Thursday, June 4, 2015

A Page From My Heart: Anxiety About Abuse

Sweet readers, I know some of you are victims of abuse. I want you to know I write very delicately with you and your abuse in mind.  I've cried for you, I've prayed for you, I've stood in awe of you, I've recounted your bold and brilliant stories of redemption out of abuse, and I've said your names out loud in the fog of night. You do NOT walk alone. I hear you, I see you, I treasure you, and it's because of your experiences of abuse I refuse to remain silent any longer.

My very closest family members, friends and people who I allow to have an on-going influence over me, continue to be women and men who are willing to talk about REAL life happenings in a subdermal way. In other words, I appreciate people who cut the crap and talk to me about a page from their heart. I strive very hard to offer my readers a very raw glimpse into some areas of my own home; marriage, parenting, spirituality, basically my heart. After five years, I've had to pick and choose what makes the blog and what does not. I have to protect my family and my friends. I have to write what is ALWAYS TRUE, and I have to be able to sleep at night with those closest to me still able to trust and respect my care of them through my art. At times, it can be terrifying and straight up alcohol inducing. I've experienced several vulnerability hangovers, but my inner circle continues to whisper in my ear, "Keep writing! It's making a difference. People are reading. People are being blessed. God gave you a gift, use it!" I love my inner circle!!

And so I write.

For several weeks now, I've been waking up in the middle of the night completely unable to go back to sleep. Zach would tell you it's because I've been sleeping in til noon, I would tell you he might be partially right ;)! But the other part, the part where it isn't about getting too much sleep, I would tell you it's about some anxiety I'm experiencing.

One of my mother's most famous lines was, "All of our strengths become our weaknesses!" She was RIGHT on. The very strength I possess is also the thorn waking me up at night. I am an intentional person. Primarily intentional when it comes to relationships and the study of people. I read, I'm an avid self-educator, I love learning and watching and listening to people's stories. Every time some one shares a little piece of themselves with me, I feel honored.

Much of the research I've been working through is about childhood abuse. And like with many topics of abuse, the research, stories, and theories can begin to sew itself into your thought patterns. And for the record, Taylor Swift's "Shake It Off" formula doesn't aid in un-ringing the bells that now chime regarding abuse.

My anxiety? I am afraid Anderson will be the victim of sexual abuse.

Yes, I know that I have 3 girls who could be victims of abuse. Yes, I know most people spend their time worrying about protecting the vulnerable lives of little girls from abuse. AS THEY SHOULD! But what I'm learning, what I'm seeing, stories people are telling me is this; little boys need warriors to protect them from abuse also. Because Anderson is getting ready to stretch his independent legs for the first time with some wonderful activities this summer and this fall, I feel myself more aware of his vulnerability, and more concerned about potential abuse.

Simultaneously, I find myself discovering day after day, grace after grace, how sexual brokenness in adults originated from childhood abuse. And as I have said before, sexual abuse it not just limited to the act of molestation, rape or incest, but leading childhood psychologists are also recognizing that when a child is introduced to sex in an unhealthy, unsafe way, ripples of distortion, perversion and abuse remain on a child's heart.

Statistically, little boys tend to be more sexually curious than little girls. I am very slow to use words like ALWAYS and EVERYONE, because I know little girls can be sexually curious also, but God wired little boys in such a way their intense curiosity is far more frequent and stronger than little girls. We also know the average age of children viewing porn is 8, and it is becoming clearer and clearer most parents are not taking the time to educate themselves nor their children about sex and sexual abuse, AT ALL. Consequently, we have loads of children walking around with a strong curiosity, uneducated parents, a brain full of Rolodex images and no where and no one to talk to. It is because of this research on abuse, these stories about abuse, these statistics on abuse, I REFUSE to bury my head in the sand and allow abuse, darkness, secrets, lies and naivety to reign and direct the conversation about abuse.  Sexual abuse is real my friends, very real.  Sexual abuse has affected someone you know right now. And my fierce, "oh hell no" side, wakes up when I realize abuse is happening right now to a child in each of our lives.

1 out of 5 girls will be a victim of sexual abuse. 1 out of 20 boys will be a victim of sexual abuse. And 3 out of 4 adolescents who are victims of abuse, will have these horrific experiences of abuse at the hand of some they know very well. We also know the majority of sexual predators are males.

Enter my son.

I have mental images of men, older boys, peers taking advantage of him and abusing him in the restroom, locker room, an empty class room, Sunday school room, in the quiet corner of a yard, a birthday party, a friends house and I'm not so naive to believe abuse couldn't happen in my very own home. I envision Anderson accidentally coming upon pornographic material on someone's ipod, iphone, ipad, personal computer, laptop, etc... And because we function in a "not if, but when" world, we are trying to prepare him (and our girls) with a plan about what to do with those images when he first discovers them.

I had a major fight with anxiety last night and my fear of abuse. It has been trying so hard boss me around and gain a foothold in my heart. My anxiety about abuse has been working towards paralyzing me and undoing me. For me, the root of all of my anxiety is unbelief. Unbelief in who God says He is, unbelief in His promises, unbelief in what He has ALREADY done for me and what He says He will do for me. My anxiety says to God,  "I don't believe in who you say you are!" And because this is not my first tango with anxiety, I have learned how to go to war with my anxiety. I do not sit idly by and let it take root. I call it out, I name it what it is, "fear, anxiety, unbelief" and I cling to my Refuge.

What am I doing to combat this latest anxiety about abuse? Mark and I continue to have proactive conversations with Anderson (and all of our kids) about safe situations and unsafe situations, proper touches and improper touches. We speak very openly and honestly about abuse in all forms. We don't have male babysitters, and our kids aren't left alone in the company of just men. We are incredibly particular about the girls who do babysit, we ask a lot of questions and we don't do sleepovers.

The main place I've been retreating to with all these heavy thoughts and fears regarding abuse, is Jesus. He gently takes my chin and tips it up so I see His eyes, He draws me close and says,
"Do you believe who I say I am?!"
"Do you believe I love your son more than you do?!"
"Do you believe I am in the business of redeeming broken things?!"
"Do you know that my grace is sufficient for you day by day, and today I'm NOT asking you to walk with your son through an abuse?!"
"Not today, Sara! I have not asked that of you TODAY! You are grieving in body, soul and spirit something my grace is not covering because it's not reality! That's a dangerous and lonely road to walk!"
"Be ALL HERE, Sara! Be wise, not wimpy. Be a warrior, not a worrier. Be intentional, not insane. Be an advocate, not an addict to anxiety. Be cautious, not controlling."

So there it is, a page from my current heart. Anxieties I'm struggling with, wrestling with. Pray for me if you think of it, I would so covet those prayers. Thanks for walking with me. Thanks for allowing your heart and your head to come out of the sand of abuse.... Our children, their stories and their hearts are worth the awakening!