Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Domestic violence-What I wish I'd known

Please read this. 

I got a call one morning from a dear friend telling me "He shot her!!! He SHOT CASEY!" 

God help us. 

Those calls should never happen.  

Please read this and understand that evil is far closer than we would all like to think. This is real. 

I'm not posting a picture of her because I think it's a violation of her. But also because I want you to imagine one of your closest few friends. Your people. That's who she was to me. She was beloved and known and seen and in close community with others. 
When you read this, imagine your friend in her place because it's anyone. 

Victims can be ANYONE. I didn't know that before. I thought a victim would be someone who was, by nature, passive. Or someone who was dependent financially on their abuser. 

Casey was neither of those. She was assertive and anyone who knew her would agree with the characterization that she had a strong personality and was a very strong woman. She was financially independent. Her abuser didn't contribute much to her life in the way of meeting tangible needs, whether childcare, financial, etc. She was not dependent on him for her life to continue to run as it was. Of all of my friends, she was the last person, literally. The LAST ONE I could have imagined this happening to. 

Anther thing I wish I'd known is language to ask potentially offensive questions. When something sounded off to me, I thought rude thoughts and didn't want to say them to her about her husband. I met with a counselor regarding this whole situation and she had great ideas. One way to question a friend when things don't seem right is simply to say "That doesn't sound normal." Or "How do you feel about that?" Those are relatively neutral statements but are a starting point for conversation. She also made the point that if the person isn't ready to talk, you can't make them and must respect where they are in processing their feelings. But at least you know you put yourself out there. 

Another great point this counselor made is that trust is earned by someone's actions. If you have "a bad feeling" about  someone, that's legitimate and actionable. You do not have to justify why you don't trust someone and usually, you don't have that justification until 
something happens. It is a reminder that respect is always given but trust is not. It is earned. And you can make decisions accordingly, even with no "evidence" of untrustworthiness. 

Another thing I wish I'd said any time conversation came up about biblical marriage is that it's all thrown out the window if abuse is involved. God's heart is never for a woman to stay in an abusive or dangerous relationship.
The end. 

You can forgive and also separate. Forgiveness is not dependent upon reconciliation. While God hates divorce he doesn't hate THE divorced. And scripture should never be interpreted as reason to stay in an abusive situation. I don't know anything about how that applied to this situation. I just wish I'd said it and hope whenever biblical marriage is discussed, that caveat is explicitly stated. If one in three women are domestic violence victims, then each time a sermon is preached, you can be assured there is a victim listening. And they need to hear, from the pulpit, that God is not condoning this for them. 

I'm just so darn sad. Casey was a part of a small and intimate group that met each week for bible study. And we met for birthdays. And for running. And for basically all social events. We had a group text going where we touched base with each other almost daily.  She was on Team Caroline for our adoption race. She was one of the closest friends I'd ever had. Yet I knew NOTHING of this struggle. 

My takeaway from this horror is that no one ever be where I am right now. Let no child be where her children are, mourning their mom. Let's all acknowledge the real threat. Let's steer a conversation the way we have on racial inequality, where we acknowledge a problem and make space to discuss and space to process. Let's make this conversation a fabric of our society. And acknowledge the atrocity. 

Friends, my grief is so raw I almost can't look at it. This might be hard to read because it is very hard to live. Think about it anyway. Pay attention because we are all part of the eradication of this. Let's all wake up to the reality of this broken, broken world. And let's all remember that domestic violence impacts one in three women. You most likely know a victim. Be part of the solution. 

And many people have messaged to say they are praying for me. That is so kind! But please pray for Casey's family instead. If you ever think of me, pray for her family.  I'll be ok. Her family will never stop living with this weight.  Let's honor her life and start talking. 

3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, fthe dwelling place1 of God is with man. He will gdwell with them, and they will be his people,2 and God himself will be with them as their God.3 hHe will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and ideath shall be no more, jneither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”

Rev 21:3-4

Friday, March 11, 2016

Domestic violence is closer than you think.

I lost a dear friend yesterday to domestic violence. 

Her husband of roughly one year shot her and then himself. 

It is absolutely unimaginable.

 The only reason I would ever write about this is because she served others in all hours of her day and if she could serve in this way she would want to. 

My friend was an accomplished physician. She was an anesthiologist that was very well respected.  But that's not really how I knew her. I knew her as a mom and a friend. And she was amazing at both. She loved with her whole being. 

She wanted what everyone wants, a functioning, healthy, happy home. She wanted the best things for her family.

What presented itself as the best thing turned out to be evil and that's so hard to see when you're so close. So she didn't see until it was too late. And as friends, maybe anything we said wouldn't have mattered. But maybe it would. 

 I saw things and I told myself it wasn't my business. I had nothing concrete to point to so I let it go. 

Would it have mattered? Would it have made her act sooner, or in some other way? Would it just have pushed her away and isolated her even more?

I don't know. But I do know if I ever see something triggering alarms in a friendship, I will not let it pass.
The situation is so horrific I never could have imagined it actually happening. We live in a broken world and sometimes monsters are real. 

In Casey's honor, please be the friend that asks the hard questions when things seem off.  Hug your families so tightly and love your people well. She did both beautifully and the world is darker without her bright light in it.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Hayes is FIVE! (Actually four but don't mention it)



You are a mess! You insist you are five, only answer to "Star war romantic" half the time, tell long winded stories all day, and incite general mayhem everywhere you go. The amount of mischief inherent in you is just shocking to me. And I love you so much I could absolutely eat you up! I was putting you to bed tonight and said "I love you more than all the stars in the sky." You said "I love you the stars and also all the windows." 

You had a satisfied smirk, like you knew you nailed that one.

You are really an original. Your dad and I are pretty calm, logical, introverted people. You are the life of the party, never met a stranger, completely free spirited, and you keep us laughing. I never know what's going to happen next with you and walk the line between anticipation and slightly cringing. We say you are the exclamation point on our family and anyone that knows you totally agrees. 

You're using the force on some unsuspecting sibling. 

You were at a party where Santa was reading a book to the kids, maybe 12 or so. You listened for awhile and then spoke up with your trademark line, "EXCUSE ME!  I NEED TO TELL YOU SOMETHIN!" Because Santa is Santa, he let you speak.  Your urgent message was "In Star Wars, episode three, Anakin turned to the dark side and became Darth Vader!" Santa politely smiled and moved on. After another interruption, he finally told you, "We're here to talk about Christmas, not the force or the dark side." 
Well said, Santa. 
Now anytime there is a mention of Santa you always express disbelief that he doesn't want to talk about the dark side. You speak only in full volume, so you say "SANTA ONLY LIKES TO TALK ABOUT CHRISTMAS." 

We carpool with another family and that is a joy to you. You love the days she picks you and up talk about them often when you're at home. You have a sweet heart that is sensitive to the emotional atmosphere around you. While you're currently in a dictator leadership mode, you have a heart to encourage others. You are quick to praise when you see someone "making good choices" and encourage your siblings when you see them doing something special. You are generous with what you have to share. 

I truly never know what is about to go down with you. I picked you up at your church class the other day and the teacher apologetically met me at the door, explaining that you were so adamant they just let it go. I didn't know what you were so adamant about until I saw you had completely unbuttoned your button down shirt, so it was gaping open, and were rubbing your belly. With both hands. In the middle of your class, while the rest of the church was picking up their still dressed children. 
Um....ok. I tried to button your shirt and you got very agitated! You explained that you were Obi-wan Kenobi and he didn't button his shirt. 


That's fine.
Obi Wan, in your mind's eye, also rubbed his belly like a Buddha. I have become an expert in looking nonplussed when told unexpected things about your behavior. The upside is you are always ready to explain your reasoning and I know it'll be well thought out. Your imagination rocks and I hope you don't lose that. If you decide to stay more clothed in public, I'll support you, though.

You are a keen observer of all that is happening around you. I don't know if that's a result of being the youngest of four or just your innate personality but you do not miss ONE thing that happens and you always have some commentary. I love that you observe what is happening and want to process it. I think that's a good skill to have and want to be available to you as you work through life. Also, your commentary is basically toddler stand up. And it's fabulous.

You are a straight up leader. You speak with authority and the older kids will defer to you, at times. Here, you were ordering Caroline to wear sunglasses over her glasses to church and she, through giggles, agreed to your every request. You weren't kidding, though. You had a plan and intended it be executed flawlessly. Since you have the best big sister on earth, it all went down as you willed.

I have never seen such a strong opinion in such a tiny body. The number of times random people have commented on your strong will is roughly infinity times. It draws comments nearly every time we are out in public! The verse I pray over you is that "you will do the good works you were created to do." You are going to do some works, clearly. And you will take people with you. My prayer is that your heart be towards the Lord and let his guidance direct your leadership of others. Right now you are leading armpit toots and mutiny. We're all a work in progress.

You are a serious daredevil. No challenge is too daunting for you. You went down this crazy high zip line that I wouldn't have considered. Here you are about to go. Looking fearless. 
 Here you and Harris are at the end. 

Hanging in mid-air. 

Hayes, you are awesome sauce. You're brave and sweet and funny and spunky and I cannot imagine our family without you. You bring energy and joy everywhere you go and each day with you is a new adventure. 

Happy fourth birthday, Hayser!!

This is you, in the garage floor, after a wild night out at Legofest but it's also how I think I'll feel when you are done with your preschool years. 

"For we are God's handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. "
Eph 2:10

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Harris turned 8!

You turned eight over a month ago. I didn't write this letter because I didn't know yet what I wanted to you to remember from this year. You're starting to grow and understand more and I want these to mean something when you read them later, a memorial to what God did in your life that year and just who you were.

So, who you are is obsessed with Legos, into any joke about bodily function, always doing word searches and still so kind. You came home from school one day and said, "I made myself a real good friend." And you were super excited about it. Because God is cool, we ran into your friend and his family getting ice cream and I was able to meet his mom and set up play dates. I'm so happy to see you are picking good friends. I think your bestie will always be Hudson, who's basically your cousin, but the other boys you invited to your party were all sweet. Everyone was kind to each other and it was so good to see the people you gravitate to are like-minded. One boy can solve the Rubik's cube so you are enthralled with his skills. You are very into word searches as well. One word search book gives facts about each state and you are constantly quizzing me in the car about the official state flower of Minnesota or the marine mammal of Alaska. You are also still a planner. You are always thinking a few moves ahead of what you're doing. You love to climb trees but find the bark irritating so you wear gloves when you come outside to climb. You are so funny.

What I want you to know about this year is how God protected you in a way I didn't understand until he showed me last night. 

You will probably always remember the time you got sick at family camp and were airlifted back to San Antonio. It was a dramatic event and we have discussed God's sovereignty in that and the peace He provided in crazy circumstances. I really believe that was Satan attacking our family and God intervening stop it. That may sound strange but so much about it felt supernatural. Neurologists, ENT's and even the head of MD Anderson told me that we would probably never able to fully explain what happened to you. You took a turn for the better on the flight home and I didn't have a chance to tell anyone. Cori,  one of many intercessors for you that night, texted me to say she felt a shift in the spiritual realm and you would be ok. She had no idea you were regaining the ability to move your body. The last she'd heard, you were paralyzed on one side, your head almost wouldn't turn from this strange angle, even when dr's tried to move it. You had severe nystagmus. The paramedic who flew with us said he'd never seen anything like what was happening to you. You were headed for an MRI and brain surgery when we left Tyler. By the time we landed and got to the hospital, the trauma team that was on standby to receive you seemed puzzled. They kept reading your chart, then looking at you because you no longer matched the boy in those charts and they had no explanation why.
I know why. 

God intervened.

The only medicine you had was zofran to stop your vomiting and fluids were given through an IV. Nothing else was done and I know people are not flown across Texas on a whim. Your condition was serious and getting worse quickly. Modern medicine had nothing to offer you at that point.

Within hours you were eating and later that morning, you were able to stand on your own.

But that's not even what I just learned. When we were once again at Pine Cove, you were bitten by one fire ant, one time. Just one teeny bite. We were walking across a field, you felt it bite you, scratched your leg and moved on. I paid zero attention to it because you didn't seem concerned. A couple of minutes later you said your ears felt funny. I looked at them and they were bright red, like you'd gotten a bad sunburn. I thought you might need some water, so we walked to the gift shop, where you started coughing. It didn't occur to me that this was connected to the ant bite. Another mom saw you and said, "lift his shirt, I think he's having an allergic reaction!" Sure enough, there were hives all over your body. Your nose started running and someone sprinted to their cabin for Benadryl. Someone else sat you in a chair and explained to me you were having what is called a global reaction and it was impacting your airways, which is why you were coughing, runny nose, etc. That can be serious. So, multiple people gave you Benadryl and we went screaming down the highway to the ER, with your prayer warrior Cori praying for you once again. While driving 90 mph.

By the time we got to the ER your reaction was under control and we spoke with an ER nurse who said they wouldn't do much more for you at that point than observe, so we went back to camp. You are a boss, so you hopped back in the zipline line and tore it up zip lining over the lake.

Here's what He showed me last night that had never occurred to me. It was His mercy to reveal your allergy at that point. If that had happened at home, first of all, you would have probably been stung by far more ants, so the reaction would have been worse. Secondly, I wouldn't have known what was happening. I had no idea to lift up your shirt to see hives. You didn't connect the ant bite with your issues and might not have known to even tell me you got bitten for me to connect the dots. Thirdly, even if I had, we might not have had Benadryl! Your allergy was pretty severe and needed immediate attention. The allergist told me if you got bitten again to immediately do the epi-pen, without waiting to see how you reacted, after seeing your reaction to the allergy test.

But you got bitten just once, in a place full of people who knew what was happening and how to help you. Now you've had weeks of allergy shots and will be immune or very close by the summer.

What a gift that was!! We found out about the issue in a safe place, with the best friends to be encouragement and help. And the problem is completely solvable. So, in the moment, it kind of stunk to have that happen and have to go home early but it was ultimately for your good. I want you to remember that when things sort of suck, it might actually be a huge blessing. Always look for the good and some times, oftentimes, God is merciful to reveal it, even though we are not owed that. My takeaway for this year, for you, is 

"If you know His nature, you will not question His motives."

That's not my quote, FYI, but it aptly describes your past year. You're getting it because you described various characteristics of our new dog as "big blessings" and understand to be thankful for things you took for granted at one time. 

I love being your mom! You are funny, insightful, thoughtful, brainy, and sweet. And you make an armpit fart noise with gusto. You are little enough to still love "kiss explosions" when I put you to bed at night and big enough to analyze situations and have insights that make me think. Happy, happy birthday, sweet boy! I love you so much!

““Seek the Lord while he may be found; call upon him while he is near; let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the Lord, that he may have compassion on him, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon. For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”
Isaiah 55:6-9 ESV