Today is one of those days when it’s great to get out of the house, but then, it’s even better to be indoors! It’s in the 18-19 degree range, with blowing snow and ice. My youngest son is on day one of an Arctic Survival Camping trip about 200 miles north of us. Up there, they are expecting in the 10″ – 20″ range of snow. At our neck of the woods, we expect in the 1″ – 2″ range! So I was thinking about him as our glass door banged against the front door as the wind battered it. I sure would not want to be in a tent in this! Of course, I am nowhere near 15 years old and filled with excitement of living off the land, male bonding, and all that sort of thing. If I camp, I need a camper or trailer; better yet, a hotel room…no more tents for this grandma!
Anyway, I have been mulling over a bunch of thoughts in my head and they all sort of relate. Which is weird, but cool at the same time, because I know God has a lesson in there for me. A friend was given a baby boy to foster this week. He is so adorable, I just wanted to cuddle him and kiss and hug him. He has the cutest smile, ever. And he reminded me of my grand daughter, as they are just a couple of weeks apart in age. He was removed from his birth home because of abuse. As I l gazed on him in the Church Hall during coffee hour on Sunday, I had tears running down my face, and I grabbed the sides of his car seat and gave that little man my best smiles and coos, because I was weeping for so many reasons. (1) His age is so close to my grand daughter and I have to admit, I have a serious love affair with that little baby girl going on. Grandma fell hard for her. (2) I hurt because of his situation and then (3) I got so angry at his situation that it made me cry more. I just hugged my friend and told her how happy I was he found a home where he will be cuddled and loved on 24/7! And (5) I was taken back, in my mind, to a horrible time in my life, a few years ago. So many things were going on. But to sum it up, we were going through a short-sale on our house, my husband was out of work, our youngest son was having difficulty in school (as in a totally, and completely, untenable situation), my work situation was not good (governmental layoffs), and I got selected to be on a felony child abuse jury. It was a long case. It was an ugly case. I tried, and tried, during jury selection to get myself out of it, but for some reason, both sides wanted me on that jury. (One main reason is that I was a government employee at that time, and as such, I get paid full salary regardless of where I show up to work. Jury duty for government employees is considered another day at the office. Ugh.) I was instantly taken back to those horrible photos and testimonies. I was instantly feeling my stomach just clench in anger and frustration. Another aspect that made it so horrible for me is that the child who was “feloniously” abused looked exactly, as in “could be related to,” my youngest son. I would go home at night, unable to talk about it, and just weep. My husband would hold me and I would just cry my eyes out, only to fall into a fitful sleep, and be required to get up and repeat it for another day (for weeks on end). I thought I had put it behind me. But meeting that precious little boy yesterday brought the memories swooping in, and I found myself unable to stop thinking about it. And I am obviously still thinking about it.
This morning my daughter-in-law asked me to go to breakfast, and since I am home alone this week, I jumped at the chance. Off we went to iHop. I had some amazing crepes, buckets of coffee (daylight savings time is just so stupid…) and sat across from her sitting with my two grandies, and me, just watching it all and loving every moment. She and I talked about my memories, and about my friend who took in this little baby. We both got teary-eyed at the thought of someone hurting such a little guy. And as I gazed at my grandies, I got such a fierce sense of protectiveness. I don’t know what I would do if anyone hurt any of them, in any way.
God calls us to protect those who cannot protect themselves. And He also calls us to love our enemies. As I sat on that jury, looking at a father who had abused his child so severely, I tried to love him; I really did. And I prayed to God to help me handle that situation. What draws a parent to harm their child? I know kids and crying are no fun, but I just could not ever abuse a child. I’d put myself in a time-out before I could hurt a child. And as I tried to love this abuser, I knew “beyond a shadow of a doubt” he was guilty and voted to convict. I could not help him any more but by putting him where he could no longer harm anyone else.
After this trial, things disintegrated in my life to such a degree I found myself taking anti-depressants and took a leave of absence from my job. I drove my middle son to college and drove home (across 4 states over about 18 hours) listening to a Mercy Me CD a friend had given me (thank you, Raghada) and just prayed. I prayed about my life, about the situation of my son and his schooling, my job, our living situation (by this time we had to vacate our home and move to a rental, but my husband had a new job – a bright spot). I spent those hours with the windows all down, singing at the top of my lungs (trust me, it was good I was alone and in the vast desert for that part of it) and I realized that my life was disordered. That was it – I was in disarray in so many areas. And a calm clarity came to me, as I stared at my Jerusalem cross hanging from the rear-view window. God needed me at home. My son needed me at home. My husband wanted me at home. My brief foray into the working world had come to a close.
“People were bringing little children to Jesus to have him touch them, but the disciples rebuked them. When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” And he took the children in his arms, put his hands on them and blessed them.” (Mark 10: 13-16)
I needed to focus on a childlike approach to God, as well as to not hinder my children and keep them from God. For my youngest son, the same one who is off on an Arctic Survival adventure this week, I needed to bring him home and help him myself. My first duty is to be a faithful child of God; my second is to be a wife and mother. Both my husband, and my sons, needed me at home. My husband liked my paycheck, but he hated me working. Our lives run so much smoother with me at home. And so I went back into homeschooling (we are now doing HS!!!) and keeping the home fires burning. And as a stay-at-home wife and mother, I have a real sensitivity to protecting these helpless little ones. They can be infants, they can be 10, they can be teenagers, but we need to bring our children to a safe haven and to “hinder them not” in their discovery of their faith.
I still struggle with seeing little children abused and my anger about their situation and the adults who perpetrate these crimes against children is something I wrestle with (as became so obvious to me yesterday). But I do know that we are all here to bring our children to God. We are here to be sure they are safe. We are here to give them a firm place, a foundation, to grow into healthy, Christian adults. We are perhaps not here to tame this world, but to work out some of the kinks and make it not such a horribly rough place to be, and to raise the next generation, who can work at softening the edges of the evil one, who definitely holds sway over so many. I know I feel protective of these little ones I see in the arm of friends who put themselves out there for them, and I love that there are families willing to share with the hurting children in our world. But I also know I am here to keep an eye on my own family, my own children and grandchildren, making sure they are safe and free to grow up and love the God I know is here, protecting me.
“I do not ask You to take them out of the world, but to keep them from the evil one.” (John 17:15)