Enough is ENOUGH!

Okay, Winter.

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Enough is enough. When we said our goodbyes nine days ago, I really meant all the things I said. I enjoyed our time together. It was fun while it lasted. But it’s time to move on. I sincerely do appreciate that you blew away the things in my life that blocked my view. You helped me see clear and far. You forced me to slow down and breathe deep. You challenged me and showed me strength I’d forgotten I possessed. For all of these things, I ‘m grateful.

That being said, our time is up. I’ve met someone new and I really need for you to give me space to work on my new relationship.

His name? Spring. He’s warm and kind and my gut says that he’s going to draw me out in ways that you just aren’t capable of. We have common interests that you and I just never shared. Remember how you quieted me and grew cold at the mention of new life? Yeah, well. I want new life!! I don’t just want new life. I want colorful, new life. Spring has promised to give it to me. Not that the opinions of others matter much to me, but all of my friends and family have made comments about the condition you’ve left me in. They’re genuinely concerned. Quite honestly, I am too.

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You weren’t all bad, but you sucked the color out of me. I’m feeling like the pale girl in this ^^^ picture and that’s just not who I am.

So please, I ask that you spare yourself a little dignity and move on. Please allow me to do the same.

Sincerely,

Winter Weary

We have a ratified contract!!

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That pretty house up there is located in Columbus, Georgia. It has been ours since the summer of 2002. Only we haven’t lived in Columbus since the summer of 2008.Seven years ago, in March of 2008, we found out we were moving to the Washington, DC area. We immediately began asking our friends and family to pray that the house we had filled with life and love would sell before we moved. It quickly went under contract to one of our favorite elementary school teachers and her family. We were happy. And then, the day we were packing all of our things onto a moving truck in preparation to close and hand over the keys the following morning, we got a dreadful phone call. The buyers had to back out of the sale because the buyers of the home they were living in had backed out of buying that house. Two families were sitting in houses, surrounded by boxes, unable to sell their homes.

Seven months, a move to Alexandria, VA, and an empty savings account later, we rented the house to a wonderful military family who had children the same ages as our own. They were the most amazing tenants and when they called two years later to say they had orders to move to North Carolina, I cried. We put the house back on the market and with little savings, we also listed it for rent. Two months later, we rented it to three young, single Army officers. BIG, HUGE, INSURMOUNTABLE mistake. In May of 2014 they moved out and left the house in horrible condition. After six weeks of cleaning and repairs we once again listed it for sale. Last night we got an offer. Tonight we have a ratified contract.

Countless people have prayed and believed with us that the house would sell over the last seven years. I can’t say just how grateful we are for those prayers. This journey has been so much more than God bringing the right family to buy the house for a price that’s more than we actually owe on it. It’s been all about provision and blind faith. Many, many people have sat around our table, or in our living room, or held our hands in church hallways, claiming one thing… “God, please provide.” He has delivered on those prayers over and over and over again. On paper, our budget has not made sense. The numbers just didn’t add up. But God’s math is soooo much better than our math.

Philippians 4:19 And this same God who takes care of me WILL supply all your needs from his glorious riches, which have been given to us in Christ Jesus.

Tonight, just before we ratified the contract, we started a new class of Financial Peace University. As I looked in the faces of the people just beginning their journey towards financial peace, I wanted to jump up and scream “There IS hope!!” Philippians 4:19 doesn’t say that God “might” supply all your needs. It says that He WILL. Period.

The cherry on top of this house-sale sundae? The buyers want to close on Good Friday. Yes, Good Friday is the day we honor the fact that Jesus took on every form of pain and abuse and illness and sin to the point of death, so that we don’t have to carry all that junk. But… it also happens to be the name of a book I hope to someday publish. Because God’s just that flippin’ awesome.

Excuse me while I go pinch myself and have a drink with my husband. If you want to celebrate with us, feel free to pour a glass of wine. Cheers!

WOOHOOO!!!

 

21 years / 21 lessons

Twenty-six years ago, on February 18th 1989, I walked into a banquet hall at the Omni Shoreham Hotel in Washington, DC to pick up my registration packet for Presidential Classroom. As I entered that room I noticed a pack of boys standing off to the side of the room wearing military school uniforms. I took note of the one who appeared to be the leader of the pack. I’ve always had a thing for the leader of the pack. The pack-leader’s black flat-top haircut and ridiculous number of cords and medals made him look like some hybrid of Play from Kid N Play and a Mexican general.

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I was a seventeen-year-old senior in high school and evidently that hybrid was my dream guy. Five years later, on February 18, 1994, we were married.

20533_1375537307502_4524964_n  On our 18th anniversary I shared “18 things we’d learned in 18 years” of marriage. Unfortunately, life lessons for us tend to be learned the hard way. Our hope is that by sharing what we’ve learned through blood, sweat, and tears, some other couple will just take our word for it and avoid the process of painful learning.

This year, as we celebrated our 21st anniversary, we sat and discussed what we’ve learned since the “18” list was made. In the last three years we’ve actually learned more about life, God, what we’re made of, and how to love, than we learned in the previous eighteen years. After a lengthy discussion, we narrowed those lessons down to three new bits of wisdom that we hope inspire you…

18 + 3 things we’ve learned about marriage

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 (Dear hubby shared this one last night for the very first time. He’s a keeper. :)). 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 the enemy 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. We just started dating regularly about six months ago. 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 don’t 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.

In honor of surviving the last twenty-one years we ventured out in single digit temperatures to see Tab Benoit in concert. Sitting in a concert hall listening to the Blues with the love of your life may not be a necessity, but it certainly doesn’t hurt. :D

she ran away again…

Screen Shot 2015-02-15 at 11.15.18 PMIt’s 10 degrees outside. Sofija has a pretty yucky cold. And tonight she slipped out the back door without a jacket and in her brother’s shoes and ran towards 7eleven. Evidently she got cold and tried to go into a neighbor’s house. Our dear friend Drew was here to help search for her.  My cousin Elisa got here tonight for a three-month job as a pediatric nurse and she helped care for Sofija and helped us warm her up after the police brought her home.

She’s home.

She’s safe.

Once again, God provided and protected .

Once again He reminded me that I’m not in control and that she was His before she was mine.

That being said, we’re tired. Please pray that we get to John’s Hopkins quickly and that the therapies they are able to provide will bring peace and calm and impulse control to Sofija. She’s ridiculously intelligent and our best efforts to keep her contained just aren’t working. It’s time for God to show off.

 

It’s all about the “yes”.

James 5:12 And since you know that he cares, let your language show it. Don’t add words like “I swear to God” to your own words. Don’t show your impatience by concocting oaths to hurry up God. Just say YES or NO. Just say what is true. That way, your language can’t be used against you. Ahem, Brian Williams

December 26th, 1993, Dear Hubby asked me to marry him (for the 5th or 6th time). This time I said, “Yes.”

February 18th, 1994, standing at an altar, a pastor asked us both if we were willing to fight with and for each other for as long as we both shall live. We both said, “Yes.”

Three kids, more than a dozen moves, war, deployments, cancer, family deaths… we just kept saying, “Yes.”

September 17th, 2009, we learned about a five-year-old orphan girl in Serbia that had autism. We asked God if she was ours. He said, “Yes.”

April 15th, 2010, sitting in the Serbian Ministry of Labor and Social Policy, we learned the truth about Sofija’s history. We were scared. When asked if we wanted to proceed with the adoption, we said, “Yes.”

October 2010, my BFF’s hubby asked me to fly to Dallas the following January for her 40th birthday. I said, “Yes.”

January 8th, 2011, while in Dallas for the BFF’s birthday I attended a town-hall meeting on human trafficking. At the town-hall meeting, in a room filled with hundreds of people, God locked my eyes on a lady named Nancy and said, “Go meet her.” I obeyed. Obedience led to her asking me to lead a team of people to Serbia three months later. I said, “Yes.”

May 1st, 2011, after a church service in a hotel in Belgrade, Serbia, I was asked if I’d like to meet a guy named Samuil. I said, “Yes.”

Several times between May of 2011 and February of 2015, Samuil visited Washington, DC. On each visit he asked if our family would like to see him. Each time we answered, “Yes.”

February 4th, 2015, Samuil invited me to join him at the events leading up to the National Prayer Breakfast. I said, “Yes.”

After the European delegacy dinner on the evening of February 4th, Samuil was busy introducing our friend Marija to every single guy in attendance (nobody stays single around Samuil). As he introduced her to one of the single guys he said, “Marija, meet Branko. He’s Serbian, single, AND he’s a doctor at John’s Hopkins.” I was busy checking email on my phone when the words “doctor at John’s Hopkins” caught my attention.

Last month (January 2015), we admitted our daughter to the psychiatric unit at Children’s National Medical Center. She stayed there for a very long week. The entire time she was there a team of people tried everything in our power to get her transferred to John’s Hopkins. I tried. My dear hubby tried. Three social workers/case managers tried. Every person we know that has connections at John’s Hopkins tried to call in a favor. All of our efforts were in vain. No person had the power to make a bed available or to even get her an outpatient appointment with one of the specialist that we’d like her to see. It was discouraging and disheartening, but it was also a part of a big lesson that God continues to teach me. I am not in control. He is. Anything I accomplish is through Him. It’s okay for me to be helpless and unqualified and at the end of myself. That’s where God gets to show off.

We brought our girl home from the hospital with deflated egos and comforted spirits. She was His before she was ours. It’s our job to love her and fight for her. But when our efforts our fruitless, it is ultimately our job to let go and let God do His thing. She’s His to heal.

Proverbs 16:9 We can make our plans, but the Lord determines our steps.

Proverbs 19:21 You can make many plans, but the Lord’s purpose will prevail.

When the words “doctor at John’s Hopkins” caught my attention I looked up from my phone and laid eyes on tall, dark, and handsome hope. As Branko (pronounced Bronco) reached out to shake my hand I said, “You wouldn’t happen to be a pediatric psychiatrist?” To which he replied, “No. I’m a plastic surgeon. But… my good friend is a pediatric psychiatrist by trade. He now only works with children with autism. And he’s also Serbian.” I may have choked back a few tears as tall, dark and handsome hope took my phone and entered his friend’s contact information. Heck, to be honest, I’m choking back tears as I type this. All the efforts of a team of people could not produce a name or contact of someone who could help my daughter be seen at John’s Hopkins. But… one “yes” to a dinner invitation connected me with THE doctor we need to see. And… he just happens to be from Serbia. Before contacting the doctor I read up on him. People!! Guess when he started working with children with autism at John’s Hopkins? He started there in 2004… the year that Sofija was conceived.

Jeremiah 1:5 Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you…

Psalm 139:16 You saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was recorded in your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed. 

God knew her first. She was His before she was mine.Moje mezimce

God knew. He had a plan. His plan was being put in place while my daughter was being formed in the womb of a woman named Zorka in Belgrade, Serbia.

I contacted the heaven-sent doctor and he quickly replied with a, “Thanks for reaching out. I’d love to help…” A couple of emails later we have a plan and he’s now part of Sofija’s team.

I don’t know where this journey will lead or what God has planned for Sofija through this new connection. But I do know that the journey would’ve never happened, had it not been for a whole lot of “yeses”.

Here’s the thing. God’s plan is sovereign. But… the characters in that plan are not absolute. He gives us free will to step in or out of the plan as we choose. When we don’t say, “Yes.”, He moves on to plan B. Who knows? Maybe God had someone else in mind to adopt Sofija and bring her to the DC area and take her to see the doctor at John’s Hopkins and pray for her and love her and see her become all that she was created for. Maybe that person/family said, “No” or just ignored Him.  Maybe I’m the plan B.  Moses was the plan A for getting the Israelites into the Promised Land. I love Moses. He’s one of my top five favorite orphans and his story was mankind’s first introduction to adoption/foster care. But Moses missed out. He tried to do things in his own timing and on more than one occasion he ignored God instead of saying, “Yes.” As a result, God went with plan B. Joshua is the one who got to lead the Israelites across the Jordan River and into the Promised Land. Moses died without ever seeing all that God had promised.

The possibilities that await with seeing the doctor at John’s Hopkins have me thinking as much about the past as the future. How much good have I missed out on in life by ignoring God when He was waiting for my, “Yes”?  Saying, “Yes” is not always easy. In fact, most of my “yeses” have led me down difficult roads. I’ve been betrayed, robbed, lied to, hurt (emotionally and physically), lonely, afraid, and almost always certain that I am completely unqualified for the task at hand. But I’ll take the hard roads. I want to see all that God has promised. I want to be the Mama who gets to see Sofija being the very best Sofija she can be. The vision I have of who she is becoming cast shadows over every difficult moment we’ve endured on this journey. I have a front-row seat to a miracle in the making. All because of yes.

God’s love <3

I don’t necessarily agree with the idea that God made one boy “different” in order to save hundreds of others. I do however believe that God can use ANYTHING for good. In Genesis 50:20 Joseph says to his brothers who left him for dead, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good. He brought me to this position so that I could save the lives of many people.” This is what God’s love looks like. And yes, we’re all orphans.