Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Sacred Restoration

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

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

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

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

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

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

With a house full at Christmas, I forgot. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Eduard: "Glad to help you."

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

Roma: "So you are my cousin?"

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

Roma: "okay talk to you tomorrow."

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

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

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

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

Roma: "yeah, I got it."

Eduard: "Chat"

Roma: "What?"

Eduard: "Communicate with her."

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

Roma: "I just did"

Eduard: "Do you have a translator?"

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

Roma: "Computer translates, so yes.

Then he switched to Liana.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Praise be to God.

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

Continue this story here. 

Hope for Restoration

Part One Family Connections

C.S. Lewis, who wrote over 70 books, including the Narnia series and Mere Christianity, once said, "I never actually made a book. It's rather like taking dictation. I was given things to say." I understand exactly what Lewis was talking about, because I too have been "given things to say." Everything I have recorded  that has been of significance comes from God. For all the tripe, I take full ownership.

Why do I feel compelled to share my little stories? Because they point to God! God is the Author of my significant stories! They draw me closer to Him, and ultimately to a place of overwhelming peace and JOY, regardless of the daily challenges!

Many readers of my book, But the Greatest of These is Love have reported mopping tears as they read. The most commonly asked question is about Liana, Roma's sister, age 17 at the time of Roma's adoption 13 years ago. Are we in contact with her?, they eagerly ask. I have always been sorry I have to say no. 

In Roma's "profile" (his life summary prepared for prospective adoptive parents) I first learned of Liana. Roma, seven at the time, had a younger brother, Rostilav, age two, and an older sister, Liana, age seventeen. How could anyone split up a family? He was a "social orphan," meaning he had at least one parent living. The paper trail of Rostilav had ended abruptly before we began our adoption search. Our case worker speculated that he had been adopted because of his young age. Most adoptive parents choose children under five. Once over five, most children are never adopted.

I was profoundly sad when learning of Liana. I cried  when writing about her, and every time I read the book again, I cry again. And yes, I have reread many times. When I hear from a reader saying, "I am on page — and I have laughed and cried." I pick up a copy that is always nearby and start reading at that page to see what has triggered emotion. I get caught up in the story and keep reading, laughing, and crying, like I haven't read it before, like I didn't LIVE it, like I don't know how the story ends! And, as a matter of fact, I don't know how the story will end. It is ongoing. It continues to be a good story. It is God's story, so I will not diminish it with false humility.

The powers-that-be did have the authority to split up a family. Liana was not eligible for adoption. Rostilav was already adopted, and Roma was on adoption parade, being displayed, by way of his circulating profile, for international adoption. Although I was fighting God about His idea of adoption, He had made His Will unmistakably clear. We were taking a small step toward that end by hosting Roma when he was part of a group of five children, ages seven to twelve, who were flown to American for a five day visit. All Sacred Indicators pointed to this little boy. A few short, hectic months later, God led us to Russia to bring Roma home.

Upon our return home, we gradually went through the mountain of paperwork requiring our attention. One was a translation of the official document Liana had signed releasing him to what she hoped would be a better life than what she could give him. She was not yet 18, shy just five weeks. She had no rights to contest the adoption; her signature was a formality. We were later told that had she been 18, she would have had rights to custodial guardianship. With guardianship of a minor brother, she would have been granted government aid and an apartment. I wondered. . . had the accelerated schedule to adopt  been a calculated plan. We filed papers in late January. Six weeks later, we had a court date. A month after that, we found ourselves, deer-in-the-headlights panicked, on a plane, bound for Russia. On the return trip, nine days later, we had our new son in tow. Waiting parents before us had waited a year, or longer, and had been required to make two, and sometimes three trips, some trips lasting several weeks.  

In the past 13 years, I have never forgotten Liana. Always in the shadows of my imagination was a teenage girl who had lost her family. I got to know Liana through Roma's stories of her. He talked about her as if we knew her, and pretty soon we did! He told us she was beautiful and she told him funny stories. She visited him at the orphanage with gifts of candy. I was always touched by this gentle act, but Roma was always reminded how miffed he was that the caregivers insisted that he share his treasured gift with the other eager children.

Liana was only six weeks younger than my tender-hearted daughter, Kellie. I am thankful that God put Roma into a home with three older siblings, and especially an older sister who had not yet left for college, who is beautiful, who doted on him, who read him stories and played games with him, and gave him candy. Not a substitute for Liana, but a reminder from a Loving God who provides for our needs.  

For the first three years, home visits were required and paperwork sent back to Russia, to document Roma's well-being. I requested, at every home visit, that the officials in Russia please get word to Liana that Roma was loved and thriving. I watched as the social worker wrote the request in her notes, every three months, as she pronounced that Roma was bonding well and in good health.  

A few years ago, I registered with several adoption groups whose purpose is to find family members lost through adoption. Separating children from their families causes trauma. I worried about Liana, as well as Roma. Some children never recover.  We had been so naive at the beginning. We believed we could love Roma enough for any pain of lost family to heal. Roma seemed to be thriving. He is, by nature, a happy-go-lucky child. He was distracted with many activities of his own choosing. He seemed eager to embrace his new life. Roma appeared to be ready to close the heavy door on the previous chapter of his past. I, on the other hand, was unable to shut that door completely.

As he grew, he didn't want to talk about Liana anymore, and didn't want me to mention her name either. Was it too painful?

"Mom," Roma would try to comfort me in Roma's blunt manner. "She is probably dead." 

Is this how Roma dealt with his loss? Of course it could be true, but his effort to forget Liana was to wipe her out completely? He couldn't conceive that his sister could be somewhere "over there," continuing life, maybe even having fun, without him!

He turned 18, then 19. Roma is 20 now. Life happens fast. It is unbelievable that he has been my son for almost 13 years! Liana knew him for only seven. Is he mature enough to deal with what might be an emotional experience? How can they even communicate? He doesn't remember Russian, and it was doubtful Liana, now 30, knows English.

Does she have a family? Does she ever wonder about Roma? Does she think about us as much as I think about her? 

I continued to pray.

Continue to Part Two here