Friday, January 10, 2014

Our Story, God's Story...The Spirit of Sonship

We want to share a little of our story and Dima's story with those of you who may be new to our blog or may not know the “how” and “why” of this story. We hope that as you read this,l you will understand why we feel such a sense of urgency to bring him home to our family. We ask that you pray and consider partnering with us on this journey as God leads you. No donation given is too small, no prayer spoken upon Dima's and our family's behalf is insignificant, and no opportunity to share our story with your church family or friends is unimportant. This is what we call a "God story", one that only He could write. We are humbled that He has allowed us to be part of it. And we believe it is important to share it with as many people as possible because God wants to use it to speak to many people's lives and circumstances. Maybe He wants to speak to and encourage you!
Our family members
We have been volunteering with a ministry near our home called Bridges of Faith since May of 2012. Three times a year, BOF brings groups of 10-12 Ukrainian orphans to a camp, Bridgestone, here in central Alabama to show the love of Jesus to them, give them a cultural exchange experience, and for some, hopefully connect with a family for adoption. We have served as houseparents for 2-3 days with each group since we began to volunteer, and we have come to love each child who we met at Bridgestone. Each one of them holds a dear and special place in our hearts. Since bringing Anderson home, we have wanted to adopt again. However, as we volunteered at Bridgestone, we began to see God create beautiful relationships with many of these children and other adoptive families. The timing for our family was never right, God did not open the door for adoption, and we began to shift our focus to showing the love of Jesus to these children and praying for them and their soon to be families.

September 2012 with our Ukrainian friends picking apples
We first met the young man who we now call our son, Dima, in December of last year. Dima was very guarded with new people and took a longer time to warm up to all of the crazy Americans he was meeting. We saw glimpses of his great personality during the month he was here, but even with his silly antics and practical joking, he held most people at arm’s length. Dima returned to Alabama in May of 2013, and it was then that we began to get to know this wonderful young man. From the time he returned to Ukraine after his first visit, several faithful friends had been praying hard for him and his future. During his second visit, we experienced his sense of humor, desire to learn new things, and mischievous personality, as well as his care for our youngest son, Anderson, as they developed a special bond. He taught Anderson to say 'I love you' in Ukrainian and asked me many questions about Anderson's development and chances to walk one day (Anderson has Cerebral Palsy and is currently mobile only with a wheelchair).
Dima - December 2012
The last evening before the children returned to Ukraine in June, Dima told me that he would see us again one day, after he finished school. My heart ached for him, because at this point he did not have an adoptive family and he knew it. He was being tough, but he was heartbroken. That night, I believe God began to work in Dima's heart and in ours to bring us together, even though at this point we had no clue what was to come. I told Jeff that God was calling us to pray for, encourage, and speak up for this young man. Even if no family stepped forward to adopt him, we were called to be there for him in the future. Neither Jeff nor I even considered that Dima would want to be our son. We just knew he needed people in his corner. And although we had no idea what the details of that would look like in real life, we began to pray for him. Many other people were advocating and praying for God to work a miracle in Dima's life, too.
After his return to Ukraine in June 2013, I began to communicate with Dima through Russian Facebook, sending him messages of affirmation, encouragement, and letting him know so many people here loved him and were praying for him. I told him often that we believed God had a purpose and plan for his life that none of us could yet see, but we were praying for him to believe and expect God to do a great work. On August 1, Dima communicated to me that he wished he had stayed in America for the summer with our family (he had an extended visa and an offer from some families to stay on an extended hosting program). Again, Jeff and I were surprised. We began to pray and research student exchange programs, in hopes of hosting Dima for an entire school year. We contacted a lawyer in Ukraine who knows Dima and his orphanage director  to ask about exchange student possibilities, and he basically answered by telling us we should adopt Dima. We had loved this young man since we met him, but we never considered bringing an older teenage boy into our home. Jeff and I knew God was opening our eyes to what He had for our family all along! After much prayer and going through scripture and counting the cost, we told our facilitator that we would like to ask Dima to become our son. And that same day, I received a message from Dima typed in misspelled English that read exactly like this "u go ukreine...i go America u femely". His orphanage director had already asked him and he said that he did want to be our son! Since that time, God has continued to knit our hearts together as a family, and opened up Dima's heart to receiving the love we have for him.

December 31, 2013 - just before saying goodbye
I recently (Casey) had the amazing and unique opportunity to visit Dima in Ukraine for his birthday (which is December 28) and spend several days with him. We laughed and spent time together, Skyped with Jeff and the kids, and talked about his past, our family, and our future together. It was like he has always been a member of our family. And saying goodbye was extremely hard for both of us. He knows that we are coming back, and is telling everyone that mama and papa are coming in April. He has told us that he is ready to come to America and be our son. It is important that we go as soon as possible, for many reasons.

Where the world saw an orphan abandoned at a young age, God saw a beloved son; where others saw a hopeless case, God saw a young man longing to live a life of purpose; where we first saw the walls Dima put up to protect himself, God saw the vulnerable and tender heart of a child who wanted to know that he mattered to someone. As I have watched God work this extraordinary miracle of opening Dima's heart with His love, I am humbled and astounded that He would condescend to let us be a part of this story. We knew from the beginning that we could not fund this adoption out of our resources alone. But we also knew that saying "Yes" when God calls you to something, means having complete faith that He is Provider and Sustainer of all things, at all times, in all circumstances. So, we keep telling this story and asking anyone who is willing to be a part of God's work in Dima's life.

Adoption is expensive, and we have been working hard to raise funds. To be fully funded, we still need approximately $18,000 more by April of 2014. We have 110 days to reach our goal. Will you consider making a donation to help us bring our son home?

Grace Klein Community, based out of Birmingham, AL, is a 501c3 non-profit and has partnered with us to raise funds for our adoption through their assistance program. You can give any amount by PayPal or credit/debit card through paypal at
Please specify the word "adoption" in the description line. You can also give by writing a check to Grace Klein Community, writing "adoption" on the "for/memo" line and mailing it to the following address:

Grace Klein Community
1678 Montgomery Hwy #104
Birmingham, AL 35216
*All contributions are tax-deductible.*

Thank you for reading our story, and for your prayers and support. We stand in awe of all that God has done and continues to do, for Dima and for us.

Until he is home,
Jeff and Casey Tatum



Sunday, November 10, 2013

He's Always Been Faithful

This post title just happens to be the lyrics to one of my favorite songs by Sara Groves, and the most perfect expression of God's work in my life. He is always faithful. And I continue to experience His complete and amazing faithfulness during this adoption journey. Although the past few weeks have brought some really difficult moments for our family, we have felt His presence and experienced His goodness. We have asked for prayer and cannot say enough about the way our friends, family, church family, and fellow adoptive families have encouraged and prayed for us. God has used each of you to demonstrate His faithfulness, and we are thankful. 

International adoption of a teenager is an amazing gift, but it is not an easy road. Because our son is almost 15, there is an overwhelming desire to bring him home as soon as possible. So, paperwork and other delays can be discouraging and stressful. And although we are blessed and thankful that we get to communicate with Dima fairly regularly, when phone minutes run out, batteries break, and other events occur, there can be some quiet and difficult weeks when we don't hear from him at all. In the midst of everything else happening, we are also working hard to fundraise. From the beginning, this has been a financial leap of faith for our family. So many people have been generous and giving, and you have blessed us with your time, money, talents, and more! When we look at the bottom line, it can feel overwhelming. We have a long way to go, but we continue to look forward to the day we reach our goal.

The emotional twists and turns of this journey are to be expected, and we continue to see what we call "bread crumbs" of encouragement to remind us that God is the author of this story, and that He will complete it in a way that brings Him glory! Those bread crumbs come in many forms--phone calls, texts, and messages from friends; a precious little girl who gave part of her life savings to help bring Dima home; friends who pulled together to make yummy food and raise money for us at their own event; friends who blessed our family with a mini vacation, groceries, and their company; new friends who know, are adopting, and love other kids at Dima's orphanage; pictures from friends who were recently at his orphanage on mission;  friends using their talents to make things we can sell; and so much more!

On the right side of the blog, I have added a fundraising thermometer and a broken down list of adoption costs, along with our progress so far.  By year-end, we need some additional funds in order to keep our progress going and not have any delays to our current schedule (which puts us traveling to Ukraine in May 2014). Also on the sidebar, there is a list of current fundraisers, a couple of which are great Christmas shopping opportunities. And don't forget that you can take advantage of tax deductible year-end giving through Grace Klein Community. Message me at loveandtots3 at gmail dot com for details on how to make a 100% tax deductible donation to help us bring Dima home.

Thank you for following our journey and for praying for Dima and our family. Here are a few recent pictures of our son.

1 Thessalonians 5:24 "The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do it."

Until he is home,

Handmade, Custom Towels for Babies, Toddlers, and Kids - great Christmas gifts

A couple of years ago, my friend Julie and I had a small ministry named (Cover)ed. Basically, we made super cute hooded (and non-hooded) towels for babies, toddlers, and children, and invited adoptive families to sell the towels in order to fundraise for their adoptions. We also sold towels independently through our blog and donated proceeds from those sales to ministries focused upon helping children and families in poverty, providing orphan care and prevention, and serving adoptees/adoptive families. We were blessed and blown away by the response, but being busy moms ourselves, were unable to continue making towels year-round. 

So, now I am super excited to announce that Julie (the talented seamstress of our former partnership) has offered to make these beautiful, personalized, handmade towels for people this Christmas season in order to benefit our adoption! These are made from full size bath towels, and are roomy enough for children up to 10 years old (my daughter is 9 and still uses hers)! Towels are $22 each, and about half of that goes to our adoption. They make great gifts to use for after the bath, but they are also wonderful to take to the pool or beach in the summer. Below you can see the color and personalization options for ordering towels. We will take orders through November 23 in order to ensure that your towel(s) are completed in time for the Christmas giving season! Feel free to comment here or message me at ukrainemyheart6 at gmail dot com with any questions or to place your order.

Please indicate the following when ordering:
1. Towel color (pink for girl, blue for boy)
2. Hooded or Without Hood
2. Personalization Initial
3. Fabric Choice (indicate number that is listed with fabric choice pictured below)

Finished Towels:
Custom Fabric Choices for Initial:
 **B fabric choices are for the blue boy's towel option, G fabric choices are for the girl's option
Fabric B1

Fabric B2
Fabric B3
Fabric G1
Fabric G2

Fabric G3
Fabric G4

Happy Shopping!
Until he is home,
Jeff and Casey

T-Shirts for sale - 1st order deadline Nov. 15

Thanks to, we have an amazing design for our adoption fundraising t-shirts!There are youth/children's sizes XS-XL available as well as adult sizes S-XXXL. The shirts are standard fit and are only $15 each.  Everybody likes a great t-shirt, so order some and help us bring our son home! You can order by commenting here or messaging me at ukrainemyheart6 at gmail dot com. You can pay by cash, check, or paypal.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Paparazzi Accessories-links and information

Because I have so many people who I meet asking me about Paparazzi jewelry I am wearing, and I don't have my business cards yet, I am directing people to this blog for more information about our fabulous and affordable jewelry and accessories. So, if you are interested in purchasing some Paparazzi, hosting a party, or earning free jewelry for yourself, you can check out my Paparazzi website at or my Facebook page Mamarazzi Accessories
Thank you!

Until he is home,
Casey Tatum

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Whatever it takes...until he is home!

I have been using these words together or separately, at least once a day in recent weeks, as I focus on the fact that we have a child  waiting almost halfway across the world... a child who has been let down and wounded and abandoned multiple times by the people who he trusted to love him and always be there for him...a child who has chosen to risk again and opened up his heart to believe and try again, to trust that someone cares, that he matters, that his life has meaning and purpose, that this time things will be different...a child who is funny and smart and caring and an amazing blessing to us and who we already love just as if he has been our son all along.

This sense of urgency lies with us because we are his parents. The legal documents don't say that we are, the courts don't recognize that we are, no birth certificate will list that we are, but it is with 100% certainty that we believe God says we are. So, we step out in faith, knowing from the beginning that the funding for this adoption would be a HUGE undertaking. Because we have adopted before, and are parents to a special needs sunshine, I am at home full time. Since bringing Anderson home, we have faced numerous challenges financially. God has brought us through them faithfully, but we knew from the beginning that the money for this adoption would not come from resources we currently have. It would come from resources God would provide through His people, through friends, through family, through hard work and diligence to fund raise, through sacrifice, through our church family, even through strangers.

We have been humbled by the people who have already given in one way or another, and we are deeply grateful. We also know that when we share our story, the eye rolling commences from many people who may not know our hearts, who think we are trying to gain attention by copying a "Brad and Angelina" model, or who disagree with the idea of international adoption in general because it is "a money scheme" and "the kids would be better off in their native country". I could spend several blog posts addressing those concerns, which do have some validity, but they do not apply to every child needing a family or every adoption agency.  And they don't apply to our story at all. What is true about our story is simply this--we have to pay the fees and buy the plane tickets and have money for travel and set aside money for time lost from Jeff's job--we have to do this in order to bring home our son. If we do not do this, our son will most likely age out of his orphanage and face a life in his native land with no support, little opportunity, and no family. We are not adopting our son to "rescue" him. We are adopting him because we love him and he loves us. But we know that his future is grim if he remains in his current circumstances for much longer. And since we believe he is our son, that is not an option. Enter the first part of this post title, "Whatever it takes."

If you have read this far, you are probably asking, "Please, get to the point." The point is that we have raised approximately $2,300 of the minimum $25,000 we need to bring Dima home. Based on our paperwork timeline, we expect to receive an appointment date in Ukraine by late March or early April. That means that we have approximately 24 weeks to raise $22,000+. We need to raise an average of $1,000 per week, every week, until March 2014. This seems like a big goal, and it is. But nothing is too big for the God who began this journey.

I sent out an email a few days ago in which I shared some of what God has been showing me during this journey. I ended it with a statement similar to this one:
Many times, the individual children who live in the day to day reality of being orphans, get lost in the statistics we all hear about the 160 million plus orphans who exist in the world today. None of us can do something for each one of those millions of children. But each of us can do something for one of them. We are asking you to consider if our son may be the one for whom you are willing to do something. No amount is too small, no prayer is too short, no purchase or participation in a fundraiser is insignificant. Each action and kindness brings us a step closer to Ukraine and to Dima officially becoming our son. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts. If you are interested in giving, please email me at loveandtots3 at gmail dot com, message me on Facebook, or leave a comment on this post. I will get back in touch with you as soon as possible!

Until he is home,
Casey (and Jeff) Tatum

Sunday, September 29, 2013

This is our story...Part One

I can make you a promise that at some point during the time of typing this blog post, there will be tears streaming down my face. You won't be able to see them, but they will be here soon. These are not tears of sadness. They are tears of awe and joy that come quickly when I think of what God has allowed me to see and to be a tiny part of for the last 2 months.

To witness, first-hand, God so dramatically and specifically pour out His love upon the life of an individual and to see how that unstoppable, furious, deep, grace-saturated love can begin the process of transformation in that person's life has amazed and humbled and changed me.

(Here are the tears, already...I told you it wouldn't take long).

To see how God chooses to work through so many different people from so many different places in life, people who might not agree on very much otherwise, to change the story for one person, and to change the hearts and perspectives of countless others, including me, has given me renewed hope and encouragement.

(Still crying, just in case you were wondering).

To realize, as I look back on the events of our lives and those we know of our new son from halfway across the world, and see how God has brought us, the most unlikely people to find one another, together as a family, has helped me to see once again that God's plans for us are so much better than those we could ever make for ourselves, and to see that despite the brokenness and pain in this world, He can bring hope and healing.

(Taking me longer than it should to type this, because I keep wiping my tears).

So, when people tell me they want to know how "all of this" happened (in other words, "what in the world brought you to a place where you wanted to bring a teenage boy from Ukraine into your home?"), a few words and a brief explanation just don't seem adequate. If you know me very well, you are probably chuckling at this statement, because everyone who knows me at all will tell you a few words are never adequate for me. But I believe this story really does matter. Not because I am part of it. Not because I love this young man so very much. Not because our family is growing by one more. It matters because it is a story that only God could write, a story that I believe can remind all of us how much He really does love us in ways that we cannot even fathom. And that when we experience his redemptive, wild, and total love, there is no possible way we stay the same. We don't change because of guilt, or lists of rules, others' expectations, religious rituals, or any other outward motivation. We are changed because we were made to be loved that way, by the One who made us. The other loves and passions we pursue to fill that longing will never be enough. The real love of our Father is not a Valentine's Day, Hallmark card, teddy bears and chocolate kind of love. It is fierce and real and overwhelming. And as the words to one of my favorite songs says, it is "waking hearts to life".  I pray that you have experienced that kind of love in your life. If not, I hope you will continue to follow as I share this story. Maybe God will show you more about who He is and who you are as you do.

I realize I have provided no details of this story yet. Notice that the post title ends in "Part One". This is because I knew it would take me one post just to begin telling the story. I hope you will subscribe to the blog so you can read Part Two in the next week or so.  I am thankful you have read this far and our entire family is grateful for your support, encouragement and prayers as we continue this journey.

Until he is home,