The Immigration Ban Executive Order in its entirety – You’re welcome

There are a million emotions and opinions flying around concerning President Trump’s executive order that places a temporary hold on immigration from 7 specific countries. I’ve seen articles separating fact from fiction but not one of them actually shares the content of the executive order. So… here ya go. #beinformed

Here is the order in its entirety: Section 4, paragraph a is the piece that I’d like clarified.
PROTECTING THE NATION FROM FOREIGN TERRORIST ENTRY INTO THE UNITED STATES
By the authority vested in me as President by the Constitution and laws of the United States of America, including the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), 8 U.S.C. 1101 et seq., and section 301 of title 3, United States Code, and to protect the American people from terrorist attacks by foreign nationals admitted to the United States, it is hereby ordered as follows:
Section 1. Purpose. The visa-issuance process plays a crucial role in detecting individuals with terrorist ties and stopping them from entering the United States. Perhaps in no instance was that more apparent than the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, when State Department policy prevented consular officers from properly scrutinizing the visa applications of several of the 19 foreign nationals who went on to murder nearly 3,000 Americans. And while the visa-issuance process was reviewed and amended after the September 11 attacks to better detect would-be terrorists from receiving visas, these measures did not stop attacks by foreign nationals who were admitted to the United States.
Numerous foreign-born individuals have been convicted or implicated in terrorism-related crimes since September 11, 2001, including foreign nationals who entered the United States after receiving visitor, student, or employment visas, or who entered through the United States refugee resettlement program. Deteriorating conditions in certain countries due to war, strife, disaster, and civil unrest increase the likelihood that terrorists will use any means possible to enter the United States. The United States must be vigilant during the visa-issuance process to ensure that those approved for admission do not intend to harm Americans and that they have no ties to terrorism.
In order to protect Americans, the United States must ensure that those admitted to this country do not bear hostile attitudes toward it and its founding principles. The United States cannot, and should not, admit those who do not support the Constitution, or those who would place violent ideologies over American law. In addition, the United States should not admit those who engage in acts of bigotry or hatred (including “honor” killings, other forms of violence against women, or the persecution of those who practice religions different from their own) or those who would oppress Americans of any race, gender, or sexual orientation.
Sec. 2. Policy. It is the policy of the United States to protect its citizens from foreign nationals who intend to commit terrorist attacks in the United States; and to prevent the admission of foreign nationals who intend to exploit United States immigration laws for malevolent purposes.
Sec. 3. Suspension of Issuance of Visas and Other Immigration Benefits to Nationals of Countries of Particular Concern. (a) The Secretary of Homeland Security, in consultation with the Secretary of State and the Director of National Intelligence, shall immediately conduct a review to determine the information needed from any country to adjudicate any visa, admission, or other benefit under the INA (adjudications) in order to determine that the individual seeking the benefit is who the individual claims to be and is not a security or public-safety threat.
(b) The Secretary of Homeland Security, in consultation with the Secretary of State and the Director of National Intelligence, shall submit to the President a report on the results of the review described in subsection (a) of this section, including the Secretary of Homeland Security’s determination of the information needed for adjudications and a list of countries that do not provide adequate information, within 30 days of the date of this order. The Secretary of Homeland Security shall provide a copy of the report to the Secretary of State and the Director of National Intelligence.
(c) To temporarily reduce investigative burdens on relevant agencies during the review period described in subsection (a) of this section, to ensure the proper review and maximum utilization of available resources for the screening of foreign nationals, and to ensure that adequate standards are established to prevent infiltration by foreign terrorists or criminals, pursuant to section 212(f) of the INA, 8 U.S.C. 1182(f), I hereby proclaim that the immigrant and nonimmigrant entry into the United States of aliens from countries referred to in section 217(a)(12) of the INA, 8 U.S.C. 1187(a)(12), would be detrimental to the interests of the United States, and I hereby suspend entry into the United States, as immigrants and nonimmigrants, of such persons for 90 days from the date of this order (excluding those foreign nationals traveling on diplomatic visas, North Atlantic Treaty Organization visas, C-2 visas for travel to the United Nations, and G-1, G-2, G-3, and G-4 visas).
(d) Immediately upon receipt of the report described in subsection (b) of this section regarding the information needed for adjudications, the Secretary of State shall request all foreign governments that do not supply such information to start providing such information regarding their nationals within 60 days of notification.
(e) After the 60-day period described in subsection (d) of this section expires, the Secretary of Homeland Security, in consultation with the Secretary of State, shall submit to the President a list of countries recommended for inclusion on a Presidential proclamation that would prohibit the entry of foreign nationals (excluding those foreign nationals traveling on diplomatic visas, North Atlantic Treaty Organization visas, C-2 visas for travel to the United Nations, and G-1, G-2, G-3, and G-4 visas) from countries that do not provide the information requested pursuant to subsection (d) of this section until compliance occurs.
(f) At any point after submitting the list described in subsection (e) of this section, the Secretary of State or the Secretary of Homeland Security may submit to the President the names of any additional countries recommended for similar treatment.
(g) Notwithstanding a suspension pursuant to subsection (c) of this section or pursuant to a Presidential proclamation described in subsection (e) of this section, the Secretaries of State and Homeland Security may, on a case-by-case basis, and when in the national interest, issue visas or other immigration benefits to nationals of countries for which visas and benefits are otherwise blocked.
(h) The Secretaries of State and Homeland Security shall submit to the President a joint report on the progress in implementing this order within 30 days of the date of this order, a second report within 60 days of the date of this order, a third report within 90 days of the date of this order, and a fourth report within 120 days of the date of this order.
Sec. 4. Implementing Uniform Screening Standards for All Immigration Programs. (a) The Secretary of State, the Secretary of Homeland Security, the Director of National Intelligence, and the Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation shall implement a program, as part of the adjudication process for immigration benefits, to identify individuals seeking to enter the United States on a fraudulent basis with the intent to cause harm, or who are at risk of causing harm subsequent to their admission. This program will include the development of a uniform screening standard and procedure, such as in-person interviews; a database of identity documents proffered by applicants to ensure that duplicate documents are not used by multiple applicants; amended application forms that include questions aimed at identifying fraudulent answers and malicious intent; a mechanism to ensure that the applicant is who the applicant claims to be; a process to evaluate the applicant’s likelihood of becoming a positively contributing member of society and the applicant’s ability to make contributions to the national interest; and a mechanism to assess whether or not the applicant has the intent to commit criminal or terrorist acts after entering the United States.
(b) The Secretary of Homeland Security, in conjunction with the Secretary of State, the Director of National Intelligence, and the Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, shall submit to the President an initial report on the progress of this directive within 60 days of the date of this order, a second report within 100 days of the date of this order, and a third report within 200 days of the date of this order.
Sec. 5. Realignment of the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program for Fiscal Year 2017. (a) The Secretary of State shall suspend the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP) for 120 days. During the 120-day period, the Secretary of State, in conjunction with the Secretary of Homeland Security and in consultation with the Director of National Intelligence, shall review the USRAP application and adjudication process to determine what additional procedures should be taken to ensure that those approved for refugee admission do not pose a threat to the security and welfare of the United States, and shall implement such additional procedures. Refugee applicants who are already in the USRAP process may be admitted upon the initiation and completion of these revised procedures. Upon the date that is 120 days after the date of this order, the Secretary of State shall resume USRAP admissions only for nationals of countries for which the Secretary of State, the Secretary of Homeland Security, and the Director of National Intelligence have jointly determined that such additional procedures are adequate to ensure the security and welfare of the United States.
(b) Upon the resumption of USRAP admissions, the Secretary of State, in consultation with the Secretary of Homeland Security, is further directed to make changes, to the extent permitted by law, to prioritize refugee claims made by individuals on the basis of religious-based persecution, provided that the religion of the individual is a minority religion in the individual’s country of nationality. Where necessary and appropriate, the Secretaries of State and Homeland Security shall recommend legislation to the President that would assist with such prioritization.
(c) Pursuant to section 212(f) of the INA, 8 U.S.C. 1182(f), I hereby proclaim that the entry of nationals of Syria as refugees is detrimental to the interests of the United States and thus suspend any such entry until such time as I have determined that sufficient changes have been made to the USRAP to ensure that admission of Syrian refugees is consistent with the national interest.
(d) Pursuant to section 212(f) of the INA, 8 U.S.C. 1182(f), I hereby proclaim that the entry of more than 50,000 refugees in fiscal year 2017 would be detrimental to the interests of the United States, and thus suspend any such entry until such time as I determine that additional admissions would be in the national interest.
(e) Notwithstanding the temporary suspension imposed pursuant to subsection (a) of this section, the Secretaries of State and Homeland Security may jointly determine to admit individuals to the United States as refugees on a case-by-case basis, in their discretion, but only so long as they determine that the admission of such individuals as refugees is in the national interest — including when the person is a religious minority in his country of nationality facing religious persecution, when admitting the person would enable the United States to conform its conduct to a preexisting international agreement, or when the person is already in transit and denying admission would cause undue hardship — and it would not pose a risk to the security or welfare of the United States.
(f) The Secretary of State shall submit to the President an initial report on the progress of the directive in subsection (b) of this section regarding prioritization of claims made by individuals on the basis of religious-based persecution within 100 days of the date of this order and shall submit a second report within 200 days of the date of this order.
(g) It is the policy of the executive branch that, to the extent permitted by law and as practicable, State and local jurisdictions be granted a role in the process of determining the placement or settlement in their jurisdictions of aliens eligible to be admitted to the United States as refugees. To that end, the Secretary of Homeland Security shall examine existing law to determine the extent to which, consistent with applicable law, State and local jurisdictions may have greater involvement in the process of determining the placement or resettlement of refugees in their jurisdictions, and shall devise a proposal to lawfully promote such involvement.
Sec. 6. Rescission of Exercise of Authority Relating to the Terrorism Grounds of Inadmissibility. The Secretaries of State and Homeland Security shall, in consultation with the Attorney General, consider rescinding the exercises of authority in section 212 of the INA, 8 U.S.C. 1182, relating to the terrorism grounds of inadmissibility, as well as any related implementing memoranda.
Sec. 7. Expedited Completion of the Biometric Entry-Exit Tracking System. (a) The Secretary of Homeland Security shall expedite the completion and implementation of a biometric entry-exit tracking system for all travelers to the United States, as recommended by the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States.
(b) The Secretary of Homeland Security shall submit to the President periodic reports on the progress of the directive contained in subsection (a) of this section. The initial report shall be submitted within 100 days of the date of this order, a second report shall be submitted within 200 days of the date of this order, and a third report shall be submitted within 365 days of the date of this order. Further, the Secretary shall submit a report every 180 days thereafter until the system is fully deployed and operational.
Sec. 8. Visa Interview Security. (a) The Secretary of State shall immediately suspend the Visa Interview Waiver Program and ensure compliance with section 222 of the INA, 8 U.S.C. 1222, which requires that all individuals seeking a nonimmigrant visa undergo an in-person interview, subject to specific statutory exceptions.
(b) To the extent permitted by law and subject to the availability of appropriations, the Secretary of State shall immediately expand the Consular Fellows Program, including by substantially increasing the number of Fellows, lengthening or making permanent the period of service, and making language training at the Foreign Service Institute available to Fellows for assignment to posts outside of their area of core linguistic ability, to ensure that non-immigrant visa-interview wait times are not unduly affected.
Sec. 9. Visa Validity Reciprocity. The Secretary of State shall review all nonimmigrant visa reciprocity agreements to ensure that they are, with respect to each visa classification, truly reciprocal insofar as practicable with respect to validity period and fees, as required by sections 221(c) and 281 of the INA, 8 U.S.C. 1201(c) and 1351, and other treatment. If a country does not treat United States nationals seeking nonimmigrant visas in a reciprocal manner, the Secretary of State shall adjust the visa validity period, fee schedule, or other treatment to match the treatment of United States nationals by the foreign country, to the extent practicable.
Sec. 10. Transparency and Data Collection. (a) To be more transparent with the American people, and to more effectively implement policies and practices that serve the national interest, the Secretary of Homeland Security, in consultation with the Attorney General, shall, consistent with applicable law and national security, collect and make publicly available within 180 days, and every 180 days thereafter:
(i) information regarding the number of foreign nationals in the United States who have been charged with terrorism-related offenses while in the United States; convicted of terrorism-related offenses while in the United States; or removed from the United States based on terrorism-related activity, affiliation, or material support to a terrorism-related organization, or any other national security reasons since the date of this order or the last reporting period, whichever is later;
(ii) information regarding the number of foreign nationals in the United States who have been radicalized after entry into the United States and engaged in terrorism-related acts, or who have provided material support to terrorism-related organizations in countries that pose a threat to the United States, since the date of this order or the last reporting period, whichever is later; and
(iii) information regarding the number and types of acts of gender-based violence against women, including honor killings, in the United States by foreign nationals, since the date of this order or the last reporting period, whichever is later; and
(iv) any other information relevant to public safety and security as determined by the Secretary of Homeland Security and the Attorney General, including information on the immigration status of foreign nationals charged with major offenses.
(b) The Secretary of State shall, within one year of the date of this order, provide a report on the estimated long-term costs of the USRAP at the Federal, State, and local levels.
Sec. 11. General Provisions. (a) Nothing in this order shall be construed to impair or otherwise affect:
(i) the authority granted by law to an executive department or agency, or the head thereof; or
(ii) the functions of the Director of the Office of Management and Budget relating to budgetary, administrative, or legislative proposals.
(b) This order shall be implemented consistent with applicable law and subject to the availability of appropriations.
(c) This order is not intended to, and does not, create any right or benefit, substantive or procedural, enforceable at law or in equity by any party against the United States, its departments, agencies, or entities, its officers, employees, or agents, or any other person.
DONALD J. TRUMP
THE WHITE HOUSE, January 27, 2017

#thriveyear

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The sun set on 2016 just as I crossed the drawbridge to the island we now live on. I pulled over, took a couple of pictures with my phone, and wept. You would think by now, after 45 years of living fully and nearly 23 years as a military wife, I would have grown accustomed to the rollercoaster ride of life’s high-highs and low-lows. But no…

That last sunset of 2016 brought tears because it brought closure to a year that left me spent. I know I’m not alone. I read your Facebook posts over the last several days, I’ve seen your almost-bitter memes all over social media. 2016 wrung us all out and left us thirsting for renewal and redemption.

Hebrews 11:1 Faith shows the reality of what we hope for; it is the evidence of things we cannot see.

hope
noun
  1. a feeling of expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen.
    “he looked through her belongings in the hope of coming across some information”

As 2015 drew to a close I knew the word I had to choose as the theme for 2016 would be “hope”. I needed hope. I longed for hope. Everywhere I turned the word kept popping up. So I chose it, or it chose me, and for 366 days we wrestled. The funny thing about hope is that even when it chooses you, you must accept it before it has the power to give you a “feeling of expectation”. For many of those 366 days I fought hard. For more than five years the majority of my expectations were met with disappointment. It is incredibly hard to be hope-full when you’ve been well-trained to be hopeless. As I watched the sun set on 2016 I wept because the fight is over and hope has won. I have faith that the things I still hope for will someday be.

In the last two weeks, as I resolved to let hope win, I had no clue what my word would be for 2017. And then it started showing up everywhere I looked. A tag on the side of a building in downtown Saint Petersburg… “Thrive”. A sign on a church near Tampa General Hospital… “Thrive”. Reading through the Psalms… “…my people will THRIVE…”, “…their children’s children will THRIVE…” and in Isaiah “They will THRIVE like watered grass…”.

And then, my Switchfoot loving daughter found this song on YouTube and played it repeatedly….

I’ll be honest. I have no clue what thriving will look like when I’ve spent such a very long time just surviving. My guess is that many of you are in the same boat. We’ve survived a hard year. Or two. Or five. But the hard is where the big, soul-cleansing, character-refining stuff happens. Me, you, us; we should be better versions of ourselves as we welcome this fresh, blank slate of a year. My best guess is this word that has chosen me isn’t just for me. In fact, I’m quite certain it isn’t. During the 366 days of wrestling with hope, I looked back through my journals and blog posts from the years leading up to these last few years of furnace dwelling and I remembered…

I thrive when I help others thrive. So, here’s your invitation…

Let’s thrive together. If you need encouragement, if you need inspiration, if you need brutal honesty, if you need hope… reach out. We’re all on this big messy, beautiful, soul-cleansing, character-refining road together. And, I have a child who requires 2-1 care around the clock. So I’m pretty much a shut-in. Seriously… message me or email me or call me if you have my number.

#thriveyear

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Cheers to thriving in 2017!

 

 

My Hero <3

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Today is Veterans’ Day. It is the day of the year set aside to honor those who’ve served our nation.

See that cute soldier? He’s mine. While I’m not willing to share him for husbandly duties, for almost two and a half decades I shared him with every single one of you as a defender of freedom.

My Dear Hubby willingly and gladly put his life on the line to defend and protect not only the American people, but the people of the nations he deployed to. He has served with integrity and honor. Even after being falsely accused of conspiracy and fraud and spending almost four years under federal investigation, he stepped into his last active duty position with the same dedication and willingness to serve this nation as every other role he held as a soldier. He is a true American hero.

In case you live under a rock and you missed it, this week America elected a new President. In the days following the election people who did not support the President-elect have protested, rioted, physically attacked those who they “think” voted him in, and burned the American flag.

1 Timothy 2:1-3  The first thing I want you to do is pray. Pray every way you know how, for everyone you know. Pray especially for rulers and their governments to rule well so we can be quietly about our business of living simply, in humble contemplation. This is the way our Savior God wants us to live.

1 Peter 2:17 Make the Master proud of you by being good citizens. Respect the authorities, whatever their level; they are God’s emissaries for keeping order. It is God’s will that by doing good, you might cure the ignorance of the fools who think you’re a danger to society. Exercise your freedom by serving God, not by breaking the rules. Treat everyone you meet with dignity. Love your spiritual family. Revere God. Respect the government.

Although I think political preferences are private matters and I greatly appreciate the curtain around a voting both, I’d like to make it clear that I did not support either major candidate. Since the primaries I’ve been genuinely sad that Trump and Clinton were the best we could come up with out of the entire American population. However, on January 20th, Donald Trump will become my President. And because he is the man chosen by God, or allowed by God, to fill that position, I will respect him and I will pray for him. Not because of who he is or anything he’s done, but because I am a follower of Christ and because God commands it.

My guy served this nation under FIVE Presidents. If you don’t know any veterans, there is something you need to understand. Those men and women who put on uniforms and risk their lives for freedom are not serving a President. They are serving YOU. When you burn an American flag you are not displaying your disrespect for the President. You are displaying disrespect for my husband and every other American veteran. It’s like spitting in the face of those who are willing to die for you.

So today, on the day we honor those who’ve fought for freedom, I ask you to put aside whatever negative emotions you’re having about this week’s election and thank a veteran for their service. Instead of protesting and rioting, thank a veteran for your freedom to do so. And no matter what side of the political aisle you sit on, pray for our leaders. They need it.

Thank you, Babe, for giving me the freedom to express my beliefs (even when they don’t align with yours). I love you immeasurably and I’m eternally indebted to you for your service. 1530445_10202748513812984_1419901548_n

 

“WE NEED AN ADULT!”

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For the last week we’ve made nightly pilgrimages to the beach to watch the sunset. Every sunset outdoes the one before and every evening I’m reminded how good this place is for my soul. It’s good for my baby girl’s soul too. After needing someone to hold her hands for months, I’m in awe every time I watch her jump out of the car at the beach and run in the water completely independent. The water and sun are quite literally healing her.

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Two nights ago I snapped this picture of her free hands and then followed her gaze to two little girls who appeared to be about four and six years old sprinting down the beach. Just as I looked at them, the older girl stopped dead in her tracks and asked, “Where are the adults?” She then clenched her fists and yelled, “WE NEED AN ADULT!” That little girl is my soul sister.

Throughout this election season I keep looking around and asking myself, “Where are the adults?” I’ve watched the candidates talk about each other like the kids my Mom told me to stay away from in elementary and middle school. I’ve watched people on social media sever relationships with friends and family over which candidate they support. Every single time I see someone post, “If you’re voting for ____, please unfriend me now”, all I can think of is the mean little five year old girl that lived behind us when my daughter was in kindergarten. She made my daughter cry repeatedly by telling her things like, “I can’t play with you because I don’t like your dress.” or “I can’t be your friend because your hair isn’t long.”

I’ll make this easy for my friends and family. I don’t care who you’re voting for, or even if you cheered for Alabama last weekend. I still love you. And I always will.

For all of you that are completely impassioned over your chosen candidate, I respect you for being so certain of what you believe in. I’m just not there.

For everyone who’s freaking out over this election (like me), I have some comfort to offer you…

Without googling or phoning a friend, answer these two questions:

1. Who won the Presidential election of 1916?

2. Who won the Presidential election of 1816?

Do you know the answers off the top of your head? If you do, you’re probably smarter than 99.9% of Americans. If you don’t know, it’s okay. I had to do a little research to find the answers myself.

In 1916, Woodrow Wilson (a Democrat) was elected to his second term as President. It is indisputable that he was a racist and a misogynist. Throughout his first term women suffragists were thrown in prison for protesting over the right to vote. During his second term, he made several public comments in support of women voting, but the 19th amendment didn’t actually pass until after his Presidency. Wilson did some good things. Wilson did some bad things. America survived.

In 1816, James Monroe (a Democratic-Republican- Hah! ) beat out Rufus King (a Federalist). Do you know why Thomas Jefferson formed the Democratic-Republican party? It was formed in opposition to the Federalist party ratifying the Constitution. Guess what? America survived. So did our Constitution.

My point is this… On Wednesday (by God’s grace) we will know who will be the 45th President of these United States. 45 will likely do some good things and some bad things and in 2116 the majority of Americans won’t have a clue who won this specific election. Only God knows if America will still be America in 2116. Speaking of… there is only one ABSOLUTE certainty…

Hebrews 13:8 Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and FOREVER. 

America is less than 250 years old. God is eternal.

After watching the little girl on the beach clench her fists and scream, “WE NEED AN ADULT!” I looked around and couldn’t see one anywhere in my line of sight. And then I realized, as much as I don’t feel like adulting most days, I am a bonifide grown-up. I have two children in college and two that rely on me to be their constant caretaker. I have buried my mother and grandparents and handled all the adult aftermath of their deaths. And I’ve voted in seven Presidential elections.

I’m pretty sure that if you’re reading this, you’re an adult too. Can you do me a favor? No matter who you’re voting for tomorrow, let’s show each other a little grown-up love and respect. I don’t care how long your hair is. I don’t care if you wear yoga pants and a hoodie every day of the year. Well actually, I respect you for that… even if that hoodie shows support for Alabama. I just know that the only certainty in this whole frickin’ universe is that God is still God and He always will be. And I’m pretty sure that when we stand before Him we will have to answer more for how we love and respect the people we have the privilege of knowing than we will for how we voted in 2016.

 

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transitions

Joshua 1:9 This is my command—be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.

transition

[tran-zishuh n, –sish-]

noun

1.movement, passage, or change from one position, state, stage, subject, concept, etc., to another; change:

Everything about our life has transitioned…

October 14, 2016, my dear hubby officially became a civilian.

October 20th, 2016 we watched a moving truck drive away from our house on Fort Belvoir that basically contained everything we own.

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October 21st, 2016, after 53 weeks of driving 77 miles each way to visit her every other day, we picked up our baby girl from the Kennedy Krieger Institute in Baltimore and got on a train headed for Florida.

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October 22nd, 2016, we woke up on the train to the sights of palm trees and water. The transition to our new state was nearly complete… or so we thought.

Y’all, I mentioned in my last post that change has gotten harder for me to cope with in my old age and that I NEED a plan. I should’ve known that putting that out there for the world and God to read would create a “growth opportunity”.

We HAD a very detailed, perfectly organized plan for the transition to Florida that included closing on our new house either two days before we left Virginia or within the first few days of arriving in Florida. I booked a beach house for twelve days that is located six miles from the house we planned to buy so that we could take turns sitting with Sofija and going to the house to unpack and paint. My plan gave me plenty of time to get all my nesting done before transitioning our baby girl to her new home. Do you see how flexible I was being? I gave God lots of days to work out the specific details of when we would close on the house. But noooo…. once again, my plans and His plans did not align.

October 26, 2016, about the time I was growing completely impatient with the whole house-buying process and on the day I was an emotional wreck preparing to say, “Goodbye” to the team of people that helped us travel to Florida with Sofija, we got a call from our mortgage broker. The appraisal on the house had not been done and he was calling to say that we need an additional $50k+ to close on the house. Ugghhhh yeah… We have two kids in college, one who just spent a year in a hospital more than hour away from our home, and dear hubby JUST started his first post-Army job. We do NOT have an additional $50k sitting around. After we vented about how it would’ve been great if he’d said we needed the extra money a month ago, and freaked out more than just a little bit, and had a beer at the beach, we remembered…

This is our seventeenth move. Out of seventeen moves, we have had uncertainty about where we would live up until the very last minute at least twelve times. Seventeen times, we’ve found a home.

Philippians 4:6 Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and THANK HIM for all He has done.

I’m not gonna lie. I worry about every other minute. But in the minutes between the worrying I’m doing A LOT of praying and A LOT of thanking.

The day after we arrived in Florida the MOST AMAZING BCBA (behavior therapist) started working with Sofija. On that very same day we hired someone to work with her for 30 hours a week in addition to the hours we have our BCBA. We also hired a backup for weekends and evenings (Hooray for date nights!) and our firstborn asked if she can be added to the weekend payroll of Sofija-whisperers. My Mama heart is bursting! On Friday, after nearly five months of needing someone to hold her hands 24/7, Sofija let go and swam in the pool for FIVE straight hours. Every day she’s getting a little braver and a little more independent and after thirteen days she’s gone from asking ten times an hour to about once a day if she’s “Done with KKI”.

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Sooo many things to be thankful for.

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Our baby girl is home.

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Our baby boy is a happy camper.

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We get to see sunsets like this ^^^ every single day.

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After too many years of hell on earth, dear hubby and I are still married and kinda like each other. 🙂

Our life is not easy. We’re still getting beat up and working hard to keep baby girl from beating herself up on a daily basis. The amount of help we need means that every day has A LOT of moving parts and that we don’t have the luxury of taking a day to “just be”. But we really do have SO much to be thankful for. And when I remember all those things, the hard stuff isn’t quite so hard.

The house situation will work itself out. In the meantime… there’s paradise to enjoy.

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Turning the page… Relax. This is NOT a political post.

I don’t know about you, but I’m going to scream if I start reading another article or blog post looking for inspiration, laughter, or encouragement; only to find myself lured in to someone’s political agenda. So, I thought I’d put it right there in the title. You can relax. This post will contain NOTHING political.

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Amongst other things, I am a writer and I am a reader. Whether I’m reading or writing, I am pained by bad grammar, misspelled words, and blank pages. I love ALL the words. I want to write all the words and I want to read all the words. A page with no words has no value. My last five years have contained way too many blank pages.

In the summer of 2011, our family found ourselves semi-homeless (dear friends let us stay in their house while they were out of the country) for a few weeks. All the words were written on the pages of the chapter leading up to being homeless, but for nearly three weeks I stared at a blank page while begging God to tell me what came next.

In December of 2011 my husband had false allegations made against him that launched a career-destroying investigation that seemed to have no end. For more than three and a half years I stared at a blank page begging God to make it end and allow us to close that chapter.

October 13, 2015, my baby girl Sofija was admitted to the Neurobehavioral Unit at the Kennedy Krieger Institute in Baltimore. Though I could see God’s hand in every step of the path to get her there, it was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do. And for the last twelve months I’ve had no choice but to trust that God would protect her and give us all the strength and courage to get through the days until she is healthy enough to close the KKI chapter and turn the page that brings her home.

Early in 2016 a few things became very clear. There were some words written on the page in front of us, but not enough to tell us what was coming. We knew that my husband would retire from the Army. We knew that once he retired we would no longer be able to live in our house on the military base. We also knew that Sofija’s discharge would likely coincide with retiring and moving.

You know what’s more painful to me than a completely blank page? A page with only a few words on it. I want NEED to know the WHOLE plan. I suck at waiting and not knowing and God is so gracious that He just keeps giving me opportunities to get better at both. He’s good like that.  :/

The majority of this year has felt much like those moments when you have to pee really bad and you go to a public restroom and then realize AFTER you’ve peed that there is no toilet paper in the stall. For the guys reading who don’t get this reference.. the second you realize that there is no toilet paper, you experience a moment of panic. It’s too late to turn back and all the solutions you can think of (like asking the stranger in the stall next to you to pass some under the divider, or worse..dripping dry) are a little unnerving. That’s the story of the first 75% of my 2016. Can’t turn back. Couldn’t see what was coming next. Had no clear plan. Every plan I could possibly conceive was daunting.

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I’m writing this post because I want to share with you just how flippin’ AMAZING God’s ways are. I know that somebody is reading this and staring at your own blank page or a page with only a few words on it and you have no clue what comes next. Maybe every scenario you can think of is overwhelming or scary. But God knows what comes next. He really is good. And thankfully, His thoughts are NOTHING like yours or mine…

We held my husband’s retirement ceremony on September 1st and his official retirement date was October 14th. He spent the summer applying for jobs and after spending nearly four years under investigation where he didn’t use any of his leave, he had a TON of leave to burn before retirement. Our plan was for him to start a new job around the time of his retirement ceremony, find a house, move and unpack, and then bring Sofija home. We had no clue where the job or home would be, but we hoped it would be in Florida.

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But God’s ways are FAR beyond anything we can imagine…

Things did NOT go as we had planned. The week of his retirement ceremony, Dear Hubby still had no job. For nearly two months there was talk that one was being created for him, but it never came to fruition. One week after his retirement ceremony, he STILL had no job. He posted a Facebook status thanking our friends and family and God for celebrating retirement with us. I noticed one extremely kind comment on his post from a name I wasn’t familiar with. A guy named John said that there were few people he’d met in life that made a lasting impact on him, but Chad was one of them. While DH told me about how they met on his last tour in Iraq, John contacted him through LinkedIn and asked what his plans were after the Army. The next day they had an hour-long phone interview and the following day he interviewed with the board of directors. A few days later he was offered a position (without ever submitting his resume) as the Vice President of DOD and Federal Business. He is opening an office for the company in the Tampa area.

The week after he accepted the job, we flew to Tampa to look at houses. There was one house that checked all of our boxes in an area that (until that point) I was certain I wanted to live. We spent over an hour looking at it and went back the following day and spent two more hours. Chad was in love. I was not. I could not explain why, but I had ZERO peace. I kept looking in drawers and closets and riding the elevator (yes, it had one), and going out to the pool, and walking out on the dock, and looking at the theater room, and wondering what the heck was wrong with me. The house was everything we thought we wanted and I had a big burning softball in my belly. As we drove to the airport in silence I could feel Chad’s frustration with me. He wanted the house and I just could not say, “Let’s make an offer.” I had a prompting to look up the Florida sex offender registry. Guess what? The man RIGHT ACROSS THE STREET from the house got out of prison in 2011 after doing time for molesting children. I’m sharing this because people, we have the Holy Spirit for a reason. LISTEN!! We could have ended up living across the street from a predator if we had moved forward based on reason and logic and not trusted my discernment.

Long story short.. oh wait, it’s too late for that. 😉 We have a house under contract in Bradenton and we close at the end of the month. It’s amazing and peaceful and I can’t wait to share more about it.

The same week that we ratified the contract on our house, the behavior team at Kennedy Krieger connected me with a behavior therapist that only lives about ten minutes from our new house. And.. she used to work at Kennedy Krieger. And.. she has experience with children who have behaviors like Sofija. And.. she accepts our insurance. My autism Mama friends know what a HUGE deal this is. It is nearly impossible to find a behavior therapist (BCBA) period. So to find one with availability that is so amazingly perfect for my baby girl within ten minutes of where we live, is an absolute miracle.

Yesterday, Lieutenant Colonel Chad Calvaresi became private citizen Calvaresi complete with a handsome blue retiree ID card.

We have movers packing us up and taking everything away Tuesday-Thursday of next week.

On Friday we pick Sofija up from KKI and board a train bound for Florida. We will stay in a beach house for a couple of weeks while we are closing and getting things settled at the new house.

The blank page is turning…

Every detail of life is changing very quickly. It is indeed a brand new chapter. I like to say that I embrace change, but on this side of the hill… not so much. Feel free to pray for me.

 

 

Happy Birthday, Drew

imagesForty-eight years ago today, one of my favorites was born. He’s not on Facebook so I’m sending him a birthday shoutout on the blog.

On a few occasions he’s talked my hubby out of killing me or himself. On countless occasions, his encouragement and truth-speaking has kept our marriage intact.

Thanks for being Chad’s battle buddy, loving our family well, and always letting God speak through you.

The Calvaresis love you and we’re mighty happy you were born. 🙂