Monday, December 10, 2012

The Reality of Isaiah 55:8-9

I originally wrote this post two weeks ago but did not post it ...

Since we returned home over a week ago, the little case of Polly Pockets that we took to Africa with us has sat just inside our door leading from the garage.  These were the toys that Brenda played with and she loved them.  The case has sat undisturbed because I could not force myself to open it.  I even vacuumed around it last week.  I wasn't sure how long it would sit there.  I was prepared to leave it there forever.

But tonight I felt that I needed to open it.  I needed to hold the tiny, rubber clothes that frustrated the ebony hands that tried to place them on the dolls.  I needed to hold the purple sunglasses that were so smudged with fingerprints because they were her fingerprints.  And then there was this tiny basket...
On Tuesday, we took Brenda to downtown Jinja.  We were visiting with Florence in our favorite store and introducing her to Brenda.  We were also picking up a few handmade items.  Brenda was standing right by me and I see her reach all the way into this shelf.  This little basket is what she pulled out.  She looked up at me and smiled really big while she put this in our basket of items.  I started to laugh and told her she could get the little basket.  When we got back to our room, I quickly learned why she wanted the basket.  She loved putting her little doll items in it. 
So tonight when I opened the case and pulled out the little basket, this is what I found.  My heart sank as I thought of the new Hello Kitty purse that was on her bed waiting for her to get here.  Oh how she would have loved having a purse to put things in.  I miss her so much!

"For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways," declares the LORD.  As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.  Isaiah 55:8-9

The reality of these two verses has played out in our lives over the past week.  I have quoted this verse numerous times but I now know the cavern that exists between my ways and thoughts and His ways and thoughts. 

I do not pretend to understand for one second how leaving the little girl that I love behind is best.  I do not understand.  And yet, I know without a doubt that those were His instructions.  It had nothing and everything to do with her if that makes any sense.

We did not wake up on Wednesday, November 21st suddenly feeling that we didn't love her and couldn't parent her.  It was quite the opposite.  We woke up still very much in love with her.  Yes, this was going to be a challenge but we knew that going in to it.  But we were suppose to be together.  We had taken to eachother so easily.  She was desperate for the love of a mom and dad and we were more than eager to give it.  But then we felt God saying stop.  And while this was the most difficult thing we have ever done, we knew we had to obey Him. 

There are remnants of Brenda still littered all over our house.  I almost don't see them when I walk by but I know they are there. I am still not to the point that I can give them away or pack them all up.  She is such a part of my heart that I need to see evidence of her in my world. 

post signature

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Boda, Boda

When in Uganda, do as the Ugandans do!

My driver looks thrilled doesn't he! 

These are called bodas here and basically they are what everybody uses to get around.  The first time I got on yesterday, I held onto the driver for dear life.  Today I was more of a pro and held the bar behind my back.  The Ugandan women ride side saddle but this mzunga wasn't trying that.  I was for sure I would fall off. 

Today we got up and straightened up our room in anticipation of Brenda coming.  We ate some breakfast and then hopped on bodas and headed to town.  We are now back and waiting anxiously for everyone to arrive.

post signature

Saturday, November 17, 2012

The Waiting is Over...Almost

Well, as most of you know we are in Africa.  When we got the final word, it was kinda a rush to get everything packed and together.  As far as I can tell, my hair brush was the only thing I forgot.  So that is not too bad. 

We had great flights here.  We got to see the Statue of Liberty as we were flying in and leaving Newark.  And let me tell you that New York lit up at night is a beautiful sight.  We left Newark and flew to Brussels.  Here is the sunrise as we were nearing Brussels.  This pictures does not do it justice.  I took it as a gift or special sign from the Lord just for us.  He is so Good!
After a layover in Brussels, we flew on to Rwanda and then to Uganda.  On this flight we got to see another spectacular sight...the Swiss Alps (or atleast that is what we are calling them, we are really up on our geography!)

We arrived in Entebbe, Uganda on Thursday night close to midnight.  We had made arrangements to stay near the airport at a guesthouse since we were arriving so late.  It felt wonderful to get to lay in a bed and sleep instead of trying to sleep in the airplane.  The Entebbe Airport Guesthouse was great and we enjoyed our night there.  Here are some pictures from the guesthouse.

After leaving Entebbe, we went to Kampala to get us a phone and some other things we needed.  We also met with our lawyer.  Then our driver, Richard, took us on the two hour drive to Jinja.  This was adventurous as lots of people were heading out of Kampala heading to their villages.  There were only a couple of times that I cried out to Jesus and closed my eyes!

We are now at our guesthouse in Jinja where we stayed last year.  They actually gave us the same room as we stayed in last year.  We have just been hanging out here today taking it easy.  On Sunday, Pastor Bernard, Brenda and her grandparents will come to the guesthouse.  We can't wait to see her!

post signature

Monday, October 29, 2012


Last year I had the opportunity to speak to a group of women and share about making God a part of their everyday lives.  I had someone come up to me in tears because she was seated at a table full of pregnant women all discussing and sharing birthing plans.  She knew me and knew how God had brought my family together.  I think God sent me that day just for her because she just needed someone to see her pregnant heart.  Her belly wasn't protruding but her heart sure was.  We talked about how difficult waiting is because we aren't always given a due date that can be counted down on our calendars.  Unlike a physical pregnancy, our hearts can be pregnant for years.

Waiting is never easy and what I have learned about myself is that I am not very good at it.  I am a take action kind of gal.  I like to accomplish things and make progress and feel like I am doing something.  And sometimes in the midst of waiting none of those things are possible. 

God has allowed me to see some new things in this current state of waiting that I have totally missed in past seasons of waiting.  The biggest one is that waiting is as much of the journey as the actual destination.  That sounds like the perfect slogan doesn't it.  I mean it sounds like something someone says to you while they are trying to be encouraging but it doesn't really help that much.  I know because that has always been my attitude.  This isn't the first time I've heard that phrase, but it is the first time I've heard it with a new understanding. 

In previous seasons of waiting, my focus has been all wrong.  I was solely focused on the finish line.  Whether it was realizing a dream that I had longed for or a job promotion or whatever, my focus and thoughts always went to living in the land of dream come true.  Not only was I living in the land, but I also romanticised it big time.  I mean my life would be complete if only this came true...blah!

See totally missed it!

It is dangerous when we live longing for the land of dream come true.  Do you know why it is dangerous?

Because we miss so much of living in the land of Right Now!

God has a plan and a purpose (Jeremiah 29:11) for every single one of our days.  This verse says nothing about the plan only coming true when we live in the land of dreams come true.   No, every single moment of every single day has purpose with God and I don't want to miss that!

This is what I am learning and let me go ahead and tell you that I am in the remedial class, I am learning that what I need to do to navigate these times of waiting is to keep my eyes solely on Jesus.  Here I go again with another slogan or great Christian saying.  Sounds like an excellent bumper sticker doesn't it.  It is so true though. 

When I focus on Him and not my circumstances, the waiting doesn't seem unbearable.  I have seen that there are many things that God needs to work out in this heart of mine.  Distractions that so easily take my eyes away from Him.  In the past, I have ran ahead of God trying to get to that land of dreams come true and guess what all my efforts were useless.  They just ran me around in circles but never helped me get there faster. 

In this time of waiting, God has allowed me to see and experience that He Is Faithful!  He has allowed me to see and experience that He Is My Provider!  He has opened my eyes to II Peter 1:3 that tells me that He has given me everything I need for life and godliness which means that when I feel like I can't that I really can because He has given me everything I need for this current season of life.  And that "everything" comes from the One that is living inside of me not from anything I can do on my own.

I encourage you today to focus on Him, not on the land of dreams come true or circumstances that seem to be insurmountable.  If you are His, you have everything you need to live in the land of Right Now and it starts with keeping your focus on the supplier of  your everything!

"Turn your eyes upon Jesus
Look full in His wonderful face
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim
In the light of His glory and grace!"

post signature

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

How this came to be...

I realized in looking back at my blog, that I had not really told how this idea of adoption all came to be.  So, here is my story...

As most of you probably know, last October Cliff and I went on our first foreign mission trip.  We went with Pennies for Posho to Uganda, Africa.  Pennies feeds children at 10 (now 11) orphanages and quarterly they make trips delivering food.  We got to visit 8 of the orphanages and witness the food truck pulling up and the people being so excited. 

On Monday, October 31st we hopped on our bus and headed out to visit an orphanage three hours away.  Actually it is only about 45 miles away but due to the roads it took us three hours to get there.  We were greeted by children cheering and waving at us.  They could not wait for our bus to stop and for their visitors to get out.  The greeting is overwhelming.  The children are amazed by our pale skin and want to touch and hold onto us.  They have prepared a program with singing and dancing for us, so we take our seats under a big blue and white stripped tarp that they had stretched out to shield us all from the sun.  I was very thankful!

I took my seat in a white plastic chair.  Cliff was sitting in a row behind me several chairs over.  The children began to gather and sit as closely as they could.  A choir of school children came in and began singing.  They were very good.  I had a beautiful little girl in a red dress sitting in my lap.  I have since learned that her name is Hadijah.  She was a village child and did not go to school.  I knew this because she did not have on a uniform.  I was listening to the singing and looking at the children sitting on the ground.  That is when I saw her; so small and so cute.  I motioned for her to come to me and she did.  I scooped her up in my lap and I hugged her tight.  She stared at me and gave me a half grin.  Her skin was flawless and the color of dark chocolate.  Her eyes were a deep shade of brown.  She sat in my lap for the rest of the program. By the end, she had rested her head on my upper right arm and began to rub back and forth on my forearm.  I savored every second of it and thought to myself..."if she only knew what she was doing to my heart!" 

The program ended and the school children were called to go eat lunch.  One meal a day, posho and beans, no variety no choice.  The sweet little girl jumped down from my lap and headed to have lunch.  I began painting fingernails.  She came back around and I got to paint her fingernails blue.  After painting nails for a couple of hours, we gathered all the children to pass out sweeties.  Each child got one dum dum sucker.  It was such a treasure to them.  We were told to start getting on the bus since we had a long trip back to Jinja.  I scanned the crowd looking for her.  I hesitated to get on the bus.  I wanted to see her just one more time.  I wanted to hug her again.  But I didn't get to.  As I took my seat on the bus I continued to look out the windows for her.  I fought the urge to scream her name.  Tears began to pool in my eyes.  I tried to blink them away but it did not work.  They spilled forth onto my cheeks.  I felt like I was leaving one of my own behind. 

I can not describe that feeling I had for her adequately.  In reality, I only spent a few hours with her but in my heart I knew that she was mine.  There was an instant connection between us.  She was comfortable with me and as she laid back against me, I believe God was doing a major knitting job on both of our hearts.  I wrote in my journal on that day that I believed God knew I wouldn't be able to tell her goodbye so that is why I couldn't find her.  I also wrote that I believed that I had not seen her for the last time. 
Her face was etched in my mind and for the rest of the trip she is all I thought about.  We came home and the adjustment back into our life was very hard.  I felt guilty crawling into my king size pillow top mattress knowing that earlier in the week I saw a 103 year old woman who had been sitting on the floor for so long that she literally looked like she was melting into it.  Why did I have a bed and she didn't?  I felt guilty for having a garden tub and hot water.  Guilty doesn't even begin to describe how I felt the first time I had to throw uneaten food into the trash can.  I cried for what seemed like months.  I couldn't really even talk about my trip without crying.  I knew God did not take me to Africa to make me feel guilty but I really wasn't sure what I was to do with my experience. 

Christmas came and went and a new year began.  In Janaury, I was on my laptop reading about someone's experience in Uganda and decided that I would google the name of the orphanage that we visited on October 31st.  Much to my surprise they had a website.  I devoured every work on their website and decided to sent a note on their contact page.  The next day, I was checking my email and I had an email from the Pastor of the orphanage.  I thought my heart was going to leap out of my body.  Cliff was equally as excited about everything as I was.  I started emailing back and forth with the Pastor.  We emailed photos of our time there and asked about 3 children we met, one being my very special little friend named Brenda.  We learned that two of the three were not in school and that my special little friend was an orphan. 

We prayed and decided that we wanted to sponsor these three to go to school.  We got that arranged and we felt good.  This took a couple of months to get it all arranged.  Meanwhile I am following and hearing stories of these Uganda children who have come here to school.  My favorite story was when they took the little girl to Walmart to get her a new brush.  They are on the brush aisle and the little girl bends over and begins rubbing her head on the brushes to try to pick out a new one.  She did not realize that she could pick the brushes up because the reality is she had never had a choice before.  The other story that got me was about the child eating dinner in her bicycle helmet because she was so excited that she had a bike she wouldn't take her helmet off. 

I remember it like it was yesterday.  I was sitting in my bathtub thinking about these children and Brenda.  I started thinking...Is it fair that Brenda may never have a choice of a hair brush?  Well no, that is not fair.  Is it fair that Brenda will never have a bike?  Well no, that is not fair either.  Is it fair that Brenda will likely never sit in a big bathtub full of hot water.  My mind started racing with tons of questions and the answer was always the same.  And then in my spirit, the question changed from "is it fair" to "can you live with it?"  I knew immediately that I could not live the rest of my life and not do anything to make life better for Brenda.  I went and told Cliff about how I was feeling and God had been stirring in him too.  We began praying about what we were to do and then decided in April that we would ask the Pastor of the orphanage his thoughts on adoption.  We prayed that if God would open doors then we would be obedient to walk through them.  We all believed that this was God's plan for her as well as us.

In June we started telling others of our plan and sold watermelons to help raise some money for her adoption.  In July we completed our homestudy.  In case you don't know, completing a homestudy in a month's time is nearly unheard of.  We made our initial contact with the social worker and had our completed approved homestudy in a month!  In August we mailed our I-600a form.  In September we got fingerprinted.  And it looks very likely that we could board a plane in October to go get our little Ugandan princess.  I'll have to keep you posted on that one...

So that is how this adoption thing came to be.  When we went on the mission trip we had no intention what so ever to expand our family.  We were complete.  God had blessed us with a son and daughter and we were beyond grateful.  Adding to our family was not anywhere on the list of things to do in 2012.  But boy are we really excited that it was on God's list for our family.  Max and Amelia are as excited as we are about welcoming Brenda into our family.  They truly amaze me! 

So check back for new developments in our story.  Can't wait to post that our final approval is received and a court date is scheduled!

post signature

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Only God!

Nineteen years ago as a newly married twenty year old, God was speaking very loudly to me and Cliff.  At the time, we thought God was calling Cliff into full-time ministry and me as his ever supporting ministers wife.  I remember sitting in a service at my home church, the one just months earlier I had walked down that center aisle, and feeling God speaking so loudly to me.  As soon as the invitation was given, I found myself kneeling at the altar.  I uttered a very simple prayer that day.  I prayed, "God I will do whatever you want me to do, whenever you want me to do it, and whereever you want me to do it!"  I could barely see through the tears that flowed.

As I stood to go back to my seat, I remember fear gripping my heart.  The reality of what I had just prayed, and meant, hit me like a ton of bricks.  And so out of a heart of fear, I reasoned that I would probably be on the next plane headed to Africa!

Why Africa?

Well, it represented the farthest place I could think of away from my family and friends.  And for some reason it was the first place my fearful little heart thought of. 

Last year as I prepared for my trip to Africa, I was flooded with the memories of this time in my life.  I found it very funny that God was sending me, eighteen years later, to the very place that scared me so badly.  Only this time I wasn't so scared. 

Well fear tried to grip my heart again, the day before I left.  I remember sitting on my love seat in my living room and thinking to myself "tomorrow you are going to get on a plane, fly for 16 hours and be in Africa!"  I began to panic.  My blood pressure was escalating  and by the time I picked up the phone to call my friend I was in full on panic.  The only works I could get out through the tears as she picked up the phone was something like "do you know I am going to Africa tomorrow!  Do you know how far away that is from my children!"

I am reminded of these moments now as I wait with much anticipation for a lawyer to send us notice in the coming months telling us it is time to come back.  My fear has been replaced with a great love for this far away country.  Who knew that the place that caused me such fear would be the place that my heart longs for.  Who knew it would be the birthplace of my second daughter?

God knew!

Nineteen years ago it was no coincidence that my mind immediately thought of Africa.  I believe it was the beginning of God preparing me for what was to come.  The beginning of God planting in me dreams that I didn't even know how to dream. 

Isn't He wonderful!

I am reminded today of Isaiah 55 that talks about our ways not being His ways and our thoughts not being His thoughts.  I am reminded that He knows my yesterday, my today and my tomorrow.  He knows that we are on a need to know basis because if He unfolded the whole canvas of our lives, it would probably paralyze us with fear. 

So I enter today with a thankful heart.  Thankful for a God that orchestrates my days.  Thankful for a God whose plans are beyond what I could think or imagine.  Thankful for a God who takes a surrendered heart to places it never dared to dream nineteen years later.

Have a blessed day!

post signature

P.S.  I thought you would enjoy knowing that nineteen years ago instead of being on the next plane to Africa, we actually boarded a plane to Texas.  Cliff was in school there for a year and then we returned home.  Guess what great blessings God brought into our lives from the great state of two precious children!  Now that brings a smile to my face!

Friday, August 3, 2012

Where We Are In The Process

Tonight we put together bunk beds in Amelia's room.  She was so excited to finally have bunk beds and get to sleep in the top bunk.  It hit me when I went back into her room and saw the new bed that we are adopting a little girl from Africa!

Not a day goes by that I don't think about her but actually making room for her in our home just makes it so much more real.  And then the more I thought about it I just wanted to cry because while I have a comfy bed waiting on her, the reality is that she went to sleep on a red dirt floor tonight.  Oh how I can't wait to tuck that precious baby into her new bed!

So, I thought I would give everyone a quick update as to where we stand.  We have completed our homestudy and are waiting to get the finalized report showing we are approved.  We should have it any time now.  Once we have our homestudy in hand, we will send the I-600 form to the goverment.  This form is a "petition to classify an orphan as an immediate relative."  The time frame for this approval is six to eight weeks.  As part of the petition, we will also be given an appointment to go get FBI fingerprints done. 

Once we have the approval from the I-600, we will mail our dossier to our lawyer in Uganda.  The dossier is a lot of papers that are required by the courts.  We will be working with our lawyer during the six to eight week waiting period so that we have all the required documents ready to be mailed when the approval is received. 

And then we just wait for our lawyer to notify us of our court date.  The courts in Uganda close down mid November through mid January.  When I asked our lawyer, he seemed to think that we could get a court date before they close. 

So that means that we are hoping to have our newest little member of the family here by Thanksgiving. 

We appear in court for the Judge to grant us legal guardianship.  That day at court, the Judge will give us a verbal ruling.  Some Judges also give you a written ruling that same day and then others make you wait a week to 10 days for your written ruling.  We have to have the written ruling in order to get her passport and visa. 

From what I am hearing now, the passports seem to be causing delays.  I know of families that have been there 8 weeks waiting on a passport.  I'll be honest and admit that that scares me.  But every case is different and I know that God is in control!

Once we have her passport and visa, then we will fly home and be greeted at the airport by lots of you because my daughter is already planning for the big airport celebration.  She informed me today that everyone would have a balloon and that she would probably be too busy organizing everyone to take off running to greet me!

So there it is in a nut shell! 

We have seen God do so many amazing things along this journey.  I look forward to sharing them with you soon.  I wanted to close by listing some things we would really like you to pray about with us:

  1. Pray for Brenda!  Pray that God will prepare her for us and prepare us for her.  She will experience so many firsts, please pray that she is not too overwhelmed.
  2. Pray for us - Cliff and I will travel together, but he will not be able to stay the whole time (unless God works a miracle and this all happens faster than it ever has before!) so that leaves me and Brenda together alone in Uganda.  PRAY!
  3. Pray for our lawyer.  We believe that we have picked him but pray that he works with great ethics and diligence.
  4. Pray for the Judge that will hear our case.  The person who will approve her passport.  The people involved in getting her visa.  We are praying for things to go smoothly.
  5. Pray for our I-600 to be approved quickly. 
  6. Most of all we just pray for God's will in this situation.  As I stated earlier, He has brought this together and is in the details.  Our prayer early on when we felt God nudging our hearts towards adoption was "if You open doors, we will continue to walk."  It is a total trust thing because we can not do this! 
Thanks so much!

post signature

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Showing Love to Orphans

This Valentine's Day, we are not celebrating with cards, chocolates and gifts. This year, Cliff and I have decided to celebrate our love for one another but most importantly our love for God, by buying a mattress for an orphan.

After returning from Africa, one of the biggest problems I had was living in all my abundance while knowing so many were living with nothing. Poverty was no longer just a word, it now had a face and when I closed my eyes it was their faces that I saw.

I kept asking God what I was suppose to do. I am a doer and I like to get busy doing things. But being this far away I just wasn't sure what I was suppose to do. So I continued to pray.

A few weeks ago, in a series of random events that can only be described as God, I got in contact with the Pastor at the church where my sweet little Brenda is living. I was able to find out more information about Brenda and her situation. We also learned more about Jack, the boy that Cliff had a special connection with. And through my emails with the Pastor, God answered my prayer of what I should do to help those in Uganda.

New Hope School of Orphans, located close to Kenya, had money donated to them through Pennies for Posho to build an orphanage. They are actually building a dorm where the children will sleep. The building will be completed this month. They have the bunk bed frames, but no mattresses. When I heard this, I knew exactly what I could do to help.

So, Cliff and I are raising money to buy 70 mattresses. In the orphanages, it is rare for a child to have a bed of their own. The reality of the situation is that 2 or 3 children sleep on one twin bed. In fact, at New Hope School of Orphans they will have 70 beds but have 298 children.

I would like to give you the opportunity to change the life of a child in Uganda. For $31 you can purchase a mattress for a child. Basically if our family of 4 gives up eating out just 1 meal, we have $31.

We will be giving the money to Pennies for Posho. In April, they will be traveling to Uganda and will purchase and have the mattresses delivered to the school.

If you would like to purchase a mattress, make your check payable to Pennies for Posho and mail it to 85 Emerald Hills Lane, Newnan, Georgia 30263. We will send all the money over to Pennies.

This is a picture of Jack and Brenda at school.

Do you know what I noticed when I saw this picture of Jack? He is wearing the same clothes that he was wearing the day we met him. Do you know what the reality is for Jack...those are the only clothes he owns.

God Bless You!

post signature