Sunday, December 30, 2012

I Will Battle On With a Peace Beyond Understanding

Recently, in regards to adopting a special needs child and since this fiasco has begun, I have been told things such as, "You're an amazing person" and "What you're doing is amazing" and "I don't know how you do it, you're incredibly strong."

I don't see it that way. It's just what God has called me to do and He is the one who gives me strength. Philippians 4:13 says I can do all this through Him who gives me strength.

I am a wife, a mother, and a special education teacher.

Most importantly, I am a child of God.

That is where my joy is found. That is where my comfort is found. But the God of our universe is not here for our comfort. He is here to be served. Ephesians 2:8-10 tells us For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith - and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God - not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God's handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

I am unworthy of His grace, love, and blessings, Some Russians have pointed out that Polina is NOT mine and I do not "deserve" her. It's true. She is mine only in my heart, but she is God's creation and it is only by His grace that we have come this far in this process and it will by His grace if I am ever to bring her home. All children are a gift  from our creator, and he calls us specifically to care for the orphan. James 1:27 says Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.

And so, I will continue to do what I can to show my love for Polina and to fight not only for her, but for all of the orphans. I believe this is what God wants me to do. Esther 4:14 says, "For if you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance will rise ... from another place, but you and your father's house will perish. And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?"

Since our first trip to Moscow and meeting the people of Russia, it has been clear to me that this adoption is about more than just Polina. I didn't know what that meant or that I would find myself here today. God knew this was going to happen and only He knows how it will end. God is in control of all things. This was not my plan.

Our plan is not always His plan. Our timing is not always His timing. Ours is flawed. His is perfect.

This law may be something temporary, just a set back until His timing is right for her to come home. But it may be eternity before I am reunited with the child who is my daughter in my heart!

I have to choose how I will react. I could withdraw and run away from God. but I pray that I will allow him to use me through this to bring others to know Him.

On our first trip to Russia, as we rode the Metro in Moscow, I commented to Jason, "These people need the love of Jesus." To smile or make eye contact with others was to stick out like a sore thumb. Forget the Walmart rule of greeting others within 10 feet as we walked the streets! We actually found ourselves trying to look down and to frown. But not always having walked with God, I understand it.

The people of Russia have endured, and continue to endure, much beyond what most Americans can comprehend. A Russian commented on my blog in reference to some unfriendly comments, "They were so long tortured, robed, raped, misled and deceived that they are not able to react as normal people. Forgive them they don't know what they are doing." I realize that sir, and I do forgive them as Jesus Christ set the example when he prayed on the cross about those who were killing him, "Forgive them Father, for they know not what they do."

An American commented on my blog that Americans and Russians would be the closest of friends, if we really had a chance to know each other. As an American who has met Russians and broken beyond the outside, I find that to be sooo true!

Philippians 4:4-7 says, "Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."

And so, I leave you today with a prayer.

Dear Lord Jesus, with heavy hearts, we rejoice in knowing that you are in control and you have a good and perfect plan for the lives of those who love you. Thank you that we have had the time we have had with Polina and the opportunity to open our eyes and hearts to the people of Russia. I thank you for her caregivers that love her so much for the the Russian people who have poured out their love and support to us! Lord, we ask that you remove our anxiousness, that you help us to rest in your ever-present peace. We ask that you move the hearts of those in power to do what is right, just, and holy. Speak to their hearts Lord and show yourself to those who do not know you so that we may be brothers and sisters in Christ! Finally Lord, protect the orphans as we know you are the father of the fatherless! Thank you for dying on the cross so that we may have eternity with you and that we have hope for that future absent of the pain and sorrow we know today. Amen.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Not in "The Six"

The roller coaster of emotion that has been the past couple of weeks since arriving in Moscow on Dec. 16th has taken another turn - a long, plunging, death defying drop!

It's the kind where your breath is taken away. When you feel you might loose your lunch.

I have discovered that Polina is not one of "The Six" that are spoken of. It seems that those are children whose parents have not only been through court, but whose 30 day waiting period is over prior to January 1st. There are far more than 6 families that expect to return in January to get their children...families who have already cleared court, but are not through the 30 day waiting period.

Why a 30 day waiting period? In case her biological parents come to get her. Her mother never even called to check on her welfare. I don't think she's coming to get her!

Let me say this. Communication is non-existent in this issue right now. Register with the State Department is all anyone has officially been told by anyone that I know. I know they don't want to tell us something and be wrong. But something, anything would be nice. Even if it is that they won't know anything until....... Could there be a light in the waiting?

I don't expect to hear anything until after January 8th. Do you know how far away that is? When you have to sometimes remember to breathe, it's a long way! Everything in Russia shuts down around New Year's. This year, they have 8 days of holiday after New Year's when EVERYTHING is closed. No one goes to work. And so, I don't expect anything can be done or figured out during that time.

I'm angry. I'm hurt. I'm sad.

I'm breathing. I'm resting in the promises of my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. It's all I can do. It's the only peace and hope I have!

Friday, December 28, 2012

How Did We Get Here & What's Next?

As of right now, this blog has had over 13,500 hits from over 35 countries since Wednesday. It's been translated and printed in Russian. I've been fielding calls and emails for interview requests from worldwide media. I can barely keep up with that much less the endless comments.

I want to say this to the Russian people. Thank you from the bottom of my heart! You are good people who want the best for your country. The comments I have received are overwhelmingly positive with only a few negative mixed in. My heart is with you!

I never could have imagined all of this! This isn't because of me. This is because of God! He is my father, and he is the father of the fatherless! If you do not know Him, I'd like to introduce you. Just leave me a comment!

He is the reason I am clam. He is the reason I have strength to continue on and fight for my daughter. He is the reason that though I'm scared beyond words for the safety of myself and my daughter, and for the fate of all orphans, I will continue to press on and fight for justice. We have an enemy in Satan. But we have victory in Jesus!

That's how we got here.

And as I predicted, President Putin signed the bill banning American Adoptions as I slept last night...committed to keeping all of my electronics turned off!

I haven't had time to cry since I awoke before 7 am PST.

So what's next?

It is my understanding from the current news reports in Russia that SIX children whose adoptions have been cleared in court will be able to come home. That would make my Polina one of six. For that, I rejoice. For the remaining 700,000 plus orphaned children in Russia, I weap that the number of families able to adopt them is being reduced and I pray that President Putin will make it possible for more Russian citizens to open their homes, and that you would answer the call to do that!

Russian people, you are amazing people. I pray that you would adopt your children into your homes. I believe that being adopted by Russian parents is good for them! I know the process is long and hard. I pray that your president makes it more smooth and possible for you. I know that your infrastructure isn't set up well for handicapped children like Polina and that it makes it difficult for families to care for them. Please understand that there are children in the "home for invalids" that are completely capable - far more than Polina. They can walk. They are smart. They understand far beyond what we give them credit for. Don't pass them up. Check them out!

Even if you can't adopt, you can help. You can foster. You can visit. You can volunteer. You can love. You can pray.

I wish I could write more now, but I have some other things that I need to attend to. But again, thank you from the bottom of my heart for your support. You have mine!

Thursday, December 27, 2012

The Russian People

I want Polina to be proud of who she is and where she came from. I want to watch the Olympics with her and cheer for the Russian gymnasts and figure skaters. Those are my particular summer and winter favorites, but we'll cheer for hers too!
Of course we have been taking pictures of her country like crazy to have for her. We hope to take her to some of the major landmarks and take pictures with her there when we go back to get here. That's the easy part.
I've been thinking about what I'm going to tell her about Russia to help her be proud of her heritage. The thing I want to tell her most about is the Russian people. They have endured so much over their lives - living during the Soviet Era, the Cold War, and then the tearing down of the Berlin wall and fall of the Soviet Union. Nevermind the harsh winters!
When you see Russians on the street or in the Metro, they may seem rough on the outside, but wouldn't you too? It's not their style to smile and say hello. But when you get to know them, you see that that is just an outer shell.
The Russians I have met have been kind, loving, compassionate people. They love their country and families. They have been welcoming and appreciative of us adopting a special needs child from their country. We have received many thank you's and well-wishes from the orphanage caregivers to people we meet on the streets. Even the orphanage director who told us directly that she doesn't agree with adoption of these children really wants them to have what's best. She just has different ideas of that than we do.
And so, I will tell my dear Polina that her people loved her, they cared deeply for her, and they wanted her to be in a family that loved her and could care for her. I'm so thankful for those people!

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Death Would Be Better

I've always felt there was nothing worse than a parent having to bury their child. I don't think that anymore. What I'm about to write might sound morbid. If you read to the end, you might understand why it's not. 
Frankly, I'd rather bury my child than leave her in "the home for invalids" where she currently resides. Let that soak in for a moment...the home for invalids. 
You see, my daughter is 5 1/2 years old. She knows me as her Momma. She loves me and I love her. But she doesn't know the love I have for her as her mother.  She doesn't know unconditional love. In fact, she was told by her caregivers more than once that I wouldn't bring her home if she acted certain ways. She believed that. 
And now, after promising her I would be back for her in a month and I would bring her to the home I showed her in pictures to meet her brother and be a member of our family, I might not be able to. She might be left to believe that I didn't come get her because she spoke in a disrespectful tone. 
I might have to leave her in a Russian orphanage where she will never know the love of a family because of a "tit-for-tat" law that is going to President Putin's desk today.
I sat in a court hearing where I listened to the letter her mother wrote..."I refuse to care for my daughter" it said. "I refuse to take her home." Twice more, "I refuse."
Her only known relative said the same. And the letters from the local agency again rang out again with the word "refuse" in reference to Russian families interested in adoption. Documents from the baby house and the "home of invalids" both confirmed no one had ever visited her or called to check on her welfare. No one...except for us. 
"Why do you want to adopt a child with such massive needs," the judge asked numerous times. "Do you understand her profound disabilities?" "Don't you know that your life will not be easy? You will not be able to come home and relax!" "I know you say you understand, but I must ask again, are you sure you understand and are willing to care for her?" 
Yes judge, we understand. Yes, we want her. Yes, we know it will not be easy. Yes, we still want her.
 We understand that if we don't adopt her, with her needs, she will not be adopted into a Russian family and at her age, the chances of another American family choosing her dwindle daily. We know that when you read the list of disabilities, it sounds daunting, but she is a very capable child and has great potential to be a productive citizen if give the chance of a family and the care she can receive in America. Besides all of that, we love her and she is already our daughter in our hearts. I wear a necklace and a bracelet everyday with charms representing our son, and her, our daughter. 
And so, on Christmas Eve, the judge granted our adoption petition. Her birth record would be changed to show me as her mother, my husband as her father, and her name Polina Joy Skaggs. 
But we couldn't bring her home yet. There is a 30 day waiting period for all parties involved to change their mind...for that biological family that has never visited or called to check on her to protest. I have all confidence that's not going to happen. We will return to Russia on Jan. 28th and pick her up on the 29th. She will be an orphan no more, and never again referred to as an invalid. 
Or will she?
If Putin signs this law, it is unclear if they will allow our (and others') already approved adoption(s) to go through. 
We might have to leave her, with no explanation as to why we didn't come back for her - not that an explanation would matter. 
And while the thought of never holding my daughter again brings me pain, the agony I feel is in what that means for her. 
There's the simple basic things - she's never had a bath beyond a sponge and shower head.
There's the things you wish you could give her like taking her to the beach and to Disneyland. 
There's the medical care she will never get to reach her full potential. 
And then there's the daunting future. No love of a family. Even worse, wondering why her Momma and Papa never came back for her. 
Worse than that, it's an extremely slim chance she would ever come to know the love of Jesus. She will never know that she is not "in-valid," but that she is the creation of God himself, made in his image!
There would be no one to care for her beyond her childhood years. The Russian government graciously provides a room in a flat for orphans when they age out of the orphanage. But with the corruption in the country, most do not ever get that room. They live on the streets. 
Think for a moment of the harsh Moscow winter. My prayer beyond food would be that she could find 56 rubles (just under $2) a day to ride the Metro where she's protected from the elements. But even if she had the money, she couldn't get into the subway. There is no handicapped entrance. Just long stairways that require two people to take a stroller in & out. And so, as you might imagine, even someone without a disability can't survive long in that environment. 
So you see, it's not so morbid after all. Death, instead of all of that suffering, would really be grace. 
It would be grace for me not to wonder forever who is caring for her, what she is feeling, if she is suffering. 
More importantly, it  would be grace for her. She would enter into the kingdom of Heaven as a child to learn the love of her Heavenly Father and sing & dance with the angels in streets of gold - after all, she loves music. 
I have no control. I'm on the other side of the world and I can't hold and comfort my daughter as I wait to hear if we will forever be separated. I have no choice but to surrender all to Jesus. All I can do is pray - not just for her, but for all of the orphans - and hopefully bring awareness of the problem to the world. I do not , can not & will not ever understand the evils of this world. I can only pray and encourage Christians as the hands and feet of Jesus to be involved in the world's orphan crisis in some way - foster care, adoption, sponsorship, financial and/or prayer support of those doing these things. Let your heart be broken for what breaks His. Visit and really think about those lyrics. 
In the meantime, I will pray, come Lord Jesus, come!

Monday, December 17, 2012

Finding God Amidst Tragedy

We are in Moscow for our second trip and I can't sleep. Thank you jet lag. It's 5:30 am and I've been laying in our bed thinking about stuff, looking at FB, reading other people's blogs for probably 2 hours now. I'm really not sure where this blog is going to go, so patience please. It will eventually lead back to adoption.

I've tried to shelter myself, and especially Carter, from the events at Sandy Hook Elementary last week. No TV, no radio. I know what happened, I read it on Yahoo! But I have committed to not looking at the painful images or getting into the politics. Imagine for a moment how much processing goes on there for me.

First, there was the fact that I am a teacher, and I most definitely would hide my students and take bullets for them.

Then came the accusations that this tragedy could be blamed on Asperger's Syndrome. I'm the mother of a child with Asperger's Syndrome and every one of you that knows Carter knows there isn't a bone in his body that could possibly....that he is the single most compassionate child & this would taunt him forever if he heard about it!

Next, comes up what I believe should be the true focus of the debates - mental illness. You see, my classroom is called the "Social Development" elementary classroom in our school district. It's a first-year program in my district. It's politically correct for behavior classroom. I teach kids coming out of local psychiatric institutions and day facilities and I can tell you the care they receive there is not sufficient, nor is the ongoing treatment as they transition out. THIS is where we need to focus as a nation. As individual families and the church, we need to focus on God.

(Now I'll get off my soapbox and wrap up why this is A LOT of processing for me and how it links to this adoption.)

Finally, this I the second time in my life that personal tragedy has been followed by national tragedy.

Just prior to Sept. 11, I had a miscarriage.

Just prior to Sandy Hook, I had a miscarriage.

The past nine weeks or so have been incredibly challenging for my family. A miraculous pregnancy, short and troubled, ended in financially straining surgery. Then Carter's medical issues increased leading to my husband & I having to take unpaid time off work, and a couple of trips to Kansas City Children's Mercy for procedures to find answers. Meanwhile, adoption paperwork was "lost" in-transit between countries. And while we are so excited to be back here for court to make our daughter ours forever, there's the financial strain of knowing we loose 2/3 of our income while we are here.

It's spiritual warfare and I will not succumb to it like I did the last time my life was met with tragedy. I will not run from God. I will not refuse to see the blessings He's showing us in the midst.

Satan wants me to question everything we are doing in answering God's call to care for this orphan and to reach out to the lost in the midst. He asks through other people how we are going to make it financially, how we are going to care for two kids with special needs. Satan is right. We aren't capable on our own. But we are through Christ. We have victory in Jesus.

He promised us in Jeremiah not to lead us to disaster, but to prosper us. In Romans, He tells us that everything will work together for the good of those who are called according to His plan. This adoption is His plan! We wouldn't be here if it wasn't! We didn't raise the money for both of these trips & agency fees because we are famous or beloved by many. We are here because God put us in the path of those He called to help.

Don't get me wrong, we have some amazing friends and family who have helped financially & prayerfully through the process. But 2/3 of what we've raised came from people we've never met. Our car is parked at the house of someone I met through this blog. We are staying with two families this week in Russia we never knew before this process started. This was all God's prosperous plan! We NEVER COULD HAVE IMAGINED or dreamed of the support we have found through this journey!

I could be disappointed I've only had one day donated at work to cover my trips. I could be devastated over the loss of life my husband and I created. I could be discouraged over Carter's health concerns. I could be depressed. I was in 2001.                                                                                        

But in God's name, I will rejoice. For He is in control & knows what I need so much better than I!

I will not let the smaller things that might seem huge steal the joy I have in Jesus. It's a choice to be made daily.

Look around today. Choose to find the blessings He's sent your way. They may not be as obvious as the ones I've written about, but they are there. Choose to focus on them. Praise Him in your storm & dance with Jesus in the rain!