Some Praise

peoplewomanpraisesunsetjpgSo I’ve blogged about some pretty heavy things the last few days, so I thought we deserved a break today… and I’m not talking McDonald’s.

I’d like you to find somewhere quiet, get down on your knees or stand up and raise your hands, ask God to heal your heart and help you on your journey, and listen to this song and sing if you want.  I hope this couple of minutes with the Lord renews your strength, lifts your spirits, and let’s you know you are oh, so loved! ❤

Song:  Hosanna by Hillsong United

“Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts.” – Colossians 3:16

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Where was God?

drowningIf I haven’t mentioned it, I am a lay-counselor at my church. Last week, a lady I’m counseling asked me where was God?  Why did He let this happen and why didn’t He stop it?

I’m going to warn you right now that my response maybe a little too much for some of you to take depending on where you are in your journey.  Believe me, I struggled with this question on my own years ago and it was not pretty. (see Spiritual Suicide) But I think it is an honest and fair question and one that every survivor asks at some point and NO one should ever make you feel bad for asking it.  NO ONE, you hear me?

Let’s start with the basics that all Christians know: God created man with free choice.  He did not want robots who followed Him automatically and fulfilled His every whim.  God wanted relationship with us.  He wanted us to be able to choose Him.  (Have you ever had someone befriend you cause their mom told them to or be nice to you because they have to?  Neither of those things are very fulfilling. In fact, they leave you quite empty and even a little sad.)  So God didn’t want that and who could blame Him.  I want true friends, don’t you?

The next part everyone can understand, but you will understand a little more if you are a parent.  We do our best to raise our kids.  We teach them right from wrong, morals, integrity, kindness, to be loving and helpful, and then we send them out into the world.  We, as parents, have to sit back as they make decisions… good and bad, ones we agree with, and ones we don’t.  They make some pretty stupid decisions too, but all we can do is give some advice and hope they take it.  We did our jobs as parents and now they have free will to do what they want.

So here is the hard part.  God taught my dad the best He could.  He gave my dad two loving parents, an extended family, he lived in a good neighborhood, had a Catholic upbringing, and a stable environment.  So God and my grandparents did the best they could and sent my dad out into the world.  The sad part is that my dad didn’t make good choices. He used his free will, ignored his upbringing, and chose to abuse his daughter physically, emotionally, and sexually.

3f8eccdc78293871885a80addebffc031Now this is what I believe from the bottom of my heart and any time I think about this I have a mental image that pops up into my head: God did not want this to happen to me.  He mourned just like we would if one of our children were hurt or if they hurt someone else.  Jesus was there with me.  He was kneeling on one knee beside me with an out-stretched arm, had my little hand in His, and was crying.  And for the longest time, I only thought about Jesus crying with me, because I was hurting and that brought me comfort and healing like you wouldn’t believe.

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But here is the thing, Jesus was crying for my dad too.  My dad is His son, who committed a grievous crime, one that would leave ever-lasting scars and God mourned that too.  It broke God’s heart, just like it would break ours if it was our child committing a crime.

So God did not allow this to happen to me. He gave me dad as many tools and knowledge of right and wrong as He could… just like we do for our children.  But my DAD CHOSE to hurt me, my DAD CHOSE to commit crimes against humanity and God, my DAD CHOSE to do the unthinkable.

So this is how I deal with this question.  It may not work for you but I HOPE it does.  We have a loving, merciful, gracious, miraculous God.  And my prayer for you today as we discuss this really hard topic is that you get to know Him as I have.  He has taken this horrific experience, used it to heal me and others, and has given me more peace, love, and grace than I could have ever imagined and I wish the same for you.

imagesI picked this song because it was my song as I wrestled with this.  It pushed my faith. It felt like my feet were failing and fear surrounded me, but my answer was BLAST this song and trust in God to take me further than I could ever go alone… cause quite frankly, what else did I have?

Song: Oceans by Hillsong United

11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”  – Jeremiah 29:11

 

Let’s Get Angry!!!

Angry-WomanNot exactly the title you thought you’d see today, huh?  But anger is an important, under-rated ally in your journey for healing and peace.

I mentioned previously that music is very much a part of me. Songs can immediately link me to past events, my thoughts, and feelings at the time.  So today as I drove home, I was listening to music on my iphone, and Uprising by Muse came on.  Talk about taking me back!  I was on fire! This was my life theme song for a while.  If you stopped to listen to it or know it,  that fact may be a little frightening.  But let me explain.

Recovering from sexual abuse is much like going through the grief process when you loose a loved one.  You know why?  Because you are mourning yourself!  (That idea was revolutionary to me when I first heard it.)  One of the steps when grieving is anger.

When you can finally get yourself to be angry, it is a bit liberating.  You are feeling something other than depression, hurt, shame, grief, and heartache, which is AWESOME! You should be angry.  You had something stolen from you.  For me, it was my childhood, my innocence, trust, self-worth, knowing love, being cared for, etc. Remember I come from a household with a bipolar mother as well, so I experienced physical, emotional, and sexual abuse.  I have a lot to be angry about…. or at least I did.

The trick here is to find a GOOD outlet for your anger, one that does not endanger yourself or others.  Now don’t get me wrong, I thought about punching my dad in the face, burning their house down, taking out a full-page ad in the Post Gazette, and even throwing nails at the end of their driveway… cause I am a wimp, afraid of hurting anyone, and breaking the law. I didn’t do any of these things, but I will tell you what I did do! 🙂

My dad starting building me a dollhouse when I was about 8ish.  It took shape rather quickly, but then it sat in the garage unfinished until I had my three girls.  My father then decided 20 years after he started it to finished it.  Yippie! (sarcasm, I really need to get some fancy eye-rolling emojis for this blog!!!)  So, he finished it and it was moved into the finished attic of my home and subsequently was moved five times and across the United States twice. The girl never really played with it.  Not sure why.  Maybe I gave them an evil glare every time they went near it? Don’t know.

That brings me to after I had remembered several things: I was divorced, the kids were with their dad every other weekend, and we lived in our little cottage in the woods, my safe haven. My parents didn’t know where I lived, so my mom gave my brother a letter to give to me… my mom is famous for her letters. (again sarcasm – eye-rolling emoji) After being at his house, I drove home, sat in the car, and read it. The letter basically said that anything my dad did to me was her fault…. GREAT! THANKS! I feel sooooo much better.  (Is my sarcasm out of control today or what!?! I’m blaming the song!)

Needless to say… that pissed me off!  If you remember, she was in the room when my dad did things to me, so this letter meant NOTHING! Thankfully my wonderful children and my one neighbor were not home, because I got out of my car ready to kill someone.  I stormed in and out of the house, around my yard, into the woods surrounding my yard, and back again.  I have no idea for how long.  I had to look like a crazy person.  Have you ever been so angry that you literally don’t know what to do with yourself?  That was me.

Then finally it came to me.  I knew exactly what to do.  I charged into the house and down to the basement, opened the tornado door to outside, grabbed a baseball bat, and with my herculean strength pulled that stupid 100 plus pound 5 x 3 x 3 foot dollhouse outside.  (Footnote: I am a wimpy, 5’7, 125 lbs skinny, white girl whose afraid of her shadow, so I was kicking butt!) I pulled that thing up a flight of steps, around the house, and about 200 feet to the fire pit.  Then I beat the crap out of it with my baseball bat.  Man, wood was flying everywhere!  When I was done, I put the pieces into the fire pit, poured on the propane, lit a match, and POOF, bye bye dollhouse.

It took a few hours of me adding wood to finally burn up the whole thing, but was that LIBERATING!  To me that dollhouse symbolized a hoax. A fairy tale childhood where a wonderful dad builds a beautiful dollhouse for the daughter he loves. HA! Then I heard the song… Uprising by Muse.  It became my anthem.  It lit a fire in me that I cannot explain… well other than a burning dollhouse.  I listened to that song over and over and over again.

“They will not force us
They will stop degrading us
They will not control us
We will be victorious …”

So let’s get to the point.  Let anger be your ally.  Let it help take your life back.  Let it help heal you.  Let it be your anthem for a time.  And you know what will happen?  “YOU WILL BE VICTORIOUS!”

Song: Uprising by Muse

The Bible does say we are allowed to be angry just don’t sin: “In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry,” Eph 4:26

“When Saul heard their words, the Spirit of God came powerfully upon him, and he burned with anger.” – 1 Samuel 11:6

818681-anger-quotes-boys-and-girls-3

 

Shame

guardedwomanNow here’s a topic no one likes to talk about yet we are all full of it at some point in our journey.

The day after remembering “the big stuff” I went to school and remember walking the halls not being able to look anyone in the eye. People kept asking me if I were okay and I’d just shake my head yes with a tear in my eye.  In a matter of 24 hours, I went from a vibrant, sweet, friendly girl to a shell of a person.  I felt like everyone could see right through me.  I felt like I now had a stamp on my forehead that said “sexually abused.” I felt like I was so dirty that I would never be clean again.  I felt like who in the world would want to be my friend or have anything to do with what I had remembered.  I felt disgusting and alone.  That, my friends, is shame.

The question is… why is shame ours to bear?  We didn’t commit a crime against humanity.  We are the victims of that crime, but yet we carry the heavy burden of shame and its consequences. I can not remember how long it took me to be able to look another in the eye again or walk with my head up.  The unworthiness covered me like a blanket no matter where I went or what I was doing.

So what do you do with the burden of shame? Well, run full stream into the war against it with the full armor of God on you.  That is my only advice.  Shame is an evil adversary. It messes with your head in a way that is quite unimaginable.  It is a chisel breaking you piece by piece and a thief in the night that carries them away.  Shame is the devil’s playground in your mind.

Unlike-guilt-which-is-the-feeling-of-doing-something-wrong-shame-is-the-feeling-of-being-something-wrong.-Marilyn-J.-SorensenUnfortunately, depending on the closeness in the relationship with your abuser, the duration of the abuse, and if you had multiple abusers, the harder your battle with shame will be.  For me, it was my father from about 3 until 14.  The abuse was not the same over the span of years, but it was there in different forms.  Because it was my dad and it lasted for years, I fall on the higher end of the spectrum when dealing with the trauma.  Now I really haven’t won anything in my life, so how pleasant it is to win this luck of the draw… head-shaking, eye-rolling emoji missing from here.

I wish I had an easy remedy or solution… maybe a quick fix-it up my sleeve, but I don’t.  I dealt with the shame for years. To be quite honest, I wish I could tell you what helped me and that there is a magic switch to turn it off.  But the only thing I can think of is God and finding out that I am not alone in this war.  1 out of 4 girls are subject to some form of sexual abuse before they are 18 and when you meet one, it does something for your soul.

No one would ever wish this upon another human being, but I can tell you this: if you are a survivor of childhood sexual abuse, be open about your story.  Talk about it. I am not saying you need to walk around with a poster or bring it up in every conversation.  What I am saying is that in our quickly, crumbling society, there are opportunities to share your experience.  You will be surprised how many “me too’s” you will hear.  And truly that is all that needs to be said.  That “me too” builds a bond instantaneously and there is power in numbers.

Your bravery to be open may help lift the head of the next victim and help her become a survivor.  So let’s put shame to rest and take it out of our hearts and place it where it belongs: on the abuser… with a huge sign and a bright red bow.woman_8810c

God bless ❤

Song: No Shame by Moriah Peters

Awesome Shame Verses:

“I trust in you; do not let me be put to shame, nor let my enemies triumph over me.” – Psalm 25:2

“No one who hopes in you will ever be put to shame, but shame will come on those who are treacherous without cause.” – Psalm 25:3

“Guard my life and rescue me; do not let me be put to shame, for I take refuge in you.” – Psalm 25:20

Full Armor of God:

10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. 18 And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.” Eph 6:10-18

 

 

Repressed Memories – truth or fantasy?

shutterstock_576932674-1000x657As I was driving to work yesterday morning, I was listening to yet another self-help book.  I have read/listened to books on mental-illness, anger, child abuse, sexual abuse, and so on for over two decades… all in my search to find answers, healing, and understanding for me and my family, as well as research for my ministry at church. Right now, I am listening/reading  “The Wounded Heart: Hope for Adult Victims of Childhood Sexual Abuse” by Dr. Dan B. Allender.   Today the topic was the integrity and reliability of suppressed memories.

If you read my story yet, you know that I had some small memories of the sexual abuse that I experienced as a child. You also know that I remembered more horrific events in stages starting about 8 1/2 years ago. These memories that came back to me would be categorized as repressed memories.  Now, the awful debate, if you do any kind of google search, is whether or not these memories are true and trustworthy.  It is an extremely aggravating topic.

Personally, I don’t know many survivors who don’t wrestle with some of the details being unclear at some period during their recovery.  We, as a group, naturally questions our memories to some degree, because of the grotesqueness and pure evilness of what happened to us.  But unclear details are normal for anyone trying to recall a situation from any instance in our lives, especially childhood.  It is just that the topic of our memories means that someone has committed a grievous crime… one which is extremely disturbing to our society, so it will be scrutinized.

In the book, The Wounded Heart, it quotes data from Lenore Terr’s book, Unchained Memories, which refers to a study by Linda Meyer Williams, “Adult Memories of Childhood Abuse: Preliminary Findings from a Longitudinal Study.”  It states:

The sexual-abuse researcher Linda Meyer Williams surveyed a group of a hundred women who as girls under twelve had had examinations in the emergency room of a large hospital because they or their families had reported sexual abuse to the authorities.  She found that thirty-eight of the women had no memories of such an incident.  Rather than demonstrating reluctance to discuss something personal and perhaps embarrassing, these women seemed completely unable to remember even the emergency-room visit, for which the investigators had records in their hands.  This was repression or some other extreme “forgetting” defense in action.

For most of us, if not all, there has always been some form of a memory of the abuse.  Whether or not the pieces fit together is a different story. The trustworthiness of my repressed memories is something I struggled with a lot… especially at first.  They were horrible.  I didn’t want to believe it but in my gut I knew how real they were.  I wish I could say that the doubt is gone forever… but it’s not.  It creeps up when I think about it being my word against his, because mine aren’t complete. They are pieces.  But I have a unique benefit that helps me constantly…

A few months after my nephew was born, I told my brothers and my sister-in-law that I was molested.  One of my brothers pressed me for more details a week or so later, so we met at a local pub to discuss what I had told him.  As it turned out, he believed me.  He said there were things that made sense about my behavior as a kid now that he knew.  He also told me about some things I didn’t know… about me!  It turns out that my father had beaten us with 2×4’s (I only remember this happening once and my dad had said it was because he was tired of having to buy wooden spoons.)  My brother said that my dad had chased me around the house and had cornered me in the garage to beat me with one once and he came between us and told my father that he would have to go through my brother to get to me.  My brother said that he and my father had had fist fights on more than one occasion.  This baffles me and still does… even after being told these stories about my own past, I still don’t remember any of them.  Crazy, right?  Our minds are amazing! But this has been a blessing in many ways.

During the initial months of remembering worse things, I was getting extremely exhausted by the cycle.  Remember something, be devastated and depressed, start to get better, remember something else and repeat.  It was starting to become more than I could bare.  I was starting to not want to heal because as soon as I did… BAM! So in an effort to combat that, I went to a hypnotherapist. (actually covered by my insurance by-the-way) I figured this would be the answer.  Get hypnotized, remember everything, be horribly broken for a while but then I’d be better.  Simple, right? NOT!

As it turns out, my mind is like a steel trap.  Nothing was getting out.  I was hypnotized.  My best friend and my aunt were in the, I don’t know what to call it, vision?  They were the keepers of my book of memories.  We were in a cozy little cabin  and they sat the book on a coffee table in front of us while one sat on each side of me. My aunt told me I could open the book whenever I wanted and they would be on each side of me to protect me and help me through.  While you know what happened? Every time I reached for the book or one of them moved it closer, I got such an extreme pain in my head that I thought I would die… like someone stabbing my brain.  After several attempts, the hypnotherapist stopped the session.  It was too much.  They were locked in there more than he had ever seen in his career.  I would just have to go through the natural progression on my own as I had been doing… LUCKY ME!

So what’s my point with this post today? Don’t doubt yourself! You know what happened and it is horrible. Don’t ever let naysayers rob you of your integrity.  When that idiot, and believe me there will be one, asks “are you sure it happened?  Are you sure you didn’t make it up?”  Walk away with your head held high, because you are STRONG.  You are stronger than that person will ever be or could even imagine to be. So take that bold step and say “THIS IS ME AND THIS IS MY STORY!”

Song: My Story by Big Daddy Weave

402e424f9d89478ba015b59362c5ae76Search me, God, and know my heart;
    test me and know my anxious thoughts.
24 See if there is any offensive way in me,
    and lead me in the way everlasting.”  Psalm 139:23-24

“May integrity and uprightness protect me, because my hope, Lord, is in you.” Psalm 25:21

 

 

Too Much of a Life

WordsTonight’s post is fresh and a little raw.  I have now been told twice that my life is too much for someone else… too much to handle, too overwhelming, too much drama, too…

I’ve been pondering what exactly that means for me. Does that mean I am ridiculously strong for being able to take my life in stride now? Does that mean the other person is incredibly weak? Is it an insult? Am I supposed to feel bad? Does that mean I should blame my father for yet another failed relationship? What does it mean? And what do I do next?

I can tell you what answers I do have… I know I am strong.  I know I have grit.  (love that word ❤ ) I know that God has an incredible plan for my life.  I know God will help me through this just like He helped me through everything else.  I know I will persevere. I know this hurts like hell.  I know my life is in God’s hands. He will work it out for my best interest and He is in control.

I also know and this is where it is scary for me… I could SO easily blame my dad and my trauma and back slide. So this is where I challenge you and me… let’s not blame our past.  Let’s move forward.  If others think our lives are too much to handle because we were abused, shame on them.  They are missing out on some incredibly strong people… special people.  People who have seen THE WORST of mankind and survived.  It’s not every day that you are invited into the life of a person who has experienced that and wants to change the world.

So here we go… WE ARE SPECIAL! WE ARE UNIQUELY STRONG! WE ARE SURVIVORS!

Some verses on perseverance that are speaking to me now:

Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance;perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.” – Romans 5:3-5 

“Therefore, among God’s churches we boast about your perseverance and faith in all the persecutions and trials you are enduring.” – 2 Thessalonians  1:4

“Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” – James 1:4

“I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance. I know that you cannot tolerate wicked people, that you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them false.” – Rev 2:2

“I know your deeds, your love and faith, your service and perseverance, and that you are now doing more than you did at first.” – Rev 2:19

Song: You Make Me Brave by Amanda Cook, Bethel Music

Are You Ready to Come Out Golden?

Several years ago as I was going through major things: remembering the “big stuff,” my divorce, depression, anxiety, etc. I went to church one Sunday and the skit below was performed by the music ministry after our pastor spoke.  Please watch it and see if it does for you what it did for me.

This was one of the most powerful things I heard.  I definitely felt like I was going through a fire… every inch of me did – inside and out.  My world as I knew it was gone. I was alone, afraid, and not myself at all.  In fact, I was a stranger walking around in my skin.  What had happened to my life, my family, and me?  Where did I go?

I always had my life pretty organized and under control… it looked pretty darn perfect from the outside.  Heck, it looked good from the inside too.  I had a good grasp on myself, my children and husband, my extended family, my job, my faith, and the abuse I suffered at the hands of my mother and the little I knew about my dad.  Life was good and I couldn’t really complain about anything.  But then something happened to my marriage.  I really don’t know what it was – not even now.  It seemed like one day things were fine and then BOOM, I was lying next to a stranger.  My world started to shake.  I had sunk my identity into my marriage… into my husband really.  Then came the hammer.

Nothing quite sets your world ablaze than remembering being molested by your father in an unspeakable fashion.  I went down in flames… big flames… rocket exploding in the sky flames… remnants unidentifiable flames.  I was used.  I was disgusting. I was unlovable. I was no longer the nice, CLEAN girl. I was trash.

The gift (and I say “gift” intensionally because I chose not to do anything with anyone other than my husband… not even hold hands.  This was something precious to me and to be down right honest, I thought it was gross to do anything with anyone other than your husband.)  anyway… the gift – it was taken – ripped away and scoured by my dad.  Do you have any idea what that does to your head?  Granted, my thoughts, opinions, and values regarding sex and any relations with a man were probably formulated in some part by my childhood experiences, but to me, it was always a choice… my choice and that had been taken too.

On top of this, I was remembering something new every time my brain would become the slightest bit healthy.  It was like getting sucker punched time and time again just as soon as you caught your breathe.

So now I sit alone in church on this faithful Sunday, wondering what had become of me and how in the WORLD would I ever find myself again, or at the very least recognize myself and this skit starts.  It had tears running down my face at such a rate that I could have flooded the pew.  I WAS GOING THROUGH THE FIRE.

I didn’t want to be there.  It hurt like hell, but man, I was going through it.  I was remembering way too much and I had lost any resemblance of myself in the aftermath.  God was not making a refrigerated dessert.  He was toasting me to a golden brown… even though I felt burnt on 700.  But this skit, it helped me make a little sense of what I was going through.  I would find myself… I better version of myself.  God was making me new. ❤

2 Corinthians 5:17 (Pick your favorite version)

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” (NIV)

“This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!” (NLT)

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” (ESV)

Footnote:  I must share how I literally walked around singing one part of this song over and over and over and over and over and over (getting the point) and over again.  It gave me the little bit of strength I needed to get to the next second, then minute, then hour, tumblr_m5dy8qbyx31qzcz7jo1_5001then day.  I truly hope it can help you in some way.

“You make me new, you are making me new. You make me new, you are making me new. You make me new, you are making me new. You make me new, you are making me new.”

Song: Beautiful Things by Gungor

And by the way, I LOVE my church.  It is my home away from home. These people are my family and I am so blessed by each and every one of you.  So huge shout-out to Cornerstone Ministries, YOU ROCK!image1