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.

it isn’t easy…

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I read this post tonight by Kristen Welch as I was lying in bed trying to process my emotions and clear my head. Kristen speaks truth and for those of us who’ve picked up our cross and walked the walk, her words bring comfort.

Tonight I am conflicted between gratitude for the fact that my daughter is in a safe place and grief over the fact that she has not fallen asleep in my lap or ran through our home laughing (or screaming) in almost three months. I physically ache to smell her hair and kiss her head. We make the drive to see her at the Kennedy Krieger institute in Baltimore a minimum of four days a week. I count down the 59 mile markers on the roadways between our house and her temporary home… 58 miles until I see her eyes. 47 miles until I smell her hair. 32 miles until I hear her say, “Are you really here, Mama? I missed you SOOOO much.” 19 miles until she asks, “Can I give you a hug?” and then tries to pull my hair.” 11 miles until she says, “Will you please stay and eat dinner with me?” 5 miles until she begins to beg us to bring her home. 2 more blocks until my heart is torn between soaking in every second of visiting hours and aching over the fact that at 7pm, we will be asked to leave her there…. again.

The days between our visits are spent on the phone with doctors and therapists and social workers.

“Sofija is a hard code to crack…”

“Do you know why she does this? Or that?”

“We may need to stop x, y, or z and try something new.”

“Please hang in there. We’re going to figure out what we have to do to reduce her behaviors and make her safe at home.”

From friends and family… I am asked hard questions…
“Why did you adopt her?”
“Would you do it again with what you know?”
“Do you have regrets?”
“HOW do you do it?”

Hard questions do not have easy answers. Hard questions only increase internal conflict. What I DO know is that I cannot fathom the idea of Sofija not being my daughter. She’s my child. It has been nice to catch up on rest and work on our marriage and engage in life again. But I miss her and I am CONSTANTLY aware that she isn’t with me. If half the dreams in my heart for my own accomplishments are buried with me, but she reaches her full potential and lives a full, happy life; then my life will have been a success. And I know… that when I stand before my maker, He will say, “Well done, good and faithful servant. And while I’m waiting for that meeting, I can do ALL THINGS through Him because His grace is enough and my strength comes from Him.

From Kristen…

“I didn’t know it would be this hard.
I didn’t know it would be this lonely,
I didn’t know the road would be this long.
I didn’t want to lose friends.
I didn’t want to make life harder for my family.
I didn’t want to be an inspiration.
I didn’t know there would be a pedestal.
I didn’t know it would cost this much.
I didn’t know I would have to lose my life to find it…
… So, don’t let anyone tell you that following Jesus will be easy. Don’t believe for a second that being a Christian should be easy.

It’s hard, but it’s good. It’s challenging, but it’s rewarding. It’s draining, but so fulfilling.

Because He leads us into places we would never go without Him.

Places that are dark and lonely and terrifying. Places that are rich and deep. Places that don’t look anything like our expectations. Places that are amazing. Places that scare the hell out of those around you.

No, it’s not easy. Doing what is right is hard and long and it won’t cost us something–no, it will cost us everything…”

But oh that God of ours… Always there. Always cheering us on. Always providing.

– See more at: http://wearethatfamily.com/2016/01/dont-let-anyone-tell-you-it-will-be-easy/#sthash.wm1k4RXB.LADg0CUr.dpuf

This is the day that I die.

Took some time to edit this morning. If you read the post yesterday, It’s better today. :)

Waving a White Flag

conflicted

adjective

1. fullof conflicting emotionsorimpulses:

asituationthatmakesonefeelveryconflicted.
conflicted
I am an American patriot. I am a Christian. I am conflicted.
Five days ago Paris was attacked by radical Muslims. Last night there was a “serious threat” of another attack in Germany. This year alone ISIS has claimed 65 beheadings of Christians and killed countless people in soft-target attacks. The nation of Saudi Arabia has beheaded at least 175 including children and persons with disabilities. ISIS has forced countless Yezidi women and children into sexual slavery. Boko Haram (also called ISWAP or the Islamic State’s West African Province) has killed thousands and is now considered the most deadly terrorists organization in the world.
For decades Syria has allowed itself to become a hotbed for terrorism. While all of the above atrocities were taking place, more than THREE MILLION

View original post 1,263 more words

This is the day that I die.

conflicted

adjective

1. full of conflicting emotions or impulses:

a situation that makes one feel very conflicted.
conflicted
I am an American patriot. I am a Christian. I am conflicted.
Five days ago Paris was attacked by radical Muslims. Last night there was a “serious threat” of another attack in Germany. This year alone ISIS has claimed 65 beheadings of Christians and killed countless people in soft-target attacks. The nation of Saudi Arabia has beheaded at least 175 including children and persons with disabilities. ISIS has forced countless Yezidi women and children into sexual slavery. Boko Haram (also called ISWAP or the Islamic State’s West African Province) has killed thousands and is now considered the most deadly terrorists organization in the world.
For decades Syria has allowed itself to become a hotbed for terrorism. While all of the above atrocities were taking place, more than THREE MILLION refugees have fled the nation of Syria and approximately six million others have been displaced within their nation.
It is estimated that at least 7% of Muslims have been radicalized and seek to inflict terror on all non-Muslims. There is no way to know how many terrorists are mixed in with the refugees.
And now… Syrian refugees have begun arriving in America. A news report yesterday stated that the first of the refugees to be unaccounted for, disappeared in my hometown of Baton Rouge (where my son is going to college) and then was later located in my current home of Washington, DC.________________________________________________
There is only one sentence written above this line that is not fear-inducing. “I am a Christian.”
What does it mean to proclaim that I am a Christian? It means that I am a follower of Christ. It means that my words and actions should emulate those of Jesus. Close to 80% of Americans also claim to be Christians. That means that 4/5 of Americans SHOULD have actions and words that emulate those of Jesus.
But being an American patriot and being a Christian tends to leave one conflicted…
While the refugee was missing yesterday, EVERYTHING IN ME wanted to go get my son. As I wrestled with fear I sat my Bible in front of me and said,”God, I need peace and I need wisdom. Please show me how to see this world and all the people you’ve created, through your eyes.”
This was the first verse I read.
2 Timothy 1:7 For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline. ~Any decision based in fear is not of God. Period.
Funny thing about that verse is that I had just read this analogy comparing a bowl of M&Ms to the refugees. The analogy asked if I would eat from the bowl knowing that 7% of them were poison. And then that verse…
God did not give me fear.
He gave me power, love, and self-discipline. I would not eat the M&Ms because I have self-discipline, NOT because I am afraid. Refugees are not candy. They are human beings created in the image of God.
Romans 2:11 God DOES NOT show favoritism! Some days I’m fairly certain that I’m His favorite. Guess what. You’re His favorite too! Guess what else. So is every person born in every corner of the world including the Syrian refugees.
God did not give you fear.
In 2008, for several reasons, I registered to vote as an Independent. First, I could no longer say that all of my political views strongly aligned with any political party. Second, I never want a politician to assume they have my vote because my registration says that I’m aligned with their party. Last (and most important), I was strongly convicted about placing my patriotism and my political stands above my role as a follower of Christ. An idol is anything that we revere or worship or use to define us. Americanism had become an idol in my life. Scripture, after scripture, after scripture, command Christians to have no other Gods before the one true God and to avoid making an idol of anything. The American Constitution is a brilliantly conceived document and I am grateful every day for the freedoms and opportunities it affords me as an American. But it is not the word of God. The American “dream” is noble and worthy, but it is not the great commission. Most of the laws of the land are sensible and comforting and give me a sense of safety. But laws do not equal the greatest commandments. “…Love your neighbor as yourself.”
Am I still conflicted? Absolutely! But in the midst of my confliction I must stand on my convictions. I’ve been called many things in my life, but the one that always stings the most is “hypocrite”. I do not want to live an hypocritical life. I want my beliefs and my behaviors to align.
A few years ago I used Jesus’ story of The Sheep and The Goats to explain to church leaders why their treatment of children with special needs was not okay. If I don’t want to be called a hypocrite, I can’t very well use the words of Jesus to point out the failures of others while ignoring those very same words as they apply to me. This is where the rubber meets the road…

Matthew 25:41-45 “Then he will turn to the ‘goats,’ the ones on his left, and say, ‘Get out, worthless goats! You’re good for nothing but the fires of hell. And why? Because—

I was hungry and you gave me no meal,
I was thirsty and you gave me no drink,
I was homeless and you gave me no bed,
I was shivering and you gave me no clothes,
Sick and in prison, and you never visited.’

“He will answer them, ‘I’m telling the solemn truth: Whenever you failed to do one of these things to someone who was being overlooked or ignored, that was me—you failed to do it to me.’

I have no flippin’ clue what walking this out will look like. But I know that I must love and that I must not fear. I know that I have to put my responsibilities as a representative of Jesus before my desires to protect the way of life created by America’s founding fathers.

Is it a gift to be an American? Absofrickinlutely! Do I enjoy the possibilities and prosperities afforded by the American dream? Every minute of every day. But you know what? In Luke 12:48 Jesus said, “…When someone has been given much, much will be required in return; and when someone has been entrusted with much, even more will be required.” Being an American is not an excuse, it’s a reason. I am not excused from caring for anyone who needs food, or clothing, or shelter.

Is any of it fair? Or just? Or palatable? Nope. I want to see anyone that doesn’t share every one of my beliefs as my enemy. But guess what Jesus said about our enemies?  “But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you!” Matthew 5:44 I want to put all kinds of labels on people and use those labels as excuses for why I just can’t love them. I’m sure you do too. But Jesus said we have to see and serve as if we are serving Him. We have to see “them” as “Him.”

Luke 9:23 Then he said to the crowd, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross daily, and follow me.

The cross? It’s the place where our bad choices and heartaches and wounds are cleaned by the blood of Jesus. It’s also the place where our selfish ways go to die. It’s the place where we nail our idols and false gods and leave them behind. It’s where anything that defines us other than God himself must bow down and surrender.

From this day forward I want my morning declaration to be:
This is the day that I pick up my cross. This is the day that I die to self.
Galatians 2:20 My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

No fear.

Lots of love.

love = freedom

chadbaghdad

John 15:12-13  This is my commandment: Love each other in the same way I have loved you. There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.

I’m sure you’ve seen the quote…

“Only two defining forces have ever offered to die for you; Jesus Christ and the American soldier.”

Today we celebrate and honor the American soldier. One of the greatest honors of my life is that I get to call a true American hero, “my husband”. That hottie up there ^ is mine. And for more than twenty-five years he’s been yours too. That man loves you and the principles our nation was founded on enough that he is willing to lay down his life for you.

I don’t usually post about Veteran’s Day or Memorial Day or any of the other days set aside on our calendar for acknowledging the price of freedom. Those days are sacred to me. But this year is different for many reasons. This is likely the last Veteran’s Day that my husband will celebrate on active duty. This is also the first Veteran’s Day since 2011 that he has been able to put on a uniform and do the job he was called to do as a young boy. That job? He’s the MILDEP (military deputy) of Night Vision and Sensors. Oh the irony… Three years, ten months, and ten days after coming under investigation for attempting to shine light in the darkness of Army contracting, he assumed the responsibility of ensuring that the entire Army can see in the dark. Hah! God has the best sense of humor!

Six days before my hero returned to work we received a call from the Kennedy Krieger Institute in Baltimore. Nine months ago, a series of “yeses” put us on a path to that phone call. In roughly the same amount of time it takes to grow a bundle of joy, God grew a bundle of hope for our baby girl. KKI was calling to say that they had a bed available for Sofija in their neurobehavioral unit. For now I am holding the details of her stay close and shedding tears at the end of each of our four weekly visits. Her projected discharge date is February 11, 2016. She wants to come home and we want to have her here. But we have been in crisis mode for longer than anyone should ever live in crisis mode. The struggle to keep her (and us) safe was a losing battle and we needed help. That phone call promised help.

While Sofija is at KKI, we have a social worker helping our family set up a plan for aftercare and checking in regularly to ensure that we are using this time as a respite. Feel free to take a second and cheer with me…. WOOHOO!!  YIPPEEE!!  HIP! HIP! HOORAY!!

Date night, after date night, after date night… with my real American hero. By the way, is anyone else bursting with excitement over the return of The Greatest American Hero? “Believe it or not, I’m walking on air. I never thought I could feel so free-ee-ee…”

One thing our social worker encouraged us to do was to get away for a couple of days. We haven’t “gotten away for a couple of days” or even overnight for that matter, in the last five years. Don’t get me wrong. I love my baby girl more than life and I miss her life crazy. But I was in desperate need of some time away with my man! This past weekend we remedied the situation with a weekend in The Big Apple.

I could write for days about all of the experiences we squeezed into 48 hours, but there was one experience in particular that wrecked me. I’ve been to NYC a few times and never made it to ground zero or the 9/11 museum. Before traveling I looked up Veteran’s Day activities in the city and found that the museum was offering free entry for veterans this week and half price entry for family members. I’m a cheapskate thrifty. $12 is easier on our budget than $42 so I pitched the museum in our trip planning. It made the cut.

Oh. My. Word. Every single American (and anyone who underestimates the power of hatred) should go there. I have to be honest. I thought it would be educational and expected to feel a little sadness. What I did not expect is to be wrecked. As I walked around the bottom of the museum and witnessed the excavated areas of the north and south towers, I was completely overwhelmed. Tears began to pour and they did not stop for quite some time after we left. IMG_4279This picture was taken inside the foundation of the south tower. See that little man standing in the right corner? That little man was well over six feet tall. This simple two-word phrase kept running through my mind as I tried to take in what I was seeing…

Hate destroys.

Hate = destruction. Towers built on the strongest of foundations were destroyed by a single act of hatred.

The opposite of hate is love. Both require passion and dedication and sacrifice. One leads to freedom, the other to destruction.

In the aforementioned quote, those two people who’ve offered to die for you? In both cases, the willingness to lay down their lives has been rooted in immeasurable love.

Today, thank Jesus for eternal life granted by the cross and resurrection. And then, thank a veteran for your daily freedom.

Love = Freedom

BTW: we spent time with Sofija on our way to NY and again on our way home. She damaged a wall with her head last week so she’s making a fashion statement with a helmet while her head heals. She still captivates me… IMG_0223-2

stepping forward…

Ready-To-Start-Something-New

Isaiah 43:19 For I am about to do something new.
    See, I have already begun! Do you not see it?
I will make a pathway through the wilderness.
    I will create rivers in the dry wasteland.

After almost four years of more togetherness than any married couple has ever wished for, as expected, my Dear Hubby got official orders yesterday. He begins work as a MILDEP at the closest Army base to our house (Hooray for short commutes!) on October 15th. That’s right. After 196 weeks of looking at each other from opposite couches, we only have ONE MORE WEEK to turn all this together-time into quality-time.

This opportunity to finish well is a BIG, HUGE, MIND-BOGGLING MIRACLE. It is absolute, indisputable evidence that God answers prayer and delivers the desires of our hearts. Walking into this new season is not simply a victory for our family. It is a victory for each and every one of you that has stood by us in prayer and held on to the faith and hope that God is who He says He is. We are humbled by each person who has faithfully walked this road with us. Compassion-weariness is a real thing. I know. There have been times when I’ve stepped away from relationships with people who’ve walked through extended painful seasons. Thank you for not growing compassion-weary!!

Now we need new prayers. This new season is going to be a HUGE change for us. I stopped working in September of 2011 and the investigation began that December. Our family has lived in a little bubble where we see and communicate with each other ALL FLIPPIN’ DAY. Everything about the way we get through our day is about to drastically change. Please pray that the transition is peace-filled and grace-filled. And if you hear me one of us complaining, remind me us that this season, this opportunity to finish well, is an answer to prayer.

Please and thanks.