Monday, October 16, 2017

Me, Too.

Recently, women all over the internet began posting the status, "me, too." This status is to share that someone has been sexually assaulted or harassed. As more and more of these statuses have crossed my feed, I've been shocked and brokenhearted at the amount of women who have endured this suffering and indignity. And yet ... even after seeing so many women bravely share their "me, too," it has seemed like my fingers have been frozen above my keyboard, unable to type the words.

August 20th, 2017 was the ten year anniversary of my "me, too." This anniversary came on the tail end of a traumatic procedure I endured one month earlier, removing precancerous cells from my cervix. Cells that were caused by a virus called HPV, a virus that my doctor says I was most likely exposed to when I was 19. I was 19 ten years ago.

I was a sophomore in college. I'd just moved back to school and I was so excited to start a new year. I was finally out of the dorms and living in my first apartment with a few of my friends. A guy that I had been dating casually over the summer invited me to visit him at his college 30 minutes away. He was an incoming freshman and had just moved into his dorm. Classes hadn't started yet, and I had all kinds of time to kill, so I figured, why not? I had other friends at this school and I could visit them as well.

The afternoon and evening went by without much excitement. A group of us ate together in the cafeteria. After dinner, we were all hanging out in the dorms when someone poured drinks for everyone. I had never been a drinker. I had tried it a handful of times with close friends, but I didn't frequent parties and most of my friends didn't drink either. But I thought, "What's the big deal?" I didn't think it could hurt anything to drink one or two with everyone else. In most situations, that would be true. But this was not most situations. I just didn't know it yet.

It didn't take long for me to realize that I wasn't feeling like myself. It was more than being drunk. I hadn't really had that much to drink, so I was confused as to why I felt the way I did. The guy I had driven up to visit told me he was leaving with some of his other friends for awhile, but he wanted me to stay in his dorm to "keep me safe." I wasn't sure what he meant by that, but I just wanted to sleep. I didn't feel well.

Everyone left the room.

Everyone left except me.

Everyone left except me and his roommate.

I went to sleep.

I closed my eyes, a normal 19 year old girl, who hadn't experienced anything truly "bad" in her life.

I awoke to a nightmare.

I drove home the next morning, not the same person I was the day before.  I didn't know what to do with myself. I waited until I parked at my apartment to call the guy I'd gone to see, to tell him what happened to me. I was too scared to say it in person. His roommate refused to leave the two of us alone and I couldn't form the words while he was in the same room.

I was too late.

His roommate had already given his "version" of the story, and I was labeled every other word except VICTIM.

HE DIDN'T BELIEVE ME.

I was speechless. I knew this happened to other people, but I never thought it would happen to me. I never thought it would happen and I wouldn't be BELIEVED.

I told a few of my friends and they didn't quite seem to believe me either. The judgment was in my drinking. If I hadn't been drinking, it wouldn't have happened. If I hadn't put myself in that situation, it wouldn't have happened. Yes, it was a horrible thing, but I LET IT HAPPEN. I had to accept some responsibility for that.

I was numb. I stopped believing I was a victim and I began believing I deserved it. People used many words to describe me, none of them nice, none of them comforting, and I decided they were right.

I was too terrified to tell my parents. I crawled into a deep pit of depression and began to live the way everyone already thought I did anyway. I went to parties. I drank. I was promiscuous. People started talking behind my back. I pulled away from my friends, I pulled away from my family. I hated myself. A lot of people looked at me in disgust, and I completely agreed. I was disgusting. I had DESERVED IT.

I believed that for a long time.

Several months passed before I worked up the courage to tell my mom. I texted it to her. Something so horribly monumental had happened to me and I was so ashamed that I TEXTED it to my own mother. And for the first time, someone reacted to me in love. She wasn't mad that I'd been drinking. She didn't blame me. She was the first people to tell me that it wasn't MY FAULT. And still... I didn't believe her.

I had already convinced myself otherwise.

Two months after telling my mom, I ran into the man who is now my husband. He asked me on a date and after we'd been on two or three, I shared what had happened to me. For the second time, someone reacted to me in love. He didn't blame me. He was furious FOR me, that someone would do something like that to me. It meant a lot to me that my mom believed me and still loved me, despite everything. But for someone who wasn't my family to react in my defense, instead of in judgment, changed everything for me.

Maybe they were telling the truth.

Maybe it wasn't my fault after all.

I'd like to say that things magically became all better when I decided to believe the truth about myself.

But real life doesn't happen that way.

I've had ups and downs over the last ten years. I've struggled with my self-worth and shame. I've shared my story with very few individuals because I live in fear that people won't see me the same way.

But I don't feel like it's okay to stay quiet about this forever.

Women and girls need to know that these things DO happen, and more often than you think.

We need to know that it's NOT OUR FAULT. No matter what we drink, no matter what we wear, no matter where we go... It's NEVER OKAY for this to happen.

God has been working these things out in me for quite some time, especially over the last year. When I finally felt like I was able to live with dignity and without shame, I was diagnosed with HPV, and I had to relive the nightmare all over again. 

If I've asked God once, I've asked him a million times, "why?" And there's no good answer for that. People do bad things. Bad things happen to good people. But instead of hiding away, I want to use what I've been through to encourage other women.

I felt like no one would ever love me again. But not only do I have a husband who has loved me without fail, God has never withheld His love from me. While I've been labeled shameful, disgraceful, a liar, unloved, and guilty in the the eyes of many different people, God sees me as BEAUTIFUL, full of grace, TRUSTWORTHY, loved, and FREE.

God SEES you, loves you, and accepts you.

It takes time. It takes healing. But we don't have to face it alone.

I know you've been there sweet sister. I know you've felt the same feelings of rejection and isolation.

ME, TOO.

Maybe it's time that we start facing this together.

Friday, June 2, 2017

Listening

 "Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever!"
Ephesians 3:20-21

It's been exactly one year since we left Florida. I can't believe a year has already passed. It's been a roller coaster for sure, but as I reflect back over the last 365 days, I can see how faithful God has been. Even when my faith wasn't the strongest, and I seriously doubted, God provided every step of the way.

When we first felt the stirrings, four years ago, that God was calling us to the Pacific Northwest, God said, "I have a plan for you."

When we got our official orders, and the location was Washington, God said, "This is just a peek at things to come."

When we struggled to sell our house, and we felt anxious and overwhelmed, God said, "Don't you trust Me?"

When we arrived in Washington with no idea where we'd live, God said, "I have just the place for you. Have faith."

When we found our church home on the first day here, God said, "This is your family. I'm taking care of you."

When we found a home in less than a week, God said, "I'll never leave you nor forsake you. Don't you believe me?"

When we connected all the dots... The call to church planting... The church God led us to... The town our house is in... God said, "Remember? I have a plan for you."

When we put Jack in public school instead of private or homeschooling, and he landed in the perfect school, with the perfect teacher, God said, "Do not be anxious. He's in My hands, too."

When I desperately yearned for friends and spiritual companionship, God said, "Don't think about the past. Start another Bible study. I will bless it and I will bless you."

When I sank into a pit of depression, feeling homesick and depleted by the weather, God said, "Here's a random sunny and beautiful day in the middle of winter. Go run. I'm waiting to spend that time with you."

One year. 365 days. A lot can happen. A lot HAS happened. In hindsight, I can see God's footprint in every valley and on every mountaintop.

Some people call me crazy. Running? In the snow? In the rain? In the cold? Why would anyone willingly do that?

I can't explain it. It's one of the things God called me to do four years ago, seemingly out of nowhere. I felt so convicted and I had no choice but to say yes. I look back and wonder, was it for now? Was it because God knew it was something I'd need when he moved us here? I may never know the answer. But I can look back over my life and see how plainly God has blessed us. Many things are with no other explanation.

I remember crying nearly all the way from Florida to Arkansas on June 1, 2016. I literally felt like my heart was being ripped from my chest. Why would God ask me to leave my home? Why did it hurt so much?

I expected to reach our one year anniversary and feel sad. Instead, I feel grateful. God has provided in more ways than we could have imagined. He who is able to do immeasurably more than all I ask or imagine, He has blessed me.

Oh how He loves me.

I just need to listen.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Even When I Run Away ...

"The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit."
Psalm 34:18

It's been over a year since I wrote in this blog. The past year has brought many life changes for our family. My husband returned from deployment and we packed up and moved across the country. I've had to adjust to a new home, a new school for my son, a new church, and new friends ...
New everything.

I haven't written in this particular blog because it's always been my place to share about my running journey and how my relationship with God has matured through that quiet time with Him. But over the last year or so, I haven't really been running. 
And I've felt further from God than I've felt in a really long time. 

At the beginning of 2017, I slowly began running again. A friend and I signed up for a half marathon and despite the sometimes awful weather here, I haven't missed a training run yet. I began to feel like I was finally getting in a good place. I was back in the Word, talking to God, developing some close relationships, and I finally started to see the sun, even if it wasn't actually shining outside just yet. 

But then I received a phone call on February 23.

When you move, everything changes. The first thing you do after finding a home is find new doctors. As a parent, doctors for yourself are the last on your list. The kids had many appointments and we were finally able to successfully deal with some things with our son. After a huge sigh of relief, I scheduled an appointment for myself for just a regular check-up.

The results came back and while it wasn't exactly bad news, it wasn't what I thought I was going to hear. 

A couple of weeks later, I went back to the doctor for further testing. I went alone because I wasn't exactly sure what was going to happen, but I thought it would be pretty similar to what I'd had done before. 

It wasn't. 

After a pretty painful procedure, I went home scared and confused. Shamefully, my first thought was why? Why would God allow this to happen to me, especially now, after a very rough year, when I felt like everything was finally falling into place? Was I being punished? I just couldn't understand and I was mad about it. Like a child, I wanted to throw a fit and just tell God to leave me alone. 

I knew in my heart that God could never leave me alone. But I could turn away if I wanted. 

So I did. 

I just gave Him the cold shoulder.

I waited for an entire week for results and when the call came, it wasn't good news.

Some people would disagree with that. Some people would hear "precancerous" and think, "They caught it early! It's treatable, everything is going to be fine."

But that's not what I thought. That's not how I've feel.

I feel like I've suffered tremendously in this area of my life after making really stupid mistakes in high school. I've not only suffered physically, but also emotionally. I've dealt with feelings of guilt and self-loathing for years and years. There have been times when I truly believed I'd never be able to heal. When I finally started to let my guard down again, I got this phone call that changed everything. It wiped out every bit of progress I thought I'd made. 

How do I move on from here? How do I reconcile my feelings to the truth I know about God?

Well, I know how I don't do it. 

I can't do it by ignoring God and giving him the silent treatment. I can't feel close to God if I refuse to hear Him speak or give Him the time of day. I can't feel God's love if I shut myself off from Him and run away.

Running is a gift God gave me a few years ago. He gave it to me as a way to run toward Him, not away. I know He's standing on the sidelines, just waiting for me to head in His direction. He's cheering me on with His arms open wide and even though I can't see the finish line yet, He's already there. 

I still don't know what the future holds. I don't know what life will look like a few months from now. But I know the one thing that never changes and that's God's love for me. Even if I tell Him I don't want it and I feel like running the opposite direction, He never leaves. His Word holds the Truth, even if I think I don't want to hear it. He will never leave me nor forsake me. When I'm brokenhearted and crushed in Spirit, He is close to me.

Even if I try to push Him away.