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07/22/2011

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We are home. Together. As a family. Joshua joined our family on July 2nd to an excited welcoming crew in the baggage claim of the Charlotte airport. What a fun and special time it was. 

We've been home for almost three weeks and I truly wish I had something amazingly profound to say. True, there have been adjustments. True, I am tired (the emphasis intended). It is a lot of hard work managing the family and sibling relationships that become in flux when you add a new member to the family. And it is true that he requires a bit more of my energy and attention. But I have to say that it has been going really well. 

Not that it has been perfect (and I have had some wonderful help) but it has been working. The strange thing is, is that it feels like he has been here all along. He has meshed so well into the whole family dynamic that it seems uncanny. But I know that it is not. I know that God has had His hand in this all along. I wish that I could come up with the words to describe to you how amazing and wonderful and surprisingly normal the end of the adoption road is. I wish that I could some how transfer these feelings and unfinished thoughts to you, so that you could also experience this blessing first hand. (I will keep the tiredness to myself.)

Thank you so much for all your love support and prayers. I am not lost on the fact that many of the blessings of the last three weeks are a direct result of your prayers and support, and for that I am grateful beyond words. 
 
 
This week will be a busy one for the Rasco household for we will be celebrating three milestones in the coming days. Arthur and Jonathan celebrate a birthday week together. My wonderful loving husband will celebrate another year of gained wisdom and Jonathan will celebrate a another year relatively unscathed by his love of adrenalin rushes. 

Its hard to believe that its been TWO years since my Baby Jay turned our family upside down with his sweet boyish energy.  


I am so thankful for this unplanned, wild child of a blessing. God knows and gives us what we need. Jonathan definitely adds much joy  and laughter to our days and I wouldn't want to do life without him.

Then on Sunday, Arthur and I, get on a plane for the third milestone of the week. The day that Joshua will officially become ours. Our court date has been set for June 14th. We will return to the US on the 15th for 10 short days before we get custody and can bring little Joshua home.

God is good.
 
 
We are currently waiting on our confirmed court date but it looks as if we will be traveling to Russia the first part of June for the second of three trips to Russia to complete Joshua's adoption. We are so excited and can't wait to get back to our little boy. We have been missing him and are ready for us all to be together as a family. 

For this final push we are working on two more fundraisers: a garage sale, Saturday, May 28th and an online auction, held the day of our court date and open until the day we offically get custody of Joshua. Currently we have paid around $35,000.00 towards Joshua's homecoming and we are looking at needing to raise about $10,000.00 more at this time. That number seems like A LOT, and we know that nothing is too big for God.

WIll you consider partnering with us to bring Joshua home?

Maybe stop by our garage sale or place a bid in our auction or maybe God has laid an amount on your heart that you could step out in faith and give to help bring our little man home.

As always we cherish your prayers, and your excitement for our family. Thank you for your support and your encouragement.
 
 
This weekend was full of activity. From watching our first movie together as a family (Tangled), courtesy of our church, to a full day of our daughter's dance recitals (yes thats right, two dance recitals in one day); capped off at the end with a wonderful church day, Mother's Day and prep day for sending my husband off to Peru for the week.

Adoption wise, we are anxiously awaiting our I-171 immigration form and an email from our agency telling us our court date. We are hoping and praying to get each this week. Then we are hoping and praying that our court date is before June 12th as apparently our physicals will once again expire. Never mind the fact that they were updated less than six weeks ago and still have yet to be a year old from our usual annual exam. At least the powers that be can rest assure that my husband and I are heathy. 

In the midst of all of this, on Friday, when we got home from watching the movie, there was a message on our answering machine from Katelyn's Fund.  They are the organization we interviewed with right when we got back from Russia for an adoption grant. I had all but written the possibility of receiving that grant as a long shot because it had been almost two weeks from our initial interview and we hadn't heard anything. But that night on our answering machine was Sheila from Katelyn's Promise saying that the board had accepted and approved our grant request!!! This organization had been such a blessing and encouragement. I am so honored that they saw fit to help us along our journey to bring Joshua home. 

Praise be the name of the Lord our God. Who was and is and is to come.
 
 
I'm not sure that I can tell you when it happened exactly. I don't think it was when I saw your picture for the first time. And I don't think it was the first time I held you in my arms, although I'm sure started there. I don't even think it happened when we signed your referral papers or the documents requesting your new birth certificate. A certificate that would change everything that had happened in the past and state that we are your parents, as if we had been your parents from birth. I did, however, cry a little then; overwhelmed by that emense honor.

But I do know the first time I knew. It was the first time I knew and yet in that moment it was a kind of knowing that felt new and yet old all at the same time. You were "scooting" around a chair to get a better look on at the mirror hanging on the wall. Nine months old, having spent all your life in institutionalized care and here you are walking, or in our house we call it "scooting", around a chair.  The mirror was a little farther out of reach than the chair would go and letting go of that chair you made one...two steps before the mirror caught your fall. In that brief moment my heart swelled with fear... then triumph.... and finally pride. My boy, at nine months was walking. 

My boy.

And in that moment your were as much my boy as if a doctor had handed you to me over a delivery table. My Joshua. And thats when I knew. Not only in my head but also in my heart that you are our son. As much a part of me as Emma ,Elise, and Jonathan. I had wondered if this kind of love was truly possible, but now I know that this is but a shadow of the things yet to come. 

I grieve for all the "firsts" in your life that I was not apart of and yet still grieve for the ones I will miss in the coming month. It is such a vibrant time of life, a time that is full of new discoveries. I am so thankful that I got to see a glimpse of this one as we look toward a future full of firsts together.

Joshua, my son, as we must leave you for this little while, know that we will not leave you as an orphan but will return to claim you as our son. Until then we will hold you in our hearts until we hold in our arms forever.

All my love,

Mom
 
 
As we have settled in, one of the most challenging things we have faced so far has involved food. What to eat, where to eat it and, most importantly, how to ask for it. Most of our food gathering time is spend wondering the streets looking for a place that either has pictures in the menu or has a person who speaks at least as much English as we speak Russian. Add to that a desire to keep the food budget to a minimum and you have the makings of one challenging search as it seems here in Moscow that you either have street vendors or restaurants with white table cloths.  

One of the many blessings of our journey has been the apartment where we are staying. It is a guest apartment for our church's denominational headquarters located here in Moscow. It has a kitchen and is located just down the street from a 24 hour grocery store. It has been perfect, as Arthur and I have been able to enjoy several home cooked meals right here in our apartment. 

Another blessing of this apartment has been contact with some local missionaries here and with it, a contact for a local church, which we visited this past Sunday. I am always amazed and so very thankful for the fellowship we have in Christ with other believers no matter what language we speak or cultural background we share. With that group on Sunday, they shared with us their living bread. It was sweeter and more filling than anything we could have foraged on the streets by ourselves. What a blessing they were! I am so humbled and thankful for God's provision in our lives and giving us the bread that we really needed.
 
 
The whole week, as we were preparing to leave to go to Moscow, I had been struggling. Everything was in order and God had really paved the way for us to go. Wonderful people stepped up to help care for our children, an affordable place was available for us to stay in Moscow and the resources had been provided to go, but I knew saying good-bye was going to be tough. I know how my children are when just Daddy is gone on a long trip. As they have gotten older it has become increasingly hard for them, emotionally. They miss him. I anticipated that with both of us gone it was going to be that much harder for them. 

All week the Lord kept bringing to my mind the parable of the lost sheep. How, He, the good Shepherd leaves the 99 sheep of the flock to go and find the one that it lost. It never occurred to me the distress that both the 99 sheep and the shepherd must be feeling during that time apart. Because, truly for me it was a little agonizing. Not that I didn't know that my children would be well cared for and, in fact, they were very excited about all the events we and their grandparents had planned for our absence, but deep down my heart was still a little achy.

And then we needed to say good-bye. I wanted it to be a calm, special time.  We would say our good-byes during our usual bedtime ritual since Arthur and I would be up early to catch our flight. Instead our son decided to play dump and mix with all the puzzle pieces all over the floor right before bed and when Arthur and I came up stairs he and his sister were in the process of unloading the book shelf. The girls room, which 20 minutes before had been all in order and ready for our departure looked like a tornado had gone through it. It was the caliber of a mess that couldn't be left until morning and definitely not the way I wanted to start our week apart. Not the calm or peaceful scenario that I had hoped for. 

But we got it cleaned up and then where able to have a nice time before bed. Then as I was rocking and putting my son to bed, getting his covers just right and helping him snuggle down with his stuffed animals, my mind flashed forward to an image of our new son. Only his crib was bare and there was no one to arrange his covers just right, no stuffed animals to comfort him through the night.  I was reminded in that instant why the shepherd had to leave the flock and go and search for the one that was lost. How could He leave that one, who was His, alone? 

And so here we are. In Russia searching for that one who is to be ours. One that we can rock and tuck into bed. One more we get to arrange his covers just right and let him know that with us, he is safe. He is home. 
 
 
We have officially received our travel dates and are set to head to Moscow on April 13th. Right now its hard to wrap my mind around all that has happened over the last couple of weeks. These weeks have brought joy and also some pain.

We originally were planning to fly out today (April 2nd) to go and meet our son. He had come off the national registry and was now available for international adoption. Arthur was with Samaritan's Purse in Liberia the week that Ivan was scheduled to come off the registry and we had plan to travel the week after his return. In the past, it has always been possible, at least as far as our agency had experienced, for a family to hold on to a referral for a couple of weeks until they could travel. But right now Russian adoptions are moving very fast, and for reasons only God knows, Ivan was adopted by another family.  We are so happy for him to have found a family, as that has been our prayer for him all along.

Almost as soon as we heard the news about Ivan, (in fact in the same phone call) our agency had another little guy to refer to us (like I said before, Russia is moving very fast these days) and was able to give us our new travel dates. His name is Arman. He will come off the national registry while we are in Russia. Joy and pain. Joy in the hope another little one, pain at the loss of the first. We rest in the fact that God has a plan for our family and that His ways are perfect.

When our son comes home, we will give him the name of Joshua. It is a name we have had tucked away for some time.  It means God is Salvation or God Rescues. And so it has been during our adoption journey we have found that it is God who does the rescuing and we are simply trying to follow His lead. Continue to pray that He will lead us to our Joshua and that we will be able to bring him home soon.

Our new trip is scheduled for 10 days. A little longer than we had anticipated and we will need your prayers as we attempt to manage all the logistics involved. We are so thankful (and our children are so excited) for the love and help of grandparents who will stay with our children while we are away.

We are also thankful for God's provisions (through the hands of many of you) for this first trip and trust that He will continue to provide for all our needs. Thank you for your continued prayers. 

After this trip, we will come home and leave our little Joshua behind in the orphanage as we await our court date. I am trying to prepare myself for this as much as possible but would cherish your prayers through all these transitions. 
 
 
So I stop by our mailing center to have our FBI finger prints authenticated by the state department. They don't mess around when it comes to international adoption. I am not lying that this is the conversation I had with the clerk. Now keep in mind during this conversation the address to where these forms need to go is right on the envelope that I had brought in with me.

Clerk: So  where we sending this to.
Me: The State Department
Clerk: Is that a business?
Me: No
Clerk: It isn't a residence is it?
Me: Well, no
Clerk: Well then it's a business.
Me: Ok, I guess.
Clerk: So what is the business's name?
Me: The State Department
Clerk: Don't you have anything more specific? I mean, that is such a funny name for a business.
Me: Ummm, The US Department of State?
Clerk: But how do you know what building to send it to?
Me: Well, Its the State Department in Washington, D.C. I think there is only one.
Clerk: (not believing me) There is only one?
Me: Yes, Its THE State Department. It's in Washington D.C. Its a government office.
Clerk: (clearly exasperated with me) I just think its a funny name for a business, thats all. I just want to make sure the packaged gets to where it is going.
Me: I understand. I think it will be OK.

Clerk: (looking farther down the envelope) And whats this authentications office.
Me: We are adopting and I have to have some forms authenticated by the state department.
Clerk: I know but there could be hundreds of these offices.
(Why do I suddenly feel like I am in an Abbott and Costello comedy routine)
Me: But this is THE authentication office in THE state department. There IS only one. (getting a little exasperated myself) Its THE authentication office. The highest authentication office there is. Its in the State Department. There is only one.Clerk: Well, I just hope this gets there.

I am still a little confused and definitely amused by this man's confusion. It wouldn't be as funny except that he was really serious. I feel like I am pretty good at judging when someone is trying to pull me leg but he was genuinely confused and worried that this package would not get to where it needed to go. Although, as a side note, when he entered in the zip code (one of the last things he had to do), the computer gave him two options, The State Department or Washington D.C. 

I have to admit I felt a little vindicated. 
 

One

03/14/2011

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153 Million orphans in the world.  And across the Atlantic in the Republic of Russia, is one.  One who will no longer be called an orphan but will be called a son. He's a 8 month old Asian baby named Ivan and, Lord willing, in a few months time will join the ranks of the Rasco clan.

He is the little boy that I spoke of about a month ago (How do you know?) and since that time my husband and I have decided to take a leap of faith and pursue adopting him.  

Currently we are finishing up our dossier paper work, which on Thursday will, Lord willing, be apostilled by our Secretary of State and then overnighted to our agency's Russian coordinator to be reviewed and sent on to Russia. 

From there we will get some travel dates. We hope to travel to meet our Ivan sometime in April. It's then we will formally be able accept his referral. At that time we will return home to await our court date, which is typically 30 days after the referral acceptance.

Right now, my family and I would be honored if you would share in our dream of bringing this child home. Pray for us. The fees for a Russian adoption are expensive and we will need help. Pray for us as we finish all these details, trusting that everything will run as smoothly as it can from here on out and giving us grace and patience when it doesn't. Pray for us as a family as we move into these new transitions. 

We are so excited as we look to the future and anticipate all that will take place.