Just when we thought that our plate was full in life, God dished us up some dessert!




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Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Remember us? It's all about Stas on Sunday!

It's been ages since I have written on my blog that was first started to follow our journey to get Stas. His alias was "Ross" during the process, hence the title. So much has happened since that summer 4 years ago!

I will jump right to the present though. Back in February of this year, we learned that Stas has leukemia. To be exact, he has B-cell Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia. Having Down syndrome as well, plays into his treatment plan, and that means that he has a total of 2 1/2 years of treatment to battle the disease and beat it. There is a 85% survival with this so we are hopeful.

This was Stas a couple months before diagnosis.

This is our cutie pie now:)

This diagnosis was a shock, but we are blessed to have amazing support to see us through all of it. Of course, our faith is the greatest of all of our gifts. God has been so good, and always is.

As many of you know, each year we have a benefit concert. This will be our 7th year. You can go here to learn a little bit about our previous years: http://www.concertonthelake.net/artists.html

This year, it is all about Stas. Why? Because when we went to get our son in Ukraine in June/July of 2010, we learned about the plight of orphans born with disabilities in Eastern Europe. Ukraine specifically. And we couldn't rest knowing what his life and the life of many others is like without the love of a family and the aid of all of those to help these dear children become all that God intended for them. A few years back, the funds from the concert started working towards the building of a therapy center in the same city that Stas was born, and Susha as well. We are determined to make a difference.

Following Stas' diagnosis in February, we realized the impact this diagnosis can have on a family. Dan and I got away for an overnight a couple months back, had time to reflect, and realized all of the things that WE don't have to struggle with and yet others lives are completely turned upside down. As a result, we decided to also add to this years concert the opportunity to gather funds for the Cancer Kids Fund at Children's hospital that is used specifically to help families with the extra things to make life bearable for children and families going through this difficult time.

We are expecting a HUGE crowd. There will be opportunities for more giving at the concert and I wanted to post a picture of some of the items. Bring some cash and a checkbook or whatever works.
There will be several raffles. Let me explain.

THESE ITEMS WILL ALL BE SIGNED 
BY THE ARTIST---
JOHN ONDRASIK
 of 
FIVE FOR FIGHTING!!!!







AND THAT'S NOT ALL......LOOK WHAT JUST CAME IN THE MAIL....
by a long time friend, Cynthia!!!!!

 Thank you SO MIUCH, Cynthia!!!

I love this! I saw it on Pinterest and wanted to know if anyone was able to make it....AND LOOK!

And then, we have another handmade piece by the STAR of the evening....STAS....formally known as Stanislav:) 

THIS ONE BELOW WILL BE A FREE WILL RAFFLE.....
Pretty sure this beautiful piece of art could be autographed 
by the musical artist OR the painter :):):)




And finally, MAGGIE and FRIENDS will have a table set up with beautiful jewelry: Rings, bracelets, necklaces and homemade soaps that are making my basement smell heavenly aromatic.

IF YOU AREN'T COMING, AND WOULD LIKE TO BUY A RAFFLE TICKET, I CAN HAVE YOU DO IT AHEAD OF TIME.  

JUST EMAIL ME: dgthibault@comcast.net 
WE can get your name on a ticket!!!

To DONATE go to:

THANK YOU!!!!!!!!

Thursday, August 2, 2012

The Suitcase

I haven't blogged FOREVER....

Sorry for anyone that cares to hear about the boys :-) I tend to do little facebook posts because they take less time. But now, I wanted to share something very special.   Lizzy and I had the opportunity to take part in a Pilgrimage of Life to Medjugorje. When we adopted Stas two years ago, from Ukraine, we stayed at a Church in Zaporoyszhe, an amazing Church. A Catholic Church. The people were so amazing and we have stayed in touch. Two of the people, Valentyna and Fr. Andrew, just over a year ago, started bring ob/gyn doctors, many of whom do abortions, to Medjugorje. Hopefully you will appreciate what it entails when you read something I wrote to sum up my trip. Actually, it only lightly sums it up. I have so much more I want to say....but you will see this is long enough. I am happy to answer any questions you may have about event.

So here it goes:

Pilgrimage of Life-- July 17-23, 2012 
I’ve just begun to unpack my suitcase. I’ve returned home with it crammed full and a bit messy. It needs to be sorted....but here it sits. I left home with it containing all that I thought I needed as I dove into the unknown. Medjugorje. All a knew was it was a village. A beautiful village. A town where Our Lady appeared to children many years ago and gave them messages. We would stay at a “castle.” I knew I would stay with my daughter, Lizzy, 17 who packed her own suitcase--very full. We were both loaded with things we needed, items we thought we needed, and gifts to give. Our plan was to deliver these gifts and use the excess room to return home with gifts. I went prepared to teach ob/gyn medical students about our love for our youngest two children with Down syndrome. We would join their “Pilgrimage of LIfe.”
After nearly 24 hours of travel we arrived just before the other pilgrims and were greeted by our dear Valentyna. Our friend, our guide. She was the reason we were able to be there. 

After meeting Valentyna 2 years ago in Zaporoyszhe, Ukraine, when we adopted Stas, our youngest of eight children who has Down syndrome, we fell in love with her mission. The mission of Chalice of Mercy is to serve physically and spiritually to the needs of the people of Ukraine. With the assistance of Bishop John (then Fr. John) and now Fr. Andrew as well, they are doing this. They live in a city which means “A City without God.”  God is there but not known. They serve to make Him known. They serve to be the hands of Christ; to be a living witness of Christ’s love. They desire to bring an understanding of the gift of life to the people of Ukraine and help them see themselves as gifts. It is not until we can see our own beauty and the gift which we are that we can see others around us as gifts. Communism stripped this region of all signs of God. These are people void of Truth for which they hunger.

During our three weeks in Zaporoyszhe in 2010, Fr. Andrew showed us Chalice of Mercy’s pro-life efforts. We saw video screens mounted in the waiting room of abortion clinics running a loop of unborn life. Really? Yes! Fr. Andrew and Valentyna told us they were in need of more of these DVD screens because more clinics were ASKING for them. They graciously begged for twelve week fetal models from the U.S. and footprint lapel pins because they KNEW the effect they would have on these “hungry” people. They said they wanted to give them to ob/gyn doctors. We desired to help. To think in the U.S. we barely have the right to stand outside an abortion clinic to pray and here they are doing bold things...in government run hospitals. Indeed they are hungry and seemingly void of real joy. Through our adoption of Stas, we witnessed how children with special needs are frequently treated as trash. We saw the disgust they had for them. Stas and the others, abandoned at the hospital at birth because of their “imperfection.” I was told only 4% of these children are taken home. We came home deeply scarred. Lizzy even more so. But, how could the people of Ukraine appreciate the gift of a sweet boy with Down syndrome if they couldn’t appreciate their own dignity, the gift they themselves are, and the gift all life is?

Here we were two years later and ready to meet 46 Ukrainians, many from the very city we grew to love. I couldn’t wait to be reunited with Genya, a friend and leader of the pro-life movement in Ukraine, whom we grew to love during our stay in 2010. She would be right here with us leading this pilgrimage along side Valentyna and Fr. Andrew. Most pilgrims were coming only baptized per Ukrainian custom in the Greek Orthodox Faith. Many having never been in a church since that day. Many atheists... or at least agnostics. Why did they come? Because they were invited. Unable to travel otherwise, because of expense, this trip was paid for. They were told the were going on a pilgrimage. They were told this would be a journey filled with sacrifices. They knew they would pray...prayers they never heard. They would attend Holy Mass, Adoration and pray on the beads of the Rosary. They would sit in seminars each day. They had no idea what it would all mean. They came with their own crammed, heavy suitcases....

We met Nancy, and eventually her husband Patrick. They provided us with our home for a week. Many served selflessly and at times, they cooked throughout the night! For US! After giving up 
Nancy and Patrick are in the middle
EVERYTHING of their life in Canada, Patrick and Nancy came to build a “castle” in Medjugorje. It was built to serve the priests and religious who come on pilgrimage. It is the priests after all who keep us alive, through the anointed hands of Christ. They bring life to our soul though the sacraments. They feed us the Bread of Life--Christ---in the Holy Eucharist. They cleanse and restore our soul through the sacrament of Penance. Why was it then, that WE were there, us and the medical students we joined. Why were the other Ob/Gyn physicians who were from Ukraine, many of whom were abortionists, making pilgrimages to Medjugorje over the past year or so and staying at this “castle?” Nancy explained, they were welcomed because just as the priests act as the Divine Physician who brings life to our souls, these physicians will be the first to hold LIFE in their hands. Through prayer they made the decision that these doctors, in hope for the future, needed to understand the preciousness of LIFE. They felt this was a place where they could experience God’s love.
The students just arriving....being greeted by Nancy and Valentyna
That is why we were at Medjugorje. To learn and teach about the love God has for us. A love so great that he gave us His Mother, and here in Medjugorje we were going to meet her and grow to love her. We would learn to come to her for our needs. We would learn that her greatest love, God’s Divine will, is what she wants for us. In getting to know her, she would lead us closer to her Son, Jesus. And knowing Jesus, we would learn to sacrifice. We would learn that this is the life of a Christian. We would learn about the joy in suffering. We would learn that a Christian serves with Love, and a smile.

I was enriched by many events that happened on our trip. We were grateful to be able to have good conversation with one particular young woman, who spoke English well. She also was a blessing as she translated many things for us. During our first full day on our walk to Apparition Hill, she shared a bit about her family and I had the opportunity to tell her about our family. She learned we had 8 children, three adopted, two of whom have Down syndrome. She could not understand WHY we would have “such children” with Down syndrome. I learned later she was actually “mad” that we adopted these children when there were many other children in need. She said that “these children” were historically thrown from mountain tops in disgrace. I learned at the end of the trip in her testimonial how our witness and obvious love for our boys changed her heart. She recalled me telling her that God grew our heart when we adopted a child from Guatemala to love people of all colors of skin. And that He grew our heart when we adopted a child with Down syndrome to love ALL people who have special needs. She shared with the whole group how she recalled me telling her that these children were “teachers of our soul.” That conversation, and all that followed throughout the week, brought her to a point to realize that if we can learn to love “the least of these” that we can love everyone.

Valentyna arranged for us to visit Community of Cenacolo. We were told it was a home for addicts. It was not at all what I expected to see. What we saw was beautiful. While there is a campus also for women, we visited the community for men. Community Cenacolo was founded by Sister Elvira Petrozzi in 1983. Sister Elvira felt a strong desire to reach out to young people who had taken a wrong path. Based in Saluzzo, Italy, Community Cenacolo, is a worldwide organization with 33 fraternities throughout Italy, France, Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina (Medjugorje), Ireland, Brazil, Austria, Dominican Republic, USA (Florida) and Mexico. Community Cenacolo accommodates about 900 young men and women. Many are drug addicted desperate lost souls. Passing through the doors of Community Cenacolo, these young people begin to feel hope and a sense of being, and family. The aim of the Community is to renew the family; to help the families meet Jesus Christ, Savior and Redeemer, also, to bring support, love, healing and faith. Two members of the community described their stories of 
Amazing testimony from Robert.
To see how this community changed the lives
through an opportunity to learn the Faith is amazing.
God moved mountains for these men.
addiction and their desperate situations. There stories were touching as we could hear how two people, completely lost, were found. They still struggle, and while they can leave the open gate whenever they want, they stay because they know they are not yet ready to live healthy outside the gates. The day begins at six o'clock in the morning, in the chapel, where the rosary is recited. Making bread, cleaning the house, masonry work, gardening, woodworking, etc... all these things are done by the members of the community. By the end of the day, much has been done, and much has been learned, the 20 decades of the Rosary said, and the Gospel shared.



I asked Valentyna, repeatedly each day, for a schedule. I rarely was told beyond what was scheduled next. She told me that she has learned not to plan too much. I witnessed her steadfast prayer. She TRUSTS. She sees where God leads the pilgrimage. She wasn’t kidding.
To Valentyna’s surprise, just weeks before this group of students was to arrive, she had learned that another group would be at the castle at the same time--50 religious sisters.  
The Sisters arriving :-) They were SO sweet.
They would come on retreat. Can you even imagine what they thought when they learned that 50 college-age students, not even Catholic, or “believers” would be sharing their meals and space with them. Never had two groups this size been at the castle at the same time. Nancy and Patrick agreed that if this is what God set up they will let it happen. Both groups were a gift to each other. The students learned what it meant to completely surrender your life to Christ as a bride to Him. They watched how 
Talk about a godsend....times 50 :-)
the sisters in full habit, in 90+ degree heat remained joyful. The sisters agreed to pray for the students and seeing the transformation in our group was a way of renewing their own faith. At mealtimes with the sisters, there was an abundance of song and teaching moments. For example, Nancy would tip-toe in and whisper to everyone “I have a surprise.” It was one of the sister’s birthday. She explained to the students why birthdays are so special...because we are celebrating the gift of life. Nancy took every moment to teach: the gift of life, the necessity of modesty, the significance of marriage and the reason why the sister’s birth names and chosen religious names are so significant. I remember her telling me as I was setting plates out abruptly, “do everything with love as Mary would.” Her kisses were curious at first and contagious in the end.

On Sunday morning, we were told we would have Mass in a field at Mother’s Village, specifically St. Francis Garden. 
The Holy Mass in St. Francis Garden at  Mother's Village.
Mother’s Village was an orphanage started by Fr. Slavko Barbaric’, the spiritual director to the visionaries of Medjugorje. Many children were left orphans after the Bosnian war and Mother’s Village evolved out of the need for protection and care for these children who were wounded by the loss of their family. We then learned we would travel to Kay Center nearby which was a home for women in crisis. The students heard how the center is sustained by prayer and the trust in God’s Divine Providence, and specifically through Our Lady’s intercession.
Kay Center....beautiful!
While the Holy Mass was beautiful, none of us expected to hear that Sunday morning about a beautiful event that would take place AT the Mass. Darinka, a beautiful young woman who had been on the pilgrimage, was preparing to be received into the Church. She had asked Fr. Andrew just the day before if she could receive Jesus for the first time in Medjugorje. Fr. Andrew got permission from Bishop John to administer the sacrament at this outdoor Mass. With his approval, she made her first confession that evening. Darinka looked truly angelic as she was presented to us this Sunday morning in her pure white dress. She had bought one of the only two white dresses she found in all of 


Darinka receiving her First Holy Communion :-)
Medjugorje. What a witness she was to all of her fellow pilgrims on this day. She glowed.
The pilgrimage was designed brilliantly. While I wanted to get my talk “over with” to lighten my mind, Valentyna and Genya knew it couldn’t be “heard” right away. The information I would share--my gift--- wasn’t ready to be received. The students listened to seminars which bit by bit unfolded all they needed to learn. Through various speakers they discovered the meaning and truth of life. 
Students in a seminar....a very warm seminar....and they were very gracious.
In order, they learned: John Paul II’s Theology of the Body, the gift of chastity, unborn human development, the destruction of life through abortion, the issues related to Reproductive Technology, Natural Family Planning, NaPro Technology, and finally Down syndrome. After learning about the gift that all life was, they were able to see my boys in a more special way. I realize now that it wasn’t only through the seminars that they came to this point. It was through the graces they were receiving in attending Holy Mass each day, staying with Jesus for an hour in Adoration before the Blessed Sacrament most evenings, fasting on bread and water on Wednesday and Friday, climbed Apparition Hill while learning to pray the Holy Rosary, and culminating their week with a climb up Cross Mountain.
Climbing Cross Mountain...a serious climb.
As they climbed Cross Mountain, a LONG and tiresome journey, several went barefoot, most all carried rocks of various sized to represent their sins and they learned about the Stations of the Cross, the journey from Christ’s Condemnation to his Crucifixion. 

They learned about Christ falling three times and rising and carrying His cross high and Him asking us to carry ours in love. They learned that He did all that He had done as an example of sacrifice and that as a physician they will need to sacrifice. 

At the top of the mountain, they encountered Christ’s Cross. There they were asked to see their sins and ask for God’s most merciful forgiveness. They, the tired, stoic Ukrainians who arrived on a bus, just 7 days prior, held their hands joined and high as they sang “Nada nos separara del amor de Dios.” The guitar-playing Spanish priest, Fr. Pablo, who was dropped from heaven on our first day of pilgrimage, 


taught us that song, and it became the theme song for the week. There at the peak, they sang in Spanish, “Nothing can separate us from the love of God.”
The joy was indescribable. 

They gave each other a kiss on the cheek as they looked each other in the eyes and said, “I’m sorry.” Their “sorry” was symbolic of all their offenses. They each kissed me and said “I’m sorry.” I now pause to think why they, whom I never met until this past week, would apologize to me. I realize that just as each act of love is an act that elevates the whole Kingdom, so does every sin bring down each one of us. I, too, kissed them and said “I’m sorry.”

It wasn’t until the following day, our last evening there, that I gave my lesson on Down syndrome. After hearing it, and being received with many tears, I realize that their “sorry” the day before, was also a sorry for their lack of love they had for my son, Stas. That was healing for me and my daughter. For two years we have had pain and carried resentment toward the people of Ukraine for the damage done to my son, Lizzy’s brother. He spent three full years in a crib void of love which significantly wounded him. But, they were sorry.

On July 17, 2012, forty-six people arrived on the bus in Medjugorje. Miracles happened. I witnessed no spinning sun. No rosary beads that turned to gold. No “tears” from the knee of the Risen Christ statue. None of which do I doubt happen. I, however, witnessed miracles of conversion. My daughter and I had a few “goals” on our trip. We hoped to teach these students about the blessing of Down syndrome and we both, while not really saying it, hoped to see some sort of tangible miracle. Witnessing conversions was the greatest gift. What started out as sparks in the hearts of God’s Ukrainian children, became for many a roaring flame that they wanted to take home to ignite the passion in the hearts of the people in their homeland.  Zaporoyszhe, the city that was named “A City without God,” will need to be renamed. Because God it there in the hearts of His people. And He is rising up.

My suitcase, representative of my journey to Medjugorje, has begun to be unpacked. It will take time to sort through all that I brought home, to fully unpack it. I realize that the needs which I came with were in the end my gifts. My needs were: healing for both me and my daughter, spiritual renewal, an increase in Faith, a renewed purpose in the Holy Rosary, a deeper relationship with our Mother, and a deeper desire to sacrifice....I returned home with these gifts. The young pilgrims that return home to Ukraine have heavy loads to unpack. And they return to a world that won’t understand what they have learned. Please pray for them. Pray they have strength to share what they have learned, that they and each group of doctors that come on this Pilgrimage of Life will continue to seek God and turn to Him in His mercy.
Notice what is in their hands....with big smiles they hold 12 week gestational fetal models!!

I believe the gift which we brought, our LOVE for our special children, was received by the other pilgrims. They sent us on our way with kisses and hugs....they gave two extra kisses...one for Stas and one for Ricky. Boys they never met. They told us they LOVE them. And I believe they do!
Zoraslava teaching about in utero life.
One of the students asked me to take this picture...she loved these. They all did!
On Apparition Hill
Students from Zap!

Fr. Pablo, Valentyna and Fr. Andrew
Haha....they got to be Patrick's children for a little bit.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Shakin' it up for Shannon!


Or should I say MIXIN' it up for Shannon?
Who is Shannon?
She is a precious little girl who has lived her life in an Eastern European orphanage.
She has Down syndrome.
Talk about BEAUTIFUL!!!!

I've been to those orphanages to bring our Stas home. Shannon needs to be with her family!

Time to spice things up a bit to bring Shannon home.
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S A R A H    P A L I N
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What do Sarah Palin and a mixer have in common?

They are both going to help bring Shannon home!

FOR REAL!!!

You see.....The Shpak family has a beautiful giveaway going. 


Click on her pictures above to bring you to their giveaway!

As if Shannon isn't beautiful enough...everything is about to get even more beautiful. Already so many wonderful people have donated items to bring in the last money needed to bring Shannon home.

But...look at this...
Espresso!

Gloss Cinnamon


Pistachio....drooling yet?

mmmmm.....tangerine.....



AAAAAHHH!

WOWZA!


A KitchenAid  

Artisan Series 5-Quart Mixer



AREN'T THEY BEAUTIFUL, TOO?!

Would you like one of these? You can pick the color. There are about a zillion colors to choose from.
Here is your chance.
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But, that's not all!
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So, you are wondering where Sarah Palin fits in here?

CLICK on THIS PICTURE and really look at the detail.

What is this picture to you?
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Is it a big huge gift?


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I HOPE SO!

Whether you love her politics....or have a strong dislike for her politics.....

SHE will be a part of the future AND a part of history.



Maybe you'll put this photograph (the picture itself is 8 x 12") on your mantle...

"With Love.....Sarah Palin"
(that's what it says)


I can tell you this...when she held our little Ricky...she was loving him.

Can you see Ricky's sign?

Isn't that the truth! 
Trig IS perfect....of course....he has Down syndrome!


WAIT...THAT'S NOT ALL!
GET THIS
**UP to $2,500 of the money raised starting today will be** matched dollar for dollar!


If we did this...Shannon would be on her way home...oh yeah!
Your $2,500 would turn into $5,000 and then...tada!

So...

MIXER

or 

PICTURE

or 

TONS of other giveaways!

Whose in?

GO HERE to enter into this giveaway...follow the simple directions!


Saturday, February 4, 2012

If you think you are done....you're not!

Hmmm...what do I mean by that?

When I read this scripture before, it meant only one this to me:

"Once our eyes are opened, we can't pretend we don't know what to do. God, who weighs our hearts and keeps our souls, knows that we know, and holds us responsible. to act."  -Provers 24:12

It meant adopt...adopt....adopt.

I found this posted on another blog when we were adopting Stas. We came home with Stas and I felt I had no other choice but to go back to adopt another, or even two others. As we settled in, I realized that would be impossible, unless I had a couple of live-in help. The desire didn't leave me and it was painful. I had seen the plight of orphans with disabilites. I wanted more than ANYTHING to go get more.....heck I could even hire people and start an orphanage here....a humane family orphanage...something like that.

Life continued, it really was truly impossible. I prayed for God to take the desire from me if I wasn't able to adopt, but not take the passion for the children. I still ache with every face I see, but I know my calling is different now. Not to adopt, but to do everything else that I can for them.

Pray!

Fund-raise for the families that are adopting!

Advocate for the families that are adopting!

Donate myself!

Do all I can to make the lives of the orphans who won't be adopted better!

When we were in Ukraine, we met Valentyna. You have never met an all around more beautiful person. She loves God with everything in her. I have never seen anyone trust God like she does. He always provides "just what I need, nothing more." She has the biggest heart for the impoverished and abandoned of Ukraine. She is trying to meet the whole person...the spiritual part never is forgotten.

She started Chalice of Mercy and the miracle that take place through the work are indescribable.  She is humble and knows where any credit goes. We are instruments in His hands. We are His.

Val is sending over a 20 foot container to Ukraine filled with items for the hospice they are supporting. Another 20 feet has been added to go to Kalinovka, the same "orphanage" in the region where Stas came from and where he would have gone in the very short future. Not so. He is home!

I wanted to share with you pictures of SOME of items that we were able to collect here in MN to sent to Chicago to board a container to go to Ukraine. Then we are going to videotape Valentyna translating our therapists instuctions on PT, OT, and speech. Explaining what they are doing and why. We will make a little instructional video. Low budget! But something.

We have to do what we can.

All of us.

If your eyes are open, you must act.

God knows we know.

He holds us responsible to act.

I want to do more....we will do what we can.

Look at these beautiful wheelchairs. This isn't even the therapy items that are going to Kalinovka. And all of the new mattresses for every person at Kalinovka! ALL of them that Chalice of Mercy is sending over.






Just needed to show you our former orphan!!! Love the joy!

Thank you Mike! You are awesome. Mike agreed to send our items in his trucks to Chicago.....thanks BJ Transport!
Please pray this all gets to them in March as hoped for. Please pray more good things come the way of the orphans....families are a nice touch.