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Friday, January 30, 2009

Nyet, Yes, Head-shakes and Cookies

This week has been one of many surprises.  The biggest of which has been the ease of the transition of Ashley into the family.  She has particularly taken to Noah, who she generally finds hilarious.  Lily has followed Ashley around for a week as if to say, "This is what I have been waiting for all my life!"  Now, don't get me wrong.  Usually she looks at me like the confused puppy who just got it's first toy.  

English is coming slowly.  I have invested in Rosetta Stone.  I confess that I had hoped to buy another language than the one I currently speak.  The other night I had to declare "no more Russian speaking" to Chris.  With SO many people who speak Russian around here, it would be easy for her to not put effort into learning English.  She understands a lot.  Many times when I ask her questions, she simply nods or shakes her head.  She is smiling a lot, which makes me happy each time I see her do it.  

My heredity has infused in me the instinct to reach out to ones I love and smother them.  I have had to suppress that behavior with every fiber of my being.  I know that it would freak her out, so I usually get by on one peck to the cheek each day.  But tonight we took things to another level.  Cooking.  This is my creative outlet, which really helps my time-starved wife.  As I began to pull out ingredients to make some cookies, she slid over my direction.  I handed her the spoon and the bowl and we began to mix it up a bit.  I showed her how to put dough on the pan and before we knew it, we had our first batch.  I poured us some milk a-la' Dom Perignion, and we celebrated our deliciousness.  I know this ain't exactly macho, but it is a microcosm of all I had been hoping for this past 3 1/2 years.

So for now, the shine has not worn off.  I am bracing myself for the first indication of real conflict.  Until then, I will rest in God's goodness of a daughter that has come home.


Friday, January 23, 2009


God is so good. We are in Atlanta waiting on our too early flight back to Birmingham, but the circle is complete. The "Fab 5" (our children) embark with Paula and I today on our family's new journey for the first time together under one roof. Hey, Ashley was sharing a ROOM with 5 other girls a week ago. And they had beds for 2 more, if someone felt the need for personal space depravity.

Somewhere over the ocean, I was reading a book about the life of Hudson Taylor. Then it hit me. She really is my daughter. I could not get to any paper, so I used the back page of this 77 year-old book to capture the thought:

"As I read and listen to my I-pod, the song "What Now?" played. I bought Steven Curtis Chapman's CD in 2005, just after the Matveevka orphanage group left America. What the song did was tear a Dasha-sized hole in my heart. And here she is in the seat next to me on the way home. It is all I can do just to write."

As Ashely and I laughed together half way to Atlanta, I felt myself somewhere between savoring the moment, and feeling a bit ripped off about all of the time we had to wait. However, I do not question God's wisdom or His goodness. I will just have to wait to get some of the answers in this life. God surely does not owe me any.

We will see some of you at the airport soon. Thanks for praying with us.


Wednesday, January 21, 2009

We Got the Visa

Today at 2:00, we were at the embassy with two other families from our neck of the woods to get visas. There were no problems of any kind and we all felt so relieved to have all paperwork behind us. She has really smiled a lot today. We had fun playing a joke or two on Anderson.

We depart for the airport tomorrow at 9:00am and should arrive in New York around 4:00pm. We are so excited to be home with our daughter, it seems so surreal to be at this point finally. Please pray for me to be alert to what needs to be done the rest of the way, and that it would look Christ-like.


Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Home on Friday

This is Paula posting because Ande was having technical difficulties today.  Today Ande, Anderson, and Ashley went to the American Embassy.  What a cool thing for a 13-year old kid (Anderson, I mean).  Not exactly like the Bourne movies, but still something he will remember.  Ande's fingerprints did make their way to the embassy on Jan. 6th, so they were able to apply for the visa.  They will go to the embassy tomorrow to pick it up at 2 p.m.  It's so hard to believe that this is really happening.  

Ande is finally ready to get the heck out of Ukraine.  He really loves this country, but he is ready to get home.  They are staying very busy up to the last minute meeting and eating with friends.  They will fly out on Thursday, spend the night in Atlanta, and arrive in Birmingham at 7:45 a.m.  Hallelujah!  Anyone who wants to come welcome Ashley and the boys home is certainly welcome!

Love to you all,

Monday, January 19, 2009

Can a Brother get a Shower Curtain?

I have not been able to get online for a few days now, so I have to vent. There is not one single shower with a curtain in this country. Can anybody tell me why you would want to get into the shower and have water go EVERYWHERE?!? If I were again a lazy college student, I would see the benefit therein by not ever having to mop. But now I am afraid I am going to die by slipping and hitting my head on the counter. Is there a real MAN out there who would want to go this way? If I do not make it home, I have instructed Anderson to tell everyone I was hit by a marshutka while diving to save an orphan. (For those of you who do not understand my terminology, I say that you need to get over here.) My vision to save all of humanity is to become rich by selling shower curtains to every man, woman, and child in Ukraine. It may hurt the mop industry, but I do not care. It is for the greater good.

On a more serious note, we got the medical visit done today for the embassy. We also got the plane ticket for Ashley. We have to stop Thursday night in Atlanta, so we will be in Birmingham at 7:45am on Friday, Lord willing. We have the embassy visit tomorrow and should have the visa stamped on Wednesday. Please pray that the fingerprint issue has been cleared up for me.

We had lunch today with Nastya V., who was the translator in 2005. Paula and I have maintained a friendship with her and her new husband. When Ashley saw her, the moment was a bit overwhelming. So much has transpired since the two of them last spoke. It was a real blessing. Nastya still has pictures from that summer. I really blew it by not having a camera today. I still cannot believe that this adoption has come to pass.

Ashley, Anderson and I are slowly becoming accustomed to one another. It is plain to see that she is terrified of the unknown (who can blame her?), but she maintains that this is the new life she wants (shower curtain and all). Most of the time, I feel like a big dork. If anyone can give me a crash course on parenting a 14 year-old Russian-speaking girl, please call me at 1-800-MAN-LOST.

Ok, I will stop writing before you stop reading. Thanks for praying for us.


Saturday, January 17, 2009

2 Adoptions!

Today I got news that our son, Chris, prayed to receive Christ! Now he has been adopted into God's family. It happened about the same time I was signing Ashley out of the orphanage. How great is our God. We just brought him home on January 25 of last year. We have seen 2 big answers to prayer in 2009. We prayed this for Chris for over a year. We have been asking God to give us Ashley for 3 1/2 years.

By the way, we got Ashley's passport today at 3:00. We leave for Kiev tomorrow night. We will spend the holiday Monday on the medicals and plane ticket, ets. Prayerfully, we will get the visa and be home Thursday night.


The Nina, The Lena, and the Late Eaten Pizza

Yesterday was a big slow-down. We slept in for a while and then went for "brunch" at McDonald's. Given their run of the menu, 14 year-olds Ashley and Galya chose the happy meal. We made a few other stops and then went back inside to escape the slush all over the ground.

At 4:30, Oleg picked us up to go to little Nina's house. We crammed 6 into Oleg's car (insert joke of your favorite nationality here). When we got there, Nina was running around on the tires on the playground, oblivious to all else. She was really glad to see us. She was particularly glad to see Ashley, with whom she had been to Italy 3 times. For me, it was a picture of what once was to be.

Once inside, we saw the Christmas decorations. Yana translated (more than Lena wanted) that there were not many presents this year and that things at work were hard. I told Lena that we want to be there for them to help offer support and encouragement as best we could. She began to tear up. I nearly did too, but alas, I am macho man. Mirislava came in from her college studies in time for cake. We stacked up around the table to eat, while Bart (the dog) took his place under the table. We talked of things of America and Ukraine. The children got tired of it and retired to the parlor. Lena was fascinated with home schooling. She explained that mothers had to parent by phone while at work. I felt so bad for her, knowing that life was a struggle. Lena does not wear it on her sleeve. She was gracious. She asked me to influence Nina to do well in school. I wished for Nina's sake that school was fun. I did my best. In the U.S., we use the American Dream on kids to give them a reason to study. What DO you tell a child here? One day maybe YOU TOO can earn $100 per month?

One hour turned into two and a half. We decided to leave. The family insisted on showing us out. With too many people for the elevator (or casket suspended vertically from 10 stories) Yana, Anderson and I had to take 10 flights down. I HAD to see if I could beat the elevator down and I did! It was the first time I impressed anyone for weeks. They promised to meet us at the train station to say final goodbyes. In the car, with an elbow in my back, I led the charge for the best pizza around.

After that visit, I do not care if I ever get another present under the tree. Yes, Paula, I have pictures.

I had better go for now, because I have another English class to prepare for. I have been "suffering for Jesus" at Coffee Life, eating apple strudel and a latte. Hey, I had to trudge through a foot of snow to get here!