Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Our Story

You get two blogs for the price of one today! FREE!!! HAHAHA! Check out the next blog for new pics of our family with the girls, but I wanted to share this with you as well. Here is our story, beginning with our slide show through the years. We have been begged to go back to the beginning by many readers, so here it is long, I am sorry...but 5 years crammed into one post IS long!

This is our New Years gift to you!

Our story is an unusual one, it is of a love that stretched across the miles, it is of knowing for a very long time that you had children that were yours and were left behind. It is about not giving up, it is about waiting on God and trusting that somehow all would work out even when as recently as 2 weeks ago it felt as if we were too late.

Basically, it is a story of faith.

It’s a long one, with twists and turns, so here it goes…

Years ago, our family was looking for a way to give back and thank God for the blessings of Matthew and Joshua. We started by shipping craft supplies and handmade quilts from our local quilting guild to the Lotus Children’s Centre in Ulaan Bataar, Mongolia. Although we loved doing it, we found the lack of communication challenging and searched for an orphanage or child to sponsor in Kazakhstan where perhaps there would be someone who spoke English well and could help us remain in better contact with the orphanage or child so we could better determine what the true needs were.

I somehow stumbled across the web site for the Antares Foundation, and never imagined that first contact would ever lead us to where we are today. After a few emails flew back and forth, it was decided we would sponsor a little pixie named Angela and another boy named “Igor”. We later came to find out that Igor was unavailable for sponsorship and would eventually be adopted by Dee over at Crab Chronicles. When we learned Angela had a sibling, we inquired about sponsoring her even though they were separated and living at another orphanage, named Poludino.

They were then 6 and 4 years old.

I received our first pictures of them separately…Angela’s first, followed by Olesya’s a few days later. I can remember as if it were yesterday sending Angela’s photo to my mom who had barely learned how to turn on a computer and was not yet internet savvy (OK…and still isn’t all THAT savvy! Hahaha! Sorry Mom!). When the picture popped up on her screen, the first words out of her mouth were “Cindy, she looks like your daughter…if you and Dominick had kids, that is what she would look like.”…then “She needs to be your daughter!”. Laughingly I agreed with her but quickly moved on in conversation as we were knee deep in RAD with Josh and not at all thinking we could handle another child…or if we would even survive him! Hahaha!

But something tugged at my heart, and it wouldn’t let go. It never did. Some part of me knew it and tried to deny it, but I had just seen my daughter. My first picture about a year later of both of them together for a sibling reunion ripped me up. The look on their faces, their eyes…something about their eyes spoke loud and clear to me. Seeing them hugging one another, the deep bond that was so obvious, they were my kids and it made no sense to me. But I listened carefully and didn’t “pooh pooh” the idea.

Soon, we realized someone was missing at our table…maybe 2 someone’s. We began the adoption process again, and spent 9 months trying to determine the eligibility of the girls and if there was any way possible they could be adopted. After tons of phone calls to agencies uninterested in assisting in a “less than easy money” situation, I almost gave up. We eventually stumbled upon an attorney who offered to check into it.

Several weeks later, we heard back and the news was not good, or so it seemed. The girls were legally freed from their father due to the abuse and neglect case against him, but their mother was in jail for murder and her rights were not terminated.

And that was the end of that.

Although terribly disappointed…and inwardly very confused as it truly felt God had been speaking to my heart all along about this…we reluctantly moved on. Our reluctance wouldn’t have existed had we known the wonderful son that awaited us, the Amazing Kenny LaJoy!! We quickly abandoned the idea of a girl the moment we saw Kenny’s face, and the day we picked him up at the orphanage we saw immediately how much he was a LaJoy…the spittin’ image in terms of personality of Dominick, so much so that we joke about Dominick having a previously unknown Kyrgyz fling! God couldn’t have placed any child more fitting with a family. We were blessed, we had no regrets, truly. I love Kenny deeply, totally and unconditionally.

But hearts are big, and God doesn’t let go.

Dominick and I recently recalled me standing in the kitchen 2 weeks before leaving as we discussed my taking a side trip to meet the girls in person, and asking him “Can you promise me that if the girls are someday relinquished we can at least try and adopt them?” and his incredulous yet understanding look at me as he said “With what, my good looks?? I don’t see how…besides they are not available and probably never will be.”. I replied “I know, and I hope when I meet them I will think “cute kids, but not ours…that would be the best scenario.”

Some might not understand, some might think Kenny was a “replacement” for who I really wanted and couldn’t have. That is not it at all, and those who know us in real life know our love for Kenny is all encompassing as original and true as can be. LaJoy hearts are huge, and we are 100% certain that God delayed everything specifically because we never would have explored Kyrgyzstan or adopting another child…and Kenny HAD to come home. If you had told me 3 or 4 years ago that we would one day have 5 children AND a 15 passenger van, I would have laughed my…well…something off. Hahah! God always has the last laugh though, right?

We had spent years with Angela and Olesya as part of our extended family. I decided from the beginning that I was not going to be some distant stranger but would be Mom-Away-From-Home, someone they could share their achievements with who would be proud of them, someone who would not send generic letters but letters from a family who loved them, cared about them, and let them know they were not alone. Years of letters and drawings were sent back and forth, Angela would approach Boris and say “Tell Cindy I got 100 on my test!” or “Tell Cindy I made the special football team (soccer)” and messages would be passed to us. Photos and descriptions of our life here, birthdays remembered, Christmas letters and packages sent…even if it often took 3 months to get there and was late, they would know they were not warehoused and forgotten. Sadly, we had far less communication with Olesya because she was in an orphanage so far away.

For over 2 years they were in separate orphanages, and I would get photos of each of them opening their packages and then with the next letter or package I would include photos of their sister for them to save. The Disney Princess photo album that Angela showed us was filled with photos of our boys growing up, of Olesya at varying ages…it helped them remain connected when there was no other way.

When we traveled to get Kenny, I did take that side trip after the adoption was final, leaving all my boys behind and going to Petropavlovsk alone. We had made a commitment in our minds to sponsor the girls until they aged out, and we wanted to be “real” to them. Knowing it would never be less expensive, we took advantage of our location and off I went, secretly hoping that I would be able to squelch that feeling I had been carrying around for years that those faces staring back at me in photos were our own children.

The moment Angela walked down the stairs I myself now have climbed many times this past week, and straight into my arms, I knew. God wasn’t whispering or hinting, God was screaming at me…and I hated it. I spent the next two days visiting Angela and going out to Paludino to take her to visit Olesya. Watching the two of them together was all the affirmation I needed, and I was one very confused and heartsick woman the day I left them behind.

Walking Constitution Avenue and the surrounding area for hours, God got a good chewing out from me. I had learned there was the slimmest possibility that their biological mom’s rights would be terminated. Yea, I was hopping mad, and I had no qualms about sharing my anger. How could this happen? Why was I going to have to spend the rest of my life feeling like this? Through my tears, I told God that we would gladly parent them but we had absolutely no way of making it happen. It was impossible, they were not legally free and we had not a dime to spare for another adoption loan. I prayed and silently ranted and raved, saying “I don’t know why you are laying this on me, when we can’t do anything about it! We are so willing, but you would have to hand it to us on a silver platter.”. Literally…that is what I said.

I boarded the plane a few hours later feeling sick to my stomach, realizing I would never again know the kind of peace I had walked in 3 days prior.

I couldn’t even talk about it with Dominick much when I got back to Almaty, all I did was cry so avoiding the topic was best. I did ask him once if we could sell our house if the girls indeed became available. He said “You know we bought at the right time and we would never find another house to hold that big of a family for anything near what we could afford. We just can’t make this happen.” When I got home and made our first call to our moms, I broke down in deep sobs as I described what I was feeling to my mom. I think at that moment it was the one time she regretted the life she had as she wanted so badly to offer to help us financially and yet was powerless to do so.

The next day I opened my email, and there was God, in living print.

I had written about the girls on the blog, had poured my heart out. Someone whom I had never met reached out and offered to help. Without going into personal details, we found ourselves the recipients of the greatest gift imaginable, one that made the impossible possible. Just accepting the offer was a journey in itself, a difficult one that required a lot of introspection and humbling of ourselves so that the opportunity was not missed for two young girls to have a family who would love them dearly. Needless to say, we are forever grateful and still can not quite take in the generosity of someone. As it was explained, and I paraphrase liberally here “You offer all you can, and we offer all we can…it is what God calls each of us to do. You actually have the harder part…the paperwork and the day to day raising of them. When God’s people pull together and give all of what they can, great things can happen!”.

Si x months later, we learned the mother’s rights had been terminated.

Two years and reams and reams of documents later, we are here.

How hard it has been!!! The aching on both sides of the world, the hunger to hold one another. I know some might not understand after the first week’s experience, but we do. How easy it is to understand why Angela reacted the way she did! Why Olesya responded in kind for fear of upsetting the one constant person in her life! But years of long distance love won out, reacting lovingly and not out of anger and frustration won out, treating an 11 year old with the respect she deserved won out. Fear was overcome, anger was put aside, hope was reborn!!! We all allowed ourselves space and time to heal, we gave each other the gift of patience and understanding without judgment. We offered a “do over”. Others may never understand…but we do…all 7 of us…and that is all that matters.

I am so thankful to have such wise children, all 5 of them.

As I write this on the eve of our court date, staying home from our daily visitation so that I don’t pass on the little stomach bug I have so the girls will not be sick tomorrow, I am so happy. Sure, I am uncertain of what the future holds, none of us knows what our family will look and feel like in a week, a month, or even a year. It will feel strange for a long time to come and I am working my way out from under the worry of “what will I do?” that is natural and normal for anyone whose family instantly grows from 5 to 7 overnight, and they are fully formed beings with thoughts and opinions of their own. To deny the existence of those feelings would be once again trying to “sell this” as a fairy tale. I have wondered the past 24 hours about what am I going to do with 2 kids at home this age who are not ready for school yet and are old enough that most of their normal activities would include language. I have worried about the best way to work on teaching English. I have thought long and hard about how to integrate Angela’s love of sports into a family for whom sports is a sideline, at best. My thoughts have roamed to how Olesya will make her place among us and what I might do to assist her and be aware of her more girlie side.

But beneath all of that is an approaching sense of “rightness”, one that will be so welcomed after the previous years! The hugs, smiles and warmth are genuine. The love is based upon old dreams and ideals, but will be replaced gradually with a steadfast “real” love that will never waiver which is rooted in reality. Watching the closeness slowly develop this past week, the comfort level between us all as it grows…the shy smiles which have grown to broad grins, the standoffish pats that have grown to big bear hugs, the feigned disinterest which has grown to a fervent desire to show us every single good grade they have received and to share with us every drawing they have made in the hopes that we will reward them with our own delight at their accomplishments. Real love takes time, it take patience…it is not a fairy tale but it IS wonderful. We may have lost much of their childhood, a fact I have often grieved. But we gain the rest of our lives together.

So, there you have it, the entire story such as it is. It is a story that has many facets and told from other perspectives it would take on a different meaning, I am sure. For me though, it comes down to faith…to faith that what we felt God had told us was true, faith that if we offered ourselves up willingly somehow we would be used, faith that love would prevail. I admit that faith wavered two weeks ago, or maybe it is better to say I wondered if the faith had been misplaced and we were being drawn here for other reasons I didn’t quite understand.

But that’s OK because God never told us we were to always understand, we were never expected to be perfect. Lord knows I am so far from that it isn’t even funny. The cool thing is though, that God uses us all if we allow it. Our imperfect, flubbing it up, sometimes totally wrong selves can be used for extraordinary things sometimes. I make mistakes with my kids daily, I often don’t show the appreciation for my husband that I should, and I know there are many who look at me as far from the example of Christianity they think I ought to be. They are right, I am sure.

But it does all come down to faith, doesn’t it?

Our entire family, both new members and long since joined members are stepping out on faith again today as we promise to legally become a family and to care for one another forever.

I love my family.

Thank You God for the chance to have Angela and Olesya join us forever.

I’ll do my best.

I promise.


J-momma said...

hi. i just ready through your story to your girls but i wanted to let you know you repeated the story three times. maybe it was a cut and paste error. or maybe it's such a beautiful story you wanted us to read it three times! anyway, so happy for you and your family. beautiful kids by the way. all of them.

Christina said...

So glad that you filled in the gaps of the story for me..... I showed my Kevin the slide show, and he was jumping up and down (literally) as I said to him that the judge said that you were now a forever family with the girls... Then he said, mom, I would like to meet them... :) Me too I said! LOVED the slide show...

Anonymous said...

LOVE LOVE LOVE the U-tube favorite song.
Congratulations Lajoy family...
What God started, God has completed!!!

We love you and can't wait to meet you Angela and Oleysa!!!

Tami and Tabi

Anonymous said...

This was hard to read through all my tears!! Your mom is right. They girls are your spitting image!! The boys look so happy to have their sisters there in the pictures. Wow Cindy, you are truly blessed. What a beautiful family you have.

Nancy A. from NH

Anonymous said...

Thank you Lord for your tender mercies.

Thank you Lord for answered prayer.

Thank you Lord for uniting brothers and sisters of faith from around the world to pray for this family.

Thank you Lord for hearts of stone that you turned into hearts of flesh.

Thank you Lord for promise and hope.

Thank you Lord for your strength through this long journey.

Thank you Lord for Who You are.

We give thanks and praise your holy name.

Lord, as we rejoice and give thanks, we also lift up to you all those who are waiting.

May you be glorified in all our lives.

Thank Lord, that once again, love wins. Your love wins.

In the precious name of Jesus,

Peggy in Virginia

Anonymous said...

This blog is great! Thanks for your hard work on it.

. said...

You sure know how to make a girl cry! Thanks for telling the whole story and the great photos. We are SO happy for you all!
Shan in CO

blessedfamily said...

Simply beautiful. Absolutely a wonderful story (J-momma is correct as it is repeated several times in the blog but I could read it again and again).

God Bless you and your Family. I am so honored to have been able to follow your journey.

Annette from home said...

I'm soooooo happy for you all! Can't wait for you to get home and we can meet them in person!!! We are going to have so much fun watching our kids grow up together!!! I got up in the middle of the night to see if you posted but you didn't - but I felt the outcome was good - maybe I heard you all the way over there! When will you be home with them. We miss you guys

Annette from home said...

You are going to have to add 2 more people to that side bar on your blog!!!!

Hilary Marquis said...

Well, now you've made me cry 3 times today! The first post, this post, and then Mia came toddling out and wanted to know what I was watching...I had to replay the video and read it to her! Talk about choked up! Now Mia wants to know if Angela and Olesya are coming home TODAY? Good thing she can't drive yet, or she'd be at the airport when you'd have 6 kids in your house! Haha! Beautiful video and story, thanks for sharing it with the world.

Paige said...

Tears of joy. Beautiful video. Amazing how resilient the girls have been through all of this. They really look like angels. Amazing!

Kath said...


Those girls look like LaJoys! I am SO pleased everything went well in court for you, even if the hour it took must have felt like forever to you. You and Mr LaJoy are truly meant to be parents to these girls, the story just goes to prove that. I'm truly happy for you, and all 5 of your children.

Thank you for sharing your journey with us, I've felt priviliged to read along :)


Anonymous said...

I am laughing and I am crying and I am dancing, I feel pure joy! Thank you so much for sharing this wonderful journey story with us. Prayer does work and lover wins, doesn't it? I am going to sleep sooo well tonight. I am so happy for you and your family, all seven!
Safe journey home my friend, I can hardly wait to see you again and give you a big hug of congradulations! Dance one dance tonight for me, kay? T.T.F.N. WOOHOOOOO!

P.S. The girls do have your angelic looks, huh, God knows what he/she'e doin.

Anonymous said...
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The Cook said...

Congratulations! So excited for you guys. Is the antares foundation still doing sponsorships? We are interested.

mimifrancoise said...

Congratulations toall 7 of you. I so enjoy reading your of the best blogs around!
Fran in Fort Worth, TX

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Maureen said...

What a wonderful video. It made me cry. I can't believe you watched your girls grow for 5 long years as you waited for them. What amazing faith you have. You inspire me.

~ Maureen

Matt and Pam Bean said...

A big YAHOO is being let out over here in Montrose!!!!

Congrats to the WHOLE family and many prayers continue to surround you all.

God is Great!

matt and pam

ps. I'll trim the girls hair if you want when you get home!!! HA HA

Lisa said...

PRAISE THE LORD! What a beautiful family!!!! Congratulations, LaJoy Family! Praising God for this wonderful news. Thanks so much for sharing your story. It is a beautifully miraculous one, and gives us hope.
God bless you all!

Anonymous said...

Congrats! We are so happy for the 7 of you! God Bless ya.

The Davignons

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Carol said...

Wow, Wow, Wow! I have goosebumps! Great two posts, great story... great family! You 7 look like you totally belong together. The girls are beautiful... inside and out... and so are the boys... and you and Dominick too! Thanks so much for sharing the ups and downs of this remarkable journey. I look forward to following you in your continuing journey. Now the REAL fun begins. Happy New Year!

Kathy W said...

I was asked at Thanksgiving what I thought of adoption.
Without really thinking I said "a journey in faith".
And one of my friends looked up and agreed. I had had no idea he had been adopted!
And indeed it is about faith. Faith that you will make it through the process.
Faith that you are parent enough. Faith that love will grow.

I am so glad you have had faith and that your girls now have the opportunity to be precious to someone every da).

Kathy W
Mom to Owen from Kaz and Rhea domestic

Christina said...

Love the new pics on the side :)

Diane said...

Once again reading your blog and watching the video made me cry. It's been a hard journey (many would have given up) but the end result is worth all the heartbreak and hardships along the way. The girls are beautiful and you ALL look so very happy. Thank you so much for allowing us to share in your journey, it's an incredible story.


Global Girl said...

My goodness.

Heartfelt congratulations!

Lisa in CO, USA said...

Wonderful slide show! How big is the lump in my throat? BIG! Your girls are so beautiful! I know you were busy we the three boys, but it still must have been hard to wait so long! We are also waiting to adopt from Kazakhstan and when we complete our adoption maybe we can get all the kids together!

Lisa (Denver, CO)

CariotaFamily said...

Beautiful, just beautiful, Cindy! And my... what a long road it has been. Please edit your video to include the FAMILY picture including the girls at the end. That is the true, happy ending!

Elizabeth in Alpharetta (Atlanta)
Mom to Maya (7, Almaty); Laurel (6, China) and Andrea (23)

Kelly said...

I love your story - thank you for sharing - what a heartfelt journey it has been for all of you! The girls are absolutely beautiful! Congratulations! I also would love to learn more about the Antares Foundation.

Anonymous said...

Hi All 7 LaJoys,

You've been in our night prayers with our kids for weeks now!!! We're all so happy for you guys, specially for the girls, who'll have a loving family, 3 handsome brothers (no running around naked ah, ah, ah!!!), and for the first time find out how it is like to belong.
I'm sure the girls will work very hard to be ready for school next September, they are intelligent kids and you wise parents and all will be fine.

Much happiness and a fulfilled life to all of you,

Ps. Happy you all had a happy-ending, I've been worried sick and feeling very embarassed over it, as I don't even know you!Ah ah, ah!!!
It couldn't have been more wonderful!!!!

Anonymous said...

Love the Utube video!!!! great job. Of course there are never enough picture!

cath n

minime0910 said...

God is GREAT. I am thrilled for you guys and congrats on becoming a forever family once again!! What an amazing story you have!!! Faith and prayer prevails again. Happy New Year LaJoy family of 7!!! ~Erin