Tag Archives: hosting

Chapter by Chapter

One year ago, I watched Luda walk through security at the Newark airport, ending our summer together. It was hard, but I also had the hope that we were starting her adoption! I put my hope in that.

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It’s so strange to look back on, because those few days were a rollercoaster. So many goodbyes… and we started her adoption paperwork. It was sad, but full of hope. And then, she told me that she didn’t want to be adopted… and that changed everything. What seemed to be a fairy tale until that point suffered a major plot twist that day.
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We are getting ready to say goodbye to N on Saturday. There is a general consensus in our house that this is not a sad thing. N herself is excited to go back, see her friends and start school.
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N’s story in our family is so different than Luda’s. With Luda, it was always easy to see the impact we were making and where this journey might take us… with N, not so much. We will not be adopting and/or re-hosting her. The clarity of that sometimes feels like a failure– if only we were better parents, we could, right?

It’s a doubt that nags at me, even though I know it isn’t true. We simply aren’t a good fit for N. She needs a family who can offer her firm structure and constant individual attention… and with three kids younger than her, there is just no way that can be us. But, when we find her that quiet, steady family, she will thrive.

While I might like every story to have an immediate, happy ending, they don’t. Some stories have sequels, or trilogies, or even a whole series. Sometimes, you can’t see the whole picture until the epilogue. And, not every story has the resolution that I hope for as I am reading– very often, the ending is so much better than anything that I could have imagined.

Luda’s story is one that I cannot put down at the moment. I eagerly flip through pages, wanting to know how it will end. N’s story is one that I struggle to pick up each day. I am praying that her next chapter holds something beautiful.2015-08-28_0001

Will you join me in praying for N as she departs and starts a new chapter?

The Highlight of Our Summer

We really enjoy spending a chunk of our summer in Pennsylvania with my family. Even though it’s been almost 10 years since I lived there full time, it still feels like home in many ways. I love that my kids have strong bonds with my side of the family, even though we live so far apart.

The highlight of the summer for the kids is going to our huge family reunion at the end of July. It’s been going on since 1953. We went often when I was a kid and this is the third summer my kids have gone.

First of all, this year was extra special because we got to meet my newest niece for the first time.
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Reed and Lena fell in love hard. And, I think the feeling was mutual. She thought Lena made a great pillow and Reed was hilarious.
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Even though it’s a family reunion, the closest relations to me there (apart from my sisters, nephews, niece and parents) are usually second cousins. However, this year, one of my cousins came… the second reason why it was extra special. Reed thought my cousin Tim was the coolest… which he pretty much is.
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I expected N to be bored, bored, bored at the reunion, but she was pretty happy to grab whatever she wanted to eat and have lots of space to run around.
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Gus wasn’t quite as sure about his new little cousin as Reed and Lena were, but he ended up enjoying her company.
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My dad came to the reunion this year, too.
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N really enjoyed the square dancing. She was the only one of us to square dance this year and I could hardly get her out of the barn when it was time to go.
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Another fun year with lots of memories made.

Give Me Your Questions!

Hopefully, you’ve seen our announcement by now. If not, you need to take 5 minutes to watch this before you read any further.

We are thrilled to be sharing this news. Most people were surprised by it and have (expectedly) drilled us with questions. So, I’m opening here for your questions. Leave a question in the comments and I will address it an upcoming blog post.

However, please note that I will NOT be answering questions about Luda’s personal history that we aren’t a direct part of. That’s her own story and hers to tell, not mine. 🙂 

N’s Birthday

N turned 9 years old a few weeks ago. We celebrated twice– once in a small party with my family and once on her actual birthday at home.

My mom baked these fantastic cupcakes. I stood and watched her, trying to soak up some of her cupcake decorating skills.
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We surprised her by celebrating with my family. When she realized what we were doing, she asked to call her chaperone. The chaperone said she was so excited and wanted a photo of everyone together. 2015-08-09_0001

A simple request, but clearly it meant something to her. 2015-08-09_0002

She showed a ton of appreciate for each card, reading them carefully. I really don’t know that I’ve ever seen a child express so much gratitude.

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My niece picked out this stuffed dog from her collection and gave it to N. 2015-08-09_0004

One of our gifts to N was a pair of sneakers. It’s a truly practical gift– have something of good quality to take back with her and wear for the fall. Sneakers because this girl is so active! I thought it would be a boring gift, but it turned out to be one of her favorites. She even wore them to bed! 2015-08-09_0005

We celebrated N’s birthday the second time on her actual birthday. We arrived home from Pennsylvania that day, so we just had store bought cupcakes and gave her one gift.  2015-08-09_0006

Celebrating N’s birthday was a lot of fun! I think she truly appreciated

Be Her Rock

Last year, Big L’s favorite song was Rend Collective’s My Lighthouse. It’s a song about God, but I think for us, it also reminded us of what it means to be a parent to a hurting child. “In my wrestling and in my doubts, In my failures You won’t walk out…

That image has stuck with me and that song always makes me think of Big L. Any lighthouse makes me think of Big L. My “word picture” for N is slightly different. Although it sometimes feels like N is the violent sea trying to batter me, I know she’s really swimming IN a violent sea. A violent sea of emotions, a violent sea of being pulled and pushed different ways by different people, a violent sea of uncertainty. All I can offer her is a place to rest. Whenever she’s misplacing her anger on me, I try to remind myself, be her rock.

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She’s scared and angry, and these feelings can come out in unpleasant ways. I want to react myself. I sometimes feel like another swimmer in this violent sea, and we might cling to or fight each other and pull each other under.

But, I can’t. She doesn’t need another swimmer who can only keep her up so long. She needs a rock to cling to.

And this is what I’m learning, day by day. Briefly acknowledge her feelings, then dig my heels in deep and let that sea crash against me.  Be unmovable despite all of the misplaced hurt thrown about. Be firm and resolute with rules and boundaries. Be solid, no matter how much I might feel like cracking.
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I am constantly being reminded that love looks different for different people. For Reed, love looks like having someone who believes in him– age-appropriate freedom and encouraging and acknowledging his successes. For Lena, love looks like cuddling and loving words to lift her up. For Gus, love looks like an engaged playmate and someone to rub his feet when he’s tired. For N, love looks like all of that, plus firm boundaries and someone who can sit beside her in all of her anger and not reflect anger back at her. I am learning, slowly learning, to see her hurt, but not mirror it. 

Life is hard. Parenting is hard. Parenting hurt kids is super hard. I think hosting is an incredible opportunity, but I cannot tell you it’s always easy. It’s not. Not easy, but absolutely worth it. 

Your Best Yes

I’m not much of a sales person. I have to be really passionate about something before I ask my friends and family to consider it. And, if there’s one thing I’m crazy passionate about, it’s hosting.

Hosting is an opportunity for orphans from countries including Ukraine, Latvia, Ethiopia and China, to come to the United States and live in a family for a few weeks over the summer or Christmastime. Sort of like an exchange program, but the goal isn’t just to teach them English and for them to experience another culture (although that can be beneficial). It’s really to show the kids, who may have never had a stable family life, what love and trust is. To introduce them to God. And, maybe, to find them a forever family.

We have so many awesome kids this season, but we need families to step up. I wanted to share a bit of what I’ve learned about hosting, through my own experience hosting and volunteering with a host organization, and also to address a couple of the most common objections I hear. I’m also open to answering questions, via comment here or email.

1. You don’t need to have it all figured out to say “yes” to the summer.

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I’m kind of a chronic planner and this is one of the most challenging parts for me. When I say “yes”, I want to have accounted for every possible long-term scenario, worst to the ideal, most likely to the most unlikely. But, if you know you can do this summer, I’d encourage you to consider saying “yes” to that and see where God takes things from there.

I had the pleasure of getting to know a couple who said “yes” to a ready-to-age-out teenage boy last summer. Unfortunately, they realized pretty quickly they could not be his forever family, but they shared about him at church and a family they’d never met before stepped up to adopt him and his brother. They’ll be home soon!

At the very least, kids need a place away from their war-torn country for the summer. A place with good meals, a bed and all the hugs they need.

2. You don’t have to be the perfect family, just willing.

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Like my thought #1, you don’t need to have all of the future possibilities planned out. You don’t need to have a ton of extra space for your host child, or be an adoptive parent, or have experience with preteens and teenagers. You just need to say “yes”. God can use your weaknesses and flaws to write an awesome story.

Last summer, we had our house on the market, we were barely only enough to adopt any of the host kids, we had no experience parenting teenagers and we knew we’d be spending a large chunk of the summer out of town. Yet, we said “yes”. And, I’m so glad we did.

Even in all of your imperfections (we all have them!), you have a ton to offer a kid this summer.

3. “But, we already have xyz planned.”

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Bring your host kid! As long as it’s not out of the country or downright dangerous, you can probably bring your host kid. And, it will be a great experience! We took Big L on a LONG trip to visit family and a short camping trip. I also had a work trip in there. She came to school registrations and doctors appointments and all kinds of things. It all worked out and Big L had a great time with her variety of experiences.

4. “Isn’t it expensive?”

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Yes, there’s no way around this one. The hosting fee covers the paperwork, airfare, passport, visa, etc. for your host child, so it does add up.

There are so many things you can spend your money on, but investing in a child is investing in God’s kingdom and in the “least of these”. It might mean saying no to a new couch or an extra couple of days on your next vacation, but it means showing love to someone who wouldn’t know it otherwise.

All of the host programs I am familiar with take tax-deductible donations. Some of the kids have grants. And, most families fundraise. We were blessed with generosity from friends, family and strangers. Don’t let the money hold you back.

5. “I don’t know if I could send my host child back.”

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You probably can’t, but somehow you will. Goodbyes are the hardest part. Both times, as I told Big L goodbye, I knew that even if it was goodbye forever, hosting had been worth it.

I’d also like to address that a lot of people question if hosting is “fair”, to bring a child here for the season and then send them home. First, the children know from the outset that it’s temporary. And secondly, the rules are pretty clear that you do not discuss a permanent scenario, like adoption, with your host child. Big L was well aware that she would return to her home country. It was a vacation and an opportunity to get nurtured. Would you not want to take a vacation if you knew you’d have to return home?

Many host kids do end up being adopted, but there are also those like Big L, who love the family experience, but would rather stay in their home country. This is where many people see our own story and wonder how I can advocate so enthusiastically for hosting after Big L chose not to be adopted. Not every story ends how I want it to, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t worth it. We learned so much from her and I have no doubt that she learned so much from us. We stay in touch with her and keep on reminding her that she has people who love her. People she can count on.

Even apart from hosting, we all have people in our lives who are only there temporarily, but they still can have great impact. I’ve had people pour into me for just a season and I walk away better for it, even if the goodbye was hard.

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All it takes is one person to invest in a child and show them their worth. One person to hold the mirror up to them and show them how God sees them. One person to let them know that their life was worth something, could mean something, that they could have great impact.

Maybe you don’t think you have a lot of offer, but if you have any love and space to offer, I’d encourage you to say your best “yes” and see what God makes out of it. He can take the little things, the broken things, the imperfect things, and do something incredible.

We still have around 30 kids with Project One Forty Three‘s Ukraine program alone that need summer host families. Overwhelming? Yes. But, we can find them all families. If you cannot host, can you donate to help another family host? If you cannot donate, can you share about hosting at your church or even just on your Facebook page?

I have FAQs on hosting here and I will be doing an FAQ post in the next few days for families who are already preparing for summer hosting.

Summer Hosting!

I mentioned in my last post that we decided to host again this summer. Our family, Reed and Lena particularly, are very excited about this. Aaron and I really wanted to make sure that they were okay with sharing their summer with another kid. We talked with them about how they felt about our hosting experiences and if they’d like to do it again. They both said, “YES! What’s her name? How old is she? How soon will she be here? Can I make her a card?” Gus was there for the conversation too, but he doesn’t really “get” exactly what it means, especially since it’s still so far in the distant future.

Who?
We’re hosting an 8 year old girl from the same country as Big L. She’s just a bit older than Reed. Her bio information says that she likes math and science, as well as crafts. And, that she loves animals, especially dogs and wants to be a vet! She sounds like a cool kid and we even got to see a short video of her (a new thing that P143 is doing this year). When we first decided to consider hosting, we narrowed it down to a few kids with some specific criteria and P143 then pointed us towards her.

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What does this mean for Big L?
Big L still isn’t sure about adoption, due to her current circumstances. We wanted to keep things “open” in case she had a change of heart. We basically decided to look at the possibility of Big L’s adoption and hosting this summer as two separate questions. Her adoption is still a possibility, but things are very complicated. Hosting is at the very least an opportunity to show “N” some love and stability this summer.

How long is “N” here?
She will be here from early/middle of June until the end of August.

How can we help?
We’re going pretty low-key with the fundraising this time. I still have some MudLove bracelets and a few t-shirts left from the winter. If you would like to order some prints, you can order here. And, I am offering photo sessions for local friends.

I’ve also added a button on the right side bar which shows how much we have left for N’s hosting fees. All donations made through there (Razoo) are tax deductible. We always appreciate your donations, as hosting is expensive.