Unashamed

Isaiah 50:7 But the sovereign Lord helps me,
so I am not humiliated.
For that reason I am steadfastly resolved;
I know I will not be put to shame.

This verse has been a sermon I’ve metaphorically preached from a mountaintop to others struggling with guilt and shame. What I’ve repeatedly said is that neither come from God. God (or more precisely the Holy Spirit) gives conviction and discernment, when we are doing something wrong. Discernment is the gut-check that provides a base to our moral compass and helps us know when we’re about to stray from a path of righteousness. It is NOT guilt. Conviction is a gut-check we feel when we’ve already made a bad choice. It’s the needle on that moral compass that tells us we’re now facing the wrong direction and we need to repent for the direction we’re facing. Conviction is NOT shame. Shame is embarrassment of the things we’ve done or the circumstances we find ourselves in. The root of shame is always either a refusal to repent and accept grace, or… pride.

Here’s the thing about making something the topic of a sermon that you repeatedly preach from a mountaintop, your words have no credibility unless you practice what you preach. A woman can’t lead others on a path to freedom from shame when she is hiding in shame from the circumstances of her own life.

On the first day of this year I shared that God had made it very clear that my theme for 2019 would be “grace”. In that post I revealed that having to make that word the underlying theme for an entire year scared the hell out of me. I knew that God putting it in my face everywhere I looked meant that I was either going to need a lot of it or need to give a lot of it. Needing to give a lot of grace meant that I would hurt and, I don’t know about you, but I can’t remember a single time when I’ve woken up thinking, “Man, I hope I get hurt today so I can exercise giving grace.”

My favorite book of the Bible is James. First off he just tells it like it is. His book is basically the cliff notes of all of Jesus’ sermons. It’s Christianity for dummies. And since he grew up in the same house with little boy Jesus I’m guessing that he had a better understanding of who Jesus was and what it meant to follow him than any other author of the New Testament. Here’s the thing about the book of James… you can’t read it without getting through verses 2 and 4 of chapter 1… My brothers and sisters, consider it nothing but joy when you fall into all sorts of trials, because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its full effect so that you will be mature and lacking in nothing.

Joy… “consider it nothing but joy when you fall into all sorts of trials…” Maybe someone else has found a way for joy and shame to coexist, but I have not. This year has brought with it the biggest marriage trials we’ve ever faced. Instead of considering the trials joy, I have hidden in shame. It’s time to take my joy back. It’s time to lay down my pride.

At the very end of 2018 I received a partial answer to a question that had been unanswered for a year and a half. I entered this new year, the time that should be filled with hope and anticipation, filled with ominous dread. The rest of the answer to that one question was coming, along with jolting revelations that have only led to more questions and often more partial answers. Grace-giving has unquestionably been the overriding theme of my year.

And so, here I am, nearing the end of the year, unable to count the number of days and evenings that I’ve spent face-down on my bedroom floor with my face covered in snot and tears as I have cried out to God for comfort. I have hidden in shame as I have wondered how we got here. I never imagined that there would be a day when I would question whether or not I could handle the pain I was experiencing in my marriage for one. more. day. Life has dealt me pain and trials. My own choices have dealt me pain and trials. There is no trial I’ve ever walked through that prepared me to choose joy when security, safety, and unconditional love morph into insecurity, fear, and indifference. Every single time my amygdala takes over and tells me to “RUN!”, God reminds me of grace. Only He knows how much of it I’ve needed and how undeserving I’ve been of it. He also reminds me of how He pursued me no matter how hard or fast I ran from Him. And then I remember that the entire purpose of marriage is to model Jesus to our spouse. Lay down your life. Love unconditionally. Give undeserved grace.

Aside from the things God reminds me of, there are several things I know are certain. I know that God is good and He is true to His Word. I know that continuing to have faith in His goodness and trustworthiness produces endurance. And I know that endurance is the path to maturity and wisdom. I also know that hurt people hurt people. If you’re not yet married, I highly encourage you to work through your childhood trauma and lay down your baggage before you commit to love and honor another for the rest of your life. If you are married and you’ve experienced trauma since you made that commitment, run (don’t walk) to a counselor and start working towards healing. Unfortunately, it doesn’t matter how tightly we try to seal the baggage we stuff our unhealed wounds into, they will eventually spill out on the people standing by our sides.

We live on a tiny little island that is positioned between Tampa Bay and the Gulf of Mexico. From one end of our back porch I can see the sun as it rises over the bay. From the other end, I can watch it set over the gulf. Both the setting and the rising are breathtaking. But there is something that often happens in between that will capture my attention and sometimes bring me to tears with the power displayed. Tampa is often referred to as “The Lightning Capital of the World”. The lightning storms here will often last for hours. They are sometimes loud and booming, and sometimes completely silent. But they are always filled with awe-inspiring strike after strike that light up the darkness, and for a moment charge my body with an uncomfortable mixture of anxiety and excitement.

The jolting, and the anxiety, and the excitement, are all my story at the moment. Oh, but the sun…. it ALWAYS rises. JOY!!

Greater love has no one than this…

John 15:13 Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.

On February 18, 1989 I met this cute boy in Washington, DC that had one dream… to be a soldier. Six days later he declared that he wanted me by his side as he lived out that dream. Five years later we were married. From that point forward just about every detail of our lives was defined by the US Army and my husband’s commitment to defend the Constitution and promote freedom.

For more than a quarter of a century he served America. That service came at a huge cost to our family and his health. Our 8th wedding anniversary was the first one we spent together. It was our 12th year of marriage before we could say that we’d spent more time together than apart. Our children celebrated birthdays and holidays, played sports, performed in all types of recitals, received awards, and traversed life without their Dad there to cheer them on. While the kids and I attended weddings, funerals, family celebrations, dealt with surgeries, sickness (including cancer), and often moved and settled into new homes and cities without him; he celebrated holidays, birthdays and promotions alone and sometimes in the middle of war zones. On countless occasions he helplessly listened to us cry over whatever hard thing was happening at home, or excitedly tell him about something amazing that he had missed, only to have the conversations cut short because he was under attack or the satellite phone or laptop he was on lost its signal.

My husband’s willingness to lay down his life for you and I, meant that he spent months and years disconnected from everything that he loved and that he was fighting for. It meant repeatedly starting over and learning new “normals” after deployments as our family adjusted to the impacts that war had on his body and mind. It meant that each member of our family has had to learn exactly what it means to come to the end of ourselves and be completely dependent on God’s strength to carry us. Isaiah 40:29 He gives power to the weak and strength to the powerless. Psalm 28:7 The Lord is my strength and shield. I trust him with all my heart. He helps me, and my heart is filled with joy.
My husband’s service still means that he has to fight every day through pain, for his physical and mental health to be restored as much as God will restore it.

But… he would do it all again. WE would do it all again. Because…

Galatians 5:13 For you have been called to live in freedom, my brothers and sisters. But don’t use your freedom to satisfy your sinful nature. Instead, use your freedom to serve one another in love. 

And…

John 15:13 There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.

There are so many veterans that have served this nation with a willingness to lay down their life, but only one is mine. LTC (Ret) Chad Anthony Calvaresi, thank you for your service.

If you know anyone that has served, please take the time today to thank them for their service.

That’s not my name.

I would love to tell you that my family or my faith are my biggest motivators in life, but that would be dishonest. What drives me to learn, grow, or accomplish just about anything is this… curiosity.

In the last several months I have heard/read several people refer to themselves as “sinners”. Each time I’ve heard or read a Christian identify themselves as a “sinner”, it has not set well with me. The agitation it has stirred in me made me curious. So I went to the place with all the answers… Google. I’m joking. Kind of. I actually googled “In the Bible are Christians referred to as sinners?”

Here’s what I found…

Romans 5:8 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that WHILE WE WERE STILL sinners, Christ died for us.

2 Corinthians 5:17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a NEW creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.

And then there’s Paul’s description of his new identity in Christ and his sinful nature in Romans 7…

So, my dear brothers and sisters, this is the point: You died to the power of the law when you died with Christ. And now you are united with the one who was raised from the dead. As a result, we can produce a harvest of good deeds for God. When we were controlled by our old nature, sinful desires were at work within us, and the law aroused these evil desires that produced a harvest of sinful deeds, resulting in death.  But now we have been released from the law, for we died to it and are no longer captive to its power. Now we can serve God, not in the old way of obeying the letter of the law, but in the new way of living in the Spirit.

I still don’t have it all figured out and my curiosity is still piqued so I will keep seeking answers. What I have learned thus far is that there is not a single place in scripture where Jesus refers to His followers as “sinners”. In fact, the only place in the New Testament where a believer comes close to being called a “sinner” is later in Romans 7 and in 1 Timothy 1:15 when Paul refers to himself as a “wretched man” and the “foremost of sinners”. To be clear, Paul was referring to who he was before he followed Christ.

The one conclusion I have drawn thus far is that “sinner” is not my name.

Depending on which email or social media account I am using, I do have a few titles in my signature block…

King’s Daughter, American Hero’s Wife, World Changers’ Mom,

Freedom Fighter, Author, Speaker, CEO, Orphan Advocate

This year I became the CEO of Akacia Solutions, a federal contracting company that my husband and I own (hence my lack of blogging). I spent last week in DC wearing my CEO hat.

This year I also joined the board of Centar Zvezda, the organization I’ve written about before that is providing housing and holistic care for youth who age out of orphan-care in Eastern Europe. On Monday I fly to Chiang Mai, Thailand where I’ve been invited to participate in the WWO Global Forum on Orphan-care. My friend (the founder of Centar Zvezda) Tatjana Dražilović will meet me there. I am ridiculously excited to return to Thailand for the first time in almost twenty years, but I am MORE excited to spend a few days surrounded by people from all over the world who share my passion and calling to place orphans in families and set captives free.

There are countless ways to do your part living out the Biblical mandate to care for orphans. If you need some ideas, I’ve written a few times on the topic here here here and here. In addition to those suggestions, you are MORE THAN welcome to join me in caring for youth who did not find a family before aging out. Centar Zvezda has houses for the residents outside of Belgrade, but our youth in Belgrade are currently crammed into an apartment. We would like to expand our capacity for care and we have a vision to build an entire housing complex where our youth will live alongside other college students. While we are waiting for the means to make the vision a reality, we have found a house that would make it possible to accept more youth. We have some of the money needed to purchase the house, but we need more. If you would like to support us, please email me at kcalvaresi@gmail.com and I will send you a link for donations.

Kaci Calvaresi
King’s daughter. wife. mom. author. freedom-fighter. CEO. orphan advocate.

Devoted to Duty

Trigger warning: My heart is a little raw and exposed right now and I’m going to go some place I haven’t publicly gone before. I belong to a support group for spouses of veterans with PTSD and TBI and I keep finding just how painful and isolating it can be to love someone who has been changed by war. And because of 2 Corinthians 1:4, I know that God wants to use every moment of pain that we experience in life to comfort others. He can’t use what we aren’t willing to expose.

In February of 1994 I walked down an aisle and said, “I do” to a US Army second lieutenant. I am not a military brat. I did not grow up in a military town. I had family members who were veterans of various wars, but I never really paid attention to how war defined them or impacted their relationships. I knew that I loved him and that he had the most beautiful heart and soul of any man I had ever known. I knew that he would make beautiful babies and that he’d father them well. I could see us with wrinkles and gray hair, rocking together on a porch as we watched our grandchildren play. I knew that this was a man that I was willing to follow anywhere in the world and that I could feel safe giving him my whole heart all the days of my life.

What I did not fully grasp when I said, “I do” is that I was not only pledging my devotion to the man God made for me, but to the US Army. I very quickly learned to accept that his duty would always come before anything else in life, including me. For the first decade of our marriage I was perfectly okay with that reality. His devotion to freedom and service to our nation made me immensely proud.

After September 11th I watched him chomp at the bit to go to war. He voluntarily went to military school at fourteen, went to a military college, and all he’d ever wanted to be was a soldier. He had dreamed of and trained for combat his entire life. And because I love him with all that I am I wanted to see him fulfill the purpose he believed he was created for.

In August of 2003 I stood in an airport bursting with pride and with my heart shattered into a thousand pieces as I watched the love of my life walk away without knowing if I’d ever see him again.

In 2004 he returned to me. Except he didn’t. I quickly realized that the man I watched leave for war was not the man the Army had returned to me. The guy who had always loved to go and do, never met a stranger, was kind to every human he crossed paths with, and who had never once shown me anything other than kindness and unconditional love, had changed.

In the years that followed his first deployment, he adjusted, we adjusted, God was faithful to heal and restore. By the time he called me in January of 2009 to say he was returning to Baghdad ten days later, I had almost forgotten…

During the second deployment we talked a lot more about the possible changes we could face, we talked about the coming readjustment period, I studied combat trauma and how to best love someone who’s experienced it, I prepared my heart for the possibility of loving a changed man for a period of time with the full hope that in a short time he would be fully restored. And honestly, for the most part (I don’t want to talk about his driving), it seemed as though we’d lucked out the second time around. He still wanted to sit in a place where he could see every door, but he was able to eat at restaurants and attend church and the kids’ activities immediately after he returned home. He was extremely kind and compassionate to me, didn’t look for ways (many veterans use video games, television, alcohol, and other unhealthy vices…) to escape daily life and was able to empathize with others.

And then, in May of 2010, just after we brought our daughter home from Serbia, he was triggered. He walked in the door after work and she slapped him across his face. She then turned and attacked me. I held her until she was calm and did not notice the expression on his face as he walked away from us. When she was occupied I went to him seeking comfort. Instead of comfort I was met with a harsh, “I don’t care about your feelings!” and his hands held out in front of him preventing me from getting near him. I was shocked, wounded, and devastated by what had come from his mouth.

I’ve written extensively about Sofija’s aggressive, self-injurious, and destructive behaviors. In the first weeks and months after bringing her home we had no clue what triggered her, but I quickly figured out that her PTSD triggered his PTSD, and it did not take long for everyone in our house to be traumatized. In family counseling we were able to identify that the feelings of helplessness surrounding her behavior outbursts not only triggered war trauma, but childhood trauma. I have learned so much about the brain in the years since that painful day in 2010. We learned later that year that our daughter has abnormalities in her temporal lobe; specifically her temporal horns, hippocampus, and amygdala. Two years later we learned that my husband (thanks to some bad guys and an IED) has a TBI in the same location. If you’re curious about what that means, the parts of their brains that control memories and behaviors, and trigger fear responses, has stored memories of traumatic experiences that make them respond as if they are in danger or threatened by things that are not normally threatening. For Sofija, she gets stuck in fight, flight, or freeze. EEGs have shown that when her fear response is triggered, the rest of her brain stops functioning and we have to use grounding techniques (What color shirt am I wearing? How many fingers am I holding up? What day is it?) to help her frontal lobe (rational thought) take action to calm her down.

My husband’s PTSD looks a little different from Sofija’s. What I’ve learned about most combat veterans is that because of military training, their brains tell them not to flee or freeze, but to fight when they feel threatened or out of control. I have yet to meet a spouse of a veteran that isn’t frightened by their wounded warrior’s driving habits. Combat has taught them that every person in a vehicle is a threat. Things as simple as asking a veteran to put the dishes away differently, can feel threatening and trigger their fear response. Because God, in His infinite wisdom, prewired our brains to be compatible with one another, I’ve learned that my own fear response is almost always flight. I’m not a fighter and when I feel threatened I find a quick way to escape. This tendency means that I’m able to walk away and wait for my husband’s frontal lobe to take action and remind him of who he is. Full disclosure: my instinct to flee did not stop me in the past from sending hurt and angry texts and emails while keeping my distance. We’ve vowed this year to not write anything that we would not look each other in the eyes and say. I’ll have to update later on how that’s going. 😉

Combat was undoubtedly traumatizing for my husband. But, when he came under investigation in December of 2011 by the same Army that he’d devoted his life to serving, the trauma was almost unbearable to witness. For nearly four years, his first love, his calling, his career, his identity, were threatened. The days where he was able to see beyond the need to defend himself were few and far between. It was like being in combat for four straight years, day and night, without reprieve.

I’m shining light into this corner of our lives for a few reasons.

First, I don’t want anyone living with a wounded veteran to feel shame, isolation, or hopelessness. YOU ARE NOT ALONE! John 10:10 The thief’s (Satan’s) purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My (Jesus) purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life. I have witnessed far too many individuals and families destroyed because of war. Jesus did NOT live and die and rise again for people to be destroyed. He lived, and died, and rose from the dead, so that the damaged and dead parts of our lives could be resurrected, restored, and redeemed. 1John 1:5-7 This is the message we heard from Jesus and now declare to you: God is light, and there is no darkness in him at all. So we are lying if we say we have fellowship with God but go on living in spiritual darkness; we are not practicing the truth. But if we are living in the light, as God is in the light, then we have fellowship with each other, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, cleanses us from all sin. If you feel like you’re living in darkness, please find some support. See a counselor, join a support group, find a friend or two who will listen and encourage you. There is not a single instance in scripture of Jesus sending a disciple out to perform miracles alone because God never intended for us to fight our battles alone.
Second, it has been almost three years since my veteran retired and lost his first love. This new chapter has been beautiful and fulfilling in ways we never imagined. It has also brought about unexpected challenges, grief, and exposed many layers of unhealed pain and wounds. We are working hard to heal those wounds and better cope with the challenges. So if you have a moment, feel free to pray for us to embrace all of the restoration and redemption that God has promised us.

I want to offer some encouragement and tips to those spouses who are currently in the trenches. First and foremost, if you or your children are being abused, please please please get help! If you don’t have a safe place to go, call 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) or go HERE and chat with someone who will help you find a safe place. If your spouse is suicidal, call 1-800-273-8255 (press 1) or go HERE to chat with someone who can help you develop a plan. If you need marriage counseling, family counseling, or individual counseling for anyone in your family, Military One Source offers it for free. If your veteran struggles to work and manage money, Military One Source also has resources to help with finances. If you are feeling alone in your battle and don’t have any idea where to turn, THIS is a great website packed full of links and resources. If you are dealing with the VA (God bless you!), they have a webpage for caregivers that outlines all of the resources available to you. https://www.caregiver.va.gov/ Also, find a local church and join a small group or a Bible study. I honestly could not have survived the investigation years or the years after our first deployment without a community of Christians who loved me, listened to me, spoke truth to me, and lifted me up when I couldn’t stand on my own two feet.

Also, no amount of trauma is an excuse for bad behavior. If your veteran is making bad choices, this is your permission slip to stop excusing the bad behavior because of a diagnosis. I’ve experienced a ridiculous amount of trauma in my life. But guess what… I’m still responsible for every choice that I make. If I screw up, I’m accountable for it. So are you. So is your spouse. We will all stand before God some day and answer for every unrepented sin we’ve chosen to commit. Nowhere in scripture does it say that a diagnosis of PTSD or TBI will get us out of accountability. Also, you will NOT stand before God and answer for your spouse’s choices. It is REALLY easy for those of us living with veterans or parenting children with disabilities to make excuses and apologize for their behaviors. If you find that you are rearranging your life to keep your spouse from being triggered and apologizing for their behaviors, I’m giving you permission to STOP IT! In psychology those patterns are called enablement and codependency. Scroll back up and read what the Bible says in John 10:10. You were meant to live a satisfying life! If you can identify a pattern in your life of apologizing for the behaviors of others or you struggle with caring for yourself, get THIS BOOK now! And when you’re done with that one, I can highly recommend THIS ONE. Also, learn the phrase, “I am not getting on this emotional roller coaster with you. Enjoy your ride and I’ll meet you back at the platform.”

Whether or not you give up on the person you chose to spend your life with is a choice. I firmly believe that 99% of success in marriage is the refusal to quit. On January 1st I wrote a post explaining that as much as I didn’t want it to be, my word/theme for this year is “Grace”. Alas, I should have known that it would be tested over and over again. But… 2 Corinthians 12:9TPT But he answered me, “My grace is always more than enough for you, and my power finds its full expression through your weakness.” So I will celebrate my weaknesses, for when I’m weak I sense more deeply the mighty power of Christ living in me.” God only knows how much grace I’ve needed in life and how much more I will need this side of heaven. But He promises that His grace is ALWAYS more than enough for me. And if He’s got more than enough grace for my brokenness, then I trust that He will always give me more than enough for the brokenness of others. The moments when I want to call it quits are always the moments when I forget about grace.

Hebrews 4:16 So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.

Last, but certainly not least, I encourage you to seek God in navigating the journey of loving a veteran. I had a great heart-to-heart talk with my nineteen year old yesterday about something that’s been weighing him down. I told him that I wished I could fix it for him, but I can’t. And then I told him that it’s not his to fix. It’s God’s. I learned many years ago that the only way I could have peace and let go of the need to make other people’s problems my own is this… Every time something heavy pops in my head that is out of my control to fix, I say, “God, I give this to you. It was yours before I tried to make it mine. Thank you for holding my heart, renewing my thoughts, and fulfilling your promises. Amen.” There have been situations in my life where I’ve prayed that prayer at least a dozen times every hour until I felt free from the burden and truly trusted that God was in control. Give your spouse to God. Trust me. He’s MUCH better equipped to restore, renew, redeem, and heal than any of us are.

Always Devoted to Duty,

Kaci

TEN YEARS CANCER-FREE

I don’t usually write anything in all caps. I’ve been working hard to not be a screamer. BUT, Y’ALL!! Today marks TEN YEARS since the day I got to hear the words, “You’re cancer-free.”

The minute I got the call from my doctor I sent a message to everyone I could think of saying, “I’m cancer free! All glory to God forever!” I knew at that moment that everything in my world had shifted. I mistakenly thought it had all shifted for the good and that the rest of my life would be smooth sailing.

That phone call took more than two years to receive from the moment I received my cancer diagnosis. In those two years of waiting God exposed wounds in me that were long buried and forgotten and forced me to deal with pains that I had been shoving under a tight lid for most of my life. Okay, He didn’t force me. I had a choice. But I also knew that I wasn’t ready to die and that I no longer wanted to hold on to anything that was causing unhealth in my body. And, if I was going to die, I wanted to experience peace and freedom on this side of heaven.

What I wasn’t prepared for was the grief to come. Anyone who has ever had any kind of cancer will tell you that the four words they hate most in the English vocabulary are, “Because of your history…”. Every single time I go to the doctor for anything, I hear those words. Anything in my body that is the least bit sick has become a reason for doctors to run more tests and explore the possibilities that I have a cancer recurrence. Every time I hear those words I am reminded that cancer may have given me freedom and healing, but it also took away so much. I no longer have the confidence that a cough is just a cough, an upset stomach is just an upset stomach, a headache is just a headache, or that every ache and pain are just the price of being 48 years old. I no longer have the amazing metabolism that allowed me to eat pizza for dinner and ice cream before bed without working out for two hours the morning after. I also no longer have a tolerance for toxicity or the ability to be anything other than transparent and vulnerable.

I wrote several years ago about what cancer taught me, but I left out how I’ve come to embrace transparency and vulnerability. If you know me IRL or you’ve read my blog for any amount of time those qualities may be obvious to you. What may not be obvious is WHY I can’t be anything other than transparent and vulnerable.

There’s just no point in even trying. Those words above were spoken by Jesus. In the next verse He said, “So pay attention to how you hear. To those who listen to my teaching, more understanding will be given. But for those who are not listening, even what they think they understand will be taken away from them.” I don’t know about any of you, but my perimenopausal brain simply can’t afford to lose what little I understand. I want to spend the rest of my days hearing from God and understanding more about who He is and how He loves me. Also, I firmly believe that all that I’d held on to grew in my neck in the form of cancer and that’s a battle I’d prefer not to fight again.

It would be a lie to say that I’ve accomplished all I had hoped to accomplish in these last ten years, or that I’ve achieved complete spiritual/emotional healing and freedom, or that I believe I’ve fulfilled every purposeful opportunity that God laid before me. This morning I cried and repented for not accomplishing more for Him in the days, weeks, months, and years that He’s given me. But guess what? Certainly the faithful love of the Lord hasn’t ended; certainly God’s compassion isn’t through!  They are renewed every morning. Great is your faithfulness. Lamentations 3:22-23

Tomorrow I will wake up to the first day of my eleventh year of living without cancer. I will try my best to not take this life for granted. I will rest in the assurance that God’s love and mercy over me aren’t through. And I will give Him glory and praise Him for His great great faithfulness.

Happy Ten-Year-Cancer-Free-Day to ME!

Happy, Holy, Hard, Hopeful, Healing Mother’s Day

I awoke this Mother’s Day to a message from my firstborn letting me know that she had arrived in Cannes for the film festival. She made a film a couple of years ago that won a couple of festivals in the US and in December she was invited to show in Cannes. My joy and pride in her talent and accomplishments is nothing less than holy.

This precious picture of the four who call me, “Mama” was taken six years ago. Those years have been filled with uncountable challenges and some fairly traumatic wounds. Shortly after receiving the message from France, my boys brought me breakfast in bed (that they made together without arguing -Woohoo!), gifts, and the sweetest card filled with their gratitude that I am theirs and they are mine… healing.

While eating the breakfast my boys made me, I began to weep. I so wish that this day wasn’t filled with such a mixed bag of emotions. But it is. It is a hard day not just for me, but for so many people that I know and love. Some of us have no mother to honor today. Some of us have mothers that, due to unhealed wounds, we would rather not honor today. Some of us are grieving children both alive and dead. Some of us are longing for children we do not yet have. Some of us have children with no father to encourage them to honor us. Some of us have our children’s fathers around, but because we are not their mothers or because of their own unhealed wounds, they do not honor us or encourage our children to do so. Some of us are living with shame and regret over choices we’ve made as mothers. Some of us have children that are being raised by other mothers. And some of us are raising children that were birthed by women who will never get to hear those children call them, “Mama.” All of these realities complicate this day.

Deuteronomy 30:15-16, 19 “Now listen! Today I am giving you a choice between life and death, between prosperity and disaster. For I command you this day to love the Lord your God and to keep his commands, decrees, and regulations by walking in his ways. If you do this, you will live and multiply, and the Lord your God will bless you and the land you are about to enter and occupy... “Today I have given you the choice between life and death, between blessings and curses. Now I call on heaven and earth to witness the choice you make. Oh, that you would choose life, so that you and your descendants might live! 

I’ve had a couple of recent conversations that have reminded me of God’s truth, dried my tears today, and given me great hope. Those conversations have revolved around the many times in the book of Deuteronomy when God said to the Israelites that He gives us a choice between life and death, blessings and curses, and promises that whatever we choose is not just for ourselves, but for the generations to come. God didn’t say that we have to wait for our parents to choose life, prosperity, or blessings in order for us to experience those promises. He didn’t say that we needed to think about our circumstances before choosing. He didn’t say that we are unqualified to choose. He didn’t say that we needed to wait until everything was easy and painless. He simply said that WE get to make those choices. And, if we love Him and walk in His ways, we (and the place we occupy) will be blessed.

Romans 5:5 Such hope in God’s promises never disappoints us, because God’s love has been abundantly poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.

Whether this day is filled with hardship, holiness, hope, or a healing process; my prayer is that we all find something today to be happy about and the courage and wisdom to CHOOSE blessings, life, and prosperity.

Have a Happy Holy Hard Hopeful Healing Mother’s Day.

Good, Gut-wrenching, Glorious Friday

Most historians believe that around three hundred years before the birth of Jesus Christ, in Isaiah 53, it was prophesied…

Who has believed our message?
    To whom has the Lord revealed his powerful arm?
My servant grew up in the Lord’s presence like a tender green shoot,
    like a root in dry ground.
There was nothing beautiful or majestic about his appearance,
    nothing to attract us to him.
He was despised and rejected—
    a man of sorrows, acquainted with deepest grief.
We turned our backs on him and looked the other way.
    He was despised, and we did not care.

Yet it was our weaknesses he carried;
    it was our sorrows that weighed him down.
And we thought his troubles were a punishment from God,
    a punishment for his own sins!
But he was pierced for OUR rebellion,
   crushed for OUR sins.
He was beaten so WE (YOU and I) could be whole.
   He was whipped so WE could be healed.
ALL OF US, like sheep, have strayed away.
    We have left God’s paths to follow our own.
Yet the Lord laid on him
    the sins of us all.

He was oppressed and treated harshly,
    yet he never said a word.
He was led like a lamb to the slaughter.
    And as a sheep is silent before the shearers,
    he did not open his mouth.
Unjustly condemned,
    he was led away.
No one cared that he died without descendants,
    that his life was cut short in midstream.[c
But he was struck down
    for the rebellion of my people.
He had done no wrong
    and had never deceived anyone.
But he was buried like a criminal;
    he was put in a rich man’s grave.

10 But it was the Lord’s good plan to crush him
    and cause him grief.
Yet when his life is made an offering for sin,
    he will have many descendants.
He will enjoy a long life,
    and the Lord’s good plan will prosper in his hands.
11 When he sees all that is accomplished by his anguish,
    he will be satisfied.
And because of his experience,
    my righteous servant will make it possible
for many to be counted righteous,
   for he will bear ALL their sins.
12 I will give him the honors of a victorious soldier,
    because he exposed himself to death.
He was counted among the rebels.
    He bore the sins of many and interceded for rebels.

If you read Matthew 27, Mark 15, Luke 23, and John 19, you see that every single detail of the prophesy was fulfilled in Jesus’ crucifixion. His death was horrible, and painful, and exposing. Although pictures of the crucifixion always have him wearing a loincloth, the Bible says that he was stripped of his clothes and Roman tradition was to crucify criminals naked. So, we know that our savior, the one who literally gave up everything, including his life; was beaten, abused, and died a brutal death, completely exposed and broken. That is what today is all about…

He did it all so that when we are experiencing brokenness, feeling exposed, abused, in pain, ashamed, sick, stuck, hopeless, in bondage, or anything other than complete wholeness and freedom; we can leave it ALL at the cross with him. Because on the third day… he rose from the dead, insuring that you and I do not have to carry ANY of the things that hurt or weigh us down in this life, but live eternally with him.

This Holy Week has been been a beautiful, brutal reminder of the significance of this day and what’s to come on Sunday.

We have had a week to process sweet Evan’s diagnosis. I’ve probably spent more time in prayer this week than I have in any other week of my life. When I couldn’t think of anything else to talk to God about I have just starting giving thanks for every single thing I can think of. In all the thanksgiving, I remembered that I was not only healed of cancer ten years ago, but I was also completely healed of all the side effects of radiation that I was told would be life-long. In the process of healing me of cancer, God exposed layers and layers of wounds that were keeping me from living fully in all of His promises, poured out the blood of Jesus on them, and healed my heart and soul. He has healed relationships that had little hope of restoration. He has healed pieces of my children that doctors said we needed to learn to live with. He redeemed what seemed like a hopeless situation with my husband’s military career that we were completely powerless over. We’ve walked side-by-side with couples whose marriages are completely broken and witnessed God not only keep them together, but give them beautifully restored new life in their relationships. We’ve believed for dear friends to conceive who struggled with infertility for nearly a decade. In fact, this week, after crying five months ago because I thought I’d never get to meet their newest addition, my husband was asked to lecture at a University in Albany, NY and we got to spend a couple of days with their FOUR precious miracles.

Also, I’ve given a lot of thanks this week for the fact that God has (quite literally) carried me through the hardest times of my life. In the moments where it was hard to breathe or stand on my own two feet, I got through because of HIM. I don’t know about you, but I have a couple of things that I am trusting God to carry me through at this very moment (the brutal parts of this Holy Week). As I wait for new life to be breathed into situations that feel a little hopeless and scary, I know that I know that I know that God will be faithful. The goodness and the glory of this day, is that it guarantees that He IS faithful to fulfill every single one of the His promises.

So hold on, let go, trust God. We’re all in this broken, painful Good Friday world together. But… Sunday is coming.