Beauty for Ashes

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On Friday, September 29th, I was asked to speak for the women at our church for their Fall Celebration Dinner. I was asked to share how I exchanged Beauty for Ashes.

So, I wanted to now share with each of you my message from that evening. Yes, I have shared of what it means to be a survivor and how to not play the “victim” card; however, after that evening, I felt God move so much deeper in so many ladies lives that night because of my obedience and transparency.

So here is my message. May God speak to each of you as He continually speaks to me.

At around the age of 8 my mother allowed a male family member to live in our house that sexually abused me over a period of time.  The instability in my young life allowed for me to “neatly” package these experiences away. It wasn’t until the age of 37, 17 years into my marriage, did I finally realize that in order to heal I had to acknowledge my abuse. Even though I never admitted the abuse, it permeated into the intimacy of my marriage and the ability to deeply know the fullness of my Savior Christ!

Let me explain the “Trigger Point” that brought me to the beginning of my healing. Joe was officiating a wedding and as he spoke to the couple about how important transparency was in a marriage it hit me that I wasn’t being transparent to Joe, not myself. I knew my hurt was like a wound that was festering. It was gaping and severely infected at the time. I truly believed that if I never looked at it, acknowledged it, that it somehow didn’t exist. So very silly to think that way; however, I truly believe that we all do that with so many things in our lives.

I had to speak it, bring it to life, acknowledge it before I could begin the healing process.

During my healing process I realized God was there. He never left my side. It is difficult to think about God being there, but I believe God saw the crown on my head-He saw the ending before it even began.  He protected me physically and mentally when my young mind couldn’t process what was happening. Christ–as fully man and fully God–knew the feeling of shame and embarrassment. Anything I was feeling or thinking, if it was anger or sadness, I could give it to Him.

The healing process took a couple of years, many a bit longer. I would truly think I dealt with it all, then a memory would come up and the process would start all over again. I now truly see God speaking to me during those times, “OK, you are owning this part, now let me give you this piece to add to the overall picture.”  It also took Joe time for him to process and heal as well. For the first couple of months he was ready to get on a plane, find him, punish him and even possibly place him in a place no one would ever find him. Joe’s anger and rage was only tempered by God’s grace and the men of God who surrounded him. We all needed and took “baby steps” in this healing process.

My abuser has since passed away and I really do pray that that before he passed away he surrendered his life to Christ and sought forgiveness.

During this healing process and every day since, Isaiah 61:3 comes alive in my soul!

I want to share with everyone on how His words spoke directly to my pain and abuse.

“To all who mourn in Israel, He will give you a crown of beauty for ashes, a joyous blessing instead of mourning, a festive praise instead of despair.  In their righteousness, they will be like great oaks that the Lord has planted for His own glory.”    Isaiah 61:3

 

When I gave Him my past, He let the hurts completely burn and all that was left was ashes.

“To all who mourn in Israel, He will give you a crown of beauty for ashes,”

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The definition of ash is the solid residue left when material is thoroughly burned.  Think about it, these hurts can no longer be a fire again that can dictate my fears or thoughts. To get those ashes burning I must add something to them to create the activation energy needed.  This is why I must not use my past as a reason to think or behave in a negative way. When I fully gave Him my hurts — they became ashes. And the beautiful thing is that He took my ashes and gave me a beautiful crown.

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The definition of a crown is a reward of victory or a mark of honor. Something that imparts splendor, honor, or a finish, a culmination. I love that last part- a culmination- an attained objective. God not only was with me during my abuse, but was walking with me, healing me, turning my hurt to ruins, and then in turn He took my ashes and in turn, gave me a Crown!  A Crown He places on my head! WOW. He has always seen that Crown on my head, always.

 

a joyous blessing instead of mourning,”

I have an option here. Will I choose blessing or mourning? I choose blessings. The blessing of forgiveness that He shows to me for holding on to the past and letting it infect my marriage relationship. And to the forgiveness that I can offer my offenders: my mother and my abuser.

My mother and I never had an intimate relationship. I probably spoke to her once a year. When I found out she had cancer, I made a trip to see her in August of 2016. When I was there I asked her if she had a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. She replied, “Yes Kerry.” That was closure for me. When she passed away this past June, I took comfort in the fact that we will both be together in Heaven and will have a whole new and restored relationship together.

Because He forgave me I can forgive others.

The blessing of hope of the future that offers peace. The blessing of His truth and not the poison of the world that tell me to live out my past as anger. The blessing of being able to share with others the healing. I love what Paul says in 2 Corinthians 1:3-4. This is what it says from the Message:

“All praise to the God and Father of our Master, Jesus the Messiah! Father of all mercy! God of all healing counsel! He comes alongside us when we go through hard times, and before you know it, He brings us alongside someone else who is going through hard times so that we can be there for that person just as God was there for us.” 

All circumstances can lead to His Glory. That is the reason I am standing here right now.

 

“a festive praise instead of despair.”

Again, I have an option. Because of that, I choose to praise Him.

Have you ever gotten ashes on your hands? They come off on everything you touch. To me this is a picture of despair. I will not take the ashes of my past hurt and spread them on myself or to others as a sign of “poor me.”

Praise shakes up the enemy and empowers us to be bigger than our circumstance. Praise is being active in the healing process. Praise is showing that the Lord is great and powerful. Praise requires intentional thoughts and actions and I want to be intentional in my walk.

 

“In their righteousness, they will be like great oaks that the Lord has planted for His own glory.”

When I choose joyous blessings, when I choose festive praise, I then stand in righteousness.

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Remember this: A great oak tree stands for strength, but it starts off as a seed.

Oak sapling sprouted from an acorn.

Let me show you something amazing about our creator God. Look at this other definition of a crown. The region of a seed plant at which the stem and root merge. He makes us like great oaks but it starts off as a crown. And in order to grow we need to stay in Him.

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When we are submerged in Him we grow deep roots and become stronger in Him. The outcome is we grow like a great oak that He planted for His glory

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When we give Him our hurts and truly let Him in our lives we see His grace and love. We see that those hurts are now ashes. We give Him our ashes and He gives us a crown of beauty. A reward for our victories in Him that marks the splendor of His love!

 

Thank you for taking time to read about my journey: Beauty from Ashes.

May you look for those hurts that are in your life and replace them with a Crown of Beauty!

-Kerry

 

Time Bomb of Sexual Abuse

“Sexual abuse places an emotional time-bomb in you. When and where it goes off is usually unpredictable. Time, circumstances and honesty will pull that trigger.” -Unknown

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Saturday evening, April 19, 2008. Joe was performing a wedding ceremony for a young couple that we had journeyed with through pre-marriage counseling. Joe had used Genesis 2:24-25 as the foundation for the weeks of counseling. “This explains why a man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one. Now the man and his wife were both naked, but they felt no shame.”  Joe summed up the verses in these 4 statements: Leave-Cleave-Become One-You Are Not Ashamed.  The last statement, “You are not ashamed” is that of moving towards transparency in your marriage. The two were naked, transparent, towards one another, and yet they felt no shame in being truly open and honest with each other.

As he shared and encouraged that young couple in the last statement during the ceremony, that is when my “emotional time-bomb” went off. That evening, everything changed in our marriage. For that instant in time, I was a scared little girl, afraid of what may become of my life. Fear or what I did to cause this pain and trouble. Fear that Joe would not understand. Fear to share. Fear.

I will not go into details of my sexual abuse. That is not where I live any longer. I am still on this journey of healing. My scars have all but healed. My memories of those years as a young child are still vivid and clear. However, as I stated last week, I chose not to dwell on the past. I am no longer a victim. I am beyond a survivor. I am a New Creation in Christ. That is where I stand. That is where I live. In Him.

That evening in 2008 I spoke through tears to my husband. I shared with him what had happened in my life as a child. I remember watching his face. The wave of emotions pouring through his eyes as he listened. He will share with you this week what he felt. How he responded. However, I was now more scared than ever because of the rage he displayed towards the one who abused me. Yes, I knew my abuser. Joe even met him once, without knowing my background. You see, almost all sexual abuse victims know their abuser. They are friends, family, neighbors. They are “trusted” and they continually groom their victims into shame and guilt.

As I stated, this began a journey for Joe and me. We both immediately sought counsel. We were very selective in who we shared this information with. The shame and guilt still loomed heavy and large over our lives. The next few years were a cacophony of emotions and communication with each other. Again, remember, this is necessary for healing. We move from Victim, to Survivor, but then to Christ. But that path is still enveloped with pain.

Let me bring some clarity to the years that followed that April evening. I realized that during those years of abuse, God was there. Listen closely before you get all worked up. He was there weeping and hurting alongside of me. He never left me. In fact, I know He gave me “Spiritual Amnesia” so I could move forward in life. He placed Joe in my life. He blessed us with two beautiful daughters. He gave us time to grow as husband and wife. He also knew the time and place that the truth would be revealed. He was there then. He has always been with me. That’s when I realized that He loved me so much that He died on the cross for me.

I am no longer a victim. No I choose not to wallow in the past. I will not allow the abuser to control my life through fear and guilt. I became a survivor. In the initial years after sharing with Joe and a selected few, I chose not to wallow but to move forward. I chose to forgive my abuser. Yes, you heard me correctly. I spent countless hours praying and seeking God’s comfort and peace during this time. I spent hours praying for my husbands heart to be healed as well. During that time with God, He made it clear that His Son died for my abuser as well. That I should allow Christ to take on that burden and I should forgive him for the past. Let me be honest and fair, that was one of the most difficult times in my walk with Christ; however, it was so liberating! This is when I moved from survivor to New Creation. I now knew what that verse meant in 2 Corinthians. I owned it and I began to live it out and still do to this day. “This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!”       2 Corinthians 5:17

This is my prayer for those who still hold onto the title of “Victim.” Sexual abuse is rampant in our society today. It was not and is not your fault! It is also not ok!  The latest data shows that 3 of 5 women have been sexually abused by the age of 25. Those are the ones reported. Some reports place that closer to 85%. Seek strong counsel today. You MUST move from victim to survivor. The world teaches us that being a victim is ok. That you are entitled to your darkness. Listen to me please, no you are not. Let go of the past. Disarm your abuser and move forward. Yes, you will have “scars” but they need to be healed. I will go into greater detail next week.

Finally, also know this. I could not have traveled this journey without Jesus Christ. When I surrendered my life to Him, He took on my pain and suffering for me. He held me close and has never let me go. I no longer dwell in the past, even as a survivor. I am a New Creation in Christ. That’s where I stand.  You can too. It’s never too late.

“Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.””               Matthew 11:28-30

 

Kerry

 

Victim or Survivor?

Victim: Something destroyed; something completely sacrificed in the pursuit of an object or situation.

Survivor: One who outlives another or a situation of conflict.

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In this world, it seems that we begin to classify ourselves as either a “Victim” or a “Survivor” of our past or current circumstances.

It’s become easy to play the victim card and stay a prisoner of the past. Not allowing ourselves to look forward, but to be perpetually stuck looking in the rear-view mirror.  We use the pain of past or the trials of the current to set the tone for our life. We become “Hand-Wringers” and use that victim card to remain hopeless and broken. It is the excuse we carry so we no longer have to take responsibility for our own actions but instead we place blame on the past.

Or, we take a new ownership and call ourselves Survivors! We have overcome the past. We no longer place blame on the past, but instead we know where the pain came/comes from and we conquer it. We take either responsibility for our actions or we choose to forgive the one who caused us the pain and terror. We no longer live in the grip on its guilt. We point back to our past and declare we are a survivor.

However, I am asking that you notice something from both those classifications: Victim or Survivor. They both still point to the past. While one is victorious and the other is brokenness, they both rely on the past as their “Badge.”

In the next couple of weeks, I will share with you all some very personal and raw emotions and events from my past. I will also take time to share with you where I was a Victim, where I became a Survivor, but most of all, when I chose to become a New Creation in Christ. The past is gone, a new life has begun.

Hear me please, I truly know that there are many circumstances out in the world that are so overwhelming that you cannot fully understand how to even begin to survive. I will not be trivial nor contrite in the upcoming weeks. I give you my word that I will be honest, true and very transparent. I will share with you my journey and where my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ has brought me. So please, let me share with each of you my heart.  Thank you. We will continue this discussion next Monday.

Kerry

Paying Attention to Detail

“Be careful to obey all My commands, so that all will go well with you and your children after you, because you will be doing what is good and pleasing to the Lord your God.”  Deut 12:28


So I am still in the book of Deuteronomy. For those of you that know me well know that I have been in this book for the past 6 months and I am now finishing up chapter 12! Just have 22 chapters to go…

In the past two chapters, 11 & 12, I noticed that the phrase “Be careful to obey…” is stated 11 times.  The Holy Spirit had me to reflect and meditate deeper on that word-“Careful.” As I began to ponder the personal application He had for me, I also took time to look up the definition of careful. 

Careful: To pay close attention to detail. It implies attentiveness and cautiousness in avoiding mistakes. Making sure to avoid potential danger, mishap or harm. 

This took me back to my time as a Hot Air Balloon pilot. Before every flight, starting with the initial weather briefing through the process of flight to landing, I was to be careful in every step of my checklist. I was cautious and meticulous each and every flight. The responsibility as the pilot was to be taken seriously, regardless of the hours of flight I had. Each flight I was to make sure that the potential for danger, mishap, or harm was addressed and the decision to fly or not was taken seriously. I was careful every time.  

So now I looked at these past two chapters in Deuteronomy. “Be careful to obey…”   I had to be clear and transparent with myself, God already knows my heart, to see if i approached His Word as carefully as I did as a pilot. 

Am I cautious to really apply what He speaks to me through His Word? Do I pay close attention to detail or do I just try to pick out the “easy” stuff to obey? Do I approach His teaching as one that will keep me from danger or harm? Or do I read, think good thoughts, maybe even post an image verse but never allow the obedience through application to take root? 

Look at the second part of verse 28: “Be careful to obey all My commands, so that all will go well with you and your children after you, because you will be doing what is good and pleasing to the Lord your God.”

When I take time to truly apply God’s word into my life, life will be joyful, God’s attribute. I will be doing what God deems holy and righteous. And considering who God is, that’s a great place to be.

So how careful are you to obey God’s Word?

Joe