Friday, January 05, 2018

Molly's trip to Uganda & Adoption Saga Part V

We want to continue the story of our adoption, but as I (Molly) write a post about what happened last year around this time, I am simultaneously making arrangements to go to Uganda to meet Joseph for the first time in a few weeks. As you know, Todd and Maggie met Joseph in September of 2017 and now it is my turn.

When Edith came in November of 2017 we met with Myriam, the lady from the adoption agency we are working with. In order to adopt from Uganda there are some hurdles. In many countries you can adopt children through different programs without meeting them first. Uganda is a bit more complicated. Myriam told us that she would be traveling in January and said that I could travel with her as I need to meet him before we can continue go forward. So I have spent most of December working hard to try to get flights, prepare all the paperwork and travel documents and get things ready for an international trip. It has been a bit crazy trying to put it all together at Christmastime with only a couple months to prepare.

In addition to this, because traveling to Uganda usually is cheapest through Europe it is the same airfare cost to stop over somewhere in Europe or to buy a direct flight. I have never been there so we decided to take advantage of the opportunity and I will get to also stay a few days afterwards in Europe, with the only costs being travel within Europe and some hotel nights. I will be meeting a friend and her daughter there to travel with and I am grateful to Todd for allowing me some more time there and holding down the fort at home.

Thank you for praying with me as I go. I will be with my friend or Myriam most of the time, but there are a couple of legs that I will be traveling alone, so prayers for safety would be appreciated. Please pray also for my time at Home of Hope with Edith and as I meet Joseph. Pray that our hearts would be knit and that God would continue to grow my love and connection with him. Pray for Todd and the kids at home as well. Because of Vivien, it isn't feasible for Todd and I to travel together to Uganda as we would like, so I am both excited and nervous, but I know that God will give me grace, strength and protection.

In the meantime, here is more of our story, from the beginning of last year. Part I   Part II   Part III  Part IV here.

Part V (Spring 2017)

In the couple of months that followed Todd and I continued to pray about what God had for us. We met with several families who had adopted children from overseas, and a few that had specifically adopted special needs kids. We asked lots of questions and began to read about, familiarize ourselves with and learn all we could about special needs, overseas adoption.

One of the families we met with a few months earlier had several things in common with our family. Nathanael and Carla Burlando also had a baby with Trisomy 18. Their little one did not live long but he opened their hearts to special needs and they have adopted both overseas and domestically (in Canada). God's timing was perfect as Nathanael and three of the kids "happened" to be visiting family in the area right when we were doing our research and thinking things through and were able to come to our house for a short visit. They have an amazing blog that chronicles some of their journey with their little boy who died shortly after birth, as well as fostering and adoption. I grew up with Nathanael and though I didn't get to meet Carla this time, I have loved getting to know her through her blog and chatting with her online. It was wonderful to meet and hear their story and the joys and challenges of special needs adoption with a large family too.

We talked to our family and a few close friends about our thoughts and plans. They responded with hesitancy and care. Knowing our busy life with Vivien and the kids, they were cautiously optimistic. Yes, the word "crazy" has escaped people's lips more than once as we've shared, but mostly in jest thankfully. Well maybe half jest. But when God speaks, as He clearly had, we didn't want to be deterred. We wanted to be wise in moving forward, but both Todd and I did not feel a need to rush. Instead we prayed and thought and talked and learned.

In the past year, with some of the racial tensions that I had seen across the American landscape, I felt like my heart was really drawn to African adoption. I want to support and love those who may feel marginalized or let down and learn more about their difficulties and know how to help bring positive change. As you know, my cousin Rachel Mubezi lives in Africa and she and her husband are building a hospital there. They had told me about a friend of theirs, Edith, who had a home for special needs children in Uganda. We couldn't help but think that one of those children, who, while they are being cared for well, could have a huge opportunity for better medical care here.

But we had heard a lot of negative things about Ugandan adoption. It is a difficult country to adopt from because there is so much controversy about adoption, with some officials and leaders being pro-adoption and others being anti. There has been past corruption where children are trafficked and adopted our without the parents realizing that their children would actually be gone forever and that they had rescinded their rights.

The law in Uganda now says that you need to live in Uganda for a year and foster a child before you adopt them. We had also heard nightmare stories of disrupted adoptions where people poured their money into adoption and then did not end up with a child. At first, this was discouraging to hear, but my heart continued to think about Uganda.  In January 2017 after the holidays were over Todd and I had a serious conversation about what our next step was going to be. Todd was thinking about China for several reasons. The need is great. There are a lot of children with special needs there waiting to be adopted. The process is very streamlined and much less uncertain than Uganda. Usually only one trip is involved with one parent. It seemed like it could be a good fit.

But at the same time my heart was drawn to an African child and I kept thinking of Edith and her home for kids with special needs. As we talked back and forth I told Todd I was willing to move forward with China if he chose, but I really felt like I wanted to adopt from Uganda, despite the difficulties.

 I had spoken with a lady at an adoption agency who was very clear about the difficulties of Ugandan adoptions.  There are a lot of complications and hurdles that can some up.  One of the biggest challenges for us was that we wouldn't be able to foster in Uganda for a year, especially with Vivien's challenges.  But given the connections we had in the country and the fact that we wanted to adopt a child with special needs vs. a typical healthy child, she told us about an "exceptional circumstances" clause.  She said that she thought given our situation, we could be good candidates for this.

As Todd and I talked and it appeared that we were looking in opposite directions of where to adopt from, he felt like it was best to continue to wait and pray about it. We both knew that in the past, often God brought us together in unity in the right timing when we were willing to wait and pray. Todd reminded me that we weren't in a hurry. On the one hand, I felt frustrated about waiting, but on the other hand, there was also a sense of relief emotionally. I was still getting used to the idea of thinking of caring for another child with special needs.

As I look back on this I see God's kindness to me. In the same way God allowed time for my heart to grow with love as Vivien grew inside of me, he was allowing my heart to grow toward our future boy as well as we waited. I appreciated His timing.

In addition to this, I asked God about the fact that He had seemingly given us direction to adopt and yet, we weren't moving forward. I wanted to make sure that our indecisiveness wasn't somehow disobedience to what He'd asked us. He reminded me of the story in I Samuel of how there was a battle going on and King Saul agreed to meet with Samuel the prophet at an assigned place, where Samuel was going to offer a sacrifice to God. It was only right for priests to offer sacrifices but Samuel was late in meeting Saul. Saul began to fear because the people were starting to get restless and desert from the battle lines. So instead of doing what Samuel - and by extension God - had asked him to do and wait, he moved forward and offered the sacrifice himself. It was a move that was disobedient, despite the appearance of good intentions. It was motivated by fear.

God reminded me that He has told me what to do and I need to wait on His timing. I can trust Him that there is a time to wait instead of push forward, and a time when moving instead of waiting is actually disobedience. When I realized that it was God asking us to wait, it gave me a peace and a settled-ness, despite the fact that it felt like we were doing nothing. I was ok with that and it helped in my emotional process of thinking about our boy trusting God for the future. We continued to pray and ask God for wisdom.

While Todd was still thinking about China, he was also open to exploring the option of somehow talking with my cousin's friend Edith about the possibility of adoption. We weren't sure how this was supposed to happen. She was in Uganda, we were here. We talked with Rachel more about it and she said that she would ask her about adoption in general, but not specifically.

Todd and Maggie had been planning to go on a medical a trip to Uganda in the fall of 2017 for almost a year and a half, before adoption had even been on the table. We have sponsored an orphan girl in Uganda and were connected with her when we went to City Church briefly a few years ago. So it was natural that when they were considering where to go, that they decided to go to Uganda with City Church. They would have the opportunity to do medical missions as well as meet the girl that we have been sponsoring for several years. So I was wondering in January if God was going to make us wait until September for Todd to somehow connect with Edith and approach her with the idea of adoption. It seemed like a long ways away. But we had put it in God's hands and He had said wait. So we waited.

God is so amazing. Truly. Edith had never been to the US in her life. We have never been to Uganda. But in December of 2016 we'd sent a gift to Home of Hope so she had our e-mail. We were on a family trip to Disneyland in February of 2017 when I got an e-mail from a lady named Christa Preston. She told us that her organization was sponsoring Edith to come to the US in order to raise funds to buy land to expand Home of Hope. She said she'd be on the West Coast in San Francisco April and wondered if there was any way we could connect with her. As Todd and I talked it over, we realized that we had just enough air miles to fly her up here and back. We decided to go ahead and do a couple fund raisers from our home and ask if she could speak at any churches while she was here. And while she was here..... we could ask her about adoption.

Again - God just has this sense of humor. He tells us to wait and in the meantime we are thinking and wondering how we can talk to Edith. She is a half a world away. God figuratively says, "You want to talk with Edith? E-mail and phone calling seems awkward? Ok. Fine. I'll just bring her to your house, a month and a half from now." We just sat back in awe and shook our heads. I love how He writes stories and puts things together.

We set about contacting churches and figuring out dates, flights and fundraising and wondering what it would be like to meet her and ask her about the possibility of adoption And wondering how she would respond....

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Merry Christmas Letter 2017!

Merry Christmas from the Merrys!
Christmas 2017

Friends and Family,
We hope this letter finds you and those you love enjoying this beautiful time of year.  We’re thankful to have you in our lives and are grateful this season of reflection and giving thanks.
Isaiah 11:1-2 “There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit.  And the Spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD.”  Truly, Jesus is the reason for all we have and are thankful for.  We’re reminded even more this time of year of the life and joy only He can bring.
This year has been one of new adventures and challenges for us.  A few years ago, we never would have seen ourselves on the path we are walking. Many of you know that we are in the process of adopting a sweet little boy with cerebral palsy named Joseph from Uganda.  We won’t write out all the details here as we have been chronicling the story on this blog (click here to read) but we are excited to see how God is going to bring this about.  We don’t have a set timeline but we are hoping that we will be able to bring him home in a year or so.  Thank you for standing by us, loving and supporting us in this.  
We had a wonderful but busy 2017 with lots of activities and events.  In February we were thrilled to take an epic family trip to CA with the Grandparents and got to do Disneyland and the amusement park circuit, as well as spend some time down in Oceanside at the beach.   In April we received a visit from Edith Lukawbe who runs Home of Hope, a home for children with special needs in Uganda.  We will be adopting Joseph from this home and it was so good  to meet her.  We enjoyed some time in Seaside for the 4th and a trip to Maggie Lake in August.  Todd spent some time with Silas camping and Molly took the girls to Whistler for a few days.  
Then in September Todd and Maggie took an incredible journey to do medical mission work in Uganda and meet Joseph for the first time.  It was an emotional, amazing, life changing time. They also got to meet sweet Brenda, a girl that we have sponsored in Uganda for some years. November brought Edith back again for a visit and a fundraiser for Home of Hope.  Now we are looking forward to the holidays and in January, of 2018 Molly will be headed to Uganda to meet Joseph for the first time as well as spend a few days in Europe.
Throughout the year we have been active at church and school with Awana, Upwards Basketball, piano, Bible Study and HIS co-op.  The girls have just started gymnastics and are loving it.  All 4 of the oldest kids attend co-op which makes homeschooling a challenge, but we are grateful for the wonderful Betsie Hovater who helps tutor the kids and keep us on track!
Here’s a brief summary of each in our clan….
Vivien (3) – In September, Viv turned three years old!  This meant she graduated out of the “Birth-to-three” program and began attending pre-school for all of her therapy.  She attends four days a week and has been doing so well.  We really appreciate the hard work her teachers put into Vivien’s teaching and play time.  We’ve seen areas of growth already!  They have some excellent goals for her future development and are eager to give her all the opportunities they can.

Iva (5) – Iva has started her kindergarten work at our co-op and is doing so well.  She loves the time in class with other kids.  She’s proving to be our most early reader and has a natural love for snuggling up on the couch with a book.  Nobody can make the whole family laugh like Iva, with her one-liners and running commentary.  Her easy-going personality (most of the time) helps everyone to get along.
Lucie (7) – Lucie Joy’s name has come to mean “Happy Sunshine”.  Her sensitive nature and quiet observation have proven to be one of her greatest strengths.  Lucie loves to play pretend games with Iva and bring animation to any doll.  Lucie had her first year as a cheer leader in the Upward League and looks forward to starting again in January.  She is doing well in school and seems to genuinely love doing good work.
Silas (10) – Silas continues to grow in his engineering abilities.  He is regularly building Lego devices such as vending machines and safe boxes.  He’s taught himself to solder and loves to “re-build” toys and appliances from the thrift store.  The workbench looks like one from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang when he is done.  Silas has also proven to be a natural musician and is regularly coming up with new tunes on the piano.  He has excelled at Upwards Basketball and looks forward to more in January of next year.  He has a dry sense of humor and can often be found teasing or even pranking his mama and sisters!

Maggie(13) – This past year, Maggie and Todd were able to spend a couple weeks on a medical mission trip to Uganda.  This was the opportunity of a lifetime for both her and Todd.  Their time serving together brought memories that will last a long time.  Maggie rose to the occasion several times on the trip as she faced some challenges. They so much enjoyed the others on the team and are looking forward to returning in 2018!  Maggie’s creativity continues to grow, as she crafts, draws and paints every moment she can.
Molly – One of Molly’s favorite things to do is travel and she got a lot of opportunities for short and long trips this year.  She is both looking forward to and nervous about her upcoming trip to Uganda to meet Joseph.  Since she has to fly through Europe she will have the opportunity to meeting a friend over there and exploring for a few days.  She loves regular date nites with Todd a couple times a month.  She is involved in driving kids around, homeschooling, housecleaning, bill paying, and many more things that have to happen to keep life running smoothly with 7.  She stays active jogging at Coulon park 3 days a week, and helps lead a Women of the Word Bible study at her church.  She writes and blogs when she can steal a few moments.  This year there has been months of adoption paperwork added to her “writing”.  She’d been warned about adoption “paperwork pregnanicies” but she knows it will all be worth it in the end.

Todd – The highlight of the year was the trip with Maggie to Uganda.  He loved every moment of their time together, the people they served with and the lives of those they helped.  He felt like it was some of the most gratifying work he’s ever been part of.  Todd loves his job at KCM1 and is thankful for the opportunities he’s given every day to help those in need.  He does lesson planning and homeschooling with the help of Betsie, Molly and the Grandmas.  He continues to serve on the board of HIS co-op and has also enjoyed putting together a board and obtaining a 501c3 status that enables us to give Home of Hope an American branch.
Joseph –  Joseph lives at Home of Hope due to his Cerebral Palsy.  We believe that Joseph is around 3 years old as he was left there as a baby.  While not yet legally part of the family, Joseph’s adoption is steadily progressing forward.  Most of the work required stateside has been complete, we are just needing to jump through some hoops with the Ugandan government.  Joseph has become a regular part of our family discussions and planning and we love the pictures that Edith sends us of him.  When Todd met him he was able to get a little feel for some of his challenges.  He is well taken care of at Home of Hope but at the same time we are looking forward to seeing what can be done for him medically in the US.

Books – Todd enjoyed a few books over the year.  Some of the highlights were "Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters" by Meg Meeker, "Sacred Parenting" by Gary Thomas, "Peace Child" by Don Richardson and "A Short Life of Jonathan Edwards" by George Marsden.   But his favorite book of the year was "How We Love" by Milan and Kay Yerkovich.  Such an insightful book on marriage and parenting!
Molly also enjoyed “How We Love”.  She spent quite a bit of time reading books on adoption and attachment, including “The Connected Child”.  She enjoyed “Through a Man’s Eyes” and “For Parent’s Only” by Shaunti Feldhann, Unstoppable by Christine Caine, Killing Kryptonite by John Bevere, Raising Boys, by Steve Biddulph, The Insanity of Obedience by Nik Ripkin and How’s Your Soul, by Judah Smith,
As we look forward to 2018 we have been praying about and evaluating how to de-busy our life.   We know that some of that will come naturally after adopting Joseph but at the same time, we are trying to be intentional about enjoying each other and not making life too crazy.  We have begun date nights with the kids individually to make sure we are spending some on-on-one time with them and we want to be careful to guard our Sabbaths and enjoy just being.
Remembering that the reason Jesus came is to make a way for us to have a relationship with Him that we could not otherwise have, we want to be intentional about our relationship with Him and our loved ones as well as loving those that He came to save!  We are so grateful that He was born.  May 2018 bring to you enriched relationships with Him and with others!

Merry Christmas!

2017 Merry Christmas Photos

Again I say to you - I already know I take way too many pictures.  Excuse us if the order is rather random and the amount is rather astounding! We love our kids, family and friends.  If we know you at all - you may find yourself in some of these.  Feel free to click on the pictures to enlarge.  Merry Christmas!