You see, years ago the two of us made a promise to a Russian judge. As we went through the final step of actually going to court in Russia in our effort to adopt Kirsten, Nathaniel and Eliana, we endured intense grilling which culminated in an insanely-long deliberation by the judge. Well, okay...we probably only fidgeted on the hard wooden benches for about an hour -- it just SEEMED like forever! The judge who had intimidated us for two days from his high perch on the dais had our hearts in his hands. Many months earlier we had visited Moscow with a group of fellow Americans interested in providing homes for fatherless children living in orphanages. On that trip, we'd not only felt the Lord's calling to add Nathaniel (10) and Eliana (5) to our family. Much to our surprise, we'd also fallen in love with a 15-year-old beauty with a kind heart and a quirky sense of humor. Since then we'd spent months jumping through hoops put in place on both the American and Russian sides trying to turn the three kiddos -- who had grown up in the same orphanage -- into our children.
When the judge returned after his deliberation, he made it clear -- through our interpreter -- that his agreement to the Kirsten's adoption came with a condition. He looked us steadily in the eye. We held our breath not knowing what would come next. The judge then told us that we must ensure that Kirsten would get the opportunity to interact with horses. During her testimony in court, the judge had asked her about her dreams and goals, and he was determined that her new parents would see to the nourishment of this orphan's aspirations. We didn't know how we would keep our word to the judge. Horses had never been on our family's radar. Even so, we breathed a sigh of relief. All along the arduous path to adopting this teenager, God had been leading. He had been ever faithful when we when we repeatedly ran full force into the inevitable roadblocks that seem to be part of international adoption. So the two of us held hands and meekly nodded our agreement to the judge's condition.
In the four years since that adoption took place, the Lord has opened doors left and right for our horse lover. And, as it turns out, Kirsten isn't alone in her passion. Her sisters, Christina (17) and Faith (15), share her love of all things equine. The three sisters have bonded tightly as close friends through this shared interest. They've taken riding lessons together and volunteered at a nearby ranch that offers therapeutic riding for children with disabilities or delays.
Now Kirsten is back home and ready for the next step in this journey. She hopes to learn the Pat Parelli natural horsemanship training method. Before Kirsten can attend the school in the Colorado mountains, she has to be able to demonstrate that she has reached a number of milestones in training a horse. In order to do this, Kirsten needed a horse to train. Our dream as parents is to be able to help each of our children with a portion of the cost of their post high school education. For Kirsten, this meant we would help her buy a horse. Thus, our four-hour drive into the heart of Iowa last week.
Kirsten heard about a horse named Magic through Brittany, a friend she'd made while volunteering at the therapeutic horseback riding stable. Brittany is thoroughly connected in the horse world in the upper Midwest. With that knowledge, she enjoys playing "matchmaker" -- helping prospective horse owners find just the right animal. The looming question as we drove was would there be a fit between our daughter and this particular animal.
When we arrived at the stable, Kirsten approached Magic somewhat tentatively. She was studying him carefully to see what traits he would exhibit. She was reading the three-year-old's body language.
While Kirsten was watching the horse, I was watching her. It wasn't long before her expression change. Her look of hesitation changed to a cautious smile, and I knew we were watching something magical happen between a former orphan and a dark chocolate horse sporting a braided mane for the special day.
Now it was Kirsten's chance to ride.
While all this was going on, Kirsten's Dad and I were in the background praying without ceasing. We still know so little about horses that we were completely dependent on God to give the wisdom to know if this was THE horse. We felt a wonderful peace despite the major expense we were contemplating making. God leads and guides those understand their dependence on Him. He is faithful to help those who cry out to Him.
Kirsten dismounted and did some more thinking and praying.
And then the came the smile that told us it was time for her daddy to do some negotiating! Over the course of more than four years, God had led us baby step by baby step to this momentous occasion.
As Mr. R and John talked, I just couldn't help thinking back to that Russian court room. I couldn't help wishing that the judge could have been with us to see the orphaned child who lived without hope become a horse owner, by God's grace. Somehow I think that the stoic countenance he presented throughout the adoption hearing would have been replaced by a grin as wide as Kirsten's.
God abounds in lovingkindness!