I love Jesus. I believe Jesus. Jesus changed my life.

IMG_7668Those words are embossed on three bracelets that O. wears.

On this very holy day, as you are tempted to rush around to buy one more, rush one more, stress over one more thing–just stop.  Contemplate the mystery.  Contemplate the gift.

Jesus changed my life. Have you given much thought to where you would be without the gift of that baby in the straw?  Any eternal hope or joy or love you have–simply blown away like a Christmas Eve candle.

So spend today breathing in the mystery of the Incarnation. And exhale the weight of the world that you were never meant to bear. He is here. God is with us. That’s all that matters. Today and always.

All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said throughout he prophet, “The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel–which means, “God with us.” Matthew 1:22-23

Sunday Funday

Wow this was an action packed day!  I think the boys must be exhausted. I know I am.

IMG_7563We warned them that our church would be very different from their church. When we told them 1000 people, their eyes got really big.  I also told them that many people would want to meet them because they had been praying for them.  They were happy to hear that.  They had a chance to practice shaking hands and making eye contact and saying, “Nice to meet you. No English.”

After church we did something crazy. We got a new Christmas tree.  I don’t know what was wrong with the one we got Thanksgiving weekend, but all the needles were falling off in piles. It was either diseased or just a bad tree. Jeremy knows how much I love my Christmas tree, & so he determined last night that he was going to come up with a solution for me.

Twins and the two trees.

Twins and the two trees.

So today, we cut down another tree. Jeremy brought it in, strung it with new lights and we moved the ornaments over from one tree to another. While we were cleaning up the needles, The kids made delicious pretzel, Rolo, and M&M treats.  It was great to see the boys joining in to the fun in the kitchen. Of course the benefit of helping with treats is getting to be first taste-testers.

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Making sweet treats.

Then, we went to Babushka and Dadushka’s house for dinner.  We also warned them there would be nearly 30 people there in the family.  They were pretty surprised by that.  I can’t imagine what they think about it all.  To be without a family of their own and to see so many families gathering together must be painful. They seemed happy though.

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Marissa and V.

Thank goodness for children. They are so not self-conscious. They just dive into friendship with people with whom they cannot even speak. But they can smile, and laugh and play.

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Emily and O.

While at Grand Central (what we call Grandpa and Grandma’s house), the kids played Uno, and War, and shot some pool.  The boys gave tacos a try, but I’m pretty sure they filled up on the ice cream.

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Goofy cousins: Marissa, Stacey, Bri. Clearly the girls aren’t too shy!

When we got home, we played a quick game of High-Low.  O. said his highs were church and Uno. V. said his high was winning War.  O. said he has had no bad experiences so far.  V. said his low was when we left for church and forgot Marissa.  At least we only got about 5 blocks from home before we turned around!

The night is winding down. V is drifting off to sleep while O. and Jeremy carry on a Google Translate conversation about school and church and life back in their home country.  Thank you for your prayers as we continually desire to know how to best love these boys.

Big brother O. watching a game of pool with little V.

Big brother O. watching a game of pool with little V.

“Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” James 1:27

Room at Our Inn

photocred: dreamstime.com

At dinner one night in October, my husband announced that he wanted our family to do something radically generous this Christmas.  “That’s interesting,” I said, “I just got an email today that said the deadline for orphan hosting this winter is in a few days.”  Jeremy barely missed a beat, “Let’s do it.”

During Thanksgiving 2012, we first learned about a non-profit organization called New Horizons For Children.  NHFC arranges short-term hosting of orphans in American homes.  We’ve known for two years about the incredible blessing it is for these orphans to visit America and we’ve imagined what it would be like to participate in that kind of blessing. This year, we decided to go for it!

A bit about New Horizons according to their website:

  • NHFC is the largest, faith-based host program, facilitating orphan hosting nationwide. Since 2002, more than 3,500 orphans have been hosted through our ministry.

  • Without intervention, upon leaving the orphanage, 60% of girls will end up in prostitution, 70% of boys will be on the streets or in jail, and 15% will commit suicide within the first two years on their own.

The intervention New Horizons offers these orphans is at least three-fold:

  • Exposure to English is a great advantage for future educational and financial opportunity.
  • Observation of healthy family life to give the kids a framework for a better future family than the one they’ve known.
  • Possible introduction to a “forever family.”  Most host children are adoptable. Maybe by coming to America, they will meet a family who is ready to love them forever.

Any of these experiences are confidence-building and potentially life-changing for a child whose entire life exists within the confines of an orphanage.

There are several countries with whom New Horizons has a partnership to bring orphans to American host homes.  We chose a country in Eastern Europe.  It was heartbreaking to look through the photo listing and see so many in need of a loving home.  We finally decided on two brothers.

V. and O.

V. and O.

So, on December 17, 2014, we will welcome V. and O. to our home for four weeks.*

We are praying to be a blessing to these boys.  We are definitely expecting to be blessed by them.  We look forward to the joy that comes from sharing the love of Christ.  We are confident in receiving that joy because of Jesus’ own words as he describes the cyclical nature of joy and love:

“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command.” (John 15:9-14) 

Want joy?  Then love.  What kind of love?  The sacrificial, “I don’t really feel like doing this for you right now” kind of love.  The making lunches, doing laundry, comforting when sick kind of love.  The give up the last chocolate chip cookie in the jar kind of love. Simply the lay down your life for a friend love.  V. and O. don’t know they are our friends, yet. But I already love them like crazy, pray for them daily, and can not wait to lay eyes on them and wrap my arms around them.

If you feel inclined, please pray for our family on this journey.  We want to truly be the hands and feet of Christ in these young men’s lives.  We want to impact them so that they do not become a statistic.

And ask yourself, “Could I use some radical joy this Christmas season?”  If so, I challenge you to find some tangible way to sacrificially love someone.  It might be a stranger, it might be your spouse. Be creative. Be a blessing.

Glad tidings of comfort and joy to you and yours!

~Loretta

 

*The agency rules require that we do not publicly post the children’s names, ages, or country of origin.