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Wednesday, December 28, 2011

He Knows What I Need Before I Need It

As this journey progresses I am constantly reminded of how God knows what I need before I do.  This became apparent in a big way this past weekend.  While on our way from Kampala to Jinja to celebrate Christmas at the orphanage our driver pulled over on the side of the road.  He said we had just passed one of his friends whose car had broken down on the side of the road.  The two drivers conversed for a bit and then they asked Heather and I if we would mind sharing our car. 
The other driver was bringing a mzungu lady and her daughter back to Jinja for Christmas.  Heather and I did not mind sharing and by African standards we had plenty of room in the car.  This was a small sedan that ended up carrying seven people.  We enjoyed the coversation with the two ladies.  Their family was a missionary family that have lived in Jinja for 25 years.  The mother was a nurse and the daughter recently graduated from Union University in Tennessee.  We found plenty of topics of conversation to talk about for the three hour drive.  When we dropped them off in Jinja I exchanged contact information with the mother, Mrs. Evelyn.

After our trip to the orphanage for Christmas we then travelled to Jinja for two nights.  We were there to do a bit of the touristy things and get a break from Kampala.  During our first few hours in Jinja we noticed large sores developing on Hadley's legs.  I have never seen anything like these before.  They were large about the size of a half dollar and developed dime size blisters on top of them.  Her legs became very painful and she developed a fever.  After exhausting an internet search to determine what was going on I finally remembered the nurse we had met a few days ago.  It was late in the evening but I called her anyway.
The next morning Mrs. Evelyn showed up at our guest house with her medical bag in tow.  She gave Hadley a good look over.  Once we determined what was going on Mrs. Evelyn then drove us to a pharmacy and assisted me in purchasing the correct dosage of the needed antibiotic.  Hadley is now recovering from her skin strep infection and should be good as new in a few days.

I know that Mrs. Evelyn's driver's car broke down on the side of Jinja rode just so we would know a nurse to call.  She was truely God sent. 

Matthew 6:8
". . . For your Father knows just what you need before you ask Him."

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Christmas In Africa

What an experience.  The Lord knew just what I needed this year and He gave it to me in a big way.  As silly as it sounds the one thing I needed this year was to laugh.  I knew spending time with Heather would result in a lot of laughter but Christmas was an experience I will never forget.
A few days before a lady whom I have meet several times stayed at our home in Kampala.  She is the director of an orphanage just outside of Jinja.  Kathy did not want us to be alone on Christmas so she invited us to spend it at her orphanage.  We weren't doing anything else so we said yes.
We left for the orphanage Saturday after lunch.  We were going to spend one night there and then spend another two nights in Jinja.
A bit about the home.  There are 16 children that live there, both boys and girls.  The children range from around eight years old to fifteen years old.
When we arrived the children had made us a wonderful sign on a chalkboard in the yard.  They all ran out to the car to great us.  Several young men immediately grabbed our luggage and carried it inside while some of the girls picked up my twins and took them to play.  When we arrived we were shown to our room.  We stayed in one of the girls rooms that had two sets of bunk beds in it.  We also quickly realized that as is typical in Uganda there was no electricity.  There was also no running water which means you can't flush the toilets or take a shower.  After settling our things into our room we went outside to meet the children.
We were quickly told of the Christmas plans: we would eat a Christmas Eve dinner, have a bonfire, open stockings in the morning, and go to church on Sunday morning.  It sounded pretty good to us so we just went with it.
Christmas Dinner:  The orphanage is scheduled to be moving into a new home in a few weeks.  That new home is located more in the city and no farm animals are aloud.  This was a problem because they had a pet goat named Cowboy.  What do you do with a pet goat in Uganda when you need to get rid of it?  You turn it into Christmas dinner.  We got to experience the children butchering their pet.  Some of the kids were not happy about this but many of the older boys took to it without any problem.  Heather and I just laughed.  Cowboy was quickly delt with and made his way into the stew pot for dinner.  The children then thought it would be a good idea to play with his hide.  This was quite disturbing but we just laughed it off.
After our feast of rice and Cowboy everyone went outside for a bonfire and to sing Christmas carols.  The children wanted a Christmas tree but without one around they had to improvise.  They trimmed the bushes and then tied the trimmings to a pole to make a tree.  Heather and I helped them make a paper chain to decorate the tree.  Singing Christmas carols and praise songs around the bonfire was a wonderful experience.  The children sang from deep in their hearts.  By the end of the bonfire I had two children (none of which were my girls) asleep in my lap.  It was wonderful.
Then we made our way back to the house to go to bed.  We brushed our teeth with water we had brought with us and vowed not to drink much because we did not want to need to use the bathroom.  Heather and I each slept on the bottom bunks with the girls because the top bunk beds just swayed too much for our comfort.  We quickly realized that there were an abundance of cockroaches staying with us.  Heather was wonderful, she killed about two dozen of the little friends.  After that we decided it would be best just to turn off the lights because at least that way we couldn't see them crawling on the walls.
Sunday morning we woke up to the sound of many happy children.  Each child received a stocking containing things such as socks, flashlights, underwear, candy, and toothbrushes.  They were so pleased with their goodies.  Hadley and Liana even had their own stockings.  We ate a light breakfast and the got ready for church.  Heather and I escorted 18 children to church by ourselves.
In the end it was a wonderful experience.  It was such a blessing to see the children and how happy they were.  They were mostly thankful for a roof over their heads and full bellies.
This experience definitely filled my heart.  And you never know maybe goat will make it on the menu next year.



Friday, December 23, 2011

Best and Hardest Time to be Here


Christmas.  Yes that is a reality that is becoming more real to me every minute.  I am going to spend Christmas in Africa away from Chad, Sadie, and Nolen.  To think about that is hard and painful.  It hurts to think about them decorating cookies for Santa, reading the Christmas story, and spending the day together without me.  It is emotionally painful to the point that it is physical.  I have seen photos of six stocking hanging from my mantel and a Christmas ornament with all of our names on it.  It is difficult to see these because they make it more real to me.  I know they miss me, I miss them.  But everyday I spend here in Uganda, away from them is another lesson I am learning, another day I am becoming closer to my heavenly Father, and another day I am doing what I am supposed to be doing.
Why is this the best time to be here?  I think if I was in Uganda any other time of the year I would learn the lesson of just how blessed my family is.  We have a nice home, cars, and most importantly food to eat.  But being here during Christmas makes the extras in my life more apparent.  Christmas gifts are all but ignored here.  People just don't have the resources to buy any.  After talking to many Ugandans it is a special treat for kids to get a pair of shoes for Christmas.  What would my kids think if they got a pair of shoes for Christmas?  Would they be grateful or disappointed?  More than likely they would be disappointed.  That is not what I want.  I would love for them to learn just how blessed they are.  They got to see glimpses of it while here.  If I was in Tennessee this holiday season I would and should struggle greatly to be buying an abundance of unneeded items for my kiddos when there are kids here that are literally starving to death.
Families here celebrate Christ's birth and nothing else.  There are no gifts to distract from that.  You see a few decorations as a reminder but these are very scarce.  Christmas is spent together as a family.  It is very nice to see people celebrating without all the commercialization.
To help us attempt to get into the Christmas spirit Heather and I decorated a few Christmas trees and reindeer that she brought with her.  It is just hard to get into it when it is very hot.  Yesterday we were at the grocery store and they were playing "Walking in A Winter Wonderland."  This was very amusing because the sun was shining and it was 90 degrees.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Reinforcements

Last week my "reinforcements," as my mother would say arrived.  I picked Heather up from the airport shortly after midnight on Thursday morning.  I was so excited to see her and can't wait to get to share this country I have grown to love with her.
Heather brought with her many surprises for me.  In her suitcases were the various items I had requested such as vitamins, a few toiletries, snacks, and new shoes for the girls.  Thank you so much to all of you who helped gather these items for me.  I do not know all who helped with this so I am just going to say one big THANK YOU.  It is funny how after three months in Africa the sight of new deodorant and a new toothbrush can get you excited. But it can.
I also had several surprises in her bags.  Thursday morning at around 2 am I enjoyed a homemade mini pecan pie and a "knock you naked" brownie.  Thank you so much to Misti and Mary Bea for baking these for me.  I have been thoroughly enjoying them and am trying to make them last as long as possible.
Also in Heather's suitcases were 26 pairs of shoes.  Not shoes for my girls but shoes to be given away.  I think every extra square inch of her luggage was crammed with shoes.  It has been such a blessing to get to give these shoes to children who do not have any.  Today Heather and I were walking and we passed by the little girl who a few weeks ago I gave Liana shoes to.  The lady immediately recognized us and once again gave many thanks.  This Christmas is definitely going to be a lesson in giving and not receiving.  And Heather and I are going to be the ones truely blessed.
She also brought with her some new books and crafts for me to do.  I have been enjoying a few new cross stitching projects and when they are done I will proudly show off my work.  I was also excited for new books to read and an e-reader loaded with books.

Thank you so much for everyone who helped load up Heather's suitcases.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

A Blessing To Be Away

Our little speed bump that we have hit in this adoption is exactly that. It is not a unpassable barrier or a wall that can not be breached. It is here to slow me down. Make me slow down my life long enough to realize what is going on, to keep me from missing some very important things.
This speed bump is more of a detour that has taken me away from my normal life to teach me what I am missing, what I am doing wrong. The detour will result in putting my life back on path. I just hope that path is a much more enlightened one and one that I don’t easily stray from.

One of the things that has been a blessing in disguise has been being away from my husband, Sadie, and Nolen. I never thought that being away from my family that I have clung to so much could bless me, but it has. Don’t get me wrong it still hurts, deeply. It has been nearly two months since I have seen the other members of my nuclear family. Almost two months since I have smelled the sweet smell of my Sadie, poked the precious dimples of Nolen, and cherished in the company of my husband. My body aches for their presence more than I knew was possible.

I now find myself not wanting to think about the details of their daily life. I don’t want to know when the children’s Christmas programs are because I don’t want to look down at my watch today and realize that I am missing it. I don’t need to know when they are visiting Santa or when they are opening their Christmas presents. I will look at the videos and photos multiple times in the future with tears pouring down my face, but not today. It is at this time easiest to just not let my mind go there. Not let it hope for their embrace or think about all that is occurring in their lives. It is becoming easier in a sense to forget. This is very difficult to admit. I am not forever forgetting them but for this minute it is easier to not have them in my thoughts. I know this probably sounds awful to anyone who has never found themselves in this situation but I also realize how much of a blessing it is.

I now realize just how much I idolatrize my family. Using my family as a form of idolatry has been something I have struggled with for a while now. I have known it has existed and feel like it is an ever present thing in almost all families. But it has taken this trip to reveal to me just how much I do it. It is common to think of idols as small figures that people worship but they are found in all aspects of our everyday life. Our pastor many times has defined idolatry as looking to something that is man made to give you comfort that can only be provided by the creator.

I have been looking to my husband and children for comfort. They have been my idol. Being away from them for this period of time has made this very real to me. When I am hurting and struggling and my family is present it is so easy to lean on them, they will hold me up, and support me. But that is not what I need, that is not what He wants. He wants me to lean on Him and He will support me.

Paul spends a bit of his time in I Corinthians speaking on singleness. I am not single and do not plan on it. But I think I now actually understand just what he is getting at. Paul simply says that he is giving up the opportunity for family, for a wife, for children, so he can serve the Lord. He wanted no more idols to come between him and his creator. Wow.  My blessing and pain has been being away from my family.  I am learning that is more of a blessing to them for me not to idolatrize them, not to look to them for comfort.  For when I look to them for comfort I will always be disappointed because only He can comfort me.  Though I ache for Chad's company, I need more than food or water Jesus' embrace.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Jjaja has more necklaces

This past week celebrated the completion of our third month in Africa.  When we started out on this adventure I never could have guessed I would still be here in December.  But I am and with that we have had to change our plans a bit. 
Chad's mother, Nancy is known to the girls as Jjaja.  Jjaja is the Uganda name for grandparent.  They often call her Nanny Jjaja in the sweetest high pitch voices.  Jjaja left to return home on December 8th.  I did not think that the girls really understood what was happening but they never cease to amaze me.  When Jjaja was loading her stuff into the car and started her goodbyes Hadley began to cry.  Hadley got very upset when Nancy left.  I guess she did understand what was happening.  They frequently go to the bed she slept in and say Jjaja's bed.  They then go and play in her closet and refer to it as Jjaja's closet.
With her Nancy brought a an abundance of paper bead necklaces home.  The initial wave of necklace sales was overwhelming and we quickly ran out of what Chad brought back.  Nancy has brought enough back for everyone.  She has brought back ones of all different lengths and colors.  If you are interested please contact her, myself, Chad, or my sister Stephanie.  If anyone has paid and not recieved one or has ordered on please send another contact so we can get them to you.  For more details about the necklaces click here.
hstewa10@gmail.com
THANK YOU for showing your support

Friday, December 9, 2011

WHY????

To say that I have a why child is an understatement. What is a why child? It is Sadie. She has the ability to ask “Why mommy?” about everything. She can even ask the question to things I did not even know were possible. I remember on our way to the airport to leave for Uganda she asked me why our car was black. I believe my response was something like that is they way they made it. But I don’t remember if it was enough to satisfy her curiosity.


Sometimes I just don’t know how to answer her questions. Often there are answers but not ones I think I can give to a four year old. She just would not understand. When she questions things that I don’t understand or I don’t know how to explain to her I frequently give her the answer “because Jesus made it that way.” I do not like giving this answer because for the most part it does not help satisfy her curiosity but sometimes it is all I got.

I am constantly amazed by how much our earthly parent to child relationships copy our heavenly Father to child relationships. This “why child” aspect of my relationship with Sadie is a copy of my relationship with the Lord. I am slightly disappointed during this process to have discovered that I am also a “why child.” I find it more during this journey but I am constantly asking my Father “Why?”

Why am I still here? Why am I away from my husband, Sadie, and Nolen? Why couldn’t we be one of those families whose adoption went without a hitch? Why did you choose us for this journey? Why me, Why us, Why Uganda, Why now?

What I have learned as I am conjuring up these questions sometimes the answer is not some fancy worded theological response. It is simply “Because I am God.” As a person of the world it is not possible for Him to explain the situation to me in a way that I can understand. I find that I might not be happy with His answer that sounds similar to the dreaded because I said so. But, it is all that I am capable of understanding. I know I will continue to ask these whys throughout my life. I hope to be able to remember that sometimes I don’t need to know. All that I really need to do is be obedient and trust in Him to make the decisions for me.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

The Girls

The girls are beautiful. It amazes me how two little girls could have survived so much, more than most people can imagine, and yet come out as well balanced individuals. They are not identical twins though they do resemble each other a bit. There personalities are as different as night and day. Hadley is our little girlie girl who likes everything done in a very particular way. She is a bit picky about putting things away and having everything in order. I can envision her room as being kept immaculate with every item having its own assigned place. She also loves to dress up with jewelry and shoes. Hadley has this way of smiling at you with the her eyes. It is as if the outside of her eyes slightly turn up and when she smiles her whole face lights up.


Liana is a handful, a mess is what I often call her. She is the total opposite of her sister. She does not seem to mind if things are put away in a specific order. I can imagine her keeping her room similar to mine when I was growing up, a disaster. She is very spirited and full of life. Liana is a never ending ball of energy and joy. She has the ability to liven up the drabbest of situations. She has full round cheeks that seem to squish her big round coffee bean eyes when she smiles. Her laugh is abundant and contagious.

I am continuing to refrain from posting photographs of the girls until this "mess" is cleared up.

Monday, December 5, 2011

More Than I Can Handle

Growing up I remember being told that God will not give you more than you can handle. Until this trip I always believed that, it was what I had been told. During my African adventure I have learned that I had it wrong, very wrong. In fact after much searching through my Bible for scriptural support of this I found that it is not there. It sounds good to say and is encouraging but it simply is not true.  He does not promise to not give us more than we can handle.


I believe now that God does give us more than we can handle and he does it everyday all around the world. It is at that point where we are at our weakest and worn down that all we have left is to rely on Him. If he only gave us what we could manage we would not need Him. I need Him more than I ever knew because I can not handle all that has been given to me. I could not possibly handle three toddlers in Uganda on my own for eight days.  I could not possibly manage being in Uganda for three months and counting.  I could not imagine being away from Chad, Sadie, and Nolen for seven plus weeks.  I am just not that strong and I am learning everyday that that is the point.  I am not strong enough and never will be.  But He is and He took care of me when I leaned on him. Lord I can’t manage this by myself. I need you to guide me and to direct my paths on this hard journey.
This is a test, I am being tested. I can trust Him to hold me up and support me or I could try to do it myself and fail.

During the early hours of our second day in Uganda, while watching Sadie play with her dolls I prayed fervently. We sat on a twin bed in the second bedroom of the apartment surrounded by a mosquito net that I felt like was constantly attacking me. I know the net was not attacking me but Satan definitely was. I was hungry, exhausted, dirty, and overwhelmed. I needed help and I knew just who would provide that for me. My husband was not there to help me, neither were my parents, I could not just run to the store and get the supplies I needed, I could not even turn on the faucet to provide my girls with a drink of water. I had definitely been given more than I could handle. During my tear filled eyes under that mosquito net God let me know that he would provide all the things I could not provide for these girls. I was guided to the scriptures of Proverbs 3:5 “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding, in all your ways acknowledge Him and he will direct your paths.”

When I stepped off the plane and was followed very soon by being handed two precious little girls I was upset. I was frustrated and angry at times. I was looking for someone to blame the situation on, someone had to have made a mistake in getting that custody order. I did not understand the whole plan. All I knew was that this plan was not the one I had created. Hindsight is a beautiful thing. Now I can look back on those days and understand just what was happening. God was preparing me for the “long haul.” He knew that in order for me to hang with it through this hard and crazy journey I was going to quickly need to learn to rely on Him, only Him.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Thanksgiving Part 2

As the days before Thanksgiving approached I knew I wanted to acknowledge the holiday in some manner. We knew a full out Thanksgiving feast would not be possible but we would come as close as we could. I spoke with Mrs. Harriet, the chef, about what our family usually did for Thanksgiving. She helped me and the other ladies at the house create a lunch menu that we were excited about.
Cranberry sauce, yes you can find it in Africa. It is not in the shape of a can with the little ripples, the way I am used to it but it is still cranberry sauce. You can’t have Thanksgiving without it. The three families that celebrated Thanksgiving in Africa together enjoyed a feast. It did not constitute a Thanksgiving feast by American standards but after three months in Africa it was as good as it got. We had meatloaf, mashed potatoes and gravy, the before mentioned cranberry sauce, green beans, cornbread dressing, deviled eggs, and banana pudding for dessert. We were happy, satisfied, and thankful. As we set on the long simple wooden table and enjoyed our feast I could not help but look at the all cocoa colored faces around the table. Those faces are what we were truly thankful for. There were four precious Ugandan children celebrating their first of many Thanksgiving feasts.

As we enjoyed our day together I thought I would be sad to see my family celebrating with their usual celebration. But I wasn’t. I was right were I wanted to be, I was doing what God had called me to do and that is where I wanted to be, that was home.

I am grateful for our surrogate family that gathered around our table on Thanksgiving. There were no festive decorations, no fancy table linens, no fine china, and no turkey. But there was a family, four perfect children, and love, a lot of love.


Thursday, December 1, 2011

Thanksgiving In Africa: Part 1

About two week prior to Thanksgiving I had hope that we might make it home by the holiday. I was anxious to get home for several reasons. Besides the fact that this trip was dragging out way longer than I had intended a close friend was scheduled to give birth to twin sons the upcoming week. I dearly wanted to be home for this event, before leaving I didn’t imagine in my wildest dreams that I would still be in Africa when the Comstock boys were born. I also just wanted to be home on Thanksgiving.


Thanksgiving is a big holiday for my family more emphasis is often placed on this family gathering than the one at Christmas. It serves as an annual family reunion for my family on my mother’s side. People come from several states and we all only see each other about once a year. It is quite the occasion. If you have ever been to a big southern family Thanksgiving you would know what I mean. If we made it this year there would have been a total of thirty two people. Everyone brings at least one dish making up of at least forty savory and sweet dishes to dig into. After making little pigs of ourselves at my families celebration Chad and I would then cart our crew over to his parent’s house. Their house is just a few miles away and there we would indulge once again in another too large meal with wonderful family. This one is a bit smaller but equally delicious.

A few weeks before the holiday Nancy and I were daydreaming about our favorite Thanksgiving treats. We had both agreed that a pecan pie would be amazing and had put in our order for there to be one present at the family gathering. Daydreaming about your favorite food is something that is difficult to avoid after three months in Africa. We are by no means starving. In fact we are eating quite well but there is something amazing about the food that you grew up with. Comfort food, sometimes you just need a taste of home.

While I still had hopes of making it home before Thanksgiving I committed myself to a day of prayer and fasting during the weekend. I knew that the following Monday could either be a great day or a hard day. The next day we were going to be going to the U.S. embassy to receive an update on our case. We expected to hear that we would either be going home or we would be hanging around a bit longer. I knew that this was an event that I had no control over. God was in control. I need to give my concerns about the upcoming day over to him and trust in his plan.

I joked to Nancy about needing to walk around the embassy seven times. Joshua walked around Jericho once a day for six days. On the seventh day he and his army walked around the city seven times. On the seventh time they blew their horns and the walls came tumbling down. After lightly joking about the idea we decided to prayer walk the embassy. Due to the design of the embassy and very tight security we were not able to walk around the entire compound. We were able to walk in front of the embassy and its gates. We prayer walked in front of the embassy several times over the weekend. We both spent the time praying out loud except for when we passed on of the guards. The guards at the embassy patrol with very large guns thrown over their shoulders. The last thing I wanted was for them to become suspicious of the crazy ladies walking by while talking to themselves.

Sunday night during my bubble bath quiet time I decided not to ask for anything. I had been doing a lot of that lately and thought I would try a different approach. Instead I choose to fill all my bubbles with thanks. I have heard my daughters say “Thank you Mommy.” I could not remember the last time I said “Thank you father.” Leave it to a three year old to put me in my place and teach me what I ought to do. Thank you Father for my precious daughters. Thank you for the food we have in our bellies and the roof we have over our heads. After a bit of time in Africa you realize just how grateful we should be for food and shelter. Thank you God for despite all of my shortcoming you choose me to do this. I know I am messing it up big time, but thank you.

My thank you’s continued from the bathtub to the bed. Sleep for once came quit easy, a rarity for me in Africa. I did not realize at the time but the Lord was changing my heart, drastically for the better. I found joy and peace unlike I had experienced before. I had hoped that the joy and comfort I felt was because I was going to go home. I wanted that so much. But yet once again God had different plans. Better plans that would teach me so much more than my own.

Monday Nancy and I pushed the girls in our two worn out umbrella strollers to the embassy. The walk was as memorable as walking down Gaba road always was. Walking down Gaba Road with two strollers is something that always requires a large amount of prayer. It is walking down a very busy road full of cars and bodas (motorcycle taxis). You walk within five feet of traffic. The cars come by you so close that you feel the wind blow pass you and you pray. This trip we prayed as usual but we also continued our prayer walk in front of the embassy.

When we had our meeting with the Consular at the embassy we did not get the good news I had hoped for. We were told that we should expect to remain in Africa a few more months. A few more months, Really God is that needed. Nancy and both cried before the consular and poured our hearts out to her. The Consular as always remained unshaken and indifferent. Disappointment was visible across our faces. I was grateful to be able to hide my tears behind my sunglasses for the long hot walk back to the house.

I was grateful for the walk back. It gave me some time with my Father. It is amazing how you can find yourself in the hustle and bustle of a big city and yet all be quiet while you have a conversation with the creator of the universe. Okay God, why am I here. What are you doing with me? Please help guide me through this emotional and difficult time. Why me? Why my family? Months, does it really have to take months?

What I realized was that the joy, peace, and comfort I had found did not diminish. It miraculously increased, unexpectedly, and warming my whole being. I was okay with staying in Africa a few more months. I know this sounds crazy and it still does to me. I don’t know how I could be okay, comfortable with the thought of being away from Chad, Sadie, and Nolen for a few more months. The only explanation I had was that it was a gift from above, a much needed gift. I had said yes, God I will do what you have asked me to and he had rewarded me with joy and peace.