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Andrew and I buttoned up our suits, and put on our dress shoes.  We sat on the edge of our bed together, illuminated by the bedside lamp, the cold night air still coming in through the window as we prayed, our hands together.

It was still dark as we walked into the lobby, asking for our Espresso, “Stavuche.”

Dasha and Sveta walked in from the chilly, dark outside air.  Dasha was wearing a suit, greeting us.

“How are you both feeling?” we asked them.  Reserved Sveta, our coordinator who has been in adoption for 8 years acted out her hand going up and down on her heart, nervous.

“How are you two feeling?”  they asked us.

“Fine,” we said, shoving nerves away, “we have been waiting for this exact day.”

Outside the courtroom

We drove in jammed traffic through the streets of early morning Russia, the red and yellow lights splashing onto the windows, clinging to dew.  When we pulled up to the courtroom, it was too cold to get out, and we had a couple minutes.

Then, Maria arrived, and she looked sweet and beautiful.  She was wearing the outfit, jacket, and boots we had picked out for her, her special day in court, the day that could potentially change this little life forever, to potentially alter the course of her life.  Children over the age of 8 come to court and speak as well.  I pulled out the white headband I bought for her, and put her messy hair into a bun. “You look beautiful,” I told her.

We walked down stark, while halls, and into the court room.   We sat in a small room with wooden desks, and microphones on each desk.  We sat, trying not to be nervous, talking to Dasha, talking to Maria.  Dasha, younger than us, focused on her paperwork, serious, preparing.  Andrew and I, as always, trying to lighten the mood and laugh, but she was ignoring us.

The two social workers we knew came in, then two doctors, 3 of them smiled at us, but not Elijah’s social worker and sat in a row with us.

A half an hour after we were supposed to start, the judge came in, and we all rose.

After some formalities and introductions, and rights being read, we began.  She asked Andrew to stand to begin questioning. She asked him all sorts of things, how much we made, where he worked, where we lived, the usual.

But then the curiosity questions came.  These questions defined the rest of our time in court.  “When people adopt, they want young children, why do you want to adopt a 10 year old child?  You are so young, and you can have your own biological children, why adopt?  Why special needs? Do you know you will have 3 children?  What if you change your mind?  Do you drink beer?  Do you know that you won’t be able to drink beer with friends out and about when you have such a big family?

Our choice to adopt is very counter culture to the culture here, it’s very hard to understand for many, how can one explain?

Andrew was open and honest: “We believe all children deserve a family, and we chose special needs because those children are often looked over, we come from a great community of people and we are well supported, etc etc”

“Oh…well…when you met your wife, was it love at first sight?  Do you argue?”  Haha, I think they were so interested in why we were here adopting they wanted to know everything about us.

“What religion are you?”

Andrew wanted to tell them the truth, that we are not religious, but that we love Jesus, but he just said, “Christian.”

“Sooo, are there certain foods you can’t eat? Certain things you can’t do?  What if your child is sick, could you miss bible study, what if…”

What!?”  No, we have complete freedom in our faith and in God, God made us smart and able to make choices…”


They asked how Maria’s English was, Andrew mentioned better than his Russian, which intrigued this stern woman, who talked quickly.

“You know some Russian?”  We couldn’t help it, but we began to laugh in the courtroom.

“Come on babe, tell them what you know!” I told him, even though it wasn’t my turn to talk.

“Ya babadila!” he said.  To our surprise, that stern judge actually smiled.  “What else?” she asked, and my charming husband started spouting off all the little phrases he had learned, and soon everyone was chuckling.

Then it was my turn, and there were so many curiosity questions, which I didn’t mind, we were kind of having a good time at this point, but then my age came up. “How old were you when Maria was born?” they asked me.  “I was 18,” I said (hello, math)  “How will you feel if people think you were too young when you had her?”  Many responses came to me that I chose not to say, but I just said, “People will feel great about it, and so will I,” I was feeling stubborn, or annoyed that so much of the focus was our age.

“Will your son Finley be jealous?”

“We desire for our son to learn what is truly important in this world, including sacrifice, caring about and for others, patience and love, he will be more than fine, we believe he will be better off for learning what’s important.”

Maria had been waiting outside, and they asked her to come in.

Our sweet girl, with her new dress, her new boots, looked nervous and peered down at the floor as she walked across the whole court room, all eyes on her.  I wondered if she had ever worn a new outfit in her life, I later found out she hadn’t.

She sat down, smiled at me, then looked at her feet, swinging below her, sitting on her hands.

“Maria,” the judge asked her, “who do you know in this room?”  My heart went out to her, she looked nervously down, until she looked up at us.

“Mama,” she whispered, “Papa e Dasha.”

“Maria, do you want to go live in American with Andrew and Amy, and they will be your parents?”

She was still staring at her boots, but in that moment, she rose her little face, looked at the judge and knew what she wanted.  She knew that she wanted more than what she had, even though she has never seen it.  She had never been to our house, never been to America, it had been 4 months since she had seen us last, but her little heart knew that she had been made for a family, and that from what she knew of it from a few days, she liked the love of a mother and father more than anything else.  She looked the judge right in the eye, knowing everything she would be leaving behind, her whole life as she knew it, “Yes, I want to go with Mama and Papa,” she softly whispered, and she smiled before she looked at her boots again, swinging below her chair.

“Do you know you will say goodbye to your friends, and to your school, and that you will have to learn a new language and eat new foods?  Everything will be different,” the judge pushed.

“Yes.  I want to go home with Mama and Papa.”

“What do you know how to say in English?” the judge asked her.

Our shy girl, in a room full of professionally dressed adults, whispered, “Mother, Father, Hello, goodbye…”

“That is good.  Who do you love more, mother or father?”

I got a little mad at her for asking a child that, but she looked at us and smiled, “Papa and Mama,” she said, perfectly.

“Harasho (Good)”

All the social workers spoke, and doctors.

After two full hours of questions, they asked us to step outside.  “She was grilling me!” Andrew said, who got most of the questioning.  “My legs are tired.”

“They seriously think I’m too young, they can’t get over it,” I said.

After 10 minutes, “It’s time,” Dasha whispered.

Sveta grabbed our hands and squeezed them, and we walked back in the court room, and stood with everyone else, Maria standing between us.

We placed both our hands on her boney little shoulders, and she looked up at me and smiled.  I realized how much of my heart weighed in this next two minutes, how much of my heart and soul stood in this court room next to me.  The little girl that God had whispered to Andrew and I was our daughter, and that we needed to go get her and fast.  The little spirit so full of love and grace, but seemed to be getting quieter in her new, scarier school, we knew she needed out, the sooner the better.  The weight finally hit me, we were here, this was it.  This was the moment…

The judge started reading from a piece of paper, and Dasha quietly translated in my ear.

She said many, many things, and I felt my heart grow heavy, and my eyes start to water.

“We herby grant your permission to adopt the two children, Maria Louise Brockhaus, and Elijah Sawyer Brockhaus.”

“YEAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH!!!!!” Andrew and I shouted and cheered, the judge, who was not done reading, looked at us, then kept reading.  I looked at Dasha and started crying, I couldn’t stop.

“Can I hug you?” she asked.

“Um, maybe wait I minute,” I warned her.

“Spaseba!” we told the judge, she nodded and left in her long, black robe.

“Daugher,” we said, as we looked into Maria’s eyes.  She smiled and beamed, and didn’t say a word, just smiled at us, and held our hands.

Sveta hugged us, and Dasha.

“We did it!”

I am a daughter!

 Let’s celebrate!!!” and we rushed outside.

“Maria, where do you want to eat a celebration lunch?”

She looked at us, “I don’t know?”

“Have you ever eaten in a restaurant before?”

She shook her head no, and I was excited to share a “first moment” with the daughter we had missed so many firsts of.

We walked down the street to Macheroni, and got Maria her own tray to pick out all the food before sitting in a big comfy booth.  “You can pick out a special drink!” we told her.  She smiled, and whispered, “Pepsi?”

“Yes, honey.”

“Get a salad, and any slice of cake you want, and soup too.”  She picked out a zebra cake.

Her first restaurant meal

 We sat, and ate, and talked, our little family, our daughter, right between us.  All of a sudden I realized there was no one else there, we were in charge of her, she was under our care.

We told her we had a special gift for her on this very, very special day.

She opened the the blue paper, and carefully opened what was inside.

Her own jewelry box, with the word “chosen.”
Our chosen, beloved daughter.

Inside was a silver bracelete with the name, “Maria Brockhaus,” etched on one side, and on the other side the date, 10-11-12.  We told her this was a special day for our family forever, the day she became our sweet daughter, they day she got two loving parents, they day she was no longer an orphan, the day she will turn her sadness into joy.  She will grow up with love, care, protection.

“Give thanks to the lord, for he is good: his love endures forever.” 1 Chronicles 16:34

Delight yourself in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart.
Psalm 37:4
Amen to that.
We got in the car, and Sveta had to drop off paperwork somewhere, “So you can go play with her at her orphanage?”  “Umm, no let’s go to the cafe down the street and wait there,” we said.
We drove by the orphanage, and when Maria noticed we didn’t stop, her whole face broke out in a big smile.

Walking to the cafe.

We officially have a papa’s girl.  These two have such a sweet relationship.

Our beautiful daughter. 

Two restaurants in one day!?

And since we were celebrating, two desserts in one day 🙂  I mean, how can you say no to that face?

“I am no longer an orphan!!  My family loves me!

When we finally took her to the orphanage, she was so happy, she seemed bolder and brighter, not the shy girl we had seen at this new school.
“I love you mommy and daddy, I will see you soon!
I will miss you everyday.”
“We love you sweetheart.”
We asked Dasha if she could translate our prayer for her, she said of course.
We asked for Maria’s hands and took them in ours,
“God, we praise you,” and that’s as far as I could get.
Andrew prayed, “God thank you for our two new blessings, Maria and Elijah, watch over them as they wait, protect them and love them, let the 30 days fly by.  Thank you Lord.

Wait, how come no one invited me to court?
(Doesn’t he look a little chubbier? 🙂
There are officially two less orphans in the world.  
We are now the proud parents of three amazing children, a family of five.  
If there is anything that I have learned through this incredible manifestation of God’s beautiful power and care, it’s that truly, without a doubt he leads and guides people to what is best.  God loves you.  He is truly real, his promises are true when they are greeted with a Yes, even if you are scared beyond belief, and you are almost certain you will lose everything, but what is it compared?  Listen, trust in God, trust him, because you never know the magnitude of blessing, the real pieces of your heart waiting for you on the other side of His leading, which may be right on the other side of the world.

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{ 59 comments… add one }
  • Elizabeth October 11, 2012, 12:40 pm

    Oh, Congratulations to all of you! Your children are beautiful and you can feel the joy coming out of Maria! This post made me cry at work! Beautiful!

  • Siervas del Sagrado Corazón de Jesús October 11, 2012, 12:42 pm

    So, so overjoyed. What a beautiful first day for your family. Many blessings.
    Sr. Anna

  • Lisa L. October 11, 2012, 1:06 pm

    Looking into the eyes of that young girl fills my heart with joy. God Bless and I’m so thankful the court saw that despite your age, you are more than qualified to raise these two blessings.

  • Julie October 11, 2012, 1:33 pm

    Beautiful story, beautiful new daughter (& new son), beautiful family, beautiful obedience to an amazing God!!

  • Kelly October 11, 2012, 1:33 pm

    This comment has been removed by the author.

  • Kelly October 11, 2012, 1:35 pm

    Glory to God!!!! What a beautifully amazing day. You have such a gift with words, I don’t think anyone cannot read this without tears 🙂

  • DJ Jazzy Jeff October 11, 2012, 1:39 pm

    In tears!
    Congratulations on your daughter and son!
    Family, what a beautiful word.

  • Franny October 11, 2012, 1:46 pm

    Congratulations! Maria is so beautiful and Elijah so cute! I hope the wait flies by for everyone 🙂

  • Jennifer aGlimpseOfOurLife October 11, 2012, 1:51 pm

    Beautiful! Thank you for sharing your story so clearly.

  • pat October 11, 2012, 2:09 pm

    I am so happy and crying for you on this special occasion for all 5 of you. Thank you for sharing this story of love and cannot wait till you bring them home with you.
    St. Louis

  • Jed and Kimber October 11, 2012, 2:19 pm

    So so happy for you!!! What a blessed Mommy and Daddy!!!

  • Rebecca Higgins October 11, 2012, 2:26 pm

    Amy, I had a few minutes before work this morning so I eagerly keyed in your blog address to read an update. That might have been a mistake (not really!)! I hadn’t read very much before I was officially blubbering and straining to read the rest of your beautiful account through my tears. The Bible tells us to “rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep,” but some of us express our rejoicing with tears! And I certainly was this morning. Since then I’ve let out some silent “Yahoos!” (I’m at work, after all!) with some fist pumps! I am so happy for every single member of your family, and thank God for His answers and direction! This touches my heart so much since I spent so many years in Maria and Elijah’s country and have a deep place in my heart for the people there. I am even more delighted that my own family (the Schmaltzes and Lynes) will be able to love on Maria and Elijah when they get home. Wish I lived closer–I would too (and maybe even help a little with the language–even though I’m very rusty!). I couldn’t help seeing the spiritual parallels in your account. To know that Jesus is the One who first chose us and through His sacrifice has given us the rights to become the children of God. But ultimately, like Maria, we all face the choice of whether or not we will accept it. It would have been unimaginable for Maria to have stood in that courtroom and told the judge that she didn’t want to belong to your family, that she just wanted to make it on her own. So many miss out on the joys of being a part of God’s family because they do that very thing! “But to all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God” (John 1:12 NLT). I am soooo happy for all of you, and can’t wait for you to get your children home to be together as the family God intended for you to be!

  • missionadoption October 11, 2012, 2:28 pm

    Congratulations – this is so beautiful! thank you for your words of courage – they mean so much to those of us just embarking!

  • LT511 October 11, 2012, 2:31 pm

    Hi. I’ve been following your blog for awhile now & this is such a wonderful story! Maria is just beautiful & looks so happy. You have a beautiful family & you are all very blessed. I’m so happy for you all!

  • The Whites October 11, 2012, 2:43 pm

    Amy & Andrew, Wow, God is so good!! I prayed and prayed every hour that went by during the day and could not stop looking at the clock till 3pm hit our time. I am thrilled He heard everyones prayers and listened to your hearts. Congratulations friends on your sweet two new treasures and i cant wait to meet them. I am so exited!!! I loved this post and it made my year. Truly an amazing and unforgettable day.

  • Pamela and Lauren October 11, 2012, 2:59 pm

    I’m at work and I can’t stop crying! How beautiful. What lucky, loved babies.

  • Lindsay Pavkovich October 11, 2012, 3:50 pm

    Congratulations and praise the Lord! God is so good!

  • Jason White October 11, 2012, 4:02 pm


  • Amanda October 11, 2012, 4:03 pm

    Congratulations to all five of you and thank you for e wonderful post and thank you for sharing this journey with us! It has been such a blessing seeing God work in you and through you on.

  • jabreman October 11, 2012, 4:43 pm

    God bless all five of you. I have followed your blog since finding it through another RR blog. Thank you for sharing your journey with all of us readers, many of whom do not know you.

    My prayers to you for the coming months and the next transitions. You have beautiful, beautiful children.

    Jane in Oregon

  • Suzanne October 11, 2012, 5:27 pm

    So happy for you all. I was up all night praying that everything would go well for you guys today. I can’t stop the happy tears. God is so amazingly good!

  • Suzanne October 11, 2012, 5:27 pm

    So happy for you all. I was up all night praying that everything would go well for you guys today. I can’t stop the happy tears. God is so amazingly good!

  • nicole October 11, 2012, 5:31 pm

    I Love your whole post its awesome.xoxooxxoox god bless you..

  • Jennifer October 11, 2012, 5:52 pm

    Praise God & Congratulations to your beautiful family!! Your post was so beautifully written and I have enjoyed reading your posts very much. Thanks so much for sharing. Congratulations!!

  • Stephanie October 11, 2012, 7:18 pm

    All I can say right now, through the tears, is wow!!! Praise the Lord! He reigns!!

  • April October 11, 2012, 7:58 pm

    Amen! God is good and just! What a special day for your family!

  • Hannah October 11, 2012, 8:46 pm

    The “magnitude of blessings” which I feel privileged to have shared in, in this way. I have prayed for your family; I cannot wait to hear what’s next.
    Much love from Australia.

  • Courtney October 11, 2012, 9:03 pm

    God is good! SO SO happy for you and your new adventure as a family of five.

  • Mom October 11, 2012, 9:20 pm

    Such a beautiful story. Just like our beautiful Lord. Congratulations to all of you!

  • Joanna October 11, 2012, 9:38 pm

    This had me crying! Congrats!!

  • Etosia (e-tasha) October 11, 2012, 10:17 pm

    Yes!!!! Congratulations! I can not tell you how happy I am for you and your family! You and Andrew are truly amazing people and I wish you all the bet as a Family of FIVE!!!!

  • There Is October 11, 2012, 10:55 pm

    I have loved following this journey! I find myself praying throughout the day for your family! Your children are beautiful! I cant wait to see the 5 of you together.

  • Holly Schoeppler October 11, 2012, 11:51 pm

    I’m dripping tears and so happy for your family; congratulations!!!

  • PerniPwr October 12, 2012, 12:51 am

    we are rejoicing with you!! god is so awesome. praise him!

  • Laura October 12, 2012, 1:03 am

    So very very very beautiful….

  • Kym October 12, 2012, 2:29 am

    Where to START? I am so excited for you, but that doesn’t feel like a good enough word. HA! I seriously had no doubt that this would all work out fine, and your day would go perfectly. Of course they would say yes to you, god’s mercy is absolute, and you were chosen to save these children. I can’t even imagine how this day must have felt for you 🙂 I will continue praying- that this month will fly by. That the days of waiting to go get your babies will be a blink of an eye. The excitement and wonder on Maria’s face makes my heart swell. Congratulations!!!!!

  • Shelley October 12, 2012, 3:19 am

    My heart is full of joy!

  • Elizabeth October 12, 2012, 3:53 am

    My heart is overflowing with joy for you all. Such an incredible picture of redemption. All glory to God!!

  • Kristin Smith October 12, 2012, 5:11 am

    Congratulations! I have been quietly following your story. I grew up going to Chris and Marla’s youth group with Andrew. My husband Beau and I have a special needs son, Asher, who is 8 now. Asher is such a joy! Our daughter Eden has a great relationship with her big brother and she has learned how to be so compassionate through her relationship with him. All of this to say…your family will be blessed by any special needs Elijah may have. Be encouraged that there is soooo much beauty to be found in raising a child with special needs. May God continue to bless your family of 5!

  • Titia October 12, 2012, 5:53 am

    I have been following you blog for a while now. You two are amazing people, so full of love. The love you have for your children and many others will definitely imprint them for the rest of their life, showing them the way. It has been a pleasure following your journey, intend to be doing it for a long while still, if that’s okay with you.

    Full of joy for your family, in tears. <3 All the best from Finland 🙂

  • Alicia October 12, 2012, 6:05 am

    Oh my goodness, I am SO SO excited for you and for those sweet kids. This should have a had a “you will need a tissue” warning. 😉 What an amazing answer to prayer. Thank you for sharing your journey so that we too can see God working in your lives. Continuing to pray for all of you.

  • Laura Marino October 12, 2012, 6:20 am

    The day I think more people in the world have been waiting for than you realize! We love following your story as well as readers from all over. Maria is a blessed little girl… Elijah is a blessed little boy… You guys are a seriously blessed couple! What a special gift you gave Maria with the bracelet and jewlery box. And what a cool date 10-11-12!! She is in for the ride of her life, and I am so excited to watch it happen. We are praying for a speedy 30 days for all of you 🙂

  • Kimberly October 12, 2012, 12:43 pm

    SO happy for you and especially Maria and Elijah. Thank you so much for sharing your story with others. You have no idea how much you have impacted me and probably others about adoption and trusting the Lord. Love it! Pictures speak for themselves. What an amazing day for your family!

  • Laura October 12, 2012, 1:02 pm

    I am so happy for your whole family, the five of you!! Your THREE children are so blessed, as are you and Andrew. I live in Maryland and don’t even know how I found your blog, but I wish we lived closer…I feel like our families would be friends. Your post made me cry this morning as I drank my coffee and I thought of you yesterday at work, praying throughout the day. Congratulations again and I can’t wait for what the future holds for you all.

  • kate October 12, 2012, 1:23 pm

    Blessings and joy! I love your sweet girl. <3

  • Lou October 12, 2012, 2:38 pm

    There are no words that can describe how thrilled I am for you and your new family, so I am not even going to try.

    Sending huge hugs and tons of love to the family Brockhaus – ALL 5 of them.

    WOW – so so wonderful!

    Lou 🙂

  • Carla October 12, 2012, 7:38 pm

    Those questions are crazy! It’s so hard for a watching world to understand adoption. I’m SO thrilled and exciting for your family! Maria and Elijah are SO precious. Thankyou for sharing the process with us all. We have two adoptions in the process right now too and it’s so encouraging to see other families on similar leaps of faith.

  • Laura October 13, 2012, 12:59 am

    You don’t know me, but I came across your blog a few months ago and have loved following your adoption story. We’re hoping to adopt someday too. I couldn’t help but tear up while reading this post (and so many past ones too). I am so happy for you and your family. Your journey has been such a blessing to me, and I can’t wait to see the many ways God is going to continue to work in you and through you. Your children are absolutely precious. I’ll pray that these next 30 days fly by!

  • Julie Rakay October 13, 2012, 2:12 am

    Congratulations!!! Kaitlin was so happy to see this post. Maria looks so happy! Can’t wait to see the next chapter in all your lives!

  • Jamie October 13, 2012, 2:42 am

    Family is ordained of God, and yours is one truly blessed. Congratulations to all five of you!

  • Cindy October 13, 2012, 3:34 am

    So excited for your new family of five! Hope the 30 days fly by!

  • Christi and Abbey October 13, 2012, 5:24 am

    Blown away!! My heart is bursting with joy for all of you!!

  • Good Thanks October 13, 2012, 6:50 am

    I follow your story from Australia, and can’t wait to see your daughter (and son) in your home. In THEIR home.

  • Teresa and Andy October 13, 2012, 1:42 pm

    What a sweet and wonderful story! I can relate to the stress of the court visit; we went throught the same thing a year ago. Did they *ask* Maria if she wanted to speak in court, or did they just tell her to go? Knowing how stressful it is for adults that will soon go back to their own home, the court appearance must be so much more stressful for a child who will soon leave everything she’s known.

  • Teresa and Andy October 13, 2012, 5:30 pm

    Oh! And I should have said: Maria has such a wonderful smile! Her whole face just lights up in your pictures. You’re such a lucky family.

  • Squiggly Rainbow October 15, 2012, 11:26 am

    I have just caught up on you wonderful news x x xi have tears! Praying these thirty days fly by x x x

  • The Deutsches October 22, 2012, 1:29 pm

    I am crying with tears of joy for the both of you and the expectation of the day that we can be in the same court bringing home our chosen ones – Just started the process to get two – Tim, age 12, Ana, age 10 http://www.deutschfamilyadoption.com/ I saw in your orphan pictures the picture of Kate but I did not see Tim and Ana – they are also listed as region 26. Do you know of them or are there several orphanages for older kids there? Thank you for all the pictures and stories – this has been a big help. I would love to talk with you sometime. Praying these final days for you soar by and you have these precious ones home in America. Maria looks so well adjusted with you two – that is amazing. God is so good in giving you to her. I pray many more will follow and rescue these children before it is too late. Love and prayers, Val Deutsch -Richmond, VA

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