Friday, March 13, 2015

You are Mine

Part Eight
(start with Part one here)

"Fear not, for I have redeemed you; 
                        I have called you by name, you are mine." 
                                                                      Isaiah, 43:1b

I'm taking a brief break while mourning Igor's misfortunes and processing all that has gone on so far in 2015. Perhaps this post ties in some way to the continuing story that God is revealing . . .

In March of 2000, fifteen years ago this month, I was just beginning the surprising and agonizing journey of having my very immature faith tested. While trying to convince God of His error in choosing me for adoption, God showed up to state His case. The story is documented in my book, But the Greatest of These is Love.

Yes, I was stubborn, but God was relentless. He pulled out all the stops because He had a boy who needed a family, ASAP. God had chosen my family, but I had all the kids I wanted.

During that period of troublesome angst, I also experienced an awareness of God I had never known before, On two occasions during that period of God drawing me closer to Himself, I was wakened by hearing someone call my name. Out of a dead sleep I heard a loud whisper calling "Debbie."  It was so clear, I sat straight up in bed with a racing heart, and answered, "What?'

Michelangelo, God giving life to Adam
It reminded me of the story of Samuel. In First Samuel 3, we learn that in this period of Biblical history,  words and visions from the Lord were rare. When young Samuel heard his name being called, three times, at first he basically answered like I did. But there the similarity ends, for Samuel finally answered, with his master Eli's prompting, "Speak, for your servant is listening." I'm still working on that servant part!

The Lord's response to Samuel? "See, I'm about to do something that will make the ears of everyone who hears about it tingle."

I recall a memorable incident that happened shortly after God had His way and Roma arrived in our family. I had picked up my precious little bundle of energy from a birthday party. He was babbling on in his broken English about the fun he had experienced at the party, likely his first ever. His new vocabulary was insufficient to describe his joy, so he used loud sound effects and wild arm motions.

My attention was suddenly and unexpectedly diverted as I noticed a street sign at an intersection in an area of town I rarely visited. I had an instant fastback to a murder that happened on that street many years earlier. A man had returned home in the middle of his night shift to shoot his wife as their young children slept. I rolled past the sign in silence. But as I turned to see why Roma had become quiet all of a sudden, he was watching me, his green eyes narrowed. He simply said, "Killing is a terrible thing." I was startled. It was as if he had heard my thoughts.

"What made you say that, Roma?" I asked, trying to be nonchalant.

He just shrugged, and said in his husky, thick accent, "Ah dunno."

I have never forgotten that incident. Most of us have had experienced something like this. It isn't that rare. We say the same words at the same time as a friend, or think of someone, and they call. Even science backs up this mysterious phenomenon. God designed the human brain with such magnificent intricacies, we do not have a human hope in comprehending its depth.

Last summer when I had another period of intimate closeness with God, documented in the Hound of Heaven Winks (most-read post ever) series, I would go into my dark closet, drop to my knees, and plead my case for my lost boy.

I prayed, "Lord, let him hear you call his name." I remembered how powerful that experience had been for me. As I prayed, often I would envision what that would look like. Sometimes in my attempts to help God answer my fervent prayer, I would even call out Roma's name in a loud whisper envisioning  I was right by his ear as he slept. I trusted that God could connect my brain with his, even from a distance as far as Maryland to Atlanta, in a powerful, transforming moment.

Recently, just after I posted  The Applause of Heaven, I was sharing the story with Roma, the story he will read when he is ready, about the lights going on.

"That would have freaked me out if I'd been home when that happened," Roma confessed. But he was not resistant to talking about it, or even believing such an outrageous story could happen. So I continued.

"Roma, have you ever had an experience you would call, um . . . 'spiritual'"?

He didn't pause for long.

"Well." he started slowly, gauging whether he should continue with his own crazy-sounding story. "Sometimes, when I am sleeping . . ."

He paused as chill bumps covered my arms and I willed my eyes to stay dry because tears are a instant barrier to Roma's vulnerable honesty. I knew what his next words would be.

"I hear a voice calling my name." Having admitted that strange part, he gained momentum. He put his fingertips together and held them close to his ear. "It is like a loud whisper  right in my ear." He smiled at his story that seemed to happen on another universe. "And it's annoying."

I laughed,  "Yes, Roma, it is annoying. I understand. I've been there!"

I confessed that has been my exact prayer. Roma told me to stop praying that prayer.

I know what it is like to resist that "Call," a call that is annoying, from our human standpoint. That Call that asks the impossible of us, to leave our gods of Comfort and Ease and head  down an alternate Road less traveled. I know what it is like to surrender to the Call, if only once in a while, and encounter Supreme JOY.

And I know from experience God is relentless in His Pursuit of  His Called. That reassurance gives me a peace that goes beyond human understanding.

I pray. God shows up. He reveals just how much He wants to be close to me, how delighted He is for the moments I have my eyes on Him and "get it." He shows me how powerful our prayers are. So I
will keep praying—more so than before, until I forget and become lazy, again. I pray I will not retreat into the god of ME so far this time.

I wonder if Igor was praying for his young son in March of 2000, as five-year-old Roma was torn from his family and delivered to an orphanage at the same time God began hounding me about adoption. Perhaps God heard the desperate pleas of a devastated and helpless father. Maybe God took a quick look around the world and He chose my family as the best possible match. He could see the big picture of the healing and redemption, and ultimately, JOY, of this minute, divine story.

Yes, I was a project, no doubt. I was a very self-centered lover of comfort, an unwilling participant in the divine drama God drew me to. But God is God. I am no match. I am His. He has called me by name.

And now He has Called Roma.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Praying for the dead

Part Seven  (Begin with Part One of the Family Connection series here)

Igor, age 17
The tears I shed for Igor, and they were many, took me by surprise. Dead eight years. Why could I not get him off my mind? Why did I cry and cry for days over him, and still do? And why did I have an overwhelming desire to pray for him?

In my Protestant tradition, I have never prayed for the dead. I called my daughter, Kellie, who is a Catholic convert, and a wise and Godly young woman. We talked and she sent me some readings. 

I also checked the internet. "Opinions" on praying for the dead run the gamut. I say "opinions" because how can anyone really know for sure? How can "experts" speak with such authority, and be in complete opposition to one another? In any case, I don't know the truth. I'll admit it. I don't think anyone else knows either. Not for sure. The people I trust the least are the ones who are most confident they are right. Even God tells us that His thoughts and ways are not like ours, and His ways are higher than our own. (Is 55:8-9) Thank God, for who could trust a god who thinks like we do? People who claim to know it all start to sound sanctimonious to me. 

People are referred to as "grasshoppers" in Isaiah 40:22. Maybe that means we cannot know the mysterious ways of God. We can't see the BIG picture, like God can. We only see the grass and dirt in our little, isolated part of the world. 

In my research, some people called it an "abomination" to pray for the dead. But there is also that verse that keeps resounded, 1 Peter, 4:6, "the Gospel was preached even to those who are already dead, so that they might be judged according to human standard in regard to the body, but live according to God in regard to the spirit." I pray God will open my eyes to His ways and His thoughts, as best I can understand, as a grasshopper. 

It is a mystery. It was not as if I was going to conduct a seance, but I felt a connection with the father of my son that went beyond curiosity. So I will pray for Igor. And I will "hold him in the Light," as Lia said she would do also for my deceased mother. 

It was easy to agree to hold beautiful, tragic Igor in the Light. Before I even knew the story I am sharing, I felt an otherworldly connection with this man when the likeness of his son starred back at me. His photos captured a boy and young man who rarely smiled. Had he known so little joy in his short life? 

First photo faxed from Russia
I thought back over  the photos of his son, even the first cherished one I ever saw of  him. What surprised me from the very  beginning was  Roma's joyful smile. I had not expected it.  Not from a boy from  an Eastern European  orphanage, who was old enough to know his family, then be torn from it. But there was a twinkle, a knowledge of joy. And when I met him, I was taken back by his belly laugh. The small, wiry boy laughed with such a force and exuberance, he brought us all into his excited happiness. Where did his joy come from?

                              *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *   

The year, 1994, had begun with such hope for twenty-nine year old Igor. He finally had a job as an artist that suited him. He had never been trained as a painter, but he looked forward to more practice and perhaps instruction. He would soon have enough money saved to be able to bring pregnant Marina and their two daughters to Georgia, if he could find a way to get them across the closed border. 

The news of the death of his five-year-old daughter, Diana, was a devastating blow for Igor. Making a terrible situation even worse, he was unable cross the border back into Chechnya to grieve with his family or attend her funeral. He withdrew into himself, and would not even allow Lia, his most loved and trusted confidant, to comfort him. 

Back in Chechnya, Liana, ten years old, must have thought the world was coming to an end. She had adored little Diana. Her sister, her best friend was gone. 

I couldn't help but think of a parallel. I remembered when my son Taylor was born, five years after Kellie. My oldest, Heather, was seven and a half, and had many outside interests and activities. As expected for that age gap, she was not as interested in a new baby. But Kellie adored her little brother. She mothered him with me. She carried him around and talked baby-talk to him. He reserved his biggest smiles for her. His first word was Kellie, not Mama. He was her baby. When he was five, and she, ten, the ages of Diana and Liana, there was a set-in-stone, unbreakable bond that still exists at ages 25 and 30, If something had happened to adoring Taylor at five years old, it would have been a wound Kellie would have carried for life.  

As Kellie would have been, Liana was lost. Diana was gone forever. Her papa was far away, and her mother convulsed with inconsolable grief.  What would become of them? Would life ever be normal again? 

Igor was still living at his aunt's home a few month later. Lia and her husband were living there too at the time while Lia's parents were visiting their son in Greece. They celebrated Lia's birthday in June with a party. After everyone was asleep, Igor went out on the porch to smoke a cigarette. 

The house across the street was still alive with activity of a graduation party. Some of the guys in the street came over and asked Igor for a light. When he spoke Russian, they became angry because of the political hostilities between Georgia and Russia. Soon the dispute turned into a fight, with one threatening Igor with a gun. Four men beat Igor severely. 

Wounded, Igor limped back into the house, and found his grandfather's hunting rifle. Back on the porch, he frantically shot into the darkness, just to scare the thugs away and to let them know he had a gun so they wouldn't come back. 

In the darkness, without street lights,  before thinking clearly, a frightened young man, who had had a very bad year, pulled the trigger. The bullet struck and killed one of the teens.

I can only imagine the scene, as Lia woke with a terrifying start, and the screaming from the neighboring party. Igor's dreams slipped away as blood ran from the dying boy.

Igor just couldn't seem to catch a break.

He was sentenced to fourteen years in prison.

His baby son, Roman Igorevich Sudzhashvili, named for his grandfather and father, as was the Georgian and Russian tradition, was born six weeks later. 

Continue with Part Eight 

Monday, March 2, 2015

Through a Glass, Darkly

Part Six 
(Begin with Part One of the Family Connection series here)

1 Corinthians 13:12: "For now we see through a glass darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known."

With special thanks and love to my dear new sister, Lia Tsivtsivadze, for sharing
 her loving memory of Igor, and for her family's research
and contribution to this post. I thank God 
our lives are forever linked! 

Igor and Lia, age four

                              "It seemed he was doomed from the beginning."

Lia's words describing her beloved cousin Igor, stabbed like a knife in my wounded heart. The
Lia and Igor 
revelation of Igor's unfortunate life and early death was still too fresh a tragedy. The stories and photos gradually filtered in, first from Roma's sister, Liana, then his father's cousin, Lia, and then another of Igor's cousins, Zaur. The puzzle pieces created a story of a beautiful and loved young man who just couldn't seem to catch a break.

We all know people like that, people who hardly have a fair chance in life. By no fault of their own, misfortune ambushes them at every turn.

But where did I get this notion of "fairness" as the standard, as the norm? Because my life has been relatively smooth and easy, I say I am "blessed." But I deserve this blessing no more than Igor deserved his curse, at least that is what it appears from our human viewpoint, a curse. It will remain a mystery, my human concept of fair. God is fair. I trust that truth.

For whatever reason, I wept off and on for days, mourning a man who had been dead for eight years. At first I read private messages about him translated by Lia's daughter Elene. Then Zaur reached out to me, offering what he remembered. Then Lia's mother contributed her cherished memories of a loved nephew she knew so well. Another cousin, an English teacher, also contributed to the translations of the recollections of a boy, then a man, who had endeared himself to so many, and whose tragic life had broken hearts of those who knew and loved him best. They each introduced me to Igor, all in hopes that we would know and understand him better. This knowledge will one day be a gift to his son.

Roma's grandfather, Roman Sujashvili, (translated Sudzhashvili in our documents and Roma's legal middle name) was born in Georgia in 1937. He had three sisters and loving parents. A former republic of the Soviet Union, Georgia, (in green) is wedged between the northeastern border of Turkey to the south, and to the north, the Caucus Mountains shared by Eastern European Russian (in pale yellow). Surnames ending in -vili are as traditionally Georgian as names beginning with Mac- are Scottish.

Because jobs were scarce in Georgia, Roman's family moved to Mozdok in North Osettia, Alana, in the scenic Caucus region of Russia, in 1959 or 60.  From Northern Georgia to Mozdok is 90 miles, or 2.5 hour drive across the rugged mountains. Proud and noble nationals, Georgians traditionally chose to marry other Georgians, but Roman met and married a Ukrainian-born Russian woman, Emma. She persuaded Roman to move to Ukraine when their daughter, Eteri, was four, and Igor, two.
Roman  and Emma with Eteri and Igor, 1965

Once settled in Ukraine, Roman joined the Ukrainian Army. He often traveled, sometimes being away from home for as long as a month at a time. One day he returned home to find his family missing. He learned Emma had gone away with her lover, and left the children in the streets. Neighbors had taken the children to an orphanage.

I recall with heartbreaking clarity peeling my own screaming children's limbs from my neck and legs in their desperate attempt to prevent me from leaving them. I only left them for hours at a time. They were pretty confident I would return for them. I have also known first hand the agony of homesickness, even when I knew I had a home to return to. The image of those abandoned children haunted me, knowing that trauma never goes away for so many institutionalized children.

It was no simple task for Roman to regain custody of his own children. He had to prove he was capable of taking care of two small children while he worked. The court case lasted six months, while the young siblings clung to each other, their bond deepened, as they tried not to lose hope. Roman was finally allowed to take his children from the orphanage in Ukraine back to Mozdok where his parents could help him care for them.

About that time, Emma returned and wanted to take Eteri with her. When Roman refused to allow it, Emma claimed the girl was not Roman's. Before an age of paternity testing, Emma's wishes prevailed. So the children, ages six and four at the time, were separated, and another bonding thread was broken for young Igor.

For two years, Roman's loving parents looked after their grandson while Roman worked. Before long Roman married a Russian woman named Raisa. Igor returned to live with his father and his new wife. With Raisa, Roman had another daughter and son.

Roman, Igor, and Raisa
Having a new mother and another change in his life was difficult for Igor. Perhaps he missed his grandparents' stability.

Lia, who has been so gracious in telling me the story of her family, was always very close to Igor. Born the same year in 1965, Lia and Igor spent a lot of their childhood together. Lia's parents brought Igor to spend summers with their family who lived in neighboring Chechnya. Lia described Igor  as "naughty and stubborn, but at the same time, very clever, kind and understanding." Although Igor loved his new step mother in his own way, he struggled to get used to his new life and he resisted following her rules. Problems escalated, and at times, Igor returned to live with his grandparents.

Igor, high school.3rd from right. 
When Igor was seventeen, he fell in love with Marina. When Marina became pregnant, Igor wanted to do the right thing, so the teens married. Roman was against the marriage, for he did not want his son to repeat the mistakes he himself had made.

At age eighteen, Igor was required to serve in the army. In May, 1984, while he was in the military, Liana was born. The young couple named her after Igor's beloved cousin Lia. Marrying young presented challenges to the young family. Employment after his service in the army was difficult. Marina and Igor struggled financially and in their marriage relationship.
Igor, 18, uncanny resemblance to his son

In 1987, Roman became ill with cancer. Shortly after his fiftieth birthday, he died, and was buried in Tbilisi, Georgia. Roman's house in Mozdok became his wife's property, and she was not willing to allow the struggling family to live there any longer, as she remarried eleven months after her husband's death.

In 1989, a second daughter, Diana, was born. Igor could not afford to support his family, as the early marriage had prevented him for getting a higher education and training for a better job.  At that time, the political strain between Georgia and Russia worsened, and the borders were closed.

As the Soviet Union weakened in early 1991, Soviet Georgia declared independence from the USSR to become the new state of Georgia.

In the spring of 1994, unrest in Mozdok on the border escalated, and, to avoid getting involved in the hostilities, Igor, with a new plan, managed to cross the southern border into Georgia. When he arrived in Tbilisi, his aunt, Lia's mother, was waiting for him. She was determined to help her beloved nephew with his plan to move his pregnant wife and two daughters to Georgia. While living with his aunt and looking for a job, his aunt remarked that he was always willing to help around the house with any needed chore. He finally secured a job with a small company to paint decorations on ceramic vases and ornaments. The opportunity and responsibilities seemed a perfect fit for the eager young man who had always been a talented artist.

(Anyone who knows my family knows that many of us identify ourselves as artists!)

Renewed with hope and ambition, Igor finally looked to a brighter future. In the midst of that hope, Igor got devastating news from home. His second daughter, Diana, had been killed in a car accident traveling to the corner store.

I have wept like Igor was my family member. The tragedies I read seem like they happened today instead of many years ago. I pray for his family members who have dug up old wounds so I might know Igor better. I feel as if I have become part of this story. I pray that Roma will one day feel a part of this story too.

Oh the tears! I didn't cry as much when my dear mother died.

And there is so much more . . .

Continue here

Thursday, February 26, 2015

The Applause of Heaven

Part Five ( (Begin with Part One of the Family Connection series here)

Back in August, I wrote a post called Light Bulb Power. The title of that post came from a light bulb at Passion City Church in Atlanta, Georgia, on a wall of light bulbs that spells "Jesus is Life."

My son Roma lit one of those lights while he was there in the summer of 2014, affirming his new faith. The "light-bulb" image was reinforced by a seemingly casual comment made by friend who said, "that's what you can hang on to, the idea of the light bulb going on." Wise words from a wise and Godly friend. So "Light Bulb" became a Sacred Echo, one of many. When I heard it, I would pray that my eyes be opened for illumination, as well as Roma's!

And then I forgot about the light bulb the last months of 2014. I got distracted with trauma, and life, and drama.
                                     *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *

There are some stories one only shares in huddled privacy and hushed whispers to select people who are believers of astonishing stories.But I will share mine with anyone interested, because, as G.K. Chesterton declared, "The most incredible thing about miracles is that they happen."

The last series of posts, from Hope for Restoration to Face to Face with Igor have stirred readers to contact me like never before. One reader, unknown to me, wrote, "Sounds like Honey has been busy working hard since she crossed the veil. It would seem too 'coincidental' that she was so curious about Roma's family and now it's all coming together." I was bemoaning the fact that I wasn't able to share the exciting news of finding Roma's family with my mother. ("Honey" is my late mother made known in this post)  Another wrote, "I have no doubt your mother knows all about this. I think she has a hand in it."Another wrote, "Not only does your mother know about this, she instigated it."

"It." "This" Vague words trying to describe events we cannot properly put into words. But people are embracing my astonishing stories.

I made some Spiritual Resolutions the end of last year, as I spent sacred time with my mother as she passed from this world to the Next. I determined I would be more intentional in seeking God, in SEEING Him in all situations. I have been rewarded with some great experiences! Unfortunately, most of the time my "ah ha" moments are delayed, because I forget to be intentional when seeking Him. I am ashamed to admit how blind I am!

On the evening of December 14, I sat in my study in front of my computer, as I do so often. I have a dinosaur of a desktop computer so I write in the same place consistently. My study has become a sanctuary for me. Often I sit to write, just waiting for God's inspiration to give me things to say.

As I sat in the otherwise empty house, on this particular Sunday evening, night fell. The only lights in the house were in my study. As I entered the open floor plan of my dark house, I was shocked to notice the battery-operated LED lights I had strung on my dining room chandelier chain were surprisingly lit. In the blackness of my house, the tiny bulbs shed a dim, ethereal light. I froze. How did those lights come on? I turned the overhead light on, and clicked off the battery pack that powered the tiny glass lights the size of grape seeds. Always the thrifty consumer, I keep those battery operated lights off until someone is home to enjoy them. I was a little spooked, and locked the front door. I later chided myself for imagining the front door needed to be locked to keep out someone or something that would turn my lights on. I returned to my study after a short break.

Ten minutes later, I exited my study again. I gave the dining room chandelier a suspicious glance, relieved that the lights weren't lit again. My husband, is a scientist, and everything has a logical explanation to him. Perhaps the battery pack could just come on. There was a "timer" setting, which allowed the lights to burn for two hours. Perhaps there had been a malfunction. I laughed at myself for being afraid. But then I turned toward the family room. There, over the archway, where more lighted LED lights.

This frightened me in a way I was not expecting. But who expects lights to come on? I was still thinking "logical explanation." Although the lights had been up for two weeks, they had not lighted themselves once in that time. Now twice in a matter of a quarter hour.Still it was possible for them to spontaneously come on, I anticipated Bruce's explanation.

I headed back into my study. Next break was for something to eat. I smiled at my now dark chandelier and unlighted arch. Once in the kitchen, I turned on the light. I turned toward the dark family room. Through  the other archway, and could not believe what I was seeing.

I had bought six Mercury balls at a Christmas outlet in North Carolina with my sister. That was the last visit I spent with  my mother before she went into the hospital for the final time. The balls, six, eight, and ten inches in diameter had coiled white lights inside that lit at intervals, creating a shimmering effect. They are operated by batteries

On a shelf on the entertainment center sat a set of three mercury balls. The largest was shimmering.

I went to sleep that night, troubled over the meaning of the lights. Was it a warning of some kind? Was I crazy? Was I reading too much into this phenomenon that might have a logical explanation?

The next morning in my dark closet for prayer, I suddenly remembered my "light bulb" Sacred Echo. I also recalled my words to my mother as she lay dying. "I don't know how this works in Heaven, but if you can let me know your are all right, I will be watching for a Sign."

I slumped when I realized I had failed miserably at expecting a miracle that I had asked for. Was my mother that close, and I had missed her visit? And how quickly I had forgotten my Sacred Echo of of light bulbs, of seeing the "light go on."

Remembering the words of readers giving my angelic mother credit for helping find Liana and the rest of my new Georgian and Russian families, I thought how this all might tie together. The unseen world can be seen better, when we have eyes to see, and that has been my prayer. Why am I surprised that God answered that prayer?

Two weeks later we were messaging Roma's family.

When I let my vivid imagination run wild (as if I have any control over my wildly wandering thoughts!) the most outrageous things seem possible. Maybe the evening of the lights going on was Honey's discovery of long deceased Igor. I imagine the Applause of  Heaven  as my mother, who I grieved so much during this most exciting news of family discovery, who herself had kept our curiosity alive about Igor, had just encountered the object of all our curiosity. A beautiful, tragic young man whose loving cousin had said of him, "It seems he was doomed from the beginning." Maybe now Igor had peace.

Continue here

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Face to Face with Igor

Part Four  

 (Begin with Part One of the Family Connection series here)

I first encountered Igor Romanovich Sudzhashvili in January 2002, in a stack of official documents translated into English from Russian. He was just a name, and that name stirred no particular emotion in me, as we prepared to adopt his son.

In truth, I was preoccupied by the copious paperwork required for an adoption that already threatened to send me into panic mode. I had no time for additional sentiment. I was on auto pilot, skimming information, but interested only in completing required paperwork that needed to be done, yesterday,

From that same stack, Liana's name had tugged at my heart, as had baby Rostilav's. They were helpless children. But Igor was an adult. The record stated that he was incarcerated. The mother was charged with neglect. A family was imploding.  What responsibility did he bear on the unfortunate state of his children? But I had not walked for even a inch in his apparently difficult shoes. I could not judge this man I would never know. I was just required to love his son.  

Roma's stories about his father, unlike the animated, joy-filled stories of Liana, were rare. There were a few, and I will share those at another time. Mostly, my mother is the one who kept our curiosity alive about Igor. Many times over the years, she wistfully studied the handsome features of my youngest son and rhetorically pondered, "Wouldn't you love to see a picture of his father?"

My mother died in October. I have thought of her many times since this new story we are living started to unfold in late December. She would have loved to hear the details, and see the pictures. I start to call and tell her new updates, and then I remember that she is not there. I like to believe my Godly mother, Honey, is "in the know" in Heaven! 

Thirteen years would pass before I would learn new and surprising information about Igor. The information would come from Igor's cousin, Lia,

Shortly after we located Roma's sister Liana, Lia reached out to me on Facebook. She was overjoyed when learning from Liana that Roma, lost for so long, was found! Her family had tried to help from neighboring Georgia when the mother lost custody of the children. But they were not allowed to cross the border into Russia to the north. After several attempts to save Roma, they learned of his adoption.

Lia's first messages to me in early January were praises to God. She called us "heroes" for saving Roma and loving him, and now sharing his pictures and his life with them again. Never once have I felt like a hero. Lia confessed that at first she cried every time she read my messages. I did the same with hers. Our communication is aided by Lia's beautiful nineteen-year-old daughter Elene, who reads and writes English very well. I am eager for the day we will all meet in person.I am just beginning to understand the proud and noble heritage of Roma's family. I am seeing my son with different eyes. One day he will understand the magnitude of this great and merciful Gift of revelation.

Igor at 5 or 6
Lia was born the same year as Igor in 1965. She remembers with love that she and Igor were more like sister and brother than cousins growing up. Lia's parents tried to intervene in young Igor's unhappy childhood. His mother had abandoned him when he was little. His father, Roman, who traveled long distances for extended periods for work, returned one day and found his wife gone, and young Igor relinquished to an orphanage. He went through the lengthy process of bringing Igor home. When Roman finally remarried, his new wife was harsh on the boy. Whenever possible, Lia's mother, Igor's aunt, brought him to spend time with them and lavish him with love.

Lia described Igor as sweet, sensitive, stubborn, and difficult at times. (Hmm. . . ) The difficult parts she blames on his painful childhood. Lia's affection for Igor is deep and genuine.

Lia's stories reveal Igor's love for Lia, too. She was his confident who he trusted with his joys and his sorrows. The gifts he gave her of his time and talents remain priceless treasures to her.

As photos started loading on my computer screen from Liana and Lia, I sat dumbfounded! My mother, who was so curious about this man, could not have anticipated how much father and son resembled each other. Here I sat, face to face with Igor. Roma's father. This man whom I had felt nothing beyond indifference all these years sat starring back at me, almost pleading, reaching out to me across the decades. I finally understood his brokenness and pain.

Igor at 17

As Lia and Liana make Igor known to me, my deep compassion for him grows. Such a beautiful young man, so like his son, my son, who he never got to know. A young man filled with potential, and hopes, and dreams.

Surprises meet me at every corner.

I have shed buckets of tears for my new-found family from Russia and Georgia. I have cried for Igor, for Lia, for Liana, for Roma, for myself.

By the time I got to know and love him, Igor Sudzhashvili had been dead for eight years.

Continue here.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Lovely Liana

Part Three  (Begin with Part One of the Family Connection series here)

I have a dear seven-year-old grandson. Jack is full of life and a sense of awe and adventure. His sweet temperament and energetic enthusiasm for all topics reveal his vast potential. He is loved dearly by his sisters and brother, his mother and father, his aunts and uncles and cousins, and his grandparents. And not necessarily in that order of magnitude! Jack, who is secure and happy, is already making his impact.

If he was suddenly removed from my life, if he disappeared, I would be haunted forever by the mystery surrounding our precious and irreplaceable Jack.

Suppose we lived in a country where it was common to send children to foreign countries by way of adoption. What if we were informed Jack was scheduled to be shipped off to one of those  foreign countries, and I could visit one last time, to say my final goodbye. But when I arrived in my tearful state of utter despair, with a gift of candy, trying to be strong, I was told he was already gone. What if my desperate attempts to learn more yielded no information about his whereabouts or condition, but only dead-ended to a door that was securely locked. We would have no choice but to move on with life. But, of course, we would never forget him,

Never for a moment would we forget him.

Someone else's loved and irreplaceable seven-year-old brother, son, nephew, cousin, grandson became my son in April, 2002. In a temporary period of hopelessness, helplessness, and chaos, Roma's birthmother's parental rights were terminated. For almost thirteen years, Roma's Russian and Georgian families have asked questions for which they could find no answers. What had become of cute, precocious little Roma? Was he okay? Was he thriving?  Did he live with a family who would celebrate or discipline that witty, charming, bossy assertive personality? Was his potential being nurtured? Was he mistreated? Was he loved? Was he still alive? Infinite questions and mystery surrounded one loved and lost little boy.

Never for a moment would they forget him!

Do not misunderstand—I am not saying adoption is a bad thing. It is a wonderful, redemptive, God-ordained experience from my point of view. And for all the children who would otherwise have no families, adoption can literally save lives.  Blessings from our adoption have been incalculable. But there is another side, a story of loss. And this is Liana's story.

When lovely Liana's photo first flashed on my computer screen on December 30, 2014, I knew I already loved her. I had dreamed of her and this meeting for 13 years.

I cried as I began my first surreal message, "My dear, dear Liana, I have searched for you for a very long time . . . "  Through tears I translated her messages. Though foreign words peppered the translations from, her JOY gushed at seeing her little brother's photos for the first time in thirteen years. He was alive! He was not seven anymore. Her self-reproaches for not being able to save her precious little brother were heart wrenching. She was only seventeen years old. She had no power to prevent the adoption. She told of arriving at the orphanage to say her final goodbye, and he was already gone. The pain was still apparent. I cried for hours over that one image.

Since our first meeting, five weeks ago, Liana and I have messaged for hours. And we have cried for just as many. Random moments in those first days after our meeting, I would be overcome with tears. Tears for her loss, for her new joy, and even in her joy, sadness for lost years. But we cannot go back. We are grateful for this miraculous reunion from a merciful and loving Father. We will embrace this opportunity, and each other!

While her brother, my son, struggles with his understandably emotional tempest over this astounding development, Liana and I have become family. Our messages now end with blown kisses, and hearts, and Я люблю́ тебя́, which means "I love you," I think. At least that is what I want to say. The translation system is flawed and tedious, but as I get to know this beautiful mother and sister, wife and daughter, universal languages take over.

We have time to be patient as the ongoing story takes wild turns, and surprising characters from the past enter into this inspiring narrative. I am humbled by God's Presence in our midst!

God keeps giving me things to say. I will keep writing them down.

Stay tuned, and please remember us in prayer!

Continue with Part Four here

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Sacred Restoration

Part Two  (Begin with Part One of the Family Connection series here)

A teenage girl who visited her little brother in a Russian orphanage with gifts of candy has inhabited the shadows of my vivid imagination for 13 years. The teen is now 30 years old, the little boy, my son Roma, now 20. 

While I am talking about my son Roma . . . he kept us alert and on our toes in 2014. Readers are still visiting and commenting about The Hound of Heaven Winks and subsequent posts of how God relentlessly pursues this young man. On one vulnerable day in a year of power struggles, my strong-willed boy confessed that he wished we could find Liana. After years of not appearing even curious about her, he exposed his profound loss. 

In 2014 I joined more adoption groups to share what I have learned and to learn from the experience of others. From one of my Adoption group pages, in November, I learned about, the equivalent of Facebook for speakers of the Russian language. According to the website, 100 million use It was worth a try before I spent upwards of $2000 to begin a search that might not succeed. 

In late November I opened a account and stalked the site, but found no Liana S—. On my new wall, which I opened under Roma's former name, I posted photos of him when he was little, and carefully crafted a text stating when and where he was adopted, and my desire to locate his Russian family. If anyone searched his name, they might stumble across his/my page. Then I forgot about it until Roma was due home on December 20. 

I checked back on "our" account. No activity. I stalked again, looking in Mozdok and Vladikavkaz. There were a few subscribers with the S name in Roma's original hometown! Cousins? But no Liana. When Roma came home, after he got settled, I showed him the account and suggested he request some friends. It is overwhelming when everything has to be translated from English to Russian, but thankfully there are websites for that purpose. As excited as I was about the idea, Roma feigned indifference. For Roma it is a "power" thing—If I want it, he cannot want it. I encouraged him to just sit and look through it. He exposed his stubborn side (Is it accurate to say Roma just has a stubborn "side," implying that he has any another "side"? But I digress.)

With a house full at Christmas, I forgot. 

On December 29th, I told Roma, if he wasn't going to investigate more, I was. He said I could, if I wanted to, but he was not. Those were his exact words, so I had his permission. So I did. I sent friend requests to every member of who had the same last name as his birth name. Surprisingly, it wasn't nearly as many as I thought, for a country the size of Russia and surrounding countries! One hundred million users! Since I had his permission, sort of, I added more photos of him, through the years, up to the most recent. I wrote as if I were Roma, because I had his permission. I said I was looking for family, especially my sister Liana.  I said a prayer, and posted it all, in English. His region of Russian is eight hours behind us. Everyone slept as my friend requests alerted mailboxes.

The next day, December 30, was busy, with family home for the holidays. When my daughter, Kellie, her husband, and five children met friends for lunch, I headed to check on my VK status. I had six new friends! Two messages!

One messaged, "Who are you?" (He had obviously NOT read my informative status!)

Another "friend," Eduard,  messaged, "Hi. Do you speak rushing language"

The messages were from hours ago. I answered the second one.

Trying to be very simple with my English, I wrote, "No. I was only seven. I only speak English now." (I felt silly in the conversation, pretending to be Roma. I've always only spoken English, and some people think that sounds funny because of my Southern accent!)

He messaged back. "I speak English very poorly. Are you my brother?" (perhaps translation difficulty? Cousin maybe?)

I had a live one, so I continued, "No, my brother is Rostilav, age 15. I am looking for family."

Eduard messaged back, "My father says you are Liana's brother."

I sat stunned, covered with chill bumps,studying the words. Then I typed breathlessly but carefully, "YES, Liana is my sister. 30 years old? Do you know her? I haven't seen her since I was seven. But she was very good to me."

Eduard: "Of course I know her. she is my aunt. sorry that didn't answer right away, I was busy."

I suspect Eduard and his father were checking me Roma out. I can only imagine what was happening in this family so far away at almost 11 pm, their time.

Eduard: "I asked my father. He said you are his nephew."

Then Eduard sent a link. I clinked on it. It was a VK account with a photo of a very pretty young woman in sunglasses. The name was not Liana. I studied the wall. The birthday was wrong. I knew Liana's birth date. I was careful not to be deceived.

Me: " That is not Liana, wrong birthday."

Eduard: "page her husband but it's on this page is she on photo"

Me: "Send her my page and photo. See if she recognizes me."

Eduard "I'll call you, don't worry everything will be fine. It's late tonight, tomorrow I'll call ok?"

Me: "That's right, it is night time there. Thank you so much!"

Eduard: "Glad to help you."

Roma arrived home in the middle of this frantic encounter, I grabbed him and tried quickly to fill him in on the details as we walked into my study. He was a textbook "deer in the headlights" as he was trying to process this development. I led him to the desktop computer and sat him down as I was explaining. "Read and answer," I commanded. And Roma, never for easy compliancy, sat, read, and answered, not even minding me hanging over his shoulder to read.

Roma: "So you are my cousin?"

Sweet Eduard, ready for bed: "You are my relative know it."

Roma: "okay talk to you tomorrow."

Eduard, "No problem brother. Sorry for my English."

Then suddenly there was a friend request from the girl in the sunglasses. Remember, it is after bedtime in Russia.

Roma finished his message to Eduard: "Haha I dont't speak any Russian anymore" and accepted the friend request.

Eduard: "not anything to worry about . . . Liana you a friendship sent."

Roma: "yeah, I got it."

Eduard: "Chat"

Roma: "What?"

Eduard: "Communicate with her."

(Sometimes Eduard's English was better than Roma's!)

Roma: "I just did"

Eduard: "Do you have a translator?"

Roma is asking me, and I explain about translator sites on the web.

Roma: "Computer translates, so yes.

Then he switched to Liana.

Roma's and Liana's messaging, even with the awkwardness of translator was very sweet and intimate. I tiptoed out to give him some privacy for this raw and tender moment. 

Kellie and her family returned while he was still in the study, busy at my computer. I met her at the door and whispered, "Roma is messaging Liana." She looked into the office through the closed glass doors and her wide eyes filled with tears. Mine filled, again. Kellie knew Liana too. This was a monumental moment we were witnessing.

I read their correspondence later, as tears streamed down my cheeks. It is too personal to share. It will take time for these long lost siblings to get reacquainted. Roma told me he is too emotional to talk about finding Liana right now. I understand—Boy do I understand! I have cried for days! I have waited until Roma gave me permission to share this story. He allowed me to share all  the other interesting stories starring God and himself. This was different. This is too fresh. It is too raw and tender. THIS is Sacred.

I knew Roma would not, could not, answer Liana's many questions. I opened my own account and have friended my dear young friend. I share photos with her, she with me. I answer her questions as best I can with a flawed translation system. We are forever connected. We are family. We always have been. She is as lovely as Roma described her over the years. I have since "met" one of Roma's lovely relatives, his father's cousin, and a former neighbor he knew when he was little. Apparently no one ever forgot Roma. If you know Roma personally, you're probably thinking, who could forget him?! I have seen his two precious nephews, ages five and seven. Roma was taken from his home at age five. The last time Liana saw Roma, he was seven. How great is our God who, after Liana lost two little brothers, gave her two little sons.

Now the process begins to get to know Roma's past. Perhaps we will find youngest brother, Rostilav. Please pray for our families as we build bridges!

So many issues of adoption involve matters of "identity." I thank God, for He has restored Roma's identity. Not only is he a Beloved child of the Most High God, and us, but once again, even though 13 years and 5650 miles separate them, he is a treasured little brother of Liana!

Praise be to God.

Liana gave me permission to use her photos for this blog. Isn't she beautiful?

Continue this story here.