First, let me apologize for being so late with this post. Ed and I were having to deal with a very sick geriatric dog, and she took up most of our time for a few weeks. She’s better now, but she’s still requires more attention than she used to.
Then, I really struggled with writing this post. I struggled with how much to tell you, not because I’m hiding anything, but because I didn’t want to overwhelm you. I’m praying for the Lord’s guidance for what to say now, and what to save for another time. I also struggled because there are going to be some people who don’t want to hear what I have to say.
Anyway, in a recent post,I started talking about sisters in Christ, and how we should behave toward each other, because the church is full of hurting people. I said that I would tell you my story, and I will, but please understand that the last line won’t be written until the Lord comes back, or He calls me home. Like all of you, I am still a work in progress, and always will be as long as I’m here.
I’m telling you my story, because you might have one like it, or know someone who does. This is the story of how not to do it. Please don’t think I got by with anything, because I didn’t. The only reason I’m even here to tell you about it, is through the work of God through Jesus Christ, and all the glory goes to Him.
So, how to begin? Sometimes its hard to tell your own story without telling stories that aren’t yours to tell, so out of respect for those other stories, I’m leaving out a few details, but you’ll get the idea.
My Mom’s dad was a preacher (I’ve written about him a little before), a real “hell fire and brimstone” evangelist. My dad’s father was a Pennsylvania coal miner who had moved to the Midwest looking for work. They were from the “wrong side of the tracks” if you know what I mean. I don’t even know how my parents managed to get together at all, but they did, and then they had to get married. I was born in October of 1963.
Mom and Dad got divorced when I was four, and for the next couple years, I spent most of my time with my mom’s maternal grandmother. She loved me and I loved her right back. It was probably the one place that was “normal” and I always felt safe with her. I also have some vivid memories of being with my dad in his shoe repair shop during that time. I don’t remember spending a lot of time with Mom then, but I know she was working nights, and was probably sleeping when I was awake.
Grandma was Lutheran and my mom’s parents were non-denominational, so there was always some contention there, but Grandma was the one who read me Bible stories, taught me prayers, sang me songs, and taught me her favorite scripture:
Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also. (John 14:1-3 KJV)
Most of the things I’ve written about before on this blog, occurred during the same time as the following paragraphs. It just shows what a contradictory, conflicted world I lived in.
In 1970, my dad left Missouri, and went to Georgia. I don’t remember anything about that at all, other than he was gone. Mom met and married her second husband in 1971. My half sister was born in December of that year. My step father was unlike anyone I had ever known before, and I didn’t like him at all. He was loud and scary. He used bad words. He was verbally and emotionally abusive to my mother, and he was mean to animals. He was also a drunk; a mean drunk. He screamed, cursed, and threw and broke things.
He was also very intelligent; both an Army and Air Force veteran. He was a fireman paramedic. He was a gourmet cook and could sew beautifully. It some point he took charge of my school work. I remember walking home from school and seeing his car at home and feeling nauseous. It was a feeling with which I would become all too familiar. My mom was his third wife, but apparently wife number two had the most perfect children. They cleaned, they did dishes, they were everything I was not. I would later figure out that was part of a pattern.
I wasn’t a bad student, but my work was never good enough. Later, when I was in high school, he would insist that I take a math and a science every year. I really wasn’t very good at math, and I hated it. I could do the science OK, as long I didn’t have to do much math with it. My gifts however, were with music and language. When I was grown, someone told me that he often bragged on how smart I was. That was also part of a pattern.
I’m getting ahead of myself. Although there were years of mental and emotional abuse, the core of the trauma occurred when I was ten. That was when he informed me that he was going to teach me about boys, so I would know how to behave around them. The lessons were “hands on”. It probably only went on for a few months, but it seems a lot longer. I knew it was wrong, but he told me if I told anyone that he would have to go away, and we wouldn’t have any money. I did tell though. I told a babysitter, who told her mother, who made a phone call to family services.
Things were different in those days. They made him move out. Yes, there was an investigation, and there was no doubt he had done what I said he had done. However, they felt that taking it to trial would be too traumatic for me. They told my mom that it would probably be best to ask me if he could come back home. Well, now, what do you think I said?
I said, “I don’t have my dad and it wouldn’t be fair for my sister not to have hers.”
For years, I didn’t even remember saying it. I also didn’t remember him asking me why I told. My response to him was, “God wanted me to.” to which he replied, “Well, God and your big mouth got me in a lot of trouble.” and with that, after three months, he moved back in. He lived with us for five more years, and even though he never touched me again, the damage was done.
I had counseling for awhile, but the real issues were never addressed, and we didn’t talk about it at home. Although my maternal grandparents knew about it, I was not allowed to tell my great grandma, because my mom was afraid the shock might kill her. She was a smart woman, though, and figured it out herself. I know she did because of a conversation she had with my step dad shortly before he left. She told him that she knew what kind of man he was and if he wanted to know what kind of man he was, he could call them down at 26th and Cherry. That was the location of the family services. So she knew, but she never talked to me about it.
I was still in touch with my dad , but I couldn’t tell him either. When I was 12, I got to go visit him in the summer, but I never told him. I eventually told my step mom, and she told him. He and I talk every week, but I’ve never really talked to him about it. Not really. Strangely, I think there is still some shame and embarrassment attached to it for me.
We had gone to church off and on my whole life, but we didn’t start going regularly until we moved back to Sibley, when I was a young teenager. I was involved in youth group, and like most of the kids in the group, I knew all the right answers, but my life at home had little resemblance to what it should have been.
Although I never got in any trouble at school, I started smoking when I was 13, and drinking when I was about 15. My step dad wasn’t crazy about my smoking, but he often provided the booze. He and I developed a strange sort of relationship, I suppose. I think he may have been picking up on something that I didn’t realize myself for many years: I was angry. It didn’t really show because anger wasn’t allowed, at least not for me. (I could spend a lot of time on that). Oh, I had the same “fits” that all teenagers have, but that deep boiling rage was well below the conscious surface.
Like I said before, he never touched me again, but he did ask me once. I said no. Not too long before they split, I was once again awakened in the middle of the night by cursing, screaming and crying. The next morning, my mother was gone somewhere, and my step dad was obviously hung over. I told him that he needed to remember that he had taught me to use “that shotgun in there” and if I ever heard him speak to my mother that way again, I’d used it on him.
He and Mom split when I was 15 (there we get into someone else’s story, so I’ll leave it at that). Mom remarried the following year. I graduated at 17, my great grandma died, and I joined the Army, taking with me my combination of rage and shame, an addiction to tobacco, and a taste for booze.
For the next 28 years or so, my life was a series of poor, often abusive relationships, extra marital affairs, two failed marriages, desperate times of reaching out for God and trying to “do it right”, and then falling back into the pit. Times of trying to get counseling, and times of trying to figure it out myself. Times of complete sobriety and times when I lived in a bottle.
During that time, I gave birth to three children, and lost two others through miscarriage. I did my best to be a good mom, but like most of us, I could have done better. Let me stop here and say that all these things were the result of choices I made. Other people get molested and don’t make those choices, and some make worse ones. Everyone reacts differently to trauma, but I know for certain that had I not been exposed to certain things when I was, some choices would have been very different.
I quit smoking in 2001 because the doctor told me that if I didn’t, I wouldn’t live to see my baby girl grow up. In about 2004 or 2005, I got a diagnosis of Bi Polar disorder. In 2006, I stopped drinking completely, and in 2007 or 2008, I got a diagnosis of Type 2 Diabetes (when I quit smoking, I started eating). My marriage of nearly 25 years was a marriage in name only, and when my husband was home (he was an over the road truck driver), we slept in different rooms. In 2009, I made a phone call that changed my life, although I couldn’t see it at the time.
God never condones sin, and he certainly didn’t condone mine, but he used the place my sin brought me to not only bring me back to him, but bring someone else too.
I met Ed when I was stationed in Korea in 1982. He was an older, married man, and my friend. He was like the big brother I never had, and I absolutely adored him. We tried to keep in touch after we left Korea, but things got in the way, and I lost track of him. Along with a few other Army friends I lost track of, when I got a computer and the internet, I started looking for him.
I found him in January of 2009. He was no longer married, his children were grown, and he had entered a hedonistic lifestyle. He told me that he loved me, and that he had always loved me. I went to see him that April. In the following weeks after I came back home, he had a decision to make. Would he kill himself, or would he get on a bus and come to me? He sat in his barn with the rope in his hand, before deciding to live. He came to me in May. By August my husband had moved out, and Ed moved in. By June of the next year, I lost my rental house and we had to move. I had been still going to church that whole time acting like everything was normal! Was I in the dark or what?
Oh, Ed had become a full blown alcoholic (a “raging drunk” as he calls it) before he came out to Missouri. The day he arrived, he asked if he could pick up a six pack. I told him that I’d rather he didn’t. He hasn’t had a drink since. This coming May, it will be ten years.
Well after we moved, we changed churches and Ed started going with me. We were married in that church in 2013, and we seriously committed ourselves to the Lord. Ed admitted that when he was younger, he had wanted to preach, but was told that he didn’t have “the calling”. He also admitted that he also had been sexually abused as a child.
As for my stepfather, he died in 1985 at the age of 47. I eventually learned that I was not his only victim, that there were at least three more. I’ll be talking about that more in up coming posts, or as much as I can. I will tell you that to the later victims, I was painted as that perfect child. Now I wonder what really happened to those kids he told me were so perfect.
My second husband (the father of my two younger children) died in 2016 from a massive heart attack.
My oldest son is serving a nine year sentence in prison for robbery. He has a diagnosis of Bi Polar as well as an addiction to alcohol and meth. At this point, he’s spent half of his life incarcerated in one way or another, but it looks like God is dealing with him as well, and we will leave him in God’s hands.
My middle son is living with us after going through some serious financial difficulties. He struggles with some addictions too, but he has also committed his life to the Lord.
My baby girl is 18, and is learning voice acting. We daily pray that she too will answer the Lord’s call.
God started dealing with both Ed and I to take all the head knowledge we had about His word, and let Him turn it to heart knowledge. Thanks to a couple of opportunities to go to Women of Faith conferences, I was introduced to the writings of Christine Caine and Sheila Walsh, two lovely women who understand about deep wounds.
God used those women to show me that I had to open up and let Him show me all my broken places, so that I can give them to Him for healing. They also showed me how to take God at His word; to trust His Word because it is TRUTH! That hasn’t been easy, and it is still a work in progress, but every day I wake knowing I have a heavenly father who loves me, and works all things together for my good.
God is leading Ed through his own journey of healing, and like me, he takes baby steps.
Abused children have trust issues and I was no different. Although intellectually I always believed in Jesus, and knew what the Bible said was true, I thought maybe it wasn’t true for me because I had screwed up so badly. That maybe I had blown it. In my 20’s and early 30’s, I used to have horrible nightmares about demons chasing me. In the dream when I would try to call out to Jesus, the demons would laugh and say that he wouldn’t help someone like me. I had horrible anxiety and if I was alone, I had to sleep with all the lights on. Then something happened that, in a matter of seconds, let me know the truth, and it has made me free indeed.
Four years ago this last August, we were moving to our current house, which as a little over an hour away from where we lived before. Using Ed’s truck, my son Kyle’s car and a car I had borrowed from a friend, we had packed up another load to take to the new house, and were ready to head out. As I started down the driveway to my car, I had an odd sensation of something hitting me from behind. When it hit me again, it knew what it was and then everything slowed way down as I felt myself falling under Kyle’s car (he hadn’t seen me and was backing down the driveway). Automatically, I cried out to Jesus to help me. It was all I could say, and I don’t even know if I was saying it out loud. I felt a tire start over my hip and stomach and as I vomited, the car stopped, and I heard Ed say “Your mother! Don’t move until I tell you!”
I would find out later that poor Ed had seen the whole thing, and as he fought to get out of his truck time slowed for him too. He yelled at Kyle to stop and Kyle asked what he had hit, hence the response “Your mother!”
When Ed found me, I told him to “get it off me”, and he had Kyle pull forward. After a trip to the ER, I was released with no broken bones or other internal injuries. We would find out later that I had some really deep tissue bruising, which took about six months to heal. A few weeks later, I would go see my regular doctor who kept telling me I was really lucky. I told him it wasn’t luck; it was the Lord. He saved my life that day, and He told me that I am His!
I sought the Lord, and He heard me and delivered me from all my fears. (Psalm 34:4)
So why am I telling you all this?
But Joseph said to them, “Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God? You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives (Gen 50:19-20)
I believe that child sexual abuse is one of satan’s biggest weapons. He uses it to destroy the faith and trust that is so inherent in children, which then leads to broken adults (even the one’s who act like everything is fine).
If anyone causes one of these little ones—those who believe in me—to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea. (Matt 18:6)
So, I can bury it and pretend it didn’t happen or say that it “doesn’t define me” or that “I don’t think about it”, or a couple million other things that I’ve heard people say, and let it keep right on happening to other children, or I can say, “Yes! This happened to me! Yes! It’s terrible! Yes, it damaged my trust and filled me with shame, but you know what? God is bigger, and He can use all those terrible things that happened to me to work together for my good and for His glory! He can use my story to reach other people for Him. He can use my story to open other eyes to the very real epidemic of child sexual abuse. He can use my story to reach out to other hurting women (and men) in His church to bring true healing.”
So why would I be quiet?