Monday, July 7, 2014

Fight

"Defend the weak and the fatherless; uphold the cause of the poor and the oppressed."
-Psalm 82:3
 
 
Have you heard this song?
 
 
 
 
Pay close attention to the lyrics. They are powerful.
 
I love the part that says:
 
"Love like I'm not scared. Give when it's not fair. Live life for another. Take time for a brother. Fight for the weak ones. Speak out for freedom. Find faith in the battle."
 

 
Merriam Webster says this:
 
Fight (verb)
 
1. To use weapons or physical force to try to defeat an enemy: to struggle in battle or physical contact
 
2. To be involved in a (battle, struggle, etc.)
 
Fight (noun)
 
1. A violent physical struggle between opponents
 
 
"Fight for the weak ones"
 
 Now, ask yourself this:

Are you fighting for the weak?
 
Are you really fighting?
 
How much of a fight are you putting up?
 
Are you watching from the sidelines? Maybe giving an occasional cheer?
 
Are you throwing a halfhearted slap here and a punch there?
 
Have you forfeited the match?
 
I hope not.
 
I hope you are in the ring. I hope you are bruised and bleeding and exhausted.
Because you are fighting for this one:
 
http://reecesrainbow.org/77318/darah
 
(Darah)

I hope you are fighting with all you have.

Because you are fighting for this one:

 
 
Sometimes it is only you and your opponent in the ring.
 
Sometimes no one is watching your fight.
 
Sometimes you wonder why you are even fighting, if no one is watching?

Because you are fighting for this one:



(Cliff)

Sometimes you are so tired that you feel like there is no way you will win this match.

And all you want to do is sit down and cry.

But keep going, because you are fighting for this one.



(Daisy)
 
 When you are hurt, keep going.
 
Remind yourself that you are fighting for this one.


(Wesley)


When there is no one left on the sidelines to cheer you on, that's okay.

Because you are fighting for this one.
 

 
 (Zann)

When you fall to the ground because you are weak, stand back up again.

Stand up for this one.

 
 
 
 And yes, some days you will be so tired you could collapse.

Fighting is not fun. It hurts. It's hard.

And people will give you strange looks and judge you.

They will wonder why you are doing something so difficult?

Some days you will want to throw in the towel.

Some days you will sob and wonder if this fight will ever be over.

But friends, remember this:

When you go out to battle against your enemies and see horses and chariots and people more numerous than you, do not be afraid of them; for the LORD your God, who brought you up from the land of Egypt, is with you. 'When you are approaching the battle, the priest shall come near and speak to the people. He shall say to them, "Hear, O Israel, you are approaching  the battle against your enemies today. Do not be afraid or panic, or tremble before them, for the LORD your God is the one who goes with you, to fight for you against your enemies, to save you."

 -Deuteronomy 20:1-4

This battle is not ours. It is the Lord's. God does not expect us to win this battle on our own.

In fact, we can't win this battle on our own.

All the Lord expects us to do is fight.

Fight hard.

He will do the rest.



(To see more faces of children we are fighting for, please go here)

http://www.reecesrainbow.com/


Friday, July 4, 2014

About our boys

Andrew Sergei Nolan
 
Birthday: May 20, 2007
 
 
 Andrew has lived in an orphanage his whole life. His father was not in the picture and his mother lost her parental rights (we are not sure why). He was born prematurely (at about 29 weeks) and weighed 2.6 pounds. He currently weighs approximately 27 pounds.
 
According to the orphanage, he has congenital cataracts. As far as we know, he is completely blind. He does not seem to have any vision at all.
 
 
He is non-verbal. He does sometimes say "Nee nee" (no no) when he is upset, and he occasionally makes the "mamama" sound.
 
Andrew has lived in a crib for 7 years.
 
Due to institutionalization,  he has some self-aggressive behaviors. This is common among institutionalized children. He scratches himself until he bleeds and his skin is raw. He slaps himself on the face and hits himself on the head. He bites his hands. It is very difficult to calm him down when he is upset.
 
But he loves to be tickled.
 
 
 
He loves toys that make any sort of noise! He likes to tap them on his forehead and the side of his head (he likes the sound they make). He can be entertained by a Ziploc bag or a paper towel tube for hours!
 
 

But his all-time favorite toy (so far) is a metal bucket. He definitely has some rhythm!
 
 
 
 
And he loves his dad!
 
 
 
 
 
 


 
Oliver Eugene Nolan
 
Birthday: March 27, 2007
 
 
Oliver has lived in an orphanage his whole life. He was abandoned at the hospital at birth (likely due to his special needs). When he was born, the umbilical cord was wrapped around his neck five times. He weighed 6 pounds at birth. He currently weighs 18 pounds.
 
 
 


Oliver has a rare genetic condition that causes a form of dwarfism. His hips are dislocated. His knees do not straighten out. He has club feet. His fingers do not bend, therefore he cannot grasp anything. He CAN turn his head from side to side (slowly). He is non-verbal. He rarely cries, and when he does cry, it is very soft and lasts about 2 or 3 seconds. Sometimes he makes a cooing noise. The only thing he is ever fed in the orphanage is formula, and he spits/vomits most of it back up.

 
 
 
He never smiles.
 
 

 
(But come on, would any of us be smiling if the orphanage caregivers wrapped us up like that in the middle of summer?)
 
Oliver has lived in a crib his whole life. Before we came along, nobody talked to him or played with him or gave him toys. We do not know if he understands anything. Sometimes he responds when we talk to him, and sometimes he doesn't. Some days he can be very alert, and on those days he moves his head back and forth and tries to follow us with his eyes.
 
 
 
 
At first he was very scared of his noisy new brother, but now he wants to watch him play. He likes to be propped up so he can see what is going on.
 
 
 
 
 
He likes to be held and rocked. It helps him fall asleep!
 
 
 
 
 
These boys are not perfect in the eyes of the world.

But they are perfect in God's eyes.
 
And we love them very, very much!
 
 
 

 

Saturday, June 28, 2014

They are OURS!

Wow! A lot has happened in the last couple of days!

Our court date was scheduled for Friday morning at 10am.

My mom and Josiah arrived on Thursday evening.

On Thursday evening, we also found out that a very important document had not yet been signed. We could not have court unless this document was signed.

So we prayed, and we prayed, and we got lots of other people to pray. And then we prayed some more!

On Friday morning, we got ready for court. At 9:30am we found out that that the paper was signed!

And then we were off to court. The courthouse is about a 5 minute walk from our hotel. It was cloudy and windy and rainy. The kind of weather that makes your umbrella turn inside out.

We entered the court room and took our seats. There were 11 people in the court room: a judge, two jury members, a prosecutor, a secretary, a lawyer representing the orphanage, a social worker, our facilitator, my mom, and me and Josiah.

Now, as some of you may remember, we specifically asked people to pray for a few things: a kind and compassionate judge, a kind and compassionate prosecutor, and the waiving of our 10 day wait. In Ukraine, after adoptive parents pass court, there is a mandatory 10 day waiting period. This is to give anybody the opportunity to appeal the judge's decision.

Our judge was AWESOME. Our prosecutor was personable and very friendly! And everyone (judge, jury, prosecutor, social worker, and lawyer for the orphanage) was in agreement that, due to Oliver's current condition, our 10 day wait needed to be waived.

WE WERE ECSTATIC!


 
After court
 
 
 
And now, since we are officially and legally 100% PARENTS (whoa, that's so crazy), we can post lots and lots of pictures of our children!
 
So now, let me present to you the newest additions to our family:
 
 
 
Oliver Eugene Nolan (7 years old)
 
 
 
 
 
Andrew Sergei Nolan (7 years old)
 
 
And oh boy, do we love them a lot :)
 
 
 


Thursday, June 26, 2014

Busy week!

I did not realize how excited I was to see my husband and my mom until yesterday, when they took off from Newark airport. I have been jumping up and down and squealing with excitement. Ha!

We have had a crazy week. Josiah and I have been busy with phone calls to our insurance companies(we are on a first name basis with them now), emails and phone calls to our doctor and nurse in the U.S. (they are awesome) and preparations for Josiah's trip to join me in country. Josiah has been picking up prescriptions for the boys, getting their clothes together, trying to find a car seat for the airplane (I am not allowed to hold Oliver for take-off and landing and he cannot sit on his own) and lots of other exciting things.

Court is TOMORROW! I cannot emphasize enough the importance of praying for our 10 day wait to be waived. It is very uncommon for the 10 day wait to be waived in this particular region, but it is not impossible. Please everyone, PRAY!!!

Here are some pictures from this week. I went to THREE museums! I am almost an expert in Ukrainian history!




 
The local museum
 
 
 
 
 
This is Svieta playing the Bandura. She is the director of the local music school. The Bandura is a  Ukrainian plucked string folk instrument (and it sounds beautiful!)
 
 
 

 
Valentina, her husband, and their son took me on some adventures in Poltava, (a large city about about an hour drive away). We visited two museums and ate at McDonald's. 



 
Poltava



 

 
And here come Josiah and my mom. They will be here this evening!
 
 
 



Tuesday, June 17, 2014

A court date and some pictures


Our court date is scheduled for June 27! Wahoo!

In this country, after adoptive parents complete court they are required to wait 10 days before removing their child/children from the orphanage. Please be in prayer with us that our judge waives the 10 day wait, and that the prosecutor does not appeal his decision. As many of you know, one of our children is not doing well at all. Our main concern at this point is his severe malnourishment. He needs to get to a hospital as soon as possible.

I want to show you some pictures. Since I can't show you any pictures of our children until after court, I will just have to show you some others :)


This is St. Sophia's cathedral. It is located right next to where we had our SDA appointment.
 
 
 
 
My favorite street in the capital city





People are very creative with their parking.
 
 
 
 

 
And yes, this is a sidewalk! People just drive on the sidewalk. We were cracking up.
 
 
 
My hotel room in the town where our children live  (for $21/night). Hotel Valentina!
 
 
 

The other side of my room
 
 
 
 
Sometimes we (my facilitator and I) order breakfast in the café attached to our hotel.
 
 
 
 
 
And sometimes Valentina, the owner of the hotel and café, decides that I need a Ukrainian cooking lesson. And we laugh A LOT!
 
 
 
 
 
This is the road I take during my walk to the orphanage. It's about a 30 minute walk.
 
 
 
 

I see ducks on my walk!
 
 
 
 
 

And cows!
 
 
 
 
And this is where our boys have lived since November (when they were transferred from the orphanage to the mental institution)
 
 
 
There are SO many people praying for us. From the bottom of our hearts, THANK YOU!
 
 
"The Lord is near to all them that call on Him, to all that call on Him in truth."
-Psalms 145:18
 
 
 

 
 


Thursday, June 12, 2014

"I will never leave you nor forsake you"

"God will bring these boys home. I'm sure of it"

"These boys will be fine. God wouldn't have brought you this far to let something get in the way  now."

"He will be healed. Just have faith."

People say things like this to me all of the time. And I am guilty of having said these things to other people. But lately, I am struggling with these statements. I am struggling because, where in the Bible does it say that God promises to bring my children home? Where does it say that my child will not die next week? Or tomorrow? Or today? Where in the Bible does it say that God will heal my child? Where in the Bible does it say that, just because I started the adoption process, it will be finished smoothly and both of my children will be safe and healthy in their beds in America at this time next year?

It doesn't say that. It doesn't say any of those things.

Today as I was holding my 7 year old son, he was vomiting. Formula was spewing out of his mouth and nose and dripping down his face and into his ears. And then his little limbs would spasm and he would arch his back and seem to gasp for air.

My son has lived in a crib his whole life. For 7 years. Nobody talks to him. Nobody plays with him. Nobody gives him toys to stimulate his brain. When the caregivers feed him, they squeeze his cheeks with their hands so hard that his mouth is forced open. Then, they shove a nipple in his mouth, with an extra large hole that they cut into it. And the bottle is about 3/4 of the way full and it gets emptied into his mouth within 60-90 seconds. He doesn't even have time to swallow all of it. He is drowning in formula. His big, brown eyes are frantically looking around the room for someone to help him. He can't speak. He can't protest. He can't cry. He can only swallow as fast as his little body allows. He can barely move his arms and legs. He can't stand. He can't sit. He can't hold his head up. He is completely helpless.

And today when I was holding my son and singing 'Jesus Loves Me', and he was vomiting and choking and his limbs were flailing, I was scared. I knew that my son could die in my arms.

Yes, I want God to rescue him. I want God to keep him strong and healthy and alive. I PRAY for healing and protection over his tiny, deformed, malnourished body. I pray for the angels to surround him and give him a sense of peace and comfort!

And yes, I have faith. I have faith that God works miracles. I have seen the miracles! I believe the fact that I am now able to hold my son for one hour every day is a miracle. I believe the fact that my son has survived for 7 years is a miracle. My son is a MIRACLE! He is a fighter! He is strong!

AND GOD LOVES HIM!

But does that mean that God promises to keep him alive long enough for us to get him to the hospital? That once he is in the hospital, he is safe? That he will live to be an old man?

God doesn't promise any of this.

But do you know what God does promise?

"Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you." -Deuteronomy 31:6

He promises that He will never leave me nor forsake me! That through it all, no matter what happens, God is with me! He is with me in my times of rejoicing and fear and mourning. He is with me during my highest of highs and my lowest of lows.

And today as I held my son and rocked him and sang to him, I gave him to the Lord. I said, "Okay God, if you want him home with you, you can take him home."

And my heart breaks for any parent that has ever had to pray this for their child.

And sometimes I feel guilt. I feel like people will judge me for saying these things. For thinking these things. They will tell me that I don't have enough faith in God. They will tell me that if I have NO doubts and trust the Lord to protect him, that my son will be okay!

If my son dies, is it because I didn't pray long enough? I didn't pray hard enough? I didn't have strong enough faith? I don't believe in miracles? If my son dies, is it because I did something wrong?

What about the adoptive families from Russia? They woke up one day and found out they could not complete their adoptions. Their children are still stuck in Russia.  What about the families who have gotten phone calls saying that their child died before they could complete the adoption process? What about the families who get their child home and their child dies weeks or months or years later?

Did they do something wrong?

Why is it that we promise people things that we can't really promise? Why are we telling people that they WILL get their child home? That their child will be healed? That their child will someday walk or talk or see?

We are not called to adopt so that we can heal the children, or guarantee them long lives or medical miracles.

We are not called to adopt with the promise that everything will go as planned.

We are called to adopt so that we can love. To love unconditionally. To be the hands and feet of Jesus by simply loving the unwanted child. Even if that child can't speak or stand or sit or do anything on his or her own. And even if that child is with us for only for a few short days or months or years. We are simply called to love.

And do you know what? I do have faith!  I have faith that there WILL be a miracle. My son WILL be healed. Someday he will run and laugh and smile in his perfect little body. And whether that be on earth or in heaven, I will praise my God for his goodness and holiness and for His promise that He is with me ALWAYS!


Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Daily Life

Today is visit #7 with our little guys.

Josiah is back home for work and he will return (with my mom!) for court. I am able to visit the boys every day, for approximately 2-3 hours. Since I am by myself, they bring the boys in separately so I can spend quality time with each of them.

As most of you probably know, I can not give out too much information publicly. Once we pass court, we will be able to post pictures, videos, and more detailed information.

We are in a super cute little town. I love it. Typically, in small towns such as this one, there are no apartments or hotels for rent. My facilitator and I both assumed we would have to rent an apartment about an hour away and drive to the orphanage every day.

But this wonderful woman named Valentina recently quit her job as an English teacher at the local school and decided to open her own hotel. It is called, "Hotel Valentina." And it is about a 30 minute walk from the orphanage. It is so, so perfect! I am staying in a small room for 250 hyrvnia/night (approximately $21/night). And there is a little café attached to the hotel, so I can order a nice meal whenever I want to!

A typical day for me goes something like this:

9:00am-Wake up

10:00am-Breakfast in my room (fruit, bread, cheese, etc.)

11:00am-Walk to the orphanage

11:30am-Wait at the orphanage for them to "prepare" the children

11:45am-Visit with one child

1:00pm-Visit with second child

2:00/2:30-Walk home

Sometimes I stop on the way to buy groceries from the little market across the street

2:30/3:00pm-Lunch in the café. I order my lunch before I leave for the orphanage, so it is all ready for me when I return! They have a really nice selection of food: pizza, sandwiches, fish, borscht, crêpes, salads, etc. They have coffee with ice cream and kiwi, strawberry, and vanilla ice cream, too! Anyone who knows me probably knows that I LOVE my ice cream!

After lunch I return to my room and catch up on emails, paperwork, research, Skype calls with family and friends, etc. The boys have a lot of medical needs, and there is a lot to be done now to ensure everything will run smoothly when we take the boys out of the orphanage and fly home.

For dinner I usually eat an open faced sandwich with mustard and cheese. There is no refrigerator or stove in my hotel room, so I am eating a lot of cheese and bread and fruit.

In the evenings I usually watch TV (nothing is in English, but it's still fun. They have a Ukrainian version of 'The Voice!'!), read, or clean my little room.

Our court documents are being submitted tomorrow (Wednesday) in the capital city, and then we will wait for a court date. A court date is typically assigned about 10 business days after the documents are submitted. I did hear that for awhile it was only 7 business days for children with special needs, but I'm not sure if that is still true.

Please keep praying for this process. Pray that things will continue to move along quickly and smoothly, and that our boys would stay strong and healthy while we prepare to turn their little worlds upside down (in a good way!) :)