Many people started reading this blog when I was working as a nurse and foster mom in Uganda from 2010-2011, so I want to make that story easy to access from the main page. This page has an overview of those months in Uganda and if you want to read the individual posts from that time, you can click here.
In lieu of instaGRATITUDE this week, let’s take a look back. The task of summing up the past year in one blog post may be well near impossible, but for my own sake I think it’s worth a try. There is much to be grateful for. God has done more this year than I could ever have imagined. He has done more than I’ll ever know and more than I’ll ever be able to share on this blog. When I turn around and look back on 2011, I am overwhelmed by the stories, the friendships, and the families that have been built. So, in an attempt to summarize this year, I’m just going to hit the highlights. To do the joy of 2011 justice, however, I’ll have to start in August, 2010:
August 12, 2010: the night of wine and tuna
Arriving in Uganda, Rachel and I found ourselves dropped off in a mostly-empty house late at night. With no electricity, we couldn’t find any of our stuff. I think we cried a little, picked ourselves up off the floor, scrounged together the few things we in our backpacks, and drained my computer battery watching The Proposal. We were scared and tired that night, but it stands out as a highlight because it was the night we learned to laugh at Africa, something that later became one of our most effective survival tactics.
August 18, 2010: the first two
This was the day we met the first two reasons for our time in Uganda. I remember the moment I saw Ellie for the first time and scooped her up in my arms. She was so engaging. Something in us connected, although at that time I could never have guessed I would get to be her mom for almost a year.
September 2, 2010: the family grows
On September 2nd, we found the twins in the worst condition we had seem them so far. It was obvious that they needed to be admitted to an intensive care unit, of which there was none for hours. We asked permission to take them home until they recovered and their mother was well enough to care for them. They improved, but their sweet mama died on October 4th and we discovered that we were the only people willing to continue their care. They became officially “ours” on October 17th and grew quickly over the next few months. We named them Eli & Ellie.
Just days after Eli & Ellie’s Ugandan mama died, we met their forever mama, Mandy. At the time we didn’t know she was their mom, but how sweet of Jesus to give her a whole week with her babies – not knowing it would be almost a year before she got to hold them again.
February 17, 2011: welcome Christina and Mikisa Mae
These two joined our household in February, although it was a few more weeks before they moved in for good. Mikisa Mae brought a level of joy to our house that we could never have imagined.
We almost lost her several times as she fought malaria and severe malnutrition, but a mother’s love and a sense of family quickly converted her from baby into the feisty 6 year old she is today.
(and in case you hadn’t heard, she got a daddy in October and is getting a baby sister in February!)
Christina wrote a review of 2011 here.
March 21, 2011: and then there were…
Just days after Rachel and I were saying how nice it was to have two babies and two adults, my phone rang. A tiny little girl had lost her mom and just 2 weeks old. She was sick and there was no one to care for her. I asked Rachel if we could take her. Fortunately, Rachel’s as bad at saying no as I am. Alinda Rose joined the family and after practically no time at all we couldn’t imagine life without her.
April, 2011: and then we stopped counting…
I do believe we had recently had a “I’m sure glad we only have three babies because we couldn’t handle four!” conversation when my phone rang again. Another even tinier baby was in need of a home. Rachel was on the other phone and I quickly just mouthed, “They’re bringing another one.” And just like that, Eden Hannah joined the family. That night was rough (and very night after that night was rough), but we would never have wished it any other way. At 4 pounds, she was the tiniest baby I’d ever held, but also the fiesty-est.
April, 2011: more joy
The little girl who had been on my heart since February finally came home to us. Lily brought a whole new beauty to our little family. She was the first child in our home who could walk and talk, something that was a huge blessing and provided endless comedy to our days. We learned how to adjust our lives for an older child and she, in turn, adjusted beautifully to life in a family. Lily and I walked into some hard places together. She taught me much about trust and forgiveness while I got to teach her about Jesus and grace and hot chocolate and tickles. On May 2, we told her that a family was coming for her…her family was coming. We watched as hope worked a transformation in this little girl.
Lily’s entrance into our family brought our numbers up quite high. Christina left for America to get her paperwork in order for Mikisa’s adoption, leaving us with SIX children for a while (five of whom couldn’t walk or talk!).
May 2011: moms to the rescue
Just when we thought we might fall apart from exhaustion, our moms came to visit. What was meant to be a short stay turned out to be almost 3 weeks. They cooked and cleaned and took night shift with Ali Rose. They helped us move to our new home and gave us the mothering we so desperately needed, all while getting to meet the “grandchildren” they had been praying for over the past weeks and months.
May 8, 2011: the twins turned ONE!
Summer 2011: surviving well
That summer we settled in as a family of many. We swam in the inflatable pool in the living room, took long walks in the evenings, cooked new foods, and home-schooled. The littles seemed to grow up way too fast. Some of them learned to sit up and crawl and walk. We learned a lot from each other. We learned how to live in a mess and sometimes let laundry sit for days so that we had time to snuggle all of our littles. We learned how to be a family and how to have lots of fun with not very much at all. We learned how to just enjoy being. We sometimes got mad at each other and maybe Rachel and I drank way too much coffee and Coke to stay awake, but all in all, we had a lot of joy.
The late summer of 2011 launched me into the wildest faith journey of my life, the details of which I cannot share here. From the moment each of our littles came into our lives, our desire was to see them in a family. God made it clear (in a special, different way for each child) that neither Rachel nor I was supposed to be a permanent mom to any of them. Knowing that left us to pray for their families like there was no tomorrow. The process for each of our kiddos to eventually be allowed to go home with a forever family was long, unstable, and full of frustration. It seemed that nothing was certain. This summer was an intense season of watching God do the impossible on behalf of 5 little children who otherwise would have been overlooked. It was a season of learning to watch for Jesus in every situation. It was a season of learning that Jesus is BIG and that he cares about the smallest of small.
June found Rachel and I soaking up each moment we had left with Eli, Ellie, and Lily, knowing that their families would be coming soon and preparing ourselves for the heartbreak of letting go. We savored every detail of their faces, every conversation, every late night snuggle.
July – November
Most of you know all that went down in those long months. I’m kind of tired just thinking about them, so I’m going to be lazy and just link you all over the place instead of recapping here. There was lots of waiting, reunions with adoptive families, more waiting, homecoming for Eli, Ellie, and Lily, goodbyes, more waiting, Baby E staying behind, a sweet homecoming for Ali Rose and me in November. For those of you who like visual maps, here’s one I put together to help myself keep it all straight.
WHEW! That’s quite a year!
So, looking forward to 2012? Let me tell you what. I’m thinking 2011 is going to be hard to beat. 2011 brought some of the highest highs and lowest lows I’ve ever known. The events of this year have pulled me in for a closer look at Jesus and left me hungry for more. I don’t anticipate that 2012 will bring the emotional and spiritual extremes of 2011, but I do expect Jesus to show himself more to me this year.
Last December, my prayer was that Jesus would make me uncomfortable enough to let go. I had no idea.
I’m looking forward to this year being a new and different kind of hard. The hard parts of my life so far are the ones I’m the most grateful for. They’ve forged my dearest friendships and created some of my fondest memories. They’ve forced me to look at God in a whole new way – from a place of failure and utter dependence. I’m praying that this year brings new highs that create a deeper gratitude in my heart and new lows that leave me looking up at Jesus in a whole new way. I expect to arrive at 2013 knowing God to be even better and bigger than I can imagine now.
This year would not have been what it was without you, blog friends. I had no idea what a blessing it would be to walk through this year with so many strangers…many of whom have become dear friends. Maybe I could have done this year without you, but I wouldn’t have wanted to. What a blessing you have been to me. I’m excited about doing 2012 with you, too. It’s going to bring some excitement, let me tell you! I can’t wait to fill you in.