While On Retreat Today

So in my not so spiritual spirituality class we were supposed to take a 4 hour retreat. Now the 12 hour retreat we took as a class was less like a retreat and more like 12 hr lecture so I wasn’t sure what to expect today. There were really n0 requirements of this retreat except that we were supposed to be with God in silence, solitude and contemplation which are basically the theme words for the class: Inward, outward and upward (and if never hear these mantras again I would consider it a blessing from God).

So anyway we basically have carte blanche. Meaning we are free to do whatever we choose.

So on my 4 hr retreat I laid down and basically started to speak to him about my own life and my own troubles. I started with talking about people in my life but I quickly changed to talking about me. Then I was silent because this was a silent retreat. As an ADHD person I can tell you that silent retreats annoy me because I love music and I love being able to commune with God in that way but oh well gotta stick to the assignment.

After some silence I feel asleep and in that sleep the most notable thing happened. I was in a heavy sleep [in a safe space] and I was dreaming. I was having this weird dream where I was passing by people who had pop up prayer requests.

It was like I was in a pop-up-video from the 90s and I kept passing people looking for people that I knew. Then I just stopped moving for no particular reason and I started to pray for my friend Vicky and her family as they make the next hard decision in their lives. And as I started to pray the pop-up-video of people and their prayers started to turn back and pretty soon I was in front of the first person with their card. This was my friend Vicky and her family only it didn’t look like Vicky. I looked at the card and sure enough it was her prayer request.

Suddenly this music came on and it started to play the chorus of a song called “Lead me to the Cross”

Lead me to the cross

Where your love poured out

Bring me to my knees

Lord I lay me down

Rid me of myself

I belong to you

Lead me, lead me to the cross

What struck me was I was paying too much attention to the actual people and less attention to their prayers or their needs.

Sometimes we are all limited by our situations and our own needs but we are never limited in prayer. We can always go to God and ask him to be with our friends and to do for them what we cannot do.

Community, communing with people means more than just sitting and having tea with them. It means really praying for their needs. It means really sitting with them in the gap and holding them up. It means really paying attention to who they are in their time of need and asking God to do for them what you cannot do.

So to end this blog I am going to sit in the gap. I am going to ask God to do what I cannot do.

Lord, I ask that you comfort all my friends that need comforting tonight. I ask that you hold them and remind them of your presence.

Lord, I ask that you be with all my friends that are disappointed in their situation. Whether that be in their job or their relationship or their relationship status. I ask that you be with them and give them answers to why their situation is what it is. I ask that you hold them in their loneliness.

Lord, I ask that you be with all my single friends. I ask that you remind them that they are all loved and that the work that they do before their marriage is important. Remind them that their identity is an important part of becoming ready for relationship.

I ask that you be with all my married friends, Lord, that you protect them against the enemy, that you do not allow adultery or lust into their relationship but that you fill them with your love and with each other’s  love.

I ask that you be with all of my friends tonight Lord that are searching for employment. Whether that employment be sooner or later that you would fill them with your path and your way and not allow them to become discouraged. I ask that you remind them of your love and of your dreams for them. I ask that you help them to quickly find employment and that it be the right employment for them and their family if they have one.

Lord, I ask that you be with my friends that feel far away from their friends. I ask you to help them to join activities and churches that will help them to meet other people. I ask that you give them the get-up-and-go that they need.

I ask that you be with all of my friends that are low on funds right now Lord. I ask that you give them a miracle that only you can give.

Lord, I ask you to do the supernatural in each one of my friends and family’s lives. I ask that you bring healing and comfort and that you stand in the gap with us.

Lord I also ask that you help me to be a better friend. That you help me to remember my friends in prayer. I ask that you remind me in all the ways that you do that their hearts and minds are important to me too.

Lord be with all of us this week and help us to sit with you, to find ways to be with you. Help us to find time to sit and commune with you on a personal level in more concrete ways each and every day.

Lord I also ask that you be with all of my friends who are in their studies and getting closer and closer to their finals. I ask that you help to keep them sane and that you do so with your heart of gold. I ask that you provide rest and relaxation for them and remind them that a frazzled mind is less and less coherent as the days march on.

Lord be with everyone I know this week and everyone I don’t know this week and help them to feel loved by you each and every day.

It is in your precious and holy name that I pray, Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.


Control: Not just a Janet Jackson song

Do you remember Janet Jackson’s song “Control” from the 80s? The song is about trying to take control of your own life. It’s catchy and my older sister did a dance to it once in a Thanksgiving video (I did very embarrassing things in said video).

I am currently working on a case study for one of my classes. We have to use an experience in ministry and reflect how we handled the situation. The idea is to find something you did wrong and then spend painstaking time pointing out each mess up.

I chose a situation that occurred this summer. The actual situation is unimportant. What is important is what the situation taught me about me.

It turns out that I like control. I know what you’re thinking, “Not you Tammy.” 🙂

I thought I was easy going. I thought I liked things organically handled but I don’t.

In some situations I can handle not being in control but in most I like having control. It is closely related to feeling safe. When I am in control I feel safe but when I am not I feel vulnerable.

I was reflecting on this case study and thinking about how I handle stress. I like to escape from stressful situations mainly because I do not have control. I sometimes drop everything I am doing when I am stressed because when I pick it back up I feel like I now have control over a situation that previously felt out of control. Does that make sense? Probably not.

It’s like when yarn gets tangled sometimes it is easier to just drop it and come back to it later. When you come back to it you can see each individual strand and your hands are relaxed and you can untangle it in no time at all.

Sometimes that is what my life and the stress feels like. If I just let go of it for a little while it might feel more manageable.

It doesn’t always work but sometimes it does.

My younger sister mentioned to me a few days ago that I am not the most easy going person. She has said this before and I have always thought it was untrue. I have just written it off as my family not knowing or understanding me.

That could be true. My family doesn’t know me because I don’t let them in or really anyone in (its sad but I’m working on it). So it could be that they don’t really know me….

Or it could be that in certain situations I feel out of control and that might make me seem high-strung.

I don’t feel high-strung. Stressed yes, frazzled yes, out of control yes but high-strung no.

But maybe I am.

Just a few weeks ago I was having tea with a friend and she said I looked tense. My first reaction was to try to hide it so that she wouldn’t have to experience me being tense. My second reaction was to realize that I was tense because I didn’t realize it until she said it and my third reaction was, “How did she see that?”

I’ve gotten really good at hiding my emotions or feelings from myself so I just kind of assumed that no one would be able to see them either. It surprises me that others can see and know things about me that I am not aware of.

So maybe I am not as easy going as I thought and perhaps my control issues go beyond where I thought they did.

The Castle is Gone

Last year at Christmas time my Grandfather and I had a long argument about whether or not I needed to be rescued. He was certain that I did. He actually said that I needed a man on a white horse to come and rescue me from the castle.

I was immediately bitter about this. Where did he get off thinking that I needed to be rescued? When did I become the damsel in distress?

I have been burning over this for a year and last weekend I stopped burning.

I was at a relationship seminar and I shared about this conversation with my Grandpa and it was received but not in the manner that I thought it would. I was kind of upset that I was still upset and that no one understood how upsetting that story could be.

At the end of the seminar the woman I was sitting next to, whose name was Purity, turned to me and asked if she could pray for me. Then she said that when I was speaking about what my Grandpa had told me she heard God tell her to tell me that the castle was gone. Then she prayed for me and said she had no clue what that meant but she was sure God meant to tell me something.

The castle is gone. What does that mean? It means that I am not the damsel in distress. It means instead of waiting to be rescued I am waiting for my ride. That is something I can get on board with 🙂

I’m not waiting to be rescued but I am waiting for my ride. When he comes he will have a sword to protect me if we run into danger but we will confront it together. He will make me safe. I like that. I like that he will provide protection but that I’m not a damsel.

I am strong, I am courageous and I am a force to be reckoned with. The man that rides up on that horse is going to be okay with that. He is going to have to understand that he is not rescuing but is my ride home. He also needs to be strong. He needs to be courageous and a force to be reckoned with. He needs to be everything I am but more.

We will not complete each other because we will be two complete beings that are looking to live life together. Neither one of us will be rescued because the castle is gone.

The good news is that the castle is gone and all I am doing is waiting for my ride. 🙂

Thanksgiving Sure Has Changed

When I lived at home Thanksgiving was always the same. We would get up early, eat cinnamon rolls (the best there is) and watch the parade. Then we would lounge around while mom made lunch (in our later years we each made one dish the night before) and then have lunch and lounge around the house some more. In later years we would meet up with friends at the end of the night to either go see a movie or go to the Plaza lighting.

Inevitably we would sit around the table eating strawberry pretzel salad and rehashing all the old stories that still make us laugh.

My first Thanksgiving in CA I went to my cousins for Thanksgiving and it was good just not home good. My second year I had an uncomfortable Thanksgiving at  my cousins’ cousin’s house.

After that year I decided to do Thanksgiving in Pasadena. My friends from the community I lived in would all get together and have lunch together.

Tomorrow will be much the same. I will get up around 9 or so and get ready for the morning service at church. I’ve only mentioned this to a few people but I’m giving a minute testimony tomorrow at church. Then after that I will come home and make my contribution to the community lunch. Then I will head over and have lunch with my friends. I will probably come home for at least a nap and then maybe see people in the evening or maybe just hang out at home and watch movies.

Its not the same, but its still very enjoyable. I like getting together with my friends and eating the Thanksgiving meal outside.

Whatever you choose to do tomorrow I hope it is enjoyable and that you are surrounded by family and friends.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Feeling Left Out

Okay. Before I post about the amazing week I just had I thought I would say that I’m feeling a little lonely today.

I was just about to say that this is the first Christmas I have been the only single person in my immediate family but I just realized that that’s a lie.

My little sister and her boyfriend have been together for a long time now. Sure, last Christmas was the first Christmas he joined us but he’s been there all along. Also I’m just realizing that last Christmas Jessica was also in a relationship or near the beginning of a relationship I just didn’t know it at the time.

So here’s the thing. This Christmas my family is planning activities as gifts. We each have to plan a night together to do some activity. We also get to spend $20 at the most on each person for a gift. These are awesome ideas.

This is the first year that I am buying gifts for their significant others. This is the first year that our Christmas plans include my sisters’ respective boyfriends. This is the first Christmas where I actually feel alone. The first Christmas where I actually feel left out.

This is not the first Christmas where I have been single. I have been single for 7 years. But this is the first Christmas where I feel it. (Yes I know that Christmas isn’t actually here but I’m planning for it. I’m thinking up ideas of things we can all do together and realizing that I’m the only person who won’t have someone’s hand to hold or someone to say “I love you” to and it’s hitting me really hard.)

I know that my family will not want me to feel this way. They are not making me feel alone. I just feel alone. I feel sad that I am alone. I feel sad that no one special to me (outside my family system) will be standing next to me in the family photo. I feel all alone and it hurts.

This is the down side of getting connected to your feelings: you have to actually start feeling them. Dissociation was working for me but not. I wasn’t really connected to any feeling. I would get a bad feeling or really just a feeling and then immediately it would go away. That at this moment is no longer the case. I have to feel it. I have to process what I’m feeling and let the feeling ride out. Part of my process is blogging about it.

I know my Grandma will read this and email me or text me words of encouragement. I know my mom will read it and do something (she varies in her responses). I know that Vicky and Laura will read it and share some insight of how my life intersects with theirs because that’s who they are and how we relate in relationship.

Really I just posted this because I’m feeling it and was hoping that by the end I would feel a little better. And I do.

Loneliness like love and laughter and anger and all the other feelings in the world come in waves. There are days when I feel happy or at least content. And times when I feel sad and lonely. But if I allow myself to feel my feelings they don’t fester and come out somewhere else.

So really this blog was about expressing my feelings and figuring out how to ride them out without trying to escape them.

So for today I feel sad that I won’t have a significant other to share Christmas with and I know that that’s okay.

An Emotional Sunday Morning

I went to church today and as I drove there it felt like any other day. I turned the radio on and sang an Adele song, I think it was Someone like you or something like that. I turned right on Holliston, right on Union, left on St. John and right into the parking lot.

I parked in the parking structure, the next to the last row, a few stalls in so that I would have a fast get-away when church was over. I walked across the parking structure, up the steps and around the entrance to the auditorium. I walked in, saw my supervisor who was busy with other people, and walked down to find a seat.

As I sat down, because I was 5 minutes early I started thinking about something my professor said earlier that week. He was making a joke about “the frozen chosen.” These are Christians who cannot raise their hands high in worship but prefer to raise their hand right in front of their chest. I remember laughing at this because I can be like that sometimes and I remember in my home church when a member of the praise team started raising his hand in worship there was an outcry because he was doing something weird.

Any-who I was thinking about that when the music started. I stood up to begin singing and immediately felt overjoyed to be there.

During one of the songs (forgive me I don’t remember which) one of the song worship leaders asked everyone to raise their hands. I am for all intents and purposes a frozen chosen to my core, when it comes to raising my hands. I like to put my hand to my heart when a song is particularly moving, or I like to dance when a song is particularly fast. I like to clap my hands or hold my hands but I truly feel weird when raising my hands.

Anyway, so when this leader asked us to raise our hands I did so, because I felt like giving it a try. That act of giving it a try started my emotional Sunday morning.

I moved my hands to raise them and noticed that I was holding myself stiff (my therapist has been trying to get me to notice what my body is feeling and what emotions I am feeling so that I can begin to connect with myself). It was like my body was telling me I was anxious.

So I opened my eyes to see what was making me so anxious/tight. And I realized that I was holding my hands up in the exact same position my hands were in when I was being raped. (Yeah, take a moment and let that sink in.)

I immediately started to cry. I left one hand in the same position and moved the other over my heart. And I wept. I started talking to God in the middle of the 7th row back. I started telling myself and him that I didn’t do anything wrong. That in the act of being raped I was not submitting when I raised my hands. I started asking God to keep me in the moment, to keep me present (remember I dissociate and not just my feelings) and to help me heal this wound.

I continued to cry and thanked him for the moment. I continued to cry and told him that I freely submitted myself to him (God) because I trusted and loved him.

As I continued this healing moment, this tearful healing moment, I looked down at my hand and told myself to relax. That this was going to be a new posture, and that I was going to be free from the bondage of that posture.

You see when my boyfriend raped me he violated more than just my body. He violated my trust and my insides. He changed things, he changed my thinking processes and he stole innocence. Today I realized he stole the innocence of raising my hands in praise to God because the action was so closely related to what I naturally did when he was raping me.

Today God redeemed that. Today God set me free to raise my hands. Today God spoke to me. He filled me up and he didn’t allow it to be too much.

When the song ended the moment ended as well. I wasn’t an open wound. Instead I was knitted together and perfectly healed.

After the song was over Pastor Che spoke over everyone and he mentioned the verse that I have tattooed on my body. I started laughing when he quoted it because I have never heard anyone reference this verse in church. I felt like God was really speaking to me in that moment. God understood how freeing the previous moment was and he wanted to shine a light on the joy that lives within me. The verse was Ephesians 1:3, “for every spiritual blessing Christ received, we will receive in heaven” (NTV [New Tammy Version]). When I got the tattoo 9 years ago I got this particular verse because it was a message of hope for me.

It was indeed an emotional morning but it was not more than I could handle and for that I am grateful. Having that moment with God where he healed me of something I did not realize I was carrying made my day.

He’s Not Hurting: The process of forgiving my rapist

If you have been reading my blog at all you know that I was raped 7 years ago. I think previously I told people it was 8 because that felt far enough away. The reality is it was 7 years ago but math and I don’t get along so it may have been longer.
The time is not relevant but is a side effect of being sexually abused and raped: my time lines are all sorts of messed up.

Any-who, not the point of this blog.
Recently I sat down with my supervisor for my internship and she and I were discussing one of the hardest issues for women who have been sexually violated: abused, raped, etc. The hardest issues for us is forgiveness.

When I was thinking about forgiving my own rapist it was hard to do. Not for the reasons you might think. Sure I was angry with him but I wanted to let go of my anger. The hardest thing about forgiving my rapist was thinking he might get off-scott-free if I forgave him (this is an unacceptable idea because I’m dealing with his actions everyday of my life).

In other words the only way I could acknowledge what happened to me, or keep him in a state of pain was to keep my unforgiveness.  I couldn’t give up my unforgiveness because that meant that he wouldn’t be hurting. Now the irrational thoughts that surrounded that idea have been dealt with (believe me I did realize that he had no idea that I wasn’t forgiving him).

What helped me to forgive him was the realization that he was hurting. I mean seriously what sane, non-broken, non-messed up man rapes a woman? What man with love in his heart violates a woman like that?

I have lots of guy friends who are messed up in many ways but none of them would ever think of raping a woman.

What makes a man rape a woman? What causes him to turn down that path? I could forgive him because I realized that he was already hurting.

What good would it do me if he fried for what he did to me? What good would it do me if we lined him up on a firing squad and took aim at his privates?

It might make me feel vindicated in the moment but I’m not sure the person I would become after such a thing would be someone I would want to look in the mirror.

I did mention earlier that this was a process. There are some days where that firing squad seems pretty awesome but most days I just want him to receive help.

If a man was lying in a pool drowning would you save him? If a man was dying in an alley because of a bullet wound would you call 911? If a man was dying on the inside and hurting people on the outside would you want to help him?

My rapist deserves help and he deserves to pay for what he did to me. But judgment is not mine. Who’s to say what justice is in this particular moment? If he goes to jail and gets out will he still be a rapist? If he goes to therapy and gets help as well as serving time for his indiscretion and gets out will he still be a rapist?

As a woman who is devoting her life to helping women who have been sexually abused/sexually violated I can tell you that a high percentage of the abusers and rapists out there were victims first. So what is our duty to them? Do they deserve help?

I think its like an addicts edict: Just because you are an addict doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be held accountable for your actions. The same is true for victims: Just because you are a victim doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be held accountable for your actions.

In my case my rapist will not be held accountable. There will be no trial. There will be no court dates. There will be no jail time, at least not for what he did to me. But the sad truth is rapists don’t stop until someone stops them.

My hope is that someone stopped him. My hope is that someone got him the help he needed before he hurt someone else. My hope is that there aren’t other victims out there just like me. My hope is that he got help and is no longer a rapist.

My hope for my childhood abuser is the same. My hope is that someone was able to file charges and that she was stopped.

We need to hold our abusers accountable and one of the only ways to do that now is in the court system. We need to let go of our anger and need for vengeance and remind ourselves that they need help too.

I was able to forgive my rapist because I realized he is hurting and the idea of him hurting made me want to get him help. Realizing that I didn’t want him hurting but I wanted him to get help so he would stop hurting others helped me to let go of my unforgiveness.

So the truth is most days I have forgiven my rapist and on the days where I find it hard I remind myself that he is broken too and usually that is enough to keep him from the firing squad.

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