Saturday, January 30, 2016

Emerging from the fog

Sometimes my life seems more like a movie than real life. A beautiful, Divinely-directed Movie. The twists and turns in the plots have had me on the edge of my seat, especially for the past sixteen years. Once I reluctantly surrendered a tiny bit of myself to God, what an adventure He has led me on during  my unexpected journey of adoption. With His help, I've navigated landmines of fear.  I've soared to the mountaintop of joy, and descended to the deepest abyss of agony. I will not visit the graveyard of hopeless despair. Even in the throes of this present grief, I still recognize the Grand Journey orchestrated by God. I still count my blessings.

In the early months of 2000, God first whispered "adoption" to my selfish, stubborn, and profoundly deaf heart. Very gradually, though, in my resigned and puny surrender, God led me, sometimes kicking and screaming, into the scariest and yet most transformative experience of my life, resulting in intimate knowledge of God. And He rewarded my meager obedience with the most precious child to mother. Roma. I am still humbled by that honor granted me. Read But the Greatest of These is Love to learn about those exciting scenes of my life's Movie. In the years since that still small Voice grew increasingly louder and more persistent to where I could not avoid taking tiny and terrified steps toward obedience, God has achieved the miraculous, and my faith has become unshakable.

Roma in Idaho, July 2014
I would need that keen awareness of a powerful God when, on December 7, 2015, we lost that kind heart and joyful personality that defined our beautiful Roma. Where do I go from here? Nothing make sense without God.

 I'm left with thousands of puzzle pieces. Some are assembled and frozen into isolated still shots of my Movie. I'm trying to fit them all together.  I know there is a connection with all these pieces.

Grief writers and counselors talk about the "fog" or "bubble" where mourners  feel an initial isolation from the real world. It is true. My reaction would not have been so different those first few days following Roma's death, had someone announced that they were bringing over dinner or that aliens from outer space had landed on my front lawn.

The first couple of days, I wouldn't have been surprised if Roma, with his quick, energetic movements, had burst through the front door, his contagious laughter dispelling our heartbroken confusion.

I kept asking myself, "did ___ really happen, or was that my imagination?" "Did I have that conversation with ____, or did I dream it? " Some days it seems that the past sixteen years have been my imagination. Did Roma really come? Is Roma really dead? (I can still hardly type that word) What is real?

I keep starting new blog posts. I'll write about a treasured experience with Roma, some insight from a recent conversation with him, then switch to another. They are all interconnected, but I can't stay focused on one. Maybe the fog will clear soon. I know there is a story here to be mined, maybe a new book, but I sit among thousands of puzzle pieces sifting through the avalanche. I know where some pieces belong. Others seem like misfits at this point in the movie. And I keep discovering new puzzle pieces--were they there all along?

I hope readers will be patient while the fog clears, or until the puzzle pieces fit in a more congruent manner, revealing images that make sense. 

Making sense of the seemingly senseless. Can it be done? I don't see how. But then, when that terrible call came that dreadful afternoon, I knew instantly it would be bad news about my youngest. I knew it would be the worst news possible. How did I know?

There were clues. God had warned me that suffering was coming. I knew. So when the call came from a neighbor when we were three hours from home, that there was a police car in my driveway, an officer on my porch, I knew before more words were spoken, that Roma was gone.

I invite readers into my story. But the story is hard to tell. Not only because the loss is excruciating, but I don't know where to start these scenes, how to organize these puzzle pieces that reveal the still shots from the movie of my life.

Lovely Liana
Many people have suggested that there was enough material for another book even before this scene of sorrow. When the story of finding Roma's first family began to unfold a year ago, I couldn't write fast enough. How joyful I was to share about finding Roma's loving sister, Liana. Then other family members of integrity introduced themselves and became part of the rich and widening story. 

Igor and Lia
Puzzle pieces connected themselves into vignettes so warm and beautiful, they took my breath away. Readers confirmed the beauty of those scenes.  Read the Family Connection series from last year, when I praised God for His Goodness. I cried tears of joy, and then tears of sadness as I participated in the grief my new family members  suffered years earlier.

I've managed to piece together partial images of this huge puzzle, these scattered vignettes. In order to solve the mysteries of the puzzle, I must watch for clues. Life is a mystery.  We are all mysteries.

Saint Augustine wrote, "Men go abroad to admire the heights of mountains, the mighty waves of the sea, the broad tides of rivers, the compass of the ocean, and the circuits of the stars, yet pass over the mystery of themselves without a thought."

Our mysteries are worth exploring too.

"Why must God be so mysterious?" a friend asked me recently. "Why doesn't He just make Himself known?" That is the six-million-dollar question.

The Grand Mystery. It is a mystery too big for my ant-brain. I am presently overwhelmed with the puzzle pieces of my own life.  But I do not have to assemble them alone. I must wait on God for help. I can't move ahead in my impatience. If I could do it by myself, I'd become prideful. More prideful. I know this about myself. God knows it too.

I have a hunger that I sense my readers, my friends, share with me. Some readers have told me that they can't get enough of my ongoing story, that they "want more." Maybe this is a reflection of humanity's hunger for God. We want more God. We craved more sacred moments of God's supernatural presence. Somehow we know it is possible.

God has given us all stories to share. Consider your own.

God told me in a dream to write my stories down. So I will. I trust that He will use even my tentative words and disoriented state for His Glory.

The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away. Blessed be the name of the Lord! (Job 1:21)

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Visions of Heaven

Another vision, in Heather's words . . .

If you would have asked me the morning of December 6, 2015 why I felt so out of sorts all day long, I would have not been able to explain it at the time. However by 11 pm I could tell you with a broken heart that I saw heaven come to earth that evening. As I listened to Rev. Angela Flanagan’s sermon that December morning on Luke 2: 34-36 (Prophet Simeon speaking to Mary saying)  “This child (Jesus) is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too”. I kept thinking about Mary and that prophecy not only for her son’s life but her own life too. There is pain in that prophecy, extreme pain in fact. I thought of all the mothers that have had their souls pierced in one way or another. My own mother lost her son 6 years ago to suicide for mental illness and addiction. I had even texted another one of my best friends that afternoon saying I was praying for her, trusting that because of what Mary went through we must hold onto God’s promises and know that He hears our prayers when we have a child in pain. 

Being a prayer minister at Calvary UMC I received a call that Roma had taken a bad fall and had been sent to Shock Trauma. I was requested to begin praying, it was about 7pm. I felt sick to my stomach. I had only known Roma for about the past 3 years but this young man just lit up the room. I spent some time getting to know him from a ministry at church for young adults and he was so open with his emotions and full of “light”, God’s light. I doubt Roma understood that Jesus was shining through him but everyone who knew him could see it. 

The evening I got the call I began to pray, I was back to that “please Father do not let Debbie be another mother whose soul will be pierced this day”. Yes God, I understand Shock Trauma and the severity of what that means but I also know YOU are a God of miracles and I am praying for a miracle right now. So on my knees I am  pleading for a miracle. 

As hours pass in tears and exhaustion I go to bed. I always read before I bed. I get out my Jesus Calling, I read the devotional and then pull out another book. All of sudden I hear the Lord's still small voice saying “ If this was your son in Shock Trauma do you think Debbie would quit praying to begin reading at this pressing time?”  

I felt this stabbing in my heart. Clearly God had something to share with me or He had some further healing for Roma. I’m worn out but I have no choice but to listen. By this time it’s close to 10:45pm (and I mention this in case anyone else got a revelation around the same time) and I get back to my knees to pray. After some amount of time, I begin to see white and purple lights.  These brilliant lights swirling like how I would imagine the Northern lights to look. Then I see God on His throne in all His majesty. He is large in stature but beautiful (so much light surrounding HIM) sitting there with the kindest, most gentle look on his face with His arms wide open. 

All of a sudden like a little bullet, comes running this little boy like a lightening bolt straight to God. It’s Roma, little Roma about 7 years old and he runs straight under Gods white robe and underneath Him to the other side and then Roma stops, and turns to look back at God. Roma turns his little face with this ornery little grin almost the way kids want to play hide-n-seek. I am outside of this vision, and I am trying to figure out what is going on. God is still sitting there with His arms open just waiting for Roma and it appears Roma is figuring out what he is to do. Then all of all sudden Roma runs straight back to God and jumps into His arms and God wraps Roma up into the most loving fatherly hug. At this time it’s no longer 7 year old Roma, it’s 21year old Roma, the Roma I knew. The love that God pours all over Roma is indescribable. The peace that came upon me after the vision ended was amazing. 

Debbie always said that Roma was God’s son, I truly saw that Roma really was God’s beloved son and he went home to heaven that night. 

This vision gave me complete comfort and peace in knowing when God calls all of us who love Him home to Heaven, we go joyfully, excitedly running into the arms our Father God. This vision also re-iterates what God’s word tells us just how individual we are to God that He even knows the number of hairs on our heads.  I never knew little Roma, but God surely did and He never forgot how he looked at that young age. Debbie has a picture of Roma turning his head with the same charming smile that I saw in the vision, the picture is so exact from what I saw that it took my breath away. 

Roma, during our hosting, November 2001

In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven. Matthew 5:16. 

Saying good-bye to Roma was painful but I trust he was placed in all our hearts to teach us all to let our lights shine, that’s what Roma did best! Shine on Roma, we are looking up and looking forward to seeing you again sweet friend! 

Heather Fox Fowble

Explaining visions are difficult.  I have been studying God-given visions and dreams since our healing prayer team saw John Paul Jackson 3 years ago. Most nights before I go to bed I ask the Lord to send me dreams and visions from Him and ask that He keep any dreams from the enemy away. I never saw the younger picture of Roma until after I emailed Debbie with my condolences and told her the vision from the Lord. I will also note that John Paul Jackson says that white color in dreams is the Spirit of the Lord/ holy power and purple color is royalty and authority. I typically don’t see colors in my visions, which is what makes this interesting. 

Thank you Heather, for sharing your vision of Heaven! It comforts me. 

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Goodbye Kid, Taylor's words

When Roma burst on to the scene at our week-long hosting in November, 2001, Taylor, twelve at the time, was caught off guard. We all were. We were accustomed to gentle children who read books and drew intricate pictures and built complicated castles with Lego blocks, children who played quietly in calm, imaginary realms. 

Taylor and Roma 2002
Roma was no such kid. He was loud– his voice was loud, his expressive sound effects for play (usually exploding noises) were louder, his laughter was loudest. He was very active. He was bossy assertive and cocky confident! He didn't sit still long, and if a sport didn't involve a lot of people and a ball of some size or shape, he quickly lost interest. Roma immediately joined clubs at school, before he could speak (or understand) English well, because they might be having fun without him. He didn't want to miss anything! 

As his new family, we were trying to keep up with his high level of maintenance and demand for action and attention. He was not the little brother Taylor had imagined he would be. Taylor had enjoyed the coveted baby-of-the-family role for twelve years. Suddenly his secure realm had been usurped by an independent, confident, and precious little dictator. 

In the past year, and weeks, when Roma thought we were unreasonable about house rules, he would storm to Taylor's apartment in our lower level, threatening us with, "I'm going to talk to Taylor." Taylor would take him for a walk around the block and Roma would come home a little more reflective. Taylor had a calming affect on a 21-year-old who thought he was too old for rules.

Taylor bravely stood at Roma's service on December 14, to honestly share his reflections. Not a sensitive eye remained dry in the church. Many people in attendance have asked him for a copy of his tribute to his brother. So, with his permission, these are Taylor's words . . . 

I’ve been wracking my brain for a good moment from my brother’s life to talk about. He affected so many people in his short life, but I don’t have that one good moment. The truth is I didn’t know him that well.  Most of you knew him better than I did.  I’ve spent this last week trying to get to know him.  And, as awful as this week has been, it’s also been enlightening, getting to know this kid that through fate became my brother.

We were very different, Roma and I.  He was loud, and he needed people.  I always felt like I thrived in the quiet and solitude.  And he could be frustrating.  I was a very angry young man, and when I made the choice to come down from that, I did so largely by distancing myself from a lot of the things that triggered that aggression.  To a large extent, it worked, but one of the casualties of that decision was Roma.  I didn’t have that sibling relationship I did with my sisters with him.  I remarked recently, before his death, that he only ever called me when he needed something, ignoring the fact that I never once called him.  I didn’t think I needed anything from him.

Anyways, the moment I landed on to talk about today, may not seem like such a great moment.  Last year, I’d gotten a used snow blower from some friends.  It only needed a belt replaced, but I was proud of myself for fixing it up, and I was looking forward to using it.  We got that one big snowfall last year, and I go out, ready to fire up my snow blower, and I find that the gas can in the garage was empty.  I’d filled it up earlier in preparation for this, and I knew immediately what had happened.  Roma had filled up his car with it.  And it made me angry.  Like, really angry.  And I let him have it.  

And as I thought about what had really upset me, I mean, this was par for the course for Roma, and I’d robbed the gas can before, in high school. I realized that I was angry because I cared.  When I lit into him, it wasn’t for the gas, but what I felt he was doing with his life.  So much potential I thought he was wasting.  I was mad at him because I cared about him, and I was even angrier that I cared. I didn’t want to care about him.  It was much easier when he was just the kid my parent’s adopted, that I wasn’t emotionally invested in.  

But somehow, despite all my efforts and the walls and barriers I erected, he’d slipped in.  He always did, in everyone he met.  And he let everyone in, too.  

This week, as I’ve been amazed by the outpouring of caring that this community has shown in the wake of his death, I’m fully realizing something that I’ve been suspecting for awhile.  Roma had it right.  He was by no means perfect, but he lived every day experiencing everything that came his way.  You can’t cut out the pieces of life that are inconvenient.

For all those years that I never called him just to talk, I’d love one last chance to just call him up, see how he’s doing, and just tell him that he was doing something right, and I’m going to try to live a little more like him.  And that I love him.

Goodbye kid.

Thursday, December 31, 2015

Visions, One

Sometimes it is difficult to find human words to adequately describe visions

As Roma was passing through that thin veil dividing the world we inhabit from the one we are all steadily approaching, two friends contacted me about clear visions they had of Roma the night he made that journey. I've asked each of them to share, in their own words, what they saw. Below is one vision. The other one is coming. 

Two years ago, I met Cheryl Bresin through an adoption and orphan-hosting Facebook group. She got to know Roma and me better by reading But the Greatest of These is Love. We began to message and discovered she lives an hour north of me. Then we realized another member of the group, who also had just read my book, was also close. We met for lunch, and as the case when God puts people in our lives, we three have became close friends. We have met for lunch a few times now, and even gone away on a four-day retreat to discuss the ways of God, as best we can understand Him. Telling our families in September we were going to a cabin by a lake in remote West Virginia with people we met on the internet sounded so wrong.  Unless God is involved, and, in our case, it turned out to be just right. 

Here is Cheryl's vision in her words. 

I am awestruck by how many lives this little boy from the border of Russia and Georgia has touched. So many became a part of this story and have held the Michael family and Roma deeply in their hearts. Roma's giant personality made us all feel that he was a part of our everyday lives. We grieve as his bigger-than-life presence stepped over to the other side; while still leaving the memory of his wide open arms and radiant smile that remains forever etched in our thoughts.

I have read and re-read "You are Mine," from the "Family Connections" series about the miracle of finding Roma's birth family.  I read it each time with the same pause. It was as if God was putting His hand on my shoulder to make certain that I saw.

                                   Part Eight

“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;I have called you by name; you are Mine!" (Isaiah 43:1)

I was overtaken by a stillness, as I read the foreshadowing words of the last line of this post, "And now He has called Roma."

After Debbie and I texted that fateful night, I sobbed as my heart ached deeply for my dear sister and her family. I cried out with the words from Romans 8:26: the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.

In the early morning of December 7th, I was awakened by God to pray over and over again. I talked to God and Roma out loud. I was lost in time in this prayerful realm. At one point, I drifted back to sleep, then awakened by this noise that filled my room overhead. The sound resembled the beginning of a wind storm with the gentleness of a ocean breeze.The deep warm embrace was like a thick warm cloud that was all encompassing. 

It was Angels, and Roma was with them. They were going to and fro accompanied by this systematic flowing sound. In my humanness, I called out loud to Roma to be strong and voiced that he did not have to leave. The breeze forcefully whooshed a few more times, then faded, and disappeared . . . 

The veil between heaven and earth is truly so thin.

The next morning, I lit a candle to remind myself to pray every time I passed throughout the day. A candle much like the one that burned in Georgia. As it flickered, it held the sadness of loss and the gratefulness for a family that embraced their Roma with complete and immense unending love. A love that reminds us all, "But the Greatest of These is Love."

I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you." (John 14:18)

                        *            *            *            *            *            *            

Thanks to my dear Sister, Cheryl, who writes a blog of her own. 
Her words and vision comfort me. Please continue to pray for us.

Cheryl references Part Eight of the Family Connections series, but you can read all eleven posts of that popular series starting at Part One.  

Monday, December 28, 2015

The Agony

Drawing by Kellie Michael Ryan

If you are following our story only by my blog, I have very sad news. A work accident took the life of our bright and beautiful Roma. On December 6, Roma hit a live wire while working on a metal roof, and the shock threw him from the two story ladder. He landed on his head. He was pronounced dead the following morning. 

In these past three weeks of unspeakable suffering, I have also experienced extravagant love. And miracles. I do not believe our story is over. I hope you will follow along. 

For now, I will share what I said at the Celebration of Life for our beloved Roma. I am not one to speak in front of even small crowds, but the huge crowd that showed up to memorialize Roma on that cloudy Monday, December 14, did not phase me in the least. I had a mission: to honor my precious son and thank those who had a part in his life. I could not have uttered a word if prayers were not doing their perfect work. 

There will be a video of the service and I will link it when it is available. I hope sharing the video with his Russian and Georgian families will sooth their pain. They might not understand the language, but they should recognize the love.                                             


"Today we are celebrating Roma's life. Who can think of Roma without smiling? I'm not surprised to learn that everyone who knew Roma loved him. But I am astounded at the sheer number of people he knew.

There has been a repeated theme of the many messages, texts, calls, and visits we have received since last Sunday night (the night of the accident.) One friend said it like this: "Everyone loved Roma, but God chose the Michaels to be his family." That was God's extravagant love for us.

But God knew this honor of raising Roma was way too big for the Michael family alone. We would need helpers. LOTS of helpers! To aid in the recruitment of many helpers, God armed Roma with a BIG hearted personality, a sweet deposition, disarming smile, and fabled charisma. And oh, those sparkly green eyes. 

Yes, the helpers came. In droves. Neighbors, teachers, coaches, teammates, friends, mothers and fathers of friends. All assisted us in the joyful task of raising Roma. And we are infinitely grateful for the help! God intended Roma to be a blessing to many. He touched more lives in his brief twenty-one years than most people encounter in a lifetime!

Roma loved life. He loved his family and his friends. He loved sports. Roma LOVED. He spread himself thin. He lived life to the fullest, as if he knew his time was limited. He careened through life, as though he had a check list. "Football. Yeah, that was great, do more of that." Some things on his vast list were ONE and Done, Thank God! He was like a kid in a candy store, on a stopwatch, arms open wide. He didn't always have time to be careful. He just wanted to experience all life had to offer, the good, and sometimes the not-so-good. He didn't want to miss anything!

Sometimes I would wring my hands as we tried to teach Roma to be a man of integrity. Raising a son sent from God was not a job to be taken lightly! We wanted him to learn to be a good husband and father, do his laundry, and remember him to brush his teeth. 

Lately I've sensed that God was telling me not to fret, but cherish the immense GIFT of Roma. It was as if God said, " I didn't ask you to FIX Roma. All I asked you to do was LOVE him. And, oh, that part was easy.

Remember Roma, and do NOT let his bright but brief life and his untimely death leave you unchanged. Make his life count. He would want it that way. Roma was a shooting star. Such LIGHT! But oh so brief. No matter what mischief Roma was getting into, there was no darkness in Roma. No malice. Roma was pure LIGHT.

I look out on this crowd this morning. Most of you I would have never known without Roma. I am so grateful the role each one of you embraced in teaching him, and being taught by him. 

Many times on Facebook this week I've read "rest in peace, Roma." Really? Can the words Rest and Peace be used in the same sentence with Roma? Hardly!

I think Roma is embracing Heaven with the same gusto he embraced life. He's up there endearing himself to angels, insinuating himself into important Heavenly roles, like sending pink roses, my favorite, to my red rose bush, in December! After a week now, Roma is probably trying to be God's top adviser.

We are all so blessed to have been touched by Roma. We always knew there was something special about him. Roma was God's boy. I didn't know how hard it would be to give him back.

I have prayed that something good will come out of this heart-breaking tragedy. I'm confident it will, for God redeems it ALL! He will not waste our pain. Let Roma's life and death make you a better person. Never allow the LIGHT that was Roma, to be extinguished in you. 

Until we meet again, dear, sweet boy! Thank you Lord for your Gift of Roma. And thank you for all these willing helpers!" 

I will share more in later posts. The closeness of God, the foreshadowing of tragedy, the miracles. My wish is only to bring glory and honor to the Perfecter of my faith. Our Father God is a living and loving Father who is not remote and uncaring. He is close to the brokenhearted! 

To read about finding his family in Russia and the Republic of Georgia in 2015, begin here. It's a long story, but worth the time. 

Monday, July 6, 2015

The Gift of Desperation

Last May I wrote a post, The Hound of Heaven Winks, which became my most-read post ever. A lost prodigal reaches from a distance for that safety net, a safety net only God can provide.

I'm asking readers to go back and read that post, one more time. Some followers of our story have confessed to reading it many times. But read it again. And pay close attention to Fred this time.

For the past few years I have been preoccupied with the theme of the "Prodigal Son," found in Luke 15:11-32. As I was praying for my own prodigal one night, I started thinking just how different these characters are, the prodigal in Jesus' story, and present day prodigals. I suspect there are many such prodigal sons and daughters lost in the world today with hopeful parents watching the horizon for their return.

In Bible times there were no phones, no email, no cars, no easy communication or access. The father in Jesus's parable acquiesced to his spoiled son's demands. What choice did he have? He had no control over his son's attitude and behavior. He could only control his own actions, so he chose to surrender his son to his demanded freedom, and watched him walk away.

The Biblical dad was spared the knowledge of his son's shenanigans: the wild living, the foolish waste of money, the decadent self absorption, and finally the desperate yet redemptive act of desiring to eat from the pig troughs. The father of the parable could remain hopefully ignorant.

Fast forward to the Twenty-First Century. Modern fathers (and mothers) are constantly hovering, even from afar, bombarded with the highlights of their darlings' sin. (There's that archaic word. SIN.) The texts for money. The promises of change. The pleas for help with the perceived pig-trough meal in sight. The clinging to hope of preventing the crash on the proverbial "rock bottom." The connection. The painful false hope of repentance. The safety net. The dangerous perceived redemptive power of the human safety net.

At sometime in my prayers for Roma I felt God telling me my safety net had to be removed. The two stories of the Prodigal Son bared little resemblance, and the Bible story was the one that Jesus shared. During the past few months, that Sacred Echo of pulling out all forms of protection that resembled a safety net where he could fall and bounce was removed. The fall had to include "hitting bottom."

In May, after the excitement of finding Russian family members, in the Family Connection series that gave me so much joy and heartbreak to share, Roma fled to Georgia again, then checked himself back into a drug rehab in Florida a month later. He was lost to us. Someone on the inside to share with us the stories of God's pursuit of him seemed lost too. Last year's posts were so exciting to write and read. Now all was quiet. Finding his family was such a God story. There was only silence now. Like the Biblical father in the Prodigal Son was not privy to information, we knew nothing of his activities. Roma had left on a dark odyssey we were, perhaps mercifully, blocked from.

And then on one recent morning I received a text:

"Debbie, this is Fred (last name deleted). I spoke to you about a year ago concerning Roma. Again God brought us together last night at a CR (Celebrate Recovery) meeting. Call me when you are available."

Here we go again! These were the kinds of stories I had grown to expect and cherish from my relationship with God, and Roma.

Fred had gone to a CR meeting the night before, not his usual group, but one he visited occasionally. It was a large group, maybe 150 in attendance. When the meeting was finishing, the leader said, "Can you lead us in the Serenity Prayer, Roma?"

Fred reeled. Roma! He had never seen him in the crowd. Fred found him afterwards and the two marveled again at being reconnected. Fred even teased Roma about being in Florida again, saying, "Please tell me you are in Florida on vacation," even though he suspected, as a recovery addict himself, that rehab had brought him back.

Fred approached the leader after the meeting. "This kid Roma. . . " he began his story about how God had brought them together a year earlier.

The leader replied, "What's interesting is I was going to call on another guy to lead the Serenity Prayer, but when I started asking, that guy got up to get a tissue, so I called on Roma."

So Fred would have never know Roma was in the room if the leader had not called his name! Fred shared with me that he has never felt God direct him to a person like He has Roma. Fred has now agreed to be Roma's sponsor in his recovery. But Fred has repeated several times, "We cannot steal the gift of desperation from him."

Just because I have sensed God telling me to remove the safety net from my dear boy, doesn't mean he is without a Safety Net. God is always present. In the details. Moving us toward Him. Having eyes to see reveals the miracles that abound.

I am confident God's Will is always best. Sometimes we wonder, as I did with the act of adoption, just how painful God's best will turn out to be, if God's best will line up with my expectation. But I am learning, slowly, that I don't expect nearly enough. I don't dream BIG. I am so easily satisfied, or oblivious to miracles that point to God.

I am reminded, for myself, and for my dear gift, Roma, of C. S. Lewis' often quoted writing:

"It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot image what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are too easily pleased."

Lord, please give us all eyes to see the miracles, and teach us to dream BIG!

Thanks for reading! 

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

The Prayers of a Righteous Man

Part Eleven (Part One starts here. Don't miss any parts.)

I grew up in an era when the Cold War was at its frightening height. The foreboding Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, or USSR, was dreaded Enemy Number One of our great United States of America. We did not trust the Commies for a minute.

Most of my peers will remember under-the-desk disaster drills in school by day, and the loud buzz interrupting our television programs by night followed by ominous, yet comforting words, "This has been a test of the Emergency Broadcast System. This is only a test. Had this been an actual emergency, you would have been instructed where to . . ."

I suspect that fear and loathing was part of the reason some older family members were vehemently opposed to our family adopting a boy from Russia. I suppose, to our parents' generation, bringing a seven-year-old child from the most formidable atheistic country in the world was just begging for trouble. "The first seven years of life are impressionable." "What has this child lived through in his formative years?" "What has he inherited from a family he will never know?" These were reasonable questions. Every answer I had for the naysayers was , "I'm sure God knows what He's doing."

Although religion was never officially banned in the Soviet era, believers were usually found guilty of anti-state activities. Only eleven years had passed since Communism failed in the former Soviet Union. For the previous eight decades, government leaders had tried to forcefully purge the country of its religious foundation.

But despite the efforts of the Soviets to dismiss Him, God never left the Soviet Union.

When we hosted little Roma for five days in November, 2001, five months before we traveled to Russia to bring him home as our son, he immediately captured my heart. Even my oldest daughter, thirteen years his senior, and never prone to sentimentality over children, said, "We got the cutest kid in all of Russia!" 

We took him to church with us that Sunday. I was surprised as we drove into the parking lot and he saw the cross. He had learned quickly that we Americans were slow with the Russian language, and it was fruitless to use words with us. His eyes asked the question, and his little hands held together in prayer supplied more visual aids. I smiled and nodded yes. He understood prayer, church, and reverence. I was pleased with his knowledge.

When we traveled to Russia in April, 2002, I encountered people of faith. I was eager when our translator in Roma's home region in North Osettia asked if we minded stopping by her lovely, historic Orthodox Russian Church. We didn't mind tagging along on one of her daily visits during Lent, where she knelt at the rail for prayer and communion. She had given up meat and cigarettes. I had given up nothing. (Except maybe the involuntary relinquishment of my sanity for the first few months of that year, some would argue, longer.)

Days later, back in Moscow, our other translator took us by the famed Cathedral of  Christ the Savior, where she proudly dictated the history. The Soviets (spoken of with disdain) had torn it down in the 1920's during the anti-religious campaign, to erect the ill fated Palace of the Soviets, which was never built past the foundation. As soon as Communism fell in 1991, the citizens rebuilt their church back to it's original glory, complete with gold icons.

I have always been fascinated with Russian history and literature, even before I knew I would one day be the mother of a native son. As I slogged through nineteenth century Russian writers, Tolstoy and Dostoevsky, as a college English major in the 1970's, I was unaware of a Wind blowing through the Russia that young Igor inhabited. Hardly a single intellectual, writer, artist, or musician in the Soviet Union in the 1970's was not exploring spiritual matters, a former Soviet exile living in England told British reporter, Malcolm Muggeridge.

Muggeridge was fascinated, considering the extensive anti-religious brainwashing done on the citizenry for nearly eighty years, and the absence of all Christian literature, including the Gospels. The former Soviet's reply was memorable. The authorities had forgotten to suppress the works of Tolstoy and Dostoevsky, which were "the most perfect expositions of the Christian faith in modern times." No, God had not left Russia. 

Before I learned anything about Igor, I had researched the life of Dostoevsky, and written this post, Powerful Literature. Like our tragic hero Igor, Dostoevsky too spent many years in prison.  For Dostoevsky, prison is where he met Jesus.

I often repeat a question I have pondered since I first learned of Igor, and Liana, and Lia since this story began to unfold the last days of 2014. Did Igor cry out to God in groans too deep for words, that God would protect his baby son, lost to his own family? Lia wrote that Igor took the pain of losing Roma to his grave. I always felt someone most have prayed for this boy. God's swift and determined action  made me feel I was only a cog in a Divine Plan. Now, privy to so much more knowledge, I wonder if my Call, from God, to adopt, was a plan of redemption for a helpless father, a man who seemed "doomed" by the world's definition. I am confident God never abandoned Igor.

Igor died in November, 2006, of cancer, at the age of 41. Lia and his family had pleaded with the authorities to release him from the terrible conditions in the prison, and allow him to die at home, surrounded by his loving family. But the request was denied. He was buried beside his father in Tbilisi, Georgia. All of his heartbroken relatives attended his funeral and a party to honor his life.

The above photo, painstakingly drawn Cyrillic, is translated, "Behold, I stand at the door, and knock. If any man hears my voice, and opens the door, I will come in to him." (Rev. 3:20) It was the reverse side of cousin Lia's birthday present in 1998 from Igor, drawn on a bed sheet with a ball-point pen, from prison. I studied Igor's drawing of Jesus at the door, carefully preserved and eagerly shared by Lia. 

No, Jesus had never abandoned Igor in prison. And He never stops pointing me toward Himself. No other talent would have connected Igor to our family more than his being an artist. I was stunned as the image slowly loaded from Lia.

Igor's drawing for Lia's birthday, 1998

Learning the rest of the story, like I have since the end of 2014, has been such a humbling, restorative, and redemptive experience. I wish I had more information, more photos. I can't get enough of this story, though I am infinitely grateful for the discovery. One day I might have more to share. Maybe photos from our meeting in person, Liana and her family, Lia, and hers, the Michaels, and the common denominator, our boy, Roma. 

Until there's more to share, I will let Lia's closing words from her family's shared memories hang in our collective thoughts. It occurred to me as I was reading, her family's thanks should also go to my family, friends, and community who have had a part in raising Roma. To those who know our family in person, and to others who have joined in the story along the way from my book and this blog and have offered prayers on Roma's behalf, Lia's thanks are for you too. And please don't stop praying. An African proverb states, "It takes a village, to raise a child," and this quote has never been so true as with Roma. Roma was never just our son. Lia's final paragraph is for all of you:

"We would like to say huge thank you for all the love and care which you are taking of our Roma. We are fully aware of the difficulties which are connected to raising up children. God bless you. With your help the New Year 2015 was the happiest in our life. We had spent so many nights thinking about our dear Igor's disappeared son, and imagine our joy when we finally found him alive and healthy, living in such a respectful and happy family. Thank God that you exist and many thanks to you personally, for all your great love and affection towards Roma! We, with all our heart, invite you to Georgia, Roma's homeland—this visit will really make us happy! 

With lots of love,

Lia, her parents and family"

If our story has touched you, please feel free to leave a comment. And please keep the prayers coming! Our family is evidence of the power of prayer.