Time for the story. Several people have posted and said that they don’t know our story with Aleksa, but they’d like me to repost it. And so… here is my attempt to retell the story without: 1. ruining my keyboard with tears, 2. saying anything bad about any parties involved, and 3. writing an entire novel. Let’s see if I can at least accomplish two of the three. (#1 is probably going to happen anyway)
In 2007 Michael and I committed to the adoption of a little girl we called Aleksa. She was 5 years old, walking, talking some, toilet trained and someone who we thought would slide in between Kristopher and Brianna in their developmental levels. We wanted to bring her home so she’d never have to see the inside of an institution, and have her become a part of our family. We were SO EXCITED!
We had her room set up with Brianna’s and we had a toddler bed set up in Kristopher’s room because we were planning on getting a second referral for a boy with Down syndrome, roughly the same age, when we requested Aleksa. Only… we didn’t ‘announce’ publicly that we were trying for the little boy also.
In October we were told that Aleksa had been transferred to an institution. It was a HARD reality to face. We had no idea whether the institution would be like those publicized at that time (and earlier, but now FIXED) in Serbia where children were tied to their beds and not fed well, wasting away to nothingness and being left around in worse conditions than a dog. We didn’t know whether she was even alive. But we continued to press on toward her adoption, no matter what.
We traveled to her country just days before my 26th birthday and it was the best birthday gift to receive her official referral from the state department of adoptions the day before my birthday. We were so happy, and had also received a second referral for the little boy… Misha. We still didn’t announce him though..
We knew we were headed to an “unknown” institution. One where we still didn’t know if we’d be allowed to bring her home. We were aware of the possibility, but blissfully going on about our days not realizing what a reality that really was. We visited with Aleksa three times… The first time we played, she colored, we spun tops, we blew bubbles (which she was deathly afraid of…) and we had a great time. She had been eating an orange and we were all juicy and sticky by the time our visit was over.
We found on that visit that Aleksa was pretty well cared for in the great scheme of things. This institution was much more like the babyhouses, though it was only for disabled persons and seemed less staffed and… hmm… with possibly less opportunities for the kids to do things. I think that’s a good way to put it…
We visited the second time and were told before going to see her that the director wouldn’t be allowing us to adopt her. We still played, we still tried to help him to see that we wanted to raise her as our daughter, but he still refused. It was a hard visit… one that, looking back, was probably one of the most difficult “fake it good” moments of my life. I’m not very good at pretending not to be upset…
We tried a third visit, but it was for nothing. The director had made up his mind, and that was that. We looked at other avenues of having the adoption work but nothing was an open door. There was no way for us to complete Aleksa’s adoption without the director’s consent, and we had to walk away.
Turning around and walking out that door and knowing that Aleksa would never come out of that facility again was another of life’s most difficult moments. The lump in my throat, tears down my face, and fear in my heart for what this all meant was extreme.
Though walking in to an adoption we are set up for the things that could go wrong, it’s still so very different when some of those “worst fears” come true. When the child you dreamt of and longed to hold is in your arms for only a moment and then left behind to face the future we hoped to keep her from having to face. Her path didn’t change… ours did.
We prayed, read the Bible, and spent the entire night and weekend crying together. It was a moment where our marriage was one of its strongest, because when we are weak, HE is made strong. And He surely was. God spoke through the most difficult circumstances, something that I would almost equivocate with the loss of a child to death (though I can’t say because I’ve never actually lost a child to death). But God shone through.
God showed up and brought us to Bible verses that touched us in ways they never had before. Ways that we wouldn’t have looked for if it wasn’t for the circumstances that we were in. And though we grieved and days, weeks, years later spoke in tears about the situation, we healed as well. We never let the brokenness go… and I knew that God didn’t intend to release me from that. That passion and brokenness over the situation is exactly what drove me to work with the Reece’s Rainbow program for Aleksa’s country to help other parents through the process.
That, and the little boy we also left behind. A little side story about Misha… The day we cancelled Aleksa’s adoption, we also had to cancel Misha’s. We’d learned during that time period that Misha had a family working with RR and on their way to get him soon. We were ok with that, and we knew that God had other plans for us. So we met him, and we also said goodbye to him…
When Misha’s family got through their paperwork difficulties, which took an extended period of time, they discovered that he, too, had been transferred to an institution. The boys and girls are at separate facilities, so he wasn’t where Aleksa was. The family decided that since they were adopting 3 children, they couldn’t handle doing it from 2 separate facilities. They instead got two unknown referrals.
Another side story… one of those unknown referrals was another child that another family was on their way to adopt. But no one knew. The family did adopt three boys, but not Misha. Then… a few months later… the family that had intended to get the child that was referred to the first family (confused yet?) decided to bring home the 2nd boy they’d planned to adopt as well as Misha. His name is now Micah Malone :). Son of Chris and Mary, who I consider wonderful friends though we’ve never met face to face.
So… that is where my 2 years of ministry began. Where the brokenness over the plight of orphans was embedded in me. Where the child that we loved was left. Where we thought “maybe our commitment to Aleksa was just to get us to go to her country so that we could bring home Emma and Micah, who desperately needed healthcare and who had no voice that could have gotten them out of there without this ‘sacrifice’ of Aleksa.
But now, we have to wonder if God had us to never stop loving Aleksa, never stop praying for her, never stop thinking about her, never remove her photo from our wall or her name from our lips… if maybe God intended to bring her home after all. Maybe she will be more than just the child that brought us to her country, but instead be called our daughter after all this time.
Our God is a mysterious God. He has ways MUCH bigger than any of us can comprehend. And the roller coaster of following Him is so much more of a ‘thriller’ than any theme park could provide!!
Our hearts remain broken for Aleksa. Our minds not able to wrap around what God’s plans are. Our souls knowing that God has it all planned out from the beginning of time, and that we are to follow one step at a time and not lose sight of Him, His heart, and His promises…