Trapped

Today begins my third week of isolation due to COVID-19.  My work took early precautions and asked all of our office staff to work from home.  By the end of the first week, our governor was asking everyone to do the same thing.  It is strange being so isolated from other people.  Even us introverts long for some level of interaction with other people – just in small, controlled quantities.  Though, I am very fortunate that I can keep working, for now, unlike so many other people who are unable to work.  State after state is beginning to mandate their residents to stay home.  For most of us, this is not a terrible situation.  We can video chat with our friends and families.  And for those of us with children and/or pets, we are finding more quality time with them.  My concern is for the people who are now trapped in a horrible situation with no safe place for escape.

When my family moved to West Virginia when I was a child, we were extremely isolated.  We were so far back into the woods that there was barely a road.  The only time we left our land was for work, school, and grocery shopping.  These were usually bundled together since it was a trip to go anywhere.  Very rarely, we would visit a neighbor (the closest neighbor was probably about a half mile away).  School was my only escape from the loneliness and quarreling.  Then my parents decided I should be homeschooled.  This is following the spring that the sexual abuse began, again.  Without school, I had no place to escape – I was trapped.  My mom was working at the hospital and volunteering as an EMT so she wasn’t home very much.  It was horrible.

My only saving grace in the situation was that I was very good at math.  You might be wondering how being good at math would have anything to do with this or even be helpful.  Well, the homeschooling fell to my father (and what a joke that was).  He dropped out of school early.  As a seventh grader, I already knew more math than he did.  I was able to use that to end the homeschooling and return to school after the Christmas break.  My time of complete isolation lasted for seven months.

If you are currently isolated in a horrible situation, please know that it will not last forever.  The voices in your head saying “it will always be like this” are from an evil place.  Don’t believe them!  On this earth, forever is not real.  Everything has a beginning and an end.  Please don’t give up on yourself.  You may be in a terrible place now, yet cling to the hope of what is beyond it.  Focus on your future.  The church is an excellent place to find hope.  In today’s isolation, so many churches have started offering online services.  This makes it easy for you to try out many different churches.  You don’t need a ride there.  You don’t have to worry about talking to people you don’t know.  You don’t have to worry about fitting in.  And many of the services are recorded too so you can decide when to watch the service.  You don’t have to try to make Sunday morning work.  All church congregations are a little different.  Keep trying different ones until you find one that suits you.  

The point of this is to encourage you to find a source of hope.  Jesus became my hope and my Savior.  He wants to save everyone and give us a better life.  May He become your hope and Savior too.

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.”  John 3:16-17 ESV

“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.”  Jeremiah 29:11 ESV

 

https://www.bible.com/59/jhn.3.16-17.esv
https://www.bible.com/59/jer.29.11.esv

Rescue

As a child, I felt isolated and alone.  To me, there were no visible signs of hope – no one to rescue me from my situation and my distress.  It wasn’t until I was much older that I realized I was never alone – not really.  I was just blind to my help.  And my natural state and free will (which, as a child, I wasn’t even aware of) kept me separated from my one source of hope.  Who was there to open my eyes so I could see?  Who was sent to help me?  Who came forward with a message of hope?  Hidden away in the deep woods of Appalachia, there weren’t many who could come or would be able to find me.

“For ‘everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’
How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed?
And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard?
And how are they to hear without someone preaching?
And how are they to preach unless they are sent?
As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!””
Romans 10:15 ESV

There were arguments between my parents that brought up the name, Jesus.  By my father’s attempt to drive Jesus out of my mother’s life, he introduced Jesus to mine.  And every year, like clock work, my great grandmother would send me a birthday card with a track.  “What is this?” I remember asking my mother.  It was another introduction, and my eyes were slowly opening to the presence of another – unseen – the one who could truly save me. The one who could save me not just from my situation but also walk me through the healing of the scars I would carry.  The one who would save me from a life of shame and give me a life of blessing and purpose.  The one who would show me grace and teach me to love as He loves. 

He was always there even in my darkest days.  And because of His great love for me, He sent messages to me through people and highlighted the work of His great hands in the world around me so that I could find Him.  What messages is He sending you?  Do you hear?  Can you see?

His great army fights all around us, in the heavenly realms, to save us.  And He uses people – those who love us and sometimes even those who don’t – to reach out to us.  

He hears our cries to Him!  Do you need rescued?  Cry out to the only One that saves.  He is waiting for you with open arms.

Precious

There have been many dark days in my life.  I understand the pain of betrayal.  I have lived where no child should have to live without some basic needs.  I know the fear of being on the wrong end of a gun.  I have been verbally, emotionally and physically beaten down.  

Yet, I now know I was never alone.  I could have been brought to an utter end but was not.  And this was before I knew Jesus.  Now that I know Him, He shows me his love for me over and over again.  And I have a new perspective looking back on those dark days.  Jesus has proven Himself faithful to me over and over again.  He has blessed my life.  Each day, He helps me to move closer to wholeness through Him.  There are no words to express my love and gratitude to Jesus for the peace and hope He has lavished on me.  

Why would He do this for me?  Because He loves me, and I am His.  I am precious in His eyes.

“Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior…you are precious in my eyes, and honored, and I love you”        

Isaiah 43:1-4 ESV

Oceans

As a pre-teen, I was so overwhelmed by the pain and betrayal in my life that I was at the point of committing suicide. I was drowning in an emotional ocean of despair and hopelessness with no one to turn to for help. I didn’t want to die, but I couldn’t bear to keep living either. In a moment of desperation, I called out to Jesus for help. And amazingly, He responded. An unexplainable sense of peace descended on me in such a powerful and tangible way that I looked over my shoulder to see who had wrapped their arms around me. No one was there. And though I didn’t realize it then, I took my first step of faith that night by handing my situation over to Jesus and going to sleep. If I had not, I would not be here to tell my story.

He did not fail me. And while my story of healing spans decades, He has never left my side. With each new ocean, He is always there.

Matthew 14:22-33

Out of the Blue

Are you ever going through your day feeling fine when, it seems like out of the blue, your mood takes a dive? As if suddenly, the joy has been sucked out of your day. For us ladies, it could be a simple hormone flux. It could be someone greeted your smile with a frown, or hearing something sad on the news. Other than the hormones, it is usually easy to recognize the cause of the cloud hanging over your head.

For those of us with traumatic past experiences, it could have been an emotional trigger. What do I mean by a trigger? A trigger is something that draws out our emotions from a past experience. It could be a song on the radio, a ticking clock, a phrase, or something as ridiculous as the smell of Lipton’s noodle soup. Our brains are amazing. When a memory is created, all of the information of that moment is stored away whether we know it or not. Not just words spoken or physical sensations, but also, the sounds, smells and even lighting. It is actually quite incredible and can be wonderful when connected with a good memory. Unfortunately, when the memory is connected to something traumatic, it can send your emotions whirling.

The first step in overcoming the effects of triggers is to become aware of and understanding your own particular triggers. For me, several of my triggers were always very obvious to me even though I didn’t really understand what was happening. It took me years to be able to be in a room with a ticking clock without getting the tremors and feeling an overwhelming urge to run away. It was completely unsettling. To be clear, they were not excessive tremors. I doubt anyone else noticed. Though, they probably noticed me withdrawal and just felt it was part of my quiet nature.

My initial coping mechanism was to not have any clocks that ticked. That was easy. Unfortunately, when I married, my husband’s grandparents’ house was filled with clocks. I mean walls covered with clocks. In the living room, there were an overwhelming amount of out of sync ticking sounds and gongs. I loved my grandparents-in-law, but being in their house just wore on my nerves. My husband loved the clocks and started to add clocks to our house. I also had a private no Lipton soup rule (private meaning, I never told anyone else). When my daughter was young, she would stay with my mom when she wasn’t feeling well. Mom gave her Lipton’s soup. Of course, after that, whenever my daughter didn’t feel well she would ask for soup. And not just any soup, it had to be Lipton. Sigh. So, I would make her the soup.

A really awesome thing happened over time. My old memories started to be replaced with new memories. When hearing a clock, I was no longer pulled back into my childhood. Instead, I see the smiling faces of my husband and his grandparents. And now, when I smell Lipton’s soup, I remember my daughter as a little girl and the joys of motherhood.

I know there are still some triggers out there that have not been beautifully replaced like the clocks and the soup. However, I realize they are out there. When I feel my mood shift, I try to refocus on reality – to ground myself and not get sucked into darkness. This doesn’t always work. Sometimes the sorrow is overpowering. In these moments, I pray, listen to worship music, and seek out my husband for comfort. It may take a little a while, but Jesus always meets me when I need him.

The Reflection in the Mirror

For too many years, I focused on the negative and broken parts of myself. I bought into all of the lies ever said about me: you are ugly, you are trash, you have no value. And I believed the unspoken voices that I was unloved, unworthy of protection, and that women are just for sex. I hated myself. I hid in corners in social settings. I hid from cameras. I even hid in clothes that were way too big for me. And these were baked in beliefs and reactions, not conscious. It was just who I was. And without even knowing it, I was carrying on my own abuse.

It wasn’t until I was in my thirties that I got a glimpse of my own destructive behaviors. It happened sort of like a two-by-four to the back of the head. Sometimes, we really need to feel it for our wake up calls to move us into action. Each year my church would create a space for spiritual reflection along with a book of readings and questions to help guide you through the process. My favorite spaces were those filled with plants and bubbling fountains. There were others with images of the cross to help us start to grasp what Jesus really did for us. Those were always tough spaces. This particular year, the tough one for me though only contained a chair and a mirror. The guide simply instructed me to look at my reflection, and thank God for creating me. It broke me. I couldn’t bear to look at myself. And I certainly couldn’t thank God for making me. Instead of responding with a grateful heart, I was filled with anger. Why did He create me? The weight of my self-loathing crushed my spirit and brought me to tears.

Now here comes the two-by-four. Several days later, my friend at church asked me if I enjoyed the spiritual spaces. I shared my dislike for the mirrored room, and how I couldn’t even look at myself. What I expected from her was an “I get that.” Her reaction caught me totally off guard. “Who are you to insult God’s handiwork? You were made exactly as He intended you to be.” Inside, my emotions swirled from disbelief to anger to reflection. Her words rocked my world. I had never thought of myself as God’s work of art. That He had planned for me to be a certain way. After all, I was no one special, right? But God doesn’t make garbage?

Others may consider my friend’s words to be harsh, but they were exactly what I needed to hear. Her words started me on a new path of seeing myself through God’s eyes. And while life tore the edges of my canvas and slashed scars through me, I was still His masterpiece. And the more time I spend getting to know Jesus through prayer, reading my Bible, and listening to worship music, the more He restores me. He is taking my tattered form and revealing someone beautiful.

Don’t Lose Hope

This year a young friend of mine took his own life.  He did so because he was so grieved and overwhelmed by mistakes from his past and pain from his childhood.  It breaks my heart that someone so young should have so much pain and no hope.  Having experienced a similar hopelessness as a child, I understand what he was going through and his choice.  I just wish I could have shared with him that there was hope for him and that healing and relief from his pain and past was possible.

No one is too far gone to be saved.  At one time, I thought I was unable to be saved – that I would always have to live with pain and a broken soul.  One verse that really gave me hope is in Isaiah.

“Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old.  Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?  I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.” Isaiah 43:18-19 ESV

If God can make rivers in a desert, surely He can restore life in me as well.  I do not have to be a slave to my past or continue to live in the pain of my past.  Look!  He is making me a new creation.  The more I believed this and trusted Him to restore me; the more healing and peace I found.  Today, I am not the same person I was 30 years ago, and I am truly blessed.

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.  The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.  All of this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to Himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them”  2 Corinthians 5:17-19 ESV

You are never too far gone.  You are loved more than you can possibly even understand.  And there is always hope if you are willing to reach out to Jesus.

Why Me?

All of us will at some point have an experience that causes us to question God. In fact, life may be filled with one challenge after another. We could lose a spouse, be raised in an abusive home, have an abusive spouse, have a chronic or terminal disease, lose a child. The list of horrible things that can happen to us goes on and on. So the question that comes up is “why would God allow this to happen to me?”

I struggled with this question for decades. If God is love and supposedly loves me, why did he allow such horrible things to happen to me? First of all, no matter what happens in fairy tales with people living happily ever after, our world is not safe. In fact, our world is messy and can be down right dangerous. And God has allowed us to live as independent creatures with free will. As people, we get to make our own choices. God does not want mindless followers who are programmed to obedience. He wants followers who seek after Him as He has sought after us. Followers who long to know Him and are willing to obey His rules. (BTW, His rules are designed for our own benefit.)

Unfortunately, in a world of free will, people are going to follow their own desires regardless of the impact on others. They will live to achieve personal pleasure at the expense, and sometimes, even the destruction of others. Sometimes, their wake of destruction is completely unknown to them; and sadly, some people find pleasure in the destruction and are quite intentional about hurting others.

While God allows the consequences of free will, He is not absent from your life. You may not know He is there or even want Him there, but there He is all the same. God is the God of comfort. He will never leave us to suffer on our own. He will not forsake us especially if we seek Him. I experienced this in a very tangible way as a child. And with the perspective of age and time, I can see His hand of protection over me even while I was suffering. And He has been my strength and guide through the healing process. Yes, I may have suffered, but He did not leave me there. Nor did He leave me trapped in the hell of memories.

John Mark McMillan has a song that expresses this truth along with a beautiful melody, “When all of a sudden I am unaware of these afflictions eclipsed by glory and I realize just how beautiful You are and how great Your affections are for me.” He loves us with an immense love and does not leave us in a state of suffering. He is our hope and our rescuer.

This video shares the song and John Mark McMillan’s story behind the song. I hope you find the same peace in it that I do.

Breaking the Silence

My fear in sharing comes from past experiences.  Unfortunately, it can feel like the negative consequences outweigh the positive ones.  The biggest fear is rejection.  On the very first day of being rescued, the first question was, “Is she lying?”  That evening with a friend who took me and my mom in, “Did she ask for it?”  From relatives who came to support my mom, “Can we touch her?  Would she think we are trying to molest her if we gave her a hug?”  My earliest positive experience with sharing was with another girl at school.  For me, it was the day I first realized that good could come from evil.  Such elation!  Running back to my relative’s home bursting with excitement.  Angry eyes, “You can never tell anyone about this!”  My joy was shattered and my voice silenced.

Since then, my voice is slowly returning.  Evil wins if the silence is kept.  No lives are saved from despair.  No courage or hope is given to those living in a hell on earth.  No glory is given.  No one learns the devastation rampant in our families while our silence holds.  This is why I will share.

“For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.”  2 Timothy 1:7