In our last post, we left you clinging to the safety bars of the roller coaster, waiting anxiously at the top of the plunge... right where we were a week ago today.
But let me step back a bit before I tell you about last Tuesday.
As many of you know, once we shut our computer down and packed it up around the beginning of December, I've been out of the loop completely on what was being posted in the blog world. And for the past several weeks I had no access to our own blog, emails, or my personal Facebook page. I was doing good to figure out how to access our adoption Facebook page from my phone. I think God preplanned this, as He knew my plate was as full as it could possibly get for a few weeks. And I am grateful for the somewhat blissfully ignorant month we had from mid-December to mid-January while we dealt with all the other things we shared in the last 3 posts (plus other stressful situations that I won't go into here, but add up to the total stress we were dealing with just the same). He protected us from the news that was to come until a better time. He waited for a time that my overall burden was a bit lighter, and our children were well again (mostly), and things were going a bit more smoothly with securing a home in Texas. His timing is perfect. Even when it doesn't seem like it.
So... a week ago yesterday (Monday, January 16th), I was able to jump onto our adoption Facebook page for a few minutes, and I saw a post in my newsfeed from our dear friend Adeye, an adoptive mother herself, who is committed to helping other families whose hearts are open to adoption. I clicked on the link going back to her blog. In that day's post, she asked for twenty families who urgently needed to raise funds to post a link to their respective blogs so she could help raise awareness and support for their fundraising efforts. I posted our blog link information for her, knowing that as soon as we received the keys to our new home, we were going to need to move through the remainder of our adoption approval process as rapidly as possibly (and still raise funds for each step of the process) because our girls would be aging out of their baby/preschool orphanages shortly, and their futures were unknown and likely to not be positive ones if not brought home in time. Yes, I knew there were many families further in the adoption process than we were who also needed to raise funds to finish the race, but also hoping that our family's fundraising needs would qualify as urgent enough to be one of Adeye's featured families.
As I was about to log off of the computer, I thought about how we'd received a couple of inquiries over the past weeks (when our blog activity was almost non-existent) asking if we were still intending to adopt. I thought I'd post a brief update on our adoption Facebook page letting everyone know that we were still in pursuit of our girls, Olivia and Aliza. Just because we were in the middle of a cross-country move, and hadn't posted any blog updates, it didn't mean we were any less committed to bringing our girls home a single minute later than we had to. We just weren't being able to blog about it during that time. So I hoped to reassure and satisfy our readers' curiosity with an update on our Facebook page.
And then I was offline again.
The following day (a week ago today), Adeye contacted us saying that she'd received inquiries regarding our family. She had readers wondering why she was featuring our family for urgent fundraising if our girls were no longer available anyway. So she was contacting us to try to sort out the confusion so she knew whether to continue to feature our family on her blog at this time or not.
Needless to say, I was completely puzzled by her statement/question, as we'd heard nothing of the sort. Was someone confusing our family with another? As far as we knew, our girls were both still available. We'd heard nothing to the contrary. No one had posted anything on our adoption Facebook wall. We'd heard nothing even hinting to that. So as far as we knew, there was no change. What she was saying was new news to us, but we completely understood the position she was in, and how she needed to get to the bottom of whatever was going on before she continued to feature our family. If I were in her position, I'd want to know for sure too.
I knew I had to figure out what was going on and sort out the confusion for myself too. So off I went on a scavenger hunt for the truth about our girls' statuses, although I wasn't even quite sure where to start.
I began with looking at the website where we first found our Olivia, one which had photolistings of children still available for adoption, as well as those who had a family somewhere in the process of working to bring them home. Nothing had changed that I could tell. Both of our girls were still marked as they had been: "Being adopted outside of (the agency)".
Maybe someone was wrong. They're both likely still available or surely that photolisting site would have been updated already. Someone must've just been mistaken when they contacted my friend to say we had no children to pursue. Somehow we'd get this all sorted out, discover that our girls are still waiting for us, and my dear friend Adeye can go back to featuring our family on her list.
Just to be sure, I jumped back onto our adoption Facebook page and asked anyone with any information about this unavailability claim to contact us. I got little response, other than posts of prayers and support.
Then I switched my attention to the adoption blog circles. Maybe I could figure out where someone mistook information posted somewhere. Surely one or more of my blogging friends could help me clear this up. I browsed several of the blogs written by people who had, at one point or another in the past, featured our family. At first I could find nothing because when looking up a blog on the internet, you'll usually be directed to the most recent post, which would be mid-January for many of them.
Of course, I had no clue how far back I needed to dig. I searched a few days back. Then a week back. Then two weeks back. What am I supposed to be looking for anyway? Who holds this information? What do they know? Do my blogging friends even know anything? Is there even anything TO KNOW? Maybe we're all in the dark about this.
Surely someone must have mixed us up with someone else. I know I sometimes confuse one blog with another, or forget which family is pursuing which child. Especially with all the photolisting code names floating around with all the real names that are known, as well as names an adoptive family intends to rename a child once they come home. Half of these children mentioned in various blogs have two or three names they are known by. It gets confusing sometimes. Even with my memory for those little minute details, I still often confuse these things. Surely this is what the case is with someone thinking our girls have been adopted by someone else. They're not even in the same region. It's not likely they were both adopted at the same time anyway?
But at least I can rule it out by poking around a handful of blogs to see what information is floating around out there. We'll certainly get this cleared up shortly.
After reading the posts going back a full two weeks on each blog, I decided to just start reading these various bloggers' posts beginning from the day I'd last had our computer up and running back in Idaho to the present. This brought the information I didn't want to even search for to my fingertips much quicker.
After reading one blogger's post, then another, then another, and yet another, the roller coaster I was now on was sending me plunging downward faster and faster.
I wanted off. NOW!!!
No, this can't possibly be true.
I wanted to barf.
I wanted to scream.
I just wanted to go back to standing on the ground watching others ride this plummeting course ahead of them, and feeling sad for them instead of it being us on this nerve-wrecking ride.
So after blog hopping for quite awhile, and attempting to put my heart back where it belonged, instead of in the pit of my stomach, I had enough credible information to believe that our Aliza was most likely never going to be our daughter, living in our home, loved by so many who already love her, snuggled under a blanket on the couch with the rest of our children watching cartoons or reading books, or giggling with delight when her daddy tickles her tummy before kissing her goodnight. My arms would likely never bring reassurance to her after getting a boo-boo on her finger, or waking up to a frightening dream. She was gone.
But still not with a family like she should be.
That would have been easier to comprehend. If she had been adopted by a family, I could be thrilled for her, even in my personal grief. But she wasn't. She is still in an orphanage. A different one. At least it's a better one.
But still, it's an orphanage. Orphanages don't have real mommies and daddies, and brothers and sisters, and cousins, and aunts and uncles, and grandparents. She's still an orphan. Only now, she's no longer legally available for adoption. At least not for another year, at the earliest. And certainly not likely to us, an American family.
I'll do my best to give you the gist of her current situation since each bloggers' post reflects slightly varying details. The basic information I've gleaned is this:
A priest from an Orthodox Catholic church, having strong political connections and influence in Aliza's country, runs a "private" orphanage (despite it being government funded). He was recently given funds to significantly increase his bed count, and was given the authority to choose which ever children he wanted to have guardianship over. I'm sure he has the best intentions and believes he is helping these children. His facility is reportedly a "state of the art facility" with a great staff to orphan ratio.
But still... it is an orphanage. Still these children have no parents. Still they have no family of their own. Still... they are orphans.
He says he will make them available for adoption after at least a year, BUT, being a "patriotic" man, he will only make them available to citizens of their own country. That means our family, being American, has very little chance of ever being able to adopt from his facility. Which doesn't make any sense to me, knowing the statistics reflect that children with special needs are rarely adopted within their country compared to children with no physical or mental challenges or delays.
This priest took guardianship of dozens and dozens of orphans. Names I recognized. Orphans who had families working hard to bring them home. Lots of American families. Lots of my blogging friends. Our precious Aliza was just one of dozens and dozens of children he chose for his new facility.
So at the same time I learned that our Aliza was gone, I learned I had friends who were grieving too. I just didn't know it. I'd been out of the blogging loop for the past month or so. I am not the only parent grieving. There are others who can relate to this roller coaster ride I'm on. There are other parents with knots in their stomachs, and tears in their eyes right now too.
Then I realized that all of this occurred back in the middle of December, right at the exact time we were wrapping up the final details in Idaho, packing up our covered wagon, and leaving for the wild west. I am grieving with this news. I know I'm not alone in my grief. It's just that all these other parents are a month ahead of me in their shock and grief. The sting for them is not as new now as it is to us. They've had a month to process this. They've had a month to regroup. They've had a month to pray and ask God where to go from here. Yes, I was grateful last week for God's mercy in delaying our awareness of Aliza's fate for a month. My plate was just. too. full. at that time to handle. one. more. thing.
I was shocked. I was confused. I was angry. I was weepy. I was hurting. This is just so wrong! How could this happen? Why God? Why are You letting this happen? What am I supposed to tell Rick? Aliza was HIS girl! She stole his heart. He was already wrapped around her little finger, and she didn't even know it yet. What am I supposed to tell our children? They're going to be devastated. She was supposed to be our daughter! She was their sister in their minds. We've been preparing a place for her. We've looked into all aspects of the care she'd likely need. We chose a home that was ready to accommodate her specific physical needs. God, why did you let us love her so much, only to let her be taken away? I couldn't understand.
I still don't understand.
I may never understand.
I am not even sure I want to try to understand, because, knowing me, I'd probably still try to argue it with God anyway!
I don't know exactly what His purposes are for her now (and for us at this point), except that He promises that His purposes for each of us are for good, and not for evil, to bring hope, to bring life, life abundantly, and a future. That was all I could hang on to. He hadn't let go of her. And He hadn't let go of us.
That, and the fact that Olivia was not included on the priest's round up list.
But why are people saying she's no longer available either? There were no blogs to check. Our Olivia is one of those unseen orphans. The kind that no one blogged about, unless they were blogging about our family specifically. I searched the remainder of the day for her. I googled her photolisting code name, her real name, and any other info I had about her. I left no known stone unturned.
No blogs about her.
No changes on any of the sites that had featured her at some point.
In her case, no news was good news.
No news was great news!
At least I could tell my family that we'd only lost one of our two girls.
We've already picked out girly bedspreads and curtains for them! We've already picked out stuffies for them to love on. I'd even been checking into various curricula to use after they came home and had time to settle in a little. At least one of them could still enjoy these things. At least one of our girls could still join our family. It was joy and heartbreak all in one shot. How can the human heart have that capacity to feel both at the same time?
I shared the news with Rick first. We grieved together. At least as much as you can grieve together while separated by hundreds of miles, hearing each other's voices, but having no body language to read, no ability to read each other's eyes. No ability to reach out and hold each other. I knew Rick wanted to be with me, and I wanted to be with him. We both needed that hug that begins to heal a broken heart. I wanted to grieve our loss TOGETHER. This being apart, well frankly, it sucks. Sorry if you don't like that word. But it's true. Grieve sucks your heart dry for a season.
My thoughts flashed back to the night my dad passed away unexpectedly two and a half years ago. We were apart then too. It sucked then too. My dad would have loved these girls. My dad was a sucker for grandchildren snuggling on his lap. My dad was as sure enjoyed all his "shuggas". I was his "sugar plum". My children (well, all of his grandchildren) were his "shuggas". I grieve that loss too. Aliza and Olivia would have been his "shuggas" too if he'd been here to snuggle them. I missed him all the more. The loss feels the same to the heart.
It was hard to grieve when you know you still have to share the awful news with your children too. When you know you have to be the one who console them, to comfort them, to bear them up... when your own love tank has just been sliced open from one end to the other, allowing all your strength and resilience to leak out. I couldn't do it. Not yet.
My children had been sick the whole past week. I wasn't feeling so well myself, even before I learned of this gut wrenching event. Now I just felt like puking. I waited to share the news with our children. I needed time to digest it more myself. We've been through so much lately, I needed an armor-bearer myself. Anyone. I felt so alone. On top of the cabin fever.
I couldn't cry. I just couldn't let myself cry yet. It was all I could do to keep it together in our little "glamping" site, with no privacy from children. Children who read me well. Children who just know when something in their mother's world just isn't "right". I needed just a bit more time. Time to pray. Time to find the positive in this. Even if there wasn't any to be found yet. I wasn't feeling very positive at the moment. I try to follow the "Thumper Rule" and not say anything at all if I can't say something nice! And I had nothing "nice" to say at the time.
It took me all day. I finally told our children that evening. They were devastated. We cried together. We held each other. I reassured them that it still appeared that our Olivia was ours. I had no reason to believe she was gone too. We clung to that as we went to bed that night.
The morning brought more news we didn't want to hear. A dear friend back home (who graciously came and helped us pack boxes late into the night, even though we'd never met before then!) gently told me that she had a blogging friend who was currently in Ukraine completing her adoption at the same orphanage as Olivia. This friend had confirmed for her that indeed, Olivia was being adopted by an Italian family. The Ukrainian judge had already signed all the paperwork, and she would be going home with them in just a few days.
Square One, do you understand how much I loathe you???
My heart sank into that familiar place in my stomach. And I wanted to throw up again.
I wanted to ask God "why?".
I didn't bother.
I'd asked it the day before.
I got no answer. At least none that satisfied my selfish desire for my girls. All He said yesterday was "I work all things together for your good, and theirs."
That's not what I really wanted to hear then. I wanted to hear "Oops. Sorry, I messed that one up! I'll get right on top of that and get it resolved for you as quickly as possible."
Okay, not really. But if you've worn these shoes, you know what I mean. You understand the blisters.
The only thing certain at that point was that now I had to update Adeye. I had to update Rick. Then I had to wake my children up with this devastating news. I did not enjoy being a mother that day. At least that part of it. I knew it wouldn't be an easy morning. Spilled milk would have been a welcome mess to clean up! I was thankful though that Rick's extended family had invited us over for the day, and children were finally well enough to be able to get out of the house. I was eager to get out of the house. I was eager for something else to focus on for the day.
We'd had a double loss in less than 24 hours. Double the broken dreams. Double the emptiness. Double the tears. Double the questions in their eyes that I couldn't answer. I'm sure God looked in mine and saw the same questions. I'm sure at some point, He'll explain it in a way I can't understand now but will make more sense down the road. I still, a week later, ponder the quote "God's strategic delay is for your greater good!" It made sense with the other speed bumps. Why isn't it making sense now?
I cannot say what is next for us. It's not because I don't want to. It's because I don't know.
What I know is this:
I know my heart is still drawn to adoption. (We both are.)
I know my heart is still drawn to the former Soviet region.
I know we have no specific children identified to pursue right now. (And even if we did, we probably wouldn't be ready to say we did. But we don't.)
I know we aren't giving up the God-given dream.
I know we are praying for a God-fearing family for Aliza. (And we are still committed to adopting her should she become available to an American family in the future.)
I know I am grateful that Olivia in no longer an orphan. (Even if she isn't ours.)
I know we are praying about the next step in God's plan.
I know we will continue to raise the funds necessary to pursue adoption, since there are plenty of expenses required in the adoption process before a family is required to select a specific child.
I know we are willing to follow God's leading, on whatever path He wants us to walk.
And I know I prayed for an adventure. (Okay, really I complained to God about having a boring life.)
I know I've about had my fill of adventure for the past few weeks.
Or was it for the past few months?
No, it's been an adventure for years.
It's been an adventure my whole life!
Yes, it's been an adventurous life!
I should not have complained!
I know I'm about ready for a somewhat boring life again... At least for the next few weeks until we get the keys to our new home.
I know my heart needs time to process a little more of this grief.
And then I'll be ready to jump back into this adventure.
And I know I'm (mostly) ready to say "Yes, Lord." when He asks me to go with Him into the next adventure.
Even though it scares the snot out of me!
It seems He really rather enjoys those roller coasters.
I have to remind myself that the dips and plunges are no further down than the length of the climb to new heights.
And He is there to put His protective, trustworthy hands over mine when things get too unsure and scary for me.
That's just how my Daddy God is!
Update: Because both "Olivia" and "Aliza" are no longer available for adoption, we felt it was best to remove the photos we had posted of them from our blog.
This blog is a small peek inside our family's first adventure into the world of adoption. We welcome your encouragement & financial support, but most importantly we appreciate your prayer covering as we climb the mountains & wander the valleys of this incredibly crazy, yet exciting journey God is leading our family on. We also ask for your prayer covering over our new children, wherever & whoever they are, that they will sense God's loving presence as He snuggles them for us, & for protection from satan's evil schemes toward each of us. Though we may be on opposite sides of the globe, or just a few miles apart, we trust God has already been preparing all of us for each other as our family grows again. May all the Glory in this journey go to our Heavenly Father, who adopted each of us as His own beloved sons & daughters.