whether or not Your lips move

You speak to me

this is for you. July 22, 2011

Today I defend my thesis.

It took me a few months to write it… I have been preparing to write it for about 2 years… and my whole life has led up to it.

Today I will be asked why I chose the topic I did. And this is my answer, the one I must write out right now while I can’t stop the tears and can’t speak coherently. I’ll have to save coherent for later when I’m on the phone with the graduate research council.

Why did I write “Child Sexual Abuse Prevention: Does Prevention Exist for the Potential Molester?”

I wrote it for every friend and family member I have who was molested, sexually abused, touched inappropriately by an adult or another child, or exposed to pornography at an early age. I wrote it for those who have entrusted me with their stories of these incidents, so many now that I have lost count. I wrote it for their broken hearts and stolen childhoods. I wrote it for every adult who has never, ever told anyone what happened to them, because they aren’t sure that it wasn’t normal for everybody and they aren’t sure that it is really that big of a deal. I wrote it for those who have told, and who have been disbelieved. They suffer depths of nightmares that will take years to unravel if they seek help again at all.

I wrote it so parents can be educated and know how to protect and educate their children. I wrote it so those parents can know that if their children are molested, sometimes it isn’t their fault as parents if they have done everything they possibly knew to do. Some parents need to know that they did the best they could with what they had. Other parents need to be arrested and rehabilitated so they can learn how to be parents.

I wrote it so that maybe someday we can stop the cycle of abuse that exists in this nation, and so that these evil deeds can be brought to light. So that counselors, social workers, law enforcement officers, law makers, judges, lawyers, doctors, teachers, and ministers can perhaps be educated about the unique and devastating effects of sexual abuse for children, so they can save a few from the destruction of their sexuality and self-concept. I wrote it so that more research will be done into the mind of the molester and what can be done to prevent recidivism but more importantly, to prevent the first offense. I wrote it so that maybe someday curriculum to educate children and adults about abuse prevention will be taught in multiple venues and in multiple sessions, so that every parent and child is equipped. I wrote it so maybe someone will investigate the underground pedophile rings and enabling groups that exist in this country, the ones that operate online and in the sex industry. Especially the ones that are protected by the ACLU and the first amendment.

I wrote my thesis to discover if something could have been done to prevent me from ever having been molested. What signs were those teens and adults showing that someone else should have recognized? What should have been done? What help could they have sought and at what stage of their progression into child molesting? The people around me did the best they could with what they knew, but these persons still slipped by. These were people they trusted. They were very good deceivers, and now I know some of the reasons why–they had been down a long road of damaging experiences themselves, they likely had some psychological illness, they had slowly traded in rational thought for distorted thinking, and they had become skilled manipulators. And nobody ever made them get help.

“As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive.”

So, why did I write this thesis? I wrote it for me. But even more so, I wrote it for you. The victims who are still living as victims. The victims who are living as survivors. The people who love those victims and survivors. The children who right now are at risk.

And yes, even for those who fear they may become child molesters. If you fear it, this is a sign there is still time for you to get help.

Was writing this thesis painful? Yes. There were things I read in research that literally made me sick. But was it worth it? Yes.

“For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith.”

This is for you.

 

Advertisements
 

I shouldn’t be alive. September 25, 2010

I’ve been fairly open about my childhood experiences and past traumas among friends, family, and church family, but not so much online. I don’t think it is wise to put too much about yourself out there for the whole world to have access to. But the more I learn about child development for my master’s degree and the deeper I dig into different types of research, the more apparent it becomes that my past experiences will play a part in my destiny.

Without airing the gory details, I will let you know that I was neglected and abused as a child. Some of that abuse was sexual, and it happened more than once and came from more than one adult. I have always had vivid memories of parts of that abuse; God has mercifully allowed my subconscious to block the rest of it. I went through most of my life overcompensating for the feelings of powerlessness, fear, abandonment, and helplessness that stemmed from those experiences. I “learned” that being alive meant being in constant danger on some level and that I was on my own. Later I would learn that, too, was a lie. Praise God that He had His hand on me from an early age and had instilled in me a love for Jesus and His Word practically from the time I learned to talk– otherwise you’d likely be reading the blog of a staunch atheist.

People with a past like mine are several times more likely to commit suicide, have 30 or more sexual partners, be drug addicts or alcoholics, and be abusers themselves. If I’m doing my reading right, the “post traumatic stress” sexual abuse victims experience can parallel what war veterans experience. As I look at these statistics of what is “normal” for someone with my experiences, I become more convinced that there is only one reason I am alive. One reason I have an ounce of compassion in me. One reason I am able to rise above all the (insert choice word here) I have gone through in my almost 30 years. And that reason is JESUS. God’s love and grace.

I think that it would be easy, and even expected, for me to use all the trauma of my past as a REASON not to believe in a loving, protecting God. I bet some people would expect it and maybe even think I had a right to it. But you know what? God didn’t MAKE those people do those things to me. Did He allow it? Yes. For only reasons He knows and perhaps has yet to reveal. But, as I live, I trust Him. I can’t always explain it. But I do.

I have had personal, close encounters with the living God that are undeniable. Beyond and through what I consider to be the total truth of the Scriptures, I have personally experienced peace that is totally and completely illogical in the face of my past. I choose to forgive the people who molested and hurt me, even though there are days I would rather not. I am not living in denial of the things that have happened to me. I am forced to deal with that reality nearly every day. The only explanation for my being alive and my being effective in any sort of way is because the power of God is in me through the Holy Spirit.

I still have problems. I still struggle with this stuff. There have been times that all I can do is scream bloody murder because I can’t handle “it,” whatever “it” is. I may always wrestle that demon of depression, but after each match it stays down for the count a little longer. Studies show that I may always have overactive fear responses and not handle stress as well as a “normal” person, which can lead to chronic health problems (anyone who knows me can see that is true). But I know that ultimately, I win. Because God wins. And I’m not talking “end times” here, although that’s obviously true. But I mean in the here and now– in whatever length of years God chooses to give me on this hunk of dirt we call earth. I have to cling to this– that He has a purpose beyond what I can understand for all the awful things I have experienced in my life. That He will use me in someone’s life– yours– to point the way to Him.

How the traumas I experienced will play out in my destiny… I don’t know what it’s going to look like. I know I have a choice in the matter though, at least as far as my attitude and response. What Satan intended for evil, God can use for good. I can allow the memories and facts to weigh me down and render me useless. Or I can use them to help myself and others.

I’m gonna have to go with the latter.

 

Harmonious Relationships July 27, 2010

Just now I was reading 1 Peter 3:8, which says followers of Christ are supposed to have unity of mind, or as some translations put it, be “harmonious.” I don’t know about you, but a lot of times it can feel like we’re not even singing off the same page of music, let alone singing in harmony!

I struggle a lot when I realize I have a difference of opinion, taste, or thought than a friend. I like peace and really dislike arguments. I struggle even more when I realize that there is someone in my life that just doesn’t like me and isn’t all that interested in being friends.

This verse helps me feel a little better, though. Harmony is all about complementary notes and often what notes aren’t played are just as important as the ones that are. It doesn’t mean you hate the other notes. It just means they don’t need to be played at this moment in time.

I wonder what life would be like if I applied this to my everyday relationships. I could take some stress off myself with trying to “play every note” all at once–that probably ends up sounding like a great big mess. Instead I can focus on this chord here, and this one here. So these individuals aren’t interested in interacting with me on this. That’s OK. Maybe next time. So this person doesn’t want to hear my thoughts on this subject. No problem; maybe just bad timing.There might be certain topics or people that I just need to let take a rest.

So maybe it’s OK when we don’t all agree on something. As long as we are being sympathetic, loving each other, and being kind and humble, maybe we can work out the significant differences and just let the rest fade.

Finally, all of you, live in harmony with one another; be sympathetic, love as brothers, be compassionate and humble.
1 Peter 3:8 (NIV)

To sum up, all of you be harmonious, sympathetic, brotherly, kindhearted, and humble in spirit…
1 Peter 3:8 (NASB)

 

I want my crayons back June 28, 2010

So lately I have had this indescribable desire to be creative. I am a creative person (all people are in some way or another) but there are certain things I am not so great at, like painting. But even in college I would get a coloring book and crayons now and then, especially around finals!

Recently with my Mosaic ladies we had a creativity workshop led by two lovely, beautiful, and insanely creative friends, Lisa and Trae. They pointed out how our Creator God empowered us with the ability to create. Trae read a quote out of a book that really hit me. Basically it said that whenever we get restless and bored with life, it may be our inner Kindergartener saying we want our crayons back. We want to be encouraged and empowered to create, like we were when we were kids. Why did we ever stop being taught to imagine?

It’s interesting. I used to love to write stories. Even from a very young age, Anne of Green Gables was a hero of mine for many reasons, but mainly because she wrote stories and was a teacher. When I was in elementary school, I would write these crazy tales about my hamster’s secret nightlife. After my family and I were in bed, she would go on adventures to the animal mall, and she had fabulous accessories she’d don before heading out. And of course the stories were illustrated.

I can’t tell you how many ‘books’ I wrote as a young teenager. Spiral notebooks were my constant companion. Admittedly, many of my tales were more like retellings of whatever Babysitters Club Super Special I’d read most recently, only cast with my friends and me and slight adjustments to the plot. But I still had a great time writing them. I never finished them, though.

Then came high school AP English. Four years of it. By the time I graduated my desire to write had all but disappeared. I would write poetry here and there, especially when I was depressed, but no more stories. No more hamster escapades. No more outrageous summer vacations for me and my friends. No more hours wiled away with daydreaming and imagining and pretending to be Anne Shirley. The creativity in that area had been sucked away. Wilted like a flower long neglected.

So. I’ve been rediscovering this passion for stories. I don’t know where it will take me. I guess I’ll let you know. I read so very little fiction (only about 3 or 4 writers). But more and more I have learned that fiction is almost truer than nonfiction, if that makes any sense. There are things you can say and do with a “fiction” story that communicate more truth than any “nonfiction” way of writing ever could.

I’m finding other creative outlets as well. It kills me that I don’t have enough time or energy to do musicals right now, but I will return to that stage. I’ve nurtured a growing interest in fashion design ever since Project Runway season 1 aired (and I’ve watched every episode since) and am hoping to learn how to thread my sewing machine soon. I’ve become my own (quite amateur) makeup artist over the years, and recently fell in love with the book Making Faces. I learned to decorate cakes when I was a manager at Cold Stone, and am getting to take a fondant class in a couple of weeks. I started scrapbooking at least a year ago (and true to form have not yet finished even one album).

I keep uncovering all these reminders of my fleeting attempts at different creative endeavors, and fight the temptation to get down on myself for not finishing or excelling at any of it. But my how fun it all has been.

I think I got a couple of my crayons back.

 

this is fibromyalgia. this is my reality. March 5, 2010

Filed under: education,fibromyalgia,stuff I've learned — Ash @ 11:29 pm

Re-posted from my facebook notes.

I have been getting lots of questions on what it means to have fibromyalgia syndrome, or FMS or FM for short. I thought I’d take the opportunity to write a few notes about FMS, what it is like having it, and what you can do to support those you know who have it.

WHAT IS FMS?
There is still a lot of research going on, but it is “a disorder of central processing with neuroendocrine/neurotransmitter dysregulation.” Basically this means a person with FMS has a central nervous system that processes pain and other sensations differently from most people. Research is also finding “increased levels of substance P in the spinal cord, low levels of blood flow to the thalamus region of the brain, HPA axis hypofunction, low levels of serotonin and tryptophan, and abnormalities in cytokine function.”

WHAT IS IT LIKE TO HAVE FMS? YOU LOOK FINE.
Everyone is different, but here’s how you might be able to imagine it. Think of a time you were in the most unbearable pain of your life. Dial it down a few notches. Then imagine having that pain every day, all day, in at least one part of your body, normally a muscle group. It may be in a different place from day to day, but it doesn’t go away so it eventually exhausts you, which is a major bummer because FMS already messes up your sleep cycle. Without restorative sleep and with being in pain most of the time, your brain goes into a “fog” that causes you to forget things, be dizzy a lot, mix up your words, and have a terribly difficult time concentrating on anything. Emotional breakdowns are inevitable and you have to consciously fight every minute of every day to maintain a positive attitude.

It gets even better. Sometimes you also have debilitating migraines or wake up in the night with your limbs numb. Sometimes you have “pins and needles” in your hands or feet. Sometimes the ringing in your ears gets so bad you can’t hear. Sometimes you have to wrap yourself in a blanket in an air-conditioned room because you’re so cold.

HOW DID YOU GET IT?
Who knows. There are a lot of studies trying to figure this out. Basically, no one really knows why some people get it and others don’t. They think there may be a genetic link. For some people FMS comes on slowly. Normally there is a “trigger” of some sort like an illness, injury, or some other trauma to the body.

WHAT ELSE DOES IT AFFECT?
Among other things:
– the ability to handle stress like most people
– the ability to work “normal” hours, or work at all for some
– it takes a LOT of time to take care of yourself and you often feel guilty about it because it means you can’t take care of others
– it takes you longer than a normal person to wake up and get ready in the morning because of the pain and stiffness
– you can’t really “commit” to being anywhere because you don’t know how you might feel that day
– sometimes you can’t go places everyone else can (for instance, I can’t be anywhere near cigarette smoke or spend much time around people whose clothes/hair smell like smoke)
– the way people treat you; some don’t realize (or care) that you need a little extra grace and patience from them
– you get tired of talking about the way you feel
– you have to tell people you’re never going to “feel better soon”

WHAT CAN YOU DO ABOUT IT?
There are a few FDA approved meds out there. For me, I’ve made the decision recently to stop taking the one I was on, because there isn’t strong evidence that it won’t affect a fetus and we want to have kids soon. Warm water therapy, getting plenty of sun, and trying to stay as warm as possible at all times can help. There is also a fine balance that must be struck between too much exercise and too little. I take a cocktail of about 14 vitamins every day to, among other things, try to help my adrenal glands with cortisol production and hope that one day I will have some energy help from that. Some people have found that eating a specific diet helps.

There is no cure for FMS.

WHAT CAN WE DO TO HELP YOU?
-Pray for me. A lot.
-Champion me. Help me to see my potential and remind me of my dreams. When I’m in a bad FMS flare (like I am now), it is really easy to forget about the things I want to do and be.
-Care about me, but try not to pity me. I am still capable of doing a lot of what I want to do. There may come a day when I can’t do much of anything, so for now I want to be given all the opportunities possible.
-Extend me a little more grace and patience than you might for “normal” people.
-Forgive me. I may get into moods that will really annoy you or do things that will disappoint you. I may have to say no to you a lot. Please realize that I only have so much energy to go around, and I HATE it when I have to spend that energy on myself. You can help me by not adding to that guilt.

For more information visit the National Fibromyalgia Association at www.fmaware.org.

 

what a girl wants January 8, 2010

Several years ago, I spent several months doing some hard praying, thinking, and soul-searching. I had finally escaped a six-year, off-and-on relationship and had decided that I’d rather be alone the rest of my life than with the wrong person. I was beginning to conclude that I should never settle for less than God’s best in any area of my life. I was starting to trust that God really had my best interests at heart and wasn’t holding out on me.

During this process, I began a list. Oh, the dreaded list. Some of you are cringing right now and about to close your browser window. I ask you to hang with me for a minute here.

Many girls’ lists are made up of things like “tall, dark, and handsome” or “drives a convertible.” There’s nothing really wrong with those things, but I want to challenge you girls to look at “the list” a little differently.

I’m kind of laughing at myself right now because it is going to sound like I’m telling you what to do, and that is just silly. But I seriously have seen this work in my own life and in other girls’ lives, too. Guys, you might get a little ticked off at me and think I’m telling all these girls to be insanely unreasonable. I ask you to spend some quiet time searching your own soul, and see if maybe you want to be the type of person I am going to describe.

I need to be clear, girls: there is no perfect guy. I know you’ve heard it a thousand times, but you really need to let that sink in. No matter how many of these qualities he has, he will eventually do or say something that hurts you. He’s human. He needs grace just like you do. Keep in mind that the things I’m about to list may look different than you thought they would. They may come in a package you didn’t think was “your type.”

You know from my other posts in this series that I don’t support unhealthy levels of intimacy (physical, emotional, or otherwise) early in a relationship. So many of the character qualities in the list below SHOULD be demonstrated in a guy BEFORE you get into a relationship with him. These things will be evidenced in his other relationships as you get to know him in a group setting.

And as you are reading through this list (and add your own things based onĀ  your personality and God’s leading), you need to evaluate yourself on each point and ask yourself how YOU are doing in becoming the person God wants you to be. It isn’t unreasonable to look for a man who is compatible with you and who has these character traits. It IS unreasonable to think you should be with him while not taking the time to prepare yourself for a man like this.

Okay. Without further adieu.

THE LIST

  • A spiritual leader. He loves God; he is someone you can look up to and learn from spiritually; has strong convictions based on God’s Word. He takes God seriously and challenges you and others to love God more each day. He prays about everything and obeys God’s direction. He forgives and extends grace whenever possible.
  • A servant leader. He loves others in practical ways; he seeks to be more selfless in his actions; he takes initiative; he is generous. He has a positive attitude.
  • A worshiper. He wants to give God his best in every situation; he lives out what he says he believes; wants to give God a good name. He wants others to know and love Jesus the way he does.
  • A hard worker. He has a good work ethic; he is a hard worker but not a workaholic; honest with finances and responsible with money. He has goals for his career and life.
  • Has integrity. He keeps his commitments and does what he says he will do; he treats all women (and men) with respect; he is real and authentic; he is honest. He is not on a search for power and he does not manipulate people.
  • Level-headed. He can handle a crisis; he knows how to argue without fighting; he is able to responsibly handle an emotionally-charged situation; he speaks the truth in love.
  • Humble and flexible. Things don’t always have to be his way; he doesn’t flee at the first sign of trouble. He can admit when he’s wrong and isn’t afraid to ask for forgiveness. He works to make things right and will try to resolve conflicts.
  • Has good friends. He is committed to a local body of Christ followers; he has meaningful relationships with other men; has accountability in his life. Those closest to him will encourage him to be the man God wants him to be.
  • Passionate. He has healthy ambition and direction; he has a vision for the future; he is confident in who he is and his gifts. He is fun to be around and you share many common interests.
  • Communicates well. He listens well and can interact with people who are not like him; he takes care with his words. He isn’t always complaining and he isn’t a bully!
  • Family-oriented. He can interact well with children; he is a team player; he is a “coach” rather than a “dictator;” not afraid to take the lead. He can see the gifts in others and encourage them to use them. If he already has children, he maintains an appropriate relationship with their mother (based on the circumstances) and you are ready to be a stepmom.
  • Sexually pure. He respects women as daughters of God and sisters in Christ; he does not attempt to interact physically with women inappropriately; if he has been sexually active in the past, he is currently demonstrating his commitment to saving sex for marriage. He has healthy boundaries in his relationships with girls. It has to be said–he won’t ask you for or expect sexual contact of any kind. He’s not a player!
  • Emotionally whole. He is mature and steady; he shows progress and commitment to overcoming significant weaknesses in his life; he knows who he is in Christ; he can handle his anger appropriately. He does not have an active addiction to drugs, alcohol, porn, etc. but is self-controlled.
  • Affectionate. He expresses his affection appropriately; he understands what his “love language” is and seeks to know others’ love languages; he is not afraid of intimacy and is willing to invest himself in a relationship. In a committed relationship, he cherishes the woman as a gift from God and is willing to sacrifice for her.
  • Has appropriate family relationships. He respects his mother but she doesn’t control his life; if he does not have a healthy family he seeks to interact with them appropriately and with grace. (Ideally, if you come from a divorced family, it is a blessing to be with a guy whose parents are still married.)
  • Looks good. You’re attracted to him; he sees his body as God’s temple; has good hygiene; he takes care of himself physically and seeks to be in good health. He does not, however, place inappropriate emphasis on his physical appearance.
  • You have compatible weaknesses. In the areas you are weak, he is strong. In the areas he is weak, you are strong. It is important to have a lot in common, but weaknesses are not one of those things.

I hope that this has helped you begin to know what God’s best is for your life in the area of relationships. Guys, I know this is a tall order. But you have what it takes. Is there a man you know who fits the description above? Ask him to hang out sometime. See if you can start to learn from him how to be this kind of man.

Girls, he is out there. If God has called you to marriage, it is not unreasonable to be looking for him to be like this. It doesn’t only happen in fairy tales. The hardest part is going to be the waiting. Don’t sell yourself short by settling for less than God’s best.

I wish I could be having this conversation with you over a cup of coffee (or more often in my case, spiced apple cider). Please tell me your stories!

 

Peripeteia January 5, 2010

Filed under: relationship with God,stuff I've learned,waiting — Ash @ 11:12 pm

I really love listening to people’s stories. It’s so fun to see God’s hand in all the little twists and turns. It seems like it’s the small things that, in hindsight, were the “peripeteia” of people’s lives. Giving bunny ears to someone. A tweet asking where to eat for dinner. A phone call, an email… things that were part of an ordinary day–maybe even part of an ordinary, lousy day. And yet these were the very things that God used to guide him or her along His path.

I wonder if perhaps this is the very reason for our going through difficult times… so that later we will be amazed and in awe of the one small thing that turned everything around. So that we would see later that it was entirely God’s doing and nothing that we orchestrated ourselves; we may have cooperated along the way but ultimately it wasn’t anything we could have cooked up on our own. At least not without totally ruining the whole thing.

One moment can change everything.