She sits across from me at my kitchen table, an untouched cup of tea in front of her, and speaks out the details of the very worst moment of her life. Her eyes pour out her pain, and her voice breaks and everything, every hurt, every hard thing in her life since then, it leads back to this one terrifying, shattering moment, this moment she can't forget, and can't move past.

There is counsel, and there is a time for that.

But better, sometimes;

-to hold the hand of a hurting friend, enter into her pain, and grieve with her for the evil she has endured.

-to pray there is comfort in grieving together,

-to let her know that even though she feels alone, she doesn't have to move forward on her own,

We walk on together, hand in hand. One small step at a time.


Holding The Pieces

I sat on a pile of concrete fence posts across from her. She juggles her baby, almost a year old now, she says. She doesn't really know because the baby's father has taken all of her birth records.

I ask her to tell me how she came to be "married".

"I was 12," she says, "I had only had my period 3 times. He called me to come in and lay down with him. I thought he just meant to lay together like children do. But he had sex with me. I bled a lot, it really hurt. The next day I couldn't even sit down. But didn't take me to the doctor or anything."

Her parents didn't know at first, because this happened far away at a cousin's house. But then they sent her to live with him because sex equals marriage around here, or at least, an obligation on the part of the man to care for the girl.

This is how she ended up married to a man twice her age and living at his house. His mother called her a prostitute when first she met her. He beat her, didn't feed her, and eventually she ended up pregnant. When he threatened to hurt the baby she left. Now she lives with her parents, who welcomed her back.

I go from this conversation, next to a row of one room wooden shacks near a construction yard, to the shopping mall to pay some bills, and pick up a few last minute gifts for my oldest daughter. I buy her a dress, reflecting that this may be my last year shopping for her in the girls section. I saw a hint of a developing waist and hips when she was in the bath the other day.

I go home, and my husband and I cook a birthday feast for this girl who is now 11. We visit with our guests, celebrate our daughter, and go to bed.

My heart feels like it lives in separate pieces. One piece is laying on the floor weeping for the girl who was raped when she was still a child, and then endured living with and being beaten by her rapist, giving birth to a child, becoming a mother, when she was way too young. I try to resist the urge to insulate myself against this tragedy, to keep it at a distance.

Another piece is celebrating my lovely daughter growing older. She's a wonderful, clever, inventive, brave child.

While watching her laugh and eat cake, part of my brain is busy thinking of all the ways that I would exact justice, or at least revenge, from the body of a man who dared to touch her, the way I want to do for the the girl I sat with that morning. That's the part that's fighting back the fear caused by the inescapable knowledge of what a vulnerable thing it is to be a girl, a young woman, here, there, anywhere.

I don't want her to become a woman. I know girlhood doesn't stop some men, but it feels like a defense to me nonetheless.

I've watched men leer at her already, as she rides shotgun in the car with me. She's obliviously telling me some story about her cat, and I have to swallow down the rage I feel to answer her lightly, to listen to her story.

My heart is keeping all these pieces separate. I'm trying to hold them all together.

I'm afraid, and sad, and angry, and joyful and even thankful. These feelings, they don't fit together. They bang against each other and make me uneasy. And yet, my heart has room for them all.


I wrote this 2 months ago. I didn't publish it, as I don't publish many things these days. I wasn't sure if I should. Ijust had to write it down to get it out of my heart. But here it is. This was a hard day, and a happy day, all at once and jumbled up together. Somehow, I live with that tension. 


When I realize, again, That My Husband is a Better Christian Than Me.

We had unexpected guests at the close of the year. One of the hazards of working cross culturally is that you sometimes often find yourself grossly misunderstood.

Like this one time, when Aaron reconnected with an old friend from his first few trips to Thailand. The friend said he wanted to move back to the area where we currently live and Aaron said, "Great, if you do you should give me a call we could hang out and stuff, maybe even work together."

Remember Aaron is basically still a beginner at Thai, his friend is a beginner at English. This is probably explains why, when his friend arrived on a bus the day before New Year's Eve, with his wife and child and all earthly possessions packed into a few bags, he thought we had a job for him, and a place for him to live.

Slight misunderstanding.

We don't have a job for him, unfortunately, we wish we did. But we weren't going to leave him hanging with nowhere to stay until he figured out a plan B. We have a few choices for places to live. We have a wood farmhouse on stilts that doesn't have electricity or running water. They didn't want to stay there. We have a small living space upstairs from the shop for volunteers, but they didn't want to live there either, too lonely, too much in the city. We also were fixing up the recently vacated little guest house on our property to be ready to host volunteers who were arriving in just a few more weeks. (By fixing up I mean things like cleaning years worth of grime off of things, and patching screens in an effort to make it sort of mosquito proof.) They opted to stay there, knowing they would have to leave a short time later, and that I would be in and out working on it while they were still there.

It was a bit awkward. I was trying to paint and stuff. But they found a good job and a new place to live very quickly and left to live there.

Aaron phoned to tell me this while I was out and ended with, "I told them they could take a few of the mattresses and some of the pots to get set up in their new house."

This is the part where I got all upset and started asking stuff like, "Wait, which mattress did you give them? Because one of the ones I put in there was way more expensive than the others. "

"I didn't know," he said, "and it really wouldn't have mattered. I gave it to them."

Cue me muttering in frustration under my breath, because, I'm the one who has been wandering town looking for deals, trying to furnish our living spaces for volunteers on a strict budget.

"It cost over ($30USD)!" I told him, on the point of tears.

"Carrien, how much does that mean for them, knowing what they probably make?" He asked.

"It's more than a weeks wages," I answered.

"Exactly," he said, "for us, it's a bit inconvenient, and a bit of money. For them it's a whole lot more."

I thought to myself that he's very generous with my time, and my inconvenience. Because I'm shockingly self centered, fairly often.

When I had time to check out the house the next day, it was cleaned out! They had, either purposely, or more likely by misunderstanding, taken every last carefully selected kitchen item I had stood and deliberated over in the store, all the things I had just furnished it with, the mosquito net, and even the extra dishes she had come over to my house to borrow her first day here. Everything except the electric burner was gone.

I was so frustrated, again. I said bad words aloud into the empty house. I called Aaron to vent.

"I'm embarrassed that I feel so angry about this. But I do. GRRR."

He of course reminded me that it's not a big deal in the end. We'll be fine, $100 worth of housewares will not break us. I wished I had known he'd be giving everything in there away, because I have crappier versions of many of those things that I would have preferred to part with. (My heart is so full of charity toward my fellow man, isn't it? Here, take my old things I don't want, but don't take anything nice, I want to keep that stuff. I want to give it to MY friends to use.)

So yeah, the old kitchen stuff is in the guest house for now. I bought new mosquito nets. I finished the painting and clean up. It's not perfect, but it will serve for a while.

My heart may need a bit more work though.

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