Fullness of JOY

adobe-spark-postYou will make known to me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; In Your right hand there are pleasures forever. Psalm 16:11

They say healing from childhood sexual abuse comes in layers.

A new layer has peeled back for me.  My word for 2018 is JOY, and what keeps rolling around in my mind is “fullness of joy.”

In your presence is fullness of Joy.

How do you truly experience the fullness of joy when you have spent much of your life avoiding, ignoring and hiding emotions?

I stuffed the pain away deep inside so that I would no longer feel it.
I glossed over it, excused it, and tried to find the silver lining in the trash heap.
It was hard for me to cry sometimes when I should, and other times the tears rolled off my cheeks when I tried to lock them in.
Smiling was like a habit.  It was normal to pretend like everything was fine.
I slowly constructed walls a mile high to protect heart from any intrusion.

When the ache started to rumble, I would use food or anything I could to stuff the pain deep inside so I would no longer feel.

A way of numbing.
A way of coping.
A way of hiding.
A way of surviving.

And then, I met Jesus in my pain.

As each wall crumbled, He helped me to peel back the layers.

Layers and layers of memories poured out like a fire hydrant.

I thought when I sat in my counselors office and cried every Thursday for three years, I had let it all out.

And then, there was “fullness of joy” and a whole new layer has peeled back.

Those three words, “fullness of joy”… made me think of three other words – “fullness of pain.”

A memory still pops up out of nowhere.
Something seemingly simple can trigger me.
That will likely never stop.

In this fullness of joy season with Jesus… I am sitting with Him and “feeling” the fullness of that pain.

Stuffing is no longer an option.
Donuts are not the solution.
I cry and I don’t have to explain it away, even when it is awkward.

In it all, I sense His presence.

It’s as if He is whispering to the little girl inside of me,

“I’m here and it is okay to cry.
It is okay to grieve all that was lost.
I want you to let it out, safely in my arms.
I am showing you how to feel with me.
Feel it for what it truly was, and let it go.

It’s time.

Emotions are a gift from me.
We will untangle yours, together.
You don’t have to hide anymore.
You don’t have to stuff anymore.
No barriers, no walls.

You are safe.

This fullness of pain is emptying out the deep recesses in your heart.
I will not leave you empty… I am replenishing you with the fullness of joy.

Joy in my presence. Joy with me.”

If I am not able to truly feel the fullness of the pain, how will I ever truly feel the fullness of His joy?

The pain may never completely go away, but there will always be HOPE.

Hope doesn’t require a carb overload.
Hope is not denial or minimizing the reality of the horrific experiences and the aftermath.
Hope is not pretending it wasn’t that bad, and maybe the good outweighed the awful.
Hope is not isolation.
Hope is not forgetting about it and moving on.

Hope is when the light shines in the darkest places.

Those places can be incredibly painful, but there is always hope. Hope is when His light shines in the darkness. His hope brings the light, and with the light comes the fullness of joy.

Psalm 30:10-12 VOICE

Hear me, Eternal Lord—please help me,
    Eternal One—be merciful!

You did it: You turned my deepest pains into joyful dancing;
    You stripped off my dark clothing
    and covered me with joyful light.
You have restored my honor. My heart is ready to explode, erupt in new songs!
    It’s impossible to keep quiet!
    Eternal One, my God, my Life-Giver, I will thank You forever.

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Joy – My One Word for 2018

I love having My One Word to focus on for the year. My word for 2017 was Expect. In 2016 my word was Know, in 2015 it was New, and in 2014 it was The Word. Having a word and a verse to focus on and study each year has helped me to grow closer to the Lord.

As I was praying about my one word for 2018, one word kept popping up and coming to mind.

It was not a word I would have chosen.

A few weeks ago I told the ladies at our Wednesday Night bible study that I thought I knew my word for 2018 but I wasn’t ready to share it, yet. I wanted make sure it was “the word”, and I was thinking (and hoping) it may change.

Reluctantly, I shared the word and the verse with them.  I told them about how often I was seeing, hearing and thinking about the word Joy. They thought Joy was a wonderful word!  One even said, “Michelle, next year when the chaos comes, you can cling to that word! Joy is a good word!”

I said, “Yes! But that first part – the chaos! I don’t want that! Why this word? Besides, I wanted a more challenging word!”

As soon as those words left my mouth I knew.  It was JOY.

Psalm 16:11 (NIV)
You make known to me the path of life;
you will fill me with joy in your presence,
with eternal pleasures at your right hand.

On my drive home, I realized “Joy” is truly a very ambitious word for me in so many ways.

There were several moments in 2017 where I was filled with JOY, and my Mom happened to capture a photo of this one:

I was facing the ocean and humming the words from the song Gracefully Broken by Tasha Cobbs:  “Here I am God, arms wide open. Pouring out my life, gracefully broken.”

I was so incredibly thankful that God had opened doors for me to share my story at the Hope Restored Conference. I knew with arms wide open that there was no greater JOY than following His path and being obedient. He alone can take our worst pain and turn it into purpose and passion.

It was a mountaintop moment. Pure JOY.

My passion is to inspire women who have been sexually abused or violated to find couragehope, and freedom in Jesus Christ!

And while it brings me great joy, it can also at times be very painful and triggering. It can take me back to dark places and it can feel incredibly overwhelming, especially when I feel powerless. I longed for others to share their #metoo and yet I found myself at times wishing there were a safer and easier way to come out of such a raw and lonely place.

But God.

He makes known to me the path of life;
He fills me with joy in His presence.

He is faithful to remind me that true Joy comes from Him. I have to seek Him and cling to Him. My emotions can no longer be the boss of me. Jesus longs to fill me with Joy in His presence. The key to Joy is to be in His presence.

My word for 2018 is JOY and may it be a reminder for me to seek Him and to be still in His presence because the Joy of the Lord is my strength! I look forward to seeing the paths He sets before me and the Joy He will provide along the way.

Lord, I have chosen you alone as my inheritance.
You are my prize, my pleasure, and my portion.
I leave my destiny and its timing in your hands.
Your pleasant path leads me to pleasant places.
I’m overwhelmed by the privileges
that come with following you,
for you have given me the best!
The way you counsel and correct me makes me praise you more,
for your whispers in the night give me wisdom,
showing me what to do next.
Because you are close to me and always available,
my confidence will never be shaken,
for I experience your wrap-around presence every moment.
My heart and soul explode with joy—full of glory!
Even my body will rest confident and secure.
For you will not abandon me to the realm of death,
nor will you allow your Holy One to experience corruption.
For you bring me a continual revelation of resurrection life,
the path to the bliss that brings me face-to-face with you.
Psalm 16:5-11 TPT

Do you have One Word for 2018?  I’d love to hear it.  Please share it in the comments!  Happy New Year!!

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Overcoming Fear by Trusting in Jesus

When I am afraid, I put my trust in you. Psalm 56:3 NIV

Fear has always been my constant companion. It doesn’t take much to trigger fear in me. I’m often afraid of something. In fact when I’m not afraid, I worry about what will happen next and the cycle of fear continues.

When I finally realized why I was so scared and that I didn’t have to live afraid anymore, then fear lost its grip on me.

Fear still visits me more than I’d like to admit, but when it shows up now, I’m armed and ready.

Are you ready to say, #ByeByeFear?

Click below to watch as I share my story of “Overcoming Fear by Trusting in Jesus” at the Hope Restored Women’s Conference.

Additional Resources:

Fight F. E. A. R. by…

F – Fixing your eyes on Jesus (Hebrews 12:2-3)
E – Engaging with safe community (Hebrews 10:23-25)
A – Admitting you’re struggling with fear (Psalm 34:17-18)
R – Releasing it, and replacing it with God’s promises (Psalm 56:3)

Questions for Personal Reflection:  

  1. What fears are holding you back?
  2. What lies were whispered to you that make you feel unworthy, unloved and insecure?
  3. Have you given Him full access to your story?

Key Verses:  

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Why I Didn’t Tell:  This Is Why 

I was sexually abused throughout my childhood and I kept the secrets until I was 38 years old.  I started seeing a counselor and one by one the secrets finally came out like pieces of a puzzle.  It took over three years of weekly sessions to process it all.

I still cringe inside and out when I hear anyone ask, “Why didn’t you tell?”

Or “Why didn’t you say something sooner?”

“Why are you just saying this now?”

“Why now?”

While it was incredibly difficult to even admit that I was abused, it is even more complicated to explain why I didn’t tell. 

But, this will be my attempt to try.

Why I didn’t tell:  This is why

I was terrified.

I didn’t want to be in trouble.

I didn’t want the police to take me away.

No one would believe me.

I believed everyone would be angry with me.

One of them said he would kill himself.

I believed really bad things would happen.

It would be all my fault.

I would lose everything and everyone.

I saw pornography which reinforced the idea that this is what women are, it’s what we do. It’s normal.

It also made me hate my body and everything about it.

I heard conversations about rape that would include discussions about what the victim was wearing, whether or not she was drinking etc.

I heard at least two other children speak up about abuse and they were promptly silenced, even dismissed.

No one said it was wrong or bad.

All of the shame made me feel like I was wrong or bad – like it was my fault and there was something wrong with me that made it happen.

I was groomed, brainwashed and manipulated into silence.

I dissociated, which is like an out-of-body experience.

I thought it was just me.

Again, no one said it was wrong or bad.

I did not know it was abuse.

As complicated as that can be to understand as an adult, can you imagine carrying the weight of all of that as a child and at the same time desperately trying to appear okay?

The only conversations I had about what was happening to me went on inside of my little mind, with it’s very limited understanding.

As hard as it was to endure and survive, it truly seemed easier to stay quiet and never tell because too much was at risk and it was up to me to hold it all together.

Fear, lies, shame and denial kept me quiet for many years.  

And today, lots of people are coming forward like never before and saying #metoo.

Before you dismiss any of them, or minimize their experience, or offer your opinion on whether or not you think they are telling the truth – please consider that someone you love may be suffering in silence and longing to whisper “me too” to you. 

Be a safe person and lend an ear to their pain. Listen. Believe them. Thank them for trusting you and sharing with you. Ask them what you can do to help them.

Don’t be upset with them for not coming to you sooner.  Eventually, they will share their own #thisiswhy with you, but for now just let them know that you love them, and tell them the abuse was never their fault.

Let them know they are not alone, anymore.

Eternal One: As a woman fiercely strains to give birth, I will gasp, pant, and cry out.
        I have been quiet for a long time; I have held back in the face of it all.
    Well, no more.

Isaiah 42:14 VOICE

If you experienced abuse, what kept you from telling?  Share your #thisiswhy.

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