Tag Archives: christian

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.

Today Is A Gift!

Today is a gift

Brothers and Sisters, today I just wanted to remind you that today is a gift from the Lord! Whatever your worries, whatever your struggles, the Lord is aware of them. He has given you this day as a gift and wants you to deeply rest in Him, trusting in His providence and sovereignty. Take some time today to remember all the Lord has done for you and know that there is still so much yet to come.

Let’s Pray:

Heavenly Father, today I lift up to You all who feel burdened by heavy worries. I ask You to surround these brave souls with Your loving care. Place a hedge of protection around them. Surround them with Your people who will remind them to slow down and enjoy the preordained blessings of this beautiful day that You have created. In Christ’s Precious Name I pray. Amen.

Your sister in Christ,

Mandy 🙂

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.

Salt Water Taffy (Christian Living)

Have you ever felt like you’ve just come out one end of a trial just to be walking through another one? Right now, I feel like that. I know God is with me. I feel Him with me. I just don’t understand what it is that He’s doing right now. I hope He’s carrying me. I don’t feel like I have a whole lot left to give right now. In fact, I feel like a piece of salt water taffy in the making.

Are you familiar with the way salt water taffy is made? It’s a lot like the Christian life! First, the sugar, corn syrup and flavorings are mixed together. (We’re so sweet as babies and small children, aren’t we?) Then this mixture is heated up in a large copper kettle either on an open fire or on a large stove. (Trials! Tribulations! Everyone can see what we’re going through! We are tested. Will we scorch from the heat, or come out sweeter?) From there, the mixture is cooled on a large marble slab. (We’re blessed, allowed to rest, to settle our bones a bit.) Next, the taffy is stretched and pulled, repeatedly. The more it is stretched, the more of it there is to pull and stretch. It keeps multiplying. With careful consideration by the candy maker, the taffy will not break. It will produce more and more. (Doesn’t this just sound like Jesus walking with us, Brothers and Sisters? We’re tested, we’re stretched to what seems like our limits, but the Creator knows what He is doing. We become the salt of the earth! We can rest in Him. We will multiply and bless many from what originally seemed like a small yield!) Finally, the taffy is mixed with other flavors to create beautiful and tasty combinations before being placed in a machine that expertly cuts the taffy into pieces and wraps them for sale. (We leave this earth one by one and arrive in Heaven! New life!)

I watched the following YouTube video on making salt water taffy and it really hit home for me. I can see the parallel between the Christian life and the making of taffy. We do not have to fear the trials, Brothers and Sisters. Our Creator is with us. He knows what He is doing. When we are stretched, it is His hands that are doing the pulling and coaxing. He knows there is something better for us than what we have, what we are doing, and who we are right now in this moment. Will you join me in trusting Him this day, no matter how scary it may seem, Brothers and Sisters? We will not be left to scorch or to fall apart. We are being molded and stretched by expert hands.

Dear Jesus. Love me to do good. Love me to do no harm. Love me to stay in love with you. I borrow these words – this prayer from my Pastor, but they are also from You, God. You are always with us. In the moments when we do not know what to say or what to do, You provide the words and the wisdom that we need. When we feel we are being stretched too far, You carefully guide us along the way. We are burdened and hurting and we place our fears and our situations in Your hands, Father. We believe. Help our unbelief. Forgive our unbelief. Bless us, we pray. In Jesus’ Name. Amen. 
Matthew 6:26

Nest Full of Birds

Very recently, someone wrote a really scathing blog posting about me. This person is not only a Christian, but an ordained Pastor’s wife. Everything she said about me was true. As I read the blog posting, it was all I could do to sit upright and not fall over as if in deep, deep pain. What she wrote exposed me. It exposed the ugliest side of me. I’ve moved on and I’m no longer that woman, but in her eyes, I still was. She never saw past that. It hurt so deeply. It still hurts, being compared to Jenny from Forrest Gump, but…that’s who I was for a season in my life. I was a mess. A terrible, ugly, ragged mess.

I smiled anyway. I laughed anyway. I danced in the rain and I shot arrows at the moon, hoping to catch a star anyway.

Unlike Jenny from Forrest Gump, I was smart enough to marry the right guy. I was smart enough to find God before I sat in the Judgement seat. I was smart enough to look in the mirror.

But I wasn’t smart enough not to hurt people.

I understand completely why she wrote what she did, and I sincerely hope it edified other’s faith. I’m glad she learned something from our exchange. I’m glad I learned something! Something I’ve been learning to do lately is to find things about myself that I really like and then focus on developing those areas. I like that I have a teachable spirit, and I like that I’m strong and willing to challenge myself and reach out beyond my comfort zone. I’m learning Hmong (slowly) which is incredibly difficult and scary for me, but I’m doing it! (Check out my YouTube video here of my first words!) I’m doing it because my Pastor and his family are Hmong and I’m learning that there is a huge population here in Southern Oregon and California that are Hmong and are losing a bit of their culture, as they’re expected to (or perhaps even desire to) adapt to North American ways. They’re my Brothers and Sisters. I want to meet them where they are, not expect them to come to where I am.

Something else that I am learning is that it is very difficult to be a Christian. As time passes and I meet new people, have new experiences, I begin to understand the importance of Jesus’ telling us to love our neighbors as ourselves. It’s so easy to love ourselves more – to do things that benefit ourselves, rather than reach outside of our comfort zone. It’s easier to take care of four or five people, than to reach out and lend a hand to someone outside of our family. Reaching out may cause us to become burned. I’ve already been there, why would I subject myself to that again? Because we’re all birds, being raised up in the same nest, so to speak. We may sing a different song, but we are all from the same Father. He feeds us variations of the same food, but we are all fed each day without fail. We simply have to choose whether or not we will allow ourselves to be fed. I’ve found that it’s more fun to eat with friends than to eat alone. God help me, I never want to go back to eating alone again.

I’m not Jenny anymore. I don’t wear the same tattered dress, but make no mistake – I carry many scars. Scars I am proud of and will boast in Christ about. He sewed them up! He held me and carried me and changed me. He gave me Life, showed me the Truth, and lit the Way. He sent His people to scar me, to speak His Word, to hold me, to dine with me, to dance with me, to celebrate with me, and to cry with me. Each little bird He’s sent has sung a different tune, but they’re all beautiful and I’m glad to be in the same nest with them.

Internet Accountability

Can you post your entire internet browsing history online at this time? Can you post it to your Facebook, even if your Pastor, boss, parents, partner, kids and other family members are friends of yours? Can you say that you are honestly proud of the sites that you have visited recently? And finally, can you say that the sites you’ve visited lately have improved your quality of life in some way?

These are the hard questions we need to ask ourselves, no matter what age we are. If we feel the need to hide things, why? Are we ashamed of what we are doing? Do we not want someone to find out?

When I am under stress, I am tempted to go places and do things I should not do. I am tempted to spend money I do not have, and I am tempted to look at pictures and people I do not need to be associating with. To combat this, I’ve found that by giving my spouse access to every account I have, I am no longer tempted to do stupid things.

We all have sins and temptations that we struggle with. On a daily basis, I’m struggling with greed, gluttony and envy. I also struggle with discontentment and I become discouraged easily. I don’t have to live this way, and neither do you!

The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you can endure.

1 Corinthians 10:13 (NLT)

 

Browsing History
This is my browsing history for 2/3/14

 

God sees my struggles, and He sees yours, too. The most powerful scripture I have read lately is this:

For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.

1 Corinthians 1:18

The word of the cross is the power of God for those of us who are being saved. We are not alone. We are not fighting battles in our own strength.

Wherever you are, whatever battle you are fighting…God be with you. In Jesus’  Name. Amen.

28 Days Until Christmas: {Wisdom of} The Wise Men

Today, we celebrate the wisdom of the Wise Men (or Magi as some Bible translations refer to them). Yes, I know this is seemingly a bit out-of-order in light of the Christmas story, but please bear with me here. I do have a point to telling it out-of-order. 😉

This morning, I was inspired to talk about the Wise Men when Chelsea looked at a craft pack of crowns and asked if she could make those while Theresa worked on her school work. I had originally planned to do a Santa or snowman craft with them, but I was humbled  by this simple request to make a crown instead. A voice told me to go with it – to take a moment and pause, considering the weight of the season, and the true value it has for our family. In all the hustle and bustle of preserving the season, I had forgotten one very important thing – Jesus.

I could make excuses, but I won’t. It hit me that my private devotions are done away from the girls. I began to consider what  I actually share with them about Jesus apart from Sunday mornings and family prayers in the car, and at the meal table as we break bread, and I realized that  it just wasn’t enough. Not now, not when we are celebrating the birth of our Lord and Savior, Master and Creator. So I began to think about the Wise Men, search out their story, and consider their Wisdom in traveling thousands of miles to visit a tiny baby born in Bethlehem…

 

After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Wise Men from the east came to Jerusalem, and asked, “Where is the One who has been born King of Jews? We saw His star in the east and came to worship Him.”

When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. When he had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Christ was to be born. “In Bethlehem in Judea,” they replied, “for this is what the prophet has written: 

                   “’But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least    among the rulers of Judah; for out of you will come a ruler who will be the  shepherd of my people Israel.’” 

Then Herod called the Wise Men secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and make a careful search for the child. As soon as you find Him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship Him.”

After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen in the east went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. On coming to the house, they saw the child with His mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshipped Him. Then they opened their treasures and presented Him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.

Matthew 2:1-12 NIV

There are many aspects of this story that I’d never considered before. The Wise Men came to see a baby. A tiny baby. They came to see the God-child, born of a virgin. What a miracle! This affirms the fact that Jesus was born to save the world! He did not come simply for the Jews, but for all of man kind. Man kind who were so desperately in need of even just the hope of salvation, that they were willing to travel to worship at the feet of a tiny baby, in order to carry that seed of hope back to others in their homeland.

Take a moment and consider the weight of that thought right there. There was a time before people understood that God wanted to save man from himself, so they had tried in vain to earn their own salvation. Can you imagine the desperation of the people in that time in history?

There was immense wisdom in visiting the Christ child. They had proof that God had come to them in physical form. They had a real, tangible vision of hope to carry home. To the sick and down trodden, they had hope to give. To those rotting in their own sins, they had hope to give. God had come! God had heard their prayers! And not just the Jews, but the prayers of the world

There was never a time in the Gospel when Jesus’ story was not powerful and beautiful. There was a never time in His life when He was not duly loved and hated by the world and by His own people. We see Herod plotting to kill him in verse 16, if we read on in the story. Herod and his followers were disturbed by the mere mention of the Christ child’s birth in verse 3. No, for them a  Messiah could not come, for at that time, the Jews were expecting a mighty warrior to be raised up and avenge the Jews. After all, Jesus was in the line of David – the great and mighty war hero! Blood would be shed over the injustice done to the Jews, right? Herod would not lose his life. No, he would take one. And there the plot to kill Jesus begins.

I want to take a moment and pause here. I want us to consider this point, because I feel it’s a very crucial one to remember. People were hostile towards a tiny baby merely because of what He represented. Jesus had not yet done any miracles. He had not preached in the temple yet, He had not called anyone to Him through His own physical mouth (other than perhaps His mother, father, close family members, as a child does when He wants food, comfort, play). He was already sentenced to die – from birth.

The gifts of the Wise Men make sense now, don’t they? Gold, incense, myrrh. They knew Jesus had to die. They knew blood would be shed, but it would not be the blood of a people group necessarily, but of Jesus Himself. And at birth, Jesus’ posse of followers were formed. He was building an army, of sorts, without even having called anyone to Him through His own physical mouth. His Father in Heaven began weaving solutions into problems Jesus didn’t even know He had yet. The world began rallying behind this tiny baby – the Christ child, before He had uttered one word of hope to them.

That is the power of the Gospel. Life. Not words. Life.

As we enter into this Christmas season, I pray that our lives are lived like those of the Wise Men – that we would see the value in the Christ child and what He represents, taking more than just a snippet of  time to seek Him out and worship Him. I pray also that we would remember to carry the message of Hope to all in our path, through more than words – through the lives we live.

 

Chelsea and Mama  Theresa and Daddy