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(excerpt from the book RUN TO WIN, pp. 214-16)

On Thursday morning, October 19, 2000, the sun glowed a deep orange as it rose over the light green, distant horizon of Odessa Oblast and the blue waters of the Black Sea. Missy was still sleeping soundly. In stressful situations like this, she has a hard time falling asleep at night, but once she does, she remains in a deep, comfortable slumber. If stressed, my mind will race as I sleep. So I awoke when the sun came up.

Stepping out on Valera and Luda’s enclosed balcony—measuring only about four feet wide—I watched the sunrise and allowed my thoughts to wander. It amazed me that adoption in Ukraine was a relatively new thing, and that Missy and I were somewhat on the front end of it. The Verkhovna Rada, Ukraine’s parliament, had first discussed opening its borders to international adoption on January 28, 1996. A couple of months later, on April 1, the doors officially opened for foreigners to adopt Ukrainian children. Four years later, Missy and I were in Odessa to meet our new child for the first time.

Letting Missy sleep the last few minutes of the morning, I watched the sunrise quietly and in deep thought. I knew this day would be the lynchpin for the rest of our lives. I also knew it carried considerable weight as far as my faith was concerned. Whatever little faith remained was hanging delicately in the balance, and it could easily go either way. I had promised Missy nine years earlier that we would one day have children. There was no way I could deliver on that promise. At best I was simply stating that I’d do everything in my power to examine all the possibilities. Just five months earlier we had totally given up on the idea of having children; we thought we had exhausted all avenues. Yet while sitting on a sofa one Sunday morning doing nothing, everything changed. For Missy, it was an answered prayer. For me—not having much use for God at that point—it was simply an opportunity that fell into our lap out of nowhere. What began to capture my attention, though, was that so far we had not reached a dead end.

The last thing I wanted to see was Missy heartbroken again. If anything went wrong that day, it would mean months, if not years, of healing. It would also signify putting the nail in the coffin of my faith. This wasn’t a test. It wasn’t a “laying out the fleece” to see if God would respond. Nor was it a threat. It was simply a large fork in the road concerning my faith. If things didn’t pan out that day, it would be highly doubtful that I would ever come back to this junction and re-investigate my faith again.

I was numb. Over the past decade I had watched Missy simply take whatever next step needed to be taken. If she hadn’t been around, I would have given up and quit long before. I was tired, exhausted, and in pain. But as she would have done with one of her soccer teammates,
she wouldn’t let me quit. At times I simply needed a clap and a quick word of encouragement. At other times, she grabbed me by the collar, dragged me up off the ground, and implored me to keep going: Just take the next step. Do the next thing.

I had followed her example as best I could from simply managing to get through a day to voicing my anger with God. It wasn’t easy, but today we were standing at the threshold of what to us was unimaginable: having a child.

I heard her stirring in the bedroom. While thinking and gazing at the sunrise, I also shot some video footage. Looking back in the bedroom, I also took some shots of Missy getting ready. Folding the LCD screen back into the body of the camera, I took one last look at the sunrise and allowed one final thought: One way or another, October 19, 2000, will be a day we will never forget.


from Run to Win (Soundtrack), released October 1, 2012




Todd Billingsley New York, New York

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