Day 1

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5:45 the clock read.  A mostly full night’s sleep to start the day.

6:30.  Slowly, I opened the door to the boys’ room, fully expecting everyone to be sound asleep though Jacob and Zachary needed to be up getting ready for school.

“Hi!”  It was the first time I heard him speak.  The nightlight silhouetted his beautiful smile.     Movement spread in all the beds.  For the first time in history, all 3 of my boys bounced out of beds with cheerful hearts and sunny smiles.  They were dressed and ready for school in 5 minutes compared to the typical 40 minutes it takes them.  There was no bickering, no fighting, no complaining.  It was a parent’s dream morning on a school day.  Lovely, lovely, lovely.

First meal together as this temporary family of 6.  The blessing was said, little was eaten.  Excitement maybe?  Steve voiced concerns that he hadn’t eaten anything and got out the translate app to make sure Viktor understood to let us know when he was hungry.  What he didn’t eat at breakfast he made up for quickly.  He basically ate all day long.  An entire bag of carrots, 4 hotdogs, banana, 4 pieces of cornbread, 5 slices of ham, 3 cheesesticks, almonds, 3 glasses of milk, 5 glasses of water, full plate of spaghetti, and I’m sure more I’m leaving out.

Boys headed out to school, Steve off to work.  “Come on Andrew, let’s take Viktor upstairs and show him his clothes.”  The 3 of us made our way into the guest room where we have drawers set up for his clothes.

I waved my hands at the items of clothing in the closet. “These are for you,” I said to him as I pointed to him.  I lifted out a polar bear shirt and pants.  “You like these?”  I asked showing him a thumbs up with a smile or thumbs down with a shake of my head.  He responded with a thumbs up.  The soccer shirt received the same response.  The hand-me-down guitar and peace frog shirts got thumbs up.  The one shirt I picked out, he tilted his head to the side, with this sheepish little grin and shook his head side to side while he gave me the thumbs down.

Clothing settled, we moved into the bathroom where I showed him how to operate the shower, how to adjust the temperature, how to use a washcloth, how to brush your teeth.  Still few words coming from him.

The 2nd word I heard from his lips.  “Mom,” he called out to me as he pointed to a pack of floss broken on the floor.  I always wondered what he would call us.  Would he call us Steve and Renee?  Would he never address us by anything?  Or would he call us what he heard our own boys calling us?

He led me around our house pointing to our family pictures.   He touched my arm as he pointed to my picture.  “Mom,”  he said.  He pointed to Steve.  “Dad.”  As he pointed to each of our boys he held up fingers to show me how old they each were.  Steve had shared this information at breakfast with him.

I began bathing Andrew while Viktor played with cars on my bathroom floor.  “Lay back so I can wash your hair,” I instructed him.  Viktor set his cars aside and joined me at the side of the tub, his arm resting into mine.  Touch doesn’t bother him.  In fact the more we give him the more he wants.  He watched closely as I washed Andrew’s hair.  He leaned in and touched his little blond curls. And he smiled.  Then he turned back to his cars.

As Andrew played in the tub, I brushed my teeth.  Again he stopped what he was doing.  And he watched me.  Closely.  The entire time I brushed my teeth, he never broke concentration.  When I made eye contact, he just smiled at me and looked down.

He raced through the house going from window to window, door to door.  At the first opportunity to go outside, we were out.  Being with him was like being with a toddler.  Not because of behavior, but because of his sheer delight in all things new, all things simple, all things we typically rush right past or take for granted.

Cars whizzing by made him nervous.  Each squirrel he spotted caused him to call for me so I could see it.  We biked down the sidewalk and he ventured off the path mesmerized by the creek, the birds, the rocks.  He noticed everything.  Delighted in it all.

I did life with Viktor today, like I should do life every single day.  I was 100% fully in every single moment.  I ignored the phone most of the day, my house did not look the way I like, I didn’t stick to my typical schedules.  But I was WITH him.  When he rode his bike, I rode mine with him.  Because he asked me to.  When he asked me to ride electric scooters with him, for hours, I did.  The looks I got from cars passing by were priceless.  How many adults do you typically see scootering with their kids.  This was a first for me!

Every white car that went by he would call out, “Dad?”  To which I’d answer, soon.  He continually asked me how long until the boys got home from school.

And I was so invested in the day, I actually did forget to go pick up carpool!  Completely lost track of time and Steve bailed me out.

I have never been prouder of my boys than I was tonight.  They took to Viktor immediately.  They treated him like he was their brother.  Or better.  They had his best interest at heart constantly.

Bike riding and balls are instant bonders.  I walked outside as the 3 older boys were heading my way on bikes.  Viktor hollered out, “Mom!”  as he wildly waved at me.  I heard Zachary say, “Did he just call her mom?”  Immediately, I began to worry my boys would feel jealous.  Bringing their bikes to a halt in front of me, Jacob wore the most beautiful, genuine smile on his face as I confirmed that he did in fact call me mom.  Zachary replied, “That is so cool.”

The evening was full of basketball with Steve, park trip with Steve, soccer match with boys and friends up the street, games, hide and seek, and simply being together.

So many times through the night, Jacob came to me and said how much he loves having Viktor here, will we ever have him here again, etc.

Our family already loves him to pieces.  And he seems to love us back.

As I read bedtime stories, he would lay his head into me.  If I were near him, he would reach his hand up to touch my shoulder.  You can tell he likes the touch, he just doesn’t know how to do it.  With the boys, he tickles them constantly.  Maybe it is the only way he knows how to show affection to our boys?  To Andrew, he will gently touch his curls.  He will walk by the boys and tap their head, which lights them up!  When Steve reached for his hand to pray at dinner, he didn’t hold back.  When we sat down to lunch and I didn’t pray immediately, he said, “Mom.”  I looked at him with his hands together and head bowed.  He saw us do it one time, and he knew it was important and a part of our family and he wanted to take part again.

This post only gives a surface glimpse written in scattered fashion of what we experienced on our first day with our host son.  We are exhausted, but full.  A different kind of joy was experienced in our home tonight.

He’s here

Viktors

Approximately 45 days of waiting and praying for this orphan boy to enter our lives.

Giving birth to a child gives way to an immediate love.  Love is there in an instant.  The moment they enter your lives.

It seems odd to say we love a child we don’t really even know yet.  One we didn’t birth, one we have only for a short while.  4 weeks to be exact.

I guess that is just what God does when He brings someone into your life and you pray for them.  You just love them.

Now I get it.

We wanted to host him to show him the love of Christ.  Unconditional love.  In order to show that, it must be sincere.  We must feel it.  And God answered that prayer. He placed in our hearts a love for this child.  This child we don’t know.  This child we don’t have any idea of his background.

I couldn’t rest all day.  I was a little too edgy, a little too snappy.  Nervous energy needed a way out of my body.  As the time approached for us to head to the airport, we were all feeling it.  Zachary told us his heart was beating out of his chest.  Andrew talked about how excited he was.  Jacob was concerned about what he must be feeling at that moment.  Steve was doing everything he could to keep us all even.

2 hours of waiting at the airport.  When they announced that the plane landed, I felt my heart begin to pick up the pace.  My legs needed to move, my palms were sweaty.  I no longer could have a conversation with anyone.  I wanted to see this boy.  I wanted to hug him so tightly.

We made our way to the escalator they would come down.  My little boys were bouncing around trying to be the first to spot him.  On the way to the airport I asked if they would recognize him.  “Oh yes!”   Zachary shouted.  “You know, Zachary, he won’t be wearing a purple life vest.”  Long pause.  “I know that.”  He didn’t know that 🙂

Jacob was holding the welcome sign.  Andrew was holding the gift bag.  Steve had camera poised and ready.  Jacob spotted the red shirts, “Here they come!”

All the kids found their host families and we didn’t see Viktors.  We saw a boy who looked similar, but it wasn’t him.  Then we saw 2 little boys standing to the back alone.  His face is thinner than his picture, and he wore a hood on his head.  But when I got up close, I knew.

One of the coordinators asked his name.  “Viktor,” he replied with a shy smile.  I grabbed his shoulders so I could look him in the eyes and said, “Hi Viktor.  We are so glad to have you here.”  My arms enveloped his thin body.  And I squeezed.  His arms never lifted from their side.  They told us in training they wouldn’t know how to hug back.  They are never hugged.  Steve reached in and hugged him.  Viktor’s arms never left their side.  The boys each took a turn hugging him.  His arms never left his side.  We had warned the boys of this.

My heart was overwhelmed.  I wanted to cry.  I wanted to hold him tightly.  And I didn’t want to think about where he was coming from.  Because it’s just painful.

The rest of the time in the airport, I couldn’t keep my arm off of him.  I just kept thinking he was scared to death and needed a reassuring arm on his back.  We quickly discovered he speaks almost no English.  But his smile.  It’s a shy smile.  It’s a precious smile.  And my Andrew knew just how to pull it out of him.

Andrew was trying to sword fight him after knowing him for 10 minutes.  “He’s not talking.  Why is Viktor not talking?”  He repeated this over and over again.

10 minutes into the drive home, Viktor was sound asleep in the car.  When we walked him into the house, I watched as his eyes tried to take it all in.  He wanted to see it all, but he was exhausted, so I led him straight upstairs.

With massive hand-talking and exaggerated expressions, I showed him his choices of sleeping with my 3 boys in their room or the guest room alone.  He didn’t hesitate as he pointed to the boys’ room.  With my hand on his back, I gently guided him to the bathroom, tore the tags off brand new pajamas and placed them in his arms.  “Come get me when you are dressed.”  It took him quite awhile.  He finally reappeared and I pointed to the top bunk. “This good with you?”  I asked showing him the thumbs up sign.  His head bobbed up and down as he climbed the ladder.

He climbed into the bed and began tucking himself in like he would do every night.  But I could see an expression in his eyes that showed he was looking forward to me tucking him in.  I tucked him in like he was my own.  His new soft blanket up to his chin, I leaned down and kissed his cheek, looked into his eyes and said, “I love you.”  He looked me square in the eyes and smiled the most heartwarming smile.

A simple act of tucking a child in bed.  An act I and my boys take for granted every single night.  What did that feel like to an orphan?  A child who belongs to no one?

And right now, I’m too wired to sleep, which is why I’m writing.  I don’t know what tomorrow will look like.  But for tonight the picture was beautiful.  I watched my boys love a little boy who needs to feel loved.  I watched an 11-year-old orphan smile at us, chuckle at my 4-year-old, and let us love on him.  And I felt my heart grow 3 sizes bigger.

Tomorrow is the day

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This Christmas God has led our family to host an orphan from Latvia for 4 weeks.  You can read more here and here.

For 4 weeks we will have an 11-year-old orphan boy living with us, seeing what family life looks like, receiving love and nurturing, hearing the gospel, and receiving hope for a better life.  Or at least this is what we are hoping for.

I don’t really know what to expect.  All I know is that God opened our hearts in a huge way to the needs of orphans and He gave  no peace until we moved forward to host this child.  Through His blessing, He provided every single thing we needed to host this child.  We raised over $3,000 in just a few short weeks.  Friends and family donated items we needed for Viktors and offered prayers and support.  God provided EVERYTHING.

I would be lying if I didn’t admit at times feeling fearful of what might lie ahead.  Satan has attacked our family multiple times since the moment we said yes to this journey.

My postings will be far fewer until mid-January.  I will be heavily living in the moments.  Most of my writings will share the experiences of this journey for the next 4 weeks.

We are as prepared as we know how to be.  Clothes have been purchased, signs made, gifts wrapped, and prayers spoken.

We are expecting an unforgettable Christmas.  I would guess that when we send Viktors back home, it will be our family that received the greatest blessing of all.

Tomorrow night he will enter our lives.  Though we don’t know what to expect, we fully expect to be changed forever.