The F Word: FREEDOM

To write my process and journey through leaving abuse is at once terrifying and healing.

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I am acutely aware of the responsibility I have with my words and actions each time I hit the publish button.

I realize the impact the words I type could have on myself, my children, and those in my sphere of influence.

I am highly in tune with my responsibility as a blogger and writer. I don’t take it lightly. And yet, I must write. I must speak. I stayed silent for too long. I gave away my power to others who wished my story would stay secret.

I write for those who have not yet found their voice, so they will know, they are not alone.

I write, because with each word, I feel resistance…

I see resistance…

I receive hurtful words from others,

wishing I would stay silent.

I break down for a moment. Sometimes more.

AND THAT is o.k.

And it’s important to acknowledge the feelings that go along with my process.

Hurt. Anger. Grief. Loss.

ALL of it.

Then,

I STAND.

A reminder rings through my spirit to DECLARE THE OPPOSITE of resistance I feel into the atmosphere.

I write the pieces of my story I want my children to receive and to speak into their own families for generations.

I write the truth about my process because there’s a religious resistance to the truth about pain, healing, feelings, and forgiveness.

The truth is, I hit publish terrified.

The little girl that resides within my heart wants to hide.

The Lioness arising, however, declares:

NO MORE!

I KNOW WHO MY DADDY IS! I SEE WHAT’S BEHIND YOU! DO YOU KNOW WHO’S INSIDE ME? WHO WALKS BESIDE ME. IN FRONT OF ME. BEHIND ME? DO YOU KNOW THE SPIRIT WHO SURROUNDS ME! DO YOU KNOW THIS IS MY SEASON OF TURNING MY POWER UP AND ON!

ABUSE IS NO JOKE!

BUT I AM FREE.

Today is my day to declare freedom for myself and for all the others unable to walk away.

Today, is the day I declare freedom for the oppressors as well. And I can’t lie. That one is the hardest. But without this declaration, there will not be freedom for ALL.

AND Kingdom on Earth is God’s will for every member of the human race.

US.

THEM.

WE.

WE. ARE. FAMILY.

FREEDOM.

Growing Pains: Healing after Abuse

By the time I left my marriage, I was bankrupt, betrayed more times than I will ever know, depressed, anxious,

Hopeless.

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PTSD had become my friend. Waking up in the middle of the night, unable to breath, was common. Hiding under my kid’s beds, locking my bedroom door or bathroom door and hiding out for the night to avoid the toxicity of abuse that comes from addiction was an every day occurence.

In order to protect myself, I completely shut down. I thought I was going crazy which I later found out is common in abuse. The abused is taught to second guess themselves, to question their truth at all times. Nothing is ever as it seems.

Gaslighting

Scapegoating

Blame shifting

all terms I eventually learned to describe the toxicity of the relationship I was in.

I went through marriage counseling only to realize that in some circumstances counseling can be harmful. In fact, counseling is harmful when it focusses on open communication and trust while one party puts the work in to heal and the other party does the exact opposite. An abuser is a master at manipulating everyone around them. Thus creating more abuse in every relationship both are involved in whether friendship, counseling, pastoral, family.

In the months leading up to my final goodbye.

Escape.

I was continuously served papers for bills I didn’t know existed. Money went missing. Sometimes, I didn’t know how I would feed my kids.

But the most heartbreaking moments that came of the toxic situation was the questions asked by my boys,

“Mom, where’s dad?”

“Mom, why hasn’t dad come home yet?”

“Mom, you can’t let dad drive, he smells like alcohol.”

“Mom, we need to leave but where will we go?”

How does a mom answer such questions and statements?

How do you leave when you have nowhere to go?

How many times do you cry out to God, declaring freedom, yet experience so much darkness?

In the end, I was begging God to take my life. I lost the will to live. But, I knew, I could not leave my children in the hands of a toxic parent.

In such toxic environments, some people do not survive. Some take their own life. Some succumb to homicide. Some are unable to handle the stress and their bodies finally give in to illness. THIS is the absolute TRUTH and the seriousness of abuse. Hiding abuse, keeping secrets, covering up… only enables abuse and toxic situations to continue and it will continue for generations.

UNTIL someone stands up and says: NO MORE!

I will never forget the night I had a dream of a Lion sitting next to my bed. In my sleep, I turned and gazed directly into the Lion’s eyes and whispered, “Aslan, you’re here?” Aslan responded,

“I never left you.”

I believe in dreams and visions. I believe in a God who will display hope through our heart language. And I believe in a creator who has been with us since the beginning of time, hears our cries, knows our thoughts, answers all things with pure love.

“I will never leave you nor forsake you.” God’s words for generations. To generations. 

I believe in a God who is shifting my heart and allowing me to forgive my abuser.

I believe in a God, who loves my abuser but does not expect me to stay in abuse.

I believe in a God who looks His daughters in the eye and says,

“Come now child,

Arise,

Come out,

I created you for freedom,

Joy…

You are powerful. You are love.

You are mine.”

Abuse will not be Silent

I am going to keep sharing. I have to.

Because I am now free.

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But there are many women who cannot break free from abuse they face on a daily basis.

I know the hopelessness, the loss of dreams, the inability to move from one’s bed, couch, home.

I’ve known the deep dark pit of despair, the cave I was unable to crawl away from.

I speak because I’ve been told to stay silent.

And I’ve learned that abuse is enabled through the silence.

I’ve learned despair grows through the enabling of those who do not want the hard stories shared.

I speak into a church system that has enabled abusers while silencing victims.

I can no longer sit by and watch.

I speak, to bring healing to my own soul and for the women who cannot yet leave. So they will know, they are not alone. And perhaps, within my own story, someone might catch a glimpse of hope.

I’m lucky, I have a brother and sister in law, who I now live with, who remind me daily of who I am and who’s I am. Not everyone has this. I have looked my brother and sister in law in the eyes, crying heartbroken words such as, “Why does he want her and not me?” and “Why does he hate me?” through many seasons. Words no wife should every have to whisper.

Understand, friends, losing toxic thoughts after leaving an abusive situation takes days, months, sometimes years of detoxing. I am blessed to have a support system. But, I have sat in therapy sessions with women who have been isolated and have nooone.

By the time one escapes a toxic marriage, they have lost themselves.

Completely.

The glimmer of life once known in their eyes has disappeared.

So now, I speak because there are women who cannot.

We are beautiful women, created by a God who loves us, cries with us, sits beside us. He is love and as his daughters, we are also love. Powerful. Glorious. AMAZING LOVE.

Women in despair: I see you. I hear your cries.

I will keep speaking for myself.

And for you.

Sometimes, Situations Suck and Why I Left my Toxic Marriage

For the majority of my life, I was told to keep other people’s secrets.

And to keep my own secrets, carefully hidden away.

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I refuse to keep secrets any longer.

Secrets hinder growth and make us less human.

It’s o.k. to be real, raw, and vulnerable.

It’s okay to admit that sometimes things suck.

And people suck.

And it’s o.k. to just know that a situation sucks.

Because in the end, the suckiness is what moves us forward.

And sometimes, situations get so bad that we are forced to face the reality of our life staying stuck.

Forever.

Or, we are given the chance to make a change for ourselves, our family, and for all those in our sphere of influence. We either sink or we climb out of the whirlpool and become the human we are created to be.

WE ARE POWERFUL people, created by the MOST powerful force in the universe. Created in His image, we know we make powerful choices that affect ourselves and others. And at any given moment, we can choose to change our situation. We can choose to grow and move forward. I’m not gonna lie. Change hurts. Growth is hard. But we surround ourselves with cheerleaders and people who believe in us. We know that these people are whispers from heaven into our spirit- A reminder of who we are and who’s we are!

Over a year ago, I finally made one the most powerful decisions I could possibly make for me and my children.

I left an abusive and toxic marriage.

It was the hardest thing I have ever done.

To admit my truth to others is even harder.

But I will no longer keep secrets

because secrets thrive in the dark and there are women who need to hear my story.

Especially in the church.

I was dead for too long, hiding in a cave that kept me wasting away.

NO MORE!

I am powerful! I am godlike and very good! I know who my Daddy is and He loves me. And He’s SO okay with me saying things like suck, and bullshit, and so much more that is about to pour out from my soul.

THIS, my friends… is my lioness awakening!

I hope this season is an awakening for you too.

This is freedom season!

Trauma: How do we progress forward?

Another school shooting.

Today.

School shootings hit close to home because I have boys close to the shooters ages.

Shooters. Because there have been too many.

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Recently, my middle son joined his high school on a walk out to stand against school shootings.

My alma mater was featured on the news as students protested school shootings.

Yet,

Today,

We have another.

9 deaths.

One shooter.

An entire school traumatized.

Families forever changed.

Loss.

So much loss.

Too much loss.

Too much sorrow.

And grieving.

Fear.

So much fear.

Students wondering,

Will our school be next?

And this mama’s heart wants to hug her own boys and keep them sheltered from the horrors of the world. They’ve already experienced personal trauma, in their own lives.

Trauma.

Lives forever changed by trauma.

TRAUMA.

One word that will keep us stuck

OR

kick us forward.

We’ve discussed mental health, gun control

We’ve prayed, we’ve cried, we’ve screamed at God

But what if there is something else we can do?

This is not to negate the very real grief and loss associated with horrific traumatic events. 

However, the truth remains, our children and youth and US ADULTS TOO have forgotten who we are. We are unsure of our purpose!

Life is short. and WE need a solution!

What if we start declaring to our children who they are and WHO’S they are?

What if we stop focusing our prayers on the problem and

Start declaring solutions!

OUT LOUD

For too long we’ve been scared into silence

I’ve been scared to speak my mind

BUT FRIENDS,

It’s time to make declarations over ourselves

our FAMILIES

Our FRIENDS

Our SCHOOLS

Our COMMUNITIES

Because THE TRUTH IS

WE HAVE THE SOLUTION

HIS NAME IS LOVE

AND WE are LOVE

And our CHILDREN are LOVE

AND we need to remind our children

EVERY TIME THEY LEAVE THE HOUSE

“Your name is LOVE!”

“Do you know who you are?!”

“Child of God. Speaker of Life. Believer in TRUTH. LIGHT. LAUGHTER. HEALER. JOY.”

Do YOU KNOW WHO YOU ARE?!

Declare it with me!

I AM A Child of GOD.

I AM FAVORED.

I AM LOVE.

I AM Life.

I am my Father’s best idea!

I am creative, innovative, adored, honored.

I AM a mover and a shaker and I will use my influence to shake myself, my family, and my sphere of influence.

Do YOU know who YOU are?!

I AM called to declare life, love, freedom, healing to myself and my world.

Our words are powerful!

Let’s do this thang

Together.

 

*Today, lives are forever changed. My heart grieves for the parents and families hurting today and I am so very sorry for their loss.

 

Warning: Forgiveness Starts Here

 

I sit pondering.

One word.

Forgiveness.

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How do I admit to the blogosphere that I’m struggling with forgiveness.

Right now.

In this moment.

I grew up in a world where struggles were kept hidden.

Masks were put on as we made our way to church.

Surrounded by other mask wearing people, we learned the dance:

To pretend. To hide.

To play the game:

The perfect Christian.

We knew the right words.

The correct phrases.

The Christian lingo that kept our truth hidden.

The truth about our struggles.

Because good Christians who believe in God and have big faith-

They were the ones giving the advice, saying the prayers,

Preaching the best sermons.

The truth is

that behind closed doors

the “perfect Christians”

were struggling.

Pastors. Evangelists. Missionaries. Preacher’s Kids and Missionary Kids. Sunday School Teachers. Board Members. Church Attenders. Church families.

Me.

Addiction. Pornography. Affairs. Abuse. Broken relationships. Gossip. Slander. Lies. Cheating. Scandle.

We all kept our struggles hidden.

Secrets. Stored in closets.

And if a secret grew so big it could no longer be contained,

all the other Christians looked upon those who had been exposed with judgement, guilt ridden looks, declaring words such as

“You should be ashamed of yourself”

“Did you hear what they did?!”

Secrets whispered, shame expected.

I heard the words.

On my wedding day.

“I’m sorry for shaming the family.”

That marriage is now dissolved and no more.

I heard the words through days of addiction.

“I’m sorry for shaming the church, the family…”

And herein is where my greatest struggle lies.

Forgiveness.

Because my greatest heartache has come from the one place that was supposed to be safe.

The house of God.

The church.

I said it.

I need to forgive the church.

Not the church that I believe exists wherever God’s children gather.

No. It’s the church. The institution. The 4 walls. The denominations. The Bible Colleges. The board rooms. The ministries. The rules. The expectations. All of it, inside the 4 walls.

of the Church.

The building that when I enter, I feel a sickness and shaking so intense that it’s been diagnosed as PTSD. And any reminder is a trigger for full blown anxiety that does not go away.

But why, the church?

I attended Christian preschool, elementary school and 1 year of high school. I think I lived at church. Sunday school, youth group, Bible Quiz teams, church leadership teams, puppet team (admitting that too!). I was a women’s ministries director, children’s ministries coordinator, ministry assistant, networker, builder, fundraiser. I attended Bible College, Christian college, worked in a Seminary. STOP. It. Right. Now.

I am the granddaughter of evangelists and married into a Preaching, Missionary, Bible College teaching family.

My entire family, is the church. Was the church. The 4 walls. The denominations.

Then. One day. I walked away.

Betrayal. Rumors. Lies. Half Truths. Shame taught. Guilt impressed. False images of perfection. Gaslighting. Blame. Finger pointing. Letter writing. Spiritual abuse. Financial abuse. Emotional abuse. Threats.

Feelings so intense, my soul shook, my heart shattered. Nervous Breakdowns. Panic Attacks.

I walked away. I hid away.

More secrets.

Be careful who you tell. Don’t talk about it. Keep it hidden.

Did you hear what he did? What she said? What happened?!

IT DOESN’T MATTER ANYMORE!

Forgiveness.

I bought the books.

I’ve prayed the prayers.

I’ve gone to deliverance meetings, counseling sessions, and trainings.

I’ve confessed it out loud and to friends.

My closest friends have seen the tears and heard my cries.

So I’m openly admitting, I’m tired of the game of pretending. Hiding. Secrets.

I’m openly admitting to my struggle and I’ve heard that when we finally step out, in faith, willing to be vulnerable while not condemning nor shaming nor blaming (God knows we’ve had enough of this in our lifetime)

Well, that’s when the breakthrough happens.

The healing breaks forth.

AND I KNOW I CAN’T GROW IF I DON’T FORGIVE.

70 times 7, right?

Take a deep breath, and let it all go.

So today, I’m taking a new step forward and openly admitting

I’m struggling to forgive.

I’m not alone. I know this. I’ve heard other stories.

I want the others to know, you’re not alone.

And I’m part of the church that needs to be forgiven.

And, I need to forgive myself.

So for all of us in the struggle,

I want to declare: Breathrough in Forgiveness.

I believe strongly in the power of declarations and affirmations.

So today I declare over myself and all others:

This is our day to forgive all who have wronged us. To forgive ourselves.

To allow ourselves to be forgiven. And to ask forgiveness.

Today, we pull out the deeply imbedded roots of pain, struggle, and heartache and allow God’s healing oils to seep into the space now left.

This is our breakthrough season of full forgiveness. Wholeness.

This is a new season of freedom that we will walk in.

And where we have healing and breakthrough, we will be able to bring healing and breakthrough for others.

Do you know who they are? Who I am? WHO WE ALL ARE?!

Children of God!

Brothers and sisters.

One church. One Bride. One Body. Us.

Forgiveness.

We can’t be love if we don’t forgive.

I can’t be love if I don’t forgive.

THIS is MY STORY and it WILL be for HIS glory.

 

 

 

Love Your Neighbor

Portland Tragedy Reminds Us: Who is Our Neighbor?

Over the weekend, 3 men were stabbed in Portland while stepping in to protect two teenage girls. Sadly, two of the men died and one is in critical condition but expected to recover. One of the girls was wearing a hijab. This all happened during a commute on a Portland light rail train.  The story is described in more detail here.

Love Your Neighbor

Who is our neighbor?

The Portland event hits close to home for me and my boys. The girls targeted are my middle son’s age. A very large percentage of students at my son’s school wear a hijab. In fact, one of the reasons we chose the school that he attends is so that he is immersed in culture. We want him to get to know people. We believe that it is important to meet people, hear their stories, try to understand hearts.

We believe that we are family.

We believe that every person is a child of God. We believe that humanity – all of humanity –  is created by God. Therefore, we are ALL brothers and sisters, regardless of the labels placed upon us by others or ourselves. My son’s school includes all religions and cultures. Not only do we embrace this, but we absolutely LOVE the diversity.

  What happened in Portland can just as easily happen in my hometown: San Diego. It can happen at my son’s school. It can happen in the surrounding areas.  It can happen with my son and his friends.  And I’m left wondering, would San Diegans step in as these men did?

Would someone step in for my son and his friends if this were to happen to them?

Would I step in, as these men did for someone in need of help? Would I step in, for anyone, for that matter- or simply do the easy thing and ignore? Pretend that I don’t see it and that if it’s not happening to me, it’s none of my business.

The Portland event reminds me of an ancient story I grew up reading,  a parable I was taught over and over again – In the story, many people passed by a dieing man of a different religion/culture, only one was willing to step in and show love.

The stories many of us grew up reading seem like a no brainer, until they come to life.

Would we pass “the others” by or will we stop seeing “others” and start seeing brothers. Sisters.

We are all more alike than we are different.

We are all created by the same God. We are all loved by the Father. And in this incredibly sad and unfortunate event, love wins. Love always wins. In death, love stands out the most. There is no us and them. There is only we. Love. Family.

Our very existence is to love. To be love. To show love.

Who is my neighbor?

And last, dare I ask:

Who will love the ones who hate? How do we do this, while keeping ourselves and our loved ones safe?

*It’s important to remember, this was not just an event, a circumstance, something that happened somewhere else. This entire tragedy is about lives. People’s lives, families, hearts have been deeply effected. Many are hurting and I don’t take that lightly. This is about them, us, all of us. We are family.