Jesus Follower. Clergy Abuse Survivor. Praising Jehovah-Rapha and looking UP!
Life has given me clearer skies and much better mental health. Therefore I felt it was time to overhaul my blog. Some old posts remain, as do a few followers. Other posts may be revived in the future. Thanks for being there for me while I walked through the fog of abuse. ❤️
It started up again. During the season of ‘Christmas Cards’ my husband is tasked with sorting the mail in order to filter out the holiday cards from family members from whom I maintain ‘no contact.’ He looks them over to make sure there isn’t anything I absolutely need to see or know about. You know, just in case someone writes something like ‘I am sorry I assaulted you’ in the margin or something…. Then he gives me a choice on whether or not I want to see it/read it. Sometimes I do. Sometimes not. After I am given that choice, he seems to relish tossing the cards/letters in the trash can.
Witnessing his discarding of the cards actually helps me, tremendously, to get over the boundary breach that is created whenever such cards come into my world.
Yesterday, while looking over the latest card-about-to-be-discarded, my husband commented, “You know, I forgot to tell you but a few weeks ago I read this article about churches that are incorporating electronic tithing. They recommended printing out paper slips for the pews that say ‘I give electronically’ so that when the collection plates are passed, the people who give electronically can still put something into it. The studies show that offering those slips really boosts the number of people who give electronically in a congregation.”
I wrinkled my forehead. One of the things I love best about him is that he often has these very deep insights into things. Occasionally they are so deep (even for me) that they make no immediate sense.
Seeing my confusion he explained: “Your family must think that if they still send us a card, it proves something. Like people who give electronically to churches but still want to throw something in the plate to either participate or to prove to the people next to them that they do actually give…so voila, they have a slip for that which says: ‘we give electronically’. The truth is those people had already given an offering. And they knew it, and God knew it. Why do they need to use a slip of paper to prove it? Seems like a main reason to grab one of those slips would be prideful — doing it just to show other people that, yes, they actually gave something. I think your family is doing this card sending stuff to us just so that they can say, ‘Well, we still send them cards. They are the ones with the problem against us.'”
Indeed. Their continued holiday cards are a lot like a ‘we gave already’ slip into a church offering plate. My estranged family already gave me what they had to offer. It damaged me tremendously. I told them how damaged I was from it. But their response when I passed their own offering plate right back to them was not a deep digging into the pockets of their past. They offered up no new resources, financial or emotional or relational, which could have helped me heal quicker.
All they offered, and all that they are still offering, are empty pieces of holiday papers. Because they already gave; and it sure seems that they aren’t going to give any more than that.
I am reading a book about trauma bonds. It was recommended to me by Lexicon Lover- a blogger/ commentor I admire. ❤️
I am mid way through the book. It is so helpful. Hard. But helpful. Like most truth.
I can already better understand why the battered wife cannot leave her husband. Why the molested child a friend adopted feels so bad (for telling on her abusive grandpa) that she picks the skin on her arm until it is raw. And I also see more clearly why I had such a difficult time being honest about my own abuse and then separating myself, physically and emotionally, from my abusive family of origin.
The book theorizes that trauma bonds people in ways that peaceful circumstances cannot.
I have also realized things about love, and it’s flip side (extreme selfishness-dangerous levels of narcissism).
Love is a verb. And one action it does is it releases. The old adage is cheesy but true (if you love something, set it free…if it comes back to you it was meant to be). True love does not WANT anyone being dependent on them, it hopes for a healthy relationship as two equals who choose it— therefore it detests bondage situations.
Love wants to see others live in independence and autonomy. True love gives selflessly for the sake of the other so that that goal of mutual independence can be reached. Mentors, good ones, know that they are successful when their mentees no longer need them. The mentee may choose friendship at that point but the mentor, if he is a good one, doesn’t expect it going into it. Same with parents.
Abuse is the opposite. It is so selfish that it wants the other to be broken and dependent and tied up to the other—forever if possible. There is no release, no setting free. There is intentional bondage-making.
To me that is evil. And I believe evil knows that if you want to create a near-unbreakable bond you don’t treat someone with a combination of genuine care, affection, and freedom, letting them figure things out on their own. There is no setting free with evil. Never.
That would mean that person had no binding ties to anything, unless they chose to give themselves to God or others. (In spiritually abusive homes, believing in God is not a free will choice.)
Evil knows that if you want to create a tie that binds two people together greater than any other tie on earth, trauma needs to be involved.
So evil, and those given over to it, buys the neglected girl a bicycle and then sexually assaults her a few months later. Six months after that the evil one tells her how special she is to him and praises the bond they’ve always had. A day later the evil one mocks her pre-teen breast size.
That is how you create a type of bondage that lasts near-forever. That is how you hide your ugly deeds and create a slave to cater to your wishes for years, lifetimes if you get your way. You mess with their mind. You beat them up. You bring them to the lowest low of self hatred and then kiss their forehead and tell them they are still your special little princess. Because that’s all it takes to tie them up to you. A mixture of abuse and what seems like love but is just fake affection to hide and further the abusive bondage.
Evil forces a daughter to sit on its lap. And that night it beats her mom up in front of her.
Evil knows this works at trapping. It knows that is how it can make ties that bind, and blind. In such relationships there is no process of the child entering adulthood and being set free, not from homes like that. The child enters adulthood with every intention of breaking away from their family but finds she cannot do it. The pull is too great. She missed the highs and lows and returns for Christmas and another round of verbal battering and perverted uncles mixed with forehead kisses and photographs with linked arms because we just love our little princess so much!
To break such trauma bonds is arduous, exhausting, and, dare I say it: miraculous.
I am praying, that now that I see them for what they really are (incredibly powerful tools of bondage from the pit of hell) that my own strong bonds with people who inflicted trauma on me, can finally be broken.
Here are some examples of what an inner vow might look/sound like:
I will not let myself get hurt again.
I will not let someone catch me with my guard down again.
I will protect myself better next time.
I won’t find myself in that compromising position again.
You really can’t trust anybody!
When I first heard about breaking inner vows in therapy, I was confused. I also questioned if such a thing made any real difference. I mean even scripture says to guard your own heart, right??? I thought that’s what I was doing when telling myself to be on better guard next time…
Then I randomly came across the subject of vows and pledges on a Jewish blog. Once a year on Yom Kippur (Jewish New Year), ceremonies include renouncing all the vows and pledges which were made the prior year, including both intentional, and unintentional ones. Indeed, not making hasty vows, not swearing by God or anything in heaven or on earth, letting your yes be a yes and your no be a no — is clearly affirmed by Jesus Christ Himself! Without getting into a huge theology discussion here (feel free to do your own study–it’s a fascinating subject!), there is very real power in words. Particularly if we phrase them as promises, declarations, and/or oaths.
Therefore I began to see what my therapist was getting at. I noticed just how many intentional, and also unintentional, inner vows I had made over my lifetime. I was shocked. And I still ‘go there’ quickly as a defensive response.
In short: I couldn’t control what had happened to me in childhood and I still have very little real control over other’s actions toward me. In an effort to regain a sense of control I made oaths to protect myself. In so doing I also cursed and bound up my ability to receive and give love in relationship with others. Like putting a lock on my heart and tossing the key. The curse needed to be reversed by the one who made it (me), if I was to experience a fullness of heart and come out from the ‘numbing’ effects of abuse and anxiety disorder. I think I’ve been doing that, now. Plus I’m learning, and trying to put into practice, passively accepting hard things — without numbing out again, or, to use scriptural terms: hardening my heart in response.
I thought, myself, all of the above examples of inner vows, and more too numerous to write down. I even said many of these aloud in conversations with others. The issue being that even the quiet unspoken pledges I had made held very real power in my mind and heart. They shaped my relational behaviors. I know better now. But actually living life without making such statements and declarations is an ongoing process. Which is why I was so intrigued by the Jewish practice of erasing all the intentional and unintentional vows each new year!
Part of renouncing is sitting down and doing just that–admitting and renouncing the oath you once made to yourself. The other part is not relying on a simple statement you repeat once a year but actually working out a vow-free life; in real life–for me that means making myself vulnerable (easing into it–starting slow and letting trust build naturally), finding friends and loved ones who have already proven themselves to be ‘safe’ with a small amount and opening up more and more. It also means recognizing those who are not safe spaces and guarding my self around them. Then choosing better use of my time without feeling guilty about doing just that and without needing to make an actual vow (because I am fully trusting myself, and God, in that process).
It is a practice and a process to give and receive trust. To know who is trustworthy and to not feel guilty about ‘moving around’ those who have proven they are not.
Inner vows were binding me in so many ways. I’d give trust away too easily to all the wrong people and places (Social Media is generally not a safe place to share the depths of one’s heart, for instance) and then knee-jerk hole up all over again with a fresh litany of pledges and oaths to avoid this or stay away from that in the future.
Anyone else pondered this subject of making declarations and inner vows?
Please feel free to share any other examples of inner vows and ways to break them.
I have mixed emotions about the #metoo and #believesurvivors movements. I empathize with and support other survivors through prayers and well wishes but I really just want to ‘be like Switzerland’ (neutral) in regard to the whole worldwide movement thing.
As an assault survivor I do not want my name, or my trauma, to be made into public fodder.
I know that many other survivors also don’t want to go public with their stories using their ‘real’ names (fearing for our lives is a reality for some of us). Add a bunch of public attention…and victims who wished to remain anonymous are often nosed out by reporters.
From the start I feared this would end up being all about the ‘left’ versus the ‘right.’ Religious versus heathen.
It pretty much has now. And that’s painful to watch.
On the one hand, I appreciate the awareness and the support of so many survivors coming together. I know how desperately victims and survivors need to hear three simple words: “I believe you.” Those three words can be the difference between recovery and an even darker hole.
Others see the pain the family members of accused perpetrators are going through and get angry at the people coming forward with past claims of abuse.
I suggest feeling empathy and sadness instead. Because the reality of sexual abuse is that there are MANY victims, never just one. Perpetrators’ children and spouses suffer greatly as well, even if they were never perpetrated upon themselves. Spouses and children of victims suffer too. This is a testament to the horror which is sexual abuse.
Now that this topic has been pushed into the public conversation, many feel they can give their own opinion…whether or not they have lived through it themselves, or whether or not they actually know the people paraded about in the news.
I live in Middle America, where it is more red than blue. My Facebook feed is full of memes about alleged perpetrators being innocent and alleged victims being liars. There is even a ‘joke’ going around that George Strait sexually assaulted Emmylou Hayes…and other memes urging me to ‘support Kavanaugh’s family’. One minister I follow referred to Kavanaugh’s accusers as ‘harlots’. That was very painful to read.
So today when a Facebook ‘friend’ shared a photo of Dr. Ford’s lawyer walking behind Hilary Clinton with a ‘does this surprise anyone’ headline…I thought to myself:
Nope. It doesn’t surprise me. I saw this coming. I suspected the me too movement would become a toxic political ‘football’ and that the ones hurt the most by that thing flying around would be survivors (who may be triggered by public vitriol).
Plus, I went through a big ‘end times’ phase before I got sick with PTSD. During my studies I learned things like thesis + antithesis = synthesis. I don’t want to sound like a conspiracy theorist, but it’s probably already too late for that. So: I sense the Hegelian Dialect is at play here.
What is the synthesis we are being pushed toward?
Hang on, I’ll get there. First of all, I believe the escalation of sexual abuse, particularly in the Christian church, is an act of pure evil. It is by design. It is one of the ways the enemy is seeking to destroy Christians before his time is up. And it’s working. Because not only is this evil damaging victims of abuse. Ministers and church goers are being swayed by their emotions (through well-placed memes and photos) and taking up the mighty sword of ‘the pen’ in hasty response. (Things we post on Facebook and blogs are ALL self-published materials–by us, even shared memes from others become our property and responsiblity when we share them). Engaging in public battles we can’t possibly know the real facts about, is not normally seen as Christ like behavior. But yet it is applauded tine and again by Christians. As in most things; there is a proverb for that.
Therefore, I am afraid that we are collectively being ‘synthesized’ (thesis+antithesis=synthesis) to accept chaos and lies as normal.
Liar. From the one side.
Liar. (and: harlot) Shouted from the other side.
What to believe? Who to believe?
Everyone’s trust becomes ruined. Which is why I have a hunch this is a battle that Satan himself encouraged just for the love of chaos and the churning out of more lies.
John 8:44 When he (Satan) lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.
Oh, I’m not some kind of saint here. A part of me really wants to get personal and use my own sword in the debate, since I have also been called ‘crazy’ for claims I have made about my own past abuse.
But I don’t know Kavanaugh or his accusers, I don’t trust any media outlets right now, and so I cannot opine one way or another. A ‘that is really awful’ and ‘I am going to trust God to sort it out’ response seems the only wise Christian response, to me. So I hope to remain like Switzerland, even though its getting tougher all the time. As long as I have Jesus as my rock though, I don’t need a view of the Matterhorn.
1 Corinthians 14:33 For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace.
Matthew 7:14 But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.
The buried truth was so strong and it needed air so badly that it was music which snuck behind all my defenses and fed it.
Each morning I (try to) read the daily Oswald Chambers devotion, which is a classic Christian devotion book and is also found online (utmost.org). This year my husband and I both decided to (try to) read through the Bible in a year, by using the reading plan found at the bottom of the utmost.org daily devotion. Having it online and laid out so concisely makes it easier to (try to) stay devoted.
In accordance to that plan, I’ve been reading through The Book of Psalms since July 11th. And today, again, September 3rd, there were more: Psalm 140-142. I knew that psalms had to do with singing/songs/worship. But I hadn’t known how long it would take to read through The Book of Psalms on a reading plan, or how doing so might affect me. I am starting to understand how big of a role music plays in our relationship with God, and in healing the brokenness of that relationship.
If you have been following along, here, you will see that I reference songs often. I think reading Psalms each morning has had a lot to do with this focus.
My husband is a Country Music fan. The old school stuff. Not necessarily the newer artists (although he finds some he likes there too). George Jones. Johnny Cash. Kris Kristofferson. When we first met I was leery of his taste in music. My peer group at the time liked 80’s rock music. Skid Row. White Snake. Def Leppard.
Still stuck in an abusive home at the time; I didn’t know how to have my own likes and dislikes. I liked what my friends liked, thinking that would make them like me. After quickly falling in love, I switched loyalties and started to like the style of music my husband (boyfriend at the time) liked.
Things changed as I aged. I started deciding on things for myself. Like music. Hairstyles. Clothing choices. And how I wanted to worship God.
Then I got sick from PTSD and things changed further. Crawling back out of that hole was nearly impossible. Being told by therapists that I was choosing to feel anxious ticked me off further. Who would CHOOSE this? When I am flared, in fight or flight, I do not feel like I have those (choices). It feels like everything is just happening on its own and like my life is completely out of my own control.
“You are choosing to feel shame.”
“You are choosing to get angry.”
“You are choosing not to trust your husband.”
These were things I heard in therapy. I wanted to scream back, “Well where was my choice when I was molested by so many family members?”
But I also wanted to be able to go to the grocery store by myself again; without sitting in the car beforehand in a panic.
And so I listened to my therapists and started changing the way I was thinking. What choice did I have at that point? Not many.
In time I saw the truth in what they were saying. I started to listen, and put it into action. My mind was filled with a back and forth between my therapists voice: You are choosing to feel shame. You are choosing to get angry. That was compounded by the melancholy twain of George Jones lamenting, “I’m living and dying with the choices I made.” (My husband loves the George Jones song, choices, and so that song has played on repeat in my head during my recovery.)
OK. I get it. I make my own choices. But that’s scary, as I was never allowed that as a child; when most people learn how to do that for themselves in the safety of a loving environment. And I’m still mad about what happened to me.
Then things started to click. And change.
I ‘got’ why I had been drawn to certain songs in my years of outright denial of past abuse.
Certain songs had spoken to my inner angst.
The song Amen by Kid Rock was one that I used to listen to over and over; volume on high. That was years before I ‘owned’ that I was a victim of clergy sexual abuse myself. The lines ‘wolves in sheep clothes pastors’ and ‘I’m scared to send my children to church‘ sent oxygen to the fire, which needed to rage, inside of me.
After I’d reverted to being a teenager, listening to music for hours on end, at way too loud of a volume, I tried to be an adult again. And I kept trying to put that fire out and do the expected things with my life.
But the buried truth was so strong and it needed air so badly that it was music which snuck behind all my defenses and fed it.
Now I don’t feel as much connection to the song Amen by Kid Rock. Because he uses God’s name in vain. At the time, it felt good to let myself vicariously blast out anger by using God’s name in vain too. It doesn’t anymore. It’s the opposite for me these days.
Other songs still mean a lot to me though. Even they, are now fading as I recover further.
Kris Kristofferson put out an album a few years back that I ended up outright stealing from my husbands stack of beloved cd’s. I would spend hours listening to it and I especially loved the song Sister Sinead. The song is in reference to the infamous moment when Sinead O’Connor ripped up the picture of the pope (on live TV).
“…She told them her truth just as hard as she could..her message profoundly was misunderstood…and humans responded all over the world, condemning that bald-headed, brave little girl.”
“Maybe she’s crazy and maybe she ain’t. But so was Picasso and so were the saints.”
I related to that song on such a deep level. Hearing Sinead O’Connor share recently about her own childhood abuse breaks my heart and I pray that she is finding healing for her own past traumas. It is also sobering to know that when people are given a public platform, before they have healed from their own past, it often doesn’t end well.
After I opened up about being a victim of sexual abuse (and that one abuser was a minister), I understood why I had always connected with the Sister Sinead song. The song honors the rage that victims feel over their own child abuse. She stood on a very public stage and spoke out against the sexual abuse of children in a church setting. Long before the big movements have made such things a bit easier. Except her public venting of that rage just seemed to make everything worse for her. And she still doesn’t seem to have coped with her own past very successfully.
In contrast, I am thankful that God allowed me to rage, through music and to private mentors and people who showed great patience with me, so that any public outbursts which tempted me didn’t lead to even further destruction of…me. I pray it may be that way for others. That we may avoid the public stages which beckon us to shout, and instead find quieter but still effective ways to deal with our rage, on our journey toward forgiveness and healing.
For me: music helped. Even before I realized it was helping!
Just like you can flip the Bible open and will likely land on a psalm (song)…if you flipped open my life, you would see that music and words and lyrics, of many stripes and styles, is also right there in the middle of my journey… of making choices; and choosing truth.
The 23rdPsalm has been a lifeline for me in my recovery from PTSD and anxiety disorder.
The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.
Inevitably the things which make me anxious or fearful are the very things I want to change, as if I were God and knew exactly what needed to go in my life.
I wish my family relationships were healthy; I wish this pain in my neck would go away; I wish I didn’t feel so much fear simply going into the grocery store.
Wishes are basically wants. Saying aloud: the Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want prompted me to replace the thoughts above with acceptance, trust, and hope.
I accept that many of my family relationships are not able to be healthy. I have told the truth about past inter-family abuses and those responsible have not responded with truths of their own. That is not my fault, nor something I can control. I accept that I still have trauma effects, some body pain and various symptoms of elevated stress. This is how it is right now. I don’t like it. Yet, I do want to be in this present circumstance because it is what my Lord Jesus has led me to, in this moment. I shall not want it to be any different than it presently is, for I am not God and do not know all the reasons why I am where I am right now.
He makes me to lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters.
Yes, even in this present circumstance of lingering physical and emotional pain and discomfort; I have been led to green pastures, led to refreshing waters. They are there before me; and they do soothe me.
In the past few years of ongoing recovery I have recited the entire psalm often, to center myself back in Christ. It has been so helpful, for me. Yet, I confess that this was so comforting that sometimes it became more palliative than truly heartfelt. So I have recited the psalm without fully realizing what I was declaring. Particularly this portion:
“You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.”
Last week it finally hit me; hard.
A long wooden table spread with so many good things. Surrounded by loved ones. Laughter. Gaiety. Openly living. Freely sharing what is in my heart. Not hiding the truth. Not being ashamed of my past; nor my present failures. Because Jesus blood has washed me clean and there I sit white robed at a public place of honor. God’s table.
That He prepared just for me.
That table was not hidden away in an upper room or lit by candles in a darkened cave. It was out in the open; where anyone could view it. The giftings God had poured out for me were in full access to the very people whom the enemy had used to try and destroy them all.
All of which made it ok to live life in the wide open again. To feel joy. To laugh. And to trust.
These days, I’m rarely scared to go to the grocery store. I’ve returned to doing daily living things without even thinking about the fears which once overwhelmed me. But, in other ways, I still want to hide. That revelation about feasting before my enemies changed things. Inside things. Dark crevices of the heart things. It made me want to start sharing my writing again. It made it ok to live life again. To answer the doorbell every time instead of ignoring it sometimes because I have a bit of a headache. To feel joy. To laugh.
To know that all of this is by God’s design is staggering to me. For He is the one who sets the table and overflows it; right there in the presence of our enemies. Openly. In public. Like an original ‘internet’; thousands of years before electricity. It is His pleasure–to put the feast He prepares for us on public display.
Were it by my design, I would have just set the table up right there in the cave, and carefully selected the guest list, and kept near everyone who I didn’t fully trust away from even viewing any of it, let alone being within grabbing distance.
Thankfully; although my pride and fearful need to be in total control sometimes still acts like it— I’m not God.
For more on the subject of feasting before enemies, David Wilkerson has a great essay.
Ever eaten a gourmet meal which is expertly done, yet something is still missing? After a bite or two you find yourself desperately looking for a salt shaker? Inevitably, those white-cloth-tables lack salt. And you don’t want to insult the chef by asking.
The truth is complicated for me. I dig into things deeply. I dislike subterfuge and being fooled. Yet I garnished my own story. Denial. It’s how I survived; at first. It was too painful to deconstruct my life. Someone once said : the truth will set you free but first it will make you miserable. I have lived that.
I am a writer. An artist. In love with the quirky and unique. A finder of beauty. A creative soul who adores picking basil from the garden; setting it just-so on top of a platter.
I eat my watermelon sprinkled with salt. Sweet things taste even better, to me, sprinkled in truth. As a writer I want to make sure I’m honoring the simplicity of story. As a servant of Christ I want to make sure I am sharing both grace and truth. Like sea salt on fresh- sliced, homegrown tomatoes. With or without basil garnish.
I am a survivor of sexual, emotional, physical, and spiritual abuse. I am overcoming the anxiety disorder and PTSD which resulted. I guard my privacy as I continue to heal. I also crave connection, and a place to create and share.
I am watching my grown sons adjust to life on their own as I adjust to life in a quiet house. The refrigerator slowly empties. I cook simply. The other night my BHH (better half of my heart) asked me ‘what’s in this?’ as he scooped a second helping of potatoes onto the serving spoon.
“It is really, really good.”
Pretense. Overdoing it. For too long, I tried too hard. The unadorned truth-applied with love-is what most of us crave. Like salt on food. Like Jesus preserves His own and His own preserve the world. In an age that’s garnishing everything–pretending evil is good and good is evil–I just want to be a little salt. That’s it.