Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Do For One What You Wish You Could Do For Everyone

Love isn't always an easy road; but it's always a worthwhile one.

Perhaps you've been following our journey since it began when we hosted a child from Eastern Europe last Christmas or maybe you've just read a bit about hosting an orphan and don't know much more ... and perhaps something calls to you about opening your own home and sharing your own family with a child who doesn't have one of his or her own. But maybe the reality is that you're still on the fence about hosting.

There are so many reasons that tempt us to toss the idea out of our minds because honestly it can seem daunting or even impossible. Before you let the thought fade, though, here are six reasons you may want to consider allowing God to show you that He specializes in making the impossible possible.

6. Heartwarming
Hosting a child from another country who doesn't have a family is is both heartbreaking and heartwarming. As we shared Christmas and all of the traditions that accompany our advent and Christmas celebrations, I witnessed so much beautiful interactions between our host daughter and our young boys, then 6 and 4. My children thoughtfully included her into our traditions and she in turn embraced our family and our traditions eagerly. Watching the love grow between all of our members in our family with a complete stranger turned family member has forever changed my heart and has reminded me that Christmas is about love -- God's great love for us in sending His son to us.

5. Eye-opening 
Before our host daughter came to live with us for a month, I knew there were orphans. But I didn't think about them because I didn't see orphans on a daily basis. They were not even on my radar. But then I held her in my arms. And I knew her name. And I loved her in a way I cannot explain. And orphans then became to me people instead of numbers I had read in statistics. We can ignore numbers. We couldn't ignore Eta. Or Vika. Or Alina. Or Nauris. Or any of the number of other children we've come across during hosting.

4. Inspiring
Our host daughter boarded an airplane in her native country and traveled across the Atlantic via plane for the first time to spend a month with a family she'd never met and who didn't even speak the same language. And she was only 12 years old. When we first met our beautiful host daughter, she looked completely bewildered and overwhelmed. We quickly learned that hugs and laughter translate well into any language. As we settled into life during the first few hours and then days of her visit, I was inspired by her resilience and her desire to receive and give love despite all of the disappointments and hardships she'd faced in her short life. I recalled the feeling of terror I'd experienced before hosting began about welcoming a stranger into our family and recalled how others had said we were so brave for doing this. As I watched our host daughter strive to make heart connections, I realized bravery was involved in hosting -- but most of it was needed by the children being hosted! After all, we were in our own home, with our own families, speaking our own language. Talk about bravery! These children are so courageous, and our host daughter showed me that I could live and love courageously, too!

 3. Humbling
The world is so much bigger, so much more vast than what I can see when I'm looking at what's before me. I recall days when I thought and lived like the world revolved around me and my small family. When we met our host daughter I began to realize on a greater scale just how small I am and just how vast the world is. My children also began to grasp the smallest realizations of just how big our world is and how great the needs. We've realized as a family that while we cannot nearly meet the worlds great needs, we can do something. No one can do everything; but everyone can do something. We have learned that while we cannot save the world we can go where our deep passion meets the world's great need. And we have taken to heart a great perspective from Andy Stanley: "Do for one what you wish you could do for everyone."

2. Perspective-altering
Though we'd read James 1:27 many times -- "Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for the orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you." -- we didn't really understand it until our host daughter came into our lives. We then began understanding how God wants us to love and how God loves us. Orphans have no standing in the world -- they have nothing with which to repay for the love, time and effort. This is the way God loves us -- though we have nothing to offer him but our hearts, he loves us and cares for us as His own.

1. Life-changing
People have often mused about how we've changed our host daughter's life for the better. And I know this is true without a doubt. We loved her with every ounce of love we had and then some -- often praying and asking God to multiply our efforts in only a way He could deep within her heart. I know we've given her a picture of what it means to be welcomed into a family and what it means to be part of a family. I know we've made a difference in her life, and our love has been tattooed on her heart. But you know what else? God used her and hosting to change our lives ... to change our hearts. Our family has had our collective heart broken for children who don't have families. Even our young sons at ages 5 and 7 are vested in praying for, advocating for and fundraising for adoption. When discussing if we should host again and/or continue in the adoption journey with a different child or children our oldest son exclaimed, "Yes! Of course! Every kid needs a family!"

 Remember, love isn't always an easy road; but it's always a worthwhile one. God knows where each of us would be without it.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

God-Sized Dream: Failure to Adopt

He lays down the piece of paper we've been studying for the past few moments.

Seven years old, and he's trying to understand the complexity of a grading system that doesn't make a whole lot of sense ... like how he could get so much of a spelling word correct, miss one letter and get the whole word wrong.

I get his frustration. He studies for these tests. He does what he's supposed to do. We quiz. He writes the words out. He practices in the evening and in the morning. He writes the words in rainbow format. Kid does his work, even if it is with a whole lot of prompting from mom and dad and even grandma.

And yet he nearly fails each one.

All he sees are the red pen marks at the top of his page noting everything he got wrong.

All he sees is the silence surrounding everything he got right.

I feel for him in ways I express and in ways I cannot express. My arm around his shoulder, I point out that he got quite a bit right. That's good. We're proud of his effort. Instead of -3 and a nearly failing grade, the pen markings should say +11.

Those 11 really count.

But they don't seem like they count when all the mistakes come up at the top and sit there staring at you square in the face.

It's one little spelling test, yes, in the grand scheme of things. But that doesn't mean it doesn't sting.

I give him grace, and I sometimes realize I offer myself little.

This past January, after welcoming our host daughter for a month into our home through a hosting program, we felt like God was inviting us into an adoption journey. After she returned to her country, we submitted our request for adoption, and she responded that yes, she wanted us to adopt her ... one homestudy, one state and government approval letter, handfuls of fundraisers and one eight-week hosting session later and her yes turned into a jarring no.

In hindsight, I see more of the no and how it emerged while she was home for eight weeks this summer.

In hindsight, I see more of a tragically wounded child with the emotional capacity of my seven year old.

In hindsight, I see ... I see ... I see ...

But at first all I saw was one thing:

No: Failure to Adopt -- a big, ugly F marring the paper we'd been working so diligently and so hard to complete.

It threatened to overtake all of the rest of what was so very right about our time spent with our host daughter and our time spent on the adoption journey:

all of the healing.

all of the lessons.

all of the bonding.

all the filling of her love tank.

all of the growth we've had as a family.

all of the growth we've had as individuals.

all of the passion and fire that was burning in our hearts revealed.

all of the trust built and love grown and patience increased and joy overflowing and miracles made.

For a little bit after she said no, it was tempting to file this one under F and call it a failure ... just like my oldest son was tempted to do the same with his spelling test.

I've found God teaching me the very same lessons I'm teaching my oldest boy -- take your eyes off of the F and fix them on Him.

We were obedient: we loved with every ounce of love we had. We gave it our all, and when we had nothing left to give we asked Him to make overflow out of the not enough, turn water into wine, and fill her cup. We tried. We prayed. We continued to bring our eyes back to Him.

We learn the same lessons, the boy and me. We learn that there is more to a test than a grade, and there is more to adoption than bringing a child home forever and there is more to success than what looks like failure and that the grading system He uses has nothing to do with F marks but rather the marks that tell Love and an obedient heart and faith and hope were all here. And they remain.

That's the passing grade.

God has purpose in this; we don't understand it, but I've known since we first heard this news that He has deep purpose in it. Our hearts are still very broken for children without families, and we are still following Him as He leads us .. this isn't the end of our adoption story. Please prayerfully consider continuing to walk with us as we have faith!

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