Finally Together

Finally Together

Help Us Bring Vitali Home

Friday, February 8, 2013

Admitting Failure

Not too many blogs ago I titled one writing, "Momma is Stronger" although this is an accurate statement when compared to my new son, it wasn't the best strategy to show him what Brandon and I know he needs most. From the very beginning of our adoption journey, we decided that the reason we wanted to adopt was because God called us to show his love, grace, and mercy to one of his children.  This is a call that required us to make many sacrifices but it wasn't a call to a journey of conjoined misery, but a call of learning what true love is. 
Our 3rd day home, the battle of wills began.  Following my past parenting experiences, I was determined to show this child that I was stronger than he was and that I wouldn't tolerate his outburst and vile disrespect.  This parenting felt so wrong and so impossible with this new child of mine.  We were both exhausted, frustrated, and overwhelmed.  I thought that if I could just keep it up long enough that he would eventually succumb to our authority and follow along with our normal. This is the advice I had read so much about from "experts" in the field of kids with trauma histories.  After a second day of repeat performances in both of us, I knew that something was not right.  This kid had a history of trauma, so why was I trying to create more trauma?
That night as I showered, I asked God what I was doing wrong and how to show our son the love that God showed us.  Almost immediately, I felt like God was bringing to my mind how He called us to Him.  Although God is indeed stronger and has the ability to force people to follow Him, He wants us to choose to follow him in submission and trust.  How does He call us to follow Him in submission and trust?  Certainly not by showing us that He is stronger.  He bids us to trust him and submit to His authority by showing us that His Love is Stronger!
Why would I expect this child who has never been shown how to control himself, this child who has had a history of adults that didn't care enough about him to show him that they would love him always, this child that thinks he was taken to the orphanage because he was bad, this scared and delicate child?  Was it our job to force him to behave and be respectful, ie make him mind?  The Holy Spirits words of wisdom, said no. 
What was our job then?  To love him when he is unlovable, to give when he is undeserving, to show kindness when he shows disrespect, to give great measures of patience and understanding when he wants nothing to do with us, to stay calm when he is out of control, to speak softly when he rages, to allow ourselves to be available in the most inconvenient times because that might be when he is ready for some acceptance, to give up the things we want so that he can catch glimpses of our willingness to sacrifice for him. 
There were several reasons that I refused to follow God for so many years.  Some of the reasons included having bad things happen to me that I had no control of, seeing bad things happen to others that I knew to be good, having been judged and treated horribly by persons that claimed to be Christians, seeing others judged and abused by persons claiming to be Christians, watching glimpses of TV evangelists and knowing right away they were frauds, natural disasters, and an overall distrust that if God was a real God that He was either all powerful and mean, or weak and kindly.  Neither of those options settled well with my heart.  What I longed for was a God that was All Powerful but also All Loving! 
I have the understanding now that is exactely what our son is longing for.  Parents that are both powerful enough to ward of evil but also loving enough that he can feel safe.  Are we capable of being these parents?  Not on our own!  Everyday I have to prepare my heart to be a servants heart.  We have to choose to love him, we have to choose to stay in control of our own emotions and not expect him to control his, yet.  We have to choose to follow the example of our both powerful and loving King and sacrifice our desires for the love of our children.  We rely moment by moment on our Lord to give us the wisdom, grace, and mercy to be the parents that He has called us to be. 

2 Peter 1:1-4 The Message
I, Simon Peter, am a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ.  I write this to you whose experience with God is as life-changing as ours, all due to our God's straight dealing and the intervention of our God and Savior, Jesus Christ.  Grace and peace to you many times over as you deepen in your experience with God and Jesus, our Master.  Everything that goes into a life of pleasing God has been miraculously given to us by getting to know, personally and intimately, the One who invited us to God.  The best invitation we ever received! We were also given absolutely terrific promises to pass on to you-your tickets to participation in the life of God after you turned your back on a world corrupted by lust.

Our lust was having a picture perfect adoption story with a obedient and grateful son.  This is so unbiblical and impossible that we have to turn our backs to our wants and turn our eyes to Jesus, the only one who can love us while he shows us how to love our son. 

Sunday, February 3, 2013

First Week Home

We have been home exactly one week and one day and WOW what a week! 
When we left Ukraine on Saturday, we were taken into the customs office and spent at least 30 minutes going over all our documents and the guards making copies of many of the papers.  We were ready for a similar inspection once we arrived in Italy.  The guard barely turned away from his conversation with his friend and we flew right on through.  Relieved, we hurried away to claim our luggage and get out of the airport.
We arrived in Italy in the early morning and were picked up by friends.  We were greeted at our home by more friends and of course our daughters.  It was so wonderful to see our girls again after such a long time.
Vitaliy had the same experience entering our home as he did in the home we stayed in, down in Simferopol. He literally spent this entire first week opening every closet, drawer, cabinet, and box he could find.  Carefully inspecting each and every item with careful attention and curiosity.  This insatiable curious appetite has been both humorus and irritating.  Watching him open every game box in the house, dump out the contents and then put it all back in the box is fascinating for us to watch.  On the other hand, he has required constant supervision because everything he finds he wants to know how it works.  For instance, the battery operated circular saw was a bit frightening!  Thanking Jesus that the battery was dead!!! 
If something requires or even has a spot for batteries, he wants to put in new ones and watch it work.  He has a love for all things that run on batteries.
Some of the things he finds strange.
1. Our cats are indoors all the time and they poop and pee in a box of sand that we keep in our house.
2. That we tell him he can bath naked.  He always wears his undies. 
3. That we watch him constantly. 
4.  That so many people of the AFB wear the same outfit that his papa does.
5.  That we girls request that he please lift the seat to pee. 
Overall, he thinks we are a bit weird but seems content to roll along with us.
Sunday was our first time at church.  I warned him that many people would be very happy to see him but it was still all a little overwhelming with the attention he was receiving.  Saturday and Sunday went well though just out of sheer distraction by all things new. 
Monday morning the girls went off to school and Brandon had to return to work.  Oh dear, stuck home all alone with the momma again.  It was a rough day for both of us.  I was sticking to my previous mantra of Momma is Stronger and it wasn't going well. The title of my next blog post will be, "Admitting Failure" stay tuned you don't want to miss that one.  Anyway, Monday through Wednesday were very hard and I was so happy when the rest of my family returned home.   Thursday I changed tactics and saw some improvements.  Friday was a rough day but for other reasons.  Saturday and Sunday we have spent time together as a family!  Ah Family, this word provokes so many thoughts and emotions. 
So what have we done, we've ridden our bikes around the neighborhood, we've played hundreds of games, we've battled, we've tried to figure how to turn off activated fire alarms (no it wasn't a actual fire), we've cuddled, we've cried, we've just sat and looked lost, but we've done it together.  I haven't been able to do much of anything except spend time with my son but I am so thankful to have him home with me.  Home, where we can love and protect him, where we can show him a better way, where we can die to ourselves daily in order to show our son that he is welcome and safe. 
Everyday is better, everyday there are improvements in ALL of our attitudes, and everyday I get to give all my kids hugs in the morning and tuck them in at night.  What could be better than that? 

Friday, January 25, 2013

Finally Going Home!!!!

We have our tickets booked and are leaving Kiev airport at 0620 arriving at Treviso airport at 0800 tomorrow morning!
Here is what we know:
1.  There is a completely different procedure for Americans that are stationed abroad to naturalize their foreign born adopted children.  No one thought to inform us during the entire 16 month prep process.
2. We paid for a Visa that we didn't need.  More paperwork is more fees, but we are on the right track now.
3.  The Italian Embassy in Kiev has given Vitaliy a 6 month tourist visa in his Ukrainian passport! Special Note: We asked for 90 days and were given 180! Super Sweet!
4.  We have more forms to fill out once we arrive in Italy but Vitaliy will be able to become a US Citizen without having to first touch US Soil.  (The base is not considered US Soil)
5.  We may have to make a trip to Rome but that is a lot cheaper than all going to the USA.  
6.  SMSgt Pearson, our First Sergeant Rocks!
7.  Amber H. at the State Dept deserves a Congressional Medal for her work in investigating, coordinating, and bringing together multiple government agencies to assist us!
8.  Brian and Christen Humphreys deserve a vacation after playing the parental role for our girls.  THANK YOU!
9.  Bella Vista Baptist Church in Edgewater, Florida deserves a VERY heartfelt thank you and praise for all their prayers lifted up on our behalf.
10.  Serenissima Bible Church deserve a plaque on the wall for having to deal with, praying consistently for, and financially helping our very needy family.  Thank you, our church family!  We are so grateful for your love.
11. Special Thanks to our coordinator David Avilla for his encouragement, expertise, and over site on our life changing journey.  Never doubt the integrity of this man.
12.  More special thanks to our facilitator, Sasha Nemchenko for being our very knowledgeable and persistent Ukrainian adoption expert.  He has definitely gone above and beyond what was expected in helping us get all that we need to get our son home.
13.  Thanks to our many drivers we have had during our time in Ukraine.  We now value our lives so much more after having the experience riding with you!  LOL
14. And MOST importantly, Thanks be to our Heavenly Father for hearing our pleas, giving us abundant Grace and Mercy, and moving mightily on His children's behalf.

We pray that our experience will shed light on American's Stationed Overseas that are adopting.  That this will pave a smoother path for those that follow.  These kids need families, no matter what the price is to be paid, it is a price that has eternal value.   
Oh and yes we would do it all over again.  :)  We Love our Son!

We will continue to post on this blog for a year to let you know and see the good things our Lord has in store for our family! 

Psalm 107:29-32 - He caused the storm to be still, So that the waves of the sea were hushed. Then they were glad because they were quiet; So He guided them to their desired haven. Let them give thanks to the LORD for His loving kindness, And for His wonders to the sons of men! Let them extol Him also in the congregation of the people, And praise Him at the seat of the elders.

Psalm 95:1-6 - O Come, let us sing for joy to the LORD; Let us shout joyfully to the rock of our salvation. Let us come before His presence with thanksgiving; Let us shout joyfully to Him with psalms. For the LORD is a great God, And a great King above all gods, In whose hand are the depths of the earth; The peaks of the mountains are His also. The sea is His, for it was He who made it; And His hands formed the dry land. Come, let us worship and bow down; Let us kneel before the LORD our Maker.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Who's to blame?

Our last post give just a glimpse of the hurdles we are tackling in order to get home. 
I, Kim, am going to give you a very honest and in depth look into my heart as we travel this thorny path.  
Upon arriving into Ukraine for the very first time I knew that this was not going to be a cut and dry procedure.  Every time we spoke with or met a person that was vital for the process, we were given different information.  This happened even before entering Ukraine, but was made worse in country. The country of Ukraine is not to blame for the battles we are facing, it is a much greater and more sinister agent at work.  For those who can not fathom anything greater than your eye can see, you may not understand who I can assuredly say is the evil that lurks in the details.  Human beings.
Maybe the more church attending folks thought I would blame Satan, or those who hate my Heavenly Father, might have thought I would say God.  My heart is heavy knowing that it is what is in the hearts of man, that have made this journey so ridiculous.  Why am I so sure of this? It is because I can easily see the evil of laziness, indifference, ungratefulness, irresponsibility, selfishness, pride, and manipulation in my own heart. 
When Vitaliy had been my son for only 3 days, it was a only by a miracle that I didn't take him back to the orphanage.  (I think I heard you just gasp!)  The miracle was that God had laid on my heart that Vitaliy was my son and not just a random kid.  This is an actual real miracle, as real at the parting of the Red Sea!  My son was so hateful, ugly, and down right mean that if God had not placed a mother's love in my heart for him, I would have taken him back.  Why after 16 months and all the pain and struggle would I even have considered that?  Because my heart is still the heart of man.  I still want what I want, when I want it, how I want it, and as easy and as comfortably as possible.  Here was this little boy, my son, and the hate that poured from his broken heart, out of his mouth, were shards of glass tearing into what I wanted to happen.  Even though I read all the books and knew that this was a likely response, it was still a shock to watch it happen. 
As the days rolled along he softened, when we left his town for Kiev, I could see more layers of fear fall away.  Every day in little ways I can see that the hate, which is evidence of fear, beginning to subside.  Oh we definitely have a long, LONG road ahead but God has proven faithful in healing his heart while chipping the sin away from mine. 
My God knows my heart more than I do, He knows what keeps me from fully submitting to Him, He knows that I still want things my way because I doubt that He knows what is best.  More times this week than I care to admit, I have wondered where my God was.  Was He still listening?  Did I do something wrong? Do I need to do something more?  Maybe I am not praying as much as I should, perhaps I need to read more chapters of the Bible each day, could be that I am being punished for something I did? 
Then I remember that His promises are true and His love is real as demonstrated on the cross.  Vitaliy is having to find out what having parents that truly love him is really all about.  Our coordinator recently told me something an adoption expert suggested parents tell their children,"There is nothing you can do that will make me love you less and there is nothing you can do that will make me love you more".
When you are adopted by the Creator and Savior of the world, that is His promise to us as well.  Grace is God giving us something that we can never deserve and Mercy is God saving us from what we do deserve.  And His Grace and Mercy is telling His children, "There is nothing you can do to make me love you less, and there is nothing you can do that will make me love you more."

Jeremiah 31:2-3 Thus says the LORD:”The people who survived the sword found grace in the wilderness; when Israel sought for rest, the LORD appeared to him from far away. I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you.

 Hebrews 4:16 Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

As Paul Harvey said, "And now you know the rest of the story."

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Why are we still in Ukraine?

This is a blog post that is difficult to write and even more complicating to try to explain to everyone why we are still in Ukraine.  I will do my best.
It all started 16 months ago when Brandon and Kim felt called by God to adopt a 9 year old orphan boy that was living in a Ukrainian orphanage.  Because of our unique situation of being a American military family stationed overseas, we knew that it could be more complicated than most families seeking to adopt.  We went and spoke to all the legal authorities we had available to us and were assured that once Vitaliy was our son that we would be able to return to Italy and process his Official, No Fee, passport and then proceed through to obtain an Italian Visa.  Many factors have played into the fact that it has taken 16 months to adopt our now 11 year old son. The fact that we were married at the American Embassy in Seoul, our home-study provider didn't think that Americans should adopt older children from Ukraine, that Ukraine won't accept any documents over 6 months old (our documents expired once because it was taking so long and we had to redo many of them), our military doctors were reluctant to sign off on our medicals because they were afraid of the unknown, we had all of our documents notarized by JAG but Ukraine wouldn't accept them until they were apostilled at the State Department, and on and on and on.  The worst of the problems have stemmed the our counsel from our legal office and passport office at our military base.  Many of the things we were told was simply not true. 
Now we are here in Kiev, our 37th day in country, we have our son, he is legally our child but we can't get to our home in Italy where our daughters are. 
We have been given a IR3 visa in our son's passport that allows us to bring him to the USA.  Once he touches American soil he will become an American citizen, not before.  This is where the problem begins.  Italy will not allow a military dependent to come into Italy to live without first obtaining an American Official, No Fee passport, and then applying to the Italian Consulate for a Missions Visa.  The American government will not expedite an Official Passport for dependents.  Expedited Official passports are only reserved for Active Duty personnel that are on orders for deployments.  This process is expected to take 4-8 weeks.  Once we receive this passport, we then must send it to the Italian Consulate to ask for a missions visa.  This process is expected to take 2-4 weeks.  At best that has us in the USA for 6 weeks, at worst for 3 months.  Meanwhile, we have our 14 and 12 year old daughters being cared for by friends and our son is living in a transit world. 
The US Embassy here has been reluctant to help us and says that it is the Italian governments responsibility. One official suggested leaving our newly adopted son with friends and family in the USA for the 3 months and having us return to Italy without him and then come back to get him when the processing of the paperwork is complete.  This is not an option.  Our son has been in an orphanage for 5 years, doesn't speak English, and he needs to bond with his real family in a stable environment.  We were finally able to speak to a sympathetic person who contacted someone in the state department.  We have been contacted by the representative from the State Department but she seems to think that there may not be any legal way to expedite this process.  Since Monday is a Federal holiday, we are waiting until then to hear if there is a way. 
This trip has been so challenging, in so many ways.  A broken laptop, a broken foot, a process that seems to never end, but at the end of the day we look upon our new son and are grateful that he is ours.  He doesn't understand many things but the question he asks everyday is, "We go home today?"  We just don't know the answer to that. 
We don't want everyone to think that this blog is just to complain, but we do want others to know who plan to adopt a child while being stationed overseas, that there are many more challenges than are necessary.
We know that God is in this story, we know that He has a plan that will bring all the Glory to him.  We are sad, we are frustrated, and we are struggling to hold onto the promises that we know to be true.  God doesn't promise that the road to follow His ways is easy.  He actually promises us that it will be difficult.  So why follow Him?  Because His ways are always the best, His love and devotion to His followers was demonstrated to the full degree on the cross.  There was no greater sacrifice and cost paid than that.  It was given to an ungrateful, undeserving, and angry people.  A man may die for one that has proven to be deserving but only God dies for a people that curse His name and nail him to a cross.  This is the God we know and we know that His Story will be told through this adoption.  
 1 John 3:16 This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers.

Romans 5:8 But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

A family?

Vitaliy is doing well!  He is learning all that he can about being in a family.  What does it mean?  I can see this question roll across his face several times a day.  What does a momma do?  What does a papa do? What is my role as a son?  These are questions that we, who have never been orphaned, just don't think about.
The first few days Vitaliy wouldn't let me do anything for him, then he wanted me to do everything.  First I didn't exist then I was his slave.  He is searching the boundaries to the question, what does a momma do?  Probably the hardest quest for him, is what is he supposed to do.  Without Grace and Hanna near to model a child in a family this question is simply impossible to figure out.  We are getting him to learn to ask when he wants to do something, i.e. eat a fifth banana in 30 minutes!  Last night we were Skyping with Grace and Hanna and Hanna asked me over Skype if she could have some ice cream.  Vitaliy's eyes got wide and he looked at her and me for a response.  I asked her if she ate her dinner and if she had some fruit.  After I was satisfied with her answer I told her she could have some.  Hanna then did a triumphant "YES!".  Vitaliy laughed and I saw a flash of understanding in his eyes.  Praising God for these moments!
We arrived in Kiev yesterday after a very early morning.  Vitaliy was packed and ready to leave Simferopol!  After getting off the plane, we went to the hospital for a physical for his US Visa.  The doctor asked him what my name was and he looked confused and said, "Momma".  lol  Then he asked what he would tell the police if he got lost and couldn't find me.  He said, "Momma Thompson".  This kid cracks me up.  (yes, he does know my name)  After the hospital, we were off to the US Embassy.  It was the closest I have been to home in 2 1/2 years!  The red, white, and blue and English speakers was a beautiful site to behold!  I almost cried.  The Embassy was new looking, clean, big, and welcoming.  Ah bliss!  No pictures though, because our cameras and phones were not allowed inside.  After filling out many documents we were off to the Italian Embassy.  Unfortunatly, things weren't as wonderful there.  The people were very kind but English was a problem.  After speaking and learning Russian for so long, I had almost completely forgotten Italian.  It was very confusing!  The poor woman was trying in English and then forgot a word I told her to try in Italian and then she forgot her Italian because she was trying to speak in English.  LOL  We had a good laugh.  Vitaliy was looking at us like we had lost our minds.  In the end we were told that they were unable to issue a Visa to enter Italy without first entering the USA.  Brandon and I are going to work on the details of this new, complicated, information today. 
We are off to the US Embassy today at 1400 to find out all that we can so we can get this boy home were he belongs, with his family.  He may not know what family really means yet, but God is showing him a better way.  Being part of a family has been God's master plan for all of eternity, after all, God first adopted us. 
Ephesians 1:5
God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure. (NLT)
Ephesians 2:19
So now you Gentiles are no longer strangers and foreigners. You are citizens along with all of God's holy people. You are members of God's family. (NLT)

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Running the Race

Isa 40:31 (NIV) But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.

While Vitaliy was in the orphanage we noticed that although Brandon and I were welcomed warmly each time by him, that he was much more interested in what we brought to entertain him.  As we looked on at our new son, as he ignored us, I started to meditate on what this looks like in my life.  God has always been there, calling me, gently prodding me to experience His complete grace and mercy and for years I held up my hand in His face and demanded that if he treated me kindly by cleaning up all the things in my life that I thought was unfair and uncomfortable that I would then give Him some attention.  At one point, a long story in itself, I fell deeply into His open arms and embraced all that He was.  Even after that life altering experience, I still find myself being much more involved in things that have nothing to do with the gospel.  And I put up my hand again in God’s face and say, “Not now God, can’t you see that I am busy? Don’t you understand that if you gave me the things I want that I would be able to spend more time with you?”. God repeatedly tells us that He is ALL we need, but we doubt this on every turn.  God says I am your supply, your strength, your hope.  
I see myself in my angry son.  I see it in the way he rejects me.  Fearful if I, like all the others, will get tired of him and turn away.  I see me in the way he gets so frustrated when I try to restrain his wants for his needs.  I see me in the way he sneaks to obtain things he wants because he doesn’t trust me to actually provide what he needs.  I see me in the way he lies, trying to protect a wall and identity without  the humbleness to accept himself as he is.  I see me in the way he sometimes smiles and snuggles in, hoping that maybe this isn’t really a fantasy but that there is someone that can love him unconditionally. 

This is the race that God has laid out for our family.  He paved the way, He has provided the means, He will never leave or forsake us. 

I am constantly reminded of Luke 9:23-25 (NIV) Then he said to them all: "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it. What good is it for a man to gain the whole world and yet lose or forfeit his very self?" 
Those who do not follow Christ as Lord and Savior, look at us and see that this is foolishness.  Why would we want to take this thorny, troubled path when the one we were on was so nice?  Why? because, I can not reflect the love and sacrifice of Savior if I refuse to take up my own cross.  This is not a means of self-mutilation but a coming to a greater reality of who Jesus is and a freer life to life without the burdens of my own ugliness.  I have sin, ever crouching at the door, and I need a reminder of what I am like unrestrained.  As followers of Christ we can easily be lured into the “I have arrived” mentality.  My life is cleaned up now, I go to church, I don’t smoke, I don’t curse, (most of the time), I know how to dress, walk, and talk like a Christian; but as I have been reading through 2 Chronicles, the major theme is kings of Judah who walked in the ways of the Lord, only to become strong and proud and fall so far from God.  So far, that they are not even allowed to be buried in the royal cemetaries.  God is giving me grace and mercy by bringing Vitaliy in my life so that I can see that it is never by my own strength that I can carry on living a life for him.  Only complete and utter dependence on Him everyday keeps me in a proper position to receive the reward promised to all true believers. 
I praise God’s love for me and for Vitaliy.  It is a beautiful thing to watch the grace effect played out before my own eyes. 
Eph 1:18-20  And this is my prayer... that you may receive that inner illumination of the spirit which will make you realize how great is the hope to which he is calling you--the magnificence and splendor of the inheritance promised to Christians--and how tremendous is the power available to us who believe in God. That power is the same divine energy which was demonstrated in Christ when he raised him from the dead...