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What Would Peter Do?

01/07/2013 16:15

 

When I last wrote (and I can't believe it's been so long), I said this would be my title the next time I wrote, but God is still teaching me about this subject. It's been months since I wrote and SO much has happened in those months and I know you don't want me to write a book....at least not right now...right here. (except Bill and Oleg).

 

I will restate one thing that I've said before, which is that God is teaching us about unconditional love. Living out unconditional love on a daily basis is very hard. It's actually impossible. Thank goodness God promises that through HIM, all things are possible.

 

First I want to start out saying that I will probably be changing my blog address. Webnode turned out not to be such a great choice. The whole time we were in Ukraine adopting, I had to keep "upgrading" in order to add pictures and I still can't even add pictures. I noticed when I went back and re-read some of the blog and tried clicking on my links to pictures that I set up, they didn't even work. That's not webnode’s fault...except that I can’t put them here. Now it's time to renew the web page and they will put it back to "free mode" if I don't decide to pay for a renewal, which means a lot of the webpage will be gone. I'll let you know if I decide to re-up or change. And of course let you know the new address.

 

Now, do I tell you how we're doing, how our Christmas was (which was GREAT), how we're starting to bond, or do I try putting in words what God is teaching me about Peter and this stepping out of the boat thing?

 

I guess I'll talk about Peter because it's never out of my thoughts. God is constantly bringing it to me. I just don't think I'll say anything that you don't already know but as I was searching the Scriptures and re-reading this story, God showed me a few things that I didn’t realize before. You know His Word is alive, so there is always something new to learn. The Holy Spirit will reveal to you what ever God wants to tell you. God is good like that. Perhaps as I look in Scripture to write these thoughts down, He’ll reveal even more to me.

 

The miracle of Jesus walking on water can be found in 

Matthew 13:22-33, Mark 6:47-52, and John 6:16-21. Jesus had just fed the 5,000 + people on the mountain and then sent His disciples on ahead in their boat while He went on up the mountain to be alone and pray. Let that sink in first, will you? No, really, just think about that. You know that story. When I really think about what Jesus did here, it just blows my mind! OK, now move on.

 

That night, a storm came up and started tossing the boat around. I hope all those people had time to make it home or find shelter. But we'll focus on the story at hand. Sometime before the miracle of feeding all those people, Jesus had already shown His disciples His power over nature when He stopped a previous storm. He was in a boat with them and was asleep when the storm started brewing. They found out what He was capable of. Now, they find themselves in another storm.  I’m surprised they weren’t yelling for him all night while they were battling with their sails and oars. The men were fighting with the wind while they took turns on their watch.

 

 God just showed me something here. How many times do we do this in our lives. The enemy is always attacking us. He comes to steal, kill, and destroy. That’s what he does. He never stops. He literally hates us and he wants to destroy us. Sometimes we sit in the midst of our storm, fighting with our own power, getting tossed back and forth and we don’t cry out to God. What’s wrong with this picture. I could expound here, but I don’t think I need to, do you? 

 

In the middle of the night (some time between 3-6 in the morning) Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. The disciples saw Him and were terrified. Jesus immediately said to them (Matthew 17:27) “Take courage. It is I. Don’t be afraid.” 

God doesn’t want us to live our Christian walk in fear. He wants us to follow Him with trust and abandonment.

I don’t know why, but only Matthew talks about what Peter does. Both Luke and John skip right to where Jesus gets into the boat. Jesus getting into the boat is very important and it’s something I’ve missed all along and it’s one of the things God taught me as I’ve been pondering this story for this past year- but we can’t miss what Peter did. The other guys were probably still working hard to control the boat but were still scared to death at this ghost they saw walking on the water. Even after they knew it was Jesus, they still had to control the boat. After all, if the boat capsizes, they’re gonners. Peter, on the other hand, knew his comfort and peace was out there in the water-not on the boat. He knew his security was a few feet away and he just had to get to him, no matter what. In verse 28, Peter boldly says, “Lord, if it’s you, tell me to come to you on the water.” “Come,” he said. Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!” Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?”

And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down.

 

Ever since God first called me to Ukraine, I have felt like Peter, stepping out of that boat. It was huge. I mean HUGE! Never have I taken such a huge step of faith. Then, He called us to adopt. HUGE.R! 

Bill and I (and our whole family including Viktor) can certainly relate to those high waves and those scary winds that are knocking us down and making it hard for us to stand up. We can sure relate to how hard it is to take those steps across the water and keep our eyes on Jesus and not fall down in the water. We can relate to how alone Peter is out there on the water. Everyone else is in the boat. 

Those on the boat might be cheering Peter on and telling him how brave he is. Or maybe they’re whispering about how crazy he is and that he should have never done that.  Maybe they’re wishing they had his faith but just can’t make their bloody knuckles let go of that rope.  Yes, he’s with Jesus, but he still has absolutely no support; no one helping him stand up. No one telling him, “Don’t look around! Look at Jesus!” No matter what is going on in the boat, Peter is still out there in the water alone.

 

Sometimes I wonder why this journey is so hard when we’ve obeyed and trusted and believed. We know the enemy is not for God’s plans so he is attacking. That’s a given. We know when things are worth fighting for, it’s not easy. Am I doing what Peter would do? Am I doing what Peter did? Peter cried out, “Lord save me” and Jesus reached out to him and pulled him out of the water. They climbed into the boat and the wind died down. The wind died down.

If you are in the midst of a storm, have you called out to Jesus? Are you trusting  Him? First of all, have you taken that step of faith? Are you searching for security in something other than Jesus? Take His hand. He is reaching out to you. He wants to calm your storm. He promises to be there through the storm and strengthen you.

 

One more thing I noticed. The friends of Jesus did not praise God until Jesus got into the boat and the winds calmed. Too many times we do this very same thing. God is always worthy of our praise, even in the midst of the storm. He is God; the Creator of the universe. We are too quick to forget all the times He has been there for us. We are too quick to forget He has always kept His promises, provided for us, helped us, and heard our cry. The followers of Jesus have been with Him long enough to know He can heal the sick, raise the dead, and multiply a tiny lunch into a huge feast for thousands and thousands of people, yet, they panicked and forgot Who brought them this far.

 

I want to add that we are so thankful for our friends and family who have been praying for us and supporting us in so many ways this past year. As I re-read what I wrote, it sounded like no one is there for us, which is so untrue. We have an amazing group of friends and family who pray for us, who call us, and who are there for us. Without them and our faithful Father, we would all be treading water.

School is in session!

08/22/2012 09:15

 

Well, the kids are all back in school and life is getting super busy again. 

Everyone is spread out all over the place with college, work, 2 high schools, and middle school. The great thing about that is Jesus’ light can shine bright everywhere they go as they serve Him and share His love. 

 

 

www.danadefrees.wordpress.com  and www.briandefrees.wordpress.com 

are great blogs to catch up on if you want so see what God did this summer   in the hearts of two of our kids on their mission trips. They don’t write novels when they blog like their mom does. :)

 

I mentioned in the last blog that I had a few unexpected surgeries recently. Now it’s Bill’s turn. Bill has had a bad ankle all his life and it has been needing surgery for a long time and finally couldn’t put it off any longer. Last Friday the surgeon repaired 3 areas in his foot and ankle and now Bill is recovering at home and doing pretty well. Thankfully, his pain has been very low but he has a hematoma under his incision that is causing him to run a low grade fever and not feel very well. 

 

Our family is still adjusting to our huge change but we are determined to continue to trust in God to see us through. There is still a great deal of stress and tears. I am constantly encouraged by others that it DOES get better. 

We are amazed at how well Viktor speaks and understands English already. This has helped with our communication so much. (It also helps him argue). I still love seeing things through Viktor’s eyes as he experiences his “firsts”.  He had a blast at the lake on 4th of July. We spent 2 days with friends enjoying boat rides, tubing, swimming, and fireworks. He also had his first beach experience at South Padre Island this summer. Our family had some much needed “Freezer Family Fun Time” in South Texas before everyone had to start back to school (or surgery) again. 

 

I am posting a link to a blog that I love to read. I haven’t had time to read it this summer but I decided to look for it today. I’m so glad I did. I could hardly read it through my tears. My tears weren’t from crying only. I was also laughing. If you haven’t adopted, you may not be crying and laughing as you read, but I would like you to read it even if you haven’t adopted just so you will know what it’s like. It’s a calling, it’s a blessing, but, man, it’s freaking hard. (Sorry, Kelly). But, it is. So freaking hard. I can’t even explain it, but Jen Hatmaker CAN explain it! She is hilarious and truthful. If you know us and pray for us (or even if you DON’T know us and pray for us) this will give you a good idea of what to pray for because what she describes is exactly what it’s like. And by the way, if you are praying for us, I would just like to say, THANK YOU!!!!! Thank you so much!!!!! :)

http://jenhatmaker.com/blog/2012/08/21/the-truth-about-adoption-one-year-later

Stayed tuned for a blog God is giving me to write called “What would Peter do”....it’s about Peter stepping out of the boat. This is something God puts in my heart/mind a lot-ever since He called me to Ukraine all those years ago, but He’s been teaching me something about that moment in time when they were in the water....I just have to take the time to sit and ponder and get it out of my heart/head and on to the computer.....

 (I know....you’re so full of suspense)

Our new normal is very stressful!

06/14/2012 21:04

 

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” James 1:2-4

 

I read James 1 this morning and I kept re-reading these verses. Until today, I really never noticed two things. 1) the part about “trial of many kinds” and 2)”Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete”

 

These last few months have been full, and I mean full, of many kinds of trials, let me tell you. Never before have we had so many trials, and so many different kinds of trials, all at once. You know how people always quote, “God will never give you more than you can handle”? Well, forgive me for being so bold as to say, that is a very misquoted Scripture. I believe the Scripture says He will never allow us to be tempted beyond what we can handle. I believe He always gives us more than we can handle. If we never had more than we could handle, then we’d never need God. Am I right, or am I right? OK, need proof?

1 Corinthians 10:13 No temptation has taken you except what is common to man. God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted above what you are able, but will with the temptation also make the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.

OK, so my point is, we’ve had to really rely on God to guide us through these last few months. If I’m wrong about the other quote, let me know. The two months in Ukraine were very tough and He got us through those times. He is also getting us through these tough times. We’ve had great, happy times, too. Don’t get me wrong, but this has been a much more difficult adjustment than we ever thought possible. The enemy comes to steal, kill, and destroy and he never takes a day off. He would love nothing more than to destroy our families. For a while, he was having an old fashioned field day with us because we forgot about putting on the Amor of God. We forgot that the battle isn’t flesh and blood..

Ephesians 6:12

For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.

 

God reminded us that He has already won the victory. Our God is greater. Our God is stronger. Our God is faithful.

Bringing a teenage boy home from another country to live in a house full of other teenagers is a hard enough adjustment for any family, but we really thought we’d be great at this. NOT. Our kids didn’t quite adjust as well as we thought they would. They weren’t real sure about this new kid who took up all of mom’s time and energy and didn’t always treat her with the respect he should. Not only that, but because of some health problems I was having the whole time I was in Ukraine, I had to have surgery as soon as I got back in the country. You know how it is when Mom is down...the house hold just isn’t the same. So, that was another hard adjustment. The kids weren’t used to having parents for 2 months and now we’re home, mom had surgery, there’s a new kid, and things are just not the same. Talk about a stressful time! 

After my surgery, my doctor informed me that there were some abnormal clusters of cells that they did not like when they did a biopsy. She highly advised a complete hysterectomy to assure no chance of cancer growing in the future. We agreed to do this as soon as possible, however, this surgery was delayed due to the little fact that I shattered my wrist while roller skating about a week later. Oh my goodness, this wasn’t such a good idea to go out skating in the front of my house! My feet flew out from under me and I reached behind me and landed on my hand, shattering my wrist and tearing my rotator cuff. Never before had I ever had much pain. Oh, and did I mention that my husband warned me not to skate as I was lacing up? Well, he has....several times! :)   Viktor was on his bike and wanted to help me up but I told him my arm was broken. He went to tell Bill and I heard him ask, “what means, ‘broke’?” I apologized all the way to the ER. This was all Bill needed on top of everything else. He was already so overwhelmed. And poor Viktor, he was already so worried about my first surgery and now here he was, glued to my side in the truck, riding with me to the hospital again. He was determined to stay the night with me, “No Billchik. Pamchik stay, I stay” but Bill, of course, made him go home. I had to wait until day 3 for surgery because the surgeon was so busy. Again...never before had I ever been in so much pain and again, I kept apologizing to Bill. This is just not what he needed. More missed work. More stress. More worry. More hospital bills. 

I had an external pin/bar fixture put on my arm (from my hand to my forearm) because my wrist was, in the surgeon’s words, “like a bag of potato chips”. They didn’t open it up; they just pulled the wrist apart a bit to let the chips fall as they may and heal up. This contraption was to stay in my arm for 6-8 weeks. No hysterectomy with this metal in my arm per OBGYN...too risky for bone/blood infection.

Fast Forward to May 25th. The bar and pins were surgically removed because the day before, the doctor stripped the screws and couldn’t get it off. My wrist had absolutely no range of motion but it is getting much better now, as I’ve been forcing movement every day. June 6th was the hysterectomy and I’m recovering well from that. I’m at the stage where I feel good and want to do house work, like clean bathrooms and mop the floor, but I know I can’t do that yet so I won’t. 

During all this time, our pastors have been there for us, calling, praying, encouraging and listening. Our friends have been providing meals and praying for us non-stop. We get Facebook messages and e-mails, which encourage us and help keep us going. We also read other adoption blogs and know that our problems and trials are nothing compared to what some other people go through. Also during this time, Viktor was baptized! Our pastors even had a special Communion time for our family afterwards since Viktor didn’t take communion that morning. What an awesome evening that was!

We have learned so much about unconditional love. Such an overused word that I have grown so used to hearing but am really beginning to understand. My daughter was telling me a few weeks ago how God was really teaching her about unconditional love through this learning time. We have had a lot of ups and downs...such an emotional roller coaster. At times it feels like we’re drowning and other times, things are great. Viktor thinks it’s normal that I cry all the time. I have told him I never cried before he got here but I don’t think he believes me.

We have never cried so much as we have these last few months. We have never argued as much as we have these last few months. We have never prayed as much or seen God move as much as we have these last few months. I am willing to go through this for God’s glory. I am willing to hurt for God’s children. I am willing to give my heart completely away to God and completely away to my family and to the fatherless, or completely away to what ever God calls me to do. Will God give me more than I can handle? YES! He will. Will He expect me to handle it on my own? NO WAY! He promises to be with me every step of the way. He will lead us and guide us. He will never expect us to do anything without Him. Without Him we are nothing. A piece of clay. A blob. I want to be moldable for Him. Like Bill says over and over again. As hard as this is, if God told him to go today to do this again -adopt-he would leave tonight and bring another one home.

Right now, 3 of our kids are out on the mission field and it’s so awesome to watch them serve from afar. Usually, we’re all on the same mission field in Ukraine, serving together in the summer. This year, God called everyone to a different direction. Of course, this summer, I knew my place was at home, even if I didn’t have all the health issues. Our son, Trent, who will be a senior next year, is on the Ukraine mission trip with San Antonio Christian School. This is the trip that I’m on every summer. This is how I met Viktor 5 summers ago. WWW.PassionForUkraine.blogspot.com is the blog that is updating what God is doing there right now. Today they shared the Gospel in a little village where they have been teaching all week. Our almost 20 year old son, Brian, and our 21 year old daughter, Dana, are in India. They just left Hong Kong, where they spent several days smuggling Bibles to China. They will be working in an orphanage in India. I think they are helping to build the orphanage but I’m not sure. Brian will return home at the end of the month but Dana will continue on. She will go to 3 more countries. Their blogs amaze me. They are briandefrees.wordpress.com and danadefrees.wordpress.com  And our son and daughter-in-law, Mike and Mer, and her parents are going to Mexico on a medical missions trip this weekend. I love this!!! I love how God’s love is pouring through and out of our kids in amazing ways. The one’s who are not on mission trips WANT to be on mission trips. They are really wanting to go to Africa. Maybe next year?

I’m not sure when I’ll reach ”Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete” but until I do...... I’ll keep trusting in my Savior to guide me through, step by step.

If you copy/past the link below, you can see pictures of some of what this blog talks about. If you're my facebook friend, you've seen them all already :)

http://www2.snapfish.com/snapfish/fe/l=en_US/p/Organizer/AlbumID=9810156013/a=135667001/invalidateAlbumCache=true/s_c=0/s_otsc=SHR/s_otsi=SALBlink/s_ev20=OTSC%7CSHR%7COTSI%7CSALBlink/s_se=SHR/s_pt=REP#state=%7B%22pl%22%3A%7B%22uc%22%3A2%2C%22aid%22%3A9810156013%2C%22vp%22%3A%22g%22%2C%22sb%22%3A5%7D%2C%22ovm%22%3A%7B%22v%22%3A%22s%22%7D%7D

http://www2.snapfish.com/snapfish/fe/l=en_US/p/Organizer/AlbumID=9810156013/a=135667001/invalidateAlbumCache=true/s_c=0/s_otsc=SHR/s_otsi=SALBlink/s_ev20=OTSC%7CSHR%7COTSI%7CSALBlink/s_se=SHR/s_pt=REP#state=%7B%22pl%22%3A%7B%22uc%22%3A2%2C%22aid%22%3A9810156013%2C%22vp%22%3A%22g%22%2C%22sb%22%3A5%7D%2C%22ovm%22%3A%7B%22v%22%3A%22s%22%7D%7D

 

 

Happy Easter

04/09/2012 01:04

 

Just want to wish everyone a happy Easter. I hope you had a great day. We are so blessed! I didn't make it to church with the family last week  but I was there today. It was my first time back since we returned from Ukraine and OH MY GOODNESS was it great to be back home again! We were extra blessed by going to CBC's Easter service during the week and then back to our home church on Sunday. I couldn't stop smiling. We had communion, and neither Bill nor I could hold back the tears as we took communion from Mike and Mer, who stood in front of the church with the bread and juice, representing Jesus' body that died for us and the blood that He shed for us. Viktor didn't go with us as our family went to take the Lord's Supper. After church he wanted to explain to us why. He said he didn't take it because he wasn't baptized yet. From other discussions we have had with him we know he has asked Jesus to be his Savior but just hasn't been baptized yet. We tried to explain that the Bible tells us to "do this in remembrance of Me" but he was adamant about being baptized first. It gave us a great opportunity to talk to him about this and confirm with him that he wants to be baptized. What a blessing that we will get to be a part of this in his life. 

 

We had an awesome weekend of friends and family. Several families got together and went to a river and spent the whole day together in the gorgeous weather. Viktor loved his time getting to know our friends and felt very comfortable talking with people and trying out his English. Saturday night our boys colored Easter eggs. It was cute watching our 13 years old - 18 year old sons coloring eggs. They had fun sharing this new experience with their new brother. We watched "The Passion" afterwards. Some of our kids were too young to see this movie when it first came out so they saw it for the first time Saturday. What a reminder of all that Jesus sacrificed for us. It's so hard to watch (I cover my eyes a lot) but it's so necessary to remind ourselves of what Jesus willing chose to do for us. 

Sunday after church we spent the day with family. grandparents, cousins, aunts, uncles, and friends were all gathered at my sister's home for the day. Again, Viktor felt very at home and comfortable getting to know everyone. He enjoyed his first Easter Egg hunt, which we had him do with his younger cousins, just so he could experience an Easter Egg hunt. He loved it. 

 

Viktor is doing great on his English. He is so happy and full of smiles. Bill and I took him shopping Saturday because the clothes that Dana and the boys got for him on the first shopping trips are already getting too small. Bill kept tearing up as we shopped. Watching this boy get excited over sunglasses or flip flops and shorts would just be overwhelming sometimes as our memory would go back to that day we were in his village when he took food to his mom. Knowing the life he came from and knowing that God has put our lives together, STILL completely blows our minds. Did we really go to another country and spend 2 months and bring back a teenager? Yeah! We did! By God's grace and power, we did! Thank You, God, for calling us to do this and thank You, God, for blessing us with Viktor.

 

Mostly, thank You, God, for sending us Jesus, Who is the way, the truth, and the life. 

Click on the  link (that I HOPE works) for pictures.

https://skydrive.live.com/?cid=0019192616159f54&Bsrc=SkyMail&Bpub=SDX.SkyDrive&id=19192616159F54%21619&action=Share

 

 

 

Home Sweet Home

03/30/2012 20:24

Home sweet Home

We declared our last day in Kiev as an official “Viktor Day”. Viktor loved this idea. We told him the night before and he had plans ready for us the next day. We were all glad that the day started off with a day of sleeping in late and even a rest/nap time. We were all exhausted. The morning started off with a very beautiful, heavy (BUT COLD) snow, which I think made us even more tired.

When we were on our way to lunch (you guessed it-McDonalds) it was still snowing and very wet out. We passed by an old lady who was lying on the ground on a piece of cardboard. She was on her knees but laying over them on to her stomach with her shaky hands reaching out in front of her, holding a cup. She had on a worn coat and gloves and just looked so cold. There are beggars everywhere you look in Ukraine. I know they are in America too, but right now I’m “in” Ukraine. There are so many old ladies who are standing there, with their little cups. Some, you can tell, are perfectly fit and can work, but most are crippled or practically folded in half and very old. It’s so sad. As we were sitting at McDonalds, we were all thinking about that lady without knowing the other was thinking about her. I can’t remember who spoke up first but I said I was thinking about the parable of the Good Samaritan but that we weren’t being the good Samaritan. We were the ones who walked right past her. We talked about options; what to do, where could we take her for the night, how could we help her. As far as we know, there are no shelters and if so, we have no idea where. When we left Mcy D’s, Bill gave Viktor money to put in the cup since Viktor likes to give to the poor. Viktor felt uneasy about it this time. He said it was because he was in Kiev. Maybe it was because she looked so pitiful. We all walked up to her and she didn’t look up….she just laid there, shaking. I started to take off my coat to put on her but Dana said she would give hers since I borrowed my coat from a friend and Dana had bought a new coat while in Ukraine. She also gave her gloves. The lady never looked up and we walked away. Viktor stood there smiling and looked like he couldn’t believe that we just did that. I don’t tell this story to say that we did something great. I tell it because I feel like we don’t do enough.  There is so much to do.

Bill and I were back there later to meet a friend and the lady was gone. A half hour later she was back, without the coat, without the gloves, laying there shaking. Our friend told us it’s a business and they actually buy their places on the street to beg. We didn’t regret doing what we felt God telling us to do. Maybe she felt God’s love. Maybe it was just for Viktor. Maybe it was for someone walking by. Maybe it was just for us. We are always so overwhelmed with the hurt there. Bill keeps asking how much are we supposed to do? He says, God says to do this for the least of these. How much? It’s everywhere. It’s overwhelming. The point of this story? Hmmmm..I’m not sure. It’s just something that happened and left a big impression on us. Maybe God hasn’t finished telling us yet.

On the plane, Viktor said good-bye to Ukraine with a huge smile on his face. Then he said good-bye to Germany. He was so excited to be in America when we got to Washington. Washington immigration was a little scary for him and he was daddy’s boy again.  He didn’t like flying at all but the closer he got to his new home, the more excited he got. It has been such a blessing to us to see him so relaxed and so happy. On the last plane home Viktor could hardly sit still but finally fell asleep in the last hour.  

We made sure Viktor understood that there would be a whole lot of people to welcome him at the airport. We told him there would be lots of hugs and lots of photos. He was nervous about it but excited. We couldn’t wait to see our kids and hug their necks! Hugs were everywhere and people were holding up banners and posters. Viktor was being hugged and introduced to everyone. He handled everything so well. I noticed him wiping away tears once but he was all smiles. He was home.

This banner has a picture of padlocks on it. So cool. It says "Welcome home". This is the DeFrees family!

 

 

We got to our house late at night and showed him around. He loved his new room and before he went to bed, he hung up his Ukrainian flag that we gave him for his birthday. The next morning he hung up birthday cards and all his airport posters and banners.

Dana took Viktor to SA Christian School, where David was participating in a track meet and Mike was coaching. They stopped for Chick-fil-A on the way (YEA! He likes it!!!) and as they were driving, Viktor had his head out the window saying, “Beautiful! No trash!” He is loving the 80 degrees weather and so are we! He even got a little sunburned at the track meet. He got to meet a lot of people and I’m sure he was overwhelmed with it all, but he handled it great.

He is handling being part of the family very well for his first 2 days. It still catches me off guard for a split second when I see him walk into the room. I’m like, oh my gosh! Viktor’s in my house! I just can’t stop thanking God for bringing our boy to us. I can hardly believe he’s here. On the airplane, I would just look at him at see that little boy from 4 years ago and sit there in disbelief that he was finally coming home with us. God is so good.

 

 

Got Visa?

03/27/2012 08:06

Monday, March 26,  in Kiev, Ukraine:

We are done with everything that has to be done in order to make Viktor our son and in order to leave the country and go home!!! Praise God for this and praise God for all our answered prayer!!!! We even praise Him for each and every trial because we can see how His hand guided us through and we can see how important the outcome was after the trial.  Viktor needed to see our love and devotion to him and to God through this process and through each problem and road block. He can see we are committed. He can see and feel that even when there is stress and misunderstandings, that there is still love; that there is forgiveness; that we pray, cry, forgive, and continue to love. He knows, without a doubt, that he is extremely loved-by us and by God.

 

 

Today could not have gone smoother. I mean, seriously, it couldn't have. Our super sweet taxi driver picked us up and we packed all our luggage back in the van. We stayed the night with Karen Springs for the night but she has another family coming in tonight, so we just stayed one night. It was so good to back in her home again. We just feel so at home, at peace, and relaxed there. Viktor felt it as well. 

The taxi driver is very nice and even talked back and forth with Viktor on the way to Karen's from the airport yesterday. Viktor will talk to anyone; he loves to talk. We thought it was sweet of the man to allow him to talk to him all the way there. The ride to the embassy was very quiet though. Everyone was tired and a little anxious. We weren't nervous, but we were ready to get this done. We had a prayer time before we left the apartment and gave the day to God, asking Him to allow us to completely finish everything in one day so that we could have tomorrow to just have fun and play and relax and not worry about anything. 

 

At the embassy, we didn't have to wait at all. Viktor signed a few papers and we were told to come back at 2:00 with the medical results of his exam. Off we went for the exam. No problem there either. It took a while, but everything was easy, with no problems. No one said, "I don't want to take responsibility for this" or "come back tomorrow" or "we can't do this here". No problems at all. So amazing! Poor Viktor. All day today and yesterday he has been saying in Russian, over and over, out loud, "it's ok. Everything is ok." It's like he's just claiming it or just needs to remind himself of this through out the day. After the medical part was over, we checked in to our apartment, dropped off all our luggage and went to eat lunch. Off to the embassy we went again. We turned in the medical report and raised our right hands to promise that everything was correct. The man explained that the information would be looked over and it should take about an hour to get the Visa approved and then we'll receive the paperwork. OR it could be up to 24 hours. We sat and waited. We prayed we would have the Visa with in the hour even though it would have been fine to have it tomorrow since we'll still be here anyway. We only waited about 35 minutes and all was finished!! We were so excited. Viktor couldn't take his eyes off his Visa while the lady spoke to Bill and me, explaining the paperwork and what to expect at the airport at immigration. As we left the embassy, I kept Woo-hooing quietly and hugging Viktor. He was excited but was quietly telling me (jokingly) "stop it Pamchik". I kept telling him, "I can't!!!!" I even Woo-hooed as we walked back through security building of the embassy!!! :). 

Viktor has been "daddy's boy" all day. He has been hugging him, walking by his side, and sticking to him like glue. He needed the extra security today and he also didn't have any of the other men in his life around him. We knew once he was away from Odessa we would see a different boy, and were we right. Especially once that Visa was in sight and in his hand. The wall of protection came tumbling down. He has always been affectionate and loving, but now that he can believe with all his heart that this is really going to happen. He is hugging us all the time. HUGE, huge hugs. He tells us "I love you" in English and Russian over and over again. He has told Dana this many times and he has said that he loves us to other people. He told me he loved me on the phone, but he hasn't been saying, "I love you" even though I tell him that many times a day. He has been holding back. I think partly because he felt he was turning his back on his family and partly because he was protecting himself incase this didn't work out. His little streak of rebellion and stubbornness that we were seeing here and there are also gone. We knew this was also a wall that he was building up. Maybe even a test to see how much we loved him; to see if we would abandon him.

It's so wonderful to see a smiling, relaxed, happy, Viktor. You should have seen his smile when Bill gave him a piggy back ride last night. Was it his first? We have to wonder. By his reaction, we really think that maybe it was. So sad, don't you think? Definately his first piggy back ride from his dad. :)  He's fixin' to have a lot of firsts! Thank You, God that we are the family who is chosen to be a part of these firsts in his life. Thank You, Father. Thank You. 

 

Leaving Odessa!

03/24/2012 15:52

Tomorrow morning we leave Odessa....FINALLY!!!!! We landed in Odessa on the 1st of February. We are so ready to see our kids back home. We will miss our Ukrainian family (IGOR...Yes, we will miss you) and we will be back, but we cannot wait to get back home.

Please continue to keep us in your prayers as we are not done yet. We head to Kiev early in the morning and will go to the US Embassy on Monday. We are hoping to complete everything in one day but there is no guarantee that we'll receive our approval by the end of the day. The way things have gone so far, we didn't dare schedule a flight out on Tuesday and risk having to change it. We already had to change it from heading home on Monday, as we orginally planned. 

If all goes as planned, we will be leaving Kiev, and heading home on Wednesday. 

We might even get to meet some friends of ours who we haven't ever met in person yet. I love it when things like that happen. We live very close to each other in Texas and have "met" and talked on the phone and on facebook because we're both adopting but have never met in person. We are both going to be in Kiev at the same time, I think, and will probably meet this weekend. God's cool like that. Big, big God-small world.

Earlier today, we finally got to meet Allen Hull. Allen and I have a mutual friend, Vova, who really wanted us to meet. Vova grew up in an orphanage and he and I have been friends for the last 7 years. He is a sailor now and I'm really bummed that I didn't get to see him while I was here this trip; I did hear from him though. When I was in Odessa last summer, Vova was with our team during lunch. He called Allen so that Allen and I could meet and talk, at least on the phone. I was glad to know that there was someone here who was mentoring Vova, guiding him spiritually, and giving him advice. We've been here 2 months and Allen and I just haven't been able to work out meeting each other. So, finally, on my last day here, we made it work out and got together. As we talked, we found out that Alan visits his Aunt who lives in San Antonio, so we'll get to see him when ever he comes to S.A. God, once again, showed us how big He is and how small our world is.

We spent our final evening with Igor and Pastor Oleg (another unplanned event-thank You, God). What a great way for Viktor to spend his last night in Ukraine....with his two favorite men, who have mentored him and cared for him all these years. 

Igor, I think you really will miss this boy when we go. :) Thank you for all you have done for us while we were here. Thank you for caring so much for Viktor all these years and thank you for caring so much for us. We love you so much.

Wow and Wow

03/23/2012 12:03

 

It is Friday night. I wrote this blog yesterday but did not have WiFi to post it until today. 

 

Wow and Wow.

The first “wow” is good and the second “wow” is terrible.

We were all set up to have an awesome day together today, which we did and I’ll tell you all about it.

First of all, Bill and Dana were out getting Dana’s hair done and also went to the store. While they were gone, Viktor cooked sausage. He made me sit with him, served me sausage, a drink, and even cleaned up afterwards. This is huge; he’s made some baby steps along the way but his is huge. 


 

Oleg and his wife, Lena, and their adorable baby daughter, Vera, met us at noon and we all headed to this really cool bridge downtown.

This bridge is covered with locks. Locks of all sizes and shapes. Some locks have names engraved in them or scratched in them. Some have the date as well. All of these locks represent a marriage. The newly married couple go to the bridge and lock the lock on to the bridge or the heart shaped cage near the bridge and then they throw the key over the bridge. This represents that they will always be together.

I heard about this bridge a long time ago on one of our mission trips. God brought an idea to my mind a few weeks ago and gave me a picture of what it would be like to show Viktor that our family is a forever family. He showed me that bridge with all the locks. I didn’t share this thought with anyone but I tucked it away as an idea that I wanted to do before we left Ukraine. Last weekend, when Viktor was walking us all over down town, we went to this bridge. I shared this idea with the family and they all loved it and thought it would be a great thing to do. 

We picked out a really cute lock that is shaped like a house so that it could represent our family. It came with  3 keys. At the store, Viktor said he wanted one key to be thrown in Kiev, not Odessa. He just wants to be sure that no one figures out which key belongs to our lock and opens it. He said he wants the second key to be thrown into the ocean in Texas by our whole family. We loved that idea! The third key, I decided to keep and put in a frame with a picture of us locking the key to the bridge or heart today.


 

We asked Oleg and his wife to come with us because they have had a huge impact on Viktor’s life these last five years. They have invested a lot into him spiritually, physically, mentally, and emotionally. I thank God so much for them. Viktor loves and respects them very much and they are family to him. I wanted Oleg to take pictures and I also wanted him to be with us to pray over our time of locking the lock and blessing our commitment of our life together.

Unbeknown to us, Oleg used to be a professional photographer for a magazine and he went right to work taking lots of awesome pictures to capture our special time together. Viktor was silly, as he always is when he is embarrassed or fearful. He was feeling both, so his silliness was shining through. It’s adorable though. Bill and Dana laugh and shake their heads at me several times a day because I say, “That was adorable.” or “He’s adorable.” or something like that all through the day. Now they say it about as much as I do. Almost. ;)

After we took pictures, we had a time of prayer with just our little family of Bill, Dana, Viktor, and me. We would have loved to have had Mer and the boys with us for this special moment but we’ll do the same at the beach in Texas, as Viktor requested! What a great excuse to head to the ocean! Bill choked up several times (I know you can’t picture that) as he prayed over us and prayed “as for me and my house we will serve the Lord” and committed our family to God and promised that we would never leave Viktor; that we would always be family. When we finished, Oleg, too, was crying. He has so much love in his heart for this boy and all orphans but I think Viktor has a very special place in Oleg’s heart. Oleg and Lena then joined our prayer circle and we all prayed again.

Locking the lock on to the huge heart shaped caged was a beautiful picture of our promise to each other that we will be committed as a family. 


 

We all had lunch together and then our family went on to the passport office hoping to hear the good news that Viktor’s passport would be waiting for us. Viktor called Alyona and she had bad news for us. This is the bad “wow”. The passport had not come in yet. It was like getting kicked in the stomach. We had a flight scheduled out for tomorrow morning. Dima, in Kiev, was working on getting things started for us so that we could be out of there quickly. We were hoping to be flying home on Monday. I couldn’t contain the tears. We want to go home so badly. Not just because we want to see our boys, but we do want to see our boys so much, but also so we can just leave and get our new life started with Viktor. With every hour we stay here comes another trial or struggle. Another hurdle with issues that we would not have to deal with at home. We walked our 20 minute walk home and tears were off and on all the way home. Viktor would put his arm around me and say, “don’t cry” or “tomorrow, tomorrow, tomorrow,” or “it’s life”. We were all bummed all the way home. We know God is in control and we know He has a plan, we just were not expecting this. 

I had been looking at pictures on my computer this morning and started from the very beginning of our process. I saw the pictures of when we first started hanging out with each other at restaurants and it seems like a life time ago. The rest of my world has completely come to a stop while I’ve been over here. We keep up with our kid's lives through Facebook and e-mail and talk to them on Skype but it’s not near enough. They are doing great and will probably have a hard time having us back home. :)  They are there for each other and I know they are showing love and kindness and we are so proud of them. It’s hard not being there for them as they are grieving the loss of a friend who died. It’s hard to not be there to just find out how their day at school was or how their spring break was or their evening with their friends was. 

We want to go home. BUT....God has us here right now and until He sends us home, we here for a reason. May our eyes and hearts be willing to listen and see what He has for us. May our feet and hands be willing to be used by Him. I asked God several weeks ago not to protect my heart. I want my heart to break for what breaks His. 

Hopefully, if you go to this link, you can see pictures of us putting the lock on the heart cage. I'm hoping it will work because I can't add more pictures to the web page this month. :( 

https://skydrive.live.com/redir.aspx?cid=0019192616159f54&resid=19192616159F54!608&parid=19192616159F54!411

You'll probably have to copy/paste it. If it doesn't work, never fear, I'll figure something out! I don't like it when the computer beats me! :)

 

Since writing this blog, we got the passport!!! YEA!!!!! We'll be heading to Kiev this weekend, praise God!!!!! WHEW! What a relief. I can almost feel the hugs of my big boys back home and I can almost taste that delicious mexican food!!!!! CHIPS AND SALSA!!!!! My mouth is watering!

 


 

From Dana

03/23/2012 06:22

We are still in Odessa as we are still waiting for Viktor's passport. We are soooo ready to be home, I can't even express this with words. But while we are still here, we are doing some important family things and we are spending great quality time with Viktor's pastor and his family. We love them so we are enjoying this, but more importantly, Viktor loves them and it's good for him to be with them as much as possible before we leave.

While we waiting to leave, I thought I'd post a copy of Dana's blog for you. You can find Dana's blog at http://danadefrees.wordpress.com/

 

For the past month I have been with my parents in Ukraine as we are adopting a 16 year old boy. It has been such a trying experience but God has shown himself powerful. It seems as if every day there is a full out spiritual war and it is exhausting in all aspects of the word. But God has never left our side. He has constantly reminded us that He is in control and His ways are higher than ours. Over and over again He has lovingly proved Himself faithful. During the past two months I’ve been spending quite some time in Genesis reading about Abraham’s incredible faith. Everyday, though my faith is tested and tried, my relationship with God is stronger because of it. I am learning to rely FULLY on Him for EVERYTHING without doubting His goodness and that He will take care of me.

Recently I received an email from my trip leader, Sarah, saying I need the majority of my trip money by April 1st! I immediately resorted to my old ways and started to freak out. Brian and I are raising
the funds together and we have no where near the amount of money we need in a short 10 days. I know God knows that so I should be fine, right? My heart knows that God is in control but my head is still trying to think logically about how we will do this. There is no way we can raise that much
money so soon. But God does the impossible, doesn’t He? He’s reminded me of countless stories in the Bible where He has done something no man could fathom. Then He showed me situations in my own life where He allowed me to do things I never thought possible. He allowed me to see past
decisions and why they didn’t work out the way I had planned. There’s no way I could’ve planned where I am today or even thought it possible. And who knows what else the Lord has done in my
own life that I don’t even know about? God is God whether I see it or not, whether I understand it or
not, whether I like it or not. I truly do not see how this task ahead of me is possible but I will not stop praying for a miracle, for His will to be done and not mine. I know without a doubt that God’s power
will show through this regardless of the outcome. I am continuing to pray for faith like Abraham.
Please join with me in praying that His will be done in all things!

 

She didn't say this, but she and Brian need several thousand for this trip. It is a 5 country trip that they will be ministering in this summer. They know God can do it; they have total faith. If it's His will, they will go on this mission trip. They just want to be in His will and be in His plan.

 

Almost done! Still pray!!

03/18/2012 17:15

 

This is a mini version of the email that I sent out to update you yesterday. This is for those who have not received an update:

 

Thursday and Friday were full of activity yet there is still so much to do.

 

Thursday, Bill and Viktor (we don’t really have to use the name “Luke” any more but I think I’ll wait on pictures until we’re on our way out of here.) headed off with our friend, Viktor Migo, who drives us when we're with Alyona doing business. He will not allow us to pay him for his driving, which normally, we would have to do under any other circumstance if we drove with a taxi or driver who had to wait for us for the day.  Bill did convince him to take gas money (by basically throwing it at him as he got out of the van yesterday) since he and his wife drove us two days in a row all the way to the villages and back (2 1/2 hours one way). Alyona was able to get Viktor's Social Security card at his village. She was told there that his family was a very good family at one time. It fell apart and the brother got in with the wrong crowd but he used to be a really good kid too. I was happy to hear this. I have already thanked God many times (and will continue to do so) that Viktor had been a baby who was held and loved by his mother. He was nurtured and cared for. He may not have always had enough food but he wasn't left crying, ignored, and starving in a crib, along with 50 other babies in an orphanage. I am very thankful for this. I know what happens to the development (or should I say what doesn't happen to the development) of their little brains and bodies when they are not held and loved on as babies.

With the  SS card or number in hand, they went back to another village to get the passport that he needed just in order to get his international passport. As they were driving for miles down the road, Bill said Viktor was talking and pointing as they were driving down this road. Alyona explained that Viktor was saying that he used to walk down to this village (MILES AND MILES...Bill wasn't sure how many miles) to go to school. This must have been his 2nd school, right before the orphanage. He used to walk in the rain and snow, and yes...barefooted. Bill put "barefoot" in there as kind of joke because we always tease old people who say they walked barefoot in the snow to school, uphill both ways, but when he said it, they said "yes, barefoot". 

Getting the passport was a very proud moment for Viktor. It has his new name on it. He is so very proud of his new passport.

 

Igor brought Dana and me to meet them at the Notary office late in the afternoon. Viktor couldn't wait to show us his passport. He wasn't going to get to keep it once he applied for his international passport (it was going to have be returned to the passport office in the village). We took pictures of every page that had writing on it so he could have it for memory. When we signed the notary book and the documents, the lady in the office told me that it was a good thing the boss left already or I would have gotten in trouble for taking a picture. I told her thank you for letting me take a picture. Not only did she let me take a picture, but after Viktor signed the Notary book, she had him sit in the boss's chair to sign his official documents so that I could take pictures of him there! How sweet was that! She was very happy for us!

 

We went to celebrate at dinner so we did not want to go to McDonald's, much to Viktor's chagrin. We went to a nice restaurant where we went for Woman's Day and had delicious food-the best we've had here I think. Viktor didn't order anything or look at the menu. He just wanted an apple, which he had to wait a few hours for. It was super hard for me not to run down to the grocery store to buy him an apple (or a McD’s cheese burger to go) while we waited for our food but I knew I couldn't do that. Of course, even if I tried, Bill would have been wise to stop me from giving in and doing such a foolish thing. 

 

Friday morning Viktor applied for his international passport. Unfortunately, Alyona found out that they can no longer expedite a 3 day passport for adults. They said it could take up to 2 weeks to get the passport but most likely we'll have it within 5 days. With that being done, we headed to the police station to file for the criminal record which will be ready Wednesday. We hope and pray the passport will also be done by Wednesday. If so, we can leave for Kiev and finish up! Monday we should also get the medical report which was supposed to be ready this week. After the police station, we then went to the college to check out of school. Viktor turned everything in and had to get a paper signed. We waited in the same office that we stepped into 45 days before, when we first saw Viktor in Odessa and told the school we were adopting him. It was the day he wrote the letter saying he would like to be adopted by us and signed the document Viktor William. 45 days ago. Now, here we were, standing in that same office, waiting to get him out of there! Unfortunately, 2 people were not there to sign the papers. A very out of breath, sweaty, Viktor came in the office to ask the director about them because he couldn't find them. Also, the director of the University wasn't there to sign the document and that's who we needed to talk to next. We go back on Monday. Sigh. We did, however, get all of his belongings out of his dorm and take them to the van. 

S.A. Christian people, you know those duffle bags they give you for middle school retreat? You know how we parents are like, "they'll never fit all their stuff in here for retreat! What are these people thinking?" Well, Viktor couldn't fill even half that bag with all his personal belongings, and that includes his new presents that he just received for his birthday. He left that dorm with an H.E.B.-type bag and a back pack and a coat. His coat, he informed us, he is going to donate to the orphanage that we are going to go to on Sunday with his pastor. He never wears it. He wears 2 or 3 light jackets at the same time but rarely wears his heavy coat.

We had an awesome afternoon of walking all over Odessa and seeing the sights and taking pictures. We think Viktor wanted to show us all around and also wanted pictures of everything to keep forever in his memory. 

 

We stayed up until 2:00 am because we skyped with the boys after we watched the Karate Kid in Russian. TRENT, once again wasn't there. My little social butterfly was gone again. :(  MISS YOU TRENT! We made ourselves go to bed because we promised the kid that we'd go back to the port at 7:00AM because "it's beautiful" at 7:00AM. Afterwards, we went to McDonald's for breakfast, Viktor's treat.

Viktor loves to buy things for people. He bought me a beautiful platter when he brought laundry over for me last weekend. It has yellow/orange tulips on it; the tulips match perfectly with the tulips that Dana and I received at church as a gift for Woman's Day. I now have a new favorite flower. :)  Yesterday, he bought Dana and me bracelets from a little souvenir stand. He has bought other gifts for people, he gives money to old ladies who are begging in the street, to musicians who are playing under the streets, and to jars at the groceries stores if they are supporting something that has to do with children. Giving is one of his love languages. Touch and spending time are two other very strong love languages of Viktor's.

 

It was a beautiful, sunny day and yesterday we even ate outside until the wind got to us and then we had to move inside. It was probably a bombing 35 degrees out! WARM! :) Today is even warmer. All the restaurants even put their outside tables  out on their porches for the day.

 

We have been hearing more and more miracles that God has been doing behind the scenes that we were unaware of until after things were taken care of. Things that I don’t want to mention here in public. Things that only God’s hand could have caused the seeing eye to not see and the enemy to not move.  Please continue to pray as this isn't even over yet. Until we have every passport, every document, Visa, medical report, etc in hand, this is not done. The enemy is also constantly causing fear and doubt in our little new DeFrees. You can see him fighting it as he clings to his new found love and family. 

 

The enemy will not stop attacking so please do not stop praying. We are depending on it! Love you all deeply!

Love, Pam

 

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