Love Works

Love Works

One on the trickiest things I had to navigate when I became a host mom was how to treat my host daughter. I had planned and prepared for weeks before she came for winter hosting–praying for her, thinking about her, wondering what kind of person she was. And when she finally arrived and we had this beautiful, sweet girl depending on us …I was at a loss of how to act!

At first we all rather awkwardly treated her as a guest. She was a stranger, after all. But I knew I had to lay aside my own feelings of awkwardness and insecurity and be willing to take a risk to show M love. I enrolled in a crash course on “Love is a Choice 101.” Although marriage and motherhood had taught me a few lessons, I needed the remedial course on showing love to others even if I didn’t necessarily feel love.

My children know I love them because I tell them I love them. They know I love them because I make them breakfast, dispense band-aids, cheer on their accomplishments, kiss them goodnight, read to them, exclaim over their creations, buy them clothes (wash their clothes, fold their clothes, put away their clothes, pick up their clothes…). They have years of deposits in their love account; they feel safe and secure that I have their best interests at heart and would do anything for them.

When M came into our home, she was already half-way grown up. But she hadn’t had tender mama love for years. And while she put up a good front at first and appeared to be very strong and mature and self-sufficient, the more love I was willing to show her, the more needy and child-like and dependent she became.

Karyn Purvis, a Christian therapist and expert on attachment says:

When we bring [into our] home a child whose needs were not met early on, we need to treat that child like a newborn in a way, even if he or she is 8 years old. We need to give the child many, many yeses in order to build trust and teach the child that he has a voice in this new relationship. Problem is, it’s easy to say yes to an infant, and harder to say yes to an 8 year old who is testing boundaries. [emphasis added]

This summer, we knew M, we knew what she liked and disliked, and we knew that her emotional age does not match her chronological age. Realizing that made it easier for me to be a host mom–because I could meet M where she was and unreservedly pour love into her.

Loving M this summer looked like this:

  • living in my swimming suit
  • buying four multi-packs of ramen (her favorite food)
  • allowing her to experiment in the kitchen, re-creating recipes from her home country
  • staying up late playing games because she was jet-lagged
  • staying up late talking because “M is never tired!”
  • visiting the Dollar Store more times than I care to remember
  • going ice skating in July
  • leaving a lamp on in her room all night long
  • listening to Justin Bieber
  • slipping encouraging notes under her door while she was still sleeping
  • A note from M--love works!

    A note from M–love works!

  • waking up early to go for a “run” (we only did this twice–it was her idea, but neither of us are morning people!)
  • watching movies with the subtitles on
  • doing extra grocery shopping for her insatiable appetite
  • answering the 1,000th “LIN-zeee!” for the day with a smile
  • giving her free reign with my shoes (the only clothing item of mine that fit her!)
  • sitting in the VERY back row in the stadium seating at church so she could take pictures of the service
  • throwing an American birthday party (during the month where we have three family birthdays already)
  • holding a great, big girl on my lap and telling her she is beautiful

I didn’t always want to do these things. I can’t pretend that I always joyfully jumped into the pool each day or relished making ramen for lunch–again–but I made a choice to do these things through God’s grace out of love for M. Because I understand now that love is a choice. I don’t always feel like washing the dishes or reading that bedtime story or pushing my littles on the swing, but I do it because I love them. Love goes beyond feelings and moves into action. Love changed M from a girl wearing a mask of shyness and insecurity into a girl full of life and laughter.

And loving M changed me.

Love never gives up.

Love cares more for others than for self.
Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have.

Love doesn’t strut,
Doesn’t have a swelled head,
Doesn’t force itself on others,
Isn’t always “me first,”
Doesn’t fly off the handle,
Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others,
Doesn’t revel when others grovel,
Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth,

Puts up with anything,
Trusts God always,
Always looks for the best,

Never looks back,
But keeps going to the end.