I remember a college professor telling me that in our lifetime we
could count on one hand the number of friends that we would
stay in touch with for "possibly" 20 years.
We could count on two hands, the number of stories that would leave
a deep impression on us in our lifetime . . .
my friend Allison is such a friend. Her story touched me deeply
~ she shared it with me boldly, honestly and courageously,
and when I asked if she would consider sharing it with our lavish readers,
she did what I expected, . . . she committed it to prayer as did I.
"Don't Worry! Be Happy! " This phrase, as most of us recognize to be the lyrics to a popular song, seems so simple and yet can be so complicated when someone like me actually tries to live out these words. Don’t Worry- Really? How? It’s all I seem to do. It's WHO I am. The list of items to worry about is exhaustive and seemingly never-ending. Be Happy- what does that even mean? What is it supposed to "feel" like? I often feel that I fail at these two "simple" directives daily! Why? Simple, my humanity, and the humanity of others.
I was raised in a Christian home with a mom and a dad who, in addition to their full time day jobs, served in full-time ministry in the church my grandfather pastored. My dad was the worship pastor and choir director and my mom was by his side as the church pianist. My parents overflowed with talent! I have them, (and God of course) to thank for the musical abilities I have been given. My mom was, and still is, an amazing piano player and singer. My dad also had a beautiful voice and a passion for leading worship and directing the choir. Church was their (our) life away from life. My brother and I would go with them each and every time there was a rehearsal, a service, a bible study, or any other church gathering. Back then it was not unusual to be at church 3-4 days a week.
Naturally, because of how much time my family spent in church, most, if not all of my parents friendships were with others from the church. For my mom, there was one friendship above all others. A most cherished sisterhood. This woman was my mom's deepest confidant, a woman who saw the best in her, who WANTED the best for her... a treasured and priceless friendship that only comes along maybe once in a lifetime. So imagine the intense devastation and heartache when I came to my mom one day at the age of 6 and told her that her beloved friend's 18-year-old son had been sexually abusing me. Sickened and overwhelmed with grief, my mom immediately told my dad. Unfortunately, my dad was not much help. He was apathetic and even annoyed that this situation was a disruption of sorts. Feeling alone, my mom turned to my grandparents for advice and direction. My mom assumed that my grandfather, being the pastor of the church would surely offer some sort of wisdom and comfort, but sadly, this was not the case. After blaming my mom for leaving me alone with my abuser, it was indirectly advised to not "make waves" in the church by keeping it private.
Frustrated and confused, my mom approached her friend, the mother of my abuser. She gave her an ultimatum. My mom told her that she would not turn in her son in exchange for her word that she would get him help through counseling so that he would not do this to anyone else. Her friend promised that she would seek help for her son. Unfortunately however, she did not make good on her word. Nothing was done. Nothing at all. All the way around, simply, NOTHING was done.
This is where the story of who I am today began...the moment when nothing was done. Yes, the abuse changed me! It robbed me of my innocence and exposed me to something very dark and incredibly painful. But the doing nothing part, this is where the damage was done.
As a child, I did not have the intellectual or emotional capacity to analyze the implications of what it would mean for my life to have trusted my parents instinctively enough to tell them that someone had violated me, and yet, knowing this information, they chose to do nothing as a solution.
The repercussions of this choice would forever impact my life. As a child I was intensely dependent upon my mom, never wanting to leave her side. I would not spend the night at anyone’s house except for my grandparents and even then, I would often become anxious and want to go home. In fact, The first time I was away from home for longer than a few days was when I was 18 years old when I went on a mission trip to Greece the summer I graduated high school. I can still remember crying before I left on that trip because I didn’t want to go. (Side note: It was the BEST trip I have ever been on in my life so far!) As a child I experienced paralyzing fear and anxiety. I would be up many nights with panic attacks. I would have stomach aches before school and wet my pants well into the first grade, even while at school. I struggled with intense hypochondria, thinking I was dying with every little pain or cramp. Most children were falling asleep to their parent’s lullabies or stories from books, while I was falling asleep to my mom praying scripture over me and rebuking the spirit of fear out of my mind most nights.
I mention my mom often, and there’s a reason for that. My dad had little to no tolerance for my struggles. He left my mom to handle my “problems”. When she brought up getting me counseling, he refused to pay for it. He didn’t believe in counseling. So I was left to suffer with my demons while my mom spent every ounce of her energy trying to just help me get through another day.
What I didn’t know about my dad at the time was that he had a very dark childhood, full of neglect, abuse and trauma. Looking back, it makes sense why he raised my brother and I the way he did, because he literally had NO capacity to love authentically. As an adult, I understand that my dad is an undiagnosed narcissist. And I don’t say that in bitterness, I say it out of sadness for him. Often people think that narcissism is based on self-love, which is true to a certain extent. But I think what is often misunderstood about narcissistic people is that the self-love is a direct result of a MUCH deeper rooted, intense self-hatred. In an effort to correct or ease the feelings of self-hatred, the narcissist will turn their love inward...on themselves, making it so that any person that threatens their sense of self-love, they will take them out at the knees in the blink of an eye! Even their own children.
Now, as a child I obviously didn't understand this. I just knew that my dad was quiet, and a little odd. He could be soft and generous at times, but my most prominent and lasting memories of him were the times when he would blow up out of nowhere, and would become verbally and emotionally abusive. One of my earliest memories of his temper was when I was just maybe 4 years old. He was working in the back yard and I wanted to help. He had a wheel barrow full of something, I can’t remember now what it was filled with. I asked if I could push it for him and he agreed to let me. Being so small, the weight of the wheel barrow quickly overpowered me and I could not hold it steady and it inevitably tipped over on it’s side, causing whatever was inside to spill out. I’ll never forget the absolute rage in my dad’s eyes. He looked at me and he said between gnashed teeth “ Get ... out... of...here!!! I Don’t EVEN want to SEE YOUR FACE !!”.
When I was in 5th grade, I came home from school on a day when they had given the “this is how your body works” lesson in class. The teacher passed out maxi-pads to all of the girls to take home. Being curious, when I got home I put it on. Somehow, my dad found out and he became enraged!! He began screaming at me. His words were somewhere along the lines of , What on earth would compel you put that on?? That’s disgusting!!! YOU’RE disgusting!!!
He would often run up the stairs and literally BUST into my room in an absolute furry when I would be practicing a song. He would scream at me that I sounded horrible and wasn’t singing right, etc etc. It was as if the sound of my voice was like nails on a chalkboard. To this day, my dad will rarely tell me that I did a good job after attending an event where I just sang.
These interactions with my dad...these were just the way it was. My brother and I thought that this was how every father interacted with their children. It wasn’t until I began counseling that I realized just how profound an impact my dad had on me. We weren’t beaten (although my brother received a few “spankings” that were borderline), and I know for sure other people have had it WAY worse, but to us, to me, his words cut DEEP into my soul. His words made deposits into my heart and my mind that over time, became my inner voice..my earthly disposition. A voice that said, you’re bad, you’re worthless, you’re strange, you’re dirty, you aren’t normal, you’re a nuisance, you’re unlovable, you are not talented, you can’t be trusted, you’re nothing.
As long as I can remember, I have often felt like I just don’t belong. I can be in a room full of people and I somehow always feel like the odd person out. The one that people might go home and talk about how lame I am or how obnoxious I may be or how ugly or fat...It’s as if I have this feeling that I am going to be “found out”. That they will see that I am not worth their time or energy. That perhaps they may discover that I am an “imposter”...that I’m just ordinary and boring.
It wasn’t until I decided to get counseling for the first time at 21 years old that I understood that I wasn’t just born this way. That my fear, anxiety, low self-worth and shame wasn’t something that was just part of me. In fact, it was the opposite, as 2 Timothy 1:7 declares that God did NOT give me the Spirit of fear or timidity, but He gave me a spirit of POWER and of LOVE and a SOUND MIND. So why WAS I this way?
If God did not create me to be fearful, timid, or powerless, why did it feel like those characteristics were at the core of who I am? I’m sure there’s a very complicated explanation, but to simplify, it’s because we live in a fallen world interacting with broken people. My first time around in counseling was very profound, but was also a very dark time in my life. I was facing some critical truths that were deeply and severely painful. I had to not only face the obvious implications of childhood sexual abuse, but I also had to face the not-so-obvious reality that because my parents chose to do nothing about my abuse, something fundamental in the depths of my soul broke because of it. Abandonment, worthlessness, loneliness, shame, heartache and heartbreak flowed from it. But then something SO beautiful and unexpected happened.
I remember vividly one counseling session where my counselor asked me to close my eyes and visualize myself at the age of 6, when the abuse took place. She asked me to visualize myself in a room alone. She then asked me to visualize who I saw walking into the room to comfort me, and asked me to name those people. I saw Jesus, and nobody else, only Jesus. I can see it as clear today as I write this as the day I was in that session almost 15 years ago. He walked in, sat down on the edge of the bed, and reached his arms out to me. I crawled into His lap and He gently rocked me, swaying back and forth, and I was at peace. I was comforted, the way a parent comforts their child.
That moment was so pivotal in my healing process. It was in that moment I understood the Abba Father, God. I’d been a Christian a long time before that moment, but in that particular moment, I was introduced to the heart of God for the first time. I realized that He really is a father to the fatherless.This pivotal moment in counseling is what inspired me to write Healing Song in 2013. (To listen to Allison's Healing Song Click here)
God gives us what we need when our earthly parents fail us....because they fail us based on their humanness and because their parents failed them. It was because of counseling that I began to have compassion for myself and for my parents. I was able to truly forgive. I was able to see the humanity within my parents, to see why they did nothing. That they only gave what they were able to give with the capacity they had to give it. How cycles of abuse, neglect, legalism, selfishness, pride and fear that THEY experienced from their own parents set them up to be broken adults. And this is what I realized, we don’t have to remain broken. We have a heavenly Father who is approachable, gentle, loving, compassionate and who relentlessly pursues a relationship with us, his precious children. This is why we were created after all, to be in relationship with our Father. I am a CHILD of the ever-loving Father-God.
I wish I could tell you that I am fully healed and that I’m never fearful or anxious anymore about anything, but unfortunately its not just untrue, but also unrealistic. What is true however, is that I have learned that we have authority over our fears and anxiety, through Jesus. If God did not give us a spirit of fear, then clearly the enemy did, and in JESUS name, we have authority over evil. Fear is a LIE from the enemy. I use scripture, by either meditating on it or speaking it out-loud. I sing worship, I pray, and I have those who I love and trust pray over me when I am really struggling.
There’s something very healing about revealing yourself in absolute vulnerability to someone safe. Some choose to do this with a counselor, others with a spouse, a friend or other loved one. Some choose both, like I did. Having a confidant to reveal yourself to is one of the most courageous and healthy thing we can do as human beings. It’s nourishment to our soul to have someone say, It’s ok...YOU’RE ok!...I’m so sorry that happened to you....How can I pray?...I’m here for you... When there are people in your life who will remind you of who you are, and most importantly, who you AREN’T, life is richer and fuller than you can ever imagine. We were not meant to do it alone. It’s why God created us...to live in relationship, in SAFE relationships, with Him and with others.
About our guest writer . . . Allison lives in Seattle, WA with her husband Ernesto and their two beautiful children, Blake and Charlotte. In addition to her first and most important job of being a stay-at-home mom, Allison enjoys using her gifts and passions as an outlet for her creativity! She leads worship at her church in Maple Valley, loves crafting and any DIY projects. Most recently, she has decided to pursue her passion for real estate by becoming an agent in an effort to help others find their dream home! She has a very blessed and perfectly imperfect life!
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