This morning I awoke earlier than usual, which was okay because my Honey is feeling extra yucky and is playing guitar with our son, Aaron, this morning at our Central campus (church) at 7:00 a.m., so I was able to make him a nice cup of chai with coconut milk and a few drops of cinnamon oil. I’m especially thankful for insulated cups on chilly days like this, knowing it will stay warm for him and he can sip it throughout the morning.
After he was on his way, I began making the sausage and scrambled eggs for our South campus (church) band and production teams to go along with the crockpot oatmeal my Hannah started the night before. I delivered that and then headed home, fully committed to showering and attending a service at each campus in order to support everyone in my family.
It began to rain harder and the temps dropped about 15 degrees as I was drinking my own cup of chai, curled up in my new-to-me comfy chair, listening to a recently discovered podcast. I began to think about some of the relationship difficulties I’ve experienced recently and what/who I am thankful for and then I decided to stay home and spend some time with My Pappa and write. I am fully embracing the freedom in this, only struggling a smidge with the guilt of not supporting my family and playing hooky from church for no really “good” reason.
A few years ago I would’ve beat myself up for not setting a better example for my kids – and then I would’ve gone to church full of resentment, or I would’ve told my family what I was thinking about doing and someone or two would’ve tried to shame me or used it as an excuse to do the same. I know it sounds silly to say we’ve grown because now I can play hooky from church without the guilt I used to experience, but I am thankful for the growth my family has experienced in this way and for the lessened guilt that comes with that growth.
I’m thankful for a husband and children who work at seeing me, just as I am, with flaws, scars, ugliness and sin, through the eyes of Our Pappa. I’m more than grateful for the grace I’ve experienced as I’ve stepped out of my Stepford wife persona and revealed that I am more Eve than I allowed anyone to see for the greater portion of my adult life.
In recent years I have experienced great loss in my life, some of the people who have chosen to walk away are the ones who have given me life, known me all of my life or all of theirs. While I’ve developed a certain peace about this as I’ve turned it over to Pappa, again and again, I still have a day or two every once in a while when I give into the grief of my relationship casualties. I’ve never doubted, during these times, that Our Pappa is holding each of us and working everything out according to His will, so my sorrow isn’t a result of doubt or hopelessness, it is simply a lament of love and time lost.
There are times when it will sneak up on me and I don’t even realize where the melancholy comes from. When I first feel the tug of this, I usually shove it down and try to carry on, telling myself I am fine and I don’t have a good enough reason for this drama. That is when my Hannah almost always will ask me, “What’s wrong, Mama?” At first my mind will spit out, “Nothing. I’m okay.” Almost immediately after telling that lie, I will burst into tears and say, “I don’t know what’s wrong with me. I don’t have any good reason. I am just so very sad.”
And the glorious beauty of my only daughter’s response is that, at no point, does she try to make it all better by minimizing my right to be sad, nor does she attempt to shame me by telling me how blessed I am and therefore not entitled to feel grief. She almost always says, “Well, that’s okay, Mama. Sometimes we just feel sad. No emotion is bad, Jesus gave all of them to us.” And then she’ll ask me what I need – offering to hold me or make me a cup of tea.
Can I explain to you what a truly lovely gift this is to my wounded little girl who grew up in a family of “Pull yourself up by your bootstraps” and “Stop being so dramatic/emotional?” (*There is no judgement here, I fully understand my parents believed they were preparing me as best they could for the world). We live in a culture of positivity and pushing through. I think we are afraid if we let someone grieve too deeply, they may never come out of it. A lot of us spend those precious, rare moments when our grieving loved one is expressing their anguish, thinking of the most profound thing to say that will end their suffering and help them to move on – and make us feel a little bit heroic, as well as a lot more comfortable. Who in the world told us that this was loving?! Why is it so difficult to just listen with empathy and sit in pain with the person who just handed us their hearts with such beautiful vulnerability and trust?
I think this is our culture. I grew up seeing 30 minute shows that ended happily and miraculously resolved with someone wisely speaking into another’s situation and then everything was fixed perfectly, cue the upbeat theme song and roll credits. I don’t recall EVER watching a television show in which one character listened to another’s woes and then simply said, “I’m really sorry you’re going through this. What do you need from me in this moment?”
When I am given permission to sit in my agony, I find myself able to invite My Pappa in to my pain, move past my reactions, into my true emotions and finally I am able to face where the original trigger came from. This almost always results in an epiphanal moment that helps me to see why I over-reacted to a more recent event or why I was feeling such intense emotions internally that overwhelmed me or spoke extreme negativity into my heart. This is growth and it comes by way of pain and struggle. While, in the moment, it feels like a lot of work, discomfort and inconvenience, the rewards are healing, clarity and progression toward who He always meant for us to be.
I spent decades of my life being told, by myself and others, to push through, to stop feeling sorry for myself, to get over it. So, I tried, with everything I had I tried to follow this advice because I thought that’s what grown-ups did and I believed I was extra flawed and self-centered for sitting in the pain of offenses or expressing strong emotions. I did it all with a smile on my face, because that what I was taught a good woman does. And then I began to notice that too many of the women in the generation before me were miserable, and afflicted with illnesses that I believe were a result of all of the stuffing of emotions they had done most or all of their lives. They were largely unknown, even by their husbands, children and siblings. I began to realize I was blindly walking the same path with my children, my husband and my family of origin. All the while, my life was imploding. I was imploding. You can’t stuff sadness, anger and frustration for decades with a smile on your face and believe that it won’t find an outlet. There’s only so much room in there, after all. It festers inside and turns into cancer. It finds a crack in your smile to escape, seeping out as fierce contempt. It discovers a bitter hole in your integrity which justifies your manipulation of loved ones, which results in a loss of trust and more distance from the people you love and need most in the world. It is much more work, a constant discomfort and inconvenient in the worst of ways, but still, this is the path I chose to stay on for much of my life, believing it to be the more noble. This newer path began as much more work, and brought untold loss, but the freedom and reward in walking more in the identity My Pappa has for me far surpasses the struggles along the way. Continuing on the same path would’ve kept me in “relationship” with many who I’ve lost along the way, but those were relationships that had little or no depth and certainly no grace. I was not known, nor was I allowed to know them. The relationships I have been left with are more precious to me than I can put into words. They are deep and hard. They are lovely and challenging. They are safe and encouraging. They are, each one, a gift to me in my sojourn here.
In this coming year, I want to be a gift to others and their journeys. I want to listen without trying to fix. I want to lovingly hold space for others, without pushing for resolution. I want to try to focus on what is true before jumping to conclusions and choosing a reaction I will most assuredly regret. And while I strive to make these things a part of who I am becoming, I want to extend grace to myself, knowing I will stumble and trip along the way because growth is worthy, hard work, but the freedom and health that comes as a result of the struggle is SO much better than the alternative. I can’t live there anymore.
Christmas is so different now for my family and me than it was just a bit ago. The first year we moved here from Michigan and we saw plastic, light-up snowmen on balmy green lawns, it was somewhat disconcerting. It felt weird to drive to the mall to do our holiday shopping on dry streets and in short sleeves.
Now this is our normal and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I LOVE living in Austin more than I can say. The blow-up snowmen and snow globes look perfectly lovely and I don’t think twice about the owner probably having no idea what it is to build snowmen on the regular.
I’ve lost a lot since moving here. I only have contact with one of my brothers regularly. My parents and my other three siblings haven’t spoken to me in years. My oldest son rarely reaches out more than to text an obligatory holiday wish a couple of times a year. My marriage has run a triathlon or two and only slightly resembles what it used to be. We sold our beautiful house after 10 years – 9 of which I felt imprisoned in it.
After spending far too many years in a toxic little city where my world was nearly destroyed, I am finally in a place that feels more like home than any other has. It is smaller, older and a rental, but it is exactly where I want to be.
When I look back on our Christmases past, especially when our kiddos were little, I remember how hard I worked to create traditions that would make our children feel special, a part of, loved and while I’m not sorry for any of it, I’m over it. We’ve kept the ones that matter to us and we often reminisce about the matching Christmas outfits or pajamas, the huge, formal tree in our living room & the small colorful tree in the den, the trips to Bronner’s for a new ornament each year, the crazy family Christmas pictures & letters (please!), or the debt we went into trying to “buy” a merry Christmas. We still go to Christmas Eve service and then gather to eat obnoxious amounts of snacks (shrimp, baked goods, an amazing charcuterie board and more) while opening our gifts. While we are all perfectly okay with others joining us on Christmas Day, the night before is ours, alone, and we protect it fiercely. Aaron insists I still make red & green breakfast on Christmas morning after they get their stockings, always with apples, oranges and pears and more. Hannah makes sure we watch A Christmas Story while lazing around together after breakfast and we always have a really nice, usually beef tenderloin, for dinner.
Parts of this will change soon. Marriages will happen, grandchildren will be born and we will adjust. They will make new traditions for their new families and we will make new ones with our new members. This is how it is supposed to be.
I am excited for my children as they become independent, finding their places in the world – and much sooner than I did, thank you, Pappa! My job has been to teach them not to need me, succeeding at that is a smidge hard to accept. I am adjusting to less time, less attention, less need of me and while I am rejoicing, I am searching for my new identity, searching for my purpose. I’ve been mostly a mama and wife since I was 22 years old, more years than not. And I was, for the most part, pretty good at both of those things. But, if I’m honest, I sacrificed a lot of “me” to serve my family, as most mamas do, and I’m ready to take care of me and rediscover who I am, really, this time.
As Erma Bombeck said, “When mothers talk about the depression of the empty nest, they’re not mourning the passing of all those wet towels on the floor, or the music that numbs your teeth, or even the bottle of capless shampoo dribbling down the shower drain. They’re upset because they’ve gone from supervisor of a child’s life to a spectator. It’s like being the vice president of the United States.”
I’ve a feeling that most people reading this will think it makes no sense at all:
“Is she brokenhearted that her children are growing up and away or is she thrilled to be done taking care of so many others all of the time?”
Mamas with empty nests will understand.
I’m not sure I understand, yet, but I’m working on it and I’m sure I’m right where I’m supposed to be while I figure it out.
“When I thought I’d lost me,
You knew where I’d left me”
Nine months later, as he was scraping the ice off of my car windows with my son’s duplo blocks, asking me to go on a date with him, I didn’t think he would capture my heart like no one had before or has since. But five months after our first date, we were pledging our hearts and lives to each other in front of a small gathering of our families and friends.
He made me laugh. He wrote and played me songs. He was beautiful and smart and gentle. He commanded the attention of almost every room he entered. We would, on the regular, talk ALL. NIGHT. LONG. Being married to him was like repeatedly having the best sleepover, EVER.
Most of the time.
Marriage is hard. It’s the place I first faced how selfish and manipulative I can be. I was really good at making that stuff look like selflessness and sacrificial martyrdom, but in recent years, I’ve had to look long and hard at my junk and be more honest about my part in the unhealthy layers of our marriage. Marriage is where we often discover the very best and the very worst of ourselves.
I’m ofttimes saddened by our culture’s one-dimensional fixation on and celebration of longevity, or endurance in marriage. Frequently I am told how awesome it is that we’ve been married almost 30 years, especially when we experienced infidelity and physical abuse in the earlier years of our marriage. I’m proud of us for choosing to lock arms and stay married. I’m incredibly grateful that Our Pappa gave us the grace, love and determination to get to this point. BUT, the thing that has made this all worth the humiliation, exhaustion and complete brokenness of the last ten years, has been finding truth and seeing ourselves more and more as Our Pappa intended and through that journey, we continually choose each other and Him.
I don’t believe He wants us to settle for “sticking it out.” I believe that no matter how long we’ve been married, we are to continually reach for more within ourselves and our relationships. I believe marriage is one of His favorite vessels for character refinement. As long as we push against Him when He wants to grow the parts of us that need growth, we will have greater strife in various areas of our lives. When we begin to uproot those hidden “ugly” parts, satan will usually show up to discourage us, so neither road seems like a joy ride, really.
When I came to the end of myself and what could’ve easily been the end of my marriage, this old, often miscredited, quote, along with the abundance of grace my Honey generously extended to me, spurred me on to cast off the old, comfortable, unhealthy habits in exchange for new and incredibly uncomfortable new practices.
“Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, and expecting different results.”
I’ve found that as I’ve aged, the reality of tomorrow not being promised has become much more undeniable. I take my days less for granted than I once did and I want to make the most of the days I have left here. I see myself stretching for who I am meant to be, willing to do the hard work of submitting to My Pappa’s desire for my purpose. Occasionally, I struggle with the regret of time wasted in my Stepford years of the insanity (see definition above), although, ironically, as time passes, I see more and more what a waste of time all of that is and that satan is usually behind this distraction.
I’m in a season of joy in my marriage, after facing a painful growth hurdle. My Honey still makes me laugh more than anyone, except perhaps our kiddos who have inherited his comedic genius. He plays me songs. He’s even more beautiful, smart and truly gentle than he ever was in our early years together. His elevated beauty is not only outward, but deeply inward, born of brokenness and humility. He is wise now and smart in the ways that matter, caring intensely for others beyond himself. When I watch my big bear of a man tenderly and unashamedly interact with small children or regularly care for precious people Our Pappa puts in his path, I can’t help but love him a little more. When he gets out of bed in the middle of the night or earlier than he planned to somehow rescue one of our beloved children, or I come home from work to find a room or two cleaned, laundry folded or dinner made because he sees this as a partnership without score-keeping, I’m pretty much the happiest girl in the world.
I’ve little doubt we will be blessed more seasons of joy and more of pain as we age. But, the beauty of working toward personal growth in Christ is that it overflows into our marriage and every relationship, really, so when we go through the hard seasons, we are more resilient. We are tuned into Our Pappa’s voice, so satan’s is muted or at least, muffled. Our love for one another abides, not just putting up with or casting aside, we are enduring together, all three of us, reaching for the marriage that Our Pappa has envisioned all of these years, knowing with our endurance comes breakthrough and growth and another season of joy.
The first step is always admitting you have a problem. It’s hard to do if you struggle with martyrdom like I have, too much of my life. The truth is that even if it looks like you are the “good guy” in your marriage to everyone else, you aren’t. You are wounded and broken in ways untold, and asking Our Pappa to help you heal and grow is the best way to love your husband or wife, your children, your friends, everyone else and most of all, Your Pappa. And if you are not married or not married, yet, then I promise, you will not regret getting healthier on an emotional and spiritual level even a little bit. Choosing to be in a relationship with Him is the most important covenant relationship you will ever enter into. Regardless of our marital status with another human being, our covenant with Him should be just the motivation we all need to stretch with all of our might toward the goal of becoming who He calls us to be in Him.
I have an extreme fondness for trees. Their makeup speaks to me on a spiritual level. I don’t mean new-agey, or like I think I was a tree in another life, but I’m drawn to their beauty, especially their roots. This is the part of the tree’s complexity that no one can see. The roots are what supports the tree, what gives it life, health, vitality, yet they are unseen. When my husband and I choose to humble ourselves for our marriage, for one another or for Our Pappa, our roots grow deeper, stronger and I envision them wrapping around one another, his, mine and His, forming an unbreakable cord of three.
I never imagined that I would find myself here, about to celebrate 30 years of marriage to a man I love more deeply and in ways I couldn’t understand in the beginning, now with five precious, amazing children raised because of and in spite of our parenting. I am battle worn and bruised, but more myself than I have ever been. I have spent more days as his bride than not; more than 10,000 days and nights as his Mrs. I have spent almost as many days and nights following My Pappa, seeking to understand how unconditionally and deeply He cares for me, His beloved daughter. I know full well the direction my life was headed before I entered into covenants with my husband and My Pappa. When I remember this truth I can’t have regrets. I know I’ve wasted not one minute, because while the pruning seasons have been painful, they are even more necessary if I am to walk more and more fully in who He has called me to be.
the good stuff
that rare moment when no one has anything pressing
not an appointment to go to
not an assignment due anytime soon
not a work meeting
not a repair that can’t wait
when the weather is perfect
not too chilly
not too hot
not rainy or snowing
not too windy
when the food is scrumptious
when laughter is the result of deep bonds and precious memories
when the people are your tribe
not moody or pouty, no shoulder chips allowed
These are the memories that carry us through the not-nearly-as-perfect moments (nnapm) that are inevitable and sometimes horrific. These are the moments that all of the Instagram, Facebook, and Snapchat posts pretend to be. These are the glorious memories that we pause to relive, again and again.
In the midst of these moments, I find myself wondering how my life can be this perfect, lovely and surreal, because I know full well that I’ve done nothing to deserve this heaven on earth. Still I gladly immerse myself in the good stuff, aware that the nnapm are on their way, whether or not I deserve them, savoring each and every smell, sound, sight, taste and feeling that this blessed moment has to offer. No camera phone needed. No hesitation to be all in.
This is the good stuff.
My babies are moving out soon.
Last year, in October, Hannah moved out, making our nest empty and I was ssstttrrruuugggggggggggllllliiiinnnggg for a minute.
Then just as I was deciding this was an okay gig and I began to enjoy my clean home, inviting friends over for lunch, having dinner parties, being alone, not having to be concerned about how much food was in the house and all of that gloriousness, Aaron told me that he needed to move in with us for a bit to save some money to get a car. Then Caleb asked if he could take the other bedroom… the one that my Honey had just put my new desk in so that I could have my own office…
I’m a mama, through and through, so, of course, they moved in with us.
Our house has SO much stuff in it now, I don’t really do any cleaning unless it’s a health hazard – like a very serious hazard, because no space. Any. Where.
I know I will be a little emotional mess on the day they take their things to their new place. I’ll miss them. All things considered, we’ve gotten along really well and when we don’t, we communicate like grown ups, which has been sublime. I truly like our kids. They are good people, funny, loving, honest, generous, kind, and interesting. I’d rather spend time with them and their dad than pretty much anyone else in the whole entire anywhere.
I’m SO looking forward to having my nest empty, again.
I’m incredibly thankful that God worked things out so that I could have this last little bit mothering my babies in my home in a healthier way than I was capable of mothering them when we all were younger. I feel like I got to know my aloof Tita in a way that I haven’t since he moved out of our home years ago amidst turmoil and mutual resentment. I was blessed to have conversations with my sweet Enu that have healed us and helped us see each other more truly.
It’s good. It’s kinda like we got a second chance to do this leaving the nest thing the right way. I know that everyone isn’t as fortunate and while I had accepted that things just happen that way when your kids move out most of the time, I am humbled that God allowed us to do this together with respect, love and healthy boundaries.
I’m also thrilled that in a month I’ll be having friends over for coffee and dinner parties, that I’ll have my house to myself and get to spend time writing in my office, and especially that my home will be much less cluttered and clean! I sure won’t mind being able to hang with my Honey – just my Honey!
I’ll have to adjust again, so that means I’ll be sad and feel a tiny bit lost for a minute. I’ll feel lonely when the house is quiet for too many days. But, this time I know I’m going to be okay. I’m more than a mama and I’m ready to get to know myself, to discover who I am now.
My nest is almost empty.
My life is full.
My heart is overflowing.
I feel like we’re living in history making days. Things are shifting. Big things. Terribly uncomfortable, but incredibly necessary things. The #MeToo and #TimesUp movements have brought much to light for many in our country. There’s a feeling of our entire country being overwhelmed by the enormity of it all, while too many are still trying to shift the blame back to the victims. I’ve spent a bunch of time processing my experiences and feelings as someone who has also suffered sexual abuse on more than one occasion.
I recently shared in a post about the first time I was abused by an older neighborhood boy, but that wasn’t the last time. There was the time a family member repeatedly came in while I was bathing (age 8 or 9) and touched me inappropriately. I knew it was icky, but until years later when a friend shared about the incestuous relationship between her father and sister, I couldn’t give the incident context. There was the man who graduated a decade before my friend and I who would drive down our country road and slow down to expose himself to us when we were in elementary school walking to meet each other for playdates. There was a time an older boy from the middle school showed up at my elementary school and pinned me up against a wall, while telling me how pretty I was and attempting to unzip my blue jeans with my Tony the Tiger iron-on on my knee before I pretended someone was walking in behind him and ran away as he was distracted. There was the time I was babysitting for three families – two of the dads were brothers – and one of the men showed up just after I had gotten the kids to bed and became quite sexually aggressive. He was laying on top of me on the couch, I scrambled for the phone and pretended to dial a number, threatening to call his wife. He watched me dial the phone, accusing me of not knowing her number. In our town at that time, EVERYONE’s numbers began with 266-4. He wasn’t incredibly intelligent and left quickly as I dialed the 4, saying something about this not being finished as he walked out the door. I can still feel the relief wash over me as I fell against the wall next to the phone. I called no one, not my mother, not a friend. I gathered myself and began to clean the kitchen up. A couple of hours later his inebriated brother showed up and scolded me for not being ‘nice” to his brother during his earlier visit. I was 11 or 12 years old. I continued to babysit for these families for years. I would invite a friend or keep the children in close proximity, often having one sleep on the couch in the living room. In all honesty, there were very few families that I babysat for that I didn’t have to deal with an overattentive “father.” It was commonplace for my girl friends and I to talk about this happening to nearly everyone. We would warn each other about the really bad ones. There were also teachers who were inappropriate in middle school and high school. Again, we discussed which teachers to avoid being alone with or getting too close to in proximity for fear they would “unintentionally” brush up against us or touch us inappropriately. These conversations were often laced with giggles as we tried to minimize the fear we felt in the normalized sexual abuse culture we were growing up in.
I recall talking about this with my girl friends in front of boys and their comments would generally insinuate that we should take it as a compliment because grown men shouldn’t be expected to have self-control around those they considered attractive teenage girls. And, if I’m honest, I believe most of us bought into that theory. On some level I know I felt some confirmation that I was attractive if men showed interest in me, even if it was perverted and/or abusive. I also believed that it must be my fault because every time a girl or woman spoke out about sexual abuse, I watched the adults in my life, as well as my peers, find a way to blame the victim or convince themselves that she was lying – that it never really happened or if it did, she wanted it to.
At a football game at the beginning of my senior year of high school, some friends and I were drinking. I remember running into a much older friend of my brother’s. He told me he would give me and my friend a ride to a party after the game. We were drinking alcohol before going to the game and I was tipsy, but not drunk. He gave me something to drink on the way to the party. I don’t remember much after a vague memory of an outdoor party with loud music and then getting into his vehicle. I don’t remember getting home. I know I woke up in the morning with bruises on both of my inner thighs and what appeared to be semen on my pubic area. Every time I saw that man over the next several years, he treated me as if he was disgusted with me. When I finally shared this story with a friend who knew that man, she became very uncomfortable and told me that I couldn’t really know what happened, especially since I had been so drunk and may have even encouraged him. She then made it clear that she was done talking about it. I walked away from that conversation wondering if I had wanted something to happen with that man or at the very least wondering if I deserved it. I have never blacked out in my life except for that night. I often wonder if he put something in my drink. I wonder a lot of things, but the truth is, I’ll never know what happened that night.
I remember as an adult being violently knocked around for hours in my home, kicked, shoved and slapped, and then raped by a man I was in a relationship with, as I tried to break things off with him. When he left that afternoon I showered and got dressed before going to a family gathering. I choked on my sobs during my shower, but I didn’t allow myself to cry because I was afraid he would return, hear me and continue his violent attack. I focused on behaving normally during the gathering, numbing myself to what had happened earlier that day. Because my family didn’t want me to date this person, I never told them about what actually happened that day. He stalked me at my college, getting my class schedule somehow. I changed my number twice because he got the first number change and kept calling me to let me know it wasn’t over. A month or so later, he showed up at my house late at night, watching me through the glass door I had just walked through, arms full of groceries and I had sex with him because I was terrified he would kill me. I was all alone and I didn’t know any other way to get him to leave. I remember telling him I loved him as he left to insure he would keep walking out the door. Later when I shared it in a detached way with my boyfriend (now, husband), his initial reaction was to blame me for not fighting harder and to accuse me of wanting to have sex with my rapist. I was filled with shame for a long time about the choices I made because I didn’t understand them and I loathed myself for being weak and trampy.
I think the thing that keeps blowing my mind about this is that women aren’t really shocked about any of this. We’ve been sharing stories with each other, sometimes supporting one another, sometimes blaming one another, since the beginning of time. The reality is, it is a rare (and extremely blessed) girl over the age of 8 that hasn’t been sexually abused in some manner. It’s even less rare to find an adult woman who hasn’t been sexually abused by more than one person in her life.
Think about that for a moment. In a recent poll they found that over 80% of women have been sexually harassed or assaulted. There is also evidence that women will often block memories out of their minds or minimize it if they weren’t forcibly raped by a stranger, blaming themselves on some level if they knew the abuser and not acknowledging abuse less than full-on rape. I know that just a few years ago I would’ve said I was never really sexually abused because I always knew my abusers. The few times I shared my stories with others I was usually filled with shame. It wasn’t unusual for the listener to question what I was wearing at the time, what I said or did, or to ask why I didn’t do something else, especially if the listener was a man and/or a christian.
We wonder why women don’t speak out.
I wonder why we don’t see that victimized women, by and large, don’t think they are worth fighting for in these situations, until others are possibly in harm’s way. Then, when they courageously speak up, we make them reopen their deep wounds while we coldly inspect them with doubt and judgement only to usually find a way to blame them or disbelieve them.
We wonder why victims don’t speak out.
Several of my abusers were family members, close friends, bosses, and teachers. I should have, as a young and very innocent girl, been able to trust these authority figures, these loved ones. I should’ve felt safe. Instead I felt like my discomfort wasn’t important enough to disrupt the “peace.” I didn’t believe I would be believed. I believed people would think I was to blame.
I didn’t feel safe at home, at school, at some friends’, at my babysitting jobs. Why would I speak out? Who would I have trusted?
Of all of the men I’ve told you about only the flashing car driver ever got in any trouble for what he’d done. One of them became an attorney. One of them was serving on a school board, last I knew. Both of these men were known for their sexual deviance in that little village, students even joked about it. The adults never did anything about it because we have a “boys will be boys” mentality in this country. We hush and shame anyone who tries to bring it out into the light, so that the people in power get to stay in power.
Although I say women aren’t surprised because the vast majority of us have endured sexual abuse, from threats to violent attacks, I have to admit I haven’t often shared the abuse I’ve gone through because I believed something must be extra wrong with me because it’s happened so many times. In recent months as I’ve had conversations with other women of varied ages, ethnicities and socioeconomic backgrounds, I’ve come to realize that not only is the frequency of times I’ve been abused or harassed not excessive in comparison to the women I’ve spoken with, but the degree to which I’ve experienced abuse and harassment is less than almost all of the women who have shared their stories with me.
While I haven’t enjoyed that the incredibly painful abuse of too many women has stirred up memories I’d rather pretend to forget, I am entirely indebted to the amazingly courageous women who have chosen to lay bare their deep and horrific wounds to an audience that has a less-than-shiny track record, at the risk of everything: their jobs, their income, their reputations, their families, and at times their sanity. They have jeopardized everything so that we can finally begin to purge this evil from our society. It’s way past time to speak openly, even when it makes us uncomfortable (like when I typed semen up there) because bringing this scourge up from the depths of darkness and exposing the numerous layers of accomplice for how awful and harmful it is may be the only path to beginning a different way, the way I pray my daughter and granddaughters can walk fully in – the way I pray my sons and grandsons can walk fully in.
We have to look this misogynistic way of living full in the face, with all of its discomfort, own our part in the ugliness of the perverted abuse dance and then stand for and live in what is right. Begin by understanding that ALL people, women as well as men, people of color as well as white people, are truly EQUAL. When we begin to listen to women and people of color as equals, while believing their stories, the entire everything will shift in the most glorious way.
It’s past time
I don’t want to wonder why. I want to be a part of a community and culture that holds ourselves to a standard of respect, love and humanity. Women shouldn’t have to dress a certain way, lest men can’t help but violate them. Victims shouldn’t alone bear the burden of proof in a culture that shames us for stirring the pot when we accuse our aggressors. This way isn’t working. Sexual sin can’t just keep being covered up. The rug isn’t that big. God isn’t that complacent. He loves us too much to turn a blind eye for very long. It’s time for His children to take their just punishment and turn away from this too common debauchery. It’s time for the church to stop dressing up the misogyny of white men in an expensive suit holding a Bible, and downplaying the abuse of the women and children whom Jesus calls to be honored as His beloved.
Ephesians 5:1 Be imitators of God in everything you do, for then you will represent your Father as his beloved sons and daughters. 2 And continue to walk surrendered to the extravagant love of Christ, for he surrendered his life as a sacrifice for us. His great love for us was pleasing to God, like an aroma of adoration—a sweet healing fragrance. 3 And have nothing to do with sexual immorality, lust, or greed—for you are his holy ones and let no one be able to accuse you of them in any form.
It’s WAY past time, isn’t it?
I have spent a decade recovering from my husband’s betrayal. I often refer to that event as the beginning of great change in my entire family’s lives. Betrayals in marriage make others uncomfortable. Some of our closest family members have created distance between us and them since becoming aware of this part of our story. Immediately after discovering his betrayal, one of my oldest and dearest friends promised to fly out to Texas to help me through the time when I was struggling with wanting to commit suicide. She was the only person I had shared my shame with at that time. The promise of her visit gave me something to hang on to. We made plans for over a week. She told me she’d call with specifics about her ticket. I picked up the next phone call, hoping she was coming soon, when she told me that her husband said they couldn’t afford the trip and that he needed her home during that time. I was devastated, but told her I understood and wouldn’t want them to struggle financially because of me. Two days later I was betrayed all over again as I saw her fb pics of the tropical and pricey girl’s trip that she had chosen (and lied to me about) over supporting me. After ignoring my texts, calls and letters for about two years, she was in Texas for business and asked to stay with us, so during the day I spent with her, I asked why she did that to me and her response was, “I’m just a sh*##@ friend. There’s not really anything to talk about. I suck.”
Closure wasn’t to be in that relationship, apparently.
When I talk about my spiritual and emotional health journey, I often refer to and differentiate the years before the betrayal (The Stepford Years) and the years since to mark the beginning of this incredible journey. My husband, our three youngest children and I have been very intentional about working through our junk with as much transparency as we can muster. We believe that this is the best way to help others and to remember how far Our Pappa has brought us since we submitted to His leading. So, I’ve been surprised by the number of Christian friends and family members who have attempted to shut down that part of our story. Even in my recovery walk I was asked if I realized how often I refer to that time when I worked through my steps… (btw, this is kinda the point of working the steps, right?). Fortunately, because I had another christian friend say something similar previously and had prayed about it, I was prepared with my shameless response this time. I’m not living in that brokenness or dwelling in victimhood. I’m testifying that My Pappa can effect a kind of change in people that can’t happen by our own effort, alone. So, when a friend comes to me and describes a situation that resembles my B.B. marriage (Before Betrayal), I want her/him to know that I can relate and I can share the “brokenness to the point of not wanting to live” chapter of my story that He miraculously loved into the “wanting to live for Him” chapter of my story. I can also empathize with mourning that the trauma of that betrayal changed who I was and I will live with that forever. Always trying to remember that I best serve Him by sharing and thus shedding the layers of pain, sin and fear that stand in the way of walking in my FULL identity that He has always held for me.
I often wonder why our church videos typically share the “end” of the story without an occasional “messy in the midst story.” We like to wrap it all up in a pretty bow after sharing a quick, not too graphic, picture of what the struggle is really like. I think the people that are still planted in the mud, stuck in the desert, struggling to feel like their story will have a portion of joy in the morning (“For His anger is but for a moment, His favor is for life; weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning.” – Psalm 30:5) would love to hear how truly freakin’ hard the days leading up to His miraculous healing were for a real live person with skin. Instead, we have stories that skim over the ugliness and then spend 70% or more of the video on how amazing things have been since the ugly ended. I understand the motive is to give hope to struggling people, but I think we can do better. We can be more authentic about how hard and lonely and messy our dark chapters are so that when we get to the pretty bow part of the story, we really give Him all of the glory He deserves because we see that it was only by His grace that we can be redeemed. This is what will give hope to the hopeless, truly seeing His unrelenting, unconditional love fighting for our hearts in spite of the muck and mire.
I could tell you numerous stories of church peeps who attempted to shame us when we shared our betrayal story
– the leaders of our marriage class that stopped talking to us and then “unfriended” us on fb,
– the first Texas friend I shared the truth with after 2 years, who said she understood and would like to talk after she absorbed it all and then told me she wasn’t sure she could forgive me and cut all ties with my family,
– the family member who used to call me weekly and has called me less than five times in the past ten years because it makes her uncomfortable how open we are about it.
Their discomfort is not my shame. We need to be uncomfortable in order to grow. We are called to comfort our sisters and brothers.
“Therefore comfort each other and edify one another, just as you also are doing.” – 1 Thessalonians 5:11
There is nothing in the Good Book that tells us that we should shame others if their story makes us uncomfortable or fearful. There is nothing that tells us we should tone down how messy things are so that the people sitting in the pews or across the table feel more at ease. The peeps who prioritize their need to feel at ease aren’t leaning into the real story of God’s redemption and the peeps that are leaning in, need us to tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth, again and again, without shame.
If you are one of those courageous people who is speaking your truth in order to heal and/or to help others heal, just know that He sees you and your heart. He loves that you are choosing to do the hard and often humiliating work of crawling your way back to health. The people that try to shame or shun you because you are speaking your painful truth are afraid or lack compassion, but it isn’t a reflection on you or your journey with Jesus. Keep your eyes on Him and seek His will, even when it’s lonely and doubt rears it’s ugly head because the enemy doesn’t want you to walk in the identity Your Father has for you. Hold your head up and walk through, knowing He is with you.
“I am your anchor in the wind and the waves. I am your steadfast, so don’t be afraid. Though your heart and flesh may fail you, I’m your faithful strength and I am with you wherever you go.”
We need to do better. We need to love better. We need to open our hearts to His stories of redemption and the beautiful, uncomfortable messiness that comes with it.
“Comfort, yes, comfort My people!’ says your God.” – Isaiah 40:1
That post yesterday? Violated?
Yeah. I’m having some buyer’s remorse. I think this might be similar to what one feels the morning after a one-night-stand or a drunken escapade…
“What did I do?!”
I considered deleting it because I keep thinking it makes people uncomfortable, but in all honesty, it makes me uncomfortable because it was humiliating and I never worked through it or discussed it with anyone in a healthy way. So, I’m leaving it and praying it helps another person who shouldn’t feel embarrassed or humiliated because someone else violated them. Bring it out of the dark. Take away the power that story holds over you in secret. You are worth the risk. You are.
It was summer time. We lived in a quaint little cul de sac with a beautifully landscaped circle that the other houses all faced. Our house was on the corner lot, furthest away from the pristine circle. The back side of the cul de sac had no houses because, as I remember, there was a rain basin, which was a fenced off area with claylike dirt and rocks inside.
My older brothers had found a way into the basin area, but I never knew where it was, because that was an adolescent boy thing, not a thing for a 5 or 6 year old girl to know. Until this summer day.
I was riding my bike around the cul de sac and then I parked it on the circle lot so that I could play. There were great shrubs and trees there. It was really lovely. A much older boy, whom I recognized, joined me and was extremely kind. I was playing house or something imaginative and he didn’t make fun of me like my big brothers had done on occasion. They had also made fun of this boy before, saying he was odd, but in this moment, I felt sorry for him, because he was obviously just a nice boy and they were wrong.
We talked for a bit and then he asked me to go for a walk and I joined him. He said he’d show me how to get into the basin if I didn’t tell anyone else. I couldn’t believe my luck! He showed me where the fence allowed entry and held it for me to enter. We walked a bit before he began to talk to me in an angry way and shoved me down into the rocky dirt. I recall feeling shocked, blindsided and humiliated.
For some reason, I am still traumatized enough that I can’t bring to mind the next few minutes or so and I remain embarrassed enough that writing what he did to me is extremely difficult.
I vaguely remember sobbing and running into our front door dripping with urine, not my own. My parents were livid. They clarified who did this to me and then my older brothers went outside quickly. I recollect someone asking me where I had left my bike and reassuring me that they would get it for me. My mother bravely washed me up, clearly repulsed by my urine drenched clothing, asking me several times why in the world I went for a walk with that boy!
Why did I go for a walk with that boy? Why would a young boy do such a vile thing to a little girl who obviously thought he was kind?
For the longest time I thought I was being punished for going into the basin, even though my brothers went in there on the regular.
Secretly I wondered if I had done something that made him treat me that way, but what could I have done to deserve that, aside from being nice and going for a walk with him? It was the thing that my brothers would tease me about to embarrass me as I grew up. It was a story that focused more on what my brothers did than on what was done to me in the retelling.
Shame is powerful. The shame of victims. The shame of those who should protect.
I wonder if my brothers beating him up cured him of his perversion or if he ever violated anyone again after that. I pray something brought him healing.
I was young enough to sit up on his shoulders in the frigid outdoor celebration. The sea of enthusiastic people was overwhelming to me from this point of view. My relatives kept shouting at me to notice each of the HUGE characters floating by, but all I could think about was the icy wind that was ripping through my winter jacket, as well as my skin and settling deep into my very bones. I began to wimper and an exceptionally kind, older woman, who was smooshed against us, offered me some hot chocolate in response to my father’s angry reaction to my tears. “My mother would never let me drink out of a stranger’s thermos,” I thought as I drank down the burning sweetness, enjoying it even more with my awareness of her disapproval. The relief was fleeting, so when I began to cry once again, my angel lady began to pour more cocoa for me only to have my father bark, “NO! No More!” at me, and then, with a change in tone, “Thank you, no more,” to my angel lady, who tried to explain it was no problem and she could see how cold I was. She didn’t know my father, but I did, so I wasn’t surprised when he got snippy with her and made everyone uncomfortable.
The only other part of that day I remember vividly was that we piled into the car before heading to the parade, my father, uncle and several cousins. As we traveled, I began asking what their last names were. I may have been in kindergarten and just becoming aware of last names because I recall a feeling of pride at knowing what mine was and thinking, perhaps, someone else in the car may not be as sophisticated as I was in this knowledge, though I was the youngest. The first several people I asked had the same last name as I did and then I asked my father’s sister’s son what his was and he replied with a different last name. I was a bit taken aback and responded innocently with something about him not being part of the family. My cousin laughed, but my father, obviously embarrassed, shot back something about how he was probably more a part of the family than I was.
I don’t miss the cold weather of Michigan even a little bit, and I never, in all of my 40 years of living there became comfortable with it.
My father has since asked me to remove my maiden name from my fb account and to never contact him, again.
I’m not a big fan of parades.
But I really love hot cocoa.