It was not my idea to adopt our fourth and youngest child from Russia in 2002. As a middle-aged mother of three, ages twelve to nineteen, I was sure my family was complete. But in March of 2000, a solitary, troubling whisper of adoption came seemingly out of thin air, interrupting my comfortable life. Although I tried to ignore it, the nagging thought only intensified. God would not be ignored.
Two years later, in April 2002, my husband and I traveled to Russia to adopt beautiful, magical Roma, age seven. His green eyes danced, his gut-laughter was contagious, and his captivating smile became his trademark. This extravagant little gift I had selfishly tried to decline was a perfect fit for our family.
Roma, the outgoing boy who needed no last name, charmed his way into the hearts of everyone in our small community. Strangers acquainted with Roma often approached us, saying, "How wonderful of you to save Roma," but we were quick to tell them that Roma was the one who saved us. We beamed with joy in being Roma's family. But harder times were coming.
|Florida Keys 2013|
In a dream in 2014, a friend spoke four words that jarred me awake, “Write all this down.” I knew it was another command I had to obey. A few days later, a
spiritual journey with Roma and God became so visible and intense, I could hardly write fast enough. My blog was suddenly not invisible any longer, when I posted The Hound of Heaven Winks. God became the main character. Roma was running, and God was meeting him around every corner with hair-raising results.
I was grateful to God for making himself visible to all of us. But there was also a foreboding, an unshakeable feeling that suffering was coming.
After rebelling against his family and running from God for two years, Roma, at age twenty-one, finally stopped, turned around, and returned home in October 2015. He surrendered and admitted that God was a force he couldn’t escape. Like the proverbial Prodigal Son, he was contrite and repentant. He was sweet and joyful again. He talked about God as a familiar friend, and his worship was truly Spirit-filled. My heart overflowed with gratitude. Yet the sense of looming suffering continued.
|Working on a roof at the Pittsburgh Project, 2014|
My birthday was in late November. Sweet Roma wanted to buy me flowers. I persuaded him instead to add to his car fund. My love for pink roses is well known, but I didn’t want them enough to wreck Roma’s new attempt at saving money.
Seven weeks after his return home, on December 7, 2015, Roma fell two stories from a ladder at work after touching a live electric cable. When we got the call, we rushed to Shock Trauma in Baltimore, pleading with God for another Roma miracle.
But I knew he was gone. The doctor confirmed my worst fear, telling us the injury was “not compatible with life.” I remembered the ominous feeling of impending doom I couldn’t shake. Had God been lovingly preparing me that Roma’s mission on earth was complete?
My older son, age twelve when Roma first arrived in 2002, had sweetly said that until he could consider Roma a brother, he would consider him an “exchange student from God.” Those tender words forever changed the way I would look at my youngest child over the next fourteen years. In that moment when I realized Roma was gone, those words rushed back to me as a sacred reminder of release.
Like an exchange student, Roma had come with a mighty flourish. Everyone welcomed and embraced him. He, and everyone he encountered, had a meaningful, life-changing visit. Now he had returned. But as I pondered Roma's short life, I realized that Roma had not come as a student at all. No, Roma had been a most effective teacher. He had taught a whole community, and beyond, how to love and know God better.
|First rose spotted|
That week in Maryland as we planned Roma’s Celebration of Life ceremony, the cold weather suddenly turned into springtime, my favorite season. One afternoon as I walked back from the mailbox, arms overflowing with sympathy cards, my eyes were directed to the opposite side of the yard. It looked like a scrap of tissue was stuck on a thorn in an almost bare bush. I walked over to investigate further, and discovered a pink rose! It wasn’t a perfect rose. It looked as if it had bloomed quickly, with only a few malformed petals. Nevertheless, I carefully cut it and tenderly put it in a bud vase alongside the other florist flowers displayed on the dining room table. The next day, I eagerly checked the bush again, and two more pink buds had appeared. In December. In Maryland.
|Over the next days|
I couldn’t help thinking of Roma’s childlike wish to buy his mom flowers for her birthday two weeks earlier. Now I had pink roses blooming in December, in Maryland. For a week, I checked daily, joyfully finding new and more perfect pink buds blooming daily.
|Until they were perfect|
Sure, it had suddenly become unseasonably warm that week, so I guess skeptics could argue that roses blooming in Maryland in December is possible. But skeptics would be hard pressed to explain how my precious pink rosebuds were blooming on a bush that in summer grows RED roses.
|Rose on same bush in June, pink rhododendron in background|
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Readers can start at the beginning of our story by reading But the Greatest of These is Love.
Many Roma and God Stories begin with The Hound of Heaven Winks.
Writing through my grief begins here with The Agony. But don't stop there, or you'll miss the miracles!
Dont miss the exciting and heart breaking stories about finding Roma's extended birth family. Begin with Hope for Restoration.
Follow our journey of visiting Roma's birth family in June of this year, the posts are still under contructioin. A Sacred Pilgrimage
Be blessed. Even in the pain, I feel like I have lived something Sacred.