Friday, December 12, 2014

Miracles Still

I was asked by a very dear friend to share a little bit of Larry and my testimony with the women at a marriage conference the second week of November. I really struggled to write it. Not because I didn't know what to say, but because there was so much more that I wanted to share than there was time for. I condensed down our very complicated and involved story as much as I could and shared some of the lessons I learned. 

Before we left for the lodge, I asked God to use my broken attempts and my broken life to bless others. 

I was overwhelmed by the response. I am a little teary thinking about it. God used our heartbreaks and joys to touch people and give some rough marriages hope. 

One couple there sat down and talked to us after reading a copy I had printed off. Turns out that he administrates a ministry website that publishes people's testimonies. He wants us to expand our story for the website (including contributions from Sweet Geek) and told us we should write a book.

A book. 

What a daunting thought. 

So I have decided to share our story one small piece at a time on this blog, and hopefully include some guest posts from Sweet Geeks as we progress. And perhaps, with the content mostly complete, we can take the blog posts and edit them into a decent book. I am open to what God has for us. This is a really difficult journey. It is painful to revisit those dark places. But I will begin the baring of my soul to all of you.

But to begin, here is my testimony that I shared that weekend. It was written with women in mind.

The point of all of this is that God is still in the business of miracles! Even on broken hearts and broken marriages. 

Here we go:

One day, something inside me broke. My heart had been through so much. He had yelled at me for something small -again- and the love for him in my heart just sputtered and died. I became very indifferent, and make no mistake, indifference is the opposite of love, not hate. When you hate, you still care. When you are indifferent, you don't even care any longer. And that is where I was. I didn't even care. Come, go, stay, leave, live or die -I had zero preference.
Some of you may think that I was calloused and you would be partly right. I was. But I felt as if the man I married had been replaced with a bubbling cauldron of anger -spewing venomous words at myself or my precious children. And to make matters worse, during that time we had also lost every single thing that we owned: our cars, our home, our jobs. I felt so alone and wondered why God had abandoned me. Abandoned me with a man who seemed so bent on shredding my heart and injuring my kids.
Let me give you a little background:
I met Larry in July 2000 at the factory where we worked. He was a complete geek: goofy clothes (with almost no sense of style),shaggy hair, very smart and able to fix anything. He would come repair machinery on the industrial line I was working on, and stand there and visit with me while he made sure it was working correctly. I saw his work ethic and how he reacted under pressure and had the utmost respect for him.
 We never ran out of things to talk about. He is one of the most interesting and well-informed men you could even imagine. He gave me a ride when my ramshackle car broke down, and then helped me fix it. He was always there, willing to offer a hand up, always unconditionally, always selfless, never pressuring me, just loving me and being there. I was still reeling from my breakup, so I was not interested in a romantic relationship. We became closer and closer, until I realized , by his actions, that he loved me. But I just couldnt move forward. I was so afraid of getting my heart broken again, that I could not bear to move more than painfully slow.
 In June 2001 I went to Nebraska for my sister's wedding and it was a HORRIBLE trip! I got stuck at my second-shift job the night before, and had to leave by 3am for the airport. I got home from work just in time to throw the rest of my clothes in a bag and dash out the door. Larry had helped me make my arrangements online and gave me a calling card (back before everyone had a cell phones!) to let him know when I got to the hotel safely. When I landed in Omaha, I went to get my rental car and found that they wouldn't give it to me because I was a few months under my 25th birthday. Then I couldn't get a speedy refund to go elsewhere and had to call my mom -3 hours away- to drop the wedding plans and come pick me up. All this time I hadn't slept at all, and began getting really sick. By the time I arrived at the hotel and called Larry I had a full-blown cold. I cried on the phone and told him that all my family was out having a wonderful time while I was stuck in the hotel blowing my nose. He just encouraged me.
On Saturday night he called the hotel and told me he had a package coming the next day and I needed to head to the hotel around noon. I thought he was sending me flowers or something to encourage me, and I thought it was sweet. My heart had begun to soften to the idea of moving forward, but I was still conflicted about going too quickly, and so I was keeping those breaks locked down. Imagine my surprise when I arrived the hotel after church and found that he did have flowers for me -and delivered them himself! He had gotten in his car after work Saturday and drove 15 hours through the night to surprise me on Sunday. He was waiting in the lobby for me with a beautiful bouquet in his hands.
My family loved him and were really impressed with the man he is. All reservations were gone. I had no more doubts about his absolute seriousness of his commitment, and we were married that December.
We enjoyed years of wedded bliss. To be quite honest, the vast majority of any problems we had were cause by me! He was a patient and loving daddy, a tender and selfless husband, and a tenacious provider. I was so blessed!
All that changed in September 2007. Larry was removing a diseased tree in our back yard and fell on his head. On pavement.
That one event changed our entire lives. He fractured his C7 vertebra, had three skull fractures in the shape of a triangle on his occipital bone (that is the little bone that sticks out a bit on the back of your head), and had two major concussions. One was the size of a peach (think your fist) and the other was the size of a plum, and he was bleeding into his brain behind the left eyebrow. The frontal cortex controls personality and impulse control. My husband fell one man, and got up entirely another.
The change in him was drastic. It felt as if the tender, charming man I married had just died on the pavement that day and replaced him with this sullen, suicidal, perpetually angry man who had absolutely no filter and burst venomous words at anyone and everyone. You heard me say suicidal. One of the things they didn't tell me was that He would suffer from severe depression. In fact, they usually sent head injury patients home with an anti-depressant, but not Larry. I don't know why they didn't. Even in the hospital he was so nasty and rude that I didn't even WANT to help him do all the things he absolutely needed help with. He was on a downward spiral into a black hole and just kept going down and down. 
Things kept getting worse. Just when I thought it couldn't get any worse it would. We had episodes of smashing dishes, throwing furniture, screaming fits, hurling food items against the wall. My three kids were terrified. More than once I had to take the kids and get out of the house. I am ashamed to say that I contributed. I was working and couldn't keep up, but also, working out of the home turned my heart away from my husband and family. He was unable to keep up with his work and was laid off from his job. That just made things worse.
I really need to take a moment to explain that, what I didn't understand, didn't WANT to understand in all this, was that as much as I was grieving the stranger sleeping next to me, Larry was grieving even more.  He lost a large part of himself and felt completely turned upside down. Up was down, down was up, and he literally didn't know left from right.  Due to the injury, he also lacked the verbal skills to explain it to me. And with the loss of his job, we lost the home he had poured hours of work and thousands of dollars into, we lost our cars, all our emergency funds were depleted, and he felt like a different man. A man that was failing, and failing, and failing. He felt as if the rug was pulled out from under him, and just when he would stand again, it would be yanked out from under him again. He felt as if this process was happening over and over.
 But I didn't understand, and I was part of this process.  I felt as if he was just being a jerk and couldn't understand why he wouldn't just pull it together.  I had zero compassion for his situation. Granted, I didn't really understand, but isn't that the point? We show compassion even when we don't feel like it. Not because they are worthy of compassion, but because as children of God, that is what we are called to do. My husband was just as valuable to God after his accident as before. We choose to be on our husband's side and stand by him, right? In sickness and in health? Richer and poorer?
 I was not doing what was right. I was using Larry's bad behavior as an excuse to have a rotten attitude, and tell people how "bad" he was -under the guise of asking for advice. And granted, it was a terribly difficult situation. Maybe one in 100,000 people have to deal with this kind of thing! But no one, NO ONE, had any idea what to do! Even people who were staunch supporters of sticking with a marriage were telling me to take the kids and leave. Even my mom (whom I have heard say more than once "Divorce, never. Murder, maybe, but divorce? Never.") came to visit with the birth of child number four, and told me "Dawn, you told me things were really bad, but I had no idea things were this bad. Things are much, much worse than I thought."
As I look back, I am so thankful that the Holy Spirit just wouldn't allow me to end our marriage out of my selfishness. Somehow I just couldn't do it. Even after the day my love for him shriveled and died, I prayed about it and just decided that a lack of feeling was not a good reason to divorce. I decided (clearly by the hand of God alone) that I would continue to fight for my marriage. That doing the right thing was more important than how I felt. But I will say, that lack of feeling is what made it possible for me to do the right thing. I no longer cared if he liked me. It no longer hurt when he yelled, and I didn't get emotional and yell back. I was no longer hanging my emotional health on what Larry thought of me.
But I did have to leave for a time. He needed to get help for his crushing depression and suicidal thoughts and he refused. As I packed a few things I got on my knees and asked God for a miracle.  But I never intended to end the marriage. And me being gone opened the door for some honest dialogue that needed to happen. I affirmed to him that I wasn't ever going to divorce him, but that he needed help. And he reached out for help at that time. The struggle was far from over, but for the first time I had hope for my poor husband.
But that miracle I asked God for, I expected Him to do a work in my husband, imagine my surprise when I found that the work He wanted to do was in ME! To make a very long story incredibly condensed, God worked on my heart; He squished it and chastised me and got a hold of my heart. God taught me lessons I should have learned long before:
First of all, God never intended for Larry to be all that I need. He never intended him to be the perfect husband for me. No man on earth can meet the needs of our heart. NO MAN. Only God. As long as we look to our husbands to meet our emotional needs we will feel slighted and wronged. When we put our self-worth in God's hands alone, we are able to weather the failures and mistakes that our husbands make. And they will make mistakes. And we must have understanding for the failures they will make and continue to DO RIGHT in spite of them. We need to keep being respectful, and kind and display the fruits of the spirit. Larry didn't get hurt and go through all this to hurt me. Truthfully, he was hurting so much more than I could even imagine, but I was too self-absorbed to see it.
Secondly, I realized that men have incredibly fragile egos. Oh, they posture, and try to put on a strong front, but the truth is they often feel as if they are failing, and they need to hear from us that we are proud of them and think that they are great guys. Even in the midst of the extreme experience that we had, I had to go back to my memories of better days and recount those happy memories and how much I appreciated the different qualities that he had, and why I fell in love with him. Though his impulse control was gone for a time, He still had the same marvelous spirit he had before. This is where Philippians 4:8 is such a powerful tool, and a commandment, for married women.
 "Finally, Brethren, Whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things."
 You need to fill your minds with the positive things about your husband and banish the negative thoughts. So often, we women are so filled with thoughts of all that our husbands do wrong that we fail to be the helpmeet that God intended for us to be. We replay their mistakes over and over in our minds that we don't love and support our husbands the way we should. Make no mistake, ladies, this is sin. They desperately need us to build them up and edify them. Doing so is obedience to God. Choose to actively build him up every day.
Thirdly, in Ephesians 5:33b it says "...and the wife see that she respects her husband." Ladies, I am going to address you in a very direct manner, you need to make a hard and firm rule that you will never, ever speak to your husband in a disrespectful manner. Sometimes he will be wrong.  Sometimes he will snap at you. He will fail, he will sin. That does NOT make it permissible for you to speak to him in a condescending, snide or disrespectful manner. A woman can even confront her husband over something he is doing that is not right and be completely respectful about it -never tearing him down, but building him up. Completely respectful. That means not badmouthing him to your family or dishing his faults to your girlfriends. If you have a real issue you need to find a godly older woman, and in great discretion, ask her advice. Or seek a godly couple to counsel you. But make sure that you are respectful in what you say about him and to him. And if he continues to do the thing you cannot agree with (aside from harm to yourself or your kids), you pray about it and leave it to God. You also must respect what God is doing in his life and the speed -or lack thereof- that God deals with him. It is God's job to grow him. Not yours. So respect that as well.
Fourthly, Ladies, you need to be willing to submit to God by submitting to your husband. I grew up in the Independent Baptist Church movement, and they were mostly marvelous people, but occasionally we would come across an IFB church that was different. And even as kids we could tell that something was off. My amazing Dad would comment on the way the women were browbeaten, dressed in a dumpy and unkempt manner and so clearly very, very sad. So at an early age we could observe these families where submission was used as a club to fit women into a box, and impose on them things that they were against and leave them unprotected. Women who were never permitted to have an opinion, and were not permitted to ever confront their husbands in wrongdoing or make any decisions in the home, and that is abuse. That is NOT what I am talking about here.
What I am talking about is that a marriage is is two flawed people with our own bents and selfish plans, and someone has to have the final say and take responsibility before God for what happens in the family. God appointed men to be the head for that reason. It isn't because God values women any less. We have an amazing influence over our husbands and in our family and communities. Women are valuable to God. It is because of that value that God lets the responsibility rest on the husband. I helps us avoid a union of two people of equal power fighting over and over and never resolving, no one ever throwing up the white flag, a marriage of constant and unrelenting conflict. And every one of us have seen marriages like that. You may even have lived through or may be living in that kind of marriage now. Whether you like it or not, your husband has to answer to God for your family. That means that he has GOT to sign off on the big decisions, because he has to answer to God for it. I can't tell you how many, many times God revealed His will by our agreeing, but when we don't, I have to step back and allow God to work.
 I lost a very dear cousin last October. The previous July we were scheduled to go to a family reunion and, among other things, spend some real time with my cousin. I planned, and prayed to go, and close to the time it looked like we would have the financial means to make the trip, but Larry's second in command was in a horrific car accident and Larry couldn't get away from work. I begged and begged to take the kids and go, but he just did not feel comfortable. I cried to myself and begged God, but calmly told Larry that I would abide by whatever He decided. He decided "no." I was terribly upset. But he just told me that if something happened and the car broke down (which had happened before) that he would not be ok with me and our kids being at the mercy of whoever came along. We didn't currently have any trouble with our van, so I felt he was being overly cautious. Do you know what? That van stranded me 3 times that week. God knew, and He worked through my husband to protect our family. Though his loss months later made our absence more painful, I just have to trust that God has a reason for the way things happened.  Ladies, sometimes things will work out the way we desire, but sometimes they won't. But what it all comes down to is whether or not we trust God.

Proverbs 21:1 The king's heart is in the hand of the Lord, as the rivers of water: He turneth it withersoever He will.

 Ladies, God holds the heart of the king in His hands, can't he effect the hearts of our husbands? Our God is so very, very much bigger than we give Him credit for. How truly small do we think God is that He cannot work in the hearts of our husbands for our protection and mutual benefit? My dear ladies, God is so much bigger than that.

 1Peter 3:1-63
Likewise, ye wives, be in subjection to your own husbands; that, if any obey not the word, they also may without the word be won by the conversation of the wives;
2 While they behold your chaste conversation coupled with fear.
3 Whose adorning let it not be that outward adorning of plaiting the hair, and of wearing of gold, or of putting on of apparel;
4 But let it be the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price.
5 For after this manner in the old time the holy women also, who trusted in God, adorned themselves, being in subjection unto their own husbands:
6 Even as Sara obeyed Abraham, calling him lord: whose daughters ye are, as long as ye do well, and are not afraid with any amazement.

Sarah trusted in God. Abraham pulled all kinds of nonsense, but God always had her back, didn't He? We can trust God too. It will not be painless, it won't be easy. But God will never leave you alone in any situation. We also can trust God in every situation.
 Let me tell you, God is faithful. He will not fail you -even if the situation seems so dire. God will not fail you. I have lived through this. I have seen God be faithful even when there was no earthly way it could all come together. I worked through my pregnancy with my fourth child. I was an insurance agent, and very good at what I did, but with everything going on with Larry I could see that my family was falling apart. One morning, as I got ready for work, I was crying out to God, and the Holy Spirit spoke so clearly to my heart "You need to quit your job!" And I said, "Lord, we need the money so badly that I just dont think I can make a case for quitting to Larry. He will never agree. When the baby comes, I will have an excuse to get out." The Lord said, "You need to quit NOW!" I told Him, "OK, Lord, if you can make Larry agree, I am willing. But if that is what you want from me, then I am going to hold You to your promises that you care for your children!" Just a few days later I fell and bruised my pelvic bone and was put on bed-rest. Once I came off bed-rest I began having early contractions and was put right back on bed-rest. I never worked another day. Just having me there was a huge improvement for my sweet little girls. They had been fending for themselves and lacked clear direction. But God kept His promises too! We were living in GR at the time and there were three shootings in view of our home in a 6 month period of time, we opted NOT to renew our lease. But that left us homeless again, and we landed in a little shoebox home of a friend -just around the corner from a church. We didn't have transportation for the whole family, so when a neighbor stopped and offered to pick up some of our kids so we could all go to church, we were really grateful. So around the corner to church we went, and found a very welcoming environment.  The second Sunday we attended,we were down to our last $50 and two weeks to go before another dime was available and an empty pantry and fridge. I saw a pile of food for a pantry drive in the foyer, and I though "Boy, would it ever be nice to have some of that food! Lord, you are a promise keeper. Please provide us with some food. I know You won't let us go hungry!" The next day, the lovely couple who had invited to church us stopped by and said, "We don't want to pry, but it occurred to us, that maybe you could use some food. Do you guys need any food?" I just began to cry and told them that I had been praying for food, and so that evening two deacons stopped by and brought boxes of some of the very food I had seen, and a check for enough money to get by. Over the next few months this happened a hundred times, "Lord, we desperately need toilet paper!" and a couple hours later someone would drop by with some groceries and toilet paper. I ran completely out of makeup, shampoo and facial cleanser. I suffer from cystic acne and so I am self-conscious about my skin and I have a very narrow margin of skin care and makeup I can use. I am sorry, $60 skin care is NOT in the budget! So I prayed about it, and we came home one evening and there was a box by our door FULL of Amway products: shampoo, organic cleaners, the entire skin care line and makeup. Christmas was not a financial possibility for us at all, but God laid it on the hearts of three different people to treat my kids for Christmas. We woke to a pile of presents and food on our doorstep. We were given THREE Christmas turkeys! I prayed for a coat for my oldest and God provided four. As a result, we were able to bless teo other friends with daughters her age with desperately needed coats as well. We were given a van large enough for the whole family! God didn't just provide, our cup ran over with both provisions, and with love.
 The very best part of the church God led us to is that they understood what having a head injury meant. Seven years prior to the time we began attending a member had been in a really terrible car accident and had suffered from a serious head injury. The church and pastor had walked through the healing process with her and had an understanding and empathy that we had not gotten anywhere else. The deacons and elders just surrounded me and my family and those men led and protected my family while Larry could not. The wise counsel meant so very, very much to me. I not longer felt like a single mom. I had strong leaders that were just amazing to me and our family. They passed no judgement. They were just there, loving, guiding, helping. God poured out his provision and love. But I had to get out of the way.
It is the same way with submission, Ladies. By submitting to our husbands and God we are effectively stepping out of the way to let God work. He is unable to fail us.
The last thing, and most important, is to pray constantly for our husbands. Pray for God to bless him at work, for God to steer him towards the place he should be. Pray that he would be pure and passionate towards us as wives, pray he would love his children deeply. Pray for God to give him strength courage and wisdom, pray for God to show him God's will for your family. Pray for anything and everything.
I have an interesting story to share about prayer. A few months ago my three Bible Study friends and I committed to pray for our husbands at work the following two weeks. When we met again we were amazed by God's swift answer to prayer. Of the four husbands, three had gotten a raise and one husband had been injured at work, but his superiors were determined not to have him out on disability (with a 33% pay cut!) and gave him a desk job while recuperating. It was an answer to prayer. Pray for your husband. He desperately needs it.
The charming and intelligent man you have met here is my excellent husband. Our church helped with meds to aid his healing, but when it came down to it, I begged God to heal him without a lifetime of meds. And God did. I was prepared live the rest of my life -if God called me to that- in a very cold marriage. But God chose to give him back to me. And God worked a miracle in my heart too. God woke the flame of love in my heart and restored the passion I thought could never be healed. God is still in the business of miracles, and He is still in the business of healing marriages. Our love is a testament to the love of God and what He can really do to a heart that is willing. 

What do you think? What trials have you gone through that you thought would break you. Did you find God used it to make you stronger? I would love to hear your miracle stories.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Objects (And My Shame)

I did something today that I am ashamed of. It is something I have NEVER done before. Like, NEVER. And did I do this in private? Nope. Right on the hyway. In the van. With all FIVE of my kids as witness to this despicable behavior.

I am really ashamed about it, and I even hesitate to share it here. My cheeks are burning with embarrassment as I write this. But this brings to question another matter that has been mulling in my mind. I have had a hard time puting in to words how I feel about this particular topic and have failed to express very well to those who don't agree with me. 

Let me back up. 

A couple of months ago this video went viral on YouTube.

 In this short video a young woman walked around New York for 10 hours and they recorded the catcalls and interactions of men around her. She was dressed modestly in plain old jeans and a t-shirt with a high neck. For the sake of the experiment she did not engage any of the cat-callers in substantial conversation (so no one could say she was encouraging them), and she simply walked around, minding her own business. Most of the things thrown at her are minor and easy to brush off, but one very disturbing part of the video is when a man walked beside her for five minutes, as she refused to speak to him. He just kept following her. As the time progresses, she became more and more visibly tense and scared. Even though there was someone right there who would have come to her aid if she was attacked, she was still afraid. That was very telling to me how she felt about what was happening.

This video got mixed reviews. Many people (of both genders) who viewed it didn't really see that much wrong with it. They felt that she should be flattered by, what they felt, were sincere "compliments" she was receiving. And some did seem sincere. Others saw what they felt was rude and oppressive behavior at best, and frightening harassment at worst. Some comments were nasty, plain and simple. And a couple of these guys were straight up scary. 

I had a conversation with a CHRISTIAN man who saw nothing wrong with the comments being made to this girl or the way that all these men viewed and treated her. I tried to find his comments (I couldn't. It was a couple months ago, like dog years on Facebook!) but I said something to the effect of:
The problem is that these men are treating her as if she is nothing more than a sexual object. They treat her as if she exists to meet sexual needs. That is what we women object to! That is what we are standing against! Here she is, going about her day, and is repeatedly reminded that the only thing all these men value her for is her body. They care nothing except what they can get out of her.

Do you know what this Christian man replied to me?  He said that all men are horndogs, that we women should expect it and accept it, and that all men should think of women as a sexual object from time to time -like in marriage.

I wish I could find my response. I was quite *snark* eloquent! It was a vision of verbal *gag* perfection rivaled only by *snort* Shakespeare himself! 
HA! Cant keep a straight face on that one! Did I mention what a terrible time I was having puting into words how I felt about this? I thought over his comment for weeks, and just felt I couldn't address what he said without anger. In fact, I wrote a couple of them out, but my phone malfunctioned and wouldn't post. I think God was just saving me from getting deeper into a discussion I didn't have either the time or the stomach for. And when I refer to my stomach on this issue, I really mean it. Because the thought of what this girl went through ties my belly in knots. Why, you ask? I will get to that.

This is a video response to the fallout from this social experience, this guy handles the issue with grace and humor (WARNING: Some comments are a little inappropriate. Not for children.)

There are a couple of things that I want to call your attention to in this video.

First of all, did you hear every single woman say that it happened to them daily? More than half had this weary, almost pained look on their faces as they described how it was DAILY, some ALL DAY. Constant. Never ending. Interjected on every day of their lives. They are exhausted by it.

Secondly, did you hear the things those women said they would like to do to the men who made catcalls to them? Lightening bolts to their private regions? Being branded? Does it sound to you as if these nasty comments meant nothing to them?

I also wanted to draw your attention to the guy that was fully convinced it was good to street harass women, and that it made their day "better". 

*eye roll*

The interviewer responds well, "I like a guy not confused by the facts."

So what does all this have to do with my shameful behavior today?

There I was, driving my van full of my five kids, and in the front seat was my oldest. Referred to on this page as Monkey See, she has grown so much and become so beautiful! I don't mean to brag. She is just a really lovely young woman.

Monkey See is completely ignorant of her own beauty. She has never been a primper or much of a fashionista -not since she was three! She goes for comfort in her clothing and shoes, she is blissfully unaware of her womanly curves or the magnetism of a lovely woman being unaware of her loveliness. She wants to be treated like "one of the guys" because she likes gaga-ball and science. She wants to be a doctor when she grows up. And not just a doctor, she wants to be a researcher. She wants to study the magnetic force fields of the human body and the cause and effect of mentality, nutrition and overall health on magnetic fields. Only my little geek who takes after her father! One Direction (the singing group) bores her and she isn't that into fashion and so she has a hard time with other girls her age. They just don't relate.

Today she got her hair cut, over a foot off.

And she had been feeling so light and so completely lovely in her own, oblivious way -completely ignorant of all other views of her beauty and not really caring! Unaware of her own radiance, and just thrilled to have all that weight off her! 

We were going down the road on the way to our next errand, and I am being careful to watch the traffic around me. Out of the corner of my eye I see this beige, full size, 15 passenger van pacing us on my right. And the driver turns towards the van and makes one of the most obscene gestures ever invented. Such a repulsive, obtrusive, sexual advance. Towards my TWELVE YEAR OLD daughter in the front seat. And suddenly I was back.

 I was back at the first time I ever noticed being followed in the store. It was about a month before either my 14th or 15th birthday. Every December, my parents and five siblings would go on our annual Christmas shopping outing. We would dress up a little, pile in the car and head to Souix City, IA and hit the malls, see all the lights and maybe have pizza after. It was a wonderful bit of holiday fun for our whole family. I was with my parents and all my siblings, I was CLEARLY young. And this guy, maybe mid 20s, kept trying to catch my eye. Every store we went in to he was there. I didn't feel afraid because my buff army dad and 6ft tall older brother were there and I knew I was safe. But that was just the start of what would become the norm in my life. Once I moved to Michigan, I was followed around the store nearly every time I went in. Constantly being hit on. Smiling and being polite.

But always wishing I had a wicked right hook, and wishing I had the courage to use it. 

I was back at the days working at a fast food place where it was as if I had a neon sign over my head begging for sleazy old men to hit on me. And if I shut them down they got belligerent and mean. There was a gay guy I worked with who was the most human man there. When he saw any of us girls dealing with a nasty customer who wouldn't leave us alone, he would come and pretend to relieve us for our break and take over ringing the guy up and get his order. He was a Godsend! 

I was back at the techs on the line snickering and pointing in full view. I knew what the faces they made meant. I knew the lewd intentions behind them. They didn't care that I knew. They wanted my body and had not a single thought for my mind or anything else. 

My mind was back at "the look" I would get over and over. Taking in my body. Lust. It makes me want to gag. Even now.

I was suddenly thrown back to the day I heard a knock on the door of my upstairs apartment and looked through the peephole. It looked like the son of the people downstairs, so I opened the door. He had a bouquet in his hand. I thought maybe some flowers had been delivered or something while I was out and he was there to hand it off to me. It wasn't. The night before a guy had asked for directions in the parking lot of the grocery store. 

He followed me home. 


No matter how I say it, I still can hardly believe it. Because that doesn't yell "STALKER" at all! (Where is that sarcasm font when you need it?)

I didn't sleep another night in that house.

For months I was always looking in my rear-view mirror, and if anyone turned more than once after me, I went into panic mode. I haunted me for over a year.

I couldn't make this stuff up.

I wasn't always mother to five amazing monkeys. I wasn't always 700lbs (not really) and had to be rolled down the sidewalk (not even CLOSE).
 But my physic is quite different than it used to be. I was very curvy and perfectly endowed. Not "model pretty", but street pretty.

To be perfectly honest, my drastic weight gain is almost a relief. I don't have to deal with this stuff on a daily basis. Now icky men don't oogle or drool. They just go about their business and leave me to mine. No lewd comments. No unwanted advances. Relief. Well, at least for the most part.

  But that is a topic for another day.

And all this stuff is going through my head, and all the terror of all the scary moments combined is hitting me in wave after wave. I had no idea what these guys were going to do. They were pacing us, hanging on my right.  Would they ram us? Force us into the ditch?  Was I going to have to attempt to fight off at least four men trying to abduct my daughter?

More obscene gestures.

And... I actually flipped the bird. 
*more embarrassed burning of the cheeks*
 In that split second, I couldn't think of a single other thing that could so clearly convey my extreme displeasure and make clear their advances were not wanted and not tolerated.

If I had a rock or brick, I would have thrown it. 
It is a good thing I didn't have a gun. I may have opened fire. 
If I had a bat, I am fully convinced I could have jumped through the window, beat both the guys in the front seat, and made it back to my spot in the seat the van before needing a steering correction. I was that angry and scared.

 Well, maybe not that much.
Truthfully I was terrified. 
Terrified for my daughter and my other kids also in the car. Willing to do anything to protect her and them. Not knowing what they would do next.

Monkey See grabbed a paper and scrawled in bold letters:
"I am 12"
and held it up to the window.

They kept making the gestures and hanging right on my right flank. I gunned the engine and got ahead of them (my exit was coming up). They headed to the left lane and paced us from the left, making more gestures and creating a sign of their own, which they held to the window. I won't tell you what it said, but it makes my whole face feel as if it is burning. At that point it was clear they were talking to me and the heat was off  her. I wish I could say I was relieved, but I wasn't. It was a horrifying, ugly exchange. Without any notice I suddenly took the exit (at the last moment). By the time they realized what I had done, they had no choice but to move on down the road.

You may wonder why I was so scared. Why? What could be so terrifying? It is just fingers and mouths and obscene gestures, after all. Why terror? Why such protective rage? 

Now here is the part to wake up to. 

Awake yet? Here it is.

They were treating my beautiful daughter and I as if we were objects. They were CLEARLY thinking of us as objects and not people. There is no doubt. Why else would you single out someone on the HYWAY to make sexual gestures at?

Why is this such a problem? 
Because objects are things that can be used and it doesn't matter what you do to them. Things don't matter. We drive on roads, walk on doormats, use utensils, throw away unwanted items when we are done with them. We cannot harm them because they are THINGS. It doesn't matter if we use them up or throw them away. They have no souls, no feelings. It doesn't matter what happens after that because things are just things. 

Those men think my daughter and I are things. They don't care what happens to us, they don't care how we feel, they don't care if we hurt, they don't care if our needs are met. We are objects to be enjoyed and thrown away. 
We have no idea just what lengths they would go to for their "good time." Would they rape? Murder? Torture? What lengths would they go to? I have zero information about their character, except a highly negative exchange that speaks absolutely NOTHING to good character or any kind of restraint.
 You see, it is a very short step between treating someone as if they are an object and losing all sense of a person's humanity altogether.

Let me say that again.

You see, it is a very short step between treating someone as if they are an object and losing all sense of a person's humanity altogether.

 If a woman is not a person, then torture doesn't matter. If a woman is not human, then it doesn't matter if she lives or dies. If a woman isn't a person, then any abuse she endures doesn't matter. 
That is why objectifying women is so dangerous. That is why men of honor and faith should not turn a blind eye to other men who treat women as nothing but an object. That is why men of substance should stand for women and call for an end to this horrifying way of thinking.
It matters when men view raunchy materials and porn. Why? Because there is a fine line. Because it lacks humanity. And most women have this sense that there is something very wrong with porn, but they cant quite put their finger on it. They are considered by society to be "prudes" and treated with a bit of contempt and a "get over yourself" attitude. But this is WHY. We women know that the margin is very, very narrow. Even if we can't quite express it  in words.

Men with a backbone should revolt against the way that society has treated the image of women. Constant, unending objectification. I think many Christian men secretly like it. They love that sin more than their wives and daughters -as they help perpetuate the culture that will harm these loved ones their whole lives. How narrow is the margin between the dehumanizing of women -enough to make catcalls or kidnap and rape? How far is it really?

And as for married men sometimes needing to think of their wives as sexual objects, I haven't really decided what exactly I think about that. I would much rather that men think of their wives a intensely sexual people, with needs and desires that matter and should be met in mutually unselfish ways towards each other. In my marriage I find that intense, unselfish love incredibly effective. If a married man thinks of his wife as an object, how would that effect the way would he treat her? Would he value her opinions and input? Would he be respectful of and to her? How would he work through -or not work through- problems? Would that be the kind of marriage I would want to be a part of? Is that what I would want?

This next part makes me want to cry:

I am beyond grieved that my daughter has to deal with this. For over a year, as I have watched her physically blossom into the body of a woman, I have dreaded what I know she will have to deal with. I have struggled with how to prepare her for this, to both keep her humble and also impress on her the effect of her physical appearance. I have wondered how to prepare her. How do I prepare her? How do I prepare her for a world that is dangerous to her because she is physically beautiful? How do I raise her to send her out to a world of men who have been fed a steady diet of images and attitudes that portray and encourage objectifying women. How do I teach her to look over her shoulder at all times without scaring her to death? How do I help her navigate through all the innuendos, forceful invitations, treatment as sub-human, thought to be stupid (since she is pretty) and relentless lewd comments. 
This is the world my daughter has to live in. She looks 16, but is actually 12, and struggles with her changing physic. She is so young, and dealing with such grown-up problems. 

Today she saw things she shouldn't have had to see. She is being forced to grow up ahead of her time. And as a mom, it is really heartbreaking. This is the world she has to live in -even worse than the one that robbed me of so much peace of mind.

And there are no resources. I can't find a single book or parenting course that shows me how to prepare my daughter for this. there are tons of resources for nearly every other problem, but what about this? Why is it ignored? You would think that at least one Christian author would have thought of this and helped parents work through this with their daughters. Maybe the world has actually changed so quickly that they cannot keep up. Right now I do the only thing I can do: pray and trust God. I know that He loves my Monkey Girls even more than I do, and He will only allow what is for their ultimate good. And yet I know what they are going to face. And it makes me sad.

There is an attitude that has permeated the church; boys will be boys.


Boys will be what you expect and teach them to be.

And some of you may read this blog and feel that I am overreacting to all of this, but I want you to keep something in mind:


How many nights after that sit he sit outside my house waiting for me to come home? I didn't sleep there another night. Did he wait for me? Was this guy a rapist? Murderer? Did he have violent fantasies he desired to fill? I will never know, but I am painfully aware of the world my lovely girl is walking into.

And I have three more girls, all rapidly hitting all their height markers. My heart aches for each one of them and the world they are going into, and for all the young women. Very soon they will be navigating difficult waters.