag about socks on the bedroom floor and be overly dramatic about dinner being ruined when I realize I forgot the spinach for the spinach and pasta dish I'm making.

John, however, is an above-and-beyond husband.  He comes home at lunch to do laundry.  He cooks dinner twice a week (or conveniently schedules dinner dates at friends' houses on his nights to cook- I'm on to this little trick of his...).  He brings the car away for oil changes and he goes grocery shopping with me.

On our wedding day on my mom's hospital floor.
January 2, 2008.
 Adoption is one of the stressful life events that has the capacity to tear down or build up your marriage.  Though we've certainly had some tense moments in our adoption, our adoption has built up our marriage.

We had the seemed-like-a-curse-at-the-time-but-turned-out-to-be-a-blessing-in-relationship-to-this experience of going through my immigration processes right at the start of our marriage, and that experience taught us a lot about navigating paperwork and endless waiting seasons together.  A huge part of the adoption journey, as any adoptive parent can attest, is paperwork.  In our relationship, I'm the organized one.  Not to say that John is disorganized- but he has approximately 2,942 unread emails in his inbox (all junk mail- so why read them, right?)- and I'm the one who spend an hour at Staples last year surveying all the different types of binder and boxes and files, trying to ascertain the best way to organize our adoption paperwork.

John refers to himself as the "work horse." I'll make the list and he'll get it done.  I'm the one who figures out how many copies of our mortgage note we need and John makes the copies.  I spend my evening emailing our agency, sorting out questions for our dossier and John spends his lunch hour driving around town to gather the documents we need.  I schedule an appointment with the notary and John comes along for the ride (and the signature). 

This works because we go with it.  Every once and a while John will get sick of driving to the Secretary of State to get another six documents apostilled (a fancy, internationally recognized assurance of notarization. I didn't know what that was before this process either) and I'll get crabby because I feel like the weight of getting all the paperwork done right is entirely on my shoulders.  When that happens the best thing is for us to do it together.  John will sit bleary eyed beside me at the kitchen table and double check my paperwork or I'll hop in the car at keep him company on this trip for those endless apostilles. We play to our strengths and play together when our strengths are running low.

When it comes to processing our adoption emotionally, we've done it differently but still in-tune with one another. John has supported me while I set up our little man's bedroom and celebrated my impending parenthood on Mother's Day.  I didn't make a big deal out of Father's Day for him because he didn't want to make a big deal out of it.  I laughed when John registered for a sit-and-spin toy (aka: nausea on wheels) at Target and celebrated his excitement when he bought a kid bike trailer at a yard-sale. A few years ago I probably would have been upset that he didn't want to celebrate Father's Day, but I've learned over the last 8 years together to let him teach me how I can best support him.  This is a marriage 101: love the other person how they need to be loved, not how you want to love them.

The hardest part for me was this: people asking us if we had any kids.  Friends and family obviously knew the answer, but when we'd meet someone new and they asked, "So do you have any kids?" My answer was always, "Yes we're adopting!"  John usually gave the same response but when we were in the hardest part of the wait, unsure of when Russia would start processing adoptions again, John once just answered the question, "No."

That was really hard for me to hear because it felt like denying our son on some level.  For John, it was just because he was in pain and didn't want to rehash our story with strangers.

Thankfully the hardest part of the waiting period soon ended so we could move forward, but again we learned the importance of letting the other person process their emotions in their own way.

The thing that has held us together more than our personalities or the way we've processed our adoption emotionally, it's our faith. We are both motivated by the conviction this adoption is God's call for our family.  We are both learning what it means to walk in obedience.  Most importantly I think we are both learning to rely on God even more than on one another.  We are both learning that we can never be everything to one another.  John cannot fill the motherhood space in my soul.  I cannot soothe the aching father gap.  Neither of us can provide anything but prayer for our son right now.  Only God can fill those spaces in our lives. 

Vow renewal and big fat marriage celebration
June 28, 2008.
 Adoption has brought us together like never before because it has brought us to God like never before.  We are both realizing our own helplessness and we are both learning to find our strength in Christ.  We are continually coming to terms with how much we cannot do for our son and one another and we are continually driven to the sufficiency of Christ.  This might be the best gift our adoption journey has given to our marriage: I've learned that John is not enough for me, John has learned that I am not enough for him, and we've both learned that we are not enough for our son.  We've learned that Christ is enough, always. Then, with our needs sufficiently met in the cross, we become exactly what each other needs: a husband, a wife, a father, and a mother- fully alive in Christ.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...