Where You Belong–Thoughts on Genesis 15

 FullSizeRender.jpgI was reading this chapter this morning as part of my daily reading plan. I love this chapter. I love how at the very start of human history faith is what saves us. And how one second after Abraham’s belief is counted to him as righteousness, he questions God with a doubtful, “How can I know it’s true?” And how God’s gracious response to that ever-present human tendency toward doubt is He makes a covenant with Himself while the recipient sleeps. It’s all Him.
But something jumped out at me that I hadn’t noticed before.  After Abraham, the father of the faithful, who was just counted righteous for believing God and then in the next breath says, “Prove it.” After that, God answers him:
“I am the LORD who brought you out…”
When I read those words I don’t associate them with Abraham.  I recall Moses and Israel and the great Exodus from Egypt.  Deliverance from slavery through the wilderness and eventually triumphal entry into the Promised Land.  And an annual Passover to NEVER EVER FORGET, “I am the LORD who brought you out…”
But here we are, hundreds of years before that great Bringing Out, and God is telling Abraham the same thing.  It’s all ultimately His story into which He invited Abraham.  And Abraham’s chapter– it started way back when when God brought Abraham out.
And I thought, that’s just like God, always bringing His people out.  Out from bondage. Out from sin. Out from loneliness. Out from fear.  Out from wherever we don’t belong and leading us into wherever we do belong.
And how can I not also think of our two new boys? They too are being led out and being led in.  This ancient story is made new for their lives.  Everything familiar is in the rearview.  But the future, where God is leading them, as difficult and scary as it may be, is love, and family, heritage and belonging.
And for all of us, it is beneficial to stop once in awhile and look back. Look at our history. We’ve been brought out from someplace and been brought into someplace.  Do we see the hand of God in our bringing out?  Do we trust Him as He is writing us into His Great Story?  Even if at this moment we are in a wilderness?  His story is a story of deliverance. Always delivering. Always moving each of us to where we ultimately belong.

Genesis 15 English Standard Version

God’s Covenant with Abram

1 After these things the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision: “Fear not, Abram, I am your shield; your reward shall be very great.” But Abram said, “O Lord God, what will you give me, for I continue childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?”And Abram said, “Behold, you have given me no offspring, and a member of my household will be my heir.” And behold, the word of the Lord came to him: “This man shall not be your heir; your very own son shall be your heir.” And he brought him outside and said, “Look toward heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to number them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” And he believed the Lord, and he counted it to him as righteousness.

And he said to him, “I am the Lord who brought you out from Ur of the Chaldeans to give you this land to possess.” But he said, “O Lord God, how am I to know that I shall possess it?” He said to him, “Bring me a heifer three years old, a female goat three years old, a ram three years old, a turtledove, and a young pigeon.” 10 And he brought him all these, cut them in half, and laid each half over against the other. But he did not cut the birds in half. 11 And when birds of prey came down on the carcasses, Abram drove them away.

12 As the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell on Abram. And behold, dreadful and great darkness fell upon him. 13 Then the Lord said to Abram, “Know for certain that your offspring will be sojourners in a land that is not theirs and will be servants there, and they will be afflicted for four hundred years. 14 But I will bring judgment on the nation that they serve, and afterward they shall come out with great possessions. 15 As for you, you shall go to your fathers in peace; you shall be buried in a good old age. 16 And they shall come back here in the fourth generation, for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete.”

17 When the sun had gone down and it was dark, behold, a smoking fire pot and a flaming torch passed between these pieces. 18 On that day the Lord made a covenant with Abram, saying, “To your offspring I give[c] this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the river Euphrates, 19 the land of the Kenites, the Kenizzites, the Kadmonites, 20 the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Rephaim, 21 the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Girgashites and the Jebusites.”

Ukraine Trip #2

This is a long, detailed description of our second adoption trip to Ukraine–a place that is so different in some ways and so alike in others. 

TRAVEL DATES: December 16-19, 2015

Agenda:

  1. December 16-17: Fly to Kiev
  2. December 18: Go to Court
  3. December 19: Fly Home.

This was a whirlwind trip. The purpose of this trip was to go to Ukrainian court where the judge would rule on our petition to adopt. I’ll save you the suspense:  She ruled in our favor. More on that later!

Some of the sights as we drove into Kiev from the airport.

In some places there is on-street parking, but in some places, you just jump the curb and park on the sidewalk. The traffic when we arrived in Kiev was terrible.  In this case there was one intersection that never really cleared between green lights. Cars filled the intersection so cross traffic just inched forward between whatever gaps they could find!

Architecture is so incredibly ornate. I wish I had been there with warm weather and my Canon. I would have loved walking these streets taking photos.

We stopped at a market on our way to the apartment and it was so interesting.  You serve yourself from the frozen food sections:  Taking as much frozen broccoli or fish or pasta as you want.  Or just pick a package of caviar off the end cap.

We stayed in a different apartment this time. The location was spectacular because we were just a few blocks from The Maidan (Independence Square). Jeremy spent several hours working on performance reviews for work. Having to take so much time away from work is hard for him, so I was glad that he was content to stay up until 3 AM (7 PM CST) to be productive.


When we came out our apartment door and looked to the right, we could see St. Sophia’s Cathedral. (Seriously, if I could just walk around and photograph the many cathedrals in this town…)  Turn to the left and you will see the famous glass dome roof of the underground mall in Independence Square.  Here’s some photos from Google Earth:

Sofivka Apartment

Brown door is our apartment

sofivka balcony

That’s our balcony way up there.

glass dome

Looking toward Independence Square

maidan

Independence Square

st sophias

Looking back up the street at St. Sophia’s

 

I didn’t walk around town taking snapshots of every street I walked on…but I sort of wish I had. There is so much character and charm in these old streets.

That first night we just walked about one block from our apartment to a restaurant that looked nice called Whisky Corner.

It was not the cheapest meal we’ve ever eaten, but the experience was unforgettable.  I ordered fish, Jeremy ordered steak.

And not surprisingly, they are known for their many varieties of whisky:

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The next morning, we met Lisa, our interpreter, and Roman, our driver, and to our surprise, Sasha was already waiting outside in the van!

We drove out of town and stopped at a really modern gas station with free wifi and free copying!

I took advantage of the wifi to find and save a webpage to my phone that looks like this:

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There are so many words in Ukraine that if I could just pronounce them, I’d know exactly what they meant.  for example:

ресторан

Use the key above to find out what that word is!  You can see it on the outer wall of the Whisky Corner picture above.

Meanwhile, back at the gas station, Lisa made some copies and we finished our coffee and we were on our way to pick up Vova from his orphanage.

That first word on the road sign is Skvyra. That is the town where we go to court.

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We are in the court building waiting. Finally we get called back for our case to be heard. There is one judge and two jurors (2 older women from the community just to observe and ask questions if they have any). Also in the courtroom is a prosecutor…the state representative who asks follow-up questions.  Oh yes, and a court secretary. On our side of the room there was a representative from Vova’s school, a school inspector, our translator, the boys and us.

I wish I would have started my phone voice recording everything.  We each had to petition the judge 4 things:

  1. We would like to adopt the boys
  2. We would like their birth certificate to list us as their parents
  3. We would like their birth certificate to reflect their new names
  4. We would like their birth certificate to not change date or place of birth.

During the proceedings the judge read aloud the case study of the boys including the conditions surrounding their placement into state care–something I thought was unnecessary to bring up in front of them, but whatever.

Then Jeremy and I were individually asked the same questions: Full name, date of birth, address, how long have we been married, how many children do we have, what do we do for a living, how much money do you make, how big is your house, when did you meet the boys, why do you want to adopt the boys, where will they go to school, do you have health insurance, tell me about your family, etc.

Then each of the boys were asked several questions too. I wish I had recorded this part in particular because it would have been a record of what words they used to communicate their desire to come to America and be Bushlacks.  Maybe they will remember those moments and be able to tell us in English some day.

When the proceedings were done the judge and jurors left the room. A few minutes later the court secretary told us that we were done, the judge said, “Yes.” Meaning in ten days the court would issue a decree granting our above petitions!

Here’s the smiles that accompanied that news:

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Our translator Lisa with the boys:

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So we stopped for lunch on our way out of town and gave the boys a little congratulatory gift:

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I ordered a Ceasar salad which I was surprised to discover looked like this (but it was delicious…quail eggs and all):

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The boys finished up with ice cream. Chocolate for Sasha and Bubble Gum for Vova:

Of course Jeremy is always up for dessert:

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We dropped Vova off at his orphanage and let him know that the next time he sees Jeremy it will be to come and get him for good.  Then we had our driver bring us back to our apartment and paid him to drive Sasha to his apartment.  Goodbye hugs to Sasha and Lisa too.

We decided to spend the evening walking down to Independence Square and taking a look at that underground mall.  It was very fun!  Here’s the some photos from that night:

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Who needs Santa?

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2-level underground mall

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Look Ma! It’s an Elvis Cow!

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Fanny Pack Comeback

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I am so making this someday

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The glass dome

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The glass dome & elevator

Good night and goodbye to beautiful Kiev.

After a couple of hours of sleep, we met Roman at 3:30 a.m. and he drove us to the airport.  We flew into Frankfurt where we had a 5 hour layover.

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Frankfurt, Germany Airport

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These “Angels” sang Christmas Carols for the travelers to enjoy! It was lovely.

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Look Ma! A blue German cow!

One of the greatest sights of the whole trip:

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We landed in Chicago for our 3 hour layover and found our flight to Cedar Rapids was already delayed.  So we made a spontaneous decision to leave the airport and rent a car to come home.  We arrived at almost the exact same time as our plane did, but we had a lot more fun driving and talking and moving at our own pace.

It was crazy to think that between a Wednesday and a Saturday we traveled to the other side of the world and back.

This phase of our adoption journey is almost over. Jeremy flies to Ukraine on January 10.  He won’t come back alone.

 

Ukraine Trip #1

This is a long, detailed description of our first adoption trip to Ukraine–a place that is so different in some ways and so alike in others. I am proud of myself for surviving and grateful to God for his peace and my husband for his patient and adventurous spirit.  Thanks for your prayers and support.

TRAVEL DATES: November 15-21, 2015

I am a world traveler. Well, I am now.  Cedar Rapids to Minneapolis to Amsterdam to Kiev.  Always wanted to go to Europe–and now I have!

We arrived in Kiev and found Alex, our in-country facilitator at the airport. His English was good and he answered a lot of our questions on the 45 minute drive to downtown.

First stop was at a local grocery market.  We loaded up on bread, butter, cheese, crackers, cereal, milk, yogurt, and a bottle of wine. I think we spent like twelve dollars.

Then he drove us to our apartment.  It was beautiful with a gorgeous view.

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God was amazingly merciful to me on this trip. I slept peacefully every single night.  That is a miracle for me!  We woke up for our SDA (State Department of Adoption) Appointment at 10 AM.

The appointment only took about 30 minutes. During this time our facilitator and the SDA worker spoke mostly in Ukrainian.  That was frustrating because I thought, “Why do we have a translator, if no one translates?”  That would become such a common frustration, I just stopped wondering.

We signed our names on two different pages of the SDA ledger.  I believe what we were signing for was 1. Acknowledging they shared with us the original facts and documents about the boys’ placement in state care. 2. Declaring we want to adopt those boys and therefore request a visit with the officials at their places of education.

Before we knew it the appointment was over and we were told to wait a few hours for our “Referral.”  As best as we figured the referral is an official letter to the various schools saying we’re legit.

Jeremy wanted to spend the afternoon “sightseeing.” He reassured me that he had studied the map of Kiev for hours the night before and he knew exactly how to get us back to our apartment.  Again, miraculously, I trusted him.  I’m so glad I did.

We visited Independence Square (Maidan Nezalezhnosti).  I strongly encourage everyone to watch this documentary on the 2014 revolution “Euromaidan” that occurred in Ukraine on the very streets we walked.

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This is a covering over a building that was burned during the revolution.

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Independence Square

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Kiev Globus

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Golden Gate

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Cossack Mamay monument

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200 foot Independence Monument “victory column.”

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Hey! That’s us!

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Beneath the glass dome is an awesome upscale mall.

We stopped for dinner at a chain Italian restaurant that we were told “Americans like that place.” We did.  Viva Oliva was delicious and like everything else in Ukraine, affordable. We ate there on our last night in town as well.

Next day we met another facilitator, Lisa.  She has been our point person in Ukraine ever since.  She is very kind and has become a friend. She explained that we would need to get permission from the directors of the 2 schools we wanted to visit.  We were starting with Sasha’s school (university = grades 9-12) in Kiev.

While we waited for our documents to be copied to be given to the school inspector, we did some underground shopping.  Literally there are shops under ground–the street crossings for pedestrians go under the street. Jeremy bought a new leather belt.  And then he got a snack at the Corn House.  Who knew a cup of canned, buttered corn was a great treat?

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Eventually we were able to visit Sasha at his school. This was the first we’d seen him in nearly a year, although we’d spoken over the phone through our interpreter Nina many times.

Sasha was planning on coming with us the next day when we met up with his brother at the boarding school. We were trying to talk him into just coming with us to our apartment for the night. But he was insistent that we come to his apartment.  Unbeknownst to us, he had people waiting there to meet us.

I won’t go into all the anxiety of going to another part of Kiev after dark and HOW WILL WE GET HOME? Our driver took us there, warning us to watch our wallets but Sasha’s pastor said he’d bring us home. So off we went!

It will need to fall on another blog post to tell all about how amazingly blessed we were by meeting Sasha’s mentors, pastor, flat-mates, and friends. If you want to make a real difference in real kids’ lives, give real American money to Open Doors Fund. They are changing the destinies of orphans in Kiev.

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The next morning, we met at 8:00 to travel to Vova’s orphanage/boarding school.

But first, a stop for coffee.  Mobile coffee trucks are EVERYWHERE. And they are awesome.

Then we begin the 2.5 hour drive through the country.  Driving impressions: Drive as fast as possible until something or someone requires you to momentarily slow down.

We stopped in the village of Skvyra to pick up the school inspector for Vova’s school. She rode with us to visit the school.

velykopolovets'ke Kyivs'ka oblast

Here’s a map of Kiev to Bila Tserkva to Skvyra to Velykopolovets’ke. It was a wild ride!

Reunited! Once we found Vova, we met with the school director who seemed to be trying to talk him out of coming to America. In the end he said, “I’m going.”  Thataboy.

So grateful for the folks who work in this school and provide for the needs of these kids who are so hopeless and so alone.  We are honored to be able to reach into this place, grab a couple hands, and pull them out.  Yes, we’ll keep providing for their needs–but they need a family. We can do that.

Our interpreter let us know this day that we need to decide TODAY what we want their names to be on their birth certificates.  This was a huge decision, suddenly thrust upon us to hurry up and decide.

We had a meeting with the boys about this.  More to come on that–suffice it to say, they will be receiving new names when they join this new family.

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Next day while we waited for papers to get notarized, we walked to a McDonalds. Coffee was good.  Burger was so-so-o-kay.  Fries were everything I remembered after many years of not eating McDonald’s!

Then we were done with the official stuff that had to happen on this first trip.  Jeremy still had some exploring he wanted to do so he asked to be dropped off at the University Metro stop so we could see St. Volodomyr’s Cathedral.

After viewing that spectacular site, we took the metro back to our apartment. This is me. Following my husband with a trusting spirit. Because every word looks like gibberish to me. I. am. so. lost. here.  For example the letters below spell UNIVERSITY. I can’t tell you how out of control I felt this whole time yet how safe in God’s hands I felt.

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We got on a plane one day early.  The U.S.A. and The Bushlack Home were calling to us.  We were ready to go. Speaking of “going,” the Amsterdam airport is very interested in customer satisfaction. They provide little kiosks for you to rate your experiences at security, restaurants, and yes, even, restrooms.

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One more quick moment:  The “Tulip Fairy” of the Bushlack family got a small tulip surprise from this airport shop:

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Of course buying tulip bulbs meant now we had something to declare at U.S. customs. 😦

One day we went from Kiev to Amsterdam to Minneapolis to Cedar Rapids.

And just like that, we became world travelers. There and back again. Only two more trips to go.