Gotcha!! Four fabulous years!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Four years ago, our beautiful daughter, Yana, came to live in our home and be a part of our family! Her story is a miracle of God's love and care. Truly, God meant for her to be in our family and we will always be grateful to Him for His mercy and kindness to us and to our sweet girl.

Shortly after we adopted Jadon in 2003, I had a strong sense that there was another child whom we were supposed to adopt. I didn't know much about this child, but I was pretty sure that she was girl. Of course, I thought that she might be in China and I imagined that she would probably be younger than the children that we already had. But God had different plans.

At this very same time, a little 5 year old girl entered the children's home in Ukraine. She was scared and lonely. She lived in this home for about a year and then moved to another children's home in Ukraine. Her paperwork got lost in the move, so instead of waiting one year until a family could adopt her (according to Ukrainian rules), she had to start the year over after about 11 months.

Back at home, I was praying and praying in regards to the child that God had laid on my heart. I was so sure that God had a child out there for us, that oftentimes when the phone rang or someone was at the door, I wondered if it would be someone who was going to tell us about our child!!

Those years were a mix of ups and downs for me. I had faith that God would fulfill His word to me, but sometimes I became very impatient to see the fulfillment come about. God had to do a work in me before I was ready to receive this child.

After two years in two different children's homes, God brought Yana to the United States. I can't go into details regarding what happened, because it is her story to tell or not to tell, as she feels comfortable. But, I can say that God moved mountains to bring her to us! We literally met out little girl at our front door (before we even knew that she was to be our daughter!).

On this day, four years ago, she came to live with us and join our family. What a joy it was to see God fulfill His promises in such a miraculous way. It was evident that God had already worked in her heart while she was in Ukraine. She loved to look at our children's Bible and draw beautiful pictures of Jesus. God had also worked in her heart and gave her a strong desire for a father. She had never had a father, and now she had a wonderful earthly father and was able to learn about and grow in her love for her Father in heaven. This next picture was taken a number of months after Yana had joined our family. It was the day of her baptism and we were thrilled beyond belief that she had chosen to follow our Lord.

Yana has grown so much in these past four years. She is a wonderful daughter and sister. She has a servant's heart and loves to do things for other people. She has an insight into God's love that comes out in the pictures that she draws. Here is one that she drew at about the same time as her baptism.

This next picture was taken about a year after she joined our family.

And here she is today. Thank you, Lord, for the precious gift of Yana! I am so grateful for her life, and so grateful that she is my daughter.

so proud of their mei mei

Monday, June 22, 2009

Grace wrote out this Father's Day card all by herself (by looking at a card that Yana had made). The other kids were so proud of her! They circled around her and ooohed and aaahed over her accomplishment. Here are some of their comments.
"Gray Squirell did such a good job!"
"Grace, you did that all by yourself?!"
"Mom, I think that Grace is a genius!"
They all spontaneously clapped and cheered for Grace. Then they wanted to videotape Grace signing her name to the card, and take pictures of her. They were VERY proud of her! When she gave her card to BaBa, they all wanted to let him know that she made this card all by herself. "We even have proof, Daddy!" After which they proceeded to show him the video.
Then, they all turned to me and said, "Mom! You should put the picture of Grace's card on the blog!!" How could I turn down that sweet request? So, on behalf of some proud gege's and jiejie's, I hope that you enjoy...

Happy Father's Day!

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Happy Father's Day, Dad!! I love you!!!!

And Happy Father's Day to you, David! You're a great Dad! I love you!!!

Homeschool Fun

Saturday, June 20, 2009

I just got back from the homeschool conference. It's so much fun to get new books for the coming year. We're using My Father's World (Creation to the Greeks) as our main curriculum again this year. I listened to a couple of talks by David Hazell and they were excellent!! I praise God for the example that he and his wife are to the Christian community. They have raised their children to truly love the Lord and love people. All six children are involved in missions and their familly gives over half of their income to Bible translation and other missions work. Check out their website at

I also really enjoyed hearing Andrew Pudewa speak. He has written an amazing writing curriulcum at He spoke about communincation, writing and also about gender issues and learning. It was such an informative lecture. I loved it! Did you know that toddler girls can actually hear sounds that are 10 times softer than toddler boys can hear? So, when your son doesn't even look up when you talk to him, it may be that he really can't hear you! Also, boys learn better in an environment that is 6 degrees cooler than girls. Really interesting stuff.

The kids went to a sports camp that was sponsored by a local church this past week. They had a great time and really learned a lot. I was a little worried that Lily wouldn't enjoy it (she is my girly girl, who likes dresses, dancing, music, etc.), but she had fun playing soccer with all of the girls.

Happy Father's Day to all of you dads out there!! We're looking forward to celebrating the incredible dad who lives here with us! What a blessing he is!!!

sensory issues

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Two of our children have dealt with some relatively minor sensory issues. This is very common for children who have grown up without regular affection and touch. Yana has outgrown these issues, for the most part, but Jadon is still very sensitive to light touch (in other words, he is extremely ticklish).
A few years ago, I read about "brushing," but at the time I didn't think much of it. I thought that it was just for children with severe sensory issues. But, after consulting an occupational therapist friend of ours, we decided to give it a try.
Jadon has responded wonderfully to this therapy. We firmly "brush" his back and limbs with this soft brush three times a day. We've only been doing it for a few days, but are already seeing great results. For example, I gave him a haircut on Monday, and he sat perfectly still without any complaining about the hair on his face, back, etc. This used to drive him crazy and it was difficult to cut his hair. Wow! What a difference this time.
I am writing this post in hopes that it will help parents of children who are in a similar situation. I'd be happy to answer any questions that you may have. Of course, it is best to consult an expert on sensory issues, but you could learn the technique very quickly and it is well worth the effort!! The one thing that I will add--you should never brush a child's head, face, chest or stomach. This can cause seizures in children who are already prone to seizures.
Blessings to you all from our less ticklish home today!!

Some thoughts on grace...

Sunday, June 7, 2009

So, maybe you noticed that the title of this post has a lower case "g" in the word grace. This post is not primarily about our new little sweetie, but it is certainly no accident that in the midst of God's teaching me about His abundant grace, He has given us our Grace. So, I'll start my story with Grace's name.

When we decided to adopt again, I knew beyond a doubt that our new daughter's name was Grace. This is not a name that I "have always loved" or thought that we would use for one of our children. I actually hadn't given it much thought, but when we saw our daughter's picture for the first time, I knew that her name was Grace. In a very diplomatic fashion (ha!), I said to David, "We can call her anything that you want. But, I know that her name is Grace."'s a guy to argue with that?!

So, fast forward through a heart-wrenching and difficult year, a year where we were going along some tough roads and were seeking with all of our hearts to be obedient to the One who loves us beyond compare, a year where we messed up on a regular basis and got back up simply out of faith in the One who is faithful, a year in which God was preparing us to--you guessed it--receive His grace.

It all started upon our arrival home from China. We had had an incredible journey and had returned home with a beautiful treasure. A couple of weeks later, on my first real prayer day after arriving home, I was talking to the Lord about some things that were discouraging me (illness, loneliness, etc.). He told me very clearly: But I am giving you everything that you need. I have been caring for you. You have been given grace. Yikes. Talk about a reality check. Here I was complaining when it suddenly became very clear to me that the God of the Universe was for me. He was caring for me and loving me at that very moment.

Over the next few months, God began pouring out His grace upon me in incredible ways. For example, in the midst of almost all of the families in our church getting the flu , I stayed completely healthy. In fact, during the typcial "sick" time of year, I did not have one illness. God also provided abundantly for us in our finances. We've always had "barely enough" or "just enough" and now we were constantly experiencing things like Jadon's dentist saying that he was going to write off his braces because of his cl/cp ($3000) and receiving three checks in the mail when we got home from vacation (none of which we were expecting). All of this was in the midst of David working very little. So, there is no way for us to even think that it was our doing. Oh no! It was totally God!

He also began showing Himself very present to me in my times of prayer. There has been a closeness in our relationship that I do not think I have ever experienced before. Our precious son, Adam, has also began to experience the radical closeness and presence of God. What a gift this has been!

Imagine, then, my surprise (and utter enjoyment) when during the lenten season, a friend at church said that the Lord had told her that we were going to be experiencing a season of grace. She spoke to the church and she must have used the word grace about 15 times. I was praising God! I had already been experiencing it and I knew that it was true!

Then imagine my even further enjoyment when, about a month ago, our pastor began teaching on grace. Oh, this is getting good now. I have been learning so much (but that's for another post...). I can hardly stand it! I want to shout from the rooftops! God's grace is abundant! He is so good!!!!!

The physical manifestations of God's love (finances, health, intimacy, etc.) were (and continue to be) God's grace to me. But I want to emphasize something. They were God's grace to me. Our God is very personal. He knows just what we need and just when we need it. He knows that I needed to see His love and grace in a very physical way right now. So, He poured it out. That's just how He is--an abundant lover. At other times in my life, He knew that the grace could only come as I emptied myself in humility and difficult obedience. So, I experienced His grace in discipline. There again, He poured it out (in kindness). That's just how He is--an abundant lover.

I know that this is a season (so cool that our friend at church also said that it was a season of grace, because it is what God had been telling me, as well). It is a season of preparation. God is always preparing us to love more. He is always preparing us to give. So, if I thought that the financial provision, or the health or His presence were just for myself, then I would no longer be receiving grace. The things that were a gift of His grace would become a curse. I can't wait to see how He uses this time to His glory!

One more thing...After church a couple of weeks ago, a friend came up to me. Grace was dancing around my feet. She said, "She's really God's grace, isn't she? Really. God's grace." Oh, our God is good! He couldn't let me know any more clearly! His grace is wonderful!

A Good Laugh

Thursday, June 4, 2009

I have always loved Jadon's laugh! When he was little he would laugh and laugh when I read the Kipper books to him. In this video, we were watching a video of a skit done on BBC. Maybe he has some British blood in him!

The spiritual life of children

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Since our children were young (or first adopted, if they weren't so young when they joined our family), we have talked with them about the goal of life. If you were to ask them what that goal is, they would all answer, "To love," or "To love God and other people." And truly, this is very often the motivation of their young hearts.

As our children get older, of course, we want them to "own" this goal even more. We are not satisfied that they grow up to be nice Christians, or good people. We want them to be zealous lovers of God--straight arrows in the hand of God, wholly committed to Christ and His Kingdom. But how does this happen?

Obviously, the Lover of Our Souls is the only One who can truly change each of our children from within. But, we can create an environment that says "no" to the values of this culture, and "yes" to the Kingdom.

When our children were very young, creating this environment meant exposing them to the things of God, teaching them obedience and loving on them as much as possible. As they get older, however, we know that they will need more. There are some things that we have been doing with our children (and I'll mention a few of them in a minute), but I'd LOVE to hear from YOU. Many of you have grown children. What have you done to create an environment of love in your home (especially as your children get older)? How have you spurred your children on to love the Lord with all of their hearts? I don't expect that anyone has perfect children, or that any one person has all of the answers, but I do know that all of you (whether you have grown children or not) have wisdom that I would love to hear!

So, here are some of the things that we have found to be helpful:

1) Time. We try to spend as much time with our children as we can, but here I am talking about focused, directional time with each child. David has had a pastoring time with each child, every other week, for years now. They talk about questions that they may have (spiritual or otherwise), things that they can do to grow in their love for God and others, prayer times, etc. This summer, I've started to have a time with each child once each week. We start our time talking about any questions or issues that they may want to discuss (again, spiritual or otherwise), and then we read a book together. It is a different book for each child, and they helped to pick it out. Each book addresses some spiritual need or question that they may have.

2) As we learn to trust the Lord more and more, we realize that He really is trustworthy!! We convey that to our children when we encourage them to ask the Lord to speak to them. We don't say, "Maybe He will." We say, "He will!!" God loves to speak to His children, so we trust that He really will speak to them. Then, when they have things to share that they think are from God, we take those things very seriously. Of course, there is a learning curve here. We all need time and help in learning how to discern God's voice. But, we want our children to know that God is real. He really loves us and having a relationship with Him means He really will speak to us.

3) We are trying to give our children real choices, where they can make mistakes in a safe environment. It is scary and discouraging when your children seem apathetic towards their faith, but we are realizing that if that happens, it does not help for us to get all worked up about it. For example, we have a family prayer time each day. The children used to have to join us for this prayer time. Now that they are older, they have a choice. They have to be ready to give their whole hearts in prayer, otherwise we ask that they read a book during that time instead. We don't get irritated with them, but we tell them that praying because you feel like you "have to" doesn't please the heart of God. We pray because we love God and long to be more like Him.

4) We try to help our children seek God's face first, and then to seek His gifts for the good of the Church. We absolutely want BOTH of those things for our children, but we want them in the right order. God wants to give spiritual gifts to everyone, but His first priority is a heart fully devoted to Him.

5) And, of course, we pray. Sometimes I can forget this simple thing. I love to pray. I love to praise and worship God. But sometimes I forget to pray for the hearts of my children. I was reminded of this when I asked a friend for some advice regarding one of my children. She reminded me that He alone, can truly change and form the inner workings of their hearts.

These are just a few of the things that we are doing. Again, I would really love to hear what you have done. What is the environment of your home like? How is Jesus glorified? I love reading some of your blogs, and I know that you have wisdom to share. May we all glorify God more and more!!

People and Places

Monday, June 1, 2009

We returned home on Friday from an eleven day journey to see family and friends. On the way there (and back), we also visited some fun places.
Our trip started out early on an early Monday morning. The kids were bright-eyed (and Rosemary was, too!). Grace enjoyed having Rosemary on her lap, but most of the time, Rosie sat up front with me (so much for taking her along as entertainment for the kids!! LOL).

We stopped along the way in Sioux Falls, SD. The hotel that we stayed in had a water slide. Sorry that I didn't get any pictures of that. The kids had a great time, and it was a good break in the middle of all of that driving.
We arrived in East Grand Forks, MN in the late afternoon on Tuesday. We hung out with Grandma and Grandpa, visited the library (we can't go long without a good supply of books!) and played outside.
Late Thursday night, the cousins arrived. Our kids were already asleep, so they didn't get to see the cousins until Friday morning. Grace met her cousin, Selah (who is also 4 years old) after she awoke in the morning. Grace instantly took Selah's hand and started showing her where Selah's pictures were on the walls of Grandma's house. Then, Grace decided that Selah needed her nails painted.

Cousin Kiah and Grace had a good time together, as well. The older cousins are all so wonderful and kind to their younger cousins.

Here's Kendra, getting her hair done by Grace. I know that you're all standing in line for an appointment to have this incredible style done to your own hair!

Adam enjoyed playing frisbee with his cousin, Cole. Look at that jump-over-the-fence catch!

Yana and Lily, hanging out with Selah (love the mei mei shirt!).

Being silly with Cole and his sweet girlfriend, Kelsey.

On Friday morning, after spending a little more time with my sister, Stephanie, and her kids, David and I drove five hours to visit with some high school friends of mine in Minneapolis.
From the left: Kristen, her husband and 6 adorable kiddos live in sunny Arizona. I haven't seen Krsiten for almost 20 years! She also homeschools her kids and she told me that she regularly reads our blog (but never leaves a comment!! maybe this time... :) ). Next is Julie. She is a newlywed of only one year. We're sitting on Julie's patio in this picture. She and her husband, Tomkin, were great hosts for this afternoon picnic. They are both so upbeat and fun! I'm next in the photo, and my friend, Heidi, is on the end at the right. Heidi and I have been friends since the first grade! We laughed a lot about our childhood antics. We loved to play that we were destitute children (go figure...we never pretended to be rich! LOL!). Heidi is pregnant with her third child. His name is Joshua.

A picture of the newlyweds.

Back at the Grandparent's homefront, the kids were doing great. We called on Saturday morning and Grace was just fine (it was the first time that we have left her overnight). I was glad that she had done so well, but thought that she'd miss us a bit more!!! So, when we were driving home on Saturday, and my sister (Angela) called to tell me that Grace was really sad (crying hard) and wanted her mommy, I was a little teeny tiny bit relieved (you adoptive parents will know what I mean here). She jumped into my arms when we walked in the door. That was good for this mama's heart.

The cousins and my sister, Stephanie, had left on Saturday. But, my sister, Angela arrived shortly after they left. Here she is, with all of the kids.

Girls always love Aunt Angela, because she plays dress-up with them, paints their nails, etc. Here is Yana in an old bridesmaid dress and Grace in another dress.

Neighbor, Hannah, and Lily in old prom dresses.

We had a beautiful day on Wednesday, and made the best of it at a park close by. Grandma, Lily and Grace enjoy walking through a flower garden.

Grace, on the swing. She just learned to pump herself, and was very proud of her accomplishment. This picture was taken pre-accident. A few minutes later, she fell off the swing and ended up with a big scrape on her chin and a cut inside her mouth.

We left Grandma and Grandpa's house on Thursday, and headed across South Dakota. We stopped at Wall Drug. The kids loved it! Here are Jadon, Grace and Yana on the Wall Drug Railroad.

Lily, on the back of a covered wagon.

Chief Adam.

Hey! Who's that strange looking squaw?!

A friendly man offered to take a family photo. Thanks so much to friendly people!

We spent the night in Rapid City. Every year we think that we are going to visit Mount Rushmore, but we never do. This year, we finally decided that we were going to do it. On Friday morning, we walked around Rapid City to see all of the statues of the presidents.
Here are the kids, David and Rosemary with Calvin Coolidge.

Grace, with John F. Kennedy's son.

After the "Walk of Presidents," we visited Storybook Island. Grace LOVED it. The other kids had fun too. Here they are on Noah's Ark.

Next, we visited Dinasaur Park. Adam climbs up! We had hot dogs (not a mom favorite) for lunch at the park. The kids thought that it was great!!!

Finally, we visited Mount Rushmore. Adam had read a couple of books about Mount Rushmore and was filling us in on all of the interesting facts.

We're so grateful that we could take this trip. It was fun to see so many interesting places, and especially good to see so many wonderful people. We truly were blessed on this little journey.

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