The worst and the best of times

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times...

Dickens, you said it best.

I feel as though I have been living in the best and worst of times these past few days. Caught between two worlds: one of joy and newness of life, the other of grief and endings. In our personal lives John and I have been caught between the light of welcoming Arie home and the grey of having two family members dealing with serious illness. While we have been figuring out how to live in both worlds for a long time now, we were both struck with a new wave of emotion upon hearing the terrible news of the Russia/US adoption ban this week.

I feel like I've been knocked right off this type rope I've been balancing on, but I can't figure out what side of the rope I'm falling on.

On one side I'm deep in the bliss of Christmas with my little boy.  I'm filled with the sweetness of his wet lashes in the bath, the sound of his breathless laughter, and the beautiful weight of his little body on my hip.

On the other I'm heavy in the waters of worry and sadness. I'm continually faced with comments about how we brought Arie home just in time and I don't know whether to fall to my knees in gratitude or shake my fist at the heavens for the families whose just in time didn't come soon enough.  I want to be so thankful that he's home but my heart is so often swallowed up by other emotions. It's just too close for comfort as they say. I look at Arie and I want to be comforted by the fact that he's home, but it's just too close for comfort. When I think about how few days passed from the time we brought him home to the time the ban went into effect, it scares the hell out of me.

I'm praying thank you thank you thank you to my heavenly father and then I'm just crying out why?? Why are you letting so many children languish?  Why did we get to come home? What about the rest of the families? What's your provision for them?

And I'm trying desperately to rest in the truth I sang on Christmas day, that the Christ child came and is coming again to make his blessings known far as the curse is found.  Far as the curse is found.  Far as, far as, the curse is found. 

Because right now it seems to me that the curse is found very, very far. 

Please continue to pray with me for the Russia/US adoption relationship.  I know it seems so final to hear that Putin signed the ban and it would be easy to resign ourselves to the idea that Russia/US adoptions are over, but we must continue to pray.  I'll tell you what specific things I'm praying for and ask you to join me as you are called:

I'm praying first that the families whose adoptions are in-progress will be allowed to complete their adoptions.  I've heard that there are over 50 families in this situation and nine have been granted special permission to complete their adoptions. We need to pray that the rest of the in-process families will bring their children home SOON.

I'm praying that the ban will be revised to make provision for special needs adoptions.  In Russia, children with special needs like cerebral palsy, down syndrome, HIV, and physical impairments are rarely adopted. Without international adoption these children are left to grow up in the system at best or languish in their cribs at worst.  I'm praying that special needs adoptions will be granted exception from the law.

Finally, I'm praying that people in countries like Canada who have Russian adoption programs will stand up to fill in the gap that the lack of American adoptions will leave. Of course I want to see American parents adopt again, but in the meantime I pray that Russians themselves will adopt more domestically and that people from other countries will continue to adopt and give love to these children so they do not have to grow up without a family.

We serve an omnipotent God. This fact causes me great stress in the face of evil but also great comfort as well.  I pray that he will make his power known by providing a way for Russian orphans to know the love of a family. Every single one.

Thank you for joining me in these prayers.

Now as we pray for the thousands of orphans in Russia and the thousands of families who want to love them, let me show you what it looks like for one former orphan to bring immeasurable joy to his new family:

It looks like Grampi's delight in introducing his grandson to his dog:

An obsessively compulsively super clean and tidy Omi letting her grandson throw packing peanuts all over the floor just to watch him laugh.

It looks like a little boy getting so excited over his new play tent that he can't even wait for us to put it together before climbing in.
It looks like an unnamed family member letting him spoil his dinner with a chocolate letter almost as big as his face.
It looks like uncles and aunties sledding down a snow covered hill with their nephew, totally making up for the fact that he doesn't have any cousins (yet).
Justin courageously paved the way for all future sledders by going where no toboggan had gone before.

... it didn't end well.
Despite his facial expression here, sledding was a bit hit with Arie!

It looks like five adults bundled up with hot coffee in hand to take one little boy to see a lakeside Christmas light display.

And it looks like gorilla hugs to say goodbye.

Every child deserves love like this.  May our prayers pave a way for every child to find a family and every family a child.  May our God move in the way that we sang this Christmas by making the nations - the US and Russia among them - prove the wonders of his love.

Even in these uncertain times, we know how He rules:

Truth and Grace,



Merry & Bright

I'll mostly let the pictures do the talking. Our first Christmas as a family was very merry and wonderfully bright.

We got up early on Christmas Eve morning, right at the crack of 8am. The whole world was silent outside.  At least it was on our street where half the houses are vacant and the other half are filled with retirees. The rest of the world was probably well into their morning, but we were cozy inside our quiet house, warm in our pajamas

The tree was lit and presents ready to be opened. We open ours a day early to protect the sacred space of Christmas morning for worship alone. Before opening presents, we started a new tradition of reading this book:

Christmas is for Jesus we whispered in Arie's ears as he snuggled between us. Jesus, he whispered back. How sweet the name of Jesus sounds in a believer's ear! Still to young to understand what Christmas means for the world, just uttering the name of our savior is his simple act of worship.  Jesus.

After the story- gifts! We used this simple verse to guide our shopping for Arie: 

Something he wants
Something he needs
Something to wear
Something to read

Two toys: a tool kit and a jack in the box. 
New slippers. 
A scarf. 

Every rip of paper in his hands and delighted da! on his lips was magic. He has been home almost four weeks and everything is still so inspiring to him. I am drinking in every moment of newness in his eyes. Staying in his pajamas, opening gifts, having toys that belong to him, lazy mornings, and the rapt attention of his Mama and Papa- it's all so new and he delights in it as much as we delight in him.

John got a new suit, shoes, and a shirt because all he ever wants are clothes, books, and coffee.  Our book cases are already buckling and we currently have 5 types of coffee in the cupboard... so clothes it was!

John spoiled me like usual with all sorts of foodie items, a scarf, and a beautiful new bracelet.

Breakfast was a traditional Christmas casserole.  To me, anything with mustard powder tastes like the holidays. Also, December 23 just isn't December 23 if you're not up at midnight, browning sausage and cracking eggs for the morning!

After we ate too much casserole and drank a whole pot of coffee, we were dressed and ready to get in the car to head to Gamma and Grandpa's house.
We skipped a couple naps due to all the celebrations so
this became a sweet, common sight.
Along with visiting Gamma and Grandpa, John's sister, newly "Aunt Kitty," flew in from New York to spend her holidays with us! I'll summarize with Aunt Kitty + Arie = LOVE.

I owe my wonderful "likers" on facebook a big thank you for your recipe recommendations! Growing up, my family always ate fondue on Christmas Eve and this year John and I started a new tradition of our own: Christmas Eve is for Russian Cuisine. A small way to embrace our sweet son's heritage as a family. 

Our menu this year was dolmas (stuffed grape leaves), homemade bread, beet salad, potato pancakes, stuffed cabbage, and chocolate cake. My father-in-law commented more than once, "Those Russians eat well!" I'm always impressed with what the Russians have done with such simple ingredients like beets, cabbage, and onion. 

Bellies full, we gathered on the porch to open gifts surrounded by windows and the dark woods all around us.
Arie's sitting with his Papa and Auntie on what it known in our family as "the fish couch." It is a loveseat covered in a fish-centric fabric. Fish, fishing poles, nets, hooks... if it's fishing related there is a picture of it on this couch. John had it in his dorm room when we were in college and we shared our first kiss sitting on this couch.  Ever since that time my father-in-law has been trying to pawn it off on me. Even with the sentimental value behind it, I hate this couch. Why anyone would invent a fish themed upholstery fabric is beyond me.
 After the eve, comes the day! Christmas Day.

John preached his first ever Christmas Day service (and nailed it, might I add), so Arie and I were on our own.  It was a battle of Christmas clothes versus breakfast spills, but the Christmas clothes came out clean and won!

It was also a battle to quick-get-out-the-door-and-to-my-inlaw's-so-we-can-get-a-family-picture-before-anyone-messes-up-their-outfit! and again- outfits won.

Our family Christmas party was great fun and Arie did so well meeting all those new people. Everyone was so respectful of giving him space while still being so warm toward him. It is a hard balance, but John's family is amazing so I'm not surprised they walked it well.

Arie loved eating Christmas cookies for dinner and opening even more gifts. I'm not quite sure how to explain to him that the presents aren't a normal part of our routine. Come January he might suffer from some post-holiday blues!

My in-laws live on a small lake and these cousins went down to see if they could crack the ice off the dock. At this exact moment I realized that I am going to be a very uncool mom when Arie is a pre-teen because I really wanted to tie them all to the dock for safety. Just in case.

It was much safer, warmer, and less risky (more boring??) inside, so that's where I stayed.
(It was a little toasty inside so Arie lost his pants.)
We ended the night with this photo of Aunt Kitty with Grandpa and the cousins wearing their feline inspired fur hats. I have a sister and a sister-in-law but I think we all know who Arie's weird eclectic Aunt is going to be!

Hey- we all need a little bizarre in our lives, don't we? ;-)

Hope your Christmases were equally filled with love and family.

We head out to visit my family in a few days so Christmas Part Two is still to come!

Hope and peace from our family to yours this season,


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