The day our lives changed forever, as we looked our precious baby boy in the eye for the very first time. He is the answer to our prayers, our “immeasurably more”.
This is our story.
This is our life.
This is Ours To Love.
May 9,2013. The day we boarded a Delta flight out of Tampa, Florida headed to Entebbe, Uganda to meet our baby!! The morning of May 9th we woke up around 8am (we aren’t early risers) and began getting ready and packing some last minute items as we waited for our friend Brandi to come pick us up and take us to the airport. We headed out around 10am with 5 checked bags, 2 backpacks, 1 rolling carry on, and of course 2 pillows.
Once we arrived at the airport we got all checked in and we were off to our gate!
The adoption process was definitely the biggest stretching God had ever done in our lives! And the blessing was equally as great!
After a quick layover at JFK we were on our way to Amsterdam!
Our flights and layover in Amsterdam were smooth and we arrived in Uganda around midnight on May 10th. As we drove through the city of Kampala in the middle of the night we tried to take in all the sites and smells we could. We arrived at the guest house, got settled in our room, and did a little unpacking before heading to bed for a few hours! It was so hard to sleep knowing that our baby was in that city less than 20 minutes from us! However, we were so exhausted from barely napping on the plane that we were able to get some good rest that night. And it’s a good thing we were able to rest because on the morning of May 11th our lives changed forever!
The Monday after our baby shower I was sitting on the floor of Mace’s room, as one of my BFF’s and I went through all of his gifts, and I remember telling her… “We are through ARC Conference, our 30th birthdays, Easter, and the Baby Shower, now it’s time to go get Mace!” You see those were all things that we knew we had to take care of before we left for Uganda. And starting in May we had planned to be in Uganda so we hadn’t made any other solid plans after the end of April. Well wouldn’t you know that God is such a good and humorous God that not 24 hours after making that statement we got the call saying we had a court date!
It was Tuesday April 30th and I was having breakfast at the beach with the lovely ladies below. We were celebrating that two of them were moving on to other awesome jobs that God had for them, and two of them were taking their place on our ACME staff. We had such an awesome morning at the beach enjoying the view and each other, and while this picture was being taken I missed a phone call from Sharon, our adoption agent. :)
As we walked to the parking lot I saw that I had a message from her. With the girls standing around and speaker phone on we listened to this message… “Hey April, it’s Sharon Bradshaw. It’s about 11:30 on Tuesday. Give me a call. I have some big news. Ok. Bye.”
So yeah, we kind of assumed we knew what that Big News was!! So I quickly called her back and one of the girls snapped the pic below while I was on the phone with Sharon. She was calling to tell us that we had a court date!! On May 16th!! And that we needed to be in Uganda by May 10th!! That meant we needed to leave in 9 short days! We were so excited and as I drove back to the office I called Luke to tell him the good news! That day started the 9 day countdown to flying to Uganda, and we had A LOT to do in 9 days! Flights to book, packing to finish, work to wrap up! The countdown had begun and we were going to get our baby!
I have always loved parties and baby showers, and have loved throwing baby showers for my friends throughout the years. On Saturday April 27, 2013 my incredible friends threw me the worlds best baby shower to celebrate our little Mace, complete with all of my favorite people and things!
The girls chose a story book theme, because of my love for children’s books! And of course it was in the morning with lots of delicious breakfast food, my favorite meal of the day!
My incredible friend Nikki made this stunning cake, of 3 books stacked up, and also wrote me the most incredible poem that she read at the shower! This girl is multi talented and a true jewel!
A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away
Is not where our story begins today.
Instead it starts in the Sunshine State
With a girl and a boy who began to date.
They soon fell in love and then they got married
Even then at that time, in their hearts you were carried.
Daddy played music, Mommy made rooms pretty
They were apart a lot while he travelled city to city.
Then they both felt a call to be in kids’ ministry
And knew it was time to expand their family
They heard about people loving children in Africa
And they wanted to bring a baby back to America.
About the same time a little boy was found
Near a banana plantation by himself on the ground.
A wonderful lady named Robinah came by
And took him into her home so that he would not cry.
She could not keep him, and that is why
He went to the orphanage where he was not shy.
He was very happy and the nuns loved him there
They knew he was special, and the answer to prayer.
Early one morning, Mom and Dad got a call
That a baby boy so precious and small
Was waiting for them to come and take home.
But this is not the end of our poem
The most important part of this story is yet to be told
Because Mace, you are this boy and you break the mold.
Long before God made us or the earth
He planned you and your incredible birth.
He knew your family would be living here
Along with many friends that love you so dear.
Your mom and your dad are amazing and strong
Forever and always to them you belong.
We prayed for you before, we still pray now
God’s promise is sure and that is how
We know you’ll grow into a strong man some day,
And reflect God’s glory along the way.
Some of my favorite elements of the day where the Globe that everyone signed with messages to Luke, Mace, and I. As well as the fact that my sister Elizabeth, who lives in Prague, was able to Skype in for the shower! She was also very pregnant with there first baby Rebeka just as I was drawing to the end of our adoption process.
I loved sharing this special day with so many of my friends and family, especially my Mom and Gran! These two women have made me into the person and mother that I am today, and I don’t know what I would do without them!
God truly blessed us with the most amazing village of people who loved us, supported us, prayed with us, laughed with us, and cried with us all throughout the adoption process. And now, I get to watch each and every one of these women love on my baby as if he was their very own!
The day we told “the world” about our precious little Mace was an incredible day for both Luke and I. We had already shared the news with our family and closest friends, but had waited until some paperwork formalities where completed before telling the world!
We told everyone via our Like Father, Like Son Post on the Ours to Love blog! Our amazing friend, and family photographer, Krystle Sommers ,took a few TOMs Shoes images for us to make the announcement.
The day we told “the world” was a Tuesday and both Luke and I were at the office that day. My parents sent us blue flowers and balloons to celebrate our official referral and he was a boy!! Though Luke and I did not specify the gender of our child in our adoption paperwork I think we both secretly thought it was going to be a boy, so we were thrilled!
It’s so hard to believe that it has been over a year since we told everyone about our little Mace! In many ways it seems like he has been a part of all of our lives forever!
On March 19, 2013 very little was happening in the US regarding our adoption journey, but A LOT was happening in Uganda and Mace was experiencing a lot of firsts and fun adventures.
This was the day that Mace said “good bye” to the precious nannies at the Ibanda Babies Home, who had cared for him for the first 8 months of his life. He then made the 4 hour journey from the only home he had ever known to the foster home in Kampala, Uganda. Mace got to experience this journey with his friend Ben (who is now home with his forever family and lives about 1 hour from us here in the Sunshine State) and Jane (an 8 year old little girl who when we left Uganda was still waiting for a forever family), along with Jeremy (an incredible employee of our Ugandan lawyer). They told us that Mace did great on the journey and did a lot of smiling and a lot of sleeping! Sounds about right to us, based on the Mace we know and love today!
Mace with the main nanny who cared for him throughout the first months of his life! Taken on the day he left the orphanage.
And just for fun, Mace with that same precious nanny 2 months later when we all returned to visit the orphanage.
They arrived at Ms Elizabeth’s house late at night, where he spent the next 8 weeks until we arrived in Uganda. It was such a comfort to us during the time that we waited for our court date to know that Mace was in the care of this incredible foster home and that he was loved and being well taken care of! Ms Elizabeth is truly one of the most incredible people we have ever met!
We loved receiving these blurry cell phone pictures from Uganda, as we were able to see our boys precious smile and some of the people who were caring for him in our absence! As an adoptive parent you live for pictures during the wait! Any glimpse (not matter how small or blurry) you can get of your child is something you hold on to like a priceless treasure.
“Weeping may endure for a night, But joy comes in the morning.” Psalm 30:5
The morning of March 1, 2013 brought more joy than Luke and I could ever contain! After a hard (and tearful) February 28th, where we knew we had missed the phone call that would change our lives forever, we were on high alert when my phone rang at 5:54am on Friday March 1, 2013 and the same 225 number appeared on the screen!
I grabbed the phone said “Luke, it’s her!” We both sat straight up in the bed, answered the phone and put it on speaker phone. It was indeed Sharon on the other end with the greatest news of our lives. With hands trembling and voice shaking we sat together on our bed, as Sharon told us about a 7 month old little boy that she had met while visiting Ibanda Babies Home. He was perfectly healthy and according to her a happy and pretty well adjusted little guy. He was found as a newborn in a banana plantation and had lived at the Ibanda Babies home for the last 7 months. She and another adopting family had the opportunity to spend about an hour with him and had taken lots of pictures that she wanted to send over to us.
But before we got off the phone so she could email the pics she asked “Do you want to know what his name is? It’s a good one.” “His name is Emmanuel Manige.” Emmanuel… God with us. His name was a promise from God that He had been with Mace all of his life. From the banana plantation to the orphanage God had never once left him alone.
In all of this God had also fulfilled a desire of my heart, which was to get a younger baby. On our specifications for a child we had said male or female, 18 months and younger. But God always goes above and beyond to give us the desires of our heart and he fulfilled one of mine by giving us a baby under the age of one.
So as we said our goodbyes and hung up the phone we continued to cling to that iPhone waiting for the first picture to come thru. We quickly received an email from Sharon that was titled “Here He Is” with the picture below attached.
Our baby!!!! Our son!!! It was the first time we laid eyes on our precious boy and we were in LOVE! Lots of tears of joy were shed as we studied every aspect of him. From his sweet smile to his squishy nose to his BIG hands and feet! We enlarged that picture and poured over it like every new parent does the first time they see their baby! Sharon had forewarned us that he would be in a dress (This Is Africa!) and even told us that for the first few minutes after she had met him she was unsure if he was a boy or a girl. The nannies at the orphanage called him Emma (short for Emmanuel), he had on a blue dress, and he was so darn pretty!
Sharon had to quickly leave for the airport, and being Africa with slow internet she wasn’t able to send more pics. However, the other adopting family who had gone to Ibanda with her was still at the guesthouse and so all throughout the morning they continued to send us precious pics of our little Mace! With each picture that rolled in when fell more and more in love with our son!
Of course one of the most fun aspects of this day was sharing our good news with our friends and family. Soon after we got off the phone with Sharon we called our parents and told them about their newest grand baby over the phone (good thing they are early risers because at this point it in time it was still well before 7am :) And then we started texting our siblings and best friends!
Later that night we had a coaches meeting scheduled, so we got to tell all of our ACME coaches at one time, in one place! March 1, 2013 will go down forever as one of the greatest days in our lives! A day were we watched God fulfill a dream and a promise that he had planted in both of our hearts from the time we were kids, and the day we laid eyes on the boy who was destined to be our son from the foundation of the world!