Monday, January 2, 2012

How Noel became Jonathan

Bittersweet Beginnings
In October 2011 we traveled to Rwanda to meet our son and bring him home. We started the adoption process in November 2009- so it was almost a two year process. Our trip to Rwanda was an answer to many, many prayers and many, many sorrows. My husband and I arrived on a Sunday and went straight to the orphanage to meet our 4 year old son, Noel, for the first time. Those first few days visiting him was surreal. There were about 9 other families also finalizing their adoptions and bringing their kiddos home too. On Wednesday, we were at the orphanage enjoying every moment with Noel... Thursday we would not be able to visit him because Thursday is a day of prayer at the orphanage and therefore it is closed to any visitors. We were looking forward to Friday because we would forever take physical possession of our precious son! At about 4pm (on Wed.- an hour before we had to leave the orphanage) I noticed our cell phone ringing in my purse. It was my husband's mom. I answered, thinking it was strange she was calling and it had to be important. She didn't talk to me, just asked for my husband. My stomach turned... as I knew something bad had happened... it was in her voice and she never has not talked to me. I handed the phone to my husband and he walked away into a private room. I knew in my heart what had happened but I didn't want to assume anything and I had Noel. I put it out of my mind and played with my son. After a long while my husband returned. We didn't talk about it, both knowing if we did we wouldn't be able to focus on Noel and we wanted to enjoy our last moments with him since we wouldn't get to see him the next day. Max's mom had called to tell us his father had died unexpectedly from a heart attack. This tragedy was the worse news we could've gotten. The rest of our trip was extremely stressful, as each moment in Rwanda was a moment my husband wasn't home grieving with his family. It was horrible on him. One beautiful blessing was the compassion of the Rwandans. They were so sympathetic to our situation they got us out of there in one week instead of the typical two. Then we had 6 days in Kenya to finalize Noel's visa. One bittersweet thing about Max's dad's death was he was showing his friends pictures of Noel at the time he had his heart attack. He was so excited and proud about his new grandson.
Max's dad's name was John- aka Papa Johnny. He was a retired space engineer. He actually worked for the same company his whole life- started and ended his career at Boeing. Isn't that amazing! He was a loyal man, believed in doing the right thing, helped others through difficult times and loved his family.
Naming Noel
One of the things Max and I talked about was naming Noel. We decided in Rwanda to make his middle name Jonathan after his Papa Johnny. Fast forward one month or so..... Max thought maybe we should change Noel's (pronounced "no" "el") to Nole. Noel is typically a girl's name in the United States and Max thought it might be better to alter his name slightly so it is unmistakably a boy's name. One day when Noel and I were in the car I was asking him if he liked Nole instead of Noel. He liked it. Then I asked him how he like Jonathan as his middle name. He boy went crazy!! He pumped his fists in the air and said, "Jonathan, Jonathan!" I wish I had the whole thing on video! He was so excited. The conversation continued about like this:
     Me: You like the name Jonathan?
     Noel: Jonathan, Jonathan (hitting himself on the chest)
     Me: Do you like Jonathan better than Nole?
     Noel: Yes, Jonathan (still smiling, kicking his legs)
     Me: Do you want to be called Jonathan Noel and no Nole Jonathan?
    Noel: Me Jonathan, Me Jonathan (more physical excitement)

From that moment on I knew his name would be Jonathan Noel McGhee. We haven't legally changed his name yet. We will do that at the same time we readopt him (we plan to readopt him so he can have a California birth certificate and US passport). Calling him Jonathan has been an adjustment but we are all getting pretty good at remembering now. Jonathan LOVES his new name. I think his excitement and desire to have Jonathan as his name is a gift from God. It is a beautiful thing.
Too cute not to post!! Jonathan loves his new life!!
I'll write more about our first months home and post pictures in my next entry. It's been a long time since I've wrote anything. It's been a huge adjustment, so much to digest. I've thought many times about blogging but couldn't form words to express everything that has happened and is happening. I think I'm ready :)


  1. Noel=Christmas, Jonathan=a gift from God. I always say "God is in the details!" The timing od it all is amazing...Jonathan is truely a gift to us all...and especially to Papa Johnny! xoxo Wonderful blog-You and Max are the most awesome parents ever! Love, your sis-Aunt Amy

  2. This reminded me of our time in Rwanda when I had asked you about your son's name (obviously at the time not knowing what it would be). I think this is a beautiful story and I'm excited for all the joy that Jonathan Noel will continue to bring to your life! You're such a great mommy you and thinking of you often! :) Ginny

  3. love this story, God is amazing

  4. What a sweet story:) Interesting, Noel IS pronounced 'Nole' in Canada and the UK...the girl's name would be 'Noelle' pronounced 'No-el'. I didn't realize in the US it was spelled Nole.

  5. I loved reading this post! I remember us talking about whether you would be changing your "soon-to-be" then son's name...

    I think it is soooo special...I love hearing about Jonathan's excitement, and all the meaning that his name represents!

    So sweet!

  6. To good not say "well done!" Love to you 4, Ray and Anne

  7. So sorry to hear about Max's dad. We found out from some of the other families after you left Kigali. What a tough trip that must have been for you guys.

  8. Tristen, keep up the blog! You write so well.