The Sweetest Christmas Story- part 4

My days were spent visiting my soon to be adopted little girl,

sipping hot tea in the big conference room and playing simple games with her.

At first she was very shy and kept her beautiful eyes with those long eyelashes lowered.

But gradually she began to meet my eyes for just a second

before looking down again at what she was doing.

A dish of hard candy was on the table and from time to time

I offered her little bits of sweets.

This went on for a few days – morning and afternoon.

At the same time halfway around the world

my oldest daughter was counting the days.

Waiting,

waiting for me to fly home on Christmas eve.

What do you do for Christmas? I asked the orphanage workers.

I knew their Christmas was in early January and I wondered how they celebrated in the orphanage.

The kind workers shook their head and mentioned one word. Orange.

An orange? I asked.

Carefully they explained that each child got one orange. That was their Christmas gift.

It was and still is hard for me to imagine getting one orange for Christmas.

That’s all.

But there were so many children to care for –

the needs were great

they could do so little.

An orange.

And then my thoughts move  forward to that day

when my tiny little dimpled darling

came into the big conference room

tightly holding an orange in her small hands.

She walked over to where I was sitting.

I stooped toward her knowing that this was her Christmas gift.

Her only Christmas gift.

She tightened her grip on that orange

clearly showing me that she was not about to share it. No way.

Halfway around the world we celebrate with toys and food a-plenty.

My heart longed to do more,

to give more

to share of all that I had with  all the children in that orphanage.

That day at the end of our visit

Jenny walked with the orphanage worker to the big gray door

still gripping her orange in her hands.

Little did she know that in a few weeks I would be coming back

to take her home

to her forever family. And ten thousand oranges.

Yes, I see oranges with new eyes these days,

They seem almost insignificant here

but in many places around the world

they represent plenty and abundance.

In a world that struggles with poverty, disease and extreme hardships

it often takes so little

to make a big difference.

Thoughts of those orphans holding their oranges

cause my heart to ache with sorrow.

Lord, open our eyes.

Help us to see what You see.

Teach us to love. And to give.

Soon I would be leaving Kostroma to fly home to the States.

But this image would stay with me

forever.

 

 

The Sweetest Christmas Story —part 3

With a burst of excitement the long waited adoption of Jenny took off.

Tickets were bought. Suitcases packed and before I knew it I was flying to Moscow.

Looking back today many years later I marvel at how smoothly it all came together.

But as always

when it’s right…it’s right.

It was difficult to sleep on the long flight to Moscow.

Memories of my first adoption came to mind

but no matter how you get a child

each time is different- each experience is laced with the sacred fingerprints of God.

After exiting the uneventful flight I connected with my Russian facilitator,

grabbed my luggage and got in his car.

Today I smile remembering the scene –

a cold late afternoon in December riding along on my way to Kostroma

talking as if we’d known each other for years.

The hours passed quickly as I watched the snow falling.

Would we make it all the way to the orphanage?

“Da”, he nodded. Nothing would keep us from making it to the orphanage.

But late in the night the mounting snow caused me increasing concern.

I’ll never forget the moments when we stopped at a small, rustic restaurant

that seemed in the middle of nowhere.

It was almost  like walking into a children’s fairytale.

Deep snow abounded outside

but inside there was music and laughter and colored lights of Christmas.

A warm fire was blazing in the fireplace and we sat and ordered a simple meal.

At that moment

although halfway around the world from all things familiar

I was at home.

The peace that God gave was real and it was as if He graced me with an evening of wonder.

But all too quickly we headed out into the wintry scene and continued the drive to Kostroma.

Our conversation slowed as we both tried to see through the snow.

I marveled that he managed to follow the narrow two lane road.

In the early hours of morning we drove into Kostroma .

I found my way to a hotel room and freshened up

as I prepared to meet my soon to be adopted little girl.

Then suddenly I found myself sitting in a big room at the orphanage.

Alone. Waiting. Waiting some more.

Then  I heard a sound and turned my head as the door opened.

There stood the tiniest little girl.

I caught my breath

and looked up into the face of my facilitator.

“She’s so small.”

And she was.

Born very premature weighing 1 ½ pounds she was a survivor now at two.

I held out my arms and scooped her into them.

We often speak of love at first sight

and this was my second time when that was my experience.

A mother knows her child. There is no other explanation for it.

Suddenly my heart that had waited so very long for this little one

was overflowing with joy.

But there would be more hurdles to cross before I could bring her home.

And I will tell you about the importance of one orange.

 

The Sweetest Christmas Story – part 2

Excitement mounted as I waited and watched for the package from the agency in Russia.

The long awaited video of my soon to be adopted little girl.

My daughter and I stared out the window the day hardly able to contain our joy

but the sun set  with no package delivered.

Could the recent snowfall have delayed the delivery?

One more disappointment.  Lump in throat moment.

But a call later confirmed that the package HAD been delivered.

Not to our house, though.

Grabbing my coat and hat I opened the front door and stepped out into the cold winter night.

“Where can it be?”

I didn’t know but I knew that it was somewhere.

So we stepped through the deep snow and began walking

and praying.

Please Lord, where is the package? Show us.

Suddenly as I crossed the street I had the strangest nudge

to ask at a certain home.

I didn’t know who lived there but the light was on.

Walking up the snowy front walk my heart beat with anxious hope.

Had the package been delivered here?

I knocked on the front door and a man came to answer it.

Can I help you?

In a few words I explained about the missing package-

how it had been wrongly delivered somewhere.

He reached behind him and held up a package in his hands.

Joy overflowing. Praising moments as together my daughter and I

practically skipped  through the snow

to our home.

Finally this was it.

My hands trembled as I ripped open the box and pulled out a video.

Within seconds I had it in the player and ready to play.

I can still see that moment as we sat on the floor gazing at the screen.

After weeks and months and yes, years of waiting soon we  would see her face.

And then suddenly, there she appeared on the screen.

Precious and shy. Tiny and adorable.

My arms ached to reach out and pick her up as tears trickled down my face.

I glanced down at my daughter and saw that she too was moved.

“She’s our Jenny,” I said quietly knowing my child.

My arms wrapped around my daughter with sheer relief after all the waiting.

And overflowing  joy.

My eyes told me she was a precious little girl

and my heart told my she was mine.

The next steps would unfold quickly as I got my airplane tickets

and prepared to fly to Russia for the first trip of a two trip process.

As I turned away I suddenly had a thought.

What was her birth date?

So I rewound the tape and played it again.

There it was in big bold letter.

February 14, 2000.

A Valentine baby.

And for me – the sweetest gift from the Lord.