Monday, February 7, 2011

My Little Chocolate Russian

 I have recently begun a Facebook book club, called CHATS Reading Group. CHATS stands for "Connecting Hearts Across the Seas." If you know me well -- or if you read my last blog post -- you know that I love good books. I also love deep relationships. I'm a horrible small-talker. So needless to say, I'm thrilled to be sharing some deep books with 26 other ladies (and counting). And I'm even more thrilled about how racially diverse our group is. We represent several states, including Hawaii; we've got a member from Finland and a member from Kenya, East Africa.

I began CHATS along with my friend Ondrea Harrison. When I began introducing my CHATS friends to Ondrea, I realized many people did not know the story of my son Christian's adoption from Russia. Ondrea played an intricate part in that story which I'd love to share with you right now.

Many people ask when Anthony and I first decided to adopt. I'm not sure if it was during our dating relationship or our engagement, but I'm rather sure we discussed adopting before our wedding day. After we married, the question for us was not "would" we adopt, but rather "when" we would adopt. Back then we thought we'd adopt after giving birth to two or three biological children.

By 2002 we had suffered two painful miscarriages, and we were beginning to think maybe God had another plan. Kalin, our first-born son, was now five years old. We really wanted to add to our family, so we started to pray about adoption. Several months down the road, we were picked by a birthmother to adopt her unborn daughter. We were elated! We were about to have a new baby girl in our family. When the baby was born, we rushed to the hospital to meet her, hold her and snap way too many pictures.

However, that adoption was not meant to be. The day we were scheduled to pick up "our" new baby from the hospital, the birth mother changed her mind. Of course I couldn't blame her. I had given birth to a child, and I couldn't imagine the heartache of separating from my baby forever. I couldn't be angry with her at all. But after two miscarriages and now a failed adoption, I was good and angry with God.

Thus began the process of tearing down and rebuilding my heart. I knew God was good. But was He good to me? I knew He was loving. But did He love me? I knew He answered prayers, but would He answer mine?

While seeking God, going deeper in the Word, and praying more fervently than I'd thought possible for me, I began to see God's activity everywhere. Anthony and I were still convinced that we were supposed to adopt. But we'd given up on trying to make it happen for ourselves. And I began to feel God challenging the "ideal child" image that I'd had for this baby.

Sometimes God's messages came in the strangest packages. Like Lil Bow Wow. I know. Crazy, huh? Well, one night Anthony and I were watching Bow Wow's movie "Like Mike". Bow Wow's character was an orphan living in a group home. During a visitation with prospective adoptive parents, he noted how often the couples chose the youngest children. He sadly commented, "They won't want us. They always go for the little puppies." Another movie that challenged me was "Antwone Fisher." This true coming of age story follows the life of a young man who had suffered physical and sexual abuse by his foster family. While the movie's credits rolled, I kept thinking "there are more Antwone Fishers out there."

I knew there were millions of children that desperately needed homes, and most of them weren't newborn baby girls.

With this theme flowing through my heart, Anthony and I went to our small group meeting at the home of our dear friends Stu and Peggy Southard. During prayer requests, a couple from our group, James and Andrea Summerville, asked for prayer for a little boy they had heard about in a Russian orphanage. This little boy was 2 years old, of African descent and in need of a loving family. Out of nowhere, Anthony said, "Give us the information." My thought was, "Who just said that?" I was certainly committed to praying for this little fellow, but would I consider adopting him? After all, we had set out to adopt a newborn baby girl from the United States. This was a two year old boy from Russia. Really, Russia?

Unbeknown to me, a small miracle had been transpiring behind the scenes. Ondrea, who I had only met once briefly, had been to Russia to meet her son Liam. While in his orphanage, she had seen a little brown boy walking the halls. She asked a few questions about him, took a photo of him and came back to the States on a mission to find a family for this little boy named Sergei and nicknamed Seryozsha (Ser-oz-ya). Word traveled through several sources to the Summervilles, and finally to us. Aware of the great lengths God was going through to find Seryozha a family, we knew we couldn't take this thing lightly. We began praying and fasting for God's direction.

I can remember like it was yesterday, the day that God spoke to me about Seryozha. Anthony and I had both agreed to fast and seek God's will about pursuing this child. While praying that day, I felt a deep impression from the Lord. In my spirit I heard, "Seryozha is your child." It wasn't an audible voice, but I heard just as clearly as if it had been. That same day, Anthony had felt confirmation that we were supposed to adopt him as well.

From that point on we never waivered. Most of our family and friends were very supportive and even helped us raise the fees for the adoption. Only a few expressed puzzlement over us going all the way to Russia to adopt a child when there were so many black children in the U.S. that needed homes. Well, we weren't trying to make a statement. We weren't trying to change the world. We just wanted the child that God had hand-picked for our family. And through two amazing trips to Moscow, and less than sixth months after we first heard about our son, we brought him home, now named Christian Sergei.

I wish I could say, "and we lived happily ever after," but that's what fairy tales are made of. Life was quite rocky in the beginning. Imagine the grief of a strong-willed boy in his terrible twos being displaced from all familiar people, places, foods and scents. The orphanage had been his home, and its residents had been his family. They had loved him there and had treated him well. Yet no matter how much he fought us (sometimes literally), I continued to rest on God's admonition. "Seryozha is your child." I couldn't deny this little boy belonged to me. I couldn't deny he was my son.

Eight years have passed, and I can hardly believe that Christian was that angry, challenging little boy. A real roughneck, he can handle a football like none other. And yet, he has to be the most compassionate 10-year-old boy alive. Just last night I watched him cuddling with his 3-year-old sister, and I could feel the smile spread across my face. Do I still have my moments with my little rambunctious strong-willed child? Of course I do. But can I imagine my life or my family without him? Of course I can't. He's my Christian-Man, my Seryozha, my Little Chocolate Russian.


  1. oh, carla....this brought tears to my eyes. i loved going down this memory lane with you - thanks for reminiscing and taking us all along. miss and love you guys.

  2. I had never heard your entire adoption story. God is good! Roger and I are praying about adopting. We know we will, just don't know from where our child will come or how many children : ) Brooke is 4 1/2, Caleb 3, and Abby is 11 months, so may be a couple of years still. Love to hear stories like yours because it reminds me that God knows what our family will look like and I don't have to "make" things happen. Julie Johnson

  3. What a beautiful love story! I am in tears! You and Anthony r such a beautiful couple. Yes, yes and yes you all were meant to have this beautiful Choclate Russian baby! Wow is all I have to say! I remember your mother-in-law asking GBF for prayers during your journey to Russia. God bless you girl!

  4. The above post was written by Talithia McLeod!

  5. WOW! I am so glad you shared your adoption story. God is faithful and I love your candor. I know God will continue to shine upon you ad your family!

  6. Thanks alot Carla, I'm SOBBING now and I'm pretty sure there are tears in my coffee. :) God's Providence was always on that union from the instant I saw Christian's little brown fingers curl around that door. Something supernatural grabbed me the instant I saw those fingers, before I even saw the boy. I wish I had video of how the workers would parade him through our play-time with Liam every day, showcasing his "skills" to us. They so badly wanted him to have a family. Little did I ever believe it would be possible to find him a family of African descent. God is SO good!

    Did you ever know that after Christian was adopted, we (CHI) got calls from orphanages all over Russia asking us to find homes for their African or minority children? I think about those babies all the time because I don't think it really went anywhere and I have thought so many times that I would like to start an agency that SOLELY focused on placing hard to place children from Russian orphanages, particularly Uzbek and African and Gypsy Roma children, who almost never find homes and are almost always healthy. Maybe that's something we could pray about together. God never ceases to amaze me at the lengths he will go to for orphans.

  7. Okay, so I'm in tears after all your comments Ladies. Thanks for the feedback. I toiled over sharing this story in my blog, because I felt like it was "old news". Thanks for confirmation that it was what He wanted me to do. Love you all! Ondrea, the agency for "hard to place" children. Wow, is all I can say...