e pluribus unum

Every single time a piece of American currency passes through our hands, we are touching the phrase, “e pluribus unum”.  Out of many, one. The phrase is on the Great Seal of America. It appears on every passport, coin, and bill. It is included in the seals of the President, Vice President, Congress, and Supreme Court and has been a motto of the United States since 1782. Yet, today, after having a reminder that we are “ONE” in our faces and hands for two hundred and thirty-five years; Jason Kessler lured hate-filled racists from every nook and cranny of this country to Charlottesville, VA under the premise of “uniting the right”. 

The phrase e pluribus unum can be traced back to Roman senator and philosopher Marcus Tullius Cicero. Cicero wrote an essay to his son in the year 44 BC titled De Officiis (Of Duties or On Obligations). The essay was Cicero’s attempt to define ideals of public behavior. He includes the following  sentence in the book, with a phrase credited as the origin of “E Pluribus Unum.” Cicero writes, “When each person loves the other as much as himself, it makes one out of many” (unus fiat ex pluribus).

De Officiis was written forty-four years before the birth of Jesus. Although it was not a Christian book, in 390 it was declared acceptable for use by the Christian Church and it served as a moral guideline throughout the Middle Ages.

Why the history lesson? Because it’s absofrickinlutely ridiculous that two thousand and seventeen years after the birth of Christ, two thousand sixty-one years after Cicero wrote De Officiis, we’re still struggling to love one another. That we still have people gathering over the common bond of hatred.

I’ve made an interesting observation over the past five or six years. Feel free to comment and correct me if I’m wrong. What I’ve seen and experienced is that the majority of people at least make an effort to love their neighbors. However, the hate-filled minority (of all groups) tend to have the loudest voices and the biggest platforms. I know plenty of Christians who love well, but the ones who call themselves Christians and spew hatred are always the ones seen and heard. I know people of other faiths and of no faith. Most of them love others pretty well. I know lots of people that are registered Republicans and lots of people who are registered Democrats. The majority of them do a decent job of loving others. Unfortunately, the nastiest people on either side of the Congressional aisle seem to be the ones with the loudest voices and a media platform.

A year ago I wrote an essay titled “Heal this land.” The month before I shared the Declaration of Independence in its entirety. The month before that I wrote a piece on loving our neighbors. Some time before that I wrote a piece explaining why my voter registration card says, “Independent”.

I can only speak for myself, but I’m fairly certain that the rest of America is just as tired as I am of the loud divisive minority telling us that we need to be afraid of anyone that isn’t exactly like us. Is our nation in crisis? Absolutely. As long as people are dying because other people see them as “less than”, we are without question in crisis. Do we need to live in fear? Absolutely not.

2 Timothy 1:7 For God has NOT given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, LOVE, and self-discipline. (emphasis mine)

1 John 2:9-11 Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates a brother or sister is still in the darkness. Anyone who loves their brother and sister lives in the light, and there is nothing in them to make them stumble. But anyone who hates a brother or sister is in the darkness and walks around in the darkness. They do not know where they are going, because the darkness has blinded them.

The people who gathered in Charlottesville this weekend to celebrate hate are NOT Christians! They simply cannot be. If you hate ANYONE, you live in the darkness and you are blinded by that darkness.

Mark 12:30-31  And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength. The second is equally important: ‘LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF. No other commandment is greater than these.”

I wrote this over a year ago, but it bears repeating…

Who’s “your neighbor”? It’s the LGBT family with a child on your son’s baseball team. It’s the Muslim family living at the end of your block. It’s the Republican living to your left and the Democrat living to your right. It’s the gun-owner standing in line with you at the grocery store and the journalist on the mat next to you in your yoga class. Every. Single. Human. Being. Is YOUR NEIGHBOR!


E Pluribus Fucking Unum

Out of many…. ONE

Unus fiat ex pluribus = When each person loves the other as much as himself, it makes one out of many.

If you can’t remember that we are ONE, that the entire human race is worthy of being loved, carry a fucking penny in your pocket and read it on occasion.

John Pavlovitz wrote a GREAT post today that pretty much sums up how I feel about the happenings in Charlottesville. That crowd DOES NOT IN ANY WAY REPRESENT ME! What they are doing/have done is HATE. It is RACISM. It is COWARDICE. Why cowardice? Because one of the most courageous things a human can do is to lay down all of their fears and preconceptions and intentionally love people who do not look like them, worship like them, vote like them, or speak the same language as them. 

In these United States, we call ourselves “The Land of the FREE and the home of the BRAVE.” It’s time to BE BRAVE, America.


fire is hot.

When my kids were little, during bedtime roundup, I would often say, “Shadrach, Meshach, and ToBedYouGo!” It’s a cute saying.  But after spending some time in the footsteps of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, I no longer use it lightheartedly. Those boys walked through fire. They may not have been burned when they came out and God may have been right there in the fire with them, but that doesn’t mean they didn’t experience the heat while they were in the furnace.

December 5, 2011 my husband returned to his job at the Pentagon after two weeks of leave. At the time he worked in a secure location where cell phones had to be left outside. An hour after leaving home he called me from his cell phone. I answered with a joking, “Why aren’t you at work?” Him – “I was fired.” Me – “Yeah, right. They can’t fire you. You’re an active duty Army officer.” Him – “I’m not joking.” He wasn’t.

For thirty months we scratched our heads, lost our minds, and came to the end of ourselves. We were thrown in a furnace and it was hot. onfire

My husband went to military school at age 14. He went to military college. He went straight from college to active duty and has worn a uniform to work every day since the summer of 1994. What started in him on December 5, 2011 was the extreme version of an identity crisis. Wives, if your hubby is in the middle of losing his identity, don’t get excited and tell him that you can’t wait for God to redefine him. Just don’t. Trust me.

What started in me that day was a different kind of crisis. Although he had been escorted from the Pentagon and had all of his keys and badges taken away, he was not told what he was accused of or who had done the accusing. The only information he was given was that he had indeed been accused of something and that he was under criminal investigation.

My crisis went the way of a writer’s imagination. My husband loves right and hates wrong. There is no gray in his world. He was working as the acquisitions adviser to the Army’s director of intelligence. The intelligence world and the government acquisitions world operate in the gray. I wish it wasn’t so, but it is what it is. My very black and white husband made quick enemies in that position and there were people who had much to gain financially by getting him (and his very loud Italian mouth) out of the office. So began my crisis.

In the first few months I wrote things in my journal like, “God, what are we going to do if he goes to prison?” I planned out what I would take with me if someone showed up and whisked us off to witness protection. I made sure our extended family knows that they are loved just in case we disappeared. I FREAKED OUT.

When the crises eased somewhat, depression set in. We stopped doing much or interacting with many people. We weren’t sure who we could trust and we didn’t feel free to share our situation with many people. So there we were. Together. All the time. Depressed. With little hope that anything would ever be okay again. We sat on the couch. We ate too much. We watched too much tv.

I used to think my love language was quality time. I was wrong. We’ve been together almost every minute, of every day, for THIRTY MONTHS. Any married person out there who thinks they want to spend every minute of every day with your spouse, you may be right. But I would not suggest that you initiate all that togetherness in the middle of a very hot furnace. When one of you is dealing with losing an identity that you have physically worn every day since you were fourteen years old and the other is freaking out over all the possibilities at the end of a criminal investigation, things can get downright ugly.

Somewhere around the twenty-month mark we received news that the investigation had been transferred from the Army’s Criminal Investigation Division (CID) to the Justice Department. As my husband freaked out internally and tried to keep me calm, well, I just freaked out. I’m not saying I actually did this, but I’ve heard of a woman who looked up what federal prison her husband would go to if he were to be convicted of a civilian crime by the US Department of Justice. I also heard that she calculated the distance to said prison from her home. And then looked at possible housing around said prison just in case she needed to move the kids there so that they could visit their Daddy in jail. Can you imagine? That woman must’ve had zero faith in the American justice system.

The same day that we hit the two-year mark (December 5, 2013), I received an email from an organization that provides therapeutic retreats for military families. We were chosen for one of their retreats in 2009, but we were unable to go because my hubby could not get the time off. When I opened the email, I cried. I had honestly forgotten all about the retreat, and I could not believe that God was giving us such an amazing gift at a time when we were so desperate for a little bit of hope. The icing on the getaway cake was that the organization providing the retreat was also offering to sponsor our travel to and from Colorado. And… they agreed to fly us out a few days before the retreat so that we could spend some time with my husband’s family. He grew up in Denver and many of his family members there have never met Sofija. For the first time, in a long time, we had something big to look forward to.

We planned our entire summer around the trip. Our teenagers found jobs that would allow them to take ten days off in June and we filled out the paperwork to withdraw Sofija from school a week before the end of the school year. The behavioral therapist that works with both of our stimmers began preparing them for flying and horseback riding. All the while, communication with the retreat organization was sporadic and giving me doubts as to whether or not it would actually happen.

Eleven days before we were scheduled to fly out, my husband was alone in a rental house we own in Columbus, Georgia. While waiting on contractors to prepare the house for sale, he received a phone call from an angel at the Army Inspector General’s office. He was calling to say that the Justice Dept. had found “no evidence to substantiate the accusations made against him”. No charges would be filed. All would be restored. He would walk out of the fire unscathed.

The next morning I received an email from the retreat organization saying that someone was calling that day to finalize our travel arrangements. God’s timing is so frickin’ unbelievable.

But… that phone call never came. For the next week none of our phone calls or emails were returned. Two days before we were scheduled to travel we received a phone call from the founder of the organization. They screwed up. Someone/multiple people dropped the ball. The retreat was overbooked and they had no space for our family.

For four days we processed our emotions. Processing emotions for us looks a lot like exchanging nasty email and phone calls with the people who dropped the ball. It wasn’t pretty, but we’re human. After being told that they were trying to “make it right”, I sent a message that simply said, “The only way to make this right is to honor your word. We have two teenagers who planned their entire summer around this trip, two children with autism who keep asking why we didn’t get on a plane and go to Colorado, and military leave that cannot be restored.” The recipient of that message responded with six round-trip tickets anywhere that JetBlue flies. An hour later, we had flights booked to one of the few places that had six seats open on the same day… Puerto Rico.

So here we sit, 35,000 feet above the Atlantic ocean, marveling over the fact that God truly does restore all that is lost.

When Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego walked out of the fire, King Nebuchadnezzar was astonished to see that they were not burned. He had asked his groupies to make the fire three times as hot as it’s normal heat and then watched those groupies burn up in the process of throwing the boys in the furnace. He also witnessed that although only three people were thrown into the fire, there were four in the furnace. When the boys stepped out, King Neb proclaimed that their God was indeed the one true God. He promoted them and gave orders that they should be exalted. God had taken what was intended for their destruction and used it for their increase. He did the same with Job. And the same with Joseph. For thirty months, when we weren’t in crisis or depressed, we’ve claimed that this was my husband’s Joseph season. That all that was lost would be restored in multiplicity. That someday he would have the chance to bless his military brothers who set out to destroy him.

We are out of the fire. We are not burned. God was ALWAYS with us, especially in the ugly. We are ridiculously excited about the future. If God could replace our lost retreat with a week in paradise, He must certainly have an A-MA-ZING plan for my husband’s career.

To each and every person that has stood by us and prayed for us and drug us off the couch and spoke hard truth to us, thanks isn’t a big enough word. I’m not certain that I/he/we would have survived this journey without God using you in our lives.

Now for a little time in paradise. 🙂 flamenco-beach