Thursday, November 15, 2007

Sophia's Gift

Hi, everyone! Thank you for continuing to email and check in with us. I recovered quickly and am back to normal now (normal is a relative term). It looks like I will be flying back to Ukraine next weekend. I am missing Kristina terribly and am ready to bring her home. We've been filling the time with decorating for the holiday and getting the girls' room in order. Hannah and I found a giant K and H at the craft store and we spent yesterday painting them to hang over their beds. I'm printing pics of Kristina with her friends in Ukraine to put in frames in her room. Its important for her to have something familiar around. Add a few Hannah Montana and High School Musical posters, and we're almost done. One of the girls I went to high school with sent us a gift that covered Kristina's bed, the entire thing: frame, mattress, headboard, and bedspread! Thanks, Vicki!!! I'll post a pic of everything soon.

I've gotten quite a few emails recently that touch on the same subject. I'd like to put my two cents in and hope that no one takes offense at my opinion on the matter. I keep a photo as a bookmark in whatever book I happen to be reading. The photo is of a little girl named Sophia. She was an 8 year old orphan in an orphanage in Russia. Several years ago, when Robert and I began to discuss adoption and asked our own children to pray with us, I came across Sophia's picture through my contact with an agency. The photo immediately grabbed me and I could see this little girl as part of our family. Sophia was the embodiment of what I believed adoption would look like for us. I pushed forward researching the adoption process and agencies. We prayed for Sophia by name and asked God to direct our paths. Several months later, we received an email indicating that a family had received a referral for Sophia and that they were going to move forward with the adoption. I wasn't crushed, just surprised. I wondered why God had allowed me to care for this little girl and see this child as part of our future. I would later come to see that Sophia would very much be part of our future.

Prior to learning about Sophia, we had decided that we would pursue a small child, preferably between 4-6 years old. Sophia was 8, older but close in age to our youngest. I liked that age; I felt like I would know what to expect.

Over a year passed and we didn't make any tangible steps forward with adoption. We continued to pray and ask God what He wanted us to do. Where did we even start? We knew that we would adopt, but where, when, and how were very blurry details. We explored hosting programs and talked about the possibility of having an orphan spend the holiday with us. It would give us a good idea of the dynamics of adding another child to our household and a chance to get to know a child one on one. Of all the hosting programs we looked at, none fit our schedule or budget. One of those programs, Frontier Horizon, invited me to travel with them and meet not one but many children. God was prodding me to go. I needed to see these children, their living conditions, and their future. In the spring of 2006, I took a leap of faith and traveled to Odessa. I never traveled with the anticipation of finding a child.

Odessa has many orphanages, divided largely by age group. I believed I would naturally be drawn to Orphanage #9, which houses very young children. Indeed I visited and spent time among a field of beautiful children who called me Mama and sat in my lap. It was blissful. As the week passed, I was given the choice of which orphanage to visit and strangely I found myself gravitating back to #4 and #5 with the older children. God placed Kristina in my path over and over again. I felt an unexplainable connection with her. At one point I made my way to an Internet cafe to tearfully call home and tell my husband what was happening. I needed him to remind me that she was an older child with lots of baggage, set in her ways and a host of unseen problems. Fortunately, he didn't say any of that.

Never, never, never would I have said, "I want to adopt an older child". We wanted a little girl who would fit in the birth order of our family. We wanted a small child who was still "trainable"; a child who would fall in line with our ways; a child who could sit in my lap and snuggle. But that was before I met the older children. Robert's first time in the orphanage, he made an observation that I saw over a year and a half ago. "If people could just see these kids! If they could meet them and see how beautiful and perfect they are." I have received a number of emails from those of you who have looked into the faces of the kids in Kristina's orphanage and seen the same thing. Some of you have even been moved to pray about the possibility of adopting an older child. And that is exactly what I would advise you to do. Pursue God and seek His plan for your family. Yes, there are unique challenges that come with adopting an older child. But there are challenges unique to every child, young or old, biological or adopted.

We have been moved to pray about adoption once again. There are two children in Kristina's class that we have grown attached to during our time together. When someone asks me about my children one day, will I say "I have two 13 year olds, three 12 year old, an 11 year old, and a ten year old"? It sounds crazy, but we are open to God's will for our family. We have chosen to pursue God rather than a particular child though. The last year has been difficult for us and for Kristina. We have known all along that, while it was unlikely, another family could be given a referral for Kristina. In fact, that happened just last month to one of our blog friends. Our desire is that these children would have Christian families. We will seek God and trust that His will is perfect, whether that adds two more children or no more children to our brood. Perhaps God will open other hearts to the very real possibility of adding an older child to their families as well.


Ashley said...

I am in tears right now over this post! (well, that is nothing knew) I know exactly what you mean about never would have thought you would adopt an older child. We always thought we would adopt a little girl about 3 years old maybe a little younger or a little older. But an older boy who will be 12 when we get him? But God had other plans for us. Now I can't imagine not adopting Grisha. He is for us and I hope other people can see that older children need homes, too. They have so much love to give and I think they help us even more than we are trying to help them! They are the ones teaching us! Thank you for this post and thank you for praying for the older children.

Debora Hoffmann said...

Beautifully said, Leslie. We originally wanted to adopt a child under 8, but now we are praying about older children. And we're praying for God's will to be done in our lives and the children's. We have decided that we want to be advocated for orphans, particularly in Ukraine; we feel Him leading our hearts that way, taking us out of our comfort zones, saying "Follow Me." He is truly amazing and to be praised!

Admin said...

Thank you for sharing your story. It is beautiful & wonderful how God directs our paths. We wanted a girl under the age of 2 when we started, but once we figured out that was not possible in Ukraine we had to change our plans a little. We decided that the VERY oldest we could adopt was a 4 year old. Well, the more we pray & think about all of this we have decided to move our age range up to 6.... I can't wait to see what God has in store for us!!

adopting2fromUkraine said...

We had a 'Sophia' also. She was born the same year as our youngest. All I knew of her was her picture. My husband was against adopting her. I am led by my emotions at times and felt he had a better idea of how we should go since this whole adoption thing was his idea from the beginning. Shortly after that, we hosted and fell in love with the two girls we are going after in three weeks. I still pray that someone will adopt our 'Sophia'.

BTW - I'm back online:)

Nataliya said...

What a beautiful story! Even though you didn't get to adopt Sophia, you were meant to bring Kristina to your family. And maybe 2 other kids too!

junglemama said...

It doesn't sound crazy. What a touching story. It is so good to hear about your openess to God's plan. He will do amazing things, and that may mean a couple of more kids. :)

ArtworkByRuth said...

Wow, well said!
We have not yet met but will someday as sisters in Christ. We also decided to adopt a child that did not fit our vision for our family. He is almost seven and has Cerebral Palsy. We came home from Ukraine September 2007 and pray to return for more special needs children. Watching 215 disabled older children every day for a month at the orphanage gave us a new appreciation for their creativity, resiliancy and how much they are just like any other child that needs to be loved. Once God places a child on your heart or in your home, he will also be faithful to equip you to parent that child. God Bless!

adoptedthree said...

Bravo Leslie!
Although I did adopt younger children which was part of our family plan, I would never turn from older children. If and when we return, that is what we will adopt! PS if I had not adopted my children then my boys would probably be the "older" children still waiting themselves. So either way they all are waiting!!!