Tag Archives: children

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.

 

 

Family

Why I Don’t Use Birth Control And Never Will Again

I, Mandy, boldly declare that I do not currently use birth control and I never will again. I’m about to tell you why, but first…a photo of my amazing family!

Family
Aren’t they cute?

This is a hot topic, isn’t it? Let’s all agree that no matter what our views are, we will discuss this topic in a respectful manner. I’m posting this based on my personal feelings after having researched this and considered for quite some time. I didn’t just get a wild hair and decided to make everyone mad. 😉

First of all, I want to say that in past, I have used both “the pill” and Paragard. I recommend neither for reasons that are both secular and faith-based. The pill I used was Seasonale. What this particular pill offers is birth control with regularly scheduled periods every three months. That’s nice if you hate periods, or, like me, you needed a jump-start to your periods because you hadn’t had one in four years. Yep. I started this pill long before I even became sexually active. I have a long, painful history of endometriosis and ovarian cysts that burst every four months or so, causing me a ton of pain.

Back to the pill. I took this pill for just under a year and then stopped. When I got married to Anthony, I decided I didn’t want to take birth control. To me, it felt irresponsible. When you have sex, you have to know that pregnancy is possible. If you don’t want to get pregnant, don’t have sex. I have always had a strong faith in God, and I wanted to let Him decide the size and timing of our family. It never felt right to prolong pregnancy for any reason. I will touch more on this in a moment, in addition to the downside of any birth control pill, even Seasonale.

Flash forward five years to 2011. I was healing from yet another miscarriage (I’ve had more than I can count on both hands) and I wasn’t dealing with it well emotionally. My husband was deployed again and I was raising our two girls alone in a weird town, surrounded by people I didn’t really know all that well. I felt pressured to stop having babies, and I wrongly succumbed to the pressure. I started a conversation with my doctor that lead to me making an appointment to get an IUD installed in my body. I chose Paragard at the advice of another friend. This device remained in me for two and a half years until I just could not take it anymore and I got the thing out of me. Seven months later, I got pregnant with Jackson. He is now about to turn a year old! Cue the cute baby picture…

Baby Saber
Jackson chose an advanced weapon from a more civilized time as his first toy weapon. That’s my boy!

All that having been said, I’m going to tell you now what issues I had with birth control and will always have with any and every form of birth control. They stop God’s blessings from coming. I do not believe that it’s ever okay to limit what God wants to do in my life. By taking birth control, I would be doing just that.

I am pro-life. This includes suicide, doctor assisted suicide the death penalty and abortion for any reason. It also includes birth control. I believe that life begins at conception and I have not seen evidence to support that it doesn’t. I am open to receiving actual scientific proof, but so far, it doesn’t exist. There is, however, scientific evidence that a flash of light occurs at conception. That is incredibly exciting! You can read the article HERE.

My biggest issue with “the pill” (all types of birth control pills”) is that they thin out the uterine lining, making the womb a very hostile place for fertilized eggs, and keeps them from implanting. Instead, they cause your body to eliminate the egg, fertilized or not. This means you can still conceive a child but thanks to the pill, it will not implant, so the fertilized egg – your baby – will be eliminated from your system. It will be aborted within a week of conception. It’s not a natural phenomena because your body hasn’t just randomly selected this life to end. It ended because your body has synthetic hormones inside that are making it a hostile environment for fragile new life. I’m not okay with that. In fact, I feel really sick to my stomach considering that fact. I was on the pill for a couple of months after getting married. I have had to really pray and ask for God’s forgiveness, knowing that I may have gotten pregnant sooner, had I not been on “the pill.” If you’re interested in reading more about birth control pills and what they do, please visit the links at the bottom of this blog posting.

What I’ve discovered about IUDs is not much better. They are inserted into your uterus and are supposed to prevent sperm from ever meeting an egg, however, they can still meet an egg and you can still conceive and abort a baby while having an IUD inserted, just like being on “the pill” and I am 100% not okay with that. One of the ten commandments directs us not to murder and I take that seriously. I don’t believe that passively murdering the unborn is acceptable in the Lord’s eyes.

All that having been said, I also understand that it’s quite the challenge to raise a large family in this day and age and that everything is really expensive, kids are a challenge and that money doesn’t go too far for most families. Yep. I totally get that! I also know that what is impossible for us to accomplish on our own, God makes possible through His people, through faith and through very hard work. I also know from personal experience that we do not need as much stuff or as many activities as we think we need. But that is a blog post and a discussion for another time entirely. 😉

What should you do if you’re currently on a form of birth control? That is for you to decide. You will need to talk about it with your doctor and make a decision that is right for you and that is in line with your own beliefs. If you’re a Christian, I encourage you to discuss this issue with your Pastor or another trusted member of your church leadership in order to gain more insight. Weigh this against God’s Word. I encourage you to seek out what the Bible says as well. Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal to you, through God’s Word what you are to know regarding this topic. Prayerfully ask God to make clear what He wants you to do. I am not going to tell you what to do or not do beyond that. It’s your body and this is your choice. I encourage you to educate yourself before making any decision. Whenever I’ve jumped into things without ruminating on them for a while, I’ve always regretted it. Don’t do or not do something because someone told you to.

Sterilization is something I’ve only recently heard discussed in faith communities and I don’t feel that for our family, it’s a good choice. I may change my mind later, but right now, my personal belief is that while it doesn’t even allow for any chance of conception, it still limits what God can do in your life. I don’t want to limit that. I want to do what God asks me to do, no matter what. Parenting is hard, but it sanctifies me. It blesses me. It sanctifies and blesses my husband. And it increases the number of God’s people on the earth. In the end, I believe it blesses God, too.

As I was editing this post before posting, I read it to Anthony in order to gain his insight. After all, he is a big part of our growing family! 😉 He said he agrees wholeheartedly. I’m not too surprised since this is a topic he and I have been discussing at length recently because…I have the baby fever again and we are hoping to conceive again, in God’s timing. Our family is not “done” yet.

Having said all that, I am very curious to know what your beliefs are on birth control. Do you believe it’s okay to use it? Do you believe God calls us to use it? What about sterilization? Do you feel that it’s okay to medically sterilize yourself in order to avoid pregnancy? What have been your experiences? Please share them respectfully in the comments below.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Helpful links:

http://www.webmd.com/sex/birth-control/birth-control-pills

http://www.pfli.org/faq_oc.html

http://www.hhs.gov/opa/reproductive-health/contraception/birth-control-pills/

http://www.rxlist.com/birth_control_pills-page2/drugs-condition.htm

http://americanpregnancy.org/?s=birth+control

http://www.acog.org/Search?Keyword=birth+control

http://www.drugs.com/seasonale.html

http://paragard.com/What-is-Paragard.aspx?&utm_source=google&utm_medium=cpc&utm_term=paragard&utm_campaign=Branded%207/15&utm_content=sVNUIk71A_pcrid_86316850505_pdv_c

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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 ❤

Jackson Henry Aaron is HERE! {Delayed Posting}

Hey all! Jackson Henry Aaron is here! He’s actually been here for the last six weeks, but I’m a bit slow on the uploading and I’ve been wrestling with whether or not to continue blogging at all, realizing that it’s going to require a whole lot more commitment on my part. I’ve gotten over that initial freak out and decided to try a 30 hour work week from home, especially since my husband’s work schedule has changed and he’s home more during the day now.

Anyway…back to the big, exciting news. Yes, I had a baby!

Baby Jackson
Jackson Henry Aaron – born May 20th at 08:39, weighing in at 8 lbs 2 oz and measuring 20.5 inches in length.

I had my third, medically necessary cesarean section. My husband, Anthony was there to document it for me.

I'm ready!
Here I am, ready to meet my little boy. This was taken just moments before the doctor began operating on me. I was fully awake for the entire ordeal.

Jackson and I both came out of the surgery a little messed up. He had some initial breathing difficulties which were quickly remedied, while I had some challenges with pain medication prior to the surgery and some endometriosis and old scar tissues removed during the surgery. I didn’t recover as quickly this time as I did in the past, but six weeks out – I’m finally feeling like a champ. Jackson is extremely healthy as well.

Little Sheriff
Our little guy just two days after birth. He’s a healthy, growing boy!

And of course, our girls are absolutely in love with their little brother.

Theresa, holding Jackson hours after he was born.
Theresa, holding Jackson hours after he was born.
Chelsea, burping Jackson just a couple of days ago. Jackson has grown like a weed in the past six weeks since his birth!
Chelsea, burping Jackson just a couple of days ago. Jackson has grown like a weed in the past six weeks since his birth!

While the birth experience wasn’t ideal, my son is so much more beautiful and amazing than I ever could’ve expected him to be. He is such a little gift from Heaven and I’m so blessed to be his mother.

How about you? Was your last birth experience what you expected? Did you experience a quick recovery or did you face some challenges? Share with us in the comments below (without getting too graphic, please).

Let’s pray: Lord, we thank You for the gift of children and of childbirth. Even when things do not go as we expected, we still receive the beautiful gifts that You have offered to us. Everything You give us is good. Thank You Lord. In Jesus’ Name. Amen. 

Bedtime Magic

Normally, Anthony is home at night to put the kids to bed, but last night his schedule changed and the bedtime routine was all mine. I posted on Facebook recently that my two favorite times of day are the morning walks to the girls’ school and bedtime. Both are times when Anthony and I are able to make a big impact on the girls in a small amount of time as both girls are eagerly receptive to what we have to say. (I’ll write a separate post about the morning walks soon!)

Anyway, back to bedtime. Last night as I was putting the kids to bed, I noticed a small toy train car under Theresa’s pillow. In the train car were two coins – a quarter and a penny. I asked her what that was all about and she told me that the coins were for the Tooth Fairy to give to other kids and the train car is a bed for the Tooth Fairy. She went on to tell me that her bedroom was open just a little bit so that the Tooth Fairy could get into her room. My Mama heart was swollen with love over this sweet gesture. I plan on writing this story down and putting the coins and the toy train car in a little box and putting it away until she’s older, then I’ll give it to her to open and rediscover the magic of her childhood and our special bedtime moments. This was just too cute and sweet not to share. I wonder what bedtime magic we’ll encounter tonight?

Imparting Wisdom Daily Into Our Children

Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm.

Proverbs 13:20 ESV

This is one lesson I truly want my children to understand when choosing friends. We have conversations with our girls every day about what happens at school, who they’re playing with, etc. We watch carefully who the parents are, what they’re up to in their personal life, and what types of kids the girls are hanging out with. Then we gently speak about the types of people we want them (our girls) to be. We remind them of this lesson and that the more they choose wisely, the more they’ll benefit from it and the more their choices can honor God not just today, but every day of their young lives.

One very simple way to remind the girls who God desires them to be, is to use our last name and say “A (insert last name) is…” and then we fill in with “kind, loving, wise, etc.” (Use your family values here, or quote from 1 Corinthians 13:4-7) We then remind them that we are a family that has chosen to follow God all the days of our lives, no matter what everyone else is doing. Sometimes we stand alone, just the four of us, and that’s okay.

We also speak to the girls about what type of man they should be looking for to marry. We speak specifically about certain qualities and what the family unit might look like – a loving set of parents/guardians, someone who loves God, attends church, is active in their community, respects other people on the playground (our girls are only 5 and 7, so we adjust to their age group to keep it relevant) etc.

These conversations take no more than about 10 minutes a day on our end and can happen over the course of the day. We let them come about organically as the girls share things with Anthony and I. If I’m the one they choose to share things with, I make sure Anthony has a chance later to respond to the big questions they’ve had. This way, they get both gender’s input and we work as a team, validating each other and solidifying our family unit’s value system. We’ve seen much fruit from our labors, which began at each of the girls’ births. (We whipped out our Bibles and read to them within the first few hours of birth and prayed over their little bodies that God would keep them in His hands all the days of their lives.)

I’m daily amazed at how God is working in our family, especially in our girls’ lives.

What I’ve learned through parenting  is that it’s not necessary to plant a whole tree in one day, or to even sit and watch that tree grow intently without ever looking away. Parenting is like planting a seed, watering it, nurturing it and caring for it over time. It grows slowly, may branch off into odd directions, and will definitely need pruning from time to time. When the tree is fully grown, if it’s been nurtured well, will be lush and tall and beautiful. Your community will be able to benefit from the fruits of the tree – from the fruit of your labor. Dear parents, you toil not in vain. You plant seeds not in vain. You – community of Believers are planting an entire beautiful forest. Toil on! One day we will all benefit from the fruit of our labors.

Let’s Pray: Dear Jesus, thank You for the gift of a new day. Thank You for the blessing of our beautiful children. Even when we are tired, discouraged or feeling overwhelmed, help us to plant seeds of wisdom, hope and love in our children. Help us to teach them to love You, love their neighbor and to respect themselves and their community. In Jesus’ Name. 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.

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.

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?