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A Miracle of Joy
Sharon Beth Brani
As I stood at the gate in the busy airport waiting for my plane, my mind went back to all the changes in my life during the past months. My marriage had crumbled, leaving me shattered and very confused. My dream of a happy home and children had been dashed. But somehow God was restoring my sense of purpose and desire to follow wherever he led.It was just a few days before Christmas. In a matter of minutes, I would board the plane and be on my way to Russia to adopt a six-month-old baby girl.How it had all happened was amazing in itself. I remember sitting in the living room with friends and quietly sharing my desire for a child. “Well, there’s no reason why you can’t still be a mother,” my friend assured me. “Singles are now adopting.”I remember how I had smiled at the idea, reminding him that I wasn’t young anymore.“Oh, I don’t think it will take that long,” he responded, “and anyway, it doesn’t hurt to ask.”With that, a seed of hope was planted that I could be a mother. In just six months, I was on my way to Russia to adopt a baby girl named Oksana. Questions flooded my mind. Would she be there when I arrived at the orphanage? Would she be healthy?I continued to pray as I stuffed my baggage in the overhead compartment. I glanced again at the little picture I had of Oksana. “Lord, please lead me to other people going to Russia to adopt.”How I feared traveling alone, but there was no one to go with me.Before long, in little snippets of conversation, I overheard the words “Russia,” “babies” and “orphanage.”“Are you going to Moscow?” I asked the woman to my right.“Yes, my husband and I are going to adopt two children.”“So am I!” I squealed. “I mean, I’m going to adopt a baby girl.”From then on, we both talked incessantly. I discovered that they were heading to the same orphanage to be met by the same coordinator. We became fast friends. I whispered a prayer of thanks to God for answering my earlier prayer.When the plane landed in Moscow, it was cold and dreary. I immediately sensed the strangeness of the different culture and my language barrier. But then I met our coordinator, who turned out to be a very friendly Russian woman who spoke no English. Her big, warm hugs were so reassuring.“Is Oksana there?” I asked, having heard stories of people getting to the orphanage, only to discover that the child was no longer there.“Da,” she answered with a twinkle in her eyes.“When can we go to the orphanage?” I inquired, ready to go on the overnight train immediately.“Soon,” the translator said.“By Christmas? Will I see her by Christmas?”“Da. Da,” she answered with a big grin.I stayed in a simple apartment of a young couple and their three-month-old daughter, Anastasia. Their generosity was overwhelming. Although their living conditions were simple, they willingly shared what they had.In just a few days, I left with two other couples to travel eight hours north. When we arrived at Borovitchy, we were tired but so excited. After only a few hours of sleep, we went to the orphanage. Walking inside the large brick building that was home to about 400 children, I whispered another prayer. “Just let her be healthy, Lord.”As I walked the long hall, I met staff members who were warm and friendly. I saw that the facilities were neat and clean. A tall Russian doctor joined us and smiled when he asked if I was ready to see Oksana.Was I? I thought my heart was going to burst with such a strange combination of excitement, fear, longing, hope.Together, we walked down the cement steps, through the long, narrow hall to the infants’ room. They led me to a small room while they went to get the baby. In only a few moments, they were back.Oh, I’ll never forget that moment for as long as I live! They placed her warm little body in my arms and discreetly stepped out to leave us alone.“Oh, my,” I whispered in awe. “You are beautiful, darling.”I gazed at her big brown eyes and flawless skin. I held her hand in mine, counting each finger. I held her close and sang to her softly, “Jesus loves me.” Time stood still.It was a holy moment, a Christmas moment, a time when the Greatest Giver filled the arms of a hurting single woman with a priceless gift—a baby.We left the orphanage on Christmas Eve at midnight. My tiny daughter, Noelle Joy Oksana Brani, was wrapped in a soft pink blanket. As I walked out into the night to catch the train back to Moscow, the snow was gently falling. And I thought I could hear the angels singing.
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