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Trigger warning: sexual abuse, sexual content.
He asked her to go to the bathroom on him, and vomit on him, but she couldn’t do it (she tried).
He was 26, and she was there for his pleasure, but she got scared when she saw blood on a pillow in the room they were in so she decided to leave. Safety first. She didn’t get paid, even though he got off at least once, she couldn’t perform the other acts. She paid for a taxi and got out of there.
Meet O (that’s what we’ll call her). O is a “free lancer”, offering her body for service. She is on her own. No pimp or brothel, just the street and her willingness to do this work in order to pay off her husbands debts. Her husband, who is a “bad man, only thing he hasn’t done is kill someone.” Her husband who won’t grant her a divorce. Her husband and his parents who keep her 7 year old from her because of her work, even though she does the work because she owes six banks on account of him.
She tried working at “company” but couldn’t make what she needed. She’s 33.
“What was your dream when you were a little girl?” We ask. “To have a perfect marriage.”
Now she spends her nights trying to convince men to wear condoms when she gives blow jobs because she doesn’t feel safe, but they refuse.
Her hair is long and black, her nails are perfectly manicured. She doesn’t wear makeup. She says, “I don’t look smart, but I’m smart.”
“I throw my dignity away so I can pay off my debts and then get out of this work. People insult me, look down on me. I like being around my friends who do this work too because they don’t insult me.”
We ask her when she will be able to get her daughter back. She says, “When the grandparents die.” She has no rights.
She a free lancer. She is un-dignified to those around her.
“What are you dreams now?”
“Not to be in perfect marriage, but to depend on myself.” She is proud of this, that she can provide for herself. Oh, and also take care of her mother. She does that too.
I think of Fantine from Les Misérables and the words of the famous song, I Dreamed a Dream:
There was a time when men were kind
When their voices were soft
And their words inviting
There was a time when love was blind
And the world was a song
And the song was exciting
There was a time
Then it all went wrong
I dreamed a dream in time gone by
When hope was high
And life worth living
I dreamed that love would never die
I dreamed that God would be forgiving
Then I was young and unafraid
And dreams were made and used and wasted
There was no ransom to be paid
No song unsung, no wine untasted
But the tigers come at night
With their voices soft as thunder
As they tear your hope apart
As they turn your dream to shame…
But there are dreams that cannot be
And there are storms we cannot weather
I had a dream my life would be
So different from this hell I’m living
So different now from what it seemed
Now life has killed the dream I dreamed.
We ask her if she wants her daughter doing this work and she says emphatically, “Absolutely no.”
This isn’t a job you want, it’s a job you do. For her, it’s to pay off debt and care for her mother, for others it’s to eat. She tells us the prices are going down on the streets for the work she offers because some women are so desperate to eat that they give themselves for cheap. This lowers prices all around. “Customers are smart.”
I want to hold her hands and tell her, “It’s all going to be okay. You don’t have to do this. Let me help you.” But I can’t do that because I can’t help, not really, and I don’t know if things will be okay. I don’t know if she’ll ever get out of this work. I don’t know what will happen to her.
She says she hasn’t had work in three or four days, so this was good, “to tell my story.” We are paying her for an hour to sit with us. The hour goes quick and I just want to keep her.
She has dignity. She is not lower because of her work. She is doing her best.
I look at her in the eyes and I tell her, “You are dignified. You are not low. You are beautiful.”
She hugs us all.
And she goes back to work.
Want to be a part of this work? Keep following along with me. You can learn more about The Exodus Road here.
You blew it. Or at least you think you did.
You’re so angry and you’ve been angry for so long you’re not even sure you know why anymore. But behind the anger, the rage, there’s the dull ache of too-long pain. In fact, right now the pain feels unbearable. You feel like you don’t want to stay but you don’t want to go; it’s all so confusing. What if everything comes crashing down? The walls you’ve built, the ones you thought would keep you safe, are about to be torn down without your say so. You should be in charge, but you’re not. And now you’re scared and you don’t know what it all means or where to turn and it hurts more than you ever thought it would.
What will they say?
What can I do?
Can I fix this mess?
Here is what I want to say to you, the broken one, the one who doesn’t even know how to climb out of the pain and anger and bitterness you’ve carried for far too long: I’m so sorry.
I’m so sorry you’ve had to carry such a burden for so long. The weight of bitterness, of resentment, of regret, of anger, of a loveless marriage, of great loss, is too much for anyone to bear. Yes, you have reaped some of your own pain, but I see you. I see more than your pain or anger or meanness. I know you have a longing soul; I know there are soft places of your heart you keep tucked away. I understand. You’re not the only one.
It’s never too late to let the wall drop.
It’s never too late to say, “I’m sorry.”
It’s never too late to ask for help, to let people into the hidden pain.
It’s never too late to forgive.
You may not know it in your bones, but you are so deeply loved. It sounds trite, I know, or maybe patronizing, but once the truth gets into your soul it becomes the most profound thing, the most important thing of your life. This true love. And because of this love you have the invitation to have your broken heart bound up, healed, made new.
No matter what happens from here on out, you don’t have to be identified with your past or your pain or your failures; only God has the authority to tell you who you are. Have you asked Him? Have you cried out to God and said, “Who do you say that I am?”
And you will receive.
You can be healed in those places of the soul that need healing. You can be made new. You can walk in freedom. You can be weak. It’s okay to be weak. Because when we are weak, God is strong in us. He will give us strength when we have none. You don’t have to be brave or tough. It’s okay to be scared out of your mind. You don’t have to walk alone. But if you want to be free and whole, you will need to surrender. Hands up. Willing.
Jesus will not leave you in the pit.
He hears your cry, and He will turn to you. He will lift you up and set you on solid ground. He will put a new song in your mouth. You will smile, and you will praise Him for what He has done: the impossible. And people will see and fear and put their trust in the Lord. (Psalm 40:1-3)
All is not lost, though some may be.
But you will make it if you bend your knees. Cry out to God who hears you. Please do. Please let the weak, vulnerable you have a shot because you matter and you are loved. So very loved.
“He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.” Psalm 147:3
Love to you,
I only did it to get a like.
I read this on a t-shirt at Target the other day.
I guess it’s supposed to be cute, the only problem is, in many cases, it’s true.
Our kids are growing up in a selfie society with technology in their back pocket, on their wrists, and just about every room in the house.
Media and technology are amazing tools. But when our children are just a click away from scary and damaging stuff, we have to be proactive in allowing them access.
Anything else is just simply irresponsible.
I’ve talked to moms who have 4th grade sons addicted to pornography and middle school girls who are suicidal because of hateful instagram feeds. We need to know what our kids are looking at–not so we can control everything they see, but so we can empower them to look away when they need to.
Here are some of our technology restrictions:
We get final say in what social media accounts our kids have, and we get to be their “friends” or follow whatever they sign up for.
We can read our kids’ texts if they give us reason to.
We don’t allow FaceTime or other video chatting, chat rooms, etc.
We won’t let our kids interact online with people they don’t know, whether it’s gaming or followers on Instagram we don’t know. Privacy settings on our accounts help control this.
We don’t allow apps to be deleted, so we can monitor what’s being downloaded.
We reserve the right to ask our kids to put their phones or media away at any time. After all, they are our phones that we are letting them use. I love what blog reader Kim Adam said: “I pay for it and that makes it MY phone. I am the parent and I will say when and where they can have it.”
We require our kids to pay part of a bill if it is associated with technology.
We don’t allow devices at the dinner table. And please, don’t walk and text.
Ultimately, it is ours and we are letting our child use it. We can and will take technology away if we need to.
We have a no-media day every week. When we first announced this several years ago, I wish I’d videotaped the response. At the time, it wasn’t funny. My kids flipped out—which proved the need for creating media-free hours. It took time and consistency, but they got used to it.
As far as social media and our kids go, we carefully consider each “new thing.” The problem I see with social media is that it creates an alternative world that offers an inflated view. We can easily distort reality and show only the edited or filtered parts of our lives. I’ve certainly succumbed to unhappiness after a hop into Facebook, so I get it. I’m a middle-aged woman who feels the pressure, and considering that kids are more impressionable and naïve than adults is exactly why we need to be careful and involved.
I have mostly been really proud of my kids’ choices, but they are human and we aren’t done raising them. I know they will make mistakes and learn from them. We’ve discovered many teachable moments by getting involved in what they are seeing or saying on the Internet.
Here are 10 Technology Guidelines to Teach Our Kids:
- Nothing is ever really private. Statuses and pictures can be shared and altered.
- Or permanently deleted. Everything is traceable. I read something really disturbing on Facebook the other day from an old friend, and when I went back to show my husband because I was alarmed, it had been deleted. But it definitely wasn’t forgotten.
- Some things are better said face-to-face (like apologies or confrontations). Social media makes it easier for us to be cowardly. We need to teach our kids the value of looking someone in the eye and making things right. Sure, it’s harder, but they won’t forget it.
- Remember there are real people with feelings behind every avatar. Lately, I’ve been on the receiving end of some harsh words. And sometimes I just want to remind the offenders that I’m a real person. I think it’s good to teach our kids that our (online) words can hurt.
- It’s okay to disagree with someone’s opinion, but kindness always wins. “If you are not kind on the Internet, then you’re not kind.” —Glennon Melton. It’s as simple as that.
- Don’t let negative comments to your pictures, statuses, or no likes at all change how you feel about yourself. This one is especially important to teach our girls. There’s this whole secret online code between mean girls, and we have to remind our daughters that who they are doesn’t change because of how people see them.
- It’s easier to attain a bad online reputation than a good one—so watch what you say. We’ve all probably done something online that we regretted. Our words follow us.
- Avoid drama. We all read and see things we don’t agree with, and I want my kids to use self-control and click off that page.
- Don’t ever mention your location. Predators don’t lure kids at the school bus nearly as much as they do online. Our children need to know the dangers of over sharing.
- Take a day of rest from social media. Recently, I asked my teen to take a break from social media. She wasn’t in trouble or doing anything wrong. I just noticed she was isolating herself and thought it would be healthy for her to take a couple of days off. Later, she thanked me.
Kristen Welch blogs at wearethatfamily.com where she shares about parenting, marriage and inspirational encouragement. Her family founded Mercy House, a non-profit that empowers impoverished and oppressed women around the world. Kristen is an author and her newest book Raising Grateful Kids in an Entitled World is now available!
There are affiliate links in this post. Read my disclosure policy here.
Well. Apparently the East coast is about to have a full on Snowpocalypse.
Which is kinda fun if people are safe (Sledding! Hot chocolate! Little Women!), but it just so happens that the impending snow will land on the Night to Breathe weekend. Therefore, Amy and I have decided to postpone the event and will instead host it on March 19th (Mark your calendars!).
We have sent out an email to all the attendees, but I’m trying to cover my basis with this post because we wouldn’t want anyone showing up and wondering where we all are! If you have any questions about the date, please email me.
In the meantime…
Happy grocery shopping and stock piling!
I looked at my iPod. Which playlist should I pick to listen to while I wash my dishes.
My eyes went back and forth between my “Cleaning” playlist and my “Rend Collective” praise music list. I decided on the praise because it’s been a dark day.
I propped my iPod up on my kitchen window, pressed play, and as the words came out, something in me opened up.
I turned around, slid down to the floor on my knees and cried.
I think I’m in a bit of a depression.
And depression is this weird thing that you can’t really explain or give reason for. It just is.
“Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me…” Psalm 42:5
I get this way from time to time, it’s just a darkness, and it seems to be a rhythm of my life, and I know it will lift. But it’s been a few weeks of struggling to do basic tasks, and I finally had to admit to myself that I’m in it. And I function. I’m kind of a functioning depressive, or so I told my friend this morning. I can be mostly okay, but in my home, going about the hours, everything is a mountain.
I had a class in college and I remember the professor telling us once that when you find yourself in a depressed place, that everything feels hard, and to just do something small as you can. Maybe you can just make the bed. Do that.
My small thing, right now, is writing this to you, because there is something in the writing that helps. Something about vulnerability and honesty that allows the process to take its course.
So here I am telling you that I’m depressed. But I’m also hopeful because God is with me, and He knows all of my heart and every bit of my soul, and He will be kind and tender with me through this. I’ve been here before.
So today, I’m going to be gentle with myself, and I’m going to slowly do my dishes, and I’m going to keep on knowing that I’m not alone.
I’m not going to believe the voice of the enemy and I’m not going to condemn myself. I am free, and I trust the healing in the heaviness.
If you are struggling with a dark day or days, hang in there. Be gentle with yourself. Listen to truth not accusation. You are loved, you are not a failure, you are going to be okay.
“Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.” Psalm 42:5
“…whenever our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and he knows everything.” 1 John 3:20
“…the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.” 1 John 4:4
“In my failures You won’t walk out
Your great love will lead me through
You are the peace in my troubled sea”
My Lighthouse, Rend Collective
Much love to you today,