‘What does love look like? It has the hands to help others. It has the feet to hasten to the poor and needy. It has eyes to see misery and want. It has the ears to hear the sighs and sorrows of men …… That is what love looks like.’ - St. Augustine

Monday, November 29, 2010

Culture Shock

It is honestly like being hit by a truck. I'm at JFK. I didn't even think about the cultural impact of coming home. I am sitting here surrounded by so much stuff, so much food, so many shops, so much of everything, and the Christmas music is blaring and people are laughing and eating big piles of food and buying designer LaCoste shirts behind me and...and...and

And half a world away are people I love going without even the basic necessities. I don't like the disparity. Wait, no. I HATE the disparity. Do not, I repeat, do not bother to comment if you are going to tell me things like 'everything is going to be ok' or 'you'll feel better in a few days'. That's just it..I don't WANT To feel better. I want to jump on the next plane back to Russia and be with those kids. I want to care for Anya, as infuriating as she can be....I want to be where I belong.

I am listening to  'O Holy Night' blaring on the terminal speakers and it is sucking the wind out of me. The irony is too much.

My heart hurts. I want to go home....my Siberian home. I want to be holding D, and a hundred other children. I want to be playing outside in the snow with them, or holding them while they cry. I just want to be there. God, please send me back.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Eyes Wide Open

Sometimes life takes you where you never expected to go. Sometimes strange twists and turns and even unexpected obstacles bring you to the most beautiful place you have ever been. Sometimes God holds His gifts behind His back, hidden, until the very last moment when He delights you beyond your wildest imaginings. I know this, because it is my life story.

How can I possibly express the gift that these months have been? I cannot. My heart is so overfull that I am left speechless. I came here with a heavy heart and the expectation that I would simply minister to Anya's heart and come home. Instead, I find that new worlds opened to me and I not only met some of the most wonderful souls I have ever encountered, and fell in love with literally one hundred children, and an enigmatic, frustrating yet beautiful country, but I also met the son I never even dreamed I would have. It is like winning the lottery when you never even bought a ticket!

These past few days I have gotten many emails from people expressing their admiration and awe for what I accomplished here. To be honest, these left me feeling unsettled, because I know a truth it seems these admirers do not know -- we all have the capacity to do what I have done. It doesn't take riches or power or even a plan. All it takes is Love.

True love moves us to act. True love forces us out of our comfort zones, and that is the start of the very best journey of all. When we say 'yes' to God -- I mean really say 'yes', I think the Universe itself claps its' hands in delight. Love is that powerful.

It is so sad to see the world wasting it's time on 'bigger' and 'better' and 'faster' and 'shinier'. It doesn't make me angry anymore, it just makes me sad for the thousands of people who are chasing after emptiness. It is such a waste of energy and time. None of it matters. None of it. You know what matters?
G does...

And this G...

and M...

And millions upon millions of beautiful, very real children just like them. We cannot expect this world of chaos and hate and rage and desperation to ever change until we make these children our priority. And by our, I mean every one of us.

Are you one of the millions of people who mourn the state of things as they are right now? Well, excuse me for saying so, but none of us has a right to complain unless we are truly doing everything we can to change it ourselves -- and I do mean everything. When Gandhi said 'Be the change you wish to see in the world', he was not envisioning a bumper sticker. He was envisioning a spiritual revolution, an evolution of the human soul, an awakening -- but certainly not a bumper sticker.

My time in Siberia has opened my eyes to a great many things -- probably the greatest being my own ignorance and selfishness. I don't want the things I wanted before this journey. Life has become so simple and so clear. I want what God wants. I want to love like He loves. I want to see what He sees. I want the things that matter most to be before my eyes, always.

And the shocking thing is...it's easy! When you cut away everything extraneous, when you focus on Love and nothing else, there is a joy you cannot possibly imagine. Yes, the letting go is hard. Saying yes is scary when you're trying to hold on to so much. But let go, and trust Him, and you cannot IMAGINE the things He has waiting for you.

Your house will be so much sawdust someday. Your clothes, you beloved family heirlooms, your rings, your must-have convection oven, your cherished artwork, your hard-won vacation home or car ---all of it is here, and gone. But Love? Love does not perish. It does not decay. It can't, because it is the only true thing in this world (and out of it.) Love matters.

If we could only wake up. If we could only see what He sees and choose to make Love our priority over all things. Someday I will live in a world like that. It's far off, but it is coming. As Jesus so gently and powerfully told St Julian as she lay dying, ' And all shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well.'

V and K holding hands in their sleep...

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Update Coming!!!

I PROMISE to get an update about the Thanksgiving Feast up here before I go to bed tonight, but right now  (as we got home late last night from the orphanage) I have to clean our entire apartment, pack, say goodbye to all my new Siberian friends, feed my kitties, and prepare for the 34 hour marathon of travel ahead of us.

But I will give you a teaser: the last two days spent at the orphanage with the kids were absolutely two of the BEST DAYS OF MY ENTIRE 45 YEARS! 'SPECTACULAR' doesn't even come close to describing it. 

Thank you everyone! I couldnt have done it without you!!!!
12 years old and still wants to sit on my lap:) I love you Daniel!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Making Russian National News....Again:)

This weekend Channel One Russia will run a feature news story on our time in Siberia. This will actually mark the 6th time we have appeared on the national news here...wish our story garnered as much attention in the US! As much as I loathe being on tv, it serves a great purpose, so I've always said yes, thus far. This time, I am hoping that adoption will be the focus and the need for Russian people to embrace the concept and idea of adoption the way Americans have.  The producer is of the same mind, I'm so lucky. Also, I don't mind being on tv over here, because Russian media people are incredibly kind and true to their word. If you tell them 'do not say this on camera' or 'please, could you mention the following?' -- they do! At least that has been my experience every time.

Today was the first day of filming, and it took place at the school. They filmed us rehearsing, an encore performance of the scenes, interviewed most of the students, the school staff, and me. It was a great day, and so wonderful to see the kids so excited to be on television. After the crew left, I stayed and was the guest of honor at a Thanksgiving Day Debate where the senior class students debated the pros and cons of celebrating the day. They knew their stuff!  They discussed the treatment of Native Americans by early Europeans, the value of the holiday in general, and many other finer points -- all in English! I was very impressed. Then I was asked to speak about the meaning of Thanksgiving for Americans. Can't tell you how meaningful this was for me, as Thanksgiving is also my Dad's birthday, and it was his favorite holiday, and he even wrote a book focusing on the first Thanksgiving!

The hardest part of the day was watching some of the students cry about my upcoming departure. It was very hard to keep it together, but I had promised myself I would not cry until I said goodbye to them for good - at the orphanage.

Did I mention 5 of them are coming with us to the orphanage? I'm so excited! And Channel One will be there filming all day. This afternoon they spent the day at the Ministry of Education discussing the hosting program we are starting in Prokopyevsk with Project 143. I believe all this attention will only help our endeavor.

Well, I need to go pack. We are bringing quite an array of things tomorrow, some of which I need to wrap very carefully tonight! Here's a partial list of what we are bringing on this final visit, thanks to the incredible generosity of many friends and blog readers:

  • Toilet paper for every single child. (The orphanage budget does not allow for TP, so we bought tons of it as a surprise!)
  • A Christmas tree
  • Lots of Christmas decorations
  • 400 photos to give out to all the kids and staff ( photos I have taken over the past several months)
  •  MANY Duplo blocks for the younger group
  • 5 more dolls
  • a computer camera ( for Skype)
  • 2 dvd players
  • a television for a group that does not have one.
  • several photo albums
  • 20 more inspiring movies (including Elf!)
  • a few last books to add to the 150  already bought for them.
  • Enough art supplies for every child
  • Some American treats to share after our big Feast -- m&ms, skittles, American cookies
  • TURKEY!!!!
My deepest and most humble thanks to every single one of you here, and on facebook, who contributed. For anyone who thinks a $5 donation does not make a difference...I beg to differ. With over 100 people contributing only $5, it was enough to cover the purchase of a tv and dvd player!

I promise to take hundreds of photos tomorrow and Saturday. Please keep us in your prayers, as these kids get to have the first Thanksgiving Feast of their lives, and are given a chance to meditate on the good things in their lives.

Happy Thanksgiving, Everyone!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

You.....Yes YOU....Thank You

I have been so grateful for all the comments over the past few months. I cannot tell you how much they meant to me. This blog has truly been a lifeline for me while here...and I thank each and every one of you for taking the time to comment, ask questions, tell me you're praying, share links, tell funny stories, cheer me up when needed.  It is not always possibly to answer eevry comment, but I wanted to take a moment to tell you that I read every single one with great focus and, usually, joy.

That said, I wanted to remind anyone who is waiting for a reply from me, to be unafraid to send a gentle reminder. Having ADD is a blesssing and a curse --and the curse is the inability to keep track of so many loose ends! When you write and ask me a question, I may have every intention of answering it right away, but I often get distracted by another important item on my agenda...and then the original item is lost forever. I truly don't mean to, and I honestly really do appreciate the gentle reminders.

I know many of you have written and asked for answers to various questions : Is that girl available for adoption? Can you send me the name of a child to send a care package to? Keri, what is your address? Keri, I have a great idea for _______, what do you think?  If I did not answer, it's not because I didn't want to or plan to, it's because my brain doesnt work like a normal brain! That used to be embarrassing to admit, but now I just realize it is part of who I am, and I just need to accept it and humbly ask for help.

So, feel free to comment below with your unanswered questions. If ALL the remaining questions are in one place, it will be easier for me to keep track of! The other thing you can  do is write me an email. (But don't do both -- that'll just confuse the heck out of me!)

My email is: KeriCahill34(at)gmail(dot)com. I'll remove this after a few days so I don't get a lifetime of spam. But for now, feel free to use it.

Off to buy final items for the Thanksgiving Feast!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Found ONE Reason To Be Happy About Going Home...

The trolley I take to work everyday.
....NEGATIVE 20 degrees celsius is physically painful. If it gets any colder than this I think I might just die.

Walking home from work was like being tortured. My eyes kept watering from the pain, which made them freeze shut, with the eyelashes acting like velcro. I completely blocked out forgot how cold it can get here.

Last January it got down to negative 24 celsius in Moscow and I now remember that day -- my whole body felt like it was in a vice.

How do people live like this for months on end?

Apt sculpture they just added to our street.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Yes, It's True - A Forever Family For D!

I was hoping to forego this post for awhile. I don't want to jinx what is in the works for D. But you amazing readers (and friends) are relentless in your pursuit of knowledge...lol....and if I have to answer one more private email, skype or chat message about D, I think my typing fingers might fall off.
Yes, as many of you read on my facebook page -- D is being adopted! The little girl who stole my heart and for whom I have prayed every single night and morning since March, will have a family ...a forever family!

And before you go feeling sorry for me -- don't. More than anything else in the world, I wanted D to have a family, and she does. Of course, of course I had hoped it would be me, but God has far better perspective than I, and He has blessed her with a mom and a Dad!

Obviously I won't be posting about the family. LeAnn of New Horizons very lovingly kept me in the loop, as I was worried that D would end up with a family that was not prepared for her particular needs. LeAnn assures me that this family is aware of D's issues and is still committed to her no matter what. I am so grateful to have been part of her journey I cannot express, and I celebrate her amazing news with prayers of gratitude to God.

Love never dies. D and Nastia and I will always have a bond, because of our love for one another. Her new family will have our prayers for decades to come. And though we may not be hosting her  next month or seeing her in the  future, God has given me a great peace that I will see D again some day -- if not in this life, then the next.

Thank you to all of you kind and loving friends who took the time to write and ask about her. I hope you will join with me in praying for her new family  -- and that her transition to them will be smooth and that she will delight them as much as she delighted us (I have no doubt....) I thank God for answering my prayers, and for making this one amazing, precious, big-hearted, funny, and infinitely wonderful little girl's dream come true. Amen!

Looking For Input

(My iphone always makes me orange...don't know why.)
I'm not kidding when I say I don't want to go home. I'm not even stretching the truth the tiniest bit. In fact, I'm so stressed about it that I had a near panic attack in the middle of the night last night. I managed to deflect it with deep breathing and prayer, but the knot in my stomach stayed.

Well-intentioned friends keep telling me I will be happy once I am home, but that's not really helping  (no offense.) I also know myself enough to know it's not true. I will be sad for a very long time, because I am leaving beind many, many children that I have grown to love very much. And I am leaving before I am ready. And I am leaving with a hundred million question marks still buzzing about in my head. And I am leaving D. And I am leaving a place where I know I a making a difference. And I'm happy here. Genuinely happy.

But for whatever reason, it is evident that by my daughter's clock, it is time to go. And so we go.

In a few days we will head to the orphanage for our big Thanksgiving Feast. It is building up to be quite the event -- many of my Shakespeare students are coming to help with set up (and translating) and Channel One Russia (the biggest of the big) is sending a crew to film us and do a national news story about it. We are going very early Friday morning, so that our Siberian Thanksgiving coincides with the U.S. one. The orphanage kids are already making decorations, and the staff is slowly purchasing all the goods. Nastia and I are cooking a turkey here and bringing it, as no turkeys could be found in Prokopyevsk. Svetlana, bless her heart, found one in Kemerovo and dropped it off at our house last night.

We will buy crates of fruit as well, since it is such a treat for the kids. I'm going to try to create a fruit tower on each table. After we all eat, we will share my family's tradition of going around the table and hearing from each person about what they are grateful for. Then pie! I can't find pumpkin anywhere, so we might be stuck with only apple. We'll see.

Anyway -- the input part: in the evening Svetlana and all my students will return to Kemerovo, the camera crew will leave, and I will have that evening and the entire next day to spend with the kids. I want to make my last day with them memorable, but I'm drawing a blank on how. I think I'm just so averse to leaving, that I'm having a mental block. So, help me. What are some ways I can end my time with them that will be memorable and helpful? How can I give D something to hold onto for the next several months? What would be my best use of time that last night and next day?

Please take a moment to comment if you have any ideas. Thank you.

Comic Relief (inspired by christie's post)

Christie is not only one of my favorite bloggers, but also one of the dearest people I know. When I was going through a 'dark night of the soul' a few years ago, she not only sent me a card and gifts in the mail, she also was sure to keep track of how I was doing. Her prayers and love really helped me through a dark time. Well, today I read one of the funniest posts she has ever written. You need to go read it yourself! And then come back here and read my attempt at Russian version of her post -- comic relief in Siberia.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Baaaad Keri

I actually thought how easy it might be to accidentally break my leg on the sidewalk  icewalk and have to stay here. I felt terribly guilty for thinking such a thing, but I just soooooo am not ready to go home. There is so much left to do here, and I am content. Very content and at peace living here, and I'm scared to go home and get sucked into the vortex that was my American life prior to coming here.

Of course I want to see the people I love.....and my animals....and Bill & Bob's Roast Beef on Bridge Street in Salem....but that's it. I don't miss one single thing else. Nothing. I have prayed and prayed and hoped and hoped that Nastia would find a way to be happy here, and I could just go home and pack up and move here permanently. But it hasn't happened, and it's imminent arrival is doubtful. To the degree to which I love it here, she has an equal degree of hate. Yes, hate. And so, as a mother, I must set aside my own desires in favor of what my child needs and wants. Such is life.

But there is good news! I am buying a computer camera for the orphanage and will set up skype for them before I leave! If I can just skype with them once a week, I think it will help my inevitable homesickness for Russia. Also, I will be busy completing the mountain of paperwork required for Daniel's adoption. If I can just keep my eye on bringing him home, I might just be ok.

And there is more good news! Tammy Cannon of Project 143 asked if I'd come back over here with her in February to work on our hosting program. You BET I will!

Yesterday and today,  my Shakespeare students expressed great sadness at my leaving two days earlier than they anticipated. Like me, they think this happened all too fast. I hate to say goodbye when I know I will never get the chance to spend such time with them again. They are amazing kids. Our show, by the way, is next Tuesday! I am going to do my best to record it on Nastia's flipvideo thingy.

so I'm heading out (brrrrrr....) to the grocery store which somehow feels MUCH farther away now the the temperature remains in the negative degrees. Seven blocks feels like seven hundred! But I will slip and slide my way there and back without ANY attempts at broken bones -- I promise.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Oops! Clarification!!!

My Friend BT and others are pointing their friends towards this blog to donate for the Thanksgiving FEAST! (Thank you!)

However, my paypal account is confusing everyone because it says  'Bring Anya Home Fund.'


That is simply the name on the bank acct where the money goes so I can access it. 


ALL money is going towards the orphanage and whatever the person specifies in their note. If they simply send money with no specifications, it goes towards a whole host of things -- books, clothes, toys, food, and moat recently...

Our Thanksgiving Feast!

Hope this clarifies things. Sorry for the confusion. And sorry this is rushed and messing. I'm heading to my teaching job soon and don't want to be late!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Spare Change?

Making my final visit to the orphanage on Thanksgiving Day for two whole days of true thanksgiving. I'm planning a giant Thanksgiving dinner for all 100 children!

Although we cannot find turkey in Siberia (we tried), Nadezhda and I settled on looking for the largest roast chickens we can find. Nastia helped to make the menu which includes mashed potatoes, corn, green beans, apple pie with ice cream, and warm rolls with butter. We will also have bowls of fruit (as they never get it) and candy (another treat.)

If you want to give your spare change to this final hurrah, please do. I'm no fool. I know that everything, everything I am getting to do over here is only because of all the generous people who read my blog. And this feast is no different. I left them with some of the money earmarked for more boots...lol. A Thanksgiving dinner just seemed more important at that moment. (I know, I know...my ADD is surely showing.)

Well, whether you can contribute or not, it will happen. I do have an emergency credit card:) It would be a stretch to use it to buy Thanksgiving dinner for 100. But c'mon....sometimes a feast IS an emergency.

Here are some of the lovely pilgrims you'd be feeding:


Anya and Sasha


Another Sasha!

If donating, just use the paypal button on the top of the blog, and put "Thanksgiving" in your message.

Wordless Wednesday

Haven't done this for awhile. No words. Just photos. All of the orphanage.

Yes They Have Sheets, Sort Of...

So sorry my photo in the last post caused alarm! Yes, the kids do have sheets, but it was washing day, and they also must go get them and put them on their bed themselves. The boys often opt not to. Also, if you felt the sheets they have, you would know why they prefer the mattress! The sheets feel like burlap. We have those same sheets here at our apartment, and I actually had my mom ship me a sheet from home! ( Spoiled American that I am.)

Also, the sheets they have are so dingy and old ( I'll post photos of the girls' rooms below) that I can't help but think a 'sheet drive' is in order! Remember, their pillows are a different shape than ours, so you cannot send pillow cases. They will not fit. But twin fitted sheets and flat sheets will fit!

Here are some photos of one of the girls' rooms, so you can see that they DO have bedding . It's just that the boys are, well, boys -- they prefer the ease of  no sheets. Saves them from the extra effort of making their bed! But I DID get out of them that if they had 'cool' sheets with cars or soccer balls, etc on them, they would make the effort..lol!

The beds in the girls rooms are brand new. They used to have rickety bunk beds. Nastia was mad they got rid of them. Here is a little bedside shrine some of the older girls made...to Mary and Jesus, with some hand cream and Buddha thrown in...lol.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

I Am So In Love, It's Shocking

This  little guy is sweet, kind-hearted, mischievous, funny, inquisitive, peaceful, caring, protective, goofy, hopeful, and trusting. I could not have imagined a more beautiful soul. God knows His business, let me tell you. After all the sad news of late -- Anya not coming home with us, not being able to Dasha and have closure with her --I cling to this light God has set in my life. And it's so shocking! So unexpected!

Sooooo wonderful.

D follows me everywhere like a little puppy. He stares up at me with those gorgeous green eyes and hangs on every word I speak. When I make mistakes with my Russian (which is a constant occurrence) He laughs and laughs and re-tells my mistake to anyone who will listen. 

And he is so inquisitive --  Nastia, is there snow in America? Nastia, does it get really cold there? Nastia, will I sleep on a bed or  a couch? Nastia, Nastia Nastia... He asked a thousand questions. Nastia nearly lost her patience more than once.

And he is protective -- when I brought the gifts to his group of twenty boys, and pretty much got trampled by the older ones, he blocked them from me and very sternly told them to back away from " my mama." When those same kids tried to steal the candy out of my hands, Daniel stood up against them. Even the caretaker smiled broadly and said (in Russian) " D! I am impressed! You are a good son!"

And he is kind-hearted -- when Little Vanya cried at my leaving his group, D went and knelt down next to him and said in the softest voice " Don't be sad --She will be back in this many days!" And held up his two hands to show Vanya.

And he is funny -- He took my giant rolling suitcase and pretended it was a baby carriage and sang a famous Russian lullaby while rocking the imaginary baby back and forth. He cracked himself up with that one.

He is so many wonderful things, and even Nastia becomes smitten every time she spends time with him. I just wish I could pack him into my bag and bring him home now. I don't know how I'll get through the months of waiting. God, let it be quick! 

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Orphanage Preparations

Ok, so the Anya situation had me pretty down. So what's a depressed girl  (who doesn't drink) to do? Go shopping, of course.

After spending the early afternoon at Svetlana's doing prep work for our upcoming meeting about the hosting program, I came home and got Nastia and we headed to the 'mall.' ( Please know I use the word 'mall' very loosely. And please know that everytime I say it and think of where I am actually headed, I laugh, and loudly.)

So, we went to the 'Ya Centre' as it is called. We bought a dozen pairs of boots, a dozen mini soccer balls, a few pairs of jeans, many gloves and hats, over a dozen cars and other items for the boys, Christmas decorations, candy, notebooks, legos for the little ones, and then we hobbled outside to get a taxi. We NEVER take taxis here, to save money. But with this many bags, we could barely make it out the door, nevermind the block we'd have to walk to the bus stop.

Here are some photos of our plunder...

This isn't everything, but I was too tired to take anything else out of the bags. I just took some things out for these photos. By the way, you should have seen the slow, complicated attempt at getting all of this up our eight flights of stairs in one trip. We really deserve a trophy for that.

So, tomorrow Svetlana and I hopefully meet with the higher-ups (and even the highest-up) at the local DOE. Then final last minute shopping and packing for the orphanage. Tuesday we head back to the orphanage at the crack of dawn. I cannot wait to be with the kids again. When I tell you these are wonderful kids, I really mean it. They are so fun to be with, and I will never stop doing all I can to make their lives a little better.  Forever families would be nice, of course, but barring that, just brightening their days is worth all the effort I can muster.

Thanks for making it possible for me to help them so much. I couldn't do it without your help. And that's the truth.

A D Update

Daniel in the new winter coat we bought him:)
After yesterday's very sad post, I think I'd like to balance things out with something a little more uplifting. As sad as I am about leaving Anya, I do have something to be very joyful about, and when I think of him, I can't help but smile and feel incredibly grateful.

D. I talk to him every day by phone and he has the sweetest voice. He calls at least once a day and usually just wants to say hi and hear my voice. He laughs the cutest lilting laugh when I butcher something in Russian. He is a darling, incredibly sweet little boy.

I got an email this morning from the director, as we had to discuss my upcoming visit. And at the end of it she added that  D stops by her office every day to ask about me.  'Every day, Keri! Like a clock!' she said.

D is well-liked by the other kids at the orphanage. In fact, I'm pretty sure a good number of the younger girls have a little crush on him. The older girls find him so sweet that they look out for him, and the boys seem to like him because he is non-threatening, very accepting, and always helpful. He's one of those kids that everyone likes. And the caretakers? Well, they ADORE him. He tows the line, listens to them very well, but has just enough mischief in him to make him interesting...lol! That was what the director told me.

I honestly think the director may be as excited as I am about D's adoption. She knows as well as I do that his life prospects were he to stay in Russia are dismal. Because of his FASD issues, he does not do well in school and has difficulty with his memory. It is difficult for him to concentrate, but he tries his best, according to the older teen girls I talked to. He is a very 'go-with-the-flow' kind of kid, and he will give you the shirt off his back if you ask him. In fact, he's already given away much of what I gave him on my last visit.

I'm sick with that longing that all mothers experience when thy are away from their kids. I already adore him, and so the thought of having to leave him here for several months makes my heart ache. But, I've survived this once before. I can do it again. God alone gives me the strength to do it. Just like He alone is giving me the ability to leave Anya.

God-willing, I will be back here in the late Spring to bring him home. There are some things you can pray for if you do pray:

1. That the DOE (Dept of Education) will waive the first trip since I have already spent ample time with Daniel.

2. That I will be able to complete my dossier by the end of December.

3. That D will be kept safe, and hopeful, until I can return.

Thank you, prayer warriors!

As terrified as I am to hope that this adoption will go smoothly,  (I know all too well what wrenches can be thrown into the mix), I am the eternal optimist and I am envisioning a smooth process as best I can. May God spare me the 'wrenches' this time around and may D be cuddled up in my arms, and his sister's arms, in his own little room in Marblehead very soon..

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Where Is Anya In All This

Blessed asked about an update on Anya's mental/emotional state. I realized I've been very quiet about her lately without meaning to. I wish I could share the whole story here, but it's not fair to her. But suffice it to say, Anya continues to make very poor choices for herself, and runs from us when the love feels too real.

I realize that I was very naive about the depth of Anya's trauma. She is a very damaged girl and sadly has no one advocating for her here but me. If I had to guess I'd say she suffers from bi-polar disorder, but I am no psychiatrist. She just manifests all the classic symptoms, and knowing a few people who suffer with it at home, it just seems to fit. Of course, it could be that her brain is so damaged from the years of neglect and abuse that she simply has similar behaviors, while not having the biological basis for it. I'll never know, likely.

Anya is as complex as they come. No matter how I try to explain her history to others, very few seem to get how crippled she is -- emotionally, mentally, socially, cognitively -- she simply does not have a brain that works like most of ours do. On top of that she has many symptoms of agoraphobia. I have a family member who has had it my whole life, so I lived it firsthand. Anya is terrified, absolutely physically nauseated, by new environments and experiences. She dissociates completely.

When I think of how best to describe her to someone, the first thing that comes to mind is a wild animal that has been injured and doesn't want you near them. Her 'fight or flight'  mechanism is stuck in 'flight' mode and she runs at the slightest whiff of danger. Love is foreign and therefore dangerous, so this up close and personal attention from us is simply more than she can handle.

Sadly, my attempts at bringing her home with us have failed. I am sorry I cannot blog about all the paths we have tried, but I've been advised not to and I'm keeping my word. But trust me when I say every single stone has been upturned to find her a way home with us. But the way our immigration laws stand, there is simply no way for her to enter the US till many many years from now. Everyone has tried, and I do mean everyone. But the law is the law, and it seems no one is above this one.

It's time to let go. I do not say 'give up' because I could never possibly give up on her. But living here has proved futile. It is impossible to help her here, because she runs. And because her former life is here. There is no escaping it. If she were to come home to the US with us, she would have therapy and all kinds of help from sources that would make a difference. They simply don't exist in this part of the world.

I dream of the day that Anya is home with us. I have dreamt that dream for exactly 5 years next week. But it is simply not to be. We live in a broken world where doing the right thing is not always easily accomplished. Mercy, true mercy, is in short supply down here. But I trust that my thousands upon thousands of prayers, and your thousands and thousands, will keep Anya safe while we are apart. That is all I can do.

And so, Nastia and I leave in 2 weeks, empty-handed. Yes, we have accomplished alot while we've been here, but not the one thing we set out to do. It is deeply painful  and agonizing to both of us, but so is much of this life. I am lucky -- I know that some day the pain will be a distant memory. My heart and soul cling to tha knowledge as we walk away from Anya. Someday this will all be over and we will be together, one family under one celestial roof.

 I wait in joyful hope for that day.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

I Don't Want to Go Home

I really don't. I'm heartsick over leaving. I want to stay for so many reasons, and I feel selfish for feeling this way, because I'm getting so many sweet emails from home from friends who actually miss me. But I know I am going to crash when I get there -- mentally and emotionally -- and I'd rather just stay here and make a difference, if it's alright with everyone.

But it's not. It's not alright with Nastia. I thank God that she has a terrible sense of time and I can stretch out time here closer to December 1st with her being none-the-wiser. I'm sure that sounds terribly mean to some mothers out there, but she really will not know if I don't tell her. I told her we are leaving earlier, so I'm hoping I can stretch it out until the 30th. That's still earlier right?

It's just that when I think of leaving I feel so incredibly sad and anxious. What will Anya do? Will D be ok till I come back for him? Will Ksusha feel loved even though I can't call her every day? Will anyone visit the kids at the orphanage? The answer to most of these is a resounding 'no' and that is why I grieve this leaving.

I spoke to D tonight. He keeps asking when I'm coming back. Nadezhda, the Director, says he stops by her office every day to ask if she's heard from me and when I will come for him. new level of heartbreak since I've committed to him. I ache to have him with me now. I know every adoptive mom knows how I feel -- the waiting, the waiting is a form of torture, and no one else understands it. You have to understand that to me he is already my son, and so leaving him feels like I am abandoning him. I dream about him, I think about him every day, and I cannot wait to see him in just a few days! I'll savor every second.

Anya went to her friend's house overnight. I know it is because she is starting to pull back from us. It's too hard to be here with us when she knows this is all at an end. Maybe I'll be able to afford doing it again next year, but I've got months of work to make up for first. This was a rare gift, but it's coming to a close. How I wish that were not the case.

For those of you who are awaiting answers from me to an email, comment or skype message -- please be patient. I am sorry -- I took on too much and am paying for it now. Between being sick, teaching, planning the hosting program, keeping in touch with all the kids at the orphanage, advocating for Ksusha,  caring for Nastia & Anya, shopping for the orphanage......well, you get the picture. I'm in over my head this week and it will take a few days to catch up. Everything is a priority -- how do you choose to let one thing go when all are important and all are craving and needing your attention?

Well, headed to bed as I'm working tomorrow after a few days off due to the flu. Then a meeting Saturday about our hosting program AND my adoption of D -- both on the same day! Then Monday, back to the orphanage. I'm counting the minutes, till I see this guy again......

More Orphanage Photos

..because you can never have enough:)  Since I got sick we had to put off visiting the orphanage this week and the kids are very sad about it. I can't stop thinking of them today, so here are a few more photos to remind you of the need there, and inspire you to send them something this winter!

V with his new puppy!

L, Ksusha and Angelina in the 'baby' room ..P is behind them

Checking out the new books we brought....

Girls from the older group want their photo taken with the social worker who was visiting.

R in blue, with a little gimpse of my Daniel on the left:)

Some of the kids outdoors, with the director

Older girls, many wearing new clothes we brought them
My boy:)

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Lying in the Lap of God

This trip has taken a massive toll on my daughter Nastia. She has trudged on like a trooper, but she has been severely homesick for over a month, and a few times has expressed such grief that I honestly did not know if I was doing permanent damage by staying here. Last night was sadly one of those nights. The outpouring of grief was so huge and so deep and so profound, I could do nothing but hold her and ask God for His peace for her.

Nastia hates it here. I'm not sure if hate is even a strong enough word. Repulsed, maybe? I have not blogged about it because I was honestly hoping to see a turn-around. You know, 'Russian girl embraces her home country and finds peace' -- that sort of thing. Nope. Not happening. She is positively bereft at not being home. She says over and over that she will never ever ever come here again. She despises this place, her homeland, and wants out now. 

Technically, we have three weeks left, but I honestly don't know if she can make it that long. It seems we have exhausted all routes of bringing Anya home (another post for another day) and If I'm going to lose one daughter, I am certainly going to do everything I can to keep the other one ok.

Visions of Sophie's Choice come to mind. It is slowly dawning on me that I will be leaving Russia with one daughter in tow -- one exhausted, overwhelmed, burned out, grieving daughter. The other one? The one I must leave behind? All I can do, all I can possibly do, is leave her in God's hands.

Each night I  end my  prayers by envisioning my two girls lying in the lap of God. He looks on them with great love while they lie there, curled up within the folds of His garments. He showers them with light while they lie there, dreaming. He reminds them that someday this hurt will all be over. He strokes their hair. He wipes the tears from their cheeks. I know He loves them like I do.

So this is the vision I will hold in my mind when I say goodbye to Anya. I consecrate her to Him. I beg Him to keep her safe in a place where safety and peace are hard-won.

I thought I was writing this post asking for prayers for Nastia. That was my intention. But our need for prayer clearly extends so much further. As we enter our last few weeks here, please pray for my girls. I don't have any answers. My hands are empty. I came here with the greatest hope that Anya would leave with us, but it is looking very much like we will be walking away from her. Again.

How will I possibly do that?

The Christmas Holidays at home, and all its indulgent trappings, will feel like a slap in the face.  Our home itself will provoke guilt for me. And as much as Nastia is desperate to get out of here, I know her grief at the loss of her sister will fill a canyon when we get home.

God, in your great mercy, please help us.