“What’s In a Name?”

William Shakespeare wrote in Romeo and Juliet, “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other would smell as sweet.” A name communicates a lot of things, but mostly, it identifies who or what we are talking about, gives clarity. I know that I have kept my name hidden, and I really want to explain the many reasons why. I pray you will receive my explanations with grace and understanding.

First, I choose anonymity. Some people call me Grace and I am good with that – wish it were my name, really. I know they get it from the title of my blog, “Grace Anchored Soul.” It makes me smile and brings me joy because it reminds me of God’s grace.

Some call me Abigail – and that is the name that I am published under. It means father’s joy. It became my pen name when the publisher contacted me. I chose Abigail because it reminds me of who I am to my Heavenly Father, that I bring Him joy. My dad always called me a curse, told me he wished I was never born. Once he put his hands around my neck to strangle me while screaming horrible things at me. But God preserved my life, redeemed me, and called me his child. My Heavenly Father rejoices over me and considers me a joy, not a curse. And so, for that reason, I chose Abigail as the name that people would know me by.

Others know who I am and call me by my given name – and that is fine, but their comments never make it on this site. Still others know who I am, but understand my need for anonymity and comment without my name (thank you).

Why anonymity? Some might think that I am hiding in shame. For many years, that would have been accurate. Now, as God has written His healing in my heart, I have made the choice to remain anonymous for the protection of my family as well as for the protection of my abusers.

For myself and my family:

I am an addict of the worst kind – although my dip into drugs was short-lived, it is a daily battle to stay sober. I have been clean one month short of two years. My children don’t need to pay for the mistakes of their mother. Friends and family who know that I have used heroin have responded with grace and love, but the church isn’t a safe place for people with sins like mine. Other children wouldn’t be allowed to play with my children – I have witnessed this with other children whose parents struggle. Not all parents are understanding and some would keep their children from my children in fear of me. So, I write under a pen name for my children’s protection.

And for my abusers:

My first abuser is dead. I hadn’t seen him in decades, but attended his funeral – I can’t explain why I felt the need to do that. I sat and listened to what a wonderful man he was, how he had surrendered his life to Christ and was now in heaven. All I could think was that he had molested me repeatedly beginning when I was four… how is that “wonderful”? The pastor shared the good news of Jesus, saying that the man would want everyone to know what he came to believe and live by: Jesus died for sinners like him. We sang “Amazing Grace.” I cried angry, busted up, bitter tears. He had gotten away with what he did to me. But then God reminded me that his sentence had been just and his punishment had been fair… just like mine was. Jesus had carried his sins to the cross, just like He had mine. Death was required and in mercy and grace, Jesus paid it for him. He is my brother and when I get to heaven, we will embrace. None of the harm he caused me will be between us. It’s hard to think or imagine, but it is truth, even on the days when I punch my pillow and weep over it. And nothing would be accomplished by ruining the testimony he had at the end of his life.

My second abuser was a teen. Mistakes made by a teen should not destroy him now. I have forgiven. If I ever suspected he was harming someone else, I would come forward. But really? He has grown into a really good man who fears God and has overcome the abuse that he endured as a child, as well as the abuses he committed against me. There is something to be said for that. He deserves freedom from the past, just like I do. He still lives near me and I run into him at the grocery store occasionally. He always stops and talks to me. I come home and cry, wondering how he can even look at me after what he did. In the end though, grace and peace win – Jesus loves me. Jesus loves him.

One of my abusers is an old man. He has not made peace with God. Do I think that publicizing his sins against me will lead him to repentance? Probably not. It would probably cause him to harden his heart even further. So, for the hope and prayer that he will repent and give his life to Jesus, I remain anonymous. Some days, it is hard. Some days, I want to point my finger and say, “My daddy hurt me and I want the world to know it…” but then God reminds me, “Vengeance is mine…” And one way or another, God will have vengeance, the price for his sins will be paid. He will either repent and turn to Jesus, allowing Jesus to carry his guilt and shame to the cross, just like He did mine, or he will pay the price for the things he did for all eternity. All eternity is a hard, long time, and so I pray he finds Jesus.

The other men who harmed me, well, I don’t even know their names or where they are. If I saw them today, I don’t even know if I would recognize them. I pray that they too will come to know and understand the redemptive power of Jesus.

For God’s Glory:

I don’t write to be known. I write for God to be known. I don’t want others to be distracted by who I am. Nor do I want pity from those who know me personally, but are unaware of my story. I want all that I write to point to the redeeming grace of God. In the midst of my pain, there is a God who is able to use it for my good and His glory. Just like Joseph said, “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good…” (Genesis 50:20), I long for Him to use the evil against me for good – to turn the ashes of childhood abuse to beauty!

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I Am a Victim of Choice

The news coming out of New York has had my heart stirred up – stirred up with memories of my own abortion. I hate the lie that is being told to women, that it’s “my body, my choice.” Oh, sweet sister. It is your body and it is your choice. But what would you choose if you knew the price you would pay for aborting your pregnancy? You see, there is a price. Some will tell you that a baby died and try to make you feel guilty for ending its life. Some will tell you that they believe that life begins at conception and you are stealing a life. Some will tell you that it is just a group of cells that don’t really matter, that won’t feel the pain of the abortion. Some will promise you that you will find freedom through abortion.

I am going to tell you something different: It doesn’t matter whether you consider that lump of cells a living being or just a fetus. I was twelve when I had an abortion. I didn’t know what it was and I didn’t care. All I knew was that my abuser was fixing the problem he created. How could that be wrong? But here I am, decades after the fact, and I still grieve during the season when I had an abortion. My body still relives the pain of it and my heart still knows that something is missing.

Abortion doesn’t just end the problem of an unwanted pregnancy or a child born with some devastating illness, it creates a host of other problems for the woman (and many times the man). One problem is solved by unknowingly creating many more. She may be able to deny it for years and through multiple abortions. She may reason that even science hasn’t decided if the fetus is a life or not. Her reason for an abortion may be her youth or her inability to give up a child for adoption. Maybe she is just afraid. Can I just say, maybe she just isn’t ready? And my heart aches with her.

But there is this: Abortion creates more problems than it solves. At least it did for me. Depression, a low self–worth, physical pain, infertility. These marked my life. No doubt, the pain of abuse played into those. I went through some intense counseling for the abuse, but the hardest thing to process was that I had an abortion.

Abortion has a physical, mental, and emotional impact on the woman who has believed the lies. Women who have had an abortion often feel grief that they are not free to express – because, let’s face it, they chose the path of abortion. They may feel guilt, self-hatred or shame. They may struggle with depression and self-harm. Some even struggle with addictions or mental illness. For me, I felt unworthy of love or life.

My story of abortion isn’t everyone’s story, but it is one I must tell. My pregnancy was the result of rape. I am one of those women that everyone thinks we need a law to protect – protect my right to choose freedom from a child who would be a constant reminder rather than forcing me to suffer the punishment of carrying a child to term when I had already suffered enough. If only I could have known when the pregnancy was being ended that now I had another trauma to struggle through…now I had the difficulty of walking through ptsd for the harm done to me and the misery of walking through all the overwhelming emotions of terminating a pregnancy.

It wasn’t until I was in my forties that I spoke of it to anyone, whispered it really, to my 12 step recovery group. And that only after I had emailed my pastor following Sanctity of Life Sunday a hypothetical, “Should this lady who had an abortion when she was like 11 or 12 tell her husband?” He, of course, said she should.

Courage. After telling the group of recovery women and the pastor, asking them to pray, I found the courage to whisper it to my husband. His tears and, “I know,” broke the dam inside of me. His tenderness and love surrounded my aching heart. I told him about it. And then, the next Tuesday, in counseling, I talked to my therapist about it.

Healing didn’t come through therapy, EMDR or through my 12 step program. All prepared and strengthened me for the healing that was going to be worked in my life by God. He had a plan so far from what I could imagine.

One Thursday in February, I found myself at a lake house in another state, surrounded by women who had had abortions. Every woman had the opportunity to tell her story, to grieve her child or children. I grieved with these women even though our stories were so different. My story was one of being pregnant through abuse and then being physically forced to have an abortion. Yet, my feelings were the same. I had carried the guilt around my neck like a millstone, nearly drowning in the shame. I found forgiveness for myself at that long weekend retreat…and I discovered an even greater forgiveness. The forgiveness of a God who loved me and sent His Son to carry my punishment on His shoulders, to bear my burden to the cross, to set me free..the kind of freedom that every woman there thought an abortion would give her. We each discovered that freedom did not come through our abortions. Pain, suffering and bondage did. Freedom came through Jesus Christ.

Jesus met me in my pain, my guilt, my shame, my grief. He held me in His arms and whispered to me that I was forgiven, washed clean. Whatever men had done to me, I am safe now and fully free in my Savior’s arms.

If you have had an abortion and are struggling with that decision, please contact a crisis pregnancy center near you. Many of them have loving and supportive after abortion care. If they don’t, they will be able to help you find one. The group that I participated in was led and attended by women who had been where I was, who understood the devastating effect that abortion has on the woman.

Jesus doesn’t just care about the aborted baby. He cares deeply for the woman who felt like she had no choice.

Bursting Joy

I read a poem the other day
That led me on a joyous way
Helped me see this spinning orb
As bursting joy to be absorbed
Full of goodness and of grace
The sun, a kiss upon my face

This poem was written in response to prompt #231 – Motivation: Discovery at Poetic Bloomings

My Personal Do-It-Yourself Catastrophe

I am about to make a grand confession: I love to sit and watch do it yourself catastrophe kind of shows. I can’t help myself – and I am pretty sure watching them has prevented me from my own disasters in home improvement. I often sit and wonder at the messes that are made of homes by men and women who have no idea how to swing a hammer or how to handle a drill. Still, they have an unimaginable courage. So, they start all these home projects that are far beyond their abilities with such good intentions. From “my wife wanted me to redo the kitchen” to “I got the idea from my friend,” most seem to have an inability to honestly assess their construction skills. And maybe their confidence comes from videos – you know, we live in the day of Youtube and home improvement shows. Who knows? Perhaps they believe they can learn anything from some ten minute “how to.”

A few days ago, during the wee hours of the morning that I have blocked off to sit at the feet of Jesus, this guy who walks beside me flipped on the tv and some show about a do-it-yourself mess was on – and my quiet time became a train wreck. I became captivated by the man who had basically made a disaster of everything, just as expected. Not to mention, he was taking forever. And so, his wife decided to call in the experts. The expert doesn’t do all the work. No. Instead, he wisely comes alongside the amateur explaining everything he did wrong. Then, he patiently teaches the homeowner how to swing the hammer, how to frame up that wall, how to run that saw, how to plumb up the walls, how to fix this or that. And in the end, something beautiful is created as they work side by side.

In those wee hours of the morning, through a tv show about home disasters, I saw my life. How many times have I seen something that needed fixed in myself, in someone else, in life, and tried to fix it on my own? How many times have I thought that I knew what I was doing when I didn’t have a clue? I would jot down a verse, hand it to a friend, and expect those words would fix her heartache. Or I would see one of my kids struggling and instead of pointing them to Jesus, I would try to take his trouble away. Or, I would tell him what to do – and of course, I had to be right, I was the mother. Or when the first doctor told me that I wouldn’t be able to have children, instead of running to Jesus, I ran to a “better” specialist until I had seen six in all. The only thing that changed was the name and face of the stoic doctor staring back at me and saying, “You can’t have children.”

Oh, some of the most destructive work I have done is in trying to rebuild my husband. I have often tried to repair the man I married – you know, to make him better. I tried to get him to take college courses when we were first married. Tried to get him to find a better job throughout our marriage. Tried to get him to wear the clothes I bought so he would fit the image I had in my head. I tried to block schedule his days at one point in our young married life to include all the activities I thought he needed to participate in. And let’s face it, all I was conveying to him is that he wasn’t good enough and I was. It was a lie then and is just as much of a lie now.

And three years ago, I tried to fix something major in myself without the One who called me His child. As a firm believer in Christ, I turned by back on the healing power of Jesus and tried to force my healing. In those deepest darkest moments when I did not know how to handle the pain, instead of waiting for the One who could fix it all to shine His light in the darkness, I sought relief from the end of a needle. One of the hardest things to accept is that I knew what I was doing was wrong, but I did not care. I was too tired and hurting too badly to wait for God to bring the relief that I know He would never withhold from His child. Instead of waiting for God to show me how to walk in the darkness, waiting for Him to shine His light, I tried to find (or was it to make?) my own light. Foolishness. I know. Jesus says that He is the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father but through Him. (See John 14:16).

I couldn’t make my own light…shoot, I couldn’t even be my own light. Jesus is THE LIGHT. I needed Him in my darkness, but I grew tired of waiting. We have one of those old fluorescent lights in the kitchen, the kind that flickers and wanes sometimes before it comes on. That light I often grow impatient with and I try all kinds of things to make it turn on in my time, before it has sufficiently warmed up. I flip the switch on rapidly, run my hand along the bulb, gently tap it, and anything else my impatient self tells me might have some effect. Now, I am not saying that Jesus needs to warm up or that he is weak like that, but my point is, nothing I do makes that light come on until it is fully ready. And that is so much like Jesus, nothing I do will be light apart from Him. I can’t make my own light. I can’t be my own light…and I can’t make Jesus shine His light into my darkness without inviting Him and waiting expectantly for Him to rescue me in His time.

I can make all kinds of excuses for why I failed to wait for Jesus, the Expert Craftsman, but they don’t matter. What really matters is that my failure ruined really good things in my life. Like those do-it-yourself catastrophes in the home, I had created a mess that I was incapable of fixing on my own. I needed to return to the Expert Craftsman, follow Him quietly and submit to His teaching.

Jesus did step into my darkness. He did not leave me in the mess that I made. Instead, just like the expert steps into the do-it-yourself mess and walks the homeowner through the process of fixing his house, God sent Jesus to step into my mess. He walks through the mess with me and little by little, is redeeming all my mistakes, replacing the lies and the darkness with His truth and light. That thought that I was never good enough that I have battled my entire life? Jesus took it, tore it down brick by brick and rebuilt it with the Truth that in Him, I am holy, righteous, redeemed, made fully acceptable. He is my good enough. That lie that I was somehow guilty for the childhood abuse that I withstood? He kicked that lie down, and rebuilt it with the truth that I was innocent. He is the One who decides whether or not I am guilty. He marks me innocent. That false belief that my use of drugs as a follower of Jesus was beyond His grace, He spoke through His Word of Truth and caused to crumble. He replaced it with the Truth that He has covered even the sins I willing commit when I am walking with Him.

What about you? Are there any areas in your life that you have tried to fix yourself, without Jesus? Are you ready to surrender to the Master Craftsman Jesus and invite Him to tear down the broken walls you have tried to build on your own? Are you willing to let Him establish you in truth? If so, I encourage you to join Bible study group, join a 12 step recovery group that supports your faith, find a godly friend who is willing to walk with you through the difficulty and speak Truth. Pray. Seek God.

“A man’s heart plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps.” Proverbs 16:9 (New American Standard Bible)

“The steps of a man are established by the Lord, and He delights in his way.” Psalm 38:23 (New American Standard Bible)

The Sober Life

Six hundred and seventy-four days ago, I took my last hit. That hit is so much more important than the first one. The first one just sort of happened. I don’t think anyone says, “Hey, you know what I am going to do today? I am going to go get high and then in a week or two, hope that I am an addict.” No. Addiction doesn’t happen like that.

For me, it was carbon monoxide seeping into a house, silent, but deadly. I was in pain and the doctor prescribed painkillers. I took them as prescribed the first day or two, but quickly discovered that they helped me sleep. What was an extra painkiller if it meant that I could sleep after six months of night terrors and flashbacks? So, in gratitude, I began swallowing an extra painkiller at night to bring sleep.

Oh, but those painkillers soon proved themselves invaluable in my fight against the flashbacks of being abused … and who would dare tell me not to take them? I was in emotional and physical pain as I relived the many assaults on my body. And swallowing one or two extra pills during the day, what was that really going to hurt? In fact, those little pills actually seemed to help me function.

But just like that, I was hooked. The pills weren’t enough to get me the relief that I needed, so I reached for my old friend vodka whom I hadn’t visited in more than two decades. Truthfully, I would have preferred the burn of whiskey, but vodka is quiet, harder for others to detect. I knew this from past experience. And so, I mixed it with whatever I happened to be drinking. The pseudo-peace that the mixture of painkillers and alcohol delivered I mistakenly thought was a blessing.

When I dumped the pills and alcohol, the withdrawal began within twenty-four hours. And I went back to the pharmacy with a story of having spilled the painkillers down the drain. The pharmacist refilled the prescription for the last time. That is when my life became something out of control, unexpected, so far from what I ever wanted from my suburban, Christian life. I began to venture out to find my hit.

Eventually, my supplier told me he wasn’t going to sell my favored drug anymore, but he would give me a few free hits of something so much better. I knew what I was doing was wrong, so wrong, but I was so desperate not to feel, not to remember, that I let him slide the needle in that first time. And it was so good and so awful. The poison made me so sick and yet, desperate for more at the same time. The guilt and shame of using such awful drugs were all-consuming and required an extra hit to silence. Too easily, poison had captured my heart.

Even now, just remembering it, I want the needle – and yet, I hate the poison. It is awful and controlling, destroying all that is right and good – a thief that steals and lies. The terrible thing is that I knew that the drugs were lying to me, but I didn’t care. The peace the poison delivered was temporary and left me more desperate than the memories of abuse.

The first time I spoke it, I was whispering it to my therapist after months of therapy. Her quiet, sad smile and tear-filled brown eyes were accompanied by the words, “I know. I have been waiting for you to trust me enough to tell me. No one lives through the hell you have been through without something. Most women are dead by your age or so strung out on drugs they are selling themselves on the streets. You are one of the lucky ones.”

Today, as I celebrate sobriety, someone out there is still fighting to find the strength to make it through the withdrawal, detox, whatever you want to call it. It isn’t easy. But here is the good news: it is possible and you are worth the fight. No matter what led you to addiction, the God who made you loves you and sent His Son Jesus to set you free from every chain that binds.

If today is day one for you, HOORAY! You have chosen a path that is hard, but oh so worth it. Learning to walk in sobriety is a process that takes time. The very hardest part is the first couple of weeks as your body learns to function without a hit. Could I just encourage you, wherever you are on your journey, to reach out for help? Find a support group that will help you with accountability, will help you learn to walk in the freedom that God created you for.

If you are struggling with life issues, mental illness or in an abusive relationship, reach out for help. If you go to a church where you trust the pastor, reach out to him. I encourage you to find a good therapist, one who understands drug addictions, trauma, and mental illness – and how they are all connected. If you are in active addiction, find a place to go through detox. Don’t try to go it alone! Stepping out of addiction is so crazy hard and you are so brave to take the necessary steps. By God’s grace and with His help, YOU CAN DO THIS!!

For me, having people support me on my journey to wholeness has been so key. I am involved in a 12 step program that has not only helped me overcome my addictions, but has also helped me find healing in Jesus for the harm that was done to me. I have been involved in intense therapy for the trauma that I lived through. My therapist is a Christian who uses Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing and other trauma based models of treatment to help me process the abuse I went through.

I wrote this poem a while ago, mostly because I wanted a hit so badly that I did not think I would make it through another hour without one. I was reminding myself of how hard I fought for sobriety, how hard the withdrawal was. Breaking free from slavery isn’t pretty. The Red Sea did not part for me and I did not walk into sobriety on dry land – it involved a lot of sweat, blood, tears and vomit. But the good news is, I still made it to the other side and so can you!! And let me tell you, my life of sobriety is so much better than my life of addiction!

Easy, peasy, she says good-bye
to the prick of the needle, that good high,
confident sobriety will prove worthwhile
so begins day one with hope and a smile.
 
Shivering,  shaking,  body so aching
wishing and begging and wanting a hit
she wonders if her life is worth this s***
day two has begun but will she survive
to learn, to grow, have something  to give?
 
Sweating and steaming, body screaming,
wishing and begging and wanting a hit
how fully did she to sobriety commit?
Day three has begun, but so much worse,
so far beyond the prior day’s curse
 
Nauseous, aching, head must be breaking
one hit…just one…would stop all this shaking.
She confesses her sin, begs some for prayer,
explains she needs heroin more than the air.
Day four she survives, but’s feeling deprived.
 
Heart racing and shaking, her whole world is quaking
wishing and waiting, pleading and praying
for her world to cease spinning, stop swaying.
There is a chance that she might be surviving
hope begins whispering to her on day five.
 
Waking and quiet, body near still
perhaps she’s summitted withdrawal’s hill?
A shiver, a shake, not quite a quake,
she is surviving that ache
without a fix, she realizes day six.
 
Constant  the battle and craving  wear on
praying for the good day to dawn
that puts an end to this consuming  desire
to have the needle quench the dark burning fire.

How Will You Respond?

IMG_20190102_102321-e1546442880137.jpgSome time ago, an invitation to a wedding, beautifully embellished, arrived in the mail. Running my fingers over the shiny raised print with tears leaking, I whispered, “Where has the time gone?” Within the envelope was a smaller stamped envelope with a card that politely stated, “The bride and groom request the honor of your response.”  

This invitation brought the reminder of an invitation written long ago, not on aged parchment with elegant ink, not to be a guest at someone else’s wedding. This invitation came through the womb of a virgin girl named Mary. He was born a babe and laid in a manger. He grew in wisdom and in stature (Luke 2:52), lived the perfect life for the world. His invitation to us is not merely asking us to be guests at His wedding, but to be His bride. He grew to carry our failures and griefs to the cross, willingly holding out His hands and feet to receive the imprint of love.

Nail scars and the spilling of blood for you and for me is how God wrote the invitation to be his Son’s bride so many centuries ago. His love is one that overcomes our failures and shortcomings, our sins. Jesus’s death was not the final word. Three days after He was laid in the tomb, Jesus rose again – He defeated death and sin for the world. And yet, He carries those scars as a reminder and promise to love us in our every failure and every success, through every heartache and every joy.  

Just as I filled out the elegant response card to the wedding and slipped it in an envelope to confirm my attendance, Jesus is asking you to respond to His invitation. He is inviting you to not only attend His wedding, but to be His bride. When you accept Jesus’s invitation, He washes you and makes you clean of all your failures, sins, and stumblings.  He carries the weight of your guilt and shame to the cross and sets you free. He makes you white as snow and promises to never leave you. The debt you owe for your sins has been fully paid by the Groom who longs for you to be His bride. (For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 6:23) 

Jesus is waiting for you at the alter, to take you in His arms and call you His beloved, to carry you through every heartache and to be with you through every joy. Once you call His name, no matter what the future has, joys or sorrows, victories or defeats, He promises to always be with you. How will you respond? 

“If you confess with your mouth ‘Jesus is Lord’; and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead you will be saved; for in the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation. For the Scripture says, “WHOEVER BELIEVES IN HIM WILL NOT BE DISAPPOINTED.” Romans 10:9-11

“Let us rejoice and be glad and give glory to Him, for the marriage of the Lamb has come and His bride has made herself ready.” Revelation 19:7

New Year Blessings

A blessing, a prayer, a New Year’s toast:
May you learn to no longer be defined
by names and chains that used to bind.
May last year’s hurts and broken bits
find comfort and healing as God permits,
May you experience the peace and joy of the Savior
through each moment, whether success or failure.
May each step you take into God’s light
grow deeper love, understanding and insight.
May every day of this New Year be blessed
with the love of family and friends in abundance.

written in response to prompt #228 at poeticbloomings

Happy New Year, friends!