Monday, November 30, 2015

T Minus 0 ... It's Go Time!

A night can stretch very long when you are awaiting news. Tatiana's appointment was scheduled for 9AM (2AM my time). I had plenty of things to occupy my hands as the minutes dragged by and kept up a steady stream of prayers as well.

I texted a quick message to Tatiana minutes before her appointment time assuring her of my prayers and my love. As the clock inched closer to the 2AM mark, the tension seemed to rise around me. At 2:13AM our coordinator messaged me to let me know Tatiana had checked in and promised to call me when the appointment was finished. "Lord...!" I pleaded.

A full-fledged battle broke out in my mind. Doubts and promises dueled for supremacy. I reviewed the events of the last 5.5 months. All I could see was how God had led us step by step to this moment in time. Was it all for nothing? Would God lead us down this path only to disappoint? As time passed, I whispered, pleaded, and begged God for VISA approval. Finally, in obedience, I humbly submitted my will to His, asking only for strength to withstand the disappointment, should it come.

Ten minutes, twenty minutes, thirty minutes passed. How long do VISA interviews last? I wondered. I could no longer keep my hands busy. They were clasped too tightly in prayer.

At 3:20 the phone rang. I knew without looking who it was. "Hello?"

Was it my wild, wee-hour-of-the-morning imagination or did our coordinator sound as if she was smiling? She rattled off the preliminaries, none of which I can remember now, and then took a breath. My heart stopped. My body froze. And then I heard it, "Well, Tatiana is VISA approved!"


I thought I would faint. I laughed. I cried. I danced. I clapped my hands for joy!

We had arrived at this moment and God had carried us through.

At last, my solo celebration wound down, and I finally slipped back into my bed and allowed sleep to carry me away. But, don't think for a moment that I ever stopped smiling!

Sunday, November 29, 2015

T Minus 1 - Come Monday, I will Cry

Today has been ...


Passing time ...




trying hard not to worry.

Busying myself with mindless tasks

While the important work remains untouched upon my desk.

There is no way I can think deeply right now!

In some ways, I feel like I'm in labor.

I have no abdominal contractions,

just the painful writhing of my heart.

And the waiting,

the endless, endless waiting.

Wondering when it will end,

And if everything will turn out okay.

I spent a little time texting Tatiana today and asked the inevitable...

"Are you nervous?"

"No," she answered simply, "God goes with me."

And so He does.

He always has.

Her embassy appointment is at 9:00 a.m. Ukrainian time/ 2:00 a.m. my time.

Do you think I will be able to force my eyelids shut?!!


Sleep is out of the question.

I will wait up tonight for her call

To hear her voice give me their answer.

And whatever that answer is

I already know...

I will cry.

Tatiana going over paperwork in preparation for her interview tomorrow.

Friday, November 27, 2015

T Minus 3 ... Praying with Thanksgiving

Today is Friday and I stand in awe of all God has done.

When this week began I had no idea how I was going to get through it. I needed money. A lot of money. And I didn't know how to go about getting it.

On Sunday, I bundled up and stood watch over my donated goods on display at the local Flea Market. A handful of people trickled past, but no one was particularly interested. The wind bit at my nose and cheeks, numbed my hands, and threatened to chill me to the bone. Clutching the $10 I had earned for my efforts, I packed everything back into my van and headed home - fighting off the discouragement that seemed to overwhelm me. This was not a very good start to a week in which I needed so much.

Through the darkness that surrounded me, I heard a small whisper, "Except the Lord build the house, they labour in vain that build it..." Psalm 127:1. I hung my head. I always try so hard to do everything in my own strength. I typically strain every muscle to reach whatever goal is set before me. Sometimes that's a good thing, but other times ...

Other times I just need to step back and allow God to work. I began to get the feeling that this was one of those times.

Monday arrived with its usual laundry list of things to do, plus the extra obligations necessary to button up the case for Tatiana. I honestly didn't know how I was going to get through it - emotionally or financially. Bordering on panic, I turned to God once more. Again, the verse came to me, "Except the Lord build the house, they labour in vain that build it..." Psalm 127:1. "Alright Lord," I breathed, "build that house."

As I picked up my things to leave work, a co-worker slipped an envelope into my hand. "For Tatiana" the envelope read. Inside was $100 - exactly what I needed to accomplish my errands for Tatiana that day. I nearly floated with exhilaration as the day's goals were ticked off my list one at a time.

On Tuesday, I got paid and was able to accomplish some more things for Tatiana. Late in the day I received a message from the coordinator that my bank statement needed to be stamped by the bank and overnighted to her office. I glanced at the time - 3:56. The bank closed at 4:00. I flew out the door with my heart pounding. I did, however, obey all traffic laws on my way to the bank. (A traffic ticket is NOT in my budget.) I arrived, at last, a full two minutes AFTER the bank closed.

Thankfully, the nice lady locking the door allowed me to slip inside to ask the teller to print and stamp our statement. Once completed, I dashed off to overnight it to the coordinator. Once again, God had allowed everything to work like clock-work.

On Wednesday, I dared to ask God for $500 for yet another expense needed for Tatiana's trip. As the day ticked away, I began to lose hope. But, suddenly, a message flashed across the screen of my phone. "I sent you money for Tatiana. Did you receive it yet?" Hurriedly I went to check. Opening the envelope I received, I found five crisp $100 bills inside. Exactly what I needed. Exactly what I had asked for. Exactly what God had planned for, when, on the previous Thursday, He impressed that donor to send that amount.

And so today, I stand in awe at what God has done this week. I cannot tell you what decision will be made in Tatiana's case on Monday. I only know that God has done some amazing things this week. To Him be glory and praise and honor.


Sunday, November 22, 2015

Have You Seen It?

I'm a pen lover. Always have been. There's just something magical about the feeling of a pen in hand that inspires me.

But not any pen will do. It has to be my favorite. And when those disappear, my day goes downhill ... rapidly.

As it did the other day.

I began my search in the typical fashion by searching my desk and all the logical places in the nearby vicinity. But, the problem is, I'm not always logical in the places I lay down my pens. Especially when distracted. I have found my pens in the laundry room, garage, outside porch, on top of the fridge ... practically any horizontal surface can become a dropping off point for my pens. And, with three kids, six cats, one dog, and a husband around the house, there are numerous opportunities for me to find myself distracted! Which means my pens can be found a.n.y.w.h.e.r.e.

After completing my preliminary survey without success, I began phase two of my search and recovery mission ... interrogations. Because, with three kids, nine cats, one dog, and a husband around the house there is always the possibility of someone inadvertently walking off with one of my favorites.

"Have you seen my pen?" I query each and every household member. Heads shake. Shoulders shrug. Faces look blank.

No one knows where my pen is.

No one even knows what my pen looks like.

Until I ask Alyssa -- my ever helpful eleven-year-old with photographic memory. The one I can rely on to remember anything!

She actually takes the time to stop and think about what I have asked, causing my heart to skip a beat. "Is it that purple pen you're always holding?" she asks. I nod. "The one with the black gripper-thingy on the the side?" My eyes widen at her description and I nod a little more enthusiastically. "And it has a button at one end that you can click?" I nod again. Ally picks up on my enthusiasm and her words tumble over one another as she continues. "And it has some white writing on that black clip on the side, right?"

Yes! That's the one! She described it perfectly!

She stares off into space momentarily as if envisioning the very writing utensil in question. My eyes lock onto her face, my feet prepare to race in whatever direction she will send me. My heart pounds excitedly. Like an athlete awaiting the starting gun to fire, my body is at attention.

But she only shrugs and shakes her head. "Nope. Haven't seen that one for a long time."

My face contorts slightly as opposing emotions struggle to register themselves in my expression. My shoulders droop and I shuffle off once more towards the last place I remember seeing my pen.

Sigh. Sometimes false hope is worse than having no hope at all.

Friday, November 20, 2015

He Calls Her Mama

It is a strange thing for me to witness. This toddler child who follows my daughter around the house, reaching for her so longingly, and calling after her so tenderly. This small child, whose mother is too busy partying to care for him and whose father has just been released from his most recent stint in jail and whose grandparents are so tired and sick that they have asked my daughter to care for him temporarily, has christened my daughter "Mama."

His eyes fill with tears when she leaves the room. "Mama," he cries.

His eyes light upon her return. "Mama," he giggles.

He is afraid. "Mama!" he screams.

The bond is there. I can see it.

I watch him snuggle into her arms and find the comfort and peace his little mind so desperately needs. I see the joy on her face when he reaches for her.

And my heart is conflicted. I remember...

Nineteen short years ago, when I was a young 25 and a newly certified foster parent, a two-year-old girl was placed in my home. Only recently graduated and not yet married, I was finally realizing my dream. I poured everything I had into that little girl. She called me "Mama."

She grew up. She loved me. She hated me. She rebelled and said I wasn't her "real" mother.

I hurt. I broke. I cried. She cried. She came back and is here now. We are mother and daughter again.

And now I watch a scene so familiar and simultaneously strange unfold before me.

This little one is calling her "Mama" and she is considering becoming a foster parent.

My heart is conflicted.

I know what this road looks like. I have walked it. I have rejoiced on it. I have wept buckets of tears on it. The highs and lows are so intensely polar. I know this road with its twists and turns. I live it daily.

And because I know it so well, I wonder, do I want her to walk the same road I have walked?

And then I hear him call her "Mama."

T Minus 10 and Praying for a Miracle

Can it be done?

There's a lot hanging in the balance and our case isn't looking so good right now.

We need $4000 by noon on Monday.

'Kinda sounds like a kidnapping ransom note, doesn't it?

Send $4000 cash by noon on Monday and we'll release the girl from Ukraine.
Otherwise the girl dies.

Well, okay, it's not quite that dramatic. There's no ransom note and no one's going to die on Monday,

except for a dream ...

this dream that a little girl once dared to dream,

of finally being part of a family

after growing up in an orphanage

and missing out on adoption.

This dream I don't want to see die.

We have another yard sale this weekend.

Pray with us, please!

Thank you!

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

T Minus 12 ... and Praying

We have a date! On November 30, Tatiana will step inside an interview room and answer a barrage of questions about why she wants to study in America. And, because of her orphan status, the interview will be that much more intense. What connections does she have to Ukraine? What will ensure her return? The Embassy in Kiev does not know her. They do not know how hard she works or how determined she is. They only see the label "orphan" and surmise the worst. They want to know what will prevent her from jumping ship and applying for welfare in this goldmine of a country.


We have spent the last few months working to make her case strong so that when the interviewer looks through Tatiana's file he/she will see past the orphan label to the truth. It has taken every prayer we've uttered and every penny we've scraped together to get to this point. But we're not finished yet.

With twelve days to go, we're still $4000 short.

Sometimes, I must confess, all I can see is what we lack and I just want to cry. But, ever so gently, God directs my tear-filled eyes to look upward into His face and be reminded of the things He has already accomplished. And what is it He has done?!

Let me remind you that originally this was an $18,000 venture that began in May of this year. In an amazingly short five-and-a-half months, God has whittled it down to only $4000 remaining. Can I get an AMEN?! Come on, y'all, who else but God can do something like this?!

We have sold everything that's not nailed down ... and ... even some of the stuff that is. My book is doing amazingly well for a first-time, self-published author like me with absolutely zero marketing experience. (Readers are even buying it as gifts for their friends! Now, that's a compliment!!!) Listeners are downloading my husband's CD of inspirational piano solos. (Side note: I listened to his CD almost exclusively while writing my book. It's thinking music.) We have sold recipes and health food items and held yard sale after yard sale. I wrote an E-book to help children focus and learn during sermons. All of this has been done outside our regular work schedule. Ohmygoodness, it's been intense!!!

(Side note #2: In the process, God has opened doors for us to begin an online business - Nuts & Twigs Naturals. But, hold to your horses, the unveiling of that project will have to wait for another post.)

And then there are the people God has sent our way. Ordinary angels who have donated $1, $10, or even $1000 to help bring our girl here. Some are people we've never even met whom God has touched with a desire to help, to serve, and to share His love. Some have taken their own time to fundraise for us. All have blessed us incredibly.

Granted, we don't know what the final answer will be on November 30. But, I do know that God has been walking this road with us. He has opened doors we thought were sealed shut. He has parted the waters and made a path for us. To Him alone goes the praise and the glory.

Can I get another AMEN?!

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Dear France...

Dear France,

A little over a year ago I meandered aimlessly through the maze of streets that crisscross your capital. Your charm captured me from the first and I finally grasped why Paris is the place where lovers rendezvous. The inviting cafes, the color-bursts of flowers, the tantalizing aroma beckoning from patisseries, are some of the images that will forever linger in my memory.

As I walked I marveled at the casual way modern and ancient lines intersect as though the eras of past and present still consult; each understanding its dependence upon the other. Timeless treasures intermingle seamlessly with the steel and glass of contemporary structures. A certain wisdom lends itself to your land. It is almost as though the days of yesteryear can still be touched and, if one stood still long enough, their echo faintly heard.

But it was your people that made me feel as though I was visiting my next-door neighbor. Like the diversity in architecture, your inhabitants are a fusion of Frankish ancestry and the more recent influx of immigrants warmly welcomed. Beneath the spire of the Eiffel Tower, friendships cross cultural barriers and a common understanding of humanity is embraced. I reveled in the vitality and spirit of your people as if they were my own.

But, on Friday, November 13, 2015, Terror once again struck your magnificent country and blood flowed in the streets. Hatred poured itself out upon a citizenry at leisure and the lives of innocents were cut down.

Now, as we all muddle our way through the dark aftermath, it is not enough to say we are sorry. Our sorrow can never replace your loss. But, perhaps it will bring you some solace to know that America, your old friend, mourns with you. As the tears fall, we remember the bond forged between our two countries when Washington and Lafayette embraced. And, just as those two great men prayed for each other, today, we pray for you.

May you, beautiful France, heal from your wounds and emerge stronger than you ever were before. May you look to Heaven for courage and may you find peace in knowing that God loves you.

Your friend,


Sunday, November 8, 2015

I am Mama ... Orphan Sunday

I watched as my nine-year-old climbed the steps of our church to stand beside the piano. Her gifted voice raised in praise with a handful of other singers. The smile on her face was radiant. My heart swelled with motherly pride as waves of memories washed across my mind.

"Come to Mama!" I would beckon, stretching out my hands to her. Her 18-month-old face would take on a puzzled expression. Where has Mama gone? she must have been thinking as her eyes searched the emptiness behind me. Uncertainty marked every step and every action. Her world had crashed. Again.

What she didn't understand was that I had become her new mama. After a series of mamas had come and gone in her short little life, I had signed the papers and accepted the role of "forever mama" for her and her two sisters. Our home was her home. Our family had become her family. Forever.

And now I sat in a pew marveling at the confidence that exuded from her smile. Midway through the song, she glanced in my direction. Our eyes met. Our smiles reflected the bond that has grown over the ensuing seven-and-a-half years.

When the song ended, Maya bounced down the aisle towards me, her curls swinging behind her. Snuggling into the pew next to me, she basked in the showers of praise and love that poured from my heart. "Thanks, Mom," she whispered. My voice caught in my throat. She is my daughter and I am her mama. She is secure in my love. Thank you, Jesus, for this miracle in my arms. I whispered silently.

And thank You for the miracle who will be joining our family soon from Ukraine...

I AM LOVED from Christian Alliance for Orphans on Vimeo.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Memory Loss - Movie Found

I have been trying to figure out why my computer has been running low on memory lately. I think I've discovered the reason why. My kids are undercover film-makers. One-hundred-fifty-nine movies secretly added to my files capturing life on the sly at our house ... and then some.

Oh dear! But this one did make me laugh!

Monday, November 2, 2015

This Girl...!

Sometimes I think I should take all my child development books and child psychology books and throw them out the window. How is it possible that our Ukrainian girl has such drive, such ambition, such dedication?!

At age five, she lost her father. At age nine, she entered an orphanage. Over the next nine years, she had to figure out how to survive in an environment that was not the most loving. Not only has she survived, she has thrived. She wants to do well. She wants to succeed. And so, she does. She defies so many of the theories I was taught in college.

All I can say it that she is a princess of the King. Of that I am certain.

I am so excited to see what His plan for her life is.

Tatiana (left) takes third at a karate competition.