Psalm 68:5-6

A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling.

God sets the lonely in families, he leads forth the prisoners with singing; but the rebellious live in a sun-scorched land.

I am Stepanie Nance. My family adopted two little boys with Down Syndrome from Ukraine in 2010. I hope to educate and to inspire you. I hope to make you laugh and to make you cry.

Come along for the ride. It's a wild one!

Monday, March 29, 2010

Inch by inch.

Today we had 14 documents notarized. I'm so glad our notary didn't pass out when she saw us coming!

One of the documents was a redo. This form had very little room for the notary stamp. We both nearly cried when she stamped over the footer of the letterhead the first time. This time she was extra careful and did a practice stamp on a blank piece of paper. I think she held her breath when she did the stamp, was perfect! I didn't tell her, but I had an extra form...just in case!

When I think about the fact that all of these doc's, and more yet, have to be apostilled, I get a little grumpy. I called the lady at the Sec. of State's office to see if I could get a volume discount. Funny, right? It never hurts to ask. Umm, the answer was no.

Later in the day, one of the pastors from our church called on the phone. He wanted to ask how the adoption plans were coming along, and to let me know that the church is supportive and will be discussing how they might be able to help us. Isn't that nice? It is important to me to have their support. This adoption is really bigger than me, bigger than my family, bigger than these two precious boys. I don't even know where it will take me.

I'm certain that God won't disappoint.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Getting ready for a giveaway! Must raise $1000.

I started quilting 10 years ago so that I would have somewhere to take my four year old son to play on Wednesday mornings. The quilting group at church had a nursery so I decided to give it a try!

The women of all ages that I met there have become some of my very best friends. They have been a great source of teaching and encouragement. And, I have gained confidence and learned new skills.

Even so, this was a new challenge for me. While I've put stitches in many beautiful quilts, this is the first that I will have done from start to finish. It is a panel, so no piecing was involved, but putting the whole thing together was new to me.

So far, so good!

It's not perfectly square, but close!

I'll be finishing this by next week and setting up a chip-in. When we get our home study completed and checked we will need nearly $1000 to move on to the next step. Getting our home study approved quickly by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services is critical in rescuing our boys. Alec turns 4 in June and is at risk of being transferred to an institution for the rest of his short (likely) life.

Sunday, March 21, 2010


I was really well prepared for a negative response when we announced our adoption plans. I know other people who really had to deal with negativity at every turn. When it didn't happen to us I was really pleasantly surprised!

One day recently, I commented to a friend that I was even a tiny bit disappointed. I was prepped for the fight! Just moments later someone asked me if I was crazy! How funny! Then another person asked me if I wasn't afraid of being ripped off by the officials and facilitators in the boys' country. So, I needn't have worried. The negativity was bound to show up later if not sooner.

Let me address these objections.

  1. Am I crazy? That depends on your perspective. To the world I'm sure that I appear to be crazy. What's new, though? I already have nine children, how much crazier could I possibly be? I could have re-carpeted the whole house for what we are spending to save the lives of two children. I could have gone on a fabulous vacation or bought a sporty little car, or a bass boat, or a new big screen TV and some good quality furniture. If we had done any of those things who would have questioned us? Who would call us crazy then? No one. People are always supportive of conspicuous consumption and the things we do because we deserve to do something nice for ourselves.

    I'll tell how I'm crazy...I'm crazy in love with Jesus. And when I do good to the most pitiful, rejected, unloved children, I do it to Him. If I never have another new car, or fancy furniture, or whatever, it will have been worth it. I get the privilege of serving my God in this small way. In this way, our plans make perfect, logical sense.

  2. Am I afraid of getting ripped off? Nope. Not a bit. I'm not saying this couldn't happen; it happens all the time. But, I'm using facilitators and assistants with a proven track record. For nearly two years I've been following other adoptive parents who have used the same people. If you are considering adoption, you should do the same thing. Know who you are dealing with and see what others have to say about them. OK, that one was easy.

Do you have any questions for me? Negative (I'll still love you) or not, I welcome them and will respond to each one. If you have any encouraging words for me, I welcome them, too. Your comments mean the world to me.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Calling local quilters!

Do you love to quilt? Have you always wanted to learn to quilt? I need you!

I'm putting together two baby quilts this week and I'm going to need some help with the hand quilting part. Baby quilts are so easy to quilt, like stitching butter! I can help you get started.

These two quilts will be a part of a give-away for our fundraising efforts. We need to raise approx. $900 over the next two weeks for our Customs and Immigration fees and fingerprints.

One of the panels looks like this:

Many hands make light work, so if you live in the Wichita area and would like to help, please leave a message in the comment section. I'll be starting on Tuesday morning this week.

Hope to hear from you!

Friday, March 19, 2010

Nearly everyone I've talked to lately knows someone who has adopted a child. Isn't that crazy? Everyone knows someone who has done it, but none of them have done it themselves!

I don't know what the statistics are, or even where to find the numbers, but I'll bet a lot of people consider adopting a child. Grab any average Joe, or Jane, off the street and ask them, "Have you ever considered adopting a child?" I'll bet many of these people would say that the thought had crossed their mind.

Fewer probably have a long held, secret desire to adopt. How many of these souls are there? They have pushed that desire aside for any number of reasons. Maybe they think that they are too old, too poor, too busy or what ever. Maybe they just risk getting their heart broken again.

I've talked to more than a couple of people this week that have that long suppressed desire to adopt. That little spark is still there in their heart. If this is you, I hope that I have been encouraging.

She needs a mommy and daddy! Isn't she a beauty?

Real people do this thing called adoption. Average people. Married people and singles, too. People with small homes and small bank accounts. People with big hearts.

It is not a pipe dream. It is an emergency! Children are languishing, abused, starved for love, attention, care, and yes, food. Millions of them.

I'm convinced that there are enough good intentioned people in this world to make a difference, to make a dent. Could you be one of those people?

Wednesday, March 17, 2010


Let's think of something to blog while we are waiting. Isn't that what Mr. Rogers used to say?

Leading up to our commitment to Alec and Zhenya my husband was always concerned about how we would come up with the money to adopt. I think it was probably his biggest objection. Seriously, this whole adoption thing is just outrageously expensive. I'll admit that.

Me on the other hand; money was the last thing I was worried about. I had read enough adoption stories to see God at work and the money available when it was needed. I wasn't sure I had the courage to adopt a child into our family. That was my biggest mental hurdle leading up to our decision. I can remember an occasion where I asked myself if I really had the guts to make this commitment if money were no object. At the time I wasn't sure.

Now that decisions have been made, paperwork submitted, home study in progress the tables have turned! All of a sudden the money, or lack thereof, is starting to freak me out a bit. When you consider that Alec turns four years old in June and his orphanage generally transfers the disabled children to an asylum on or around their birthday, you can see that we need to travel very soon.

So how do you eat an elephant? How to we come up with the last big chunk of dough? One bite at a time, I guess. I was very glad that we had the money set aside to get the ball rolling without having to ask for help, but we need to start asking for some help. Do I have the courage to do that?

Psalm 27:14
Wait for the LORD;
be strong and take heart
and wait for the LORD.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Adoption is Redemption

I'm sharing this with you today because of the magnitude of the impact it had on me. I even had a portion of this printed on the back of some adoption announcement postcards that I made. We are certain that God is calling us to this adoption, but from a worldly point of view it doesn't make much sense. From a spiritual perspective it makes all the sense in the world. In fact, it is the very same thing that God has done for us.

Our redemption was costly for Him. Redeeming these boys will be costly for us. But, as a friend recently related to me if it is His will then it is His bill. We don't know much about our boys' present condition much less how much they will improve over time. We may not find the experience to be particularly rewarding on this side of heaven. Anyway, please read HERE, or here, read:

Renee and I are sitting in the office of a telephone company in Novagrad Valenski, Ukraine; using wireless internet. We are in the middle of adopting three special needs boys from an orphanage here. Two of the boys have Down Syndrome. Roman is high functioning, energetic, and happy; Dimitri has serious mental retardation, failure to thrive, and though he is five years old, he is the size of a 1 yr old. He has sores on his face, a distinct smell of death on him, and yells out if we try to do anything with him other than hold him. Because he has less ability to respond and learn, he naturally gets less attention and care from the orphanage workers in this world of limited resources. The harsh reality of the “survival of the fittest” principle is a life and death struggle that this little boy is losing fast. Our third boy Sasha, is a brilliant six year old who has Spina Bifida (the condition our son Josiah died from in 1996). He is like a learning sponge that can’t get enough! He is happy and alert and thirsty for knowledge and experience. So with two of our boys we get an immediate return on any investment we make. With Dimitri, there’s not much immediate gratification. In fact, it’s unknown when and if there will be a return at all. This is the kind of situation that makes the carnal, fallen, human reasoning think, “Why try? What’s the point? What will this produce? What good will this do? Why not select a boy who has more "potential”? This looks like a lost cause”.

Two days ago we drove for hours into the Ukrainian countryside to the village where Dimitri was born. We met with officials there and signed papers and answered their questions. We also went and saw Dimitri’s house. The day had been long, we were still recovering from jet lag, I was beginning to really miss my six daughters at home and all the familiar things our fragile human hearts entangle themselves with in feeble attempts to feel secure. Sitting in the dark on our very long drive back to Novograd that night, the Holy Spirit began to whisper to my heart, and new understanding about redemption began to take shape.

I was thinking, “Man, adopting this little boy has been so much work. This is exhausting, expensive, uncomfortable ... and it doesn’t feel very rewarding right now.” What am I doing in some little Soviet car in the dark, in the middle of rural Ukraine in frozen December, as the driver dodges cats and potholes? What if Dimitri doesn’t improve at all? What if we get “nothing” out of this? … Ahhh, there it was; that dark, fallen, unreedemed, selfish human love, rooted in the tree of the knowledge of “good and evil”. The love the Greeks called “erao” love. The love where we treat someone as precious and treasured for what we can get out of it. This is unlike “agapeo” love, the God kind of love that treats someone as treasured and precious for their good, not for my good. It’s when I love a person in order to meet their needs, having no expectation of them meeting any of my needs. At a whole new level, God is working His kind of love into my weak heart, and He’s using little Dimitri to do it.

On the drive home that night, the Lord whispered in my ear, “This is Redemption. Derek, do you know how far I travelled to get you and bring you back? I had to be separated from my Son, in order to get you, just like you are separated from your children in order to get these boys. Do you know how expensive it was for Me to purchase you? It cost me everything. Do you know how broken, sick, damaged, twisted, dirty, smelly, and hopeless you were? And at the end of it all, you had nothing to give me or add to me. I did it for you. I emptied myself and became nothing so that you could have it all. This is redemption.

My friends, adoption is redemption. It’s costly, exhausting, expensive, and outrageous. Buying back lives costs so much. When God set out to redeem us, it killed Him. And when He redeems us, we can’t even really appreciate or comprehend it, just like Dimitri will never comprehend or fully appreciate what is about to happen to him … but … he will live in the fruit of it. As his Daddy, I will never expect him to understand all of this or even to thank me. I just want to watch him live in the benefits of my love and experience the joys of being an heir in my family. This is how our heavenly “Papa” feels towards us.

Today, settle your busy heart down and rest in the benefits of redemption. Enjoy the fruits of His goodness, and stop trying to “pay Him back”. You’ll never get close you goofy little kid.

Monday, March 15, 2010

wait...wait...wait...hurry, hurry, HURRY!

What a week! Wow! This whole adoption thing is like hurry up and wait. Actually, it's been more like wait. wait. wait. hurry! HURRY! Faster!!

I had some paperwork to send overseas, but the notary stamp wasn't correct. James was out of town, so I couldn't get his signature all last week. *sigh*

When he got home Thursday night the race was on! The forms had to be signed, notarized, and then emailed to our wonderful helper to be thoroughly checked. When I got the OK from her I needed to get them apostilled.

New word: apostille. This is a certificate issued by the state that the notary is legitimate, or something like that. I needed to drive up to the state capitol on Friday morning to get my documents apostilled before sending them overseas.

The problem was that I had insurance physicals scheduled for Friday morning and adoption physicals scheduled for Friday afternoon! No room for error because the doc would be out all next week. I couldn't wait another week because the forms are needed for the home study as well as the dossier.

So I got weighed, blood drawn and peed in a cup for the insurance lady, grabbed the baby and documents and drove to Topeka. There I got my doc's apostilled, grabbed a snack and headed for home. When I got home I found that my new computer arrived! Yay!

No time for fooling with a new computer, we had to get to the doctor. We had to choose a different doctor than we normally see, because our physicals had to be signed by an M.D. and we normally see a D.O. Absurd, huh?

After the doctor appointment it was time to go home and assess the situation there. James made dinner while I drove our 14 year old son to a neighboring town to weigh in for a wrestling tournament. Our home study visit was scheduled for Saturday morning and the place was wrecked, naturally, since I had not been home all day long. We all pitched in to do the kind of chores that don't always get done regularly.

I have one child who is really into cleaning. Oh, if I could only clone him! He was getting sort of tired at one point, but I heard him muttering to himself, "it's worth it, it's worth it." How sweet is that? The kids all know that we have to sacrifice some things to be able to bring these new boys into our family. I'm glad to know that at least one of them feels that it is worth the trouble!

The home study visit went well, I think. We will know for sure when we get the whole thing done, I guess! Our social worker seemed to be very relaxed and we were at ease, too. We have a few more things to provide her and we hope to get it wrapped up before the end of the month.

After she left I got ready to drive to Tulsa. Yep, another road trip. Dreading it. My 10 year old son is spending Spring Break with my mother and grandma. Jordan and Ruby came along for the ride. After a nice dinner of chicken noodles made by my amazing grandma we had a little birthday party for Ruby.

Ruby will be one on Thursday. (I can hardly believe it! I sort of feel like I'm still recovering from her birth.) She learned to open a present on Saturday night and got some cute new clothes, and a couple of musical toys which she loves.

I was intending to drive home Saturday night but I was just feeling a bit pooped. Wonder why! I needed to be to church by 9:30 am to work in the nursery on Sunday. I would just have to leave real early in the morning. Then my mom reminded me of the time change.

Stupid time change. What a farce. What an utter scam. Is anyone really stupid enough to believe that we are somehow "saving" daylight by playing mind tricks and moving the hands of a clock? Who's idea was this anyway?

So I had to get up at 4:30 am (which we now call 5:30 am) to drive back to town and get to church by 8:30 (which we now call 9:30). I hope I didn't scare anyone by not wearing any makeup! I didn't have time to go home first. After church I was glad to go home and relax for a while and play around with my new little computer.

Today ended up being a little crazy too. We needed our TB skin tests read this morning. I picked up some letterhead for our medical forms and then went home to shrink and print them out. I had to run them back into town for the doctor to fill them out. I also got to mail our freshly apostilled documents overseas, finally.

Now, more waiting. I could really use some down time about now anyway.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

The theme of my life this week is "50 Ways to Screw up Paperwork."

OK, I'm exaggerating. I am learning a lot though. First, don't have the instruction page signed and notarized and not the actual form. Second, just go ahead and use blue ink for everything. Third, make certain that your notary does not stamp over anything, including the words "notary stamp!"

My notary is so sweet. She is just the nicest lady, but very busy. I'm so apologetic about having to bring her the same set of paperwork over again. But, my boys' lives depend on me getting these papers done correctly. I'm learning how that feels.

Add to this the fact that James is out of town this week. I was hoping to have some letters ready to send to Eastern Europe yesterday. Now, it will be Friday, IF I'm willing to drive to Topeka for authentications on the day before my first home study visit!

Is it possible to love someone you have only seen in photos? Is what I'm feeling for these boys true love? I'm believing that it is and that it is God given. I think that the struggle we go through to actually get to them is just making it stronger.

Saturday, March 6, 2010


I have so enjoyed reading adoption blogs over the past few years. Starting with Emma and Micah, and Dennis and many others to my current favorite, Finding Hunter. Honestly, there are so many that I could just read adoption blogs all day long and avoid any serious and pressing household chores. Not that I would ever do that!

I'm so thankful for people who keep adoption blogs and I just want to say "thanks!"

Thank you for sharing your high points as well as moments of despair. I am better prepared to deal with twists and turns that undoubtedly await me.

Thank you for your stories of the colorful people you meet along the way, taxi drivers, waitresses, facilitators, bureaucrats, orphanage caregivers and directors. I have a better appreciation for the people I will meet along the way and effective ways to relate with them.

Thanks to you I will remember to order my pizza without mayo and water without bubbles!

Thank you for the photos and unvarnished, detailed descriptions of EE apartments, squatty potties, train cars, open air markets and more. I'm better equipped to survive and even enjoy traveling in an unfamiliar culture.

Thank you for sticking your neck out to get photos of other children for their waiting families. Thank you for getting new and better photos of other children so they have a better chance of finding a family.

Thanks to you I have a love and appreciation for the people and culture of Eastern Europe, the land of my new children. I hope that I can live up to your example and pass this appreciation on to others.


Thursday, March 4, 2010

Background on my husband.

It's been no secret for the past two years that I want to adopt a little boy with Down Syndrome! The time was never right. Something always got in the way. Either Ralph was really sick or we were flat broke or I was pregnant again.

My sweet husband saw my heart. He saw the pain and sorrow when one of my favorite boys was transferred to the mental institution and when others were taken home to be with Jesus. He knew that this desire was not going to go away. I even told him so!

When my last birthday was approaching I made it know that I wanted an orphan boy for my birthday. Of course, you and I both know that you don't just pop into the orphanage and order up and orphan to go! And, you and I both know that adoption is not about simply wanting another child. But, for my birthday, I wanted a commitment from him to move forward at last.

I got my birthday wish. We were out having dinner like we do on birthdays and I didn't even have to bring up the subject. He brought it up, we discussed it and it was a done deal. We would commit to Alec since he would soon be sent to an institution that he could not be adopted from.

Like many men that I know of, it took a long time for him to be ready to commit. Some have used the analogy of accelerator/brake to describe the wife/husband relationship when it comes to adoption...just as a car needs an accelerator AND a brake to safely drive a car a woman sometimes needs to be restrained and husband needs to be moved forward. Did I say that nicely?

Once the decision was made, however, he became the pusher and I became a drag! He was the first one done with his autobiography for the social worker. I thought he would faint when he saw this homework assignment, but he pressed on. I had trouble getting it together. Although I will say that mine was 13 pages and his was only 7! HA!

On Valentines Day he was looking at the photos of Alec and the boys from orphanage #9 and he asked me about Zhenya. He said why don't we bring him home, too? Huh? Was this MY husband speaking? I got the sweetest birthday and Valentines Day gifts this year!

Even so, I didn't realize how "on board" he was until last week when I snuck up behind him while he was working on the computer. He had taken the time to put together a photo display of all our children on his computer desktop and included Alec and Zhenya.

I think I'm understanding him better and it is good to know his heart. It can be difficult for a man to take these kind of risks with his heart. I think that is why many men are so reluctant to adopt.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Hello Facebook Friends!!

Now that we have made all of our official face-to-face announcements it is time to take this blog to the next level. Facebook, of course!

Hello Facebook friends! I have such exciting news! Our family is in the process of adopting two young children with Down Syndrome from Eastern Europe. I started this blog to allow you walk beside us as we take this journey.


The moment that Ralph was born and the midwife said the words "Down Syndrome", I had a flash of clarity. It was one of those defining moment. I crossed a threshold. There was no going back to the way things used to be.

But it was OK. That was really the beginning of this journey.

As I began to research Down Syndrome, I came across an international Down Syndrome orphan organization called Reece's Rainbow. I was stunned to learn of the multitude of babies with Down Syndrome rejected by their mothers, unwanted and unseen by society, neglected and malnourished, clinging to life with often unrepaired heart defects.

Babies like my Ralphie. How could this be?

In a world filled with followers of Christ, how can this be happening?

James 1:27 says, "Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world."

We aim to be "doers" of God's word. Will you walk with us?

Monday, March 1, 2010

Are you a macho man? A champion?

If you are a man, or if you have a man in your life, I highly recommend reading this article titled The Manliness of Adoption: Testosterone and Pure Religion.

The whole thing is golden, but here is one of my more favorite parts:

Let me tell you what's tragic. It is tragic that so many men pass off adoption as a woman's issue. After all, if you go to an adoption conference you may find the room is often filled not with men, but with women. As one husband once said to me, "Women care more about adoption because it's just their nurturing instinct." True enough, women are called to nurture. But men are called to protect, provide, and rescue. I wanted to look at him and say, "Nurturing instinct? Where is your rescuing instinct?"

Those orphans need a champion. They need courage. They need self-sacrifice. Men, if you have been
rescued by our saving God, I want you to ask yourselves: Where is your rescuing instinct? Men, you are called to lead. If there was a burning building and we knew there were children inside and a husband was with his wife walking by and his wife said, "I think we should do something." And the husband said, "Oh, that's just your nurturing instinct. Come on." And he just allowed the children to be burned up in there. Nobody says, "Yeah that makes sense." No! They ask, "Why weren't you a champion man? Didn't you understand what was at stake? Why didn't you charge in there? Why weren't you willing to sacrifice yourself? They needed to be rescued. They did not have any hope." Well, there are burning
buildings all over the world. And there are children all over the world in need of rescue. There are orphans in need of fathers.

I want you to hear the way the Bible positions this issue of rescuing the fatherless. Psalm 68:1-5 describes God as a divine warrior, the One who came to rescue and deliver His people. Notice, this is not nurturing imagery, this is the imagery of boldness, courage, and warfare. The issue is spiritual warfare. Notice what it says about God. "God shall arise, his enemies shall be scattered; and those who hate him shall flee before him! As smoke is driven away, so you shall drive them away; as wax melts before fire, so the wicked shall perish before God! But the righteous shall be glad; they shall exult before God; they shall be jubilant with joy! Sing to God, sing praises to his name; lift up a song to him who rides through the deserts; his name is the LORD; exult before him! Father of the fatherless and protector of widows is God in his holy habitation."

Men, that is the vision He places before us to reflect him to the world as Father to the fatherless. As we are being conformed into the image of Christ, we will reflect more and more our Father God in the world. And in so doing, we will be all the more burdened for rescuing the orphans of the world. No matter the cost. Men, will you lead? Men, will you be men of courage? Men, will you take dominion? Men, will you be not only men, but fathers to the fatherless?

Psalm 68 goes on to say that God sets the lonely in families. I'm imagining God as a jeweler, setting a precious stone into a work of art. My children are precious jewels and our family is a work of art. The psalm speaks of the prisoners being released and rejoicing. Alec and Zhenya are prisoners. They will be incarcerated for life if they are not redeemed very soon.

I feel very blessed to be married to a champion with a strong rescuing instinct. I'm so honored to be running errands for our Lord and rescuing these two precious jewels.


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