Still loving O!

Thank you all for so patiently waiting and regularly checking the page for updates on O. It’s been almost three months since we heard that O would be sent back to her mother and would not be open for adoption. We’re still in very close contact with her while she waits at the orphanage for the court’s date for when she will move to her mother’s house, a new town and a new school. IMG_4294

For now she is well looked after, and happy to be with her friends. We’re thankful we get to talk to her every few days but are not sure how much longer that will last. It’s heavy and hard but we’re all trying to be strong in it and hope for a beautiful future.

 

In the meantime we’re still supporting Vova to come into the orphanage and teach all

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Vova and some of the kids he teaches

the kids English. And they’re doing great! O’s English has dramatically improved in the last year. Our gratitude goes out in buckets for Vova!

So, with that gratitude in mind, I’d like to take a minute to talk about the state of Ukraine and what we’re doing to

EasternEuropeMaphelp there. Ukraine is a country about the size of Texas with over 100,000 orphans. They’re a country impoverished by war and extreme scarcity. At one time Ukraine was a flourishing farmland of prosperity, but now most of it’s countrymen and women are despairing and desperate. Without hope. Which results in poor waste management, unemployment, sex trafficking, drug and alcohol abuse and an overall lack of education.

APTOPIX Ukraine ProtestUnfortunately, as in O’s case, many orphans are not truly orphaned, they are sent to live in orphanages because they’re parent or parents can not care for them and there is no foster system. So aside from the already low number of adoptions that happen for kids ages 5-18, there is a whole section of kids who can’t be adopted on top of that. So the orphaned numbers are growing daily. There is no end to the supply of hurting children in Ukraine. When a child ages out of an orphanage in Ukraine they have a chance to go to a trade school or take a stipened from the government to move to a city and try to make a life. The trade schools make it almost impossible for a child to succeed there with harsh living environments and zero support. And the stipend alternative is not enough to sustain and when given to a child with no life skills training is spent within the first week of the month on alcohol and clothes and whatever else an orphan who is on her own for the first time in a strange city might find. So most of these kids hit the street at 15 or 16 and are quickly succumbed to drug dealing and prostitution.

 

This is why it’s so important that the kids have the skill of speaking English. Speaking English could make the difference between working in a coffee shop or living in the streets. It could even mean a shot at college or a career. Right now Vova is teaching an English class of 10-15 kids, in one orphanage, but I would like to see him teaching life skills as well at the public school across the street, and also traveling to other orphanages in the region to teach English and life skills to even more kids!

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Lesia, Vova and Max 

IMG_4238I’ve started a handmade upcycled gift business called Paper and Thread, and I will be donating 50% of all my profits to support Vova and his family as they work to educate and care for these orphans. I invite you to shop the things I make to support this cause, or join the few who have pledged a monthly donation.

 

IMG_3707This is the work that I will be doing while I wait and pray for O. I hope you will pray with us that God will bless the efforts and the love that is between us and our Ukrainian friends. We have already experienced such wealth in listening to God together—I can’t imagine the joy that could come from truly making an impact for these children.

For the Love of O recap

 

I’ll quickly recap the journey of loving an orphan that began for us roughly three and a half years ago with a dream I had during one afternoon nap. I woke up with the very real image of an orphan girl about the age of 10 with blonde hair, and had a very strong sense she was in Eastern Europe somewhere. I felt an overwhelming love for this girl—and there were two names I remembered knowing in this dream: “O” and “N”(we can not use full names for security). I looked for a long time on all the adoption pages for various countries and could not find anyone matching this girl from my dream. So I chalked it up to all those unexplainable mysteries that exist in our world and to the great mystery that is our typical dream-life. Two entire years later my friend called me one afternoon in a state of complete meltdown over a girl she saw on the New Horizons For Children orphan hosting website. When she showed me the picture, i realized she was the girl from my dream (and could be our oldest son’s twin!). My heart skipped a beat. That began what has been one of the most beautiful experiences of our lives. Since that day, about 2 1/2 years  ago, our love for her has only grown. And her love for us has as well! We have hosted her now several times and even visited her at her orphanage. After the first summer hosting ended we were given her address to write to her—it was then that we discovered the name of her orphanage was called “N” House. We’ve felt so sure since the beginning that we’re meant to love this girl in whatever capacity we can. Our hope has always been towards adoption, knowing though that with her mother’s rights still in tact that was not really an option. But we’ve tried to help “O” advocate for herself over the years and ask for what she wants.  We have endured many hard lessons on patience, suffering in love, and trusting God when the illusion of control disappears and we feel the weight of being at the mercy of the Eastern Europe social service system.

Mountains and Valleys

Dear friends and followers,

Many of you have been following our story of loving a little orphan girl from Eastern Europe for the last few years. If you’re reading for the first time, here’s a little summary of our journey so far: For the Love of O recap.

So much of this story has had to be kept confidential to protect our host daughter and prevent disqualifying ourselves from a future adoption. In October we got a phone call saying that the court had finally followed through on our host daughter’s paperwork and the judge had decided to remove the mother’s parental rights and add “O” to the orphan registry. It was the best news we could’ve gotten from this hearing, and we knew we were down to roughly one year of waiting for her to move through local, regional and then international availability. It was solid hope for the first time since our knowing her. And we felt thankful we were not in flux in some foreign place, but with our friends for support and celebration as we prepared for possible adoption.

We’d decided, or felt led, to take a slightly harder road in some ways, by not selling the house and moving, but working whatever jobs we can to keep the transition to a minimal for the next 18 months. Consequently, it’s been a very tight fall financially, but all the while we have not gone without, and we’re so thankful for the small group of friends who helped us raise the money to host “O” for Christmas. After a very hard summer and fall we were all very happy to be together again–and this time with some actual hope of someday not having to send her back.

Unfortunately, a few days after “O” arrived for winter hosting and settled into comfort again here, she began to say, “I have something bad to ask you (tell you) after Christmas. It’s no good for you family.” We tried to get her to tell us right away but she was determined to wait. So there was a seed of knowing that grew in our bellies until we woke up the day after Christmas with its leaves of anxiety choking our throats. I held her on the couch and said, “Tell us what you have to say, we will be okay.” And with Google translate, through a cracked iPhone 4 screen, she wrote to us with tears, that sometime in the last few weeks the judge had reversed the decision to terminate parental rights and she would have to return home with her mother. Which means in the next few months she will be leaving the orphanage and returning to an environment that’s uncertain.  Our hearts sank with the weight of this really unexpected news.

(Pause here for a lot of sobbing and getting in bed, pulling the covers over our heads and wanting to never, ever trust God again loving anyone).

And then we called our best friend who through everything always has our back and can believe things when we can’t. (I highly recommend having a friend like this when trying hard things in life). And we began to decide not to be bitter and angry. Which I think is the first step toward not letting your heart turn to stone when it’s pierced with swords. We used the antidote for scarcity and fear: gratitude. We realized how lucky we were that they did not pull her from the hosting program with this decision; that they let her come and be in our home, in our arms just one more time. That we finally had a Christmas with her, just one, just one time to see her little child face fullsizerender-2holding a candle in the dark, singing silent night, just one morning to be excited about gifts and be together. We decided to be thankful that we know for two weeks with her, and that she gave that to us. Gratitude that she is such a strong person already that she carried this heavy, heavy news that is also breaking her heart and gave us Christmas without the pain, and then also gave us the time to be with her knowing that we will most likely not all have the future we had envisioned and hoped for. She gave us time for peace and time for grieving with her.

And we also decided to breathe hope into this news knowing that we just don’t know what the future holds, and remembering that this journey has already met so many mountains and valleys and miracles.

We know that Divine love is suffering with us, with a mother’s heart, a father’s protection, a child’s innocence–all three in one. The essence of life and the flow of energy that comes from this Divine love source is unending and maneuvers around the bends and curves of life. It passes over and around rocks, and it clears debris from its path. And it holds us all. With the arms of our friends God hugs us and speaks the words that keep us going and believing.

We wanted you to know with us while we’re all together so you could send your hope and strength to us for the days ahead. Days where we try to be present in our sadness, days when we are so happy we have to run to the bathroom to cry again because it doesn’t make any sense, and especially the day we will have to say goodbye, unsure of when we will meet again. We will need wisdom and discernment in the months that will follow as we try to listen and feel what God is asking us to do next with our lives and our love.

fullsizerender-6Please cover our family (including our best friends and their kids) with your prayers and love as we continue to walk this road of loving through impossibilities. And please pray for “O” as she is sad and afraid of what lies ahead for her. Thank you for being a part of our story through all it’s turns and bends. As always we’re so thankful for your donations that have helped our family with hosting fees and the expenses while “O” is here. If anyone would like to give towards making her last 10 days here really fantastic please use this link: For the Love of O

I’ve used this quote before, but it bears repeating…

“When God is doing something wonderful, He or She starts with a hardship; when God is doing something amazing, He or She starts with an impossibility.” ~Anne Lamott

Grace and Peace,

Juliane

I Speak for the Trees!

“I speak for the trees!”th-2

Remember the Lorax? One of my favorite Dr. Suess stories because for as long as I can remember I’ve loved trees and felt a sisterhood with them. I think in part I fell in love with trees because the cry for justice in the world seems to fill up my veins in place of blood sometimes. Trees can’t speak for themselves, as neither can the rest of the Earth, but some environmental activists have felt so kindred with them that they have dedicated their lives to speaking for the trees. And while my closest friends have heard me actually cry over the thought of global warming upsetting the environment to the degree that we would loose such things as moss and lechtin, I’ve never found it my calling to devote my life’s work to trees.

I speak for the marginalized and forgotten!

When I began writing as a twelve year old girl almost everything I wrote about was about justice and compassion for the hurting, outcast and starving. I grew up in the 1980’s when AIDS was at it’s peak of hysteria and TV shows like “Life Goes On” were blazing a trail for speaking for those who could not. In school I was fascinated by the Civil Rights movement and women’s suffrage–and was the weirdo who had a ton of fun writing those research papers in seventh and eight grade!

In my thirties I began blogging and have not been able to write much else but hope for exhausted sojourners and stories about orphans and people who desperately need our help. Writing is a gift to me and something I do for self care, but when I can speak for someone like a little blonde haired orphan girl with almost no chance of a stable future, then I feel like I’m a part of the magic of Higher Love, Divinity and the force that seeks to heal our world from the inside out.

So thank you for witnessing my magic and being a part of the conversation within it. I’m humbled by the process of learning to listen and write for those who can’t and I’m so grateful to those who participate in it with me.

Grace and Peace,

Juliane

***For more information about how to participate in helping orphans (and specifically our little blonde haired one) please check out our Facebook page For the Love of O

good vs free

img_1079The other day I read a post on social media by one of my favorite authors Liz Gilbert continuing a conversation she’d been sparked by around the idea of whether it is better to strive to be a “good” person or a “free” person. And after having just read Zora Neale Hurston’s “Their eyes Were Watching God,” a novel about equality, freedom and the search for a meaningful, valuable life, I was intrigued by the topic as well. A few years ago I may have hastily answered that it’s better to be a “good” person than a “free” person, but that’s only because I was so terrified of not being good if left to my own freedoms.

I was raised in a conservative Christian family, with a fairly strong propensity towards earning love and worth through doing good works and generally being a good girl. It didn’t make me happy though, nevertheless I used this mode of survival and operating system quite exclusively. Thankfully a series of really hard events began to transpire in my life and all the scaffolding I had always used to make sense of life and my reason for being came crashing down around me in a pile of dusty rubble. And I sat like Job in the midst of it weeping, wanting to be rescued out of this horrible game of trying to do the right thing all the time. I had spent a lifetime of doing the right things, helping, always helping, always giving and doing and being everything I could for everyone around me. Until I absolutely couldn’t anymore.

It was crazy scary to have no scaffolding for my understanding of the universe. I felt very bad for letting go of the beliefs I’d let shape me my whole life. I didn’t know if I could ever believe in anything again or find enough meaning to move forward. But slowly new voices and, yes freedom, seeped in and washed over me. Researcher and author Brene Brown writes about how traumatic it is for a perfectionist to realize they can never be perfect. I spent a lot of time crying over this, sadly. If I couldn’t perfectly please everyone around me and be loved then what was the point? I often sit with this question because it never stops challenging me.
I have conversations with the Divine that go like:

me: Why am I here?
D: Why does it matter?

me: Why I am I here???!!!
D: Why does it matter sweety?

me: What’s my purpose?
D: Just be.

Usually my stubbornness gives way and my heart opens enough to see that I didn’t have anything to do with my life beginning, but I have everything to do with it continuing and continuing well. There’s a certain panic when we think we’ve got to fulfill a plan or a purpose in this world. And if we don’t find it, or mess up with it, we’re screwed, missed our calling, wasted, and all that nonsense. All we really need to realize is that we’re free to move about and just be us, and secondly or perhaps in gratitude for our freedom, be kind and love others.

Richard Rohr, a mystical Catholic priest, author and speaker of truths, says that when we can see our lives as a dance with the Divine we can begin to let go of all the discomfort, the absurdities and the unknowables of life. I had another breakdown the other day over not being good enough (by my own standards) and sat down to have a very thorough pity party over it, and this concept drifted back to me. And I love it img_1068when the Divine uses images like old home movies to calm me down. I saw myself wearing all my gifts and weaknesses like a bohemian rag skirt, full and spinning all around me as I danced free and gloriously like a child in a sunny field of grass. I saw all my flaws and the best things about me making up one spinning body of a lifetime of memories, learning, growing, experiencing a Higher power holding it all together with threads of love and grace.

Glen Hansard sings a song, “Falling Slowly” with the profound thought that, “You had the choice, you made it mine…” And while I’m unsure of his intentions for the song, the beauty in art is that it speaks independently to everyone who will listen—and for me it was these few words that brought home for me this idea of the Divine having a choice in who or how I came to be, what life I was born into, but once the air hit my lungs the choice was given to me. How do I want the dance to go? The point is to dance without injuring myself or others—it doesn’t really matter how it looks: the good is in the making and the movement of a life. The good is in the freedom. The freedom births the good in all of us if we allow it to.

So Liz’s conversation isn’t really about picking good vs free—it’s not an either/or situation— it’s about the origin of how the good grows out of your life. Does the good come from a place of co-dependency and people pleasing? Does your freedom come img_0965from a place of self-serving entitlement? Does whatever good that leaks out of your being struggle through the cracked and dry ground of a life lived out of fear of being enough to be loved or does it grow out of a compost pile of realizing you’re free to make a mess, lots of mistakes and in the churning and turning of life feel the freedom to allow beauty to bloom? This is a conversation about what motivates us, understanding the nature of freedom and all the responsibility it requires of us, and how getting ahold of the love that washes over us when we realize how free we are can unlock such joy, such goodness, like we never thought possible under the regime of being “good.” It’s the difference between thinking that you have to make a nice meal for your family in order to be a good person, and realizing that in your freedom you chose to have a family and get to make them a nice meal. One is guilt driven martyrdom, the other is fueled by gratitude and love.

My dance of freedom looks a lot like Elaine from an old Seinfeld re-rerun most of the time—all herky jerky and wild, still trying to let go of what I think I need to be doing. I’m slowly ramping up to something a little more graceful with myself. With any luck I’ll be in something like a waltz by the time I’m eighty! But the point is to dance with love and acceptance—that’s where the good is: in the making and the movement.

 

together in the darkness

I just finished reading “Their Eyes were Watching God,” by Zora Neale Hurston. A friend of mine said it would resonate with my life right now, and it did tremendously. The title comes from a line in the story while the main characters, a young black woman and her husband, working on the muck in newly freed South Florida are waiting out a hurricane. The winds are whipping around their shanty house and they are huddled in togetherness with the rest of the shanty dwellers, and the author writes, “They seemed to be staring at the dark, but their eyes were watching God.”

I’ve been reading this story of a woman searching to be heard, equal, respected and even loved—and the struggle of equal rights for people of all races while simultaneously experiencing the current presidential debate. When I was younger, and less aware of the darkness of the world, I would have read this book as a retelling of the past, historical fiction—but held up against the current political conversation, and the rawness of the human experience, it’s obvious that inequality for gender and race are not as much a thing of the past as we would all like to believe in America.

In my own life I’ve been in a chapter of darkness, liminal space–the unknowing place. I’ve been through the cycles of running around madly looking for the door out, laying down crying in hopelessness, and then trying to sit still and breathe and listen—to watch God. It gets me really down when I forget that my life is a tiny little novella of this greater story that’s playing out universally. We’re all in the dark. We all don’t know the way out. We’re all looking for the door or crying because we can’t find it—some of us are lucky to have gotten to the sitting and listening part and are calmly trying to tell others to do the same. Some of us are just bobbing in between it all, lost.

I like Hurston’s way of telling us to sit in togetherness. We’re all in our own shanty houses that could blow away, float away in the absurdity of life. We’re like scared, img_1450savage animals when we think we’re alone. We bite and attack those around us because we’re so afraid. Sitting still helps me be present, and when I’m present I feel this sort of oneness with everything, even myself. Being still creates a togetherness with those who are siting with me in it. Love flows out of that oneness and revives, even in the darkness—especially in the darkness. When we’re in fear, we’re not in love. When we watch the darkness we’re not watching love, and when we run or hide we are not in togetherness. I hope I can find the strength and stillness to chose love each day, to keep watching it work and move, and to live in kindness towards those around me. And I hope that for our country and our world as well.

held by love

September 11, 2016

I have a great propensity to feel pain—my own, other’s pain and the suffering of the Earth. It goes deep into my bones; it’s buried in the cells of my conception. But what I’m img_0966trying not to forget is that wrapped around all of this pain is the Divine love of the one who began it all. And I should let my eyes flicker with the flame of this love and not be lost in the darkness. I must try to see each cell of my being encircled by the beauty of the One who called me into existence, the One who’s breath is on my lips, the One who connects all things together, even my body, even those I love, even those suffering around me.

img_0835The pain is real. But the beauty is also real. The world is in continuous heartbreak and also she is in love. There is both death and life in each day, each moment has great sadness and joy. I can not turn away from the pain, I can not close my eyes to it. I can not deny it. But without the layer of love and beauty between it and my heart, it will scorch through my skin and burn away my life.

my prayer:

I ask you One who gives me breath to wrap me in the protective beauty that softens the pain of the world. Let me see the great suffering of the Earth through the embrace of your love. Help me see the hurt with heart shaped eyes, brimming with a deep awareness of this Higher love that encircles all things. Remind me that I’m a thing encircled by this love as well. Allow me to experience my own pain with the truth that I’m held in it, like a newborn baby who can do nothing but be in it and breathe in your arms. Let my life bring healing to me and those around me. Help me to rest in the understanding that there will always be pain and suffering, but there will also always be love to hold me in it.