Halloween 2019 Thoughts

Every Year it feels like it gets harder to know what I want to say, today. No matter how many years away I get, from the darkness of this season being my normal, this is always a solemn, hard and painful time of year. Solemn and painful because I’m aware that many remain trapped in plain sight, being horrifically abused and used for things they have no voice or choice in. I know that while most are excitedly planning customs for themselves, their kids or both, focusing on scoring a big candy haul, while the outrageous parties go on…

Behind the scenes people are dying and abused in the most horrific ways, and often those who live are forced into things that leave us wishing we had been lucky enough to die.

If like me you grew up in this and today are free, I’m so thankful you made it out and at the same time so sooooo sorry we share even one of those experiences. Sorry for what you endured and at the same time I see the strength, resilience, creativity and tenacity that helped you survive and brought you to today. I honor the battle you have fought for freedom, to have a voice, make choices and know your truth all so that you can heal, grow and live just a normal life, with everyday problems.

If you are somewhere in between, today I want you to know, that you matter, your life is important and valuable just because you are you!

You are worth every step, every bit of effort it takes to get all the way out, to discover who you want to be. I long for you to understand that not everyone lives like you are or I once did. To know that is possible to step out of their secrets and be known and cared for with no strings or conditions. I know the next few days can be some of the most terrifying and gruesome of the year. If, this year your heart is desperately trying to find a way out but you’ve always been told there is no way escape – that is a lie!

You can choose to not show up today and you get to make that choice again day by day decision by decision.  I encourage you to make your choices thinking and acting strategically and with the help of safe people who have no agenda or conditions other than you getting to live your best, free life.

If you decide to test out not showing up here are some examples of thinking and acting strategically. You might stay with a friend, who is not connected, for a couple days, so that you are in different surroundings and not as easily accessible. You may plan to spend time in safe public places, if you even think you are being followed drive directly to the closest police or fire station or a well lit public place. Pick up your phone and call 911, you don’t have to go into your entire story, simply explain you think you are being followed, describe the car and ask them to send an officer to check it out. Let them see you taking pictures or a video of their car. Changing your patterns, taking different routes, going to different stores or coming and going at different times of the day are some examples of practical safety steps. These are all practical steps but they also communicate that you are thinking differently. You thinking your own thoughts and knowing truth is very threatening to them. They may ramp up their intimidation, but even that will be different, because these groups cannot and will not risk exposure. So they will be working to push you to either bring your own body to them or hurt yourself, as long as you keep stepping out of their secrets, holding onto truth and thinking your own thoughts (which is very different than functioning as a robot, using only what they tell us or allow us to know to make life decisions) is safest and best for you.

You know your situation better than I ever will; you are allowed to use that knowledge for your own safety. For example, using what you know about what they do and how they react to think through what you will say or do in response to their interactions or threats.

You are allowed to step out of their programmed reactions and use your brilliant and creative thinking mind to make decisions and plans, based on what is best for you.

You are allowed to lie to them, to withhold information and not tell them what you are thinking, feeling or what you’re figuring out and telling safe people about them.

If , for any reason you find yourself back in ritual, this year, even though you didn’t want to and worked hard for this year to look different it’s so important that you know…

THE TRUTH IS

YOU still matter, you are still good – and you can still choose to pick up from where you yesterday and keep stepping into wholeness! You did not fail; the mere fact that you were able to even consider non compliance or not showing up is a tremendous achievement, I for one am very proud of you! There is no such thing as too bad or too broken or in too deep. Those are lies used to keep you trapped. Your perpetrators count on that lie and the violence they connected to it to be more real than anything else, in your life…

it is nonetheless a lie, no matter how harshly they reinforce it. None of us are responsible for the things we have no choice in. For choice to exist we must have at least two equally GOOD (meaning no threat or negative outcome) options to pick from. When we are forced to pick from two really horrible options there is no choice and the responsibility always belongs to those who set up the situation.

If you are still in and are feeling like there is no hope for you or that there is something inherently wrong with you that results in or causes all the nightmarish bad things they do,

I can confidently promise that there is nothing wrong with you. Bad people use and abuse you for no other reason than it serve their purpose. You are stronger than you know, and there are people out here who want to know and help you. People who don’t hurt, trick or have hidden agendas. You are good, your heart is good and you have done a great job staying alive. There are many of us who have made it out, yes its hard work, but you are worth it and it is possible, don’t give up!

 

 

 

 

It’s Okay to Not Be Okay…

 

If I asked you how you are today…

How would you answer?

Why is it that the moment we hear this question we tend to feel a responsibility for maintaining God’s image of goodness, mercy, and faithfulness? We can be sick, exhausted, about to explode from a panic attack, or have a houseful of sick kids. We may have just had a fight with family, exploded at the kids or learned our job was being phased out. Yet, the moment we hear those first words –

“how are…”

Our heart rate goes up and we seem to feel compelled to embrace a mask of perfection. Our real life pain, chaos, and struggles are pushed aside by our happy heart smile as we answer

“I’m good how about you?”

If you’re like me the guilt for lying settles in as quickly as that fake smile overtakes my face. I found myself lying so much, as I worked through many seasons of healing, that I was avoiding people and those awkward greetings, in an effort to not feel obligated to lie. To cope I created a new safe and honest answer that I can give in every situation.

“I’m ducky how about you”?

Those who know me understand “ducky” means I’m not okay and I don’t want talk about it, at least not in the moment. Those who don’t know me, typically respond as if I had answered I am great and move onto to other topics.

I feel validated because I didn’t lie or discount my struggle; which allows me to move beyond the awkward surface, into a deeper conversation.

And amazingly the kingdom does not implode because I admitted that I am not perfect. Christians sometimes act like God is thrown into a panic attack because our human reactions and weakness make him look bad. Trust me He is bigger than our humanity!

A more accurate portrayal is that God is pleased, because I didn’t feel compelled to lie to protect heart or my image of him. Even more, in our vulnerability, others have the opportunity to encounter God’s love, grace, mercy and compassion in a real and tangible way.

God becomes bigger when we are honest about our pain, failures, and trials; while his love and desire to step into broken lives becomes real, to those around us who are also hurting and watching to see if our God is big enough for their mess.

I have no idea where the belief that it’s not okay to admit you aren’t okay begun, but I do know it’s unbiblical and ridiculous! Something is wrong when we believe we need to lie to feel safe or protect our testimony.

The bible say’s we are to bear with one another; which means to struggle or endure through both the good and bad times together, supporting and growing with each other. Some seem to think bear with one another means to climb over, compete, or condemn, which is simply absurd and in no way a reflection of the life we are called to live.

What apart of bearing or struggling together is lived out when we lie about how we are or when we make someone else feel uncomfortable? How do we overcome with our testimony if we can’t admit we have one? Our testimonies are not limited to what God did when he saved us, they grow and evolve as we grow and learn.

My testimony is much fuller today, than it was the moment He saved me.

God created us to thrive in deep, transparent, loving relationships; which enable us to grow and experience safe. Relationships can only be safe and transparent if we are grounded in our understanding of godly love. Godly love places the best for others first, even when what is best is hard, not what we want or when what is best for another requires us to set our needs and agendas aside.

Understanding Godly love is so life changing I spent a year teaching what it is and is not. In the end we must each chose to embrace and risk stepping into God’s love or remain in the disemboweled and shallow world-view of love and relationship.

Our pretense accomplishes little beyond removing us from what our hearts need to grow and feel safe. At the same time, our pretense removes us from those who will grow and learn by watching us walk through our struggles and failures in a God honoring way.

There is wisdom in investing the effort to develop relationships based on trust and mutual respect.

While I know a lot of people, I am known by only a handful of trusted friends.

I would not answer a stranger or even an acquaintance with “I am feeling triggered and scared”, but I might answer by saying “I am really struggling right now or when that seems unsafe …

“I’m ducky how are you?” works great!

Feel free to borrow ducky or make up your own unique answer and definition.

Those in my inner circle get more information. Depending on the friend I might even go into details around what I am reacting to; so that they can help me ground and feel safe in the moment.

This is how relationship is created to work. We struggle, together while at the same time we carry and learn from each other.

Relationships are about learning to walk and live out life together, in a real and meaningful way, so that we learn and grow from and with each other. We are hardwired and created to exist, need and thrive in relationships.

In addition, when we chose the safety of pretense over the reality of transparency, we rob our loved ones of the opportunity to grow with us. I know this first hand. I have seen my friends grow in their capacity to handle hard times and in their ability to love, specifically because I allowed them to walk through the very real hell of ritual abuse with me.

Jesus is the only one who is perfection. Every person struggles, fails, hurts, sins, and goes through seasons of insecurity, depression, doubt and the unknown.

Buying into the lie that acknowledging our humanity is wrong or weak pulls us out of the relationship we need and into a fake, unpredictable world.

Christians are not called or expected to be perfect, at least not by God!

We are however called to bear and endure with one another; which requires that we live transparently, walking in mercy, grace and an abundance of godly love.

If I had kept the people I trust out of my brutal reality I would have missed the experience of being loved, validated and protected. They would have missed gaining a deeper perspective and trust in God’s faithfulness and protection through big storms. Yes, it is wise to pick your close friends carefully; while allowing your trust to develop naturally, over time. However, neither is possible if everyone remains hidden behind their perfect masks.

And really who can live up to that perfect mask anyway?

I grew, in part, because I stopped pretending and, in a very real way, as I did my testimony pulled my friends into a deeper relationship with God and each other.

Had I stayed behind my “I am ok “mask none of these amazing gifts of healing and growing would be possible. Some healing, understanding and growth only come as we develop and step into deep, safe relationships and risk being known. The coolest part of removing that silly mask is watching others stumble into the undeniable reality of how big God really is!

It’s impossible to know me or hear my testimony without realizing that me being alive is a miracle. How others choose to process that is up to them, and no reflection on me. It is, however, a gift to watch the process and know that from such incomprehensible depths of loss and pain others see a miracle.

As Christians we don’t need to lie to protect ourselves or God’s image. God is not defined by our lives, but our lives should be defined by who we believe our God is!

Be bold, embrace and take back your humanity – it is okay to not be okay! God is magnified in our weakness and vulnerability.

You and I are NOT  always okay, but we are loved, worthy and wanted exactly as we are! You don’t need that creepy perfect mask. You can, instead, embrace real and begin enjoying the freedom God created and protects for you.

Me and My Plans… Can Get Messy

By this time last year I had most of 2015 mapped out in my head. I felt confident in my direction and my personal goals, and settled with my ministry plan. My plans felt well thought out and reasonable, at least in my head and to my heart.

Did you catch all the I’s and mys?

My plans and goals were well intentioned, primarily other focused and consistent with the direction God had been speaking to my heart.

However, my plans were out of step with God’s plans, will for me, and timing for this season My plans took into consideration my comfort level and my beliefs around needing to perform or achieve in order to earn love and justify my place at the table.

By the time March came and I realized a second shoulder surgery was needed; my plans were already getting messy. I shuffled and re-shuffled and then modified my plans in an effort to stay on target with my goals. When I learned how significant the second surgery was if felt like someone has just dumped my plans on the floor. I didn’t take the news well and battled feeling like I was not holding up my end of the deal with friends and family!

I went to my Papa and cried out Papa please! You know what I want to get done I need your help.

Yes those were actually my words… I need your help!

I meant I needed his help fixing my plan. However, the more I prayed and said I need your help, the more my plans fell apart.

His plan, however, was beginning to become obvious, even to me. He answered my prayer by leading me into a place of helplessness. Instead of empowering me accomplish my goals I was losing my independence and ability to take care of me. It seemed my plan was going in reverse the more I prayed for help.

By early May I had to accept that if I could not care for myself it was, therefore, unrealistic to expect that I could build a ministry helping others. Scaling back was the easy part.

There were only a few ministry functions I maintained. I stopped writing, stepped back from many relationships and non essential commitments. I  started no new mentoring or advocate relationships.

The hard part was accepting I needed help and then allowing others to help me.

In some ways it was obvious I needed help. It’s hard to dress yourself with one arm in a sling to protect from the shoulder further damage. I am stubborn, so I tried doing everything myself. I got stuck in the attempt on more than one occasion. My efforts, at times, left me in precarious positions yelling for help. Today, when I am being foolishly stubborn, my closest friend only needs get my attention as she waves  her hands under her chin looking like a t-Rex stuck in a dress…

I know right way what she means.

I spent eight months struggling to maintain a level of control; which in my mind meant having a plan and being able to do – something, anything to earn my place.

Sometimes old beliefs are hard to break free from, even beliefs based in trauma that keep us from what we need or want.

The messier my plans got the more I prayed and asked for help, until finally without even thinking about my words I asked him to show me his plan because mine was obviously not what he desired for me.

I stopped writing and barely stayed current on social media. Between pain medicine, muscle relaxers, another concussion and medicine for nerve pain even conversations with people I love were difficult.

2015 was NOT the year I planned. It was however the year God intended to help me develop some essential skills. 2015 was a messy year of unplanned and uncomfortable gifts.

My plan would have robbed me of growth and healing. God’s plan initially left me feeling out of control, afraid and helpless. His answer to my prayer for help started with me feeling out of control, scared and being, at times, literally helpless.

Had I remained in charge I would have gotten a lot done, but my accomplishments would hold little value, even to me. Undoubtedly, I may have also unintentionally hurt a few people, along the way.

Thankfully, in both my stubbornness and fear my heart remained surrendered, desiring God’s best above my plans. I therefore grew despite me!

I learned to let those I trust take care of me. I allowed myself to experienced their love for me, despite my inability to “do my part”. I learned not all relationships are equal; even more I learned its okay for people to fit into different places in my heart and practically speaking in my life.

I learned my plans are generally nice but often messy and seldom the best.

I learned to step back and was reminded of how important waiting for God’s timing is. I still need help with somethings, but now I don’t need to earn or prove anything to those who love me.

Perhaps the greatest lesson I learned is the one I already knew. I now understand it with a new level of respect….

Outside of God’s plan and timing my life and my ministry can only end in a mess.

Yes I like approval.I like the feeling of knowing I accomplished something. I like knowing my words have challenged someone to step closer to God. I love to speak and teach about the deep truths and extravagant, limitless love that set me free. I am a preacher at heart.

However, more than all of those likes my heart absolutely needs and craves authentic, transparent and honest God honoring deep relationships.

Nevertheless, outside of God’s plan and timing, for my life, my efforts to fulfill these godly desires will never work or matter. I am learning to rest while I wait which means regardless of my circumstances I have peace.

I asked God to break through my heart so that his, love for me, becomes real to me. I am leaning Grace is deeper, richer and more complete than I will ever fathom.

A year later my life and ministry are not mapped out. I’m now mostly okay not having a plan.

2016 will be a year of continuing to surrender, as I grow in my understanding of grace, and Gods love for me. This will be a year of continuing to learn to allow the people I love and trust to love me back.

As for this ministry I resign!

Instead of me planning or striving to make things happen; which may be the predominate approach to ministry building these days, but isn’t Gods plan….

I am resting while I wait for clear direction. When I have his direction or words I will move, write or speak.

My job is not to plan, build or make things happen.

He has called us to love and follow him. Therefore my job is to grow in my ability to love and to follow which sometimes means stepping back and waiting for Him to move so we can follow.

Sometimes Healing is Easier When We Stay in the Storm

By now, you may have realized I can be a little stubborn!  I also have a strong independent side; which  has become more often than not a deficit.

Both patterns are tied to unhealthy and now largely untrue belief system. Both are also, in their pure surrendered form, part of the gifts God placed with in my heart.

Gifts He placed in my heart for good. Gifts He gave and intended I use to love and build up, not to self destruct, isolate or tear down others.

He placed these and other gifts with in me not “just” to survive, but to move into thriving and then into the kingdom work He created for me.

Earlier in the week I was doing some gardening. Gardening and creating a relaxing atmospheres are hobbies I enjoy. At the start of the day, I had my plan and list of things that needed to get done. I didn’t check the weather when I made my plan.

About half way through the day it started raining. It was a hot day and the rain was slow and steady. I actually like doing yard work in the rain, at least in slow steady rain. I draw the line at torrential down pours and thunder storms. Those storms provide an opportunity to play puddles, but that is object lesson, for another time.

There are benefits to gardening and working in a slow steady rain.

First, no one bothers me, which means I have gift of being left alone, for just a little while.  My ear-buds go in and the volume goes up as I settle into processing, quiet prayer, or just enjoy the rain and one of my favorite hobbies.

Second, there are some tasks that while messier are much easier in the rain.

On this day I planned to take back my shade garden form the encroaching army of poison ivy. In the rain when I pull at the vine, long strands with the roots come out almost effortlessly. Normally they come  in smaller sections, often without the roots and require significantly more effort.
The rain drives the mosquito’s and nats away; which when working in a shade garden is a wonderful relief.

Anything I plant, when it is raining like this, naturally has a better start. If I am moving or breaking up a plant into multiple sections the plant experiences less stress and is able to establish a new root system faster.

There are many advantages to working in this kind of rain – but it is always messy!

As I worked, on this day, I was processing through some painful new information. Information I  prayed, even begged, for years, to know but had accepted knowing, was likely not possible, at least not here.

Getting an answer and understanding my truth, on a deeper level, always brings growth , but like working in the rain – it’s also typically messy, painful or both.

This is the reality and paradox of healing!

In order to heal and grow we must be willing to know our truth, but knowing will rarely be what we expect or wanted. Knowing brings pain as we move through the process of understanding and accepting.

Healing, at times, feels  impossible, consuming, unending and overwhelming. Thankfully our feelings DO NOT define truth or reality.

Often our deepest healing and growth comes at the end of what feels like an unsurvivable messy season.

When we stop fighting and settle into the work, just like gardening, after the pruning, planting and the pulling out of the unhealthy roots – at the right time  new growth bursts into a beautiful display of our hearts and Jesus’s master workmanship.

While often irrational to our intellect, sometimes  processing and the growth that follows, is easier when we allow God to send a slow steady rain.

A rain that heals; while giving us the chance to step aside and take time to rest, as we process and accept what is often a painful truth or ugly part of our past. A past we did not chose and could not control!

A protective rain that causes most people to stay away, giving us the quiet we need; while alerting those we trust and feel safe with to draw closer.
As illogical as it sounds, the healing process is sometimes easier in the rain.

When we chose to fight, run or allow the rain to become an excuse; then when we do settle in and go back to the garden we find the soil harder, dry. cracked and often more difficult to work through.

You know Those Times, When You Want to Give Up, But Really You Don’t…

I would conservatively guess the words….

“I give up, I can’t do this… it’s too hard or I am not strong enough” have in one form or another fallen out of my mouth literally thousands of times over the past 20 years.

Most of the time I meant each syllable. My words and attitude was typically driven by either exhaustion, an onslaught of some new even darker memory, a new reality redefining truth or internal emotional conflict as I struggled to grasp deeper understanding.

I meant every word, in the heat of moment, consumed in desperation and devastation. When I looked at the normal standard– that unachievable “thing” which was often the standard set as my goal for wholeness (according to everyone, but me)

You know the point people say you have more or less finished your healing and are officially more over it than not!!

Striving to meet that “normalcy goal” left me deeper in despair – normal still seems impossible and undesirable!

Today I embrace my disdain and recognize I was not created for normal –no one is. God created us to live an extraordinary life– normal is a lame excuse of settling for someones second best, it’s mundane.

Twenty years later I am still stepping forward, still healing, and growing but honestly only because I am too stubborn to settle for normal, determined to know my truth, wise enough to go beyond limits established by others for me. When I could not fight for myself, I held on and fought for Jane and Brooklyn – in those moments they were by motivation.

I might be the only public Christian voice you have found, but you and I are not alone!
I know many sexual abuse, trafficking and ritual abuse survivors who never thought they would make it. People who like me have thrown in the towel thousands of times – only to pick it back up and find enough strength to take just one more baby step. We each found our motivation and whatever that thing that kept us pushing forward was, it became our strength to keep going.

You might NOT FEEL LIKE it now, but you CAN get through thisbut not alone. We need people who are bold enough to love regardless of anything in our past, regardless of how messy the healing gets.

For the first several years, I hated people and found trusting an act of insanity so I started with Jesus, because I had nothing left to lose.

I couldn’t step into the deeper pain, truths or understanding until I took the chance and let a few carefully picked people into my mess – people who had not experienced my pain and could give me a healthy prospective.

I sometimes still find liking or trusting people hard, at times, but Jesus has never failed me – my expectations have for sure disappointed me but He has not failed.

Don’t give up! You are not alone. You a member of elite and incredibly strong, creative group or wounded warriors and you don’t have to fight the entire battle at once.

We win and heal one baby step at a time.