Tuesday, August 30, 2011
My son edited the video. He's a genius.
Sunday, August 28, 2011
I agreed to post about Domestic Violence today. My family and extended family have been severely impacted by domestic violence. Below is a letter the judge residing over the case involving my granddaughter asked me to submit to the court in the city of San Francisco.
My purpose for posting this is not to draw attention to the young man paying for this trespass. It is to draw attention to the far reaching, multi-generational impact and consequences of the violence that sometimes takes place in the safest place in the world: home.
It is imperative that I mention that the immediate family of the offender in our situation have been our most significant supporters day in and day out and our gratitude to them will never be adequately expressed. Our affection for them grows daily.
Life Has ChangedIt’s difficult to imagine what the future holds. We all imagine a future better and brighter than the difficulties we’ve weathered in the past. My wife and I have been married for twenty-three years this August. We married very young (She just turned twenty and I was a couple of months away from my twenty-first birthday). Our first child, Charity, came along when we were married ten months. Aaron followed about twenty months later.
We tried to do everything right raising these kids. I worked as hard as I could so Susan could stay home with the kids. I have very little formal education so that means I worked a series of blue collar jobs to keep a roof over our heads and food on the table. I managed to go to Bible College part time at night and on weekends. In 2000, I started to work in full time church ministry.
I worked for our church both locally and on the foreign mission field. As my two kids grew up, my wife began to talk about what we would do with ourselves when they were out on our own. We’d be in our early forties and knew that we had a lifetime in front of us. We had conversations with relief organizations about working in Africa.
We knew that our plans were on hold when my then eighteen year old daughter got pregnant. Charity had Allie just after her nineteenth birthday. We were in love.
Charity lived with us and Allie’s father moved to San Francisco. They never seemed to be in love anyway, so it really wasn’t an issue. We decided we’d help our daughter any way we could. While Charity finished up vocational school and worked part time, Susan cared for Allie. She was the light of our lives.
In December of 2006, Charity’s schooling came to an end. She began to think about what was next for her. She’d been talking to Allie’s father, Timmy, from time to time and between the two of them, they came to a decision: Allie and Charity would move to San Francisco. Susan and I were devastated, but knew that this was Charity’s decision.
The day Charity left was the most depressing day I can remember in my adult life. But I had no idea how difficult the days ahead would get.
The Phone CallOn the evening I returned from an out-of-town assignment, I got a phone call in the middle of the night from my daughter. She was terrified.
“Oh my God, Dad! You have to pray. Allie stopped breathing. She’s on her way to the hospital in an ambulance.”
In an hour or so, we received another call.
“He shook her and squeezed her. They have her breathing on a machine.”
That was pre-dawn Sunday morning; I was on a plane before sunrise on Monday.
Charity did not relate information very well. I was astounded to find Allie in a coma. The day I arrived, she was not able to maintain her body temperature, she had tubes taped into her mouth and nose, and her head was wrapped with bandages. It was a difficult sight to take in. It was terribly disorienting for me, like a train coming off its rails.
I got a number of reports from the doctors. Here’s how I remember it: Allie had a broken collar bone, a broken leg, and a broken rib. Each injury was in a different stage of healing indicating that the abuse was not a one time event. At the time, the doctors in the intensive care unit where Allie was being cared for did not know if Allie would be able to breathe without the machine. We had a conversation about a future discussion that may need to take place if Allie couldn’t breathe on her own; options I didn’t want to think about then and don’t want to think about now.
My daughter Charity was in a daze. I had to talk to social workers, some helpful and some hostile. I had to be told that Allie had moderate to severe brain damage and that she’d be handicapped the rest of her life whether she came off the breathing machine or not. I was told that if and when Allie came out of the hospital, she would probably not be released to us, but into a medical foster care program that was better equipped to care for her.
The good news is that Allie’s little body began to maintain temperature. She was successfully taken off the breathing machine a few days later. But she was still in a coma.
Allie was only ten months old at the time.
DischargedAllie came out of her coma on the tenth day after my arrival in San Francisco. That was the day my wife made the trip from Florida. As Susan was talking to her, one of her little eyes began to flutter open.
A week later, a G-tube (a feeding tube giving access straight into her stomach) was installed. Susan lived with Allie in the hospital and was fully trained to care for her. Allie needed round the clock care both in and out of the hospital and Susan was on top of it.
We were live-scanned and approved for foster care. After six weeks, Allie was discharged into our custody.
We left everything we had in Florida and moved immediately to Northern California where I was raised and still had family.
I couldn’t afford to maintain a house in California and in Florida and we couldn’t sell or rent our home in Florida’s dismal real estate market, so we lost our house. I was able to continue working in my field from my new home, but I had to take a pay-cut since I wasn’t able to continue in all of my regular duties. But given the choice to keep Allie in California or keep our lives in South Florida, we picked Allie. We’d make the same choice again in a heartbeat.
A day with AllieWe had no idea what we were getting into. Having the support of hospital staff was easy. The drive from the hospital in San Francisco to our new home in Eureka is a six hour drive. Allie screamed the whole way. It was harrowing.
Her condition upon discharge was cerebral palsy, quadriplegia, and cortical visual impairment. She couldn’t take food or liquids orally; we had to use the G-tube. She had no head or upper body control. The only protective reflex she had was to tense up her entire body which makes her straight as a board. After a few hours with this “tone,” she begins to cramp. She takes a muscle relaxant twice a day to minimize this condition.
For the first several weeks, Allie cried for sixteen hours a day. We had to keep the house as quiet as a morgue. Any stimuli would set her off. We had to (and continue to have to) bounce or rock her to sleep every night. This took a minimum or forty-five minutes to as long as, on occasion, three hours.
We had to hook her to a feeding machine every three hours around the clock for nourishment. Thankfully, with the help of an amazing speech therapist, Allie is able to take food orally now. The change has helped Allie tremendously. Eating and drinking are incredibly soothing activities, it seems.
Allie had spasms at odd times during sleep or waking up that caused her head to turn abruptly toward one shoulder. At other times, the spasms caused her arm and shoulder to jerk. These episodes lasted for about a minute. Our neurologist did not seem surprised by this, however. He doesn’t believe that the spasms are seizure activity; they just come with the territory.
Now, instead of isolated spasms, her whole body folds into the fetal position. She stops breathing for the minute the episode lasts. The shortness of the occurrence keeps doctors from worrying that it’s some kind of seizure. Their opinion is that it is linked to an over-active startle reflex. They don’t happen daily. They seem occur in cycles of a few days every month.
Immediately upon our arrival in Eureka, we enrolled Allie in physical therapy, occupational therapy, and speech therapy. And now that we’re back in Florida, she continues to attend therapies on a regular schedule. We’ve been blessed to have incredibly talented people involved in Allie rehabilitation both in California and Florida. They’ve helped Allie improve and have trained Susan and me to work with Allie at home.
What’s Next for Allie?Next week (March 24, 2009) Allie will have hip surgery. Due to the damage to her brain, her body is not growing in proper proportion. Her bones are growing faster than her muscles. The strain of her muscles against her bones has caused her hips to migrate out of joint. Her right hip is 50% out of joint and the left is 35% displaced. Her legs “scissor” as a result. This is one of the factors that keep her crippled.
While the surgeon is working on Allie’s hips, he’ll lengthen her Achilles tendon and hamstring muscles. This will not guarantee that Allie will walk one day, but if she doesn’t have the operation, she won’t and, eventually, her hips will pop out of joint. There is also no guaranty that she won’t have to have this operation again. It’s highly likely that as Allie hits her normal growth spurt in puberty, she may need the procedure repeated.
Allie is a full time job for both Susan and me. I’m able to continue working at home so that gives me the flexibility needed to do what it takes. Our whole lives are structured around Allie’s unique needs. Allie is the center of our universe, and caring for her consumes all of our waking ours. A couple of times a month, we get some respite when Allie’s paternal grandmother visits with her for a few hours on Sunday afternoons.
Thursday, August 25, 2011
Last week, the Charming and Beautiful Susan and I went for a visit at Allie's new school, Bright Horizons, to meet Allie's new teacher and check things out. The first thing Allie's teacher told us was that a new chair and a new walker arrived for Allie. We were floored. We have been trying to get Allie a walker for TWO YEARS! We show up one day at school and not only is there a walker, but also a new specially made chair for Allie to sit in while she learns new things.
Allie will be able to go to this school until she's an adult. It's weird to think about a thing like that with your five year old. Especially one with Allie's unique challenges. But knowing that kind of stability exists in our situation is good.
A whole new world has opened up to us. The kids at this school melt my heart.
Thursday, August 18, 2011
Theology doesn't mean religion. "Theos" is Greek for God. (What I mean by "Greek for God," is not "Zeus who dwells on Mt. Olympus with his wife Hera because now we've circled back to religion again - besides, Zeus means thunderer which is scary and unforgiving.) The meaning of "ology" in the most simple of terms is "treatment of." So theology means "treatment of or study of God. There were many gods in Greek mythology, but Theos was the uncreated creator so this was the Greek word used for the God of the New Testament.
Theology and forgiveness are constantly on my mind. My treatment of God and my conflicted emotions and the logic of forgiveness form a powerful trinity of co-existing forces wreaking havoc in my mind and spirit. I remember early on when we first brought Allie home from the hospital every move or adjustment of her battered little body cause excruciating pain.
"Do You SEE this? Do You see that she's only a BABY??!! I screamed at God Who I came to the conclusion had abandoned us and left us with this damaged little baby.
When these wounds were still fresh, twice my daughter called asking why she should continue to live. She cried and asked me how she could go on? All I could do is swear that I loved her and that God was real and He had a plan (although in my own mind I couldn't figure out how it could possibly be a good one) and how could she possibly expect me to endure the loss of her life on top of trading a healthy granddaughter for a hopelessly, helpless, handicapped little girl that we have to care for the rest of our lives. How could we endure this?
Now that life is normalized and become routine these four years into it, we love our lives with Allie at the center. But recently we learned of the leniency of a judge's sentence on the crime of the person who inflicted upon his own flesh and blood with a lifetime of living in a handicapped body. This is what I wrestle with as I work through theology and the logic of forgiveness. What follows is a discussion that took place on my blog at a time in my life when I felt somewhat duplicitous. I was in despair but I was trying to keep on my game face for those faithfully praying while I was faithless and hopeless.
Bishopdave said... "Biblically speaking, it seems the Lord has a lot of trouble with those who won't confess. Cain wouldn't fess up and admit his need, even before killing his bro. As long as Allie's dad is in denial, there is a denial of grace. If we confess our sins... Bryon, I believe you will find the grace and strength to forgive when he is ready to ask for it; when he realizes he needs it. Hang in there."And then Charity and I had this interaction on my blog:
Jody said... I am praying that Timmy will come to a point of brokenness which will lead him to the Lord and to seek forgiveness. I pray for your family too that when that moment comes, you will find yourselves (by the grace of God) able and willing to forgive him. It's a journey for both sides. I think praying (as you do) for Timmy is an unbelievably huge step. Furthermore, just as God stands ready to forgive us when we come with a repentant heart, I believe that you and Susan can say that if Timmy came to you today, broken over his sin and with an attitude of humility, the Holy Spirit in you two would rise up and fill your hearts with true forgiveness. I John 1:8-10 "If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us."
Michele P said... This reminds me of an Angel Tree phone call I made several years ago. I was calling a care giver to make sure they were OK with the child they were caring for receiving Christmas gifts from their father who was in prison. The woman answered and said to me, "He shot my daughter, you know." This woman was caring for her grandson because her son-in-law had killed her daughter. Now the son-in-law was going to church in prison and wanted to send a Christmas gift to his child. This was the first contact the son in law had attempted. I was speechless, but the Holy Spirit interceded and gave me the words to say to this woman. She was a Christian and through the power of Jesus Christ was able to forgive this man on the phone that day and she allowed her grandson to receive the gift. Her forgiveness made an unbelievable impact on me.
Luann said... It's so hard to know what one would do until they are in that position. Just remember that forgiveness is not only for Timmy, it's to release you as well from those bad feelings inside. And to forgive in that way does not necessarily require repentance or confession. Having said that, I don't know if I could do it, so I will just keep praying for you.
Kat said... Okay, my two cents: I think you and your family are entitled to be very, very angry. Even given that you all love the Lord, you are still allowed to be angry at all that has happened. It really irritates me when folk jump in and say "forgive" when it hasn't been that long ago that this sweet little girl got nearly shaken to death. Without knowing you personally, Bryon, I'm sure that if YOU decide to "forgive" this animal (sorry), you'll KNOW when you're ready. You all are incredibly wonderful people who I hold in high esteem. In my humble opinion, you're already doing what God wants you to do!
Art/terrorist said... I told Timmy it's not my forgiveness nor yours that he needs to seek.This discussion started as a theological discussion of forgiveness and the treatment of God. And that's where it ends. Ultimately every offender will face God. How I treat forgiveness is how I treat God.
Bryon Mondok said... Art/terrorist: True enough... Psalm 51:4 says "...against You only have I sinned..." The thoughts I've expressed here are from my very limited and earthly perspective...
Monday, August 15, 2011
And he said to them, “When you pray, say:
“Father, hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come.
Give us each day our daily bread,
and forgive us our sins,
for we ourselves forgive everyone who is indebted to us.
And lead us not into temptation.”
(Luke 11:2-4 ESV)
Forgiveness is currency. It keeps the economy humming in heaven. The gold we men value is used for asphalt in heaven; that's the only good it does there. Heaven's values spill over into this present age in the form of forgiveness currency . God shows me forgiveness daily; it's my allowance and I can spread it around or I can bury it.
When I am abused by someone who should care or robbed of something precious or persecuted senselessly, I bury what God gives me. There's no way I'm going to share it. Why waste it on a project that will probably fail?
I forget, when I'm cruelly victimized, that I was once a failing project; a ship going down. Please don't remind me of the victims I left in my wake.
Forgiveness is the only currency heaven accepts from me. When Jesus said lay up riches in heaven where there's no corruption, this the currency I need to be piling up there.
The devil has no access to this currency. That is why our adversary is so busy making sure we don't trade in the forgiveness economy. It's his economic strategy to have us trade in a debt-bloated false economy of anger, revenge, lust, drunkenness, bitterness and cynicism. These end in death; the enemy's greatest weapon. But forgiveness has the ability to revive and revitalize the most depraved, empty loser-life.
Sometimes it feels good to partner with God in this, and sometimes it feels like following stupid orders.
Saturday, August 13, 2011
We got word this week that Paul will be free in October 2012. I know, hard to swallow, right?
I came to terms early in this ordeal that the most time he would serve is eleven years. That was the maximum according to sentencing guidelines judges adhere to when doling out justice.
He was sentenced to six years. Time served in the county jail waiting for trial reduced the total he had left to under two more years as of this past spring. Doesn't seem right does it? Allie will never be a normal little girl. She will always be horribly handicapped and limited in so many ways. Susan and I have had to radically change our lives to care for this little girl including loss of home and income to intervene before Allie was put into the California foster system as a quadriplegic. And my daughter Charity has endured irreversible psychological damage through the ordeal of having her child shaken and suffocated and then having her parental rights terminated. Not to mention violence inflicted on her that went unreported. Our lives are forever altered.
The life altering effects of the crime weren't even considered in court. Shaken baby syndrome is a controversial medical diagnosis. The medical community is split over whether it should be discussed in open court. So Paul was only charged with the assault on Allie that put her in the hospital. Not the regular abuse and assault that he confessed to that occurred over a three month period. The only admissible part of his confession was the corroboration the injuries Allie had when she was admitted into the hospital a comatose little ten month old baby girl.
We put together a video of a day in the life of Allie that the judge would not permit the jury to see. The judge looked at it. And you can see it, too. But it had no bearing on Paul's sentence. Only ours.
Thursday, August 11, 2011
Forgive us our sins,
for we also forgive everyone who sins against us.
Luke 11: 4 (NIV)
This is a tough bit of prayer. Extending forgiveness is so difficult. I would rather this verse say: "Forgive us our unforgiveness." Period. End of prayer.
- What if the offender never asks to be forgiven?
- What if what the offender did can ever be repaired?
- What if the offender lives a life of freedom while the offended live in bondage to the damage inflicted by the offender?
How does one exercise forgiveness in the above scenarios? Does God hold the offended one responsible while he lives through the consequences of the offender's offensiveness?
"We believe that God forgives us our sins; but also that He will not do so unless we forgive other people their sins against us. There is no doubt about the second part of this statement. It is in the Lord's Prayer, it was emphatically stated by our Lord. If you don't forgive you will not be forgiven. No exceptions to it. He doesn't say that we are to forgive other people's sins, provided they are not too frightful, or provided there are extenuating circumstances, or anything of that sort. We are to forgive them all, however spiteful, however mean, however often they are repeated. If we don't we shall be forgiven none of our own."
Monday, August 08, 2011
For the past few posts, these beginning writings of my memories of Allie's tragic abuse and it's affects on our family, I've only really explored one theme: my own pain; with it you've become acquainted. There are two other strands to our story, however: 1) Allie's suffering and disfigurement, and, 2) Christ working to draw all men to himself.
Number one is obvious. Allie suffered tremendously. This is something that we'll look at and discuss at length. The initial incident in a the bathroom of a rundown San Francisco tenement is only the genesis of the crippling of a perfect little girl. The long lasting result of this devastating event is multiple lives irreversibly altered.
Number two is less obvious. In fact, Christ working to draw men to himself runs a jagged, zigzagging course that runs from fury with God to absolute doubt and abandonment to awe-filled appreciation for the inconceivable wisdom and provision of God. Fury comes easy and is even easier to express. Noticing the wisdom and provision of God is not easy. In fact, to get there, you have to through the experience of doubt and abandonment to arrive at the realization that God is indeed wise and good all the time.
At some point in God's ultimate plan for mankind and his good creation, the whole earth will be flooded with God's goodness and wisdom the oceans are filled with water. This is the future. We need to live now as if we believe the truth about the future. We need to borrow the unlimited goodness that will flood the future and redistribute it here in the present wherever we can. This is the kind of borrowing and redistribution that we will never find the bottom of. That's how Jesus lived when he walked the earth.
· When he reached out to touch a leper, instead of him becoming infected, he transmitted his abundant cleanness to eradicate the leper's disease.
· In the case of an unclean woman with an issue of blood making Jesus unclean as she would have done to others, transformation flows the other way and has the opposite affect; power flow from Jesus to the woman instead of uncleanness flowing from the woman to Jesus. She becomes clean for the first time in twelve (think of it!) years.
· How can Jesus be made unclean? Take that thought further. If Jesus has made us clean, what outside force can make us unclean. Indeed, Jesus said that it wasn't what went into a man that made him unclean, but what came out of him.
· Instead of a dead widow's son at Nain making Jesus unclean, the dead son lived again.
· God's good future is now when Christ is at work. Our lives aren't supposed to be about (only about) managing our own sin and morality. Our lives are supposed to be about changing our world. Allowing power to sacrificially leave ourselves and change lives -really change lives- around us.
Saturday, August 06, 2011
So we pointed out everyone else's mistakes rather than our own. In a time like this who can stand the additional pain of truthful self-examination? The instinct is to find a way to numb this kind of hurt. I don't need anyone to remind me of the guilt I carry.
The most depressing day of my life prior to this incident was the day I drove Charity to airport when she moved to San Francisco to be with Timmy. I knew I was losing my little girl. This wasn't the happy kind of losing your child as she moves out to go to college. This was a deep, heavy sadness. My child picked a path in life I hoped she would never go down. I felt numb.
The plan was to have Allie stay with Susan and I until Charity found a job and figured things out. She found a job right away and was missing Allie after only a week. She called and asked if I would bring Allie out as soon as I could.
It was the longest flight ever. I never knew flying by myself with a six month old was such a chore. I really had my hands full.
Allie did not fly well. She cried and howled for about half the flight before she finally fell asleep. The guy in the seat behind me moved to another seat in a huff. Good riddance. It was the longest cross-country flight of my life.
Timmy and Charity met me at the Oakland Airport and we took the train into San Francisco to their Golden Gate Avenue apartment in the infamous Tender Loin district. The apartment was small. Four people shared the fifth floor apartment's two rooms. I looked out the window and saw a drug deal go down on the street. How could I leave Allie here? I hoped my daughter could keep my granddaughter safe.
The flight back to Florida was a sad one. My hands never felt so empty.
Thursday, August 04, 2011
I reviewed this blog post:
I'm in San Fransisco. I was with Ali and Charity today. I spent about three hours at Ali's side this afternoon after I arrived. She is in a coma.Here's what I recall:
This was one of the heaviest days of my life. The day started very early on a Monday morning. I booked the earliest flight I could get. My friend, Dave, drove me 60 miles to the Fort Lauderdale airport which wasn't the closest airport, but it was the only flight I could get on such short notice. This is when the Lord started to minister to me through friends.Related links
Dave and Lyette cried with me, prayed with me, and talked me through the first few days of this ordeal. Lyette, a true champion of faith, fed me a steady diet of faith-filled words. I kept up a tough front, but I was completely shattered; shell-shocked. I remember the first time I was ever around the thumping impact of a hand-grenade or claymore mine explosion in basic training. It was that kind of ear-ringing shock, only sustained. Dave and Lyette nursed me through it.
When I opened my back pack to run my laptop through TSA's x-ray machine, a cash-filled envelope fell out. Dave snuck $1,200 into my bag to help cover expenses while I was in San Francisco.
The plane ride was a blur. When I landed and my phone signal was restored, I noticed I had a voice mail. It was Timmy's father, John. His message was un-intelligible and frantic. I did not need this. But I dialed him back anyway.
John answered his phone after the first couple of rings. He was beside himself. My heart was broken but somehow from reserves I was unaware existed, I found empathy.
"I can't believe he did this!" John yelled. "I hope he rots in jail!" His words pummeled me. I was too dazed to think. I can't believe what I said back.
"John, your son needs you right now. You need to be the best dad you can be."
Tuesday, August 02, 2011
Here are some thoughts I put down tonight...
There is no risk bigger than deciding to love someone beyond all capacity. When we decided to adopt Allie, my wife and I went to war with each other over private moments of peace. Our days and nights were filled with fiery battles. We both claimed that the other wasn't shouldering a fair share of the load. I was a selfless martyr and she was a slacker. We tore into each other like wounded animals. I wanted to leave.
“If you’re leaving, don’t wait,” Susan said. “If you’re going to do it, do it now so I can get on with figuring out how life is going to work.”
This wasn’t living. It wasn’t even surviving. I had to make some kind of decision. I was looking for an option that was void of pain. But an option like that didn't exist. If I left, I would be miserable knowing I shrank from my clear call to duty. If I stayed, I would have to sacrifice everything I hoped to have at this time in my life. I hoped that Susan and I would have the freedom to come and go as we pleased. We could have been empty nesters.
I made a decision to serve my wife and Allie no matter what the cost. This was the only clear, common-sense option. I couldn’t get Romans 12 out of my head. I needed to become a living sacrifice. The only way our little family unit would weather this was to serve selflessly, expecting nothing in return. This isn't personal piety and this isn’t an attempt at superior spirituality. It was the only rational thing I could do to survive. This is what God was waiting for me to discover. Being a living sacrifice isn’t just a mystical way of doing Christianity. It’s not a life of simply reading the Bible, memorizing a few verses, singing songs, going to church, and obeying a few rules. The way Christianity works was summed up best by Jesus when he said, “…whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it (Matthew 16:25 ESV).”
Check out this quote from C.S. Lewis
Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket-safe, dark, motionless, airless-it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. The alternative to tragedy, or at least to the risk of tragedy, is damnation.