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Friday, December 31, 2010

Homecoming

We will update this thing with a proper blog post in a couple of days but for now, here are two blogs you can hop over to and view some homecoming photos! Check out The Fruitful Family and Babe of My Heart... thank you Joy and Andrea!

And here... oh, we are blessed. What an amazing night we had last night. We were greeted at the Atlanta airport by many friends and family, and even some people we've never met who read the blog -- they even set up a seperate Hannah & Joseph Cheering Section in the arrivals area. It was an absolute delight and so thrilling for all 7 of us. We were SO touched that so many people re-arrange their day and fight Atlanta traffic at rush hour to welcome home our new babies. Thank you!!! We are also so very sorry for the ones that did all of that but came later and missed us because the flight got in so much earlier than expected.

Hint: Hannah and Joseph are the ones holding the balloons

After the airport party, we squeezed everyone into our Volvo SUV -- oh my word, we seriously need a bigger car -- and headed home. We had a quick dinner, bathtime (what an event!!) and then bedtime.
Everyone slept great, except me - I was so certain that Hannah & Joseph would be up during the night that I stayed awake nearly the entire night listening for them. Oh well, naptime's in a few hours.

We'll post pictures and stories and thoughts on our first few days together later in the week, for now we just want to enjoy one another. Also, our friend Michael Lines (the director of SixtyFeet's film, Bereaved) was on the scene filming last night -- he even got permission to go back to the gate and meet Dan and the children with us. Stay tuned for an amazing adoption/gotcha day/homecoming video.
Wednesday, December 29, 2010

'Twas the Night Before...

'Twas the night before Hannah and Joseph came home
And all through the house
Not a creature was stirring
Not even Charlotte, the Mouse.



Their stockings were hung by the chimney with care



We didn’t have Christmas
Because they were over there



Mama wanted her new ones all snug in their bunk beds
With visions of fried grasshoppers dancing in their heads



When out on the tarmac there arose such a clatter
We were waiting atop the escalators among all the chatter
When what should appear... But two adorable Ugandan children
And Daddy Dan, that dear!





As I drew in my head, and was turning around,
The children were holding Daddy’s hand, not making a sound.
Daddy looked tired, from his head to his foot,
And his clothes were all wrinkled and smelled like soot;

But his eyes – how they twinkled!  His smile how merry!

His cheeks were like roses.  But my!  Was he hairy!

A wink of his eye and a twist of his head
Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread; 

He spoke not a word, but went straight and gave hugs,
All seven of the Owens were there, covered in love.

We sprang to our car, to his team gave a whistle,

And away we all drove like the down of a thistle.
But folks heard us exclaim, as we drove out of sight, 
“Praise God Almighty!  Praise Him, tonight!”

(Post written by Joy Harty because my internet has been down all week!!!!)



Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Kampala Goodbye

This evening as I was putting the two little ones down for bed, we went through our regular routine and then I tried to explain to them about how this time tomorrow we would be headed to the airport, getting on a plane and headed to America. They looked at me like I was speaking a foreign language, which of course I was. We said our prayers and I started to put them in their bunks under their mosquito nets and Hannah says "Kampala. Goodbye".
 
That pretty much sums it up for us this week. We pick up the visas at the US Embassy tomorrow at Noon, pack, and head to the airport. There's a little bit more to it of course since we don't depart until 2:00 am, but we have to get to the airport several hours early. It will be interesting tomorrow night as we head to the airport late in the evening and wait at the gate until the wee hours. Please pray for a smooth transition from Guest House Living to World Travelers for the newest Owens babies.

We are excited for the next phase of our transition and the journey ahead. Thank you to everyone for the prayers and thoughts, words or encouragement and emails. We have lived off or it for weeks now. We will continue to do so once we return and as everyone gets settled, acclimated and used to one another.

If you are up for it and nearby, we arrive in Atlanta at 6:20 p.m. on Thursday. We would love to see you there, but if now we'll see you soon.
Monday, December 27, 2010

Prayer - Answered!

Hi, it's me Daddy Dan on a lovely day in Kampala. It's lovely for several reasons. First of all it's just gorgeous out with a cool breeze. But mostly because we went to the embassy this morning with no idea whether they would see us or even let us in. I was 50/50 as to whether they would let us in the gate or turn us away without an appointment. They did let us in, and with very few people waiting I was seen very quickly. After 10 minutes, we were on our way out with an appointment for the interview this afternoon and a promise of visas in our hand by Wednesday. Our flights are currently set for Wednesday night (actually very early morning Thursday) so we should not have any trouble getting everything we need prior to departure.

Thank you so much for your prayers for us here and for Shelly and the kids who are hoping to be able to leave NC in the morning if the snow and ice subside enough. Thanks to Judd for getting here last night and for your prayers for his safe arrival.

This is short and sweet as we now have to get some snacks for the kids, rest and play before a potentially long afternoon back at the embassy.
Sunday, December 26, 2010

Stranded in NC -- and Africa

“But it is no shame to suffer for being a Christian. Praise God for the privilege of being called by his name.” – I Peter 4:16 (NLT)


By comparison to many of my brothers and sisters in Christ around the world, I am really not suffering this week. But by comparison to my usual nice, comfortable, predictable life, I am totally suffering this week. I wish I could tell y’all that I’m just walking around praising His name and thanking God for the privilege of participating in His work. But to be honest, I’m struggling here. I miss my husband terribly. My children miss their Daddy terribly. We’re all sick with colds and I’m running seriously low on patience.

Absolutely nothing about this week has panned out as I thought it would. Even today – I was planning to head back to Atlanta with the kids first thing this morning. We’ve been in North Carolina all week and it’s been wonderful to spend this time with my dear family – indeed, I don’t know what I would have done without them this week. But it’s time to get home. I have things to do, bills to pay, the usual stuff of life… But no, I’m not going home today. Because the stinkin’ snow storm of the century has overtaken Eastern North Carolina. And in case you’re wondering, I’m not feeling sorry for myself or anything.

And then it occurs to me... I'm stranded, just like Dan. Well, not "just like" Dan. His situation is a bit more intense than mine. I'm "stranded" in a large city in the good ol' USA with my Dad and three of my children. My sister and her family are right down the street. Despite the snow, we have power and phones and (obviously) internet access. We built a snowman, went sledding, now we're sitting by the fire eating lunch.

On the other hand... Dan is stranded (really stranded) in Africa right now. He spent Christmas on the other side of the world away from his friends and (almost) all of his family and has very limited access to internet, email or phone. He's caring for our two brand new children who he barely knows and who speak only a few words of English. He is washing their clothes (and his) in a bucket. He's sharing a bathroom, living room and kitchen with an entire group of people he just met last week.

And is Dan complaining? Is he wandering around like me asking God to hurry up and teach him this lesson so we can move on already? Nope. Dan is not having an easy time and he is suffering -- but he is praising God and he is thankful to participate in His work. He's taking time to learn what he can and what God wants to teach him from this experience. Take a look at the email I woke up to on Christmas morning, from Dan:

Subject: The Curse of Abundance

One of the families we are staying with at the guest house brought

bubbles for each of the kids for Christmas morning. They were so
excited at breakfast about blowing bubbles they didn't even want to
finish their food. That in itself is big.
After eating Hannah and Joseph went outside and I showed them how to blow bubbles
and they took to it immediately. Each bubble was valuable and had to
be pointed out to me. "Daddy, you see. Daddy, you see." Especially the
ones that landed in the grass and didn't pop right away.

Dan has had a restful and sweet weekend with our new little ones. Their Christmas was not full of toys and Santa Claus and everything we associate with Christmas here in the States. It was just about being with each other and with our Lord. May we all take time to learn these lessons and to get our priorities straight.

 Please pray for my dear, awesome husband as he pushes forward tomorrow and tries, once again, to secure a visa appointment with the American Embassy. Please pray that he will be granted this appointment and that they will all be on that flight late Wednesday night. Pray for our friend Judd (who has just arrived in Kampala!) to help Dan this week and for his wife and family at home in Atlanta.

Blessings to all and stay tuned. We'll keep you posted on anything that develops this week.
Thursday, December 23, 2010

Stuck in UG for now

Dan, Hannah and Joseph are not making it home for Christmas. The American Embassy in Kampala just closed for Christmas and H & J's visas have not been issued. We'll try it again next week.

We're disappointed that we can't all be together but we're trying to make the most of it... after all, this is Hannah and Joseph's first Christmas ever spent with their Daddy!! They are no longer orphans -- at home in Atlanta they have a Mommy and a big sister and a big brother and a baby sister waiting on them. This Christmas there are two less orphans in the country of Uganda -- and that is great cause for celebration!

Dan's friend Scott is returning home tonight to be with his family for Christmas. Thank you so much Harty family for sacrificing for us this week! We could not have done it without you!! And get this... we have ANOTHER friend who is planning to head over on Saturday night to spend next week in Uganda with Dan and help him bring the children home (now scheduled for next Thursday afternoon). Talk about an amazing Christmas present... Dan and I have MUCH to be thankful for. Thank you Judd and Valerie!

I just keep thinking it would have so incredible... such a fairy tale ending on Christmas Eve of all days! Well, I'll still get my fairy tale ending -- just not this week. And here's the bottom line: it's not about me. It's all about Him. We can nag our children until we're blue in the face trying to drive home the message... "Listen kids, Christmas is not about presents. It's not about Santa Claus. It's not about candy in your stocking. It's about Isaiah 9:6... and His name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Might God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace." But when the rubber meets the road, do we, the adults, really believe it? Guess I'll find out this year.


Thank you so much for keeping us in your prayers. Please especially remember Dan this weekend -- he's awful far from home and I know he's missing us. Merry Christmas to all -- we'll post an update when we have one!
Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Making Christmas Plans

Hi friends -- Just a quick post. I hate to say we're losing hope -- but at some point we do have to face reality. And a Christmas Eve arrival is just not looking likely for Dan and the children.

I mean, please keep praying. There's still a slim chance that it could all come together tomorrow. We've made all the arrangements for everyone to come home. This morning I spent over an hour on the phone with Delta airlines booking skymiles tickets (thanks Mr. H for nearly cleaning out your skymiles account for the lil ol' Owens family!) and getting everything set up.

At the same time, we're making arrangements for everyone to stay. Just keepin' it real -- the Embassy is probably not going to be able to get all the paperwork processed by close of business tomorrow ( that's 8:30am EST tomorrow). Dan has had many Christmas Day invitations from our wonderful friends in Uganda and he, Hannah and Joseph will be just fine. I'm here in North Carolina with my family and I'll be just fine too.

I'd be lying if I didn't admit that I'm sad and disappointed. But I do know our God is sovereign and His plan and timing is way better than mine. So we do it His way -- and I'm going to try my best to do it joyfully. After all, there are many families who have to spend Christmas Day apart for reasons beyond their control -- including the amazing men and women who serve our country in the Armed Forces. What I'm experiencing is just a little taste of what those families experience year in and year out. Lord, forgive me my selfishness and feelings of entitlement.

Dan, Hannah and Joseph will be home!! But at this point, it's looking more like a New Year's Eve arrival than Christmas Eve. I'll update and give y'all the final word tomorrow.

By the way, speaking of entitlement... I read the most amazing blog post yesterday, written by my nephew who is serving as a missionary in Bogota, Colombia with his wife, my niece, Sara. My nephew Stephen is actually the same age as me -- he may even be a few months older than me now that I think about it -- but I am technically his wise old Auntie. I nearly burst with auntly (is that a word?) pride when I read his post from yesterday. If I could write as well as him, I could have written these words myself. They're certainly written all over my heart. If you have an extra few minutes today, this is well worth the read:
http://www.bridgethelove.com/

Merry Christmas friends!
Monday, December 20, 2010

Gotcha Day!

I wish Dan could write this update himself but he's had really flaky internet access today. And now it's the wee hours of the morning in Uganda and I pray that Dan, Scott, Hannah and Joseph are all sleeping peacefully in their beds at the Bridge House Africa.

Today was quite a day. It was the real "gotcha day" for our new babes... Dan's first full day with Hannah and Joseph. You will not believe the sweet pictures he took and the fun they had! Today was also the day that Dan and the children showed up at the American Embassy to beg for an appointment.

I can't share all the details of the day... but wow. It's been pretty amazing and God has shown up, big time. Earlier today Scott sent a private email to our small group with this subtext... "After hearing and seeing [all that I have today], all I honestly want to do is worship." And that about sums it up.

Details and pictures to follow at some point -- but for now please know that Dan was admitted to the Embassy, they did agree to open his file and begin the paperwork AND... they have already made some significant progress... A Christmas Eve homecoming is still a very real possibility. And it's all nothing short of a miracle. Rejoice with us!

"Shout with joy to God, all the earth!
Sing the glory of His name;
Make His praise glorious!
Say to God, "HOW AWESOME ARE YOUR DEEDS!!!"
-- Psalm 66 (Thanks Joy for encouraging me with just the right psalm for today!)
Saturday, December 18, 2010

Having Her Cake & Eatin' It Too!

This may seem slightly out of character for the Crazy Family, but I have treasured the first birthday parties of each of my babies. I know that a 12-month old has no idea what's going on or what all the fuss is even about -- but a first birthday is such a milestone. Such a sweet celebration of the amazing work the Lord has done in your family over the last year... bringing a tiny, beautiful person into your home and then giving you the privlege of watching him/her grow. I mean, wow!!

So all of the 1st birthdays are precious and special to me. But I think I'm going to have to say that Baby Charlotte's party (held just today!) will have to go down on the books as my favorite.

Dan and I originally planned to celebrate Charlotte's (who we call CiCi) birthday on December 4. We sent out really cute invitations -- the whole family was coming and many of our friends. But then I had to leave for Uganda and I refused to miss my baby's party, so we moved the date to December 18. But then Dan had to leave for Uganda. And we just decided that poor Cici had to finally have her party, even without Daddy. So sad.

December 18 is, as y'all know, the Saturday before Christmas. Possibly the busiest, craziest day of the year. Unfortunately, none of our family (most of them are out of town) could make it. I thought maybe a few friends could join us... on faith, I went ahead and ordered two little sandwich rings and a princess cake from Publix. Hoping that maybe someone, anyone would show up.

And today... we ended up with a HOUSE FULL of people. My little house was bursting at the seams. I know people must have had other stuff to do on this busy, crazy day... and all of these people  made time to be there for Charlotte (for me). I was so touched. So touched!

Dan prays for each of our children on their first birthdays. For him, it's an opportunity to publicly thank the Lord for each of our babies and pray blessings over their lives. It's a big deal to us and it's so sweet. Dan couldn't be there for this one -- so in his absence one his best friends offered to do it for him. Our friend Judd (who also happens to be a SixtyFeet board member and spent time in Uganda last month with Hannah and Joseph), put his arm around me, put his hands on Baby Charlotte and prayed over that little girl like she was his own.

And then looked what happened...



That fabulous guy next to CiCi is our family pediatrician, our dear friend and our fellow SixtyFeet board member, Dr. David (who also spent time with Hannah and Joseph in Uganda last month). Before we sang Happy Birthday, David went to great trouble to get ahold of Dan on Skype and held the laptop so Dan could be "with us" while we sang and he even got to watch Baby C eat her cake. It was priceless! I think every adult and every child at the party talked to Dan before he had to go. Doing the Skype thing may not be the same as having Daddy home, but not many children can tell such a great story about their first birthday party!


Madeline (dressed as a princess), Davis (dressed in his African outfit I bought him at the market in Kampala, UG) and our birthday princess, Baby C.

C's baby friend, Kate. Kate's Daddy, Scott, is headed over to UG as we speak to be with Dan. Please pray for travel mercies for Scott as he is going through Amsterdam and headed into a full-on snow storm.
My own awesome Daddy is flying into Atlanta in the morning will drive with the kids and me to North Carolina on Monday morning. I am planning to stay in N.C. with my family until Christmas Eve (or possibly longer if Dan doesn't make it back... but let's not think that way).

Thank you so much for praying for our family. It will take a miracle and so many details will have to fall into place but we are hopeful that Dan, Hannah, Joseph and our friend Scott will all be together on that 2:20pm flight into Hartsfield on Christmas Eve. Please pray for a miracle because right now we're needing one.

Much love to all of you!!
Friday, December 17, 2010

Made for TV Movie, Scene 2

The next scene takes place in Dan's hotel room in Uganda. It's not very exciting. He spends the day sitting and waiting and checking his phone every few minutes to see if he somehow missed that all important phone call -- the call from our attorney's office to letting us know that the written ruling is signed.

We talk on the phone about 11am Uganda time (4am here) -- it's not looking good. The ruling is still not signed and the US Embassy closes at 12:30 on Fridays. Dan walks outside for a breath of fresh air the phone rings -- it our attorney's office!! She has the order! Can Dan meet her at the Embassy? It's closing in 10 minutes but maybe he can make it!!!

He races to the Embassy and... they have literally just locked the doors. We will not be filing the papers today. Or tomorrow. Or Sunday. We'll give it another try on Monday morning and see if we can get any closer to the climactic conclusion of "Bring Dan Home for Christmas."

Here are Dan's thoughts from his day...

I was talking to my good friend in Uganda this evening about the events of the past 29 hours and suddenly realized it sounded like I was complaining. I was telling him about the positive outcome of the meeting with the judge yesterday and about getting the judge's signature on all the necessary documents today (which in itself was a miracle akin to my luggage arriving nearly on it's own 2 wheels). I then told him about how we just missed getting to the embassy on time before they closed and how we will have to wait to try again on Monday. I didn't get into all the details with him about my frantic ride to the US embassy on the back of a Boda and my just missing the embassy's closing right before lunch (yes, that's right, I said before).

This is considered very light traffic. If you aren't touching someone else's rear-view
mirror with each elbow, you've got it made.

So I was telling my friend all this and he interrupted to say "Hey, at least you are moving forward. It's slow and deliberate, like a steam roller, but it's in the right direction." I then realized how much I had been focusing on the negative of the day and not rejoicing in the fact that we now have a signed and sealed court order declaring these two children as not only legally under our care, but also the fact that they are free to travel with us to the US. That is huge. And it only seems like a long time coming to us. Any of our friends out there that have been languishing for months waiting for these events will likely scoff and declare us ungrateful. We are not ungrateful. Really, we are full of grate. Hmmm, it doesn't work the other way 'round does it? But seriously, we are beyond grateful. We are just so eager to have our two little ones with us at home.

Next step is to get to the embassy to beg an appointment so they will review our case and begin their own orphan search. Hopefully the lawyer's exhaustive documentation in this area will reduce the amount of time they require and we will be granted visas soon.

I have to say though, riding on the back of one of those bodas is a little addicting. I took a couple of more trips this afternoon to run some errands and take care of some Sixty Feet business. It really is the only way to travel around town in traffic. I'm thinking of starting something similar back in Atlanta with my own scooter. Maybe it will catch on.
Thursday, December 16, 2010

And it's a YES!!!!!!!!!

Hi friends! Let me just start by saying this...  WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!HHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!! Hannah and Joseph are officially ours. Well actually, they are His. They always have been and always will be His but for a time, He is entrusting them to Dan and me. We are in shock, we are thrilled, we are truly, truly blessed.

Dan wasn't actually seen in court until about 3pm (Uganda time) today. The judge gave his verbal ruling but we're still waiting for the written ruling... that beautiful little piece of paper that will allow us to go to the US Embassy in Kampala, apply for Hannah and Joseph's visas and HEAD HOME! Someone from our attorney's office is heading over to the courthouse first thing tomorrow morning (which is just a few hours from now) to wait on this ruling. Once we have it in hand, Dan will go directly to the US Embassy and try to schedule an appointment.

If (and this is still a big IF) everything falls into place, Dan, Hannah and Joseph will be coming home... ON CHRISTMAS EVE on the 2:20pm flight!!! Already your prayers have carried us so far! Will y'all please pray for this one to happen? I know this is probably starting to sound like a bad made-for-TV-movie... "Bring Dan Home for Christmas" or something... but seriously!!! This is crazy!

In other exciting news, our dear, awesome, crazy friend Scott is planning to fly over to Uganda on Saturday -- at GREAT expense to himself (those last minute tickets to Africa are not cheap) -- to help Dan with H & J and especially to help him with the 24 hour flight home with 2 small children. Do we have great friends or what? Scott and his wife Joy just had a pipe burst and flood the upstairs of their home, yesterday. They have four little girls of their own. They have plans for the week of Christmas. And yet they've put it all aside just to go serve some crazy friends.

Anyways, that's all for tonight. And that's a lot. I think my brain is about to explode. My face hurts from smiling so much today. I'm so happy! I'm so blessed by what the Lord has done and also by the many people He's called to stand with us during this time. We are TREASURING every email, text, comment, phone call... y'all know how to make a family feel loved!!

"I prayed for this child and the Lord has granted me what I asked of Him."
-- 1 Samuel 1:27

Better Than The Shirt Off Your Back

If you're anything like me, when you have been flying for 24 hours, the shirt off your back is actually no great prize. In fact, the first thing I like to do after an all-day ordeal in the air is to get that shirt off to the laundry and take a shower. And yet it is considered an act of great kindness and a compliment to say that a person would give you the shirt off their back, regardless of perspiration or odor.
So I arrived a few hours ago in Kampala after a variety of false starts, looming delays and other obstacles that threatened to keep me from arriving in time for this morning's court appearance (3 hours from now). When I finally did arrive, on time, in Kampala I felt no small sense of victory and satisfaction. That quickly depleted as one by one my fellow passengers collected their bags and departed. I shouldn't have been surprised. I should have known better too having something similar happen earlier this year on one of our trips. I should have checked nineteen different bags, each containing only one small item that I needed. No doubt if I had done that I would be writing to you of the great travesty of all nineteen bags being somehow lost at the same time.
I reluctantly left the airport to meet Godfrey outside. He is alway cheerful and encouraged me that we would work something out. Even though it was already approaching 11 p.m. he said nonchalantly, "we'll just swing by my place and see which of my suits might fit you best". And so that's what we did. He woke up his wife and rummaged through his closet while I waited in the living room. He pulled out several different suits and laid them on the couch, along with a brand new shirt still in the box, cuff links a tie and shoes. I tried on jackets and remarkably, things seemed to work out very well despite some size differences here and there. As long as I take it easy at breakfast, I should be able to fasten the waist button.
It is truly humbling. I prefer to be the one on the giving end and don't like receiving very well. I don't know why that is. Godfrey so freely gave what he had - the best of what he had. He could have easily taken off his own shirt and I would have gladly taken it as mine is currently better used as a mosquito deterrent. Instead, he gave me a brand new shirt still in the box. Probably a gift that he was saving for a special occasion. I pray I can be as giving and loving as that one day.
Wednesday, December 15, 2010

He made it, barely.

You may have already heard, Dan made it to Uganda! But not without a little excitement...

I need to back up a few days and explain... So I told y'all on my last post that Dan was leaving for Uganda following an urgent message we received from our attorney. What I failed to mention was this... our Ugandan attorney had been urgently emailing us for days asking us to come. We never received one of those messages. None of them came through! On Monday morning I decided to email her one last time, knowing that this was our very last chance to make it to UG in time for the ruling. She replied immediately and that one did come through. Had I not sent that last message on Monday, I doubt that Dan would be in Uganda right now.

Over the last 30 hours while Dan traveled to Uganda, he experienced numerous and very random delays and literally had to run to his gate in Amsterdam in order to make the flight to Entebbe.

Upon arriving at the Entebbe Airport in Uganda, Dan learned that his luggage didn't make it -- none of it. Including his suit and dress shoes for court tomorrow. Ugandan courts are very formal (when I appeared last month I had to wear a long, conservative dress and closed toe shoes) and men do not appear in court in khaki pants, a polo shirt and keens.

All this to say.. do you think someone perhaps doesn't want Dan to be in that courtroom tomorrow? Friends, if you're reading this post tonight, please cover us in prayer.

In case you're wondering, Dan was able to round up some clothes for court. Our amazing Ugandan driver, Godfrey, (yep, same guy that drove for the Levy Family last year) who is pretty much one of the coolest, nicest and most generous people I have ever met -- loaned Dan a suit. And a shirt. And a pair of dress shoes. And Godfrey insisted that Dan let him shine the shoes before he wears them tomorrow. So you know, he'll just come by early to pick up Dan (who is wearing all of his best clothes) and hand over his best shoes which he has just shined for a guy he barely knows. And that is Uganda at it's finest.

I seriously hope someone, somehow snags a picture of Dan tomorrow. Godfrey is a good bit taller than Dan and is thin as a rail..I hope Ugandan courts aren't too picky about whether or not your suit actually fits you... just that you're wearing one is hopefully good enough?

Thank you all for everything, especially for praying tonight as I know many of you are doing. Our ruling will come around 2:30am EST. We'll update the blog as soon we're able. To God be all the glory!
Monday, December 13, 2010

Headed to Uganda, Be Right Back

I planned it all out last night. I was going to take a break from all my doom and gloom adoption posts and write something nice, light and fluffy. I was going to tell y'all about the really cute, fun Christmas wreath I made with my kids. I was going to share about the all of the inexpensive, yet fun, non-toy Christmas gifts that we've rounded up for our children this year. Thought I might even throw in a few pictures of the cookie swaps and all the cookie baking fun over the weekend. Alas, that post is not to happen -- because now we've got more news.

Ever since I returned from Uganda, Dan has felt uneasy about neither of us being present for our court ruling on December 16 (that's this Thursday). When we last met, our attorney assured us that this was fine -- it would be perfectly acceptable for her to appear in court on our behalf to receive the ruling. Since then, we've talked about it and prayed about it and late last week we even sent two emails and a text message to our attorney just to make sure. So that was that... we were pretty certain that we'd all just stay together in our nice, cozy home in Atlanta and await the ruling from the judge. And Dan would return to Uganda once everything was nice and neat and all the embassy appointments were set up and he'd come home with Hannah and Joseph and we'd all cheer in the airport and then go home to our nice, cozy home in Atlanta and live happily ever after...

And then we woke up.

Our Ugandan attorney emailed us early this morning. Her message was brief but clear -- basically, "I've changed my mind, I think you really need to appear in court on Thursday." And that was all the confirmation Dan needed. Flights are already booked for today or else he'd already be gone. He's leaving tomorrow evening and arrives in Uganda on Wednesday night, just twelve hours before he has to appear in court. And here's the hard part -- he'll be back when he's back. We really have no idea how long everything will take to complete this time. Obviously we cannot continue to travel back and forth to Africa every other week. So on this trip, Dan will have to stay until it's done.

By "it's done" I mean one of two things... Either the judge says no and Dan packs it up and comes home alone. Or the judge says yes and Dan stays in Uganda, wades through the US embassy process of getting visas issued for Hannah and Joseph (the timing for us will be extremely tricky because the embassy will be closed for Christmas for a period of time) and eventually makes the 24 hour trip home with two small children who have never even heard the word "airplane" before. By the way, a few friends have generously offered to fly to Uganda and help Dan fly back with Hannah and Joseph so he doesn't have to do that part alone.

So that's the latest. If you want to pray for us, here are our top prayer requests:

1) For no flight delays or issues for Dan. He basically has no margin in his travel itinerary and he must arrive in Uganda on Wednesday night in order to get a little sleep and sit in court all day on Thursday.

2) That the judge would rule in our favor and would quickly issue his written ruling (often there can be a week or more of lag time between a judge's verbal ruling and receipt of a written ruling).

3) That the US Embassy would show favor in quickly scheduling Hannah and Joseph's appointments and would easily issue their visas.

4) That somehow Dan, Hannah and Joseph would all make it home by Christmas Eve. It would take a true miracle but how awesome would that be??

5) That our Lord Jesus would be glorified by our family -- in all that we say and do in this crazy and faith stretching time for our family. That He would use us to spark a spirt of adoption among our family and friends.

Blessings and merry Christmas to all. Dan will be blogging from Uganda -- either here or on the SixtyFeet site so check back with us. Thanks so, so much to all our dear friends and family for your offers to help, for your love, your messages, your support, for just standing with us! We cannot imagine doing this alone.
Wednesday, December 8, 2010

This Was Uganda

Here we go! Flight on the way to Brussels. Notice how clean and fresh we look. Also notice that there is no going-home photo at the end of these pictures. By that point we did not look so clean and fresh...


Pastor Ernest, Mama Catherine and the whole gang. Aren't they beautiful?


Joy and me with Ernest and Catherine

Meeting Joseph for the first time. 

Hannah does my hair while we wait in court. This was actually really helpful because by then I'd been several days without my hair dryer and I was starting to look a little rough...

After court Hannah poses with a picture of brother and sisters back home in the ATL

And Joseph does the same

Cows with horns like I have never seen in my life!!


On the way to visit M with sweet Okiru, who lives with Nathalie.


Here's Joy breakin' it down old school
Sunday, December 5, 2010

Can You Give Too Much?

And just like that, we’re headed home. Early yesterday morning, Joy and I packed up our stuff. I am so happy to come home to Dan, Madeline, Davis and Baby Charlotte. I am so happy not to miss Baby C’s first birthday on Monday. But it’s all bittersweet because I also packed up the sweet outfits, the socks, the shoes, even the underwear I had packed for Hannah and Joseph to wear on the flight home with me. And it’s all coming back to Atlanta unworn.


The details of our case are not simple. Our lawyer did a great job, she certainly prepared us as much as possible. It just didn’t quite play out like anyone imagined. I can’t share many of the details on here but we had a hard day in court on Thursday. Please continue to pray that God’s will be done and that the judge will rule in accordance with His plans on December 16th.

On this trip, we spent much time with the Dutch missionaries that SixtyFeet supports, Nathalie and Werner. We spent many, many hours in their car (thanks to traffic like I have never seen in my life) and had a chance to see much of the area in and around the city of Kampala. So many of the “homes” in this place are structures most of us would consider unfit for our pets. Truly, my lawnmower has a nicer home than many of the adults, children and babies we encountered.

When we drove by these slums or passed young, teenage mothers on the street begging with their babies, my first instinct was to reach into my wallet and start handing money to these people. Because I came to Uganda to complete an adoption, I (for once) had quite a bit of cash on me. I sat in Nathalie and Werner’s car and imagined myself running into the slums handing out dollar bills to every person I encountered. Imagine!! I thought, how many people I could feed with this money just sitting in my wallet.

I know, I know… we’ve all read the “When Helping Hurts” book. I know we’re supposed to direct our giving in responsible, targeted ways that will help people in the long run. And, as a good American, my goal should always be to help people help themselves, right? Well, sometimes you don't have time to come up with a smart, reponsible, American business plan. Something you just want to help. And once we get to Heaven, I really don't think there is going to be condemnation for people who give too much money or have too much compassion on the poor. Seriously.

Out on the roads yesterday, I told Nathalie that if I saw one more young child carrying a baby on her back, I thought my heart would literally break in two. I wanted to put on my sunglasses, turn away and pretend that these things were not happening just on the other side of the car window. And yet I kept forcing myself to look because I never, ever want to forget. During my time in Uganda, I have been asking the Lord to deeply impress these images on my heart and mind.

I pray that the Lord will use these images and experiences to help me live simply and sacrificially. I also pray that Jesus will be glorified through our adoption journey. In this teeny, tiny country in Africa, there are 2.5 million orphans. Dan and I are hoping to soon bring the toll to 2.5 million, minus 2. And friends, that number means that there are a whole lot left.

Do you have a little extra love in your heart? Don’t worry about whether or not you have extra room in your house or in your car or enough money in the bank because the Lord will deal with that part. Pray and ask the Lord how He’d have you serve these 2.5 million orphans. Ask Him to take away your fear and your desire to live life according to your plan – and then ask Him to show you what you can do.

“If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in Him? Dear children, let us not love in words or tongue but with actions and in truth.” --1 John 3:17-18
Friday, December 3, 2010

Temporary Good-byes

It is so late here... just wanted to write a quick update. Today was a hard, long day but it was also a good day. I feel so much more peaceful about everything.

Joy and leave tomorrow after we serve at M (the facility SixtyFeet works with) so it was my last day with Hannah and Joseph. I held them both on my lap and whispered in their ears that Dan and I would be back for them -- and I do believe we will. Hopefully soon.

We've been privledged to witness some amazing things here in Uganda and it's been a life changing experience for me. I mean, my word, today I even swatted a dragonfly out of the car with my bare hand. Without screaming or anything.

But seriously, I feel like I've been changed forever. It's one thing to see the pictures and, to know the statistics and to hear about poverty from someone else. It is another thing entirely to wade through it yourself, to see, hear and smell firsthand.

Truly, it's been an honor to spend the last week in this country. Some of the world's poorest, most destitute people live in this place. Some of the world's happiest and most generous souls live here as well. In many cases, they are one in the same. And that is some humbling stuff. With all my heart, I look forward to coming back one day.

OK, going to bed. For a little more info on our day, check out Joy's blog. She's a better writer than me anyways... http://www.fruitfulfamily.blogspot.com/.
Thursday, December 2, 2010

TIA

TIA -- this is Africa. There are no straight paths, no easy answers, no quick solutions. I am exhausted. I keep trying to find the words but I'm not even sure how to describe the past couple of days.

Yesterday, I met Hannah and Joseph for the first time. Our time together was amazing. Since July our two little ones have been staying with Mama Catherine and Pastor Ernest. Their home is very simple and modest and overflowing with love. It is situated on perhaps the most breath taking piece of property I have ever seen in my life. Truly, the most exotic Ritz Carlton property you can think of has nothing on this place.

We arrived at Mama Catherine's home yesterday morning. I hopped out of the car and stood around just taking everything in. And out of nowhere, this chubby little boy with a huge smile came walking around the corner. He walked right up to me, dazzled me with that amazing grin, and then let me scoop him up in my arms. Simple as that. That's my Joseph. Hannah took a bit more convincing but she eventually came around and then I think I spent the rest of the afternoon carrying her or sitting with her on my lap. She is absolutely stunning. Her beautiful eyelashes are so long that they curl.That was a great day.

On the other hand, today was not so great. My court appointment was at 11am this morning. The children and I went out to breakfast and then headed over to the courthouse. And there we sat. And sat. And sat. And sat some more. Hannah and Joseph behaved so beautifully and handled it all so well. And finally our case was heard. The judge did not say no -- but he did not say yes either. He told our attorney to come back on December 16th for his ruling on our case and that was that. He had nothing more to say to us. I was so, so bitterly disappointed. God bless poor Joy who had to deal with me all day today. From the judge I had expected a "yes." I had somewhat prepared myself to hear a "no." But an "I don't know about this, come back in a couple of weeks and we'll let you know" I did not expect at all.

So now, we wait some more. Because the courts will not rule on our case for the next two weeks, I am coming home with Joy on Sunday. If the judge's ruling is positive, Dan will return after the 16th to bring Hannah & Joseph home. If it's negative, it's all over. I am sad and scared and worn out but I fully trust in God's plan for our family and know that He is in control.

Overall, it's just been exhausting to be here -- mentally, spiritually and physically. It's hard because now I've seen the poverty here first hand... and because I know of the wealth and abundance on the other side. It is so hard to reconcile the two. Today I saw two toddlers walking alone down the side of a busy rode with heavy water buckets, I saw several young fathers carrying tiny babies through a slum, I saw a girl no older than my 7 year old daughter with a baby tied on her back. I've seen the pictures and heard all the stories but in real life, it's not the same. I have no words for most of it.

Thank you so much for praying. Thank you for the emails of encouragement, the text messages, the comments on the blog. I've been savoring each one of them. Thank you for standing with us. We feel "pressed on every side yet not crushed; perplexed but not to despair." (2 Corin 4:8)
Monday, November 29, 2010

Judgment

I’m half-way there! Today I’m in Brussels, Belgium and tomorrow morning I’m heading on to Uganda. I cannot believe it! I’m so excited for the days ahead. I’m so thankful to have my friend Joy by my side and my friend Laura coming soon. But I’m especially grateful for my sweet and amazing husband and his willingness to let me take this trip and have this time with my new children while he holds down the fort at home.

Shelly and Joy getting dropped off for adventure

While I’m gone we have some help from sitters, friends and family – but basically Dan is running the show for nearly two weeks. And the show at our house is no joke. There’s a crawling baby who is in to everything, an active 4-year old boy and a studious first grader with all the homework she could ever hope for. There’s piano and ballet and birthday parties and carpools and playtime and baths and bedtime; it’s a lot for a full-time stay at home mom. It’s insane for a Daddy who is also juggling his full time job and helping run a budding ministry in Africa.

Sitting here in Europe, I wonder what people might think of me for leaving my family behind to go and do this thing? I know that many are supportive, especially my husband (otherwise, I would of course not be going) but I know there are others who will judge me for this decision.

I mean, I am a wife and a mother – isn’t my first ministry to my husband and children? What kind of wife takes off for Africa for two weeks and leaves her husband to fend for himself? What kind of mom is out of the country for her baby’s 1st birthday? (Yes, my baby Charlotte turns one on December 6 and I will miss it). What kind of mom would really go get on the plane after her 7 and 4 year olds beg her through tears and sniffles – “mommy, please, please don’t go. Please stay here.”?

I hope no one suspects I take this lightly. I am literally heartbroken to miss Baby C’s 1st birthday. Madeline is about to lose her first tooth. Davis has his first sleepover on Friday. I’m missing it all and this is time I can’t ever get back. But I tell you what, it is my honor and my privilege to give this time. I give it completely, sacrificially and joyfully – because this is an act of obedience, pure and simple.

Daily, I teach my children about obedience. Obedience to me, to Daddy, to all adults and most importantly, to their Heavenly Father. How could I ever stand before my children reciting our mantra - “we obey all the way, right away and with happy hearts” - if I myself am unwilling to obey?

Last night I told my oldest child this: “Madeline, if Mommy loves you more than she loves Jesus, if I love you and Davis and Charlotte so much that it makes me disobedient to our Lord, then you, my babies, are my idols.” The very definition of idolatry is loving something, anything more than you love the Lord your God. An idol is anything or anyone that comes between you and Jesus and His plans for your life.

And finally, to those who might say “Shelly I don’t believe you. I don’t believe that the Lord would really call you to this. Christ would never call a mother to leave her husband and children in order to serve Him.” To that person I would say, Really? You really don’t think Jesus would ask me to do something that might be hard? He would not ask me to do something that would require me and my husband and even my children to step out of their comfort zones and grow in our faith? After all He’s done for me, would He not also ask me to sacrifice for Him?

Post Script, from DaddyDan
Ok, first of all, I think most of you saw through that whole "Sweet and amazing" bit she said about me. My sweet wife orchestrated everything for the next two weeks before she left like a giant Rube Goldberg machine. Seriously everything. She even has one of her friends scheduled to call me periodically to remind me of specific things. The fact that I'm able to work from the office at all this week is a testament to her organizational skills, and perhaps a small testament to my penchant for occasionally, sometimes, every now and then forgetting a thing or two, which prompted her to set all this up.

Regardless of all that, I just had to poke my head in here to say that I am extremely proud of my wife for what she is doing. If you know her at all then you know that she would sooner perform her own root canal than camp out... in an RV, even. She calls me at work to come home and kill a spider, although thankfully we had a boy and I have dubbed him the Killer of all Creepy Things While Daddy is Away or Unavailable.

My wife has deliberately given up some personal comforts this week, and even more notably, has chosen to be away from her children for the first time ever, in order to be with her new children for the first time ever. I couldn't have kept her away. You don't stand between a mama bear and her cubs, even cubs that have not yet seen the loving mother that is on her way to kiss them and hold them in her arms like they've never been held before. I love you Honey.
Wednesday, November 24, 2010

We have a court date and we're headed to Uganda!

I suppose I could have tried to come up with a catchier title for this very exciting and very unbelivable post -- but my head is spinning. Just as I was beginning to give up hope of this adoption ever happening before Christmas... early, early this morning we received word from our Ugandan attorney that we have been assigned a court date!! And it's soon! We are scheduled for Thursday, December 2 -- just one week from tomorrow. WOW!

We scrambled around like crazy this morning -- getting flights booked, having our last few papers notarized, picking up prescriptions from the travel clinic, trying to work out childcare details and packing, packing, packing. We've only had this news in hand for about 12 hours so we still have so much to do... and of course there's the little detail of Thanksgiving being tomorrow and we're leaving to go out of town. So it's slightly nuts around here today.

But mostly, we are just thrilled, excited and grateful to the Lord for His amazing answer to our prayers and the many, many prayers that have gone up on our behalf. Thank you all so much!

Here are the details so far... I am flying out on Sunday evening with my dear and awesome friend Joy who just couldn't bear to let me make this trip alone. Unbelievably we were able to purchase these last minute tickets with skymiles (another answered prayer!) but we do have an almost 24 hour lay over in Europe. I suppose it could be worse than being stuck in a beautiful city in Europe with one of my best friends for a day. We arrive in Uganda on Tuesday night and will hopefully get settled and recovered from jet lag by Thursday. On Friday my OTHER dear and awesome friend, Laura, arrives. Seriously, am I blessed or what? These ladies are leaving their families for a week and and going to great expense and trouble just to stand by a friend. Now that's some crazy.

Below are some of our "before pictures." These beautiful pics were taken 2 weeks ago by the awesomely talented Griffin Gibson who recently returned from a two year mission trip to Bosnia. She's coming back in (hopefully) just a few weeks to take our "after" shots -- including our two new additions. I CANNOT WAIT.




I have to leave y'all with a funny story...   Almost exactly one year ago, I hosted a fundraiser for my very precious friend, Amy Levy. Amy and her husband were adopting a baby girl from this little African country called Uganda. I thought what Amy was doing was great and all but I admit... I didn't really get it. In fact, Dan and I offered to host the fundraiser because we thought it would it be a nice way to support orphan causes. And, as we told Amy, "we're not really called to adopt." Whew boy, be careful what you say. And be cautious before you assume that God is not calling you to something just because it doesn't fit into your plans. And most importantly... if you get down on your knees in your den one night and pray with your husband to know God's will for your life and what changes you need to make -- be ready to hear from Him and respond.

So I'll see y'all in Uganda! Besides court appointments and other adoption fun, Joy, Laura and I will be doing a little SixtyFeet business while we're in the country -- plus we have a few special, secret (for now) projects we'll be working on. Intrigued? Check in with us -- one of our gang will be bloggin' from Africa over the next few weeks.

"The plans of the heart belong to man but the answer of the tongue is from the Lord."
-- Proverbs 16:1
Thursday, November 18, 2010

Playing the Waiting Game & Keepin' it Simple

Well, I'd hoped by now that I'd be able to write and announce that we've been assigned a court date in Uganda. Not yet -- so please keep praying that a date would open up for us before the courts close for the holidays. We are hoping and expecting to hear something any day now.

But we have had some exciting things happen -- we received our USCIS approval so Hannah and Joseph are now eligible for their visas to enter the US. We also received their full medical reports and based on these reports, Dan and I got to pick birthdays for each of them. How cool is that? We picked April 15 for Hannah and April 23 for Joseph.

And speaking of birthdays... This sweet and very beautiful young lady who I often refer to on the blog as "my big girl" turned 7 years old on Monday.



In keeping with the "crazy standards," we kept her celebration simple and sweet. Madeline invited three little girls over after school for cake and playtime. For reasons that are still unclear, my big girl chose to have a "dolphin" themed party. I had no idea where to get a dolphin cake so my dear, dear friend Valerie made me this amazing cake and wouldn't let me pay her a dime for it.



Don't get me wrong -- I love my children so much and I'm all for joyfully celebrating their birthdays, the day the Lord entrusted these little people to Dan and me. But why must we go to such trouble and expense to celebrate? It seems so silly to spend hundreds of dollars on parties and gifts when there are millions of children around the world (including my own dear Hannah and Joseph) who have never even heard the word "birthday." I think there has to be a better way.
Sunday, November 14, 2010

38 Weeks Pregnant!?!

I am not really 38 weeks pregnant -- but it feels that way! Dan and I are literally expecting a call from our attorney at any moment telling us we have a court date and we should hop on a plane to Uganda. The whole thing is getting very, very real for us. We just finished putting together Hannah & Joseph's bunkbeds tonight. Crazy stuff!

Now, not everything is quite wrapped up... we're still awaiting our USCIS approval and praying it will arrive sometime this week. We need a couple of twin mattresses (just in case anyone has some sitting around), and we'll eventually need a really, really big car - if you have one of those laying about, we might be willing to trade a slightly used scooter for it.

Because SixtyFeet was on the ground in Uganda this week, we were given the most beautiful, amazing video of our two new babies. We cannot believe how healthy and happy they look since moving to Mama Catherine's. Just look at this...


Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Christmas Shopping

Even if you're stark raving crazy like the Owens, you probably have to buy at least a few Christmas gifts this season. So I figure if we have to shop, we might as well shop with a purpose. This year, my heart is to buy as many gifts as possible from vendors and individuals who support orphan causes and/or adoption funds. And for my Atlanta area friends, this goal just got a little easier!

Come out and join me at the Garden Market this Saturday from 9- 3:30 at the Garden Hills Rec Center! And this year, the fabulous Cupcake Kids will be on the scene selling sweet treats to weary shoppers and raising money for SixtyFeet.

Many of the women participating in this year's Market are donating portions of their money raised to different organizations. Elizabeth Beck is donating a portion of her proceeds to Wellspring Living - an organization that advocates for women and children rescued from sex-trafficking. Katie WickstrumChristina Leerssen are donating 10% of their proceeds to SixtyFeet. Gus & Lula is pursuing an adoption of 2 little babes from Ethiopia. Davis' boards aka The Neema Shop is donating a portion of her proceeds to Takes A Whole Village & other orphan supporting causes. Karama Gifts supports Young Life Africa.

So please come out, enjoy a treat from the Cupcake Kids, find some amazing and completely unique gifts and support some great causes all at the same time.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Orphan Sunday -- Do Something!

Today is Orphan Sunday. Perhaps we're not all called to adopt, but we are all commanded to do something. But don't take my word for it, check out James 1:27 and see for yourself.

That James 1:27 verse is a deep one. We all know the first part, about visiting widows and orphans in their distress, but I never see anyone making their life verse based on the second part -- the part about keeping oneself unstained from the world. I wonder why? Is the second part less important, or is it just that nobody really knows what it means to keep oneself unstained from the world?

In honor of Orphan Sunday, I wanted to repost something I wrote back in March. And believe me, experiences like this one will change the way you live. In many ways it will keep you unstained from the world because it sure puts things into perspective.

How Was Your Day?

I have had the privilege of visiting Romania a couple of times in the past few years with our church. We have taken a group of high school students for 9-10 days at a time and partnered with a wonderful group called Pathway to Joy in order to help build churches in Gypsy villages and care for abandoned babies in the children's hospital. My role for the past couple of years has been to coordinate taking groups of students to the hospital to care for the babies. These babies range in age from 6 months to 5 years. After 5 years, they are forced to leave the hospital for the comfortable abode of the state-run orphanage which houses them until they are 22. Yes, you read that correctly. There in the orphanage are children as young as 4 or 5 all the way up to 22. After 22, they are expected to head out on their own...

Back to the hospital. So we take a group of teens to the hospital in the mornings and they break up in to groups that disperse to the various wards in order to hold, feed and rock infants that otherwise only get very brief outings from the confines of their cribs. These children are the very definition of Failure To Thrive. There is very little crying as you walk down the halls because the babies have learned that there is little use trying. No one is coming.

It is always amazing to watch the teens bond with the children and sit, literally for hours on end, in an incredibly hot (it's a cultural thing) hospital room holding these children because they know it may be a very long time before anyone else comes along to pay the babies any attention.

The most difficult part for me was the second year I returned to the hospital. I was excited as we entered the hospital to see some improvements and upgrades that had been done. They were installing new windows in place of, well, mostly just panes of glass assuming they weren't missing altogether. And they had a new floor cleaning machine, like what you see being pushed around at Home Depot. All that changed when I arrived on the 9th floor where the children with special needs were housed. I was anxious to see new faces and my heart literally sank when I walked into the room and there, in those dirty, rusty cribs, lay many of the very same babies we had held the year before.

An entire year had gone by. I had gone out to dinner with my family, we had played in the driveway, gone to the pool in the summer, been to the beach, walked around the block a hundred times. But these babies were still lying in their cribs, just as they were when I had left the year before. Many had been there long before that.

I think about these babies when I'm having a "bad day". When my favorite t.v. show is a rerun, I try to remember these babies lying in their cribs looking at the ceiling, wondering if anyone is coming for them. Wondering if they will be picked up out of their crib even for a few minutes. I think about that and then my bad day is not quite so bad anymore.
Sunday, October 31, 2010

Hello USCIS!

Oh my word. Wednesday of this week. I just have to share and I have to laugh because seriously, what else are you going to do... Once you hear about my day you'll understand...

It's funny because the night before this happened, I was reading my bloggy friend Allison's post and thinking about how funny it was... which you may want to check out after you hear this story.

Anyways...
Wednesday was our pre-assigned fingerprinting appointment at the USCIS (U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services) office in Atlanta. I got up bright and early to pray and spend some time in my Bible, got my big girl off to school, fired off a few emails, did some homeschool with my middle child and even took a shower. Trust me, this is a VERY productive morning in my home. Especially the showering part.

I load the baby and my 4 year old up in the car with plenty of time to spare and we're off! I head to drop off Davis with a friend and then pick up Dan at his office for our appointment. Before we even get out of the neighborhood, I start not feeling so good. My mouth is dry, my stomach hurts, weird... I was fine 5 minutes ago. I call Dan at the office and ask him to bring down a bottled water from his office fridge when I come to pick him up.

I drop Davis off with my sweet friend Valerie and head to Dan's office, only about 5 minutes away. And my condition has taken a turn for the worse. By the time Dan gets downstairs to meet me, I am slumped over in the passenger seat of the car, half gagging, half dry heaving and I announce to Dan (as if he can't tell) that I think I'm sick.

Anyways, the two of us and the baby head to the appointment. We pull into the parking lot, I get out of the car before it's even stopped, walk about 3 feet and promptly throw up on the front lawn of this lovely government facility. Hello USCIS, Shelly Owens has arrived!

Dan and I look at each other, not sure what to do... I mean should we clean it up or something? We decide no... it's raining. That should take care of it. (Wow, nothing says classy like some Dan & Shelly Owens.) But should we go in if I'm this sick? Neither of us knows what to do... can we reschedule this appointment or will it delay our entire adoption process? We decide to risk it and go on in. I mean, what's a little puke between friends anyways?

By clenching my teeth shut and offering up lots of prayers, I manage to hold it all together while we check in with the receptionist and fill out our paperwork. Then we're ushered over for a nice, long wait in the fingerprinting area. The long wait really worked in my favor as it provided me with ample opportunities to visit and throw up in the USCIS public restrooms. Good times! I also think I really disturbed everyone around me. While I focused on not throwing up in the waiting room, I don't think I spoke one word to poor Dan or gave him one second of help with the baby -- who eventually grew tired of hanging around the USCIS office and started to fuss.

Finally, my number is called, I make it through the fingerprinting process without incident (although God bless the poor man who did my prints... I'm sure I smelled like a used airplane barf bag at this point) and we are dismissed.

Dan drops me off at home and takes the baby into the office with him. I'm sure you're surprised to hear that that lasted about 30 minutes and then they were back home for the day. Later in the afternoon, my big kids are dropped off by my dear friend Joy who also fed them lunch. I was a little confused on the whole transfer process... I left Davis with Valerie and left Madeline at the school and they ended up with Joy... oh well. I have awesome friends. And an awesome husband. And he has an awesome boss who lets him come home and manage the house while I'm sick in bed.

So we're all better and no one else seems to have come down with my mysterious illness. I almost wonder if it was a spiritual attack on our family and against our adoption... We came very close to walking away from that fingerprinting appointment. And for reasons I hope to share very, very soon (like, maybe on our next post) I am so glad we stuck it out. Puking or not.

Stay tuned! More details to come...
Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Owl Guy

Dan likes this guy and some of his music. I'd actually never heard of him before yesterday...  I'm not very hip when it comes to the music scene. If I listen to music during the day, it usually ends up being my children's CD from last year's VBS or the Mother Goose lullabye CD.

In fact, I was out with a friend last week for a sans kids dinner and we drove 20 minutes and had nearly reached our destination before we realized we'd been listening to nursery rhymes on CD for the entire ride. But I digress...

Anyway as I was saying, Dan likes this Owl guy and sent me his blog post from yesterday. And music gal or not, I had to admit that Adam's post was awesome. Here's my favorite part:

"One thing is certain:

When He comes for His own, He will have no trouble recognizing me… because my banner will be clear."

Reading this I could not help but think of a convicting moment from the not too distant past in my own life...

It was almost exactly this time last year and I was sitting on the bleachers in a church gymnasium watching my 3 year son in his sports class. This was before the days of Baby Charlotte so I was just sitting alone and passing time by playing word games on my iphone and poking around on facebook.

For some reason or another, I looked up and starting glancing around the other people sitting on the bleachers. And I was so struck -- we were all literally doing the exact same thing. Practically every mom in the room was sitting alone on the bleachers, looking at an iphone or a blackberry and occasionally looking up to watch the boys' class.

And in that moment I felt the Lord whisper this question straight into my heart... "Shelly, if I were to walk into this gymnasium right now, is there anything, anything at all, that would distinguish you as My child?" And honestly, no. There was nothing to distinguish me. I pretty much looked and was behaving like everyone else in the room.

Now I know that Christ loves me. He accepts me as a daughter and invites me to call him "Abba." But shouldn't that alone mean that in any given circumstance I should be distinguishable from the rest of the world?

Galations 3:27 says "for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ." When you clothe yourself with anything, it is outward and obvious... typically our clothes are the first thing that a person sees or notices about us. As Christ's children who are clothed with Him, shouldn't that always be outward and obvious to others? Shouldn't we always look and act at least a little different from the rest of the world?
Sunday, October 24, 2010

Love and Apples

"If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels but, didn't love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I had the gift of prophecy and if I understood all of God's secret plans and possessed all knowledge, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains, but didn't love others, I would be nothing. If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it; but if I didn't love others, I would have gained nothing."
-- I Corin 13:1-3 (NLT)

Several weeks ago, I blew it with a dear friend of mine. In a nutshell, she needed me, I was busy and I simply wasn't there for her. I was consumed with my own problems and the craziness of my own life and I missed a great opportunity to minister to and love on a sweet friend.

I've repented of all this and shed buckets of tears over my response (lack of response) to my friend's need. It's humbling to come face to face with your own sin and selfishness. It's one thing to see those things and work to correct it in your children -- it's quite another to see it in yourself. And yet I'm thankful for this experience because it's been so eye opening and shown me so much about the depths of my heart.

Lately I think I've had complete tunnel vision for our ministry in Africa. I've become so passionate about the work of SixtyFeet and the children of Uganda and I am captivated by the beauty of adoption. I feel so privleged and blessed to work with those so near and dear to the Lord's heart and it's easy to let my whole life become consumed with this work.

But here's the thing -- as much as I love SixtyFeet, I never want to become so consumed by the work of this ministry that I start missing the point. And the point of all of it -- every email, every fundraiser, every mission trip, every second of work that goes into it all - is love.

The opportunities to simply love are all around me. Without question we are called to love, serve and defend the poor, the orphan, the widow and the prisoner. But we're also called to love in the plain ol' everyday situations -- our families, our neighbors and, yes Shelly, our friends. It's not either or. It's both. And God equips us for all of it. Just because I'm involved with an orphan ministry in Africa and engrossed in an international adoption does not excuse me from also loving the people around me.

So I'm working on it. As I said, I am thankful for this recent experience with my friend because it taught me so much. Earlier this week, I spent over an hour on my front porch talking with my refridgerator repair guy. I wasn't witnessing or praying with him or anything -- I honestly felt that the Lord just wanted me to take some time and be a pair of ears for this sweet man. In the hour that we talked, he shared with me everything from his mother's battle with cancer to his brother's 30 year drug addiction.

This weekend, my children and I baked a carmel apple pie (with our own hand-picked apples, I might add!) and made cards and took it all to our neighbor -- a lonely, older single woman. And Dan and our little guy, Davis, spent Saturday morning helping some friends with some fixer-upper projects on their new home.

We managed to squeeze in a little SixtyFeet business as well -- but mostly we just took some time to love and invest in the people around us. And that brings glory to Him. And that's what it's all about.

It's not ok to neglect the poor, the widow, the orphan and the prisoner. Those people are near and dear to our Lord's heart and He commands us to care for them. But in the process, it's also not ok to neglect those people He's put right here in our path. Most of the people Dan and I encounter on a daily basis are not starving, homeless and destitute -- but they're all people for whom Jesus died and they all need to be shown love.

By the way, here's the carmel apple pie and the picking-of-the-apples. Good, good stuff. Let me know if you want the pie recipe... especially if you intend to use it to love on your neighbors and friends.



They are picking apples but they're thinking about PIE!
Yep, everyone works on the farm

Wagon ride through the apple trees


Apple picking wears out baby girls.