I’ve purposely waited until today to write this post. Today is father’s day in the good ‘ol US of A. My fatherly type friends at home will gather with their families today, call their own fathers and grandfathers on the phone, and hopefully enjoy a nice T-Bone steak on the grill accompanied by some peace and quiet….or something like that.
I, on the other hand, am in the middle of no-where (a picture of the town in which we are staying is literally the cover photo of the “Middle of No-Where” Wikipedia page. OK, not LITERALLY, but it could be!), eating over-boiled perogies, enduring the immense noise emitted by eight children, and watching them collect snails in between rain showers.
I’m not sure who has the better deal today….although a juicy steak would be nice! Medium with a nice herb-butter glaze melting on top, pouring over the 2″ sides of the USDA Choice cut strip steak with maybe some au-gratin potatoes….I digress……On Friday, Amy and I ventured to family court in the town of Slupsk in Northern Poland after three full weeks of constant bonding-contact plus three days because of the court schedule. Neither of us slept well Thursday night as we nervously anticipated the complexities of the legal proceedings. Our agency had provided us with potential questions the court may ask us, submitted by families who had cut the path to adoption previously, so we at least had some guidance. We also are grateful for the encouragement of our friends who, just a year ago, today (Father’s Day), I believe, brought home a sibling group of four of their own from North Central Poland. You can read their story here.
Since our judge does not normally hold court on Friday, we were the only thing onthe docket Friday morning. I wasn’t sure if this was a good thing or not. Other families had shared court was not much more than a procedural thing and would last from 30 minutes to an hour. I was thinking, though, without any other cases bumping us out of the room, we could be there as long as the judge wanted to work on us!
I was right!
In the court room, which unfortunately was not as awesomely grand as some of the Grisham novels I’ve read and movies I’ve watched, we headed with our hired certified interpreter and wonderful country liaison, Grace. The judge was seated in the front, where you might expect the judge to sit. On either side of her sat the jury, and older gentleman who looked like a sweet grandpa one might enjoy shooting the breeze with on a country porch while sipping a mint julep, and an older lady with a kind smile and soft eyes. The judge was no older than me, and quite possibly younger. I wonder if Polish judges are elected or appointed? She wore the proverbial black robe, but also had a medallion of sorts hanging from her neck by a thick chain. The medallion looked to be the same symbol Poland uses on some of their national flags. The only other person at the front was the court secretary who would type everything into the record.
Amy, me, and our translator took our seats on one side of the courtroom, perpendicular to the judge’s seat. Across the way sat the prosecutor, representing the State, and the children’s legal guardian. I can’t say we knew this lady very well, but had met her on three or four separate occasions. The kids fondly called her “aunt” and loved seeing her the few times she visited us. By all accounts, she is a wonderful lady and an excellent foster mom to the children in her care. We knew she was on our side and SO happy the children were getting to stay together. Honestly, this was a little comforting knowing we had an ally on that side of the room. We weren’t yet sure about the prosecutor!
The judge called us to order and took care of some preliminary things like telling us all not to lie, reading the evidence (our dossier, social worker reports, recommendation letters, etc) into the record, and naming all the parties present for the proceedings.
Next, Amy was called to the stand.
Now you have to know something about Amy…..She isn’t a fan of public speaking. I had prayed she wouldn’t be grilled to talk about the things she wasn’t confident talking about. Hopefully the judge and prosecutor would stick to Amy’s bread and butter….school, organizing the house, what she has learned about the children, etc. A curve-ball might throw her off. I had also prayed the judge wouldn’t keep her on the stand for very long. I’m the talker, grill me!! God answered one of my two prayers.
She was on the stand for forty minutes! That’s an eternity to an introvert! Thankfully, they asked her only questions she was comfortable handling. She took it like a pro! The only catch was neither the judge nor the prosecutor had ever heard of homeschooling.
Like NEVER. NEVER EVER.
I could see the prosecutor’s face when Amy said we schooled the children ourselves at home and she was the teacher. The prosecutor’s face wrinkled up like you had just tried to feed her a delicious kielbasa seasoned with cockroaches! In that moment, I heard myself say to myself, “uh oh.” Now, our dossier fully explains homeschooling, why we do it, what we use, etc. I really wish the judge or prosecutor had actually READ our dossier. we had expected some questions in regards to our education choices, but we also expected the judge to be familiar with our dossier. Since they weren’t they asked several follow up, clarifying questions because they had never heard of it! It was all I could do to sit and let Amy speak. I wanted to jump in, defend our decisions, show them how important and good this could be, especially for our adoptive children. I’m the talker. Instead I had to sit there quietly and let Amy handle it. Which she did. I don’t expect the judge to be searching for homeschool curriculum on eBay anytime soon, but we cleared the hurdle.
Finally they let Amy off the stand and I took my place. My questions were more benign, I thought, focusing on the socialization of the children (I really think they were wondering if we ever left the house), support systems, plans should any of them need specialized care, etc. It took maybe 20 minutes. When I had finished, the court recessed to wait for the judge’s other curve-ball to arrive.
She asked the oldest of the two children to join her. She wanted to talk to them. Would have been splendid to know she wanted to do this on Thursday! So Abigail and Judah arrived and the judge took them, one at a time, in her chambers, alone, to talk to them about who knows what! We didn’t like this set up. Neither did Grace. Minimally, the children’s guardian should have able to be with them. I had the thought, this would probably never happen in the US!
After she talked to the kids, court resumed. Next up was the guardian. She testified the shortest and had nothing but positive things to say about our family and the children coming into it. We were grateful. She has been a foster mom for a long time and has some clout with the court. Her endorsement of our family, I believe, was important in this case.
When she had finished the judge asked the prosecutor if she had any further questions. She did not. Then the judge asked if there was anything else we wished to say. I simply said “thank you” for being flexible with our timeline getting all of our documents submitted. The judge had moved the date by a few days to help us out. I wanted to thank her for that. After this, we were dismissed so the judge and jury could make the final decision and prepare the court decree.
We went into the corridor to wait. I can’t really explain our feelings at this point. I think our emotions were full of relief it was over, yet apprehension we still didn’t know for sure what the judge was going to say. We did not anticipate a negative judgement, but she had already thrown us a couple curve-balls, and we really had no idea what the kids said to her or how she interpreted what they said….you know how children can be! We know in adoption it’s not done, until it’s done!
After about a half hour, we were summoned back into the courtroom for the judge to read the decree. There were some seven points to the decree and some other necessary details we needed to finalize, but the bottom line is, we became a family of 10 in that moment. A years worth of work, prayer, time, and energy culminated with two pieces of paper which transferred legal rights of parenthood to Amy and me. But really, A LOT more than just legal jargon happened.
As we sat and listened to our interpreter and the judge, at the same time, butcher our American names (she did the best she could!), the moment happened. I don’t remember which point of the seven it was, but she said something to the effect the children would be given new names. I almost lost it.
Kinga Weronica (surname omitted) would now be Abigail Kinga Carlson
Krystian Marek (surname omitted) would now be Judah Krystian Carlson
Klaudia (surname omitted) would now be Naomi Klaudia Carlson
Natalia Anita (surname omitted) would now be Shiloh Natalia Carlson
I held back my tears at that moment but kept thinking of the Scripture in Rev 2:17
To everyone who is victorious I will give some of the manna that has been hidden away in heaven. And I will give to each one a white stone, and on the stone will be engraved a new name that no one understands except the one who receives it.
I believe so many things were broken for our kids in that moment……chains to their past; generational brokenness; the plan of the enemy to steal, kill, and destroy; and probably more I’ll never know anything about.
But there were also things which were created…..a new plan for their lives – God’s plans to prosper them, plans for a future and a hope; a new opportunity to know the Lord; they traded generational cursing for generational blessing; their whole family tree changed – even the court records show their new parents and the names of their new grandparents; they became heirs of godliness, righteousness, and faithfulness; they inherited a heritage in that moment; and they gained a FAMILY. A basic need/right for all humans of which these children have always been deprived.
I mean C’mon!! The spiritual parallels to what God has done for all who believe in His name and are ADOPTED through Jesus Christ are immense! If you’re missing seeing them, I must say, you’re not looking! All of this is wrapped up in a new name……
And all of this is only possible because of an old one…..ONE name; THE name; Above all names.
Thank you, Jesus!
So, I will have a happy Father’s Day. Yes, I will have noise, dirt, and apparently snails (I think they found some clams still in the shell, too). I probably won’t get my juicy strip steak or au-gratin potatoes. But I have something better. I have eight children whose destinies have been forever tied to the plans the Father has for them….If they choose to follow their heritage, their purpose, there’s nothing God cannot do through them.
That, dear reader, is a Happy ANY DAY!