A snapshot into what her future held...

A snapshot into what her future held...
Zhukovka, Russia

Friday, November 18, 2011

Giving Back

"For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them." ~Ephesians 2:10

Last year, at this time, Kevin and I were invited to Russia, to meet our daughter "Yulia" for the very first time. We began preparations including obtaining visas and packing, as if we were going on a missions trip. It's hard to believe it has been a whole year. And, that it took three trips to Russia before it was all said and done. And now, we reflect...

~By Emily
As Thanksgiving is amongst us, it's a great time to reflect on our blessings. After seeing Russia, three times, I am grateful... and thankful. I'm grateful Kevin and I saw what we saw. I'm thankful we have our daughter now and the adoption process is over. I'm grateful to live in a country where the air feels light, and smiles are abundant. I'm thankful that after spending several days in an orphanage, my heart is forever changed. I'm grateful that God pushed me to the point of shutting down both mentally and physically. I have a different outlook on life now and know first-hand that people CAN die from a broken heart. I'm thankful that as a result of being stuck in a very small village in Russia, where I had no translator, I managed to find food and feed my daughter and I. (And toward the end of my stay, the lady who ran the village market, finally felt comfortable with my presence and smiled at me. Mainly, because every couple of days, I blew through her stock of Coca Cola - my ONLY American comfort!) I'm grateful, that my daughter and I now share a very strong bond, as we witnessed each other in our weakest moments. I'm thankful that when we weren't able to get on our stand-by flight to come home to America, God helped us find (without an English translator) a hotel which we stayed in, in Moscow, for two nights. I'm grateful that I now understand... I am strong. And I'm thankful God will use that new-found strength to do more in His kingdom.

It took a few months. I didn't want to look at anything that had to do with Russia. I felt almost "traumatized" when we returned home. I thought I might need to speak with a professional. I couldn't, at all, appreciate the experience. I had nightmares the first couple of nights home. I was exhausted and confused about where I fit into my life, as if I didn't have an existance before the trip. On top of all of that, I had to put a smile on my face when our new daughter was around, as if nothing was wrong with me. There was A LOT wrong with me. I had to pretend though so that she could get adjusted to a whole new world. But in my world, how could I mesh into my former "American lifestyle" after seeing and living the pain, darkness, loneliness, and hopelessness a little village, in Russia, was built on. I was depressed, there's no doubt. So, why did God show me all of that? Well, I understand now. He showed it to me and allowed me to live it, to grow me in the area of... compassion. I already had compassion for orphans, but this was much deeper. He showed me despair to help me better understand and connect with the family who Kevin and I share a child with. In other words, I can't be angry with Yulia's birthparents or grandparents. I CAN be disappointed with their choices for how those choices hurt our little girl, but on some level, I can now understand why they made some of the choices they did. And without knowing Christ, there absolutely is NO HOPE of them ever digging out of their holes. Thankfully, God took mercy on the beautiful child who is now our "oldest" daughter, and we believe he has a very big plan for her life. Out of all of the sweet faces at Zhukovka, for some reason, HE chose our daughter's sweet face to appear to us on the internet, later resulting in her adoption. The pieces are now all starting to come together...

So, the next stage of the adoption... helping others. After 5 months of Karis Yulia being home, I can now appreciate the experience. It took that long for me to be able to look at photos of Russia again. I am healed mentally, and I know that God is nudging me again. He was gracious to give us the 5 months to adjust and ease into our new family roles. He was faithful to give us a child who is a very good girl and is bonding with us, eagerly. For His faithfulness, I will continue the work He has... touching those closest to Him- the orphan. All of us, as his children, were once orphans but received our "adoption papers", the moment we invited our Father, into our hearts.

It was a pleasure and a privledge to help coordinate a fundraiser for a local family adopting from Russia... the Burnsides. It was held last weekend, at a local church, and it was a huge success. One of the highlights was watching our daughter, Karis take part in it. The irony- a former orphan helps raise funds to bring another orphan home to a loving family. The fundraiser was also a great teaching opportunity for Karis. We want her to know a generous heart, just as we've tried to teach our other two. I believe she understands the concept, as she spent four hours, painting fingernails- her contribution to the fundraiser. It was truly heart-warming, and I know her Father in Heaven was looking down, smiling.

I am so thankful our family is being used and isn't staying stagnant. I'm glad we can see the BIG picture in a corrupt world. I'm glad that our efforts are bringing new friendships into our lives. And, I'm glad it's Thanksgiving, because we have sooo much... to be thankful for.

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Bryansk Home

Bryansk Home
My two favorite colors together seem to be common in Bryansk homes.