Seeing God in a Glass Jar

I have a clear glass jar wound with twine and filled with stones on a mantle in our living room.  This simple jar takes me down a long path to my past that is intertwined with my present and future.  With a paint pen I have written on those stones each time God has spoken to me throughout my life.  Some of the times were during painful travels to my childhood memories; others were during times of beauty.   Each of these stones represent hope that one day I will be so close to God that I will be able to fully experience Him not only with my heart but also by sight, smell, and touch.  The stones hold the stories of my abuse and they reflect the image of God for God took the time and care to reach me when despairing to remind me of hope.  Hope that there will be a time outside of this time, hope that even though I see darkness He has me bathed in light, hope that one day I will have a body untouched by abuse.

When I pull out a stone with the words “I am always wanting to hold your hand” I remember sitting in a  room stripped of humanity in a psych ward waiting to be evaluated because I had wanted death more than life.  The stone with “there’s more I have for you to learn” shakily written on a weathered and beaten rock brings back the reason I was sitting in the psych ward in the first place.  At the age of 46 I drove out of state in an attempt to make it harder for my body to be found and drank enough alcohol to make sure when I took all the pills I had accumulated there would be no use in resuscitation.  Death couldn’t be as painful as living I reasoned.  Feeling utterly alone in this life filled with so many, I heard God speak.  He was with me wanting me to choose life.  In my aloneness, God was there.  The pain didn’t ease right away.  In some ways the grief became harder to bear.  Yet, I have learned.  I have learned how to see hope.  I have learned about God’s “eyes only on me” kind of love.  He wants me to not just bear this pain but to see His life and love.  He is continually looking for and providing ways to love on me.   Incessant in His love, all He asks of me is to keep my eyes open to receive the beauty of it.

A square black rock has the words YHVH Go’el, my Kinsman Redeemer.  I am like Ruth, ostracized and rejected but sought after, valued, treasured, and cherished.  In Song of Songs, God’s luxurious love gently but persistently woes ME, His princess.  His non-ending uninhibited love envelopes me even when I am feeling unlovable, even when I see only darkness.  I am betrothed to Him and he calls me His beloved.

Suffering seems to be a part of life.  But, I have found a beauty in this life that eases that deep ache for my genuine home.

Traveling to the Past: Visiting the memories and buildings in Bedford, Va

This week my husband and I traveled to Bedford, VA to see the homes and building where all my abuse happened.  For three days my body felt the stress as each day became harder and harder to walk.  We visited the two homes I lived in until I was 10 or 11.  The small homes are across the street from each other.  I remember the first home that we lived in until I was 4 but the second home that I lived in for 6 years I have no memories of at all.  We knocked on the doors but no one was home or no one wanted to answer the door so I didn’t get to go in.  I did get pictures though.  And my husband and I walked the long street to where I would catch the bus.

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I remembered a man that kept a garden a few houses down from ours and I have one memory of being in the garden with the elderly man and feeling of safety.  But that is only one of very few memories that I have of this neighborhood.  The rest of the memories are of abuse.

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The next place we visited was the original grocery store that my mom and I would go to.  Yes, the original grocery store from 40 years ago!  I couldn’t believe it when we walked in.  They had the original cash registers where they were punching in each price…no scanning codes here!  The avocado green produce tables and gold stripes, late 60”s shelving and refrigeration and meat counter.  It was amazing to see.

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I wanted to go in there because I have such powerful reactions when I go into grocery stores.  It feels like my spirit leaves and my thinking becomes very foggy.  If I go in with a list of a weeks worth of groceries I tend to “wake up” as the clerk is scanning the items and see only several bags of chips and boxed cereal.  I didn’t know if any memories would come back from actually walking back in the store but none came.

The next place we tried to find was the Jaycee building.  The Jaycees no longer have a group in Bedford so I knew that it would be a long shot to find it.  But with any luck maybe they sold it to another group and it is still around. The only thing I knew was that it was located off a road going out of town and the property beside it had a two story white house and the road was gravel. The memory I have of this buiding it is all made out of blue metal.  On the map we located 7 major roads leading out of town.  We didn’t know if we should go North, South, East, or West.  My husband decided to run back into grocery store and ask the older ladies that worked there if they remembered an old Jaycee Building from 40 years ago.  One lady said there was a baseball field called the Jaycee field and gave us directions.

So, we headed that direction looking for a gravel road.  We found one with a locked gate, parked, and started to walk down the road.  My eyes were closed as I walked because memories started to flash by me.  I hadn’t seen the building yet but my body knew this was the place.  I just knew this was the place where my dad brought me to “bury” me.  The further we walked the smaller I became.  When we arrived at the building I saw the sign “Lion’s Club” above the door.  The parking area was a large graveled area in front of the door.  I didn’t react to the front of the building because I remembered a large metal building with a metal roof.  The front looked like a small building made out of cinder blocks.

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When I looked in the door I saw the inside where I had been abused by the other Jaycee members.  It was a large open room with a stage in the back.  When I walked around the side of the building I about lost it because there was all the blue metal building that I remembered.  It stretched the length of the entire building.  There are NO windows in this building and it is set so far off from the road that no one could hear anyone scream.  Why do you build a building with no windows???

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As we stood with our backs to the building we looked out over the baseball field and beyond that we saw shooting ranges.  My husband estimated that they owned 30+ acres.  It was completely sounded by trees  and completely isolated.  No one could see this property from any angle.

We walked the entire property before I stopped dissociating.  It was a stressful day that I am glad is over.

More Beautiful for Being Broken: Scrubbing my Soul

Beautiful words for a broken woman.

Curriculum of the Spiritual Life

Victorian Sweep Boy
http://www.victorianchildren.org

Scrubbing My Soul, by Amy Israelson

I sit,
wondering if I can ever beat
this,
Beat this anger that is bubbling up inside of me.
It feels wild, volatile, untamed;
Like a whip, eager to lash out – 
to sting like I’ve been stung!
The kindness of yesterday melts away like a spring snowfall, revealing the dirt and grime underneath.
It is ugly.
I feel ugly.
Years of dirt and decay lie exposed.

Hate: rotten, stinking, potent.
How can this be inside of ME?
I look away.

Yet the storm brews.
I stir; wondering how to calm the soul within.
     “Be still.”
          But how?
               “Be still.”

The Psalmist says:
     “I have stilled and quieted my soul,
      like a weaned child is my soul within me.”

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Just found out: My Therapist has been in contact with my Stalker for 2 1/2 YEARS…What the hell?

I didn’t want to write this post.  I’ve put it off for four weeks now.  But what happened still bothers me.  And I want to hurt someone.

I found out that my counselor was friends on Facebook with my Stalker.  MY STALKER.  To tell the story about her I have to go back a few years.

I had been seeing my previous counselor for two years and was a part of a “support group” that she ran.  Except she ran the support group like a cult.   She managed all the relationships within the group, called me at home on numerous occasions to go check on her other clients that were suicidal, spiritually abused me, and used our sessions to talk about how to manage her other clients. Oh, and not to mention that she shared all my confidential information with my future stalker who was also a part of the group.  It was crippling and I was extremely suicidal.  I finally got my courage up to break free from her but when I did I had to walk away from her cult which had become my life.  When I told my “friends” from the group that I was leaving her you can imagine what happened.  All hell broke loose.  I received many emails, phone calls, and texts yelling at me for what I was doing to Kim, the counselor.  The Stalker called so often and sent so many texts and emails that I had to call the phone company to get her blocked.  But she didn’t let that stop her.  Even though she lives in a different town than me she started to go regularly to the CVS and grocery store that she knows I go to and was just 2 minutes from my house.  My kids and I even saw her sitting in her van outside our house at night!  She would put things in my mailbox, drive by the house, and attend my kids ball games.  She would even wait for me at my kids school in carpool lane!  And she tried to befriend my then 16 year old son through Facebook!  My counselor knows about each and every one of these.

My new counselor (that I drive 1 ½ hours to a different town because the first three counselors I saw after the bad one couldn’t see me because they knew her) told me that to stop a stalker I need to starve her of all contact.  Which I did.  I never responded to her, I never approached her, etc.  But she was persistent and continued to pursue me.  I never called the police because I was told she had never hurt me (which is true) and she wasn’t doing anything illegal (true) but it was still frightening.

Now, fast forward 2 ½ years.  The stalking has stopped but I find out that my counselor was friend with her on Facebook.  When I confront him he immediately calls me to tell me how it happened.  2 ½ years ago he attends a week long Christian conference out of town.  He is sitting at a banquet table and the lady across from him asks him in front of everyone if he sees (insert my name).  He is shocked and the lady beside him angrily says “he can’t tell you that!”.  After the dinner he goes to her and tells her “this cannot be discussed.” And she says “okay”.

After the conference the members of his small group decided to start a Facebook group to keep in touch.  He decides to join but is angry when he sees that they have invited everyone at the conference and see’s Dee’s name on there.  Because he doesn’t want her to control him and he really wants to join the group he goes ahead and joins.

After much thought he decided to not tell me about running in to her because I was very suicidal at the time because of the previous counselor and going through the steps of reporting her to the LPC Board.

I ask him many, many questions and he answers each and every one with honesty and was sincerely apologetic.

I find out that it didn’t end there though.  After the conference evidently it bolsters her stalking.  Now I know what she was thinking.  Having met my counselor she assumes he is completely charmed by her and will encourage me to be friends with her again.  So she boldly starts coming to my door.  It’s not until after my husband threatens to get a restraining order on her and meets with her husband to reinforce the threat does the stalking stop.

Or does it?  One question I ask my counselor is if he has had any contact with her since then.  Ummm, yes.  She messaged him through Facebook (after we threatened to contact the police) asking for a Spiritual Counselor and he responds with a recommendation.  What the hell?????  Okay, so you ran into her at the conference (which is no coincidence, I will explain later) but to join the group and then engage in a conversation with her?   Are you kidding me?

She only asked him that question so that she could have contact with him.  She had no intention of seeing a counselor.  He knows all about that group, how destructive it was on me, and he continued to have contact with her.

Now what?  I am angry, pissed and I want to go find her to tell her that he is my counselor and for her to back the hell off.

My counselor has worked hard to rebuild trust.  He sought counseling by a superior in the community to talk about what made him think he could keep the two things separate (care for me and keep her at a distance from himself), he called me several times that weekend to talk about it and we have talked about it in counseling several times.

But I am still left with the question….what in the hell do I do now?

Oh, side note:  the reason she went to that conference is because I told her about it while we were friends.  I told her I had always wanted to go but couldn’t because of money, child care, and I didn’t know if I was emotionally ready for it.  And somehow, she ended up attending the conference the same week my counselor did.

Wanting a God of my own understanding

“The woman quietly watches the poodle family, and in her smile all memories are collected, the present and the past, all tenderness, all sorrow and longing. Her smile is without guile or deception, for it does not deny her bitterness and anger at a world without mercy. At a world in which we are executioners to ourselves as well as to others, and our own and others’ salvation as well. She has come home.” Burned Child Seeks the Fire by Cordelia Edvardson

I don’t know where I am in life. I am still in the present AND in the past and the two have not merged in a graceful space. There is no moment where I have accepted the past while looking forward to the future being grateful for the present. I don’t know what I think about God except that I don’t understand Him. I don’t understand what He allows, what he intercedes for, or how he decides between the two. I can’t decide if this is a God I want to worship and struggle with or if He is a God I want to just acknowledge from very far away while waiting for my time on this earth to end.

You see, it’s too late for me to completely turn my back on Him. He has spoken to me again and again. He has made Himself KNOWN to me. He has shown Himself to me, revealed Himself to me, called me His.

And yet, my heart is starting to grow cold. I’ve seen too much wickedness. I’ve heard evil’s whisper in my ear. I’ve felt its sin pressed up against my flesh. There is no desire and certainly no energy left to look for His grace.

Why not decide to make it through this life with as much compassion and love as possible and leave the relationship to Him? I’m simply too tired to continue the search, too worn to keep up my end of the bargain.

Why can’t I keep the God of my own understanding? A God that created my sweet babies, loves goodness, and always, under all circumstances protects. Instead I was given the knowledge of good and evil at an age that shattered all illusions of purity in this world.

Letter to my brother…..

I sent the following letter to him 3 weeks ago telling him about the abuse at the hands of our father.  No reply has come…. so I guess that means he has chosen what kind of man he will be.

Brother,

I hope you and the kids are doing well.  I am writing because I haven’t been completely honest with you and I am trusting that our relationship is one that I can do just that.

I would like to be honest with you about what my life has been like since Dad started coming to my room at night when I was four (after he had passed out on the sofa from coming home drunk 4 times a week….mom’s words not mine) and sexually abusing me.  At the age of 7 it progressed to him taking me on car rides where he would tell me he was teaching me what love was like and that I really wanted all that he was doing to me.  On occasion when I would get up enough nerve to cry out and try to get out of reach he tied my hands up.  The abuse seemed to never end, year after year after year.  Finally, at the age of 10-11 the abuse stopped probably because I had reached an age that no longer “attracted” him.  Do you know what this does to a child?  I will forever have Complex PTSD, depression, and anxiety because of him. I have flash-backs, nightmares, and physical pain because of all he did to me.  If I don’t have medication I do not sleep through the night.  As a little girl I had to wait in my bed…waiting, knowing when he stood up from the sofa that he would be coming to hurt and haunt me.  No amount of counseling will take away all the effects that the abuse has had on me.  Can you imagine being an adult having panic attacks just because you are in a certain part of your own house?  That is what it is like for me in our bedroom and any bathroom.   I have had many many years of counseling just to help me deal with life, being a parent, a wife, and a friend.

I have had to learn boundaries because our family didn’t have any.   I was taught instead that my body belongs to others not me.  I was taught that I am in the world to please others, never myself.  I was taught my pain wasn’t worth being seen, heard, or attended to.  My being was not worth respect or love.  As I walk on this healing journey I have learned how to set boundaries and to stand up for myself.  One of those was to set the boundary with our parents that if they want a relationship with me they would need to acknowledge the abuse and work on having a healthy relationship.  Unfortunately, they have no interest in working on a real relationship.  Even when Mom’s own counselor in Roanoke told her she was in denial about Dad molesting me Mom still refused to help her daughter and chose AGAIN to protect the molester.  There is a quote that I have grown to love.  It comes from a book about the trauma of child abuse.

“It is morally impossible to remain neutral for those that bear witness to conflict between the victim and the perpetrator.  The bystander is forced to take sides.  It is very tempting to take the side of the perpetrator.  All the perpetrator asks is that the bystander do nothing.  He appeals to the universal desire to see, hear and speak no evil.  The victim, on the contrary, asks the bystander to share the burden or pain.  The victim demands action, engagement and remembering.  After every atrocity one can expect to hear the same predictable apologies:  it never happened, the victim lies, the victim exaggerates, the victim brought it on herself.”

After one of the car rides that Dad took me on in order to sexually attack me, I came home with my legs and insides feeling as if they were on fire.  The inside of my legs felt completely raw from what he had done.  When he and I walked into the house, Mom and you were sitting on the floor playing.  Mom asked why I was walking funny.  Dad spoke up quickly saying I had fallen but was his “little trooper”.  Mom never asked me how it happened, how I was feeling, etc.  Of course I wasn’t crying, I had already learned my cries were never answered.   Mom decided it was safer for her not to know what was happening.  I was thrown into the lion’s den and left alone with no one to protect or love me.

So you have a choice to believe me and stand by me or choose to do nothing and support the abuser.  What kind of man will you choose to be?

At the bottom of the letter I hand wrote “I know this letter may sound angry, and I guess I am at dad, but not at you.  I have some really good memories of you and I playing together in the drainage ditch behind our house and smearing mulberries on our skin to play cowboys and Indians.  I have missed you and hope we can talk soon.”

The New Day

It has been three months since I went off Cymbalta and onto a small dose of a new medication.  My life has completely changed from searching for and desiring with every cell of my body suicide to now not even thinking about it.  Well, that’s not quite true.  I notice quite often that the thought is no longer there.  It feels strange but also glorious.  I have been interacting  and enjoying life with my boys and have even signed up for a Bible Study in hopes of meeting others.  I still have a lot of work to do concerning memories and integration and have had a few days of anguish but with the suicidal thoughts gone it has been much more doable.  As far as integration goes I have been working on feeling my feelings and trying to stay with them.  That’s not really integration but it is a step in the right direction.

I still get on here everyday to check and read other’s blogs but don’t have time to comment like I used to.  Thank you to everyone of you who have supported me during my darkest days when I didn’t have anyone else other than my therapist to lean on.  Writing helped me express what was going on inside and in that way helped me start to heal.  I am grateful to each of you that helped pull me out of the mire.