Thursday, April 11, 2013

23 years ago...

It's been 23 years, and although most days it never crosses my mind, there are times that I'm taken back to that day, and it seems surreal.

Picture this: A bright, sunny April day in 1990. My high school- the place I knew so well and felt so safe. A friend I'd known my whole life waiting in the parking lot that afternoon. What could possibly go wrong?

What went wrong is this. That "friend" I had known forever raped me in that parking lot that bright sunny day. In an instant, I found myself in a situation that I never would have imagined. Not then. Not there. Not him. But the truth is that rape, sexual assault- whatever you want to call it- is no respecter of persons. It doesn't matter if you're a "good girl" or "bad girl". It doesn't matter how much money you have or don't have. It doesn't matter if you're a teacher's pet and straight A student. It doesn't matter if there is a building full of people just inside those doors. The only thing that mattered was that I was there, and he had a plan to harm me. And so it was.

I never told my story then. I wanted to hide it. Heck, I wanted to hide my entire self. I was embarassed, afraid that everyone would believe about me all of those horrible things he had said to me in those 20 minutes of hell. I wanted to run. And run I did.

Six weeks later, I walked across the stage to graduate from that high school, smile on my face, pretending that everything was just fine. Two months after that, I walked onto the campus of EKU, my new home, the place I "ran" to in order to get away from it all, lying to myself that I'd move on and forget all about it.

That didn't happen.

It's a long story, and I won't go into all of the details here now, but suffice it to say that I lived for years with shame and humiliation a part of my daily routine. They ate me alive. In the end, I wound up depressed, ready for it all to end. And finally, 8 years later, I heard a story of healing and redemption that changed me.

Another survivor told her story of rape, of depression, of shame, and of ultimate healing. And I knew that if she could have that, then so could I. And so my journey began. Y'all, I'm not the same person anymore. As I said in the beginning, most days I never give a thought to that day. Most days I feel as confident as can be, full of life, full of purpose, full of joy.

But when April rolls around and the days get longer and warmer, there is a gnawing in the pit of my stomach, a reminder that this day feels so much like that one. And those memories come back to haunt me again. Oh, I don't get sad or depressed again. I'm done with that. I don't feel like a victim anymore. NOT EVEN CLOSE. But I do remember because we humans, we are wired to remember. And that's okay.

Those memories cannot hurt me, and in fact, I believe that they help me. What's that, you say? Yes, I think they help me. You see, I am a better person because of the pain I endured that day. I'm strong. I'm secure. I'm healed. I'm redeemed. I know who I am in Christ, and that day is a part of that story for me. And so it's okay to remember and be a little down about it for a short time. I'm not that 17 year old girl anymore. I'm 40, and I'm okay.

This week I read a story of another 17 year old girl who committed suicide after being gang raped, then harassed about it. My heart breaks for her. I wish I had known her before, could have walked beside her, taken her hand and said "It's going to be all right. This does not have to defeat you. It doesn't even have to define you". But I didn't know her. However, if statistics are right, there are plenty others that we do know who are suffering now with that shame, their self esteem eaten away bit by bit as they start to believe the lies told them during those moments of abuse. It doesn't have to be that way. I will do whatever I can to make sure it's not that way for those girls.

I can't heal people. I can't change their stories. I can't tell anyone it will never happen to them. I can't take away the scars-physical or emotional. But I can relate. And I can cry with her. And I can tell her that her worth is not found in the words or actions of a monster. I can show her how the Lord renewed my life, restored me to a girl I actually love which I never thought possible at one time.

And so I share....and share.... and share some more.

Until all those other girls know they are not alone...

PS: If you are one of those girls (or guys) struggling, hiding your story or rape, afraid to tell the truth, please please please get help. Don't wait a minute longer. If you want to share your story with me, email me at I'll help you find the help you need to heal. It's not easy. You don't have to do it alone.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Wrestling and Waiting

I'm really REALLY not the wrestling type of gal. Ok, fine. I admit that when I was a little girl, I watched with my brother and my cousin every Saturday. I dodged the pillows that my cousin threw every time a chair was thrown, and I had the theme music for the "Fabulous Ones" memorized. Any of y'all out there remember Stan Lane and Steve Kern? To a 10 year old girl, it didn't matter that they were horrible actors. They were cute and shirtless. But I digress...

I've grown up, and I've LONG since outgrown my wrestling phase. So when a client's grandmother actually spoke to me in a Stone Cold Steve Austin voice today, I laughed out loud y'all. Forget professionalism. I was done. In my mind, all I could think of was a YouTube video I'd seen recently of "Stone Cold ET" (seriously, google it if you want a good laugh), and I was preparing myself for the inevitable. So when she said, in a raspy, threatening voice nonetheless, "And that's the bottom line", I swear I had to push mute on my phone. I'm 40 years old. You can talk to me in real adult words and everything. It's amazing really.

But here's the truth. I have a tendency to resort back to my childhood ways at times too. We all do, don't we? It's so darn easy to get to the "I-want-it-my-way-right-now" mentality. We live in a fast paced, instant-gratification society. We are used to getting what we want when we want it. We don't want to wait for anything. Just turn your TV on for a few minutes of commercials if you don't believe me ("It's my money, and I want it now!" rings through my head even as I type this).

But God is not about the instant gratification. Slowly (painfully slow even!), He is teaching me that there is beauty in the wait. There is learning. There is peace. There is healing. There is growth. There is questioning. There is stretching too. Some of it hurts, but all of it is necessary for me. And it's okay. It's more than okay actually. It's perfectly wonderful because He is in the wait too. Trust me. I've been waiting on God for a long time for something. I'm still waiting today. I've waited before on other things, so I know that His timing really is best, and I'm good with this wait. Yes, I get impatient at times, but over all, I'm content, and content is a very good place to be.

So, if you are waiting too, be comforted. You are not alone. You will not wait forever. God is always faithful to answer. And there is beauty in the wait.

And that's the bottom line!

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

No awards here...

I'm pretty sure it's safe to assume that I won't be getting any "Mother of the Year" awards for 2013. Seriously, it's only April 2nd, and I've already lost that nomination. If it weren't the fact that my daughter's hair has breakage (a no-no for African hair, I suppose akin to a white girl cutting her own 'bangs" with scissors), I'm absolutely positive that getting your son fired = no trophies for you! Apparently, when they took my gallbladder out last week, they also took my ability to READ because when I offered to look at his schedule for work for him, I COMPLETELY MISSED the fact that he was scheduled for yesterday. No show, no call= immediate termination. Hey, I get it. Rules are there for a reason. No hard feelings; I just hate that my actions led to his termination. (we've already discussed responsibility stuff here, so we'll skip that!) See what I mean? NO TROPHY FOR ME!

Jeff and I have been reading the bible chronilogically, and we are currently in the book of Judges. Let me set the stage: The Israelites, freed from slavery in Egypt, have completed their 40 years of wondering through the wilderness. God has given them the Promised Land, as He said He would. They have divided up land among the tribes and are settling into their new lives. And then I read over and over "The people did evil in the Lord's sight"... The Israelites messed up, y'all. Even though they had witnessed miracle after miracle for the past 40+ years, they still messed up. And when they saw their ways were wrong, they repented, were forgiven and restored.

The same God that restored them and forgave them... He is still alive! So, it's okay if I screw up sometimes. No, I don't think my honest mistake in reading Bryan's schedule warrants the wrath of God, but you get my point, right? We have hope. I HAVE HOPE! I'm not destined to always screw it up. He redeems.

Truth is that I'll probably never be nominated for Mother of the Year. Truth is I never really want to be nominated. I don't need those accolades. I simply want to glorify my Heavenly Father in my parenting, my role as a wife, my role as a friend, daughter, sister, nurse, etc etc. And when I screw up- 'cause LORD KNOWS I will again!- I can get right back up, hold my head high, and move on. Beacuse my Daddy in Heaven loves me. Always.

And that, my friends, is all the trophy I need.

Monday, April 1, 2013

I've come undone

And He said, “Father, why are they screaming?
Why are the faces of some of them beaming?

Why are they casting their lots for my robe?

This crown of thorns hurts me more than it shows.
Father please, can’t you do something?
I know that You must hear my cry.
I thought I could handle a cross of this size.
Father, remind me why.
Why does everyone want me to die?
Oh, when will I understand why?”

My precious son, I hear them screaming.

I’m watching the face of the enemy beaming.

But soon I will clothe you in robes of my own.

Jesus, this hurts me much more than you know,
but this dark hour, I must do nothing,
though I’ve heard your unbearable cry.
The power in your blood destroys all of the lies;
soon you’ll see past their unmerciful eyes.
Look, there below, see the child
trembling by her father’s side.
Now I can tell you why...
she is why you must die. 
(Excerpt from "Why?" By Nicole Nordeman)

These words were sang in our church yesterday. The beginning of the song is beautiful too, and I freely admit I had a tear in my eye from the start. But when it got to the part I included here, I was undone. The visual image of my Jesus in agony, feeling for the first time ever His separation from the Father, literally broke my heart. The response of His Father in Heaven, watching as His only Son died, full of love, full of Grace....I have no words for that. 

What breaks my heart most though is the knowledge that I have taken for granted this love, this sacrifice. How have I lived 40 years, knowing this story inside and out and never been brought to sobs until now? How have I become so callous to His extravagant love for me? Have I become so casual that I have cheapened His grace?

This weekend we spent time organizing. I was Overcome with grief, embarrassed, humiliated at the excess that I saw in my home. Our coat closet is bursting with no less than 8 coats THAT HAVE NEVER BEEN WORN THIS SEASON! How can I call myself a follower of Jesus yet allow people around me go cold this whole winter while I have coats I haven't even put on? It was that closet full of coats that came to mind as I listened to that song in church yesterday. If I don't put into action the grace and mercy afforded me on the Cross, then I'm not worthy to call myself by His name. 

The truth is that Jesus came to save, to heal, to clothe, to give sight, to feed, to visit, to love, to touch. And I am called to follow after Him. 

Oh God,  change my heart. Don't let me cheapen your gift. Break me for the things that broke you. Teach me your compassion. Help me see with your eyes. Help me to give selflessly like you gave. I'm yours. 

I don't want to wake up in September and find that I can think about the Cross without emotion. I don't want to find that my heart has become deadened to His gift of Grace. 

Oh God, keep me seeking. Keep me wanting. Keep me asking. Keep me crying. Keep me humble. Keep me passionate. Keep me.