Your Story

writing-while-female-featuredSo you have now read most of the major details of my story.  Now it is time to tell yours.  It is an important step in your recovery.  However, you do not need to actually tell a person.  (It is important that someone knows you are working through this, so they are there for you as a safety net.  But you don’t need to tell them details.)

You can get as creative as you want here.  The point is to get it out of you and into this big, lovely world we live in.  So, pick up a pencil or pen and grab a piece of paper or a notebook, get some magazines and make a collage, snatch a brush and some paints… anything you are comfortable with and if you can’t seem to do this, find a song or poem that represents what happened to you and how you feel.  We basically want you to get any thing out onto paper as a first step.

I remember the first time that I was asked to do this.  I couldn’t, so I printed out the lyrics to Be Ok by Ingrid Michaelson which was fine.  It worked.  I got a smidgen of the pain I was feeling out and that was a start.  Any start is a good start. It’s the fact that you are trying that counts.  I’ll tell you… I spent a summer listening to it and dancing around my living room. To many, the song is depressing. To me, the upbeatness (new word I’ve created 😉 ) and the words of my soul coming out were liberating.

welcome_image1So there you go… I challenge you.  Get it out! Do it in a way that will make you happy, but get it out… at least some thing.  Any little bit will do.  Remember, it’s a start. ❤

“And the LORD shall help them and deliver them; He shall deliver them from the wicked, and save them, because they trust in Him.” – Psalm 37:40

Leave some comments about how you got your story out.05e64439243b8e3d5743de377b02f7ad.jpg

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Sexual Abuse & the Bible

bible-questionsDid you know that there are stories of sexual abuse in the Bible?  One such story is in Judges 19 and the other is in 2 Samuel 13.  Judges is a story of a man offering women to a group of evil men in order to save himself.  It tells how the woman was used up and left to die.  The Bible very clearly reveals this as a despicable act and warns that violating someone in such a way will ravage their soul.

2 Samuel is a story of a woman named Tamar who to assaulted by her step-brother.  She is immediately chastised for the event by the brother who harmed her.  Tamar then goes to her other brother and her father for support and justice and she finds none, because their name is more important than Tamar’s innocence.

I would suspect that you will be able to identify with one if not both women in these stories.  Please read them and ask yourselves the following:

  • Are you surprised these stories are in the Bible?
  • Why are these stories included in the Bible?
  • Who do you identify with more?
  • How are their stories similar or different from yours?
  • How are their responses and reactions similar or different from yours?
  • At the end of Judges 19, the woman makes it to the threshold of the building in search for help and comfort.  What is your threshold of hope, help, and comfort?

19 In those days Israel had no king.

Now a Levite who lived in a remote area in the hill country of Ephraim took a concubine from Bethlehem in Judah. But she was unfaithful to him. She left him and went back to her parents’ home in Bethlehem, Judah. After she had been there four months, her husband went to her to persuade her to return. He had with him his servant and two donkeys. She took him into her parents’ home, and when her father saw him, he gladly welcomed him. His father-in-law, the woman’s father, prevailed on him to stay; so he remained with him three days, eating and drinking, and sleeping there.

On the fourth day they got up early and he prepared to leave, but the woman’s father said to his son-in-law, “Refresh yourself with something to eat; then you can go.” So the two of them sat down to eat and drink together. Afterward the woman’s father said, “Please stay tonight and enjoy yourself.” And when the man got up to go, his father-in-law persuaded him, so he stayed there that night. On the morning of the fifth day, when he rose to go, the woman’s father said, “Refresh yourself. Wait till afternoon!” So the two of them ate together.

Then when the man, with his concubine and his servant, got up to leave, his father-in-law, the woman’s father, said, “Now look, it’s almost evening. Spend the night here; the day is nearly over. Stay and enjoy yourself. Early tomorrow morning you can get up and be on your way home.” 10 But, unwilling to stay another night, the man left and went toward Jebus (that is, Jerusalem), with his two saddled donkeys and his concubine.

11 When they were near Jebus and the day was almost gone, the servant said to his master, “Come, let’s stop at this city of the Jebusites and spend the night.”

12 His master replied, “No. We won’t go into any city whose people are not Israelites. We will go on to Gibeah.” 13 He added, “Come, let’s try to reach Gibeah or Ramah and spend the night in one of those places.” 14 So they went on, and the sun set as they neared Gibeah in Benjamin. 15 There they stopped to spend the night. They went and sat in the city square, but no one took them in for the night.

16 That evening an old man from the hill country of Ephraim, who was living in Gibeah (the inhabitants of the place were Benjamites), came in from his work in the fields. 17 When he looked and saw the traveler in the city square, the old man asked, “Where are you going? Where did you come from?”

18 He answered, “We are on our way from Bethlehem in Judah to a remote area in the hill country of Ephraim where I live. I have been to Bethlehem in Judah and now I am going to the house of the Lord.[a] No one has taken me in for the night. 19 We have both straw and fodder for our donkeys and bread and wine for ourselves your servants—me, the woman and the young man with us. We don’t need anything.”

20 “You are welcome at my house,” the old man said. “Let me supply whatever you need. Only don’t spend the night in the square.” 21 So he took him into his house and fed his donkeys. After they had washed their feet, they had something to eat and drink.

22 While they were enjoying themselves, some of the wicked men of the city surrounded the house. Pounding on the door, they shouted to the old man who owned the house, “Bring out the man who came to your house so we can have sex with him.”

23 The owner of the house went outside and said to them, “No, my friends, don’t be so vile. Since this man is my guest, don’t do this outrageous thing. 24 Look, here is my virgin daughter, and his concubine. I will bring them out to you now, and you can use them and do to them whatever you wish. But as for this man, don’t do such an outrageous thing.”

25 But the men would not listen to him. So the man took his concubine and sent her outside to them, and they raped her and abused her throughout the night, and at dawn they let her go. 26 At daybreak the woman went back to the house where her master was staying, fell down at the door and lay there until daylight.

27 When her master got up in the morning and opened the door of the house and stepped out to continue on his way, there lay his concubine, fallen in the doorway of the house, with her hands on the threshold. 28 He said to her, “Get up; let’s go.” But there was no answer. Then the man put her on his donkey and set out for home.

29 When he reached home, he took a knife and cut up his concubine, limb by limb, into twelve parts and sent them into all the areas of Israel. 30 Everyone who saw it was saying to one another, “Such a thing has never been seen or done, not since the day the Israelites came up out of Egypt. Just imagine! We must do something! So speak up!” – Judges 19 (NIV)

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13 In the course of time, Amnon son of David fell in love with Tamar, the beautiful sister of Absalom son of David.

Amnon became so obsessed with his sister Tamar that he made himself ill. She was a virgin, and it seemed impossible for him to do anything to her.

Now Amnon had an adviser named Jonadab son of Shimeah, David’s brother. Jonadab was a very shrewd man. He asked Amnon, “Why do you, the king’s son, look so haggard morning after morning? Won’t you tell me?”

Amnon said to him, “I’m in love with Tamar, my brother Absalom’s sister.”

“Go to bed and pretend to be ill,” Jonadab said. “When your father comes to see you, say to him, ‘I would like my sister Tamar to come and give me something to eat. Let her prepare the food in my sight so I may watch her and then eat it from her hand.’”

So Amnon lay down and pretended to be ill. When the king came to see him, Amnon said to him, “I would like my sister Tamar to come and make some special bread in my sight, so I may eat from her hand.”

David sent word to Tamar at the palace: “Go to the house of your brother Amnon and prepare some food for him.” So Tamar went to the house of her brother Amnon, who was lying down. She took some dough, kneaded it, made the bread in his sight and baked it.Then she took the pan and served him the bread, but he refused to eat.

“Send everyone out of here,” Amnon said. So everyone left him. 10 Then Amnon said to Tamar, “Bring the food here into my bedroom so I may eat from your hand.” And Tamar took the bread she had prepared and brought it to her brother Amnon in his bedroom. 11 But when she took it to him to eat, he grabbed her and said, “Come to bed with me, my sister.”

12 “No, my brother!” she said to him. “Don’t force me! Such a thing should not be done in Israel! Don’t do this wicked thing. 13 What about me? Where could I get rid of my disgrace? And what about you? You would be like one of the wicked fools in Israel. Please speak to the king; he will not keep me from being married to you.” 14 But he refused to listen to her, and since he was stronger than she, he raped her.

15 Then Amnon hated her with intense hatred. In fact, he hated her more than he had loved her. Amnon said to her, “Get up and get out!”

16 “No!” she said to him. “Sending me away would be a greater wrong than what you have already done to me.”

But he refused to listen to her. 17 He called his personal servant and said, “Get this woman out of my sight and bolt the door after her.” 18 So his servant put her out and bolted the door after her. She was wearing an ornate[a] robe, for this was the kind of garment the virgin daughters of the king wore. 19 Tamar put ashes on her head and tore the ornate robe she was wearing. She put her hands on her head and went away, weeping aloud as she went.

20 Her brother Absalom said to her, “Has that Amnon, your brother, been with you? Be quiet for now, my sister; he is your brother. Don’t take this thing to heart.” And Tamar lived in her brother Absalom’s house, a desolate woman.

21 When King David heard all this, he was furious. 22 And Absalom never said a word to Amnon, either good or bad; he hated Amnon because he had disgraced his sister Tamar. – 2 Samuel 13

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Questions

questionsOne of the best ways to heal is asking questions of other survivors.  It gives you a sense that you aren’t alone or crazy.  It is nice to hear that someone has or had the same issue and how they are dealing with it or overcame it.

So here is your opportunity to ask a survivor and have your identity safe.  At any time, please feel free to submit a question.  I can answer it privately through email or I have post a blog with the response to your question without ever using your name.

It will really help you continue in your journey.  Look forward to hearing from you. ❤

 

Voices

Today’s post is pretty short and simple.  It is about which “voice” you are listening to.

As you move on in this journey, you have a few choices as to who you want to listen to.  We have several options.  They include:

  • Yourself,landscape-1468840732-woman-holding-head
  • God,
  • a counselor,
  • fellow survivors,
  • friends and family, or
  • your abuser.

All of these voices will influence you and speak to you as you progress.  The importance in this is making the conscious choice to only listen to those who are positively speaking into your life.

Most, if not all, have an instantaneous recording that we can easily listen to from our abusers.  These messages are neither kind nor helpful.  They demean and demoralize us. They rock us to our core and leave us in a form of rubble.  These are the easiest to listen to as well, because they have been engrained in us for a long time and from an early age.  The messages of our lives not being important or that we were useless or worthless individuals.  Chances are these voices are the ones that have directed most of your lives.

But today and from this day forward, I want you to choose a different voice to listen to.  Listen, really listen, to God speak as you read His Word. Choose to speak with and internalize what your counselors and fellow survivors are saying.  Lastly, choose who you will share this journey with wisely as you involve friends and family.  Only include those who will empower you and lift you up as you need it.

This is so very important, but yet never really discussed. So ask yourself right now, who have you been listening to? Is this something you should change? And don’t just take a moment to address it now, but check yourself on a regular basis.  This is crucial for you to move forward from a victim to a survivor.  And have faith in the Lord that HE will heal you.

God Bless ❤

Song: Broken Girl by Matthew West

The people walking in darkness7b8078220e3a1c6bfad7ac84cb15bf87    have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of deep darkness
    a light has dawned.” –  Isaiah 9:2 (NIV)

 

“Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” – Heb 11:1 (NIV)

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I’m Alive and I have Grit!

images.jpgBefore starting my ministry at church a few years ago, I came across a website called STARR – Sexual Trauma and Abuse Recovery Resources, Inc.  I checked out their resources and information and signed up for either a daily or weekly email.  The emails were to help you heal, cheer you on, give you some direction, etc.

One day I received the most powerful email from them and it resonated with me.  It stuck with me for days and I printed it out, posted it, and bookmarked it…. And thankfully I copy and pasted it into an email to my husband, because I can no longer find it online.  But it said something remarkable.  Something I had never thought of before.  And it was POWERFUL!

It said I had GRIT just for being here… really?  It said they hadn’t won… I was hoping so, still.  It said I was amazing… me?  It said my very breathe was a declaration of independence…. get out of town!  It said I was a great hero… that is nuts, right? But the more times I read and thought about it… they were RIGHT.   I do have grit! YOU HAVE GRIT! Our presence is a testament to our strength.  I have strength.  It means I’ve won! I’m here! I’m okay! And so are you!

It literally brings tears to my eyes… Still, right now while I am typing this.  All those times when I felt powerless, weak, and unable to go on…  All those times that I barely made it through the day, ha, the second… All those times when I thought I needed someone else to make me worth something.  Those times were wrong.  I was strong.  I had power.  I had control.  I made it! I have grit! Hallelujah, I have grit! And so do you! Really, you do! You may not believe it now, but you do and WATCH OUT when you realize it! You may literally jump for joy, spin around, scream, cry, or laugh like a crazy person… but it will be GREAT!

I have shared this email with many people now.  Hoping it would do for them what it did for me.  Now I am going to share it with you.  Please read it… more than once.  Savor it.  Take it in.  Let it give you hope and strength as you realize you actually have those things already inside you because you made it this far.  You are ALIVE!

You’ve Got Grit!
If you’re a survivor of sexual trauma and abuse, you have grit. Despite all you’ve been through, you’re here. You made it. You’re strong, resourceful, and possess a depth of power few people will ever have to have. You’ve had to locate something amazing within you that has given you insight, understanding, and depth.
To possess grit doesn’t mean you haven’t been wounded. It doesn’t mean you aren’t still struggling or have complicated issues to resolve. To have grit means that your very presence is a testimony to the magnificent person that you are. It means that no matter what, you are getting back up and reclaiming your space – your right to be.
It would be easy to define yourself by what happened – by what you’ve been through, but that would be too simplistic. What you’ve been through is part of your story and part of what made you who you are, but that isn’t the whole story and it certainly isn’t how your story ends!
Every breath you take is a declaration of independence. Every resource you use, every conversation you have with counselors, friends, or support groups is an act of phenomenal courage that others will never know. The greatest hero in your life is you because you are getting back up, dusting yourself off, and proclaiming, “Not today!”
You possess the heart of a warrior, the mind of a wise sage, and the drive of a relentless activist.
Simply put, you are amazing. They haven’t won and they aren’t going to. You are here and you have grit.
Written by Sallie Culbreth and Anne Quinn
© 2016 STAARR – Sexual Trauma and Abuse Recovery Resources, Inc.

Song: I’m Alive by Kenny Chesney and David Matthews

So… YOU ARE ALIVE!

It doesn’t matter if you are conquering life,

or celebrating that you just woke up and are breathing.

It’s a VICTORY!

You are here!

You have GRIT! ❤

 But the Lord stood at my side and gave me strength, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it. And I was delivered from the lion’s mouth.” – 2 Tim 4:17

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Flashbacks

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So many survivors of sexual abuse suffer from flashbacks.  They can be a major disruption to life or they can be minor nagging memories that can be controlled.  Unfortunately, a lot of your life is determined from where you fall on that spectrum.  The good news is that they can slowly be controlled and managed over time, but it takes a lot of hard work, patience, and strength.  BUT don’t worry… you got strength covered.  You are still here!

I have mentioned the “small stuff” before.  For some reason, they seem to be the nagging memories for me.  I have come to the conclusion that is because they are just fragments of larger memories that my mind has protected me from. Because of that, they pop up from time to time when little things remind me.  Then I find myself stopped and thinking… trying to put some pieces together.  They never really fall into place for me, which I am THANKFUL for.  I know enough… no need to add to my collection of memories for me.

One instance of the pieces falling into place are the memory clips of the dread I would experience when my father bathed me from about 3 to 8 or 9 years old.  I remember the panic, the pain, the burning… just wanting bath-time to be over.  I have lots of puzzle pieces for that.  One weekend a few years ago those memories had me and wouldn’t let go.  I knew something big was coming… oh the dread of that weekend.

I remember bath-time with my father and dread; I could remember my mom smiling; I could remember my younger brother, who was about two, smiling, splashing, playing.  I would have been four.  Those were my pieces but they didn’t fit and I always put them in the “small stuff” category.  Well this fateful weekend, they fell into place.

My brother and I were sitting in the tub waiting to be bathed while my parents chatted and got things ready.  Then there was a conversation about who would bathe whom.  I remember sitting in the tub with my hair in a bun on top of my head praying for it not to be my dad.  Please let my mom choose me, please. But the decision was made. My dad got me.  Mom was in charge of my brother.  Oh the panic that fell over me like a wave.  I wanted to cry and say no please, but I didn’t. By four years old, I had learned better.

So I sat there… still. Completely still. I watched my mom and my brother.  My mom talking and smiling. I remember the sun shining in the bathroom window onto her red hair.  She was pretty.  I looked at my brother and he was sitting there splashing, laughing, being two in a tub. As I sat there without moving, in pain, burning, uncomfortable, I wondered why or how they could be so happy while I was in so much distress.  I never looked at my dad. His presence was palpable… no need to see his face.  I knew what it looked like… the smirk.

That was my last puzzle-piecing flashback.  It was enough.  My mom has asked me at least five times in my life if I was molested by “someone”.  While there it is, mom. Your answer that I will never tell you; yes, right in front of you.  That does something to a person that is so unbelievably unexplainable.  I was literally protected by no one and yet she had the nerve to ask me.  That is one of my deepest wounds.

But here is the thing with flashbacks for me… new flashbacks.  Once I had the “big one” in October 2009, it started a lovely trend in my life.  It went like this… remember something, grieve, mourn, collapse, fight to stay alive, start to recover, start to get strength back, BOOM and REPEAT!  I lived like that for about three or four years.

It got to the point where I just wanted to know everything and just get it over, so I went to a hypnotherapist. I had to sign a release form that if I underwent hypnotherapy I was aware that I could never be used to testify against my father, which meant he would never legally “pay” for what he did to me in the justice system.  I signed it.  To me it was worth making the flashbacks stop, so I could rest… Actually rest, have peace, and maybe get my life back.

Unfortunately (I guess… not sure), I did not remember anything.  My mind is a steel trap, apparently.  The hypnotherapist (A legit guy by the way. He was paid for by my insurance as a counselor.) said he had never come across anyone with their memories so guarded.  I couldn’t even remember the things my brother told me about being beaten.  The therapist stopped because I got such a terrible headache from it that I couldn’t go on.  He said I could come back, but he didn’t see me ever remembering anything taking this route.  I’d just have to wait it out and my mind would release each memory as I became strong enough for a new one…. YIPPIE!

It’s a horrible way to live.  It’s like you know something unbelievably tragic is going to happen any second, but you don’t know when and you can do nothing to stop it.  It affects EVERY part of your life. Fortunately for me, they stopped for a couple of years until the weekend of the bath-time puzzle.  That was almost as horrific as the first.  Something about your mother being in the same room and doing nothing really effects a kid… a little sarcasm folks.

I guess with time and healing.  I just became okay with what I knew and okay with what I didn’t know.  I don’t need to know anymore. I don’t need the holes filled in.  I don’t need any more questions answered.  I’m just okay.

There is something liberating about just being okay.  It’s peaceful.  I thank God for that every day, because it sure didn’t happen under my own power or understanding or dramatically becoming enlightened.  It’s God.

So much of my story is God.  I would never be here without Him.

Here is what I did that got me through:

  • I went to church every week no matter what.  It was my place of being recharged and having a little bit of peace. I cried there A LOT, but it helped.  It let some things be healed… just crying at church.
  • I prayed ALL the time.  During all my weak moments… driving over bridges, taking just one pill, when I got to work to make it to lunch, at lunch to make it the rest of the day, at the end of the day to make it home without driving into a tree or off a bridge, before I walked into my house that I’d have strength for my four children, when they went to bed and I cried, when I went to bed that I wouldn’t hurt myself and remember anything, and that I’d only take one pill.
  • I put bible verses everywhere to counteract my thoughts.
  • My third daughter slept with me quite a bit… not really recommending this, but I am being honest. Have to stay alive with your child next to you.
  • I tried to be as involved with my kids as possible.  They kept me alive.  Although, I’ll be honest I wasn’t always good at that. Thank God I’d been a great mom before that October night.

These are my things that helped.  I pray you can find your things.  I know how dreadful you feel when stuck in flashback mode.  This may sound contrite, but find God.  Truly find Him. He is waiting for you and He wants to help, but you have to go to Him. You have to want it with all of your being.  Healing is NOT easy and God is the only answer that I can give as to why I am okay now.

So please read these verses.  Post them where you will see them when you need them.  And find your own that speak to you.  I pray that you find and experience what they promise.

Dear Lord,  Please help these wonderful women as you have helped me.  Please help them to think of all things lovely in every situation and when they can’t that they will come to you to take their anxiety away.  Please let them know what it is like to have their hearts and minds guarded by You.  Let them experience the peace that I have now only through Your mighty power and help that truly surpasses all of my earthly understanding.  Let all of us have strength to get through this day and the next and choose to live.  We praise you Jesus.  I thank You and I love You.  Amen! ❤

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” – Phil 4:6-7 (NIV)

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Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.” – Phil 4:8-9 (NIV)

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“I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” – Phil 4:13 (NIV)

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Songs:

I have two for you today.  First one is my life theme at the time.  “What I wouldn’t give to just forget, so I could remember how to live.” What I Wouldn’t Give by Holly Brook Choose your life. ❤

Second is my God song to get through each moment.  It was a prayer and worship every time I listened to it.  The song says “every hour I need you” but it was more like every second and sometimes I’d actually substitute “second” for “hour”… lol. True story cause I’m a weirdo. Lord, I Need You by Matt Maher

Footnote: I live in the city with the second most bridges in the United States… bridges were a PROBLEM for me.  Can’t go anywhere without driving over a bridge.  Wish I had a head-shaking, eye-rolling emoji here.  God bless! ❤

update-12/12/18 Update: I must admit that this was a hard blog for me.  Definitely had trouble resting after typing it.  It seems the fear of a flashback never quite looses its grip.  But the good news is that I am still here… today. Pressing forward. Never stopping.  With God, I am going to win this fight.