Focus

Young Woman Looking Up at SkyAs I shared yesterday, I am struggling.  I am struggling with my current situation and I am fighting off puzzle pieces and new memories.  It is quite the place to be. (sarcastic emoji here)

In order to not fall as far back as I have before, I have decided to handle these days, weeks, and months differently then the last time I was in a semi-similar situation.  I am focusing on God.  I am immersing myself in God 24/7, all the day, all the time.  I am reading books, I am going to classes, I am listening to christian music, I am watching God documentaries, I am watching christian tv and movies, I am listening to devotions, and the list goes on.  It is basically everything I can get my hands on to fill any spare moment of the day.  He is my armor.

Now granted, this is not the first time I find myself in this situation.  Thankfully, I learned from the last and did not put anything/anyone before God.  My priorities are well aligned now… in that way I have grown from 8 years ago and am blessed. I also believe there is nothing quite like first remembering being raped, so these new pieces won’t be as traumatic. And here is the biggest thing, this time… I KNOW I am loved by God.  The devil will not run ramped in the playground of my mind with that this time.  I KNOW I am loved by God.  Others may forsake me, but He won’t.

Please do not get me wrong.  I am NOT by any means saying this is a piece of cake… “just change your focus” and ta-da! What I am saying is that if every second of my free time is being filled by God, Satan cannot have his way with me.  It is so easy for us to fall into the “not good enough” trap or the “this is what I deserve” swamp and then Satan can have a field day in my mind.  Those lies I’ve been told are still there, but this time, I’m NOT letting them hit the surface.  I’m gonna have my bad days, but with Jesus all the day, all the time… How can I go wrong? Seriously? God will keep me well… I just need to focus.

So three Jesus movies out right now,  I am hitting the theater… 😉

Song: God of All My Days by Casting Crowns

“I will give them a heart to know me, that I am the Lord. They will be my people, and I will be their God, for they will return to me with all their heart.” – Jeremiah 24:7 (what a cawinky-dink 😉 24/7!)

“True faith is keeping your eyes on God when the world around you is falling apart.”

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The Struggle

Screen Shot 2018-04-02 at 11.10.00 PMOnce again, I ask you to watch this short clip before you read today’s blog.  “Everything” Drama from Cornerstone Ministries (11.13.11)

I am not unlike many survivors of childhood sexual abuse in the fact that this clip depicts my life.  I very clearly remember sitting center stage in church the day they performed this.  It was if they had a window into my soul and were speaking directly to my heart.  I think I cried more that day at church than I ever had before.  My life was in a shamble.

At that point, I was struggling and felt like I was being tugged in every direct except the one I wanted to go.  I realized all the mistakes that I made, but was still only surviving day by day.  I was wrapped up in so many errors in judgement that I needed to correct, but how could I when I barely able to keep my eyes above water?  That is one of the biggest hurdles survivors face… fixing their mistakes.

When you descend into a nose-dive, your life is flying passed you and you are preparing to die. Then BOOM! You stop two feet before hitting the ground.  You are trying to recover from what just happened, but your heart is racing, your head is spinning, you can’t breathe, you shake uncontrollably, and you are trying to make sense out of the shock of your life.  Then someone sets you on your feet and says, “Go on,” and you are supposed to pick up where you left off like nothing ever happened.  Well, I am here to say that it doesn’t happen that way.

The downfall, the picking up of the pieces, the recovery, the getting your life back in order… it’s a struggle and it takes time.  And here is the unfortunate part that I have found… you never fully recover.  You still bounce back and forward between the girl dancing with God and the girl being protected by God. Some weeks, I am more on my knees, crying, and looking for protection than others.  Some weeks, I am dancing.  The good news is the days turned into weeks and I have been fortunate enough to have weeks turn into years.

64aee12d0573b20d5c042fb91654945cSo, here I am today.  Due to someone that I allowed in my life, I am back to weeks and because of those circumstances, I am fighting off new memories, which may take me back to days.  But here is the silver-lining, I am going to survive this, even if I get bounced back to days.  I know there are weeks and then years of me dancing with God out there to strive for.

I hope you know that too. ❤

Calling All Christians

180759295-7a3e62e1-937b-43bc-945c-50adebbb3807Today, I’d like you to listen to this song first: Does Anybody Hear Her? by Casting Crowns

I think it is safe to assume that you identified with this song immediately like I did.  There was so much of my life that I felt like no one could see me.  No one really knew me.  They knew the smiling, sweet girl that I so grandly perfected, but no one saw the pain and lie I was living.  Did you feel this too?  Did you ever wonder what it would have been like if someone noticed?  I did.

One of the reasons for this blog is to reach the lost… the unseen.  So if that is you today, I see you.  I feel your pain.  My hand is reaching out for you.  My heart is open to you.  Prayers are being sent for you.

If you are one of the lucky ones like me, who knows they are now seen, please use this Easter weekend to reach out to someone who you notice at church, on the street, at work, at the store… Give them a smile, a hug, a prayer, even just a “hello” to let them know you see them.

Happy Easter. I hope you have a blessed and peaceful holiday weekend.

One of my favorite verses:

“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” – Romans 5:8

 

 

“Unhealthy” Families

A few days ago in our survivors of sexual abuse group, we discussed “unhealthy” families in which sexual abuse occurs.  As you may know, there aren’t many signs or predictable qualities that warn people that a new family will be one where sexual abuse takes place.  Most perpetrators look relatively “normal” and fit into society.  But there is some interesting consistencies in the families in which abuse occurs and we found it fascinating how many of theses traits were in each of our families.

According to On the Threshold of Hope by Diane Mandt Langberg, abusive families “often have multiple problems, are rigid in their relational patterns, confused by individuals’ roles, and send destructive messages.”  As we went through these pages of her book, my family falls into each one.  (In the group, the average number was three.) Read the examples from my family and see where yours fits.

heart-broken-girl-tumblr-i12Multiple problems: My mom is bipolar and a mean person. (I’ll have to write about her one day.) There were definite boundary issues and tons of denial.

Rigid relational patterns:  By first grade, my brother and I were isolated from our extended family and punishment was severe.

Confused roles: In all ways, I was the surrogate wife for the father. For my brother who is nine years younger than me, I took care of him a lot. (But he is one of the reasons, I didn’t commit suicide at 14.  I was afraid no one would take care of him in a healthy way.)

Destructive messages: Always be smiling. You can NEVER have a problem.  You must be perfect. Always look like a close, loving family.  Stay out of mom’s way.

The saddest part for me was that each of our families had the last trait I listed.  This is unfortunate, because according to Langberg, “these children are deprived and desperate for attention… They have been taught to blame themselves. Self-hatred comes easily.  These children have learned how to numb their feelings and continue on as if nothing horrible is happening.”  Doesn’t that describe each and every one of us?

The question now is what do we do with this information? I can tell you that it helped us to just talk about this.  You know the adages: strength in numbers and you aren’t alone. As simplistic as this may sound, talking about this is what we do with this information.  The more our stories are shared, the less our burdens become.  And giving a face and a voice to this horrific form of childhood abuse will heal others and bring the end to someone’s suffering.

So will you take a stand with me and my group and bring a voice to this issue for all the other broken girls?  Remember: there is strength in numbers 😉

Song: Broken Girl by Matthew West

Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves,
    for the rights of all who are destitute.
  Speak up and judge fairly;
    defend the rights of the poor and needy.” – Proverbs 31:8-9

 

 

The Feeling

Some of you who have suppressed memories will unfortunately know what I am talking about… the feeling. It is the feeling you get when you start to get new puzzle pieces.  It is a feeling of anxiety, fear, apprehension, dread, and sadness all mixed together into one brilliant life shaking cocktail.

I am sure there are a lot of different ways that this feeling starts for survivors.  For me, it is usually when my mind is the quietest.  It could be a quick startle that wakes me from a sound sleep, while I am driving on auto-pilot coming home from work, or as I stare out the window while listening to the murmur of the television in the background.  It hits like a refrigerator dropped off a 30 story building.  It leaves you shaking, emotionally bruised, heart-racing, and gasping for breathe.  Then the fun begins.

You are left with puzzle pieces floating in your mind… none of which make sense.  But you know they will.  In the coming days or weeks, new pieces will appear.  Your brain will hurt.  You’re filled with dread.  Your heart aches.  But there is nothing you can do, but wait.

a0d1949d0e2c8131713b66a1d0686004I wish there was a remedy to stop this from reoccurring.  I wish there was a way to predict their arrival.  I wish there was a way to just scream, “I’ve had enough!”  But as I sit here, I have only one solution… I’m giving it to God.  I am going to trust that He will take these floating memories away.  And if He doesn’t, I am going to believe that He will use them for good and bring peace back to my soul.

This song is what is bringing me comfort today: Once and For All by Lauren Daigle

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding;” – Proverbs 3:5

20 Now may the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, 21 equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.” – Hebrews 13:20-21

 

Fighting Night Terrors

imagesHave you noticed that night terrors are a part of your existence?  Do they creep into your peaceful slumber and then keep you up for hours?  Have you asked yourself if they ever go away?

Well the answer is yes… mostly.  Once you take control back of your life and start to make healthy decisions regarding what you let into your life, they start to subside.  The trick is becoming aware of your triggers and what you can and cannot handle.  For me, I do not watch anything that has a lot of sex and violence and has to do with mental illness.  I have found that even if these things do not cause me to think about my past while I am awake.  They do find their way into my dreams in some way at night, so it is best for me to just not allow them in my world.  And I don’t miss it… really I don’t.

The Bible even mentions guarding your heart and mind and to use discernment in what you allow yourself to watch, listen to, or be a part of.  For me, this has reached into a lot of my decisions regarding tv, music, movies, where I will hang out, friends, conversations I participate in or leave the room. It has truly helped.

The second thing I do to help fight this problem is to be mindful of what I do or think of right before I go to bed. The rule seems to be that whatever is on your mind as you fall asleep will continue to be on your mind as you rest.  In order to combat this, I do not fall asleep with the tv on.  I try to read my Bible or a devotion before I close my eyes.  This means going to bed 15 minutes early and reading and focusing on God’s word in some manner.

Now I must say that these are EXTREMELY helpful, but sometimes life is just too much.  At those times, you may have a crazy dream sneak in, but I largehave found that it is not as rattling as before.  It may leave me with an uneasy feeling for the morning or day, but it is no longer terror.

So today’s challenge: start monitoring your mental and emotional intake from the world around you.

Song: God Help Me by Plumb

Above all else, guard your heart,
    for everything you do flows from it.” – Proverbs 4:23

“I will not look with approval on anything that is vile. I hate what faithless people do; I will have no part in it.” – Psalm 101:3

“The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are healthy,[a] your whole body will be full of light. 23 But if your eyes are unhealthy,[b] your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!” – Matthew 6:22-23

Is an Apple an Apple?

imagesLast week in SOSA, we had an interesting conversation that I thought I would share with you.  It is extremely basic, but at the same time, very profound and thought provoking. For those of us who were abused by a parent, close relative, or care-giver, this is tremendously important to explore.

As I have mentioned, my earliest clear memories of sexual abuse are starting at age four. If you read about the cognitive, social, and emotional development of preschoolers, you will find that children in this age range rely heavily on the adults around them.  This is probably not a shock to you or new information, but have you ever thought about it in the terms of your abuse?

Your caregivers at this time in your life are teaching you about everything in life and as a toddler/preschooler, you completely trust in these adults.  So if the adult in your life would have taught you that an apple was a banana, you would have believed them whole-heartedly, because you were not cognitively developed enough to believe anything else and trusted these individuals to help you navigate the world. So here in lies the problem… for many of us, our abuse also started in these formable years.

We were taught that wrong was right, that our pain must not be shown, that the gut feelings were mistaken, that our bodies were not our own, and so on.  We believed these things without much questioning throughout our childhood and into adolescences. The problems come as adults.  We then realize and are very aware of social norms and the “normal” behavior that is to take place between an adult and a child. Then as survivors, this is where the struggle begins… the guilt, the shame.  We begin to rationalize what we should have done from our now adult perspective.  The problem is…. we weren’t adults when it happened.  We handled the situation as a growing and developing child would, but we expect ourselves to have handled it as an adult.

kids-snow-600x300So here is the suggestion if this is something you are struggling with… do some research.  Read up on the cognitive, social, and emotional development of children, especially during the age range in which you were abused.  Seek out children who were your age at the time of your abuse… now I am not saying become a stalker. What I am saying is notice them in your environment… at the park, at the mall, at the grocery store, at church.  Watch their behavior and their interaction with their trusted adult and the IMPORTANT part… notice the dependency and trust the child has placed in that adult.  Realize that you were them! You were small, innocence, trusting, full of curiosity and life.  Then ask yourself: what would you expect from that child if she were in your abuse situation?  Is she to blame?  Should she feel guilty? Should someone be protecting her?

I know your answers. You know your answers. Now the challenge lies in using those answers and applying them to yourself.  If you can, you are on the right track and making progress.  If you can’t, I will pray for you right now.

Dear Heavenly Father, We come to you today asking for guidance and enlightenment for all of those who have suffered abuse as a child. Please lift this burden from their shoulders and let them see that they were just an innocence child.  Let their guilt and shame be no more.  I pray that this can be the first healing step toward the amazing life which you have planned and the beginning of comfort and peace.  I ask it all in your mighty, mighty name. Amen.

So get out there and stop blaming yourself that you believed an apple was a banana!

Song: Here For A Reason by Ashes Remain

“When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child.” – 1 Cor 13:11a

“Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!” – Isaiah 5:20 (ESV)

“See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that in heaven their angels always see the face of my Father who is in heaven.” – Matthew 18:10 (ESV)

“See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that in heaven their angels always see the face of my Father who is in heaven.” – Mark 9:42

Websites on child development: