Sunday, January 31, 2010

Precious, Based on the novel PUSH

I picked up the book Precious at Costco a few weeks ago.  The first couple of chapters detail some pretty gruesome abuse and failures of "the system".  I was nauseous as I read, but I refused to put the book down (as much as my stomach wanted me to).  This story is a collection of experiences in the lives of young women the author met while teaching at an alternative school.  The awful acts and miserable failures are truths - facts of life for girls and boys around the world.  Putting the book down would mean turning a deaf ear and a cold shoulder to those who have walked in similar shoes.

As I read on, I was brought to tears by those who reached out to help this young girl.  I can relate to so much of what she feels and thinks.  I have experienced pieces of her story.

Reject before being rejected.  Keep secrets.  Trust no one.  Suspect everyone.

My heartbeat quickened and I read faster as she found her inner strength and determination to rise above her situation and make a life for herself.  She knew they were wrong and she was not!  She began to trust.  As I read her story, I vividly remembered sitting in counselors' offices, having the occasional person speak a word of encouragement and assistance into my ear.  I knew exactly what she was feeling.

That's how it works when two or more survivors gather.  We know.  We can lift each other up and take steps forward into a better life.

This book is a perfect illustration of the ugliness of so many forms of child abuse and systemic failures.  It is also a beautiful portrait of the support that can be found among like-minded survivors, and the incredible capacity the human spirit has for surviving and thriving.  Precious is a gut-wrenching book that is loaded with memory triggers and may be not be a good read for you right now.  But I believe there's a little bit of Precious (the young woman) in every survivor of childhood sexual abuse.  Kudos to the author for writing so honestly about the realities of child abuse.  And kudos to you for being here.  For taking the steps needed to reclaim your life!  You are a survivor.  A precious survivor.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Fruitful Friday

But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control." Galatians 5:22-23

In my life, I frequently find hope in seeing others who've gone through similar circumstances and came out victorious on the other side... If they are progressing, it means that I can do it too! Let's share with one another the victories we've seen on our recovery journeys. The fruits that our Heavenly Father promises.

This is what FAITH looks like to me today.

God's Word has breathed life into me like nothing else. He is my redeemer, my restorer, my comforter, my provider and protector. My Heavenly Father. He continues to heal my heart, mind and soul. I have faith in his word - that I am special, loved, purposefully made, a part of His perfect plan. No matter what happens, I know that those things never change. He gave me a husband to walk through life hand-in-hand with. In the gift of my husband, God restored my faith in love and family. And, as if that wasn't enough, God has surrounded me with loving friends. Men and women that I've been in small groups, Bible studies and ministries with, school moms, neighborhood friends, sports families, even renewed friendships with childhood friends. Through them, God has restored my faith in humanity.

I praise God for the new lenses he's given me to see the world though. Faith is a beautiful thing.

Have you seen fruit in your journey? I would love to see it!! Write a post on your blog, linking back to this post, and leave a comment here with a link to your blog. I look forward to reading about the blessings in your life!

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Unit 6 Lesson 4, The Damage of Secrecy

Before I get started with the lesson, I just have to say that my jaw dropped when I cracked my book open and saw the title. God has laid so much on my heart over the last few days about secrecy... I cannot wait to get into this lesson and see what he has waiting for me here! I don't believe in coincidence. I believe that God has timed this perfectly, that I would be studying secrecy at the exact moment that I am taking big steps in revealing more about myself. Cannot wait to share more with you in the coming days...

Until then... The lesson:

Secrecy gives shame and guilt the power to torment you. Secrecy isolates you within your own mind. It can cause you to believe that you are the only one experiencing such devastating trauma. We spoke earlier of shame being like a plant whose existence depends on water. People, like plants, must have water to survive. A human can live for many days without food, but only three days without water. To use that metaphor in another way, secrecy is the water that the memories of the abuse depend on for life.

In your journal, describe your life of secrecy the victimization and/or your life of secrecy after the victimization. How does it feel to have a secret life?

As you tell your story - in a safe environment with a pastor, counselor, or support group - you will dilute and destroy the strength of the memories of the abuse. By telling the story you destroy the power of shame and guilt. By telling the story you gain power and control over the memories. In our analogy, the memories are the nourishment of the guilt. The kind of toxic guilt and shame experienced in sexual abuse leads to feelings of condemnation.

You are working to memorize Romans 8:1. "There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus." Reciting this Scripture is not enough. Begin to move its wisdom from your head to your heart. Do this by quoting the Scripture, then writing a note to yourself every time a shame memory flashes across your mind. Determine in your heart to tell this memory to someone. As you apply the Scripture and break the silence, you will create an environment to neutralize the tendency for flashbacks. You may remember a new circumstance or incident. God will remove the obstacles blocking your memories and allow you to remember as necessary so that you can experience healing. When your memories cause you to feel shame, quote Romans 8:1 to remind yourself that there is no condemnation, no shame, or worthlessness. The memories can be just memories, without shame and guilt.

If you have not already done so, you are encouraged to begin writing your story when you are with a supportive person in a safe place. You need time alone to do your recovery work, but beware of isolating yourself. You need the presence and encouragement of others.

First review your affirmations.
  • I accept God's love and kindness toward me.
  • The truth will set me free!
  • I am worth to have God lead me and comfort me.
  • I am clean.
  • I am wonderfully made.
Quote your memory verse for this unit and any other Scriptures that have been meaningful to you.

Write down as many details as you can about on incident of sexual abuse. Write as though you were a reporter, answering the questions - who, what, when, where. Use additional pages as needed or write in a separate journal.

If you could only write on sentence, celebrate your ability to do that! Go on a walk, take a bubble bath, or listen to your favorite music. It will get easier! For now, read your affirmations again and thank God for walking with you through this process. You will make it!

"There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus." Romans 8:1

Monday, January 25, 2010

Unit 6 Lesson 3, The Heaviness of Guilt

Sexual abuse produces strong feelings of guilt and inadequacy. Whether you are a victim of child sexual abuse or a victim of rape, you may have received messages like, "You are not worth as much as I am. My needs are more important than yours." At the time of the abuse, you the victim, are helpless. You cannot do anything to stop what is happening to you. Even though you cannot stop the abuse, you feel responsible because it is happening to you, not to someone else. The experience powerfully reinforces any feelings of inadequacy you already have fixed in your mind.

Gloria, a beautiful young woman, describes how she uses guilt to help her get things done with two small children and an ambitious husband. Clearly the cost of this kind of motivation is destructively high.

"I have a lot to do without much help at home. So whenever I get behind on things and feel depressed, I deliberately think about my abuse. I begin to feel sick and useless about myself. Then when I really need a boost of guilt, I begin to remember all the guys I slept with, and I start to cry and feel really bad. But it works, and I get everything done. It's like I punish myself and the penalty is to work real hard. I know, though, that the reason I am here and the reason I come to this group is that I hope it will help my children. Also, my husband makes me feel guilty about everything.

I know this is because I am so good at feeling guilty. In fact, I'm better than anybody at doing that. I realize that while using this guilt on myself makes me get things done, it also makes me feel really sad. The reason I beat myself over the head is because most of the time I just lie around and do nothing. I just don't have any energy. I guess I am depressed."

The joy of objectivity.

Guilt often produces anger turned inward, which can lead to depression, as it did for Gloria. This is only one of guilt's devastating effects on victims. To combat those effects, we urge you to begin by examining the areas of life where you feel guilty. To effectively examine our areas of guilt is often difficult because sexual abuse robs us of our objectivity and leaves us feeling guilty about almost everything, even though there is no basis for doing so.

In your journal, list several things that you frequently feel guilty about.

Review your list. Place a checkmark beside those items that represent attitudes and behaviors there were your responsibility. Draw a line through those that are feelings of false guilt - items that are someone else's responsibility. Place a question mark beside those that you are unsure of.

Remember that you were a victim of a crime. Many adult victims and most child victims never make a sound while they are being subject to abuse. They are frozen and unable emotionally to deal with the victimization. People are victims when they are unable to stop what is being done to them.

The danger of Denial

Beware of the universal reaction of denial. Don was a bicyclist whose ambition was to ride a "double century". A "double century" ride is 200 miles in 24 hours. Don entered a ride that consisted of four 50-mile courses. He rode the first hundred miles and was near exhaustion. He was only able to complete the third 50-mile loop about midnight by pushing his bike the last few miles. Don did not attempt to ride the final 50 miles. Instead he drove home, fell into bed, and was unable to walk the next day. That experience was 20 years ago, and Don still blames himself for not completing the 200 miles. He continues to blame and condemn himself with statements like, "I had eight hours left and I only had 50 miles to go. Why did I quit? I could have finished the ride. I'm a wimp and a failure."

Compare Don's story with the millions of times when a child or an adult is sexually abused by someone who is older, stronger, or more intimidating and then the victim things, "Why didn't I ..... (fill in the blank)?" In your journal, describe what is wrong with both Don's thinking and the sexual abuse victim's thinking.

You may have explained the problem in one of many ways. The problem is denial. Don exhibits irrational thinking over something as simple as a goal he could not reach. In the same way those of us who have suffered sexual abuse continue to blame ourselves and to think we should have done something differently. The feelings of guilt spread to every area of our lives. These feelings grow from our unrealistic expectations of ourselves. To feel guilty is easier than to accept the fact that we were powerless. don did not have the power to ride one more mile. We did not have the power to stop the abuse.

How have you practiced denial by blaming and punishing yourself?

One victim is now able to laugh at herself as she describes her feelings of guilt. "First I feel that I am not doing enough for God; then I feel guilty about my husband. Next I overwhelm myself with guilt feelings about my children. Then come my parents. Finally I get to my dog and feel guilty because I don't spend enough time with her. After that I watch some talk shows and end up looking in the mirror and trying to forgive myself for not taking care of me."

As humorous as this story might seem, it illustrates how we need to be objective about our guilt feelings if we are to make progress. Examining our thoughts helps us to see if God is convicting us to change areas in our lives. Healthy guilt points out the areas where we need to make changes. This kind of guilt leads to a change of heart which the Bible calls repentance. In Romans 2:4 Paul says that the goodness of God leads us to repentance. If we allow God to overcome our thoughts of guilt, both real and false, the path of freedom more than rewards us for the effort.

Read your list of guilt feelings again. Spend some time praying about the feelings on your list. Ask God to help you to let go of false guilt and to accept forgiveness for any behaviors and attitudes that are harmful to you and others.

"There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus." Romans 8:1

Friday, January 22, 2010

Fruitful Friday

"But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control." Galatians 5:22-23

When I started leading groups two years ago, a woman came by my house to pick up her workbook. My family was in the driveway, playing basketball... She parked in front of the house next door, so I walked over to meet her and give her her things. We chatted for a few minutes, and as she was about to leave, she looked back at me with tears in her eyes and said, "It gives me so much hope to watch your family playing so happily. I can't help imagining that this is waiting for me too."

I have often thought about her and how she'd found hope in merely catching a glimpse at what life has to offer through recovery. It makes me think of the "fruit" that knowing God (and his powerful healing and love) has produced in my life.

On Fridays, I want to rejoice with you - sharing with one another a snapshot of the fruit that we've experienced on this journey from victim to survivor.

This is what PEACE looks like to me today.

I am reminded of a picture taken at church camp 28+ years prior. That old picture was what peace looked like to me as a little girl... A week at camp. A week of love and carefree childish fun. A week - the only week a year - without the fear of sexual abuse. Today, I walk in the tall grass again, holding the hand of my precious son, knowing the indescribable peace that God has filled me with...everyday! I am removed from the fear of nighttime abuse and daily neglect and rejection. And my heart has been healed enough that I know true, year-round peace. God is so good!

Have you seen fruit in your journey? I would love to see it!! Write a post on your blog, linking back to this post, and leave a comment here with a link to your blog. I plan to figure out Mr. Linky between now and the next Fruitful Friday - until then, we'll have to use the comments to share.

Thursday, January 21, 2010


After all these years of sharing with others about my abusive childhood, I am still a bit uneasy in my response to "I'm sorry." They (whoever I'm sharing with) are not apologizing, they are expressing sympathy and also affirming for me that I was not at fault. And that's the intent behind my saying "I'm sorry" when someone shares their pain with me.

But... What are we (survivors) to say in response? Do we shrug our shoulders and say, "Oh, I know... It's okay."? Surly not. It's not okay. I think my general response is to nod in agreement and thank them for their concern, compassion and encouragement.

As I've pondered this today, I've thought about what would prompt me to say anything close to "It's okay".

It is not okay for adults to abuse children. Not okay at all. Ever. Never.

What I would mean to say is that I am okay.

That... Because I felt so utterly alone and unloved for 28 years, I have a deep appreciation for the relationships I have with my husband and children. If I had never known lonely and broken, would I take for granted the love and happiness I have found in this family?

That... Because I have never known the unconditional love and acceptance of earthly parents, I have an inexplicable desire for my heavenly father. Would I want Him to this degree if I'd had wonderfully loving parents?

That... Because I grew up in a discouraging, neglectful home, I have a heart for children who remind me of me. Would I be this drawn to children in need if I'd have had it all as a child?

That... I went through the things I went through to help others get through what they're going through. Without my being a survivor of sexual abuse, would I be as passionate in ministry or have the ability to relate to others the way I can now?

That... God wastes nothing. He is so powerful and purposeful that He uses even the ugliest of human sins for good. He has done that in my life...

And that makes me okay. He makes me okay.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Hello {again}

The blog has gotten a bit of a make-over for the first time in a year! I also made a blog button that you can put on your blog, directing people over here if you'd like. ***Just copy this code and add the html as a gadget.

***Okay, so try as I might, I cannot figure out how to merely paste the code in rather than display the button itself! Anyone know??? Can't do it in my sidebar either. I'm clearly NOT a blog designer....just a blog writer! I will figure it out. Sorry...

With the new year (and a welcomed improvement in our family's schedule!) I am so excited to blog here more regularly and share more of myself and the incredible hope and expectations I have for continued recovery and restoration.

Hello 2010 and hello {again} to each of you! Many prayers and blessings.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Finding my voice

Growing up in an abusive, neglectful, rejecting home taught me to fear others. Fear love. Fear relationships. Fear rejection.

Assume that they don't care so that when they, in fact, don't care, it won't matter. Much.

Living like that left me in a constant state of disconnect from others. I was needy for a man's love... And knew I could get their attention with my body and a flirtatious laugh. But I was terrified of women. In a twisted way (that many of you will understand), my abuser (dad) showed an interest in me (albeit disgusting and criminal), it was my mother who so loudly rejected me.

I didn't have a genuine, completely vulnerable friendship until I was 30 years old.

At 30, I had a one year old child and was desperate for a friend. Play dates became times for my one friend and me to talk, and she openly shared her life and invited me to share mine. So, share I did. For the first time ever.

I could share with her about my life, but I could not talk about how I felt about her. That took a couple of years, actually.

Before I was able to tell my one friend how I felt about her, I experimented by expressing gratitude and admiration on safer subjects - our church staff. I'd send kind thank you notes via email, telling myself that if they did not respond it was likely only because they were busy. No reflection on me. To my surprise (and utter satisfaction and elation) they always responded with kind words in return. They did not reject me. I could express warm feelings for someone other than my husband and child and not get spit out!

After months and months of my sending nice emails to the church staff and receiving nice emails in return, I decided I wanted to let my friend know how much she meant to me. I sent her an email and two days later she wrote me back and said she was speechless... among other things. She did not say she was disgusted, for which I was incredibly happy.

From then on, I have never hesitated to send someone a note to tell them how much they mean to me, to thank them for something they did, or to encourage them through a difficult situation.

I have learned to not only love, but to express love and receive love. I have found that at my core I deeply love and care about people. I root for the underdog, fiercely defend what is right, and regularly seek to provide uplifting and encouraging feedback regarding people's work (be it motherhood, their job, ministry, etc).

In recent months, I have discovered the immense power of a little encouragement...

Six months ago, I sat through a sermon that was largely annoying for me. I listened to every word, but kept saying, "But what if....?" I was relating his message to the very real cancer scare we were in the middle of, asking what to do if your worry is not about material things but about the life or death of one's child? As his sermon neared the end, he answered my question. I realized that I was worrying because I didn't trust God's plan to be perfect. It was a moment that changed my heart in the middle of a gut-wrenching season of our lives. I wrote about it on my family blog as soon as I got home, which my pastor happened to read. He emailed me that night and told me that my post taught him something and was the tool God used to improve his message for the next day. (We go to church on Saturday nights, there were still four other services on Sunday.) My words - the words of a mere mom, a young woman with no Bible college or even Christian high school under her belt - spoke to a pastor's heart and served to improve his sermon. Something I said had a trickle-down effect on more than 5,000 people. Wow.

And just this week... A blogging mom wrote a post from the heart, and she received some pretty nasty criticism in response. I sent her an email, hoping to encourage and spur her on in her pursuit of being fully vulnerable, giving others a safe place to find encouragement and validation regarding struggles that are common to so many but not readily discussed. My email got her mind racing, and resulted in a beautiful blog post about living life in spite of our fears, acting out in obedience, and being vulnerable and authentic with our lives. I have heard that her blog receives 100,000 visitors each day! I cannot even wrap my mind around the idea that a short email from my heart to hers served to encourage a spectacular blog post that has been read by countless people around the world.

In no way do I think I'm responsible for either of these two situations. The pastor is a phenomenal teacher and the writer is incredibly talented. Both of them have received these talents through His gifting. God no doubt placed the sermon and the blog post on their hearts... but he also used me to put the tiniest bug in their ears.

I have a vivid memory from shortly after my 21st birthday. A woman (older than my mother) watched me squirm as someone handed me a gift. When we were sitting together in private, she gently took my hand and told me that I would need to learn how to accept a gift. She could not have been more right.

As a younger, completely broken woman... I was squeamish when presented gifts, speechless if someone expressed feelings for me, stiff if someone wanted to hug me, defensive if anyone said my parents had treated me poorly (even though they had), and completely frozen by the prospect of telling someone that I cared for them. In his perfect time, God healed all of that and gave me a voice.

I can't carry a tune in a bucket, but this is a voice I am forever grateful for!

"Every good and perfect gift is from above." James 1:17

If you lost your voice somewhere amidst the destruction of sexual abuse, I want to encourage you to take baby steps to get it back. Journal, blog, comment on this blog, talk with a counselor, get real with your spouse, make your first friend.

I'm amazed that my first friendship came about a just six short years ago... and jump started such a tremendous change in me. In that time, God has opened door after door, giving me places - each a little larger than the previous - to share my heart and use my voice. With God, I moved into a place where I was able to discover my heart, my needs, my longings. His purpose.

All too often, survivors of sexual abuse find that the abuse has stripped away everything that is good and righteous in this life. However, when we are intentional and seek godly support and wisdom in our recovery, we will find that He has so much more in store for us. It is true. God brings beauty from ashes... and He is the only one who can! When we trust him.

"To all who mourn in Israel, he will give a crown of beauty for ashes, a joyous blessing instead of mourning, festive praise instead of despair. In their righteousness, they will be like great oaks that the Lord has planted for his own glory." Isaiah 61:3

"So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you." Luke 11:9