Friday, February 25, 2011

Flying Out!!!

We have Amelia's visa!
We took her to a Ugandan hair salon once more, just to be sure she looks "fresh" for meeting everyone in the US!

And we are packing now to fly out tonight!!! We will be home Saturday night!!!

PRAISE GOD PRAISE PRAISE PRAISE PRAISE GOD!!!!

Visa Interview

The visa interview went great, and Amelia will be issued a visa! The only question is whether it will be issued today or next Wednesday.  They seemed pretty confident that they could get it done today. Thank God! We are so ready to get on a plane and be a COMPLETE family of FOUR!!!  :-)

Assuming we get Amelia's visa today, we will hope on a plane after midnight Uganda time and touch down in the U.S. on Saturday night!!!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Lazy Crazy Day in Uganda

When my mom watches a scary movie, she HAS to know who lives and whether it's a happy outcome. Otherwise, she'll be in such agony that she refuses to keep watching.

So before I start today's story, I will tell you: All is well and safe in Uganda. Nothing huge happened today. They story will seem scary at first, and then, you will breathe a sigh of relief!

We were supposed to have our visa interview today, but it was cancelled last minute. The Embassy closed for local elections. (Yes, more elections. Presidential is over, these were local.) We (and the sweet family we live with here,) were pretty bummed to not have visa appointments today. So we called a third family we know here, packed up our bathing suits and intertubes, and washed away the blues with a plush day at the resort.

Brad and Amelia in the front yard with the sweet
family we're living with here.
There we were, eating lunch by the pool, playing with our babies, letting our sopping swim suits dry in the heat of the all-too-close-because-we're-on-the-equator sun, relaxed as could be... when panic hit.  An American dad was playing with his wife and kids by the pool when a large black walkie talkie began screeching. The man picked it up, listened with wide eyes, put it back down with force, and began dressing feverishly. His wife gave him inquisitive eyes.  "It's all gone to sh*t," he cursed. "They're rioting in the streets. We have to go NOW."

All of our jaws dropped open. Visions of Egypt and Libya filled my mind. "What is going on?" I yelled to the man.

In a rush, he yelled back, "The ballot boxes arrived to the polling stations half full with pre-marked ballots. The elections are a fraud. People have started rioting. They're going to close the streets."

It only took a matter of minutes to find out the truth about the situation.

Yes, the ballot boxes were fraudulently padded. Yes, some people had begun to riot. Yes, at least one street was closed.

But...

The elections were quickly cancelled, to be rescheduled for another date. The riots, (which turned out to be far away from us,) were immediately squelched. The road closings were part of the reason for that.

When we got home and asked our Ugandan hosts about the situation, they laughed it off. Apparently, the "riots" -- if they even deserve such strong language -- were very puny.

As for the man with a walkie talky, he works at the US Embassy. He only panicked because the road that was closed was the road he had to use to get home and to work. He left in a rush because he wanted to get home before the roads shut... meaning that he had no hesitation about driving his wife and kids through the heart of these so-called riots.

In the end, the most interesting part of our day was my sunburn. And Brad's. And those of the families with us. Wow. The sun really is closer here. Ouch!

Please pray for our visa appointments tomorrow! Caroline is on a 5 day countdown to seeing us -- we really don't want to disappoint her.  Please also pray for the family we've been living with here. Their airline said they can't fit on a flight until next week!!! Like us, they have children waiting at home. We want God's will first, but if it can be that we're home soon, we will be so thrilled!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The Old Has Passed

It is raining in Africa.

Rain washes away the red dust, stills the hungry mosquitoes, and prepares to make all things new.

How perfect. Today, Amelia's life is made new. The old is washed away, and the new has come.  She has said goodbye to the babies' home. As part of the farewell, they gave us pictures of the part of her life that we missed.




To say a proper thank you and goodbye, we gave a party to her babies' home today.  We sat in a circle with most of the caretakers and volunteers who held and loved our daughter for ten months.  We laughed, prayed, ate cake, exchanged gifts, and thanked each other for loving Amelia.  I will never get over how beautiful it is that, as I try to thank them for loving my child, they interrupt to thank me for loving their child.  We can share her. I am not jealous anymore.  Even today, when Mama Sara whispered to Amelia, "You can go far away to have a good family and a bright future, but I am still your mom**!"... I was somehow okay with those words.  I will teach Amelia to always love those who loved her in her earliest days.

Everyone at the orphanage is so pleased that Amelia is going to a Christian family. They've prayed for that. Is it not incredible that they have been praying for Amelia to find a godly family while we were praying for her to find caretakers who could love her until we came? Mama Sara stood in front of everyone and said, "[Amelia's] father is a minister of the Lord! Praise God! Mercy will grow up to love God and perhaps also be a minister, or sing and dance for God!"  I didn't have the heart to tell her the American stereotype of a pastor's kid. Ha! We will pray for the ability to raise her well, for God's glory.

Amelia today

In other news, our Wednesday visa appointment has been cancelled due to more (local) elections on Wednesday.  This "shouldn't" affect anything because the Embassy is opening specially on a Thursday to make up for Wednesday's closing. We still think we should have Amelia's visa in hand by Friday, as expected.

** For those of you who are unfamiliar, "Mama Sara" was an orphanage worker of no genetic relation to Amelia.  But she and Amelia had a special bond, and will forever be a part of Amelia's family history.

Monday, February 21, 2011

An Apology

Brad showed me an email the other day from someone who was offended by a mass email we sent out during the adoption process. Let me clarify and apologize for anyone I hurt.

In the email, I said that I was thankful to be using our adoption agency.  We'd seen many people in Uganda who did not use an agency and were having a very hard time. I mentioned a couple of families in particular whose cases were thrown out of court the day before our hearing because they were missing documents or proper evidence.

One adoptive mama who is home with her precious Ugandan children after an independent adoption felt that I was calling independent adoptions unethical.  She assured me that there are ethical ways to adopt independently, and that it was irresponsible to imply child trafficking on those who don't use an agency.

Honestly, I was blind sided .  I have never thought that any of the precious families who adopt independently are involved in unethical activities. Child trafficking had not even crossed my mind. My only point was that independent adoptions seem to me to be more difficult. But difficult is not wrong or bad.  I am sure that there are advantages and disadvantages whether you use an agency or adopt independently. But to me, I like the assurance of having advocates on our side, who make sure that we have every document we need and walk us through each step of the in-country process. It my opinion regarding convenience, not ethics.

To the mama I offended, (& anyone else who thought I was calling independent adoptions unethical,) I am truly sorry. I understand that my mentioning cases being thrown out of court for lack of evidence might imply that these families are trying to adopt children who shouldn't be adopted. That is not what I meant. Some of the families I admire most have rescued children from deplorable conditions through independent adoption. Who am I to knock that when we're taking home a little princess from a loving, plush babies' home? Surely it is even better to adopt children from hard conditions.

I stand by my thankfulness for an agency who makes sure our documents and affairs run smoothly in country. But I regret offending sweet families who showed God's love by coming for their children through independent adoption.

And because blog posts without pictures are boring, here are a few:

Brad learning to play the bow harp.


There are LOTS of bodas.

And LOTS of election posters.

Lots.



Big ones.
Out to eat!


Sunday, February 20, 2011

Our Happy Ending

Orphaned children gathering water from a well.
I will be honest with you.

I thought I would come to Africa, fall in love with it, and wish I were a missionary here. I thought this trip would make me want to sell my possessions and give them to the poor, adopt a dozen children, and live on rice and beans forever for the sake of giving my life away for Christ.

Instead, this trip has brought me face to face with the truth: I am selfish. I am a sinner. I am so in need of God's grace to shape me and change me.

God keeps revealing the ugliness of my heart, and I am surprised by it. The frustration I feel when Amelia will not sleep at all and refuses to be quieted or comforted. The hesitation I feel about leaving my clothes in Africa for those who truly need them -- even though I've seen the poverty with my own eyes and know that I live a life of ridiculous excess. How I hunger for American food and familiarity more often than I do for righteousness.

Mama Sara hand-made this colorful straw mat for Amelia, whom she
calls her "daughter". It was a beautiful gesture of love. Amelia truly has
been given special treatment at her baby home -- an answered prayer.
And on top of these things, I never imagined I might feel insecure about my ability to parent Amelia. Some days are great, and then other days, she rages. She is set off by nothing, and then will be comforted by nothing. It is as if she preferres the orphanage to her parents' loving arms.

I remember a year ago reading that "Uganda will reveal to you a thousand gods you never knew you had." I longed to come here to have my false gods revealed to me. And now, I see them. Many. Ugly. In my face. Worse than I dreamed.

But I am not worried.

Instead, I am joyful. Expectant.

I know a secret.

I know the happy ending, and it is this:

God wins.

Amelia & I at an orphanage I will write about later.
I still haven't formulated my thoughts!
Amelia and I both wish for the wrong things. Amelia wishes for the orphanage instead of parents who love her.  I wish for my American comforts and selfish desires, instead of a life planned by the God who loves me.  But that is not the end of our story.

Jesus nailed my selfish, sinful thoughts to the cross.  He nailed Amelia's suffering, abandonment, and life as an orphan to the cross.  All of these ugly things died on the cross along side of our Savior.

And then, Jesus conquered death. He lives.  He lives to redeem the ugly in our lives.

He lives to give Amelia new life as our daughter.

He lives to give me new life as His daughter.

God is going to reshape my worthless desires (& Amelia's) and mold them into beauty. Beauty from ashes.

Yes, my heart might house materialism, selfishness, and a love for false gods. But something even stronger lives in me, and He will redeem my evil desires into a life of praise to God.  By the power of Christ, Amelia and I will be made new.  God wins in the end. Praise God. I cannot wait to see it unfold.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Elections Today, Resort Yesterday

It is election day in Uganda. While no one expects Egyptian-level rioting and revolt during Ugandan elections, we were still advised to be safe and stay in the house.  So today marks day one of our 4 day shut-in.

Yesterday, we prepared for the boredom by grocery shopping and taking an impromtu trip to a local resort. As much as I love Uganda, I have to admit that my American-bred body breathed a deep sigh of relaxation to leave the noise pollution, smog, dust, and cluttered streets... especially in favor of lush gardens, a pool, and a delicious lunch.

This guy greeted us in the parking lot of the resort,
along with several of his monkey friends.
This is the life.

We finally see Lake Victoria, the source of the Nile,
after all of this time... and this is the best picture
 we manage near it. Windy!

Under a waterfall. Amelia is mesmerized.
Lunch time!

To the right, you can see Amelia with our driver's fiance.
Look how well they match. Guess who they thought was
Amelia's mom? Hint: not me!




No election campaigning was allowed yesterday, and that led to better sleep last night!

Most of the campaigning we've seen has been closer to Kampala. So when we've gone to court or downtown, we've driven by hundreds of people in yellow t-shirts at peaceful rallies. We've passed lines of civilians-in-training to be extra police during elections.  That is in Kamapala. But even though our guest house is in Ggaba, removed from these areas, we still hear loud campaigning all night long.  Candidates hire two-tiered vehicles to drive around blasting music, while the people on the top tier yell in Lugandan through a loudspeaker. All. Night. Long.

It was so nice to have a break from all of that noise last night. We enjoyed our dinner, watched a movie, and Amelia only woke up once! Ah, peace.

After our resort day, we come back to find this guy
on our bedroom wall. Back to Ugandan life as usual.
Sweet dreams!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

3 Steps to Beautiful

1. Unbraid and attempt to detangle. Fail.

2. Wash, condition, condition condition.
Detangle detangle, detangle.
Fail.

3. Go to the beauty salon. Success!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Here for Elections

Elections are this Friday, and it looks like we can't leave until probably next Friday.  

So for safety's sake, we've been advised to stay in our guest house Friday through Monday.  This is not a complaint. We've been running like mad, so staying still with our sweet Amelia and the other family living at our guest house sounds nice.

And it's not like we've been stuck in Uganda for a long time. If we really leave in 9 days, it will have been a 3 week trip. We expected 5. Some families have gotten stuck here for months. We are so blessed that things moved so quickly!!  We are thanking God.

Still, pray for Uganda and peace during elections. We're growing to love this country. (The only reason we're anxious to leave it is because we want our WHOLE family to be together with Caroline!)

In the meantime, check out some seriously nasty pictures.

Yesterday after court, we passed a  guy selling fried grasshoppers. I've been obsessed with Uganda for some time and have read what a treat these are in the right season. So I wanted to try one. I thought it'd be battered and fried where you couldn't tell what you were eating anyway. 

Here I am, nervously holding a bag of fried grasshoppers.
(They don't use car seats here.)

Unfortunately, these grasshoppers were not battered.
I could still see the eyeballs. Disgusting.
I guess "fried" means "pan-fried."

I ate one. It tasted like a crispy, greasy bug.
No thank you. I was done.

At least I can say I tried it.
You want one?


Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Positive Ruling!!!!


Amelia



is


officially



OURS!!!!




Praise God!!!!



Court went amazingly well, for us and the sweet family we are staying with  who has walked through every step of the process with us.  We are the LEGAL GUARDIANS of AMELIA!!! And they are the legal guardians of their sweet ones! We all thanked God and talked about His goodness as we headed for Ugandan fast food (eck!).

We were hoping to go tomorrow for our visa appointment and then book plane tickets home, but it seems as though Amelia's passport won't be ready in time. We're praying. We want to get home before Uganda's presidential elections on Friday. If we can't get her visa tomorrow, then we'll have to hunker down and stay in our guest house for safety's sake through the weekend and early part of next week. That doesn't sound half bad, considering that we've rarely sat down since we got here. A few days of laying low might be nice. Getting home immediately to Caroline would be even nicer, so keep praying! :)



Our family minus sweet Caroline.
Soon enough, we'll have a picture of all four of us!

Loving my (youngest) baby girl!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Happy Birthday Caroline!

Three years ago today, sweet Caroline was born.  To steal a line from Dr. Suess, my heart grew three sizes that day!

So to the daughter who taught me just how big love can be, happy birthday!

It was an incredible day in Uganda. It was the first day -- FIRST -- that we haven't had somewhere to go and major errands to run. How sweet to spend quiet quality time with our Amelia and the other family who is staying at our guest house.

Amelia had her first trip to the beauty shop! I fully intended to fix her hair myself, but after letting it out of her braids and seeing just how inept I am at even detangling African hair, we went to the salon and paid $8 for a new 'do that should last a few weeks! Now that is a bargain. She looks like a precious little Medusa! :-)  Soon enough, I will learn to care for it myself. Maybe. But now, living in a foreign country and adjusting to our new precious baby girl is a big enough goal for me!

So now Amelia is looking beautiful for a very BIG day that is tomorrow.  Please pray that things go well. If they do, we will be publically posting pictures of her soon!