Several weeks ago, I shared with you the story of Grace’s adoption. I received so much positive feedback from that post and I wanted to thank you for that! Sharing your story can be super fun, super hard, and/or super vulnerable….more than likely all three! As I’ve said before, Greg and I have 8 children – 5 adopted and 3 biological. EACH ONE of their stories has God’s fingerprints all over them! Whether adopted or not – each of our kids was hand chosen by God to be in our family. This is such a reassurance to us – especially during the difficult seasons of life with children that we all experience.
Today, I’m going to do the 2nd in my Touched by Adoption series. This is Seth’s story. Let me explain that when we adopted Seth, we also adopted his biological brother, Luke but I want to give each child their own story so I’ll be speaking of only Seth this time. Obviously, there will be some similarities – but Seth and Luke are totally different – as each of your children is supposed to be. Each is born with positive and challenging personalities. Seth’s story is different than our other adopted children in the sense that we aren’t able to “do life” anymore with Seth – but I’m jumping ahead….let me explain.
A little background…
At the time we found Seth (and Luke) we had 3 children: Caleb, Grace, and Abby.
They were about 5, 3, and 2 years old about when we got pregnant again. We were so excited about that baby. The kids were told, our families had been told, and we were just going along with the pregnancy until about 15 weeks. I began to have difficulty with the pregnancy and eventually miscarried that child. Up until that point, that was the MOST DIFFICULT situation that we had experienced. We loved that baby already, had dreams for that baby, even had names chosen when we were told the baby had died. We were devasted. It was in the fall of 2001.
After a few months, Greg and I felt the need to “run away” from life. Our church was planning a medical mission trip to Nicaragua and we signed up. We needed a completely different setting and had never practiced together before (FYI….at the time, I was a nurse and Greg was a family doc). We settled the three littles with family and boarded a flight for the first time outside of the United States. Talk about culture shock…..talk about God’s providence. Prior to this, we hadn’t really even contemplated international adoption before – figuring that we couldn’t afford it. When we returned from that trip, it was obvious to both of us that God was calling us to adopt internationally – but how were we ever going to pay for it??
A wise couple in our church, who also had adopted, told us when we asked them how do we do something we know that God is calling us to do but we have no way of paying for it. I will never forget the words from this godly couple, “it’s all a part of the story God wants to tell us. If you know that you’re supposed to adopt internationally, allow God to show you how HE is going to do it” Guys……I’m telling ya…..BEST ADVICE EVER!!!
International Adoption – new journey
We started the process of adopting through Bethany again since they helped us with our first adoption of Grace. If you want to read about that Grace’s adoption and why we chose Bethany – you can find that story here 🙂 Because of the requirements different countries had at that time – we ended up picking Russia as our country of choice. I say that, and looking back, it was completely God’s hands on this choice! It was January of 2002 and we received a bunch of videos (wow…..dating us here!) of children available for adoption.
I remember our social worker dropping off the videos one morning and I was standing in our kitchen about to look at all of these children. HOW IN THE WORLD were we suppose to know which ones were made for our family?!?! I stopped and prayed over those videos praying that He would make it abundantly clear to us.
So many children. So many to choose from. These 2 boys were handpicked for our family.
I watched a few videos and thought that those kids were cute and all – but none had given me this “stop in my tracks….take my breath away” kind of feeling. Not that I was expecting that – but I kinda was! 🙂 That’s when it happened……it was about the 5th video I watched. I pushed in the VHS tape and suddenly these 2 very small, very rambunctious boys appeared on my tv screen. I immediately knew. I actually sat there with tears running down my cheeks as I watched them playing with each other in the playroom of the orphanage in Siberia, Russia – thousands of miles away…..yet they felt so real to me. Their laughs were contagious. They were teasing each other as only brothers know how to. They were tiny. At that time, Seth was 4 years old (and Luke was 3).
As this is Seth’s story….let me tell you about him and I’ll save Luke for the next in the series :). Seth was the older brother – and you could tell right away he was the caretaker and boss of Luke. He had the SWEETEST little raspy voice! (later we found out that he had developed vocal nodules causing his raspy voice. Break my heart….he developed the nodules from extended periods of time crying, per the doctor). Listening to him speak in Russian was so sweet! Seth was rough and tumble – very much a typical 4-year-old boy. He was small – wore 18 months sized clothes – but had a stocky build to him. He had the BLUEST of eyes. Blonde hair. Tiny feet. The energy of the energizer bunny!
2 trips, thousands of miles, 2 boys….1 happy mama!
As was the procedure for Russian adoptions at the time, we were required to make 2 visits. The first visit to “choose” them legally and about 6 weeks later the second visit to bring them home. That trip to Siberia was certainly an adventure! I think it was about 18 hours across the ocean to Moscow and then another 4-hour flight from Moscow to Siberia. I never in my wildest dreams ever thought we’d ever go to this desolate and dirty place of the world (much less 4 times totally – we went back 2 years later for Andrew! :))
That first trip to the orphanage I won’t ever forget. It took about an hour outside of Krasnoyarsk to drive. The countryside was so poor and scrappy – it FELT like we were on the other side of the world. We pulled up to this 2 story building that was home to over 250 orphaned children. We were ushered into this playroom with overstuffed couches, random toys, and play equipment. They had us wait for what seemed like an eternity before we heard their voices coming from the hallway and their tiny feet running wildly toward the room.
The doors burst open and these two little bodies of energy came running towards us screaming “mama! papa!”………CUE. THE. TEARS. Just a few weeks before I was seeing them for the first time on TV and now at that moment we were holding them, hugging them, and playing with them. Seth was nonstop going. Running from toy to toy to play mat to climbing ladder speaking wildly in Russian and ending with “mama” or “papa” Typical little child saying “watch this!” or “come see this!”
Everyday life in a Russian Orphanage
We were taken to their room in a different part of the orphanage. Passing all of these children just broke my heart. For years, I would pray for each of them that they would eventually find their forever families. We were able to see where they spent most of their days (the playroom we later found out was only for specific visits with potential adoptive families – they did not regularly go to that room). The area they spent most of their days was on another floor that housed about 10 children. They showed us their beds and actually had us tuck them in for their afternoon naps. After we had laid them down, we went back to the adjacent room and spoke with their caregivers about the boy’s schedule and what they liked and didn’t like. You could hear all the children in the next room becoming more and more boisterous until finally one of the nurses had to go in and settle everyone down.
The first time I experienced Seth’s heart
I will never forget the tears that were slowly running down this nurse’s face when she came back into the room we were in. She told us that everyone was starting to talk and play except for Seth. He was laying in his bed quietly crying. I guess he had told the nurse to tell us “tell mama and papa to not forget about me”. They had seen it before. Their friends had potential parents come for a visit and then leave to never return….Seth wanted to make sure that we were coming back. It took everything in me to not barge myself back into that bedroom and grab both the boys and take them with us. We reassured them that we were coming back for them and that they would be coming home with us.
Let’s go get our boys!
When we returned home from that first trip – it took about 2 1/2 weeks to recover from the jet lag and the emotional toll. We had barely recovered from that trip when it was time to start planning our return. Those weeks went by so quickly – thankfully. Preparations had to be made, clothes had to be purchased, bedrooms needed to be readied. It was barely 6 weeks and we found ourselves back on an airplane heading for Siberia to bring home our boys.
Just the beginning
The second trip was exhausting. We had just gotten into the hotel room from the long flights and our contact had said the boys were being brought in the next hour!! WAIT! WHAT? we thought we’d have at least a few hours to recover – but nope…..45 minutes later Seth and Luke were brought to our hotel room – with more energy than we had remembered! They had never been out of Siberia much less on an airplane! Experiencing life through the eyes of a child that hasn’t experienced anything except a small area to play, sleep, and eat…..well, it was magical – and EXHAUSTING!! 🙂
They were running over the entire hotel room just squealing. After the caseworkers left, we were left totally drained from the trip, and overwhelmed at the sight of these two boys running rampant around that room. At the orphanage, they only had potty chairs for toilets…they never saw a toilet actually flush before and at that hotel it didn’t have a toilet handle that flushed it, it was a chain above the toilet that needed to be pulled – so you can imagine how many times they flushed that toilet and then squealed in delight! 🙂
Time to bring them home!
It took another 5 days to do the court and legal hearings before we were allowed to leave and start the trip home. The trip home…..how were we EVER going to corral these two rowdy little boys in an airport and plane?!!? They didn’t know a lick of English and we only knew a handful of words in Russian. Some words we failed to learn were “I have to go to the bathroom” so during that 4-hour flight back to Moscow – every time one of the boys said something and acted as if they had to go I’d tell Greg and he’d take them to the bathroom. After about the 5th trip and it NOT being the words we thought they were, Greg was done….he said – just let them go in their pull-ups (even though they were trained :):)) That was a long flight!
Welcome Home Seth & Luke
After hours on the plane, we finally landed in Grand Rapids, MI…..we were welcomed home by so many family and friends. It was so exciting! The boys were ecstatic with excitement. They were running all over and Seth had taken his shoe off and thrown it across the airport…..they were totally out of control! We had to get them out of there!! On the way home, they FINALLY crashed from exhaustion! The first meal we had together – Seth actually fell asleep at the table! 🙂
Getting to know each other
The next several weeks included many charades and learning each other’s schedule and likes/dislikes. Seth understood us quicker and would translate to Luke what we were trying to say. Luke, on the other hand, attempted to speak English quicker. By the time they were home for 6 weeks – they were fighting in English 🙂 Seth had such a beautiful heart. For years he wondered and often cried for his Russian mom – “what if she doesn’t know Jesus, mom? She just HAS to know Him so she can be in heaven with me”. Even through the boisterousness of his boyhood – he had a sweet sweet spirit about him. Although, the kid could whine and cry with the best of them.
Seth would make this face every time we would take his picture during those first few weeks. So funny!
Not the ending we had thought when we began
He slowly – very, very slowly – began to learn what it meant to be a family. Sadly, we actually would only have him for 5 short years. When Seth was 10, he died in a car accident. I thought my heart broke from our miscarriage – NOTHING prepared my heart to lose a child I had grown to love for 5 years. But, that’s a story for another post. Today, I focus on the child Seth was….a sweet, athletic, whimpy, complain-y child of God. I will forever picture him like this in my mind.
Finally understanding what family means
Just months before his death, we had to take him to a pediatric dental specialist to get a cavity filled. Our normal dentist didn’t do anesthesia for children and referred us to someone else. He was terrified to go….but that day he was brave. After the appointment, something happened that made me realize that he had finally known what family was. If he was ever hurt before, he would just sit down and cry and really not come to me at all. He didn’t know a mom was there to help him, hold him, or reassure him….he had never experienced that before. After years of being with us and learning what a mom and dad and family are for, I had him at that dentist office.
When the visit was done – he came RUNNING out of that room crying “mom!! hold me!!” He was 9 years old and that was the very first time I felt like he knew – without a doubt – he was loved. I cannot tell you how much I long for the day I will see him again. I can picture it so very clearly! Entering heaven’s gates and seeing him run up to me crying “mom!!! your Home!!” To be able to hold him and hug him again and tell him HOW MUCH we love him. Oh, what a day that will be!!!
Adoption touches lives
I want to encourage any of you today. If you have ever felt that still small voice of God whispering to your heart to adopt – LISTEN. OBEY. TRUST. PRESS ON. Let Him show you the story He wants you to live. No matter what He calls you to do – He will give you the grace and strength you will need.
Anyone else been touched by adoption somehow? Share and comment below – would LOVE to connect!!