Saturday, December 29, 2012

Russian adoption

What happens to a Russian orphan one year after being adopted by a loving American family?

A chance at LIFE!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

1 year home!

On Monday we celebrated Maria's being home with us for 1 year! Sometimes it seems like it has gone by so fast and other times it feels like it's been a long, difficult year.  I have been looking over photos and videos the last couple of days and I think this is the best way to show just HOW much Maria has changed. It has been a lot of work! But looking back has helped me see that all the work has truly paid off.

Happy 1 year home Maria! Can't wait for what the future holds for you!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

How God Changes Lives for His Glory, Part 2

Read Part 1 here

A Family for Maria
We prayed about moving forward and committing to a child featured on Reece’s Rainbow. When I went back to the profiles, one of the girls and the boy were no longer there. That left Maria’s profile. The profile that had caused me to sob and to blurt out, “You can be in our family”:

Maria F. Мария Ф.
Brothers and sisters no Date of Birth: September 17, 2007 Gender: Female Eyes: Brown Hair: brown Nature: cheerful, helpful, social
This muffin has a caregiver who loves her dearly.  When they learned of the possibility of finding a family for her, they were so happy and offered the following info about her:  "Maria is very friendly and in her group she helps the caregiver to give the food to children, like they give her cookies, for instance, and say please put to everybody and she does it. If she has one cookie she would divide it into pieces to give to all the people around."
From our facilitator:  Maria was born from a socially strong family, the both parents were highly educated, not too young, they were in registered marriage. The parents were just not able to overcome the fact of appearance of a child with DS. Maria has also had heart problems, and she has had a surgery, which has solved them. Now she is functioning well.   Also she has had problems with intestinal tract and she has had the surgery, which was also successful.

Our original plan was to adopt a little boy. We already had two girls and my son really wanted a little brother (still does :).  We also had never considered adopting a child with Down syndrome.  Next we found out she was in Russia- of all places! We speak Spanish! We knew nothing about Russia and had little desire to know anything about it.  But I had met a couple who had adopted from Russia and had heard their entire adoption story and I felt at peace knowing at least a little about the process.  I love it when God takes things out of our hands and reveals what His will is for us.  Makes it harder for us to mess things up!      

Now, I am a very practical person and it seemed like the logical steps were to find a house with enough room for four children and then start the adoption. But that’s how I knew God was in control. It wasn't practical, but I had peace. It’s not how I would have done it, but I felt so urged that I had to do it out of obedience. So we were ready to commit to Maria’s adoption through the Reece’s Rainbow grant program but I really had no idea how to start. I went on the yahoo group and asked a question about if anyone knew if there were adoption laws about the number of people allowed in 2 bedroom apartment. I received a response that totally hit me in the gut.

Hi Gentry, I don't know the laws BUT I do know our God and if He has put adoption of this little girl on your families heart then you can be confident He has a plan. He is just waiting for you to step out in obedience to His call. He will make a way when there seems to be none. The things that keep you from committing are really just fear put there by Satan to keep you where you are and that child in his grasp.  

I knew then we would move forward to bring Maria home. This girl had my heart! It was like someone had stolen my baby and I was ready to do everything I could to get her back. They don’t call us “Mama Bears” for nothing!       

We used part of the money from my winnings from Wheel of Fortune to begin the adoption process. We paid for our home study, fingerprinting, psychological evaluation and various other documents we needed to collect. We had deadlines to meet in the process and each time we needed a specific amount of money by a specific deadline, God met that need- almost to the dollar.  We never received a $30,000 check for our adoption.  But over 200 people donated to help save Maria’s life.  We stressed a lot about raising the money for our adoption, but when we went to God and poured out our hearts, he gave us peace and helped us to push forward even when the end seemed unattainable. 

When we began our home study, part of the documents require us to show our family income.  Russia has high standards for adoptive families and because of my winnings on Wheel of Fortune, we were able to report that income on our home study.  If we had waited to adopt until after we had bought the house, we likely would not have been approved, because that income would no longer have been in the bank.  I am so glad I listened to God’s voice, even when it seemed impractical.

We also found out that we came for Maria just in time.  There had been several delays in our adoption, most we couldn't avoid, some caused by our move.  But if we had not decided to start our adoption when God told us to, and had waited until the timing was “right”, Maria would have experienced the traumatic experience of being transferred to an adult mental institution. You see, just two months after our first visit she turned 4 years old and as the prosecutor testified in court, she would have been transferred then, where she would have been on her own in regards to dressing herself, feeding herself, toileting and would have had little supervision and little to no caregiver affection.  We thank Jesus for sparing her of this experience- she already had enough trauma during her first 10 months where she was in the hospital after having two surgeries.

But we still didn't have a house.  We had looked out of the area and put offers on two houses, neither which were accepted.  Then my husband found a listing for a 4 bedroom, 3 bathroom house 2 miles from his work.  It was way under price and we thought, what is wrong with it? First, it was a short sale. The owner owed more to the bank than the house was worth. We found out it was a County affordable housing community.  The owner should not have refinanced his house for more than the County allows, but he did and the house was in danger of being foreclosed upon. Second, this house should never have been listed because there is a very long waiting list of families who have turned in preliminary paperwork that the seller can contact. When we went to see it, though, I didn't want it. It was terribly, terribly dirty and neglected. My husband and Realtor convinced me that the cosmetic issues could be fixed and that this was a great deal and we put in our offer. But, another family put their offer in 5 minutes before us.  Several months passed and suddenly we were contacted by our Realtor.  The bank now wanted to consider our offer because the other family “disappeared”.  Except they needed paperwork in 2 days before it would be sold at the county courthouse auction.  Well, we couldn't get that done and appealed to the bank to have a little more time.  We also didn't know that another person wrote a letter on our behalf pleading the bank to take our offer and postpone the auction until they had our paperwork. 

In the meantime, we also found out that rats had gotten into the house and had eaten through drywall and had gone into the attic, and destroyed the air ducts and had been nesting.  There were rat feces along every wall in the house.  There was mold from a leak in the kitchen sink and the wood was warped.  There were no appliances and the carpet would all need to be replaced and the entire house- walls and ceilings would need to be scrubbed and painted.  The entire front yard was a jungle and the vegetation would need to be removed to discourage future critters from taking up residence.  The side yard was used by the dog for a bathroom and there was a huge trash pile along the back fence.  We kept praying that if it was God’s will to have this house, He would make a way for us to afford the repairs and costs. 

It wasn't until February that we received the phone call that our offer had been approved for the house- as we were about to board the cruise ship to Hawaii (I could not sell or postpone the cruise I won on Wheel of Fortune, and it was such a blessing –an anniversary trip much needed in the midst of the adoption process). 

We are so thankful that my husband has a 5 minute commute to work now and usually comes home for lunch, instead of a 45 minute commute down and up a mountainous road with an old car on its last leg. 

We had a month to fix up the house before we needed to move from our apartment and start paying our mortgage.  My mom and sister came to watch the kids and my dad and I started on the house.  My husband would come home at lunch to help. We had to pull all of the kitchen cabinets out, and my dad sanded and painted them all. I painted every wall and ceiling in the house.  I had never done it before, but learned fast.  I had to paint 3 coats of paint on the ceilings because the previous owner had been a smoker.  I think I developed carpel tunnel syndrome because of gripping the roller too hard.  I also felt a lot like Michelangelo with my head cocked back and paint dripping in my eyes, trying to paint those darn ceilings (and they were super high too). 

On the first night we slept in our house, my husband turned to me and said, "I hope we can afford this house." Then he turned over and fell asleep! I, of course, couldn't sleep at all but tried to pray for God's provision.  The next morning he emailed me to say he had just been given a raise! God answered my prayer and reminded me He would provide for us.  

In the end,  we have a beautiful home, with room for our growing family.  It truly was a miracle that we have this house-we are so blessed! 

A couple of months after we moved in I found out we have a lovely Russian couple that live four doors down.  They fled to America 20 years ago because of religious persecution with their 12 children.  After meeting several times and sharing with them about our adoption, they contacted family members and arranged for us to stay with them during our second trip to Russia. It was such a blessing to live with a Russian family and get to know their food and customs- we even went to church with them!  We also have several Ukrainian families in our neighborhood.  Only God could have arranged this!

To God be the Glory
Several months later, I received a phone call from Wheel of Fortune. They wanted to follow up with me and asked how I used the money I had won.  I told them about the house and how we were in the process to adopt Maria.  They were so pleased and asked if I would be interested in sharing my story on their Changing Lives segment. 

For me, my prayer has always been that God would receive the glory.  If bringing attention to my life makes God famous, then I am willing.  Part of the reason that I am sharing this on my blog is so that I will have a written account of what God has done.  I so easily forget and so easily begin to rely on my own strength, instead of focusing on Christ and putting my faith in Him. 

If you are reading this blog, I hope you are able to see that God does miracles. And He does them through ordinary people.  Ask Him what He wants to do through you.  Is He asking you to adopt or be a foster parent?  Is He asking you to be a missionary?  Maybe He is asking you to lay aside your earthly treasures and invest in things that we can’t take to our grave anyway.  Following Christ is such an amazing adventure- a very difficult, sometimes painful- but amazing journey full of hope, love and eternal life! Seek Him!

Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things shall be added to you. Matthew 6:33