Re-written

I struggled  off and on with insecurity of the scars that are splotched across my left forearm. I often questioned cosmetic surgery and hid my scars in shame. Fear of judgment, memories of my past, and disgust were just a few of the battles I fought in my head when looking down. As time passed I fought through these battles, but the battle of judgment flipped from peers and dating relationship to professional relationships.

What will my colleagues think of me?

Will they think I’m incompetent to work in the mental health field?

These types of questions floated through my mind and when I first entered graduate school I covered myself when meeting classmates and professors for the first time. I soon realized I was being more judgmental of myself than anyone else. The more I let my guard down, the more God was able to use me and continue to mold me into what he has planned from the beginning.

Now working in a psychiatric hospital with a high crisis population, every now and then an adolescent will come up to me and say something along the lines: “Ms., you used to cut yourself? You were like me… you get it.” Something that used to bring me so much shame now opens up the door without me having to say a word.

God can use even the most darkest of times; what you think may be a big black mark on your life, is never big enough for God to transform. I think back now about how many times I wished my life were different, how much I fantasized of being someone else, somewhere else, living a life that was nothing like mine. After battling through the messes and taking my life back, I now couldn’t imagine my life any differently.

“Courage is to tell the story of who you are with your whole heart.”

Brené Brown

 

 

 

26 & 5 years

Today marked 26 years of life. Every time this time of year rolls around I look back in amazement. Have I really made it this far? Life has meaning, I value life, and I look forward to each day.

Life is no longer a black mass that is dictated by my experiences.

Even bigger than celebrating another birthday, is the week before my birthday. This year a milestone rolled around. Five years of freedom. And freedom has never felt so free. The first few years of freedom from my abusers felt anything but like freedom. The emotional abuse left huge gaping wounds and everything else just topped off the damage. I struggled, sank further, and often felt worse than when I was actively being abused. My escape to freedom felt anything but like freedom. But somewhere between then and now life has evolved, and I can truly say I am free.

That’s something to celebrate.

So I went on a mini vacation with friends to the beach, tried new foods, and reflected on all I have to be thankful. We often get caught up in the stress of life and forget all we have right at our feet. Even on the worst days, I have a bed to sleep, eyes to see the beauty around me, and breath. Instead of retreating inward and shutting down over a week that completely changed my world, this year, I chose to reflect and express my freedom and thanks. I know I’m extremely thankful for a Heavenly Father that never gave up on me, even when I gave up and completely turned away from Him. What an amazing feeling knowing that despite my brokenness, filth, and even hatefulness, Jesus didn’t turn His back. Instead, he broke through my stubbornness, cleaned me off, and made me whole. Are there still broken pieces? Of course. But instead of gaping wounds that spew out darkness, the cracks shine the light that was so graciously poured into me. How could you not celebrate that?

New Chapter

It’s been a while! As 2016 is here I’ve looked back through the past two years; two years of independence, a new journey, facing the fear of being in a town where I knew NO ONE, then becoming part of a family through a church that made leaving one of the most difficult things I’ve had to do.

December 12, 2015 I graduated with a Master’s in Clinical Mental Health Counseling with a focus in Marriage and Family Counseling. It was one of the most rewarding experiences walking across that stage with a 4.0; knowing the future will be amazing (that is, after I’m done with the painful length of waiting for the state to license me). That same day I left the small town that became home to move back to my big city home. The church that became home, the friends that became my best friends within months who were minutes away from my doorstep, and the professors, classmates, and internship sites who helped prepare me for the journey of becoming a licensed counselor were all in my rear view mirror. Now, it’s phone calls and weekend trips maybe once a month to reunite with the friends that helped me find me – not who they wanted me to be, but who I actually am.

It’s not “goodbye,” it’s “see ya later.”

2015 was one of the best years of my life. What were some of your 2015 highlights? Going into 2016, what is something you want to change?

I’m not into New Year’s resolutions (I’ve failed the weight loss one EVERY SINGLE YEAR!) But, sitting in Sunday school at a new church this past Sunday we talked about these resolutions we all always seem to fail and my table came to a conclusion. We’re not putting GOD in our goals, we’re making it all about us. 

“I want to lose weight.”

“I want to double the weights I lift.”

“I want a boyfriend/girlfriend.”

God definitely didn’t have anything to do with my wanting to lose weight in the past. In fact, it had more to do with wanting to look good for OTHER people or fulfilling my unhealthy body image views. Instead, this year I want a stronger relationship with God and the dedication and trust to listen and wait on him instead of rushing things and following my own agenda. 

Ouch, that’s a difficult one. It sounds easy to just trust and listen, I mean, He has never failed me before…. then why is this something we all continuously struggle doing? Here is my guess: We hate giving up control. Or, our sense of control. Because in the end, we have absolutely zero control and it is all in God’s hands anyway. Does that mean be a bad steward of what God provides, don’t try, or just sit aimlessly waiting to hear this big mighty voice saying “DO THIS” every single time? I don’t think so…and if you’re waiting for the writing in the sky, you’re probably going to be waiting a long time. For me this means spending more time with God. Our relationship with Him is one of the most important, yet it’s one that tends to get neglected the most. We spend so much time spending time with our friends, colleagues, and family, but how much time are we spending with our Father? I will be the first to admit, not enough. And to have the ability to LISTEN to what He says, I HAVE to spend time with Him and in His Word.

“So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.”     Romans 10:17

He has a way

Two weeks ago marked much more than turning 25. It also marked 4 years being free from my abusers. It has always been a week of mixed emotions…excitement of my birthday, and utter fear at the same time. The previous past 3 years were marked with grief or struggling to not return. This year was different. Society says this is something to stay quiet about, but I’ve come to realize that being away from people like that is just as big as if I were to say I’ve been sober or cancer free for 4 years, I’m having a baby, getting married, or graduating. All have different paths but I can undoubtedly say I know how hard it is to stay sober from something deadly, the grief of losing a part of yourself, and the excitement of a celebratory life event. I’m finally at the excitement part. I don’t need the world to know, and I’ve over-prided myself on being able to do it on my own – the one thing I would tell anyone not to do. But this year was different; I finally felt free.

ladybug

Ladybugs serve as my reminder that God has everything under control. Sometimes I forget this, you know, when things are stressful or difficult and I’m stuck in that “why me” stage or running around in panic mode. Much to my surprise when I was outside with my dog March 16th I turned around to admire the beautiful azalea bush in front of my front door. Looking closer I noticed over a dozen lady bugs spread across the large bush. I couldn’t help but stop and smile, thankful for the reminder that God is in control and that He is always with me. Peace spilled through me and I knew this anniversary would be different, I wouldn’t be crying and in pain this year, but rejoicing and praising Christ who saw me through and has already begun to use me in ways I never thought possible.

Speak Boldly

A few weeks ago a friend asked me a question I’ve never been asked, and one that completely caught me off guard if I’m honest. My friends come from diverse backgrounds, but all of them know the role Christianity plays in my life. As much as I would love for my non-Christian friends to give their lives to Christ, I don’t preach to them or shove my beliefs down their throats. The most important thing to me in being a Christian and being with non-Christians is to show them Christ in me; not force my beliefs upon them.

Although I have many friends and peers that aren’t Christian, I’ve never had anyone ask me why I believe in God. That was until I was sitting in the passenger seat of my friends car one night and he asked me. I was completely taken aback – an atheist wanting to listen to me share why God is so important to me? Without thinking twice about how to put it in a way that would sound “good” to someone that completely rejects my beliefs, I looked at him and shared how God had saved my life. How my life was in shambles, how abuse and pain led my life; until I gave God a chance. Silence fell in the dead of the night followed by his rejection of God and all religions. I got out of the car thinking I had gotten no where, I felt defeated.

Reflecting back on that night through the weeks I’ve come to the realization my friend may always deny Christ, but that night I stood up against what the enemy wanted me to do – stay silent. Our world has come to be a very “politically correct” place where so many people fear speaking up. Let me say this very clearly – never be afraid to speak the Truth. If you can boldly speak out against animal cruelty, war, child abuse, or the long list of other things, don’t waiver in speaking about the One who will always be by your side.

A Message that Stuck

Have you ever had a sermon speak directly to you? I’ve heard many sermons that touched my heart, that I could relate to, and one’s that I thought were just incredibly amazing. However, I’ve never had that “God is speaking to me right this second through this sermon” moment while at church; until this past Sunday morning.

There have been plenty of times where I have either been angry or overcome with anguish over the complete lack of support I’ve received through my journey of facing and dealing with 9 years of abuse. I reasoned with myself that I didn’t need support; I didn’t need anyone to hold my hand, calm my fears, or protect me. I could do it all alone. I told myself these things, but I desperately wanted understanding and support. This year will make 4 years being away from my abusers, and Sunday morning reinforced that although I have felt extremely alone in this journey, I’m not fighting  overcoming my past on my own. God given courage has carried me through, and I can say without a doubt, that these years of being “alone” has made me strong.

“What makes you strong in the valley, is your time with God.”

I’ve learned to completely rely on God through this time. As much as I may want something from man (or woman), I can’t make someone do something. So I should never question God’s plan, right?

Not exactly there just yet.

As the sermon continued, the more I got out of it. For the past year and half or so circumstances and people have pointed me in a direction I feel I am anything but qualified for. Public speaking. I’ve been in school my entire life, literally, and even at this point, public speaking at any level still makes me nervous. I’ve lead groups, presented research and papers, and have taught classes. Each time my stomach drops and I have to maintain awareness of my nerves taking over in my rate of speech. As time has passed and I’ve had to get up in front of people, the less fear engulfed me about this future possibility. But I’m still digging my heels in, because excuses are the easiest way to avoid something, right? I’ve made a lot of excuses to try to get out of the direction God has planned for me because of fear.

Isaiah 41:10 says “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”

This is a command that I have continued to struggle with. I look at what my flesh is afraid of, but become uncertain in putting complete faith in God’s promise in the middle of my fears. My flesh may be completely terrified of getting up and making myself completely vulnerable by publicly speaking, but if that’s the direction God is intending me to go, I will not falter.

“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.”

Joshua 1:9

Finding my Voice

Two months ago I verbalized my abusive past in about five sentences. Speaking the truth seemed too risky; speaking the truth would make it all so real. Weeks prior I kept hearing that small voice and kept feeling this internal push.

“Sarah it’s time. You’re ready to speak the truth – you’re ready to share your testimony.”

I pushed these words away just as quick as they seemed to come up. I was not ready. I was ready to become a voice for change, but I wasn’t ready to make myself vulnerable enough to speak aloud about my abuse. I feared being looked at like a victim, as someone who would have lifelong problems, and completely inept at obtaining my professional goals after having such an recent abusive background. I argued with God, this time I was right and He was wrong.

I feared people thinking of me as a victim, as someone who would always have problems because of my past, and as inept at reaching my goals because of my past because these are things I fear. Underneath my cloak of “I’m a thriver, hear my roar” there still lies layers of insecurity and doubt. Every time I get out of balance with God and doubt His plan, I’m always dumbfounded when it all works out. I may be continuously healing for the rest of my life, and insecurity and doubt may always creep out, but God always reminds me that it doesn’t take a perfect person to get to where He wants me, as long as He’s in it.

Surrounded by five people, I spoke up without any fear. My voice left my mouth; 9 years of sexual abuse, shutting out God and turning to my abusers occult system for answers, and being saved from all of it by the only one who never left me – God.