What a combo day!

November 26, 2009 at 9:46 pm | Posted in adoption process, Uganda | 1 Comment

Thanksgiving Day AND Gotcha Day all in one!    It’s been a whole year, folks!    We’re blessed beyond words.

Gotcha Day!

Over the past 365 days we’ve had some amazing days (like this one) and we’ve had some really hard ones (which I didn’t actually have the energy to blog about much).   The boys have grown and have adapted to so much in the past year ~ and so have we.       We are forever re-defined as a family and have stretched and groaned and giggled our way through the past 12 months. And,  with this important anniversary date, feel like we are no longer novices at this thing.   We are now officially seasoned veterans!  <wink>

Thanksgiving dinner brought the first comments about the fact that today is the anniversary of the day we were became a family together.     Philip, especially, was interested to hear about it again and before we ate he thanked God for ‘the airplane and for America and for home and for the plane coming down here’.

Yep – we were all choked up and could each say a hearty ‘amen’ at the end of that prayer.

Later tonight, when we were finally ready for pie, we had our Gotcha Day .   A couple weeks ago, I wrote about being in a bit of a dilemma, not knowing whether to do Gotcha Day or not.   Thanks for your input, friends.   You really did help us make up our minds.

We decided to celebrate the day by looking at pictures from our return trip  from Uganda and there was lots of laughing as we told the story over again.   Haley made a great little slide show for them, which they loved.   And, finally, we gave them their first gift from Uganda.    Each boy got a stuffed animal that we purchased in Jinja – their home for a while before we all became a family.

They felt celebrated.   We felt delighted.   Such a fun time.

A field trip to Staples!

November 22, 2009 at 10:09 pm | Posted in God's obvious goodness | 4 Comments

United Methodist Church of Staples Minnesota. Ever been there?   I hadn’t either until this weekend.

Staples UMC

Here’s the story:

Last year, Anne,  a young woman from Minnesota decided to go to Africa as a  volunteer.    She enlisted her whole congregation in her little church in Northern Minnesota to be her support team and she ended up spending two months in Jinja, Uganda caring for babies at the Amani Baby Cottage.

Upon her return, she gave the standard post-missions-trip slide show and challenged her little church to continue supporting the kids at Amani by creating a regular milk-money offering that the children of Staples would give to support the children of Amani.   Now in it’s second year, this little fund has grown and also enjoys the support of the church at large.   They donate to babies they’ve never met and through their generosity, they’ve raised some serious dough and have kept the babies at Amani supplied with their much-needed milk.

Some of the little ones that benefited from this milk money campaign were our very own Philip and Zachary!    And since we’re a real, live Amani family that lives sort of close by, Anne (and her family) asked us if we’d be willing to come to her church, tell them our story and let them meet our boys.

So, yesterday we loaded up and drove three hours north to go to the Staples United Methodist Church.

It was like stepping back in time or into a small-town fictional novel.   For this gal who’s only lived in bigger suburban areas and has attended mega-churches for 25 years, it was eye-opening.    The tiny 150 year-old sanctuary was beautifully adorned with stained glass windows and dark wooden pews,  upholstered in red velvet.    It was both charming and breath-taking all at once.

The people were genuinely glad that we were there and I think EVERY single one of them told us so!    They were friendly and gracious and welcoming.   We talk about ‘community’ a lot in big churches.   We are hungry for it and try all kinds of things to ease the isolation that so easily happens in big churches.   There – they were ‘family’ to each other and extended that heart-felt love to us.   It wasn’t hard…. It was natural community and it was really beautiful.

We spoke to their Sunday School classes and then again in their ‘missions moment’ in the main service.    Philip and Zachary were the stars!    The people were so glad to actually meet some of the babies that their funds had supported.

I was humbled.

Here was this tiny, tiny church WAY up in northern Minnesota.   We had nothing in common except for Anne and the cross.   But that was enough.

These people provided for my boys before I ever could.   Anne cared for them and was a mama to them before I could be.    The UMC in Staples has just a couple hundred people in it (maybe??).    And God connected the dots to call them to be involved for the cause of orphans almost 8,000 miles away.   Don’t you just love the way God works?

Anne holding Zach at Amani

Today, as we sat in the children’s Sunday school, they passed around the little coffee can that they collect the milk money in each week.   I saw that it was coming my way, so I reached in my purse and gave Philip a few coins to put in the can.   When it arrived at our pew, I noticed that the can was covered in bright lettering spelling out ‘Amani” and there were pictures glued all over it… pictures of the children of Amani.   And there, on the little coffee can, was my son, Zachary’s face.    And as I choked back the tears, the reality of it hit me:   Philip and Zachary were once the orphans.   They were on that side of the fence.   Today, they sat in church with me, and Philip put money in that little can to serve and benefit those who are still orphans.     P & Z are now on the other side of the fence.     They are now the ones contributing to the relief effort.    God is good in so many ways.

Thank you, Staples UMC!   Thank you.

Happy Birthday to Zach!

November 19, 2009 at 11:03 pm | Posted in family | 2 Comments

Zach is 2!!

Zach had a party tonight ~ a party to celebrate HIM!

He enjoyed every minute of it, from the cupcakes to the gifts!    Philip cried because he ‘wanted some birthday too’.     Luckily, Zach was happy to share his birthday.

big brother, Philip

Steven Curtis Chapman and Orphan Sunday

November 17, 2009 at 9:42 pm | Posted in adoption issues | Leave a comment

If you didn’t have a chance to be part of the Orphan Sunday live broadcast last week, you’ll want to carve out some times to watch this.

It was ALL great!   ALL of it.   But one part really grabbed me and wouldn’t let go.

In it, Steven Curtis Chapman talks about their tremendous loss a year and a half ago when their precious daughter Maria passed away.    He talks as a father but more importantly as a follower of Jesus.   He talks about the journey and the questions that the soul asks when it is pierced at it’s core.

Start the video at 1:29:50 to hear him sing an amazing song about the deep reality of God’s ownership over all things.

SCC talks in the middle of the song with a authenticity that caught my breath in my lungs and brought stinging tears to my eyes.   Would my faith survive the way his has if I faced this terror of the heart?

Watch the video…. all of it, if you can.     Accept the invitation to be part of God’s plan for the children of the world who need your partnership…. your parenting….. your prayer.

Reflections on almost a year (Part 2)

November 12, 2009 at 6:13 pm | Posted in adoption process, Uganda | 2 Comments

A year ago today our boys received their passports at immigration!   You can read about it here.   (And this is still one of my favorite pictures ever!)

What a day it was! The legal details were tedious and boring but what was so remarkable to me was the reaction of the people around us, in the city and in the passport office.

President Obama was newly elected in our country and there were parties in the streets of Kampala because one of the ‘sons of Africa’ had become president of the United States!  It seemed that everywhere I went with P & Z people would curiously ask me about them, often freely giving me their opinion about my purpose there.

Men laughed heartily in the passport office, speculating that one of the small tots on my lap might someday become ‘the next Obama’!   They seemed joyous to be part of the process even.   A woman stopped me in the mall to say that she’d noticed that I loved these boys and she wondered about that.  A university student asked to join me at my seat in a cafe to find out what I was doing with those two babies. When I explained that I was adopting them and we’d be leaving for the states soon, he said, “Now they will have the opportunity to become who they are capable of being.” A minister stopped me in a parking lot and directly thanked me for caring for the children of Uganda and offering them a future.

When I went to Africa, I wondered how I’d be received. Would people see me as a benefactor or as a thief?   In the end, I had nothing to be afraid of.   The Ugandan people were delightful and gracious.    The consistent thing that we heard time and again was an encouragement to raise our sons with the knowledge that they are Ugandan-Americans and to faithfully honor that heritage.

I read an article this morning that reported that 65 children were released to foreigners for adoption in ’08.    P & Z were among them.    And they left with affection and blessing from the dear mamas at the baby home and also from strangers on the street.      What a treasure and a gift my sons are…. my Ugandan born sons.

what about gotcha day?

November 10, 2009 at 4:17 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments

We are fast approaching the anniversary of the day we brought P & Z home.    And with that anniversary comes the question of what to do about it.

Many families celebrate their child’s ‘adoption day’ or ‘gotcha day’ with a special meal or gifts or a family outing.   Some let it double as a cultural celebration as well if their child is from another culture.

I’ve always thought we would do something similar (even though it’s not that easy to find a local Ugandan matoke cart here in the twin cities).     As a matter of fact, while we were in Uganda we bought 13 really cool Ugandan gifts for each boy to give to them on the subsequent 13 ‘gotcha days’ to come.

But now, I’m starting to wonder.    Will we be starting a tradition that makes our sons feel celebrated or makes them feel different?   Will an ‘adoption day’ party set them apart in a good way or a bad way?  Should they be SET APART from the rest of the family?  Not being an adoptee myself, I don’t have any personal experience with this. But it’s rattling around in my head.

I’ve really enjoyed the fabulous insight in this blog written by an adult adoptee. His stories have given me much to think about in the past year and his take on a celebration is very positive.

BUT I’ve also been thinking about the ‘anti-gotcha-day’ perspective in
this blog and find myself seeing good points in both.

So…..other adoptive folks out there (parents or kids)…… what are your thoughts? How did you come to your decision about the anniversary of your child’s homecoming? What do you do? (or don’t do?)

We’ll let you know where we land ~ especially since we have to have a plan in 16 days. To be continued…….

Reflections on almost a year (part 1)

November 9, 2009 at 8:10 pm | Posted in adoption process, Uncategorized | 3 Comments



A year ago I was in Jinja, making regular day trips to the city of Kampala to plow through mounds of international paperwork.    Each excursion day, we’d rise very early to catch our taxi ride by 530 in the morning (so we’d miss the morning rush hour).   Philip and Zachary would be all dressed up and looking ‘smart’, in spite of their sleepy eyes.   Equipped with their cups of hot milk and their hard-boiled eggs we’d pile in the back seat of Abdullah’s car and bump down the road for a another day of legal adventures.

I remember those days being sweaty and long.   I remember those days being filled with the tension of the ‘what if’ it doesn’t work out with all the applications?   I also remember my two small, weary sons staring up at me with tired, vacant expressions not knowing what this strange new lady was doing and why they were along for the ride.     But they cooperated.   They trusted me.   They let me drag them all over town and then back to the orphanage each night.     I wonder what was going on in their little minds?

Philip was old enough to know that I was his mommy and soon I would take him to America.   Each day he’d ask if we were going to America.   Each day I’d say, “Soon…” and we’d get dressed up and eat eggs in the taxi and bump down the road to another official’s office.

I prayed that God would sovereignly erase any harmful memories and preserve and strengthen the good memories of their early days in Uganda.   I prayed that He would knit their hearts to us and our hearts to them.    I prayed for favor in our legal applications.

Like I’ve said before, God put this story together.   He put the details and the specific kids and the favor all in place before I ever got on a plane to head across the globe.  Once I got there, the plans simply began to unfold in front of me.   One answer laid the path for the next step and another answer put down additional bricks in the path for the next step, all the way back to the Minneapolis airport!

In the past year God has continued to work on our behalf —  This time it’s not in spectacular stories of parties and fund-raisers and miracles, but in the regular, mundane, day-to-day of raising babies.

God promises to be with us all the time in every situation.    And, by default, that means He’s mostly with me in the mundane.   And His work is unmistakable.    Philip and Zachary no longer stare vacantly and helplessly, wondering what’s happening to them.    Their eyes are eager with hope and trust each day.   They wake up happy (and loud!) each morning and chorus, ‘Good Moooooorning!’ when we walk in the nursery to get them.

Their hearts ARE knit to ours and ours to theirs.   And (even tho I forgot to ask God about it) their hearts are deeply knit to each other as well.

God has granted the rest of our kids a long-term, happy patience with their toddler siblings and have given all of them a beautiful delight and compassion in dealing with these high maintenance family members.

In every story, there’s a star.    There’s always the big actor that gets top billing.   In this story, it could be two cute little boys  or it could be an amazing orphanage staff or it could be an American family who flew across the world to do something unexpected.   But the star of this story isn’t any of these people.   The star of this story was, and continues to be, God — who orchestrated it all.  From the longing He birthed in our hearts a few years ago to the affection He created in two little boys who were once strangers – God has written the script, cast the actors, directed the story and He alone fills up all the credits at the end.

As we approach the one-year-mark around here, we are looking back with awe and looking forward with expectant hope!

Jump on in… the water’s fine!

November 8, 2009 at 4:13 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment


Today was Orphan Sunday.   It’s the first national unified effort in the body of Christ to draw attention to the orphan crisis around the globe as well as to the one in your own city.

Something’s happening….. there’s a movement among the people of God to defend the fatherless.

I know…..The statistics about orphans around the world are overwhelming.   And you’ll never do more than a drop in the proverbial bucket when it comes to solving the problem.

BUT – it only takes one person to make a difference in the life of one child for a lifetime.

Adoption.   Foster care.   Orphan care.

Find a way to be part of the solution.

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