Monday, March 7, 2016

One month home. (just the 5 of us)

One month home: 

It was February 6 when Juliet and I walked off a plane in Des Moines, Iowa. We couldn't wait to walk down the escalator to Beau, Carver, and Macy. And oh was that moment sweet. 

This envelope that no one else is allowed to open but USA customs, and her passport with a visa sticker inside, meant we could start our journey home to the other majority of our little family 

The day we left, I pulled out a backpack from one of my suitcase, for Juliet to have on the plane. I can't tell you how excited I was that the day finally came that I could bring that out. That backpack meant HOME. And when she saw it, she didn't take it off the entire day, but to take a bath right before heading to the airport. 

It has all sorts of goodies in it she hadn't seen, for the layovers and flights. She couldn't help but peek. 

Finally made it to the Entebbe airport, through customs, and waiting for our flight. 
Waiting patiently in a hot, sticky, airport. Headed to Amsterdam! 
First flight down. Post-landing throw up all over our window seats. ;) 

She. Was. Fascinated. 
"I get to eat, AND watch tv?"

Thankful for a pretty empty flight from Amsterdam to Minneapolis. 

How do you explain such a thing to her??? :) helped pass the layover time!! 

First meal on American soil. She asked for "sambosa" (a Ugandan food) so I was all like, "how about uncoco (chicken!)?"

I didn't know what size shoe Juliet would be in because her flip flops were size 12/13. And then I forgot to bring a "non flip flop" option regardless. So when we landed in flip flops in Minneapolis. We were both freeeezing. She asked for another 'sweater' in addition to this one. (Sorry girlfriend, this was it after the 'threw up on the plane' incident. 

Our last leg home from MN To Des Moines was a tad delayed, and even those extra thirty minutes, she just couldn't make it. After all, it was 2:30am Uganda time for us. Rough. But pure adrenaline and having access to free (American) wifi was keeping me going!! 

Then.....we finally landed. And walked down to this. 

A family of five. Forever. 

Daddy to the rescue bringing Juliet boots and a winter coat!! :) 

Here's an update! 

Things she says: 
- she gets adjectives like hot or cold confused sometimes. We got out of the car to walk into a grocery store and a giant gust of Arctic wind smacked us, "OOOOH HOT, HOT, HOT!" was her response. ;) 
- she asks to go outside all the time. She's never been inside this long/consecutively. Welcome to Iowa winters, eh?
- she's asked where the monkey and giraffes are. ;) (trip to the surrounding zoos this summer?) 
- I hear "look at dat", "mom! Look! Look at dat!", "mom! Mom! Mom!", approximately 400,000 times a day. 
- every time we turn down our street she yells, "OME (home), were OME!" :) 
- she says "yes" in response to everything. "Is your headband too tight?" ..."yes"
"Is your headband ok, feel good?" ..."yes" 
Ha! #fail 
- she tells us she wants to pray or go see her nannies from the baby home. :) so we do. And we will. Someday. 
- she refers to herself in the third person at all times. "Juliet go 'susu'", "Juliet go outside?" "Mom, Juliet go for bed?" Etc. 

- she'll eat almost anything! She didn't like green beans, until someone brought green bean casserole. ;) She didn't like applesauce until I added cinnamon. 

- obsessed with the ice maker. All. The. Live. Long. Day. She hears Beau get ice, and she'll come a-runnin from any room in the house. ;)

- great sleeper! We're 3 for 3 on awesome sleepers since day one! 

Three amigos: 

- Carver and Juliet: 
 are BFFs. Our house got a whole lot louder and rowdier when they were reunited. (She was SO not like this at the baby home. She was quiet and shy.) 
I love seeing the difference in personality when love and family is present! They love to chase each other, Carver now has a sister that doesn't scream when he wants to practice his wrestling moves that he's learned from dad and YouTube. ;) 

- Juliet and Macy: 

not so much. I don't know if it's the girl vs girl or the age difference or what. Macy is extremely territorial of daddy. If he holds or sits with Juliet....WATCH OUT! Macy is the one to pick on Juliet, instigate, and pretty much has thought her life is over since gaining a new sister. Jealous. Jealous. Jealous. I will say, a month in, we have seen improvements. Albeit small. Improvements. ;) (I found them coloring and sharing colors, in the living room last week)

- She has asked to go to school, dare I say, every day since we've been home? Multiple days. And even plays Beau and I, if I say know she will go ask him. If she asks him, and he says "soon", she comes back to me. Oy. 
- So on March 3 she went to preschool with Carver for the morning. Just a test drive. She loved it. She woke up squealing with delight until we walked in the preschool doors. They got along great, but didn't play with each other. 
- we decided to register her for school, and did a school tour of first grade on Friday. She is STOKED. 
- Monday, March 7 (mommy's birthday, and after our dentist appts) she is starting 1st grade. We met her teacher and ESL teacher and are delighted to get started. 

Our month has been jam packed with countless doctor appointments. 

Treating ourselves after another dr appt. 

Countless appointments for one child, is a game changer when you have one kid in morning preschool and the other a toddler. Oh boy! I'm ready to have some "downtime" since being home. We are so grateful to family who jumped right in to watching some or all three when we are running around to different events. We have had a meal train for a solid month since being home, and I cannot put to words or express how GIGANTIC of a blessing this has been! While transitioning to a family of five, appointments, etc it's so wonderful to not have to plan a meal after it all. 

THANK YOU to those who have stepped in to help with everything! 

One month down, forever to go! We are so grateful to God for what He has done in our lives. 

Monday, February 15, 2016

Christiansen Party of 5. HOME.

Since January 2014, when we started Carver and Macy's adoption, up until February 6, 2015....we've been under the adoption stress, anxiety, uncertainty, and refining process. All of that time but six months, from when we walked off the plane with Carver and Macy, March 2015, until we got Juliet's referral September 10, 2015. That was it. Six months (not even) of feeling "whole". Of breathing 'easy'. Having all of our family members under one roof. Ooooh buddy. Those that have been or are in that process right now, know exactly what I mean. Empty bedrooms waiting to be slept and played in, a table setting not being put out, holidays and birthdays being celebrated without a piece of your heart, etc. (if you're reading this and are in that process right now, and those of you who have been in that process for way longer than we have, endured much more than we have. I'm lifting you up to our Father. Asking Him to sustain you and get you through one more hour, one more day, and to move mountains and provide miracles that you couldn't even have imagined yourself.) 

It. Feels. So. Good. To be TOGETHER. AND DONE.

We can't thank you enough for your support. So many have reached out,  with such encouragement, specific prayers for us, and well wishes! 


As awful as this process can be:
* the constant obsessive email checking
 * how you loathe junk mail giving you false pings of new emails (LEAVE ME ALONE SHUTTERFLY AND CARTWHEEL!) 
* the way your heart drops when your agency number pops up on your phone 
* the way Unidentified numbers pop up on your Ugandan cell phone. "Ah! Is this the embassy?" (Most times you don't want a call from the embassy) 
* the time difference where if things are getting done, you're asleep, and then spend the day awake while nothing gets done because the other side of the world is sleeping
* the looming of fees and the "how" to that?
* safety concern emails from the government about the country you're in 
* after a certain point in the process, things are totally out of your control. Your papers are all turned into the embassy and you're left just waiting and your case is up to one person to make a decision 
* you're away from your family for weeks or months (if your spouse can't take work off. Your kids at home.) 
* you're single parenting in a foreign third-"world country 
* change. Bringing home, 1,2,3 or 9 more into your family is change. Change can be hard. Change can be super awesome. 
* I could go on and on. 

With all that being said, this is now the second time that I have never felt so close, so HELD, so CARED for, by the Lord. I remember coming home with C&M and after a few months thinking, "man, I miss that closeness and desperation of needing Jesus to get me through each moment and minute." (That sounds awful, I know. But it's true.) So then God told us to adopt again. (Whaaaat, Lord?) ;) And so it began again. I am so thankful for what God taught me in these months of being along in a foreign country. Of parenting a child(ren) you've only just met. Who doesn't speak English. Who has experienced extreme trauma and loss. I know God is not done with me. I know God is not done with our family (no I am absolutely not eluding to more children.). I'm asking the Lord to continue to help show me and unpack what He taught me the last few weeks. 

If I can tell you one thing, if you are teetering on a few things, either should you adopt or foster? 
Can I say....DO IT.
IF you're questioning if you can afford the fees, can I tell you, STEP OUT IN FAITH? Can you afford NOT to? 
If you are or have questioned if this whole "God thing", having a relationship (not a religion) with the One who created you, and you're just not sure? He's more than attending or not attending church. Or you have thought He is just 'someone' who you go to when life sucks and you need to rub a lamp for three wishes, but something is bugging you that it's deeper than that? 
You're right, He is more than that. (And he's not a genie. As much as I love Aladdin and Robin Williams.) ;) 

There's more to Him then asking for his blessing and gifts, or questioning Him why bad things happen....I've questioned that too. Ask me. Reach out. Open the Bible, ask Him to show himself to you. Give Him a chance. He loves you so deeply. He gave His only Son for you, for me. What Jesus Christ went through on the cross, so we could have relationship with Him was horrendous compared to the trials I have walked through. That's why I can say "yes". He carries me through if I allow Him to do so. Sometimes He allows us to go through really really hard things. But he's not asking us to walk through them alone. He loves us way too much for that. It's for our good. I can promise you that. 

And it's a joy to live for Him- even through the (really freaking) hard. 

Praying for you today. Rejoicing in what God did for our family. Hoping His glory and His mighty hand is what shines brightly through this. It certainly wasn't anything we did or didn't do, but all Him.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Thanksgiving always proceeds the miracle!

***Written on Thursday, December 17*** 

This morning, I was feeling a little overwhelmed of all the things that we have yet to accomplish in J's adoption. Then I just started praying. Praying helps the panic subside most times. Especially praying in thanksgiving! (Thanks to a book I read through with awesome women this summer, by Ann Voskamp called "One Thousand Gifts") 

It's like God in that moment, reminded me of all the things he's already done. "So just hold on!" At the very beginning when we first said yes, I was praying for God's hand to be on this process. For every desk her case came across, every person involved. I even had this image of God's literal hand on her "file" (and her life!) and just sliding it across the desk in favor of all the different officials involved. Here are the things I was able to stop and give thanks for... 

Things like:

* when we were at the beginning and figuring out the fees for her process, since her case had already been completed in so many aspects of preparation when she was previously matched, we kinda assumed some of these fees wouldn't need to be repaid. Long story short, the majority of the fees we hoped to not have to pay, were not granted toward her case. We were flipping out. How in the world will we come up with the difference we were planning on not having to pay? This wasn't just a few hundred dollars. Or even a few thousand. 

Well little did we know, Beau had a "once in a lifetime" type file at work come through. Literally, this doesn't happen in our neck of the woods. And wouldn't you know, when he landed this deal, it covered the ENTIRE first part of the fee that we didn't get granted to us from the agency. Not only that, it was upward of the amount that we had originally hoped and thought. So God provided. And even a sliver more than we were panicking about. :) 

* when our agency called us to tell us the shocking news that we could have a court date in a matter of weeks, not months....she mentioned that it was imperative to get her all of the remaining documents signed/notarized/etc to her as soon as possible. I was ON IT. 
THEN, "two day priority mail", turned into five day. It got LOST and my email kept blowing up all hours of the day and night telling me it was stuck in limbo going back and forth between two post offices. When I called to have someone at one of the POs find it and HOLD it, they said they couldn't find it. This was soooo bad. There were so many original docs in there and a very large check. I had prayer warriors praying and eventually it was found and our agency gal was gracious and drove to the PO and got it. Swapped envelopes right there and resent it to UG. WHEW! Just in time, to get the docs to submit our case to court. 

* a court date in November. When we were totally realistically prepared for a date in February. At the earliest. And to add to the panic, there is a bill trying to be passed in Uganda making the guardianship orders void, and making adoptive families LIVE in Uganda for upwards of TWO YEARS before adoption. Now that our case is through the courts, we are in the clear if/when that bill is passed. (Praying this bill doesn't pass. ALL adoptions need reform. But I do not believe this is a solution.) 

* we booked tickets in faith, without a solid confirmed court hearing, and the day we landed we found out the judge agreed to take us. Not only that, he's known to not show up or turn you away after hours of waiting on your scheduled court date. But HE SAW US!

* the judge didn't make us wait as long as most families waiting to see him have had to wait. (Only 1.5 hrs rather than 5-6) Such a sweet little blessing!

* with USCIS and getting approved by our government: our fingerprint appointment that is "non-walk-ins" came, the date of course, fell on a date that we would be IN UG for her court hearing. We went down to the USCIS the week before we were scheduled, and after providing a few evidences of "proof" of why we couldn't make the original appointment. They made the exception and saw us! 

* a week after sending in our application to USCIS, I realized in the hustle and bustle of it all- I forgot to send in our birth and marriage certificates. Ah! This means they would have requested more evidence, and set us back weeks in being approved. Well I stalked down our officer, and he graciously allowed me to email them as an attachment. Saving us time and haslte! That doesn't happen these days!

* when USCIS sent us our approval, they somehow misprinted our approval letter and it had many errors:
 "you are approved!" (Yay!!) 
then we saw: 
"For zero children/no age listed/etc." uhhhhhhh!?!?!! This won't fly with the embassy? Ha! 
Thankfully, our agency knew of the officer we had been assigned- and got ahold of him ASAP and he fixed it ASAP and got us our new approval! (Some officers can be super difficult and not flexible at all)


These are little and BIG ways we've seen God's hand on her file, just "sliding it across the desks" of those involved in little and big ways. 

* OH! And did I mention we were approved by the judge? We received the verbal ruling and order while in the Dominican on vacation together. He didn't give us the ruling "early" like he said he would try to do. And it came two days after the date he said he would give us. Those were hard days. But eventually, it came! And we were overjoyed!

------> We're officially J's guardians! praise! She is an ORPHAN NO MORE. 

We are waiting for a few more things to be signed, sealed and IN HAND.......HOLD THAT THOUGHT. 



Having two "new" kiddos at home through this adoption process, is very different. I can't just up and leave for 8-12 weeks like I could last time! So we wait for a few more things to be lined up, then I will go. And we continue to trust. 

I'm busy nesting. Organizing oodles of clothing friends have passed down to us for J. Minimizing other things around the house. One of my sweet friends blessed us with J's bedset. I've been rearranging furniture, and DIYing some decor. So now she doesn't have to move into the "guest room", but we're slowly and creatively, making it HER room. :) So fun!

Meanwhile, we are prepping for Carver and Macy's first Christmas! And if you know me, I LOVE Christmas. Because the process in Uganda is at a turtle pace, I am actually going to be HOME for Christmas (unlike previously thought!). I am thrilled! But we still notice and talk about the void of not having our entire family under one roof, for yet another Christmas.

But all in His timing. And the first adoption process has taught me to be content and trust in that. :) 

Monday, November 23, 2015

Our week with J + some

*** edit: this post was taken down during our in-country process for safety and security issues. Therefore the date published shows the date I am republishing.

We've been home for a week now.

Wow, do I LOVE h.o.m.e. I missed Carver and Macy so much. And the older I get, the more I've come to realize I am SUCH a homebody. I'd seriously do well with house arrest. ;)

BUT, I can't help but shake the realization, that we're approaching another holiday season (my absolute faaaaaaaave!) without our entire family under the same roof, a flash back to last year. Goodness gracious. WHO KNEW?!?! 

I can't seem to get over this!?

I'm sure you're tired of me saying this, but I cannot seem to shake that we're IN THIS PROCESS AGAIN. I literally cannot believe it. It felt so surreal. The plane rides, when we landed- the smells, the sounds, all of the senses that come with Africa.....being back at the guest house, dodging traffic, hailing bodas, my Ugandan-English Accent ;) came flooding back, Lusoga phrases and words spewing, adjusting to time changes/climate/culture felt like deja-vu the ENTIRE time.

In fact, we had to make an appointment to pick up a form and have Beau do something at the U.S. Embassy there, just like last time (January)....and when we were called to door number 4....and opened the door, I saw again, the Ugandan gal from my document check appointment from Carver and Macy's adoption process. Her face was OBVIOUSLY surprised and a little shocked to see me again. I thought, "Surely she doesn't remember me. But man do I remember her." Sure enough, she said, "Beau, Kendra? I remember you from the last time. Not that long ago, this year?" Yes m'am. that's us/me. ;)
She got a big smile on her face and shared that when she saw Beau's name, she wondered if it was us, "I recognize that name, it's not common!" HA! She asked if we were back to adopt a sibling from the first two....welllllll, no. But they will be! ;) Then we got on with our business.

I wanted to pull up a chair and tell her all about how we've seemed to find ourselves in this predicament again. ;) Scream, "IT WASN'T US! IT'S GOD!" to defend our 'crazy'. In shock still, that God asked this of us. And in shock still, that we said yes. A little stunned at how that 'yes' has changed since and downs....(excitement/honored that He'd ask/shock/awe/stunned/terrified/freak-out/joy/etc.)

If I could paint a picture of what my mind/thoughts look I constantly go about my would literally looking like the iPhone emoji that has the pink cheeks/wide-eyed/stunned look. 😳😳😳 You know the one I'm talkin' about? Seriously. That's it.

Anyway, I'm on with the parts I know you really want to hear, about J. But I had to share the 'real' too.

So we roll up to the baby home, we shoot out of the car, and I remember how much we valued and rewatch the video of me meeting the kids for the first time, so I fumble out my phone to try to video this reunion. Will she like us? How will she react? We ARE NOT the family that was supposed to show up to pick her up! GAH. What is she going to think?

Needless to say, I could hardly get my phone out and pushed record in time, before Beau took four steps in the door, and she came running to his arms. (she had seen/met him the least of the two of us too!) Not to overuse this word this post, but SHOCKED....describes that moment. I caught a bit of it on video. :) We stayed at the baby home for a bit passing out our sweeties and clothes and items we had to donate to the kiddos there, and J did not LEAVE Beau's side/lap. So far so good!

Then it was time to head back to Kampala. We head towards the van, and one of the workers came up behind J and grabbed her shoulders from the back, the worker wanted a picture with her(?) before we left. However, J IMMEDIATELY threw her arms up/back to pull herself away from this lady- she 100% thought the lady was preventing her from going with us. Not. Good. I had to quickly try and tell J that she was still coming with us, just smile and take a picture quick. (eeeeeeek!) (yiiiiiiikes!)  (and gosh darn that was so unnecessary)

We hopped in the van, and I instinctively said, "Say goodbye!" (not knowing if she's scream and cry/wail or what...she had no idea where she was going or who we were, kind of?) And she immediately said, "BYE, BYE, GOODBYE!", while waiving profusely. I instantly thought, "She's totally ready to leave this place? She is having zero issue with saying goodbye/leaving! Woah."
So off we went.

* we have another great sleeper! (little more of a night owl. Which I recalled from my other trips, that she was ALWAYS up later than any and all of the other kids...till like 9-10pm....the staff said, "Yes, She delays sleep." ) But as the week went, she started to fall asleep sooner, and she sleeps through the night, no accidents, and would get up in the morning, crawl out from under her mosquito net, and under ours, snuggle in, and fall back asleep for a bit.

* she's a good eater: anything but watermelon, she'd eat that week at the guest house with us. (which is primarily NOT traditional Ugandan food she's used to.)

* J didn't talk a whole lot. I thought even if we tried talking to her, she'd respond or talk in Lusoga as if she understood us/wanted us to know what she was saying. But she really didn't. She just smiled and giggled- the whole week. Anxious to see how this changes!

* She's a girly-girl. She'd always pick skirts/dresses over pants or shorts outfits when I'd give her the choice. I brought some bracelets, she wore them EVERY DAY, ALL DAY, and even through the night. (until we realized the bangles, bang a bit too much over night.) The head cook at the guest house makes those magazine beads jewelry- and I let her pick whatever necklace she wanted. She wore it every day there after.

* We took her to a salon that I had taken Macy to last trip (yep, they remembered me there too!) and asked their advice what we should do with her hair. We wanted to best take care of it- and they suggested to even it out (super patchy in length), different colors (due to malnutrition), and just unhealthy as a whole. So we said yes to whatever they thought was best! Well, as always and typical Kendra-Luganda-English language barrier fashion, they cut off wayyyyyyyy more than I/they communicated. :( HOWEVER, we LOVED the outcome, and she was so stoked to wear headbands all day, every day. (multiple through the day, in fact.)

* We also saw that this salon had ear piercing, or "pins/pinned". We asked how much, and they said 20,000! (like $6-7 USD). I knew from other friends posting on Facebook, anywhere here in the states is like ten times that much. Another dude at the salon spoke Lusoga and asked J if she wanted her ears pinned, and she got a big smile and said yes! (I showed her like mine and Macy's too!) She loved it! Didn't even flinch when they did it. Not a tear. It ain't no thannnnng for miss J.

* She's teeny. I knew to figure that she was smaller than pictures, just like Carver and Macy. But I was just as shocked as I was when I saw give you an idea: 
J weighs 34 lbs. She's seven. 
Carver is 36lbs. He's four. 
Her arms/wrists/legs are tiny. Then her poor distended belly, doesn't help.

* I have no reservations in telling you that she absolutely favored Beau. I didn't really expect that. And I didn't expect how much I'd just "let it be that way" as the days went on. I understand that next time, he won't be there with us, and that'll be our time to bond/attach more. And honestly, I feel like I was just in a daze the entire time we were there. (?) 

* We only experienced a short period of defiance the first night. I'll take it! It was a long day in the car, we were hungry, and it very well could have been her testing the waters right out of the gate. (over something some trivial as to taking her plate to the counter...girl, we know you do it at the baby home, and you'll do it at home with C&M too! haha!)

* She's a champ! Be it a long day at court/2.5 hrs IN court, car rides, dodging traffic in the busy city, boda boda rides....she was right there with us, and even had some great moments of her showing her TRUST in us! Yay!

* She started playing with the other kids at the guest house wayyyyy sooner than C or M did. (and have I mentioned how great it is to have a child who can hold her own plate through the buffet line that is all three of our meals? Or no diapers? No bottles? No accidents? Dresses herself? etc? HOLLA! That certainly helps make things a titch easier!)

* J's baby home has done such a wonderful job raising these children with what they have. And part of the culture for kids, is when around older adults, you "kneel" in front of them when greeting them, taking your dishes to them, etc. The ladies at the guest house were in such awe of her doing this (none of the other kids did this.) and commented on how respectful and "humble" she was. :) pretty neat. 


The last day came, and we woke up knowing the escort would be there around 10-11am to take her back to the baby home. Being that we were in Africa, I knew we probably even had till like noonish ;) with her....but at 1:30pm when no one showed, I called our facilitator. We wanted time to tell her what was happening (Thank you R at the guest house, who knows Lusoga!), but knew from telling Carver that we'd be leaving/coming back....he screamed/cried/refused to eat the rest of the day. So we were playing it safe and waiting to tell her shortly before the escort came.

Facilitator answers the phone and apologizes for not calling sooner, he decided to have her come with us to the airport (yay! MORE time with her!) and he'd take her back the next day first thing. (OH CRAP- she'd be coming TO the airport to see us off?) Eeeeeee.

Later in the afternoon we had R come out and translate everything we wanted to tell J about us leaving, but I was coming back....just like with Carver and Macy. She handled it so well- no tears. She ate the rest of the day. And her smile only faded for a little while.

It wasn't till we got to the airport....rolled our luggage carts up the big hill to the front doors....gave hugs, and kisses, said goodbye and we loved her sooo much, and we'd be back.....we started to walk away and to the doors- and she ran and followed. :( Ugh.

I walked her back to our facilitator and he (and his girlfriend who helped us this week too) just got on his knees, held/hugged her, and tried to translate through his language (similar to hers, but enough different) that we'd be coming back. And then it was time for us to go check in. Oof.

So here we wait, waiting for the judge to give his ruling (and that means pictures of J for all of you!)....and that will help us know when we (and by we, I mean me and Jesus) get to go back, and bring her home. 

Pray with us. 

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Update: praises!

*** edit: this post was taken down during our in-country process for safety and security issues. Therefore the date published shows the date I am republishing. Written the week we were in UG for court. (November 8-15)

It's 5 something in the morning. The Muslim call to prayer seems to never end or maybe they do a "special" on Fridays? Ha! I don't know. 

Since I can't sleep, I thought I would list the praises of how God has worked and things he's done to bless us during this trip! This has truly been a flawless and super enjoyable trip. And I'm trying to soak up, having Beau with me, as much as I possibly can. What a difference maker it is having your best friend with you. 

- air travel: couldn't have gone better. No delays, cancellations, no lost luggage, and only one bag was rummaged through.

- Uganda travel: none of our drivers have been late, we haven't gotten stuck in terrible jams yet, no accidents, (I've been in one minor accident with one driver on a previous trip, and we had a minor run in with a goat this trip.), friendly and trustworthy drivers, and have yet to get lost! Woo! 

- health: for the first time in four trips I didn't get super sick in the first week of arriving! Huge praise! Experiencing a little stomach issue for both of us today, but whatever. I'm sure the enemy is trying everything in his power to deter us on court day. 

- Beau and I have gotten to sleep in the same bed, all but our last two nights here in Uganda. The beds are majority single/bunk beds, and we were in a room for the first four nights, in a king bed! Double, no queen, no king-sized Praise!!!!!!! (And our own private bathroom!) 

- the weather has been great! It's the rainy season right now so it rains once a day. But it isn't scorching hot and it's s comfortable night's sleep with being cool. 

- the process: we have made great relationships and connections with the in-country staff working for our adoption. This is something I prayed specifically about. Our in-country facilitator checks in often with us, just asking how our day is, communicates well, and is constantly working behind the scenes on our behalf. (Thanks God!) Our new attorney is a friendly, jolly little fellow who we had great conversation with. Thank you Lord for someone who has advocated for J SO MUCH the last couple of months! We have been fervently praying over our judge! We'll see today how that goes!! 

- teeny praise! The mosquitos haven't even been that bad! Holla!!!

- coming back to this guest house has been like coming back to a home away from home. The staff here, both Ugandan and American welcomed us back with gigantic open and loving arms! I have spent the majority of my free time talking and catching up with them. We've also made new friends with the current families also staying here. I've also been able to meet three families I've been in contact with via email and social media, stateside, now Uganda side. SO NEAT to see those come to fruition! (So thankful for these little gems!) Even the gal at embassy when we came in for our appointment for some minor check list things, jaw-dropped when we walked in the door. She said she recognized Beau's name from the first time we came because it's not a common one. She asked how our other two kids are and just smiled and was so friendly! (Lord, let that be even the tiniest blessing/stepping stone of paving the way with the embassy in the future!). She asked if J was a sibling to the other two and I said no, and it took all that was in me not to take the best 45 minutes telling her how and why God was working! Haha! All in due time. ;) 

- Miss J:
*  no fits. No bed wetting. She eats anything. Takes baths in total delight. She loved the warm water! She started playing with other kids and coming out of her shell only three days after being with us! She smiles and giggles almost around the clock. 

* She doesn't call us mom and dad yet. But after three trips of knowing me, and me always being Carver and Macy's mom, and calling me "Kendra", this can be expected. She enjoys holding our hands while walking or sitting with us. She really enjoys having Beau carry her, and will cuddle up with us in the morning when she first awakes, or when we've succumbed to jet lag afternoon naps. ;) 

* The women here adore her, she's the only child here, who given her age, or how the baby home has raised her, when she takes her dishes to the kitchen/ladies or greets them in the morning, she gets down on her knees/bows down in respect to them (it's a cultural thing) Including the lovely American owner as well. :) They comment on that every time, and give big smiles, hug her, and say how sweet she is. 

* Her English: she doesn't know too much, but she does know some single words, more than Carver and Macy did. She knows her ABCs fairly well, and will sing some classroom songs to us too. When you ask "What is your name?" She rattles the whole thing off, uses her please and thank you's often as well. 

* it's been fun seeing her reaction to the big, busy, crowded city. :) All three of our kids are from a small quiet town/village. So she stays close! And every time we ride a boda boda she gets shot gun in front of the driver, on the gas tank with hands in the gas tank. She always always looks back in reassurance that we're behind her somewhere, and enjoys the rides with a big smile! (Much like Carver did!) 

* we got her hair cut before court. Her hair was super unhealthy, and different colors- a sign of malnutrition, uneven length, and spotty growth. We decided to take her for a wash and trim at the salon I took Macy, and once again the language barrier took full affect and they cut WAYYYY more off than we initially wanted. We ended up LOVING it and it totally changed her appearance and she's even more beautiful if possible! :) While waiting, I saw that one of the salon's services was ear piercing and we asked one of the workers if they spoke her language to ask if she wanted her ears "pinned".  She's old enough to know and make the decision, and she said yes right away. She took it like a champ! Didn't even bat an eye. The staff was shocked! She loves them!! And now has her ears pinned just like mommy and Macy! Afterwards we went to a supermarket to have her pick out a fun pair of earrings for when her ears are healed and we can change them out. 

* QUITE the accessorizer: I had brought a Baggie full of different hair accessories and jewelry, since she's older. She would wear the bracelets to bed if we let her. We actually did let her the first night and they bang and clanked too loudly and ended up setting them aside eventually. She went through two different headbands yesterday after her hair cut, hair bows, and I let her pick out a necklace from one of the worker's bead collection. (The magazine ones!) She wore everything she could from head to two! She enjoys picking out her outfits from two choices every morning as well, and prefers a dress for sure! Girly girl! (Which says a lot when she came to us in Spider-Man light up tennis shoes, two sizes too small.) ha! 

That's about it! I'll post about us meeting J again in another post. All in all, no complaints, just pure joy and praise to Him who is worthy of all honor and glory! 

Monday, November 2, 2015

The (really) ugly truth.

*** edit: this post was taken down during our in-country process for safety and security issues. Therefore the date published shows the date I am republishing.

The ugly truth is just how much I DO NOT have it together. 

+ I know it's incredible that we get to have another daughter in our family. 
+ It's soooo neat that we are adding to our family, reuniting, three children who lived together as family for several years. 
+ We are so honored and feel extremely blessed that God even considered us to be her parents. 
+ We LOVE miss Jo, already. Like so much. We talk about her constantly, the "I can't wait for______", the dreams for the future, etc. 

But here I am. Sometimes sulking. A whole lot of distrust, worry, anxiety, panic, dread even, taking over. And it's all for selfish reasons. (Fully aware!)  

My post a couple posts back about obeying even when you don't want to? Even when you find yourself content with where life was? I was totally onboard then. And here I am. Struggling with the continued "yes", the yesses that still have to be said and comitted over and over again. Here I am, still stiff-arming something so good. 

But it's also hard. 
- It's hard seeing the strain on me, and Beau. 
- It's hard seeing your bank account literally drain and plummet in a couple of weeks. 
- It pulls on your heart strings hearing your little boy ask every day when mommy will bring his big sister home. 
- It's excruciating to think about being away from Beau, Carver, and Macy when I go back solo. 
- It's terrifying to look ahead at the work that needs to be done, the fight for Jo's heart, her life, (attaching and bonding). 
- I get tears in my eyes, and maybe get a little Grinchy, when someone brings up, or I think about being away from my family, friends, husband, children (and their first Christmas), the lights, music, 'cheer in the air', of Christmas. I love Christmas. Guys, love. 
- I get a wee testy when I question, "Really God? You're making us do this again? Already? We were content! We just got done! I have to be away from my family, go through the stress and heartache- AGAIN?"

Ooooooh boy.
Real ugly. (My heart) 

I know I'm allowing Satan to steal my joy. I know this is what he's out to do: steal, kill, and destroy. I know he will use anything/ big and small to distract me from being joyful, thankful, distract me from the glory of the King and all He has in store for us. All that He's done FOR us. Satan HATES adoption.  

I don't mean to complain, but I do feel that I need to be upfront with the yuck that goes on in my heart and mind. That I throw pity parties. I struggle. Daily. That I let Satan have my heart in moments, rather than the King of Kings. Not that it takes away how much we love Jo. Or that we aren't freaking EXTATIC about getting her home!!! I am still SUCH a sinner. I am NOT a good person! 

I just don't want to go through the heartache.  Or the wait. Or the vulnerability. Or being alone in a foreign country again. Or missing out on everything at home.
I don't want to go through the refiners fire again. (Which is probably one of the reasons why He wants me to. ;) ha!) 

What all that really means- the root of it? 
I don't want to trust God. 
I don't want to be uncomfortable. 
I don't want to live OUT the gospel. 

Because God sent his ONLY son, to a foreign land, by himself, to do the unfathomable. Jesus, away from home, perfection, His Father. God set out to adopt us, his enemies, to ADOPT us to be sons and daughters, if we accept the greatest gift (uh, the reason FOR Christmas!?) He's ever given us- when we certainly did not deserve it. 

To be mocked, beaten, crucified. 
For. Me. 
For. You. 

So I may trip and fall, I may ooze grossness (with arms full of Grace and Florgiveness just waiting for me to come back and give it to Him), but I will continue to say yes. And I need to ask for eyes to see, ears to hear, the beauty of what is to come, after the "how hot Lord? How long Lord?", of the refiners fire. 

When beauty comes from those ashes. 

We're coming Jo. You are worth every bit of it. We can't wait to see you in LESS THAN A WEEK.

Friday, October 23, 2015

What I know, you want to know ;)

*** edit: this post was taken down during our in-country process for safety and security issues. Therefore the date published shows the date I am republishing

This post is to share some of the questions I'm sure some of you have!

Most importantly? When is "J" going to be home? Will it be as long as it took for Carver and Macy to come home? 

- the agency told us, due to her case having been submitted to court and ready for four different dates, she's paperwork ready, so about six months. (So Spring 2016. Close enough to where it's possible we may have three kids home in a year-ish time!) 
See previous post why this has changed. 

- Why? All of the paper chase for her case, document collection, investigation, witness testimonies, etc....IS DONE. It HAS BEEN done. 

- but of course, the timing of this is in the Lord's hands. And we are so humbled that He was in our yesterday, today, and all of our tomorrow's. 

Do you have to pay all the same fees if the work has been done?

- sadly, yes. I won't get into it, as disappointing as it was. But the agency did offer a small grant off a portion of the fees, nothing like what we were hoping and anticipating. There was some work needing to be redone from the adoptive family perspective. 

So will we fundraise? 
- hmmm. My heart says no. My weary self, says no.
1.) we just don't have time. Things are moving so quickly. We had 14 months of fees spread out last adoption, I had been saving since I was in high school. All of a sudden it's been six weeks for this one! (don't panic. don't panic. don't panic.) I will be in the U.S. a total of 12 days once we leave, for the rest of the year. What!? So that also makes it hard to do much.  

2.) We did sooooo many things to fundraise the first time- we were quite burnt out, and really didn't leave too many stones unturned in the fundraising realm.
(Pancake breakfast, can and bottle drive, Scentsy/31 bag/Mary Kay parties, five garage sales, two t-shirt fundraisers, grants that have already been given out for "the year", etc. OOF. 

We're praying about it all. This is still quite a shock to us. :) He WILL provide. If you have any ideas or suggestions, we would love to hear! 

For now, our church has an account set up for us online, for tax-deductible donations....where 100% of the money given, goes straight to our adoption. (Vs. a gofundme/youcaring sites keep a portion/percentage). You can click on the link, and "scroll" down until you find our name: Christiansen Adoption. We are so grateful for our church and how they come along side us. 

The link is here: 

Do Carver and Macy know/remember her? 

- yes. :) (Macy was too young most likely.)  we have kept tons of pictures and videos from their time at the baby home- Carver remembers all of the kids he was living with prior to coming home.  

- Carver continues to ask and prompt praying for J, at breakfast, naps, bed, driving in the car, etc. mostly the same prayer. "dear Jesus, thank you for J, mom bring her home on an airplane fast, come down the big stairs, and see all the people." (Aka he remembers coming down the escalator at the airport and seeing the people at the airport welcoming us home! And is now praying that for J.) He asks all. The. Time. In the most polite way, if we can bring him his big sister today??! ;) sweet boy. 

Yesterday was, "Mom? Can you go get J today after my nap, please?" 

My heart. 

Will you give J a new name? (We gave Carver and Macy their new names.) 

- We really like her given name. I will tell you, that part of her legal name, is a form of a name that I've hoped and prayed for, for a girls name. ;) 

Here's the cool way that reminded me just how much God cares about the DETAILS in everything: 
While we were waiting to hear if all the "Nos" we were hearing was God saying "wait".....I remember being on the back of the motorcycle with Beau, praying and silent tears down my face....about an abundance of prayers and petitions. 

One of those was being bummed about never using the name I adored. Becuase I really thought J would be part of our family since knowing she was available for adoption again, but kept hearing no. (Pathetic right?) it's just a name. 

One, because if God chose to not bring her into our family as another daughter, that would take care of that. ;) Two, because her first name that she would keep, couldn't be shortened by this nickname/name I loved. Oh well. 

I loved the name Jo for a girl. "Little Women" style, and also JoJo, for a girl, even as a nickname. (Bring on Chip & Jo from Fixer Upper, and my love for the name intensified, hearing it over and over.) 

And then I remembered, or maybe it was Him helping me remember? My first trip over a year ago, I remember seeing her file at the baby home. 

Her legal name is Joan. "J". N . (Her first name is the middle one we aren't sharing for legal reasons, when it's written Ugandan style.) 

My Jo. 

Oh man. Cue the tears. And another reminder at the time, "LORD, is this you?" This was all before we got the official call. When we got that call, it was all further confirmation. :) He is so good, He is all about the tiniest details. 

Another incredible part, I'm not much into meaning of names. We didn't name Carver or Macy because of any meaning, we just liked those names. Those weeks of waiting to hear what God's will was, I decided to look up her names and their meanings. 

(I'll save from sharing her first name meaning, for legalities.) 

Joan, a form of Joanna....means "God is gracious." My jaw dropped. I started then, to pray over the meaning of her name. That God WOULD be gracious to her to bring her another family. Gracious to heal her hurting heart of waiting again, and to bond to her new parents, to her brother and sisters, if her new family would have any children. I've never prayed over someone's name....

When we got the call, I cried out, "God, you are so gracious!" 

Can you show us pictures? 
- this go around, we will NOT be showing pictures of her face....this agency has different regulations for showing photos, but once we have our guardianship order from the judge, beware! Photo-overload! 

- same reason we will refer to her as J or Jo, for identifying purposes for safety/privacy. (We were able to call Carver and Macy during the last prices, becuase those weren't their legal names) 

Will you have the same attorney, judge, etc? 
- no. 
New agency (see a few posts ago why we had to use a new agency), means they happen to work with another Ugandan attorney, and that attorney has the liberty to submit our case to whomever they please. 
Cause for more prayer! We had a phenomenal attorney last time, and a wonderful fair, quick ruling, judge. It's been a hard pill to swallow, that this will all be unknown and unfamiliar. Pray with us. The judge we had last time for C&M- we got the hearing in two weeks, the judge we have now takes 4.5-8 weeks to give a ruling. :( huge blow to my weary soul. 

Will you go for one long trip or two? 
- two. Now that we have kiddos at home, we have to take that into consideration. Childcare, added cost in Uganda for lodging/drivers/meals/activities to stay sane....we have C&M's court date to finalize their adoption here in the U.S. when we return. 
- trip one: we both go for court. Come home. Wait. 
- then like last time:
Trip two:  I go back and finish the process and as Carver says, "bring J home on big airplane, fast!" 

Will the kids travel with us?
- no. 
Too soon. They aren't ready emotionally. No way. 
Too expensive. Can you imagine all those tickets there and back, (eyes bugging out of my head emoji!)

Dude. No way. 

Did I miss any questions you may have? Leave me a comment on here or on Facebook and If I'm able, I'll be glad to answer!