Baby Steps: Jesus said, “Daughter, your faith has healed you.”

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I saw him, my abuser.  

We were at an event and the first comment he made to me was he could tell I had lost weight.  I immediately wanted to eat a doughnut or five. I went to the bathroom to breathe and when I returned I had on my “all is well” mask and I made it through the day just fine.  

On the way home, my brain was all over the place.  I told my husband that maybe this wasn’t as big of a deal as I was making it out to be. I wasn’t sure why it had affected me so bad but I think I should be able to manage just fine and I seem to be doing much better now.  Clearly, I was able to function okay in that environment.  

Then I whispered, “I just wish I hadn’t said anything sometimes.” 

He stopped the car and looked me right in the eyes and said, “This is a big deal.  I see it as huge and no you are not going to ‘manage’ the rest of your life. You have managed enough already. I watched and it made me sick. It is a big deal and it is such a hidden thing – you have to make people aware of it!  I am not sure what that means or in what timing, but with our kids and other people – I just had no idea. It is a big deal!”

He didn’t always say the right thing, but he got it right this time. It was just what I needed to hear, and for the first time I was actually glad that he knew. We were experiencing ups and downs, but today felt balanced like we were finally on the same page.  

I was amazed that I held it together and easily pretended all was well and I was just fine.  

A few days later, and I fell apart again. 

We were at a wedding, and my mind opened the file to my wedding day. It was a day that was extremely stressful, yet peaceful. It was sad, yet joyful.  I had mixed emotions at best, but I remember thinking I wish we had eloped. When I walked down that aisle, I felt like I had a transferred truck load of baggage that I was bringing into the marriage. I wore white, but I felt anything but pure. I smiled for all of the pictures, but I could not wait for it to be over. I snapped back to the present and stood with tears in my eyes as I clapped for the new bride and groom. Weddings still make me cry. 

The next morning before church, I woke up from a bad dream, and I shared it with Anthony. I told him I didn’t think I could do it.  I didn’t think I would ever be able to confront my abuser.  

Then in Sunday School, we were talking about the woman with the bleeding issue. I shared my perspective about how Jesus could have just healed her in peace and silence, but he called her out.  He had to know it was her, and yet she had to say the whole truth.  

My heart was pounding. I wasn’t exactly sure what God was asking me to do, but I was definitely scared. 

Then the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came and fell at his feet and, trembling with fear, told him the whole truth. He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering.” Mark 5:33-34

This is post #11 in the Baby Steps series.  To start at the beginning, click here.

Baby Steps: He Collects My Tears

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I was crying a lot, and my counselor encouraged me to write a letter to my husband to explain why I was crying so much and also to let him know what responses were helpful. In the letter I shared with him the reasons for my tears.

My tears represented years and years trying to appear happy and not crying at all in order to maintain that happiness. All this time, I thought God had singled me out, didn’t love me, allowed my pain and had not protected me. 

My perception of love was very unhealthy. My innocent was lost, stolen and gone. I was beginning to understand that it wasn’t my fault, but even in releasing that guilt I was even more aware of how evil and manipulative it all was and that was heart-breaking. I didn’t have a normal, happy, healthy childhood and whatever good existed has now been minimized whereas before I focused on the good to avoid thinking about the awful. 

I had to escape just to cope. I didn’t realize how often I dissociated and checked out. I was also aware of the level of isolation, grooming, and silencing that I experienced and it made me feel worthless and unloved. Was selfish pleasure really valued higher than me? 

I was afraid of everything. It wasn’t always logical or rational but it was very real for me. I was terrified of policemen, fire, and tragedy. It always felt like the rug was about to be pulled from under me. I was constantly afraid of something.  

I was alone. I had many friends and I knew a lot of people, but my five closest friends in my life barely knew me. I hardly knew me. 

I lived expecting to be disappointed. I expected to be harmed, hurt, misled, lied to, abandoned, forgotten, ignored and hated. My mind would play the tape before it happened so that when and if it happened it hurt less because I already saw it coming. 

Mostly, I felt completely unloved.  How can you be loved and abused at the same time?  

Crying helped. Those tears were just a sweet release most of the time. Sometimes I could put words to it, and other times I couldn’t. Crying was not easy, but it was long overdue.    

You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book. Psalm 56:8 NLT

This is post #10 in the Baby Steps series.  To start at the beginning, click here.

Baby Steps: He will make your paths straight.

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My next session with my counselor was two hours long.  I was feeling better, but I was so very tired.  Flashbacks, triggers, and nightmares were happening more frequently. I would suddenly see images and feel the memory in my skin – all of that green shame.

We worked on a timeline together.  I did the talking and she used color coded markers.  Anything in red meant my husband was aware of it, but if it was in green he had no idea.  

There was a lot of green on the timeline, and even with the red I began to realize that maybe he wasn’t fully aware because I didn’t always speak the full truth clearly. I talked in circles and in code, and if I felt backed into a corner I just flat-out lied. It was all I knew to do.

She wanted me to think about what I would say to him and how I would say it.  She encouraged me to just stick to the facts as we were still working on emotions and belief systems. I was so afraid to tell him. I felt like he would be livid. I wasn’t sure how he would respond or what he would do, plus I didn’t want to dump this pain on him.

Mostly, I didn’t want him to reject me.

It was still hard for me to reconcile not only how God could allow the abuse but also everything that comes with it. How could my abuser choose to harm me over and over?  How could he act like nothing was wrong? How could he not be sorry? Those questions rolled around in my mind as the tears rolled down my cheeks.    

I looked for God in everything. I looked for His reactions, forgiveness, understanding and His constant pursuit of me. I searched His Word and found truth with new eyes. Much of what was taught to me reinforced my wrong thinking, so it was helpful to revisit those verses and see them in this new light. God rescued, protected and loved me.

He was always with me.   

His mercy to me was amazing. I truly was a miracle, and yet I still wondered why did this have to happen? I stared at the chart and thought of all the ripple effects. It made me so sad, and I wasn’t sure I would ever understand any of it.

When I told my husband about the chart, I admitted that I struggle to communicate clearly and there may be things I thought he was aware of that he may not know. He started asking questions, and then he just said I needed to trust him and tell him everything. I grabbed his hand and put it over my heart so he could feel my panic. He assured me that he would love me no matter what. 

My heart continued to thump in my chest.  

I wasn’t sure what was next, but I was moving and there was no turning back now. I knew God was with me and maybe He had a purpose for me. Maybe He would use me to help others. I just needed to trust him, and keep taking baby steps!  

Trust in the Lord with all your heart
    and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways submit to him,
    and he will make your paths straight.  Proverbs 3:5-6 NIV

This is post #5 in the Baby Steps series.  To start at the beginning, click here.

My Beautiful Story

Music triggers me.

I was leaving work and the song “Against All Odds” came on by Phil Collins.

As I sat waiting in traffic, I remembered…

Sitting on the riding lawn mower listening to this song on my Walkman and crying my eyeballs out. I think I was in the 4th or 5th grade and a girl in high school had committed suicide in our town. They said she did it because her dad had died and she missed him so much. I remember imagining her laying still on the ground with pictures of him all around her.

With the music playing in my car, I could almost smell the freshly cut grass and I felt the emotion like it was yesterday. What would I do if he died? What if he killed himself? I would feel so guilty and be so sad. It would just be awful.

I didn’t want him to die, and if I ever told anyone our secret, then he would die. And, it would be all my fault.
I knew I could never tell a soul.
It would be too risky, and besides, “he’s the only one who really knew me at all.”

“So take a look at me now…”

As I pulled out of the parking lot my eyes filled with tears. The emotional part of the abuse is so painful. The burden. The shame. The heavy responsibility.

I was just a child in elementary school thinking and believing that I would be responsible if he died. My fault. My problem.

I was still crying when I got home because I couldn’t imagine or fathom how anyone could put that on a child.

Worry was my normal.
Will he kill himself?
Will it be my fault?
Will anyone find out?
What will happen to me?
Will I die?
Should I die?

Eventually my tears stopped. My sadness turned to anger and then later turned to sadness again.

This memory has been triggered before, but this time it was as if the heaviness of it crashed onto me in a new way. A deeper way.

It just seemed so overwhelmingly cruel to threaten a child with suicide – but it certainly kept me quiet for a very long time.

But not forever… because “he wasn’t the only one who really knew me at all.”

That’s one of the many lies that shaped my identity.

Healing from Childhood Sexual Abuse has helped me to untangle those lies, one lie at a time.

On this journey, I discovered the truth. I was intricately known and loved by my Creator. He did not create me to be abused. He did not design me as His masterpiece to be violated.

I’ve had to lay down the lies, surrender the worry and cling to the Truth daily, sometimes hourly.

I am seen.
I am known.
I am loved.

He’s writing my beautiful story.

It’s beautiful because Jesus has personally delivered His light into the darkest parts of me. He’s given me the Courage to take every step and He’s never let go of my hand. His Truth breathed fresh Hope into my soul. He’s gracefully torn down my walls, he’s broken the chain of lies that bound me and through Him I’ve experienced true Freedom.

I’ve given Him the paper and the pen. This beautiful story is His story.

It may not always look beautiful or feel beautiful, but it is because He’s taken the messiest parts of my life and created purpose.

Nothing makes my heart pound so wildly in my chest than when I’m taking the next step of faith with Him.

I don’t know what lies were whispered in your ears in the darkness or what freezes you in fear. I don’t know if you struggle with anxiety or what all you deal with, but I do know His grace is sufficient.

Where do you start? I didn’t pray eloquent prayers. Sometimes I just sobbed, “Help me. Help.”

That’s still my go to prayer, and He’s still faithful. Every single time.

He’s a good Father.
He is faithful.
He rescues, redeems and restores.

He knows everything about you and He’s writing your beautiful story too.

Will you let His strength give you courage when it seems so impossible?
Will you be still and let Him breathe wild, fresh Hope into your soul?
Will you let His Truth chip away the walls and lies that have held you back?

This story… His story is going to be beautiful.

I can’t wait to read it.

Ephesians 2:10

We have become his poetry, a re-created people that will fulfill the destiny he has given each of us, for we are joined to Jesus, the Anointed One. Even before we were born, God planned in advance our destiny and the good works  we would do to fulfill it!