Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Reaching Ukrainian Adoptive Families

I'd like to tell you about a growing movement among Christians in Ukraine. Today Ukrainian families are moving forward to solve the orphan crisis in their country and are facing the problem of 30,000 orphans head on through adoption!!

At Orphan's Promise we are excited to be part of the solution by advocating the adoption movement in Ukraine.  Through partnerships with local churches and ministries I have seen growth in adoptions in the time I've been here.  Whereas 7 years ago there were hardly any Christians adopting-- now there is an entire movement!! And the movement is growing.
The problem is that many families are stepping forward to adopt but are not equipped to handle the issues that adopted children face. With virtually no resources or counseling for adoptive parents in Ukraine, families have had nowhere to turn for help in their moments of crisis and often children are sent back to the orphanage.  If you are an adoptive parent-- you know what these moments of crisis can look like.
That is why Orphan's Promise is partnering with the Alliance Ukraine Without Orphans  and other local ministries to provide a national conference for Ukrainian adoptive families!
 Two years ago we had the opportunity to be the initiators of the first ever-national adoption conference, Strengthening Families, where we reached over 100 adoptive families who are parenting over 350 children combined!

This Ukrainian family adopted 7 kids!
The success was amazing as families shared it was the most encouragement and practical education they had ever received and the first time they had received resources in their native language!
So we are moving forward to reach more families this March with the second Strengthening Families Conference. Our goal is to equip another 100 parents to be able to provide healing homes for their adoptive children and that these families will be further advocates for adoption!

The thing I love about this conference is that it is pouring resources INTO the nation.  I love when kids are adopted to America, but I also know it is amazing when they are able to be adopted into Christian homes in Ukraine and when we can come along side that vision and pour our resources into a country whose resources are limited. 

Now here is where YOU come in!  We are have a little more money to raise to cover conference costs and airfare for speakers who will be flying in to take part.  Will you pray about making a contribution INTO the nation of Ukraine and the future of former orphans?

2 boys- HIV+ and adopted by a Ukrainian family that attended our conference in 2010
Your gift will enable low-income families in Ukraine to attend this once in a lifetime weekend conference where they will be encouraged and equipped. Families who currently are raising between 1-10 children
The cost of one American family to adopt one child from Ukraine can be around $40,000. For that same price we will be able to host a conference that will benefit over 100 families and over 300 children! Amazing what can be accomplished for the same price!

Please email me if you have questions- and to make a donation you can go to a special fundraising site I've set up through CBN:  http://my.cbn.com/familyconference
*All donations are tax deductible.

Thank you to those who have already given!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Goodbye to my longest guests and faithful friends....

I have had the privilege of hosting some dear friends for the past 7 weeks (well I was gone for 3 of those weeks!).  
Clarke and Kris Stoesz have been staying with my while they have been completing the adoption of their daughter Samantha Rose.  This has been one of those long stories in the making, as they waited over a year for their lovely daughter to be available for adoption.  We brought Samantha (then Ana) on a hosting/camp trip to the US in the summer of 2010 in partnership with Ukraine Orphan Outreach and it was there that she met the Stoesz family... and well, you know how the story goes!  A connection was made to say the least.   It took a long while for everything to get in order with Samantha's documents,  but I was thrilled to learn that this Christmas season would be the time to welcome the Stoesz family to Ukraine!

Clarke and Kris are on my list of heroes of the faith.  This is their 4th (yep that's right- you read 4) adoption and their love and dedication towards the orphans of Ukraine continue to inspire me. I've had the privilege of partnering with them in ministry for about 4 years now as we have teamed up to bring kids to the US for summer camps and have partnered together in continuing relationships with the kids in the orphanages.  They seek to glorify God in all they do and I see that their ministry is truly one that seeks what is always best for the children.  Not to mention the fact that they appreciate all things Ukrainian and have such a love for this country.  They also have quite the sense of adventure and managed to take overnight trains to 3 separate regions of Ukraine while they were here--despite the fact that they only had to be in Kiev for their adoption!  Gotta love adventure- right?
Samantha, Kris, Rhya and Natalie

Though I love opening my home to all the different families I've met on this 'hospitality' journey-- I always count it as a true honor when I get to open my home to people that I already consider dear friends. And after sharing a living space for over 4 weeks I'd say we've earned the right to say we are even closer!   Nothing like brushing your teeth together to be bonded for life!

Their daughters Rhya and Natalie (also adopted from Ukraine- pictured above) were able to be a part of the adoption adventure for the first month and it was fun getting to know their spunky personalities while they were here in Kiev.  It was a full house and I wouldn't have had it any other way!

Since returning from the US last week I have so enjoyed the time I've had getting to know sweet Samantha.  What a precious young lady she is and a joy she has been to have in my home. She has got to be one of the most helpful kids and I've yet to hear an ounce of complaining come out of this girl's mouth.  I'm going to miss her sweet smile (and the after dinner dish washing too!).  I know she will be a huge blessing to the Stoesz family-- as she has been the missing piece to their family puzzle.

I know my home will feel the void of the Stoesz family when they get on that airplane on Friday-- but I know my heart will be fuller as a result of the time they spent with me! (Cue heart warming music here). :)

*To read more of their story and adventure click HERE

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Unmet Expectations

Expectations are something we have to deal with in all areas of our lives.  While it may be good to have expectations-- when our expectations go unmet we can face a whole range of emotions from disappointment to anger to sadness to frustration.  In my life, something I constantly struggle with is dealing with unmet expectations. When I realize an expectation goes unmet, it helps me to adjust my expectations the next time around or in similar situations. 

Adoption is an area jam packed with expectations. Expectations from the adoptive parents, the adopted children, community and family members.  There is no way around it-- whether we want to have expectations or not, they find a way to creep in.  Having met countless adoptive families in the past 7 years I've seen people with a wide range of expectations for 'how things will go' once returning home with their child(ren).  I always try to be careful with families as I offer council on how to deal with the transition ahead, as I want to be aware of how much they are ready to hear!  But it is clear that there are expectations at stake already.

I've been reading a book called Wounded Children Healing Homes- How Traumatized Children Impact Adoptive and Foster Families. The book was written by a dear friend and colleague of mine, Jayne E. Schooler.  I highly recommend this book to any of you adoptive parents out there or anyone currently considering adoption.  

As I have read the book and the stories of the wounded children shared within, I have thought of the countless faces of children and families that have crossed my threshold in the past year.  It is a reminder that my home is only the beginning of their journey-- the real work comes once they land back in the US and begin to transition into being a family.

Jayne's book starts off with a list of expectations that adoptive parents commonly have.... expectations that unfortunately often go unmet when these families bring their child or children home.  As I read each of the expectations, I realized how many sounded familiar.  These are things I've heard spoken or seen written on blogs countless times.

Here is the list of unmet expectations that the book starts off with (the book offers a long explanation and example under each point that further expounds- I'm just listing the main points).

Ten Expectations About Adoption

1.) Our Love will be enough.

2.) We will feel love and connection to this child quickly.

3.) This child will step into our family system and easily learn how to function within our rules, goals and ambitions.

4.)  This child's needs will be just like those of our biological children.

5.) Our biological children will embrace this new child as a sibling.

6.) Our child will fit well into our extended family and be welcomed by them.

7.) Our friends and acquaintances will validate our role as parent in our child's life and support us through the adoption process and beyond.

8.) Our child will see us as his family and forget about his birth family and his past.

9.) We can do for this child what was not done for us, or we will not do this child what was done to us.

10.) We will never feel any regrets or ambivalence in adopting this child with a traumatic past.

Now if you are an adoptive parent, I am guessing that perhaps a few of these expectations resonate with you.  Perhaps you are thinking, 'wow- I really did think that, and now I realize why I'm so frustrated, as what I expected has not come to pass!'  Perhaps you are struggling with resentment right now and feel guilty, perhaps you are dealing with the tension between your biological children and your adopted child, perhaps you are feeling guilty because you have wondered if you ever should have adopted!

I write this all to tell you that you are not alone (and your feelings are normal)!!  Clearly these expectations are ideals, and they come out motivation to have a happy and whole child in your family.  The reality is that bringing healing to a wounded child takes a lot of prayer, time and it takes resources.

Wounded Children Healing Homes is a great resource.  It is full of stories to encourage and stories to challenge, and full of strategy to help your home become a place of healing.  So if you read one book on adoptive parenting this year, I'd go over to amazon and order this one-- I don't think you'll regret it.  If you do read it-- pop back over and tell me what you think and any insights you gain into parenting your children.  I'd love to hear what wisdom you glean.

Happy reading...

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Where is home?

 I had to say the yet again dreaded 'goodbyes' to my family this past weekend. You'd think after 7 years of going back and forth over the ocean it would get easier to say goodbye. It really hasn't!  I think having a 3 year-old nephew and an almost 5 month old niece has something to do with it.  Saying goodbye to my other family and friends is hard in its own right- but they will look the same in 6 months to a year's time (perhaps a few more wrinkles!)-- It is the little ones that change so much!  I realize how quickly time is passing each time I make a visit 'home' and see how much they've grown and which developmental stage they've reached.   

And yet when I'm at 'home' with my family my heart aches for my other home as well. I think of the ministries I am a part of, the families that God has had me meet, the children I've seen adopted and then I think about how I want to hurry back and settle into my 'normal.'  I always laugh because it seems as if I use the word 'home' for wherever I am currently NOT located.  If I'm here in Kiev and talk about home I usually mean Washington. And when I'm in Washington and I talk about my home I mean the one in Kiev.  It is an odd phenomenon to describe.

In some ways I think living in this tension is healthy. In reality it challenges me to be reminded of the fact that neither location is truly my home.  Neither is the place that will bring me true contentment or fulfillment.  I have this tendency to think that wherever I am not is better--- you know, the famous, 'the grass is always greener on the other side.'  Each year I learn more clearly that it is not. 

Problems exist both here and there.  
Pain exists both here and there.
Heart ache exists both here and there.
Joy exists both here and there. 
Jesus is at work both here and there.
Greener grass is really only an illusion.

I was thinking about the part in 2 Corinthians where Paul talks about longing for heaven.

 "For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands. 2 Meanwhile we groan, longing to be clothed instead with our heavenly dwelling, 3 because when we are clothed, we will not be found naked. 4 For while we are in this tent, we groan and are burdened, because we do not wish to be unclothed but to be clothed instead with our heavenly dwelling, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. 5Now the one who has fashioned us for this very purpose is God, who has given us the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come." (2 Corinthians 5:1-5)

Yep, I'm longing for heaven- and I'm so thankful for that deposit of the Holy Spirit to remind me of that truth.  I'm trying to keep that in perspective this week as my heart is aching just a teensy bit more for home. It reminds me of the famous C.S Lewis quote: "If our deepest desires cannot be satisfied in this world, then we must have been made for another world."  That statement has always made so much sense to me!

So that is what I'm thinking about this week as I settle back into 'normal' in this home :)

AND since she is so darn cute- I will finish this post with my final little photo shoot I did with my niece Savannah last week! I am a little biased- but I do think she is the cutest baby ever.

I think she's about the sweetest thing I've ever seen!

Monday, January 9, 2012

Where I've been...

No- I've not been blogging much lately....I've been in hiding--and am often found to be in hiding with this little gem- my niece Savannah. I have had a lovely Christmas/New Year's in the US with family and friends.   I'll be back to blogging when I return to Kiev next week-- for now I prefer the spot on the floor next to this little gal...she somehow manages to be the continual subject of my photography!

yep-- a pretty sweet place to be!

Be back soon!