Tuesday, May 3, 2016

The Sorrow

Continued from Ladders and Doors.

The next day, Sunday, December 6, was a laid back day. We were staying at the lake until Monday, but hadn't told Roma. I always wanted him to think we could be home any minute. Bruce texted him to see if he was still working. When he said he was, Bruce told him to be very careful because he had fallen off a ladder the day before. Bruce was not sore the day after his fall.

At 5:10 pm, my phone rang. I saw it was from a neighbor back home. For some reason, her call scared me. In the instant I was answering, I was hoping the call was about wall paint colors. I had helped Robin chose a color a few weeks earlier, and she said she would invite me down to see the room when she was done painting.

"Hey Debbie, are you at home?" Okay, this sounded exactly how our last conversation had started before she invited me over to tell her what was wrong with her paint color choice, and chose a better one. I was hoping she was inviting me to see the finished project.

"No, we're at the lake," I said with my heart pounding, hoping against hope she had paint on her mind. But her voice sounded strained.

"There is a police car in your driveway. He's been standing on your porch for a while, and looking in your windows. "

"I'm afraid something has happened to Roma," I blurted out. "I'll call you right back"

I texted Roma, "Call me!" and a split second later, "Now!"

Nothing. As I listened desperately to the cosmos in which we had experienced profound connectedness, there was a terrifying silence in a universe minus Roma. I could no longer hear his spirit, no longer feel his energy. The frequency that ignited the invisible wires connecting Roma and me was severed. I knew he was gone.  

I called Taylor who was at work, explaining the police in the driveway. I didn't share my sure knowledge of his brother.  He was going to head home to address the police officer.

I called Robin back, asking is she could go to my house and give the policeman my cell number.

A few minutes later, my phone rang. I handed it to Bruce because I could not talk. He put it on speaker as the officer introduced himself and confirmed my fear. "Are you the father of Roma Michael"

"Yes." Bruce said breathlessly.

"There's been an accident. Your son fell from a ladder and sustained a head injury. He is on route to shock trauma in Baltimore. All I can say is he was breathing when they left. You can reach the hospital at this number."

I was already face down in a chair, on my knees, sobbing, pleading with God to rewind the afternoon. Please God, no, please, no, please no."  

Like a caged animal, I paced as Bruce dialed the hospital. I tried to listened to the doctor over the beating of my heart. "Your son has sustained a devastating head wound. This injury is not compatible with life."

This injury is not compatible with life.

Somehow, I already knew that.

In total numbness, I went upstairs and packed our stuff to go home. Bruce called the couple who had invited us to dinner to tell them why we would not be there in an hour, as they were expecting. We walked around the house, and at 6:00, we both managed to find our way to the car. Shock Trauma and the University of Maryland was four hours away.

While poor Bruce drove in silence, I texted away, spraying prayer requests in all directions.  I hated to send text messages to my children, imagining their reaction as they read the grim details. But I didn't trust myself to speak. Bruce called a few people, a friend from church, Lucinda, who would get the word out, and his sister, Holly.  When I trusted myself to speak, I called my sister, Weegie.

It was not like the movies. We didn't cry in long jags. Only in short hysterical spurts. The four-hour ride was surreal, and much faster than I would have anticipated. Our friend Dawn had ask me to text her when we passed our home exit on the highway, because she was  going to meet us at shock trauma with another friend, Debbie.  Someone called to say our pastor Steve and another friend, Kathy were already at Shock Trauma waiting for our arrival.

When we parked and went to the family waiting area, I was in the fog that God must have devised for our protection. I remember talking to a kind and sympathetic nurse, telling her what an honor it had been to be Roma's mom.  I told Bruce that we were not going to have any quilt because we had loved Roma well. I was satisfied that he always knew he was dearly loved.

 When our friend Kathy approached with a teary hug, she was wearing a bright green sweatshirt.  All I could think of was that morning, which seemed like years ago now, as the sun was breaking, and the color I had seen in the sunlight and on a door. Was there a connection? I told Kathy to remind me to tell her about that color sometime.

We were guided back to room number 7, where Roma lay. Bruce thought I might not like to go in and see him like that. But I had to see him. 

He was so warm as I leaned over him, my arm across his chest, to talk in his ear.
Some of his friends called me, having heard the news or having called his phone that the police officer had left with Taylor. Taylor answered the wildly ringing phone and broke the devastating news to devastated friends. His Fork Union friend, Ben, called, sobbing. I held the phone to Roma's ear so Ben could tell him what he wanted Roma to hear. Then a former girlfriend, Amanda called, having just heard. Then other friends called. How did news travel so fast?

We met with the doctors who confirmed Roma would not survive. They asked about organ donation.  He said that after a brain scan in the morning, they were determine a time of death. 

How could we be calmly sitting around a table with strangers talking about such grim topics as brain death and organ harvesting in the same sentence with vibrant and beautiful Roma?  We headed home just after midnight, with plans to return in the morning.  Hopefully by then we could say this day had only been a nightmare. But I knew there would be no such awakening. 

"Okay, Bruce," I offered our battle plan, "the next couple of days will be the worst of our lives. But we can make it. Together. God is still good."

My Sunday school memorization came back to me.  The twenty-third Psalm. "Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for thou art with me. Thy rod and they staff they comfort me." 

We slept fitfully. I was up often checking messages. Sending emails, answering texts.  On Facebook, hundreds of posts about Roma exploded on my news-feed. At first they were vague and cryptic, "praying for your family," messages. Private messages frantically asked what in the world was going on.

I suddenly remembered with a fresh wave of anguish,  Liana and Lia, Roma's first sister and aunt, who we had found less than a year earlier in Russia and the Republic of Georgia. We were now Facebook friends.  I didn't want them to learn on Facebook that we lost Roma, so soon after they found him.  One private message from one of Roma's other local mothers, Lynn, asked how she might help. I wrote back about my  concern about Roma's bio family learning on Facebook, without an explanation. She set to work asking Roma's friends to refrain from posting and/or remove their posts about Roma until I could get a carefully constructed message to Liana and Lia. 

I didn't trust the online translator I used, for it often had odd translations. I composed a message as unambiguous and sensitive as I could and emailed it to Kellie to have a Russian-speaking friend translate it. As soon as I got that back, I sent Liana and Lia messages with the news I knew would break their hearts too. 

Then I posted the news on Facebook to answer the growing concern and questions, and to ask for prayers. 

Monday, May 2, 2016

Ladders and doors

Continued from Thanksgiving

On Saturday morning, December 5, I left our lake house to run some errands a half hour away. Bruce had chores around the house.  

It was one of those exceptionally beautiful mornings. Although December isn't my favorite month to be outside, when vegetation is dead and the weather is blustery, the lighting on this particular morning raised my awareness. The clouds were dramatic white and gray contrasts against the darker-than-usual blue sky. The majesty of the heavens caught me off guard. I was suddenly overwhelmed with joy and gratitude. I couldn't imagine my life could get any better than it was at that moment. I began praying aloud, thanking God for my wonderful life and family, and praying aloud for the protection of each one of them by name.

As I approached our driveway, I notice the ladder was propped against the house. Use of the ladder when home alone is contrary to our rules. If Bruce cleans gutters, I need to be there to secure the ladder, or call for help if needed. Holding my breath, I drove up the short, steep hill of our driveway, craning my neck to see the floor of the deck. I was relieved to NOT see my risk-taking husband sprawled unconscious beneath the ladder. I winced, remembering the "vision" in my closet. when I had assumed it was Roma I "saw" falling from a ladder. I had had too many thoughts about ladders lately. 

He was glad to see me home. He met me at the door to tell me excitedly that he had fallen off the ladder. As I silently rewound to my prayers of thanksgiving and protection for my family earlier that morning, Bruce babbled, marveling that he was spared injury.

"It was only by the grace of God, I wasn't hurt," he kept saying. He had climbed the ladder to the roof level, but the ladder was too upright and began to fall backwards, away from the house, with Bruce hanging on. He related that he had fallen in slow motion, and it was "miraculous" that he had the presence of mind to push the ladder away from himself, so it wouldn't hit him when he landed on the driveway. He rolled when he landed and only had a scuff on his shoulder. "It is only by the grace of God that I am not hurt," he repeated several times.

I scolded him for climbing the ladder while alone. I told him of my overwhelming gratitude while I was away that led me to praise God and also pray for the safety of my family. That moment of prayer, led obliviously by the Holy Spirit,  had been one of those moments of heightened awareness of God's almost tangible presence I experience sometimes. I wish there were more of those moments in my life: maybe there are, but I don't always recognize them. When I do,  I'm always overwhelmed by the sudden recognition of them. They are hard to describe. It's like at one moment I'm not even thinking about it, whatever "it" is, and the next moment, I'm surprised by profound understanding of it. And this sudden knowing always catches me by surprise.

I thought Bruce might be sore from his fifteen foot arc from roof to asphalt as the day progressed, but every reminder had him praising God he wasn't hurt, or worse.

At 4:30, I texted Roma, " How was your game? Who won?"

Roma: "We won!  I threw a touchdown!"

Me: "Great job! What was the score?"

Roma: "27-6."

I told Bruce to text him too, more often than usual, so he would know we were thinking of him, and so he would remember our trust in his word that he would behave himself.    

The next morning, I awoke as the early sun was shining directly in my eyes through the bedroom window. As I opened my eyes, all I saw was a shocking green light. I was amazed by the optical illusion of the brilliant green-yellow shade of the early sun. I had never noticed it was that color. I rolled on my right side, facing the open door of the bathroom. Not only was the sunlight bright green, but I was astounded by the light and the color that now was on the open door of solid oak five feet in front of me. It was another heightened awareness moment. I started to wake Bruce to show him, but I doubted if he would see what I saw, so I dismissed the idea. Bruce is a light sleeper, and may not be able to go back to sleep, I reasoned. And he would try to give me a logical explanation of why the oak door was green. I didn't want him to try to explain it to me, as my scientist husband was likely to attempt. I just wanted to know if he saw what I saw so clearly.

I was puzzled.  Bright chartreuse. I had never noticed light was that color in the first moments of morning. I closed my eyes for a few minutes, thinking I might go back to sleep. Then I opened them again. The door was still glowing green in the early morning light. What in the world? I studied the edges of the door. The green did not extend beyond the edges of the door, but it was not like the oak door was painted that color. The color shifted and blurred at the edges of the door, like I looking through a gas vapor.

 I still do not know what it was all about. If a reader has some insight, I am eager to hear. A scientific explanation of the peculiar sight is impossible, in my humble opinion. 

Continue with The Sorrow

Sunday, May 1, 2016


Continued from Dreams

As we neared the end of November, in the sixth week of Roma's return home, I marveled that this approaching Thanksgiving represented even more reasons for gratitude, as my blessings magnified as all four of my children were adults and even the baby was suddenly acting like one.

I could had hardly grasp the abundance of the miracles. For example, Roma talked about his eagerness to find a church where he could learn more about God. He possessed a new hunger for God, this God who was not far away or silent,  who had relentlessly pursued him with an outrageous love that had worn my boy down. Suddenly Roma's eyes were wide open.

One morning he surprised me with a intimate confession. "Mom," he paused too long, probably wondering if he would regret sharing, in case he later lost this new conviction and feared I would be reminding him of it daily. But he continued, "I want to save myself for marriage." 

Riding in a car, with our eyes ahead and rarely making eye contact, made a safe place for honest talk. Sex had never been a taboo topic between Roma and me. But we were always on opposite sides of the debate. Roma considered my views that sex was not a casual matter as prehistoric. Now he seemed to understand the wisdom of my stance. Even if that proverbial bridge had been crossed in the past, he could see the wisdom in backtracking and waiting to cross again. 

What was happening in this boys heart? It appeared there was a transformation going on, at least for that moment. An hour later, the bridge might look inviting again. But as Saint Augustine had confessed at Roma's age, that although his lips were saying, "Lord make me chaste, his heart was adding, "but please don't do it just yet!"

I was thankful that Roma's "intent" was sincere and mature. And holy. One of Jesus' most repeated themes in the Bible is admonishing us to lose Ourselves to save ourselves. We have to give up what we most desire as a sacrifice to God, laying our "Isaac" down, and recognizing and "dying" to the idol of the almighty "Self." It is the hardest thing we will ever try to do, and it can't be achieved without the  indwelling of the Holy Spirit. Maybe that's why Jesus tells us it must be done. We know God's will is best for us, but we are always wondering how painful His plans for us will be. I have learned that we do well to follow Him. But, like Roma, I too often want my own way. 

Thanksgiving 2015
Thanksgiving brought the whole family home to Maryland for the first time in almost a year. I had decorated for Christmas early, since not all family members would be back for Christmas. 

Heather's family of four arrived from Pittsburgh, PA, four hours away,  and Kellie's family of seven drove half a day from Wisconsin. Taylor shared his apartment downstairs with the grandchildren's play times. Dolls and accessories were drug out from storage and dumped buckets of Legos made walking hazardous in Taylor's apartment, keeping upstairs floors traversable for seven children under the age of nine and eight adults.  

Roma spent more time than usual with us over the holidays, playing cards and other games, and generally enjoying being a loved member of the family.  I was  happy to have the whole family, fifteen family members sleeping under the same roof for almost a week, because I knew they all wouldn't be back for Christmas. Kellie's family would spend Christmas in Wisconsin with her in-laws.

My birthday fell in the Thanksgiving weekend. Roma wanted to buy me flowers. He asked where to buy them, and what to buy, still in need of his mother's help.

"Roma, please don't buy me flowers. I appreciate the sweet thought, but I do NOT want you to buy me anything. Really, just behaving yourself is present enough for me!" I teased. 

"Ha ha, Mom. Very funny."

I didn't want him to spend his limited funds on flowers for me. The only kind of flowers I really love are pink roses, and I had enough of them painted on furniture, on my dishes, sheets,  all over the house. Roma could spend his money on football and his entertainment, and throw a few cents into his car fund every now and then.

As everyone was packing up to leave after a week, Roma escorted everyone out to their cars, in his socks, and hugged everyone individually and said a personal goodbye, moving to every car window to wave and smile at strapped-in children, giving his sisters and brothers-in-law a final hug. Kellie mentioned weeks later, after the sorrow, that it was almost as if Roma knew it was his final farewell.

The next week,  Bruce and I were going to risk leaving Roma home with only Taylor as his supervisor.  We had not risked leaving Roma unattended since he arrived home on October 19.  After seven weeks, we had to make a trip to West Virginia to check on our lake house and visit Bruce's mother in the nursing home.

We appealed to Roma's sense of honor as we told him we were trusting him to make good decisions while we were away.  We learned his first football game was on Saturday afternoon. I was disappointed to miss it.  We rarely missed any of Roma's games since he started at age twelve. We had the pleasure of finishing his high school career, driving five hours to watch him play in the Virginia State Championship game at Liberty University in December, 2013.  

"Mom, it's just a charity game," he assured me.  "You can come next time." That would have to do, because we had never gone seven weeks without checking on Bruce's mom and the lake house.

He had his game, and because of rain in the middle of the week, he was going to have to work on Sunday to finally finish a job that had run much longer than expected. He usually came home tired after work. He would be occupied for at least two of the three days we would be away from home. We were going to have to trust that that he could be trusted. 

Continue with Ladders and Doors

Monday, April 18, 2016


Continued from Be Still, My Heart

"I dreamed about a huge whirlpool last night." Roma shared one morning on the drive in to work. I stole quick glances at his serious face as I drove.  I could tell he was still seeing the swirling water as he recounted it. "I stepped out the front door, and," he swung his arms out in front of him in wide circular motions, "the water was high and rushing in circles."  After he told me he felt "something big" was coming a week earlier, I listened intently as he shared his thoughts, whether sleeping or awake. 

His dream suddenly reminded me of my own. I shared the details with him. I was floating down a rapid river, observing crashed boats and trapped debris against the shore line on both sides. That was all. Just a scene of devastation.  

Is there anything to our dreams? Sigmund Freud certainly thought so. So did the inspired authors or the Bible. I have experienced strange "coincidences" with dreams all my life. So when, in a dream, a friend told me to "write all this  down" two years ago, retold in Angel and Demons, part one, I knew it wasn't simply a suggestion. I am grateful to have documented the series of miracles that began the following days.

I went through a season about twenty years ago, before adoption was on my radar, when I had vivid dreams, often just a "picture" dream, a broken doll, for example, but I would see the exact thing the following day. If you are skeptical, just do an online search for something like "dreaming something before it happens." Many others report similar experiences. Yes, it sounds weird, and makes me hesitant to confess. And, no, there is no scientific explanation for those who believe science can explain everything. The strange experiences ultimately resulted in my heightened consciousness of Something out there, greater than myself. That awareness put me on a quest, though superficial at the start, because I was ignorant of the cosmic depth I continue to this day to plumb.

I never saw any shoreline destruction or a whirlpool in the days after our dreams At least not literal ones. While writing this post, I just searched for the "meaning" of the dream of whirlpools, though I'm not sure who interprets the meaning of dreams, or how they can be trusted for reliability or accuracy. Then I searched for my river dream

I'm not going to get hung up on dreams and their meanings, although I will circle back to this at a later date. I'm acknowledging only that Roma and I were on the same frequency. There was a telepathy that connected us, with each other and with God. Years before I even knew there was a Roma, police delivered the playful, youngster (who was surely pushing buttons on the police car radio, maybe even asking to drive) to a Russian orphanage. As this was happening, God began His persistent Call for me to go get this boy! It took a while before I understood what was going on, and longer before I surrendered to a relentless, albeit benevolent Father-God whose ways are certainly not my ways. But I am thankful God saw some worthiness in me and potential to be transformed. The assignment of raising Roma was daunting, for sure, but an extravagant blessing for which I can only repay with future trust and surrender. 

Merciful God kept showing me that Roma's and my bond meant something in life. And that bond would continue after death. 

The topic of dreams will come up again in a later post. I Just wanted you to ruminate on the phenomenon for now. Please share if you have thoughts or have experienced similar encounters with dreams. 

Continue with Thanksgiving

Friday, April 15, 2016

Be Still, My Heart

Continued from Foreboding

After the first couple rocky weeks, Roma and our family settled into a copasetic rhythm. Roma worked. He was sweet and respectful. His texts were kind and grateful when asking me to change our routine for his transportation needs.

He made the semi-pro football team he tried out for, earning the quarterback position. Roma had to look the part, ordering more new equipment and practice clothing. His car fund dwindled, but he was so happy, I saved my financial advice for another time. And the consequence of no car was that I got to continue spending travel time with him.

Mother's Day, 2015
I yearned for wholeness for this beautiful young man who, in his never-humble opinion, believed he had arrived.  I saw his vast potential and his abundant gifts. But he possessed a child-like innocence that was hardly compatible with real life. I remember an observation of  our adoption agency's social worker who was also an adoptive mom. She shared that her bio children had received eighteen years of in-family care. The adopted ones might need the same amount of time, even if they were 25 when they could leave the nest. I was finally ready to accept that possibility.

Roma was so dear, and, when not determined to be the boss, he was a delight. That's it. Roma delighted me. That in itself was a new mercy and miracle. God had brought him home and reminded me what a treasure he was. A "diamond in the rough," a teacher once called him. Yes, Roma's light shone more brightly than most, even if he wasn't yet fully polished. If he needed so stay home several more years, that would be okay.

The vision, in my War Room, if it were indeed that, haunted me, but I was determined not to allow fear in my heart. I pushed aside the sense of impending suffering that began just before Roma was released from Fork Union in March, 2013, for his blatant disregard for rules: his sixth offense of dipping tobacco. Likely it was that memory that fueled my overactive imagination and reignited an ember of dread, that led to a rogue thought in myprayer closet. I resolved to push out the darkness that infiltrated my current joy. Fear is always the enemy, trying to steal my peace each day, when I currently overflowed with gratitude.

Roma was going to a new church with his friend Tom. He talked about going to a young adult Bible study. He was hungry for Truth. He even agreed to visited the teen Bible study where I serve as a Kitchen lady, preparing the meals for the teens. But at twenty-one, Roma felt he was too old to continue with the group after his initial visit. He left a lasting impression on all in attendance with his relaxed demeanor and warm humor,  especially with the teenage girls. But he promised me he and Tom would find a Bible study for their age group.

"Mom, I feel like something big is coming," he told me one morning in the car on the forth week he was home. These trips to meet his boss were evolving into deep conversations about faith and the future. He would tell me about his dreams, searching for meaning in them.

"What do you think is coming, Roma?" I asked because his thoughts fascinated me. Even though he was like a kid, he always seemed to be on a rare frequency with God. I had witnessed his astounding spirituality on numerous occasions, and I had become expectant about seeing God work mightily in his life. One would have to be blind to miss God's activity. Even though he ran from God time after time, his Close Encounters spawned miracles on a regular basis for which I marveled from a front row seat.

He was vague about the something  he felt was coming.  But I leaned in to listen to "Roma's wisdom," as a friend called it. Roma had wisdom? Who knew? Certainly not I. I was always trying to impart some wisdom into Roma that I hardly was quiet and listened to him. I always recognized that something special about Roma, but my focus was being finely tuned.

So was this "something" Roma "felt" was "coming" the same "thing" I had felt for  three years? (Read Prodigal, Everyone where I first shared about that premonition of looming suffering.) Our minds were in sync in bizarre and astounding and hair-raising ways sometimes, a fine thread of telepathy connecting us. And Roma with God. And occasionally me with God, though I am praying to have my thread with God strengthened.

On November 13, Roma texted me, "I think it's started. France just got bombed. And I believe it's not the end of the attacks." So whatever Roma thought was the "something big" coming, he thought it was the starting to happen.
That night he posted on Facebook, "Oh we should be scared for what's coming to this country and what God is capable of. Look out for the signs." He was beginning to sound like an Old Testament prophet.
There are many parts of my story I am reluctant to share. But I have resolved to share all of it as truthfully as I can.  So, speaking of Old Testament prophets, one evening as I was reading the Bible, not intending to open randomly and read which is not my habit, I opened at Ezekiel and felt drawn to a passage. Ezekiel 24. My eyes fell on verse 15. And a new dread filled my spirit. 

The word of the LORD came to me: "Son of man, behold, I am about to take the delight of your eyes away from you at a stroke; yet you shall not mourn or weep, no shall your tears run down. Sigh, but not aloud; make no mourning for the dead. Bind on your turban and put your shoes on your feet; do not cover your lips, nor eat the bread of men." So I spoke to the people in the morning, and at evening my wife died. And on the next morning I did as I was commanded.
The passage stirred something deep and primal in my gut. Again, I had to push it away. The verses had the power to send me into panic mode. But the verses were about Ezekiel's wife. Had my fear been directed in the wrong direction? Was God warning me about something or someone other than my son? 

Continue with Dreams

Monday, April 11, 2016


Continued from Succumbing to Hope

About three weeks into Roma's homecoming, a close friend was visiting and asked how our reunion with Roma was going. She had been by my side for the challenges of the past few years. She knew I had some trepidation about his return, fearful the pattern of coming and going, of hope and disappointment would repeat itself. I told her how his last six months away from the family had seemed to matured him, that I was more hopeful this time, and how well he was doing.When I said he was working on roofs, she grimaced. 

"You know that is a very dangerous job." She watched me closely to insure I was listening carefully to her warning.  "An astounding number of people die falling from ladders."

Her husband is a builder, and she works in the business end of the construction industry, so she knows well the dangers of the trade. 

 I was stunned. I had never considered Roma's life being at risk on the job. He had made plenty of bad choices with his free time, but I considered him safe at work. My shoulders slumped as I considered this new risk. But my friend, who had watched strong-willed Roma grow up next door, and I both knew I had no power to influence him. But I was suddenly obsessed with his safety.

"Roma, you need to find another job," I told him the next drive to work. "Working on roofs is a very dangerous job."

"Mom, don't be negative. I'm learning a  lot, and making money. My boss is going to South Carolina for a few weeks in the winter, so I'll probably have to get another job then. But I'm fine for now," he tried to quell my fears. Maybe I was overreacting.  

 A few days later on our morning drive to work, Roma was tying his shoelaces on his boots when I heard one snap. 

"Roma!" I said, louder than I intended. "You can't climb a ladder with broken shoelaces. You'll trip."

"Mom, chill," Roma almost yelled back. "You know how superstitious I am. Now I probably will fall."

"No, don't say that." I tried to calm us both. "Tie the ends together well, and tuck them into your boot. And be very careful!" 

I had to stop my negative thoughts. All the past months I was able to hand Roma over to God for His protection. I was able to put aside worry. Now that he was home and seemed to be doing well, finally, why couldn't I stop fretting about him. Did I truly believe what I claimed to believe about God's providential Power? I wasn't proving to be a very credible witness! I had to lay Roma down, and trust God, again.  

But the niggling worry didn't subside. Stubborn Roma! I should have used the reverse psychology that so often worked on him by telling him I thought roofing was the perfect job for him, that was the best he could do. That would have raised his hackles, and he would have proven me wrong. 

Strong-willed boy!  A year earlier, he had fought me for control over every aspect of his life. I had remained calm, remembering Roma had always been God's boy and if I worried, it meant I didn't trust God. Like Abraham had laid his cherished son Isaac as God had demanded, I had laid my cherished son Roma down before God, again, and again, realizing I had no power to make him do what I wanted, or to act in his best interest. I finally told him what should have been a relief for him. I said, "Roma, you can live your life your way. I will no longer have any expectations of you."

He looked at me with obvious sadness and said, "Mom, that is mean."

I knew my resignation would trouble Roma. But he couldn't have it both ways. He thrived on my high, and reasonable in light of his many talents, expectations of him. If he insisted on doing life his way, he would fail.  I wanted him to understand my reluctant surrender. 

One night Roma and I were talking about his stagnant car fund. He was borrowing back as much as he was contributing. He was sitting at the kitchen table and I was giving him some solid financial advice.

"Mom," (he always started his contemplative comments with "Mom," maybe to get my attention.) "Why do I need to save money?" His remark alarmed me a bit. Was he sliding back into irresponsible behavior? 

I explained the obvious, that everyone needs to get into a habit of not spending every penny they make. That we all need a reserve, in case of emergencies. Somehow his query made my heart ache.  Roma was an innocent. Almost "otherworldly." Would he ever get it? He just wanted to play ball and hang out with his friends. He didn't even notice when someone didn't like him or disrespected him.  Roma wasn't capable of being offended. If he got angry with his family or with a friend, he reached out quickly to apologize and make peace again. 

The next day after delivering him to his destination, I was praying for him in my darken War Room, named so after seeing the first ads of the movie by the same name. I wanted him to save his money. I wanted him to consider going back to school. I wanted him to find a new job. I wanted him to be a functioning member of society.  I wanted him to have more discussions with his sister Liana, as much for her broken heart as for his. After the first conversation on the last days of 2014, Roma seemed satisfied to have discovered Liana was alive and happy, with two sons of her own. But she seemed so distant from his seven-year-old memory, as if he had swam to safety on one side of the divide, as she faded in recession on the other side. He never expected to encounter her again, and he had to learn to live with that loss. Otherwise, he would be stuck, treading water in a vast emptiness. Currently, she might as well have been living on Mars, for the translating and awkwardness he felt was a barrier far too insurmountable. I pleaded with him, but he put me off every time I mentioned it. 

"Mom, I'm too emotional about it right now. I can't think about it today. One day, I promise, we will go visit. One day."

I could hardly force him, although my heart ached for sister Liana, and aunt Lia, and eager cousins who I had grown to love. For now, he seemed too satisfied to just play football, or basketball, and to hang out with friends, and work on roofs to fund those simple joys.

There in my War Room, failing to be still and knowing God is God, I fretted about God's most surprising and cherished Gift--Roma. 

''What will become of Roma?" I asked God aloud in my dark prayer closet. Suddenly I had a startling thought. Almost a picture.  A quick movement. Was it a vision? Although I sat on an ottoman in complete darkness, I saw, or imagined Roma falling from a tall ladder. And he was gone. Dead.  The image reduced me to sobs. 

"How could I ever live without dear Roma?" I asked the universe.

I immediately chided myself for my vivid imagination. That's all it was, right? I had to stop being negative. 

Continue with Be Still, My Heart

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Succumbing to Hope

Continued from Catching up

Being an extreme extrovert, Roma was happiest hanging out with people. This was obvious when I first laid cautious but adoring eyes on the active little seven-year-old, armed with a cheeky smile and big personality. He was asserting his will before he could speak English.  This mode of operation never decreased in vigor. Neighbors in my small community of twenty houses where we first lived when Roma arrived would report that the little fellow would knock on their doors and say, "I just came by to say hi." He loved people. He would visit his friends, often leaving the youth to seek out the adults in the home, just to talk, endearing himself to many. Roma spread himself around, never meeting a stranger. Soon most people in the community knew Roma. When they would meet me later, they would ask with fond smiles, "Are you Roma's mom."

I would answer, "Maaaybe." But it was always in jest, for I was so proud to be known as this precious boy's mother. Even if he wasn't behaving himself, I felt that no one blamed me because he was "adopted at seven." People thought we were such "nice people" for rescuing an orphan. I knew fully well, and told many, that Roma had been the one who rescued us.

When he returned in October, he revived his people skills. He reconnected with friends he had lost touch with, and he went out of his way to greet adults he had known. It was as if he slipped right back into the role of being the kid everyone loved. He hugged all adults from his past he hadn't seen for a while, and respectfully interacted with them, rightfully acknowledging their importance in his life. One friend recently shared that Roma had the ability of making everyone feel like they were his favorite.  

And after a couple of weeks home, after seeing all available friends, he even hung out with us occasionally. He brought a new friend from basketball home to meet us. I was impressed that Roma had such nice friends, friends of character.  He would invite friends over to watch ballgames with Bruce, and to our weekly Pizza Night, a tradition predating Roma, of neighbors who had become family over the years. Roma was home, enjoying the benefits of family.  

When he was home for dinner, he would come close to me, hang his arm about my neck and say, "Mom," like he had just had a great idea. "You want to fix me some potatoes?"  Of course, I did.

Potatoes were always Roma's favorite comfort food. The first evening seven-year-old Roma arrived at our house like a ricochet on steroids, he was going through the refrigerator once we finally confined him to the kitchen. He found potatoes in the bottom drawer. "Patoshka"  he said delightedly, standing up, holding one in each hand. I was more than happy to fix this man-child of twenty-one his cherished fried potatoes.  I would sit, happy to engage in conversation with him, occasionally fussing about the salt he poured on, as I had done since he was seven.

Roma was trying to save money for a car and insurance. He would hand me a wad of bills when he got paid, asking me to save it for his car fund. Then he would borrow some back for an outing with his friends. He stayed busy. He played volleyball on Monday nights, basketball on Thursday nights, pick-up games of basketball and football when he could entice enough friends to play, as well as working. He hardly had time for misbehaving!

He registered to play on a "semi pro" football team. Those practices were on Sunday afternoons. I got to drive him to practice too, sometimes annoyed that the car fund/activity fund canceled each other out. "Mom, remember, you said God said our time in the car was precious." That was enough to snap my heart back to a condition of gratitude. And patience.

 Roma was euphoric about football. He had played quarterback in public high school, but at Fork Union he switched to be a receiver,  starting on the offense and the defense. He was an All League receiver  for Pro-bound, Penn State quarterback, Christian Hackenberg.  A newspaper in Virginia had called them the "Dynamic Duo."  

Roma's early exit from Fork Union put a pause on a college football career for Roma. Not because colleges cared, but because we didn't trust him to go off to college and work at college goals other than football. He had to come home for a year and earn our trust. Instead he took a circuitous route, never really making it to college. I hadn't given up hope. He was smart enough. Even Taylor, five years Roma's senior, was just getting back to college in earnest.

"Mom, I'm so excited to be playing football again," he would say as he held his fists close to his chest, as if in an effort to keep himself from exploding from pure joy. And I was joyful for him. And about him. Sweet little Roma was back, the same enthusiastic boy he had been, before the boredom and rebellion of the teen years dulled his bright spirit.

I watched him with curiosity and listened with interest as he talked about his dreams for the future. His physical beauty was mesmerizing. I was captivated by the symmetry of his handsome face, his manly stubble (when did he lose the fuzz?), his dark wavy hair, and his dancing green eyes, so full of hope. It was contagious, for I grew hopeful too. 

Continue with Foreboding