But God… possibly the most important post I’ve written.

Isaiah 61:7 NLT Instead of shame and dishonor,
you will enjoy a DOUBLE SHARE OF HONOR.
You will possess a double portion of prosperity in your land,
and EVERLASTING JOY will be yours.

 

Genesis 50:20 NLT You intended to harm me, BUT GOD intended it all for good. He brought me to this position so I could save the lives of many people.

 Trauma did its damnedest to destroy our family.

But God…

Last year, a family friend that is a retired Army Command Sergeant Major attended a Mighty Oaks Warrior retreat for men who’ve experienced the trauma of war. The change in him at the end of that retreat was visible. He exuded joy and freedom that I had not seen in him before. The first time I saw him after the retreat I went to my room and tearfully wrote these words in my journal…

“God, please open the door for my husband to attend one of these retreats.

Warning: The next part of this post is painfully transparent, but I believe there are families suffering silently who need hope. So I’m going to be real.

In 1994, five months before he was to begin his military career, I married the man God made for me. I quickly learned that life as an Army wife was hard. He was gone for at least six months of each of the first six years of our marriage. But when he returned from training exercises or schools, he always returned the same man he had been before leaving. I could live with that.

And then, war. chadbaghdad

His first deployment was to Baghdad from 2003-2004. It was horrific for both of us. There were numerous phone calls that ended with the sounds of gunfire or explosions with no follow-up phone calls for days to let me know that he was alive. There were long, painful, silent conversations when he relayed to me stories of friends burning while trapped in vehicles exploded by IEDs, or while he searched for words to describe a young soldier killing himself in the middle of their makeshift office.

He came home a different man. The man I married was born a smartass. The man who returned from Iraq in 2004 was an angry, bitter cynic.

And then, he went back.

In 2009, while I was battling cancer, he returned to Baghdad. The second deployment brought with it a mixed bag of emotions. I was both relieved to not deal with the just-below-the-surface-rage on a daily basis, and felt abandoned. I wanted my husband back.

During that second deployment, God worked a few miracles. Alone and battling cancer, I was forced to deal with some of my own demons and with 6200 miles between us we managed (via Skype) to work through some of our marriage wounds. At the end of the deployment I was cancer-free and our marriage was secret-free. But something was still broken.

And then, December 5, 2011… a military contractor set out to destroy my husband’s career. The trauma of war was minuscule compared to the trauma of having his character and identity as a soldier attacked.

For three years, ten months, and ten days, we lived through hell on earth.

During that first year I hid my husband’s weapons and ammunition (in separate places) and knew that I’d been wise in doing so when he exploded over not being able to find them.

There were more ugly moments in our home than I could possibly recall. Words spoken, like, “We’d all be better off if I’d died in Iraq.” And replies like, “You did.” or “You’re right.” Moments where I begged him to leave or tried to figure out where I could go with all four kids. Our kids learned to stay out-of-the-way on the days when we weren’t speaking to one another and I made myself and our children crazy trying to control every aspect of things happening in our home with the hope that something I did would bring my husband peace and joy.

But God…

A couple months ago my husband forwarded an email to me letting me know that he was confirmed for a Mighty Oaks retreat. God had opened the door that I prayed for.

And because God likes to put exclamation points on things: You see that guy sitting just a few feet behind my hot hubby? Typic
That’s the contractor who set out to destroy my husband’s career. I took this at the Mighty Oaks graduation/fundraising gala. We have no clue what led him there. I watched all night to see if he interacted with anyone unsuccessfully trying to figure out what his connection was to the gala. All I know is that out of the millions of people in the DC area, God put him in a crowd of a couple hundred people in a church in Manassas, VA, on a Friday night and led him to donate money to the organization that helped my husband get his life back. I just kept imagining God holding his belly and laughing so hard He could barely breathe.

You see… God is a big fan of justice. He not only restores what’s been taken from us, He occasionally gets those who’ve stolen from us to pay for the restoration.

This was my husband’s Facebook post yesterday. IMG_4912

I have my husband back. Actually, I have a better version of my husband than I ever dreamed of. Jesus saved his soul. Mighty Oaks saved his life.

Social media is flooded right now with the hashtag #kill22. People are challenged to do 22 pushups for 22 days and share videos of their pushups on social media to bring awareness to the average 22 veterans a day that commit suicide. While it’s a nice gesture for awareness, I’m not a fan of “awareness” trends. I think G.I. Joe got it wrong. Knowing is NOT half the battle. Knowledge without action = Nothing. Pushups aren’t saving veterans’ lives, but Mighty Oaks Warrior Programs is.

To date, 909 veterans have graduated from the program. Not one of them has taken their own life. However 4 men have taken their lives while waiting for a spot in one of the programs. There are currently 300 veterans on the waitlist to attend a program. It costs $1000 to put a veteran through the program. My hope is that this post will be shared and raise enough support to eliminate the waitlist. click HERE to donate

Our veterans secure our freedom, please help secure theirs.

 

Excruciating…

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Throughout the Lenten season this box has greeted anyone that walks into my home. For six weeks words of repentance and forgiveness have been scratched out on pieces of paper and dropped into the box.

“I forgive _____ for hurting me.”

“God, I repent for not trusting you.”

“God, I forgive you for not yet healing my child.”

etc…

All those words meaningless without the power of this day, the very best and the very worst of Fridays.

The word “excruciating” was created just to describe the events that took place on Good Friday. Its Latin derivative is literally “out of the cross”.

    Excruciating:
    adjective
    1. extremely painful; causing intense suffering; unbearably distressing;torturing:
Every single thing that holds you back in life? Every bit of suffering, pain, distress, and torture.. Let it all go. Jesus experienced “excruciating” on Good Friday so that you don’t have to carry any of it. ANY of it!
As a tangible reminder of what died on the cross, the forgiveness/repentance box that greets those who enter my home will be burned on Resurrection Sunday.
Today, on Good Friday, I encourage you to let go of anything that holds you back. Build your own box to burn on Sunday.
Resurrection is coming.
Redemption is yours for the taking.
1 John 1:9 If we confess our sins to Him, He is faithful to forgive.
Matthew 6:14… Forgive others. …Be forgiven.
Hebrews 4:16 Boldly approach the throne of grace…
2 Corinthians 12:9 His grace is ALL you need…
John 19:30 IT IS FINISHED!

 

 

 

Being The Church

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After a restless night, I woke up this morning with a heavy heart. Just before heading to bed last night I learned that the Quesenberry family from York, PA traveled to Bulgaria this week, along with one of their biological children, to adopt two boys with special needs. The Dad, Eric, had a heart attack and passed away yesterday in their rented apartment in Bulgaria. The Mom, Natalie, now has to get her husband and three children home. I cannot even imagine what she is going through or what life will be like for her when she gets home. Our transition home with Sofija was incredibly difficult with two parents and I keep thinking that it would’ve been impossible to do alone.

A fundraiser (click HERE) has been set up to help the Quesenberry family with all of the costs involved with getting home and what is to come. Please help if you can and if you cannot, please pray for Natalie and the children.

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.

This is when The Church gets to BE The Church!

22 secrets to staying married…

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Dear Hubby and I celebrated our 22nd wedding anniversary on February 18th. For the first time in many years we were able to get away for a couple of days to celebrate. It was a quick trip to New York City with no real agenda except to spend time with each other. I still love walking by his side. I still drink in our conversations. He still makes me laugh. He’s still my favorite guy.:)

Because it’s become an annual tradition for us to grow this list…

22 Secrets to Staying Married

1. Treat your spouse better than anyone else treats them. We all want to be around people who build us up. If the person who does that for your spouse is someone other than you, guess who your spouse is going to want to spend time with.

2. When you fight, don’t vent to your friends and family. They’re not in love with your spouse and long after you’ve kissed and made up they are going to remember the dirt you’ve shared with them.

3. Have friends who love their spouse. Nothing good will come from keeping company with a person who constantly complains about the person they chose to marry.

4. Trade the worst for the best. When your spouse shows you the worst of their character, think about all of their best qualities. When you remember the things you like about a person it’s easy to forget the things you don’t.

5. Be the first to apologize.

6. Don’t go to bed angry. It is easier said than done, but it is a very worthy goal.

7. Spend time with couples who will speak truth. It may hurt your pride to be on a double-date and have someone ask you, “Are you treating him the way you want to be treated?”, but it will never hurt your marriage.

8. Avoid alone-time and personal conversations with anyone of the opposite sex (or the same sex if you find yourself craving more time and/or sharing more with that person than with your spouse).

9. Keep a common interest (other than your kids). There was something that the two of you couldn’t stop talking about when you first met. Keep talking about it and when you lose interest in it, find something new to talk about.

10. Pay attention. I try to make mental notes of everything my husband says he is interested in. “I love this band.” (Get concert tickets) “I’d like to eat there some day.” (Make reservations for date night) “I’d trade a kid for one of those guns.” (Buy him a weapon for father’s day.) When you pay attention to what your spouse talks about, you will never run out of ways to show them you love them.

11. Have sex. Lots of sex. In premarital counseling, I had a little old lady look at me and say, “Kaci, sex is as necessary to a man as food. Just always think of it as a meal. Sometimes he’ll give you several courses of fine dining and sometimes it’ll be like going through the drive-thru at McDonald’s.” She was a very wise woman.

12. Give grace. The Bible tells us repeatedly to forgive others so that God can forgive us. We’ve learned that giving the same kind of grace that we hope to receive is our only hope for a peaceful home.

13. Confess. Confess. Confess. When you hide things it’s an absolute certainty that a little voice will start asking you, “What is she/he hiding from you?” Secrets and half-truths lead to guilt, distrust, accusations, and insecurity. If you feel the need to keep something from your spouse, share it with your spouse immediately. Wine and cheese get better with age. Not sin.

14. Don’t let the kids come between you. Believe me. They will try. And try. And try. When your kids can turn you against each other it makes them insecure and it damages your marriage. Remind yourself often that when two people have a child, they have a common enemy.

15. Remember that your spouse IS NOT your enemy. It is very easy to assume that every pain they cause you is intentional. It usually is not. Go back to number 12.

16. Date. It took us nearly eighteen years to start dating regularly. We don’t know what took us so long, but date-night is now our favorite night of the week.

17. Study your spouse. I sometimes ask my hubby, “Tell me something I don’t know about you.” Even if it’s a small detail about his workday that I would likewise have never known, I feel closer to him because he’s shared something new with me. This one is actually a pretty big deal. It is easy to get bored and to watch years slip away filled with the mundane. Married life and a faith life are exactly the same. When I study and seek the heart of God, I fall in love with Him over and over and I get a glimpse of just how much He loves me. When I study and seek the heart of my husband, I fall in love with him over and over and I get reminded that the love he has for me is the closest I have ever come to the love God has for me.

18. Pray for each other. Out loud. We went on a marriage retreat in the summer of 2003 where we were told to find a spot in a room full of people where we could pray for each other. We were both scared. Quite certain that we were the only couple in the room who had never prayed together, we held hands, closed our eyes, pressed our heads together and listened for a few minutes to the people around us to see if they knew how this was supposed to work. Realizing that nobody around us sounded any more comfortable than we felt, we started praying. In that half an hour we took turns thanking God for all the things we love about each other and claiming His blessings over each other. When we were done we looked at each other and discussed the fact that neither of us had ever felt so loved or so secure in our relationship.

19. (This should really be #1) Figure out what it means to be in relationship with Christ and work on that relationship BEFORE you deal with issues with your spouse. If you do not have God in the proper place in your life, you WILL expect your spouse to be your savior or to fulfill needs that they will never be capable of fulfilling.

20. The Do-Over… This is probably the most valuable communication tool we’ve discovered. A couple of months ago I said something to my hubby in an unintentional nasty tone. He looked at me and said, “Would you like to do that over?” Since that moment, every time one of us feels hurt or offended by something the other one has said or done, we offer a do-over. See numbers 15 and 12.

21. Laugh. A lot. Maybe even more than you have sex. Here’s the biggest thing you should know about married life: It’s hard. REALLY hard. If you let it, the hard stuff will destroy your marriage. No matter what you’re going through, look for something to laugh about. I’ve known several couples who stopped having sex and stayed married, but few who stayed together when they stopped laughing together.

22. Resolve to stick it out. Even if you’re doing all of the things listed above, you’re going to want to call it quits. Make up your mind that quitting is simply not an option. Remind yourself that there are dark nights between sunny days, but the sun ALWAYS rises.

 

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alignment…

I’ve written before about alignment, but I can’t find the piece right now and it’s a day where I think we could all use a refresher.

I watched a man riding a unicycle last week. He was steady for a while and then the one wheel got wobbly and he had to jump off to keep from crashing. It’s really hard to balance and move forward on one wheel. unicycle

A couple of years ago I made the mistake of riding my bike down a hill on a freshly paved street. As I passed the sign that said, “Dismount bikes and walk them down hill”, my front wheel slid to the right and I crashed. When my wheels became out of alignment, it was impossible to balance and move forward. PSA: Wear a helmet! Mine saved my skull that day.

After our recent blizzard there are potholes EVERYWHERE. Potholes lead to misaligned tires on vehicles. My car is currently in desperate need of an alignment and I have to hold the steering wheel hard to the left in order to drive straight. But you know what? After I get my tires aligned it’s going to be easy-peasy to drive my car exactly where I want to go. Four wheels moving in sync and a tank full of gas are unstoppable.

You, me, we, are defined, seen, viewed, and respected (or not) by the ideologies, political parties, causes, and people that we choose to align ourselves with. And sometimes we align ourselves with some thing, some cause, some one; simply because we want to be a part of something that feels unstoppable. Our human nature leads us to add voice to a cause because we think our voice will add fuel or the needed victory wheel.

I love football and I am guilty of saying to people that cheer for any team other than my favorites, “There’s always room on the bus.” You know why there’s always room on the fan bus for a football team? Because buses have LOTS of frickin’ wheels!

You know why only one person can ride a unicycle? Bingo! There’s only ONE wheel.

Hence the fact that few brave the unicycle.

A couple thousand years ago there were twelve men who braved their own unicycles. They walked away from the lynching, mob-mentality of their day and followed a man who they trusted to be the Son of God. You know why we know about them? Because God wants us to learn from them. We know what their professions were and we know some details about their families, but the most important thing we know about the disciples is that they aligned themselves with Jesus. Their choices, their actions, their words (for the most part – they were human after all) aligned with the character of Christ.

^^^ Learn from us! ^^^

^^^ Learn from us! ^^^

You see… when we call ourselves “Christians”, we have to be REALLY careful who and what we align ourselves with; what “fan bus” we jump on. We often have to choose between the gut-satisfying adrenaline rush we get from joining forces with something that feels unstoppable; and the scary hard stance of aligning ourselves with God’s Word and acting like Jesus.

A dear friend that is currently serving our country in the Air Force and working hard to be the best single-Mom on the planet lost her own Mom a few days ago to cancer. In two weeks she goes to court to fight for custody of her daughter. Because in the middle of watching her Mom lose her battle with cancer, her daughter’s step-mom decided that she REALLY wants to be a mom. There are people reading this who have aligned themselves in this battle to take a child from her mother.

Here’s the thing. I’m mothering a child who was separated from her biological mother. If you know me or have read anything I’ve written, you know that I LOVE adoption. I proudly align myself with the call to place orphans in families and I will spend the rest of my life addressing orphan-care at every given opportunity.

But adoption NEVER happens without loss. There are ALWAYS psychological and spiritual wounds incurred when a child is torn from the woman who gives birth to it. No exceptions. If a Mother is capable of caring for her child, then the very best place that child can be, is with the Mother.

In my daughter’s situation, there was no alternative. Her biological Mother was not capable of caring for her and now we get to do everything in our power to help heal her wounds. That is not the case with my friend. She is an excellent Mother, fully capable of caring for her child, and as she experiences her own tearing away from the woman who gave her life, she is facing the possibility of losing her child.

Because you should always be careful about what you allow to define you, I have a few questions you should ask yourself when choosing what/who to align yourself with:

What is the destination of the bus I’m jumping on?

Does the hoped for outcome align with God’s heart? Is the cause something Jesus would fight for?

Is the character of the person I’m aligning myself with beyond reproach? Am I okay with my own character being defined by standing up for this person’s character?

Will the thing or person or cause I want to align with make me more like Jesus and help define who God created me to be?

If the answer to ANY of those questions is “No” you’ve just hit a pothole and it’s time for a realignment. pot-hole-436153

I stand with my friend because I believe the very best orphan care we can provide is to ensure that a child is never taken from her Mother to begin with.

 

 

Super Sunday

After four years of being stuck, life around here is moving forward at warp speed. In the last two weeks, we moved to a new house in a frenzy…
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… to beat a blizzard named Jonas …

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… drove to Baltimore every other day (except the days when we were moving and snowed-in) to see this cutie patootie (who’s making amazing progress – Hooray! – and will hopefully be home next month).

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My dear hubby has been to EIGHTEEN appointments at the VA hospital in DC (hell on earth) as part of his medical retirement board. By the way, when you start the medical board process they schedule nineteen appointments over the course of forty-five days. You get no choice in when they are scheduled and if you miss or try to reschedule, you start the process over again. Several of those appointments were scheduled over the two days that we were planning to move. Because of the blizzard, the VA rescheduled the appointments and DH got to be present for the move – Hooray! Unfortunately, the appointments were all rescheduled for the last two Sunday mornings. We’ve missed our church family, but we’re extremely grateful to say that he has ONE appointment left (this Tuesday), and the evaluation part of the med board will be done. Another Hooray!

The Denver Broncos won the AFC Championship and are playing in Super Bowl 50 day… BIG, HUGE – HOORAY!!

It would’ve been fun to move to this house. ;) broncoshouse

And in the midst of all the other stuff, I’ve had this lingering pest that I unsuccessfully kept trying to push from my thoughts.

I woke up on NYE and noticed a bulge on my neck. It hasn’t gone away. I had a neck ultrasound Tuesday and saw my doctor Thursday. It’s just an infected lymph node that’s against my carotid artery. It has healthy blood flow (the cancerous lymph nodes I had in 2009 had no blood flow). I’m relieved, but a bit traumatized.

You know why I was traumatized? Because I forgot. I forgot that I am healed. I forgot who I am. I forgot that God is in my corner and that no matter what I see or feel or experience, it is ALL working together for my good. And also maybe just a bit because I’m human and cancer sucks.

My dear, precious friend Veronica sent me a text in between the day I had the ultrasound and saw the big lymph node in my neck and the appointment with my doctor reassuring me that I am indeed still cancer-free. Veronica had no idea what I was dealing with, but she felt led to pray Ephesians 6 over me. I remembered that I had written a piece on Ephesians 6 some time ago. If you’re struggling with your own truth, if you’ve forgotten who God says you are or what He’s done for you, if you are walking through a season of big changes and struggling to remember what is constant, I urge you to click this link and read.

Philippians 4:8 And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.

Today is Superbowl Sunday and my hubby’s hometown team made it to the big game. This is true. This is right. This is lovely.

Putting on your oxygen mask…

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I love, love, love when God reminds me that it’s not “all about me” (typed with a forced smile). And that every single one of us is created in His image and have the same basic needs. I started writing a post about two weeks ago on “burnout”. Today I opened my email and found that my sister-friend Sheila Harper had written a post on the subject with words much more eloquent than most of the inappropriate ones swirling around in my head.

In the last six months I have found myself in a recurring conversation with people where I use this one illustration:

You know how when you’re about to take off in an airplane the flight attendant says something like, “If we’re crashing and the oxygen masks drop down, Mamas please put one on yourself before trying to stick one on your kids.” – paraphrased You need to be breathing yourself before you can helps someone else breathe. 

I have so much to share about our move and the blizzard and the miracles we’re watching unfold in our daughter. But today, all I have to offer is this beautiful, honest post written by Shelia. Please click one of the links (they all go to the same place) and read it.

Breathe deep, friends.