Saturday, August 20, 2011

To Africa and back again…


I am back from my 2 weeks in Ug*nda…  Having a hard time summarizing 2 whirlwind weeks in a few paragraphs… And since our little guy is not legally and officially (or even certainly) ours yet, I can’t share details or pictures.

BUT…I will tell you he’s adorable, sweet, and clingy (just like the younger of his brothers!) It was delightful to be there with him, and to serve at the babies home that has been his home for all of his life.

The biggest highlight was our little guy… But some other things I loved were:

…After lunch & dinner, all the babies/toddlers get washed and changed - which means naked wet children running everywhere - you just grab them as you catch them and put clothes on them (which means mismatched, genderless clothing), and ask a Mama which bed they go in.  It's wild, but it's my favorite part - because once you catch them, dress them etc., then you get to cuddle them and pray into their little ears before putting them down. Delightful.

…I love the slower pace of life in Africa. It’s hard when you are AMERICAN and want things to happen on time and to have all of the information you want immediately handed over to you. But…once I talked myself out of my “must have all information in a timely manner”, I really began to enjoy not waking up with a 15 point agenda for each day. I had lots of time to read and visit with my 10 friends, and got 8-9 hours of sleep a night (except for the nights when the shouty mosque man woke me up at 5am).

IMG_1708 …I loved African food. I felt so healthy there, eating a mostly vegetarian, whole foods diet. I also really loved that I could walk across the street and buy an avocado as big as my head. YUM. I really came home planning to keep up these non-prepackaged foods/mostly vegetarian habits. But I’ve had a hard time resisting the allure of meat. And sweets. I went a little wild with those things at first, but think I’ve come back to a middle ground…


…New friends. I was so blessed with the group of volunteers serving at the babies home while I was there. I was the only prospective adoptive parent there until almost the end of my trip. The rest of the folks there were girls and women using their summers to serve and see Africa – ladies from the UK, Netherlands, Canada, and Sweden. There were girls fresh out of high school and women older than me and all in between. I loved getting to know all these sweet new friends and had such a good time serving and seeing the city with them, it was like a little family for 2 weeks. (this picture was taken on my 40th birthday with some of my little African family…at a cultural center for a concert/performance.)

It was a wonderful trip, and I so appreciate how many people were praying for me while I was there.

And now…we wait.  I have absolutely no idea how long it will be before I can go back and bring our boy home. They have to do a background investigation which could take many months. We are committed to an ethical, thorough process, which usually is not fast. It also means that I came home with no guarantees… Until the investigation is complete, we are filed for court, and our case is approved, I don’t know if or when we will be allowed to parent this little guy with whom I’ve fallen in love.

I wish I could be one of those people who instantly bond with their future adoptive child, sure that THIS child is God’s promise for them, confident that it will all work out they way they want it to. I love this little guy:


But the only promise I feel sure of is that God loves him more than I do. And He is the Father of the Fatherless, and the Father of ME, and His goodness is a promise no matter what the end of this story holds for our little guy. So that’s what I’m clinging to…that He is “the Father of lights, with Whom there is no variation or shifting shadow.” (James 1:17.)

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Adventures in Uganda: Saying goodbye (trip 1)

2/2012  Due to the nature of adoption in Uganda (and, frankly, the occasional craziness of the Ugandan adoptive community), I chose not to share any details on the blog about our adoption while we were still in process. But because this blog is the story of our lives... I want to go back and fill in those empty spaces.

 To see all of my adventures in Uganda (or at least the ones I've posted so far), click on the "Ugandan Adventures" tag at the bottom of this post.

Here's the message I posted to my private facebook group after returning home from my first trip to Uganda, meeting Micah Marvin, and then saying goodbye.

one last thank you...
Sweet friends!
I'm knee deep in laundry and trying to get my head around the fact that I'm a middle school parent now (when did that happen??) And watching Tobin make remarkable swings between hugging and kissing any part of me he can reach....and throwing giant fits of disobedience and testing. Welcome home!!

I can't tell you how much I appreciate your prayers and encouragement, especially that last day & saying goodbye to M. I was such a MESS when I woke up Saturday morning, and by the time I left, I was totally calm - I felt very carried, and firmly under the Lord's wings. It was hard to say goodbye, especially with so many unknowns in the future. But I trust the Lord - whether this story ends the way I want it to or not!

I rode to the airport in the baby home's van, with the driver's 18mo son on my lap (no carseats in Uganda)...and my sad Mama's heart found it very comforting to hold a sleeping toddler as we drove through the ridiculously crowded Kampala streets.

My flights home went off without a hitch, and I had quiet iPod listening or non-English speaking seatmates for every I got a lot of rest. I especially enjoyed the early morning hours in the Brussels airport - where the only coffee available to me was Starbucks. I would have preferred a more Belgian option (when in Belgium...), but as the bucks was my only choice, it was a nice taste/feel of home. Then on my second long flight (the first was 7.5 hours from Uganda to Brussels; the second was 9+ from Brussels to Chicago), the in flight movie was the JJ Abrams Star Trek, which for me is like the movie equivalent of comfort food. I was kind of embarrassingly happy about watching it (even though we own the DVD and I have seen it lots of times already.)

It's been lovely to be home, and I'm thankful for some time to begin to process everything...and to spend some good time with my boys before the craziness of fall ministry starts up.

I feel quite good right now about M...but I'm sure as the days turn to weeks and the weeks possibly to months, that will get harder. I really have no idea how long it will be before we're able to file in court...that all depends on how long it takes our lawyers to track down the people involved in M's case. I'd appreciate your continued prayers for them, for him, and for us.

One last update on my dad.... He is going to start chemo and radiation this week, and once his tumor (hopefully) responds to that, they will do surgery. My dad was disappointed to learn that the chemo regimen he'll be on does not cause hair loss...he was hoping to lose some back hair. My dad = hilarious. They said he has the most treatable kind of the cancer...praise the Lord for that!

I hope you all know what your notes and messages and prayers meant to me while I was all by myself (but not really) on the other side of the planet. It's an amazing thing to be in the family of God! I appreciate that you were all willing to go along with me...and thankful that we live in a day and age where all of this is possible!!
Love to each of you!

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Adventures in Uganda: The last few days (trip 1)

2/2012  Due to the nature of adoption in Uganda (and, frankly, the occasional craziness of the Ugandan adoptive community), I chose not to share any details about our adoption while we were still in process. But because this blog is the story of our lives... I want to go back and fill in those empty spaces.

 To see all of my adventures in Uganda (or at least the ones I've posted so far), click on the "Ugandan Adventures" tag at the bottom of this post.

Here's the message I posted to my secret/private facebook group from the last few days of my first trip to Uganda.


My last few days...

Hello sweet friends!!
I can hardly believe that my time here is coming to a close! I'm leaving tomorrow night (my flight leaves at 1:45 CST)...I can totally tell how many people are praying for me. I feel sad to leave M, but also very strong and confident in the Lord's goodness no matter how this part of the story ends!

I'm feeling much better - after spending all day yesterday (Thursday) in bed. On top of the headcold I had, yesterday I woke up with "a bad tummy", as they say here. Ick. Thankfully that seems to be out of my system. Thankful that it happened yesterday and not tomorrow...and thankful if I had to miss a day in the babies home that it was yesterday, since I heard that a BUNCH of the kids were also sick, and some of the teachers, so there were feverish, throwing up kids everywhere. Double Ick.

Today I'm spending as much time with M as possible... I'll probably get my stuff packed tonight... Tomorrow I'm meeting with my lawyer in the morning (thanks for praying, I heard from her within HOURS of asking y'all to pray!!), will spend the afternoon with M, and the taxi is picking me up at 6:30pm to head to the airport. I have 4ish hours in Brussels, and a couple of hours in Chicago... Can't remember what time I get home - around 5 maybe? And if I'm up for it, I'm hoping for a birthday dinner at PF Changs in Omaha before we head back to Lincoln (too bad the rumored Omaha On the Border isn't open yet, because that? Sounds DELICIOUS to me right about now!) I've really enjoyed the food here, but that hasn't stopped us from having numerous conversations about the foods from our homelands that we miss. I'm really missing my boys (and Man. :D) and looking forward to being with them again. Hoping for a very quick recovery from jetlag, since I have to jump right back into normal life... Luke starts 6th grade (middle school!!) on Tuesday, and we have leadership training for the college ministry on Saturday. I'll have to shift gears quickly!

Things I'm going to miss (besides the bleedingly obvious... Little Mister himself)
... The way M's face lights up and he runs to me when I come into the babies home
... the way Ugandans break into wide smiles when you greet them
... Sleeping under a mosquito net, which looks like a princess bed
...The community/family feeling in the guest house. I've really enjoyed being around so many different people, from different cultures and places and faiths = who all get along so well. The people I've been here with have been a real blessing.
...Chipati (it's a kind of flatbread)
...All the kids here - I feel so attached to so many of them. I'm going to miss the way they all run and hug me and say "ha-LOW MAMA MARVIN!"

... Bedtime. I love (as tiring as it is) the naked running around baby game, but I especially love getting to pray over each child before putting him/her to bed. I've prayed the same things for them I pray for my own kids every night... "The Lord bless you and keep you, the Lord make His face shine up you, be gracious to you and give you peace." I've also prayed for each one, that they would know Him as the Father of the Fatherless, that He would give them a hope and a future. It is such a privilege!

OK... I'd better run. The comp is getting really slow, afraid I'm going to lose this! Unless something wierd happens, you won't hear from me again until I'm home!!

so I lied...
I needed to come to the internet cafe after all (to try to verify my flight...although I've been unable to do that because I'm on an AA flight, but this leg is Brussels Air. Neither of them is recognizing my flight number. Sigh. I'm going to call the help people before I leave the cafe.)

I've also turned my comments about feeling really strong into lies... I woke up WEEPY this morning. I cried on the phone to Matt. And the first few people whom I saw this morning who asked me, "How are you feeling about your last day?" were met with tears as well. I am SO SAD.

I'll be saying goodbye to M around 10AM CST, so as you wake up and get this, please pray for me! To keep it under control...but still feel my feelings (no stuffing my emotions for me...but surely there's a balance between stuffing and bursting into tears whenever someone speaks to you!)...and to trust the Lord with the unknown end of this story...and of course for little M's heart.

I took pictures of our family to hang over his bed today, which he was delighted about (when I carried him over to his bed, he thought I was putting him back in there, so he was THRILLED to see we were just hanging pictures!) I have 2 little books of pictures of us to leave with him (leaving one with the home and one with a volunteer who's going to be here for longer.) He pointed to Matt in all the pictures and said, "Daddy?" I don't know that he even knows what that word means, but he likes it! He doesn't know what brothers are either, but he's really interested in Luke and Tobin. And the picture of Dudley? Is everyone's favorite. I told them (ALL the kids wanted to see M's picture book) that was M's Dog, and they all point to it and (sort of) take turns looking at it. M is ramming his whole mouth onto the picture, I think it's his version of a kiss!

That is precious...what is harder is that one little girl (who is not available for international adoption b/c of her family situation) kept trying to get the pictures away from M. She asked me for a picture to hang over her bed...for a book of pictures for her. My heart. I have to keep reminding myself that this is REALITY for so many children worldwide (even in the states.) And Jesus loves each of them WAY more than I do...He sees, He knows... and as the Jesus Storybook Bible says (my favorite kids' Bible...from which I'm sure I learn more than Tobin does!), He has come to make all the sad things come untrue. Come Lord Jesus!

Love to you all and thanks for praying for me and loving little M!!!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Adventures in Uganda: Halfway point (trip 1)

2/2012  Due to the nature of adoption in Uganda (and, frankly, the occasional craziness of the Ugandan adoptive community), I chose not to share any details about our adoption while we were still in process. But because this blog is the story of our lives... I want to go back and fill in those empty spaces.

 To see all of my adventures in Uganda (or at least the ones I've posted so far), click on the "Ugandan Adventures" tag at the bottom of this post.

Here's the message I posted to my secret/private facebook group from the halfway point of my first trip.


Ack. My time here is over halfway over...which is lovely because I'm missing my boys...but also tragic because I'll be leaving M. I'm already starting to work to bring myself to a place of TRUST. Theoretically, I totally trust the Lord and know that He loves M far more than I do. But actually living that out is a whole different thing. I am thankful to be put in a place of total dependence, and have started actually writing out my fears as confessions, which is helpful. I know I'll be a basket case saying goodbye to him, but I want to be a basket case walking in FAITH not fear.

This afternoon I'm taking M for his dr. appointment, to get a fuller idea of his health (this is required for his visa to come back to the states after court.) We went on Friday, but they just did the TB test, which will have to be read today also... Praying for no surprises, and wisdom if there are surprises!!

Tomorrow morning, I'm going craft shopping, to buy a few gifts, and hopefully some Ugandan necklaces I can sell as a fundraiser... This afternoon & tomorrow afternoon, I'll be at the babies' home with M and his friends! And Thursday I get to meet some facebook friends in real life, and watch them meet their son, I'm so excited!!

The number one question I'm getting right now is when does little M get to come home? I wish I knew the answer to that... First our lawyer gets our case together - which means she'll gather the information she needs from us, talk to the police who found M/to whom he was reported and the probation officer assigned to his case (probation officer means something different here, I think it's the person who was in charge of finding a babies home for him, it's like a social worker), and runs an ad in the local paper asking if anyone has any information about M's family or objection to his adoption. Then she'll file our case....families who are filed right now are waiting 3-5 weeks for a court date, from the point of filing...I don't want to get my hopes up, especially since my lawyer is busy with all of the families who have court dates starting next week - the courts have been on recess and reconvene next week, so a LOT of families have cases coming up in the next month. But basically... we could have a court date in late Sept/early Oct...or it could take much longer - even 6 months. We're praying it would be sooner, of course!

Hi Sweet Friends!

I only have a few minutes... but wanted to let you know that M's dr. appointment went fine (very wasn't very thorough or anything. But no TB, so that's good!)

He & I both have a cold (as do the rest of the kids in his class and his teacher - runny noses...coughing... I have a sore throat. Ick.) But other than that, he is wonderful. The appointment took FOREVER, which cost me a lot in driver fees (the driver waited, since they kept telling me it would just be a few more minutes...), but was lovely because I got lots of time with M. When we got back to the babies home I kept him with me for a while and he played in my room - he enjoyed building a tower of all my medicine bottles (pepto...anti-malarials...probiotics...allergy meds... :D)

Loving this time with him, and getting to know some of the Mamas in the home better as well. I discovered the reward of washing dishes after dinner - you miss the naked wet babies running around game, but get to talk to Mama Kate, who is precious. Both of her parents died when she was young and she LOVES to talk about Jesus and how He has sustained her. So sweet.

Would you join me in praying that our lawyer would get back to me? I need to get M's passport pics to her and want to make sure there's nothing else she needs from me - but I can't get texts to go through on either number I have for her, and can't get ahold of her calling either.

Would you also pray for our finances? I know I'm borrowing trouble, but knowing that all of our stuff is turned in...and hoping for a quick court date...leaves room for fear that we'll get that court date and not yet be able to afford to travel. The Lord has provided EACH step of the way exactly what we need. But I still find myself feeling fearful about the NEXT step! Oh me of little faith...

Love love love to all of you!! And still thankful for each of your notes and sweet words - and looking forward to being able to share more when I get home ...

Speaking of that... I also can't wait for the day when M is old enough to understand how many people loved our family and HIM enough to pray and give toward him having a family. Amazing.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Adventures in Uganda: 40th Birthday in Uganda!

2/2012  Due to the nature of adoption in Uganda (and, frankly, the occasional craziness of the Ugandan adoptive community), I chose not to share any details about our adoption while we were still in process. But because this blog is the story of our lives... I want to go back and fill in those empty spaces.

 To see all of my adventures in Uganda (or at least the ones I've posted so far), click on the "Ugandan Adventures" tag at the bottom of this post.

Here's the message I posted to my secret/private facebook group describing my birthday in Uganda.

Hello everyone!!

Yesterday after my visit to the internet cafe, I spent the rest of the day with M's class. When he saw me coming (for the first time yesterday), he RAN to me with his arms up. He did the same thing this morning, coming to me from other volunteers. Everyone at the home calls me "Mama Marvin" now. It's going to be very hard to leave him - but I miss my boys at home, and there's no help for it. All I can do is enjoy the time with him and pray for a fast court date!!

After meeting with the social worker at the home this morning, I worked with M's class again through lunch time, and got to put him down for a nap, with sweet cuddle time before. I'll work again this evening, after getting a little rest. I walked down the street to an African cafe/restaurant with some of the volunteers for lunch and it was DELICIOUS.

Tomorrow night I'm going with some of them to the national theater for an afro-jazz performance (happy birthday to me!!) So much fun to be here!! This week has felt long, I'm guessing next week will fly by, so I'm trying to soak it all in!!

Haven't been sick at all yet, though my roommate is, and one of the kids in class got sick and after they cleaned him up, they brought him back and he crawled all over that may not last long!!

Thanks for all of your sweet notes and messages, LOVE THEM! Wish I had time to reply to each and every one of you - and I will, but my internet time is limited at the moment!! It means SO MUCH to me that so many of you have been thinking of me and praying for me so often - it feels like we're all on this adventure together!! The notes from fellow adoptive mommies, who know how I'm feeling about leaving him, learning his culture, mourning his past etc. mean the WORLD to me. And you are all just wonderful...what can I say? 

Happy Friday everyone! I'm 40, can you believe it?

The other volunteers here know it's my birthday, and it's one other volunteer's birthday as well (Annika from Sweden). They all signed a card that was waiting for me when I woke up today, so sweet!! And I talked to Matt first thing, so that was lovely.

Nothing super new or eventful to report today, so I thought I'd share some of my favorite things/memories:

...I love when I walk in and the older kids all start yelling, "Mama Marvin! Mama Marvin!" Today I helped with lunch, and there were lots of helpers so I was just talking to the older kids until it was time for the naked running baby game. They had music playing so I danced around to each kid, saying their name. The kids LOVED it and just cackled (they're laughing WITH me, not AT me, right?), and would call, "Mama Marvin! Do me, do me!! Again! Again!" So cute.

... M doesn't talk very much (in English or Luganda), but he will sing. Twinkle twinkle...old macdonald...yesterday I taught him "Heads, shoulders, knees and toes" and he loved that.

... I'm very thankful for the other people I'm here with. Some folks in the past have found it to be a mix (some nice, but also some grouchy, complaining people), but I really like all of the girls/women who are here with me. I like the international community feel too - and it makes me want to travel more. I love being with my British friends and am always up for a trip to the UK. Now I really want to try welshcakes... And I need to see Canada (and Rwanda, where my Canadian roommate was before this, and where 2 of the British ladies are headed next). I also want to visit the Netherlands, and Sweden sounds lovely (And I'm wondering if all Swedish women look like models, because my friend Annika is STUNNING.)

...Before their snack time in M's class, they pray. They sing a 'thank you God" song, and then the teacher leads them sentence by sentence, "THANK YOU FATHER!" and the kids all yell after her, it's so cute! I hope that they'll let me get it on video!

...super cheap, super delicious produce. I've been eating Avocado on toast for lunch, with a mango chaser. So yummy! And pineapple for dessert every night. SO GOOD. And I'm not allergic to the pineapple here (at home, it makes my mouth tingle and break out.)

... Ugandan culture is very polite. Before you start a conversation with anyone, you say, "Hello. How are you?" It's so nice, and I like how even some people who seem very closed or guarded break out in a smile when I am polite, or ask their name and show interest. Makes my heart happy.

OK! I have to run! Love you all!! Thanks for your prayers and encouragement!!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Ugandan Adventures: Days 3-4 (trip 1)

2/2012  Due to the nature of adoption in Uganda (and, frankly, the occasional craziness of the Ugandan adoptive community), I chose not to share any details about our adoption while we were still in process. But because this blog is the story of our lives... I want to go back and fill in those empty spaces.

 To see all of my adventures in Uganda (or at least the ones I've posted so far), click on the "Ugandan Adventures" tag at the bottom of this post.

Here's the message I posted to my secret/private facebook group describing life at the babies home and my first few days.

  • Days 3&4... (part 1)
    Hey Everyone!! Doing well here... Typed a LONG message here and then the internet shut down...

    THANK you for all of your sweet words and messages, they've meant the world to me!!

    My meeting with our lawyer went really well, I really like her! I'd appreciate your prayers for her, as so much of our case depends on her! I'd like to give you some other things to pray for as well - things that won't mean much to you and that I hardly understand enough to explain, but that our case hinges on... Will you pray for:
    - Our affidavits to be completed and filed quickly
    - The short and long certificates to be obtained quickly and easily
    - The police involved in our case to be found and cooperative
    - the probation officer assigned to our case to be honest and easy to work with (this is a BIGGIE.)
    - The judge to which our case will be assigned.

    Matt was interested in the schedule at the babies home, just to know what I was doing when I'm there, thought y'all might like to hear that too... I am 8 hours ahead of those of you who are central time.

    The morning shift is 9-1pm and the afternoon shift is 3-7... We can go early to help getting everyone up or help feed the babies at midnight or 4am - I haven't done any of those things yet, but plan to a couple of times.

    In the mornings, they start with prayer, and then have "class." I was in M's class yesterday. I did like his teacher, but she left the room several times, leaving me and one other volunteer with the older kids. They listen to the mamas, but not the volunteers - they kept escaping and when I tried to get them back in kicked and hit me, and would have bitten me if I hadn't been watching for it. My friend Anne (Dutch) got bitten... after 1.5 hours of chaos, they have a very organized snack, go to the bathroom (or have there pants changed, since they've all peed everywhere by then...), and if you're our M, pee on themselves again immediately - twice. Then they have free play outside until noon and lunchtime. After lunch, they all get washed and changed again - which means naked wet children running everywhere. You just grab them as you catch them and put clothes on them - which explains the mismatched, genderless clothing - and ask a Mama which bed they go in. It's pretty crazy, and yesterday felt like the longest 4 hours of my life! But it was fun, and I spent the whole time with M's class, which I loved.

    They nap 1-3 (and they mostly all sleep), play outside from 3-6 (crazy time) and then have dinner at 6ish. After dinner we replay the naked wet children running away game . It's wild, but it's my favorite part - because once I catch them, dress them etc., then I get to cuddle them and pray into their little ears before putting them down. Delightful.

    Then I go back over to the guest house for dinner, prepared by the guesthouse manager, Joel, who is lovely. Dinner last night was African food, complete with Chipati and pineapple. LOVED IT.

    Part 2: Yesterday I got to have my first outing with much fun! Some of the other volunteers were heading into town to the western mall, which is where I needed to take M to get passport pictures (our lawyer will start on those as soon as our case is filed as the passport sometimes takes a while.) I took advantage of the company and shared cab ride and M & I went with them.

    I got to pick Marvin up after nap and take him back to the guesthouse to change him (and take a few pics!).

    He was nervous - he kept pointing back over to the babies home and looking at me questioningly! He was amazed in the car - with BIG EYES looking everywhere and holding tightly to me. He was awed by the mall too, and especially loved the escalator, which we rode several more times, just for fun. His passport picture is HILARIOUS. I had to sit him on this high stool, then the guy moved big reflectors around him and got right in his face, turning his head this way and that to get the right angle. He looks TERRIFIED n the pictures, open mouth, wide eyes, furrowed brows (like Tobin!) He relaxed a lot after that (I put him in my sling to shop and walk back to our driver), but still the Ugandans all asked, "Why is he not happy?" because he was so serious.

    It was precious time with him, and hard to take him back home. I did the church nursery wait-until-they're-distracted-and-sneak-off move because I knew he would freak and cry when I left. I haven't seen him yet today, but plan to spend the afternoon over there... But this morning, I had one more adventure... my first boda ride!! (Boda = Ugandan Motorcycle Taxi)

    I needed to go down to the US embassy to get a form for the medical appointment I need to take Marvin to for his eventual visa. There was a girl here for a few months who took bodas to work every day, and she left a helmet, so I wore that - whatever you can get, right? It wasn't nearly as scary as I expected, I didn't even have to close my eyes once. Although my arm did cramp up from holding on for dear life - one arm to the boda, the other clamped around my purse, or, if necessary, grabbing on to my driver's shoulder (which isn't the usual thing, but he told me it was OK :D). His name was Eric, and he was very nice. I told him it was my first Boda ride and I was nervous and he went slow and carefully for me! We actually had a conversation on the way back, he asked me if I was a Christian and born again! It was fun to talk about faith with a Ugandan, and he told me all about his family (2 kids, a boy and girl) and asked about mine. I felt very brave and adventurous, and also thankful that several hundred friends are praying for my safety .

    Love you all dearly!! Would love to hear from you - I should be back on the internet on Friday (it's Wednesday 12:40 for me)...