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(reblog from Christmas week 2010)
I write to you as I sit in the upper room of my parents’ home, looking down at the infant boy sleeping next to me. The beauty of my son astounds me. And I am not a “baby person” if you know what I mean. But that piece doesn’t come into play when you have had this precious one forming inside of your womb for nine months.
I will never forget when one of my best friends shared with me her confidence that God knew what He was doing to have us carry our children inside of us for so long: in that time He was teaching us to love this child, helping us to get to know him, giving us time to grow together in anticipation for the grand arrival. I love that.
I’ll be honest, though. I hate being pregnant. Ask any of my closest friends and they will tell you, along with stories that probably shouldn’t be shared. It’s painful, annoying, makes me feel gross and it always feels like it will never end. Thats just the tip of the iceberg for me. I will spare you graphic detail. But inasmuch as I hate it, I know what comes out of this season of discomfort… I’ve done it twice now… I will do it again… (hopefully not anytime soon though) because what results is beauty beyond measure, love unspeakable and an incredible life story beginning to be written.
But, without the pregnancy, no life results. Someone has to make room inside.
I reflect on how Mary and Joseph must have felt as they were awaiting the birth of their newborn son, Jesus Christ. The One whose life story would rewrite history. His every word, every move, God-breathed. His life… recorded for you and me.
I reflect on the fact that it is only because of this story of His life, death and resurrection that my life has any meaning at all. It is only because of Jesus that I can truly heal, find hope, freedom, be forgiven and in turn forgive. It is only because of Jesus that I begin to understand love. It is only because of Jesus that I can testify that the most rotten evil intended to break, destroy and devour you and me can instead be turned into something beautiful and glorious, turning darkness to light and setting captives free.
Oh, the birth of Jesus… He came so that our lives would have new meaning. But like Mary, we have to make room for Him inside of us. Like the animals in the manger, we have to make room for Him in our homes. And if we want to experience His healing, His transforming power and His love in such a way that our hurts and hangups become rewritten, we have to make room for Jesus to walk with us on our healing path, too.
“Everyone walks through the fire of adversity, but whatever your experiences - joys or sorrows - our amazing God can use every bit of your life to produce the most unexpected results.” -Jason Crabb
This is a process… His work in our hearts and lives and relationships takes time. Just as He started out as tiny SweetBabyJesus, so does our personal healing journey and our ministry to others begin small and, with time, room and perseverence, grow. We will experience pain, hurt, confusion, exhaustion and the like. But because of Jesus, we do not lose hope. Something greater is coming from all this!
“All around us we observe a pregnant creation. The difficult times of pain throughout the world are simply birth pangs. But it’s not only around us; it’s within us. The Spirit of God is arousing us from within. We’re also feeling the birth pangs. These sterile and barren bodies of ours are yearning for full deliverance. That is why waiting does not diminish us, anymore than waiting diminishes a pregnant mother. We are enlarged in the waiting. We, of course, don’t see what is enlarging us. But the longer we wait, the larger we become, and the more joyful our expectancy.” Romans 8:22-25 (The Message)
So do not be discouraged if this journey seems long. Do not lose hope if you are experiencing pain or frustration along the way. Do not be letdown if the road before you seems dimly lit. God is always at work. He is always guiding us and growing us. Preparation takes time and takes development and requires us to give it more room. Christ’s coming is proof of that and His return will be the final say. Until then, let yourself be enlarged, allow God to grow you, develop you and mold you during this waiting period. He holds your hand during the painful parts and carries you when you feel too heavy to walk. He will do a bigger work in you and through you than you can even imagine right now. But we must make room for Him.
A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices!
Just a couple quick ones today…
Understand your priorities. Know your personal limits. Set boundaries with respect to both this week.
Remember: it can be good and healthy to say “no” to others. And it can be good and healthy to say “yes” to yourself.
And, lastly, SMILE…for no good reason!
If someone asks, “Why are you smiling like that?” Answer like our good friend Buddy the Elf: “I just like to smile. Smiling’s my favorite.” And call it good.
Be a kid again.
“Sometimes I wish I were a kid again; skinned knees are a lot easier to fix than a broken heart.” (Unknown Author)
Let’s all commit to play—and play hard! Think back to an activity you loved as a child, one that you never engage in anymore. And then go do it! Be spontaneous. I don’t care if it you have to go buy a fresh new set of Lincoln Logs, if you have to take a drive to your favorite childhood park, or if you boldy attempt to build the largest gingerbread house on record…all on your own! Go indulge in whatever activity brings that child-like grin to your face.
I think of my friend and mentor who is also a sexual abuse survivor. I remember a couple years ago around this time, she called me on her way to get an x-ray; she had gotten hurt from a rough spill while racing her kids in some major downhill sledding. This lady is obviously not one to hold back when it comes to letting her inner child come out and play! Not only does she have a blast and releases a lot of stress, but I believe she sets a great example for her kids. Though she has been deeply wounded in her life, she doesn’t allow that to harden her; she is willing to let her guard down, to be free and have fun. No matter what age and no matter what stage in life, we can all do that. We should all do that…especially as holiday tension builds.
So, whatever you decide to do for fun today, I encourage you to DO IT TO THE MAX! Approach the week ahead with a child-like attitude, not a child-ish one. Go all out and don’t worry about what others might be thinking.
“We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.” (George Bernard Shaw)
So, be free. Be silly. Be creative. Be childlike. And be sure to LAUGH!
On that note, today is my firstborn son’s birthday party. He turns a terrific THREE years-old, so I am off to give everything I’ve got to PARTY HARD with the silliest guy I know. :)
Have fun out there! And let us know what some of you do today :)
I was kept in the dark about much of what I would see and do here in Cambodia…and I understand why. (Click for original post about the mission). I would tend to believe I know a lot about sex trafficking; I network with many people in the field of awareness and advocacy; I even meet with and hear the heartbreaking stories of many survivors. However, nothing compares or could have prepared me for today.
I wish I could share their stories with you now; I wish I could share more pictures…I wish I could tell you everything, but unfortunately I cannot. You will have to wait to see and hear that in a couple of months. And this courageous film crew will have something worth waiting for, believe me. They are the real deal.
And these trafficked girls and their stories are the most real thing I have ever heard, seen or experienced.
What they are living through is more than you would even want to try to wrap your mind around. I can’t yet put into words what was going on within me as I took long secret walks into frightening brothel rooms to meet 1 on 1 with the brave little girls who work in them.
Girls who are still enslaved.
Sitting together on the floor of her room that resembled more of a prison cell, holding her in my arms and weeping with her as she gave details of being sold and what her life now consists of…it was more than I could’ve prepared for or ever imagined. So much fear. Hope lost. Innocence taken. A little life completely stolen. It is more than any human could bear. It is sick. It is evil. It must be stopped.
Photos (c) Nicole Bromley
That is why I am so honored to be a part of this mission to bring hope, help and to change the course of humanity. To have shared time with these girls, to speak hope and purpose into their hearts, to love them and to have even lead one of them to Christ…we must believe God is at work.
I cried hard today; but I still have hope.
Jesus and Life Outreach International are helping me keep hope alive as they do an incredible job of not only reaching these girls, but rescuing them and, most importantly, restoring them.
I am obviously not able to share as much with you as I would like, but I do hope you would continue to pray for the days ahead (and we have many): Continued protection and safety, for God to speak through and use me and the crew with every life encountered, for a successful process of the rescue of the precious ones I met today, and of course give God praise for what He has already done here! :)
It is vitally important to teach your child key safety principles about their body, touch, abuse and communication from very early ages. There are so many teaching points to list here, but for the sake of sharing a few…here are is a good place to start.
to use the proper names of their body parts. Just as you teach your children to call their nose a nose, they need to know what to call their private parts. This knowledge gives children the correct language needed for understanding their bodies, for asking questions they might have, expressing concern about parts of their body, and for telling about any behavior regarding sexual abuse.
that they should tell you or a trusted adult immediately if someone is showing them something that makes them uneasy or talking to them in ways that make them feel uncomfortable. Teach them that things like this should never stay a secret (more to come on secrets), and that they should tell a trusted adult as soon as possible
to set boundaries. Have a child practice moving your hand away from their body within a simple safe touch (like a shoulder or hand) and saying something like, “please stop.” This prepares children to set boundaries with a more uncomfortable or dangerous type of touch. Teach kids that it’s okay to say “NO” to touches or situations that make them feel uncomfortable. You might also consider having them practice interrupting a busy adult to say, “I need help.”
that no one is to touch them in their private areas—and that their private areas are the areas their bathing suit covers. Teach them that the “safety rule” is that other people should not be touching or looking at their private parts unless they need to in order to provide care (like a doctor)—and even in those cases, a parent of trusted caregiver should be there with them. Explain to the child that “you need to tell me if anyone—no matter who it is, or how much we love them—breaks this safety rule and touches you inappropriately.” Also explain kids that it is unacceptable for someone else to use manipulation, blackmail, coercion, control, etc to get them touch someone else’s body.
that they can come to you with questions or concerns at any time. It is never too late to tell you anything. Make it a practice of asking something like, “Is there anything you’ve been wondering or worrying about that we haven’t talked about lately?”
that their bodies belong to them and they can make choices related to the boundaries of their bodies.Let children know that it is okay for them to decline a friendly hug or kiss, even from a friend or family member they love. Making kids feel obligated to kiss or hug people when they don’t want to, sends the signal that they must use their bodies to make others happy or that they are responsible for the emotional state of others.If your child doesn’t want to sit on Uncle Joe’s lap and read a book, or if he doesn’t want to kiss Gramma or hug family friend Phil goodbye, don’t force the child. Teach your child multiple ways of greeting people, like high-fives and hand-shakes…or do like the Bromley’s and pass out fist-bump-explosions. :)
If a child does express negative reaction or concern about affection with a specific person, be sure to follow up on this! Make time to talk to them about it, ask questions, listen well and respond appropriately. This open conversation can empower a child in more healthy ways than you can imagine (we will discuss more of this soon).
Good communication on safety and the body may decrease a child’s vulnerability to sexual abuse and increase the likelihood that the child will speak up if they are being groomed for sexual abuse or if abuse has already occurred.
A few books for parents to read with young children on this topic, as recommended by our Facebook followers:
Talk to the children in your life. Spend time with them. Ask questions.
Get to know them.
One of the most valuable things a parent can do is to take the time to really know their child. Know what they like and don’t like. Know your child’s friends. Know your child’s friend’s parents. Know your child so well that you are attuned to changes.
Kids are not second-class citizens. They are real people, with thoughts, ideas, gifts, talents, fears, humor and unconditional love. I love bedtime with my 3 year old because we often have real conversations that blow my mind. He understands so much more than I often give him credit for and he desires wisdom and soaks in information better than I could dream of doing.
Use teachable moments and everyday opportunities to initiate a deeper conversation, such as current news stories or stories they share with you about their friends.
Set a tone of openness. Talking openly and directly will tell your child that it is okay to come to you with questions, fears or confusion; and when your child presents concerns or questions, make time to really listen and talk with them.
Practice talking before there is ever a problem. Be willing to say the hard things, ask the difficult questions, confront red flag behavior. Speak the embarrassing words out loud; you will both will become more comfortable using those words over time. Developing a practice of stress-free conversations surrounding tough issues with people (big and small) in your life helps to keep everyone open and honest. Make it obvious to those close to you that you are a good listener, non-judgmental, and will listen to what they have to share, no matter what.
When they ask questions, listen for the question behind the question. Sometimes a child may ask you something with the hope that you will take initiative in moving toward their real question. The child needs affirmation that their questions are okay and that you are willing to be there for them, especially in tough or awkward conversations. They are also testing to see if they can approach you on such subjects.
Who do you feel you can trust? Talk to your children about these people. Give them permission to talk to these specific adults when they feel scared, uncomfortable or confused about someone’s behavior toward them. And let them know that they should always talk to you—even about those you feel are trustworthy—and that you will always listen and love and protect them no matter what.
Don’t keep the family secrets; avoid perpetuating generational curses. Don’t avoid talking about situations or topics that arise in your own extended family or in families you associate with.