Saturday, December 17, 2016

10 Years Ago... Our Italian Adventure Began

View of Vicenza, Italy from Monte Berico

Today marks exactly 10 years since Arielle, Rachel, and I boarded the first airplane on our journey to join Sean in Vicenza, Italy.  It was the girls' first flight.  All of us were giddy with excitement.  I mean seriously... Italy?  Italian food... beautiful scenery... fertile soil to grow something, anything... learning Italian... jet-setting through Europe.  At least, those were the things I was thinking about.  The girls were most excited about the plane ride.  


At our gate at BWI, waiting to board our plane

Arielle, age 5, was my little trooper, pulling luggage while carrying her own backpack.  Rachel, though only 2, did me the greatest service she could have ever done -- she did not pee in her seats when she fell asleep during the flights.  I can't tell you how anxious I was about this.  I watched that child like a hawk when she went to sleep, like I would see some sign before the deed was done.  


On the plane and Rachel is asleep.  Yes, I watched her to make sure there were no accidents in the seat!  Until I fell asleep, of course.  :-)

We flew from Baltimore-Washington International Airport to O'Hare (Chicago) to Heathrow (London).  After a 6 hour layover, we flew our last leg to Vicenza.  

I must note that the only thing I remember from that last flight was the flight attendant beginning the seat belt demonstration.  The next thing I remember was the announcement to tell us we were approaching Vicenza.  The same flight attendant kindly watched me as I awoke in a sleepy haze, smiled, and remarked in her British accent, "You must be at the end of a long journey."  Little did she know that the journey was just beginning...


Sean and the girls on the playground behind our house the day after we arrived 

Overall, our stay in Italy was bittersweet for me.  It was mostly sweet in that we met some wonderful people, grew in the Lord, saw so many beautiful places, ate delicious food, and added our precious Josiah to our family.  The bitter part was not really Italy's fault... Italy just happened to be the backdrop of a life-altering health crisis.  We ended up leaving six months early, after two-and-a-half years.

I could post so many pictures of people and places and write chapters and chapters about our experiences, but I won't do that this time.  However, I will share photos of but a few of the wonderful people we met during our first six months in Italy:  


Erika (right) and her family had us over for Christmas dinner.  
They had  arrived in Italy only a few weeks earlier.

Ja'Net, me, April at Palladio Mall

Laura and Liam

The Davis Family when there were only three of them!

Sean and Terry in Genoa

Karol and I on our way to Venice

Pastor Drylie from Vicenza Baptist, the first church we attended

Here we are on our way to Venice and the Peggy Guggenheim Museum.

The Heck Family


It's hard to believe ten years have gone by already.  Sometimes it seems like yesterday that we were exploring downtown Vicenza.  Then at other times, it seems like it was a lifetime ago, a dream.  I am grateful to the Lord for sending us to Italy.  He taught us MANY, MANY (did I say, MANY?) lessons.  Our time there was truly once-in-a-lifetime.  In Christ, Talya


Monday, March 7, 2016

Why I Vote... or Don't Vote... the Way I Do

I did not vote in the last two presidential elections.  There, I said it.  I am not ashamed.  No need to blame me for the state of the country.  No need to attempt to convince me that I am obligated to vote because our ancestors fought for the right or I have a biblical responsibility.  I appreciate the right, am very conscious of it, and do not take voting lightly – that’s why I did not vote.

I want to make it clear that I am not “anti-voting” on its face.  I do not believe that anyone should haphazardly withdraw from the political process without any thought.  However, I am anti-irresponsible voting.  I am anti-uninformed voting.  I am anti-race-based voting.  I am anti-party-based voting.  As a Christian, I am anti-throw-Biblical-principles-to-the-wind voting.

I did not vote in the last two elections because I could not in good conscience vote for either candidate.  My criteria for choosing a candidate is very simple.   During any election season, I look to scripture, particularly Exodus 18, to guide my decision-making.  In chapter 18, Moses had been acting judge over all the people of Israel and was becoming overwhelmed by the magnitude of the job.  His father-in-law Jethro counseled his weary son-in-law to appoint other men to judge the smaller matters, thus lightening Moses’ workload.  Jethro advised Moses of the kind of men he should seek out for the job:  “Moreover, look for able men from all the people, men who fear God, who are trustworthy and hate a bribe, and place such men over the people as chiefs of thousands, of hundreds, of fifties, and of tens.” (Exodus 18:21)

I look for a candidate who professes faith in Christ and whose life, voting record, and platform support that profession.  I look at his stances on issues that I believe reflect an understanding of the character of God.  I am less concerned with who will put the most money in my pocket than who will uphold biblical principles concerning such issues as the sanctity of life.  I also expect the candidate’s faith to be important to him and that it should be apparent -- not a hidden aspect of his life.  If his positions are not based on faith in Christ, no matter how closely they mirror what I may believe to be biblical, I cannot trust that he will not change his mind on an issue with the blowing of the wind.  There is no sure foundation for what he believes.

I look for a trustworthy candidate.  I can only see so much of a candidate’s  private life, but what I am able to see should be marked by integrity.  Perfection?  No.  General integrity?  Yes.  In his public life, I look for consistency in standing for Biblical principles.  I would also expect him to deal honestly in his personal and professional business.  If he cannot be trusted in his daily affairs, how can he be trusted to run our country?

Finally, is he capable of the job?  Has he shown leadership abilities or does he seem to buckle under pressure?  Does he have knowledge of the issues he will be required to confront, or has he surrounded himself with trusted advisors to help with the learning curve?  Is he a biological male and identifies as such… yes, that’s where I must go in my specificity.  I would not support a woman, especially one who is charged with caring for a husband and children, in a presidential election.  I will leave it at that or this post will be much, much longer.

If I look at the field of candidates and find these qualities missing, I do not vote.

I do not vote for the “lesser of two evils”, as I hope to never knowingly vote for an “evil” be they lesser or not.

I do not see my vote as a vote against another candidate.   By that I mean, I do not think, “Well, I don’t really support either candidate A or candidate B, but I will go ahead and vote for B because I am really voting against A.”  Umm, no, you are casting your vote in SUPPORT of candidate B.  Votes are not counted as votes AGAINST a candidate but as votes FOR a candidate.

I am a conscience voter, not a strategic voter.  If I vote for a candidate, it is because I can do so with a clear conscience, whether they have a snowball’s chance to win or not.  If I vote, I try to vote in way that I believe would please the Lord according to the knowledge that I have at the time.  I do not look at the statistics and try to figure out how my vote for a candidate who has little chance of winning the nomination will affect the chances that an opposing candidate will achieve the nomination.  I no longer have the brain power for such mental gymnastics, nor do I have a desire for such.  If the Lord were to ask me about my voting record, I don’t think he’ll ask me why I didn’t vote for the winning candidate.  I think He would ask me if I voted for a candidate who upheld His principles.

Will I vote this election cycle?  Possibly.  Because we are now settled in our new state, with no moves on the horizon, I am more inclined to consider voting in the primary, as well as the local elections.  Honestly, I never paid the primaries much attention, and by the time the general election would roll around, the two candidates were not suitable, so I would decline to vote.  This time I may indeed vote in the primary.  I have until March 15th to figure it out.  However, as I look at the present delegate count, I have a feeling I won’t be voting in the general election.

I think this election season has brought many people to the point where they are truly considering not voting.  I say pray for those who do vote, pray for the candidates, pray for our country,  and press on.  Let no one shame you or guilt you into going against your conscience.  Let no one imply that you are not fulfilling your civic or biblical duty.  I say, “Poppycock!”  Romans 13:1 tells us that God appoints who He wants in authority and isn’t thwarted by anyone’s vote or lack thereof – “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God.” 

As believers, we must rest in the comfort that God is sovereign over all, including who will be our next president.  We must take comfort that whatever He accomplishes through this election will be for His purpose.  Let us be obedient in walking righteously before God and before all men, choosing that which is pleasing to God.  In Christ, Talya

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Finalization, Here We Come!

The Lord has honored our prayer that Beautiful Girl's adoption finalization process would proceed smoothly and quickly -- specifically before we move out of the state!  We are on track to finalize her adoption next Saturday, November 21!!!!  It will take place at a hands-on science center as part of a National Adoption Day event.  When I found out, I enthusiastically told BG that she would officially be part of the family.  She looked at me and matter-of-factly stated, "I'm already officially part of the family."  I chuckled inside because yes, she IS so much part of our family.

I know so many of you have been praying for us.  THANK YOU!!!!!!!  I am so grateful for your prayers and ask that you please continue to pray as we finalize the adoption, continue to adjust as a family, prepare to move 1000 miles away, and transition to a new state.  Whew!  That's a lot for us to handle, but God can handle all of it as we surrender our fears, anxieties and doubts to Him.  ~In Christ, Talya

  "I can do all things through him who strengthens me."  Philippians 4:13

 "do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.  And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."  Philippians 4:6






Thursday, October 15, 2015

Months of Transition

BG and Arielle standing for life

This update is mainly for people to whom I have not spoken in the past several months.

BG did indeed move in on June 5.  While we were blessed to have the summer to work on the adjustment and build relationships, the journey continues and will continue for a while.  I'm thinking it takes a year or more to really hit the stride of being a cohesive family, depending on the people and the circumstances.  Nonetheless, the Lord has shown us so much grace so far.

BG fits so well into our family.  For the most part, the children are getting along the way most siblings do.  They like spending time together.  Every night the girls' room (all three sleep in the same room) is still like a slumber party.  Many nights involve stern reminders to "GO TO SLEEP!!!!!"

Are there tough times?  Yes, there are.  I can only imagine what it's like for BG to have to find her place in an already-established family, with its own rules, values, dynamics, expectations.  She's once again had to leave behind the people, places, and things she had come to know.  She's had to change her way of doing some things.  By far, she has had to make the most adjustment.  The other children experience their own growing pains as well.  They sometimes don't understand why BG is given latitude in some areas.  They have struggled with how to deal with conflict with BG.

As parents, Sean and I have had to choose our battles, acknowledging that some things aren't all that important.  On the other hand, we've had to learn what our non-negotiables are and stick with them.  Only over time have I gotten to know that BG actually likes rules and boundaries.  She likes to know explicitly what is expected of her.  She sometimes struggles with expressing herself, but she understands the need to do so and is working hard to communicate even when she doesn't really want to.

One of the most wonderful things about BG is that she loves the Lord and wants to please Him.  She was saved while with her foster mother.  It's a joy to see her reading her Bible.  She soaks it all in when Sean talks about Scripture during our Bible time.  In August, she decided she wanted to be baptized out of obedience to the Lord.  It was a precious moment to share with her.

BG's caseworker comes out every month for a home visit.  I think we are still on track to finalize in late November/early December.  They were supposed to file the Consent to Adopt at the end of September, but they realized they did not have BG's birth records, which are necessary for the filing.  They now need to request them.  This will delay things.  How much?  I have no idea.  We are planning to move back East late December or very early January, so I hope finalization comes before then.  Please join us in prayer that it will be so.  Trying to move before finalization has its own complexities that we would like to avoid, if possible.  ~In Christ, Talya

"I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you."  ~John 14:18

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Move-In Day is Coming!

We just learned that Beautiful Girl (BG) will be moving in this Friday, June 5.   I am thrilled and slightly overwhelmed.  Yes, we'd been looking forward to move-in and had a ballpark time frame, but we thought we would have more than two days' notice of the exact date.  In fact, BG just left our house this afternoon after an extended weekend visit.  She won't learn of the move date until she gets back home in an hour or so.

We just completed our eighth weekend visit.  All the visits have gone better than I anticipated.  The Lord is definitely orchestrating this transition and our adjustment.  I still have some parenting issues to work out.  I've let some small things slide with BG.  This past weekend, I had to apologize for presenting a false, more laid back view of myself.  I had been treating her more like a weekend visitor than the daughter that she is.

BG and the other children have been getting along well.  She, Arielle, and Rachel have a lot in common and could stay up late every night talking and laughing.  BG loves taking care of Isaiah.  She and Josiah sometimes butt heads, but in the end, I think there's affection there.  It's a work in progress.

This is just the beginning of our family's journey together.  The journey is a complex one.  Please continue to pray for us.  We anticipate to finalize BG's adoption at the end of the year.  ~In Christ, Talya

"We love because he first loved us."  ~1 John 4:19

Friday, April 3, 2015

Overdue Update

Thank you for your prayers, friends!  The Lord certainly honored them and worked in ways only He could.

Our meeting with Beautiful Girl (BG) on Saturday went very well -- way beyond our expectations.  When we were getting out of the van, she and her foster mother burst out the front door, yelling "HI!!!!!!!"  I was pleasantly surprised to say the least.  By all accounts, BG is extremely reserved - polite, but reserved and quiet.  She is just so, but she smiled, responded to questions, and even asked a few of her own.

Her foster mother (FM), a godly woman, was such a blessing in that she bridged the gap between BG and us.  Her FM reminds me of Sean in that she's friendly, vocal, and outspoken for the Lord.  She instantly put us at ease and undoubtedly helped give BG greater comfort.  

We were blessed to meet BG's brother near the end of our visit.  It was a joy to see BG light up when he arrived.  Their bond was undeniable as she jumped on his back, laughed, and passed notes back and forth.  :-)   Her brother is a very nice young man that we look forward to getting to know better.

More praises:  On Friday, when we read BG's file for 5 hours (with a lunch break in between), the Lord was at work in keeping Isaiah contented and occupied.  This had been a big concern of mine.  First, we were in a conference room with a big table and audio-visual equipment.  Although Isaiah could walk around, there wasn't much more for him to do, so it was looking like Sean would probably have to take him outside.  About 35 minutes into the file read, someone advised the caseworker that there had been an error in the conference room reservation and we would have to move to another room -- a visitation room!  The unanticipated room change was an answer to prayer because the visitation room contained lots of toys.  It was the perfect place to keep Isaiah busy while we read.

Finally, an ultimate praise goes to the Lord for the beautiful baptisms of Arielle, Rachel & Josiah on Sunday.  It's always a blessing to witness this act of obedience to the Lord.

Please continue to pray, as we will have day visits with BG in her hometown, tomorrow and Sunday.  This will be her first time meeting the three older children and her first time alone with our family.  Thank you!

Arielle, Josiah, & Rachel with their certificates of baptism

 "Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life."  ~Romans 6:4
In Christ, Talya 


Thursday, March 26, 2015

Readings, Meetings, & Baptisms, Oh My!

So many exciting things are going on for us this weekend!

First, we will read Beautiful Girl's (BG) file at the agency tomorrow.  We'll be able to see everything the agency has about her since she entered care -- i.e. reasons for entering care, biological family history, medical history, placement history, etc. Sean and I will be note-taking crazy-people, since we can't make copies of anything, and this is several hour event.

Second, on Saturday morning, we will finally get to meet BG face-to-face!!!!  I am so excited and really nervous.  I want to say the right thing and do the right thing.  BG is already anxious and afraid, and we don't want to make it worse.  We'll get to spend a couple hours with her at her foster home, and we'll meet one of her brothers.  I want BG to love us, but love takes time, and it may never manifest in the way I would like it to.  What matters most is that we love her with no expectation of reciprocity.  We must love her with a supernatural love that comes only through Christ.

Third, Arielle, Rachel, and Josiah are being baptized on Sunday!  I praise the Lord that they have all made professions of faith over the past few years.  In the past, Sean and I have been cautious about moving forward with baptism.  We somehow felt it was our place to ferret out false conversion by seeking some unknown number of fruits of repentance in our children.  We've learned that our approach was promoting a works-based righteousness -- the opposite of what we find in scripture (see Ephesians 2:8-9).  God knows the heart and who truly belongs to Him and who doesn't; He doesn't need my help to figure it all out.

If you think of us in the next few days, please pray for us:

  • safety as we travel out-of-town 
  • peace in the home of the sweet family that is caring for Arielle, Rachel, & Josiah
  • that we will be able to take notes on the critical information in BG's file
  • that Isaiah will be in good spirits and that we're able to find ways to keep him occupied while we are at the agency
  • that the Lord would give BG and her brother peace and that BG would cast her anxieties on the Lord
  • that Arielle, Rachel, & Josiah's act of obedience in being baptized would bring glory to the Lord and that they would be more conformed to Christ each day
Thank you!  ~In Christ, Talya

"For by grace you have been saved through faith.  And this is not of your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast."  Ephesians 2:8-9