Me without words is never. Whenever a painful or powerful moment occurs in my life, I immediately begin to write words in my head or scribble them down on the nearest piece of scrap paper. A receipt, anything will do as long as I get them in word form. Writing is therapy. Whether it is descriptions of what He is up to–or how I might bring encouragement to others through a lesson I have learned…words flow constantly. So to have to be radio silent for so long and mysterious on the matters of my heart and our home…well, it has been challenging to say the least!
But with permission we are going public and able to share with those we love about the trials and triumphs that we have faced over the past few months. Because I am covering about 2 months worth of territory–grab a cup of coffee–this is not going to be a short blog!
Quite recently on a wonderful day in November we were granted legal guardianship of the two newest members of our family…Caroline and Jonathan Cockerham. On this day there was MUCH celebration coupled by much sadness…as the judge though he granted us legal guardianship…also gave a ruling that stated we must keep the children in country for 3 years until they can be adopted in to our family as this is how he interprets the laws of adoption in UG. Though we were applying for legal guardianship in hopes to adopt in the US, he saw it fit for us to stay 3 years to be sure of our intentions, affections, and understanding of the culture as well as really get to know the children. These two “verdicts” granted side by side were wonderfully tragic news as it meant the children were ours, but our stay in UG would be extended for quite some time.
But I am getting ahead of myself. There is so much that God has done and waiting that we have done…and none of it was recorded…none of it explained.
I’m going to back up a bit and then move forward until today becomes today and not stories of yesterday…
The last two months have been wild ones. We waited for a court date for many, many long weeks in October. We were finally given a date and asked to go court, but upon arrival we were asked to jump through many hoops to verify we were not criminals and the children were truly adoptable. Because I know this really matters we did this understandingly but it involved travel to another city (5 hours away) for many days and then travel back to court again. (No easy task with 5 kids in tow.) At the end of many weeks in court we were given the ruling that I mentioned above. This was more than disheartening as we are so ready to take our children home to begin our lives together in the US…and most importantly become united as a family, as dad is in NC and has been for almost a month, and the other 6 C’s are still in UG. Because things are set and unchangeable we will have to apply to the court of appeals. The ups and downs of the process thus far have been more than challenging and so the thought of being here in UG for another 6 months to a year was initially a huge shock and deep disappointment.
Boy am I glad I over packed! I had several families tell me the things that they “could not live without in UG” and it was so helpful to have over packed as we still have awesome supplies for food, school, and other basic conveniences like extra towels, plenty of clorox wipes, and toys that have made life so much more comfortable while we are here! (Even have some mini dove chocolates to keep me company once the kids go to bed at night!)
I look forward to openly sharing more of the lessons that we are learning and have learned thus far on our African adventure. Too many for one blog but let me share a few that keep popping up daily.
Day in and day out life is full of mommy life things. It is cleaning, cooking, feeding, bathing, reading, playing outside, card games, coloring. Today we did play dough. I felt I was channeling my inner Holly Kane–the best preschool teacher ever–as it is not typically in my nature to love picking up the teeny tiny pieces of play dough that find themselves stuck on the floor, and other unfathomable places that they have no business being! I am kind of amazed at how “easy” it is to live in the moment here in UG. Not planning, not preparing for the next day, the next week, or all of the extra mess that distracts me from my children and gets me annoyed with the play dough on the floor. This momming has been a gift that I can hardly articulate in words. (Especially as we add two new personalities that I am trying to learn and get to know!) God has been good to give me more patience than I am typically capable of mustering…and in general I find that the “God need” is just greater here in Africa. People pray daily for food…because there is no guarantee that they will have it. People pray for health because medical care may not be an option or affordable. People pray for work because without it, their children cannot live. The God need factor personally feels much HIGHER here without Chris and on my own. Gratefully, He has been MORE than faithful to provide.
No one on their own has enough resources to be abundantly patient, kind, or loving. And I when am stressed I am at a VERY low level of any of these attributes. Currently as a “single mom” in another country with some difficult circumstances and hurdles to jump through, I can honestly say NONE of my own strength is left to give to the 5 kiddos that God has given me. BUT…somehow day in and day out, when I am weak…He is strong. (This almost feels cliche–but it is all I have got!) The children do not get “perfect” mommy all the time but they get a better version of me than I could muster on my own!
This goes back to an earlier email I sent to several friends. Need. Here need is great. (I need patience, faith, hope, kindness, gentleness, trust, in ways that I have never needed them at home.) People need God here. Do they in the US…I mean really need Him?
The lessons that one learns from Africa are limitless. After hours and hours spent waiting, I have begun to tell my children that Africa forces one to cultivate patience. I cannot tell you how non-American this place is. The waiting time for credit card machines (when you can find them) to process your card, for internet connections to go online, for your waiter to bring your food, for the electricity to come back on, for the hot water heater to heat the water, or the water pump to fill so that you can clean vomit off the floor of the bathroom, or waiting for a judge to see you, or your fingerprints to be made, or DNA to be processed. This place oozes with a need for patience. And amazingly this place is asking the Cockerham family to be patient as they appeal and attempt to overturn a few items of our case so that we can bring our kiddos back to the US sooner rather than later.
Though there was initial (understandable) grief and shock…we are up for the challenge. I spoke with the big kids (aka Caleb and Kylee) tonight about our plans. They were quick to say–we are NOT leaving here without Caroline and Jonathan. Caleb got REALLY excited about the 3 year adventure…he is such a little warrior…and is having a great time. Kylee shed a few tears grieving the loss of time with her friends…but celebrated that dad might bring her AG doll the next time he came to visit! I will not leave this country without all 5 of my children with me. So bring on appeals…bring on all that this journey has to offer. God has begun this story and He will finish it. It is His story and not ours…we are convinced He has us on an EPIC ADVENTURE.
I look forward to sharing the lessons I learn–about being a mom–about hardship and pain–about patience and our need for Him. I look forward to seeing all that He has for us on this side of the planet. Most of all I look forward to sharing the story with those who have been so faithful to pray–often when they didn’t even know what to be praying for!
Now for some of those reading, you might be stuck about 10 paragraphs up with the words explaining we are not coming home or that the judge granted LG but did not allow us to leave the country with our children for 3 years. You are stuck, confused, in shock or mad. These are fairly normal responses but I need you to move with me–quickly–to the next place where WE are (all 7 of us): hopeful, joyful, and ready for this next phase of our journey! Please don’t be mad at God or Uganda or even the judge for that matter. It is a waste of time and energy. Please don’t worry. We are not. This adventure is epic because it is unexpected…with awesome twists and turns…with an important role for us to play…we sense this is bigger than we originally anticipated. (Not cause we are great or have anything to offer–but because He is…and the cloud hasn’t moved…so we won’t either.)
Our new children are tracking…they are following and understand this story. Initially we were not allowed to take Caroline and Jonathan home with us–to our guest house–because we didn’t have a court date. But after the 2nd visit to their children’s home–Jonathan asked, “I go home with you now?” They were ready from day one to become a part of our family and we are so glad that they are–officially–legally our children!
Thought I would share some photos along the way and since these were missed a few months back by most of you…I wanted to share a few photos from our first few initial visits with the kids.
We love each and every one of you very much and are so glad you have already joined this story and have been faithful to pray for our family each step of the way. Glad now that we are free to share these moments with those we love. We invite you be a part of the story that He is writing…in our lives…and yours!
May You Be a Blessing and May You Be Blessed!
Jenni (and all the 7 C’s)