Friday, March 23, 2012

Do Justice, Love Mercy, Walk Humbly

We are going to take a moment to not talk about orphans and Dima and just focus on another segment of the world's population in need.  People right in my own backyard.

For the past 6 weeks Eric and some other men from our church have faithfully gone to Panera Bread every Thursday evening to receive all of the leftovers from that day. Then, on Friday afternoons, Eric and another gentleman from our church have been faithfully going to a a motel here in Ocala where there is need.  They hand out the bread for free, pray with and for the residents and guests of the hotel, and share the Gospel.  My purpose in sharing this is not receive comments of praise, rather to share a bad attitude I have seen rampant in our society.  In essence, another spin on being a Monday Morning Christian.

This morning I awoke with my nice, warm, cup of coffee, the smell of pancakes being made, and the sound of laughter from my boys.  I slept in a comfortable bed, and have the luxury of AC in my home.  I am blessed beyond measure.  Then I read this article in the Ocala Star Banner: "Power Turned off at Ocala Inn".  I about spit out my coffee.  I recognized the name of the hotel where Eric goes every Friday afternoon!  I showed the article to Eric and he knew the one family mentioned in the article; the family that works the front office and makes $160/month.  We immediately began to make a bunch of phone calls and gather up some items for the people at the Ocala Inn.  Eric was also grateful for a generous donation from Panera Bread last night.  He wanted to show up this afternoon with an abundance of food and items to bless the people that live there, regardless of their situation and no strings attached.

The Ocala Inn is not a 5 star hotel by any stretch of the imagination.  There are some people that live there because they cannot afford anywhere else to go.  Eric has even seen a pimp beat on a man who was there to visit a prostitute.  Not really a place where people would willingly go to rent a room for a family vacation.  But week after week Eric and another man go and they have come to know some of the people there.  The people are being met where they are at.  Eric and his friend are bringing Jesus to them. 

After Eric left to head over to the church for the day I went back to read the article again and then scrolled down to the comments section.  Generally, people left comments about how they felt badly for the people at the hotel, especially the children.  There was one comment, however, that showed a calloused side.  Allow me to share it with you:

"OMG...The people portrayed in the pictures number one...don't need to have any more kids...number 2...should quit 7 dollars a pack...think of your kids and do something better with the money rather than waste it. Imagine the savings they would have after one month!".

I read that and bristled.  Sure, smoking is a filthy habit. I totally agree with that.  And the number of children that the one couple has?  Two (to me that is not too many- most of my friends have at least 4 - ha ha!). But the person who made this comment obviously has not met the people in the pictures that accompanied the article.  My husband has.  He knows their story.  Would Jesus just ignore someone because they smoked?  Somehow I doubt it.  After all, Jesus dined with the sinners.  He met them were they were at.  He sought them out and showed them mercy.

It is so easy to judge someone or a situation.  So very, very easy.  We can sit back, read the article and think of all the reasons why someone might be in that situation.  Drugs?  Alcohol?  Prostitution?  Sure, some of those things may visit that hotel more often than not, but that is not the case for everyone at that place.  No matter, however, Jesus commands us to love our neighbors as ourselves (Mark 12:31).  I do not know if the person who made that comment is a Christian, but sadly I've heard my Christian brothers and sisters make similar comments.  I, too, have been just as guilty.

Do Justice:  Help those that cannot help themselves.  Or help someone in a way so that they CAN help themselves.  Have you ever heard the saying. "Give a man a fish and he will remain hungry.  Teach the man to fish and he will never be hungry again"?  Sometimes we have to give someone the "fish" a few times so he can trust us to teach him.

Love Mercy:  Have mercy on people even if they do not deserve it.  Newsflash:  nobody on this earth deserves to spend eternity in heaven.  But God had mercy on us as a human race and sent Jesus Christ to be a living sacrifice.  Only by accepting Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior can we receive mercy (John 3:16).  So if we have received this wonderful gift, why not share it?  Who are we to decide who gets saved and who doesn't?  If people didn't go to where the sinners are, how are the sinners receiving mercy?  Sadly, I would like to also point out that there are even people in our churches that need mercy, too.  Often we just write them off and withhold the love and mercy that they are to receive.

Walk Humbly:  To be honest, what I get from those two words are this: that just because you and I may be saved does not mean that we are better than anyone else.  We must not forget that at one time we were ugly before the sight of God, too.  Unfortunately we still sin and need to seek our Lord's forgiveness.  When we approach someone who may be in sin and hurting (sin and hurt usually go hand in hand) we must not be the hellfire and brimstone preacher.  Yes, speak the truth, but in love.  Humbly.

That being said, I personally challenge you, wether you are a Christian or not, to "do justice, love mercy, and to walk humbly".

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Our First Visit to Shands

Today we took Dima to Shands in Gainesville, FL for a surgical consultation with a general pediatric surgeon.  The purpose was to discuss the hernias that Dima has in his abdomen and groin as well as see if Dima was going to have to be circumcised.  Overall the appointment went very well, we loved the surgeon, and we had some good news; and one surprise.

Getting Dima to any sort of medical appointment is a skill set that only other parents of children with special needs would understand, especially fellow Reece's Rainbow mommas.  Given Dima's lack of medical care over the past 7 years of his life, he has had to see lots of doctors and go through some uncomfortable procedures.  In January we started off with the dental work that needed to be done and that was rough on all parties involved.  From that point on, any time we have had to take Dima to a doctor he gets rather upset- understandably.  Today was no exception.  We had prepared him last evening that today we would be going to a doctor so upon his feet hitting the floor this morning, all he would say was, "BoyashchiÄ­sya!".  In Russian that translates into, "Afraid!".  Poor little guy.

On our hour long ride to Gainesville poor Dima's tummy was upset and he had to stop a few times to use the bathroom.  I seriously was not sure that we would make it on time!  But we eventually made it to the medical plaza.  As soon as Eric stopped the car to drop us off at the front door Dima started to fuss.  He was not going to have any part of seeing another doctor.  I gently reassured him that everything would be O.K. and we made it to the second floor.  At the door to the office, however, Dima began to wail.  To hoot.  To holler at the top of his lungs.  My initial knee-jerk reaction was to try to get Dima to stop, but then I looked around.  Over 90% of the patients were little ones with special needs.  Tears sprung to my eyes and I instantly felt relieved.  Dima was in good company.

The nice receptionist at the front desk got us checked in lickity-split and Dima was eager to get away from any human that was not mama ASAP!  So we sat down and he wailed some more until daddy came to save the day.  Eric got out the iPad and the two of them played Hungry Monster until we were called back.  As the two of them played their game I looked carefully around the waiting room.  I saw maybe one typical child and the rest all had one special need or another.  Gratitude overwhelmed me as I thought about all of the little ones waiting for families who also desperately need medical care.  Friends, we are so blessed here in the United States with the availability of medical care for our children it is not even funny.  Many of the children were in wheel chairs and I watched their mothers attentively tend to their needs.  Once again my mind wandered back to some special little faces that I met while we were in the Ukraine.  They all deserve the same love and attention.  My next thought was that this would be a rare sight to behold in the Ukraine- a waiting room full of special needs children!  Tears clouded my vision and I just thanked the Lord in my heart for all that He has provided for our family and for Dima.

We were soon called back and it was time for Dima to be weighed and measured.  The nurses all flocked to see this spunky little boy called Dima.  Why did he not speak English?  Why was he so tiny for being almost 8?  Did he really survive a Ukrainian orphanage?  Did our family actually choose to adopt a child with Down Syndrome?  Eric and I were so blessed to be able to share Dima's story with anyone who would listen and share the ministry of Reece's Rainbow.  This was a very eye opening experience for the nurses.  I was so pleased to share with them that Dima has gained over 10 lbs. since his arrival home six months ago.  The nurses gasped.  He only had weighed 34 lbs.  He is now almost 45 lbs!

After that excitement we were taken back to an examination room.  Shands is a teaching hospital affiliated with the University of Florida so we saw a new doctor and a med student.  They took some of Dima's medical history and did an initial exam.  The new doctor, we'll call her "Dr. K.", was just flabbergasted at Dima's history.  I think she truly thought we were nuts but she kept giggling at Dima as he tried to make her laugh.  I mean really, how can you NOT love Dima?  The med student, whom we will call "Dr. A.", was so kind and sweet with Dima.  He let Dima do fist bumps, high fives, and Dima even got to tickle him.  So far, so good.

Dr. K and Dr. A took a look at Dima's abdomen first.  After them asking several times just where this abdominal hernia was, they could not find it.  The embassy doctor in Kiev had made me feel exactly where it was so I offered to show them myself.  I poked on the spot where I knew that it was and put Dr. K's hand there.  She poked.  She prodded.  She shook her head and said, "No, there is no problem there. It is possible that it has corrected itself."  I was so happy!  What wonderful news!  One less place that needs to be cut open!  With all of Dima's active play outside he strengthened the abdominal muscles.  He has also gained weight and is not malnourished.

Next was Dima's groin.  There is indeed a hernia there and it is in need of being fixed sooner rather than later.  Apparently if this was left alone and not taken care of, there could be future bowel obstruction.  That would NOT be good.  It will also be in Dima's best interest to be circumcised since he is not very good at keeping his winky clean.  At that point the actual pediatric surgeon came in.  We will call him "Dr. I".  Dr. I was excellent with Dima and also examined the abdomen and groin.  It was then confirmed that yes, Dima will absolutely need surgery on his groin and not his abdomen.

As Dr. I was asking about Dima's neck and breathing, I mentioned that Dima's tonsils were HUGE and I hoped it would not cause a problem with Dima being put under anesthetic.  No sooner did I finish my sentence Dr. I determined that the tonsils would be a more pressing need and that the tonsils, adenoids, circumcision, AND hernia would all be taken care of in one fell swoop.  In other words, when Dima has surgery, it will be all done at once.  OUCH!  So in the next week or so we will return to Shands to have a consult with the pediatric ENT and then schedule the big surgery from there.  Dr. I. was so adamant about getting this all done at once he said that if we did not hear from the ENT by Wednesday of this coming week, to call him and he will personally call the ENT and get the appointment.  Eric and I were floored!  What a wonderful doctor!

Now I'm sure that some of you are thinking, "Oh my stars!  Poor Dima!  All of that at once?!".  Yes, poor Dima indeed.  But friends, you must realize that 7 years of medical neglect is serious.  You see, if we had not had the hernia in Dima's groin checked it could have led to something much more serious.  If we neglect to have Dima's tonsils removed he will only continue to have trouble eating solid food.  One cannot possibly fathom the seriousness of medical neglect until you see with your own eyes.  Dr. I. was in complete agreement that the neglect that Dima suffered simply because of his circumstance took a little bit of a toll on his little body.  He, too, like the nurses, was so intrigued by Dima's story.  Dr. I and Dima became fast friends.

Our appointment was over seemingly as soon as it begun and we soon found ourselves walking back out.  As we were exiting Dima stopped a few times to talk with some of the other little ones that were there to see one of the doctors.  One little boy in particular caught Dima's eye.  He was a little boy who looked to be about 9 in a wheelchair.  The little boy was strapped in and was wearing a helmet and an older gentleman was standing next to the little boy.  Dima went right over to the boy and said, "HELLO!  I love you!".  The older gentleman was so touched by Dima's kindness and introduced the little boy to us.  The boy's name was Reece.  Again, tears spring to my eyes and I shared with the man that we found Dima through a ministry called Reece's Rainbow and briefly told him about the ministry.  In turn we learned about Reece and how he was blind, could not hear well, and not really "all there".  It was just one of those divine appointments and we were so grateful to have met Reece.  When we were back on the ground floor exiting the medical plaza a blind, older woman was sitting in a wheelchair and she looked utterly miserable.  Dima marched right up to her and said, "HELLO!  I love you more!".  The dear woman's face just lit up and while she couldn't see Dima, we could see that her day had just turned around.  It brought us joy, too.

Since Dima was so well behaved and kind to others we rewarded him with lunch at Olive Garden.  His favorite food is spaghetti.  It was a super special treat indeed as he just savored every moment and every bite of his meal (and some bites of our meals, too!).  Eric and I were just in awe at how much he has grown in a mere six months.  Again, gratitude overwhelmed our hearts and Dima led us in prayer.  While Dima's speech is not always clear, and at times he still chooses to use some Russian and Ukrainian words, we could hear plain as day that he prayed for the doctors.  We were speechless.  Friends, all I can say is that with God, ALL THINGS are possible and in six month's time Dima has learned how to pray for others.  WOW!

Gratitude seemed to be the theme of today.  Gratitude for medical care, gratitude for Dima being a part of our family, and gratitude that Dima is in a society where he is loved and accepted for who he is, not warehoused away somewhere left to die.  We ended the day with the first swim of the year in our pool and we had fun splashing in the chilly water.  Life for our family is just so much better for having Dima in it and the experiences that come along with having a child with Down Syndrome.  Down Syndrome is not what defines who Dima is, but it is certainly part of who he is.  God is using that aspect of Dima's life and blessing so many others as a result.  I then think of the family in Oregon who sued their doctor for the wrongful birth of their daughter with Down Syndrome.  Really?  She was a mistake?  Because the God of the universe makes no mistakes.  I am grateful that Dima is ours.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

'Morning, Megan!

So often families feel that they are unable to adopt due to the costs involved.  But this morning, friends, I would like to share with you an opportunity to adopt where the majority of cost already taken care of.  I would like to introduce you to Megan.

Megan was born in December of 2005 and is now 7 1/2.  She has blue eyes, light brown hair and is active assertive, and social.  She has Down Syndrome, needs her vision corrected, and has some heart issues.    But things are not good for Megan right now as she has already been transferred to an institution- not a good one (is there even a such thing as a good institution??).  The chances of her surviving into adulthood are not all that great, and she needs a family to step up right now!!  Megan deserves a chance at a happy life, not a life confined to an institution where there is little hope.  She should be in a family playing, being loved on, and thriving to the best of her ability.

Don't think that is possible to rescue Megan?  Her grant currently has $23,865.50!!!  That is almost a FULLY FUNDED grant!!!!!   If you want to commit to Megan, however, you do need to be home study ready since she has already been transferred.  With God, all things are possible!!!!

Please share Meagan with your friends and family. Pray for her, pray for a family to come forward, and please donate to her grant with Reece's Rainbow.  Even a mere $5.00 will make all the difference.  To donate please click HERE.  The more money in her grant, the easier it would be for a family to commit to her.  Are you her family?  Are you willing to take that step of faith?

Can you be a Monday Morning Christian on a Wednesday morning for Megan's sake?

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Another One Found! Who Is Next?

I awoke this morning to learn that precious Lilianna has been found!  It was not able to be our family but I am just beyond thrilled that she HAS a family!  She deserves another chance at life.  Her new family will be beyond blessed as they have found a treasure.

But there are so many more treasures out there.  So many more deserving little ones; the least of these.  Today I would like to introduce you to a young lady that is running out of time.  Her name is Bernadette.

She was born in November of 1996 and has Down Syndrome.  Despite the fact that she is 15, she is the size of an 8 year old and a petite one at that.  Bernadette is described as being friendly, sweet, and energetic.  She enjoys playing with dolls and watching cartoons.  She would make a wonderful daughter to a family who can be patient and provide the long term care that she would need.

But time for sweet Bernadette is running out.  She can only be adopted if she finds a family before November!  After that, any chance of her having a life in the outside world is zero.  She would be behind the same four walls until she would pass away.  Is that any sort of life for a sweet girl such as Bernadette?  Is it the life for ANY child?

At this time Bernadette's grant with Reece's Rainbow has $10,521.00 available to a family that is home study approved.  Is that your family?  If not, would you please consider making a tax-deductible donation to her grant to help ease the financial burden for a family that is willing and able to rescue this sweet girl?  You can click here to go to Bernadette's page.

Can you be a Monday Morning Christian on a Tuesday morning?

Monday, March 12, 2012

Six Months Ago Today

Could it even be possible that six months ago today I landed in Orlando, FL with a very tried and confused little boy who had no clue what was about to hit him?  Six months ago today Dima walked into our home for the first time and was petrified of our dog, Jax.  Now they are best friends (most of the time).  Six months ago today we had a little boy who would wander around the house all night flipping lights on and off and then deciding it would be a swell idea to take Jax for a walk at 2:30 in the morning- in nothing but underwear and a ball cap.

And then God began to work on a masterpiece.  Day after day, little by little, a scared little boy became a confident, happy, adventurous little boy who loves life and lives it to the fullest.  Dima grew stronger physically, has begun to speak primarily English (sans a few of his favorite Russian/Ukrainian words), and loves to make people laugh.  Dima is beginning to understand that he has a Heavenly Father who loves him so much and every day Dima wants to go to church.  Six months ago Dima had no idea who Jesus is.

Some did not consider our adoption a mission.  I disagree.  Dima is a lifelong mission that the Lord placed into our home.  ALL of our children and families are missions.  Dima just happened to be on the other side of the world and we had to ransom him home.  As the days and months pass by I can see Dima ministering to others.  Maybe it us we who are abundantly blessed not the other way around.

I remain in awe of my God.  Without Him Dima would not be here.  My life would not be quite as full with love and laughter.  Jeremiah, Elijah, and Nathan (Sammy) would be missing out on another playmate and the chance to learn patience.  I would not have met some amazing people both here in the States and over in the Ukraine.  My life would be just fine, I'm sure, but there would certainly be something missing.

Eric and I are thankful for the past six months and all that has come along with it.  It has not been all sunshine and roses, but each day brings refreshment and the opportunity for us all to "get it right".  Dima is given the new opportunity to learn and grow as are each and every one of us.

I wanted to post some videos from when we met Dima and coming home.  The last video was taken last evening in our church nursery.  The difference in his communication is amazing.

But for many more littles ones, the harsh reality for them is that they wake up in a hopeless place each and every day.  They learn not to cry as nobody answers.  They learn not to show emotion or simply forget how to have feelings.  Their bodies stop growing and children that are 6, 7, 8 even 12 years old are the size of an 18 month old.  When a little one turns 4 or older they are removed from the baby houses are put into adult mental institutions.  They are essentially "warehoused" and left to exist.  If you even want to call that existing.  Dima is 7 1/2 and was beyond blessed to still be at Orphanage 18 when we went to rescue him.  He was loved there, taken care of as best as they could, and I know that is not the case for every child in that place.  I saw so many little faces each and every day that called out to Eric, Carol, and I, "Mama!  Papa! Mama!  Papa!".  They would longingly watch Dima play with us and while I relished every moment with Dima, my heart ached for those sad, little faces.

One face in particular haunts me to this day.  Sweet, sweet Lilianna.

As I said in my previous entry I only saw her for a brief moment as she was being carried down a hallway, but she had a profound impact on me.  In her eyes I saw utter desperation.  That morning I did not know that she was actually being re-listed with Reece's Rainbow but after a few days and a flurry of emails I learned who she was.  Sadly I never saw her again nor did I know the amazing story behind her short life until after I arrived back home in the States.  I am pleading on her behalf for a family to come forward to rescue her.  Her health is not the best, and she will need lots of TLC, but I am pretty certain that the positive well outweighs the negative here.  Just as Dima is a blessing to us, Lilianna would be a blessing to the family meant to be hers.

Can you help Lilianna have a similar happy ending as Dima?  Can you make it possible for Lilianna to have a 6 month home blog entry with a ton of videos?  Can we change this picture above to a happy, healthy, smiling little 3 year old?

Click here to make a tax-deductible donation to her grant so a family can be blessed and Lilianna's life can be saved.

In the meantime our family remains eternally grateful for all of the donations we received towards our adoption of Dima.  He is an eternal investment that has amazing return!

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Love for Lilianna

Awhile back I posted an entry about a precious little love, Lilianna, who currently resides at Dima's orphanage.  She is breathtakingly beautiful and is a survivor.  You see, she had a family commit to her awhile back and in the midst of the process the family was told that they could not adopt her.  Lilianna was not expected to live.  While Eric and I were in the Ukriane this past summer Lilianna was being re-listed with Reece's Rainbow and so many people rejoiced that Lilianna had survived.  This meant that she had a second chance!  All fall I gazed at her picture, prayed for her, shared her story, and even desired to be her mother.  The Monday after the Superbowl a family finally committed to her and we rejoiced with them, prayed for them, and continued to donate to Lilianna's grant.

Shortly after the new family had committed the family who had originally committed to her arrived at Orphanage 18 to adopt a different child.  The family was granted the opportunity to love on Lilianna and the picture you see here was during that time.  Just look at this precious girl!  Can't you just imagine a smile on her face?  She is s survivor!  God has mighty plans for her!

But last night, to my astonishment, I learned that Lilianna had been re-listed on Reece's Rainbow and was once again available to be adopted.  I do not know what happened to the family that had been committed, but I am praying for them and am praying for Lilianna.  No, I am doing more than praying for her.  I want to be a part of God's awesome plan for her life and help this little one find a family.  I want to help raise money for her grant so a family CAN commit to her and rescue her.

I am asking anyone who calls themselves a Christian to be a moving part of the body of Christ and help be part of an amazing story that God is writing for Lilianna's life.  I've heard so many excuses as to why people cannot or will not help with someone's adoption.  To be perfectly blunt there are really NO good excuses.

"I can't afford to financially contribute."  REALLY?!  Not even $1?  Because God can take your $1 and multiply it into many more.  Dima is proof of that.  Maybe give up one Starbucks run or one pizza night.  That is really not asking too much.

"It is not my responsibility."  I disagree.  Please refer to the Scripture at the top of my blog (Proverbs 24:12).  You are certainly held responsible by God.

"I do not agree with International adoption."  That is fine.  But do you care about humans in general?  Do you care if innocent children die?  Just wondering.

"We can't save them all."  True.  Technically one person cannot save all 147 million orphans (probably many many more than that), but if we work together we can make a difference one orphan at a time.  It is Lilianna's turn, now!

So there is my blunt, truthful, and direct entry for Lilianna.  Love for Lilianna.  That is what I have for her.  I've been where she lives. I've seen the good and the bad of Orphanage 18.  We are blessed and thankful that Dima had wonderful care there.  Eric and I are also well aware, however, of some situations that are not at all like what we experienced.  We are concerned for Lilianna's health and safety and are praying in earnest that someone will take that step of faith towards their new daughter.  She deserves more than a second chance at life.

Can you be a Monday Morning Christian for Lilianna?  If you wish to make a tax-deductible donation to her Reece's Rainbow grant, please click HERE.