A few weeks back I got an email from a woman who's getting ready to host an orphan from Latvia for the first time. She'd read my series on hosting W. in the summer of 2014 and had a few questions. Suddenly I was back in that time, and thankfulness washed over me. For W. For the intense, exhausting whirlwind, trial-by-fire experience that is hosting. And most of all, for what hosting had done for us - for our family, and most of all for me.
I dislike the phrase, "I did (xx thing for someone one else), but I got more out of it than he did." It strikes me as inauthentic and, somehow, subtly showy. It reminds me of the even-worse, "This hurts me more than it hurts you" we all remember from our childhoods. Yuck. But I have to say.... with our hosting experience with W., the shoe really fits. We gained so many things from that experience we couldn't have received in any other way. (At least, I don't know how we could have.) It was an unlocker of things we needed unlocked.
When we first learned about hosting, we were considering adoption. We'd talked about it for years and were trying to figure out if it was the right time to actually do the thing. We'd talked to adoptive families; attended an adoption agency info session; I'd called half a dozen other agencies. Then we heard about hosting. We called, read, researched... and decided to go for it.
We couldn't have asked for a better hosting experience or a cooler, more compelling kid than W. Within a couple weeks of his departure back to Latvia, it was settled in the minds of all of us - his and ours - that possibilities 'beyond' weren't in the cards. I was sad about it because I love the kid so much... but I also felt profoundly peaceful. One of the reasons I did was because So Many Things had begun surfacing in me, and in us, in the weeks after he left. Here are a few of those Things.
I'd felt pressure to figure out the adoption thing, and to get going. My strong conviction, my husband's and my agreement in this area, and the logistics related to adoption timelines (given that our family sometimes moves) together generated an internal simmering. I was angst-y about it. When God calls you to a thing, he also leads you, equips you, and gives you peace. None of that stuff had been happening for us in our adoption perusal. Hosting W. - and the exhaustion and "reality check" that came with it - brought my internal lack of peace to the surface.
I'd been carrying a sadness for my son that he didn't have a brother. We'd always hoped he would. Of course there's nothing wrong with hoping or praying for a second son, and adoption's heart that longs for - and embraces - more children and more sibling relationships is beautiful. But the proportion has to be right, and the right boundaries have to be there. I thought they were in both cases, but it turned out they weren't. Hosting W. helped me to see that I'd wrongly absorbed a "burden" for my son that was unhealthy for us both. My boundaries were off; I'd been over-responsible for him emotionally (and, it turned out, for others in my life too). I hadn't realized how much this was the case till after W. left. When I reflected on this I recalled long ago reading a buried article by an adoptive mother who described a practice she'd seen in some families of continuing to adopt kids, trying to get the 'perfect balance' among their kids, and it how misguided it seemed to her. Fascinating. Wish I could find it now.
Hosting pointed out some holes and challenges in myself and our family (and marriage). Pretty clearly. The five weeks with W. shone a flashlight into these holes, and afterwards the order of things seemed pretty clear. First: deal with our stuff. After that, figure out the adoption. And that's what we did. In this was, hosting really ended up being a catalyst igniting growth and maturity in us and in our family.
It showed us: there's time. This is where I come full circle back to my first point. Planning to adopt can feel like it's own kind of biological clock. When's a wise time? How old do we feel we can be and still have kids in the house? How late would be too late? But hosting W showed us -- if you're willing to adopt an older child (and we are... and W. reaffirmed this in us), then there's plenty of time. We could adopt an 11-year-old a decade from now, when our youngest kid's 14, and timeframe-wise it would still be fine. Possibly even better.... because by then we would have already been through the 11-year-old phase four times before. Who knows? Maybe our journey will include this. I no longer feel a need to plan for and control this though, like I used to. I know it will be revealed when the time is right. I thank God - and W. - for that.
We are all- "helpers" and those "being helped"- children of a lavishly loving Father, receiving grace upon grace. We live stories, not formulas, each customized. There is comfort and peace in the journey, as we take the next step. I pray, each day, God's guidance and goodness for W. as he walks his faraway steps. And I thank God for how he used W. to shape our own steps.