May 25, 2014

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Operation Homecoming

On Friday, a bunch of us gathered at the airport to welcome our daughter home.

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We had balloons and signs and lots of smiling faces!

(We also had one really bloody nose, which added quite a lot of excitement to the wait.)

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About 40 minutes after arrival, Donnie sent a text to say they were picking up their luggage

and would be out any minute!

My oldest son caught the first glimpse of them…

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And Jonah and I rushed over to greet them….

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And after many embraces, not the least of which was this little boy,

totally elated to see his Daddy again….

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We became a family of SIX….

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And life will never be the same again.

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May 22, 2014

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On Their Way!

At the airport in Entebbe…

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And on the plane, about to take off!

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My daughter’s coming home. Thank you, Lord!

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May 22, 2014

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Last Day in Uganda

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With much joy, relief and gratitude I announce that our daughter received her visa yesterday. She and my husband will begin their long journey home tonight.

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It feels crazy that we’ve finally reached this point. It’s been three years since we first found out about her; two and a half years since we decided to seek her adoption. There were many, many moments that we wondered if we’d ever see this day. Uncertainty became a way of life, especially over the past year. Now that it’s said and done, now that they’re hours from leaving for home, it feels odd to not carry the weight of this process anymore. It feels a lot like that feeling immediately after giving birth, when you feel so light, and hollow and pain-free.

But I feel almost bewildered, like I don’t know how to live now without this big “IF” hanging over my head, coloring every decision. It was huge and heavy but we got used to it always being there. Can I even articulate how glad I am that it’s gone?

Violet has been super-excited, but I hear that today she woke up a bit subdued, and understandably so. What a huge, huge thing this is for a child! I don’t think I’d have been as brave when I was her age. Heck, I don’t know that I’d be that brave now, to move away from everything I’d always known for a life so far away, so very different from what I’m accustomed to. Donnie and I have tried to prepare her for the reality of life in America, in all the ways we know how. I guess we will find out over the next days, weeks and months if we did a good job of that, or not.

Prayers for healthy, safe travel are appreciated. And please pray for her heart — for her to be comforted and at peace as she begins this new chapter in life. She got excited the first time she saw an escalator at the mall with us — I can’t even imagine how she’s going to react to the airplanes, or navigating through two enormous airports. (It’s good that she’s starting out at little Entebbe!)

You might want to say a prayer for my hubby, too — this will be quite the journey for him as well (over 25 hours from start to finish, and he’s never traveled that long with a child before)!

Wow….I guess my next post will be homecoming photos.

I still don’t believe I’m getting to type that!

Thanks to all who’ve stood with us throughout this incredible, long journey.

 

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May 18, 2014

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Love that Endures

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Our girl needs to come home.

I’ve really, really had enough of the waiting. Honestly, I’d had enough of the waiting this time last year. I was fed up in January after court, when it took five weeks to get the ruling that was promised in one. It was heartbreaking to go home in April without her, when she begged Daddy to make me stay.

I’d say I’m at the end of my rope now that my husband is back in Uganda (our third trip over) and encountering more obstacles obtaining her visa. But these hands are empty — I let go of the rope a long time ago.

Without delving into boring detail, the embassy has basically changed some of the rules on us midstream, asking for documents that aren’t listed on their checklist. They’re saying one document wasn’t acceptable because it wasn’t signed, when it clearly was (just in a different spot on the page). They wanted something rewritten, another file totally redone. And they didn’t bother telling me any of this when I was denied her visa interview in April, or when my husband first checked in with them upon arrival this month. They only make adoption visa appointments during certain hours, two days a week, so it’s not like rechecks can be done quickly. Donnie has been scrambling to obtain what they’re asking for, and covets your prayers for tomorrow, when he will go back to the embassy for yet another document check appointment.

I’m just so totally over the bureaucracy, the power trips by attorneys and government officials, the spending money we didn’t have only to find new expenditures popping up every single day. (This is a child’s HEART we’re dealing with here, and her disappointment from all the delays is the worst part of it all.)

I want to laugh when I look at that fundraising thermometer on the home page, because this process will have cost more than double that amount by the time it’s said and done. I’m laughing not because it’s funny, but at my own naivety on display. I really thought we’d make one trip to Uganda and bring her home.

Silly me.

We’ve been able to make it this far due to saving, fundraising and the deep generosity of friends. I hate to ask anyone to help us again, and it’s been a long time since I’ve asked for help. But now that we’ve encountered a new set of expenses and more time in Uganda (that’s resulting in my husband’s paid leave running out), we really could use some assistance on this last leg of our journey. If you are at all able to help, we welcome gifts of any size through WePay and PayPal, and I’m working on a Facebook album showcasing things we still have left for sale after last year’s fundraising. (If you’re not my friend on Facebook but would like a link to the album, please let me know).

I’m sorry to sound like Debbie Downer again. I injured my knee over a month ago in Uganda and it’s still not healing properly. I’m supposed to rest it — a LOT — far more than what’s easily manageable with three kids and no husband at home. Being in pain makes me cranky. Waiting on our daughter and missing my husband makes me grumpy. Everything combined makes Eeyore look like a bubbly optimist compared to me. Maybe say a prayer for my boys because I’m just a little ray of toxic sunshine these days and they’re the ones having to put up with me!

So many of you have truly shared in our frustration and supported us with your prayers. A few have said that they’d have given up by now. I get why they say that, but….

You don’t quit when times get tough. Even when they stay tough far longer than you ever imagined they could. Other adoptive families with greater obstacles than ours have taught me that.

Love pursues. Love persists. Love keeps going even when nothing tangible remains to fuel it.

An exhausted runner doesn’t quit a marathon at the 25.5 mile mark. She didn’t push herself so hard, for so long, to just sit down when the finish line is finally in sight.

And in the same way, you just don’t give up on love.

I think that a parent’s love, if it is anything of value, must always be a love that endures. If God never gave up on me, how can I give up on this child?

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The Word says it best in chapter 13 of the book of 1 Corinthians…and I love the elaboration in this particular translation:

“Even if I dole out all that I have [to the poor in providing] food, and if I surrender my body to be burned or in order that I may glory, but have not love (God’s love in me), I gain nothing.

Love endures long and is patient and kind; love never is envious nor boils over with jealousy, is not boastful or vainglorious [self-important], does not display itself haughtily.

It is not conceited (arrogant and inflated with pride); it is not rude (unmannerly) and does not act unbecomingly. Love (God’s love in us) does not insist on its own rights or its own way, for it is not self-seeking; it is not touchy or fretful or resentful; it takes no account of the evil done to it [it pays no attention to a suffered wrong].

It does not rejoice at injustice and unrighteousness, but rejoices when right and truth prevail.

Love bears up under anything and everything that comes, is ever ready to believe the best of every person, its hopes are fadeless under all circumstances, and it endures everything [without weakening].

 Love never fails [never fades out or becomes obsolete or comes to an end].”

-1 Corinthians 13:3-8 (AMP)

~Amen!~

 

 

 

 

 

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Apr 30, 2014

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New News

I haven’t had a lot to say since we got home from Uganda. I’ve been busy nursing the knee injury I sustained while there, and then had a big weekend celebrating my parents’ 50th wedding anniversary. All that coupled with adjusting back to life here has kept me busy. AND, there hasn’t really been anything happening on the ground in Uganda with regard to getting our correct long-form death certificate.

But today, we received good news. The form has been typed and just needs a signature, so it should be ready by Friday. That means we can make plans to go back soon!

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At some point around Mother’s Day, the hubby should be getting on a plane and prayerfully, within a week, clearing the embassy and bringing our little ray of Ugandan sunshine home!

I’ve been working to edit pics from our recent three weeks there, but it’s taking a while. Here’s one of my favorites…

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A big highlight of the trip was getting to see pictures of our sweetie as a baby. Here she is at a perfectly adorable six months old!

Hopefully I’ll be posting soon that Donnie is on his way!

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Apr 16, 2014

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Another Separation

Tomorrow, I fly home without our girl.

Things did not go well at the embassy on Monday. It’s really too long and boring to type out, so I’ll summarize by saying that it was due to paperwork errors that are largely the fault of our completely inept attorney. Or, former attorney, that is. We have hired a new one that is helping us get things sorted out. God willing, it will all be finished in a couple of weeks and Donnie will fly back to attend the last embassy appointments, get her visa and fly her home.

Violet and Me

We’ve had a good time together this week. She’s not doing very well with the news that she has to go back to the pastor’s house. It’s not that she has anything against him — he and his wife, “Auntie”, are very loving toward her and I can tell that they all genuinely enjoy being around one another.

But returning there wasn’t part of the plan. It’s not her permanent home. She was SO looking forward to getting on that plane with me this week. She was texting Donnie tonight and begging him to make me stay here with her until the visa comes. It’s just totally heartbreaking to hear this, and to see her cry. She is such a strong girl — for her to cry openly truly shows how upset she is about this.

I wish I could stay, but for reasons I’m not at liberty to discuss here yet, I have to get home. I’d allotted three weeks for this trip, and everyone seemed to believe we could wrap it up in two. It’s frustrating that we couldn’t do it. It’s irritating that this child who has already hurt so much has to hurt some more, all because of stupid red tape and ignorant attorneys.

I’m just so weary of my heart being torn between two sides of the globe. But here we go again — another “goodbye for now.” Another time of waiting. We’re all just so sick and tired of waiting.

As I’ve heard before, redemption is costly. It cost Jesus his life. As we approach Easter weekend, I’m reflecting a lot on the idea of redemption. And what I’m giving up for her sake, the pain we’re all going through, of course it will all be worth it in the end.

Just please keep our sweet girl in your prayers…

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Apr 10, 2014

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Back in Uganda

I haven’t blogged in a while…time is flying by. I never finished my travelogue posts from our first trip and now I’m actually typing from Uganda, having been here ten days already. It’s been a long and exhausting trip—I feel like I’ve been here a month, at least. Donnie was here for the first week and I miss him terribly. Sorry to sound all doom-and-gloom, but I’ve found my faith and patience tested more in the past ten days than probably throughout this entire adoption process combined.

Our days have been filled with paperwork and waiting. And four shots for Violet and a medical exam. And lots of time sitting in the hot sun in Kampala traffic getting from place to place, including lawyers’ offices, all of which seem to be most inconveniently located on the top floors of buildings without working elevators. (And in one case, is labeled the 3rd floor even though it’s actually the 6th!) The rest of our time is spent hanging out at the guesthouse, which is nice, but quite boring aside from the Internet connection, which can be sporadic at times. Or it can be like tonight, where it shows you connected, but pages take forever to load AND the electricity keeps shutting off, making it nearly impossible to create a blog post.

I’ve experienced the scariest thunderstorm I’ve ever been in — scarier even than a hurricane — more mosquito bites than I’ve ever had, and just the constant sticky feeling that one gets layered under sunscreen, bug spray and what feels like a permanent layer of sweat. The best part of the day is climbing onto cool sheets after a cold shower, lying directly under the fan and finally cooling off. Provided that the electricity is on to run the fan, that part of each day is bliss.

Despite all the discomforts and inconveniences…God is faithful. Today we witnessed a miracle in receiving our long-form birth certificate in just one day. That is after switching lawyers…our first one failed to get this to us even though he’s had four months to do it. Now that we have this document, we can move on to the last step of obtaining her visa. If all goes well, this time next week we’ll be driving to the airport to come home. And I can’t wait. This is the longest I’ve ever been away from my boys and it’s breaking my heart.

It’s been so interesting getting to know our daughter. She is quiet at times—sometimes very quiet—and we definitely have a bit of a language barrier. But when we take our time with one another, we can usually sort out what the other is saying, and each day I feel her English gets a tiny bit stronger. I don’t know how this is going to translate into school placement for next year. Our schools get out in mid-May, so she won’t be going anywhere until August. That’ll give us the summer to work on her English and have evaluations to see where she needs to be placed.

So far I know that she likes fish, rice and chips (fries). That is her favorite meal, and if the fish is whole and grilled, the head is her favorite part. (Yes, even the eyes!) She also likes eggs, sweets and ice cream, especially. And soda. I think every Ugandan likes soda and juice. (I kind of dread that first visit to our dentist!)

She loves technology and movies (already her daddy’s daughter) and has a lovely, contagious laugh. She loves to shop and makes sure her outfits are coordinated. I’ve also already sampled the first of what I’m sure will be many moments of preteen pouting over things like being told ‘no’ over a simple request. I think it’s hard for internationally adopted kids to sort out what their new lives will be like. I think they daydream of a life with no chores, with everything they desire being bought for them when they want it, and rumors abound that propagate the lies of this idyllic existence. Unfortunately, most people who are adopting are just ordinary Joes like us who can give a child a good life, but not an extravagant one, and certainly not one devoid of work. I think the collision of expectation and reality can be a shock sometimes. And the whole experience of leaving your culture and calling essential strangers “family” must be so hard. I pray for her adjustment to be an easy one, but realistically know to expect anything.

It’s about time for my nightly “bliss”, so I’ll leave you with a request to please keep us in your prayers for favor at the embassy on Monday and for a safe trip home on Good Friday. Coming home will make it a very good Friday indeed!

 

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Mar 20, 2014

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Travelogue: Day Five — Ice Cream

The funny, metallic pinging of “My Heart will Go On” filled the air as Donnie and I turned to see rural Uganda’s version of the ice cream truck.

I love the ingenuity and resourcefulness I see in Ugandans. I think we’ve had such an easy life in America for so long, that we tend to sit back after some small effort and declare that a thing cannot be done. In Uganda, they take what they have and make it work. So, this young man found a way to offer relief from the heat in the little poor area called Mpumudde — he filled a cooler with ice cream, secured it to his bike and drove around town, selling it for 1,000 shillings or so per cup. (That’s less than 50 cents U.S.)

The kids knew what it was right away, and Violet asked if she and her friends could have ice cream. Ha! As if we could say no to faces like these? (Still bearing the stickers they got in their dental care kits!)

I could tell by the way she was beaming that it made Violet happy to be able to offer this to her friends. Ice cream is a rare treat, and she says it’s one of her most favorite things to eat. (How fun is it going to be to take this girl to Dairy Queen?)

As Donnie was standing by the ice cream man and taking these photos, I was standing in the shade next to the van, talking to our driver, Francis. I think I’ve mentioned before that traveling with Francis is like having your own personal minister, life coach and encourager by your side. He is just a phenomenal human being. He said, “I think that ice cream man is going to thank God for blessing him today!” and I looked up to see Donnie waving some of the neighborhood kids over so he could buy them ice cream, too.

They’d been watching us from afar, but with great interest since we’d arrived to tour the property. We were actually getting ready to leave when the ice cream man came, and these kids had crept ever closer toward the road, to get a better look at what these muzungus (white people) were doing. One of my regrets is not capturing a picture of their smiles as Donnie invited them to come have ice cream, too. It was so precious to see their faces light up!

They stood patiently and quietly as the man scooped their ice cream, one cup at a time, not jostling or shoving ahead of each other like American kids that age might tend to do.

And one by one, they gently shook Donnie’s hand and told him, “Thank you,” in their sweet little accented voices.

One child held Donnie’s hand and kneeled down as he said thanks, and I could tell Donnie was choking back tears just like I was, watching everything just a few feet away in the shade.

One little boy was dressed in clothes so dirty you couldn’t really tell what color they’d originally been. He looked to be about four, the same age as our youngest son back home. That sweet child walked past me slowly, holding his paper cup of ice cream in both hands out in front of him, his huge eyes staring at it like he just could not believe his good fortune. It was like he was so amazed, he didn’t even want to take a lick of it, for fear he’d ruin the moment.

Like it was the most beautiful thing he’d ever received.

A simple cup of ice cream….

News spread fast, because a few more kids came running down the street, and after ten or so had been given ice cream, Francis and the pastor suggested that we stop buying it because we could be there all day. As Francis said, “The needs here are so great — there is no end to them.” I could tell that Donnie didn’t want to tell anyone no, and I didn’t either, but we understood the wisdom behind what our Ugandan friends were saying. Donnie took the change he received from the vendor and gave it to an old man in tattered clothing, limping down the road. As we drove off, I could see the kids who had ice cream sharing bites with the ones who came too late, and it just warmed my heart to see no jealousy or covetousness — just that warm, generous Ugandan spirit of giving that we’d already witnessed so many times.

A few weeks ago, Donnie and I were reminiscing about that day. His eyes grew misty and he said, “I never told you this, but I’d prayed before we went that I’d have a chance to buy ice cream for some kids.”

Just…wow, God. Wow!

It was such a simple answered prayer that became one of the highlights of our trip, and I’m failing miserably at articulating how much it meant to have been given that opportunity to bring a little joy into those kids’ lives. Because until the day I die, I will never forget the sight of the small Ugandan version of my boy Jonah, beaming brighter than the sun, gingerly carrying that ice-cold treasure in his dusty little hands.

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