That’s not my name.

I would love to tell you that my family or my faith are my biggest motivators in life, but that would be dishonest. What drives me to learn, grow, or accomplish just about anything is this… curiosity.

In the last several months I have heard/read several people refer to themselves as “sinners”. Each time I’ve heard or read a Christian identify themselves as a “sinner”, it has not set well with me. The agitation it has stirred in me made me curious. So I went to the place with all the answers… Google. I’m joking. Kind of. I actually googled “In the Bible are Christians referred to as sinners?”

Here’s what I found…

Romans 5:8 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that WHILE WE WERE STILL sinners, Christ died for us.

2 Corinthians 5:17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a NEW creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.

And then there’s Paul’s description of his new identity in Christ and his sinful nature in Romans 7…

So, my dear brothers and sisters, this is the point: You died to the power of the law when you died with Christ. And now you are united with the one who was raised from the dead. As a result, we can produce a harvest of good deeds for God. When we were controlled by our old nature, sinful desires were at work within us, and the law aroused these evil desires that produced a harvest of sinful deeds, resulting in death.  But now we have been released from the law, for we died to it and are no longer captive to its power. Now we can serve God, not in the old way of obeying the letter of the law, but in the new way of living in the Spirit.

I still don’t have it all figured out and my curiosity is still piqued so I will keep seeking answers. What I have learned thus far is that there is not a single place in scripture where Jesus refers to His followers as “sinners”. In fact, the only place in the New Testament where a believer comes close to being called a “sinner” is later in Romans 7 and in 1 Timothy 1:15 when Paul refers to himself as a “wretched man” and the “foremost of sinners”. To be clear, Paul was referring to who he was before he followed Christ.

The one conclusion I have drawn thus far is that “sinner” is not my name.

Depending on which email or social media account I am using, I do have a few titles in my signature block…

King’s Daughter, American Hero’s Wife, World Changers’ Mom,

Freedom Fighter, Author, Speaker, CEO, Orphan Advocate

This year I became the CEO of Akacia Solutions, a federal contracting company that my husband and I own (hence my lack of blogging). I spent last week in DC wearing my CEO hat.

This year I also joined the board of Centar Zvezda, the organization I’ve written about before that is providing housing and holistic care for youth who age out of orphan-care in Eastern Europe. On Monday I fly to Chiang Mai, Thailand where I’ve been invited to participate in the WWO Global Forum on Orphan-care. My friend (the founder of Centar Zvezda) Tatjana Dražilović will meet me there. I am ridiculously excited to return to Thailand for the first time in almost twenty years, but I am MORE excited to spend a few days surrounded by people from all over the world who share my passion and calling to place orphans in families and set captives free.

There are countless ways to do your part living out the Biblical mandate to care for orphans. If you need some ideas, I’ve written a few times on the topic here here here and here. In addition to those suggestions, you are MORE THAN welcome to join me in caring for youth who did not find a family before aging out. Centar Zvezda has houses for the residents outside of Belgrade, but our youth in Belgrade are currently crammed into an apartment. We would like to expand our capacity for care and we have a vision to build an entire housing complex where our youth will live alongside other college students. While we are waiting for the means to make the vision a reality, we have found a house that would make it possible to accept more youth. We have some of the money needed to purchase the house, but we need more. If you would like to support us, please email me at and I will send you a link for donations.

Kaci Calvaresi
King’s daughter. wife. mom. author. freedom-fighter. CEO. orphan advocate.

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!

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.