Cross Making: Contemplative Prayer Practice

This past weekend I went to a Cross Making event. One of my friends was holding it at our church. She read from a Cross Making book and from Scripture. She guided us through a practice of taking broken pieces in front of us and turning it into a cross.

I used sticks I found in my yard and shinny sequins to make my cross. She asked us to turn to a time when we found healing and remember that moment and then to think about what it means to co-create with God. We each made different crosses depending on how the Holy Spirit led us.

When she asked us to think about a time when we found healing I immediately thought of standing on a mountain at a Sexuality retreat. We were given some alone time and I sat facing the sun and trying to drop a weight that had been weighing me down for years. It’s a similar weight that lots of abused men and women carry. I had been thinking for years that in some way I had caused the abuse to happen to me. I was thinking that it was my fault that these people I trusted abused me but that weight was not mine to carry.

God convinced me that it was not my fault and that I needed to yell it out. So me, a quiet person, screamed over and over again that I DIDN’T DO ANYTHING WRONG AND IT WASN’T MY FAULT!!! And I was free from the weight I had no need to carry.

That day, standing in the sunshine, on a mountain, weeping and realizing a lie and beginning to own a truth I gained freedom. I heard someone come up behind me but when I turned no one was there but I felt God holding me while I was weeping.

On that mountain I began to feel and believe the beauty that I was and since receiving that freedom I have allowed the light of that truth to shine within me and I reflect God with every person I meet and tell my story to.

I made my cross this weekend and it reflected all of this. A reminder of that freedom.

God can give all of us that freedom we just have to be willing to go there and trust that God will give us what we seek and need.

If you need help on that journey please do not hesitate to let me know, if I can’t help you myself I can direct you to someone who can help you. cross

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The Rub

I was opening my Facebook page today, and reading all of my friends’ posts when I came across an article someone had shared: Three Things You Don’t Know About Your Children and Sex

It’s a pretty great article, mainly about how pornography is more accessible to kids today, even as accessible as a simple Google image search. I liked the article specifically because of the messages about abuse and it’s connection to shame.

I was abused before the internet (I know so long ago), before everyone had a cell phone that could fit in their pocket and the home computer was huge and had a green screen and took about 5 minutes to boot up and floppy disks were still around.

I was abused by the local neighbor girl and she showed me her parents’ stash of porn. It was gross and to this day I can still close my eyes and see very disgusting things that I’m not going to share with you.

Abuse completely destroys your view of sex. In the article the author, Anne Marie Miller shares that at her talks there are, by the Grace of God, some kids that don’t know what porn is and don’t know what it is for someone to molest someone else.

I wish I had that story. I wish that my views of sex were not distorted, but they are. It’s a simple fact, a fact that I fight against every single day but still a fact.

Can you imagine your first sexual experience happening at the age of 4? Can you imagine that the first time you see a penis is in a magazine that your abuser is showing you, all engorged, hard, and slippery (I wasn’t going to describe it but I did)? That’s not how God intended for us to experience sex.

Sex is supposed to happen in a loving relationship, it’s supposed to happen in a way that is not abusive, it’s supposed to be a giving and a taking. This is not my experience of sex.

My experience is not beauty, not love, not special. My experience is violent, demanding, and ugly. There are days where I still view myself as ugly and punishment seems the best option.

But here’s the question: How do you punish yourself for something that isn’t your fault? 

And there’s the rub, children that have been abused are ashamed and are certain that telling someone will lead to punishment. They are terrified that if anyone knows their secret, their sin will be on display.

Is it their sin? If I’m being abused, forced to look at things, forced to touch things, forced to experience things I’m not ready to nor have the capacity to experience am I at fault?

Can we be blamed for how we cope? This again is the rub. I’m abused at a young age, before I’ve fully developed my coping mechanisms. I can’t deal with what’s happening to me and there is no way I can tell anyone, how do I get rid of the shame and pain long enough to deal? Most kids turn to addictions. They may not understand what an addiction is but they turn to it just the same. They turn to books and literature, if they’re lucky and absorb themselves in a fantasy world. They turn to pornography because their abuser has shown them that a little sexual relief can keep the pain at bay for a few minutes. They turn to drugs or alcohol or they turn to sex itself and begin a life of sexual adventure and become promiscuous  because this is the only way they know how to deal. They need to escape and this is the only way they can.

I don’t think you can be blamed for your coping mechanisms but addictions need to be dealt with. If you or someone you know has an addiction to whatever (there are tons of them) you need to get some help. Whether that’s the local AA meeting or a counselor or a prayer partner, no matter what it is you need help to develop better coping mechanisms. There are better ways to deal, ways that don’t leave you feeling worse than when you started.

Addictions always make you feel worse but once you find a safe environment and a safe way to deal you can come to grips with what happened to you, you can learn how to deal with it and move on.

The rub is of course that you will always be a person who was abused but you have a choice: you can be a victim or a survivor. I choose to be a survivor and it feels so much better than being a victim.

I no longer sit in my pain, I feel it. You may not see a difference but I do. If you avoid your pain all the time and never actually feel it, it can destroy you. If you instead feel your feelings as they come you gain freedom.

If you need help feeling your pain, please message me, I may not be in your area but I have a huge network of loving people all over the country and I sure as heck can get you to someone that can help you.

Please don’t sit in the dark with your pain anymore, get help, because there are millions of hands that want to reach out and help you.

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My Drive to Help Others

My name is Tammy Waggoner, I am a 32 year old survivor of sexual abuse with a strong faith in a loving God who wishes all abused, neglected, and broken children to be healed as only he can heal them.

I have first hand knowledge of this kind of healing. I have been healed in the woods on a healthy sexuality retreat, I have been healed in spiritual healing groups, and I have been healed in discernment groups, times alone with God, and groups in the church as well as therapy. God heals us when he sees fit and uses any means to do that. In these times of healing I learned important things about myself and about God. For instance, on a mountain during a retreat I learned that my abuse was not my fault and that I did nothing wrong. For years I had felt that I had in some way caused my own abuse to happen, but in those woods alone with God I realized that I didn’t do anything wrong and the abuse was not my fault. God led me to that moment, coaxed me through it and then proceeded to stand beside me as the truth of those words washed me clean. In the hours after that moment, I realized that every abused child and adult needs to have a moment like that, they need to have the opportunity to set themselves free from blame and culpability.

It was in a spiritual healing group that I learned that God did not neglect me in my abuse. I was thoroughly angry with God for leaving me alone in my abuse and had mentioned this during a group time. I was led through a prayer where I had asked God to show me where he was while I was being abused. I closed my eyes and was immediately back in my childhood room. I could see myself being abused on the bottom bunk of the bunk beds. I then looked around the room and vividly saw Jesus weeping in the corner. He was weeping for and with me, and in that moment I knew that God did not neglect me in my moments of abuse but instead was with me and was just as upset by what was happening as I was.

In my discernment groups God began to show me what other people see. As an abuse survivor for a long time I only saw what my abusers showed me to be: worthless, ugly, damaged, etc. In my discernment group God showed me through others that I am beautiful, have much worth and am not a damaged being that has been ripped apart and cannot be sown back together, I am instead a broken person who God can put back together and make anew. I have worth and I have worth to give.

It was through these times of healing that my calling began to be cemented. I was put on this earth with a purpose and that purpose is to help other girls,* get through what I have gotten through with the help of God and his helpers. Through my internships I began to see the different ways in which God can work and I began to see that many women out there need to discover the healing that I have discovered in their own unique way. Once healing is brought about new life can begin and once new life can begin a woman who has been healed can begin to see for herself just how awesome she is.

*Some question my narrowed focus: why just women? Why just girls? The truth is quite simple: I am a woman. I only know my plight as a woman. I do know that men are abused, I know that they need help as well and I have led groups that have been co-ed. That said, I speak from a woman’s perspective to women. If I were to partner up with a man who was willing to talk from a man’s perspective and to help healing from his perspective I would be willing to work with both men and women. However, without that partnership I feel it is impossible for me to help both men and women, for there is an element I am missing: I am not a man.

Highlight Series: Ministries

I started a series a bit ago that I called Highlight Shelters. Since I started that series I have found some churches and other ministries that are working with women who have been sexually abused. The following is a list of links and some information about the ministries:

  • Shelter from the Storm-Abuse Ministry. This is a ministry for women: teens and adults that have been sexually abused. It is a meeting that is held at Watermark Community Church. From the look of the website, it appears that the Spring session has ended but hopefully there will be a summer or at least Fall session. Be sure to check out there webpage: Shelter from The Storm Abuse Ministry
  • Go Fish Ministries. This is a counseling based ministry. This ministry is led by an ordained pastor and seeks to help women receive healing through advocacy and counseling. Be sure to check out the site: GoFish Ministries
  • Acts of Grace Ministries. This ministry works with both men and women to bring about healing from many painful experiences including sexual abuse. They also work with churches so that they can present the Bible Study materials that they have created. Check out their site: Acts of Grace Ministries
  • Mending the Soul: Bringing Hope to the Generations. This ministry has developed a program that they teach to other communities to use for small groups. Be sure to check out their page for training materials and to find a group near you: Mending the Soul
  • Speaking Truth in Love Ministries. This is another ministry that has developed a program that they bring to churches, schools and other organizations. The unique aspect of this ministry is that is was founded by a husband and wife couple. Be sure to check them out: Speaking Truth in Love Ministries
  • Mercy Ministries. Is a live in home for girls ages 13-28 who are seeking healing from life’s complications including sexual abuse. They are a free service and biblically based. Check them out at: Mercy Ministries
  • Beauty From Ashes. A ministry that works with art and horses to bring restoration and healing to victims of sexual abuse, sex exploitation and sex trafficking. Be sure to check out their page: Beauty from Ashes 
  • Passionate Hearts. Is a ministry that is run through RiverLakes Community Church. It is a support group with biblical basis. Check them out at: Passionate Hearts.

This of course is not an exhaustive list of Ministries out there. This is simply a list from a simple Google Search.

Do you know of ministries that are not on this list? Please leave links to other ministries in the comment box!

Highlighting Shelters Series: Reasons

Reasons for why I chose certain shelters and websites to highlight: relevance, easy escape pages, and explanations of how to guard your computer and hide activity. 

Why is it important for a Website to look relevant when it is dealing with abuse victims and survivors? Well, let’s think about this, if a website looks outdated then it looks like it’s not kept up. If a shelter does not take time to keep up their website how relevant will they be when I call them? How relevant will they be when I need to trust them? If a business wants to attract people then it has a relevant and up-to-date website, the same should be said for shelters. The websites I have chosen are easily accessible and care about the world around them and are relevant in an ever changing world. 

Easy access and easy escape is important because victims need an easy way out just in case. If their abuser comes in the room they need a quick way to leave a page. This is also why it is important to explain how to guard your computer and hide your activity. These pages obviously want their visitors to be victims and to be people that need their help. If their pages are not made for victims then what kind of work their shelter actually do?  

These are some websites and shelters that I haven’t chose because their websites are outdated and not regularly updated. I do not have any affiliation with these shelters or websites (those that I have chosen to highlight and those I have chose not to), I am simply exploring each site and letting you know what I find of value there. But you should of course visit these pages yourself and if the shelters are in your area you should take the time to visit them and to make informed decisions about them. 

A Resource: Reaction to being told that your child has been abused

Parents of Abused Children Resource_Being told that your child has been abused

I have recently encountered some parents who were told that their child had been abused. They were unsure what to say or what to do. This resource will help parents get through the first few conversations with their child.

Feel free to use this source in any context but please give credit where credit is due.

Response to a recent article

Tammy ran across an article today on Christianity Today in the section called “Her-menutics.’ The title of the article was “Voice of the Victims: Sex Abuse Survivors and the Church.” The following are her reactions to the article.

I just finished reading this article, I was about to post in their comment section but decided that my thoughts were too lengthy for that context.

In the article the author, Michelle Van Loon discusses a recent suicide of a pastor. The pastor, Tom White, “committed suicide after allegations that he molested a 10 year old girl.” His guilt or innocence was not the focus of the article and is not the focus of this article either. The focus of the article was that the focus after his death has been on him instead of the 10 year old girl. The article suggested that instead of focusing on the crime or the abuser we, as a church, should spend our time focusing on the victims that are left behind.

The article did a good job at bringing up the need for help for victims. There was some focus on the trials that abuse victims and their family members face. I understand the succinct nature of the article, I myself could spend several pages going over the complexities that abuse survivors face and the many layers of healing that must be experienced.

Loon brought up the interesting point that, churches sometimes focus on the sins of abusers (although this is rare) but rarely speak of the victims themselves. The statistics change every year but 1 in 4 men will be sexually abused in their lifetime and 1 in 3 women will be sexually abused in their lifetime.

This is a wide pool of people that are not getting any help. By the time a person is ready to get the help that they need there is nothing available to help them.

I started this ministry for these people. I focus my ministry on women but I would welcome men to be a part of this ministry someday.

I’m sorry that this man took his life and even sadder that a child was abused but every year we hear more and more about children and adults being abused inside and outside the church. It is time that we implement ministries to help these people.

Praying in church, having survivors speak on a wide platform and providing counseling are just the beginning steps. We need to move beyond groups outside the church and start building a culture of healing within the church. We need to focus on how not only to prevent abuse but also to help those who are survivors. Survivors deal with many issues that run the gamut of relational issues, sexual issues, physical issues, and emotional issues. These issues must be dealt with on many levels and one of those levels is a healing level in a church culture.

We need to provide more places for these women and men to get the help that they need. We cannot turn our backs on them or point them in the direction of a counselor and hope for the best. We have to walk beside them and be willing to sit with them in the pain.

Support groups and therapy can be helpful but they are not enough. We must create a culture in the church that welcomes survivors and provides the much needed care and support and not just point to outside programs and groups.