PROLOGUE.

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Four more stoplights. Two minutes, maybe two and a half, stand between me and the pavement. Four stoplights and then I jump.

The bruises aren’t developed yet from the beating this morning at the hands of my mother. I can feel the scratches on my throat and back, and I’m not sure if my stomach is in knots from the blows or nerves. My face is raw and red from crying and my eyelids feel swollen and heavy. I look out the window at the sun and clouds and all of the people walking on the streets of our small Missouri town, indifferent to the choice I’m currently weighing in my mind. I know she is waiting for me to come home, and here I am, in the backseat of my aunts car with my cousins four deep in the backseat beside me, driving back to my parents house.

Strategically, the oldest is on my right. If I go through with it, I will jump from the backseat of the drivers side, and I will run. The YMCA is two and a half blocks to the west. I’m fast. As long as I land on my feet, I know I will be in the door before anyone can catch up to me. I also know they wont try to catch me either. That’s the plan.

Two stoplights. I need to go at the next intersection. I look to my right. The 12 year old is next to me. I’m confident that when I open the door to the oldsmobile, she will protect the other two from falling, or following. I have seconds now to change my mind.

The image of my mother holding my back firm against the dresser with her body as she moves her hands from around my throat to my mouth flashes in my mind. My mother who has Hepatitis B. She pries my mouth open and spits. It’s just a memory. It isn’t going to happen again. I tell myself as the tears prick my eyes. I’m getting more and more afraid to jump, but I am TERRIFIED of staying in the car. Every second we are getting closer to the house that will be the end of me, I’m sure of that.

I glance again at my cousins and at my aunts in the front seat. I’m not changing my mind. I’m going to jump. My legs are twitching with anticipation and my stomach does a flip. I know in that moment that I’m brave enough.

“I’m sorry.” I whisper a silent apology to my family, knowing my next move will forever change them and myself.

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An open letter to Christians, Muslims and America…

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As a lifelong follower of Christ, an undenying believer in the Bible, an Alumni of a Christian college (where I wrote a 36 page final research paper on the Quran, a religious text which I do have my own concerns and disagreements with)  and a friend of a Muslim family and their sweet and beautiful children, whom have shared our lives, our home, and our dinner table….I am absolutely appalled.

Rest assured, when we invite our friends (the gentleman and wife are both in management for a company that ships goods nationwide, while he is also an active member of his Muslim church as well as a coach to at risk youth in our community) I am NEVER EVER EVER concerned for my family or my children. In fact, I would be honored to see my kids mimic the respect and dignity that this man puts forward…and their children are some of the most respectful and well behaved kids I have seen. Not to mention adorable 🙂

My Christian brothers and sisters, on the other hand, like so many examples set forth recently, would still be respectfully welcomed in my home…but their examples would not be ones that I would ever hope for my sweet, compassionate, empathetic and respectful children to ever adopt as a part of their core values.

 

Christian brothers and sisters,

Assuming all middle eastern people are terrorists is like assuming all white people are Nazis.
Assuming all Muslims are Islamic Extremists is like assuming all Christ followers are Polygamists.
Assuming all followers of the Quran are of the same mind as Osama BinLaden is like assuming all followers of the Bible are of the same mind as Brian David Mitchell.

Basing wide sweeping assumptions about that which you are not fully educated on, immersed in, or seeking deeper reflection about is extremely dangerous, incorrect, ignorant and arrogant.

I challenge you…study. Study in depth the Bible, the Quran and the many religions that stem from these two religious texts. Not all Biblical based religions are “good” just as not all Quran based religions are “bad”. Both books have many questionable texts within them…it is the followers job to study the text and try to comprehend the implications within it while also understanding the culture, society and era in which it was written. Remember, many Christian scholars, preachers and teachers are in disagreement about how texts from our Bible are to be interpreted. Could not the same be said about the Quran and its followers?

I challenge you, plead with you actually, quit reading your Bible. Yes, you heard me correctly. QUIT READING YOUR BIBLE and rather, become a STUDENT of it! Study it. Critically. Dig deeper into the life of Jesus and his teachings. Dig deeper into the messages of how one who lays down his own life to follow Christ is to live.

Likewise, befriend a Muslim or a Muslim family. Welcome them into your life, even if for no other reason than to have a mentoring relationship with them. Try to understand them. Try to understand their religion and their beliefs. Ask them about their core values, their children, their morals and ethics. I promise, you will be surprised and humbled by what you hear. Perhaps what you fear is simply that which you do not understand.

 

To my Muslim friends,

I am sorry. I am sorry for the message that my own brothers and sisters are sending to you and yours.

While I do not necessarily adopt your religion or your Quran as my own, I am not afraid of you or have an inaccurate assumption about you or your family as a result of it. I would challenge you do to the very same as I have asked my Christian brothers and sisters to do…please look at the Scriptures critically and study them in depth. I will continue to do the same. In the mean time, know that I do not believe that the actions of radical Islam are a reflection of you and your religion anymore than (I hope) you believe the actions of the KKK or alt right are a reflection of mine.

I see you in our community, in our schools, coaching up and educating our youth, in our businesses working, living peacefully living among us. I do not fear you, nor do I condone you.

I see the persecution of your brothers and sisters who are not lucky enough to have been born here and my heart hurts for them, as my heart hurts when I have seen my fellow Christians persecuted. It is tragic and unfortunate and disgraceful.

While I may not share your religion, I share your species….human. From one human to another human, I extend my compassion. While I hold no leadership role with the power to make executive orders, please know that I would welcome your fellow brothers and sisters into my country, my communities…my home. 

 

To my fellow Americans,

I see that you are scared, and angry, and afraid. I understand. I have many concerns and fears as well….

but my current view is of my children on the floor in front of me as I type this…playing peacefully, laughing, carefree.

At this very moment across the world, another mother is watching her starving, filthy, fearful child crawl amongst a pile of rubble. She hears shots and explosions and the cries of other women whose children werent as fortunate as hers. She lives in fear of being kidnapped, shot or worse. She is considering putting her child into the water because the water is safer than the land…but she knows that in order to even do that, she risks all of their lives to come out of hiding.

You’re angry because we lack the empathy for our own hungry, our own unsheltered, our own underresourced.

It makes me angry too.

One way I choose to channel that anger is by offering clothing, diapers, food, warm coats and shoes to those who need it. I channel it by opening my home to homeless or hurting children.

I hear you when you say you are angry about the treatment of our Veterans…when is the last time you took one of them off the street and into your home for a warm shower or meal? What programming are you giving your own resources to to help provide more resources for them?

I am just trying to throw out some ways to channel your anger here…because I have it too. But I also know that even living on the streets of America is safer than living in the rubble and ruins of Apello.

To my knowledge, refugees are not asking for money, housing or even food. (I know that our government and relocation programming has offered such things…my point is that I do not think that the refugees currently fleeing Syria are ASKING for such.) They are asking to come into our country to simply have the opportunity to find these resources without risk of life and limb and the kidnapping, rape and murder of their children in the process.

I wish there was more the government could or would do for our own people, but I also see an America crying out to “drain the swamp” and for less government, while simultaneously cutting funding for social services.

I don’t know the answer here, but I do know that the best allocation of my own time and resources is to channel them into the areas of my own community where I can make a postive impact on the very injustices that fuel me and fire me up the most. For me, that is caring for the needs of children and families.

For you that is ?? (Insert veterans, children, the homeless, women in distress, the education system, families in need?)

I challenge you to dig deep and identify one such thing, then go out and make a positive impact on it!

I know you’re scared. I am scared too. I believe that we are often the most scared of that which we don’t (or can’t) understand. I also have to be confident that there is a vetting process for these people that is ensured to keep us safe. I can not promise nothing bad will happen anymore than I can promise nothing bad will happen at the hands of one of your fellow Americans. It happens everyday. Society as a whole is kindof a scary place.

I read somewhere that an American has a 1 in 3.6 billion chance that they will be attacked by a refugee in any given year.

Likewise, you have a 1 in 4 chance of dying from a heart related complication or disease.

The number of American civillians killed by terrorists in 2014- 8. The number of American civillians killed by lightening the same year- 29.

You have a 1 in 8 chance that you will be molested or raped by a family member.

The chances of dying by homicide at the hands of a fellow American is roughly 1 in 20,000.

1 in 113 odds yearly that you will die in a car crash.

There is a 1 in 6,162 chance you will drown. Actually, about 1 in every 1,000,000 baths ends in a death. There is literally a 1 in a million chance that you will die taking your next bath.

Now this is not me saying that as a fellow American, I do not believe that radical Islam poses a huge threat and a risk to all of us…of course I do. It is real. It is a reality. It is a bleak reminder that terrorists are actively waging war on the west. But I do not beleieve that the refugees fleeing the very terrorists we fear are, in fact, all terrorists that we should fear. In fact, I believe that these people have just as much, if not MORE fear and distain for radical Islam after seeing their families tortured, murdered and their homes and cities taunted, invaded and destroyed. I believe that these individuals have a far better idea and understanding of destruction and degradation of the savages they flee.  Just my guess, though.

 

Friends, Christians, Muslims, Americans…my earnest hope is that we can find peace among one another. That we may break bread at the same tables or at the very least live within the same borders safely and with mutual respect and understanding…but for now all I can offer is this universal truth:

The current rhetoric you see and hear is not a reflection of us all. We do not have to completely understand one another to treat each other as a fellow human.

Peace be with you.

There is no going back…

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Here goes…the very last wall I have kept guarded and built up around myself like a protective blanket is about to crumble down, and I can’t turn back.

I am a victim of sexual assault. I don’t call myself a survivor, because during my ordeal I never felt that my life or “survival” was in danger. No, the only thing in danger in that dark garage on Huntoon Road was my virginity, my self-esteem, what little shred of innocence I had left, and my dignity.

At 11 years old, I had not even started my period yet. I had only ever kissed one boy {under the bushes at recess at my elementary school}. I only knew about sex secondhand, and I certainly was not “raging with uncontrollable hormones”, which is probably why staying the night in a garage with teenage boys my parents were “hiding” from the juvie police didn’t cross my mind as a “dangerous” decision. I was young. I was stupid. I was wrong.

The next morning, I slithered back into the house and headed straight for the bathroom. I was bleeding from having my small body torn, and I sunk into the bath. I didn’t even know how to shave my legs yet, but I knew what it was like to have someone on top of me.

I wondered if this meant I had to “love him” and that we were “boyfriend and girlfriend” now. The thought made me sick. I wondered if the other girls I knew from school that had “had sex” with this same person had also said “no..please stop” and cried as he promised in their ear that it was going to be okay and to just be quiet. I wondered if I should hold his hand now when I went back outside, because I didn’t really want to look at him much less touch him…or have him touch me, ever again. I wondered if you could get pregnant when you have never had a period. I knew a girl in my school that was pregnant, she was 13. I wondered if everyone would know, or if they could tell. These are the things you think about when you are 11.

I wrote about that night in the garage and about my (physical as well as emotional) pain and confusion in my diary, because that’s what you do when you’re a kid.

A few weeks later, after my 12th birthday and after the young men were long gone, my mother found it…my diary.

She was irate…

…with me. She beat me. She called me a little slut, a whore, a slew of other things and hit me over and over. I remember crying in the bathroom after, and shaving my legs for the first time. I don’t know why I remember that, but I guess that’s what a 12 year old whore does. She never told my father. For that I am still thankful.

Knowing with certainty now that what happened was definitely my fault, and I deserved to be punished for it changed and shaped the way I would view my body and what I could possibly give to another person for many years.

I buried the secret and allowed myself into compromising situations time and time again, because I just didn’t care anymore. There was nothing left to be “taken” from me. I actually have bile rising in my throat right now as I write this.

It took me many years and a new family before I could begin to forgive myself. I even started calling myself a virgin again, but when the words came out it felt like a huge lie. I tried to convince myself that I was… although deep down my biological mothers words and fists had pounded “whore” onto my heart, and deep into my soul.

My husband and I were married for 5 years before I even hinted at what happened in that garage. It was a part of my story I always kept locked away for myself. I never shared any details, and begged him to never talk about it again, and he has not since that day. Again, I am thankful.

No one knows my secret. Not my parents, my brothers, my best friends. Rather, no one “knew”…until now.

Why now? Why would I share this, knowing the insurmountable pain it is going to force me to face?

This is why. Today, 11 of my friends (and counting) shared different memes and opinions about a sexual assault assailant on social media. This person is rich, powerful, and a staple in todays politics. This person is vile, and yet the very people I see pledging their allegiance to him also do so in the name of “Conservative Christian views and Morals”. They do so in the name of “politics”. 

One meme shared said “If American women are so outraged by the use of Trumps naughty words…then who the hell bought 80 million copies of ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’?”

{For the record, the leaked tape does not create outrage over his use of “naughty words”, it is much more over his verbal account and boasting of “grabbing (a woman) by her pussy” and pushing his hands up her shirt, putting his lips on her, while trying to use his power and authority to convince the woman to have sex with him.}

Friends, stop. Please. Just stop.

So far, there is 11. 11 friends that have shared dismissing comments on how he sexually assaulted a woman who worked for him, while shifting blame to ALL women because thousands of books about sex were sold. {Wait, what?}

For the record, “reading a book about sex” and having a man “grab” you “by the pussy” while trying to force you to submit yourself to him are TWO VERY VERY VERY DIFFERENT THINGS. I can’t even believe that has to be explained??

I just read the book “Finding Me” by Michelle Knight, a woman who was abducted and brutally sexually tortured for 11 years at the hands of a sexual predator.

This does not mean that I hope to be abducted and sexually tortured and beaten for 11 years, or that I think its cool and okay, nor does it mean that I condone or support the actions of a sexual predator.

It means that I read books.

This way of thinking is disgusting, and must stop. For the love of our children, just stop. It is not okay, it is not the same. The fact that “good people” are still throwing allegiance, while shifting blame once again back onto WOMEN (because this is exactly what a post like this does) is DEPLORABLE and DISGUSTING. It is what we have seen this man do over and over.

That victim was someones DAUGHTER. Every woman this man has ever called a “dog” or “fat” or “ugly” or groped, or sexualized, or assaulted WAS SOMEONES DAUGHTER. Think about that.

This isn’t politics, this is simply about right and wrong, and people perpetuating a rape culture..which is EXACTLY what these memes and comments {and your blind allegiance to it} do.

They shift rape blame from the perp to the victim.

They beat the girl for what the man did to her, just like my mother so many years ago.

Friends, this is NOT about politics. You hurt me today, but I am choosing to let down my guard to help you understand. Every time you dismiss these actions, you hurt me. You hurt girls who have been molested, sexual assault survivors, and women who are victim of sexual harassment. We will still pretend to be okay, but you just reinforced that tiny voice in our heads telling us that our assault was somehow our fault. YOU are a part of a problem far bigger than you understand, for the sake of what? Your candidate? You took another little slice of my dignity today. I will forgive you.

I do not care who you are “voting” for. You can vote for your Trump without condoning his every lewd comment and without dismissing his actions and behavior. Same goes for those of you voting for your Hillary. Voting doesn’t have to mean plowing over and shredding the dignity of others in the blind allegiance of your hero.

For me, I will post this, then reap the consequences..good and bad.

Someone will be helped by knowing that ‘she’ is not alone, and that her assault does not define her.

Someone will tell me all the reasons why I should still vote for Trump, because that’s exactly how disgusting and sick people are.

Some will play the role of my biological mother, and attempt to tear me apart..not knowing that I am far from ever believing those lies again.

But some might sit back and take a moment to let my story and the millions of others just like it “sink in”. They might change the way they speak of these terrible things, the way they blow them off and make memes indicating its okay and don’t think twice about the damage they could potentially cause to their “friends” before moving forward full throttle. They might even change the way they think about the men who hurt women with their words, their hands and their bodies. My hope for you, reader, is that you become one of the latter.

Humility in a righteous world.

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“Lord, deliver me from the lust to vindicate myself.” -St. Augistine

CONVICTED. That’s what I am this morning as I prayed over my woes and hurts. You see, we live in a world where day after day and week after week, we and millions of our peers can publicly express their many thoughts and opinions, support and condemnation through the wonderful world of social media. I’m not bashing facebook or asking you to deactivate your twitter, I love social media and the connection it provides during those long hours of motherhood and those lonely and isolated times of foster parenting. In an instant, I can find a “friend” who “gets it” and can council or pour into me, and I am thankful for that luxury.

But lets be honest here….right now, that’s not what social media is REALLY about, is it? Right now, we find ourselves in a world where opinion and vindication, the need to be right and ensure that others agree with our particular stance on any given topic is the “acceptable norm”. We fill our friends lists with like minded people and then we “de-friend”, or worse yet, publicly crucify or convict anyone who opposes in any way our way of thinking.

CONVICTED.

Think about the last 5 topics that have been brimstone and hellfire in the social media storm…think about where you were standing and what you had to say. Now think about the hardness and hatred you saw thrown around. I’m thinking. I’m thinking about my stance and how I tried so very hard to take a road of kindness and love. How I made public stands about lions and babies and without even knowing it, a county clerk. I wanted to make sure I didn’t hurt anyone with my words, but also that my point was loud and clear, and my “social world” knew where I stood. “This shouldn’t matter.” (the lions); “This is evil.” (the babies); “This person is not a representation of my Christianity.” (the clerk). I thought I could be “kind” (“Your kindness will reward you but your cruelty to your neighbor will destroy you.” Proverbs 11:17)but still stand firm on my message of Jesus and his love, and even in those moments- those very messages were offensive and hurtful. The very thing I worked so hard not to be, in my own actions, I was being.

SOMEONE on my friends list cared deeply about the lion. CONVICTED.

SOMEONE on my friend list was hurt by my words about abortion. CONVICTED.

SOMEONE on my friend list identified with and praises the clerk. CONVICTED.

The most fascinating thing in it all? I probably shared some of the same feelings, morals, beliefs and convictions as my friends, but because we never stopped to have an actual conversation out of a place of trust and love as brothers and sisters serving the same Lord, No middle ground was found before the condemnation and convicting of one another started.

This is where humility comes in.

So often, we find ourselves in the need to be “right” at all costs. Now don’t get me wrong, sometimes we are “right”, fundamentally. When we go “wrong” is when the deep need to ensure others know we are “right” rears its evil head. (Refer to the public display being made by the clerk.)

“Pride leads to disgrace but with humility comes wisdom.” -Prov. 11:2

“…and all of you, serve each other in humility, for God opposes the proud but favors the humble.” -1 Peter 5:5

CONVICTED.

As the firestorm that is social media (aka. Social Acceptance) heats up and the beast of righteousness and vindication is released, we find ourselves being torn apart and publicly challenged  via that lovely thing we call “newsfeed” and “wall”. It hurts. Its painful and its personal, and as you sit alone reading all about yourself you begin to think about how to vindicate yourself. The need to make sure that everyone knows that you are “this” or your aren’t “that”. I need to make sure my friends know where I stand and the goodness in my heart….wait…why? In my own efforts to tell my friends that I don’t live in offense, I found myself hurt and offended. In my efforts to put aside the need to defend myself or my viewpoints as I am called hurtful things, I found myself needing to defend my person.  I went to bed anguished and hurting, trying to figure out how I was going to “fix” this public condemnation of myself, because that’s what I thought I “needed”. Is that not in its self the need for vindication? The only way to repair the things directed at me would be to direct words back at someone else. “It is foolish to belittle ones neighbor. A sensible person keeps quiet.”- Prov 11:12

CONVICTED.

I remembered this morning….well actually the Holy Spirit remembered and ripped through my heart this morning…a sermon I heard a few years ago about humility and ways we can practice humbling ourselves. It hit me that this is where we (at least I, personally) need to begin, on social networks and in our daily lives, in order to lay down our own pride and find worth in ourselves and our peers again.
“It was pride that changed angels into devils; It is humility that makes men as angels.” -St. Augistine

How? How can I practice being humble and what does humility look like in our world today? I remember that teacher as she shared with us:

SERVE.
Humble yourself by serving those that are different from you, less fortunate than you, and different minded than you. Be hands when you are able, and serve others humbly without the need for recognition or thanks.

PRACTICE LETTING OTHERS HAVE THE LAST WORD. 
Let others express their thoughts and opinions without the need to justify or express your own.

LEARN TO NOT ALWAYS NEED TO DEFEND YOURSELF. The lust to vindicate ones self is deep seeded, but unnecessicary. Your value and worth are from the Lord and the Lord alone, not man.

PRACTICE THINKING MORE OF OTHERS THAN YOURSELF. Hurting people are hurtful people. Humble yourself enough to pray for others and put their needs ahead of your own. Allow yourself to disappear from your own concerns.

ASK GOD TO OCCASIONALLY REMIND YOU OF THE DEPTHS OF YOUR OWN SINFULLNESS.
When you remind yourself of your own sinfulness and sinful nature, you can humble yourself before God and man.
“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brothers eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?” -Matt. 7:3

Practicing humility is hard. Its more effort sometimes than the easy and more acceptable road of self vindication. Swallowing words and pride sometimes tastes pretty sour going down, but reminding yourself that you are the least of these and yet you are still of immense value brings peace to ones soul.

I am a self righteous person in a world that promotes and accepts self righteousness. This transcends through the liberal world and the Church alike, whether we want to be honest enough with ourselves to admit it or not. We will always be able to find something that needs publicly convicted or vindicated while pursuing our self righteous stance and defending our actions or words. We MUST become better at practicing humility than we are at posting our viewpoints on our “wall”. I’m talking to me here.

CONVICTED.

I used to be Pro Choice.

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I used to be pro choice.

I grew up knowing all about abortion and seeing it firsthand. My biological mother was pro choice. I don’t know how many abortions she had before her young death, but I do remember one vividly.

I remember riding in the car leaving a random house, a random guy. It was a confusing time. I probably didn’t understand much. I don’t remember him at all.

I remember the drive from the facility after her procedure. She wasn’t sad at all. She was angry. She was always angry. She was in physical pain and this led to more anger. I remember sitting in the back seat completely silent hoping I would disappear. I was young and didn’t understand much, but I knew what an abortion was and I knew she had just had one. It was never spoken about again.

As the alcohol, drugs and abuse in our home escalated, somehow a way out opened up and I found myself in a new life with a new family. My liberal upbringing was colliding with my conservative surroundings and emotionally I found myself seeing a lot if grey. (Probably why I’m still a person that naturally leans both ways.)

Fast forward…a healthy wonderful marriage and a baby on the way. Our first visit with the Dr. was to happen at 12 weeks. Days before our visit, things started to go wrong. I experienced a trauma, and this threw my newly pregnant body into an emotional and physical tailspin. I was in pain and bleeding, and after a trip to the Dr. the day before our appointment, it was confirmed that there was going to be no baby born to us from this pregnancy. I was sent home where I laid in the bath tub for hours with terrible cramping and pain, as everything that was once inside my body came out. Through my tears, I cleaned out our bathtub in our modest little starter home, and discarded the pieces that my husband and I made together. My heart began to change on what is and isn’t a “baby”.

Terms like “fetus” and “clump of cells” didn’t adequately describe the experience. It didn’t describe what I was seeing and experiencing emotionally. My baby. The baby that was inside of me was never to grow into anything more than a once heartbeat, and I found it hard to breathe. It was graphic. This is graphic. I’m sorry.

Moving on, we had a healthy baby boy, and life was amazing! I was pregnant again, we were happy, we were growing and our family was growing. We had told our families and friends how excited we were to grow to a family of 4, but that wasn’t going to happen just yet.

I knew it was happening again. There was no trauma this time, life was great and I was stress free. My body and that which grew in it were battling, I saw the signs and the fear set in. We went straight to the Dr. where it was confirmed that our BABY had stopped developing. There was no heart beat, there was no longer life. There was decaying flesh that could and would harm me if we didn’t remove it. Again, there is no breath, and there are no words. Just tears.

The day I went in for my procedure, the same procedure commonly used in abortion, I can’t describe who I was. I wasn’t me, I was just this person full of fear and tears and something that was no longer alive inside of me. I was shaking. Nick held my hand. I asked to see the screen again before we started and asked that we all be very very quiet…I needed to know the heart was no longer beating. It wasn’t. I went to sleep and when I woke up it was all gone. Everything from inside me had been sucked out, and emotionally I felt about the same. I don’t remember the drive home…just the sobbing. We came in the door, I went to bed. I stayed there for a very long time. The physical pain was only outdone by the emotional hurt. This wasn’t a quick and easy procedure. It drained me physically and emotionally. It hurt to walk, it hurt to breathe.

It hit me like a ton of bricks, heartbeat=LIFE. When there was no heartbeat, I accepted that there was no longer life…but I also had to accept that there WAS LIFE that was now GONE.

My grey got a little less grey.

Story.Hope.Change.

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A few months ago I traveled to Des Moines, IA to film my testimony (with the talented Rick Berger of Stang Films) for our “Stories of Hope” campaign with BeautyAmidsttheAshes.com.

We released this video at Hope Adoption Conference this past weekend on National Adoption Day, and followed it with a message.

We ALL have a story, a testimony. It is our choice to use this testimony to bring HOPE or despair, but either way, we get to choose.

What I have learned so far is that many many people have helped to mold and shape my life, some that poured things in and some that took things away; but all were valuable in their own way. And for me, I was valuable…for I was the daughter of a king and the heir to a throne, but some crowns are made of thorns.

Go. Take action. Change your world. Be moved.

INVASION

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I had a beautiful strawberry patch at the beginning of the summer. I had worked the ground, prepared the soil, delicately hand planted every single small yet mighty strawberry sprout. I watered them and watched them shoot and grow. I tended to them with the greatest of care and knew that my work invested now would pay out with delicious, ripe, sun kissed red fruits later. I was excited, and proud of myself, and easily found the time to invest into my garden and especially my little patch of fruits.

Summer came upon us and we filled our time with travel and laughter and fun. I noticed the weeds beginning to grow in the garden, and every time we would drive out of the driveway past the little plot, I would remind myself that when we got home, I really needed to tend to those weeds, but for now there was better things to do!

Another week passed, then another, and before I knew it, it had been a month and I had not been in the garden at all, except to occasionally pick what fruits or veggies I needed at the time. I had all but forgotten the garden even existed except when I needed to revisit it for something to serve.

By now, the weeds had grown taller than the stalks of the highest vegetable plants, and the strawberry patch couldn’t be  seen because of the growth draping over it, concealing it from the daylight. It still lived, just hidden under the darkness waiting for me to tend to it.

Somehow, during the invasion, I told myself it was alright. I saw the weeds begin to show, but I could still see my fruits, so I let the few weeds go. Then, as they became more and deeper in their roots, I again told myself it was alright because I could easily take care of them when I had time. I could put my strawberry patch aside until I felt like tending to it. Now, I couldn’t even see it because the invaders had covered up all of its beauty and were beginning to snuff it out…but there was one mighty little sprout that stuck its little green leaves out for me, and I knew he was showing me where I needed to tend to first…so I dug in.

At first, it was easy to see the weeds. I could easily identify which plant was good, and which was sucking the life out of my garden. I was pulling them out, one by one, and cleaning up my little patch nicely. I kept going and going. What could have taken me a few minutes in those first few days was now going to take hours of weeding.

Time passed and a strange thing began to happen. It became harder and harder to identify the fruit from the weeds. I would pull what I thought to be a weed, but it would actually be a fruit, and I would save what I thought to be a fruit, but it would be a weed! I was being deceived.

You see, the weeds had disguised themselves to look like the fruit. The shape of their leaves had evolved and even begun to change shape and color to match that of the fruit. The weeds were rooting right through the heart of the strawberry sprout, going deep into the plants lifeline. Even when I could identify the invader, when I would go to eliminate it, it would pull out the plant with it. My little strawberry plants just weren’t rooted deep enough to survive alone, and this invader had deceived them as well, giving them a strong deep root to wrap themselves around. They didn’t know that this root was their own undoing, their own death. They only knew that they could hold on to the root of the deceiver and stay alive. Not much of a life, being swallowed up under the overgrowth and covered in darkness, but they were surviving and hanging on in hopes that eventually, they could be saved.

I kept working, delicately separating the invaders from the roots of the fruit and reburying the fruit in the loose damp soil. I had to re-prepare the soil to accept the fruit because it had been neglected so long, but the soil was still good, and the plants were just strong enough that they would still be able to thrive.

After some time, I had rescued my little patch from the invaders and they were all standing tall. I could see every little shoot and every leaf. My fruits were once again pure. For now.

You see, the invaders left behind seeds. Every time I would pull them out and discard them, they would drop many tiny little seeds over my fruits. They were many, and some so small I didn’t even see them as they fell to the plants and the soil. As I would cover my little plants, some of the seeds would sneak deep into the soil where they will lie and wait. They will steal the nutrients and suck in the water as I tend to my fruits, and I wont even know they are silently beginning to take root.

I wont be able to leave my fruit to defend itself. It will need my time and my care. I will need to tend to it, and keep a close eye on the sprouts and the foundation around it.

More invaders will come. They are already lurking underground. If I am not there to pull them out by the root when they first appear, the will again overpower and overtake my fruits. In their deceit, I wont even notice it at first until they have completely covered my fruits in the darkness. It is important that I tend to my garden and I work hard to identify the weeds among the plants. It wont be easy, because their deceit runs deep and they use disguise…but it can be done, and their damage can be undone.

How are your fruits doing? Are they producing or are they being invaded? Are you tending to them, or are you being deceived? How often are you visiting your garden? Are you only taking the fruit and using it when you need it, or are you watering it and weeding it daily and weekly?

Evil is a deceiver. It will appear and take root in your heart. It will provide you with stability at first as it deepens its grip on your lifeline. It will disguise itself so that you cant really tell the difference between it and what is good. It will confuse you and control you. Eventually, you will become swallowed up in its darkness where it will hold you captive and you will try to survive, try to just hang on until you can be freed from its grips and growth. But sin also lives in fear. Sin is the invader that knows that it can be eliminated. It will drop more seeds, but those, too, can be eliminated as they begin to show. You can’t ignore it, it must be tended to OVER and OVER again, forever. But the good news is that even though it will continue to exist within you, you can keep it from rooting deep in your heart. You can eliminate it as it begins to show and you can prepare yourself to not be deceived as it attempts to invade you.

My garden will thrive only when I treat it with care and invest into it. It will produce a little or a lot, depending on my diligence. It will feed me and my family a few small, undergrown fruits here and there, OR it will be abundant and feed my family, friends and neighbors for an entire season.

Its all up to me and you. I will ask again…How are your fruits?