By Guest Blogger Natalie Meeks
The October morning is balmy, the grass is soft and dewy, and I pace, bare footed. I’m flushed with fear and anxiety. I dial her number, and when our hosting coordinator answers, the question tumbles out before I can order my tongue to cease and desist. Our coordinator breathes reassurance and Gospel-words into my ear.
“Natalie, you can do what God calls you to do. You are not called to heal him. You are called to provide a safe place for him to heal.”
Knowing the truth of His calling doesn’t eliminate my fear of the unknown. Not for this weak-minded woman. We have five young children at home. My husband works relentless hours. My plate is full and my heart, ever so much more so. Where will I find room for an orphan who needs me to love him?
I agonize and I pray. I pray on bare knees in the early dark, while chauffeuring kids to and fro, while bouncing a baby girl on my hip. I pray.
And, as He ever will, God answers. We love because he first loved us. We commit to hosting.
November storms past in a fury and December marks herself boldly onto my calendar squares. And finally it is the day our host child arrives. The children are excited, nervous. We kiss the three youngest goodbye, and hurry to the airport to greet a child who has agreed to come to spend Christmas in America with an unknown family. A child whom we have chosen, but who has not chosen us; a child who has not been chosen by the very parents ordained to bear and raise him.
I am afraid. I pray.
The airport arrivals lounge is large and bright. White shines everywhere, the ceiling and floor scored geometrically by cheerful colored patterns. We have rushed all day, all month. Now, we wait.
The children begin to stream in and the excitement builds. Posters are raised, brightly proclaiming Eastern European names that I cannot pronounce and pasted with photos of beautiful children. We lift our poster high, with our gift of a soccer ball and snack at the ready, and we hold our breaths.
He arrives. I watch as he cautiously approaches. His hair is shorter than in his picture, he is taller than I imagined, and he is broken. Exhausted from 20 hours of travel, overwhelmed by the sight of this new family in a new country, speaking a foreign language. He buckles. His tears flow and my heart aches to comfort him. This little-big boy has walls that I don’t know how to climb and I pray. Lord, show me how to reach him. He bravely and obediently follows us out of the airport, into the big wide world of America, and we walk to the car to begin our two-hour drive home. I worry and I pray.
My oldest two children’s eyes watch wide as he climbs into the backseat. A new world has opened up to them and they are unsure how to respond. We cruise in the dark under the city lights and I relax as I see his eyes close, head leant against the window. Sleep. Yes, sleep child. You must be so tired. Then I hear the sound. Do all mothers know the sound? The peculiar cough… Oh please, Lord, please let it not be vomit…
God’s ways are not our own.
We pull to the side of the road and I dash into the back to assess and tend. He looks full at me for the first time. Helpless, his beautiful eyes are wide and desperate. My hands reach for his soiled fingers, and I plead unspoken if I may? He nods. I cradle his hands while I clean them, his face, his shirt. He relaxes into me. Walls crumble, and he accepts this meager mama-nursing effort as one that he can trust. And I pray. Lord, thank you for the vomit.
The irony does not escape me.
A month flies and this child-without-family becomes an integral part of our family in the most miraculous and mysterious of ways. Each smile, each laugh, each hug extend roots which lengthen and strengthen. Shy grins and giggles between children give way to trust and camaraderie and Gospel-brotherhood. We fall head over heals and he soaks it in. Daily, his smile grows wider and his chuckle comes more easily. He hugs and he loves and he joins in their silly pranks. He makes mistakes and he apologizes and he basks in childhood with all of the grace it offers. He melds into us, and we into him. And then, all too soon, he leaves. And we grieve. But most of all, we pray.
Is it possible to love a child too much? Of course the answer is a resounding no. Love multiplies and the Father who first loved us has filled our hearts so overflowing for one of His own: for an orphan who is fatherless, but never Fatherless. He, and we, all are loved by a God who is enough and who loves enough.
We don’t know what God’s plan is for our beloved host child. But we know that His plan is Love and it is Enough.
Interested in taking a leap of faith to host this summer? If you have not already signed up for the photolistings you can do so here and your regional coordinator will contact you to answer any questions you may have.
Natalie resides in South Carolina with her husband and five children. They are eagerly awaiting the return of their host child this summer.