On Grief at Three 

Many of you know that a few weeks ago, my fat, old, beloved tabby cat crossed the rainbow bridge.  The loss was – is – very, very difficult.  I adopted Pookie just two weeks after moving to this coast; I was 19 years old, on my own, and when I passed him during an adoption drive at PetsMart, I couldn’t resist.
Pookie was three years old when I adopted him (although our vet placed his age at 3-5 years, Pookie was always young at heart) and the last 14 years of life together has been the absolute best.  He was by my side through not only all of life’s happiest moments, like marriage, buying our first home, and the birth of both our sons, but also through life’s most difficult, like the loss of friendships and the passing on of my sweet grandmother.  And so, to say that I was sad when Pookie began growing old, slowing down – that’s an understatement.  To say I was upset when Pookie was called home – it doesn’t do justice to the enormous grief I felt (and still feel).
And that’s just me, an adult, processing grief and sadness and loss and pain, knowing that all things grow old and eventually pass on – a time for everything, right?

And it’s hard; it’s damn hard, processing those feelings.
Yet I’ve found the most difficult part of this came not my own acceptance and understanding, but in the need to tell Miles what had happened. I spent a brief time wallowing in my own tears, and they quickly vanished once I realized I must also tell my oldest son.  How does one, at three years old, understand and process such a thing?  How long could I put it off, telling Miles where Pookie was?  Could he just forget about Pookie, and I’d never even need to broach the subject?  Of course not; he’s an exceptionally bright kid, and honesty (in all its sometimes-difficult glory) is a key pillar of our home.
I waited a full day, hoping I could be calm and peaceful in our discussion.  I had Hallmark movie-worthy conversations in my mind, and I knew exactly how this would go.  I was super-prepared, even if I was only semi-ready.
After bathtime, before we read our bedtime stories, I sat down with Miles and told him that I needed to share something very important with him.  He knew Pookie was getting older, winding down, so I thought that understanding would lay the foundation.  Here’s where we have the Hallmark conversation, with mild tears and large smiles, and we hug at the end while sharing banana splits. Right?
Ha.
As soon as I said the words, “We need to talk about Pookie…” the waterworks began.  And then, because Miles is truly his mother’s child, his reaction to the awkward outpouring of emotion was to laugh.  Not in a spiteful way; not in a “mom looks silly when she cries” way, but in a way of coping.  I do this, too.  I remember when Evan and I were saying our vows during our wedding, and I was so overcome with emotion that when our pastor got to, “For richer or for poorer…” I just laughed.  LAUGHED.  (although sometimes I tell God that I totally get the joke, now)  So, I get it.
Sometimes your mind’s defense mechanism is unique and inappropriate; we are weird creatures.
But, his laughter broke my tears.  It gave me the bittersweet feeling I needed to carry on with the very difficult (to me) conversation.  I explained to Miles that as things grow old – animals, people, plants, everything – they may begin to feel tired.  They may move a bit slower, seem a bit quieter.  And when things have reached what is usually a very old age, they may grow so tired that they can no longer be here on earth.  This is what happened to Pookie.  He was very old, and very tired, and just not feeling his best, and because of this God said, “Pookie, I know you would love to stay with your family forever and ever, but I do think it’s time you came home to me, to stay in Heaven.”  And Pookie said, “God, my family will be sad that I am gone, but they will also be happy that I am with you, that I can run and play and jump and roll in all the catnip I want.  So, if my time here is finished, then I will come home to you, God.” (I like to think he also had a Fancy Feast clause in his agreement to go heavenward)
I explained to Miles that Pookie was very happy here, but also ready to feel good again, and so it was time for him to go to heaven.  I told Miles that he will most likely (scratch: absolutely) see me cry from time to time, but that it’s nothing for him to worry about; I will feel sad, because I miss Pookie so very much.  But I will also feel happy, because Pookie can run and play again, and one day, we will see him again.  I told Miles that we would plant a flower bush for Pookie, something that would let us think of him every time we saw it.
“Mama, I will pick a beautiful pink raspberry flower bush for you, because you love raspberries and flowers, and that will make you smile!”
And there were more tears, of course, because I feel so very, very blessed to be the mama to a boy as kind and sweet as Miles.
We buried Pookie in the front yard (the boys don’t know this – while we are incredibly honest in our home, the thought of a cat buried in your front yard might be a bit much for a three year old to comprehend) and we planted a gardenia bush; our “Pookie Bush.”
Occasionally, Miles will ask about Pookie, usually if something happens that stirs a memory.  If it thunders, Miles might ask where Pookie is because he remembers he was afraid of thunderstorms.  We’ll have the heaven talk again, and he’ll carry on with what he was doing.  Sometimes Miles will mention that he misses Pookie, and we’ll talk about some of our favorite moments together, or I’ll show Miles pictures of Pookie laying on his playmat with him, when he was just a little baby, and we’ll laugh and smile and get misty-eyed together.
Then, this past Saturday, Miles asked a question that stopped me in my tracks: “Mama, when can Pookie come back from Heaven?  I think I’m ready for him to come home to us again.”
The minds of children are in constant motion; even if they’ve stopped mentioning something, it can be guaranteed that they still think of it often.  After two weeks of little conversation about Pookie, this was an unexpected question for me.  We talked about how Heaven is your forever home, and that Pookie would not come here, but that one day, a very long time from now, we would be there with him.  My answer satisfied Miles, but it brought a new river of grief through my heart.
When you are a parent, your minutes, hours and days are spent caring for others.  It is a part of life that is joyfully exhausting; there is nothing else I love more than being mama to my boys (wine is a close second, followed by chocolate) but there is no level of tired like that of a parent.  It’s not just a physical sense of tired; it’s mental, and it’s emotional.  When something tragic happens in your life, like the loss of your most beloved cat, your own grief is placed on hold while you tend to the grief, tears and needs of others.
And so, day after day, I find myself in a quiet moment of solitude sobbing endlessly over the loss of my cat, because as a mom I’ve learned that much like shaving my legs, ironing a pair of pants, or cleaning out the produce drawer, the time to grieve comes when it’s least expected and sporadically.
I remember when each of the boys were just tiny babies, swaddled safe and snug in the crib, with big blue eyes looking out at the world, and I thought to myself, “God, let them always feel safe.  Always feel warm, loved, protected, cared for, wanted.  Help us be their fierce protectors and endless huggers.  Let us follow your desire for our home; let our boys know a love like no other.”  Because it’s a bit scary, having such great responsibility for these tiny people.  They are little for such a brief period of time, and then suddenly they’re aware and conversational and they must learn about things in life that are difficult, and you lose just a bit more innocence each passing year.
It was hard to lose Pookie.  Really, really hard.  He was not just a pet; he was my friend and companion, a constant source of joy, a member of our family.  Having to tell Miles about this loss was equally hard, because it meant we were reaching a new place in life, where he needed to know about death, although not in those exact words.  But hearing my sweet boy console me, I know we’re doing something right.  I know we’re teaching him love and empathy and caring, and even though this has been a difficult time, I find the bittersweet moments to be perfectly comforting.
Like a pink raspberry flower bush.

 

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The Important Conversation

I have, like many of you, followed the Brock Turner case from the moment the victim’s statement was published by BuzzFeed.  This case has created intense feelings for me, just as it has for many of you.  My grandmother used the phrase, “I’m so mad I could just spit!” on occasion and it was always one of those quirky sentences that sounded funny, but I couldn’t quite picture.

Well, I can picture it now.

I am so mad I could spit.  I am so mad I could spit, throw, yell, punch, kick, and cry.  I’m willing to bet you feel the same way, too.

Ashleigh Benfield, an anchor for CNN, took the time to read the victim’s entire statement live on air.  She allowed every emotion she felt to be put on display.  Did you see her segment?  Have you read the statement yourself?  I hope so.  We live in a world where women are sexualized, are seen as property, are seen as things instead of people; instead of human beings.  We live in a country where now more than ever, extreme importance is placed on equality and justice.  And still, if a girl is assaulted, somehow it’s her fault.  What was she wearing?  How many drinks did she have?  Was she behaving in a certain manner?  And if you found yourself asking those questions after hearing about this case, you are the problem with society.

If a girl wears a short skirt, she is confident.  If a girl has two margaritas, she is having fun.  If a girl dances, she is enjoying herself.

She is not inviting you to accost her verbally or physically.  She is not inviting you to touch her inappropriately.  She is not inviting you to rape her.  She should not wake up behind a dumpster with her dress pulled over her head, missing underwear and a swollen vagina.  She should wake up in her bed, probably not feeling the best, but not wondering what happened to her.

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While I cannot fully comprehend the victim’s pain, I am so very thankful for her willingness to speak up.  Many victims do not.  There is a stigma of shame and embarrassment for victims of assault and rape.  You somehow believe it was your fault.  You’d rather not talk about it; you’d rather not be forced to relive the events again and again, through discussion.

But we cannot remain silent; the silence will destroy you.  You will spend too many hours hating yourself for harboring this secret.  You will spend too many days wondering why you didn’t say something; why you didn’t speak up, act out, do something – anything.  You will spend months shoving these thoughts and feelings into a box in the back of your brain – “compartmentalizing”, your therapist will say.  You will spend years allowing this to affect your life, your love, your relationships, in a way that prevents you from being your full, complete and wonderful (yes – WONDERFUL) self.  Remaining silent, you will spend an actual lifetime in pain.

One in six American women is the victim of sexual assault.  Let me repeat that figure: one in six.  Do you know six women?  One of them has been the victim of sexual assault.  Think you don’t know someone who has been assaulted?  Well, you know me.

Of women victims, 44% are under the age of 18.  Again, let’s repeat: 44% are under the age of 18.  This means that nearly half of female victims are minors – children.  Of that group, 93% of victims knew their attacker.  That bears repeating, right?  NINETY-THREE PERCENT.

I am a victim who meets all above criteria, and while my experience was nowhere near as traumatic as the victim in the Brock Turner case, here’s what you should know: the experience, regardless of what specifically occurs, is still traumatizing.

I waited 15 years to share my hurt, my pain, and my eventual forgiveness, which I first shared here.  Talking about it has brought a level of healing that I didn’t know could exist.  Forgiveness is for me, and nothing else holds the same healing ability as that one simple word.  I have shared how God’s grace has worked in my life here, and this has been the turning point for me in both my life and my faith.  Being open and honest about my experience has not only helped me, it has helped others.  I have been a listening ear and supporter for others who have been through hell.  By coming out of hiding, I have encouraged others to do the same.  There are many of us; it is time to band together not only to heal, but to educate.

What I have learned through my experience is this: not only do victims not want to talk about it, neither do other people.  Talking about assault, about rape, makes people uncomfortable, and makes them feel awkward.  I am telling you, it’s time to get over it.  It is not an awkward conversation.  It is not an uncomfortable conversation. It is an important conversation.

Assault happens every day.  Rape happens every day.  The only way to stop this is to talk about it; to educate, to understand, to encourage and build each other up.  If someone comes to you with their story, please listen.  Please engage.  Please be the rock and support they’re seeking.  I have been so very blessed with a husband and friends who have listened, who have talked, who have loved.  It is crucial to the healing process. 

We need to have the important discussion.  You need to know that if someone uses words that are inappropriate, that are rude, that are hurtful, it’s assault.  You need to know that if someone touches you in a way that makes you feel uncomfortable, it is assault.  You need to know that if someone forces themselves upon you, whether or not they complete the act, it is rape.  And you must, must, must say something to someone. 

We need to teach our children from a very early age that their bodies are theirs, and that they are the granters of permission for touch.  If you try to hug my son, and he refuses, respect that choice.  Do not make a child feel guilty or shamed because they don’t want to hug you; this creates the mindset of, “Well, Uncle Joe is my family, and he loves me, and even though this doesn’t feel right surely he would never do anything to hurt me.”  That is not only wrong thinking, it’s dangerous thinking.  My children, from a very young age, have had the power, permission and encouragement to say NO.  My children know who is allowed to touch them, they know where and how it’s okay to be touched, and they know that if anyone ever does anything differently, even if it’s someone they know and love, and that touch makes them feel bad in any way, they are to tell us immediately.  If we aren’t there, they know who else to talk to.  Children must know that it’s not only strangers we are watchful of; sometimes the devil you know is worse than the devil you don’t.  Education and empowerment is critical.

We need to stop thinking that any adult is “asking for it.”  Boys, men, adults, you need to realize that if a girl does not consent, it’s the same as saying NO.  If a girl does not agree, does not willingly participate, it is assault; it is rape.  A victim should be able to go to a guidance counselor, law enforcement, a friend, and say she has been assaulted, without fear of the first question being, “Well, how much did you have to drink?” because it doesn’t matter.  There is never an invitation for sexual violence.

Because most attackers are male, we need to teach our boys what consent not only sounds like, but what it looks and feels like.  We teach our sons from an early age that we must ask to hug, to kiss, to hold hands.  It doesn’t mean my child will always ask, but it means he’s learning that if he can say no to someone, then someone can say no to him, and that’s okay.  If we teach this value now, it will become a normal behavior.  He will know and understand what it is to be loved and respected, and he will share that with others.  He will know that we never, ever, ever take advantage of another person in any situation, especially when it comes to touch.  We must raise boys who value, respect and love others, who know the worth of others, who not only honor others but seek to protect them as well.

We need to be comfortable with “see something, say something.”  This is the only reason Brock Turner was arrested.  If you see something, do not remain silent.  Offer help.  Call the police.  Do something.  Teach your children the same, so that if Susie’s dad says or does something that seems wrong, they will tell you.  You could be the reason a child or person is saved from assault.  Always, always, always say something.

And finally, we need to support each other and love each other.  I think that goes without saying; I think that should be common sense, ingrained deep in our personalities and hearts, to just be good people, but our own human tendency to judge can come through.  Let’s not do that; let’s not judge.  Let’s love.  Let’s be there for each other.  Let’s encourage, build up, strengthen.  Let’s educate.  Then, together, let’s demand justice.

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Depth of Grace

There is a reason God’s grace is called amazing. Truthfully, there’s not another adjective that comes to mind that could do his grace justice.

When I wrote this post on my experience as a victim of assault, it was important for me to share with you the truth I’ve found in life’s horrible situations: God didn’t do this to me (or you). You must know how much He loves you, and that no matter what has happened to you, God will use it if we open up and allow him. God has a purpose for your life.

God called me to share my story; it has led to an incredible healing for me, and has created a dialogue with others who have been victims as well. But if I’m going to tell the complete and open and honest truth, it’s important to know that I didn’t come away from those events unscathed, with a sudden awakening and understanding of God’s love for me. The reality is those events, for a period of time, left me in a dark place. I retreated into myself because I didn’t know who to talk to, or even how to begin the conversation. I coped in the way that made the most sense to my very young self; I drank heavily, and made poor decisions because of it. Being victimized is much more than just the act or acts against you; it’s the unraveling of your life afterwards.

After a few years of self-medicating, something happened. Something changed. I was on my way home from a happy “hour” that ended up lasting eight. Have you ever closed a bar down on a Wednesday night? I think that’s what opened my eyes to a certain sense of desperation; of floundering, of seeking yet finding nothing.

I was driving home (yes, driving) when I randomly came across a Christian radio station. I say randomly; however, I think many of us know there’s nothing truly random about these things, is there? Anyway, I paused to listen to the pastor. He was delivering a message of hope, and he was speaking of the Prodigal Son. He closed his brief message with a sort of altar call. I continued driving, but found myself repeating his words. The realization that I was finally finding began to creep in.

The following day, listening to the same radio station, I heard a commercial for a local church having its annual Christmas Bazaar and White Elephant sale. My husband and I were not, at that time, attending any church on a regular basis (side note: God bless my husband, who I met when I was just 19 and who has been by my side through every step of this journey). I was loosely raised in the church; I had a vague idea of God’s love, but not really an understanding of its depth. I knew the scriptures, but I didn’t live the scriptures. For some reason, that simple commercial called to me. I mentioned it to my husband, and he was naturally gung-ho to go. We went, and that was it – I was hooked. The love and light emanating from the people we encountered was astounding. The beginning of the positive road was before me. God was hollering to me.

When I began to feel the calling from God to return to him, I initially felt an immense amount of shame for decisions I’d made. I couldn’t imagine God forgiving me; the idea of God saying, “Okay, I’ll forgive you,” while secretly condemning me was in the forefront of my mind. Yes, I think that shows the depth of my shame – can you imagine our awesome, incredible and loving God doing that? Turning one of his children away? Of course not, but when you’re coming from such a place of despair, the human mind is capable of convincing you of quite a bit.

We are imperfect creatures; we are full of free will, and we are sinners by nature. It’s just the truth of the matter. Try as we might to do good and right, to be just and fair, we’re going to slip up, and sometimes that could be a lot. Our sinful choices don’t need to define us, though.

When I came to a place of knowing I wanted God’s full and complete love, that I had accepted things as they were and wanted God to use them in my life for good, I also came to a place of knowing that even though I’d made some no good, horrible, very bad choices at times, God still loved me. God has given me grace. It is by His grace that I’m saved and forgiven. And man, did I want that forgiveness.

How do I know God’s grace is amazing? Well, just reading of King David, the Apostle Paul, the Apostle Peter, Moses, and a host of others has proven it to me. I have realized that if God can use murderers, liars, adulterers, and all-around not great folks to accomplish the greatest of his works, he probably had a place for me, too.

The more I’ve come to know His grace, the less of my guilt and shame I carry. The more completely I allow God to guide me, the less inclined I am to figure things out on my own. Understanding God’s unconditional love meant I could also finally love myself in that same way. Even better, it means that I am capable of loving others in that same way. I can give grace and love and forgiveness, because God gave it to me. And the best part? It feels really, really awesome. If you don’t know what it’s like to wake up every single day with joy in your heart, with a smile on your face, with an overwhelming desire to show everyone – EVERYONE – your love; well, I want you to know that feeling. I want you to know God’s grace and love, because once you do, it will be impossible for you not to share it.

Know that God’s grace is deep. When folks say, “tip of the iceberg…” that’s how I imagine God’s grace. I see this iceberg of grace; this massive, brilliant, beautiful and pure thing, and yet I still have so little comprehension of its true magnitude beneath the surface. It is that full of mercy and forgiveness. And it’s there for all of us.

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It is awesome. It is deep. It is amazing.

Grace,

K

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Love Wins

This is something I have struggled with for a long time. Because I’ve struggled with it personally, I’ve also struggled with finding the right words to put this into a coherent message. I have tried no less than half a dozen times to write this down; sometimes there are no words, and sometimes there are many, many words. And sometimes, like today, your computer restarts in the middle of your hot streak and for some reason nothing is saved. So here I am, trying again, and saying a silent prayer: God, I’m showing up – join me.

I want to share with you something that I know in the deepest part of my heart and soul to be absolutely, positively true: God has a plan for you. Some of you are thinking, “Well, we know that, it’s VBS 101.” But if we were to be brutally honest with ourselves, and really examine our thoughts and feelings when things take a turn for the terrible, the tragic, and the unacceptable, a part of us just might question God’s plan.

So I’m going to tell you how I know that even in the midst of really, really bad stuff, God knows what He’s doing. (This is the part where I remind God that I’m here, and ask Him to have my back).

Before I go any further, I think this is deserving of a brief background for those who only know me now, and didn’t know me then. I grew up in a very small town. I went to a small school. I had a small group of friends. We did small things. When I became a senior in high school I knew one thing for certain: it was my chance to get out. Graduation was just around the corner, and I knew I wanted to attend college away from home. I wanted to meet new people, learn new things, experience a new life. At 17 years of age, I packed my bags and headed off to school about an hour from home. That might not seem far, but for me, it was far enough.

On September 12th, 2001, a group of freshmen decided to go out for dinner. It was the day after 9/11, and we wanted to be together, to try and make sense of the events that were unfolding in our nation. We hopped into a classmate’s car, and headed out.

As an adult, I often reflect back on that decision to get in the car with these people who in reality I’d only known six short weeks. The level of trust we feel as children and teenagers is tremendous. Everyone is your friend; everyone means well, everyone cares about you and would never do anything (intentional or otherwise) to hurt you. Of course now I know how incredibly untrue that is. With age comes wisdom.

The roads were wet. The car was fast. Our friend and driver had a penchant for racing his Camaro at one of the local tracks. When the light turned green at one of the major intersections on this eight lane highway, he felt compelled to race the car next to us.

Once the car was recklessly exceeding the speed limit, we crossed the median into oncoming traffic and struck a pick-up truck. There was a loud thud followed by a feeling I can only compare to that of what I’d imagine a pinball to experience, and the overwhelming smells of gasoline and oil. I remember yelling and screaming. I remember how very, very dark it was. I remember there was glass everywhere, especially as I climbed through the shattered back windshield and onto the trunk of the car. And I remember, as I laid in the middle of the road, that it had finally stopped raining.

I was told the Jaws of Life were needed to free the driver of the pick-up truck and my suitemate, both of whom were Traumahawked to area hospitals. The remaining three of us were loaded into an ambulance. We were sharing the ride because the awful weather meant there were several other accidents on the roads that night, and first responders were in short supply.

A few hours and one broken pelvis later, I was headed home. I was forced to withdraw for the semester so that I could fully heal. When I returned to school for the winter session, it was my local community college. I was back in my small hometown.

Life post-accident was different, and certainly not what I’d planned for myself. I was angry and hurt, and I was very, very unsure of where I would be heading. I had entered college confidently majoring in Pre-Law and here I was now: Undeclared.

This is where I get to the very difficult part of my story. I’m going to keep it brief, because it’s not the most important thing here; rather, it is what ultimately brought me to the most important thing.

I recently read Slaughterhouse Five, and came to a passage in which Billy Pilgrim describes a stay in a mental institution. After a visit with his psychiatrist, Billy remarks “I suppose I was keeping secrets from myself after all.” There it was: a single sentence that resonated with me so strongly, I had to put the book down.

You see, I am a person who compartmentalizes, who keeps secrets from myself. Then, suddenly, an event triggers a repressed memory and a flood of thoughts and feelings and junk I’ve never even acknowledged – let alone dealt with – come like a deluge. Your body kicks into fight or flight. All my life, I have chosen flight. Today, I am choosing FIGHT.

A lot of things happened after that accident and subsequent move back home, but one particular series of events has been the greatest area of struggle in my life. And so, because it’s still very difficult to talk about, I’m going to keep it very brief: A person in my life, someone whom I thought I trusted, exhibited behavior toward me that was completely irreprehensible and disgusting: repeated attempts of molestation. I hesitated to even use that term, molestation, because for so long I didn’t think it truly fit the definition of what typically comes to mind when you hear it – certainly not what you read about in the paper or see on the news. But it was a recurrence that was absolutely inappropriate. I felt taken advantage of, and I felt powerless. I also felt that because in my mind it wasn’t really abuse that maybe I was just overreacting, and because of that, I never said a word to anyone. Over time I realized that if certain words or actions or touches made me feel that uncomfortable and victimized, they most certainly could not be acceptable.

Let’s pause for a moment. There are some things that I need to address before I continue. First, this isn’t a reach for sympathy; things happen to all of us, and for me to get to the real point of my story, you just need to know where I’m coming from. Second, I will never be specific as to what occurred, because it’s not pivotal to my story. Just know it was unacceptable, but not to the extent of legal repercussions or needing to involve law enforcement. Third, I will never name the person. Will they read this and know it’s about them? I have no idea. It’s not important to me that they do. I am not writing this to publicly crucify someone; they know what they did, they hopefully know it was wrong, and they will ultimately have to answer for that one day. I am not the person to judge or decide.

The truth is that the very specifics just don’t matter.

I hesitated to write this for a long time; now it’s done. I felt this fear in others knowing. I felt this guilt and shame, and I couldn’t shake it. I knew that once the words were spoken, or written as the case may be, there would be no retraction, no taking it back. That part of me, the part that I’ve struggled to hide and ignore for so long, would forever be accessible to anyone. Then a very, very dear friend reminded me of this: I shouldn’t feel ashamed or guilty, because I didn’t do anything wrong. I shouldn’t worry about what could happen if that person who behaved so horribly should ever find that I have shed light on those events, because how they feel is unimportant to my story. It’s just that: MY story, not theirs. This is for me to tell, not them.

Recently I started to feel this calling, this desire to share, because I know deep in my heart that many of us have experienced horrible, awful things, and we just think it’s taboo to discuss. Like it’s too personal or too difficult or too messy or too whatever…so we bottle it up. We pack it away, we hide it in the back of our mind, and maybe every once in a while we find ourselves on the edge of a nervous breakdown, but we pull back from the cliff just in time. We think to ourselves, “Phew, that was close!” And we say a prayer of thanks for keeping it together just one more day.  But the feeling of “get these words out” wouldn’t relent.  God placed it on my heart to not only write these words down, but to give them to you.  That’s His plan.

Friends, here is what I want you to know: For all its beauty, life is also damn messy. It’s complicated, it’s rough, it’s unbelievable. But we are in this thing together. You are my people, my tribe, and you are there for me, just as I am there for you – for all of it.

One of my favorite writers/bloggers is Glennon Doyle Melton at Momastery. If you are unfamiliar with Glennon, you need to know this: the woman lives her faith. She is an inspiration. She has always referred to life as being both brutal and beautiful: BRUTIFUL. And I can’t help but think to myself that yes, YES, life truly is brutiful. And we are so, so blessed to live it together.

So how do I know God has a plan through all this junk? Because today, almost 15 years later, I am living that plan. You see, that accident did set into motion a chain of events. Some were really awful, and some were really wonderful.

Had that never happened, I wouldn’t live where I do today. It’s worth noting that when I moved here with my best friend many, many moons ago, I met the man who would later become my husband just three short weeks later. We have been together for 12 years, and will celebrate our 10th wedding anniversary this Fall. We have a little home of our own. We have two wonderful, amazing, incredible, beautiful boys whom we love more than words could ever do justice. We have a church and a faith and friends that I don’t know if we’d have were it not for things bringing me to this area. We have a boundless unconditional love for each other. He is more than my rock; he is my shelter, my partner, my equal, and the love of my life. He is the perfect person for me to do life with, and God knew that.

And together, we reconnected with our faith in an amazing and incredible way. These very difficult times in life can do one of two things: drive you closer to God, or push you further away. The choice is ours, of course, and I was one of those “WHY ME?!” people back then. I couldn’t believe my God would allow this to happen. And then one day, many years later, I realized something: God didn’t allow those things to happen. You see, those people made those choices of their own free will. They chose to be reckless and careless. They chose to be inappropriate and unacceptable. They chose to hurt. And here I was all this time later and I was continuously allowing them to hurt me. No more flight; only fight.

The hurt is what compelled me to write. It had grown to be this fire in my belly, to shout from the rooftops that what happened was not okay, it was not acceptable, but most importantly: it would no longer define me. I could not, would not, allow yesterday’s tragedy to continue impeding my thoughts and actions, making me feel less worth as a person.

As I grew to accept the things that had happened, I found that the acceptance of my past did not mean acceptance of the acts themselves. It simply meant I could be free to realize that I am much, much more than the person I thought I once was all those years ago. I found that I could forgive those people in my heart. It didn’t mean I needed to call them on the phone and talk about it, because the truth is, I just can’t. But through God’s grace and love, I know that I can forgive them, and I can move on with my own life in a place of peace and joy and happiness because I have let that weight go.

I can easily sit here and say that I would give anything to have never experienced the hurt inflicted upon me from the abuse. Don’t we all say that? If we could change the past, we would? But we can’t. I have accepted that the hurt is part of my life, part of who I am, and I am sitting here now telling God, “Okay, I showed up, now what?” because I know that He has a plan for me. He wouldn’t ask me to spill my guts if He didn’t. God will use this hurt in my life as an opportunity to help others. How? I’m not quite sure yet, because we’re just getting started here with this “life as an open book”, but I can tell God this: I’m ready. Use me as you see fit. Help me to help others. Help me to show love and compassion and grace and understanding.

Here I sit 15 years later knowing deep in my heart and soul and bones that bad shit happens, but that God always has a plan. He didn’t cause the accident, but he knew where I would go from there. He didn’t allow the abuse to happen to me, but he knew I’d overcome. God knew I would move away and end up on the path in life that was meant for me. He was patient with me; he waited for me, and eventually I got it. And I can tell you this outcome rings true for the bad decisions that I have made myself, of my own free will. I didn’t get it right; in fact, I still get it wrong quite a bit, because I am human. But I know that through God’s grace, I am forgiven. He believes in me; more importantly, He loves me. We can do this together.

You are not your past. You are not the sins you’ve committed. You are not the sins committed against you. You are worthy, you are valuable, you are important, and you are LOVED. And if you ever reach a fork in the road or some rocks on the path or a damn cliff with a seemingly endless drop, know this: God will get you through it, and even more so, He will use that experience for good if you let him. And if you need to talk, I am your tribe. I have been there, and I know we come through all right.

Love wins.

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