Eight years ago, we adopted three biological siblings from Russia. Tonight we celebrated the middle sister's 13th birthday.
Here is Natasha at 4-1/2 years old on the day we met her in her orphanage director's office...
...and here she is today:
|Natasha--now 13 years old|
On this day that marks Natasha's birth, we also celebrate God's goodness in this former orphan's life. You may have heard stories of Russian adoptions gone wrong. What has happened in a very small number of these adoptions has gained wide media attention. Negative stories do that. However, the terribly sad stories of American adoptive parents wrongly mistreating their children wildly misrepresent the love and encouragement nearly all the families who have adopted Russian children seek to lavish on the kiddos they treasure. These adopted children's lives now tell tales of what the love of a family and the stability of a home can do for an orphan.
When we adopted Natasha, she was five-years-old and weighed a mere 26 pounds. Three months after becoming our daughter, she was diagnosed by a pediatric endocrinologist with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) as a result of the intoxication of her mother during pregnancy. Her mother's drinking was the reason Natasha had been taken from her mother in the first place. Thankfully, the Russian government valued this little one enough to let Americans give her a fresh start through adoption. (This was after a thorough search to see if any Russians were interested in adding the four-year-old to their households. Russians had the first priority to adopt her.)
On the day we learned that Natasha has FAS, we were told that all children diagnosed with the syndrome will demonstrate mild to moderate retardation. Natasha's mental development has defied the prognosis. She reads at a collegiate level and reads voraciously. This serves her well because she has an unquenchable curiosity. Natasha is self-taught and well-versed in the areas of: horses, dogs, insects, horticulture, cooking, interior design and the functioning of the U.S. government. Natasha has a strong interest in relearning Russian (Small children adopted into another culture can't hang on to their original language unless they're in a bilingual environment.) Her 17-year-old sister Daria, adopted from Russia in 2010, is tutoring her. Natasha enjoys writing, working on political campaigns, baking and craft projects. In the fall of 2010 she was a finalist in the National Bible Bee after memorizing hundreds of verses. This qualified her to compete in the nationals in Chicago.
As a parent, these accomplishments can't help but bring a smile as we reflect on the teeny-tiny child who joined our family in April 2005 speaking only Russian. However, the state of her heart is much more important to us than any intellectual feats. Did you notice the shirt Natasha is wearing in the photo making her birthday? Natasha has a heart for orphans. This tenderness for children who need a family like she once did was even demonstrated in how the 13-year-old wanted to celebrate her birthday. Her request for her birthday gift was that we would forego buying her anything. Instead, she asked if the family could use the money we would normally spend on a present to host a fundraiser for families who are adopting.
Natasha has one other birthday wish. She longs for the four siblings whose adoption we had almost completed to be given the same chance she's had to join a family in America. She longs for the three brothers and their sister to become her brothers and sister. We continue to pray with her that her dream will come true. Please, Russia, reopen the door...