church

day 22 : pride + happy eyes

Sunday, 3/27/16 

“Your eyes look happy. Like there’s light in them again” 

Of all days, today, on Easter Sunday, the day that we celebrate Jesus rising from the dead, one of my pastors told me that my eyes looked happy again.

Two days after the assault, I was in church. It felt strange - like I wasn’t in my body.  I felt like I was watching it all take place while hovering above it. Everything seemed disjointed - like all the seamlessly moving parts were somehow now separate. Or maybe that was me. 

I couldn’t say or sing the name of Jesus. I would will the word to come out of my mouth, but it didn’t. It was like pushing on the gas when the car is in park - screeching, spinning, dying, to be set free. I felt like if I sang those words of worship, I would be a liar. So I just stood there. 

13 months later, I stopped going to church. The weight of that unvoiced hurt, anger, and deceit became too much to carry. I started to fear that people would see through me - that they’d see this ugly thing that I was so desperate to conceal, and that when they did, they’d reject me and no longer deem me fit to serve in church. So I left. 

My last day leading my team, one of our pastors pulled me aside and asked me why I was really leaving. I said that my new job was very stressful and I couldn’t continue to lead and serve well while performing well at work. He asked me again. I said the same thing. He asked again and even, semi-jokingly, asked if it was because of a guy. I stuck to my script. On the inside I was absolutely screaming the truth, but I couldn’t bring myself to say it. My pride wouldn’t let me. 

That’s the thing about pride - it steals the things we cherish the most. 

First pride, then the crash - the bigger the ego, the harder the fall - Prov 16:18.. 

     (Dang, sometimes the truth in love hits you where it hurts.)

My pride clouded my ability to see the truth. My church was my HOME. The people there were my family. The very last thing that they would do is reject me due to brokenness. It’s the exact opposite of who they are and what my church home is. 

My pride stopped me from asking for help. Even with my pastor staring me in the face, my pride pushed those words of truth down until they were swallowed by an awkward laugh and a lie.

My pride didn’t want anyone to see me as anything other than great. When one of my leaders asked me, “hey- how are you really doing?”, my pride answered for me.

My pride couldn’t stand the thought of being lumped in with the stigma of victim.

My pride told me I could do it alone.

My pride didn’t like the truth - that I actually needed community to heal.

My pride lied, and then it led me to a dark wilderness. 

stolen from my 2013 insta which was stolen from Pinterest.

stolen from my 2013 insta which was stolen from Pinterest.

In Luke 4, the Holy Spirit leads Jesus into the wilderness. (Luke 4:1, NIV) 

It wasn't accidental, aimless wandering..the Holy Spirit LED Him there for a purpose. In reading it, one would conclude that purpose was to be tempted by the devil.

To me, this is one of the most beautiful depictions of Father and Son that the Bible offers. Ha- I can see your face in my mind, like - "tempted by devil, beautiful depictions of Father and Son…? Okay, crazy lady"- but bear with me, I’m going somewhere! 

God needed Jesus to experience that wilderness. The Bible later says that Jesus was tempted in every way that we are, yet did not sin (Hebrews 4:15.) So if He hadn’t been led to this wilderness and been tempted by the devil, that wouldn’t hold, which would make the word of God false. God, the Father, allowed, Jesus, His Son, to experience something really tough, knowing all along that He could do it. 

But I wonder if Jesus knew that He could do it. I wonder if the human part of Him ever doubted His ability to make it through. He had to rely so heavily on His Father during that time - in fact, the only weapon He used to get through it were His Father’s words. I mean Satan was tempting Jesus. That means he was offering Jesus things that He actually wanted, and Jesus resisted for 40 days and nights - WITH NO FOOD. I think it’d be one thing to be constantly tempted on a full stomach - but to be tempted by someone that you can’t stand for a prolonged period, AND be hungry at the same time? No, freaking, thank you. 

I also wonder what it’s like as a parent to know that you’re sending your kid into a hard situation where they can choose right, or they can choose wrong. God loved His Son, Jesus, so much (Matt 17:5, John 3:35,)  and I just have this picture of God in my mind, cheering Jesus on from heaven - like - “C’mon Son, you can do it! What have I always told you? You’ve got Me, I’m all You need! Keep pushing. Keep fighting. I WILL get you through! Trust Me!”

And see, Jesus believed Him.

So how come in my own wilderness I had such a tough time believing that God would cheer me on, His daughter (2 Cor 6:18, Gal 3:26,) in the same way? 

Maybe it’s because I couldn’t figure out if Jesus led me to that wilderness or if I wandered in on my own...  

I’ve said before that I needed that wilderness - I needed to go there to get here. I’ve always been someone that insisted on learning my lessons the hard way (much to the utter dismay of my parents growing up.) But did God need me to go there to get here? I doubt it. But I don't doubt that He loves me so much that He allowed it to play out that way, keeping me safe as it did.  

What I’ve realized is that how I got there doesn’t change that one constant - God loves me. He loves me wildly, fiercely, and passionately. It’s only a love like that that can light the way OUT of a dark wilderness. 

Eight months later, I finally found my way back to church thanks to the unrelenting love of my friend, Andrea. She knew that I felt wildly uncomfortable coming back to church, but it didn’t stop her from making sure my butt was, and is, in a seat every week. She encouraged me to be honest with my pastors and stood right next to me while I tearfully opened up about what’s been going on and asked tough questions. She sat with me through tears and arm-crossed worship. She is the epitome of “a friend loves at all times” (Prov 17:17.) Our church has this hashtag #sheissisterhood - and that’s what Andrea is, she’s Sisterhood- and no amount of writing will be able to give her her due. 

Andrea: aka my very own Gilmore Girl 

Andrea: aka my very own Gilmore Girl 

It’s been six weeks back at church and my pastor told me today that my eyes look happy again. I guess the eyes are the windows to the soul and all that... Because in all this time, it never even dawned on me that I was sad. And today, on a day when my eyes look happy again, I realize that for the first time in a long time, I am happy, and I feel the light beginning to shine. 

Day 4: busting a move with my tribe

Wednesday, 3/9/2016

I danced around my apartment today for no reason. Like, full on, out of breath, makin' moves. My general work from home attire is a sports bra, harem pants, unwashed lion hair, and no makeup. So it makes sense that when my boss FaceTimed me the first day I ever worked from home, I had a total Carrie moment. 

Today, I felt a need to full on just dance (so weird.)

And let’s be clear about one thing...

Everyone else when they dance: 

Me when I dance: 

Oh Chris Martin. Just moving where the music takes him. I unashamedly adopted his style of dancing from the day my obsession with Coldplay began at age 12. I mean, when I go to the club, it's just awkward - because everyone is bumping and grinding and I’m like, "can I just get some space for my baller Chris style moves?” It won't come as a shock to you that I cannot. 

Coldplay is my all time favorite band in the history of the world and Chris Martin is essentially my spirit animal. He's at the top of my artistic tribe. If you don’t have one of these, you should 100% make that list. Even if you don’t consider yourself an “artist.” (blegh - that phrasing has such an hoity toity connotation that stinks because most artists I know aren't hoity toity at all.) It is SO FUN. I give myself a lot of leeway because I think ‘artists' exist in all forms. Artists, athletes, and even things, are in my tribe. Anyone or anything that inspires me to live positively, chase my dreams, or who I would love to share a meal and converse with, goes on my list. Coldplay, Elton John, Peyton Manning, Jesus, fringe (yes the type that hangs on clothes and bags,) Kate and Leo (Winslet and DiCaprio respectively, duh,) the 70s, One Direction, Gwyneth Paltrow, Roger Federer, country music as a whole, Ellen DeGeneres, the ocean and palm trees, Brigitte Bardot, Sophia Bush, the Beatles, elephants… I mean I could go on and on… 

But for real, can you imagine that dinner party? The amazing conversations and perspectives on life? I can. I’m learning to sit in the moment these days.

Meditation and yoga y’all. I’m not even kidding, they have changed my life.  So today I’m sitting in joy (and envisioning that dinner party.) 

Joy. I have to say it to myself a couple of times to get used to it.  

It makes me feel a little crazy that in 48 hours I have gone from feeling absolutely helpless in church and lifting my hands in a desperate plea to God for a renewing of my mind, to dancing around my apartment for fun… But then, why am I surprised? That’s how it works.

Weeping may last for a night, but joy comes in the morning. - Psalm 30:5

There is so much promised to me - the question is, do I believe it? Not do I say I believe it - but do I really believe it?

I’m starting to. 

And now I'm gonna go dance it out-

Day 1 : pants-less

Sunday, 3/6/2016

Well, I woke up in denial about not being in Antigua. Utter denial. Pure denial. Like, I don’t think a greater denial exists in the world that what I was in. I mean - would you want to have gone from seven days of doing nothing but waking up, eating, laying on the beach, basking in the sun, being on or in the water, reading, talking with your parents (who also happen to be two of the people you’re closest to in the world) and sleeping? If your answer is yes - go ahead and keep that to yourself, because you’re a weirdo, because I was here: 

I am rarely happier than when I am at the beach and in the water. I was born in London and raised between there and Texas - mostly in Texas, but I swear my soul was born in the ocean and out of the sun (go ahead and mock me for however cheesy that sounds - I’m aware, with you, can take it, and also love it)

Bottom line: New York is hard for me.

It’s dirty, smells bad (versions of bad include: pee, body odor, and trash,) is crowded, expensive, often cold, people are mean (or crazy,) there’s no space, if you want to see the sky in most parts of the city you have to crane your neck up, you can’t walk around barefoot or easily put your feet on grass, fresh air doesn’t exist, you can always hear your neighbors, the catcalling is ob-nox-ious, it’s transient, getting out of the city takes an immense amount of effort - the list could go on, but if you (and I) remember correctly, one of the things on my Prep Day list was to not be needlessly negative, sooooooo…yeah…I think you get the gist.

Basically, I need…..wide open spaaaaaaces…. if you don’t know who the Dixie Chicks are, we legit cannot be friends and I don’t know if I even feel comfortable with you reading this blog. Kidding. But please go listen to them on Spotify - conveniently and thoughtfully linked for you here ASAP as it will only make your life better. 

To be frank, there are many days in New York where I feel like I’m suffocating. "But you were born in London" you say, "that’s a big city, you should be used to it." Yes. But in London YOU CAN SEE THE SKY. But I (semi) digress. 

I recently read a book that asked you to list the things that make you happy - things that you’re grateful for - which are often, and not coincidentally, one in the same. My list included, (I won’t list everything because 1. you probably don’t care (I wouldn’t either) and 2. who’s got time for that?) in this abridged but unchanged order:

the beach, sunlight and how warm it feels, wildflowers, art in all forms, football, Texas, family, best friends, driving, safety, love, adventure, travel, food, joy, yoga, elephants, babies, wine, reading, cheesy things, sports, sweating, going for runs in the rain, cozy sweaters, photos and videos.

So you can more than likely see that being back in New York isn’t exactly thrilling for me. But add to that that I had decided to embark on this 52 day journey challenge thing - and I just didn’t want to wake up. They say the first step is the hardest for a reason. Changing my life (which is the basic way to say what I hope the next 52 days bring) is going to be hard because it’s going to mean I have to change. And the stuff I want to change isn’t like changing a pair of pants. Wait - actually - yes, yes it is. It’s like trying to change in and out of your skinniest leather pants. 

You wind up pants-less, trying everything you can think of to get them back on, covered in a baby powder-lotion messy paste that you made when you tried to get out of your predicament, realizing you have no other option but to take the first awkward step… without pants...  It’s actually not that far off. I’m stripped to my core, covered in a mess I made myself after finding myself in a predicament that wasn’t my fault (how was Ross supposed to KNOW that the leather pants would be hell’s prison?) 

                                                                                                    Side-note: never did I think that I would tie a Friends episode into a metaphor for life... This may be a high point.

The only difference is that Ross called Joey - and I’ve been reluctant to call anyone. I may have admitted to some hard days here or there, but have I told anyone it’s been consistent hard days since August? Nope. Because that means accepting that I haven’t been honest with myself about the place I didn’t just magically arrive to out of the blue. It’s been a slow descent to a pit that has felt seemingly impossible to crawl out of. So I did some research and wasn't exactly thrilled with what I found.

If I’m honest, my first thought is - “oh good - one more lame statistic to fall into. First I’m a sexual assault victim and now I’m depressed.” (I’m not saying that’s a kind or valid thought, but I also pledged to honesty yesterday….dang those annoying pledges.) Prior to doing some research, I thought clinical depression was the term we only stamped on people who were always depressed and needed to take antidepressants forever due to a chemical imbalance in the brain. I was wrong.

Clinical depression is "marked by a depressed mood most of the day, particularly in the morning, and a loss of interest in normal activities and relationships  -- symptoms that are present every day for at least 2 weeks.” 20-25% of adults will suffer a bout of it in their lifetimes and women are at a higher risk (twice as many women experience this than men.) Two weeks, huh? Errrr try 5 months… Depression can be triggered by grief, social isolation, major life changes, personal conflict and any type of abuse. And it doesn’t always stick around forever. It can pass. 

Well, hallefreakinlujah. There’s a bright spot of hope.

Recommendations to treat clinical depression include, among other things, therapy. I was attacked in April 2014 and was in therapy until July of 2015. I struggled heavily with depression for the first four-ish months (with the fleeting thought of suicide coming once,) and then it more or less 'went away.’… there’s also a chance I willed it away and quit therapy that July because I just didn’t want to talk about it anymore. But the residual effects that I refused to deal with once those first fourth months were over, did not go away. They bubbled and boiled, always turned down at the last minute, until Thanksgiving 2015, when circumstances beyond my control finally turned the stove on HIGH. Every ignored and stifled piece of pain came bubbling up, blew the lid off the pot, and everything in me boiled over, creating a complete mess. The pot was empty and I had nothing left to give…and here we are. 

Tonight I went to church for the third time since abandoning it altogether last May. Showing up is hard. I more or less feel a silent rage when it comes to God and it feels hypocritical and fraudulent to sit in church when, if God was a person standing in front of me, I would probably punch said person in the face while screaming a few choice words… After all, nothing happens in heaven or on earth without His ok, right? So, where was He that night and why did he ‘ok’ this? 

Louie Giglio preached a sermon entitled 'The Comeback' and within the first five minutes of preaching he says, “God Almighty can turn the page of your life tonight and begin writing you a new story.” Well, ok. Day 1 of 52 days, and that seems pretty fitting. Not shockingly, I took that as another sign (I warned you in entry one about me and signs: see 52 Days.) I mean, write you a new story? And I’m writing about the 52 day journey? And today is day 1 which is basically page 1. And journeys are always stories to be told…I’m telling you - coincidences are not a real thing. 

He went on to talk about how we are so often shaped by what was and don’t lean enough into what we could be; that we have to stop re-reading the old chapters and walk in new life. Merp. Sometimes when you’re mad, hearing the truth is hard. Forget that - anytime you’re mad, hearing the truth is hard. Hard like, I go to a church where people ’shout down’ our pastor, (it’s not as terrifying as it sounds - stuff like - “That’s good, Louie!” or “Amen!” or “That’s real!”) and I just wanted to shout him down with, “Go away! Stop somehow weirdly seeing into my soul. It's annoying.” I restrained myself and through my severe annoyance, I felt a little truth slide through a crack of the barely open door of my heart and mind tonight. With it came the smallest amount of light. Maybe I should stop focusing on how mad I am at God. I’ve been doing a very solid job of making that clear… So now my question is, how do I actually deal with the old chapters without dwelling on them? No clue. 

But Louie (is it weird that I feel like I’m on a first name basis with a pastor after they speak a message I connect to? Probably, but it is what it is) suggested two things:

1. A desperate plea

2. ask God for the faith to actually believe for a new chapter. 

At the end of the service, another one of our pastors gave us the opportunity to raise our hands in prayer if we needed a renewal of the mind, and I (awkwardly and through tears) raised my hand. That was tough for me - for my pastors who once trusted me to be a leader in our church, to see that I’m in this place? It’s a pride thing (that I need to work on.) But you know what else? It was brave. And in that bravery, I felt a weight lift. It was trust. And it that trust, I felt my heart lighten just a little.

So I’ll start there even if it feels weird and I’m annoyed. Clearly, I don’t have any better ideas. My journal entry tonight finished with, 

“well on day 1, I cried out to Jesus for help and was honest for the first time about where my heart is at. what will day 2 bring?” - 

who knows? 

52 Days

out of the ashes and into the light

When I sat on the beach meditating that morning (you may already be like, "oh geeeeez make it stop!") and had the thought, “if JD can do that, what can you do for 52 days?”, I decided to begin a 52 day challenge. I’d been stuck in a negative space (that's a kind way of putting it) for months and wanted to drastically change my life. So, I starting thinking of personal mantras that I could adopt for 52 days, all with the underlying feeling that this was a silly, new-age-y, foundation-less idea that I was concocting. Basically, I was annoying myself. 

But then I felt prompted to count out 52 days on my calendar. Day 52 would land on April, 26, 2016. Uhhh what? That couldn't be right. So I counted again. And again. And one more time for good measure because I don’t believe in coincidences, (also because anything in the math realm, even something as rudimentary as counting, is not my strong suit.) My friends might tell you that I have a tendency to take things to be signs. I can categorically say that this was not one of those instances. Because of that, I decided to not only go on this journey, but write about it. Don’t fear - that idea was immediately accompanied with humbling and self-deprecating thoughts like: “Becky, who the actual eff is going to want to read a '52 day journey' about some random, normal chick who doesn't have any idea what it is she's journeying toward or even what she wants out of it, inspired by a random encounter on an Antiguan speedboat?” But that date...

Two years ago, on April 26, 2014, nine months after moving to New York to pursue my dreams, I was drugged at a bar, taken to an apartment with the promise of finding my missing friend, forcibly held there, assaulted, raped, and then physically thrown into the rain with the trash. It changed the course of my life. 

Sadness, anger, depression, anxiety, fear, recklessness, shame, confusion, pretense, destruction, excess, bitterness, self-hatred, and doubt became the foundations upon which I very secretly, and somewhat unknowingly, rebuilt my life. (Geez, that's a lot of emotions for one sentence.)

I didn’t want to be hurt. I didn’t want to give my attackers any power. I didn’t want to be another statistic. I definitely didn’t want people to identify me as this. And I certainly didn’t want anyone to know the deep wounds, previously healed with some antiseptic and a bandaid, that this ripped wide open. I didn't want to think about any of it.

So while bleeding out, I stuffed some lap pads in there (avid Grey’s Anatomy watcher over here,) abandoned my dreams, and said I was fine and “healed."

I “knew" that one day I would understand why this was allowed to happen and that "God was at work somewhere in it." But I didn't actually believe that. I just knew it's what I was supposed to say. When you really know something is true, you feel it in your bones (or in your fingers and toes… Love Actually anyone?)

I felt like I was being blown around in a tornado. But because I didn’t want to be feeling enraged and embarrassed, I decided to "trust God" the way I have been taught to my whole life. And I believed that the longer I blindly trusted Him, the healing would just come; the more that I got on with life and ignored it, this would fade into the background. That I was exhibiting faith. But I wasn't and it didn't.

Within a month, I stepped into new leadership roles at my church. Within nine months, I decided to start a foundation (this is how I ARISE was originally born) that would raise awareness towards the issue. But being a highly functioning, jerry-rigger of an emergency surgeon on my heart helped no one, least of all me, and the in-between was filled with patterns of self-destruction, often hidden in the dark of late night and early morning hours. 

I wanted I ARISE to be a non-profit, activist, organization that pioneered change, raised awareness and shifted the reality of so many women in the world. My free time was filled with researching sexual assault statistics, finding people who wanted to partner with me, watching documentaries, building a website, putting together a support team, partnering with a production company and filming the beginnings of a documentary. But I quickly burned out. How could I build something designed to help others when I hadn’t even begun to truly pick up my own pieces? But instead of asking for help, I ran in the opposite direction. I stepped down from leadership in my church and within two months, stopped going to church altogether. 

A blog was certainly never on my agenda. The thought just kind of arrived in my mind a few days prior to meeting JD, and I immediately dismissed it. I’m one of those cynics who is almost instantly annoyed at anyone who starts a sentence with, “Well on my blog…” - oh yes, please do tell me about your surely earth shattering blog filled with political opinions, healthy recipes, spiritual guidance, conspiracy theories, and an essay on how if you were the coach of your favorite sports team, they would absolutely, positively, never have suffered such an embarrassing and clearly avoidable loss to                          (insert winning team here.) Not that I don't understand the anger that drives that last one - I mean, I still feel personally victimized by the Texans loss to Miami last season where at the half, they were down 41-0. Sorry. Not the point and I will now get back on track.

Despite my hoity toity attitude toward the blogosphere, here I am blogging, so clearly God humbles our negative attitudes and pride even when it blows - actually let’s just be real here, being humbled pretty much always blows because it means admitting you're in the wrong….oh wait, is that just me? 

So the idea is this: one entry for each of the 52 days of this journey. The day of the idea is March 5 and will go up tomorrow, April 30. Day 1 = March 6 = May 1. 

I have no idea what these 52 days will hold, and therefore, no freaking clue what this blog will look like. Today is March 14, aka day 9. I started writing this introductory entry on March 8, aka day 3, and it'll probably get another edit before it goes live. All other entries will be in the voice of that present day. Here’s what I do know: this will not be a curated blog where everything falls under the same well thought out theme, follows a fluid storyline, or depicts photos all edited the same way for aesthetic consistency. It will be honest (likely to a fault) and at times will seem random - but uh HELLO, we all have a million random thoughts a day...I'm just the ding dong that's putting mine out on the internet for all to see - I'm also the ding dong who is immediately beginning to question this decision.  

But here I go - 52 days, huh? Doesn't seem so long until you come up with a weird idea to span them, and then it's like uhhhh what was I thinking? But if JD could survive his 52 days (I tell you all about that tomorrow,) I can get it together for this. And if I can't, well, I've got a lot more to figure out than I realize! 

 If you've stuck it out thus far, thanks for reading. Hopefully you'll come back and see what happens. 

One thing I've learned already - adventure isn’t for the faint of heart, that’s for dang sure.