what makes a family? (soLs)

I’ve learned a lot about Norway in the past week or so. Like the rest of the world, I watched the news unfold about the attacks in Oslo. The images scrolled by on the television and the computer. They looked surreal. Even more strange was the chat box opened at the bottom of the computer screen with strings of letters forming words I’ve never seen. It was a conversation in Norwegian. I watched the news unfold over the shoulder of a Norwegian who lives 25 minutes from Oslo. Well, she lived 25 minutes from Oslo until 12 days ago. Currently she lives with us.

Karianne is our exchange student.

We are learning about Norway, but more importantly we are learning about family.  I’m not surprised by this. It was through hosting our first exchange student that we learned families can be built in a myriad of ways, leading us to our decision to adopt an infant.

After our adoption, Andy served on a mission trip to Peru, South America. He returned with a desire to care for orphans around the world. Soon we were led to adopt our daughters, who were two children without a home. It wasn’t something we planned on doing. It wasn’t something we dreamed of doing. Though when faced with the decision it was obvious that this was how our family was going to be created.

Last April, when Andy first mentioned hosting an exchange student, my first response was, “Are you living in the same house I’m living in?” He smiled at my joke, but insisted he was serious. I agreed to pray about it.

I felt the same gentle nudge that I did when faced with the decision to adopt our daughters. Even though it didn’t fit in with the plans I’ve been making for my life, it was clear that an exchange student was to be part of our family this year. So we said yes and began getting to know Karianne and her family through emails, blog posts, and Skype.

She arrived on July 20. Already I realize this is going to be a very good thing, because family is a very good thing. Just like our daughters, when I think about how close I was to saying no, my heart speeds up and my fingers get tingly because I realize how close I came to missing the family made for me.

I’m learning to appreciate the plans I don’t make. I’m learning to be thankful for stepping through the doors which open unexpectedly. And I’m learning family is about loving, investing, and caring about one another instead of bloodlines.

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  1. What a powerful post, not only about family, but life's decisions in general. The post provoked so many emotions in a short space. Sounds like everyone involved is lucky!

  2. Your post reminds me of how wonderful things can materialize when you are open to, when you allow yourself to embrace ideas that were not part of the plan. Karianne is a lucky young lady to have been placed in such a welcoming home.

  3. There are five adopted children in our family, as well as biological ones. I love hearing that you've created your family in this way and now opened your family to a year with still an additional member. It is interesting how we make rules for our lives, but wonderful when we realize that they don't always have to be followed. Thanks for sharing your thinking about your life, such a heartfelt process.

  4. What a touching post. It's amazing the blessings that are bestowed to us…even when unplanned and unexpected. I hope that Karianne is doing well after watching that horrid attack. What a horrible tragedy.

  5. You are so amazing to share your family and life with us, I feel honored to be a part of this. What a great learning opportunity for everyone. Thank you.

  6. Your love of your family and gratitude for the nudges that led to your current family really shine in this post. Lovely family, lovely momma, lovely piece.

  7. Neat perspective! I lived with a host family in Spain while studying there for a semester in college and they were so welcoming, just like your family must be. It is such a wonderful experience to share human connections across culture and language!

  8. A dear friend of mine is awaiting her new infant via adoption. I can't wait to share your post with her. I know she will appreciate your perspective on love making a family!

  9. I love those thoughts about family. I also love the line about praying about it and feeling that “nudge.” It's funny how those nudges come without us knowing they will. He knows all about it, though!