Why are we so afraid of the pain of others? Does it emphasize or enhance our own pain? Does it make us feel inadequate or ill-equipped to save or heal others? Or does it just make things better, more tidy, when we overlook it?

I was shaken to hear of the rape scene in Downton Abbey’s fourth season and my first thought was to skip over it. Our family recently became acquainted with this show and I really value the integrity and morals highlighted in it, especially when our options of family-friendly viewing have become so limited. To put it mildly, our family is addicted to this show. All five of us love it. What a lovely way in teaching our children about integrity and morals and taking pride and showing honor in our hard work, no matter our social class. Of course, there have been some indiscretions and horrors that we’ve blocked from our eight year old and discussed in detail as a family. But this rape scene was monumental to the storyline of the show and I’ve wrestled with allowing our family to view this together or skip over it and give the “safe” summary. After all, even an adult friend of mine admitted he couldn’t watch rape scenes in movies/tv shows and this scene was no exception. I’ve lived my life the same way: avoiding rape scenes in movies/tv shows. But is that not what was done to me when others learned of my sexual abuse? Is that not the normal response to pain, especially rape: to run and hide? How will my children ever know the world – without experiencing it firsthand (as I so often pray) – if I gloss over the horrible truths about rape and the stigma it has on the victim? Even to this day, the shame and expected silence enveloping victims is appalling. One of the greatest lessons I learned when being trained for victim advocacy with the local police department was in allowing the victims the space to suffer and mourn. To rid them of this, or speed them through this process would be detrimental to the healing that would eventually transpire. The place in which I felt most humbled and honored was when these families would allow me into their suffering – their most anguished, traumatized and painful moments – and I was invited to share in that with them. What a gift.

I decided to preview the rape scene and, hours later, I am still sorting through the many thoughts that rose to the surface. Of course it was triggering but not nearly as much as I had imagined. More so, I was bombarded by the fact that I was adverse to ever watching that scene or in having my children watch it. Do I not allow them to view the pain and struggle and death in this war we wage between good and evil? Why did I so easily fall for the glossed-over stigma? Did I feel my children would be better off if they never witnessed this horror? I know better. Stigma is defined as “a mark of disgrace associated with a particular circumstance, quality or person” as well as “bodily marks or pains resembling the wounds of the crucified Jesus”. Very interesting. How very different we’d view our salvation without the “stigma”, the suffering and wounds, our Savior took on our behalf.

I recently watched a beautiful video of Eugene Peterson and Bono discussing the Psalms and the necessity in sharing our honesty, even in – ESPECIALLY IN – pain, struggle and despair. I was inspired and filled with hope as Eugene spoke of the Psalms “It’s not smooth. It’s not nice. It’s not pretty. But it’s honest and I think we’re trying for honesty.” Bono added,

“… dishonesty… I find a lot of in Christian art, a lot of dishonesty…” and “Write a song about their bad marriage… write a song about how they’re, you know, pissed off at their government. Because that’s what God wants from you. That truth, ‘The Way, The Truth’. And that truthfulness, ‘Know the truth – the truth will set you free’, it’ll blow things apart. Why I’m suspicious of Christians is because of this lack of realism and I’d love to see more of that. In art and in life and in music.”

In the midst of all of this reckoning, Eugene Peterson’s perspective on the Cross came to mind. The interviewer, David Taylor, asked him, “Is there a way to read the Psalms, through Jesus’ eyes, that helps us understand violence or non-violence?” Eugene answered,

“Well, yeah, the crucifixion. Where there’s violence, there’s got to be some kind of response. And is it more violence or less? I’m glad we have crosses in every room in this house. When I look at those, I don’t think of decoration. I think this is the world we live in and it’s a world with a lot of crosses. And I just would like to spend my life doing something about that: through scripture, through preaching, through friendship. Now my, you know, years are getting shorter and I don’t have many left but I don’t want to escape that – escape the violence.”

Wow. How often have I looked at the cross and glossed over the blood and torn up flesh, looked past the suffering, to see only the glory in the resurrection? Of course, I do not discount that glory. Without that resurrection, there is no redemption. However, without that violence, the truth is, there would not have been a resurrection. Essentially, without violence, there is no redemption. To live my life under the motto of “Forgive and Forget” would be dishonest to the healing that my Savior delivered after that violence against me. To gloss over the suffering of others, would be to discredit the value of Jesus’ comfort and salvation.

So, the honesty in violence and redemption is the catalyst that points to Jesus. How very different that perspective allows me to view the suffering I’ve endured and the suffering I choose to walk through with others. I’ll end this with a passage that has brought immense peace and strength lately.

All praise to the God and Father of our Master, Jesus the Messiah! Father of all mercy! God of all healing counsel! He comes alongside us when we go through hard times, and before you know it, he brings us alongside someone else who is going through hard times so that we can be there for that person just as God was there for us. We have plenty of hard times that come from following the Messiah, but no more so than the good times of his healing comfort—we get a full measure of that, too. 2 Corinthians 1:2-3 (The Message)

I haven’t written here in over a year. Yikes. Evidence of grueling life-change and it’s all been good.

Remember Nancy Reagan’s “Just Say No” campaign? I do and I’ve never lived it very well. I remember being a naive and ignorant child and feeling überconfident in those 3 words. And then… middle school happened.

As an outcast, I learned in middle school that saying yes increased the quantity of my “friends”. Saying yes had power in causing people to like me. Saying yes made me popular. Saying yes gave me “worth” and “value”. But I never realized that worth and value are relative. As I look back over years lived, I see that saying yes also opened the door wide to people walking all over me, to me feeling worthless and like a discarded piece of trash. Hindsight now shows me that although saying yes brought in quantity-by-the-truckloads of people around me, it failed to draw in the quality people I should have focused on growing. Although it was a small and narrow path, saying no would have deterred me from many, many mistakes. Mistakes that caused wounds I’m still treating.

I’m finally learning the incredible value of saying no. Surprisingly, it’s not without pain but it’s also remarkably freeing. I’m saying no to things that I said yes to years ago and it feels like I’m ripping flesh from my body. It’s painful and confusing and sometimes knocks the wind out of me. But, I’m regaining purpose and direction. I’m feeling empowered to be creative again and implement that creativity and freedom into my passions and goals in life. The rebel in me is strengthened and rising to the surface and I’m leading the charge in jumping off the bandwagon and away from the path, well-worn by robotic feet.

Hope springs eternal in the human breast;
Man never is but always to be blest:
The soul, uneasy and confin’d from home,
Rests and expatiates in a life to come.

– Alexander Pope

There is hope. Light always shines in the darkness. When I say I believe in God, that I follow Jesus, it means there is a Well of abundance — an overflow — of grace and mercy from which I glean. From this Well, there is also forgiveness that the world will never understand as well as kindness and joy that causes others to scoff and share about in gossip hell or to look on me with pathetic / patronizing eyes, as if I’ve been afflicted with The Naiveté.

Three months / ten appointments later, the marital counselor’s therapy is truly taking shape into something beautiful and powerful. I’ve been given glimpses into a marriage and life that Disney could never dream, one that I would never have been able to fathom over a decade ago.

Still, there is struggle. Sometimes it’s ten steps back after three steps forward. Confusion and anger, hot-blooded and cursing, as the selfishness, pride and conditional love bursts forth. Yet… there is perseverance. Endurance. Hope. Love.

Amongst the truth, hope can fly. Amongst the grace, love endures.

To God be the Glory.

… I wasn’t expecting that.

We’re in survival mode. It’s been about 7 weeks since our talk and the full disclosure. I’ve never thought more strongly and constantly about separation and divorce being the best option for us. I’ve been married to a liar and a manipulator for 14 years. My marriage is a sham and built on a foundation of deceit.

My husband called and made the counseling appointment. The counselor wanted to talk with me. [Me? Uhh, ok?] “Hello?” “I want to share two things with you before the meeting with you and your husband this Thursday. One, you’ve had a rough year and I’m sorry about that.” [Yes, you’re right I have had a rough year… and… that sucks. Thank you.] “Two, you need to know that the porn issues that your husband has are not your fault. Do you know that?” [Stuck words. Tears. Long pause.] “Um, I’m struggling with that right now.” “Nothing you have done or said, no amount of nagging or arguing or the way you look caused him to do this and you need to know that.” “Ok… thank you so much for that.” [More tears.] “So, in the next couple of days, when those thoughts come to mind, remind yourself that it’s not your fault.” “Ok… I will… thank you.” [more tears.]

I wasn’t expecting that. I was expecting him to confirm our appointment and for him to tell me that he does not privately meet with wives. I was not expecting to immediately be released from my husband’s sin and to have a 500 pound of nasty horrible manure taken off of my shoulders. Sadly, the first thoughts that surfaced were What does he want from me? Does he just find me attractive? [Even though he’s never met me.] Is he just smooth-talking me? What the hell was that about?

We have a lot to work through but… hope springs while fall leaves tumble.

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Empathy is a good thing. Empathy is necessary. There’s not enough of empathy in this world. The fighting in the world would probably cease to exist if everyone had empathy. Right?

Well, I have a problem controlling my empathy. Yes, this is a bad problem.

I’ve never known empathy to ever be a problem. As a matter of fact, the world has too much apathy and indignation and self-righteousness. Not enough people care. There’s not enough grace and love and valuing of human life.

Empathy comes very easy to me and I know that that is a miracle in and of itself. In middle and high school, I used to just rage and fight, as I was living from a central force of anger. Now, I find it a little too easy to cry when others are sad and I feel physical joy for others when there is great news. Love and compassion seem effortless as I am drawn to those that are broken-hearted and hurting. I ache for suffering and want desperately to change it and change the way it stomps out humanity. I know that all of the love and joy and empathy that I have is from God and that if left to my own depravity, I would choose to be self-involved and not care about the suffering of people, especially strangers. This empathy-prone nature sounds like such a good thing but I’ve recently learned that I have a problem guarding it.

Like anything meant for good, empathy can also be used as a tool to bring about discord. I had no idea this was happening in my own life until this week.

I’ve done a LOT of soul searching and reforming and relinquishing (to God) in the past few years. This has been the longest and deepest stretch of emotional and spiritual growth that has ever taken place in my life. This change has been painful and rough but it’s been necessary and breath-taking and glorious. For some reason, though, I couldn’t shake the fact that there was still some very deep-rooted issues going on in my life and I was struggling to find the cause. There are countless times that I will walk away from a conversation and feel like the worst person in the world. Feeling as though I just let someone gossip my ear off and talk trash about someone and I never took the high road or shined any light into the conversation. There are times when I’ll walk away from the conversation angry and upset at the person being spoken about even though they never caused me any harm. There has also been times where I’d also share my own negative feelings about (and insecurities with) people so that the conversation isn’t awkward and heavily-sided and uncomfortable. It never fails that as soon as I walk away, I feel horrible. It doesn’t happen with every conversation and I don’t feel this empathy kicking into overdrive every single time someone mentions negativity toward or about another. However, for the times that I would find myself in this situation, I’d feel like a heartless hypocrite. In my core, I know that’s a lie because I don’t know another earthly being that is more in love with humanity than I am. I have forgiven people for trauma they’ve brought on me and resumed friendships (time and time again) despite the fact that they spread gossip and lies about me. I don’t just love the loveable, I love the unloveable as well.

This isn’t a pat-myself-on-the-back blog entry. I’m admitting the fact that I’m not feeling 100% loving and full of grace all of the time and trying to figure out why it seems to tie so closely to when I’m around others. I know that the love I have can’t come from anywhere other than God. I also know that the anger I feel toward someone, after a chat with someone else, is something that I am doing wrong and something that I need to change. This is all to explain that I’ve had some fierce battles going on and I’m learning their point of entry.

Feeling the same anger and hurt that other people feel, without ever having been hurt by the person being talked about, is showing me that I’ve let my empathy get out of control. Now that I know where this dichotomy of feeling loving but not responding so loving (even though I felt that my empathizing was loving) is coming from, I know where to bring about damage control.

With God’s help, I now know that I have to start working on guarding my empathy and using it ONLY for good.

I feel I’ve ran this train into the ground with speaking to humans so I’m gonna toss all of these thoughts into the web of the world and keep walking.

I’ve shared my love of, and issues with, singing – for years. More recently, the latter has been more of a conversational piece and it’s becoming quite the annoyance. I know there are more important things in the world besides whether I sing or not. I know people don’t give a rat’s ass what problems I go through in life and that my issues with singing are the least of their worries. Still, here I am pouring out my heart to the only one that will truly respond… my computer. 🙂

For the past two months, I’ve seen a vocal therapist. Long story short, I’ve had singing issues for the last year. Most recently, in the past several months, I’ve lost my high end and have had severe struggles when preparing to sing on a weekend at my church. After singing for a weekend, I end up with an extremely raspy / damaged voice. I saw a doctor and he saw vocal pre-nodules and directed me to a vocal therapist. She demanded I not sing for 2 months, while she worked with me and found that I have Muscle Tension Dysphonia. For the past two months, I’ve met with her about every 10 days and have only done vocalization exercises (besides desperately sneaking in some singing at church, which I suffer for later). These past two months have been filled with more *back and forth* decisions than I’ve ever faced in my life. Do I continue therapy or quit? Do I go back to singing at church or do I quit? Number one, I’m not a quitter. If so, I would have been dead long ago – many times over. Number two, singing is the closest thing I have to feeling God’s presence. It’s the most strange and beautiful and holy thing I have ever experienced. The thought of giving that up is a struggle in and of itself.

Tonight, I sang. I chose a song that I had severe difficulty reaching “high” notes on, a couple of months ago. I sang and then I cried. It was a miracle. Not only could I sing it, I felt amazing newness in my voice and in my throat… utilizing muscles and parts of my body that I didn’t even know I had a few months ago. It wasn’t perfection but I felt God with me, cloaking me in hope and comfort.

Maybe the time of me sharing songs is not over. I don’t know what capacity I’ll be using my voice but it’s a miracle to know it’s still around… able and ready.

There’s been a stirring in me for quite some time. A restlessness unable to be transcribed. A rerooting of sorts. A split-second glimpse of part of the finished puzzle comprised of pieces of my life, finally fitting together after years of rolling them around in my hands.

I’ve become unsettled and it is good.

Attending the We Event for iEmpathize a few weeks ago, a dam burst within me… I know I have this immense empathy for people. I know I have a deep-rooted passion. I know I want to make a difference in the lives of others. I know that I want my past to stand for something good, for God, and not as it was intended by man. I know that without a college degree I am significantly limited with my ability to have a “legitimate” voice.

I also know that my motivations have always been wrong. I’ve wanted to change the world and that proposed change was unknowingly limited or viewed from a skewed perspective. I have always led from a place of pain. Focusing and leading others from the pain of my past, instead of from the endless strength of God. I told God where I’d be used and how I would be able to do so. I told God what difference I would make and in what way the people’s lives would change. I was ignorant and clueless. Living off of remnants of my disillusioned upbringing and trying to share that same disillusionment with others.

In the past year, combined with my continued focus on my past and dealing with it, I also read a significant book, Generous Justice. It kind of washed clean the mud and grit that had been distorting my view in the way I interact and view humanity as a whole. This entire process took me far beyond seeing that, when suffering and broken, human beings had a cap on their value and that it was up to me to help get them through this temporary struggle of life so that they could just eat or just get water or just ______. Just to keep them alive… Then I’d move on to others.

What happens after they receive that next meal or that clean water or those shoes or that jacket? What then? What if the cap, that we put on these lives, was infinite? What if the limits of their existence and worth went far beyond the temporary comforts that I (we) may bring? What if I took part (by God’s grace and help) in helping them truly live and love and find joy and beauty in every day and then empowering them to share that all with everyone around them?

Here’s where I stand in my unsettlement: I want to take people from being a victim (which places the power in the perpetrator) and from being just a survivor (which places the power, and keeps it, within the person that was harmed) to being a warrior of love and empowerment. I feel God steering me to lead women out of the pain of their past (and present) into DOING for good. For God.

Jase and I were talking through all of this and he had a great realization. In cases of sexual abuse, the fallout is usually to clam up / brush it under the rug / detach OR the result is to crumble / completely shred the life that was given you. But I want to know where the freaking warriors are. I want to find the women that can link arms with me and become a front-line toward helping those in need and giving them hope that they can rise up and succeed and make a difference in this world. I want to stand on the shit from my past and make it a strong foundation for doing good in Jesus’ name.

I am also tired of being on this island. With all of the women I’ve know in my life (and keeping the stat of *1 out of every 3 or 4 have been sexually abuse* at the forefront) I’ve only known a few to have been sexually abused. Or only a few have ever shared that with me. That is ridiculous to me.. that this kind of travesty can be so drenched in silence. In this silence, we give so much power and authority to those that have abused and they can continue doing so, while we stand idly / apathetically on the side lines.

So, here I am, ready to be a warrior. To fight. To stop listening to the enemy in his quest to smother me and grind me to a pulp. To stand up against the lies that I am nothing, that I am worthless and to start believing and focusing on God’s Truth. I want to make a difference. I want to serve and to lead and to learn and grow and water and shine. I want to stop hiding in fear and I want to share this light. Part of this recent unsettling is that I want to (finally) learn spanish, fluently, and that I want to (finally) take a mechanic class. I “see” myself opening an auto repair shop. For women, by women. I want to overcome my fear of other countries and lead women toward changing lives around them. I want to start by making a big change in the immediate “world” around me.

I’m learning so much about me. You know how people say you go off to college to really, finally, learn who you are? Well, I feel I’ve been doing the same for the past several years. I mean, I dropped out of college after the first semester so it makes sense that (as with Life®) I chose the Family path first so now I’m catching up on that college experience. With all of the examining and shaping and pruning and watering and fertilizing and long bouts of exposure to the sun. It’s a tough thing to become a botanist of the soul without any training and with a black thumb…

After 20 years of singing, I finally found visible proof that it’s all been done incorrectly. Without ever having lessons, this day was sure to come. A doctor schooled me about my “pre-nodule edemas with incomplete hour-glass glottic closure” and had me running to a vocal therapist. So, here I am, putting my life-long love of singing on hold for a couple of months while treatment is sought and rendered. All while examining why I place so much value on whether or not I sing and why I feel there’s so much value found in me when I sing and why I feel so much closer to God when I sing and whether or not I could quit for good and be ok. Before I quit, I’m learning how to work hard for something I want so badly. Hopefully it won’t go as poorly as so many other challenges I’ve faced…

I think I may have unofficially attained the World Record for Slowest Reader. I’ve been reading a book for three years. Yes, you read that right. As in, I’ve had the book for three years and every month I read a little. I read a chapter or two or just several pages and then I’ll put it down for a while. When I’m not reading it, I’m mulling it over. It’s like I’m learning how to inject a book into my veins so that it sticks. I’m ingesting this thing like nothing before. Sadly, no, not even the bible. This book is not only the toughest thing I’ve ever read, it’s also the most explicit in describing my life and struggles. I began reading The Wounded Heart after a woman mentioned it to me at a conference for married couples. She had been a speaker and mentioned having been sexually abused. This meant more to me than even I knew, especially because she intermingled this revelation with how it affected / affects her marriage and how she’s getting through it. I had to find out if she had any feedback on books so when I asked her, she told me about The Wounded Heart and I’ve been studying it, while studying me, ever since. I bring all of this up because there is a conference this weekend. A conference based on this book and given by this author. And I don’t think I’ve ever been so excited and scared shitless at the same time. A conference that’s talking about God and sexual abuse. I’ve wrestled with that being an oxymoron for so long. Most recently, last week. Screaming, angrily, at God for allowing this shit to crush me as a child and consistently steamroll me without warning. Demanding answers from God, wondering where He was through it all and questioning if He’s even helping. Even now, as an adult, married to an amazing man for 13 years… But I also know that this is a conference where I’m not the only person dealing with, speaking about, healing from sexual abuse. Sexual abuse… this taboo, life-sucking disease I’ve had since I was 8 years old and subjected to again and again and again… For the first time in my life, I’ll be in a room with a group of people like me. A group that maybe fully comprehends innocence lost or hope being shattered or trust violently getting ripped out and pain left as a thank you note. This is something that I’ll be immersed in for 3 days and I’m scared to death. But I can’t help but hope.

In all things, I can’t help but plead for healing and restoration and peace. I can’t help but cry out for redemption, for endurance, for strength. If not, I’ve got one choice: give up and die. I know there’s more to all of this than that. I’ve seen the beauty. I’ve witnessed God’s provision. I’m a fucking walking miracle and I know that has absolutely nothing to do with me.

Writing this, I recall a favorite singer and song, Natalie MerchantMy Skin. Seemingly dark, this song brings so much comfort.

Take a look at my body
Look at my hands
There’s so much here
That I don’t understand

Your face-saving promises
Whispered like prayers
I don’t need them

I’ve been treated so wrong
I’ve been treated so long
As if I’m becoming untouchable

Well contempt loves the silence
It thrives in the dark
With fine-winding tendrils
That strangle the heart

They say that promises
Sweeten the blow
But I don’t need them
No, I don’t need them

I’ve been treated so wrong
I’ve been treated so long
As if I’m becoming untouchable

I’m a slow dying flower
I’m a frost killing hour
The sweet turning sour
And untouchable

Oh, I need
The darkness
The sweetness
The sadness
The weakness
Oh, I need this

I need
A lullaby
A kiss goodnight
Angel sweet
Love of my life
Oh, I need this

I’m a slow dying flower
Frost killing hour
The sweet turning sour
And untouchable

Do you remember the way
That you touched me before
All the trembling sweetness
I loved and adored

Your face-saving promises
Whispered like prayers
I don’t need them
No, I don’t need them

I need
The darkness
The sweetness
The sadness
The weakness
Oh, I need this

I need
A lullaby
A kiss goodnight
Angel sweet
Love of my life
Oh, I need this

Well, is it dark enough
Can you see me
Do you want me
Can you reach me
Oh, I’m leaving

You better shut your mouth
And hold your breath
You kiss me now
You catch your death
Oh, I mean this
Oh, I mean this

I’ve been on a blog-surfing kick lately. Partly to do with researching all I can on the clinical side about Asperger’s Syndrome as well as reading stuff from parents of children with Asperger’s. But I’ve also been popping around on sites of Mommy + Motivational-Speaker sites. I need as much encouragement in my life and these sites are chock-full of inspiration and courage and encouragement. Reading the stories these women share make it really easy for me to kick my life into high gear and start making a better difference in my life and the life of my family and friends.

There’s a flip-side to that though… the more surfing around I’ve done, the more I’ve realized that all of these women (as in, ALL) have a core group of women friends. A core group of women that hang out together, cry together, laugh together, dream together, dread together, fear together and create together. They relate in good times and bad and spur each other on to greater things. These women also have AT LEAST one woman in their life, or an inspiration from afar, that spark them on to go for their dreams and goals and seek out courage.

It kind of hit me again this week… I have no friends or mentors like this. I never have and it makes me wonder if that’s a major part of the reason why I feel in such a rut so often. I’ve got some horrible shit from my past, combined with the fact that I really have no support. No one to really look up to and no one around to really help me back up to my feet. For my whole life, I’ve watched friendships bloom and grow around me and pass me by. I’ve got friends now that I feel are great and I feel like we’re all on the edge of taking these friendships to the place of *3o years down the road*. But there always seems to be something in the way. Everyone has always already had a super close friend or two and I’m always the third wheel or these friends of mine are so popular that they barely have time to share any substantial amount together.

I’ve always longed for the type of friends where we can go away on vacation together or if I had an emergency at 2am, they’d be the first I’d call.

Looking at my life and comparing it to those friendships I’ve been reading about online, makes me wonder… is it merely the fact that they’ve got a mentor or someone to look up to and friends to help prop them up that makes them successful and happy and courageous and positive and prosperous?

I know I’ve got God… but sometimes consistency in tangible smiles and tears “helps the medicine go down.”

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