Joy! Unspeakable Joy! At the risk of embarrassing my son later if he ever reads my blogs and to steal Karen Gilmore's comment...I keep staring at our brand new official son and telling him "Know what? You're mine!" I get the eye roll and "Love you too mom" on occasion but I am just giddy that we are in this stage of the game.
What an amazing day full of gifts from God. We are so undeserving to sit in this front row seat to be so incredibly fortunate. The only thing that would have made this day better would have been to have our whole crew here again...or at the very least, my amazing husband. I better get started or I'm going to be writing til 1am again...
Janis and I had a really wonderful devotional time last night...thinking about friends and family and praying for today. As such, we were up to nearly 2am talking...I have a night owl on my hands. This morning we woke up a little late...for some reason as I have mentioned my phone is still on American time so for reasons unknown to me, I set the alarm eight hours ahead instead of seven. I had intended on waking at 7:30am and instead was crawling out of bed at 8:30! This was after I had awakened to the most amazing (careful that word is going to be used a lot today...I even taught it to Kristiana) sunrise, fumbled around enough to take a picture and with a false sense of security snuggled back up in bed to catch a few more z's.
So up at 8:30am and Ilma is coming at 9:30am to give us the lowdown on court. Slight stressor but I hurried up and as soon as I got out of the shower, woke Janis to get ready. I wondered what this day would bring for him...so much going on in his heart and mind. But he was his jokster self...getting ready, playing around. I love the fact that we both have references...little family jokes...that apply back to each one of our crew back home. Pate for thank you, girly teen girl, GOOB, burn the castle...our family will understand ;-)
We were ready and headed down at 9am miraculously. Breakfast was the same as yesterday...just much smaller. I realized my photo op for the big buffet was gone since the huge setup was only for weekends. We got our plates and settled in to eat. We both seemed a little bit nervous...although he insisted he wasn't. I just really didn't know what to expect. And for some reason, breakfast just didn't seem to be very good today. 9:30am came and Ilma and Kristiana arrived. I went out and brought them in for coffee and we sat and chatted and caught up about how we'd been, what Janis has been doing, how Eddie is...then the talk turned to other boys Janis had known - many of whom are in jail now. I truly believe God's hand has been on this boy for the longest time...preserving him for His plan and for blessing us.
Around 10am or so Daina arrived and also joined for coffee. She looked like a European model in her stylish dress and cute coat. I told her so and she humbly brushed off the compliment ;-) She's just wonderful inside and out and I cannot imagine going through this process without her. We all talked about the amazing (see I told you) blessing of Eddie's hearing and the long road we'd been on. About 20 past Janis and I ran upstairs to get our coats. We quickly read from our devotional for the day from 1 Corinthians 13:13 and the devo that went with it saying that we are love ALL PEOPLE and always let other see Christ in us. We prayed for our court and where we were heading and that everyone we came in contact with today would feel love from us and we would glorify Him in all that we did today. And thanked Him for bringing us to this point.
With that we rushed out and down to the lobby. I asked for a quick photo of all these wonderful ladies who have faithfully worked to get us here. Ilma asked if we had our passports...I always have them...not this time! Back up to the room, down again, bundle up and out we went. Daina and her son were our ride to court which was very close. Literally just down the street to Dubulti right next to the church that should have been ;-) We walked in over snow and ice and were greeted by our angel of the Latvian language AKA Dace our translator. I cannot tell you how it sets your heart at ease to see all the familiar faces who you know not only are there to help you along but they serve the same God as you do. It's just the absolute best.
Janis' brother Aigars and a friend of his showed up as well. The friend was not very welcome by the ladies at court since it seems he had skipped school and somehow traveled three hours in order to see us. I guess if I had dealt with all they have all this time I would feel that way too. Somehow I still see a hurting kid...so I slipped by to give his brother a hug and for now, a pat on the shoulder and Cau for the friend.
Right on time we were welcomed in the courtroom. It was smaller than I expected but still with the judge's bench, prosecutor's chair and secretary's table. I was quickly educated on the protocol for court and the judge came in and we got started. Before going any further, let me tell you I've been trying to figure out all night why my legs hurt like crazy and my back is stiff. I've figured it out...protocol is to stand when answering any question from the judge...even a simple yes. I did squats all morning LOL and those little pews were super uncomfortable!
First she did roll call...yep, Gary Belk, she read your name out! Garijis Belkus ;-) to which Daina responded she'd be standing in for him. Then she read a recap of all we'd done so far...all the way back to hosting. Then asked me if we still wished to continue with the adoption...yep, I'm still in! Daina gave a wonderful account of all we'd done...much better than I could have. Then she asked if there was anything I'd like to add. That was tough...I truly didn't know what to say other than please let us have our sons. I shared how we'd loved Janis from the beginning and within two weeks of hosting knew we wanted him, how Eddie had hugged me the first time I met him and how he stole Gary's heart, how we viewed these boys as our sons! and how our other children loved them, argued with them, played with them...just like brothers. And how we'd started this love affair with Latvia because of them and we had every intention of keeping their culture alive for them. And how amazing this day was period because a few months ago we didn't know if this day would come at all for one boy or two. Wow is all I can say.
Kristiana was asked to speak and she recapped pretty much the same then Ilma. It was very emotional for all of us. Prosecutor had no objections etc etc. Then she asked Janis to speak...since he wasn't officially asked to come, we weren't sure what to expect. Let's just say our translator got choked up and couldn't finish translating for a minute and there was not a dry eye in the courtroom. I just love his heart...yes, he's a teenager...but his heart is pure Belk...made of gold and handcrafted by God just like our other four. ;-)
I got to show off some photos...they really liked our Latvian Independence Day party! The judge asked many questions about where we lived, what we did for fun...it was really more like chatting at that point.
Then as I went back to my seat she asked me about our religion. She said we are Christians and Latvia is a Christian country but there are many denominations...Lutheran, Baptist, Catholic. What are we? What is your church like? When I think of our church, our Winfield Bible Chapel, our FAMILY...well I could have talked for hours. But, I summed it up with: We believe the Bible...and we attend a non-denominational church that is less about tradition and totally about your relationship with Jesus Christ. Might not have been much but I was tickled pink to be able to say His name in the place He had brought us. They had also asked us how we chose Latvia...and I told them we didn't...God did.
With that she closed the books and said she'd be back in 15 minutes to deliver her decision. We waited...we hugged...we talked and finally the 15 minutes passed. She came back in and we all jumped up as she began reading her verdict...the adoption was FINAL...they are OURS! David Janis Belk and Eduards John Belk have been placed in a family by Him! She gave us the details on the 20 days waiting period and all that and then started to leave but Daina grabbed her for me for...yep, you guessed it! a photo! I thanked her and thanked her and then we took a few more pics.
Janis and I wanted to change and his friend wanted to spend a bit more time with him and an offer had been made to let us see one of the social houses. This was interesting as this is kind of the inbetween housing that is offered to folks here. We agreed Daina would run us back to change clothes and we would meet Aigars and Kristiana at Orphan Court and leave from there. We did so with yes, a facebook post in the meantime ;-) and handling business with Daina. We also got our suitcase of goodies we had brought for Spriditis and hurried back to the car. Daina dropped us with Kristiana and hugs were given all around. Hard to believe we had come so far for really two hours worth of business and this amazing (did you catch it) woman had helped us get there.
We drove from there to the social house...amazing in a very different sense of the word. We visited with one of the residents for a little while and they shared her story. What a great opportunity you cannot even imagine. Two precious kids lived there in admist yes, rough conditions...but this is their home. You begin quickly to be very very happy with what you have. You all know us...we don't live in a huge house or even really a nice house. But from the photos I had shared, even those with solid well paying jobs said "your home is very very nice and beautiful!" Be thankful people! WE DO NOT HAVE IT ROUGH!
We left from there and went to Kemeri...to our wonderful Spriditis. The feeling I had driving that road to Kemeri felt like going home. I can't imagine how strange it felt to Janis...he'd left it to never sleep there again. The workers and children came out to see us right away with hugs, handshakes...jokes about how much Janis had grown. We took in our suitcase and Tamara, Janis' group lady, offered to go through it to divide it out among the kids.
If you'll remember when we were there in September I commented about the little details that set Europe apart? Well, Spriditis is full of them. Kristiana had invited us to lunch there and we went into the staff dining area...a little room with tile floor and walls and a simple table covered with a pretty little cloth. Our drinks were waiting and another little gingham cloth covered them along with our bread and the utensils. I did take pictures of this!
We had zupa of cabbage, carrots, chicken and broth, then rice, along with carrot salad and pork meatballs. Our drinks were a homemade apple ciderish kind of drink served cold. IT WAS DELICIOUS. We all ate together but Janis was quickly finished and ran out to hang out with his friends and take a walk with his brother. He asked before he left if he could go walking and stay within "Spriditis territory." sounded so official ;-) I said of course and after he left, Kristiana commented how she loved to hear him asking permission.
This lunch was wonderful and it wasn't just the food. I had the privilege of sitting and talking...working through a serious language barrier...but sharing about how both of us are well aware of the amazing! work God has done in our story. She was giving us tons of credit and I of course declined...my turn to give her credit and she too said no. I loved hearing about her past and how she came to be at Spriditis. God's been working in her life since the 90's to orchestrate the exact path that would have her there. She gave Him credit so I will too.
She is wonderful, loves these kids, loves her daughter and her own family and longs for balance. Don't we all...but she truly believes she is where God wants her to be. She loves seeing the families come for her kids and seeing what perfect matches they are. I again could go on for hours but as I told her, we need to write a book ;-)
I'll leave this part to say that I shared with her how amazing (this is when she asked me what this meant) it is that we are so blessed to have her. I told her I wasn't sure there were many Orphan Directors out there who would pick us up from the airport, take us after court to the orphanage, treat us to lunch, let us take up their afternoon, then drive us to our next destination...and all the while allow and guide the conversation to Jesus and His glory being the reason we do what we do. Amazing...just amazing.
She had a small amount of work to attend to so Olita offered to show me to Eduards group so I could take some photos for him. There were kids napping upstairs so I couldn't get photos of his bedroom but I did get the playroom and the dining area. Then I met the kids from his group Anna, Ritvars and Ralfs...PRECIOUS. What stole my heart was when I came around to leave and there stood little Anna with two teddy bears that Marleigh and Mae had put in the suitcase. I cried...she loved them! And the group leader shared that as soon as all the kids woke up from their nap, she was going to hand out all the Littlest Pet Shops they had sent. Our little piece of NC by way of Maryland had ended up delighting 6-7 kids in Latvia. Amazing!
We went back to Kristiana's office and sat for a cup of coffee...visiting with Erika and Olita and of course Kristiana. More presents from generous donors had arrived so Janis opened his and went through it giving away the things too small for him to other kids...namely one of the sons of our dear friends mentioned yesterday ;-) Yes, JR, they had come in to Kristiana's office and I was able to give them their gifts from you...their pocket money and got some great hugs in return. Snapped a few photos and T got Janis' shirt that was too small for him...he really liked it. T was wearing a SC sweatshirt...I told him I really liked it and that we were from NC! That got a smile. They both grinned when I told them how awesome their parents are...can't wait for you to get here...Kristiana sends her greetings too.
Janis was ready to go so off we went to Opis (grandfather) house to visit with everyone. What a wonderful visit. He lives in Kauguri and we stopped by the market for some chips and pepsi(that's right, the taste born in the carolinas is alive and well in LV). We went up on this tiny elevator that I truly loved and to their apartment. This was my first time meeting Opis and I wasn't sure if he would be happy with me or not. I was taking his amazing grandson to America. We walked in and Zhenya was so happy to see us! Big hugs...but where is Eddie?? HAHA...Eddie has a BFF in Latvia! I was introduced to Opis and I just hugged him...he hugged me back so tight I immediately fell in love with him. All I could say was Paldies Opis...thank you grandfather...for doing the best you could and loving this incredible kid and for giving your blessing for him to join our family.
Remember the fine details? I was offered a wonderful cup of Auglu Teja by sister Karina where she pulled out a little table with a pretty cloth and candle to serve on and then I proceeded to play with Zhenya, visit with Aigars and Karina and just enjoy our time with no time constraints. I got Janis to translate and asked Opis some questions...where did you grow up, when did you move here, how did you meet grandmother. He told me we found out things he'd never known before...newsflash to dear readers...value your elderly! They are a wealth of information if you'll slow down long enough to talk to them!
We looked at pictures and I insisted Opis move to our couch to share stories. There are photos of Janis as a baby we are going to try and get copies of. All kinds of great photos from their past. Then we shared our photos we had brought for court and told them to feel free to keep some...I can always print more. As we all visited and chatted a couple things of note struck me: 1. everyone over here likes rap music...and as we are sitting there and strains of other music I have no idea what they're saying float around, Janis went over and pulled up some Lacrae on youtube...and just like that His name was in the house ;-) 2. One of my favorite things on this trip is that Janis will be sharing something with a friend or someone else in Latvian and all of a sudden he'll say "isn't that right Mom?" like I knew exactly what they were saying.
We figured the 7:10pm bus was a good one to catch and Aigars and Edgars walked us to the bus stop. Not before promising another visit tomorrow afternoon though! We had snapped a few photos and I gave everyone another hug all the way around. We boarded the bus and there was so much to reflect on...so much we had seen and done and heard and said today.
I was getting hungry and we hadn't really eaten since Spriditis so we stopped in the first restaurant as we started down Jomas iela. We ordered a pizza and sushi...LOL...not quite the common combination but I was craving sushi and pizza is a staple for us. Janis actually tried and LIKED my unagi! He's the one that reminded me to bless the food...and he said the blessing. As Janis and I ate tonight we toasted with our coke and coke light...to our family on both sides of the water...the five in Maryland and the five in LV. I hope you can catch some glimpse of how utterly amazing this day has been.
We wrapped up the evening in the pools and saunas in the hotel but that isn't the reminder I want to leave you with. It's 2am here and I'm tired...he's sleeping already and yes, I'm still so happy. The reminder I want to leave you with is this...we were reminded again today that Eddie had a bleak future if he had not been brought to America. We didn't host him...someone else did. We need to give these kids...all these kids...a chance. Eddie has no one but Kristiana and the wonderful people at Spriditis missing him...we are his only family and I am quite alright with that. But folks, if you feel even the slightest inkling or discomfort that gee, maybe you could do more? THEN DO IT. Please...someone's life depends on it.