Feb 2, 2014

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Travelogue: Day Two

(Continued from Day One)

The air in Cairo had been cool, but even at 3:00 a.m. the Ugandan night air was warm and damp. We tiredly shuffled down the steps onto the tarmac and another 20 paces into the nearly-deserted terminal, where the air was just as humid and still inside.

We got in line to go through customs, and it was a quick and easy process. Then it was on to baggage claim, where we discovered that one of our bags was missing. We’d been told to bring our court clothes on our carry-on bags, along with our basic toiletries, so thankfully, we had that. All our clothing made it safely, but the lost bag held all of our full-size toiletries, our snacks, pretty much all of our comfort items.

Oh, and in a total brain-fart moment, somehow we’d packed all our malaria medication into that one missing bag, too.


We got our first taste of “Uganda Time” when we filed the claim for the lost bag. Though it was the middle of the night and nothing was going on at the airport, though everyone was friendly, they were so very slow compared to American standards. What would’ve taken five minutes at home took nearly 30 minutes, with everything carefully handwritten out, the stapler nowhere to be found, the clerk disappearing for minutes at a time. There was just no sense of hurry or urgency at all. I didn’t really find it irritating, though, because I’d been told to expect it. It was more amusing than anything else, and we passed the time chatting with a missionary who’d also lost a piece of luggage.

A guard lazily waved us through the “Nothing to Claim” line, and outside, we met our driver who’d graciously waited for us. We hired Francis and his lovely wife Harriet was there to drive us to the Apricot Guesthouse in Kampala. It was after 4:00 by the time we left the airport and it was just crazy to see the number of people who were still up and about along the road from Entebbe. We passed lots of street vendors, and nightclubs blaring music — if you could call a closet-sized shanty a nightclub — people driving around on boda bodas (motorcycle taxis) and walking everywhere. The first thing I noticed were the smells: mostly the acrid smoke of burning trash, mingled with exhaust fumes and wafts of fried onions and charcoal when we passed the food stands. When the van was moving, the air blowing in felt very cool and comfortable. I noticed Harriet was wearing long sleeves and a knit cap. She said that to Ugandans, it was rather chilly out.

I admit to choking back tears in the back seat as Donnie and Harriet chatted up front about any and everything. It was my first time being face-to-face with conditions so poor, and I’m sure exhaustion didn’t help my frame of mind. The buildings were held together with sheet metal, wood scraps and whatever else they could find, and everything was so close to the road that you just felt immersed into it. There were deep ditches along the road and occasionally the smell of sewage rose out of them. I saw a man passed out on his face on the steps outside a shop, and people just walking around and over him. It was a lot to take in at once.

After a half hour or so, we approached the area of town where the guesthouse was located. We began to see small houses behind walls topped with razor wire, and still so many people walking about. The guesthouse was enclosed with solid metal gates; the gatekeeper opened them and it was like driving into another world. Even in the dark, it was clear that the grounds were beautifully landscaped and immaculately kept. We paid Harriet, and we followed the worker who carried up our bags.

We had a simple room on the second floor, with a glossy tile floor, a king-sized bed for us and a twin bed for Pearl. Thankfully, there was a fan that I immediately turned on, and a private bathroom. (Although the toilet was quite a tight fit for us, and it wasn’t until the last day that we learned we had to request the hot water to be turned on before we showered.)

I don’t really remember what we did over the next few hours. We both took (COLD) showers, Donnie shaved, I know I cried a bit more, we checked email and updated Facebook, we slept a little. We finally ventured downstairs for “breakfast” at 3:00 p.m, at which time our only choice for food was a plate of pineapple and papaya and a loaf of bread for toasting. It was adequate, though, and I found out that Ugandan pineapple is truly one of God’s most delectable creations.

They told us we were too late to request dinner at the guesthouse, so we decided we’d opt for a Power Bar later and spend the rest of the day catching up on sleep. The orphanage pastor, our daughter and her birth mother weren’t scheduled¬† to come until the following day, so we went back to the room, stretched out under the fan, tucked in the mosquito net and promptly zonked out.

At 6:00 pm. we were startled awake by a light knock at the door.

“Someone here to see you,” said a voice.

Donnie hopped out of bed to peek out the window, which looked out over the gate and parking area.

“Oh my gosh…is that Pastor Ronald?”

My head heavy with sleep, I stumbled over to the window and saw that it was, indeed, him.

“They’re here — a day early??? Ohmigosh…Oh. My. Gosh!”

We stared at each other a moment.

“What do we do?” (I’m really quite skilled at asking stupid questions at stressful moments.)

“We get dressed and go meet our daughter!”

And so, we did.


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Jan 24, 2014

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Long-Awaited Update

At the moment, I’m sitting at Heathrow Airport, on our way home from Uganda after an incredible week with our Pearl.

Needless to say, things didn’t transpire as we originally planned.

We thought Donnie would come home after a week and I’d stay the remaining month or so until our process was done. But nothing else has gone according to our plans, so why should this, either? ;-)

In recent weeks, the already slow Ugandan adoption process has gotten even slower due to problems at the passport office and the embassy. There’s a backlog of families who have been in-country for 7 to 10 weeks. When you start adding up expenses for staying that long, it’s actually cheaper to make two trips.

Also, it might be that Donnie has to be the one to make the return trip, because despite being very careful with food and water, I got sick our first night there. I battled fever, vomiting and diarrhea for most of the week, and am still feeling dehydrated and puny. And that’s even while treating myself with Cipro and Imodium. (Y’all, I’ve never known a bug that Imodium couldn’t stop. LOL!)

Anyway, I read that most cases of travelers tummy is caused by ecoli (eww) and my immune system isn’t the greatest thanks to lupus…and ecoli can do some pretty wicked things, so…it might not be smart for me to go back. Unless my doctor OKs it, and I take some kind of prophylactic antibiotics, and only eat prepackaged stuff from home. We’re praying for wisdom in deciding who should go back to finish the process and bring her home.

Now, I know you all want to see pictures and hear about the trip, and I promise over the weekend I’ll post a series of travelogues detailing it all. I’m not comfortable posting pics of her until we get the judge’s ruling, which should be midweek. I’ll go ahead and say that court went very well, she is even prettier and sweeter in person, and despite my illness, we had a truly incredible time!

More soon!





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Nov 27, 2013

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Court Date: Mission Impossible

I saw this graphic on Sunday and had no idea how much I’d need to remember this in the coming week.

At 2:00 a.m. Tuesday, we heard that our allotted judge was finally scheduling cases, and we were given a court date.

Now, I’ve dreamed of that court-date moment often over the past two years, much like a pregnant mom imagines what going into labor will be like. I thought that when we finally pinned down that ever-elusive court date, our reactions would include dancing, praises and joy — not the nervous stomachs, racing hearts and near-panic attacks we both had. The reason for the internal chaos? The date was next week. We’d have to fly out on Monday.

So we started praying. Praying and talking and planning and trying to figure out what we were going to do, was it even possible to go on such short notice, and all the while thinking of that little girl with those gorgeous brown eyes and wide smile and knowing that there was no question — of course we had to accept the date and GO! Donnie and I sat up talking until he had to get ready for work at 5:00 a.m. My nervousness turned to butterflies over the thought of finally, finally meeting her and hugging her and loving on her in just a few days! How thrilling and lovely and wonderful that felt.

But then the logistics started falling apart. I’m not at liberty to discuss a couple of the issues here because of family privacy concerns, but I can tell you about two: getting last-minute tickets was going to be more than we budgeted for. And one of the problems involves some medical testing scheduled for next Tuesday, over a new concern that really should be sorted out before embarking on a month-long stay in a 3rd world country.

It has been an emotionally exhausting 24 hours, much of it spent in tears fueled by self-doubt and frustration. How could we say “not yet” to this date that we have begged God to give us for so long? How was it even possible that we could choose to postpone further what has already been postponed by circumstance way longer than we could’ve ever imagined?

I’m afraid that some people won’t understand, that some of you reading this are feeling angry and frustrated with us and think we’ve gone mad. One of our older children felt that way — at least, initially. He was angry and said we were abandoning his sister if we didn’t go get her right now.

(Hearing that felt like shoving a knife into my heart and twisting it…)

He understands better now, and if you’re close friends with us, I don’t mind sharing a bit more with you that I cannot divulge on a public blog (if you need more clarity to help you understand the “whys” behind this seemingly-crazy choice to delay). I’m sure our son isn’t the only person who is going to hear what we decided and think we’re certifiably insane. But I think that if you know us, and you know our hearts toward Pearl, you can trust that there had to be some compelling reasons for not hopping on a plane this Monday.

The good news — the judge is scheduling cases, and it’s just a few weeks longer to wait. Courts reopen on January 15th after Christmas break, and the lawyer is moving us to one of those mid-to-late-January dates. I will post again when we know for certain what we’ve been assigned.

In the meantime…thank you again for all the prayers and love you’ve shown us through this process. I really do (finally!) see the light at the end of the tunnel and we feel encouraged most of all, that progress is finally being made — even if it’s not at lightning-fast speed. It won’t be long now, I’m certain.


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Jun 8, 2013

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The Post I Don’t Want to Write

I’ve been putting off writing this for a while, but today I really have to do it.

The above quote is the truth. Sometimes I wonder, if I had known how hard it would be, would I have still chosen to go down this path of independent international adoption? Donnie and I have had this discussion more than once. If I’m honest, I don’t know that I would’ve gathered the courage to do it, had I known how hard it would be.

The timeline is at least twice as long as we predicted. I naively thought she’d be here before winter ended. We’re now racing toward July and I don’t have any real end date in sight.

We’re now facing the possibility of hiring a new attorney, which means starting all over again with some of the processing and redoing our home study, which expires in August and costs a lot to renew. It also means, at the end of the day, doubling our original estimate of $3000 for legal expenses.

Because of that and other issues, the expenses keep compounding, and I am NOT at all a salesman or fundraising person at heart. I despise asking people for help. It’s truly one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do. I dislike every bit of it–the selling, dealing with crazy people on eBay, baking in the heat at yard sales and having people grumpily pay me pennies for things that are worth much more, posting reminders to buy coffee or cakes or jewelry on Facebook. Basically, begging. God has definitely set me outside my comfort zone in that regard.

I get so weary of being asked how the adoption is going, and I know that most people only want a short answer. But trying to explain it all is like trying to summarize “War and Peace” in a couple of words. You just can’t do it. And people who aren’t familiar with international adoption don’t really understand the process anyway, so it’s hard to know how to explain our current issues.

In retrospect, I’d have changed so many things. I wouldn’t have let Pearl know about our intentions as soon as we did. This lengthy process has been so incredibly unfair to her. I wouldn’t have chosen a lawyer based on just a few glowing recommendations of people in-process with him — I’d have sought out multiple opinions by people who were already back home with their children. Actually, I think I’d go with an agency instead of independent adoption, too. But there wasn’t really any way to do that, in our case, given how we knew Pearl.

Today, I found out they’ve set a new requirement to clear court in Kampala: a private investigation into the orphan’s family history and background. They’ve just started requiring this because of the fraud in Ugandan adoptions. Apparently, the corruption isn’t limited to cases involving babies and toddlers — even older kids are being coached to lie about their family situations. It’s all over the news right now in Uganda, from what I hear. Even though the government’s probation officers (social workers) have already conducted their investigation, the judges (and the American embassy) now want to see a separate private investigation done as well. I understand why, but still…that’s $2,000 more — and I will be beyond shocked if Pearl’s story doesn’t turn out to be true, because I know people who’ve been there and verified it.

Like my mama always said, a few people doing wrong can ruin things for everybody; sometimes you’re the one who gets punished for someone else’s crimes.

It seems like every time I think I know how something is going to go, something else happens. And I fear that we’ll be stuck in this limbo forever, with nothing lining up or working out. Realistically, of course, I know that’s not the case — nothing ever stays the same. I’m just sharing how it feels.

A younger Donnie, a younger me probably would’ve said “no” to all of this, had we known in advance.

The trouble is, we’re older and have the life experience to know that the hardest things in life are usually worth it in the end. And all of us have already bonded with this sweet girl, and she, with us. So, there’s no quitting now.

We have three amazing boys and they didn’t come easily, either, their journey to us marked by years of infertility, miscarriages, one son nearly dying at birth and me having serious complications during or after all three pregnancies. Now on the other side of it, these kids are such a blessing, I’d do it all again and more. But had I known ahead of time, would I have signed up for all of that? I don’t know that I would’ve had the courage to say “Yes” if I’d known.

I’m sure this is the same. A year from now, I’ll probably be braiding her hair and thanking God for pulling us through. I feel guilty even asking anyone to lift up more prayers for us, because they’ve already given their time in prayer, and so much more.

It’s definitely a costly, exhausting, expensive, outrageous thing, this process of redemption.

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May 16, 2013

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Upheld by God

“Even if my father and mother abandon me, the Lord will hold me close.” – Psalm 27:10 (NLT)

I’m so glad He’s been holding our baby girl close.

And holding all of us up as we wait.

I heard from the lawyer again today. Now, please understand, I’ve officially reached the “I’ll believe it when I see it” stage of this process, but…I’m told that I’ll have a court date by next Wednesday.

I’ve soothed myself with the words of my friend Jewel before and I’m going to do it again: “God knows all about it, Kari.”

If it comes Wednesday, it comes. If not, then it wasn’t yet meant to be.

Thank you for praying with us for His will to be done. Thank you!

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Mar 4, 2013

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The Most Happiest Girl of All

“The most happiest girl of all!”

That is how the orphanage’s pastor referred to our daughter after their lengthy interviews last week with the probation officer in Uganda.

How I wish we could’ve seen her face!

A “probation officer” there is like what we would call a government social worker here — or maybe more of a guardian ad litem? Every child up for international adoption has a probation officer assigned to his or her case, to determine whether the child is indeed an orphan, and to objectively examine the overall family situation in detail. Then the officer makes a determination as to what should happen, in the best interest of the child. There can be significant problems and delays that arise at this point in the adoption process, so we were more than a little nervous as we prayed over this meeting. We knew that essentially, our fate was in the officer’s hands, and it could go either way.

We are relieved to report that Pearl’s probation officer agreed that adoption is in her best interest!

Though, of course, the best situation for any child is to be raised in her own loving, biological family, we are honored to be “Plan B”. Is it weird to say that? I don’t know. I’m fully aware that my goofy, pale-white American family is not the first best option for her. But I pray that with God’s help, we will be the next-best solution to provide her with the life she deserves.

They emailed me a copy of the form and one line in it brought tears to my eyes:

Seeing the word “wasted” on that form just slapped me in the face. Because that terrible word has no place being paired with this gorgeous, sweet girl we’ve fallen in love with.

That word should never be used in reference to children, period.

And that is what slays me as a mother, when I look at this beautiful girl, when I look at the precious faces of all her peers at the orphanage — the terrible thought of even one of these little lives being misspent.

Because God didn’t say when he made them, “Oh, this one will end up an orphan — I won’t waste my time placing any special gifts or talents in this child.”

Oh no, He graced them with just as many lovely qualities and abilities as everyone else. And it breaks my heart to think of any boy or girl having no hope of a better or fruitful future, their talents and gifts and callings never surfacing because difficult life circumstances buried them away.

I can’t even express what an honor it is for God to have given my husband and I the task of nurturing and uncovering what beautiful things lie within this child — within ALL of our children that He’s so graciously loaned to us. It’s the biggest, most humbling privilege that a human being can ever be handed and it’s hard not to fear messing up this parenting thing.

Because if we don’t get this right, not much else in life matters.

There are two final hurdles, legal-wise: for the judge to grant us legal guardianship, and for the American embassy in Kampala to approve her visa.

It feels so incredible to have made it to this point.

Dear Father God, you see our hearts, ours and Pearl’s…you know how much we all long to be together as a family. All that stands between us now are the decisions of a few people, and a few thousand dollars. I know you wouldn’t have brought us this far without completing this good work you’ve begun, and I trust your mighty hand to attend to all the remaining details. Thank you so much for all the beautiful people who’ve supported us with their gifts and with their prayers and please bless them multiple times over for their kindness. May our girl feel this net of support that you have woven beneath her, beneath us, and may we never forget to honor you for this amazing thing you have done. Protect our sweet girl’s heart and reward her patience in waiting. Thank you for the gift of hope that you planted in her, for the inspiration she is to me and to everyone who knows her. May her life always be a blessing and I ask now that you help us to be the family that she needs, so that in your precious Holy Name, she can become everything you intend for her to be. I pray for your sweet favor, for your provision to bring the fundraising to a close, for setting the perfect court date with the most compassionate judge, for traveling mercies and safety, for my precious boys at home to be well-cared-for in my absence and their hearts prepared for all that lies ahead.¬† Thank you for the desires you place into our hearts, and for fulfilling them. Thank you for your love, your never-ending, always-enduring, sweeter-than-honey, all-powerful, mighty, mighty love. Amen.

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Jan 11, 2013

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So Far Away

Never has Pearl felt farther away than when I read the pastor’s message Wednesday morning:

“Your daughter is feeling not well. She tells me that her head is paining her. She is shivering and feeling cold.”

It was evening there in Uganda, and her fever was rising. And there was nothing I could do but pray. I felt totally and completely helpless.

I’m not one who cries easily, but ever since my eldest was a baby, one thing is guaranteed to bring me to tears. Whenever any of my kids get sick, I cry. (Not boo-hooing around them, obviously, but I get so emotional over seeing them feeling poorly that it usually makes me tear up….and then I have to slip away with a Kleenex and pull myself together.)

Well, this is a sure sign this child is my daughter, because as soon as I heard the news, the tears started welling up. My oldest boy saw me and asked what was wrong. When I told him, he looked very alarmed and said, “I’m worried, Mom. That’s my sister.” And we all stopped what we were doing to pray for her.

Fears of encephalitis, meningitis, sepsis, dozens of other things that can cause piercing headaches and high fevers all ran through my mind. It’s just so hard not to worry about the worst, especially when the one you love is in a third-world country.

Thankfully, she was able to be seen by a doctor, who diagnosed her with malaria. She’s been on medication and is slowly improving. I’m thanking God for that, and pray that she continues to feel better.

But as with all my kids, I won’t really relax until I hear that she’s back to normal.

As you can imagine, parenting from so far away is really hard at times like this. I’ve felt such a mixture of emotions the past two days: sadness over her being so sick and alone, fear over complications developing, and anger over not being able to get her here yet.

An ever-increased sense of urgency to bring her home.

A missionary friend shared her continual frustration over the fact that there are only 4 doctors to every 100,000 people in Uganda — something that obviously makes it incredibly difficult to get care when you need it. When this person heard about our daughter’s fever, she told me, “Life is just so hard here. You have to get her to America just as soon as you possibly can.”

That’s what I want to do. But we’re still so far away from having the funds in place to do it.

Right now, we need almost $2000 to hire the lawyer and secure a court date. Then we need $2000 more to pay the rest of his fees, and another $4000 to cover our travel expenses.

We’re revamping the store, doing all we can to raise this money. Praying for a grant to come through. Praying for someone to possibly step up and loan us a larger amount so that we can move ahead.

If you’ve ever wanted to donate to the adoption, please do so, soon. And to all of those who have helped, thank you so much. What I can do to make this happen feels so weak, so little. But I rest on this verse:

“But He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” 2 Corinthians 12:9 (NIV)

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Oct 12, 2012

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Twenty Reasons: Sixteen

On this sixteenth reason to love this little girl, I think about her 16th birthday. The prom. Her wedding day. And all the precious milestones that a mother and daughter share.

Not that these won’t be celebrated milestones with my sons. Of course, they will be!

But there is a girly preciousness in the way a mom and her daughter mark these occasions. There’s the dress shopping and the planning, the pedicures and pictures. There are traditions that my mother shared with me and my sisters, that I thought I’d have to save somewhere in the corners of my mind, to unwrap for any future granddaughters, hoping beyond hope that my daughters-in-law will let me be that involved in her children’s lives.

It overjoys me that now, I’ll have that direct connection to my own daughter; that I will pass down to another young girl the things that were handed down to me.¬† And while I extend myself in a similar way to my sons, I think most parents would agree: there is a difference in parenting boys and girls.

There are attachments my husband has with my sons simply because they all know what it’s like to be male. I thought I’d never get to experience building the female version of those attachments to a daughter of my own.

But now, I do. And it feels like a huge gift from God, this long-deferred longing that will now come to fulfillment.

I don’t know if Pearl will ever realize the gift she is giving to me.

Maybe someday, when she has a daughter of her own…


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