A year ago this week we drove to the airport with a painted sign and purple flowers to pick up our exchange student Daisy. We laughed at how little we knew about her. We knew she was 16, where she was from, that she liked purple, and played the piano. That's about it. People thought we were nutty. We were. Family told us we were too busy. We were. Friends told us we were taking on too much. We were, and we're so glad we did.
Hosting Daisy taught our family not only the generic things one learns when living with people from another country, but also unexpected things.
We learned that we have a lot of love to giveOne of the biggest lessons we learned is that we are a good family, and we have a lot of love around here. Now don't get me wrong, we're not perfect, and Daisy could tell you some stories, but I know that she would tell you that we love one another, and that we loved her well. Emily freely shares love in words, and hugs. Daisy didn't arrive here a hugger, but Emily broke her. Emily was hugging Daisy for the 27th time one day and I over heard Daisy say, "Emily stop hugging me." Emily replied, "But I REALLY love you." Daisy answered, "Emily I REALLY love you too, but we hugged enough today." Emily broke Daisy and by the end of the year she would cuddle on the couch with both of the girls and tell us she loved us. I hope Emily always overwhelms the people around her with love, and that practice rubs off on Pete, Sarah and I.
We learned that hard things are the good thingsThere is an American middle-class obsession with avoiding hard things. For Christians, it is a very twisted obsession. We say we follow the God who gave us literally everything, but we worship ourselves. It's hard to host an exchange student. Everything our friends and family warned us about was true. But hard things are not bad things. Emily sat on a folding chair at meals every day for a year because we only have four kitchen chairs. Sarah's bedroom became the guest room and she slept on the couch when people visited. Pete and I gave up countless evening and weekends tutoring Daisy on biology, history, and literature. For a year we gave up all our time together as a family of four. Frankly there were times when it was hard, and we did these things with bitterness and a lack of joy, but over the course of a year God broke us. When I would feel frustrated that Daisy never said thank you, God would whisper, "when was the last time you told me thank you?" When the girls complained about sharing, God would weave a teaching moment into our devotions or their school bible curriculum. He was constantly present teaching us that the little hard things, are actually good things, because that's how we follow Him.
We learned love will break your heart
When we agreed to host Daisy, we agreed to the unusual agreement of hosting her for four years. Knowing she would be with us for that long, our family dove into relationships with Daisy that I think may have been stronger and deeper than if we had thought she was only staying one year. She very much became part of our family. Unfortunately Daisy's plans changed and she'll start the next chapter that God has planned for her in a different city. Daisy's departure hurt. It hurt my girls to loose the piece of their hearts that they had given her. Sarah is still missing Daisy fiercely. She lost a best friend and there's a hole. But I know her heart is big, and she knows the source of all love is her Savior, so He'll fill in that hole and her heart will be bigger for it.
We are not hosting Daisy this year but our eyes are open to these lessons we have learned, and we'll be watching for people to love on, good hard things to pursue, and ways to give away pieces of our hearts that God has filled so greatly with His Love.