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.

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.

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!