My eyes were swollen and groggy when I came to, but I made a good attempt to open them and look across the room. He sat, perfectly relaxed, in the chair my parents gave us for our wedding. He was gazing at me with a smirk-smile when I discovered the little cut marks on the back of my hand.
"What is this?" I asked.
"Just a little something I gave you to keep you still," he answered, lazily.
I couldn't wake up enough to be fully afraid and as acceptance once again took over my will to fight, I drifted off thinking, "Oh God, my kids. Please protect my kids."
I was so tired. Deep sleep wanted to come and I wanted it too. But I heard the footsteps again and when my bedroom door slammed open against the wall, I sat up, gasping.
Yesterday I attended the 7th annual Butterflies & Blooms luncheon to support Saving Grace, a Northwest Arkansas ministry devoted to helping young women who have aged out of the foster care system and have nowhere to go. It was an encouraging time to learn more about the ministry and how it's helped to bring vital hope and practical help to these girls in a transitional time. One message that really hit me was when a speaker began listing some of the "firsts" these girls experience through the Saving Grace ministry---things like a birthday cake, curfew, and someone to tell them, "goodnight, sleep well."
I grew up as a typical 80s-90s American kid. Our family had its share of junk: My parents were self-absorbed, my dad had a heavy hand, and our family was split in half by divorce before I was 12 years old. Still, I had a loving home, a safe home, and any need or want I had was met by parents who loved me and wanted to provide the best life possible for me---even if they didn't always know how to go about doing that.
In high school, I dated a boy with a pretty scary past. His parents had already joined rehab groups by the time he and I got together, but he'd grown up in an environment filled with drugs, alcohol, and physical abuse. This was his normal and our 2 1/2 year relationship was full of red flags that I finally stopped ignoring.
Now, almost 20 years later, I'm married to a gentle, happy, easy-going Christian man who brought to our family a generational legacy of following Christ. We have nine well cared for children, a clean, safe, and beautiful home, the finances to support ourselves and allow me to stay home, and we all go to sleep each night feeling peaceful and optimistic about what the next day will bring.
Still, I have recurring nightmares, like the one above, that I'm living a life of abuse and fear. In my sleep, I go from one frantic plan to protect my children to another---all of them crumbling with the thought that he (whoever he is) will find us, no matter what. My dream usually always ends with this sick acceptance that this bad-dream life is my fate and I'm powerless to change it.
Saving Grace of Northwest Arkansas is providing young women with that power to change. These girls are being set on a path to break generational cycles of poverty, abuse, neglect, godlessness, and negativity. One way this is accomplished is by assigning each girl a group of mentors who stick with her for life. I'm hoping one day to serve as a Saving Grace mentor, as this blessed life I've been given is not meant to be contained within the walls of this home.
Would you consider supporting Saving Grace? If you live in the area, you can contact them at (479) 636-1133 for information about volunteering your time. There's also a list of material needs if you'd like to give something tangible, and anyone anywhere can donate monetarily.
“Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the straps of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover him, and not to hide yourself from your own flesh? Then shall your light break forth like the dawn, and your healing shall spring up speedily; your righteousness shall go before you; the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard." ~Isaiah 58:6-8