Hosting L – An Update

It’s been almost 2 weeks now that L has been with us. I had every intention of updating the blog at least once a week but with the holidays and trying to be extra present for all three girls, it just hasn’t happened.

We picked up L from the airport on December 14th. It was such a nerve wracking day. I was SO excited and SO nervous. She walked out of the elevator as a stranger, someone we knew only by face but already loved so much. It’s amazing how God can give you love for someone you don’t even know. We awkwardly hugged and she looked us in the eye and said, “Hello, my name is L (except that she really said her name, heh)” It was like she had rehearsed it over and over during her 24 hour trip to get to America. We all looked at her and said, “Hi! You know some English!” She smiled big and said, “Yes, I know a little English.” We were thrilled! When we later asked her what she was thinking that day she said that she was surprised to see us so excited and with a big welcome sign and she thought we looked like teenagers…haha! I’ll take that compliment sweet girl.

Hosting L - Week One | Motherhood in the Trenches

L is so bright and can be so bubbly. Her English is good and is getting better every day. The constant charades in our house are quite funny but we’ve found that it is a great bonding experience, I mean charades 24/7 how can you not love that, ha! Big Sis often forgets that L doesn’t understand all that we say so she just talks and talks and talks. Poor L gets so weary after awhile but luckily L has headphones and an Mp3 player to help her tune out for a bit when she needs to.

L has shared with us much about her country and the city she lives in. She’s told us of trips to the zoo and museum and what life is like in her country.  She showed us pictures on her Facebook telling us about her friends and family. She relayed visions of a good life in a great place. As days have passed and topics come up that we’ve talked about before, we see the facade begin to crumble and the embellished stories begin to change into something more real, more raw, more painful. Things aren’t as peachy for our kiddo as she was making them seem. When she first arrived she appeared to be a gilr who needed nothing and no one and now as each day passes we see more of her needs and more of her reality.

Hosting L - Week One | Motherhood in the Trenches

The burning question that everyone seems to have is “How’s it going?” I don’t have any grand stories to tell you. I can tell you it’s going really well. We have all fallen in love with this girl and she’s let us know that she’s pretty fond of us too. Each day is just about living life as we normally would. Sharing Christ with her just as we do with Big Sis and Little E. Loving L, letting her know that she is special, speaking words of affirmation to her. She is such a fun girl. She can be so silly and so funny. My favorite times are when she lets her guard down and acts like a young girl should. She’s silly and awkward and likes fun girl things. Sometimes we forget how young she is because she seems to be mature for her age but when she lets her guard down, she’s just a young girl looking for attention, affirmation and a good time.

Hosting L - Week One | Motherhood in the Trenches

We have made great strides in her trust toward us. Her barriers slowly crumble as she watches us interact with Big Sis and Little E. When new people enter the scene, she pulls away from us, testing our loyalty to her. As soon as she sees that our loyalty is always to her (and Big Sis and Little E) first, the headphones go away and she opens up to the new people knowing that she has a special place with us that no one else can take from her.

We started out with an awkwardly aloof goodnight hug but that has now become a warm embrace. Darting eyes now look back at mine and smile a warm smile. Her eyes close as we pray and she says, “Amen” with the rest of us. She jokes with Dirk, loves on Little E and plays so well with Big Sis. Her bedroom door, once closed to go to sleep, now remains open each night. “Iss open, iss good.” A dentist visit full of nerves, her making jokes the whole way there until finally she asks, “You, uh, come dentist?” Yes, sweet girl, I will be there with you. Trust building each minute, love being shown every chance we get, words of encouragement spoken and two little “sisters” who can’t get enough of her. Big strides this girl is making. She is brave, she is strong and she is amazing.

Hosting L - Week One | Motherhood in the Trenches

Everything has gone really smoothly. There were so many fears going into this but they have all been dispelled. As scary as it is, I have been praying for things to go just a bit awry. That probably sounds strange to say but I don’t think that she can truly see how much we love her unless she sees us loving her at her worst. It’s easy to love when things are going well, not as easy when things aren’t going well. I pray that God will give us the opportunity to let her know that we will love her unconditionally through the good and the bad.

For those of you who have been praying for us, thank you! To each of you who have texted us and let us know you’re thinking of us, thank you! I’m sorry if we are slow to respond but please know that we are so thankful and so encouraged by each person who has reached out to us. We are being very mindful of our time and being as present in each moment as we possibly can be. We often do not have our phones on us and by the time we finally sit down for the night we are taking care of as much business as we can before practically falling in bed.  We are having an amazing time but we are also very tired. :)

Some of you have asked for specific ways to pray for us. Here are a few prayer requests:

Pray for health, we are still battling viruses over here and it’s driving me bonkers! I’m ready for everyone to just be healthy. Also pray for us to get sleep. Little E has suddenly decided that sleep is overrated and is waking up at least twice a night and staying up for extended periods of time leaving me exhausted and the rest of the household a bit sleep deprived. Also, please continue to pray that we can make breakthroughs with L and let her know that we love her and MOST importantly that she would learn that God loves her so deeply.

Thank you our dear friends for sharing God’s love with us and supporting us in this journey. We love you!

Dallas Family Photo Shoots…in real life

So a few days ago I blew up my Facebook feed with fall pics from the pumpkin patch and Halloween (we were a bit behind in sharing our October.) Taking pics of kids is hard. While we usually post the top 5-10 pics, what people don’t see are the other 590 pics that I had to go through to get those 10 pics…Oye!

The thing with our girls, especially Little E, is that Dirk basically has to hold down the trigger button and hope and pray he’s getting something good cuz that girl is nutso.

As I was going through the 1200 pics of the pumpkin patch and Halloween, I couldn’t help but laugh at some of the outtakes. This is real life people…

Here’s our Little E coming down the path at the pumpkin patch cute as can be, such a cooperative little darling…

This is Real Life | Motherhood in the Trenches

Wait, what?
This is Real Life | Motherhood in the Trenches

Yeah, that’s a super unflattering picture of me running out of a shot. This is just the beginning…

On Halloween we thought we’d try out a few studio shots of the girls before heading out for our festivities…

Yep, there I am running out of the picture again. Big Sis is making that face because she just barely saved her hand from being bitten by ferocious Little E. (Since we’ve been back from the hospital Little E has been showing her disapproval for situations by biting. Thankfully Big Sis has quick reflexes)
This is Real Life | Motherhood in the Trenches

“Dad, let me do some moves for you…”

This is Real Life | Motherhood in the Trenches

I’ve got mad ninja skills

This is Real Life | Motherhood in the Trenches

Oh yeah…uh-huh…Go Big Sis

This is Real Life | Motherhood in the Trenches

Watch out or I’ll freeze you with my hair.

ME: “Big Sis, hold Little E’s hand.”
LITTLE E: Chomp!
BIG SIS: I am NEVER holding her hand again!
ME: ::FACE PALM::

This is Real Life | Motherhood in the Trenches
There I am, running out of the shot again…

This is Real Life | Motherhood in the Trenches

This is Real Life | Motherhood in the Trenches

Mom, you’re interrupting my singing…

This is Real Life | Motherhood in the Trenches

I must sing like the opera singing princess that I am… (I seriously laughed for a good five minutes after seeing this picture.)

She totally reminds me of Amy Adams in Enchanted, singing her heart out with her princess hands…
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So that’s the behind the scenes of our photo shoots. Here are few cute ones, just to prove that we do get a few good pics. ;)

This is Real Life | Motherhood in the Trenches

This is Real Life | Motherhood in the Trenches

This is Real Life | Motherhood in the Trenches

This is Real Life | Motherhood in the Trenches

Fourteen Years

His red truck pulled up next to my house, I remember taking one last look in the mirror and then hanging out in the kitchen while my brothers were carving pumpkins, pretending like I hadn’t been waiting for him to get there. I was 17, Dirk was 18. He came in the house and chatted with my brothers about carving pumpkins and then we headed out to coffee.

“It’s not a date, just coffee.” I kept telling my mom this but she knew better. I was wearing black dress pants and a light blue button up dress shirt, I hadn’t bothered to change from the office clothes I had worn to work, I didn’t want to make a big deal of this. I was adamant about guarding myself from any feelings that so many of my friends had fallen into prematurely. This was just coffee…with a friend…who was a guy…that I reeeeally liked…ah! No time for thoughts like that, stay focused.

We went into Starbucks, Dirk made a call to a friend because he couldn’t remember what drink he liked from there. He ordered a caramel Frappuccino, still his favorite fourteen years later, and I ordered a caramel apple cider. We sat in cushy chairs facing each other. I have no idea how the conversation started, but I do know that during this time we basically told each other that we “liked” each other, so awkward haha. Dirk made it very clear that he wanted to be very cautious, he told me that he wanted to do this right. We both had read many Christian dating books, “I Kissed Dating Goodbye” “I Gave Dating a Chance” “He’s Hot, She’s Hot” and my personal favorite “Passion and Purity.” We had read it all and we were more than prepared, perhaps too prepared. Dirk shared Psalm 37:4 with me “Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart.” He shared that while we knew the desire of our hearts, we needed to spend time focused on the Lord and let him guide us. We decided to take things slow….REALLY slow.

Motherhood in the Trenches

This pic cracks me up. We went to homecoming with a group of friends just a few weeks before our Starbucks “date.”

Sometimes I take myself back to that day. I think of all the butterflies and excitement. I think of the fear, which was greater after our meeting than before. I think of the 7 months that went by before we made things “official.” I think of the next 7 years before we got married.  I think of how I lived my life then. What would I tell 17 year old me, sitting in that cushy chair in Starbucks?

First of all, I would tell myself to find true love in God alone, it would have saved me a lot of heartache. To find satisfaction in no man, no friend, but in God alone. I would tell myself to serve. To use the excessive amount of free time I had to serve others, to get involved somewhere meaningful, to make a difference, instead I wasted years of my life idling. I would tell myself that fairy tales aren’t real and while some dreams may be shattered along the way, and life gets harder than you could have ever imagined, true love is so much deeper and so much richer than any fairy tale romance.

I am so thankful for my husband and so thankful for that day, fourteen years ago that changed our lives. It feels like yesterday and forever ago all at the same time. Here’s to many more! I love you Dirk Dallas!

Hosting: Isn’t it Cruel?

We have had some friends and family ask us, “Isn’t it cruel to bring this child here, love on her, and then send her back?” It was this question that kept Dirk and I from signing up early on but as we researched it, and talked with previous host families and prayed over it, here’s what God has shown us…

First of all, before coming here, these kids are just a number in a system. They are not seen or recognized as individuals, they are not held when they hurt, listened to when they need to talk, they are alone. The stats for crime, prostitution and suicide are staggering for Eastern European orphans, absolutely heart breaking. Between the ages of 15 &18 these kids will “age out” and be left on their own. Can you imagine going through life having never truly loved or been loved? Hosting gives us the opportunity to speak life into these kids, to let them know that they are worth more than the statistics, that they are loved unconditionally.

During L’s time here, we will provide for her, but we are not here to give her “stuff.” We are here to love her, even when she tries to push us away, even when she tries to put up her guard. We are here to hug her when she is angry and doesn’t know how to respond. We are here to pour into her.

After the five weeks, we will hopefully be able to keep in touch with L via Skype and email and may even be able to host her again this summer. We will hopefully be able to keep a lifelong connection with her, it’s not just a “love her and leave her” situation. Will saying goodbye be heartbreaking on everyone? Absolutely, love does hurt but the fact that she is even able to feel something is BIG. We often look at hurt and sadness as a bad thing but some of these kids have learned not to feel at all and so to know that they love enough to miss someone is making major steps of progress. These are life skills that she can take with her in her future relationships.

If you have the time, check out this blog post by my coordinator from New Horizons about how hosting changed one young man’s life and his decisions. The words spoken from one of his host families resonated with him throughout his life and then another host family that he met years later has now become his family even as an adult. I’m not defending what we’re doing because I know God is calling us to this and no defense is needed. I just hope that through this you too can see the value of hosting and if your heart is burdened for the orphan maybe you too will have a chance to host someday. 

http://www.hexagonalpeg.com/2014/10/a-tale-of-two-boys/
I’m no expert but I’d love to answer any questions that you have.

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas? 

Yep, us Dallases are preparing for Christmas.

I’m a die hard after Thanksgiving Christmas celebrator. Like HARD.CORE. No Christmas music, no Christmas decorations, no Christmas candles or cookies, NOTHING until after Thanksgiving. So why are we preparing now? Well, we have some exciting news. We are going to be host parents to an orphan from Eastern Europe this Christmas!!! We are beyond excited.

After reading of Amy and her family’s hosting experience last winter, we were intrigued. As time went on and Dirk and I talked about it more, it became something that we committed to prayer. We have felt the Lord leading us in this way for about 6 months now. To see it start coming to fruition is so exciting!

So, you’re probably wondering…
What does it mean that you’re “hosting” an orphan?

I feel like “hosting” sounds a bit sterile. I don’t know what other word we could use but here’s what we’re really doing.

This is L…

Orphan Hosting | Motherhood in the Trenches

She is a 14 year old girl and while we don’t know her story or her background we do know that she lives in an orphanage in Eastern Europe. She is a great student. She loves art and design and interior decorating.

We will openly welcome her into our home as if she’s one of our own. We will love her and show her the love of Christ. We will take her to church, and to our weekly family night at my parents’ house. We will go look at Christmas lights and bake Christmas cookies. We will celebrate the New Year and just live life as a family of five. We will show her that she is loved and important. Most importantly, we will let her know that there is a God who loves her more than anyone ever could.

Why are you doing this? Aren’t there plenty of children in the United States that you could help?

I know right? There are people, orphans even, hurting everywhere, all around us, why raise all this money and go through all this trouble?

I could give you a list of rational answers, and I will touch on a few of them, but the real reason is because God has led us here. Because every time we think we aren’t going to do it, we are. Because right before we turned in our deposit and we were scared, the Lord confirmed in us both that this is what we are supposed to do. Because although I was praying for a specific verse before we turned in the deposit, we stepped out in faith and that evening the Lord showed me Isaiah 58 (you can read a portion of it at the bottom of this post.) You can’t always rationalize God’s calling and so we move forward in anticipation of all God is calling us to, both to the really hard stuff and the really awesome stuff.

So this brings me to the rational reasons. Every Christian is called to care for the poor and specifically the orphan. (Isaiah 1:17James 2:15-16James 1:27Deut. 24:21) Can we do that here in the states? Sure we can, but here’s where the burden on my heart is. I didn’t even recognize the name of the country our girl is coming from. I knew nothing about it. As I started to learn more about her country I realized that these are the forgotten kids, she is a forgotten daughter.

These kids are just years from “aging out.”

In Eastern Europe, less than 50% of the orphan population will live to see their 20th birthdays.

60% of the girls are lured into prostitution. 70% of the boys become hardened criminals.

In Ukraine and Russia 10% -15% of children who age out of an orphanage commit suicide before age 18.

You guys, L has only FOUR years until she ages out. This is our opportunity to speak life into her, to show her, maybe for the first time ever, that she is loved unconditionally. We are being given an opportunity to tell her that she is better than those statistics, that God has a hope and a future for her. And while we’re over here thinking of all that God has for her, and looking forward to loving on her more than she’s ever been loved before, I know that He has a plan for our family in all of this too and I am so excited to see what He is going to do in all five of us.

I am sharing this with you for three reasons, first of all, will you join us in prayer? Will you please pray for L? Will you pray that God will prepare her heart? Pray that people will come across her path that will peak her interest in the things of the Lord, pray that she will be ready for all God has for her during this time with us. Please also pray for us. I think it’s easy to romanticize ministry and caring for the orphan. Dirk and I are constantly putting ourselves in check and recognizing that we are turning our home, our lives, into a mission field. It will be rewarding but it will be hard too. She doesn’t speak English so that will be a major barrier (although we have heard that many children catch on quickly and we are thankful for the technology available to us to help us communicate with her). We have no idea what kind of life she leaves behind. Orphans became such through trauma and so we will be loving on this child who has been abandoned and has been deeply hurt. We will be breaking barriers and showing her unconditional love. This is no easy task. Pray for wisdom for us, for patience, for God to prepare our hearts to love on her unconditionally. Pray for Big Sis and Little E to have open hearts. Pray for them to be loving and, even at their young age, to be the hands and feet of Jesus. Also, please pray for the financial needs to be met.

So that brings me to the second reason why I am sharing. In bringing L here we are responsible for paying for her visa, her transportation, insurance, and other needs. Maybe you are not able to host an orphan, or are not called to serve them physically, but maybe you could help bring an orphan to America, to a family that is so anxiously awaiting her arrival, to a family that can’t wait to show her the love that they already feel towards her. Would you be willing to donate? If so, here’s a link to our donation site. All donations given through this site are tax deductible.

Dallas Family YouCaring Site (please note that this is a general site set up for us by New Horizons so it’s very generic, we will keep it personal over here on the blog).

Lastly, I write this because maybe as you’re reading this your heart is being tugged on and you’re thinking, I could donate but I’d really like to host! There is still time and there are still so many children waiting and hoping to be hosted this winter. Head over to the New Horizons for Children webpage and go to “get started here” under “orphan hosting.” You can get more information and can fill out a pre-app to get access to the photolisting for all of the children available to be hosted.

If you have any questions at all please don’t hesitate to contact me. I’m new at all of this but I will do my best to answer any questions you may have.

Thank you for sticking through this lengthy post and for hearing the burden of my heart. :)

“Here is the way I want you to fast.

Set free those who are held by chains without any reason.
Untie the ropes that hold people as slaves.
Set free those who are crushed.
Break every evil chain.
Share your food with hungry people.
Provide homeless people with a place to stay.
Give naked people clothes to wear.
Provide for the needs of your own family.
Then the light of my blessing will shine on you like the rising sun.
I will heal you quickly.
I will march out ahead of you.
And my glory will follow behind you and guard you.
That is because I always do what is right.
You will call out to me for help.
And I will answer you.
You will cry out.
And I will say, ‘Here I am.’

“Get rid of the chains you use to hold others down.
Stop pointing your finger at others as if they had done something wrong.
Stop saying harmful things about them.
Work hard to feed hungry people.
Satisfy the needs of those who are crushed.
Then my blessing will light up your darkness.
And the night of your suffering will become as bright as the noonday sun.

    I will always guide you.
I will satisfy your needs in a land that is baked by the sun.
I will make you stronger.
You will be like a garden that has plenty of water.
You will be like a spring whose water never runs dry.”

Isaiah 58:6-11