I Can’t Let Shame Define Me

In my last post I talked about my struggle with contempt and shame. In this post, I would like to dig more into shame because it ultimately turns into contempt. I would like to discuss the difference between legitimate shame and illegitimate shame. I pray this will be helpful information to those of you who struggle in this area. 

First of all, everyone experiences shame. When you get in trouble for something you have done, you feel shame. When you say words you know you shouldn’t have said, you feel shame. When you do something you have been told not to do, you feel shame. These are examples of legitimate shame. Legitimate shame is about what you do. Most of us don’t use the word shame—we use the word guilt. 

The next form of shame is a little trickier to discern. “Illegitimate shame is an identity issue that attacks our being. It comes from believing lies about ourselves that have been verbally and nonverbally communicated to us through the actions and responses of others. Illegitimate shame attacks our personal dignity and fills us with shame messages: You are worthless, dirty, perverted, stupid, ugly and unwanted. These shame messages contradict what Christ says is true of us: You are loved, accepted and forgiven. No amount of wrongdoing inflicted by others or chosen by yourself will ever rob you of your God-given dignity. There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” The Journey Begins workbook

I have struggled with both types of shame, but the one that has done the most damage is illegitimate shame. This type of shame attached itself to me when I was little for several reasons. I had a father who was spewing lies from his mouth that attacked my dignity. Those messages made me feel stupid and because I didn’t have anyone to protect me, I felt unworthy. 

Let me share some truth with you. “Because we are created in God’s image, we have inherent dignity. As image bearers who reflect our creator, we are beautiful and glorious. We long to be seen, known, loved, honored and desired. God gifted us with talents, longing, intelligence and emotions. He allows us to rule and create. We are permanently marked with the indelible ink of God’s image.”  The Journey Begins workbook

I might do stupid things, but that doesn’t make me stupid. When I say that I am stupid I am committing violence to myself. I want to quit calling myself stupid because I am an image bearer of God. Is He stupid? No! He has gifted me with talents and intelligence. He values me. Here’s a question for you. Do you value yourself, or do you constantly put yourself down? 

When you look in the mirror, what do you see? Do you see a valued child of God or do you see all the flaws and wrinkles you have? Do you pick at what you see? (I really struggle in this area).  I look in the mirror and think, “Yikes!! Where did that 20 year old go?” I need to realize that I am valued by God. Shame has made me look at all the flaws and not the beauty. You know that saying, “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.” Well, God thinks I am beautiful because He created me. He gave me characteristics that make me unique. I am one of a kind and so are you!

Let me ask you a question. “What makes you feel shame?” Is it something you did or do you feel shame from something someone else did? “Shame is based on what you think, not necessarily what is true. Your experience of shame is subjective. What causes shame for one person may not elicit the same response from another.” The Journey Begins workbook

Each one of us has a story. My story will be different than yours because my experience with shame is different than yours. There are things that happened to me that didn’t happen to you. We need to value one another’s story. We need to listen and support one another because that person has value and so do you! 

“People’s stories reveal how shame has woven itself into their definition of themselves as human beings.” The Journey Begins workbook  How many times have we said to someone else, “You shouldn’t feel that way.” We usually say those words because we see something different in that person than they do. We are trying to help that person see the good that we see. Remember shame is based on what we think, not necessarily on what is true. 

For example, I know I have said to my friends or family many times that I was stupid because my shame made me feel stupid. Let me share something that I read from Lysa Terkeurst. “We’re all living out a story, but then there’s the story we are telling ourselves. We just need to make sure we’re telling ourselves the right story.” AMEN!!!

If we keep telling ourselves the wrong story, then our shame will develop into contempt. And contempt can cause so much harm to ourselves and others. We have to stop the violence to ourselves and others before it gets so destructive. 

I have been journaling a lot lately over these issues. I remembered something from my childhood. I remembered a look on my father’s face. His brow was furrowed and his eyes were full of contempt. That look was a very angry scowl. He didn’t need to say a word. I knew what that look meant. I knew trouble was coming. So, I took on the responsibility of doing whatever I could to get that look off his face. I spent most of my life trying to get that look off his face. That look did as much damage as his words or actions did. 

When he had that look, I believed I had done something wrong, whether I had or not. I hated that look. And when I couldn’t get it to go away, I felt stupid for not being able to do so. This was a vicious cycle that I put myself in every single day. I felt like a failure which led to so many other things. “Illegitimate shame is one of evil’s most efficient weapons. A few moments of gripping shame can create a lifetime of toxic inner turmoil.” The Journey Begins workbook

And let me tell you that I have had a lifetime of toxic inner turmoil!!! I don’t want that for anyone. I have allowed other people to control me just by the look on their faces. (I am not kidding!) Shame has made me do that most of my life. I am slowly learning that it isn’t my responsibility to take the scowl off people’s faces.  

“Shame shrinks us, silences us and numbs us. Whether shame exposes areas you are trying to fix though your own methods, or it exposes where you carry shame messages that came through harm done to you, God offers hope by His abundant grace, mercy and love. God is the only one who can forgive us and relieve us of our guilt. He is the only one who can heal us and remind us of the dignity He bestowed on us. This is a powerful message of hope.” The Journey Begins workbook

I couldn’t believe it when I read this next part. (God is so good!) “Rather than allowing shame to shrink and silence us or to make us brazen and harsh, will we allow God to enter it with us? Shame takes away our faces, our joy of living out the strength and tenderness of God.” The Journey Begins workbook 

Do you see that phrase in bold letters? Do you see that word face??? I was working so hard to take the scowl off of everyone else and didn’t realize I was losing my face (myself) in the process.

Let me end by saying that I have found great joy from inviting the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit into healing me from shame. I can finally see the look of love and acceptance on their faces. I am beginning to see myself as a valued and deeply loved child of God. It feels so good to share my feelings with them.

I really want to encourage you to invite God into your shame. You won’t be sorry! He gives healing and hope. You will see the tenderness of God. He will help you! He does not condemn you. He brings freedom and forgiveness. He is safe. There are some verses in Jeremiah that have meant a lot to me that I would like to end with. His words are true! He will take you out of your captivity of shame. 

Jeremiah 29:11-14  “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back from captivity.”

Until next time friends. This is my journey to joy! 

My Struggle With Contempt

I am writing this post because I have discovered that I have an issue that has been with me since I was a child. I knew it was there, but didn’t know how much it truly affected me. It has been at the core of my being. This issue is why I have a hard time liking myself. I am writing about it because I know it affects many people in different ways. The word that I am speaking about is contempt. 

I know that most of us don’t go around thinking or saying that we have contempt for ourselves or someone else. You might not realize you have any issues with contempt. You don’t realize when you criticize or judge yourself or someone else, it might be from contempt. When you compare yourself with someone else, it could possibly be from contempt. When you verbally abuse or want to harm yourself or someone else, it might just be from contempt. Murder and suicide are the ultimate results of contempt.  

“Simply defined, contempt is our effort to cover ourselves and our shame apart form the grace of God.” The Journey Begins workbook  Shame leads to contempt. I have felt deep shame for my Dad’s actions most of my life. And the weird thing is, I am not the one who committed the abuse. 

“Children in abusive situations are exposed to more than they are capable of understanding relationally, emotionally, physically and sexually. Whatever forms the abuse takes, children will come to believe something is dreadfully wrong with them and for that reason they are responsible.”  The Journey Begins workbook

I didn’t realize how much I thought something was dreadfully wrong with me until this year. I also didn’t realize how responsible I felt for everything. No matter what I did to change the environment at home, I couldn’t get my Dad to stop his behavior. I couldn’t get my Mom to protect. I even felt responsible for my brother’s issues. I took it all on! 

“The misrepresentation of reality is one of the diabolical twists that results from being harmed as a child. Children’s perceptions of why the abuse or neglect happened to them are distorted because of their vulnerable dependence upon the adults responsible for their care. Children naturally experience themselves as the center of their universe, believing that what happens is within their control. Because of this, they quickly assume the blame rather than believe that the one who harmed them was responsible.” The Journey Begins workbook

When I read those words, I had a moment when it all made sense to me. I believed I could somehow control my home environment. I made vows to do whatever it took to keep the peace in the family. I needed to be a good kid and not make waves. I was constantly watching and observing what I could do to help my home life get better. My eyes were on them and not on me. I lost myself. 

I knew making good grades was important, so that’s what I did. I became class president to get my Dad to notice me. I made it into National Honor Society and remember my Dad coming for the induction ceremony. Being class president and in National Honor Society were the only times I remember my Dad showing up and being proud of me. I lived to make my parents happy thinking it would make a difference at home. It didn’t.

So, you can imagine how the contempt for myself just grew and grew every time I tried and failed. Day by day and year by year it grew. I knew it was there. I knew it affected me in so many different ways. But, I didn’t know how to deal with it until recently. 

Let me say that forgiveness plays a big role in this process. Lysa Terkeurst’s book “Forgiving What You Can’t Forget” and the material from a workbook called “The Journey Begins” are the tools that are really helping me with my issues. 

I want to help anyone I can because contempt can lead to so many harmful things. Suicide is one of the results of contempt. I have a tender spot in my heart for anyone that feels that way. I have felt like ending my life many times because of the shame and contempt I have felt for myself. I believe those issues were at the core of my brother’s OCD and eventual suicide and I believe it has been at the core of my anxiety and depression.

I want to share something I read from “The Journey Begins”.

“A part of you was left behind very early in your life;

       the part that never felt completely received.

          It is full of fears…You have to bring home 

 the part of you that was left behind. That is not easy, 

because you have become quite a formidable person…

                 Your grown-up self has to become 

       very child-like, hospitable, gentle and caring so

          your anxious self can return and feel safe.” Henri Nouwen

If you are struggling with shame or contempt like I have, I am learning that I have to show kindness to my little self. Little Laurie learned some very bad habits in order to survive. She felt shame when things were out of control and then contempt took over to make her feel in control. Violence was a way of life. The violence that was happening around her made her feel contempt for herself because she couldn’t stop it. (I am the oldest child!)

I have to go back to my little self and show kindness to her. This might sound weird to you, but it works. I had to go back to some of the memories and bring Jesus into them. By bringing Him in, I brought in truth and kindness. Jesus has kind eyes. I have to look at myself through His eyes. 

You feel your feelings and then give them to God. Emotions are meant to move you toward God.” Ann Voskamp   I always felt uncomfortable with my feelings. I really didn’t know what to do with them so I shoved them down deep into my soul. I thought it was wrong to feel what I felt. It was so hard to admit the contempt and shame I felt. Now, I am learning to bring Jesus into my feelings and share them with Him. 

Proverbs 4:20-22 “Pay attention to what I say; turn your ear to my words. Do not let them out of your sight. Keep them within your heart; for they are life to those who find them and health to one’s whole body.”

When you bring the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit into your life, their words are going to change your life. If you are willing to let them into your feelings, your memories, your pain and whatever you struggle with; you will be changed by the truth they bring. 

I have started picturing the Trinity sitting at a table with me. I am discussing my memories and my pain with them. They listen. They talk to me and speak truth to my heart. They pray over me. They’ve been able to show me how much contempt I had for myself and show me kindness.

I am going to share something I wrote while conversing with the Trinity from my journal. “Laurie, you have so much contempt for yourself because you loved someone who abused you. You feel stupid for loving him. Are we stupid for loving evil people?” That question cut through me like a knife and made me catch my breath! Of course, they aren’t stupid. And I am not stupid either. That gives you a picture of how much contempt I felt for myself. 

Let me say this, violence can seep in and you not be aware of what it is doing to you and to others. There is so much violence in the world today and part of it is what we are doing to ourselves. I am learning that the antidote to contempt is kindness. We need to show kindness to ourselves and others.  

I have lived most of my life thinking something was dreadfully wrong with me. That lie took my life over. The contempt that formed deadened longings I had and shut down my heart. Contempt kept me self-protected. It caused me to lose hope. I denied my desires and I settled for so much less than I should have. I want to help anyone I can realize there is a better way to live.  

I am going to leave you with something I read by Lysa Terkeurst. I have been struggling with the thoughts that I have wasted so much time struggling with so many things. Maybe you think that way too. I pray this will help you as much as it is helping me. 

“This time isn’t a waste, and it’s definitely not pointless when we are walking with God. Let’s cry out to God, declaring that this hard time will be a holy time, a close-to-God time. And let’s choose to believe that there is good happening, even in these places. Because wherever God is, good is being worked.”  Can I get an AMEN???

Until next time. This is my journey to joy.

A Shift In Thinking

I think it is pretty safe to say that life has a way of kicking the breath out of you. There are days when I just want to put my hand up and say, “Just give me a minute so I can catch my breath!” Like a runner, after finishing a race, my hands are on my knees while I wait for the pounding of my heart to get back into a normal rhythm. 

The past two months, I have been reading Lysa Terkeurst’s book “Forgiving What You Can’t Forget”. This book isn’t just about forgiveness. It is also about how to deal with the many issues that come from experiencing trauma. If you have faced a lot of trauma, and you need something to help you process, this book is for you.

I can relate to the pain that Lysa writes about. “And hidden behind all that exhaustion was a girl stuck in so much grief, her perception of God was more informed by her pain than her past experience of who she knew God to be.” Terkeurst 

My pain has a tendency to take over the truth of who I know God to be. Part of my problem has been disillusionment. I think I have been disillusioned with God because of what He has allowed to happen in my life. God didn’t intervene like I thought He would in so many different situations. I prayed and prayed for things to change, but my answers didn’t look like I thought they would.

“Your answer never looks like you think it should.” Terkeurst  I can “think” I know what should happen, but I am not God. I might think I have the right answer but God ultimately does. And somehow, I have to make peace with that. I might not like what is happening, but I have to get to the point that I have to trust what He is doing. He is the only One who can see everything and knows everything. And most important of all, I have to remember that He is good. (Psalm 34:8) He doesn’t withhold good from us. (Psalm 84:11)

“What if we’ve been looking at things from only what we think is good? From our vantage point, we can clearly see how what we’re asking from God makes so much sense. In our minds, we see all the good that would surely come from Him doing exactly what we suggest. But what if our requests, though completely logical and reasonable, aren’t what we think they are? Yes, from an earthly perspective, they are exactly what makes sense. But what if God sees things we can’t possibly see? What if we could see everything from His complete, eternal, perfect vantage point? What if I’ve been thinking of this all wrong?” Terkeurst 

This is where my disillusionment has to turn into trust. Do I trust God? That question can be a hard one. There are lots of things I trust Him for, but there are others that are harder for me to trust Him with. It is hard for me to trust when I don’t understand what He is doing. It is equally hard for me to trust Him with what He is allowing to happen. I like to be able to understand what is going on. And when I can’t understand or rationalize things in my brain, I tend to have feelings of fear. I think, “Lord, what in the world are you doing here? I don’t understand why You are allowing this to happen?” (Cue the trauma feelings that rise up within me that I felt as a little girl.) 

And then… I read these next words that made my jaw drop. “I’ve been praying for almost as long as I’ve been living. But I’ve very rarely had the thought to look around at my life and see today, this moment, in this season, as the answered prayer. When I think about prayer requests, I think of what I “hope” God will do… not what “has been done” for today. The reason I miss seeing what I’m living today as the answer to my prayers is that very often, maybe even always, it’s not what I thought it would be. God’s answers don’t look like what I have pictured so clearly in my mind.” Terkeurst

Oh my goodness! That’s it! God’s answers haven’t looked like what I have pictured in my mind. Can anyone else relate to that? I have pictured God working very differently. And, I have been shocked at some of His answers. I haven’t understood them and frankly haven’t liked some of them. I have had so many expectations of what I thought the answer should be.

That question— “What if I’ve been thinking or looking at my situation all wrong?”—stuck with me. I wrestled with it and journaled over it. 

This is what I wrote in my journal. “What looks good to me might not look good to you, Lord. I actually might not have the right answer. I need to let go of what I think is good. My idea of “good” needs to change. I need to say that I am sorry for the way I have acted when You haven’t answered the way I thought You should. I have become disillusioned with You. Yes, I would have loved for things to be different in my childhood, but it doesn’t get me anywhere to wish things were different. I know that You provided so many things to get me through those years and I am very grateful for your provision.”

When I was a child, I loved watching Cinderella, Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, etc…because all the Disney movies had a “happy ending”. I formed the belief that the evil would be dealt with and I would have my idea of a happy ending. So, when that didn’t happen, I didn’t know how to handle it. I became a little girl stuck in grief and shock of what I saw and experienced. My perceptions of what I thought life should be like were turned upside down. 

Of course, I didn’t realize any of this until I was much older. But, that has been one of my biggest problems. What I perceived to be good, has not been the same as what God says is good. I know God can work good from any situation. My answer for what is good needs to be what God says is good. I must focus on His provision and make the choice to see that instead of the chaos that is going on around me. I have been living in chaos most of my life so my brain has been trained for survival instead of looking at what God is giving me.

I am wired to be hyper. My brother is the same way. We attack and we do and we over do and there is no peace. It is a learned behavior from a chaotic upbringing. I don’t know how to rest or stay in the same spot very long. This past year has made it worse for me. The chaos of the pandemic made me crazy. I became that frightened little girl again. I’ve been fighting panic for over a year. The problem was, and still is, the fact that I forget to look for God’s daily provision. I am praying every day that God will help my mind look for Him and His provision for me. And, I am praying to be thankful for it all!

In the midst of everything we are facing, there is good provision from God. My mind always goes to the story of Joseph in the Bible. God provided for Joseph for so many years. His circumstances were’t ideal for sure, but God had a plan. I have to remind myself over and over again—amidst the chaos—that there is a plan. I must trust God with His plan.

I am going to end with sharing something I saved on my phone last year. The author is unknown. I pray the words encourage you and give you hope!

“I would have pulled Joseph out. Out of that pit. Out of that prison. Out of that pain. And I would have cheated nations out of the one God would use to deliver them from famine. 

I would have pulled David out. Out of Saul’s spear-throwing presence. Out of the caves he hid away in. Out of the pain of rejection. And I would have cheated Israel out of a God-hearted king.

I would have pulled Esther out. Out of being snatched from her only family. Out of being placed in a position she never asked for. Out of the path of a vicious, power-hungry foe. And I would have cheated a people out of the woman God would use to save their very lives. 

And I would have pulled Jesus off. Off of the cross. Off of the road that led to suffering and pain. Off of the path that would mean nakedness and beating, nails and thorns. And I would have cheated the entire world out of a Savior. Out of salvation. Out of an eternity filled with no more suffering and no more pain. 

And oh friend. I want to pull you out. I want to change your path. I want to stop your pain. But right now I know I would be wrong. I would be out of line. I would be cheating you and cheating the world out of so much good. Because God knows. He knows the good this pain will produce. He knows the beauty this hard will grow. He’s watching over you and keeping you even in the midst of this. And He’s promising you that you can trust Him. Even when it all feels like more than you can bear. 

So, instead of trying to pull you out, I’m lifting you up. I’m kneeling before the Father and I’m asking Him to give you strength. To give you hope. I’m asking Him to protect you and to move you when the time is right. I’m asking Him to help you stay prayerful and discerning. I’m asking Him how I can best love you and be a help to you. And I’m believing He’s going to use your life in powerful and beautiful ways. Ways that will leave your heart grateful and humbly thankful for this road you’ve been on.”

Until next time dear friends. This is my journey to joy. 

A Beautiful Rebuilding (Part 1)

In my last post, I wrote about my abuse and what it did to me. I stated that I would be writing about the tools that helped me in my healing and rebuilding. I have always been a “fixer”, so when I started to fall apart, I was desperate to fix me. I thought it wouldn’t take long if I did whatever my counselor told me to do. I have learned one very valuable lesson— healing from abuse takes time. You don’t just “get over it!” I berated myself for years because I just couldn’t “get over it!” Don’t do that!  Rebuilding takes time. Be patient with yourself and the process. 

Twenty years ago, I was at a point in my life that I was desperate. My panic attacks were so strong that I couldn’t be alone and could barely leave the house. I was in a perpetual state of fear. I only found a little bit of relief when the doctor was able to find the right medication to ease the attacks that were taking over my life.

I was talking to a good friend about my issues and she suggested seeing the counselor that she was seeing. I knew I had to do this, so I called and made an appointment. That was the first step I made to heal. I remember resisting to make that phone call for a few days. You would think that it would have been easy, but it wasn’t. I wanted to get better, but I also knew I was going to have to talk about things I didn’t want to talk about. 

I lived in silence for forty years about what happened with my dad. I was also oblivious to the deep seated issues. When you live a lie for so many years, you tend to think it is normal. So, the thought that I would have to talk about it, scared the crap out of me! 

My counselor was so patient with me. She didn’t ask the hard questions until she knew I was ready. It was a slow, slow process to get to the point I could talk about the sexual abuse. There were so many feelings that took a long time to surface. Many layers to go through to get to the issues. 

Let me say that I highly recommend biblical counseling. That is what I recommend for anyone. If you live in an area that doesn’t have this type of counseling, there are ways to do it online. AACC has online resources and so does Focus On The Family. You can have sessions online with trained counselors. You might have to do a bit of research, but it is definitely worth it. You are worth it! 

The next step I took was to start journaling. I have to say that counseling and journaling go hand in hand. You have to get your feelings out. Putting a pen to your pain is so important. There are things you can say on paper that you can’t speak about. A journal doesn’t have to be expensive. I use spiral bound notebooks that you can buy for a dollar. 

The other day, I decided to look at the journals I wrote when I first started counseling. As I was going through the pages, I came across an exercise that my counselor had me do. She told me to write a letter to my dad. I am right handed, but she wanted me to use my left hand while writing the letter. She wanted it to be from my viewpoint as a child. I was able to put the feelings I felt as a child on paper. It actually looked like I had written it when I was a child. 

Journaling has been a lifeline for me. It not only was a way to express my feelings, but it opened up a way for me to communicate with God. I actually began my journaling each day with, “Dear Lord.” Every day was a new letter to God. These letters created a relationship to the One I was writing to. I spoke about what I was learning. I told Him what I was feeling. I wrote down scripture that was helping me. I also wrote quotes from books I was reading and principles from Bible studies I was doing. 

I needed a voice because of all the years of secrets. I needed someone to talk to about the things I kept hidden and journaling gave me a voice. The little girl inside me needed a voice too. I had to connect with her so she could speak. I know this might sound weird to you, but my counselor talked about the importance of allowing little Laurie to have a say. 

Journaling also gave me intimacy with God. God knew my story, but I needed to process it with HIm. While I was writing, God would speak to my heart. His words brought truth, comfort, healing and power. He became my best friend and confidant. 

We are made to have a relationship with God. He wants us to talk to Him. I learned that when I talked to Him, it opened the door for me to also have the ability to listen to Him. Let me share a verse with you. Revelation 3:20 “Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will dine with him, and he with Me.”

What do most people do at the dining room table? They talk. They share. They laugh. They ask questions. They get to know one another. They build relationships. Having a meal with someone is one of the best ways to communicate.

When I opened the door and allowed Jesus to come into my messy life and when I started to unload the secrets I was hiding, my life took a turn towards healing. He was right by my side the whole time helping me say what I needed to say. I found safety in Him. I began to feel safe unloading my secrets to HIm. But, it was a process. Healing is a process.

I began to devour the Bible to find verses that helped me talk to God and claim His truth. I wrote them down on 3×5 cards and carried them with me so I could remember what His word said when the fear and anxiety would strike. I want to share some of them with you.

Deuteronomy 31:6 “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Forsake means abandon)

Exodus 14:13-14 “Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today. The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.”

Isaiah 41:13 “For I am the Lord your God, who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, do not fear; I will help you.”

Psalm 32:8 “I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my loving eye on you.”

Psalm 139:5 “You are all around me—in front and in back—and have put your hand on me.”

I have so many more, but you can see that I picked verses that gave me a picture of a loving and caring God. Those verses told me He doesn’t ever abandon me. He fights for me. He takes hold of my right hand and tells me not to be afraid because He wants to help me. He even surrounds me. I knew these facts about God, but I needed to picture Him listening, caring, and holding me before I could share my messy life with Him.

Find a special place where you can feel safe to talk to God. My place is in my bedroom. I close my eyes and picture us sitting on a bench in a garden. He is sitting next to me. We talk about what is bothering me. Then there are times, that I talk to Him from across a table. We are eating and enjoying being together. Do whatever works for you. The important thing is for you to be honest and get your feelings out. Then, listen. He doesn’t speak audibly, but you will hear his voice through the Holy Spirit inside you. 

Counseling, journaling and scripture are essential for healing. Each one is a crucial piece in the puzzle of rebuilding your life. If you would like more scripture, please comment on my post and I would be happy to share more with you. 

Remember…. it takes time to heal. It takes time to learn new ways to cope. It takes time to grow and rebuild. You are not alone. Please find someone you trust that will pray for you. I will be sharing the books I’ve read, the studies I’ve done, and the principles I’ve learned in my next posts.

This is my journey to joy. Until next time….

I Wore A Mask

I have been struggling over how to start this post. How do I put into words what abuse has done to me? How do I share what happened to me as a child? I am nervous and anxious writing about it. I would rather not talk about it, but the Lord has been impressing on my heart that this is what He wants me to do. So I am telling my story to help you, the one who has been abused. I want you to feel validated and know that there is someone that cares about your feelings. God cares. I care and there are thousands of others who care too. I want my words to help you and bring you towards healing and forgiveness.

Let me share with you some words from Lysa Terkeurst. “Whether this was an event or a collection of hurt that built over time because someone wasn’t who they were supposed to be, didn’t do what they were supposed to do, or didn’t protect you like they should have protected you, your heartbreak deserves a safe place to be processed. Whoever “they” are in your story, their actions hurt you, took from you, and set off a chain of events still greatly affecting you. And that is wrong.”

My abuse started when I was a child. My father was prone to fits of rage. You never knew when he would erupt. So, I tried to stay away from home as much as I could. I played outside with the kids in the neighborhood from morning till night. I only came inside when I had to. Thank you Lord for blessing me with wonderful neighbors. I was with them as much as I could because I didn’t feel safe living in my home. I probably lived over at my neighbor’s houses more than I did mine. I loved going to school and participating in any activity to get me away from home. And when I could drive, I was only home when I had to be there. 

I especially wanted to be away from home at dinnertime. I don’t know why, but my dad would always pick a fight at dinner. I think he originated “food fight”. Yes, he actually threw the food my mom cooked. There were remnants left on the ceiling for years to remind us of all the food fights. He made us miserable sitting there listening to him scream. We were a captive audience that couldn’t escape. 

There was another big reason why I didn’t feel comfortable being at home. This one is so horrible to talk about, but I know I have to because it gives you the complete picture of the abuse and trauma I went through on a daily basis. It took me years of counseling before I could even mention it. I am so nervous right now writing about it. My Dad fondled himself in front of us. It was a sexual assault that I had to see all the time. I would be watching tv and he would do it. I had to leave the room because it disgusted me so much. We only had one tv, so if I wanted to watch a tv program, I would hope and pray he wouldn’t come in the room. He couldn’t keep his hands out of his pants. Those memories of him doing that have scarred me. You simply can’t undo what you have seen.

Back in the sixties, people didn’t talk about abuse. I am not sure that I would have called it abuse. To me, it was the way my dad was. He was a really good football coach and revered by many because of the success he had on the football field. He treated his players better than he treated his family. He showed more compassion to them than he did us. You can imagine how very confusing it was to me that he would treat others better than he treated us. It just didn’t make sense to me. 

When we were disciplined for doing something wrong, he would inevitably loose his cool. A normal spanking would turn into a beating or a shove or a throw. One time he actually threw my brother down the stairs. Thankfully, nothing was ever broken. 

To be perfectly honest, his words hurt more than his hands. His words stayed with me. To this day, I rarely cuss. When I hear certain words, it reminds me of all the horrible things my dad said to us in anger. The f*** word really gets to me. And don’t you be using the Lord’s name in vain. I just can’t hear those things! It hurts my soul way down deep! 

So, we became a family that kept secrets and lies. We pretended things were just fine and dandy. The only people that knew what was really going on were our neighbors. They would hear him yelling at us. They saw how he acted. But, everyone else never knew the extent of his behavior. We didn’t talk about it. I never told anyone, that I was close to, what was going on behind closed doors. I just couldn’t. 

I think I kept silent because I didn’t want anyone to know how awful he was. Deep down inside, I was ashamed of my dad. I wanted to keep up the facade. If I talked about it, then I would have to deal with it. The secrets and the lies that we kept would come out and I simply couldn’t handle that. 

I think I lived in the fake reality that someday he would change and things would get better. He couldn’t be a monster in my mind because I loved him deeply. I wanted to make him happy, so I did everything I could to get his approval. I wanted to hear good words out of his mouth, not bad ones. So, that’s how I lived my days—pleasing and performing became my life. It didn’t matter what I wanted, only what he wanted. And that is not a healthy way to live. 

I went to the college he wanted me to go to. I majored in what he wanted me to major in. I was not allowed to major in teaching, which is what I really wanted to do. Then finally, I couldn’t take it any more and left college. He told me if I majored in teaching he wouldn’t pay for it. So, I came home, worked to save money and went back to school to do what I wanted to do. I worked three jobs to get through college, but I did it! That was really the first time in my life that I did what I wanted to do.  

Of course, there are many more stories to tell, and I will share what I feel I must share so I can help you on your journey. I have wrestled with the Lord over what to say and what not to say. He is the one who is placing the words I need to say in my heart. I do this to bring healing and forgiveness. I am not trying to be vindictive in any way. I feel like I need to say that so you don’t get the wrong idea. I don’t want anyone to feel sorry for me. All of it happened for a reason and I am who I am because of it. I want to bring glory to God through this process because He is the reason I am here. He is healing me day by day and will continue until the day I die. 

I have done extensive counseling, studying, journaling, praying, etc. I learn something new all the time. Forgiving and healing is a process. It doesn’t magically happen. It is hard work!! I have spent hours talking, listening and crying. Abuse does things to a person that takes a lifetime to heal from. My counselor told me that the body never forgets what the mind tries to forget. She is absolutely right! That’s why I have suffered from anxiety, depression and panic attacks. My doctor told me that my brain is similar to someone who has gone to war because I grew up being assaulted in some way every day by my father.   

My brother developed a severe case of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder from the abuse. He was stuck in rituals that ruled his life. My parents took him to many clinics and hospitals to try to help him. He even had brain surgery. Sadly, there weren’t any treatments that helped him. He tried to commit suicide at least 10 times before he finally ended up taking his life when he was only 32 years old. 

After he died, I began to unravel emotionally and physically. David’s death started the process of exposing the secrets and lies. He opened the door for me to start healing. My body couldn’t take the hiding anymore. The panic attacks started gradually and didn’t completely stop for many years. It was the worst and best thing to happen to me. 

I am here today because of Jesus. No doubt about it. He is my safe place. I have gone to Him to process my hurt, my pain, my memories, my feelings and everything else. It took awhile to do that because of my warped view of God. Having an abusive father really messes with your relationships with men and also with God. I don’t know what I would do without Him in my life. 

There have been many times my hurt and pain have completely consumed me. But, there’s one valuable lesson I am learning. My pain and hurt must be released. I can’t stay and blame. I must move forward one day at a time. “The more pain consumes us, the more it will control us.” Terkeurst 

To help you move forward, I am going to recommend two different books on forgiveness. When I was in my forties, I read “Total Forgiveness” by R.T. Kendall. He taught me so much about the process of forgiveness. The latest book I am reading is “Forgiving What You Can’t Forget” by Lysa Terkeurst. I will be quoting her quite a bit in my posts. Both books are really helpful. Remember, forgiveness is a process. Sometimes it’s really hard to do, but in order to heal, it has to be done. 

This is my journey to joy. Until next time…..

  • This verse popped up in my mind after I finished writing this post.  Genesis 50:20 “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.” Close your eyes and picture saying these words to the person or people that have hurt you. There is power in those words! God will bring good from your pain.