“Isn’t she beautiful?” he said with a gleam in his eye, and a tremble in his voice I’d never heard before. “Isn’t she beautiful?” he kept saying over and over.
Squatting before her in a cold, dark Russian orphanage, I couldn’t answer. This seven-year-old chatterbox in a deep blue dress scared me. I would soon become her mom. “Oh Lord, help! Am I ready for this?”
The next day a 30 pound, five-year-old, blonder than blond, boy ran into my arms. Tears filled my eyes, as the adults around me sniffled. Now this I could handle. But he was the scared one—appearing confident but too afraid to look us in the eyes.
Moments later, at the third orphanage we visited, he ran ahead of us to greet his brother whom he hadn’t seen for several months. His brother, eight-years-old, didn’t have as much time with us as he wanted because he had to keep little brother out of all the toys.
A few days later, we became their parents. Three children at once.
That was twenty years ago today. Twenty!
Though I can’t tell you our twenty-year story, I can give you a rough outline. We’ve all been scared. Disappointed. Grieved. Angry. Beyond done with it all. But yet here we are today. Closer than I dreamed possible. Loving. Appreciating. Applauding.
Bang your pots and pans; blow your kazoos; whoop and holler; dance ’til you can’t breathe. It’s a day to celebrate.
Celebrate three amazing people: Katya, Sergei, and Misha.
Katya is now a wife and mother of three. Almost every time we talk she thanks me for adopting her. She and her husband are working hard to move forward in life. She makes me so proud.
Sergei, that little tiny blond, is now a husband and father of almost three kids. He no longer lives nearby but he gives me a long, hard hug whenever we meet.
Misha, now a father of one he unfortunately rarely gets to see, is a favorite uncle to his nieces and nephews. He’s a hard-working, respected employee of close friends of ours. And, like his siblings, he loves to hang and chat with us as the hours speed by.
Those first years were so hard. You know, like those first ten years. All the stuff kids with attachment and fetal alcohol issues can throw at you, they threw. Lying, stealing, disobedience, rage, and all manners of acting out not suitable to discuss here.
I wanted to quit more times than I can count. I wanted to disappear. Sometimes jail seemed better than living in my home.
The early adult years were only better because now their misbehavior was being handled by landlords, bosses, the police, and judges. Their acting out happened somewhere other than my space.
Yes, raising them was far harder than I ever dreamed it would be. But there was so much good, too. Homeschool fieldtrips. Mealtime laughter. Vacations west to national parks. Camping on Lake Superior’s north shore. Remodeling a house. Birthdays and holidays. Accomplishments celebrated. Skills developed. Maturity happened.
These were the things that smoothed over their rugged foundations. And in time, the foundations have held firm. We love them more than ever—and they us. Our little chatterbox in recent years told us she learned how to parent from our example.
Does it get any better than that? Not much.
And if you give yourself to the hungry
And satisfy the desire of the afflicted,
Then your light will rise in darkness
And your gloom will become like midday.
And the Lord will continually guide you,
And satisfy your desire in scorched places,
And give strength to your bones;
And you will be like a watered garden,
And like a spring of water whose waters do not fail.
Those from among you will rebuild the ancient ruins;
You will raise up the age-old foundations;
And you will be called the repairer of the breach,
The restorer of the streets in which to dwell.
Isaiah 58:10-12 (NASB)
This restoration process is no easy thing. It’s dirty, exhausting, painful, and discouraging. But when we keep working—stone upon stone, layer on layer, day after day after day—I promise—God promises—we will witness that light in the darkness, that soul-deep satisfaction, and that inexplicable strength. It’s being faithful in the little things that repairs and rebuilds and refreshes.
Someday, like me, you will look back and be able to say, “Yes, this thing we’ve done is very good.”