Kostroma, Russia. Christmas 2002.

I was there that year to complete the adoption of my youngest daughter. Memories of that experience are treasured in my heart forever. But it isn't the beauty of that city blanketed in deep snow or the warmth of the Russian people or even the tastiness of the delicious borscht which moves me the most today. No, it's the sight of one orange.

The orphanage in Kostroma was plain and functional like the others I had visited in Russia. The workers were efficient and caring. The rooms plain. I only saw the few children who were being considered for adoption at that time. Precious children with big, longing eyes.  All of us who were adopting sat in one big room and played with our child for periods of time building bonds of love and trust.

The time always went too fast and before I knew it, it was time for them to take my little daughter from me. I longed to hold her to me never to be separated again but the adoption process involved two trips and this was only the first.

Like a scene from a Hallmark movie I remember one afternoon the worker who came into the room and handed each of the children an orange. My little girl took it and held it tightly in her small hands. It was clearly hers and she had no intention of releasing it to anyone.

Looking around the room at the other children I saw the same excitement. I observed the light in their eyes. You would have thought that they had been given a new Barbie doll or a talking jeep. This was so special. To me, it was simply an orange. But to them it represented so much more. But what I did not know. Not at that time.

Only later was I told that that orange was their only Christmas gift. In the orphanage where everything was shared, the orange was theirs.

An orange.

Gifts which mean the most are not always found in a store or online. More often that not they are discovered as we seek to understand what a person really needs. Deep within each person there is a deep longing to be known and loved. That need can be met only in a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

An orange.

So simple.

His Gift. Also simple. But when it's received He fills the deepest longings of the heart like nothing else can.

I'm going to give more oranges this year. And with each one I will whisper a prayer that this Christmas their real need be met.  

Sharon Beth Brani lives in Culpeper, VA..Her greatest treasures are her Lord and her two adopted daughters. She is a licensed professional counselor and a specialized adoption coach working with adoptive families. She helps the adoptive parent and their children to maximize the adoption process and to enjoy a lifetime of committed love and growth in a healthful family situation. Her website is www.heartprintsadoption.com. She can be reached at sharon@heartprintsadoption.com.

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