Listen To Your Gut.

I’m gonna tell you a little story inspired by my friend’s post today at Therapy For Black Men.

When my husband and I were dating, I would commonly take a back road from his house to mine. The highway wound through the foothills along the Cascade Mountains north of Seattle and connected both our houses. It wasn’t necessarily faster, but it FELT faster sometimes to just hop on the highway instead of spending 10 minutes driving through town to get to the freeway before heading home.

One night, I left Johnny’s house pretty late, around midnight. And I started driving to the highway, intending to take the back road home.

Something felt off. I had this feeling I should get off the highway and drive home on I-5 instead.

But I ignored the feeling and kept driving. Even choosing to stay on the back road when I came up to a side road that connected to the freeway.

As I drove along the back road the feeling got stronger and stronger. Until I got to a point where my heart was racing and I slowed down to about 20 miles an hour. I just knew something was wrong.

It was a VERY dark road with no lights AND it was raining.

I came over a small hill, still going VERY slow because of the incredible feeling I was having, and there across the road was a fallen tree.

It covered the entire road and it was HUGE. Probably a 100-150 year old cedar.

I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. I couldn’t believe I had had such a strong feeling about a fallen tree!!

I ended up having to turn around and go back to the side road to take I-5 home. Costing me almost 30 minutes.

I have never forgotten that night, and I don’t think I ever will. I learned a powerful lesson that night about listening to my gut, even when it doesn’t make sense and there is no physical evidence before me.

————————————

In high school, I had an off feeling about a family friend, but told myself I was just being weird. He ended up going to jail for child molestation.

In my late teens and early twenties, I had an off feeling about a man I knew. But I told myself he joked around with everyone and it wasn’t really flirting, until the day he came onto me and I was so filled with fear that I was absolutely paralyzed by it, convinced he was going to rape me, but thankfully we were interrupted and I never spoke to him again.

As a middle-schooler, I remember feeling very uncomfortable around a friend‘s mom. Not unsafe, just the feeling that something wasn’t quite right. She ended up having an affair with another man, leaving her husband and children, having a baby that she gave up for adoption, and then moved out of state.

————————————

Many of us have stories like this. In fact, I bet all of us do.

This feeling in your gut is called discernment. And God gave it to you.

To Discern [verb] – To perceive by the sight or some other sense or by the intellect; to see, recognize, or apprehend: to distinguish mentally; recognize as distinct or different; discriminate.

Listen to your gut. Learn to listen those feelings of unsettling. Invite God into the tension and ask, “Is this from you? You are welcome here.”

When you grow up in an abusive home, you are taught to ignore your most basic needs. The need for love, affection, touch, joy. You tell yourself over and over that you do not need these things like other people do, you tell yourself this so that you can survive living with your own broken heart. You tell yourself these things so that you can survive your own environment.

Every single time I ignored my gut feeling, I’ve regretted it. Sometimes, I have regretted it immensely, and ignoring the spirit of discernment cost me dearly. Other times it turned out only to be a small inconvenience. Other times, it just might have saved my life, like the fallen tree across a dark road at midnight.

Learning to trust your instincts, your gut, is a process for sure. It takes testing. It takes a lot of prayer. It takes confidence in yourself, and willingness to speak up. And you will make mistakes. But over time you come to listen to that still small voice of the Holy Spirit deep inside you, inside your very bones. and you learn to ask questions and to demand more from the people around you and you learn that who God has made you to be is enough in and of itself. Always, always we need more of him.

Do not be afraid to lean into that difficult space between discernment and action. Those difficult spaces are where growth happens.

.

Cuties: Violence, Sexuality, and The Stories We Tell

On August 2, 2020 I discovered child pornography on FB in less than a minute.

My cousin, a childhood sexual abuse survivor, had heard about the pedohila page in a support group she was in for survivors like her. She was rightly upset.

When she told me I didn’t believe her. I thought, “She’s just overly cautious because of her background.”

But I decided to look up the page anyway, just so I could offer her clarification that she wasn’t seeing what she was actually seeing.

I was in for a shock!

Not only did the page include photos of children from around the world, but the comments were revolting. There was even a video of prepubescent boys engaging in public anal sex while spectators hid behind their cameras. I felt instantly nauseous and enraged. I felt like I was going to pass out. The mother inside me roared loudly for these boys.

I took to social media without hesitation. Flagging the sites. And realizing quickly that there were DOZENS more just like it. Once I understood what to type into the search bar to find pages like these, they loaded one right after the other. Men were posting on both innocent and crude photos of children. Posting what they wanted to do to these children.

I still cannot reconcile these images in my head with what I know of social media censorship.

There was a boy looking down into a camera seductively from the corner of a street. There was a brother and sister in matching swimsuits playing in a little pool. There was another boy bent over looking back at the camera with a glazed over expression in his eyes, barely even present in his own body.

My eyes could not unsee it. My ears could unhear the evil conveyed there.

I wanted to do something, had to, and called the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children the next day to report the pages. This is were I learned that hundreds of people had been calling them for the very same reason. I also attempted to call FB, and learned they don’t actually answer phones. I emailed. I reported. I flagged. And kept getting the same response: “This content does not go against community standards.”

What in the actual hell?!?

That’s when the idea of starting a petition came to me. And so I did. The first week we gathered thousands of signatures from strangers all over the world who were equally outraged. And from someone with such a small platform as mine, the response was overwhelming to me.

I openly called out Facebook for their lack of censorship of child pornography. And when I did… I was censored. Me! My post quickly sped through the Internet like a wildfire on dry earth. Hungry. It was shared hundreds of times and viewed by tens of thousands of people before Facebook censored it and warned me against future infractions. Really? Really, Facebook?

Just a week or two before we had seen the speedy censorship that social media can conjure up against anything that goes against the “approved“ narrative, when videos with millions of views and posts about it were taken down and deemed “dangerous.” But child pornography? That doesn’t go against community standards…the irony wasn’t lost on me.

I was livid! Clearly the ability to censor was present. The willingness was not.

Shortly after this experience I attended my first protest to raise awareness for human trafficking and its victims. As a blogger who has spent the last two years writing about abuse, trauma, and the healing that can be found in the blood of Jesus Christ, I found myself in good company on the streets of my small town just an hour north of Seattle. The women around me had stories much like mine. Many of them were far worse, and involved trafficking stories that brought tears to my eyes.

We stood beside our children and held signs. We hugged each other. And we rallied together in support of people whose faces we will never see, but we love them dearly anyway.

And then came “Cuties”…

The film cover rocked the social media world with outrage. A poster of young, prepubescent girls posing sexually in skimpy clothing flew across platforms within hours. And for a minute it didn’t matter what color you were or what political affiliation you carried clenched inside your fists. Everyone wanted to know what the hell was going on…

Oops. They said. This is a shot from the movie, but doesn’t depict the movie; we are sorry, and we will change the cover.

And the outrage grew as the hot breathe of “No” oxygenated the flames.

I knew pretty early on that I was going to watch the movie. Why? Because I needed to see for myself what was going on. I needed to see it with my own eyes and hear it with my own ears and experience it for myself. I wasn’t gonna jump on a bandwagon without knowing more. This is the same reason I decided to look up the child pornography pages on Facebook in the first place. Because I am willing to see the unimaginable if it means that I can shine a light, however small, into the darkness.

And so I watched the film. Over the course of a few days… Because I work full-time, homeschool my children and take care of my home, and just generally have other things to do. So, the movie was going to have to fit into my schedule.

Let me just start by saying that everything you’ve heard about the movie is in fact true. And if you want more of the specific details of all the inappropriate things that are in the film, you should be able to easily find them in some list floating around the internet somewhere.

Mostly, I have a few thoughts about the movie that have more to do with the general idea of it then with the specifics of it.

One. I understand that filmmakers are storytellers. And that is something I admire very much. The way the film Cuties was written and directed was actually really remarkable. The way the director told the story was documentary like. And as a writer, I can say the script was top notch. Ben Shapiro did a great review of the film, and pointed out, “It is possible for this film to be two things at once.” It is possible for it to be well told story, while also being highly inappropriate. It is also possible for the film to be attempting to depict something negative, while engaging in that very same behavior.

Two. Real, raw stories matter. And I believe that is what this film maker was going for. She definitely crossed lines…

Three. After watching the film you have to ask yourself a very important question: where is the line between depiction and exploitation?

I read that 600 girls auditioned for this movie. 600 girls who danced and twerked in front of judges for a role in a film where they would do the same except for the whole entire world. 5 of these girls were chosen. Their bodies were put on display. And they were taught to move and bend in ways that invite men to watch them.

Exploiting a child in order to tell the story of an exploited child is not justice, it’s abuse.

My concerns regarding the story telling of this film extend outward as well. Typically, when a line is crossed in film or art it tends to raise the bar of what is acceptable. This is something to be watchful of.

Four. Along the lines of “raising the bar,” consumers have seen it more so over the decades in film, our stories have become increasingly violent, sexual. We hear accounts of actors who act out rape scenes and then go to therapy afterwards because they are so distraught at what they have acted out.

And you might argue that some actors consider this a high calling. Such as, Jim Caviezel, who played Jesus in The Passion of The Christ and harmed his own body in order to do so.

An adult may do what he wishes. A child, as we know by studying psychology and the human brain, is not able to understand consent. This is why we protect children fiercely.

There is also a considerable difference between adults acting out history and children acting out exploitation. Both ought to be carefully weighed…

And here is my concluding thought to the entire conversation surrounding this film: It is not a child’s job to convey the exploitation, violence, and evil of adults towards them; to convey the over sexualizing of children; to call attention to the abuse of children; nor is it a child’s duty or burden to call into the light that which flourishes in the dark, and it is certainly not ok for society to ask it of them.

If adults cannot convey the evils impressed upon children without further exploiting them, then perhaps they are not the great storytellers they believe themselves to be. Because a bad story told artistically might be told well, but it is not well told.

The weight and responsibility for the next generations rests on our shoulders, not theirs. It is our job to provide a safe world for our children. A world where childhood is treasured, and where even its darkest depictions are left to adults to wrestle with, not to a child to depict.

Cuties, ultimately, participates in the very exploitation it warns against, begging the question, “What sort of people thought this was a good idea?”

Though The Mountains May Fall: God Is Not Afraid of This.

It’s ok if you’re afraid. But you don’t have to be.

God isn’t. He’s not scratching his head wondering how on earth he’s going to stop a pandemic, keep people working, or keep the economy afloat. Because he is already working. He’s been working this entire time.

He isn’t surprised by the spread of the virus, by your reaction to it, or your fear of it.

He always makes a way. Always.

Our world is fallen. We know this. Our souls are fallen, our attitudes are fallen, so is the soil and bacteria and our very lives. Sin breaks everything. It breaks every living thing.

We have this promise, that one day, God will make it all right again. One day, he will strip away sin and bind death. He has long since paid the price for that, and we live in the already-not-yet of his Kingdom being established on earth. There is a tension between heaven and earth that you grow more aware of over time.

But I know saying that doesn’t always help. And I’d like to just say it’s ok if that doesn’t help right now while also challenging you to cling to the promises of God.

He never promised we’d be exempt from a pandemic, but he has promised us his very character and nature, he has promised us who we are in him.

It’s ok if you feel like you don’t have enough faith to get through this. God isn’t depending on your faith to see us all through. It’s ok if you fall apart. It’s ok if you don’t feel strong, because he is strong enough, and his strength is not dependent on anyone or anything. It’s ok if all you have a mustard seed of faith…in fact! God actually said a mustard seed of faith is enough to move mountains…so…that’s kind of a lot!

It is ok for the seasoned Christians to set an example of faith for their brothers and sisters, to extend grace to overflowing, and offer compassion where able.

We are the hands and feet of Jesus Christ. We are the ones who live inside of his Way-Making.

Whatever might happen, keep worshiping. Whatever might happen, we know who holds tomorrow with it’s New Mercies. Whatever might happen, we are seen and known and looked upon with love.

He is always Enough.

“For the mountains may move and the hills disappear, but even then my faithful love for you will remain. My covenant of blessing will never be broken,” says the LORD, who has mercy on you. Isaiah 54:10

6 Signs Your Abuser Hasn’t Changed At All

I’m gonna drive right into this list, but before I do, I want to preface it with something to keep in mind.

Remember, that you can read all the blogs and watch all the YouTube videos, but at the end of the day, only you know your story. And each video and blog is from one person’s perspective.

Continue reading “6 Signs Your Abuser Hasn’t Changed At All”

You Are Not Too Damaged. You Are Not Broken Beyond Repair: God Is Enough!

I hear it and read it all the time. But mostly I see it: people who have barricaded themselves inside walls built by trauma, lies, fear.

It doesn’t mater who built these walls.

What matters is that the walls are still standing.

And sometimes I think we actually repair these walls around us. We reinforce the structures because it hurts too much to chip away at them. It hurts too much to tear them down.

Here is what I’m telling you: if you believe you are too much for God to fix, you’ve already released the transformational power of the Holy Spirit in your life.

Lies. Are. Powerful.

And no one but God gets the final say.

You aren’t too much. Your story isn’t either.

When you are overwhelmed by your story, GOD IS NOT!

You aren’t the exception. There IS no exception for God. Exceptions and God cannot co-exist.

God is not shaking his head over you. Crying because he doesn’t know what to do. Seeking outside counsel over the complexities of your horrible decisions, the outcome of your life choices, the sheer number of your personal problems.

If you’re too much for God, he isn’t very big at all.

You aren’t stuck. You’re free.

If you’ve been abandoned, shamed, molested, raped, hit, hurt, assaulted, manipulated or abused in any way, it is not your fault. It doesn’t matter. There are no exceptions based on past history. There is no scream too loud. No trauma too dark. No anguish too much.

If God can sit in the dark with lions. If he can stand amongst the blue-orange coals of a furnace. If he can save a so-called worthless woman with a red cloth in a stone window. If he can raise the dead. If he can quake the earth underneath the death of his own body…

If he can raise up a Church amid the ruble of a barbaric empire. If he can sit beside the plagued. If he can inspire hymns of truth and raise up leaders to end slavery. If he can silence an army and bring hope inside of death camps and cause children to be born and reverse cancer and heal spines and source Forgiveness for the unfathomable… then he is CAPABLE of healing YOU!

GOD CAN HEAL YOU!!!!!!! Make you new. Transform you.

This isn’t about claiming some vague promise. This is about believing that God is capable of healing you and also KNOWING that your healing is for his glory and his alone, whatever it looks like and whatever he chooses to heal this side of heaven. It points to him. It is all for him and for his people to witness.

Never have I heard so many stories of healing as I have within the walls of The Church. Never have I witnessed lives changed forever like the ones I’ve seen marked by Jesus. Miracles like this simply do not happen elsewhere.

Fact: God is Infinite. He stands outside of time and space.

Fact: God did not design your body or your soul to endure sin. Sin is literally what kills us.

Fact: All sin affects the body and the soul. Abuse and Trauma are sins that deeply affect the body and soul because their aim is to destroy and, ultimately, kill you as quickly as possible. (Ponder this…it might actually blow your mind!)

Fact: There is only ONE remedy for sin. Jesus.

Fact: The Holy Spirit is God inside you.

Fact: God is not afraid that your brokenness is too much for him. LET. HIM. HEAL. YOU.

Remember how CS Lewis put it? We are not a body. We are a soul. We have a body.

If we want to heal our souls we will not find lasting healing outside of everlasting sources. Your true healing begins the day you realize that this world cannot satisfy your longing for wholeness.

Who better to heal you than the Healer who designed you?

The Body of Christ Needs Women. Women Who Go Forth and Go Out.

“But God has put together all the parts of the body. And he has given more honor to the parts that didn’t have any. In that way, the parts of the body will not take sides. All of them will take care of one another. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it. If one part is honored, every part shares in its joy. You are the body of Christ. Each one of you is a part of it.” 1 Cor 12:25-27.

And then begins the most famous chapter ever written on Love…

And it is probably not a coincidence that an exposition on the Body of Christ is followed by a call to radical, true Love.

Continue reading “The Body of Christ Needs Women. Women Who Go Forth and Go Out.”

Abuse After Abuse: Finding Freedom From Past, Present, and Future Abuse

If you haven’t heard, the statistics say that once you’ve been abused, you are more vulnerable to abuse by any number of different people.

Continue reading “Abuse After Abuse: Finding Freedom From Past, Present, and Future Abuse”

I Am Not Content. And It Wounds The People I Love.

I have more material possessions than 95% of the current human population on this earth.

Continue reading “I Am Not Content. And It Wounds The People I Love.”

The Church Needs You. And It Needs All Of You.

The Church needs you. Like, it needs you.

The Church needs your story, your wrestlings, your questions and doubts, your open palms, your fears and authenticities…it needs your story of Gospel Redemption. It needs your life, not like the blood in your veins, although it needs that too…it needs your lifetime. Your day-to-day, your smiles and tears, your coffee pot and even your front yard.

Continue reading “The Church Needs You. And It Needs All Of You.”

You Don’t Have To Be A Foster Parent To Change A Foster Kid’s Life

Imagine that you have fallen into deep waters, but it’s your first time to swim. Fighting just to get a breath in; & then someone hands you a screaming child, a stack of paperwork, a bunch of trainings & appointment reminders. Then imagine being expected to complete it all while keeping yourself & that terrified child above water. Oh, & you can’t get the paperwork wet because, of course, it has to be legible when you turn it in.

Continue reading “You Don’t Have To Be A Foster Parent To Change A Foster Kid’s Life”
%d bloggers like this: