Now can you see?
Further down the boardwalk, a rotted and maybe burned out tree juts up.
I peer down into the water. I see a long gray fish, but it barely appears on my camera. I snap the photo anyway. So much we don't clearly see beneath the surface at first glance.
Editing at home, adjusting the light, clarifying... Here it is.
Blue Springs is famous for manatees, so I hope against hope to see one swimming, but no.... Then again? A mosaic manatee, beauty crafted from broken pieces.
The views from the boardwalk are beautiful, even if only for such a brief time. I am still trying to drink it all in. My motto: "Fill your soul with all good things, and let the beauty pour forth."
Ears to hear? Bird song! I hit the video icon and slowly swivel to and fro to capture the music in the trees. Then I scurry back to my van because I have places to go, people to see.
It isn't until I listen to the video later that I realize I must have hit the slo-mo instead. The first few seconds I hear cheerful chirping, and then... It's spooky. Weird. Intimidating. I think of how just this change of speed, or perception, makes all the difference in the atmosphere.
It was for the broken, too. The world we hear as bird song may be to them a very scary place full of traumatic memories for those who have experienced domestic abuse, sexual abuse, or spiritual abuse. Someone has been messing with their mind, their soul, their core identity, and even their perception of God. They don't know what to think or who to believe. They don't know where to turn. It's not safe out there.
And this was once the case for one of the friends I had been visiting. I'd like to introduce you to her.
Valerie is a home schooling mother of 11. She lives in Wisconsin but was in Florida visiting family. I met her on Facebook first, then in person last year. She is a domestic violence advocate, because she is first of all a survivor. Her family has suffered horrifically, first at the hands of the one who abused them for decades, and then at the hands of their church, which shunned her for taking action to protecting her children and herself.
If you know me well, you know that this attentive advocacy is what I have been called to do as a lifetime pursuit. It's one reason I blog about spiritual and domestic abuse here at Watch the Shepherd, one reason I'm a student at Asbury Seminary, one reason why I'm a presence on Facebook (whether in public or in advocacy groups), and one reason I started the Empowering Christian Women Facebook page.
Not everyone will understand this or appreciate it. I don't care. I'm here for the hidden ones. One by one. It spreads. Ripple effect and all.
"Give me ears to hear, eyes to see, a heart to love."
Friends, I plead with you: Listen to the words that others are saying, and the words they aren't saying. Hear the stress in the voice, the whimper, the awkward pause, the sighs. Watch the body language, the facial expressions, the deflected glance. Keep an eye out for bruises, scratches, other unexplained injuries. Pay attention to their texts, their emails, their social media. The clues may be there. It's up to you to notice. It's up to you to care.
What to do? Be gentle. Be trustworthy. Be patient. Be safe. Be vulnerable about your own story, as appropriate. Be involved. Not nosy. Not intrusive. Not bossy. Not gossiping. Not judging or shaming or blaming.
Listen well. Listen again. Listen. Love listens.
Love well. Love with words. Love with deeds. Love again. Love always.
Let me know if you need help. I can connect you with information and support. You can also check out my resource page here: Domestic Violence. It has links to my own articles, as well as to other web sites. Here are several blog posts to get you started:
- Abigail's Story: Responses to Domestic Violence
- Recognizing Pervasive, Poisonous Power in Marriage
- Five Things Home School Moms Should Know About Abusive Marriages
- The Bad Boy and the Angel
- Mara's Story: Anger After Abuse
- Why Couples Counseling is Not Recommended for Abusive Marriages, Even Christian Ones
- Psychological Socialism: Manipulating through Equalizing Blame
- When Abuse Leads to Cynicism
- Bonding and Bondage in Abusive Relationships
Here's some music for you: "Give Me Your Eyes" by Brandon Heath.