My youngest son began running a fever yesterday, and he awoke with one very early this morning. After checking his temp and giving him some Motrin, I lay in bed and held him as he drifted back off to sleep. It was then that my mind started wandering. I began thinking about kids all over the city - this city - who do not have parents who hold them close, figuratively and literally.
I am well aware of child abuse and neglect statistics, but I struggle to really wrap my brain around them while wrapping my arms around my children. Who could possibly harm a child?
Then I'm yanked back into my reality. Abuse entered into my life as a small child. The touching started first and continued well into my teens. The neglect and emotional abuse continued into my adult life.
I frequently and openly share my story with others, yet very rarely does that lead to other women opening up (right then) about their stories of sexual abuse. So secretive. So painful. So difficult to talk about. Yet, I know that at least 25% of girls are sexually abused before their 18th birthday, so that means that at least 25% of women share my same story.
Keeping that statistic in mind, I know that children in every classroom, in every school, in every community are suffering. Neglected. Sexually, physically, emotionally and/or verbally abused. As I look at the children in my child's classroom, in our school, in our community -- they just seem so little, so happy, so well cared for. The children and their parents bring smiles to my face. We're happy. Our community, our school... It's such a happy family-oriented place.
Then I'm yanked back into my reality again. My abusers looked this happy too. My abusers held respectable jobs, led Girl Scouts, dressed as the school Santa, chaperoned parties and school events, chaired non-profit events, taught Sunday school, and filled the bleachers every weekend for kids sports. The abusers' children appeared to be enjoying typical childhood activities - summer camps, scouts, school plays, lots of sports, choir and band, church, and advanced academics.
Child abuse happens everywhere. In every community. Even mine. Across the board, regardless of race, religion, social, educational or economic status. Sexual abuse happens to 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys. 90% of sexual perpetrators are known to the victim, 68% are family members.
And sexual abuse isn't even the most common form of child abuse. Of all the different types of abuse, here are a few statistics: 59% of all abused children are suffering from neglect, 10.8% are being physically abused, and 7.6% are sexually abused. What this tells us is that neglect and physical abuse are more common than sexual abuse, and sexual abuse affects 20% of the nation's children. Staggering. Scary. Heartbreaking.
I reported my abuse the first time when I was nine years old. The person I reported to became my second abuser. Rather than protect, denial, neglect, and looking the other way set in. Eventually I was accused of seduction. I didn't tell anyone again until I was a teenager. I told a young married couple, but they simply couldn't believe that these fine, upstanding, involved people would do such a thing. The people I'd reported to had failed to protect me. I never reported again. Rarely does a child report more than once.
I did finally tell my little elementary school friends about the abuse --- when I was thirty-five. Most were shocked and heartbroken. One said that she'd always felt that something was wrong with me. Even as a young girl, she noticed a change in me. She'd noticed my insecurity, anxiety and nervousness. She'd noticed that it was worse when my abusers were around. What she didn't know was what to do. She did not know that she should share her concerns with her parents. She did not know that sometimes adults hurt children. She did not know that she could help save the life of a child.
There are so many reasons that our family organizes thefor KIDSby KIDSbike-a-thon. We want to make the world safer for children. We want:
to open up conversations about child abuse.
to arm adults with valuable information to keep children safe.
to prepare adults and children to act responsibly to reports or suspicions of child abuse.
to direct hurting children and families to victim's advocacy centers and child abuse prevention services.
to remove the blinders that cause us to think that our community is completely safe.
to help children in need find loving foster homes and forever families.
It is an incredible blessing to get to be a part of such a life-giving event in our community. The cost of childhood abuse is enormously high - to the individual, those that care about them, and to our community at large. We hope you will join us in making the world a safer, happier, healthier place.
We're in a very busy season of life right now. I am leading Bible study on Thursday mornings, busily organizing the 2nd annual for KIDS by KIDS bike-a-thon, taking care of a young friend M-F before school, and volunteering at Zach's school. We're also delivering the paper early every morning. And Bryan enjoys helping friends with odd jobs here and there, tackling projects around our house, and coaching Zach's soccer team.
It's a crazy busy life. Chaotic. Non-stop. Sleep deprived. And so full of joy, purpose and wholeness.
As I look around me, my heart warm and full, these words cross my mind... "for just such a time as this". (Esther 4:14)
I completely believe that God uses all things. That He is purposeful. That He designs us for and calls us to do certain things. That He orchestrates the who, when, where and how.
While our life may look like a hodgepodge of tasks, volunteer work and part-time jobs to keep busy or make ends meet, I sense that what we're doing is all a part of His plan for our lives, and the lives of those around us. God has woven our lives together with others, and has given us experiences and passions, and now the time and opportunity to wade into some of the waters we've wondered about for years.
Perhaps... It's all for just such a time as this.
The footnotes for Esther 4:14 read: "When you face challenges in life, seek to know what God wants you to do, and then do it, confident that he will do his part. You don't know ahead of time how he will accomplish his will. Trust God and prepare to be surprised by the way he demonstrates his trustworthiness."
I will. I will trust God and prepare to be surprised.
I'm sitting here with a slightly sore left knee, thinking about my first 5K.
I ran it yesterday! Saturday, April 17, 2010.
My goal was to finish in under 40 minutes. My official time was 37.33, so says the chip. Yep, they even let the beginners wear chips!
I hadn't run in close to nine years. There's a reason for this... I used to run to escape my problems. I ran excessively to punish myself, "vent" my emotions, and just plain bury them. I ran away from difficult circumstances... Nine years ago I committed myself to facing them, and that meant no longer running - figuratively and literally.
Two years ago I began to realize that I really needed to exercise, but it was a terrifying prospect. I vividly remember meeting with a pilates instructor in my chiropractor's office - tears streaming down my face - as I shared my concerns with her. My need for exercise, but my fear of abusing it again. It took another two years before I could do it. With the encouragement of friends, I laced up my shoes and headed out for a 1.2 mile run/walk a few weeks ago.
I've been doing it ever since, and I've discovered that I love it. I run with a smile, wave at cars passing by, and enjoy my surroundings. I think this is a good thing. A great thing, in fact!
Nine years ago, much of my life was a closed-off secret. Today, it's a wide-open book.
Nine years ago, I ran alone most of the time. Today, I run with friends.
Yesterday's run was practically poetic... I was surrounded by friends - most made within the last 8 years, two from high school. And these two sweet "friends" from high school were not even my friends back then. By today's standards, I'd say no one was. No one really knew me back then.
As I think about my 5K... All the nights that Bryan and the boys cheered for me and waved as I took off on "training" runs. All the friends who knew about my emotional struggles and encouraged my every step. The 6:30am text from Lynne. The Race with Jenny. Congratulatory hugs and knowing smiles from countless friends. And Chris Cakes with Ryan and his family... I am just so grateful for my life. I thank God for the chance to grow up, heal, mature ... and cultivate meaningful friendships, appropriate boundaries, and healthy life choices.
Here's to my continued running journey and sincere relationships with you!
"I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith." ~ 2 Timothy 4:7
A special thank you to my training partner who takes me on extra laps in the living room or up the street and back after every run... I love you. It was my honor to cross the finish line with you, Buddy.
I love the new show Undercover Boss. High-ranking executives go "into the trenches" in order to determine what's working well and what needs improvement within their company. Occasionally, the executive works with a grump who needs some softening, but always the undercover boss discovers just how hard "entry level" people work. Always, the character of the honest, decent, hard-working American shines.
In the most recent episode, we met a groundskeeper at an amusement park who'd been working the 3am shift for 16 years... The family home had recently caught fire, displacing his wife and their five children - two of whom were adopted because "it just doesn't seem right for us to have children and not be willing to provide a life to other children without families". We met a young man whose been in love with the amusement park since he was two years old, and working there for something like six years. He is a ticket taker who designs roller coasters on his lunch break! He is creative and passionate, and he believes that the guests' day should begin with a warm smile and greeting at the ticket booth. His dream job? CEO of the company that owns and operates the park.
What I marvel at each week on Undercover Boss is the reminder that there are employees at every level who are creative, passionate, hard-working, sacrificing, committed, honest, do-whatever-it-takes people. Sadly, men and women in suits or glamorous offices are often viewed as successful, while those in entry level or manual labor positions are overlooked or even mistaken as lazy, uneducated, irresponsible or underachieving.
I recently had the privilege of working "in the trenches" at my church. I filled in as the receptionist while our real receptionist took a well-deserved vacation last week. I answered phones, greeted visitors, laminated, cut, cut and cut some more for our Children's Ministry, folded bulletins, put address labels on a mailing, etc... I spent a lot of time with our custodial staff, whom I'd never even met before. Lunch was the best! I ate everyday with my new custodial friends and the church's hospitality coordinator. We had meaningful discussions about ministry, missions, life, seminary and God's word. We even played Bible trivia - seriously, at work! The setting itself made it safe and acceptable - getting to discuss such things at work - but it was the people I was so moved by. These are gifted, passionate, knowledgeable, compassionate, experienced people! Missionaries. Serious students of God's word. True servants. Truly inspirational. They may work with a mop, but they are not doing it for the almighty dollar but for our almighty God.
Years ago I knew a mother who was disappointed in her son's job choice... She broke down one day and shouted that she did not send him to college so that he could become a UPS truck loader. That is one hard job - one that not everyone can do!! But this is not uncommon - parents encouraging their children to go to college for "better" jobs... Most of us lovingly tell our children that they can be anything they want to be when they grow up, but the jobs we typically throw out tends to be professional ones: doctor, teacher, scientist, astronaut.
People are often confused by my husband's decision to be a college-degree-holding electrician. Every lay-off invites well-meaning friends to encourage him to use his degree to do something "better" or "more stable". But, I cannot tell you how often God has affirmed that Bryan is exactly where he should be. Bryan feels called to be "in the (construction) world but not of it". It is his honor to share his faith with friends he makes on the job - a place where it is not unheard of for God to be mentioned more often to swear than to praise. And, as our boys watch their daddy return home in his hardhat and dirty overalls, they clearly see that there is honor in working hard, following God's call, and doing what it takes to provide for your family. There is no doubt that Bryan is meant to use his tools for a living.
We are all called to a different purpose... When we follow God's call, we are working for Him. That is an honor that cannot be surpassed by any amount of money or esteem.
Lord, help our family to always seek your will and respond. Use us to make a difference in your world, whatever that involves. When we are tempted to stray into our own desires or refuse your will out of fear or greed, may we be reminded of your greater, perfect purpose. Thank you for the immeasurable blessings that have come from obedience. Amen.