Steal, kill, destroy…or satisfying life

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My Mermaid

I know that some readers still come here for updates on Sofija. So, before I dive into the title story, I want to share that tomorrow (Monday March 4th), for the first time since October 2015, Sofi Bea Brave is GOING TO SCHOOL! We’re all excited. Maybe me a little more than her, but whatever. Her two behavior aids that normally work with her at home will be at school with her and the administration of the school has been extremely accommodating and supportive of her many needs. So, if you just drop by this space because you care about our baby girl, feel free to keep her and everyone that’s working with her in your prayers. Specific requests: safety for everyone, peace for her, a few hours of freedom for me (translation: I don’t get called back to the school).

As for the title of this piece, I’m giving you a fair warning that I’m about to get spiritual AND expose my crazy.

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See that handsome guy I’m leaning on? Two weeks ago we were in Jamaica celebrating our 25th anniversary. Twenty-five years is a long flipping time to spend with the same person! We calculated that we’d been married for 1300 weeks and this was the first time in our entire marriage that we’ve taken a whole week to just enjoy each other. We’ve already booked another trip for August. We agreed that our time away was the best week of entire lives and now we realize that we’ve got some making up to do! If, like us, you’ve found every excuse under the sun to not get away with your spouse, do yourself a favor and make it happen. I started scheduling people to keep the house running more than a month out. The three weeks before we left were consumed with making sure we had 2:1 care for Sofija around the clock, groceries, and transportation for Seth every day that we were away. It was A LOT of work! But it was sooooo worth it!

The week before we left, a surprise package was delivered. My hot husband had ordered us the Fierce Marriage 31-day pursuit books and the 30-day couple’s devotional. I may have swooned a little when I opened the box. Reading is not my husband’s favorite activity and suggestions of doing a study together are usually met with little enthusiasm. But things around here have been changing. At the beginning of the year we started seeing a marriage counselor. When I did a get-to-know-you call with our counselor of choice, he asked what our number one goal was in counseling. I replied, “We want to learn how to fight.”

We started a list on our 18th anniversary of things we’d learned about marriage and we’ve added to it a few times. #15 on the list is: Remember that your spouse IS NOT your enemy. Here’s the disclaimer about that little tidbit… you’re still going to fight. My Mama used to say, “If two people agree on everything, one of them isn’t necessary.” It’s true. It’s boring to spend time with someone who agrees with you on everything. The question is, “How do you deal with conflict and disagreements?” In our case, the answer has always been, “Not no nicely.” We both came from homes where our parents were divorced when we were five years old. Our earliest examples of conflict resolution were not so great. Between our parents, step-parents, grandparents, aunts & uncles, siblings, and extended families; we observed the following methods of resolving conflict:

1) Just don’t speak to the person ever again, or don’t speak to them for years and when you do act like nothing ever happened and only discuss the weather and sports.

2) Never address something painful in the moment and after bottling up wounds EXPLODE because the forks weren’t loaded right in the dishwasher and then precede to destroy each other with your words in front of everyone within earshot.

3) EXPLODE over every little thing and leave everyone around you walking on eggshells.

4) Physically fight it out.

5) NEVER speak up when you’re hurt or disagree and just talk bad about the person who’s hurt you to everyone who will listen, OR passively-aggressively get revenge.

So, for the first twenty-five years of our marriage we tried our damndest to do better, but all too often found ourselves repeating the cycles of what had been modeled for us. On January 2nd, 2019, we decided that it was time to actually do better. Once we made that decision we immediately knew that we needed a mediator to walk us through healing the damage we’d done and filling our tool chest with tools that we couldn’t seem to find ourselves.

Which led to the surprise package of books and our trip to Jamaica. RwWbiwFERD+E7SrwwgLSaQ

This picture was taken on Sunday February 17th, 24 years and 364 days into our marriage. My husband had posted a really sweet picture from the breakfast we’d had on our balcony that morning on Facebook and had been reading the comments to me all day. In order to make sure we weren’t distracted on our trip, we left our laptops at home and most nights I didn’t even charge my phone. That day was one of the days where my phone was dead. I took this picture while my husband was snoring on the lounger next to me. We had only been there for 24hrs and I was still struggling to just sit and be so I picked up his phone to look at Facebook. I couldn’t get the app to load so I opened his settings to shut down the apps using cellular data with the hopes of getting it to load. After shutting down a gazillion sports and news apps I see an app called “Telegram” that’s using cellular data and shut it off too. As soon as I shut it down I looked to see what folder he had it in on his phone. For those wondering, it was in a folder with tv and news apps. I made a mental note to ask him about it and went back to Facebook.

So… a little later, as we were getting ready to go to dinner, I asked in a completely accusatory tone totally loving and trusting tone, “What is that Telegram app on your phone?” He got uncomfortable and said that he didn’t know what it was or when he’d put it on his phone. By the time I asked, our room phone was ringing to announce that we needed to get to our dinner reservation. At that moment I made a decision that is completely unnatural and out of character for me, I would put my questions and crazy thoughts on a shelf and approach it later. Shelving the questions and crazy thoughts was a success! We danced in our anniversary and had the most fun that we’ve have together in ages.IMG_2249

Well, the “later” came at 3am when I woke up obsessively thinking about that stupid app. I looked it up on my phone (which I’d remembered to plug in before bed) and found that it’s a messenger app where the messages disappear like snapchat photos and has an option for secret chats that never appear on either user’s phone. And then I found myself, at three something in the morning on our twenty-fifth anniversary, crawling on the floor to his side of the bed and hoping that his cpap would drown out the sound of me taking his phone off the nightstand and sneaking it into the living room of our suite. I opened the app and found no history of messages or chats. I spent half an hour learning how to pull deleted messages and chats from the telegram cloud and felt confident that I’d find the answers to all my questions even if he wouldn’t answer them. I added the app on my phone with his account info and set it so that I would receive notifications of any messages sent or received. I then crawled back to his side of the bed, plugged his phone back in, crawled back around to my side, and climbed in bed with a million worst case scenario possibilities running through my mind.

The morning of our twenty-fifth anniversary was not pretty. My husband woke to me sobbing and I immediately told him all about my 3am exploits. He was frustrated, and I was scared and hurting. He continued to emphatically state that he had never used the app and he wasn’t sure when or why he’d put it on his phone. After talking in circles for about an hour he asked me to sit on the balcony and do our devotion. The day before we had gone over how the strength of our marriage was far more dependent on our beliefs about God than about our feelings for each other. The devotion had included Romans 12:2 Stop imitating the ideals and opinions of the culture around you, but be inwardly transformed by the Holy Spirit through a total reformation of how you think. This will empower you to discern God’s will as you live a beautiful life, satisfying and perfect in his eyes.

John 10:10 “The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life.” ~ Jesus

On our anniversary, the devotion was all about oneness in marriage. Matthew 19:6 Since they are no longer two but one, let no one split apart what God has joined together.” The first question that day asked if there are areas of our hearts that have hardened towards one another. The devotion led to an emotional, loving discussion that allowed me to put my 3am concerns in a little box that I knew we’d have to deal with later. I DID NOT want to be miserable on this trip! We were quickly about to identify that “the thief”, aka Satan, was CLEARLY trying to steal our joy and peace and destroy all that we’ve been working hard on in and out of counseling. We were also quickly able to see that Jesus had put the ad for Fierce Marriage in front of my husband’s eyes just in time for him to order it and have it delivered before this trip. God knew. He knew that we would be attacked and He knew what it would take for us to get back to enjoying each other.

I honestly didn’t think about the app again until we’d been home for a couple of days and I spotted it on my phone. Seeing it led me to look at the app store and see when it was downloaded. The day he downloaded it happened to be the same day that I left for England last November. Knowing that he added it on the same day that I was leaving the country did nothing for the thoughts of betrayal having a party in my head. So, after we did our devotion for the day I brought it up again. Chad quickly asked what I needed to make my doubts and insecurities go away. I replied that I needed to know the whole truth because I couldn’t think of a single harmless reason for a married man to have a disappearing messaging app hidden on his phone. He said that he understood, but he was growing concerned about how long this was going to keep us from living a “satisfying life”. I then told him that I had no peace about pulling the history of the app from the cloud because I needed to hear “the truth” from him. We’ve had a few discussions during and after counseling about the fact that offenses and betrayals are not what hurt the most. What hurts the most is learning about offenses and betrayals via channels other than looking each other in the eyes and confessing. Just be truthful. Period.

Everything in me wanted to believe that he had no idea why he had the app. But, all the voices of women in my life who’ve been played for fools were running through my mind. You know what was NOT running through my mind? God’s voice. Or the Holy Spirit’s voice. There was zero God-truth transformation happening in what I was thinking.

The same night that the app came back to the forefront of our conversation, our Serbian princess awoke at 3am. After battling her for nearly an hour to get back to sleep I started praying. First I prayed over her, and then I prayed over our marriage, and then I prayed over my mind. I asked Holy Spirit for the same thing I asked on the day that we received divine confirmation that we were supposed to adopt Sofija. “God, please change my heart and give me wisdom.” Almost immediately I heard, “Check email from the day the app was downloaded.” I scrolled down to that date in November and the first thing I opened was from a streaming service that we use. I returned from that trip last fall to find that we had finally cut the cord with cable. On the day that I left, my hot husband started watching tutorials and downloading streaming apps to all tv’s in the house. The first email I opened from that day gave instructions on how to get help with a particular streaming app. It said this, “Our support desk ONLY works with the Telegram app. Please download the app and add us as a contact if you have any questions.” There it was. A completely harmless and absolutely clear explanation for the app. I humbly ate crow apologized. He a little self-righteously lovingly gave grace.

“The thief came to steal, kill, and destroy.” It makes me sad when I think how close he came to destroying the best week of our lives. “But I have come to give them a rich and satisfying life.” Thank you! Thank you! Thank you, Jesus!

Ephesians 6:12 Your hand-to-hand combat is not with human beings, but with the highest principalities and authorities operating in rebellion under the heavenly realms. For they are a powerful class of demon-gods and evil spirits that hold this dark world in bondage.

Additions to the marriage rules list…

  1. Go to counseling if you need to learn to fight.
  2. Remember that your battle is NOT against flesh and blood. If you’re in a battle, there’s something spiritual going on.
  3. Look for all the ways God wants to equip you for the spiritual war we’re fighting.
  4. Go to Jamaica with your spouse.
  5. Share your crazy. Somebody out there (like me) needs to know they’re not alone.

 

 

 

 

 

OUR Pulse

client-pulseThe image above depicts a pulse. The list below depicts the names of individuals whose families have been notified that they no longer have a pulse. It is a list of lives that were lost this weekend to hatred. The names in this list are not strangers. They are not defined by the fact that they lost their lives in an LGBT establishment. They are the names of sons and daughters. They are the names of brothers and sisters. They are the names of friends, co-workers, classmates, and neighbors. Members of our human family were lost and instead of spouting rhetoric or pushing some political agenda, ALL humans should be grieving right now.

My firstborn packed her belongings last summer and moved to Orlando in pursuit of her dreams. In the early morning hours of June 12th, as I learned of the terrorist attack that had taken place during the night, I held my breath for a moment as I tried to reach her. The goal of terrorism is to inflict fear. Mission accomplished.

The moment I knew that my daughter was safe, I was overcome with dread. I KNEW that people with platforms would immediately use the attack to promote an agenda. For those who’ve done so, I have some harsh words.

If you’re doing anything other than LOVING YOUR NEIGHBOR right now, STOP IT!

Mark 12:30-31  And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength. The second is equally important: ‘LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF. No other commandment is greater than these.”

Who’s “your neighbor”? It’s the LGBT family with a child on your son’s baseball team. It’s the Muslim family living at the end of your block. It’s the Republican living to your left and the Democrat living to your right. It’s the gun-owner standing in line with you at the grocery store and the journalist on the mat next to you in your yoga class. Every. Single. Human. Being. Is YOUR NEIGHBOR!

Using tragedy to promote an agenda, be divisive, or to justify prejudice and hatred, is sin. Plain and simple.

1 John 4:18 … Love expels ALL fear…

When you’re busy loving, fear is expelled. If you’re afraid right now, I have a solution for you. Get busy loving!

Take a moment to read this list of names. They’re our neighbors. They are/were loved. They deserve to be grieved.

Edward Sotomayor Jr., 34 years old

Stanley Almodovar III, 23 years old

Luis Omar Ocasio-Capo, 20 years old

Juan Ramon Guerrero, 22 years old

Eric Ivan Ortiz-Rivera, 36 years old

Peter O. Gonzalez-Cruz, 22 years old

Luis S. Vielma, 22 years old

Kimberly Morris, 37 years old

Eddie Jamoldroy Justice, 30 years old

Darryl Roman Burt II, 29 years old

Deonka Deidra Drayton, 32 years old

Alejandro Barrios Martinez, 21 years old

Anthony Luis Laureanodisla, 25 years old

Jean Carlos Mendez Perez, 35 years old

Franky Jimmy Dejesus Velazquez, 50 years old

Amanda Alvear, 25 years old

Martin Benitez Torres, 33 years old

Luis Daniel Wilson-Leon, 37 years old

Mercedez Marisol Flores, 26 years old

Xavier Emmanuel Serrano Rosado, 35 years old

Gilberto Ramon Silva Menendez, 25 years old

Simon Adrian Carrillo Fernandez, 31 years old

Oscar A Aracena-Montero, 26 years old

Enrique L. Rios, Jr., 25 years old

Miguel Angel Honorato, 30 years old

Javier Jorge-Reyes, 40 years old

Joel Rayon Paniagua, 32 years old

Jason Benjamin Josaphat, 19 years old

Cory James Connell, 21 years old

Juan P. Rivera Velazquez, 37 years old

Luis Daniel Conde, 39 years old

Shane Evan Tomlinson, 33 years old

Juan Chevez-Martinez, 25 years old

Jerald Arthur Wright, 31 years old

Leroy Valentin Fernandez, 25 years old

Tevin Eugene Crosby, 25 years old

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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.

Mission: Safe Sofija (adoption is a horse)

I started a post more than a year ago titled “Cutting the Horn off the Unicorn”.  That post turned into a personal vent session so I decided not to share it. This post is its replacement. I’m about to cut the horn off a unicorn…

Adoption is hard.

REALLY hard.

In order for one Mother to adopt a child, another Mother must lose a child. In order for an adopted child to attach to her/his adoptive family, that child must let go of their biological family. Adoption ALWAYS involves a lifetime war of nature vs. nurture. Sometimes nurture wins. Sometimes it doesn’t.

When you choose to have a child with someone, you usually take into account what that person will contribute to your child. Will they make pretty babies? Do they come from a long line of smart people? Do compassion and entrepreneurship run in their family? Are they athletic?

or…

Will your children be ugly, clumsy, dumb, lazy, and cold-hearted? Do heart disease, diabetes, and cancer run in both of your families? Does your potential Baby’s Daddy have a physical or learning disability?

At the end of the account taking you usually end up saying, “Hey, he meets half my desires for a Baby Daddy and I love him so let’s get busy.”

Adoption works nothing like the above scenario.

Before I go any further I want to say that I LOVE ADOPTION! I don’t want this post to leave anyone believing otherwise.

But I’m sick and tired of reading all the blogs and news articles that paint adoption as nothing but rainbows and unicorns.

In biological parenting you weigh all the knowns, and you accept the risks. In adoption you weigh all the UNknowns, and you accept the risks. I’m a risk-taker. I was made for adoption. And still… adoption has broken me, taken me to the end of myself, and shown me day after day that the only way through this life is 100% dependence on God.

Yesterday, January 10, 2015, I did one of the hardest things I’ve ever done as a parent. My husband and I admitted our nine-year old daughter to the psychiatric unit at Children’s National Medical Center. I have prayed for wisdom in sharing details leading up to this decision while protecting our daughter. The decision to admit her was ultimately made because we no longer felt that we were keeping her safe at home. She will be hospitalized anywhere from one to three weeks and in that time we will meet several times with a team of doctors and develop a plan for keeping her safe at home from this point forward.

When we began the process of adopting Sofija we knew that she had autism. We were told little else about her or her biological family and everything we WERE told was untrue. When we arrived in Serbia and met her and heard the truth of her history and experienced exactly what we were getting ourselves into, I wanted to walk away. Judge me. Think badly of me. I really don’t care. I wanted to walk away. No matter what your thoughts are, I encourage you to click that last link and read the post I wrote in Serbia while God was working on my heart. As hard as it was to move forward and as hard as every day has been for the last 57 months, we were walking in God’s will. And there’s really no place I’d rather be.

The things I feel comfortable sharing about the last few months are:

-Sofija has repeatedly run away and has spent every second of every day trying to find a way out of the house so she can get to 7eleven.

-She has hurt herself. Repeatedly, and in horrible ways.

-She has hurt us. Repeatedly, and in horrible ways.

-She refuses to stay in her seat in a car and she frequently attacks (jumps on, slaps, throws objects at, pulls hair) everyone in the car, to include the driver.

-She has hurt other students at school and on her bus.

Last, but certainly not least, she has stopped sleeping. She didn’t fall asleep AT ALL between January 2nd and January 6th and since the 6th she has slept no more than 2-4 hours per night. When she wakes up she tries to get out of the house which means that we don’t sleep. The only rest Chad and I have had for the last couple of months has been when she’s at school. We’re not living. We’re surviving. We try to keep her and us safe when she’s home and we sleep while she’s at school. That’s our life. Our life is exhausting. We are spent.

Adoption is hard.

Really hard.

But… James 1:27 Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means CARING FOR ORPHANS and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you.

Does that mean every person who calls themselves a “Christian” needs to adopt? Absolutely, positively, NO. But it does mean that The Church has a responsibility to care for orphans. What does that look like? For me, today, it means sitting in a room that looks like a prison cell (with a sweet view of The Capital and the Washington Monument) with my daughter and believing that her (and our) quality of life will be a thousand times better when she is released. It means that I get to spend the rest of my life fighting the nature vs. nurture war with high hopes that nurture will win.

What does “caring for orphans” look like for you? Well, it’s honestly a question that you have to answer for yourself. I can tell you that our family is not the only adoptive family hurting. Maybe not to the same degree as us, but there are adoptive families all over the place just trying to survive.

-LOVE THEM! We’re lonely! We’re tired! We need YOU!! For quite some time we have basically been shut-ins. Because Sofija hates leaving home and her favorite way of taking control in the car is to jump on the person driving, leaving our house as a family has literally required risking our lives. She’s almost 5’1″, weighs 87lbs, runs like a cheetah, and she’s strong as an ox. We NEED people to come to us.

-Stop judging us!!! We need love and grace and compassion and there just isn’t any room in our lives for judgment. And while I’m on the subject: Adoptive Moms, please stop judging other adoptive Moms. Some families choose disruption and if that is what they choose, respect that choice. I can absolutely guarantee you that the decision to disrupt is not made with any less thought than the decision to adopt. We’re all just trying to survive and care for orphans and sometimes caring for an orphan means allowing that child to become part of a new family.

-We also need people to love on our other children. They’re lonely too. They’ve made HUGE sacrifices in order for us to add a child to our family and (in our case) they have been traumatized by the addition to the family. They need some peace and normalcy and they just don’t get it at home.

-Find an adoptive family in your church and get to know them. Go to their home and try not to be freaked out by the chaos. Our church does an AMAZING job of loving on us! We have a small group of people from our church that meet at our house weekly so that we have a chance to love on others.

-Don’t be afraid to go to the homes of people with adopted children. You just might be blessed! We’ve learned more about grace, faith, hope and provision, than most people will in a lifetime. Ask us questions. Most of us miss face-to-face conversations.

-If you can financially support adoption, contribute to someone who’s in the process. Adoption is expensive (average cost is $30k-$60k) and just because someone is a risk taker with the strength and grace to parent a child from a hard place doesn’t mean that person has the financial resources to bring home a child that needs a family.

-Offer to babysit. You might get slapped or have your hair pulled or have things thrown at you; but you also just might save a marriage that’s been pushed to its limits. Did you read that? Getting uncomfortable for a few hours may just save a marriage. And a saved marriage means less trauma and loss for a child who’s lost more than anyone ever should.

-Most importantly: PRAY! Pray for our family and when you’re done, pray for other adoptive families. God answers prayers. God heals. God provides. Get on your knees or in your shower or pause before climbing out of bed and PRAY!

In adoption there are indeed rainbows; those bright, beautiful, colorful moments that fill you with hope and promise and paint a smile on your face. But like real rainbows, they fade away too soon and leave you expectantly searching for the next one to appear.

Although the rainbow moments exists, there are no unicorns. Adoption is not magical and mythical. It is hard. Really hard. But you know what? When you cut the horn off a unicorn you still have a beautiful, strong, stubborn, magnificent being. Adoption is a horse. And I like horses.

Believing that our hospital snuggles quickly become SAFE at-home snuggles. 10653833_10205720021978831_9099978568237184432_n

 

 

a season of grace

Growing up in south Louisiana is a privilege.  I’ve been around the world and I’ve experienced no culture, food, or people, quite like those of my home.  In south Louisiana Mardi Gras is a season.  Much like Black Friday and tree sales initiating the Christmas season, I grew up with king cakes, parades, and Mardi Gras balls initiating the Lenten season.

As a little girl I wanted so badly to be Catholic.  I was just about the only kid in elementary school who didn’t ‘get to’ go to catechism.  We were (still are) non-denominational Christians and listening to the other kids plan out and talk about their catechism carpools and the mean nuns left me feeling like a red-headed step-child  (no offense to my ginger friends).  I wanted my own rosary and I wanted to see my friends get hit on the back of their hands with a ruler by a nun when they talked during prayer.  king-cake

I eventually got over the desire to be Catholic and decided to just embrace the parts of Catholicism that I found enjoyable and comforting.  Even so, not living in Louisiana for more than twenty years means that I’ve missed out on being immersed in the season.  For many years I whined about missing the parades and having to make my own kingcakes.  And then, a few years ago, I realized that I was not only missing all the fun aspects of the Mardi Gras season. I was missing the reverent aspects of the Lenten season as well.  Although I had been one of the few non-Catholic kids in school, just living in Baton Rouge meant that I didn’t have meat in the cafeteria on Fridays and that I didn’t have school at all the week of Mardi Gras and Ash Wednesday.  And, even though my Mom would explain to me every year from the time I was six that I “didn’t have to”, I still gave up something every year for Lent.  I had to have something to add to the playground conversations and to be honest, I liked the discipline of the giving up.  I still do. I fast from various things at various times throughout the year and I am always blown away at the really BIG WAYS that God shows up when I’m giving something up and replacing that something with Him.

A few years ago, during the Lenten season, something amazing happened.  While I was in Lake Charles, Louisiana caring for my grandmother, my dear hubby was home in Virginia studying all things Ressurectionish.  I returned home to find a mezuzah attached to the frame of our front door and a book laying on the kitchen counter telling how to prepare the Passover Seder.  My former Catholic, very Italian husband, got in touch with his Jewish roots.  He found a desire to honor the beauty of Christ’ life, death, and resurrection in physical, tangible ways.

As dear hubby and I gave homage to all things Christ-centered, we talked to our children about the Lenten season and the crucifixion and the resurrection.  We reminded them over and over that all of it was for grace.  That Christ did not just come to earth and live as a man and die FOR us, but AS us.  We told them that he felt pain and misery and abuse so that we could let go of those things when they happen to us.  We told them that he was tortured and beaten for every wrong thing that any of us would ever do.  We told them that he conquered death so that all of those wrongs would not have the power to dictate how we live our lives.  We told them that he died for our freedom.  He died for our redemption.  He died because he loves us.  He died for grace.

Romans 8:38-39 And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.

We’ve told our children these things throughout their lives, but grace and love and freedom are so much bigger than what can be told. They must be shown.

Yes, my children know what this season is about. But the same year that my husband found his Jewish roots, I found myself burdened. I want my kids to experience Christ, not just know about him. I desire more than anything for grace and freedom to be part of their identities, not just part of their knowledge base.  I knew all about Jesus when I was a teenager, but I was clueless when it came to grace and freedom and unconditional love.  Unfortunately, my lack of understanding led me to believe that choices I made could never be forgiven. My lack of experience with the realness of Christ’ sacrifice led to years of running and self-destruction.

I want more for my children. God, let them know!  Let them know how BIG your love is.  Let them know how BIG your grace is. Let them walk in freedom every day of their lives. Give them total understanding that NOTHING can separate them from your love. Give me wisdom in showing them these things. Amen.

John 15:13 There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.

When I was giving up something for Lent as a child I appreciate that my Mom made it clear that I had free will and that I did not have to.  But I really wish she had taken the time to teach me what Lent was about.  I wish I had known that the “giving up” was in honor of what Christ gave up for us.  I really wish that I had had some tangible symbolic activity that I could connect to scripture as a reminder that freedom and love and grace are mine for the taking.  But I didn’t.  And now… I have a chance to redeem my story.  I have four (not-so) little people in my care that I CAN provide with a tangible symbolic activity that can be tied to scripture.  In my endeavor to find that activity, I came across this blogpost by Ann Voskamp.  Read it.  Be inspired.  repentence box

On New Year’s Eve 2012, we had a little party at our house.  Instead of having people sit around and discuss or write down their hopes, dreams, aspirations, and resolutions for 2013, I gave everyone a couple of index cards and a pen at 11:30pm.  I asked everyone to go find a quiet spot and write down ALL of the things that they would like to leave behind in 2012.  And then… just before midnight, we put our cards, one-by one, in the fireplace and watched them burn.

For the last few years, as an attempt to SHOW what Holy Week is all about, I build a repentance box. Our family (and friends who stop by during the week) write out our bad choices, our pains, every ounce of unforgiveness. All the junk Christ carried to the grave, we place it in the box and let it go.  And just before midnight, on the Saturday before Resurrection Sunday, we will turn it all to ash.

Happy Season of Grace!

Go build your box. 😀

Have you found your ‘thing’?

I have.  I’m supposed to gather stones.

In the book of Joshua (in the Bible) the Israelites FINALLY get to cross the Jordan River and enter the Promised Land.  In the process of crossing the river, the Lord speaks to Joshua and tells him to have one man from each of the twelve tribes go back and gather a stone.  They are to carry the stone on their shoulder to the place where they stayed the night (in the middle of the riverbed that God had dried out just for them).  The stones were to serve as a reminder that God cut off the flow of the water just so they could walk into the territory that had been promised to them.  Hope I haven’t lost you, but this story is extremely significant to me at the moment. You see….

From 1998-2000 our family lived in a little Korean city called Tongduchon (I’m quite certain I spelled it wrong.)  Those two years opened my eyes to something that I previously had no idea was going on in this great big world. I could not walk one block down the streets of Tongduchon without recognizing that all around me, women were living in slavery.  I began to build relationships with girls from the Philippines who were promised the world by a woman or man who brought them to Korea and held their passports while forcing them into prostitution.  My friends and I did what we could to help the girls make money outside of “the clubs” and we successfully raised money to buy the freedom of a few who were able to return home to their families.  What we did never felt like enough.

While living in Korea we vacationed in Thailand.  If my eyes had not been opened to the sex-trade in Korea, they had no choice but to acknowledge its ugliness in Thailand.  Everywhere we went we saw older white men walking around with young Thai children that they had purchased for their time in the country.  While shopping we would have flyers thrust at us by children with price lists of the sexual acts they were willing to perform.  Thailand was one of my most beautiful and disgusting life experiences all rolled into one package.  At the time I was five months pregnant with Seth and I cried myself to sleep on several occasions over the thought of bringing another life into a world that contained such ugliness.  My heart ached for those children.  Where were their mothers?  I could not imagine anything I could do that would ever be enough.

In the last few months of our time in Korea we noticed a change happening in the business of sexual slavery.  When we first arrived the girls were mostly Filipino.  By the time we left, they were mostly Russian and Eastern European.  It was a very strange phenomena to be in a place where you rarely saw anyone who looked like you and then come across someone who did and not be able to communicate with them.  The Filipino girls always spoke English.  The new girls did not.

A pimp rented out the apartment above us and filled it with seven or eight of these girls.  My heart ached.  I watched them come and go.  I watched the Johns (mostly American soldiers) come and go.  I heard screaming and crying through our ceiling.  I smiled at them and took them cookies and brownies and ached for a conversation.  Once again, I felt overwhelmed.  What could I ever do that would be enough to erase the ugliness of what these girls were experiencing?

Something else happened while we lived in Korea.  Several of our friends adopted children.  A dialogue on the possibility of us adopting in the future began.  A dialogue that eventually led us to the home of the girls who lived on the other side of my ceiling in Korea.  A dialogue that led us to Sofija.

If you’ve read this blog for any amount of time you know it began as a way of documenting our adoption process.  Throughout our adoption journey I never took the time to document all that took place in our lives leading up to the day Sofija found us.  I find it so entertaining that we just knew she was meant to be ours when we learned about her even though we had no clue where in the world she lived.  When we did find out that she was in Serbia we actually had to look at a map to see exactly where that was.  And… it wasn’t until we were in Serbia (hearing the spoken language) that I began to realize that the girls living in slavery in Korea, the girls whose floor was our ceiling, must’ve come from there.

The day we met Sofija we were asked if we planned to prostitute her.  It had never crossed my mind that someone might suspect we had bad intentions for her.  But for the people who loved her in Serbia, such a fate was a very real possibility.  We spent three weeks in Serbia seeing things through gray-cloudy lenses.  The food was great.  The people were beautiful.  The oppression was heavy and real.  There was this feeling I got anytime I was close to the girls living in slavery in Korea.  The air around me would thicken.  It took an extra effort just to walk or breathe or speak.  It was like being under water.  I felt the same thing when I saw the children in Thailand.  For the entire three weeks that we were in Serbia, that feeling never lifted.  I felt the yoke of slavery.

I also felt the disgrace of discrimination.  People looked at us everywhere we went.  Not because we looked different or spoke a different language.  But because we had two children with us who are autistic.  They make noises.  They jump around and rock and spin and flap their arms and tap things and sniff things.  People stared with disgust.  We looked and looked and looked some more, but we never once saw another person in public that had any special needs.  They were hidden.

Last year I returned to Serbia and had the honor of getting to know people who have dedicated their lives to breaking the yokes of slavery and discrimination in Serbia.  I met parents who were forced to choose between keeping their child born with special needs and maintaining relationships with their extended family.  Those same parents have dedicated their lives to educating their children and taking part in changing laws regarding special needs citizens.  And…  God gave me the honor of building relationships with people who have a heart to bring His message to their nation.

Which leads me to gathering stones.

While we were in Korea and Thailand and Serbia, I did often feel like I was under water.  But you know what?  I wasn’t.  I was camped out in the middle of a river bed with the waters held back on every side of me.  I could feel the pressure and the moisture, but it never consumed me.  And now I have an opportunity to gather stones and take them back to that place where God held the waters back.

Those people I met who have a heart to bring God’s message of salvation and hope to Serbia have taken on something BIG.  Have you ever seen the movie Faith Like Potatoes?  If not, watch it on Netflix NOW!  My friends have taken a ‘faith like potatoes’ leap.  They have reserved two venues in Serbia for September 21st and 22nd and they have Nick Vujicic coming to speak.  If you don’t know about Nick, click on his name above and read his story.  He’s AMAZING!  Nick was born with no limbs and he’s proven that we are not defined by what the world says we are.  He’s proven that there is no special need that God cannot use.  He is a bringer of hope.  Oh. Did I mention that his parents are Serbian?  And… we’re gonna see him at Creation Fest in June!

On May 2nd, 2011, I wrote a post called ‘set up’.   Sleep evaded me that night.  My heart was aching for the people of Serbia.  I was there and I could see a lack of hope, a lack of God’s love, in the eyes of people everywhere I went.  It was that night that I begin to beg God for opportunities to bring hope and to bring His love to the people of Serbia.  Even if it’s never enough, I want to end this life saying that I gave it my all.

So… will you help me as I pick up a stone and carry it on my shoulder back to Serbia?

We’ve set up a fundraiser through wepay.  I’m working this week to transform my blog to accept widgets, but for now the link will have to suffice.

I have spent a year questioning why God stopped Paul (repeatedly) from going through Serbia.  Why he made him turn back south from Macedonia and didn’t let him cross the Adriatic Sea to reach Italy will be one of my first ‘Heaven questions’.   Whatever God’s reasoning, I do know that he has provided a voice and a time for Serbia to hear His message.  The voice is Nick Vujicic and the time is this September.

the invitation

Here is the invite I sent to several women in my life a few days ago. If you feel called to join in on this journey, I’d love to hear about it. God is doing something BIG!

“So I turned to the Lord God and pleaded with him in prayer and petition, in fasting.” – Daniel 9:3
There are several websites with information on the Daniel fast that I will provide at the end of this message. I’m sure if you go searching you can find a few more. They all have books and material for sale, but the printed material is not necessary to participate in the fast.
“In those days I, Daniel, was mourning three full weeks. I ate no pleasant food, no meat or wine came into my mouth, nor did I anoint myself at all, till three whole weeks were fulfilled.”
Daniel 10:2,3
If you want to do a literal interpretation, feel free to skip bathing and spit out anything that tastes good. I don’t like to stink, soooo, I think I’ll keep anointing myself. However, I will be giving up meat/animal products, my occasional cocktail or glass or wine, and pretty much anything other than veggies, fruits, nuts and beans.
That covers the what of the fast, so now I guess I need to cover the why. For the past two weeks, God has been speaking to me about fasting before Thanksgiving. At first I thought, “Hey! Good idea! I’ve gained about ten pounds since we moved into our new home (I like it here and I’ve grown quite fond of just sitting and eating all day). I thought maybe I was being called to fast so that I could shed the extra pounds in order to gain them all back over the holidays. But, no. God doesn’t work like that. In the last 48hrs, I have taken a spiritual beating. Several things have been revealed that have left Chad and I trying to catch our breath. We’ve been hit from completely unexpected angles and we’ve been kicking ourselves for not heeding discernment much earlier in the year. We do not want to land in October of 2012 repeating the same lessons simply because we haven’t listened to the voice of Holy Spirit. We want to be obedient. I will begin the fast on Tuesday November 1st and break it on Tuesday November 22nd. In those 21 days, I hope to lay down all the pieces of Kaci that are detrimental to God’s purpose for me in 2012. These 21 days will be about death and revelation. I know that there are pieces of Kaci that need to die and I pray for revelation on what God is trying to develop in me. I am seeking the heart of God inside of me. On November 22nd I want to wake up with less of me and more of Him than what exists today. And… I’m hoping he gives me some pretty clear answers on a couple of issues.
My own personal plan is to study the sermons of Christ. I’ve done this before and found that his preaching delivered a love story written just to me. This time I hope to find his heart buried in me, but I’m open to whatever he wants to tell me or teach me. I already know that at least one of you is being called to a study of the book of James. I plan to blog (big shocker, I know) through the scriptural and spiritual journey of the fast. I would love to hear what God is revealing to you if you decide to take this journey with me. If you’re interested in walking through one of the gospels or all of Jesus’ sermons, I found this site that has a pretty good guide. http://www.lifeofchrist.com/teachings/sermons/default.asp
http://daniel-fast.com/
http://www.ultimatedanielfast.com/
http://danielfast.wordpress.com/