loving life.

Category: adoption (Page 1 of 3)

In like a lion….

I’ve heard it said, “March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb.” I’m not so sure… 51 degrees and sunny is pretty mild for March 1. Hopefully it doesn’t work in the reverse this year and come in like a lamb and go out like a lion!

Lions and Lambs. Gotta love weather forecasts that still make you think of Jesus.

We sing the song:

“Our God is a lion, the lion of Judah…
Our God is a lamb, the lamb that was slain…” 

The Lion and the Lamb. Mooring, Brown and Johnson. 2018.

So great yet so gentle. So powerful yet so peaceful. So mighty yet so mild.

It’s so beautiful to know that God is a both/and God. You don’t have to pick one or the other. 

You need a mighty warrior, who defeats your greatest enemies: sin, death, and the devil? You got it. You need a patient, welcoming, forgiving friend who comes toward you in your deepest pain and brokenness and brings gentle healing? You got it.

And as followers of Jesus, we are supposed to become like Him.

Gentle Giants. Filled with Patience and Power. Strength and Softness. 

Not either/or. Both/and.

As I’ve seen the headlines out of Ukraine, the beloved motherland of our two adopted sons, my heart is breaking. But my heart is also inspired by stories of our friends and fellow believers. Exhibiting incredible toughness and tenderness. Brave and benevolent. Looking and acting like Jesus. Lion and Lamb.

Let’s be this way in our homes. There’s times we have to be tough as parents and partners. When it will take incredible courage, endurance and strength to pursue the hearts of our kids. To forgive and reconcile in our marriages. Times we need backbone and possibly a little bite to our discipline or boundaries or expectations or communication.  

But even even if sometimes you need to come in like a lion, remember to go out like a lamb. Humble. Gentle. Keeping in mind that a soft answer turns away wrath (Proverbs 15:1). Remembering that even in his justice, God prefers mercy. Remembering that self-sacrificing LOVE is the greatest commandment of all.

Let the warm sunshine on your face this month remind you to be like Jesus. Lion and Lamb.

“Behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah” (Revelation 5:5).
“Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29).



Our last of six kids graduated from high school this past weekend (I’m not crying–you’re crying!). And, like the others, we celebrated in a big way.

However, there were some things that were unique this time. I didn’t have any embarrassing baby pictures. I didn’t have a first day of kindergarten handprint. In fact, I didn’t have any childhood memorabilia whatsoever to display. 

That’s because his childhood was not spent with us. Thomas joined our family at age 13, a shy, grinning towhead who didn’t speak a lick of English. Now he’s a high school graduate with a steady job and plans for community college in the fall. We couldn’t be prouder!

Although Thomas wasn’t born here in Iowa, he had the benefit of joining a ready-made, supportive community because he joined a family with a ready-made, supportive community. He experienced this benefit in many ways over the past 6 years, but he was still amazed by the number of people who came to his party to celebrate him. “I didn’t recognize a lot of them!” he said afterward. 

That’s friendship. As your friend, I don’t just deeply care about you–I care about what (and who) you deeply care about. True friendship overflows and spills onto each other’s entire world. The people who came to Thomas‘s party were not all his people: They were my people and my husband’s people. They were our other kids’ people too. They were neighbors and work friends and school friends and so many dear church friends. A beautiful network of supporters came to show love to Thomas, maybe not because they were personally close to him, but because of their close connection to someone else.

It’s especially meant to be that way in the church. Jesus says, “I no longer call you servants…but I have called you friends” (John 15:15). Our God is so generous. He not only befriends us but places us in a gospel community of friends and family. A rich community where we are called to love each other. But it doesn’t stop there. We’re meant to care about each other’s entire world–each other’s joys and troubles and their people too. That’s amazing.

I encourage you to reach out to someone who is not currently a part of a gospel community and bring them along with you. Share the love.Thomas’ graduation made me again grateful for the Body of Christ and the rich support it provides. I love you guys!

“Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near” (Hebrews 10:24-25, NLT

Shared language.

On November 16, 2016 my husband and I flew into Kyiv, Ukraine on the first of three required trips in the process to adopt our sons. I was excited to experience a new part of the world, to meet new people and to see our boys. Of course, there were many things that brought anxiety too–not the least of which was the language barrier.

This barrier was enhanced by the fact that our two languages don’t even share the same alphabet. The Cyrillic “B,” for example, is pronounced as our w, E is pronounced as our j, H is pronounced as our n, and P is pronounced as our r. I couldn’t begin to try to sound out the words I saw on billboards or store fronts or official documents in order to infer meaning. My brain literally hurt. Although it all made sense to those whose native language was Ukrainian, it was completely foreign to me: fatiguing and frustrating.

In 1992, Dr. Gary Chapman released the classic book, “The Five Love Languages: How to Express Heartfelt Commitment to Your Mate.” You may have heard of the concept of love languages before: People feel most loved when it is communicated to them in the way they best understand. Just like I couldn’t understand Сільпо was the name of a grocery store chain in Ukraine, a wife may not understand “love” when she receives a gift, if her native language understands “love” as spending quality time together. She may understand his good intent, but it won’t land on her heart with the full meaning her loving husband had hoped.

It is fatiguing and frustrating to try to express love to someone and have it not be well-received. It’s also fatiguing and frustrating to know someone is trying their best to show love but it’s just not making you feel truly known and cared for. This can become a really big challenge for married couples. But it’s easy to see how this could translate to all relationships.

Dr. Chapman later partnered with an associate clinical professor of pediatrics and psychiatry to apply the same concepts to parenting in the book “The Five Love Languages of Children.” It is a very helpful toolbox for families who want to love each other well. Like most new learning, this means hard work. Discovering how your child best understands love usually requires careful observation. It requires trial and error. It probably requires expressing love in a way that is not your native language.  This requires others-first priority. Doing what is best for another, even at your own inconvenience. That’s real love.

If you are compiling a summer reading list, I highly recommend either of these two relationship classics. If your marriage could use a boost, start with that book. If you want some fresh encouragement for parenting, then tackle the one for parents. I borrowed the audiobook on Hoopla and cranked it out while doing housework. Multitasking to the max.

I continue to pray for your marriages and families to thrive in the light of Jesus’ redeeming love.

“None of you should look out just for your own good. Each of you should also look out for the good of others” (Phil 2:7 NIRV).

Enjoy this beautiful weekend!


Sand SlippingLife is nuts.  All of life. Seemingly all at once.

Have you ever been there?  You know, when the totality of life feels out of control.  Where there’s not one mode you can get in where things are in order.  It might not truly be every part of your life, but if a few of the dozens of balls you’ve been juggling start dropping, everything seems sure to follow. Everything that matters is slipping through your fingers. Chaos.

Finances. Physical Health. Mental Health. Spiritual Health. Work. School. Marriage. Kids. Home Maintenance. Car Maintenance. Community. Church. Friends. Extended Family. Nation. World.

Any one of these things in chaos can lead to great personal stress. When you see that several of them are chaotic at once, that’s a personal crisis.

If you are like me and my husband we have two natural ways of dealing with crisis like this:

First and foremost, denial.

Just pretend it’s not really real and hope it will go away or magically improve.  Hey:  don’t laugh or shake your head, you know you do it too.  If we don’t have the energy or extra emotion to worry or deal with it, then we just go with denial for a while and see if that will work out this time.

It doesn’t.  It gets worse.  Ignoring a problem makes it much worse almost every single time. It gets bigger and absolutely undeniable. And urgent.

Someone once said, “Discipline begets discipline.”  That leads us to the second thing we do.  We make a plan.

We evaluate the above areas of life and make some tangible goals at turning the chaos back toward order.  Most of you do some form of this with your New Year’s Resolutions.  In our case, we plan date nights back into our schedule to prioritize our marriage. We plan time off during the year to take care of our needs for rest, for extra family time, for stress-relief. We make a reading list to keep our minds healthy and active.  And so on.

2018 was no exception. A couple of the areas mentioned above were either slipping through our fingertips or seemed about to.  A plan helps us get a better grip.

For example, we acknowledged that we needed to get back to being more intentional with our money. (Because nothing slips through our fingers faster than spare change.)  A plan to stop the chaos. A plan to just get back to basics and live by a budget. A great tool for doing that is Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University, or FPU.  It was being offered at our church on Sunday nights at the beginning of the year and the timing was perfect for us.

2018-03-11_14-09-10_117We also live with four teenagers at home.  Our two oldest kids are away at John Brown University.  But our four others, aged 17, 16, 16, 15, can cause a little chaos.  Okay a LOT.  There are some challenges and opportunities we face as an adoptive family that are, ummm–atypical.

So, Once Upon a Time (yesterday), we were getting ready to leave home for FPU when one such challenge/opportunity arose.

As we were walking out the door, Boy Child asked to watch TV while we were gone.  My husband investigated Boy Child’s current screentime usage and found that he was trending at twice the daily allotment of phone time we had set for him.  So the answer about TV for the night was an emphatic, “No.”

Actually, it was way nicer than that.  It was, “If one of your sisters turns on the TV while they do their homework in the living room, then you can sit with them and watch too.”

Then we left.

Granted, knowing what we know about how a simple NO response like that can lead to a quick emotional meltdown in Boy Child we probably shouldn’t have left.  But we were doing what we do.  Remember Step One above?  Denial?  Out of sight, out of mind.  Let’s get the grown-ups out of here and on to “our thing” which will bring Financial. Peace. Amen.

We weren’t halfway to church when a text came in from Girl Child (see extra comment below).***

“Well, Boy Child made Other Girl Child cry– really bad…  We just want you guys here…”


I don’t think we hesitated a second.  We turned around and prayed all the way home.

We prayed for wisdom. We prayed for reconciliation. We prayed for our family values of Love, Truth, & Joy to be restored in our home.

Our family’s Christmas theme this year was Peace.  The first of the weekly advent lessons we had on peace referred to the Christmas Truce of 1914.  At the most basic level, peace is the absence of war.  Our goal for our family on this night was simply to cease fighting.  All of the chaos would not instantly become perfect order, but if we could have a truce, that would be a success.

When we got home, we worked it out together.  We hugged and listened. We shared some feelings. We read some Bible. We all agreed to try harder to love and not hate.  Pretty basic family-type-stuff. We achieved “truce,” or in other words, “success.”

Just before going to bed, Other Girl Child (the one who had been hurt and crying) thanked us for coming home.  She said, “Instead of Financial Peace….you chose Family Peace.”

Crying Face on Apple iOS 11.2gulp. sniff. sniff.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is why Step Three is so important. Actually, it’s should be more like Step ½.  It should precede all the others. Prayer.  We pray for our family every day.  The prayer for wisdom on the drive home was not a reactionary response because of the crisis. It was a continuation of a conversation we keep having with the Lord about how to best disciple these precious souls He’s entrusted to us.  And He frankly loves to turn our chaos back into order for us. He loves to give us peace.  But He is the source.  He is the answer.  He is the Peace.

For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility…

(Ephesians 2:14 NIV).

So if your life is a little (or a lot) nuts: by all means (after denial fails again) make a plan to improve things. But don’t forget the One who will graciously give you the answers, the wisdom, the ability to see a way through.  Have a talk with Him about it.  He promises He won’t let you slip through his fingers.

“So do not fear, for I am with you;
    do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you;
    I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

(Isaiah 41:10 NIV).

***I just remembered while writing this blog that we had pulled the car over to the shoulder to investigate a strange noise when this text came into my phone. I don’t believe I would have seen this text until after we had already picked up a person who needed a ride to and from FPU, at which point it would have felt “too late to go back now.”  I haven’t heard the mystery noise in the car since.  #GodThing.

Ukraine Trip 3 (Photo Dump)

2016-01-14 at 18-39-46This is where I dump 135 photos from the third and final trip to Ukraine. Jeremy left on January 10, 2016 and returned with our two new sons on January 21, 2016.

I will caption the photos as best I can.  I hope these will give you a flavor of the nation of Ukraine and also some insight into what life there was like for the boys.

Arriving in Kiev:

Day 1, reuniting with the boys and beginning paperwork…

Sights of rural Ukraine:

The orphanage: Welcome lunch, signing out Thomas into Jeremy’s custody:

Back in Kiev for more paperwork…

Another day…

Back at the Apartment…

Time to move Alex out of his apartment.

More out and about in Kiev:

Medical clinic and signing Alexander out of school.

A highlight of the trip:  Going to church with Alexander and Thomas

Back at the apartment again:

Medical Clinic again–and an unexpected familiar face.

Farewell Party:  The pastor of Grace Church (Alexei) and many of the people who have ministered to the boys throughout their stay at the orphanage came to say goodbye at this wonderful party. (Everyone wore plaid–because that’s so American!  So sweet.) Good friends.

American Embassy. Shopping mall.  Goodbye dinner at Oxana’s house.

Last night in Ukraine–Off to the waterpark!

Flying to America!

So, by God’s grace, that is how we took two orphaned brothers from the other side of the world and brought them to our family.

As the Lord Himself promised in Hosea 2:23:

“I will show my love to the one I called ‘Not my loved one. I will say to those called ‘Not my people,’ ‘You are my people; and they will say, ‘You are my God.’ ”


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


  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


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:


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.

Email Changes Everything.


I used to check my email every day.  Sometimes all day long.  I used to really wonder about (–a.k.a. judge–) people who didn’t instantly respond to my messages. But then life took a few turns and now I find myself on the other side of the judge’s bench. TBH– I just stumbled across a, “Please reply to this email so I know I have your correct address for future communication,” from my daughter’s youth group leader from like a month ago.  I have become that person.

However, since we have a few exciting things going on in our lives right now, I’ve started to feel like I should up my communication game a bit.  Between waiting for our adoption dossier to be approved thus being invited across the world to begin that process, and breaking ground on the new house in 2 days, I know I have to be more connected to the people who are partnering with us to make those dreams come true.

Consequently I opened up my mail app as I walked across a parking lot yesterday morning to see if there was anything worth reading.  No, I didn’t get run over. Instead I saw this:

Our adoption agent’s name and the subject, “Bushlack SDA Appointment.”


What that means for the 99% of you who haven’t immersed yourselves for a year in the process of adopting from this particular country:  The first of three visits overseas involves being officially invited to their country and meeting with the State Department of Adoption.

I understand this to be a short meeting where they will simply ask us a few questions and then begin the paperwork to proceed with adopting them.  Including the permissions needed to travel to visit the boys in their schools. If everything goes as expected, we will be able to see the boys on each visit.

So, just like that, we are scheduled to travel overseas in a few short weeks! Our travel itinerary says we will leave on one Sunday and arrive home on the next. It will be a whirlwind trip!  Hopefully we will have some time and energy to see some of the amazingly beautiful and historic sites!

So, boys and girls, check your email. It could change your life.

Fingerprints, Phone Calls, and Garage Sales, Oh My!

It’s been a while since I’ve written an update on our adoption journey.  I’m frankly distracted with an upcoming graduation of my oldest child. All my attention is on keeping my emotions at bay while I plan a party celebrating one of the coolest guys I’ve ever met–my son.

Our adoption binder

Our adoption binder

As far as the actual adoption process, imagine mountains of paperwork answering extremely personal questions, researching incredibly obscure details about finances, property square footage, notary commission expiries, and going to the sheriff’s to be fingerprinted again for the FBI and you will be imagining our adoption process.  Pretty tedious and since we’ve never done this before, we don’t know how far we are in the process or how long anything will take…

There are other more exciting updates to share however!

First of all, we made a new friend–Nina–who has been helping us call the boys every Friday morning at 6:00 a.m.  Jeremy calls her, initiates a conference call, and then dials their school (2 p.m. there) Although we’ve tried several times, we have only actually gotten an answer a couple of times.  The school official then has to go find our oldest boy, bring him to the phone, and we spend a few minutes asking questions, which Nina translates for us, and then she translates back the 1-2 word answers from our not-so-talkative boy.  Nevertheless, they continue to express that they want to come and be a part of our family and this way they are learning that we have not forgotten about them.  We hope to meet Nina face to face soon.  Possibly by taking one of her cooking classes that she teaches at Kirkwood Community College!  Borscht anyone? Seriously, words can’t express how grateful we are for her willingness to help in this way.

Secondly, I received an email from Alex, a missionary in the country where our boys live. Their group visits our boys’ orphanage one weekend a month to do games and love the kids there. Our boys showed off the photo book we gave them to Alex and he contacted me by email.  He gave us his cell phone number and when they were with the boys we were able to call and talk then too.  We learned that the oldest is growing even taller, but that the shoes we bought them this winter still fit.

Finally, I was floored this week when my friend Shalane invited me out to coffee to let me know that she is having a fund-raising garage sale for our adoption.  This gesture is so incredibly generous and kind. The old nest egg is going to take a bit of a hit with three different round trips to Eastern Europe.  So we are grateful. The sale will be June 3-5 and I think I may even find a few items for her to sell on my behalf!

Thanks for continuing to pray for us on this journey. That is the most important thing I could ask.

A Little Update

I’m so sorry it has taken me so long to update you all on our adoption progress.  I guess it’s because it hardly feels like progress.

Our home study is nearly complete. Jeremy and I need to complete an online course on adoption. Jake needs to get fingerprinted. And our social worker needs to complete the home study and send it to our adoption agency.  By Monday evening we hope the first two of those items will be done.  The last one is out of our hands.

We recently had the in-home visit portion of the home study.  Thankfully (–Jaimie–) it was not a white-glove test, and since the children we are adopting are older, she did not look in every closet and cupboard to see that all hazards were out of reach.  With relief, I can announce that she found our home suitable to house children.  It sounds silly, even though I was being judged on something so basic, and which I had no reason to question, I was still really nervous and relieved when she said, “I have no concerns.”

Also each of our children were interviewed at home privately.  Let the weight of that fall on you for a sec.  Now, I know my kids are happy and all, but–what might they say without me in the room to give them a look or kick their shins under the table?  While trying to keep busy and pass the time hidden away in my bedroom (Candy Crush), I heard the social worker laughing and having an enjoyable conversation with each of them in turn and I breathed a sigh of relief. Again, even though I had no reason to worry, it felt good to hear the simple declaration, “They are four great kids.”

Why does it sometimes matter so much to me what others think?  That’s an introspective blog post for another day!

After our completed home study gets sent to our adoption agent who specializes in adopting from this particular country, the list of To Dos and the timelines for waiting begin all over again.  This is the phase that involves working with the immigration and naturalization departments of our government and the powers that be in the foreign government.

After all paperwork is complete, we will be required to travel overseas three times.  On the 3rd and final visit, God willing, the boys will be released to us, given new birth certificates and passports, and come home as Bushlacks.  We are hopeful that will be sometime this fall.

That’s really about all I know to tell you.   We are just walking by faith, praying for them, and hoping all the doors open in God’s timing, according to his will.

In the meanwhile, it’s always a blessing when the celebration of Jesus’ resurrection occurs on a warm and sunny spring day.  God’s faithful blessing of new spring life after the death of winter is such a beautiful annual reminder of our eternal hope through Christ.  We were blessed with just such a perfect day this year. And we had a great day with these four joyful, unpredictable, and faithful kids.

Jake, Emily, Marissa & Lizzy on Easter Sunday 2015

Jake, Emily, Marissa & Lizzy on Easter Sunday 2015

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