Friday, May 22, 2015

Sex Abuse and the Church

So, by now we've all heard the horrific news that Josh Duggar sexually abused several young girls, including some of his sisters. Why is this news? This happens all over the place in all kinds of families. This is news because the Duggar family presents themselves on a reality show as model of how living in a large, close, purity-culture family can result in children who grow up without the problems of the culture at large. Information of sexual abuse within the family negates this kind of assertion. It's also news in our culture because we are watching how poorly local churches and the Church writ large handle sexual abuse among our brothers and sisters.

Thank God, I've never been sexually abused, assaulted, or traumatized. Unfortunately, I've been affected by it in churches with which I've been associated throughout my life - and it hasn't been pretty. Churches are screwed up when it comes to sin - likely more so than the rest of the culture.

Churches don't want to admit any kind of sexual abuse has happened among our own because we don't want to admit to sin. We use phrases like "protecting the name of Christ". Honestly, do we want to be associated with a God who can't protect his own name? We are afraid to admit that something sinful might have happened among our sinful members!!

But, yet, the church is the one place where we say we can handle sin! We know Jesus who offers grace! I'm not suggesting that we offer "cheap grace" and that as soon as a sex offender says "I'm sorry" that we let the person back in church leadership, but I am saying that the church needs to get over "making Jesus look bad" by trying to keep our sin secret.

Many churches have also decided that they can handle everything within their own walls and don't need help from outside sources. Ummmmm, this is actually illegal when we're talking about sexual assault and minors being sexually abused. Clergy are mandatory reporters and are required to report illegal acts to law enforcement. It is also important for victims to get appropriate counseling, from someone with adequate training. Most churches don't have these resources in-house.

I've seen at least one church almost fall apart over a sexual victimization case. It didn't have to be that way. In another case, the church leadership listened to the victim and took the person seriously. 

But you know what? It's not like one case ended happily and the other didn't. One ended a little better, but sexual abuse and assault are never pretty. They are sin. One person is using their sexual power over another person. How awful!! The perpetrator requires much work in their life to deal with the sin. The victim, even with adequate counseling, is going to be affected for the rest of their life.

What can I do about this? What can you do about this? It depends on who you are. I'm a mom of two young adults. I've tried to raise them in a loving, open, non-legalistic environment to be compassionate adults. I pray for them daily. Otherwise, I can pray for the church (local and global) and our response to sexual abuse. And, when I find out about abuse, I can stand up about it and not let it lie. Victims deserve to be heard. They must be loved and cared for. Perpetrators must be exposed and not allowed to hurt anyone else. They require care of a very different kind.

What you can do depends on where you are in life and what you do. If you work with kids, keep your eyes and ears open! And believe the children! If you work in a church environment, stay sane and remember that hiding sin is never the answer! And, pray. Always, pray!!

P.S. Here are a couple of the best articles I've seen on the topic so far:

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

I Miss Homeschooling - Kind of

Rosie Girl and Wild Man have both been primarily homeschooled. Rosie Girl was in 3 year old preschool and then took some middle school and high school classes at the public school. Wild Man did 3 year old and 4 year old preschool as well as taking middle school and high school classes.

Rosie Girl completed high school through twelfth grade by homeschooling and is finishing her second year at UW Stevens Point studying music. She's making all As&Bs (while being convinced that she's failing).  She wants to compose and is making her first forays into composition this semester. She's also going to be taking some jazz piano lessons. And she teaches tap dance at a local dance studio. And she's now on the market for a more steady job to add to the teaching. Ah, the life of an adult.

 Are there things I would do differently? Absolutely! Would I send her to full-time public school? Not unless she really wanted to go. I think homeschooling was a great choice for her. Rosie Girl is, by nature, introverted and creative. Home education gave her a great chance to pursue lots of her creative venues, including writing, poetry, drawing, and music. She played piano, ocarina, and guitar. She took and taught dance class and took piano lessons. She also took art class at the high school and was part of the poetry club. Being introverted certainly didn't mean she was bored! But, it appears that home education has pretty well prepared her for college and work.

This year, we sent Wild Man to Wega-Fremont High School for 11th grade. Can I be honest for a minute and tell you how worried I was? I wasn't worried about the social side of things? In fact, I wasn't sure he could be quiet enough to get through a class!! And, I was more than a bit stressed about the whole dyslexia thing - he reads and writes well, but not quickly.

So, he started in a pretty routine set of classes. But, for math, he was in Geometry instead of Algebra 2 because he got behind in math because we were working so hard on reading in late elementary and middle school. And, he isn't in American History since he's already had that class in homeschooling. However, he's in the National Honor Society!! He must be doing OK on the academics and social stuff and volunteer work at school! He also got the Musicianship Award for 11th Grade for Band this year! And was the lead in the school play - Pippin!! And got an Exemplary at State Solo and Ensemble for his Musical Theater Solo and a First for his Classical Solo and a Second for his Snare Solo and a Second for the Percussion Ensemble.

It's been a good year! He's thriving. And planning to study Algebra 2 over the summer so he can take Pre-Calculus next year along with Physics and AP English 12. And he has a couple of jobs. I think he'll be ready for college next year, too. And ready for the world after college, too.

But, I kind of miss homeschooling. I don't miss having to set up notebooks and make sure that the kids were actually doing the reading or watching the DVDs or lectures or whatever. I liked that they were home for more of the day with me. During practice for the play, Wild Man would get home at 8:30 or 9pm. I go to bed around ten, so we didn't get much time to just hang out. At least during the summer, even if he's working, he's at home for part of the day. We can just be with each other. And Rosie Girl will be with us again this summer. 

They're getting so old and are going to start having apartments where they live all the time. And I don't even want to think about the fact that they might need to move away from here to chase their dreams. But, PWM and I have loved our children and talked to them and prayed about our choices and prayed with our children as we launch them on the world.

I think so far, the choices have worked out well. The first two years of Rosie Girl at UWSP have been quite successful. The first year of Wild Man at Wega-Fremont has been also successful. And, I should add, that PWMs year at Wega-Fremont as a math teacher has also been successful. And we look forward to a happy and productive summer!!

Sunday, May 03, 2015

Nepal, Doubt, Aquinas, Lament

There are days when I get overwhelmed by doubt about the whole God thing. I'm sure it happens to some of you. Of not. Maybe I have a weak faith.

Technically, I don't wrestle with the existence of God. I would never become a true atheist. I find Aquinas' "first cause" argument and teleological arguments very convincing. I don't think I could ever look at the world and think that it just came into existence without some supernatural help.

But, natural disasters like the earthquake in Nepal are my theological downfall. They make me want to be a deist. On my Facebook feed was posted a picture of a baby rescued over a day after the earthquake, which really is amazing. People were sharing the picture and commenting how God was really looking out for this little one. I just wanted to cry out, "But what about the thousand other little ones?! Was God taking a break then?"

I know that there's some mature, Christian answer to this about it all being God's plan, etc., etc., but I'm not a Calvinist for a reason. It makes God a monster. And the God described in the Bible, particularly the New Testament, is a loving and merciful God, not a monster.

So, what is a reasonable response to this without going flat out agnostic or deist? I think it starts with lament. There are several places in the Bible that we see lament: Job, Psalms, and Lamentations (along with a few other places in the major and minor prophets). These are scriptures where humans are crying out to God for justice and mercy. This is a legitimate request. When are you going to restore Jerusalem? Yes, we broke the covenant, but have we paid enough yet? OUr enemies are crushing us, Lord; when will you save us?

I prefer the book of Lamentations. A bit more than halfway through, Jeremiah (the author) suddenly says this:
Yet this I call to mind
    and therefore I have hope:
22 Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed,
    for his compassions never fail.
23 They are new every morning;
    great is your faithfulness.
24 I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion;
    therefore I will wait for him.”
I'm not quite sure HOW he is able to say this, but he does. In the book of Job, Job is talking to his friends about how God has deserted him, but then he says this:25 
I know that my redeemer[c] lives,
    and that in the end he will stand on the earth.[d]
26 And after my skin has been destroyed,
    yet[e] in[f] my flesh I will see God;
27 I myself will see him
    with my own eyes—I, and not another.
    How my heart yearns within me!

Again, Job is hanging on to his faith in the midst of his crisis. But, he is doing so honestly, through his lament.

He is not presenting a triumphalism that isn't real. He isn't trying to say that life is great when it's not. This isn't the Evangelical "happy clappy" "let's show  the world how great life is because we're Christians" kind of airbrushing. He and Jeremiah and the writer of the Psalms are honest and open about how rotten life is. Yet, they cling to what they know.

And I will do the same thing. I am following Jesus. Even when the world around me is crumbling. Even when earthquakes kill thousands of people for reasons I will never fathom. Even when there are riots that I don't understand. Even when I have chronic illness and am stuck not doing what I thought was my calling in life. Because I know that my redeemer lives. And because of the Lord's great love, I am not consumed, his compassions are new every morning.

Join me in lament and prayer for all the horrible things that are going wrong in the world. And let's hang on to the truth of Jesus and not give up.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Coming out as a Spoonie

Two blog posts/articles this week caught my eye. In the Huffington Post, Sophie Cowley comes out as a "spoonie". As she explains in her article, a "spoonie" is someone with chronic illness. The term comes from this article by Christine Miserandino in which she uses spoons as a unit to measure energy or ability to carry out everyday tasks.  

Those of us with chronic, invisible illnesses often hear things like, "but you don't look sick." Coming out as a "spoonie" feels kind of risky. It can alter the dynamics of a relationship. I completely understand where she's coming from.

The other post that really resonated with me this week was this one from Samantha at Defeating the Dragons. Samantha talks about overdoing it so that she can be with her friends and then paying for it with increased pain later. 

She also talks about the Christian culture issues with pain - that we are to endure suffering and that pain is sanctifying. But, she realizes, quite correctly, that our bodies are gifts from God and that we need to care for ourselves. If that means limiting our activities, then that's OK. (And I realize that this one paragraph could be unpacked into a week's worth of blogging, but not tonight.)

Which brings me to my week. On Tuesday, I felt pretty well and it was a gorgeous day, so I decided that I'd take a walk. Two miles. That shouldn't be a big deal, right? I mean, I'd been walking a good mile or so on the treadmill a few times a week. But, the treadmill is flat. And Weyauwega isn't. About a mile away from home, I realized that it may not have been the best choice in the world. And, when I was almost home and a nice older man stopped and offered to take me the rest of the way home because my cheeks were so red, I knew I had overdone it.

The migraine later that night proved it. I clearly did not have enough spoons for a two mile walk. Not after a sedentary winter. But, I was determined that I did. Why? Because I was supposed to. I have migraines, after all. Not cancer or something terminal. But, migraines and fibromyalgia are real illnesses. And sometimes it takes doing something stupid like making them flare to validate that. Unfortunately, it made me completely useless for a day and a half.

So, if you are a fellow "spoonie", welcome! Let's journey along the "spoonie" journey together. We may be in pain, but we can validate each other and support each other. We don't have to be "more" than we are. God knows us and loves us where we are right now.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Lagniappe April 12, 2015

Image result for lagniappe image
It's been a rough week on the headache front, but life has continued on despite the migraines.

  • Wild Man and PWM had Spring Break over last Thursday, Friday, and Monday. Rosie Girl came home for the weekend, so we got to have a family weekend. I had a migraine on Saturday, so I missed Easter Sunday church, but we did manage a nice dinner on Sunday.
  • Wild Man is completely immersed in rehearsals for Pippin. The show is in two weeks, and he has the lead.
  • Rosie Girl is taking a class in jazz arranging which she really enjoys. She'll be taking jazz piano lessons over the summer and playing in a jazz ensemble next semester. This is completely new ground for her, and I'm excited for her.
  • Wild Man went to his Junior Prom last night. He and his girlfriend made a gorgeous couple and had a great time.
  • We've watched several movies over the last few weeks:
    • The Imitation Game - Good movie about Turing and how he led the team that broke the Enigma machine during WWII.
    • Interstellar - I actually enjoyed this movie because there was far more about relationships than about all the "space-y" stuff. The movie is a story about a dystopian future where humans are looking to other star systems to colonize because of the damage done to Earth.
    • Annie - A very updated version of the classic musical. And it was fun and very good.
    • Whiplash - Another good movie, although PWM and I disagreed about whether or not we liked the ending. A college percussionist gets abusively mentored by his professor.
    • August Rush - Very good, but a little sappy. A very musical boy is trying to find his parents.
  • I'm trying to spruce up some parts of the house, so I ordered some towels and a couple of throw rugs. Now to try to keep the house a bit more straightened!
So, what's up in your part of the world?

Saturday, March 28, 2015

That's The Thing About Pain: It Demands to be Felt

That's The Thing About Pain. It Demands To Be Felt (John Green The Fault In Our Starts)

Before I had chronic pain, even though I was a physician, I had this naive idea that, at some point, you could ignore pain. I thought that it would become kind of like an annoying sound that you could just put in the back of your mind and still go on with life. After all, I didn't have very many chronic pain patients. Most of them went to pain specialists and I thought that with appropriate meds that the pain just became part of the things you didn't "see" anymore, like the stains on the rug or the mismatched towels.

I was totally wrong. And I totally apologize to anyone to whom I was less sensitive than I should have been. (Although, even though I didn't understand chronic pain, I did try to be as sympathetic as possible.) You see, John Green had it right. "Pain demands to be felt." And that doesn't matter if it is acute pain or chronic pain. We tend to see acute pain, like a broken bone or acute abdominal pain, as being somehow "more painful" than chronic pain, but they are really just different kinds of pain. Acute pain tends to be easier to treat, and, therefore, a little easier for physicians to deal with. As an MD, I found acute migraines to be much easier to handle than chronic migraines. Most acute migraines will respond to one of a given set of treatments. When the patient would feel better, I would send them home, and life would be good.

Chronic pain is a different story. It's still pain, but it's a different quality than acute pain. It can be as intense, but is usually a dull or throbbing kind of pain. And just like acute pain, it demands to be heard. That's what constantly amazes me. There's no way to ignore it. I use some distraction techniques like knitting and reading, although reading can make things worse when the headache is bad. (I think that's specific to migraines and not with all chronic pain.) Sometimes that helps. The medical literature suggests that exercise provides "happy chemicals" in the brains of those with chronic pain, so I decide to walk on the treadmill or outside.  Except that walking often makes the headache worse.

It's frustrating. Pain demands to be felt. Yes, I feel the pain of my headache. So, what now? God, are you trying to tell me something? I've been listening for the last 8 years? I'm still listening. Is this just supposed to be making me stronger? I'm not much stronger physically. It's hard to exercise when I'm always in pain. And I can't sleep till the sleeping meds kick in when my head aches at night. So, God, I think I need you to write down whatever it is that I'm supposed to be learning or getting out of this headache experience on a notepad and put it on my bedside table. You can put it right on top of the CPAP machine and I'll be sure to get it. Because I've been feeling the pain. And I could be done with it really soon. Just an FYI.

Friday, March 27, 2015

A Post About Laundry and Only Laundry

Laundry. It's my nemesis. I truly, truly, truly hate doing laundry. I have never enjoyed doing laundry. I think my problem is that there are so many steps to it: sort the clothes, take them to the basement, wash, dry, hang up or fold, put the clothes away, put the hampers away. I so often get stalled out at the hanging or folding stage. I'm usually so good about finishing tasks, but not laundry.

When I was working, PWM and I kind of shared laundry duty. There was always laundry being done by someone. It worked out pretty well. When I quit working, I kind of de facto took over the laundry, except when I have week-long migraines, which is every couple of months. This can be pretty inconvenient if you are someone in the family who values things like clean underwear. And, PWM, at least, does. So, he can be counted on to step in and get us through crunch times with my migraines.

I did come up with a very helpful solution to some of my laundry issues. And a few other things. I turned kid laundry responsibilities over to the kids. Rosie Girl was 11 and Wild Man was 8 when I quit working. Within about a year, I had taught them how to do their laundry. (Since we bought all washable clothes, there were no delicate clothes to worry about.) By the time they each had reached the age of 12, they were responsible for their own laundry. Since they took the responsibility of taking care of the clothes, they also had the right of not having me or PWM worrying about how they chose to store their clean clothes. We only required that the kids look and smell presentable. So, laundry taken care of and no arguments about clean rooms. (It also helped that we don't allow food and drink up in the bedrooms.)

There have been some interesting lessons learned over the years. Wild Man, in particular, has been up late sometimes on Saturday night to get his Sunday clothes clean if he is part of the Sunday morning worship team. He's getting better at thinking about this earlier in the day on Saturday.

Rosie Girl found that it was nice that she knew how to do laundry when she left for college. However, she also found that the 45 minute drive home was actually not that far to drive to do her clothes at home since she also got a home-cooked meal (usually) along with seeing the family.

I decided today, though, that, in addition to my usual LaundryPalooza for me and PWM, I would wash Wild Man's clothes because Solo and Ensemble is on Saturday and Wild Man has had rehearsal's for the school play and for S&E and we're planning to go to another's school's play tomorrow night. I felt kind of sorry for the kid. And I hadn't seen his dress clothes in a few weeks, so I doubted they had made it through his laundry rotation yet. He tends to operate on a "need it now" basis.

Since I'm not a great laundress, I already had some white clothes from last week to fold (bad Mama! bad Mama!). I went ahead and did my and PWM's clothes and then got Wild Man's clothes from assorted locations - primarily the floor of his room. I think the boy has a month's worth of T-shirts!! I had him sort through and give me any that he doesn't wear anymore and he only gave me two. Wow. He ended up having four loads of clothes. I have no clue if they were all dirty because he doesn't actually keep his clean clothes in his dresser, but, whatever. The clothes - they are clean!!

And while I'm expounding on laundry, let me tell you about my great plans for towels. Because I'm sure you have nothing better to do than read about me and my towel issues. First of all, we have a rather motley collection of towels in our house. We have a full (tiny, but full) bathroom downstairs and a half bathroom upstairs. Our bathroom is right by the front door and there is not enough storage space in the bathroom for our towels, so we have a bookcase in the front hallway with our towels and a few other bathroom items on it. So, basically, we use the side door. Because coming in to see our muddy floors and boot collections is still classier than seeing our motley towel collection and how much toilet paper we have at the moment.

I've always been a towel folder myself, but I saw something the other day that reminded me that some people roll their towels and they look nice and neat. So, I'm thinking of getting some metal baskets and putting on the bathroom wall above the laundry hamper and storing our towels in there. I haven't measured to see if it will work, but it would solve a whole bunch of problems. If I could figure a few other storage solutions, we might could even have a front hallway again. The bathroom door would still be there, but the toilet paper would be gone. That would be an improvement.

Our motley assortment of towels is the result of having some nice and newer towels but also keeping in the rotation the towels that I bought when I left home to go to college. 30 years ago. I've been just cutting the strings off the sides as needed. PWM suggested tonight that I could throw those towels away. I'll make them into rags or give them to Goodwill so someone else can make them into rags. They're perfectly good fabric. In any case, PWM agreed that I should invest in newer towels that actually absorb water. Maybe that were made in this decade. And I thought I was being so frugal.

Well, LaundryPalooza is almost over. The clothes are clean and all but a few are folded and hung up. I'll put them away tomorrow - I promise!!! And it's midnight and I'm tired and Wisconsin won their basketball game which I can't believe I even care about. And, no, there is no deeper meaning to this post about laundry. It's just about laundry. And you're welcome to leave you're deep and insightful or shallow and silly or practical and useful ideas in the comments. And that would make me very happy.