Tag Archives: luda


We have arrived. Our flying was long, but uneventful. We fortunately flew through the Twin Cities, not any East Coast airport, completely avoiding the blizzard.


Oksana met us at the airport. She was Lyuda’s chaperone for the winter hosting, so I met her in Chicago. I was thrilled when I found out that she’d be working with us on our adoption and even more thrilled to find out that she’d be the one meeting us at the airport.

She is so sweet, her English is perfect, and she is very knowledgeable. I’ve spent a lot of time being shuffled from place to place with our previous adoptions. This is not the case with Oksana. It’s more like being with a friend who points out interesting sites and always makes sure that we’re filled in.

From the airport, she took us to exchange money and then we went to our apartment. I chose our apartment for it’s location and great reviews on Air BnB. It’s about half of a block from Independence Square/Maidan, where the protests occurred two years ago, and where the Orange Revolution was 12 years ago. There are a ton of restaurants and an underground mall at this square.

We had a telling moment with the man who let us in to our apartment. He told us how much we owed for the apartment– I already had it in my head to tip him, as he’d carried my suitcase a small distance. So, when the amount we owed didn’t quite line up with the bills we had, I told him to keep the change. He was surprised. It was 100UAH, which is about $4. This was clearly a lot of money to him– Oksana said it was very nice of us, and perhaps as much as he made in a day.

An note on the currency– When we were here in 2010, it was about 8UAH to $1. Now, it’s 26UAH to $1.

Equal to about $12. This would have been more like $36 in 2010.

Oksana also took me to get a SIM card for my phone, and showed us the underground mall. We have been here before.

Minus the fact that it’s the middle of the night and I’m awake, everything is going smoothly. While Oksana is the only person from our facilitation team that I’ve met, she has told me good things about the rest of the team. This is in stark contrast to our first adoption, when I felt as though we had been dumped off a remote apartment, with no phone and no clue how to contact anyone and get anywhere. In reality, we were fine, but being that being our first time adopting, it was overwhelming. Even just having a Ukrainian SIM card in my phone and knowing that I can pull up a map from anywhere is HUGE.

In about five and a half hours, we will meet with Olga, who will take us to our SDA appointment. We will request Lyuda’s referral officially. We might get to see some older photos of her and hear a bit more about her history. I am bringing photos of her, Reed and Lena to give them– and perhaps see if they’ll trade me for some of the older photos (unlikely). That is the main thing on our agenda for today. I also hope to do some exploring.

Chapter by Chapter

One year ago, I watched Luda walk through security at the Newark airport, ending our summer together. It was hard, but I also had the hope that we were starting her adoption! I put my hope in that.


It’s so strange to look back on, because those few days were a rollercoaster. So many goodbyes… and we started her adoption paperwork. It was sad, but full of hope. And then, she told me that she didn’t want to be adopted… and that changed everything. What seemed to be a fairy tale until that point suffered a major plot twist that day.

We are getting ready to say goodbye to N on Saturday. There is a general consensus in our house that this is not a sad thing. N herself is excited to go back, see her friends and start school.

N’s story in our family is so different than Luda’s. With Luda, it was always easy to see the impact we were making and where this journey might take us… with N, not so much. We will not be adopting and/or re-hosting her. The clarity of that sometimes feels like a failure– if only we were better parents, we could, right?

It’s a doubt that nags at me, even though I know it isn’t true. We simply aren’t a good fit for N. She needs a family who can offer her firm structure and constant individual attention… and with three kids younger than her, there is just no way that can be us. But, when we find her that quiet, steady family, she will thrive.

While I might like every story to have an immediate, happy ending, they don’t. Some stories have sequels, or trilogies, or even a whole series. Sometimes, you can’t see the whole picture until the epilogue. And, not every story has the resolution that I hope for as I am reading– very often, the ending is so much better than anything that I could have imagined.

Luda’s story is one that I cannot put down at the moment. I eagerly flip through pages, wanting to know how it will end. N’s story is one that I struggle to pick up each day. I am praying that her next chapter holds something beautiful.2015-08-28_0001

Will you join me in praying for N as she departs and starts a new chapter?

Give Me Your Questions!

Hopefully, you’ve seen our announcement by now. If not, you need to take 5 minutes to watch this before you read any further.

We are thrilled to be sharing this news. Most people were surprised by it and have (expectedly) drilled us with questions. So, I’m opening here for your questions. Leave a question in the comments and I will address it an upcoming blog post.

However, please note that I will NOT be answering questions about Luda’s personal history that we aren’t a direct part of. That’s her own story and hers to tell, not mine. 🙂 

Your Best Yes

I’m not much of a sales person. I have to be really passionate about something before I ask my friends and family to consider it. And, if there’s one thing I’m crazy passionate about, it’s hosting.

Hosting is an opportunity for orphans from countries including Ukraine, Latvia, Ethiopia and China, to come to the United States and live in a family for a few weeks over the summer or Christmastime. Sort of like an exchange program, but the goal isn’t just to teach them English and for them to experience another culture (although that can be beneficial). It’s really to show the kids, who may have never had a stable family life, what love and trust is. To introduce them to God. And, maybe, to find them a forever family.

We have so many awesome kids this season, but we need families to step up. I wanted to share a bit of what I’ve learned about hosting, through my own experience hosting and volunteering with a host organization, and also to address a couple of the most common objections I hear. I’m also open to answering questions, via comment here or email.

1. You don’t need to have it all figured out to say “yes” to the summer.

I’m kind of a chronic planner and this is one of the most challenging parts for me. When I say “yes”, I want to have accounted for every possible long-term scenario, worst to the ideal, most likely to the most unlikely. But, if you know you can do this summer, I’d encourage you to consider saying “yes” to that and see where God takes things from there.

I had the pleasure of getting to know a couple who said “yes” to a ready-to-age-out teenage boy last summer. Unfortunately, they realized pretty quickly they could not be his forever family, but they shared about him at church and a family they’d never met before stepped up to adopt him and his brother. They’ll be home soon!

At the very least, kids need a place away from their war-torn country for the summer. A place with good meals, a bed and all the hugs they need.

2. You don’t have to be the perfect family, just willing.

Like my thought #1, you don’t need to have all of the future possibilities planned out. You don’t need to have a ton of extra space for your host child, or be an adoptive parent, or have experience with preteens and teenagers. You just need to say “yes”. God can use your weaknesses and flaws to write an awesome story.

Last summer, we had our house on the market, we were barely only enough to adopt any of the host kids, we had no experience parenting teenagers and we knew we’d be spending a large chunk of the summer out of town. Yet, we said “yes”. And, I’m so glad we did.

Even in all of your imperfections (we all have them!), you have a ton to offer a kid this summer.

3. “But, we already have xyz planned.”

Bring your host kid! As long as it’s not out of the country or downright dangerous, you can probably bring your host kid. And, it will be a great experience! We took Big L on a LONG trip to visit family and a short camping trip. I also had a work trip in there. She came to school registrations and doctors appointments and all kinds of things. It all worked out and Big L had a great time with her variety of experiences.

4. “Isn’t it expensive?”

Yes, there’s no way around this one. The hosting fee covers the paperwork, airfare, passport, visa, etc. for your host child, so it does add up.

There are so many things you can spend your money on, but investing in a child is investing in God’s kingdom and in the “least of these”. It might mean saying no to a new couch or an extra couple of days on your next vacation, but it means showing love to someone who wouldn’t know it otherwise.

All of the host programs I am familiar with take tax-deductible donations. Some of the kids have grants. And, most families fundraise. We were blessed with generosity from friends, family and strangers. Don’t let the money hold you back.

5. “I don’t know if I could send my host child back.”

You probably can’t, but somehow you will. Goodbyes are the hardest part. Both times, as I told Big L goodbye, I knew that even if it was goodbye forever, hosting had been worth it.

I’d also like to address that a lot of people question if hosting is “fair”, to bring a child here for the season and then send them home. First, the children know from the outset that it’s temporary. And secondly, the rules are pretty clear that you do not discuss a permanent scenario, like adoption, with your host child. Big L was well aware that she would return to her home country. It was a vacation and an opportunity to get nurtured. Would you not want to take a vacation if you knew you’d have to return home?

Many host kids do end up being adopted, but there are also those like Big L, who love the family experience, but would rather stay in their home country. This is where many people see our own story and wonder how I can advocate so enthusiastically for hosting after Big L chose not to be adopted. Not every story ends how I want it to, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t worth it. We learned so much from her and I have no doubt that she learned so much from us. We stay in touch with her and keep on reminding her that she has people who love her. People she can count on.

Even apart from hosting, we all have people in our lives who are only there temporarily, but they still can have great impact. I’ve had people pour into me for just a season and I walk away better for it, even if the goodbye was hard.


All it takes is one person to invest in a child and show them their worth. One person to hold the mirror up to them and show them how God sees them. One person to let them know that their life was worth something, could mean something, that they could have great impact.

Maybe you don’t think you have a lot of offer, but if you have any love and space to offer, I’d encourage you to say your best “yes” and see what God makes out of it. He can take the little things, the broken things, the imperfect things, and do something incredible.

We still have around 30 kids with Project One Forty Three‘s Ukraine program alone that need summer host families. Overwhelming? Yes. But, we can find them all families. If you cannot host, can you donate to help another family host? If you cannot donate, can you share about hosting at your church or even just on your Facebook page?

I have FAQs on hosting here and I will be doing an FAQ post in the next few days for families who are already preparing for summer hosting.

Summer Hosting!

I mentioned in my last post that we decided to host again this summer. Our family, Reed and Lena particularly, are very excited about this. Aaron and I really wanted to make sure that they were okay with sharing their summer with another kid. We talked with them about how they felt about our hosting experiences and if they’d like to do it again. They both said, “YES! What’s her name? How old is she? How soon will she be here? Can I make her a card?” Gus was there for the conversation too, but he doesn’t really “get” exactly what it means, especially since it’s still so far in the distant future.

We’re hosting an 8 year old girl from the same country as Big L. She’s just a bit older than Reed. Her bio information says that she likes math and science, as well as crafts. And, that she loves animals, especially dogs and wants to be a vet! She sounds like a cool kid and we even got to see a short video of her (a new thing that P143 is doing this year). When we first decided to consider hosting, we narrowed it down to a few kids with some specific criteria and P143 then pointed us towards her.


What does this mean for Big L?
Big L still isn’t sure about adoption, due to her current circumstances. We wanted to keep things “open” in case she had a change of heart. We basically decided to look at the possibility of Big L’s adoption and hosting this summer as two separate questions. Her adoption is still a possibility, but things are very complicated. Hosting is at the very least an opportunity to show “N” some love and stability this summer.

How long is “N” here?
She will be here from early/middle of June until the end of August.

How can we help?
We’re going pretty low-key with the fundraising this time. I still have some MudLove bracelets and a few t-shirts left from the winter. If you would like to order some prints, you can order here. And, I am offering photo sessions for local friends.

I’ve also added a button on the right side bar which shows how much we have left for N’s hosting fees. All donations made through there (Razoo) are tax deductible. We always appreciate your donations, as hosting is expensive.

14/365: Goodbye

Right now, Big L is on a plane over the middle of the Atlantic Ocean.

Late last night, we went to the store to pick up the family photos from yesterday and get some last minute things. I asked Big L what she needed and she hesitated for a bit, then told me “shampoo”. More hesitation and then the gesture for hair ties. “Anything else? … toothpaste? toothbrush? (joking) a diaper?” “Hmmm… mama to go to [home country].” Oh my girl, how I wish I could.

We woke her up very early this morning. When she walked out of the bathroom after getting dressed, wearing the Me + Family = Awesome shirt that she picked out for this hard day, her eyes were red and puffy. I held my arms out and she curled her body into mine. Her face was pressed against my sleeve and I could barely feel that silent, painful cry that all orphans know. I had no magic words, nothing to make this morning better. I just kissed her forehead, told her that I love her, and held her there as long as I could. Sometimes, there’s no better, no numbing the pain.

(“We love you.”)

Many people have told me they could never host because they couldn’t do the goodbye. Well, folks, it’s just as hard as you think it is. The anticipation of that goodbye has been sneaking up on me all week and the emotion hit me when she walked out the door. But, the goodbye reminded me exactly why we host. The hard goodbye tells me that we did it right. We loved her well and once again, we became her family. We gave her a small break from the hard life of a parent-less preteen and a soft place to land away from the conflicts of her “real life”. 3.5 weeks just to be a kid. 3.5 weeks to get all of the hugs and kind words and love that we could give her. So, yes, the goodbye was hard, but it was so, so worth it. We did our best and loved her well. And, she loved us well, too.

We’re aching over here, missing the daughter and big sister we all love. Gus told me today, “Mama, I fink I wost [Big L]. I wooked for her and I can’t find her.” Lots of people have asked if we have plans to host her again and/or adopt her. We haven’t made any plans yet, which isn’t to say that it won’t happen, but it’s unclear at the moment. We’re taking things one day at a time and praying for her future.