URGENT NEED!

When we adopted Sofija in 2010 , our eyes were opened to many needs in Serbia. One of those needs was the lack of life skills children had as they transitioned from orphan care to independent living. Those who spend their life in an orphanage enter adulthood with very few independent living skills. And… There are A LOT of orphans entering adulthood without finding a family.

The need for transitional care weighed heavy on me, but after a few inquiries it was made clear that Serbia isn’t a fan of privatized care of their citizens being done by outsiders. Eight years have passed and Serbia is  now a member of the Hague Convention. Joining the Hague Convention greatly improved orphan care, legalized and legitimized the adoption process, and provided an extra layer of protection between orphans and traffickers.  Even so, for the last eight years, what happens to all of those who “age out” has continued to weigh heavy on me.

Fast forward to the spring of 2017…

I had lunch in Orlando with several coordinators of Operation Christmas Child distributions throughout Serbia. I took some time getting to know everyone around the table and saved the lady to my immediate right for last. Her name is Tatjana (Tanya). When I asked her what she does she replied with, “Well, I have to tell you the back story before I tell you what I do.” I responded by bringing my hand to my chest and smiling as I said, “Oh, we’re going to be friends!”

Tanja then told me that she has four biological children and that she and her husband decided a few years ago to foster a child who was about to age out. They then learned just how many children were getting ready to age out and they desperately wanted to help more than one. Because there is a limit of five children in the home for foster families, they decided to open a transition house. From their desire to love big, HOP (pronounced “hope”) House was born. It stands for House of Opportunity. 

Before Tanja had finished telling me the story, I knew I had to partner with her. I’ve learned SO MUCH about the odds against a child who ages out and has no transitional care. It’s U.G.L.Y. We’re talking about real, precious humans who are filled with nothing but potential that mostly just disappear. Their lives are lost to suicide, drugs, trafficking… Being accepted into one of the houses is literally the difference between life and death. The kids at the HOP Houses are going to school. They are working. They are learning to cook, and budget, and care for a home, and play instruments, and make crafts and candles that they sell at various venues in an attempt to support themselves. More importantly, they are learning what it means to be safe, live in a family setting, and to be loved unconditionally. They’re not just finding hope. They’re experiencing Jesus.HOP Houses are in urgent need of support! The houses currently have enough funding to carry them through July and they will close in August without an influx of money. Below you can see the exact cost of keeping the houses operating and what their current needs are. If you would like to help, you can contact Tanja or myself and we’d be happy to tell you how to get money to them. 

I hardly know a person who hasn’t been outraged by some aspect of the situation with families being separated at the US/Mexico border. I’ve seen countless people on social media ask how they can help. Here ya go… If you want to make a difference in the lives of children who’ve been orphaned or separated from their families, this is a great opportunity.

passover, prodigal parenting, and temporal lobes



Tomorrow, March 30, 2018, is the beginning of the Jewish Passover. Passover is a celebration of freedom commemorating when God liberated the Jewish people from slavery. You can read all about the Passover in scripture HERE, but the gist of why it’s called “Passover” is that the Jewish people were to put the blood of a male goat or sheep around their door frames so that their homes would be “passed over” on the night that God delivered judgment on Egypt by killing the first-born child of each home. The homes covered by blood were protected from judgment.

I’m not so great at Bible timelines, but around thirteen hundred years after the Jewish people were freed from slavery, on the first day of Passover, Jesus had dinner with his disciples, washed their feet, and told them that one of them was about to betray him. On the Christian calendar, that last supper is commemorated today. So yeah, it’s a good day to wash someone’s feet. 😉 In the three days following that last meal, Jesus was betrayed, tortured, beaten, crucified, and on the third day arose from the dead. For those who believe that Jesus was crucified and resurrected so that we may have eternal life, our passover looks like a cross and an empty tomb. The blood of Jesus spares us from judgment.

I sat today and read the story of the crucifixion and I was brought to tears.  I just kept thinking about God the Father witnessing his son being tortured and killed. He allowed the horrors of the crucifixion so that every human thereafter could live in the freedom of the resurrection. He watched and waited because he had complete faith in His ability to fulfill His promises. As a parent, I can’t even imagine.

At the moment, I have one prodigal child and one that has recently developed epilepsy. In both situations I’m having to make daily (sometimes minute by minute) choices. I get to choose fear, or I get to choose faith.  In all the choosing I’m also doing a whole lot of seeking wisdom.

Parenting is hard, y’all. I firmly believe that the Bible is meant to be the guide book for everything in life. But guess what? Other than dishing out discipline and leaving them an inheritance, it doesn’t give many specifics when it comes to bringing up little humans. Wouldn’t you just love to know how Noah convinced his kids to get on the ark? We know they were there. But seriously… just getting my kids in the car for church is like herding cats. Or how God, knowing the pain and suffering Jesus would endure, didn’t interfere?

Because I already know that someone is going to comment with, “What about Proverbs 22:6?” I’d like to point out a few things about that verse. 1) It says, “Raise a child in the way they should go and WHEN THEY ARE OLD they will not depart from it. It doesn’t say a dang thing about when they’re young and stupid, and have an underdeveloped frontal lobe, and the inability to make rational decisions. 2) It’s REALLY vague. The writer makes the assumption that every reader actually knows “the way they should go”. Hello?? Have you met the human race? NONE of us have “the way” all figured out. 3) The very next verse says, “The rich rule over the poor and the borrower is slave to the lender.” So maybe, just maybe, that verse is actually referring to teaching our kids to work hard and stay out of debt.

Although it’s hard to find many intimate conversations or outtakes between parents and children in scripture,  I have found one thing that is always consistent: when children are sick, struggling, or even dead, moms and dads always seek and cling to God on their children’s behalf. Biblical parents had crazy faith, y’all.

I believe that the only two tools our enemy needs to keep us from being in intimate relationship with God are isolation and distraction. Unfortunately, I think we’re living in a time when everyone is more isolated and distracted than at any other time in history.  I’m pretty sure that my need for my laptop and phone have made my faith look ridiculous when compared to the mom in 2 Kings who literally held onto the feet of the prophet Elisha until he came back to her house to raise her son from the dead. I want that kind of faith.

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

Possibly the most detailed account of parenting in scripture isn’t something that actually happened. It’s a parable (a simple story used by Jesus to illustrate a spiritual lesson) about a prodigal son. I love the story for many reasons. First off, I’ve been a prodigal child. I’ve run from God, made some pretty awful choices, squandered things He’s given me, and come crawling back begging for grace. Every. Single. Time… God has wrapped his arms around me, celebrated me, and given me waaaaay more love and grace than I could ever possibly deserve. I also love it because the father in the story was there waiting and prepared to celebrate the son upon his return. He had a ring and a robe and new shoes and a fattened calf just waiting for the celebration of his son’s return. He had faith that his son WOULD return.

In 2010 our baby girl had an MRI that showed she had scarring in her temporal lobe. To be specific, she had extra tissue on her right hippocampus and right temporal horn. In that first year that she was ours she would frequently freeze. We, along with her pediatrician, had suspected that she was having seizures so we saw a neurologist that ordered the MRI and two EEGs. The first EEG showed some abnormal activity, but nothing significant. The second EEG also showed some slow/abnormal activity, but nothing significant. The freezing stopped and we just assumed it had been caused by her brain trying to process a whole new world of information.

Fast forward to two weeks ago… she climbed in bed next to me one morning and in the middle of rubbing my face and asking if she could have cake, she got a look of terror on her face, screamed, began smacking her lips and swallowing, and then couldn’t form words. It took two or three minutes for her to be able to speak. A few hours later, it happened again. The next day we saw it happen two  more times. The day after that, it happened four times in three hours. On the third day I started recording what we were witnessing and sent it to her doctor. While waiting to hear from her doctor, Dr. Google quickly told me what is happening looks like temporal lobe seizures. Last week an EEG showed bilateral seizure activity in her temporal lobe. We’re still waiting to get in with a pediatric neurologist for an MRI to see if there is any change from what the 2010 MRI showed, which means she is not yet on anti-seizure medication. She’s still having several seizures every day and her mental and verbal processing is definitely “off”.

Let me tell you something. Watching your child go from doing complicated math to not being able to form words in a matter of seconds is NOT fun.  It’s realllly hard to choose faith in those few minutes when I can’t reach her. It’s also realllly hard to choose faith in the moments when I can’t reach my prodigal.

But then I remember…. we’ve been passed over. This house and this family are covered by the blood and God ALWAYS fulfills His promises!

When she is old she will NOT depart from the way she was brought up

Jesus was wounded so that she IS healed

It only takes faith as small as a mustard seed to move mountains…

I hope you experience all that Resurrection Sunday has to offer. May your dreams be resurrected. May your faith be resurrected. May your joy. and hope, and relationships, and all the goodness that this world tries to steal be RESURRECTED. And may all the yuck pass you over.

If you’ve actually read all the way to the bottom, thank you. I forget that I even have this blog and I do appreciate those who haven’t given up on me as a writer.

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#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!

 

 

when the earth shakes…

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This week marks ten years since Hurricane Katrina forever changed the landscape of the gulf coast of America. Time for the gulf coast is now marked by “before Katrina” and “after Katrina”. The gulf coast has rebuilt, but the after is markedly different from the before.

August 12, 2015 was our family’s Katrina. We are forever changed. We will rebuild, but our after will look markedly different from our before.

Friends and family keep asking how we’re doing. We’re shaken. After Katrina it took months for power to be restored in many places. During those months, people whose homes were in the places without power were displaced, unsettled, and forced to wait on moving forward with life. That’s where we are right now. The Army hasn’t made any final decisions on when Chad will retire, or if he will do a short-term job before retirement, or whether they will let him finish the medical retirement board he began a few years ago, or if they will force us to move for his remaining time on active duty. The storm has passed. Nothing looks the same. We are without power.

But… Matthew 7:24-25 “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock…” ~ Jesus

Our family has weathered other storms. I’ve battled cancer. We’ve survived war. We’ve walked through a torrential adoption and the aftermath. We’ve been homeless. Each storm changed us. Each marked time. Each left us with a markedly different “before” and “after”.

But NO storm has the power to change our foundation. We stand on solid rock.

Four years ago we were preparing to purchase a cute little house on a great street in our neighborhood. The closing was scheduled for the morning of August 30th. One week before closing, on August 23rd, the earth literally shook. Our area was shaken by a 5.8 magnitude earthquake. If you’ve never experienced an earthquake, it is unsettling. When the windows stopped shaking and the light fixtures stopped swinging, my thoughts went to the house we were planning to purchase. The earthquake revealed cracks in the cute little house’s walls and foundation. Four days later Hurricane Irene blasted through our area. On the morning of August 28th, two days before we were scheduled to sign the closing papers, we walked through floodwaters in the cute little house and on the morning of the 30th, while removing water-damaged sheetrock, a structural engineer discovered that the entire support structure of the main floor was infested with termites. Everything we owned was sitting in a moving truck and we had no clue where we would sleep that night. But we knew we were not going to purchase the cute little house.

Our plan for the cute little house was to completely remodel it and double the square footage while we were living in it. The project would’ve taken 8-12 months to complete. We had the plans and the contractors lined up.

But God knew.

Jeremiah 29:11GWT I know the plans that I have for you, declares the LORD. They are plans for peace and not disaster, plans to give you a future filled with hope.

He knew that three months later we would enter the fire. He knew that the investigation my husband was about to walk through would leave us with zero reserve energy or patience or grace for a whole-house renovation. 

After two weeks of quasi-homelessness (friends who were traveling graciously let us stay in their home), we landed in a great rental that has been home to our family for the last four years. The house we live in was built on the foundation of a chapel that was part of a girls’ camp. The camp was built on land once owned by George Washington. This place has been our sanctuary as we’ve weathered the latest storm. And it just so happens, this house is built on solid rock.

Do you know what you stand on? Do you know what your foundation is made of? If not, I encourage you to plant your feet firmly on The Rock. Storms in life are guaranteed.

Psalm 62:5-6NLT

Let all that I am wait quietly before God,
    for my hope is in him.
He alone is my rock and my salvation,
    my fortress where I will not be shaken.

so my daughter ran away…

I started this blog in the fall of 2009 so that our friends and family could be a part of our journey to adopt our precious Sofija. The last five years have been one heckuva journey! We had no clue what we were getting ourselves into. It was probably better that way. IMG_2216 IMG_2250 IMG_2360 IMG_2401 IMG_2409 IMG_2416 IMG_3029 IMG_3101

Sofija is amazing.

Sofija is beautiful.

Sofija is gifted, and athletic.

Sofija is the queen of selfies (Sorry, Kim Kardashian. She’s got you beat.)

Sofija is also very, very HARD.

Every single bad thing that can come from a child beginning her life in a neglectful institutional setting… she’s got it. She’s broken in a thousand ways. I have many friends with adopted and biological children who have disabilities that say, “I wouldn’t change a thing about my child.” You will not hear me say those words. I would give up a limb or one of my senses if it would heal my child.

One of the many things Sofija struggles with is a total lack of rational fears.  She has plenty of IRrational fears. But when it comes to understanding the dangers of this world… she hasn’t a clue. We have tried and tried to make her understand that she simply cannot run down the middle of the street or leave our house without us. We’ve put extra locks and alarms on the doors. Last Saturday night we grasped just how epically our efforts have failed.

We moved Sofija’s bed into our room a year and a half ago after she repeatedly got up during the night and put herself into dangerous situations or did fun things like pouring an entire jar of honey and bottle of ketchup into her bed… at the same time.

On Saturday night, after her bath, Sofija asked to play in her room. Every 5-10 minutes I checked on her. I always do. At 10pm I called her name and asked her what she was doing. She replied, “I’m still playing.” At 10:05 I called her name and told her it was time for bed. She didn’t respond. Before I got to her door I had a sinking feeling in my gut. It was too quiet. She wasn’t there. As I walked away from her room I noticed that the door to the garage was open. Walking into the garage I saw that the door from our garage to the back yard was open. There was no need to search the rest of the house. She was gone. I didn’t think to call 911. I just took off down the street in my socks. My husband took off in the opposite direction. I made it around our block, ran back in the house, grabbed the car keys, and told my son to call 911. I drove down our street with my windows down, screaming her name, and looking for any sign that she was at someone’s house. Two blocks from home I passed an unmarked cop car that was driving slowly with a search light on. I jumped in front of his car and fell apart. He asked me to please calm down and began describing Sofija to me. It turns out that one of our neighbors had seen Sofija sprinting down the road in her pajamas and glitter boots (that are two sizes too small – they were in a donation bag in the garage). The neighbor called the police. Within minutes Fairfax county search and rescue had seven police cruisers and a helicopter searching for my daughter. The policeman that I jumped in front of followed me back to our house and I listened as calls of “Sofija sightings” continued to come in on his radio. She ran from our house to 7eleven (about a mile) and when the clerk wouldn’t let her get a slurpee she ran to Safeway (a block from 7eleven) in search of ice cream cake. A police car followed her from 7eleven to Safeway and four cars cornered her at Safeway. My husband was driving around the neighborhood when an officer called from the Safeway parking lot asking for a family member because “She’s very aggressive.” EIGHT cops could not get her in the back of a police car. Her Daddy went and got her and brought her home, mad as a spring bear, because she “didn’t get a slurpee OR ice cream cake and the police lights hurt her eyes.”

I didn’t sleep Saturday night. Or Sunday night. Or much of any night since.

Sunday was spent installing new alarms and keyed chain locks. And then, Sunday night, after her bath, she put on socks and shoes and asked if she could play in her room “with the window open.”

What? The? Hell?

Seriously?!

This sinking feeling that I’m going to lose my child to an open window or unlocked door has got to be as close to hell as I ever want to come. I want peace. I need peace. My child needs a miracle.

We’ve done everything we can think of to keep her safe. She’s sleeping in our room with every door double-locked and alarms on all the doors and windows.  ~The irony has not escaped me that most people install alarms and locks to keep bad people out and we had to install them to keep a precious someone in.~ Sofija is now registered with the county as a “flight risk” and the search and rescue team have assured us that they will do everything in their power to get her home should she escape again. I’m printing postcards for our neighbors and all the local businesses with her picture and our contact information. If it was legal to microchip her, we would do it.

All that’s left is hope and prayer. If you think of us, pray for us. Pray for her safety. Pray for her healing. Pray for our peace.

Romans 5:2-5 NLT

Because of our faith, Christ has brought us into this place of undeserved privilege where we now stand, and we confidently and joyfully look forward to sharing God’s glory.

We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment…