‘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, August 29, 2011

Where Things Stand

I don't have an update on Anya except that she had a fourth surgery this past week. We have been unable to reach her via skype or email for almost a week. I'm going to try calling my friend Svetlana tonight and see if she knows anymore.

The last update I heard from the surgeon via Svetlana is that Anya must stay there for at least three months. The doctors there do not think she should be flying before then. I have to trust them. In the mean time, I have almost everything I need to apply for humanitarian parole EXCEPT the letter from the doctors in Kemerovo. I'm praying they will decide it is ok to send me a letter to submit SOONER rather than later. The good news is, it seems they agree that Anya will need rehabilitation HERE, and that they are willing to sign their name to that. So far they have managed to save her foot, but its unsure if it will be useable.

Now I come clean on where I personally am at. I am grateful to hear from those who have been in my shoes, or something nearly to it. I am grateful to those who can offer words of hope or wisdom, but please oh please do not post if you are here to condemn me or shake a finger at me or say " you should have" or " I told you so." I am honestly so fragile these days that one mean comment might undo me..and I am not being dramatic. I really mean that.

Life has been incredibly difficult for the past 5 weeks. After I had the stroke I was supposed to take it easy, see my neurologist, start physical therapy twice a week, de-stress my life. I have not done any of those. My life seems to be so jam-packed with other people's needs that I truly am starting to wonder what I have gotten myself into. I feel completely ill-equipped to deal with what is on my plate. For a taste of what that is, and this is only a glimpse, if truth be told:

~Nastia begins school in a week. We are not prepared. She needs more testing done, school supplies, school clothes and shoes, and needs plenty of emotional preparation. Sadly, when I spoke to the school, I was transferred to an enldess stream of very mean people who spent most of the conversation lambasting me for not calling sooner. I hung up in tears.

~We have had a new 'family member' this summer that I have not spoken of much, out of respect for her and her family. She is a lost soul who has been through tremendous pain and upheaval in her 18 years and who called me in early July in desperation after a domestic assault at her partner's home. She had (and still has) nowhere else to go right now, and I love her dearly. But having another person, with huge needs, in our small home is another major stressor. N's needs are great and I find myself unable to meet all her needs and feel terrible guilt for that. I've been taking care of her as best I can, but its hard. I wish I had a live-in therapist to help her. She is about as fragile as I am right now. I know God placed her here with us for a reason, but I feel useless in helping her learn to make better choices for herself. I worry for her every day.

~I still am experiencing some after-effects from the stroke, but it's hard to tell what is from residual brain swelling and what is just stress. I haven't talked to anyone about it, because I can't handle another person giving me 'hell' for not taking care of myself. It doesnt help to tell me that. I already know I'm not doing what I should. Don't you think I would if I could? My hospital stay was also so traumatic that I have been positively terrified of going back for more tests. I had a full-fledged panic attack when getting one of the CAT scans, and another during the MRI. ( If you havent experienced one before, I cant possibly tell you how terrifying it is.) I'm still experiencing PTSD symptoms from time in the hospital, and it unexpectedly brought up TERRIFYING memories from an early childhood hospital stay and surgery from when I was only 4 years old.. I've had four mind-numbing flashbacks this month. It is like being there again...almost unbearable. I'm scared, too, that the neurological issues I'm dealing with from the stroke wont go away. I'm scared.

~ I'm so behind in catching up on Daniel's adoption, I feel like I dont know how to start again. I'm still so angry at what occurred in the spring, dealying me at the ONLY time I had to get it done, and once my job started in late June, I knew I would not get to restart anything until September. And yet the people involved do not seem to understand. Running my own business makes it VERY hard to just take time off to complete it. I wish I had a paperwork whizz who could finish it all for me. And meanwhile, I get updates from the orphanage that Daniel is so sad and so confused. And I can do almost nothing to ease his pain.

~ As often and as hard as I try to hand all these issues over to God, I find myself still waking up nightly in abject fear. I wake dreaming that Anya has died. I wake from a dream that Daniel is taken from me. I have constant nightmares about all these unfinished things in my life. I keep having a re-occurring nightmare of drowning. I wake gasping for breath.

I dont even know where to start. My house is a mess. My computer has died, but I cant afford a new one. Anya wants me in Russia, my health requires me here, Daniel thinks I've abandoned him, Nastia says my stress is affecting her. And I pray and I hope and I call out to God. Some days all I can do is breathe and try to make it to the next hour.

I can only assume this is one big spiritual test. I wish I could say I'm passing it, but it feels more like I don't even understand the questions being asked of me. It feels ike the test was meant for someone with more experience. Like I'm taking the wrong test, and any minute a teacher will walk in and recognize the mistake.

I feel like a broken record...repeat...repeat...repeat.... All I can muster is requests for prayers. but I feel I've worn out my welcome in people's lives. I have a handful of other things I cant even talk about here that would make your head spin. I"m even raking a risk in sharing some of the thinfs I have today, but I'm doing so in the remote chance that someone has something helpful to share. Until then, I try to hold on until a better day appears. And keep calling on Him. Over and over again.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Sometimes We Don't Get Answers

This is one of those times.

I've reached the point of not crying anymore. What's the point? It serves no purpose to cry and scream and shake my fists at God. If I'm learning anything this summer, it's humility. It's learning that our humanity is indeed very limiting.

I have lots of New Agey-type friends. I used to lean that way myself. People who swear we are gods in our own right and that tapping into that power, or connecting to 'all this is' is as easy as turning on a light switch. Know what I've never found? I've never ever found someone who has been to Hell and back who believes those things. The people I've met in life who have seen the worst (like the Holocaust survivors I know, or the friend who watched her entire family be murdered in front of her, or the girl I taught who was raped and tortured and beaten by her father for years, and who, when she finally told, was forced by him to eat her own dog) - these people, these miraculous beings who looked Evil in the face and lived to tell about it -- these people, whether Jew or Christian or something all their own, accept and understand their own limitations and reach upwards to a God who promises to stand by them even when they feel it not. Each of them accepts that we truly do not have any power of our own accord. If we did, those horrible things would not have happened, because we would not invite or wish them into our lives.

I have not survived a holocaust. I cannot fathom what it would be like to see my family murdered before me, but in my own relative circumstances, I have been living my own little version of hell for awhile. And I am here to tell you that platitudes and positive thinking cannot clear a mind and heart of such darkness. A little darkness? Sure. But a great big, unfathomably deep and all penetrating darkness that seems to pummel us in relentless waves? No. 'Happy thoughts' are not going to fix that kind of thing. It takes something greater than ourselves.

And so, in this never ending journey of pain and suffering with Anya, I have only two choices. I can to cling to hope and trust in all the other instances that God has proven His love for me (and there are sooo many) and wait for His answer to come...even when it's been 6 years of waiting so far. Or, I can throw my hands in the air, turn my back on God and Anya, and walk away.

I'm sure you know which one I've chosen every day of these past 6 years.

Anya is not well. She had a third emergency surgery, today. Her lung infection is worse. There is talk of amputation. I cannot even pretend to understand why she suffers so much and why I continuously am put in the position to not be able to help her. Yes, I am also fully aware that I am getting the lion's share of bad luck this summer. And no, I do not know why. But I do know this: God is ever and always pushing us towards a greater good, if we have placed our lives in his hands. I may not see the point of the suffering, but I don't have to. My job is to persevere and to trust and hope. Its not easy. In fact, some days its downright impossible. But the impossible is nothing to God.

I've gotten so many emails and phone calls and messages offering advice on how to cope with this. Some say 'stay positive and picture her here!' - sweet sentiment, but unhelpful. Some more religious friends say ' Look inward and see what unconfessed sins might be to blame.' Sorry, my God doesn't work that way. Others say 'maybe it's time for you to move on...you've tried for so long and it doesn't look to be working out.' To them, I say ' what a sad, sad world you must live in, to think abandoning someone is EVER an option.'

No, I'll put my trust in Him who has proven his faithfulness and love to me time and time again. So what if its not happening in my time frame? Who am I to question? 'Be still, and know that I am God.' Great advice all those thousands of years ago, and still great advice today.

I do not know when or even IF Anya will come home to us. I do not know when or IF her suffering will end. but I know this: God loves her, and if He loves her, He will not forsake her. And that is why I have hope in the face of so much uncertainty and suffering. I believe in a God -- a Power Unimaginable -- that formed and sustains this world with LOVE.


So, while all those around me tell me what I should be doing and thinking and feeling, I'll be banking on LOVE.

LOVE sits with Anya tonight while she undergoes her operation. LOVE guides the hands that will operate on her. LOVE knows her and loves her and keeps her. That is all I know, and all I need to know.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Giving Anya Hope

Most recent photo of Anya
My friend Svetlana met with Anya's 'traumatologist.' I was so grateful to get some news directly from him. Sadly, the news is not good. He says the bone is destroyed and cannot be fixed, and that they had to move Anya into the ER to keep her from getting another infection. (The ER is more sanitary, he said.) He said she has a very weakened immune system and that he will provide ANY documentation needed for a medical visa to get her treated here in the US as soon as possible.

If you are so inclined, you can do a few things for Anya:

1. PRAY THAT WE GET HER HERE ASAP! I am applying for Humanitarian Parole today in Anya's behalf, even though I have been told for 6 years that she is not eligible. I am being told that now she qualifies. (Who knew a gunshot wound would be good for something?) I have a wonderful woman at CCAI in Washington helping, as well as some contacts at the State Dept. Pray for them, too. Pray that they find the swiftest and easiest paths to get Anya's visa approved as soon as possible, and that all things related to this move SWIFTLY AND SURELY.

2. Help give Anya hope in the meantime. Even if things move swiftly, she will likely be stuck in the hospital there for months. She needs inspiration and lots of love! Will you send a card? Here is my address. You can send cards to Anya and I will make sure they get to her in the fastest possible time. If we cannot get Anya here by September, I am going to fly over there myself. (I cannot fly safely right now as you all probably know) Please send any cards or letters (IN RUSSIAN or with a Russian translation provided) to:

ANYA TUROVININA (Аня Туровинина)




Anya loves photos, so please feel free to include a photo of yourself, your family, or something beautiful to inspire her!

3. If you know anyone flying directly to Kemerovo in the next 2 weeks, please give them my contact info. I would love to send things with them for Anya. Her hospital is located right downtown, on the same street as the Kuzbass Hotel. It would be easy for any visitor to find.

Anya's first driving lesson. We had JUST payed off the driving school
and she had had only 2 weeks of lessons when she was shot.
It was her biggest dream to get her license.

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

I Need a Hero

I have waited for six years for God to send me a Hero for Anya. I have done anything and everything I could do to get her here, to no avail. Now, because she was denied the chance to come be with her family, she is lying in a hospital bed, scared out of her mind, wanting nothing but to have us by her side. And I can't. I had a TIA almost 2 weeks ago and cannot safely fly. I'm supposed to be in bed, taking it easy and helping my brain to heal. Instead , I am on the computer and phone for 12 hours at a stretch trying to locate a hero for my girl.

Here are the current facts: Anya was shot by someone at random, at point blank range in a convenience store in her old neighborhood. It's a crime-ridden area and shootings are not uncommon. If you're a MA resident like me, think Dorchester. Anya had two friends with her (Thank God). The man was quickly caught and arrested, but Anya did not fare so well. I had pictured far worse in my head, so I was actually relieved when I first heard she had only a wound to her leg. I was relieved, that is, until I saw the wound myself.

Anya was able to get a friend to bring her her laptop to the hospital so we could skype with her. We were able to get through to her at 1am our time last night and video-chatted with her on and off for an hour. She was heavily medicated and did not always understand what we were saying, but she was so happy to be 'with'us, that is all that mattered. Her face is swollen. She appears very disoriented. She has some injury to her shoulder that is bleeding. It actually looks like a failed IV attempt. Not sure. She let me video her showing me her leg . She has already had two surgeries on it, and the doctor says it's really bad. She was shot so close that the bullet shattered her ankle bone. She has a silver-dollar sized hole right through her. They have some horrible-looking contraption on her whole leg that I can only describe as looking like a torture device. It looked like her leg had pins in it, but I cant imagine they had to do that. Anyway, it is a large metal "cage" with screws into or against her leg.

She lost so much blood she had to have a transfusion, and the Dr says the wound is "contaminated." She is on her 2nd day with a 102 temp - not a good sign. The Dr doubts she'll ever use that ankle again. Being even mildly disabled in that part of Russia is like a death sentence. I had just finished paying for Anya's driving school so she could get her license and work as a courier after January. That's off the table now. And do you think the driving school will refund her $650? Doubtful.

I need a Hero. I need someone, after all these horrible years of waiting, to step forward and tell me they have an answer, a way out. I've had a billion offers and suggestions over the years, but few stay the course. My hope right now is with three people who have been helping all these years. I can't give their names, but one is my friend B.D who has a great connection who has been incredibly supportive and helpful these past years. The next is G.H. who has many connections with the State Dept and such and has been a non-stop source of valid info AND encouragement. The final is M.F. who works in adoption advocacy, child welfare, etc and has great Washington and media contacts. These three people are the ones that could possibly lead me that that "Hero" I am waiting for.

Anya needs to come home. It is so simple and yet it has been the most difficult undertaking of my life and her life. Why? I've stopped asking that. How? That is the question I need to keep holding onto. How can we get her here? How can we make a path? Please pray for a road to finally appear. I am so spent, so exhausted, so scared...I need someone to step forward and say they can light the way. I've prayed a hundred thousand prayers, written more letters and emails than most would venture in a lifetime, called more politicians and USCIS workers and State Dept officials than I would ever care to count. I don't know what else to do.

Hero, where are you?

Recent photo of Anya with her friend's husband

Monday, August 08, 2011

Beside Myself With Grief and Fear

Anya is having a blood transfusion, she lost so much blood. I cant get through to the hospital. My only contact is sporadic postings by her 2 best friends on Russian Facebook. I'm calling all her friends non-stop but thus far I cannot get thru to any of them. I am honestly losing it. I think I'm going crazy. Too much grief at once.I need prayers for her. I'm just out of the hospital myself and I'm supposed to be avoiding stress and it just keeps finding me. Pray for me too. All this, and the funeral of a beloved friend in a few days. I give up. I've prayed till I can't pray anymore. God, where are you?


Anya has been shot and is in a Kemerovo hospital. I have no details yet. Please pray for her. Her birthday was just a few days ago. All I can think about is that this WOULD not have happened if this damn government would let her come home. I am heartsick with worry. I don't know what to do. Please pray.