I'm checking in with some photos from today, as well as an attempt at putting into a nutshell the past 5 days. To be honest with you, they have not been entirely smooth days. In fact, the word "intense" captures some of the moments. A friend of mine shared with me a blog post written by a host mom last summer, and as I was reading it, I realized I couldn't have said it better myself. So, instead of reinventing the wheel, I'll just "ditto" her thoughts as you hop over to her blog.
Sometimes we have a teenager on our hands, sometimes a toddler. Sometimes we have a good day, and sometimes Mama hopes bedtime comes earlier somehow. Sometimes we are drained, and sometimes we are full to bursting with the goodness of these days.
Today was a good day. A very good day.
It started with getting our prayer team involved with specific prayer requests for the day. Then, I spent an hour of quiet time alone with my Heavenly Father. I began the day knowing that there was no way I could do this. I was exhausted, drained and completely at the end of myself. Weak. Now, did He not tell us that His grace is sufficient? And that His strength works best in our weakness? So why is it that we don't believe Him?
That's what I needed most of all...for His power to rest upon me.
I finished my Bible time and headed to the laundry room. The house was still quiet with 5 sleeping children, and my flesh wanted to stretch out those glorious quiet, unstressed moments. I put a load of clothes in the washer, noting the new "smell" of our Sandija. I've memorized all my children's special "smells," their signature scents. And I'm learning a new scent. I threw in the clothes, and the Lord brought to mind some things He had shared with me before Sandija arrived. For weeks prior, He led me over and over again to verses about how He was going to make the crooked path straight and make the mountains level.
I had written all those verses down so that I could remember them when I needed them. And this morning, I needed them. I thought of all He had showed me, and the tears came. Thinking of the challenges we have faced so far in this hosting period made me want to cry buckets. I stopped and prayed, "Lord, You said you would level the mountain, but right now I feel like I'm at the base of Mount Everest, and ahead of me is a nearly-vertical climb."
But then and there, as mysteriously as the Holy Spirit moves, I felt overwhelming encouragement to claim the verses He had given me. The mountain was not level YET, but if He said it, then I would choose to believe it. Faith, not sight.
Funny how a mere moment in His Presence can alter the course of a day. So, into the new day I walked...
A lot or prayer and a little schedule go a long way! :)
Here's the scheduler I dug up out of my teaching supplies. It has little clock faces for each time block, so I drew the clock hands to give a visual, and beside each clock, I wrote what activity we had planned. Sandija LOVES this. She comes to it several times a day to see what activity we are due to have. Perhaps just knowing what is coming up makes her feel secure. At any rate, this little chart has been a gem.
Sandija has discovered the porch swing. She took her blanket off her bed, a pillow off the couch and made herself a little haven where she could crochet. She told me not to look because she was making something special for me. :)
At lunch, I carved melon balls out of half of our watermelon, and Sandija was amazed! We all shared the watermelon, and after it was all gone, she asked if she could scrape some of the remaining melon off the inside of the rind. I have never seen anyone so intent on a piece of fruit! She had no idea that I had grabbed my camera because she was almost inside that melon! :) She ate every last tiny bit of it. When she was done, she brought me the empty (and I do mean empty!) rind and said, "Ohhhh, thank you, Mama!"
She loves crafts, so we dumped out our box of Magic Nuudles in the center of the table and let them make whatever their hearts wanted. And I must say, these things are amazing. VERY FUN! And can you believe that all 5 children (even my busiest busy boy!), sat at this table for over 2 hours with this activity!
Can you tell they had fun?? And look at their creations. My older 3 children all made characters, and our youngest just stuck Nuudles together to make a chain. Wanna know what Sandija made? She made our HOME, complete with porch and visiting squirrels (which she is amazed with!). And she made Mama to go with the home...and Pooh Bear to represent her "Daddy Bear." She spent the entire 2 hours making this, and I was truly in awe of how much work she put into creating our home.
Here's the house, with Mama and Daddy Bear on the front porch near the brown squirrel. Never mind the other man and Piglet...those were someone else's creations. :)
After craft time, she went back out on the porch to crochet. And when it was time to make dinner, she wanted to help me make one of her favorites...mashed potatoes. She also made melon balls, by herself this time, with the other half of the watermelon.
Look at her amazingly beautiful smile.
She made yummy smacking noises as she ate those hot potatoes fresh off the beaters for the first time.
After a hot bubble bath, she joined us downstairs as we opened a special package. Gigi, the kids' sweet great-grandmother, sent them a 4th of July box of goodies (including little gifts for Sandija), and here's Sandija with one of the treasures.
After a big dinner with lots of her favorite foods, we settled in to do some music with Daddy Bear. He played guitar and sang, and she crocheted next to him on the couch.
And here's my favorite... Here she is reading her Bible next to Daddy Bear. He would read one verse in his Bible, and she'd read that same verse out loud in her Latvian Bible. She LOVES doing this. We were in John 3, and I was praying that the truth would sink into her soul...and that she'd begin to know Her Heavenly Father.
Tonight, about 15 minutes after the children all went to bed, she came downstairs looking very frightened. She had her stuffed animal in her hands and had its nose in her mouth. She looked more like a scared 4-year-old than a teenager. She said, "Mama...." And she made gestures that showed she had heard thunder. I asked if she was scared, and she said yes. So, I went upstairs and crawled into her bed next to her. She held onto me as I rubbed her back. She drifted to sleep, and I prayed silently over her...praying that He will heal the hurts inside that I could never heal...praying for His Will for her life. And it hit me how amazing it was that this soul from across the globe was resting in my arms feeling secure tonight.
The valleys may seem low again, and the mountains may again look high...but He is faithful to always make them level. There is beauty in this weakness. And I'm feeling very very blessed to have this child in our home and lives this summer.