Friday, November 30, 2012

Why do you need a miracle?

When I mention that things are never simple here, I mean it.

Take getting Micah and Moses' birth certificates:

Step 1: find the person in Gulu who can issue the "short form" birth certificate.
Step 2: drive to Kampala (no easy feat on the terrible roads)
Step 3: find the registrar's office building
Step 4: find the office
Step 5: wait for lunch break to be open
Step 6: elbow your way through with the throng when the doors open and try to make some friends so that someone will defend you instead of being hostile toward you because you're foreign
Step 7: stand your ground smashed against the person in front of you so that 10 people don't cut in front of you
Step 8: talk to person #1 at the reception desk
Step 9: talk to person #2 at the reception desk
Step 10: fill out the long form birth certificates
Step 11: take them back to person #2 to see if it's filled out properly
Step 11.5: find out that I can't submit for Moses' certificate without Gulu police signatures - scrap that goal for this trip
Step 12: if they appear to be properly filled in, take forms to next room for "assessment"
Step 13: wait in line while the information is entered in a computer
Step 14: receive your bill
Step 14.5: argue about why your bill is so high - get sent back to talk to person #2 - smile and give in
Step 15: leave the building and find the bank
Step 16: wait in line aggressively at bank
Step 17: pay the fee at the bank and receive receipt
Step 18: go back through security, back up the stairs (why take an elevator in a country with frequent power outages when there are stairs?), back to the registrar's office
Step 19: wait in line aggressively at the reception desk, waving your paper and bank receipt in the poor guy's face with the twenty other papers being waved in his face
Step 20: sign a log book and receive a tiny piece of green paper
Step 21: act shocked and sad when told to come back in a week: "But, I live in Gulu..."
Step 22: wait as the poor guy talks to someone in a secret room, hoping that they'll decide to just process it right away
Step 23: receive all papers back and be told that your form won't be accepted because the town clerk in Gulu (step #1) filled something in wrong
Step 24: hold back tears and try the "But, I live in Gulu..." line again and when told, "just go to Gulu and come back" add "... but I have 5 children including this two month old!"
Step 25: leave building unsuccessful and back at ground zero

And this is our life...

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Gracie's story - 6 years as a family!

When November rolls around each year, we find ourselves reminiscing about our family's beginnings - this Thanksgiving marks 6 years as a family.  Six years of snuggling our beautiful Liberian princess.  Six years of wheelchairs, AFOs, thickened liquids, AAC, Diastat, and therapies.  Six years of praying every night, "Lord, wake me up and take me to her if she needs me." Six years of treasuring every day as a family.

I suspect that Gracie will never be able to fully share her story herself.  So, as will be my role for her entire life, I will speak for her.  We sense the joy of the Lord in her and we pray that she does truly understand God - she speaks loud and clear with her overflowing, body-shaking joy that there is a joy in her that exceeds our understanding!

We are so grateful that God prompted us to adopt Gracie as our first-born child.  For much of our life as a family, we have lived in countries where birth order is valued greatly.  For instance, in Kenya, a mother is named according to her first-born child ("Mama Grace").  World-wide, inheritance and family honor are carried on by the first-born.  We are proud to call Gracie our first-born and make a point of making it clear that she is FULLY our first-born.  We consider adoption to be as complete as being born from my womb.  We view adoption of children to be a picture of the gospel - we are fully adopted by God, co-heirs with his son Jesus Christ, co-sufferers, co-glorified. (Romans 8:14-17)

So it was that God ordained Gracie as our first-born in every sense.  She is our oldest child.  She was the first child to join our family.

We thought we wanted a slightly younger child as our first-born and one with less severe disabilities.  Once we had completed the initial stages of the adoption process, we were presented with a few options from the orphanage in Liberia.  Long story short, God gave us a nearly 3 year old with moderate cerebral palsy and significant developmental delays.  In fact, her condition either deteriorated between referral and when we first held her (a real possibility since she likely had untreated seizures and acquired Hepatitis A in the final months before we arrived) or her condition was underestimated.  Either way, we gathered into our arms on Thanksgiving Day 2006 a 3 year old infant.  She weighed less than 18 pounds, had no sense of her body, but was intensely delighted to have a mom and dad.

Over the next intense year, she couldn't fall asleep without sleeping on one of us, spent hours screaming (now we realize it could have been from pain from her hepatitis), had intractable seizures that landed her in intensive care, grew 3 clothes sizes, and was lavished with attention as the first grandchild and niece.  She thrived with all the attention, took her first supported steps, and started to gain an awareness of her body.

Little did we know that this precious little girl was changing the course of our lives.

I was in my first year of Family Medicine residency at the time and the entire focus of my education shifted to rehab medicine in the context of Family Medicine.  Because of all the quality time that Gracie and I spent with neurologists, I became one of the few in my community health center comfortable with prescribing seizure meds when a patient couldn't see a specialist.  As I learned, I taught residents and medical students about special needs equipment, assessments, therapies, and resources.  And my focus for missions shifted from being a general medicine missionary doctor to the care of children with disabilities.  God used Gracie to craft that interest in me even while I was still receiving my formal education.

Gracie is perfect for our family: social, outgoing, funny, music-loving, physical-humor loving, adaptable, and healthy enough (now) to be away from the tertiary care center and able to be maintained by her mommy-doctor.  Yes, there are some limits that her wheelchair and dietary needs place on us, but not many, relatively speaking.  And there may be future challenges that arise that dictate what we can do as a family.  But so far, God has used her to shape the course of our life and also to touch the lives of so many others that have crossed our paths.

We are not on the mission field despite Gracie and her needs.  God used Gracie to shape our path and direction.  God uses Gracie daily to minister to people - her joy, her jokes, her unfettered love for people.

THANK YOU, God, for entrusting precious Gracie to us! May we parent her faithfully.

Here are a few blog posts from our first days together:
My first thoughts about my Gracie
Her developmental level and abilities when we first got her
Our first family photo

Monday, November 19, 2012

Autumn... what's that?

Try teaching your children about a season they have never seen...

WHAT happens to the trees?

What do you mean it's so cold that there's ice on the ground?

What's ice?

Why can you see people's breath in the air?

In most cases, I can hardly believe how little I remember from my days as a Biology major in college (a few lifetimes ago).  So, it's a good thing that we live in a modern era of missions which gives me access to internet and a wealth of information! We also just got a package with a batch of new-to-us books (horray!) which included a book on the first thanksgiving and a book on autumn leaves.

So this week, is a unit study on Thanksgiving and autumn.  4 out of 5 of my children can not put up with any more than a few days of studying something as abstract to them as autumn.  The fifth one can read on her own and can satisfy her own curiosity once the others have moved on to eating dirt and hitting things with sticks again.  (Baby Micah Otim is not eating dirt yet, but any day now, I'm sure!)

A few sites that I found that I'll use with my kids:

Thanksgiving ideas:

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Micah Otim's dedication

A few weeks ago, we had the privilege of dedicating Micah David Otim Rattin to the Lord with our local church in Gulu.  

 Pastor Peter, our dear faithful friend (and ACTION Gulu leader), prayed over our son as we asked God to help us raise him in a faithful way and asked the church body to hold us accountable and help us to raise him in the Lord.  We hold submission to a local church body in high esteem, as an integral part of God's call for each Christian, and we are so thankful to be able to submit to Pastor Peter's leadership in our lives.  Please pray for our church and for Pastor Peter!

The congregation was so pleased to meet Micah Otim for the first time and thrilled that he has an Acholi name.  Since the name Micah is apparently pronounced MEEEE-kah here (I'm not thrilled about that pronunciation!), he'll most often go by Otim.  Plus, it gives us an opening with strangers right away as they want to know more about the child born away from home.  Home is wherever you are originally from - so in our case, it's the USA or where our parents live.  This week of his dedication, Micah was was four weeks old. 

(The skillful keyboardist merrily played Jingle Bells during the solemn prayer of dedication... only in Africa!)

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Co-suffering with Christ

I've been convicted by a book - a book on adoption.

"But you've already adopted! How can you be convicted to do something you've already committed to?"

I quote the passage from Romans 8 a lot:

Romans 8:14-17

English Standard Version (ESV)
14 For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons[a] of God. 15 For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” 16 The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.

In the book "A guide to Adoption and Orphan Care" edited by Russell Moore, Timothy Paul Jones writes, "The Holy Spirit co-testifies with our spirit that we are co-heirs.  We co-suffer.  We will be co-glorified.  That's adoption." (page 21)

YES! Co-heirs with Christ - woohoo! Imagine that! Christ is my brother!

But wait... co-suffer? In other words, we are to expect suffering, not as something that we might escape in life.  Did Christ suffer? Yes, more than anyone ever has or will suffer.  We will not escape suffering, nor should we want to.

We are currently spending a lot of our time teaching our selfish 5(ish) year old children to care for each other.  Josh is teaching Moses that a godly man protects, defends, and takes care of others.  I am teaching Ana that a godly woman serves, looks for ways to bless, and cares for others.  If Christ is our brother, we should desire to share in his suffering.

But then additionally, I also missed the co-glorified part of the equation.  I am, in myself, unworthy of ANY glory, whether man-made or God-made.  And yet, as co-heir with my brother Jesus Christ, I will not only suffer as he did, but I will be glorified as he is, by God our Father - the creator and sustainer and judge of the universe!

Another point made somewhere in this book is that God did not HAVE to adopt us in order to save us.  He could have saved us from eternally damnation but not made us his sons and daughters.  Yet, he chose to do that.  How amazing is that? Instead of being simply allowed to enter heaven, God desires intimate relationship with us that is only afforded a father to his son or daughter.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

White pizza recipe

I've been making a new version of a white pizza and it's so yummy and easy that I wanted to share it with you.

Bring salted milk to a boil (1tsp salt to 4 cups of milk)
Remove from heat and add 3 tablespoons of lemon juice
Stir briefly with plastic/wooden spoon just to mix lemon juice in
Let sit for 15 minutes or until whey and curds have separated
Empty pan into a doubled-over linen-lined colander over the sink (or bowl if you want to save and use the whey)
Let sit for "some time" - do NOT press the cheese, leave it a little soupy
Mix in 1 tablespoon garlic and 20 cut-up fresh basil leaves
Pour the mixture onto your pizza crust and add toppings and a little salt.  Additional cheese is optional.

Orphan Sunday... close to home

Looking for a tangible way to impact orphans? How about in Northern Uganda? :)

We are desperately underfunded at Home of Love (and all of our ministries here) - consider if God would have you donate to Home of Love.  We support 64 children - 36 on site at Home of Love, the rest are at special schools or placed with relatives now in the villages.

Friday, November 2, 2012

What's your part?

Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.  James 1:27 (ESV)

Orphan care is not optional for Christians.  So what is God calling you to do for orphans?

What does the Bible say about orphans? Here are a few resources:

This sermon is amazing by Voddie Baucham

Russell Moore is, of course, a great guy to read or listen to on orphans and adoption. (and many more resources there)

Here are two of John Piper's sermons on adoption: and

Orphan Sunday resources

It sneaks up on us every year... Suddenly, it's November, and it's Orphan Sunday... and we're not prepared.

Never fear, Orphan Sunday site is near! - hymns and songs, bulletin inserts, children and youth ideas... It's all there! :)

Right now, immersed as I am in orphan care, I'm reading Russell Moore's "A guide to Adoption and Orphan Care." Just my speed - short little chapters from different authors.

I'm currently thinking through HOW to care for orphans - because, an orphan is not an orphan is not an orphan.  There are "true" orphans, no relatives, no options, no hope.  There are partial orphans - maybe they have one parent who is not equipped to care for them, or extended family who is not equipped to care for them.  And there are all kinds of flavors of orphans in between.

Our children's home is home to children who, for the most part, have some relatives somewhere.  Our goal is to place them with their relatives when that situation is deemed stable enough and the children are less vulnerable (i.e. older, not ill, etc.).  We then follow with the children in their village with their relatives, support them where needed, and we are working out, as a team, what discipleship of those children should look like.

Few would argue that a family-style setting is ideal for a children's home... but what does that look like for children who are not intended to be with us for their entire lives? It really becomes a pseudo-family setting, because a family is truly forever, but our goal is to provide a semblance of family for a few vulnerable years of a child's life.  Our goal is to invest heavily in the time that we DO have with each child.

I welcome your thoughts!

Isaiah 1:17 "Defend the cause of the fatherless."

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