I no longer had to wonder how the parent of a service man feels when his child returns home from battle....or how the parent of a missionary who is ministering oceans away reacts when she sees her child for the first time after months of separation. When the door opened, I was living it.
"Hey mom," she said.
Your first inclination might be to take that simple greeting for granted. However, those two words hold an entire story. Natalie's story completely entwined with me. And it is remarkable.
This teenage girl who was once an orphan, who has been pushed to and pulled from four different treatment centers over the course of a single year, who has been placed on and off all sorts of medications to ultimately be taken off of it all....the girl who has been made to dissect feelings she couldn't possibly understand, who was asked to dredge up a past she cannot remember....the one forced to confront anger she never intended, and to deal with actions she regrets with every fiber of her being...this teenager who hated me and sought ways to hurt me....in facing me for the first time in eight months was comfortable enough to simply greet me with: "Hey mom".
The words symbolized home. They are two words typical, run of the mill, ordinary teenagers use every single day when greeting their moms. The words are normal. They are indicative of a fresh start.
My arms opened for a hug: "Hey Natalie."
She met me half way. The hug was mutual, not one-sided.
We were given the great room couches to use for our visit. A beautifully decorated Christmas tree adorned the front window, lights seeming to twinkle with joy for this occasion. Lydia quickly pulled out her phone to share pictures and video from home. The pictures of Hope and Charlie helped bring all the tales from home to life. We laughed.
When was the last time I had seen Natalie laugh? I couldn't remember. But it didn't matter. Here she was, seated beside me, tickled about the funny stories we never would've had if Hope and Charlie were not part of our lives. Hope and Charlie, the two little ones in our lives who have no words, who have sensory disorders, and who both bear an extra chromosome. Isn't it funny? Two who are thought to bring no tangible value to the world are the very ones who brought our family back together that day on a sofa in Missouri.
For a split second, as I sat there, I actually felt the awe and majesty of ONE who sees ahead and provides. Of ONE who knew the adversity Natalie would face when she was still in her birth mother's womb, and in turn, the ONE who saw the trauma our entire family would encounter years after she became part of our own family through adoption. Only the Masterful Creator of all things would think to use the least of the world...ones like Hope and Charlie....to heal and to restore.
After nearly four hours, when we were standing near the Christmas tree preparing to say our goodbyes, Natalie turned to me. Chappy and Lydia were still speaking with Mrs. Debbie who had just given us a complete tour of the cozy home that is currently providing therapy and education for 20 teenage girls. This was a blip in time meant only for Natalie and me. A blip in time wrapped up as a gift especially for me. It was appropriate we were near the tree, as if the Almighty Himself planned the whole thing.
She didn't look at the floor and she didn't mumble her words. Natalie looked directly into my eyes when she spoke:
"If you had not found this place and sent me here, I would be dead. I had made up my mind that I couldn't live with the pain anymore. I was going to take my life. I was going to do it."
Peace washed over me, cleansing me from all doubt and guilt.
"I'm getting better every day. I'm going to have a good life, I promise I am."
Our goodbyes were full of tears. But when Lydia, Chappy, and I climbed back into the SUV, returned Natalie's wave, and turned to head back to the hotel, our hearts were full of hope.
The miracle of Christmas is of a Father, who so driven by love for the children who rejected Him, left the comforts of home to enter a foreign place to rescue them. to love them. to know them.
The miracle of Christmas for me this year was in my leaving the comforts of home to go to Natalie, the one who had rejected me. Twelve years ago, I went to her in the foreign land of Russia. Two weeks ago, I went to her in Missouri. On this day, she accepted me as her mom.
"For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on His shoulders. And He will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David's throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the LORD Almighty will accomplish this."
Thank you to all who have ordered The Loyalty Lock from Lydia. She is giving a portion of the proceeds to the therapeutic boarding school where Natalie is residing. The school is wanting to build a gym for their 20 female residents, and Lydia is determined to help make that happen. To order your Loyalty Lock, visit: http://www.loyaltylock.org/ They are $14.99 with a flat $2.00 shipping: