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!

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.

Being Saved…

screen shot 2019-01-04 at 7.46.48 pm

I am a Christian. I believe that I am saved and that after this life I will live eternally in Heaven. I keep finding myself in discussions about what “salvation” means and this morning I woke up with this post circling around in my head.

I’ll be honest. I’ve had more than one existential crisis in my life. The most recent was only seven or eight years ago. We were in a church with unhealthy leadership, I was grieving the many losses in a very short period of time, my husband was under federal investigation for something he did not do, and I was dealing with the reality of parenting a very broken and destructive little girl that I had been certain God wanted us to adopt. I was angry with God. I was disappointed. I was scared. I had no hope. And I began to question everything I had ever believed about my faith. If you’re in the middle of your own existential crisis, let me offer you some hope. You’re in the right place!

When I found myself at the lowest, scariest, most desperate time of my life, I made a conscious decision to start seeking truth from the Bible instead of looking for answers from books or sermons. I spent some time cutting out the middle-man. I won’t lie and tell you that it was easy. I had to come to the realization that much of what I’d come to not only believe, but practice and cheer for, simply wasn’t found anywhere in God’s Word. Probably my biggest revelation was concerning exactly what it means to “be saved”.

Romans 3:10 And the Scriptures agree, for it is written:

There is no one who always does what is right, no, not even one!

Romans 3:23 for we all have sinned and are in need of the glory of God.

Romans 6:23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.

Salvation is a gift that cannot be earned. We are ALL sinners and deserve death, but God offers eternal life. But what if you’re a good person? We are ALL sinners.

James 4:17 Remember, it is sin to know what you ought to do and then not do it.

Yeah. Did you eat well and care for you body today? Did you help the old lady at the grocery store that was struggling to load things in her car? Did you let the Mom in her minivan with three carseats have that perfect parking space you’d been waiting for? When your spouse said something that offended you did you respond with love and grace? Sin is sin is sin. It doesn’t matter if you committed adultery last night, or if you gossiped about your neighbor, or failed to pick up the phone and call your depressed friend when they crossed your mind. You’re a sinner.

But what if I’m a REALLY GOOD person?

Ephesians 2:8-9 For it was only through this wonderful grace that we believed in him. Nothing we did could ever earn this salvation, for it was the gracious gift from God that brought us to Christ! So no one will ever be able to boast, for salvation is never a reward for good works or human striving.

There is nothing you can do to earn salvation, except to choose it.

John 3:16 “For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.

1 Corinthians 15:1-4 Dear friends, let me give you clearly the heart of the gospel that I’ve preached to you—the good news that you have heartily received and on which you stand. For it is through the revelation of the gospel that you are being saved, if you fasten your life firmly to the message I’ve taught you, unless you have believed in vain. For I have shared with you what I have received and what is of utmost importance:

The Messiah died for our sins,
    fulfilling the prophecies of the Scriptures.
He was buried in a tomb
    and was raised from the dead after three days,
    as foretold in the Scriptures.

 

To be saved means to wholeheartedly believe that John 3:16 and 1 Corinthians 15:1-4 are true.

This is where what I believed about salvation got a little messy. Chances are good that if you’ve been in any church in America (and many other countries), at the end of a service you’ve heard someone ask those in attendance to pray a prayer if they wanted to be saved and then raise their hand if they’d “prayed that prayer”. While hands are raised the person who has led the prayer most likely counted.

Romans 10:9-10 If you openly declare that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God, and it is by openly declaring your faith that you are saved.

My guess is that the “sinner’s prayer” (as the prayer is often referred to) is derived from the requirement of “openly declaring”. But guess what? There is no “sinner’s prayer” in scripture. I struggle with a visceral response to anyone that measures the success of a church on the number of people who “prayed that prayer” on a Sunday morning.

If you’re struggling with believing that you ARE saved, let me offer you some freedom. If you believe and you openly tell others that you believe, you ARE saved. It’s really that simple.

But it’s not simple.

Once you believe, you have responsibilities.

1 Peter 2:1-3 So get rid of all evil behavior. Be done with all deceit, hypocrisy, jealousy, and all unkind speech. Like newborn babies, you must crave pure spiritual milk so that you will grow into a full experience of salvation. Cry out for this nourishment, now that you have had a taste of the Lord’s kindness.

2 Timothy 2:22-26 Run as fast as you can from all the ambitions and lusts of youth; and chase after all that is pure. Whatever builds up your faith and deepens your love must become your holy pursuit. And live in peace with all those who worship our Lord Jesus with pure hearts. Stay away from all the foolish arguments of the immature, for these disputes will only generate more conflict. For a true servant of our Lord Jesus will not be argumentative but gentle toward all and skilled in helping others see the truth, having great patience toward the immature. Then with meekness you’ll be able to carefully enlighten those who argue with you so they can see God’s gracious gift of repentance and be brought to the truth. This will cause them to rediscover themselves and escape from the snare of Satan who caught them in his trap so that they would carry out his purposes.

Matthew 16:24-26 Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross, and follow me. If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it.  And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul? Is anything worth more than your soul?”

If you read those three passages and thought, “Holy crap!” How on earth will I ever perfect being a Christian?” Well, you won’t. If we could perfect it, we wouldn’t need a savior. But we DO need a savior. And I’ll let you in on something…

2 Corinthians 5:14-17 Either way, Christ’s love controls us. Since we believe that Christ died for all, we also believe that we have all died to our old life. He died for everyone so that those who receive his new life will no longer live for themselves. Instead, they will live for Christ, who died and was raised for them. So we have stopped evaluating others from a human point of view. At one time we thought of Christ merely from a human point of view. How differently we know him now! THIS MEANS THAT ANYONE WHO BELONGS TO CHRIST IS A NEW PERSON. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!

When you wholeheartedly believe, you are changed. I once heard a sermon on salvation where the pastor posted a picture similar to this… screen shot 2019-01-04 at 9.47.12 pm

It is a great representation of what it feels like to believe and know Jesus. Sin is not the only thing we need to be rescued from. I don’t know a single person who hasn’t felt like they were drowning in some bad situation, or emotions, or illness, or addiction, or pain; at some point in time. Salvation is God reaching down and pulling you out of that thing you are drowning in, or at least holding your hand so that the thing doesn’t kill you. It’s a new and changed way of living.

Christianity offers so much more than eternal life. It makes it possible to endure human life.

It offers grace…

1 John 1:9 But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness.

It offers healing in relationships.

James 5:16 Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results.

It offers hope.

Jeremiah 29:11 For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a HOPE.

It offers physical healing, and emotional healing, and freedom from all things that hold us in bondage, and peace, and favor, and all the good things we can never seem to find through our own efforts.

If you’ve read this far… wow! I’m impressed.

If you’ve read this far and want to share with someone that you believe, feel free to contact me. I filter my comments so you can leave a comment and I’ll get back to you.

If you’re going through your own existential crisis, or you’re drowning in church wounds, or you prayed a prayer and raised your hand and nothing changed in your life, or this is all completely new information to you… I’d be happy to answer your questions, but I’m NOT the authority on Christianity. If you reach out to me I’d be happy to pray for you, but the very best thing you can do in any of the above situations is to READ THE BIBLE! If you don’t own a physical Bible I highly recommend that you get one (I’m a big fan of the NLT and ESV translations). If you don’t own a physical Bible and you’re not interested in getting one, you can download the YouVersion app on your phone or you can read it online at Bible Gateway.

Philippians 1:6 And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.

 

 

 

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.

.

 

Luvin’ Louisiana

http://https://www.facebook.com/plugins/video.php?href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2Flesley.howitz%2Fvideos%2F698316621848%2F&show_text=0&width=560

What you see in this video is what you see when you drive down street after street after street in and around Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Everything that people have worked for their entire lives has been reduced to a pile of wet, moldy trash at the curb.

My baby girl often says, “I need some luvin’.” just before piling her 5′ 4.5″ self into my lap. Right now Louisiana needs some luvin’. It’s time to hold my people.

6358131062178714141635987924_il_570xN.556929138_947m.imgopt1000x70

Many of you have contacted me asking how you can help my family. I’ve asked several who’ve lost everything what they need most. They still need hands to help with gutting homes. If you are able to go there, go. I can connect you with housing while you’re able to be there. The immediate need for cleaning supplies and food is being met.

The immediate needs are just the tip of the iceberg. The needs are HUGE and hard to wrap my head around. The majority of homes that were flooded were not covered by flood insurance because they were not located in a FEMA designated floodplain. Federal aid is miniscule. Many people that I know and love are still trying to figure out where they will live and how they will rebuild and replace EVERYTHING.

Please look back over the list of my family that has been impacted. If you are interested in adopting one of them, let me know. I will send you the address of where they are staying and you can send help directly to them. I recommend gift cards (Amazon is great because they sell everything from groceries to furniture and clothing) and personal notes. Or, just send a personal note of encouragement. People are tired and short on hope, send some words of hope.

My uncle started a GoFundMe for my cousin Cori. She is a single Mom that worked her tail off to buy a home for her and her son. She has lost everything, including her car.

If you have a spare car to donate, we will find a way to get it to someone who has lost theirs.

The Baton Rouge Area Foundation has a flood relief fund that is a trustworthy place to make donations.

Every time my son Seth prays he says, “God thank you for giving us so much love so that we have love to give others. Please give us more and more love so we have more and more to give.” For the record: I didn’t teach him that. It’s not a parenting win. He just gets it. He knows that He is dearly loved by the Father and that the love he receives is to be given to others.

1 John 3:16-17  This is how we’ve come to understand and experience love: Christ sacrificed his life for us. This is why we ought to live sacrificially for our fellow believers, and not just be out for ourselves. If you see some brother or sister in need and have the means to do something about it but turn a cold shoulder and do nothing, what happens to God’s love? It disappears. And you made it disappear.

In this last week I have witnessed The Church acting like Jesus in bigger ways than I can ever recall. People have shown up in Louisiana, worked, cooked, fed, encouraged, and loved like Jesus. People are pouring out the love of God on my tribe and it makes my heart smile. But there is still SO MUCH to do.

Galatians 6:9 So let’s not allow ourselves to get fatigued doing good…

But God… possibly the most important post I’ve written.

Isaiah 61:7 NLT Instead of shame and dishonor,
you will enjoy a DOUBLE SHARE OF HONOR.
You will possess a double portion of prosperity in your land,
and EVERLASTING JOY will be yours.

 

Genesis 50:20 NLT You intended to harm me, BUT GOD intended it all for good. He brought me to this position so I could save the lives of many people.

 Trauma did its damnedest to destroy our family.

But God…

Last year, a family friend that is a retired Army Command Sergeant Major attended a Mighty Oaks Warrior retreat for men who’ve experienced the trauma of war. The change in him at the end of that retreat was visible. He exuded joy and freedom that I had not seen in him before. The first time I saw him after the retreat I went to my room and tearfully wrote these words in my journal…

“God, please open the door for my husband to attend one of these retreats.

Warning: The next part of this post is painfully transparent, but I believe there are families suffering silently who need hope. So I’m going to be real.

In 1994, five months before he was to begin his military career, I married the man God made for me. I quickly learned that life as an Army wife was hard. He was gone for at least six months of each of the first six years of our marriage. But when he returned from training exercises or schools, he always returned the same man he had been before leaving. I could live with that.

And then, war. chadbaghdad

His first deployment was to Baghdad from 2003-2004. It was horrific for both of us. There were numerous phone calls that ended with the sounds of gunfire or explosions with no follow-up phone calls for days to let me know that he was alive. There were long, painful, silent conversations when he relayed to me stories of friends burning while trapped in vehicles exploded by IEDs, or while he searched for words to describe a young soldier killing himself in the middle of their makeshift office.

He came home a different man. The man I married was born a smartass. The man who returned from Iraq in 2004 was an angry, bitter cynic.

And then, he went back.

In 2009, while I was battling cancer, he returned to Baghdad. The second deployment brought with it a mixed bag of emotions. I was both relieved to not deal with the just-below-the-surface-rage on a daily basis, and felt abandoned. I wanted my husband back.

During that second deployment, God worked a few miracles. Alone and battling cancer, I was forced to deal with some of my own demons and with 6200 miles between us we managed (via Skype) to work through some of our marriage wounds. At the end of the deployment I was cancer-free and our marriage was secret-free. But something was still broken.

And then, December 5, 2011… a military contractor set out to destroy my husband’s career. The trauma of war was minuscule compared to the trauma of having his character and identity as a soldier attacked.

For three years, ten months, and ten days, we lived through hell on earth.

During that first year I hid my husband’s weapons and ammunition (in separate places) and knew that I’d been wise in doing so when he exploded over not being able to find them.

There were more ugly moments in our home than I could possibly recall. Words spoken, like, “We’d all be better off if I’d died in Iraq.” And replies like, “You did.” or “You’re right.” Moments where I begged him to leave or tried to figure out where I could go with all four kids. Our kids learned to stay out-of-the-way on the days when we weren’t speaking to one another and I made myself and our children crazy trying to control every aspect of things happening in our home with the hope that something I did would bring my husband peace and joy.

But God…

A couple months ago my husband forwarded an email to me letting me know that he was confirmed for a Mighty Oaks retreat. God had opened the door that I prayed for.

And because God likes to put exclamation points on things: You see that guy sitting just a few feet behind my hot hubby? Typic
That’s the contractor who set out to destroy my husband’s career. I took this at the Mighty Oaks graduation/fundraising gala. We have no clue what led him there. I watched all night to see if he interacted with anyone, unsuccessfully trying to figure out what his connection was to the gala. All I know is that out of the millions of people in the DC area, God put him in a crowd of a couple hundred people in a church in Manassas, VA, on a Friday night and led him to donate money to the organization that helped my husband get his life back. I just kept imagining God holding his belly and laughing so hard He could barely breathe.

You see… God is a big fan of justice. He not only restores what’s been taken from us, He occasionally gets those who’ve stolen from us to pay for the restoration.

This was my husband’s Facebook post yesterday. IMG_4912

I have my husband back. Actually, I have a better version of my husband than I ever dreamed of. Jesus saved his soul. Mighty Oaks saved his life.

Social media is flooded right now with the hashtag #kill22. People are challenged to do twenty-two pushups for twenty-two days and share videos of their pushups on social media to bring awareness to the average twenty-two veterans a day that commit suicide. While it’s a nice gesture for awareness, I’m not a fan of “awareness” trends. I think G.I. Joe got it wrong. Knowing is NOT half the battle. Knowledge without action = Nothing. Pushups aren’t saving veterans’ lives, but Mighty Oaks Warrior Programs is.

To date, nine hundred and nine veterans have graduated from the program. Not one of them has taken their own life. However, four men have taken their lives while waiting for a spot in one of the programs. There are currently three hundred veterans on the waitlist to attend a program. It costs $1000 to put a veteran through the program. My hope is that this post will be shared and raise enough support to eliminate the waitlist. click HERE to donate

Our veterans secure our freedom, please help secure theirs.