Sunday, August 27, 2006

there is victory in the Lord

FEELING INTENSE RESTORATION CLOSING THOUGHTS For so many years of my life, I could not understand why I always failed in matters of the heart. I have finally realized that, after going back and doing my personal inventory and being in recovery, I was trying to fix all the wrong things. It was when I finally reached down into those deep, darkened pits that haunted me for so many years that I truly learned what was causing those pains. Taking ownership of those pains and really working on them brought my heart back to life. I could eventually even give them to God, and ask to be forgiven. As I heal, I am finding that I no longer need all those crutches that I used for many years to medicate those pains that were damaging my heart and, later on, even my physical well-being. In the end, what I learned was that I wasn’t failing in matters of the heart all those years. It was that I just wasn’t listening to my heart at all. I was listening to those who sought to destroy me and who wanted to control the outcome of my destiny. I listen now to my heart, which is owned and operated by God and God alone. Now I am succeeding in matters of my heart one layer at a time. It is so amazing to me that, while I spent more than twenty years of my life being mad at God and even hating Him at times, He was still always there keeping up with every detail of my deepest, darkest pains. When I was ready to come back to God, He knew exactly what it was going to take to get me started on that journey. And it was going to take His greatest warriors to help show me the way. If it were not for my new friends and recovery program, I would have left a legacy of darkness with no hope for the future to the two greatest gifts in my life, my daughters. While my family has been damaged by our past life, the great thing is that out of all this I now know there will be greater tomorrows. I truly believe that my life began when that fire took all that we owned and, even though I know God had nothing to do with the fire, losing my job, my car, and all my daughters’ struggles, I do believe it was all those things that led to the complete brokenness that helped bring me to this very point in my life. I could have just dwelled on all the sadness of what was lying in the rubbles and ashes of that fire, but God wanted me to see what greatness was lying ahead in my future. Have you ever thought about the fact that flames, sparks and smoke all reach towards heaven? I believe all the impurities of my past rose in those ashes and God took them all. A good friend of mine, David D. from CR, wrote a great acronym for the word "fire," and when I think back to that time it is his words that come to mind. Those words are: Feeling Intense Restoration Eventually. Characteristics of fire are light, heat, destruction, purification and restoration. I can now see my past life with new meaning. Even though I was in the deepest darkest pits of desolation, I now stand and live in God’s light and love. I have been pronounced innocent, and what ended that life of total destruction began what has now been the greatest adventure of my life. But He knows where I am going. And when He has tested me like gold in a fire, He will pronounce me innocent. Job 23:10 You have tested us, O God; you have purified us like silver melted in a crucible. Psalms 66:10 We went through fire and flood. But you brought us to a place of great abundance. Psalms 66:12 God helps me with his Grace and Love to replace all those past pains with new feelings of hope, love, dreams and even a new family. I do not know what my final legacy will be, but I will tell you this, it will not be one of darkness left to those two wonderful girls of mine. I hope someday I can take my story and help to show others like myself how to break those chains of darkness that bind them, to defeat them from generation to generation. I would like to show them how to look at the roots of their pains and heal them from there instead of just medicating them with the many things that this world has given us to lose ourselves in. If we can all learn to see each other as God sees us, then we can get past all the stigmas that make us want to turn our backs on those we love and care about. When we do that, then we can learn to embrace those who seem so lost to the outside world and help to show them how to find a way to start their own healing process. To let them know that if they follow the road that God has laid out for them, letting God lead them each step of the way, then they can live in victory and have joy, peace and love in abundance. And nothing and nobody on earth will be able to take those things from them.

Friday, August 25, 2006

time for new beginnings

Entry # 19 Now that my heart is emotionally strong again, this is the time of new beginnings for me with my Lord. The first stage in this new journey is to let Him be the guide to help me heal all the physical damage that I did to myself and my girls while living in darkness for twenty years. I will begin the work of this adventure on Monday at my doctor’s office. I start this adventure weighing 430 pounds, with vascular disease that has taken over my legs and damaged my heart to where it no longer works the way it is supposed to. My knees are completely gone, and my hands have been taken over by arthritis. However, for the first time in my life, I no longer look at all this as my punishment for being a shameless sinful person. I can now see it just as it is, damage that can be fixed. I go into this with no fear, and I am completely ready to restore myself back to complete health to go along with this new life that I have been so blessed to receive again. If I can do this, then I will have won the battle over the ones that tried to emotionally destroy me. I will finally get to slay every piece of this dark dragon once and for all. I remember one Friday night in small group our discussion was on faith and if you truly knew that your faith was enough to endure all the things in life that are thrown at you. At the beginning of my journey, if someone had asked me what the word faith meant to me, I would have simply said, "I have no idea as to what the word faith means. All I can tell you is that, because of my shame, it is something that is not meant for me to have in my life." With all the tools that have been given to me on my journey of recovery, I have gained the courage to let all those emotions (that haunted me and made me believe I was destined for failure) come to the surface, and I faced them head-on one by one. Having the courage to let go of those emotions was, unknown to me at the time, my faith-building process. Doing that also gave me the strength to face the emotions that I was accountable for and change them so that I could live a life of purpose and vision instead of a life of circumstance and destruction. That is how I lost my fear and gained my faith, which I now let control the decisions I make in life for me. I know that there is a lot of hard work ahead of me, and the great thing about all this is that I can take Jesse on this adventure with me from beginning to end. She too will get new health and maybe even be able to walk better with her crutches. That way, she can get one step closer to accomplishing that dream of hers to be a winning horse-performance rider. It may seem as though my journey of recovery has come to a successful end, but in reality I am getting to take it to an even higher plane than I could have ever imagined being able to travel to. Entry #20 November 7, 2004...the day I committed my life to my savior, Jesus Christ. As I sit in the waiting room watching my friend Thomas T. baptize his own mother, tears start streaming down my face once again. I sit there with my best friend Jan by my side and looked at her husband Chuck on the other side of the baptismal tank waiting to baptize me. At that very moment, I feel the most complete sense of Peace I have ever known. In the last eighteen months, I have cried because of total fear over-taking my body, and I have cried because something new was coming into my heart after each layer of darkness (that had caused me to be afraid) was defeated. Today, once again, I am sobbing uncontrollably because I am now embracing and giving my life, faith and love to God. The same God, who for so many years I was made to believe had controlled every pain and heartache that had been given to my girls and me. Here I am at this very moment in time walking down the steps of a church I now belong to, getting ready to be baptized in holy water by my two best and dearest friends, Jan and Chuck. They are the two living angels that God sent to me over a year ago to help show me how to come home to Him. As I stand in the water listening to Chuck speak about my recovery process and how proud he and Jan are to be part of my life, I know the circle of my new life-building process is becoming complete. I saw Jesse sitting in the audience being supported by all our new, extended family members. She was smiling at her mom, knowing she was receiving her own spiritual marker from God, and I was a part of that because I fought the battles of the demons that sought to destroy me. I asked to be forgiven, and even learned to forgive those who had tortured my heart and soul. I hope and pray that some day I can be an example of God’s work, and that I can give God’s love, faith and unwavering commitment to others who are as completely lost as I was. I pray that I can give to them what Jan and Chuck have given to me on His behalf. I know how to truly be quiet and listen to God, and know that He is enough to fight and win the hardest of battles. Fear is a word that I do not let control my life anymore because I have replaced it with Faith. God’s Faith and Love, and that will endure in my heart and soul forever.

being a person of purpose

jesse and robyn brooks

Entry 17

While Jesse continues to fight for good health now as I do, I can also see her taking a new and different path with her personal life. She used to eat for the same reasons that I once did, because she was sad and the food would medicate her, to comfort her. Now at the age of eleven, and after watching me go through so many life changes, she is becoming more aware of her personal appearance.

Jesse came into this life fighting every step of the way after being born with spina bifida. At the age of six hours, she had her first surgery, and spent the first half of her life in and out of the hospital. There has been emotional damage done to her also during my years of living in darkness, but unlike Robyn, who could choose to leave, she has had to stay by my side and experience a lot of the same emotions I have had in my new journey of recovery. Jesse has forgiven both Robyn and me every time we have made mistakes in our lives. Never once has she stopped believing in either one of us. I can see her growing and laying the groundwork for her own journey to find her true purpose in life now.

There have been so many physical limitations in Jesse’s life, and people have used that to feel sorry for her and take pity in her. As for me, I am now seeing this amazing young girl…soon to be an even more amazing young woman that is destined for great things. I believe she will someday have her own great story to tell, just as her big sister Robyn will.

I had to forgive myself for thinking Jesse’s disabilities were a punishment to her to pay for my unforgivable sin, and I had to ask for her forgiveness also. I do not see that anymore. Just like me, Jesse is a child of God. Her destiny was planned long before I conceived her. I truly believe now that God does not give us any more than we can handle if we truly give Him our faith and love. Jesse handles her life with great pride and dignity. She now has dreams and hopes of being a person of purpose and not just one of circumstance.

Entry # 18

In just a couple of weeks, I will have eighteen months of recovery in me, and I will soon be receiving my 18-month chip. I have decided to take the second year of my recovery to reprocess all that I have learned and to decide what my next step should be. I have learned to live life one day at a time. My life now consists of daily decisions made from a heart filled with God’s Love instead of a mind that knew all the tricks of darkness to use on me.

Some of the most inspirational times during these last eighteen months have been on Friday nights at CR during sessions we call the round table. We all gather together in a big circle and talk about where we are in our recovery process. At this round table, there are people fighting sex addictions, drug and alcohol addictions, physical and emotional addictions, and co-dependants trying to save everyone but themselves.

In the beginning of my recovery, I used to fear these people and dreaded having to sit in that circle and be asked to talk about my life. I believed these people had nothing at all in common with me, and therefore they could not do anything for me except to maybe try and send me back into the darkness of my past life. As time went by, I began to see that all of them were just like me. We were all there at that round table reaching out to one another in all our brokenness, seeking any kind of wisdom we could and hoping to get just one more step down our roads of recovery. I even began to see that, at the very same time we were all seeking guidance from one another, we were also filling each other with new spiritual food.

Each Friday night we gain strength from stories of old battles fought and lessons learned. We now have this unbreakable chain that we have formed with one another. If we see someone starting to fall, we take that chain, circle it around our fallen brother or sister and help to hold them up till they can stand on their own once again. We do know that we cannot save one another, but we can however unite together to support each other unconditionally.

Two years ago, I came into this family circle a defeated and lost person with no voice at all. Today I stand hand-in-hand in that circle with people from all different walks of life. These people now trust me to be a link in that chain that now binds us all together, and that to me is an amazing thing.

Now here I am at the age of fifty-one, starting all over again in my personal life, only this time with God leading the way. There is also now a calling in my heart that Celebrate Recovery is the place that God wants me to give back all the new wisdoms I have learned that helped to bring me out of darkness. I know he will call me to that role when he is ready for that journey to begin. There are some favorite verses I love to read that help guide me at times through the process of my recovery.

Psalms 51:8-13

Oh give me back my joy again,

You have broken me, now let me rejoice,

Do not keep looking at my sins,

Remove the stain of my guilt, and

Create in me a clean heart, O God.

Renew a right spirit within me,

Do not banish me from your presence,

And don’t take your holy spirit from me.

Restore to me again the joy of your salvation, and my willingness to obey you.

Then I will teach your way to sinners, and they will return to you.

When my recovery comes full circle, I hope to be able to live these words completely and always honestly, for that is the heart I yearn to have.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

God does have a dream for me

daring to dream again Entry # 15 It comforts me to know that God does have a dream for me. In fact, He has dreams for all of us, including my two wonderful daughters. Knowing this gives me hope that they too can find their true purpose in life. In the early years of my children’s lives, I believed my father when he told me that my children were destined to suffer because they were born of sinful love, that they would always have to pay for my unforgivable sin. For many years, every time I looked into their eyes, I saw my sin in them, and that made me feel unworthy to be their mother. Guilt was the only emotion I let control me in every decision I made for those two girls for many years. It was me that created the very dragon that now lives in my oldest daughter Robyn’s life that now seeks to destroy her. Her darkness did not come to her because of the choices she made. She was simply a victim of circumstance from the very demons that once controlled me, demons that were passed down to me from my very own father and mother. Not only did I give Robyn a life of bondage, I also completely took away her childhood by spending all my time preparing her to become Jesse’s caregiver so I could leave this world. As Robyn got older, she became more and more angry…angry because my family, and even her own dad’s family, chose not to acknowledge that she was worthy of existence. She was angry with me for cheating her of her chance to build her own dreams and to have hopes of all the possibilities of what she could be when she grew up. I fed that anger by letting myself be her punching bag to take her anger out on as a young child. I did that because of the guilt I felt inside of me for what I was doing to her life. There were so many mistakes I made with her, and the worst thing of all was that they were all done simply because of my own parents’ mistakes that were made in me. We didn’t have the tools needed to know any better, so we all just did what we thought had to be done according to the standards of the world we lived in. Now at the age of twenty, Robyn’s anger has grown to rage, bitterness and even hatred. All those emotions make her run from God as I did for the last twenty years of my life. She has committed social and financial suicide as well as trying to end her own life. It was in June of 2004 that Robyn tried to take her life by taking a bottle of pills. She managed to call 911, however, when she started to feel herself really slipping away. I have seen sadness, anger and even rage in her eyes when she looked at me, but never total emptiness. It was a big wake-up call for me. Changes had to be made in our lives as mother and daughter because she was now getting the same look of complete hopelessness in her eyes for me that I carried for my own parents for years. In the past, I did try to save her. But each time I did, it only brought more disappointment into her heart for me. Thinking back on it now, how could I have saved her when it took me over twenty years to come out of my own darkness? After years of fighting with her, and failing, I started to believe she truly was destined to fail in life, and it was all because of my sins. That would be her price to pay for the rest of her life, or at least as long as I was on this earth. I have seen, through Robyn’s eyes and heart, that her pain is much too deep for me to help her as the mom she has always known me to be. I have to forgive myself for believing she could never have a chance in life because of me. More importantly, I have to ask her to forgive me. I do know that God truly wants her to be free and have healing in her life. It is Satan’s dream for her to let that dragon, which now owns her heart, control her destiny. The good thing is that God’s dream was put in her heart long before she became that victim of darkness, and it is still in her heart just waiting to come shining through. I know now that I cannot save Robyn, only God can do that. What I do know, though, is that through my own recovery process, she can gain glimmers of hope to give her strength for her own journey that she will be traveling on someday in her future. So this is where my new trust and faith in God stands the test of time. God has shown me that I need to step back and listen to what Robyn is trying to say, and learn how to support her in a new way. I pray that, by doing this, she can find a way somehow to let go of the pain she now feels when she looks in my eyes. I want Robyn to truly be able to reach that unreachable star, to have all the things that she never dared to dream of having in her life because of the darkness given to her and myself. She is one amazing young lady who has unlimited possibilities, and she deserves to be able to go out and explore just what her own purpose truly is. I have given her to God completely, and trust that in His time, His hands will heal her. I will continue to support her by showing her every chance I can how God is changing my life, and maybe her heart will soften just enough to let that one little flicker of light come through that I know is underneath all that darkness so that God can start His work with her. I have asked her for forgiveness, and I truly believe she does still have a place for me underneath all that anger so that she can forgive me someday. I remember the last thing she said to me before she left home was, "Mom, you think you are so much better than me because you go to church. You have been to the road adventure and are in recovery and you say you now know God. Well, I know God too." She told me that when she hears my voice, it sets off a trigger in her mind that makes her have rage and hate for me. While I told her I appreciated her telling me that, and it was a big step for us, I did however let it stop right there without going any further. I wish I could have had the strength to tell her that I knew exactly how she felt because my own dad made me feel that same exact way. I know that if my dad were alive today and had the strength to tell us, he would say that his dad made him feel those same feelings. I pray for her constantly to find a way to break this chain that I have bound her with. My wish for her is that she will not ever have to have the same conversations with her own child that she has had to have with me. I did write her a letter a few days after she left telling her, "Yes, Robyn, I am sure you know God. The only difference from me and you at this time in life is that, while you know God, you are also running as fast and hard as you can from God, and that is because of Satan. He knows you want to be healed and forgiven, and even to forgive. Satan also knows your mom knows the way to fight him now, and yes, it is with the Road Adventure, Celebrate Recovery, church and my CR family. Satan also knows that I, Sonja, your mother, not only know God, but that I quit running and gave my life to Him along with all my past garbage. So Satan now has me as his strongest weapon to use against you right now, and he is working overtime to do it. Until you see this, Robyn, you will always have rage for me. However, the great thing is that, while Satan is aiming your rage right at me, I know the whole story now because I am healed, I am recovering. God is waiting for you, Robyn, and when you are ready He will give you the tools to forgive, to be forgiven and even to heal completely. So I will close to you by saying I love you. I will pray for you, and I do HOPE that someday you will get your own recovery to be healed. When that time comes, I will be here for you as I always have and always will be. I love you, Mom." Entry #16 The one hard thing a person has to do when going through recovery is to take a look at the actual damage you did while living your life running from God and being controlled by darkness. As a young adult, I was a very active woman and rode horses all the time. I managed to stay healthy and fit and took great pride in my appearance. After my father’s words took over my heart, I started to hide more and more within myself. I went from a size eight to weighing over 400 pounds by the age of forty-seven. I thought the best way to deal with my pain was to stop existing to the world. If I no longer cared about myself, then no one else would care about me either, and I could leave the outside world out of my life. I also took my children along on that ride of destruction, and they too now fight the battle of weight and good health as I do. As I am learning to love myself again, it is really hard for me to see the actual damage that I have done to my outer body, and also the damage that I have caused to my two daughters. My biggest fear has been of men due to all the abuse by all those men in my life who were supposed to unconditionally love and protect me. This fear has destroyed two marriages, potential friendships, and has even hindered the current job I have because a man is my manager. He is a good Christian man, but still I find myself shaking and clumsy in my choice of words whenever we have to meet, or I have to speak at one of our group meetings. I know I am setting the same weak example for my daughters, and I do wish to break that cycle of destruction so they might have a chance at a future with their own love of a good man someday. I have managed to make some new friends and even allow myself to be hugged by some of my male church family members now. I can feel my body shake and my voice crack when they get too close to me, though, because I still feel so ugly as a woman seen through a man’s eyes. While I am trying to work on this, I do not kid myself because I am still very weak and have not found the courage yet to get deeper than the pain of the damage that I did to myself. Sometimes now when I dream (yes, I have actually gone back to dreaming without fear of my demons coming back to me), I see myself healthy again and even having a new relationship in my life. My best friend Jan tells me sometimes that I will have love again. While I just laugh at her and say it is just not in the cards for me to have that, secretly I am wishing and hoping that what she says could actually come true for me. I feel healthy in my heart now, but I still continue to hurt myself by not being able to be strong enough to get my whole body back in the good shape it was in before I let the darkness take me away. While I was running from God, I could never see me as someone having any kind of a future. I do not see that anymore. I want to see what tomorrow brings, see my girls grow, and be there when the chains of darkness are broken from them as mine have been. I dream of a day when we can be a family of three again, living together with complete peace, joy and healing for us all. I am learning that it is the heart of a person, rather than the look of a person, that measures their worth. That gives me the courage to keep trying harder to find that place way down deep inside of me that can help me overcome this part of my life. Being overweight has been hard on my recovery process and hard for Jesse too. Spending every waking moment in a wheelchair is difficult enough for her, but the extra weight makes life for her even harder. She has had over fourteen surgeries in the ten years that she has been around, and each one had difficult recoveries because her weight made the surgeries more complicated than they would have been if she had been her proper weight. Her last one was twelve hours long, and it took her four months to just be able to get in and out of her wheelchair again. She has had so much pain in her life, and each time I would see that look in her eyes pleading with me to take it away, my heart just bled the deepest of tears for her. I knew it was me that brought all this suffering to what has always been a difficult life for her. Jesse loves horses so much, and her big dream is to be an accomplished horse rider and win a buckle in a big stock show. She talks constantly of someday having her own horse and riding it down the road all on her own. Someday she even wants to be able to help other people with afflictions by teaching them the same kind of horse therapy that has been such a wonderful part in her own physical recovery. I do feel guilty at times when I look at her because I see this obstacle of weight (that was brought on to her by me) keeping her from so many possibilities. We joined the YMCA to start a water therapy program for us both. It is so amazing to see Jesse in that water. She can stand, jump, jog and even run in that water. She is so tall and proud when she is in there, and I love watching her do the workouts. For me, the tough part has been having all the people stare at me. I am so big, and I look so horrible in my bathing suit. It is very hard for me to get in and out of the water, and I see the women looking down to the ground as I pass by and then talking in low breaths to each other after I go by. I did let this be a deterrent to me in the beginning, and I would not take us as often as I should have. I am getting better now, and I pray daily for the courage to get in that car and drive us to that Y. I still find more reasons for us not to go than reasons to go, and I do hope and pray that someday I can end this battle once and for all, and be able to give one hundred percent to this cause for my daughter and me. It will be a tough battle to fight, but seeing Jesse in an element of such great success in that water does encourage me for her. Sometimes when I dream now, I also see Jesse and me in a state of good health together and doing things we dare not even attempt to do now. I would love to go to Disney World with her and Robyn again and be able to sit in the same car and ride a ride with her. We got to go three years ago with Kidd Kids, but I could not fit in any of the rides or walk much at all, so basically all she got to do was ride about four rides, go on a plane and see Mickey and Minnie Mouse. While it was fun, it still was not the perfect Magic memory it could have been if I had been able to do my part in being there with her and Robyn. I hope someday to be able to make that up to them both. Maybe someday I will also get to see her in her very best element on a horse winning that belt buckle at the stock show, and actually see that expression of complete happiness when she picks up her blue ribbon and winning belt buckle. Or maybe it will be something as simple as just riding down the road. Who knows what the future holds for her? I know the more I come out of this darkness, the better it is for her to start her own life of dreams, hopes and possibilities without being afraid for her mother.

flying with the angels Entry # 13 I am finding out that the number-one roadblock in my recovery is my fear of being seen and heard, especially in front of men. When my father disinherited me for marrying Timmy, it had a devastating effect on me. As the years went by, I was always afraid of every man that came into my life. What I could not understand is why this one man, even though he was my father, made me afraid of all men. It was when I started going back in time, while I was doing my personal inventory, that I realized my father was not the entire reason for my fear of men. He was just the one who finally pushed me over the edge to bring that fear to life. I started to pull up old memories that had been pushed down deep inside of me, and all of a sudden, all the pains of those times started to surface once again. I found myself going back to the time in my life when I loved riding horses so much, and when that love started to change to fear. I remembered the day my uncle said he wanted to take me to the pasture to show me all the land and animals and to have a long ride together with me. I could feel him getting up in that the saddle as I was in, and riding behind me all the way. After we got deep into the woods, he would start to put his arms around me really hard. Then he would slide his hands into my shirt feeling all over my body. I would squirm and beg him to stop, but he would always threaten me by saying he would leave me in the woods all alone if I did not be still. There were over one hundred acres in those woods and parts of it were very scary to me. So I would just get really stiff in that saddle and just try to escape inside of my own self until he would stop. This happened to me time and time again, and always my fear would make me keep this secret that was stealing my innocence away from me. I got to where, when my parents said we were going to their house, I would try to find all kinds of excuses for us not to go. Yet I always seemed to end up back on that horse letting him do those horrible things to me. I hated that I was so weak and believed him each time he said it would be ok, and he would not touch me. I now wished I would have told someone because I know this was the beginning of what literally affected every relationship I ever had with any man in my life. That is why, when my dad (who was supposed to always love me unconditionally) threw me away, it became the final straw for me. I just gave up completely and did not want to be seen or heard by any man ever again. I believe that also was when I started feeding myself in order to comfort myself so that I wouldn’t have to be seen. So this is where I start by confessing this horrible thing to God…easily said, but very hard to do. They say one of the things I must do in order to truly forgive this man is to go to him and tell him I forgive him for what he did. Although I am going to truly try to put this part of my life in the past, because I do want to be released from it, still I couldn’t go to him. He is an elderly man in his eighties, and his family has cut me out of their lives just as my mom and dad did. I choose to leave this as I have, and not go back to face him. I am hoping that is going to be enough for me to go forward. I am still frightened to speak in a crowd when men and women are present. But I do let myself be seen by some of my brothers in Christ now. I even give them a hug every now and then, and even let them hug me back. I cannot tell you what a huge step that has been for me to allow myself to be hugged by them. Having my best friend’s husband make a personal commitment to help me in my journey has also helped. I really believe that he believes in me. He is such a good man who loves and respects Jan and their daughter so much. There is still this little part of me, though, that does still fear that if I ever make him mad enough, he will not want to help me anymore. He will shut me out of his life just like everyone else has done to me. I think more than him actually doing that, I am more afraid of going back into the darkness if he does, and this time I may not be able to come back out. So while I do admire and respect him, I still keep a very strong wall up to protect me from that fear. When I get to the end of my journey, I would like to think I could trust to have a friend like Chuck without worrying about having that wall between us to protect me. Entry # 14 More and more, as the darkness leaves my heart, my eyes begin to see clearly again. My mind starts to process all the damage that I have done to myself while I slowly gave up on life, love, hopes, dreams and my faith in God. Today my new battle is the acceptance of my life as I see it today. I ask myself if I am worthy of the level of forgiveness that God has given to me for all the damage that I did. I question that, even if God has forgiven me, does it come with a price? Is that price learning to accept that, because of the physical, mental and financial damage that I did, this was it for me in this world? Each time I would ask the leaders (who society says we are accountable to) for help, they would reply by saying that all the reports they go by tell them I have not managed my life as I should have. So by the laws of society, they say I cannot go forward and achieve more than I already have. Do I accept the reality of who I am, a woman being presently confined in this slice of what we call "the world" today? I need to ask myself at every turn along the way if I am accepting this present moment. Am I just pretending, trying to escape into the darkness of my past or, even worse, a new darkness for my future? Do I get my forgiveness without having my "White Snow" moment from God? Does God say, "I forgive you, Sonja," but only at this one level of acceptance? Then finally, do I accept that my life here in this world will be one of a good heart, but a heart that has to continue to struggle because the damage was just too deep to be restored for this world to accept me? These are my demons, my new battles now…a new form of darkness trying to find a place in my heart that I have worked so hard to restore so that I can come back to God. For a long time, I saw myself in a tug-of-war with all those people who hurt me, working hard to forgive them one-by-one to make that rope around me become lighter. What I didn’t see until now is that all those people were just the ones that put that darkness in my heart. It was me pulling on that rope all alone, against my own self, that was doing all the damage to me. I did forgive all those people one-by-one, but the rope still pulled just as hard as before I started my journey. I began to see that it was simply because I had spent so much time working on getting all the ugliness and grudges I held from the list of people that hurt me, that I forgot to add the most important person of all to that list…me. I become overwhelmed as I start to truly face my own cross on the way to my new life. So I come to Jesus now for encouragement, remembering that Jesus also realized the enormity of the suffering he was soon to face in His own cross. A year ago, I believed it was God saying, "Sonja, it is time for you to just stand still and accept that you don’t get the hopes and dreams, just peace." Now, at this date and time, new emotions come to me because I do think I deserve to have hopes and dreams. Now my new self is fighting this battle with my old self that, while the darkness has been erased from my heart, it is still in my mind, questioning me every step of the way. I yearn more than ever for God to bring some clarity to all this fear, doubt and confusion that are trying to tear down all that I have worked so hard to rebuild. Now I listen hard, seek council and ask for guidance when confusion clouds my mind and tears at my new heart. One thing I have learned is that I still have years and years of thoughts stored in my mind, taught to me by the people who did not follow the teachings of God. I do believe that the heart and the mind have to do this journey together. While the heart is healing, the mind has to be reprogrammed in order for me to be able to live in that truth completely. I think that is why I questioned myself so much each time I had a joyful moment coming closer to God. Just as quickly as it came, it would also go away. I now take a list that I made of old truths and new truths with me everywhere I go. Each time I feel those thoughts coming in (of the people who sought to destroy me), I read that list of new truths of who I really am in the eyes of God. Now the joyful moments are becoming longer and longer. I know I am getting closer to becoming the person that God wants me to be. This is what I know now, that mercy and truth go hand-in-hand. God cannot give you mercy until you face the truth of your life and repent with real genuineness. You must be hungry for something real and genuine for your life because truth, and truth alone, is what is real.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

mother and child Entry # 12 It is time for me to begin the real work of my recovery process, and I must start by acknowledging what my parents did to me and getting past the pain of it. I know that what my parents did to me was a horrible thing and, even more, what they did to their own granddaughters. My parents were the ones who started what would be twenty years of emotional self-destruction for me. What was it that made me so weak when I made that one decision in my life that made my parents choose to throw me out of their lives completely? As I am learning more and more from being in recovery, I think the biggest mistake my parents made with us kids was that they didn’t teach us as young children about God. I also believe that they too had left God and given-in to living their lives by how society said they must live. I was never able to build that foundation of faith, love and trust in the beginning of my life with God, so when I really needed Him I didn’t know how to reach out to Him. The only truth I knew were my father’s words telling me I had lost my value in life and with God. Therefore, all I knew was to fear God as I feared my own father. As I started to try to understand why my dad did all this, I began to look at his own life, or what I knew of his life from stories I had heard in the past. I know that my dad’s own mom died at a very early age, and his dad became a very angry alcoholic after that. He soon re-married, and my aunt told me she was the step-mother from Hell. She would give the world to her own kids, and make my dad and his siblings do without. She also emotionally abused them on a daily basis. I know none of this excuses him for what he did, but I can see now how (just like me) he had his own dark dragons that made him do so many ungodly things. He never allowed himself to get the help that I am getting now. So, while at the end of his life I am told he was reading his Bible, I do not believe he lived in the word of what he read. I believe he was only finding comfort from those words. My dad died over two years ago and, while I was never able to look into his eyes and get the answers I wanted, I did manage to get some closure during my recovery process. However, with my mom it has been a bigger battle for me to start the forgiving process for what she did to the girls and me and is still doing. Years ago, when I had gone to my aunt’s house in San Angelo after leaving Timmy, my mom told me on the phone that, as long as my dad was alive, she had to respect what he asked of her. She said that meant, for the time being, that she had to put Robyn and me out of her life. I let that be her free pass for years and years, even after the birth of my second child Jesse. I did try to talk to her a handful of times in the last twenty years with forced conversations, trying to break that wall down. However, she always held steadfast about doing what my father asked of her. There were times in those twenty years that she did come to my aid financially when it meant the difference of me being able to take care of the girls or having no other choice but to be on the streets with them. That has just been a handful of times, and she always sent the money thru Linda without a word to go with it. Linda told me she never let my dad know that she was helping me. I used to think it was her way of showing us that she did love us, quietly telling me that someday when she got the courage to face Dad, she would come and let us into her life. I even led the girls to believe this was her only way of showing her love to us, and I think they held on to the same hopes that I did about someday getting to meet her. After my dad died, I thought this was my chance to rebuild that relationship with my mom. I truly believed that Jesse and Robyn were finally going to get to have a grandmother. When I called my Aunt Billie Jayne to ask her how to help me with this, she told me something that my mom had just told her. She said my mom said that she knows she will probably not get into heaven for this, but she still chooses not to have the girls or me in her life at all. I was so angry when my aunt told me this. How could she do this to me and to her two grandchildren? I know she held me and looked into my eyes the way I did my own girls' eyes when they were just babies. I have heard her say as I was growing up how proud she was to have me as her daughter. What I could not understand is how she could think that I was so disgusting that she does not even want to go to heaven because of me. This battle got even harder for me than ever before. How was I going to tell my girls that all those acts of kindness had no love at all sent with them? I think it had been just a feeling of forced obligation to me, with no thought of the girls at all in her decisions. To forgive her, knowing she is still on this earth thinking those kinds of thoughts about my girls and me, well I just didn’t know if that was going to be possible for me to do. Being so new to this "living in God’s light" does make things confusing for me at times. I do believe that God did give us two wonderful gifts for our lives. He gave us His only son who died so that we may be saved from our sins. He also gave us free will so that we can choose how we want to conduct our lives knowing that Jesus died for us. It is that free-will part that I am seeing that we, as human beings, seem to get tripped-up on, myself included. I guess I could spend all my time and energy trying to decide how I am going to deal with all this anger and sadness that my mom has once again brought into my life. Or I could just put all of that on hold for right now and take that same time and energy and invest it in my ongoing recovery. That is what I am going to do. I will trust that, as I continue to heal and become closer to my walk with God, all this anger and sadness will fade away and be replaced with the forgiveness I am struggling with at this time. I made a promise to my girls at the very beginning of their lives that I would never be to them what my parents ended-up being to me. That is why I sheltered them and put so many conditions in my parenting to protect them from the outside world. Still, my darkness found a way into their hearts, and now it is working hard to destroy my oldest daughter just like it almost destroyed me. There has to be something here, something that could take two completely different sets of parents that instilled totally different values in their children, but still cause the same destruction. I started to look at my relationship with my mom compared to the relationship I have with Robyn and Jesse. While going back to my journals and re-living all our lives, I realized what it was that my mom as well as myself left out of our parenting. Just like my parents did with me, I also failed to build that foundation of knowing, loving and trusting God in my own children’s lives. So when my darkness started to enter Robyn’s life, just like me, she didn’t know what to do other than to run and be angry with everyone in her life. I started to see the cycle of how we all did the same things whenever life hit us with anything at all. My mom and dad ran from God when they gave in to the rules of society. I ran from God because I didn’t know God, and now Robyn is running from God too. I had even started to see the sadness in Jesse’s eyes as her heart cried for her big sister and her mom who was so sad all the time. I now see through my recovery that it is my children who are the key to unlocking this chain of ongoing self-destruction that has been passed down to us from generation to generation. From its very beginning, every life has a searching soul, and God has planted in that life a seed to be grown and nurtured. That way, as we face the trials of our life, we will have His foundation in us to endure all that the world throws at us. We must hold dear our children’s lives, every beat of their hearts from the very beginning when God hands their precious lives over to us to nurture. That is the key early in life. This is why I must now stand firm for the truth that I have been blessed to see, so that that truth will be seen in me always. I refuse to believe that we are only here to live and die and to never in our life ask why. I am fighting the battles of darkness and have felt God in my life once again. These battles fought, and lessons learned, are the things I must give to my own children now. They are the ones who are going to have to carry on down the very same road that was left for me to travel by my own parents. Only now, because I have begun to heal, they will have the power to pave a better way to travel down that road. What a blessing that would be for them to rebuild that road to be a place that their own children could travel on…a place to hope and dream of all the possibilities of what their lives could be, instead of just being the victims of dark circumstances like I had to be. Knowing that does bring peace to my heart.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Entry # 10 As each layer of darkness began to peel away from me, I began to experience some great new emotions for about a week, things like courage, warmth, safety, value, and even compassion come to mind. I thought, being so new to this, that this was it. I had had my experience back to God, and the rest of my life would be all straightened-out. Little did I know that all this hard work I had done at the Road was just to open-up my heart and give me the tools I needed to begin the real work that was coming just around the corner. However, timing was not with me because it was the Holidays again, and those times have always been the toughest times for me personally even though I always tried to do the best I could for the girls. As I remember, the holidays were always so great, and I still have good memories of those times despite all the darkness that has come into my life. There were trips to Grandma's for Christmas, tons of food and listening to my grandpa’s stories of him growing up while sitting on the porch by his rocking chair. We sang Christmas songs, and each year we got one year closer to being able to leave the children’s table and sit at the grown-up's table when it was time to eat. Then, of course, there was Christmas at home with my parents and two brothers. We always had lots of presents under the tree and stockings full of all our favorite things. All of that was taken away from me, and I was robbed of my children being able to experience it, when my family chose to shut us out of their lives. My father told me that my extended family of aunts, uncles and cousins felt the same way, and so my shame became even greater. My girls never, in twenty years of growing up, got to have a Christmas with anyone other than the three of us, home alone and trying to make the best of it. I did manage to keep in touch with two family members through those years of struggle and abandonment. One was my dad’s little sister, my Aunt Billie Jayne. She lives in San Angelo while I live in Mansfield (hundreds of miles away), but we did e-mail a lot, and I spent some time with her and her family when Timmy and I first divorced and before the darkness took hold of me. My aunt has always been a straight-shooter. She told all my family that, while she would not try to bring me back into their lives, she would also not allow any of them to tell her how her relationship with me was going to be. I am so grateful to her for standing up for us. It has helped many times in my battles against my demons just knowing that she was out there in this world, a world that seemed to be so against me and everything I did or stood for. Robyn was a little over three years old when we went down there, and to this day, she still talks about the fond memories she had with them, especially the walks in the pasture with her Uncle Russell. I have not seen my aunt and uncle in years, and I do hope they get to meet Jesse someday and also revisit with Robyn. The other person I have kept in contact with is my older brother's wife Linda. But with her, it was always on her terms, and we were never allowed to come to her house to share in her life with her family. She and I worked together for over ten years, so that made it easy for her to be in a small part of my life. At first, she had to sneak off to see us, and dared not tell my mom or dad of her adventures. As we got older, she became more open about seeing us, but still it was always when she had time for us and in a neutral territory away from any of her family. My dad was a powerful man, and he controlled my brother through what he would give his family in the way of money and gifts. They were always afraid my dad would cut them off like me, and those material things he used to control them meant more to them than me or my two girls. She would also come by to give the girls Christmas gifts and bring $300 that my mom had given her. Never once was there a card or word to go with it, just the money. I always took it, though, because most of the time I was always behind on the bills. I would pay what I could and save a few dollars to at least give the girls a good meal on Christmas. Linda had a big house in the country, and that is where all my immediate family gathered each year for the Holidays. She used to come to work after each Holiday and tell me all their great stories and, while I did cling to every word she said, I can also remember going home many times and sobbing all the way because the girls and I never got to share in any of those memories. One of the hardest things for me the last two years has been trying to figure out what I am supposed to do with this part of my life. I see now that, in order to come full circle with this recovery process, I have to learn to separate the old me that feeds on the darkness from the new me that is trying so hard to build a new foundation for my life and for my girls. I have gone back and taken a real look at my past relationship with Linda. I have seen how unhealthy it was for me to let her make so many conditions on sharing her life with the girls and me. There is no shame in me, and surely none in those two beautiful girls of mine, and so I must let her go to God for right now. I hope someday that Linda can see that having conditions for our two families is wrong, and maybe she can break that chain so that we can have a real family relationship. If she does, then maybe I will re-evaluate all of this. But until then, I am thinking that it may be best for me to put that part of my life on hold for awhile. Entry # 11 I always felt bad for Robyn being ten years apart from her little sister. She was not only dyslectic, and always made fun of due to that, but most of the time she went to school in somebody’s hand-me-downs I had to get from Goodwill. She didn’t even have the basics to go underneath her clothes like panties, socks and later a bra. So not only did she have to deal with fighting for her educational rights at school, she also left the house each morning feeling inadequate about her appearance. The hardest thing about being a mom for me was that, while I did manage to keep a roof over our heads, I couldn’t give the girls the things that most kids take for granted while they are growing up. I made sure that the girls were in school when I did buy what little I could afford for them because I always had to have two lists to shop with. I had a list of things I had to buy that they could not do without, and a list of things I had to steal. Food, clothes and things that could not fit in my purse would be on the list of things to buy. Deodorant, soap, toothpaste and all the little things I could slip in my purse would be on the list to steal. I thought of the girls as I was stealing those things and how my mom and dad threw me away, and never even gave my girls a chance in life. I would make myself believe that, without me doing this, they would go hungry and be even more embarrassed than they already were in school. Putting them to bed at night was also tough for me because, while they did have one mattress on the floor to sleep on, they never had bed sheets, pillowcases or bed covers for that mattress. They would get one blanket each year from the Salvation Army to cover up with. We were lucky to have one good towel apiece to bathe with. Sometimes the girls would use the t-shirts, which they had worn the day before, to dry-off with when their towel wasn’t clean. My kids didn’t have grandparents, aunts, uncles or cousins to share their school and life experiences with, only a mom who was mentally abused and living in darkness. My most dreaded times were school functions for the girls because I just could not get the courage to go. They had no one else to take them, so they were always left out. They never complained, but I know all these things had to have had such a defeating effect on their already tormented self-esteem. That was our life then, our reality. Birthdays were also something we didn’t do, because we were too poor, and I was embarrassed by how we had to live, so there were no parties. My biggest fear was that no one would show up if I did get brave enough to give them one. I just knew that if that happened, they would feel even more abandoned than they already did. Only this time, it wouldn’t be by their family but by those they thought might be their friends. I wish I could have trusted their hearts more and hadn’t always tried to protect them. It was my own way of doing just that, which caused so much emotional damage to them. I did try to make things up to them at Christmas the best I could, even though in my heart that was a really sad time for me. Christmas for my two girls was the only time they got new clothes, shoes and one or two of the bare basics. It was always a good learning experience for them, though, because it was just us three against the world. We made it as happy and as wonderful as a family of three could do, I guess. While there were no more than one or two presents under a very small tree for them, we still managed to make memories of a different kind…like cooking their "must-have" Honey Ham for Christmas dinner, baking a peach cobbler for dessert together and always having a special ornament in a somewhat-bare Christmas stocking hanging on the wall for their box of memories. It was special for us to have that time each year to feel good about ourselves as individuals and as a family that had made it just one more year together. We did always manage to beat the odds and overcome the struggles of what the world threw at us somehow. This past Christmas I made some new ornaments and decorations from spare materials and things in the house to replace what was burned in the fire. I actually made enough in my new job that I could at least give them a good meal and one special gift. They had such a good Christmas, thanks to all my wonderful new church family members, that I thought they would be ok with a smaller, but still special one, from me this year. But God had something different in mind for us, and He was setting the plans to leave more spiritual markers on my children’s lives, and in a big way. My sponsor at Celebrate Recovery asked me if her home-team could buy the girls some Christmas gifts this year. She is an amazing woman who is also the smartest person I know. She has also been very influential in my recovery process. I told her that that would be a blessing to us all, and I thanked her for the offer. Home-teams at our church are what most people call adult Sunday School classes at their churches. We just have ours in people’s homes at different times during the week. I haven’t gotten the courage to join one yet. I guess you could say Friday night recovery was my current home-team experience. Right before Christmas, Sharon asked me if we would like to come and share in their home-team's Holiday Dinner night. That way, they could all meet us and give us our gifts. It would be the first actual, formal Christmas party we had ever been invited to as a family. I was excited that the girls were actually going to get to have that experience. When we drove up to her house, the whole front yard was outlined in Christmas lights. As we walked into her house, there was a twelve-foot Christmas tree with all the trimmings towering over the whole entry-way. Her house was so welcoming with Christmas decorations all around and candles glowing on all the tables we would be eating on. Everyone welcomed us with hugs and smiles and made us fit right in with them all. We sat around the table eating a meal with every kind of food you could think of and desserts that took up a whole counter all by themselves. Robyn got tickled at me because Sharon offered me flavored coffee in these very petite china coffee cups. I couldn’t figure out how I was going to hold that cup without spilling the coffee or just dropping it all together. I think Sharon and Jesse both were just waiting for a disaster to happen. Somehow I managed to drink that coffee without any accidents. As I was watching the girls laughing and telling stories with the people around us, for a few seconds I kind of went back in time to my Grandma’s house. I pictured them there having this wonderful new memory they were making. It reminded me of my years with my family at Christmas before all the darkness took over my life. After dinner we went and sat by the tree, and the men brought out the gifts for the girls, and there were even a couple of presents for me. I let them open one apiece before we left while all the men and women sat and watched. It was a tender moment for me, and I believe it was for them too. I am so grateful to all those wonderful people who gave my family such a great memory to keep with us always. We need times like this while we all heal, to let us know we will be a strong family again. All the way home that night, the girls were laughing and trying to guess what was in each other’s boxes. That night was a very peaceful night in our house, something we have had too few of in past times. Earlier that month, my new landlord had asked me if she could have a mission from a nearby town adopt the girls, and I said of course. These girls had gone over ten years without anything at all, and it was so wonderful that they were being blessed at such a critical time in their lives. So, instead of feeling self-pity like I would have in the past, I embraced it for those two wonderful girls of mine. For years, we were always told that we were not even worth the effort of acknowledgment from most everybody that should have loved us, and now complete strangers were just pouring out their time and effort to them to make sure they had a good Christmas once again. It was so sweet to hear Robyn and Jesse tell my landlord what they wanted when she asked them to make a list. They didn’t put down all the things you would think a teenager and a young girl would put down. They put down things like a bed-set with matching sheets for their bed, towels and wash rags in their favorite colors, a lamp for their bedroom, and all the kinds of things they had only dared to dream of having just a few years earlier. I also made sure that panties, socks and bras for both of them were hanging in their stockings. I have to tell you, my heart was overjoyed just watching my two daughters open all those gifts they got. With each new present, their eyes got brighter and their smiles got bigger. I saw little bits and pieces of their missing childhoods coming back to them, making a special place in their hearts for great memories in this new beginning of their lives. I see more and more how God was paying attention to the details of our deepest pains during all those years that we lived in darkness. Now, He is replacing those broken pieces with new blessings for us all. As a mother, it makes me feel good to know that my girls may not have to spend a life in suffering just because of me, and it also gives me hope for my own life.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Entry # 7 One Friday night right before Thanksgiving, Jan and Chuck invited Jesse and me to their home to meet their Bible study group. I really felt uneasy about going, but I agreed to go because I loved being in that home. Since I have spent the last twenty years hiding within myself, fear literally takes over my mind and body now if I have to get in front of a large crowd. Fear was working overtime that night as I walked into Jan’s living room with over twelve people waiting there to greet me. As soon as I got there, I headed straight towards Jan’s recliner, which has also become my favorite place to sit. Only this time, Jan had a chair sitting in front of the fireplace and told me to sit there. After introducing Jesse to everyone, they took her to Jan’s daughter's room to play, and it was just me there facing all those strange faces. It was so hard for me to look at each one of them as they introduced themselves to me. Jan saw my fear and quickly started reassuring me that it was going to be ok. Chuck looked at me, and said, "Sonja, you thought you were here to meet us all, but we have other plans for you in mind." Well, I tell you right then and there, my heart felt like it was coming straight up out of me. I started shaking and just sat there with this look of total fear on my face once again. All of a sudden, each person was handed an envelope. Chuck said there were letters in each one of those envelopes that they wanted to read to me. The first letter was a story about how all these people in that very room wanted to help the girls so that we would have shelter and food for the Holidays. There was $200 in that envelope. After reading it out loud, that person stood up and gave me a hug, and then handed me the letter. I was so touched that all I could do was just sit there with tears coming down my face. I didn't really understand what was going on. This went on and on all the way around the room. Each person read their letter to me with a story of how they wanted to help me. Here I was, someone they knew nothing about, yet they had been in prayer about me for weeks. I just could not believe this was happening. Why would these people do this for me? I was not anyone special in their lives. One of the letters was a story of how they wanted to give me money to go out and spend on my girls so they could have the kind of Christmas they deserved. There was even one for me. That letter told me to go spend all this money on myself so I could have a special Christmas too. I have never had anyone give me a gift like that, other than what the girls would make for me in school. Jan had also been talking to Jesse and knew she loved science, and has always wanted a telescope. After all the letters were read, Chuck went to the kitchen and brought out the biggest telescope I have ever seen for me to put under the tree for Jesse. By then my voice was shaking uncontrollably, and tears were still coming down just as strong as when that first letter was read. I tried to tell them how humbled I was that they would do this for me and my family. I wanted them to understand what a life-changing experience this night had been for me. Chuck looked at me and said, "Sonja, it’s not over yet. We have two more surprises for you." A man and woman came out of the kitchen just as soon as he finished speaking. They started to tell me how blessed they had been to be able to buy a new mini-van, and they wanted me to have their old one. Just as simple as that, he walked over to me, handed me his keys and gave me a hug. I just stood there trying to grasp what had just happened, not really understanding if this was for-real or not. Chuck said, "I have one last letter for you." He read the letter, and it said that he wanted me to be able to use the van right away so that I could find a job and take care of my kids. So he was paying for the first three months of my car insurance. Each person came to me, formed a line, and then they gave me a big hug and "Happy Holiday" wishes. I actually hugged each one of them back. I haven’t embraced anyone the way we all did that night in many years. It was all so touching to me. I left that house with a new van and over $1,500 in cash. I also had a gift to put under the tree for Jesse that I could never even have dreamed of before. That night I found myself saying out loud, "Thank You God," not only for the great gifts that had just been given to my family and me, but also for the fact that He actually showed me what it is like to receive His total gift of Grace. I, Sonja Brooks, who has spent the last twenty years being mad at God, yet He still brought all these people to me. They even saw value in me and wanted to help me help my girls. My heart was consumed with Joy, and for the first time in many years, I felt love coming back into my heart. Entry # 8 As I began to heal and start the real work of my recovery, I had many personal battles within myself. I believe it was because I yearned so much for my heart to have a true spiritual experience with God so that I could validate all this hard work that I was doing. I wanted to believe that God really does want to love me as His child. Yet this spiritual experience never seemed to come to me, and I had this deep emptiness inside me because of that. I think that is why I would keep going back to those memories of my dad telling me I no longer mattered in life. It was that, and the fact that I had given my soul to Satan. Even though I could hope about some things again, I still could not hope about being forgiven of that. At the beginning phase of my recovery, I was able to continue each week even with this emptiness simply because I was so humbled that these wonderful new people were in my life. They were willing to share with me the wisdoms they had learned and their personal experiences of their own journeys of recovery back to God. That allowed the small piece of my heart that opened up at the Road Adventure to continue to get stronger and stronger. I would have moments of feeling like God was going through me but not staying in me. I have even felt joy and warmth at times in these last few months after having small victories in my battles with my demons of darkness. What would torment me the most was how I could feel those great moments of victory in defeating those demons (having so much joy in getting my heart on the path to healing again), and then almost immediately go right back to those feelings of unworthiness and self-destruction whenever something else challenged me on this new journey I had started. I didn’t realize it at the time, but each new experience I was having (like all the gifts at Christmas that were given to the girls and me and finding a new job in a Christian environment that challenged me personally) was bringing to life a new spiritual awakening within me. So when God would see that I was ready to receive that spiritual experience I longed for, I would be ready to embrace it. Even more importantly, I would then believe in the truth of it and Him. I began to work harder and harder each week, promising to stay completely honest in my walk, no matter what the effects of that would be, in each new step I took. I felt such a great sense of appreciation for all these people who, like me, were working on their own recovery but, at the same time, were being teachers to me. I was so grateful for a safe place to go to, a place that allowed me to go into the very camp of the demons that sought to destroy me and to have victory in getting back each piece of my heart that they had stolen from me. Last Sunday, our pastor said something in church that was so profound to me that I immediately wrote it down. He said; "Rely on good friends, the friends of faith that bring compassion and patience to your life, but know that those same friends cannot heal you. Only God can do that. They can, however, help you find the way to begin that healing process with God. Jesus begins at our greatest points of need, and he alone is more than enough." I am feeling that Celebrate Recovery is that power of circle coming around me to help me find my way to God to heal. Somehow each week I have been drawn to come back to Celebrate Recovery, though I could not hold my head up in the beginning to see the eyes of all those who had committed to taking this journey with me. However, I was able to actively listen and allow the small pieces of my heart that would come back to life each week to become lighter and brighter as a new layer of darkness peeled away from my soul. There is a saying that I now have in my journal that describes me so perfectly in the first months of my recovery, and it goes, "The heart can hear and feel what the eyes cannot see." Entry # 9 Three months have gone by since I started working on myself at Celebrate Recovery. Most of my time has consisted of just sitting and listening (along with a whole lot of crying) in small groups. Small group, which is the last hour of our recovery, is where women sit together and share thoughts about life and their recovery process. You have to state your name, what you are recovering from, and then you have three minutes to share what is on your heart. I always managed to get my name out and what I was recovering from. As for the rest, how could I share my thoughts if I couldn’t even hold my head up long enough to see who I was sharing with? So I just sat there and said, "Pass," when it came time for me to share. That became the norm for me every Friday night for the first few months. Then came the Friday night that was to be the breaking point for me and become the first huge step of my recovery. Our leader told us at the beginning of the meeting that this was the Friday night we had to pick our buddy for our recovery process. He said I want you all to stand up, look around and find a buddy. Girls have to pick girls, and boys have to pick boys. While I had made some really good friends there, and my best friend Jan was sitting at my table, I was starting to feel fear come fast and hard all throughout my body. I’m telling you, at that very moment in time, I saw everyone in the room literally going farther and farther away from me even though we were all at the very same table. It seemed as if they all immediately picked up their buddies, leaving me just standing there all alone. I saw myself on the other side of the room with not one person wanting to pick me. They were all larger than life in their joy of having someone to share their process of recovery with. Then there was me, this little tiny speck of a person, all alone in another world of rejection and despair. A part of me was saying, “Sonja, stay. You need to be here and face this.” Then there was an even-louder part of me that was saying, “This is where I have to leave you behind now. I cannot let someone who betrayed me so badly befriend one of my own children.” Right that very second, I grabbed my car keys and ran out of that building as fast as I could. All the time, I was hearing this loud voice (that I perceived to be God) saying, “Leave now, your time here is through.” My daughter Jesse was in another building at the day care, and I didn’t even go get her. I just ran straight for my car so I could get as far away from that place as I could. As I made it out to the middle of the parking lot, someone grabbed my shirt and screamed, “I am not letting you run out on me this way.” I looked around, and it was my good friend Jan with at least ten other people behind her. She began to tell me to stay. I kept crying and saying, “Please let me go. I have to get out of here right now.” As we stood there, people started surrounding me and laying their hands on me. I heard someone say, “Can I pray for you, Sonja?” By that time, there were over twenty people that had me inside a complete circle in that parking lot, so I agreed. All of a sudden, I saw this red-headed young man lift his hands to the heavens, and he started to command Satan to leave me right that very second. He said, “I Rebuke You, Satan, In the Name of Jesus for My Sister, Sonja." I couldn’t believe it. Why would this man, who barely knows me, say that? If he only knew what I did to make God so mad at me, then he would stop and say, "Take your keys and go, Sonja." Still he just stood there in that parking lot, circling around me and never changing his demands for Satan to leave me. It was strange to me, hearing him yell at Satan to leave me, when all these years I thought it was God who was controlling the circumstances of my life and my children’s. Could this be what my new friends talk of when they talk of God’s unconditional love? Have I been fighting and believing the wrong things all these years of living in this life of destruction? As he kept praying, my tears began to just flow from my eyes in a way they have never done before. Instead of tears of fear and defeat, I began to feel all the hardness and darkness, which had not yet left my heart, start to leave me. I began to pray inside myself, still being afraid for my voice to be heard by others. I prayed silently to this God that I am trying so hard to come to. It felt as if my tears were becoming stronger, and they flowed even faster than ever. Then there was a voice in me saying, “Sonja, I am here. I have always been here, right in your heart and soul. This very second, I have your heart wrapped in my hands. Through your tears, you are releasing your doubts and fears from your heart and replacing them with my trust and love. It is that trust in me that is going to give you the courage to defeat this demon that is once again making you run from me. Let it go and let me in, all the way into your heart." Right then, I held my head up, looked into the eyes of my new friends and said, "I will stay." That night I finally got that real spiritual experience I have been yearning for. I have heard my friend, Michelle T., from Celebrate Recovery talk of spiritual markers that have come to her during her recovery process. In the beginning, when people would talk of spiritual things, I always became confused because I believed I had no soul or spirit in me. Therefore, this spiritual marker thing would be a concept that I could never conceive of for my life. But I now believe that I have seen proof of this, for I have now seen one person's goodness actually passed down to another through the people that have come into my life this last year. My daughter Jesse, who I was always afraid to hug or say, "I Love You" to, came to me a few weeks ago and said, "Mom, have you noticed that when Michelle hugs you, she does it really hard and long?" I kind of laughed it off at the time, but I know now that that was a spiritual marker that God was leaving on Jesse through Michelle each time she would share her hugs with her. You see, those hugs are coming straight from Michelle’s heart to Jesse. In her heart are little pieces of God’s love that are coming straight through her to my wonderful little girl. God needed Michelle to do that for Jesse to show her how it is to be hugged by someone for real since her own Mommy could not do it at this time. I am grateful for Michelle and her gift of hugs that she gives us each time she sees us. Then there is my good friend Jan, who came to me one day driving her blue Isuzu Rodeo with her heart in her hand, who has stayed by my side each step of the way on my journey of recovery. How can I forget Thomas T., Michelle’s husband, who took the time to lift his voice all the way to heaven to pray just for me even while he was fighting with his own recovery? Of course, I have to mention Chuck, Jan’s husband, who is a very wise man that helps to guide lost souls in need of healing and always manages to go the distance even in the hardest of times with me. I am grateful for this whole new group of people that I now stand hand-in-hand with each Friday night, building this amazing unbreakable bond with. These are my spiritual markers of God’s love given to me. They are the most perfect of memories for me to hold in this new heart of mine to help validate His presence in my times of weakness. I have now let God's Grace and Love into my heart, all the way in, and this time I am not letting go.

Taking the hand of God's Warrior and giving Him my Trust Entry #6 I haven’t paid much attention to the calendar days of the month since I quit my job last July. Time mostly goes by on a day-to-day basis. As I am getting stronger, it seems to be going by on a week-to-week basis, and that is a good thing. I woke up this morning, and here it is November already. Three months have gone by since I sat on my porch conceding to the powers of darkness that were controlling my every thought and move. Jesse and I have now started going to church with Chuck and Jan every Sunday. At first I felt too embarrassed to go. I do not know God’s words, and I have no clothes fit to be seen in, especially at a place of worship. I have even caught myself still being mad at God sometimes. Still, I managed to get Jesse and myself ready every Sunday, and we were always outside waiting when Chuck and Jan came by to pick us up. I thought that taking Jesse to church (even with God still being mad at me) would be a good way for me to take my sins away from her so she wouldn’t be punished so harshly anymore. I still feel very guilty for all the afflictions that have been put on my children's lives because I was such a sinful mother. While I was still not convinced that this God-thing could help me, I did have hope that maybe it could help my two girls. I found myself sitting in church each Sunday with uncontrollable tears, and they came down constantly while I was there. They were not the kind of tears I had ever experienced before, and that was one of the reasons I was always drawn back each Sunday. At times, I could still hear the voices telling me I was not worthy of all this new attention, but they did seem to get quieter when I was in that church building sitting next to my good friend Jan. She always had such compassion for me, and still does. Each Sunday when the pastor spoke, it was as if God was saying to him, "You see that woman out there? She is hurting and confused. She needs you to give her just the right words so that she can get one step closer to this thing she is yearning for to come back into her heart." After about a month of going, I felt as if my tears were making me feel a connection with what this place could do to get my heart to feel again. I wished that God could love me the way I always heard the pastor talk about His love for all the others that go to this church. I am glad that, in the beginning, I didn’t have a car that would work well enough to take Jesse and me, because we probably would never have made that first step even though I knew it was the right place to be at this time in our lives. I guess that was just one more spiritual marker of God keeping up with the details of my life while I was running so hard from Him. He knew it would take someone strong to get me to go, so he brought Chuck and Jan to me. One day after church, Chuck was at a booth promoting this thing called the Road Adventure, and something told me to ask him if it was something that could help me get some clarity to my thoughts. I asked him if it was just about church and religion, and he said no. It is a place to go to find out what is really down deep in the pits of your soul that is causing you to hurt so badly. He said it would give you the tools you need to start the healing process and even help you find your real purpose again. That part sounded really good to me because I felt that my only purpose in life was to watch my children pay for my sins, so maybe this could help me to heal them. I asked him if I could go, and he told me I could and that he would even let me ride back and forth with him. Chuck was learning that he was going to have to give his strength to God on my behalf right now, because I was just too weak to do this on my own. I am so grateful to him for knowing that and for seeing enough value in me to follow through with it. So we started a couple of weeks later to the Road Adventure, which would help me to begin my battle of self-recovery. I started that first night, still hearing the voices in my head telling me that I lived in a world where I could never rise above the burdens of my pain. My heart knew it had been broken completely, for I had been left behind not only by mankind but also by God. While others could dream and fly to places where they could be loved, I could not. My dreams would always be taken over by my father’s words, which would turn my dreams into haunting fears, until one day I didn’t even dare to dream at all. In the beginning at the Road, I sat mostly by myself shaking almost to the point of coming to tears. I even tried to get up and leave once when the message was too much for me to comprehend, but the trainers came after me. They convinced me that this was the bad stuff trying to surface so that I could face my fears. Then I would find the real meaning of what was tearing at my heart. I went back, and somehow got the courage to give more of myself to this thing called the Road Adventure. After two weeks of hard work, I learned how to get the right tools to reach down deep into my heart and pull out all those old tapes of the things that kept me in a life of destruction. I even began to learn how to start working on forgiving those who had damaged my heart in the first place, and that was a big, big step for me. I was told that when I could finally let go of all the fears that controlled my life and forgive them, then I could learn to forgive myself. That was the hardest thing I have ever done in my life. But every time I managed to honestly work through each step, my heart felt just a little bit lighter. Maybe that is the secret to all of this - to do it honestly, no matter how hard that might be. I also saw that there are people out there in the world that I could rely upon to follow through on what they committed to me. Those people are becoming the guardians of my recovery process. One of the last things that happens to everyone at the Road is to be put in a Cradle of Love. The way they do this is to pick you up as if you were lying down, floating on air. Then they play a song that they hand-picked just for you, and then they rock you back and forth until the song stops. I knew ahead of time that this was going to happen, but as it got closer to me, fear started to completely take over my body. This was mainly because one of the things that I had done to myself throughout the last twenty years was to damage my body severely. I went from weighing about 150 pounds to weighing about 400 pounds at the time I was at the Road. I was so afraid to have these people touch my body, especially the men, because of my shame over how I looked. Chuck saw that I was losing control, so he came up to me and put his hands in my hands and said, “Will you trust me to help you through this?” I told him I could. He took me over to the middle of the room, and all these people surrounded me. They told me to just very calmly fall backwards, and let my feet come up as I did. I was crying and calling out for Chuck, but they all stayed right there with me, never once faltering because I was so heavy. Before I knew it, I was all the way in the air, lying in all their arms and being rocked like a newborn baby. At first, I shook and shook, and called for Chuck even more than I did at the beginning when he first asked to help me. Then all of a sudden, I began to feel this calmness rush all through me. I could feel the tears of the people around me hitting my body. These people, who did not know me, were all holding me, rocking me and even crying for me. It felt as if God had come to me that very moment to console me, even saying to me that, if I could find a way to give my faith to Him, then He could find a way to heal me. Maybe if I did this, then God would forgive me of the sinful love I put into my children’s lives that my father spoke of. To be forgiven by God was one thing I was just not sure could happen for me yet, but if I forgave all the people who hurt my girls, then maybe He really would take my sins from my children. So this would be the beginning of my new goal in life, and it would give me purpose for the time being and, for right now, that is all I could ask for. It was a very profound moment for me, one that I have never experienced in my life before, and the beginning of what now was to be the greatest journey I would ever travel.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Finding Hope Again Entry #4 The days seemed to pass rather fast, and soon a whole month had gone by. Jan had now opened-up her house to me so I could do laundry and use her computer for job searches. I had discovered that, all this time, she had lived less than a mile from me. Isn't it funny how we had always lived so close to each other, yet neither one of us knew the other one was there until the day she drove up to my house when she saw me on the porch? Our families soon became close, at least everyone but my older daughter Robyn. It seems that she has started going into a dark world of her own. She has chosen to keep Jesse and me at a distance, and in the times she did allow herself to pop in, she always left angry and with an emptiness in her eyes. I can see the friends of darkness taking over her heart more and more, and she seems to make all her decisions based on what those dark voices trick her mind into believing. In the beginning of this new journey that she and I were traveling on with each other, I would try every way I could to save her. I did this by showing her how she was making one mistake after another. I never once looked down deep into her heart like I should have. I just pointed out what her actions were saying about what I thought was in her heart. She would become even angrier with me and would always leave yelling at me and saying anything she could to hurt me, keeping up that shield of hers. Maybe the only way to help Robyn is to save myself. Let her see through me how we can make it out of this wall of destruction that has been built around our hearts and souls. During these last eighteen years of my life, everyone in my family (who were supposed to love me unconditionally) threw me out like yesterday's garbage…all because of one choice I had made. It was not a bad or hurtful choice, just a different choice. My father told me that, because of the decision I had made to bring Timmy into my life, I could no longer be part of his family. He said that, from this day forward, I would never have anything of value because I just lost my value for choosing that man. He also said that my own children were destined for failure and heartache and would never know any other family except me. We would be deserted by him and by God, and it would be entirely my fault. After my father said those things, and as life began to hit me, I led myself to believe that every word he said had to be true. He was a powerful man and, because of that, my mom and brothers also had to do as he said. With every bad thing that happened to us in the last ten years (and there was a lot), I always knew it was God saying, "I am leaving you behind, Sonja, for going against your own family and committing such an unforgivable sin." That is the way our family lived for those ten years, and the way I lived for the last eighteen years. I lost my husband due to the guilt I felt of what I had done to my parents. My husband was a good man, but I became ashamed of him because I blamed him for taking me away from my family, the ones that had brought me into this world. When you think about it, he was probably the worst victim of all in this whole mess. I have never been able to tell him how truly sorry I am for not believing in him more and for letting my darkness rob us of what could have been. I hope that, as the years have gone by and my heart has softened, he has seen that in me. For many years I also believed that my older daughter, who was born dyslexic, would never become anything of worth because God was going to make her suffer as part of my punishment. While I always fought for her to get all she needed in school, I did not let her be completely free with her mind and imagination so she could explore all her possibilities because I did not want to see her get hurt if she did not succeed. This was my way of protecting her, I thought, but it only brought my own weakness into her as she grew older. Ten years later, when my youngest daughter was born handicapped, I knew the minute the doctor told me she had spina bifida that this was also part of my punishment from God. Even though her dad was not Timmy, I still had the sins of my love for Timmy in me, and that would carry over into Jesse's life as well. I loved those two girls so much, and at the same time, I ached for them because I knew I was their failure in life from the very first breath they took. Only now, at this day and time, there is this family that has come into our lives. They see my children and me, yet they still invite us into their home…a home where I feel warmth and security as I did when I was a young child in my own home. Could I possibly ask this woman (who says she wants to be my friend and help me) to show me a way to heal my heart? Will she see anything in me at all and think I am worth the kind of commitment it is going to take for her to really help me the way I need to be helped in my heart and soul? That same night I was talking out loud with no one in the room but me, not really understanding who I was talking to at the time. I knew my heart needed to try to find the words to ask this new family to help me find a way to bring some light back into this darkened, hard heart that now lived inside of me. Entry #5 Throughout the last fifteen years of my life, I taught myself not to allow new people to get too close to me and share in the lives of my children and me. It was my job to protect them. I thought that, by keeping the outside world away, I was protecting them from more emotional abuse. Little did I know that, by doing that, I was bringing even more of my darkness into their young lives. They never got to have any kind of social life or to build friendships that might have been there to support them when I started slipping into my isolation as the years went by. As Robyn got older, she always had problems socially in school because I had sheltered her and not allowed those skills to be built into the foundation of her life skills. She has always given all of her heart to everyone that came into her life. Fast and furious was the way she let them come into her heart. Each time one if those people stepped on her heart, she would always let them come back for more. She clung so hard to each one and to every little bit of life’s pieces of love she could get, that it didn't matter what kind of emotional abuse came along with it. I have learned through Jan and Chuck that there is value in letting the right kind of people into your life because, through them, you can gain strength, trust, and even great support in the hard times. I just wish Robyn had allowed herself to stay in our lives so she could finally get to feel what it is like to have such wonderful people as Jan and Chuck in her own life, people who see value in you no matter what others have led you to believe about yourself. I am thankful that Jesse is getting the chance to feel and experience the things that I did not allow Robyn and me to have because of my fear of being seen and heard. In the past, I had trained myself not to say "I love you" all the time to the girls because I always felt like I was a punishment to them for all the wrong things that have happened in their lives. I realize now how self-focused I was back then. By allowing my demons to control every decision I made, I became selfish in the developing of my daughter’s lives. I now try to listen more to what they have to say and to even encourage them to try new things with people that, in the past, I would have kept away from them completely. Today, because I am surrounded by such a loving and spiritual family like Chuck and Jan who express their love so openly, I have allowed compassion to come back into my heart. I find myself becoming softer with the girls. Still it is hard to say the words "I love you" to them. I am getting closer, though, to being the kind of mother they need and should have had years ago. Robyn stopped calling me "Mom" when she was sixteen. She always called me "Sonja," except for the few times that she would allow that little piece of her heart that still holds a place for me to come out. Then she would call me "Mom." Robyn has managed to pop into and out of our lives on an ongoing basis. Although she still holds that wall up there between us, I do believe she sees that my heart has become softer. Who knows? We may find a way to get that connection to each other back someday. I have to believe that. I am thankful for this gift of value that my new friends have taught me to see again. Both Jan and Chuck have always made sure they were soft-spoken to me and my girls. I didn't know it at the time, but they were laying the groundwork to help me find a way to start my journey back to God. The great lesson in all of this is that love is the essence of a true connection with each other. If I can learn to love others in this world, then just maybe I can understand this thing that my friends are calling God’s unconditional Love.

About me

  • I'm healing hoves
  • From
  • after 20 years of emotional abuse from my family, I have finally taken the steps to comeback to God's Grace and Love. I have been in recovery at Celebrate Recovery for two and one half years. These journals I will be adding from my first book are my encounters of my first two years of recovery. I am writing a second book Healing Hooves it will be a story about my 12 year old daughter who is wheel chair bound and how she found reached to great elements of success thru horse thearpy
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