Our Adoption Journey (Part 7)…Homecoming!

On September 29, 2004, we awoke in the wee hours of the morning to leave the Radisson Hotel in Moscow, bound for the Moscow Sheremetyevo Airport. Our flight was at 8:00 a.m., so our adoption agency had a driver pick us up at 5:30 that morning. We had completed all of our packing the previous night to avoid waking Ben too early. I warmed some oatmeal for him, packed it in a disposable container, and we picked him up out of his crib just in time to leave. We knew it was crucial that he get as much sleep as possible, as it was going to be a very, very long day. In fact, it would be 21 hours before we would arrive at our final destination.

The three of us squeezed into the backseat of a tiny car. (I didn’t recognize the make and model, but it was comparable to an early 80’s model Toyota Corolla.) The Europeans don’t see a necessity for car seats (nor seat belts, for that matter), so we just held tightly to our little guy as we made our way through Moscow, going an easy 95 MPH!!! Those Russians don’t even play when they get behind the wheel of a motorized vehicle. I really wish we’d taken some video of my attempts to feed Ben his oatmeal en route to the airport. It was much like some carnival game…instead of “bobbing for apples,” we played “ducking for oatmeal,” praying no one would lose an eye in the process.

We did arrive unharmed at the airport and made our way to our terminal. On this trip, we would be flying to Paris and then on to the U.S. Of course, this was Ben’s first time on a plane, and since he’ll never remember it, we made certain we took lots of photos. This was probably one of the most memorable shots taken just minutes before take-off.

Ben is looking upon his homeland for the last time.

Our flight was a little late leaving, which concerned me slightly, since we already had a very short time to make our connecting flight in Paris. Even if we arrived on schedule, we only had 30 minutes to make our way through the maze of the Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport. To say it is not a very user friendly airport is such an understatement. Shannon and I are certainly not world travelers. (I can just hear several of my girlfriends chuckling right now.) To be completely honest, we’re not even travelers…period. But we did our best, and looking back, I think we should be commended. We never had more than 40 minutes for any connecting flight for any part of either trip. Literally, we flew half way around the world twice within a 3 week period of time, and we broke a sweat to make every connecting flight.

On this particular leg of the trip, we knew it was critical that we make it on time. If not, we would probably have a full day’s layover in Paris. Any other time, that would have seemed like an attractive idea. I would love nothing more than to enjoy beautiful Paris. However, on THIS DAY, I WANTED TO TAKE MY NEW SON HOME!!!!!

I’ve always heard others tell stories of how they knew God had sent an angel on earth to help them through a difficult situation. I’ve heard people’s tales of their lives being spared because of certain “angels” who they don’t personally know. Well, let me tell you, either we were just very lucky, or God sent us one of those “angels” on this day. As we exited the airplane in Paris, we were both panicked, knowing we had just minutes to make it to our next flight. We remembered how difficult it had been to maneuver through the terminal just over a week ago. Now it would be even harder, as we had more carry-ons, a stroller, and a child in tow. Just as we were coming off the plane, a lady who looked “official” appeared. She obviously was an employee of either the airline or the airport, because she wore a vest with some type of logo on the lapel. She was also clutching a clipboard. She looked at us as we came closer to her and said, “Are you the _ _ _ _ family?”

Why, yes, and you are…?

Before we could even get her name or who she represented, she whisked us away. It felt surreal to say the least. We scurried along, weaving our way through the crowd, down some corridors, and finally outside and into a van. She drove us around to another terminal, gave us directions where to go, and we arrived at our gate in the nick of time.

We turned to each other as we sat down in our seats with mutual looks of bewilderment. Who was that vested lady? Oh, I have no doubt she was an angel! At least we thought so. And don’t think we didn’t give Him some glory for that one!!!

This part of the trip was where we were able to settle in for awhile. We would fly for another 7 hours before arriving in the U.S. So after eating some dinner, Ben enjoyed watching part of a movie (for a whole 10 minutes…15 month-old toddlers don’t have long attention spans, you know, especially for movies like “Shrek 2”).

Then I gave him a sponge bath (yes, in the plane bathroom, as angry passengers stood in line waiting for their turn). But the bath and the change of clothes worked some magic on the sweet boy (along with a heavy dose of Children’s Benadryl), and he slept soundly for about 5 hours!!!

As our plane touched down on that Wednesday afternoon in Atlanta, I looked at Ben and said, “Welcome to America, buddy!” It was official…he was a citizen. And even better, we were one step closer to home.

Going through customs in Atlanta was not a fun event. We were required to “take a number” and wait in line, as they processed paperwork required by the U.S. embassy. Obviously, there were lots of folks obtaining citizenship. I became a little disgruntled, seeing that we only had about 30 minutes to make our flight. I knew we had family waiting for us in Memphis, and if we missed it, we’d be several hours later arriving. I knew it wouldn’t be the end of the world, but we were also eager to see Anna Katherine and to introduce her and the rest of our family to Ben. And, of course, at this point, we were physically, mentally, and emotionally exhausted. Fortunately, our friends Andy and Jeanne had also flown on the same flight to Atlanta, where they would connect to Ohio. They had a long layover, and since they arrived in the customs office before us, they were gracious to exchange numbers, allowing us to be “processed” within a few short minutes. Otherwise, we would have certainly missed our flight. We completed all the “red tape,” and then, just as we were about to rush out the door to run to our gate, it hit us like a ton of bricks!

We were having to say good-bye to our friends. Andy & Jeanne had been with us through the entire duration of both trips. We’d stayed in the same hotel, had dinner together almost every night, visited our children together in the orphanage, gone to court together, picked up our children together, ridden miles and miles in a hot, stuffy van all over the Russian countryside together, shopped together, gone sight-seeing together…and this was the end of the road. Both families were nearing the end of a journey that began almost a year before…with 2 couples from totally different regions of the U.S. desiring to adopt 3 young children in a foreign country who needed forever families.

Again, God protected us. We were so rushed that we hardly had time for tears. It was a quick good-bye as we hugged each other and loved on each other’s children. Then, we were out the door. Thank you, again, Andy and Jeanne for being so gracious to us that day. You allowed us to make it home at our scheduled time, and what a homecoming it was! (By the way, we still keep in touch and have enjoyed one family trip together…we hope to do it again sometime soon!)

We literally raced to our gate, with Shannon leading the pack, carrying the bulk of our carry-ons, and me trying to keep up while pushing Ben in his umbrella stroller. I’ll never forget the sight of sippee cups and chew toys flying out of Shannon’s backpack in all directions as we sped down those corridors. And Ben was squealing with delight. He was on the ride of his life. That umbrella stroller was never the same…I do believe we were burning some rubber off those little wheels!

We were the last ones to board the plane, and within minutes we were airborne. It was a brief 50 minute flight to Memphis, and thankfully, Ben took a little cat-nap. He was in such a happy mood when he awoke as we touched down in Memphis, and I quickly changed him into his “going home” outfit.

My heart was pounding as we made our way out of the gate and down the hallway toward the luggage claim area. Ben was about to meet his big sister, and Anna Katherine was about to meet her baby brother. She’d wished for him and prayed for him for such a long time, and now he was here. And the grandparents…little did they know what a joy this little fellow would be to all of them!

As we were flying into Memphis, many of our family members had gathered in the airport, awaiting our arrival. As anxious as we were to return home and introduce Ben to both of our families, they were equally as anxious.

And then, as we made our way around a corner, I saw red and blue balloons and American flags waving. It was our family…even better, it was BEN’S FAMILY!

We handed Ben off to Anna Katherine who was proudly sporting her “I’m the Big Sister” t-shirt. She was thrilled!

For a few moments, Ben appeared slightly puzzled as he looked from one person to the next. He tended to have this serious, inquisitive look for the first few weeks he was home. It was evident he was taking it all in, and of course, the little man understood not a word of English. It must have been overwhelming for him! We were so amazed that he didn’t just sit around and cry during this huge transition. He was quite a sport!!!

All the grands, great-grand, aunts, uncles, and cousins enjoyed loving on their new family member. It was quite a crew that turned out for Ben’s homecoming that Wednesday evening. Anna Katherine, Nana, Pop, Gran, Grandad, Grammy, Uncle Grant, Uncle Greg, Aunt Shannon, Reagan, Avery, Aunt Marsha, Melissa, and Lakin made it such a special moment for Ben and for us.

Well, this brings “Our Adoption Journey” to a conclusion. But, oh no, it’s certainly not the end. When we arrived home with Ben, the journey was just beginning. And everyday brings new memories. We’d already experieced such joy as a family of 3, but we didn’t realize what a blessing God had for all of us through the gift of adoption.

After returning home, I prepared a “scrapbook” for Ben, which is written much like a children’s book. It tells the story of a little boy (named Ben, of course) who was adopted by a family in America. It goes through all the details of where he came from and how we traveled around the world to bring him home. Along with photos and other memorabilia, various scriptures are placed throughout the pages of the book. Two of them have always been favorites of mine but even moreso now that my family has experienced the miracle of adoption.

“All the days planned for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.” Psalm 139:16

Oh, how thankful I am that God, in His amazing love, had this plan for Ben long before he was born.

“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11

Although this adoption series is primarily intended as a record for our family, I also realize it could be read by someone who is praying over a possible adoption. I remember the fears we had of the unknown. But during the days of praying for another child and wondering whether adoption was where God was leading us, the above scripture kept coming to my mind.

There is hope and a future for all of God’s children. Thankfully, he allowed Ben’s future to include us. But whether God’s design for a family involves childbirth or adoption, He will ultimately provide what is needed every step of the way. And having experienced both, I can honestly say that, although both occasions are very different, they are equally joyful. (One is just physically less painful!!!)

It took us stepping out of our “comfort zone” to make this journey that forever changed the lives of not just one little boy, but our entire family. As I mentioned in “Part One,” we went to Russia for 2 reasons. The first, of course, was because we wanted to bring Ben home. The second, and the most important, was because God told us to go.

For anyone even contemplating adoption, my prayer is that you will allow God to work out the details. If it’s His will, you will know. And don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone in obedience. It could be one of your greatest blessings!

God not only blessed our family through the adoption of Ben, but he gave us a surprise gift last fall. Our youngest son, Walt, was born in November of last year. On the day of the sonogram, after being told it was a boy, I teased with Anna Katherine…”You prayed for such a long time for a little brother. I guess God thought you needed two!!!” At times, I’m sure she feels she got more than she bargained for.

Thanks to all of our family and friends who encouraged and prayed us through this amazing journey. Thank you, also, to European Adoption Consultants for guiding us through the process and taking exceptional care of us throughout our travels. And above all, thanks to Our Father, who “in love destined us for adoption to Himself.” (Eph. 1:5)

We are blessed beyond measure!


  1. Marsha
    Posted 10/01/2007 at 12:26 pm | Permalink

    What a beautiful story! THANK YOU for sharing this.

    *sigh* I was fine until I read about your friends trading numbers with you… Then I cried. And cried some more.

    Thanks for the encouragement to stepping out of our comfort zone into obedience. That really hit home.

    God bless you,

  2. Jenmomof4
    Posted 10/01/2007 at 12:34 pm | Permalink

    I just finished reading all 7 parts of your adoption Journey. What a great story! Thank you for sharing it with all of us!

  3. Christy
    Posted 10/01/2007 at 3:58 pm | Permalink

    Thanks so much for sharing! We’ve been receiving information from EAC for a few years now, as we wait for the right timing and confirmation from God that we should adopt, so it was a blessing to hear such a beautiful story!

  4. Stephanie
    Posted 10/01/2007 at 7:14 pm | Permalink

    Beautiful story. Here by way of Boomamma. My husband and I feel God wants us to adopt. He just hasn’t worked out when yet. = ) In the meantime I love hearing stories of those who have adopted. Thanks for sharing your story.

  5. jeanne
    Posted 10/01/2007 at 8:01 pm | Permalink

    Thank you so much for sharing your story! My husband and I have been talking about adoption for sometime. I have so many questions I don’t even know where to start. I do know that God used your story to encourage me. I am so afraid of the process that I haven’t contacted or asked any questions. I know God wants us to pursue adoption and trust Him in the unaswered questions. So thank you for sharing your story and the encouragement you gave.

  6. Shelley
    Posted 10/01/2007 at 8:21 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for sharing! God is so good. All the time. Blessings on you all.

  7. Brenda
    Posted 10/01/2007 at 10:25 pm | Permalink

    Oh, I enjoyed this story and all the pictures so much! Thanks for sharing it. I know it was written for your family, but thanks for letting us peek in.
    He is just precious.

  8. Grafted Branch@Restoring the Years
    Posted 10/01/2007 at 10:54 pm | Permalink

    What a beautiful post full of meaningful pictures–congratulations and God bless!

  9. texastanya
    Posted 10/02/2007 at 12:16 am | Permalink

    I found your blog today, and wanted to thank you for sharing your adoption journey. I also finished writing our family’s adoption story this week! What great timing!

    Best to you,

  10. Laurie
    Posted 10/02/2007 at 5:44 am | Permalink

    God is so good, all the time. Thank you for sharing your beautiful story! (BooMama sent me here!)

  11. Overwhelmed!
    Posted 10/02/2007 at 9:02 am | Permalink

    Heather, BooMama sent me and I’ve just finished reading your adoption journey series. What a wonderful story! Thank you for sharing it.

    I’m an adoptive mother as well. We adopted our son (now 2 1/2 years old) through a private domestic adoption. I, too, experienced many mixed emotions along the way, especially upon meeting his birth family before he was born.

    You can read all about our story if you check out my side bar “It wasn’t supposed to happen this way (parts 1-10).

    Our son has been such a blessing and a joy to us these past 2 1/2 years. We love him dearly!

    Now we’re trying to adopt a second time. We’re going through the state’s foster-to-adopt program this time. We’re just waiting to become licensed. This new adoption journey is a bit scary too, but I know how worth it it will be in the end.

    Thanks again for sharing your story!

  12. fully operational battle station
    Posted 10/02/2007 at 9:29 pm | Permalink

    Found you through the ever peachy Sophie and I’m glad to have stopped by! What an amazing journey and I love you guys for sharing it.

    It’s inspiring and reminds me of what we are waiting for. Thanks again!

    waiting 3.5 months officially for the referral of siblings from Ethiopia, stop on by my place and say hello! 🙂

  13. The Jones Family
    Posted 10/03/2007 at 12:51 pm | Permalink

    Oh, Heather. Boomama said to bring 8 tissues…that barely got me through part 2! What an amazing journey. It’s clear that God held you and your family in the hollow of His hand throughout the entire process. Thank you so much for sharing this fantastic story.

  14. Jackie Sue
    Posted 10/03/2007 at 2:30 pm | Permalink

    Loved the story. We are the blessed parents of 2 adopted daughters and like you, the process was very spiritual, building our faith tons! Adoption has been a wonderful way to know God better. Your site is fun and I will plan to visit again. Especially on Crock Pot days :)God bless your family.

  15. godsgirl
    Posted 10/04/2007 at 11:10 am | Permalink

    I am so grateful you chose to share your story. I travelled two summers ago to pick up my precious baby neice from China. I will never be the same. God has used the experience to teach me some wonderful things about His adoption of us into His family. I am so thankful that when He adopted us, He TOOK US ON for forever – for better and for worst! There is never a time when I look at my sister and say,”you know, Callie is in a bad mood today; let’s send her back to China.” We can NEVER imagine our lives before this precious baby and there is NOTHING in this world that she could do to change our extravagant love for her. Likewise, our God will never “send us back” to our old ways of life. He is in it for the long haul – all the way through eternity. Keep sharing!

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