The Long Awaited Visa Interview

Nairobi, Kenya

Yesterday Paul and I made our way to the Embassy of the United States of America in Nairobi, Kenya. It was very early in the morning when we left the guest house we have rooms at and boarded a matatu [public transportation] for the city. I think we both had some pretty massive butterflies in our stomach as we sat in the taxi and went over our file again and again. This file, or should I say book of every detail of our life together over the past 2 years, has basically consumed our thoughts and time for about 2 months now, and so much work and effort has gone into preparing it and making sure that it was perfect so that we can convince the Embassy workers that we are indeed in love. 

The longer we sat on the matatu the more we realized that we were not going to make it to the Embassy for our 7:15am appointment. Nairobi is a really large city and has about as much congestion as Los Angeles or New York city at rush hour. The confused traffic signals and disregard of any rules of the road doesn’t help at all either. So, we asked the conductor if he could just let us off early and we found a boda boda [motorbike used for public transportation] and asked if he could take us the rest of the way to the Embassy. 

Now, if we were in Uganda, we would have taken a boda boda probably from the beginning because they outnumber all other forms of transportation 8:1, but in Nairobi they are harder to find, and as we soon found out, not at all faster. In Uganda you can take a boda in rush hour and it will whiz around traffic and you will make it through hours before everyone else sitting in their car, but in Nairobi, the guy was actually sitting in the lines of traffic. Paul had to tell the guy that he needed to hurry and start weaving, I think the guy had never been so scared…he was not our kind of boda guy that’s for sure. 

We arrived at the Embassy at 7:22am and ran to the first security check where we split off and Paul was being inspected by the male guard and I proceeded to the female. I was busy spreading my arms and legs when I heard the male guard scolding Paul. I looked over to see that Paul was trying to wipe a moist towelette that we had in our bag on the guards hand to show him what the function of the wipe was. I couldn’t help but laugh. Who cares that the guard thought Paul was trying to attack him with a baby wipe. 

After barely making it through the security check, we made our way to the check-in gate Paul’s name was marked as present, and we were told that he had to leave me at this point. We said goodbye, I wished him good luck, and away he went. This was my cue to take out my sewing so that my mind wouldn’t be racing and I would bite off all my nails before our wedding. About an hour and a half after he went in he was able to come out and bring me some coffee and a donut. I was so happy to see him and he said that he had submitted his paperwork and was just waiting to be called for his interview. I could see the nerves on his face. He only stayed out with me for about 3 minutes then rushed back in so that he wouldn’t miss his number being called. 

While I waited I decided to become friends with the guard just in case anything weird happened with Paul’s interview and I needed to sweet talk my way in. He was a nice guy, very interested in my sewing. He told me I needed to sell them, I told him that was a good idea. If I had a Thistle & Thread business card I would have handed it over; so much for always being prepared. I think I could have sold about a dozen hoops while I was sitting there if I had them ready to go. Almost every person that passed me was deeply interested and asked me if I had my own business. I need to work on my Kenya business plan….

After another hour and a half, I looked up and sweet Paul was making his way out again. I knew this was it. I tried to read his face as he made it way to me, and it was the easiest face to read. There was no way that he was going to hide this emotion. He quickly got out his green piece of paper and gave me the biggest hug, it was over. He had his visa. These last 10 months of waiting, the year apart, the work put into our file, the praying, playing scenarios over in our heads again and again, it was all over. 

Paul with his visa Approval | Nairobi, Kenya | US Embassy

Look at that smile! This smile is the product of months and months of waiting and hard work. Praise God for that smile!

Before we went for the interview, Paul and I had been praying that God would give us peace no matter the circumstance because we know that he works everything out for his glory, which is ultimately for our good if we trust him and want his glory more than our own. Those prayers were hard. It was hard to pray that we would have contentment no matter the outcome when our hearts so badly wanted this to work and to travel to America on October 22nd and get married on October 31st. But God, in his kindness towards us, gave Paul favor before the Embassy officials, and allowed him to be granted this visa. 

So many times through this process, especially when it was taking long or back in the summer when Paul was denied the visa to expedite the process, we would become so frustrated that our relationship was being dictated by the government. But we now realize how naive we were to think that. At no point did the American government hold the future of our relationship in their hands. They were being used by the Lord, and everything was done in his timing. 

Thank you so much to everyone that has remembered us in your prayers and walked with us through this process. In some ways it feels that we have reached the end of a long long journey, but the reality is that our journey is only continuing. We are on the road to becoming one, becoming the Kavumas. This step is over, and we are more ready than ever to trust the Lord with the steps that he brings our way from here on out. I am always reminded of this quote from John Piper, “Be strong and know that God will be as faithful in the future as you know he has been in the past.” So, we will continue to be strong and trust the God who has shown so much kindness towards us as we make our way to the States in a few days and get ready for our wedding!

The Art of Cherishing Friendships

Woven Baskets | Uganda

When I was leaving the village of Kubamitwe a year ago, I was saying goodbye to many many people that had become like family to me over the months that I lived there. It’s such a gift to know that you can meet people and within the span of a year you can learn to trust, you can share in life’s burdens, and they can begin to count you as one of their own. There is one family that stands out in particular when I think about this, the Kiyingi family. I would walk to the village of Kiteredde at least once a week to teach a bible study to some women out there. We would sit at the house of George and Edith Kiyingi and about 7 other women would join us for about two hours. I was really nervous when we first started meeting because I didn’t know the language and I had never used a translator before, but the barriers started falling slowly by slowly and true friendships were forming. 

We prayed for women as they were preparing to give birth, we prayed for mothers-in-law who were sick and not able to attend the bible study, we laughed as someone tried to recount their incident in the garden earlier that day when their cow was stubborn and they struggled to pull her out on their own and slipped straight into the mud, we shared things and enjoyed life together. I loved that bible study. 

Missions | Uganda, East Africa

George and Edith after they were baptized together.

After about 3 months in the village I started going out to Kiteredde a little more often than once a week. Edith, George’s wife, was wanting to learn English and I agreed to do my best to teach her. In return for my lessons, George agreed to give me lessons in Luganda. He received his university degree from a school in Russia and was his English was perfect. I loved how George has traveled and would be considered very cultured, but once his education was finished he returned to the village to live the life that he loves in Uganda. 

Over the following months, I would spend many hours a week with George and Edith. Her English was improving as well as my Luganda, but what I was most thankful for was the inside view of a sweet and loving Ugandan family. They shared life with each other, loved their children, and tried to do what was best for everyone in the family. As Paul and I were becoming more serious in our relationship, George and Edith were there to offer guidance and encouragement. I always loved learning how to be a proper Muganda woman from the two of them, and watching Edith cook was better than any show on the Food Network. Even as I was away and Paul was no longer living in Kubamitwe, he would still take time to spend with George and check in on their family. They have remained close to us through a very long year. 

African children | Uganda, East Africa

Me and their oldest son, Ethan (left) at his graduation from P1

We are having a very small wedding at the end of October, and as a gift to our guests, we wanted to give them a piece of Uganda. We thought and thought about what that could be, and I remembered when I was leaving Kubamitwe over a year ago, Edith hand made me a woven basket as a gift of love and I could not treasure it more. It is made from the natural fibers found in the village and twisted together by her hands to form a perfect basket. So, Paul and I asked if she could make enough for all the guests at our wedding. She was so sweet to agree and we were able to go a few days ago and pick them from her. I was completely overwhelmed at how beautiful they are and it makes me so excited for our wedding when we can give them to our guests. 

As we were going out to the village again to see the Kiyingi family and pick the baskets I was filled with so many emotions as I remembered my time there. I know that season of life is over, but I loved it and treasure it so much in my heart. When we arrived I ran to greet the family and as George was giving me a hug he said to Edith that it feels like just yesterday I was sitting with them at their home. I couldn’t agree more. 

It’s such a gift to have friends that you can hold so dear in your heart even when they are thousands of miles away and you know that you can’t see them for months and months. Saying goodbye a few days ago was hard because we know that it will be even longer before we see this family again. But we were comforted knowing that they will always have a place in our lives, and it helps that we convinced George to get a Facebook. 

Kampala City Festival

Kampala City Festival | Uganda
 
The other day I was feeling a bit frustrated that so much of this trip to Uganda has been taken up with delayed flights, lost luggage, visa stresses, and logistical details that we had not been able to just hang out and have fun like we had thought we would be able to. I voiced this frustration to Paul, in hindsight I see that I could have done it in a little more gracious way, but he still received it and was patient with my disappointment of the last few weeks. I have loved loved LOVED being with Paul and finally having time together again, but I didn’t think that it would be spent on the phone with airports, filing paperwork, and making countless trips to town because the Wi-Fi at the place I am staying keeps getting hacked and all the data is being used. 
 
So, Sunday morning, as I was finishing breakfast, my sweet Paul came in and asked me if he could make a request. I was still in a bummed out mood from the night before when all the stresses were feeling a little heavier than usual, but I obliged him anyways. He proceeded to ask if I could be ready in 30 minutes because there was a festival in Kampala (the capital city of Uganda) and he wanted to go with me to check it out. I was more than happy to grant his request! 
 
Off we went. I was very very excited and couldn’t wait to see what this African version of a county fair was really going to be like. As soon as we reached town we started seeing evidences of this festival. Roads were closed, stages were being assembled, and people were walking all directions to make their way to the festival. As we approached the security check Paul was wisked through one of the three men’s lines and I had to wait behind about a dozen school children in the women’s line. Here in Uganda they are pretty strict about only women checkin women for bombs and only men checking men. I don’t mind, except when it means that I have to wait in such a long line when 2 other lines are completely empty of people, but rules are rules. 
 
Kampala City festival | Uganda
 
After making it inside, one of my new favorite Ugandan pop songs by Busy Signal was blaring on the speakers, I knew this was going to be a good time. As we made our way down the street guys started bringing me plastic marti gras masks and balloons doing their darndest to convince Paul to buy one for me. I begged him not to. It was so funny though that as the festival progresses, we were one of the few that was not supporting one of those crazy masks. After passing the guy on roller blades doing tricks down the street and the ladies on the side walk selling their moonshine made from banana leaves, we found our favorite milkshake spot. He was seriously set on this being a great day. We grabbed our chocolate milkshake and a plate of fries and positioned ourselves outside for some serious people watching. There wasn’t much of a conversation between us because we were so distracted by the sights all around, but also because the music was so loud that we had to practically yell at each other just to understand what the other was saying. It didn’t damper our mood. 
 
Soon we noticed some SUVs with blackened windows roll down the street and that was the start of the parade. I had no idea there was going to be a parade! Immediately I was standing and out came my phone so I could get as many pictures as possible. There was music, dancing, bands, guys on motor cycles, everything you would expect from a parade….African style. One of the floats was for a devotional that is very popular in East Africa, we had about 14 people try to give it to us, the refusals became very creative, as well as the attempts to place them in our hands, bag, pants pockets…oh Uganda. Then there was the float for birth control…er….protection. It was both uncomfortable and comforting at the same time. They were handing out free protection and information on how to prevent HIV. There has really been a lot of progress in this area in Uganda. I love how people are more aware and they are making a lot of reforms. Paul and I were thrown quite a bit of “Life Guards” and just smiled and laid them on the ground for someone to come and pick them up. They were gone by the end of the parade. 
 
Kampala City Festival | Uganda
 
But the party didn’t end with the fanfare of the parade. We made our way down the street to find vendors selling all of their wares and street food being fried up as performers were taking the stage to wow the crowds with their dance moves and songbird tunes. My senses were going wild. It also just happened to be the hottest day that I think I have experienced here, so we had our share of bottled water, found some $3 sunglasses for me and a baseball cap for Paul. We were in business. As we made our way up and down the street our tanks hit empty, and we decided that our enjoyment of the Kampala City Festival was ending soon. Before we were miserable we made our way out of the crowd, found a cafe to have something to drink and some little food so that we could gain our energy back to grab a taxi home. 
 
I was so thankful that Paul gave me 30 minutes to get ready and took me into town for our day of fun. I love Uganda so much, and sometimes when things are frustrating I forget why it’s such a wonderful place. Ugandans know how to have a good time with their music, dancing, cheap wares, street food, and the rest. I can’t wait to keep enjoying this country with Paul before we head back to Kenya next week. 

Re-Entry Period After a Year Apart

2015-09-14 09.34.18

I have been in Uganda for almost 3 weeks now and I think that this time coming has been the most bizarre and unconventional trip I have ever taken. It started with the cray flight mishaps where my 18 hour flight turned into a 54 hour flight as well as my luggage going AWOL. The 3 airlines that I flew on have still (3 weeks later) not been able to locate the bag that contained all of my sewing supplies for Thistle & Thread, my clothing, toiletries, and a laptop and audio equipment sent over by a friend to give to his brother and sister here in Uganda. I really wish it was just peanut butter, coffee, and candy in that bag, but unfortunately it isn’t. But, Paul has been sweet to calm me down when I am ready to unleash a well organized attack against the major airline companies with the full intent to take them down so they can never operate again. 

But I digress. As frustrating and time consuming as the luggage situation has been, this time in Uganda has been just what my heart needed. I can’t even express what it’s like to be able to be with Paul again after a long year apart. It’s such a weird feeling because I almost feel like this last year was a dream that never happened and we have just always been able to hang out every day and travel to Kenya together and have dinner and see friends and enjoy each other. I am so thrilled that this is what the rest of my life is going to look like. 

2015-09-22 09.01.06

Early morning coffee dates. We are officially addicted to African Tea and plan on serving it to every person who comes to our home.

We have been busy busy since I arrived. Paul has quite the large family and we have many friends here that we are trying to see as well as finish up the paperwork for his visa as well as run around to replace my sewing supplies that are in my missing luggage so that I can get something done while I’m here, as well as just kick back and enjoy life together. But in all honesty, it hasn’t been a field of strawberries and butterfly kisses. It’s a shock when you go from functioning in a relationship thousands of miles apart to seeing each other almost every waking moment and trying to navigate all the things that have come up since I have been here. We have had a lot of stressful situations and let’s just say that it’s been interesting trying to understand the other and the way that they respond and how we work together. But, thankfully we are fast learners and I don’t dread trips into town anymore to try and find some obscure item because I know that it will be better than the last time and we won’t get into an argument in the middle of the sidewalk on which direction to go or who was supposed to bring the money. 

What we have learned in the last 18 days: 

  • Always get a receipt when you go to exchange money. 
  • Paul can eat the same food every day for a week. Jordan can’t. 
  • Jordan can’t make porridge, and shouldn’t try. It only results in a ruined breakfast a two grumpy, hungry people. 
  • Jordan shouldn’t assume that when Paul suggests a plan that it is the final plan. All things are up for change. 
  • Jordan doesn’t like to walk briskly through crowds of people, Paul is very good at it. 
  • When Jordan is hot and tired, Paul can buy her a milkshake and the clouds will part and angels descend, and she will jump up and be ready to go for another 4 hours. 
  • Paul makes better tea than Jordan. 
  • Paul hates it when he is trying to get something finished and Jordan wants a hug. But he willingly gives her one while he reaches around her back to finish whatever he was working on. 

I think that we still have a long way to go in our lessons. We are so excited though that our wedding is only 32 days away, and the lessons and adventures will continue to surprise and humble us. Right now as I am typing Paul is preparing our visa file that we will take to the Embassy in Kenya on the 14th. Yes, we have to go back again. This file is more like a book, and we have been a little obsessive in making sure that everything is where it is supposed to be. I am so thankful that he is just as OCD over things as I am. I don’t know if I could have gone through this with anyone else. But please remember us as we finish out this process and head back to the States on October 22nd, Lord willing.

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By God’s grace, we are closer and more in love now than we were 2 years ago. I am so thankful for this guy and everything he brings to this relationship.

He Called Me Fat

He Called Me Fat | Body Image & Self-Doubt

“You’ve gotten a bit fat, Marie.” 

The words came from his mouth with the same love and care as every other word he speaks to me. He called me fat. We were Skyping with each other. It had been quite a few weeks since we had time to sit down and do that. I was so excited to be able to see his sweet face again with his dark eyes and perfect smile. He kept telling me how excited he was to see me again, how beautiful I looked, and that there was just something different about me. 

“Is it my hair? I did just get it cut.” — “No babe, I don’t think.” 

“Oh, maybe my make-up is different.” — “That’s not it.” 

“Ok, I don’t know then.” 

Then it came. Like a ton of bricks. “You’ve gotten a bit fat, Marie.” 

I lived in Uganda for a year, I knew that when he called me fat he was in no way associating it with beauty, worth, value, or anything else that comes along with that word here in the States. He was just making a very (unfortunately) factual statement. I had gotten a bit fat. 

Now, on this side of the ocean we would say, “Oh yea, she has gained a little weight. But she could afford to do that!” or “She’s just a little chubby, but she’s so cute! So real!” But never would we tell someone, especially a girl that she had put on a few pounds. Never. 

I tried so hard in that moment to remember that my sweet Paul loves and cares for me and is attracted to me and would never regret his choice to be with me because I had gained a couple pounds. In actuality, he was happy that I had gained some wait, in his opinion I was too small before. But regardless, when THAT word came falling out of his mouth, I felt like I had lost his admiration forever. He knew as soon as he said it that he had done something very bad. Tears came to my eyes, I became very quiet, my personality shifted. It was terrible. A very long conversation followed. 

It was a great exercise in communication and perception for us. One of the better ones that we have had. And boy did it hurt. It hurt because I had to face some serious body image issues that I have been dealing with for such a long time. I remember being in 4th grade and I was at a pool party with some friends and we were playing Sharks & Minnows. I didn’t want to dive into the pool because I was afraid my legs wouldn’t look as skinny and pretty as the other girls’ as they flew through the air. I lied and told everyone that I was afraid to dive because I had busted my lip diving once before. I had never busted my lip. 

I look back on pictures of myself from 4th grade and feel complete sadness and regret because I let poor body image keep me from being free as a child. And I laugh to myself because I would just love to be that petite again! I mean, I don’t think my stomach has ever been as flat and my legs as lean as when I was in 4th grade. It’s crazy how our mind can manipulate our eyes. How we can look in a mirror and see a completely different person than everyone else sees. 

Unfortunately, this battle with poor self-image has staked it’s ground in my mind throughout many seasons in my life. I choose not to talk about in an attempt to not draw attention to the fact, but that Skype date with Paul opened Pandora’s box. And I am so thankful that it has been thrown wide open. Seeing myself through his eyes, feeling the freedom to talk about my insecurities, learning how he perceives beauty, and accepting his love and admiration has allowed me to move past this constant state of introspection and devaluing of myself, and towards a place of confidence and freedom. 

One thing that Paul said to me that will never leave me was this: “Marie, I need you to be confident. I need you to stop worrying about your body and whether you look like you did 5 years ago, and be thankful for the life you have now. One day we are going to have children and they are going to look to you as an example. Show them that they are beautiful exactly how God made them through loving yourself, exactly the way God made you.” 

He called me fat, then he called me to a place of realization that I am loved and cared for, and that my value and worth is not wrapped up in this fleeting exterior. And for that I am thankful. 




 

Petition Approved: Packing My Bags and Going East

Uganda Travel

 

“The above petition has been approved.”

I read these words with so many feelings and thoughts in my heart. Petition Approved. Paul and I have been waiting to hear these words for seven months and four days now. Those seven months were filled with tears and confusion. Frustration with a government that I was convinced that was out to get us. Plan A, plan B, plan C, plan D….so on, so forth. We had become pretty confident and happy with our latest plan. I was preparing to move back over to Uganda, and we were going to have our wedding from there. We were going to live in a little house together, stumble through the beginnings of a lovely marriage, embrace our unknown life with courage and love. We were ready. We had our budget, our list of to-do’s, our shopping list, temporary jobs, friends and family beside us, then just like that those six words threw themselves before my frantic eyes. 

It was 2am in Uganda and my sweet Paul was fast asleep. Usually I can call him whenever I need to and he will answer, even when he is deep in sleep. This time was different. He had just finished a particularly rough day and that guy was knocked out. So when he finally woke up, at 4am, he was very nervous to learn the reason behind the 14 missed calls. I can be a bit excessive sometimes. 

As soon as I clued him in to the latest development in our visa journey, we immediately started trying to put the pieces together to figure out what had to be done next. But not until after we sat and laughed at how things happen. Of course we would get this letter the day after flights had been arranged and Ugandan wedding plans had been made. It only makes sense. It was a perfect reminder that Paul and I are most definitely not in control. We are just meant to submit, wait, trust, and follow. And that is what we are doing. 

These new plans are exciting and an answer to prayer. It was a prayer that we quit praying a few months ago, but I am just learning more and more about God and his plans and our joy in those plans. I will be going back to Uganda the beginning of September. I will happily  buy a one-way ticket and meet my sweet Paul in Uganda to finish the end of this process. We have his medical examination [Read: shots, lots of shots. Poor guy.] and his final visa interview standing between us and our flight home. It’s an easy road from here on out. We just have to prove that Paul is really Paul, which he is, and prove that we are still in love with each other, which we very much are.

After he has the visa interview he will be good to go and we will hop on a a plane back to the States and make our way to the altar to [finally] become husband and wife. We are not exactly sure when this is going to be. We would love to think that we will be back in the States around the middle of October, but the one-way ticket is being bought because as we have learned these last 7 months of this visa process, things change. 

For those of you who would like to know how you can help us through this final leg of our process, there are some very helpful and practical ways:

— Please pray that we can be patient and wise during this time. Pray that we can love our family and friends in Uganda well as we spend time with them before we move back to the States. This has been a long journey and we have had support from many people so we want to show them the same love they have shown us. 

— Pray that we can quickly get a visa appointment with the embassy in Kenya and that our travels and stay in Kenya will be protected and we will only be met with safety and kindness. 

— I am working hard to stock my Etsy shop, Thistle & Thread Design, and all sales during this time will go towards covering our last visa fees and my living expenses while I stay in Uganda until we can come back to the States. I am happy to take custom orders until August 31st, after that all orders will have to be items that are already in stock in the shop. Your support during this time is huge and I am very thankful that although I will not be working for 2-3 months, I still have this way to provide for different needs through the end of this part of our journey. 

We are thrilled and I can’t wait to continue updating while I am in Uganda. Hurry up September!