I've come to the conclusion that the college environment is not a huge fan of big families...
Recently in psychology, we looked at a graph that showed how IQ relates to family size. One-child families were at the top of the chart, and scores began to decrease as family size increased. The largest family size shown on the graph had only five children, so as a family with eight kids we must have unbelievably low IQ scores!
A few days later in Spanish class, the professor was doing a verb usage exercise and asked a student to tell the class something he would have to do if he lived with a large family...the answer she was looking for was "Tengo que compartir" which means "I have to share". However the boy answered with "How do you say 'I have to be crazy'?".
I actually thought both of these class experiences were funny, but they also made me think... There are people who really do think we are crazy or irresponsible for having such a large family. Honestly, it doesn't even feel that big to me. When people make disapproving comments about our family size I just want to scream "Well who do you think doesn't belong?!". Every single person in my house has a place, and the broad range in age, background, and personality is an asset to our relationships with each other, not a detriment. I cannot imagine having even one less person in our house. We all need each other!
Tekle can make Aaron laugh easier than anyone else on the planet. Janaya is the only one who is passionate enough about animals to join my mom on her pet rescue missions. Isaac is the resident dance choreographer, and teaches his techniques to the younger kids. Peter can motivate Janaya to keep her teenage mood-swings in check better than anyone else in the house. If Tekle hadn't joined our family, Aaron would be unbearably spoiled (He's already very "well-nurtured" as we like to call it). Lacy's optimistic outlook on life and cheerful disposition can shake me out of my worst moods faster than almost anything else (except maybe chocolate). Peter and Jesse exhibit a playfulness with Tekle and Aaron that probably wouldn't be seen if they didn't have significantly younger siblings. Isaac and Lacy share a similar sense of humor, and will often break out into uncontrollable laughter as the rest of us roll our eyes.
I could go on and on... but as you can see, my siblings and I are all connected in different but very valuable ways. Some of us were born in different decades, different countries, and different circumstances, but together we make a complete family unit. Every single one of us belongs. And if the cost is a few IQ points, I believe it's worth it!
And said, "Truly, I say to you, If you do not have a change of heart and become like little children, you will not go into the kingdom of heaven."
Lacy was very touched by the stories of all the kids I met in Mexico this summer. She has such a big heart and I am always impressed with the genuine compassion she has for people. Knowing these characteristics, I shouldn't have been surprised today when Lacy showed me the jar she had been saving money in for the kids at Miracle Ranch. She decided to do it completely on her own, and has been able to resist spending the money on herself for the last four months. I have such an incredible sister!
Miracle Ranch has to be one of the most incredible places on earth. It is a rare source of peace and security in the midst of a broken world. Children show up with deep wounds of abuse and neglect, but as they are immersed in unconditional love, smiles return to their faces and the sparkle returns to their eyes. Children accustomed to rejection are welcomed with open arms. Those who arrive with no direction in life are told that they were created for a purpose. Children who were unable to think beyond the daily necessities are encouraged to dream and make plans for the future. It is a place of healing, transformation, and growth.
Both of my visits to Miracle Ranch have been over Father’s Day. It was so amazing to see a dad like Cesar Uribe in action. He is a tireless advocate for the boy’s academic, physical, and spiritual needs. He told our group that he views things like learning disabilities and developmental delays as opportunities rather than obstacles. He responds to tough behavior issues with gentleness, explaining to us that “When they’re in trouble is when they need you the most”. It is obvious that Cesar sees every child as a precious gift. His eyes shine with pride when he shares their accomplishments and they brim with tears when he describes all the pain that they have had to endure. Cesar is an extraordinary father to the boys and an inspiring example of the unfailing love our Heavenly Father has for everyone on earth.
It is impossible to spend time at the ranch and not fall completely in love with the boys. They are truly a joy to be around, and their resilient spirits never cease to amaze me. I was able to witness many beautiful illustrations of their personalities during the week; like the time Edwin spontaneously decided to make giant butterfly wings out of construction paper. He carefully designed intricate wings, and then taped them on his back. The other kids were pretty impressed so Edwin began taking color requests and making wings for everyone in the room. The room was soon full of beautiful mariposas.
I especially loved the individual conversations I was able to have with kids. Despite the language barrier, I learned that that Abran would like to learn more about fire trucks, Gezner loves horses, and someday Julio would like to visit the moon! It is hard to believe that these children who are so full of joy and curiosity, are the same kids who have been through things no one should ever have to experience. It is obvious that the lessons of human kindness being taught at Miracle Ranch are resonating with the boys because whether they are cheering each other on in a soccer game, or excitedly complimenting someone’s drawing, the love they show each other is deep and genuine.
The time I spent at Miracle Ranch taught me so much. I left with a better understanding of the intense love Christ has for us, a vision of what can be accomplished when you are obedient to God, and a broader definition of the word ‘family’. When I begin to feel overwhelmed by the pain and sadness in the world, I think of Miracle Ranch and am immeasurably encouraged by the fact that there is a place Valle de las Palmas that is overflowing with love and providing us all with a glimpse of Heaven on earth.
--The song in the background of the slide show is one of my favorites and I believe it really illustrates the purpose of Miracle Ranch...so if you watch, be sure to turn the volume up!