We didn't know much about her, but we knew that her name was Daniela and that she was from Colombia. And that her previous home wasn't working out for her. I'd never actually considered hosting a foreign exchange student before, but somehow when the foreign exchange director called me one Tuesday to tell me about Daniela and to ask if we would be willing to take her in for the next six months, I listened to her story. And found myself ending the conversation with, "Well... It's not a no..."
Of course, I couldn't make a final decision then and there. For one, that's not my style; my style is to agonize first and weigh all the options and feel like I'm about to explode from the stress of it all. For two, I hadn't talked to Brian about it, so obviously that needed to be done. Time was of the essence, however, so Mary asked if she could start running the background checks 'just in case things worked out'.
Well. Sure, I guess. I don't see why not.
So while she started running the background checks I called Brian. "Hey, love..." I started. It hit me in that moment just how lucky I felt to have Brian be the husband on the other end of the line. Here I was, about to open up a conversation about something that would completely change the dynamic of our family and I had nothing but confidence that he would listen respectfully and open his heart to the option. "So, I just had a really interesting conversation... How would you feel about hosting a foreign exchange daughter? Like, starting next week? ..."
We had a lot to talk about.
For one, I have five other children, one of whom is a baby. And if we're being honest here, I didn't feel like I had very much of myself left over to give. But even from the very first conversation, I somehow knew (and Brian did, too) that the end decision was going to be 'yes' and we just needed to work through all the details and convince ourselves of it. Thankfully, the foreign exchange director, Mary, knew Daniela personally as Daniela had been spending a lot of time at her house since things weren't going well at the current host family's house. I made it very clear to Mary that I wasn't going to be able to give much, that Daniela was going to have to share my time and attention with five other children, and that if she was going to come to our home I needed to be sure that she wasn't going to be high maintenance. I needed to know that she could be responsible for getting herself to the places she needed to be, and that she wouldn't push too many boundaries. Mary reassured me over and over and over again, "Lindsay," she would say, "Daniela is absolutely wonderful. Sweet, quiet, obedient, you will love her."
So within a week it was all arranged and Daniela was on her way to our house.
The children (you can see from the picture above) were filled with only excitement, and while they stood there with their noses pressed up against the glass, I paced the floors behind them, nervous and praying that I would be able to be enough for this new daughter coming into our home.
And then she came.
She walked through the front door with a smile and hugs and gratitude for taking her in. She laughed easily and when I looked into her eyes I felt like I could see straight into her heart. No walls. No barriers. Just love. And I knew from that moment that we were all going to be just fine and that Daniela would become a true daughter and a friend.
2. Plus, she gave us presents.
These bracelets are all the way from Columbia - and she had one for each of us. I don't even think she realized that she was wrapping us up with a little bit of that love.
3. Sometimes church feels like a crumpled up, ripped up, colored up, piece of paper.
But we still go. Because we believe the Lord when he says he blesses those who 'endure to the end'.
4. With so many siblings around, this little lady has the world figured out.
It's all about protecting the head and keeping the smiles.
5. Almost every picture I take of her these days has that tongue making a special appearance.
And I couldn't be more delighted about it. She's a heart winner, this one.
6. I don't even care if the children color on themselves during church anymore.
Just look at all of that letter practice going on all over that hand! Plus, it kept him super quiet for a while because he felt like he was 'getting away' with something. Score.
7. Also, I don't care what the children eat for breakfast anymore, apparently.
Paper towel rolls seem to be below my breakfast standards still, but judging from the amount of saliva all over that thing I'd say you'd have a pretty good argument against me.
Eventually she decided to get on with her day and explore the rest of
And I'll tell you, every time she crawls past me I get a big sappy smile all over my face.
8. It's pomegranate time!
Our tree gave us a bunch of pomegranates again this season, and this year we got to teach Daniela the art of gathering the seeds from them. It's not easy, you know... nothing about the pomegranates seem easy, actually. It's difficult to know when to pick the things, first of all. Sometime in the window of After They're Ripe Enough and Before They're Eaten by Birds.
And then once you pick them, they're a little possessive of their seeds and need some time and effort and coaxing to get them out. But once you do, the explosive taste of those seeds is worth it all.