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Dear Beautiful Human Beings in the LGBT Community,

I am at a loss as to how to begin. I have written and rewritten this in my head dozens of times since Sunday morning when we woke up to hear that over one hundred members of your community were slain and slaughtered. One hundred beautiful fellow human beings. I’ve wrestled and wept and prayed and questioned whether I had the right to even write this at all, and I truly don’t even know where to begin now that I need to translate those thoughts into words on my screen. But here goes…

I’m sitting here in my closet. Weeping. My bathroom hand towel (my regular go-to tear absorber whenever my heart is overwhelmed) is drenched, my stomach is sharply twisting in knots, and my tired eyes are puffy and red from the sobs. My heart is raw. My chest is heavy. I can hardly eat and can barely speak. I’m curled up on the stained carpet in my darkened walk-in closet. Alone. Accompanied only by my tears and my pleas and my prayers.

In my closet. My closet. Alone. The irony isn’t lost on me. I know it’s a place familiar to you, because it’s where we’ve relegated you. We as a society. As a community. And worst of all, as a church. You’ve been forced to hide there. To cry there. To be alone there. Accompanied only by your tears and your pleas and your prayers. And while my own tears are genuine and my heart pain is real and my thoughts are heavy and almost too much for actual written words, I know—please hear me—I know that they are no match for the volume of tears you’ve shed and the heart-wrenching pain you’ve curled up in while lying on the floor of your own metaphorical and literal closet.

So I’m here now with my laptop open, my 38-year-old Christian, suburban, white, straight, married self and mother of eleven (that’s a whole other story), writing to you. I hope you will hear me. I haven’t earned the place, I don’t deserve your ear, and you have no obligation to listen or even take me seriously. I get that. I give you that. No, scratch that. I can’t give what is already rightfully yours to deny. But I hope in your mercy you will allow me anyway to give this a go. (The injustice that I should expect you to give me mercy. I almost can’t even. Deep breath. Jesus.)

But this letter isn’t about me. I’m not the point. So I am coming to you with my hands extended—”just as I am,” as we like to traditionally sing, humbly asking you to accept my apology. My sincerest apology.

I’m so, so sorry. Not in the triteness of a 5-year-old’s forced apology for taking what didn’t belong to him or calling a friend a mean name, but a genuine, Oh-my-God-what-have-we-done, Father-forgive-us-we-know-not-what-we-do apology.

Because I’m. So. Sorry.

Now I know you’ve heard it before and it probably has never held much weight. And I don’t blame you at all. But maybe, just maybe, this apology can somehow by some prayer by some miracle of God’s love hold a little heavier in your heart than a pitiful, patronizing “you poor thing” spurred only by tragedy. Maybe, just maybe, you can receive this from me. From us.

I’ve been in the Christian “world” my entire life. My parents were ministers, I’ve always loved Jesus, and since I was a little kid have read the Bible with a passion to truly understand love, redemption, and what it looks like to live as humans loved by our Creator. I grew up in a left-leaning home politically (no pigeonholing us!), and one that embraced those on the fringe in society. I never learned to hate you, to fear you, to push you away. So when the church began to, I truly didn’t understand. I couldn’t fathom it or reconcile it with the Jesus I know. It has always, always made me angry.

But that’s irrelevant. Because not only am I making this about me again (why do we tend to do that in our apologies?!), but because I belong to a much larger family—the family of God—that does exactly what Jesus didn’t do, that has learned to hate you, fear you, push you away. My family, Christians, have by and large rejected you. And I am so, so sorry.

As I was pouring out my weeping heart to my husband earlier this evening (I tend to do this), I told him that I don’t know what God is doing in me, why I am so broken and torn over this tragedy in Orlando more than any other, why I have been experiencing for the last several months such acute sadness and sheer sorrow for the treatment of transgendered persons and the ostracization of the entire LGBT community, why I feel so convicted and remorseful, why I am grieving so deeply for an entire people group. But I believe that maybe it’s God crying his tears through my eyes on behalf of all Christians, because I’m feeling a physical pain that won’t subside and an overwhelming need to ask you to forgive us. It’s like a fire in my bones, and I can’t keep silent. Perhaps God has been stirring this in me so that I could write this today to post for you as you weep even now in this moment in history. Perhaps it is “for such a time as this.”

I can’t believe what we’ve done to you. I can’t believe we’ve left you out. I can’t believe we’ve told you NO. I can’t believe we’ve okayed that. But we have. And I can’t believe that even though I never set out to intentionally hurt you and never spoke a word directly against you and never overtly told you you aren’t welcome in my family, in my church, in God’s Kingdom, I’ve sinned against you by omission. I’ve left you out. I never grabbed you by the hand and brought you in. I never went out of my way to say directly to your face that YOU ARE WELCOME HERE. You belong. Because if I belong, so do you. And I haven’t placed the priority on that to let you know. I haven’t made it a priority to let you know you matter. So I’m here to say I’m so, so, sorry.

I wish I would have known sooner. I wish I would have seen. And to be clear, my own blindness is not your fault. You have been letting us know for decades. And it’s not that we didn’t know you were there. Or that you didn’t get our attention in appropriate ways. We were simply too self-focused to pay attention, and when we did, we didn’t care. We were too self-righteous to accept you. So we dismissed you. We feared you. We turned you away in disgust. And so I’m here to speak for us all and apologize.

I think it’s just like this. I have eleven kids. (Like I said, that’s a whole other story.) We live in a neighborhood with a ton of kids, kids who are always playing together outside, in a field, at our house, on our driveway, and at each other’s homes. If one day I found out that my kids had been excluding a boy down the street, that they had told him he can’t come to our house, that he can’t play here, that he isn’t allowed in our home while all the other neighborhood kids were welcome, that he can’t play with our family, as a member of this family (and especially as the mom), I would be livid. Absolutely livid at my family. And I would ache for that sweet little boy, for the rejection he’s experienced and pain he’s been living with, pain brought on my members of my own family. I would ache so deep an ache that I wouldn’t stop there—I couldn’t.

As soon as I made this discovery, as soon as my eyes were opened to this injustice and hurt, I would do two things: First, I would go to my kids and tell them how awful it is what they’ve done; how they’ve hurt an innocent boy who just wanted to be their friend, who just wanted to play, who just wanted to be treated as any other, who just wanted to belong. I would scold them and correct them and make it very clear to them how awful and unacceptable their treatment of this child is. That no one deserves that kind of rejection. That he has just as much right to our home and family as any other neighborhood kid. And that I don’t care how different they think he is.

But next? I would go to him. I would go so fast to him and tell him how so very sorry I am that members of my own family hurt him so deeply. I would listen to his pain and see his tears and offer my apology. I wouldn’t blame him for not fitting in; I wouldn’t tell him to change; I wouldn’t try to explain away the injury. I would apologize. Genuinely and deeply apologize.

So to you, beautiful people in the LGBT community, I am here as a member of God’s family, extending my heartfelt apology to you, our neighbors, asking you to forgive us, begging you to give us the mercy our family has failed to give you.

I’m so, so sorry.

I’m sorry our sorrys ring hollow.

I’m sorry it’s taken a tragedy to wake us up from our self-induced slumber.

I’m sorry we’ve shut the doors to the church to you because in our arrogance we’ve thought you less than us.

I’m sorry that it’s been “us vs. them.” Versus you.

I’m sorry that we haven’t called you to the shared table.

I’m sorry we’ve offered condemnation which contradicts any messages of love.

I’m sorry that we’ve pointed out what we see as flaws in you when really we just don’t want anyone to see the flaws in us.

I’m sorry we’ve been the worst of hyprocrites.

I’m sorry we’ve blamed you for our failed marriages as if your civil rights somehow impact our own.

I’m sorry we’ve charged you with the moral decay of society.

I’m sorry we’ve made a part of who you are reason to reject you in your entirety.

I’m sorry we don’t make sense.

I’m sorry we’ve told you that you have to change before God will accept you, when Lord knows most of us are quite comfortable not changing at all.

I’m sorry we’ve denied you the right to worship at the altar of God when we know it’s only by grace that we are there in the first place.

Izzy beach

I’m sorry that we sing about “wave after wave” of God’s love sweeping over us while leaving you watching from the shoreline.beach

I’m sorry that we couldn’t have cared less.

I’m sorry that we have been selfish with God’s mercy. That we want all the forgiveness in the universe from God but ask for none from you.

I’m sorry that we haven’t been sorry.

I’m sorry that you’ve had to convince yourself that life is worth living.

I’m sorry that we’ve played God by shutting the door to the Kingdom of Heaven in your face and making it hell for you on earth.

I’m so, so sorry.

I’m sorry that we claim to love you but ignore you when you say you don’t feel it.

I’m sorry that we’ve made you hide in dark places and seek God on your own to the point that you question if God is even there and if he is if he really loves you or thinks you’re worth anything.

I’m sorry that we have treated you less than human.

I’m sorry you’ve had to be brave when you only wanted to be yourself.

I’m sorry that we have cared more about rules and interpretations and behaviors than actually really caring.

I’m sorry that you don’t feel safe.

I’m sorry that you live in fear.

I’m sorry that we’ve turned our churches into clubs.

I’m sorry the name of Jesus has been used to exclude you while we sing about the name of Jesus, oh the name of Jesus, being the sweetest name we know.

I’m sorry our often pitiful behavior has made you want nothing of the Jesus we claim to follow.

I’m sorry.

I’m so, so sorry. Please forgive us. Often, as Jesus pointed out, we just do not know what we do.

And I know it’s never enough to make up for the pain for the hurt for the loss for the fear for the rejection for the confusion and doubt and depression and anger and loneliness. It’s not enough.

But I’m sorry nonetheless.

There’s nothing you need to say in return. Nothing that you owe us. Nothing we are expecting you to do. But I hope you can receive this, and in even the smallest way, I pray it starts to heal a place deep inside of you.

And let me speak on behalf of the family of God and all of my brothers and sisters, most especially when they’ve we’ve not represented the family well, I hope that you know just how much I truly care and want you in. I want you in the door. We want you in. WE WANT YOU ALL IN. EVERY. LAST. ONE. OF. YOUR. VALUABLE. PRECIOUS. BEAUTIFUL. SELVES.

And I hope, finally, that the truths in this song penetrate to the very core of who you are, that you know (as my 14-year-old daughter and regular and vocal advocate for you sang from our church stage tonight) that God’s love is a wave crashing over you, that he is for you and not against you, and that he makes you brave. The “champion of Heaven” has “made a way for ALL to enter in.”

Thank you for listening. Thank you for not giving up on us. And thank you for being you.

kidsbeach

Come on out and come on in. Come join us in the waves. Because nobody—NOBODY—belongs in a closet.

And, you are so truly loved. Out there on the shore and way out here deep in the waters. You are loved.

❤❤❤

-heidi, a follower of Jesus trying her best in Tennessee

 

 

 

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[Edited 4/23/16 to add a note from a friend who is the mom of a transgendered child:
“Just by way of education, I would like to share with you that “transgenders” and “transgendered” are terms that the community doesn’t use. In the same way autistic kids wouldn’t be called ‘autistics’ or people with Down Syndrome wouldn’t be ‘Down Syndromed.’ For trans people it feels like they are diminished to and defined by that one aspect of who they are. Trans or transgender people/men/women/children/youth is the phrasing that is preferred.” Thank you, friend, for helping to educate the public. Language matters.


{This week Target announced it would allow all of its employees and customers to use the public restroom of whichever gender they identify with. And then my Facebook exploded and suddenly suburban moms everywhere are publicly pretending that shopping at Wal-Mart is morally superior and just as relaxing. (Y’all, that’s laughable in every way thinkable.) So then I wrote a comment on a Facebook post, but that got too long, so I turned it into an actual Facebook post, but that got too long, so I turned it into this. Which is why you’re here reading this instead of on my Facebook page posting smiley faces or debating gender issues with me. So shall we?}

 

Listen. I get trying to be safe. I get not wanting harm to come to your kid just because you were in Target and they really had to go. Because as we and Annie all know, when you gotta go, you gotta go. Especially when you’re five years old. But last time I had a five-year-old (oh, I mean like now), I didn’t let him run into a public bathroom by himself anyway (he can’t even reach the paper towels, y’know), so I’m feeling like it’s all a little irrelevant because we DON’T SEND OUR HELPLESS LITTLE ONES INTO PUBLIC BATHROOMS ANYWAY). But that’s beside the point. I guess.

target
Because the REAL thing is, the real thing is this: All of this hype and fear and hysteria…It really comes down to the discomfort and “ew” factor we at large feel about men dressing as women. Let’s be honest with ourselves. Let’s be real with each other. Because unless we’re transgender ourselves, we just can’t relate to it nor imagine it. And it might even (probably even?) feels a bit gross to us. Maybe it feels a bit perverted. Maybe we just can’t wrap our heads around it. Because maybe we’re not transgender. But it’s situations like these that I allow myself to be stretched. To have my knee-jerk reactions kept in check. To listen to the voices of those whom I rarely hear in my little suburban bubble. Because I don’t want to live in fear. I don’t want to misunderstand or not understand at all. I don’t want to be like the masses all riled up in widespread panic about something we just don’t get. That I don’t get. I don’t want to have emotional reactions where I don’t need to.
 
Bottom line, we’re freaking out because we don’t get it. (And isn’t that so typical of us humans?) And so we do what we always do when we don’t get it and can’t relate: We get publicly outraged about issues that truly didn’t bother us a day or week ago. Issues that we didn’t even know about or give two seconds of thought to before we heard it on the news or talk radio or on Facebook. Before our pastor or our friend or our mother-in-law tsk-tsk’d about it. Before a loud-mouthed politician screamed about people different from us. Before someone told us to BE AFRAID. BE VERY, VERY AFRAID.
 
But the truth is, whether you want to believe it or not, transgender persons have existed for longer than there have been public bathrooms. They’ve been around since, well, genitalia and culture and gender identities and all that human complexity have been around. SO LIKE FOREVER. But very few knew and no one cared. And your kids didn’t get raped by men dressed like women in the bathroom at your favorite retailer. Because if they did? It would be ALL THE NEWS and ALL THE FACEBOOK POSTS.
 
No, they got raped on dates with boyfriends who wouldn’t accept the word NO. They got molested by drunk uncles at family reunions. They were violated by coaches you trusted. They were molested at church by Sunday school teachers. Groped by siblings under the threat of secrecy. Assaulted by family friends.
 
But acknowledging all of THAT is terrifying. It means that our kids are actually less safe than we are comfortable with. That’s the real truth. We can’t actually protect them like we want to. Our safeguards are only as safe as the temptation to do evil is in a perpetrator. And that bothers us. And maybe we haven’t even thought about it consciously, but it at least sits there in the backalleys of our subconscious. For those of us who found our own selves victimized by perpetrators, maybe it triggers fears that we deep down don’t want to deal with while all the same we really do.
 
So we invoke an age-old tactic when we don’t want to confront the fears within us. We project. We scapegoat. We convince ourselves that the transgender community or gays or Muslims or Mexicans or whoever the current enemy-du-jour might be, we tell ourselves that they’re the real threat. We listen to obnoxious wannabes with lots of money and too many microphones and really bad hair. We believe what someone we knew in high school says on Facebook because they believed what someone they knew in middle school said…on Facebook. And if we could just get rid of that threat—those threats—our kids would be safe. Finally. Whew.
 
Except they’re not. It’s not that easy. If it were, we could just eliminate “transgenders” and “gays” and all would be roses and rainbows again. (Oh, wait. Not the rainbows. Rainbows = bad. My bad.)
 
But I, for one, am tired of the media and politicians and hyped up fearmongers telling me whom to fear, whom to keep my kids from, what to be afraid of, where to shop and not to shop. Whether they be transgender persons or Muslims or gays or atheists or (sorry, my fellow homeschoolers) the public schools (gasp!). I just won’t do it. I REFUSE TO OBEY YOUR OWN FEAR.
 
I am an intelligent woman. I get dressed on my own. I choose my own hair color. (I choose many of them, actually.) I decide when I will go back to school. I get to pick whether I will stay home or go to work. I decide if I want drive-thru or made-from scratch at home. I choose where to worship. How to vote. What to believe. And how to live my life and raise my own kids. I do things of my own volition. And so do you. Which means, I can decide whom and what to fear…all on my own. And you can too.
 
And even then…I will not choose fear. I WILL NOT DO IT. And you can’t make me.
 
Yes, duh, I will try to protect my kids in rational, realistic, and responsible ways. And no, duh, I will not be blindly stupid nor stupidly blind. I will be wise. I will be calm. I will be intelligent. And that means not reacting to hype and cooperating with hysteria. History proves that is rarely the wise option. Can I get a witness?
 
So care to join me or care to not. What you do is up to YOU. But as for me and my family, we’re going to choose calm. We will not give in to your fears.
 
Now if you are REALLY wanting to get riled up, because, y’know, innocent children and all that upsets you, let me point to you some REAL threats affecting kids RIGHT THIS VERY MINUTE:

 

1) Hundreds of Ethiopian Kids Kidnapped in Raid

2) Children Killed by Gun Violence in the United States

3) How Pornography Addiction Affects the Teenage Brain

4) How Make Your Mark Ministries is Changing the Lives of Street Boys —kids who are actually raped every night. I know, because I’ve met them. On the street. In the middle of the night.

5) Children Found Sewing Clothes for you to buy from…Wal-Mart (oops)

6) How You Can Help Combat Human Trafficking —It’s happening in your backyard. In the dollar store. In place, like, you know, Target.

Of course, those are just a few. Six of a slew of threats against our children. Six actual issues actually taking place in our actual neighborhoods or actual cities or even just a hop across the ocean. But these are actual, real things actually really happening like FOR REAL. These aren’t imagined. They’re certainly not made much of by the media. But they’re REAL nonetheless. Maybe even moreso. Did I mention they’re actually real?
Whatcha gonna do?
So you care about your kids. Great. You care about children. Wonderful. Now stop obeying someone else’s fears and go do something about kids living in real fear.
Go back to your retail therapy at Target. Go grab your red plastic cart. Pick up your Starbucks. Use the bathroom if you need to pee because that whatever-mocha-latte-frappacino-whatever-you-call-it-I-don’t-know-because-I-don’t-drink-coffee runs right through you. You know you can’t stay away, anyway. It’s TARGET, after all. And not even your very best friend believes you when you say you’re boycotting that place.
targetbasket
And the next time you feel that all-too-human knee-jerk reaction rising up inside your fear-prone body, STOP IT RIGHT THERE. Set a better example for your kids. Set a better standard for yourself. Speak out against it even.
Back right on up out of that faux firestorm. Don’t contribute to the panic. There’s enough to fear in this world. Enough to really get angry about and do something about. Don’t manufacture reasons to be afraid, and FOR! THE! LOVE! don’t EVER submit to anyone else’s urgings on why you should be.
You with me?
Whew. It’s Friday. And now I really need to go to Target.
(And I might even have to pee there.)
targetball

My cutie at age 3. He probably had to pee there. He probably DID pee there. And there might or might not have been a transgender person in the stall next to us. I DON’T KNOW. And that’s the point.

 Note from my friend Aimee:
“…While you are spot on that people are reacting out of disgust to the idea of men dressing up as women, the transgendered people I’ve met see this as a totally different thing. There are men and women who dress in alternate gendered clothing. And there are men and women who understand themselves to be alternately gendered. I know you know this, but others reading your post may not. Not trying to needless parse wording, but this seems an important distinction to my transgendered friends.”
Thank you, Aimee, for clarifying this for all my readers.

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Everyone is an expert and no one has a soul.

While holed up in an attic for two years of her short life, Anne Frank famously penned in her diary, “Despite everything, I believe that people are really good at heart.” And I really want to believe that. The eternal optimist in me who sees the potential for good in even the worst of people—I cried when Osama bin Laden was killed and I will always shed tears when the death penalty is carried out—really wants to believe that. But lately, you guys, if I’m being honest, I really just don’t know.

Seems that you can’t jump on Facebook or read a news story on CNN or hear about a tragedy without being assaulted by the reality that people, well, they can just be plain mean. Judgmental. Hateful. Flat out cruel.

For the love, FELLOW HUMAN BEINGS, what has happened?

Now, I realize this is nothing new under the sun, as nothing really is. But with social media, 24/7 news cycles, and the internet so close to our fingertips that our thoughts give birth to publicized opinions the moment they are conceived, suddenly the exposure to the meanness has soared a few gazillion notches, and the feeling-freeness to verbally vomit is at an all-time high in human history.

And all of a sudden we have a new phenomenon that is bound to obliterate any trace of compassion and empathy and bring humanity to its basest, most uncaring state: Because now, everyone is an expert. On EVERYTHING.

Every blogger has a theory. Every Twitterer has a thought. Every Facebooker has an opinion. On EVERY. SINGLE. THING. Heck, we’re even experts concerning, or most especially concerning, situations and circumstances with which we have a total of, well, absolutely zero personal experience whatsoever.

Check it out:

Courtesy of the horrific revelations about the Duggar family, everyone is now an expert on sexual abuse within a family—except most of us won’t deal with that. Jim Bob and Michelle are neglectful, horrible parents who covered up abuse to protect their image and make a buck or two, so say the masses. And now we’re all experts on large families, homeschoolers, those too religious, and those who don’t believe in birth control—except we’re not.

Courtesy of Bruce Jenner’s public transformation into Caitlyn, everyone is now an expert about the struggles of a transgender individual—except most of us won’t deal with that. He/She will always be a man, isn’t really a woman, is simply an attention whore. And now we’re all experts on the causes, the sinfulness, the angst, the inner turmoil—except we’re not.

Baby dies after being left in a hot car? The mom is selfish, pathetic, and deserves to have her children taken away. And we’re all experts on responsible parenting—except we’re not.

A woman is killed by a lion through an open window during a photographic safari? Even though she was an accomplished 29-year-old who traveled to South Africa to raise money for anti-poaching organizations, she’s clearly a total idiot who had it coming, survival of the fittest had its way, and she deserved to die for ignoring the posted warnings. And now we’re all experts on safety on safaris—except we’re not.

Mexican immigrants die while trying to cross the border into freedom? They are law-breakers with no respect for the rules. And we’re all experts on the plight of the poor foreigner—except we’re not.

Those in poverty use food stamps to pay for soda? They are lazy, good-for-nothing leeches who are milking the system and duping taxpayers. And we’re all experts on the struggles of generational poverty—except we’re not.

A 20-something-year-old texts while driving and kills his best friend in the passenger seat? He deserves to rot in prison for taking his friend’s life due to his own selfishness and narcissism. And now we’re all experts on justice and retribution for those who text and drive—except we’re not. {But we are lucky hypocrites, that’s for sure.}

Today it’s one thing. Tomorrow it’ll be something else. And the day after that yet another thing altogether.

AND IT’S ALL CRAZY AND DOWNRIGHT ARROGANT AND ENTIRELY MEANINGLESS, because if everyone were really an expert on anything, we’d see far more compassion and way less chatter. Far more love and way less condemnation. Far more understanding and far fewer opinions.

Sexual abuse. Gender identity issues. Mental health struggles. Affairs. Suicide. Wayward children. Addictions. Those might not be what you’re facing today and might not have been part of your story. But one day something painful or horrific will take you by surprise and all of your prior know-it-allness will fall by the wayside and you’ll be flat on your face begging Jesus for mercy. And you’ll need it.

And you’ll fall into a heap when what the public is condemning is the very tragedy you’re presently facing. You’ll eat your words when the judgment you meted out eats you up inside. You won’t have a safe place to fall into when it’s your child who made the awful choice. When it’s your husband who committed the crime. When it’s your loved one who had the affair. Who broke the law. Who succumbed to addiction. Who suffered from post-partum psychosis. Who was conquered by mental illness and took his own life. Who fell asleep at the wheel and killed a bystander.

You’ll be humbled by your own arrogance when it’s your son who feels like a girl. When it’s your daughter who tells you she’s a lesbian. When it’s your brother convicted for child molestation. When it’s your husband outed as a pedophile. When it’s your dad busted for embezzlement. When it’s your sister who left your niece in the hot car.

Caution

The day will come. It always does. And woe to the “experts” on that day.

When you’re in your own desert, your own wasteland, your lips parched and your mouth dry, begging for just a drop of water to touch your tongue. Only none will come. And you’ll regret every time you failed to spare some for another. Your misery will be compounded by your lack of compassion for others. Your pain will be expounded by your own piety in the past. And your hypocrisy will hound you as you hunker down in humility—humility forced upon you not by your own choosing but by an unforeseen tragedy.

“So people will be brought low and everyone humbled, the eyes of the arrogant humbled.” –Isaiah 5:15

So STOP your judgment, your ridicule, your demeaning of others’ misery. STOP blogging as if you know. STOP stating your opinion as if it’s the truth in stone. STOP using your words to elevate your pedestal. STOP preaching as if you have the expertise. STOP the self-promotion and self-righteous stances. Shut up with your sanctified sermons about struggles you don’t face and deal with your own hidden sins and secret sorrows. Get off your moral high horse and actually kneel down to wash the feet of those dirtied and blistered by life—yes, even by their own foolish choices.

Instead? Reach down and grab the hand of one more vulnerable. Someone in pain. Someone who needs to know they’re not alone. Offer solidarity. Offer hope. Offer healing and freedom and acceptance and safety.

Hands Compassion

And be mercy.

Be love.

Be Jesus.

We’re not all experts, that’s for sure. But we’re all in need. Every last one of us.

O, Compassion, where art thou?

 

Even in darkness light dawns for the upright, for those who are gracious and compassionate and righteous. –Psalm 112:4

“Here are the values I stand for: honesty, equality, kindness, compassion, treating people the way you want to be treated and helping those in need. To me, those are traditional values.”
–Ellen Degeneres

 

 

 

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[Preface (because what’s one of my blog posts without one): I don’t expect to be popular by my thoughts on this issue. And it’s okay if you disagree. And I won’t be rattled if you don’t like me. But be forewarned, you’ll find it hard to pigeonhole me. And please, for Pete’s sake, if you’re going to make a point or argue or post a comment, please please please actually read the actual words I’ve actually written, not what another blogger advocated or what your Granny said or what your friends think. Deal? Stellar.]


Oh my GAAWWWWDDD, you’re thinking. Another post about LEGGINGS! Eye roll! Eye roll!  Well, before you get your tight little pants in a wad or Duggar skirt all ruffled, read on. (Because really. Do you think I’d actually write an entire post about a clothing article? Psha.)

I have this personal blogging rule for Hot Topics Du Jour in which people have already gabbed ad nauseam. Even when I do have quite a few thoughts on a matter, I choose not to blog on every one. For one, if it’s already been said, then it’s already been said. And I can’t stand plagiarism of thought. It’s boring. Useless. And offers up nothing that hasn’t already been offered. But secondly, I don’t presume that anyone cares about my opinion on any given topic (though having a blog obviously necessitates a smidge of said presumption, yes?)

So like I was saying, I’m not going to write just to write or post just to post. Too much clutter in cyber world already. BUT BUT BUT, when I think that I might possibly maybe somehow be able to put forth an entirely alternative angle to a given matter or provide a platform for discourse about something that nobody wants to talk about, then you’ll probably find me huddled up with my laptop after the kids are in bed and pounding away my thoughts on the keys.

So no, this post is not about leggings. Or Spandex. Or cleavage. Or pantylines. Or tight jeans. It’s not about what you should or shouldn’t wear. Or what you should and shouldn’t care about. Nope. Not at all. This ain’t a sermon. And I am not the self-appointed head of the Modesty Task Force.

But ever since some poor Mommy blogger wrote about why she stopped wearing leggings and it went even more viral than California measles (Lord bless), I haven’t seen one single Facebook friend or blogger offer up the approach to modesty that I will here. I’ve been reading. I’ve been waiting. I’ve been curious.

My Personal Preference for Modesty

I’ll tell you up front: I’m a huge proponent of modesty. Huge. In fact, I’m personally quite “prudish” compared to most of my friends. I love style, clothing, and self-expression (heck yeah, I do!), but for almost all of my childhood, most of my teen years, and all of my adulthood, I’ve been careful about what I wear. (I haven’t always been consistent, but I’ve tried. My apologies for my previous mishaps and naïvetés.) And these days, well, I feel very strongly that modesty is a lost art.

{And not that my personal rules matter, but for those curious who will ask anyway, let me save you the time. I personally choose not to A: show cleavage, B: wear tight pants without covering the butt, or C: wear bikinis. Because A: I wanna keep private parts private. B: It draws attention to a place to which I don’t want attention drawn. C: It feels like public underwear. (But that’s just me. Feel free to cheer, judge, mock, or find areas of contradiction, hypocrisy or utter ridiculousness.)}

As far as my own “prudish” rules for myself (and our daughters), I know I’m not alone on that. I know these standards are true for many of you, that a lot of women care about modesty. And if I ask you Why?, I’ll probably hear something about how we don’t want to make men lust. How we don’t want our clothing choices to be stumbling blocks for our brothers in Christ. How we don’t want to distract men or bring them down to a base level. In short, I’ll probably hear how you don’t want to cause our male friends to sin.

And then I have other friends whom I super duper love who fall on the other end of the modesty spectrum. Who believe that women aren’t responsible for men’s actions (in deed or thought). Who say that as long as they are comfortable in it, they don’t care what anyone else thinks. Who say as long as their husband says it’s okay, then it’s cool with them too. A few years ago I had a friend tell me I should dress sexier since “you have such a nice body, Heidi! Why do you hide it?” (Thanks, single friend. But I don’t think my husband would agree that I’m hiding it from the the only person who needs to see it.)

An Alternative

But somewhere in the midst of the legalism, the sexism, the mockery, the shaming, the free-for-all, the finger-pointing, the immaturity, and the whole crazy debate, is an altogether unique perspective. And one that I’ve had yet to hear a single person put forth. But one that seems so entirely obvious and instinctive to me.

Modest Feet

There is an alternative motivation for modesty here.

To be honest, I popped out of my mom’s womb a screaming feminist. Now, I come by it honestly, as both my parents (who are also followers of Jesus) claim the label as well. I’ve got a passion for justice flowing through my veins. It’s part of who I am. It’s how I’m wired. How God made me. And how my mind thinks. I see injustice where others might not, and I.MUST.ADDRESS.IT and DO something about it. {I realize this comes with a Hello, I’m a Freak tag on my back, but it’s okay. Nice to meet you.}

So when it comes to gender equality and oppression, I react strongly. It’s my God-instilled filter. My lens for looking at the world. But it’s not just in my DNA. A lifetime of some pretty wicked experiences of being mistreated as a girl or a woman (or being witness thereof) have compounded a natural penchant for gender justice. What experiences? Well, here’s (just a fraction of) the running tally. I have faint memories as a very little girl of being molested by a relative. Recent events have caused these to resurface. I was exposed to extremely pornographic magazines in that same relative’s bedroom when I was in only second or third grade. When I was in third grade I learned about sex when a classmate (a foster child) told me her dad tried to make her have a baby when she was two.

When I was in sixth grade, I learned that my mom (who suffered from eating disorders for decades) had been violently raped at the age of twelve by two men. That same year I first became the object of severe sexual harassment from a slew of boys. That would continue in two other schools through the tenth grade by entirely separate groups of boys. I had my clothes pulled at. My backside pinched. My bedroom windows peered into. I went on a few too many first-and-only dates with guys in high school who only wanted to talk about my body and attempt to take advantage of it. I was reputed to be either a snob or a game-player by guys who were forced to accept NO as an answer (because I am a stubborn girl, apparently). When I was seventeen I dated someone, though nice and genteel, whose primary focus was the shape of my figure.

But it gets worse. Ten years ago a very good friend was convicted of molesting his daughter. I also learned that he was extremely sexually abusive to his wife, my best friend at the time. At times he made inappropriate comments to me. I’ve heard a few-too-many catcalls as I’ve walked by groups of men. I’ve been hit on by married men.

And that’s just ME. My own little world. A microcosm of a far larger picture and problem.

But macroscopically, the assessment is even worse. Sex trafficking is rampant. Sexual crimes on college campuses are a very real concern. Men are addicted to porn like never before (and it’s more readily available than anytime in history). And much of primetime TV should carry an R-rating (if not worse).

Little girls are now wearing sexy panties. (I mean, what is THIS?) Blow jobs are commonplace party favors in the seventh grade. And teenagers no longer just make out. Sexting is all the rage and sex tapes are popular and considered “entertainment.”

And as if that horrific list is not enough to highlight a significant (and sick) problem in our society, Fifty Shades of Bullcrap Gray is now opening at the theater. The cover of the newest swimsuit edition of Effing Sports Illustrated just came out. (Seriously. Don’t go looking at it.) I wish Magic Mike would use his “magic” and just disappear. And Facebook has been known to ban certain photos of breastfeeding women while buxom women baring nearly all is TOTALLY OK AND ACCEPTABLE. (After all, what’s sexy about a nursing mom? Sigh.)

Like anyone with ears, I have a lifetime of hearing females degraded and sized up. I’ve seen girls oppressed for being girls. And women abused for being women. I’ve argued against sexism in the Church for an entire lifetime and been criticized because of it. AND I KNOW THAT MY EXPERIENCES ARE NOT AT ALL UNIQUE. I repeat: MY EXPERIENCES ARE NOT AT ALL UNIQUE. In fact, I think I was spared a great deal of more extreme mistreatment and abuse, a feat that I can only attribute to the grace of God. And I bet almost every one of you female readers has your own litany of abuses and near misses. Despite what anyone says, THIS ISSUE is no small thing.

My Primary Motivation, Like it or not

So what does this catalogue of damaging history and current realities have to do with my propensity towards modesty? What does all of this sexual perpetration, oppression, and perversion have to do with my feminist take on this topic? EVERYTHING. For me at least, EVERY SINGLE BIG AND LITTLE THING.

Now, I suppose if I were more conservatively fundamental (or fundamentally conservative?) and far more Sunday School-like, I would give the noble (but for me, far incomplete) explanation that I don’t want my brethren in Christ to falter because of my plunging neckline or hiked up skirt. And if I were wanting to sound selfless and thoughtful and super spiritual, I would tell you that it is my honor as a woman to put my male friends’ purity above my own need for self-expression and choice.

And while it’s true that I don’t want to be “that woman” who is seemingly okay allowing our men to stumble around like primal fools, I’m also just not that noble. Or selfless. Or thoughtful. Because to be truthful, while those are worthy motivations, I suppose, they’re just not mine.

And yes, I personally believe that breasts and butts should be kept more private, so no matter the company I’m around (even if only women), I’m going to err on that side of modesty.

But STILL that is not my motivation. I do not choose modesty primarily for the benefit of others or because I have a certain rulebook on what I should or shouldn’t expose outside of my bedroom.

No, I choose modesty because I am a feminist. Plain and simple.

Now I know some of you are gasping for air right now or waving your metaphorical (or literal?) finger at me or dropping four-letter words or screaming “Hillary” (Oh no!) or “heretic”(Egad!) at me, so let me calm you down a bit. It’s really not that alarming.

Feminism for Real

Because the truth is, feminism—no matter what any news network, preacher, or Christian author tells you—is merely the belief that men and women are of equal worth, value, and potential. The conviction that both genders bring to the table intellect, personality, and strengths. That neither sex should be oppressed. So for anyone who claims the title, a feminist refuses to allow women to be treated as less than by anyone of the opposite gender. (Such being the case, the label is fitting for any man or woman with those convictions.) And let me be clear, because this is seriously important: Just because you don’t agree with all of the beliefs of some who bear the name feminist doesn’t mean you have to eschew the title. (After all, don’t you still call yourself a Christian even though some people who wear that label give that name a really really really bad connotation or have beliefs with which you don’t totally agree? Me too. And exactly.)

So for me, I choose to dress modestly because I demand respect from the male sex. (You better believe, I do.) I choose to not reveal parts of my body to the world because refusing to do so forces men to notice my intellect, to hear my words, to treat me as an equal. EVEN IF THEY DON’T WANT TO.

Now of course (because I can already hear your argument), I can’t ultimately control how a man views me. That he can still lust after me even if I’m in a burqa. That men will simply use their imaginations. And even though those are true statements, those are extremely weak arguments against modesty.

If I know a man would rather see my chest than simply imagine it, WHY would I show it to him and allow him that satisfaction? If it’s possible that a man would hope to see my shape in too-tight jeans, then WHY would I give him that pleasure? If it’s likely that men would be more impressed by my body than my mind, WHY would I share my sexier elements with them?

For me it’s all about power. Not that I want power over any man, but I definitely don’t want them to have power over ME. And having been victimized enough by the selfish whims of men (even if just in their minds), the LAST thing I want to do is to give them any more of my God-given power. No, I will be empowered by the way I dress, walk, carry myself, and engage with the opposite sex.

For the moment a man (besides my husband) finds pleasure in looking at my body, I am no longer Heidi Weimer. I am an object. And the moment I become an object is the moment I am no longer empowered. It is the moment I become oppressed. Because even if you don’t realize you are or disagree with the reality, you are oppressed the moment you are an object to another. And I REFUSE TO BE OPPRESSED as far as I can control it.

Am I responsible for men’s lustful thoughts or persuasions? ABSOLUTELY NOT. Is a young woman “asking for it” if she shows up half-clad to a frat party? ABSOLUTELY NOT. If a man is focused on my outfit at church instead of on the Lord, is the burden on me? ABSOLUTELY NOT. (Let’s just clear up that once and for all, mkay?)

BUT BUT BUT! If I KNOW that some men will be degrading me in their mind (because some will), objectifying me with their imaginations, and finding pleasure in my body parts, you better believe I’m not going to give them that visual opportunity. NOT because I’m so concerned with their personal struggles (you choose to lust, people), but because I’m absolutely concerned with my own power and control. And, I have a slight issue with men feeling superior over women, exerting their power or demanding control over them.

Bottom line is, I’m going to do everything in my power to force men to look me in the eyes, pay attention to my words, hear my thoughts, notice my intellect, and treat me as an equal. If they do choose to treat a woman with baseness in their lustful thoughts, that woman is not going to be me AS MUCH AS I CAN HELP IT.

Yeah, Right.

“Oh, come on, Heidi. That’s totally ridiculous. And honestly, it sounds like you’re just ashamed of your body because of your personal experiences of being objectified and mistreated by males so you think you have to hide it.” Wrong on that, sweet sister. I have no body shame. I have never really struggled with body image issues. I don’t cover up because of any embarrassment of my female physique. (Heck, I’m darn proud of this womanly figure that grew and birthed and nursed four babes for the better part of nine or so years.) And I am more than happy to unveil it to the only one who deserves to experience its magic powers. (Yeah, I said it. You’re welcome, Kirk.)

“Well, Heidi. It sounds like you have a trust issue with men. They’re not all like that.” Yes, it’s true. On both of those statements. But I’ve had nearly four decades of good reason for any suspicion and skepticism on my part towards men. And I’m no ignorant fool about the state of women in our world these days. But do I think all men are out-of-control lust-o-maniacs? IN NO WAY. I’m married to proof that nobler ones are out there. Men who treat women with dignity, in their minds, with their words, and through their actions. In fact, some of my closest friends are male. I trust them. They treat me with equality and dignity, and I do the same them. I feel incredible gratitude for the truly good and godly men God has placed in my life. (You know who you are. Thank you for existing.)

“But OhEmGEE! You’re totally judging those of us who don’t mind a little cleavage!” No. I’m not. I’m not telling you how to dress. I’m not treating you as less than me. And I’m not condemning your choices. (That being said, I do have six sons. So please keep your boobs away from their eyes. Gracias.)

So What, Then?

What’s my responsibility, then, as a woman with this particular M.O.? What do I actually do to implement these personal convictions? Well, for starters, I’m going to be careful about how I dress. Obviously. I won’t obsess, but I am going to lean over, look up and down in the mirror, and do a little spin-around before I exit the privacy of my bedroom.

Secondly, we’re teaching our kids to respect women. We train our boys to hold doors for women. Because women are helpless? No, because they’re deserving. Like royalty. In our family, it’s “ladies first.” Our boys understand that females (no matter how old) should be treated with respect and honor.

Third, I (try my best to) practice what I preach. With few exceptions, I won’t see R-rated movies. Because I’m sheltered and can’t handle it? No, because I’m well aware and refuse to. We’ve taught our sons to turn their heads when women aren’t properly covered. I love me some Katy Perry (seriously, I think we would be besties), but you won’t find my sons watching her close-ups on TV.

Fourth, we teach our girls that their bodies are their own and no one has a right to them, whether mentally, visually, or physically. We don’t tell them to keep covered up because there is anything shameful about their bodies. No, we teach them modesty in what they wear because we don’t want them to experience inevitable degradation by boys or men. Likewise, we teach our boys to look girls in the eyes, to avoid those who make that more difficult, and to not watch movies that capitalize on women’s bodies.

Fifth, I (hope to) demonstrate by my own clothing choices that a woman can look absolutely in style and perfectly current and wear totally rad outfits without having to appeal to her sexy side. As the mom to five daughters (four teens/teenish and one tween), it is rewarding to see my girls walking out the door looking super cute in their individual styles, yet not using their changing bodies to make a statement to the world. No, their “statements” reveal that they are confident girls who are comfortable in their own skin who don’t need to bare it to prove it.

Miss Independent

And finally, we make sure ALL of our kids are surrounded by and exposed to strong and mighty women who use their minds and gifts to make a difference. I firmly believe that if our girls and boys see the true value of women as people, they will be less likely to believe the lie that women are only as appealing as their bodies are sexy. My middle school daughters spent a year studying Sixty Significant Women in World History, a curriculum I wrote for them. They’ve written letters to Hillary Clinton, Dr. Catherine Hamlin, and other important figures. We’ve promised our kids that we will drive all the way to D.C. whenever the first woman is inaugurated as President. And we make sure our kids sit under and listen to powerful women preachers and teachers.

But does it really matter?

So who cares? Are we making too much of this? What does it really matter what I wear? Does the issue of modesty really matter when there are supposedly far more things to get angry about than leggings? Of all the important matters in this world—poverty, trafficking, war, disease, hunger, and lack of clean water, should we even really be talking about this?

My justice-driven mind hears you and understands. I mean, when it comes down to it, leggings are far less urgent of an issue to tackle than other seriously tragic realities facing our world today, right? Obviously. That’s an absolutely gigantic DUH.

And the focus on modesty can make us so uncomfortable, because too often we feel judged by those advocating for it, like the Pharisees are out in full force and anyone in a v-neck top is subject to stoning. Legalists have a flippin’ field day with this issue, and those of us who work hard to make sure all feel welcome in the Church get nervous (and even angry) when there’s any chance of finger-pointing or ostracizing of others who don’t necessarily live (or dress) exactly like we do.

But in our quest for inclusion (which is a worthy ideal), in our aim to ensure that even the worst of sinners feels welcome crossing the threshold of our churches, in our goal to counterbalance the stone-throwing of the religious elite, we must be careful we don’t swing the pendulum the other way and tell ourselves that anything goes. Should a stripper be welcome in my church? Yes. And they most definitely are. But it doesn’t mean I need to expose my own body just because I don’t want her feeling judged.

Because while it’s true that justice and mercy and grace should be on our breath and apparent in our actions, personal holiness should be in our hearts and obvious on the outside. And just because we humans are prone to judging based on our exteriors, it doesn’t mean we neglect those matters altogether. We can have strong convictions and live accordingly without judging others for their own (or lack thereof). It can be challenging to keep that balance, yes, but Jesus expects no less.

Because ULTIMATELY…

As in all facets of my life, in every area in which I can make a difference, I strive to hasten the day when His Kingdom comes and His will is done. On earth as it already is in Heaven. When the lion lies down with the lamb and men and women live in harmony and mutual respect. When girls aren’t subject to harassment from pubescent boys and teenage girls don’t know what date rape is. When girls aren’t trafficked and women aren’t prostituted. When a man can look a woman in the eye and see her as the apple of God’s. When females aren’t comprised of body parts but instead intellect and passion and curiosity and will. When debates over leggings don’t explode into arguments over a false dichotomy between two extremes that do more to bring women down than elevate them. When women are valued because they are HUMAN BEINGS.

I believe that day is coming, and though it might not be until Jesus comes back to make everything right, I will live my life with that day in mind. Every action. Every thought. Every choice I make. All in an effort to support that ideal.

And if you want to join me, come on board. Let’s march on together as women and men, feminists and those-who-believe-in-equality-but-are-scared-to-call-themselves-feminists. Those who are willing to listen, open to changing, and striving to understand. Let’s figure out how we can most effectively hasten that day. Together.

Come one, come all. In those pesky leggings or long denim skirts or anything in between.

Because we’ve got some work to do, in our hearts and in the world. And we’ve got some matters to consider. Strap on your boots. Let’s go.

“…by watching her I began to think there was some skill involved in being a girl.”
-Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird

“…The more I spoke about feminism, the more I realized that fighting for women’s rights has too often become synonymous with man-hating. If there is one thing I know for certain, it is that this has to stop. For the record, feminism by definition is the belief that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities. It is the theory of political, economic and social equality of the sexes.”
-Emma Watson, #heforshe Campaign

CAM03876~2

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Nearly a year ago, and with much trepidation, I posted about my journey to my firstborn child. It clearly resonated with many, many people. I received emails, comments, and messages from hundreds and hundreds of people (mostly young women, devastated and afraid) around the world. The most particularly humbling and rewarding one for me personally was an email from a young woman in Mexico, pregnant, devastated, and afraid. She was planning to have an abortion, but after reading my own testimony, she chose life instead. That God would use our journey floors me. And since I believe that actual lives will be saved every time this story is shared, I’ve decided to repost it every year on Sanctity of Life Sunday. That, my friends, is today.

You can read an excerpt below, but for the full post, please click HERE.


 Dear Young Woman, Devastated and Afraid,

I know you. I know who you are. I know how it feels. I know exactly what you are thinking. Life as you know it—no matter what you decide—is forever changed. Forever altered. Because now, well, now there is a life growing inside of you. A LIFE. Dependent on you even as it is ever so tiny and completely unplanned. You want to rewind. You want to at least press pause. But you can’t. Because it happened. But this is not what you wanted. Not what you want. And now your happy-go-lucky world is spinning off its axis. You are in full-fledged crisis mode. Humiliated. Ashamed. Afraid. Devastated. You curl up in a fetal position—of all things—and soak your pillow with your tears. You dream of drifting into oblivion. But you can’t because This. Is. Real…

To read the full post, please click HERE. And as always, please repost and share with anyone you feel might need to hear this today.

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Preface: I want to reiterate (again) that I am a huge ginormous proponent of adoption. It is messy, yes. But it is beautiful. It is redemption. And I also want to be clear that not all adopted children exhibit behaviors that are troublesome or traumatizing. Many are well adjusted, happy individuals. They are surviving and thriving. (Thus no one is writing about them.) And I’m thankful that some of those individuals live in my home and share my last name and call me Mom. Not all older child adoption situations are traumatic. But many are. (Older being a very loose term, ranging from older than a fetus to actual teenagers.) And that is why I share our story. That is why I write what I know. Because you just never know what you’re going to need to know. And you better be ready. Now. So yes, this is a doozy of a post. Yes, it’s long. Yes, it’s going to take you a few to ingest and digest it all. But hey, it’s cheaper than therapy. And I kinda think your marriage is worth a few minutes. So grab a cup of coffee or a big ole’ Diet Dr. Pepper. Pull up a chair for your spouse. And hang on. This just might change everything.

OH, man. Oh man oh man oh man OH MAN. What I, in what can only be deemed a most severe case of underestimation, thought would be an honest post of simple solidarity for adoptive parents of children of trauma, garnering at most two to three thousand views, ended up being a hot poker to a very raw nerve in nearly 60,000 people and counting in just one week. {If you haven’t had a chance to check out THE post, now would be a good time.}

And while much was said that could have been said, one blog post written in (somewhat of) a hurry cannot adequately cover the different types of relationships nor fully express the degree to which those relationships are affected as part of the fallout from raising kids of trauma. Friends, family, relatives, grandparents, siblings, neighbors, church members, school administration and teachers, counselors, therapists, co-workers, neighbors, and on and on and on. Seems no relationship is untouched by the havoc wreaked incessantly by the trauma exploding and oozing from some adopted children.

But there is one relationship that in my opinion and experience (combined with the testimonies of tens and tens of friends who have been there as well) is battered more than any other. One relationship above all others takes the beating that no one ever sees coming. One relationship is collateral damage…time and time and time again. That relationship? MARRIAGE.

And while those who have been there done that totally understand and are either shouting AMEN or wiping away tears or both (Here Here!), those who have yet to walk the hard, hellish, lonely road of parenting kids of trauma would be keen to take a listen. Because if you have plans to, are in the process of, or are currently parenting adopted kids of trauma, IT’S ABOUT TO GET REAL ALL UP IN HERE. (Like, really real.) I only wish someone had been this honest with me many, many moons ago.

Now I won’t profess to be an expert, but after nearly a decade of adoption under our belts, I can share a bit of our testimony from the trenches, some warning lights along the way, what to do and what to most definitely avoid, and yes, how your marriage can actually recover from life in the boxing ring, even if you still live there.

I share our story not because I’m under any presumptive illusion that my readers are dying to hear the dirt on us or that we’ve done most things right. Rather, I pray and trust that you can relate just a little (or a lot), learn a bit about your own marriage, avoid our mistakes, and find hope in the middle of the hell of raising a child in the trenches of trauma. Because I’ve seen too many adoptive friends’ marriages end in heartache. Too many people struggling to survive. Too many husbands and wives no longer seeing eye to eye. Too many former best friends and lovers despising each other. Enough is enough. And ULTIMATELY, I WANT YOUR MARRIAGE SAVED.

Our Story: the nutshell version

We found our other halves in high school. Best of friends. Fell in love.

Senior Prom. Awkward pose.

All at warp speed. Went to college. Wedding. Baby. More babies. Normal suburban life.

True Love’s Kiss.

Husband had a typical job and decent career. I had plans to become a doctor when our youngest entered school. Our marriage was great. Sometimes better, sometimes not so much. But best of friends and committed no matter what. And for the first ten years, there weren’t a whole lot of whats.

The Original Five

The Original Five: Justice, Heidi, Brandon, Isabella, Kirk

But then a little more than eight years ago, God dropped adoption into our lives. And very long story short, within a year we went from being a typical family with three little blonde kids to a transracial adoptive family of eight. Suddenly we had a teenager down to a two-year-old and everything in between.

Our first Fourth of July with six kids in tow

Life was moving fast. And though our heads were spinning, the kids were doing really well, so we (logically…duh) adopted again. Within eighteen months, this husband and wife who had originally planned to have only two (or three) kids IN ALL, had gone from being the happily married and mostly-effective-yet-always-improving parents of three kids to the treading-above-the-water parents to nine, six of whom were considered “older” adopted kids. {I KNOW. It’s CRAZY. But Jesus asks us to do things that are quite psychotic, yes? YES.}

And then, just a few months into parenting our newly adopted child of severe trauma and reeling from the increasing effects of all that that entails (like I said, you might want to read this first: Dear Adoptive Parents…), I found out I was pregnant. Yes, friggin’ PREGNANT. With my tenth child. A big ole’ woops. Total surprise. I cried for three days solid. I mean, it’s common knowledge that everyone in the trenches of adoption and trauma needs a BABY to ease the stress, of course. (That’s sarcasm, people. Don’t go making babies to take away your troubles, ‘cuz that’s just INSANITY. But do feel free to pursue, um, associated marital “stress-relief” to escape reality, even if for, um, a few minutes. I know, easier said than, um, done, but it might be the only kind of bliss you experience for a very, very long time. Did I just say that out loud? Crap.)

0106-1

The Weimer 11 1/2: You can’t see him there, but Baby Dominic was growing in that hidden belly of mine.

So, back to the pregnancy and life in the trenches…My belly was growing but so was the trauma outside of it. Short of me actually getting arrested and going to jail, anything and everything of hell that could happen to parents of a child of trauma did. Darkness. Pain. Attacks. Rages. Violence. Panic. Running away. Police calls. False accusations. Threats. Therapists. Psychiatric interventions. I was home all day raising preschoolers and schooling some of our kids. Kirk was at work doing The Provider Thing. And the person whom we each had always relied on for understanding and camaraderie and respite (EACH OTHER!) was no longer fully available or even fully functional. In fact, I personally had nothing left to give. (Can I get a witness, trauma mamas?)

We were barely staying afloat as a family, and the co-captains formerly firmly at the helm were falling overboard and drowning in the sea of rages and trauma. Storms of life? Psha. Life was a tsunami. Sorry, kids. Grab a branch and hang on and hope that we all find each other if and when the waters eventually subside.

Meanwhile, a production company was filming a documentary about our family’s adoption journey, we were getting a decent bit of media attention, I was chronicling our story for a Christian magazine, and we were invited fairly often to speak at churches, adoption conferences, seminars, and the like, sharing our story and our testimony on older child adoption. (By the way, speaking and writing about our journey is still one of my favorite things to do. It pumps my blood. Because please tell me I didn’t just walk this road for the sheer hell of it. PLEASE DEAR JESUS NO.)

The Cracks

After our first adoption, I suffered a moderate bout of post-adoption depression, most definitely exacerbated by a three-month respiratory illness that I couldn’t shake. I felt like I was coming unglued. And I remember wondering if Kirk had confidence in me and thought I was doing a good job (something that had nagged me even before we ever adopted). After our second adoption, when all hell broke loose in our formerly typically calm home and I needed my husband more than I ever had or ever would, I didn’t even want to get out of bed. I felt neglectful as a mom to our other kids, grieved that my life would never be the same, and more alone than I had ever felt in my life.

Yes, I had a husband. Yes, I told him my feelings. Yes, he witnessed much of the horror. But the bulk of the burden was on me as the mom. The intensity of the pain was on me as the nurturer. The disappointment. The embarrassment. The fear. The shame. On me. And no matter how much I talked, there was no way Kirk could ever possibly understand what that truly feels like. To be fair, he tried. He listened. He prayed. He checked in with me. But at the end of the day, most of the emotional, mental, and physical burdens were on me. And since marriage is a relationship in which burdens are to be shared, this lopsided weight-carrying began to drastically drive cracks into the very foundation of our relationship.

The Infamous Triangulation

Soon enough (it didn’t take long, really), our moderately strong marriage began to suffer the very real effects of parenting a child of trauma. As is often the case, I (the adoptive mom), bore the brunt of the mistreatment and abuse. No matter which birth parent caused the most pain for the adopted child, the adoptive mom tends to have the target on her back far more often than the adoptive father. There’s just something about that primal wound that doesn’t heal so quickly or easily, so the adoptive mom is the enemy.

So there I was, spending my days trying to educate and bond with a very troubled child, while Kirk was at work trying to keep food on our table. (I had quit a full-time teaching job to be able to tend to our new children’s needs, so money was extremely tight.) The control games, the eggshells, the rages started to hit the fan real fast. And I called my husband numerous times throughout the day just to vent, cry, and cope. He was a listening ear, but from thirty miles away was powerless to intervene or come to my aid during the day.

And therein lay the first opening for our troubled child to divide and conquer. Since Kirk wasn’t witness to the majority of the trauma at home (though over time he would see it all), it felt like my word against our child’s. And pretty soon I could see my devoted and loving husband starting to doubt some of the severity of our child’s antics. I could see him questioning me. Doubting me.

No longer was it us against the world; it was our child in between us, pitting one against the other. I mean, surely I must be triggering these outrageous reactions in our child. Surely I must be at fault somehow. Surely I must be provoking it.

Over many, many months and after many tears and hours of conversations (and Kirk witnessing firsthand what I had been experiencing all along), Kirk finally began to understand that our child was the master of manipulators. That they had seen a weak spot in our marriage and inserted themselves right in it. That there was nothing I could have done to prevent the behavior and abuse I was experiencing daily (and even hourly as more time passed). He started to come to my defense and stand up to our child, refusing to allow them to come between us and even very directly telling this child that “we are ONE. What Mom thinks, I think. What hurts her, hurts me. We agree on things. You will NOT abuse her and try to cozy up to me. We are ONE unit.” This was the infamous triangulation. And Kirk worked very hard and quite intentionally to dismantle it.

Kirk standing up for me and seeing the truth of the situation was crucial to our survival, as soon enough I would be needing to defend myself in a courtroom against all kinds of unjust accusations and slander from our troubled child.

Eventually we sought residential therapy for our child, and our family was able to heal for a year or so, welcome a new baby (Thank you, JESUS, for such timely gifts!), and move to a new-to-us home. A fresh start. A relationship reset. A needed respite.

Bankrupt

Life didn’t get a whole lot easier, though, after the child returned home. Much improved, but still very trying. A year later, we adopted yet again. This time a child from a disruption. More trauma came into our home. And over the years, we continued to face battle after battle. Our marriage continued to take hits. After all, who has time or energy or desire to check on the other when you can barely stand up as is? We were bankrupt in every way: financially, emotionally, mentally, physically, and spiritually.

Weimer Eleven

The Weimer Kids, all eleven

Money was nonexistent, and we owed thousands for years of therapy, hospitalization, and treatment for our child. (So many of you can completely relate. And for that, I’m truly so sorry.) God has always been faithful to provide, but the financial stressors combined with the sheer hell we were continuing to face wreaked havoc on what was once a strong and stable marriage.

Too many nights too often were spent crying and arguing into the wee hours of the morning. We were both drained. Exhausted from years in the trenches. And angry at each other for not being able to fix it. In the past we had always prided ourselves on the fact that we rarely disagreed or argued and certainly never fought, but life in the trenches with a trauma child or two pushed us to places we never thought we’d go.

We sought marriage counseling, hoping to have someone breathe life back into us. We loved each other, but we were battle weary. We just needed someone to look at us, two people in a marriage trying to recover from battle fatigue, and give us hope, to remind us that we are in this together, to help us remember that God has called the both of us to this ministry, that we have been “set apart” and marked for this. We desperately wanted someone to come alongside us as we tried to recover from the years on the battlefield.

But that ain’t what we got, folks. Instead, we got a “professional’s” opinion that we just plain had too many kids. That there was no way in our situation we could ever have quality time together. That we both signed up for this. And now since we made our bed, we were just going to have to lie in it. It felt like the equivalent of counseling a soldier home from a long deployment and associated PTSD and telling them, “Well, that’s just too bad. You are the one who volunteered to join the Army.”  (Yeah, that therapist totally sucked.)

We felt hopeless. Angry. Frustrated. But instead of throwing in the towel (as tempting as that was at times and sometimes actually considered), we joined forces. We vowed to renew ourselves and our marriage. We dove into the Word of God, looking for freedom and healing that only He can deliver. We reminded ourselves that we were in this together. That we loved each other. That God had chosen each of us for the other. We chose to remember that we were more powerful in the Kingdom together than we would be apart. And so we stuck it out.

In the Ring, Together

Looking back, all of these things that seemed to add pressure at the time probably actually saved our marriage. And no, I’m not speaking in hyperbole. Because you can’t leave your spouse when you’re the keynote speaker at a conference and the topic is perseverance. And you can’t move out when cameras are fairly regular presences in your home. And you certainly can’t call it quits when good people are coming out of the woodwork to support your family.

But honestly, we’re just now recovering from the trauma of the past several years. We’re just now filling up our lungs to full capacity again. We’re just now seeing tiny flickers of light at the end of this hellish road we’ve been traveling.

We certainly have our moments. Some days are better than others. We’re both still figuring this out. But now we’re doing it together. It’s not Heidi against Kirk, for “our struggle is not against flesh and blood [i.e. against our spouses], but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Ephesians 6:12).

In the Ring Together

If something or someone comes against either of us, they’re coming against both of us. We’re in the ring together. And if we get knocked down or even just a little shaken, we are getting right back up.Together. We’re going to keep getting hit. But we are still standing and standing still. We’re on guard. We’re ready.

Though we certainly never set out to have anything of value to say, Kirk and I could (and are planning to) write a whole book on how marriages can survive raising “trauma children.” (And not because we’re heroic, but because we’re precisely not. We just prefer our struggles to not have been for naught. Plus, based on the previous blog post response, there seems to be a market for it, right?) But I’ll save the rest of the nitty gritty for that occasion and cut to the chase.

So, IF you are married and IF you plan to adopt and IF that child or children might have any lingering effects of trauma (psst…assume they will), PLEASE take to heart not just the significance of the call but of the seriousness of the potential relationship fallout. In plain English, in simple black and white, here are the DO’s and DON’Ts for marriage in the trenches. GET. READY.

Marriage in the Trenches: The Do’s

  • Gird up. This is the phrase I kept hearing from God in the months leading up to bringing our own trauma child home several years ago, well before we even knew what we were fully getting ourselves into.Whether you’re still in the process or already home with your adopted child, it is vital that you get your armor on and are prepared for the attacks against your marriage. Plant your faces in the Word of God. Hang up sticky notes of Scripture around the house. Pray like never before. Both together and apart. For each other and for your marriage. Don’t wait until you’re in the thick of it. Gird up now. See Ephesians 6:10-20.
  • Know your weaknesses. Kirk explains it well: “No matter how strong or solid any couple believes their marriage to be, every marriage is flawed. No matter how shiny or polished or thick a couple might wish their marital armor to be, there is always a chink. Webster defines ‘chink’ as ‘a weak spot that may leave one vulnerable.’ The size (and area) of this weakness will vary by couple, but rest assured, there is an opening. Every marriage is flawed because every person is flawed. I know this. You know this. Satan knows this. If not given proper attention and care, Satan will use this weakness and exploit the literal hell out of it for his own sick glory. Only Satan can use a very troubled child with a very traumatized past as some sort of ‘infectious agent’ that can infiltrate what you once held dear and valuable and completely flip it on its head.” Whatever your relationship’s weak spots, know them and address them. You might not be able to eliminate them completely, but be aware. Like Kirk said, Satan’s going to attack you there. Be ready.
  • Be informed. Read up on adoption and trauma, and I don’t mean just the process. Check out honest blogs. Web sites. Books. Empowered to Connect Conferences. And this goes for both of you. A common mistake is letting the wife do all the research and giving her husband the highlights. But you both need to be informed. Together.
  • Have a plan. In hindsight, this is probably THE area we wish someone had told us about beforehand. Did we know adoption wouldn’t be a walk in the park? Mostly. But did we have any idea the impact it would have on our marriage? Absolutely not. We needed a plan and had none. I think of it like a fire drill. What kind of agreed upon plan do you have in place for your family should you awaken to fire alarms and the smell of smoke in the middle of the night? Agree upon a plan for your marriage, too. Between you and your spouse, come up with some pre-defined non-negotiables. For example, no matter how tough it gets, we will not turn on each other. No matter what, we will end the night in prayer. No matter what, we will sit and listen to the other. And DO NOT WAVER.
  • Surround yourself with a close network of friends. This is a tricky one, because even the closest of friends can turn on you and walk away. But it is so important that you pull your friends in close. Friends who know your heart and soul. Friends who can stick with you through thick and thin. Friends who mourn when you mourn and rejoice when you rejoice. And if you don’t have these friends, GET THEM NOW. While we’ve experienced a great deal of heartache over the years as friends have betrayed us and turned their backs on us, we’ve also felt the undying loyalty of a handful of friends (mostly couples) who have pulled in more tightly. Friends who we are certain would still stand by us and love us even if we made the worst of mistakes. Friends who love like Jesus does. Surround yourself now.
  • Build a prayer team. Another reason you need close friends is that you need a covenanted group of people committed to praying for your marriage. We credit the prayers of our friends and prayer warriors for helping us survive what should have ended most marriages. Ask people to commit to praying regularly, daily. Have them pray for you, over you, with you. This is where the battle can be won or lost.
  • Find regular time together, even if it’s late at night or early in the morning. Even if it’s thirty minutes watching Jimmy Fallon at the end of the day when all the kids are finally in bed. Do something mindless together. Something that you have always enjoyed. Something that gives you at least a few minutes of escape with each other. For about eight years now, Kirk and I have designated Tuesday nights as our Wing Night. Kirk picks up hot wings (on special on Tuesdays) and we sit in front of the TV (usually to watch the Duggars) after the kids have vacated the living room and gone to bed. That means we might not eat until 11 PM, but it’s OUR time, it’s OUR tradition, and it’s something small that we look forward to in the midst of what are often otherwise very difficult times. These small occasions help refuel your oft depleted tank.
  • TALK. Communicate with your spouse daily, regularly, often, always. Do not say Good Night without having had a conversation. Of course, this is good advice for any marriage, but it’s life or death for a marriage in the trenches. Especially when there is much to vent about or process, it’s so important to keep up the communication with each other. Yes, you’re often just trying to survive, but without talking to each other daily, you’re most definitely going down.
  • Speaking of communication, be available. Clearly it’s not as easy to talk during the work day, but as often as you are able to have an open line, do it. Kirk took multiple calls from me daily during the worst of the worst. Obviously that’s not feasible for everyone, but even if you can send a short reply text during a bathroom break, that readiness of communication is a lifeline for the person needing it. If your wife calls you in tears and begs you to come home from work because she just can’t take another second and is totally losing her mind, consider it an emergency (it is!) and do it. Remember, if she’s disrupting your day by reaching out to you as an emotional 911, she’s already at the end of her rope. Too many moms have found themselves in legal trouble because they just couldn’t take it anymore and snapped. Not many people can survive three-hour rage fests with their sanity entirely intact. Be available, and please take this oh-so-seriously.
  • Be faithful. Any weaknesses in this area will be primed for attack, so recommit now. Be ever so careful not to escape to the “calm” of another person outside your marriage. You’re already in the trenches. The last thing you need is an affair of any kind.
  • Remember whom you fell in love with, flaws and all. Kirk warns that it “might be easy to fall into the trap of accusing your spouse of ‘not being the same person you married.’ You might start to question your decision of being married at all, because you start to question to whom you’re married. If you find yourself going there, STOP! In the context where an adopted child is inflicting massive amounts of torment in the home, most of which might be directed solely at your spouse, this is NOT the time to be questioning or judging your spouse’s behavior. You might see a certain level of ‘ugly’ in your spouse that only a terrorizing child can awaken. When (not if) you see this, it is time to stand in the gap on behalf of your spouse.” You fell in love with this person. You love this person’s core. Remember that. Don’t let a trauma child change that. Ever.
  • Be sensitive to your spouse’s insecurities. Whatever insecurities (relational or personal) your spouse had before adopting will be heightened by the stress of parenting in the trenches. Be sensitive. Be aware. And be intentional about instilling security in them.
  • Believe your spouse. When they tell you about extreme behaviors they are witnessing that you have yet to observe, don’t doubt their word. Kids of trauma will often turn on the charm for one parent (usually the father) while unleashing a hailstorm on the other (usually the mother). Believe your spouse’s stories. They are real!
  • Find reliable and understanding babysitters. More than ever before, you will need time away with your spouse. If at all possible, find a reliable, trusted babysitter (or even just a close friend) who will watch your kids so you can take a breather with your spouse. But be sure they absolutely understand the importance of boundaries and not indulging the troubled child. And just a tip in that regard: Sometimes otherwise helpful grandparents might not be the best match for caring for your child of trauma.
  • Always, always, always defend your spouse. Another lesson from Kirk: “Traumatized children find great satisfaction in pitting one spouse against the other (that Infamous Triangulation). An all too common tale is this: Adopted child targets torment and bullying toward your spouse (often the wife) while cozying up to you (often the husband). If you even begin to see signs of this, STAND IN THE GAP for your spouse! You simply cannot allow and foster this sick and twisted and manipulative bond at the expense of your spouse. Failing to put an end to this unhealthy game invites resentment and distrust to alter that once-small chink in your marital armor into a HUGE gaping wound that, sadly, often leads to marital dissolution. You must put a hedge around your spousal bond. Kids of trauma are often very shrewd and will not miss an opportunity to insert themselves directly in the middle of you two. Your bullying child needs to hear from your mouth that you will not tolerate being ‘favored’ while they insist on terrorizing your spouse.” You KNOW your spouse. You MUST defend them, both to your child and to others. They will need it.
  • Stand on the front lines. I’m not keen on strictly defined gender roles, but men, you need to listen up here. You are to be on the front lines with your wife. And in a battle, you are to be taking the hits for her. Do not sit on the sidelines while your wife is under attack. Stand in front of her. Make it clear that anything that is meant for her has to go through you first. You are her first line of defense in the family.
  • Realize it’s not just HER. It’s too easy to think that you’re totally alone in the trenches, but tens and tens of thousands of blog views and hundreds and hundreds of emails, comments, and messages later, I can assure you that this is not just you. Men specifically, it is SO important for you to understand that the way your wife is responding to the pressure and pain of raising a child a trauma is NOT JUST HER. She is not some crazy, psycho bitch, though at times you’ll want to call her that. She’s not some weakling who can’t hack it. And she’s definitely not some poor deluded soul. No, she is reacting the way thousands of moms react to such very real burdens and trauma. She needs to know not just that she’s not alone, but that you KNOW that it’s not just her. She already feels enormous guilt and shame for not being able to fix her child or love them well enough. Realize that she’s totally normal in a not-so-normal situation.
  • Be equally engaged. Parenting should always be a dual investment, but that’s even more crucial in the trenches of adoption. Don’t leave it to one spouse to “take on that child.” Not only is that unfair and exhausting, but it sends the wrong message to that child. As much as you are able, be equally committed and intentional about parenting your troubled child.
  • Share burdens as much as possible. Physical. Emotional. Mental. Ask specifically what you can do to take some weight off their shoulders. And then listen to their response. And then do it. If she needs you to be more helpful around the house, do it. If she needs you to figure out the kids’ after-school schedules or make the kids’ lunches or cook dinner, do it. If she needs you to find a new therapist for your child, do it. Share the burdens. Don’t let the other person fall under the weight.
  • Praise your spouse to their face and to others as often as possible. Especially when so much darkness covers the home, accentuate the positive as much as you can. Let your spouse know they’re doing a damn good job. Brag about her to others. If she were a soldier deployed overseas, you’d be proud and publicly share it. Well, she’s fighting another kind of war and never gets a break. Boast about her. Build her up. Positive reinforcement goes a very long way, especially when it’s so tempting to just quit.
  • If you need one, find a therapist who understands and believes in your calling to adopt. There is no shame in needing a professional counselor to come alongside you as a couple to help restore and recover what has been lost in the trenches. In fact it can save your marriage. But more harm than good will be done if that professional does not support your calling to adopt. They need to wholly understand that this is a call from God, that it is ministry. If you get the impression that the therapist questions your decision in the first place or does not realize that God calls us to difficult roads oftentimes, then fire them and keep searching. Seriously. You need a therapist who is on your side as a couple, not someone whom you pay to tear down your family. (Heck, if you need to, share this post and the previous post with them.)
  • Speak life into your marriage. Look at your spouse in the eyes and tell them that you WILL survive this. Together. That beauty will come from ashes, even if those ashes right now are your marriage.
  • PRAY PRAY PRAY for your spouse. Constantly. Daily. As often as they come to mind, breathe a prayer over them.
  • Get a punching bag. And boxing gloves. Now. Click here: You’re welcome.

Marriage in the Trenches: The Don’ts

  • Do not EVER EVER EVER disagree with your spouse in front of your trauma child. And by EVER I mean NEVER EVER EVER. I don’t care if you think it’s a totally insignificant issue. Your trauma child sees ANY tiny disagreement as a win for them. It’s an opening for them to enter what they see as a crack and then work to divide. If you want to order pepperoni and your wife wants cheese, order both. If you want to eat at home after church, but your husband wants to eat out, by all means keep it between yourselves and figure it out. If your wife thinks your troubled child deserves a consequence, but you do not, I would suggest taking the wife’s lead on this. Any time it looks like you are “siding” with the child over your spouse is a potentially huge problem. Do NOT let the child witness your disagreement, big or small. It might seem like no big deal, but in the context of surviving marriage in the trenches of trauma, these “no big deals” to you are a HUGE big deal to your kid (and to the spouse you’ve come against). As I’ve already said, it is so so so important that your child sees the two of you as ONE united force. Teaching them how to lovingly disagree can come later.
  • Don’t be manipulated! I’m always stunned by the ability of kids of trauma to manipulate others with their charm and lies. And I’m even more stunned when that deception works on a spouse. Be smarter than your child. It is their goal to manipulate you. It has to be your goal to not buy it.
  • Do not escape into work, a hobby, a relationship, or anything else that will take you away from your spouse time-wise, mentally, or emotionally any more than you already are. Now’s not the time for weekend trips with your buddies. Golf might have to take a hiatus. You might even need to step down from volunteering at church for awhile, helping on the worship team, or working extra shifts. And by all means, if you are able, do not travel for work unless absolutely necessary.
  • Do not ignore the red flags. If your spouse lets you know that they feel disconnected from you, don’t feel “married” anymore, or feel detached, pay attention. Those are your warning signs that the boat is sinking. It’s not too late to save your relationship, though. But you have to act when your spouse is sending the S.O.S. Consider your spouse’s “meltdowns” as flares that you better not ignore.
  • Don’t take stress out on each other, but give grace for the other. You are both being pushed to the precipice of sanity, and you both require heapings of grace. Daily. Your circumstances are pushing you to the edge. Your stress levels are through the roof. Lean on each other for stress reduction. Work hard to not take it out on your spouse. They probably can’t take much more.
  • Don’t judge your spouse’s thoughts, feelings, or reactions, even if you think they are wrong. Nobody is perfect, and you’ll never see each other’s imperfections more than while living with an adopted child of trauma. Also, realize that you are ultimately the only safe in-the-flesh person in whom your spouse can confide. Judging, condemning, or criticizing how they’re coping shakes their very security.
  • Don’t blame your spouse for your child’s problems. Your child had those issues long before your family entered the picture. And had that child been adopted by any other family, those parents would be witnessing the same behaviors that you are.
  • Don’t EVER blame your spouse for the idea of adoption. No one (including your husband or wife) forced you to adopt. YOU signed the papers. So even if you were the more reluctant or less gung-ho spouse originally, you both agreed to adoption. It’s a done deal. Don’t throw it in their face that it was all their idea in the first place. It doesn’t help anything. Face your reality as is.
  • Don’t treat your spouse as the enemy. Your spouse may be a lot of things, but enemy is not one of them. They are your best friend, life partner, lover, and confidante. You are on the same team. If Satan can use this calling from God, this most difficult adoption, to turn the two of you against each other, he’s well on his way to winning the battle over your marriage and your child. He alone is the enemy. He alone is the source of chaos, confusion, and devastation. Give him the credit he deserves. Don’t believe his lie that your spouse is your enemy.

To the Finish…

If you’ve made it this far, HIGH FIVE, BABY. Major kudos to you. Of course, the reading is the easy part. Putting it into practice is where it actually gets real. But I believe in you, Dear Fellow Parents in the Trenches. I truly, truly do. Because if WE can make it, YOU can make it. And I’m not just saying that.

But it does take TWO. TWO imperfect and broken people committing to each other. Promising to try to see inside each other’s hearts. Looking for Jesus in the other. Trying your damned best every day to connect with the other. And giving grace when your best efforts are total fails. (Because often times, they totally will be.)

TWO people who have decided that NO MATTER WHAT, you’re in it for the long haul with your spouse. You have to be. Because long after your troubled child is either healed or grown (or in the best of cases, both), you’ll still have each other. And you’ll be able to look back and be proud that you never gave up. That you made it.

And YOU WILL. Sure, you’ll be scarred. Banged up a little. Scraped and bruised. But you’ll also be stronger. Tougher. Wiser. Better. Refined through the fire. And coming out smelling like the glory of God.

The glory of God. Together.

YOU CAN DO THIS.

Praying you to the finish,

heidi (& kirk)

Heidi and Kirk standing


***IMPORTANT! In the meantime, as always, this is your safe place to share your thoughts. Post anonymously or with your whole name. Find me on Facebook. Message me or email me. heidi@outofshemind.com But please keep in mind that since this is a sensitive, sacred, and typically private struggle, please post respectfully with your spouse’s privacy protected if need be and appropriate boundaries maintained. Whatever you do, though, know that you’re not alone. And if you end up never seeing eye to eye and saying good-bye to your marriage (whether your choice or not), know that God’s grace is still sufficient. And He’s still proud. Because after all, you said YES. And we’re still all in this together. SOLIDARITY, my friends. SOLIDARITY.


Testimonials from the Trenches

…because none of us is alone. {While these are all actual testimonials, for the sake of privacy I am choosing to keep these all anonymous.}

“When you are raising a child with trauma, it brings your past trauma to the surface. This is what caused the feeling of ‘need to escape’ for my husband. The feeling of not being able to control a situation, especially not being able to control or help your child, can wreak havoc on someone who has their own past trauma under the surface.”

 

Trauma has taken away our closeness. It has taken away friendships. It has taken away ministry like we used to know it. It has taken the fun away. We still work on it. Every day. We work toward good things. We work toward getting back the people we were. Only older, grayer, and hopefully, wiser. [He] is still my best friend. I can’t imagine life without him this side of Heaven. I pray I never have to. But trauma always interrupts, always sucks the life out of you, always remains. Trauma doesn’t let up so that you can focus on having a good marriage. It’s easy to take the stress out on [my husband], or [him] to take it out on me. We’ve done that. Then we have to remember that ‘we are not the enemy.'”

 

“My husband and I thought our marriage was over after 11 years of marriage and 18 years together. For the first four years after adoption, our daughter was the best at triangulating. She would rage all day with me, and when he walked in the door she suddenly became a charming angel. He did not see any of this behavior for five years. I was having to call him at work as we had just moved our family for ministry and didn’t have anyone. We were already highly stressed, and he thought I was losing it, and so did I. I was determined to get help and went to nine different therapists searching.

 

It took four years to get a ‘correct’ diagnosis and six years to actually find help and begin healing for our daughter. During this time, though, our marriage was deteriorating. I was on edge all the time waiting for the next bomb to drop, feeling as though I was living in a war zone and feeling like a horrible mom, because I had no time left for my other children or my husband. I was completely hard and cold most the time, for fear that if I let myself go there I would break and maybe never return. My husband could not understand why I couldn’t just get her to behave, because he wasn’t seeing it. I felt so alone. I had tried EVERYTHING, and I began to feel like the problem was me.

 

During this time my husband began self-medicating to numb through prescription medication and/or alcohol, which then hurt our marriage even more. I became depressed and began having panic attacks and struggled to even want to get out of bed. Once we finally got the right help and both were on the same page, he started to see the rages, lies, manipulation, etc. It got worse, though, before it got better, because now she was in RAD mode all the time…We were constantly stressed which meant me constantly nagging and him withdrawing, not to mention the financial strain this added as well. Our lives had literally turned into a war in our home, now not just with me. He felt out of control now too. We were suffering, and our other children were suffering. We withdrew from friends and family, because this would often trigger behaviors, and we were worried her behaviors would be picked up by other children.I often felt judged, and sadly, some friends withdrew from us.

 

Needless to say, God did a miracle beginning last April. He spoke to me three years ago ‘I make all things new‘ & that He did in 2014. My husband has been clean and sober almost a year, our daughter is healing (I would no longer consider her RAD), my husband and I are closer than we have ever been, and we just welcomed a NEW son. He certainly brought new life in so many ways.”

 

We have learned…that we have to figure out ways to get out and NOT talk about the kids. We also have precious few babysitters who truly get our kids and won’t be manipulated by our oldest child and his ways. So we don’t go out much. Grandparents are also a disaster, because they sweep in, try to help, do things that really harm kids from hard places (with the very best of intentions), and then they leave a huge wake of turmoil and sadness. And [we] are left alone again, with no one to help us, no one to buffer, no respite, almost no hope.”

 

Trauma has taken a toll on our marriage in communication in every way. It has driven us to necessary communication, even though we still love each other and cannot imagine life apart from each other. I have worried many times that he might have an affair–not because he is that kind of person–he’s NOT-but because who wants a chubby mess of goo like me when he can have someone without all the crap we’ve had to deal with?”

 

It’s hard to always be on the same page. (Triangulation, and we didn’t even know it.) And that is only ONE effect. We’re on over 19 years here, and seriously, we’re struggling just because we never, ever can have a conversation. ever. ever. Did I say ever?”

 

“It has been very hard on our marriage, but there are also times that I feel like we are closer because of it. We are standing as a strong front, together, in front of Him. I think anytime you are doing ministry with someone, the bonds grow deeper. I can feel that in our marriage.”

 

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