Deconstruction: The Tomboy in Church

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Disclosure: I adore all things musical theater, ballet, monogrammed and Vera Bradley. Beyond those things, there is nothing girly about me.

If you have followed me on social media at all this summer, you know my faith is a struggle. I have more questions than answers. While there are some core theological ideologies I align with, I struggle many of the core beliefs of the SBC. I have been willing to acknowledge I am probably wrong in many things I’ve held true for so many years. This is causing waves, but I won’t pretend to be the “perfect little church girl” anymore.

The more I get into my struggle and walk through the hard questions, it boils down to this. I DON”T FIT! I am NOT who the SBC expects me to be as a woman, wife and mother. I DON’T fit the mold. If I am honest, I am a people pleaser and growing up, I desperately wanted to fit in an be accepted. Because I am not girly and don’t enjoy the girly things, I am not what is expected. I have “failed” as woman in our convention. This is only one aspect of my deconstruction piece. There are other pieces and they will be discussed in later blog posts.

Truth: I LOVE all things outdoors. I love camping, hiking, kayaking. I prefer sitting my Adirondack Chair, by my fire pit, with my dogs, a rum and Diet Coke, with a book in my hand, over shopping and getting my nails done. Because I love my kiddos, I am a cheer coach with our local football/ cheer league. Honestly, I would rather be the OC for the boys, than the cheer coach. I LOVE watching football. I am a die hard BAMA fan. RTR!!!! I yell at Coach Saban and the players on Saturdays and then at the Titan’s player on Sundays. I am a fantastic “Arm Chair Coach.” I joke one of the reasons my husband married me is my love of football. Not only do I love watching the game, I actually understand the game and what is happening on the field.

Yes, as a little girl I dreamed about getting married, having kids and owning a house. My husband I celebrated 17 years of marriage this summer. We have 3 kids, 2 dogs, a mortgage and a minivan. To the average person, this is a great life, and it is. To those in the Conservative Evangelical Churches/ SBC, this is good, but I’m not who I need to be.

I worked full time until after my youngest was born, then I was a stay at home (SAHM) for a few years. Now, I am back working full time. While I love my hubby and kiddos, I didn’t love being a SAHM. I wasn’t cut out for it. I have a better relationship with my hubby and kiddos working full time, than I did when I was at home.

When you walk into my house, you know we actually live there. My house will not pass a white glove test. Even though we’ve moved beyond the toddler/ preschool toys, another set of stuff has taken over. We have 2 tweens and a teen. You will find electronic chords, tablets, Pokémon cards, backpacks, and dog toys for days. Our dining room table needs to be unearthed several times a month. It’s like school work, mail and other things just seem to grow up from under the table. Most meals are eaten at the kitchen peninsula. I will say my hubby is fantastic and doesn’t shy away from cleaning house. He is typically the one who cleans the kitchen and scrubs the toilets, among many other things. There are things he does that others would look at and say “that’s women’s work.” Right now, there is a pile of laundry on the bench at the end our bed. Thanks to the new puppy, our middle child is sleeping on a pallet on the floor to keep the new pup from crying all night. Our house is clean, not perfect, but what I am coming to realize is considered typical. In the CEC, women are taught to keep a home that looks like something from a “Good Housekeeping” magazine. If this is the house you are expecting, please don’t come over. If you want comfortable and lived in home, then come on over. Well, only if invited, because let’s be honest, I’m an introvert and can only handle people for so long. I digress, let’s get back to the topic at hand.

My husband and I both cook. He is much better than I am. I don’t come home from work every night and cook my family a 3 course meal. There are nights when throwing frozen chicken patties in the microwave, putting them on buns and serving them with a side of chips is typical. When there are 3 kids, running in 3 different directions, meals have to be something that can to be thrown together quickly. This coming weekend the weather is supposed to be beautiful and I’m looking forward to grilling brats and burgers. Yes, “I” am the one who will be grilling. I know, that “should” be the man’s domain. Guess what? Girls CAN grill too!!!

Clothes, hair and makeup is what really sets me apart from what’s expected of CEC women. I can count one hand the number of times I wear makeup every year. I am staring down the barrel of 45 and have only had my hair professionally colored twice. You read that right; twice. I “might” get my hair trimmed 2-3 times a year. I went from February of 2020 to March of 2022 without a haircut. Due to Covid, I wasn’t even coloring my hair at home. I lived in messy buns. When I finally made it to get a haircut at the beginning of this year, I had the lady cut it short, so I could wash it and go. I am finally wearing my hair in it’s natural curls. My flat iron is currently collecting dust.

For clothes, I am happier in my yoga capris, t-shirts and my Chacos. At work, I live in leggings and tunic tops. Even though I’m in the choir, I will either wear something like I wear to work, or wear jeans and a cotton top. I care more about comfort than fashion. I also wear the same jewelry every single day. I do have more pieces in my jewelry box, but rarely wear any of it. I will say I do see the value/ need to dress up when the occasion calls for it. That being said to keep up with all of that on a day to day basis seems exhausting to me.

Another thing is traditional women’s ministry. Once I was out of college and invited to join those events, I pretty well stopped going immediately. It was all fluff. I was always jealous when the guys went to ball games, hiking and canoeing. They really dug into the Bible on a deeper level. The women’s events were/ are about arts and crafts, making our homes look “perfect” The only reason I attended the last women’s ministry event was because a close friend and I were leading a breakout session on a topic that is near and dear to my heart. I also see a disconnect between the older generation and the younger generation, and I think some of my frustrations play into this.

I am OVER hearing lessons about Ruth, Mary, Martha, the woman at the well, as well as Proverbs 31, along with the words of Paul being used to shame us into quiet submission. We should be treated as people who have an education and are capable of teaching and leading. I will own I’m a Hebrew dropout. That being said, I love hearing a preacher state “In the Greek or Hebrew, _____ word means _____.” It puts things into context. Instead of chicken broth in women’s events, I’d love a good ribeye when discussing the Bible. Women are intelligent and capable of a deep dive into the scriptures. We are capable of talking about more than just a few women in the Bible. It would be nice to not have passages watered down. My views on women in the pulpit might be another blog post down the road. Yes, I am in full support.

All of this to say my line of thinking, who I am as a person and what I hold to be true about women don’t fit into the mold most CEC expect of women. I want to be accepted for who I am not not what others think I should be. I want to know myself and other women like me have value in the church.

To those reading this and identifying with what is written here, I SEE you!!! I am standing WITH you.

Sexual Assault, My Story, and the SBC

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Trigger warnings: Rape, Sexual Assault, Faith

If you are a victim/ survivor reading this, please know this is not an easy read. While no graphic material will be shared, it is real and raw.

This is a long post. You might read it one sitting, or you may need to take a break and read it in sections. To be honest, I’ve had to walk away and take breaks while writing this.

If you are a victim/ survivor reading this, there are some things I want to say directly to you, up front.

– You are NOT at fault!!!

– What you wore, what you drank, how you acted did NOT mean you asked for/ deserved what happened.

– The shame is real, but it is NOT yours to carry. The real shame belongs to your perpetrator.

– If you are a victim/ survivor and have not come forward to share your story, I am a safe place. I will post hotlines at the end of this post. You are WORTHY of help. You are WORTHY to move forward. SPEAK UP and use your voice!!!!!

– In case you have never heard it before. I BELIEVE YOU!!!!

I am now choosing to share parts of my own story of rape and sexual assault because I have been in therapy for a hot minute with the most incredible therapist. Honestly, if it weren’t for her, I’m not sure I would be here to share my story in this moment. I first opened up to my two best friends. Our friendship had been in place for roughly 15 years. Now we have now been friends a little over 20 years. I thought they would cast me aside and end our friendships. Thankfully, that was the total opposite of what happened. I was terrified to tell my husband because I thought he would view me as dirty and not want to be with me anymore. Thankfully, that was also a far cry from reality. Through the good, the bad, the nightmares that come with PTSD and the panic attacks, he has more than honored our wedding vows. I have also developed an incredible tribe who has walked alongside me in my journey to move from victim to survivor.

While I have been in therapy for a hot minute, I have not arrived. I still have work to do. Following the crap show that has been the SBC for the past several years on this front has been triggering. I hate that word because it gets thrown around so much and not used in the correct context. That being said, the stories, the investigations and finally the Guidepost reports have shown I’m still struggling on several fronts. To be honest, my faith has taken a hit, but I will share more about that later on this post.

I HATE porn!!! I hate what it does to people and who it turns them into. I was in 5th grade when I was raped. It happened in a living room. There was a VHS porn tape playing on the tv. In 6th grade, someone who “should” have protected me sexually assaulted me several times a week for about a year. A boy in my 6th grade class took upon himself to snap my bra on a regular basis. My first boss made sexually inappropriate comments on a regular basis and that was a situation I was able to walk away from.

I was terrified to speak up. I was afraid of what would happen. I wanted to tell my dad, but was honestly terrified he would have murdered both perps. If he went to prison for murder, I was afraid everyone in my family would have hated me for it. I have often wondered how my family would look like today, if I’d had the courage to speak up.

Even though I didn’t realize it at the time, I turned to food to cope. I started what I know now was binging. It didn’t matter if I had eaten a meal and was full, I wanted more. I gained a lot of weight. The people around me chalked it up to puberty. My hygiene also went out the window. I had one teacher who noticed the changes. She talked to me about the importance of showering, eating a healthy diet and exercising. However, she never once thought to ask other questions. She never once thought to see if there was more to the story. People at church noticed the changes in my physical appearance and temperament, but never bothered to ask questions.

Fast forward to college. I had friends and roommates who played volleyball. Because I wanted to support them and earn credit as a Human Performance minor, I often called lines for games and tournaments. On a Saturday, our college hosted a tournament and I was asked to call lines. I got to the gym a little early to help set up. Teams were coming in. I looked up and saw a man making a bee line straight for me. He hugged me like I was his long lost best friend. I wanted to punch him and throw up at the same time. The perp who sexually assaulted me through all of 6th grade was standing in my college gym as the head coach of one of the volleyball teams. I honestly don’t remember much about the rest of that day. I can just about guarantee I messed up my fair share of calls. That night, my roommate/ volleyball player went home with her family. I somehow made the walk to our 4th floor dorm room and stuffed myself with food. I ate until I puked. Binging and purging would become a habit for a couple more years.

Once I graduated from college, I served a Semester Missionary through NAMB. Christmas of 2000, all of the Semester Missionaries gathered for a Christmas party before we flew home for the holidays. I ate until beyond full. Later on that night when I was sure everyone was asleep, I went to the bathroom and purged. I “thought” I had gotten away with it. The next morning there was a knock on my bedroom door and two other girls I served with were standing there. They asked me straight forward about my behavior the night before. It was the first time anyone caught on to what I was doing and lovingly called me out. I begged for them not to tell our house parents. I begged for them not to tell anyone at the board. They agreed on the condition I would come clean to the YMCA Fitness Director when we came back. Reluctantly, I agreed. When we returned they held me to my promise. The director had me keep a food diary and I was only allowed to work out with her. Sadly, I jumped from binging and purging to restricting. There were days I only ate 500 calories. Since then my weight has consistently fluctuated. I have never had a healthy relationship with food and still don’t to this day.

Fast forward to summer of 2014. Married, 3 kids and in the process of buying our first home. We had moved into a temporary rental while waiting to close and move. Anyone who has ever bought a house knows it’s far from easy and the stressors can be high. My emotions were all over the place. For whatever reasons the stress triggered nightmares and flashbacks. I couldn’t sleep at night because I could feel the assaults all over again. The people around me assumed I was overreacting to the stress of buying a home. They had no idea the hell I lived when I attempted to sleep.

Things were so bad that summer, I wanted to end it all. I prayed for the courage to end it all. There is a picture of my daughter that sits in the dashboard of my van. It was taken when she was around 3 years old and in day school. I don’t remember how are why it ended up there, but I am convinced the Lord knew what that picture would come to mean to me. That picture literally saved my life. Every time I made up my mind to follow through with my plan, I would see that picture and wasn’t able to do anything. Even with as bad as things were, it still took another two years before I could finally open up to my best friends and my husband. July of 2016, I finally walked into a therapist office to start my journey towards healing.

Several years later, all hell broke with the former president of the seminary I attended. I was serving on a church staff. I was embarrassed to be SBC. I was embarrassed to be serving in an SBC church. I had been following the “hearing” over Patterson’s behaviors. I stayed up until a little after 1a following the story on Twitter, because I had to be at work the next morning, I finally turned off my phone and attempted to sleep. When I turned to Twitter the next morning, I couldn’t believe what I reading. Even though Patterson basically patted a perpetrator on the back, shamed and punished the victim, he was handed retirement on a silver platter. I pulled into the church parking lot that morning and had zero desire to walk in. I was not angry with my senior pastor, the missions pastor I served under or anyone else on staff. I angry with the fact the reputation of a misogynistic, hypocritical, so-called man of God was getting a pat on the back and smooth ride off into the sunset. After texting my favorite pastor’s wife, praying and talking myself into walking into the church, I walked into my office and pulled my SWBTS diploma off the wall. To this day, I have not hung my diploma back on the wall in any place.

Patterson continues to placed in prominent, prestigious, places of honor. Based on scripture, he has ZERO reasons to fill any pulpit. I see where he is being allowed to preach on Sunday (5/29). There are so many biblical reason to have his ordination pulled. Because no one has offered biblical discipline, according to Matthew. He continues to be allowed to leave damage in his wake. He continues to be allowed to demean women. He is allowed to continue to be completely hypocritical and contradict scripture at every turn. I could write a whole other post on the hypocrite that is his wife, but that’s another blog for another time. (I do plan on writing one on women and the SBC and I have plenty to share on her and my first hand conversations with her).

As all of the sexual assaults have come to light. The good old boy system has forged ahead like a bull in a China shop. Perpetrators masquerading as pastoral staff have been protected and moved around. Victims/ survivors have been shamed and called liars across multiple social media platforms. The investigation that finally happened was fought because “reputations” were on the line. I can’t even begin describe my anger and rage at what I’ve read and heard. Against all odds and legal battles, Guidepost finally performed an investigation. I have read the majority of that report. The details that have emerged “Should” be a major call to repentance and a large number of men who have been biblically disqualified from the pulpit “should” be stepping down. Instead, reports have had sections redacted. Perpetrators are STILL being protected. Yes, Guidepost posted a hotline for victims/ survivors in the church, but I struggle to believe anything will actually change.

Many churches, both large and small, and have posted statements to the Guidepost findings. Unless pastors truly step up and put action behind their words, the words are empty and meaningless. It’s past time for pastoral staff to come alongside us. My assaults did not come at the hands of pastoral staff, but the view of men and women in the SBC played a role. Until the SBC sees women as valuable and reteaches how men are to treat women, nothing will change.

A victim/ survivor hearing “Oh that was hard” and “I’m praying for you,” then sending us on our way helps nothing. I have shared my story and been dismissed. To say anger at those who have attempted to silence me and send me on my way has been more harmful than they realize. My faith has taken a massive hit. While the core of what I believe has remained, I question so many other things. I don’t agree with so much of what the SBC teaches at this point. I don’t agree with view of men and women and their roles in the SBC. I honestly don’t believe Christ would stand in affirmation at the current state of the convention. I think He would be overturning tables. I believe righteous anger would displayed.

I believe the perpetrators in the pulpit should be called out and cast out. I know I am not the one sitting on the judgement throne at the end of days, but there are a large number of perpetrators at/ from our seminaries, universities and churches who will find it too late to repent. They are convinced because they have filled a pulpit that they will hear “Well done thou good and faithful servant,” when in reality, they will hear “Depart from Me because I never knew you.” These perpetrators “Should” fear eternity and the ultimate judgement. These perpetrators “Should” be in fear of the eternal fiery furnace. I am far from perfect and wholeheartedly acknowledge this, but know I strive to live a life that would honor Christ and how He calls us to treat others.

I’ve spent a large part of this post calling out so-called pastors and “Men of God,” but parents you also have a responsibility! I understand the anger of the Duggar sisters. Parents teach your sons how to treat a woman. Teach your daughters to be confident of who they are. Teach your sons and daughters that “NO” means “NO.” Give your kids a safe place to speak. For the love, BELIEVE them when they talk to you. If you have any ounce of compassion and love your child, do NOT speak the name of a perpetrator in comparison to/ over your children and/ or your grandchildren. If you do, don’t be surprised when the relationship ends. Defending and placing a perp on a lofty pedestal will never end well. Relationships will be destroyed and it will be your own fault.

I am hurt. I am angry. I am frustrated. I could write so much more, but I will stop here, for now.

As promised, here is a list of supports for victims/ survivors.

RAINN: 1-800-656-4673

Guidepost Hotline: 202-864-5578

Lantern Lane Counseling Center- 615-973-5454

Terri Atwood Counseling- 615-477-3073

Vertrees Clincal Group LLC- 615-784-4056

Sexual Assault Center- 615-259-9055

Suicide.org- 1-800-784-2433

Crisis Call Center- 1-800-273-8255

The Jason Foundation- 1-888-881-2323

Please know this is only a small number of resources. You can Google resources in your area. 

Jesus Would be Mad

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This morning, a Facebook post struck a nerve and honestly made me angry. I will admit, I don’t think the person had any ill intent in the post. I will also admit, given my current struggle with faith and my past, the post hit me in a way it may not have in the past. It was also a reminder of the amount of damage and lack of compassion/ thought the current Conservative Evangelical Church (CEC) has when preaching, teaching and posting.

It seems to me the CEC is more intent on using Scripture as behavior modification, than heart transformation. You can change behavior all you want, but unless there is a change in the heart, you have really accomplished nothing. The CEC seems more intent on how you look and behave, than anything else. I just can’t imagine Christ would give this mentality an “Atta Boy.” Pretty sure the Lord would throw out the verse “Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD sees the heart,” I Sam 16:7. Even the Pharisees “acted” correctly, but their hearts were hard. I’d rather be the woman who gave her last 2 Mites to the Lord (Luke 21: 1-4), than be thought of as a Pharisee.

When one says “Nope, I don’t agree,” the decision to write that person off, is deemed appropriate. I had a lady I respected and look up to, unfriend me and stop talking to me because I dared to agree with a post by Beth Moore. I was told “My mental health can’t take what you shared, so I am unfriending you.” When I told this person it hurt me they chose to write me off, instead of attempting to see where I was coming from, they became angry. This person saw zero issues in dismissing me because I chose not to agree with what they believed. I am still upset with this person. I loathe this seems to be acceptable in the church. We seem to have zero margin for disagreement or different views. I am not even talking about the major theological issues, but man made rules.

When I look at who Christ spent His time with and the things He deemed important, I struggle to imagine He would be pleased with CEC as it stands today. Yes, the CEC is great about taking care of the poor and the orphans. On the whole they are good at carrying out The Great Commission, overseas. Stateside, the CEC will mostly reach out to the people who walk in their doors. Beyond that, they want you to be “careful” about the people you choose to hang out with. There is underlying encouragement to stay in the “Holy Huddle.” And, as long and you look like you “Should” and hang out with the “Right” people, you are golden.

If I only hung out with the “right” people, I would have missed out on some pretty amazing friendships. I am an introvert, so my inner circle is small and tight. That being said, outside of that my friends are unique and diverse. I have a large number of friends who would be deemed as “undesirables.” Honestly, my life is more rich because of them. I learn from people who don’t think and look like me. Honestly, I have friends who are non-believers who have shown me more love, support, encouragement and compassion, than those who who profess to be believers. There are those inside the church, I had sadly expected to walk alongside me in this season of life, and they are the very ones who have chosen to ignore me. I do have a couple of ladies who have been there in the thick of it with me, but a couple others I hoped would be there, but haven’t.

I grew up in a CEC. I went to college and earned my master’s degree from from CEC institutions. I guess to be in the place I am now, seems weird. That being said I have walked too much and experienced too much to accept the CEC status quo. The more I read from women like Beth Moore, Dr. Beth Allison Barr, Jen Hatmaker, and the late Rachel Held Evans, plus being the mom of a tween girl, I just can’t seem move forward with same ole, same ole. It doesn’t work for me anymore. I can’t look and act how I am expected. I can’t limit my friend group to only those deemed acceptable. It seems like the CEC is more about limiting than moving people, especially women forward.

For the the LOVE, can we PLEASE STOP using Proverbs 31 as a way to control women. Can we please STOP using it to shame women and girls into acting a certain way? Y’all this passage is about WISDOM!!! It is used in the feminine voice. It is NOT an actual woman. For years I read a Proverb a day. This meant I read Proverbs 31 several times a year. It didn’t always bug me the way it does now. Proverbs 31 is now my least favorite passage of Scripture. Yes, I said it. It’s no longer a passage that steps on my toes. It is one that makes me angry. The anger now comes from how that passage is thrown in the face of women to control them. Again, not sure Christ would approve of the use of this passage.

While I do believe the pulpit is place to be protected, it is not women it needs to be protected from. It is not a place we don’t belong. I don’t feel called to preach or teach, so I know I don’t belong in the pulpit. There are some amazingly gifted women whom the Lord has called. It is past time the CEC allows those women to step up and encourage those gifts. I am sick of the “Good Ole Boy” system that exists within the CEC. I am sick of the patriarchal mentality in the CEC. It seems we are limiting, rather than expanding our reach because there is a “fear” of women who have been gifted and called.

Being the mother of tween girl, who will be an official teen this Spring, I want to be careful and intentional about what I teach her. She is my artsy child and has a great love of music, art and writing. I don’t yet know how the Lord will grow her, or lead her down the road. That being said, I refuse to teach her that she is limited because she is female. To tell her she can only go so far because she is female, is to fail as a parent. I have prayed for her spouse since before she was born. However, should the Lord call her to be single and serve Him in other ways, does not mean I have failed as a mother, or that she has failed either. My job is to support and encourage her. My job is to allow her to be whoever the Lord has called her to be.

I can see where this post seems to be all over the place, but really it isn’t. I am so over the CEC and its limiting mentality. I am over the judgmental mentalities. I am over being told a woman can only do so much because we are female. I am over the church being known more for what it’s against, than what’s its for. I am over being told who I should and shouldn’t hang out with. I want Jesus to be pleased with me. I want Him to be pleased with who I am as a wife, mother and friend. I want to be known for who I love and what I am for, than what I am against.

Transparency, Truth and Deconstruction

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My name is Heather. I am 44 years old. I am a survivor of rape and sexual assault. I have PTSD, GAD with OCD tendencies, Disordered Eating NOS, and take Lexapro. I also have nasty migraines and take a script when needed for these as well.

This past year has been a roller coaster of a year. There have been some extremely high highs and wicked, valley lows. I won’t say I wanted to see this year end, like I have the past two. I have been challenged in ways I never expected. Difficult boundaries were set. When I say difficult, I mean many tears shed, prayed and sought out godly counsel before I made any decisions. There is nothing easy about this post. It’s long and filled with hard things. You will want to settle into a quiet place and might even want a glass of wine to get through the whole thing. My goal is not to be petty or vindictive, but for you to see me as I am and not who you think I “should” be.

I’m a part of an amazing group of badass ladies, called #the4500. I would need an entire separate post to talk about all I’ve seen the Lord do in and through these ladies. We are literally a group of launch team rejects, who were all picked to a part of another launch team and the Lord allowed us to bond online. I’ve had the privilege of meeting some of these magnificent ladies in real life. We have been on online community for five years now. When they pray, things happen. Lives are changed.

All of that to say, every year we are challenged to pick a “Word of the Year.” My word for 2021 was “Forward.” I had NO clue as to what that was going to mean. I had no idea the Lord was going to open the door for an incredible full time job. I had no clue it was going to mean setting boundaries like I’ve never had to before. Certain friendships were fortified. I had a group of friends surround me like I never imaged. They have hugged me as the tears fell. They prayed over me and with me. They cheered me on and encouraged me when I started my new job. These same friends surrounded me when other relationships came to a screeching halt. It hasn’t always been easy, but they have been by me through the good, the bad and the ugly of this year. I don’t even want to think about where I’d be without them.

My “Word of the Year” for 2022 is “Truth.” Honestly, this word has been on my heart for months. When the “Word of the Year” conversation in #the4500 came up, I didn’t even have to hesitate or pause before I responded. I am a people pleaser in recovery. I never in a million years would have ever thought I would identify as a people pleaser. Through five years of intense therapy, it’s a reality. I can’t stand for people to be upset with me. It terrifies me. I have spent my life hiding the reality of my past. I have spent most of my life pretending my childhood was wonderful. I “honored” a certain person by keeping things secret, so as not to bring “shame” to them or anyone else around us.

I am DONE hiding. I am DONE pretending. I AM a sexual assault SURVIVOR. To let you in on the depth of my “acting” skills, I was a raped as a 5th grader and then had another perp sexually assault me through all of 6th grade. It was during this time, my temperament changed. I had a quick temper. My hygiene changed. My weight greatly increased. I did have one teacher notice the changes, but she NEVER asked a single question. I was “reminded” about the importance of good hygiene, diet and exercise. I am guessing that others noticed the changes, but chose to stay silent. I don’t know if I would have opened up if asked, but it would have been nice to have at least one adult in my life to keep asking questions and to see through the anger and the weight changes.

The brain is an incredible thing. It has the ability to “file” things away and “protect” you. While the overeating and the anger issues continued, the memories of the assaults disappeared. Fast forward to my junior year of college. Several friends were volleyball players. I was a Human Performance minor, and often called lines at tournaments held on our college campus. It was during a volleyball tournament when the second perp walked into our college gym, as a coach for one of the visiting teams. He saw me and hugged me like I was a long lost friend. I felt the urge to punch him and throw up all at the same time. Pretty sure I didn’t call lines correctly that night. Once the night was over, I went back to my room and ate until I literally got sick to my stomach. At that point, I “liked” the sensation of eating to the point of being sick and then “losing” it. Honestly, when he hugged me, ALL the memories came flooding back. Binging and purging became a constant part of my life for the next two years.

Once I graduated from college, the Lord called me northwest to Wyoming to serve as a Semester Missionary through the North American Mission Board. When I arrived, my new housemates were all in TN for a conference. I was completely alone in the apartment. On one of my first nights there I went to the grocery store. Looking at what was in my buggy, one would have thought I was having a get together with friends. The harsh reality was I set myself up for one my largest binge and purges sessions I have ever had. I sat on the floor, with my back against the kitchen wall, with food all around me. I ate until I was sick. I returned to my spot and did it one more time. Eventually, I crawled into bed and cried myself to sleep. The next morning, I threw everything in a garbage bag and placed it in the dumpster. No one was any wiser as to what I’d done.

I was able to get away with a few more bring and purge sessions before Christmas of 2000. All of the people I was serving with, across the state had a Christmas Party. I ate until I was beyond full. The urge to purge was strong, but I didn’t want anyone to hear me get “sick.” Later on that night, when I thought everyone was asleep, I went to the bathroom to release all the food. The next morning, there was a knock on my bedroom door. One of the other girls came in and sat on my bed. She was the first person to ever ask me point blank what I had done. She had been there and earned the Bulimia t-shirt. I was embarrassed and scared. I knew if she told one of the pastors over us, I would be sent home. I had zero desire to be sent home in disgrace. At this time, I was also working part time for the local YMCA. She understood me better than I realized and made me promise I would confide in the fitness director, who was also one of my bosses. I went from binging and purging to restricting and working out for several hours a day. My boss at the Y made me keep a journal of what I was eating. She made me track my workouts. I started working out with her. Thanks to 500 calories a day, I dropped to the smallest I had ever been. From then until now, my weight has continued to fluctuate. About the time I think I have a handle on my weight and health, something happens and I tailspin in a downward spiral.

Fast forward several years, two engagements, seminary/ grad school, marriage, several miscarriages and three kids later to 2014. My husband and I were in the process of buying our first home. My brain had once again put the assaults back into their “files” and I was living life. Food and weight were still very much an issue. That summer, the memories and flash backs came back with a vengeance. My husband and our realtor, a long time friend, both thought my emotional outbursts were due to the stress of the homebuying process. What they didn’t know is that I wasn’t really sleeping at night. Every time I fell asleep, it was like I was being assaulted all over again. I could almost physically feel the assaults. I was far too embarrassed to tell them what was really going on.

This season was one of the darkest I would ever walk. To be completely truthful and transparent, I wanted to die. I prayed the Lord would call me home and/or for the courage to end it all. There is a picture of my daughter that sits on my dashboard, taken when she was in day school. Every time I thought I was ready to follow through, I would see that picture of my daughter. When I looked at her picture, I knew I didn’t want to punish her, the boys, or my husband. The guilt was wicked. I was also way too embarrassed to let anyone in on what I was feeling. I also feared the Lord would send me to Hell, if I chose to end my life before He was ready to call me home. It took almost 3 years of therapy before I was able to state out loud, I wanted to die.

It would take another 2 years before I finally spoke up. It seemed my brain refused to “file” the assaults away again. A long time friend and someone I greatly respected shared his story on Facebook. I loved and hated him for it. His story let me know I really wasn’t alone. Why couldn’t I be that brave? Why couldn’t I speak up? At the end of February of that year, I finally told my two closest and dearest friends. What I expected was to be met with shame, or to be told I wasn’t believed. I expected to be asked ” Why didn’t you speak up sooner?” Instead, I was met with love, support and encouragement. The one friend “strongly” encouraged me to find a therapist. If you know her, you know the “suggestion” was more of a command. It was all in love, but she was not afraid to speak truth in love to tell me what I needed to hear and not what I wanted to hear. Therein was the problem for me. I hold a Master of Arts in Marriage and Family Counseling. I “know” healthy coping skills. I “know” how to help others through their issues. I “shouldn’t” need anyone to deal with my past. I “should” be able to cope with all the things and move on. Truth, I had no idea how to move forward. I hated that she was right, because I honestly wanted her to be wrong. She was far from wrong. Even though it was hard to hear, deep down, I knew she was right.

I made the decision to wait to another couple of weeks to tell my husband. I was afraid he would see me as less than. I was afraid he would see me as dirty, used and not worthy to be his wife. Even though I know him to be a great man of honor and dignity, I was afraid he would feel he married me under false pretenses and leave me. Instead, he met me with the same response as my two friends. I waited until the craziness of the Easter season was over before I even had the courage to look online for a therapist and finally make a phone call. The counseling center I felt the most comfortable with had a waiting list. Even though I made my first call towards the end of April, had an intake at the end of May, it was the beginning of July 2016 before I started my counseling journey. My original therapist moved over to private practice less than a year in. Due to insurance issues, I couldn’t follow her. She transferred me over to one of the most experienced therapists in the center. She knew the type of therapist I needed. I was hesitant, but I made the switch.

Honestly, it took a little over two years before I could finally even attempt to go below the surface with the new therapist. I said all the “right” things, but my therapist knew I was blowing smoke, and yes, she called me on it more times than I can count. She showed and has continued to show a great deal of patience over the past several years. She has allowed me to say ALL the things. I find I can speak freely in her office and not have to filter anything. When I say no filter, that means certain words I don’t say in regular conversation come out frequently. You see, in therapy, words fly and they are often needed in order to move forward. She is better at reading me and what I’m not saying than I’d like. She has known when to push and when to let me sit in silence. She has given great “homework” and “homework” I’d rather not do. It’s only been in the past year that I have been able to face certain things with certain people in my life.

She was able to walk me through the things I thought was going to cost me my marriage and even a great relationship with my kids. There were boundaries I was terrified to set because of guilt. I also knew the cost of not setting those boundaries. I honestly felt and still to a certain extent still feel like I can’t win. To work towards a healthy marriage and relationship with my kids, unfortunately meant stepping away from another relationship in my life. I pray it’s not a permanent stepping away, but I had to for my own mental health and other relationships my in life. My peace and my future were on the line. I had to decide what and who I wanted more. I will choose my husband and children every day of the week. They are truly God given gifts and I won’t blow it with them.

I had a confrontation with someone who “should” have been there to protect me. This person, once they knew the truth “should” have comforted me. Instead, this person sided with my rapist. They spoke his name in comparison to and over my children. The last time I spoke to this person and reminded them of what I walked, they shushed me and they went on the defensive. Later, this person accused me of being “controlling” and was angry I refused to have a conversation on their terms. I laid out a strict set of boundaries and was met with anger and defiance. My heart aches and it’s not at all what I wanted. I “know” the Lord calls for peace and reconciliation. I have no idea as to whether or not that will happen this side of eternity, but I do pray it does.

As I have walked the past five years, I’ll be honest, my faith has taken a massive hit. Deconstruction is a term I didn’t know existed until I was well into my healing journey. It’s a path I never expected to walk. I believe my foundation is strong, but also believe I was given subpar materials to build my “house of faith.” I have questioned and still question everything I was taught growing up. Many women who have walked this same journey have landed as agnostics, or non-believers altogether. I can say I have seen and experienced way too much to land there. I have watched the power of prayer and faith from others work. I still identify as Christian. I still believe in the virgin birth, the death, burial and resurrection of Christ. I still believe in the cross and a relationship with Christ is required for salvation. All of the other things, I just don’t know at this point.

I know I have a stronger personality. I can’t believe Christ made a mistake there. I can’t believe the way I was wired was a mistake. Reading books by women like Jen Hatmaker, Rachel Held Evans, Dr. Beth Allison Barr, and the current teachings of Beth Moore have opened my eyes to a different interpretation of Scripture. I have seen women viewed in a different light. While I hold to the basic tenants of my faith, the other seemingly manmade, overly patriarchal rules don’t really make sense to me. I no longer identify as conservative, but more as moderate. While I do hold to the absolute core of what the SBC believe, I don’t know that I completely identify as SBC at this point. It’s an ongoing process. I can’t say when or where I will land. There are those whom I know will cheer me on and support regardless and others may get a case of the vapers based on what I say and come to believe. I just know my faith needs to be truly mine and not what someone else tells me it needs to be. As one who likes to do what is “expected,” this is a difficult path to walk. I promise, it’s not one of defiance, but one of wanting a complete and genuine faith, that is mine and mine alone.

I haven’t shared all of this for attention, or for anyone to feel sorry for me. I have shared this because I am beyond exhausted from pretending to be someone I’m not. I’m tired of trying to be the person other people want me to be. I just can’t and won’t do it anymore. There are things about myself I know to be 100% true. Other parts of me I believe have only been an act. I am trying to discover who I truly am and who the Lord created ME to be. If you have made it this far, thank you. If read to the end, please don’t make any snide comments. They aren’t what I need. If you’ve made it this far, I hope only to receive support and encouragement as I move forward. I love my hubby and kiddos more than life itself. They are my top priority. If your choice is to cause drama in my life, I can’t and won’t deal with it anymore. If your choice is cheer me on in my healing and faith journey, along with cheering me on as a wife and mother, I welcome you with open arms. Again, my word for 2022 is “TRUTH.” I only need people who are truly willing to listen to the truth of my story and the truth of healing journey. If you can’t. I respect that and will allow you to quietly depart from my life. I am ready to turn a new page and write a whole new chapter. My truth will no longer be hidden to make those around me comfortable. I am Heather. In the words of a song that has carried me through this season:

I am brave, I am bruised
I am who I’m meant to be, this is me
Look out ’cause here I come
And I’m marching on to the beat I drum
I’m not scared to be seen
I make NO apologies, this is me!
(“This is Me” from “The Greatest Showman”).

If you are a victim/ survivor of rape/ incest/ sexual assault, please know there is help. Please call R.A.I.N at 1-800-656-4673 for assistance. You are NOT alone!!! I am here for you. I was encouraged to speak up because of a long time friend and mentor. I hope you will also find your voice and speak up as well. We are in this together. We can’t walk a healing journey alone. Please reach out and speak up. You are braver than you think! Share your story and speak your TRUTH!!! Let’s face 2022 head on!

A Wretched Pandemic of a Year

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I started this as a FB post, but then realized it was way too long. It’s also been way too long since I’ve updated my blog, so here you go:

One year ago today, was our last full day at the beach. It was also the day my hubby started texting me that he was losing gigs left and right. The amount of money in gigs lost was insane. I was struggling to wrap my head around it. The tears fell on and off all day long. One of my besties made a Walmart run and reported back there was no TP on any of the shelves. Text messages from my husband continued to roll in. Texts from other friends and posts on FB sent me over the edge. There, in one of my favorite places, I had a full blown panic attack. I couldn’t believe it, any of it. My other bestie wisely snuck me out of the condo before the kids could see me. We took a walk to give me a chance to calm down.

The next morning we packed up the van and headed back to TN. Based on information we received I decided we needed to stop at the Walmart in my hometown of Ozark, AL. I was sure my hometown wouldn’t let me down on this mission. I was almost in tears to see the shelves so empty. We then continued our trek home and stopped at the Dollar General in Brundidge, AL. There were 2 packs of TP left. I took one and my bestie took the other. We made it home and then the nightmare really began. Not only had our sweet just taken a hit due to a tornado, we were now facing a pandemic. Because we ate down our fridge and pantry before this trip, we desperately needed food. I made stops at 4 different stores and circled back to our Kroger and it was awful. I watched a woman clear and entire box of pizzas into her cart. She had also done this with multiple other items and her cart was over flowing. I was just trying to get the basics. At that point all I wanted was a single back of frozen chicken breasts and the freezer section was pretty well bare. I had a pretty ugly meltdown there in the frozen section. I wanted to scream at the people with overflowing buggies. I wanted them to share what they had, so I could get food for my family. Like so many other families, we settled for what we could find.

I shared my family snuck out of town for a few days this week. Saturday night I fought off a panic attack. I wanted to go to Kroger and buy all. the. things. I was terrified to go out of town and not make sure we were stocked. Honestly, I have done my best to keep us stocked. Sunday afternoon, I picked up a pack of TP and a pack of paper towels. I picked up chicken strips, popcorn chicken, chips and some snacks, a few other smaller things on top of what we needed for the trip. In the back of my mind I “knew” I could come home and have what we needed to make meals through the first part the upcoming week, but I was so scared to not have a little extra at the house.

Honestly, I don’t know if the fear or anxiety caused by empty shelves will ever allow me to go on a trip and not be concerned. I have talked to several others who share the same fear. It’s crazy that one year in a pandemic affected us on so many levels. I don’t share this for sympathy. I share this to let you know that you are NOT alone in your fears or anxiety. Yes, I am dealing with the anxiety with a professional. If you are getting ready to head out of town pick up what you need keep your anxiety as low as possible. If an extra pack of TP, paper towels, a large jar of PB, jelly, chips, crackers or even Chef-Boy-Ardee make you feel better, than do it. Your piece of mind is worth it.

We have survived a year of pandemic. We have survived a year of several styles of schooling. We have gone long periods of time without hugging our loved ones. We have been scared. We have cried an ocean of tears. We have struggled with anxiety. We have watched our kids deal with big emotions. We have felt lost and even helpless as how to help them. We have said goodbye to friends and loved ones due to Covid and not been able to attend their funerals. We have yelled and screamed at the Lord and questioned where He has been. (Just me? Ok). In this day and age this all seems impossible. It’s almost like we have been living more in the 1800s than our current time.

We are sick of wearing masks. We are hoping and praying the vaccine will allow us to return to some semblance of normalcy. We are hoping and praying to return to large gatherings (maybe?) and to have our families together again. Our sweet town is still rebuilding from the tornado. I would be remiss not to mention we also survived a dereche in May, which caused almost as much damage as the tornado. There is not a place in town where you can’t see some remnant of the tornado/ dereche.  I posted a week or so ago on FB about how disheartening it was to see fences going up around our church and know that we are finally going to get to start rebuilding. Yet, as I turned to the other side of our church, an elementary school and middle school are still in ruins and there is not a definite timeframe in which those schools will be rebuilt.

There are so many huge feelings around all of this. I am still struggling to wrap my head around all of the events. Again, I know I am far from the only one struggling with these feelings. Our kids will continue to struggle. Honestly, I will never make light of PTSD and as I look at people around me, I see it. Our kids freak out whenever there is even the suggestion of bad weather. When the rain comes down in torrential downpour, the kids are in our room. So many kids now use the term “safe place.” It has absolutely nothing to do with emotions, but everything to do with physical safety. It’s hard to hear and watch.

I have no clue as to how we will move forward and heal from the past year, but I do know I am grateful for my tribe. We survived because we clung to our faith and to each other. There is no way to heal, if we try to do this by ourselves. Seeking out a therapist and/ or taking meds is OK!!!! There is ZERO shame with either. I am sure there will be several more posts as I attempt to process this past year. Honestly, I don’t see any of us “getting over” this past year any time soon. Please know I love y’all and have a shoulder to cry on and ears to listen, if you need a safe place to process.

Rachel Held Evans

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I am struggling to find the appropriate words I feel at the passing of Rachel Held Evans. She passed unexpectedly due to medical issues on Saturday, May 4th. I have felt big feelings. Tears have been shed. I have found myself asking “Why?” Now, before my super conservative friends attack me, I didn’t agree with everything she said and wrote. My heart aches for her husband and two small children, ages 1 and 3. My heart aches for her family, friends and her readers. My heart aches for those who could read her blog and books and shouted “Me too!”

Why you may ask? Why would her passing affect me at the level it has? Well, I’ll tell you. She understood. She understood what it was to question everything you believe. She understood what it meant to truly struggle with the conservative faith you grew up with. She understood what it meant to look at everything you’ve been taught and question the “Why” behind it all. She made it ok to ask questions. She made it ok to not to be ok with everything you’ve been taught. I felt like I had an ally when I read her stuff. “Searching for Sunday” and “A Year of Biblical Womanhood” let me know that I wasn’t alone in what I think and feel.

Y’all, it has been a season of stupid hard. It has been a season of questioning everyone and everything. It has been a season where I am certain of almost nothing. I know and still believe the basic tenants of my faith, but have questioned just about everything else. It was good and a relief to see I’m not alone in questioning all that I’ve been taught. I’ve had and still have friends who have walked a seasoning of questioning. There are things Rachel has posted over the years that have made me scream ” Yes” and “Amen.” When I read her blog and books I didn’t feel any guilt for questioning. She made it feel completely normal.

By society’s standards, I am very much a conservative. By Rachel’s standard’s I am completely normal and human. Again, while I may not agree with everything she wrote and said, she was a fighter for the underdog. She fought for social justice and those who were under-served or ignored. I don’t feel like a second class citizen simply because I am female. I don’t feel like I have to take a step back because I am female. I have a voice and I am worth voicing my opinions even though I am a woman. I am not stupid for asking questions. I am stronger because I will acknowledge I have those questions.

It sucks she is gone. A strong voice has been silenced. An incredible activist is gone. An ally is gone. She was one of a kind. I honestly don’t understand how she is gone. It’s weird to feel this way about the death of someone I have never heard or met in person. I’m grateful to have her books and her Facebook page to go back and read. I can only hope, we as women, continue to love and support each other. I hope we can look at each other and let each other know it’s ok to ask questions. It’s ok to struggle with our faith. It’s ok to look at another women and support each other through the stupid hard times. It’s ok to not land in the same place as those who taught us as children.

The loss of Rachel Held Evans was big. No, we don’t feel it in the same way her husband, children, family and close friends feel it, but we still feel it. I still don’t understand all the whys as to to why I feel the way I do, but I don’t apologize for feeling what I do. I hope in this time we can stick together as women and friends and allow for the big feelings, along with allowing the questions to come. Ask the questions. Say what you think. Say what you are feeling. You are not alone in any of it. We all hit times of questioning everything. As long as you don’t leave the basic tenants of you believe and the main things are still the main things, it’s going to be ok. Let the tears fall. Ask the stupid, hard questions. Grieve the loss of Rachel. The Lord will understand. He will bring us to the place we need to be. He will see us through. The Lord will eventually give us the answers to the questions we desperately need to ask.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mustard Seed Faith

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“Because of your little faith, He told them ” For I say if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will tell this mountain, move from here to there and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” However this kind does not come out except by prayer and fasting.” Matthew 17: 20-21

I am reading through the Bible in a year with a group of ladies from #the4500, whom I talked about in my last blog post. Honestly, I didn’t want to read through a plan, especially a year long with anyone. I was determined I was just going to do my own thing, in my own time. The Lord made it clear to me that because of the season I am in, I don’t need to do anything on my own and I need the accountability. Today is day 29 out of 365 days. I’ve missed 2 nights so far, but am caught up at the moment.

Friday night (1/25) one of the readings took us into Matthew, where we read about the mustard seed. It’s a passage I have read 100 plus times over my years of growing up in church. I’ve heard multiple sermons on this passage. I’ve had people quote it to me in different seasons of life over the years. It’s not unfamiliar with this passage in any way, shape or form. However, as I read it the passage was kick in the tail for me. I think I read those two verses multiple times before I continued on to finish reading the rest of the passages for the night.

As I shared in my last post, I am in a difficult season. It’s a desert I haven’t been in, in a good long while. I don’t like desert seasons. I don’t like feeling the way I feel. Really, who does? If I am going to be completely transparent with you, I told the Lord while praying “I don’t know that I have the faith of a grain of sand at the moment.” (Why lie to the Lord when praying, because He knows what you are thinking and feeling anyway)? The Lord reminded me the mustard seed is tiny, yet a great tree grows from it. The tree is strong, even though it came from something so tiny and seemingly insignificant.

I have NO clue as to what lies ahead on several fronts. I know what I hope and pray for. I know the story I hope to write at the end of this season. I also know it’s hard to want to pray, stay in The Word and go to church, especially when you feel the Lord is being completely silent, but it’s the only way to survive this type of season. I know I have to lean in and dig in. If I try to walk through this season independently and attempt to temporarily shelf my faith, I won’t make it. I guess technically, I would eventually get to the other side, but what will I have accomplished in the meantime? If I don’t pray, if I don’t stay in The Word and I don’t go to church, how do I learn? How do I grow? Where does my support and encouragement come from? None of this is fun. None of this feels good. I’d rather stay on the mountain tops, but I am not a better or stronger person if I live there.

I’ve also had a large number of people who tell me I needed to walk some things from my past and walk this current season because I will have a story to tell. I’ll be able to look at someone else sitting in my shoes and tell them about my “But God” story. I get where they are coming from, but honestly, I would love to coast and have life be a little more vanilla. At some point, on the other side of this, I do hope something I’ve walked or something I’ve learned can be a point of hope for someone else. I do hope I can help someone else walk through a tough season. Even better, I would love to be able to walk alongside someone else and help them avoid some of the things I’ve walked.

There are so many hokey, christianese things I could insert here and make myself sound super spiritually mature, but I won’t go there. It doesn’t help me or anyone else for that matter. This current season is hard. My faith doesn’t always look the way it needs to look. Sometimes having the faith of a mustard seed seems like attempting to have the faith the size of Mt. Everest. Be ok with knowing you don’t have a perfect faith all the time. Those who look like they do are just better actors than the rest of us.

Like I said in the last post, if you are struggling, please know you are not alone. Pick up the phone or shoot me an email. If not me, then reach out to someone you trust. I’m grateful for the women who are surrounding me right now. On the hardest days, their prayers and encouragement keep me going.

Forward?

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Honestly, I don’t get this word and right now it absolutely terrifies me. Let me back up just a little bit. I am blessed to be a part of online tribe called #the4500. We are a group of rejects the Lord brought together in a way I never could have imagined or asked for. We all applied to be a part of a book launch and were rejected. Then, we were turned around and added to another launch team. As we worked together on this book launch, something started happening. It’s not something I have ever seen or experienced on other launches. Women began to ask for prayers. They began to share their lives. Once the launch was over, the conversations and relationships didn’t come to an end. We moved our group over to a private Facebook page.

We are a group of ladies who come from different walks of life, from all over the US. We come from different denominations and different ends of the political spectrum. The one common thread is that we love the Lord and want to see each other be successful and loved. Over the past several years this group has walked ladies through the mountain tops and valleys of life. I’ve watched as ladies have jumped into help total strangers in other states solely based on the stranger’s relationship to #the4500. I’ve watched as our group has rallied through the beginning and ending of relationships. I’ve watched as our group has rallied around ladies in our group and their families through illness and absolute tragedies. I LOVE #the4500 and what they have come to mean to me over the past couple of years!!!

One thing this group has encouraged over the past several years was to pray and ask the Lord to give us a word of the year. Given we are all in different places in our walks, the Lord isn’t going to have us all on the same word. In 2017 my word was Restore. 2018 the word was Courage. For 2019 it’s Forward. If you know me in real life, you have to realize, given my current circumstances that this word seems like a cruel joke.

On December 17th, I was called into a meeting at the church expecting one conversation only to be told that due to budget cuts I was being let go. Yep, the Lord gave me my word late October/ early November and I was let go in December. I had plans and dreams for my position at the church. It was complete and total shock. When you are a strict Type A personality, who is planner, likes structure and routine, this feels like a punch in the gut and knocks you on your tail. When you were not only staff, but an active member of church, it makes church hard. Church is weird and awkward because I don’t know what I “should” be doing and honestly, I don’t know what to say or do. I am beyond grateful for worship ministry because it’s the one place I still feel connected and gives me place of semi normalcy.

There is another, more private area of life that is topsy turvy right now and it is only adding to my anxiety over what life looks like right now. I feel like I have entered into a nightmare of the Twilight Zone. Every time I think about the word the Lord gave me, I just don’t get it. I don’t understand it at all. When it feels like I am taking 100 steps backwards, I don’t get how any of this moves me forward. Yes, I know the saying about how a sling shot has to be pulled way back in order to project an object forward. Y’all this is about to do me in.

My nickname growing up was “The Major’s Daughter” and right now, my emotions are all over the place. A Major sees an issue, creates a plan of attack and goes in. There are times in life when I can absolutely do that, but right now I don’t know which way is up. As I pray and trust me when I say I have prayed harder and more fervently than I have since we walked the road of miscarriages and fertility issues. The only thing I am getting back from the Lord is “Take the small steps.” In one area I know what that looks like, but not overly convinced it will work. In another area I have zero clue as to what a small step looks like. This post has a very different tone than what I typically post, but I also know others need to know that life isn’t always a tiptoe through Tulips. Life hits low valleys. Life takes long, unwanted detours through the desert. It’s ok to admit that you are struggling. It’s ok to say “I just don’t know.”

A while back our pastor commented in a sermon, “You can’t logic your way through things.” While I get where he is coming from, it’s the only way I am walking right now. If I allow my heart and emotions to dictate life, I’d be in a corner somewhere uncontrollably crying. While I don’t really “feel” like it, I “know” the Lord is in control. I “know” none of what is happening in life right now took Him by surprise. I “know” the Lord has a plan in all of this. Right now, I would really like a billboard or a letter laying out what is coming down the road and what I need to do to get there. This whole taking each day by faith and being patient is a huge struggle for me. I want to know that 2019 will end on a high note. I want to know the Lord will open a door for me. I want to know all of my relationships will be in tact and stronger come December. I want to know that while I am in a desert place, that by year’s end I will understand why I’ve walked what I’m walking. I am honestly, not so patiently waiting for the “But God” in this whole mess.

If you are in a similar place, please know you are not alone. If you are in a similar place, please reach out to me or someone you trust. Please find at least 2 people to walk alongside you, pray with you and over you. If one of those people is a therapist, then great! There is no shame in walking into a therapist office, especially in a time like this. All I am asking is that you please do not walk this alone.

A Saturday Tale

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My Saturday was eventful to say the least. It was also a great reminder of what’s important in life. It was a day of hanging out with some of the people I love the most. A football celebration, followed by a huge “Thank you Lord” moment.

Saturday morning started with a Birthday brunch for one of the best friends a girl could ask for. A group of us gathered at another friend’s home and hosted a brunch for the birthday girl. It was a mix of people. Some of us have been friends for a little over 17 years. Some are newer friends, but those friendships are still just as valued. We ate. We talked. We reminisced and there was plenty of laughter. When you have been friends that long, there are plenty of stories that will make you laugh good, deep belly laughs.

When I looked at the birthday girl and some of the other ladies in the room, I was reminded how blessed I am to have such and incredible tribe. These are women with whom we have ridded the crazy roller coaster of life together. These are women who have laughed, cried and prayed together. These are women who truly want to see each other succeed. There is no competition or oneupmanship in this group. These are also the women who are not afraid to speak truth in love when needed. They are there when you fall and ready to help you get back up, brush you off and take off again. These are the type of women I pray all of you have in your lives. These are the women we need in our lives.

I came home from this beautiful celebration to watch my favorite football game of the season. Whether you have known me since childhood, or just a short time, most of you know I am a die hard Alabama fan. Yesterday was Iron Bowl Saturday, where we take on the Auburn Tigers. While I relished and celebrated our big cross state rivalry win, that wasn’t my favorite part of watching the game.

My boys are pee wee football players and have inherited mommy’s love of football. Watching them watch the game, especially my youngest, was so much fun. I love how they were trying to coach the players and telling them what to do. I have no idea where they learned that… Every time Bama scored a touchdown my boys were jumping up and down, high fiving each other and me. The looks on their faces were priceless.

They showed me their “victory dances” at every TD. I also watched their precious hearts as one of the Bama boys targeted an Auburn player and that player went down. They kept cheering him to get up and then clapped when the Auburn player was finally able to walk off the field. My boys are uber competitive, but they also have huge hearts.

Towards the end of the game my husband and mother left to run over to her place, so my husband could fix something for her. On the way home, they were involved in a hit and run. A guy ran a light, pulling in front of my husband, causing my husband to t-bone the other car. The guy got out of his car and talked with my husband. When he admitted that he didn’t have insurance, my husband called Metro Police. At this point, the other guy got in his car and left. Thankfully, my husband and mother walked away and the van is drivable, although a little dinged up. I know this could have been so much worse, but grateful it wasn’t.

Both my husband and mother spend a lot of their time on the roads for work. Honestly, one my biggest fears is having a state trooper or local officer knock on my door and tell me one of them was in an accident and didn’t make it. I know this sounds extreme and overly dramatic, but the level of carelessness on the roads these days has reached a level of ridiculousness. When my husband called last night, my heart sank. While gratefully, it wasn’t the phone call I feared the most, it was a reminder of what “could” be. I was thrilled to have them both walk back through our front door last night. My husband may not have overly appreciated the extra long hug from me, but I was relieved to know I was going to crawl into bed last night and have him by my side.

I share all of this because yesterday was a truly of day of reminders. I was reminded how blessed I am to have an incredible group of friends who are my tribe. They are women I pray I never take for granted. Even in the celebration of a football victory celebration, I saw the compassion and tenderness of my sons. I also hope and pray they will eventually look back on Saturday football games, both the ones they play and the ones we watch together and remember the feeling of togetherness and the fun times in these games. I am grateful my husband and mother walked away from the accident last night. I’m grateful for insurance who will cover the cost of repairing my van and grateful I’m not standing by their beds in ICU or planning funerals. I’m grateful for my family. I’m grateful last night ended in hugs and “I’ll see you tomorrow.” I’m grateful I was able to sit side by side with my husband in church this morning.

Y’all, look around you. Look at your tribe and your family. If you have them, thank the Lord for them. There are times when these people may drive you nuts, but these are your people. The Lord entrusted them to you. In the crazy roller coaster of life, these are the people who will ride it with you and not jump off. Hug your people a little tighter. Let them know you love them and appreciate them.

I am 1 in 4

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Statistics. There’s nothing overly fun about being a statistic. With miscarriage and infertility, it’s not really something you strive to be. It’s not a club anyone wants to join. Yet, here I am. Too many other friends are members of this painful club as well. Every October I am open about the journey my husband and I walked to have our children. Too many times women are silenced and made to feel their losses weren’t real or important. I am here to tell you that you are not alone. When you have a miscarriage, it IS a loss.

Growing up I always wanted to be a part of a large family. The older I got I prayed to have a girl, followed by 2 boys and then another girl. When my husband and I were first married we talked about having 2-3 children. I prayed for twins in order for us to have the larger family.  He was aware of what I prayed. It took a long while to get pregnant. When I finally saw the first positive on a pregnancy test in Dec of 05, my joy was short lived. Within a week of finding out we were expecting, our precious child was gone. The next miscarriage came at the end of April of 06, just a week shy of Mothers Day. It would take well over a year before I became pregnant again, only to lose baby #3 in August of 07.

After 3 miscarriages and it taking so long to get pregnant in between, my OB decided to run an extensive blood panel in attempt to identify the issue. After the panel was run, I was sent to a specialist to review the results. My husband and I sat in a tiny little room as the specialist looked at us and told us I was a Type 1 carrier for 2 types of blood clotting disorders as well as a carrier of MTHFR. In short I could continue to get pregnant, but chances were I would never carry a child to term. I remember standing in the stairwell of this building, overlooking downtown Nashville and sobbing. My husband had his arms around me, but nothing could bring peace to what appeared to be the death of the dream I had of being a mother. My dreams of pregnancy, cravings, picking out nursery furniture, baby clothes and hearing “mama” were gone. All I wanted was to be pregnant and my body wasn’t doing what it was created to do.

My husband had talked about adopting. I saw it as an option, but at the time my heart just wasn’t there. In the spring of 08 he broached the subject with me again and I was open to at least talking about it. He was all in. In his mind, the Lord could and would grow our family how He saw fit. All the while my husband was praying the prayers of Sarah, Rachel and Elizabeth. He had the faith the Lord would bless us with a child. Honestly, I felt like the Lord was angry with me and I was being punished for something. My walk with the Lord had been rocky at best since the last miscarriage. My faith was almost none existent at this point. It took a long while to get back to a decent place with my walk with the Lord.

Fast forward to early fall of 08. There was another positive pregnancy test. I distinctly remember telling my husband “Give it a few days and it will all be over.” My loving husband continued to pray. There were several trips to my OB. I was placed on a prenatal vitamin, progesterone, a high level of folic acid (something my body refused to produce or absorb) and a low dose of aspirin to reduce the chance of blood clots. We had multiple scares. I was placed on modified bed rest. I was only allowed to go to work because I was a school based therapist and I could sit most of the day. I had more ultrasounds than most women would have in 6 or 7 pregnancies. It took until December when we had the gender reveal ultrasound before I could get excited about being pregnant.

When the tech told me we were having a little girl, I cried tears of joy. I couldn’t believe I was staring at MY baby on the screen. Her heartbeat was strong and one of the most beautiful sounds I think I had heard up to the moment in my life. When the tech left, my husband prayed over me and our precious little girl. Two days after Mother’s Day of 09 I held my beautiful, healthy, baby girl for the first time.

Based on all we had walked leading up to her birth, all the doctors’ reports, I was positive she would be an only child. Because honestly, there was no medical reason for her to be here. She was truly a miracle baby. I became pregnant again. There were also issues early on in my pregnancy and I was put back on modified bed rest. At this point, even before we knew if I was carrying a boy or a girl, my husband and I decided this would be our last child. Pregnancy was too hard and it was emotionally exhausting. When we found out we were having a boy, we were thrilled. We were going be a family of 4. This was way more than we expected back in 07.

At this point my husband and I were on the same page. We felt a peace about being done having children because of all we had walked. Our little boy came after we had experienced the Flood of 2010 and a summer that broke long standing heat records. When I looked at the picture of the 4 of us, I was honestly content. The Lord answered major prayers and had blessed us with 2 healthy children.

Little did we know the Lord would give us one more blessing. My husband and I were not trying to get pregnant. In fact, we were trying to be careful. Given we found out we were expecting again so soon after we brought our new son home, we were in shock. While a part of me was thrilled, I knew what I had walked with our other 2 children and wasn’t sure I wanted to or could walk it again. The first ultrasound with our third brought another heartache. When we looked at the screen there were 2 babies. I was pregnant with twins! I was ecstatic. The tech would then look at me and said “Baby B has no cardiac movement.” Her tone was harsh and I was again crushed. The tears started and stayed for most of the rest of the day. Based on what the radiologist saw, we were told I was carrying identical twins. We lost baby B due to a chromosomal abnormality.

I can’t tell you the anxiety that came with the rest of that pregnancy. I had similar issues to my other pregnancies, but now there was uncertainty about the health of our baby. I carried my anxiety in private. I never voiced anything to my OB or my husband. Our child was a planned c-section because my daughter had been an emergency c-section and our older son had also been born vie c-section. As soon as my OB pulled out our son I was begging for an Apgar score. I needed to know if he was Okay. Thankfully, his scores were 9 and 9. Even though we had been told he was healthy, I still carried concerns of unknown issues until he actually started school.

Our journey to parenthood was anything, but easy. All 3 of our children are walking , talking miracles. I still mourn the loss of our other 4 children. I often wonder what they would have looked like. What would their personalities have been? What would their interests have been? I try to imagine myself as a mother of 7. Miscarriages and infertility issues caused struggles in my marriage and my faith. I can’t say I handled it with grace and dignity. There were many nights where I cried myself to sleep. I stopped going to church on Mothers Day and Fathers Day because it was just too hard. I would send gifts to baby showers, but wouldn’t attend.

Please know, as long as you are not causing harm to yourself, there is no right or wrong way to grieve your loss. Again, miscarriages are real losses to be grieved. We all handle this type of loss in different ways. One way for me to find closure and peace with the loss of my children was to name them. While I only know for certain the sex of 1 of my 4, I feel in my heart that I miscarried 1 girl and 3 boys. I had several friends who reminded me that even though my children weren’t in my arms, I was still a mother. You are still a mother!

Please don’t walk this path alone. Reach out to your inner circle. Find a group of women who have also walked this path. I was blessed with 2 incredible friends who were there through all of the losses, as well as a church choir who surrounded me with prayer. I was also blessed to find an online group of women who had losses around the same time I did. We met in a forum and eventually moved our group over to a private FB group. Most of us went on to have children. I am still friends with these women today and have had the privilege of meeting a few of them. When my husband and I were talking about adoption I joined an adoption group. Even though we never adopted, these ladies kept me in the group and are just as much a part of my story as the miscarriage/ loss group.

If you need an ear of someone who has been there, please feel free to reach out to me. I will be more than happy to listen and to pray. You are NOT alone!