February 1, 2015. 3 years ago today.
New Life, Life Changed.
Faith Defined, Washed Clean, Set Free.
Redeemed, Restored, Refined.
Pain became a Greater Purpose.
Peace Beyond Understanding.
Love Beyond Measure.
Love Won. Pray For One.
3 years Ago. My testimony, story, truth.
Grace Upon Grace.
As a child I grew up with a foundation of spirituality and believing in a Higher Power, That Something Greater than Me could possibly have control and would somehow take care of me. Although I grew up with that notion, primarily from my Mom and my beloved Grandfather, it wasn’t until many years and all kinds of pain later that I would commit my life to Jesus and define my Faith for myself. I went to Catholic things and church on the Holidays until around 5th Grade when my mom gave up the fight. My mom’s side is Catholic, my Dad’s is protestant (Still don’t really know what that means). All I remember during that time was being bored at CCD and the creepy bathrooms in the basement of the church that I hated going to.
Along with the confusion of what I believed about Faith (I didn’t believe in God, that’s for sure), I grew up in an alcoholic home, my dad struggled with addiction since I was a baby and until I graduated college when he got sober, and my Grandfather was more of a Father at times to me than my own Father was. A deep seed of pain was planted in my heart at a very young age. My earliest memory of my dad’s struggle was at 6 years old and it just got worse and worse and even worse after that, ending with him going to prison for part of my college career.
My first instance of even deeper pain came when I was at the end of elementary school, the timeline is blurry as I repressed the memories until I was 22/23, but I was sexually abused repeatedly around ages 9-11 by my babysitter’s teenage sons. And I would face a similar but more violent violation at the age of 12 when I was sexually assaulted in broad daylight outside by my best friend at the time/s distant relative. I battled Self-Injury (Cutting), Restricted Eating and many other destructive patterns.
From the age of 11 until I defined my Faith at 23 (3 years ago), I was involved with a program for children of alcoholics that was based on the foundation of a higher power and sometimes people talked about God, but that was optional. I believe now that all those years in that program and the people I met on my journey can be connected to what is talked about in Ephesians 3, that : For everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven. I truly believe God’s hand was on the foundation I was given, to one day in my future (at the time), bring me closer and closer to seeing and defining the need for more and HIM alone. Through the aftermath of a childhood darkened by addiction, sexual abuse and sexual assault, I clung to the words of a few authors in particular who wrote books about essentially being broken by sexual trauma and how to find healing. Little did I know when I picked up those books, the Word of God would be threaded throughout and that I was reading truth before I even knew what truth was.
My hardened heart was starting to be opened to the light. In 2009, I went to hear one of the authors speak (The venue was a Christian College I would learn later) and she referenced……….
Jeremiah 29:11 which says, “For I know the plans I have for you, to prosper you, and not to harm you, to give you a Hope and A Future” and 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.”.
Those two verses never left the back of my mind for the 5 years after, that it would take for me to see Jesus in my life for the first time, and for the road I would take to new life to begin. God finds a way to protect us even before we know Him or see Him working in our lives. I believe God protected me from those repressed memories, until I could fully deal with them in a time where my life had somewhat settled from my difficult adolescent years. There is way more in store in this life for me than what my past pain reminds me of, or what my future fears instill in me. Jesus pursued me feverishly through people, places, and things for so many years. He took my deepest pain and cultivated it into my most purposeful calling.
Little did I know that through the pain of dealing with the repressed memories I was being prayed for by name by Lauren, Devin a woman named Rachel and their bible study (including people I have never met) after an event I coordinated (in my college town after I had already moved away from there) with Nicole Braddock Bromley (The author I talk about earlier) as the keynote speaker. Because of how God provides for me now, I give monthly to her ministry ONEVOICE4FREEDOM.
At this time in 2014 I still did not know God… I was actually turning away from any kind of faith because I felt so frustrated about the new, very painful and confusing journey I was on with the repressed memories. I struggled early in my walk through prayer and petition with God about what purpose the “Repressed Memories” had in my already detailed “survivor story”. It didn’t take too long for me to get an answer. To endure it (as HE DID), to share it and to set it free.
God was healing me from the inside out, on His time, not mine. And his time was and is perfect, and I was healing in lightyears with HIM compared to the long drawn out over 10 years of healing that I had already done at this point, which didn’t seem to bring me to the level of healing I so desperately needed. Jesus lifted me up, and let the chains drop. I am more free than I ever have been.
Fast Forward: I started attending a young adult mixed bible study much like ours here on Cape Cod in the beginning of October 2014 in My Home State of NH. I attended church for the first time on my own accord in late October 2014. God was leading me, and I was following, in the most basic way.
The amount of the healing and forgiveness I was shown through Him was happening so clearly before my eyes, I couldn’t help but just believe it with my whole heart.
I found forgiveness at the most powerful level on the side of the road in my car after bible study one night, with Matthew West’s Song Forgiveness playing in the background (I had never heard it until that moment) and it was almost audible that God said to me… “My child, I have you in the palm of my hands now, their hurting hands (those who sexually abused/assaulted me) no longer have a grip on you, their hands are no more. My hands will carry you, not hurt you, as theirs did. Set them free to set you free.”
God was transforming me. –2 Corinthians 5:17
He was renewing my mind. – Romans 12:2
He was making all things new. – Revelation 21:5
On February 1, 2015, I got baptized and truly laid my past, present and future at the feet of Jesus for the first time.
The night before I was baptized, I had decided to open the bible two of my good friends (Husband and Wife, Lauren and Devin) gave me.
The bible they gave me had been sitting on my bedside table untouched since that November in 2014. I had no idea how to even read a bible, so I did what I knew at that time to start somewhere… And I flipped it open randomly. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. Jeremiah 29:11 Hope and Future. The exact verse familiar to me from 2009 when I heard that author speak. God continued to turn my eyes to him in the many clear connections such as these scenarios and people he placed on my Journey threading back to my childhood and adolescence. HE was ALWAYS there. He was ever present weeping with me and for me, ESPECIALLY in those hours of my deepest pain and the aftermath. I always remember feeling like there was something more to be had in this life and it was HIM and his plan for me. In the process of what felt like one of the most painful times in my life in 2014, where I was sure I would lose everything and go right back to square one on my healing journey…I saw JESUS; I heard him, I became HIS and he gave me so much more than what I thought I was going to lose.
He promises that he plans to prosper us and not to harm us, to indeed give us a Hope and a Future. – Jeremiah 29:11
I am anchored in my faith. Firm and Secure. – Hebrews 6:19
My life journey thus far has aligned with these two truths and so many more that the Lord has graciously given us. I’m thankful to be connected to such incredible women, like those in this group, who continue to help me grow, believe in me, challenge me, and change me for the better. I’ve always found healing through writing and speaking. This is one of the things I believe God called me out of the dark for.
I relocated to Cape Cod in 2015 from my Home State of NH (Salem, NH) to take a job that without a doubt I see God’s hand in every single day. I would not be where I am today and to be able to see and hear the stories that I do, of some of the most horrific things that people can do to each-other, and at times pure evil acts of sexual sin against kids and teenagers, (with also having a history of my own) without God’s Grace and endurance. I dreamed of this job since I was 17 years old right after one of my cases went to trial. I wanted to badly to give back. God brought me TO the pain to ultimately bring me THROUGH IT, to help others and to be a VOICE for and alongside those who need me to be, as I now advocate for survivors in all capacities and work daily with families who have Children and Teenagers on Cape Cod in my role as the Family Advocate at the local Child Advocacy Center for those facing Sexual Abuse, Severe Physical Abuse, Witness to Domestic Violence and CSEC (Human Trafficking).
As for relationships, I’ve had one serious relationship with a boy in my entire life Ironically, he was a Cape Cod Boy, and I have some great memories here growing up. It was only for about 6 months and he was also my prom date when we were not together. He was the only one I have ever trusted enough to let in and to love me in that way, and he did the best he could. He listened when I said no about going all the way on Prom Night (He told me it was okay and held my hand the rest of the night), and He Listened when I said yes to other things. I believe God gave me him to love me when I was broken and to show me that I was capable of being loved. B and I met in the program for teens with alcoholic parents that I talked about earlier. I believe God gave him to me for a time, but also took him away in Jesus’ pursuit of me. The rest of my experience with intimacy is still sometimes hard to wrap my head around and there’s so little of it that’s healthy, which I’m learning now, is why it’s worth the wait, and that I must wait. I struggled in college with using alcohol as courage to be intimate because my past instilled so much fear in me that I didn’t think I was capable of being intimate completely present and wanted to feel “normal” like all my friends who had stories about hook-ups the next day. I know GOD protected me in a unique way, as I know I could have been put in bad, scary continued non-consensual situations and I know countless survivors of sexual assault, or just girls or women in general who settle for less and get into awful abusive relationships or marriages. God redeemed those years too and protected me from that in the long run and I know now more than ever that my body is a temple for God’s Glory, not my own or for others. In all honesty, I still struggle with the thought and staying in the Hope and Trust that God will provide those desires that I have, but I also know without a doubt that if it’s in HIS plan it’s in HIS hands.
As I sat writing this, never in a million years, especially years ago, would I think that I would be called to share my story in this way and that my story would be written by God, with me just holding the pen. My eyes have been completely opened to God’s hand, protection, endurance and so much more through it all.
This season of my walk has presented a NEW set of challenges. As some of you know, and some may not, I was in a plane crash last summer. July 24, 2016. My life flashed before me as we attempted to land and took off again so very quickly at takeoff speed, spun around, and shot like a missile across two runways and into a rental car parking lot, hitting 6-9 cars, and totaling a few of them. It changed me as a person. It shook my Faith. I was hurt physically and mentally. But the thing that continued to stand through the trial was that GOD is Faithful and I am HIS. I felt the presence of God and Angel Armies around me in those moments, and felt peace instead of fear in the moment of impact realizing that my life very well could have ended that day in that moment. Isaiah 40:31 says Those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint. I had to keep walking and push through the pain and confusion and difficulty of it seek HIS face in all of it. I learned through the aftermath of the crash about the importance of doing what we can in the time we are given. James 4:14 says that our Life is but a vapor in the big picture, and brings me to the question of “what will I do with my Vapor?” What can we do to Glorify God without boasting about ourselves and just doing for others. I had to trust him that there was a purpose in my life flashing, and that purpose was shown to me in the growth of my relationship and reliance on HIM.
Recently I’ve faced a physical health battle as woman, and physical issues having to do with being a survivor of sexual violence, that will likely prove to be a long painful road ahead. But what still stands is the truth that I am not just a woman, but a woman of God. As Psalm 139:14 says, I Praise HIM, because I am Fearfully and Wonderfully Made. Although this won’t be easy or without physical pain, God has my body in HIS hands and I stand in HIS Victory, not in the Fear or Discouragement placed on me those who hurt me. Psalm 139:13 says HE created my innermost parts and being, and knitted me together in my mother’s womb. He has this all according to his plan and he knows what is about to happen. Most recently the verse He has given me regarding this that I have memorized has been Luke 12:4-7 Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but after that can do no more. And Further down…. Are but many sparrows sold for two pennies, yet not one of them is forgotten by God. Indeed, the very hairs on your head are still numbered, do not be afraid, for you are worth more than many sparrows.
In my walk there has been Growth in the Faith, (especially in the past 2 years since I moved to this place and surely more in the past year itself) in ways beyond what I could fathom. The word of God in its entirety (not just pulling things out that I can relate to) has become something to cling to when things go astray, when I am gearing up for battle, and when I just need rest. He has shown me that in his word if I seek, I will find and that when I step out of my comfort zone, he will continue to reveal things to me, tailored for me. I am becoming more disciplined and my heart is changing through things like: getting up early (I am not a morning person) to do my quiet time with a sister before work, getting on my knees and praying for the broken world and people in my life (Widening my prayer life to be less for me but for them) and using my hands and feet literally to carry out his will by serving others; by loving the unlovable and sometimes giving financially even if I’m not sure I can swing it. I am learning to Trust him deeper and carry out what he has sent me here to do. I say yes a lot faster with God’s hand as my guide.
The zeal for his word and my hunger for truth and what else HE and only HE has for me has become a daily occurrence. Memorizing scripture that HE has put on my heart about something, someone, or a situation I face has been a new addition to my walk with Jesus. My Journey started out and for many years was a film of Jesus’ hot pursuit of me, now; with that same fire I must and will pursue Him. For me HE started out as a God of Redemption, He first revealed his character to me that way when I realized what he pulled me from/plucked me out of. Now, there’s been a shift as I learn more about his character. HE is someone I bow down to and someone I will look to for Guidance and Growth for the rest of my life. As Proverbs 31:26 says She speaks with wisdom, and faithful instruction is on her tongue. I will continue to pursue the Woman of God I was always destined to be. I will speak HIS TRUTH over LIES, I will cling to HIS WORD in good times and bad times, I will walk in HIS footsteps no matter what and SHARE his Goodness by using my voice about my experiences and the Hope and Good News I’ve received directly from him. He rescued me. I lay down my life and pick up my cross daily. I must continue to lay my fears and life itself at the feet of Jesus. There is Joy in HIM here, now and there is JOY at the end of this, in eternity. Philippians 1:6–And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ
Owning Our Stories and Loving Ourselves through that process is the Bravest thing we will ever do. ~Brene Brown
I desire to cultivate my relationship with the Lord more than ever before and have put this into action through reading daily, getting lost (but found) in prayer and reaching out to others to share the truth I’ve learned, and being BOLD when I am called to be with people in my life. To give GLORY to his name. To say and point people to his name through my journey. God pursues us all our lives and calls us out in some of our darkest hours. He undoubtedly uses our pain for a purpose and brings light (through people, places, things and callings) into the darkness of unimaginable circumstances. God’s protection is real. I am living proof. Through my growth with God, I have learned that I am SO much more than what I’ve done, or what has been done to me. VOICES (collective or alone) are the most powerful thing we can use to take back what was stolen, in any and all ways. There is power in speaking the truth, and we are all capable of planting seeds like a lotus, that will grow into beautiful things from the ashes and dirt for years to come. The world we collectively live in as a whole isn’t always beautiful or hopeful, but something beautiful and hopeful in my walk with Jesus is what I can create in my individual world, and in turn, beautiful and hopeful is what others will see and feel when their world collides with mine.