Ioana Makes Up Her Mind

Quite often love takes on the face of a person. This is what love looks like.

Months ago when Ioana came to stay with us I was talking to a friend about one of our early experiences. It was a funny story that illustrated how my life was suddenly affected by living with an 18-year-old girl. (Soon to be 19 on Monday, February 4th!) My friend listened to me, then smiled and said, “Oh, she is going to be so good for you.”

For all of us in our family, we look at life differently now than we did some months ago. The blessings are numerous, the challenges…well, challenging.  For me personally I’ve learned how to love differently.  I’m a big hearted person and I allow myself to be vulnerable.  I’m apt to make decisions with a fair amount of emotion involved.  Quite often I get burned by a process such as this, which then causes me to be very guarded and cautious until I feel it is safe to come out from behind the shadow of self doubt and fear.  

This has caused me to examine some of the advice I gave Ioana last week about her being able to make a decision regarding her leg braces moving beyond the emotional aspect of the situation.  Ioana is in a love deficit.  Her life to this point has been one of where you can pour out all of the love your soul contains and hear it echo as it splashes in the bottom of her heart, dissipating as it only begins to cover the surface of the bottom.  But Ioana, like all of us, is only human.  My challenge is in thinking that there always needs to be a balance in that give and take of love.  But I’ve just begun to realize that loving others does not mean being vulnerable as to where I am pained because they do not reciprocate.  And now I don’t speak of just Ioana, but of all the people I contact in the corner of my small world.  Loving others means loving them because they just need to be loved.  When I look at it from this perspective my whole relationship with Jesus begins to resonate in a truer fashion for me.

Yesterday morning I helped Ioana put her braces on for about the hundredth time as we prepared to leave for physical therapy.  “Tata Matt, when do I need to tell Katie about my decision with the braces?”  Ioana asked me.  I told her that she had until next Tuesday, but she didn’t need to wait until then if she had already made up her mind.  “Oh, I made up my mind last week.”  she replied matter of factly.  “I’ve decided to get the braces.”

I sat there on the floor and looked up at her.  I had a feeling she was leaning this way on her decision but held back in the previous week of inquiring about it.  I had no sense of joy, no need to jump into the air and high five her.  “Ioana, you need to understand that no matter what decision you would have made I love you just the same.  But I have to tell you that I am so proud of you for the way you have gone about making this decision.  I think you made a good decision.”

We went to therapy and she told Katie what she has decided to do.  Very soon, we will have the braces made and she’ll see the physical, tangible result of her decision.  But she knows that the emotional aspect of her decision will only come face to face with her many months down the road.  It will be easy for her while here in the States, it will be more difficult once she goes home to Romania.

An hour or so later we sat in a parking lot eating lunch before she had to go to English class.  “Ioana, tell me how you came to your decision.”  

“Why do you want to know?” she replied.

“Well, a lot of people have been praying for you and thinking about you.  I think they would be interested to know how you made up your mind.”

“I thought about my future and what would be best for me.  And I thought about what you said about my knees and if I don’t begin to put weight on my right leg, my left knee may suffer down the road.  I don’t want to have problems with my knees when I am an old woman.”

So there it is.  Two weeks ago, Pam and I had some very challenging conversations with Ioana about this decision.  She had no interest in making the decision and I think she really wanted someone else to make it for her.  But just before her 19th birthday she has been empowered to make what may be the first real decision of her life.  I pray that it will be a foundation for making more decisions that will positively affect her life.  

We remind her again and again that we really think God has a better future for her, that he has a good life in store for her.  Up to now, I’m not so sure she has believed that because there have been so many painful days, both physically and emotionally.  She has no idea how much she impacts the people of the world around her.  She has received emails from people that have heard her story since 2004 and have never even met her.  

Love can be like the wind, and at times can be a fickle beast, its effects can be seen but it is hard to hold in your hand.  It can come and go in an instant but through all of this I just continue to trust in love.