What Decoration Day Is All About

It began in 1866, the placement of flowers on the graves of soldiers who had died on the battlefields of the Civil War. Old City Cemetery in Lynchburg, VA has over 2,000 of these graves, and today I joined them for their Dedication Day service.

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Beneath this monument to the soldiers of 14 states laid in those hallowed grounds, wreaths were placed and “Amazing Grace” was played.

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Flowers were placed on each and every grave.

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And we were reminded, in part, of the cost of this war.

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As I reflect on those lost lives, I reflect on all of those who have lost their lives in battle since the inception of our country. I reflect on those who lost loved ones during war or as a result of war. And I am filled with sorrow over their loss and gratitude for their sacrifice. May God Bless America.

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What You Need To Know About the Duggar Bombshell

Like many people, I am still processing the shocking Duggar news. In case you haven’t heard, it was revealed by a news outlet that the eldest son (Josh) sexually violated a number of young girls around 2003. According to the police report, it appears there were at least 5 victims…4 were identified as being the children of Michelle and Jim Bob, Josh’s parents. This means that at least 4 of Josh’s victims were his sisters.

Shocking. Sad. Scary…

The Duggars are not denying that this happened. They report they took Josh to law enforcement, and that charges were not pressed against the then 14 year old. They further report that he and his victims were all taken for counseling. It appears Josh’s “counseling” was not actual mental health counseling, but living and working away from home for several months with a male mentor. Whatever it was, I hope and pray Josh got the help he needed to prevent this horrible crime from taking place again, and I also certainly hope and pray the girls were provided the safety, support and interventions they needed.

But here’s the thing: This news release was not for the benefit of those precious girls. As a therapist, I have never met a victim of sexual trauma who wanted this type of information blasted around the Internet and the world. If one or more of the victims came forward, this would be a different story. But, instead, it was the blood-thirsty media who wanted to rip apart a conservative, Christian family….sigh.

Did the Duggars handle this situation properly? I don’t know.

Was justice served? I don’t know. (Clearly, Josh did not suffer legal consequences, but that was not up to him. Would DJJ have helped or hurt? Again, I just don’t know. And, just because he did not suffer legal consequences does not mean he did not suffer other consequences. The statue of limitations has passed, so I am not sure what folks want done to Josh at this point, legally.)

Have the victims received the help they needed? I don’t know.

I do know that no sexual trauma should be brushed under the rug; however, I don’t know that this is what happened. Maybe this was all handled the best way possible, and that forgiveness and healing has taken place. Josh could certainly have realized the gravity of his actions, and may have truly changed. The victims may have sincerely been able to forgive (not out of being forced but out of a genuine place) and they may have received the intervention they needed to ensure safety, process their trauma, and heal from this terrible ordeal. (How my heart aches for them…)

It’s a little surprising to me that this family would allow themselves to be placed in the spotlight knowing this family history; however, I am sure they never thought it would come to light. But, skeletons always do. And, now, Josh has resigned from a position at a worthy organization that he was doing good work for. And I don’t know about that. I don’t know about someone losing everything for sins committed in the past…as a young teenager. At the same time, I question if he was the best one to serve in that type of leadership given this past. Perhaps if he had been open about this past and used it to speak out against this violence and on behalf of victims, things would be different. But, is that the right thing to do to the victims? Re-traumatize them by making it public without their consent? I don’t think so. And, yet, as a Christian and as a therapist I would never minimize or ignore the pain experienced (and very likely still experienced) by these young ladies.

So, what do we do now? I think we should continue to dialogue, not about the Duggars specifically, but about how to best address sexual abuse (and other crimes) within the church and Christian families. We should give Josh’s victims the respect and privacy they deserve, while advocating for them and all victims and developing/requiring treatment for perpetrators. And, above all, we should pray.

I am not sure what good this news revelation will do, but I pray God uses it for His glory and for the benefit of these and other victims.

***Update May 23, 2015***

After an interesting day yesterday dialoguing about this situation (and these types of situations) with friends and strangers both publicly and privately, I have done a lot of reading, thinking, and praying about this situation. Here are some additional thoughts that I feel compelled to share (did not want to edit my initial post as those are my honest, initial gut reactions):

1) Based on the facts as “we” know them, more should have been done in this particular case. To be clear, Josh should have gone for actual mental health counseling. Law enforcement should have done more of a thorough investigation (originally in 2003 when it was first reported to them), and perhaps the state CPS/DSS should have been involved as well.

2) Even if all of that had taken place, the outcome very likely would have been the same. I am NOT saying “all is well that ends well” but IF the outcome is as the Duggar family reported, the best case scenario took place following the discovery of the abuse: the perpetrator stopped his sexual molestation and the victims received the counseling they needed. I pray this is all the case, and continue to pray most of all of for these and other victims.

3) Being willing to look at a situation in its entirety and deciding to not jump on either erroneous bandwagon of “crucify him” or “he was just a kid” does not mean I am not in full support of the victims. (I have not personally been accused of this, but have seen some bullying behavior to this effect online, which I disagree with.) While I do believe in taking legal actions against criminal activity, I also recognize as a mental health professional that punishment is not the same as rehabilitation. Both should take place, and this is all in support of the victim. The behavior should not be excused away, and many people believe that those who sexually abuse never change, but I also recognize as a Christian that people CAN and DO change. I pray this is the case for Josh. In my experience, it is rare for a perpetrator to admit wrongdoing or express remorse. He has done both. While this does not change the past, it can be an indicator of a changed heart and changed behavior.

4) Some have pointed out that the girls in this case are not being talked about much. Other than publicly stating that I am praying for them and hope they have and are receiving the help they need, I do think we should be respecting their right to privacy. If any of them choose to come forward, that is their right, but we should not force them. Just like we shouldn’t force any victim to keep quiet or come forward. This must be left up to them. I am sure the publicity is re-traumatiziing to them, and as a society, we can speak out against violence, advocate for victims, address legislation and policy, work on improving treatment for all involved, etc., but we cannot determine who will come forward and who will not. That is their choice.

5) Regarding the disclosure of this information…it’s interesting that in 2006 the Oprah show was able to get a hold of this information…yet, TLC has not publicly stated whether or not they had this information when they decided to air this show. Does the public have a “right” to know this information…no, they don’t. At the same time, since this family has allowed society into their lives, we “feel” we do have a right to know. We don’t. Regardless of whether or not TLC knew about this, they have decided to pull the show. Not sure how I feel about that, although I can see the benefit for the victims.

6) This revelation can be used for good as it brings up larger societal issues. One issue that I have seen come up is regarding the statue of limitations, which varies by state. I do believe it should be lengthened for adults, but I am still not sure how I feel about it for minors. And I am talking about crimes in general here. This is a very complex issue…

7) Josh should have disclosed his past to FRC before accepting such a prominent role where he would be in a spotlight and under a microscope. At the same time, I still believe that he should be able to work and support his family.

8) This has got to be extremely painful not only for this family, but for all families who have experienced this. A lot of people have made claims about what they would have done, but do you really know what you would have done if faced with this crisis? This story can shed some light on what you should and should not do. Instead of hurling boulders at this family, take this as a learning lesson to make a plan for your own family…to talk, protect, prevent, and intervene if necessary.

I have read many responses to this situation, and many more blog posts are written much better than mine. Even if some of those thoughts and opinions are not exactly the same as mine, they are all valid. I encourage you to read a few as you sort through this issue. I will conclude the same way I did yesterday…I pray God will use this revelation for His glory and for the benefit of these and other victims.

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Another Childless Mother’s Day…And Why I’m Ok

This day is not easy for everyone, but I love Mother’s Day. It is a day to celebrate all of the amazing moms out there. Maybe it’s your mom. Maybe it’s someone who is (or was) like a mom to you. I have been blessed with strong women to lead me in my life. To them I say, thank-you!

Yet, it’s another childless mother’s day for me. And I am okay with that. The Lord has given me such a sense of peace and patience, and I know His timing is perfectly perfect. I am happy to celebrate this day with the moms out there. But, most of all, I love Mother’s Day because I get to celebrate my own mother.

She is not one who seeks, or even likes, attention. She is humble and generous. Thoughtful too. Living 300 miles apart, we like to text as we watch the same TV programs, and are both so ready for one of “our shows” to end because we are over the drama!

Most of the time I call her “mama” yet there was not one card at the multiple stores I went to that used that term. It was all “mom” and “mommy” and “mother.” But to me, she’s mama. I am quite sure there have been times she wished I had forgotten her “name.” The fact is that I’ve always known that name, but never really knew much about the person behind that name until I got older.

It was only then that I realized the sacrifices she has made for her children. The love and concern she has for her children. Who she really is. And I love getting to know her more and more…

The bottom line is that the childless Mother’s Day doesn’t really bother me. As long as I get to be with my mama.

Mama, I love you, and I pray I honor you more than just on Mother’s Day.

PS: To the precious readers whose loving mothers have already passed on from this earth, please know I am praying for you. I would like to honor the memory of someone who was like a second mother to me. Sam Harp…because I knew you, I have been changed for good.

PSS: To the precious readers who have a difficult time celebrating your mothers due to painful histories, please know I am praying for you too. I am so sorry for the hurt you have experienced at the hands of your mother, but please know she helped give the world a great gift. You.

PSSS: To the precious readers who want to be mothers, please know that I really do know how it feels and I’m always united with you in prayer. And to those who have lost children, prayers and blessings to you as well this Mother’s Day.

PSSSS: Happy Mother’s Day to my sister…mom to the two greatest nephews an aunt could ever hope for!

If you’re a mom, Happy Mother’s Day!

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