Monday, February 28, 2011

Trying to find the new normal....


Zeke insisted on putting on the cowboy hat....a Ugandan cowboy!

Seriously, how cute is Elly Faith?


Zeke and Elly playing Daddy and Mommy to the baby....

Entertainment is free for the taking around here....

We've been home for 10 days now, and we're still searching for the new normal around here. Before we left for Africa, the "idealic" notion of two more children just added a little more joy to our home. And noise...lots of noise. And trips to the bathroom...lots of those too. And cries for "Hold me please!" And requests for food...often. And bath times (the older three do this solo so we have some time to talk about that time of day). And requests for water. And, "Come here please!" can be heard often to show a new trick. But, abounding joy more than all of these things. So, JT and I are trying to get used to this new phase of life...or rather, returning to this old phase of life.

While we are much more laid back this time around, we are also older and less energetic. Pray for that! The days are longer as little ones require much more attention and training not to mention the whole language barrier. But, we are settling in around here. The biggest obstacle at this point is how to divide our school time so that everyone gets the necessary attention and education! I'll be seeking out other moms for wisdom on this one.

On another topic Zeke has taken all of his malaria medicine, and he is showing no more signs of the disease. He hasn't had a fever since we started the medicine which is amazing! We are blessed to live in a country where we have access to great medical care anytime!

Speaking of blessings, we have been showered with homemade meals that are absolutely amazing. From homemade chicken noodle soup to jambalaya to fajitas, the foods have been wonderful. And, they are such a time-saver and sanity-giving piece of happiness for me! I haven't had to think about cooking yet!

We covet your prayers in the days ahead as there is a lot of training to do...pray for wisdom that only comes from God! We want to honor Him in all that we do!

Monday, February 21, 2011

Homecoming....

Hillary and Kaitlyn looking out for Elly...oh the fun to come in the day ahead.
Uncle Daniel with Kaitlyn and Elly. Daniel is one of the most generous people you will ever meet (and cheap at the same time). He will do anything for you...anything. He makes me laugh, and I count it a privilege to be his sister.
This picture brings tears to my eyes for many reasons...but the main one is that I LOVE and adore and admire and respect these people more than I can adequately communicate. John and Mary Crisp (and their sweet daughter, Auntie Michelle) are a blessing beyond measure.

Elly sucks her thumb and rubs her ear to go to sleep - absolutely precious. But, even a homecoming couldn't stir her.

Pure joy - coming home!
Zeke loves to "ride" on anything..including his Daddy's suitcase. This is the way we carried our kids through the airport since the airlines insisted on checking our stroller in Entebbe.
Kaitlyn and her good friend Hillary. What a blessing to have such a friend.
Sweet friends, Amanda McCollum and Tim Burch. They went above and beyond in helping us...from a breakfast casserole the next morning to turning on our A/C and lights to clothes for the kids to encouraging emails frequently. We are so thankful for their hearts for orphans.
My brother Daniel met us at the airport with his precious wife's vehicle. Our third seat wasn't in our Expedition (we totally overlooked that detail), so they put our car seats in Amanda's car and let us bring that home. I missed him SO much when I was in Africa...I count him among my best friends.
My brother David with Zeke. As soon as Zeke walked into his bedroom at home that night, he asked for Uncle David...I had to explain that Uncle David didn't live here. Zeke didn't like that. David was a constant source of encouragement and prayer for us while we were gone. He is one of my best friends too!
Kaitlyn took sweet Elly after a little while, and Elly remained sound asleep for the entire homecoming. She was worn out...nothing could awaken her...except the car seat.
My sweet friend Lisa Coker meeting Zeke for the first time. Lisa's prayers and emails were such a blessing to us while we were gone.
My sweet gift from God, Mary Crisp. She has been like a mom to me, and I am overwhelmed beyond words for her and John. They have blessed us more than I can say. They are our extended family, and we are so grateful for them.
I love this picture....it shows people with a heart for the nations. They loved on us in ways I cannot describe....
My precious new friend Danielle. This picture says more than I can share....and it makes my heart smile.
The ONE thing that Jett wanted more than anything when he came home...food, a comfy bed, a hot bath...NOPE...to see his friend Harry. Jett was overjoyed!
Madison receiving a hug from her friend Holly. The girls were so thankful to have their friends there to encourage them and welcome them home.


We are home and getting settled in...JT and I have a little jet lag and thus the reason I'm up at 3:55 am to write a post. We were at church yesterday and were given a precious gift...pictures of our homecoming. My friend, Allison Lewis, took these photos, and they are a gracious reminder of how good our Father is! It is a picture of a community of believers who walked this journey with us and how God made a way for these former orphans.

I tried to pick just 5...but alas, I could not. I REALLY tried people...REALLY. Hey, I did narrow it down to 18. Alison is going to take our family pictures when we truly get settled and the kids know a little more English.....

For now, everyone is doing well. Elly has adjusted easily and finds being a "girly girl" an easy task around here. She likes to change her clothes (constantly asking "chusa en goye?" - change my clothes?) and dress up. She loves baby dolls and the microphone. Zeke is struggling a bit with eating and going to the potty - mainly because he was allowed to do whatever he wanted whenever he wanted. So, it's a new experience to have food 3 times a day and go to a Western toilet. But, he's trying so hard. Last night, he ate asparagus and grapes...proudly.

JT's mom and sister are coming today, and our kids will be so excited to see them. Since they Skyped with both of them from Africa, they will recognize them immediately. We saw this in church yesterday when they saw their uncles, aunt and cousin Chloe!

Speaking of church...what a blessing to be back "home" yesterday on a Sunday. We were overwhelmed with the outpouring of love for our family. I cannot even describe how I felt...but "grateful" and "encouraged" come to mind.

Hopefully, we will post a family picture soon! For now, pray that we adjust to a schedule around here and get some school done in the near future. We love you all!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Six Things....

This post was written this morning before our day began....read all the way to the bottom to see what happened.......

In order for our family of seven to come home tomorrow night, there are 6 things that MUST take place today in a particular order. Now, keep in mind that we are in Africa and EVERYTHING is done on African time. So, we have been realistic with our expectations and accomplishing one thing a day is worthy of a medal!

So, asking for 6 things is like asking your invalid grandmother to run a marathon....we CANNOT make this happen. It's impossible. But, our God is the God of impossibles. He is Sovereign, and we are resting in Him today. Just now as we were in the van, I prayed, "God, help me not to plan this day or try to manipulate the situation. I pray that my will/desires will die to Yours alone. I trust You."

For those of you who are praying....here are the specifics (as each one happens, we will update):

1. Go to the Embassy at 7:30 am and beg for an appointment this afternoon. (DONE!!!!)
2. Receive our passports. (DONE!!!)
3. Contact our travel agent to get flights for Zeke and Elly. These have already been paid for and placed on hold but are waiting on passport numbers for ticketing. (DONE!!!)
4. Receive our court order and have it notarized. (DONE!!!)
5. Receive our court ruling and have it notarized. (DONE!!!)
6. Have a favorable interview at the US Embassy at 3:00. (DONE!!!)

We can't thank you guys enough for all of the prayers. We know that the Holy Spirit is ministering to us through all of you!!!!

THAT'S RIGHT....GOD SHOWED HIMSELF GLORIOUS ONCE AGAIN! It is a miracle of the Lord that all of these things happened today! We are coming home.....we will be arriving in Birmingham at 9:35 PM on Friday night on American Airlines. Praise, honor, and all glory belong to God alone!!!!!

A Plead for a Miracle....

Today I am asking, imploring, begging you for prayer for tomorrow. We did not receive our passports today which pushes everything to tomorrow. We have to first go to the U.S. Embassy and ask them to please allow us to have an interview with the remaining three items (court order, court ruling and passports) in hand. We know that the ruling and order have already been written.

So, we will be at the embassy at 7:30 in the morning asking for an interview with exceptions. PLEASE pray with us that this will be granted. Then, we will go into town and pick up our passports around 8:30. Our court appointment is at 10:30. We would LOVE to be back at the Embassy around 2:00 with everything we need.

I am begging all of you to intercede to the Father on our behalf. We NEED and COVET your prayers right now. Please pass this along to anyone who is willing to pray! We need the saints of our Lord Jesus Christ to stand in the gap for us. We are so thankful for your prayers.

Monday, February 14, 2011

This Week...




The kids take turns pretending like they are asleep, and one of the others comes up quietly and scares them. Then, they proceed to chase each other around the yard laughing incessantly!


In order for us to come home this week, many things have to happen at just the right time. Here's the breakdown:

1. Receive passports today.
2. Send passport numbers to our travel agent (I HIGHLY recommend Eldo Miller at Golden Rule Travel for adoption airfares!).
3. Take the passports to the US Embassy.
4. Receive our court ruling and order on Wednesday at 10:00 am.
5. Get copies of the ruling quickly.
6. Submit the original ruling to the Embassy by noon (traffic here can be a nightmare, and you can really only legitimately plan to accomplish one thing a day).
7. Send the ruling to our social worker, Claire, at Lifeline.
8. Interview at the Embassy at 2:00 on Wednesday afternoon with former guardians of the children.
9. Receive a favorable reply from the Embassy that day.
10. Get our visa from the Embassy on Thursday.
11. Catch our midnight flight on Thursday (well technically Friday).

So, this is a God-sized tasks (everything is...), and we trust in Him. We know that ALL things are possible with our God, and He never fails. If He chooses to allow all of these things to happen in this way, we will praise Him. If He does not, we will still praise Him!

And for an update on the kids (we KNOW that's what you are all here for!).... They are both learning a lot (as we are too). There are daily struggles and daily victories. It is not easy, but we never thought it would be.... There are times I think I can't breathe and moments that are absolutely amazing. And sometimes,t these moments coincide. But, our God sustains us!

Zeke has never been taken care of in a way that demonstrates love and concern. So, as JT said, "It's like softening the heart of a man to find the soul of a little boy." He adores his Poppa and loves to play with balloons and balls. He likes to drink Chai and eat bread. He loves meat and carbs.... He still has gray spots in his head from lack of nutrition and food when he was younger. He will eat anything in sight at any time......including leaves off trees and crumbs on the floor. He has a survival instinct where he eats all he can when he can because he doesn't know when his next meal will come. We experienced the same issue with Jett but it subsided fairly quickly. We continue to reassure him that we will have another meal. Pray that God will soften his heart to appropriate boundaries, receiving genuine love and being certain of our care for him.

Elly likes to be called Elly Faith or Elly Boo when we get a chance. She is full of life and loves to run and laugh. She has ventured out to eat many things but will pick every bit of "green" out of a dish whether it is a spice or a vegetable. She has moments when she just cries for 30 minutes at a time (sometimes with tears and others without). Just last night, she sat in my lap and cried and cried. I held her and reassured her that we love her and will be here for her. She told one of the workers at our guesthouse today that she was ready to go to our home (and if we left her, she would cry). To think that she even imagines we would leave her breaks my heart. Pray that God would heal the sadness and memories in her heart and that she would be open to receiving love from our family.

We love you all and covet your prayers!!!!

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Another Year Older....




Today was my birthday. I had forgotten the date until my friend Lora and I were traveling across town to visit some children. She had to remind me! By the way, I would encourage you to follow her blog at www.vitafamiliae.com. They are adopting a little girl here and have 5 kids at home in Birmingham, AL. Lora is a dear friend and a fabulous writer…love her! Time is of little importance here, and my days are totally messed up. Plus, the time difference between home and here makes me forget if it’s day or night.

But, one of my cherished memories of today is my new son Zeke singing Happy Birthday to me….sounded more like “Hoppy Bursday toooo youuuuuuu.” And then, my friends Angelia and Susie had prepared a surprise for me before we left Alabama. Tonight, we celebrated at a local Italian restaurant. Their surprise included confetti, balloons, streamers, party favors (even for the waiters), a candle, and some of my favorite snacks! I felt loved!

Then, I open emails to find hundreds of birthday wishes. Wow…I am beyond blessed. Please know that I am grateful beyond words…I wish I could express my thankfulness to each of you personally. But, time is limited (and sometimes electricity too) and 5 kids are keeping me on my toes.

I’m so thankful that God has placed each of you in my life. May His name be honored and glorified above all else!

Friday, February 11, 2011

Hopeful....

As I sit in the living room of our guest house, it is 6 in the morning. No one else is awake but me and the 3 million mosquitoes (seriously, with all of the brain power in the world...can someone not invent something to get rid of these insects?). But, more importantly I am rejoicing in some news we received yesterday. I hesitate to even put this down in writing, but even if it doesn't happen, we will praise the Lord (plus it's helpful to those who will follow down this road).

Our friends and I went to the US Embassy yesterday to turn in our paperwork. Now, we've already been several times to turn in birth certificates and social history reports. As you complete or receive paperwork, it is a good idea to go ahead and turn it in quickly. Plus, because of past fraud issues around the globe with adoption, it is important that the officials see your face often.

So, we went to turn in our papers...for our family, that includes 2 different sets of government paperwork (4 documents), copies of our passports, irrevocable releases for the adoptions, and passport photos. We still have the kids' passports and the court ruling to submit. The way the process has been working in Uganda is this...get in ALL of your paperwork, schedule an interview for an appropriate day (Mondays and Wednesdays only), have the interview, and then get the visa several days later. The process of scheduling and having an interview can be 3 days to 2 weeks later typically. So, our plan was to turn in all of our paperwork on Wednesday (the 16th) when we received our court ruling.

However, we did not know that the US Embassy would be closed on Friday the 18th for elections here in Uganda and on the 21st for Presidents' Day in the US. So, we knew that our best hope was an interview on Wednesday the 23rd and hopefully a visa on the 25th. That would put us coming home on the 27th or so.

When I talked to the US Embassy yesterday, the official asked me to bring the kids's passports by on Tuesday and the court ruling on Wednesday (we'll be booking it as our ruling is read at 10 and the embassy closes at 12 for submission of paperwork). However, she also told me that I could bring it to the interview if that doesn't work. Okay.... She scheduled our interview for THAT afternoon...the 16th! What? That is unheard of...an interview the same day as our documents are submitted? For future adoptive parents, this is highly unlikely but due to the closings that are on the horizon.

So, I asked hesitantly, "So, if our interview is on Wednesday, and you are closed Friday and Monday, when would we get our visas for the children?" She told me that they would push to get us the visas on Thursday, the 17th....are you serious? I saw God's hand at work in a way that I couldn't fathom. I'm hopeful but know that this is not guaranteed.

If all goes smoothly, then we will fly home on Friday the 18th (we leave a little after midnight on Thursday). We would arrive in Birmingham (sweet home Alabama) about 9:30 on Friday night.

Please pray that the process continues to work smoothly and for our sanity! We would love to come home this quickly to transition the new kiddos easier. Thank you all for your prayers...we are so grateful for the saints that surround us!

A miracle on the way?

Thursday, February 10, 2011

This One's for Jett



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Today, February 10th, is Jett's birthday. He is seven! It's so hard to believe that he is already 7...time truly does fly by! He is a gift from the Lord to our family, and we are so blessed!

So, about 3 months ago, Jett asked for a birthday present...one that I knew I had no way to control....one that I could NOT provide. He asked for a brother....

Today was our court appointment, and to be honest, I just wanted to throw up and cry all at the same time. To all the mothers out there, it was that feeling right before you see your child for the first time. It lasted about 3 hours.... I prayed throughout the entire court proceedings (let's be honest...some was in Lugandan and other parts were just so quiet, I couldn't hear a word they were saying).

As we left the court room, we had to cross the hall to get our oldest three children (there wasn't enough room for everyone in the courtroom). I called Jett over to me and said, "Well, do you remember what you asked for your birthday?" "Yes!" he exclaimed with hopeful eyes. "God has provided more than you asked...it's a brother and a sister," I told him joyfully!

God has shown Himself faithful to His promises! I KNEW that people were praying for us around the world...we felt the sweet presence of the Holy Spirit! What a blessing! Praise be to the Father above for his goodness! I've been so unfaithful at times, yet He has remained faithful! All glory and honor and praise to Him ALONE!!!!

Thank you is NOT enough for the hundreds of notes of encouragement we have received and the prayers that we know were prayed! We are grateful beyond measure! We love you all!

So, tonight we will celebrate Jett's 7th birthday with 2 new family members! We will receive our court order on Wednesday and turn in all of our paperwork to the US Embassy. We hope to be home sometime in the next few weeks!!!

Monday, February 7, 2011

Worthy of All Praise....




What a day....with friends here, we are able to "divide and conquer." So, one group took off for the lawyer's office and US Embassy, and the others went to the medical clinic. Let me say that I got the better end of that deal with the embassy run.... (please see earlier post about Elly going to doctor the first time. I think I deserve a break, thank you.)

Meanwhile, our friends discovered a missing passport plus a good deal of money. It was stolen. We didn't realize this until we returned to our lodging this afternoon. The scenario involved an interrogation and a police report...not exactly basking in the beauty of Uganda.

And JT is sick...very sick. He came back to our residence feeling sick to his stomach, feverish and achy. Then, he began to run a fever and have chills at the same time. When I saw him asking for a blanket and long sleeve shirt with 80 degree weather, I knew something was wrong (those who have been in our home know that he likes to keep it a cool 55...okay, that may be exaggerating a bit). So, our friend Peter suspects malaria and takes JT to the local clinic.

JT gets malaria medicine and instructions on what medicines he needs to take. Hopefully, he will be feeling somewhat better tomorrow. So, it was just me and the five kiddos tonight....no reminder needed that I'm inadequate for this job...both new kiddos begin crying at the same time...Kaitlyn goes to the police station with our friend, and well, supper revolved around fish (not really kid-friendly).

But, in all my inadequacies, He shows Himself strong and faithful. He is worthy of all praise. God and God alone. We rest in Him tonight, and we know that He is who He says He is. He is the Great I Am, the Lion of Judah, the Alpha and Omega, and the Everlasting Father. We believe in Him (but even if we didn't, He would still be all those things and more). We trust Him. We give Him all honor and praise for this path.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Prayers Needed...






Just this past week we have seen/heard of 2 families getting kicked out of court. That means that they will go home and have to come back later for their children. This breaks my heart...and makes me anxious about our own case. I worry that the same thing could happen to us. I'm not an anxious person most of the time....however, I have one child who is. And, once she heard this news, she began to worry...each day she cries about the possibility of leaving Africa without her brother and sister. So, we pray.

This Thursday is CRUCIAL to our adoption process. We need a favorable ruling from the judge in order to adopt both children. Once the judge gives his approval, we will only need the official document from him. Then, we get to deal with the US Embassy.... So, we are asking that everyone pray diligently for us on Wednesday and Thursday. The court case is scheduled for 12:00 our time which is 3:00 am for our friends in the Central Time Zone (the rest of you guys can figure your time I think)! Please beseech the Father on our behalf...we are earnestly praying for a favorable ruling!

Speaking of favorable, I must admit that most of these days I'm consumed with fear and confusion. The environment is wearing us down, and we are all tired. But, God has granted us friends and family who are encouraging us every day. I can't possibly list everyone who has shared their hearts with us, but I do want to tell you guys that God uses you to minister to us daily. As I read your encouraging words to the family, we are all moved to a great sense of gratitude. God has blessed us immensely!

Finding Hope in the Midst of the Storm...






In the midst of the storm, Jesus speaks. He calms our hearts and minds and refocuses our attention on Him. He is the reason we live, and we give Him all the glory!

Yesterday was a day of tears all around. I went into town with a driver to the US Embassy as well as to receive birth certificates for each of our new children. The goal was to get the certificates and take them back to the embassy by 11:30 am. Well, that didn't work out...but we did get both birth certificates by the end of the day. In fact, Zeke was apparently born twice, as he now has 2 Ugandan birth certificates (different registration numbers....). Oh well! On the other hand, we received news that our court date has been changed to Thursday...another delay. However, we are hopeful that this will give us more time to acquire all of the necessary information for the court (on a side note our friends are going home without their baby and have to return in about 6 weeks). So, my heart is hopeful that we will have all of the details of our court case worked out by Thursday.

While we are weary and teary-eyed, we also see the hope and grace of Jesus Christ. Through everyday moments, He shows Himself faithful and good:

  • watching a very sad little girl turn into a happy carefree child.
  • hearing "fank you" (thank you) with a British accent
  • seeing Jett grab the hands of his brother and sister to take a walk
  • observing Zeke and Elly jump without abandon into our arms in the pool
  • hearing Madison talk about the lessons God is teaching her in the waiting process
  • seeing my wonderful husband toss Zeke into the air through squeals of laughter
  • looking at Kaitlyn help her sister take a shower every night (and pretending to shave under her arms...)
God gives us glimpses into His love for us each day. We are so unworthy, yet He loves us whole-heartedly. He calls us to be here and to stay for these precious little ones. While we are uncomfortable and want to be home, we know why we are here. He is sustaining us through all of you....thank you from the bottom of our hearts.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Lord, help us....


Zeke posing again...this one is for Autumn.


Seriously...how cute is this?


Happy eyes...I love them!

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Elly likes to brush Mommy's hair.

Jett being Jett...love this kid. So proud of him!

I would love for each of these posts to be uplifting and encouraging, but life is messy, and it is not always "Sunday morning" acceptable. I am weary...I am tired...I stink...I want to go home. I wish I could just wrap up all five of my kids and be in my house. I want a real shower...I want some coffee...I want my house.... I want, I want, I want. I am trying to die to self so that Christ may be glorified. It is SO hard....I cannot do this alone...I simply can't do this.

I've spent many hours crying here. Things definitely do not go as planned. We've been told 7 different times that we were going to get our birth certificates for our kids (very important to both the court process here in Uganda and the visa process for the US). We still don't have them....one of them is downtown at a ministry office and the other is still in process. I cannot adequately communicate the frustration, anger, confusion and disappointment I feel.

But, I know in the One whom I have believed. He is able, and He is faithful. I rely completely on Him. I NEED God to do what only He can do today...I cannot do this. I fail miserably, but He never fails. I will fall flat on my face (and have many times) without God. I am nothing without Him. He is everything!

I have to tell you that I'm at the end of my rope. I have just finished reading Mary Beth Chapman's book....wow. I cried a lot. God ministered to me and spoke directly to my heart through her journey. It was just what I needed right now. But more than any book, I rely on His Word. It sustains me...it nourishes me. I cannot do anything else right now but seek Him.

Please pray for our process. We are all very weary and are concerned about our older three children. They are all growing tired...they are eager to return home. They have all been a little weepy and homesick.

We love you all!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Ups and Downs...








It's been another day of ups and downs. We spent most of the day on a "tourist" attraction, the equator. It was very cool for the kids to see how water goes clockwise on the northern hemisphere side, counter clockwise on the southern hemisphere side and straight down on the equator. Science lesson...check!

Meanwhile we received news that our court date has been moved to Monday. Since we have 2 cases (and not one), the judge wanted to hear them at the same time. I am struggling with issues involving trust and truth at this point. I'm not sure I understand either right now....

I am SO thankful that some of our friends are here. I had a "come apart" crying session while we were out today. So grateful that God had my friend there to walk the journey with me. Speaking of friends....I am extremely blessed by the friends God has placed in our lives. Please keep the encouragement coming.. God has used it to strengthen us daily! And, we love to see your smiling faces on Skype. If you have Skype and want to talk to us, we can set up a time!

We love you all and thank God for you. Please remember our global disciple-making pastor in your prayers. We received news yesterday that he has a tumor in his brain. Please lift him (Jonathan) and his family up before the Father who can do immeasurably more than we imagine.