Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Day 43 & 44 - "Now the Hard Part!"

Hello to all of our friends, family and others who have supported us by following our adoption blog.  This has been a long process and we know without a doubt that we couldn't have made without God upholding us with His mighty and righteous right hand.  We know in our hearts that part of God's plan included using all of you to send us words of prayer, encouragement and well wishes to lift our spirits.  We are so thankful for all of you.

I am happy to report that after a good bit of running to and fro over the last couple of days, we have finally received all the paperwork, passports and visas that will allow us to leave Ukraine for America.  We are scheduled to fly out of Kiev, Ukraine at 6:45 a.m. on Wednesday, September 29 and arrive in Birmingham, Alabama at 6:10 p.m. on that same day.  PRAISE THE LORD!!!!

As I leave Ukraine, Angelia and I wanted to share the following words of Scripture that changed our lives and our eternity, that revealed adoption was part of God's plan for our family, that prepared us for the task at hand, and that sustained us during this difficult trip away from home, family and friends:

  • "That if you confess with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved." - Romans 10-9-10
  • He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God." - Micah 6:8
  • Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven." - Matthew 5:15-16
  • Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this," says the LORD Almighty, "and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it." - Malachi 3:10
  • "Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world."
  • "Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see." Hebrews 11:1
  • "Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path." - Psalm 119:105
  • "Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go." - Joshua 1:9
  • Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours." - Mark 11:24
  • "being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience" - Colossians 1:11
  • "Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight." - Proverbs 3:5-6
We need God more than ever because now, the hard part begins.  Being parents is the most important task that we have.  Raising our children in a Godly home that is set in a world that wishes to devour them is going to be very difficult.  But we have faith that God has provided us with His instruction manual and as long as we stick to the instructions, we trust the result.
We humbly give thanks again to each and every one of you who have followed our blog and extended your love, prayers, support and encouragment to us during this trip.  We also take a moment to reconginze and pray for all those families who are here in Ukraine going through the same difficult adoption process.
Goodnight (for the last time) from Kiev, Ukraine!





Sunday, September 26, 2010

Days 41 & 42 - "On the Edge"

Hello to everyone who has continued to be interested in our adoption story by following our blog.  We thank you so much for all the kind words of encouragement, all of the prayer and all of your support.   Angelia and I were discussing that this entire adoption process has been a very meaningful but difficult process.  It has drawn us closer to God, closer to each other, and closer to our two children. 

Living in Kiev, Ukraine for the last 42 days has surely made us appreciate our home, our friends, our blessings and our country so much more.  I pray that we will remember our circumstances here for a long time to come in order that we may be thankful for what we have been blessed with.  I pray that our hearts will always turned to use what God has given us to glorify and serve our Lord & Savior, Jesus Christ.

Day 41:
On Saturday, we took it upon ourselves to get out and about by doing a bit of shopping.  The weather was sunny and very mild which meant being outdoors was a good idea.  There was a cool looking, fleece soccer pull-over jacket that I was interested in so we walked to the store which is located just beside the professional soccer team's field.  But, I'm sad to report that they didn't have any in "husky" size.  Probably for the best because soccer stuff doesn't look as cool in America as it does here. :-)  We did notice that the Kyiv "Dynamo" (pronounced "Dee Naaa Moe" by my son Charlie & the rest of Kiev) was playing a game the next day.  Charlie loves the "Dee Naaa Moe"' team so it was only fitting that we attend a game.  Four tickets cost $25 and we were all set for the next day.

Charlie on the loose in Kiev!

Angelia has a part time job in Kiev to cover some adoption expenses

Sushi (or chicken finger) master o' the chop sticks Charlie!

Another adoptive family from Virginia we met in Kiev, son Aaron in tow!

After leaving the ticket office, we had to get something to eat.  Not being able to fit into the soccer jacket made me hungry for some reason.  There is a restaurant across the street from the soccer field that is sort of a chain type place that served sushi and other asian cuisine.  We decided to try it out and sure enough, it was pretty tasty.  After eating, we wandered around the main drag in downtown Kiev.  On weekends, they close the street so it was nice just to walk around in the nice weather.  While in Independence Square, we actually ran into a couple from America whose adoption blog I have been following since I've been in Ukraine.  The have been in Ukraine for three months trying to finalize the adoption of their special needs son, Aaron.  I read many stories of their struggles and how God delivered them.  Their story is much more difficult than ours.  Thank God, they are on schedule to leave for America with their son Aaron on Tuesday. 

The Alabama vs. Arkansas game was on live TV via satellite so we stayed up until half time (until 12:30 a.m. or so here) at which time everyone else went to bed.  The TV is in the living room (a.k.a. Charlie's bedroom) so I had to finish the second half getting updates after they occurred.  I am no Alabama fan for sure, so the fact that I watched and followed one of their games on line shows just how desperate I am for some resemblance of home.  :-)  The AU game started too late for me to listen to.  If everything stays on track, we have spent our last weekend in Ukraine so we can watch many football games next weekend if life allows.

Day 42:
When I awoke on Sunday, we didn't have anything to drink (water or soda).  With my being the caffeine dependent / cold soda in the morning person that I am, a walk down Mount KievKilamanjaroEverestK2 was necessary right out of the gate.  When I got back, we all ate breakfast and got ready to visit the first live professional soccer game attended by anyone in our family.  We walked the two miles to the stadium for the "Dee Naaa Moe" game.  The stadium holds about 12,000 fans.  We grabbed two glasses of warm apple juice and settled in for the big game against another Kiev, Ukraine professional team - the despicable "Aresenal".  :-)  About 15 mins before the game started, these giant sprinklers began wetting down the field.  I got excited because I thought maybe this was Kerosene and they were going to light it and play on a field of fire.  But alas, this was not the case.  A "normal" soccer game was on the menu for today.  It took the "Dee Naaa Moe" 108 minutes to dispatch the cross town rivals by a score of 21 to 14 (converted back to the soccer / metric system, this was a score of 3 to 2).  I didn't expect such an offensive display today!  During the game, we saw two head injuries, one shoulder injury, one injury to the pelvic region during a penalty kick (which got the whole stadium laughing) and one green card.  I'm not sure what the card was for but it being pulled out got a reaction from the crowd.  Another thing that really got the crowd fired up is whenever anyone (whether on purpose or by accident) touched the ball with their hands.  This unthinkable, nasty, despicable act occurred three times in the game but was only called once by the ref.  I'm sure that my children heard some very foul language in Ukrainian today but I don't speak it so I don't know how bad it truly was.  Also, I will say that large groups of Ukrainian young people get pretty enthusiastic during soccer games.  They had organized group cheers, taunts, dance moves, etc. that were on display during the entire game.  I guess they have to find some way to entertain themselves because they don't expect much action on the field.  I mean, the field was not burning with Kerosene!  :-)

Dynamo (Dee Naaa Moe) Kiev (in white) vs. Arsenal Kiev (in blue)

What a "blowout" score looks like in soccer!  This is 21 - 14 in American Football

We made our way to TGI Friday's to celebrate the huge blowout of the Arsenal.  We haven't eaten here since August 21, 2010 and it was a welcome change.  Up the hill we came after dinner.  We finished the evening by completing all of the paperwork that is needed during our visit with the U.S. Embassy tomorrow at 10:00 a.m.  At this meeting, we will turn in visa applications.  If all goes well, we would pick up visas for the children at 2:00 p.m. on Monday.  After we have these visas, we are coming home on the very next available flight which would be on Wednesday.

Please help us by praying that we finish the last steps without being hindered and that we would come home quickly and safely on Wednesday of this week.

Goodnight from Kiev, Ukraine!

Friday, September 24, 2010

Day 40 - "Check-up Required to Check Out"

Hello to everyone who continues following our family adoption blog.  With each passing day, we are getting closer to ending our time in Ukraine.  We are very grateful for all that you have done to be interested in what God is doing in our lives, and especially for the encouragement and prayer that you have afforded us. 

Today started relatively early.  Anna, Charlie and I were off to the "Oil & Gas Hospital" today to obtain the required medical exams for the U.S. Embassy.  These exams and the new Ukrainian Passports are the last two "pieces of paper" that we will need before we can obtain visas allowing the children to enter the United States of America.

The reason Angelia was not going with us today is because we were actually traveling with our trusty facilitator and some other folks (insert "Pink Panther" theme music here as we have now decided it might be more appropriate theme music for our wonderful facilitator).  :-)  For those of you who don't know, a family from Chelsea, Alabama left for Ukraine two days before we did to adopt their daughter.  It was quite interesting to know that someone that lives about 15 miles from us was traveling to Ukraine and even using the same facilitator.  Today, the six of us piled into the Honda Accord and headed for the hospital together.  It was great to spend some time talking and hanging out with some folks from home (literally, from just down the road).

The health exam for each child was fairly routine in nature with the only development being that Anna had to receive a immunization for "Rubella" (which Angelia tells me is the measles).  It was a tad bit awkward for me, Anna and Charlie during the exam.  The doctor was checking out Charlie and I sensed that some drawers were about to be pulled down.  I motioned for Anna to turn around and close her eyes.  Sure enough, little man's undies hit the floor only seconds later.  Normally, this is uncomfortable when you're alone with your doctor.  Add your new dad and older sister to the mix and you can imagine the embarrasement that occurred for Charlie.  Normally, I punish Charlie when he talks back by mumbling under his breath after being asked to do something.  In this case, I actually joined him in the mumbling / complaining.  When Anna's exam time came, I jumped out of my chair and quickly relocated Charlie and myself to a small area behind a screen.  Thank the Lord, there was a toy car on a shelf that I handed to Charlie to keep our attention.  Those friends who know me best know that I am squeamish anytime I am around someone else in a medical type capacity (such as when things come up in conversation like "hey, look at this tumor" or "hey, I think I'm going into labor").  Nothing like that occurred here today but I now see that being a parent takes us to places we are not comfortable going sometimes. 

We came back to the apartment and it was time for lunch.  I have been here for 40 days.  That means 40 days with no fried chicken.  Now, I'm a husky man.  I can't keep this huskiness without fried chicken on some sort of routine schedule that I can predict.  So, I decided that today was the day!  I bought what was either (a) the three largest chicken breasts you have ever seen or (2) three normal chicken breast from the Chernobyl region (site of the 1986 nuclear reactor explosion / disaster) or (3) turkey breasts.  Either way, they were trimmed into chicken finger size portions, battered and fried.  Adding some mashed potatoes and corn completed the meal.  It must have been good because it was all gone about 20 minutes from blessing to clean-up. 

One item of note, Charlie has pretty much only one job in the apartment.  It is his role to clean all dishes off the table and place them in the sink after each meal.  You would think that he would be used to it by now, but every once in a while he gets upset that mean ol' parents would expect him to do such a task.  When I asked him to do this today, he got mad, walked into another room, mumbled under his breath and gave a little kick to a piece of furniture.  So, Charlie got to see his old friend "90 degrees" (or corner) for 10 minutes.  Afterward, he had to take a damp cloth and clean the entire piece of furniture that he gave the little kick to.  Once the furniture cleaning was over, he had to still clear the dishes off the table.  It may be wrong of me to say this, but I got a pretty good little lift (that maybe I am doing a good job as a parent) when I saw the look on his face after I told him that he had to clean the furniture he kicked.  He had that "this is not going according to plan" look on his face.  I think he learned something today. :-)

We got word today that our passports will be ready on Monday.  I have also confirmed that we have meetings with the U.S. Embassy on Monday at 10:00 a.m. and Tuesday at 2:00 p.m. to obtain visas for the kids.  Because all seems like we are on track, I took the step of reserving flights for America to occur on Wednesday, September 29, 2010.  Praise The Lord!

We are not home free until we actually arrive in America so we humbly ask that you would continue praying for us and that God will see fit to get us home safe and sound next Wednesday.

My closing thoughts for tonight are:  God is teaching me so much about His nature and about my relationship with Him through my relationship with my children.  First, I find great comfort and all my hope in the fact that, because of Christs' blood atoning for my sin, nothing can now separate me from the love of my Father in Heaven.  In 1 John 3:1, we can read "how great is love the Father that pours out on us that we should be called the children of God; and that is what we are!".  In Romans 8:39, we read further that "neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.".  In Isaiah 49:6, we read "I have carved you on the palm of my hands".  All of this to say, sometimes I deserve to be in a corner.  Sometimes, my bad choices bring about more consequences that I considered beforehand.  It is my place to simply be obedient to the tasks that God sets before me and to do so with a joyful spirit.  When I kick the furniture, I can expect to have to clean up the mess.  However, my Father's love for me remains intact.

Goodnight to everyone from Kiev, Ukraine.  We love and greatly miss you all.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Day 39 - "Farewell Vovchkiv"

Hello to all of our friends, family and others who continue to follow our adoption blog.  We thank you so much for your prayers and encouragement.  You all lift us up when we are down, give us advice to strengthen us, and tarry with us as we wait for the necessary paperwork that will allow us to come home.  We thank God for you all!

Today was set to be a big day in the realm of adoptions.  Today was the last day that our children would see the orphanage that they have called home for so long.  Anna (14) lived there for seven years and Charlie (10) lived there for four.   I can't imagine what it's like to leave everything and everyone you have known for so long to move to another country and culture with virtual strangers.  I am proud of both my children for their bravery and I thank God for the spirit of hope that lives within each of them. 

We left the apartment at 11:30 a.m. today for our last round-trip to the village where the orphanage is located.  The weather was beautiful and it was a nice drive.  The yellow and orange leaves on the small trees beside the road here announce that fall is nearly upon this land; which is swiftly followed by what is usually a very harsh winter compared to where we live in America.  The fruit trees that were covered with plums and apples when we arrived have since delivered their bounty to the people who toiled in the spring.  People have changed the short sleeves for longer sleeved choices and some people are already donning full out winter weather clothing.  Fall has always been my favorite season because you can see God's preparation all around us for the cold and dreary winter  that is coming.  Animals are storing food and preparing their burrows.  Leaves change the forest into a kaliedescope of color giving us one last beautiful masterpiece to behold before the cold of winter comes.  God has blessed me and my family greatly this year and I am thankful that He has allowed me to experience Fall in Ukraine and in just a short time, Fall in my hometown.

The village where my children have lived for so long is a very humble and simple place for it's three hundred inhabitants.  There is no fast pace to life there; no swarm of technological advancements to absorb personal time.  I would imagine that most people there live on less than $100 per month.  They grow gardens, tend to livestock, prune fruit trees, reap and sow, reap and sow.  They are honorable, hard working people who are trapped in poverty.  In the midst of such hardship lies the orphange where our children have lived.  It is a small orphange that currenlty has only fifteen children.  They have no ability to fix meals here so all the children walk in a single-file line twice a day to the school to eat their meals.  The orphange itself is a two-story brick building that was built many years ago.  Its floors have been painted many times.  The walls are layered in wallpaper.  All the sleeping rooms have the same, single bunk beds arranged to maximize space.  The building is clean but not modern.  So many improvements have occurred here since we first visited in February of 2009 and I am thankful that God has arranged people to come and help these children and workers. The orphange has been open for eleven years and only four children have been adopted from here with Angelia and I being the first international adoptive family. 

Bedroom in the orphanage where our children have lived for most of their lives.

We spent about two final hours at the orphanage.  The beds where Anna and Charlie slept have already been rearranged and new sleeping assingments given out.  Anna spent time with her friend Nela and they both walked to the school so that Anna could say goodbye to other friends.  Charlie managed to shake a couple of hands and barely hug one or two of the the other boys of his age; after all, guys say goodbye differently than do girls.  We made it a point to just let our children have their time to say goodbye in their own ways.  I could see in the faces of some of the other children that they, too, long for a family to take them away from there.  At the same time, I didn't sense from our children any regret or change of heart about the decision they made a long time ago.  Before leaving, we managed to get the entire crew together for one last group photo with our children present.  The orphanage director gave me the biggest hug I think I have every gotten and she began to get a little choked up about the whole affair.  We made our way to the car to leave.  As we closed the doors and pulled away, this chapter of our childrens lives came to an end.
Our son Charlie (on the right) with his friend Sergey

Pictured from Left: Nela (Orphanage Director), Nela (Anna's friend), Anna Taylor (my daughter) and one of the orphange workers.
Our son Charlie Taylor (center) with his friends Alosha (left) and Sergey (right)
Our daughter Anna (center) with her friends Katya (left) and Marina (right)

Our daughter Anna (on the right) with her friend Nela

Vovchkiv, Ukraine Orphanage, September 23, 2010 (not all children present)

We drove home back through the same countryside that we have traversed so many times in the past weeks.  Angelia and I long for home as do our children.  They now pose a question to us on a regular basis ... "America?". 

Our adoption process is far from being over but we are very close.  The following items represent what is left for us to do (to occur as shown):
  • Complete medical exams required for a U.S. visa.  We are going to try and get these on Friday.
  • Ukrainian passports - we hope to get these Friday afternoon but if not, by Monday afternoon for sure.  Passports and medical screening are the last papers we need from Ukraine.
  • U.S. Embassy / Visa - we have to attend two appointments to get a visas for the children.  They will become U.S. Citizens the moment they clear customs on U.S. soil (PRAISE THE LORD!).  We submit an application on one day, and in most cases, receive the visa the day thereafter.  Once we get these visas, we can book the first available flight to America (which we will do).

Please continue to help us by praying for a quick transition for the remaining tasks that are necessary to complete this process.  We love and miss you all and hope to see you very, very soon.. Anna and Charlie in tow!  :-)

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Day 38 - "Getting Closer"

Hi to all of our family and friends who continue to follow God's work in our lives as He joins our family together.  It becomes more difficult here each day because we are so weary for home and for a normal routine.  Your kind words of prayer, encouragement and support lift our spirits so very much and we are very, very grateful. 

I read stories of others who are here adopting and it makes me thankful for all of the circumstances we have personally endured.  Some people experience great struggle, difficulty and hardship as they navigate the system to find children.  Some people have to endure much more difficult living circumstances than we have.  Some people have come without knowing how they will financially be able to finish the task at hand.  Some people have gotten sick while here and have had to manage through.  One thing is common among all of us.  We are all doing what we can to love those to whom Christ afforded great value; orphaned children.  Today, my prayer for my family and for all of those who are struggling to carry out the adoption of their children comes from God's own words (via Joshua 1:9 and Isaiah 41:10)

"Have I not commanded you?  Be strong and courageous.  Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go."  (Joshua 1:9) and "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)

We started today by waking up at 8:00 a.m. to prepare for leaving at 9:00 a.m. to continue the paper chase that is necessary to leave Ukraine.  As I have previoulsly written, the children are legally and officially ours now but we still have to get paper work that allows them to leave for America.  Today's task included visiting a notary to get a passport petition stamped and then visiting an office to file the petition, take picutres and submit for new passports for the children.  Sounds simple enough.  Although it wasn't very difficult, it was time consuming. 

To my friend Stacey and my friend Kevin who both endured multiple sessions of notarizing documents for Angelia and I - THANK YOU!  Getting something notarized and stamped here is much more of a task and if I had to re-do as many copies to a notary here that I did by each of you, I would probably have quit becuase I would have run out of money and y'all would have stopped being my friends.  :-) 

Thankfully, we were able to get these things done today and now we have to wait (likely until Monday afternoon) to pick up the passports.  Once we have these, all we need would be medical clearances and visas from the U.S. Embassy.  We are hoping to get medicals on Friday, and visa appointments  with the U.S. Embassy (of which it takes two) on Tuesday and Wednesday and then we hope to fly home next Thursday.  Please help us by keeping us in your prayers and specifically praying that we will not run into any more scheduling delays. 

Tomorrow will be another big day as far as the world of adoptions is concerned.  We will visit the orphanage where our children lived (Anna for seven years, Charlie for three) for the last time.  This very likely could be the last time our children ever see the kind hearted orphanage director, the people who took care of them, and most importantly, their friends.  This is likely to be an emotional day for them (and us) but it is something we knew would come.  Please pray that God would find families for the other children who live at this orphanage. 

One great accomplishment to share from today is that Charlie didn't have to spend any time in the 90 degree angle (corner).  I am very proud of him.  He did ask a funny question today while we were eating with our facilitator / translator.  He asked "whose going to translate for us when we get to America?" to which I jokingly replied "as long as you know what the words "get in the corner" mean, we are going to be just fine".  :-)  He is such a great little guy and Anna is a wonderful daughter.  We are surely blessed that God has given them to be our children.

Sorry that I don't have any pictures to post.  I guess we have all gotten tired of taking them.  Tomorrow we will have some for sure and I will share with everyone the details of our last visit to the orphange in Vovchkiv, Ukraine.

Goodnight from Kiev, Ukraine and may God bless and keep you all!

Days 34, 35, 36 & 37 - "Papers... Please?"

Hello to all of our family, friend and others who continue to follow our blog.  We are grateful that you contine to be interested and eager to share our experiences while we are in Ukraine to adopt our two children.  We are so very grateful for your prayers, encouragement and interest in our adoption story.  But then again, it's not our story... It's His story.

I'm sorry for such a long blog entry today but those of you who are around me much know that once I get started talking, it's hard to get me to stop.  :-)

I apologize for not blogging for the last four days.  Saturday and Sunday were both "groundhog days".  We woke up, we ate breakfast, we walked around a bit, we ate lunch, Charlie spent time in the corner, we played, we ate dinner, we watched TV, we went to sleep.  The only differences on these two days were (1) we cooked the Ukrainian version of Ramen Noodles that we scrounged from the Metro (Ukraine Sam's Club) and they were great.  I haven't had these in years but they were a nice change to our menu.  The kids love them.  (2) I stayed up all night on Saturday night to listen to the Auburn Tigers squeak out a win against Clemson.  I can't tell you how much this little piece of home that is listening to college football helps me endure. 

Day 36 (Monday):

Monday was a big day in the world of Ukraine adoptions.  Our 10 day waiting period ended on Sunday so we were to travel to the region on Monday to pick up the official court decree that names us as parents.  The following tasks remained for our adoption process:
  • Pick up finalized court decree that officially makes us a family
  • Get new birth certificates
  • Get updated Taxpayer Identification records for each child
  • File for new passports
  • Get medical screening (required by U.S. Embassy)
  • Have two meetings with U.S. Embassy to gain travel visa's for the children.
  • Book flight and travel home.  :-)

So, off we go to begin "the paper chase".  We arrived at the courthouse at about 10:30 a.m. and we had 12 copies of the court decree by noon.  We are now the legal parents of Anna Victoria Taylor and Charles Anatoliy Taylor. (Insert giant smile here).  No time to bask in the glory, we had to visit an administration building about 15 kilometers away to try and get new birth certificates.  We waited for three hours but managed to score new birth certificates for each of our children.  The birth certificates list their new names along with Angelia and I as their parents.  (Insert big smile here).  Again, no time to bask in the sunlight, we had to book it back to the city where the courthouse was located to try and get updated tax identification information applied to each child.  As I understand it, this normally takes only thirty minutes.  When we arrived, and after some discussion, we were told that this would take five to ten days.  Screeeeeeeeeeeeeeeecccchhhh!!!! (That's the sound I heard in my head immediately after getting this news).  Although I was discouraged to hear this, our trusty facilitator (insert "Mission Impossible" theme music here) said if we could make it to Kiev before 6:00 p.m., we might be able to get what we needed there.  We launch towards Kiev at top speed.  I'm sure we grazed a moped on the way out of town but it was his fault.  Just kidding.  No mopeds carrying baskets of mushrooms or other agriculture products, no babuskas (grandma's) nor any geese (wild or domestic) were injured during our trip to Kiev but it's only because each of them moved out of the road very quickly.  :-).  We arrive at the destination in Kiev at 5:30 p.m.  This was a full 30 minutes to spare but.... Screeeeeeeeeeeeeeecccchhh!!!  The workers decided to go home at 4:45 p.m.  So, off we go to the apartment with no updated tax identification information and a real fear that we would see a five day delay.  I am a little sad to say that I pretty much had a breakdown over this later that night.  After the kids were put to bed and we were in our room with the door closed, I pitched a pretty good tantrum and I am sorry that my wife had to endure hearing it.  I complained, ranted, griped, fussed and just plain ran out of emotional fuel.  At some point during my come-apart, I realized that this sort of behavior is just what gets Charlie some time in "the corner".  My spirit began to feel better after realizing this and I just literally said outloud "I get it God... I've been in "the corner" and I deserved it."  Just seconds after saying this, Angelia and I started saying outloud how blessed we are.  I mean, we recognized that we have met so many children here who need families, there are children in this world who are so hungry they have to dig through garbage dumps looking for scraps of food.  There are parents in this world who have sick children and no money for medicine.  Angelia and I both discussed out loud that there are so many needs in this world that are much more urgent and important than our own and yet, here I was complaining in the midst of my very many and great blessings.  God reminded me that what I have is not really mine and that He doesn't exist to serve me, but I, Him.  I turned from "the corner", apologized to Angelia and to God and went to sleep with just a simple prayer.  I trust you Lord, please help us. 

Day 37 (Tuesday):

So, I awoke on my first day of being a dad (from a full-on legal standpoint) 7:30 a.m..  At 10:00, I was leaving to go with our facilitator to try and make some progress towards this updated tax identification informaiton process.  At about 9:15 a.m., Charlie woke up and came sleepily stumbling into the room with Angelia and I.  Charlie wandered over to the computer stool where I was sitting, sat up on my lap and just hugged me tightly.  I just hugged him tightly back for a minute and said "good morning son".  After a minute or two, I asked (using hand signals and English) if he wanted to lay in bed with mom and watch a movie (to which he replied "yes").  I started the movie "Cars" and he was in little man heaven, for sure.

I left the apartment at about 10:00 a.m. with our trusty facilitator (insert "Mission Impossible" theme music here).  We visited the building we left off with yesterday.  They told us that we needed to visit a different building across the street.  No time to wait for cross-walks, we just scoot across Kiev traffic.  I surely don't want to do that often.  We found the building and were told to wait.  About 15 minutes later, we entered an office to meet with a tax official.  The lady we met had a warm smile and comforting demeanor.  As our facilitator talked with her, I thought to myself  "this just might be one of the nicest people I have met since being in Ukraine".  A moment later, my eyes were drawn to the cross necklace she was wearing.  Not only did she pleasatly describe that we indeed should have been given updated tax identification information yesterday, but she also called that village office and pleasantly explained to the person there that they could and should do it right away.  After ending the phone call with the village office, she apologized that she couldn't do it herself but told us that if we would drive back to the village, they would have it waiting for us when we arrived.  As we drove from the building, our facilitator said "she was a nice lady.  I think she understands adoption and is trying to help".  I thought to myself "maybe that cross on her necklace reminds her that she is adopted too". 

So, off we go back to the village.  When we arrived, the workers were on lunch break.  So, while we waited, I decided to take a look under the hood of our facilitators car to see if I could fix his windshield washer.  I know a little bit about cars so I just thought I would try.  No luck in making the repair.  But, I'm sure our facilitator was quite suprised as he rounded the corner to find the hood of his car up, the driver's door open and a bit of "crack attack" staring back at him.  Now that I think about it... and taking into account where we were... he probably wasn't that suprised.  He had updated tax indentification information in his hands.  Can I get a "PRAISE THE LORD"!   Our facilitator had even made some calls about the passport application process.  Long story short, we had to visit a village passport office back towards where the birth certificates were given.  Off we go!  When we arrived there, the lady told us we needed some passport related papers from the village where the chidren were born.  A call to the orphanage director provided a guide that could show us where it was.  We viewed a map for a few minutes and decided not to risk trying to find the place on our own.  So, off we go to the orphanage where we pick up ... uh... I don't know his name (but he was a nice guy) who would show us the building we needed to visit.  We depart for the Ukrainian countryside with a personal guide.  The directions we got from this man reminded me of the one and only visit I have made to the "Masters" golf tournament a few years back with my friend Tim Garmon.  At the "Masters", my friend Tim pointed out that golfer Ben Crenshaw had been using the same caddie at this tournament for something like 40 years.  It wasn't his normal caddie but rather a caddie who worked at Augusta National.  We watched this old caddie at the "Masters" point here and there to show Ben Crenshaw how a green rolled this way or that.  All the younger caddies who came with and worked for their famous golfers had spotting scopes and notebooks but, to quote my friend Tim, "Ben's caddie has worked here for 40 years, he don't  need no stinkin' notebook".  In the same way, neither did our guide need a map.  We arrived at a building tucked into some trees in a small village about 20 minutes away from the orphanage.  I didn't have a camera but it was quite a charming little village and it was pleasant to think that both my children were born very near here.  After waiting for about an hour or so, we got what we needed and were off to take our guide back to the orphanage. 

We were led back to the orphanage using a different route specified by our trusty guide which led us smack dab onto a very tiny dirt road type path that reminds me of some Jeep trails I have been on in McKenzie, Alabama.  Now, I know how much our facilitator likes his Honda Accord.  When we launched onto this dirt "path", complete with grassy hump in the middle and sounds of vegetation bouncing off the underside components of this car, his reflection in the rear view mirror showed a slight hint of concern.  This look of concern intensified greatly when we spotted, off in the distance, a man coming toward us walking a cow on a rope.  Now, this is a one lane path!  As we drew closer, the man waved at us to get out of his way.  I mean, Honda Accords are much more capable of dealing with a grassy, humpy dirt road shoulder than is a cow.   Luckily, the Accord we were in was able to navigate far enough to the right to allow the cow and it's master to pass.  When they got next to us, it was obvious that the man holding the cow's leash was very drunk.  When our guide saw the man holding the cow's leash, he let out a big ol' Ukrainian "hello" complete with a window rolled down and handshake.  They obviously knew each other!  (Seriously, what are the odds that any of us will, while out for a dirt path stroll in our Honda Accord, run into an old pal who just happens to be out taking Ol' Bessie for the afternoon stroll after knocking back a few bottles of vodka?)  Seriously, you can't make this stuff up!  LOL!  Ol' Bessie soon tired of the two long lost pals getting reacquainted and so she pulled her drunken owner away towards greener pastures.  We continue on our path to gain paperwork! 

We get back to the orphanage to drop off our guide and see many of the kids sitting outside eating apples that we had brought a couple days before.  Lord, thanks for the apples!  We managed to get all of the passport paperwork in the region completed so we will submit it tomorrow.

I came back to the apartment at about 7:45 or so to a family that I was very glad to see.  Angelia had managed to cook up a new bow-tie pasta / mushrooms / garlic / feta cheese dish using stuff she found at the store across the street from the apartment.   It was a great day!

Tomorrow, we submit for new passports and continue "the paper chase".  Please continue to pray that we will make swift progress and be able to come home very soon. 

Although today has been great, I am reminded that yesterday seemed, at the time, not to be.  Words that Jesus spoke come to mind when He said "the thief comes to steal and destroy".  Yesterday, I gave in to the lies that satan whispered into my ears and allowed my worries to grow into a great feeling of doubt, which led to a tantrum of sorts.  What I should have been doing is focusing on the joys in the fact that my wife and I are now legally, and officially, parents of two wonderful children.
I encourage you all, please don't allow "the thief" to "steal and destroy".  Rather, choose to trust God, for He is faithful!

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Day 32 & 33 - "The Potter & The Clay"

Hello to all of our friends, family and adoptive families who we know from other blogs who continue to pray for, encourage and support the Taylor family as we continue following God's plan for us all.  Being away from home is very hard to endure for all of us and your kind words help sustain us during a difficult and trying process. 

It has been so long since Angelia and I have experienced anything that relates to home.  We certainly miss the modern conveniences of home (such as a stand-up shower, pans & kitchen utensils, the ability to read a label on the food we are preparing) but we are truly blessed to be where we are and to have what we have.  Still, my heart bends for my children who are an encouragement to us.  They have the courage and joyful spirits to leave the only thing they know of a home life for a country, culture and family that is far away from here and much different.  Angelia and I have discussed that we feel as though we all have been a family for much longer than just the time we have been together here in Ukraine.  I am thankful to God that He has done a work in all of us to make us feel this way.

Thursday was Angelia's birthday!  I could never be able to explain how special Angelia is to me.  She has been in my life for over 20 years and I have certainly gotten the better end of the deal.  :-)  Anna has been planning a covert birthday suprise for Angelia for the previous 4 or 5 days.  :-)  While Angelia was taking an afternoon nap a few days ago, Anna brought me into the room where she and Charlie had been playing to show me that they had already made Angelia a birthday card.  Also, she proceeded to tell me (in our "neither of us speak the other language very well so we use hand signals" kind of way) that she wanted to go to the store on the evening before Angelia's birthday to buy her some chocolate as a gift.  Anna then showed me that when she  left Simferopol about a month ago to come back for the adoption process, the person there gave her $50 Hyrivna (Ukraine money, with 50 being equivalent to about $6 U.S. dollars).  Anna has kept this money for almost a month and now she wanted to use it to buy Angelia a birthday present.  I am proud of my daughter!  We managed to surprise Angelia as she came out of getting a shower / dressing for the day with a small jewelry box (to place on her nightstand and home so she will have a place to put her rings each night when she pulls them off) and a matching photo album.  When Anna, Charlie and I purchased the photo album, I told them that Angelia would put a picture of them in it; to which Anna replied "Nahhhh".  When Angelia unwrapped it, she said exactly what I knew she would "I love it... I will put a picture of Anna and Charlie in it".  What can I say, I know my wife.  :-).  Turned out that another kid-friendly 3-D movie opened up on Angelia's birthday so we treated her to an afternoon at the movies too.  All in all, it was a great birthday and family time together.

Earlier in the week, we were able to make plans with my friend Dima to spend today (Friday) ministering to the orphanage where our children have lived for so long.  We visited the "Metro" (Ukraine equivalent to Sam's Club) and purchased bulk laundry detergent, notebooks, a case of apples, a case of bananas and a case of ramen noodles.  We also managed to sneak in a couple bags of "blow pops" that we brought from America.  Purchasing the laundry detergent was pretty comical.  I wanted to pick out the right kind of detergent so I asked Anna, "How did you do laundry in the orphanage?" to which she replied through our interpreter Dima, "we put dirty clothes in one basket and picked up our clean clothes out of a different basket".  Obviously, someone at the orphanage did the laundry for all the kids.  Upon learning this, Angelia quickly commented to me, "Hmmm.... their laundry gets done just like yours does.".  (Mental note to self - teach kids how to use laundry machines when I get back home and plan for all of us to use them liberally.  LOL!) 

We spent about and hour and a half at the orphanage today.  We were able to speak privately with the director to find out more about Anna & Charlie's family history.  I won't share the details we learned but suffice it to say that both of our children have endured very difficult lives before being placed in the orphanage.  The orphanage where they lived and the staff there have managed to care for Anna and Charlie in such a way that they have joyful spirits and know that it is possible for adults to love them and care for their needs.  I know for sure that the orphanage director's heart breaks for the children who come there and she works very hard to care for them all.  Anna and Charlie will be the first children from this orphanage to ever be adopted by an international family and only the second set of children to be adopted at all since the orphanage opened about 11 years ago. 

I did manage to spend about 30 minutes playing soccer and kidding around with all the kids of the orphanage.  Having been to this orphanage several times, we know many of the kids there by name and it is so great to see them, spend time with them and just make them smile.  We will do our best to visit the orphanage one last time before we leave for America so that Anna and Charlie can say goodbye to their friends and what they have called home.  I can see in the eyes of Anna's older girl friends that they are happy for her.  But at the same time, you can just sense that they too long for a family of their own.  It is a sad realization to know that many of these children will never have a family, that they will be abandoned to a cruel world, and that they will succomb to the same poverty, alcoholism and desperation that caused many of them to become orphans.  It is a vicious cycle.  The orphanage director summed it up very well during our court hearing when she told the judge and jury "you can put in all the new TV's and computers you want but these things don't supply what these children need the most....families of their own!"

The only other thing worth sharing is that yesterday was probably the most difficult day I have faced so far in regards to my being a parent.  It was difficult because I recognized that I had been giving my children too many instructions and correcting them too much over minor things to the point where they no longer understood my expectations.  All of my mistakes led to an upset of our spirits and our family dynamic.  As we put the kids to bed, I did my best to let them know that I love them but I think they sensed the struggle I was experiencing because of my mistakes.  Angelia and I spent some time reading Scripture together and I was reminded that, in my relationship with my Heavenly Father, it is written that "He is the potter and I am the clay".  Just last Saturday, I watched a man working clay to make some beautiful pottery.  Some observations I recall about what I saw are:  (1) The clay needed to remain pliable so that he could shape it; if the clay were to be too dry or rigid then he wouldn't be able to smooth it out.  (2) He had to use gentle but firm pressure to shape the clay; too gentle and no change would occur, too firm and it would collapse back into what it was when he began - a ball of clay.  (3)  Tools were sometimes needed; these tools were used to form the most delicate and beautiful attributes of the finished piece.  I think that sums up my lesson today from Scripture about being a godly parent.  :-)  I spent some time this morning having fun with the kids.  I also took the time to make sure they understood just a couple of things that were important regarding mine and Angelia's wishes for their behavior.  All in all, today was a great day for all of us and I am so thankful that God helped me and taught me from His word.  My prayer is that I will remain receptive to God as He continues doing so.

Regarding the adoption process, we are on track to get court documents and birth certificates on Monday and we hope to be able to estimate by the middle of next week what a travel date for home will be.  Thank you all for your continued prayers, love and encouragement.