I love Jesus. I believe Jesus. Jesus changed my life.

IMG_7668Those words are embossed on three bracelets that O. wears.

On this very holy day, as you are tempted to rush around to buy one more, rush one more, stress over one more thing–just stop.  Contemplate the mystery.  Contemplate the gift.

Jesus changed my life. Have you given much thought to where you would be without the gift of that baby in the straw?  Any eternal hope or joy or love you have–simply blown away like a Christmas Eve candle.

So spend today breathing in the mystery of the Incarnation. And exhale the weight of the world that you were never meant to bear. He is here. God is with us. That’s all that matters. Today and always.

All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said throughout he prophet, “The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel–which means, “God with us.” Matthew 1:22-23

Quick Photo Update

IMG_7653There’s nothing earth shattering to report, but I wanted to share a couple of great photos from today.

Today was Jeremy’s birthday. The love of my life and the best father I know.  After he got home from work, we ate cheeseburgers and fries and strawberries for dinner and then Jeremy opened a few presents.  Look at the smiles on these kids.  So much love.  They went out shopping and came home to make caramel corn and play checkers.IMG_7657

And one more great shot of all six kids. I love this picture.  I made an ornament for each of the boys with this photo.

Thanks to Babushka and Dadushka (Grandpa and Grandma) for the birthday visit and help with the puzzle.  Going to bed because–It’s so late it’s officially Christmas Eve!

Sunday Funday

Wow this was an action packed day!  I think the boys must be exhausted. I know I am.

IMG_7563We warned them that our church would be very different from their church. When we told them 1000 people, their eyes got really big.  I also told them that many people would want to meet them because they had been praying for them.  They were happy to hear that.  They had a chance to practice shaking hands and making eye contact and saying, “Nice to meet you. No English.”

After church we did something crazy. We got a new Christmas tree.  I don’t know what was wrong with the one we got Thanksgiving weekend, but all the needles were falling off in piles. It was either diseased or just a bad tree. Jeremy knows how much I love my Christmas tree, & so he determined last night that he was going to come up with a solution for me.

Twins and the two trees.

Twins and the two trees.

So today, we cut down another tree. Jeremy brought it in, strung it with new lights and we moved the ornaments over from one tree to another. While we were cleaning up the needles, The kids made delicious pretzel, Rolo, and M&M treats.  It was great to see the boys joining in to the fun in the kitchen. Of course the benefit of helping with treats is getting to be first taste-testers.


Making sweet treats.

Then, we went to Babushka and Dadushka’s house for dinner.  We also warned them there would be nearly 30 people there in the family.  They were pretty surprised by that.  I can’t imagine what they think about it all.  To be without a family of their own and to see so many families gathering together must be painful. They seemed happy though.


Marissa and V.

Thank goodness for children. They are so not self-conscious. They just dive into friendship with people with whom they cannot even speak. But they can smile, and laugh and play.


Emily and O.

While at Grand Central (what we call Grandpa and Grandma’s house), the kids played Uno, and War, and shot some pool.  The boys gave tacos a try, but I’m pretty sure they filled up on the ice cream.


Goofy cousins: Marissa, Stacey, Bri. Clearly the girls aren’t too shy!

When we got home, we played a quick game of High-Low.  O. said his highs were church and Uno. V. said his high was winning War.  O. said he has had no bad experiences so far.  V. said his low was when we left for church and forgot Marissa.  At least we only got about 5 blocks from home before we turned around!

The night is winding down. V is drifting off to sleep while O. and Jeremy carry on a Google Translate conversation about school and church and life back in their home country.  Thank you for your prayers as we continually desire to know how to best love these boys.

Big brother O. watching a game of pool with little V.

Big brother O. watching a game of pool with little V.

“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.” James 1:27

Day by Day

Well, another successful day with these sweet visiting brothers.


Marissa and V. doing dishes this morning.

The day began with a big breakfast of eggs, hash browns, toast and juice.  They eat everything we put in front of them and usually take seconds. I’m very glad they are not picky eaters! Our daily meal routine of practicing language around the table continued with talk of colors and lots of laughter.  I would like to publicly thank the inventors of Google Translate. Things would not be going this smoothly without it!


Elaborate LEGO castle by O.

After breakfast Jeremy split the six kids into three teams with various chores. Marissa helped V. unload and load the dishwasher. Jake helped O. clean a bathroom and take the dogs for a walk. After chores was some play time, which usually means LEGOs. O. is a master-LEGO-craftsman and has been working on one elaborate castle for hours.   But, when they are really lucky, they get some PlayStation time! All afternoon we were with the rest of the city at Target shopping before we came home to a hearty supper of spaghetti, fresh bread, and another Iowa Hawkeye basketball defeat.


Gamers gotta game.

We are settling into a routine.  What we are all going to do next week when Jeremy goes back to work, I’m not sure. He has been a wonder to watch.  After all we’d heard about how orphans would not be accustomed to a father-figure and would be intimidated by the man of the house, these boys have been treated to a great example of a dad, husband, and friend. They’ve never seemed stand-offish or afraid.


Playing our great new game Suspend by Melissa and Doug. Marissa, Jake, V, O, and Lizzy.

And speaking of people that completely amaze me–I would not want to leave out Jake, Marissa, Lizzy and Emily.  They are so welcoming, kind, and patient. They honestly put us all at ease.  I couldn’t be prouder of them all.  I love you kids. Thank you for sharing God’s love everywhere you go.

We are taking it day by day and minute by minute. We are so grateful for everyone’s prayers for our continuing patience and perseverance. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. 2 Peter 1:5-7

O&V’s Excellent Adventure–Day 1

2014-12-17 at 16-56-47So Day 1 is basically under our belts.  Wow, I’m exhausted and Jeremy did most of the “heavy lifting” today.  He was up before I was making pancakes and all psyched up to invest big time in our little friends.

I was pretty surprised to find they do not know any English.  That is a huge obstacle for me–but it seems the rest of the family is just going with the flow just fine.

Before the day was done we had learned many words in their language, and they practiced many words in English. Jeremy and the boys had sorted through all the donated clothes items and found everything that would work.  The older brother must’ve grown a bunch this fall because he is Jeremy’s height!  Very few of the clothes fit him.  Jeremy also took him out shopping and got his wardrobe pretty much complete.  Tomorrow we need to find shoes and one winter coat.

O., Marissa, V.

O., Marissa, V.

Younger brother V. played video games while Jeremy and O. shopped. I was tasked with stopping him after an hour. But since I fell asleep watching him play soccer, his allotted time got a bonus. Lucky break!

Lunch was the leftover pizza we ordered for them last night that they were too tired to eat.  Dinner was potato soup.  They consistently answer that No, they are not hungry.  But as soon as food is put in front of them, they eat it!

We pulled out the motherlode of LEGOs and they played contentedly at that all the rest of the day.  Our kids love making them laugh as we butcher their language.

I don’t know how two young men like this can travel all the way across the world, to a place filled with strangers and strange language and be so contented.  They are just so sweet.  And brave.

Now everyone is tucked in by the TV, watching Elf (Did you hear that???), eating popcorn, and drinking the coveted soda they asked for at breakfast. Night night!

A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.  John 13:34

The Adventure Begins!


After a 3-hour wait at O’Hare we have finally met the boys! O. Is super tall! And they both just have the sweetest smiles! Now for the 4-hour drive home. We are getting by so far on Google translate & the universal language of Despicable Me.

Lunch break at Cracker Barrel! Now we’re off to Terminal 5–International arrivals! Their flight is due to land at 2:30.

8:15am The four of us are on our way to O’Hare and six of us will return. We are tracking their flight KLM 611 on our phones & getting so excited to welcome V. & O. to our family for four weeks.

For those of you who are wondering how I’m feeling after my bout with flu/really yucky cold, I’m certainly on the mend…but another day or two with broth and marathon episodes of Chuck would probably be in order if I didn’t have TWO SWEET BOYS TO MEET TODAY!!!

So rest & recovery will have to take place from the passenger seat!

Hope to post more later!

Waiting, Wondering, Worrying…

The days fly by and the nights crawl.

2014-12-10 at 12-32-21

The mountain of clothes so many wonderful friends donated for the boys–sizes 8-16. Hopefully something fits!

I worry. The To Do list of things I need want to get done before our boys arrive from Eastern Europe is growing, not shrinking! Every day I think of another thing I should do to make our home as welcoming and comfortable for them as possible.  Buying their toiletries, getting their room ready, making sure I have foods on hand to which they are relatively accustomed. Sorting, folding, hanging the donated clothes we received!

And then there’s Christmas.  I’m less organized and less prepared than usual. Not swamped. Not going crazy. Not even joyless. Just a few more Christmas things still to do on my list than I had hoped by December 11.

But then when it’s time to rest for the night, my body is ready but my mind is not.  It keeps on rushing. Going through my mental checklist, worrying if every item there has made it to the physical checklist. Worrying if they’ll get their visas. Worrying if the children who live in my home will be as welcoming as I hope to as these children who don’t have a home.

But more than worrying, I’m wondering about the boys. Where are they right now? Are they excited or afraid? Will we be able to communicate? What is their story? Will they like us? Will we like them?  Will I ever be able to pack them on a plane and send them back across the ocean to danger and neglect without my heart breaking in two?

So, these days of waiting tick by. Not enough minutes to accomplish my work by day, not enough sleep by night. And I think, as I always do at Christmas, about the biggest waiting game of all.

The whole earth, hoping, groaning, waiting–for what? God’s timing. God’s time to accomplish what the prophets foretold and for which all faithful people had hoped. The “fullness of time.” The exact generation, the exact young woman, the exact town, the exact instant when our Messiah would come to this worrisome, wondering, waiting planet and redeem it.

That instant, history changed. God’s silence ended. The Word of God that said, “Let there be light!” was heard in the cries of a baby.  Oh the miracle! Joy to the world–the Lord has come!

Mary’s last few days before that first Christmas must’ve felt much like mine this year–waiting, wondering, and worrying. But when the fullness of time had come, and she looked into the face of the Son of God–and her son, how amazed she must have been.

And so today, I’m comforted to remember that the God who made Mary and me also made time. And He spends it perfectly to perform His mighty works–right here, in my time. His work in me. Christ in me. Oh the miracle! Joy to the world–the Lord has come! So I sigh, and smile, and go on.

But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. Galatians 4:4-5

Lending to the Lord

As we anticipate the adventure of bringing two orphan boys from Eastern Europe to our home for the holidays, I am learning many things.  Maybe the biggest is gratitude.

I could go on and on about how freshly-aware and grateful I am for the big things: My savior, my family, my freedom in America. And I could go on and on about how grateful I’m becoming for the little things that many in O. and V.’s situation don’t have: dozens of sappy Hallmark channel movies, more amazing books than I can ever find time to read, and a fireplace beside which to enjoy it all.

But today I’m considering the generosity of God who shares all these things with us.  It all belongs to him.  God announces:

“Everything under heaven belongs to me.”  Job 41:11.

and Paul asks this rhetorical question:

“Who has ever given to God that God should repay him? For from him, and through him, and to him are all things.”  Romans 11:35-36.

But I’m grateful not only for the generosity of God, but of so many wonderful people who have partnered financially with us on this journey.  Donations have poured in to our fundraising website, by check to our home, and in the very useful and equally generous boxes and bags of clothing we’ve received.

I nearly wept when my son’s good friend gave a gift of $50.  That’s a lot of money for a high school senior!!!  The lady who came to our home to officially interview us and assess that our home is a safe place for a host child to stay brought a practically new winter coat for us to give to one of the boys.

I could go on and on. Everyone’s gift is equally valuable to us because every gift came from a heart willing to give to the poor.  Not that we are poor.  But the boys we are hosting are literally penniless.

And this is where the mystery of God comes in.  Remember how he owns it all.  How no one can ever give to God and expect repayment.  I think God makes one exception.

“Whoever is kind to the poor lends to the LORD, and he will repay him for what he has done.” Proverbs 19:17

God has a special place in his heart for the poor, downtrodden, forgotten, and friendless in our world. And he has a special place in his heart for those who offer kindness to help even one of this world’s “losers.”

I want to thank every single person who has given with generous hearts to help O. and V.  come to our home.  We are in your debt.  And miraculously, so is God.

“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

The King will reply, “I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.”  Matthew 25:37-40.