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?

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.

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Video

You Are Not Trash {Video}

 

Hi there! I’m Mandy from Nest Full of Birds. I just wanted to take some time to introduce myself and tell you a bit about Nest Full of Birds and why I’m writing what I write. Now, you’ll see on the blog that I write about some pretty bold, pretty risky things. I’ve really been through a lot in my life, and I’ve been blessed that God’s seen me through all of it. I feel a lot like Mary Magdalene, having been saved from 7 demons. I owe everything to God. God is my One True Father. I don’t have an earthly Father that I can turn to and for that matter; I really don’t have a mother either. God is it for me.

I was born into an abusive home and right away my mother had to flee from my biological father. He spent a lot of time in prison for drugs and just wasn’t a good person. I’m amazed that my siblings and I survived. It was a horrible situation. Then my step-dad just used me for trash. My whole childhood was rough. I’m a survivor of childhood rape and sexual abuse. Out of that stemmed a lot of issues with PTSD, anxiety, depression, suicide. I’ve had 4 suicide attempts – two before I turned 18. I died once, when I was 16, and I remember being so angry when I woke up. I truly wanted to die. But God wasn’t done with me yet and it took a long while, but I’m so glad He saved me.

I’ve struggled with homosexual tendencies. I made the choice to marry my husband, and I’m glad I did! We have two great kids and there’s no looking back for me. I truly fought a hard battle and am happily married to my husband, Anthony. As a result of the battle with homosexuality, I really struggled in the past with porn and alcoholism. I’ve struggled with self-worth. I’ve had a lot of people tell me what a sinner, what an awful, despicable person I am. The only thing they’re right about is that I am indeed a sinner, but fortunately, I’m saved by Grace. I’ve struggled hard with adultery and won that battle. All the glory goes to God for that one.

You know, I thought once I was married that all my troubles with my abusers were over. I was in a safe place, I wasn’t being abused anymore, but I just had no idea how to function in that kind of an environment. I didn’t know yet what to do with a good husband, a happy home and a quiet life, so I gunked it all up. I almost lost my marriage and my kids, but I turned to the Lord and I sought Him with everything I had. I wrestled hard for that blessing; I wasn’t going to stop until I got it. I knew I was made for more. Why else would God save me from so much?

I wasn’t made to be trash. I wasn’t made to be treated like trash and I certainly wasn’t made to be rolling in it, either.   And that’s a lot of what I’m writing about on Nest Full of Birds, because at the time I was going through all of this, I couldn’t yet see the bigger picture. I figured there was a light at the end of the tunnel, but since I couldn’t see it, I was getting really discouraged. It’s my mission here at Nest Full of Birds to really bring that message to you.

You’re not stuck in the place you’re in now. You’re not trash.

God has healed me from a lot. It’s because of Him that I’m here right now, talking to all of you.   God says in Jeremiah 1:5 that “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart.”

The King is enamored with your beauty and of you, He is well pleased.

You are not stuck in the place that you’re in right now. God will make a way out of whatever situation you’re in, whether it’s healing or deliverance. You can and should repent and be free from whatever is holding you back. God is ready to hear your prayers right now.

God has done this for me, and He can do this for you if you allow His power in your life. Philippians 4:13 says that “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Yes you can!

Allow God’s power to over take your lives, beloved Brothers and Sisters.

You are not trash.   So I’ll end here, summing up my story and the content of Nest Full of Birds with this scripture from Psalm 23, the Living Bible translation.

Because the Lord is my Shepherd, I have everything I need! He lets me rest in the meadow grass and leads me beside the quiet streams. He gives me new strength. He helps me do what honors him the most. Even when walking through the dark valley of death I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me, guarding, guiding all the way.  You provide delicious food for me in the presence of my enemies. You have welcomed me as your guest; blessings overflow! Your goodness and unfailing kindness shall be with me all of my life, and afterwards I will live with you forever in your home.

Psalm 51:7

A Lifetime of Regret If We Allow It {Weekly Scripture}

Read: Isaiah 12 

A common theme of my blog is growing and changing – pushing off from where I was to make a better future for myself and my family from what we’ve had in the past. Like many men and women from the Bible, I’ve made many grievous mistakes in this life, yet I seek the God who will rip the sin from my hands and feed me – truly feed me spiritual food and wash me clean.

Psalm 51:7

I could live a lifetime of regret, thinking about all the people I’ve hurt, all the opportunities wasted, all the messages I’ve failed to hear, but what would that really solve? I’m not advocating a hardened heart, but rather a repentant one. Repent, friends, and be free from all of that. Those moments are past, and there is little you can do to fix it sometimes. I’ve lost some truly wonderful friends due to my selfish and destructive behavior. Recently, I’ve wanted to reach out to them and apologize, to try to make things right, but I know it’s not possible. They are as gone from my life as my abuser and his wife. If there were ever to be reconciliation, it will have to come from God and God alone. No amount of meddling, regret, apologizing or pleading can make it otherwise. I’d lie and say I easily accept this, but what good would that do, Brothers and Sisters? It hurts to know I’ve foolishly thrown away a friendship, yet I know I can still pray for their success and joy in this life. I do not need to allow myself to marinate in regret, or open up old wounds for them. I can pray and move on, growing and changing as the Lord sees fit.

Thought for the week: You are never stuck in the place where you are right now. No matter how repugnant others say you are, you are God’s blessed, beloved son or daughter. You belong to the King and He will always come after you to save you, even from yourself. Call out to Him now.

Prayer: Dear Jesus, I need You in my life. I am lost, lonely, confused. I’ve made some poor choices in my life and I need Your help to grow and change beyond the person I am today. Give me the strength to fight this battle, the faith to know that You are with me, and the courage to keep going even when others say I should quit. I also need Wisdom and Peace that can come only from You. It’s in Your Holy and Precious Name I pray, Jesus. Amen.

 

 

The Struggle with PTSD

When I was a little girl and very scared of what was happening in the night, I would hide under my blankets, sure that they were some sort of super power that coated me, protecting me from the world. I remember feeling so hot that it was difficult to breathe, but still I stayed under those blankets, afraid to move. I was so sure that if I moved even an inch, I would die. I would cease to be who I was right then in that moment, and I could not lose who I was there in that moment, because it was all I knew. 

I know this must sound strange – very strange to some of you, but it’s true. I remember it vividly. I still have those thoughts sometimes. Let nothing change, because I will lose a part of me, and I don’t know who is coming next. I’m not schizophrenic, though it probably sounds that way. 🙂 I’m talking, of course, about fear – fear of being hurt, of being abused, of being somehow “found out” (that I’m not as perfect, happy, or together as I seem to be). I do not want to leave this moment because in this moment right now, I know exactly who I am, where I am going, and what is happening to me. I do not want to lose control of my body, my mind, my emotions, or my choices. Sometimes I do not want to be loved, cherished, or held. I do not want to be a friend, a sister, a wife or a mother at other times because that may alter who I am in this moment. I am living, stuck in fear and it drives me absolutely nuts inside because I know that this is not the life that Christ has called me to. This is the life that Christ died to save. And here I am, wallowing in mud like a pig in a sty. I am the prodigal son who has not yet learned that he should quit eating the slop and go home to his Father. 

There is a party waiting for me. Angels will sing and Christ Himself will rush out to meet me. But I am not yet ready to go. I don’t want to lose who I am in this moment. 

It’s not that I think I’m all that great – I don’t. If you ask me what my flaws are, I’ll give you at least a dozen examples before I’ll allow you to momentarily interject. All the while, I’ll be thinking, “oh my God…what if I forgot something? I’ll be found out. I didn’t clean the toilet this morning. Shit. I screw up everything. I’m so damn lazy.” And I will have missed everything you said. When you’re done talking, I’ll smile and thank you, through a tear stained face because somehow a very small part of what you said did get through – but not really. I’ll forget it soon and cover it all back up with the muck again. Fear always wins. Because I let it. 

It doesn’t feel that way sometimes though. I do feel Him – Jesus. I do feel Him talking to me, surrounding me, embracing me. I feel Him changing me, growing me, urging me onward and forward. I think I’m obeying Him, but I’m never quite good enough. He’s so lovely, that Jesus. 

And there it is – the ugly, ugly truth. Welcome to my brain. I want to smash these thoughts, destroy them, delete them, but I know I can’t. I shouldn’t. Because they’re not just my thoughts. It’s not just my ugliness on display here. No. This is not a cry for help, though I’m sure it looks like it. This is a reminder that you, the abuse survivor who is trying so hard to be strong – you are not alone in what you’re thinking. This is a reminder for the soldier fresh out of battle (or maybe you’ve been home awhile?) are not suffering alone. This is a reminder for hurting souls everywhere – these thoughts are thought by countless others and when you think absolutely no one else understands what you’re going through, remember this: That is a lie. I know. And I’m sure there are others out there who know, too.

This past month has been so hard. For those of you that aren’t aware, I have PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). (I’ll post a link at the bottom of the page, for those who want to know more about it.) PTSD comes with a whole host of issues and problems – flashbacks, anxiety, dreams, inability to cope with loud noises (so much fun dealing with that one, with little ones running about), irritability, anger, memory problems, and a whole host of other issues. This week alone, I’ve dealt with all those symptoms…and more. I’m tormented by the abuse from my past, and it’s almost as if I can never, ever, ever escape it. It’s happening all over again…except…it’s not. I’m not there anymore. No one is hurting me. I’m safe and I’m making my own, healthier decisions. I’m not a kid anymore who has to hide from the boogeyman, but yet – I’m still in hiding. I’m convinced he’s coming to steal something from me and I just cannot run fast enough to get away. I am fighting something completely invisible and non-existent at this point, but I will never stop fighting. 

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.

Ephesians 6:12 NIV

 

I remember some of those nights under my blankets in bed. I had one recently. There was absolutely no one else in my room and nothing was physically out of the ordinary. Anthony was downstairs on his laptop doing school work and the girls were sound asleep in their beds, with both pets shut in their room.  Of this I am completely sure. Yet, as I lay under my blankets, praying to God to heal me, I felt something sit on my bed. I felt a heavenly presence surrounding me. Something inside me was very, very scared, but I knew it was Jesus. I had called Him and He came. I closed my eyes, and I saw an image of my beloved sister, Melissa who passed away in 2003 very suddenly. I saw her comforting me and stroking my hair. She was whole and healthy and beautiful. I prayed and cried some more. I begged Jesus to leave because I was not worthy to have Him here. I was so scared He would take my life, sinner that I am. He did not. He breathed life into me. He breathed Truth into me. 

For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves,

Colossians 1:13

 

God reminded me that I am beautiful and that I am not trash, but the King’s treasure. I am not a dog to be abused, but the daughter of a King. What happened to me was not my fault. I had no choice in the matter. I was a child. My innocence was stolen, not by a man, but by a power of darkness that lurks in this world, tormenting what belongs to God. 

You are not alone, survivor of abuse, fighter of PTSD. You are not alone in your fear, in your fight or your compliance. You can stand up and kick that devil in the throat and shut him up. You can get mad. You should get mad. Very, very angry. And then do what a very wise man taught me to do today. Count backwards, breathing deeply as you go. And then you tell that devil that you belong to Jesus. This is not his space. Fear does not belong here. And then drop kick that sucker right to the floor and smash him. If you’re any good at visualization, you’ll know what I mean when I say it feels so good to hit Fear right where it hurts. 

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again – you have to fight this. You can’t give in to the Fear. You have to give this to God right when the devil tries to give it to you. You weren’t meant to walk this path alone, and you don’t have to. God has been reminding me that I am not alone, and this battle is not mine to fight alone. He’s been reminding me how special and amazing I am, and that He’s right here with me. When I struggle and feel like everything I am doing is wrong, He is right there reminding me that everything I’m doing is pretty right, actually, and He’s so glad I’m there talking to Him. Engage Love in a conversation and don’t allow Fear the chance to speak his mind. Even a whisper from Love can drown out the screams from Fear. It’s a reminder that I often need, and I’m sure you do sometimes too. 

A very controversial verse that Christ has placed on my heart is this: 

He said to His disciples, “It is inevitable that stumbling blocks come, but woe to him through whom they come! “It would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck and he were thrown into the sea, than that he would cause one of these little ones to stumble.

 

Luke 17:1-2 NIV

I know that it’s not my fault that I’m suffering right now. I know that Christ will win this battle for me. I just need to press into Him and trust Him. I am not the prodigal son who needs to come home, nor am I wallowing in the mud like a pig in its sty. I am a daughter of the King, who has been pushed, against her will, into the mud, and I am reaching up for my Father, for Christ the King, for God the Holy Spirit to come and save me. And He will. He always does. 

 

LINKS:

*PTSD: http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/post-traumatic-stress-disorder/basics/symptoms/con-20022540

**http://www.ptsd.va.gov/public/pages/symptoms_of_ptsd.asp

***http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/post-traumatic-stress-disorder-ptsd/index.shtml