Tuesday, August 3, 2010

SWEET Sixteen

This week we celebrated Cassandra's 16th birthday which has given us the opportunity to look back on God's goodness in placing her in our lives.

We first met Cassandra--along with her siblings, Speedy and Jaynie--in their orphanage in Bryansk, Russia, in July 2001. 

Cassandra had just turned seven the day before.

We quickly saw that she was a vibrant, happy child, full of curiosity.
She entered into every activity the day held with delight...

...including getting to say "Здравствуйте" (hello) to her soon-to-be siblings in America.

We spent about seven hours with Cassandra and her siblings. The very, very hot day was invested in finding ways to have fun together despite the lack of shared language. The buildings and grounds were nearly deserted because the other 300 children were away at summer camps.

As evening brought our short window of introduction to a close...

Jaynie, Cassandra and Mr. Beaver in front of the orphanage's "apartment"

...the kids were taken by their caretakers back to their dormitory-style rooms.The two of us spent the night in a small dwelling on the orphanage grounds.

More than two months would pass before all the paperwork required by two governments was completed and we could return to Russia, go to court, and bring these siblings home. We had no idea what the children's response to us would be when we returned. For weeks we anticipated the reunion with some trepidation. 

However, Cassandra quickly put us at ease when she greeted her new papa with unmistakable wonder.

The awe in her eyes as she stroked her new father's face communicated:

Did you really come back?
Did you really come back for me?
Are you really going to be my papa?
Are you really holding me?
Are you really letting me touch you like this?
Am I really going  to have a family?
Am I really going to have a home?
Do I really get to leave this orphanage?
Are you really going to adopt my sister and brother also?

Cassandra entered our home with an open, eager heart, a willingness to learn and even a desire to serve. At sixteen these same characteristics still mark her personality, but they have matured and ripend. Her gentle, always-happy spirit, her frequent, easy, musical laugh and a soul-deep desire to do whatever she can to make the lives of others easier make her a daughter who blesses and blesses and blesses.

The Father of the Fatherless reached down into an obscure orphanage in a rural village in Russia and rescued a child who had no hope and no future, and, in so doing, gave our family a gift of inestimable worth.

Happy 16th birthday, Cassandra!


The Nordstroms said...

Happy Happy Birthday!! I am so very very blessed to be your friend and I love you bunches :D

India said...

Happy Birthday!! :) I can imagine it's rather exciting to be 16. May God continue to richly bless you - and keep shining His light bright like you do now!
With Love,
~India Aderhold

Andrew said...

Sixteen years old! Wow! My dad jokes about hanging one shotgun over the door every time one of his daughters turns sixteen.
Happy Birthday!

MacMeister said...

Happy Birthday Cassandra! :-) I hope your family gave you the royal treatment! ;-) God bless you and keep you!


Scott said...

Happy Birthday Casandra!!!!!!

This was a fantastic Birthday tribute - I loved it and the picture with you and your Dad was just amazing - it moved me both in reading and studying the pictures. Thanking God for you and your whole family.


Sir Eric the Great, Royal Chaplain said...

Happy Birthday Cassandra! My Mom and I both cried when we read that post. God is so amazing! I really enjoyed getting to know you. I had so much fun talking and laughing (lots of laughing :)) with you! That last picture of you is so pretty! I love it!
Kali (not Eric :))