Cancer

From Dictionary.com

can·cer

[kan-ser] 

noun

1. Pathology .

a. a malignant and invasive growth or tumor, especially one originating in epithelium, tending to recur after excision and to metastasize to other sites.

b. any disease characterized by such growths.
2. any evil condition or thing that spreads destructively; blight.
cancer_sucks
Such an ugly word.  Such an ugly part of life.
I know five people that have been diagnosed with cancer this month.  FIVE.  In one month.
Before the first one was diagnosed I went to my doctor because something just wasn’t right.  She sent me to have an ultrasound and then to see a specialist.  The specialist ordered a biopsy that will be done in the morning.
I’ve had cancer before.  I learned some things from it.  I’m perfectly fine with going the rest of my life without learning anything else from cancer.  If you want to keep me in your prayers, I’d appreciate it.

no orphans in heaven…

I told you this “heaven thing” was going to be a freestyle writing project.  True to my word, it’s been a week and a half since my last post.

Back in May I had the opportunity to attend Summit9 in Nashville.  My friend Melissa describes it as the Superbowl for those of us who are crazy about orphan care.  That’s a pretty accurate description.  I guess you could also say it’s the orphan advocate’s equivalent of Comic Con.  The experience of being in a gathering with thousands of people who are so like-minded is A-MA-ZING!  920622_10151924612039899_955245834_o

While breathing in all of that amazingness, I heard the sound of bongo drums coming from somewhere in the exhibition hall.  They were enchanting and I found myself following the sound in search of the source.  The source was a video playing of a group called His Little Feet.  It’s a ministry that gathers children from around the world to travel the US for a year in a choir and spread orphan awareness.  I spoke with the founders of the ministry and the couple who were traveling with the children and walked away with tears in my eyes and a heavy heart.

Fast forward to Monday December 2nd.  After several months of asking God to use me in tangible ways outside of my family, I had a day filled to the brim with purpose.  I started the day coordinating and setting up for a women’s ministry Christmas event being held that night by my friend Cindy Dennis. 1486881_10202093080902154_465644794_nMy hubby and I spent the afternoon finding a way for the Psalm 91 Bandana Project people to ship more than a thousand boxes to soldiers in Afghanistan for free.

And then, I got a phone call from His Little Feet.  It went something like this…

“Hi, Kaci.  This is Jeff from His Little Feet.  I’m not sure if you remember me, but we met at Summit last May.  We’re not looking for a place to perform in your area right now, but we are passing through your area this week and I was wondering if your church might be interested in providing us with host homes for a night.

I told him that I remembered him, asked a few questions about the details,  and told him that I would make some calls and get back to him.  It was Monday afternoon and they needed four host homes for Thursday.  I wasn’t sure I could make it happen on such short notice, but I was certainly willing to try.

This is my chance to give a shout-out to my friends.  I have THE BEST friends!!  I count my blessings daily that I get to do life with the kind of people I can text on a Tuesday morning, ask if they would be willing to provide a room and dinner for three strangers on the following Thursday, and have them quickly respond with a “Yes.” without any details about who it is they’re going to welcome into their home.  Good. People.  I wouldn’t trade my people for a shiny new car.  That’s saying something.  I have three cars in my driveway.  None of them are shiny.  They are all in need of repairs.  And the newest was built in 2004.

Three of my amazing friends showed up at my house on Thursday afternoon just as a bus filled with orphans from India and their chaperones pulled up in my driveway.  Our home was gifted with the presence of two boys from India (David and Kima) and their chaperone (Uncle Josh) for the night.  1415529_10202625433456052_1781745589_o 1467267_10202623960859238_1542631448_n

Shortly after they arrived, my oldest son had to leave for work.  He works at SweetFrog, the coolest frozen yogurt place in town.  Apparently there’s no froyo in India.  The boys filled their bellies with sweets and came home to help us decorate our Christmas tree.

As I tucked my own former-orphan in bed that night, I choked back tears.  She had had a particularly rough day at school.  Her every action and reaction that day evidence of the emotional and mental scars she carries as a result of spending the first five years of her life as an orphan.  The scabs on my own hands and arms, my fat bottom lip, and the ever-present self-inflicted bite-marks on my daughter’s biceps; all evidence that the scars she carries within are still far from being healed.  As she said, “Goodnight, Mama.” in her two-packs-of cigarettes-a-day raspy voice, I thought of her as a baby crying out for hours with no one to answer her cries; her vocal chords straining and changing her voice with each unanswered cry.

And then I thought of the precious boys sleeping on the other side of the house.  And the children traveling with them.  And all the children sitting in the orphanage in India that didn’t make it into the choir.  All the children still sitting in the orphanage in Serbia where Sofija began her life.  So. Much. Heartache.

John 14:18  “No, I will not abandon you as orphans—I will come to you.”

That night I cried.  Today, I smile.  In ten days we will celebrate the birth of Jesus.  Because he was born, he was able to die.  Three days later, he arose from the dead.  And because of these facts, I will spend eternity in heaven.  In heaven, there will be no orphans.  I’m excited for heaven.

a month of heaven

I’ve tried doing that “30 days of thanks” thing on Facebook at least 3 out of the last five years.  I always forget about it and eventually get so far behind that I quit.  And then I feel bad.  Because honestly, I have countless things that I’m thankful for every minute of every day.  I’m just not so great at documenting those things.  And sometimes I quit things because I just have too many other things to do.

This year, much like the last few years, I have spent the first few days of December kicking myself for not publicly acknowledging all the things for which I am grateful.  I am truly blessed far beyond anything I could possibly deserve.  But all my Facebook friends probably think I’m a terribly ungrateful person.  Oh wait.  I’m not supposed to care what any of my Facebook friends think of me.  At least that’s what I keep telling my kids.

And then, today, while folding the sixth load of laundry, I had a brilliant idea…

It’s December.  It’s the month we celebrate the birth of Jesus.  This month is ALL ABOUT HIM (or at least it should be).  Because I’m a girl and because being a girl means that my thoughts tend to run together like a plate of spaghetti; I went from thinking that this month is all about Jesus to thinking about Jesus dying on a cross, to thinking about Jesus rising again, to… I can’t wait for Easter!  Man, I hate doing laundry. I bet people have to stand around all day doing laundry in hell.  I think these pants are too short for Sofija.  Should I put them in the thrift store pile, or wait until she can try them on?  I wonder who made Jesus’ clothes??  Hey, Jesus is coming back and I get to spend eternity in heaven.  I’m SO EXCITED for heaven!

Lightbulb moment…  I’ll spend December documenting things I’m looking forward to in heaven!

Since it’s the fourth and I’m just getting started, I’m gonna go easy on myself.  I’m being realistic.  I probably won’t remember to write something every day this month and there will likely be days when I’ll think of something to write and just not have time (or motivation) to do it.  I guess you could call this a freestyle writing plan.

Here goes…

I’m SO FREAKIN’ EXCITED that there will be NO laundry in heaven!

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misplaced faith

bald_eagle_head_and_american_flag1

This post is likely to open a proverbial can of worms.  I’m okay with that.

Growing up in Cold War America meant a few things.  It meant fear of nukes and “commies” and it meant that every voice of influence in my life (church, school, and family) reinforced the idea that America was the greatest nation on planet Earth.  It meant that I entered adulthood with the idea that America’s founding fathers were the most brilliant of men and that the form of government they designed must have been crafted just as God intended every government to be crafted.

In 1994, at the ripe old age of 22, I married a young Army officer.  I’m sure you can guess how privileged I felt to have a man committed to serving the greatest nation on the planet slip a ring on my finger and ask me to serve this nation by his side.

Nearly twenty years later, I still feel privileged to do life with him.

Right now, America is on day eight of a government shutdown.  It’s ridiculous and frustrating.  But for me, it’s not surprising.

Three weeks ago, a mentally ill man opened fire twelve miles from my house and killed twelve people at the Washington Navy Yard.  The Navy was notified a month before that he was mentally unstable.  Nothing was done to stop him.  I’m not surprised.

Exodus 20:3 “You shall have no other gods before me.”ESV  This is the first of the ten commandments.  It came straight from God.  I’m pretty sure He was including putting patriotism before Him.

December 3, 2011, rocked my world.  After seventeen and a half years of honorably serving this country, my husband was betrayed.

He had been serving at the Pentagon as an acquisitions adviser on Army staff.  His job was top-secret and while he could not tell me the details of what he worked on, he did often share with me how disgusted he was with the corruption he witnessed.  I watched as my very black and white husband wore the daily stress of doing a very gray job.  In July of 2011, that stress landed him in the hospital.  From July until that fateful day in December, we prayed for God to deliver him from that position.

After two weeks of leave (vacation), my dear hubby returned to work and found post-it notes telling him to not turn on his computers and to see the General.  An hour later he called me from his cell-phone that he was not allowed to carry into his office.  Puzzled by the number on caller id, I answered the phone and said, “What are you doing calling me from your cell phone? Did you get fired?”  I then laughed when he solemnly replied, “Yes.”

Within seconds I knew that he was serious and after hearing the details of him being escorted by guards from the Pentagon, I began to grasp the severity of the situation.  My husband is a good guy.  He loves what is right and he hates what is wrong.  He had refused to participate in something wrong and pissed off the wrong people.  In order to continue doing that wrong thing, said people made accusations against my husband that insured he would be removed from his job while the accusations were being investigated.

Here’s the reason why the government shutdown and the lack of action to prevent the Navy Yard shooting do not surprise me.  That humiliating, traumatizing day in my husband’s career happened nearly two years ago.  As of this very moment he has never been told what he’s accused of or who did the accusing.  He has been charged with nothing, and therefore he has been convicted of nothing.  Yet, he has sat at home with our family for the last 22+ months and watched as his peers have been selected for promotion to Colonel and served as battalion commanders.  He has wept and paced the house after the battalion command he was selected for was taken away from him before he ever occupied it.  He has questioned every detail of the essence of who he is as a soldier and as a person.  No one can tell him when this “timeout” will end or even that something is being done to move the investigation forward.

There is absolutely nothing our government can do that will surprise me.  Feel free to read that statement twice.

The last two years have hurt.  There HAVE been many blessings in the midst of this fire. Nonetheless, it has hurt.  I wake every day and thank God that I get to spend the day with the man of my dreams and then claim that he will be exhonerated.  I bite off each moment of the day and chew on it while trying really hard to not think about the possibilities of what could come.  I read God’s Word and I remind myself again that my faith can only be in Him.

In this waiting I’ve had to ask myself some weighty questions.  If you’ve read this far, maybe you should do the same…

Do you believe in the American government?  Do you spend more time proselytizing a political agenda than Jesus’ agenda?  Has your faith been misplaced?

Psalm 62:1-2, 5-9ESV

1 For God alone I patiently wait;
he is the one who delivers me.
He alone is my protector and deliverer.
He is my refuge; I will not be upended.

Patiently wait for God alone, my soul!
For he is the one who gives me confidence.
He alone is my protector and deliverer.
He is my refuge; I will not be upended.
God delivers me and exalts me;
God is my strong protector and my shelter.
Trust in him at all times, you people!
Pour out your hearts before him!
God is our shelter!
Men are nothing but a mere breath;
human beings are unreliable.
When they are weighed in the scales,
all of them together are lighter than air.

America was founded by men.  They were great men, but they were still just men.  I can honestly say that I’ve known a lot of great men and women in my life.  I’d even go as far as to say I’ve known men and women as great as our founding fathers.  But you know what?  They were still human… flawed, sometimes honest, sometimes not, sometimes reliable, sometimes not, sometimes mean, sometimes nice… human.

I’m still proud to be an American.  But you know what?  I’m choosing to place my faith in God alone.

 

the trenches

I started a post a few months ago that I have yet to finish on outlining the gory details of adoption.  Adoption is not always pretty.  It is not always easy.  I would venture to say that it rarely looks the way you expect it to.  But then again, neither does biological parenting.

Adoption does however, present a set of challenges and heartaches that you can never be prepared for.

We are not capable of healing our kids’ bodies and hearts and minds, but Jesus is. We can trust him with our little families, because He is a good God and He is ever for us.”  This quote is from a post by Jen Hatmaker on the first two years their family has spent with their adopted children.  While you’re waiting for me to finish the post on the struggles and heartaches our family has faced, click THIS LINK and read her post.  It’s good and raw and honest.  It’s the kind of post that I wish I had read during our adoption journey.  Jen’s kind of honesty and transparency would not have deterred me from adopting, but it certainly would have given me a more realistic picture of what we were walking in to.

can I ask you a favor?

Glennon over at Momastery likes to say that life is “brutiful”.  She’s a wise woman.  If you take the time to breathe it in, life is unquestionably beautiful.  But you don’t really have any clue just how beautiful it is unless you’ve experienced some real brutality.

This is a brutiful season of my life.

My oldest daughter was planning to stay at home this fall and finish her associates degree through the local community college where she took a couple of classes her last year of high school.  And then, about a month ago, she got a little envelope in the mail that changed everything.  An amazing little private college in Lynchburg, that was built nearly 200 years ago, offered her a huge scholarship.  All of a sudden the picture of her future came into focus.  It’s a beautiful picture… breathtakingly beautiful.

At the exact same time the beautiful picture of my firstborn’s life was coming into focus, Sofija’s anxiety and my dear hubby’s work mess created an abundance of brutality.

In the midst of this brutiful season I have simply been exhausted.  Okay, maybe not so simply exhausted.  I have also been moody and stressed and downright nasty at times.  I’m exercising, talking to a counselor, spending time with God, and trying to maximize every single second that I can find to care for myself.  Some moments I feel okay.  Some moments I close my eyes, take a deep breath, and hope that the moment has passed before I take another peek at my world.

Today was a brutal day.  It just was.  I tried to smile and laugh and hoped once again that I was perfecting the “fake it ’til you make it” attitude.  All the fake smiling and laughing could not undo the fact that I was lonely.  Yes, I am aware that I have five family members sharing my home.  Yes, they are constantly in my space.  However, they’re just as traumatized as me.  They’re not much help when I need a listening ear or a shoulder.

Tonight, in my loneliness, a friend in Nashville sent me a link and said that she thought of me when she read it.

If you know me (or any trauma mama) in real life and you’ve ever had the inclination to just leave me (or them) alone because you have no clue how to deal with our children or how to respond to the reality of our days, I need to ask you favor.

Please click the following link and read… Thanks.

http://traumamamat.blogspot.com/2012/03/10-things-you-can-do-to-support-parents.html

raising royalty

Last night, as I was driving to my local HomeGoods store, I heard a DJ on a local Christian radio station say something like, “Can you imagine the weight on Prince William?  I mean, seriously.  He has the burden of raising the heir to the throne.”  His words may have been a little different, but that’s the gist of it.  He went on to say something about how few similarities exist between him and Prince William.

He irked me.

The more he talked, the more his words got under my skin.

This man is a DJ on a CHRISTIAN radio station.

Do you see the problem with what he was saying?

Let’s skip over the fact that he failed to see that we are ALL EQUAL in the eyes of God.

What irked me is that he failed to see that every single parent who calls themselves a follower of Christ, is raising an heir to a throne.

I often have people look at me and say things like, “I don’t know how you do what you do for Sofija.”  or “How do you keep fighting for Seth and Sofija?”  or “I could NEVER fight like you do for your kids!”

Here’s my response…  It’s easy.  I just remind myself that I’m raising royalty.

1 Peter 2:9  But you are a chosen race, a ROYAL PRIESTHOOD, a holy nation, a people of his own, so that you may proclaim the virtues of the one who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.

Today Sofija had a long-awaited appointment with a psychiatrist at Children’s in DC.  You can read about the waiting here.  Other than the constant screaming in the car for the entire forty minute drive and the spectacle of Chad and I dragging her (screaming) through the entire hospital because she refused to walk, it was a lackluster appointment.  Oh… When I say that we drug her through the entire hospital, I mean the ENTIRE hospital.  Seriously!  Not sure what genius hospital planner came up with the idea, but Psych is at the complete opposite end of the hospital from the parking garage.  ‘Cause you know?  Kids with psych issues just love to pass through chaotic, noisy space and encounter as many people as possible en route to a doctor’s appointment that already has them paralyzed with anxiety.

Hospital planning people, if you’re reading this, could you pretty please relocate the psych department a little closer to the ER?  Thanks.

The doctor didn’t do any assessments on Sofija.  She did take my hand and kindly tell me things that I really don’t want to accept about Sofija’s future and she gave us a prescription that is sitting on the kitchen counter like a flippin’ 300lb gorilla.  It’s a prescription for the same medication her developmental pediatrician suggested at the end of last year.  It’s a medication that will likely help her with her impulses and self-injury and aggression.  It’s also a medication that could have some serious long-term side effects.

I’m raising royalty.  I’m fighting for her/them like crazy.  I want to give all of my children every opportunity to reach their full potential and to experience peace, joy, and freedom every single day of their lives.

Please pray for me and Dear Hubby as we weigh the cost-benefit analysis of this new medication.  We need the wisdom of Solomon right now.

 

no more waiting…

Today is a big day.  At least my hope in today is big.  Sofija’s emotions and behaviors have been out of control for months.  It’s not constant, but the tough moments/days have far outnumbered the peaceful ones.  As her Mom, I’m spent.  I’m tired of living this hyper-vigilant life where I never know if she’s going to take off running away from me or intentionally hurt herself (or some stranger).  I’m tired of being tired because she hasn’t slept for two straight weeks which means that the rest of us haven’t either.  I’m tired of the ever-present bruises on her biceps where she bites herself throughout the day.  I could go on and on but I think you get my point.

Back in January I started looking for a psychologist/psychiatrist that might be able to help her.  I found that there are a few are Children’s National Hospital in DC who treat children with autism and “other stuff”.  They have experience with children who have autism along with PTSD and RAD and ODD.  I did everything I needed to do to get her an appointment.  We’ve had to wait for months, but today is the day.  I have no clue how they are going to help her/us, but I have high hopes.

Please pray that they have clear answers and solutions and that Sofija finds some freedom from the turmoil she’s living with.

Thanks for being on Sofija’s team!

 

HAPPY BIRTHDAY to ME!

We had an amazing and miraculously drama-free time with all of our family here for Kira’s graduation.  Now that all of our company is gone I have a few GREAT stories to share.  Seth graduated from elementary school on the 13th, my birthday was the 15th, Father’s Day was the 16th, Kira’s graduation, my cancer-free day (and my brother-in-law’s birthday) were on the 18th. For five days we celebrated.

When my husband asked me what I wanted for my birthday I had a few immediate responses.

1) A haircut  2) Steaks and Asparagus grilled in the backyard  3)  To Go Fishing

Being the superhero of a hubby that he is, he woke up early, called a salon to schedule a spa day, brought me breakfast in bed and took Sofija grocery shopping to get all the things I wanted for dinner.  His heart and intentions were A-MA-ZING!  If only the “spa day” had been as amazing as my man’s heart…

The following is my Yelp review of the day.  I could actually write a book about that one experience, but I tried to condense it as much as possible.  Enjoy.

My husband called to schedule a “spa day” for my birthday.  Our daughter had gone to Natalie for a cut and color a few weeks ago and was happy with her hair so my husband assumed Natalie’s would be a good place for my special day.  My birthday gift turned into one of the most stressful experiences of my life.  I honestly kept waiting for someone to jump out of a closet with a hidden camera and tell me it was all a joke or for someone to start interrogating me and tell me it would all stop if I would just betray my country.  My appointment was at 1 and I was scheduled for a cut, highlights, and a mani-pedi.  I did not get out of there until SIX THIRTY PM!  Natalie immediately started on my hair when I walked in the door.  Her neighbor came in while she was mixing the color for my highlights and needed a perm.  She asked her sister to wrap the perm and kept screaming at her and telling her that she was doing it wrong and in the process started putting BIG CHUNKY highlights in my hair (exactly what I said I did not want).  I am not sure what is going on with the sister, but she spent TWO HOURS doing my pedicure without ever cutting my nails and then two more hours on my manicure and forgot to paint my thumbs.  She would start to paint and then pick up the cuticle scissors and start cutting again.  This went on until I finally took the cuticle scissors away from her.  The entire time she was doing my mani-pedi she repeated her name to me every 5-10 minutes and then told me how good her hands were while poking me between my fingers and toes.  Poke-”Lana has good hands.  You like Lana’s hands?”  She did this OVER AND OVER AND OVER again.  I made the mistake of telling Natalie that I needed my eyebrows waxed while she was putting the highlights in my hair.  Just before my mani-pedi torture ended, Natalie yelled to her sister to wax my eyebrows.  Against every ounce of good judgment in my body, I followed her to a little room (that was nicely decorated – I feel like I need to say something nice).  I told her how I wanted my eyebrows shaped and she spread just a dot of hot wax on my right eyebrow.  Before removing the wax she began plucking with tweezers.  I asked her if she was going to remove the wax and she said, “Oh yes, yes.”  TEN MINUTES of plucking later I felt her press a strip down and pull out a few hairs.  She then walked around to the my left side and proceeded to pluck on that side.  I asked her to please use wax.  She said, “Okay.” but never actually applied any wax.  I have never had someone take half an hour to wax my eyebrows, nor have I ever had them waxed and left a salon with them looking untouched.  When I couldn’t take another moment of the plucking I said they were good and got up to leave the room.  At this point it was almost 6:00 and my hair had yet to be dried or styled.  As I walked towards Natalie’s chair I almost fell over backward.  I literally felt like the back of my head was being ripped off.  When I turned around Lana was standing there with the wax applicator in her hand and a huge chunk of my hair hanging off it!!  Evidently she had stuck it on the back of my head after she applied the one dot of wax to my eyebrow and forgotten where she put it.  So now, a week later, I have big chunky highlights that I don’t like, infected cuticles, toenails that look like they haven’t been trimmed in months, bushy eyebrows, and a bald spot on the back of my head.  I guess I can thank them for giving me a birthday experience to laugh about for years to come.

For the record… the steaks and asparagus were perfect.

buying freedom

IMG_1504My first-born daughter graduated from high school.  I’ve tried to grasp the magnitude of what that means to me.  Have I taught her all she needs to know before being launched out into the big, bad world?  Have I prepared her to stand on her own two feet?  Is there any way to know the answers to those questions BEFORE she’s standing on her own two feet in the aforementioned big, bad world?

Conversation on the drive home from graduation was a little weird.  Please tell me we are not the only parents who tried to share EVERY single piece of wisdom we could conjure up on their child’s graduation day.  I’m serious.  Please comment and tell me that you did the same thing.  Because I’m pretty sure our wisdom bank accounts are completely overdrawn with all the things we blurted out in that hour-long drive.

As I looked out my window while trying to think if there was anything else I’d forgotten to tell her in the last eighteen years, we passed an old Land Rover for sale.  My thoughts quickly shifted to the fact that I’d really love to have an old 4×4 vehicle and a boat.  Being female, my thoughts then quickly moved on to the fact that earlier this year I received a small inheritance from the sale of my grandparents’ house.  Which led to…

Me: “I should have bought a jeep and a boat with my inheritance.”

Kira: “So what did you buy with your inheritance?”

Me:  “I paid off debt.”

Kira: “So you bought freedom?”

My job is done.

Proudest. Mom. Ever.

Proverbs 22:6-7  Train children in the way they should go;  when they grow old, they won’t depart from it.  The wealthy rule over the poor; a borrower is a slave to a lender.