A Second Victimization

Us three girlsInside, my emotions were wickedly raging; an inferno of sorts– but not the kind that subsides with time, but rather the kind that silently swelters and smolders bitter anger for a long time—for a long, loooong time before it unleashes its fury. But my daughters didn’t see that. Instead, what stared back at them were eyes unable to blink; they were frozen—matching the paralytic state of my body. But my mind; my mind was restless, bouncing from right hemisphere to left and back again. Each of their words were plunked out like a single long note on the piano—played in minor, but resounding in forte.

One. Word. At. A. Time– they slowly unraveled the carefully wrapped evil they had tucked away as a way to protect themselves from further pain. But evil gets heavier with time, not lighter and they began to crumble. I wish I could say that I saw it, that there were some clues as to what had happened in their lives, but there weren’t. Their words ambushed me, just as their attackers had ambushed them. Continue reading

Fishing For Peace

fishing-909554_960_720My Dad loved to fish. No, I mean, He really looooved to fish. It was more than a hobby for him, it was his time of respite, his time of drawing near to the Lord. He needed this time as much as he desired it. He made time for it, even if it meant heading to his favorite fishing hole while dark claimed the atmosphere for a couple more hours. The tranquility beckoned him and throughout my entire childhood and even into my early adulthood, I witnessed his response to such peace while standing hip deep in his patched up waders in the glimmering swift waters: pole in one hand, the other lifted heavenward. I witness his face flush with gratitude and his eyes glisten when words failed him. I witnessed his heart outside his chest and learned of a love basked in utter peace amidst raging waters. I did not realize the gift this was until many years later.

Each weekend, my dad towed us kids along on his fishing expeditions–probably so he could keep an eye on us more than actually teach us any real skill. I won’t pretend we liked it. He fished year round, winter (Steelhead season) seemed to be his favorite–and my worst!  As a young girl, getting out of bed when it was still dark, dressing in layer upon layer to go sit in wet, smelly sand for hours at a time, while Dad fished felt a little like a punishment. However, my younger brother, sister, and I always managed to find mischief along the sandbar or create massive sand murals with pieces of driftwood–and inevitably, each excursion to Gold Bar or the Stilly River ended with all four of us, dad included, swinging our legs off the tailgate of Dad’s ‘66 baby blue Ford, while eating warm bologna sandwiches (how we didn’t end up with food poisioning is nothing short of God’s grace!). Smiles and giggles filled the truck as we drove back to the farm. And as wonderful as these Saturdays turned out to be, I still resolved that nothing could be more boring than to sit and watch a pole for hours on end in hopes to get a “nibble”. I believed that until I was 26 years old. (Therefore this is an old story!)ebay346645

Though I had not gone fishing with my dad for many years, I had decided that when I traveled home with my then 9 month old daughter, Meg, I would go with him. I don’t know why I thought it would be any different or why I was now subjecting my baby to this seemingly torrid event, but something drew me.

I suppose I wanted what my dad had found there all those years, whatever it was.

Sipping strong coffee from the lid of Dad’s green dented thermos, I sat with Meg on the slight incline of the sandbar, watching my dad. I loved everything about him in that moment, especially his crooked smile or the way he would bite his lower lip while putting fresh bait on his hook. He waded out into the river a little further and cast his line again. I watched how the river glided swiftly past him, over fallen trees, and boulders; continuing downstream, narrowing in places, skimming the sandy bar, and eventually spilling into another body of water. I loved watching his line plunk into the river, creating a series of expanding rings, until they disappeared. I was enthralled by the interlacings of regal simplicity and splendid authority.

I had sat on the banks of this river more times than I could count, but not until this day did I pay any attention to its fluid movement and how it formed itself to the shape of whatever object stood in its path. The river was never without motion. I had seen it bursting with energy as its upstream source aggressively pushed its mass into this stream. I had seen it flooded as well as low enough to count the speckled rocks littering its floor. I have seen it nearly still, just ripples carelessly riding on its surface. Still, always in motion.

stream-341772_960_720I turned my face to the early morning sun, letting its warmth seep into my soul. The thought-provoking words of Horatio G. Spafford (1873) came to mind in that moment, a precious hymn I sang as child, growing up in a small Baptist church: “When peace like a river attendeth my way…” I hummed the song repeatedly as the melody soothed my wounded soul and the words caused me to contemplate what peace really means. “Peace like a river”, I whispered to myself as I sought out the characteristics of the river only 15 feet before me.

“Peace like a river”. The book of Isaiah uses this analogy twice, though the Bible addresses the topic of peace 251 times. It is the thing that we seek, bend over backward to meet. However, peace is not only as Webster’s defines: “A state of tranquility or quiet”, but experiencing this while meeting many bumps and unexpected twists and turns on life’s journey. Peace is not something that we can attain on our own merit, despite our best effort.

If you are like me, you may have attempted to eliminate activities or remove yourself from certain draining situations in hopes of finding peace. For many of us, we reason that we’re too busy to really have peace in our lives and that perhaps once we make it through this season, then…we can have peace–that restfulness that we seek. However, we are not meant to live life in the stillness of a…a pond! Think about that. How would we demonstrate our character, our faith, our reliance on Christ if we lived within the safety of ripple-less waters? Peace can be found within the raging waters of life if we continue to go back to the Source of peace, the Prince of Peace

Christ is the upstream tributary, or source, that feeds into the river. Rivers are constantly being renewed by active, ongoing motion. It is not filled once and left to fend for itself. Christ encourages we who are thirsty, we who are in need, to come to the fountain (Is. 55:1) Here, He fills us with His life-giving water.

This filling enables us, like the river, to spill out into another body of water, overflowing into the lives of those around us.

Sitting on the wet sand banks, holding my sweet Meg in my arms, kissing her plump cheeks and inhaling her sweet baby fragrance, I understand the analogy of “peace like a river”for the first time ever–and in that moment, I released my preconceived notions that life should be easier, without so much pain, and heartache and embraced the fact that my seasons of adversity have actually led me into the arms of the Prince of Peace.

Undoubtedly, storms of adversity will wash over us, attempting to steal our attention from the One who gives us peace. Beloved, don’t let them. Keep going back to the source.

Christ desperately grieves for us when our hearts and souls are in unnecessary turmoil (Luke 19:41-42).
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I can’t help but to think of the parable about the disciples out at sea when a terrible storm began to rage; violently tossing their boat about the outrageous waves, completely and unequivocally terrifying them. I imagine as they saw Jesus walking among the perilous waves toward them, they believed He would save them by calming the storm. They knew He could; they’d seen Him perform miracles before. However, their thoughts were  interrupted as Jesus called out to them, “Take Courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid”. It is here that you would expect Jesus to calm the storm. He did not. Not until after he climbed into the boat.

I believe we can identify with the disciples here: believing that peace is equated with rescuing—from calming the storms of life. “The point is not that we don’t have anything to fear, but that [Christ’s] presence is the basis for our courage” (Beth Moore). His peace is the fruit of His spirit at work in our lives.

With the “winds still raging, He said, ‘Take Courage. It is I. Don’t be afraid’”. We can have peace when we authentically surrender to the trustworthy, sovereign authority of Jesus and keep going back to the “well”, while chaotic uncertainties and exhausting stressors surround us. (Sigh! Can you possible grasp this?)

I set Meg down in the sand and encouraged her to play, when I discovered a brutally weathered and beaten oyster shell. It revealed a life of being carelessly tossed about in the continual motion of the waters. I flipped it over, rubbing my thumb along its smooth, iridescent inner shell, thinking that perhaps an irritation the size of a grain of sand had made its way into its life, forming a pearl, a treasure of great value.

jewelry-420018_960_720I had been wounded to my very core 18 months earlier when I had been raped, conceiving a child, my Meg, as a result. To say my heart had been hemorrhaging all those months as I attempted to understand where God was in all of this, is a gross understatement. I went from blaming Him for the situation– because He allowed it to happen, angrily accusing Him of not loving me; to a place where I fully embraced Genesis 50:20, “What Satan intended for evil, God intended for good”. In this moment, holding Meg, my precious pearl– a seeming reminder of incredible pain–she was/is infinitely more of reminder of the peace that God grants us when we surrender to His authority.

My chin quivered and my nose began to run as I contemplated this beautiful, tangible lesson I believe God orchestrated specifically for me this day; this day that I had gone fishing for peace with my Dad.

I bit my quivering lip, trying to compose my emotions as I ran out to my Dad. With Meg in tow in one arm, and the oyster shell in the other, I called out “Hey Dad, look what I just found”! We paused for a warm bologna sandwich, while sitting in the warm cab of his truck, and through heavy, gut wrenching sobs, I shared with him what I believe the Lord had taught me there on the banks of the Stilly River.

Meg’s name means “pearl”. She was named Meg for that meaning. She was brought into this life through a horrific situation, but without a doubt, she is my pearl of great value. So great in fact that a Merchant I know so very personally sold everything He had for her…and for you…and for me (Matthew 13:45).

woman-591576_960_720Our identity is not in the bumps and bruises that we accrue; rather our identity is the One who freely gives us peace in the trials of life. He sees you as His pearl, nothing less!

The oyster shell, 16 years later, still sits on Meg’s dresser and serves as reminder that pearls weather storms of life and peace can and will accompany us when we surrender to our sovereign Lord’s authority.

I went fishing with my dad that day and caught a whole lot of peace!

If I Ever Got A Tattoo… Part 2

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Read “If I Ever Got A Tattoo Part One” Here

I thought he would leave me and I wondered if I was making the right decision in continuing on in this pregnancy. Most family kept their opinions to themselves. Support, encouragement, hand holding, prayer…boy, did I need that! People, even our loved ones, often do not know how to handle hard things so they say and do nothing. It’s hella lonely. It made me question every lonely step I made. I wanted someone to tell me I was OK, that I was doing the right thing. No one told me I was doing the right thing. No one told me I was doing the wrong thing either. Our walk with Christ is a funny thing sometimes, however, because what I saw so clearly months and months later was that I was never really alone; Christ was actually carrying me in His arms the entire time.

I experienced morning sickness like crazy and because Dennis was out of town, I went to stay with my mom and dad for a few days. While trying to recover from another rendezvous with my good friend, Porcelain, my mom called out that someone was at the door for me. Uuugh, the last thing I needed was to hide my sweat drenched straggly hair and paint on a plastic smile.(We did not tell people of my pregnancy for many, many months–I mean, how do you do that? This was NOT a celebration!) Mom insisted, so I begrudgingly dragged myself to the door. It was the flower delivery man with the biggest bouquet of flowers I’ve ever seen.

The card, from Dennis, read, “We’ll get through this together. I love you”.
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I slept soundly that night for the first time in weeks. I didn’t know what the future held, but I knew I wouldn’t be going it alone.

Later, when I asked Dennis what made him change his mind, he said he had been sitting in a bar in Florida and because his thoughts were so heavy, he began talking to “friendly strangers” sitting nearby. They encouraged him to love me the best he could. And that’s exactly what he did! God totally works in mysterious ways–and in bars!

I scheduled an appointment with a midwife and moved through the next couple of months still not knowing exactly what we were going to do: raise this baby as our own or place her for adoption. I did not get attached. I did not fall in love with her. I did not curse her either. In actuality, I felt sorry for her because no matter where she ended up, her story would be one that begins tragically, or at least that’s what I thought then (I really want to write about that someday).

Five or six months into the pregnancy, the doctor discovered an abnormality with the baby during a routine ultrasound and was concerned enough to send us to the hospital for a more detailed ultrasound. The only problem was they couldn’t get me in for a couple of weeks. No worries. It was what it was and I went about my business.

I was indiffernent.

Except…

I found myself crying. I found myself praying over her. I said to myself over and over again that I didn’t love her or care about her, but I was lying to myself. I was trying not to love something that the world often deems as evil or monstrous or broken, or so worthless they’d throw her away… The problem is I did.

I did L O V E her.

I loved her so much my heart nearly broke when I realized I might lose her or that she might be experiencing pain or be born with an irreversible abnormality or…

Timidly, I confessed to Dennis that I loved her, that I wanted to raise her as our own. He sat there for what seemed an eternity before a smile slowly crept across his face as he nodded, gulping hard, he said in a near whisper, “Yeah, me too”.

The days waiting for the in-depth ultrasound passed slowly and by the time the day arrived Dennis and I were both so nervous, I doubt either one of us had any finger nails left to bite off! Laying there in the dim room, lit only by the machine itself, we waited with baited breath for the news. The technician didn’t say anything. Instead, she moved the Doppler quickly from one place to another and then back again. Her brows furrowed with each movement. Her concerned look caused our hearts to sink because we knew the news could be bad. Finally, she looked up, smiled and said, “I’ve no idea why you are here. There is nothing wrong with your baby. Would you like to know the sex?” My eyes filled with tears and kept filling no matter my efforts to pull my act together. I was having a baby. We were having a baby. I loved this baby and this baby was in perfect health. She proceeded to tell us we were having a girl.

Dennis and I thought of names for a few weeks, but nothing seemed special enough. Then one night, I covered the names in the baby name book and read only the meanings of the names. When I came across the meaning: “Pearl” with the scripture reference in Matthew 13:45-46, which says, “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a Merchant looking for fine pearls. When He found one of great value, He went away, sold everything He had, and He bought it”. That was it! I uncovered the hidden name and there before my eyes was the most beautiful, perfect name for our baby:

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When she was placed into my arms sixteen years ago, she cried and cried and nestled into the crook of my neck, right where she belonged. She nestled and oohed and cooed and we held her, thanking Jesus the entire day and night long. I did not sleep that night. On purpose. I didn’t want to miss a single moment of her. I wanted to breathe her all in. I wanted to looked over every square inch of her body. I wanted to pray fervently over her hands and feet and her heart and ask the Lord that they would glorify Him her whole life long. I kissed her more times than I am able to count. I nuzzled my cheeks against hers. I breathed in her sweet baby smell. I loved her.

I loved everything about her.

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Meg and I. Sixteen years later, this photograph still makes me cry! #happytears

About midnight the phone rings. It was Margie, my midwife. She was crying, which completely threw me off. I asked her if everything was OK, if there was something wrong with my baby. She apologized for scaring me, for calling at such a late hour, and then she tells me she has a confession to make. I’ve no idea where this conversation is going, but my eyes are firmly fixed on my baby in my arms so the world could have exploded all around me and I would have been none the wiser.

She proceeded to tell me that she watched Dennis and I closer than most of her patients because of our circumstances. She confided that although she is not for abortion under normal circumstances, she would have recommended it in our case. She went on to say she never gives her opinion unless asked directly and even then she’s cautious. We never asked. She said with each appointment, she did not understand our increasing joy– and today when she placed our baby into our arms she glimpsed God in a way she had never known Him before. I cry still when I share this part of our story because my response was, “Me too, Margie. Me too”.

God is SO good. I cannot help but to think of Isaiah 61: 1-3
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to preach the good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives, and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion—to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord”.

Man, I love this! If I could ever get past my fear of needles, I would totally tattoo this on my body somewhere. Since the likelihood of me not getting over this fear is great, I will instead try to live from this place; this place of grace and freedom. #adjustingmycrown


Related Posts:
My Testimony
From Where I Stand
Rewriting Our “Ish-tastic” Past Pt. 1
Rewriting Our “Ish-Tastic” Stories Pt 2

 

If I Ever Got A Tattoo… Part 1

toddler-1208260_960_720By God’s grace, becoming pregnant the first time was easy. Too easy, actually, since Abigail came as a complete surprise! We assumed that when we were ready to bring a second child into our home, it would be just as “easy”.  Three years, many tests, and a complicated surgery later, found us sitting in the doctor’s office taking in the deafening words that the surgery, which was supposed to increase our chances of pregnancy had in actuality left my husband, left us, sterile.

Our chances of having another child, according to the urologist were “less than 1%”. In the midst of this process, the term “secondary infertility” was tossed around from one doctor to another and yet, I never allowed it to penetrate my heart. I could not accept it. Until this day. This day, I had to accept it. I had to move forward. I had to accept our seeming lot in life and learn somehow to make peace with it. But, goddamnit, Why? I was meant to be a mother. I dreamed of being a mom from the time I was a little girl. I played with dolls and house and played dress up–always as the mom. I always wanted to be the mom. I was supposed to be a mom. I didn’t know how to be anything else. I didn’t want to be anything else.

Dreams had not just broken; it was if someone had shattered them into a million pieces, lit them on fire, and then skipped around them while licking an ice cream cone. The pain was unmatched by anything we had ever known.

The shame of an abortion in my past ate at me, adding more shame to my already bruised and battered heart. I knew better, but my mind wondered if God was punishing me for what I had done. This led me down a path of wanting to control everything. I strove for perfection at all costs, trying desperately to earn—I don’t know—to earn forgiveness, to earn acceptance, to earn something. I cannot accurately put into words the madness in which I lived those years. It was exhausting, and utterly wasteful because God had already forgiven me, I already had His love and devotion. I had His favor.

He does not punish.

People often blame God for the consequences of their actions. I did. I learned that my love for Him was conditional. If life was going well, then I was like, “OK God, I love You and You love me” and I would skip and sing merrily throughout my days (OK, slight exaggeration). If life was hard or I didn’t feel His presence, I was like, “You’re out there somewhere God, but I clearly don’t matter to You because this pain is not love”. Nothing could be further from the truth and this is one of my many stories of just that:

Sitting on the cold bathroom floor in April of 1999, eight weeks after I had been raped, I faced the fact that I was pregnant as I stared into the double blue lines of a home pregnancy test– and the likelihood that it was my husband’s baby was slim to none. I cried while my husband and daughter slept in their beds. Through the night, I sat huddled in my blanket on the cold bathroom floor, rocking back and forth, racking my mind for answers, for direction. None came. I hesitated leaving the bathroom without an answer. I wanted to confine the situation. I didn’t want it to breathe all over my life. I realize that sounds absolutely absurd and yet, that is where I was emotionally in those hours.

I had had an abortion 7 years before and had been emotionally wrecked, damaged, really, only to be picked up, loved, and forgiven and then put back together by the gracious hands of Christ. I had been selfish back then. I hadn’t wanted my parents to know I was living a “double life”, a “life of sin”, so I had the abortion to hide my iniquities. I was not that person now. And yet the thought of abortion entered my mind. I felt I could justify it. I felt that even God would understand my struggle to carry my rapist’s baby for nine months. That was asking too much. TOO MUCH!

feet-349687_960_720Watching my husband turn out of the driveway that next morning for work, I rushed to the phone to schedule an abortion. I didn’t want him to know I was pregnant. The rape itself had been too much for him to handle. This…this would put him over the top. I wanted to protect him. I wanted to protect myself. I wanted to move past the rape. I was just starting to gain some normalcy. Carrying a baby to term would prolong the pain. Anger stirred within me and I resolved sometime in the wee hours of the morning that this was my only option.

A woman answered the phone and I immediately began sobbing. I told her I had been raped just two months before and had discovered I was pregnant. She empathized with me and told me we could bypass the counseling portion of the visit, which is usually required, and schedule the abortion itself in just a few days. My heart twisted and turned as we spoke. My stomach knotted painfully and I felt as if I was going to be sick. I clung to the kitchen counter, bending over in excruciating pain and my head began to pound so intensely that I felt a need to hurry to wrap up the call so I could lay down.

I hung up the phone and instantly felt all pressures and signs of illness fade away. I stood up straight, thinking it was just heightened pregnancy symptoms. But then my mind filled with thoughts that I can only attribute to God’s voice or His way of getting my attention. You see, Dennis and I had been begging God for a baby for three years. It was our all-consuming thought and prayer and now one lived within me. I cried aloud, “But God, this baby is not of me, of us. What if it’s a reminder of my attacker? What if she’s broken? What if I can’t handle it? What if… and you know what I heard (not audibly)? In the most pronounced manner possible, “But… she’s… mine”.

“But she’s mine”. pexels-photo-27118-large

I didn’t need any more answers in that moment. I knew what I was supposed to do. I immediately called the clinic back. The woman I had just spoken to answered the phone. “Hi, I just called to schedule and abortion, but I need to cancel it”. The woman clearly taken aback because she remembered my circumstances, questioned, “If it’s not too personal, may I ask why are you canceling?” I remember my exact inflection, my exact words as if I had just spoken them yesterday because they were hardly my own.

“Because being raped is not on me; an abortion is on me. I’ll have no one to blame for that part of the story but myself”.

She didn’t understand. She didn’t need to.

I called Dennis at work and told him to come home. That was asking for the moon and we all know that when we ask for the moon, we rarely get it! I didn’t get it, so I had to wait the entire day for him to get home. Telling him I was pregnant was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do. For a few minutes he was expressionless and then his anger exploded and continued to erupt sporadically for a very long time; I’m talking weeks. I could take his yelling and frustration. I could not take his silence. It was deafening and it played with my emotions and imagination. Fear was my constant companion.

pexels-photo-57529-large.jpegHe was in the midst of transitioning positions at work and had to go across the country for six weeks. Talk about bad timing! His last words to me before leaving were, “I owe this baby nothing”. What the hell do you do with that? What does that mean? I know in hindsight, he was dealing with a lot, wrestling with more than any man should ever have to!

If I Ever Got A Tattoo… Part 2


Related Posts:
My Testimony
From Where I Stand
Rewriting Our “Ish-tastic” Past Pt. 1
Rewriting Our “Ish-Tastic” Stories Pt 2

Rewriting Our “Ish-Tastic” Stories Pt 2

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Read: Rewriting Our “Ish-tastic” Past Pt. 1 Here

It’s OK that our stories are not in a neat and tidy packages.

Writing a new ending requires vulnerability first, owning the truth, and then allowing it to transform us. What I mean by that is that our stories don’t have to end when the lights go down, when the curtain swooshes to a close on that event or season of life. Just like some letters include a post script (P.S.), the “One more thought”, the “Oh, by the way” comment, our stories can include an “Oh, and….”, etc.. I love a good Post Script!

Post Scripts

This learning more about ourselves, understanding our emotions and how they play out in the world around us is HUGE, everything really. It impacts every single relationship and interaction we have with others.

Let me dissect this a little. When we revisit our stories, we can move from a place of dwelling on the past and all the negativity that it is certainly due– to understanding who we are now or who we want to become. I cannot say this enough or express this more than if I was shouting it from a mountain top: We are NOT what has been done to us, or what we have done to others, or even our environment. They shape us certainly, but that shape can be heated up (by being vulnerable enough to revisit it) and be remolded by putting our life, with all its pains and regrets…, into our Maker’s hands.

“He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver; He will purify” Malachi 3:3.
This is the rewrite process. The skimming of dross from the silver that we are. Our Refiner sits until the work is done. He does not leave us no matter what garbage surfaces. He will purify us. He promises in Phil 1:6 that “He will finish the good work He begins in us”. He never gives up. He plays the leading role in our stories because our stories are a part of His greater story; part of  His greater plan.

Christ doesn’t dole out love or hope as resources to be used up. He inhabits Love. He doesn’t mete out mercy or grace. He incarnates Mercy and Grace. He doesn’t define truth. He is Truth. Love isn’t merely a thing. It is the presence of God indwelling us, pouring Himself into and through us. Peace is not a thing that God gives, but a serene abiding in Him. We rest in assurance of things to come because He is Hope. We know grace because the Spirit of Grace dwells within us” Jerusha Clark.

When we allow this beautiful truth to wash over us and to seep into the smallest, darkest parts of our stories, can we possibly fathom how Christ views us as clothed in Christ’s righteousness? Do we get a sense of the look in His tender eyes as His gaze rests upon us in our weakness, in our brokenness? Do we sense a Love that knows no limits?

It is imperative to accept this as Truth to move from a place of hiding and/shame/regret to a place where we allow our vulnerability to lead us into writing a new courageous ending to our stories. writing-828911_960_720

It is here, we move from our first responses (of hiding, glazing over the pain, ignoring, over compensating, etc.) to a deeper understanding of our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. It is here that we write our Post Script.

My post Script

In my healing, I gained a better understanding of who I am and Whose I am, but honestly, I am still very much in progress. It has been easier to start with what I’m NOT, which eventually cleared the way to see who I AM.
I am NOT a victim.
I am NOT someone to use up and throw away.
I am NOT worthless.
I am NOT weak.
I am NOT broken.
I am NOT damaged.
I am NOT ugly.
I am NOT unlovable.
I am NOT unacceptable.
I am NOT damned

Some of these took a little longer to believe than others. In thinking about what I was Not, I needed to define who I was or who I wanted to be. To be completely honest, I had to ask the Lord to help me to both accept my identity rooted in Him and to live it out with each and every inhale and exhale. I couldn’t even ask Him for one day at a time. I needed His assurance with each breath! I have genuinely wrestled with my significance found IN Him (no one else)–This is a life long journey and as I have taken one small step at a time, I have clung desperately to the promise that God loves me. He is FOR me, not AGAINST me. If I did not believe this,  I easily would have become enslaved to my distorted thinking; and I would have decorated my invisible, safe, but oh-so-lonely cage and remained where my pain has held me.

“You will know the Truth; and the Truth will set you free” John 8:32.

I AM a Child of God.
I AM unconditionally, unfathomably loved.
I AM incomparably valuable.
I AM dearly wanted.
I AM whole in Christ.
I AM unconditionally loved.
I AM beautiful.
I AM accepted.
I Am made new.
I AM complete in Christ.

I discovered many more attributes as I began rewriting my story. But this gives you the idea. Through my experiences, I have learned Who Christ is to me. I understand more of His beautiful, gracious character. I see Him more clearly. I feel His presence. I hear His voice. I know Him. I really know Him—I was in great need and He was the only One who could meet those needs, and supply the healing I so desperately needed. My heart gushes as I attempt to put into words my love for Him. He is my happy ending. Without Him, it would just be me. And I am not enough on my own. He is my Alpha and Omega; my Beginning and my End!
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The flip side:  We can choose to stuff those emotions and all that pain. We’ve tried to, haven’t we? And we have discovered it doesn’t actually disappear. Instead, it compounds, seemingly builds up until it owns us, defines us. I know far too many adults who live in their childhoods and cannot, no matter their efforts, move forward. They are stuck. And if I can be so bold: we can only blame our pasts for what happened. We can only blame ourselves if we give it the power to hold us captive. God desperately desires freedom and not bondage for us. We need to own our stories and allow Christ to reveal the ending He had in mind the whole time. We are worth it. We really are!

“When we said yes to God, He declared our eternal victory” Jerusha Clark.


Related Posts:
“Badassery” Friendships Pt. 1
“Badassery” Friendships Pt 2
From Where I Stand
Nostalgic or Transformative; Our Stories Are Powerful

Rewriting Our “Ish-tastic” Past Pt. 1

holey jeansLast week, I wrote a two-part series about Friendship, which focused on the concept that vulnerability leads to courage. As I have thought more about some of the messy, painful parts of my own story; the parts that leave me feeling exposed, I realized that although I am not unique, the journey I have taken may be. Though initially unconscious of the steps I have taken to rewrite my story, I have most definitely moved through a process where I can now live peacefully with my past.

This is not to say shame and regret do not rear their ugly little heads every once in a while and try to pull me into that dark place, where self-protection and self-sufficiency reside; leaving no room for others, they certainly do. And even though this is a painful place, it strangely feels safe because the only one who can hurt me here is myself. You know this place too. I think we’ve all visited at one time or another. Some stay longer than others, while others never leave. What happens in this place, however, is hurt grows, bitterness creeps in, and the light becomes blinding. If we choose to stay in this place, rewriting our stories will be impossible!

I’ve heard it said that “What we think determines how we feel, which then impacts how we behave” (I wish I knew whom to credit for such geniuses).

Think about this for a moment. I bet every one of us can pinpoint either a story or a situation where our thoughts have been high-jacked! Our minds play on loop: I’m not good enough, I am unlovable, I’m unfixable, I don’t amount to much…” These falsities poison our minds and somehow, if we are not careful, we can actually believe them. Proverbs 4:23 cautions us when it says, “Be careful about what you think. Your thoughts run your life”.

What we can derive from this is Satan wants us to get caught up on the external things we do, not our thoughts. If our thoughts are the wellspring of life, it is essential we begin here as we rewrite the ending to our stories.

We cannot change our past. We can undo what has already been done. We have endured heartbreaking things. Harm has been done, trust has been broken, lies have been told. So, if we are going to rewrite the ending to our stories, we have to get ready to “prepare our minds for action; be self-controlled; set our hope fully on the grace Christ is giving to us” 1 Peter 1:13-14 (paraphrased). One way

What that looks like:
Understand that wrestling with our past, as painful as it might be, is necessary in order to move forward. It’s ok to mourn the loss of innocence, the loss of a childhood, to face that we did not get what we needed, or the fact that what we had was stripped away from us, etc. It’s OK to acknowledge that parts of our stories are wrong, bad, evil, painful. We don’t like these feelings; they hurt. They are the very ones that cause us to run the opposite direction, to glaze over these parts of our stories, not just because they are uncomfortable to us, but we know they make others feel uncomfortable as well. Somehow, we have made ourselves the decider of what they get to feel. (how silly is that?)

My glazed version of one of my stories: I was raped. I’m kind of comfortable leaving it right there. It’s all most people can handle. No questions asked, no details to share. Minimal pain ensued.

Here’s what wrestling with that looks like:
I couldn’t function for days—even the basic tasks such as getting dressed were hard. My body felt as if it were moving through sludge and yet, my mind felt as if I was floating in a numbing hazy. I avoided the mirror because I didn’t want to see myself. I felt ugly. I felt ruined. I feared everyone could tell by looking at me what had happened, which in one moment moved me to tears and in the next, hardened my heart. I feared making love with my own husband for months afterwards because every time I closed my eyes, I saw my attacker’s eyes; and every time my body began to relax, I was jostled by the imaginary feeling of his heavy-handed grip on my waist. I wondered if my bruising and tearing would ever heal or if I would be physically damaged as much as I was emotionally damaged. Flashbacks haunted me both day and night for seeming forever. To be honest, I don’t remember when they became less frequent. It just seemed they were always there and then disappeared; though even now, 17 years later, I am startled by something and my mind replays that night.

Sigh. That hurts to write; really hurts. And it is that kind of pain we glaze over to make both ourselves and others feel more comfortable. However, if I chose to stay in this pain and live, as a victim, my thoughts will hold me captive. I will be locked in an imaginary cage, suffocating. And though I am fully protected here, I would spend my entire life pining for freedom, where I could grow and thrive as God intended me. And you as well. With Christ, we have the power to stop the chatter and to cling to a life in FREEDOM.

Brene Brown says it this way, “[We] either walk into [our] story and own our truth, or [we’ll] live outside [our] story, hustling for [our] worthiness”. barrel 1

No one gets to hold that kind of power over me; nope, I’m not gonna let that happen. I own my truth. I get to say where the story ends.

Read “Our “Ish-Tastic” Stories Pt 2” Here


Related Posts:
“Badassery” Friendships Pt. 1
“Badassery” Friendships Pt 2
From Where I Stand
Nostalgic or Transformative; Our Stories Are Powerful

From Where I Stand

DSC_0755I’ll never forget those dark eyes, never. If I close my eyes now, 17 years later, I can still see them. I can still see the spacing of his lashes and prominent pupils due to the shadowy-dim light. His girth suffocated me as my face was pushed into the all-weather carpet, burning its roughness onto the left side of my face. Without a thought of possible repercussion, I mustered all I had within me and let out a blood-curdling scream for help, except my body betrayed me and no sound came from my lips. I felt my vocal cords constrict, and my mouth open, but no sound escaped. I tried again, telling myself that it was my fear choking me and that if I could just relax, then my voice would work. It didn’t. The silence was deafening; literally piercing my ears. Silence from him. Silence from me. And still, sometimes, the quiet can become too much for me. I remember thinking that this six-foot-four, 275-pound African-American man would give up after trying for what seemed an eternity to destroy me, but he didn’t. My thoughts quickly changed to wishing he would just hurry. I have no comprehension to this day how long the physical attack lasted. I only know I allowed the emotional portion to affect me a good share of the years since.

I felt like a rag doll; limp, lifeless and hopeless when I was finally left all alone in the dark. I didn’t cry—not right away. I picked myself up, cleaned up the best I could, and then I cried. And cried. And still to this day, I cry.

I cry for me. I cry for him. What has to happen in a person’s life to bring them to such a place to commit such violence without regard for another human being?

Weaving in and out of various parts of the story in an attempt to focus on where I am standing now, this week’s theme, I skip ahead nine months to share that with my husband of now 23 years by my side, I gave birth to a beautiful reminder of God’s Sovereignty, a bi-racial baby girl that resulted from that traumatic night; and a few years later found myself part of Pacific Northwest’s Speakers Bureau for Crisis Pregnancy Centers, focusing on both educating the public and fundraising. (I am incredibly, incredibly passionate about the issue of pro-life! Incredibly!).

At one such speaking engagement at Beasley Coliseum at WSU, I was teamed up with an African-American man. We had never met before and to be honest, I do not remember what he even spoke about. However, after the event was over, he approached me, pulling me aside, and with tears streaming down his cheeks, he said, “I want to ask you for forgiveness for my “brother”. Will you forgive him?” I was completely caught off guard and the strength that I had been mustering up all day betrayed me and I fell at his knees and sobbed like the little girl I so desperately had been trying to hide for a very long time.

I don’t remember my co-speaker’s name, but I have never, never forgotten his words. I have pondered them in every possible way; I’ve turned them over, upside down and back again. I’ve mulled them over, looked for a hidden agenda, trying to believe there was something there I wasn’t seeing. Friends, there wasn’t. His words, however, were not his own.  He was merely the messenger because they were the words of Christ, “Forgive them” (Luke 23:34).

17 years later, I, too, stand too as a messenger. Over and over again, I find myself standing in the expanding space between injustice and forgiveness, loving the unlovable, forgiving those who have wronged; those who have crudely dismissed the beauty and value of one’s life and forever altering others in seemingly unforgivable ways. Standing in this place of Hope happened to me. I wish I could say I have this amazingly loving heart and I sought out ways to show love to the unlovable, but I didn’t.

Somehow in the midst of my seething hatred, wishing ill-will of my attacker so much so that I have literally made myself physically sick and praying for vengeance, God filled me with compassion, broke my heart for what breaks His and allowed me to surrender all those warranted thoughts to Him and rely on His strength and leading in my life. I trust—I absolutely have to—that God will deal with each injustice in a far better way than I ever could. Injustice is something I cannot comprehend no matter how hard I stretch my imagination or try to put myself in an offender’s shoes. It’s ugly and it robs us of our security, dignity, and innocence while often jostling our faith in both humanity and God. Turning a blind eye to injustice is an injustice in itself!

I refuse to turn a blind eye to it—I run toward it now. I write to prisoners, through the Prisoners for Christ organization, study the Bible alongside them, write notes of encouragement, direction and prayers over them. When I mail my letters, it is only the beginning because I vow to continue to pray over each prisoner. I have no idea if the words I write are meaningful to them or are life-changing, but I do know I am showing them Jesus the best way I know how. I stand with my arms outstretched toward heaven in humble thanksgiving for the forgiveness that I have been graced with and desire with all my heart to share that freedom with those held captive (physically and emotionally) by their own unforgiveness and sin. I stand as messenger.