Surprise! You can now stream “Free in You” on Spotify, iTunes, YouTube, and anywhere else you like to listen to music!
I wrote “Free in You” when I first started learning about grace. For so long, My relationship with God was marked by stress as I tried desperately to make Him happy. Lots of rules. Shame when I broke them. Pressure to get it “just right.”
Even though I had accepted the forgiveness of Jesus for past, present, and future sins, I was still living a life marked by religion—trying to keep God happy by “being good.” It was way more complicated than it needed to be.
When I started to see God as a loving Father who loves me unconditionally, who is perfectly prepared for any mess I make, who loves to teach me fun things, and who is the only person in the world who fully sees me and loves every part He created—my world changed.
I realized I wasn’t on a tightrope after all, just a sidewalk. And I was free!
“Free in You” is a celebration and a reminder to never go back to those shackles of religion. I only want to move forward toward more and more grace.
In the studio yesterday I connected with an up-and-coming musician in OC who was looking for advice, and I realized the only encouragement I could offer carries on to all aspects of life. I’m calling this an “Artist Pep Talk” but I’m pretty sure it applies to everyone.
Here are 7 things I have learned to live by:
Find out your WHY, and let that carry you through when it’s hard. (And by the way, “because it makes me feel alive” is a good enough why!)
Everything important is on the other side of fear; therefore being afraid is not a good enough reason not to do something.
Art is meant to be shared. Do what you love first for you, protect a few pieces if they really are too intimate, but otherwise let others be moved by your creations, just as you are moved by the art of others.
If you’re nervous or feel lost, start small. Then take the next step. Then the next.
Don’t flatter yourself—most people aren’t thinking about you as much as you fear they are. If you make a mistake, most people won’t notice, and the ones who do notice rarely care.
The few who really have a strong negative opinion of you and take time to bring you down with it are not the kinds of people whose voices should matter to you. Let. It. Go.
Be yourself and do your best—that’s enough!
I have sooo much still to learn as a person, as an artist, as a musician, as a functioning adult! 😅 But I have found the above to be true. Whatever your art is—whatever makes you feel alive—I hope you do it boldly!
What advice would you give someone who’s embarking on a new creative or professional journey? Comment below or tag me on social media!
I can have a good 6-9 months before experiencing debilitating pain or flashbacks. Every once in a while something will hit me, I can’t always pinpoint from where. That raw, innocent part of me gets rubbed and I hurt again. I cry with no explanation or feel an overwhelming grief take over my body. My heart cracks, ricocheting pain throughout every extremity. My brain quakes with memories and I’m ripped back in time, a helpless child manipulated for purposes no one understands.
I choose to forgive each time.
As far as I know, the human extension of forgiveness is not a “one and done” kind of deal. Not for deep wounds, anyway. The more I live, the more ways I discover I’ve been hurt by that season of adolescence. I have to forgive with each new revelation of pain.
I hate how I start to look when bitterness creeps in… Some of the awful features of evil start to rub off on me. I’m distrusting of others, easily angered, unforgiving, closed off, harsh. Soon I’m unrecognizable as the true, free, loving version of myself. That’s when I know I need to forgive again.
I’ll never stop learning about forgiveness; I’ll be giving and receiving forgiveness for the rest of my life. But since the offenses of sexual abuse have been some of the deepest wounds I’ve had to forgive, I feel compelled to share what I’ve learned so far.
I don’t know how to forgive aside from Christ and the truth of God’s Word. Jesus is the biggest example of love and forgiveness, so everything I share comes from years of exploring the topic with God and the Bible.
Forgiveness doesn’t mean pretending the wrong was right. I understand I was wronged. I also understand the necessity of forgiveness.
Bitterness and unforgiveness will destroy your life like a toxic infection, often unknowingly spreading throughout your body until every last organ ceases to function. Bitterness is an ugly killer, slow and miserable.
Forgiveness can seem like defeat because there’s a forfeiting of something you believe you deserve. It’s frightening to let go of what you feel is holding you together. That firm grip and pointing of the finger can become a comfort.
But it’s difficult to walk through life with clenched fists. It makes it hard to pick up a pen or paintbrush and create something beautiful. It makes the gentle ease of holding a loved one’s hand practically impossible. Good luck climbing a mountain or playing an instrument while your fingers dig into your palms. What beauty, freedom, and strength we miss when we clench our fists this way!
Do they deserve to be forgiven?
No. I don’t believe anybody “deserves” forgiveness. We are all responsible for our poor choices and each one warrants its own payment. But what is a fair payment for sexual abuse? It affects the rest of your life FOREVER. It causes some victims to take their lives and steals the ability of others to truly live. In some senses the most severe punishment will never be enough for the undue pain caused by the perpetrator.
And yet, there is also healing and compassion born from a wound so severe when it finally mends. One may go on to do more good than they otherwise would have. I’m convinced that’s true in my case. That will never make the abuse ok, but it does seem to make a lifelong harsh sentence less fair.
And then there is the fact that we are all imperfect, damaging each other all the time. There is a law at work that gives us a natural bend to break things and each other.A world without forgiveness and sole retaliation in the name of “justice” looks like physical and emotional prisons, a constant counting of wrongs, and an impossibility to love. In this broken world with the inevitable damage we will cause each other, another law had to be implemented—a law of redemption and love. This law of healing love is at work within the law of our brokenness.
Forgiveness is a survival tool we rely on daily; it just gets harder to use when the wound is bigger. It’s ok that it’s hard. It will likely take supernatural Love to help genuinely forgive.
The freedom and health is worth it. Don’t believe the lie that bitterness or unforgiveness is helping you heal—it is destroying you, or at the very least keeping you from living life to the full. I’m not sure there’s a difference.
I’ve heard sayings like, “Harboring unforgiveness is like drinking poison and expecting it to kill someone else” and “Don’t forgive for their benefit—do it for yourself.” But how do you get there?
There is no clear-cut answer, but having the desire to forgive is a great start. Realize that you will be swallowed up by bitterness if something doesn’t change, and ask God for help.
First of all, the Bible is clear that there is only one enemy, one accuser, one evil ruler. Evil loves a high return on investments, and the lifelong healing required for sexual abuse is well worth the brief moments of disgusting behavior.This is why devastation like sexual abuse is so rampant in EVERY society. The immediate transfer of shame, lifelong wounds, chronic need for the victim to forgive or else find themselves with the debilitating infection of bitterness, etc. are all very worth it to someone bent on stealing, killing, and destroying.
The Bible says we have an enemy who stalks around like a lion, seeking whom it may devour. That explains much of the hurt we see in the world today.
The distinction must be made between the evil a person commits and the core of who they really are.We are responsible when we cooperate with evil… but that is not all we are.Each person is a created being, loved by God and invited to beautiful life with Him. However near or far they are from Him at any given moment doesn’t change that truth. My sexual abuser is more than the decisions she made as a young adult. We are all bigger than our mistakes.
In fact, I think one of the biggest steps toward forgiving others comes from realizing how much God has forgiven me. Forgiveness requires humility… a difficult posture until I ask God to examine my own heart. God doesn’t see me for my mistakes, for the times I’ve blatantly spat in His face despite His grace and love. God sees me as righteous and pure even though I couldn’t describe myself as such on my best days if it depended on my own merit. As I accept grace for myself, I can’t withhold that from another person.
Forgiving others doesn’t mean there are no consequences.There is a difference between forgiveness and restoration of relationship. I’m still keeping my distance from the woman who abused me for reasons of wisdom. I still reported the sexual abuse to police in an attempt to create proper boundaries and hopefully prevent it from happening to someone else. She was and possibly continues to operate from an unhealthy state of mind, which makes her unwise for me to be around. But forgiveness allows me to see she is not unloved by God, nor is she all her past, present, and future mistakes say she is.(And thank God, neither am I.)
If God looks at her and sees who she was created to be and longs to develop good things in her life, then that becomes my standard for how to view her. If God who is perfect can look at her with love and offer forgiveness before she repents (while we were still sinners, Christ died for us, Romans 5:8), then I, who am imperfect and in desperate need of forgiveness for my own shortcomings certainly must do the same.
Sexual abuse doesn’t define me, and in my heart it doesn’t define her. I have to choose forgiveness and see her through God’s lens. I pray for healthy growth and friendships in her life. While I don’t picture it happening this side of eternity, I imagine in heaven the two of us will be restored and it will be a beautiful moment of God’s grace for both of us.
If you find yourself in a similar situation, whether it’s sexual abuse or something else, I highly recommend you forgive as a means to life. If you’re struggling in this area, know this: You were wronged. You did not deserve what happened to you—that will never change. You can be angry, devastated, and heartbroken. You probably will experience all of these things in varying degrees until you breathe your last on earth. However, you don’t need to spend the rest of your life tethered to someone else as a result of the harm they caused you.
Forgiveness is a necessary tool for freedom, for being the person you were designed to be rather than the sum of your painful experiences. It’s not something that happens overnight. It’s not easy. But it’s always worth it.
Biblical References (Only a Starting Point)
When Jesus was being humiliated and tortured on a cross, He said, “Forgive them Father for they know not what they are doing.” – Luke 23:34
“But if you refuse to forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” – Matthew 6:15 Well shoot, it’s a bloody commandment. Probably because we’ve been forgiven MUCH and can therefore forgive others their smaller debts.
“I—yes, I alone—will blot out your sins for my own sake and will never think of them again. – Isaiah 43:25 If this is the kind of forgiveness God offers me, I have no choice but to forgive. (I can’t help but remember certain hurts since I’m human, but I can extend forgiveness as the memories come.)
A “sinful woman” was forgiven much, and consequently loved much. Luke7:36-50
David writes in Psalm 51:4, “Against you, and you alone, have I sinned.” When you understand the context, you know that David murdered a man after he had committed adultery with his wife. While the offense against both of these people was great, I believe He’s saying the greatest offense was actually against God.
The story of Joseph, who was betrayed by his brothers and ended up saving and blessing their lives. “What you intended for evil, God intended for good.” – Genesis 50:20 (The whole story begins in Genesis 37)
Parable of the Unforgiving Debtor: A king forgave a HUGE debt of one person, and that person went on to demand repayment of a much smaller debt. It didn’t end well for him. (That’s how it is when we receive God’s incredible forgiveness and refuse to extend forgiveness to someone else.) – Matthew 18:21-25
Jesus said, “If anyone causes one of these little ones—those who believe in me—to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea.” –Matthew 18:6 Proverbs 18:5 says, “It is not good to be partial to the wicked and so deprive the innocent of justice.” I can trust that God takes child abuse and justice very seriously and He will judge it fairly. That’s His job, not mine. I am free to trust His justice and obey His command to forgive.
[UPDATE: I realize this is a really long post, so if you don’t have time to read but are still curious, here’s an audio recording of the same thing. If you have kids around, you may want to browse through this post first to decide if it’s something appropriate for them to hear.]
I’ve decided to share something very personal, something I’ve never shared publicly before. I’m not one to dwell on the past—I’m not there anymore—but, there are some wounds from the past that carry into the present, and I have a few.
You’ve probably noticed many of my songs seem to stem from deep pain. I’ve found great comfort and healing in some dark places, and sharing it in my music has helped me move on.
But there’s something that’s eaten at me for years that I’ve never before had courage to share on such a grand scale.
I struggled immensely writing this. Why do I have to say something? Why can’t I just heal quietly about something that has—quite frankly—embarrassed me most of my adult life?
I don’t fully know why I need to speak up, only that I do.
Every time I try to heal on my own without being completely honest about my story and the real pain behind some of my songs, I can tell I’m holding back. I feel completely restrained. People have noticed, too.
I’ve wanted to scream so many times and just let the truth ring out, but each time fear presses its hands deep on my shoulder and I’m silenced once again. Shame cozies up to me there too.
It’s time to put fear and shame back in their place.
So here it goes…
I’ve struggled with depression throughout much of my life, the culmination of which seemed to take place in my teenage years. I didn’t know whom to confide in with those emotions, so I kept many of them to myself.
The summer going into my freshman year of high school, I decided to try self-harm as a means of expressing my pain. The very first time I hurt myself at fourteen, someone knew within days.
That someone was an adult, someone I looked up to, a leader at church and high school, and a friend of my family. She suspected I’d hurt myself and it was confirmed. After promising I’d never do it again, I begged her not to tell anyone. So she didn’t.
I look back at that single act of silence as a turning point for me. I’ll forever wonder what would’ve happened if I’d gotten help sooner, if that person had acted as a responsible adult in the role she was given instead of the one she wanted. For a year and a half I hurt myself regularly, this young woman knew within days, and she never told anyone. Instead, she tried to help me herself. It quickly grew into a codependent child-adult “friendship.”
But that’s only part of a very complicated puzzle which transformed into a number of blows to my heart. The really difficult truth is…
I was sexually abused through most of my high school years, and I didn’t even know it.
My sexual abuser was this same adult “friend” I had begun confiding in about my depression and self-harm at fourteen. But since the majority of our friendship revolved around God and the Bible, I genuinely believed everything else was part of that “spiritual friendship.” Besides, it took years before the friendship developed into something physical.
All abuse is complicated; my story is no exception. But even for sex abuse, this story doesn’t get told too often. I know my circumstances have happened to other people—I’ve met at least two girls who can relate. But we usually stay quiet because our stories don’t fit the mold of “sexual abuse.”
In fact, until I was a high school leader with the exact age difference (in reverse) with some of the girls in my small group, I had always taken responsibility for the events which took place during my adolescence.
I realized as a youth leader that as much as I loved those girls and would die for them to be healthy and happy, I would NEVER do some of the things that were done to me in the name of “love” or “Christianity.” I also realized that if anyone in my position did those things to my high school girls, I’d have the police throw them in jail as quickly as possible, and I would spend the rest of my life reminding those sweet girls that the adult was 100% responsible—not a 15 to 17-year-old high school student.
Yet for some reason it was difficult for me to process I wasn’t at fault when it was me who was the “victim.” I always felt like the exception to that rule and felt an unbearable amount of shame. I guess that’s just the nature of sexual abuse, because I’ve heard similar feelings from every other survivor I’ve spoken with.
There are SO many reasons why I’ve felt shamed into silence, I can’t list them all here. But I don’t want to protect this person anymore by being quiet, nor do I want her actions to define me.
I want people who enjoy my songs to know why I’ve held back, and to know I’m not holding back anymore. I want those who see my passion for organizations like Fighting For Me to know why I’m so deeply moved into action. I want some of my friends and family—who had to watch me go from free and bubbly to chained and timid—to finally get some insight as to why, and to be a part of my journey as I explore this new freedom. Mostly, I would love for people who have experienced similar situations to know they weren’t at fault, they’re not alone, and their story isn’t so unique nobody could understand.
What I’m about to do is something I never could’ve done without the strength, comfort, and healing I’ve found through Jesus. It is the last thing I’d “want” to do if it weren’t for the hope of freedom not just for me but for someone else who has Googled terms tirelessly to see if ANYONE has a story like this. This will likely be uncomfortable for the reader. I’m hopeful it’s at least educational, and at best a tool towards healing for someone who needs to hear this.
Without disclosing too much, here are a few “unique” aspects of my story people don’t typically expect when they think about sexual abuse:
1. MY ABUSER WAS MY BEST FRIEND. I wanted this person in my life. Anyone who knew me then knows how close I was to this woman, how much I wanted her to be around. I was a very unhealthy teen—desperately looking for love and comfort, some sort of nurturing. I found it in her, so I did everything I could to protect what I believed was the best thing that had ever happened to me.
As a young teen who already struggled with depression, I was SO blind; I could not see that my self-harm and suicidal tendencies were amplified and even spurred on at times as a result of this codependent “friendship.” All I knew was she was my best friend, and she happened to be an adult. Or, rather, that I unfortunately happened to be a teenager. I hated that my age made people dislike our friendship and couldn’t wait to grow up so people would stop talking about it.
2. NOTHING VIOLENT EVER TOOK PLACE. I didn’t know why certain things happened, but I have very few memories of saying “no” out loud. Some of the events were guised as medical help, so it wasn’t even obviously “sexual” to me. I sometimes refer to my story as “the mildest case of sexual abuse” because it honestly doesn’t compare to so many horrific stories I’ve heard. But that doesn’t mean it wasn’t legally or emotionally sexual abuse.
Did you know an adult making out with a minor is sexual abuse? I didn’t learn that til I started working with Fighting For Me. Until then, all I knew was the moment I got home after the first time it happened at 15, I made myself a concoction of poison and started chugging. I felt disgusting, betrayed, and such intense shame I didn’t want to live.My abuser drove down to my neighborhood, met me in a park so my parents wouldn’t know we were seeing each other, and tried to diffuse it on her own. She apologized and promised it wouldn’t happen again, but of course it did—almost immediately. And it got worse.
Eventually I became numb to all those alarms going off in my head.
3. I WAS SEXUALLY ABUSED BY A YOUNG WOMAN. Aren’t sexual predators supposed to be creepy old men? Not young women in youth leadership! But my own experience has taught me females of all ages can hurt children, too.
This isn’t an official statistic, but of the closest people in my life who have opened up to me about being sexually abused, almost all of them have been abused by both men AND women.
4. MY SEXUAL ABUSER WAS THE SAME SEX AS I AM. Oh the stigma that comes with that—especially in Christian circles. When I was being sexually abused, I was 100% convinced it was out of friendship. (More on that later.) I genuinely believed other friends just weren’t as close as we were. (In hindsight, that’s probably pretty accurate. We were alarmingly close to the point where even people my age were concerned.)
When I finally ditched the friendship completely, I was too scared to tell anyone what had happened in case they’d think I was a lesbian and blame me for what happened. I stayed trapped in my mind for years to avoid that suspicion. When I finally did open up, most people were kind and supportive, but you better believe some people asked! Never mind the trembling voice, shaking legs, or sweaty palms as I disclose the scariest secret of my life—let’s discuss how this may or may not have affected my sexual preferences. (I survived, but please don’t do that to anyone!) Sexual abuse where perpetrator and victim are of the same sex is more common than you may think. As with any sexual abuse scenario, any and all shame belongs to the abuser, NEVER the victim.
5. THE WHOLE THING WAS SUCH A MIND GAME. This person was in my head so strongly. I wasn’t really given an explanation as to why things happened, but I came to understand through subtle cues that much was done out of “friendship” or “concern” for my health. It was never mentioned again. I was never told to keep what we did quiet; I chose silence to protect my best friend.
In her own way, she made sure I knew to pretend nothing ever happened, either out of denial or manipulation. For example, when she got a boyfriend she told me she was nervous because she’d never kissed anyone before…🤔 You can imagine my confusion, but I could tell by the way she said it I needed to play along. And when the song “I kissed a girl” came out I took it as a lesson that other straight girls had also kissed their friends, so maybe this wasn’t so weird. I told her I thought it was catchy. She got a disgusted look on her face and asked, “Why would you want to sing about kissing a girl?” I knew I had to pretend nothing had happened, and I was left as a child to try to figure out WHY it happened.
But it wasn’t just crazy confusing that way. I was emotionally unhealthy and immature paired with someone perfectly willing to manipulate my trust in many ways. My abuser honestly controlled or strongly influenced just about everything else I did or believed. We talked almost incessantly every single day via e-mail, instant messaging, phone calls, and text throughout my entire adolescent years. She helped convince me that nobody else loved me like she did, that my family was always wrong, that most of my friends my age were weird and immature.
I didn’t just want to be her friend—I wanted to be like her in every way. My identity was washed over with hers and nothing about her actions discouraged that wildly unhealthy pattern. When I couldn’t be exactly like her, my insecurity flared even more. Eventually I turned into a controlling psycho, equally impulsive and manipulative. We fought all the time.
6. I MADE RIDICULOUS EXCUSES FOR WHY THIS BEHAVIOR OCCURRED. My abuser was in college while I was in high school and she had ALL the power. I really was just a kid trying to sort through it all. I justified EVERYTHING she did that was wrong because I couldn’t possibly believe she would hurt me on purpose. I blamed and condemned myself because I could never blame the “only person who loved me.” What would that mean for me?
Since no explanation was given to me and I couldn’t possibly believe it was because my best friend was an unhealthy person who was “used by the devil” as she once told me after I confronted her—I came to bizarre conclusions:
“Maybe she’s never seen a body other then her own and she needs to practice for athletic training.”
“Well, I guess this is better than a doctor examining me because I wouldn’t want them to touch me this closely—but I can trust her.”
“Maybe the high testosterone levels that cause her hair to be dark and thick on her face and other areas makes her do this.”
“Maybe it’s my fault she kissed me because I had talked about kissing my Jr. High boyfriend.” (Never mind the fact that I said “no” as I pulled away crying, and was then “comforted” by more of the same behavior.)
“Maybe I accidentally spurred this on by asking [this] question.”
“Maybe this is because we are such good friends, and other good friends don’t have mature friendships like us.”
Nothing about my reasoning made much sense—It was the thought process of a manipulated child.
7. MY ABUSER WAS WELL-LIKED IN SOCIAL CIRCLES. This woman was highly involved in both my school and church communities. At first nobody suspected anything. She served in ministry with her friends, some of whom she’d known since childhood. Her mom worked at my high school, the same school my abuser had graduated from years previously, and where her brothers were also students the years I attended.
I remember her pulling me out of church youth group to talk one-on-one. She would visit me at my high school campus without having to sign in and out like every other adult. She even wrote me a “late excuse” note when we had talked past the lunch bell (probably her trying to encourage me in my depression, as this was a constant part of our conversations.) She was NOT authorized to sign for me but that teacher accepted her note, probably because both of our families had notoriety in this school.
8. VISIBLE RED FLAGS WERE JUST THE TIP OF THE ICEBERG. As our mismatched friendship grew closer and closer, adults in position of power DID see red flags; some even suspected the worst. I found out recently my abuser was asked to step down from church ministry as a result of our weird attachment. The youth pastor even felt compelled to ask her if she’d ever touched me, which she denied. My parents were never notified of this information, nor was I questioned about our friendship.
Meanwhile I was reserved, quiet, extremely timid, insecure, and emotional. We were constantly talking or together; she’d even come to the homes of friends my age when I was hanging out with them. And because I felt incomplete without her (textbook codependency), I was glad when she came. Many noticed she was “weirdly possessive of me.” These and other eery clues I refer to as the “tip of the iceberg” rubbed some people the wrong way. Even my high school peers were creeped out and would warn me about her.
If what you see is odd or suspicious, you don’t want to know what goes on behind closed doors. I don’t hold grudges for the many parties who failed to protect me, but I do wish more people felt empowered to go with their gut, especially when it comes to protecting children.
9. “SPECIAL CIRCUMSTANCES” WERE NOT COINCIDENTAL. For so long I attributed what happened between me and this person as a “special circumstance.” I truly believed that I was mutually responsible, that “one thing accidentally led to another” because we were particularly loving and close. But looking back, I realize that every “one thing” was placed there and initiated by a person with significantly more age, power, and control than I had. It didn’t seem that way at the time because I was a teenager and quite naïve, but now it’s startlingly obvious.
I don’t know why a college athlete planning her career was interested in hanging out with a 13-year-old girl going through a Jr. High breakup, but the grooming process began there. She could drive, work, and enjoy a life without parental curfew while I was battling acne and getting braces. There was incredible manipulation and building of trust before it was finally betrayed again and again. She began the process of long hugs, holding hands, cuddling, holding me and then telling me it’s what close friends do when I had questions—for over a year before it became blatantly wrong.
While I don’t believe she intended to abuse me, her lack of healthy boundaries, perverted view of what it means to love, warped understanding of mentorship, and confusion as to who the real Savior is ultimately led her to cross one line after another. Eventually it crossed over into codependency and sexual abuse.
10. THE SCRIPT EVENTUALLY FLIPPED. At first I was uncomfortable with things, but I got to the point where I needed it to feel close. I felt desired when she’d hold me, and when she didn’t, I felt worthless. I learned to rely on that touch to feel like I had some sort of value. I was always confused by it, but I trusted that, nonetheless, this was love.
Eventually I started initiating things to feel loved again—a detail that haunted me for years after I terminated the friendship. (I’ve had to remind myself again and again that it’s always the adult’s job to say no even if a teen or child initiates something. I also remember that I wouldn’t have ever initiated anything if the groundwork hadn’t already been laid that this was an acceptable way to show love.)
It’s been a battle not to judge myself for parts of my story, or minimize the events and resulting pain. So many younger children were completely helpless in their sexual abuse. There are people who hated their abusers and tried to avoid them as much as possible. But that wasn’t my story. Convinced this was the only person who really cared about me, I would’ve put up with ANYTHING in order to keep my EVERYTHING. I did whatever I could to make sure I was “special” to her.
11. IT STOPPED INEXPLICABLY. Just before I turned 18, all the physical stuff mysteriously stopped—a detail that can haunt me if I start questioning why. Shortly after that, I was finally convinced by another church leader that our friendship was emotionally and spiritually unhealthy. When I took a step back from the constant communication and began listening to God’s voice over hers, the friendship completely unraveled and I experienced what was to this day the most excruciating season of my life. The manipulation and games that were played with my heart during this “breakup” of sorts was enough to make me feel God hated me. In reality, God loved me; but the person who had replaced Him in my heart all those years was acting cruel.
When it was all said and done, I had no idea I had been sexually abused. But the events which took place throughout my teen years haunted me every single day. I would get waves of shame that would debilitate me. I remember thinking, “I can’t believe it’s been [6, 7, 8] years and not a single day has passed when I haven’t remembered.” Flashbacks and nightmares were routine. I even begged God to let me get into a traumatic accident that would wipe out that part of my memory.
I gradually cut off all my friends and teachers from high school, anyone who had ties to my abuser in an attempt to avoid news of what she was doing, or people asking if we still hung out, and why not? Her name became an instant trigger, sending every nerve in my body on full alert. There are places I’ve refused to set foot as a grown adult in case—by some random chance—we’d both be there.
Time passed, life moved on, but I was held hostage by a person I hadn’t spoken to in years.
For much of my adult life, I’ve lived with a seatbelt grabbing me whenever I’d get too crazy or free. I’ve tried to fly with shackles on my ankles and could only rise so high before being jerked back down. It’s time to let that all go.
Healing from wounds this severe doesn’t come from a public announcement. What you won’t understand from this post is that I have done the vulnerable, painful, and deep work to allow mending in this area, most of which came from going to God with the mess. This post is just the next step in my journey towards healing, and I’m taking it.
I want to be me, to be honest, to be FREE as the person I was created to be.
When I initially wrote this blog over a year and a half ago, I was just starting to believe I’m worth that kind of life. Now I know it to be true.
I’m sharing this post for many reasons, but I think most of all I wrote it for me. To rediscover a voice that was silenced at fourteen, fifteen, sixteen, seventeen, and every year after the abuse stopped… and to take the next step toward being the person God intended me to be. I believe sharing this post will be healing for me as I renounce fear and shame, and I believe there are more survivors out there who will connect with my story to find another layer of freedom in their own journeys.
I am a work in progress but also a walking testimony that God never leaves anyone in their broken state. He has provided the right people to talk to, the best friends to support me, and the constant truth of His Word through all of this. I have never been forsaken, and I have come to know a compassion and kindness in Him I didn’t know existed.
If you want to hear more about the incredible healing I’ve discovered, I’m happy to share that part of my story with you. If you’re uncomfortable reaching out but are still curious, browse through the songs I’ve shared on this site and on Youtube–they’re about hope and healing. I have more blog posts to come, and a debut album set to release later this year filled with all original songs (subscribe for updates on that project). Many of the songs on the album stem directly from healing these and other deep wounds. Better yet, crack open a Bible and see for yourself the beautiful ways God heals. He offers that same freedom to everyone.
If you were sexually abused, or if any person ever made you feel uncomfortable and you’re unsure if it was abuse–it’s NOT your fault. You have every right to be angered and hurt by this injustice. And thankfully, there IS healing available.
If you’ve been sexually abused and need a community to help you through this fight, please check out Fighting For Me, a non-profit organization which provides FREE professional counseling to men, women, and children (and their families) affected by sexual abuse. I am on the board of directors, but I do not handle patients. Your email/phone call will be completely confidential. If you want to get better informed about the INSANELY prevalent crime of sexual abuse, Fighting For Me and RAINN are excellent resources.
From the bottom of my heart, thank you for reading this.
2015 was a year full of blessings, difficulties, and A LOT of growth. I believe there are far better things ahead than what we leave behind, and I’m planning for 2016 to be even greater.
But I’ve realized there’s one enemy that has and will continue to rob me of fully living if I remain paralyzed by its power—FEAR. That sucker has messed with me my whole life! I’m tired of my fears inter-fear-ing! (I know that was painful for some of you to read, and I’m sorry I had to do it anyway.)
Fear has inhibited me from the things I love most, the things that make me me… Sharing songs I’ve written. Talking to strangers. Exploring new stores and restaurants alone.
Fear has also been an entryway for shame to beat me up when I cave to it, which in turn completely freezes me from making any sort of progress in the future, resulting in me feeling pretty miserable.
So today and this year I’ve decided that I’m done. My only New Year’s resolution is to do something that scares me every day.
I can’t make fear disappear, but I can decide that it will no longer rule my life. Fear may roar louder than ever this year—I almost expect it to. I plan on choosing courage anyway. In 2016 I’m going to be intentional about noticing fears when they’re out of place and conquering them.
I hope that a year from now I can say I’m braver, but even if I’m just as afraid of silly little things 366 days from today, at least I’ll have tasted freedom from the ice cold grasp of fear. At least I’ll be able to say, “I lived.”
So when misplaced fear shows up uninvited in 2016, I will do my thing anyway… at least once a day! 😉
And if you’re even half as fed up with fear dictating the course of your life as I am, I encourage you to do the same. Let’s live!
I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. -John 10:10b
Remember that one sleepless night I mentioned a few weeks ago? The one where I admitted just how crazy I am deep inside, and how I stayed up from midnight til dawn because I was housesitting alone and scared?
Well, I wanted to follow up…
The next morning I started blaming my very protective upbringing. I’ve been raised to fear. I wish I were like some of my other friends who were educated but given confidence. Now I’m stuck like this.
No. I felt God gently directing me. You are not going to blame your childhood anymore for the decisions you’re making as an adult.
He was right! I’ve spent so much of the last year searching for the root of my insecurities and it’s easy to point the finger and give up. But we don’t have to be the product of our childhoods; we can choose a different path as adults. We can choose to pursue healing and overcome the obstacles placed in our lives by circumstances and other people.
No more excuses.
I was determined to beat this. Later that day I enjoyed a light swim in the pool with my younger brother and felt complete tranquility.
What was I even thinking last night? I’m safe—I don’t know anywhere else I’d feel so relaxed. I’ll sleep just fine tonight.
Hours passed, my brother left, and the sun went down. As darkness crept in, so did my fear.
Are you serious!? Again? No…
But I could already feel it everywhere. My hope of overcoming lifelong “worst case scenario” fears was dwindling—and quickly. It was getting later and I was terrified of never sleeping again. I decided to try a friend who had sincerely encouraged me to call anytime. Because I’d noticed the 3 AM timestamps on her Facebook posts, I figured she meant it.
I gave her a call and fought the shame urging me to be silent. “I’m ok… this is really dumb… it’s nothing really… but I’m staying alone and I’m scared.” There. I said it. The statement sounded ridiculous, but it was true.
Grace met me through the words of my dear friend on the other end. “That’s not dumb, that’s real.”
She told me I wasn’t alone and that she had once learned how to sleep by herself in the midst of a crazy neighborhood with very dark nights. She encouraged me that this fear was a spiritual attack—this refreshing housesitting gig was a gift only God could grant me and the devil was trying to take it away. Satan can’t snatch what God has given someone, but he can try to scare them into forfeiting their gift.
My friend instructed me, “Anoint the doors of that home with oil and claim Psalm 92 over your situation. Blast praise and worship music, sleep with the light on—whatever you have to do to feel safe—and know that you are.”
As we hung up I felt a boost of courage. The fear was smaller, and an ember of faith was burning within me. Hope permeated my soul and for the first time in forever I had total confidence that I would destroy this fear—once and for all. I brought my frankincense oil, Bible, and phone to play “Christ be all around me” and approached the first door.
“Lord, this represents the protection You’ve already promised me.” As I smeared the oil on one doorpost after another, I thanked God for the faithfulness He’d proven my entire life. I expressed gratitude for the gift of this temporary home and His promise to keep me safe. After covering each door, frankincense was soaked in my fingertips and the home was filled with its royal scent.
Although peace and protection were always available to me, they finally seemed tangible. Inspired by this new awareness, I place the oil on my chest and prayed, “Lord, seal and protect my heart. Keep me from fear.”
The scent of frankincense had already become a calming reminder of protection, so I placed one small drop on my wrist and climbed into bed.
That night I slept with a tiny flashlight nearby and a worship playlist on repeat. I woke up twice a little panicked. Both times, like a child looking for comfort, I smelled the oil on my wrist and was immediately soothed. That simple smell triggered peace by reminding me that the house was surrounded by the God of Protection. I fell back into a deep sleep.
It’s been more than three weeks since that night, and I’ve been sleeping soundly. This blog post is a testament of victory Christ has claimed in my heart and mind. Never in my life have I felt so much peace, confidence, or security.
Sure, we’ve all been influenced by our upbringings. But I am finding increasing joy in being influenced by my Heavenly Father who never intended for us to live in fear. He created us for freedom, and by His grace I’m one step closer to that today.
I truthfully didn’t imagine resolution so quickly when I wrote the last post. I expected to reference that blog months or years down the line. Little did I know my Father wanted me free even more than I did! My natural response is praise and gratitude to the One who doesn’t leave us broken. Thank You, Jesus, for continuing to set me free!