Day 10: The little victories

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One of the most difficult aspects of hosting Viktors is the language barrier.  We have trained our own children to obey, simply obey first, ask questions after you’ve obeyed.  Now, they don’t always do this, but they know that is the expectation.  Well, Viktors hasn’t been trained to simply obey.  Yet, he wants to.  He wants approval, just as we all do, and sometimes for children they best feel that sense of approval when they have obeyed.

At times Viktors will amaze me by following my instructions with no complaining.  At other times, I become frustrated in trying to convince him to follow our orders.  But what it all boils down to is that he wants to understand why.  In his orphanage, he likely understands why he is asked to do certain things.  And if he doesn’t understand, he can communicate to ask why.  Here he doesn’t have enough English to express his thoughts to me.

My prayer for today is that God allows me to focus on the little moments of victories rather than focusing on the frustrating moments.  Would He stop me right in the middle of a moment and open my eyes to what He brought about.  A victory.  A small step.  And that is what we are seeing with Viktors.  Small steps.  Baby steps.

Isn’t that how lasting change usually occurs though?  One small step at a time?  Why should we expect this child who has always gotten his way by pouting to change that behavior overnight?  So, God, change me!  Change me while you are changing him.  Let me focus on your good works in this child rather than look with a critical eye at everything that needs changing.  Let me focus on those little victories.

So here are a few little victories.

  1. In the beginning, he might ask for chips.  “No, Viktors, dinner is in a few minutes, you can’t have chips right now.”  “Please, mom, please, please, please.”  I would stay the course, but would get worn down from an 11-year-old begging and not simply taking my word as the final word.  Now, there is less begging, he is accepting our words easier.  He may not like them and we may get a sigh, a shoulder shrug, or a roll of the eyes, but the begging has reduced by about 80%.  That’s a victory!
  2. Being told no has drastically decreased.  He still says no, but it is less.  This is a victory.  A breakthrough occurred when Steve was trying to sneak away with Zachary for a little 15 minute alone time for the 2 of them on Christmas Day.  He wouldn’t listen to Steve and Steve asked him to come inside to see me.  Viktors typed on the translator that he thought dad was angry.  Victory!  He described an expression of feeling and we had a chance to discuss through the translator that Steve wasn’t angry but we expect him to obey when we ask him to do something.  He seemed to understand and the evening went much smoother.  Victory!
  3. The first time I told him about Jesus, he furrowed and raised his eyebrows while repeating “Jesus?”  We bought him a Latvian children’s bible for Christmas.  Last night he went to bed with zero complaining, curled up with his new book light and new bible.  My heart warmed as I watched him reading about Jesus in his bed wondering if he knew anything at all about Jesus.  Victory…seeds are being planted in his young heart!  Today he and I spent the morning running errands, he picked up a musical snow globe of the manger scene and asked me to buy it for him.  “Yes, I will buy this for you.  That is Jesus.”  He looked up at me and repeated, “Jesus?”  “Yes, Jesus.  And Jesus loves you.”  He did his shy 1/2 smile while shaking his head the way he does when he gets embarrassed.  Victory!  We are having opportunities to talk about Jesus with this child.

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Christmas Eve and Christmas Day were hard days for us.  The holiday combined with house guests coming and going, constant food prep and cleaning, left us feeling simply beat.  My dad and Francine saw us at our most exhausted state as of yet.  However, each of them played a role in helping to refocus our minds.  Francine was able to smile at Viktors no matter what he was doing.  She gave me such a visual image of truly showing him unconditional love.  And as my dad was leaving he said, “I’d be on the translator all the time with him telling him how I feel and really talking to take it to another level.”  That is what gave Steve the idea to communicate his feelings to Viktors about obeying.

Then I called my sweet mom and said, “Would your feelings be hurt if I asked you to postpone coming up here because we are exhausted and overwhelmed right now.”  With zero hesitation and with nothing but sincerity, she said, “Not at all.  I know you are tired and we will gladly hold off visiting and will do Christmas with you all in a few weeks.”

That is love.  No thought of self, only thoughts for the one you love, doing what is best for them not yourself.  And that kind of love is inspiring.

Day 7: A Week Really?

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The fastest week.  The most exhausting week.  The most emotionally draining week.  The most joy-filled week.  A roller coaster of a week.

Has it really been 7 days already?  Was it really this time last week that we were giddy with excitement, barely able to contain ourselves, as we waited to get to know this child we had been praying for.

Was it really only 1 week ago that we hugged him for the first time?
This experience has drawn our family closer together.  Intentional times are being created in an effort to love this child, yet it is benefitting our entire family.  We are more connected with each other than ever before.

We chose to host an orphan so that we could bless a child in need.  Yet he is blessing us.  Through our interactions with him, we are seeing so far beyond ourselves.

But this hosting.  It’s harder than we ever imagined.  Not because of Viktors, but because a hurt child simply won’t and can’t respond logically the way you think he should.  This is not for the faint of heart.  It is hard.  Very hard.  But beautiful, so very, very beautiful.

We struggle moment by moment questioning if we are doing this right.  Are we doing it the way he needs it done.  At the end of the day we rest in knowing that we might not be doing it right, but it must be better than what he gets typically.  And he is covered in prayer right now.  And prayer changes everything.

Merry Christmas.  I wish you a beautiful Christmas with your families!  Create moments that won’t get discarded to the trash on the 26th!

Day 6: Constant State of Action

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This is the state of my kitchen in the midst of cookie making with 4 boys.  They are over at the table devouring their masterpieces at the time of this picture.

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Jenga has quickly become a favorite game.  No English required and so fun for everyone.  Until little Drew hits the table….

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A little Christmas ornament painting. Notice this activity took place while Drew was sleeping.

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 A new haircut

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A little gingerbread making

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Throwing the baseball with Steve and Jacob

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And of course wrestling.  A favorite pastime in this house.

We seem to be in a constant state of action.  One of the goals of this program is to give these kids the time of their lives.  We are trying to do all the things he loves while being realistic in showing that the world doesn’t revolve around him.  A hard balancing act.

Evidently, pouting is a typical orphan behavior.  Day 4 held lots of pouting, day 5 a little less, and yesterday even less than the day before.  Before he would pout and shut us out completely.  Yesterday he went to his room to pout.  After a few minutes, I went to his room, showed him we were making gingerbread houses, and told him we would love him to join us.  5 minutes later he was down with a happy face making gingerbread houses.  He is taking no easier.  We had a few episodes of having to really put our foot down to get him to obey, but he did it.

Day 5: His likes and dislikes

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I’m discovering he is adventuresome.  He likes to stay busy.  Like most boys. They need to stay busy.

He loves to ride bikes and scooters.  Soccer is by far his favorite sport and he is really good at it too!  When he plays he puts on Jacob’s adidas shorts and Messi jersey.  He loves power tools and was trying to drill holes in the garage wall.  I stopped him just in time.

Car rides are a treat.  His favorite car is a “Moostang” as he says in his Latvian accent.

He loves to help do anything.  You never have to ask him to do anything for himself.  He is fully capable of taking care of himself and needs no help.  He has amazing patience when he is trying to figure something out.  He is methodical and calculating.  He is a great problem solver, very creative, and incredibly bright.

Whatever he does he does it fully and completely and in a particular fashion.  He is neat and tidy.  He cleans up after himself. I’ve never had to ask him to put away dirty clothes or dishes.  He just does it naturally.

My movie box is a disaster because I just throw movies in with no thought to neatness.  When he saw my disorganized box, he sat down with it and organized the box neatly stacking everything so it fit properly.  He began really speaking my language then!

He is the best eater I’ve ever seen in my life. He has not turned down one thing offered to him. He eats everything our family eats with zero complaining.  This is amazing given how sweetened, salted, and processed American food is.

He loves rap music.  We compromised and I put Christian rap on Pandora.  Honestly, he doesn’t know the difference since it’s in English, but rather than hearing lyrics of hating people we are hearing lyrics of loving God 🙂

On Wednesday we were riding home from picking the boys up from school when I turned the christian rap up really loud.  Through the rearview mirror, I saw Jacob’s eyes about to bulge out of his head, so I quickly turned and told him it was christian music.  He let out that breath he was holding and started bopping to the beat.  I almost cracked up when a song came on and Jacob said, “Oh this is my favorite song.”  He’s never heard one of those songs a day in his life!  But it was so fun watching those boys with sunglasses on bouncing around the car.

His bond is deepening with Steve.  When steve is at work, he is asking how much longer.  He gives thought to Steve throughout the day.  At Walmart he picked up a pack of gum and asked me to buy it for “dad”.  When he made an ornament, he wrapped it and gave it to “dad” as a gift.

Most things I offer he says no to, but I just begin doing it and he joins me.  “You want to help me cook?”

“No,” he says initially.  Then he slowly moves towards me and picks up a spoon and starts to help.

“You want to play cars?”

“No,” he will respond as he watches me rolling cars back and forth.  30 seconds later he is joining me on the floor.

He will give anything a try for the most part.

I watch his eyes while he is watching family life take place all around him.  It’s all soaking in.  Likely something he has never seen before.

During a Christmas cookie baking activity, I had a job for each of the boys.  His natural reaction is “Me.”  That is natural of most kids, but particular an orphan who is visiting America and experiencing all of these fun things for the first time.

He reached his hand out and tried to take Zachary’s measuring cup away from he saying, “Me.”

Zachary quickly gave it to him, and I was on the verge of stepping in to explain that we must take turns and not to take from each other.  But I didn’t have to.  An expression came over his face as his hand stopped in mid-air with the measuring cup.  He turned back to Zachary and said, “You.”

The two boys went back and forth insisting each take a turn until I told Zachary to please allow this opportunity for Viktors to allow someone to go before himself.  Zachary felt uncomfortable with this, but Viktors felt a sense of what he sees in this family.  A give and take.  And for the first time he was on the give side.  I imagine he felt warm inside.

During family movie night of Polar Express, I passed out candy to each of the boys on fun Christmas plates.  The Mike and Ike’s Viktors had been begging for since the moment they entered our house.  When I sat down, my child who will share anything with anyone (Zachary), held his plate out to me to offer some candy.

“Aww, you are so sweet, thank you for sharing.”  I smiled and savored that tiny piece of candy.  Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Viktors watching closely.  5 seconds later he held his plate out to me and offered a piece of his own candy to which I graciously took a piece.

It’s all soaking in.  Family life is being absorbed into him like a sponge.  This child can do family life.

Day 4: Who I Am

Jason Gray – Remind Me Who I Am (Official Music Video) from jason-gray on GodTube.

Please take 3 minutes and click the link above.  We can all relate to this song.  We all need reminding who we are to Him.  You won’t regret this 3 minutes. I promise.

I pray Viktors will discover who He is in Christ.

He doesn’t belong to anyone. But he does, he just doesn’t know it yet.

Today was less testing.  He shuts down at certain times.  Bedtime he completely shuts down on us.  At one point today I found him in bed with his head covered blocking out everything around him.  It was through the promise of taking a car ride that I was able to pull him back out of himself to join us.

I find myself constantly saying to myself “He is an 11-year-old orphan.  Period.”  He will not respond the way I expect.

There is a language barrier and there are emotional walls.

But he is capable of love and he is capable of accepting love.  A lot of processing occurs.

He is a wonderful little boy.  A strong will for sure.  Through Facebook postings today, I was reminded that it is his stubbornness and strong will that has enabled him to survive to this point.  It is what he needs to say no to drugs and crime.

Praise God Viktors is stubborn.  Praise God he is strong-willed.  He needs to be.  It will serve him well and has served him well to this point.

Pray this child would come to know the Lord and would channel those traits to serve Him one day.

We are sustained by your prayers.  We truly feel every prayer lifted up for our family and Viktors right now.  Thank you from the bottom of our hearts.

Day 3: Testing Begins

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Testing has begun.  Boundaries are being tested.

I laid out a shirt for him. “No”  10 minutes later he was downstairs in a shirt he brought with him.  I let it go.  Not worth the battle.  He requested a movie.  No problem we had time for a short movie before we needed to leave the house.  After the movie ended he wanted another.  When I told him no, he pouted and was very upset to be told no.

He wanted to go to the park, so we went to the park.  He wanted to play soccer, so Steve took the boys to play soccer.  He wanted McDonalds, so we had that for lunch.  He got lots of yes responses through the day.  But when he got the “no’s”, things didn’t fly so smoothly.

The day was likely very overwhelming for him.  And he is trying to figure it all out.  And he doesn’t know how to process emotions like we do.  Every interaction with him must go through a different filter.

He wanted to go to the park after dark.  I said no and offered 2 fun alternatives inside.

“Hmmph!”  He sharply turned his head away from me and wouldn’t look at me.  When I finally convinced him to join us in the family room, he did so, but covered his body (including his head) with a blanket and pouted.  He basically shut down the rest of the night.  I sat right next to him for as long as I could.

We asked him to come upstairs to get ready for bed, which he did, but he did it all silently.  At night he has been playing his Latvian audio bible, a gift from us that he loves.  While he was brushing his teeth, I started the player for him.  He climbed into bed and immediately turned it off and turned his back to me.  But he is a hurting child, and we will show him love with firm boundaries and consistent actions.

Steve went upstairs to check on everyone after they had been tucked into bed about 10 minutes.  His Latvian audio bible was playing.  And he was sound asleep.

You could hear Latvian all the way downstairs he had the volume up so loud.  I looked at Jacob and Zachary laying in their beds while Viktors lay sound asleep.  “Boys, is that bothering you?”

With 100% genuine sincerity, in unison, they said, “Oh no!”  “It’s perfectly fine, Mom.”

And my heart grew another couple of sizes.

My children have amazed me through this process.  I’m seeing parts of their hearts I’ve never seen before.  True compassion.  True concern.  True selflessness.  True sacrifice.

They have less of me.  A lot less.  They have less of Steve.  Yet not once have they shown the slightest bit of jealousy or concern for their own needs.  When Viktors pouts and behaves childishly they don’t ridicule him or imitate his behaviors.  They feel his pain.  And they simply show him love.

Day 2

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His head rested on the arm of the chair, gaze transfixed on the rainbow of lights on the Christmas tree.  Fingers lightly grazed the ornaments then stopped.  He gently removed the ornament from the tree.  “Mom”  I’ve grown so accustomed to hearing this.

“Yes?”

In his hands he held an ornament of 2 carolers, one an adult, one a child.  His finger pointed to the adult then pointed to me.  “That you,” he said in his thick Latvian accent.  He pointed to the child represented in the ornament then pointed to himself.  “That me.”  And he smiled.

He’s connecting the dots.  He knows what he wants.  He wants a family.  He wants to belong.

Later in the morning he continually asked me to play with him.  Using the translator app, I typed, “I have to finish my chores first, then I can play.”

“Ah.  Ok.”  He understood.  But he didn’t run off to play by himself. He stood right by my side as I unloaded day old dishes and scraped dry food from 2 days ago off the counters.

He picked up a dry erase marker and wrote on a plastic cup.  “Hmm,” he said as he tried to understand this marker with ink that wiped away so easily.

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Gently, I took the marker from his hands.  “Here, watch this.”  On my dry erase picture frame, I wrote “Hi”.

A smile broke across his face, and he quickly snatched the marker from my hands and began drawing a Christmas tree.  I drew a smiley face.  He drew a face on Santa.  I drew a cross.  “Ah,” he said as he pointed to the cross made by Jacob that has hung on our walls for a year now.  “Yes,”  I said.  “Jesus” and I wrote Jesus.

We ran out of space to draw.  Using his finger he tried erasing a small section.  Eyebrows furrowed as he discovered the magic of a dry erase marker.  Simplicity at its finest.  A precious moment wrapped in the disguise of sweet, precious, simple.

He erased everything except the cross and Jesus.  We drew around that for awhile until he eventually erased it.  It was as if he knew that was important to me and he gave thought to my feelings.

He’s intrigued by “dad”.  I’m grateful for Steve’s active role in entering Viktor’s life because I imagine it’s Steve’s influence that will truly impact his life the greatest during these 4 weeks.

Viktor spotted the soccer goals up the street and started pointing saying “Futbol!  Futbol!”  When “dad” took all the boys for a soccer match while I cooked dinner, it was the highlight of Viktor’s day.  Especially when he was able to wear Jacob’s Mesi jersey.  Steve is good at getting to know people, and it’s because of Steve that we are discovering all of Viktor’s likes and dislikes.

Es milu tevi.  I love you.  I said to him, “Es tevi milu”.  He laughed and said “Es milu tevi.”  He dipped his fingers in some water and on Steve’s windshield wrote love as he pointed to me.  I smiled back and said correctly this time “I love you too, Es milu tevi.”

Movie time he snuggled under a blanket.  When Andrew joined him on the couch, he patted the spot right next to him, inviting Andrew to draw closer as he held out the blanket to cover little Andrew.  He’s a kind and thoughtful young man.

So many small moments sprinkled through the day.  Beautiful moments and a few slight challenges, nothing different that what we deal with our own children.  But a little bit of pushback, refusal to shower, me standing firm and insisting then spending 10 minutes dealing with the struggle.  He obliged.

I’m not finishing the day as tired as yesterday.  He was more comfortable, therefore I was more comfortable.  We were all a little more able to just do family life like we do every day.  And he fit right in.