Twelve means she can ride in the front seat of the car.
Twelve is almost thirteen.
Twelve is a milestone.
Twelve is not the number I rest on......it is nine.
Nine and a half to be more exact.
That's how long I've known her.
That's when life changed for her and for us.
She is closer to nine than to twelve and yet I try to balance the chronological age with the age of her understanding....
...it gets more challenging each year.
When I saw her for the first time she was a tiny 2 1/2 year old screaming, head-shaking, under-no-circumstances- do -I- want- anything -to -do -with -these- people scrap of a person with
hair cut too short,
clothes too small,
and feverish mosquito bites all over her.
Non-verbal except for that squawking noise and a few baby babbling words in Russian.
I wondered what in the world I had gotten myself into.
I was soon to find out......
I was an experienced mother of six children.....for sixteen years.......tough cookies, some of them.......but I had never encountered a person who had learned to be a survivor by the age of one......who deciphered her world in bits and pieces....."who knew what she wanted and how to get it" as our interpreter commented......
A child touched by neglect....illness....disabilities....poverty........
one who was picked up and taken from the only world she knew and put down on the other side of the world into another "orphanage" where nobody did anything the way she was used to or spoke the language she had learned to interpret......
for "orphanage" was what we were to her for a long time,
I am sure of that.
I remember telling her over and over that I was her Mama.....
but in the orphanage,
every woman is called Mama.
I had to re-direct and claim my personal possession of her...
"you are MY girl......you stay with ME".....
over and over...."look at Me......look in My eyes".
I remember watching every odd behavior and trying to figure out if it was neglect, fetal alcohol, orphanage behavior,
or just her personality.
I remember thinking that I was not ready for this assignment.
I was failing.
And then, I found it.
The newsletter from a ministry that we'd supported.
They had played a side role, but a large one in our adoption.
I had saved it because we had sent money for baby formula.
There had been no milk for the babies and they had been feeding them sugar water.
As I read the letter of thanks from the missionary, (a woman I now knew and had visited in her 'flat'- who was a big part of our adoption), she described the children who were helped.
She listed the locations of the orphanages where the formula, "the best money could buy", had been sent. Listed among them was one I recognized.
I had been there.....in that "baby house"....
with the director, a physician, who mixed up her own medicines because they had none....
with the workers who had loved Leanichka......
who were washing all the clothes by hand because their only washing machine was broken.....
who had cried tears of gratitude over the instant oatmeal we left because they had nothing to feed the children for breakfast......
This had been one of the orphanages to receive the baby formula before we'd even known we were adopting.
What was the date of the letter?
When did Lainie get there?
Yes......it was true..........she had just gotten there when that baby formula was delivered.
Before we thought about adopting and before the amazing series of events that ended with her in our home, we fed her.
Because there was no milk for babies, we sent money......before she was even there, it was purchased and after she had just gotten there, it was delivered........
He had prepared the way........
the path we were now walking in...
even the path I stumbled in.........
through my questions and my tears,
He had already been there....
Today she is twelve.
She is no longer a screaming, manipulating little scrap of a girl shaking her head at the speed of her no's.
She is a pretty girl who loves Jesus and loves reading her Bible even though it is a painstaking process to de-code every word of the third grade level translation.
She works very hard to learn and to remember things.
She practices words and keeps trying even when her tongue tangles up the speech sounds.
She wants to be "big" and learn to do "grown-up" things like cooking and knitting.
She enjoys doing her PT exercises to strengthen weak muscles that are causing her back to curve in scoliosis.
She loves writing letters and calling her friends on the phone.
She loves the teasing over the fact that she might have "turkey cake" or that everyone will be too full of Thanksgiving dinner to eat birthday cake.
She laughs when we tell her that she used to think Thanksgiving was a holiday in honor of her birthday.
We are still walking down that path that He has set before us.
I, fearful at times and unsure of the outcome,
and she, trusting, holding my hand and running eagerly ahead.