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About me

My name is Erika and welcome to my blog. I am a proud wife and mother to 5 beautiful children. Four sons and a daughter. My husband Matt and I recently celebrated 11 years of marriage. My oldest son has been diagnosed with Austism (he is high functioning) and severe ADHD and we are on road of overcoming and learning together. My daughter is next followed by our 3 youngest boys, the youngest 2 being fraternal twins. Twin mom isn’t a title I ever realized I would have. I’m a lover of books, cooking, baking, scrapbooking, coffee, hot tea, board games, drawing/painting and of course sewing. I grew up in the oppressive quiverfull movement in a large conservative, homeschooling cult and am a survivor of extreme childhood abuse by my parents. I learned to sew by the age of eight due to this environment but decided to embrace it (the love of sewing). From my earliest memories, sitting in front of my sewing machine and creating was my escape from the horrible world around me. I view myself as an artist in my craft. Over the years I have worked to improve my skills and start adventures with that. Sitting in front of my machines and creating is still a form of therapy for me as I have been on this journey of healing from my childhood, learning to embrace new things, break abusive cycles, learning to correctly parent my precious children and learning how to have a healthy marriage. This blog is here because as I am about to start the deeper journey of trauma therapy to deal with my childhood, writing is a way that I process as well as sewing. So this blog will have some difficult posts, fun posts and probably some posts just showing what I’ve made. Honestly I’m not sure how this will look as it plays out. But I thank you for joining me for the ride.

First Commissioned Project!

I love history.

My favorite thing to study in history though, are the clothes. In spare time recently, I’ve gone down so many rabbit holes on Youtube and other places online researching historical clothing.

For Christmas, I requested historic costuming books, pattern books and historical textile books from my husband and in-laws. I got quite a few and have been losing myself in them quite frequently.

I also love fantasy. Meshing the 2 together has it’s own level of fun. So, more projects will come. But for now, I had the opportunity to work on a project for someone else. She had the vision of what she wanted, and I had the ability to make that vision come to life.

Not historically accurate- but historically inspired. A little Lord of The Rings inspiration in there as well. This was SO. Much. Fun.

Hopefully, some better pictures will follow with the model herself, but for now…

Trauma Triggers and the Pandemic

It has been a while since I’ve been here. I’ve thought about it often and had moments that I wished I had the time to write even more. But, life has a way of getting out of hand and slipping by quickly till you look back one day and realize it’s been as long as it’s been.

Here I am though, 6:23 am with my cup of coffee and the rest of my house asleep. Why, when my kids are not going to school am I up this early? Well, it was a nightmare. I haven’t had one in a while, but it pulled me out of deep sleep and here I am.

I’ve hesitated a lot to write some details of my childhood because I do not wish anyone to see any of my siblings as “the bad guy.” I need to talk about something now, but before I do. My brothers and sisters were all victims in the same evil, awful situation. Each one of us handled it differently then and differently now. I love each and every one of them so much. My older brother K—— has been one of my biggest supporters for years.

Mom liked to keep us fighting as siblings. Of course she would say that she hated the fighting and we would get in major trouble for it, but she spent years purposely trying to make sure we fought and were against each other. You may ask why and read that and think I’ve just gone crazy and made it up. To answer they “why” I really don’t have much to give you. Looking back, that confused me and my sister for a long time.

The best we can figure out, is that if we were all angry with each other and fighting each other, she would

A) Feel more justified in her abuse against us

B) Not worry that we would see her as the “bad guy” and not all start fighting her or

C) Both

Whatever her reasons, she did, and she was very effective for a long time. I’m only going to go into a couple of examples in this post, but there are plenty more.

Before my older brother pretty much moved out for good, one of the things she did the most was get everyone in trouble for something only one of us did. But she mostly utilized this tactic when it was K—— that had done something and was lying to cover himself.

I have no way of knowing exactly how many times J— and I were made to stand with him for hours upon hours till “someone tells me the truth” about something one of us did. Something that EVERYONE including her, knew K—— had done. I remember one time in particular, we had missed breakfast and lunch and had spent that entire time being forced to stand without sitting.

This also involved that snowball affect I’ve mentioned in an earlier post. We were being forced to stand for hours passing all chore times and school times which meant none of that was getting done and we wouldn’t be allowed to eat another meal till that all got caught up as well.

But back to this time. I was crying and sobbed to mom that she knew K—— had done it and why were J— and I in trouble with him? Her answer was “I know K—— did it, I’m waiting for him to tell me the truth and you two are in trouble with him because we are a family and this is a team effort and if one of you fails we all fail!”

See what she did there?

Do you see how messed up that is?

K—— was much tougher than J— and I were and could hold out much longer against the impending abuse for actually committing whatever the offense was in the first place. As a result, this situation played out so. many. times. Standing in the corner or on the rug for hours upon hours without being allowed to move, while missing meals and sometimes rounds of beatings were thrown in the mix. All while knowing that J— and I were innocent of the fault.

Once K—— was out of the house, this turned into me getting into that type of trouble for things my younger siblings did. In those incidences it was because I was “so rebellious and being a bad example to (my) siblings therefore it is (my) fault for what they did.”

Little FYI, when I say I was “in trouble” please remember that that “in trouble” for me meant no food for days, beatings that could be 50-over 100 beats with the belt on bare bottom or the bottoms of my feet (sometimes just wherever the belt happened to hit all over my body when mom was in one of her blind rages – which happened a lot), being fined major amounts of money I didn’t have and thus increasing my “debt” to my parents which in later years meant stealing my birthday and Christmas money from family and taking any money I earned babysitting or otherwise helping people at church, being forced to write the usual 20 page papers on rebellion or lying, etc.

Now all of that above to bring me to where I am today. A trigger was hit this week directly related back to what I described above.

Matt and I are choosing to take precautions, wear masks in public, etc.

Yes, being stuck at home is really tough. All of us have been through so many grief cycles. We don’t get a break from the kids because we can’t have a date. Even if we could find somewhere to go that is safe, we don’t have a babysitter. Watching my older 2 grieve the loss of the last few months at their loved school is hard. But I will say that I’m proud of the ways we’ve gotten creative during this time.

This has been extra tough on me from the start. Triggers have abounded, panic attacks had a plenty. But this was one I did not expect. We needed a few things the other day. During all of this, Matt has been the one to run out when we had to go. But I had to get out. Desperately needed some time, so he suggested I take a turn.

I should have stayed home. I (and another customer in the small store I was in that was also wearing a mask) were both clearly being mocked by the stores employees that obviously didn’t care. Another store I passed, but didn’t go in, the parking lot was packed and loads of people going in and out with obviously no care. The other store I went in (which thankfully that store cares and is taking major precautions) was also full of people that clearly didn’t care. Most were not only not even paying attention to the close proximity of others, some had ALL their children with them and many gave me side snickers and glances for wearing a mask.

I came home defeated and drained. The trigger hit me later when my brain was trying to process what I had experienced. I’m no longer a child in an abusive house, but I’m still being punished for others’ actions. That trigger came in hard.

My oldest son’s birthday is next week, and I had to sit here and watch him throw his hands up with anger, frustration and tears welling up in his eyes and say “I won’t get to have a real party! Because nobody can come because of this stupid virus!”

I’m not here to argue view points. It’s not about wearing a mask or not wearing a mask. Frankly I don’t care if you wear one or not. Being careful and respecting others is what I am talking about. I am simply trying to point out this none of this is about one person. Your actions do have consequences and ramifications on other people. My little family can’t see Matt’s parents right now. My father in law has heart disease and cannot risk getting this virus. I had to cancel a planed trip to see family because I cannot risk my grandparents health.

But as hard as it is, I wouldn’t do anything different. Because I love them.

Now, I’m going to go finish my coffee before the crazy of the day officially starts and attempt to forget about that awful nightmare.

The Story of Us (Part 3)

Wedding planning turned into something that was fun yet miserable at the same time. The fun parts really revolved around making my dress and thinking about actually being married by the end of it.

The premarital counseling class that we were in seemed shallow and irrelevant to me. From my point of view, it was a whole lot of sessions that delved into what I would consider, the shallow things that destroy marriages. Things like the toilet paper roll, the toothpaste roll, etc. I know I have a different vantage point, but quite frankly, all those things seemed stupid and shallow. To be fair, I’m pretty sure looking back that the couple heading up this class were trying to get at the fact that many times, those stupid surface level things often indicate deeper issues at play. To my naive ears though, it sounded ridiculous.

Whether or not that was the case, we certainly did not directly touch on deeper issues or really go though anything that I believe would have been much more helpful in the long run. There was no talk on how to handle differences of opinion in finances for example. I don’t really remember there being anything on finances actually. I remember we briefly skimmed over conflict resolution, but it all was coming from one angle. That angle being that both partners came from a normal home.

My reason for even talking about this is simply to say, I wish that premarital counseling had been better; more personal. Matt and I have both admitted since that neither of us felt it accomplished anything other than fulfilling the requirement of our church that we complete it before marriage. We were both relieved when the class was over, stuck our books on the shelf and moved forward.

I threw myself into finishing my wedding dress. Technically, I had started on it before we were engaged, but now I felt free to finish it. I’m not entirely sure why I took so many pictures of my progress at that point, but I’m grateful I did. It’s fascinating for me to look back at them now. My skills have grown and changed quite drastically and my dream for the dress, had been lace. But lace was too costly so even though I settled for tulle, I am immensely proud of what I did.

I tried to find a smattering of bridal portraits that show the details on the front, hem, back and the veil I made. I’m not really sure anyone has ever seen these.

It was the budget that caused my first clash with my parents. They had given us a relatively small amount of money when it came to planning a wedding. Having no plans to actually ask for anymore, I went through every mental hoop I could for cutting costs. This presented a problem however when I got to the photographer. A good friend and former roommate of mine was doing weddings and offered to photograph mine for a discount. Even with that discount, it was 1/3 of the money we were given.

I approached my parents one evening with the problem. Good photos was the one thing I really wanted, and anyone besides my friend was 3 times her cost.

The yelling began. It was yelled that I was wasting money; that this was proof of my irresponsibility; that I couldn’t budget worth anything; etc.

This stung. I’m not entirely sure why, after all, this is what I was used to. But I had spent weeks leading up to this conversation researching photographers, cutting coupons for Hancock fabrics and AC Moore so that I could painstakingly and slowly purchase the supplies for my dress as well as the invitations and other things. I was doing everything myself to try to save every dollar I could. This included coupon clipping and sales watching to get the flowers and ribbon to make my own bouquets. Matt and I had even gone so far as to map out the time of day in which to get married so that we didn’t have to pay for a dinner.

My memory fails on what the fallout of that was. I don’t remember how I handled it. In all likelihood, I yelled back and stormed out of the house. That’s how things usually went down. I do remember however, that following that confrontation with my parents was the first time I told Matt that I wanted to elope.

That my parents didn’t believe me on how expensive things were, was clear. A few weeks later, in his normal tone of prideful arrogance, dad mentioned that he had done his own research and could not believe how expensive everything was. Mom’s tone was at least a little more sheepish when telling me that they had actually figured out how much I was saving and they had decided to extend the budget for whatever the materials for the dress had cost. It’s wasn’t much in the grand scope of things, but I took it. Still furious though that they couldn’t even apologize for what had happened before.

After that all settled down, the manipulation games started. I had asked all 3 of my sisters and my cousin to be my bridesmaids. My sister J— was my maid of honor, but was studying abroad during most of the planning. It wasn’t in issue with my cousin B— obviously, my mom couldn’t tell her what to do. My 2 youngest, underage sisters however were used as a weapon. Whatever decision I made I was reminded that my parents could “just pull them from the wedding and not allow them to participate.”

This was a very effective tactic; she knew as well as I that both of them would be utterly devastated to not be allowed to participate. It was really more for them than for me that I had asked them to be my bridesmaids anyway. This was used against me for the style of their dresses as well as who would be doing what and how involved people would be during the ceremony.

Matt truly did not believe that I was serious about eloping. He was also worried that his mom would be horribly hurt by us making that choice. So we went ahead with the wedding.

Somewhere close to a month-ish out, my mom suddenly got the brilliant idea to turn my wedding day into a planned family reunion. Suddenly, I now had more details to bow to her every whim on. Everything about our day had to make sure it didn’t mess with her family reunion that would be after our wedding and that we obviously, wouldn’t be there for.

Matt was my ever present rock through all these ups and downs. I don’t know how I would have made it to our wedding day with my sanity in tact if he hadn’t been that supportive. I put my marks in where I could so that there would still be something of me in that ceremony. We asked our good friend B– to officiate instead of our pastor. Though not yet in a place mentally to process where our church fit into my damage or healing, I already felt a since of betrayal with our pastor and knew I didn’t want to ask him.

Quick aside: That pastor came to me later and sent me an apology for not intervening and for overlooking what my parents were doing.

I had our friend B—, who was doing the music to play the instrumental intro to a U2 song for my walk down the isle. I also asked my cousin to sing Bless the Broken Road because that was the best song I knew that addressed previous pain in an appropriate way for a wedding, hoping that my parents would get the hint. They didn’t.

Our wedding planner was a lady from our church that I had known for most of my life. She has the kind of personality that is loud, bubbly, sugary sweet and you don’t forget her once you’ve met her. She also can command a room and is hard to say “no” to. One the day of the rehearsal, as we were working though the ceremony, “awesome” ideas kept popping into her head about ways to make the ceremony “more special for your parents.” She was referring to both mine and Matt’s and while I was fine with doing all that for Matt’s, I had no desire to do it for mine.

I had no will left at this point to say no or put my foot down. So whatever she came up with is what happened. From extra hugs for mom and dad during my walk down the isle, to both our moms being given the “honor” to light our separate candles beside the unity candle at the start of the ceremony. I numbed myself to it all and kept my focus on Matt. That was what was important. It didn’t bother me: I repeated that to myself over and over till I had done an admirable job in convincing myself that it was true.

There were so many times that my parents yelled at me, ridiculed me and told me I wasn’t being responsible through all this, I lost count. Truthfully, I’m actually grateful I don’t remember the details of them all. A lot of what I’ve recorded here, I had to sit a while putting aside what I’ve always forced myself to always focus on, to make sure it’s recorded as accurately as it can be.

Matt and I learned more conflict resolution during the last 8 months before our wedding, then we ever did sitting in a premarital counseling class. We joke that we fought and made up more while dating then we did in the first 3 years of our marriage. Not that we are proud of the fighting, but we are proud that we tried to learn from it and used it to draw us closer to each other. The stress that I was under from my parents played a big role.

To some extent, the thing I kept telling myself had multiple levels of truth in it. The most important thing at the end of the day, July 12, 2008, was that we were husband and wife. Our marriage didn’t need to be defined by the events of that day. So if you were to curl up with me for a chat (and coffee of course) and ask me, “tell me about you and Matt and your wedding.” You wouldn’t hear most of this.

You would hear how we shocked his mom into silence (that’s rare. I’ve only accomplished it twice) when we announced our engagement. He had told her NOTHING other than the fact that we were dating. She had no clue we were serious.

You would hear of the fun and crazy trips to Charleston to see my cousin, which included epic levels of near catastrophe (our grandparents have plenty of those stories from us being together) like setting her oven on fire and almost wrecking her husband’s truck.

Or you would hear of how we were rushed through our reception (no ones fault, it just happened), got in our car for the farewell, pulled out of the church parking lot, looked at the clock and almost turned around and came back.

Those and other fun memories like it, are the ones I’ve forced myself over the years to focus on; hoping somehow that they would eventually erase all the others. I had succeeded mostly. But then Matt finally gets our little recording on his computer. The music starts and all of those little things that I didn’t want are now staring me in the face. My daughter wants to watch it, I don’t want her to. I’m ashamed of how “weak” I was to cave. But there is also a new feeling now, new to me anyways. Pride. I’m so proud of us. We made a choice to grow together through all of that mess, not grow apart.

There was never a “good” kind of pride growing up. All pride was bad, so this is new to me.

We’ve since talked about renewing our vows and planning an event with just the people that WE want there. The ones that have invested in us, that really love us. Matt wants me to be able to get or make the dress with lace that I actually wanted. We will see if that’s in the future for us. It would be fun and special, no doubt. But I’ve come to the place of contentedness with us. We’ve defied so many odds, been through so many things the world and life have thrown at us, that I’m proud. Proud, but also grateful. Grateful for the “family” that God has blessed us with that may not share blood, but it doesn’t matter. Grateful that looking back, I can see little ways here and there that God made His presence known to us during all that.

11 1/2 years later, I’m so thankful that the one thing I don’t regret is marrying my best friend.

The Story of Us (Part 2)

Now I’ve got to back up slightly. Before I moved out of my parents house and before we officially began dating, there were a series of events that I can’t leave out.

During the time period that is “I knew he liked me, everyone else knew he liked me but he thought he was being subtle,” he started stalking me. No, not like in the creepy way, but still. It was enough that everyone at work was giving me a hard time. He would randomly show up at the bookstore where I worked, but sometimes it would be as we were closing the store.

There was usually some excuse; but the top 2 were:

“I just got off and I had nothing else to do.”

“I just was about to go into A.C. Moore.” (it was next door)

It was funny the first couple of times, but admittedly I did freak out a little when it happened 3 nights in one week. He thankfully got the message and stopped doing that, but my coworkers were merciless in their teasing (one of whom I’m pretty sure will be reading this. You know who you are… (I’d put a laughing emoji here if I could).

But he was being “subtle.”

Anyway, he took forever to finally ask me out on a date and even then, he says he didn’t realize it was “date.” From my point of view, he called and asked me to go to the movies with him, picked me up and paid for everything. Yes, that’s a date.

When I say forever, that’s what it felt like to me. We started talking and walking to my car by early to mid February and didn’t go on our first official date till mid July. That’s a long time to go knowing that someone likes you but not actually dating.

He finally did call me because a couple of his friends were giving him such a hard time about it, he caved and called me.

Seriously though, I am very thankful for the relationship of friendship that we were able to well establish through those months of talking beside my car and doing things with our group. We were such solid friends by the point where we started dating, that it was more of a logical progression and didn’t feel forced, awkward or that we had to always just show our best sides.

In fact, it was on our second date where, after a particularly rough week, I spilled everything about my family. I hadn’t been out at all at that point and had no framework for the fact that I had been in a cult; but I knew my parents were abusive. I just hadn’t realized how bad it really was. A lot of that knowledge has come with time, parenting my own children and learning. Like learning that something you thought of as normal, is really anything but.

I honestly was terrified after that date and literally thought “crap, what have I done?” I joke now that I thought he was going to run for the hills, but that was a serious mental issue for me. The reality that he stayed and didn’t run was alternately amazing and terrifying.

Now to jump back to where I left off previously…

After I moved out, I no longer had to think about my parents most of the time. It was just pure heaven for me. We still did most of our activities with our group. Those involved a ton of day trips to the beach, going wading in the river near the zoo and way too many $2 appetizers from Carolina Ale House till 2 am.

Time with just the 2 of us often involved day trips to the mountains or one of our favorite mountain towns, hiking, going to see my cousin in Charleston or just sitting in my room talking.

I tried to hang out with my younger siblings when I could, but my parents made that a challenge. They were still angry that I wasn’t including them in any of this and said I was setting a bad example for my siblings. I lost count the number of times I heard my mom say, “you had BETTER behave (what she meant is not get pregnant) because you are the first of my children to do this here and the eyes of our church are on you!”

I was ridiculously jealous of my older brother during all this as he was getting to go through this process with his now wife in Japan and well away from our parents.

It wasn’t too long after we were officially dating that I was talking to my grandmother and she told me that she wanted to give me one of her diamonds. It was the one that my grandfather had given her for their 15th wedding anniversary. She asked if we would want to use it for my engagement ring. Of course I told her I would love it. I had already “forbidden” Matt to go into debt on a ring.

I thought that my grandmother would just put it aside to give to me the next time we saw her, so imagine my shock when it showed up in the mail a few days later. We were still months from even getting engaged. Anyway, I had the diamond with really no plans to have it set anywhere in sight.

I already knew that I didn’t want any man to ever ask my dad to marry me. My dad did not have that place or that right in my life after what he had done. Matt and I discussed it and decided that we would at least show them some respect and Matt would eventually ask for their blessing when we were ready. So I let my parents put my diamond in their safe with the plan that Matt would get it from dad when he asked for their blessing. Also, that would ensure that I didn’t know when Matt got it as I wanted to be surprised (at least at that point I wanted to be surprised).

Matt and I would end up regretting that decision later; but I’ll get there in a bit.

During all those months of dating, there were a few times here and there when Matt would buy me a rose. It was always a single rose and he always spent an insane amount of time picking it because it had to be “perfect.” When he gave me the first rose (white) however, he told me then and reminded me several times that he wasn’t going to give me a red rose till there was a ring with it.

It seemed like a big deal to him and as I didn’t mind, that’s just what got established. I got white, pink and peach roses but not red. This will come into play later in this story, trust me.

Leading up to our engagement, a friend of mine that was in our church group, started working part time at the bookstore with me. She and her boyfriend had started dating sometime around the time Matt and I had and we were both getting tantalizingly close to being engaged. Like we knew it was coming, but not when and we were both VERY ready to BE engaged at that point.

A few evenings when she and I would close the store together we would talk about it and one night she said, “no offense Erika, but if you guys get engaged first I’m going to cry.” I laughingly agreed that I pretty much felt the same way. So, when her boyfriend texted me a couple weeks later to enlist my help in making sure she wasn’t scheduled to work the next weekend without cluing her into the fact that it was purposeful, I got REALLY impatient. I had figured out by that point that Matt had gotten the diamond, but that’s it.

All week, I was working with her, keeping my mouth shut and trying not to feel the feelings of jealousy that wanted to come.

I ended up getting Sunday off that weekend and Matt told me at church that he wanted to take me out to lunch. That was kind of our code for “I’ll meet you at your house so we only have one car out.” I headed home and had just had time to change into something more comfortable when in walks Matt holding a red rose.

FYI folks…this was not a wise decision on his part. As I knew he was not about to propose in my roommates kitchen, I knew that there was NOT a ring coming with that red rose. He fumbled for a couple of minutes trying to explain why, saying things like “I know you had a rough week knowing that *our friends* are getting engaged,” but I was furious. Like the kind of furious where I had to think of something I “forgot” in my room and had to go compose myself and hide the immediate tears that came. See how I said that red rose thing would come back into play?

We headed out for lunch, but there was only so much I could hide about how angry I was. What I didn’t know then, was that Matt DID have the ring on him and was planning on proposing later that afternoon. I still say that he just should have left the rose out of it. When he realized what he had done, he knew we weren’t going to have any kind of good day till he fixed it, so all his plans went out the window and instead of heading to the restaurant, he drove straight to the property where our church had just moved away from and parked. He got out, ran around the car and asked me to get out.

There in the parking lot where everything had started months before he asked me to marry him, quickly followed by an apology for the rose. I started crying, he started crying and we probably looked ridiculous to all the passing traffic. He told me then about how none of his plans had seemed to be lining up, which is why he did what he did.

He had a different location in mind for actually asking me, but looking back, I really love the fact that it was in the empty parking lot of the property our church had only recently vacated. The new location for our church wasn’t something we were used to yet and the old property felt more right.

Not long after our engagement, Matt finally told me about getting the diamond. This is honestly angering and hard to think about, but it’s what happened and is important. Remember I said that the “asking for my parents blessing” thing was our gesture at showing them respect?

Basically, dad wouldn’t give Matt the diamond till Matt met him for what was for all intents and purposes, a business lunch. My dad used this time to trash me. Literally. He told Matt how I would ruin his life, how I would ruin him financially, how bad I was at money, how irresponsible I was and that I would be a horrible wife. Matt told me later that he was furious at himself for not stopping it and standing up for me, but he said he was in so much shock to hear a dad talk about about his daughter that way that he didn’t know how to respond.

I don’t blame him at all. I don’t think in that moment I would have been able to respond any differently. I don’t even really see it as him not standing up for me either. He just got out of there as fast as he could, which is what I was doing at that point in my life.

So, like I said, we regret even offering that branch out to them. I remember shrugging it off then. That’s how I had been treated most of my life, so I really didn’t expect anything better and honestly I wanted to enjoy my life and not think about it. Now, 13 years later, it’s a much more painful memory.

Not thinking about it was much easier and I pretty much just pretended it didn’t happen and moved forward with wedding planning. I don’t regret doing that. It’s what I needed to do to fully enjoy where I was and what I was doing. I was in no place to start delving into all that. So, I dove into wedding planning. I was enjoying every bit of this stage of life and had no intention of something like that ruining it.

And the wedding planning began.

First engagement picture

The Story of Us (Part 1)

When Matt and I got married, we couldn’t afford anyone to record it but weren’t really concerned. I don’t really know when it became a thing anyway. About a week before our wedding though, Matt got the brilliant idea to use his video camera and stick it on a tripod and see what we got.

The tape got labeled and stuck in the safe with plans to do something with it soon…well life happened. Fast forward 11 years and he finally got it on his computer.

We sat down and started watching it, but I was wholly unprepared for the wash of mixed emotions that flooded.

There are plenty of things about that day that make us laugh, but in truth much of my mindset through that day was constantly reminding myself that the important thing was Matt and I would be married by the end of it and I would be able to walk away.

But I’m going to have to go back to the beginning before I get there. The beginning of our relationship.

We met at church. It was the church I was born into and had in recent years to this, become a popular church for many of the students from the local Bible college where Matt attended.

I had recently returned from 3 rough semesters at Pensacola Christian College where I had slowly come to realize that I had just traded one prison for another. I really wasn’t even planning on going back to that church, simply because when I had last been there, there was not a good ministry or group geared towards college and career/young adult age. I met with the man that would be my Sunday school teacher (and was someone I had known my entire life) though, and he assured me that things had changed.

There was a new leader, he told me (this new leader would end up being a really good friend and older brother to me and would be the one to marry Matt and I). He also made an interesting point that stuck out to me. I wasn’t sure why at the time, but looking back now, Matt and I are pretty sure he was attempting some sly matchmaking. He said, “there’s this young man in my class and he is very intelligent and is always asking great questions. His name is Matt and I’m pretty sure you two will get along.”

I walked away from that meeting willing to give it another try. After all, looking for a new church when this had been my church home since I was born, was scary.

My first Sunday trying the class happened to coincide with my older brother’s last Sunday in the states before heading to Japan with the military. Since he was selling his truck, he wanted to drive it to church one more time and I wanted to ride in it one more time (I love trucks for those that don’t know. Like…dream vehicle kind of love trucks), so I rode with him.

Neither he nor I thought anything of riding to church together, sitting together in service or walking to class together. I mean, we are siblings and had been at the church for over 21 years…everyone knew that. Well, except those that didn’t. The church had grown, but slowly enough that we really didn’t think much of it till between the worship center and half way to the class building we had been stopped THREE times with statements about how tough it must be for me being a military wife (my brother was in dress uniform).

It’s funny now, but that day we were so grossed out and quickly corrected any statement. I think the third time I almost shouted my “this is my BROTHER” simultaneously with his “this is my SISTER!” After that, he fell back and let me get far ahead of him so that we would not enter the class together. Then, we sat on opposite sides of the room as each other.

Our attempt failed though, and every single person in that room except the teacher still thought we were a married couple. Not only that, they thought we were a married couple in the middle of an epic fight since we sat so far apart. So there you have it folks, that was the first time I ever met my future husband. He thought I was married. To my brother. And that we were fighting.

I learned all this later though, after getting to know everyone there more and after my brother was gone. My first thought of Matt came as we were all introducing ourselves. I remember thinking, “Oh that’s who R—– was telling me about. Hmm. He looks like a geek.”

Yep, that was my first impression of my future husband.

The next few weeks are fuzzy in the memory department. I was doing everything in my power to never be at my parents house, which is where I was still living unfortunately. I was working as many hours as my manager at the bookstore would give me, throwing myself into my new social life and doing my best to stay out of my parents cross-hairs.

We were doing all kinds of things as a college group and I was enjoying every bit of it. It was the most freedom I had ever experienced before. Within about a month though, it became super obvious to me and everyone else that Matt was interested in me. He swears he was being subtle but it was anything but. I feel fairly certain that most that knew us both then would agree with that.

It felt weird. I was about to turn 21 and had never known of anyone interested in me before this. I mean, I thought he was nice but I still thought he was a geek and that he wasn’t my type. To top that off, I wasn’t looking for a husband. At least not there at my church. I had put a hope on one particular individual whom I had known for most of my life and his family had homeschooled as well.

Having been raised in that, I thought that me marrying someone else that had been homeschooled would be the most logical as well as simple thing. Any man that had been homeschooled would surely understand me better and that I was supposed to homeschool any future children.

As there is a possibility for him or those that know him to read this, I’m not giving anymore details as I don’t want to make anyone feel weird or awkward. Just suffice it to say, I had hard crushed on this young man for years. I had never breathed a word of it to anyone save my sister, since I was taught that that was sinful and that by having a crush, I was giving a part of my heart away.

So yes, emotions were all over the place once it became obvious Matt was interested. I was certainly flattered but I was clinging to other hopes.

God knew better than I did, obviously, and slowly but surely I was able to release my dream and move forward.

Matt and I didn’t start dating right away. I would have been too terrified to go on a date even if he had asked me at that point. But he walked across the parking lot at church one Sunday just as I was about to leave to “just say I’ll see you later.” I think it was about 3 hours and one bad sunburn later that I finally got in my car and left. Thus began a tradition for us that would last till I moved out of my parents house.

He would walk me to my car after church and we would then spend an ungodly amount to hours standing next to it talking. We didn’t mean for it to turn into a thing, it just kind of did. That carried over to anytime our group got together for a Bible study or social event. One event that we both went to met downtown and we spent so many nights after that just walking around downtown till 2 or 3 am. Probably wasn’t the safest thing we could have done, but it is what it is.

My parents are not dumb, and figured out quite quickly that something was going on with a young man. They tried everything to shame me into introducing Matt to them so they could tell him to leave. They made it quite clear that I was going about this in a rebellious way as Matt had not spoken to Dad first and gotten his permission to even talk to me. There was no way in this world though that I was letting them get anywhere near Matt at this point. We weren’t even officially together yet.

But home turned miserable, again. I came home late one night to Dad waiting for me at the door with a full on lecture about how I was being rebellious and they were going to put me on a curfew (I was paying full rent for my room) and take my drivers license and my car. Remember, I was now 21, paying rent, had paid cash for my car and was paying all my own bills.

This was the first time I ever had worked up the nerve to stand up to them, but I literally laughed in his face. Then proceeded to remind him that the car was mine, I was an adult and I would go to the police if he so much as laid a hand on my drivers license or my keys. He was furious, but knew I was right. So, he just kicked me out of the house for a couple of nights and I ended up having to spend more of my own money to get a hotel room. The same amount of rent was required the next time though.

I had been wanting to move out, but really didn’t think I could afford to. This set the ball rolling. I had to get out. It was only a matter of time before I would come home to the locks having been changed and my stuff in the yard. They continually threatened it for being such a rebellious daughter. Other than excluding them from my relationship with Matt though, I was doing everything they demanded of me.

At our next get together, I pulled our leader aside and begged him to help me find a place and some roommates. I had no clue where to start on my own. It took some time, and Matt and I had officially started dating before he found somewhere, but he found me a place with 3 other young ladies.

The day I moved, I took everything. Mom got suddenly helpful and “sweet” and offered to keep any of my things I didn’t need yet. There was zero chance of me taking her up on that. My parents had already destroyed most of my childhood belongings and I knew I had no guarantees of ever seeing my things again if I left them.

So started the best time of my young adult life…for a season anyway.

To be continued…

Taken at Graveyard Fields on the Blue Ridge Parkway sometime after we started dating.

Fun Up-cycle

I know that it’s been a while since the last post. A Christmas break and 3 rounds of all 5 children getting sick made typing anything up a challenge. But I finally got back in my sewing room in the last couple of weeks and have a few projects that I want to post. It may take them some time to all get posted, but I’m completely okay with that. This blog isn’t something I started with any schedules in mind.

Anyway, this project is one that I’m super excited about and I had a ton of fun (well, I wouldn’t go right to fun on the 4 ish hours I spent ripping seams…but overall it was fun).

By older brother and his wife gave my daughter a very pretty Japanese outfit when she was an infant. When she outgrew it, I just couldn’t bare to part with it. The fabric is just so beautiful. I boxed it up in my fabric stash until I could come up with something to do with it that would be something my daughter could use for a long time.

This past fall, she finally got to start ballet. I have an old bag that she’s been using to transport all her things in, but it was really too small and all the other ones I had were way too large for what she needed. Of course the dance studio has dance bags for sale…but they are all more expensive than I want to pay just because it has the word “dance” or ballet shoes embroidered on them.

I started rummaging through my fabric stash thinking surely I had something that would work and came across her old outfit. I wasn’t sure if it would provide enough fabric, but I decided to give it a go and see.

So here it the outfit before I did anything. The size tag says 0, but I’d say it’s about the size of 18 month baby clothes.

Isn’t it just beautiful?

I wanted to save and reuse as much of it as possible as well as keep the essence of the outfit in the bag I was making. So…insert the hours of seam ripping as I painstakingly removed every bit of the trim (except on the sleeves) and the closures and separated every piece.

Part of the reason this took so long is because I needed every inch of fabric I could save and I wanted to save and reuse the trim. Another reason for this project is I’m attempting to start working through things I already have and I wanted this project to finish without having to purchase anything else. I did end up getting one small thing, but I found it on clearance, so that was helpful.

When taking the pants apart, I was very happy to figure out that each pant leg was constructed of one cut of fabric, making it much easier to use. The two pant legs are what form the main bag. I cut off the excess to get 2 rectangles and sewed them together. Then, I surged all the seams and edges because the fabric wanted to fray really badly.

The one thing I bought was the cording. Because I grabbed what was on sale, I only had it in brown, which didn’t match. So in the theme of using my fabric stash, I also had a small amount of a hot pink satin that I’ve had for probably 20 years. I used in to cover the cording for an accent color. I love it.

I knew I wanted it to be a round bag, so the plan was to use the cording as edging and also help the bag hold it’s shape at the same time. Once it was covered, I sewed it on the edges of the main bag.

Then, as you see in the above picture, begin the replacement of the trim. I had to piece it together, so there are seams in interesting places, but again. I was using what I had and I honestly think it adds a lot of charm to the bag.

The next step was attaching the sleeves and turning them into pockets. Then sewing on the zipper. I didn’t already have a pink one in the correct size, but I had a tan one that looked fine.

I was able to get both circles I needed for the ends out of the back of the top to the outfit. For the strap, I have a large amount of strap material that I got at a thrift store years ago. The problem was that it was rainbow. While both my daughter and I love rainbows, it did not match the rest of the bag. Thankfully, I had enough of the hot pink for the bag lining as well as also covering the strap.

Once the strap was on the sides, I put them on the bag and used two of the 3 lovely closures to decorate the pockets.

Then came the lining. I hand stitched the top edges to just under the zipper so that no raw edges were showing.

I did make one boning channel on either side of the zipper in the lining and inserted a piece of boning on each side to help the bag hold it’s shape when my daughter is holding it. Then tacked them to the top fabric.

Then finally, I used the 2 top pieces to form the shoulder strap pad. This is also where I placed the last closure. I used snaps on this instead of velcro, because if velcro ever touches it, the fabric is done for.

My husband had some old padding that I was able to use.

And…it’s DONE!

I put the first picture here again so the before and after are closer.

I love the finished bag so much and so does my daughter!

Treadle Machine Update

It has been a little bit since I posted about finally finding a Singer Treadle machine. I got it, then it had to sit for a while before I could start fixing it. The leather belt was dry rotted, it was covered in cigarette tar, the hand wheel wouldn’t turn and it was just all around really dirty. A lot of love, time and work later here are some before and after pictures. Unfortunately, even these don’t fully show how bad it was when we got it. The metal end plate and the circle metal plate on the back were totally black with a whole layer of tar. I didn’t think to take any pictures till we had already worked on it some. But here is what I have.

Pictures on the left are before, right is after
The towel shows all the gunk I got out of and off of the bobbin area.
Again, left is before. Right is after.

And…my most exciting moment…it finally works!!

The reason the hand wheel wouldn’t turn is that the bobbin was all jammed with a ton of gunk. I replaced the leather belt and it’s clean and tar free!

I may or may not refinish the cabinet one day. It’s in really good shape, it just looks the 90 years old that it is. Right now, I kind of like the charm of it looking its age.

Invisible Chains

        A prisoner held, your words the chains. Broken and bruised, with shredded heart bleeding. Tears streaming again, I fight the bonds looking to you and desperately pleading.

You call it love and pull the chains tighter. Tell me that God is the one that wants it this way. But love can’t be this; and as I fight those foul bonds they only cut deeper to my utter dismay.

For years I am held behind those dark prison walls hearing from you daily that I’m worth nothing more. My mind fights you daily, but my heart is confused. Is that how He feels? Am I not wanted anymore?

No! It can’t be! I scream to the air I will fight to get free but I’m weak to the bone. You have to help me I’ve fought for so long. Too weary and wounded to keep trying alone.

“It’s all been lies” I hear in a whisper. “Say it out loud believe it to be true.” Tentative, uncertain; yet desperately willing to try, I whispered, “I’m loved” A chain broke in two.

One by one I named the lies; one broken link for every truth. Finally free! I fled the cell; so desperate for distance. So desperate to move on, no healing time was taken. No bandages, no casts! I shoved it and hid it with such persistence.

Infection set in; bones healed all wrong. “I’m fine” I kept saying “I have to be strong!” I have to forgive. I have to move on.” Doing it this way, surely can’t be wrong.

The more years that past the sicker I became, till that one awful day when my mind said “enough!” You must face this pain and address all your wounds. To move forward you must, no matter how tough.

“I can’t face it again, I’m not strong enough” I whisper out loud. “But I am here with you daughter of Mine; I’ll not leave you alone. I’m here for your pain, here through the anger, the grief and the tears. Let Me set the bones right and treat the infections; to Me they’re all known.”

Moving forward not on is now my full goal. Whatever that looks like, whatever that holds. Will it be easy? Most certainly not. So I will cling to my Helper as this unfolds.

By: Erika Smith

My Art, Music and Extracurricular Activities

As a child I was allowed with my older brother, to play soccer with the local public school league for 2 years. I enjoyed the game, but I also felt like the weirdo because my brother and I were the only ones that were homeschooled in the league.

We were on the same team for the first year and he was moved to an older age group for the 2nd year. I was so timid, but I enjoyed getting out on the field. The first year, our team only won 1 game the entire season. The 2nd year though, my team only lost one or 2 games. I loved feeling like I had something to give on the team, but I was still so incredibly shy. This ended up being a big deal because my coaches son was the best kicker on the team and he kicked 2 balls in one game that hit me. One knocked me to the ground from the force it hit the side of my head with and the other sent me doubled over struggling to breath because of the force it hit my stomach/chest with. Both times, the coach barely looked at me and said something about “she’s fine” and the game continued.

I was too shy to say anything different. I remember telling my parents later about it and crying because I was so hurt. I thought they would go talk to the coach for me. They didn’t. Instead I got a lecture about not saying anything. Obviously, I was more timid for the rest of the year and if the ball was headed in my direction, I would instinctively stop and protect myself from the ball. I remember the coach getting frustrated that I wasn’t doing my part. I have no clue if he talked to my parents but they spent the rest of the year ridiculing me for me “scared” of the ball and making comments that I should just quit. It got to the point that when signup time came for the next year, they had me so convinced that I was just not cut out for soccer and too scared of the ball that when they gave me the “choice” to sign up again, I obviously said no.

Then there was gymnastics. I loved gymnastics. My sister and I did that for a year. Then same song and dance, about half way through the year to insults started. I wasn’t flexible, I wasn’t really trying, I had no balance. On and on the ridiculing went till when my parents again gave me the “choice” to continue, I said no.

Then came one of the more tender subjects for me.

My violin.

I was in a great strings project in my state. They did not accept new students past 5th grade because they were focused on producing talent. The way the project worked was a mix of one on one instruction and orchestra. I loved it. I loved my violin, I loved the lessons, I loved practicing but I especially loved orchestra. I was in beginner for 3rd grade, intermediate for 4th and I was supposed to go into advanced for 5th.

I was proud to have my name in the program.

Not long after we had our big orchestra performance for my intermediate year, I started needing more supplies and needing to be brought to the school more frequently. Mom hated it and hated spending more money. She already spent so much time saying I wasn’t really trying on my practice time at home, but now she started making it impossible for me to get proper practice time in. She had my practice time written in on the daily schedule for a certain time, but I rarely actually got to practice.

There was always a reason. I didn’t finish something. That something changed all the time. But it went back to that snowball effect that I mentioned in a previous post. She tried everything in her manipulation book to get me to the point she had gotten me to with soccer and gymnastics to where I would just “quit” on my own accord so she could remind me how much of a quitter I was and make sure I couldn’t blame her for making me quit. The problem was, I DID NOT WANT TO QUIT. I loved it so much. I was just starting to get better.

I loved the music theory that went with the lessons. I practically lived for orchestra practice. I wouldn’t realize till adulthood how therapeutic music is to me, but that was probably part of it. So guess what? I didn’t quit. The longer I held out refusing to quit, the angrier and meaner my mom became. She finally caved and waited till past the final registration date for the last year I would have been allowed back in and forcibly removed me from the program.

Of course, she blamed it all on me and said it was all my own fault for not practicing enough. I know now that all of this was a form of gaslighting. I spent years questioning myself and my memory going back to “well, I guess I really didn’t care about it enough” and other thought processes like that.

 I was devastated. For years I kept my violin. I would pull it back out periodically to finger it, pluck the strings, play a little with the bow…then the pain would hit and I would start crying and have to put it away again. It was too painful to keep so I sold it when my daughter was a toddler.

(Side note, I do not regret selling it. I needed to then, but now I want to pick one back up again. So I’m looking for one that isn’t too expensive. If you know me personally and you get any leads of where I can find one, please pass it along to me)

Then there is art. I did a few things over the years that probably should have given me some sort of indication that I am good at art. I have no idea how old I was at the time, but for several years the larger homeschool group in my area did what I think would now be considered a homeschool coop. They had a few of the parents volunteer (I think it was volunteer. Not 100% sure) and we did music, art and drama.

I didn’t care for the drama part because I was so cripplingly shy, but I loved the music and art parts. The music teacher also did some Christmas programs for us over a few years and I loved her. I loved her so much and she probably has no clue. She always had a smile and hug for me. She was always so encouraging and her daughter was actually nice to me and didn’t treat me like the weirdo that most of the other girls did. Her passion for music always came through and if it involved her teaching, I wanted to be in her class.

I really don’t remember any of the art teachers, but I still have a few of the projects that they had us do. A poem I wrote.

A couple of scratch off picture things.

Then my shoe.

Yes, this is the one with a story. The teacher was talking about how we could show emotion through color and lines. We were told to take our shoes we were wearing that day and draw them then give them an emotion. Harsh lines and warm colors representing things like irritation or anger. Flowy lines and cool colors representing things like happy and peaceful. I remember taking off my tennis shoe, looking at all the detail and internally freaking out thinking there was no way I could draw that.

But, I hated failing so I took a breath and dove in. I didn’t understand as a little girl why I was so determined to make my shoe angry, but as soon as we got our assignment I knew that’s what I was going to do. A few of the boys in the class never took anything seriously and thought doing angry or irritated shoes was funny. So they did it, joking about it the whole time. I do remember noting that I was the single solitary girl in the class that made an angry shoe.

Since I couldn’t have been more than 11 or 12 when I drew my shoe, and I literally free handed it with it sitting in front of me, I should have guessed that I had at least a little drawing talent. Our teacher complimented me on my detail work, but I was just mortified that any attention had been directed my way.

Cut to the fall of 2017 when I went back to school for graphic design. The school I went to has their design class that I was told was the entry class for any direction in art. I was super nervous going in thinking that art was in no way my forte.

It ended up being so much fun. There wasn’t any drawing really till the final project. The class was about the concepts behind art like lines, shapes and colors, etc. The teacher was always very complementative of my work and I easily got an A in the class. I honestly played it down in my head and had convinced myself that it wasn’t a big deal, it was easy for everyone.

The last day of class however, our teacher was telling us how proud she was of our class because we were all very good. Then she told us that the class only had a 10% pass rate. Talk about a shock.

I enjoyed the whole semester in that class but the final project was my absolute favorite. We were given a list of types of lines and what they meant in art. We had to pick a theme and show every type of line in a book that we put together. My theme? Music.

I free handed almost everything in this book and it was so. much. fun.

Over the last couple of years now, I’ve wanted to try my hand further and see exactly what I could do. A couple of days after my first therapy session (finally) a couple of weeks ago, I was really having a tough day with so many emotions. I thought why not now, pulled out all my school supplies and a canvas I had gotten a while back and went to town.

Originally, I was going to just try to paint a few flowers or something that I could hang in my half bath for decoration. About 5 minutes of sketching in, everything got erased and less than 30 minutes later I had a finished sketch that I just wanted to paint. 

It took me a week and a half working on it while the older 2 were at school and the babies were napping. I’m not even 100% sure it’s done. But it conveys what I wanted and I’m proud of it.

There will hopefully be more. I really want one depicting my freedom. But for now… my first painting.

The Bondage of Abuse
Erika Smith

For Those Who Love and Support Survivors

If you’ve read my little “About Me” blurb at the beginning of my blog, you may have noted that the word victim does not appear. I don’t see myself as one. I see myself as a survivor. This is really important to me as I continue this process. Unless you have been in a Bible study with me or have been close to me at some point, you likely didn’t or wouldn’t even know anything bad about my childhood. Some that were close had an inkling that things weren’t good, but they didn’t even know how bad things were.

There are quite a few reasons for that but here’s my top one. I like to happy. I also love to laugh and enjoy friends, enjoy my family and I love to be making new memories to replace the bad ones.

With all this in mind, here are some things that I want people to know. Things that help and things that don’t. I promise this isn’t aimed at any one person. These are just things that I’ve figured out in all this. I want to use my story to help and here are some things that I think will be helpful to know in the future when getting to know someone that comes from an abusive past. Obviously, these will all be from my perspective and I don’t even pretend to be an expert. I am however, an expert in my story.

I’ll be honest before I start though, there has been a lot of mental back and forth with myself on this post. Why? Because I don’t want pity. I don’t want it to seem like I’m giving myself a pity party or excuses. But to some, it will probably come across that way. What I am merely attempting is to explain some things out for those that have no box for this. I hope that makes since.

So, let me dive a little more into what I said a moment ago. Again, I like to be happy. Maybe love is a better word for that though. I spent most of the first half of my life and a little past that absolutely miserable. I have no desire for that to continue any longer. I love my husband, my children and my friends. I love to laugh. That proverb about laughter being healing to the bones is SO true. Finding the humor in situations is good, and I like doing it. And let’s be honest here, no matter what your background, parenting provides plenty of those humorous situations.

Now the flip side of that is that it also used to be a coping mechanism. I didn’t fully realize that till a few years ago when I was meeting with someone and told her a “funny” memory that left her looking at me in horror. I’ll never forget that moment because when I saw her face, it stopped me in my tracks and I remember saying, “Oh. I guess that really isn’t funny, is it?”

In my life now, I have found myself slipping back into that on days when parenting is hard. So, sometimes if you see a bunch of humorous posts on my FB, I’m coping. What is different about me now than even 5 years ago, is if someone sees that and asks me if I’m okay, I’ll be honest with my response.

Another thing, please do not act weird or awkward around me. Treat me normal! So here’s the thing. I can’t change my childhood. I can’t change the details of what happened. Sometimes they will need to come out in a meaningful conversation. I know they are hard details to hear and many don’t know how to respond. But I’m still me at the end of that conversation. I’m still the me that you knew before you knew those details.

This blog has been the best thing I think I could have done for myself. It gives me a place to put the details, to process and work through it. I still haven’t found a therapist yet, but this has been so helpful. I’m not hiding anymore and this is the place I can leave it. I am usually fine with answering questions in other settings and I certainly need and appreciate those that have texted me, messaged me or pulled me aside to give me encouragement. Please don’t stop that. I know I experienced horrific abuse, but sometimes getting validation is helpful. If I just do not want to talk about it, I promise I will tell you. But I’ll always take a hug, text, card or message of encouragement.

On the list of things that are helpful is getting out with friends. Five children is overwhelming. It just is. It would be hard if you had a wonderful childhood. Imagine it when you have no mom to call, no good examples to pull from and your brain also decides that now is a great time to start processing trauma filled memories. I need to get out. I need breaks. I need to talk to other ladies. Where I struggle so much in this is in the asking.

You text me and say, “let’s go get coffee” or “let’s go walk somewhere” or “let’s get the kids together,” Matt can tell you, mountains will move for me to make that happen asap. But the chance that I’ll send that text first is slim. I’m working on it, I really am. There is however, only a certain amount of burns one already wounded individual can take before being the initiator becomes a huge barrier. Just a few months ago, I was told to stop trying to hang out by someone that I deemed a close friend. I truly don’t think she meant it in a mean way, but it hurt. It really hurt and putting myself out there is just too risky sometimes.

Again, I am desperately trying to overcome that, but it’s not something I can just make happen.

Please remember though, that actions speak much louder than words. If I have gotten to the point of being willing to initiate and it isn’t reciprocated. I will stop. If you tell me you want to hang out then only ever have excuses as to why we can’t, I will give up and assume that you actually don’t want to, you just don’t want to tell me. I realize people are busy. I’m busy myself. But if you truly love and care about someone, you make time for them. Period.

One thing that is not helpful and that can actually be hurtful, are platitudes. Especially religious ones. Including, but not limited to:

-forgive and forget

-just have more faith

-just trust God

-let go and let God

-give it to God

Rachael Denhollander said,

“One of the areas where Christians don’t do well is in acknowledging the devastation of the wound. We can tend to gloss over the devastation of any kind of suffering but especially sexual assault, with Christian platitudes like God works all things together for good or God is sovereign. Those are very good and glorious biblical truths, but when they are misapplied in a way to dampen the horror of evil, they ultimately dampen the goodness of God. Goodness and darkness exist as opposites. If we pretend that the darkness isn’t dark, it dampens the beauty of the light.”

I couldn’t say it better than that.

What I will say from my personal story. There is no logical reason outside of God’s grace and a pure miracle that I want to have anything to do with God at this point. When I’m in a moment of dealing with a painful memory or the repercussions of what was done to me, having any of those things I listed said to me is hurtful and angering.

Some of these are dismissive of the severity of people’s pain. But “forgive and forget” is not even Biblical. In my circumstance though, I cling to God, sometimes feeling like it’s by a fraying cord. The implication to someone telling me to just give it to God or trust or have more faith, is that I’m not doing it and if I was then I wouldn’t be in pain. That is also NOT Biblical. God didn’t promise us a life of ease and that it would be pain free. Quite the contrary actually. He was blunt that following Him would be hard.  So for me, when I get told those platitudes, it feels like a slap across the face. It also immediately makes me feel not safe with whoever said it because that individual is completely dismissing and invalidating my pain and using God to do it.

I know that sounds ridiculously harsh, but it is true and needs to be said. I deeply love people that have said it to me, but that doesn’t change how hurtful it is when it happens. I also know that most that say it really mean well. They would be horrified if they knew that that is how it comes across. That’s why I explaining how it comes across. Not because I can hold it over someone’s head, but so they know NOT to do it again. I get it. Hearing difficult details can leave you at a loss for words. It is OKAY to just listen and not say anything, or to say things like:

-I’m listening

-that wasn’t right

-I’m sorry you went through that

-I love you

-I’m praying for you (BUT ONLY IF YOU REALLY MEAN IT). This one is way better if you stop and pray right then, or text a prayer that you prayed or at least say exactly what you are going to pray for.

Anyways, I hope this all makes since and flows well. While being honest about hard parenting, I’m working off a night of about 3 good hours of sleep due to asthma issues and teething baby. So, I’m sure I’ve left some things out that I wanted to say and if another survivor reads this and has something to add…by all means. Please comment!

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