Tuesday, February 24, 2009

I Never Had a Daddy Before

This morning Karina went to the doctor.
Before leaving she told us that she did not like doctors but we told her that she would like her new doctor.  He is not just a great doctor... he is a good friend.
When she returned she said, 
"I like doctor!  He's nice... he's silly... just like you!"

Pediatrician done... coming up she has to visit the eye doctor and the dentist.

This afternoon we were blessed to spend some time with the Fumia family.  They are adopting a boy from Karina's class.  He is a great boy that we grew to love while we were in Odessa.  You can follow their story at fumia.blogspot.com.  Please pray for them as they prepare to get their son and still need about $15,000.  Please pray that God will provide the money they need.

This morning Karina spent several hours with Sheila talking about many things.  During the conversation she said something that brought tears to my eyes when Sheila shared it with me...
  "I want the man I marry to be just like my daddy."

This evening she wanted to talk to me about boys.  She asked several questions...
"Will you pick out boy for me to marry one day?"
"If I like boy, will you like him, too?"
"If boy wants to like me, what will you do?"

Later on she asked many more questions regarding what I think is good or bad... what I will let her do or not do... what I like to do and do not like to do... how I want her to act in certain situations... the subjects ranged from eating... to exercise... to music... back to boys... to God... and church... and how God wants us to live... the Bible...

She was so eager and enthusiastic to understand what I wanted for her, what I expect of her, what I hope for her... what I pray for her.

When we were done she smiled and said...
"This is good...
You know...
I never had a daddy before."

Monday, February 23, 2009

One Regret

Fifteen minutes from now marks three weeks since our plane touched down in Jackson with our Ukrainian daughter.
The past three weeks have been full.

Full of firsts for Karina... and for us as parents of a teenage daughter... from another country... who does not really speak our language... who has never really had parents.

Full of trying new things... Karina tried peanut butter today... and liked it... we have tried her Ukrainian salads... and liked them.

Full of language learning... Karina has finished level one of Rosetta Stone English with a score of 100%... and let's not really talk about how far I am in my Russian studies.

Full of laughs and silliness... Karina has told us many times... "You are so silly!"... she has brought us much joy.

Full of meeting new people... Karina said she needs a book with pictures and names of all the people she has met.

Full of trips to Wal-Mart... Karina loves these trips to Wal-Mart... with our four biological children, once we had the first, many things just passed on down to the others... but when you arrive as the first teenager in a home... with nothing but the clothes on your back and a purse... Wal-Mart comes in handy.

Full of prayer... for wisdom from God... and much more.

Full of teaching... Sheila is a great teacher to all five of our children... not just school work... how to clean the house... how to cook... how to relate to parents... how things work around the house... how to relate to brothers and sister... how to....

Full of love... from us to her... from her to us... love of siblings... love of family... love of relatives... love of the body of Christ... love of friends... love of those who have been supporting us and praying for us... love of those that helped make this adoption possible... love of Christ.

Full of attempting to communicate... "How do you say this?"... "I do not know how to say this."... using many hand signals and gestures... flipping through the English-Russian dictionary... drawing... it is really amazing how many tools can be used to communicate.

Full of catching up on many things and with many people.

Full of catching up on Karina's life... we sense an urgency in her to know us and learn from us... after 13 years of life she is finally learning what it means to belong to a family and love one another and learn from one another and serve one another.

Full of amazing wonder at the work God is doing.

Yes, the past three weeks have been full.


As we look back on the past several months and as we ponder where God has brought us and what he is doing... we do have one regret.
Do we regret the months and months where almost all of our time outside of work was spent on the adoption process?
Do we regret spending five weeks away from our biological children... in a foreign land?
Do we regret emptying out our savings?
Do we regret having to make the changes we needed to make to add a teenage daughter to our family?
Do we regret doing something that causes some people to call us "that weird family" or "crazy" or "unwise" and say things like... actually, never mind... those things are not worth repeating.
We have only one regret...

We regret that we did not hear the cry of the orphan before now... that we made excuses in the past as to why we could not care for those that God cares for.
We pray that we will not miss out on the fullness God has in store for us in the future.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

It's My Favorite Cookie!

How amazing it is to see God provide.
He does it his way... not ours.
When we started this adoption process we knew one thing for sure:  we knew God wanted us to adopt Karina.
Now that is the question that only God could answer.  We did not know what he had in store.
We had always heard that international adoptions cost a lot of money and when we did the math we realized... yep... they do cost a lot of money.
We looked at the amount of money...
And we looked at our bank account.
Glanced over at the amount of money...
And glanced back at our bank account.
Laughed a little bit.
Maybe we cried a little bit inside.
Humanly speaking, there was absolutely no way.
We had no money.
Well, actually we had just enough money to take the first step... get the home study started.
So, we ignored the math and trusted that God would provide and began the home study.
Our bank account was quickly emptied... all we had saved was quickly emptied.
I thought I had a brilliant plan:  "Let's apply for some adoption grants from those organizations that want to help people adopt and let's take out one of those no interest loans for adoptions."
We looked at several different ones...
not qualified for this one...
nope, not that one...
not available in Ukraine...
not for independent adoptions....
nope.... nope.... nope.....
Finally we found one that we qualified for and filled out the lengthy application...
and we waited....
and waited....
and waited....
after the alloted time the website said to wait I sent an email:
"The allotted time has passed... we have not heard anything... when do you think we will know if we will get the no interest loan?"
What is God doing?
Exploring other options to make money.
Praying a lot.
Wait a few more weeks.
Contact organization again, "We applied a long time ago... have not heard... we leave soon... etc."
We finally hear back!!!
"Ummm, we lost your application.  We received it... we had it... but we lost it.... just found it... today.
So... we have your application... we will look at it and get back to you... oh, and we do not have any money for the loans."
We never heard back.

We never heard back because God's plan was better than ours.
You see, God decided that he would use a four year old boy to help provide the money we needed for the adoption.
In earlier blogs you may remember Anderson.
God wanted to teach us that he does not need us or our ideas or our plans.  He was going to do this his way.
I thought I would take out loans and apply for grants to get the money for the adoption.
God decided to use a four year old boy that had no money to provide a way for us to get what was needed.
Anderson told his mommy,
"Let's give them money to adopt Karina."
His mommy said,
"We do not have money to give them."
Anderson said, 
"Let's make cookies!"
And so it began.
Anderson and his family prayed, baked cookies and began talking.  They told everyone about Karina.  They told their friends, neighbors, church, co-workers, students, the local radio station, relatives... maybe everyone they met.
Because of this family people began buying cookies...
and then we had a bake sale...
and then people started giving...
and then an adoption fund was set up...
and more people began giving to the adoption fund...
and more people began praying... and encouraging us... and supporting us.... 
and then we went to Ukraine and brought Karina home.

God's way was better than our way.  It was more fun, too.
Many, many people prayed and gave to help with this adoption but it got started when a four year old began to pray.

Yesterday Anderson met Karina for the first time.
He walked in the door and said,
"Hi Karina.  My name is Anderson.  I have been praying for you.  Can I have a hug?"

Anderson and his two sisters, mom and grandmommy all came to see Karina.  She loved getting to see them.  He brought her pictures.  Karina drew a picture of him and gave it to him.  They visited for a few hours, ate lunch together, painted pictures and played.

After Anderson's family left, Karina saw a bag of cookies on the counter.
They were Karina Cookies:
The type of cookie that Anderson sold to hundreds of people.

Karina took a bite... and then another... she ate one cookie... and then she bit into another... she finished two cookies and said,
"Wow! It's my favorite cookie!"

Monday, February 16, 2009

July 8

Karina has seen what happens to people that celebrate birthday's in Mexican restaurants... the sombrero... the singing... the whip cream in the face.
Last night she told us that she did not want to go to a Mexican restaurant on her birthday.
We told her that her birthday is a big day and we needed to celebrate big!

She looked at us and said,
"My birthday is not a big day.... July 8 is a big day."

"July 8? Why is July 8 a big day?" I asked.

"July 8 was the day you asked if I wanted to be adopted by you. July 8 is my big day."

Saturday, February 14, 2009

"I Do Not Envy You."

Sheila and Karina had gone ahead in to Walmart to find some clothes for Karina.  I gathered the other four and we began walking towards the entrance when a woman passed us, looked at the five of us and said, "I do not envy you."

I told her there were two more members of our family already inside.  She shook her head and continued on her way.
I do not get the comments as much as Sheila does from people we meet in WalMart referring to our family... "How do stay sane?"... "Do you know what causes that?"... "I would not want to be you."... etc. etc.

Oh, if they only knew how much fun we are having.  When I say this I do not want to give the impression that we have no troubles... we do have hard times... but they are so worth it... every struggle makes us more like Christ and that is what we need... it is what we want.

Psalm 127:3 tells us, "Behold, children are a heritage from the LORD, the fruit of the womb a reward."
Children are a precious treasure and we are so thankful for ours!

Our children teach us patience and perseverance, cause us pain, bring us to tears and make us laugh.

Laugh.  We do this a lot... we did it tonight.  Sheila, Karina and Storey Grace are out with some cousins doing some shopping for Karina and the boys and I played in the mud, fixed a big supper and had a dance party.  Isaac was helping me prepare supper and he told me, "I am glad I do not have to live in the refrigerator."
"Why?" I asked.
"It's cold in there."

Noah took a bite of a lime tostido chip and said, "This is hot."
I told him that the chips were not hot.
"Well, it is either hot or disgusting." he replied.
"I do not think it is hot."
"Well, then it is disgusting." was his conclusion.
He did not eat anymore chips.

Boys.  Boys bring a lot of excitement to life.  When our boys wake up in the morning they have chores to do before they eat breakfast and then they go outside to play before school starts - we get the wiggles out before sitting for hours.  The other morning I told them it was time to come inside and found that one of them was playing with a frog, one of them was playing in mud and one was making a weapon and attempting to set something on fire.  Just another morning before 8:30AM.
Boys.  Forgive me for not updating you on Jay and Martha for a long time.  Many of you prayed for Jay and Martha.  After about ten weeks in Ukraine, they are home with their two boys.  Thanks for your prayers for them.  Please continue the prayers.
Martha is enjoying life with boys.  Here are some things she has learned about boys and some pictures:

Boys like to beat each other up.

Boys have lots of energy.

Boys will do interesting things with dolls or action figures.

"Found one way to burn off some energy: Walk 45 minutes to the Black Sea and then challenge the boys to JUMP over and over again while we get the perfect shot, which takes 25-30 attempts!  Then go into a restaurant for dessert and walk 45 minutes back to the apt!  Both boys took a long, hot shower afterwards because they were saturated with sea foam.  I even heard a faint "I'm tired" from David before he pounced on Sam for the umpteenth time.  A separate attempt to expand their horizons was taking them to the opera last night - BIG MISTAKE!  I got all kinds of whining and complaining and tantrums - and that was just from JAY!  NOT, repeat NOT a good place to burn off energy."

We miss Jay and Martha and pray that God blesses their family.

All of us want to make a difference... to impact this world in some way... what better way than to train a child in the ways of the LORD... to teach them how to live 24 hours a day... how to glorify God in all of life and not to put life into compartments... 
making an impact...
and having fun at the same time...
silly conversations plus watching your kids latest dance moves. 

(Isaac is dancing for me to Ukrainian music as I type). 

Since our last post, Karina has continued to study her English hard - 3-4 hours of English every day.  She is a great student.  I am falling behind her in my Russian studies but I can read the language now - by read I mean I can pronounce the Russian words on a page - not necessarily understand them.  She keeps telling me she is winning this contest.

Wednesday we met with our small discipleship group for the first time since before Thanksgiving.  It was so good to be with them again.  This group of people prayed so hard for us for months regarding this adoption and we love them.  Karina came to the group with us and met them.

Thursday Twin Lakes held a welcome party for Karina.  Twin Lakes Camp and Conference Center is the place I have served for the past 12 years.  It is one of the greatest places on earth with an incredible group of people to work with.  We had a great meal that the staff and many spouses prepared (Karina brought a Ukrainian salad she made) and then they showered her with gifts.  Thank you Twin Lakes for so lovingly welcoming our daughter!  Oh, and if anyone reading this blog needs a the perfect getaway for themselves or family... come visit us at Twin Lakes - www.twinlakescamp.org - we think the summer camp is the best in the world too!

Until last night (Friday), Karina had not been apart from at least one of us since she left the orphanage.  Last night I took Sheila on a date and a babysitter came to care for the kids (thanks, Kristi!).  Karina was nervous about this.  She wanted to know all the details...
"Where are you going?"
"Are you coming back?"
"Who is going to be with us?"
She was a bit unsure of both of us leaving her and she gave us huge hugs before we walked out the door.
When we returned a few hours later she rushed at us and exclaimed...
"I missed you so much!"
She held onto us and talked with us until well after midnight.
She was assured that whenever we leave, we are going to come back home unless God keeps us away.

Saturday I took Karina and Storey Grace on a date.  
The three of us went to a Father/Daughter Brunch at Lakeland PCA along with our neighbor, Andrew and his daughter, Anna.
It was a joy to be with these precious daughters building memories and letting them know that they are important to me and to God.

The person from Wal-Mart does not envy me... but as Psalm 127 goes on to say in verse 5... I am a blessed man.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Blueberry Ice Cream

We have been home for one amazing week loving on all five of our children.
The day after we returned from Ukraine we ate lunch at El Cabrito - the closest Mexican restaurant to us and the place we practice our Spanish... but on this trip we really confused our waiter by mixing Russian with our Spanish... we have a few new words now like...

We have been catching up on sleep, catching up on work and catching up on things we missed while in Ukraine...
like Christmas with relatives!
Friday night we gathered with grandmother and grandfather, uncles, aunts and cousins to eat, read God's word, sing Christmas carols and exchange gifts...
Karina's first Christmas in America...

It was wonderful to worship Sunday at FPC... one of the points Ligon made that struck me was how much God has done for us... how much grace he has given us... because of that grace we must give others much grace... we pray that God would help us reach out more to people with much grace.

Karina has started her English studies and is doing great.
I have started my Russian studies and... I am not doing so great.  We are having a contest to see who becomes fluent first.  We shall see... but I think she will beat me fairly easy.

Right now we are listening to Ukrainian music and eating blueberry ice cream.
We are doing well... have had a great first week... for those of you considering adopting... for those of you considering adopting an older child... come join the fun... join us in eating blueberry ice cream!

Friday, February 6, 2009

It is Beautiful

Last night the seven of us went on a walk. Karina kept looking up and on the way back to the house we passed a large grassy field. She walked over into the grass, laid down and just stared into the sky. Her brothers and sister immediatedly followed, laying in the grass all around her.

Sheila and I joined in.

After a few moments Karina said,
"It is beautiful...the moon... the stars....so beautiful...in Ukraine, in orphanage, I not see moon and stars."

We all layed in the grass for a while talking, tickling, giggling, being silly as usual.

This is day number four with Karina home.

What has life been like with her here?

It is beautiful.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

It's Good to be Home

Sunday night Karina let us know that she was excited about coming home but also nervous... nervous regarding language... she can understand a good bit of English when it is spoken to her but at times she can have a tough time finding English words to say to us... and anyone else that is talking with her.  We prayed with her and she called a good friend to talk in Russian for a while... we told her that she was a brave girl... I promised to learn some more Russian... and we went to sleep before our flight out of Ukraine.

Monday she woke up ready to go.
We walked to the airport from our hotel and checked in... this is it... we are taking our daughter out of Ukraine and going home... we cherished every moment of this day.

It began with passport control in Kyiv... checking the documents... rechecking the documents... examining the court decree.... examining her immigrant visa... then the questions... "you adopted this girl but she looks just like you"... passport gets stamped... we board the plane to New York!

We arrive in New York about ten hours later and go straight to passport control...
when an official found out we had adopted we were put at the back of the line...
"this is going to take a while" we were told...
Passport officer:
"I need to see immigrant packet from U.S. Embassy and passport."
Looks through paperwork...
looks at us... looks at Karina...
"So, you adopted her?"
"But she looks just like you."
"Yes.  We have heard that."
Stamps passport.
"Take these papers into that office."
We enter the office of the Department of Homeland Security.
"Take a seat and wait until called."
"Please come back here."
Told our responsibilities and obligations... paperwork accepted...
"Karina Ann Nasekos, welcome to the United States of America.  You are a citizen of the United States with all the rights and privileges that come with US citizenship.  You will receive paperwork in 4-6 weeks... hey, you look just like your parents."
We smile... welcome our daughter to America... and board the plane to Atlanta.

We arrive in Atlanta with 45 minutes to catch the flight to Jackson... the last leg.

We arrive in Jackson at about 10:45PM...
"Karina, are you excited to see your brothers and sister?"
"Of course!"

We were greeted with signs, balloons, hugs and kisses.  Together, finally.

Thank you Grace, Alex, Ashley, Samuel, Marie, mom and dad for welcoming us.  It was great to see all of you - I know it was late but thanks for coming!

After visiting with friends and family for a while at the airport all seven of us got in the van for the thirty minute drive home... the kids could hardly contain themselves.

When we entered the house Karina stopped in the kitchen... looked at us with a smile on her face... looked up... let out a sigh... and said,
"It's good to be home."

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Coming Home Monday!

After five weeks in Ukraine (three weeks in December and the past two weeks in January) we are on our way home.
What a journey it has been... one of the greatest journeys of our life.
At 10:45PM Monday, February 2, 2009 we will arrive at the Jackson airport.
Some of you have asked about seeing Karina at the airport.  Of course, you are welcome to see her.  I am sure she will love it.  I know it will be very late for a week day, we may be tired and stinky after many hours of traveling but we happily welcome anyone that wants to see her arrive in Jackson.  It will be a precious evening.

Every Day is like Christmas

Decree On Behalf of Ukraine:

"The child is reared at children's institution under full state support...(biological parents have) deviated from their parental responsibilities in rearing of their daughter, Karina... Respondents did not appear in court, their location is unknown...  During the child's stay at the boarding school, nobody visited her, met with personnel of the boarding school, expressed an interest in the child's life, state of health or upbringing, did not call, did not write, did not support child financially...

court comes to conclusion to deprive parental rights...


Matthew and Sheila Nasekos to be the parents of Karina and her name be Karina Ann Nasekos"

The above is from paperwork handed to us at the U.S. Embassy.

The decree mentions several times, "did not express any interest in the child's life..."

This same child, that for us, to be with brings such joy, happiness, laughter, smiles...

Every day with Karina is like Christmas.  We are so immensely blessed to have her as our daughter and to spend these days with her.  She is so fun to be with.

Everything we do is an amazing adventure to her.

She is thankful for anything we do.

She is very silly.

We play fun games together.

There are many jokes.

There is lots of laughter… I never knew having a teenage daughter was so much fun!!!

She fits very well into our family...people keep telling us how God perfectly placed her with us.

Last night on the train we laughed and laughed until we were too tired to keep going.

We are truly blessed… it seems like Christmas every day with our Karina.  She is truly a precious gift given to us by our good Heavenly Father.

Planes, Trains and Automobiles.....

That is what it is going to take to get us home.  And yes I did say HOME!!!  Right now we are in the process of buying train tickets, changing plane tickets and figuring out ground transportation for our exit. We hope, God willing, to be home MONDAY!!!!  

     Let me catch you up on the last couple of days……  We hit the ground running as soon as we got off the train in Kyiv, Wednesday morning.  We went to the US Embassy right from the train station; we needed to apply for Karina’s visa to exit the country.  To complete the Embassy work we needed to get a medical report and we went straight to the medical center after we left the Embassy.  Our facilitators have been FANTASTIC!!!!  They have done such a good job helping us through this process.  They helped us do all the medical checks that we needed and they even picked up the lab results later that day.  That saved us another trip around town.  After our stops we arrived at our hotel, Hotel Khreschatik.  This is the hotel we stayed in when we first arrived in Kyiv in December, so it felt familiar.  It is a little expensive, but it has Wi-Fi and a free breakfast and when you are “on the road” those little things go a LONG way.  We also knew that we were only going to be there for one night. This hotel has great service and will let you check out later and hold your bags for you for free.  A big plus when you are unsure of your plans. 


Wednesday afternoon we ate at Puzata Khata(see above picture)- we have become regulars at this buffet!! Then we were off to do a little souvenir shopping.  I can’t share all the things we found…it is a secret!!!  (I know the boys and Storey Grace read the blog regularly at Matthew’s parents.)  It was a fun outing with Karina.  She even got a souvenir to bring home….a polar fox hat.  She loves it.   She said it is the “coolest of cool”.  We have seen many of the ladies in Ukraine wearing one of these hats.  I am not sure how many times she will get to wear it in Mississippi, but it will always be a special memory for her.  Her dad was so excited to buy her something furry!  (Side Note:  Matthew wanted to buy her a PINK fur coat while we were in Odessa.   Yes, I said PINK!  He loves to get things for his girls!!!  It is so great to see him and Karina together. )  After an hour or so of shopping we headed to the hotel for some much needed rest.

     Wednesday evening we found an Egyptian restaurant for dinner.  It was at the top of the food court in the underground mall.  It was pretty good.  The most important thing was that they had an English menu.  You must top off a good meal with dessert so… to the gelato shop in the food court!  All in all Wednesday was a BIG day.  Karina was in wonder most of the day.  So many firsts for her- first hotel stay, first second-class train ride, first time to the US Embassy, etc….  It is great to see her take on these little challenges and even help us through some of our own.  She has really stepped up to help us with our language barrier!!!  We are thankful to see her confidence building with each new challenge. 

     Thursday was another BIG day.   We got to the Embassy a little early and no one was there, quite different from the day before.  At 2 PM we had our interview with a nice, funny American.  He put us at ease, as we are finishing up this process.  He gave us a bunch of info and then he said,  “We are having some problems with our computers.  They are printing visas without pictures, which are basically useless.  You can wait in the lobby for a while and see if we can get it straightened out.  We have someone here working on the problem”.  A knot came into my stomach.  He later said that maybe we could get it Friday or maybe Monday at the latest.  A larger knot developed in my stomach.  We were not going to leave Kyiv without her visa, yet we wanted to visit our friend over the weekend since we found out that we cannot fly out of Ukraine before Monday at the earliest.  All of these things are running through my head.  Then the thing that always gives me comfort….God is in control and whatever transpires is what He has planned for us.  Sweet peace enters my stomach.  I offer up a prayer and then enjoy spending time with another family that we know, the Wildemans.  They are also in the last leg of this trip.  It was fun to wait with them and pass the time.  Finally the man who interviewed us came to the window and said “Good news, we printed the visas and they have pictures!”   We were so thankful.  Karina now has her visa and all the paperwork she needs to leave Ukraine and go to the US!  She was so excited!!!!  She was dancing around!!  So was I!!  There were so many feelings in those few moments.  We were so excited, but also we were relieved and thankful.  Our girl is coming home.  We always knew that was the goal, but now it is a reality.  Thank you Lord, for comforting us in your sovereignty.  No matter what the outcome would have been you are in control and it all would have been for our good and your glory. 


     We left the Embassy and headed to the train station to buy tickets to visit our friend Tasha.  We got on the train at 8:30PM and we arrived in Zaporizhya at 6:40AM.  We will be here until tomorrow.  When we got to Tasha’s house her mom had a nice “light “ meal for us.  It was delicious!!  She was so warm and welcoming.   We have been so blessed by Tasha during this whole adoption process.  She has visited us in Odessa many times and she has translated many hours of conversation for us with Karina.  We look forward to sharing with you how the Lord seems to be moving Tasha to Odessa to work with the orphans.      

     It has been a fast and furious few days. We look forward to posting an arrival time and date on our next blog.  Thank you all for praying for us.  We have truly felt your prayers.  Your encouragement and friendship through this process has been used by God to strengthen and encourage us.  Karina is so blessed to get to know all of you.  We look forward to introducing you to our daughter…SOON.