Hope


My last blog entry had me looking forward to helping out with the Downtown Rescue Mission again. Well, fear got in the way of that and I never went back. I don’t know if I’ll ever go back.

I was preparing to help my friend that night and, on a whim, I decided to reread the story of my childhood/teenage years, my testimony. I wrote it out, years ago, but some sort of curiosity took over and I read it, just hours before I was supposed to leave. That was a major mistake and it sent me into a downward spiral. Reading about being in numerous, frightening positions and being taken advantage of many times, made me feel stupid for preparing to put myself in a situation where, once again, I’d be in a room where the men to women ratio and the drug-free to on-drugs ratio was desperately uneven. Reading about those bad times and feeling like they had all happened yesterday, caused me to completely freeze up. I tried to fight off the fear but it only intensified. I tried to rationalize and it only retaliated, stronger and more convincing.

I was terrified and it enflamed me. I was crushed. I felt defeated. I felt like I was taking two steps backward from the healing and recovery that I felt I had just gone through.

Two weeks prior, I felt on top of the world with conquering a fear and feeling like I would never look back or take a step back and here I was, trembling with the possibility that I was about to make the stupidest decision to go help people. This fear got my mind racing at the endless possibility of having anxiety take over, preventing me from doing just about everything. Where would it stop? What would trigger this fear? How many situations will I put myself in, in the future, and then realize that I feel vulnerable and trapped and want out? It was in this moment of sheer terror that I was grateful (and pissed off that I was grateful) that I never went to Afghanistan. I can’t imagine having this fear and anxiety overtake me as I’m halfway across the world from everything that makes me feel safe.

This situation also got me learning much more about myself. I’m learning that I have boundaries. I can’t stand knowing that I have them but this has to be some sort of positive step in realizing this about myself. It’s caused me to figure out what frightened me about going back to the Rescue Mission and what situations, in the future, might cause this fear to rise.

I feel as though there’s a fine line with knowing too much about people and not knowing enough. I know that people can be cruel and that sometimes a certain type of person is more prone to cruelty than others. Obviously I can’t see their heart, so I discriminate toward the people that remind me of those that have harmed me. The lack of knowledge about people can easily be replaced by fear while having knowledge about people can instill fear as well. How do I combat this? It seems like a neverending cycle… At various points in my life this fear will cause me to freeze and hide, tremble and cower. What I’m learning is that the antonym of my fear is faith and hope. I can have all the love in the world but, in fear, that love is worthless. Without faith and hope, I would continually sit in my house and ponder the end of everything good.

While learning the boundaries of my emotional well-being, I’m also discovering what it takes to push past those boundaries. I’m learning what I’m prepared to conquer and what may still take time to overcome. There may be things in my life that I will never be able to do because fear is gripping so tight. There may be things I never would have dreamed to prevail over and I may effortlessly triumph. For now, I’m grateful to be learning more about what I can and can’t handle and I’m grateful to learn more about what faith in God actually means.

I’ve been treading water, keeping my head above drowning, for my entire life. Specifically, desperately, in the last year. I’m just now realizing that I’ve done nothing to bring me closer to shore, to where I want to be. I’ve completely worn myself out, staying in the same place. In faith, in action, I must press on. Beyond the boundary.

I have a huge heart for people that are hurting. Sometimes, I have more empathy than I can handle. The things I’ve seen in my life have filtered my love, though. Sadly, to the point of cynicism and mistrust in some cases.

Take last night, for example. My friend signed up to serve a meal at the Downtown Denver Rescue Mission and asked for some volunteers to go with her. Of course, given my love for people and serving others, I jumped at the chance. Concern began on the drive down there, wondering what I’d do with my purse. I couldn’t bring it with me. It’s a temptation to some of *them*. What would I do, hide it somewhere to be found or keep it on me to be stolen and traded for crack? (I mean, I should know… when I was a teenage runaway, living on the streets and smoking crack, I did the same thing with someone’s stolen purse and someone’s stolen wallet.) The other ladies I was with, were going to put their purses in the trunk. In my mind, that’s perfect for any schemers to see, plan and steal. So, I shoved mine under the driver’s seat. If someone was planning to break into the trunk and grab the purses, they’d most likely not be searching the rest of the car. (Grab and go.) So began my fear and anxiety. Walking toward the Rescue Mission, my reconnaissance mentality kicked on, making sure to have a clear head and my surroundings in check. After signing in, we walked downstairs and as soon as that door swung open and I had a view of faces, it flipped on. As if it was second nature and without a flinch, I removed my wedding ring, casually pushed it into my pocket and (knowing I was now “available”) I moved the ring from my right index finger onto my left ring finger. Not a flinch or facial expression. Dear God. That mentality was as crystal clear as if it was all yesterday. For the rest of the night, I wasn’t my usual self. No joking around, nearly no laughter. I kept eye contact to a minimum and if necessary, extremely quick and unemotional. I was in survival mode and I’m sure it showed. But I didn’t give a shit. I came there to do a job. A job I was still very determined to fulfill and very grateful being given an opportunity to help others even if I was surrounded by 80 homeless men, most likely all with mental issues and drug addictions. I wasn’t there to make any friends. The girl I came with was laughing and carrying conversations with some of the guys and I couldn’t help but look at her with sympathy. She had no idea that she was most likely a game to them. The *easiest* women were the targets, the first victims. I know this from experience. Could every single homeless man that we served last night, all 80 of them, be innocent, tame and pure in heart? Sure, it’s a possibility. But I’ve *lived* what homelessness and drugs can do to a human being. Knowing what I know, I wasn’t about to let my guard down until we were back in the car and on the way back home.

I accomplished my tasks with fervor and effectiveness. I slightly smiled and gave lots of “you’re welcome” and “thank you” responses. But last night taught me how much my past is still with me. When we left the building, there were people smoking crack about 50 feet from me. It was a very strange feeling to want to run away from them as fast and as far as possible BUT I also wanted to walk up to them and just chill out and hear their stories and show them that joy and peace was possible, without drugs.

Fear and love/passion do strange things to the human heart. I feel like I overcame something last night. Something I never knew existed. I’m hoping that the more I serve in this environment, the more trust I’ll gain to replace my fear. I’ll be back to do this again in a couple of weeks and I can’t wait.

Christmas is upon us and I’m finding myself less than thrilled to get lost in the commercialism of it all. I’m actually disgusted by it. Every dumb commercial and poster begging for someone to “Buy NOW!” is starting to really get under my skin. A couple of weeks ago I started feeling like I didn’t want to take part in any sort of traditional holiday this year, to sort of rebel from the stupidity of it all.

It’s very strange what detachment disorder realization does to the brain.

Yes, I’m blaming my current state of X-maspathy on the healing I’ve been doing this year. It seems like in the midst of letting some things go, I’ve released everything I was clinging onto, traditions included, and now I’m bringing the important things back into my life. Slowly and methodically. Throughout the course of my life, it’s like I’ve been holding hundreds of balloons, attached to string. Some balloons have been released completely and some couldn’t escape the canopy mass. Realizing I had issues with detaching and attaching emotions, this year, I feel like I’ve completely let go of every string and now I’m frantically grasping at the “balloons” that are significant to me. Inadvertently, I’ve been writing things off in my life and it’s very uncomfortable and strange to search for what is missing and what I still want to keep.

I understand the significance of Christmas and in celebrating the birthday of Jesus. I am just confused on the lame decorations and reasons why we’re doing what we’re doing. I want to make sure I’m not on auto-pilot as a result of “what I’ve always known.” Maybe this change is also occurring because we don’t have money to buy anything to go under the tree. However, I think that if we did, I still wouldn’t want any of it. Maybe it’s because of my heightened need to help people more than consume *things*. All I know is that, compared to millions of people around the world, we are blessed. In their eyes, not American eyes, we are rich. Adding abundantly to that wealth while they suffer around us, sickens me.

We ended up buying a tree and put up the decorations. The tree was $17 and it is perfect. I LOVED going to the tree farm and looking for the saddest, most pathetic tree while families all around us scoped and measured and felt-up their “perfect” tree. I want to instill traditions in the life of our family, but I saw us heading down a slippery slope several weeks ago and I want to make sure we don’t get lost in the cut-throat consumerism of it all.

I’ve mentally stripped away the blind tradition and I’m replacing it with knowledgeable, meaningful values. Because we are trimming the fat that is Christmas tradition, we are able to help others around us as well. That feels good, pure and right, like we’re living the meaning of Christmas. 🙂

Merry Christmas to all and Happy New Year!!

I know I’ve written a lot of heavy posts this year. The reason behind that is… well… it’s been a heavy year for me. For the first time in my life, I’ve dealt with traumatic events against me – starting with when I was eight years old. It’s been a tough year but it’s been an extremely healthy, healing year. For that, I am grateful, sometimes overwhelmed, in knowing how blessed I am.

In honor of Thanksgiving, this is my list of thanks.

  • For my perfect fit, Jase: He’s the most patient, loving, forgiving, gracious person I know.
  • For Malakai: My genius, loving, drumming, passionate first-born.
  • For Zoe: My happy, creative, kind and sensitive little girl.
  • For Cali: My carefree, dancing-singing, funny, precious toddler.
  • For all of my family and friends: Their support, love, listening ears, sound advice, similar struggles, and compassionate hearts have taught me so much.
  • I’m thankful, to the extent of immense disbelief and emotion, for the love and forgiveness I’ve been shown by the Creator of life. I am constantly moved to tears for the sacrifice that Jesus gave to me and the people that have harmed me. Because of Him, I know love. Because of Him, I know forgiveness and grace. Because of Jesus, I know the effects of second chances. For that chance, I breathe deep everyday and vow to show the same love that I’ve been gifted.
  • For the material possessions (house, vehicles, bed, computer, television) that allow me to relax and love myself, my family and all others while life attempts to push me into the ground, burying me with expectations and flashbacks and busyness.
  • For Jase’s job. His current job is the best he’s ever had but Jase has constantly worked his butt off to make sure that I’m able to stay home and raise our children with our values and morals.
  • For my past. I can not truthfully claim to wish change with any of it, for fear in it changing the positive aspects of my current life. Even in the midst of flashbacks (causing me to relive the pain and trauma) I know that allowing God to work through my past has made me a stronger and more loving person. Would I like to have this strength and love without having experienced the pain? Sure. But I can’t live life while drowning in “what if” scenarios. So, because of my past and with severe diligence, I will let my past refine me (for better) and use it to help me protect my children. I’ll pray they know the love, empathy and passion I have for people, WITHOUT needing to experience what I went through.
  • For the opportunity I have in being a mentor to youth. Because of my past, I have a heart/passion for youth, however, with the opportunity to reach out to them, I have a voice. Because of this opportunity, it’s become a positive reason to speak the heartache I’ve been through.
  • For the beauty of God’s creation. All of it. The intricate solar system, down to the smallest particle. I am blown away by how life has been so perfectly created. I love photographing nature and gazing at pictures of space. I notice, every day, how perplexing and perfect God’s creativity graces us with its presence.
  • For music. Music helped fuel the rage I had as a teenager but has also helped keep me afloat while drowning in sadness. Music can bring out every single emotion in me and something about singing on stage makes me feel extraordinarily close to God and people.
  • For laughter. God, in His own sense of humor, has placed in me an unusual one. My humor is self-reliant. Almost daily, something in my own imagination gives me a chuckle. I’m also surrounded by so many people that help this innate desire to laugh and make others laugh. For that, I’m sincerely grateful for wittiness, sarcasm and ignorance to idiocy. Writing that even made me giggle. 😉

When looking for opportunities of thanks, rather than opportunities to complain, your list will overwhelm you as well.

Look around. Find beauty. Somewhere. Anywhere. Cling to it.

At church this past Sunday, the pastor asked us about the voices we were listening to when it comes to what we believe about ourselves. It got me thinking that it would be interesting and probably helpful/healing to see the list written out. This is completely transparent, awkward to share and I know some would immediately say, “No way! You’re awesome! You’re beautiful!” However, I’ve heard it before. But I know me and the thoughts that I have, the opinion of who I am is louder. It’s not that I’m ungrateful for the compliments and encouragement. It’s just that if I place my worth in those opinions, then what about the other opinionated people who think the opposite? Which person/voice should I be listening to in finding my value?

I don’t trust people very easily. The trust I have when people share “truth” about me is completely non-existent with strangers, doubtful with casual friends, falters with close friends, semi-existent with family and not nearly as strong as I want it to be with, Jase, the closest earthly person to me. These “voices” are in my head, which I trust over every other person, most of the time.

Some days, I feel the entire list on my shoulders. Some days, I only feel part of this list. Sometimes it’s whispered. Sometimes it’s screaming.

1. I’m ugly.

2. I’m weak.

3. My skin isn’t flawless.

4. I’m a failure.

5. I don’t exercise enough.

6. Without a college degree, I’m not valued, my opinions don’t matter.

7. My stomach isn’t flat enough.

8. I’ve got ugly stretch marks.

9. My chest is too small.

10. My stomach is flabby.

11. I don’t look good without make-up.

12. I’m not a good mom.

13. I’m not a good wife.

14. No one should like me.

15. I don’t deserve a loving husband.

16. My hands are ugly.

17. The veins behind my ears are hideous.

18. My nose isn’t shaped right.

19. My hair is ugly.

20. I weigh too much.

21. My chin is crooked.

22. My toes are ugly.

23. My eyebrows aren’t full enough.

24. No one cares about my opinion.

25. I’m alone.

26. I have no worth.

27. I’m too old.

28. I should be making money.

29. I’m used goods.

30. My past is what defines me.

31. I am not unique/original. I am a copy.

32. I’m not loving enough.

33. I am being used.

34. I am being talked about.

35. My singing is worthless.

36. My future will be short.

37. I will be victimized again.

38. My children will be victimized.

39. My husband doesn’t love me.

40. I’ve got nothing to offer.

MOST OF THE TIME, I tell this list to go to hell, from whence it came. Sometimes, I let this list linger on my mind, for too long.

Although, EVERY time this list comes to mind, I eventually end up clinging to the fact that I am loved. That I am unconditionally loved. No strings attached, I am loved for who I am, who I was and who I will be. Regardless of what I look like, what I do, don’t do: I am loved just as I am.

That voice is the sweetest of them all.

For the first time in my life, this life I’ve dedicated to empathy and loving on people since 1996, I feel like I have direction. A purpose. A place where I can use the pain of my past in helping heal and/or shed light on the present and the future. My heart is pumping, as I wipe the tears from my face. I’ve removed the muzzle and now I feel I have direction to share my voice.

It started with first hearing about sex trafficking, years ago, and the traumatic disbelief that brought me. It escalated when I finally uncovered the pain of my past sexual abuse and dealt with the trauma of molestation, incest, running away, rape. It was amplified, this year, when learning about iEmpathize. I don’t have the time, resources or money to help out with this worldwide problem of sex trafficking… at least not yet.

But wait.

Where are the organizations helping the runaways that live on the streets, right around the corner? Where is their aid to bring them out of their drug addictions and desperation and prostitution? Then my friend posted this article on facebook. Oh my God. It IS happening here. Minutes from my house. I wasn’t the only one…

I’ve been on the move, researching, since stumbling into all of this reality last week. I found this today. I know this story. I LIVED this story. It may have been for only 10 days. But I know it, throughout my being, as if it all happened yesterday. I know the fear, the pain, the desperation, the addiction, the power.

I feel as if my purpose has been stamped in permanence. At least for now.

Dear God. I’ll need strength and courage…

My friend posted something on her facebook page the other day, about the Oprah show that she just watched. My friend mentioned how her heart breaks for “these women.” Since I only have preschool shows on during the day, I went to Oprah’s site and got the scoop. The topic for this particular show was on women who had been sexually abused at the hand of family members.

Growing up in with a strict, religious-focused mentality, really screwed me up. As a child and teenager, there were many things that were taboo topics in my family. The thinking was, if negative things were discussed, they’d be at the forefront of our minds and it would make us want to do those things. If we were talking about negative feelings, then we weren’t focusing on God or allowing Him to heal us. Total BS brainwashing. Especially when I had questions about sex, drugs and drinking as a pre-teen and then not knowing what to do or who to talk to after being molested by two family members and raped as a teenager. I’ve gone through HELL in my life because I’ve felt too afraid to speak up, too alone for anyone to care. Years of pain and trauma may have been avoided if I had been given the tools to deal with being molested when I was eight. Maybe I wouldn’t have turned to drugs, alcohol, stealing, running away, etc… maybe I wouldn’t have been molested, for years, by another family member. Maybe I wouldn’t have been raped.

Reading the summary of the Oprah show, the other day, reminded me that there is still SO much change that needs to happen in regard to sexual abuse survivors. In a way, I feel I’m now open to speaking about it so that must mean that everyone else is as well. I couldn’t believe the feedback I read while browsing through this particular site, as well as other sites. There are still so many women and men that are silent because they feel alone and afraid.

To me, it means that the voices of us survivors aren’t loud enough.

I want to be a loud advocate for victims/survivors but given the lack of confidence I have in myself and feeling like the help I have to offer has already been fulfilled by someone else and my story has already been told, it’s no wonder I’ve been dormant on this topic.

The reminder that there are still people too afraid to speak up or feeling like they are alone in their pain/abuse helps propel me, recharge me, to speak louder.

Why is sexual abuse such a taboo topic?!?

I’m sick of the muzzle, especially when it’s placed on by religion.

This year, I’ve finally found help: My church and their love for hurting, broken and weak people. My help has also come from finally tearing down the pride that had been fused to my DNA and talking to a counselor who showed me the depth of my PTSD and a variety of healing processes. So far, I’ve come across one book, Wounded Heart, that has been the most amazing help of all in getting me over my silenced shame and in understanding I’m not alone.

  • 1 in 6 women and 1 in 33 men will be a victim of sexual assault in their lifetime.
  • College age women are 4 times more likely to be sexually assaulted.

It’s more than likely that if you aren’t a victim/survivor yourself, then you know of someone that has been sexually abused.

Our silence is deafening.

I have had severe writer’s block, for weeks, with this idea/post. I’m tired of it swimming around in my head. So, although it might be incomplete or disjointed, I’m publishing it now.

I had an epiphany last night. Oooo, I love those. I realized that if I would stop having expectations with other people, then they wouldn’t let me down. If I stopped expecting things from people or for them to act a certain way, then I wouldn’t be disappointed in them.

I realized that that must be what defines unconditional love. Then I realized that that is how I needed to start viewing myself. I judge myself quite severely.

For most of my life I’ve felt defined as a singer. Not as a person who loved to sing but as, just a singer. If I messed up in singing a song, I failed in who I was. It was a horrible place to put myself. If I wasn’t singing, I wasn’t fulfilling who I was meant to be. If I wasn’t at the top of my list of accomplishing “all things I want to do and places I want to go” with singing, then I wasn’t complete.

I feel closest to God when I’m singing on stage at church and most complete when I’m singing, anywhere. However, I was getting to the point, before and after singing, of being unnerved with how I did because it wasn’t the best.

Being ONLY a singer was killing the value that I should have placed within myself. Having unrealistic expectations was killing the unconditional love that I should have had for those around me.

Once I realized that my problem resided in the expectations I had on myself and others, I quickly learned how to dissolve the issue.

In this seemingly simple act of change, I’ve lifted another incredible burden off of my shoulders. The difference I feel, in singing (whether it’s at home for an hour or at church), is tremendous. I’m not held captive to the feeling of being a failure if I make a mistake because I’m not just a singer. I’m a person that loves to sing. I’m a wife, a mom, a daughter, a sister, a friend, a mentor… that just loves to sing. This change has also lifted a burden off of people around me, whether they knew they were carrying this burden or not. If my family and friends failed in my expectations for them, then they were failing me. Now that I’ve dissolved those expectations, I feel I’m now free to love unconditionally.

No expectations = Unconditional love.

Several months ago, I felt like my life existed as a foundation of concrete. Strong, heavy, sustainable concrete. Solid. A completely solid foundation on which I built a skyscraper.

Once I started realizing that betrayal, abuse and pain had never been dealt with from my adolescence, I recognized that the solid foundation of mine was more like a brick wall. Still strong but instead of being a firm foundation, it was more like a massive retaining wall, holding back a landslide. I’m sure there were some cracks in the mortar or cracking in the bricks themselves but nothing but an army tank could plow down the amazing, powerful strength that was built up inside of me.

In the last few weeks, I’m realizing the truth. My strength was actually not built with concrete or bricks. My strength, the bravery and hope I have, was built with champagne glasses.

Champagne

This is what my strength really looked like and the tower has fallen. There is broken glass all around. Like a war torn wall, some of the glasses are still intact. Some are still complete and unblemished and some have completely shattered to bits.

broken_champagne

I am trying not to be hasty in the clean up of this utter chaos but it’s a painstaking process. It’s a difficult journey to repair all that has been shattered and all that has collapsed. I’m battling the tears in my eyes making my vision too blurry to operate accurately or consistently. I’m battling shaky hands that are trying to rush through a process that requires precise care. I’m battling the fatigue of this process and the need to just walk away and rest for a while. I’m battling the hopelessness that sees this process as too overwhelming.

Through my past help with a counselor, a life-changing book (The Wounded Heart) and my church, I’m realizing that this brokenness is far beyond what I’m able to handle on my own. I can organize and clean up but the pieces that are shattered, beyond (what I consider) repair, need to be forwarded on to their Creator. Wouldn’t He know best how to put that, which He created, back together?

I can try all by myself. I could probably fix it all up, close to what it looked like originally. It will take much longer and I’ll deal with the cuts and damage done by handling these broken shards by myself but it is possible to repair this all by myself.

The question is: Why would I want to put the broken pieces back together, on my own, when I have willing, loving help?

Well, I’m not going to Afghanistan. This post wasn’t started as a focus on the Afghanistan trip but I forgot that I left the team-pick decision up in the air, since my last post.

On one hand, of course, I’m relieved. But the decision is somewhat of a let down. I was finally able to set aside my ultimate fear of going to the Middle East and, instead, I placed my love of people in that mental space. I can’t describe how enormously freeing that was/is for me. I took a giant step forward and I was at peace about every single fear I had when thinking about that trip. I know of several other people that applied and they aren’t going either. The size of the group will be small and medically focused. I was encouraged to try again on the next trip and I may just do that. 🙂 During this process I’ve fallen in love with the people of Barek Aub and I hope, one day, to share my life and my love with them.

In the last week, a tremendous, heart-wrenching change has occurred within my family. The family members that I have achingly and sleeplessly spent the last several years reaching out to and helping heal in the midst of one family disaster after another, have turned on me. I called them out on some things and, unknowingly, fusing my call-out with their pride, turned into the most chaotic situation I’ve ever been a part of. With anyone. This situation forced me to change my cell number and the people that are on the safe list at my children’s school. I’ve never been more shocked, upset, sad, and confused with anyone. Ever. This event is tragic to me because I’m being blamed for every single problem they’ve ever had. My character, my honesty, my loyalty and my love are not only being questioned, they’re being utterly trampled on and thrown out, as waste. This situation is extremely hard on me because I’ve spent so many hours, days, weeks, YEARS, agonizing over this family and the pain they’re going through. I’ve spent countless hours watching the children of this family, so the adults could work on their issues. I once drove to Texas to meet the mom, halfway, so I could take her four kids for several days while she sorted through a trauma in her marriage. I have laid down my life for this family and now the adults are forbidding me to ever communicate with them or their children. I am heartbroken. I’ve seen these two adults use their own children as weapons and tools against the other spouse before, but I was never the target. I was never the enemy. Now, I’m not only the enemy, I’m the supposed cause of their years of problems and pain. I’ve never questioned myself and who I am more than in this last week. My character, of which I have spent years building up after self-destructing it as a teenager, is being called out as a fabrication. Everything about myself, that I was so sure I was not, is being thrown in my face as an accusation of who they say I am. I’m doubting myself and everything I believed to be true about who I am as a lover and forgiver and empathizer and healer. In this and through this, I see that the years I’ve spent, being dragged down into the painful depths of insanity of these tragic adults and the restlessness I’ve endured and mental and physical time I’ve spent away from my own sanity and family, to help heal them… has been in vain. I’ve tried to help these two adults that have no desire to be helped. I’ve tried to help their precious children by helping them and I’m finally understanding how fruitless my efforts have been. Because of selfishness, self-indulgence and pride, my labor has been in vain. Adding insult to injury, I’ve now been outcast from their family.

I’m learning to turn to those that surround me, those that know me and love me. I’m learning, remembering, to listen to their voices. For these are the people speaking truth about who I am. The people that love me and appreciate me are the people with hope, faith and love shining in their eyes. These are the people resonating, reverberating, what I know in my head and my heart about who I am as a lover, a life-giver, a forgiven forgiver and one who loves and appreciates all that I have been given and all that has been taken away. I trust that even in this horribly painful pruning process, I am in tender, powerful Hands.

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