It’s Alive! It’s Alive!

It has been a day of surprises and more surprises. What has happened earlier in the hosting process as been this: D has a good day followed immediately by a terrible day. It was as if she could not allow herself the joy of having too much fun. Pure supposition on our part but perhaps she did not deem herself worthy of joy; perhaps she did not want to suffer disappointment when the joy and happiness would inevitably end. Maybe she just wasn’t comfortable yet with letting her true self break out of her shell of fear.
At any rate, that pattern has changed during the past three days. She has had multiple days in a row that have been significantly more joyous than the past. That is not to say that she has not been frustrated and shuts down for a little while. We have noticed that she is very self-reliant; she does not easily accept help from others or suggestions from others. She has to get there herself. Case in point – lunch today. The translator program was not responding very well and she became frustrated during the ordering process. As a result she pulled her typical move and dismissed the idea of having anything for lunch. We ordered her a ham and cheese sandwich with bacon and avocado. She made an ugly face at first and we suggested that she remove the undesirable parts of the sandwich to suit her taste. After she ate all the chips hunger won out – she removed the lettuce, bacon and avocado and ate the rest of the sandwich.
Later that afternoon, while Peter and I were out getting a few necessities, she asked Eileen if they could go out shopping for clothes (just the two of them – no guys). Eileen responded by asking her to make a list of the items she wanted.
(Eileen chimes in) Phil has been talking about joy we have seen in D for the past two days. It’s actually interesting that the mimosa tree that overhangs on our deck here on Chincoteague Island is filled with hummingbirds sipping the nectar from the flowers. In Native America lore the hummingbird medicine is JOY. These tiny birds remind me so much of our D. She hovers close to get a look and then she is off. She is physically tiny, but with a strong determination of character. Hummingbirds I have no doubt have surrounded her this week. They have flown into her life sent as totem from her Great Spirit to remind her of the capacity of joy she has in her soul.
So we go off to the store…big store (I make big store charade) or little store. Big store. So off the island we go. Please understand, this is rural Virginia, the closest thing to a mall is the Walmart 20 miles away as well as a small department store called Peebles, which I have never been in. Also I am hoping she doesn’t get scared by big people in Walmart. No offense to any rural VA folks! Peebles turns out to be a mini department store. Plus sizes, junior sizes, shoes etc. OK, this can work. We start looking and I am careful to only suggest giant granny panties and bras that could double as a football helmet. Anything that she looks remotely interested in I gaze away in disinterest while silently hoping “oh please, oh please, buy something”! She picks out a very cute dress! She tries it on….it’s a yes!!! I run to the counter to spend more than I would normally but am just so thrilled she is accepting anything from me.


A few more stops – Walmart is very scary for me so we just buy apple juice, crackers, bananas and twizzlers. Head back to the island, after crossing the causeway she gestures our sign for a small store. Mmmmm. Off to a sweet little shop where my friend Connie works and has amazing fashion sense. Another success! She selects a white sweater that sort of is a cape and sweater in one…looks beautiful! A few more items, she is beaming with joy! Arrive home and she write me a note in English, from her Latvian/English dictionary. “I would like to try lobster or crab”…. I have no words. After much haranguing and rolling of eyes over my trying to translate the process of purchasing lobster, she cuts to the chase and chooses to have Phil and Peter go in search of said items.
(Phil is back). Not only does she want us to go get the lobster but she seems to indicate that it should be us three that goes. At first, I didn’t really understand that she wanted to join Pete and I but she repeated the gesture that the three of us should go on the lobster quest. So, this is rather unusual that she requests to be with me but I jump up and head to the car. I dare not let this opportunity pass. Off we go to the seafood vendor and sure enough they have lobsters!! D and Pete wait in the car while I pick out the lobsters and grab some shrimp. I didn’t even make it into the car with the lobsters before D started shrieking and screaming. I took full advantage of this and took one of the lobsters out of the bag so she could get a good long look at it. Oh my God!!! Her screams almost shattered my eardrums. I had an ear-to-ear grin!
Back at the house she asks if the lobsters are alive. I nod but then point to the pot of hot water, pantomiming the lobsters going into the pot and then my best imitation of rigor mortis setting in – lobster style. When I put the lobsters on the counter she shrieked a bit more but curiosity overtook her fears. I showed her how to pick it up and reassured her that she was in no danger. Sure enough D picked it up, looked at it square in the eye and practically insisted we take pictures of her while she held the lobster. Not only that … Daniela grabbed the camera (a first since she’s been here) and started taking pictures too. What followed was a veritable frenzy of claw cracking, tail eating, butter dipping and shrimp peeling that would put Daryl Hannah ala “Splash” to shame.
I am trying not to spend any effort in figuring this out. Mostly because I know that it has nothing really to do with anything I have done. All we have done for Daniela is give her the room to breath, get acclimated, trust us, set firm boundaries and love her. Today she checked in with her chaperone. In the past there has been a serious or sullen tone in her voice when doing this. Not today; today there was an abundance of animated, joyous tones, twinkling eyes, smiles and many “labi” throughout the phone call (“labi” means “good” in Latvian). She is relaxed and enjoying herself. She has surrendered to being herself while in the midst of this crazy, unconventional family and in the process has become a part of this family … forever.

2 thoughts on “It’s Alive! It’s Alive!

  1. Greetings. We share several connections: our Lord, the Almanzars, and hosting. We are Facebook friends with them and noticed your name and recalled it from following New Horizons posts. We hosted Nikita from Latvia this summer. I enjoyed scanning your blog and was reminded of our hosting journey. We killed the English lessons earlier on as well. Being a Mainer, I loved the lobster story. Anyway, enjoy the ministry of Jonathan and Shannon, they certainly are some of God's choice servants.

    Richard Crocker
    Cheyenne, Wyoming


  2. Thanks so much for taking the time to share in our journey Richard. The Almanzars are heading east to lead our church here in PA – Hopesprings Community of Faith. We really like their genuineness and passion. Funny how God works bridging the gap between NHFC and you and us and the Almanzars. Blessings. Phil Gentile


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