This is the outline I used in church today as I shared my God story. Rather than give the long detailed soap opera version, I prayed and felt led to give some minor background information and then share what's changed the most for me in the last few years. I hope to share more details soon. This is the first time I've shared even a portion of my story in public.
I am the oldest daughter to a single mom of 3. During my childhood I was physically abused by a baby sitter and sexually abused as well. I grew up with some odd thought processes that helped shape me to become promiscuous as I searched for love and acceptance. Of course you don’t find love or acceptance in relationships like that but I couldn’t see that. All I could see was if I did whatever someone wanted me to do they’d love me and be there for me. That didn’t work with friends or in relationships. When things would fall apart I’d do something foolish, get depressed or even get arrested for incredibly stupid things many of which were done to get attention.
In 1995 I became a Christian. I did truly fall in love with God but I was 27 at that point. I had a lot of learned behavior to unlearn and to be honest I did a poor job of it. At the church I was going to then I felt as if I were being taught that once you become a Christian everything tends to come together afterwards. That’s not really what happens. God is certainly with you every step of the way but there are still consequences to past actions, still things to work on and you still have your past behaviors to work through. On top of that I remember being really zealous and excited and sharing my story in a variety of places and seeing a lot of people shocked and doors even shut. Since a lot of my issues have always been with relationships this destroyed with me. I remember making a conscious decision shut off. I decided it would be easier to just be me and Brian and eventually our family then deal with the people around me.
Life went on. We struggled to get pregnant and then when I did I was on bedrest – a very lonely bedrest – for 14 weeks. Then our beautiful Salem - our surviving triplet - was born. She consumed my life and I never really realized how lonely I was or what was missing until I was pregnant with Raina. At that point I had a couple of girl friends but I was truly terrified for them to know about my past. I prejudged based on others responses and worried so much about what they would think that I could never relax and just be. I always felt completely guarded around them. In the fall of 2008 my walls started crumbling. I did have a wonderful husband and children but my life lacked relationships. My walls even effected my relationships with my husband and children. I wanted to be a loving wife and mom but often I felt tired and drained. Basically I just felt empty. How can you pour into someone’s life if you’re empty?
I was at a breaking point and knew something needed to change but had no clue how to do that. I struggled through prayer and bible study and eventually decided to reach out to a Christian therapist. That was the first healthy step I took. It took a while but he got through to me on the importance of needing healthy peer relationships with other women in my life. At this point I really distrusted most women. Yet I also wanted to be able to trust friends with my past so I didn’t have to tip toe around it. My therapist helped me work through that and challenged me to tell a few people. After a lot of arguing with God (God won of course), I did tell a few people general details and received positive feedback. But the first person I really broke down and shared my complete story to was a friend named Tammy. She completely encouraged me and love me through it all. Throughout the next year I did try to make new friendships that never really went anywhere. This is natural. Sometimes friendships are meant to be and sometimes they aren't. At times that made me want to crawl back into my shell. But I was encouraged to keep trying.
This past year winter and early spring I was seriously ill. I was in the hospital for 8 days and at home with home health taking care of me for 8 weeks. That loneliness seemed to set in again but I realized this time the loneliness wasn’t real – it was a trick of the enemy. I had people who loved me and cared about me. They brought me lunch or treats, they helped me feed my family, clean my home and take care of my children. I had the relationships I needed but realized I needed to do more on my part to cultivate them.
You can plant beautiful flowers in a garden but if you don’t water them or pull the weeds they die. There is even a gardening process called dead-heading. Basically when a flower blooms and then dies and you have to pull off the dead head so it will bloom something new and beautiful. That’s what I had to do. I had to dead-head the unfruitful and unhealthy relationships in my life and tend and cultivate healthy ones.
I am constantly reminded by God that life was made for love and community. We can do this life on our own but it’s not the plan and it’s not healthy or wise and we won’t be living the life God created us for. We can also live this life with unhealthy relationships. Those need to be dead-headed. They are even more destructive than being alone. God wants to bless us and speak to us and sometimes he uses his word, sometimes a preacher, sometimes a podcast or a random act of kindness but sometimes he uses people closest to us. Relationships are necessary. Since I got well this Spring I have really worked on that and God has blessed me with friends like Rebecca who welcomed me and family into her home and that taught us the importance of family relationships. Our families studied and fellow-shipped together all summer. It was a huge blessing for me. When it ended I wasn’t sure what would happen but our friendship carried on and we have made new family friends – The Emery’s and The Dodds. My life is full with friends and I believe it was God's plan for me and my family all along. I know our lives are busy and sometimes our schedules do not lend to spending a lot of time together, but I do know that I could call Rebecca or Tammy or Amelia or Heather or their spouses and they would be there for us in a second as well as Allison or Joann or my family. It's wonderful to have a wide support network. I can't do this life on my own and thankfully that was never God's plan. Even long distance friends can support me with love and prayers.
I believe our salvation is holistic. We come to God completely broken and alone. Sometimes even though we have Jesus in our heart we have a lot of issues to work through and sometimes in Christian culture that’s become taboo. It’s as if the thinking is if we’re saved and going to heaven why on earth would we need anything else? I do believe going to heaven is the glorious reward to serving Christ in this life. But there is SO much more that God wants for us and there is nothing wrong in reaching out for help whether it be via a recovery group, a Christian therapist or your pastor.
We are all in this life together. The simple thing is God uses everything around us to grow us and prune us - to dead head what needs to be removed. It's a holistic endeavor meaning it encompasses our entire being - physical, spiritual and emotional.