We left off with God’s miraculous provision for Alex’s adoption. I didn’t emphasize this point but the first provision was Alex’s picture in the newsletter. In a sense, there was even provision prior to that time: as I mentioned, eleven families passed over Alex and adopted a different child. God saved Alex for us.
Once we started, Alex’s adoption took six months. This was in 1998, by the way, long before two trips to Russia were required. We flew to Moscow, stayed a day, took an overnight train to Vologda and met Alex the next morning. The following morning we stood in front of a judge and promised to love him forever. No matter what. The final morning in Vologda we visited with Alex and his little group, did some official paperwork and that evening took Alex out of his orphanage forever, stuck him on an overnight train and came back to Moscow.
Alex was shell-shocked. We were shell-shocked. At that point we had only parented Luke. Luke has always been a calm child. He has never even remotely bordered on hyperactive. He was generally sweet and obedient and happy.
Alex had not been out of the highly structured orphanage environment since he was 5 months old. He literally did not know how to behave. At all. Particularly with these strangers who smelled weird, spoke a different language and didn’t know what was supposed to be happening. John would literally have to wrap himself around Alex in the evenings to help Alex settle. (This wasn’t a struggle type of hold, but Alex really just had no idea how to calm down on his own.) Nevertheless, it did not endear John to Alex; Alex only wanted me. This is not uncommon in adoptions as often the child favors one parents and really excludes the other.
A week later we finished all the various legal proceedings and left Moscow for home. We had been given free passes on Delta for our trip. That worked out beautifully on the flights to Moscow; I believe we were even in business class on the long flight over the Atlantic.
The flights home were not so easy. We had no problem flying from Moscow to Zurich. In Zurich, however, we were given the last three open seats on the flight to Atlanta. Not one of the seats was together. The young man who was to be seated next to Alex graciously gave up his seat to me! (Can you imagine why?)
For the next several hours of our flight Alex wouldn’t eat anything but the chocolate bar and chocolate ice cream they served, wouldn’t sleep, and had the opposite reaction to Benadryl—it made him nervous instead of sedated! It was a nightmare!!
We arrived in Atlanta on Saturday morning. Let me be more specific: we arrived in Atlanta, Delta’s main hub, the Saturday morning after Thanksgiving and we were using free airline passes. I don’t recall how many flights we tried to fly stand-by but let’s just say that there were a LOT. After hours of trying to get a flight to Dallas I took Alex to the bathroom and he had a complete breakdown. I carried him out of the bathroom screaming and crying…both of us. We eventually determined that being surrounded by English speaking people, smells, no sleep and no food, did Alex in. Trying to care for a 3.5 year old boy I barely knew did me in.
So where was God? Everywhere! A man who had worked for Delta for years and his wife (who was a Christian speaker) saw us, came over and spoke peace to us, led us to the Delta Red Cap desk. The Delta Red Cap took us to a quiet office and called paramedics because we weren’t sure then if Alex was upset or actually sick. Once Alex calmed down and we determined he wasn’t sick, the Red Cap left us in his office to sleep. He eventually came back and told us he was putting us up in the airport hotel ON DELTA’S DIME. Apparently, Delta will do this for ‘distressed’ travelers. That certainly described us.
The three of us slept very well that night after the exhausting events of the day. We decided that there was zero hope of getting on a flight to Dallas on the Sunday of Thanksgiving weekend so we stayed in the room and slept and relaxed.
So where was God as we were stuck in Atlanta; so close to home and yet so far! He was everywhere! He used that time to calm us all. It was during that day of rest that Alex first approached John to snuggle. It was a tiny, yet significant, turning point.
God was also with us on Monday morning. The flights to Dallas were still booked solid, but we found an early flight to Shreveport with over a hundred free seats. That put us three hours from home and that was close enough! I called my parents early on Monday morning and told them to plop Luke in the car and start driving east. (If they’d known we would be stuck for so long in Atlanta I guarantee they’d have driven there to meet us. Luckily we got a bit closer than that.)
We arrived home to a house full of gifts (thanks, Aunt Paige!) on a sunny, warm November day in Texas. Within moments Alex and Luke were in the backyard swinging.
We had a hard, hard, hard two months; the boys fought constantly. Luke didn’t want to surrender his throne (or his toys) and Alex was a true little communist—everything was fair game. Those days drove me to my knees and to the Word more than I ever had been before. I truly delighted in the Lord as my only Hope and Salvation in a difficult situation. As we’ll see next week (maybe Monday?), when we delight in the Lord, He gives us the desires of our heart!
I’ll be putting a matrushka (Russian nesting doll) in the memorial box as a reminder of God showing up in our trip. It not only is a symbol of Russia, but a symbol of the many layers Alex and I have both had to peel away to find our true love for one another. If that isn’t God at work in us I don’t know what is!
The Spaso-Prilutsky Monastery in Vologda
View of Vologda from above