When justice meets mercy

Walking into my therapists office for the first time was terrifying. I was timid, broken, scared, unaware of the depth of pain I would have to uncover. But my purpose was clear. When asked why I was there, what was I hoping to achieve…the answer came to me in an instant. “I refuse to become a bitter old woman. I want to do whatever work is required to sort through all of the heartache, all of the disappointment, all of the hell that has been my life for the last 15 years, so that, while this will always be part of my story and who I am, it will not define me and it wont steal my joy for my future. I do not want to hold on to this in such a way that I destroy the relationships in my life or create bitterness in my soul.” My therapist smiled at me “We can do that, lets start with taking this to Lord.”

And so began my long journey of healing. Nothing was too big or too small to tackle in that office. It took several weeks before I could even admit or acknowledge that I had been severely abused. It took much longer for me to believe that I did not deserve that abuse. If tears were a currency, I would have been set for life! The hardest parts to sort through took about 1.5 years to even get to. The sexual abuse of my teens and in my marriage was a tough dragon to slay. I grieved for the younger me who didn’t know that she was not to blame and should have spoken up for herself. I grieved for the young wife who thought that what was happening must be “normal” and that things will get better if she just changed enough to please him. I grieved for the physical pain I endured and how that still affects my body today, I grieved for the lost innocence and the fear that held me bondage for so many years.

But perhaps the hardest part of the journey was sorting through the spiritual abuse. To have scripture that I loved, twisted to condemn me into submission to ungodly acts, for God’s word to be used as a weapon against me, that broke me. It created a deep level of uncertainty of my worth. I could almost accept, that the man I loved and pledged my life to, despised me and enjoyed hurting me, I figured I had provoked him and that I was a disappointment, that wasn’t a stretch for me at all. But to think that God thought so little of me, that his love was meant for everyone BUT me, that he was not pleased with who I was, that broke my heart. I tried so hard to please him, to not react to the screaming and name calling, I tried to be the quiet submissive humble wife that I was told he wanted me to be. I tried praying over my husband and marriage without ceasing for years, I read every book I could get my hands on, on how to be a better wife, how to be a godly wife. Eventually I came to the conclusion that this is my cross. That God wants this suffering for me and this is what will make me worthy of his love. To endure the hell I was in was how I would prove my righteousness.

I was so wrong. It took a very long time to get there in my healing journey, to understand that my worth and value are unchangeable, to be honest I still struggle with it to this day. To understand that what was happening to me, was not God’s desire or design. That He wasn’t hiding his face from me in disgust, but rather he was there in the room with me, holding me and crying WITH me. He felt my pain, He hated the sin that was ravaging my home.

I have often talked to my kids about forgiveness. How I have forgiven their father and how I have to keep forgiving him when memories surface, or new evidence of his abuse/lies come to the surface. How it is crucial for my heart and my peace to do so, even when there has been no repentance. But sometimes I wonder if I have succeeded in not harboring bitterness in my soul.

This week, I got an answer to that question. The news of my ex husbands hospitalization due to brain damage came, and with it, a flood of emotions. His drinking had finally caught up to him and now he will live out the remainder of his life with alcohol induced dementia (Wernicke-Korsakoff Syndrome which affects 1-2% of the population), in a nursing home where he, at 42, will need full time care. The tears that came with this news broke open a new area of grief. I had long expected to get news of his death or imprisonment due to his reckless lifestyle, but this? This seemed like the most humbling of events for someone who prided himself on his intellect, his looks, his charm. I have been crying for days. Such a mix of sadness, anger and relief.

Sadness that he could not pull himself out of his addiction or fight for a better life. Sadness for the parents who love him and are hurting to see him like this, sadness that he pushed everyone away. Anger that he chose to destroy himself and not get help so that he could be a good father or husband. Anger that he never could care about anyone but himself and has left a mess of things for his family to sort through and deal with, anger that he drank away his income instead of supporting his kids. Anger that some people still do not see or understand the mental illness that has had a hold of him far longer than the alcohol has. And finally relief. Relief because the harassment, the threats, and the fear can finally be laid to rest. My body is dealing with a slew of triggers as I am thrown back into the world of explaining our story to people who only knew him as “such a sweet, charming and jovial man” and having to navigate helping my kids through yet another traumatic event. But also, my body is resting. My sleep has been deeper and easier in the last few days, perhaps because I am feeling safe for the first time in 19 years.

But as I wrestle through this complicated grief, I have found comfort in one thing. I can say with certainty, that I have no bitterness in my soul. My heart is aching for the man I loved. While I can’t forget the hell he put me through and all the ways he tried to break me, I have forgiven him. Truly. I would not be this sad and this tearful over someone I harbored hatred towards. I find joy in the knowledge that the hard work I have put into growing and healing, has paid off. Joy in that I have leaned into the Lord with all of my heart, my soul,my mind and my strength and He has rewarded me with a wisdom, compassion, empathy, courage, discretion and love.

So even though this moment is hard on so many levels, I know I can do hard things.

We do not know God’s plans, but we do know his heart. So I am praying for my ex husbands heart to be softened, for the gospel truth to seep through the fog in his brain, and for his soul to be restored to the Lord. That maybe one day in heaven we can embrace as brother and sister in Christ, not burdened by shame, spite, or memories of pain. That is my hearts desire. Maybe this is God’s act of justice and mercy rolled into one. Maybe the two go hand in hand in ways that we don’t understand. And I am grateful for a God that is greater than my understanding.

Censored memories…..

Thousands of words spread over white pages, scribbles of a life lived in chaos and confusion. Trying to sort through truths and lies, intertwined like a cluster of Christmas lights. The shame of some memories too great to remain in sight. So they get blotted out, written, recorded and then redacted, too painful to relive. Too confusing to ty and explain.

Sifting through the past trying to catch a glimpse of the girl she once was. Each year she slipped further and further into oblivion. Her words not matching her heart, her heart not trusting her gut, her mind a constant battlefield, her passions fading into nothing.

Fears of being found out as a fraud, only surpassed by the greater fear of losing herself completely. Years of joys overshadowed by rage, deceit and addictions by the one who had promised love, protection and provision. Words recorded in anxious, sleep deprived nights, praying for rescue. The loneliness, heavy on her chest, an ever present reminder of her failures and God’s perceived silence.

What are memories when they have to be censored…to live in such a state of fear, that even seeing events that occurred written out, had to be erased, the risk of being discovered as evidence too great to bear. Tears flow as she grieves the loss of herself, the loss of truth and the loss of a future imagined.

But God, in his great mercy, gave her a new book. Full of beautiful, pristine, blank white pages. Pages to fill with words of all the things. The joys, the sorrows, the struggles, the victories, the blessings, the grieving, the redemption.

And as she writes, she remembers that each memory is an important part of her story, a stepping stone to her true self and more importantly, a glimpse of God’s faithfulness. So that even in the painful parts, she can hear him whisper to her, you are lovely.

No more censoring, no more pretending, no more hiding. The girl once lost has been found. The truths declared and claimed. The hurts forgiven, the sins confessed, the shame erased. A heart restored to the one who calls her beloved.

A new book for a new life.

In the waiting…

Do you ever find yourself offering your troubles to the Lord, placing them at his feet, walking away feeling a sense of relief and even joy, but then within a few days, sometimes a few hours, running back and picking up that burden for yourself again? I know that I do this more often than I care to admit. The reason is simple. I hate waiting and I hate not having control.

I desire to let the heaviness go, to trust the Lord with my life yet, struggle to let go. I fight his timing, and his gentle guidance by assuming I know best. How arrogant and foolish of me.

I pray and offer God my burden of my children’s well being, only to fret and worry late into the night that somehow I am still failing them and they will ruin their lives with bad decisions, or someone will hurt them because they are vulnerable. Forgive me Lord Jesus.

I pray and offer God my burden of financial woes only, to panic and stress when things get tight, forgetting that he has ALWAYS provided what we need when we needed it, often surpassing what I asked for. I take back control by getting so busy with every avenue of earning income that I overlook my most important role, to be available to my kids. Forgive me Lord Jesus.

I pray and offer God my burden of loneliness, only to try and fix the problem myself. Not trusting his timing in the matters of my heart. Forgive me Lord Jesus.

It is a fine balancing act, this whole trusting God’s timing yet also taking steps of faith forward. Out thoughts and actions needs to reflect God’s will and not our own fleshly desires. Faith demands action, not worry or anxious activity. Faith means we live in submission to God’s will and let him direct our steps. Sometimes those steps are scary and uncomfortable, sometimes they are slow and intentional, but they are always rewarded by God’s presence.

A friend recently reminded me of one of the most profound truths. When we are walking in God’s will, we need not worry that we will make the wrong decision because when our thoughts and hearts are in line with the Lord, our decisions and actions will reflect his character. If we make God the one true desire of our hearts, (not financial security, not finding a spouse, not successful children, not a prominent career or recognition for hard work) but truly just Him, he is faithful and just and will give us our desire, he will give us himself. We don’t deserve it, but he offers it anyway. Not only does he give us himself, he also blesses us with things of this world as a bonus.

I often let my mind work itself up into a tizzy, thinking of every possible outcome of my decisions. Fear makes me withdraw or put up defenses, or simply makes me freeze in indecision. Or sometimes I can jump into something too quickly because I am afraid that if I don’t, opportunity won’t come knocking again. All of those scenarios are lacking one thing. TRUST. My ability to trust in humanity might be damaged, but my desire and ability to trust the Lord can be steadfast. He is faithful, always. He is good, always. He is just, always. He is righteous, always.

Wisdom is knowing that in all things God is working things out for our best. Not the best according to the world but the best for our soul and spirit in light of eternity. Wisdom from above is letting go of what we think we know and trust that he knows better.

I have found it profoundly helpful to write down my struggles, my fears my needs, and then look back in amazement at the many ways that God has come through for me, time and time again. Sometimes so specifically it makes me laugh!

The waiting is for my good. It is building trust. So I will continue to wait on the Lord for he is good. And I will continue to ask for his forgiveness when I try to take back what I have already submitted to him….time and time again, because apparently I am a slow learner

3 Years, 1096 days, 26,304 hours….

As I write this at 9pm October 5th 2021 I can’t help but reflect back to 9pm October 5th 2018. The night my world turned upside down and I made the hardest yet best decision I have ever had to make. The moment I decided that I would do whatever it took to protect my boys and myself from further harm. The night I realized that my husband truly did not love me or his sons. The night I saw the evil that was in our home and had taken over our lives. The scales were starting to come off my eyes and I KNEW in my heart that things would never get better between us. I knew that if I stayed I was sentencing my boys to a life of pain and guaranteeing that they grew up hating God, hating life. I did not know at the time that what I had been experiencing for over 15 years was domestic violence. I did not know that October was domestic violence awareness month. I did not know about marital rape or coercive control. I did not know what gaslighting was or that I had been suffering from spiritual abuse or understand that I had been lied to and deceived in the most astonishing ways. No, I didn’t know any of that. All I knew is that if I didn’t get out, it would kill me.

1096 days have come and gone. I am thankful for each one, not because they have been easy but because I am alive and I am free. I did not know how much I didn’t know. I count it as God’s mercy that I didn’t know how hard it would be to get through the legal battles, the continued abuse and violations, the emotional trauma of my kids and the very difficult road to true healing for myself. If I had known I might not have had the courage to leave. But then again, if I had known about the immense joy, the peaceful nights, the closeness of the Lord, the deep and authentic relationships forged, the laughter and prayers coming from my children’s lips, and the profound truths that have set me free I might have left many years earlier.

But I believe that God’s timing is always perfect. I had to stop beating myself up for staying so long, or for marrying him in the first place and realize that even in those “mistakes” God never took his hand from me. I would not be who I am now if I had not gone through the fire. I would not know of the richness of forgiveness or have the deep capacity for compassion. I would not have this clear picture of who God created me to be. Some days I still struggle to see myself as God sees me. The voice of my abuser is still there in my head, whispering to me what a waste of space I am, but now I have the tools to fight that voice.

My hope this October as I try and educate others about domestic violence, is that Gods truth and light reach the darkest places. That hearts are restored. There is life after abuse. There is joy and fullness and richness in knowing God’s love for us. There is always a way out. There are people who know how to help. Life can be beautiful again, you children can heal and you will survive.

Your life is worth fighting for.

Not sure where to start or if you are even experiencing Domestic Violence? Check out https://www.calledtopeace.org

When the dam breaks….

Sometimes when life throws too many curveballs, or my heart feels too tender, my reaction is to take all of those big emotions and place them into a neat little room deep in my soul, close the door and walk away. It has been a well used coping mechanism in my life for far too long. I tell myself that I am dealing with all of these BIG things very well indeed because I am still able to function. I can pat myself on the back because even though things are hard I am still able to get things done and in many cases am even more productive than usual. Of course now I know that when I get so overly productive it is almost always a sign of anxiety and high stress. Instead of sitting with these hard feelings and letting myself actually process what is going on in my life, I get busy. Busy feels better than broken.

But the problem is that all of those feelings, fears and emotions are not really gone, just hidden. And eventually they will build up so much pressure that the dam breaks. Today my dam broke. It was not as big as a flood as I’ve had in the past, I have ,after all, gotten a little better at dealing with reality, but it was a flood non the less. Of course the panic attack I had at my new doctors office a couple of weeks ago should have been my first clue that the dam was about to break, but sometimes I am slow to pick up on these things.

Today my good friends Mom passed away. She found out she had cancer just 11 days ago. While I have never met her Mom my heart broke for my sweet friend who has already gone through so much recent change and hardship. But the true reason that this news broke my dam was because my own Mom was diagnosed with cancer just a couple of months ago and next week she is going in for a major surgery. I have worked really hard to stay positive and to “just not think” about next week. Even in my prayers for her and this whole thing, I find myself somewhat detached. I believe in God’s healing power and his faithfulness, but I also know that he does not always chose to heal in the way that we would classify healing. I cling stubbornly to His promises that he will always be there with us, even in the mud. But that doesn’t mean I don’t have very real feelings and emotions about the whole thing. And hearing how my friend just lost her mom meant I was confronted with my own fears of losing mine. I had to sit with that for a while. I had to let myself cry about it and process it and not berate myself for “giving in” to those weak and what feels “like a lack of faith” feelings.

There are a lot of other things adding to the pressure that has been building up inside, it never is just one thing right? Fears and concerns over my own health, moving to a new house, being on our own again for the first time in 16 months, kids pushing for more and more freedom and my continued concern over their safety, my ex’s family contacting me for the first time in almost 3 years, growing financial responsibilities and the pressure to provide for my family resting solely on my shoulders, feelings of rejection from what I thought was a growing friendship, enrolling kids in new schools yet again, and of course the unrelenting chronic pack/hip pain being my constant companion. And yet somehow, despite all that I have been doing and working on I still feel like I am not doing enough. OR rather that I AM not enough.

So the flood came. Tears, exhaustion, helplessness, anxiety and pain. All of it. I let myself sit in the pain for a while. I let myself cry and deeply feel each burden and each fear. I named the things that were sitting in that room waiting to be acknowledged. I had anger to deal with about the ongoing physical and emotional repercussions of living in an abusive marriage for 15 years. I had sins to confess and offenses to let go of. It is not pretty and it is not something that is easy to admit, this struggle with who I am and who God is. But it is real.

As I am writing this I am also looking at a sign I have up in my room, “The battle is not yours, but God’s” 2 Chronicles 20:15. And that is where I am going to choose to rest today. This battle with cancer is not ours, it is God’s. This battle of my children’s safety is not mine but God’s. This battle of loneliness and feelings of rejection is not mine but God’s. This battle with anxiety and fear is not mine but God’s.

God is not looking down on me shaking his head wishing I was a better person. He is not impatiently waiting for me to reach my full potential. He is not disappointed in my shortcomings. He is waiting for me to come and rest in his presence. He is holding out his hand to take mine and walk with me. He is storing up my tears because they are precious to him. He has not forgotten about me or decided I am too much to deal with.

I don’t have to pretend to have it all together. I don’t have to hide behind productivity or distractions. I can choose to be thankful in everything, even the pain, because it means I am alive.

Today I welcome friends and family into my new home, my imperfect home. I will rest in knowing that God is present, he cares and he is enough, so I will live today believing this truth. And if he is enough, I don’t have to be.

Women of courage

I recently had the privilege of attending a conference put on by Called to Peace Ministries in North Carolina called, He makes all things new. It was a conference for Domestic Violence survivors and those wanting to help survivors.

The 500 women who attended (plus many more online) had a kind of unity and bond that is not come by without a deeply shared common understanding and shared experience of suffering. Never before have I been surrounded by so many strangers and yet felt so loved or truly seen. Every woman there was a woman of courage. Every one of us has gone through or are still going through a major battle, a battle to survive.

I struggle with social anxiety, large gatherings make me nervous and uncomfortable. Not to mention the anxiety of returning to the same place my abuser is from and where I have many memories of our trips together. It took every fiber of my being to sit in that large auditorium that first evening and not bolt out the door. I wanted to run. I felt a need to run. I knew in my soul that these 3.5 days would change my life but it would be heavy and difficult. I knew that it would bring up things in me that had not quite healed yet, and probably reveal truths that were still hidden deep in my heart. I was right. But what I didn’t anticipate was the intense anger it would stir within me, anger at the hurt all of these women have gone through, some so bizarre and nightmarish that you would have a hard time believing the stories even if I told you. What I felt was a righteous anger. The majority, if not all, of these women had “Christian” husbands, many serving in ministry. My story was not unique here. My story did not shock or disgust or cover me in shame here. My story was accepted, believed, understood and I was embraced for who I truly am, a child of God. Still loved, despite my many scars.

Women have a tendency to judge other women very quickly and harshly, we often deal with jealousy and insecurities. But at this conference there was non of that, there was passing of tissues when the stranger next to you started crying in worship, hands laid on each other shoulders as prayers for healing were offered, smiles given to every woman who walked through those doors. We all understood the extreme courage it took to attend this conference, many women having to hide their location and the purpose of the event from their abusive spouses back home. Many women feared what they would be going home to. I think it safe to say that ALL of us faced one or more spiritual attacks before/during/after the conference.

But we came, stayed and left with strength. We learned about healing and we leaned into the Holy Spirit.

It will take me long time to go through all of the material we received, but I will provide a list of resources for those who are in need of somewhere to start.

As I looked around the room at all these women of different ages, backgrounds and ethnicity I was overcome with the beauty. No one will ever understand the amount of courage it takes to rescue one self from an abusive situation, unless they have had to do so themselves. To run when you have no where to run to, to fight for your children’s safety, to fight for your basic human rights. To understand the courage it takes to start life all over again with nothing but the clothes on your back, or to navigate the constant threats and attacks on your character, and even your life. All from the person you have spent years loving and who had promised at one point to love you forever. This kind of courage is beautiful. It is powerful and it is a testament to how God works through the mess and the pain.

These women are choosing to take their lives back. They are confronting the trauma, not running from the pain. They are choosing to take a stand and make the changes in their own lives, do all the counseling, the ptsd therapy, the new job training, etc. to realign their lives with the Lord and learn how to thrive. They are taking back the joy that was stolen from them, one day at a time.

Healing doesn’t just happen with time. Healing is a choice of facing the hard things. Confronting the lies in your life, making positive changes and being diligent in rewiring the pathways in your brain that have been disrupted or distorted from years of abuse. Healing takes longer than anyone really wants or expects it to. Healing involves other people, good people, and needs to exclude toxic people. Healing means learning what safe people look like and relearning how to trust your gut.

And above all it means CHRIST. Because he LOVES YOU. He understands you, he cries with you, he holds you, he surrounds you, he is FOR you. True healing comes with a transformation of your thoughts, a complete overhaul of your heart, and it needs to start with seeing yourself the way God sees you. We have been beat down, torn apart and told repeatedly that we are worthless, despised and unlovable. BUT God says we are heirs, chosen, cherished, beautifully crafted, gifted, wanted and desired. Lean into his grace. Lean into his promises and start replacing lies with truth.

You can do this, you are a beautiful and courageous woman.

“And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself RESTORE you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. To Him be the power forever and ever. Amen. ” 1st Peter 5:10-11

As I wander through the wilderness

I find myself wandering, seemingly aimlessly, through a wilderness. What is this place of waiting? Where does this path of wandering lead? I have slowly been realizing that this pit in my stomach is a sense of unrest, a sense of anticipation and longing.

For two years my every move and action was out of sense of urgency, keeping my boys and myself safe! I was constantly preparing for battle and standing guard. My life was in survival mode and everything I did had substantial purpose. Find a way to provide, find a place to live, find a lawyer, go to court, prepare my sons for hardship, fight for their sense of peace and belonging, rebuild family relationships, seek out a new way of living, restore who I am. All good and necessary things. All part of healing and moving forward into a completely new life. But now that I am finally safe, now that the urgency is over and the healing is well under way, I find myself….restless.

I feel as if I can relate a little to the Israelites, God rescued them from their oppressor, they were set free. They watched God perform miracles and brought them out of certain death and despair. So God has done for me. There is a promise of a land of peace, of belonging, a land of plenty. But first there is the wilderness. Granted the Israelites grumbling, discontentedness and then betrayal of the Lord, extended their time in the wilderness, so much so that a whole generation was never granted access to the promised land, but either way, one had to walk through the wilderness to get to the promised land.

I can imagine that after the adrenaline rush of their grand escape, they felt a sense of urgency, purpose and courage. A new sense of hope and anticipation. But after months of wandering, never knowing how far they would walk, or how long they would stay at the next place, their hearts grew weary and restless. It is easy to judge them as weak, ungrateful, disobedient, entitled even, so quickly forgetting all God had done for them. But aren’t we the same? I know I am. My wilderness journey has just been over 6 months and already I find myself grumbling, upset that things aren’t moving along as fast as I think they should be.

God has brought me out of the fire, he rescued me, performed miracles, gave me courage I didn’t recognize and gave me a promise. Yet here I am, wandering in the wilderness, wondering where I am going. My heart is striving to find fulfillment in the now. I used to think that “time in the wilderness” meant a time of pain, sorrow, unrelenting hardships thrust upon you. Now I think it is a time of waiting, boredom, missing a sense of purpose and endless seeking.

I am seeking the Lord with all my heart, soul and mind. But he is not sharing what his plans are for me. As someone who likes to know what is coming, so I can prepare, this time of waiting and not knowing is hard. Really hard. I don’t know when, how or if my kids and I will be able to have our own home. I don’t know if when, how or if I will be able to provide for them enough financially with just my income. I don’t know when, how or if I will ever be ready to step into a new relationship, and if I do get ready, how to even find one? I don’t know what or how I will do to serve the Lord, how will I give back to him in such a way that encourages others and brings glory to him? I have so so many unanswered questions and so many desires that I am wrestling with.

And yet God is at work.

He has had a continual thread of hope woven through my story. I will borrow the words of Lysa Terkeurst here for minute. In all things I need to come back to these truths.

God is good. God is good to me. God’s plans for me are good.

He has been trying to show me these truths over and over again, yet I question it. There is nothing in me that is deserving of his goodness, which makes accepting it so hard. Sorrow, on the other hand, I am well versed in. I understand how to have joy in the midst of sorrow, I understand that sorrow bring an unparalleled opportunity to show devotion to the Lord and brings a closeness otherwise unattainable. Yes I “get” the times of sorrow. Which is maybe why I am almost hesitant with the idea of times of goodness. What will that look like?

All I know right now is that God is not done with my story. He is trying to show me beauty. Revealing truths to me about who I am, how he sees me, his goodness and his faithfulness. I have no idea where my life will take me, I can’t even see past the next bend, but do I trust him to lead the way? Do I trust him to sustain me in the wilderness, to provide what I need for each day?

Take courage my heart, trust that even in the waiting he is at work. One foot in front of the other. When times of doubt or fear try to take hold, remember

God is good, God is good to me, God’s plans for me are good.

Blessings over the Children

As a single parent you feel the weight of your child’s well being on a whole new level. And let me tell you, it is no walk in the park. I’m not just talking about their physical health and needs (which are significant and hard to manage, especially on a less than ideal budget), but their emotional, mental and spiritual needs as well. I can’t count the number of nights I have tossed and turned, anxious about my children’s state of mind, their fears, their struggles, their future. I know most parents feel this way about their kids, but as the only parent in your kids life, the weight of it falls on you alone, no partner to confide in, pray with, someone who feels the same burden for the babies in your home. The stress that this produces is profound. But in truth, we are not alone as single moms or dads. There is one who carries the burden with us, who wants to ease our anxiety and fears. He holds all things together and he is, really, the only one we can trust with our children.

“One day some parents brought their children to Jesus so he could touch and bless them. But the disciples scolded the parents for bothering him. When Jesus saw what was happening he was angry with his disciples. He said to them, “Let the children come to me. Don’t stop them! For the Kingdom of God belongs to those who are like these children. I tell you the truth, anyone who doesn’t receive the Kingdom of God like a child will never enter it. ” Then he took the children in his arms and placed his hands on their heads and blessed them.” Mark 10:13-16

I think there are a few different things this passage can teach us but I’m going to focus on one that stood out to me today. The parents. The parents physically brought their children to Jesus. They not only brought them along, but they brought them specifically so Jesus could touch them and bless them. They did not go to Jesus seeking their own blessing. They were doing what good parents do. Seeking blessings over their children. What a show of faithfulness, of godly wisdom and of true faith! And Jesus not only blessed them, he held them in his arms. He could have just spoken a blessing over them, and sent them on their way. But instead, he took his time. He made sure that the children felt safe, cared for, loved. The picture in my head is beautiful. And I can so easily imagine myself as one of the mothers in the crowd, weeping with joy and relief because Jesus was holding my child and blessing him. I am not doing this alone! Hallelujah, praise the Lord!

This weight of their spiritual well being just got a little lighter. I have brought my children to Jesus since the time of their conception. I have spent many hours in prayer of them. I have wept many tears and prayed passionate pleas for their safety, both physically and emotionally. And those tears, those words, those feelings of helplessness were not ignored. They were received by the one who loves them even more than I do. Jesus has held my babies in his arms, he holds one of them now up in heaven with him. He has carried them through dark times and he has spoken encouragement to their little hearts in the night. He has blessed them with every spiritual blessing (Ephesians 1:3) and has promised to never leave or forsake them. He has claimed them and they have claimed Him. I hope this thought brings some encouragement to all the moms and dad’s out there that are doing this on their own. That this picture of a parent sacrificing their own blessing so that their children will be blessed rings true for you. What greater gift can we give our children? What safer place to take them? And what greater legacy for your family, than to teach them to love others this way?

I know my kids will still suffer hardship, and in truth, that is a good thing. Hardship teaches us dependence on the only one who can really satisfy our hearts desires. My kids will still carry some pain and misconceptions from their childhood into their adulthood, because we all do. But they will not walk alone. They have been held and touched by Jesus. They have his blessing on their heads. God will provide wisdom for the parent who seeks it, strength when we are weak, patience and joy in the journey. Now, weary mother, you can rest.

The struggle with singleness

Have you ever been so torn about something in your life that you just want to scream? Like on a consistent basis? That’s how I have been feeling for the last couple of years. You see, I enjoy being single. And I hate it.

I got married very young, so I didn’t have very much experience in being a single Christian woman. While I experienced loneliness at times as a teenager, and also while married, it pales in comparison to the loneliness one feels after divorce (or becoming a widow). The intensity of it can take your breath away, it makes your muscles ache and your heart feel like it wants to bury itself. I have never experienced anything so tangibly sorrowful.

While I dipped my toe, very briefly, back into the dating world my first year of being single, I quickly realized how unprepared I was for the new relationship step. Not to mention that dating in you mid thirties with kids in the picture, in this day and age is not an easy task!!! My fears and anxieties of being controlled again, deceived, abused or of losing my sense of self were so strong that I quickly recoiled. I could write many many stories or paragraphs about what that quick stint in the dating scene taught me or what it is that I long for in a relationship. I think my time would be better spent on where I am now.

This month I have been investing significant time in trauma therapy which uses muscle testing and tapping and rapid eye movement, but most importantly prayer and scripture. Through this therapy I have learned how to name sexual trauma that has happened to me, released shame that I have carried around since I was 18 related to said trauma (this is before the marital abuse) and taken steps to rewire my thinking. One area that needed re wiring is in regard to singleness. I have been wrestling with this for some time because of my split feelings on the issue. On one hand I hate it but on the other hand I actually enjoy it. For some reason my heart of hearts truly believes that if I am single for a long time it proves that I am unlovable, not worth loving or even despised. So I had to confess this wrong thinking this week. I had to cry and pray and be willing to let God’s voice ring true in my heart. Singleness right now is a gift to me. It is Jesus caring for my heart. I need this time. And when I am honest I want it too. But that makes me weird right? Who in their right mind wants to be single? Everywhere you turn there is the message that you should be in a relationship. That being single is sad and pathetic. What a lie that is! Look at the apostle Paul and what he wrote in 1 Corinthians 7:28, 34-35

“But those who marry will face many troubles in this life, and I want to spare you this. …An unmarried woman or virgin is concerned about the Lord’s affairs, her aim is to be devoted to the Lord in both body and spirit. But a married woman is concerned about the affairs of the is world, how she can please her husband. I am saying this for your own good, not to restrict you, but that you may live in a right way in undivided devotion to the Lord.”

Paul was not saying that being married is bad, on the contrary, God created marriage and rejoices in a godly union, but what Paul is saying is that being single isn’t bad either. Both are good, both are hard. And maybe the work that God has for me during this time requires my full attention, not one that is divided.

My heart longs for God, for his presence, his fullness, his love. I don’t believe that this season will last forever, I do believe that when the time is right God will bring someone into my life who will honor me and most importantly honor God, but in the meantime I can stop fretting, stressing or worrying about who it might be or when it might be. And THAT means freedom. I feel free to be myself, to take care of my kids and work hard and not worry about when or where I might meet someone. I can let go of my self condemning voice who screams that soon I’ll be too old to find love again. I am not a na├»ve 19 year old anymore, I understand the complexity of relationships and how hard it would be to blend two families or how to trust someone to parent my kids along side me. I understand that the butterflies of a new relationship fade over time and marriage is hard. I understand that even though my experience was not so, marriage can be beautiful. Maybe one day I will get to see that for myself, but for now I am going to be thankful for my singleness.

I will keep praying that God would comfort me when the loneliness hits, because while I think this singleness is a gift, it does not take away the physical ache of wanting to be held from time to time. And to be honest I really just miss having a good guy friend. I grew up a tomboy, I always had guy friends. Then I got married and obviously gave up male friendships, but now I am in this boat of really wanting just a male friend and have no idea about how to achieve such a thing without giving off the wrong idea. So I guess for now I will hang tight. After all I have been blessed with some pretty amazing girlfriends, not to mention a whole family who loves me and bring me joy.

So I will pray that in all things, in all seasons of life, I will be content and trust the Lord to make me feel whole and complete in Him.

Letting go of who the world expects me to be, and embracing who God created me to be!

Proceed with caution

Just a few weeks ago I was feeling on top of the world, like nothing could bring me down. Now….well, not so much. I promised you at the beginning of this blog that I would be honest about the healing journey. That it would be up and down. I promised to be authentic and genuine, not pretend like all is well when it is not. It is so easy these days to feel inferior, to feel like there is something inherently wrong with you because all you see is people on social media with their lives in tact. You see smiles and beautiful families and vacations and romance and obedient children and all the highlights of peoples lives. You see people who have overcome great pain but you don’t see the process of overcoming that pain. So you think, why is it taking me so long to heal? Why am I such a mess? What is wrong with me? Well, I am no expert, and I don’t know you….but I’ll wager that there is nothing wrong with you. Pain and trauma take a long long long time to heal and they do not generally go away on their own. There is pretending to be ok and then there is actually doing the work to become ok. It is messy. It is up and down, it is exhausting. And trauma is not generally understood by the people in your life, unless they have gone through it themselves. This can cause misunderstandings, hurt feelings and frustrations on both ends as you navigate the healing process. But it can also draw you closer to someone, teach you patience, build trust and help you build a new foundation for your life.

About 3 weeks ago I had a rough day. I was turned down for a loan (thanks ex who won’t pay child support), lost the chance at getting our own place (thanks Colorado for overpriced cost of living), was turned down for a date, and was told my kids couldn’t go back to school for the foreseeable future (thanks Covid). That was one day. I felt crushed, angry, fearful, rejected and so so alone. But more than that one day was what was coming, what I felt brewing in my chest. God was not done with me yet. There is more for me to overcome, more healing to take place. And I knew I wouldn’t like it.

While I have worked through so much of the narcissistic abuse and forgiven my ex for so many hurts, there has always been this lingering trauma, deep down in the recesses of my mind that I did not want to address, did not feel brave enough, or strong enough to tackle. I prayed it would just go away. I prayed that it would heal on it’s own over time. But that is not how trauma works. Especially sexual trauma. Can I just say that even writing those two words took me forever.

I have mentioned the sexual abuse before to my counselor, to close friends, even written tiny bits about it, but always in a very detached kind of way. It was just a fact, it was not a feeling. I was almost laughing about it. But now my cptsd has flared up big time and I find myself having panic attacks. jumping between hypervigilance and numbness. Staring at yogurt in the grocery store, completely frozen and not able to process what I am looking at. Or being too afraid to go to sleep because I don’t want the nightmares to return.

Sexual trauma is considered by the experts to be right in line with war time combat trauma. It imprints the brain in a significant way. Often it gets buried so deeply in the recess of you mind that you don’t even remember it. But your body keeps the score. Read “your body keeps the score” by Dr. Bessel van der Kolk. Well, I remember. I have 15 years of sexual abuse to remember. Now I have to work through all the confusion and the questions. Fighting him did not work, I tried. I tried reasoning with him, I tried pleading, I prayed. Eventually I gave up fighting. Because dealing with the consequences of “disrespect” was worse. Nothing has ever made me feel less human, less valued, less respected or less hopeless than those moments. The physical pain was nothing compared to the heart pain.

Images, memories flood my brain. Fear grips my heart, as if the events were happening right now, not a couple of years ago or in some cases 15 years ago. In the last few weeks I have learned that my body is suffering in significant ways because of the sexual trauma that has not been properly processed or released. I am in physical pain every day, my weight has jumped up 50lbs in two years despite my exercise and eating habits barley changing. The cortisol from stress and living in hypervigilance is producing side effects I had no idea would be so damaging. Basically my body is on constant alert for danger and feels like I have no control over my own body or my world. I have had times of feeling more safe, times of relaxing and self care. But as soon as something triggers or alerts that part of my brain that is storing the sexual trauma, all hell brakes loose. Adding the pandemic and all the challenges and stress of that to the healing process has been almost more than I can handle.

Thankfully I am not completely unaware of what is happening. I have tackled ptsd before, I have processed a lot of pain before, so I will put on my big girl panties (literally, haha) and face this.

My heart is determined to make 2021 my year for health. And I’m not just talking about the weight, because that is not the most important thing, but my mental, spiritual, emotional and physical health. I am investing in therapy and EMDR and chiropractic care. I am taking all the vitamins and supplements. am exercising in a way that won’t hurt my body, I am staying hydrated and taking mental breaks to do things that bring me joy, like playing the piano or painting. I am going to stay connected with friends and loved ones. Books on mental health will be read, my quiet time with Jesus will continue to start my days, and my kids will be homeschooled to give them some sense of stability in this crazy time. I have never been one to make big new years resolutions, and when I have they are usually given up by February, so I am not calling this a new years resolution. This is just my time. Time to become a whole person again. Time to restore what has been stolen from me. I am scared of failing but I am more scared of not trying.

Most of all, I will try and give myself some grace. I will try and be kind to myself, to speak gently to my heart and remember how far I’ve come. I will try and be patient and stop hating my body and my shame and my weakness. I will be thankful for how hard my body has had to work to survive. I will cry all the tears that I had held in for so many years and I will work hard at not being embarrassed about what has happened, recognizing that I had no real control over it.

And I will cling to His promise “being confident of this very thing, that He who begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ. ” Philippian1:6