Saturday, June 24, 2017

A Sacred Pilgrimage

Part One

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. 

Stay tuned. 

                      *        *        *       *        *

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.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Welcome Little One

There will come a time when I no longer write about Roma in my blog posts, but today is not it. Not when it is clear Roma's life goes on in an enhanced manner. More often than we recognize, Heaven comes ever so close to earth in a cosmic connection. I am thankful when I'm aware of these sacred moments.

On Monday, May 1, my youngest grandchild was born. The previous evening, my daughter Kellie, texted to alert us that they were leaving for the hospital. She was still hopeful for an April baby, and several hours remained in April for that to happen. With baby number six, we all assumed a quick and easy delivery.

She texted us through the night with updates, stating that he was "a stubborn little guy!" They finally administered Pitocin to speed up the delivery.

As I awaited news of a new family member arrival, I was checking my Facebook account on Monday morning when the memories of "On this Day" popped up. Roman Sudzhashvili Michael's passport photo came up with the reminder that Roma had arrived on this day in the United States as a new citizen fifteen years ago. As I was remembering that special day and was about to copy recently found photographs documenting that Homecoming, Kellie finally called to give us the news about their own hours-old new arrival.

I grabbed a pen and paper to record the details to share.

With a crack in her voice, Kellie announced, "His name is Joel Roman."

My tears came so suddenly, I couldn't breathe or speak. They ran down my cheeks as I studied my own little new arrival from fifteen years earlier. For several silent moments, I trusted that Kellie understood my speechlessness. Finally I could force out a labored whisper, "Kellie, that is beautiful."

"And," she continued with a new enthusiasm. "He was born at 7:07." I gasped, knowing Kellie understood the significance of that number. Seven. That was Roma's signature number. 

Upon hanging up with Kellie, I immediately messaged Lia, Roma's aunt from the Republic of Georgia. I wanted to shared Kellie's loving tribute to the nephew she had been denied the privilege of knowing. Lia's immediate response was obviously the same as mine, and she instantly responded with the crying emoji with long tears. Then her messages of congratulations and well wishes and love came joyfully. We understand the paradox of grief and love all wrapped up in the same package.

God is so good. Just last month, God intersected my life with a new, dear friend. Irina is originally from Russia and shares my heart for Russian orphans. She has joined my story of Roma. She shared her wisdom on our Facebook announcement of my new grandson.
"I am so glad that Roma's name will continue in the newest addition of the family. Russians believe that every name has a very special unique power and quality. Every person who carries the name adds something of this own to it. Joel Roman will continue Roma's story. Have a wonderful and blessed beautiful life, sweet Joel Roman." 
Something remarkable happens to the memory of loved ones when they die too young. Any challenge or struggle they ever manifested is forgotten. In fact, they start to
Roma, May 1, 2002 arriving as a new citizen
resemble superheroes. It isn't realistic but it happens. Sweet Roma was by no stretch of the imagination what I would call an "easy" boy to raise. But it was impossible not to adore that beautiful child. Roma was the bravest little person I have ever encountered. He had a heart the size of Russia, and he was fearless. Nothing from his tragic early life could make him a victim. He enthusiastically devoured every delicious morsel of life. He recognized God, who was always up-close and personal with Roma. In life, Roma was a legand. In death, he has become a superhero.

Roma fulfilled an important mission in his short, full life. He changed me, and countless other who aren't the same because Roma lived. And died. Roma makes God visible.

Welcome brand new Joel Roman Ryan! Proudly embrace your strong name, and make it uniquely your own as you hear the legends of your uncle, Roma. No matter how outlandish the stories sound, they are mostly true!

We are blessed.

Start at the beginning of our story,
But the Greatest of These is Love

Friday, February 10, 2017

God wrote the end from the beginning

I recently came across this photo from my high school yearbook. I was immediately snatched back to 1974.  The Annual Staff had come into my art class with a mission, to fill pages of the year book. I was  listening attentively to my friend, Candy, to my right, telling her typical funny stories, as Jim Croce broke my tender heart from the radio behind us. I was absent mindedly scraping clay with a tool. The photographer watched me for a moment, then asked to take my picture. I felt  flattered, but awkward. I've never loved the camera aimed at me, so I diverted my eyes, lost in my self-consciousness, for a moment captured forever, a message in a bottle to be discovered years later, when roses, pink roses, would flood my broken heart with healing balm.  

So much during this past year of grief and God's Presence in the midst of it, reminds me that God wrote the end from the beginning. He did it with His story in the Bible. Why am I surprised that He did the same with mine? It is a mystery, one whose revealing brings me surprise joy in the midst of pain.

God wrote the end from the beginning. He loved me before I was born. He knit me together in my mother's womb. (Jeremiah 1:5) He numbered the hairs on my head (Luke 12:7). All my days are written in His book. (Psalms 139:16) God knows me intimately. There's nothing that's hidden that won't be revealed. (Luke 8:17)  

God loved me when I was that young 18-year-old, molding my beloved roses, not knowing then I would go from 18 to 60 years old at warp speed. But when I look back, as we all do, I see His fingerprints all over my life.  

Just before Christmas, I came across a box of letters my mother had saved. I was ecstatic to find THE letter I had forgotten existed. Written on vintage stationery from 1975, I told my biggest fan,  my mother, about an exciting development in my love life. (I put that cherished letter aside until after the busy holidays , and, sadly,  I've not yet been able to find it again.  I'll keep looking.)

In my innocence at nineteen, I told my mother about that beautiful boy who had captured my heart. He didn't know in his own 21-year-old innocence that I had chosen him for my life's partner. In one of our playful conversations when we were "just friends" he unknowingly encouraged my fantasy by saying if we ever got married, we would adopt. It was definitely not my plan to adopt, but I was giddy at the thought that he would  even imagine that we might one day marry.  

Over the next fast 25 years to 2000, 23 years married to that beautiful young man, and three children, the topic of adoption never surfaced again. Not until God utterly stunned me with the foreign thought in March,  2000.

But before that shocking revelation in 2000, other foreshadowing had gone unnoticed, or suppressed.
                                                            *      *      *      *

In the mid 1980s  I remember a moment as clear as a movie clip. I was walking from the kitchen into the living room of the first home we purchased. The radio was background music, all but silenced by my loud imagination.  My ears were suddenly opened to the words as if the volume had been turned up. Tears ran unchecked down my cheeks as I listened to the lyrics for the first time.   

Former member of the band The Police, Sting, was singing a haunting song. Russians. We were still in the throes of the Cold War, and the Russians were the enemy, so I had grown up believing. But now I had tears streaming uncontrollably down my cheeks, moved by Sting's words, "What might save us, me and you, is If theRussians love their children too." I had my two adored young daughters, Kellie, one and Heather, three, napping safely in their rooms. I was  overcome with tears, with crushing compassion for the children. Innocent children. In this case, Russian children.

                                                            *      *      *      *

I  worked for National Geographic on the magazine's supplement maps for most of the 1980s. I recall a day when we were cleaning out offices  and there was a massive book give away. People were grabbing copies of new releases. The only books that captured my imagination were two discarded mid-century books written in Russian, from a researcher's shelf. I couldn't read the words, of course. But I was drawn to the mysterious Cyrillic alphabet and the photos from an unfamiliar world.

                                                            *      *      *      *

More hints came several years later, in the early 1990s. My dear grandmother-in-law handed me a catalog to choose some puzzles as gifts from her to  my children. The one I chose without hesitation held no special memory for me. I might not have been able to tell you much about the building in the puzzle's image, only that I remembered it from a dark auditorium during Art History classes. It was Saint Basil's Cathedral, in Moscow, the capital of the recently dismantled Soviet Union, once again named "Russia." (I chose the image of Saint Basil's Cathedral, with a view the crosses on the spires for the cover of my book, Butthe Greatest of These is Love.)

                                                            *      *      *      *
In the Spring of 1992, Heather, then in the fifth grade, was chosen to be a part of the All County Chorus. She and a friend met at our house to practice their songs. When they agreed to practice for me, I couldn't hold back tears with one of the selections,  Song for a Russian Child. I challenge you, as I mop tears now, to listen with dry eyes. (This is not Heather's chorus singing it, although I'm sure Bruce  recorded it and we've hidden it from ourselves in a safe place. Like my lost letter.)

The night of the performance, I was thankful for the dark auditorium. While I dug deep in my purse for wadded tissues, I noticed no one else in the audience was moved like I was. How could everyone sit quietly and clap stoically, while I was almost out of control with emotion? Where did that sadness come from, I asked myself, as the song ended and lights were bright again.

On that evening of overwhelming compassion, the boy God had chosen for me wouldn't be born for another two and a half years.

                                                            *      *      *      *

God doesn't wind us up and let us go on our own power. Surely that is how I must have thought it worked. I recognized none of His foreshadowing until weeks after He came to me on a March evening in 2000 with a mission I so desperately wanted to decline, when He came to harvest the seeds He had planted throughout my life. 

When I invariably go AWOL. He comes after me. "Remember, Debbie," He whispers, "Remember how perfect MY PLAN is?" I do! His plan brought me Roma. And a sure knowledge of God.  Although we know His plan is always best, we fear what His Plan will ultimately cost us. But the conscious AWARENESS of God is worth the cost. His revelation of Himself is stunning. 

A wise young friend, Megan, gave me this verse yesterday, and as so often happens, it came up mysteriously in my reading this morning.

"The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law." Deuteronomy 29:29

I am eternally grateful. 

Wednesday, January 25, 2017


I'd like to introduce myself to new readers and invite them to join my story. It is actually His Story, told through my life.

I am an artist and a writer. My favorite mediums are words, followed by oils and acrylics. When I am overwhelmed by life, my first response has always been to write about it, to paint it with words.

One day my writing took off in earnest.

On April 22, 2002, I grabbed my journal from my carry-on bag to calm myself after boarding a jet bound for Russia.  I didn't know my frantic scribbling would grow into a real book. My notes grew as life happened. I told so many people about my transformational experience with God, I thought it would be easier if I organized my notes into a little story. I would rather write than talk. 

So, my story made the rounds as a few printed-out manuscripts bound together with binder clamps and transported in manila clasp envelopes. Kind friends and family members would read it, leave me notes of encouragement, and pass it on to others. I was always eager to get them returned filled with the affirming notes, often with a sentiment, "This story must be told!" 

Finally, in 2012, I had the courage to published But the Greatest of These is Love. My editor returned my marked-up manuscript, writing on the last page, "The end--and the beginning." No more appropriate words could have hinted at the stories to come.

And come they did. My blog is mostly the sharing of these continuing stories. Some are funny, many are hair-raisingly beautiful, some, heartbreaking. Stories of real life. Recently I suspected there was another book to be mined from all these stories.

Find and like us on Facebook

Here is the Amazon link to my book. Read a few reviews. I'd love to have more.

One of the best reviews and summaries I've read was written by a Michigan blogger who I will likely never know in person. But she understood the spirit of this book.

Two popular series are

TheHound of Heaven Winks. God is always present. I simply record the events as they happen, and He makes Himself visible.

And Hope of Restoration. Readers have said this 11 part series could be a short book on its own. (Warning--Robert Frost wrote, "No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader." Conversely, if that is true, you might want to grab a tissue, or a towel!)  
Links at the bottom of each will take you easily to the next parts. 

You can even read the introduction and first chapter. All profits have always gone to orphan care. Presently, The Harbor of Saint Petersburgh, is the recipient, to help Russian orphans who have aged out of the system. 

The single most viewed post is It is Finished, with over 2,000 pages views the first day. I'll provide a link to that one, if you read the others first.

My three year old blog has always paralleled my life. When one jarring event transformed my life just over a year ago, I received a private message from a reader, who knew my family only through my writing. She mentioned us by name, as if she knew us, then she wrote, "Just then when I typed Roma's name, God said 'spell it backwards.' Amor. Love. You will write another book, and it will touch more people than the first."

Alright then.

God keeps giving me stories. His Stories. I'll keep writing them down. I couldn't stop writing if I wanted to. It is like taking dictation from an internal Voice that never stops talking to me.

I am thankful! 

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Betty White is Golden

Yesterday was Betty White's 95th birthday. Everyone loves Golden Girl, Betty White, for her grace, charm, energy, wit, and beauty. I love her more than ever because of her positive attitude. Betty's old school approach to life and optimism resonates with me. We have little control of outcomes, so we might as well offer hope in our own little corners of the world, and leave the bigger outcomes to God. With so much division and egos flaring fueling hate in all directions, I am joining Betty in declining the hate bait.

Remember the conventional wisdom from years ago: If a child, or adult, had anger problems, experts suggested getting them a punching bag to release their anger so it doesn't build up. But in fact they discovered the opposite happened. The more anger and aggression are indulged, the more anger and aggression grow.  This, like many other educational and psychological experiments that have been proven mistaken, it must be abandoned. We have witnessed when vile hatred is unleashed by everyone doing what is right in their own eyes, with no regard to others who may disagree, it infects everything and everyone around it. It is like a narcotic.

I am going to continued to be a "cockeyed optimist," like my hero Betty. Watch her wisdom shine in the interview with Katie Couric, who tries her darnedest to bait Betty, but Betty wouldn't budge. Hatred destroys the vessel that holds it. Like Betty, I'm not partaking.

Yes, there is deep divid and mammoth problems this country. But I am hanging on to my assurance that God is in control of the mess. He tells me not to allow the bad thoughts to enter my mind. 

Paul, an apostle of Christ, reminds us in Philippians 4:8, "Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think on such things." He probably knew if we humans didn't heed that admonition, we would fill the void with poisonous vitriol. 

I have to have hope! I agree with Martin Luther King, Jr., who said, "I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear." 

Don't take the hate bait. We have scared the children. 

Betty is positive, Betty is gentle and kind. Betty is beautiful and healthy at 95! Probably because she is a cockeyed optimist. 

Be like Betty. 

Watch Betty rock her interview with Katie Couric here.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

This is my son

It has been a year and two weeks since Roma left for Heaven. In that time I have shared many experiences that God has used to comfort me. I have began many new posts that I have not completed. But I am moving ahead, considering all I have shared, I believe it might be time to start that new book that has been revealing itself over the past decade. My first book, But the Greatest of These is Love concluded in 2003, at the year anniversary of Roma's arrival. My editor added "The end and the beginning" at the close of the book. I could not comprehend that the story was truly just beginning. And it hasn't come to on end yet. 

In a effort to bridge that gap from 2003 to 2012 when the book went to the publisher, I shared one story from 2009 at the end that would be a glimpse into our lives over the years, and summed up Roma's personality. It is the story that follows. I hope readers will read But the Greatest of These is Love and the blog posts that followed over the years. I was even instructed in a dream to write it all down. The documented experiences are priceless to me now, and protected against the effects of my fading memory. I am thankful to God for unmistakably telling me to write it all down, and then giving me the words. 

A logical beginning blog post is The Hound of Heaven Winks, when God made me hyper-aware of His presence. The links at the bottom of each will advance the reader to the next post, and cumulatively will serve as my abridged memoir. The unabridged story, I will be working on. Blog posts by definition are short and designed for quick reading. My next effort will be to tell the whole story as I know it, as it has been given to me, as I have lived it, and how I understand it. 

In spite of the grief of losing Roma this side of heaven, I am comforted by the knowledge that he is not gone forever. He just went ahead of me. So like Roma to have to be first. 

This is the ending of my first book. Enjoy, and be inspired to read the whole book and prepare for the second book. All profits have always gone to orphan care.

This is My Son

When I heard his bedroom door slam with force, I stomped to my own room and resisted the urge to do the same. I reminded myself that I was the adult.

As usual, I didn’t see this skirmish coming. It started benignly, with me reminding my fifteen-year-old of his responsibilities.

As usual, Roma replied absently, “I’ll do it later,” while watching TV.

“Roma, if I had wanted it done later, I would have asked later.” I chose my words and tone deliberately, to sound calm, reasonable, and in charge. “You are done with TV for now. When you have straightened up your room, you can go out and help Dad shovel snow.”

What?” Roma barked at me, his green eyes bulging with hostility. “There is too much snow to shovel! It is like ten feet deep.” Roma’s hyperbole is legendary.
“Roma, I am not arguing with you. If you have any hope to watch TV later, you need to do your chores, now.”

My early resolve to remain calm soon failed, and we ended in full blown verbal combat.

Adolescence has been difficult for Roma. We all suffer when he fights for control. He can be defiant, argumentative, and manipulative when he demands to have his way. When he is less determined to be the boss, he reverts to the little boy I remember who is delightfully witty and charming, with a sweet spirit and a generous heart.

Bruce and I adopted Roma from Russia when he was seven and three-quarters—old enough for a strong personality to set. Until God plucked him from the orphanage for our family, he was pretty much in control of his young life. It has been hard for him to hand the reins to us.

When I felt God’s not-so-subtle call to adopt an older Russian child, I expected a shy, hurt little boy in need of gentle encouragement and acceptance. What God sent us was an assertive, confident little dictator! And God had a bigger surprise for me: I could love an adopted child every bit as much as I love my other three children. Little Roma was so cute and smiley, our older soft-hearted children often let him have his way. I was determined not to spoil him, especially when our son Taylor, twelve at the time of Roma’s adoption, said that until he could think of him as a brother, he was going to consider Roma an “exchange student from God.” Rearing a boy sent from God was a responsibility not to be taken lightly.

A determined mom and a headstrong boy often butt heads. This, like most of our battles, was a power struggle over who gets to be the boss. Once in my room, I fell to my knees and prayed through clinched teeth, “Lord, you sent him to us; pleeease help me deal with him. Please teach me patience and wisdom to mother Roma. And Lord, please give me hope that, in the long run, he will be okay.”
I phoned a close friend that evening who I knew could provide hope. Her sons, age twenty-six and twenty-seven had challenged her similarly in their younger years, but were beginning to show signs of genuine maturity.

“This is so hard,” I confessed. “I am praying that I keep my sanity, what little is left! But I am mostly praying that Roma will grow up to be a functioning member of society.”

My compassionate and wise friend assured me that Roma would not always be fifteen. I ached at the thought that we might suffer another ten years before relief, but hope was hope, and I knew God’s timing wasn’t my timing; otherwise, Roma would be acting like an adult by now!

The next morning, I remembered a dream from the night before … Was it a dream? Bruce and I were talking to Roma outside in intense sunlight. Roma was like a dazzling white statue, yet he was moving and talking like normal. I had to squint to look at him. His essence was bathed in a white, unearthly brilliance. Bruce and I were talking about the bright light but were somehow not amazed by it.

The dream was so vivid; it lingered with me throughout the day. I even asked Bruce, during a break from his and Roma’s marathon snow shoveling, if we had indeed talked to Roma outside the day before, and had he been so bright we could hardly look at him? It almost seemed plausible because a record snowfall had begun days earlier. In the surreal time that we were trapped at home after the blizzard that week, our suburban neighborhood had been transformed into a winter wonderland. Everything was buried under four feet of snow after “once-in-a-hundred-years,” back-to-back blizzards. When the sun reappeared, the whiteness of all that snow was truly blinding. Sunglasses were as essential as snow shovels. Despite the outside brilliance, Bruce’s blank expression told me that no such thing as a conversation with a glowing white Roma had taken place.

That evening, having forgotten about my dream, I was catching up on my Bible reading. I began where I had left off, at Matthew, chapter seventeen, the Transfiguration. “His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light … and a voice from the cloud said, ‘This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.’” (NIV)

Hairs stood up on my neck and chills raced down my arms.

Now don’t get me wrong—I don’t think for a moment that Roma is Jesus returning! But in the same way that we are all God’s children, Roma is one of God’s boys.
I had prayed for hope. Empowered with divine encouragement, I have lightened up with Roma and try to cut him some slack when he behaves like the adolescent that he is. It is his job as a teenager to test me at every turn, and he takes his business very seriously! Many of his strong-willed leadership “skills” will be assets to him when he grows into them. We need to be on the same team instead of on opposite sides at tug of war.

God is in control of Roma. Jesus was about thirty when he came into his ministry, not fifteen! The only knowledge we have of Jesus as a youth was that he was a determined lad, who didn’t ask his parents’ permission when he stayed behind in Jerusalem when they returned to Nazareth. Mary and Joseph reacted much better than I would have! Jesus was taking care of business, taking charge of his life. Like Roma does.

Roma is not stingy with his apologies. After another clash fueled by cabin fever, he came to me, humbly, like a little boy and confessed, “I just want to say I’m sorry.” His repentant “I’m sorry” always mystifies me, from a confident boy who knows everything about everything. I am encouraged by the character it represents.

“Roma, I wish I could open the top of your head and pour in some of this wisdom I have gained in the years that it has taken me to become a dinosaur. Dad and I expect a lot of you because you are so gifted in so many areas. Before we are ready to let you go, you will be leaving us. We want you to be equipped to make it on your own. Kids leave home and forget the lessons their families try to teach. Many even walk away from their faith in God,” I warned.

Roma’s eyes narrowed as they met mine. “I could never not believe in God, after what He did for me,” he said with that faint Russia accent that most people no longer detect.

I stared at my beautiful, angelic son, stunned. Roma was thankful after all. On some level, he got it.

God has renewed my hope. Even when slammed doors separate us, I still consider Roma one of my favorite surprise blessings.

I am clinging daily to God’s promise, that He who began a good work will see it though, in Roma, and in me.

Thank you, Lord, for giving me hope. And Roma.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

See how much I love you? 31 Days of Miracles, Day 7

Day 7, By Debbie Barrow Michael

"Mom," the quivering agony in my daughter's voice on the phone threatened me with panic.
"What is it Kellie," I asked too fast, unable to not imagine the worst.
"I've lost my ring."
I closed my eyes and breathed, relieved that the problem wasn't worse. "Kellie, it's a ring. Don't worry," I tried to console her. But I was heart sick. It was Kellie's engagement ring. The wedding was three weeks away. The diamond ring was a antique, and the wedding band had been custom-made to match the vintage filigree and curve of the now lost ring.

It was March 31, 2006, and Kellie and her fiancée, Mike, were driving ten hours from Pittsburgh, PA, where they attended college, to Mike's home in Wisconsin, where his mother was hosting their bridal shower.
Kellie's spirits lifted as we talked. Then she sounded strangely calm, assuring me, "I'm sure if we all pray, we'll find it."

I winced at her childish idealism. A tiny ring lay somewhere along a several hundred mile stretch of highway. Kellie remembered admiring the ring shortly after they left Pittsburgh. She notice it was gone sometime in Indiana, two states away. They had been in and out of the car several times during that time.

Her final semester and wedding planning had caused weight loss, even in her fingers. She thought she might have lost it after washing and drying her hands in one of several rest stops along the Pennsylvania/Ohio/Indiana Turnpikes. I cringed as I imagined my anxious daughter unwadding paper towels from trash cans and searching dark sidewalks, looking for the proverbial "needled in a haystack." Their exhaustive search made them arrive in Wisconsin at 4:30 a.m. instead of midnight, as anticipated.

My heart dropped as I calculated the slim possibility of finding the ring she had so delighted in receiving nine months earlier. I went into "Mother" gear, trying to encourage, and give helpful advice, like submitting a report of loss to state Turnpike authorities. I emailed prayer requests to friends, including Mother who was the best of the best.

My prayer that night and throughout the weekend was, "Lord, Kellie has so much faith in You and the power of prayer.  We don't know where her ring is, but You do. It can be in the trash can, or in a parking lot, or in grass somewhere.  It doesn't matter where it is now.  We know that You are capable of doing anything.  Please get it to a place where she can find it.  And if someone finds it, let them feel convicted to find the owner." All the time I prayed, I also added, "And Lord, help my unbelief."

Although they had no good news on Saturday, Kellie and Mike were still optimistic, trusting their prayers weren't falling on a deaf God. But I had moved beyond prayer into "fixer" mode, contacting the jeweler with a ridiculous question about having another ring made to match the band they had just fashioned, and even searching the internet for a look-a-like.

On their return trip to Pittsburgh on Sunday, Kellie continued to sound calm and peaceful, the opposite of what I was expecting and personally experiencing.  She said a peace had come over them  about the ring. I was grateful for their peace, and reminded myself it was just a ring, no matter how special. 

Back at school Tuesday afternoon, Kellie called me, giddy with laughter. Returning from work, she noticed the ring was on her bed! Her squeals brought her rooommates running, and they joined in the delighted squeals. Kellie's voice was still shaky from the shocking discovery. 

I quickly called my mother. Her odd question surprised me, "What color is Kellie's bedspread?"  She said she kept getting an image of the ring on a blue square.

I quickly redialed Kellie, disappointed that her answer was green. I share her grandmother's 
vision of blue, but didn't mention the square. Kellie's answer shocked me again, "My quilt under my bedspread has blue squared on it." 

Kellie's ring on the actual quilt where it was found.
"Was your bed made when you found the ring?" I asked. (I don't know why I had visualiszed a sparkling ring prominently displayed in the middle of a perfectly made bed, as Angels sang.)

"No," she answered.

So there was a blue square, and a ring, returned from only-God-knows-where, because of a childlike faith in the power of prayer. And a vision from a beloved grandmother to add to the miracle. 

"See how much I love you?" was the unmistakable message we received, all because a young couple believed Jesus when He said in Matthew 21:22, "If you believe, you will receive what you ask in prayer."

Today, Kellie and Mike have been married ten years and have five children, all of whom love the Lord. 
Kellie and Mike at their wedding in 2006

Kellie, Mike, and their five children on a recent trip to Ireland

Thanks be to God, the Author of our miracles. 

Debbie Barrow Michael lives in Mount Airy, Maryland, in the United States. She is an artist and writer. Her book, But the Greatest of These is Love, chronicles her unexpected journey with God into adoption. Her blog, Consider it All Joy, at is filled with God Stories, even during a tragic period in her life. Her greatest desire is to know God better, and make Him "visible" to others.

Amazon downloads of But the Greatest of These is Love are reduced to $2.99 for the month of October to celebrate our Miracles blog shares on Write 31 Days.

All book profits go to orphan care, including hosting expenses.