Instead of focusing on the knowledge that my family is halfway around the world, I've tried very hard to focus on the gift and treasure that we have right here with us. It's been hard. There are so many pieces of home that I'm missing-- my husband and kids, our Christmas traditions, lights, friends, and celebrations, and teaching my kids at home about the reason for Christmas. I miss it all!!
It's hard to shift focus from all of that and focus on right here, right now. The blessings of Aleksa and Wesley. The blessing of Chris.
In fact, I haven't talked on here much about Chris at all. First off, she's a wonderful friend that willingly gave up 10 days-3 weeks (we knew it was a 'loose' timeline) of her life to come to Ukraine with me! She originally said something in jest about "I'd come help you bring them home." A few weeks later I brought it back up and she said she really just couldn't afford to pay for a passport and plane tickets, etc. I suggested that I need someone to come with me no matter what, so if she took care of the plane tickets and was really willing to come and help me, that I would take care of the rest. I knew that God would provide the finances since He has provided the need by having everything go through with Aleksa. Actually, at that time we didn't even know about Aleksa, but the faith in finances was still there and God prepared Chris to be willing to come. He knew I would need her!!
Well, He knew well! Chris has been the best traveling partner and child-helper and all around friend during this time!! She knew in general what she was getting herself in to, having ministered with Michael and I and been in family life groups together and just great friends over the past 10 years. She was a big part of our lives especially when we brought Emma and Micah home and though we've both been busy lately, our friendship has never waned. She knew through our first adoption experience that it would be long and hard days, the adjustment with the kids would be difficult, and that it would be a lot of unknowns.
She's taken it on like a pro :)
Chris has a patience that goes beyond even my own with the kids. She's been willing to take Aleksa potty while I'm feeding Wesley and to run all over in the freezing cold to get a phone card or a snack or whatever we needed with me and the kids. She walks VERY patiently with miss Prance-a-lot as we walk around and I push Wesley and carry him up and down the steps while Aleksa takes a painstakingly long time with each step. She's held Wesley when he's smelly and drooly and I'm bathing Aleksa and she's let me and him climb into her bed at 2am so that he didn't wake Aleksa up! Chris has endured crunchy rice-a-roni and not having time for us to eat breakfast on our way out the door. She's run out in the snow to get a diaper out of the car and down an icy hill at that. She's gone to the car another time to get my camera so we could get pictures of Aleksa with her old caretakers. She's endured my mindless singing and joined me in offkey (me not her ;) ) Christmas carols. She's watched late night movies and helped figure out Christmas gifts for my kids. She's held snotty kids and even wiped noses and butts. She's endured screaming until 10pm and the 3am parties of the apartment next door. She's been woken up at 4am by a crying boy and still got up with us all at 8 when Aleksa had to use the bathroom and now was "UP!".
God knew that I would need help and I knew that I needed someone that I wouldn't have to "babysit" while they were with me and that would roll with the punches. I couldn't have asked for a better traveling companion, friend, and dishwasher ;). It's been a hard 10, 11? 12? days and many ups and downs, including the disappointment of missing Christmas at home with our families. Through it all, Chris has a strong faith in Jesus Christ and knows she's here for His purposes just as much as mine.
I'm blessed to have her, to have the companionship and second set of hands that I so desperately needed during this trip. Though we're far from home and I miss my family, my oven, the ability to shop without carrying the groceries home, and most of all the accessibility (200 steps per day carrying a stroller with Wesley in it that is also loaded down with 5 liters of drinks isn't so fun!)... I am BLESSED to have Chris and so thankful that if I have to spend Christmas away from home, that I could have her with me!
Another HUGE blessing is our parents! Although I know that they do it willingly and that they've enjoyed this extra time with their grandkids, I also know that it has been MUCH busier for them than they usually are! Six kids to keep up with and they've all been out of school this week and had shortened days last week... Michael wasn't allowed to take additional time off after the 4 weeks he was in Ukraine, so though he's home in the evenings and weekends and early mornings, he's depended on our parents to help with the kids during the time he's at work each day. Today and Monday he has off, and again next Friday and the following Monday. But our parents put in 4 weeks straight WITHOUT us, sleeping at our home and being on 24-7 and then continued on for a week when Mike's home some but not all the time.
Our parents have stepped up to support us and are unwaivering in their care for their grandkids. MANY parents would be saying "what are you doing?" "why are you adopting again?" "don't expect us to help!" but our parents instead responded to our expressed interest in Wesley with "God has led you to the 6 you have at home, and you're doing well with them. You tend to bite off big projects but have done great thus far. There's no reason for us to question this if you feel God's called you to step out again." And they have supported us 100%. There's been no question to either set of grandparents that this is God's plans, and they are excited to finally meet Aleksa and Wesley as well.
It's been a long 2 months with travel back and forth for Michael and I and for Chris now as well. But though we're not home for Christmas, God has blessed us ABUNDANTLY!! He has provided for the temporary needs we have in caring for our kids so that Aleksa and Wesley can come home.
THANK YOU to Chris Harm, to Michael's parents Cecil and Peggy, and to my parents Marjorie and Bruce. We couldn't be here without the help of others who believe that we are following God's path for our family, and your support not just in words but in MAJOR DEEDS is such a blessing to us.
I'm thankful this Christmas for so many things. God brought his son to earth through Mary. As she rode along on a donkey to a foreign land at 9 months pregnant... away from her family and friends who I'm sure she anticipated helping her with the birth of her son... away from the familiar things she was comfortable with... she still rejoiced in His goodness at the birth of her long awaited baby boy. May we, too, have the grace to say "THANK YOU JESUS" as we sit in this foreign land away from the familiar to celebrate the birth of Christ with two new blessings who, through His hand, have been rescued. GOD is the savior-- the rescuer. May the peace and joy of Christmas abound in your house today and always, and may we each reflect upon the blessings and goodness which He has provided-- even in a 'less than ideal' circumstance!
MERRY CHRISTMAS FROM KIEV, UKRAINE!