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Friday, May 18, 2018

To Rest in the L-rd

Resting in the L-rd is such a personal thing. Nobody can tell you how to do it. It is necessary for growth, self-care, and improvement of oneself.

There are times in life where there is so much to do, that resting, let alone resting in the L-rd, gets shoved to the back burner. Then, there are times in life where that's all you have.

Personally, I feel I am in a season of rest. For a couple of months now, I have been trying to start a Bible study, attempting to volunteer, and find other ways to make myself busy. In the midst of it, I had a whisper that I'm supposed to just be. That I'm supposed to relax and take in a season of peace.

When I didn't know what that meant and continued to apply for other volunteer processes, G-d continued to suggest it to me in different ways. He kept my email inbox largely silent in regards to the Bible study and volunteer opportunities. He then allowed my mom to suggest that I need to enjoy a season of rest, and a couple of weeks later she reiterated it and told me she is taking a season of rest as well. Continue on to this week where I was lamenting my lack of social and volunteer opportunities to my counselor, and she reiterated the idea of a season of rest.

I don't know how to rest in the L-rd. I don't know what that looks like, probably because I never really have... minus maybe little retreats I've been on with my youth groups. I don't know how to be still and take in alone time with the Good L-rd. I get frustrated when I am told to sit and be quiet, feeling I have no purpose in the time I am still and waiting. I like having a mission, a purpose, a task to complete. A short time ago, G-d gave me instructions to share my story. I feel He proceeded to show me more ways that I could be of service to use my story to help others. I feel like He's given me a life mission, like He's given me a calling and a purpose and a goal to work towards.

Then, in the same breath, He tells me to wait and be still.

How do you do that?!? How do you get a picture of what you are supposed to do, and then get told to sit back and not do it. Don't work towards this picture you've been given. Don't start gathering research and don't start talking to people. Instead, just be. Just relax. Just breathe. Listen to the whisper that is so quiet I cannot hear it.

What am I supposed to do with that?

How does He expect me to get a mission, a battle plan, ideas of how to proceed, and then do nothing?

And how do I then get the mission to "rest in the L-rd" but do it without instructions as to how to rest in Him?

Monday, May 14, 2018

A Calling to What?

My recurring theme this past couple of weeks is that I'm called for something more. What is this something more? I have no clue.

Several times now, in many different contexts, and with people that do not know each other, comes the remembrance of Moses. People keep saying that Moses was called. He brought along Aaron (I can't spell Aaron without thinking of the "Substitute Teacher" video on YouTube.)

Anyway, these several people remind me that Moses was called out of nowhere. He was convinced he was not worthy of such a calling. He was convinced that he was ill-equipped and unsuitable to be able to carry out what G-d called him to do. There is also a possibility that he had some sort of problems speaking. It's always stuck out to me that he was given Aaron, because the scriptures say he had a speech impediment. Whether this was constant for him, or something that was aggravated by the stress of going in front of Pharaoh and mass amounts of people, I do not know. All I do know is that the Bible specifically mentions this "problem" he faced.

Here I am, not having had the privilege of speaking to G-d through a burning bush, but having countless people tell me that I am on the cusp of G-d doing something special through me. Even people I've never talked to or really ever met! I feel like G-d has me on the edge of something, but it's not clear to me yet what this new thing is.

I've been applying to volunteer at nearly every church and organization I can find in my nearby area. Nobody is emailing me back... at all... I can't even find a 20's/young singles group to attend because everyone is done for the summer. *facepalm*

Someday it'll make sense. Someday, everything will click into place and I'll get a better idea of what I'm supposed to be doing. Someday, I will be able to laugh at the impatience that I'm experiencing and go through on a semi-regular basis.

This season of waiting, praying, and wondering is not new. G-d suggests I do something, I begin praying for it and working towards what I think may be open doors... many of those doors do not open. Then, when I least expect it, a door opens and everything falls into place.

I do believe I have exhausted just about every obvious door and most of the "creatively found" doors... I'm not certain how much more I can try to apply to before something sticks and works out...

I'll keep y'all posted.

Monday, April 23, 2018

Ends to New Beginnings

This week was the end of group therapy and my bible study. It's been rough. I've really enjoyed the friendships that have come to be in both groups, the growth that I've shown, and having places to be to get me out of the house. Those few things can really help improve a person's outlook on life and well-being!

I'm fixin' to tell my sweet little counselor that she was right... right about finding community, right about people being out there that are willing to support me, and right about being able to share and not scaring everyone away. She has been such a blessing.

As is normal with the final bits of anything, there is time to remember how far you've come and what has happened. We share thanks for the people that we've met and the things we've learned. There is an exchanging of phone numbers, encouragement, and a "I hope to see you soon" or "email/text me when you get news about..."

And, as G-d tends to do in my life, there is a theme.

It dawned on me partly in the car today, and I began weeping... in traffic... with my dog sniffing out the window and warm spring air blowing in. Then, as I sat down to begin processing all of the things that have happened this week (by typing them here) G-d flat out told me because I wasn't fully getting it.

Then He keeps bringing up more examples as I continue to write!

So here it is: the theme for this week is sex. What it costs, how it's abused, how it's affected me, and how it has shaped the course of history.

You guys know, because I talk about it in most every post, but I have a history of sexual abuse. Not once, not twice, but countless times. And not at the hands of just one, nor two, but at least three guys. It was a realization that hit me hard this week.

In group, we were encouraged to talk abut something on our last day of group that we would regret not saying while we were in group. I couldn't think of anything. And, since my personal counselor is also the leader of the group, she encouraged me again in my personal session and even prompted me on what I could and should consider talking about. I spent all of 2 weeks pondering what it is that I should share, with nothing to say for myself until the day of group. I wrote it down on 3 pages of my journal and walked in.

Group was nearly over when my counselor asked if I had anything to say. I warned them that I was just going to read it, because I needed to say these things but they are hard for me to say (I left out that I often "shut down" *read dissociate* when I begin thinking/talking about these things).

I wept.

I cried as I read.

I couldn't see the pages so I had to lift my journal up in front of my face so that the tears weren't blocking all of the writing.

And I said it. I said the things that I have had such a hard time saying. I spoke the words, "... I have suffered through countless acts of sexual and other abuse. I have never once gotten to choose to have sex or not have sex, these things were forced upon me. I battle daily with my dreams, desires, and my broken sense of the world.

"However, I can see my healing. I have been made clean, and pure, and have been dressed in white. I've seen it!

"Somehow, these evil things will be used for good. I don't know how, but it'll happen."

Of course, I share a little bit more, but those are things that I have had such a hard time being able to say. I couldn't even admit them to myself a couple of months ago and now I've said them out loud.

Then, another girl in our group shared and she cried through her part of sharing. I cried right along with her. It was so difficult to not just reach over and hug her tight! But, knowing how I deal with things, I don't want to be touched when explaining how somebody else has used touch to so seriously damage me. I asked her, when it was all done, if I could hug her and she accepted. My heart breaks that she has experienced the things that she has. I have gone through many of the same things, but it hurts even more hearing that someone else has had to endure that crap.



I told you guys the theme for the week was sex... Well, even in bible study, the video at the end of the study was of the Q&A portion of the conference that the study was based on. Again, for those who have forgotten or who didn't know, I was doing the study Anointed Transformed Redeemed about David. We can't talk about David without talking about Bathsheba, right? But that was such a small part of the study and it was weeks ago!

This week, in the bonus video, it was the filmed portion of the conference that was the Q&A (I already told you guys that). However, this is important because somebody asked something about marriage or how to minister to husbands or something... and Kay Arthur, Priscilla Shirer, and Beth Moore (not so much Beth), began this whole thing about sex!

In a room full of married women, at church, this was a time of great amounts of laughter for them! For me, surely the only single girl under the age of 30 who has not had a great relationship with the subject of sex, this was a serious struggle. Kay touched on singleness and the relationship you should have with sex: she said we should not be having it. Well, duh, and I'm not. It was just a moment where being left out converged with a moment of being triggered and disappointed and all of that happened at church.

*deep breaths*

Through several things, I have been convicted of something that I have not come to terms with, and a huge reason why I'm probably having a hard time this week: sex and I do not have a good relationship. I'm not saying that if we did, that I would be partaking before marriage. But it has been used as such a strong force of evil and destruction in my life that I don't look forward to it. I don't hope for it, I don't look forward to my wedding night or to being married. I don't look forward to "making" kids or to birthing them because it is all a reminder of sex.

I learned this week that many victims/survivors have such a bad relationship with sex because of the abuse, that some of the self harm can be in the form of touching themselves. Trying to find pleasure from how the body reacts and the way that their body probably reacted in the face of abuse. One thing I haven't confessed before is that I have struggled with this myself.

After my first assault, rape, weekend of horror, I was convinced that my body was broken. He was touching me, doing these things that he knew would get a response from my body because he had had sex with other girlfriends in the past. Me, having never done any of that before and having not wanted to do it then, did not react. There was no pleasure, no excitement, no enjoyment. So, I concluded that my body was broken and that I was one of the few people that suffer from not being able to find any pleasure from sex and from being touched.

So, I tried to "recreate" the things that should bring about a sensation that people had described as fun, or pleasurable, or even a need. My body kind of reacted, but I was filled with so much shame and despair and sadness.

Even with this misery, it became a compulsion. I wanted to cut. I wanted to hurt myself. I wanted to feel something.

I didn't cut. I did hurt myself. And the only thing I ever truly felt was hatred, disgust, shame, despair, regret, and ridiculous darkness.

I stopped shortly after attempting this act.

Then came exfiance. After his initial rape, I couldn't get away. There were so many assaults. So much manipulation. So many excuses, bullshit stories, bible verses he used to tell me I belonged to him and that my body was no longer my own. Blah, blah, blah. He introduced me (read *forced me*) to do things I had never imagined. Things that truly revulsed me and I actually begin cutting and self harming and things that made me want to die.

After that, touching myself became a way that I could control things. I got no pleasure from what he did. Sure, my body would react, but I did not like it. So my brain, making its new pathways, associated those reactions with not being a good thing. In fact, it was associated with pain and depression and all terrible things!

By controlling it myself, when he was not with me, I felt like my body wasn't actually broken, like someday it might be okay... aaaaaaannnd it increased my shame and despair ten-fold.

Fast-forward to this week: Things that I did not expect, but that definitely needed to happen, in fact happened. This topic was brought up and somebody that I have admired and loved learning from/with shared about her struggles with this. Then, to her, I whispered "me too."

It was something that needed to happen. That I was terrified of anyone else finding out about. And now, I have to face it. I have to fight this. I have to work through it and learn to deal with these things. Then, I have hope for healing.

I've been studying the ladies of the bible, primarily the Tamar's, Rahab, Bathsheba, and various others (especially those with abuse, sexual misconduct, and those who were broken [all of us]). I'm finding encouragement and hope, but it's also allowing G-d to expose many of my deep, dark secret places. It hurts, but I hope that someday it'll be worth the pain of debriding (I think I spelled that wrong...)

Monday, April 16, 2018

Christian Lingo

If you know of anyone who goes to church, I'm sure you are familiar with the Christian Lingo. Church-goers say things about "forgiveness", "redemption", "mercy", "grace", a "broken past", "difficult seasons", etc, etc, etc.

Now, G-d does do all of these things! However, it's a pet peeve of mine, when I go to church or a bible study, and these are the only words out of the person's mouth but they don't go into any of the nitty gritty stuff. They don't tell you what G-d brought them through, or forgave them from, or how He showed them mercy and grace. 

Is the Bible not made up of hundreds of stories? G-d doesn't just say "forgiven, mercy, redeemed, forgiven, blah, blah, blah," over and over again. He gives us examples! He gives us stories! He lets us see what thing happened, how He worked, and what the results were.

In this way, He helps give us examples of how life worked out for others and He talks on most life issues.

Recently, I went to a bible study where our guest speaker talked for 45 minutes without saying a thing. She repeated "love" and "redeemed" and "broken past" and the other few words in the list above over and over for 45 minutes. We periodically listened to a podcast that had more of the same and listened to a couple songs that, you guessed it, repeated the same words.

I left frustrated.

In the car, at 9:30 p.m., I called my mom for a debriefing on the way home because I was confused. In the process of my drive home, she and I hashed it all and I realized that I had heard nothing. Nothing of this teachers life, no stories, no meat and potatoes, no information whatsoever. It was like going to a mall and getting suckers into one of those kiosks in the middle where the salesperson will talk to you with the same 6 words over and over for 45 minutes and you feel like you've lost weeks of your life. There was no learning, no help, no encouragement because there was no substance.

Growing up, I experienced this many times. I think it's a large reason why people stop going to church, stop going to Bible studies, and stop trying to learn about the L-rd. Yes, it's hard to fight past the crap to be able to get to actual information that can be any type of help and can bring excitement to the learner. However, if you work to get to the interesting stuff, and keep fighting for learning worth while things, it is so worth it! There is such blessing to be discovered!

And, for those of you that fight to get to the meat and potatoes of the Word and of G-d's teachings, share that learning with others!!! We don't have to leave the teaching to pastors, t.v. teachers, and random preachers. Anyone who is willing to learn can be willing to share with others. Obviously, make sure that you are sharing truths only, but you could be responsible for helping keep another person from letting their faith fade because they don't have the energy to wade through the crap.

Keep on my friends.

I'll keep you posted with what it is that I'm learning. So far I've filled up almost 1/3 of a notebook in less than a week. So far I'm studying women in the bible and it is shocking how many of them experienced abuse, trauma, suffering, and other heartaches. It's shocking to me that these types of stories are not shared!!! Especially in a time when the #metoo movement is so prevalent and girls/women/everyone are looking for support and love through their journey to healing after trauma.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Overwhelmed

As you have read over the past several months, I have been feeling this call for me to begin sharing my story. I feel like I am meant to share bits of my story, in order to hopefully either prevent others from walking the same road I've walked, or to help others who are healing by walking along side them and being able to connect with them in that way. There are countless other ways that stories can be used, like showing G-d's great power and redemption and love for us... etc.

During this time, after G-d whispered that He wanted me to begin to share, I began "researching" what it meant to share a story... personal story... Trying to get a handle on what it would mean to share my story. After weeks of torturing myself and over-thinking things (I mean, I never do that... Ha, that's a joke, I'm a pro over-thinker!), I kinda just coasted and stopped my intensive search for understanding on this matter. When I began to forget about this mission G-d gave me, that's when He began bringing the answers to me instead of me going to find them!

Side note: it is important to seek answers. When G-d gives you a mission, ask Him how He wants you to fulfill it! It seems so simple, right? He wants you to do something, of course He'll know how you need to go about doing things to accomplish the task at hand. Now, while this is true, He won't always show/tell you what/how to do things right away. There may be days, weeks, months, or even years of waiting. The seasons of waiting are important, wonderful, and incredibly difficult oftentimes. This is where the true growth comes from. If G-d just gave you the end result without the suffering (my word, not His) in the middle, then where would we have chances to increase our faith and trust? When would we get a chance to hear Him in the whisper or watch Him part the Red Sea? If there is no time or chance for Him to work in our lives, how will we learn to recognize His hand at work? It's all about the process, not just about the goal and end. In the waiting, continue to seek Him, to ask Him about what it is you're supposed to be doing, and LISTEN! You have to remain active and don't just expect a miracle without putting in some sort of leg work and showing a little bit of faith.

For me, with my story, it was in the least expected ways that He began to weave the theme of "story" throughout my life for several weeks. In the bible study I was in, suddenly the whole bible study began discussing the importance of sharing your story and what it can show about G-d and how it can help others. I began another bible study with some ladies and the book was solely stories of some amazing women that have walked difficult roads (Surprised by the Healer by Linda Dillow and Juli Slattery). The bible study focused on our stories. I did not continue on with the study, but I appreciate where they are coming from and trying to accomplish. My group therapy is all about our stories! We have stories within our bigger picture story and us being able to connect within all of these layers. I was getting bombarded with these things from all angles for weeks and weeks!!!


Through all of this, I have been incredibly blessed by some stories, and incredibly taken aback by others. There are times where I can feel so bonded with certain people over the bits of their story that they share. Whereas other stories can build up walls and cause friction between friends. It's a fine line learning to share enough in vulnerability and sharing as a means of a verbal dumping (*aka: verbal diarrhea*). On the one had, vulnerability shows a place of growth, the beginning of healing, and an earnest desire for the person to move forward from that dark place. In the verbal dumping, the person cannot stop sharing. They tend to share far too many details, cannot and will not accept encouragement of gentle counseling related to the stories they share. This type of sharing is best done with a counselor because it is a form of processing where your mind and heart are still trying to simply remember the details and the person sharing is not really able to move forward from that place yet. Sharing in this was does not benefit the sharer nor the person listening because there is no lesson to be learned (on the surface), there is no help to be rendered, and there is not a desire or willingness to move on from simply remembering what has happened.

While sharing, even in this verbal dumping phase (can also occur via writing, L-rd knows y'all have read my verbal dumpings several times!), is important on the road to healing, it is a dangerous place to be. This place is an area that can continue to cause further hurt to the sharer because of a lack of boundaries. Lack of boundaries to know who to share these things with and who to keep these things from. There is a danger in sharing with others because the other person can become severely impacted by what they learn! These things can cause a sort of secondary trauma to the listener, if the listener is not legitimately and professionally trained. Due to the disparities of why things are dangerous to different parties involved, huge walls can be built. The listener will begin to back away, clam up, and have a difficult time being around the sharer. The sharer, sensing this, can begin to internalize this imposed isolation as being their fault and they may believe they deserve to be isolated because of the things they've experienced (I'm not speaking from experience or anything...). This can begin a terrible cycle of self sabotage and isolation when community can be so very healing.

However, like I said before, it's all a process. Without the trial and error of sharing ith the wrong people, how are you going to be able to test boundaries and learn what is okay to share, when is the right time, and who deserves to hear certain aspects of your story (and go slowly with the sharing!!!). There is beauty in the process, and great things to be gained from the suffering of going through it. Don't cause suffering trying to bring about the process of healing and learning these things. I assure you, the process will take place all without you forcing anything. But go about it prayerfully, and while listening to the L-rd. You guys know, that's a process unto itself.



While I was processing all of these things about story sharing, learning safe was to share and what it looks like to verbally dump, and beginning to understand why we need healing to be a process, I had an interesting theme come up.

I just so happened to be on the receiving end of my friend's story. I was attempting to lovingly counsel her in a strictly friendly way, using my tiny little bit of nursing counseling skills with my ability to comfort. However, despite whatever I said, or did to encourage her, or how I responded, none of it was to any use. She didn't accept comfort. She didn't want to be encouraged to change her life. She did not want any counsel, G-dly or otherwise. She didn't want anything but a listening ear, and I think that was even optional. What she needed, was to simply talk. This was a classic example of a verbal dump. My offered help was shot down, and none too lightly. She asked for advice and input, but would promptly refuse it.

Throughout all of this encouragement, counseling, listening, and attempt to help her solve the problems she asked for advice for, she kept saying she keeps asking for a miracle. She says things like: if only G-d would perform a miracle (and she gave specific examples of what she wanted the miracle[s] to be), then her life would be better. If only things happened the way she required, without her changing her life choices or lifestyle at all, then she would be able to believe in G-d and her life would be able to be turned around. She wants community, but doesn't want to wake up a little early to go to church, or take time to go to a bible study, or do anything to go an find people to add to her social circle. She wants to be married to a wonderful man, who is pure and kind and patient and gracious, but she does not want to give up the dating culture she has cultivated for herself. She wants a marriage, convinced that marriage will solve all of her problems and make her happier than she ever imagined, but she refuses to make steps to make herself marry-able, upstanding, desirable for a man who would be willing to settle down, and she refuses to make any lifestyle changes whatsoever.

As frustrating as this sounds, do we not all do it? If only G-d kept me from sexual abuse, terrible boyfriends, and gave me the husband/life I wanted when I wanted it, then my life would be better. If only He would bring a miracle about, then I would be able to change my heart and my life will follow. If only this had happened, then life could get better and I would be happy and there would be no further problems in my life.

Lies!

We all know G-d could perform a miracle and drop a guy into your lap and this guy could treat you like a queen. He could be pure and kind and gracious and forgiving and absolutely wonderful beyond belief! However, if you have not worked with the L-rd to fix your life, then don't expect it to be solved because home-boy is now in the picture. If you have unhealthy coping skills that are causing major problems in your life (i.e. drinking to deal with stress and bad days, smoking, sleeping with guys to feel better when you're feeling down, etc.), these things will only pop back up when you face those problems when within the marriage. Don't think those problems won't come back to bite you and when that happens, you will be highly likely to be tempted by your previous "coping skills". When tempted, if it has not been addressed and worked through (even if only partially) before the miracle marriage takes place, then there is a very slim chance that the habit will just have been broken by a marriage. And, when such a "coping skill" is reverted back to within a marriage, how wil that effect your spouse? If you cope with feeling bad about yourself by sleeping with the next guy that you think is cute and that feeds you some lines about how adorable you are, how will that (sex with another guy) effect your spouse and your marriage? This problem will come up again and just being married will not fix it nor will it automatically cause you to depend on your spouse for full validation for that problem.

Do you guys see what I'm saying?

Now, this is all fine and dandy, but I felt like G-d was saying something more about this. I still demand miracles sometimes. How dumb am I? I can't demand G-d to do anything! He'll just laugh at me and do whatever it is that He wanted to do anyway. All in a loving way, of course.

Upon further prayer and much thought, especially when in the shower and driving, it occurred to me that most miracles occurred after some sort of step of faith. Ruth followed Naomi to Naomi's home country before she (Ruth) was given opportunities to get to know Boaz before they married. The Israelites walked to the Red Sea and just kept walking into it as G-d worked to part the waters. Likewise, those carrying the Ark of the Covenant walked into the river (Jordan River?) as G-d stopped up the river and allowed His people to cross over into Canaan. Esther went to the king, without a summoning by him, in a step of faith to protect her people from Haman, when she knew good and well that she could be walking to her death. How many countless other miracles requires some sort of step of faith?!? I could go on for days!!! Of course, there are always exceptions and situations where this is not seen, but it seems to be a pattern that some sort of faith needs to be shown so that faith can be stretched and grown!



I believe that me being here is a miracle. There are too many instances in my story where I could have died at the hands of others, or by circumstances I inflicted upon myself. L-rd knows I tried hard enough, several times, to simply be rid of the world. I could be stuck in anger and denial at what has happened to me, but G-d has shown me grace beyond measures and more love than ever imaginable. Because of this, He has allowed my story to continue on towards healing, instead of Hm allowing me to be stuck in the trauma. He brought me from dumping, to sharing and walking with others. That certainly does not happen for everyone. I want to continue to see the miracles He works in my life and I cannot wait to see all that He redeems in my story, so I will continue to walk in faith. Right now, this means potentially beginning a bible study and organizing women to come and walk alongside each other. I see miracles every day, and my faith grows with each of these instances.

I am blessed beyond measure.



With much love, continue on towards your miracles my friends,
BA

Saturday, April 7, 2018

I Want to Learn to Not Dread

A couple of weeks ago, I went into work 2 hours early to cover for a friend that needed to leave early. While there, there wasn't much going on, so I got to spend some time with some of the day shift labor nurses and one of our doctors. The subject of marriage came up because one of our little day shifters had just gotten set up (that day!) with an IT guy at the hospital because he came up to fix a computer on our unit. We got to talking about how it would be "okay" for this girl to marry the guy by November (her dream wedding month and a mere 7-8 months in the future) because she would have the rest of her life to get to know him. She was concerned with not knowing him well enough before marrying him. I was helping the rest of the pack encourage her in this matter, and I mentioned that she would be "stuck with him" the rest of her life so it would be fine! The doctor, who just so happens to be the one I have the most contention with on the unit, then point blank asked if I was married. I responded that I am not, and he told me that that is the problem with our culture today, we don't see it as getting to be with a particular person. Instead, we see it as being stuck with a person.

Of course, I use words that I don't mean. Usually it is for comedic affect or to diminish the seriousness of the situation. That is was I was doing, but this guy already doesn't like me so he used it as a time to take a bit of a jab at me.

Honestly, I want to begin to not dread things so much. But, for as long as I can remember, I have learned to dread things so that I don't get my hopes up to merely be let down. It's a pattern I can pick out in most of my early memories and it has continued on into my adulthood. I feel like that's part of why I stuck it out with those stupid boys for so long, I was hoping that thing would get better, but I was mostly resigning myself to the fact that if I just stuck it out, I could survive. I didn't get my hopes up about grad school very much, and wasn't as hurt as I could have been when I got rejected. But maybe that kept me from fighting the way I could have for a spot in the program. Who knows?

After exboyfriend, I gave up my hopes that I would have a solid, healthy relationship. I stopped hoping for a good, let alone great, marriage. And I resigned myself to a life alone. After exfiance, I was sure that my life was meant to be carried out alone. Once I started having hope again, along came frickin ex-best friend to break all of my boundaries and I was set back several milestones, again.

With each of these traumatic instances and their fallout, I get farther and farther away from even being able to hope. Along with this, I begin to dread relationships more and more. Now, I not only avoiding hope, I am absolutely terrified of what a relationship would be like, how he will take the news of my story, how life would continue on, if the relationship would continue on. I freeze when I think of what marriage would be like. When I contemplate how my abuse will effect our marriage, our kids, our time together. I wonder if marriage will be unbearable and if I will simply be a thorn in his side because of how I've learned to handle things and the baggage I bring to the marriage. I downright tremble with legitimate fear when I think of what our marriage bed will hold. What horrors I will be pulled back to, the pain I will cause him as my story continues to mar this type of intimacy between us. I wonder if these painful experiences (for both of us) will be things that we will be able to work through, or if I will regress horribly again and it will end up with all of us damaged beyond belief.

To say that I am in a place of dreading relationships is a great understatement to my current season in life.

I desperately want to find excitement when I think of what a relationship would be like. I want to imagine joy and friendship and other good things when I think of marriage. And I wish I could look forward to what a honeymoon and marriage bed inevitably brings.

I wish I could figure out how to love my body better, my whole body and my whole self. Don't think I haven't tried for most of my life. It starts to get better, then goes through extreme rough patches regularly. Now, I have a ridiculously tall, thick, iron-clad wall around my heart. I can feel it. I see it. It's next to tangible. Plus, my mind won't let me associate anything good with sexuality. Not with flirting (which I recently figured out with major help from my sweet counselor), not with dressing cute to where a guy might think I'm cute, and not with kissing or thinking about anything further with a husband. Apparently it's called avoidance... if you want to get technical. For me, however, there's a literal block and unimaginable fear associated with such things. How am I supposed to love my whole self if there are parts of me that I would't touch with a 1000 mile pole? And if I can't love my whole self, how is anyone else supposed to?



One thing I allowed myself to not dread this month/week/year, though, is my birthday. I told a couple of friends at work and they planned a whole little birthday surprise for me. We had sundae's and a cake (even though I wasn't supposed to eat cake because of the Feast of Unleavened Bread). They sang to me, told patients about me, and made me feel special all week. Then, my mom drove from Home Town to College Town (an hour to an hour and a half each way) to personally deliver a bouquet of flowers to my floor. She spruced up a beautiful bouquet of mixed flowers with an extra dozen roses, for a very specific 2 dozen that she was very adamant about. I couldn't figure out why I needed so many roses, until I got a moment to think about it. She got me 2 dozen roses because I turned 24 this year!!! Duh! Thing is, she drove all that way, was super creative by adding roses, and dropped them off without calling me to the front desk because she wanted to surprise me. Then, silly lady, she left before I could give her a hug! She didn't wait or anything!!! I called her as soon as I got out of my patients room and was presented with them from our unit secretary, and I thanked her profusely as tears streamed down my face. I don't believe I've ever felt so special as I did for my birthday this year. I felt so loved at work, my family and extended family all texted me, and a dear friend from work got me a card and went out to dinner with me before work. I allowed my friends and family to celebrate with me and it was a wonderful experience! I feel, still, so cherished.

What that tells me is that I'm learning to slowly start to open up. You know this, I'm sure. I'm the one that is the slow one to realize it. I'm able to share parts of my story instead of avoiding it completely. I'm beginning to find friends and find enjoyment instead of fear when I am with them. And I'm sure, someday, maybe marriage could be something that G-d could use as a source of joy and grace and perhaps even a little enjoyment. I pray G-d heals me in this area. I pray that I am not always so fearful, so terrified of relationships. I hope that someday I can be a success story for the L-rd. But, for right now, I'm in another heavy season, and it'll be awhile before we know how this story ends.

I'll keep you guys in the loop ;)

With love,
BA

Friday, April 6, 2018

"This Was Supposed to Happen"

Ever since my first instance of sexual abuse, I have begun to take "encouragement" from people differently. I have struggled with things they intend as being caring, and often become angry. While I try to listen and accept what they are saying with grace, there is often misinformation and ignorance behind these words.

One of the worst offenses for me comes with the phrases:

"G-d meant for this to happen."

"He only gives certain things to people that He knows can handle it."

"This was meant to be a way to help shape you for further life purposes."

{fill in from your experiences}




While I agree that G-d can bring forth beauty from ashes and healing from unimaginable pain, I truly do not believe that He causes things like trauma to happen.

Often, I have heard from pastors, rabbis, teachers, and mentors that G-d does not cause bad things to happen. Yet, in the very next week's sermon, they teach about how G-d causes things to happen so that you might be taught lessons and these just so happen to occur as hard times, traumatic instances, and sins.

These two separate teachings sound like contradictions to me.

He might allow them to happen, but He does not cause them to happen. G-d cannot cause sin to occur, nor does He tempt us. He does not cause traumatic instances, death, or destruction to occur. It's not who He is! G-d is wholly good, ALL of the time. Isn't that what we are taught from the same stage that is instructing us that we screwed up to allow devastation befall us?

With this argument that G-d does not cause bad things, my mind is drawn to the story of Job. G-d did not cause Job's children to die. Nor did G-d cause Job's servants and livestock to perish. G-d did not steal away Job''s wealth, happiness, health, or destroy his life. What we see in this story is something that continues to shock me and cause turmoil, because G-d essentially allowed Satan to have full control over the circumstances befalling Job. Then factor in that this occurs in what seems to be a BET of Job's faithfulness. However, G-d did not cause a single thing to happen to Job, only Satan did that. G-d allowed it all to happen, within very precise boundaries that He gave Satan.

I don't know about you, but it bothers me to my core that G-d does not completely protect us. However, He does only allow things to happen to us that He knows we can bear. Still, HE DOES NOT CAUSE US HARM!!!

Am I getting my point across?

This is why, when people tell me that G-d only gives us what we can handle, and He meant for us to go through certain traumas, it is incredibly offensive to me. In these times, the words coming out of their mouths are telling me that G-d chose my abuser, gave him the idea to sexually assault and rape me, and that all of this was in His (G-d's) plan for my life.

THAT'S TOTAL CRAP!

It is not the picture we are given in the Bible. It is not the teachings that are given from the mouth of G-d. And I completely understand why people walk away from G-d after traumatic life happenings, if these are the only things they are taught about G-d!

I understand that people do not say these "encouraging" things out of malice, or hatred, or from a place of trying to harm others. However, it is still not G-dly encouragement nor is it truth. I get that my personal offense is taken, basically, due to an issue with semantics and the way these leaders and teachers use their words. Not all survivors are able to process the sermons in this way, though, and so they simply hear that their abuse was their fault according to religion and religious leaders. How can anyone come into the healing and peace of G-d if they believe G-d caused them this anguish and that He and His people hold the survivor at fault for what has happened?




Recently I watched a video of a pastor telling people not to ask "Why me L-rd?" He recounts a sermon he had taught about brokenness, trials, and life struggles. He encourages his flock to not ask G-d "why me" when going through seasons of difficulty because G-d chose them for that difficulty. That He uses these things to teach people how to be people that G-d needs them to be. While I appreciate the heart and meaning behind this message, I think we often get trauma mixed up with seasons of teaching and the trials that are meant to teach us things. No wonder there is so much shame in the body of believers! This teachings tells survivors of horrendous evils that it was their fault that a particular thing happened because: they weren't strong enough, G-d wanted something bad to happen to them, they weren't good enough, their life is destined to be a life of pain, and they deserved the things that happened to them. Along side them (teachers, pastors, etc), and often reinforcing the teaching of these things, are people who have not necessarily been through such traumas.

Sometimes G-d does want to teach us things, but sometimes Satan plants an idea in somebody's mind and they carry out an evil act against another. The key here is to not get the 2 mixed up, and to allow people to come forward freely to talk about their pains, seasons of struggling, traumatic experiences, what they've survived, and what they are going through.

The other thing that really bugged me about this particular pastor's teaching, is that he is essentially cutting off a major form of intimacy and communication with our creator. When looking at the story of Job, Daniel, David, the disciples, Naomi, Ruth, Esther, and countless others, we see them questioning the circumstances and teachings in their lives. QUESTIONING DOES NOT NECESSARILY NEGATE FAITH!

We all wonder why things happen. We wonder why G-d allows certain things to take place and we question the meaning of our lives. When we are able to bring our questions about life and life events to the One who is overseeing all that happens, even in our deepest most intimate places, we are able to hope for answers.

We will not always get answers, and we aren't always supposed to. But sometimes, G-d gives us an answer, an explanation, or He allows us to see how His hand is playing a part in our life. For me, I am beginning to see how my ability to empathize with others has grown exponentially because of what I've experienced. I am learning that what I say matters and the patterns I see in my life have value to others that are on journeys to healing, as I still am. I am learning how to better walk beside people near me in their lives and struggles and to offer encouragement and friendly "counseling" (more of a listening ear). My heart has softened to the pain of others. I have moved from a place of sympathy to a place of empathy to a place of wanting to ease other's burdens, if by merely being a presence while they walk a very difficult path.

Personally, I still wrestle with G-d and ask Him why I was allowed to be abused, assaulted, raped, and cast aside. I ask Him why I was taught about life in the ways that I was, as a child. I question why I was allowed to be so traumatized, when I simply lived life according to the rules I was taught in church and what I believed He had taught me thus far. Why He didn't intervene in any of the countless times I was taken advantage of, held down, coerced, manipulated, and otherwise hurt. I also inquire as to why He didn't allow these guys to be persecuted when I went to the police. Why the judge decided exfiance wasn't dangerous enough to get a restraining order against to keep me safer and on the spectrum of being able to have police backup should he breech my boundaries (which he has many times since).

I don't think I will ever get answers for these things. However, I have not been punished for asking them. G-d allowed me to wrestle with Him, to yell and fight and punch and get it all out. Then He held me in His arms and allowed me to have peace. He gave me peace. He brought me close to His heart. After all of my fighting was through, even my fighting against Him, He drew near to me. In this place, I was given peace for the first time in years. It's a process though, I couldn't have been given peace without having been able to fight and yell and scream and wrestle with Him. It wouldn't have been the same, I wouldn't have the same understanding.


He doesn't cause bad things to happen to us and He doesn't require that we always follow with blind faith without asking questions. Just look to the Bible. Sometimes people were asked to follow "strange" instructions while being given no answers, but they asked questions. They didn't lose faith, but we are questioning in nature, that's how G-d created us. So, I think He can handle the inquiries we make of Him.