I don't know what I was anticipating when Bruce and I left for the Republic of Georgia on the evening of June 2, 2017. We were finally going to meet Roma's birth family, two and a half tumultuous years after finding them.
I had high expectations about this trip, but I couldn't define what they were. I can't explain it. If Roma had walked up to us with his big Roma grin, arms wide open, on the steps of an ancient monastery on a snow capped mountain top, I doubt it would have shocked me. I went with an expectation, maybe not of seeing Roma, but of seeing God.
One thing I was sure of, we were embarking on a Sacred Pilgrimage. One we had to take for redemption and healing. And for love, love for a family who shared the common bond of a boy who the family, aside from his sister, would now never know on earth. A boy whose father had been as dear to them as his son was to me. At least close.
We found Roma's birth sister in the closing hours of 2014. We had known about, Liana. Roma told us. But an "aunt," his deceased father's first cousin, Lia, began messaging me in early January, 2015, ecstatic over the discover of her beloved cousin's lost son. She opened a door to a mystery of Roma's larger and close-knit family in a country I couldn't have found on a map. We rejoiced together, almost 6,000 miles apart. I knew finding this family was a missing piece of Roma's wholeness and identity.
Then, less than a year later we grieved the unthinkable, as a fatal work accident took the life of Roma, the young man who represented so much love and hope to two families who reached across a vast, impossible chasm for comfort. A strange thing happened during that year of highest highs imaginable and lowest lows possible. We became family.
At Christmas, 2016, as we rounded that first year of grieving Roma, Bruce printed out photos of landmarks in Georgia, put them in envelope with a note. For Christmas, he was giving me my heart's desire, to go to Roma's ancestral homeland and finally meet, in person, Roma's family.
Some people ask why Georgia instead of Russia, where Roma lived. It is political, as so many things in the world are. Georgians cannot freely travel across the Russian border to the north across the Caucasus Mountain range. But Russians can travel unimpeded into the Republic of Georgia. Liana, still in Russia, could travel to Georgia to meet us.
I bought our tickets at the two month mark, the time suggested for optimum pricing. A week before we traveled, Bruce was looking over our flight plans.
He calmly said, (because Bruce is always calm), "You have us booked to return in July instead of June."
A panic rush had me on my feet and looking over his shoulder at his computer screen in disbelief. Sure enough, our return flight was on the second Monday in July instead of June. I scanned the email for an emergency number for Qatar Airways.
I dialed and explained my error. On speaker phone, we listened while I prayed there would be two seats available for June 12. There was a pause, and he eased my fears. Yes, no problem, the same flight, number 707, had seats available for June 12.
"There is a change fee, let me calculate that for you," he said politely.
Oh don't bother, I wanted to say, but instead, "Oh Lord, please don't let it be a lot," was all I had time to pray before the polite, accented gentleman continued, "That will be an additional $485 per ticket," as I gasped, "For a total of $970. Can I book the flight for you now?"
I couldn't make eye contact with Bruce, who had just heard the whole conversation. "Yes." Lord, help me make up that money I so carelessly wasted.
"Well," the gentleman, returned, "This is actually a cheaper flight. You will save $110 per ticket, for a savings of $220." Oh Joy, only $750 to recoup.
"Yes, thank you." I'm not sure Bruce understands my accounting system, but he didn't get mad at me, because Bruce never gets mad. We have learned that a problem that can be solved by money alone, even money we can't afford to waste, isn't a real problem.
On May 29, four days before we left, I got a message from Lia saying they had another option for our driver/tourist agency. The one they had recommended originally, and we had accepted, was for $1300 for five days. Two of those nights, not consecutive, would be spent in other hotels, hours away from Tbilisi. So we accepted the cost. Lia was apologetic about the high price, but we assured her we wanted to see as much of Georgia as we could, and that we had saved our money, (and didn't mention how I had carelessly lost it by my mistake in booking.) Now, four days before we left, they had another option, and his fee was $700, Seven hundred, which should have alerted me to God's involvement right away. I did tack that saved $600 on to my recouped money column, with a remaining balance of $150, which I was willing to accept as a fair penalty for my mistake.
Then the countdown began in earnest. We left our home in suburban Maryland, an hour drive to Dulles International Airport, just before 5:00, heading into rush hour of some of the nation's worse traffic. We made it in plenty of time for our 9:30 flight. It seemed like such an ordinary beginning for a Sacred Pilgrimage.
The many calls, emails, and messages I received revealed that others too had expectations about this trip. "Post when you can" and "we can't wait to hear more" dinged my phone all day. Friends who had joined the Story and wanted more of it, more of God. It was as if they were expecting the same thing we were--for God to accomplish some kind of magic in Georgia.
So, I went with expectations of the miraculous. Nothing less. I have grown accustomed to miracles. I have become acquainted with a Loving God who is always Present and active. And often has a sense of humor.
God heard the prayers of our many prayer warriors, and He was not going to disappoint any of us.
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Readers can start at the beginning of our story by reading But the Greatest of These is Love.
Blog post written while finding Liana and Lia begin with Hope for Restoration.
Many Roma and God stories begin with The Hound of Heaven Winks.
Writing my way through grief began here, the Agony. But don't stop there, or you'll miss the miracles.
Be blessed by HIS story.