It absolutely surprised me. I said good-bye to the last adopting family to live with us and suddenly was overcome with emotion. What is going on? I haven’t cried like this since the very first family left us two years ago!
On that morning, I sat in the hammock holding the infant boy who had taken up residence in my heart over the previous five months. His mom rushed around the house with last-minute packing as the clock counted down the minutes to their departure. This child and his mother, whom I love, will I ever see him again… this side of Heaven? I doubted it, and finally let the tears flow.
In between the first and the last lies a vast wealth of knowledge and understanding. These past years serving adopting families in Nicaragua has taken me back to school in so many ways. For one thing, I’ve learned to never say never! That first mother and child who lived with us even before we knew it was to become our job? Well, I was privileged to spend a few days with them last summer, at their home in Ohio. Of course the infant is now a toddler, and he has no recollection of me, but I know him. I know where he came from and how dearly his parents wanted and cherish him. I know the trauma of his birth and yet the beautiful way in which God redeemed that for His glory.
And I am so humbled and honored to play just a tiny part in his story.
It’s the same with the dozens of families we’ve known these past few years. We come from various different parts of the U.S., with sometimes widely opposing views on everything from religion and politics to child-rearing and sleep habits. We may disagree on how strong to brew the coffee, or whether kids should have chores, but we are thrown together based on the welfare of a child. And on that, we can absolutely agree.
I’ve often said this about so many of the adopting moms we’ve shared life with here: we wouldn’t have been friends in high school. I don’t mean that to be rude, but am just recognizing the fact that when we choose our friends as teens and young adults (and even beyond), we typically do so based on mutual interests and attractions. And we certainly only live with friends who share lots of compatible traits, right?
Yet for the past two-and-a-half years, we’ve shared a home with dozens of people who — a few days prior — were complete strangers. I have learned so much in this process, and consider these life lessons to be absolutely invaluable.
You want to know one of my biggest takeaways from this experience? We are often pretty terrible about choosing who we share our days with! We miss out on so much depth and beauty, so much life and experience, when we choose our friends like we’re selecting our reading material. We look at the covers, maybe skim the table of contents, and make a keep-or-throw-away decision within mere seconds. While that may be fine for choosing a book, it’s a sad way to decide who we surround ourselves with.
I had no idea what I was missing before I lived with strangers… before those strangers became family…
We move our family back to the U.S. in a few short weeks, which means we’ve hit the beginning of the end. It’s that point in any transition where you start marking the lasts. Over the weekend, my girls attended their last youth group here, my oldest playing in her school’s worship band one final time, and my youngest shared cupcakes at her last small group meeting. We held the last party at our home, and said good-bye to the final two adopting families to live with us, plus two more that shared our lives these past few months. My husband attended his final Men’s Retreat through our church, and we enjoyed our last Thanksgiving meal with the community we will cherish forever.
And this week will be our last spent living in the adoption care guesthouse we called home.
Three years ago we had no idea why God was bringing us to Nicaragua. We thought it was just for one year, and that maybe we’d learn a little about life abroad and how missionaries live and work. We figured we’d pay our dues without a climate-controlled house or certain modern conveniences, figuring out how to co-habitate with the “wild life” in the process.
But what we’ve gained is so much more than we could ever have imagined. We are forever changed, and forever in debt to Christ Jesus and all those who’ve joined us on this road.
To say thank you doesn’t even begin to express our feelings. But it’s a beginning…
Tonja Ihlenfeldt says
Words can’t say how much we appreciate you Wendy and your family. What a privilege it was to be able to share your home during our adoption stay. We are forever grateful! We wish you the best as you all transition back to US living. Btw, I think of you every time I go to Target and Costco!!!