Tag Archives: change

Both girls yelling in RV doorway

When God Asks YouTo Do Something Incredibly Brave {Part 2}

Hopefully by now, you’ve read part 1 and know that we’re in the process of moving our family of five plus one dog into an RV to live in full-time. I have a little update for you – we’ve purchased the RV and are in the process of fixing it up as we clean out our rental house. This weekend, we’ll be selling just about everything we own and packing the rest into our little tiny house. We will be moving into it full-time in about ten days or less!

Our RV is a late 80’s model with only 53,000 miles on it. “Georgie Boy” has had just one owner in his lifetime. (Yes, I name all our vehicles). He’s been well kept. We paid far less than $10,000 for our new home and are hoping it was a good investment. We’ll see!

Both girls yelling in RV doorway
Welcome to our new home!

We are painting the cabinets white, the walls a light yellow and will recover all of the fabrics. The carpet is pretty new, so we’ll steam clean what little of that there is.

Girls and beds
Chelsea is pointing to what will be her bed – the pull out couch. Theresa is pointing to her bed, a pull down bunk.

We will be putting the curtains back up soon. I pulled them out to wash them. They’re a warm sandy color and we’ll be keeping them for now. I will likely tie dye them this coming spring because I hail from a hippy and it got into my blood. 😉

RV kitchen
This is the sum of my new kitchen. What adventures will we cook up in here?

We do plan to paint the counter tops and make them look like faux granite counter tops. Also, not shown is the refrigerator/freezer. We will be painting the outsides in chalkboard paint to create a fun family message center. Because I need all three kids underfoot when I cook on that tiny three burner stove. I really do. 😉

Tiny bathroom
Five people, one bathroom. Madness. Or as Chelsea put it – “Poopin’ on a plane”

I’m not real keen on the towel racks either and will eventually be replacing those with something more fun and whimsical. Stay tuned for that!

View front to back
View from living room/girls sleeping space to kitchen, bathroom and “master bedroom” area

That kitchen faucet has totally got to go! Anthony has his eye on one, so we’ll save up to replace it.

Chelsea wave
See you soon with more updates! 🙂

Stay tuned for more updates! There’s a lot happening!

Peace Be the Journey,

Mandy ❤

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?

We Have To Talk About It (Bill Cosby and Other Sexual Predators)

This morning, I woke up to see the above video hanging out in my subscription news feed. I’ve been following the Bill Cosby rape allegations somewhat, with a keen interest in the outcome. Quite frankly, I’m convinced he’s guilty. Looking at the legal process he’s chosen to take and the amount of back peddling he’s done, it appears to be an open and shut case. I do believe that false allegations of sexual abuse happen daily from vindictive and angry people, but I don’t believe this is one of those cases especially given the bigger picture here. None of these women can try him in court. All are claiming the abuse happened during a time when the legal system was even more deeply flawed than it is now, and female victims weren’t even properly heard by law enforcement. Men won out in nearly every case. Now the media’s open to discussing sex abuse and I have to admit, I’m very pleased by this.

I understand this is an unpopular and uncomfortable topic, but it’s been kept under wraps for so long because it is uncomfortable to discuss rape, molestation, sexual abuse. It’s severely damaged victims, survivors and the legal processes, allowing for convictions against abusers.

We have to talk about this and look at it. We can’t keep our heads in the sand any longer. Doing so is harming both victims and survivors of sexual abuse.

I feel called to talk about this issue and put it out there a lot to you, Brothers and Sisters. I don’t care what the implications are towards me. I’m not a weak person. I’ve survived a lot. I want the laws to change. I grieve for these women who are finally able to speak out and be believed. I’m so lucky that at age 10, I was believed by law enforcement and action was taken; however, on the flip side of being believed, in Curry County, my abuser received little more than a rap on the wrist at the time. My step-father raped my handicapped sister, molested my younger brother and sexually abused me for more than 6 years and only received 90 days in the Curry County Jail and was released daily for work! If that’s not a lack of justice served, I don’t know what is! He was allowed to come back into the home 4 years later, legally. He still denies raping my sister, and attempts to minimize the amount of abuse he’s inflicted upon me. I seriously doubt that we were the only three children he ever victimized.

We as a society can no longer deny the lasting, life long impact of sexual abuse, whether the victim is a child or an adult. We can no longer silence or shame victims. The ability of the media to inform the masses about uncomfortable, yet poignant topics like sexual abuse has done nothing but good for victims. It’s empowered us to seek the help we desperately need – and I do use the term “we” because we are a community. We understand each other to an extent, on a level deeper than non-victims ever will be able to. Thus, we need to stand strong together and lift one another up, whether the abuse is fresh or decades old. This is the only way I believe change will happen.

To the 15 women (or more at the time you’re reading this) who have stood tall and spoken up about the abuse inflicted upon you by Bill Cosby, I salute you, brave Soldiers of Justice. March on. I’m right there with you!

To all the victims of sexual abuse, past, present (and unfortunately, future) – I’m right there with you as well. Let me know how I can help. I’ll certainly be lifting you up in prayer. Remember: the abuse was not your fault! You did not “ask” for it. 

Let’s pray: God we lift up to you all victims of abuse. We ask for Your comfort and Your healing. We ask for Justice to be served and for You to surround victims and survivors with Your loving care. The world can be so cruel, but we trust in You to provide solace and rest to each of us. In Jesus’ Name we pray. Amen.

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.

What is the Biggest Problem in the World Today?

So for this week’s scripture, (and yes, I’m aware I missed it last week! I’m sorry!) I want to discuss the question “What is the biggest problem in the world today?” I googled that question and came up with more answers than I could shake a stick at, but really, for me, the answer is quite simple. Please, sit back with a cup of tea and enjoy!

 

Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.

-Ephesians 4:30-32 (ESV)

Be Bold! Live into who you were created to be!

Speak Life {Become as Little Children}

This morning “it” hit me. As a baptized Christian, the Holy Spirit is within me. I have been given a great responsibility and I have squandered it. Like a cockroach wandering around an empty apartment, I’ve been searching for sustenance, but it’s been there in front of me all along.

I own at least seven different Bibles, all varying translations. I own Bible study guides, daily reading guides, “shortcut through the Gospels” guides – I have everything I need and more to make changes to my life right now, today. There is absolutely no reason to wait one more minute before speaking Life. So what is the problem?

The problem is that I’ve allowed stuff to get in the way and I’ve looked around me at what is different from everyone else, and I’ve used that as an excuse to remain dormant in some areas of my life. Avoiding change doesn’t postpone the inevitable. It only invites ruin and rot to overcome our lives.

Consider a room in your home, perhaps the living room – what would happen if you never cleaned that room, even though it was used by every member of your family daily?  You sit on the furniture, watch television, drink a refreshing glass of water, read the newspaper, pet the dog or cat, play board games with the children, conduct science experiments on the coffee table, store magazines and reading material in there – you know, daily living kind of stuff. If you never clean up or conduct routine maintenance, that room is going to develop a mighty terrible stench. Dirty dishes and food items will attract pests, the pet hair will build up, the magazines and newspapers will overtake the space – it will be cluttered and unusable for a time and will no longer be a blessing to you, your family or anyone who passes by it. It will be a room you will be ashamed to call your own.

Our hearts can be a bit like that from time to time and so can our thoughts and our actions. Sometimes we get so busy living and playing and moving around that we forget to stop and take stock of our minds, bodies, and spiritual lives. We allow sin, frustrations, hurt, anger, selfishness and greed to build up into an unholy stench that causes others to walk away from us. We hurt others with our inconsistencies and unwillingness to clean up our own side of the street, so to speak. Sometimes we can become so busy looking at everyone else’s living rooms, that we overlook our own. Before we know it, we’re that cockroach running around a room looking for sustenance, but there is none. The room is empty, because we’ve not allowed Jesus to fill it up. If we do find the one mirror in the room, when we look at ourselves, we have no recollection of who that person in the mirror even is. We’ve forgotten that we’re made to be good and do good and to love others. Instead, we’ve allowed ourselves to morph into something despicable and unrecognizable, even to our own self.

It doesn’t have to be this way. It was never meant to be this way. We were made in God’s image and we were made to be good. God has given a choice, some parameters and guidelines and it’s up to us to choose to follow that. Jesus has already called us to Him. Look around, He’s already at work in your life. No matter where you are, (or where I am!) God has already sent His people into your life. He’s already equipped you with some things to continue the good work He’s begun in you. He has no intention of leaving you where He found you. That is why these people and these tools are in your life right now. God loves you. Is the feeling mutual?

Then he said, “I tell you the truth, unless you turn from your sins and become like little children, you will never get into the Kingdom of Heaven.

Matthew 18:3 (NLT)

Be Bold! Live into who you were created to be!
Be Bold! Live into who you were created to be.

Children are by nature sweet, innocent, loving, kind, helpful, inquisitive, vulnerable, trusting, gentle, curious, and are little sponges, soaking everything up. Children love everyone, even abusive parents, homeless, people of all colors, shapes and sizes. Children look at the world and see wonder and excitement. When someone teaches them, they’re eager to learn and to imitate those actions, thoughts, and words. They want to make the sick feel better and comfort the lame. They don’t understand why something is unattainable. To them, everything is possible, especially peace and restoration in the face of ruin. All people should eat, have a safe place to sleep and have someone to love them. Children understand this, and yet it’s something that we forget as we grow older and busier and more consumed with stuff. We move further away from a pure, all-consuming, trusting faith, and begin looking at our Savior as though He is forcing us to join Him up there on the cross to be beaten, ridiculed, and murdered. He’s not.

The price has already been paid. We’ve already been given what we need to get started making changes in our lives today. We have an Advocate who has fought the enemy and won. We have the power to choose Life now, today. The question is, can we humble ourselves and become like little children in order to grasp that power? Or will we deny it, and live into our selfish desires?

The Simple Truth {100 Words or Less}

There is absolutely nothing we can do to change others no matter how much we love them and pray for them. People will only change when they recognize a personal need for it.

You can (and should) walk away from any person, conversation or situation that does not honor Christ without ruining your life or looking back with regret. Don’t believe the people that tell you otherwise.

Living into God’s will is easier than trying to live for yourself. When you’re living as a fool, no one has your back for very long, but God will always take you back.

 

 

military life

Grateful for: A Strong Marriage

May 6, 2006 4pm
May 6, 2006 4:00 PM at St. Timothy’s Episcopal Church

There are so many wonderful people in my life and the one I am most grateful for is my husband, Anthony. He’s been such a pillar of support, love and encouragement for me through all of life’s challenges. When I am least expecting it, he opens his heart and does something so kind and wonderful it renders me speechless. (I know…a big feat for sure, huh?)

As we approach the holidays and life gets a little more hectic, I want to take time to make sure my husband really knows how much I love him. Right now, he’s still establishing himself at a new job and for the past several months he’s had the added hardship of not having any Sundays off to worship corporately with us. We just found out last night that he’ll be working swing shift on Christmas Eve, making it impossible for him to attend a Christmas Eve service – something our family truly values and treasures. My heart broke for him when I heard that. It will be another month or two before he can even have the possibility of a Sunday off from work. I can already see the effects that this change has had on him, and I have been praying mightily for him.

First day on the new job
First day on the new job!

Anthony is a wonderful man and we’ve made so many wonderful memories together. As I pray for his needs to be fulfilled and met, I also am reminded to thank God for both the easy and the hard times we’ve had. Recently I rediscovered our wedding announcement that we’d clipped from the local paper seven years ago when it was published.

wedding announcement

How fun! So many changes have occurred since then. We are the same people, yet so different now.

 I’m grateful for the heartbreak of military life. It was tough to see any value in it during the six years he was enlisted, but there was a lot of growth in me and in us as a couple! I am stronger, he is stronger, we understand each better and we have learned to set limits and place each other first, behind God.

We learned the value of our marriage by not

always being able to be close to one another.

He was deployed 6-9 months of every year for the entire 6 years he was enlisted. We were only married for three months when he shipped out to boot camp. The day he hopped on the plane to fly to boot camp in Chicago, IL was the day I miscarried our twins during my first of 16+ pregnancies (we have two children to hold, 14+ in heaven).

military life
Anthony and I on board the USS FORD (FFG 54) shortly after it returned home from a long deployment. Anthony served as an Engineman on this ship for the entire 6 year enlistment (6 years enlisted, 2 years inactive ready reserve), finally being honorably discharged as a Petty Officer second class in August 2012.

Military life felt like death, but any time at all with Anthony felt like LIFE! And it still does.

happy together!
Happy Together

I am so grateful for my husband who is my best friend, lover, biggest supporter and a wonderful father to our two beautiful daughters. And I am most grateful that through all the heartache, challenges and pain…our marriage has not only survived, but grown and thrived!

We are back!
How fun! Back in the church we were married in, this time with our two beautiful daughters in tow.

A BIG thank you to angels everywhere who prayed for us, watched our kids when I was falling apart during long deployments, and who held us in their thoughts, prayers, arms and homes. I know many times it wasn’t easy, but wow – has it made a HUGE difference in our lives!

THANK YOU! 

And so now I turn the focus back to you, dear readers – who in your life are you most thankful for? Who is the person who has stood by you through thick and thin? What can you do this holiday season to stay close to them and thank them for all they’ve done for you? How can we be praying for this wonderful person in your life? Leave your answers in the comments below.

hugs and love from,

Mandy