Today we received word that our paperwork for Libby was submitted. What a very, very big day for our adoption.
Not hours later, we also learned our worst fears were confirmed: that all efforts for the US Department of State to continue negotiations with Russia concerning the adoption ban were effectively finished.
Although this was something we had been processing for a long time for Mac, today’s Russian delegation offered hope to the families who have met their children. I have to admit, the joy mixed with the anguish was confined to the virtual real world of Facebook. And it’s only making it harder.
Today, I felt joy with every breath I inhaled, then grief with each exhale. There is nothing else quite like it, and I don’t care to repeat my today…ever. Instead of sharing my husband’s relief that there was now nothing stopping us from pursuing Libby with our whole hearts, the grief of my friends, as they broke all sense of Russian propriety and quietly posted the faces of the children who had remained hidden for too long–held in their own arms…Lord, it was a glimpse of Your pain.
One day I hope to sing this song to my Mac, as miracles happen and he becomes ours forever, but until that day comes, I will trust in the Lord, and know He will finish the good work He has begun in us until the day when we are all united in Christ Jesus.
Too heartbroken and exhausted for a photo montage to go with this song, which I always envisioned filled with pictures of Andy and me wrapping our new son up safely in our family forever. But, you get the idea.
And, no, I wouldn’t trade this heartache for the ignorance that could be creating a false sense of peace today either, with the plight of orphans worlds away… No. Our son might only ever have our tears from so far away, but I know that God will find him there…and he will know in that hidden place in his heart, our love. Because God built it into him.
A dear friend who was a NICU nurse for many years saw proof of this. She said that the babies who were alone because their parents wanted to, but couldn’t be there, did better than the babies who were all alone.
And that is our peace. And we will surrender our perfect lives of creating heaven for our little house. We continue to choose to love as we have been loved. We will fight for those who our loving God sees and hurts for every day, asking those who believe to see them, too.
Even when it’s so very, very hard, we will.
We are currently looking for artists with special needs to donate some of their work for a one-of-a-kind auction to help us Bring Libby home. In exchange for your donation, we will feature your business in our sidebar ads for 6 months and feature you on our blog. What do you think? Know anyone who might be interested? Send me an email here for more information.
It’s time to show the world what a new generation of people with Down syndrome are achieving every day!
Make sure to “like” our Facebook auction page at Artists with Special Needs Auction to Bring Libby Home to be among the first to bid on March 25!
Our first featured artist is the all-around champion: musical performance, glass design, watercolor, and public speaker. Dylan Kuehl is an artist who is taking the art world by storm. He is the sole proprietor of an incredible company called DK Arts and is raising money to tour with his Michael Jackson cover band this year. He also has Down syndrome. The question with Dylan is never “what can he do?”, but “what can’t he do?”
We will be featuring the awesome “Down syndrome ROCKS” t-shirts in our auction and a wonderful collection of glass work, jewelry, and greeting cards featuring Dylan’s stunning watercolor work.
When I see Dylan’s work, and hear his you-tube performances, I am so inspired. I have spoken with the woman behind the man, his mom Terri. She is living proof that a loving parent advocate is the first step in helping your children’s dreams come true. And Dylan really is “Living the Dream.”
When I was in 7th grade, I was eligible to join the gymnastics team. I have been blessed with incredible flexibility from a young age, and loved to watch Kim Zmeskal kick butt in the Olympics. I think it was safe to say that at 12, with my diet comprising mostly Dominoes pizza and Little Debbie Cookies, I was not 4 inspiration-filled years away from my shot in the Olympic spotlight.
I could do a round-off and once did a back handspring with a spotter helping me flip my stout little legs over my head. I seriously had 35 pounds on the star gymnast on the 7th/8th grade team. (In the small world of Facebook, I have had the chance to reconnect with her, and she is an awesome mom and inspired, gourmet Food-network-quality mommy-chef.)
Most of our meets were right after school, and, not surprisingly, very poorly attended. Graced with the ability to spot natural talent, it was determined that I best stick to the apparatuses that offered the greatest opportunity to work independently for the duration of practice, leaving our coaches free to assist our more gifted athletes. The floor and vault it was.
In the smack dab center of my level 5 routine was a quick paced floor pass that had a front handspring as the most athletic move in it. Basically, I was faking it by doing a handstand that had a kind of controlled fall-over that ended with me standing up from a bridge, hoping no one noticed there wasn’t much springing involved.
The last meet of the season my whole family came to watch me. This time, I was determined to have a little more courage than normal, and decided that I was going to pull a Mighty Ducks victory scene, using my intestinal fortitude and love of gymnastics to do the springing part of the move. As I worked my way through the artsy part of the routine, I knew everyone was watching me. I knew everyone was laughing at me. I was about to make them go “wow.”
I can still remember the little pattern I told myself: “Kick, run, run, leap, chasse, step, fuente, step, SPRING!” My heart racing (and not just from the physical endurance), I went for it full-speed: chasse, step, fuente, step, SMACK!” I had completely wiped out. Flat on my back, gasping for breath. I heard my sister’s voice about the collective groan of the crowd, a distinctive, heart-dropping “OHWWW!”
And it was. The kind of smack that knocks the wind right out of you and makes you wonder if you might be dead. But there’s no such grace for a girl wearing size 10 in the 7th grade. Face red, not crying yet, I pushed myself up and did the next move, a measure behind in the music. It was my best move. A modified cartwheel that ended with a split second of airtime before both feet landed at the same time. My trusty friend the round-off. I did it perfectly, for me. The really awesome girls did a back handspring right after, but that was never on my radar.
I think there was another few seconds of mostly spinning in circles artsy moves–it’s kind of a blur, but I know the routine ended with this dramatic pose, sitting cross-legged with a hand in the air. It was humiliating. It was probably just as painful to watch. But when I stood up, I did that whole gymnastics victory salute thing. The hero’s salute.
My sister teased me about this day relentlessly for the next 15 years, and it still comes up from time to time. The abject humiliation. The chubby girl in the leotard wipes out. The deafening sound of the smack heard ’round the gym. I could say that I was proud I had at least tried my best, but honestly, I wasn’t. I was a failure who didn’t know the definition of the word impossible. In the worst way.
Today a friend shared the link to this brief sermon, and I have to say, I think I learned something.
I had always thought that the girls at the end of their routines were saluting the judges as a final flourish on their perfected work. The salute meant “stop judging now.” The better the routine, the better the salute. But today, I had an idea. In the context of the believer clinging on to safety for dear life, the salute at the end of our lives as people of faith isn’t about how great our results were. The pride of a life well-lived isn’t about achieving perfection in the performance–every effort yielding the desired results.
It’s about whether we trusted that The Judge was real. About believing His commands to go farther, be in the world but not of it, become His hands and feet…to the ridicule of the people we hold dear some times.
In some ways, I think my life was all foreshadowed in that horrible gymnastics routine. I attempt a lot of things without the skill or resources to perform them, often publicly, or at least in ways that ensure people feel they need to intervene. But, even in that hideous moment, sprawled flat on my back in a room of strangers, I still got up and did the rest of the routine. I was ashamed, my back hurt like heck, and my pride hurt worse. But, there was a round-off next that I knew I could do. And in the end, I stood and saluted the judge, and took the 1.4 that routine deserved.
20 years later, I call it a win.
Now, the time I joined the diving team and biffed on a failed one and a half in front of 200 people in a silent natatorium…that’s a different story.
Stay tuned tomorrow for a little gymnastics and diving fundraising fun. The paperwork for Libby has begun!
With tears of joy and hearts longing for two children, we ask you to…
Play this song:
And then click here to meet our new girl:
Our precious Libby. We will love you for you.
Update–so touched by how many folks have read our story today. Libby is found now, and we will do whatever it takes to find the funds to get her home. If you would like to make a donation to help Mac out, our hearts are still with the Russian Orphan Opportunity Fund, who we will be working with to make life better for the institutionalized children with special needs in the Pskov region. See their website HERE, and know that we personally vouch for them,the work they are doing, and their frugal use of funding.
Two weeks ago I was talking to my mother about all the things we had come to realize about this adoption. She reminded me of the serenity prayer:
God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
the courage to change the things I can;
and the wisdom to know the difference.
This morning Andy and I ended up at two different Masses. At Andy’s Mass, the focus of the sermon was on Pope Benedict’s recent resignation as an embodiment of the serenity prayer. He couldn’t change that he was growing older. He was courageous enough to change the plan of staying as pope until his death. And he was wise enough to act upon these realities and promptings.
Andy called me up and made the connection that my mom had: The policies of Russia on the adoption ban are the things we cannot change.
At the mass I attended with the kids at our regular church, Fr. D expanded the story of the fig tree. The kids reportedly got to have fig newtons at their Children’s Liturgy of the Word (where the kids hear the readings and sermons in relevant context, then rejoin their parents for the remainder of Mass) and thought that pretty much rocked. I digress. The parable of the fig tree wasn’t about “not doing” bad things. It was the story of a tree that didn’t do its job. The tree in the story didn’t bear fruit. And instead of chopping it down, the gardener said to hold off. It might just turn out to be a late bloomer.
Fr. D said that in 45 years of hearing confessions, he very rarely heard someone confess what they hadn’t done. The things that we fail to do are just as condemning as the laws we break when we are the body of Christ.
It was a call to move.
Andy and I continue to stand behind our decision to continue to pursue our son, Mac, in Russia.
But the past few days, an opportunity has formed as a sad idea, then an idea explored out of obedience, and following these Masses today, an idea that we are joyfully embracing.
All along we have said that we never had our end goal to eradicate orphans from the world. Our goal was to redeem one life back to its God-given potential. That would be enough.
And it is still enough.
But there is paperwork waiting, sitting on go. A homestudy finished that won’t cause delays. The financial support of our old friends, new friends, online and real-life communities. Legal paperwork prepared to ensure a child with special needs will always be taken care of.
Waiting for Mac.
But, what we can change is who this specific batch of paperwork is used for. And right now, there’s a little one waiting in an Eastern European country who needs a mom and dad. She lost her first family due to a clerical error. Well, actually, she lost her very first family because she was born with one chromosome more than what can give you a future there.
We can’t say who she is, but we can say for certain that our aching hearts can still move for good in our longing for Mac. Our plans have been pruned to bear more fruit. And this is our offering of love.
Our family’s page on Reece’s Rainbow is down for now, but we hope it will be up again later this week when we will have the honor of introducing you to the princess we hope to call our daughter.
Mourning while moving, honoring by loving…it’s the wisdom the journey to our son has given. And that makes a difference.
Today is the day of fasting and prayer for Mac. Please join us by skipping a meal or having a simple one and, if you are able, donating the savings to the Russian Orphan Opportunity Fund, who serves children with special needs in Mac’s region.
When I was a little girl, I would ask myself this question over and over in a way that would make my head feel funny: “Am I me? Is God “God”?” I never got a satisfying answer to that question, but did start to believe that those two things were true, just so I could get on with bigger questions. It also made me terrible at philosophy in college. The questions just didn’t seem that important to tease out, because the answers would have to be taken on faith anyways.
I have never been much of a bible reader, but I did see the Prince of Egypt out of high school. And the part when God says to Moses at the burning bush (Exodus 3:14), “I am who I am,” left me feeling that impossible lightheaded feeling from childhood. These simple words were made to confound me. But, honestly, I never pursued the mystery. My passiveness wasn’t out of laziness, but a feeling that it wasn’t something I needed to know now.
A few days ago I was reading a book which was assigned for a book group I never got to attend. It’s called Caleb’s Crossing, and, while it’s interesting, I can’t say I’m truly glued to it or anything. But while I was reading a passage about the town’s Puritan pastor ignorantly explaining God’s word to the newly-converted Native Indian tribespeople, I had a spark of understanding:
When we have met here before, we have agreed to two truths: That God is, and that he will reward all those who diligently seek him. -Caleb’s Crossing, Brooks, p. 63 (emphasis mine)
And then I saw it. At long, long last. God’s first words to Moses to describe Himself was a reassurance of everything known before. That God really was everything He said He was, and was not lying about all His promises before. He is the only One who can say that. He is everything He says and promises, and that is so singular, that it identifies Him.
Why the heck am I giving you my non-scholarly Bible lesson now? Because if God alone is faithful to His promises, then these words are true and are going to happen.
“You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule. You’re blessed when you feel you’ve lost what is most dear to you. Only then can you be embraced by the One most dear to you.” –Matthew 5:3-4 (Message)
Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. — Galatians 6:9
When Hathach told Mordecai what Esther had said, Mordecai sent her this message: “Don’t think that just because you live in the king’s house you’re the one Jew who will get out of this alive. If you persist in staying silent at a time like this, help and deliverance will arrive for the Jews from someplace else; but you and your family will be wiped out. Who knows? Maybe you were made queen for just such a time as this.” –Esther 4:12-14 (Message)
I was sent a beautiful reminder today from an old acquaintance who has become a dear friend and advisor over the course of our adoption. Rachel writes:
Thought you might be interested to know your fast coincides with the Jewish holiday of Purim and this week’s fast of Esther. Purim is a commemoration of the story of Esther who risks her life, revealing she is Jewish to save the Jewish people. It is a tribute to heroes, bravery, ingenuity, and ethical role models who organize resistance to oppression. Esther’s name means “hidden” or concealed and this ties into the theme and reminder of the mysterious qualities of miracles hidden in plain sight and through human deeds. It reminds us that G-d is all around us and within us and our actions.
This has truly been a time of great trial, as we have some preliminary reports today that Putin wants to find Russian homes for our son and 5 other children who are being pursued for adoptions in our region. At least one other child has severe special needs. Please pray for this situation and our family’s public response to it should that come to pass. Due to a translation error, it appears the six children Putin was referring to are those brought home to the in 2012, 3 of whom were to American families. What the article does say for us is that Putin and the governor of the region, Andrei Turchak, have singled out Pskov region for particular scrutiny and restriction. This is very troubling news for our adoption. Please pray for all of Pskov, too.***
Today while our bellies are empty, we are turning to the One who sustains…who conquers giants, and calls out kings. He shuts the mouth of lions, and tells the dead to breathe. He walks through fire and takes the orphan’s hand. (I know, a video in a blog post, but skip to the chorus at 1:15 at least)
You are the One Messiah… You are “I Am.”
Rereading the statement from the governor of Pskov yesterday has been very sobering this morning. Yesterday I was sad. And today I’m wondering what life will look like without an end to the constant longing for our son. To love him. To protect him. To fight for him. To bring him home.
Where do we go from here? Should we admit he will never be ours? Do we move on like he hadn’t crossed our minds?
You know how when you steel yourself to do something you don’t really want to do, and then you actually don’t have to do it, and you feel relief? I don’t feel like that at all. I thought it might feel a little like that–not because of Mac, but because now we don’t have to find childcare while we go on three trips to Russia. We don’t have to run all over getting paperwork signed and gold-seal approved. We don’t have to fundraise more. All things I hate doing.
And I didn’t feel a moment’s relief considering we likely won’t have to do those things. The grief is that strong.
While we are holding on to hope, we are making plans to help him. To ensure his safety and health to the best of our ability as something keeps hitting me over and over. The lie I’ve been telling myself.
That Mac is too young to know what he’s missing. At least he doesn’t know he’s lost us. And I have bought the lie, like when I visited Independence Hall two years ago and this was what I saw:
We all know it’s a lie, but it makes the waiting bearable. When I see videos of very small children meeting their parents for the first time the first words they say are “Mama, papa!” How did they know? Did the orphanage workers tell them stories about things they would never know? That seems cruel.
That’s when I realized that I was denying the core of my strong pro-life stance, the driving force behind empowered childbirth, why I don’t support routine circumcision (and none without anesthetic), and the reason I wear my children instead of lugging them around in baby buckets. Because I believe that children have fully-developed souls, finely honed pain receptors, and innate worth from the moment of conception. That means I believe that children were designed and created, not formed by happenstance, animals who only receive their value once they are wanted and acknowledged by other humans.
This means our boy was made to be loved by a mother who sees his beauty and meets his needs. By a father who will protect him and train him to be a man of great honor. By siblings who will be his greatest irritant at home and greatest defenders out of it. And he knows it.
So knowing all this, where do we go? We have been called to parent this boy and we can’t make that happen. Not right now, anyway. How do we go on today and tomorrow and the next day knowing how our hands are tied? Knowing the future that is waiting.
Right now, I ask this question in despair, but some day soon, I will ask it because it has an answer. We know only part of that answer now, but I truly believe this journey will be completed with Mac in our family forever.
Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.-Phillipians 1:6
Thy will be done.
Today we received some very bad news. A friend sent us this translation of news from our region. The prospects look very bleak. Max Shatto, the 3-year-old boy adopted from Russia a couple of months ago who died in Texas in January, was from our region.
Yesterday, the regional news reported this statement:
The governor of the Pskov Oblast, Andrei Turchak, has stopped all procedures on the adoption of orphans in the region. The Oblast website reports:
“We are putting a halt to all the adoption procedures in the cases of any children into any family,” announced Turchak at a meeting of the Oblast leadership. This decision is in connection to the death of Maksim Kuzmin in the USA. “We have to do all we can and create all the necessary conditions so that these little children can find their families here at home, in the Pskov Oblast, in the Russian Federation,” announced the governor.
According to Turchak, adoption procedures will be restarted after the formation of a special commission which will include government representatives, representatives of social organisations working to support multi-child families and orphans, and also the Pskov region ombudsman for children’s rights. The commission will together review all questions of potential adoption.
Turchak also announced that in a short time, procedures to repatriate Maxim Kuzmin’s younger brother will be started.
“Beginning yesterday evening there have been dozens of families from our own region who have come forward with the desire to adopt Kirill, Maxim’s younger brother. (BLD’s note: We believe his younger brother was adopted into the same family) We are coordinating our work on this question with the Ministry of Education and the child welfare offices.”
“In addition to our Pskov-based families, the Directorate of Russian SOS Villages and specifically the Pskov SOS Village have also expressed their willingness to take in Kirill,” said Turchak.
On the 19th of February the Investigatory Committee of Russia opened a criminal case citing article 105 (murder) of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation. The suspect is Maxim’s adoptive mother. The Committee intends to gain her arrest-without-presence and declare her internationally wanted.
In addition Russian investigators are expecting to gain access to the case which is being run by American legal authorities.
Three-year-old Maxim Kuzmin died at the home of his adoptive parents in the city of Gardendale, TX on the 21st of January, 2013. Pathology has revealed that the boy had bruises to the head, legs and abdominal cavity. (BLD’s note: this is not possible, as the pathology reports have not been released in any form yet.)
In addition, it has been established that Maxim was regularly given a strong medicine called Risperdal which is prescribed for Schizophrenia in adults. (BLD’s note: this drug is often prescribed to children with sensory issues) The death of the boy was announced by Ombudsman Pavel Astakhov on the 18th of February.
Since the 1st of January 2013 there has been a ban on American adoptions from Russia. The law’s authors explain that they have taken this initiative in connection with the deaths of 19 Russian children adopted into American families over the period of 20 years. The ban was positioned as an answer to US sanctions against Russian bureaucrats supposedly involved in the death in prison of lawyer Sergei Magnitsky.
And that is the sound of the door creaking on its way to closed. Yes, nothing is official, but this is very sad news, indeed. For our son and for all of the children in the Pskov region. Please pray for little Maxim and his family, who we have not heard from. I believe they are innocent until proven guilty. If they are innocent, the pain of this international accusation must be beyond comprehension. ***UPDATE*** Less than an hour after writing this blog post, a story came across the wires: Russia Cites ‘Accident’ in Texas Adopted Child’s Death. Oh, Thank you, Lord. Please let this information make a difference.
We are heartsick over every aspect of this situation. And we are praying like fools for a miracle. Please join us.
Our little boy deserves it.
Please join us this Friday for a day of fasting and prayer. If you are able, please have a simple meal or skip a meal for our son, and tithe the money you save to www.roofnet.org in honor of Mac. Please read why here.
It’s pretty unusual for me to post someone else’s blog on here and ask you to go read it, but I am making waves today. See, this little group, a Lenten journey to support one orphan, is overflowing with love and goodness…and their first day is devoted to spreading the word about the Russian Orphan Opportunity Fund (ROOF), which I have blogged about recently here.
But, unlike my offer of my undying gratitude in return for your support, Forty to Forever wants to give you a chance to win prizes for your donations. Like, thousands of dollar’s worth of prizes. How many likes did that cowboy boot giveaway have on Facebook? Like 75 thousand entries for a $150 pair of boots?
Oh, I think we can do much better than that. Let’s get these forty children–one for each day of Lent until Easter–on to their forever families!
Stop back in daily for 1 minute Lenten reflection. So very honored to share this opportunity with you! But, the chance to help ROOF lasts for today only!!
**Our little boy in Russ*a has long been a part of our hearts and we stopped calling him Thadius months ago. We think it’s time to share his big boy Big Little Days nickname. From now on, our little Thadius will be referred to by his new bad-puppy name “Mac,” short for McClane. We’re still giggling, and if you are, too, let’s move on.**
Remember, oh, 8 months ago when I said that this wasn’t going to be an adoption blog? Yeah. I’m a liar.
This is totally an adoption blog.
I have this saying to help mentor hopeless wanderers like me who never really knew what we wanted to do when we grew up. I simply ask: If you were first lady, what would your platform be?
And mine was always, without hesitation: Adoption. Pets, kids, the whole shebang.
There’s just something universally acknowledged as “good” about adoption–giving a family to someone without, giving a child (or pet) to someone who wanted them. It started with a Kodak commercial when I was eight. It may have been the first commercial I ever cried at. Sometimes I would sing this song just to see if I could cry on command. I could. If this was a vlog, I would sing it for you now. Be grateful for the typed word and YouTube:
And that’s when I saw something I wanted. To love someone who needed to be loved. Now, 24 years later, with a stable income, a house, and four kids, it really should have been quite simple. When Mac’s little face popped up on our screen, it was simple. Waiting, unknown, expense, hassle–nothing was too much to ask. We offered it all gladly.
For months Andy and I have been hearing the scripture about how the poor will always be with us…it focuses us, and reminds us that we aren’t called to eliminate orphans, like little targets on a line at a carney booth. We are called to this one orphan. This boy.
And today, I saw Simon’s picture, and thought…couldn’t we go get him? His country is working, he is almost aged out…
And my precious little buddy, Alban (who my buddy and I have campaigned to rename “Nugget” months ago). He is capable and minimally delayed, and loves to dance (two videos available!)
And every time, while my heart breaks for the boys (and did I even mention handsome Washington?), and I ask if each one of these boys is mine… the answer is “No. I need you for Mac.” As the odds look more and more bleak every day, I feel so very sad…for all of them.
When I say we’re being obedient, it’s because if we were just in it to rescue orphans and win our heavenly prize, we would have blown this pop stand in a heartbeat. There are some families who have switched to other countries, because just as clearly, their call was not to stand and fight. But, if you know me, you know that God has placed the heart of a warrior into me. Because our job is to fight. Not against men, but against evil. Against any force that comes between us and the calling to parent this little boy to the best of our abilities within the terms of the law. Even if it means supporting an organization that might have to do it in our stead.
So, when I said I want to adopt a child to give him the life he deserves, I am a liar. I want it all. I want to embolden anyone reading right now, hearing, and denying, the call to adopt, the call to serve, the call to tithe to orphans, to stand strong and hear your call. I will not make fun of you. You won’t have to explain. Because I am a liar, an impatient mom, a terrible housekeeper, and nowhere good enough for this. And He called me, anyway.
And maybe He’s calling you, too.
Yippee-kai-yai-yay, Mother Russ*a.
(Are you giggling now, too? Now go vote for my buddy Amy’s blog, Tiny Green Elephants, in the changing the world section and Jo Ashline, too!–nominated by the BIG OL’ real-deal Parenting magazine for being drizzled in awesomeness. )