this has been an absolutely incredible year for me. last december, i prayed that God would change my life radically in 2011. He did. i prayed for Him to show me what He wanted me to do. He did. i prayed for Him to break my heart open. He did. i prayed for clarity, direction, and purpose. He gave them to me. not in ways i ever could have imagined. not in “my timing”. but so full of goodness i couldn’t dream of saying no.
i remember with gratitude and joy. month by month, moment by moment. God has swept me off my feet and left me breathless and trembling. i am humbled by our God who cares for each one of us and loves so deeply. He has given me so much more than I deserve. and so i reflect with a thankful heart. i remember the thrill of new adventure. i remember the confusion at seeing so much brokenness. i remember His whisper to “love one”. i remember the peace with the acceptance of that calling. i remember the depth of pain and the surges of joy. i remember the desperation and the abundance. i remember the challenges and the victories. i remember the waiting and longing. i remember my heart-change. i remember His presence through it all.
in december 2010, just days before Christmas, i resigned from my teaching job and moved to Uganda. i decided to go for six months and then see where God led me. i celebrated Christmas with the children and staff at Ekisa, an orphanage for children with special needs.
january found me working as an intern at NewstART, a home for former street boys. i taught art and music and helped the boys learn english. it was challenging and rewarding and taught me much about the richness and simplicity of the ugandan culture. it also opened my eyes to the plight of so many children who are living on the streets of cities around the world. the stories wrecked me.
in february i met Mikisa for the first time.
she lived on the streets of kampala. she had been abandoned in a ditch at age 2, and was suffering from severe malnutrition, malaria and multiple physical and cognitive disabilities. i knew right away that there was something special about her and within 2 weeks i had the necessary paperwork to be her foster parent. i was heartbroken and in love at the same time. i became a mom.
in march i decided to pursue the adoption of my little girl. the two of us lived with the boys at newstart, and i worked part time as a teacher at Cherish Uganda. those months were hard…no running water, minimal electricity and this tiny child from a really hard place who needed love more than she needed food. but we learned together. we became family.
april brought the rain and increasingly complicated aspects of adoption paperwork. doctors told me Mikisa would never walk or talk. they said she was “retarded” and told me i was crazy to be adopting her. but our love for each other grew steadily and as her personality developed it became more and more clear why God had chosen her to be my daughter. her adoption story is built on immense loss and pain, but also full of powerful redemption.
in may i had to come back to charlotte for 3 weeks to complete my homestudy and other immigrtation-related paperwork. it broke my heart to leave mikisa when she was just beginning to bond with me, but God used that time of separation to bring even more beauty and love into my life. Troy and i started dating just before my return to Uganda. our long-distance relationship provided sustenance and encouragement (and oh so much joy) during the tough summer of attachment issues, uncertainty and waiting.
in june, mikisa and i moved to jinja with mandie and rachel and the 5 kids they were fostering. we had a very unconventional family. it was awesome. i enjoyed having more time to be a mom and also having the unique opportunity to care for 5 other “waiting” children. such a privilege!
in july i went to court and was granted legal guardianship of Mikisa Mae! Troy was there visiting when we got the verbal ruling. we were overwhelmed with gratitude and excitement.
august brought some more paperwork issues and delays with Mikisa’s visa, but we eventually managed to get on a plane and move HOME to charlotte. we couldn’t contain our joy!
then, just a week after our arrival, Troy asked me to marry him. [and of course i said yes]
in september the doctors visits began. we saw numerous specialists and therapists and i got very overwhelmed. Mikisa was fitted with an AFO and she started weekly physical therapy to help her learn how to walk. she also started speech therapy.
troy and i were married October 15th. i never dreamed i would find someone who is so perfect for me. troy is the most amazing husband and dad. i am so blessed and we are crazy in love!
Mikisa started kindergarten at the beginning of november. she loves going to school and is currently being evaluated for special education services. we all enjoyed the fall weather and spent many afternoons in the park. our first Thanksgiving with the Feltens was especially memorable.
in december we celebrated Mikisa’s 6th birthday. we invited all her favorite people and she was so happy.
then we celebrated our first Christmas together and we experienced the promise and the hope that is found in Jesus.
2011 is a year we will never forget. God moved in powerful ways and He allowed us to be part of an incredible story of His love. i pray that 2012 will be a year of growth especially in the area of surrender and trust. i want to lean into Him more. allow Him to be in total control. let go. move forward with grace and thankfulness.
*some of the photographs compliments of Mandie Joy Photography: http://www.mandiejoy.com