‘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

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

When You Least Expect It, God Opens A Window

Our window:)
Those of you who are regular readers of my blog know that things haven't been easy as of late. I couldn't give many details, but I think you could read between the lines -- we've weathered a storm of bad breaks with no end in sight. Anya continues to miss us and need us, but there is still no way to get her here. D's adoption has hit one big roadblock after another (not unlike my attempted adoption of Anya six years ago.) The region I'm adopting from closed is doors to Americans and the local DOE refused to accept my dossier for months on end. Even with the law now dismantled this week, they are still refusing, and if that weren't enough - the bilateral agreement goes into effect tomorrow, barring independent adoptions. My adoption is independent.

Most people would just walk away in defeat by now, I know that. But I think God has used my entire life as preparation for these kinds of insurmountables. The hard lessons of my life - and there are too many to count -- have built a strong faith and trust in a Power greater than myself. You can call Him what you like, I don't think He really cares all that much. You can call Him 'She' or 'It' or 'Higher Power' - I honestly don't think it is important to Him. It's the content of your relationship with Him He cares about, not the FORM.  Imagine your Love for God and His Love for you is like water. Do you really think He cares whether you put that water in a plastic cup, a glass, a ceramic bowl or even a cupped hand? I don't. It's the CONTENT in the cup, the glass, the hands that matter.

Anyway, I am sharing this because I know a great many people in this world suffer crises of faith. We don't expected to be pummeled with bad experiences, losses, obstacles, and misdirected hate throughout our lives, without rhyme or reason, but these things happen to people - ALL THE TIME. And when they do, we question why. We cry, we scream, we shake our fists, but mostly we just want an answer. Why, God? Why? And answers do not always come. But --what we do with that big question mark stamped on our heart is most important of all. 

To give up is easy, and it's human nature. It's our default setting. But why settle for that? If we can rise above the scary question marks and keep choosing the highest, greatest and most loving responses in every situation, we are LIVING the answer. We must strive to do this even when we fail.

It's hard to see past the rubble of our shattered dreams. It's painful to crawl out of the debris and reach up towards the Light we often cannot see. It's scary to trust. I get that. But the rewards of ever trusting, ever stepping forward into that unknown, instead of collapsing in a heap of 'I give up' - are COLOSSAL.

D's adoption is all but a pile of rubble come tomorrow, when the new law goes into effect. But if I keep the faith and keep taking a step towards him every day, he may still get here. You know how he WON'T get here? If I give up and take 'no' for an answer. You know what MIGHT get him here? Knocking on every figurative and literal door I can think of. And I'm doing that.  THat's what I keep doing for Anya and I KNOW someday the right door will open and the answer will be there. I know in my heart someday she will be home, here, where she belongs.

 I just spoke to an agency that is willing to go to bat for me with D. It's an agency I've gotten to know quite well over the past 18 months, because they did my homestudy. The amazing head of this agency has offered to send a letter to the DOE in Kemerovo asking permission to handle D's adoption in the region, even though they are not yet registered there. (And those of you in the adoption community know this never happens.) On top of that, I have media connections and professional contacts on the ground in Kemerovo who are willing to go to the DOE and 'encourage' them to push this adoption through. The DOE has the power to bring this boy home. They just need to WANT to do it. And, by God, I will do everything I can to put that pressure on them to help them see the light.

While all this was/is going on, and while I kept moving forward, I also reserved a part of myself for grief. I have grieved HARD over this new loss -- the now extended wait for D, the loss of time with him, the loss of the memories we could be storing up right now, even the loss of the tens of thousands of dollars already poured into his adoption. The money is secondary, obviously, but it is not insignificant. I have to grieve that, too. All that money that could have gone to help others...washed away in bureaucracy and red-tape. Having already experienced this same devastation with Anya did not make this loss any easier, in fact, it made it worse. One failed adoption is horrible. Two feels like a hurt that will never heal.

And here's where the little window opened. While all this confusion and  darkness was encircling us, a little girl kept showing up in my newsfeed on facebook. This is the time of year for hosting programs to advertise. For the past two months I've seen my share of postings about various children. But one kept recurring on my newsfeed over and over again. It was like a little bell going off. And so I prayed for that little girl whose name I did not know. I prayed until she found a host family. Then later, she was there on my newsfeed again. The family had fallen through. So I kept her in prayers and soon she was off the list and had a home for Christmas.

And then, last week, she appeared again.

It struck me suddenly that maybe we were her host family. We would actually be home for Christmas this year, and we'd likely be quite lonely without D or Anya there. (Christmas is a hard time for us.) And wouldn't it be great to host again? Hosting Dasha in 2010 had been SUCH a gift. But then again, there was no money. Not a penny. Every bit of my money was tied up in D's adoption and our impending trip to Russia to bring him home. But we were willing to host, so why not ask? 

I messaged one of the coordinators whom I know and told her we'd be delighted to host this little girl if someone provided scholarship funds. We had the time, energy, space and love to host - just not the funds. It would even be healing for us, and obviously this little girl needed a host family, and there was only a day left. Sadly they had no funds to cover her hosting costs...maybe a few hundred dollars, but that was it. She suggested I put the word out to my friends and see what happened. 

On the heels of learning I could not go bring D home, I posted a  status on FB about our desire to host and about this specific little girl. Three hours later there was a total of almost $1,000 in my paypal acct from three very generous friends, with a note attached that it was 'for hosting, and to heal your heart.'

Long story short, I let the hosting program know that I now had some funds but not all. It still didn't look possible, but then last night - a day after the deadline - I got an unexpected email from the hosting organization: they said yes! We could host her! Although all the funds were yet to be there, they were acting on faith, just as I was. between them and me, we could find a way to cover the rest over the next 6 weeks. She needed to come, and so they were taking a leap of faith, too.

 Hosting is a GIFT and we now get to spend almost a month nurturing and loving a little girl who needs it. We are SO FORTUNATE.

This post is longer than any one I've ever written, I think. Sorry for that. The words just kept coming. In the weeks and months ahead, I'll post what I can about our hosting experience and our sweet little visitor. I hope it will be an encouragement to others who are on the fence about hosting. Maybe it will lead to others hosting next summer!

Anyway, please don't forget that old adage, because it's true: sometimes when a door closes, a window appears. Just keep an eye out for them, because surely we miss them sometimes when we are distracted with grief and pain. Be ready, because when one appears, God may be waiting for you to open it. I just opened mine:)

Sunday, October 28, 2012

LOVE does

I'm doing much better. Allowing ourselves to grieve losses is important. Even if they are relatively small losses in other peoples' eyes. Even if they seem small compared to the losses others are experiencing. Grieving is not only natural, it is imperative. And so, I grieved hard for a few days, and it has helped.

This has been an incredible week of loss. Aside from my own losses connected to D's adoption, I heard the sickening news of my friend Annie's loss of her dear son, Ilya, to suicide.  I haven't been able to wrap my head around it yet, but have thrown myself wholeheartedly into holding Annie up in prayer and praying deeply and fervently for Ilya's peace. My heart is broken for Annie, who is one of the world's most tender-hearted, kind, and selfless beings you'd ever wish to meet. I cannot imagine her pain, and I grieve with her and pray that God will make Himself known to her in these dark days.

I also have not been able to escape the news of the Krim family in NYC. Upon hearing the graphic details on TV two nights ago, I was so overcome I threw up. The description of Marina Krim grieving in the lobby of her building while clasping her remaining little one literally knocked the wind out of me. Before I knew what was happening, I had to race to the bathroom to throw up. Shock, I guess. Deep, deep heartache. Mothers across the world are united by the bonds we have with our children. When one grieves, we all grieve on some undefinable level.

And here's where I move the focus elsewhere. While we don't have power over many of these horrible things, we do have the gift of free will to act afterwards. Our friends don't have to grieve alone. We can 'DO'. Love 'does'. Love acts! We can share the burden our friends are suffering, we can hold them up, we can nurture their ruptured hearts, we can provide food or donate funds to funeral costs, we can clean up messy houses, we can send a heartfelt letter, we can hug them, we can talk, we can listen.

Thanks to my beloved friend Tesney, I am reading a wonderful book right now that is a balm in this difficult time. It is LOVE DOES by Bob Goff. It was the perfect reminder at the perfect time, that Love ACTS, Love MOVES, Love DOES. And sometimes the things Love does look crazy, or ill-timed, or outrageous. But Love is outrageous. Love often calls us to do the unthinkable, the unimaginable, even the impossible. Those of us who say yes are usually rewarded with quite the adventure! It's not easy, but it is what is called for if we want what is highest and best for this world.

The road to adopt Anya and Daniel has been nothing short of devastating, but that doesn't mean I shouldn't have tried or shouldn't keep trying. The most important journeys of our lives are often the most difficult. If we walk away in defeat to early, we could lose out on the greatest triumph of our lives. We need to live each day DOING what Love calls us to DO, even if it's hard - even if it involves days and even months or even YEARS of grieving. Even if everyone else around you says it's IMPOSSIBLE. 

Love DOES. 

I wish more than anything I could take away Annie's pain, but I can't. I wish more than I can express that I could place those beautiful Krim children back in their mother's arms, alive, but I'm powerless to do so. I wish I could take Anya and Daniel out of the empty, indifferent worlds they were born into, and place them in my own arms here in the home that waits for them, but I have tried and failed a hundred times. 

But I do have the power to choose. I can keep moving forward. I can keep choosing Love. I can keep trying. One tiny step at a time.  And that's what I choose to do. 'LOVE DOES'. I know now that these are the words written on my heart. LOVE DOES. And I want to be a conduit for that energy. LOVE DOES. I want to be Love's hands and feet, even when it hurts. LOVE DOES. I want to do the hard things, the impossible things, because that is the very thing we were created to do while we are alive on this planet.

Love does. And so do I.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Sometimes We Don't Get Answers...

This is one of those times.

(Some of what appears below is from a post I wrote two years ago, because it speaks so perfectly to what I feel right now.) 

I received terrible news this morning and I will not be leaving Friday for Russia. The DOE is refusing to move forward with my adoption. A long story that I just don't have the energy to discuss this moment, but I will in the days to come. Tonight 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 in this life, it's humility. 

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 That Is' is as easy as turning on a light switch. People who tell me that just envisioning the outcome I want will bring it into being. 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 experienced the worst of humanity (like the Holocaust survivor I know, or the young friend who watched her entire family murdered in front of her in Rwanda, or the 13 year old girl I teach who was raped, tortured and beaten by her father for years, and who, when she finally got the courage to tell, was forced by this father 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 Muslim or something all their own, accept and understand their own limitations and reach upwards to a God who promises to love them and be with them, even when they feel it not. Each of these people I mentioned found that we do not have any real power of our own accord. Nothing, apart from Him. If we did, those horrible things would not have happened, because we would never allow them in our lives. 

But terrible things happen every day, by happenstance or by intention, and we are often powerless to do anything to stop it. Children lose parents, parents lose children, people are murdered, and falsely imprisoned, and abandoned, and, and, and. You get the picture. This is the world we live in, and it has not changed much in tens of thousands of years.

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. And I am here to tell you that platitudes and positive thinking cannot clear a heart of 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. Ask the wounded among us; they will tell you.

And so, in this never ending journey of pain and suffering with Daniel and Anya, I have only two choices. I can trust in all the other instances that God has proven His love (and there are sooo many) and wait for His answer to come or I can give up, turn my back on Daniel and Anya, and walk away.

I'm sure you know which one I choose.

 I cannot even pretend to understand why Daniel and Anya have to suffer so much in this life and why I continuously am put in the position to not be able to help them. And yes, I am also fully aware that I have gotten the lion's share of bad luck in recent days.  I do not know why, but I do know this: God (Love) is ever and always pushing us towards a greater good ( if we allow it). I may not see the point of the suffering, but I don't have to. My job is to persevere. My job is to put one foot in front of the other, even when I'd rather just lay down and give up. Its not easy. In fact, some days its downright impossible. But the impossible is nothing to God.

 So what if it's not happening in my time frame? Who am I to question? 'Be still, and know that I Am.' Sage advice all those thousands of years ago, and still sage advice today.

I do not know when or even IF Daniel and Anya will come home to me. I do not know when or IF their suffering will end. But I know this: God loves them, and if He loves them, He will not forsake them. And that is why I have hope in the face of so much uncertainty and suffering. 

I believe in a God -- a Power Unimaginably Beautiful and Deeply Caring -- that formed and sustains this world with LOVE.


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

LOVE sits with Daniel when he cries himself to sleep wondering why I have abandoned him when I promised I'd come. LOVE embraces Anya when she is hungry or lonely or missing us, her family. LOVE knows them and loves them and keeps them. That is all I know, and all I need to know.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Bolt from the Blue News!

N and me, Newport in September
This will have to be fairly quick. I'm burdened with a mile-long to-do list, and it only got placed in my lap a few hours ago!

First - apologies that the blog was closed for awhile. Someone posted a threatening comment a few weeks ago and it was specific enough that it spooked me, and I called the authorities. They suggested I close it while they looked into it. It's still not clear what I should do, but I've removed a great number of posts from the last few years that dealt directly with my daughter. I'll figure out which ones I can re-publish once I get back from my trip. I just felt it important to open it back up tonight so I could share my good news:

So, the big news is, I'm heading to Siberia again in 3 days. Due to the contract I signed, I can't say much more publicly about the trip, except that it is adoption-related and I hope to post good news upon my return. I can say that I will get to see Anya,too! And Anya still has no idea I'm coming! I hope to reach her before I leave on Friday!

Several of my friends have asked if they can give a donation for the orphanage for this trip. I think it's honestly best to wait for my next trip, as this trip is brief and I will likely only have one day to shop for the orphanage, and I already have enough money donated this past year to probably spend on that one day I'll have to shop. if you DO donate, I will do my best to spend it while there. If I can't, it will remain in the account until my final trip in 2-4 months.

But there is something you can do for me now. Pray. Pray like there's no tomorrow!  This trip could be fraught with obstacles, and due to the delicate timing involved, I can't afford anything to go wrong. If things do not go well this trip, I will likely lose the only chance I have to bring a certain child home. I'm scared but I'm trusting God. The timing of this trip is very unexpected, but I've already seen a small miracle occur in relation to it that can only be attributed to Divine Intervention.

I have so much to say, but no time to say it! Once I get my tickets purchased and suitcase packed, I will try to post more. In the meant time, I hope you will take a moment to pray for me tonight and in the coming days, if you feel you can. Nastia is not going with me, so I'm doubly nervous. She'll be staying here at home with a revolving list of friends and family who have offered to watch over her.

Thank you all for your continued support and prayers! I'm so grateful!