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(reblog from Christmas week 2010)
I write to you as I sit in the upper room of my parents’ home, looking down at the infant boy sleeping next to me. The beauty of my son astounds me. And I am not a “baby person” if you know what I mean. But that piece doesn’t come into play when you have had this precious one forming inside of your womb for nine months.
I will never forget when one of my best friends shared with me her confidence that God knew what He was doing to have us carry our children inside of us for so long: in that time He was teaching us to love this child, helping us to get to know him, giving us time to grow together in anticipation for the grand arrival. I love that.
I’ll be honest, though. I hate being pregnant. Ask any of my closest friends and they will tell you, along with stories that probably shouldn’t be shared. It’s painful, annoying, makes me feel gross and it always feels like it will never end. Thats just the tip of the iceberg for me. I will spare you graphic detail. But inasmuch as I hate it, I know what comes out of this season of discomfort… I’ve done it twice now… I will do it again… (hopefully not anytime soon though) because what results is beauty beyond measure, love unspeakable and an incredible life story beginning to be written.
But, without the pregnancy, no life results. Someone has to make room inside.
I reflect on how Mary and Joseph must have felt as they were awaiting the birth of their newborn son, Jesus Christ. The One whose life story would rewrite history. His every word, every move, God-breathed. His life… recorded for you and me.
I reflect on the fact that it is only because of this story of His life, death and resurrection that my life has any meaning at all. It is only because of Jesus that I can truly heal, find hope, freedom, be forgiven and in turn forgive. It is only because of Jesus that I begin to understand love. It is only because of Jesus that I can testify that the most rotten evil intended to break, destroy and devour you and me can instead be turned into something beautiful and glorious, turning darkness to light and setting captives free.
Oh, the birth of Jesus… He came so that our lives would have new meaning. But like Mary, we have to make room for Him inside of us. Like the animals in the manger, we have to make room for Him in our homes. And if we want to experience His healing, His transforming power and His love in such a way that our hurts and hangups become rewritten, we have to make room for Jesus to walk with us on our healing path, too.
“Everyone walks through the fire of adversity, but whatever your experiences - joys or sorrows - our amazing God can use every bit of your life to produce the most unexpected results.” -Jason Crabb
This is a process… His work in our hearts and lives and relationships takes time. Just as He started out as tiny SweetBabyJesus, so does our personal healing journey and our ministry to others begin small and, with time, room and perseverence, grow. We will experience pain, hurt, confusion, exhaustion and the like. But because of Jesus, we do not lose hope. Something greater is coming from all this!
“All around us we observe a pregnant creation. The difficult times of pain throughout the world are simply birth pangs. But it’s not only around us; it’s within us. The Spirit of God is arousing us from within. We’re also feeling the birth pangs. These sterile and barren bodies of ours are yearning for full deliverance. That is why waiting does not diminish us, anymore than waiting diminishes a pregnant mother. We are enlarged in the waiting. We, of course, don’t see what is enlarging us. But the longer we wait, the larger we become, and the more joyful our expectancy.” Romans 8:22-25 (The Message)
So do not be discouraged if this journey seems long. Do not lose hope if you are experiencing pain or frustration along the way. Do not be letdown if the road before you seems dimly lit. God is always at work. He is always guiding us and growing us. Preparation takes time and takes development and requires us to give it more room. Christ’s coming is proof of that and His return will be the final say. Until then, let yourself be enlarged, allow God to grow you, develop you and mold you during this waiting period. He holds your hand during the painful parts and carries you when you feel too heavy to walk. He will do a bigger work in you and through you than you can even imagine right now. But we must make room for Him.
A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices!
(reblogged from December 2010, hence the newborn baby references)
Call it like it is.
I am sitting in my living room, next to the baby swing, hoping the constant movement along with soft Christmas music playing in the background will put my 3 month-old to sleep so I can get a moment of “Nicole time.” It’s not working, by the way. But the song playing right now is telling me that “it’s the most wonderful time of the year”; more than that, I’m also being informed that it’s “the hap-happiest season of all.”
Who knew?! I guess this guy hasn’t heard any of your stories.
Now, I don’t want to come across as a Debbie Downer, because I personally love Christmas! I could write a great deal about the goodness of the season (and I will, so stay tuned), but I also strive to be real and relevant, especially for the sake of those who are hurting. This is why I felt it necessary to devote time and attention, during these two weeks leading into Christmas, to the fact that it truly is not the most wonderful time of the year for many people. For some of you, it may even be the most lonely, anxiety-stricken and painful memory-ridden season of all.
And that’s okay.
It’s NOT okay that you went through some incredibly painful stuff that wasn’t your fault and that you never deserved; but it IS okay to acknowledge that the holidays aren’t easy for you because of that.
Don’t give in to the mask-wearing, people-pleasing, painted-on-smile that we see all too often. If you are having a hard time, say so! If you are struggling to get through this holiday season—for whatever reason it may be—don’t shove it down any longer. The stress, anxiety, fear, sadness, anger, bitterness, etc is gonna come out eventually anyway. Let it come out on your own accord. Be willing to admit you need a listening ear, a shoulder to cry on, a helping hand, or maybe even a little getaway.
Being real with those you trust is important to getting through this busy season. It will help ensure that your wrapping doesn’t come undone before Santa’s bag of goodies ever get here.
Just a couple quick ones today…
Understand your priorities. Know your personal limits. Set boundaries with respect to both this week.
Remember: it can be good and healthy to say “no” to others. And it can be good and healthy to say “yes” to yourself.
And, lastly, SMILE…for no good reason!
If someone asks, “Why are you smiling like that?” Answer like our good friend Buddy the Elf: “I just like to smile. Smiling’s my favorite.” And call it good.
During the holiday season we see suicide rates rise, alcoholics fall off the wagon and marriages crumble. Everyone is trying to survive the holiday…but many are not doing it well.If we want to not only survive the holiday season, but to thrive in it, we need to consider ways we can make the holiday better for someone else.
If you have decided to set a boundary so thick with the fam this year that you aren’t planning to attend their holiday gathering, then don’t sit at home alone.
You never know what could happen if you do that—you might find yourself in the middle of a hundred homemade booby traps—made up of your own unhealthy coping mechs!
Instead, I challenge you to step outside of yourself this year. If you know what it feels like to be alone, afraid, to be the foreigner, to feel unwelcome, strange, unfortunate, unloved, unsettled or unworthy, then reach out to someone else who may be feeling something similar. Give them a holiday they’ll never forget.
Make a difference this Christmas in your own home. Host a party for foreign exchange students. Send a Christmas dinner invitation to a friend who has lost a spouse or child through death or divorce. Invite an elderly neighbor over for lunch. Offer to have a meal with the homeless.
Adding a seat or two or five at your holiday table will not cost you much, but will make the world of difference for someone who is hurting and feeling lonely. And trust me, you will be the one receiving far more than anyone. It is a joy to give.
“…we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’ ” (Acts 20:35)
Reaching out and welcoming in also serves as a great example and opportunity for your kids to experience the true meaning and joy of Christmas: giving, not receiving. So take your family and serve at the local food pantry or shelter, write encouraging letters to those serving in our military or deliver some gifts to the sick kids in your local Children’s Hospital.
And if someone extends a welcome to you this year, don’t be shy—graciously accept it!
Let’s open our hearts and homes this holiday; let’s show others the truth that they matter and are loved; and let’s give the hope that things can get better. In turn, we ourselves might just come to understand and believe it too.
May God bless you as you reach out, welcome in and give to others in need!
Focus on today.
As survivors of abuse, we are easily tempted to look at our past in a way that can drown us in feelings of regret, resent and remorse—especially during the holidays or special milestones. Although I recognize the importance of looking back in order to move forward (I talk about this process a great deal in both of my books), I want to challenge you today to focus more on the present than on the past.
If our focus is always on what’s behind us, we could very well miss out on what is available to us today. And if we can’t see what is around us now, we will put our good relationships and potential opportunities this holiday season at great risk. We have to shift our vision to that which is right here, right now: the life, relationships, opportunities and hope which are sure to be in our immediate path.
So remove the mirrored goggles placed on you from your past and focus in on the present, while looking toward the future.
The pain of yesterday may never go away completely, but that doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy tomorrow. And if tomorrow is going to be anything different than yesterday, we must make a decision today to shift our eyes off the tiny rearview mirror and pay closer attention to the path before us.
I believe there’s a reason your windshield is so much bigger than your rearview mirror—it’s because your future is so much bigger than your past!
Who has God placed in your life recently that gives you life and hope and encouragement? Don’t ignore them.
Who has He placed in your life recently that needs your life, hope and encouragement? Don’t neglect them.
What responsibilities do you have now? Who or what is counting on you to live and engage in the present? Where can you make a difference today?
May our prayer be this:“Lord, what does it look like to love and serve you…TODAY?”
Many survivors of sexual abuse wish they could be normal when it comes to vacations and family gatherings… but what we survived wasnt normal.
I find that many abuse survivors expect time and again that we will be able to join in the excitement leading up to a getaway… whether it is a time of reuniting with family and friends for fun, or a quiet, relaxing resort away from regular life. But it can be a letdown when you find that your true window of time to be present and engaged with those around you is minimal and the anxiety level is steep.
Some of us prefer to paint on the smile and tough it out, just as we always did, even during abuse.
Don’t speak. Don’t rock the boat. For the sake of everyone else, keep it together, enjoy as much as you can, but just get through it.
Others don’t even try. They just stay home.
Why is it so tough? I’ll be honest; I am still navigating this one. Still trying to understand my idiosyncrasies. (And my idiot-sin-and-crazies…healing is a lifelong journey, right?!) Yes. But I can tell you this as we relate to vacation:
We struggle when our boundaries are stretched or breached. We struggle with the feeling of a loss of control. We struggle sleeping in new places. We struggle relating to new people in our living quarters…or when we are temporarily living in theirs. We struggle when we don’t get space and solitude. We struggle when we feel caged. We struggle when those around us seem moody, sensitive or controlling. We struggle when we feel like we have to walk on eggshells, when when we feel we are to be the peacemakers and keep everyone happy, or when we feel we aren’t living up to expectation. We struggle with our beach bodies. We struggle because our normal routines that help us feel safe are still back at home. We struggle because our daily support system is not operating in its normal way and, worse, sometimes technology isn’t accessible to keep us connected. We struggle when we are dissociated. We struggle when we are apart from those who help us survive on a daily basis. And we struggle because the reality is: many of us were abused, molested and/or raped while on vacation. And we struggle because we remember.
Vacation triggers us.
And as hard as we try to not allow it to, oftentimes we just can’t stop it from happening.
So a note to those who relate… you are not alone. Care for yourself. Even if it means going against the grain. Find your VOICE. Share your struggle with someone you trust and allow them to help protect you while you are with them away from your home… and share your struggle with someone you trust who will help support you from a distance while you are away.
And a note to those who don’t relate… try to understand. It’s not about you. Don’t make it about you. Just love the survivor in your life. Listen, support and allow healing to take place along the journey; it is for the better of all of us.
God bless you all! Hope you are enjoying your summer!
Keep it cool,
What struggle do you relate to? What can you add to the discussion?
(from our friends at RAINN)
Last week, in a case that shocked the nation and brought great awareness to the sexual abuse of children, former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky was convicted on 45 of 48 charges of sexually abusing children. During the trial, usage of the National Sexual Assault Online Hotline rose by 33%; this followed a 50% increase when the scandal first broke last November.
RAINN’s hotline director, Jennifer Marsh, said, “We’re seeing an outpouring of people reaching out for help — women and men, boys and girls — many of whom have been encouraged to get help for the first time as a result of this tragedy.”
Leading up to and during the trial, RAINN’s staff worked closely with national media to educate them about child sexual abuse and ensure that media coverage accurately portrayed the nature of the crime and its effect on victims.
Praising the jury’s verdict and the courage of the survivors who came forward to report Sandusky’s crimes, RAINN’s president and founder Scott Berkowitz told Reuters: “Today is a landmark day for survivors of sexual violence across the nation. This verdict shows the country that when allegations of such abuse are brought to light, they will be taken seriously and that a just outcome is possible. If something positive can come out of this, it is that the strength of the survivors who testified has already encouraged thousands of survivors nationwide to take the first steps towards recovery through the National Sexual Assault Hotline (800.656.HOPE & online.rainn.org), creating record demand for the hotline’s services. We are hopeful that this case will continue to motivate other survivors to come forward and will encourage more prosecutors to vigorously pursue cases of sexual violence.”