This is part four of our journey into hosting from 2013. We spent five weeks loving on a teenager from Latvia and all that goes with it – the frustration, the laughter, the walls and the smiles. To read the full text of our adventure please visit www.servingdaniela.blogspot.com
This is what I learned about Daniela today: She is a perfectionist, she takes pride in things done well and wants to excel. Frustration comes quickly when things don’t go according to plan. But she keeps on going. I thought the potatoes [grate for potato pancakes] were heading to the trash when she became frustrated.
Another intuitive thought hit me in this deep spiritual moment. Seriously what would Jesus do? Not in the wwjd bracelet kind of way, but the I am supposed to be living like Him kinda way. Apparently when He is not making nutella sandwiches for snarky teens, He helps them ease their frustration by grating potatoes with primitive equipment and smiles.
This young lady is bright and shining for a moment, dark and brooding in the next. She terrifies me, she makes me laugh, she reminds me of how awful sixteen can be and how hard it is to straddle the world between child and adult.
Then came the dessert – homemade Russian Napoleon tort. Words cannot describe the sweet deliciousness of this cake.
The only thing more delicious at the table was the sight of Daniela laughing, pantomiming, understanding, conversing, beaming, smiling, eating and enjoying our company as a family. Is this a miracle in the making right before our eyes? Of course it is. Did we see this coming? Perhaps, but I will tell you that Phil was very frustrated a mere 72 hours ago!
The power of love standing steadfast against fear is a slack-jawed, eyes wide open kind of incredible miracles. Tomorrow may bring its own issues but for the past 48 hours God’s love, given to us and then re-gifted to Daniela, has leaped tall buildings in a single bound and broken through the cracks in her walls.
If ever we needed proof that love triumphs over fear and hate and negativity, if ever we needed proof that love can scale the walls built around hearts, if ever we needed proof that God’s plan for loving Him and loving others is all we need to melt away some of the sadness, what is happening here with Daniela is that proof. — July 15, 2013
She told me I was not her mother and should not act as if I was.
She is right. I am not her mother. For me this is the hardest part of loving a child who is orphaned and the parents are alive somewhere reminding her that she is not wanted. I have no place to judge anyone else for where they are in their life, their darkness, their addiction. But boy, it’s really hard to look at this girl and understand why she is where she is.
God has a plan. A perfect one. One that does not cast me in the role of savior, but servant. Part of the servant deal is that I need to be constant in my response regardless of what arrows might fly past my head, or into my heart, And man this is really hard stuff. I could never have imagined that in such a short time I could love a stranger from half way around the world the way I already fiercely love this kid.
That our God loves us…me..her ..us all… just is an overwhelming, undeserved, no other word but Grace with a capital G. When I agreed to be His hands and His feet, I didn’t for a moment think about how those feet walked to His death for us. I just wanted the fun, do good, save the whales kind of walk. You know it’s a spiritual journey…when it really really hurts. — July 16, 2013
I read this on another person’s blog today: “And no matter how the craziness of this whole parenting thing all turns out: The reward of loving is in the loving; loving is itself the great outcome of loving. The success of loving is in how we change because we kept on loving – regardless of any thing else changing.” – A Holy Experience by Ann Voskamp. I thought to myself, “How wonderfully succinct and perfect that statement is and how it so neatly dovetails with what I am experiencing on this journey with Daniela together with what we are discussing in church – superheroes.”
Basically, we have been discussing how God takes the ordinary man or woman and uses them to stand in the breach, to go to the darkest of places and do the mightiest of deeds. We are called to do deeds that sometimes seem too big for us to accomplish. Most people would not have chosen Moses, a murderer with a speech impediment, to lead the Israelites out of Egypt – but God did and that seemed foolish. Not many would have chosen David, a lustful home-wrecker and adulterer, to lead a nation to greatness – but God in his foolishness did. Why on earth would Jesus rely on a motley crew of twelve bumbling knuckleheads to carry his message of love, peace and salvation to change the world – doesn’t make sense and yet they did just that!
My pastor, Michael, tonight asked if there were any mountains, troubles or issues where I feel I need to be a superhero or in need of one. He knows our ups and downs with Daniela. This situation does not call for a superhero. Daniela does not need a superhero; Daniela needs the unconditional love of a man, a man who is old enough to be her father, so that she will know that someone cares about her no matter what. Daniela needs to experience the love of God. Daniela needs to experience that because she has no frame of reference for that – she does not understand how I, a stranger, can love her when her own family does not love her!
I am no superhero. I am an ordinary man called to do extraordinary work with a young woman. I am called to perform a deed that is more than I alone can do with my feeble powers. But I am not alone! I will show up and God will do His good work with her to heal the brokenness of her spirit and her heart.
I have learned so much from this adventure in faith. I have never really grasped the power of turn-the-other-cheek or how powerful love-your-enemies really is. Love wears down the walls of fear and hate. I have seen first-hand how steadfast love CAN change a person. I have seen how steadfast love can bring light into a dark and broken spirit. I have experienced and witnessed how steadfast love can perform miracles. I think I’ll keep trying this love thy neighbor thing. It’s kind of groovy! — July 18, 2013
Today D agreed to go out. We shopped at my friend Cathy’s house because she has the most amazing eBay store and has small sizes. We sorted through the uh huh’s a lot of UT UHNNN (that’s teen age for “no stinking way”) accompanied by major scowl. Bottom line we had a few winter basics and a beach cover up. Stopped at Target and actually purchased things for hair and nails. I tortured and embarrassed her in the underwear section by selecting giant granny panties and saying “PERFECT” really loud!
[S]he typed into the translator ”could we go to Linda’s?” Linda and Wayne have graciously shared their swimming pool and home for her half birthday party! I was astounded; this was the first time she used anyone’s name! We scooted home, changed in swim suits and drove like batman for a refreshing evening dip. It was super; Linda was out and Wayne was busy, D and I floated in the water then had sword fights with the noodles, made elephant trunks and noises and finally filled the water pistols and planned for the arrival of Phil.
He came on down and was welcomed by two girls and water pistols…total shock attack. But we weren’t done…Phil went to change and we positioned ourselves D behind the truck, me flattened against the garage. We were like a SWAT team. We even did the counting sign thing…. We chased Phil into the pool and the water fight continued. He was a great sport! — July 18, 2013
There are those things that comfort us from our childhood. For me it was an IBM paper box and a yellow blanket. For kiddos growing up in Eastern Europe I don’t know exactly what that would be but today I got a glimpse. Milk Soup.
Yes, Milk Soup is mostly what it sounds like Milk. Warm. Like soup. With pasta. Broken not whole. And the staple – Sugar. I was waiting for the cheese, the salt, the pepper. “Nu uhnnnn” I was told. D scooped out a bowl for me and made me sit at the table. Soft, mushy, pasta in milk with sugar. I had quite a preconceived notion.
I watched D as she ate hers. Slowly savoring the flavor. I tasted mine after, of course, smelling it carefully. WOW it was like a box and a blanket and grilled cheese and tomato soup comfort all wrapped up into one! I asked her if this is what the children in Latvia like to eat and explained what we called “comfort food”. A huge smile crossed her face and she nodded.
I want milk soup in my life. I want comfort and warmth for myself and for those I love and even for those I don’t love. Warmth and comfort from broken noodles. Man, some days I am the broken noodle. But I am reminded of my brokenness and what God does in my life to mix it all up and get something good. I could never have imagined that hosting an orphan could be like this. It doesn’t always look appetizing and I often smell first … but add one teenage orphan and two crazy adults and stir in the warmth and sweetness of His love… voila! Milk Soup. — July 19, 2013
Peter sometimes doesn’t bother taking the skin off of things that he eats or he will eat something and leave no trace of its existence on this planet. For example, he will eat through an orange rind much like one would eat an apple and he will eat an apple in its entirety – core, seeds and stem included.
Today at the game we were eating peanuts. You guessed it – he ate the peanuts shell and all!! This had Daniela shrieking with laughter and amazement. Eileen tried doing it to show D that it was quite normal to eat peanut shells. She was crunching away but when D turned away Eileen was spitting out those shells faster than a pro baseball player spitting out tobacco juice!
I seem to struggle with making a connection with her. In fact, there are times when I feel completely disconnected from her and this process. Sometimes I feel like my only function is to make her tea, buy her french fries or make her lunch. At least that is the way it seems. She can be charming and lovely but I wonder if she does that because she wants something from me or is she being genuine. It’s hard to tell at times. I have to hold on to the hope that we are both reaching out for each other – bumbling and stumbling through this process – and that we will make whatever connection we are supposed to make. — July 21, 2013