Category Archives: Jesus

The Strength Of A Woman – 12 Pregnancies in 11 years

Many will say that women are the weaker sex. Many are wrong, some are right. We have our weak moments, ladies, but so often we rise above because we call out to the One through whom we are able to do all things. (Philippians 4:13) Women, we possess a tremendous inner strength that is unlike anything the world has ever seen before or ever will again. If you’re nodding your head right now, you know exactly what I mean. You’ve experienced soul crushing, heart wrenching pain, haven’t you?

I’ll bet you’re wondering about the title. How is it possible to be pregnant 12 times in eleven years? Oh, it is if you’ve had eight miscarriages, three cesareans and are pregnant with your thirteenth baby (the first pregnancy was twins and resulted in a miscarriage). If you’re wondering if “it” ever gets easier. No, the loss of a child is never easy. Time can scab over the wound, but it’s not fully healed for a long time. Every time I give birth to just one baby at a time, I mourn the loss of my first pregnancy – twins. This isn’t to say I’m not immensely grateful for the children I do hold in my arms. It’s just sad to never have met them or have that situation redeemed in the way I’d like to see it happen. (1 Corinthians 13:12)

There is a plan in everything that God does and I believe it is to strengthen us, to bring us closer to Himself and to break our will without breaking our Spirit. (Isaiah 55:8; Jeremiah 29:11) When my twins died, one at a time, they were six and eight weeks gestation, respectively. My husband shipped out for boot camp the day after we lost the second one. I nearly died from the infection that followed. There were a lot of tears, a lot of silent prayers and a whole lot of moments where all I could do was cry out to God. Was I brought closer to Him? Absolutely. He is Comforter, Friend, Counselor. (Matthew 5:1-12) He has been all those things to my husband, too.

Theresa was conceived three short months after the miscarriage. We all held our breath, wondering if this one would stick. She did! A healthy baby girl was born in the middle of a chaotic night in mid September ten years ago – the very night my husband returned home from his first overseas deployment. I’d went into labor spontaneously at the airport, but didn’t realize I’d been leaking amniotic fluid all day long and the baby was in distress. An emergency cesarean saved her life and brought her fully into mine.

Miscarriage number two happened before Chelsea was born. It was such a blip on our radar because we were preparing for deployment for number 2. We mourned a little together, Anthony and I…and then I watched his ship sail into the horizon and drove home sadly.

Chelsea was born during deployment number three, the following year. Fortunately, my husband was able to stay state-side for the birth (a repeat cesarean, even though I’d gone into spontaneous labor twelve hours earlier and was progressing normally). He was able to fly down to Panama to join his command after the birth. We were really blessed by that extra time together. The healing from the second cesarean took a little longer than we’d anticipated.

Miscarriages number three through five happened all in one year. We have no idea what caused any of these. My guess is a combination of stress and hormonal imbalances? I don’t know. I thought about looking into it, but with my husband deployed every year for six years straight, and raising two little girls on my own, I just didn’t have the heart or the time. My weight, my attitude, poor eating habits and lack of motivation to do much except “get through the days” were all reflective of the deep pain I was feeling inside. Internally, my thought process was “I’m a terrible Mother. God took my babies to punish me. He hates me and wants me to know with certainty that I’m undeserving of anything good.” As you can probably guess, my depression worsened and I wanted to die. (Job 3:11)

Miscarriages six through eight occurred sporadically over the next three years. All were early trimester losses and I never even made it to my first obgyn appointments to see their heartbeats. The bleeding began shortly after receiving positive test results for pregnancy. We mourned those quietly. Most never even knew we’d been pregnant.

Jackson was born on a sunny morning in late May two years ago. When the obgyn was sewing up my cesarean wound, he remarked that he’d also removed a fair amount of scar tissue from my uterus. He stated that this would make the next pregnancy easier, more successful. At the time, it was little consolation to me. I wasn’t sure I would ever want to have another child again. Three cesareans was enough to break my spirit just a little more. Not only couldn’t I carry most of my babies past the first trimester, my body also couldn’t give birth. A mix of joy over the birth of our first boy and sorrow over the loss of ever being able to give birth vaginally crashed over me like tidal waves. As I healed physically from the surgery, I suffered moments of regret so intense I truly believed that I didn’t deserve any of my children. My best childhood friend had just given birth to her third baby vaginally, unmedicated not long before I had Jackson, and I couldn’t even birth one that way. What kind of Mother fails her baby in the most basic way? I wondered, “would I ever give birth ‘the right way’?”

Flash forward to about a month ago, and I finally had my answer to so many questions I’d been asking myself for years. While filling out a birth plan form for an obgyn, I had this funny feeling that I should not be checking the boxes for a repeat cesarean. It’s difficult to describe just what was going through my mind, because I truly don’t believe the thoughts came from within my own head – they were divinely inspired by the Holy Spirit. As I read off the option of “I would like a mirror placed at the end of the bed so that I can see my baby being born,” I thought “well, that would be nice!”  I didn’t check it off. I knew it wasn’t a possibility for me. No one does a VBAC (vaginal birth after cesarean) after three. Or do they? (They do! Read ACOG Guidelines here!)

Something sparked inside of me, and I looked around on YouTube and Facebook for a support group or some sort of advice. Was it possible? Could I dare to dream? I found a local VBAC support group and read about a miracle VBAC doctor. He’d recently, successfully completed a VBA3C at a local hospital.  My heart beat violently inside of my chest and my eyes turned toward the hills, as I prayed silently “Lord, could this be me? Could I be one of those women who boasts about the miracle You have done within them?” A little research and a whole lot of prayer later, I was on the phone with a hospital administrator who is not only VBAC friendly, but was encouraging me to go for a VBAC. I took her advice and ran with it. As soon as I got off the phone with her, I called the miracle doctor and made an appointment.

Flash forward to today, I am on my way to a VBA3C (Vaginal Birth After 3 Cesareans). The miracle doctor encouraged me to get a volunteer doula and to take childbirth classes. I’ve done both and I have to say, I’ve never been more encouraged or felt more supported while pregnant. I have the only male doula in my area, and while some would balk at that, I say “puh! You don’t know what you’re missing!” He’s a great source of support for both my husband and me. I’m also able to meet with the midwife at my doctor’s office for most of my prenatal visits (though it will be the miracle doctor who delivers Isaiah). Midwives are an amazing source of encouragement and support, too. How vastly different, how divinely blessed is this pregnancy! I cannot thank the LORD enough! I cannot praise Him enough! Every day, I’m waking up and thanking Him for this day. No matter what stress is going on in my life, it’s still a good day. I’m one day closer to my very first vaginal birth. One day closer to restoration. (Joel 2:25)

God is good. I know I can endure great suffering because God is right there in the midst of it with me, strengthening me. (Romans 5:3)

There are so many resources out there that now tote the dangers of repeat cesareans and give hope to the possibility of VBACs after multiple cesareans. You are not stuck in a repeat cesarean. You can switch providers! You can do this! (More ACOG support!) Call your local hospital, ask about their policies and ask to speak with the VBAC friendly nurse or doctor. Be firm, and remind the hospital that policy is not law. (Don’t be rude, though!) You have to advocate for yourself, decide in your mind that you can do this, and then run with it, no matter what anyone says. Keep looking for the VBAC friendly doctor – that miracle doctor out of hundreds that will say yes even after everyone else says no. (You’re going to find that most of these doctors are classically trained, so expect an older doctor. Not always, but often.)

There is great pain in child loss, in miscarriage, in infertility, in birth plans not going the way we’d hoped. There is also great healing to be found when we take our pain straight into the arms of Christ. He is knitting solutions into the problems we never knew we had.

Lord, I lift up to You the pain of others who also have suffered pregnancy loss. I lift up those who have lost infants and children young and old. You are good. You are capable of comforting, of healing and restoring. Thank You for never leaving any of us in our time of need. We love You, LORD. All Glory, Praise and Honor go to You. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.

 

 

There’s a Plank In Your Eye, Miss!

“Judge not, that you be not judged.  For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you.  Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?

Matthew 7:1-3 ESV

Ah…this scripture. I love it and yet…I find that it drives a stake right into my heart every time I read it. Yes, it kills the monster in me that just want to scream “You’re a fool!” to some random person. You see, I can’t do that because I’m a fool, too.

We all are going to make mistakes daily. We’re all struggling in some way to do something right all the time, but we’re never going to reach perfection. We’re not God. We are called to sharpen our brothers and sisters by gently rebuking them, redirecting their attention to the scriptures and by praying for them, but we are never called to monitor their every move in order to harshly judge them or call them a fool. Search your hearts, brothers and sisters. You may not be doing exactly that, but there may be something similar going on in your life right now and you…as well as I, need to stop it right now.

We are not loving our neighbor when we’re people watching only to create websites that display the foolishness of humanity. ( Yes, I’m talking to you, People of Wal-Mart.) We are not loving our neighbor when we call out their insecurities and make fun of them for it. We are not loving our neighbor when we feign friendship only to gain insight for scholarly gain. (Term papers, social studies, etc.) And we are certainly not loving our neighbor when we’re consistently, without love, calling out our neighbor for mistakes they’ve made in life. You know what I’m talking about. We’ve all done some variation of this. We have to check our hearts, folks. If we’re not correcting out of love and concern for their souls, we’re judging harshly and inappropriately. Check your heart and then lead your heart.

Most of us will naturally become annoyed with anyone with whom we’ve spent too much time. We’ll step on each others’ toes and make silly mistakes that don’t feel silly. They’ll hurt feelings. We’ll intimately get to know our neighbor and yes, we’ll discover hot buttons that when pressed, will create deep wounds. We are not to take advantage of this, or even use this to “correct” our neighbor when we finally find out “what’s wrong with them.” Chances are that whatever “issue” you are finding fault with in your neighbor is more your problem than theirs. We will see our own issues and insecurities manifest themselves in others when that is what we’re placing our focus on. Regain focus. Look to Jesus and pray for your own heart, then look back to your neighbor with a heart full of Grace and love. What do you see? If it’s not a person made righteous by Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross, then you’re going to need to look away again and refocus your eyes and your heart on Jesus before you can safely (without sin) look at your neighbor again.

I am speaking to you, too…self. I am having such a problem with this issue as well. I really struggle with making harsh judgments towards those with whom I am spending too much time. God has placed my family in an interesting and sometimes extremely uncomfortable situation right now. I’m learning that God doesn’t care too much about my own comfort as He sets my heart right.I am very grateful for this and that He checks my motives before giving me the desires of my heart!

Jesus has already died to set you free. You are no longer a sinner, but a saint. (read: 1 Corinthians 1:2) You are made perfect in God’s eyes because Jesus absorbed all of your punishment on the cross. (read: 2 Corinthians 5:21) We are not called to obey the law in order to retain our salvation. (read: Matthew 5:17) We’re called to obey the law out of love. (read: Romans 13:10) We need to live this out every day, to the best of our ability. When we can’t or don’t, there is grace. Please don’t abuse that! (read: Romans 6) We are all in need of grace. None of us are in competition with anyone else for our salvation. We already have it. Just look to Christ to grow you and mature you more each day. You can do this! God has equipped you with everything you need.

Let’s pray:

Heavenly Father, we come to You boldly, in the name of Your son, Jesus. We thank You for the Holy Spirit that loves us and guides us. We ask that You would make us sensitive to the promptings of the Holy Spirit. Help us to hear it more clearly and know when we’re making harsh judgements and when we’re truly seeking to correct or rebuke a brother or sister out of love. Help us to focus first on You, Lord and correct our behaviors, thoughts and attitudes before we even dare to look to others. Thank You for growing us and for fulfilling Your word that You began a good work in us and You will see it to completion. We confess that sometimes we don’t trust that. Sometimes we also try to do things on our own and that leads to burnout. We get frustrated with ourselves and become critical of others. Our focus is lost and we sin against You by sinning against Your children. We are sorry and we humbly repent, admitting that all sin is against You and Your will for our lives. Thank You for Jesus who has borne our sin and those of our neighbors as well. Fill our hearts with Your love as we reset our focus back onto You and away from idols and sin. In Jesus’ Holy and perfect name we pray. Amen.

 

Prayer: Let Love Shine

Lord, we lift up to You all who are hurting and desperate for relief. Clear their minds of all their sins and fill their hearts with Your love. You promise to keep in perfect peace all whose minds are focused on You. We ask that You would fill our minds with good, pure and pleasing thoughts of You. You have done so much for us and You never give up on us, never leave us. Let Your light shine and your love transform us. In Jesus Holy Name we pray. Amen.

The Tirado 5, hours after Jackson was born.

Then and Now {Praise Him}

Have you ever looked back to the worst moment in your whole entire life and then looked around you at your present life? Can you see an immense difference between the two moments in time? This morning, as I was holding my son, I did just that. As I attempted to count my blessings, I found that I could not, for they are far too numerous. That realization caused me to stop everything I was doing (other than breastfeeding) and just praise God for His mercy and grace. He delivered me from what once felt like the pits of Hell. I cannot even begin to fathom how different the world would be without my kids. You see, the worst moment in my life is the moment I was pronounced dead at age 16 during a suicide attempt. I had totally given up on life because I figured that everyone who mattered had already given up on me. I was wrong. God had not given up.

At age 16, there was no way that I could even begin to fathom that my life would work out to what it is right now. I married my high school sweetheart. We have been together now nearly 20 years. We have two beautiful daughters and a very handsome infant son. I survived military life (which almost killed both of us) and I have spent years teaching Sunday school, working with kids – including special needs children. I’ve traveled to and lived in several different states and I’ve met people from all over the world. I have a great life, despite our struggles. None of this would’ve happened had God given up on me.

1997
Anthony and I in 1997, shortly after we became a couple and not too long before my suicide attempt that nearly took my life.

You see, when we’re at our worst moments and we don’t even have the strength to call on God or to acknowledge His existence, He’s still there anyway, saving us from the Enemy. He knows we have a purpose long before we know we do.

I did not call on God that day until the bitter end. I called on Him to bring me Home – to Heaven. He said “later” and sent me back to the World. Initially, I was outraged by the outcome of a failed suicide attempt. Now, I am praising Him for it. I cannot imagine a better life than the one He has given me.

 To all who mourn in Israel he will give: beauty for ashes; joy instead of mourning; praise instead of heaviness. For God has planted them like strong and graceful oaks for his own glory.

Isaiah 61::3 TLB

The Tirado 5, hours after Jackson was born.
The Tirado 5

You prepare a feast for me in the presence of my enemies. You honor me by anointing my head with oil. My cup overflows with blessings.

Psalm 23:5 NLT

Let’s Pray: Lord, we thank You for the blessings You’ve bestowed upon us. We have experienced such intense moments of weakness that we could not even call out to You, but You in Your infinite Mercy came to our rescue anyway. You have replaced our mourning with joy and songs of Praise. All Honor and Glory rightly belongs to you, O Lord. How we love Your ways! In Jesus’ Name we Praise You. Amen.

How has God come to your rescue in moments of weakness? Has your life turned out better than you ever thought it could? In what ways?

The Root of Sin {My A-ha! Moment}

Lately I’ve been reading a lot about coming into a closer relationship with Christ. For years I’ve desired a closer relationship with Him, but haven’t really been willing to put in the work. You see, I really, really enjoy living in comfort. Pain isn’t all that enjoyable for me (who is it enjoyable for, really?) and I’ve worked hard to avoid it at all costs. This has included isolating myself from outsiders, hiding away in a closed room when I’ve sinned, refraining from prayer (what if God actually knew what I was thinking?) and running away from Christians whom I perceive as better than myself. (Afterall, I don’t need more reasons to feel bad about myself. I already know I’m a sinner!)

One of the biggest a-ha(!) moments I’ve had lately is that I sin because I don’t fully trust God. I want to do a lot of things on my own in order to earn my own salvation and please God. In his award-winning book Jesus Is, Judah Smith tackles this very subject. After relaying the story of the prodigal son, Smith reminds us that we’re often like children who want to earn our salvation, but we are never able to. Smith likens this attitude to a child who walks up to his father and says that he suddenly doesn’t deserve to be his son anymore. How asinine! The son has never been able to earn his place in the family. He did not choose his position in the family. The father did. Can you see the correlation between us trying to earn salvation and God having already chosen it for us? There is nothing we can do to earn it. God has already provided it for us. Why shouldn’t we trust Him and show our gratefulness to Him through obedience and trust? God has done nothing to harm us.

The Apostle Paul reminds us in the book of Romans, chapter 14, verse 23 that “Whatever is not from faith is sin.” (John Piper has an excellent sermon recorded on the website Desiring God on this very subject. I suggest you read it as soon as you’re able. It’s very compelling.) Paul is correct. When we’re not acting out of faith, we’re going to sin. When we trust ourselves to make “good” and “moral” decisions, we’re often caught in the throes of sin. Even the best of us make some pretty poor decisions sometimes. This grieves God, yet He’s not surprised by it.

Beth Moore has written a fabulous, life changing book entitled When Godly People Do Ungodly Things. In it, Moore discusses the spiritual battle behind our sin. I’ll admit I’m not yet finished with the book, as I’m reading it slowly and intentionally. I’m often so moved by her words that I find myself setting the book down and picking up my Bible to pair the passage with corresponding scripture. This has led to a deeper relationship with Christ and understanding of my own human nature. I’ve also come to understand the spiritual war behind sin and just how deceitful Satan is. God is so much more powerful, thankfully.

As I come to understand how Satan knocks us down and brings the seduction of sin to us, I find myself becoming more vigilant, more repentant, more eager to enter into deeper relationship with Christ. I want to trust Him more because I see, finally, how much more He has done for me than I could ever do for Him. I see the folly in trying to please a God that has given me everything I could ever and will ever need. He has already defeated Satan. He has already promised everlasting life. He has already promised victory over sin. I simply need to obey.

There is so little that I feel I can say on this subject because Christ has said and done it all. He came to earth as a little child to live among us and minister to us. He sacrificed His life for us. He conquered death for us. He rose to Heaven to sit at the right hand of the Father. He will come again to judge the living and the dead. I did none of these things. What more could I possibly say to persuade you or even myself to repent from sin and trust Christ with your life and your witness? He has done it. He has spoken. He was walked the walk to match the talk. I’m just working on it. Still.

Happy Holidays!

Happy Holidays, Brothers and Sisters!

Let me preface this by saying that if it were still pre-Christmas, I would have said “Merry Christmas” instead, but we’re less than a week away from New Year’s Eve and a short hop, skip and a jump away from Valentine’s Day. So Happy Holidays!

364 days
A little humor from yesterday’s Facebook postings. 🙂

December was a really fun month for us. We hosted a fundraiser for our church’s youth group. They’re looking to go to Orlando, FL for Y15 a Methodist youth conference in June of 2015. We raised over $100 which is great for our tiny community. We’ll have another fundraiser around February and another in April. I’m so blessed to have been able to help in any capacity. The kids are truly amazing.

Sunday School has had a slow start, but I keep remembering to be faithful in all things, especially the small things. This ministry will grow with time. One of my downfalls is to want to grow things too quickly, but then I become fearful of the changes and chicken out. God has been working on that with me, yet I keep hindering Him. This is not one of my better traits. I’m praying He will work that controlling, comfort-seeking side out of me soon.

15 weeks
15 week scan. Will find out gender on New Year’s Eve!

Baby “Jacksovelt” is 18 weeks along (19 weeks this Wednesday) and growing well. S/he had a heartbeat of 144 a few weeks ago at my last check-up. Could this be our first boy growing inside of me? We’ll find out on New Year’s Eve! My doctor was so gracious as to schedule my 20 week scan on New Year’s Eve and allow my entire family to be in the sonogram room when we find out the gender! What is so significant about this date for our family is that on New Year’s Eve four years ago, I had a devastating D&C to remove a deceased fetus (“Baby Dill”) from my uterus. I will never forget that day. I was incredibly distraught and in complete denial that the baby had actually died, even having seen proof. For a couple of years, I carried a heavy burden of guilt, believing I had actually consented to an abortion and murdered my precious baby because I wasn’t a good enough mother. I believed I was being punished by God for past sins. Our minds can play funny tricks on us, can’t it? God is so merciful and gracious. He has healed that part of me and has given us a joyful reason to celebrate this day henceforth.

18 Weeks
18 week baby bump! Almost half-way there!

Theresa had three very cute, very sweet class concerts this month. Her teacher (“Mr. Awesome”) has been a really great influence on her, channeling all of her extra energy into positive learning activities. These class concerts required Theresa (and her classmates) to memorize several long poems and detailed songs such as Clement C. Moore’s “The Night Before Christmas” and the classic Christmas carol, “The Twelve Days of Christmas”. Theresa played one of the two turtle doves and blew a kazoo when it was her turn to make bird noises. It was completely adorable and my Mama heart swelled with love and pride. All the children in the classroom worked hard and it showed!

Theresa's Christmas Concert 2014

Chelsea also had a Christmas concert in her classroom. She played the role of the partridge in the pear tree during the “Twelve Days of Christmas” carol. Her tweet tweet had the same effect on my Mama heart as Theresa’s kazoo playing. It was a beautiful sentiment to the season – time spent celebrating with friends and neighbors. Her teacher, “Mrs. Awesome” did a great job of organizing a group of wiggly, squirmy kindergarteners into a beautiful chorus of carolers. I was touched by the effort put into the concert by such young children. Their hard work was evident to all.

Chelsea's Christmas Concert 2014

On the last day of school for both girls, we sent homemade teacher gifts – a hand painted ornament from each girl and a handwritten card from me, expressing deep gratitude for the love and attention that the teachers have poured out onto not only my children, but their entire classroom of students. Both teachers bring out the best in their students and encourage them to strive for more than just the bare minimum. Theresa’s teacher reminds the students to value their education, be kind to others and to be peace makers within their community. Our community is going through a very rough time and tensions are high as crime rate rises and law enforcement coverage significantly decreases due to a lack of funds from taxpayers. Mr. Awesome is consistently reminding the kids to look on the bright side and strive for the best. We couldn’t have asked for a more wonderful teacher for Theresa.

As for Chelsea’s teacher, Mrs. Awesome has really brought our little Chelsea out of her shell. She’s making friends and joining play groups on the playground. I’d been concerned all summer long about her shyness, wondering how and if she’d fit in anywhere. I was afraid she’d hate school and want to come home since she has been so deeply attached to me since her birth. It turns out that I had nothing to worry about. She’s loving school and has made quite a few friends. Mrs. Awesome has a similar dedication to excellence as Mr. Awesome and is routinely encouraging the kids to strive for just a little higher achievement. I love that she doesn’t just let the kids sit in their comfort zone. That is so important, especially at their young age. Pushing past just a little at a time will benefit them in the long run. She’s been such a blessing to her classroom. It’s amazing to see how the kids have grown leaps and bounds in only a few short months.

Opening gifts
Christmas Eve Celebration with family.

And now, onto Christmas! Due to Anthony’s work schedule, we ended up celebrating Christmas on Christmas Eve this year so he could get some rest. Most of our family was able to celebrate with us. My mom, brother, mother-in-law, and father-in-law gathered together with us in our little apartment and we had a wonderful few hours together opening gifts, talking and eating a delicious roast beef dinner. Santa came sometime during the night, leaving the girls a 2-1/2 foot tall stuffed singing Rudolph and a gift for each girl. We had a quiet Christmas day with a small outing to the dog park for our beloved pug-mix, Rosie Grace. Titus Aaron, our cantankerous kitty stayed away from the festivities. He’s the Grinch in feline form. We love him anyway.

Theresa, Chelsea and Rudolph

We weren’t able to attend the Christmas Eve service at our church due to its timing. It’s near impossible for me to stay up past 6:00 pm unless someone pokes and prods me repeatedly. There was no way I was going to make it to 9:00 pm for the service, so we had our own version at home. I’ll admit that this hasn’t been the most spiritual Christmas we’ve ever had and I’m a bit disappointed in myself that I didn’t take more time with the girls to explain the magic and mystery behind Jesus’ birth. This is part of me loving comfort, remember? I’ve been incredibly uncomfortable with this pregnancy and I made too many excuses for myself. One of the great joys of God’s grace is that each new day is a chance to change past mistakes. We don’t have to wait until we get it perfect or until the timing is right. We can just pick up where we left off and make different choices as soon as we realized we’ve messed up. I’m doing just that and I encourage you to do this as well. Don’t linger in feelings of inadequacy. Kick it to the curb and move on. You can do better/differently. Life isn’t over. You’re still breathing, right?

So to conclude this little update, I do have some projects and blog post subjects I’ve been working on, but have been busy creating Sunday School content and prepping for the holidays. Also, I’ve been feeling inadequate to write about certain subject matters, assuming I have to know everything about a subject before I write about it. Again, wow. My controlling and comfort-loving side is rearing its ugly head! I’ve been a bit paralyzed by fear as well. What if I’m just not good enough to write about certain subjects? A big part of me remembers who I was a few years ago, and she was definitely not a great person. I wouldn’t listen to a word she said. But now…I’m not her anymore. Praise the Lord! He has done many good and wonderful works within me. I’ve been humbled, deeply and I love who He has created me to be. I learn to love myself a bit more every day, and by loving myself, I’m able to accept His love more as well.

Me
Proud Mama of two girls born into my arms, one on the way and many more born into Heaven.

I wish you all the very best blessings and hope you’re having a wonderful holiday season. Look for new blog posts up within the week. I’ll be sure to update everyone on Wednesday evening or Thursday morning in regards to the gender reveal. I can’t wait!

In Christ,

Mandy ❤

Victim and Survivor Shaming Must Stop

Victim and survivor shaming must stop. It’s imperative to the health and welfare of all victims past and current of any type of abuse, domestic, emotional, spiritual and sexual, for the shaming to stop immediately. We must be allowed to tell our stories. We must be allowed to tell them accurately and as honestly as possible. We must be allowed to tell them as often as we feel called to. We must be allowed to tell them in public, online, in books, in stories, in private and to friends and family. We must be allowed to be heard, whether our abuser is a celebrity, family member, friend or stranger. We must not be continually questioned as to the validity of our statements. Even when something is remembered only partway, there is a valid reason for that – the event was traumatic and as a result, the formations in our brains were changed dramatically. Our brains may not want to retain the information, so it attempts to lock it away in a deep dark corner, like stuffing something revolting into the bottom of the trash in order to dispose of it entirely. There is no way to completely dispose of trauma, except to heal from it and move forward. Otherwise, we are stuck in a never-ending cycle of running from it only to find we’re actually running in circles, gaining no actual ground. There is no road behind us except that which is well worn by our own souls – the same sights, smells, tastes, memories on repeat.

When we’re allowed to tell our stories, we take the power away from the event little by little. We effectively state that we are no longer stuck in the past but are actively moving towards a brighter future. We build in our community, hope. For each survivor that speaks out, another victim is listening, gaining strength to someday break free from their own hell and begin to tell their own story. The path to healing is paved by the bravery of the freed survivors – those who were not silenced by hatred and shaming but spoke up anyway. I will be one of those that help pave the road for the next generation. I will be one of the brave and you who hate what I have to say will not stop me. My God gives me strength and in Christ, all things are possible. I will speak up for those who are too weak to speak for themselves. I will inspire the next generation to stand up and tell their story. I will no longer sit in shame, but will look you in the eyes and tell you my story. I am no longer a victim, but a survivor. You cannot take that from me.

Over the years, I have been told that I should not give pearls to swine and that by telling my story openly, I am giving pearls to swine. I respectfully disagree. By keeping my story secret and protecting the identity of my abuser, I am giving pearls to swine. I choose to take my pearls back. My abuser was not only my step-father, but several of his friends as well. Most of the abuse occurred while my mother was out of the home, tending to work or to my severely handicapped sister, Melissa. My step-father was very manipulative and found many avenues for gaining control over me. It seems that one of his favorites was to nurture me. Often times he’d turn children’s shows on the television – shows like Disney on Ice that were meant to fascinate me and hold my attention. He’d then call me onto his lap and proceed to molest me, his hands between my legs and my hands often between his, at his insistence. If I rejected him, I’d often be punished severely. I remember being cornered in a narrow hallway on a few occasions, his leather belt in hand. I’d refused him. He didn’t care for that too much. I learned my lesson. The next time I focused on the television show and did not resist him. I pretended I was somewhere else and that it was not me who has touching him, but someone else. This is how I coped. This is also how the abuse was allowed to go on for so long. My memories were deeply repressed and this abusive behavior became a way of life for me, like waking up and eating breakfast before going off to school. It was habit and I was overpowered, my choices removed from me before I even realized I had a choice to make. I’d also refer to this as brain washing.

It would be better for them to be thrown into the sea with a millstone tied around their neck than to cause one of these little ones to stumble. Luke 17:2 (NIV)

I fully believe my step-father will answer to God for all of his sins against me. The Bible makes it clear that my step-father not only sinned against me, but against God Himself as well. That is a strong statement with lasting repercussions, and it’s one I believe whole-heartedly. If he doesn’t repent fully, I believe my step-father will burn in hell. I see him suffering now in his personal life with work, health, his continued marriage to my Mother, and his fractured relationships with family (his only son, my younger brother) and with friendships. There is a large part of me that finds satisfaction in his suffering, though I am aware that Christ is not pleased with my satisfaction. I pray daily for His Light to overcome the darkness in my heart. If Christ can forgive those who crucified Him, I too can forgive my abuser. I’m finding it’s a daily, if not hourly process. Each time I think I’ve fully forgiven him, my heart finds more bitterness and I lash out. It’s my intent to forgive but never forget.

Out of the pain of the past, it’s become difficult to trust others. In my own personal life, there are precious few who are allowed intimate glances into my daily life, and fewer still who are allowed to remain in my life for long periods of time. The time of abuse from my step-father and his friends has taught me to trust no one, and to keep no one around for long periods of time. Habits form when people are allowed to be near you. It gives people time to manipulate and brain wash you, therefore, relationships must be considered disposable in order to remain safe. This has been the most difficult thought process to overcome. I understand intellectually that it’s flawed and needs to be revised in order to live a full life, but it is one of the hardest for me to address on a consistent, daily basis. It is simply too painful. I will continue praying for Christ’s Light to overcome this darkness in my heart. Could you, reader, pray for me as well? This is a hard battle, and I’m not the only survivor walking it. This battle has threatened my marriage multiple times. I will not allow it to overtake me or my marriage, but I can’t do it alone. Neither can you. I continue seeking help.

Seeking help is another area I want to address in regards to victim and survivor shaming. Over the years, I’ve sought help from many different avenues. Some of them have been entirely appropriate – talk therapy, behavior modification counseling, psychiatry, Christian Bible-based counseling, support groups and prayer. Other avenues haven’t been nearly as successful, especially within friend groups, but they did often lead to other, more helpful solutions. I also gained a better understanding of who my true friends are, and who I am in Christ. The most painful avenues I took were speaking to close and personal friends, entrusting them with information, and then being told that I was too broken to formulate a lasting relationship with. I understand their point of view to an extent; however, the delivery was painful. We are all a broken people in one way or another. This is why we must live in community. We complete the beautiful picture that Christ has painted.

I’ve written many times on the struggles that I’ve overcome – homosexual tendencies, adultery, depression, suicide, addiction…these are nothing new within the sexual abuse survivor community. These are prevalent themes. They’re sins and they need to be addressed as such, but they’re also causes for deep concern. Why are these things happening to our youth? Why are so many survivors turning to harmful avenues as a way of healing from the pain of the past? I have a theory, but you probably won’t like it.
We’re being silenced, shamed, told to keep it quiet and move on, but we can’t. Our stories are banging on the walls, begging to be let out. We can’t move on until we can heal. We can’t do that until we can talk about it, explore the depths of what happened to us and be allowed to move on in our own time. I’ve been told by several professionals that for every year of trauma a survivor has endured, it takes an equal amount of years to heal from that. We can’t even begin to heal until we’ve been effectively heard.

In the news, we’re reading about celebrities abusing youth and we turn our heads and scoff at the victims and the abusers. We make jokes about it and quote famous lines from movies, TV and commercials. It becomes funny to us, but it’s deeply harmful to the victims. I’ve been on both sides of this, and it’s disgusting no matter where you stand.

Satan has twisted scripture for so long and has whispered lies into so many ears. He’s using sexual sins, among others, to rampantly overtake the world. He’s started with the innocent children, molding them into confused, scared little people who grow up to pray on the children they’re entrusted to protect. It’s a rabid hamster running around in the same wheel, in the same putrid cage, breeding and killing it’s own off-spring. We have to treat that rabid hamster, no matter how disgusting he really is on the inside. We have to do it without killing the off-spring and without silencing their cries for help. Each person needs their own space to heal, their own space to tell their stories and their own space to carve out a life for themselves. We cannot continue to group survivors in with the abusers, nor can we continue to ignore either’s cry for help. I know, this is a controversial statement, but it’s one that needs to be made. Perhaps if my step-father had received the help he desperately needed, he would not have abused me, my handicapped sister and my younger brother. Perhaps if we have been removed from the home, we could’ve healed sooner and more effectively. Perhaps if more victims and survivors’ voices were heard, there would be less abuse and more action towards ending it.

I do not propose that simply hearing our stories will end all abuses, but I do propose that it will end for us, the cycle of abuse and begin the path to effective healing. We need more success stories and more survivors to find their voices and call out for action. We need more bravery and less cowardice. Join me now in sharing your stories. Stop protecting your abuser. Speak out and speak up!

My simple prayer for you: May God bless you in your endeavors to tell your story and heal from the horrors of your past. In Christ’s Name. Amen.

Yes, Another Response to A Church vs. World Issue

This morning I was reading an article from the Independent Journal Review on what Millennials within the Church actually want from their church. To me, it was a pretty surprising article. I’d expected more radical responses, as that has always been my experience when dealing with Millennials within the Church. Our family has attended more than seven different denominations in the last six years, searching for a church that isn’t afraid to address the Truth and stand strong for Jesus, instead of running away at the first sight of trouble. We’ve finally found one that suffices, though I’m sad to say it’s congregants aren’t nearly as vocal as the Pastor. Most are lukewarm, waiting to hear words that will tickle their ears, rather than cause them to move into action. Loving one’s neighbor is never easy, and most of us would love to tune that message out, wouldn’t we? Sometimes though, God calls us to tough love, and I wish the Church would address that more instead of spouting endless scriptures about how “God is love.” He certainly is love, and that love takes many forms as it does in parenting, in marriage, in community relations and so forth. Sometimes God leaves us in our sin because we are unwilling to acknowledge it, despite being told that we are in fact, rolling around in the muck of it and are in danger of being left in it if we choose not to repent and turn from it. Romans 1:26-28 is a great reminder of that.

While I was reading the comments section of this article, I was disappointed to see so many people defending revisionism within the Church! Some asked if we should bring back stoning for homosexuals. This was my response, for which I am entirely unapologetic. I’ll leave you with it and ask, what would you have said?

Well, perhaps we should bring that back. I for one am disappointed to learn that at one time it was in fact illegal to be homosexual in the U.S and that law has been rescinded. I’d love to see it come back! But I wouldn’t want my Pastor to preach an entire sermon on how the government should deal with homosexuality. I’d prefer that He’d speak about God’s take on it and that God calls us to repentance for ALL sins. It’s a sin that desperately needs addressed within the church before too many fall away for eternity!

Rom. 1:26-28, “For this reason God gave them over to degrading passions; for their women exchanged the natural function for that which is unnatural, 27 and in the same way also the men abandoned the natural function of the woman and burned in their desire toward one another, men with men committing indecent acts and receiving in their own persons the due penalty of their error. 28 And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer, God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do those things which are not proper.”

If you refuse to turn from your sin, God WILL leave you to it and you will NOT enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Many “Christian” homosexuals will be surprised to find themselves burning in hell for eternity. Just as many “Christian” murderers, adulterers, pedophiles, liars, greedy “business” folks, etc. God has made it clear that He does NOT condone homosexuality, yet the church has softened the message in order to fill the seats. It IS possible to turn from that sin and recover, though it takes years of hard work and dedication. And it CAN and HAS been done without the use of harmful therapies. Simple prayer and Bible study has fallen wayside over the years and the miracles of Jesus and of faith have long been forgotten in lieu of trusting in man, which always leads us astray.