Tonight the warmth of the evening sun settled around my shoulders and the age old smell of dust from the ball field rose up around me and reminded me of my own childhood. I stood watching our new daughter from afar as she played in her first softball game ever, and I couldn't help but travel back in my mind to watching Angela 6 months ago as we watched her play basketball on a run down court in northern Kazakhstan.
It was that very hour when she walked past us so coldly, refusing to acknowledge our existence, and with sinking hearts we looked at one another and realized it was hopeless, it was over. We stepped outside the court with Irina, our interpreter, and told her it was pointless to pretend any longer that this might work out, and we knew we were causing Angela and Olesya anguish that we never intended. Irina herself was stunned and embarrassed at how Angela and Olesya could walk within inches of us, even brushing up against us, and act as if we didn't even exist. Oh how hard they worked at it!!! It was one of the single most painful moments of my life, as a long held dream of being a mom to these 2 beautiful young girls who had been through so much appeared to be disappearing.
Contrast that with tonight, standing on our home turf, a prayer partner beside me who held us close through our Winter of Wonder, and the power of our God was so obvious. Olesya giggling and happily playing with friends nearby, and Angela out on the field called in to pitch for the first time. Between pitches she kept looking our way, waiting for a thumbs up, a sign of approval as she struggled to find the strike zone having only pitched a fast pitch ball for a grand total of perhaps 100 pitches in her entire life. Broad smiles cast our direction, her Mommy and Daddy there to offer encouragement and witness her two strike outs. The first time someone actually cared if she succeeded, and would love her absolutely the same if she hadn't.
Hearts afire with love, affirmation of acceptance and open arms await whether a winner or a loser. The first base hit, one of the few of either team the entire night, and a grin flashed at me. My mind races back to the frosty reception received in that gym not that long ago. Can this be the same child? The one whose heart was so walled up, the one for whom fear had caused her to doubt the dreams of years gone by, the one who was surrounded by others yet who was so terribly, frighteningly alone?
That child was banished forever, left behind in the frozen steppes. This child and her precious sister belong to this gentle summer sunset, they belong where their open hearts are embraced and where their open arms are easily filled with the bodies...both big and small... that cherish them and have promised them "forever". The children of winter are long gone. The children of summer have arrived and are here to stay.
And we rejoice! We rejoice as our hearts sing out in prayerful astonishment at the work God has wrought right before our very eyes. We rejoice as we watch in admiration as a child's courage which far surpassed any adults is rewarded as she hears her name called out from the sidelines and she lifts her head in acknowledgment as a smile creeps in.
Our amazing God, on display tonight in ways that only 2 or 3 present would be able to recognize.
And it was beautiful.