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Posts Tagged ‘children’

Feast Day – Holy Innocents

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When King Herod found out about a new king being born, he panicked – someone could overtake his throne? And so all baby boys under the age of two were killed. innocent lives were taken.

 
This is a part of the Christmas story that I don’t like and I would like to erase altogether. What tragic loss for all of the families that I cannot imagine. It does not seem fair at all that because the king was threatened by the Messiah’s birth, innocent babies are killed.
 
At the same time, there are innocent children around the world who are victims of violence – and victims of religious violence. One need not look further than Aleppo for evidence. I have known children and youth who have gone through things that no child should know about let alone experience. This feast day gives voice to children and youth around the wold who experience immense suffering at the hands of others, often in the name of “God”.
 
I think what this feast day says to me – is that God takes notice of the babies and children who are harmed or die at the hands of others. Even though we do not know the original victims’ names, God knows them and we remember them on this day.
 
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We remember today, O God, the slaughter of the holy innocents Of Bethlehem by King Herod. Receive, we pray, into the arms of your mercy all innocent victims; and by your great might frustrate the designs of evil tyrants and establish your rule of justice, love, and peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. (http://justus.anglican.org/resources/bio/24.html_)

the trust of a child

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This past week we had a three and a half year old join us for camp. What a beautiful child – his giggles, his excitement, his theories on life – he was such a huge delight and gift to our community. It was also beautiful to watch as the youth and the older children took turns engaging with him at his level and caring for him. We played a game of soccer and if this little boy was around, everybody would give the ball to him and ‘throw’ the game.

He would get tired though (these are long days for all of us!). And he would frequently fall asleep in my arms. Each time this would happen, I found myself reflecting on the gift of trust that children give us.

This child had only met me this week and offered me complete trust. He wanted my approval for his art and other accomplishments, and would do whatever I asked him. I think a sign of this great trust is feeling safe enough to fall asleep in a strange setting, with a group of strangers. What a gift. Trust is a beautiful thing. To be considered trust worthy is a privilege.

But as I hear the stories of our community, I am frequently saddened by how people forget this trust is a gift and privilege – something to be treasured. Instead, trust is too frequently exploited for a person’s own selfishness. Instead of providing an environment in which a child/youth can thrive, trust is broken, maligned, twisted.

For one of my courses, I have been researching and writing about these things so it is near my mind. It seems to me that the greatest wound one can carve into a child is the betrayal of trust.

Trust is something I still work on. I’ve come along way. Thanks to God’s love, and faithful people who have sought to earn and maintain trust. But I still wonder and there is often a sense of distrust or suspicion – why do you care? Why do you invest in me? why are you supporting me? why are you taking care of me in some way?

To be honest, while my head gets God is trustworthy, the wounds of broken trust impact my relationship with God. God is good – but does he work for my good or his? Will he too use me solely for the benefit of others? A topic for another post – but I have been reminded lately of a ‘gift’ that God has given me that I really do not want as I could not see how it was indeed a gift. Last night, I realized that this gift enabled me to feel God’s presence and closeness this week. That is indeed a gift. But the suspicion came first. Oh how I wish that those who betrayed me so deeply had thought about the long term consequences of their actions, particularly on the ability to trust others – whether God or people.

As I work with children and youth, it is my deepest prayer that their trust will be held sacred. That the trust they place in others will be met by a holy desire to care for them and watch them thrive. And that we adults who have the privilege to work alongside them live in ways that encourage trust. May we not forget that they look to us for love, guidance, help and comfort and may we never take that beautiful trust and break it.

Make me believe

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Last Sunday, the kids and I looked at the story of doubting Thomas. I began our discussion with talking about things that we believe on faith – things that we know to be true but don’t see it or have proof. We talked about how we believe in ‘wind’ because we see what it does, that we believe that the air has oxygen in it because scientists have discovered it and we believe that there are people living in Australia even though none of us knew anyone there or had visited. We also talked about how there are things we know to be false even though we don’t have any proof. For example, i couldn’t convince these astute kids that there are igloos in Egypt or that Aliens were taking over the world. The point of this exercise that led to many giggles was to talk about how there are things we know to be true without needing to prove they are true.

After talking about doubting Thomas and how Christ met him where he was at, we talked about our own doubts in the stories that are handed down to us. The kids found Jesus’ miraculous healings to be among some of the hardest things to believe. We then went to draw something in our discussion that stood out to us.

The above picture was drawn by one youngster. It is a picture of people being healed by Jesus. He told me he was done and I asked if there was something he wanted to write on the page to help him remember what we talked about today. He asked if he could write a prayer.

His prayer: Make me believe.

I sat there with a huge smile just enjoying the precious moment.

All week, I’ve had this picture and this simple prayer on my mind. The youth program I’m running is quite exciting – but my to do list is multiplying at a faster rate than it is decreasing. And, as I’ve mentioned on here before, I wonder if I can do it.

I’m waiting to hear if I got accepted into the graduate program I’ve applied for. And doubts, many doubts arise. I can’t help but ask what if I don’t get in?

Opportunities are opening up and I bounce between feeling confident and wondering if I’m really capable of what others think I am.

I wonder about my future – will I be able to find a job that is fulfilling post graduation? Can I really find a partner who will walk the journey of this life with me? As I was taking care of the little boy I babysit, I started wondering if I am really capable of being a mother?

So many questions, doubts, fears. I seem to have trouble believing that God takes care of me and that he has my life under his sovereignty. I seem to think I have to take care of everything because God may not. I easily slip into thinking that everything depends on me. I worry that I am not up to the task that God has called me to do and forget that he is with me.

The young boy’s prayer – make me believe – is mine tonight. Make me believe Lord that you have everything in your hands and that you love beyond what I can imagine. Make me believe that you are trustworthy. Make me believe that I can do all things that you have called me to through Christ who strengthens me.

Josh

Few things bring me to tears… but a child suffering can make tears flow uncontrollably in front of strangers. In the past week, I have heard and been praying for so many small children who are going through a lot. I ache and the fixer-rescuer in me wants to do something, I want to make them better. But I can’t. All I can do is pray. I believe in prayer. My story is filled with people  – known and unknown – around the world who have prayed for me at various times. Prayer is mysterious and beautiful and power. So I have asked to share of one of the children I am praying for – to ask for your prayers.

Josh is a five year old boy of two dear friends – Tim and Laurie. Tim and Laurie have played a formational role in my life and have stuck by me in the valleys and mountain peaks of my journey of healing. They have given so very much to me, have opened their homes when I have been in crisis, who have spent hours upon hours listening and caring for me, visiting me in the hospital, encouraging me. I feel so very blessed to have had such wonderful friends in my life. There two children – Josh and Kaleb – are beautiful delightful children. I had the pleasure of hanging out with them a few weeks ago and I still smile at some of the things that they did or said.

Josh has had more than his share of health problems: various heart-related surgeries and procedures including open heart surgeries, strokes, speech stuggles, and other things. This week they were told that both his legs needed to be put into casts as part of his physiotherapy treatment.

Today, they got word that they are looking at another heart surgery in the next couple of months.

Ugh! Tears form as I write these words – and I am not Josh who is at an age where he understands enough about going to doctors and what things mean. I am not the parents of a boys who have so many health problems. I cannot really imagine what they are all going through right now.

Dear friends, readers, and those who stumble by this blog – could you keep this little five year old in your prayers over the next week as the doctors meet and discuss a plan of care? Pray for healing as well as courage and comfort. Pray for wisdom for the doctors to know what’s best and pray that God’s presence will be very real to this beautiful family.

Laurie writes a wonderful blog that shares the joys and struggles in life as a mother and woman of faith. There are stories on their that will challenge you, make you laugh, bring you to tears. Take a moment to read a little of their journey as you pray for them.

Thank you to those who pray and send good thoughts for Josh. I don’t have a clue what God is up to as this little boy deals with more health problems than what I think is fair! But I do know the comfort and have witnessed the power of people praying.

Tears from heaven

The past couple of days – since I heard of the shooting in Connecticut – I have been trying to make some sense of something so awful. I should be studying but this wrestling has taken over and words are overflowing out of me and I know that I must write.

When life became hard at home, I searched the Scriptures for comfort and answers. I read whatever I could. In university, I was quite pleased to find myself in a course that asked the very question that was so deep to me – how can a good God who is all-powerful and all-knowing exist with evil? My philosophy course did not provide any hopeful answers.

So I kept searching. I talked to people. I read. I listened to sermons. I prayed. I studied theology.

I wrote my BA thesis on suffering and needing to be rooted in Christ – how I got that topic approved in the philosophy department was a miracle unto itself! Studying and reading and writing has shaped my thinking about suffering and ultimately, I have found that if there is any hope, it is in Christ.

Last night, as I was preparing for children’s ministry, I wondered how I might respond should the children be aware of the shooting. And I had no words. All my reading and pondering did not provide adequate answers. Because of my own experiences of suffering, I will never tell a child (or anyone else) to trust God and everything will be fine. My faith as a young teenager was innocent and earnest. And I prayed every night that God would keep me safe from my Dad. Some nights I even stayed up reading Scripture because I thought if I was spending time with God, surely he would protect me. It has taken me years to see that God did actually protect me – but not in the way I was asking. Somehow he protected the most precious thing – my soul – and after a lot of painful wrestling, I can honestly say that God loves me more than i can imagine or understand. Somehow God kept me turning back to him, even when I wandered away. But the abuse continued. And it did not stop until friends helped me leave home. I cannot quell fears of those I know by saying that God will protect them if they trust in him.

I asked a few trusted friends for resources or help in thinking about this and how to approach this with the children. I went to children’s ministry with fear and trepidation that I had nothing to say… nothing helpful…and that the big question of why would have to go unanswered because I dont understand. My friends encouraged listening and responding with the honest “I don’t know” to the question of why.

One child asked why would anyone want to kill children.

Another child said that they haven’t want to think about it because it is just too hard to think about.

I’ve walked with a lot of people who have suffered awful things. but seeing children tear up, speak of their fear and ask why was one of the most painful moments ive experienced. All I can think of is Christ’s response to Mary when lazurus died. I did not provide answers as I have none and dont really believe there are adequate ones. I did say that I believe this, along with other things, hurts God.

One of the children asked me if the rain today was God’s tears. Profound moment.

I was a child

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I have been reflecting a lot on my post from yesterday and my experiences in the past two days in the program. I have been struck by how strong the feelings of guilt and shame pervade my life even though I thought that I had overcome them both to a great degree. And I think the fact that I can sit here and write these posts about being in a trauma therapy program without fear of how people will react or what they will think of me demonstrates that I have indeed done a great deal of healing work in this area. 

I found these fun pictures in a box in my room this afternoon. I have many siblings (7 in fact), but these pictures capture me and my brother next in line. There are two and a half years between us and we are both from my Mom’s first marriage, while the other 6 are from my mom’s second marriage. I love my brother. But our relationship was like cats and dogs. I have to say though I was always quite talented at instigating trouble without getting caught. He was a little more obvious. On top of that, we had a “no tattletaling” rule in our house so he would often get in trouble for retaliating and then tattletaling! Poor kid. We did have our good times though and there were many times I would be excited to spend time with him. Like the times we stayed at my birthfather’s apartment and I wouldn’t be able to sleep and was bored, so I would plug his nose and cover his mouth until he had to wake up. Ingenious for a 7 year old I think 😉

Anyways, the reason why I went looking for pictures came out of something that was said in one of the groups today. One woman was particularly feeling the responsibility for something and one of the facilitators asked if she knew any children the age she once was. I got thinking about my own sense of guilt and shame and responsibility for what happened to me. I thought that looking at a picture of me when I was roughly that age would help reframe things in my mind. So I went searching for pictures. Sadly, I have very few pictures of me growing up – these pictures have been supplied by various relatives as none of them made it from my family’s home to my home. But I found this series of pictures, taken in one of those instant photo booths. I don’t know exactly how old I am in these pictures… I am guessing that I am 11 or so.

I do not have a start date engraved in my mind of when the abuse began. But it was sometime after our move to the house that we stayed in the longest and actually my family is still living there now. I was about 11 when we moved in, so if my age guessing is right, the pictures of me you see here are pictures taken roughly around when the abuse started.

When I saw these pictures, I was struck by how young I look. I was very clearly a child. So often I judge myself for how I handled the abuse then (or how I didn’t handle it) and I judge it with a harshness based on what I feel I should have been able to do. But this harshness comes from my adult lens – what I would do now comes form years of experience and learning and growing. But at 11 or 12 I was a child. I knew nothing of abuse before then. And then suddenly I experienced stuff that was way beyond my level of comprehension. Over the past few years I have spent time with 11 and 12 year olds (and other ages) and have been struck by their innocence, their curiousity, their desire to please, their playfulness. Seeing a picture of me making goofy faces made me laugh and reminded me of my innocence, playfulness. I was talking with a few good friends tonight about when I got baptized, and while I think that was a bit earlier than 11 or 12, I was talking about how I remember a desire to please my parents and God, and to do the right thing.

I was a child when the abuse happened. My father was a grown adult.

I did not understand the world of sex or what was happening to me. My father knew better than to cross these lines.

I responded in the ways that I thought were best in my childish perspective. My father never should have put me in a position where I should have to make decisions about how to handle trauma being inflicted upon me.

I was a child when the abuse started. A beautiful, young and innocent girl.