TEN YEARS CANCER-FREE

I don’t usually write anything in all caps. I’ve been working hard to not be a screamer. BUT, Y’ALL!! Today marks TEN YEARS since the day I got to hear the words, “You’re cancer-free.”

The minute I got the call from my doctor I sent a message to everyone I could think of saying, “I’m cancer free! All glory to God forever!” I knew at that moment that everything in my world had shifted. I mistakenly thought it had all shifted for the good and that the rest of my life would be smooth sailing.

That phone call took more than two years to receive from the moment I received my cancer diagnosis. In those two years of waiting God exposed wounds in me that were long buried and forgotten and forced me to deal with pains that I had been shoving under a tight lid for most of my life. Okay, He didn’t force me. I had a choice. But I also knew that I wasn’t ready to die and that I no longer wanted to hold on to anything that was causing unhealth in my body. And, if I was going to die, I wanted to experience peace and freedom on this side of heaven.

What I wasn’t prepared for was the grief to come. Anyone who has ever had any kind of cancer will tell you that the four words they hate most in the English vocabulary are, “Because of your history…”. Every single time I go to the doctor for anything, I hear those words. Anything in my body that is the least bit sick has become a reason for doctors to run more tests and explore the possibilities that I have a cancer recurrence. Every time I hear those words I am reminded that cancer may have given me freedom and healing, but it also took away so much. I no longer have the confidence that a cough is just a cough, an upset stomach is just an upset stomach, a headache is just a headache, or that every ache and pain are just the price of being 48 years old. I no longer have the amazing metabolism that allowed me to eat pizza for dinner and ice cream before bed without working out for two hours the morning after. I also no longer have a tolerance for toxicity or the ability to be anything other than transparent and vulnerable.

I wrote several years ago about what cancer taught me, but I left out how I’ve come to embrace transparency and vulnerability. If you know me IRL or you’ve read my blog for any amount of time those qualities may be obvious to you. What may not be obvious is WHY I can’t be anything other than transparent and vulnerable.

There’s just no point in even trying. Those words above were spoken by Jesus. In the next verse He said, “So pay attention to how you hear. To those who listen to my teaching, more understanding will be given. But for those who are not listening, even what they think they understand will be taken away from them.” I don’t know about any of you, but my perimenopausal brain simply can’t afford to lose what little I understand. I want to spend the rest of my days hearing from God and understanding more about who He is and how He loves me. Also, I firmly believe that all that I’d held on to grew in my neck in the form of cancer and that’s a battle I’d prefer not to fight again.

It would be a lie to say that I’ve accomplished all I had hoped to accomplish in these last ten years, or that I’ve achieved complete spiritual/emotional healing and freedom, or that I believe I’ve fulfilled every purposeful opportunity that God laid before me. This morning I cried and repented for not accomplishing more for Him in the days, weeks, months, and years that He’s given me. But guess what? Certainly the faithful love of the Lord hasn’t ended; certainly God’s compassion isn’t through!  They are renewed every morning. Great is your faithfulness. Lamentations 3:22-23

Tomorrow I will wake up to the first day of my eleventh year of living without cancer. I will try my best to not take this life for granted. I will rest in the assurance that God’s love and mercy over me aren’t through. And I will give Him glory and praise Him for His great great faithfulness.

Happy Ten-Year-Cancer-Free-Day to ME!

Happy, Holy, Hard, Hopeful, Healing Mother’s Day

I awoke this Mother’s Day to a message from my firstborn letting me know that she had arrived in Cannes for the film festival. She made a film a couple of years ago that won a couple of festivals in the US and in December she was invited to show in Cannes. My joy and pride in her talent and accomplishments is nothing less than holy.

This precious picture of the four who call me, “Mama” was taken six years ago. Those years have been filled with uncountable challenges and some fairly traumatic wounds. Shortly after receiving the message from France, my boys brought me breakfast in bed (that they made together without arguing -Woohoo!), gifts, and the sweetest card filled with their gratitude that I am theirs and they are mine… healing.

While eating the breakfast my boys made me, I began to weep. I so wish that this day wasn’t filled with such a mixed bag of emotions. But it is. It is a hard day not just for me, but for so many people that I know and love. Some of us have no mother to honor today. Some of us have mothers that, due to unhealed wounds, we would rather not honor today. Some of us are grieving children both alive and dead. Some of us are longing for children we do not yet have. Some of us have children with no father to encourage them to honor us. Some of us have our children’s fathers around, but because we are not their mothers or because of their own unhealed wounds, they do not honor us or encourage our children to do so. Some of us are living with shame and regret over choices we’ve made as mothers. Some of us have children that are being raised by other mothers. And some of us are raising children that were birthed by women who will never get to hear those children call them, “Mama.” All of these realities complicate this day.

Deuteronomy 30:15-16, 19 “Now listen! Today I am giving you a choice between life and death, between prosperity and disaster. For I command you this day to love the Lord your God and to keep his commands, decrees, and regulations by walking in his ways. If you do this, you will live and multiply, and the Lord your God will bless you and the land you are about to enter and occupy... “Today I have given you the choice between life and death, between blessings and curses. Now I call on heaven and earth to witness the choice you make. Oh, that you would choose life, so that you and your descendants might live! 

I’ve had a couple of recent conversations that have reminded me of God’s truth, dried my tears today, and given me great hope. Those conversations have revolved around the many times in the book of Deuteronomy when God said to the Israelites that He gives us a choice between life and death, blessings and curses, and promises that whatever we choose is not just for ourselves, but for the generations to come. God didn’t say that we have to wait for our parents to choose life, prosperity, or blessings in order for us to experience those promises. He didn’t say that we needed to think about our circumstances before choosing. He didn’t say that we are unqualified to choose. He didn’t say that we needed to wait until everything was easy and painless. He simply said that WE get to make those choices. And, if we love Him and walk in His ways, we (and the place we occupy) will be blessed.

Romans 5:5 Such hope in God’s promises never disappoints us, because God’s love has been abundantly poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.

Whether this day is filled with hardship, holiness, hope, or a healing process; my prayer is that we all find something today to be happy about and the courage and wisdom to CHOOSE blessings, life, and prosperity.

Have a Happy Holy Hard Hopeful Healing Mother’s Day.

Good, Gut-wrenching, Glorious Friday

Most historians believe that around three hundred years before the birth of Jesus Christ, in Isaiah 53, it was prophesied…

Who has believed our message?
    To whom has the Lord revealed his powerful arm?
My servant grew up in the Lord’s presence like a tender green shoot,
    like a root in dry ground.
There was nothing beautiful or majestic about his appearance,
    nothing to attract us to him.
He was despised and rejected—
    a man of sorrows, acquainted with deepest grief.
We turned our backs on him and looked the other way.
    He was despised, and we did not care.

Yet it was our weaknesses he carried;
    it was our sorrows that weighed him down.
And we thought his troubles were a punishment from God,
    a punishment for his own sins!
But he was pierced for OUR rebellion,
   crushed for OUR sins.
He was beaten so WE (YOU and I) could be whole.
   He was whipped so WE could be healed.
ALL OF US, like sheep, have strayed away.
    We have left God’s paths to follow our own.
Yet the Lord laid on him
    the sins of us all.

He was oppressed and treated harshly,
    yet he never said a word.
He was led like a lamb to the slaughter.
    And as a sheep is silent before the shearers,
    he did not open his mouth.
Unjustly condemned,
    he was led away.
No one cared that he died without descendants,
    that his life was cut short in midstream.[c
But he was struck down
    for the rebellion of my people.
He had done no wrong
    and had never deceived anyone.
But he was buried like a criminal;
    he was put in a rich man’s grave.

10 But it was the Lord’s good plan to crush him
    and cause him grief.
Yet when his life is made an offering for sin,
    he will have many descendants.
He will enjoy a long life,
    and the Lord’s good plan will prosper in his hands.
11 When he sees all that is accomplished by his anguish,
    he will be satisfied.
And because of his experience,
    my righteous servant will make it possible
for many to be counted righteous,
   for he will bear ALL their sins.
12 I will give him the honors of a victorious soldier,
    because he exposed himself to death.
He was counted among the rebels.
    He bore the sins of many and interceded for rebels.

If you read Matthew 27, Mark 15, Luke 23, and John 19, you see that every single detail of the prophesy was fulfilled in Jesus’ crucifixion. His death was horrible, and painful, and exposing. Although pictures of the crucifixion always have him wearing a loincloth, the Bible says that he was stripped of his clothes and Roman tradition was to crucify criminals naked. So, we know that our savior, the one who literally gave up everything, including his life; was beaten, abused, and died a brutal death, completely exposed and broken. That is what today is all about…

He did it all so that when we are experiencing brokenness, feeling exposed, abused, in pain, ashamed, sick, stuck, hopeless, in bondage, or anything other than complete wholeness and freedom; we can leave it ALL at the cross with him. Because on the third day… he rose from the dead, insuring that you and I do not have to carry ANY of the things that hurt or weigh us down in this life, but live eternally with him.

This Holy Week has been a beautiful, brutal reminder of the significance of this day and what’s to come on Sunday.

The entire world is unstable, in every possible way. I am reeling from the end of my marriage. I have spent the majority of this Holy Week alone in silence, with the exception of the hours I’ve spent face down on the floor crying out to God. When I couldn’t think of anything else to yell at talk to God about, I have given thanks for every single thing I can think of. In all the thanksgiving, I remembered that I was not only healed of cancer eleven years ago, but I was also completely healed of all the side effects of radiation that I was told would be life-long. In the process of healing me of cancer, God exposed layers and layers of wounds that were keeping me from living fully in all of His promises, poured out the blood of Jesus on them, and healed my heart and soul. He has healed relationships that had little hope of restoration. He has healed pieces of my children that doctors said we needed to learn to live with. He has NEVER failed to provide for all of my needs. He has given me pure gold in my tribe of people. He equipped me with gifts, and talents, and intuition that have opened doors I could have never opened on my own. He allowed me to see a very large portion of this Earth before world travel became a thing of the past. And, two months away from turning fifty, I still have no gray hair. SO MUCH to be thankful for!

Also, I’ve given a lot of thanks this week for the fact that God has (quite literally) carried me through the most tumultuous storms of my life. In the moments where it was hard to breathe or stand on my own two feet, His love, grace, and strength quite literally carried me through.

As I wait for new life to be breathed into situations that feel a little hopeless and scary, I know that I know that I know that God will be faithful. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. What He has done in the past, He will do again. He heals. He sets captives free. He shines light in the darkness. He exposes evil and eradicates it. He restores. He redeems. He is love. He is grace. He is constant.

So hold on, let go, trust God. We’re all in this broken, painful Good Friday world together.

Sunday is coming.

passover, prodigal parenting, and temporal lobes



Tomorrow, March 30, 2018, is the beginning of the Jewish Passover. Passover is a celebration of freedom commemorating when God liberated the Jewish people from slavery. You can read all about the Passover in scripture HERE, but the gist of why it’s called “Passover” is that the Jewish people were to put the blood of a male goat or sheep around their door frames so that their homes would be “passed over” on the night that God delivered judgment on Egypt by killing the first-born child of each home. The homes covered by blood were protected from judgment.

I’m not so great at Bible timelines, but around thirteen hundred years after the Jewish people were freed from slavery, on the first day of Passover, Jesus had dinner with his disciples, washed their feet, and told them that one of them was about to betray him. On the Christian calendar, that last supper is commemorated today. So yeah, it’s a good day to wash someone’s feet. 😉 In the three days following that last meal, Jesus was betrayed, tortured, beaten, crucified, and on the third day arose from the dead. For those who believe that Jesus was crucified and resurrected so that we may have eternal life, our passover looks like a cross and an empty tomb. The blood of Jesus spares us from judgment.

I sat today and read the story of the crucifixion and I was brought to tears.  I just kept thinking about God the Father witnessing his son being tortured and killed. He allowed the horrors of the crucifixion so that every human thereafter could live in the freedom of the resurrection. He watched and waited because he had complete faith in His ability to fulfill His promises. As a parent, I can’t even imagine.

At the moment, I have one prodigal child and one that has recently developed epilepsy. In both situations I’m having to make daily (sometimes minute by minute) choices. I get to choose fear, or I get to choose faith.  In all the choosing I’m also doing a whole lot of seeking wisdom.

Parenting is hard, y’all. I firmly believe that the Bible is meant to be the guide book for everything in life. But guess what? Other than dishing out discipline and leaving them an inheritance, it doesn’t give many specifics when it comes to bringing up little humans. Wouldn’t you just love to know how Noah convinced his kids to get on the ark? We know they were there. But seriously… just getting my kids in the car for church is like herding cats. Or how God, knowing the pain and suffering Jesus would endure, didn’t interfere?

Because I already know that someone is going to comment with, “What about Proverbs 22:6?” I’d like to point out a few things about that verse. 1) It says, “Raise a child in the way they should go and WHEN THEY ARE OLD they will not depart from it. It doesn’t say a dang thing about when they’re young and stupid, and have an underdeveloped frontal lobe, and the inability to make rational decisions. 2) It’s REALLY vague. The writer makes the assumption that every reader actually knows “the way they should go”. Hello?? Have you met the human race? NONE of us have “the way” all figured out. 3) The very next verse says, “The rich rule over the poor and the borrower is slave to the lender.” So maybe, just maybe, that verse is actually referring to teaching our kids to work hard and stay out of debt.

Although it’s hard to find many intimate conversations or outtakes between parents and children in scripture,  I have found one thing that is always consistent: when children are sick, struggling, or even dead, moms and dads always seek and cling to God on their children’s behalf. Biblical parents had crazy faith, y’all.

I believe that the only two tools our enemy needs to keep us from being in intimate relationship with God are isolation and distraction. Unfortunately, I think we’re living in a time when everyone is more isolated and distracted than at any other time in history.  I’m pretty sure that my need for my laptop and phone have made my faith look ridiculous when compared to the mom in 2 Kings who literally held onto the feet of the prophet Elisha until he came back to her house to raise her son from the dead. I want that kind of faith.

Hebrews 11:1 Faith shows the reality of what we hope for; it is the evidence of things we cannot see.

Possibly the most detailed account of parenting in scripture isn’t something that actually happened. It’s a parable (a simple story used by Jesus to illustrate a spiritual lesson) about a prodigal son. I love the story for many reasons. First off, I’ve been a prodigal child. I’ve run from God, made some pretty awful choices, squandered things He’s given me, and come crawling back begging for grace. Every. Single. Time… God has wrapped his arms around me, celebrated me, and given me waaaaay more love and grace than I could ever possibly deserve. I also love it because the father in the story was there waiting and prepared to celebrate the son upon his return. He had a ring and a robe and new shoes and a fattened calf just waiting for the celebration of his son’s return. He had faith that his son WOULD return.

In 2010 our baby girl had an MRI that showed she had scarring in her temporal lobe. To be specific, she had extra tissue on her right hippocampus and right temporal horn. In that first year that she was ours she would frequently freeze. We, along with her pediatrician, had suspected that she was having seizures so we saw a neurologist that ordered the MRI and two EEGs. The first EEG showed some abnormal activity, but nothing significant. The second EEG also showed some slow/abnormal activity, but nothing significant. The freezing stopped and we just assumed it had been caused by her brain trying to process a whole new world of information.

Fast forward to two weeks ago… she climbed in bed next to me one morning and in the middle of rubbing my face and asking if she could have cake, she got a look of terror on her face, screamed, began smacking her lips and swallowing, and then couldn’t form words. It took two or three minutes for her to be able to speak. A few hours later, it happened again. The next day we saw it happen two  more times. The day after that, it happened four times in three hours. On the third day I started recording what we were witnessing and sent it to her doctor. While waiting to hear from her doctor, Dr. Google quickly told me what is happening looks like temporal lobe seizures. Last week an EEG showed bilateral seizure activity in her temporal lobe. We’re still waiting to get in with a pediatric neurologist for an MRI to see if there is any change from what the 2010 MRI showed, which means she is not yet on anti-seizure medication. She’s still having several seizures every day and her mental and verbal processing is definitely “off”.

Let me tell you something. Watching your child go from doing complicated math to not being able to form words in a matter of seconds is NOT fun.  It’s realllly hard to choose faith in those few minutes when I can’t reach her. It’s also realllly hard to choose faith in the moments when I can’t reach my prodigal.

But then I remember…. we’ve been passed over. This house and this family are covered by the blood and God ALWAYS fulfills His promises!

When she is old she will NOT depart from the way she was brought up

Jesus was wounded so that she IS healed

It only takes faith as small as a mustard seed to move mountains…

I hope you experience all that Resurrection Sunday has to offer. May your dreams be resurrected. May your faith be resurrected. May your joy. and hope, and relationships, and all the goodness that this world tries to steal be RESURRECTED. And may all the yuck pass you over.

If you’ve actually read all the way to the bottom, thank you. I forget that I even have this blog and I do appreciate those who haven’t given up on me as a writer.

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muffins with mom in a mental hospital

This post is for every girl who struggles to find joy on Mother’s Day.

girlwithdolls

Little girls play with dolls and dream of someday mothering real babies. But those little girl dreams never quite match reality, and for this reason many grownup girls have a love-hate relationship with Mother’s Day. I’m one of them.

I lost my mother in 2006. She wasn’t perfect, but she was a constructive, loving mother. I miss her.

Psalm 34:18 The Lord is near to the brokenhearted…

I have two babies that I will never hold this side of heaven and I know far too many Mamas longing to hold their lost babies today. Women who’ve lost a child through miscarriage, abortion, adoption, illness, or tragedy…. this is still your day. You are a Mother.

Psalm 34:18 The Lord is near to the brokenhearted…

On Mother’s Day 2016 my baby girl was seven months into a year-long hospitalization. In anticipation of Mothers Day, these signs were posted all around the hospital…

13179257_10209053934886270_2762347428785224829_n

If you’re struggling today because your child is hospitalized, living in residential care, or unable to utter the word “Mom”, this is still your day. If you’re spending this day watching your child self-injure, destroy everything in their path, or praying that your child’s aggression isn’t directed at you, this is still your day. Hang in there, Mama!

If this day is hard for you, know that you are valued. Know that your job as a Mama holds worth beyond measure. Know that you are a creator, a giver of life. Know that God is near you. He sees your broken heart and He grieves with you.

babymissinghead

Whether you are having Muffins with Mom in a mental hospital, longing for a Mom that isn’t here, longing for a child you cannot hold, parenting a prodigal child that you will not hear from today, or trying to find a way to feel like a success when your child has lost his or her mind; I pray that you find some joy today. Eat some chocolate. Drink some wine. Take a bubble bath.

This is still your day. Even if it brings with it a roller-coaster of emotions, I pray you feel God’s presence and find (at least) a moment to honor yourself.

Blessed Mother’s Day!

We’re all orphans.

Sofija is home and I’m still sifting through the dozen or so blog posts that are running around in my head. While I’m sorting my thoughts and seeking wisdom in what I share, I want to address something that has repeatedly come up since I first began sharing our struggles. Between the messages and emails I’ve received from people sharing their opinions and the ones from people sharing their own struggles, I’ve received another kind of message. Many people read my blog who have no connection to adoption or autism or mental illness. Several of those people have written to me with sincere questions. Things like, “Why is she so aggressive?”, “Why does she hurt you?”, and “What exactly is wrong with her?” Please don’t stop asking questions. Questions beg answers and answers give me an opportunity to educate. I like to educate.

The Bible is packed full of orphan references and I have to be honest. Until adoption was a part of my life, I always skimmed over those verses with the prideful thought that they applied to someone else. Going through the adoption process I scoured scripture for verses that may prepare me to love my daughter. Within days of meeting her, I realized that I was just as orphaned as she was.

Let’s compare me as an adopted daughter of God to the little girl who joined our family through adoption:

– My daughter doesn’t trust my love. She doubts every promise I make. She keeps waiting for me to stop loving her; for me to fail.  / Yep. I can relate.

– My daughter puts her hands over her ears and hums when I’m trying to tell her how much I love her and how precious she is. / It is a daily struggle to believe anything God’s word says about my worth. I stay busy and keep my environment noisy to block out His voice.

– She also puts her hands over her ears, hums, and closes her eyes immediately after asking for something she really wants. She’s preparing herself for disappointment and she often misses my “Yes” because she’s not looking or listening. / Story of my life.

– My daughter hurts herself and puts herself in dangerous situations and then apologizes to me for not loving herself. / All. The. Time.

– My daughter runs away from the place and people who love and protect her. / More times than I can count.

– My daughter resists all rules that we try to put in place to teach her and keep her safe. / I hate rules.

– My daughter will repeat a bad choice over and over and over again without learning from her mistake. / Grrrrr

– My daughter hurts other people because she is afraid of being hurt. She always wants to be in control so she hurts others before they have a chance to hurt her. / This one is not a huge struggle for me. However, I will openly confess that I’ve been there, done that.

– My daughter will be destructive in order to escape a situation where she isn’t in control. / Been there, done this one too…

– My daughter will lash out at me in order to get my attention. / I really wish I didn’t relate to this, but I do. It’s sad how often I forget that I have God’s undivided attention.

– My daughter will try to hide from me when she knows she’s done something wrong. / Dangit. This is another “more times than I can count” offense.

– She screams and fights and does everything she can think of to get out of a vehicle when she doesn’t know where we’re going. She’s so afraid that we’re going to take her some place scary and unfamiliar and because she doesn’t trust us to provide or protect, she fights. / I look forward to the day when she is as tired as I am of trying to escape the journey.

I could probably list out a dozen more ways that I relate to my daughter’s orphan heart. For those wondering why she does what she does or what exactly is wrong with her, it all boils down to that one thing… the heart of an orphan. Autism has removed her filters. She doesn’t know that the socially acceptable thing to do is try to hide her orphan heart. So all her struggles are out in the open. If you haven’t caught on, I prefer “out in the open”. I crave transparency and I thank God for giving me a girl who leaves all her brokenness out where I can see it.

If you can’t relate to me and my girl, I apologize for wasting a few minutes of your time. If you can relate, just know that you’re in good company. Two of my favorite people in scripture are Esther and Moses. Both orphans. Both changed the course of history. U.S. Presidents Andrew Jackson, Herbert Hoover, and Alexander Hamilton were orphans; as were first lady Eleanor Roosevelt and Nelson Mandela. Tolkien and Tolstoy… orphans. Babe Ruth… lived his entire childhood in an orphanage.  Steve Jobs… orphaned and adopted as a baby.

Being an orphan (or even having an orphan heart) should not define anyone. My daughter has many struggles and I will continue to do everything in my power to help her overcome those struggles for as long as I have breath. Those struggles do not define her. Just as my own struggles do not define me. And just as your struggles should not define you. Sofija was created in the image of God. She is wonderfully made. He has a plan for her future. Plans to give her hope and to prosper her. She was created to overcome. All those things also apply to me… and to YOU.  You want to know something amazing? Even if you don’t believe it all, it’s still true. And just like I refuse to give up on my daughter, God refuses to give up on any of us.

Isaiah 43:5 "Do not be afraid for I am with you.  I will bring your children from the East and gather you from the West."
This little girl was an orphan. Now she’s my daughter.

Now go watch a Batman, Spiderman, Superman, or James Bond movie. They’re all orphans and they all make it really hard for people to love them. But… their stories all end well.

fire is hot.

When my kids were little, during bedtime roundup, I would often say, “Shadrach, Meshach, and ToBedYouGo!” It’s a cute saying.  But after spending some time in the footsteps of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, I no longer use it lightheartedly. Those boys walked through fire. They may not have been burned when they came out and God may have been right there in the fire with them, but that doesn’t mean they didn’t experience the heat while they were in the furnace.

December 5, 2011 my husband returned to his job at the Pentagon after two weeks of leave. At the time he worked in a secure location where cell phones had to be left outside. An hour after leaving home he called me from his cell phone. I answered with a joking, “Why aren’t you at work?” Him – “I was fired.” Me – “Yeah, right. They can’t fire you. You’re an active duty Army officer.” Him – “I’m not joking.” He wasn’t.

For thirty months we scratched our heads, lost our minds, and came to the end of ourselves. We were thrown in a furnace and it was hot. onfire

My husband went to military school at age 14. He went to military college. He went straight from college to active duty and has worn a uniform to work every day since the summer of 1994. What started in him on December 5, 2011 was the extreme version of an identity crisis. Wives, if your hubby is in the middle of losing his identity, don’t get excited and tell him that you can’t wait for God to redefine him. Just don’t. Trust me.

What started in me that day was a different kind of crisis. Although he had been escorted from the Pentagon and had all of his keys and badges taken away, he was not told what he was accused of or who had done the accusing. The only information he was given was that he had indeed been accused of something and that he was under criminal investigation.

My crisis went the way of a writer’s imagination. My husband loves right and hates wrong. There is no gray in his world. He was working as the acquisitions adviser to the Army’s director of intelligence. The intelligence world and the government acquisitions world operate in the gray. I wish it wasn’t so, but it is what it is. My very black and white husband made quick enemies in that position and there were people who had much to gain financially by getting him (and his very loud Italian mouth) out of the office. So began my crisis.

In the first few months I wrote things in my journal like, “God, what are we going to do if he goes to prison?” I planned out what I would take with me if someone showed up and whisked us off to witness protection. I made sure our extended family knows that they are loved just in case we disappeared. I FREAKED OUT.

When the crises eased somewhat, depression set in. We stopped doing much or interacting with many people. We weren’t sure who we could trust and we didn’t feel free to share our situation with many people. So there we were. Together. All the time. Depressed. With little hope that anything would ever be okay again. We sat on the couch. We ate too much. We watched too much tv.

I used to think my love language was quality time. I was wrong. We’ve been together almost every minute, of every day, for THIRTY MONTHS. Any married person out there who thinks they want to spend every minute of every day with your spouse, you may be right. But I would not suggest that you initiate all that togetherness in the middle of a very hot furnace. When one of you is dealing with losing an identity that you have physically worn every day since you were fourteen years old and the other is freaking out over all the possibilities at the end of a criminal investigation, things can get downright ugly.

Somewhere around the twenty-month mark we received news that the investigation had been transferred from the Army’s Criminal Investigation Division (CID) to the Justice Department. As my husband freaked out internally and tried to keep me calm, well, I just freaked out. I’m not saying I actually did this, but I’ve heard of a woman who looked up what federal prison her husband would go to if he were to be convicted of a civilian crime by the US Department of Justice. I also heard that she calculated the distance to said prison from her home. And then looked at possible housing around said prison just in case she needed to move the kids there so that they could visit their Daddy in jail. Can you imagine? That woman must’ve had zero faith in the American justice system.

The same day that we hit the two-year mark (December 5, 2013), I received an email from an organization that provides therapeutic retreats for military families. We were chosen for one of their retreats in 2009, but we were unable to go because my hubby could not get the time off. When I opened the email, I cried. I had honestly forgotten all about the retreat, and I could not believe that God was giving us such an amazing gift at a time when we were so desperate for a little bit of hope. The icing on the getaway cake was that the organization providing the retreat was also offering to sponsor our travel to and from Colorado. And… they agreed to fly us out a few days before the retreat so that we could spend some time with my husband’s family. He grew up in Denver and many of his family members there have never met Sofija. For the first time, in a long time, we had something big to look forward to.

We planned our entire summer around the trip. Our teenagers found jobs that would allow them to take ten days off in June and we filled out the paperwork to withdraw Sofija from school a week before the end of the school year. The behavioral therapist that works with both of our stimmers began preparing them for flying and horseback riding. All the while, communication with the retreat organization was sporadic and giving me doubts as to whether or not it would actually happen.

Eleven days before we were scheduled to fly out, my husband was alone in a rental house we own in Columbus, Georgia. While waiting on contractors to prepare the house for sale, he received a phone call from an angel at the Army Inspector General’s office. He was calling to say that the Justice Dept. had found “no evidence to substantiate the accusations made against him”. No charges would be filed. All would be restored. He would walk out of the fire unscathed.

The next morning I received an email from the retreat organization saying that someone was calling that day to finalize our travel arrangements. God’s timing is so frickin’ unbelievable.

But… that phone call never came. For the next week none of our phone calls or emails were returned. Two days before we were scheduled to travel we received a phone call from the founder of the organization. They screwed up. Someone/multiple people dropped the ball. The retreat was overbooked and they had no space for our family.

For four days we processed our emotions. Processing emotions for us looks a lot like exchanging nasty email and phone calls with the people who dropped the ball. It wasn’t pretty, but we’re human. After being told that they were trying to “make it right”, I sent a message that simply said, “The only way to make this right is to honor your word. We have two teenagers who planned their entire summer around this trip, two children with autism who keep asking why we didn’t get on a plane and go to Colorado, and military leave that cannot be restored.” The recipient of that message responded with six round-trip tickets anywhere that JetBlue flies. An hour later, we had flights booked to one of the few places that had six seats open on the same day… Puerto Rico.

So here we sit, 35,000 feet above the Atlantic ocean, marveling over the fact that God truly does restore all that is lost.

When Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego walked out of the fire, King Nebuchadnezzar was astonished to see that they were not burned. He had asked his groupies to make the fire three times as hot as it’s normal heat and then watched those groupies burn up in the process of throwing the boys in the furnace. He also witnessed that although only three people were thrown into the fire, there were four in the furnace. When the boys stepped out, King Neb proclaimed that their God was indeed the one true God. He promoted them and gave orders that they should be exalted. God had taken what was intended for their destruction and used it for their increase. He did the same with Job. And the same with Joseph. For thirty months, when we weren’t in crisis or depressed, we’ve claimed that this was my husband’s Joseph season. That all that was lost would be restored in multiplicity. That someday he would have the chance to bless his military brothers who set out to destroy him.

We are out of the fire. We are not burned. God was ALWAYS with us, especially in the ugly. We are ridiculously excited about the future. If God could replace our lost retreat with a week in paradise, He must certainly have an A-MA-ZING plan for my husband’s career.

To each and every person that has stood by us and prayed for us and drug us off the couch and spoke hard truth to us, thanks isn’t a big enough word. I’m not certain that I/he/we would have survived this journey without God using you in our lives.

Now for a little time in paradise. 🙂 flamenco-beach

 

 

 

 

believing the truth…

truthI’ve experienced a roller coaster of emotions this week.  While I was at home breathing easy over the news that I DO NOT have cancer, my precious still-a-little-broken baby girl was busy at school taking down four staff members and giving her lead teacher a concussion.  On the same day that I talked to my doctor about possible surgery dates that would give me time to heal before that baby girl’s school year ends, I faced the reality that her “school year” may be over in the terms of her actually leaving the house for a few hours a day.

And then, in the midst of the roller-coaster of emotions and seeking wisdom on baby girl’s school placement and dealing with an achy uterus, I was told some things yesterday that punched me in the gut.

“You are a narcissist and a hypocrite! You lack the ability to be truthful and you have no place doing any Christian counseling with anyone… Don’t blog or write anymore as your words are meaningless and untrue!”

It’s always interesting to me how those type of character attacks come when there is ZERO energy (or even motivation) left to defend myself.  But you know what?  I think there’s a reason for that.  I think God wants us to have ZERO energy for defending ourselves so that we can lean into Him.  So that we are forced to choose what we are going to believe.  I also don’t think it’s any accident that the character attack came at the same time I am being forced to choose what I believe about daughter.

So, for the record, I choose TRUTH.  I choose to only believe the things that the Word of God says about me and my child.  I choose to believe that God has given me a platform with this blog and that when someone is blessed by something I write, my purpose is fulfilled and HE is glorified.  I choose to give GOD credit for any good that anyone sees in me.

TRUTH: Jeremiah 29:11 For I know the plans I have for Sofija and Kaci,”says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give my girls a future and a hope.”  ~My baby girl is going to be just fine.  No matter what her school environment looks like, it will be a good thing.  No ifs.  No ands.  No buts.

Matthew 10:31  So don’t be afraid; you are more valuable to God than a whole flock of sparrows. flock~See all those birds?  You, me, and my baby girl…. we’re more valuable to God than that whole dang flock.

2 Corinthians 12:10  That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the INSULTS, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.  ~ This is why I’m pretty confident God allows character attacks at times when I don’t have the time or energy to work it out on my own.  “…when I am weak, then I am strong.”

Romans 8:28 For we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them. ~We’re all going to be okay around here and you’re going to be okay wherever you are and whatever it is that you’re walking through.  There is no guarantee that life will be easy for those who follow Christ.  There is however a guarantee that EVERYTHING will work together for your good.  I need to mention that sometimes “your good” doesn’t look like what you imagined it would look like.  It just doesn’t.  But that doesn’t make it less good.  It’s just different good.

John 1:12  But to all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God. ~ Did you read that?  “…children of God.”  That’s right, y’all.  Me and my girl…  We’re royalty.  We’re daughters of a king.  There is nothing that anybody can say that will ever change that.  

A couple of years ago, Prince Harry was caught on camera, sans pants, in Vegas.  For the Prince, what happened in Vegas, did not stay in Vegas.  Within hours the crown jewels were all over the internet and people were calling him all sorts of bad names.  You know what he did?  He got up the next morning, put on a suit and tie, and continued to be a Prince.  As crazy as it may sound, I want to be like Harry.  Okay maybe I don’t want the world to see me in my birthday suit through the lens of a cellphone camera.  But I do want to get up everyday, clothe myself in a suit of armor, and remember that no matter what anyone says about me (or to me), I am a daughter of a king.

Ephesians 6:13-17  Therefore, put on every piece of God’s armor so you will be able to resist the enemy in the time of evil. Then after the battle you will still be standing firm. Stand your ground, putting on the BELT OF TRUTH and the body armor of God’s righteousness. For shoes, put on the peace that comes from the Good News (the Bible) so that you will be fully prepared.  In addition to all of these, hold up the shield of faith to stop the fiery arrows of the devil. Put on salvation as your helmet, and take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

 

 

another April 30th in the books…

April 30, 2010 – God (and a friend on Capitol Hill) worked a miracle and got our family out of Serbia. https://bringinganahome.wordpress.com/2010/05/01/angels/

April 30, 2011 – God displayed his sense of humor by sending me back to Serbia on the exact date I begged Him to get me out of there the year before. https://bringinganahome.wordpress.com/2011/06/08/one-year-journey/

April 30, 2012 – I spent my day longing for Serbia.  After many hours of melancholy, I walked into a shoe store with my oldest two children and overheard a conversation that made me as warm inside as the smell of pot roast on a Sunday afternoon.  The words floating around seemed to pass between a Serbian mother and her young child.  I hid behind a tall shoe display and soaked the music in for a while before approaching the mother/daughter duo.  They were indeed from Serbia.  And… they were ending their year-long stay in my area and planned to return to Belgrade only a few days after our encounter.  I thanked them for giving my a little taste of the place I longed to be and then I thanked God for putting them in that store at the exact moment that I needed them to be there.  He’s just good like that.

April 30, 2013 – After Bible study with ladies in my neighborhood and Seth’s IEP (his team still rocks!), I walked in the door just in time to receive a phone call from Sofija’s principal saying that she was being suspended… For the second time in just a few short months.  The teacher she kicked in the temple last time, was kicked in the jaw today.  Happy. Happy. Joy. Joy.  There’s my Serbia for the day.  But I’m not going to focus on it.  Sofija is going to be okay.  We’re all going to be okay.  God promised it.  Romans 8:28 And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.  And besides… I’m leaving tomorrow for Summit9!!

If you’re praying for our family.  Well, Chad probably needs the most knee-time.  He’s alone with the kids for the next few days and he’s going to have LOTS of Tata/Sofija time.  For me, please pray that I give and receive all that God intends for me to give and receive during the conference.

Hooray for May!

what does favor look like?

Psalm 90:17 Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us, and establish the work of our hands; yes, establish the work of our hands!

The dictionary defines favor as:

-a gift bestowed as a token of goodwill, kind regard, love, etc., as formerly upon a knight by his lady.
excessive kindness or unfair partiality; preferential treatment
Disclaimer: This post is NOT about autism.
We’re almost to the end of Autism Awareness/Acceptance Month and I have yet to write a single post about autism.  Yes, I do have two children on the autism spectrum.  And yes, I do have a passion for the world to be more aware/accepting of the stimmers amongst us.  Truth is: my life has changed and my character has been refined in more ways that I could possibly put in writing, just because two precious stimmers call me, “Mama”.
When Seth was diagnosed with autism I struggled with all the typical feelings a Mom experiences when coming to terms with the fact that her child’s future might not look exactly like what she’s envisioned.  Grief, guilt, anger, fear, and eventually acceptance.  That last one being key to all that was to come…
Between 2004 and 2009 our family learned to embrace autism.  Sometimes we embraced it gently and lovingly.  And sometimes we squeezed the crap out of it like we were juicing an orange, just hoping that something sweet and palatable was coming next.  Somewhere along that journey, autism became ours.  Like a birthmark, or quick wit, or chocolatey brown eyes, autism is just another descriptor of our family.  It is not a handicap or limitation or anything exceptional.  It just is.
I believe that our acceptance that autism “just is” prepared us for the day we were called to adopt Sofija.  September 13, 2009 we were driving home from church and Steven Curtis Chapman was on the radio.  There was a rare moment of silence in our car as we listened to SCC describe his family’s call to adopt terminally ill children.  I began to weep and told my husband that I don’t think I could ever do that.  Silent pause. He replied, “No, but we could adopt a child with autism.”  Four days later we learned that our daughter (who just happens to have autism) was waiting for us in a place called Serbia that we actually had to find a world map.
Following that one little tug at our hearts to add a little girl to our family through adoption has led me down a path that I never could have scripted or predicted.  That one not so simple act of obedience exposed me to favor.  That favor is a like a drug.  There is absolutely no greater satisfaction than walking in the favor of God.
That verse and definition at the beginning of this post is my heart’s cry.  I want to see every single thing that I put my hands to as a privilege.  I don’t know about you, but I enjoy preferential treatment.  I like having doors opened for me and I love it when someone else picks up the check.  I’m sharing this because I haven’t taken the time to document what favor has looked like in my life over the last several months.  It needs to be documented.
Adopting Sofija led me down a path to a round table discussion on human trafficking in Dallas, Texas in January of 2011.  You can read all about that experience here.  Being obedient to the simple command God gave me at that event led to my mission trip to Serbia in April of that same year.  That entire trip was filled with doors being opened and God picking up the check.
Between April of 2011 and December of 2012, I was tired.  I experienced more loss than I could process in those twenty months and (to be honest) I had a hard time seeing open doors or favor through the pool of grief I was swimming in.  And then….
In the first week of 2013 I learned that one of my Facebook friends is working for one of my favorite authors.  I then learned that this author has a mentoring program.  Before I even really knew what the program was about, I heard the words, “Just apply, Kaci.”  So I did.  And… I was accepted.  To make the acceptance a little sweeter, I received the message while standing in line at a grocery store.  I’ve always hated grocery stores.  One of my most traumatic childhood experiences happened in a grocery store when I was five years old.  For the last thirty-six years, I’ve equated shopping for groceries with trauma.
Two weeks after getting that acceptance message I returned to the grocery store.  Guess what?  For the first time in my life, I was at peace shopping for groceries.  I walked up and down each aisle and laughed out loud occasionally at the realization that God not only opened the door for me to be mentored by someone who I have the utmost respect for, but He healed a very old wound and redeemed another piece of my life in the process.  He’s just good like that.
The very same day that I enjoyed grocery shopping I was offered the opportunity to attend Summit9.  Summit is the biggest event in the US focused on caring for orphans.  They have speakers and workshops that cover everything from starting an orphan ministry in your church to caring for traumatized children to working with foreign governments to bring about change.  I have dreamed of attending for several years, but there has always been a schedule conflict or a lack of resources.  Several people have asked me if I was going to attend this year.  Each time I was asked, my heart would leap for a moment and then settle back into its place of disappointment as I replied with a simple, “No.”  And then…
I get a text message that says, “Sooo is money the only thing keeping you from Summit?”  And then a few seconds later, “Because I am being sponsored… There is enough left that I could cover your registration and airfare.  And Ch***** has Hilton points so you’d have access to a free hotel room.”  My absolutely amazing super-hero of a husband said, “Sounds like God wants you to go.”  So yeah, I’m going.  If I had designed a dream curriculum of workshops that address all of the issues we’ve faced with Sofija and throughout our adoption journey, it would consist of the exact workshops I will be attending.  F-A-V-O-R!  Oh, one more thing about Summit… I’m going to the bloggers’ breakfast on Friday May 3rd.  Blogger friends, talk to me if you’re there.
I really thought the mentoring gig and the Summit opportunity were about as much favor as this old girl could handle.  But, no.
Isaiah 55:8-9 “My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the Lord.
    “And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine. 
For just as the heavens are higher than the earth,so my ways are higher than your waysand my thoughts higher than your thoughts.
I like to think it’s human nature, but who knows?  Maybe it’s just me.  I’m referring to my tendency to put God in a box.  I get a little glimpse of a plan He has for me and then I tap into my weak, inadequate imagination to fill in all the details.  I assume that I know exactly what the big picture looks like and that I have the wisdom to map out the path to accomplish the plan.  I forget that His ways are far beyond anything I could imagine and that His thoughts are
NOTHING like my thoughts.
I need to give a little background before going into the “far beyond anything you could imagine” details of the last few days.  Over a year ago I wrote a piece on abortion and my belief that The Church needs to offer love and grace and healing to women who’ve had abortions.  While I was still in the midst of loss and grief I received an invitation to attend a conference in Serbia May 24-25 of this year on abortion healing.  I was also asked to speak at a conference on human trafficking in Serbia around the same time and then asked to meet with a group who are interested in opening an autism center in Belgrade.  Seriously?!  Having an opportunity to address three of my biggest passions, in the same week, in my second favorite nation…  I didn’t see how my purpose this year could get much better.  But something strange happened as I began to plan for my trip.  I didn’t have peace.  I should have been bouncing off the walls with excitement.  Instead I found it hard to even look up airfare.  Something just didn’t feel right.
On the day before my joyful grocery shopping and Summit gift, I sent a message to the young man putting together the conference on human trafficking.  He quickly responded that they had lost their funding for the conference in May, but were offered sponsorship to put on a larger conference in October.  I immediately knew that I was to attend the October event.  After talking with my husband I decided to shorten the trip in May so that I can still attend the SaveOne conference.  I will return in October and walk through whatever doors God opens while I’m there.  Knowing that I would only be gone for a few days at the end of the month, made it a little more palatable for my dear hubby when I talked to him about going away for Summit at the beginning of the month…. God knew.
One week ago, as I was booking a rental car for Summit, my friend Marci asked if I would attend a discussion on “Human Trafficking in America” at the National Press Club.  That event was last night (April 22nd) at 6pm.  She also asked me to forward the invite to anyone I thought may be interested in attending.  I immediately thought of two people and just before I hit send on the forwarded invite, I prayed.  “God, is there anyone else I should invite?”  My first thought was of the lady I met in Dallas in January of 2011.  I added her name, sent the invite, and sat with my mouth open for a while when I got her response a few minutes later.  It contained a separate invitation to a round table discussion on human trafficking at the Ukrainian embassy… that just happened to be yesterday (April 22nd) at 3:30pm.  Marci and I were able to attend both events.  F-A-V-O-R!  Divine connections were made and man-power and resources were promised to support the human trafficking conference in Serbia this October.  I’m still processing it all.
At both events there were two questions everyone asked as they shook your hand, “Who (what organization) are you with?”  “Do you have a card?”  Being asked these questions by government officials and company presidents and foreign dignitaries could have pointed out just how unqualified and inadequate I am to do anything great for God.  But that was not the case.  Something interesting happened.  When people asked who I was with, I simply said that God brought me.  Everyone was able to take my name, number, and email address on their notepad or add it to their contact list in their phone.  The fact that my affiliation was the Big Man himself, did not stop a single person from wanting to come alongside me.
One verse has been in my face for the last few weeks…
Galatians 6:4  Pay careful attention to your own work, for then you will get the satisfaction of a job well done, and you won’t need to compare yourself to anyone else.
Part of my tendency to put God in a box involves looking around at people who’ve accomplished things I hope to accomplish and assume that my journey should look like theirs.  Immediately after walking into the Ukrainian embassy yesterday I panicked.  Although no one in that room is doing or has done the things that God has allowed me to do, I assumed that there was no purpose in me being there because I had no title to offer and no stack of business cards to hand out.
I am simply a woman who has witnessed women and children living in slavery across three continents.  In 1999 I, along with a small team of other military wives, rescued a young pregnant girl who was trafficked from the Philippines to South Korea.  In 2000, our family vacationed in Thailand. We spent our first week on the island Koh Samui.  A 50ish year old man was staying in our hotel with the two young girls he had purchased for his stay.  Neither of the girls was older than fourteen.  We traveled from the island to the capital city where I walked the streets of Bangkok and had children no older than six or seven hand me flyers listing what sexual services they could provide and at what cost.  I returned to our apartment in South Korea and lied awake night after night listening to the cries of the dozen or so Russian girls who were enslaved in the apartment above us.  In 2010, we adopted a little girl from Serbia.  The first question we were asked by her foster family was if we planned to prostitute her.  I now live in northern Virginia (just outside of Washington, DC).  Last year a local man was arrested and later convicted for trafficking girls from the high school that my children attend.  I am simply a woman who has seen too much of the ugly in the world.  I am completely surrendered to God’s plan to use me to do something about all that ugly.  And… while I do think it’s time for me to launch a non-profit ministry,  I always want my answer to the question, “Who are you with?” to be… “God!”
Psalm 90:17 Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us, and establish the work of our hands; yes, establish the work of our hands!