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The Journey thus far

Our journey through fostering and adoption is reflectively not that long in the grand scheme of things. However, it has been a slow, painful, frustrating, heartbreaking, challenging, new, happy and learning experience. We are supposed to care for the widowed and orphaned, but often times it is those who are neither that often need some attention. I think though why did God pick us and prompt us to take these kids into our home? I mean we see neglect, poor, needy, abused and the whole list of children that need a better home life. We don’t take them all in, we try and work with them and their families to get it together and get it right. I was a social worker when we first got married and my job was “Family Reunification Worker”. That’s what I did I worked on reunifying families that for one reason or another had been separated by the state and now were ready to try and come back together and live. So it is interesting to be on the side of the foster parent who might have to give up on everything they have worked toward to help these boys and basically say okay mom you want another shot here you go. There is a huge difference in the process though because in the U.S. you are provided some funds and legal protection from the government. Here in Uganda we literally have done everything out of our own good will and with no support from the government actually because they are not technically from this country.

So right before Christmas we had just made a year of the boys living in our home and we had come to the time that we were looking at adoption. We had been given the paperwork and the go ahead to move forward from the Rwandan embassy. Then we got a message that changed everything, one of the boys sisters sent a message asking if the boys could come and visit because their mom had come back to Uganda and wanted to see them. We were shocked, their mom the last we had heard was very ill and still in Rwanda. This all happened right before school was being let out for the holiday break and everyone who we had worked with on this fostering process had left or closed for the holidays. We were able to get in contact with a social worker through our church family and she helped us break the news to the boys. Happy was “happy” as he said he thought his mom was dead and it made him happy that she was alive. Kitibwa had no reaction besides shutting down and even refusing to see a picture of mom. Tendo was worried that it meant he would be leaving our family and “things” but was still anxious to see her. The next week we met with a translator that could help us with the communication barrier between three languages. She was great being able to get Tendo to open up and talk about his past with mom. Also finding out that Happy said he would not recognize his mom had we not shown him a picture and wouldn’t even know if he passed his father on the street.

All these feelings as we approach the meeting with their mom tomorrow and I am feeling so many emotions because I have so many questions and am not sure any will be answered. Mostly I want there to be lots of talking between everyone and I want open and honest conversations, no matter how hard it might be to hear. One thing that Matt and I are is united, we have sorted through emotions through this past year all the ups and downs and we have become stronger together through it.

Today we met mom, it was basically what I feared would happen an instant connection from the boys and a total disregard of responsibility from mom. She was grateful, she thought they were dead, she has been trying to relocate them for the past 7 months and is happy to find them in a good place. She has no plans to care for them or herself really, she is still dependent on other people to take care of her. We did get some answers, some history, a glimmer of hope for the future. I am going to have to use my social work background to get some things in place for mom, steps and goals in place. I am forever these boys advocate and as much as it is way more personal than anything I have ever done, I will fight. When people don’t know how to fight for things, you have to sometimes point them in the right direction, push them, show them, and be there to help them when they mess up.

What I am not going to do is be someone’s scapegoat, excuse or reason to not do their best. I won’t allow it. I thought 2017 was hard but I have a feeling it was just preparing me for the challenges ahead.

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Self care is not selfish

As most of you know we have had a rocky road this last year. I want to get real honest with you I have been trying to figure out how to keep spiritually full. I have tried to take care of my health but that has had its ups and downs. I was able to get away several different times to get my hair done, massage or a retreat away for a day or two. I have tried getting involved with women’s groups and meet new friends. I have read topical books on the Bible and have also read the Bible. I have journaled and blogged. I have prayed alone and together with others. I have colored and painted. The truth is that life is stressful and I don’t always know what I should do to keep myself mentally healthy. I am trying hard to not burn out spiritually. In church they have been talking a lot of how to balance life and ministry.

Today’s sermon really put it all into perspective that we are not defined by our qualifications. Paul is reminding the Colossians that our identity is in Christ Jesus. Our eternal life doesn’t start after you die it begins when we accept Christ. My desire should be to honor God and not to worry about the other roles that I have been placed in.

So I have been reading the Bible intentionally to read it in a year, this gives me accountability to daily get into the Word. I just started and I have found it hard to follow a times what the heck Job is talking about as well as all the others. But I am really intrigued by chapter 38 where God is explaining how he is powerful and it gives a great picture of how he created the universe. At school I taught 3-5 year olds the story of creation as it is found in Genesis, but I think that if I were to teach it to an older group of kids I would definitely read Job 38.

“Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation? Tell me, if you understand.
Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know! Who stretched a measuring line across it?
On what were its footings set, or who laid its cornerstone—
while the morning stars sang together  and all the angels shouted for joy?

“Who shut up the sea behind doors  when it burst forth from the womb,
when I made the clouds its garment and wrapped it in thick darkness,
10 when I fixed limits for it and set its doors and bars in place,
11 when I said, ‘This far you may come and no farther; here is where your proud waves halt’?

12 “Have you ever given orders to the morning, or shown the dawn its place,
13 that it might take the earth by the edges and shake the wicked out of it?
14 The earth takes shape like clay under a seal; its features stand out like those of a garment.
15 The wicked are denied their light,  and their upraised arm is broken.

16 “Have you journeyed to the springs of the sea  or walked in the recesses of the deep?
17 Have the gates of death been shown to you?   Have you seen the gates of the deepest darkness?
18 Have you comprehended the vast expanses of the earth? Tell me, if you know all this.

19 “What is the way to the abode of light?  And where does darkness reside?
20 Can you take them to their places?  Do you know the paths to their dwellings?
21 Surely you know, for you were already born!  You have lived so many years!

22 “Have you entered the storehouses of the snow or seen the storehouses of the hail,
23 which I reserve for times of trouble,  for days of war and battle?
24 What is the way to the place where the lightning is dispersed,  or the place where the east winds are scattered over the earth?
25 Who cuts a channel for the torrents of rain, and a path for the thunderstorm,
26 to water a land where no one lives, an uninhabited desert,
27 to satisfy a desolate wasteland  and make it sprout with grass?
28 Does the rain have a father?  Who fathers the drops of dew?
29 From whose womb comes the ice?    Who gives birth to the frost from the heavens
30 when the waters become hard as stone, when the surface of the deep is frozen?

31 “Can you bind the chains of the Pleiades?  Can you loosen Orion’s belt?
32 Can you bring forth the constellations in their seasons   or lead out the Bear with its cubs?
33 Do you know the laws of the heavens? Can you set up God’s dominion over the earth?

34 “Can you raise your voice to the clouds  and cover yourself with a flood of water?
35 Do you send the lightning bolts on their way?  Do they report to you, ‘Here we are’?
36 Who gives the ibis wisdom   or gives the rooster understanding?
37 Who has the wisdom to count the clouds? Who can tip over the water jars of the heavens
38 when the dust becomes hard  and the clods of earth stick together?

39 “Do you hunt the prey for the lioness and satisfy the hunger of the lions
40 when they crouch in their dens or lie in wait in a thicket?
41 Who provides food for the raven   when its young cry out to God  and wander about for lack of food?

It goes on for another few chapters until Job repents in chapter 42…

“I know, Lord, that you are all-powerful; that you can do everything you want.
You ask how I dare question your wisdom when I am so very ignorant.
I talked about things I did not understand, about marvels too great for me to know.
You told me to listen while you spoke and to try to answer your questions.
In the past I knew only what others had told me, but now I have seen you with my own eyes.
So I am ashamed of all I have said and repent in dust and ashes.”

Wow! I have learned that even though I have had challenges this last year (non of which were as bad as Job experienced). I have realized I could see it through the eyes of Job and we read that he had a mix of emotions. He came finally to the conclusion that he may never know what God had in mind for him, but that God will do what he wants. To stay faithful through it all because there will be an end to the trials. You will come out of the storm with more knowledge and understanding, God will restore you and God loves you. I don’t know what the future holds, but I always hold on to the promises of the scriptures. Jeremiah 29:11 For I know the plans I have for you declares the Lord plans for peace and not evil to give you a future and a hope.

I write this to give hope to someone else who is going through a storm in their life, a battle like Job. Keep trying to find a way to connect with God and make room for your own mental health through it all. I tend to think that I am being selfish when I take time to care for myself, but this last year have realized if I don’t take care of myself, I can’t effectively take care of others and do the calling that God has for me.

 

 

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Trials of 2017

James 1:2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds…

What are my trials that I am facing? I want to try and be authentic about this part of my life right now. 2017 has not been the best year of my life, nor the worst; but I can say that many trials have been faced and continue to be faced. The most obvious one is the new addition of 3 tween boys who have lived with us full-time since January. To say it has been an adjustment is an understatement. When you think you might have a good thing going it often changes with the weather, especially when there are now 7 different moods, opinions, behaviors, schedules, stresses, and coping strategies.

We have moved 4 times in Parkers 4 years of life from Omaha to Uganda House 1 Masoli, then to House 2 Bukoto and most recently House 3 Kasanga. We told ourselves I don’t want to move for a long time and then we get robbed in the very house that we want to stay in for a long period of time. That was a major trial and at times still is, our lives were forever altered. I had flashbacks to our first year of marriage where I was robbed outside our apartment at gunpoint. Matt had restless nights waking up to any little sound he would hear outside. Every night it would take hours to fall asleep because any noise outside would prevent us from being able to rest.

Not being able to travel “home” this year has been a big heartache for us. We miss friends and family physically being with us. We miss the comforts that a first world country offers. The familiarity and convenience of getting what we need and what we want. The reality that we are not financially able to just go “home” like other people are. The lack of flexibility we have to leave our ministry in capable hands and see that it would run without our constant support. The fact we can’t travel with our boys yet because they have no documentation or clearance to move around with us outside of Uganda.

Missionary families moving onto other countries and the relationships that we developed with them altered. Opening up ourselves to be hurt, lonely and at times envious of where they are heading and the lives they will lead without us. The stress of making new friends and always having to be the “outgoing” person because if you are shy and introverted then good luck finding friendships.

Friends and family dealing with loss and heartbreak a world away from us and we can’t be there to comfort them. We can’t experience the new births and the deaths, marriages and moves. You can’t be there when someone is sick or going through a crisis; you can’t physically touch someone, hold their hand, hug them tight or say I love you in person.

But if life were only the first part of the verse then it would be a complete tragedy not pure joy. The second part of that verse says… because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. 4Allow perseverance to finish its work, so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”

As much as I don’t like facing trials those trials happen for a reason. I often don’t know what those reasons are and I don’t always face them joyfully. But I do know that my God will give me the ability to persevere. He will equip me when I read His word and pray to Him to be able to come out of any trial better than when I faced it.

We have had so many blessings in the midst of the trials, victories in the midst of defeat and hope in the midst of hopelessness. We have gained more than we have lost and loved more than we thought we ever could. It is all because of Christ and His goodness despite our shortcomings. Thank you God for that and through those trials and the ones to come I know that through it all I will always find God with me by my side holding my hand or when I am too weak He will be carrying me through the storm.

I will end with one of my favorite poems…

Footprints in the Sand

One night a man had a dream. He dreamed
he was walking along the beach with the LORD.
Across the sky flashed scenes from his life.
For each scene he noticed two sets of
footprints in the sand: one belonging
to him, and the other to the LORD.
When the last scene of his life flashed before him,
he looked back at the footprints in the sand.
He noticed that many times along the path of
his life there was only one set of footprints.
He also noticed that it happened at the very
lowest and saddest times in his life.
This really bothered him and he
questioned the LORD about it:
“LORD, you said that once I decided to follow
you, you’d walk with me all the way.
But I have noticed that during the most
troublesome times in my life,
there is only one set of footprints.
I don’t understand why when
I needed you most you would leave me.”
The LORD replied:
“My son, my precious child,
I love you and I would never leave you.
During your times of trial and suffering,
when you see only one set of footprints,
it was then that I carried you.”

Author: Carolyn Joyce Carty

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Interview: Jacob

How old are you? 6

What grade are you in? 1st

What school do you go to and who is your teacher? Acacia and my teacher is Ms. Arlt.

What is your favorite place to go in Uganda? Acacia Mall

Who are your best friends? Timothy and Angus

What do you like to play inside…outside? Football outside and inside I like to play cars.

How do you like having older brothers? Kind of (gave me a sideways thumbs up)

What is your favorite song? The tiger song…Your gonna hear me roar- “Roar” by Katy Perry

Tell me a story you have learned in the Bible. When Jesus parted the Red Sea. Why is it your favorite? My favorite because I have never seen a sea that is parted. Did Jesus part the sea or someone else? Jesus and Moses.

Where would you like to visit? Timothy’s House.

What is the best thing about living in Uganda? Our dog. But we had a dog in the U.S. too. Both of them are very nice.

Jacob has grown up looking at pictures from Uganda and visiting when he was just a year old to now living here since he was about to turn 4. He has experienced life in America more than any kid in our family, but is a bit confused about some details regarding life in America. He was convinced that Santa lives in the U.S.

I have enjoyed seeing Jacob learn and grow here in Uganda because of his opportunity to go to school at a great international school. He has made many friends, sadly he has also lost at least 3 friends in the last year. He will lose another friend at the end of this year too as his best friend Timothy is moving away.

He has matured in a lot of ways, but is still really good at whining and complaining when he doesn’t get his way. He has learned how to be independent, but will still come and find me to get a hug or tell me something special that is going on in his day (one of the perks of working at his school). He has had his ups and downs with the addition of older brothers. I see improvement though in his ability to relate and adapt to the change.

Jacob still has a hard time blending in when we go to work in Gayaza as he is visibly different but also it is hard to relate to kids who don’t know how to hold a conversation. He is very intelligent and can read at a high level. However, he is one of the youngest in his class at school and still gets exhausted by the end of the school day.

Jacob is a very thoughtful child when he wants to be, often wanting to celebrate others when they have special moments in their lives. He is my snuggle bug and loves to cuddle. Very affectionate and loves animals (especially dogs).

Please pray for Jacob as he adapts to having to share attention among 4 others. Pray that Jacob continues to love to learn and seek the Lord. Pray he grows to appreciate the unique experience he gets living in Uganda and values the family he was born into. Pray for his health as he has battled allergies to insects and Bilharzia.

 

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Where’s your green grass?

Is it possible to have a midlife crisis in your thirties? I find that I am in a weird time in my life especially now having three extra kids that I didn’t ever know I would have. I look at my colleagues and they are in their twenties and they literally have nothing tying them down and can do seemingly whatever adventure they want. I feel at times there are no other families that have the same dynamic that we do with kids ranging from 4-13 and three of them being only part of our family for a year. There are adventures that I still want to do but financially can’t for a variety of reasons…family of 7, missionary budget and living in Uganda. So I have been on the hunt for cheap local things to do that are different and unique, fun moments that will fill that silly midlife crisis I am experiencing.
I really shouldn’t complain too much because I do have some amazing family adventures coming up in April and over the summer. I think that I am just jealous of the seemingly freeing part of life where you don’t need to find a babysitter or bring along 5 kids and all the “things” they “need”. I am trying to be content with where God has placed me in this time of my life and see the true blessing it really is to be right where I am.
I think it is important to dream but to also realize that there are other people out there who are looking at my life and wishing they had “parts” of it. (married…kids…missionary…Uganda…teacher…soccer mom) I am truly blessed and at times in the thick of it things can get kind of foggy to see all the blessings.
“The grass is always greener on the other side…” If you are feeling some of the same feelings, I want to encourage you to take a closer look at all the blessings you do have instead of looking at the “pictures on Facebook” of other peoples seemingly better life. It is hard and that’s why I am typing out my feelings so I too can see that I am more than blessed to be where I am in life at the ripe old age of 33 and 11 months.

Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord. They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.”

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Kitibwa Ashraf

In this blog I wanted to feature Kitibwa in his biological family he is the second youngest, Happy is the only one younger than him. In our family he is the second oldest, Tendo is the only one older than him. Next month he turns 11 and he is in Year 7 in his British school which equates to the 6th grade in American schools. I would describe Kitibwa as an observant child, he does better watching something first and then trying it for himself. When he is comfortable he is outgoing and not afraid to volunteer. He is a people pleaser, so much so at school they call him by his other name Ashraf because they were not able to pronounce (chi-tee-bwa)Kitibwa.

It was the first Sunday of the month and at our church that means the kids stay in the service and the preacher includes them somehow in his message. We also always have communion at the end of the service. The preacher was asking the kids why they came to church today, and both Kitibwa and Tendo spoke up and said something very holy. (I promise we did not pay them or bribe them to say anything brilliant they just did on their own). At the end of the sermon it was time to pass out communion and they needed volunteers and Kitibwa was quick to put up his hand to volunteer. It was a proud mom moment for sure.

Kitibwa like any of our kids, has had his moments where we are frustrated with his choices. It usually involves him not fully understanding and not asking before he does something, or forgetting something (at school, at football, in the car, upstairs etc.) Our lives are busy nearly every single day we have somewhere we have to go, something we have to do and inevitably something we will have to plan ahead for. I try to always check homework, house chores, reading, spelling, laundry, snacks, breakfast, dinner and so on and so forth. I was noticing that homework was not coming to me to be checked and more often than not “reading” was not being checked by myself. Kitibwa has not had a good educational experience, he has missed school in his life a lot. Kitibwa reads at a low level to the extent that we got a tutor to help him learn the basic sounds that letters make.

Kitibwa is a child who desires to learn he desires to gain knowledge and to get better. He does great at participating in school and athletics but there is a gap. We haven’t been able to pinpoint what it is exactly that makes Kitibwa do so poorly in his test taking and ability to stay mentally strong and organized in even day to day tasks.

Kitibwa is a caring child, one who wants to help others. He is looking out for others and thinking about others instead of himself. We are trying to get him to understand that self-care is also important, when he needs something that he needs to ask. We are also working on each of the boys to reflect on where they have come from, where they are now and where they want to go in the future. We want our kids to have hope and to find that hope not in us but in Jesus Christ.

Update on our journey of fostering is we are still waiting. We have found out their birthdates, nationality (Rwandan) and are working with the Rwandan Embassy in Uganda to move forward with “inter-nation adoption”. We are waiting for the Embassy to tell us what else we need to do to move ahead with the process and in getting them the documents that are necessary for passports and eventually visas. We hope that this matter is resolved by this summer as we have big plans in the works that involve travelling.

Please pray for a diagnosis or solution to Kitibwa’s learning, documents to be given to the children, his faith to be strengthened, and for his bond to grow stronger to his brothers, sisters and us. Thank you!

2016 kitibwa

Kitibwa before living in our home. Fall 2016

chrismas2016

Kitibwa winter 2016

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Kitibwa summer 2017

kitibwafirstday

Kitibwa fall 2017

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View from Parker

A while back I decided I wanted to hear from my kiddos what they thought about their lives in Uganda. Their perspective of what we do in Uganda. I can’t help but laugh when I hear Parker because honestly she is always talking like she does in this video.

Remember that show “kids say the darndest things” well sometimes I wish I had a recorder at all times with this girl because she does say some of the oddest, funniest and cutest things. She definitely gets her vocabulary from her great grandma Dee and my mom (grandma).

I do wonder and pray that her experiences in Uganda will be filled with blessings. She has a love for Jesus and the knowledge of a 4 year old of who God is and his son Jesus. Along with the desire to go to heaven, the idea that Jesus died for our sin and forgives us. My prayer is that as she gets older that curiosity and desire to understand more grows and turns into a relationship with Jesus Christ.

Parker is someone who can make friends with anyone. Talk until you can’t handle anymore. Gives great hugs and kisses and would love for you to carry her or hold her hand everywhere she goes. She is smart and can memorize scripture and retell stories with great detail. Don’t tell her a secret because she won’t be able to contain her excitement and will just have to tell someone. She makes cards for literally anyone she can think of and can pray the sweetest prayers for people. She hates getting her hair brushed, but wants it to be nice and long. She wants to dance and be a ballerina “but I need ballerina shoes and the costume too”. She has a contagious laugh and the funniest facial expressions. She is dramatic in every sense of the word which can be good and frustrating at times.  I think she has a tinge of car sickness only because she has thrown up in the car at least 3 times since living in Uganda (2 of those times we were in a traffic jam and she vomited out the car window).

My prayers for her is that she continues to love education, cares about others, loves Jesus and is protected from harm. I love my little snoopy…Parker bean.