First off, I'm so sorry! I had every intention of documenting our hosting experience day by day on the blog, but as you can see, I have failed miserably with that! Part of the delay in posting is that we have been very busy. The other part is that I am almost at a loss for words as to what to say. I want this (and all!) of my posts to be well written, but I am still processing so much about our time with Sintija that I doubt this one will qualify. Please bear with me if you are interested in an update!
We have enjoyed doing lots of fun things with Sintija. We have been swimming, hiking, spending time with friends, shopping, playing Uno, and visiting Opryland Hotel. It has been a blast! Sintija is such a fun and darling young lady. Of course, nothing is perfect and we have had a few brief moments of frustration (on both our parts!) but all in all we are having a great time!
Sintija has been with us now 15 days - we're getting close to the halfway point of hosting. It has been...I'm at a loss for words to describe our experience accurately! It has been...amazing, fun, painful, emotional, joyful, easy, humbling, heartbreaking, uplifting... Mark's word sums it up best - "changing". In training they remind us over and over again not to go into hosting with any expectations, and there is great wisdom in that advice. I could never have been prepared for what the last 15 days have been like. If I had had any inkling of the emotional roller coaster this sweet, funny, smart young lady would take us on, I imagine I would have chickened out altogether!
Let me see if I can explain it a little clearer this way.
Hosting has been...
Amazing: There have been so many moments of amazement! We are amazed to learn about her life in Latvia, and she is amazed when she recognizes SpongeBob or Harry Potter. Amazing was the first time she saw the waterfalls inside Opryland Hotel. Amazing was when she and I spoke for hours in broken English and Latvian (with the aid of a computer translation program here and there).
Fun: I was worried that our family's joking attitude would overwhelm whoever we hosted, but let me tell you - Sintija can hold her own in the Kimmel house! She is hilarious!!!! Absolutely hilarious! We laugh together almost all the time. She is very quick witted and has running jokes with each of us. We play some seriously cut throat Uno games, but they always end with everyone laughing. She is hysterically funny and fun to be around.
Painful: Loving someone unconditionally is difficult. Loving a total stranger unconditionally can be painful. Especially when you know deep down that she would probably rather be loved unconditionally by someone else. I was caught off guard by how open my heart would become, and an open heart gets wounded now and again.
Emotional: Like I said, hosting is an emotional roller coaster. Everyone in our house is working through a new experience, and at times it is pleasant, if not joyful, and at other times it is painful and sad. We all have laughed and cried and felt anger and spent a few moments hurting. I have been sad, overwhelmed, hopeful, jealous, sad, joyful, disappointed, and angry at one moment or another. Hosting Sintija has been one of the most emotionally difficult experiences I have had in years.
Joyful: This young lady spreads joy. She just does. She isn't perfect or fake, but she is vibrant and lively, and being with her and sharing experiences with her brings us such joy it is almost immeasurable! Such joy!
Easy: Now "easy" is not a word they ever used in training for this, but Mark and I both have been astonished at how easy it is to have Sintija in our house. She just fits. I had mentally prepared myself to have a guest in our home for five weeks, but she doesn't feel at all like company, but more like family. Again, she isn't perfect and she isn't always agreeable, but she is easy to have around.
Humbling: I always thought I had a pretty accurate view of Americans and our every day life, but I have been humbled by getting to know Sintija. You hear the concept of hosting orphaned children for the summer, and you automatically think of all the experiences you can bless them with. Let's face it - our life here isn't full of every day hardships. We have what we truly need and then some. I discovered in myself a hidden smugness that I didn't expect to find. This young lady comes from a foster family of limited resources, but she is rich in character. In so many ways, she has taught us, led us, inspired us. I thought hosting would broaden her "world view". I didn't realize it would shatter my own.
Heartbreaking: Heartbreaking is watching a brave young lady fight back tears of homesickness. Heartbreaking is seeing such fortitude and realizing what in her past may have cultivated that. Heartbreaking is acknowledging that we may never know what happens in her life after this summer. Heartbreaking is knowing that she is hurting or sad, but is unable to find the words to express it. Heartbreaking is accepting that I cannot meet all her needs the way my heart desires to. Heartbreaking is feeling precious days slip away.
Uplifting: So much about this experience has blessed my heart. It has not always been perfect. This is still real, every day life (except with a few more Latvian words throw about here and there!). But I feel so uplifted and encouraged, and I am not exactly sure what has produced that. I think it may be the little moments each day when I see glimpses of the "bigger" picture. We were given a Latvian New Testament for Sintija, and this morning after spending time listening to Jude read, I asked Sintija to read from John chapter 1 in Latvian. I don't think John 1 has ever sounded more beautiful, and I am reminded again that God is God and I don't have to be. God can love this precious young lady more thoroughly than I ever can, and that truth is uplifting to me! (And a relief as well, if I am being honest!)
I don't know if I will ever be able to find the words to describe what life has been like these last 15 days with Sintija. I keep coming back to the verse about Jesus' mother in Luke that says, "And Mary stored up all these things and pondered them in her heart". Storing up memories and pondering them in my heart may be all that I can do, and that may have to be enough for me.