Advocating for Adoption

DSC_5418

We are hosting Viktors for 4 weeks.  He is an 11-year-old orphan from Latvia.  After having him in our home for 4 weeks, I’m convinced this child would thrive in a loving family.  He is strong and resilient, yet tender and loving. He is affectionate and responds so well when he trusts you, which doesn’t take long.  He bonds easily.  He is laid back and easy-going.  He is available for adoption from Latvia, able to be separated from his brothers if he chooses.

I’m asking for 2 things:

1-Pray for this child to find his forever family.  Fast.

2-Send this to everyone you know.  You may not be interested in adoption and think that no one on your contact list is.  But you don’t know who they know that might be interested.

Viktors:

11 years old

Youngest of 3 brothers (one is 18 and one is almost 16)

In orphanage for 4 years (according to him)

Great self-control:  When my boys aggravate he can hold back

Sweetest smile, always happy

Honest

Athletic-loves all sports, picks up new sports easily

All boy-loves bikes, motorcycles, sports cars, etc

Speaks 3 languages: Russian, Latvian, some English

Very bright

Seems to be self motivated

Calm and even-tempered

Social-loves to spend time with people, opens up to new people very quickly, enjoys when we spend time with family friends

Plays and interacts well with kids of all ages and genders

Polite

Observant-takes everything in.

Easy going and laid back

Obeys well and takes instruction well (after breakthrough period, which was SO INCREDIBLY MILD)

Considerate of others, aware of others

I could go on and on about this child.  I loved him before he physically entered our lives.  I loved him the moment I laid eyes on him.  He will always hold a place in my heart.  The time we had with him truly blessed our family.

This boy just doesn’t seem like your typical orphan child.  He had some of the orphan behaviors at the beginning, but so mild compared to some children.  The amazing thing about this boy is that 3 weeks of time and love pretty much erased those behavior patterns.  I know they will return when he returns to Latvia.  But the point is that in a loving family environment, he would develop into quite a young man.  And it wouldn’t take long.

Something that really struck me about Viktors is how easily he could bond and how affectionate he could be.  He never pulled back when we would touch him or hug him.  He is so open to love.

Our hearts desire is to see Viktors placed in a family that will love and cherish him.  We want to see him provided with opportunities to thrive.  I know God has a plan for him and we are trusting in God’s perfect timing.

If you have enjoyed this journey with us, I humbly ask you for one thing.  To pray and share this post with everyone you know.

Viktors leaves us Saturday morning.  We will miss him immensely.

Day 22: Sacrifice

DSC_5411

Sacrifice: To forfeit one thing for another considered to be of greater value.

What did we sacrifice to host Viktors?  Mainly time.  We forfeited time with our children.  We forfeited time with each other.  But it was for a greater cause.  To show the love of Christ to an orphan.

Having Viktors here has definitely been a sacrifice.

Our hope was that a byproduct of this hosting would be an enlightenment for our children.  That compassion would grow in their hearts.  That they would become less self-centered and more others-centered.  That they would realize how blessed they actually are.  That they would have a desire to serve God and be aware of the needs surrounding them.

I believe the impact in their hearts is much greater than I ever imagined it could be.  I could share so much, but here is just a little glimpse.

Day 22-Our best day to date.  Viktors flowed through the day as if he had always been a member of this family.  He knows our routines, he moves at our pace, things just clicked along.

He received a $20 gift card to Target, so we went shopping.  I loved him having a taste of just how little $20 actually is.  He bounced from aisle to aisle, his excitement uncontainable.  Everything he saw he picked up and threw in the buggy, as if it were his last chance to have access to “things” again.

He didn’t need socks, but socks are important in an orphanage, so he threw in another pack (to go along with the other 6 packs he has received while here).  He threw in a couple of shirts and a wallet.  Putting my body in front of his I held up one of his shirts.  Pointing to the $16.99, I told him that is almost all he had to spend.  “What!”  Hastily, he tossed the shirt aside.  I picked up the socks and the wallet and showed him that those  2 items together were $20.  He tossed them aside.

We moved to the sports section.  He ran to the baseball bats and picked up one that cost $40.  I explained it was twice as much as he had to spend.  He found a t-ball bat for $10 and decided on that for the time being.  Nike is his favorite brand.  He spotted the Nike golf gloves and grabbed the one that said $10.  I showed him that it came with one glove, so to get 2 would take all his $20.  (This was good b/c he has pouted more about me not buying him Nike clothes than anything else since he’s been here). He put it all back and found a basketball for $14 and superhero mask on clearance for $5.

Done.  I was exhausted and we were at Target forever, but he finally got a taste of what it’s like to have only a certain amount of money to spend.  He honestly thinks we have unlimited cash.

The morning was devoted to Viktors.  It was shopping for Viktors.  It was translating for Viktors.  It was explaining and teaching to Viktors.  It was all about Viktors.  And little Andrew just went along for the ride.

Remember back to Christmas we asked my mom to postpone her trip because we were so wiped out?  Well, her box of gifts arrived today while the boys were in school.  Viktors took it upon himself to organize the boxes and wanted to surprise the boys.  He had neat piles set up and when the boys arrived home from school, he met them outside so we could cover their eyes and bring them in to open gifts.

Later in the evening, he wanted to surprise us all for dinner, so he sent us away while he prepared dinner completely on his own.  He even set up the table.  He made his specialty….fried eggs with hot dogs.  The meal was complete with oranges on the side, and the table was set perfectly with napkins and silverware.  He even had assigned seats for us.  The pride on that boys face was priceless.  The moment was taken to heart by my boys.  They were astounded that he could cook and prepare dinner all on his own.  They were impressed that he cooks for himself at his orphanage.  They were saddened that he and his brother taught themselves to cook rather than having a mom teach them.  It was one of the hundreds of moments we’ve had.

Until now he has talked so fondly of Latvia, his friends, his brothers, his life.  As we were enjoying the dinner he prepared for us, I said, “I bet you are excited to go back to Latvia to see your friends.”  He cast his eyes to his plate and muttered, “No.”  After dinner, he was anxious about how all of his stuff would fit in his suitcase.  He wanted me to get him a bigger suitcase.  I explained this is the biggest we could get him according to the rules.  To alleviate his anxiety I packed everything he owned as if he were leaving tonight.  Just to show him it was going to be alright.  That was the time I had allotted for the boys.  It didn’t happen.

Time after time after time, I’ve taken away from the boys in order to give to Viktors.  Because we only have 4 weeks.  If he were here with us for good, it would be so different.  But we have a window of time.  So we are sacrificing.  Minute by minute.

Finally, we get all tucked in.  I thought back to the evening.  From the moment they got home from school until bedtime, I had zero time with my 3 boys.  Yet, none of them were acting out.  They weren’t complaining.  They are still so full of grace towards Viktors.  They inspire me.  Their grace inspires me.

A great day sadly ended in an upset moment with Viktors.  As I tucked him in he asked me to take him shopping to buy sunglasses.  (He has 2 pairs already).  I told him no.  Etc, Etc.  We went through the same stuff we always do.  We can’t buy everything we want.  We have bought him so much.  He should be grateful for what we’ve given.  And on and on.  (But for a child who has nothing, greed is at its ugliest.  We can’t judge until we’ve been there.  This is when grace is most needed).

Again my boys are put on the side as I enter into this dialogue through translation, which takes 5 times as long as it would if we spoke the same language.  But they are listening.

“We love you.  We simply love you.  And we don’t show love by buying you things.  Sunglasses, clothes, toys, none of that stuff makes us happy.  You get it.  It makes you happy for a short time.  Then you want more stuff.  You think it will make you happy.  But it doesn’t.  And you continue chasing what you think makes you happy.  There is only one thing that can bring true joy.”

From across the room, Jacob whispers, “I know the answer to this one.  And by the way, he can’t understand anything you are saying.  But the answer is Jesus.  Only Jesus brings true joy.”

“He can understand, Jacob.  Zachary is anything possible?”

Zachary pipes in, “With God, anything is possible.”

“So if God wants him to understand my words, can it happen?”
“Yes”

Yes, it can.  The impossible is possible with God.

I turned my attention back to Viktors.  He held a glass cross in his hands that I had given him.  It was swinging back and forth.  His attention was on that glass cross.  I reached for the cross and stopped it from swinging as I brought it up to his eyes.  “This is love.  This is joy.”

He turned away from me in his bed.  I turned towards my boys and all 3 were watching the interaction.  I could read Jacob’s mind just from looking into his eyes.  They saw the time I invested this night.  The entire night was given to Viktors.  They understand why.  They know I want Viktors to know Jesus.  They know Viktors has 4 days left.  They know they will have me back soon.  They know he is going back to a life with no parents.

They just witnessed selfishness and greed played out right before their eyes.  And it made them overly grateful.  It was so ugly to see that they didn’t want to see it in their lives.  We all do it.  We all fight selfishness and greed.  It looks different for each of us, but it’s there.  In some form or another.  But an orphan doesn’t use a filter like we do.

And so on this night, a child who has little went to bed upset because he wants more and doesn’t see what can truly fill him.  3 others went to bed who have so much and they became even more grateful for their Savior and their blessed lives.  Their hearts are heavy for this orphan child.

Jacob summed it up tonight when he said, “I’m feeling that twang feeling about Viktors leaving.  You know that twang feeling I’m talking about.  It’s a sharp feeling that is several feelings at once that collide.  Like sadness and madness at once.  I’ve gotten used to him being here and it will be really weird when he’s gone.”

So we sacrificed our time.  But we gained so much more than we ever imagined possible.

9 Ways You Can Help an Orphan

DSC_5408

If you are new to Barefoot Walks, I need to explain something.  The purpose of this blog is to share, inspire, and encourage each other to make the most of every opportunity we are given.  To create moments, experiences, and traditions with the ones we love.  To make a moment out of everything, especially the little things.  To make the most of this life we are given.

So why am I using Barefoot Walks to blog about orphan hosting?

Because our family wanted to move outside of our own family, outside of our own comfort zone, into a world we don’t know that God wants us to know.  We wanted to create these same moments and experiences for someone who doesn’t have the same opportunities as our own children.  We wanted to invest in the life of a child that no one was investing in.

If you are new here, please understand that what you are reading is the journey we are currently on to share  our life with another child.  Soon, he will be returning to Latvia and we will again be posting articles related to moments with your family to help you on your own journey.  For now we hope you are inspired through joining us on this adventure.  I pray your heart is moved to feel the needs of orphans and to reach out and help where you can.

If you are saying, “I could never do that,” that is ok!  You can help the cause of orphans without hosting one in your own home (though I highly recommend it).

9 ways you can support orphans:

  1. Donate to New Horizons for Children www.newhorizonsforchildren.  This is a very tangible way you can fulfill the call of our Father to help defend the cause of the orphan.  Many families are waiting to host but do not have the financial ability to do so.  Your donation could make their wish a reality.  New Horizons has numerous ways you can donate to their ministry and it is tax-deductible.  You can donate to the general fund, or if you feel led to donate for a particular child, you can donate scholarship money towards a particular orphan waiting to be hosted.  When potential families are viewing the photo gallery, they will see how much scholarship money has been donated to a particular child, which will make it so much easier for them to host.
  2.  Help a friend in the process of adoption. Come alongside them in their journey.  The adoption road is not an easy one.  There are numerous ways you can support a friend going through the adoption process.
  3. Provide a meal to a friend hosting an orphan or adopting.  I highly recommend setting up a meal schedule using www.takethemameal.com.  The meals that were provided to us by friends and families were one of the biggest blessings we received while hosting Viktors.  It allowed us to take one thing off our plate so we could have more time to spend together.  And it allowed someone else to bless us who really wanted to.
  4. Offer childcare to give hosting parents a break.  Offer to watch your friends children for even an hour so they can take a walk or grab a coffee.  My husband was the biggest blessing to me during this hosting period because he would be the one to step in and insist I leave for a few hours to spend time with friends or be by myself.  I always came back renewed and refreshed.
  5. Send a care package.  A care package is such a sweet show of love.  And inside that package is a great picture of the person who put it together.  The package is a thoughtful way to make them feel remembered and special.  My friend, Steph, did this for us and it was so fun to have a movie night with her special treats.  Our children loved setting up for our little “party” using fun plates and napkins.  The little things go a long way!
  6. Pray for orphans.  Pray by name for the ones you know.  I can’t stress this one enough.  Pray.  Simply pray.  This alone is the most important thing you can do for orphans.  I’m asking that you keep Viktors in your prayers especially when he returns to Latvia.  Pray by name for him asking God to work miracles in this boy’s life and bringing him into the perfect forever family for him.
  7. Advocate for them.  Share info with others.  Use all resources to get the word out.  You never know how God will use it.  You may not be in a position to host an orphan, but you can share the info with others.  Get the word out!
  8. Become informed.  Read up on the orphan problem worldwide.  Understand the challenges so that when you are able you will know exactly how God can use you.
  9. And of course, you can host an orphan.  It will change your life and your perspective.  More importantly, it will change their life as well.  You don’t have to be perfect, just willing.  God does the rest.

Sometimes the little things make all the difference in the world.  Our family and friends that came alongside us on this journey made it a blessing.  They eased our load just as the Lord calls us to do for one another.

In making a world change, it only requires a willing heart to say “yes” to God.  It only requires us to take a step forward in faith.  And it only takes us deciding to do one small thing.  God can turn our baby steps into mountains of change that can impact our world.  Don’t look at the orphan crisis and become overwhelmed feeling that the problem is too large to make a difference.  Just let God use you even if just to impact one person.  The impact on one person could cause a chain reaction.  You just never know until you try.

Intentions and Goals of Orphan Hosting

westbranch

The most common question and response we receive when sharing that we are hosting an orphan is this:  “What happens at the end of 4 weeks?  They just go home?”

I thought I would share info from New Horizon’s website that would answer these questions.

www.newhorizonsforchildren.org :

“Orphans usually feel left out, left behind and unworthy. Their self esteem is many times so low because they have been labeled in their home city by peers as “orphans”. After coming on our program for 4-5 weeks over Christmas holidays or during the summer months, most children learn as much English as they would typically learn in 4-5 semesters if taught at home in their school. This gives the children pride in themselves and helps boost their self esteem tremendously!

Receiving unconditional love and nurturing and being treated as a member of their host family who will usually maintain contact even after the child returns home to their orphanage. This gives them hope. Learning that they do have a Father, the same Father in Heaven that we all have…who loves us dearly and is always with us and lets them know they are never alone.”

Isn’t it cruel to bring these kids here, show them the land of plenty and then send them back?
The kids that we bring are coming on a visit, or exchange type program. Many orphanages close during the holidays and over summer so all kids must go somewhere. They go other places like Italy, Spain, Holland, other camps in their own countries (former Soviet training camps for kids) and some go to local foster families as well. We are one of the “options” as far as the kids are told, and they are selected to come on our program after being interviewed and after we talk to their caregivers about behavior, school efforts etc. So, everyone goes out of the orphanage for the summer and in our case, we are a 5 week program, so they come here and usually return to a camp type place in their home country or start out at one and come to us from the camp. In Latvia, children are mostly in foster families as they are trying to close traditional orphanages, but the foster families are not able to care for them beyond the monthly low stipend and in many cases, they don’t have indoor plumbing and are very rural with little access to anything for the children to do outside of school or off the farm (most are on farms).

Our program shows children what it’s like to be fully and unconditionally loved in a Christian family. It is an experience that many would never have in their lives. Even in the foster families, the foster parents are “workers” and do not treat orphans as their own children. They do this due to culture, poverty and also to keep up some wall as they know they cannot provide for a permanent situation even if they so desired. In addition to the ministry aspects of the program, the kids come and gain a new language. Most learn as much English in 4-5 weeks here as they would in a good English class in their schools over 4-5 years. Latvia is a part of the European Union as well and in that, residents are able to move and work in other EU countries. But Latvian is a language that no other country speaks or uses, and English is a very common language in all. So, that alone, would be a good “tool” to give kids now to help them later. However, many of the children who come are also eligible for adoption and after being hosted, about 65% of the eligible children are adopted into a forever and unconditional loving Christian family. Besides participating in a program like ours, they have literally 0-1% chance of ever being considered for adoption through a traditional process. Latvia doesn’t place children under about age 9 as available for adoption unless they have medical issues or are part of sibling sets. And, most families who consider to adopt would not just send a dossier (family adoption package) to Latvia asking for a preteen or teenager sight unseen. So, this does offer them a lot of possibilities beyond just a visit to a nice family in America. Also, most children who are older and have aged out for adoption who come, are learning enough English they can be considered to return on a student visa, which Latvia allows if we find sponsors.

Most families who host do not intend to adopt the child they bring. Most consider it as helping a poor orphan child and being sacrificial towards that child. However, in the end, many families do decide they want to adopt or they have friends through church, neighbors etc who meet the child and decide to adopt. Nearly all families say they went into it to bless a child and come out of it feeling like they received the blessing. On the other side, when I talk to children after they have been fully adopted and live in The US, none of them state they felt like they were being ripped out of a glorious land and placed into poverty. It was a trip to remember and they returned “home”. When they were offered adoption later, since we don’t speak of it on the host program, they were in most cases, shocked and it took a great deal of thinking to consider it real and accept it.

So, in the end, if a child who comes on the program has even 10% chance of being helped through one of these purposes, where they had 0% if they didn’t come; should we decide not to do this, or to do this for them as much as possible? And, that 10% is in reality, much greater for each child who participates…more like 99% gain something important from the program whether it’s Salvation, family, language or love.

Lastly, it is interesting to consider that the kids don’t have such the expected “trauma” after having to go back as one would assume. In fact, I have traveled with some of the groups all the way back home and each program I travel with them through security to the plane after we depart parents at the airport in Atlanta. The kids look at this as a vacation. Once they separate from their 4-5 week family, they refocus on friends after we get through security and find familiarity in them. “They are going home”. It is told to them and explained as such and being their “homes” are in Latvia and Ukraine, they don’t expect to stay forever. The things that we see as extreme poverty and necessary things we have to have in life to live… just aren’t seen that way when it’s what you know and come to accept as “life and home”. We are “Disney World” and no one expects to live at Disney World. In fact, there are some kids who go back, are offered adoption and say no. For Americans, we view it as necessary things we need and they see it as waste and extreme, greed and ugly wealth at times. After traveling myself twice a year, to where they live, I tend to feel their viewpoint at times too.  Not having running water in a house doesn’t mean it isn’t a comfortable home that provides attention and a sense of belonging. Safety and security of the “known” is there and that is number one on what humans need in order to consider what things are important. I suppose, considering where they were prior to the orphanages, streets and foster families, which is something none of us has had to see or endure, where they are now is a welcome version of “home”…just not what you and I would think of or ever consider as sufficient to be home. Consider the show Little House on the Prairie? They had little and felt like they had everything. These kids are similar, except they don’t have the “family” and that’s what we aim to offer them.

Orphan Hosting: Adopted by the Father

This had to be shared.  If you have wondered why orphan hosting is so important.  This is just one reason.  And it’s an eternal one.  Not everyone can adopt.  But we can introduce orphans to the Father to be adopted.

http://www.newhorizonsforchildren.org/son-of-the-king/

Igor-cardboard-promises

Son of the King

January 4, 2013 By  Leave a Comment

One of our winter host families shared a story with us yesterday and we just had to share it here as well! The Bohannon family in Georgia is hosting a teenage boy named Igor from Ukraine. Here’s their story:

Igor is the fourth boy we’ve hosted through New Horizons for Children and I can truthfully say that each hosting experience has brought it’s own element of uniqueness and individuality.  Last Christmas we were blessed with an unexpected Latvian angel at the last minute who became very ill within 24 hours of arriving, then another little Ukrainian angel arrived a week later (which was precisely when my husband was attacked with the same illness that our first boy became sick with… fun fun…) so needless to say, nothing went as planned but I was surely taught a lesson in faith and trust.  Then we hosted again over the summer.  Thankfully there was no physical sickness among the family, just a little boy that arrived extremely guarded, hurt, afraid and shy. After a few days he started to speak to us and we began our adventure in full force!  Fast forward, leaving out a tremendous amount of details brings us to this Christmas. ..

The weeks prior to Igor’s arrival were very busy and brought a few questions and confusion upon my husband and myself.  Without going into to specifics, I found myself questioning why and if we were the best fit for this boy that would soon be joining our family for the holiday season.  Ready or not, he arrived and I quickly realized he was the happiest child I’ve ever seen in my life.  He adjusted with little trouble (albeit he is bit more of a night owl than we are, but after a couple of weeks he has at least learned to retrieve to his room by 10:00). The nighttime rowdiness came to a head a few days after New Years with a refusal to go to bed and then sleeping until after noon the next day. Needless to say we had a long heart to heart about family, family rules and what that means, obedience, and consequences of disobedience. He was very receptive and looking back, I think this was his little way of testing the boundaries, which I will gladly take over tantrums and anger! I told him that he was not allowed a movie in bed the following night, and he must be in bed when Papa says so. No running, being loud, scaring people or animals or anything else once we say so. He wasn’t thrilled, but agreed.

When evening came around the house was actually rather peaceful! No scaring, no wrestling, no racing…. I tucked him into bed and showed Igor a new stuffed animal that was sent to us from the New Horizons office, donated by a hosting family’s church! This animal is called a Wildlife Story Teller (http://wildlifestorytellers.com/) .  It comes with a MP3 player, preloaded with bible stories in their native language.  I cannot explain the look of comfort and relief on his face to hear his language! I left him with the stories and said goodnight.  The next morning I went to wake him and he practically jumped out of bed. I could tell he was a bit troubled and was very serious about what he was trying to tell me.  He was pointing at the storyteller, and then upward saying “Jesus, Jesus!” Then he asked for a pen and paper.  He started writing and writing. Then he would get up and knock on the bedroom door, then knock on his own chest.  I quickly realized he was telling me that Jesus was knocking on the door of his heart! I started to panic a little because there was so much I wanted to say, but I had to make it simple so the translator would get it right! I even started messaging one of my fellow New Horizons Volunteers, needing moral support J  I continued to tell Igor how much Jesus loves him and that he will NEVER leave him.  He was very serious and receptive to everything I was telling him.  We talked for over 2 hours. I told him that Jesus is king, so that makes him a prince. He smiled and said “Yes, and you, Papa, Colby and Dasha my seesters and brothers!”  Wow! This kid gets it. He accepted Jesus by being in a little bit of “trouble” from excessive night time rowdiness, therefore leading to listening to bible stories!  I am amazed, humbled, and in awe of my Jesus. I am reminded that all we have to do is be available. We do not need to know all the details of our future. I was reminded that God does not NEED us. He CHOOSES us!  Thank you Jesus, for the opportunity to be USED by YOU!

Day 17: Tell Me More

DSC_5400

Using translator the other day, I asked Viktors, “Tell me something I don’t know about you”.

“I can tell you nothing.”  That is what translated anyway.

The last few days he has dropped more and more nuggets of info.  He’s comfortable now.  My boys (up to this point in their little lives) tell me everything.  Usually at bedtime.  Always in private when no one else is listening.  And usually with the instruction to keep it between us.  Viktors has opened up with little bits of info when we’ve been alone.

He has 2 brothers, they are 15 and 17.  One is in his orphanage with him.  One is tall and skinny, the other is shorter with big muscles.  He speaks of them often.

He rides dirt bikes.  And boxes!  He saw me put my retainer in and told me he has one too.  Then he said, “I…wear…that…”  and he motioned boxing moves.  I tried to not look shocked as I asked, “You do this…”  and I pretended to box him.  “Yes,” he gave me his crooked smile.  I think he likes being mysterious.   Just to clarify that he wasn’t telling me he was a fighter, I took it one step further.  “Do you do this?”  And I kicked the pretend person on the ground.  “No, mom, no.”  His crooked smile still on his face, he motioned putting on his head pads and boxing gloves.

Here’s the kicker, no pun intended.  I put them to bed, and I was explaining that the Latvian audio bible we got him was solar-powered.  He said, “Hey mom…this…Russian.”

“What?  That is speaking in Russian?  Can you understand it?”

He said, “Yes, I Russian.  I speak Russian and Latvian.”

“Remember the other day I said tell me something I wouldn’t know?  That would have been a good thing to tell me!”

He laughed.

“So when you are talking on the phone to your director at your orphanage, what are you speaking?”

“Russian”

“When you are speaking to your chaperone, what are you speaking?”

“Russian”

“Do you speak better Russian or Latvian?”

Emphatically, “Russian…Latvian umm so-so”  Ha!  And here I bought him a Latvian bible, Latvian audio bible and have been using Latvian translator apps!

“Were you born in Russia or Latvia?”

“Russia”

“You are crazy.  Very crazy.”  His smile never left his face.

Dad entered the room carrying his iPad  using Russian translator audio to speak in Russian, “I didn’t know you could speak Russian.” Viktors just smiled.  Then dad typed (and it spoke) “Stop eating all my food.”  (It’s a running joke between Steve and Viktors because the boy eats so incredibly much!)  And he laughed more.

There is much to this little boy.  Sometimes I’m dying to know all there is to know.  Sometimes I’m thankful I know nothing.  All I know is what I see in this house.  And it’s probably best that way.

Day 13: Autostereogram Moments

random_dot_stereogram

(autostereogram image by John Hsu)

According to Wikipedia “An autostereogram is a single-image stereogram (SIS), designed to create the visual illusion of a three-dimensional (3D) scene within the human brain from an external two-dimensional image. In order to perceive 3D shapes in these autostereograms, one must overcome the normally automatic coordination between accommodation (focus) and vergence (angle of ones eyes)….. A hidden 3D scene emerges when the image is viewed with the correct vergence.”

Some of our days look like one of these images.  When viewed from afar, it appears to be a picture consisting of a bunch of tiny dots, a big mess of something that you can’t quite figure out.  Chaos.

There is something captivating about an autostereogram.  You know that within the picture, another picture is hidden.  It is so hidden that when viewing it without  really looking, you will overlook the bigger picture completely.  However, when you pause, when you focus, when you concentrate, you see it.  You see it so very clearly.  In fact, it will jump right out at you, and you will wonder how you didn’t see it immediately to begin with.

In order to see the beauty of the moments we are sharing with Viktors, we must overcome the “normally automatic coordination” between our focus.  We must shift our focus.

You cannot watch our moments and use the focus you are used to using.  If you do, you will miss the beauty of the moment.  The beauty of this picture.

If you adjust your focus and change your angle, you will see the beauty that is emerging.  It’s a beauty that can easily be overlooked.

I’ll admit we had some extremely rough days.  Days where Steve and I lost our focus.  We were staring at the 2 dimensional image using the wrong focus and nothing but a jumble of mess was jumping out at us.  For the sake of Viktors’ privacy I won’t divulge the details, but they were mild compared to what they could be.  Honestly, they were mild considering this boy is an orphan living in an orphanage in Eastern Europe.  His bad moments could be drastically worse.  But this is a child who is waiting to emerge.  The beauty in him is so close to the surface and each day we see a little bit more of what’s inside him ready to come out.

This child at his core is a good, good child.  He is a good boy.  He is honest, so very honest. Even when I give him things that are mine, he won’t take them.  When he saw me chewing gum at the skating rink, he asked me to spit it out when he saw the sign that read “No chewing gum.”

My 3D  moment for the day came twice today when I saw the image within the image emerge.

I imagine in a orphanage there is very little alone play where a child just uses his imagination and directs play for himself.  I imagine they have freedom within their rigorous schedule, but likely spend it playing with other kids.  Viktors always wants someone to play with him.  We entertain him a lot, the boys keep him busy or we go on outings.

He and I had a moment of correction where I had to explain why what he was doing was wrong behavior.  Honestly, it wasn’t anything bad, it is just he has never been corrected in this area.  When he feels he has done something wrong, he typically retreats to a hiding place.  A place he can feel safe in what he feels is an unsafe world.  When I correct him, he casts his eyes down immediately, withdraws into himself slightly, and seems to try to shut me out either by covering his ears or by pretending not to listen.

“Viktors,” I softly spoke as I gently lifted his chin.  “Please look in my eyes.  I need you to see my face so you can understand my words.”  I needed him to see the softness of my eyes in case he couldn’t understand the words I spoke to him.

His eyes darted up and down.  They would meet mine, then meet the floor, back and forth again and again.  “Please, keep looking at my eyes. I am not mad at you.  Look at my face.  I’m not this,” I said showing him an angry face with arms crossed.  I smiled and continued, “I corrected you because I love you.  If I didn’t care about you, I wouldn’t correct you.”  He just shook his head.  I don’t know if he shook his head because he didn’t understand or he didn’t believe.  Either way, I hugged him and said I loved him and walked away.

For the first time, he went to our toy closet and got out cars and sat and played by himself for 30 minutes.  I have tried to get him to sit and play by himself for 2 weeks.  He finally did it!  I loved listening to him in there using his imagination with those cars.  Even though I knew he was upset, I was overjoyed that he was playing in an unstructured environment without us directing the play!    For me it was a 3D moment!

Then a few minutes later he joined me at the table.  He was back.  His pouting has now almost disappeared.  It surfaces periodically, but it is so incredibly short-lived compared to only 2 short weeks ago.  This boy has made amazing progress in 13 days.

Our 2nd 3D moment of the day came when he asked for something he knew would be an automatic “No”.  He asks anyway, he asks for things all the time.  But even that is lessening.  When I said no to him, he started to begin begging, which has been typical.  He will say, “Please, please, please” over and over again.  I spoke with him about this and asked him to stop begging that when I said no, I meant no, and I expect him to stop asking at that point.  When I gave him the “no” he said, “Pl…” and he stopped himself!  He stopped himself.  Let me repeat…he stopped himself.  And he gave me that sly 1/2 smile and walked out of room saying, “Ok.”

That was a 3D moment in my book.  Self control.  He’s getting it.

To do this orphan hosting thing, our focus has to be completely unconventional.  Every single second we have to pray that God gives us compassion, grace, and mercy.  And He does.

We are entering week 3.  The week that according to training is to be our best week yet.  The week that the testing has ended and our bonds are there.  Trust has been earned and love is evident.  So far Viktors has behaved exactly like they said he would in training.  And he is responding even better than I hoped.

“A hidden 3D scene emerges when the image is viewed with the correct vergence.”  Vergence…the angle of one’s eyes.  A hidden child emerges when we view him with the correct vergence, the correct angle of our eyes.   An angle that comes from compassion, patience, understanding, and love.