Thursday, August 18, 2011

Happy 19th B-Day, Naomi!

Happy 19th Birthday, Naomi Faith!

God surprised our family when He brought Naomi (from Haiti) to our family on June 19, 2010, just one month after Princess Chrissie went to live with Jesus.  Matt was the one who eagerly accepted God's call to have Naomi join our family.  I was more hesitant, as we were grieving so deeply, and the thought of parenting a 17-year-old, particularly while grieving the loss of our precious 4-year-old, was simply too much for me to fathom.

But, with God, all things are possible.  He promises.  And He is faithful.

So, even through our grief, we pressed onward in obedience to His call, and Naomi officially became our oldest child when her adoption was finalized in August, 2010. 

Since then, hundreds of people have asked us what our plan is for Naomi.  We've been asked why in the world we'd adopt a 17-year-old.  We've been asked if Naomi is going to college this year.  We've been interrogated time and time again about what the future holds for Naomi, and what the benefits are to us to adopt such an old "child".

The truth is, we don't really have the answers to all of these questions.  But God does.  All we know is that He asked us to love and care for this treasure He delivered to us, and her future is in His hands.  We don't make the calls, God does, and all He asks of us is our obedience.  Only God knows His plans for Naomi's future, and in the meantime, we are to love her, parent her, educate her, and help her to know Jesus, to love Him, and to love others.  We are to try to prepare Naomi for life as best as possible, even though she's already 19.  The rest is up to Him, the One who knit Naomi in her mother's womb, the One who has a hope and future for Naomi, the One who knows the number of hairs on her head, the One who plans to prosper Naomi Faith Patterson.

When Naomi came into our family, she didn't know any English.  We worked diligently to teach her English by immersion, as well as using Rosetta Stone English, primary phonics programs, language games, literature, as well as enrolling Naomi in an ESL (English as a Second Language) course for adults in our town where she received 155 hours of ESL instruction.  Naomi has severe learning disabilities, so learning English has been extremely difficult for Naomi, but this doesn't matter to our God, and it's no surprise to Him.  God knew this about Naomi, and He knew she should be a part of our family.

In our culture, we tend to have certain expectations for people.  We tend to look at people's ages and set a standard for them.  We tend to examine people, and if they don't appear to look "different" or "disabled", then we put them into our little expectation box, into the category of our expectations based upon appearance, age, and other factors.  Because Naomi is 19 now, most people in America expect her to be graduating from high school with plans to attend college. 

But God has different plans for Naomi.  After visiting with Naomi's biological mother and brothers in October, 2010, we learned that Naomi didn't have the privilege of attending school while living in Haiti.  This means that for the first 17 years of Naomi's life, she didn't receive an education.

Since Naomi has learning disabilities and no prior education, she doesn't fit into the same category that most 19-year-olds in America would fall into.  Instead of heading off to college, Naomi has 17 years of education to catch up on.  Naomi will stay with our family until she is capable of living independently, or until God reveals other plans for Naomi.  For now, Naomi is being educated in a safe, protected environment in our home where she is not made fun of simply because she's not graduating from high school and attending college this year.  Naomi is allowed to learn at the pace that God sets for her.  When a child has never attended school or received an education, it is imperative to start at the beginning.  This means the child must begin with Kindergarten work, demonstrate content mastery, and move to the next level.  When a child has severe learning disabilities, the child might not progress as quickly as our society would expect, but in our family, that's perfectly fine.  What matters is that Naomi is safe, she is loved, and it's OK for her to be educated at whatever pace God allows.

None of this comes as a surprise to God.  He knew Naomi's needs.  He chose our family to shepherd Naomi's heart, and what a privilege that is.  What matters most is that Naomi loves Jesus, loves her siblings, loves her family, and loves others, which is God's most important commandment, according to Matthew 22.

God knew that Naomi would need to be with a family who wouldn't feel like she's a failure if she was unable to attend college.  God knew that Naomi would need to be with a family who would support her, nurture her, love her, and encourage her, even if she never becomes fluent in English, even if she struggles to pass first grade, even if she isn't able to get a job or live independently.  Because, you see, none of these things really matter to God.

God's Word doesn't tell us that we need to achieve the goals of our worldly standards.  God's Word tells us that above all else, we should love the Lord with all our heart, soul, mind and strength.  And we should love others, too.  This is the most important thing to God.  He doesn't care what grade we're in or how much earthly knowledge we've accumulated or what level education we have or what type of job we hold. 

God cares about our hearts.

And I feel grateful that God has entrusted us with Naomi's heart.

May Naomi's heart be filled with joy as she celebrates her 19th birthday, and by the grace of God, may we continue to nurture Naomi's heart as He would have us, setting aside worldly standards, and embracing God's plan for Naomi, according to Jeremiah 29:11.

Happy 19th birthday, Naomi Faith!  We love you!

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