Thursday, November 6, 2014

One year Deeper

So much has changed in a year, but I never want to forget where we've come from.

I never want to forget how scared I was when I finally got Ivan out of the orphanage and had him in my care.

I remember calling Ryan, sobbing on the phone, and telling him that I didn't know how we were going to do this. "I know we expect this to be hard, but this is going to be so much harder than we could of imagined."

I was so scared... so scared of what my life was going to look like now with this little boy, whom we had fought to call son.

I haven't written about it ever on here, but the week we stayed in Kiev before flying home, was by far our hardest time. I was alone and exhausted and Ivan was scared out of his mind and grieving losing everything that he once knew.

I remember counting down the minutes each day, reminding myself that if we could make it home, maybe things would get better, at least I wouldn't be alone anymore.

At that time, if I wasn't holding Ivan, all he wanted to do was slam doors or bang his head on anything he could find. His way of self soothing was banging his head or biting himself incessantly. This was the only stimulation he had while he laid in a crib for years, when one is so starved of sensory input, even harmful behaviors can bring a false sense of comfort. If I stopped him from self harming, he would bite, pinch, scratch me. I remember how my arms were full of bruises when we finally made it onto American soil.

I clung to the words that someone said to me somewhere along our journey, "nothing starts until you get home."

So I just prayed my way through each day. I felt lost and disoriented, but I continued to trust that God had a plan in this.

Eventually I did find something that would keep Ivan busy and didn't require any loud banging. We would go into the tiny bathroom, shut the door, and I would hold him while he played in the sink.... for hours. If I felt extra strong, I would fill the bath and sit in there with him. He would splash, laugh hysterically, and pour water all over his face and head. He was so starved for sensory input, but he was so overwhelmed by life outside of the orphanage.

I remember how I would put spotify on my phone and listen to "oceans" by Hillsong United over and over and over and over again.

I let the words cover me, not unlike my new child was doing with the water in front of him. I was desperate for comfort. Desperate to find any hope I could cling to...

I would belt out the words with tears pouring down my face...

Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders
let me walk upon the waters
wherever you would call me.
take me deeper than my feet could ever wander
where my faith will be made stronger
in the presence of my Savior.

I will call upon your name
keep my eyes above the waves
my soul will rest in your embrace
I am yours and You are mine.

I would close my eyes as I sang and when I opened them I would see this child who was requiring such a deep kind of love from me.

Could I love deep enough

Could I keep my eyes above the waves and trust that God could redeem even this kind of hard.

Yes, I never want to forget who I was in those moments. I was so desperate for God... every second.

We are one year deeper now...

One year deeper into this love that requires everything of us.

We have learned so much and come so far, but God's love is deeper than the oceans and we plan to keep on diving.

Somewhere along the way I realized that this journey wasn't just about Ivan finding love and his life being spared and redeemed, but maybe even more so, it has been about Ryan and I discovering a "deeper" love than we ever imagined and our lives being spared and redeemed.

This past Sunday was Orphan Sunday, the day set aside for the world to unite for the cause of the orphan. Thousands of churches around the world joined in prayer and advocacy for these precious children.

I was nervous because at the end of the service, I would be sharing, briefly, our adoption story. I was stressed out from our move just a couple days prior, but I was trying to reflect and worship.

When the worship band began playing... you guessed it... "oceans", I couldn't hold in the tears. I stood there, eyes closed, belting out the words, meaning them just as much today as I did a year prior when I was alone and desperate in a tiny bathroom in Kiev, Ukraine.

I was in awe of God's goodness, His constant faithfulness, and how far we truly have come.

As the song came to an end, I opened up my tear filled eyes to see my son, the one whom I was so scared of only a year ago, with his little hands raised up as high as he can reach, praising the God of healing and true and perfect comfort.

We are one year deeper now... people ask us if it was worth it.... if we will ever do it again... I'll let you decide ;)

Father thank You for Your redemption and grace. Thank you for choosing the most unlikely young couple and calling us out of our boat of comfort into the deep waters of your unfailing, unconditional love. Thank You for using this adoption journey to change Ivan forever and THANK YOU for using this adoption to change Ryan and I FOREVER. We believed before in the deepness of your love, but now we have experienced the beauty of the plunge and we never want to stop diving.

Thank You for filling in every place where we have failed to love like You. Thank you for your continual redemption of this precious life. He is all ready our world changer and I know You will continue to use him to soften hearts and lead others to Your deep love.

To you be every drop of the glory Father!!

Sunday, October 12, 2014

11 months HOME (what what!!)

This post is pretty late.

Actually, it's very late right now (nearing 2am), but I fear if I don't write this soon, it will not get written and my OCD tendencies would be very angry at me if I missed just ONE month of updates.

We are nearing the end folks... that big 1 year home milestone is coming up at break neck speed!!

It seems like just yesterday I was holding a screaming child ALL day long and wondering if our life would ever look some what normal again.



There's a word I don't really know anymore, but we've replaced normal with beautiful and we call it good.

We've accepted that our life will never look like what it did pre adoption and we are SO glad.

Life is so much richer now...

Harder yes, but OH so much richer.

I have been stretched more than I thought humanly possible this past year and as a result I have grown into a better person, a person that I pray, looks a little more like Jesus.

I wouldn't take back the journey for anything, but I am loving this place we have reached.

Far from what the world would consider "normal", but far from where we were a year ago. Redemption is so hard. When you're in the trenches, fighting for every little piece of ground you can get...

Everything seems small and insignificant and.... hard.

So very very hard...

but then you reach milestones like the one we're coming up on and God blesses you with season's of reflection when you can take the time to breath.

The skies clear and you can look back and see that you truly have come so far.

Every struggle,

Every hard day,

Every doubt,

Every forced smile, forced hug, forced kiss,

Every prayer,


Ivan has come so far.

He has changed from a frightened, timid, shell of a little boy into a brave, smart, confident individual who knows who he is and where he belongs.

Love is winning...

God is redeeming a precious little soul and bringing out the world changer that has been smothered down inside of him.

Watch out world!!!

Yeah that's my boy, sitting criss cross unsupported and playing!! We could of never imagined this a year ago!

Playing at the pumpkin patch. He was in sensory heaven swimming around in there.
That smile lights up our world.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

10 months HOME

The following post was written a week ago. Blogging is a luxury this busy mama has a hard time finding time for lately so I write a little here, add a couple pics a couple days later, write a little more the next day, you get the idea... sorry it's late :)

My heart is so full as I type this post.

On this day last year, we met our precious oldest son for the first time.

I will never forget driving through the orphanage gates. It felt so surreal, the moment we had been dreaming of for close to a year had finally come. In just moments we would see our son face to face. It was one of those moments where your body just can't seem to process the weight of your reality. We got out of the car, met with the director of the orphanage, learned almost everything there was to know about Ivan's past (which wasn't very much), and then we followed our facilitator over to a different building.

As we were walking I spotted a nanny carrying a child over to the same building we were going to. I knew instantly it was our boy and my heart began to pound. A knot formed in my throat and I grabbed Ryan's arm because I was so overwhelmed I thought I might faint. I looked up at Ryan, who had the biggest smile on his face.

Everything is a blur after that. I'm so glad we took a video because I was completely lost in the moment. I was soaking in the presence of my longed for child.

He was everything we dreamed he would be.

From the moment we saw his baby picture on Reece's Rainbow we knew he was ours and we knew he had the sweetest and most tender personality. God must of given us that insight because it couldn't of been more true.

He called me mama right away. He offered kisses and LOVED to be held and snuggled close (not things that are common for children who have grown up in institutions).

After spending around 20 minutes with him and hearing the director and doctor share a little more about him, the nanny took him back inside for naptime. We were then asked if we wanted to pursue his adoption.

We both said YES without even talking about it.

There was nothing that could of changed our minds.

He was OURS.

Recalling these memories bring tears to my eyes. When your living them, you're kind of just going through the motions, trying to survive in a foreign country, and praying everything works out, but now I can look back and see clearly how holy and precious each of those first memories with Ivan were.

I know him now.

I know how tender he is and how much he LOVES being in a family and being an American.

I know how much he loves life. How he loves learning new things and mastering new skills.

I know that if we wouldn't of adopted him it is likely he would not be alive today or worse yet, just an empty shell laying (maybe even strapped down) lifeless in a crib locked away in an adult mental institution until his body would eventually give up and take it's last breath.

That may seem like such a grim picture, but it would of been his reality.

I remind myself of that on the really hard days.

Adoption is not easy.

It's easy to post the smiling pictures and brag about how far we've come, but those smiles and the progress are only made possible by hard work in the trenches.

This past year we have battled trauma, grief, loss, and just plain evil all to prove to a child who has been abandoned, neglected, and lost everything he once knew, that he truly can rest safely in our love.

Knowing how hard it is, everything we've had to face with him, everything we've had to give up because of him, we would say yes again in a nano second.

Being comfortable just cannot compare to the redemption of a life.

I am so glad that Jesus didn't choose to take the comfortable road. He paid the ultimate price, giving up his entire life, so that we could have a chance at eternal life and an intimate relationship with Him. He puts up with us pushing Him away and He understands how the darkness has corrupted our hearts and made it so difficult for us to simply accept His love and the salvation He offers. But even with our messed up histories, God longs for us to be His sons and daughters.

For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, "Abba, Father." The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God's children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs - heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his suffering in order that we may also share in his glory. Romans 8:14-17

You see this adoption thing was not man's idea. Adoption is rooted in the heart of God and it is only through His powerfully healing love that the chains of Ivan's past are being broken.

I am brought to sobs when I realize the change in my son. I was looking through pictures the other day from when we first brought him home. He looked so little and fragile.

I remember how all he did for the first couple months was cry, scream, and self injure.

I remember telling his therapists that most days he seemed to be developmentally at an infants level.

Although he is still significantly behind for his age he has literally gained not months, but years developmentally since those first couple months home.

I look at him now and I see a sweet little peanut of a seven year old who has endless possibilities in front of him.

These next months will be ones of reflection, celebrations, and thanksgiving.

For God is awesome, His redemption is beautiful, and there is absolutely NOTHING that is impossible for Him.

To God be the glory!!

The following pictures were taken on our second visit. He was so excited to see us again! The nannies told us that he kept asking them when his "guests" were coming back. He had spent years being told that other children had "guests" coming to see them and finally some "guests" had come for HIM :')

We have nearly forgotten how his eye had such terrible strabismus, it has pretty much corrected itself simply from having consistent visual stimulation.

I can hardly believe that little boy in the picture above has turned into this bright eyed KINDERGARTNER!!!

We started school three weeks ago now. After much prayer (and indecision) Ryan and I both felt very strongly that it would be best for Ivan to be homeschooled again this year.

To be perfectly honest, it's not been an easy start. Ivan has never  had the structure of a school day and there have been days where the necessary boundaries and instructions have reminded him of his past isolation which sends him into trauma mode. He feels restrained in his chair and when I introduce things that he's not familiar with or ask him questions he doesn't know (even if he knew them yesterday) he feels like his world is out of his control and therefore not safe. He is so smart and learns easily, but only when it's on his own terms.


We know it's going to be a slow process for him. To assume that he's going to be able to sit and do assignments and projects like other children his age is completely irrational, but after only 3 weeks we are seeing slight improvements. We are learning that homeschooling is much less about Ivan "learning" a list of what society tells us he needs to know and more about us "learning" Ivan.

Learning his fears and teaching him ways to cope.

Learning his unique learning style so we can find the best ways to help him understand and grasp things.

Learning where he is strong, building on that strength and standing alongside him where he is weak, until he's ready to stand on his own in those areas.

Learning what he needs most of all is to feel loved and protected. Sure it's great if he learns his letter sounds and can count to 20, but if he gets there by us forcing him before he's ready, at the end of the day it's all going to be in vain.

On the difficult days, I wonder if we've made the right choice in keeping him home. It would be so much easier to have someone else deal with his meltdowns, but God continually reminds me that there is nothing that Ivan needs more during those moments then the assurance of his mama's presence, the constant reminder of our love for him, and the safety of his home.

We do a preschool curriculum that includes sensory activities each day which are by far his favorite. He is slowly learning that he needs to complete tasks even if he doesn't want to.

In the orphanage he was never pushed to learn new things. Everything he knew was due to him absorbing things on his own, which is why his hearing is impeccable and he can memorize things like nobodies business. When he laid in a crib for days, one of the only ways he was able to stimulate his mind was through his sense of hearing. Learning using his other senses (like sight) is a huge challenge for him. So we work on him using his eyes to find things in his sensory bin and looking at and describing pictures.

This is all so new for him.

When he first came home we praised him every time he voiced his desires and if at all possible we made sure we honored his requests so he could learn that he had a voice and mama and daddy would listen to him. This is how we built trust, which is CRITICAL for a child to have in those who care for him.

Trust is what builds security.

Security is the foundation for healing trauma.

So last year we really didn't push education on him. He was in learning overload with all the new stimulation alone, not to mention learning a new language when he knew very little of his first language to begin with.

We knew he would push back when asked to do things he doesn't understand or enjoy, but we didn't realize just how traumatic it would be for him.

It's clear that he wants to learn and do what we ask of him, but there's a hurdle of fear that he has to overcome with each seemingly simple task.

It is HARD.

Raising a child who has come from a HARD place is just downright HARD.

But with each little victory we see hope, joy, and pride overcome the fear in his eyes.

We see love win and there is nothing more joyous than watching your child heal and accept your love. Seeing him feel safe enough to take on new challenges is breathtaking.

We are so proud of our son!! We know this year of homeschooling isn't going to be easy, but we're so excited to look back on it and be able to see the transformation.

A couple pics from our first couple weeks

All ready for school time

Apple stamping. A year ago he would meltdown at the touch of paint

His finished masterpiece that he did ALL BY HIMSELF. Such a huge accomplishment for him :D

Painting with bubbles,  obviously my little fish LOVED this activity.
 I realize mostly have pictures of him during sensory play, which is not the only thing we do for school. It's just the only time he's calm enough for me to step away and get a picture ;)

 More pics from this past month

 We made a spontaneous trip to the park one night after bath.

after work tickle time with dad
After bath cuddles

Brotherly <3

He asked me to take his picture, the little ham.
First night wearing his knee immobilizers
He wears them all night. They help his legs get into a straighter position, preparing them to be able to support his body for standing someday

Is this seriously the same child? Our little man is growing up!!

Ivan Abraham Maxwell 10 Months home!!

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

7 years & 9 months

WOW!! Another month has come and gone!! We are quickly approaching that big ONE year home mark and I can hardly believe how time is flying by!!

We have so much to look forward to and yet we're trying to cling to every last bit of Summer that we can!

Some very big things have happened this last month, for starters...

Ivan got his activity chair!!

Sitting in it during speech therapy
Landon thinks it's pretty comfy too!!

This chair has improved our daily lives so much. Ivan sits in it at the table and it gives him the support to eat and drink without having to work so hard to support himself. His self feeding is improving a lot and he can now use an open mouth cup with very minimal spilling and no choking!!

We got a pool!!

Haha just a little cheapo one, but the kids just LOVE it, even our Landon who, until now, has been terrified of water.

This is his "really excited, I LOVE WATER" expression!!

Sometimes all 4 of us cram into it. If our neighbors didn't already think we're crazy, this has definitely confirmed it for them haha

Saturday in the Park

Our church puts on a free event called "Saturday in the Park" We have a BLAST!!

Pointing to the giant slide daddy and Ivan were going to go down.

Pretty excited about getting a balloon animal!!
Ivan ate at least 3 bags of popcorn (with a little help from Landon ;)!!

Did I mention Dunn Bros iced coffee is provided?!?
My joy boy!
My love bug

So I know after seeing all those pics, you all want to come check it out right??? Well for all you local peeps, come on out to Kiwanis park (S Washington & W Bowen) this Saturday (Aug 9th) from 11- 2 for an awesome time of family fun!! All activities, food and beverages are free, but we will be accepting donations of shampoo, body wash, and laundry detergent for "Carries Kids". If you can bring any of those items it would be a huge blessing to a family in need.

Hope to see you there!!

Ryan accepted a new job!!

Ryan has been wanting a change for quite a while now, but when we found out I was pregnant we knew that God was saying, "it's time guys!" Ryan began applying everywhere, even some jobs out of state, we were open to whatever God called us to. I'm thrilled to tell you that after a ton of application filling out, some job interviews, doors seeming to open and doors closing shut, Ryan was offered a job locally and after much prayer and some necessary changes being made, he accepted!! We are so happy that God is keeping us here for now!!

BIG NEWS!! Ivan Turned 7!!!

He always makes a disgusted face when unwrapping presents. I think it's a sensory thing.

<3 <3 <3

Ivan isn't a fan of cake so I made him cookies and cream popcorn instead.

Safe to say it was a hit with the whole fam, especially birthday boy :)

We had a such a great day, just hanging out together as a family and celebrating our oldest son's birthday and the fact that he's in our family now where his life is cherished and celebrated.

To be honest, there were moments on Aug 3rd where my heart was heavy and deep in thought. Most days I am able to just focus on the present and don't give much thought to life before Ivan, but on his birthday my heart couldn't help pondering the fact that we have missed out on many precious years of his life.

Ivan has had 6 birthday's pass without a birthday song, cuddles, presents, and special treats.

My baby has a past that I will never fully know and that is so hard for this mama's heart to handle.

With Landon's birthday's we take out the photo books. We reminisce the treasured memories and celebrate his growth and the change his little life has experienced.... I couldn't do that with Ivan... and that hurt.

I like to think that his life is just beginning and truly it is, when you consider that he wasn't really given the chance to "live" while he laid in a crib for 5 years by himself, but that doesn't change the fact that he did indeed suffer through those years.

My mind tried to imagine what his "birth"day might of been like. Was his birth mother full of excitement or dread when she realized her baby was coming early? Was she filled with joy when he was born? Did she look into his eyes for the first time with adoration or fear? My heart breaks inside when I think of the agonizing guilt, shame, and sadness she must of felt leaving the hospital without her child. Or maybe she delivered him somewhere else and then brought him to the hospital to abandon him.

My heart just aches for her...

A part of me hates that she holds pieces of his story that I never will.

More than anything, I just wish I could send her these pictures.

I wish she could see her child is not dead. He is alive, loved beyond measure, and thriving.

So it was a day mixed with some sorrow, but a whole lot of joy and celebration.

I will forever treasure the memories of seeing Ivan's face light up when he realized today we were celebrating him.

It was so obvious that he felt special and loved.

And we do love him, oh man, we love this boy to pieces!! I can't say enough about how he has blessed our lives and changed our family for the better. Although I hate that my baby has gone through so much without having a daddy and mama to protect him, I praise God that those days are OVER.

Another birthday will never go uncelebrated!!

Ivan got his wheels!!

The day after Ivan's birthday his wheelchair was delivered. He has had it for a couple days now and his pt is amazed by how quickly he's figuring it out. 

He still prefers crawling around which we encourage, but his wheelchair is opening up a new world for him. He's realizing when he's in it he can reach door knobs, book shelves, and see what is going on so much better. Today I had him help me make lunch and he was SO proud of himself. He wheels himself all over our apartment now (with minimal help when turning)!

First day with his new wheels!

Our precious Ivan Abraham, 7 YEARS OLD, home 9 months!!

The future is BRIGHT!!