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The Day She Turned 16… {a day I’ll never forget}

It’s been just over a week since we took Princess T to the airport–and it’s taken me just over a week to recover and start to get things back in order. Our world literally stood still for 5 weeks as we poured into this sweet princess. The children have needed more of me this past week–and we’ve all taken a lot of much needed NAPS! We have been communicating to and fro every single day with contacts in Ukraine–and I’m chomping at the bit to share what’s in store for our princess–but we must wait until more things are in place…and trust me…it will be so worth the wait. When we shared with our family they have all been JAW DROPPED…and I thank Jesus for the story He is writing. For the last few weeks of her time with us–I’ll confess, I often cried more tears than I think I ever have. I was a mess. Yet on her birthday…beauty seemed to be stirred from ashes–and God showed up in the most glorious unexpected way…a direction that only God could do. Instead of crying her last couple of nights with us, she and I stayed up dreaming.

Nights that were holy, powerful, precious and forever dear. I treasure these in my heart…God is good.

I realized tonight when I was at the grocery store, and a lady behind me asked me, “How was your summer?” that I hadn’t shared with you all about her birthday. It must be shared. It’s worshipful to know of this as it gives Him such glory. And that precious lady behind me at the grocery–when I told her…she wiped away tears (you either WANT to be behind me at the grocery store or you DON’T. I’m far too transparent–so when someone asks me how my summer was–you get more than just “it was good…and yours??” I have to tell more…because God stories are too great not to share!)

Driving home…my heart missed her–and I realized that last week and it’s CRAZINESS full of miracles left me unable to share about those last few days. And after she left–sharing this one was just too emotional for this heart desperately wanting everything to work out…and just needing to spend that time on my knees and also in recovery mode. But before I forget…it must be shared…

Her 16th birthday…

T’s birthday wish was to have a birthday–BUT it was start the day kayaking with Papa and Nana (my parents). My parents are CRAZY–the most incredible parents you can imagine. When I told them T’s birthday wish–even though my dad was on call Sunday night and couldn’t come until Monday morning (the day of her birthday)–they didn’t blink. We were having friends over Monday night because this was the ONLY birthday party she’d ever had–and she wanted it to BE on her birthday! So–my crazy parents left their home in Alabama at 3am–and they were waiting at our house for T to wake up.

She heard one of the kids say, “Papa and Nana are here!” and although she hadn’t been up before 8am ALL SUMMER—with bed head and pajamas on she raced downstairs like it was Christmas morning, ran out in the wet grass squealing and said she was ready to go kayaking!!! And off they went!

Praise Jesus for this time–because everyone (I mean EVERY ONE) that T had met all summer she had invited to this party–and I had had ZERO time to plan it. The weekend before I had taken her to the lake, Stone Mountain, church and then entertained friends who she loved of mine that speak Russian. NO TIME TO PLAN A PARTY. Papa took T and Parker kayaking from sun up until early afternoon, while my mom stayed and kept the other children SO I could spend my morning all over town getting the cake, food, making sure the jumpy was being placed in the right place, etc. It was crazy! SUCH a big day for this princess turning 16, and I was thankful that she got to kayak instead of seeing what really goes into pulling one of these days off!

Richard got off work at 3pm so he could start up the grill–and guests would be arriving at 6pm. Literally everyone she met was invited…toddler, teenage or grandparent. It was precious…she colored signs and taped them all over the doors. She wrote “Happy Birthday Tetyana” in Russian all over the place and taped those up…she was bouncing off the walls! And when everyone started arriving…she was truly walking on clouds!

This was SO NOT the girl who arrived just 5 weeks earlier! I could just bottle her up!

Remember the cake she designed and ordered??? Here it is…all 5 layers (HUGE!) in all it’s glory…(granted it was in the “grandmother” section in the photo book at the bakery–but girlfriend LOVED it!)

She jumped in her bouncy–and I stood back and laughed…wishing this little girl had been given birthday parties when she was tiny with pigtails. She squealed as if she was turning 6–but this girl was turning 16…and for her this age meant so many things. I held my breath as I watched–and I prayed and reminded the Lord how much I loved her…as if He didn’t already know…

The night before I had gone to bed with tears–realizing how much we truly did love her. “WHY LORD–why would You allow us to fall in love with her when it was really too late??? You have a plan right???” While weeks earlier Richard and I told each other we’d be doing good to make it to the end–now we had fallen in love with this little spunky thing…yet in our hearts…we knew–she wasn’t ours. She was His. And the Lord had given us to love her for a season. We loved well. I do know that. I stink at A LOT of things. But we loved this one well. I’ve never smiled so big watching the joy of a child at a birthday…it was truly beautiful. And everyone hear relished in it with us. So many came up to us to say she was a different girl…how amazing love looked on her…how much JOY she radiated…AND THIS DAY–IT WAS TRULY GLORIOUS.

You couldn’t help but be joyful with her…she was trusting Jesus with her future…and it was beautiful to behold…

Tetyana and Laura McBrayer jumping–Laura is my friend who is mom to Luke…Isaac’s crib mate–who moved up the street from us from Tennessee last summer.

My dear friend Susan Hillis was here to translate–she translated for us on a daily basis–through funny things…through heavy things…she knew our hearts through and through–it was precious to have her here with us on this day.

It was so fun–with so much laughter as everyone had Tetyana’s favorites…hotdogs, chips, fruit and coke.

(Momma Young with Angie Carley and Laura McB’s girly girls)

We prayed over T…

We ate…and then the moment came to sing happy birthday. NOW–if no one has ever sung this to you–you don’t really get how this all works. Which explains this precious reaction (you don’t realize you wait until the end of the song to blow out the candles!)…AND you have to know this girl is SO clumsy–so that explains my panic at the end when she wanted to hold up the 50 pound cake and show it to everyone side ways!

Then it was time to open gifts…oh my glory–this was SO FUN TO WATCH!!! Everything was small and simple so it could be packed up–but this girl…she was on cloud 9 with all the LOVE! Literally on clouds…

Then–came the time to thank everyone for coming. And that is where T really surprised us. She kindly said her thank you. Then she asked if SHE could pray over OUR FAMILY. Susan Hillis translated sentence by sentence…and it was the–THE–most moving, powerful, sweet and tender moment. I glanced up to only see tears streaming down everyone’s faces in the room. All of these faces had met this at first hard, quiet girl this summer–and 5 weeks later the room full of faces had fallen in love with her with us. To hear this child pray over US…was by far one of the most moving unexpected moments in my life…

After her prayer–I ran to hug her…and she said there was more she wanted to say. She verbalized how she knew it was hard in the beginning–how she came here for one thing but was leaving with another. She told us that we chose her–but now she chooses to love us…and a few other things I will treasure in my heart. And we hugged–and if there was a dry eye in the house before–there wasn’t now.

In 5 weeks she made a best friend who shed many tears with her…a friend who was also from Ukraine and just came home in January with her forever family. They sat there arm in arm talking about their futures—and Oksana asked her to spend the night–and while we only had 3 more nights left–if we were sharing one…it was going to be with this precious family who was dear to her and to us. God was doing something in their friendship–and I knew she needed to go. THEY ARE PRECIOUS TOGETHER…

That night–the Lord began showing us His plans…and I will forever love that He chose to stir something new on her 16th birthday…a day that should have been hopeless…the day orphans in Ukraine age out…the day that I wanted to shout “WHY????!!!!!!!” The day I had dreaded. The day I feared would always be on my shoulders–as we had been obedient in loving for 5 weeks…but we were also being obedient in letting her go.

To the world it wouldn’t make sense. But to God–it made perfect sense. His ways are greater than our ways…and this summer–He showed me that in a really big way. And He even worked out spend the night company so conversations that needed to happen could take place. He is always over the details!

Please continue to pray over His plans for her life. I can’t wait to share them with you when I’m able to–HOPEFULLY REALLY SOON. Thank you for praying for us all summer–and thankful for falling in love with this girl with us. Many of you loved her big in prayer (please don’t stop!), many of you sent her birthday cards (making her feel like she had a fan club and was REALLY LOVED BIG all over the place!) and many of you extended so much grace to us when we couldn’t be present or available this summer as we normally are. Thank you.

Instead of being left asking “WHHHHYYYY???” I was left asking, “Why do we get to be a part of this?? Why do we get to experience this??” I think I can pretty much promise that is what your why’s will CHANGE to when you say YES to loving the orphan. You will experience His presence, power and love in a new, real way when you choose to say YES to Him for the sake of these. You will THINK you are loving at first–then you will see it’s too big for you–and then He takes over. It’s then that you see His heart–and the miracle He does not only in this child’s live–but in all of your hearts called to love as well. If He calls you–just say YES. The road will NOT be easy—but it will be holy…it will be beautiful…it will be worth it.

And now–this momma must crash…because I have another birthday party to put on in the morning…for my precious miracle son Isaac–who is turning THREE!!!!!

Ashley - August 11, 2012 - 8:16 am

Andrea I have followed this journey word-for-word ALL summer! I am in tears! I can’t wait to hear Part 2 of the amazing Princess T story…and you have really made me want to host an orphan one summer! I just love the way the Lord always turns HARD into AMAZING =)

missy - August 11, 2012 - 12:13 pm

wow. just wow. why am i surprised when God shows himself to be the glorious God that he is??? i love the way you love EXTRAVAGANTLY just like He does. i have been struggling just to love the ones God has entrusted to me each day. it hurts me to admit that. but you inspire me to love with His love. thank you.

Papa - August 11, 2012 - 12:24 pm

This is a day I think pretty much everybody in the room will remember for the rest of their lives. When the final story is told, it will be difficult to explain away the entire sequence of events as anything other than God’s Perfect Planning.

Amber - August 11, 2012 - 3:37 pm

oh dear, the tears just gushed out of my eyes the whole time I was reading this. What amazing things HE hath done! I also can’t wait to hear the part 2. This made me think of Isaiah 55:8-9. His ways are soo much higher than our’s!

Nicole - August 12, 2012 - 8:45 am

What a PERFECT description of adoption. It does turn you screams of “WHY?!?” into “why am I so lucky”s.

I just found your blog through a friend and I am glad that my kids are going to their grandmother’s after church. Now I have time to read your story! Can’t wait to dig in!

I hope your day is blessed. You have surely blessed mine.

Lauren - August 12, 2012 - 2:18 pm

Praise the Lord!!! This story is so beautiful. Can’t wait to hear the next part : )

Sarah - August 13, 2012 - 11:42 am

Thank you for sharing your heart with all of us through this incredible journey! I may not “know” you, but I feel like l do!! For someone with adoption stirring in her heart, your candid openness is very helpful and refreshing! Thank you!! Blessings to you and yours, and Princess T, as the Lord continues writing your stories!

Tiffany - August 15, 2012 - 12:21 pm

Love this. You are right…not easy…but beautiful. Feeling blessed to follow your journey, and convicted to continue stepping out…following His whispers.

Lisa - August 15, 2012 - 4:58 pm

Don’t know if you’ve seen what this family is doing in order to get their host child back…it seems to be similar in situation to what you guys were facing.

Continuing to pray for T and for all of you who love her! I’m anxious to hear what God is up to and the possible plan He may have in place! But I also wanted to share the other blog in case somehow that might also be a possibility if somehow it might be helpful!