Ever since we decided to take the focus off of Kami’s actual birthday and instead focus on the day she finally began to live, I’ve been eager to revisit that day in Bulgaria with you. Reading my journal entries from two years ago is surreal because I feel like a different person after all that our family has experienced since then. Would you like to travel back in time with me to July 28, 2014, the day our 7-year-old daughter was born? Let’s go.
We slept remarkably well in Vidin on Sunday night after our two-day trip across the world. That morning we awoke excited, a little nervous, and ready to go do what we had wanted to do on our last visit in February – bring Kami home with us.
We stopped at Kauflands, the local grocery store, on the way to buy some bananas, diapers and wipes for the other children in the orphanage. Slavina, our facilitator, helped us. Once we arrived and unloaded the goods, we waited for a few minutes in the orphanage lobby and saw a group of about 6 precious boys, all between the ages of 1 and 5, I would guess, taking a walk. They were adorable. I’ve no doubt that if all of their sweet faces were listed for adoption, they’d quickly be chosen. They looked healthy, young, and cute! These are the ones that easily get chosen, yet here they were living in an orphanage. Unfortunately, even if they are actually orphans, they may not be listed with any agencies so nobody may know they are even there. Mason and I have a prayer that the Christ followers in Vidin and all over Bulgaria will volunteer to take these and other children into their homes and help close down these awful remnants of communism called orphanages! Until that day, God will keep sending people of other nationalities to adopt these children.
We were soon called up to the director’s office where we sat down for a very businesslike exchange of papers, files and signatures. Had I been a fly on the wall (an American fly) I would have guessed this transaction had to do with a piece of property like a house or car, or possibly an animal. While we were listening to the meeting going on in Bulgarian, the office door opened and in walked Kami, dressed in the beautiful blue outfit we brought for her (we were asked to hand over her new pull-up, shoes, and clothes before the meeting so that a worker could dress her).
She walked straight over to us, obviously recognizing us, took our hands, looked into our eyes and let us love on her. I had asked God to please let me feel an overwhelming love for her when I saw her, and He did. The first thing she said was “hubava Kami!” which means “beautiful Kami” – she was a fan of the new outfit from head to toe. We gave her some water and let her mess with the iPad. For old time’s sake – and because I can’t be sure she heard His amazing name at all in the last 5 months – I sang the old favorite “Jesus Loves Me”. She quickly sang the tune back to me more accurately than I had sung it to her. It’s pretty impressive that she could pick up the tune, given my poor rendition. Later in the car, she was humming back the tunes playing on the radio (an interesting mix of Spanish, techno, and American ’70s songs). Right now she is still awake and singing “Jesus Loves Me” with her own words.
She was very eager to go on an adventure with us and was practically pulling us to the car. Little did she know this was not a field trip and she would not be going back!
The car ride went great for the first hour and a half. She ate, and ate, and ate – bars, goldfish, airplane snacks, pretzel sticks, and everything we had accessible in our bags. This led to an encounter between Kami and the toilet at a gas station which did not go well. Changing her diaper will take some major getting used to. It reminds me of changing Ezekiel when he was almost 4 and way too big to be pooping in his pants, but she has obviously endured traumatic experiences with the toilet and is a much different case. This is a challenge we will wait to tackle at home, most likely, though we’ll do our best to let her know she can use the toaletna whenever she wants. She will probably benefit from seeing Ezekiel and Eden use it at home! The second half of the trip after the rest stop was hard. She wanted to get out and cried a lot. This was fortunately intermingled with sweet episodes of resting her head on my chest and playing with Mason.
When we finally arrived in Sofia, Kami was so exhausted from missing her regular afternoon nap that she was losing it. I knew this would be a problem for my people-pleasing self, but being in a foreign city with a screaming child that everyone knows I’m responsible for is hard. Fortunately this doesn’t seem to ruffle Mason. I’m so glad the Lord allowed us to come together! We make a great team. I proceeded to lose it almost as bad as Kami when I checked us in at the hotel desk and they asked if it was a 10-night reservation. Ten nights?! Here?! With a child who is terrified to be with us?! About an hour later, we took her to get a passport photo made, which was a challenging trip. At that point I imagine she wanted nothing more than to see her familiar yellow building in Vidin. Fortunately our agency made it easy for us to wait outside, walking her up and down the street and feeding her a giant jam-filled pancake instead of waiting inside the crowded government building for our turn. What a blessing that was. After that, we came back to the hotel to give her the shower she’d been wanting all day and to get her ready for bed. I have to say, bathing her and brushing her teeth helped us feel like we were really her parents. To brush her freshly washed hair and be responsible for these simple daily tasks for the first time was a big confidence builder. During the times Mason left the room to go to the grocery store or to take a shower, I benefited from one-on-one time with our new daughter to play and interact with her alone as we both figure each other out. Fortunately she does not flip out when either one of us leaves the room, so that makes it easier on us. On the other hand, it would probably signal healthy attachment if she did flip out…maybe that is to come!
Mason was the bedtime victor. We prayed and talked and both beat our heads a little bit, figuratively speaking, along with Kami, who unfortunately did it literally; but after several failed attempts and a few fits, he got her to sleep around 10:30. We pray each day will get a little bit less intense as she wakes up to our faces tomorrow and begins to learn that she can trust us. She also took the opportunity when Mason was out today to test her limits with me, and it is a beautiful thing for me as a mom to see the first glimmers of learning through gentle and firm instruction how she is to behave in a family. I know the road will be long, but to have finally started the journey feels amazing.
We came to Bulgaria to get the little girl that Jesus, in His great love for all the little children, laid on our hearts last May. Through all the joyful and tearful moments, He has been here, and I can rest secure tonight knowing He will be here tomorrow, too.
Wow, does reading that account take us back in time! I wrote more during pickup trip that I’ll share soon. If you stick around to follow the whole journey, be prepared. It gets ugly, but it also gets beautiful!
I am as grateful for these words now as I was then:
“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” James 1:2-4