Monday, December 25, 2006

A Blessed Christmas

This has indeed been a blessed Christmas season for our family, and perhaps the last one we will all spend together (Ollie was not here, but all of the kids were).

Yesterday our pastor quoted someone who posed the question, "Where would we be without Jesus Christ?" The answers were along the lines of cultural and societal differences and they were certainly massive considerations. However, Bob posed the same question to our family, on a more personal level.

But for the love of Jesus Christ, we would probably be a family of three, with one very spoiled biological child. Not that this would be Tessa's fault, though. Rather, we would not have been good parents if we lacked the love, patience and perserverance which comes through tbe love of our Lord. We would not have adopted any children from Russia, nor from the disruptions, if the love of Jesus was not in our hearts. Without the love of Him, our lives would be lived selfishly and that would most likely not include having a dozen kids in our home!

Of course, this subject can even begin to be a selfish one, as we tend to think how not having Jesus would affect our own lives. It is because of Him that we can live to serve others and not ourselves.

On another note, this is also a season of beginnings for some in our family. One of our favorite gifts came from a daughter who has been with us for three years, yet has not been able to bring herself to call us Mom and Dad. Due to prior heart commitments she made in this area which were broken by the adults in her life, she found it very difficult to say those words that had previously broken her heart.

God has done amazing works in this child's heart recently and it has been joyous to watch and participate in. She wrote letters to Bob and I and asked that we open them last, after all of the other gifts. In these letters, she thanked us for all of the love we had given her and asked us to forgive her for not always being the best daughter in the world. She also stated that her Christmas gift to us will be to call us Mom and Dad from now on. God has given her the courage to make this commitment once again and we are eternally grateful to Him! Indeed, she came to us this morning to thank us for the stocking stuffers and her exact words were, "Thanks Mom and Dad!"

To top it all off, another child wrote us a note thanking us for our love and promising to be more forthcoming with expressions of love to us. When I hugged her and wished her a Merry Christmas this morning she returned the comment with an "I love you!" What more could a parent want than to see their children walking with the Lord?

I hope you all have a blessed and merry Christmas season!

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Christmas Dinner Menu

Here is something I posted on our MyFamily.com website:

OK, all of this talk about food brings me to our Christmas Dinner menu. It may make Ollie shudder, but remember - she will be in Maryland! As we were talking about the biblical meaning of Christmas one evening, I pointed out that feasting indeed had a biblical basis and asked the kids what they would like for our Christmas dinner. Here is what we have come up with so far:

Ham (my choice)
Cranberry sauce (an overall fave)
Hashbrown Casserole (requested by Kathryn and Zhenya)
Green Beans (Shawn)
Oriental Salad (Irina is making this)
Hot and Sour Soup (Kathryn)
Kim Chi (Naomi and Bob)
Rolls (Me)

Dessert -
Russian pancakes (Jennifer is making these)
MS Mud Cake (Bob)
Pumpkin Pie (Tessa)
Other suggestions that we may or may not take - Angel food cake with Strawberries (Shawn), NY Cheesecake (Kathryn) and Oreo Cookie Dessert (Trey)

There is a bit of a story behind the Kim Chi. It is made locally and sold at an Asian Market by a Korean woman who speaks limited English. I was there earlier this week looking for the Thai peppers Naomi needed for spring rolls and I bought some of her Kim Chi. She kept pointing to one jar and saying something like, "Squee," over and over. I thought she was saying "squid" but that just didn't seem to make sense to me. So, I acted like I knew what I was doing and made the purchase.

Today I returned to buy our Christmas Kim Chi. I asked her the difference between the two kinds and she started saying the same thing. Thankfully, another customer knew what she was saying, though, and told me that the large jar was made with fish sauce. Apparently that Kim Chi did indeed have squid in it, along with oysters and other fishy foods. I bought the gallon jar of that and the smaller jar of vegetarian Kim Chi for Nikki. It goes fast around here - the last batch was gone in only a couple of days!

Ahhhh, culinary diversity....

Sunday, December 17, 2006

December Birthday Celebrations


Jennifer and I had the privilege of celebrating our birthdays together today. She will be 20 on Tuesday and I was 45 yesterday. With our hectic schedules, today was the only day we could find when everyone was home at the same time.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Christmas Poem

Bright green wreaths
Deck the halls
With their shining splendor
Little silver bells
Toll in curious wonder
Once upon a Christmas.

Deep red bows
Grace the table
Bringing Christmas cheer
The vines of lights
Say joy is here
Once upon a Christmas.

Little starry eyes
Bright with wonder
A hand is reaching out
It touches gifts
Moving all about
Once upon a Christmas.

Yet long ago
On one dark night
Sat shepherds with their sheep
They looked up
And saw the angels
Once upon a Christmas

A little babe
Of lowly heart
Was lying in a manger
He came to save
Us from God's anger
Once upon a Christmas.

He comes again
Thought near or far
Or now the time may be
He comes to save
And set all free
Once upon a Savior.

By Tessa Edwards, Christmas 2006

Tessa, age almost 16, continues to enjoy honing her writing skills. She has recently started a part time job at an animal hospital also, which suits her quite well. In or around Feburary she will most likely be getting her driver's license, which she is very much looking forward to. Mom wonders, "Where in the world have the last 16 years gone?!!"

Three Whole Different Lives

I suppose not many folks are still checking in here, since it has been so long since we have posted! Sorry about that - life just keeps happening. ;-) I did want to post this short essay that Anna wrote for school, though. She has changed so much in the past three years - all for the better. Her middle name rings true these days - Joy! Here is what she wrote:

I had three whole different lives. My first was eight years of orphanage life. My second was three years of misery. And my third is a forever life.

While living in the orphanage my mind was lost. I didn't know anything except anger, attitudes, selfishness and that I was in an orphanage. Actually, it felt more like jail.

My second life was in a family that had good and bad people. I got along with three and got in fights with the other three. I was stuck in the middle. I, of course, constantly got in trouble. I knew more things and I started knowing God, but not enough.

And, my third life is a forever life. There's no more anger, I suppose. Honestly, I feel more freedom and relaxation in my third life. I am also meeting a bunch of kids. Of course I still get in fights and all. And I also know much more about God. This God gave me three whole different lives. He gave me those lives for a purpose. I was in an orphanage, then He gave me a family that didn't work, so He gave me a different family so that I can hear more about Him. How great! It's a puzzle.

Anna is 14 years old and has been our daughter for three years. We have seen her mature a great deal and she has recently come to know the Lord as her Savior! She is currently writing her testimony to share with our church when she is baptized.

She asked me if the word "forever"was the correct word to use in regards to being in our family and I assured her that she would indeed forever be a part of our family while we are on this earth, even after she becomes an adult and leaves home.

Her hunger for things of the Lord is so refreshing and exciting. She strives to truly understand what she reads in her Bible each day and how she can apply it in her own life.

Sunday, October 15, 2006


A new picture of the family.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Throwing Caution to the Wind

This morning when I got up, my spasms were much worse than they usually are in the mornings. Since I was obviously going to have to do something about it, Bob told me to go ahead and take the morning dose of my new medication, rather than waiting until tomorrow to start it.

I did, and the spasms stopped exactly twenty minutes later! It was just like a switch was flipped - they stopped almost that suddenly, and were real close to being completely gone. For the first time in over a year, I sat in Sunday School with my hands casually relaxed in my lap and my eyes focused on the speaker (Just imagine - that trip to Philly could have been avoided if I had tried this medication earlier...It sure was a fun trip, though). My head did not bob up and down, so I made sure to let the pastor know that didn't mean I suddenly stopped agreeing with him, though. ;-) It was simply amazing and a huge blessing to be in church the first morning I tried this medication in the morning (God's timing, of course).

The medication wore off at precisely 3 hours, 40 minutes after I took it, but those were some precious moments and now I know there IS a treatment.

Please pray that I will be able to handle the side effects of the medication (need to make sure that the chest pains I had were gastro related, for one thing...) and that this may help the doctors narrow down the specific type of dystonia I have. I will be taking this medication at least four times per day and I will always have "off" times, but this is sure a lot more relief than I have had in the past!

I am hereby no longer "cautiously optimistic". I throw caution to the wind and praise to the Lord!

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Cautious Optimism

After a year and a half of increasing and continual muscle spasms, we may have found a medication that can help, and some answers along with it. As the title says, I am cautious about this optimism, because there are so many "if's" that go along with it.

One type of dystonia is Dopamine Responsive Dystonia (http://www.dystonia-foundation.org/defined/dopa.asp), and it is usually initially discovered with a trial of levodopa. I have had three doses of this medication so far and each time I took it the spasms stopped within only a few minutes. It was totally amazing! It is like a pain medication, though, in that it wears off in about four hours and you need another dosage.

My doctor is starting me out slowly, which is a smart thing. The dose I take right now is at bedtime, to give my body a chance to get used to it. Next week I will start a morning dose, and will need to clear my morning schedule, since it does seem to make me pretty "crazy" (woozy-like). I am hoping it is one of those side effects that wears off once your body becomes acclimated to the medication, since I will eventually be taking it four times a day.

I did have a point at which I wondered if I was allergic to the medication, too. I had all of the signs of an allergic reaction, except it did not get so bad that I couldn't breath, thankfully. I have liquid antihistamine handy now, in case it happens again.

The spasms return promptly once the medication wears off (usually a bit less than four hours) and today they are pretty bad. I think that is due to a lot of running around, though, and I hope to rest the remaining part of the day.

On another good note, Ollie had cataract surgery today and we were amazed at how easily it went! She is so eager to have good vision again and what a wonderful age it is we live in, when God has equipped doctors to be able to return a person's sight at the age of 81!

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Changes...

God is the same, yesterday, today and forever. Yet, His creation is ever changing. Just last night I stood outside, looking at some awesome clouds. There were many layers - some moving slowing, some quickly, some so low they almost touched the trees and some so high the jet stream flattened the tops. As the sun began to set, the colors on the clouds were incredible. I could not bear to take my eyes away, as they changed before my eyes. The deep pinks were my favorite, even as they were tinged in blue around the edges.

As the colors dulled, I resumed my job of pulling up Cosmos stalks whose season had ended. I would shake the dirt from their roots and then lay them all in a pile, thinking how their time of beauty was over. They served us well, growing tall and blooming in my desired hues of pinks and purples, but their time was up. Now they would become dirt, which is no less a wonderful part of God's plan.

God teaches me best when I am surrounded by His creation. As He showed me the changes that take place every second, minute, hour, day, week, and year in His handiwork, I began to think back on the teenage challenges I had faced this week. I was discouraged and sad, due to some deception I had uncovered. Changes are coming, but that is God's way.

He is our Rock - unmoving and steady. It is His way to make creatures who are continually changing, though. Perhaps change is one of His ways of teaching us. I like to be comfortable, but I have to admit that I don't learn as well in my recliner as I do in my yard, looking at clouds and pulling Cosmos stalks. To God be the glory!

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Five Short Years Later...











Five year anniversary stories will be abounding this month, but nonetheless I would like to share ours. It is a testimony to God's grace in our own lives and the lives of three orphans, formerly from Russia.

About a year and a half after our first Russian adoptions we were asked to pray for another sibling group who desperately needed a loving family to adopt them. They were in Blagoveschensk, the same city we had adopted Vanya and Irina from in 1999, and their chances of being adopted were extremely slim due to their ages and the fact that there were three of them. We joined others in praying for these three and were soon excited to hear that a young couple in our own home town had decided to adopt them.

There were questions regarding this adoption from the beginning, however. The couple was quite young and would need to raise the money for the adoption as they went along. Since we lived close to them, we got to know them and we helped them learn about the Russian culture and how to prepare adoption paperwork.

Part of the way through the adoption it was discovered that the wife was pregnant. Her delivery date was likely to be close to the time they would need to travel for the adoption, so they decided to stop the adoption process. Once again, these three children were left without any prospects for a family.

They were 12, 13 and 14 years old and without parents. They were also halfway around the world from us. Our hearts were torn as we looked at the few photos we had, day after day. They were so small for their ages, so thin, so sad looking.

Gently, slowly, God began to nudge our hearts. Oh no! Not US! Certainly God did not mean that WE were to adopt these children. We already had five children at home and felt that our plates were full. But the burden remained, growing heavier day by day. Finally, we agreed to take our vacation time to talk and pray about the possibility of adopting these children. Our family of seven was taking a long road trip from Tulsa, OK to Washington DC, so we would have plenty of time for that.

The more we prayed, the more God convicted. The burden was finally rolled away when we joyfully made the decision to go forward with the adoption. Many thought we were crazy, many just shook their heads in disbelief. God’s people stood beside us, though, as we began this long and arduous journey, to bring three more children home.

International adoptions are known for the tons of required paperwork, delays, and uncertainty and this one was no exception. We hoped to travel in springtime, but summer came with no court date.

Then, we hit more of a snag than either government could throw at us. Bob was informed that the company he worked for was closing their Tulsa office. A pink slip, a lost job with none others in sight. An economy spiraling downward, with no apparent hope of recovery. Depression set in as newspapers were searched, phone calls were made, internet resumes were posted. Why would God bring us this far, this close to these children, and then pull us apart? Our agency director was informed of the situation and asked to not remind our Russian facilitator that we were waiting on a court date.

One Friday morning in early September she called, though. Somehow, despite all odds and obstacles, a court date had been assigned to us in a Russian court. Within the week we were to be on Russian soil, meeting our new children! What joy! What pain! No Russian judge in his right mind would award us custody of three teenage children, with no visible means of supporting them.

A phone call to our church to report this situation was greeted by the booming and cheerful voice of a good friend. “Oh, I can’t WAIT to see how God is going to work THIS one out!” he gushed. Had this not been a phone call, it is regretful to think what sinful actions might have transpired.

Faith faltered for a moment, but the hope of our Lord never dimmed. Humanly impossible tasks are where He shines and this was no exception to that rule. A phone call made to a friend and previous work connection in Alabama provided a new job within an hour of receiving the phone call with the news of a court date! No interview required, no trips necessary to work out details – just a job offer with an open start date. Oh yes, and a generous salary adjustment to go along with the new job. Only thing was, the job was in a different state. Well, one thing at a time…

We joyfully and frantically began to prepare for a trip around the world, leaving in less than a week. Plans were made to leave our current children with family and friends. Travel arrangements were made. We were to leave Tulsa early on a Thursday morning that September.

Grandma came to help with the kids, so that preparations would go smoother. Dad was able to be home to help, too, since there was no job to report to each morning. So, on that Tuesday morning, the entire family was at home when another phone call came. This one was not at all joyful, however. It was filled with pain and foreboding.

A friend knew that we did not watch television in our home, so he called us with the news. The date was September 11, 2001. We were to leave for Russia in two days, but the world was falling apart instead. Our eyes were suddenly transfixed to the television that we seldom watched. Children looked from face to face, trying to understand. There were no answers, though, only questions.

As we sat numb and frozen, a Federal Express truck drove up to our house. The delivery man was quick to tell us how “lucky” we were to receive these packages, as he was on the way back to the office and no more deliveries were to be made that day. Inside these envelopes were the last of our travel papers (visas, employment letter, etc), everything we needed for our adoption process. God was still in control.

Since airports all over the world were being closed for the first time in history, I became one of the millions of passengers who clogged the phone lines trying to reschedule our flights. I never could figure out how anyone got through, but the lines were continually busy over the next few days.

In the midst of mourning along with the rest of the country, I began to feel guilty as I wondered how this horrendous act of terrorism was going to affect our own lives. After seeing God miraculously provide a job for Bob only an hour after getting our court date, we could not doubt His ability to provide a way for us to get to Russia, though.

The airports began to schedule reopenings and I was finally able to get through to our airline. They booked us on one of the very first planes out of Tulsa on the Friday after 9-11. Family members were incredulous when they discovered we were indeed going to board a plane and fly to Russia so close on the heels of the terrorist acts. It must have appeared a terribly unwise step for us to take, but we knew we had to get our children home and that God would prepare the way for us.

Our flight took us to Chicago, where we were to board an Aeroflot flight to Moscow. However, we soon learned that no international flights were leaving Chicago at all. In fact, Aeroflot had diverted their plane to Canada when they heard about the attacks and then they flew it back to Moscow empty. That is absolutely unheard of in the airline industry (flying a plane overseas with no passengers). No one could tell us when we could expect to board a plane for Moscow so I once again became one of the callers who hounded the airline company phones.

As we wandered around the Chicago airport we found ourselves looking warily around us. Who among the others might be the next terrorist? It was difficult to not fall into unnecessary suspicions of those around us. One man of apparent Middle Eastern descent caused me to be uncomfortable, as he was traveling through the airport alone and with no luggage. The tram ride we took with him was very stressful for me, and I had to confess my sinful thoughts to the Lord who had carried us safely around the world only two short years before.

It became apparent that we were not to leave that day, so we began to consider what we should do as we waited for our flight out of Chicago. Finances were tight due to the adoption costs and the loss of a job, so we prepared to stay at the airport along with many of the other passengers. We stayed in continual contact with our church family and at that point someone stepped forward and asked if they could pay for our lodging while we were in Chicago. Our thankfulness was heartfelt as we accepted this offer and proceeded to find a hotel with a room available. A nearby mall provided meals and distractions for us as time ticked by ever so slowly and my ear stayed glued to the phone in our room.

Finally I was able once more to contact the airline company and our flight to Moscow was rescheduled. Doubts and fears were rampant, but we quickly gathered our belongings and returned to the airport. The lines were excruciatingly long and tedious and we were forced to rearrange much of our luggage due to new regulations.

In the back of our minds, we wondered how the Russian judge would react to us arriving in Russia much later than originally planned. He had insisted that we arrive ten days before our court date so that we could get to know the kids before we committed to being their parents. Five of those days had just been spent in a Chicago hotel, though, and we left the US not knowing if the judge would have mercy on us or not.

Our flight to Moscow was fully booked, with not one seat empty. Many of the passengers had spent the last five days in the airport and their faces told the stories of discomfort, frustration and fear. Once we left the United States, however, things seemed to go much more smoothly. We arrived safely in Moscow, spent the night in a hotel and left the next day for Blagoveschensk – a city in the far southeastern corner of Siberian Russia.

Upon our 3:00 am arrival in Blago, we were informed that the judge had indeed waived the ten day rule for us. We slept for a few hours and were then taken to the orphanage, to meet our children. Many of the orphanage staff had gathered to witness the meeting, along with the director of the Ministry of Education. In our state of extreme fatigue, we were asked question after question regarding our living conditions and parenting principles. They then asked us if we wanted to take the children to stay with us in the flat until our court date arrived. It was an unexpected question, but one we dared not say “no” to. How would it look for us to refuse to allow the kids to stay with us at that point in the adoption?! So, we agreed to take them with us and began the process of packing up their few belongings (most of which were previous gifts from us).

To our delight, we discovered that the children were extremely cooperative, kind, helpful and quiet. They cleaned up after themselves and whispered when they talked among themselves. We welcomed these traits, knowing in our hearts that they would be gone soon enough.

Our time was spent shopping and getting to know our soon-to-be children. Their generosity struck at my heart. Out of the first spending money we gave them, they bought gifts for us and continually shared everything they purchased with each other and us. They laughed when I discovered the camera I was using had no film in it and then again when I ran into the low hanging light fixture in the kitchen where we were staying over and over again. This memory brings a smile to their faces, even today.

Everywhere we went, the Russian people were compassionate towards us. In the open air market, vendors gave us discounts we did not ask for, simply because we were Americans and they felt badly for what had just happened in our country. The adoption process could not have gone any smoother than it did, much to our relief, and the children were soon declared to be ours according to a Russian court.

After what seemed like years, we left Siberia and began the return trip to the US. Our stay in Moscow was delightful, as we were able to show our new children parts of their country they had only dreamed of seeing. We continued to be fascinated by the compassion pouring out of the hearts of the Russian people. While we were riding on the subway with our translator, a Russian woman began talking to her and asking questions about us. When she reached her stop she gave a package she had been carrying to our translator and hurried on to her destination. Tatia would not talk about what the package held until we subsequently reached our own stop. At that point she told us that the woman had been so touched by the story of our adoption that she had given us a loaf of bread that she had been given for her own birthday. Anyone who knows even a little about the Russian culture knows how much they love their breads! And this one was an exceptional example of their fancy, sweet breads. It was made all the more sweet as we thanked God for this generous woman and prayed that He would bless her in return for the gift she shared with us.

We arrived in Tulsa safely, but physically and emotionally exhausted. Bob left three days later for Alabama, where he was to start his new job and look for housing for his newly expanded family. I was left at home with 7 children (one went to AL with him), three of whom did not speak English. We soon began the process of packing and trying to sell our house and I was delighted to discover what hard workers our new children were. (A number of years later, Zhenya told us that he had not known what was going on as we prepared to move. He did not realize we were moving to a different place until all of our household goods were loaded into a truck and we all got into our van and began the long drive to Alabama.)

Five years later….

The year now is 2006. It has been five years since we adopted those three teenagers in the shadow of the greatest terrorist acts our country has ever seen. They are now 17, 18 and 19 years old. Jennifer, the oldest, has come to know the Lord as her personal Savior and she is engaged to be married to a wonderful Christian young man. Sergei is an accomplished photographer, hoping to someday make a career out of this line of work. Zhenya is planning on attending college and becoming an architect. Both of them are working part time at a restaurant and searching for a used car to buy with the money they have earned.

Testimonies to God’s goodness and grace have risen from the terrorist ashes of September 11, 2001. Although many lost their lives that day, God blessed three young children from Russia by giving them new lives in a far away country and loving Christian home. The blessings have been many as we have watched these three grow over the last five years. Their time with us will be short, by design, but we would not have changed a moment of it.

Perspectives

Below you will find stories written by the three teens we adopted that September of 2001. A story is best understood when looked at from differing perspectives. What stands out to me when I read the kids' stories is that they were basically unaware of the tragedy preceeding their adoptions.

I have made grammar and English corrections, but otherwise the stories are their own, told from their unique perspectives.

Jennifer's Five Year Anniversary Story


I was fourteen years of age when I was adopted. Two years before my mom and dad came to adopt us, we had some American people come to our orphanage to help us learn how to make jewelry. I had a friend who was a Christian in Russia and her name was Tanya. There were two American women who came. Tanya and I were standing together and Tanya was talking to them. At that time I really wanted to be adopted and I asked those two women if they could adopt me and my brothers. They couldn’t, because one of them wasn’t married and the other didn’t have a husband any more so they couldn’t adopt us. After the Americans left, I would call Tanya every day and ask if she had someone that could adopt us. Then after a year passed, someone came to our orphanage to take pictures of us and I knew that maybe someone would adopt us, but I still called Tanya about every day.
It was the year two thousand one when we heard that someone would adopt us. That year we also got a big box of candy, note pads, and other things. I thought it was from the people who came to our orphanage once, but later I found out that our new parents and some other people put it together for us.
It was summer that year and we were at the summer camp for a month, when one of the workers at the orphanage came to me and said that our new parents would come in the summer, soon. After the camp, I was supposed to go on the boat for eighteen days, but a worker told me that I could not go, because what if they would come and they would have to chase after me. So I didn’t go. I was waiting till they came to us, but later I heard they would come in September. That time I really wanted to go on the boat, but I didn’t, because my brothers and I had to go to the hospital for a check up. They told me that I would not stay there for a long time and they would not give me any shots or do other things to me. But I stayed there for a while with my brothers and they did give us shots and pills.
Sergei, Zhenya and I had a really good friend, which I met in the hospital, but at a different one. She really liked us and took care of us. She would come to the hospital to see us and visit with us.
One day, I asked the doctor when I would leave the hospital, and she told me that I could leave any time, but first I had to call the orphanage to take me back. They told me that they didn’t have any transportation to bring me back. One day they took me back to the orphanage, but not my brothers. I asked them when they would come, but they didn’t know, either.
When my brothers came back, our secretary called us and told us to write a paper, saying that we all agreed to be adopted, but Zhenya didn’t want to be adopted and the secretary and I talked to him and told him that the life there would be better than he had then. I think he understood that and he agreed to write the paper. We also heard from some people that our new mom and dad would adopt us and to be slaves there or work on the farm, because they had so many kids.
We started back to school in September, and it was not that long till our new parents came to Russia to visit us. I think they came to Russia on September 25th, I think, and it was Friday. That day I wanted to go to someone’s house but I didn’t, because my parents came. I was outside, talking to my friend and I saw them come inside the orphanage, so I told my friend good bye and that I would see her Saturday at school. I went inside into my group and waited till they called us. First they were talking to our director, but later they called us, so we could meet our new parents. Our parents asked our director if they could take us with them and stay there for a while, so they could know us better. But the director told them that they need to write a paper to her, about letting us go with them and they did.
We were with them in the apartment. We stayed there over night and the next day we went shopping for clothes and we had fun together. We went to the Chinese market to buy some clothes. After that we went to a book store to look around, and our mom bought us ice cream and I asked her if she wanted some and I asked dad too. But they didn’t wanted, but it was all right with me that they didn’t want, because they wanted us to have fun.
On September 27th we went to the court, but before that a worker at the orphanage told me to cry in the court, because if we did then they would let us be adopted. We were at court and didn’t cry because I thought it wasn’t necessary to cry. The judge asked us why we wanted to be adopted and what got us interested in those people. I told them that they loved kids and they liked to take care of them. After they asked questions they asked us to go out of the court room for a while, till they decided if they wanted us to go to America. We were waiting and finally the door opened and one of the judges told us to go in and hug our new parents, so we did. That day I also gave my mom a necklace, which was a gift from my friend, but I didn’t care who it came from. I just wanted to give it to my new mom. The next day, we went to the orphanage to say good bye to our friends and workers who took care of us, then we went back to the apartment and packed our things to get ready to leave the next day.
The next day we were at the airport and ready to leave, but Tanya came and she gave us a big bag of Russian candies and she also made a game for us, which is called Pop It in America, but she made it with her own hands. We said good bye to Tanya and we started to go on the airplane. We flew to one city in Russia and waited for the airplane to come so we could travel to Moscow. We arrived in Moscow and we stayed there for a few days. We had a good time going to places and seeing things in Moscow. In my life I really wanted to visit Moscow but now my dream came true.
It was time for us to go. We were at the airport and in an airplane flying to America. Mom and I sat together and the boys sat with Dad. Mom would write me something on the paper in English and I would write in Russian. We also played games and did other things. We arrived in Chicago, Illinois. We went to sit down to wait for the airplane, and I saw other people lying or sitting on the floor at the airport and I thought it was really weird for them to do that. So I think somehow I asked mom what they were doing, and she told me it was their home, so they could do that.
The airplane came and we started to travel to Tulsa, Oklahoma. I asked my mom a lot of times if we were in Oklahoma yet and she told me not yet. I was impatient to come to our new home. We finally arrived. When we walked out from the airplane, we saw a lot of people there who came to meet us and see Mom and Dad come home with their new children. When we came home, were really shy at first. I was standing in the dining room, when I saw a big dog running toward me. I panicked, and I wanted them to take this dog away from me because I thought she will bite me because in Russia big dogs aren’t friendly. But later I found out that she would not bite and she was friendly, so I started to like dogs after I met Sandy, our dog.
I lived in Oklahoma for a month and a half and then we moved to Alabama. I still live in Alabama but in a different house. We moved into a bigger one, because we have more kids than before.
After four years or little bit more, my mom asked me questions about what kind of husband would I like and later she told me about Micah, who is right now my fiancĂ©e and we will marry some day. This September on the twenty seventh, my brothers and I will be adopted five years ago and on October second we arrived in America. I thank my Mom and Dad for giving me a good life and letting me know God and His son. Thank you so much, Mom and Dad for raising me in a good way and my brothers, too. If you didn’t adopt us maybe two of my brothers would be in jail by now if we were in Russia, but may be not Zhenya. And now I am getting married. I thought this day would not come, but when I came to America the years went faster for me than they did in Russia.

Sergei's Five Year Anniversary Story


(Editor's Note - Sergei chose to write a series of smaller stories, some of which tell about life in the orphanages.)

When I was in Russia my dad died and we buried him. Once when I was in school the police came to school and took us, and we ended up in some kind of police kids place and when I was there they were mean people. They would make people read books even if they didn’t know how to read. When we went to eat, we had to go line up and go eat and that’s when we could go to the bathroom and outside. When someone behaved badly, they would lock them up in one of the rooms with concrete walls and a bucket in a corner to go to the bathroom. When we went to bed we all went into one room and they would lock up us and we couldn’t do anything.
After I had been there three months they transferred us to a different orphanage which was better than some kind of police orphanage. After we had been in the new orphanage for about a year my Russian mom came and got us again. Then a few months later the police came and brought us to the police orphanage and from that orphanage we were transferred to a different one. Then we were transferred to the Belagorsk orphanage and my older sister visited us.



When I was in a Belagorsk orphanage, we went to camps and did karate until they sent us to the Blagoveschensk orphanage. The reason we were sent to the Blagoveschensk orphanage was because our mom died of cancer. When I was in the Blagoveschensk orphanage we would go on eighteen day boat trips every year and go to camps in the summer.
When I was eleven I ended up with the wrong kind of friends. I started to use drugs and alcohol. Once me and my friend went picking marijuana and one of the men followed us but we didn’t know that he was a police officer. When we were done picking marijuana that man caught us and sent us to the police station. They questioned us about why we picked but we lied and said we were picking for someone else. Later, I heard they were talking about if we should go to jail but they said we were too young to go to jail, so they let us go but they kept the records of us that we had been involved with drugs.



When I was in the orphanage we usually did fun things in the summer, like go to a little place where there were good trees and start playing tree tag. What we would do is try to get away from one person while we were all on the tree and you couldn’t touch the ground. When we were stuck and it looked like we didn’t have anywhere to go, we usually would jump on different branches to run away from the person who was “it”.
Once when we were playing tree tag, one of my friends jumped on a different branch and he slipped and landed on his head from a fifteen feet height and he didn’t even break his neck but he did go unconscious for a while. When we picked him up and carried him back to the orphanage some people thought he was high on drugs. Then the doctor came and asked us what happened and we told the doctor, “When we were playing tree tag he fell on his head.” After a few days he felt good and he started playing tree tag again.


When I was in an orphanage, every year we had summer breaks and in the summer we would go on eighteen day boat trips. When we took eighteen day boat trips we would stop in different places to refuel and do some fish trading. While they did that, most of the people went around the city and bought things and we stopped in several cities like that. We also would stop on some kind of land where there were trees and a lot of sand and there were no people. When we stopped there we spent about two days on the sandy part. We would swim and do some contests like who could build the prettiest sand sculptures. Then we would do some competitions but since there was a lot of people we would usually separate all of the people into four groups.
We also fished there and once when we were fishing we caught a huge fish and the fish had eggs, so what we did with the eggs was turned them in to caviar.




When I heard me, Zhenya and Jennifer were going to be adopted I was excited. Then the director told me if we went to America they might use us as slaves and my friend told me they were going to break us like robots but I did not believe that.
Then we waited at least for a year, before Mom and Dad came. They put us in a hospital for no reason and when they did that we could not go outside so me and the guy I met there would go out from the hospital without asking because we knew that they would say no to us. The few days we were in the hospital I was thinking of going back to the orphanage but I decided to stay. Then Jennifer’s friend came to the hospital to visit her and she visited me and Zhenya. When she was visiting she smelled that we had smoked cigarettes and she had been saying to us for a while not to smoke cigarettes because they are bad for you.

Zhenya's Five Year Anniversary Story


About five years ago I was in a children’s home. I was sitting in a room watching tv when my room teacher came and said that I needed to put my good clothing on and go to the director’s office. I didn’t know what that was all about, so I put my clothing on and went to the director’s office. The place where I stayed, if a director asks you to come to his office usually it’s when people did something bad. When I came in there with Veronika (aka, Jennifer) and Sergei, she told us to sit down. As we sat, she told us the reason we were there was that a person was going to come and take a picture of us for the people who were going to adopt us. After they took our pictures the director told us that we could go. Then a couple of months later the people sent us a present.
Winter passed and I forgot that someone was trying to adopt us. In the beginning of the summer, the director told us that we needed to go to her office again. She told us that we were going to be adopted in September and then she said that we needed to sign papers first to be adopted and she said to think about that before we signed the papers. When we told the other boys and teachers, they told us that Americans treat adopted kids really bad and they make them work on farms. One of the teachers said that the people that were adopting us were paying for us so that made me think that we were being sold and that made me not want to sign the papers.
Then a couple of weeks later we went to camp. When I came back I did sign those papers. In September, Mom and Dad came to the children’s home. First, we sat in the assistant director’s office and they talked with her. Then Mom and Dad took us to the store shopping. After shopping, we went to the apartment they were staying in. I think we spent the night there. Then we went back to the orphanage. Some date we went to the court and were approved for our adoptions. A couple of days later we went to the airport and traveled to some city. Then we traveled to Moscow where we stayed a couple of days. Then we came to America.
Now that I’m in the USA I see that I made the right choice on signing those papers and the stories that I’ve heard about Americans treating adopted kids bad is a lie. So, I’m really thankful that God brought me to this country.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Medical Update

"My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus' blood and rightousness..."

Actually, I have to confess that I have not done a good job of maintaining a steadfastness in the statement above. It is a daily struggle to not place my hope in the next bottle of medicine or doctor's appointment. I don't like having Dystonia and being a "jerk" all of the time. Whatever novelty there might have been in going from doctor to doctor for a diagnosis has long worn off (well, there wasn't much of it to start with). I continue to be thankful to God for bringing me to a good doctor who knows what my movement disorder is, though.

Yesterday I had a three month recheck with this doctor in Birmingham. The medication he gave me three months ago does not seem to have affected the spasms much at all. The side effects are bothersome (dry mouth and throat, short term memory loss, nausea, blurred vision) so I was quite happy to be taken off of it. Of course it will be replaced with a different medication for me to start once I am fully off of the old one. The two medications have a very different mechanism in how they affect the brain so it could be possible for one to help but not the other.

The doctor made it clear that IF this new medication helps it will not totally alleviate the spasms. At some level I knew that, but hearing it was kind of like a slap in the face. I am beginning to realize that I have been putting too much hope in the medications and not enough in the Lord. My goal has been to find a treatment that will take the spasms away rather than finding out how God can use me throughout this illness. Unless He chooses to bring this illness to an end, it will be with me the rest of my life. The intensity of the symptoms will likely ebb and flow, but it will probably never go away completely.

There are other medical options besides drugs, namely Botox treatments and Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS). The Botox is specific for certain areas and would probably be limited to the spasms in my head and neck, if we chose to try that treatment. DBS is like having a pacemaker in the brain and is used specifically for those with Generalized Dystonia as compared to having Dystonia in only one area of the body. I am not in a hurry to consider that as an option, since it involves surgery.

For now, I will continue to work with the medications - coming off of the old one and starting the new one. The doctor also said something that kind of surprised me. He said, "Don't go to the ER if the spasms get worse." I asked him why and he said that because the spasms are made worse by stressful situations, going to the ER is one of the worst things you can do for them. I had pretty much come to the same conclusion on my own and I told him how I currently deal with flare ups (go into a dark and quiet room and lie down, taking a Valium if necessary). He commented that this was a good way to handle it - that I should "take a chill pill." Ha! I loved that comment since I very often tell this to the kids, so I asked him if I could consider this to be an official medical term. ;-) From now on I can tell the kids that my doctor has told me to take a chill pill so, as Doctor Mom, I can tell them the same thing.

I really appreciate all of the prayers and concern many of you have blessed me with. The main challenge at this point continues to be with my legs and feet. The muscles freeze up when I walk, making me walk much slower than usual. It is a bother, but I am thankful to still have the ability to walk and drive.

I continue to be thankful for our recent Sunday School series on Biblical Contentment. Although I fail on a regular basis, these lessons will hopefully help me to regain my focus along the way.

Blessings
Ramona

Sunday, August 06, 2006



Jennifer and Micah

Our eldest daughter, Jennifer Grace, is engaged to be married to Micah Smyth from Michigan. Theirs has been what most folks would consider an unusual relationship, but few of you who are familiar with our family will be surprised at that. ;-) In order to respect their privacy I won't share a lot of details in a public arena like this. I will say that both of them were actually quite pleased when their moms played "matchmaker" for them. Rather than dating, they were looking for a lifelong mate, so they began the relationship learning as much as they could about each other and their differing lifestyles. They had discussed marriage before they even had a chance to meet each other face to face.

Micah is a wonderful and godly young man. We could not have hoped for a better husband for Jennifer than him. He is very strong in his faith and he comes from a Christian family. He works with his hands in a number of different areas - logging, building log homes, carpentry, farming, etc.

Prayers for these young folks would be greatly appreciated as they work on their relationship and plan for their future.

Monday, July 31, 2006

Same Story, Different Perspective

I have always enjoyed hearing stories from more than one perspective, particularly if one or more of the stories come from our own children. Tessa, for instance, has a phenominal memory. When she talks about things that happened when she was a small child, it is fascinating for me to remember the same incident and compare her perceptions to mine. Time after time I have discovered that her reasons for doing a particular thing or acting in a specific way had very good reasoning behind them, although she did not have the communication skills at that age to explain herself.

Along those same lines, I would like to share one of our daughter's story of selling our house last week. My tendency is to get caught up in the emotions of a situation like that and not pay as close attention to our children as I should. Stated as simply and matter-of-fact as it is in this writing, I find myself feeling ashamed for having made such a huge deal of it and continually putting the kids off while I tried to deal with the challenges. Hindsight is indeed 20-20.

Here is the story, as written by Anna, age 14. I have left the essay exactly as she wrote it, as the mistakes tend to give it more of a sense of childlike wonder and innocence.

Selling Our House

Selling our house in Owens Cross Roads was hard on my mom. She spendid a lot of time on phones and we the kids had to be patient because we wanted to talk to her right away. Then one day she and grandma needed to go to New Hope which is past Owens Cross roads. So-next day she took some kids with her so she could drop them to our old neighborhood to visit the horses, Johnsons, and the place. While we vsiited the Johnsons grandma and She-She went to New Hope. When they came back She-She and Mrs. Comton waited for the termite guy. While we all waited we played with Mrs. Comton's pets and went through our house that they are trying to buy. The house looked OK execpt they chanced some things inside the house. We waited to long and got tired so we went back home. The next day She-She went back to Owens Cross Rds and the termite guy was there so he looked around the house under the house and they or he signed or did something with the paper sometimes at 11:something. Which in fact that paper needs to return to somewhere at 12:00. If not it is still our house. But She-She returned it in time and WALA we sold our house. It is the Comton's house. She-She went out to eat with couple of people to celebrate. I am happy that it went well.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Tessa's Writings

Tessa has discovered a company that will allow her to post some of her writings on their website so that people can either download the files or order them to be printed. The site is http://www.lulu.com/ . From there you can type in Tessa's name in the search box and it will show you the two files she has on there already.

We welcome input on this site. Please let us know if the process works smoothly for you or not.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Back in AL


This was the last photo taken of Naomi, Abby and Maddie, in Seattle. We ate at the same restaurant we had back in 2003 and it was fun reminiscing. Overall, neither Naomi or I can think of much of anything that could have made the trip more enjoyable. She had a wonderful time with Abby and Maddie and they seem to have enjoyed her, too. It was a true delight to meet all of their family and spend time with them.

As for me, I was overwhelmed with God's handiwork that was so prominent everywhere we went. From the Cascades to the Olympic mountains, to the rain forest on Vancouver Island to the huge open expanse of the water, to sunsets over Lake Washington watched from the Greene's deck. Oh, and the cool weather was a wonderful bonus, too! We sure wanted to bring that home as a souvenir, but somehow it would not fit in our suitcases. Mine was already overweight anyway...

Thanks so very much for all of the prayers on our behalf. God was so very gracious to allow us such a wonderful trip. Our travel went well and my dystonia did not flare up like I was afraid it might.

Of course, like happens with most every trip, it was good to be home with our family once again. The kids were "downloading" all of their stories and questions today, and I am sure there will be some to carry over to the next few days.

I tried to post more photos at a time, but it did not work. I will put them on Snapfish, so please let me know if you would like to look at them.

Again, thanks to each of you who were a big part of this trip, even if it was behind the scenes and on your knees.

Thankful for Hospitality

Naomi and I made it home safely yesterday afternoon. I will post more on the trip later, but I wanted to share this email that I sent to some friends:

I was initially going to just email this to Dennis, but then I realized that it could be helpful to others, too. Three years ago my husband and I adopted Naomi from Seattle. Trying to keep the costs of the adoption reasonable, we asked Dennis if he knew of anyone that could help us get around in Seattle and perhaps recommend a good place to stay. (Since then, our motto has been, "Dennis knows someone everywhere!") Dennis gave us the names and phone numbers of a couple of pastors he knew in the area and we made contact with them. Rather than giving us local information, both of the pastors offered their own homes for us to stay in. We stayed with one pastor for a couple of nights and then realized the other one was much closer to Naomi's current residence (as it turned out he was not a pastor, but a member of the church congregation).

We then began what ended up as a three week stay with this wonderful family. They opened their hearts and home to us and we have been great friends since then. We communicate on a regular basis and Naomi and I just got back from a trip north to see her biological sisters. Once again we stayed with these folks for a while and it was just like a reunion for us. We have also done the same kind of thing with other families who came through contacts Dennis made.

Those folks remain good friends, also. One of the most delightful aspects of this kind of relationship is the impact it has on others, though. I have had a number of opportunities to talk to folks about Christian friends who love to share their home with brothers and sisters in Christ, whether they have met them previously or not. I was able to explain how these people were like family to us, through our common relationship with the Lord. My own parents have been puzzled more than once over how Dennis and Naomi and all of GBC open their homes to us when we travel back for a visit.

I am not sharing this with you to shine the spotlight on Dennis. Rather, I hope to encourage all of you to not be hesitant to share your own home with travelers and others, as you share God's love with them. Also, consider finding Christian friends in cities you plan to travel to and experience the joy of getting to know them once you arrive. When others seem incredulous about this arrangement, take that opportunity to talk about the bonds Christian brothers and sisters share. And be sure to ask Dennis, because he DOES know someone everywhere.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Saturday's Canadian Adventures



Today's Canadian adventures involved taking a short ferry ride to a little island called Protection Island. I think the premise of the name is that it protects Vancouver Island from something (weather or enemies?). There is one restaurant on the island, called Dinghy Dock Restaurant. The restaurant was nice and we sat at tables on the dock. They had a little fishing hole for the kids, but none caught any. The food was good and we got to watch all of the comings and goings at the harbour.

Some of the interesting sea creatures we saw were starfish, (see photo above - they were even my favorite color - purple), some kind of mussels or something all over the docks and we even saw a jellyfish! I would have never recognized it as that, but one of Pam's daughters pointed it out. It was very small - probably only about three inches. It was in the middle of a school of small fish, trying to get a meal, but it was not successful.

We then walked just a bit on the island. It is a very unique place and folks do not have cars there. They use golf carts to get around, as it is a small island and there are no businesses allowed there except for that one restaurant. Knowing the price range of the homes there, I was quice surprised that the lawns were not manicured like they are in AL. It was quite pretty, actually.

I am now resting while Pam has taken Naomi and one of her daugthers to that unique store called....WalMart. We will start early tomorrow, as we will take the ferry back over to the mainland (over an hour and a half ride) then drive around Vancouver a bit. Pam has a friend close to Vancouver who wants to meet me, and I am also looking forward to meeting her. She and her husband have 25 kids at home, all of them adopted with special needs. I just can't figure out why she wants to meet me....

From there we will drive down to Seattle. Please pray that Naomi is able to get back into the US without any problems. Some people have had problems getting back in when they were not born in the US. I have lots of documents and a passport for her, so I can't imagine too many problems. I will spend the night with the Greenes and Naomi will stay with the Skeldings at a hotel. Then, our outing for Monday will be Chuck E Cheese, where we will have lunch and say goodbye to the Skeldings. That will be hard for Naomi, so please pray for her in this respect, too.

I am eager to get back home, but not looking forward to all of the travel. I am very thankful that my spasms have not gotten too bad while I am here and I pray that I won't crash physically when I get home.

Friday's Notes



Today was another beautiful day on the island. We got a late start, as I spent some time showing our photos to the Skelding kids.

We had lunch and then went to see an art gallery/old church that Pam is in the process of buying. Ollie, you would have loved this place! It was built in 1912 and is of Scottish architecture. I took lots of photos and will download them tomorrow. It was lots of fun and I got to find out the name of some beautiful purple wildflowers in the meantime (snow peas, of all things!). Pam has promised to send me some seeds when the pods get ready. The gallery is close to a lake called Shawnigan Lake, so I thought of Shawn a lot while we were there.


After that, we drove down to Victoria (first photo above), which is the capital of BC and on the very southern tip of the island. It is a beautiful English-y town on the coast and we saw tons of wonderful homes and flowers. We saw a seal very briefly, but he went under water and we did not see him come back up anywhere.

There are lots and lots of deer here - blacktailed rather than whitetailed. This is an eagle mecca, although the only one I have seen so far was in Seattle. Oh, and the bunnies.... Bunnies, bunnies everywhere! Not just your ordinary run of the mill brown bunnies, though. They mostly look like domestic bunnies - blacks, whites, tans, and a few brown ones thrown in for good measure.

Naomi and the girls continue to enjoy each others. I think they were all kind of tired today, but they are still having lots of fun.

We don't have a lot planned for tomorrow. There is a small and remote island that we may ferry out to for lunch. No cars are allowed on the island - doesn't that sound quaint?

We are in the process of trying to plan the last few days. Pam has a good friend in Vancouver that wants to meet me and I would like to meet her, too. She also has a few more kids than "normal", all of them from African countries and all of them disabled. We could see her on the way back to Seattle, so we will plan that tomorrow.

I am missing everyone and looking forward to being home!

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Vancouver Island, BC

Well, I am having problems getting photos on here. I will end up with either no photos or a dozen photos, but I will go ahead and give an update in the meantime.

Naomi and I arrived as planned in Seattle, meeting our friends, the Greenes at the airport. We had a chance to rest up a bit, then Betty took us driving around the area. Naomi wanted to go by her old house and we actually managed to find it. She said that a lot of things looked different, though. We went to a lake near her old home where she used to spend a lot of time, too.

I had not realized how much travel was involved in actually getting to Vancouver Island from Seattle! We left Seattle at 9:30am in order to catch the 3:15 ferry. The ferry ride was two hours long and very nice. We saw Pam, Abby and Maddie waiting for us at the terminal and Naomi started running towards them. Of course this brought tears to my eyes, as the reunion was so very sweet. I am hoping the photo I took them ends up on this post.

We were greeted by the Skelding kids holding up a welcome sign at their home and lots of smiles. They live in a rural area, on ten acres with two of them waterfront property. Their house is very interesting, with 16 bedrooms. They recently bought the top portion of a house on the mainland and had it moved to their property. It has been wonderfully connected to the original house, bringing their sqare footage into the 6000's.

Today we went to a tourist area in Coombs, shopping at a store that had a grass roof with goats living on top of it. From there we went to a heavily forested area, very similar to a rain forest. The beauty was breathtaking. After that we ate at a restaurant on the beach and then came home.


Naomi has greatly enjoyed being with her sisters again. They are inseparable at this point. They have grown a lot in the last three years, of course, and they are darling girls. The other kids are also a lot of fun to play with. They are a few kids crazier than we are, as they have 16 at home.

I am very thankful to be doing OK so far physically. Thank you so much for your prayers.


This is an absolutely beautiful area and I hope to share more photos with you later.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Trip update

Ramona and Naomi arrived safely in Seattle. The plan for today is for them to take the ferry to Canada and meet Naomi's sisters. They will spend most of their stay there. We miss them already.

Friday, July 07, 2006

The Long Awaited Trip

This coming Tuesday, July 11, Naomi and I are embarking upon the trip she has been waiting for and working towards for a long time. We adopted Naomi in September of 2003 and she has not seen her biological sisters since then. Leaving them was most likely the hardest thing she had ever done in her life, but she had no choice in the matter. The family that disrupted the adoption of the three of them would not allow us to adopt Abby and Maddie, nor would they allow the other family to adopt Naomi. They insisted that these sisters be separated, for reasons not clear to us.

Ever since the day they were separated, one of Naomi's greatest desires was to see Abby and Maddie again. Last summer she asked us if there was anyway she could work to earn the money for a trip to Vancouver Island, BC, where they live. I don't remember if she came up with the idea of raking leaves or if we did, but she soon had signs written up and posted all around our neighborhood.

Calls started coming in for her on a daily basis - sometimes more than one a day. Raking and bagging leaves was a hard job, but she proved herself to be a good strong worker and in no time she had built up an excellent reputation among our neighbors. Folks who had never even heard of the Edwards family knew of Naomi. She had calls coming in for other odd jobs, too, which she often did in addition to her raking.

Many weeks Naomi worked six days a week, often raking more than one yard a day. I sometimes had to go and find her as the sun went down so that she would not walk home in the dark. She wanted to get every last minute of work done that she could. She hired her brothers and sisters to help her, paying them part of what she earned. Some yards yielded 75-100 bags of leaves and no one had a word of complaint for the work she and her siblings did. On the contrary, they often called her back to rake more later, as the leaves continued to fall. These raking jobs lasted into the middle of winter, finally coming to a halt in January.

We gave Naomi a certain goal to work towards, since she would be paying for two airline tickets (we would not allow her to travel alone). Even with paying her workers and buying supplies, she eventually reached and exceeded the amount we suggested she save for the trip.

Tickets have been purchased and Naomi and I will be leaving soon for the long awaited trip to see her biological sisters. I only hope the neighbors can do without her for a week.

We would greatly appreciate prayers for this trip. We will fly into Seattle and then our good friends there will drive us to the ferry depot where we will catch a ferry to Vancouver Island. The week will be gone in a flash and the hard earned money well spent.

God has brought this young girl so far - from a rural village in Vietnam to a highly respected hard working young woman in Huntsville, AL. To Him be all the glory!!

Monday, June 26, 2006

God's Garden


Planting flowers is one of my favorite things to do, when God blesses me with the energy to do so. This past spring I spent much time preparing this flower bed and planting lots and lots of gladioli and caladium bulbs. I went so far as to alternate two different colors of gladioli and then surround them with the caladiums as a border. It was so exciting for the kids and I to watch as they sprouted and began growing.

Something strange began to happen, though. Another kind of plant started growing, too. Not knowing what they were, I began to pull some of them up, assuming they were weeds. Sergei finally convinced me that they were sunflowers, though, and that I should let them continue to grow. How did the seeds get there? We have a bird feeding station near this flower bed so the seeds were either dropped by birds or carried there by squirrels. Either way, I began to think of them as God's Garden. They have thrived and are now showing their beautiful bright yellow flowers - even the "mutant sunflower" that has about 15 buds on one stalk is doing well.

The flower bed looks nothing like I had planned on it looking, but that is OK. My life looks very little like I would have planned on it looking right now, either. I would have never thought of having a dozen kids if left to plan my own life ("I am way too selfish for that and not at all able to handle that many kids.") I certainly would not have planned to have a neurological disorder that the doctors have no cure for. Yet, these are seeds that God planted in my life, just like He planted those beautiful sunflowers. I am so glad Sergei convinced me to allow the sunflowers to grow. I am even more glad that God's plan for my life is perfect and filled with lots of "sunflower surprises" along the way.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Pride vs. Humility

Having an illness that outwardly affects my body as much as dystonia does is proving to be a huge lesson in humility. Slowly I have begun to realize how sinfully full of pride I have been (and still are). I often try to hide the spasms when I am around others, which of course tends to make them worse in the end. I bought a cane the other day, although I have been very hesitant to use it. Why the hesitancy? My pride gets in the way. I don't want people to look at me and wonder what the "problem" is. I want to look normal (OK, OK, stop laughing. No one with a dozen kids at home looks normal, do they?) Mostly though, I don't want my kids to worry about me.

Last night during our family time I confessed my sin of pride to the family and shared my plan for putting off that sin and replacing it with humility. I have renamed the cane - it is now a "humility stick". Everytime I use it I hope to put off my pride and put on humility. I will most likely have to do that on a daily (hourly?) basis, but I know that God will be my Rock during this time.

A good friend wrote me an encouraging email and mentioned that my "reach exceeds my grasp". I have spent a lot of time mulling that phrase over and I now see what she meant. Indeed, she was very accurate. I am continually taking on more than I can physically handle. Learning to live with Dystonia is going to mean admitting that I cannot do all of the things I want to. I need to shorten my reach and concentrate more on what I can hold in my grasp. The strength of that grasp may even change from day to day, hour to hour.

Perhaps God has given me an illness that draws the attention of others so that I can shine His light more brightly. When I am weak He is strong. I need to keep reminding myself that people are not seeing my weaknesses. Rather they are seeing the strength God has generously blessed me with to embrace His plan for my life. I fail each and every day, but God's mercies are new every morning!

Thursday, June 15, 2006

In Need of Some Prayers

Dear Friends and Family,
I would like to share a brief prayer request with you regarding the neurological illness I have (dystonia). Twice this week I have had what are called "Dystonic Storms". Basically they are extreme body spasms from my toes up to my head. We were able to ride the first one out at home, but today I ended up in the ER with the second one.

Please pray that I will not become discouraged by these episodes and that I will continue to look for ways to share God's love through them. Also, please pray that the doctor in Birminghan will be able to give me some ways of dealing with these at home rather than having to go to the ER.

I also need to learn how to avoid these, if all possible, so pray for me to have the wisdom to discover how to best do that.

Thanks
Ramona

Wednesday, June 14, 2006











These are a couple of photos that Sergei took on our deck. We love watching the birds, squirrels and chipmunks that delight in his blooming utopia outside our sunroom windows. Sergei truly has a gift for capturing God's creatures in photos.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Today's Gift

Show me your ways, O LORD;
Teach me Your paths,
Lead me in Your truth and teach me,
For You are the God of my salvation;
On You I wait all the day.
Psalm 25:4-5

Today God gave me a gift. After having struggled with neurological problems continually for over a year now, I finally have a name for the illness. A Movement Disorder Specialist at UAB told me this morning, after careful consideration and a consultation with his partner, that I have Generalized Dystonia. I am so thankful that God allowed this doctor to have the wisdom and knowledge to make a diagnosis. Not knowing what the illness is has been a huge challenge for me over the last year, since one of my greatest temptations is a desire to be in control of my own life. I confess that I have ranted and raved in many sinful ways, demanding that God share this information with me. However, in His infinite wisdom He chose to make me wait and learn many lessons along the way.

Having this gift (the name of the disease) does not change my physical condition one bit. It will be helpful in allowing me to concentrate on learning more about it, though, and finding ways to manage the illness. Knowing what it is also helps the doctors to know how to better help me with medications. Dr. Nicholas gave me a new prescription today that I will be taking for the next three months, to see if it helps alleviate the symptoms.

What is dystonia? Here is a brief description: "Dystonia is a neurological movement disorder characterized by involuntary muscle contractions, which force certain parts of the body into abnormal, sometimes painful, movements or postures. Dystonia can affect any part of the body including the arms and legs, trunk, neck, eyelids, face, or vocal cords." The full description can be found at http://www.dystonia-foundation.org/defined/. The doctor today told me that the cause is a "chemical imbalance in the brain." Apparently the type of dystonia I have (generalized - adult onset) is "very rare" and mine is an atypical case even of that. Of all the body parts listed above, only my vocal cords are not involved at this point and the spasms are continual throughout the day.

Doctors do not have a cure for dystonia and it is considered a life long disease. Unless God chooses to heal my body I will most likely have it the rest of my life. Of course we will pray for healing, but mostly that God will use this illness as a way for me to shine His light in this "jar of clay". Medications may help alleviate some of the symptoms, as there plenty of medicinal options to choose from. I hope to do some nutritional research too, now that I know what direction to search in.

Thank you all so much for your prayers this past year. God is indeed merciful and faithful in His answering of them. I would appreciate continued prayers as I serve the Lord through this illness and learn ways to better deal with my physical limitations.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006


Sergei has created a "birds and blooms" utopia on the deck next to our sunroom. In the last few days we have had the absolutely delightful opportunity to watch a family of woodpeckers go through their daily routine. God's creation is so totally cool! Along with these guys, we see finches, wrens (one of my favorites!), hummingbirds, cardinals, sparrows, Tufted Titmice, doves, cowbirds and an occasional Goldfinch. Of course we cannot help but be amused at the antics of the squirrels and chipmunks, too. Chipmunks have a way of making me giggle every single time I see them. Those little tails held so high are just too much. Yesterday I also saw three bunnies in our yard, chasing each other around - it was almost more than I could handle at one time!

As amazing as seeing these creatures is, I am equally amazed at the talent God has bestowed upon Sergei in the area of photography. I pray that he will someday have the opportunity to use this talent to His glory.

Oh my... there are two baby woodpeckers out there now. I need to go...;-)

Sunday, May 14, 2006

A Very Special Mother's Day

Today, as most people did, we celebrated Mother's Day. We also celebrated three birthdays. Naomi was 15 last Wednesday, Nikki (our cousin who lives with us) was 19 yesterday and Anna will be 14 this next week. It was so very special to share this celebration with them.

Here are the words to the Mother's Day card the kids gave me:

You've always known me better
than I thought anyone could.
You've always given me
exactly what I needed,
whether it was love, advice, help or time.
Thanks for taking
such good care of me.
I love you.
Happy Mother's Day.

This card was signed by all of the kids and chosen by the child who joined our family the most recently. She even chose my favorite color when she picked this card. This is a child who did not have a real mother who loved her until the age of 14. I have the privilege of being that mother.

From the ones I birthed to the one we most recently adopted, I am so humbled and thankful for these blessings. I am not at all worthy for the minsitry God has chosen me for, but I am so thankful He has equipped me for the task. I fail daily, yet He is my strength.

Sheshe

Thursday, May 11, 2006

What is a proverb?


I am doing a series of post on the Proverbs for our youth group blog. I thought I would post them here as well as they are taking up most of my bloggin time.

Proverbs 1:1 The Proverbsof Solomon son of David, king of Israel:

What exactly is a proverb? ABiblical proverb is a short statement designed to teach us wisdom. Wisdom in the Bible has more to it then knowing a bunch of abstract facts. Biblical wisdom entails the skill of being able to choose the right course of action. Certainly knowledge of facts and principles are part of Biblical wisdom, but they are not all of it. Biblical wisdom also involves skill in doing what is right.

But, how do these short little statements teach us wisdom? Some dont even seem to make sense, and some seem to contradict each other. Well each short statement is designed to teach one simple truth about how the world works. We are then called on to apply our other knowledge of the Scriptures to unpack them and see them for what they are. Having done this we are ready to apply the truth in our lives.

However, before we go too far we need to understand a few things about proverbs.

1) Proverbs dont always speak to the way things ought to be, theyspeak to the way things are. Lets look at an example:

Pro 25:24 It is better to live on a corner of the housetop than in a house in company with a quarrelsome wife.

Does this mean that a man ought to retreat to his roof when his wife wants to quarrel? Does it mean that wives should quarrel? Certainly not! It does however teach a great deal about nature of the marriage relationship for those who are willing to ponder it.

2) Proverbs are not allegories. Several of our kids have had opportunities to write about proverbs as part of their school. Invariably they will try to over spiritualize the meaning of the proverb. Every thing will represent something else and all sort of hidden meaning will be found. However, this is not what the proverbs are about. There meaning should be taken as their plain meaning. There may be spiritual applications and they may illustrate other spiritual truths but, when interpreting them, the plain meaning should be the preferred meaning.
3) Proverbs need to be meditated on. Prov 1:6 calls them riddles or dark sayings depending on you translation. They need to be treated like a nut, a hard shell that first must be cracked and the good parts picked out of the pieces of the shell. Hard work, but very satisfying.

As we go on, we will look at many of the Proverbs in detail, and I am going to post some and get some of you to help crack the nut and pick out the pieces. However, next I want to talk about the author of the book and what we can learn from his life. Then we will take a tour through the earlier chapters which are not true proverbs but a series of short exhortations on various projects.

Feel free to comment and ask questions or even correct something you see wrong.

Weeds

How long has it been since you have considered weeds? I mean really thought about them. They are a nuisance, aren't they? Really?

The last few evenings I have been pulling weeds in a flower bed and it has been a delightful time of reflection. I am so thankful that God has allowed me the physical ability to do this, as I hear from other friends who are struggling more than I am. The microscosm of a flower bed is so fascinating - from the rich brown soil to the squirmy and slimy earthworms. Watching a tender shoot emerge from day to day is a exciting process, especially with the rains we have been blessed with lately.

Flower beds are such peaceful places. Even the bunnies venture into the yard when I am sitting there quietly pulling the weeds. The birds sing and eat their seeds, oblivious to my intrusion. I am still waiting patiently for a chipmunk to come and visit me during this time, too.

The best part is the camaraderie I find in the flower beds, though. Kids have a way of coming and joining me, sharing my peace and quiet or talking about things of little importance. Those times are precious, as there are no pressures on and we can simply enjoy each other and God's green earth.

Someday those gladiolis and caladiums will be going full strength and we will not need to weed the dirt around them as much. That may be a sad time, yet a glorious one as we watch the beauty of the flowers.

Are there weeds in your life? Look carefully and see what the blessings are as you work on slowly and patiently pulling those weeds, one by one. Avoid simply spray weed killer on them and being done with it. You may miss some wonderful times of drawing closer to your Lord.

The Dawning of a New Edwards Era

Here we go, folks!! We have our first official licensed driver now, as Jennifer PASSED her road test today!! Yea!!!!! Others are hot on her heels (Zhenya has a permit, Sergei, Nikki and maybe Kathryn will take the written test next week), so we are very thankful that God was gracious and allowed Jennifer to pass the test. I think I was about as nervous as she was.

Now I just get to start worrying when she goes out alone...

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Blessings and Lessons

Today we sold the first home that we ever bought (in 1988). It has been quite an emotional rollercoaster over the years, but God has had many lessons for us along the way. Here are my thoughts, as written on Closing Day:

As I sit here waiting patiently (I can do that now, since we finally have all of the paperwork in) for the closing on our townhouse, I am able to reflect on the blessings and lessons God has brought us through owning it these last 18 years. We are very thankful to finally be able to sell it, but we are also thankful for having owned it. Here are some of my thoughts as I reflect on this transaction.

Blessings:

This was the first home we ever bought. It fit our needs wonderfully for a few years and we brought three of our babies home when we lived there. One of our neighbors became a life long friend and she was a huge blessing to us while we lived there. We also had the opportunity to help her on numerous occasions. Bob and I learned the basics of home ownership through the purchase of this home and we learned how to make repairs that would have otherwise been done by a landlord.
Although having a train come within fifty feet of your back fence would be an irritant to a lot of folks, we have fond memories of it. When Trey was a baby, I could lay him down in his crib when the train came by and the gentle rocking would put him right to sleep. If he was out in the back yard when it came by, he would raise his hands up and put them on his cheeks, rather than his ears. He never seemed to understand that we were putting our hands on our ears to shut the sound out. Tessa insists that the house was much bigger when we lived there. Of course, that has everything to do with her being much smaller, though. She cannot understand how we got a small wading pool, her Little Tikes car and a swing on the back patio now, when she goes back to look at it again. She remembers wanting to be able to reach a certain spot on the fence and longing to be able to look over it when the train came by. Now, at 5ft 8in she simply stands there and gazes at the train while standing on the ground.
We were blessed to have good tenants the last few years we owned the townhome. A young international couple lived there for six years and we were able to provide them a good home for less than market value rent. In the end, we were able to sell the townhome at a good price to a young couple who were buying their first home. It was fun to see how excited they were about buying it, having slept very little the night before due to home buying jitters.
This was the first year that God allowed us to have the cash to spend on updating the home so that we could put it on the market. It was a real blessing to be able to do that, and we are so thankful to have gotten a good enough price out of it to pay ourselves back for the expenses and have a little left over. Now we have enough to pay the deductible for having our hail damaged roof replaced in our current home! Although we wanted so badly to sell the townhome in the past, it was apparent that this was the perfect time for us to put it on the market.

Lessons:

Along with the blessings, God taught us many lessons during the time that we owned the townhouse. First of all, we learned to prayerfully consider major purchases such as this (we did not include Him in the purchase). I admit that I ran headlong into this transaction, guided only by my emotions and desires. I suspect that I basically dragged Bob along behind me, too, since I was not a godly and submissive wife at that point in my life. We did not research the purchase much at all. Instead, I was blinded by a home larger than any we had ever had, with everything in it brand new.
We have learned that we spent way too much on the purchase of this home. Initially we planned on living there 4-5 years and then selling it and buying a “real home”, but when we did begin trying to put that plan into action we found that no one at all was interested in buying it for the price we had to ask. A number of times we put it on the market, both with a realtor and “For Sale By Owner”, yet we probably only had a handful of people actually look at it and no one seriously interested. This was due to the fact that we paid too much and were forced to put a price on it that no one else was willing to pay.
Being the first owners of a home is exciting, but we also discovered the drawbacks of working the “kinks” out of a new home (ie, dryer was not vented to the outside, causing moisture to build up between the ceiling and upstairs floor). Also, you never know how a neighborhood is going to age when you buy a new home. In our case, since each townhome was individually maintained, the upkeep was quite varied and spotty. It was also not determined who would maintained the grass in the entryway after all of the units were sold, so it was not well taken care of. I think it is safe for me to say that we have learned to always buy an older home in an established neighborhood.
Although it was never really in question, we learned that we do not want to be landlords, especially while living a long distance away. Renters inevitably do not take as good of care of a home as owners do, thus causing repairs to be necessary. We also learned to not use one particular property management company in our city.

I am certain that I will think of other blessings and lessons that God has taught us in the particular situation, and I will add those as they come to mind. I pray that we will indeed be thankful and learn the lessons that He has prepared for us along the way.

New Blog

The GCC youth group blog is now up. This where I will probably be doing most of my posting in the neat future as we try to get it going. Drop by and say hey.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Thoughts from Gunner, a friend of ours who is TMS student about the pressure of finals week:

I want to work hard because of the Bema Seat grade that's coming. I want to labor to the point of fatigue because my job is to get the gospel to people who are approaching the Great White Throne deadline. I want to concentrate on all the work and ministry I do (not just the pressing work) because it's my responsibility to help prepare the church for when she'll meet Christ her bridegroom. I want eternity, not just graduation, to be my commencement. I want a heavenly reward, not just earthly scholarships. I want to please my Master, not just my professors. In short, I want to have the perspective represented on London Theological Seminary's website even in the midst of end-of-the-semester pressure. I want eternal reasons to fuel what I do and how I do it.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

The Lamb That Was Slain

Remembering the offense of the cross:



Image from Bibleplaces.com

The New Cross

This was posted by Jerry Wragg in a comment on the Pyromaniacs. Well worth the price of admission.

"From this new cross has sprung a new philosophy of the Christian life; and from that new philosophy has come a new evangelical technique-a new type of meeting and new type of preaching. This new evangelism employs the same language as of the old, but its content is not the same and the emphasis not as before.
"The new cross encourages a new and entirely different evangelistic approach. The evangelist does not demand abnegation of the old life before a new life can be received. He preaches not contrasts but similarities. He seeks to key into the public view the same thing the world does, only a higher level. Whatever the sin-mad world happens to be clamoring after at the moment is cleverly shown to be the very thing the gospel offers, only the religious product is better.
"The new cross does not slay the sinner; it re-directs him. It gears him to a cleaner and jollier way of living, and saves his self-respect...The Christian message is slanted in the direction of the current vogue in order to make it acceptable to the public.
"The philosophy back of this kind of thing may be sincere, but its sincerity does not save it from being false. It is false because it is blind. It misses completely the whole meaning of the cross.
The old cross is a symbol of DEATH. It stands for the abrupt, violent end of a human being. The man in Roman times who took the cross and started down the road has already said goodbye to his friends. He was not coming back. He was not going out to have his life re-directed; he was going out to have it ended. The cross made no compromise; modified nothing; spared nothing. It slew all of the man completely, and for good. It did not try to keep on good terms with the victim. It struck cruel and hard, and when it had finished its work, the man was no more.
"The race of Adam is under the death sentence. There is no commutation and no escape. God cannot approve any fruits of sin, however innocent they may appear, or beautiful to the eyes of men. God salvages the individual by liquidating him, and then raising him again to newness of life.
"That evangelism which draws friendly parallels between the ways of God and the ways of men is false to the Bible and cruel to the souls of its hearers. The faith of Christ does not parallel the world; it intersects it. In coming to Christ we do not bring our old life to a higher plane; we leave it at the cross....
"We, who preach the gospel, must not think of ourselves as public relations agents sent to establish good will between Christ and the world. We must not imagine ourselves commissioned to make Christ acceptable to big business, the press, or the world of sports, or modern entertainment. We are not diplomats, but prophets; and our message is not a compromise, but an ultimatum."

The Biblical Evangelist, November 1, 1991, p. 11

The New Cross

This was posted by Jerry Wragg in a comment on the Pyromaniacs. Well worth the price of admission.

"From this new cross has sprung a new philosophy of the Christian life; and from that new philosophy has come a new evangelical technique-a new type of meeting and new type of preaching. This new evangelism employs the same language as of the old, but its content is not the same and the emphasis not as before.
"The new cross encourages a new and entirely different evangelistic approach. The evangelist does not demand abnegation of the old life before a new life can be received. He preaches not contrasts but similarities. He seeks to key into the public view the same thing the world does, only a higher level. Whatever the sin-mad world happens to be clamoring after at the moment is cleverly shown to be the very thing the gospel offers, only the religious product is better.
"The new cross does not slay the sinner; it re-directs him. It gears him to a cleaner and jollier way of living, and saves his self-respect...The Christian message is slanted in the direction of the current vogue in order to make it acceptable to the public.
"The philosophy back of this kind of thing may be sincere, but its sincerity does not save it from being false. It is false because it is blind. It misses completely the whole meaning of the cross.
The old cross is a symbol of DEATH. It stands for the abrupt, violent end of a human being. The man in Roman times who took the cross and started down the road has already said goodbye to his friends. He was not coming back. He was not going out to have his life re-directed; he was going out to have it ended. The cross made no compromise; modified nothing; spared nothing. It slew all of the man completely, and for good. It did not try to keep on good terms with the victim. It struck cruel and hard, and when it had finished its work, the man was no more.
"The race of Adam is under the death sentence. There is no commutation and no escape. God cannot approve any fruits of sin, however innocent they may appear, or beautiful to the eyes of men. God salvages the individual by liquidating him, and then raising him again to newness of life.
"That evangelism which draws friendly parallels between the ways of God and the ways of men is false to the Bible and cruel to the souls of its hearers. The faith of Christ does not parallel the world; it intersects it. In coming to Christ we do not bring our old life to a higher plane; we leave it at the cross....
"We, who preach the gospel, must not think of ourselves as public relations agents sent to establish good will between Christ and the world. We must not imagine ourselves commissioned to make Christ acceptable to big business, the press, or the world of sports, or modern entertainment. We are not diplomats, but prophets; and our message is not a compromise, but an ultimatum."

The Biblical Evangelist, November 1, 1991, p. 11