Nathaniel and I are wearing orange to celebrate the life of Kalkidan Qualls. Kalkidan would have been fourteen today. She passed away last December in a tragic car accident while traveling with her parents, Lisa and Russ.
We do not personally know the Qualls family. I started following Lisa's first blog, A Bushel and a Peck, in 2008, two years after she started writing about their adoption journey. Kalkidan and three other children from Ethiopia joined the Qualls family, and I enjoyed Lisa's honesty and transparency about transitioning from the family they were to the family God called them to be. The family they were before adopting was familiar. They had eight children; we had seven. They homeschooled; we homeschooled. They took a family vacation to the ocean every summer; we went to the Great Lakes. I came to enjoy the little snippets and peeks into their days, and found comradery in Lisa's posts on things like back to school curriculum, Christmas present ideas for the boys, and how to keep family centered life through the teen years. Their adoption story intrigued me. At the time, we were still on the "hoping to adopt one day" side of life. In 2010, Lisa and I corresponded briefly by email and she shared some of my writing on her blog as a guest post. Her kindness in private was a sincere as her writing.
As time went on and her family faced new struggles, Lisa wrote more frequently about her passion to heal the broken hearts of her adoptive children. She shared resources and ideas of things they tried as a family to counteract the fear and loss the children had experienced. I was impressed over and over again at the lengths that Lisa, Russ, and their older birth children went to love sacrificially. I would read Lisa's posts aloud at night to Rich and often by the end, we would be crying.
Witnessing years of the Qualls family story through Lisa's blog helped us to more deeply understand the needs of children from hard places, and how physical, emotional, and spiritual healing comes through love. Their journey laid the ground work for our own adoption of Nathaniel. When we were faced with the decision to lay down our lives to offer Nathaniel a home, the Qualls' family example gave us a vision of how our obedience to that call could change his life. Though Nathaniel's brokenness and need for healing is very different from Kalkidan's, her parent's endless pursuit of full restoration and her story of recovery encourages us to fight similarly for Nathaniel. Reading Lisa's stories about life as an adoptive mom for five years before adopting myself, prepared me for my new role in ways foster and adoption classes did not. Her's was a real life, day in, day out, facing problems, finding solutions experience. Things Lisa did for and with Kalkidan and the other children still influence our parenting of Nathaniel. Even as he nears his third birthday, Rich and I hold him tight like an infant and rock him for over an hour a day. Why? Because we read of the bonding and joy that Russ, Lisa, and Kalkidan found by rocking her well into her elementary years.
For many years, readers knew Kalkidan as Dimples and her infectious smile lived up to the nickname in every picture her mom posted. She loved the color orange. We wear it proudly today to celebrate her spunk and enthusiasm for life. We wear orange to celebrate the Qualls' family example of how to live life in a way that matters.
Dear Lisa, Russ, and children,
Thank you for your example of loving Kalkidan and each other. Please know you have made a difference far beyond the walls of your home, your local church, and your community. Your testimony of lived sacrifice, faith, and endurance, even in the loss of your sweet Kalkidan, is an encouragement to our family to keep trusting and to keep loving. We pray for you and celebrate Kalkidan with you today.
Follow the Qualls family through Lisa's blog, One Thankful Mom.