The safe house is up and running and we are all learning so much everyday! Among all the lessons, my favorites are generally spiritual. I have come to know my a Savior in a much more personal light and for that I am so grateful!
We have had children-survivors in the shelter for nearly 2 months now. Each case has been very different and each child’s reaction to their abuse has been very different. One thing that stayed consistent with each child was the need to know they were safe and loved. I found that the deeper the trauma, the louder the cry to be loved. If a child questioned if we loved them, their behavior became more and more inappropriate. Some broke things, others threatened to run away and one claimed she was going to stab herself or others.
At first it was hard not to take it personally. I could easily see things from my perspective. I had given up my comforts and life as I knew it for these kids. I had lost sleep and worked hard to provide for them. As we would ask simple things of them, like help with cleaning up or time to come in from playing, we would see meltdowns and fits of rage. As I stepped in to help house parents, I was kicked, pinched, sworn at and screamed at.
We didn’t have all of our staff members that we usually do during the holidays, which meant that the children did not have as many counseling sessions and the adults did not get as many breaks to regain strength. I wish I could say that I stayed strong and was always patient and loving, but that would be far from honest.
My hardest day came after days of emotional highs and lows and sleepless nights. My toddler was sick and the survivors had threatened to hurt my children. I had tried everything I could think of to express that we loved them, but to no avail. I was beyond exhausted but I didn’t dare leave the house parent alone with the three survivors, so I stayed even after I could see it wasn’t healthy.
That specific day, all of the kids were a bit defiant and disrespectful. One said she was running away and I didn’t try to stop her. My husband was standing at the gate and he knelt down to her level and said something to the effect of “Before you leave, can I tell you why we are here?” She agreed. He explained that we love children and that we are angry with anyone who would hurt a child in the way she had been hurt. He told her we love her and we would do anything to keep her safe from abuse. She came back over and hugged me. I started to cry and couldn’t stop. I wanted a private spot to “ugly cry” alone but that wasn’t an option so I just stayed there and sobbed. Two of the girls wrapped their arms around me and wouldn’t let go. I wish I could say that as they hugged me I felt strengthened and all was well after that, but the reality was that their hugs were still hugs of need. They were still looking for validation, love and strength from me. I knew the reality that I could never give enough to heal what had been broken.
I am grateful to say that I slept well that night, but the next afternoon a new fit of rage ensued after I asked a child to wait her turn for the bike. Asked she raged and broke things and threatened to throw a rock through the window at my children and the staff inside, I was just sick! I knew she couldn’t actually hurt them, but I didn’t want them to even see her that way. I walked into another room and fell to my knees. I called down the powers of heaven: angels, grace and all things helpful for each of us. When I walked back outside and looked at this young girl, all I could feel was love for her. I said “I still love you,” and she said nothing. I said “Can I hug you?” She grabbed me and did not let go. It was her turn to sob uncontrollably and understand a little more about God’s love. We both felt the powers of heaven, it was undeniable and the message was clear, God will always love us. His love does not change with our actions or whether we accept his love or not. His love is perfect and endless and is oh so very personal.
Well, I am happy to say that the girls have voiced that they feel safe and loved at the shelter and we have now experienced nearly three weeks without any fits of rage!
For those of you who know and love my children, I can only imagine the concern you have for them. They have been a huge part of the success of Lighthouse Sanctuary! They have been examples of kindness, gratitude and good behavior. They claim that they have never felt threatened and that they are grateful to be a part of this journey with the girls. They have options now for how much time they spend with the girls and honestly at times they’d rather play with other friends but most of the time they choose to exercise, paint or learn with the girls. The girls have come to love my children and I love to see they way they bond and learn from each other.