April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month

1 in 3 women and 1 in 6 men will be sexually assaulted in their lifetime.
Two thirds of assaults are committed by someone known to the victim.
Over half of sexual assaults are never reported to the police and 98% of rapists never spend a day in jail.

Pay attention.  Look out for those around you.  Educate your children, teens, and college students.  Reach out and support those who have experienced this trauma.

If you or someone you know has been sexually assaulted, you can seek help through the National Sexual Assault Online Hotline https://ohl.rainn.org/online/

I also recommend the books “Streams in the Desert” by L.B. Cowman and “Rid of My Disgrace” by Justin and Lindsey Holcomb.  I can promise you that those books were a huge aid to me.  I may have thrown them against the wall in anger and grief a few times, but overall they were the help and words I needed.

While this isn’t a subject I like to be overly public about, it is by no means one that I’ve kept completely private either.   Most of the time when I end up going somewhere public to talk about it, it’s here on this blog.   In fact, if you go to the right hand side of your screen, click on the “Categories” drop down, and select “November 7th” you’ll see that I’ve had many blog posts stem from this subject.

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I wish I could travel back in time to the girl who wrote this years ago and just give her a hug and say “It’s not alright… but you are going to be alright.”

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Ignorance On Twitter Kept Me Up All Night

My friends have gotten an earful from me about people saying “gay” as in “stupid.”
There’s a whole website dedicated to ending the derogatory use of retard(ed).
People on my campus debate all the time about who can use the N-word and who can’t.
But it’s time we talked about another word/phrase that we need to stop using.

And for those of you who just read that, rolled your eyes, and thought “People need to stop being so sensitive!”

Shut up.  Just shut up, sit down, and listen to me.

It’s time we stop joking about sexual abuse, not only joking, but trivializing it.

If you did an awesome job on a test, good job.  You did an awesome job on the test.  But no, you didn’t “rape it.”

If someone says they were raped, assaulted, abused, molested, used, etc. No matter what their character is, no matter how they present themselves, no matter how they dress, no matter how many hook ups they’ve had, no matter how many times you’ve caught them lying before… You believe them, you support them, and you find them help.  You don’t laugh about it to your friends or brush it off.

And seriously, if I hear one more trivialized comparison between a sexual remark and sexual abuse, I will throw my already-broken-laptop out the window.

Don’t understand what I’m talking about?  Let me explain…

Some students from my university put together a page where people could anonymously submit crushes and flirty remarks. Some of the comments have said things like “Jane Doe has the best butt on campus” “I’d like to ride John Smith” and “SoAndSo can pop out of a cake for me ;)”  Yes, they are sexual.  Yes, they are over-the-top.  Yes, they are inappropriate.  But the responses I’ve seen against this page have boiled my blood.

Obviously, people have spoken out against this page.  Calling it “immature” “rude” “offensive” “degrading” “disgusting” “childish” and many… MANY.. other words.  Seeing as how most of the posts on the page are silly, humorous, or things like “This guy is such a cutie” “She is so gorgeous” and seeing how even the inappropriate comments are mild… I think it is an overreaction. Out of the 54 posts on that site 12 could be stretched to be considered inappropriate.   BUT on to my point…

One dissenter of the page wrote “it is nothing less than a form of sexual abuse.” and that’s when I knew I would write this post.

Sexual abuse is “a crime to knowingly cause another person to engage in an unwanted sexual act by force or threat.”  Yes, those remarks can be considered inappropriate.  But sexually abusive?  Not a chance.  Degrading?  I wouldn’t even go there either.  Degrading is to de-grade someone, to lower them down in rank.  These comments, although inappropriate and immature, were intended to give someone a confidence boost, not to humiliate someone.  I can’t bring myself to call them degrading.  It’s just mindless people.  Not abusive.  And honestly, half of those posts were probably written by guys and their roommates about each other as jokes.

If you still stand by this idea that the people posting on the site are hypocrites and dirty pigs… and if you still think that what is being said on that site is sexually abusive.  Consider this.  Have you ever been locked in a room, pinned down, struggling to keep unfriendly hands and other body parts away from exploiting you?  I have.  I am a survivor of sexual abuse.  Survivor.  It’s a term applied to victims to honor and empower their strength to heal.  And I find it offensive that my assault gets classified in the same category as “That guy, the crazy one on the volleyball team, he can give it to me any day.”

To the person who said “it is nothing less than a form of sexual abuse,” I don’t know you.  I don’t even think we’ve ever said hi to each other.  But I will say this.  That page is MANY things less than a form of sexual abuse.  I’m not saying this to attack you or vent my anger.  I’m saying this to open people’s eyes.

I understand that the Christian community can be highly sheltered and doesn’t talk about sexual things outside of “I get to have sex because I’m married!  It’s awesome!” “Ye perverse sinners.  How dare you look at porn or quote Family Guy!” or “This is my testimony… BUT JESUS.” I would be willing to say that Christians are so afraid of how desensitized our culture is to sexuality, that they have over-sensitized themselves.  But seriously, let’s get our definitions right.  Don’t confuse stupid innuendos with sexual abuse.  Doing that trivializes the traumatic experience that someone has gone through.

Sexual abuse can tear apart families, destroy marriages, and ruin lives.  I’ve seen it cause problems for my friends and their relationships.  I’ve seen it make peers run out of classrooms sobbing from triggered memories.  I’ve seen it take over and consume my mind.  It is real.  And it is serious.

People need to understand the weight their words have.  No more talk of how your team “raped” the other team.  No more disregarding or worse, laughing at, that girl’s claims that she got molested by her date.  And no more labeling things as “sexual abuse” that are merely inappropriate.

Don’t be so quick to give something a weighty label in order to drive home your message.   You have no idea who you can hurt by doing that.

“You Wronged Me… And I’m Okay With That”

Think about that person… You know who I’m talking about.  The one you love to hate.  The best friend who back-stabbed you.  The girl who cheated on you.  The guy who didn’t care that you said “stop.”  The father who was never there for you.  The mother who would rather perfect you than love you.  Go ahead.  Think about how much it hurt.  Think about how angry it makes you.  And think about forgiving them.

Yeah, I’m going there.  Forgiving that person you can’t forgive.  Um, hello.  Welcome to my life.   This is something I’ve struggled with FOR YEARS and now I’m talking about it.

I thought about it.  I thought about all the terrible things that people have done to me.  And I realized that a lot of those people are Christians.  And those sins that were done against me, are covered by Christ’s blood and God’s grace.  Those who aren’t Christians… They could be my brothers and sisters in Christ one day and the same rule applies to them.

The worst wrongs ever done to me.  God says to them “I forgive you.  I do not hold this against you.” So why can’t I say that?  I hated thinking this.  I knew I didn’t forgive these people and yet God could.

But then I thought… I’m no saint and I’m sure anyone who has known me well enough could agree with that.  You know those people that get up in front of church/chapel/small group/etc and say “I am a sinner.  I am not perfect.” and the crowd nods and murmurs “amen” while they think about how they themselves are not perfect?   Yeah, well I’m the person that gets up, says “I am a sinner.  I am not perfect.” and every person in the crowd that knows me laughs and says “I know that’s right!”

I know I have hurt people.  I know I have wronged people.  But I also know that God has forgiven me for that, and that grace?  That undeserved gift?  That mercy?  I didn’t do anything special to earn it… and neither did those people that have wronged me.  It is completely WRONG that I should receive the gift that Christ’s death has given me, but you know what else is wrong?  The fact that I accept it for myself but don’t think it should apply to those people.

God is good, merciful, and forgiving.  Maybe I think those people shouldn’t be forgiven, but hey, neither should I.  And you know what else?  This world does not matter.  It is not what is important.  I am waiting for the better days of life to come in heaven.  And one day all the mess and crap of this world will be gone. One day, it will not matter that you hurt me and I think that is a beautiful prospect.   I cannot wait for the day that this world passes and it’s just God and His kingdom.

To all the people I’ve held grudges against… to those who apologized and never hear me utter these words… I am sorry and I forgive you.  I understand that what you did was wrong and yeah, you hurt me.  But God is greater than my pain and my hope is in Him.  I hope you have found your freedom in Him as well and that I can one day stand side by side with you and we can praise Him together.

Thinking like this has really helped me understand the cross more… It’s one thing to feel the weight of my sin and guilt, but it is a whole ‘nother thing to think that through the cross that person that wronged me the most can be made my brother/sister in Christ – that we can be reconciled together as forgiven creations of God.  Like seriously, holy cow God is good.  I would love nothing more to be able to look that person in the eye and not only be able to say “I forgive you” but also be able to rejoice with them in the fact that Christ has forgiven them as well.   God is good ALL THE TIME and I’m glad He does not turn people away who ask for His forgiveness like I have.

You know, I once thought “There’s no way I could ever forgive them for what they did to me…” but silly me I forgot that “I can do ALL things through CHRIST who strengthens me.”

It’s Been Another Year

November the 7th.  Back again.  I was hoping that this year I wouldn’t think about it, and that one day I’d be like “Oh… isn’t that day coming up?”  Only to discover it had passed several days ago.

Only it didn’t.

I was sitting in class.  I wrote down the date on my notes and was tracing over it with my pen… and it hit me.  11/7.  So much for paying attention in class?  I couldn’t focus.  My mind was consumed.  I couldn’t make eye contact with anyone.  I wanted to get away and get alone as soon as possible.

But I really couldn’t.  There was a snow storm today so I couldn’t be outside, my roommates were all in the apartment, and there was no way I was going to hash out these issues in the silent library.   There was just no where to be alone.

So I distracted myself.  I stuck with someone who helped me keep my mind off of it for most of the evening.  And I was blessed by friends with kind words of encouragement and a wonderful, perfectly-timed cup of hot chocolate.  (I’m really beginning to think that my love language is, in fact, food.)

Yeah, there have been times today that I’ve questioned whether or not to take a second shower because I needed to cry… (and I HATE crying)  There have been moments that I have gone into other worlds, consumed in thought about it all.  There have been moments that I’ve muttered strings of four-lettered-words under my breath in bitterness because not only did something happen that I didn’t ask for and that I tried to stop… but it is also still a part of my life today.   “Hey cool… You weren’t invited. Oh, even better!  You’re not leaving.” (more four-lettered words…Lime, Ruby, Sand, Work… )

But today… as crappy as it has been mentally and emotionally… today was better than last year.   Last year I was in the fetal position on the floor of my apartment doing the ugly cry after I had written out everything I was thinking and feeling on paper.

It’s been two years.  I wrote this post last year at this time and while I do experience a lot of that from time to time… I’m so happy with the progress I’ve made.

I’m not as sour at people for being sympathetic or trying to be encouraging… I really appreciate it.

I feel more comfortable with talking about it, which I needed.

I’ve been having fewer panic attacks… thank GOD!

And I really feel like I’m healing.

But the two most important things?  I’ve found myself again and I’ve found peace with God.

I don’t know why bad things happen… why there’s evil… why God allows it to exist.  But I do know that God loves me and wants what’s best for me.  And what would be better for me?  To have a perfect/harmless life?  Or to wrestle with God in order to understand and know Him more?  I think I’m better off with Him than I am with this earthly life.

And myself.  I’m so glad to be back.  I’m glad to feel stable again.. to feel like I can freely give out hugs without fear again.. to feel confidence, joy, and beauty in myself again… to be making decisions in prayer and thorough examination and not just fear anymore..  I love it.

Today sucks.  The world sucks.  Sin sucks.  Evil sucks.  November the 7th sucks.

But my God is good and He’s making His face shine down upon me today and I cannot thank or praise Him enough for that and the progress I’ve made.  Hallelujah

What If It Really Isn’t Well With My Soul?

Do you ever feel like God’s promises are true for everyone but you?
That somehow you can reason your way through the tales of His goodness
With the guilt trip that you shouldn’t have a good life as a Christian,
Or that you reap what you sew no matter how merciful He is?
He is just too.  What’s to say He’s not justly punishing you?
What’s the difference between a consequence and a punishment?
Is there a difference?
Then you tell yourself it’s all about perspective,
That God’s goodness in the joy He gives you and that He will sustain you.
And everyone else tells you that “God never gives you more than you can handle.”
Then you think… maybe God’s goodness was already shown on the cross
And will be shown in heaven
And how dare you complain about now when He already has and will do so much.
Then someone so graciously reminds you
“Now… now… our treasures should be in heaven and not earth.”
They walk away feeling good about themselves
You wonder if their pious little butt really doesn’t care about their earthly life.
Then someone who is not a Christian questions
“If God is really good, why do bad things happen to good people?”
And all your Sunday school training says “No one is good.  We’re all born into sin.”
But you question the same thing.
You post those statuses and tweets of truths you struggle to believe
Hoping that if you say it publicly, you’ll take it to heart
Then you see that other person online who raves about their love for Jesus
And you want to puke because of how fake it seems to you,
Because you know how they live their life off of social media.
But then you scold yourself for not being able to see them as Christ sees them,
Which then reminds you of all the people in your life who,
No matter how hard you try to get that log of a grudge out of your eye,
You struggle to love or even see them as brothers and sisters in Christ
Or if not that, just simply a beautiful design from the Creator.
It also shows that no matter how long you’ve worked, prayed, tried, and fought.
You still struggle with the same things you have for years.
Because two and a half years ago you were writing this already.
In poem after poem.
Only now your heart has grown more cynical and has only been broken more.
The gospel clicks for you and then again it doesn’t.
Some days it puts you in tears.
Some days you’re enraptured by it.
Then back to tears…
Then it makes you boil,
and then back to tears.
How is it ok to have someone sinless cover it all for you?
And if He could forgive, why can’t you?
But then you cycle and cycle and cycle.
Nothing ever stays the same.
Nothing gold can stay.
You want to be climbing up the mountain of faith
But it feels like you’re just circling around the same level,
Running into the same trees in different seasons.
His ways are higher than our own.
So sit down, shut up, and stop crying about it,
Because you’re just too human to get a satisfying answer.
You can’t tell what’s more messed up.
What’s He’s done and is doing,
Or the fact that you think it’s messed up in the first place.
But the gospel is messed up right?
It’s just. not. right.
Beautifully, tragically messed up.
Could you be beautifully messed up too?
Ah, it’s not quite the same thing…

Lord, I believe… but help my unbelief.

The Painting II

A little over a year ago I wrote a poem…err, free verse stanza….uhh, spoken word… ugh.. I piled together some words under the title of “The Painting

The post didn’t get many views… in fact it only got 12.. Which is nothing considering the fact that my most popular post has had 4,638 views (thanks google).   It’s funny though, because “The Painting” is one of the most personal pieces I’ve ever written.  It may not be transparent (because it’s a whole lot of symbolism) but it is VERY personal to me.

It is how I viewed my life at the time… And still how I often view it today.

It’s always been a painting in my head, never actually realized.  There were times I thought about actually painting it… but I never have been able to realize that.  Until today.

I walked into A.C. Moore, and they had a sale on canvases for $10.00.  Mind you, canvases can be pretty expensive.  As soon as I saw that, I knew I had to act on it.  I bought the canvas… along with some cheap paints and brushes, and went to work.

Bright red. Bold. Jagged edges.
Deep purple. Dragged across the paper. Streaked.
Grey. Sponged on. Like a hazy cloud.
Tan. A thick line. Straight through.
Black. One hand print. Covering all the colors.
Step back. See the whole picture.
The artist discards the work into a vat of paint.
Then picks it up again.
The deep blue paint from the vat drenches the canvas.
And slides down the painter’s hands and arms.
He steps back and observes.
What to make of it?

No, it’s not meant to be pretty.

Yes, the painting is very crude.

Sure, you can interpret the painting however you wish, even though I did create it with one meaning in mind.

It’s abstract.  It’s symbolic.  It’s not meant to look nice.  It’s meant to mean something.  And it means something to me.

*edit*
I thought I would add in a basic explanation of the painting.  Someone asked me about it last night, so I’m generalizing some of the statements I said to them and putting it here.

-The red is anger, deep seeded anger, which is why its the bottom color.

-The purple is mixed emotions.  Not being sure of which direction things are going.  Very hesitant to make a mark.

-The gray is a sense of being lost.  A daze or haziness.

-The tan is a sense of stability, equilibrium, and normality that I look for.

-The black hand print is the mark something has left on my life and how I see myself.   How it covers every aspect of the painting

-And the blue… it’s sadness.  defeat.  and also a sense of cleansing.  God washing things away.  Just as it takes time for the paint to fall down and cover all of the painting, so also will i have to wait for things to set themselves straight again.

-The artist in the poem is God, because He is the artist of my life.