Tuesday, February 24, 2009

CHANGE - February 21, 2009

"I tell you the truth,
unless you change and become like little children,
you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”
Matthew 18:3
Just as I get comfortable, something changes. Sometimes the change is for the better; sometimes it makes things difficult; and sometimes change falls somewhere in the middle. Mostly, change slides up and down the continuum of life and I am dizzied in my attempts to keep up with it.

I’m most uncomfortable when change comes unexpectedly. Just as I tend to be klutzy in the physical realm, I am also emotionally klutzy, falling on my face as the speeding ball whizzes by me, or worse, strikes me dead-on, right where it hurts, especially in my “family bone.”

Right now, my family bone is in good shape. Changes are on the horizon, but they are exciting ones, including a mission trip to Guatemala with my husband, brother, sister-in-law, niece and nephew. I look forward to warmer temperatures; but dread the packing and traveling. I love experiencing another culture; but get frustrated because I “no hablo mucho Espanol.”

I would like to think that I’ve grown more adaptable over the years, but there’s a troubling rumor going around that people in my age bracket begin to get stuck in our ways. This was true for my parents, but I can’t imagine this happening to me.

My hubby and I are definitely keeping up with the times. Rex and I each have our own cell phones (but can only execute a paltry few functions). We just entered the postmodern era by purchasing a flat screen TV (we were forced out of our comfort zone when our good-old, good-enough antique set died right before our eyes). And, I am on Facebook (but I have no pictures of me all dolled up, bedecked in “my little black dress,” nor do I have any place to wear it).

Not one school counselor advised me that I would need to minor in computer science in order to manage my daily life in the 21st century. For heaven’s sake, today’s three-year-old knows more about the computer than I do! Must I “change and become like a child” to enter the computer age?

There’s a bittersweet change just around the corner for me. I have been writing for The Herald Bulletin since May 2005 and thoroughly enjoy doing so. However, this column will begin appearing monthly, rather than weekly, beginning in March. To wean you from a weekly column, I will be skipping the last Saturday of February, and then begin the monthly routine. So be sure to look for me on the FIRST Saturday of each month to catch up on my adventures with Grace.

In the event that you go into withdrawal, you can get a fix by logging onto my blog: http://natureofgrace.blogspot.com/. Is not the fact that I am a “blogger” substantial proof of my ability to adapt to change? Don’t answer that. I don’t want to hear it!

Sunday, February 15, 2009

HEART-BREAK - Valentine's Day - February 14, 2009

“O my Comforter in sorrow,
my heart is faint within me.”
Jeremiah 8:18 NIV

I have a sobering Valentine’s Day message. I wish to share with you a burden that is heavy on my heart.

By profession, I am a Mental Health Counselor and a large component of my practice is with women who were sexually abused as children or sexually assaulted as adults. Boys and men do not escape such abuse, but are far more reticent to report. They’re more likely to end up in drug court or jail rather than in a therapist’s office.

When you’re attending church, a ballgame, or shopping this weekend, be aware that roughly 25% of the women there were sexually abused before the age of eighteen. There are children near you who are currently being sexually abused. If they do tell someone, it is often years after the occurrence. Many of these girls and women will NEVER tell anyone.

You will likely to be standing in line, or sharing a pew or bleacher, with perpetrators. Most will never be confronted with their crimes, and those who are will escape conviction due to “lack of evidence.” There’s no DNA test for the damage done to a human heart and spirit. If convicted, the sentence will not reflect the life-long devastation wrought on their victim and her family.

Many people are baffled that victims often don’t report. “Why didn’t you scream?” “Why didn’t you tell someone?” Perpetrators tell children, “Don’t tell anyone or you’ll get in trouble.” “If you tell, I’ll hurt your mommy (brother, sister, YOU).” Big sisters will often endure abuse in the hopes that younger siblings will be left alone.

Women rarely scream for help because they are frozen in fear. Violence—even threats—is a powerful silencer. Most sexual assaults are perpetrated by people the victims know. Imagine breaking the silence and telling on a relative, pastor, neighbor, family friend, husband or boyfriend; now an entire family is affected. Will you be believed, or accused of lying? (“The rate of false reports of rape is approximately 2%-3% which is no different than for other crimes.”).

Ironically, “22% of all women say that they have been forced to do sexual things against their will, where only 3% of men admit to ever forcing themselves on a woman.”

Shockingly, “The United States has the highest rape rate among countries which report such statistics (13 times higher than England; 20 time that of Japan).”

Sadly, “18% of women who reported being raped before age 18 said they were also raped after age 18.” These women are not “asking for it” by how they act or dress. They are dramatically more vulnerable than non-victims and perpetrators easily find and target them.

Despairingly, those who have the courage to pursue prosecution of their perpetrator, will be further emotionally wounded by painful experiences with medical personnel, law enforcement, the legal system and media. Sitting in a court room with a perpetrator is a nightmare. If they’ve been assaulted by someone they have previously had consensual sex with, they will probably settle out of court; juries are stymied by this dilemma. It’s better to settle for a lesser conviction than to see one’s offender walk free.

Survivors numb their emotional pain via eating disorders and abusing drugs and alcohol. They suffer from long term depression and anxiety disorders. If they ever establish a loving relationship, their love life will be scarred by the abuse. Husbands and boyfriends often do not understand the long term consequences of abuse and, in frustration, push for sex, further wounding the women they love—and their relationship.

All is not well this Valentine’s Day. Heart-shaped boxes of chocolates, bouquets of roses, and romantic dinners cannot heal these bleeding hearts.

Compassion, patience, a listening, nonjudgmental ear, are healing ointment and protective bandages—dispense liberally. There’s no greater gift.



Sexual Assault Statistics, Men Against Sexual Assault, University of Rochester http://sa.rochester.edu/masa/stats/php

Bureau of Justice: Crime and Victim Statistics, http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/bjs/cvict.htm

Bureau of Justice Statistics Rape and Sexual Assault: Reporting to Police and Medical Attention, http://www.ojp.gov/bjs/abstracts/rsarp00.htm

RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network, http://www.rainn.org

Violence Against Women Online Resources: Document Library, http://www.vaw.umn.edu/library/sexualassault/

WHO (World Health Organization): Gender-based Violence, http://www.who.int/gender/violence/en/

Monday, February 2, 2009

NANA BANANA - January 31, 2009

I spend Mondays with my grandson Evan. We both love bananas. And we love words—or for Evan, he loves babble.

“This, is a banana,” I say. “This is Nana,” I say, pointing to myself.


After a breakfast of O’s and flakes—and bananas, it’s playtime. Evan’s attention span is typical of a fifteen month old—short—and so we do lots of different activities.

Santa brought him a ball pit, a great idea at the time Santa’s elves purchased it, but a not-so-great idea at 10:00 p.m. on Christmas Eve when Mommy and Daddy were huffin’ and puffin’ to inflate it. The pit is basically a small pool filled with colorful plastic balls, topped off by a corkscrew track.

“Eh, eh!” coaxes Evan, as he holds out a ball to me.

“Red ball,” I reply as I comply and drop the ball atop the track.

“Plop!” announces the red ball as it falls into the pit.

“Eh, eh!”

“Blue ball."


Tiring of this fascination, Evan heads to the house Papaw made for him out of an H.H. Gregg dryer box. Peek in window; enter house; peek out window at Nana. “Boo!” Nana can’t resist squeezing into the house via the toddler-wide door (Papaw didn’t take into account the likelihood that an adult might want to play inside). Evan lights up with delight and quickly joins me for a brief visit.

Then it’s on to his ATV (all terrain vehicle—Papaw went wild in the toy store). Evan’s short legs don’t quite reach the floor yet, but he’s more interested in the sound effects and lights than he is with driving.

Time for a workout on the Fisher-Price fort and slide. No need to “Eh, eh” at Nana for assistance; Evan’s up onto the platform and slipping down the slope head first on his tummy before Nana can say “Nana-banana.”

“Oh! What’s that?” Daddy’s bench press. “Oh, look at that cute baby in the mirror. Would you look at that—two Nanas!”

Time for a walk pushing the nifty, pint-sized, plastic car that transforms into a walker.
Push the button to turn on the TV. Grin at Nana. Turn off the TV. Turn on the TV. Grin at Nana…

Dig through the toy chest. Press lots of buttons that make animal sounds and music; boogey briefly to the beat. Open and close everything that opens and closes. Stack; unstack. Put in; take out.

Motor a matchbox car across the carpet, vocalizing motor sounds.

Sit on Nana’s lap. Have Nana read the six-page, indestructible, cardboard book about baby animals a gazillion times.

Time for a nap—Nana’s.

After a week’s rest, I can’t wait for Monday. I count the days. Can’t wait to kiss those baby soft cheeks and blow raspberries on Evan’s tummy. TGIM!

The Bible refers to God as our Heavenly Father, but I just bet he’s really our “Thank Goodness it’s Monday” Granddaddy.

“I have loved you with an everlasting love.”
Jeremiah 31:3 NIV