Relapse – But Wait, I Can Overcome!

There is one topic that I had hoped never to have to write about: relapse. I have had such victories in my life, and I have been reminded of them as I write these posts. These personal revelations have been such a testimony of what God is doing in my life! I have come so far. Dumb, Stupid, and Ugly have been laid to rest, I have worked through many fears and phobias, and I have really dealt with issues of forgiveness and bitterness. But this week, I suffered a relapse along my path to healing and health. Life was cruising along, and then it happened: a relapse.

As I have mentioned in previous accounts, I have had to forgive some people for some hurtful situations in my life and in the lives of my loved ones. I have written letters to the offenders, dated the letters, and filed them in a place where I could be reminded that I had let go of that situation and, so, laid it to rest. At least, that is what I thought I had done. But God knows our hearts. He is always working on us so that we can be approved, tried, and tested, so that one day we can stand before Him and say that we have finished our course and finished it well.

Well, one particular situation—one particular person—that I thought I had given completely to God and that I would never have to face again suddenly reappeared in my life. (How easy it is to forgive someone, knowing that he is out of your life and out of your hands.) But one day, out of the blue and entirely unexpected, a person I had forgiven and put away slipped back into my life. Let’s just say my reaction to the news was horrible.

I relapsed into a former emotional state immediately. I started crying uncontrollably, feeling those old feelings of hurt and anger. Bad feelings overwhelmed me. But wait a minute. Hadn’t I already forgiven and moved on? What was happening? Had I really forgiven? I just kept beating myself up. A situation that I had written about only weeks earlier was now crashing mercilessly around me. What was happening?

I was so out of whack that I stopped and called my counselor for help. She reminded me about what I had written on this topic, and she reminded me that the enemy comes to kill, steal, and destroy. I had fallen for the enemy’s tactic again. But this time I was not going to stay under his control. I would remember the Truth. I would go to the same Scriptures that I had leaned on before.

The Truth is this: Yes, I had forgiven, but now I needed to make the choice to forgive again. I had to give the situation to God again and continue to believe all the promises that He had been showing me. I must rest in Him again and always.

God spoke to me through the next Sunday’s sermon, a lesson about having victories in our lives and finishing the job God had given us to do. 1 John 5:4 says this: “For whatever is born of God overcomes the world; and this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith” (NAS). Our victory comes not from what we say but from what we do. It comes from finishing the race. According to Revelation 21:7, “He who overcomes shall inherit these things, and I will be his God and he will be my son” (NAS). Every day God tests me and tries me so that I can be true, so that I can inherit all the things that He has promised. So I must walk one day at a time with my forgiveness and bitterness, and I must be diligent so that I can be an overcomer.

Have you had a relapse into a former state of mind and spirit? Have you fallen or slipped? Stop now! Confess it to God, recall the past victories, move forward daily, forgive, pray for your enemies, read the Scriptures, and pray for strength to be an overcomer. I messed up this week. It happens, but I want to be an overcomer. Do you? If so, then let’s cry, weep if we must, get over it, and move on. God is waiting to give you your inheritance and to say, “Well done, good and faithful servant. You finished the job well.”

Blessings – Lisa

Peace Of Mind, Even In Stressful Situations

Mother knows best. My mother taught me that there are some things in life that have to be done annually. Every year I get my teeth cleaned and my eyes checked. And I have taught my children—and my husband—to do the same thing, too. I read somewhere that having all these annual appointments during the same month of the year, your birthday month, allows you always to know when to go. So when your children are grown and on their own, they can always remember when to get their teeth cleaned and their eyes checked.

For me, of course, these annual appointments also include the dreaded obstetrical appointment. Every year, during my birthday month, I go for my annual exam. Like many women, I really despise my yearly checkup. Then, as I got older, the annual mammogram was thrown into the mix. I have never been able to make myself self-examine my breasts, probably because of residual effects of my abuse. I have read about the benefits of doing monthly self-exams, and I know in theory how to do them, but I just cannot.

At some point, I became aware that my stress level during this month of annual doctors’ visits was increasing. In particular, I realized that as the doctors’ appointments approached I would start binge-eating and often gain several pounds just in time for my annual weigh-in. Over the course of several years, I discovered that my weight-gains followed a cycle. The anticipation of my annual physical was so traumatic for me that I would just go to pieces over it. I had friends go with me for support, and for a while I stopped getting mammograms altogether.

Then I started going to counseling. When the time came for me to schedule my yearly appointments, I really wanted things to be different. I did not want to binge or have a breakdown. I wanted to be calm and peaceful. I hated that my birthday month had become an unhappy time every year. So I brought up my problem to my counselor and she reminded me (again) that my abuse was something awful that had been done to me and not something that I had brought onto myself. She also reminded me that these annual doctors’ visits benefit my health, not only for my sake but for my husband’s and children’s sakes as well.

About a week before my annual checkup, my counselor taught me a “safe place” relaxation technique. As I went into my appointment, I was to go to my safe place and relax. I was actually excited about the prospect of going to the obstetrician, using my new relaxation skill, and then reporting back the next week during counseling. I am here to tell you that God worked in a mighty way! My exam went great, the best ever! And the next thing I knew, I was even through with my mammogram. It was unbelievable that I got through both appointments in only two hours. It happened so fast that I just sat in my car afterwards, stunned and in awe of God’s goodness and timing. These annual checkups that had caused me so much anguish for so many years had just flown by.

So, I am here to encourage you today. Do you struggle with this same issue? Do you need peace of mind? John 14:27 says, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid” (NIV). God can give you peace of mind, and God will give you peace of mind. You just have to remember, as I have to remember, that although something evil was done to us we can move past that and not let it influence our lives today. Grab God’s hand, go with Him to that safe place, and enjoy peace of mind.

Blessings – Lisa

I Needed Some Answers, And I Found Some!

Grocery shopping—going solo—became the focus of my counseling sessions. Somehow my fear of the grocery store was tied to my abusive childhood, and I knew I needed answers. My memories of that time were just bits and pieces, but they all involved the family that lived next door to us. The house next door, that horrible place where hurtful things had happened to me, was at the core of my phobia. But all I could remember was that my mother had dropped me off with the neighbors because my brother was terribly sick and had to go to the hospital.

My counselor suggested that I find old photos of myself, taken around the time that the abuse happened. I was able to find two pictures; I liked one but I hated the other. The photo of the younger me was cute, but the picture of the older me gave me strange, disquieting feelings. My counselor also wanted me to sketch whatever I could remember from that time period that pertained to the grocery store. It took me a week, but finally I was able to draw a couple of pictures. One drawing depicted a happy mom (my mom) and a smiling baby (my brother?) having a fun outing in the produce section of a bright, colorful grocery store. But the other drawing showed only a sad little girl (me) crying in the parking lot outside the store. I decided to visit my mother so that maybe she could shed some light on what those sketches really meant.

I made a weekend trip to my mom’s, hoping for an explanation of this mystery. I was very surprised by what she told me. She told me that my two drawings probably represented memories from our two different homes while we lived in that city. While we lived in the first home, my mom babysat, and one of our favorite pastimes was grocery shopping, especially in the produce department. That explained my cheerful, happy drawing. However, after we moved to our second home, next-door to the house where my molestation took place, my mom would occasionally drop me off with the neighbors for a play-date while she ran errands. I was dumbfounded. All my life, I thought Mom had left me next-door because of an emergency, not for a play-date. The little girl in me must have made up the story about why my mother had left me with the neighbors because it was the only way I could cope with the trauma of what had happened to me there. As it turns out, the neighbors would also take me to the grocery store while I was in their care. No happy memories there.

My weekend with Mom, discovering the errors and filling the gaps of some of my memories, was a very emotional time for both of us. She never knew about the abuse while it was going on, but she shared with me that weekend that she soon stopped taking me next-door for visits because she started having some vaguely bad feelings about the family. And then we moved to a new house in a new city. That is where my childhood memories begin, with the new house. I was eight years old, but I have no clear memories of any time before then. While my mom and I fellowshipped that weekend, we cried and we worked through our feelings and we found closure. She even promised me—promised the hurting little girl in me—that I would never have to go to that house again. Never. I am safe.

Psalm 91:1-2 has always been a favorite promise of mine. It says, “He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the LORD, ‘He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust’” (NIV). Yes, now I can rest in the safety of my God. I can trust Him. I can go to the grocery store and not be afraid because He is my refuge.

How about you? Is there some phobia that seems strange and unbelievable, yet is holding you back in life? Do not fear; instead, rest in the shadow of the Almighty. Just His shadow is enough to help you make it through your trying time! Then you, too, can say with confidence, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.” Come with me. Let’s rest in His shadow. Let’s move away from that phobia and live free from fear because we can trust God to help us. Let’s dwell with Him in His shelter today.

Blessings – Lisa

Friends – We Need Them!

I experienced victories as I purged Dumb, Stupid, and Ugly, bitterness, and an unforgiving heart from my life. But as those enemies disappeared, others jumped in and took control of my mind. In particular, I developed an intense phobia of going to the grocery store. Can you imagine not being able to shop for food for your family? Through the years, I had never enjoyed going to the grocery store by myself, but as a mom I had always conveniently had a child to go with me. So I was never really alone as I shopped. But now, my children were all grown and gone, and my husband was working in another city, and there was no one to go with me to the store.

So I just did not go. It was just impossible for me to go into the grocery store. Luckily, I could lunch with friends, and when my husband was home he would pick up a few things for us. But that could not go on forever. One day, I found that the only thing left in the pantry was tuna. For days, I ate only tuna, straight out of the can. I knew I needed to replenish my pantry and freezer, but I just could not make myself go. I became depressed. I reached my lowest point when the day came that I opened my refrigerator and my freezer and realized that there was literally no food in either place.

I knew that I needed help. I made up my mind to write a grocery list and go shopping. First, though, I decided to make up menus for each day of the week to help me with my list. I made headings: Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday. Monday? Check. Tuesday? Check. And that’s where I stopped. The other days of the week remained blank. I looked at my totally empty refrigerator and freezer, and they looked back at me. I even took a picture of that emptiness with my phone. I wanted to tell someone, but I was afraid. Finally, I did show someone the picture of my empty refrigerator, and her unsympathetic response was, “Good grief.” I felt so ashamed and just wanted to run away.

I desperately wanted and needed to go to the grocery store, and I just couldn’t understand why it was such a difficult thing for me. So I told another friend. Thankfully, this friend came straight to my house, scooped me up, and took me to the store. It was not a pretty sight. I could not go into the store. My friend let me sit in her car and cry for a little while. Finally, we got out of the car and walked toward the entrance. But I had to stop and cry some more. I was so ashamed, so embarrassed. Luckily, my friend did not care how much I cried. She just waited and encouraged me and gradually drew me into the store. We walked up and down the aisles—and she pretended that she needed some groceries, too—and I collected a few items to help me make it until the end of the week. It was difficult, but I survived the ordeal and discovered that I was enjoying being out with my friend. She was and still is a true friend, a safe friend who will never give away my shameful secret or treat me as if I were crazy.

This friend acted out Ecclesiastes 4:9-10: “Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work: if one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up!” (NIV). My counseling, my phobias, my struggles, and my past were not things that I wanted to share with anyone. I felt ashamed and weird, but at last I realized that the enemy was trying to keep me isolated and defeated. I really needed someone to “help me up,” and God sent me someone to help.

Are you struggling with something that you are ashamed for your friends to discover? Is there something with which you need help but you are too afraid to ask for it? Sexual abuse and its effects are certainly private issues, but there are times when we need someone to help us. Sharing your problems with another person is a risk, but it is a risk worth taking. Remember, God tells us in His word that “two are better than one.” Pray, and ask God to send someone into your life to help you in your time of need. He will do it. Believe. Take the risk. Allow someone to take your hand because someday God may call on you to be the helping hand for another.

Friends—we all need them.

Blessings – Lisa