Some things are hard to communicate.
The impact on our hearts of Daria turning 16 has been one of those. Her birthday was more than a month ago, less than a week after Anna's wedding. We haven't shared her big day here because I've been unsure. I can't seem to find the right words. I've typed drafts and deleted them... repeatedly.
You see, I want this post to be extra special because an orphan turning 16 in a home with a family is a really big deal. If Daria had turned 16 while still living in her orphanage, she would have no longer been eligible for immigrating to America as an adoptee. She would have "aged out" of the system.
Now that she's able to communicate in broken English we've learned that she would have had one more year of school and then left the orphanage at age 17. To their credit, the Russians have worked hard to make the transition of the children who "age out" a smooth one.
Daria tells us that some of the kids went on to college. She had the opportunity to go to a "forum" in Moscow with orphans from children's homes all over Russia that helped the teens explore job opportunities and interests.
Still, even if Daria had been able to go on to college and then build a fabulous career, she wouldn't have had parents or siblings to cheer her on. When she married no family would have shed tears of joy as she walked down the aisle. And when she gave birth to her children, there would have been no grandparents to cradle each tiny infant and rave about its beauty.
And that's the best possible scenario. Sadly, the statistics tell a story of suicide and crime that all too often swallows these young people who have no family. For the girls, the fate is all too often prostitution. The very possibility of that hits far too close to home now that we're parenting a beauty whose adoption was completed just four months before she turned 16. The raw reality that she came so close has left us thanking God that He reached down and rescued her. The raw reality that so many of Daria's friends will age out of the system frequently haunts us.
So I share these photos with a heart that is overwhelmingly glad that Daria was in our home... in our family... legally our own... when she turned 16 on March 25, 2011.
Like our other eight Russian adoptees, this was Daria's first birthday celebration.
Oksana gave Daria her first-ever birthday gift.
Daria was so tickled when she discovered her six-year-old sister had given her one of the two dolls she owned at the time. Mr. Beaver and I were touched by Oksana's selfless generosity.
Here are the two sisters who shared the same orphanage. They were grouped by age so they rarely saw each other. We've been pleased and privliged to watch a sisterly bond develop between two girls who are united by love, not blood.
Daria continued opening gifts from her many siblings.
Each time she did she'd hug the gift-giver.
Here Cassandra is in her delighted grasp...
...and here Daria's roommate, Lissie, gets the thank you squeeze.
Then Daria's mom and dad took the family to the local sporting goods store where we surprised Daria with our gift--her very own bike. She'd never had the opportunity to learn to ride a bike, but told us she longed to have the chance. Her dad and a salesman helped her find the right bike while the rest of us watched--cheering her on and relishing her joy.
Once the bike was selected, her dad helped her find the right helmet
She was good natured about learning how to put on the uncomfortable contraption.
Back home after the bike purchase, the evening finished with silliness. As Cassandra frosted Daria's coconut cream cake, Daria indulged in the last of the Cool Whip...
...who proceeded to decorate herself.
We had a happy former orphan who'd been rescued by the Father of the Fatherless (Ps. 68) just in time.