One More Step!

This week we received approval of our form I-600, which is the 2nd biggest step in the Uganda adoption process! The first being the court ruling from the Ugandan government that gave us guardianship over Bo. The I-600 approval is basically the results of the US immigration background check over him to make sure he was truly orphaned. We found out, while we were here, that this process could take months or even be sent to the US foreign immigration headquarters in Rome if the case is not clearly approvable!

This approval is what we have been waiting for the last two months! Now we can finally move forward with the VISA application and coming home! Immediately following the I-600 approval we took Bo to the International Organization of Migration (IOM) where he had  a tuberculosis test run and a general physical, which all came back great!

Now we’re down to only ONE STEP! We’ll have an interview for Bo’s travel VISA and hopefully be on our way home!! Let me repeat…we have ONE MORE STEP between us and traveling to the USA!

We’re elated to share this news with everyone, but it also gives us a chance to pause. We pause because the last two months have been filled with the combination of frantic hurry and anxious wait. We also have to pause to reflect on God’s faithfulness to us, because the stress had definitely taken root in the every day life. Worrying about finances, jobs and family during a time when ALL things were out of our control was tough, but God’s faithfulness shines through it all.

We’ve been listening to a lot of worship music lately, praising God for His faithfulness to us. We reflect on singing the song “Oceans” by Hillsong at least a hundred times. We sing the lyrics,

“You call me out upon the waters
The great unknown where feet may fail
And there I find You in the mystery
In oceans deep
My faith will stand

Your grace abounds in deepest waters
Your sovereign hand
Will be my guide
Where feet may fail and fear surrounds me
You've never failed and You won't start now

Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders
Let me walk upon the waters
Wherever You would call me
Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander
And my faith will be made stronger
In the presence of my Savior”

We ask God to take us where our feet may fail and fear surrounds us, but He has not failed, and He won’t start now. These lyrics have taken on a new meaning in our life, because we have stepped into the deepest waters where His Grace has been our sustenance the past 3 months. His grace abounded through the numerous generous donations we received and awesome responses to us selling Uganda marketplace items at the exact moments when we thought we were in trouble. God used each of you through prayers or support to sustain us and increase our faith. Each one of you has been evidence to God’s grace in our lives and we’re forever grateful!

Now we move onto the next, HOPEFULLY LAST, step to heading home! Thank you, thank you thank you!!

Matt

Don't Miss the Big Picture

Leigh and I have been in Uganda for around 2.5 months, of which 1.5 of those have been with our son, Austin Bo (or just Bo). We’ve spent close to ¼, or 25%, of our year in another country. At this point, Leigh and I feel as much Ugandan as we are American. As a result, I think you’d be safe in calling the three of us African Americans!

During our time here, I’ve learned some very important rules/mottos to live by.

Number 1
Shirts are worn 6 days, shorts and pants are worn 4 days, underwear is worn 3-4 days before washing (depending on your daily activity and sweat levels of course), and socks…well, you don’t really wear socks here.

Once you hand wash your clothes 4 times, you decide that the little bit of dirt/sweat isn’t really as bad as you once thought it was.

Number 2

Toothbrushes never get clean of the previous brushings dried toothpaste crust. In Uganda, due to bacteria in the water, you always have to use bottle water for anything that is ingested. As a result, the pressure of pouring water out of a bottle is not sufficient to properly get all of the toothpaste out of your brush and, therefore, crusty toothpaste dries on your toothbrush for the next time you use it. Good news though, you don’t even realize it after the second week in a row.

Number 3

If your skin is mzungu (aka white), never accept the first price at the market or when requesting a boda boda (aka dirt bike). You can always negotiate and ask for a “promotion” or “discount”. Apparently, people here think mzungu’s have lots of money.

Number 4, last but certainly most important

The toilet bowls are shaped a little different. I’m not sure quite what it is, but trust me, they’re different. If it’s number 1, you’re safe, but all other modes need a shift. I’ll leave out the details, but just a forewarning if you ever visit Uganda!

But in all seriousness, it’s been interesting and challenging spending more than 2 months in a foreign country, especially when the country doesn’t have many of the luxuries we left behind in the states. We never thought we would spend this much time or money here, and to be frank, managing our stress levels is a daily battle.

Writing this post today is particularly more for my benefit, as it helps me to express how I’m feeling and what I need to focus on. During my shower tonight, and after a very long few days of building anxiety and stress, I think God answered some of my questions of “how much more.” I began to ask myself, how much is a life worth? Seriously, how much? Is a life worth $40,000, $50,000 or even $100,000? There is NO value on a life.

Fast-forward a year from now and I know I won’t look back on today with regret. I won’t think, “man, what a mistake we made” or “we shouldn’t have stayed those 2 months.” One year from now, or even one month from now, I’ll look back on this experience and say, “Yea…it may have cost a lot, but I would do it all over again 10 times if that’s what it took.” Has it been easy? Absolutely not. Will I ever forget it? Absolutely not. Tonight was good for me, because I realized I lost focus of the “Big Picture” by concentrating on the details. We MUST focus on the big picture and FORGET about the small details. We have one goal, which is to bring home our son. We stay focused on our son, who is awesome by the way (he wore ninja turtles pajamas tonight), because his life cost Jesus the same as my life.

Have a good night everyone!
Matt

48 Days in Kampala, Uganda

If someone had told me a year ago, “you will take your family to the other side of the world, live there for 2 months (mostly without being paid :-/) and come back as a family of three,” I wouldn’t have gone through with it. Not lying, but the financial management person in me says it’s not a fiscally smart idea. My rational thought would have been, "I can't do this with my job and afford it." It sure is a good thing God didn’t fill me in on all of the details, because being a dad is one of the greatest privileges, challenges and reward that I’ve ever experienced. Now I’m sitting here in Uganda for the 48th day with Leigh and our son. I don’t quite know how it happened, where the time has gone or how we’ve survived, but I know that we’re both forever changed by it…and we also wouldn’t change a thing!

I thought it would be fun to give you a quick insight to what it’s like to spend 48 days in Uganda. So far, we’ve lived in a 2-bedroom/2-bath villa style home in Kitebi Village located in Kampala, Uganda. I would estimate that it’s around 1,000 square foot. During our second trip, we’ve shared the villa with another family of 3, which has made things a bit tight, but fun sharing the experience.

Kampala is the most populated city that I’ve ever been to. We’ve heard population estimates that range anywhere from 2.5 million to 4.5 million people in a 73 square mile area. To compare, Greensboro, NC has a population of around 300,000 in a 131 square mile area. Multiply the population of Greensboro by 10 and divide the size by 2 and you get Kampala. Needless to say, there are a lot of people here in Kampala.

Outside our window, we hear the sound of motorcycles (aka boda bodas) or trucks carrying people or goods constantly. Most of the time you hear them because they’re beeping their horns all through the night and all day. Since most of the roads where we live are red dirt, you also have a constant haze of dust and dirt. The open windows combined with the dust from the roads makes it really hard to breathe and get the clean feeling we’re used to in the US, but it’s something that we’ve grown accustom to during our stay.

Our guesthouse has running water, and we’ve had hot water the whole time, with the exception of a very LONG 14 days. Air conditioning in Uganda consists of opening your windows, which means the coolest it will get is around 70 Fahrenheit at the coolest part of night and the normal temperature is around 80 Fahrenheit during the day inside of the house. We sweat quite a bit here. Since the water is not purified like it is in the states, we don’t ingest it. We have to boil any water we use for cooking and use bottled water for things like brushing our teeth and drinking.

Every 2 to 3 days we go into town either to a market or a fancy mall. It is a little costly because we pay for each trip we take, but it has helped us with our homesickness and makes us feel a little more like we’re in the states. It also is a chance for us to have experiences with our son in his birth country. We’ve done things like get ice cream (3 cones for $6 USD) and order fancy coffee drinks (2 mochas and a chocolate milk for $7 USD) but it’s always a struggle on what we should and shouldn’t spend money on since money is on a one way street right now.

All in all, we love our son’s birth country. Although we would love to know the exact plan God has for us and the exact date our son’s visa will be approved to come home, we have to wait for now, trusting that God will provide for us along the way. We pray that we’ll be home soon with our friends and family, but we’ve learned in Uganda that timing is often unknown. Although our patience has dwindled away and our savings is running low, we also know that we will never have this time back with our son. We constantly pray that we live in the moment and trust in God’s timing.

Lastly, we’ll be at the US Embassy tomorrow for our second visit (first was unsuccessful). Please pray that our case will be started and the files we need are in hand. Our appointment starts at 10 am Ugandan time, or 3 am Eastern Standard Time.

Thanks folks!
Matt
Phil 1:6 And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ

U-Gan-Dua It

A day-by-day guide of our last 5 CRAZY days!

Tuesday August 9, 2016
The last week has been one of the most energetic, emotional, joyful and stressful (all at the same time) weeks of our lives. We received our final written court ruling on Tuesday that gave us final guardianship over our son Austin Kirabo. The final written ruling allows us to request an appointment with our US Embassy here in Uganda that will start the US visa process to allow Austin to come back into the States! So needless to say, we’re on the last leg of getting him home!

Wednesday August 10, 2016
We officially sent our request for an appointment with the US Embassy on Wednesday and heard back on Thursday that we were scheduled to be at the Embassy in Uganda on Monday August 15th. To put this into perspective, we had anticipated a 2-week appointment notice once we sent the request, so needless to say this sent us in a little bit of a frenzy. #WhateverItTakes

Thursday August 11, 2016
After receiving and confirming the appointment Thursday, we began booking flights for Friday and scheduling accommodations for Saturday night since the flight and time difference add to around 31 hours (we essentially skip a day). We stayed up until 2 am Thursday night packing our bags for an unknown amount of time, and left out Friday at 12:30 pm. We MADE it and God provided just enough grace for us not to get in any fights along the way or have any (major) panic attacks.

Saturday August 13, 2016
Our flights went well and we were able to get into Uganda at 10:30 pm on Saturday night. We ate 5 straight microwave meals (aka microwave chicken mush) on an airplane and slept close to 5 hours over the flight time, which was great because we didn’t get that much sleep on the previous trips. The biggest reason was due to being in the economy “comfort” section on our final leg to Uganda from Amsterdam. I’m not sure how this happened because we didn't pay extra, but God once again provided, and we had a little extra leg room and recline to our chairs for this flight. We stopped and prayed immediately giving thanks to the giver of all good things!!!

Sunday August 14, 2016
On Sunday, we woke up at 8 am (after getting settled into our guest house at 12:30 am) to get our hands on the final, official paperwork. What a great sigh of relief this was for us as we saw the fruit of our labor and were able to praise God for His faithfulness and goodness to us. Our current trip has allowed us to stay at a guesthouse with another family adopting from the same babies home. They are from Tennessee and have been a huge blessing to us. You take for granted that in America everyone speaks English 100% of the time, so it’s nice when you have someone to talk to without anything being lost in translation. We’re excited to share this time with them and have enjoyed their family, including their daughter who was previously adopted from China! They have helped us answer lots of "adoption" parenting questions already!

After receiving our final paperwork and being deemed Austin’s official guardians, we were able to keep him and take hime outside of the babies home! This is a huge deal for us because our family can officially start our lives together. No more dropping him off at the babies home and we’re 100% full-time mommy and daddy. What a blessing this has been to us. Leigh and I have learned how impatient we can be and how to love unconditionally (still learning). We’re tired, moody and grumpy, yet we’re learning how to not let our circumstances change our love for and towards him. The goodness of the Gospel keeps us moving forward to love and cherish him through the spouts of crying.

Monday August 15, 2016
I’ll keep this short because it’s getting long, but the fast turnaround with the appointment not only affected us, but also some of our paperwork. Unfortunately, there was an error on one of Austin’s original documents that the Embassy required and there wasn’t time to get a new corrected one issued. We showed up to the appointment to see what could be done, however, we were unable to do anything without the one document. As a result, Leigh and I, along with Austin :-), are waiting for that document before requesting a new appointment. Our prayers continue to be that we get the corrected document and we’re seen by the Embassy soon. We’re praying that God would open the floodgates and get our family home soon! As for now, we remain patient in God’s timing and His provision. Although we’re disappointed, we press on with our family that can finally begin as a unit!

Tuesday August 16, 2016
After the disappointing day Monday, we decided to take our first trip out as a family. When you don’t have a car in an unknown place, what do you do, call for an Uber?? EXACTLY! We took our first Uber car ride in Uganda. It was a great experience and the drivers were very friendly and nice too. We went grocery shopping and to lunch for the first time all by ourselves as a family. To celebrate, Austin had hot chocolate, a chicken quesadilla and fries (see hot chocolate experience above). Mom and Dad had a caramel mocha and chicken (I know it sounds weird, but when you get offered a specialty coffee drink in Uganda, you don't turn it down)! After finishing, dad was playing with Austin and spilled the hot chocolate all over the table and down Austin’s leg. Instead of getting mad, we just laughed and made memories, because that’s what families do (at least this one time)!

Sorry for the long blog, but I wanted to give an update of our last 5 days, which seems like a month! We’re going on 33 days of being in Uganda (Trip 1-28 and Trip 2-5, but we’re loving every bit of it, especially now with our son. Please keep praying for us, because we’ve seen God do things that only He can do since we’ve been here. It’s been an amazing testimony of His goodness and built our trust in Him more than it could have ever been otherwise.

Praying that the next blog will be GREAT news!!
Matt and Leigh

Winding Down our first trip to Uganda

With mixed emotions, Leigh and I will be heading back to the States after a wonderful month spent in Uganda mostly with our son and learning his birth culture. We are ready to be home, but not without our son. We have visited sites and attractions like the Kingdom of Buganda, Entebbe Zoo, Buganda Parliament, the Equator and African cultural dance shows while also getting to take our first professional “family” photo at a local photography studio, having our first “family” meal and spending two full days at court with him. After a lot of prayer, Leigh and I decided to return to wait on document processing while our son's guardianship and travel approvals are being finalized. We’re not sure how much time these things will take, so we feel that it will be best to return to work in the states, hopefully for a brief period of time, and then return to pick up our son after finalization!!

We leave tomorrow, Monday, July 25 2016 and will be back Tuesday after a short 26 hours of travel time. Although it will be very difficult to leave our son here, we cling to the promise that Jesus called us to be this child’s parents long before we ever considered adoption. Jesus led caretakers to find him when he was orphaned at around 1 year old, and Jesus has taken care of him for the past year at the babies home in Uganda. Our confidence now lies in that Jesus will care for him over the coming months, or hopefully weeks, as we wait for the appropriate process to be completed. If Jesus has brought him (and us) this far, how can we put our trust in anything other than what He’s already done? Our family, including our son :-), covets your prayers as we’re on this last “leg” of the process. We’re thankful for all of the generosity of our friends and family who have supported us. Your financial generosity has allowed us to take one month off of work to spend fighting for and bonding with our son. We could not have stayed here this long without you all.

Lastly, tomorrow is our day to hopefully receive our “verbal” court ruling. We’re praying for big things and that we can finally “show off” the fruit of your help and God’s faithfulness. We pray that we will be able to show the world our amazing son knowing that you’ll fall in love with him just as we already have!

Love,
Matt and Leigh

1 Thessalonians 5:23-25
Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it. Brothers, pray for us.

Reflections from Court Day (Part two) and three weeks in Uganda

Some of you may be thinking, “it feels like Matt and Leigh have been in Uganda forever” and I wanted you to know that you’re right! It sure does feel that way and we miss our friends and family (including Mallie, our dog) back home. It seems like so much has happened and it really doesn’t even get mentioned here. Being away from the media and primarily seeing my Facebook newsfeed has also reminded me that we all long for our “home” that God created for us. Whether realized or not, we’re longing for the garden that God created and will one day bring again. As Christian families, our lifestyle of worship should point to that future home, where there will be no more orphans, hate, pain, mourning, sorrow, etc.

Now moving to court day part two :-)…Just a warning, this may be long, but I want to capture as many details as I can knowing that one day our son may read this wanting to know about his story. Our day started around 7:30 am. Leigh and I both got up to get ready before going to get our son ready. It’s a little tricky because we have to get ready just enough to go, but can’t put on our court clothes until we walk over to the babies home to get our son showered, dressed, fed and ready. Once he’s all ready, we bring him back over to the guesthouse to get our court clothes on. We were ready and left around 11 am. Our son and I were dressed up in suits and Leigh had on a beautiful blue dress.

Our plan was that we would go to a nearby mall to play around in a kids play space before court, but we were running a little behind so we decided to just walk around in the mall for a few minutes. As we were walking around the mall, you could see his eyes get big and he wouldn’t let go of our hands. There were waterfall fountains, bright store-front signs and all sorts of things he had never seen before. You could tell quickly that he was experiencing sensory overload, but it was good.

We bought a few juice boxes (guava and mango of course) and other things at a store in the mall and then headed over to the court offices around 1 pm. Now what’s interesting about the court is that it also serves as the jail. As you walk in, you are greeted by police officers holding assault rifles that check your bags and scan you with a metal detector before you can enter. This made our first visit to the court a little intimidating, but since this was our third visit, we were almost on a first name basis. One of the prison guards even wanted to bring me some “good” African rice the following day if we were going to be there, yet again demonstrating the kindness and generosity of all of the people here.

The process of the court is to arrive and wait. From our knowledge, everyone arrives at the same time, 1 pm, with the potential for being called into the judge’s quarters at 2 pm. You never know when you’ll be called, but you have to be there in case you are because you don’t want to miss being called. Unlike the first day where we saw at least several families, we were the only family today. This was probably a bad thing for us mentally, because at times we were wondering if we had arrived on the wrong day or if the judge was even here. We were all by ourselves and there really wasn’t a lot of activity going on in the court.

Around 5 pm, one of the court officials starts talking to Leigh and tells her that the judge was there and we were definitely going to be seen today. What an answer to prayer this was for us as we were really getting discouraged. Immediately our hearts were filled with joy and a new optimism came over us. We had been sitting outside with a 2 year old for around 4.5 hours. Our patience was wearing thin to say the least. We sat and waited inside for 1.5 hour and then it happened. Our attorney came out of the chambers upstairs and frantically waived us to walk up. It just got real for us. I ran outside to get Joseph, Leigh grabbed our son, and our hearts were racing as we walked up the stairs to the judges office.

I won’t go into much detail of what happened inside the office, but I felt like it went very well. Your prayers covered our family and God poured out His grace over us. Our son was asleep during the entire hearing and he even started snoring at one point, but I was sure not to wake him up. We don’t have a concrete ruling yet, but the judge asked our attorney to come back Monday July 25th to get a verbal ruling, or court order. This will be the day for us. Please continue to pray this week for the court order coming up next Monday. Such a big step in the process and we’re pleading with God on behalf of our son. It was another great day as a family, and now we’re just praying for a successful ruling to make our family official. We love you all and hope to see you soon :-)

Matt and Leigh
Hebrews 4:14-16
Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

Reflections from court and 2 weeks in Uganda

What a great time Leigh and I are having in Uganda spending time with and getting to know our son! The first week went very slowly, probably because of the jetlag, and the second went by in the blink of an eye! We have really been pampered while we’re here. Our great friend, Joseph Agape Uganda, and his wife Gladys (you can follow them on Facebook) have brought us into their family and treated us great. The people of Uganda have two greetings for us…one is “Hello, how are you”, while the other is, “Mzungu, Mzungu.” Mzungu literally means, “someone who roams around aimlessly,” yet now it has turned into “White skin”. Apparently, white people did not know how to embrace the laid back atmosphere of the Ugandan people, so they ran around aimlessly like chicken’s with their heads cut off! This story has led to the fact that everyone points their finger at us yelling, Mzungu!! Mzungu!!! But it’s really funny and we’ve embraced our Mzungu name.

So today was our court date, July 8th 2016. We were scheduled to arrive at court around 1 pm in the afternoon and thought we would be one of the first cases to proceed. We were running a little late, because we were obviously on “Ugandan” time and not “Mzungu” time, so we took our son to get some food, scarfed it down quickly and rushed off to court to get there right at 1 pm.

I’ll start off by saying today was probably the best day we’ve had in Uganda. Mainly because two really awesome things happened today.

First, we were finally able to spend the first day with our son by himself outside of the orphanage and what a blast that was. We had 2 family meals (Joseph was included of course), but we ate at 2 of the swankiest restaurants in Kampala with our 2 ½ year old son! He did great in both. We ordered him a quesadilla kids meal in one and he shared with us in the second. Both cases he sat down and ate like a champion without making a big mess or scene! We hope that continues when we decide to take him to our favorite spots back home too.

As we were waiting for our court hearing, our son waited patiently for over 5 ½ hours. He even fell asleep in Leigh’s arms, which was one of the sweetest pictures we have from the time here so far. The time spent away from the orphanage today felt like we moved forward years in trust and love for our relationship. Some of the best things are when he copies our whisper; “I love you” to “I wuv eww” back at us.

Second awesome thing from today was that we actually saw someone we know in UGANDA! That’s right, we got to hang out with some of our friends from church who are also in the process of adopting 3 little ones. We got to spend the day with a familiar face, which is really nice when you don’t see too many from day to day. We also got to see that our son will be able to grow up with other children from Uganda!!! We are so excited and are praying that they will become great friends over the years. We love our church and are thankful for the focus on global orphan care. We can’t wait to see them back in Greensboro and will make sure to bring our families together.

If your first thought was that we were granted guardianship from the judge immediately that would’ve been awesome, but it didn’t happen today. We actually didn’t even meet with the judge today. No families saw the judge today because of other meetings, so our case was moved back to July 18th.  Yes, it’s unfortunate that it happened, but we had such a great day with our son, 10 more days really didn’t seem to matter in the big scheme of things. It was our first day out as a family. We had all sorts of snacks, books and games packed. It couldn’t have gone any better. 

Golf Tournament Success, Let's go meet our son!!

As I sit here in the Atlanta airport, I thought I would provide a really quick update on the tournament results and how our expectations were blown away. First off, I can’t start a post about the golf tournament without talking about our volunteers. We were overwhelmed with support from them. We are humbled and grateful how our family and friends showed up in droves to support our son and us. There is ABSOLUTELY no way we could have pulled something like this off without you.

Second, congratulations to Adam Meyers, the new owner of a YETI cooler! Adam and his new bride, Shelby, are a special couple to us.  We were introduced to them a couple of months ago when we started a marriage mentorship with them to start off their marriage. Don’t worry though, we gave them enough knowledge to get their marriage through at least 2 months without meeting, so they should be able to make it until we get back J. They’re a great couple and it couldn’t have happened to them at a better time! Happy Marriage to you!

Last but not least, we spent several HOURS trying to count the total funds we were able to raise through this event. By God’s grace, we raised over $6,000 total!!! You guys are amazing. I was counting it out and became overwhelmed by how generous everyone has been to our family. We can’t thank everyone enough for your help. Seriously…I (even though I’ve been an emotional wreck lately) just started crying as I was adding up how much we raised for our son. I stopped several times through the process to thank God for providing. He called us to this, and He has carried us here. Our weaknesses are nothing compared to His grace.

This will be our last blog post before Africa. We’ll try to keep it updated as we can, but more importantly, we’ll be spending time with our son. We cannot wait!!!

Thessalonians 5:23-25
Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it. Brothers, pray for us.

 

Praise Jesus!

I have to say it’s been a whirlwind of a few months. After five years of praying that God would make us parents, we’re (hopefully) a few months from declaring God’s faithfulness to those prayers from us, as well as many of our closest friends and family.

Today was a huge day in the life of the Watts family. After all of the long nights of paperwork, the numerous fingerprint appointments, and a handful of visits to the doctor, we received a call today. Our paperwork had been reviewed and we’re scheduled to go to Uganda!! I’ll be honest that we’ve somewhat known this was coming over the past few weeks, but we haven’t been able to give out much information. I’ll compare it to the dating cycle. Leigh and I had talked about marriage while we were dating, but walking into a ring store and handing over a big sum of cash was taking it to the next level. Before it was just an idea, buying the ring made it real!  Folks, we’ve renewed our passports, received a plate full of shots and purchased our plane tickets. We’re headed to Uganda to meet our Son!

God has been so faithful to us in our journey to become parents. We’re thankful for that journey because we have learned things about Him that we would not have learned had we had a different story. It may not have been easy, but it was God’s plan for us, and we’re excited to keep watching it unfold!

 

If you're in the area on June 25th, come on out, spend lots of money on our silent auctions, eat lots of FREE ice cream and buy lots of YETI Cooler raffle tickets! These will help get us back to the States! Baby Watts says thank you! ;-)

Attitude of Gratitude

Since announcing our golf tournament, Leigh and I, along with our great friend Mackenzie, have been scouring Greensboro and High Point to find sponsors and donors to support us through awesome prizes, food at a very generous cost and items for our silent auction that will ultimately help bring us more funding to adopt our child! Plus we want everyone to have a great time at the golf tournament.

The only thing about this concept is that I’m not the best at asking for things. And when I say that I’m not the best, it’s pretty clear that I’m actually terrible at it.  It usually ends up in this sort of awkward, very little eye contact, conversation that ends with, “please don’t feel like you have to give because there are so many other great things you could give to.” At this point, if the person is still standing there, I’m pretty sure they think I just made up some story and they’re ready to go give to the Salvation Army.

I started wondering why it’s so hard for me to ask for things, especially over the last couple of days of having multiple awkward conversations. Most everyone who knows me knows that I grew up on a blueberry farm, which taught me the idea of hard work and pride in your work ethic. Even though some of my dislike towards asking for help comes from my surroundings growing up, I think it is probably more deeply rooted for every human in sin, or imperfection. Asking for help in general means that I’m incapable of doing something or that I don’t have everything under control, which I don’t think anyone enjoys admitting.

In the Gospel, God saw my need for help and provided a way to his perfection through Jesus on the cross. Jesus’s perfect life, traded for my imperfect life. The trade requires humility, because you can’t earn it and therefore you can’t take credit for it. Which is what I’ve learned through this fundraising process. We’re still working hard and hustling, but grace has covered us completely through generosity at levels far beyond what I deserve! It has been unbelievable the generosity, support and donations we’ve received so far. The best part of all is realizing I don’t deserve any of this favor, but God enjoys pouring out to His kids, just like any father likes showering their kids with gifts on Christmas morning! Lastly, since I can’t take credit for what’s going on, I get to point back to Jesus as He continuously does things that I can’t understand and didn’t do anything to deserve in the first place.

Thank you all for your support, encouragement and prayers as we walk through this process. We’ll work to get the multiple golf tournament sponsors on the site this week and if you know of any new sponsors, let us know!

Until next time,

Matt

Confidence in This

I guess it’s been a while since we’ve posted on the site, so we wanted to make sure everyone knew we were still alive and kicking. I was pondering whether an update is really an update if your update is to inform everyone that not much has happened, but it feels like a lot has happened!

 

We have seen God’s timing in ways that have strengthened my faith more than I can describe, which I hopefully can explain in more detail at a later point in time.  But the waiting and unknown is still really hard. I’m reminded of David’s confidence in the middle of hard circumstances when he writes in Psalm 27:13-14:

 

I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.

 

So this is where my confidence stands, and where it has always stood, “in seeing the goodness of the Lord.” God is a good father and good fathers have good intentions for their children.

 

To end the update, we continue to stand strong in His goodness. Our only instruction in the verses is to “be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord,” so as of right now, that’s what we’ll do.

 

Many of you have let us know that you’re praying for us and continued to wear your shirts every time we see you. We appreciate your support and feel your prayers daily. We’ve also seen evidence of answered prayers, in BIG ways. Please continue to pray with us for our child, who God has already picked out, and our hearts, that we would be ready to unconditionally and unselfishly give our lives to.

 

Thanks guys and hopefully we’ll have more to come shortly :-)

Matt

What do these “stones” (pictures) mean?

Leigh and I have thoroughly enjoyed looking at everyone’s pictures they’ve posted on social media for the #HeFirstLovedUs day! We will forever be thankful for everyone’s support and love during this process!

 

The thought behind #HeFirstLovedUs day came from the Bible in Joshua chapter 3 and chapter 4.  In Joshua 3, God dried up the Jordan River so that Joshua could take the Israelites to the land God had promised them. After Joshua led them (on dry land) through the Jordan River, God told Joshua, “take 12 stones from here, out of the midst of the Jordan…bring them over with you and lay them down in the place where you lodge tonight” (Joshua 4:3).

 

Moving further down, Joshua 4:21 says, “When your children ask their fathers in times to come, ‘What do these stones mean?’ then you can let your children know…God dried up the waters of the Jordan for you until you passed through.”

 

I am quick to forget God’s grace in my life and how He fulfills His promises to me. There’s no doubt, as time goes on and as parenting gets tough, I will forget of God’s faithfulness to Leigh and I as we have journeyed through this process. That’s why #HeFirstLovedUs day is so important to us! These pictures are memory “stones” for us.

 

We plan to take all these pictures, frame them, and hang the framed picture in our child’s room.  When they ask us, “Mom, Dad…who are these people in this picture…” We’ll be able to say, “These are our memory stones. God used all these people to help us as we were working so hard to bring you home to us. God was faithful to us as He brought you into our lives. We keep these pictures to remind us of how many people God used to get you here. We love these people, and we don’t want to forget God’s grace and faithfulness through them.”

 

Thanks again to everyone for allowing us to create memory stones! I hope it encourages you to create memory stones of your own. We’ll keep collecting pictures and compile them in the next month or two. As more people are buying shirts daily, we want to make sure everyone gets included in the “memory stone” collage.  We’re so excited to pull this all together!

 

We Love You ALL!

Matt and Leigh

Our First “E”vent!!

#HeFirstLovedUs

Hey Folks, we’re excited to announce our first event!  We have so many awesome ideas for events, such as a dodgeball tournament and 5K or 10K race, and hopefully we can get them going soon because so many people have expressed interest!

Our first event will actually be an “E” event (“E” for electronic) on social media. We have had such an AWESOME response to donations and selling t-shirts that we wanted to capture the support of everyone.

To rehash, we’ve gotten support all over the country and donations have come in like crazy! We’ve sold over 110 shirts stretching across the United States. Our shirts are in the following states:

Massachusetts

Minnesota

North Carolina

South Carolina

Tennessee

Virginia

West Virginia

 

That represents almost 10% of the country (let me know if I left your state out). We are completely humbled by the support that we’ve received from family, friends and people we don’t even know firsthand! With that in mind, I wanted to figure out a way to remember this support from everyone and capture it.

So here’s the announcement and I’ll cut to the chase.  We are asking everyone who has supported us through a shirt purchase to post a picture of yourself and your family wearing the shirt on Facebook on Sunday, February 14th 2016 (LOVE day!!!). When you post the picture, make sure to include the caption #HeFirstLovedUs (see example below :-) ). This will let us search for #HeFirstLovedUs and find your picture.  We will then collect all of the pictures and create a collage of photos and frame the picture for our home! I’m so excited about this as I’m even writing it!

 #HEFIRSTLOVEDUS

#HEFIRSTLOVEDUS

For those of you who may have made a donation, but didn’t purchase a shirt, FEAR NOT, because we have a plan! Instead of have a normal border to the frame, the border of the frame will be the names of everyone who has made a donation, purchased a shirt or supported us along the way!


Check out the summary details on our “Events” page.


Thanks again, we love you guys!

Matt and Leigh

Happy New Year!

Hey Y'ALL, we’ve been REALLY busy working on paperwork and haven’t been able to work too much on the blog, but I’ll give a quick update. 

 

-Leigh and I have both submitted our fingerprints! We’re now on “the list” and hopefully we can get these things back soon.

-We have 1 more home study visit, 2 health screenings and only a couple of forms left to finish our home study process.  We hope to have this process finished by the end of the month or soon after (January)!!

-We just received our international paperwork this week!  We’re so excited to start this work (funny, right?) and process of making lots and lots of notarized copies.  Most of this paperwork will be tracking down multiple copies of original birth and marriage certificates and other obscure certificates.

-Lastly, we just updated our support and fundraising chart on the home page!!  I can’t begin to tell you how God has poured out His grace through everyone who has made donations to us or bought a T-shirt!  I’m not kidding in that, every time Satan has tried to discourage or frustrate us, God has provided a significant donation or big T-Shirt order in the same day!  God’s grace has proven more real than ever in our lives as a result of following the call to adopt and allowing “God to draw us from the shore into the waves” (You Make Me Brave - Bethel Music).

Your support humbles us daily and provides the grace in our lives to continue stronger!

P.S. We STILL have T-SHIRTS…Come get them while they last!

 

Until next time…

Merry Christmas from the Watts Family

Leigh and I are officially off work for the next few days to celebrate Christmas.  I’m anticipating fun times with family and being able to reflect on how God came to earth to meet us face to face, in human flesh, in the person of Jesus.  This Christmas is different though. All the Christmas shopping is done, and I finally had time to slow down and think.

As I was driving home today on Christmas Eve, I started to realize that there is a high likelihood that my son or daughter is alive in the world, and celebrating Christmas without us.  My heart sank in my chest. As we’re about to embark on opening tons of gifts, eating lots of food and being surrounded by all sorts of excitement, there is a high probability that our son or daughter is in another country celebrating Christmas without us. I started thinking about all the things I’m getting for Christmas (or at least I think I am ;-)). Then I started to wonder what he or she is getting.  Will my child be getting a mosquito net to protect him or her from malaria? Will they be getting a Samaritans purse shoebox that so many people so generously donated?  Only God knows the answers to these questions, but the one thing I can’t stop thinking of is how I eagerly wait and long to see my child and shower them with gifts and love during Christmas time (and all year), yet someone else is doing that for them this year.  Now don’t get me wrong, I’m extremely thankful that someone is momentarily taking care of my child, but I oh how I wish it were us.

I then started to think about God, and how He longs to care for His children just the way I have this longing to care for mine. I can’t help but get emotional as I think about His love for me as He eagerly awaits to come back to get me and finalize my adoption to Him. I also realize that my child has no clue what it will be like that day, just as I (even though I sometimes think I know) have no ability to imagine the intensity and love that will be poured out on the day Jesus takes me home with Him.

We’re overwhelmed with excitement in the adoption process, but we’re also yearning to meet our child and have our first Christmas together, to celebrate Jesus’s birth and our bridge way into God’s family. 

Your support continues to amaze and pour out grace over our lives! If you come across this and have a second, please join us in praying for our son or daughter, wherever they are, as they’re celebrating the birth of Jesus!

 

Merry Christmas from our family to yours!

Updates, News and T-Shirts!

So this week was a milestone week for us in the adoption process.  This week ranks right up there with completing our adoption application, the excitement around telling our family and friends and the announcement of our website! 

Earlier this week, we were able to have dinner with our adoption coordinator, some other families in the Uganda adoption process and one of the Ugandan orphanage directors!  This excited us because we got to first meet him on October 29th and we really enjoyed our time getting to talk to him. Our first meeting with him also validated our prayers and feelings around God’s calling us to adopt from Uganda. Our Ugandan friend’s name is Joseph.  Check out his Facebook page under Joseph Agape Uganda if you’d like and support his orphanage through http://agapeuganda.org.  Joseph is back in Uganda now, but we can’t wait to get over there and see him again at his orphanage.

Tonight, Thursday, December 3, 2015, we were able to turn in almost 80%-90% of our home study paperwork.  This really starts the process for our assigned social worker to come out to our house, conduct interviews and hopefully approve us to become parents. We’re very excited about this!  Apparently, Leigh and I finished the paperwork unusually fast (around 1.5 weeks), but we were blessed to have a Thanksgiving break that gave us a couple days off to work on and finish a substantial piece of it. In any event, this is a big step in the process that we’re excited to check off. 

Last, but definitely not least, the T-Shirts!  So many of you have ordered your shirts and we’ve been working hard to get the screen-printing worked out, so I’m pretty sure we could have them as soon as tomorrow, Friday December 4th. We are THRILLED to see how they come out! Anyways, for those of you who have already ordered your shirts, we should be able to begin shipping them out by Monday, December 7th or Tuesday December 8th at the latest! We’ll also be carrying them around for a while, just in case we run into anyone who wants one!  Once we get them in, I’ll post some pictures of us wearing them and I’ll probably be wearing them all weekend!

I wanted to thank everyone again for their support.  We’re working on setting up a "goal and donations tracker" on our site and may be able to have it up this weekend. Just to update everyone, in a little less than 2 weeks, we’ve already received close to $1,000 in donations and shirt purchases!  We’re so grateful and thankful for our friends, family and coworkers.  God continues to pour out His never-ending grace through you.  Even though we still have a long way to go, we see God already working to achieve our goal to bring home our child!

Thankful for the WAIT

As we’re winding down our Thanksgiving weekend and festivities with family, we wanted to take a second to reflect on what we’re thankful for.  This is something 4 years ago we would never have thought we would have been thankful for.  We can both say now that we are thankful for the WAIT.  Through 4 years of struggles with infertility, rigorous doctor visits and getting no response to the question why, we never thought that we would look back and thank God for that season in life. It was only around 4 to 5 months ago that we gained more insight into our adoption into God’s family. We knew it, but we didn’t KNOW it.  We knew that we were adopted into God’s family, but did we fully understand to what depths we were adopted into God’s family. Until committing to the earthly adoption process, we don’t know that this truth was fully appreciated.

 

The verses in Ephesians 1:4-6 and the theme of adoption have never been so clear for us. 

 

It says, “For He chose us in Him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in His sight. In love He predestined us for adoption to Sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with His pleasure and will— to the praise of His glorious grace, which He has freely given us in the One He loves.”

 

We are sons of God, brothers and sisters of Jesus and included in God’s family. Whether you’re a male Christian or female Christian, you’re adopted into sonship. Sonship is important because sons receive their parent’s inheritance. Leigh and I will have an adopted child one day. Just like God see’s us as HIS own, we will see our child as our own. They will no longer be “unclaimed,” because we have claimed them.  God has claimed us.  He has stamped his name on our foreheads, just like we will stamp Watts on our child’s last name. 

 

After realizing the truths of Ephesians 1:4-6, we are thankful that God made us wait.  Had we not waited, we may not have fully understood the depths of our adoption into God’s family.  To the Christian, we are all brothers and sisters in Christ, because God has adopted us into his family.  No other family has such high meaning and purpose in our lives. So now, with 100% confidence, we can both say…we’re thankful for the wait.

P.S. We're also thankful for Mallie, our Dog-ter, so we added a picture of her under our Christmas tree! 

 

Where in the world are we in the ADOPTION process?

First of all, we can’t begin to describe the level of support and encouragement that we have gotten from our friends and family since we made our announcement that we're adopting. After making the announcement, it was hard to respond to anything on social media because it was really humbling to see everyone's support. I was able to sit back and take in all of the comments, “likes”, and donations that seemed to already come rolling in! I thought I could take a day, thinking that I could gather all my thoughts and feelings around what just happened, but I still can’t explain it. The only thing I know is that God continues to prove His faithfulness to us and remind Leigh and me that His grace never runs out.

So here we are.  It may not have been clear from the original post, but we have been accepted to the Uganda program as of last Saturday, November 14th.  We have begun the WiLd and cRaZy paperwork process. Our first step (within the paperwork process) is preparing for our home study, which can usually take a couple of months, and next comes the dossier (dose-E-A <--Maybe that helps). The dossier is essentially the paperwork requirements from the international country.  However, the good news is that a lot of these steps can be going on simultaneously, which is great! 

All in, we think the timeline can be anywhere from 10-18 months between now and when we will have our child. That is what we are praying for, and we’re going to be feverishly working through paperwork. Please join us in praying for this process to go smoothly and quickly, and for our hearts to grow in love for our child along the way.

Welcome to our Blog

We can hardly believe this day has finally come. It kind of feels surreal to us. Over the last four years, Leigh and I could only dream and imagine of what this day would be like and feel like. The day that we could finally tell the world that our family will be expanding by 2 feet!  Forty-eight months ago (November 2011), Leigh and I began our journey to expand our family.  Forty-eight months of prayer. Forty-eight months of what felt like an emotional roller coaster that reached the highest highs and the lowest lows. However, forty-eight months is why we can celebrate our God, who is good, who is faithful and whom we learned that we can always trust through any and every situation.

Over the last 5 months, God has so graciously provided for us in ways that we can’t understand, and has forever proven His GLORIOUS GRACE to us. Numerous people have provided in ways we are eternally grateful…the creation of this website (which is much harder than I ever thought or imagined), the pictures within this website, the T-shirt design, the Africa cutout in our pictures, numerous people donating time and energy into coffee dates to help us understand the adoption process, family members who have graciously supported us ever since we have told them and the orphan care ministry at our church that helped us realize that God calls all Christians to care for the orphan.

Lastly, we thank all of the families that have gone before us in their adoption process.  Although you may not even know us, we see you.  We see your families and we see God’s grace through your love for each other. We see that all of your children are "your own", even though some have been through birth and some have been through adoption. We see that you realize that you were first adopted into God's family, and He sees you as "his own." You have blessed us and we love you. We pray that we can be the same to families that come after us as we all care for the orphan!