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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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Good Good Father

Getting real with you again. I struggle with race. I struggle with why it matters. I know people will say it is because I am white, I have white privilege. Yes, true but when it comes to being a human being I can honestly say I care what race you are, what nationality you are, what religion you are. I care because you are a child of God. When we came to Uganda it wasn’t the first time that I helped people different from me. I don’t help people because of where they come from or what they look like. I help people because they are in need. I don’t help people because I am white, I don’t help people just because they don’t look like me. I help people because Jesus tells me to and because I love Jesus I love people.

Why am I writing this because I know that people won’t always understand why we are adopting 3 boys from another race, country and tribe different from our own. People won’t always understand why we are living in another country other than our own, helping people from a different race, religion, country, tribe, tongue than ours. Simple, because Jesus did. You see I am proud of who I am what God created me to be and I can’t change that. I embrace who God made me to be because I don’t want anyone to feel they need to be ashamed of where they come from, who God created them to be.

Adoption is not an easy calling and often I feel people who adopt get a bad wrap. The stories of the children often are the ones people hear about. The stories of the parents who adopt are often forgotten or not even heard. I am not trying to discount all the pain that a child who is adopted goes through, but open your heart to the heartache that someone who adopts goes through. People who adopt do so for a variety of reasons and some can be selfish, but most often it is because they feel a calling to help.

An adoptive parent has to handle all the emotional trauma that the child goes through. Raise a child that is not theirs, often one that doesn’t look like them. Raise a child who may never call them mom or dad, a child who always longs to be with their “real” parents. Raise a child who they couldn’t have, raise a child along with their biological child, raise a child after they have already raised their own. An adoptive parent has to balance what is emotionally healthy for the child to have interaction with biological relatives, learn a culture that is not naturally theirs, learn a language or traditions that don’t come naturally. Worry that they are raising a child who will one day leave them to live with someone else, reject them, resent them, never grow to love them.

Very rarely is there a child who literally has no one still alive that has their blood. Unless their entire family was killed in war or accident they have someone who has relation to them. The idea that you should place a child with a relative sounds good in theory. To place a child in their own culture also sounds great in theory. To place a child with someone who can relate to them because they “look” the same as they do also great it theory. But what happens when those people who are related to them, looks like them, comes from their same culture are the same people who tortured them, abandoned them, enslaved them, abused, neglected and rejected them. Then is that still the best placement for them. What if no one wants to help three boys and keep them together. What if their own family can’t provide for their basic needs to live. What if their own family left them, sold all their things and abandoned them.

Adoption usually isn’t a beautiful process, there is always hurt involved in adoption. Always financial strain, emotional strain, marital strain, and relationship strain. Adoption is a beautiful thing but the road and journey is not easy, the reality is that adoption happens only if there is something that has been lost. The hope is that adoption can work only with intervention from Jesus, healing can only happen through Jesus.

I will leave you with this if you are someone who has adopted, thank you for taking that leap of faith. If you have been adopted, understand that everyone’s story is different and I hope that you have been able to find healing in Jesus’ name. If you are considering adopting, I will let you know it is not an easy road, but if you are doing it for the right reasons then it is something you should do. If you are a sceptic or critic of adoption I hope that you will attempt to look at adoption from all sides of the story. The way that I look at life is that Jesus is my “adoptive” father, he is the one who will never leave me or hurt me. Jesus is always here for you and for me no matter what our earthly father means to us and our story.

*I must say I am thankful that I have an earthly father who has always loved me, cared for me, prayed for me, supported me and disciplined me. I am thankful that my earthly father has pointed me to my heavenly father so that I knew no matter if my earthly father left this earth I would always have a father with me.

I love the song- “Good, Good Father” by Chris Tomlin and can honestly say I have been blessed.

 

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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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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

kitibwa

Kitibwa summer 2017

kitibwafirstday

Kitibwa fall 2017

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Family time

My parents have been here for about 5 days and it has been fun. We have all had a great time together and our boys have done a great job connecting with my parents. We have experienced some amazing things and the fun is not over. This is our stay-cation and we are enjoying our time around Kampala/Gayaza showing all the fun places we enjoy. The weather has been great and health has been pretty good with a few upset stomachs here and there. We have a fun water day planned on Sunday, my dad will get a massage while us girls treat ourselves to a pedicure…looks like Matt gets to play playstation with the all the boys (thanks to some generous friends donating a new one). I don’t often put pictures on my blog but there are a few cute ones that really capture the pure joy that we have experienced together as a family. What a blessing it is to have such wonderful people in our lives.

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Childhood Memories

You know when you have good intentions, but then sometimes the reaction you get you aren’t so sure it was a good idea; well that was me today. I was trying to get the kids to work on writing projects today and Matt gave me the idea to have the kids reflect on this past year, where it started and where we are now. The thought behind it was to help improve their writing, to provide an opportunity for reflection and to be thankful for what this past year God has been doing in their lives. Let’s just say Tendo the oldest eventually got it and did a great job, however Happy and Kitibwa were in tears and still didn’t put together a cohesive piece.

During my quiet time I was reflecting on that moment from earlier today and it made me think about childhood memories. I think some memories are made up of what other people have told us through stories. Through those stories that they remember we then imagine in our minds what it would have looked like and replay it for ourselves how we think it would have looked like. Other memories we remember because they were happy, painful, scary…just like that movie “Inside Out”. I don’t know that it is healthy to relive those moments but I do know we should recall moments to help us make decisions in the present and future. I think there is a purpose for recalling that God gives us to help us along the journey of life.

My memories- This one I heard (more when I was approaching driving age) and put my own visual recall. I lost my tooth at an amusement park “Peony Park” on the go cart track. I knew how to go but not how to stop. See I was a tall 4-year-old and I put the pedal to the metal in the wrong direction and ran into the attendant straight into the tires. I lost my tooth when I came to a halt and that was the last time that I drove a go cart until I was a bit older.

Praying to receive Christ with Betty Garrett and sharing it with everyone, even my friend Becky whose mom didn’t like that I was telling her daughter about Christ and then we couldn’t be friends anymore.

Cutting my wrist on broken glass when I was out collecting “treasures” to play house in my tree house out on the farm. My mom put butterfly stitches and I still have the scar today.

Selling my doll house back to my grandma when I had out grown playing with dolls.

Playing “college” with my cousin Bethany whenever we felt too cool to play with all the younger cousins.

My first “boyfriend” in middle school who asked my friend to call me for him to ask me out. Mind you I had no clue who she was talking about but to have an 8th grader ask me out “well sure”. Needless to say that lasted about 2 days when he had someone call me to dump me, because I wouldn’t hold his hand anymore. Almost as bad as the date I had with an 11th grader as a freshman where we couldn’t go to an “R” rated movie because I was too young, he wanted to take a romantic walk around the lake but I wasn’t that into him and I said it was too buggy and just wanted to go home. (he took someone else to prom, and got food poisoning)

There are so many childhood memories that I remember and most of them were pretty great. But I do remember the hard ones that taught me lessons and the ones that I reflect and realize God’s protection. Memories can be hard especially with our kids who have had more difficult ones, but it is always important to remember how God has protected us and shaped us into who we are today. Memories are stories that can help others learn and heal, protect and guide. Don’t be afraid to share your stories-even the ones that may hurt because how wonderful is the journey that God has delivered us from and how amazing is the journey we have ahead.

I challenge you to remember something today that may help you or someone else find hope and healing in Jesus name.