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.

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.

The last words I ever said to “Him”.

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written and sent on June 7, 2010…

“being busy is an easy excuse as to why i havent called or written, but i guess for me that really isnt the only reason. i dont know why, but for some reason there are just a lot of things that i feel like i cant say to you, or that im afraid to say because i dont know what is and isnt appropriate, and i dont ever want to offend or hurt you. i really loved being able to rebuild a relationship with you, and it has been very healthy for me to hear your side of some of the things that happened between you and debbie. on the same note, sometimes hearing it, or talking about my past (or your past as it pertains to me, even some of the really great things and great memories) brings things up within me that are hard to deal with and hard to think about. again, i dont ever want to offend or hurt you, but its just hard because sometimes i get the impression that the childhood and adolecent life that i remember has been interpreted a little differently by me than it was by you (or by debbie when she was alive). i dont want to make you feel like there werent so many things that you guys did right, because there were many things that i appreciate, and that i as a parent understand and see the importance of. unfortunately though there was also a lot of wrong. im thankful for my past and for the character it has built within me, but i also see now as a wife and a mother, and even as a daughter that it is never okay to raise a child in a home that isnt built on a solid foundation.

(im sorry, but right now im reaching for the words that can best explain how i feel, and sometimes i just dont know how to say it)

being a mother i feel like my singlemost important job is to protect my children from the evils of this world and instill in them self respect and self worth and to try to do this in ways that are healthy and productive for them. before i was a parent myself, it was easy for me to “overlook” some of the techniques used in the way i was parented. obviously, even by the age of 13 i knew that some things were wrong, and extreme, and i knew that it wasnt appropriate for a child to be raised in that, but it was also very easy for me to forgive, and to move past because at that time it only involved myself. before becoming a parent, and even during the first two years of devins life, i found that i was still able to keep that mindset. the mindset that everytrhing from my past was in the past, and that it didnt effect me, or that i had forgiven and moved past it. the truth is though that im finding that i am not as strong as i once thought and that the more and more in depth i become as a parent, the harder and harder i find it to have a relationship with you. i want to be kind, and to show you grace and to completely forgive and forget the past, but now that i am a mom, its so hard. i know that nick and i live a VERY VERY different life than the life you and debbie lived, and i know that in a home where there are drugs and alchohol some things that arent okay might seem “not so bad”. the fact that there were even drugs or alchohol in a home where a child was being raised is just absolutely disturbing and just wrong. i know that its easy for me to say because i am not a drug addict or an alchoholic (or a smoker for that matter, another thing that a child shouldnt have to be raised around) , but i also think that out of the love that i have for my children that if i would ever find myself in a situation where i found either of these to be a weakness for me, i would remove myself from them in order to protect them and i would seek help to try and get as healthy as i possibly could be so that i could reunite with them as soon as possible. if i couldnt remove myself from them, i would find a way to remove them from the situation and get them somewhere safe and healthy where they wouldnt have to observe either of those addictions. protecting and caring for my children is the most important thing i can do for them, and if i do that, then everything else that i need to do to help them grow and deveop should fall into place from there. unfortunately in my home growing up, the addictions were just the beginning….

ive found myself many times making excuses for you and debbie as to why the things that happened happened. i find myself saying “oh she wouldnt have done that if she werent high on drugs” or “he wouldnt have done that if he werent drunk”, but there arent excuses. there isnt excuses to validify hitting your wife, hitting your husband, or EVER EVER HITTING YOUR CHILD. i know that you and debbie both grew up in homes where you observed and experienced this very behavior. i know that statistically they say that this behavior continues in families because a child raised in it thinks that the behavior is okay and will then adopt the behavior themselves. im sorry, but that behavior is not okay. i was raised in it, and i knew it was not okay, i still know that it is not okay, and one of the hardest things for me to deal with as an adult is the question as to WHY DIDNT EITHER OF YOU THINK IT WASNT OKAY? didnt you remember what it was like when your dad hurt you? didnt she remember what it was like? did either of you watch your parents get into physical altrications and remember what you felt like when observing them? how could it have never crossed the minds of either of you that you were introducing me to the same evils or your very own past that hurt and scarred you?

i fear even right now writing this that in your mind you are defending yourself, defending your own past and your metholds of parenting. it seems like most of the people i have met that have “problems” often feel like everyone else is the “problem” or that the person telling them that they have a problem is wrong, or not valid in pointing it out. the intent of this email isnt to point fingers or to try to demean you, or to hurt you in any way. its just that every single time i have talked to you (since becoming an adult) i get this big ball in the pit of my stomach. its all of these feelings and questions that i have, and when i am face to face, or talking to you on the phone i cant find the words to ask them. i cant find the words to say or im afraid to say them because i fear that if i question you, you will downplay it, or make excuses, or make me feel like “things werent that bad.” and maybe that is how you feel, or how things were for you in the situation, but for me, they were that bad. (and maybe im projecting what “i think” you might be thinking, and im way way off) im not going to go into what exactly i went through, or how it made me feel…i just need you to know that it was bad, and that everytime i talk to you i find myself back in that place. i so want a realtionship with you, and i so want to be able to chat about our shared love of animals and gardening and politics but when im talking about those things my insides are all balled up thinking about the things i ‘cant’ say. i love those conversations with you, but for the next few days i find that i deal with a flood of emotions because i have to again revisit the past and continue to wonder why things were the way they were and wonder why i cant just bring myself to ask you.

im so happy that you have found love in carolyn, and that you are not alone…but that too brings up so many concerns and issues for me. i know there has already been fighting and not getting along between the two of you, (and i dont know what kind of “fighting”) but it all makes me revisit your relationship with debbie. ive never asked you because i dont know how, but are your “fights” with her the same as your “fighting” in the past? once i had called you (it was actually one of the last times i had talked to you, and was actually what prompted me to put a hold on our communications) and carolyn answered. i had asked her how things were and she seemed very happy, but she had coyly mentioned that she “wouldnt put up with you when youve been drinking.” i cant even tell you what this little statement did to me. i know your life is your life, and your choices are your own, but the very thought that you would again return to alchohol just sickened and (if im being honest) infuriated me. you are an adult and you are free do to as you wish, but when i heard that there was even a chance that you were again stepping back into alchohol i knew that i needed to remove myself from the situation. i cant be in contact with a person that is an alchoholic, just as i will never be able to be in contact with a person that is a drug addict. people that chose that life are not productive to my life. i dont know if that is coming out the way i intend for it to, or if it just sounds rude and wrong, but if saying it means that i am rude i guess it has to be so. there is not a place in my life, nor my families life for addictive behavior- abusive behavior- sinful behavior….just as a dog returns to its own vomit a sinner returns to sin. maybe im too harsh, maybe im unforgiving… i dont know, but i know that it is my job to protect my family and protect my children and that starts with protecting myself. if you are drinking, or having physical altrications- im sorry…i cant have a relationship with you. this isnt to hurt you, and im in no way judging the way you live your life- im only protecting my own spirit. having a relationship with a person who is in an addictive or abusive relationship (be it with a person, with alchohol, or with a substance) could break my spirit and could really do damage in my life, and for that reason i must be strong and determined in not allowing that into my life. i hope that i am way way off and that none of this is a problem in your life right now, and i hope that you are as alchohol free and as healthy as can be! again, these are just questions that i find that when i am on the phone with you i cant bring myself to ask.

finally, where is this relationship going and what exactly is this relationship? this is a question that nick is constantly asking me. i guess i need to just tell you what i am thinking and feeling. ive put a great deal of thought and a great deal of stress into figuring out what is the best way to approach this. i really love that you have put so much effort and i can tell love into trying to build a relationship with me and my family. its very kind and i know that you are just trying to be a “dad” to me. the reality is though, that you and i dont have a ‘normal’ father daughter relationship, or bond. i will never strip you of the title ‘FATHER’ because for 13 years you were my father, and im sure that in your heart you will always be a father, and in my heart you will always be my ‘dad’. i dont know if im going to get through this next part using the right words. i love you, and i do want a relationship with you, whatever kind of relationship we can have as long as you are free from alchoholism, but my job as a mother is to protect my children. this hurts me so much to say…but my children cant have a relationship with you. my children cant know (until they are adults and able to comprehend what has happened in my life) who you are. i cant explain to them who you are, or let them talk to you or have a relationship with you. my dad tim is their grandpa, my mom rita is their grandma. even if your life is completely healthy now, i just cant do it. i cant try to explain these things to them, and i cant have them around you because the one time we brought devin into your house and i saw you holding him, i didnt feel like i was protecting him. I KNOW THAT YOU WOULD NEVER EVER DO ANYTHING TO HURT THEM, and i dont question your intentions at all, it isnt you at all, its me. when i step into your house, im a child again, and the feelings of my childhood flood my being. to see you holding or to watch you have a relationship with my kids makes me feel like i am failing to protect them, or that i am introducing them to something that they shouldnt know. i would love to tell you how they are, and to tell you about their development and their successes, but i just cant let you be a grandfather to them. i cant give devin cards and gifts from you and try to explain who you are, or why you are sending him a gift. i didnt understand how all of this was going to effect me until devin became old enough to ask me “who is this from?” when i handed him a card from you. i cant answer him. i know everything im saying right now is hurting you, and that hurts me so much. i wish so badly that it could be different, but i know that it cant. i dont know if this seems extreme, or like im trying to hurt you, or like im trying to keep something from you, i dont know how you are feeling right now. all i know is myself, my husband and what we have decided would be the best way to protect and raise our children and the conclusion that we have come up with is this, i shouldnt even say we, its me. its the only way for me. like i said in the beginning i would LOVE for you to see pictures of the kids, see my daily updates of what they have done that day or what their little successes and accomplishments are.  i would love to share that with you, but it would be between us. it cant involve them, does this make sense? i dont know if it does to you, or to anyone else. for me, it does though. right now this is how i would need for it to be.

i dont know where all of this puts us. i cant tell you how to interpret anything ive just said, and im sorry if anything ive said brings you back to a place (emotionally) that you dont want to be. believe me, im in that place far too often and i dont want to be the cause of making someone else feel ‘bad’. i hope that by sending this im answering questions that you might have as to why i havent contacted or called you in a while. i dont know if things came across the right way, i dont know if god gave me the words to explain how i am feeling without being hurtful. im not a direct and confrentational person, and even typing this makes me feel like im attacking you. i really hope that nothing ive said made you feel “attacked” or “ambushed”…its not my intentions at all! i guess i just have a few questions and i am not even sure if they are questions that can be answered or not. i hope that we can continue a relationship, and im open to whatever you have to say, to whatever you are feeling, and to whatever you are thinking. and im fine with continuing our talks, i just havent called because i knew that i needed to direct these things before we could continue (and quite honestly it was easier for me to just not call, than to have to bring all of this up).

im not sure what “salutations” is appropriate to end a letter like this…i just hope that i havent offended you, and that you feel like you can respond to me. i really do care about you,, and the very last thing i want to tell you is how hard it has been for me to say these things because i knew that in asking and saying them, i could hurt you. i care anough about you that it has been easier for me to feel and deal with it than to just come out and say it all. i dont know if that is healthy for either of us or not…but now its all out there.”

….he never responded.

A BIG Dream

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For over 15 years now, I have had a BIG dream. If you are a believer, as I am, then you know that a big dream is often referred to as a “calling”. God breathed into me LONG ago that he had a plan for me (Genesis 50:20- You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good. He had appointed me to this position that I may save the lives of many.) and a purpose for his story of my life.

Obedience has always been a strength of mine (don’t ask my parents about my teenage years) and I have taken every step and opportunity God has placed in my life to share his story, and ultimately his will as to WHO needs to hear it. I have enjoyed speaking to a variety of audiences and sharing my testimony as well as practical ideas of themes from my story, but there has always been that nagging feeling telling me “I have GREATER planned for you”. I thought I was making every effort to get myself out there, and bring Glory to this testimony, but I kept finding myself in positions of (what felt like) rejection. “Your story is great, but not for our church.” “Your story is powerful, and maybe we will use it….someday.” FAIL.

I have so enjoyed this blog, and have been so blessed to share to my readers all over the world! (US, Alaska, the UK, Austrailia…just WOW!) I truly felt like it was something I was called to do, and have been very affirmed by your willingness to follow along with my writing, and putting testimony and thought into posts. THANK YOU!

A while back, in another act of obedience, I sent a few excerpts from this very blog to a Non-Profit Ministry that advocates for adoption and orphan care. I never expected anything, or even a response, but I felt like they could possibly use my story to help with their ministry or provide a testimony of hope for their website.

Insert Holy Spirit.

The founder of the Non-Profit immediately contacted me and breathed life and encouragement into me and my story. He persued me (through an act of his own obedience) and started opening doors of opportunity right at my feet.

Yesterday, I met with a VERY talented and kind producer/director (www.stangfilms.com) for an entire day of filming my story.

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This short film will be shown for the first time at HOPE Adoption Conference in Des Moines, Iowa on November 22. I am so VERY excited to announce that I have graciously accepted an invitation to be a GUEST SPEAKER at this event!! I have also made the very BOLD decision to join Beauty Amidst the Ashes as they advocate, equip and teach on Adoption and Orphan care. Can you say AWESTRUCK??  www.beautyamidsttheashes.com

I wish there were words that would describe the feeling when God decides to call upon you and use you for his Glory.

It has ALWAYS been my desire to bring a face to the invisible, a voice to the silent, and HOPE for the hurting. I am so humbled to see the very very tip of the immense blessing and abundance that lay ahead. Let my every word be one of power and change.

Who you are matters. Your story matters. What you do matters. Press on my friends, and let yourself be called to change the world through your own story, voice and ministry!!

EPIPHANY

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I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about our family and our parenting style lately.

Coming from a background of little to no “parenting” and conflicting ideas about discipline, I have to be honest, this parenting thing seems all the more difficult. I know, I know…parenting is such a huge responsibility and learning curve for ALL parents, but sometimes when I really sit and try to work through “my next step” during the more difficult parental responsibilities, I cant help but find myself disappointed at my own lack of experience in being “parented” in order to have a healthy understanding of how to address the next kid-tastrophie. I am a learner though, so I love to research, absorb and play out different styles and techniques and find our own path TOGETHER with our children on this journey called being family.

Recently, I found one of those “hokey”, “new age”, “eastern” ways of thinking about parenting, and its slowly changing the way I think about my children, my self awareness, my personal growth, my children as individuals, my marriage and clearly, our PARENTING. Without preaching a sermon to you, fellow parent or future parent, I will just share with you a little glimpse:

Our children are people.

REALLY.

They are already born as their own unique person. You can try all you want, but unless you BREAK them into compliance or submission, you are not changing who they ALREADY are. They were born as an individual, with a personality, with a soul, with a DESTINY all their own. We spend so much time as parents under the impression that it is OUR job to mold and form this little being into the person they will someday become….GUESS WHAT MOM, STOP!!! Instead of looking at this little person and finding all of the things that YOU need to change about THEM, out of love of course, SEE THEM FOR WHO THEY ALREADY ARE!!

I have spent far too much time trying to parent my kids the way I wish I was parented, or teach them the way I think I would have learned best, or (this list goes on and on). The fact is, my boy and my girl are their own person and they have their own destiny….WITH OR WITHOUT ME! That’s a hard pill to swallow, and you, reader, are getting a little defensive right now right? “Well they are MY kids, and I can parent them the way I see fit! Its MY job to ensure they become successful and have a good life. THEY need to learn from me.” Your thinking right? (Maybe?) Because that is exactly how I thought, until it hit me: They are my children, but I do not OWN them! I have to give up my “self” and my desire to control the outcome of their life by taking my ownership of my children out of the equation. Furthermore, my job is not to control them nor is it to create them (other than conception)…its to simply keep them safe and provide an environment in which they can flourish into the person they were already created to be! I’m positive of this: my children were entrusted to me to TEACH ME…not the other way around.

I have an analogy to share with you: Lets look at Jesus. (You don’t have to be a believer to appreciate what I’m about to propose)

Jesus was an infant child born to a young mother in the dreariest of circumstance. I can only imagine the responsibility young, unwed, under-resourced Mary must have felt when it was determined that she would be the mother of the child that would someday become the infamous savior of the world, right? Big Gulp. Well guess what…(enter sweet relief)…it was NOT Mary’s responsibility to turn the child into the man that would one day become the King of Salvation. Did you just catch what I said? It was never the virgin mothers responsibility to mold the infant into anything or anyone….he was ALREADY the savior, the prophet, the teacher, the son…already JESUS on the very night he was born! He was ALREADY the person he was destined to be! Although helpless and tiny, there was nothing Mary could or could not do to change the destiny or outcome of the future of this baby. Did all of the parents reading this just let out a sigh of refreshing acceptance or what? All Mary had to do was provide a safe environment in which the child could grow to become the person he was already pre-destined and born to be. Its radical, I know.

When I figured this out, my mind was literally racing.

It isn’t my job to turn my children into the man or woman, husband or wife, follower, athlete, student, entrepreneur or citizen they will someday become. I don’t get to decide if they will be successful, or wealthy, or stable, or happy, or faithful…THEY will decide that. They will choose their path and accept the consequences of their every decision, REGUARDLESS of my attempts to control them! They are already predestined to become and decide to become the person they will someday be. My job is simply to withdraw my ownership of their lives (and relinquish it back to THEM where it belongs), to provide a safe environment in which they can explore and flourish, to continue to grow and improve MYSELF to give them an example to reflect back to, and to provide safe boundaries for them to identify cause and effect of their own decision making.

I’m changing the way I see the tiny humans that I share this family and share this home with. I’m going to take a little more time to see the inner workings of the people they already are and quit trying to turn them into the people I think they should be and furthermore spend more energy investing into the person I AM CREATED TO BE so that they can do what young children do- mirror and mimic.  

I have about 15 follow ups to this one…but for now I will let this soak in and make us all say “hmmm”…..

USER

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People often wonder and ask where I stand on the topic of addiction. My past is full of addiction from my extended biological family all the way down to me. Because of my own experiences, I obviously have formed my own “opinion” on the issue, but I am never so naive as to believe that my opinions are the set standard, should be accepted by all, or reflect your circumstances. I form my own conclusions based on my experiences and my direct observations of addiction and its effect on my life and the lives of the addicts I have been exposed to. The following is my own conclusion, and I completely respect that your conclusion based upon your experiences or research might differ. It’s all perspective, life experience, personal convictions and personal truths if you ask me. I’m not a doctor, scientist, neurologist, therapist, psychologist or psychiatrist. I am also NOT an addict. My “opinion” is simply that….one opinion of one person based upon life experience. The following isn’t meant to influence, disregard, hurt, demean, argue or offend. If you or someone you love is struggling with addiction, I plead that you make the decision to seek help. Don’t ever lose hope!

 

I had just started 5th grade at a new school in a new state. I was pretty used to always being the “new kid” at this point because we never stayed anywhere for long. In fact, there was only one year, 3rd grade, when I started the year and finished the year in the same school. We moved a lot. I was in kindergarten the first time I can clearly remember watching Debbie and Jerry (my biological mother and her spouse) use drugs, and by first grade, I was going on most drug runs with them. By second grade, the runs were not only to buy drugs for themselves but this was the first year I remember them selling. It wasn’t a major transition, but life became a bit turbulent at this point. They were in a constant state of paranoia and I rarely remember a time when they weren’t on the outs with at least a few clients or dealers. This kept life interesting and kept us constantly relocating. They were always very forthcoming with me, and for this I am appreciative. I wasn’t confused or scared, as I imagine a child would be in these situations if they weren’t fully aware of what was happening. My parents showed me what drugs were, talked to me about different types of drugs and showed me all of the paraphernalia that accompanied them. They told me what drugs did, how different ones made you feel, and different standards among dealers. I knew about cheating the scale, cheating the buyer, and always knew the cardinal rule: keep the best cuts for yourself. D and J were proud of my vast knowledge on these things. I was always very observant and inquisitive, and I absorbed their information like a sponge. I always knew the real reason I was allowed to know so much. The 90s were the “D.A.R.E.” years, at least in every elementary I attended. There were speakers, police officers and assembly’s revolving around drug awareness and reporting. They were constantly encouraging us to “tell someone” if a parent, relative, or anyone you suspected was using drugs. As if D and J weren’t paranoid enough, now they had the school bombarding me with an anti-drug agenda, so it was time to implement their own conditioning. I loved them, they were my parents, and to be honest I was pretty darn afraid of what would happen to me if they were ever caught. For years and years, the police would frequent our home for domestic disturbances (literally every 2 weeks on the dot) and it became my job to run through the house and clean up all of the drugs and paraphernalia and hide it in my room. D and J were pretty confident that no officer would ever check there and they were correct. Even as a small child, I was their enabler.

Back to 5th grade. As I mentioned, it was a new school in a new town in a new state. I had made a friend, but other than my one friend life was pretty lonely. I was clearly an outcast, and struggled to find things in common with “kids” my age. I always felt as though I was quite a bit ahead of them life wise, and I clearly had street smarts that few, if any, of them had ever cultivated. I was just in a different place, physically and figuratively. I was becoming increasingly curious about drugs, and I was confident that using was my next step. I approached Debbie with my request first, and she couldn’t have been more proud. She was downright happy at the thought of us using together, but Jerry was a little bit of a harder sell. It didn’t take much (if anything) to convince him and before I knew it, we were all three sitting around the kitchen table of our 1 bedroom apartment over the Laundromat. My first hit was easy, I had been watching for so many years it just came naturally. D and J were proud of my ability to hold it down, and we all sat there around the kitchen table getting high. D and J were kind to me this day, there was no fighting, no arguing, no hitting….just family bonding in our own strange and twisted way. It’s literally one of the days that I remember feeling quite loved. I was 10 years old. By the time I left their home, I was regularly smoking crack cocaine and daily smoking marijuana. As I write this, even all these years and a whole lifetime later, it’s still somewhat painful and shocking. I never considered myself a child then, but looking at it now from the lens of an adult and a mother, it just sickens me.

When I was placed in my second foster placement (for the privacy of this person I will call them U) I was placed with a user. U would frequently use with D and J, and I knew U very very well. U and I had used when I was still living with D and J, and it just seemed natural that I would continue. U (an adult with a family and now a foster child) offered to let me use and I did. We would do drugs in the basement while U’s family would walk around above us upstairs. I had a good relationship with U and I know U cared for me very much…U wanted me to be safe and happy, but I don’t think that U could see that this situation wasn’t appropriate. I don’t harbor ill feelings, in fact quite the opposite, for U. U is someone I hold a special place in my heart for and I’m thankful for the attempt at providing me with stability and safety. It was me that finally understood the situation, and made the decision to change. I was 13. I knew that being with U would enable me to continue using and I knew that the vision of the future I wanted was NOT going to come with drugs in my life. Period. It’s taken me many years to consider myself a “victim” in any way, and although it’s easy to accept that I was a victim of physical abuse and assault, it’s really hard to consider myself a victim of the drug use. I chose to use the drugs….every.single.time. I was never forced, it was never imposed on me. I did it because I wanted to. I did it when I wanted to. I used as much as I wanted to. I had a choice, and I made decisions based on my wants and desires. I didn’t “need” to use, I wanted to and I liked being accepted in those circles and life was more tolerable high. What I saw being constantly surrounded with drugs and drug users was people putting themselves in an environment where they could obtain and entertain their addictions. The people I would see day in and day out were controlled by their addictions because they wanted to be controlled by them. They put their want for the high above anyone and anything else in life. Its harsh I suppose, but I saw people that WANTED to get high, be high and stay high.

Here is my conclusion: using drugs (in my experience) began with a choice. D and J and even U made the decision to use the first time, and many times after that. Did they become addicted? Yes. Could they (and they alone) have prevented that? Yes. Did they have a choice to walk away, seek help or change? Yes. Now I am no medical professional, so I don’t know how it all works, addiction and the brain and all. What I do know is that I decided to use drugs for years because I wanted to and I liked it. Every single time I used, I CHOSE to do it. I COULD have walked away, but when I was in the environment where it was available and I was exposed to it, I not only lacked the willpower to say no, I also craved it. If I wanted to stay “clean” then I had to KEEP MYSELF CLEAN by keeping my life clean. I didn’t put myself in situations where “it” would be available to me. I removed myself from any and all environments where drugs or drug users were, including my home with D and J, my foster placement with U, and many other circumstances in High school, college and adulthood. I have the CHOICE to be present in an environment like that, or I have the CHOICE to build the clean life I currently have. I didn’t/don’t befriend people that use drugs because I CHOSE/CHOOSE not to. I know how lucky I am that the despair of addiction is not something that I have to deal with, so I don’t for a second pretend that my situation is similar or the same as another. I can say that I have struggled with accepting D and J’s behaviors and excuses. Once they allowed themselves the excuse of “addiction”, suddenly they no longer became responsible for their actions or behavior. After all, their “addiction” was their “disease” and they certainly couldn’t be responsible for anything a disease made them do right? In my OPINION, that’s bologna. From my perspective, I never, in my 17 years of knowing D and 25 years of knowing J, saw them (or any other addict I’ve encountered) INCAPABLE of saying no. At any time, they could have chosen differently, but they WANTED it more than they wanted a better life for themselves, or for me. I saw people that always had an answer for everything, and that answer would never place any blame or responsibility on their shoulders. In another post about FORGIVENESS, I wrote about Jerry and his inability to take responsibility for his addiction, alcoholism, abusiveness and more. I will not place judgment on him or Debbie (or any user), but I will also not enable them by accepting (or making) excuses or free passes for their behaviors and actions. The user uses everything and everyone around them for their own gratification and agenda. They (like any USER) make decisions and there are consequences, repercussions and casualties along their path of destruction. The difference between me and them was that I accept responsibility for my own choices; I want better, I want to leave a different legacy, I want a different future and I am/was willing to make the hard decisions (and take action) every day to live a life free of that bondage.

FORGIVENESS.

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It occurs to me that if I have been given the opportunity to share my writing, my story, my life with you- then I am truly blessed to have a “platform” to be able to express a message through. It does not escape me that this also gives me the chance to help others or equip them with a skill or thought process that, perhaps, they haven’t explored before? I wish I could tell you that I am wise beyond my 30 years, or I have beautifully mastered this journey called life, but its my true belief that wisdom and mastery of life come with experiences and SKILLS that help you appropriately address and RESPOND to those experiences. I haven’t always gracefully handled every circumstance life dishes out, but once I found that FORGIVENESS was something I could do for my OWN FREEDOM (not for the sake of the one being forgiven), I found myself in a position of control and peace over “circumstance”. I could decide to give the power to my angst, anger, hurt, disappointment and pain by holding onto it and locking it inside to devour me; OR I could decide to accept events and circumstances and FORGIVE in order to move on and live a life of JOY and PEACE that the forgiven would never be able to interfere with or change. This “skill” is one I use DAILY. Sometimes it takes time, thought and intention, but it has always been worth it when you find freedom of the things or people that once oppressed you.

“Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it.” – (attributed to) Charles R. Swindoll

FORGIVENESS

For 13 years I lived with my biological mother and her spouse. When she was 21, Debbie found herself alone and with a child. When I was 6 months old, Jerry entered our lives. They married and he adopted me, as if I were his own, and together they raised me from infant to adolescence.

Jerry and Debbie were not a match made in heaven, or even a good pairing at that. They were both raised in addictive and abusive homes, and neither possessed the skills to effectively navigate a relationship, much less a marriage. They would separate and re-couple often, and “fighting fair” was never part of their relationship tactic.

Growing up in a home of alcohol and drug addictions was interesting and difficult to navigate. Being a child, I learned rather quickly that rarely seen seldom heard was usually the best approach. I spent my time alone playing with toys, outside with my dog, or exploring towns and nature in the many places we lived. We moved often, as is usually the case with those dealing drugs. Either paranoia of being exposed or deals gone bad with the wrong people kept us constantly moving from town to town and crossing back and forth between two neighboring states. I rarely was in a school long enough to make friends, and found that even though I was extroverted by nature, I became reclusive and socially awkward. It would be impossible to get to know anyone for many years because I could never bring them to my house, or genuinely share with them what my family life was like. I knew what was and wasn’t appropriate to speak about, and the inner workings of our family life were clearly off limits.

My parents would constantly remind me that my life could be much worse. They would defend their aggressive behaviors towards me by reminding me that they had experienced far worse than I ever had, and that if I dare complain about them hurting me, they could easily show me that my existence could be far more painful. I was told not to cry when being hit or else I would be “given something to cry about”. You learn to “suck it up” and “be tough”, when inside all you want is to fall apart. Its a state of fear that leads to acceptance. Eventually you simply accept that this is your life, and it isn’t going to change. You adapt and figure out how to best navigate it, until something drastic forever changes your destiny.

I was 13 when that day came for me. I was older now, and I was convinced that the way I was living was not “better” than the alternative, reguardless of what I had been brainwashed to believe. My parents were very good at instilling fear of the unknown- “You would never make it in a group home, they would eat you alive!” “You have it so good, your just too selfish to see it. Life could be so much worse for you, like it was for us growing up.” “Your lucky we are your parents, we are the only ones that would ever put up with you.” “If you think this is bad, I can always make it worse.”. This was my life from about age 9-13….nearly every day. I was living with a drunk father and a strung out mother, and every single “thing” was a struggle. I took care of myself, fed myself, got myself up and ready every morning, got myself to school, figured out bus routs and bus stops, and pulled pillows over my head every night to muffle out the yelling and blaring loud Fleetwood Mac music playing until 3am when they would both pass out. This wasn’t my every day, but as those years dragged on, it felt like this was my only existence. I no longer hoped for “good” days because they were so few; instead I daily embraced myself for what usually lie ahead. During one of the horrible days, I heard a voice telling me that this was not the life that was intended for me…there was better out there, but fear was holding me back from it. I ran. This was the day I started my journey into the foster care system where I bounced around for a few years before my MOM and DAD, the Champs, found me and made me theirs.

When I was 17, my senior year of high school, I was thriving. Without sounding arrogant, life was amazing! I was a part of a family that loved me unconditionally, I was excelling in academics, I was playing sports and involved in many extra curricular school and church activities….I was normal and happy and blessed. It was January, and I had a varsity basketball game that evening. I had just gotten home from school and was preparing a snack, the usual routine before a big game when I got the call. Debbie was dead, Jerry was in jail suspected of homicide, details were vague.

Its an interesting mix of emotion one feels, so interesting in fact that I doubt many can comprehend. I was standing in my comfortable and safe home where my FAMILY loved and supported me, but the people that raised me for my first 13 years were both, in my mind, gone. Jerry was responsible, Debbie was dead, and I was living a normal and happy life. How do you respond to that? Ill share in a later writing.

After speaking at Debbies funeral with my mom and dad in the front row supporting me, I went on with life. I graduated with a scholarship and went on to Bible College, I had friends and relationships and always moved forward. I met Nick, quickly realized that he was my future, and God became the core of our relationship and we were married a year later. Life was amazing, and I knew I had moved on, but there was something that always hindered me….I had yet to FORGIVE.

In my heart, I had forgiven Debbie and released my fear of her and my indifference towards her. I accepted that she did the best she could with the skills she had, and decided that she DID love me, but without a healthy example of how to love another, she simply lacked the ability to show me without hurting me. I respect her for who she was, and am thankful for the strength she instilled in me. I wont ever pretend that she was something she wasn’t, but I also choose not to disgrace her for who she was. She raised me. She tried at times to be a mother. I’m appreciative and thankful. Forgiving her seemed easier because she was gone, I no longer had to ever live in fear of her finding me or hurting me EVER again.

Jerry, on the other hand, was alive and shortly after Nick and I were married, he was released from prison. (Yes, you did the math correctly, he spent barely over 2 years in confinement for what he had done. Another example of a broken system.) I don’t know why, but I heard a voice telling me that I needed to face him, to confront my fear, and to tell him that I  had forgiven him for not only my upbringing but also for what he had done after I left. I had already forgiven him in my heart and moved on, but it was clear that I was being called to address this WITH HIM. It seems absurd, but it was exactly what I needed to do, so I did.

I found his prison id number and traced it to his parole officer who I then called and left a message for Jerry with my phone number. I didn’t know if he would ever call, but he did, later that day. I didn’t go into great detail with him. I told him I was married, happy, successful, and that I didn’t hold anger towards him. I told him I didn’t need his apology (as if he ever gave one) but that he was forgiven.

For the next 4 years, I had a relationship with him. I made it clear that the Champs and the Champs alone were my parents, that Tim was my DAD, but that I would never deny that he was my father for 13 years. I spoke to him on the phone about once a month, and Nick and I even went to visit him (briefly, for only an hour each visit) 3 times.

At no time during this 4 years did Jerry ever take responsibility for ANYTHING. It took me a long time to really digest that. He always blamed Debbie for every fight, for everything that happened to me, even blamed her for the night that resulted in her death. It was after much thought, and upon finding out he was drinking AGAIN, that I realized that FORGIVING him did NOT mean that I had to support him nor did it mean that I needed to have a relationship with him. I was so afraid of “hurting” him by forcing him to “feel bad” for what he had done that I never actually made him accept ANY responsibility for anything he had ever done….I was enabling him!

I learned that forgiveness is NOT enabling someone to hurt you further, nor is it allowing someone to deny responsibility for their actions (past or present). You CAN forgive someone who has not asked for your forgiveness, its called Grace. I had Grace-like forgiveness to offer Jerry at that time, but I refused to enable him by allowing him to deny responsibility.

A little over 5 years ago, at 25, I wrote Jerry a letter. I told him that he was forgiven, and that my intention was not to condemn him, BUT in order to continue any kind of relationship with me he would need to take responsibility for his past and present actions. I didn’t need an apology from him, I simply needed an ADMISSION that the years of abuse and neglect he had subjected me to were inappropriate and unnecessary, and to accept responsibility in his actions that resulted in Debbies death.

That was the last I ever heard from Jerry. He never responded to the letter, and that lack of a response was his answer to me. He would not take responsibility, and he would not concede, he was incapable of humility, therefore he AND HE ALONE decided to terminate what little relationship I was willing to have with him. We have never heard from him since, and other than the times when I’m speaking or mentoring on this message of forgiveness, I don’t think about him.

FORGIVENESS doesn’t have to be earned, and it isn’t something I did for Jerry, it was something I did for ME! I did it for Nick, for my children, for the Champs….I did it because I want to live a JOY FILLED LIFE, and I could never be filled with JOY if my heart was already occupied with contempt. In forgiving him, without him asking for it, or even deserving it for that matter, I took away every last shred of control he would ever have over me and replaced it with GRACE. I am thankful for him, for the lessons he tought me, good and bad, and for his presence in my life. I MEAN THAT. I learned from him, even if it wasn’t in appropriate ways. I have a photo of me sitting in the drivers seat of his truck, smiling and laughing. I remember he did that with me often when I was very small…he would sit me in his lap while I steered and he ran the petals and we would drive down the gravel roads by the river. I remember him teaching me to cast a reel and telling me I was a natural fisherwoman, something I’m still pretty good at. I choose to remember him like that and smile. His drunken rages have no power over me because I’ve forgiven that and don’t have to think of it…I can remember him however I want to and I DECIDE to remember the good. It isn’t something he deserves, or something he has asked for, or something I do for him….FOGIVENESS is for the one forgiving. In forgiving him, I am not a victim. I take responsibility for MY life, MY actions, MY destiny…MY JOY.