Wednesday, January 14, 2015

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

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