We have been silent for the last week with intention. We needed time to prepare for what was going to happen next in our life and time to say good-bye to our Roman. He will always be our Roman. Our first son. Nothing will ever take his place in our heart. And yet, at the same time, our hearts aren't dead and we believe firmly that God can create new pockets in our hearts for other children. We are on the brink of such a miracle.
After court we stood in the freezing cold listening with half deaf ears as our ladies spoke in rapid Russian. We didn't understand their words, but their tones spoke volumes of their disbelief and heartache. No one knew what to say to us, so we just stood by the side. Lost and alone. The cold was creeping into our bones adding discomfort to misery. Was this really all there was to be to this story? Did we really waste two years of our lives? We had already decided that there was no way that we would have the strength to adopt again unless God literally dropped a child into our laps. That left fertility treatments as our only other option and I was two years older than we had started this. We fought as hard as we could for our son and the fight was over. We were exhausted and completely spent. Wasn't there supposed to be a reward for perseverance? But I think we were exactly where we were supposed to be for the next chapter of our life.
When we were dropped off at our hotel room, we posted the judge's decision on FaceBook and we were immediately met with waves of condolences, encouragement and empathy. Halfway around the world, we were completley alone, but so many people wrapped us in virtual love. We took turns crying and holding each other as we cried. We felt abandoned and forgotten and at the same time, we very much felt the prayers of our loved ones. And then our phone rang.
Irina had just heard the news. It was 7 AM in Texas and she relayed the grief that everyone in the agency was feeling for us. Then she presented us with an opportunity that we almost missed out on because of our grief.
"I know this is not the most oportune time, and if you aren't ready we completely understand. But you are in Russia now and there is another little boy in another region who just became available in the international database. This region is much more adoption friendly and we have a good working relationship with them. The boy's name is Daniel."
With a promise to think about it over the next couple of hours and permission to forward limited information to us, we hung up and agreed to at least consider it. How could we be thinking of another child when we haven't even finished saying good-bye to Roman? There was nothing else we could do in our quest to bring Roman home, but it didn't feel right. Give us wisdom, LORD! A FaceBook notification popped up on my iPad and someone, at just the right moment had offered the platitude, "Just remember when God closes a door, He opens a window." Ten minutes earlier that would have been salt in an open wound. We desperately wanted the little boy trapped behind the door. We didn't want to move on to another window. But at that moment, such an amazing sense of clarity and peace came over us. We were presented with a little boy who needed a mommy and a daddy and through no fault of his, we were still available for the position. We had five days left in Russia. The very least we could do for this precious little boy was meet him. All children are precious and all children deserve a mommy and a daddy and this little one had neither.
Forty-eight hours later with only about five hours of scattered sleep, we were sitting in an airport in Murmansk on our way to St. Petersburg where we would have a nine hour layover before flying to Arkhangelsk. Saying our final good-byes to Tatiana and Denis was heartwrenching. They walked with us as far as they could go through airport security before we got caught up in the flurry of removing shoes and coats and scanning bags and bodies. We turned around and got one last glimpse over a sea of Russian heads, waved and once again felt tears well up in our eyes. These two had become our friends and there was a good chance we may never see them again. The Russians have seemed to us to be a stoic people and here we were babbling and crying like a couple of crazy Americans, willing each other to stay strong.
When we landed in St. Petersburg, we were met by Natasha and the "man behind the curtain", Andrei. There was heaviness in their eyes and we knew that they were hurting with us, and even more for the little boy who wasn't going to be going to his forever home next month. We sat in the corner of a airport cafe and processed through everything we had been through and what we were about to go through in this new region. I don't remember many of the words they said, but I will never forget the depth of their pain. These people have devoted their lives to helping children and we got caught in the dreadful and unfortunate political web that they fight on a regular basis. And they keep fighting because of the little hearts who need a home and little skinned knees that need a mommy to kiss and make better and little heads that need to lay on a pillow at night and know that they will wake up loved and fed and safe. These are the people in the trenches for these young lives. We were told things that gave us hope that this region could be different if we were ready to proceed and we were given grace that understood if we weren't ready to be that vunerable again. Open minds and open hearts. That was the least we could do for Daniel.
Monday morning we got up early to bright sunshine and new hope. Our newest translator, Anatasia, met us in the hotel lobby and we were off to meet with Sergei at the Ministry of Education (our third Sergei!) and immediately felt at ease with his bright smile. He gave us a brief medical summary and then gave us permission to go meet this unexpected blessing.
When we arrived at the baby home, we followed our sweet translator through the labyrinth of the much larger baby home into a small room. We met with a doctor with a round face and dancing eyes. Among the medical diagnosis she gave us, she told us that Daniel was usually very shy around strangers and no sooner did she tell us this, than the door opened and a little knobby kneed boy tentatively came in the room. His little presence filled the entire room as all eyes were on him. We were cautious and wanted him to be comfortable so, without moving too much, we sat on the floor and rolled a ball to him. He rolled it back gleefully and with each roll he seemed to gain more and more enthsiasm. His laughter was contagious and the most soothing sound we had heard in a very long time. After a few minutes, I crept a little closer, all the while gauging his reaction, and after a few more minutes, I held out my hands and whispered, "Daniil". He charged across the room and flung himself with abandon in my outstretched arms. He laid his head on my shoulder, wrapped his tiny arms around my shoulders and melted against me.
"This little boy is going to heal my heart."
He stayed there for what felt like a lifetime before pulling back to study my face. Brock had eased on the floor beside us and he held out his arms to Daniel. "Daniil" And the little miracle leaped from my lap into Brock's and laid his head on Brock's shoulder and wrapped his little arms around Brock's broad shoulders and my heart tumbled as I watched my wonderful husband's shoulders shake with gentle tears. He didn't take Roman's place, but he had in such a short amount of time taken root in his very own space. He was our open window.
The next two days passed in a blur. We spent a total of about five hours with Daniel. He is quiet and affectionate, intropective and intelligent. He worked puzzle after puzzle and we were told that during his free time, he was okay to play with other children, but he really seemed to favor working with educational toys. He stacked his blocks and matched his colors and seemed to take everything in in his own time and in his own way. We had the opportunity to take him outside during his play time and he just wanted to walk. We followed him as he went around the baby home three times until he told us he was ready to go back inside. We were told most mornings during his outside time he loves to walk around and study the area. If we let him walk ahead of us a few steps, he'd stop, turn around and make sure that we were still following. He studied the parked cars we passed, the other children who were out and all the while had a peaceful and utterly contented look on his little face. They had given him a shovel which he clung to, kicking it with every step as though he was on guard for the home. He was careful where he would step and would alter his course a few times when he saw ice instead of snow on the ground. As I said before, he was very affectionate, but also seemed very comfortable to just take things in. We fell in love all over again.
The name Daniel means "God is my judge". We know going forward that our hearts may potentially get broken all over again. But Brock and I still feel very much called to adopt a child from Russia and the events that played out this week, we were told "never happens this way." Finally! Something that "never happens" with postive implications. Also, I had said in a previous blog regarding the anonymous $500 gift left that it was going to be used to change the flights thanks to a delay in the arrival of our visas. With the snafu at the airport and our flights getting accidentally cancelled, the airline waived those fees. The cost to fly from Murmansk to Arkhangelsk was 15,000 rubbles which was approximately $496. Maybe Daniel was part of the grand plan all along. If we hadn't persevered through every delay in Murmansk, we would not have been in Russia on March 23rd when Daniel had just become available. It would have been easier to fold into ourselves and protect ourselves from a hurt like this again, but when we shut out pain, we also shut out joy. Roman will forever be our lesson in perseverance and Daniel is quickly becoming our living reality of courage. Did you know that every miracle in the Bible is preceeded by the smallest act of obedience? Moses had to raise his staff over the sea before the Red Sea parted. The blind man had to wash in the pool before his eyesight was restored. Maybe, just maybe our miracle was putting our feet on another airplane. For now, we are praying for wisdom and courage to do what we never thought we could do again.