In the last month since Ioana has been with us in our home it has changed the dynamics of how we live. We normally stay busy as a family but we are very laid back. Having a business that I run out of my home allows me flexibility which I’ve come to enjoy. The biggest change that Pam and I have noticed is that every day is a full day. I coordinate Ioana’s schedule during the day and when Pam comes home in the evening she takes over. One night as we prepared to go to bed at the end of the day Pam said to me, “I just spent the last seven hours with Ioana.” I had to stop and think about that for a while. She did this after she had been at work all day. And it was nothing more than an observation from Pam; no regret or no judgment came with it, she was merely reflecting at the end of the day.
For our family this commitment is temporary. We are already two months into Ioana’s six month visit to America. But on the days when I am tired, impatient and beginning to wear thin I always think of two very dear friends of mine, Randy and Sue Jessen. Randy and Sue adopted Ana, their daughter, from Romania in the 90’s. She was HIV positive and they didn’t know what the future held for Ana. But now Ana is in her 20’s and is a living miracle. She is an amazing young lady. But I know that Randy and Sue have poured out their hearts in caring and loving her and I’m amazed at how they must do it. Randy wrote a book about Ana called Ana’s Voice. It is an inspirational read about Ana’s journey and I highly recommend it.
I think about all of the parents in the world that have children with special needs and the love they put into caring for their children day in and day out. I’m not sure I could do it. To be honest, I’m pretty selfish and like my time for myself, which presents my biggest challenge in meeting the needs of Ioana on a daily basis.
I’ve mentioned before that it has been our intention to involve a community of people that help Ioana and are part of this journey while she is here. I am so thankful for that community and especially this week, the week before Christmas, when I have clients, Ben has finals at high school and Pam is winding up teaching before the Christmas holiday.
Yesterday, Wendy took two and a half hours out of her day to take Ioana to Aurora for her physical therapy appointment. Today, Jacci will drive forty-five minutes from south Denver to take Ioana to physical therapy for a one hour appointment. At noon, Theresa will come by to pick Ioana up and take her to ESL classes. Tomorrow, just before 11:00 Liz will drop Ioana off at Jesus Pizza, and at 1:30, Bill will take Ioana from there to Aurora for therapy but he likely won’t be back until after 4:30 because at that time of the day traffic is horrible. Thursday, John will take Ioana to therapy, stay with her and then drop her off at ESL so that she can enjoy their Christmas party. My son Ben will bring Ioana back from ESL two days this week. Another friend, Sherry will pick Ioana up during an evening this week because Ioana loves spending time with Sherry. On Friday afternoons, Karen meets Ioana at the Rec Center to help her with pool therapy.
Two things are significant about the previous long paragraph. One is that there is no way that our family could handle this venture without God providing us with incredible energy and without the support and love of people that want to help an orphan from Romania.
The second thing is how all of this makes Ioana feel. Many have commented about how courageous Ioana is being here in a foreign country away from her family. And while Ioana is certainly courageous she has shared with me the secret of how she is so comfortable in a foreign land, learning a second language and going through exhaustive physical therapy every day.
“Tata Matt” she tells me, “I can’t believe how much I am loved by everyone here. I can feel their love for me and how genuinely excited they are to see me when we meet. This is so encouraging for me and gets me through the difficult days. I can feel my confidence growing.” The secret for Ioana is simple. It is love.
In recent days our world has been overwhelmed by tragic events that have brought sadness to so many. But in my heart and in looking back over my life I can see that love is far greater and holds far more significance than that which does not come from love. Now is not a time to be afraid. Now is a time to let love flow abundantly because we all need to feel what Ioana is feeling; we need to know it is okay to love, it is okay to give a hug and it is okay to be nurtured.