You get two blogs for the price of one today! FREE!!! HAHAHA! Check out the next blog for new pics of our family with the girls, but I wanted to share this with you as well. Here is our story, beginning with our slide show through the years. We have been begged to go back to the beginning by many readers, so here it is...it is long, I am sorry...but 5 years crammed into one post IS long!
This is our New Years gift to you!
Our story is an unusual one, it is of a love that stretched across the miles, it is of knowing for a very long time that you had children that were yours and were left behind. It is about not giving up, it is about waiting on God and trusting that somehow all would work out even when as recently as 2 weeks ago it felt as if we were too late.
Basically, it is a story of faith.
It’s a long one, with twists and turns, so here it goes…
Years ago, our family was looking for a way to give back and thank God for the blessings of Matthew and Joshua. We started by shipping craft supplies and handmade quilts from our local quilting guild to the Lotus Children’s Centre in Ulaan Bataar, Mongolia. Although we loved doing it, we found the lack of communication challenging and searched for an orphanage or child to sponsor in Kazakhstan where perhaps there would be someone who spoke English well and could help us remain in better contact with the orphanage or child so we could better determine what the true needs were.
I somehow stumbled across the web site for the Antares Foundation, and never imagined that first contact would ever lead us to where we are today. After a few emails flew back and forth, it was decided we would sponsor a little pixie named Angela and another boy named “Igor”. We later came to find out that Igor was unavailable for sponsorship and would eventually be adopted by Dee over at Crab Chronicles. When we learned Angela had a sibling, we inquired about sponsoring her even though they were separated and living at another orphanage, named Poludino.
They were then 6 and 4 years old.
I received our first pictures of them separately…Angela’s first, followed by Olesya’s a few days later. I can remember as if it were yesterday sending Angela’s photo to my mom who had barely learned how to turn on a computer and was not yet internet savvy (OK…and still isn’t all THAT savvy! Hahaha! Sorry Mom!). When the picture popped up on her screen, the first words out of her mouth were “Cindy, she looks like your daughter…if you and Dominick had kids, that is what she would look like.”…then “She needs to be your daughter!”. Laughingly I agreed with her but quickly moved on in conversation as we were knee deep in RAD with Josh and not at all thinking we could handle another child…or if we would even survive him! Hahaha!
But something tugged at my heart, and it wouldn’t let go. It never did. Some part of me knew it and tried to deny it, but I had just seen my daughter. My first picture about a year later of both of them together for a sibling reunion ripped me up. The look on their faces, their eyes…something about their eyes spoke loud and clear to me. Seeing them hugging one another, the deep bond that was so obvious, they were my kids and it made no sense to me. But I listened carefully and didn’t “pooh pooh” the idea.
Soon, we realized someone was missing at our table…maybe 2 someone’s. We began the adoption process again, and spent 9 months trying to determine the eligibility of the girls and if there was any way possible they could be adopted. After tons of phone calls to agencies uninterested in assisting in a “less than easy money” situation, I almost gave up. We eventually stumbled upon an attorney who offered to check into it.
Several weeks later, we heard back and the news was not good, or so it seemed. The girls were legally freed from their father due to the abuse and neglect case against him, but their mother was in jail for murder and her rights were not terminated.
And that was the end of that.
Although terribly disappointed…and inwardly very confused as it truly felt God had been speaking to my heart all along about this…we reluctantly moved on. Our reluctance wouldn’t have existed had we known the wonderful son that awaited us, the Amazing Kenny LaJoy!! We quickly abandoned the idea of a girl the moment we saw Kenny’s face, and the day we picked him up at the orphanage we saw immediately how much he was a LaJoy…the spittin’ image in terms of personality of Dominick, so much so that we joke about Dominick having a previously unknown Kyrgyz fling! God couldn’t have placed any child more fitting with a family. We were blessed, we had no regrets, truly. I love Kenny deeply, totally and unconditionally.
But hearts are big, and God doesn’t let go.
Dominick and I recently recalled me standing in the kitchen 2 weeks before leaving as we discussed my taking a side trip to meet the girls in person, and asking him “Can you promise me that if the girls are someday relinquished we can at least try and adopt them?” and his incredulous yet understanding look at me as he said “With what, my good looks?? I don’t see how…besides they are not available and probably never will be.”. I replied “I know, and I hope when I meet them I will think “cute kids, but not ours…that would be the best scenario.”
Some might not understand, some might think Kenny was a “replacement” for who I really wanted and couldn’t have. That is not it at all, and those who know us in real life know our love for Kenny is all encompassing as original and true as can be. LaJoy hearts are huge, and we are 100% certain that God delayed everything specifically because we never would have explored Kyrgyzstan or adopting another child…and Kenny HAD to come home. If you had told me 3 or 4 years ago that we would one day have 5 children AND a 15 passenger van, I would have laughed my…well…something off. Hahah! God always has the last laugh though, right?
We had spent years with Angela and Olesya as part of our extended family. I decided from the beginning that I was not going to be some distant stranger but would be Mom-Away-From-Home, someone they could share their achievements with who would be proud of them, someone who would not send generic letters but letters from a family who loved them, cared about them, and let them know they were not alone. Years of letters and drawings were sent back and forth, Angela would approach Boris and say “Tell Cindy I got 100 on my test!” or “Tell Cindy I made the special football team (soccer)” and messages would be passed to us. Photos and descriptions of our life here, birthdays remembered, Christmas letters and packages sent…even if it often took 3 months to get there and was late, they would know they were not warehoused and forgotten. Sadly, we had far less communication with Olesya because she was in an orphanage so far away.
For over 2 years they were in separate orphanages, and I would get photos of each of them opening their packages and then with the next letter or package I would include photos of their sister for them to save. The Disney Princess photo album that Angela showed us was filled with photos of our boys growing up, of Olesya at varying ages…it helped them remain connected when there was no other way.
When we traveled to get Kenny, I did take that side trip after the adoption was final, leaving all my boys behind and going to Petropavlovsk alone. We had made a commitment in our minds to sponsor the girls until they aged out, and we wanted to be “real” to them. Knowing it would never be less expensive, we took advantage of our location and off I went, secretly hoping that I would be able to squelch that feeling I had been carrying around for years that those faces staring back at me in photos were our own children.
The moment Angela walked down the stairs I myself now have climbed many times this past week, and straight into my arms, I knew. God wasn’t whispering or hinting, God was screaming at me…and I hated it. I spent the next two days visiting Angela and going out to Paludino to take her to visit Olesya. Watching the two of them together was all the affirmation I needed, and I was one very confused and heartsick woman the day I left them behind.
Walking Constitution Avenue and the surrounding area for hours, God got a good chewing out from me. I had learned there was the slimmest possibility that their biological mom’s rights would be terminated. Yea, I was hopping mad, and I had no qualms about sharing my anger. How could this happen? Why was I going to have to spend the rest of my life feeling like this? Through my tears, I told God that we would gladly parent them but we had absolutely no way of making it happen. It was impossible, they were not legally free and we had not a dime to spare for another adoption loan. I prayed and silently ranted and raved, saying “I don’t know why you are laying this on me, when we can’t do anything about it! We are so willing, but you would have to hand it to us on a silver platter.”. Literally…that is what I said.
I boarded the plane a few hours later feeling sick to my stomach, realizing I would never again know the kind of peace I had walked in 3 days prior.
I couldn’t even talk about it with Dominick much when I got back to Almaty, all I did was cry so avoiding the topic was best. I did ask him once if we could sell our house if the girls indeed became available. He said “You know we bought at the right time and we would never find another house to hold that big of a family for anything near what we could afford. We just can’t make this happen.” When I got home and made our first call to our moms, I broke down in deep sobs as I described what I was feeling to my mom. I think at that moment it was the one time she regretted the life she had as she wanted so badly to offer to help us financially and yet was powerless to do so.
The next day I opened my email, and there was God, in living print.
I had written about the girls on the blog, had poured my heart out. Someone whom I had never met reached out and offered to help. Without going into personal details, we found ourselves the recipients of the greatest gift imaginable, one that made the impossible possible. Just accepting the offer was a journey in itself, a difficult one that required a lot of introspection and humbling of ourselves so that the opportunity was not missed for two young girls to have a family who would love them dearly. Needless to say, we are forever grateful and still can not quite take in the generosity of someone. As it was explained, and I paraphrase liberally here “You offer all you can, and we offer all we can…it is what God calls each of us to do. You actually have the harder part…the paperwork and the day to day raising of them. When God’s people pull together and give all of what they can, great things can happen!”.
Si x months later, we learned the mother’s rights had been terminated.
Two years and reams and reams of documents later, we are here.
How hard it has been!!! The aching on both sides of the world, the hunger to hold one another. I know some might not understand after the first week’s experience, but we do. How easy it is to understand why Angela reacted the way she did! Why Olesya responded in kind for fear of upsetting the one constant person in her life! But years of long distance love won out, reacting lovingly and not out of anger and frustration won out, treating an 11 year old with the respect she deserved won out. Fear was overcome, anger was put aside, hope was reborn!!! We all allowed ourselves space and time to heal, we gave each other the gift of patience and understanding without judgment. We offered a “do over”. Others may never understand…but we do…all 7 of us…and that is all that matters.
I am so thankful to have such wise children, all 5 of them.
As I write this on the eve of our court date, staying home from our daily visitation so that I don’t pass on the little stomach bug I have so the girls will not be sick tomorrow, I am so happy. Sure, I am uncertain of what the future holds, none of us knows what our family will look and feel like in a week, a month, or even a year. It will feel strange for a long time to come and I am working my way out from under the worry of “what will I do?” that is natural and normal for anyone whose family instantly grows from 5 to 7 overnight, and they are fully formed beings with thoughts and opinions of their own. To deny the existence of those feelings would be once again trying to “sell this” as a fairy tale. I have wondered the past 24 hours about what am I going to do with 2 kids at home this age who are not ready for school yet and are old enough that most of their normal activities would include language. I have worried about the best way to work on teaching English. I have thought long and hard about how to integrate Angela’s love of sports into a family for whom sports is a sideline, at best. My thoughts have roamed to how Olesya will make her place among us and what I might do to assist her and be aware of her more girlie side.
But beneath all of that is an approaching sense of “rightness”, one that will be so welcomed after the previous years! The hugs, smiles and warmth are genuine. The love is based upon old dreams and ideals, but will be replaced gradually with a steadfast “real” love that will never waiver which is rooted in reality. Watching the closeness slowly develop this past week, the comfort level between us all as it grows…the shy smiles which have grown to broad grins, the standoffish pats that have grown to big bear hugs, the feigned disinterest which has grown to a fervent desire to show us every single good grade they have received and to share with us every drawing they have made in the hopes that we will reward them with our own delight at their accomplishments. Real love takes time, it take patience…it is not a fairy tale but it IS wonderful. We may have lost much of their childhood, a fact I have often grieved. But we gain the rest of our lives together.
So, there you have it, the entire story such as it is. It is a story that has many facets and told from other perspectives it would take on a different meaning, I am sure. For me though, it comes down to faith…to faith that what we felt God had told us was true, faith that if we offered ourselves up willingly somehow we would be used, faith that love would prevail. I admit that faith wavered two weeks ago, or maybe it is better to say I wondered if the faith had been misplaced and we were being drawn here for other reasons I didn’t quite understand.
But that’s OK because God never told us we were to always understand, we were never expected to be perfect. Lord knows I am so far from that it isn’t even funny. The cool thing is though, that God uses us all if we allow it. Our imperfect, flubbing it up, sometimes totally wrong selves can be used for extraordinary things sometimes. I make mistakes with my kids daily, I often don’t show the appreciation for my husband that I should, and I know there are many who look at me as far from the example of Christianity they think I ought to be. They are right, I am sure.
But it does all come down to faith, doesn’t it?
Our entire family, both new members and long since joined members are stepping out on faith again today as we promise to legally become a family and to care for one another forever.
I love my family.
Thank You God for the chance to have Angela and Olesya join us forever.
I’ll do my best.