Blog

# 35 : ‘Waymaker’

So much has happened since I last updated our blog so many months ago. Maybe some of you reading here are like ‘why would we even care about this now”? Many others, hearing of our story, have also asked me to post our past and current updates so here they are. I had great intentions of doing this sooner but bear with me for the next five minutes or so and then maybe you will understand why it’s taken this long…

So last time I left you we had just gotten the children out of all three orphanages and we were waiting on paperwork to get them back home to Canada.

One of the last pictures at the Orphanage

In an effort to keep away boredom, we spent our days walking all over the town of Bilhorod-Dnistrovskyi, trying to keep them amused, avoid the apartments getting trashed as they played with abandon as they hadn’t been together as siblings for a long time having been in 3 different orphanages.

Our first night as a family. Family devotions before bed.

Time spent together also helped us to get to know them better. For our excursions we would fill up a back pack with carrot slices, little meat/pastry pockets, cookies, water and juice and have a picnic somewhere along the way. The Black Sea coastline is amazing and more often than not we would either end up in a park or stop by the water’s edge.

By the shores of The Black Sea

We put on so many miles and despite being February and into March, the weather was so wonderful and the memories we made there are all the more beautiful considering what is happening right now in our beloved Ukraine.

We stopped here for treats as we walked.

We had many mouths to feed and now the guy we were renting the apartments of started charging us extra as the kids were leaving “finger marks” on the walls! He had already made us rent two apartments as we didn’t all fit in one. At least we were across the hall from each other.

Even though the orphanage workers had taken good care of our kids, I noticed that every time we came near to the road the orphanage was on, Patrick would tighten up his whole body and clench my fingers in his little ones and keep his head facing straight ahead. I really think he was afraid we were going to return him. I would reassure him with words that I hoped he understood “Neit desky dome Patrick, neit desky dome”. “Patrick is staying with mama and papa for always” and I would shake my head and smile to reassure him, squeezing his hand tightly in affection. He would just get the cutest little shy smile; his eyes would light up and he would duck his little head in a single nod. I was unable to see his face but I knew he was smiling. It made my heart just break as this little person just trusted me and his dad to take care of him. He really couldn’t speak any English yet but somehow, he knew he was safe and loved.

The Orphanage at Bilhorod Dnistrovskyi for small children

At the grocery store Rob had to stand in line on many days for up to 5 times at any one time to get enough food to feed all of us as rationing was starting to bite and things like bread and milk and vegetables were getting scarcer on the shelves. Thankfully until the last week, there was lots of toilet paper available. Those of you living in Canada will get the irony of this remark and the somewhat negative power of social media at this time.

Restaurants in town were now all closed and all the affordable snacks we would eat daily on our travels were now only a memory. Some people hearing us talk, started to give us looks that were bordering on suspicious and even mildly hostile. Patrick (5) got threatened in the park one day with being reported to the police for grabbing at the jacket of a 9-year-old girl on the climbing frame. I had to explain and apologize to the rude and irate mom that he had been in an orphanage all his life and we just got him a few days earlier. “He gets very overwhelmed” I said, not knowing how else to explain the behaviors we were noticing daily in our son, “He didn’t mean to grab at your daughter I’m sure”. (I really wanted to tell her that her daughter was almost twice his size and should have been able to push this tiny boy away but I refrained). I, in my most diplomatic but gently assertive way, asked her to please show some compassion to a little boy who was an orphan until very recently. (Those who know me will admire my patience and tact in this particular instance:) Nevertheless, we avoided taking the kids to this particular park for many days after this.

Patrick was very overwhelmed with being out and about those first few days.
At the park and having fun

We still didn’t have the required documents, passports and ID cards for Sinead and Roisin to get them home. “Here is what I need you to do”, Inna our facilitator told us. “You and Rob need to stay in Ukraine until you get the papers for the two oldest girls. ” What?? I said “No”, we can’t, like no, we need to get home!” “You said that could take up to 4 months or more, we can’t stay here that long” “We need to get back to our other children and our jobs.” “We have already been here for months!” “Could we go home with the small six”? I asked “We have their passports and we just need their Canadian visas and then we could come back for the older two”? I didn’t like the idea but it was an option. “Well”… Inna said, “you could do that… but it won’t be looked on favorably by the authorities” The tone of her voice said that it wasn’t looked upon favorably by her either.

Sinead (back) and Roisin (first from left)

We had a church friend in Bilhorod-Dnistrovskyi who said they would be happy to board Roisin but we couldn’t find anyone to provide accommodation for Sinead and as her trade school was closing due to Covid, she would once again be on the street. Not a good option for a 15-year-old girl with nothing to do and no life skills to protect her. What if the potential 4 months ran on to a year or more and Covid wasn’t over by then? What would have happened to our daughters by that time? Those were questions we didn’t have the answers to.

People at home were praying. Our theme song “Waymaker” now became even more of a prayer for us as we walked. I’m sure people who passed us wondered who these lunatics were with all the kids walking the streets every day singing in English.

Finally, came the call we were hoping and praying for. We had one evening to pack up our stuff and get ready to leave Bilhorod. Our faithful driver Yura was going to come and pick up Rob and go to Staracazachi that afternoon to get Sinead and then would come back and take us all to Kyiv the following morning. We would have to stop in Odesa on the way for us to sign some papers. There was rumor of a plane being prepared to repatriate Canadians. If we missed this one they may not be another but we needed to be in Kyiv for now. There were no flights out of Odesa and Kyiv had also all but closed. It’s not like we could just cross over the border into Moldova or Poland. All countries were grounding planes due to the virus and stopping all cross-border travel. I began to see visions of myself as Maria in the Sound of Music, bravely tramping across the mountains in an effort to get to safety with all the kids in tow, Rob dressed in a well-fitting tweed suit just like Christopher Plummer and wearing a pair of knee length leather boots looking dashingly handsome as the male lead in my daydreams.

Last photo outside our apartments before leaving Bilhorod Dnistrovskyi (taken by Slavik our dear friend)

But back to reality. On our last morning even though we wanted to go home, we were a little sad to leave Bilhorod-Dnistrovskyi. It had been our home on and off over the last 3 years and we had made so many friends here who we had grown to love. Slavik, one of our dear friends came to see us off that morning and as we hugged him good bye we couldn’t help but wonder when, and if, we would ever see him again.

The drive to Kyiv took almost 5 hours and we were tired and hungry, but mostly tired when we arrived. Inna had sorted an apartment for us on the 1st floor of a building and it was super. After eating some food, we had brought with us, we were ready to explore.

Enjoying the sausage rolls on the streets of Kyiv

Arriving in Kyiv, the streets were almost empty. The stores were closed. We found one hole in the wall restaurant selling yummy little hot dogs with cheese, fried in a dough pocket out of the window. Delicious!!

By “The Cat” in Kyiv on our excursions

We started walking again. It was nice to have the streets almost to ourselves but the limited places to go made it not really the fun it may have been otherwise. Parks and play structures were taped off and the kids not allowed to go on them. This was a bummer as they didn’t understand why they couldn’t.

Finally, after many walks to the Embassy and meetings with the consulate, Rob got a call from his contact there. A plane was leaving in 2 days time to Toronto to repatriate Canadians and pick up Ukrainians wanting to come home. We still didn’t have any documents for the two older girls. The Ambassador granted citizenship to Roisin and Sinead and gave them a paper with their names and a black and white photo on it. One sheet of paper! A4 size. We were told “We need you all on that plane”. “There may not be another”. So, we got to booking tickets. Canadian Tire Mastercard decided that now was a good time to block Robs card for ‘suspicious activity”. We had even told them where we would be! Like really?? The customer service number wouldn’t work from where we were but he got all of us booked on a different card. $17,000+ later and we were heading to the airport the next morning in 2 Ubers. The first one with me and several of the kids and our luggage arrived fine and we waited on Rob and Sinead as they had all our documents. And we waited… his driver had dropped them off at a closed terminal and driven off. Thankfully he was able to catch a bus and without much time to spare he arrived looking a little flustered but happy to be where he was supposed to be in the first place.

Entering the airport, a female Canadian soldier in uniform met us and greeted us with “I was just waiting on my family!” and a handshake. That felt so wonderful! Then the consulate and the Ambassador herself came to visit with us, telling us she was here to make sure we got on this plane. Larissa is such a lovely lady. We still didn’t have any passports, visas or official ID cards for Sinead (15) and Roisin (14) so for anyone who doesn’t believe in the God of miracles, please try taking two big girls through 3 international airports with no passports and just a single piece of paper and see how you get on?…. I’ll wait…

With the Canadian Consulate in Kyiv-they were amazing!
Myself and the Canadian Ambassador

Once we left the Canadian Consulate staff and headed upstairs to board, we discovered the Ukrainian authorities were not letting anyone go without just a wee bit of a fight so they took us to a line where we all stood with many others and waited and waited and waited… while they went over our court decree and documents with a fine-tooth comb and finally, after keeping the plane sitting on the runway for over 3 hours past the time we were meant to take off, we boarded.

God has a lovely way of showing up just when we need Him the most! The Canadian consulate officers were in the seats behind us heading home too and offered to help with the kids if we needed them to. It’s so nice to feel loved and protected. We were exhausted.

Fallon enjoying the flight

Next stop Paris and then onto Toronto.

Thank goodness we had the foresight to pack some a activity books!

Arriving in Canada I had an insane urge to kiss the ground, but again I resisted. I didn’t want my new kids to think their mom was a total nut job. They would have enough time to draw their own conclusions about that 🙂

The flight to Toronto was just in time! If we had arrived a few hours later we would have had to quarantine in Toronto for 14 days. We didn’t have the money for that. Our friends back home had even helped us financially this far by sending funds to help with the added time we had to spend in Ukraine. As it was we had arrived before midnight on the day the rules changed. We slept, or at least tried to sleep, on the floor of the airport. I didn’t care. It was cleaner than anything we had seen in the last several weeks. It felt so nice to be home.

Grabbing a much needed rest

Walking through security to get to our gate for Winnipeg I had a laugh. The security officers were talking among themselves. The kids all were in front of us chatting away to each other in Russian. One female officer said to the other “oh man that’s a lot of kids” Can’t be theirs, they look too old” I would almost have exploded in laughter if I hadn’t been so tired. I know I probably looked like I had aged a 100 years in the previous weeks. “Must be their grandkids” she continued “maybe coming back from vacation” I didn’t say anything until we had cleared security (just in case:) and then I went back with a smile on my face. “Just to let you know I could hear you talking” I began, “Actually they are our kids and we have even more at home”. “We just adopted them and yes, we are a little older but you might want to keep your voice down in the future as I heard every word you said” “Have a lovely day”! Her face was scarlet as she tried to deny but I smiled and walked away. Don’t assume just because you hear the kids that the parents don’t understand you.

We arrived back in Winnipeg and walking down those stairs we saw our other three children with our dear friends Mike and Trish. They had brought them along to meet us and we would be self isolating as a family in the next few weeks. How I had missed them! I didn’t realize until that moment just how much!

Our new children knew them from before as Mike and Trish had ended up at the same orphanage in Ukraine when they adopted their first 3 the previous year. They knew we had been hoping to adopt these children but couldn’t tell them when they were there in case it didn’t’ happen. We couldn’t hug due to Covid but walked out of the airport socially distancing (almost:) and picked up our bags to transfer to the van Mike had brought along that our church had blessed us with.

Then the drive home. It was super good to see Niamh, Conor and Declan again and hug them again. They seemed to have grown in the weeks apart. Niamh especially had matured and was no longer my little girl. Meara now filled that role.

The church ladies and others had been busy! Our dining room was lined with jugs of laundry soap, toilet paper and other non-perishable items. A new industrial size washer and dryer had been purchased and funded by a few people who had taken one look at my tiny one that had been in our old house when we bought it in 2009 and decided right away that it wouldn’t do at all to wash clothes for so many. A new little chest freezer was installed in the basement and filled with ground meat and farmer sausage that a co-worker had donated. We felt so welcomed home and so blessed!! Thank You Jesus!

The love gifts showered on us by friends

Supper that night was an experience to say the least! I made farmer sausages, potatoes and vegetables and gravy. Amidst the complaints from some, and compliments from others, I set up all the plates and dished the food. Rob asked me where his supper was? I actually have to say I was a little irritated as I looked over our countertop all covered in plates, reminiscent of a hotel kitchen before a big dinner is served. “it’s there” I snapped “I dished up 11 plates!” “There are 13 of us now Sharon” he said with a smile. Oh, that’s right, now I was laughing. I guess I lost the ability to count our kids in the last few weeks. I had gotten so used to cooking for the 8 children plus us 2 in Ukraine. He and I had a sandwich while the kids ate dinner. It was fine to be home.

First meal as a family of 13!

Thank You Jesus for being so faithful to us!

# 34 : Storm Chasers

Have you ever wondered what drives individuals to race around “Tornado Ally” attempting to capture that perfect photo or footage of nature’s raw power of destruction? Often times deliberately placing themselves fearlessly (or thoughtlessly) in path of that menacing force. I am sure there is a very real adrenaline rush, I almost feel a rush watching in comfort of my living room. Certainly, not something that I aspire to DO! Though the scenes they capture are amazing to watch! Some how this second adoption journey has almost made me feel like a storm chaser – like Sharon and I have been inviting fate! Have we (I) been guilty?

A few months ago I posted a blog about the speed bumps of life and reflected on how they can be, and I believe often are, God’s way of slowing us down to get our attention. The last few weeks I have come realize that was really an over simplification. Because life is not just peace and bumps. That is like saying life is like maple walnut ice cream! Meaning life is a blend of positive and not so positive experiences!

Let me explain. I really like maple ice cream but really do not enjoy walnuts! I can politely consume them under duress, but I find them so bitter and hard to swallow. Even the thought of them makes me cringe! And by the way Ukraine has probably the freshest and best I have ever tasted but I am sorry, I have to pass. You can always have my portion!

Where am I going with this? Well Jesus in John 16:25-33 speaks plainly with the disciples trying to reassure them of the Father’s love as He begins to prepare them for his crucifixion, resurrection and ascension. In fact He says “I am telling you this so that you might have PEACE IN ME”. But then He seems to undo everything with this statement, “In this world you will have tribulation. . .” What reassurance and peace comes with knowing that!

In the Greek word for tribulation, the sense is NOT WALNUTS OR UNPLEASANT TASTE – BUT TRIBULATION (thlipsin). Thlipsin refers to major life challenges, not just a superstore parking lot stop sign or speed bump seemingly arbitrarily placed to annoy me. In fact Jesus is referring to life events of significant severity and sacrifice that loss of life or other major calamity. Jesus is referring to the potential for major life crisis. He doesn’t want us to be alarmed or come undone if or when this happens. Because this is not the end . . . He says “take heart be encouraged because I have over come the world”. Jesus is in control : He is the Way Maker. And continues to make the way through what has been a very difficult and complicated process.

Upon our arrival to complete this our second adoption – Jesus’s second leading to Ukraine for Sharon and I – there have been a variety of surprises (to use the words of our adoption facilitators). The logistics of adopting 8 siblings has been a daunting task for them to whom we are very grateful for their expertise and tenacity and patience with us.

What was supposed to be a simple revision of birth certificates, application for passports and visas has been complicated by the revision of national ID cards for the two oldest prior passport application. COVID-19 quarantine locked us in Ukraine for what looked like the duration: It wasn’t. Read about another miracle in a future post! The support provided by the local baptist church was so appreciated. The enthusiastic backing of our church family and friends in Canada is nothing like I have ever witnessed let alone ever experienced before.

Spring is in the air – apple and cherry blossoms in the park in Bilhogorod-Dnistrovskyi.

# 33 : Reunited!

Finally, after 3 years and what has seemed like endless delays we have been reunited! Some of our faithful supporters have already been inquiring about photos, please bear with us, the photos of the kids will come! Our facilitators continue, to very efficiently complete virtual mountains of documents for a yet to be announced court hearing. The process continues to be in a very sensitive state.

Since the time that our referral was issued I have pondered how to best keep our readers updated! In the wee hours of this morning I awoke with a start, having the words “reunited” firmly planted in my mind! That is it! We have been reunited! I wanted to spring from my bed and start writing but given the nature of our accommodations (for which I am grateful) I had to slither out of the end of the bed stumbling over the edge of the area rug at its foot! So much for not awaking my sleeping beauty (Sharon)!

Reunions taking a variety of forms! These dear friends Ola and Victoria from our first trip to Ukraine in 2016

The Lord brings to mind a variety of reunions in scripture that all take a slightly different flavour. Isaac’s reunion with his family at Nahor in search of a bride in Genesis 24 is a heart warming narrative as Isaac wins the heart of Rebekah and the approval of her family. You can’t miss the EXCITEMENT!

Then there is the very suspenseful narrative of Jacob and Esau, couched in the background Jacob’s deception some 20 years earlier. You can’t help but feel the intense ANXIETY that overcomes the household of Jacob as he enters Esau’s realm. Jacob’s departure from his uncle Laban who certainly was every bit Jacob’s match at deception, coupled with his pending face off with his brother Esau whom Jacob and Rebekah had so craftily deceived in Genesis 32. Jacob ought to be terrified given what he had done. Revenge seemed justified! But time and God’s love have prevented the embittering of Esau’s heart yielding a loving reunion!

Then in Genesis 45 we read about the reunion of Joseph and his jealous brothers. I am sorry but I have often read this narrative with a lot sympathy for the brothers! Joseph’s approach in relating his dreams to his family has never demonstrated (in my mind) very much common sense! Add that to Jacob’s overt preference for Joseph and you certainly have a recipe for jealousy! We would see that ‘making differences’ is poor parenting and almost guaranteeing setting his son up for failure. But at the passing of Israel (formerly Jacob) Joseph reassures his brothers in Genesis 50:19-20 …”Don’t be AFRAID. Am I in the place of God? You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done the saving of lives!”

As we anticipated our reunion similar feelings encroached. There was excitement, anxiety and a certain amount of fear. Though we have been through this process all before there have been many changes locally and we are dealing with a different set of personalities! Oh dear Lord help my unbelief!

So Friday December 13th we would finally be reunited! After logging 7.5 km of walking in Kyiv the day before, to finalize the referral, followed by an overnight sleepless train ride to Odessa. Not to fault the train ride as I quite frankly find it a novelty. Then we were bouncing and weaving 100 km in a taxi to Bilhorod Dnistrovskyi to secure accommodations. Followed by another 40 kilometres of bouncing and weaving along to Starokozache to present one referral and initiate the adoption process there. Then bouncing and weaving 40 kilometres back to Bilhorod Dnistrovskyi to present the second referral and initiate the adoption process here!

So after being awake from 0600 December 12 until 1830 December 13 we were able to experience multiple hugs, kisses, “I love you mama, I love you papa” – all this on our very first visit. For over a year we have daily prayed for these children by name as if they were already ours! During these months we have been surrounded by individuals prayerfully and even financially supporting this process of providing a forever family for these children. They are unbelievably special!

Open market money changers! Same gentlemen who aided us 3 years ago!

I am reminded of events a year ago when we returned from our first appointment with our agency in Canada. We had asked them about possibilities and options with regards to a second adoption and that night around the table we shared this with the children! I will never forget the tender words of Conor at the end of our discussion through his tears, “Why did God chose us to be adopted first?” What a loving and compassionate heart. I know why God choose Niamh, Conor and Declan first – because they have a heart to share!

Even though our reunion has been very joyful, our 3 year absence has given rise to some protective barriers being developed around the heart of one in particular! This youngster who 3 years ago when sitting cuddled on Sharon’s lap, actually said “Can’t you take us with you?” All the while our children were running about virtually ignoring us. The 3 years of additional rejection and hurt have created a very hard shell. But we are confident with time and prayer and showers of love that a once very soft heart will again be soft and open. Thank You Jesus for your faithfulness!

# 32 : Free Fall!

Earlier this fall our daughter Tracey had suggested a family photo shoot when the fall colours were at their prime. Short notice made it difficult to get 100% attendance and the wet fall made rescheduling to accommodate a poor option. We did end up with 24 out of a possible 30 children (spouses included) and grandchildren present!

Our 3 youngest with 1/2 of our grandchildren!

As we were wrapping up the day some of wee ones climbed onto our back deck (which isn’t child proofed as yet as the railing isn’t on). I cringed suggesting to the dads that maybe the youngsters should come off! To my horror, instead it became; “jump, dad will catch you!” Each of the youngsters at first were somewhat reluctant! With some coaxing they either just walked straight off the edge or walked up to the edge of deck, and leaned forward dropping into their father’s strong arms. The smiles and giggles upon contact with their father’s hands was priceless to watch! But what was more intriguing was the mounting confidence they demonstrated with each jump even as dad stepped back and lowered his hands, making each fall longer. Those that had required coaxing no longer did, they were learning a whole new level of trust in a “Free Fall,” into Daddy’s arms!

Likewise as a skydiver standing at the open door of an airplane anticipating the ‘okay’ to thrust himself through the opening into open space. The skydiver is not demonstrating blind faith but rather a carefully calculated event. Though I have never attempted skydiving and frankly don’t ever plan to, I cannot help but imagine the experience! The deafening throb of the engine combined with the muffled sound of air rushing past ones face, threateningly ripping at skin and clothes, have a mesmerizing effect on one’s psyche.

Now is the time to step away from the door if you are having second thoughts or need to double check your gear. Because once you roll out that door, you cannot climb back into the plane, you are in short – COMMITTED! But not blindly! You trust the physics of a parachute properly folded that will respond to a pulled ripped cord and that in turn will allow the resistance of air tearing at the fabric to properly fill the parachute, so that you can effortlessly and safely descend back to earth. All this happening as you are falling at a speed of 200 km/hr in a stable “Free Fall.”

The view and perspective one gets from those altitudes! Huge obstacles below are dwarfed! For a very few seconds one can get a hint of how our Lord sees our world, our life. His perspective makes everything more manageable and purposeful and secure!

That is exactly what He has been teaching us! As I was having devotions this morning and reviewing the various notes of encouragement sent our way from those of you back home who are walking this journey with us, the common thread of “COMMIT and TRUST” is woven through the texts. The two pictures that came to mind were just as I have previously described; one of a fearless skydiver and the other of a trusting child both stepping into a “Free Fall of Faith.”

In Genesis 12-15 we see Abram embarking on a journey where Jehovah declares “I will . . . do not be afraid. . . I AM”! As we launched into this second adoption a year ago He has repeatedly reminded us of those very words. The fact that “He will” produces questions like, how? when? where? But he coaxes Abram and us with come “do not be afraid,” I will catch you because “I AM”! And He catches us because He is with us wherever we go! I couldn’t help but ask myself, “Each time that I face a new challenge am I approaching it with a growing confidence and dependence on Him, because He is proving himself to me over and over again? Just as each time as our grandchildren fell into their father’s arms, they became bolder in their faith!

In Psalm 36:5-6 the Psalmist presents how in inescapable our Heavenly Father’s; “love, faithfulness and righteousness are.” So no matter the situation we are in, He has us covered He’ll catch us with arms wide open. All we have to do is”Trust Him!”

As I read on in Psalm 37:3-4, I was challenged as the writer wants me to Depend (TRUST) on the Lord, Delight in the Lord, Devote (COMMIT) your way to the Lord. As we began this journey, we have had to depend on the Lord in ways that I never have before! I have typically been very guilty of being very self reliant but with each adoption I am learning (sometimes the hard way) how very God reliant I need to be! Because it is in this God reliance that we find provision and security! Oh Lord help us to depend on You to complete this adoption!

The Psalmist exhorts that we ‘Delight ourselves in the Lord’. That delight will grow out of our dependence or trust in Him! Just as when the children’s first “Free Fall” into dad’s arms was expressionless, subsequent jumps were filled with smiles and giggles. The provision and security accompanying dependence results in a relationship that is Delightful – you can’t get enough of His presence – it is hungering and thirsting after righteousness. I am smitten – I have fallen so far short of truly finding delight in His presence. Continually busy with projects that have frequently crowded time with Him out of my day or reducing it to a bare minimum. “But it is for the family or for the second adoption” – I could always find a legitimate or justifiable reason. Oh Lord forgive me! Is it this lack of balance that has led to our current unprecedented delays that we now face? Is this your way of getting my attention? The promise here is being granted the desire of our heart – which at this moment is an adoption referral!

Thirdly the Psalmist says Commit/Devote your way. You know with either the grandchildren jumping of the deck or the skydiver jumping out of the plane – once they either roll out of the cabin door of the airplane or step off the deck they are committed there is no turning back! Lord we have committed this adoption road to you, but if in anyway we have overlooked any aspect please clearly make it known. There has been no turning back! Recent events have left us shaken, pushing us into His word and onto our knees! The beautiful promise here is that as we trust Him, HE WILL DO IT!! Thank you Lord Jesus! YOU WILL DO IT!! You will catch us as we allow ourselves to drop into Your loving arms!!

# 31 : Speed Bumps

Have you ever been running behind, trying to wrap up the day’s errands and get home to unwind (or face another list of of solicited jobs) and every where you turn you’re applying the brakes for speed bumps? I hope I’m not the only one guilty of succumbing to the hustle and bustle of the proverbial rat race!

Seriously though I do hope every one reading this has NEVER found themselves cutting across the Superstore Parking Lot to avoid the speed bumps or annoying arbitrarily placed stop signs at the end of parking rows . . . where nobody drives anyway! I hope I am the last impatient soul on earth!

I had our itinerary in Ukraine well laid out. Fly out of Winnipeg November 23, arrive in Kyiv November 24, get oriented in Kyiv November 25, (including a few walk a-bouts – even found the office where our appointment would be – not bad after 3 years). Well so I thought! We timed our walk to insure a timely Continue reading “# 31 : Speed Bumps”

# 30 : Deja vu

Three years less a week and we are back in Kyiv. Leaving Winnipeg’s James Richardson International Airport at 1415 on Nov 23 we arrived in our apartment at 1630 Nov 24 in Kyiv. Tired but safe! The apartment is cozy and centrally located just a couple blocks north of independence square.

Our hearts are full of anticipation as we await our Ministry appointment Tuesday at 1000. Sharon and I both commented on how relaxed and at peace we are at the end of a very turbulent week. One that has been filled with what many would consider very unsettling news. Tonight we had to relive much of those feelings as we reviewed recent events bringing our facilitator up to date.

This peace we share can be nothing other than the Lord’s answer to the many prayers that have entered the throne room on our behalf. Friends and family have faithfully covered us with prayer and our loving Heavenly Father has responded. Pastor Dylan shared Joshua 1:9 with us – and we cling to it.

“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.””

‭‭Joshua‬ ‭1:9‬ ‭ESV‬‬

The verse is by no means unfamiliar but such a timely reminder! But what the Lord has really impressed on my heart now, is the rhetorical question that He initiates with! Have I not commanded you? Twice before the Lord insights Joshua to be “Strong and Courageous.” Now here in verse 9 the Lord a third time intends a similar exhortation but begins by reminding Joshua “I have already said this .” The reader could assume from the previous renderings that the Lord is merely providing a good suggestion. But NO – He makes it very clear this is a command that has already been issued.

Strength and courage is the mark of faith or trust in the Lord – it is living proof of our trust that He is with us wherever we go! Our courage will fade as our faith fades. The Lord does not want us to shrink back or cower in the face of adversity or trial. But rather he expects that we will face it head on boldly. But not because we are adequate or competent in ourselves to claim anything for ourselves but our competence is in the Lord, 2 Corinthians 3:5. It is the Lord alone who makes the way, it is He who will do this “…for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.””

‭‭Joshua‬ ‭1:9‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Thank you Jesus for making a way. Thank you Jesus for all who stand by our side in prayerful support!

# 29….”Death overcome by The Word”….

This week there has been much upheaval and unrest in Ukraine.  This is not good in any way! Thousands of Ukrainians gathered in Independence Square in Kyiv to protest on Sunday October 6th 2019.  I don’t pretend to understand the politics or everything that is happening over there between the Russia Federation and the Ukrainian forces but we are praying for wisdom for all involved and a real sense of peace for those affected by the turmoil.   (photo credits Fakty.ua & Ukrinform).  

As a child of “The Troubles” myself, I would hate to think of Ukraine going through again all that my home country of Ireland went though for many years.  Growing up in County Donegal in the Republic of Ireland, only 7 miles from the border with Northern Ireland, I saw and heard many things that a child should never have to see or think about. Nowadays of course that child would be rushed off to see a psychologist, diagnosed with a string of letters and given some pills, but back then we just realized it was a part of life we didn’t like, had no control over, and something that we would eventually get through. I feel it made us resiliant.

British soldiers and paramilitries with guns were as common to us as anything.  (My life was threated on more than one occasion by protestant paramilitaries in black balacalvas holding M16 machine guns pointing at my face). It was commonplace to hear of bombings and shootings and I couldn’t count the many times I rode with my dad past burning cars or stepped over spent bullet cases laying in the gutters of the streets of Derry, my mother’s native town. We could hear the bombs going off and the news each night was filled with the names of those whose lives had been taken by car bombs or had been shot that day in Northern Ireland. Peace was hard fought for and won at a great cost.  I wish people would seriously think before resorting to violence.IMG_1881

My mother prayed daily for all those involved and I learned the value of prayer from a young age by watching her, even thought I didn’t understand it all back then. I can still see her kneeling on the floor by her bed with her hands on her Bible, kissing it and crying out to Jesus. The Word was so important to her. She knew the Only One who could help.

We celebrate Thanksgiving in Canada this weekend. I am so thankful for where I live now.  There are things about Canada that are maybe not to everyone’s liking but we have so much to be thankful for here as a nation.

On any given day here are just a fraction of the things I am thankful to my Father for : I can go to sleep and awake again in my warm, comfortable bed after having had a restful sleep. I am thankful for good health and that I can stand and walk unaided to the bathroom.  I have clean water both to wash in and to drink. I have a choice of food to eat for breakfast. I can share the affection and laughter of spouse and family. I can pray over and wave our children off to school.  I can enjoy that second cup of coffee, meet for Bible study with friends, pray,  have the mental faculties to understand what I read, have a lunch to eat made from food that’s already in my fridge. I can get into my car, go to my place of employment and receive a good wage for my labour. I can travel in safety, knowing that in all likely-hood my car won’t be hijacked or burned. At work, I can have a break (on a good night) eat supper and have people I work with who are kind and whose company I can enjoy. Have a career that I love and have wanted for many years. Have the freedom to speak about Jesus (at least for now). Get a phone call from either my husband or adult children to say they love me. Have the freedom to attend church services where Jesus is the primary focus, SO, SO, much to be thankful for!!! (and I know I haven’t even covered even the half of it).IMG_1523

So as we gather with family, please remember the One from who we receive all good things and return Him thanks for the same.  And let us remember the poor and unfortunate in other countries also.  Please, help us get our children home! 

 

If you would like to help us with Adoption Volume 2, to provide a forever family for some more Ukrainian Orphans, click on the preceding link.

# 28…In appreciation of my Father’s love….

This week with Fall well and truly here and Winter fast approaching, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking and just reflecting.  It’s a good exercise at times, a sort of “self check”.  We are still in the “waiting phase” for “Steeve’s Adoption Volume 2”.  Our documents are where they need to be and for now we wait and pray.  Please remember to continue to pray also.

DSC_0398
I just love this picture! Don’t you?  Declan with niece Autumn, sharing a hot-dog.  Phoenix the cute dog looking on and hoping they drop some 🙂

In my ponderings this week I was thinking about how my children percieve me.  What do they see when they watch me go about my daily routine?  What am I modeling for them? Someone said recently.  “If we don’t show our kids how to follow Jesus someone else will show them how not to.”  If I’m not super excited and authentic about my relationship with Him then my children probably won’t be either.  It won’t take long.  The Israelites in the Old Testament had the same issues as us and we all know what happened to them. Wandering about, lost in the wilderness, giving their hearts and devotion away to any but the One true God and so on.  It wasn’t a super positive outcome for the old Israelites.  I don’t want that for us or for our children, any of them. This continues to be our goal. It’s a lifelong process.

DSC_0438
Our family enjoying time together.  24 out of 30 were able to join us.  That was good for the 3 day notice.  I love our kids & grandkids!

This Monday past was National Adoption Day.  A day set aside once a year to honour adoptees and those who adopt them.  Actually, in all honesty every day in our lives is ‘adoption day.’  There is not a day goes by but I am so incredibly thankful for these beautiful people who God in His amazing love and mercy brought into our lives. I still can’t believe that they are mine! Ours!  I couldn’t imagine life without them, without any of our children for that matter, grown or otherwise. It it always easy? No! but it’s most definitely worth any struggle that might come with it.

But what does is mean to be adopted?  There are different kinds of adoption.  It’s not just two parents adopting a child or even children.  When someome asks Jesus to come into their lives as Saviour we become adopted into the family of God.  We belong. This first and formost is the most important adoption. Then there is family like ours. Our big, blended family. When I met Rob (almost 20 years ago now) I adopted his children into my heart and he did the same with mine.  When our adult children met and married their spouses, we adopted them too as part our family and they became our children also.  As with all big families we don’t always agree, sometimes we argue, sometimes we pull away for a while but through all this we still love each other, we have each others backs and we want the best for each other.  We want to build each other up and encourage each other.  Our words should be always filled with grace.  We should be quick to say “I’m sorry, please forgive me” when we are wrong.  Not easy but necessary. We need to love each other as Jesus loves us!  As I was writing this post I thought of it like this:  God’s native language and nature is “LOVE”.  So should ours be to everyone, not just to those in our families.

This week has been busy but fruitful. We started off last Sunday with church then had our family over to our place for a photo shoot and weiner roast.  Most were able to come but the short notice didn’t work for one of our sons and his wife and 2 kids.  Another son-in-law was sick so he stayed at home and a daughter was on vacation but we had a blast with the ones who were able to make it.  24 people out of 30 was really good for the 3 day notice. It was such a beautiful fall day, the weather was amazing and we were all able to be outdoors for the evening around the fire pit.  Such a blessing!  I love our kids!.

DSC_0284
Our children with some of our grandchildren.

Then on my days off I got 3 duvet covers made so far for our new children and split and stacked some wood for the winter after this one. With Rob and Niamh’s amazing help, we canned jars and jars of homemade spaghetti & pizza sauce. We had quite the production line going:).  I’ve also caught up on a couple of episodes of a British crime drama that I’ve wanted to see for a while. Getting the canning done brings a real sense of accomplishment that I’m sure many here can identify with, especially with the cooler days coming faster than I would like them to.  Stubborn Irish woman that I am, (“ha ha!” says Rob- well he should know eh?) I refuse to give up wearing sandals or skirts most days until it’s way colder than this!

DSC_0105
Myself & Rob in our yard.

“But from everlasting to everlasting the Lord’s love is with those who fear Him, and His righteousness with their children’s children”.  Psalm 103 v 17 (NIV)

 

# 27….”You are with us in the waiting….”

Over that last few weeks a lot of people keep asking us where things are currently at with Steeves Adoption Volume 2. Sometimes it’s really difficult to know what to say. The “hurry up and wait” is in full swing!  We are working hard at home getting the finishing touches on the rooms and garden produce canned and frozen. Honey has been extracted too. 

Declan likes to help his dad with the bees.

We are both trying to spend as much time with our family also. We never want any of our children, grown up or otherwise, to feel they are being “replaced” or are not as special to us once we add to our family.  Crazy as that sounds it would be like telling someone that once they are pregnant again there is no way on earth that they can possibly love the children they already have, now that another child is on the way. That would be pretty silly: right?

Financially we still are about $9,000 off our fundraising goal for the first trip. The generous support of those who have a heart for orphans has raised almost $41,000. That is incredible and humbles us completely.  “Thank You Jesus for the faithful generousity of those around us.” “Our Tribe” as someone called it. I love that title! I love being part of the “Tribe” of God!

A few Saturdays ago 3 little girls, nieces of a good friend, baked cupcakes and sold lemonade on the street in Steinbach. These 3 who have the most compassionate hearts that I’ve seen in a while made a whopping $71.00 from their efforts for our adoption fund. Their auntie brought them over so they could meet us and give it to us themselves. Rob asked if he could show them the books we made for our children about the orphanage just so they could see for themselves the conditions some children live in and they sat mesmerized, close up beside him on the sofa so they all could see as he explained the pictures to them. “God I know that You have planted seeds of Your love in their hearts to help others.” “Can’t wait to see where this will go!” 

These 3 beautiful girls, Isla, Florence & Nora, baked and sold cupcakes & lemonade to raise $71 for our adoption fund. Way to go girls!

Also a couple of weeks ago we had a sleepover here with some of our grandchildren. Micah and Grace came on the Monday evening and Sophie joined us on the Tuesday morning. Our house was totally filled with laughter and squeals of joy as they played! It was so noisy and so lovely! Rob and I just smiled at each other as I made us coffee as we wouldn’t have heard the other speak above the racket. I had a couple of days off so we baked and played and danced and had fun.

The waiting is difficult. We had a set-back just over two weeks ago. Our documents were all submitted and then we were told that the stamps on the Canadian Notiary signatures were not quite the way Ukraine wanted them done. Our agency has been submitting them this way for 15 years with no issues and no notice prior from the Ukraine that they now want something different. In a week they had two sets of papers come back, ours was the second. It is frustrating! The children are in orphanages waiting and some official half the world away doesn’t like the way a document is stamped. Ah well! nothing we can do about that. We resubmitted and the wait begins all over again. Funny this time I am way more relaxed about it. I am very thankful for that. Maybe I was focusing too much on the future?

Our kiddos here went back to school two weeks ago too. Lots of excitement and nervousness for them about the first day. Some sadness for mom as I waved them off and then it’s back into routine before you know it. Volleyball, youth etc. The inclusion and acceptance of those from other places is so important.

IMG_1622
Off to school for another year.

I have a few days off again. We had hoped that we would be in Ukraine but God has other plans. His timing is perfect. Two weeks ago someone asked about the delay and Rob explained what had happened with our papers. As Rob began to explain the situation to this prayerful supporter, words began coming that he had never before considered.  That these seeming roadblocks were not roadblocks at all but actually the Lord carefully laying out his plan for bringing our new children home.

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord.  For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”  Isaiah 55:8-9

Rob said at that very moment he just felt Jesus put His arm around his shoulders and gently tell him “I got this, it is going to be okay.” Rob said it was so real and so comforting that he just started to cry and so did our prayerful supporter! If you know my husband he is not one prone to flights of fancy and this was very real.

God is doing amazing things in our community. Beyond our understanding. He for sure is teaching us to trust Him. Please continue to pray for the children who God will bring into our family that He will protect them in the interim period while we wait. Pray for our paperwork and most of all that His will be done in our lives. In our broken world maybe sometimes we find it difficult to really believe that we have a Maker, Redeemer & Saviour who loves us so totally.  He’s not at all interested in a fancy church building, in rules and regulations, in new flooring and carpets. He is however concerned with things like, am I submitting myself to Him, what have I done today to help the needy, how have I loved others today and am I following what He tells me to in His Word in my daily life by walking in obedience.  I can only answer for me.

img_1523.jpg
Trish gave me this beautiful gift the other day. She had matching ones made for us. I love it!

 

# 26 : We Press On Towards The Goal!

It’s sometimes difficult to find time to write as the weather gets nice and a person wants to be outdoors.  Right now it’s just after 0700 am,  the kids are still in bed and my husband has gone to work so here I am, enjoying a coffee and some quite time.

Our family suffered a loss early in the week.  Our cat, Fish, left us after almost 11 years at our home.  We don’t really know how old he actually was.  He came to us as an adult stray, painfully thin with signs of mistreatment and we loved him from the start and he stayed.  I went outside on Monday morning to feed the chickens and he didn’t come out of his little house. He had passed away sometime in the wee hours.  I have to say, I shed a few tears.  I know he was only a cat but he was a faithful friend too.  He was the one who came to meet me when I came home late from work some nights after midnight and rubbed around my legs as if to say ‘hi’ and ‘welcome home’.  He came for walks with us all the time and was so good with our kids and grandkids.  Thankfully Chips joined our family just in time. Rob made a grave and we buried him in the bushes by Niamh’s garden.

Ok! Updates! Some of you have been asking:  Praise items so far:  Our home study is approved and signed off on and completed. Thank You Jesus We paid the last of our Manitoba fees on Tuesday last and we are so thankful to have had those finances on hand to do this. Medicals are completed and signed off on.  In fact, All the paperwork we needed to complete for our dossier is with our agency and out of our hands and hopefully will be on its way to Ukraine very soon.

Our plant fundraiser on the evening of Monday 17th June 2019, was a great success! 13 Ladies gathered at Ivy Ridge Greenhouse in St. Anne, Manitoba to make planters to take home and enjoy.  Trish (and her husband who you may remember are in the final stages of adopting 3 beautiful kiddos) gave up her wedding anniversary and brought along 6 ladies from Pansy to support this!  Thank you Trish (and Mike too who freely gave up his evening with his wife so she could come).  Please continue to pray for them as they prepare to pick up their kiddos in the next few days.IMG_1035

Niamh used her artistic skills and had fun creating Alysons planter and at the end of the evening, something happened that made me cry!  Betty-Ann (Mikes mom and Trish’s mother in law) asked Niamh if she could be her ‘Grandma‘! Niamhs face lit up like a candle and I have to say I was taken aback by Betty-Anns’ generosity in how she has such a big heart to share herself. (For a little background, all our parents live far away and although Niamh gets to see at least one grandma each summer, it’s not the same as having one just down the road).  I know Niamh loves her other grandmas and she loves Betty-Ann too. This is just so cool!

On June 21st and 22nd, our Fund Raising Committee, headed by Alyson and Thea, organized a garage sale to raise funds. The sale did amazing! Marion W. took what wasn’t sold at the first sale and made almost the same amount by having another one at her home a few days later. A HUGE ‘Thank you‘ to everyone who helped, donated and came along to buy to support our adoption! Not forgetting Harold and Dave who helped clean up afterwards. We could not do this without all your generosity! It really does take a village! 

Last Saturday evening was ‘The Man or Mouse Challenge”. Alyson initially had trouble convincing 2 victims (aka volunteers) to compete against each other to walk across Lego and live mousetraps, blindfolded to collect bean bags and bring them to a designated area. Loser got a pie in the face! Anyway, Garth Koop and Trevor Esau bravely took up the challenge and the photos below speak for themselves. Garth was a good sport as he took his pie in the face.

Cake Auction to follow and Devon Peters did a wonderful job as auctioneer! Good job I had to work or I may have gained a few extra pounds. Rob took the kids along and they had fun bidding. I had fun baking 2 Irish Apple Pies before I went to work.

Our Fundraising Committee is taking a well deserved break for July and we will resume again in August with what we hope is a Sponsored Bed Push. Keep following for more details coming soon.

Rob and I are rushing to get our home finished. Bedrooms are almost completed. Conor moved into his new one last week. He was SO excited to have a room to himself that he doesn’t have to share and took great pride in organizing his closet. We are exceeding thankful for how God is working all things out. He has a plan that is WAY bigger than ours.

Niamh has her first summer job. Babysitting niece Sophie one day a week. Shes so pumped she gets paid to do this! Before anyone thinks we take a baby on a quad, she’s just sitting on it for the photo:)

As already said, please continue to pray for our kids in the Ukraine, waiting in an orphanage for us to come for them, for the process that there would be no delays and for the finances that they would come in as needed. For us as a family here and that all would come together in a timely fashion. Let us not focus on the things that don’t matter,

As the Apostle Paul said about his walk with Jesus, in the book of Philippians chapter 3 verses 13- 14. ‘But one thing I do, forgetting what’s behind, I press on towards the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus’.