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A Changed Heart

It was February 14th, 2011.

I was a freshman in high school. So insecure and so unsure of myself, yet so wrapped up in selfishness. It was a lovely combination.

What would happen on that Valentine's Day? Maybe a text from my crush (I was probably already eyeing Grant then). Or some candy from my parents? I suspected the latter.

Rather, it was a call that went like this: "Olivia, the Department of Human Services called. They have a child for us, and we are going to pick him up now."

These words that should have evoked deep joy were the very words I had been dreading.

When my parents told me they were praying through adoption, I completely fought it. I begged and pleaded for them to snap out of it. Another child—what were they thinking? Did anyone care that this wasn't what I wanted? So what if another child had needs?

A little before 5:00 p.m. on that day of love, a joyful five-year-old boy walked into our home. We introduced him to our odd four-legged creature Lilly (maybe now she rests in peace, because she sure seemed to hate earth), saying, "This is our dog, Lilly." He replied, "I know."

And slowly but surely in the months that followed, it was as if God kept saying, "This is your brother, Cody." At first, I responded, "No, he's just a child we're fostering." Within a few months, though, I was responding, "I know. God, please make him our brother. Please let him become a Dear and stay with us forever." Oh, what God can do in even the most selfish heart.

God heard the response of that teen and so many others. We officially welcomed him into the family a year and a half later, renaming him Charles Barnes Dear. And 9 years later, it is extremely hard to even recall what life was like before Charlie.

God performs miracles and prunes the dead leaves from the hearts of sinners every day. But I've always thought there is no coincidence that he used a little boy with no family and no home to change my tough, hard heart on a day that is all about love. Through the fostering and adoption of Charlie, the way my siblings had open minds and joyful hearts toward the adoption process from the start, and the steadfast obedience and faith from my gracious, amazing parents who always trusted God first, I learned what love really means. Love is sacrifice. Love is joy. Love is not what we always picture, but love is beyond anything we could dream. Love fills us. Love moves us. And this love, His love—that can only be defined as divine—changes us.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. 2 Corinthians 5:17

So this is love. Ultimate love, sacrificial love, eternal love. Love that renews and restores and heals. Praise the Lord for not sending us candygrams but for sending His Son to change our hearts and our hopes and our futures forever by adopting us and giving us an eternal home. Today, let's celebrate what God has done and what God is doing and what God will do. Let's love because He first loved us.

Happy Valentine's Day, and Happy Gotcha Day to my brother, Charlie Dear. You changed our home and our hearts forever, and we will never be the same.



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