We weren’t planning on hosting a child again so soon.
Our month with DJ, the 10-year-old superhero-in-waiting we hosted over the summer, was truly a milestone in our family’s lives. He wrecked our hearts and opened our eyes, and all of us decided hosting was something we absolutely wanted to do as a family once a year.
We just thought we’d WAIT a year before doing it again.
Until the email arrived in my box.
The last week DJ was in our home, the Great Wall orphan hosting coordinator, who, after 1.2 million email exchanges and a whole lotta saint-like patience for our crew of crazy, I now just call “friend,” emailed me. She was in China interviewing children for the winter hosting program, and seconds before, she had met a little boy who reminded her SO MUCH of OUR third superhero that she couldn’t wait until she returned to the United States to email me.
“I don’t know what your plans are,” she said. “But this little boy will be a winter host kiddo.”
It took all of one second to open this angel’s photo and fall in love with the smile that was nearly a CARBON COPY of the smile of Superhero 3. This little angel had similar orthopedic needs to Superhero 3’s, and he had the same vibrant spirit and the same full-of-life eyes. My mind started racing with all the occupational therapy exercises we could do with him and all the ways we could meet his needs with the knowledge we had from multiple surgeries with a son with similar conditions ... and how we could pass that information along to a forever family.
I loved him instantly, and I knew I wanted to be the one to help this superhero find that forever family.
So right there, in that moment, I devised my evil scheme to convince my entire family that we should host this WINTER, too, even if that would only give us four months between host kiddos.
After all of us recovered from the gut-wrenching experience that was saying goodbye to DJ in August, we held a family meeting where Super-Spouse, who was fully on board the winter hosting train but wanted to leave the decision up to the boys, and I brought up the idea of winter hosting.
Even though we explained that, if we hosted a child over Christmas, we would host in lieu of gifts, in lieu of exchanges, in lieu of travel, in lieu of anything PRESENTS, all three kids jumped at the opportunity without hesitation and cheered at the idea of having another kiddo in our home for Christmas.
Then they asked who we would host.
We hosted DJ only because we received an urgent email from the agency we used to adopt Superhero 3 the night before the hosting deadline letting us know that this sweet 10-year-old boy would not be able to come to the United States to be advocated for if a family didn’t sign up to host him. Within 24 hours.
God spoke. We were moved. We signed up to host him the next day.
But we had never “chosen” a host child. He had found US.
Kind of the same way this little boy had found us now.
Armed and ready with the most adorable photos you have ever seen of this 3-year-old boy I had already signed up to host in my head, I shared the photos of Superman’s mini-me with our superheroes.
Superhero 1, the child who shows no emotion, smiled and said, “Oh yes, let’s host him!”
Superhero 3, who saw himself and a mirror image of his four-fingered hand in this precious boy, cried, “Yes! Yes! Yes!” Then added, “And I be OLDER! I be the BIG brother! Please, please, please!”
Then Superhero 2 looked at this young boy’s file.
“Awww, he looks just like Superhero 3!” he said. And then he stopped. And I knew from my prior experiences with my superhero with the heart three times the size of his body that something important was coming.
“But Mom, he’s young and he’s cute. And even though he has medical needs, he has a lot of time left to find a family. What about the older kids on the hosting list? They’re about to age out. They aren’t adopted as easily. They really need a host family to advocate for them more.”
Super-Spouse’s eyes met mine. We both stopped. And the convicting silence said it all.
“I think we should try to host the oldest child possible,” he said.
In that precious moment of wisdom and compassion and selflessness (which, let’s just be real, was followed almost immediately by name calling and pressure pointing — so let’s not paint too rosy of a picture here), Super-Spouse and I understood something for the very first time:
Although we had prayed for months to help change DJ’S story, it was actually DJ who changed OUR STORY.
This story of hosting. This story of advocating. This story that, left in our hands, would have included chapters of occasionally sharing pictures on Facebook of “some children” who needed “some homes.” That would have involved only conveniently timed summer hosting experiences when we could travel to the beach and to the lake and save up for the hosting costs and not sacrifice our first Christmas all together in two years. That would have been some “nice thing” our kids “did” once a year to “serve others.” That would have overlooked the oldest kids in the system. That would have been more about US than about a CHILD.
But DJ, thank God, wrecked us. He dismantled our thought patterns. He CHANGED US. And he changed our entire family’s perspective. So that now, these superheroes in our home aren’t asking what they can GET for Christmas … they’re now asking which kiddos we can GIVE TO this Christmas. Even though they know hosting is hard. Even though they know there will be days when their snacks will be stolen and their Lego structures will be destroyed. When they’ll have to deal with language barriers and cultural barriers and just plain sharing barriers with kiddos who are older than them and bigger than them. That there will be days where hosting isn’t exactly one big sleepover but rather a party where, for the first entire week, no one on a different time zone SLEEPS.
And yet, this experience with DJ, this month with an orphan in their home, changed their perspective. Changed their hearts. Changed their lives. So that NOW, THIS is what they believe has value. THIS is what they want to invest in. THIS is what they want to do for Christmas. And this is how they want us to spend our family’s money. Not on the vacation we had tentatively planned to see dear friends on a tropical island. But instead to host children in their home and give THOSE children a CHRISTMAS for the very first time — all at the expense of their own.
THIS is the unexpected and added blessing of hosting. The ability of hosting to not just change the lives and STORIES of precious, deserving superheroes-in-waiting, but the lives and perspectives of ENTIRE FAMILIES.
We can’t wrap that in neat bows under the Christmas tree.
So on that night, following our family meeting, prayer and some serious post-meeting financial planning, I emailed my hosting coordinator friend to request the paperwork to host not just one, but the TWO oldest girls (I know — this selection of humans with no penises shocked me, too) available for winter hosting — 10- and 11-year-old best friends the boys had stumbled upon and wanted to advocate for as a family.
That’s when she wrote back with the hashtag #DJChangesYourStory and proceeded to tell me that sadly, one of the two girls already had a host family. But The Doctor, the nearly 12-year-old girl who was interested in medicine and who Super-Spouse was excited to take behind the scenes at the hospital, was still available ... as was the little man Superhero 3 had already declared was his “host didi” (little brother).
We signed the hosting contract to move forward with both.
We would host an older child to advocate urgently for, and we would host a younger child with needs we had specialists to evaluate who Superhero 3 could love on and identify with and care for as a “big” for once.
That was our new sparkly Christmas plan. One older girl, one younger boy, a family of seven on Christmas morning.
I repeat, OUR plan.
We all know how “our” plans turn out.
Monday afternoon, shortly after I had finished drafting my blog post announcing these two superheroes coming to our home, this same hosting coordinator I love so much called me … to tell me that there was an unforeseen issue with this sweet girl’s file, and she would now not be able to come for hosting.
For a moment, I had some DJ de-ja-vu. This amazing hosting coordinator, who is always five steps ahead of the game and stays calm and collected in every curveball and stressful situation (something I do not do well and admire in her more than she will ever know), was also the one who called me the night that DJ was hospitalized and missed his plane from China. And here, another child I had already begun writing about and praying for and preparing for and falling in love with was again, on account of circumstances way beyond either of our control, unable to come.
A moment of loss fell over me — for this sweet little girl, for her situation and for her future forever family. And selfishly, for our boys, who were so excited to bring her into our home.
And then I remembered what DJ’s delay taught me:
God’s plan is always better.
Had DJ not been delayed a month, he wouldn’t have met HIS forever family at an airport in Chicago on his way back to China. Because during the first hosting session, his forever family was out of the country.
God’s timing was perfect. His plans were greater than ours.
And we knew that, though we didn’t understand it, though our family’s desire was to advocate for this beautiful young lady, who my mom had already begun sewing Christmas dresses in her head for, His plans were greater than ours now. And that just because she wasn't PHYSICALLY coming didn't mean we couldn't serve her from a different continent in some meaningful way. (Stay tuned — this mama is now on a mission.)
I shared the news with the boys, who were understandably disappointed and began discussing if we should host a different child in this girl’s place. And a few minutes later, Superhero 2 came and knocked on the door of the bathroom, where I was taking a minute to just reflect and breathe … and attempt to go potty in peace. (This does not happen in a boy house, or in a kid house, or in a house without humans who believe in locked doors.)
“It’s important, Mom,” he said, when I asked if he could please just wait one moment.
“I just want you to know that I think we are just supposed to focus on this little boy alone. And I want you to know I’m okay with that.”
And then my heart melted.
I emailed Super-Spouse, who was not present, and waited for his response.
After praying and discussing as a family, we felt like God kept putting this little boy on our plates. In our laps. On our hearts.
His picture landed in our email box when we hadn’t even planned on hosting again this year.
We were smitten and yet moved forward with two other children instead.
We tried to host two older girls.
One girl was already taken.
We tried to host this little boy and one older girl.
The older girl became unavailable.
Every time we moved forward with another plan, another option, it seemed God stripped our hosting to this one sweet little boy.
And that’s exactly what all three boys said when we asked them what they now wanted to do.
So, after a roller coaster run, we are not hosting two older girls, and we are not hosting one older girl and one younger boy. Even with our superheroes’ hearts for older children, God has, for one reason or another, made it clear that THIS is the child who is to be in our home this particular winter.
We are hosting one precious 3-year-old winter superhero.
And we’re going to pour all our hearts and our energy and our time and Christ’s love into HIM and trust God’s plans for this superhero’s life.
And just as DJ changed OUR story, I’m praying already for the family who is about to have THEIR story changed forever. <3
Because when a host child captures your heart, it is never, ever the same. He changes your faith. He changes your heart. He changes YOUR STORY.
Want to meet this sweet superhero? Join me HERE on the blog or on the blog Facebook page at 5:30 a.m. EST Friday. <3 YOU can help change the orphan story for one superhero this Christmas. <3