Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Need prayers!

OK. I am desperate and I need your prayers. As most of you know, Mike has been TDY in Arkansas for two weeks. We are in the middle of a move living out of suitcases while staying with my in-laws. And now all five kids are sick! My youngest, Bryan, was taken to the ER on Sunday because he was having coughing fits that lasted over 30 minutes and included him coughing so hard that he vomited three times. Turned out that cough medicine was not working because he had an upper respiratory infection. He is now doing much better, still coughing some, but much, much better. However, last night Alaizha went to bed early with a 103.5 temp. And then all three girls woke up coughing and with fevers. Eli is coughing, but no fever yet. I am trying to get the base clinic to see us, give me advice, anything that will stop whatever is taking over my family.

To add the madness, Mike started his drive home today and didn't even make it out of the city. He is in the car shop trying to figure out what is wrong with the truck and how long it will take to fix.

Please pray for us!!! I don't know what else to do. I'm praying that I can post some better news in a few days. Thanks for being there with me.


Monday, December 8, 2008

The beginning of December brings...

It is hard to believe that three weeks has past since my last update and I feel like that was just yesterday. Boy, time flies when you are busy.

We finally moved out of our house the last week of November and our renters took over on the first of December. That us such a huge sense of relief for us to have someone taking care of our home.

Our family was then blessed to spend Thanksgiving in College Station with my parents, my sister from Florida and my sister from Arizona and their families. We just relaxed - no moving, no cleaning (well, a little), no organizing piles... And we ate!

We came back to Del Rio refreshed and ready to spend the next few weeks unsettled and as guests in my in-laws home. Thank God for them and thier generosity! And their babysitting. The picture above is our last date night out on Friday when we attended our squadron Christmas party. I wanted to go out Texas style!

Lastly, Mike left today for Arkansas to begin training on Wednesday. He is going to get us our new address and secure our temporary house for early January just in time for the girls to go back to school. We should hopefully only be seperated for two weeks. It is still tough though being without Mike. Thanks for the continued prayers through this long transition. We are enjoying it.

In God's Grace,

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Moving Day Has Arrived

Praise the Lord, He provided renters for our home. The first people to inquire about our house saw it and called within a few hours to say they wanted to rent. That was last Monday (9 days ago). This past Monday we got confirmation that movers would be coming on Tuesday, the next day! So needless to say, my world (my home) has been turned upside down and inside out in less than 48 hours. I would compare this move to ripping a bandaid off. If it is going to happen, just do it fast.

So where are we going to live now, you ask? Mike's parents have graciously opened thier home to us. We will be with them for about three weeks, two of which Mike will be in training. We'll stay in Del Rio through Christmas, then head up to Arkansas by the New Year where we will live in a full furnished three-bedroom TLF (temporary living facility-small house) on base. They even said I could bring my cat. ; ) And the school will be walking distance for the girls. Isn't God good? And to think I was sweating the details.

Thanks for praying for us through this move. We still have 7 more months to go before we finish and appreciate any continued prayers. We are greatful for those who are "living" this with us. Enjoy the before and after pics of the move. ; )
Me stressed! Me relaxed!

The boys room before... and after.

The dining room before... and after.

The living room before... and after.

Good buy stuff. See you in 7 months, God willing.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Officially move in December

Mike and I were able to make some definitive decisions this week regarding our upcoming move. The first major thing will be movers coming to pack up our home the first week of December. Then Mike will leave on the 7th for Little Rock, Arkasas to start his training while I stay with the kids and finish out school 'til the holiday break. He'll come back here for Christmas with his parents and then the whole family will move to Little Rock the last week of December. We put our name on the base TLF waiting list which is a fully furnished three bedroom house. We won't have to set up or close any utility accounts, we'll be walking distance to the school on base, and they will let me bring our cat. God is slowly showing us He is providing our every need. And now we are waiting to see what He will do with our house... still looking for renters or buyers.

So that is the most current update on our end. In the meantime, I am relishing every last moment of our time here. I am really going to miss the people here - my church family, my women's Biblestudy, my neighbors, and my friends. God has really blessed us here. Thank you, LORD!

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Cardboard Box Maze

Last night, for Halloween, our church sponsored a Fun Fall Festival. Mike came up with the idea of creating a "Cardboard Box Maze" three years ago. This is this year's edition! We all had a blast putting it together over several hours.
The Fun Fall Festival turned out to be a great outreach to our community. It provided a safe and fun place for lots of children to play in activities, get free candy, and earn prizes. This is one of the many things I will miss about our church when I leave. Maybe I can convince our next church to do something similar... God willing. ; ) Happy late Holloween and welcome to November!

Friday, October 24, 2008

Goodbye to Cali!

Within the last few weeks, Mike and I noticed that our cat, Cali, had isolated herself from us. We first became aware that she was getting sick. However, when she began refusing her favorite soft cat food, we knew something was wrong. I started to keep an eye on her realizing she was not playing with us, keeping us company, or greeting us anymore. We finally decided this morning to take her to the vet.
I went in with her thinking that I would walk out with some meds that would make her feel better in a few days. What I got instead was the notification that her liver had failed and she was close to dying. My heart just cried out in disbelief. This is my cat that is only four years old, was with me when we brought our girls home from Ukraine, gave us Sumy (our other cat which is her daughter) by giving birth on my bed, sat on the porch with me, sat near me in the morning while I drank coffee and had my quiet times... Now I was being told that she was fatally ill.
I have never had to put an animal to sleep. I couldn't understand how the vet knew she was sick when she was still walking around - not eating, sleeping, drinking, or using the litterbox though. Mike and I had to put her first and think of her best interests. He asked me, "Can you sleep tonight now that you know how much pain she is going through?" No, I could not! But then, how do I tell the children? We decided to wait until they got home from school and let them say goodbye. Of course, our two oldest daughters took it very hard. It is one thing to grieve for yourself and another to watch your children grieve. There is so little that can be done to console them over a lost "family member" like her. We let them talk to her by themselves, take pictures, and say goodbye. Then we took her back to the vet for the hardest part.
Since we are selling our house, a dear friend of mine allowed us to bury Cali on her property near some water where some other animals are buried. Only God knows why he took her so soon. Only God knows where pets go after they die here. That is a question my daughters are still pondering. But I go to the words that comforted and are still comforting me... "Not one sparrow falls to the ground apart from the will of the father" (Matt. 10:29). God knew Cali was leaving our home today. And He is comforting all of us through it. "Surely I am with you always..." (Matt. 28:20).

Friday, October 17, 2008

Trip to Big Bend

Mike and I took all the kids on a camping trip to Big Bend this weekend. We had a blast while physically exerting ourselves and seeing God's beautiful creation. There are some pics attached that show the breathtaking scenery as well as one of God's very friendly creatures.

The scenic view is from the top of Emory Peak which is a 9 mile roundtrip hike. It is well worth it, but not for little ones. Luckily, one of our frinds stayed behind with our three little ones so both Mike and I could go up with Stasia and Dasha.

Here is our friendly skunk. She decided to join the adult converstation after we got all the kids down.
I would have pet her, if I didn't think she would
spray me. ; )

Stasia slightly sprained her ankle and Dasha hurt her knee,

so Bryan, Eli, and Alaizha did

a smaller hike with me right before we left.

Thanks also for praying about our move stuff. We are still progressing with Mike's plans to leave for Arkansas on 7 Dec. We are leaving our house situation to God to see which one comes first, a buyer or a renter. We are open either way. God has not left us yet, nor will He leave us now. I am confident of that!

Thursday, October 9, 2008

To sell or not to sell? That is the question!

Considering how the economy has been going the last few weeks in light of the bailouts, houses are not moving. So in the midst of all the other decisions we need to make in regards to moving, our question comes back to us in need of another answer. Do we still try to sell our home or now should we look into renting?
Control is area of weakness for me, especially passing it over to my husband. I am a true military wife in that I have trained myself how to handle it all... at least that is what I tell myself. Then God comes along to shatter my overly confident self perception and show me I am still under His wings even if I can't see the next step in front of me. Why is this so scary-not knowing what tomorrow holds? I don't know if I will ever truly know the answer. However, at the same time, I am learning to relax and stand firm that God already knows how I am going to get to our next assignment, where our kids will go to school, where we will live, whether we will rent or sell this house, whether we will rent or buy the next... The details are endless and yet God knows and cares about each and every single one.
So as I struggle with giving over control, I pray that each of you will realize God's sovereignty in your life and that He has ordained the days of your life. There is no need to worry about tomorrow. He is already taking care of that too.
Thanks Lord for your provisions!

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

October is here!

Well, October is finally here bringing with it some cooler weather. I look forward to the days when we can wear long sleeves and sweatshirts all day, not just in the morning before 9am.

There isn't much to update over the last two weeks. Though I have maintained a certain level of busyness. Between appointments for school, dentist, and physical forms being filled out for our orders to Germany, I have a child with eight cavities (yes, I said eight!) that will undergo anesthesia next Tuesday.

In the meantime, I am trying to work on getting my quiet time done earlier and to pray more. I don't know why this is so hard for me. But please pray that I will pray! ; ) I have been convicted to pray about specific things as well as outside my little circle. I need to pray for our leaders, our country, our city, my/our pastors, my husband, my children specifically, not just in general. Thanks in advance for any prayers and/or encouragement.


Friday, September 19, 2008

Texas Adoption Story

My children are such a testimony to me and a reminder of God's faithfulness to provide the desires of my heart. Here is our second adoption story. The beginning sadly tells of us losing our first set of three siblings who ended up with a grandmother to the youngest. We were devasted with the blow after taking care of and loving the children for 8 and a half months. During the following 6 months, we waited for the grandmother's evaluation period to end just in case the children were put back in the foster care system and hopefully come back to our home. My favorite song for this time of our life was "Praise You in the Storm" by Casting Crowns (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bo2nJr7JHsI). I had to choose to praise "the God who gives and takes away". I am so glad I did because His story was not done. Seven months after losing Alon, Nick, and Michelle, we got our next adoption phone call. The rest of the story is below...

11 Oct 07

Hello once again,
Well after several months of waiting to see if Alon, Nick, and Michelle would come back we found out that they are doing great and will remain with their grandmother. It was hard for me to move on, but I finally agreed that God still has a plan in our life. Well, much to our amazement and awe, He has blessed us once again. This time we recieved a phone call to adopt two brothers (3 1/2 and 2 1/2) who were living with relatives after their parents' rights had been terminated. We eagerly said yes!!! Two days later we verified that CPS had chosen us to take them and they sent us an email about them. However, when I opened the file, I found three names - they have a 4 1/2 year old sister. I called about her and found out that she is in another foster home and that they gave up trying to place all three siblings together. Eli and Bryan joined our family tonight and their older sister, Alizhia, will join us in a few weeks. Once she is placed with us, we should be able to start filing adoption paperwork so that the adoption can hopefully take place in the spring. We must have them for 6 months, then the following month we go before the judge. We are so excited at another opportunity to see God have our family grow. Please add us to your prayer lists once again as our hearts become attached to these little ones. We are so blessed!!! The Lord gives and takes away! Blessed be His name. ; )

In Him,Mike, Melissa, Stasia, Dasha, Eli, and Bryan

14 Nov 07

Hello again to all,
We wanted to share the news that Alaizha has now joined our family. She got here yesterday afternoon and has been overwhelmed with her welcome by her brothers and new sisters. We have seen her smile a few times and pray that as she becomes more comfortable, we will see more. Bryan and Eli, along with Dasha and Stasia, are absolutely thrilled with having one more child in the house. It is amazing how exponentially magnified chaos can be when one more child is added. ; ) We did get good news too that since they have been in foster care now for three years, we should be able to find a favorable decision with the judge to waive the six months waiting period. We would then just wait out the time it takes to pull together all the adoption paperwork. With the holidays, it make take longer than normal. However, it is likely that we could see the adoption take place as soon as February. YEAHHHHHH!!!!!
Please be praying for us, our agency, and our adoption attorney-that we would do all the required paperwork. And that others affecting the paperwork getting done, would not delay longer than necessary. We are so excited to see these three children become part of our family. I am so humbled at how God has provided in His timing, which is always perfect even when I can't see or understand. Thank you to those that have been praying with us on this endeavour since last summer. I am praying in faith that this time the adoption will soon come to pass. We are so incredibly blessed to have friends walk with us through this - physically, spiritually, and emotionally.

In Him,Mike, Melissa, Stasia, Dasha, Alaizha, Eli, and Bryan

25 Mar 08

Hello once again to all,

Sorry for the months of delay in our updates. Beleive it or not, this whole time we have been getting paperwork done and waiting to fulfill our 6 month obligation (which is officially 13 May). We have crossed a huge hurdle as of yesterday, our case has been officially been transfered to the adoption unit with CPS. This means we are in the final stages of the process and should hopefully finalize the adoption in several more weeks. Right now we are being told mid to end of May. So please keep praying for us as we complete more paperwork and now have to involve attorneys and set adoption dates. We are eager to see God close this hectic chapter of our lives and open a new door for our children, assurance that this is THEIR family forever. Thank you again for walking this road with us emotionally, spiritually, and for some of you physically. We could not do this without the strength that God provides from your prayers. We will hopefully send another update soon.
In His Grace,Mike, Melissa, Stasia, Dasha, Alaizha, Eli, and Bryan

2 May 08

To all,
It is our pleasure to announce that we will be going to court on May 21st at 1:30 pm, central standard time, to adopt Alaizha, Eli, and Bryan. This is the culmination point of over two years worth of prayer to see God have our family grow. We are excited, anxious, tired, and yet so incredibly happy that I have cried because we are finally at this point. In just nineteen days, they will be officially part of our family with no other home visits, inspections, reports to write, medicines to log, etc. They will be part of our family just as if there were born into it (and believe me, I feel like they were birthed into it, at least emotionally!!!). One last time, please keep us in your prayers that this court date will come and go smoothly with no delays. We will travel to Odessa, TX, about 4 hours (?) away. And I will send out our final adoption update then. Thank you for your two year endeavour with us as you have prayed with us, laughed with us, cried with us,and now rejoice with us for what the LORD has done. I look forward to writing to you again in less than three weeks. PRAISE GOD!!!!!!
In Him,Mike, Melissa, Stasia, Dasha, Alaizha, Eli, and BryanPS Two pics are below - one is of Bryan and Eli (Bryan dressed himself with his clothes on backwards) - the other is us indoctrinating the kids with Aggie Spirit.

22 May 08

To all our family and friends,
It is our pleasure to announce - We did it!!!!

We would like to announce the adoption of Alaizha Grace, Elias Michael, and Bryan Andrew Pontiff at 2:00 PM on 21 May 2008.

It was a long 4 hour drive up to Odessa, Texas but well worth it for the short 30 minute court appearance. The culmination of 2 years of foster care, paperwork, and uncertainty finally came to an end. As many of you know this journey has not been an easy one for us, but the end result makes it all worth it.Here's a short synopsis of what happened at court. Our attorney called CPS to the stand to testify that adoption is in the best interest of the children and the State of Texas, and that we were a suitable and loving family. Then he called Mike to the stand to testify that he was ready to assume full legal responsibility for the children as if they were born into our own family. Mike tried not to cry, but failed. Then Melissa was called to the stand and testified about how she loved the children and gave a praise to God during the testimony. Stasia and Dasha also testified that they wanted them to be their brothers and sister. Following all the testimony, the judge ruled that adoption would be in the best interest of the children and granted the adoption and name changes! That was it! We stayed for some pictures and hugs.

We were joined in court by our pastor and his wife as well as two of my Air Force coworkers. Also, Melissa's Dad drove all the way from College Station to be with us for the short ceremony.

In this long journey, given the many hiccups and one failed attempt, you might be wondering if we are done with adoption forever. We'll just be happy to say that we are done for now. It's time to let God mature our family together and if we feel called to adopt again, you can look forward to hearing from us in similar format. Thank you for your prayers and words of encouragement. Glory to God for bringing us through this joyous and happy event. Here are some important dates for all you family members who requested birthday information, and a picture taken at court today.

Alaizha - 29 Nov 2002Eli - 26 Dec 2003Bryan - 19 Nov 2004

With love,Mike, Melissa, Stasia, Dasha, Alaizha, Eli, and Bryan

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Our Ukrainian Adoption

As you already know, Mike and I have adopted five kids by the grace of God. Here is the story of our first adoption when we adopted Stasia and Dasha from Ukraine. When we found out we couldn't have children, we decided immediately to adopt. We felt strongly that God wanted us to adopt siblings. Knowing from other testimonies how difficult adoption can be, we decided to email our friends and family to pray with us the whole way. I am attaching the email updates that we sent out detailing our journey, feelings, God stories and more of one of the happiest days for Mike and I. It is long, but shares our experiences as they were happening.

January 26, 2005

Friends and Family,Melissa and I received our invitation from the National Adoption Center in Ukraine for an appointment on February 9th to begin the process for adopting our children. We will be working really hard to get all our last minute plans ironed out to be able to make the trip happen. Our agency may ask for an extension since everything is such short notice, but we are making arrangements to travel just in case we cannot change appointment days.If we go on the original date, then we will most likely complete our adoption and be returned back to Texas by early March if everything goes well. Please keep us in your prayers as we make preparations to add two children to the family, and pray that our process is smooth. Email will be the best way to get updates, but we don't have much time for individaul replies (we are completing the sale on our house, getting all our paperwork arranged, and making travel plans, etc.)

With love,Mike and Melissa

February 5, 2005

Friends and Family,Within two weeks of getting our adoption appointment date, Melissa and I have managed to pull together all the required paperwork, make all our travel arrangements, purchase our new home in Del Rio, fire our adoption contacts in the Ukraine, hire new ones, and move out of our lodging into another building here at Randolph AFB. Also, I managed to pass my first T-6 checkride while all of this was going on... No way we could have done all of this without your prayers and the help of an almighty God. We can hardly believe the way everything has fallen into place, but we will be stepping on a plane in tomorrow to Kiev to meet our new children. If you are interested in our whole adoption story and the testimony that God is building, we could write a book. That will be a story for another day, but let me say that the ending is not written yet so please continue to remember us in your prayers the next few weeks. We will send email updates from Ukraine and appreciate your words of encouragement.

Love, Mike and Melissa

February 10, 2005

Hello everyone,Here we are in Kiev enjoying the frigid Ukrainian winter. We arrived safely on Monday very late in the evening and managed to quickly process through customs. We had to declare the cash we brought to pay for adoption fees and I laughed when the customs agent said in a thick Russian accent, "Show me the money". I wanted to try and get him to shout it by saying "What?" over and over again but it was very late and it had been nearly 24 hours since we left San Antonio.
($11,000 cash for all the fees we'd ned to pay- we spent it all and more!)

Kiev was kinda shady at night, but our apartment is very nice and a pleasure to return to at the end of the day. Tuesday was document translation day and recover from our travel day. We met up with Mindy Grammar, Melissa's roommate from Texas A&M who does missions work in Kiev. It was a grand reunion and everyday so far we have spent some time with Mindy.

Wednesday was our appointment date, so we arrived at the National Adoption Center to learn that because our documents were all recently updated (the day prior) we would be on the waiting list for an appointment. We waited for 4 hours in the lobby to learn that we would have to come back on Thursday since they ran out of time that day. Melissa had to listen to me lecture on how silly the system is here and it could be better. The best example is that the most stressful event of the adoption is the selection process where they lay out hundreds of photos and papers of children available and make you pick the ones you will visit in 30 minutes! I sat in the lobby for 4 hours and didn't look at one folder... Silly...So we returned to the NAC today for a scheduled appointment.

Melissa and I came here for two children, preferably twins or a sibling group of very young age. We were shown only children ranging from 8 to 15 years old initially, and after turning away hundreds of heartbreaking pictures and explaining to our facilitator that the children were too old for a young couple like us did we begin to see younger children that they somehow forgot to show us initially...After nearly 40 minutes of paper shuffling, we came across two sisters, Annastasia (7) and Darina (5) who only recently became available for adoption. My heart jumped and the rest of the pictures just passed away. Melissa had a good feeling about them too so we asked the important questions. Their health is good, they have different surnames but the same mother which means they might have different fathers. They have only been in the orphanage since 2003 which is good compared to some dates we saw. They are together and live in a town named Sumy, not far from the Russian border (it's close to Kursk).We had a peace about it which quickly became excitement. (No diapers!!!) Are these two girls the ones God had set aside for us? We hope to find out when we meet them on Saturday or Monday.

Please continue to pray because the process is far from over. There is much more bureacracy to overcome and a dramatic first meeting on the horizon.Kiev is nice, Ukrainian people are wonderful, and we haven't gotten sick yet. I do have a flare up in my neck injury, but we will see a chiropractor named Vladomir tomorrow. Maybe he can straiten me out!!!

Lots of love,Mike and Melissa

James 1:27 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.

February 14, 2005 Valentine’s Day

Hello from Sumy, Ukraine.These last two days have been the greatest of Melissa and my married life. It's like all the waiting and praying for the last two years has paid off with a blessing beyond all others we have ever experienced since our wedding!!!Here's the details. We left for Sumy on Sunday with the necessary paperwork to meet the Anastasia and Darina who we picked out of hundreds of children because of a nudge from God. We rolled into town and made arrangements for a place to stay. We are in a soviet era apartment complex which is maybe 900 Sq Ft. We share it with our interpreter, Elena, and it is comfortable enough for our stay here.

We were very nervous when we pulled up to the orphanage the first time. It looked vacant from the outside, but was in the middle of the city, surrounded by apartments. The snow around the building and in the playground was not new, but their were no tracks. The children don't go outside in the yard to play in the winter.

(The outside of Stasia and Dasha's orphanage-this is one of the better ones!)
We walked in and were escorted to the directors office where we met the director, a very friendly lady who sent for the girls.I had warned Melissa that even though our hopes were high that this day would be our chance to evaluate whether the girls would fit into our family and discern what God was telling us to do.

All our hopes were fufilled instantly as we saw Darina (Dasha as she is called for a nickname) come running around the corner and come to a complete stop at the door.She was beautiful with hair in pony tails and bell bottom suede pants that were barely hanging on. Our hearts melted right away and knew that we were looking at our new daughter. She came up to us and stood between Melissa and I as we talked with her through our interpreter. "What is your name?" "How old are you?" The typical questions, we introduced ourselves and then Anastasia walked in. Another heart melting and we knew again what was meant to be.Melissa gave them some gifts we brought. A teddy bear for each and some gum candy. They were happy for the gifts and we laughed as we tried to teach them to say "Thank You". We then asked if they knew why we had come to the orphanage. Dasha responded "Amerkanski"... Yes, we want to ask you to be part of our family. Somehow the translation came out "Mama and Papa" Which brought a smile to both of their faces and hugs all around. It was better than Christmas!!! We asked if they wanted to come back to America with us and be our daughters and they both said "Da!"Melissa then pulled out one more present, a picture we had taken together in Kiev. We handed it to both of the girls and asked who it was in the picture. Dasha immediatly said "Mama! Papa!" It was a moment we will all never forget. We made more small talk and discussed their health, which is good, and some of the adoption specifics while they sat on our laps and played with their teddy bears. We were there nearly an hour before we said farewell, and promised to return later in the day (it was their nap time).
(Our first family picture after meeting them ten minutes before.)

Anastasia just turned 7 in January. She is the spitting image of my big sister Danielle with the same hair and facial features. I thought she was Danielle many times and know they share more than just looks. We have taken to calling her Stacia. She was not raised in State care, her mother raised her until she was 5 when she could no longer care for her and placed her in the orphanage. Dasha was raised from birth in the orphanages and has had very little contact with her mother. They were never really aware of each other until they were both placed in the same orphanage two years ago, which is when they became very close. Stacia is very shy, and took some time to warm up and talk with us. She also responds better to Melissa, since the orphanages have all women staff. Darina attached immediatly to us. She is clingy and talks even though we don't understand each other. She runs from place to place and reminds me of what I must of been like as a child, a little bit of a hell raiser! They balance each other out but the wierdest thing is that Stacia follows Darina everywhere and there is no doubt who the boss is. I've never seen a younger sibling with so much power, except maybe Christi.

We couldn't be happier and since the first meeting we have played with them in the gym numerous times. They will be a perfect fit to the Pontiff, Villarreal, and Worley clans. I know that when each of you sees the pictures, you will see that we were a family long before our first meeting. God has an amazing way of working things out. One minute later, and we may never have met them (another family was considering them).

Please continue to pray because the bureacracy in this country is amazingly confusing. It will take a few more weeks just to get through the courts, the paperwork must be perfect. A lot of it is out of our hands and depends on translators and people we have hired. Also, we have to pay a certain "expedited" fee which in the states we could call "bribe" for every bit of our process. It's in God's hands still, so keep praying.

Thank you for your support and emails so far.

Love,Mike, Melissa, Stacia, and Dasha

February 17, 2005

Hello friends and family,Thanks so much for all of the encouraging emails. Melissa and I are so overwhelmed with the support and affection we feel from all of you around the world. We would like to reply to them all but you will understand that technology here isn't quite as good as the USA. We will try to get around to it!

So the story continues...After our first meeting with Stasia and Dasha, we have been to the orphanage every day to interact and play with them. We usually get 3 or 4 hours a day with them. They still belong to the State, so they must live in the orphanage but we can see them generally whenever. They cannot leave with us, not yet!!! In our short times shared together we can easily feel the bonds of love growing stronger and more intense. Melissa and I had to sit down and talk about our feelings for some time since these are our first children and all new emotions are welling up! She has to share my affections with two other girls, but we're OK with that. ; )

Now for the cute stories. The girls needed some blood work to be cleared medically for the adoption. We went to the orphanage one morning to see the girls and they were at the hospital getting the tests. We walked outside of the orphanage just as they came around the corner from their taxi ride. Dasha came running to me so fast that she slipped on the ice and fell at my feet before I could grab her. I scooped her up and saw nothing but joy in her eyes! In her cute russian voice she tried to tell me she had been hurt by the needle and I could tell from her nose she had been crying.

The saddest part of this outdoor experience is that several other children in the orphanage were watching from the window and we could hear them yelling "Mama, Papa". It just breaks your heart to see them.Stasia was playing with a rotating metal ring which she would spin while her sister tried to toss bean bags through. She leaned over to spin it one time and it bumped her head. Melissa's maternal instincts kicked in right away and she went to comfort Stasia. Melissa just held her and rocked while she cried quietly and recuperated from the blow. It was like they were both longing for that very moment from the first time we met, Melissa to hold and love her and Stasia to feel loved and protected. It was amazing to watch!We are told this is one of the better orphanages our facilitator has seen. The children are educated and disciplined, the facility is good, and there are good directors. Many children in Ukrainian orphanages are not available for international adoption because the parents put them in for temporary economic reasons. In Dasha's group there are 17 children but only 3 available for adoption. The girls really love our digital camera, and have taken to posing like models then running over to see what the photo looks like. They have learned numbers through ten and can do the "Hokey Pokey" although they haven't figured out difference between right and left and mama and papa are the only ones singing.

Some amazing testimonies now...One of the Ukrainian documents had expired, Stasia's father's releasing parental rights. Although no one had seen him or heard from him in Sumy for several years, we needed to redo the form in front of Notary before we could proceed. Our facilitator tracked him to another town, and found him 20 minutes before he would be leaving for a long trip. WHOA!!!! This event saved us several weeks of waiting!!! The form was updated and things are proceeding nicely. The prayers are paying off!

We still need prayer that our forms are correct, our facilitator left for Kiev today to get approval from the National Adoption Center to complete the adoption. We should have a court date by the end of next week and the girls will officially belong to our family. Timing is still the biggest prayer request. If things continue at their current pace we could be back in San Antonio the end of the first week of March which would be wonderful!We are now alone in Sumy, no translators. Just our girls, and a piece of paper with English on one end and Russian on the other so we can point to places we want our cab drive to go. McDonalds is spelled the same in both languages...

We love and miss all of you.Mike, Melissa, Stasia (pronounced Stay-sha), and Dasha (like Tasha, but with a D).

February 22, 2005

Hello Friends and Family,No giant news since our last update, we are still just waiting for Thursday to find out if the National Adoption Center has appoved our adoption request. IF everything is OK, we will have court on Friday, leave for Kiev with our new daughters on Saturday, have an appointment at the Embassy Monday, and be home by Wednesday the 2nd of March!!!! Oh, what a praise that would be. Our biggest prayer request is the timing. I only have leave until the 15th of March and still need to get the family all moved into our new house in Del Rio.

The last few visits have been very encouraging. The reality of parenthood is beginning to set in, we had to dicipline Dasha for the first time because she was simply out of control. All the books we have read went out the window as we tried patiently to calm her down, but she thought everything was just a game. All she knows of Mama and Papa so far is that we are like giant toys. We found a way to nicely let her know that things are serious and she is beginning to respond to directions.

I think these days of short visits is beneficial because Melissa and I walk away from each visit with some things to talk about without the girls, so we can begin to develop our parenting skills as a team. It's like having a timeout in a game to reform the plan. Soon, there will be no timeouts!

The most encouraging part of the last few days was that we finally had a serious talk with them about God. We have been able to pray with them everyday but they didn't understand what it was all about because we couldn't explain anything. Yesterday, we had our friend Mindy there and she translated for us what we had been trying to show them with actions for so many other days.

We asked had they ever prayed before and the answer was that they had been to church. We explained that prayer is a time we talk to God. They asked who is this God? We were able to tell them that God is good and creator of the world. We also told them that God brought us together from so many miles apart and made us a family. Mindy translated quite effectively and the girls began to understand that prayer is a chance to thank God for making us a family. For the first time they were quiet and reverent for our prayer together.It made us both so glad! It was like the first real family prayer.

We have so many more stories to tell but we are going over to visit with them some more this afternoon.Thanks again for your prayers and encouragement.

Mike, Melissa, Stasia, and Dasha

February 25, 2005

Friends and Family,It gives me great pleasure to announce the adoption of Anastasia Gabrielle Pontiff and Darina Elizabeth Pontiff on February 25th, at 0920 Ukrainian Time. The girls weigh about 60 lbs and 50 lbs respectively, and are almost 4 feet tall. Mother is doing fine and father is nearly out of money...

Today marked the end of a chapter of Melissa and my journey together, and the beginning of our walk as a family. On Thursday night we received a call from our facilitator saying all the paperwork was in order at the National Adoption Center and we were cleared to proceed with the adoption.

This morning, we met with the orphanage director, the director of schools, our girls, and a judge of the region of Sumy. I was a little nervous walking into the judges chambers but the smiles on our girls faces washed away all our anxiety and we just had a conversation with the judge. As he reviewed our paperwork, he asked questions, "Will Melissa be working, tell me about your house, why did you come to Ukraine, how was your contact with the girls, etc..." We answered all his questions and waited patiently for a decision.

His last question was directed to the girls. "Stasia, do you want to go with them?" "Da!" "Dasha, do you want to go with them?" "Da!"The judge immediately replied, "Then, you will go." Just like that, Melissa and I became the legal parents of our new daughters.

We spent the rest of the day doing paperwork and changing names and other legal mumbo-jumbo. When the day closed, we were only waiting for the completion of their passports which will probably happen on Monday or Tuesday. We expect to be home in San Antonio on the 2nd or 3rd of March.

We have received requests for gifts for the girls, and I can tell you that we have nothing for them so far. Since we came to the Ukraine unsure of gender or age, we didn't buy anything prior to coming here. We have purchased 3 outfits to get them home but plan on buying everything when we get home. So, the range of presents you can buy is limitless since they don't have anything. Gift certificates are preferable but all ranges of clothes (just aim for 7 year old girls) and toys would be acceptable and appreciated.We'll send out another update as things progress.

Please continue the prayers, because we are not home yet!

Mike, Melissa, Stasia and Dasha
(The adoption is complete and we are signing the girls out of the orphanage. We are with the director, teachers, and our facilitator.)

(A family picture overlooking Kiev the day before we flew back to America)
March 3, 2005

Friends and Family,I'm writing this email from the USO at Chicago O'hare, waiting for our flight to San Antonio. WE ARE DONE!!! We're here with our girls, totally exhausted and jet lagged but relieved to be on American Soil again.

I have to thank alot of people for making this happen, first of all God who was involved in every step of the way. He made this whole adventure a giant testimony and a great growing experience for Melissa and I.

Next our own families who have supported all the way. Also, our adoption "agent" here in USA, Cathy Harris of Ukrainian Angels who made this a reality after we dropped our original agency. Next those who helped us in Ukraine, Mindy Grammar, Elena Koripko, and Georgia.

I'm tired, or else I'd type some funny stories. Our daughters are awesome and very different. We love them so much and are blessed to have them in our family.Pictures to follow, sometime down the road!

Love,Mike, Melissa, Stasia, and Dasha
(The first picture of the girls on American soil. We made it home. Praise GOD!!!)

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Off to Germany, here we go!

My second entry and my mind is scrambling with things to say. Life has been turned upside down as of two days ago. My husband found out on Tuesday that we are moving to Germany next June. YEAHHHHHH! I can't believe we are going overseas. I am so excited and then all of a sudden struck with fear. I'm taking five kids with me! How is this going to be possible. I told a friend of mine that our other option, Little Rock, AR, would have been a "Me" move. I could organize, arrange, and move our little family to another assignment. It would have been me. But God obviously has grander plans for me, one that includes more humility. Moving to Germany will be a "God" move.
I admit right now that I do not know how this is going to happen. I realize I can only take one step in front of the other and know that God has ordained it all. It was not a surprise to Him for us to get this wonderful assignment and it will be no surprise how we get there. I sometimes wish He would show me a glimpse or fast forward play of what will take place. And again realize He knows better. I would probably stress out and ask Him what woman was He just looking at.
So as we prepare for Mike to leave for training in early December, please pray that God will give us discernment with all our moving decisions - do we sell our house, can we be with him while he is at training for six months, what do we plan to take with us, what will stay, what clothes can I pack in a suitcase that I want to wear for the next 6 months, what clothes can I pack for my kids that will still fit them in 6 months...?
We feel so incredibly blessed with this opportunity. So now from the border of Mexico we prepare for Europe knowing God will be with us every step of the way!

Jeremiah 29:11 "For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.

With much excitement,

Sunday, August 31, 2008

My first blog

OK, OK. So after attending a Beth Moore conference in San Antonio, Texas and meeting many wonderful women, I finally succumbed to the pressure of creating my own blog. I must admit that I didn't think that I would have very much to offer in interest to others. However, I realized that God has given each of us a story. Some better than others, but each a testimony nonetheless. I hope that by sharing my experiences, God will get the glory for all that He has done in my life.
So here goes... I am foremost a Christian who loves God greatly and cannot thank Him enough for the provision He provided on the cross. Without Him, I would be nothing, literally. Second, I am a military wife. I am very proud of my husband, Mike, and his service to our country. Third, I am a mother who is humbled and greatful to God for blessing me with five adopted children. I can't believe He trusts me so much! Fourth, I am a sister to five wonderful siblings whom I love and miss very much being that we are all over the place. I had an eventful and very fulfilled childhood while being loved by two sets of wonderful parents. And lastly, I am a proud Fightin' Texas Aggie (class of '98)-Whoop! It took me six years to graduate college, but I am well rounded in my studies and all the wiser.
As I add more comments to the blog, you'll see that almost everything will encompass one of those areas of my life. I pray that you will enjoy reading and sharing what God is doing in my life.