It is amazing how 3 weeks sounds like a very long time. When we first started out on this hosting journey, we thought that the time we would have with Alyona would last forever. Well, even though forever is in the dictionary "a limitless time", for Alyona it was time for her to head back to Ukraine.
We cannot even begin to explain the mixture of emotions that we had going on. Here was this little brown hair, brown eyed girl that showed up in our lives and turned it upside down and how were we supposed to just pack up her bags and just say goodbye? In that 3 weeks that she was here, we both felt that God had another family chosen for her and we were meant to have another child chosen for us. I can't explain it, but, it was something that we both felt.
It was a wild 3 weeks. The first week, as I mentioned, she still had her angel wings on as I like to say :). Then, I think she realized what real freedom was all about. By the second week...if she didn't want to do something, she wouldn't move. I remember specifically a time when we went on a play date with my daughters school and we went to Dairy Queen afterwards. All the kids got exactly what they wanted and were very happy. Midway through their shakes, Alyona decided that she wanted more of everything. I had to say no. She proceeded to throw the largest temper tantrum and went under the table and held on to the table post and never did move. When it was time to leave and I was saying goodbye to the other mothers (and of course sweating profusely of embarrassment on the inside), I had to get on the floor to convince her to leave. Nothing worked. I finally had to peel her fingers off of the table and carry her out with my two other children in tow. All the while she was kicking and hitting and saying some very interesting words in Russian. This happened on numerous occassions. I felt like I was on Candid Camera and someone was going to jump out any minute and tell me that this was all a dream. It never happened. :)
BUT, on the other end of the pendulum, there was the very first time she looked me in the eye and said " I love you mama" and she put her hand on my cheeks and held me close. Can your heart really come out of your skin and fall out on the floor? Mine certainly felt that way. Or there was the time when she drew a picture of Blake and I holding hands with our wedding bands on and said "Mama...beautiful...Papa...handsome". Watching her play with our children and be so loving at times warmed my heart.
I prayed every night for God to answer us. Are you sure we heard you right? Maybe you were wrong, maybe she is the one for us. Maybe that gut instinct that both Blake and I have is just something else. I prayed outloud and would even say "Well God, maybe we could make it work with Alyona being the oldest. Can't you make this whole birth order thing work? You are a God of Miracles?"
Two nights before Alyona had to leave, we had to inform her that it was almost time for her to go back to Ukraine. She broke down into tears and it seemed as if a river came out of that poor childs body. She said "Mama...please....no goodbye.... please...come to Ukraina". All of the temper tantrums and my hair falling out from chasing the girls around and saying "Nyet" every 5 seconds suddenly vanished in a blink of an eye.
I crumbled into a million pieces. I had to walk away. Her tiny hands walked over to me and touched my arm and said "Mama...please no cry". We held each other for what seems like an eternity. I wanted to wash every bit of hurt that she had ever endured and here was this orphan child trying to comfort me. I was screaming on the inside " Dear Lord...how can we do this...how can we send her back? We can't let her not have parents" Oh, the anguish that we felt. To make matters worse, our two children were in worse pain that we were. They were crying as if they had lost their very best friend. I began to question myself if we did the right thing by even hosting at all. We had such horrible guilt that we didn't feel "led" to adopt this beautiful child. What was wrong with us?
The day came when we had to take her to the airport. The strangest thing in the world happened. Blake and I woke up and we looked at each other and we both felt peace. We realized at the same time that maybe she was put into our life for a reason. Maybe we were to be her champions to find a family. From what I do know, you are allowed to tell others about a child you hosted in Ukraine and that is perfectly legal. I couldn't quite put my finger on the type of peace that we felt until a little later.
Back to RDU Airport we went. This time, Alyona had 2 HUGE suitcases weighing in at 70 lbs and the other at 55 lbs and a Barbie backpack and her own backpack with snacks and supplies. Mind you, that when she came off the airplane the first time...she only had a tiny backpack with just a days supply of clothes. We sent her and her orphanage back with donations from our dentist, friends, family, ourselves, the YMCA...it was unreal. It impacted me beyond words. We were given special permission to walk her to her gate with John who was our friend who was
going to fly them back to JFK to meet the rest of the group to fly back to Ukraine. We checked and rechecked that she had all that she needed in her carry on bag. Do you have your snacks?, your chapstick, your wipes, you extra clothes? I know she couldn't understand a word that I was saying...she just smiled at me and kissed me on the cheek.
The final boarding call came. My heart dropped right into the pit of my stomach. Alyona ran right into Blakes arms and held him with all of the strength that she had. Our 2 girls jumped into his arms as well and I watched the 4 of them hold each other tight. Then, it was my turn. Alyona came to me and said "Mama...please...no goodbye". I got on my knees and put a heart necklace around her neck and said "Mama-Papa Loves You so much-never forget" we cried and hugged all the way to the ramp. She let my hands go and looked back at us and said "no goodbye". And then she
was gone. The flight staff started tearing up and even told us "My god you are killing us"
We took our children who were crying uncontrollably into our arms and walked next to our dear friends who put their sweet host child on the plane too.
We walked arm in arm with Dan and Michelle in silence. It was then and there that it hit me... We thought we were going to show Alyona the world, but, she ended up showing us the world. She showed us that love speaks many different languages and knows no boundaries. She taught us to stop and smell the roses. I felt peace that day when she got on that plane that God has a special family already picked out just for her. We were just a stepping stone to get there. She had to stop at our house along the way to teach us a little bit about the "journey inward".