Monday, May 11, 2015

He Proposed with a Frisbee, Part 1

I don't know if I've ever left our readers hanging for so long after promising a post. Friends, I'm sorry for the prolonged wait for our family's big news. I never intended for weeks to pass by before I published the story of Josh and Zhenya getting engaged. However, I've found this to be amongst the most difficult posts I've ever been called on to write.

Why? Well, I've spent plenty of time searching my heart for the reason for my struggle. As strange as it sounds, I think the source of my writer's block has been overwhelming JOY! Let me try to explain...

Both Mr. R and I are over-the-moon THRILLED that Josh and Zhenya will soon wed. Mr. R spent months working with Josh during his courtship with Zhenya. Josh has been through a more rigorous screening than CIA agents must have to endure to enter the service. And Josh passed Mr. R's many queries with flying colors. He is truly a fine, godly young man.

In addition, there just couldn't be a man better suited to our beloved Zhenya! She is spunky, athletic, and just-plain full of life. Zhenya is a party-waiting-to-happen where ever she goes. She loves to laugh. She loves a good joke. She loves an adventure, and she rises to any challenge set before her. On top of all this, Zhenya is remarkably intelligent, creative and artistic. She has a growing business as owner of her own graphic design firm. It will take quite a man to be the life-long partner of our fireball, and we feel confident that God has given Josh the perfect blend of qualities to bring out Zhenya's best for the next 60 or so years.

So why the struggle to tell the story of Josh and Zhenya's engagement? Well, I've just grabbed a mug of steaming tea. Let me try my best to share my heart's elation with you.

Fourteen years ago Mr. R and I were in the midst of adopting from Russia. In late 2000, the two of us had experienced a nudge from God about the unending need for homes and families for older orphans in Eastern European. With great trepidation, we fell to our knees to seek the face of God to make certain that He was really calling us to something that seemed so risky. We also sought wisdom and guidance in His word.

We didn't have to pray long or read far to begin to comprehend God's heart for the orphan. By mid January 2001, we'd started the adoption process, planning on bringing home one child who was between six and eight. God, however, continued to do radical surgery in our hearts (despite the fear raging in me). During my regular Bible reading time one morning, I read in Ecclesiastes that "two are better that one". Again we recognized God at work through His word, and we made the decision to adopt siblings ~ a boy and a girl. My fear continued, but at least I could see the logic behind us adding a brother for John and a sister for Anna and Alison. This made impending change to our family seem neat and tidy!

God, however, was not interested in allowing me to rest in a place that felt neat, tidy and under control. Within days of our home study being finished, the adoption agency director emailed Mr. R...directly from rural RUSSIA! She was visiting an orphanage in the Bryansk region in the far western part of the country. Her agency had just started to work with the Zhukovka orphanage and her goal was to build a relationship with the orphanage's director that could lead to future adoptions. Mr. R read in the unexpected email that she'd met the PERFECT kids for us. There was just one small detail that varied from our plan. This sibling group was made up of THREE kiddos instead of two!

The thought of doubling the number of our children in one fell swoop overwhelmed me! I just couldn't wrap my head around parenting six children ages eleven to five. I couldn't begin to fathom how I would home school six, especially since three of them wouldn't speak English fluently for more than a year after they joined the family. In addition, friends to whom we mentioned that we were praying about adopting three older children were saying things to us like, "Are you going to hide the knives?"

In the midst of my fretting, God grabbed a hold of my heart. One morning while I was reading my Bible, He revealed my failure to trust Him. That revelation cast a whole new light on the craziness of adopting a trio of siblings from a half a world away. We wouldn't be traveling the road alone. God would be with us, and He would be faithful. I remembered that nothing was impossible for Him, including healing the hearts and lives of some very broken children. Mr. R had already come to the conclusion that we should adopt Zhenya, Svetlana and Vladislav (as they were then known). Now, after about six weeks of wrestling, I told Mr. R that I was ready to take God at His word and take on three orphans.

In September 2001 (one week after 9/11), we went to court in Russia and became the parents of three traumatized, neglected children. These were siblings whose multi-generational legacy was one of alcoholism, divorce, and children born out of wedlock. We had three goals for our new kiddos. First, that their physical needs ~ food, clothing, shelter and education ~ would be met. Second, that they would be taught about God and introduced to Jesus. We knew that they only way for them to fully heal from their traumatic first few years was to eventually have their identity solidly anchored in Christ's very personal love of each of them. Third, that we would, by God's grace, equip them to be able to go the distance in happy marriages, successfully raising children to God's glory. We longed for them to break the legacy that caused them such pain. We longed for the cycle to never repeat itself in their lives or those of their children.

We've witnessed the fulfilling of those first two goals over the course of the past 14 years. The third goal has had to wait. We just couldn't know whether marriage-readiness could be attained until one of our nine children who has since come to our family through older-child adoption reached the maturity and selflessness necessary. There have been times when we've wondered if such emotionally scarred children could be healed enough to have successful marriages and families. And yet, God has healed! God has been faithful! Mr. R and I feel confident that Zhenya is READY to walk down the aisle and into a life-long marriage. She's READY to make a great mommy to a home full of children. Her readiness is a God-wrought miracle in my mind. The healing that her engagement confirms is something that only the Lord could do. After all, under the exterior of a resilient 22-year-old woman is the soul of a little girl who witnessed her first father try to take his own life and who lived under a bridge with her younger siblings when her first mother would disappear for weeks at a time. All glory be to God for His love for and care of the orphan!

There. I have finally committed to writing the memories and musings that have circled their way through my heart and mind since Josh and Zhenya's engagement. My sense of awe for the wonder of our God has never been greater. He has done what looked impossible. God has poured hope into a life that the world would consider hopeless.

In Part 2 of this post, I'll share the story of the big day along with plenty of pictures. God is the author of their love story and their love story is BEAUTIFUL already!

May God richly bless you,
Mrs. R (Denise)

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