The Spiritual and Missional Aspects of Adoption/Foster Care

*This is an excerpt from How to Have Peace When Your Kids are in Chaos for Adoptive/Foster Parents by Kathleen Guire

A few months ago, I wrote an article titled “What If We Treated Foster/Adoptive Parents as Missionaries?” I got lots of flack from non-Christians (which is understandable, to an extent), but I was shocked to also get some negative comments from Christians. So I started asking adoptive/foster parents what they thought about the subject. Then I took it a step further and created a survey that asked all the questions I was curious about. I shared it with my adoption/foster care support group, and several friends did the same. I’ll be sharing the results throughout this article along with some of the feedback via quotes.

Your Home as a Mission Field

Before I began the season of homeschooling in my life, I hadn’t thought of my home as my mission field or considered the far-reaching implications of family to the third and fourth generation. I pretty much thought about whatever seemed to be going on at the moment or what the church was putting on the calendar that I needed to attend to. 

When Jerry and I were married, we were just getting our sea legs when it came to Christianity. We were both sorting through the theology and doctrines handed to us by our parents. (You can read the whole scoop in A Positive Adoption Story.) I had a general sort of doctrine — don’t get divorced, don’t commit adultery, go to church regularly.  My beliefs about family were muddled somewhere in the middle of all that, but I had taken my cues mostly from the culture around me. These are just a few of the assumptions I picked up:

  • Having children is a choice and sometimes (even in the church) viewed as an impediment to true ministry. 
  • Ministry happens at the church, out in the community, or in some third-world country. 
  • If you have children, you can’t (or shouldn’t) bring them along to things that are holy or have the word “ministry” attached to them. You farm them out or wait until they are grown before you do anything of real value. 

I followed the church culture like it was the Pied Piper of Hamelin. I filled my schedule with church ministry activities and shooed my kids out of the way. I needed to do holy work, and they were obstacles to that — until Denny Kenaston planted a seed in that set of tapes, A Godly Home. That seed grew into the vague, unsettling idea that I was growing the wrong sort of ministry. In response, I began researching other authors, listening to other teachers, reading the Bible, and questioning everything I knew about family. 

Although I’m the type of person who likes systems, facts, and formulas, I have learned the hard way that without a foundation, these things aren’t effective. I was that way with family. I thought if someone could just give me the general formula — stay married, don’t commit adultery, feed the kids, etc. — then everything would be alright. But the how alone doesn’t work. There has to be a why. The Bible puts it this way: “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge” (Hosea 4:6). Families are destroyed because we don’t fully understand their importance. 

The Stay-at-Home Missionary

I sat on a comfy couch in the Chi Alpha room at Trinity. The smell of rich, brewed coffee permeated the air as the Keurig hissed for the tenth time. Women filed over and filled couches, chairs, and the floor. Soon, coffees were abandoned on end tables in favor of pillows to hug. Women cried as they poured out their woes, insecurities, and failings. This wasn’t a group therapy session. It was a Mom’s Tea I led every Friday at our homeschool co-op, THESIS. These women were my friends. 

The overarching theme was “I’m just a mom.” Some of these women had left nursing, accounting, teaching (in a public school), and other careers outside the home. The message culture was hissing at them was toxic: “The job you are doing is not important.” 

And we were not alone in that belief. As I mentioned earlier, only 56.9% of people I surveyed said they think of family as a mission or ministry. Meanwhile, 25.9% said family is not a ministry or mission, and 17.2% said maybe. I shouldn’t be surprised at the results, but I was!

But this idea of family not being a ministry couldn’t be further from the truth. The acts of raising, teaching, praying for, and attaching to our children are among the most important things we will ever do. Moms are stay-at-home missionaries. One survey-taker noted: “I believe God created our family to be together to minister to other families and our community — both with our own gifts and with our experiences. Plus, as a mom, raising my kids to know God is my greatest ministry.”

I agree. That’s why I love the movie Marley and Me. Jen, who has decided to leave her career as a journalist and stay home to raise her kiddos, says something like, “No one told me it would be this hard.”  Her husband John agrees and gives her an out, saying she can go back to work, but she won’t bite. She wants to raise her own children. 

Jen alluded to the fact that her career outside the home was easier than raising kids. I cry every time I watch that scene because it resonates with me so much. It’s as if the culture tells us women that we bring no value to the world if we “just stay home.” The world wants us to raise children who are well-rounded, emotionally stable, educated, and contributing members of society — but often looks down on those who leave a career outside the home to focus on that responsibility. 

Our society is full of therapies, counselors, and facilities designed to help people heal from childhood trauma and its long-term effects. We have an army of women willing to stay at home and raise kiddos so they don’t have trauma or help them heal from past trauma, and the voice they hear is, “You aren’t worth. You aren’t doing anything of value.” In Parenting is Your Highest Calling and 8 Other Myths that Keep us Trapped in Guilt and Worry, Leslie Leyland Fields shares:

“The intense spotlight on the home comes to us at this point in our history for good reason. All of us know, the traditional family is under serious attack. Family units now include same sex couples and three parent families in which children’s needs are sometimes less important than the rights and whims of adults. Child abuse is rising so fast that it is described as an epidemic by the Child Welfare League of America. As families fracture and states scramble to fill the gap, more and more children are entering foster care. Against the backdrop of such moral fragmentation, surely we can assert that our highest call is our families!”

Leslie goes on to say our highest calling is to “love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind” (Luke 10:27). While I wholeheartedly agree with her, we cannot overstate how important raising your family is. This mission is a big part of our highest calling. I point this out because the feminist pendulum has swung so far to the left that it can actually damage and divide women. It often leaves the impression that being a stay-at-home mom is an second-class, almost subhuman role.

Foster Care as a Ministry or Mission

Out of the families surveyed:

  • 70.7% said that yes, foster care/adoption is a ministry.
  • 17.2% said no.
  • 12.1% said maybe.

If your family is a mission, isn’t it a natural progression that foster/care and adoption is? If we categorize being a mom as a mission, why wouldn’t we include foster care and adoption? 

Let’s be clear: We don’t adopt or foster to create a ministry. We don’t have children to create a ministry, either. God puts us in ministry. Often, we’re not even aware of it until we look back and see His handiwork. Our job isn’t to create a ministry; our job is to be obedient. Ministry exists in every area of our lives when we are obedient to Christ.

Ministry draws us closer to God. When we walk in obedience, our relationship with Jesus is fuller, more dependent, and more intertwined. Our relationships are affected and enhanced. That is true ministry. It’s not a plaque on the wall or a saying on a tee shirt — it’s relationship. Through our relationship with Christ, we become new creatures. Our old habits and ways have passed away, and we live with His light shining through us. That is the ministry we engage in and that the world longs to see. This sort of ministry isn’t planned in your Google calendar or written into a mission statement. It’s found in your everyday life with Christ, led by the Holy Spirit. 

As foster or adoptive parents, our home is a long-term (forever) mission base. We bring these kids who have been discarded by the culture, hurt by their parents, and harmed by trauma into our homes. There is rarely a respite.

I talked to Elizabeth King, a full-time missionary with twenty-two years under her belt. When she and her husband were presented with the opportunity to adopt two girls, they said, “More ministry? Yes!” They were up for it. Hadn’t they been practicing this for years? She says:

“But we were not really ready for the total onslaught of doing ministry right from the very core of who we were. Always before we had ministered outside of our home or had temporary visitors in our home. Our residence was a place of refuge from the rigors of ministry. But now, by accepting these broken girls into our lives – there was nowhere left to retreat to. Nowhere to relax. No escape from the desperate needs and destructive behaviors of the two hurting souls. We found that all our weaknesses, which we could hide pretty well in the course of normal ministry, were now staring us in the face every day.”

Rachel Judd, another adoptive parent, said this:

“I didn’t have that mentality when we started adopting, but when we brought home two from Ethiopia from traumatic backgrounds, my views shifted. I could no longer be involved in certain things as I needed to keep my focus on these children and the rest of our family. I knew our family was different from most and people didn’t understand. I didn’t even have the energy to help with VBS most years or simple volunteer work at church. I was burned out. I had to shift my thinking and see that we were parents and caretakers to some very traumatized children and that one day our season would be different.”

Another said: 

“I believe anytime that you walk with the Lord in your calling, it is a ministry. Google defines ministry as ‘the spiritual work or service of any Christian.’ Foster care and adoption is a beautiful display of bringing one into the home and trusting the Lord with the process.”

Of course, I would be remiss if I didn’t include some of the opposition: 

“No, it is not for us, and it irks me when I hear it referred to as such by other foster parents. With all the faith-based agencies I see that for the majority of foster parents it is a ministry. I feel like calling it a ministry or mission makes it less about the children and more about the foster parents’ religious commitment. Calling it a mission sounds like it’s an obligation and the foster parents are checking off a box to ‘get into heaven.’”

I kind of get her point. I might agree if I were only fostering/adopting to have a mission. Like I said earlier, it was in hindsight that I saw it as a mission. I didn’t set out to adopt so I could have a mission. I became a Christian, and then everything became a mission, because as the Word says, “Whatever you do [whatever your task may be], work from the soul [that is, put in your very best effort], as [something done] for the Lord and not for men” (Colossians 3:23).

I love what Rich Mullins said in an interview with 20 The Countdown Magazine: “A spiritual thing is folding your clothes at the end of the day. A spiritual thing is making your bed. A spiritual thing is taking cookies to your neighbor that is shut in or raking their front lawn because they are too old to do it. That is spirituality.”

Whatever we do for God and others is ministry, whether it is making peanut butter sandwiches, reading a Magic School Bus book to a child, singing a nursery rhyme with a toddler, cleaning up the kitchen, or adopting an orphan. It’s all ministry. 

To address the last point of the survey-taker, I would add that Christians don’t earn their way into heaven. The only way to heaven is through Jesus — it’s by grace alone that we are saved. No ministry work we do will secure a place in heaven.  

And as far as it not being about the child, raising a child is about the child. It has to be, because anything else is unsustainable. Fostering or adopting can’t be about some lofty ideal, checking something off your to-do list, or making yourself feel good or important. None of those motivations will survive the everyday realities of parenting kids from hard places. I can’t imagine telling my kiddos — as I serve up the third batch of chocolate chip pancakes on a Saturday morning before spending the rest of the day at swim meets, birthday parties, or whatever else they have on the agenda — that it isn’t about them. Raising children is about children. There’s no other way around it unless you are the worst-case scenario in the system: an abuser, neglecter, child molester, or pedophile. 

One survey respondent summed it up well: “The Bible says religion that is pure is caring for the orphans. Children in foster care are modern day orphans [with] parents that are absent in their lives. Providing a safe and loving home for these kids to enjoy their childhood with their basic needs (and beyond) met is fulfilling Scripture!”

Want to hear more about the Spiritual and missional Aspects of Adoption?

Listen to the podcast interview with Sandra Flach of Orphans No More Podcast.


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Defining Family Book Release and a Giftaway of Defining Home

“In Defining Home, Kathleen Guire compassionately conveys the story of Adelina, a Polish orphan waiting for adoption. It delves into the world of sex trafficking in a way that will make your heart grieve and yearn for justice. A page turner, I read it in one sitting because I could not put it down.”- Jessica Batten (Marion County Public Library)

 

“I found this an extraordinary novel in which the plot and the psyche of the narrator are completely meshed with no false steps and no veering off he the scene or the plot, both of which are delivered with fully professional control and focus.. The use of “definitions,” quotations of great poetry, the character of the professor, the tie-in of child sex trafficking with the hideout from the Nazis in the zoo–all contribute to a great vision of good and evil. The history and character of Poland and the Polish soul are there but do not seem to be separate or “scenery”. I recommend this book for anyone at any level and especially for young adults with parents reading over their shoulders. Bravo!”- Dr. Kenton Craven

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Maybe you didn’t know I wrote a novel and here I am releasing the sequel, Defining Family. Truth is, I’m just learning about marketing. It’s scary to put myself out there. I can get behind this book and the next because it speaks to something I am passionate about- ending human trafficking.You probably can’t get many teens to read a handbook on human trafficking, so, I wrote a novel- make that two. Read the first chapter of Defining Home here. If you want to know what a few teens think about Defining Home, you can listen to our podcast on the subject.

Episode 32

On to the giftaway! I’m giving away five Kindle copies of Defining Home this week, one each week day.

How do you enter?

Easy Peasy!

Share this post on Facebook and leave a comment! Enter each week day for more chances to win.

Could you leave me a review if you win? Or even if you don’t and you decide to purchase the book. Thanks in advance!

*One winner selected per week day!

Defining

Defining Family is available for pre-order. Click on the above image to get your copy! Releasing November 1, 2018!

Some Favorite Purchases of my Homeschooling Career

Curriculum. It’s a hot topic with homeschooling Moms. We love to talk books, books, books. If you are like me, you have spent an crazy amount of money on curricula. Sometimes I would hear that something was ‘the best’ and I ordered it…and it just didn’t work for my kids. I have books on my shelf right now that I feel guilty about giving away because we only read a few chapters or filled in a very few workbook pages. I hesitate to suggest any curriculum to anyone without knowing their kids’ learning style and Mom/Dad’s teaching style. However, on the other hand, my library shelves are heavy with books and cds that we here at The Guire Shire have used/read over and over. Those are worth sharing.

 

Favorite Purchases of my

  1. The Great Adventure by Jeff Cavins is a chronological walk through the Bible complete with a workbook and timeline. The Guires have walked through the Bible several times using the reading plan and listening to the teaching CDs that are full of history. Jeff shares the plan of salvation in an easy to comprehend way.

    The Bible is at the Heart of Our Faith…

    … and our relationship with God. Scripture informs our beliefs and inspires our devotions. It is the living Word of God, where our Father meets with us and lovingly speaks to us. Reading the Bible should bring us closer to Christ, but understanding it is not always easy. Many people tell me they have tried time and again to prayerfully read Scripture, but they get frustrated because they “just don’t get it.”

    The Great Adventure Catholic Bible study program is designed in such a way that anyone can make sense of the Bible and experience the life-changing power of God’s Word. Hundreds of thousands of people have found new meaning in their lives after going through The Great Adventure Bible studies. It is my prayer that you, too, will see how a newfound understanding of God’s Word can transform your life and bring you closer to Christ.- Jeff Cavins

  2. English from the Roots Up “Just as phonics helps children figure out what words are, Latin and Greek help them figure out what words mean.” -Joegil K. Lundquist, author. Each lesson begins with one Greek or Latin word, teaches its meaning, then gives children a list of from three to ten English words derived from the root word. For example, lesson ten introduces the Greek word kinesis meaning movement. The lesson then teaches five words derived from kinesis: kinetic, kinesiology, kinescope, cinema, and cinematographer. The words photos (light) and graph (write or draw) were introduced in the first two lessons, so children are connecting the last word to two Greek words they have already learned. This can create a picture in students’ minds of someone who can “draw” with “moving light,” making it easier for children to understand that a big word like cinematographer refers to the person who decides how to compose the scenes that he wants a movie camera to capture. Children each need a set of 100 cards, one for each lesson. Each card has the Greek or Latin word with a border of green for Greek words and red for Latin words. On the reverse are the derived words and their meanings. You can purchase sets of pre-made cards or make them along with your students….”- Cathy Duffy 
  3. Spelling PowerIntro video Spelling Power is the only spelling book I used for about fifteen years for seven students. The appeal of this program is any student who is ready to spell can use it at any level. One of my kids finished the whole program by the time he was a freshman in high school while others did not make it through the whole book. 
  4. Apologia Science If science seems overwhelming and over complicated, Apologia is the place to start. The texts are easy to understand, written to the student and full of experiments. When I started my homeschooling journey, I freaked out about doing science. I didn’t have a lab and I couldn’t imagine that I could perform experiments on my own. Turns out, I could. Apologia made it a little less scary. I dissected frogs, worms, fish, worms and crawdads (crayfish). We grew all sorts of beans in bags, kept pond water in jars for two weeks, mixed chemicals and found out which sort of veggies produced the most gas (canned, frozen or fresh). Once I strapped my science jeans (genes, get it?) on, Apologia helped me conquer my fears and go for it. 
  5. Teaching Textbook Math If you don’t feel as if you can teach high school math or you have students who would rather learn math on their own, Teaching Textbook is a great resource. Each grade level available comes with instructional videos, homework help and practice problems solved on the the DVD. 
    “Homeschooling through high school just got a whole lot easier! That’s because we’ve finally created a product that not only teaches high school math but does the grading as well. This new and improved version of Pre-Algebra is available for purchase now, at the same price as the old version, and its many NEW features include:
    1. Automated grading
    2. A digital gradebook that can manage multiple student accounts and be easily
      edited by a parent
    3. Over a dozen more lessons and hundreds of new problems and solutions
    4. Interactive lectures
    5. Hints and second chance options for many problems
    6. Animated buddies to cheer the student on
    7. Reference numbers for each problem so students and parents can see where a problem was first introduced
    8. An index
    9. Detailed appendices”

Each homeschooling family has a different personality and each should approach education according to their philosophy. I wouldn’t recommend a literature based curriculum to a math and science  type parent. Yet, I do feel there are some basics we can all agree upon. I hope my sharing these five suggestions helps you, whether you use them or this just gives you a starting point to make your own list to share.

Defining Family

I have some exciting news! Defining Family, the sequel to Defining Home is nearing completion. Below is a sketch by my niece, Israel Lawson that will become part of the cover! That’s Adelina in the middle. She’s the main character in both books. In Defining Home, Adelina is an teen living in a rural orphanage in Poland. Her dream? To be adopted before she ages out. Adelina’s best friend Daria has the same dream. Time is running out for both of them. Daria’s adoption fails. She disappears. Did she run away or was she kidnapped?

We here at The Whole House are passionate about ending human trafficking. I (Kathleen) wrote these novels to raise awareness of the dangers to teens, especially ones ready to age out of the system. Lori and Carly are on my revision team and recently finished marking up my sloppy copy. It’s coming together!

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I’m so excited about the release of Defining Family. I’m super thrilled with the artwork by my talented niece. If you haven’t read the first book in the series, Defining Home, here are a few reviews:

“In Defining Home, Kathleen Guire compassionately conveys the story of Adelina, a Polish orphan waiting for adoption. It delves into the world of sex trafficking in a way that will make your heart grieve and yearn for justice. A page turner, I read it in one sitting because I could not put it down.”- Jessica Batten (Marion County Public Library)

“I found this an extraordinary novel in which the plot and the psyche of the narrator are completely meshed with no false steps and no veering off he the scene or the plot, both of which are delivered with fully professional control and focus.. The use of “definitions,” quotations of great poetry, the character of the professor, the tie-in of child sex trafficking with the hideout from the Nazis in the zoo–all contribute to a great vision of good and evil. The history and character of Poland and the Polish soul are there but do not seem to be separate or “scenery”. I recommend this book for anyone at any level and especially for young adults with parents reading over their shoulders. Bravo!.”- Dr. Kenton Craven

DefiningHomefrontcoverIf you haven’t read Defining Home, click the book cover to hop on over to Amazon and order your copy!

If you are interested in being on the pre-read team for Defining Family, comment on this post or email me – postiveadoption@gmail.com!

Defining Home

I haven’t done a lot of promotion for Defining Home. I’ve been busy and caught up in other projects. My social media director (Lori) says I need to start promoting my books here. So, today, I’m sharing the first chapter for FREE. Right here. Right now. The truth is I’m almost finished with the first draft of sequel to this novel. Soon, I’ll be busy with revision meetings and editing, so I’d better get busy and let you know this one is out there!DefiningHomefrontcover

“Discombobulate-to confuse or disconcert; upset; frustrate,” I said to myself.

“Where is the pink sweater?” I yelled. I needed the pink sweater.

“Calm down, Adelina, we will find something for you to wear. Stop throwing stuff. The littles are watching!” Daria answered as she picked up the clothes I had thrown on the floor. She gave me a warning look as she hastily folded them.

“I have to look perfect!  This is my first meeting with my prospective parents.”

“It’s okay, you know how these meetings go!” She smiled.

“No, I don’t. I’ve never had one.”

“Oh yeah, that’s right. Sorry.”

“Hey, don’t, Daria. I didn’t mean to  rain on your parade. Smile. You just have one more hoop to jump through before your adoption. Our dream come true!”

Then I saw it, out of the corner of my eye, the pink sweater walked by on a blonde-haired girl. I stuck my head out in the hallway.

“Hey, I need that sweater!”

Blonde girl did a one-eighty and walked toward me. “What?” She smiled and showed a row of perfectly white, straight teeth. Her blue eyes glowed. Her hair shone.She tucked a strand of her shoulder-length bob behind her ear and tilted her head to the side. Who was this girl?

“Oh, I see you met the new girl. This is Cecylia, girls,” Sabilia, our caregiver, said as she passed us, “She’s interning here this semester. And hurry it up. Breakfast and then, Adelina, you have an important meeting, right?”  And she kept going down the hall.

meeting-a coming together of two or more people, by chance or arrangement. The definition popped into my head.

“Redheads shouldn’t wear pink,” Cecylia said. “Try the green one,” she added as she thrust a sweater at me. “It will bring out your freckles.” And she was gone.

“We need to get the littles ready,” I said as I shoved the sweater over my head. “I love this sweater. It’s so soft.” I glanced in the mirror, licked my hands and tried to flatten my frizz. It wasn’t working. But, the sweater really made my eyes look blue. I’d have to thank Cecylia later.  Communal closets were the way of the Children’s Home. First come, first served was the rule.

I ran across the hallway into the closet full of cubbies and clothes and grabbed some outfits. “How doth the little crocodile improve his shining tail,” I quoted and the littles squealed in their beds. Daria joined me, “And pour the waters of the Nile on every golden scale.” She yelled the last verse and four five-year-olds shot out of bed and ran all directions. We were just warming up….Together we yelled the last stanza, “How cheerfully he seems to grin, How neatly spreads his claws,” as we spread our arms. “And welcomes little fishes in With gently smiling jaws.”1 Daria and I each caught a little and wrestled some clothes on them while they laughed. After chasing and clothing everyone, we headed down to the cafeteria for breakfast.

Daria and I had been through a lot together. I was glad to see her laughing and helping with the littles. Lately she had been acting so strangely. She had a boyfriend and she was sneaking out to see him at night, which wasn’t like her at all. She didn’t seem focused on her own adoption. It seemed as if all her efforts were going towards this guy. And why? When I came to the orphanage as a little myself, she took me under her wing and we became inseparable. Today was the beginning of our dreams. I had prospective adoptive parents  and she had parents ready to sign on the dotted line. Why wasn’t she more excited about that?

My reverie was broken by a spoonful of oatmeal splatting right in the middle of my sweater.   Could this day not behave?  I needed to go clean up. I had half an hour before my prospective parents came. Prospective Parents- or PPs- were always a big deal for everyone in the orphanage. Even the staff dressed up. The cleaning women stayed extra long the day before with the windows open to blow out the harsh chemical smells. On those days it was always extra chilly in the Children’s Home. It did feel fresh and clean with the wind rushing through the huge glass doors. The floors shone. We all put on our best faces. However faded our clothes were, they were clean. Today was extra special. Not only were there PPs here, but they  were from the United States., a first for our small rural orphanage. I wiped away the glob and forced a smile and swallowed my irritation. “It’s okay. It’s just food,” I reassured her. She smiled and went back to eating.

“What is on your sweater? That’s a new look for meeting PPs!” Cecylia appeared with a wet wipe and scrubbed the oatmeal off. “There you go,” she said.

“Hey, Kasia! You’re late for breakfast,” I said.

“I lost something important.”

“What did you lose this time?”

“I’ll tell you later. You’d better get to your meeting.”

“I promise I will help you find it, after my meeting!”

Kasia was always losing things. She lost T-shirts, toys and trinkets, all in an institution where essentially there was no ownership. Once a resident hit the teen years, she could squirrel away some money or a few belongings. It was never much or valuable or it disappeared. It seemed like my full-time job to help her find whatever she lost, but I didn’t mind. It gave my brain a challenge. I think that sometimes, she didn’t lose things at all, but rather just wanted to make sure I knew she existed.

With a fresh, clean and slightly wet sweater, I headed to the common room to wait for the American couple.

Parent-a father or a mother. a protector or guardian. Another definition. I could see it on the dictionary page in my mind’s eye.

The  room was empty and I headed toward the long bank of windows at the front of the orphanage to watch and wait.  The leaves swirled around in small circles as the school bus pulled up and the kids filed out the front door to go to the village school. In rough October, Earth must disrobe her, I recited. I held my breath and clenched my fists until I felt dizzy. I exhaled and sucked in a long slow breath. Waiting sucked.

What if they took one look at me and bolted? I took another breath and looked around. They could be my ticket out of here. I hope they live in New York City. The best place in the world. No village school where I stuck out like a sore thumb. A school where everyone was an individual. My art would be an accepted gift, not a curse.  My red hair and freckles wouldn’t be weird among a sea of blonde beauties like it was here.

“Your parents are here. They will have coffee with Director Josef before they come up,” Sabilia informed me as she joined me at the window, “See there?” She pointed towards a car. Four people got out. “They have with them a lawyer, an interpreter and oh!  There they are! Remember your English!”

A thin average-looking woman, wearing a chartreuse  pea coat and matching hat and scarf, walked toward the building. Her long red hair scraped her shoulders.  A tall brawny man with wide shoulders wrapped his tan coat around himself more tightly and took long strides towards the door. They were talking to each other, but I couldn’t hear them.

“She has red hair,” I said quietly. Was it a sign?

“Yes, she does. They look like a lovely couple. Come away from the window. We don’t want them to think we are spying on them.”

Sabilia and I sat at the table on the farthest side of the room from the windows. She poured me some tea and I tried to drink it. My hands were shaking. This could be it. All of my dreams could be coming true. I could be adopted. There was a giant lump in my throat I couldn’t swallow. I could go live in New York and have my own room. My own things.

“Sabilia, I’m super nervous!  What do I say?”

“You just be yourself.”

Nervous-highly excitable; unnaturally or acutely uneasy or apprehensive, I recited in my head.

No, myself was the worst person to be. I needed a few minutes to think. I needed to be someone else. Someone nice and lovable. Someone like Daria.

Just then, the door opened and Director Josef stepped in with the couple and two men in suits. She had taken her hat off and her red hair cascaded down to her shoulders. She smiled at me.

“Hi. I’m Marge. You must be Adelina.”

“Hi. I’m Jim. We’re the Hunters. Nice to meet you, Adelina.”

They looked to the interpreter and waited. “That won’t be necessary,” Sabilia interjected, “Adelina speaks English well. Hello. I am Sabilia, a social worker here at the orphanage and her legal guardian.”

What?! Why did she say that? I had only spoken English with the professor and at school. I practiced with partial books in the library like Favorite Poems Old and New. Suddenly, my head was reciting “The Months” by Christina Rossetti. January cold and desolate. February dripping wet2…..My mouth took over and I heard myself say,“Hello, it is nice to meet you, “ I thrust my hand out towards them and Marge took it. “Would you like some tea?” I pointed toward the tea and we sat down. I felt detached from myself, as if someone else had taken over my body. Someone polite with steady, calm nerves. It was as if I were an observer, watching another girl interacting with the Hunters.

It took a few minutes for me to loosen up and ask some real questions. I finally got the guts to do it when I saw a blonde head peeking in the doorway, then another, then another. The littles and Kasia. “I haven’t found that thing I lost, yet,” she mouthed.

“Excuse me.” I walked over to the entourage. “What are you doing here? You are supposed to be in school!  And where is the littles’ caregiver?”

“She wasn’t feeling well. I told her I could handle them. I couldn’t go to school. You had this meeting thing. I needed to make sure it went okay and besides, I lost something.” I bit my lip and pasted on a smile.

The kids pushed their way into the common room and wandered over to Marge and Jim. This wasn’t going well at all. I didn’t want them to see the littles, then they might want one. They were all so curly-haired and cute. Next thing I knew, Marge was holding one on her lap and laughing. I looked towards Sabilia for some help, but she was laughing too.

disaster-a calamitous event, especially one occurring suddenly and causing great loss of life, damage, or hardship, as a flood, airplane crash, or business failure.

“What’s this one’s name?” Jim said. I knew it. It was all over.

“Ania,” Sabilia offered. And I thought she was on my team.

“Kasia, get these kids out of here!” I hissed. I felt like a snake chasing the littles out of the garden of Eden, but this was my chance, my last chance. Not theirs.

“Hey, are you mad at me?” Kasia whispered.

“No. Sorry, kid. I just need to finish this meeting so I can help you find that important thing you lost.” I was mad at her. Mad as a rabid fox in a hen-house. I couldn’t stay mad though. It would pass in a few minutes. It had to. I couldn’t show the angry side of me. Not during this first meeting.

She rounded up the littles and she was gone.

I walked back over to Marge and Jim. The two suits were at another table drinking coffee and talking. Finally, I had them all to myself.

“Where were we? Oh yes, where do you live, Mr. and Mrs. Hunter?”

“Oh, didn’t we tell you? We live in West Virginia. You will love it. The four seasons are beautiful.”

“I think the weather is similar to here,” Jim added.

West Virginia. Where was that? I wasn’t super solid on the unimportant states. I knew the big ones -Texas, California, New York and of course the Polish capital, Chicago, Illinois.

“Yes, we have a bit of acreage. You will love it!” Jim pulled out his phone and scrolled through some pictures of a suburban looking home with white columns, a wooded back yard and a pool.

Not….New York City. Not…

I smiled and said the right things. At least I think I did. I just wanted to get out of the meeting and think. Did I want this? Did I want to go to West Virginia?

“Adelina, they’re leaving. The Hunters are leaving. You need to walk to the front door with them and say goodbye,” Sabilia said as she took me by the elbow.

“Of course.”

I walked down the stairs and we chatted about our plans for the next day.

“Would you show us around the village, Adelina? Would you like to see the castle we are staying in?”

“Oh, yes, sure. That would be nice. Goodbye!”

“Goodbye!”

“What is going on with you, Adelina? You should be on cloud nine. Those are wonderful people. Did you even hear a word they said?” Sabilia asked.

“Oh, I’m sorry. They are just not what I expected.”

“They are a dream come true for a girl your age, or any age. She is an author and he is a business owner. You will live in a nice house and have siblings.”

“Siblings? They already have children?” Boy, I wasn’t paying attention. How did I miss that? That wasn’t part of my plan.

“Yes, they have three children – 16, 18 and 25. Rob, Anne and Laura. You need to get your head in the game. Get some rest before your next meeting. That’s an order.”

I trudged back up the stairs, my bubble burst. Siblings. No traipsing on the subway around New York City and going to art school by myself. I probably wouldn’t even have my own room. Did West Virginia have art schools? Did it have schools at all? And who was Sabilia to tell me what to do? She had only been here a month. She probably had some fancy degree and …

“Adelina!  You said you would help me!” Kasia yelled from the top of the stairs.

“I’m coming. I’m coming. What did you lose?”

“I lost my stuffed Teddy, the one my dad gave me.”

“Again?” Kasia’s dad hadn’t given her anything. It was a game that Kasia played with herself. Every time there was a new shipment of toys to the orphanage from some well-meaning church organization, Kasia attached herself to one of the stuffed animals and spread the rumor that her dad had given it to her. This month it was a scruffy teddy bear. Last month it had been a bright red Elmo plush doll that laughed. I played along with her because I knew the pain in being abandoned. I had fuzzy memories of my parents. They were noisy and angry most of the time. Noise meant someone was going to get hurt. My dad threw me across the room once, breaking my arm. Mom stuffed me in a moldy closet for hours on end. I peeled the paint off the walls to pass the time. I found a pencil in the closet and started drawing on the  walls. By the time I was removed from the home, I had covered every inch of the closet walls with my sketches.   I had flashbacks that showed up at the most inconvenient times. Kasia didn’t seem to have any. She was an infant when placed in an orphanage in Piotrkow. So, she made up memories and I played along.

“Here it is! I found it!” It was stuffed under one of the littles’ pillows.

“Oh, so glad you found it. My dad would have been so disappointed if he knew I lost it.”

Her items were never hard to find. Sometimes I think she hid them herself.

“Let’s get the  littles and go to dinner. I’m starving!”

Kasia and I walked back down the stairs to the main foyer with the littles following us like ducks in a row. The foyer was bursting at the seams with the rest of the kids fresh home from school, noisy and hungry.  I held a child’s hand on either side of me. Kasia did the same and I scanned the crowd for Daria.

“Hey!” I shouted her way, but she didn’t respond. Her eyes looked red and puffy like she had been crying. What’s going on with her? The only time I really got to see Daria anymore was on Sundays. We’d meet after church and talk for an hour over coffee and then she made excuses. She had to go see this new guy in her life. Everything was so secretive. He was great, she said, good looking and he really understood her. All the while, she was edgy one minute. Euphoric another. Weepy the next. I couldn’t read her anymore. Why was she pushing me away? Because the adoption was going to be final? She’d be leaving the orphanage for good. Maybe that was it. We pushed our way through the crowd and to our table. Daria will join us, I thought. I was too busy handling the littles, getting them food and thinking about my dreams going down the tubes. I hadn’t even noticed until halfway through the meal that she wasn’t there.

“Where’s Daria?” I asked Kasia.

“I don’t know!”

“I’ll tell you where she is,” Cecylia said from the next table. “She is upstairs crying. She wouldn’t tell me what the deal was. Maybe she would tell you.”

I couldn’t leave the littles. I would catch up with her later.

After the littles were in bed, I joined Daria in our room. She was under the covers, head and all.

“Hey, you!” I said.

“Oh, Adelina. How did your meeting go?”

“It was great. Fine. Good. I don’t know. They don’t live in New York. They live in some place called West Virginia. And, get this, they already have three kids. Bummer. I’m not sure what I want to do.”

“What?!” she yelled. “I mean, what?” she said softer this time, “Adelina, this is your chance. Don’t mess it up because of your perfect dream of living in New York City.  It’s not worth it.” Then she sniffled and pulled the covers back over her head.

I pulled myself up on the top bunk and snuggled under the covers. “I am not sure. I want to give them a chance. This is our chance, remember.  Hey, how did your psychologist meeting go today?”

“I don’t want to talk about it. Goodnight, Adelina! Accept the parents. Don’t mess this up!”

“I’m going to get a drink. Goodnight.”

I padded to the teen kitchen and pulled the strawberry juice out of the fridge. I poured a glass and sat down.  I needed to think. Was Daria right? Should I give up my dream and accept reality? I headed to my favorite spot in the orphanage, the library. The shelves weren’t lined with books,  but contained just a few donated from the States from well-meaning churches, all in English. All with multiple pages missing because the teens used them to make homemade cigarettes. Today, the walnut shelves shone for my PPs. A massive  ancient cassette tape player sat in the corner on a table with a small stack beside it. Vivaldi, Bach, Mozart, Handel. Most had whole songs recorded over. Another practice of the teens was to tape a rap song and play it until the tape wore out. I knew where the classical music still existed. I could fast forward past the rap by eyeing the tapes. This was my sanctuary. I pretended this room glistened like the library I had seen on TV. It was the antithesis-opposition; contrast (I found that word in the dictionary) of the rest of the orphanage. I could imagine it was homey, with rich woods and a colorful rug instead of stark and cold. I could listen to the few tapes, study my English, sketch on the few book covers or scraps of graph paper and sometimes get a few minutes of peace. Not often. The other teens came in and scavenged for whatever they needed and taunted me. They called me bookworm and ripped pages out of the only poetry book.

It had been five years since Professor Wroblewski,  a retired Literature professor  from Warsaw University,  had started my English lessons here. He volunteered his time every afternoon to teach anyone willing to learn. I was the only one willing. Fueled by  my dream of going to New York, I learned the English language with him. He had died suddenly last fall, leaving me. Just one more person in my life to leave. I blamed him for having a heart attack. Why did he die? I needed him. After he died, his granddaughter came to the orphanage and handed me a small leather bound dictionary. She cried and I awkwardly patted her on the back. “He would want you to have this,” she said. “He spoke of you often. He was proud of you.” I thanked her and thought of his massive library which I had borrowed books from. Gone. My source of literature and language gone. I had offered her a weak smile and cried with her. I cried for the loss of books. She cried for the loss of a  grandfather.

I plopped a tape in the player and switched it on. I could use some Vivaldi’s Four Seasons right now. I made sure the volume was low before I sat down to study.

“Hey, too bad about your friend!”

I turned around to see Cecylia in all of her glory, wearing  pink PJs and smiling. She had her hands on her hips like some sort of superhero. I was beginning to like her. She was too preppy and happy, which was annoying, but she was also kind. I needed some kindness and some counsel right now.

“Yeah, her PPs pulled out. Sad. But, I’m sure you knew that, being the best friend and all. I can’t see her ever getting adopted, can you?”  She sat down next to me and her shoulders slumped forwards as if she were sad. Was she? I couldn’t read her.

“I didn’t know that. She didn’t tell me.”

“Really, I thought she would have. Vivaldi, huh? My mom listens to that.” She looked as if she had swallowed a sour apple when she said that. Tears pooled at the corners of her eyes. “Ignore me. Homesick college girl. Tell me about Daria.”

“She’s been acting weird. It’s almost as if she wanted this adoption to fall through and now maybe she regrets it?”

“Why do you say that?” She picked up the dictionary and thumbed through it. I wanted to grab it. It was mine. As if she read my mind, she handed it to me.

“I don’t know. She has this boyfriend. It’s a secret. She sneaks off and meets him. She says he is amazing, but she seems so conflicted.”

“That stinks. I’m so sorry. I wish I could help.”

“Thanks for listening.”

“Get back to your studying. Your English is impressive,” she said in flawless English. “I heard you today. Speaking English will get you places.”

I started back to my room with a black cloud hanging over my head. How could I have been so stupid and selfish? Bam! I walked right into Sabilia because I wasn’t paying attention. She looked down at me.

“Oh, Adelina, good meeting today. Nice parents.” I guess she wasn’t paying attention either.

Daria was asleep when I got back to the room and I didn’t want to wake her. I would apologize in the morning. I had so much to think about.I think that I shall never see A poem lovely as a tree3…. I fell asleep dreaming of apple trees and subways.

The next day dawned gray and cold. I looked out the window. The trees looked naked. All their leaves sat in wet mushy heaps in the yard, waiting for someone to burn them. No one would. They would sit in slimy piles rotting, stinking and advertising the poverty of the orphans inside. At least I didn’t have to go to school today. I got to show the Hunters around Sulejow.

“Hey, Daria, you awake?” I peered over the side of the bed at the rumpled pile of her under the covers. “Wake up. I’m sorry. I’ve been stupid. I will be nice to the Hunters. I heard about your PPs pulling out. I’ve been a jerk. Daria!” I jumped out of bed and onto her. Or not. She wasn’t there. I pulled back the covers to find a pile of stuffed animals. “Daria’s gone!” I yelled to anyone who would listen. Sabilia came running in. “What?”

“Daria. She’s gone! I think she ran away and it’s all my fault.”

Gone- departed, left.

Want to read more? You can find Defining Home here!

Want to know more about Human Trafficking? Listen to The Whole House Podcast, Episode 3, Human Trafficking Awareness  and catch my interview on The UnCorked Podcast!