A snapshot into what her future held...

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

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Gotcha Day!

It has been one year, since a judge in Bryansk, Russia granted the adoption of our Karis Yulia! What a happy day that was after more than a year of going through the adoption process. We appeared before the judge on two seperate occasions, first, for the pre-court (which isn't typical), then, a week later, for the actual court hearing. After an hour of Kevin, standing, answering the judge's questions, she returned to her chambers for about 30 seconds. We waited, praying. Then, she came out, and the verdict was- ADOPTION GRANTED! Then, she made a joke... our translator said the judge exclaimed, "How could I not grant this adoption when the child looks so much like the couple! I can see this adoption is meant to be!" We laughed... then cried... and looked over and noticed the prosecutor and judge's assistant were in tears! It was beyond words seeing this... happiness, compassion, and unity. We were all one, despite the language barrier. God is sooo good! Happy "Gotcha Day" sweet girl!!!

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Birthday Bunny Bliss!

Birthday Beginnings!

What a difference a year can make! The American "Karis" in 2012 looks so much different than the Russian "Yuliya" in 2011! We are proud to report, that since coming home to America, our sweet girl has grown three inches and gained 17 pounds! (In less than a year) She is healthy, happy, and thriving! She, also, had her first birthday party EVER. No joke. Kevin and I did celebrate her birthday last year, by getting her a cake the week of her birthday, unfortunately, on her actual birthday, we were in Moscow getting our medicals completed. This year, since her favorite animal is a bunny, we had a bunny-themed birthday party! I made the bunny cake, and Karis was on top of the world! She had some family and a few friends over to celebrate. After the party at our home, we took her and her friends roller skating. What a milestone it is for our whole family... having our oldest daughter, the big sissy in the family, home and celebrating her first birthday together. (Double click on the photos, to enlarge.)

Our sweet girl is 13!

Our sweet girl, adopted last April 29th... is 13 today! (April 28th) Yes, she was adopted the day before her 12th birthday, last year! Such mixed emotions now about this teenage birthday!!! As her adoptive mother, many things go through my mind. I wonder if her biological mom has thought about her at all, today. I, also, wonder if her bio grandmother has thought about her which is probably more likely than her bio mom. Is the pain just too great, knowing they lost her, so they choose to forget about her? I wonder, but I don't judge... anymore. Before Karis was brought home, I must admit, I did judge. How could people let this happen to their children... how could things get sooo bad, they allowed their children to be taken away to orphanages... where were their hearts, etc. etc. Then, God placed me in an orphanage, in a very small village in Russia, for 19 days. Those were the absolute longest days of my life, and I was at the mercy of the Russian government to let me leave the country with our daughter. In that time, I saw so much... I witnessed men and women struggling to walk down the streets, because they were highly intoxicated. One man fell down in the middle of on-going traffic. A group of young people ran to pick him up and move him to the sidewalk. Prostitutes roamed the streets and hotels and weren't stared at... they were simply existing, part of the everyday landscape. With the fall of the Soviet Union, a lack of jobs, a lack of Christianity, and people turning to alcohol to numb their pain... I could and still do understand. Many of these people weren't privledged to grow up in loving, Christian families with plentiful food, excellent education, and comfortable homes. Again, let me state, I was not in Moscow, the richest city in the world. I was in a little village, southwest of Moscow, 8 hours away by train, and on the border of Ukraine, not too far from Chernobyl. So, I wonder about our daughter's bio family. She means the world to us, is part of us now, and we want her to be "whole" as she grows into a young woman and someday a mother, even. Another emotion I encounter... thinking about how much we love her and how much time passed before we could get her. We missed every birthday until the age of 12. That hurts. She recently remembered that her bio mom had told her, that when Karis was born, she had a lot of hair! Oh, how I'd give anything, to see that baby -even a picture of that baby- with a lot of hair! I bet she was a beautiful baby, just as she's a beautiful teenager! We'll never know how much she weighed, what time of day she was born, who was there when she was born... all of the things we know about our birth children. I have to be at peace with these things, however, because God brought Karis Yulia into our lives according to His timing and plan. So, although we may never know if she was thought about on her special day, nor will we know exactly what she looked like the day she was born, we do know this... we love her so much and are so thankful and blessed to celebrate her FIRST birthday party EVER, with her! She did not know until age 8 that her birthday was April 28th! Apparently, her grandmother came to the orphanage that day, told her, gave her a doll, and left. When I think about our birth children's birthday parties... ALL of the themed parties beginning at age 1... wow. So, this year, we will spoil our little girl! We will show her love, and we will celebrate her! She is worth celebrating... indeed!


We enjoyed a fabulous fashion show, last night, benefitting an orphanage in Ukraine. One of my dear friends, whose husband is Ukranian, invited us, since we share a common interest and heart for Eastern Europe. So, the girls and I got dressed up... nice to get out of the sweat pants every once and awhile!
Evan snapped this photo, and off we went for a night of fellowship, fashion, and fun! And... brownies!!! Girls LOVE their chocolate! So thankful for Tiffany Wientge Miller, a kindergarten teacher, at our kids' school... she headed up the event and works for World Light Foundation. http://www.worldlightfoundation.com/ It's so awesome to see a teacher who not only teaches about Jesus but actually SERVES as the hands and feet of Jesus. Love that Mrs. Miller! :) Bravo to all who put on such a fabulous event, for such a fabulous cause.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

I'm listening

So often, we are caught up in our day-to-day lives, we forget to "listen" to God...and for God. My morning started in a flurry, getting three kids up, ready, fed, bunnies fed... out the door, then off to the grocery, to buy cookies for Karis' school picnic. Yes, we were at church last night, so no time for baking, ourselves... Kroger does a fine job. So with cookies in hand, Karis was dropped off, then Evan, in time to make his bus which was taking his class on a field trip to the Newport Aquarium. Then, Karrigan and I marched down the hall to pick up Zhana B., who is actually the focus of this blog post. Quick note about Evan, I was thrilled that his dad offered to go along on his field trip, since Kevin works downtown, Cincinnati, and it was just a walk across the bridge, to meet up. Another quick note... it has been an absolute crazy day, as all three kids had school activities going on today... I haven't even mentioned yet, Karrigan's kindergarten pizza party rewarding her and the others for all of their fantastic efforts reading, through the Book-It program. Ok, Zhana B. Let me just tell you about her and why she is spending time with us today. Zhana was adopted from Stavropol, Russia and brought home early this year by a local family who we are now friends with. How ironic that our family would adopt from Russia and so would another family in our very small school community. Well, not ironic... just... God. As I sit here at the computer, I reflect, glancing at the 8-year-old girl next to me watching Peppa Pig. I just had a revelation... this little girl, once an orphan, wouldn't be sitting here, in my living room, if weren't for something completely awesome God did, using me as one of His instruments. I can't remember the exact month, but it was right before I made the third and final trip to Russia, to bring Karis home. Anyhow, my heart so desperate to get our own daughter out of the orphanage, prayed for God to continue using me in an orphan ministry of some sort. So, when our adoption agency e-mailed me photos of some children, in an orphanage, in need of families, I decided that even if my friends thought I was crazy, I was going to pass the photos along to them. I compiled one email with many of my friends, church family, other adoptive families, etc., and with the click of a button, God was at work! There's just no other explanation, because somehow, I emailed a gal who I barely even knew... she happened to be in my email address book due to prior PTF communications, but I didn't really know her and certainly didn't put her on my email list! I didn't... but God DID! Soon, after the email was sent, I got a response from "Angel B." She wrote that she didn't think she knew me, but God might be working through me, because she and her husband had recently been talking about adoption. Wow... that's all I can still say, is... "Wow." Sweet Zhana is now home, adjusting with her new family (and vise versa), and I can't help but be excited that our family is a small part of her life. Her story is hard, definitely not easy to hear about or read about, but God WILL use that story, just as Karis'... to further His kingdom. http://bringingzhanahome.wordpress.com/ I'm thrilled Zhana is hanging out with us today, as her mom is on the 3rd grade field trip, spending one-on-one time with Zhana's brother. Karrigan certainly enjoyed playing together with Zhana before school and the pizza party. I took both girls to the local mall to pick up a gift for Karis' 13th birthday, which is Saturday. The photos attached are of the girls, at the mall. So, yes God, you have my attention now, as you are showing me this sweet child in my living room. Yes, God, I need to continue advocating for orphans, because you use your people to connect with others about your plans. How grateful I am that you would use someone like me, to do this work. I am ready for more, and I'm listening for you God... for the next assignment.
Galatians 5:13 For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love, serve one another.
(Double click on the photos, to enlarge.)

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Happy Easter!

What a difference a year can make!

These photos were taken on Easter, 2011, in Russia, and Easter, 2012, at home, in the greatest country in the world! I must be clear and state that Kevin and I thoroughly enjoyed the Easter holiday, in Russia. It was the highlight of our 7 weeks spent there, last year. With our heads appropriately covered with silk scarves (all females), the priest of the Zhukovka Russian Orthodox Church, blessed our decorated eggs and Easter "cake" which was really more like bread. :)

This year, Karis enjoyed the American tradition of the Easter Bunny leaving a basket on the back porch, followed by getting dressed up in our Sunday best, for church at Urbancrest Baptist Church. Our sweet boy, Evan, was staying with his grandparents, so we met up with him, after church, and the children went on a long Easter Egg hunt, around their grandparents' farm. What a beautiful day it was! It was so special in many ways... Karis' first Easter in America, our family being together in our home country, visiting our little niece/cousin Vivie, and most importantly, celebrating... HE IS RISEN!!!

(Double click on the photos, to enlarge)

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Volunteering for Kids Against Hunger

Adoption, for our family, was certainly a step in faith and... a call from God. He tested us to see if we would simply say, "Yes" - and when we did, He blessed the journey and has been faithful ever since.

Now that we're all adjusted, it seems we can continue to help orphans, which I believe is the ministry God has forever laid on our hearts. Something we enjoy doing, as a family, is volunteering for Kids Against Hunger (KAH). Recently, we participated in KAH's Million Meal Marathon, in which all of the food packed, was flown to Africa to feed starving children, including orphans. It is an honor to participate in this effort, and I know it pleases God which is the ultimate goal.

James 1:27 Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.

Some people have faith, and some people put their faith into action which is what we try to do and what we teach our children to do. We only have one life on this earth, so we might as well do things that draw us closer to Jesus, until we're able to be with Him someday in heaven.

Now that I've seen what I've seen, in Russia, I am forever changed. (I believe I speak for my husband, as well.) I find myself in a daily battle between my flesh and my spirit. I know there is more work to be done over there, and at the present, we're praying about what God wants us to do. The key however, as we now know through God proving his faithfulness, is when He calls... just being prepared to say... Yes.

(Double click on the photos to enlarge. Participating were: Kevin, Emily, Karis, Evan, and Karrigan. AND members of our 4-H club.)

Monday, April 2, 2012

Already spring and ready for summer!

My girls are ready for summer! We are now beginning our spring break, and it gives me a glimpse into what our summer will be like. Karis and Karrigan always enjoy playing in the backyard, recently, in their new, matching bathing suits, while Evan has developed a new passion for fishing, with his dad. This coming summer will certainly be a change from last summer. It will be more relaxed now that Karis is home and settled, yet, it will be busy with all of the kids' activities... including their bunny 4-H projects. I very much welcome this new season we're in... both literally and personally.

Bryansk Home

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