I’ve disliked that slogan since the Army first transitioned to it, but this journey we’re on has put meaning to it for our family.
I woke up this morning with Ezra’s words from Nehemiah 8 running through my head. “The joy of the Lord is my strength!” “The joy of the Lord IS my strength!” “THE JOY OF THE LORD IS MY STRENGTH!”
With these words ringing over and over again, I opened the first Bible I could find and read verses 1-12. I climbed out of bed with joy in my heart and God-given strength.
After all of the conviction brought on through Chase and Seth’s words on Saturday, we checked into our hotel in Velika Plana with determination and certainty. The day was rough, but better than the day before. After dinner, Sophia announced that she wanted to go back to “her house” for just a little while. The social worker wanted her to happy and to be honest, the rest of us were completely exhausted and had no problem with waiting another day for her to begin sleeping with us.
Around 2am, I began thanking God for the delay. The hotel appears to be the only event venue in town and there was a wedding taking place when we checked in. The wedding reception was still going strong and the music was so loud that the walls were literally shaking at 2am. To add to the joy, Velika Plana is Serbia’s Sturgis and this weekend was the bike festival….in the field behind the hotel. All night long, we listened to music blaring, motors revving and glass bottles breaking. Happy Happy. Joy Joy.
On Sunday morning we went back to the foster home, grabbed her things, and headed out for the beginning of our life as a family of six. We went through the day in a cloud of sleeplessness and the only facts of the day that I am absolutely certain of, are that our daughter knew that she belonged with us and that something in her was changing. She knows every street in town that leads to the foster home & every store that sells ice cream. She would point out the roads and tell us (in Serbian), “That way to my house.” As we drove back to our hotel, after going out for a dessert of sladoled (ice cream), she pointed to her street and said, “Neci idemo mo kunci.” I don’t want to go to my house. An hour later, she fell asleep, rocking her head from side to side, singing herself a Serbian lullabye, touching my face, and warming my heart.
Monday was the end of tolerance for Kira, Chase, and Seth. We spent the entire day waiting to hear something from someone (we weren’t quite sure who that someone was), about what would happen next. It rained all day and Sophia has a serious case of ants in her pants, so being inside is torturous. She touched every square inch of our two hotel rooms and the rest of us used every hat trick in our repertoire attempting to entertain her. She was restless, but sweet. All of us received lots of hugs and kisses and cuddle time. We were told that she never takes naps. We were told wrong. Around 4 in the afternoon, she climbed in bed and asked us all to leave the room. She was asleep in about 30 seconds and she slept for two hours before the social workers showed up to tell us that we were leaving. We checked out of the hotel, went back to the foster home for a going-away party, and returned to our apartment in Belgrade. The send off was emotional, but not necessarily sad. Sophia has had two nannies in the time that she was in foster-care and they both came with special gifts. Chad and I had noted that she had gone the entire day without being overly aggressive or violent towards any of us. At her party, we silently watched her slap and punch everyone present (except for us)She told everyone, “Hocu edemo America du Mama i Tata i brat i brat i Kira.” She told them that she wanted to go with us. She also told them that she did not want to come back tomorrow. Chad, Kira, Chase, Seth, and Sophia’s guardian from the center in Belgrade rode home in our rental car. Sophia and I had to ride with a social worker and a gentleman from the center (I still haven’t figured out what he does), in a yugo. The workers smoked continuously (without rolling down the windows) for the entire 100km and Sophia rocked and sang one verse of a lullaby to herself, over and over again. The driver would turn up his techno pop to try and drown her out and she would simply sing louder ;).
Our first night, at this home away from home, was peaceful, and full of uninterrupted sleep. Thank you, God!
On Tuesday, the workers from the local center came by for our final visit. They assured us that their report would be a good one and that it would be submitted to the ministry today. We are praying for our adoption ceremony to take place on Friday. Please claim that with us! Having it on Friday would ensure that we finish the process in time for us to all travel home together on the 30th.
Before the final visit, we ventured out to New Belgrade and went shopping at the Rodic Mega Market. We were able to find the ingredients for a few meals so that we can stop eating out so much (restaurants are very inexpensive, but Sophia’s etiquette still leaves much to be desired). And, we finally found a pair of shoes to fit Sophia (we’ve been looking for three days). There was a Nike outlet at the market and we were able to find her American size. She wears a 13.5 and her feet are pretty wide. I brought a pair of size 6 pants from the Children’s Place with us that fit her perfectly. I had forgotten about them and as I tried to figure out what on earth she would wear yesterday, I found them in the bottom of a bag (Thank you, Dena!). She will not be able to wear them if she grows much, but for now, she can wear a size 6.
After our final visit with the social workers, Chad returned the rental car and we all walked to a nearby park. Chad and I watched, with smiles on our faces, as our “Fantastic Four” played together.
We watched our fifteen year old, kick off her shoes and climb and slide and swing like she was five again. We watched Seth take on the role of big brother as he showed Sophia how to climb up the slide for her very first time, and then allowed her to hold on tight to his neck as they slid down together. We watched Chase both enjoy himself and never lose track of where Seth and Sophia were or what they were doing.