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faith

Return to Live!

As a survivor of childhood sexual violence, my faith in God saved my life.  By the grace of God, I held onto my faith when I began having suicidal thoughts.  Today, I am a happy and peaceful person no longer suffering from Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).  Thanks be to God!During one of the darkest times of my life after the abuse, I was living at the YMCA in the Gold Coast in a room the size of a large, walk-in closet and working as a security guard in a River North condo building.  That’s when I was blessed with the remarkable experience and privilege of writing a book I never wanted to write, A Rape Survivor’s Spiritual Journey: My Poems and Practical Exercises.  Visit my website, listen to a clip of my website theme song, and download a FREE PDF of my book.

Below is one of the poems in my book.  Please note the poems with italics are God's words, not mine.  I hope it consoles you.

 

Return to Live!

You hate me.
That’s okay,
but I still love you just the same.
I know that you’re not you, AND you’re in agony and pain.
I see you suffer and hear you cry.
I wish you’d turn to me,
and see me cry beside you
and hear my gentle plea.
Come back.  Come back.  Come back to me!
Let me hold you in my arms.
I loved you into life.  Please let me love you one more time.
I’m here and love you SO much it makes me cry to see
you struggle all alone and no longer call on me.
Hate me.  Yell and swear at me if that’s exactly how you feel.
Just keep talking.  Don’t shut me out.  I’m not going anywhere.
Go ahead.  Do it.  Right now.  I’m always listening, you know.
Remember, you can hate me, but away I’ll never go.
Return to me.  Return to live
the life I meant for you,
and through your suffering and pain
you will find your life renewed.

Inspired by Ezekiel 18:32.

Open the Door of Your Heart and Let God Into Paradise


“God’s paradise is the human heart.”  Reading this quote by St. Alphonsus Liguori, always  melts my heart.  It also reminds me how intensely pure and unconditional God’s love is for me: something I’ve always wanted yet feared my whole life.  In any love relationship, being committed is terrifying because you’re allowing yourself to be vulnerable.  You don’t know what’s going to happen or how much you’ll have to give up of yourself to grow together, so you don’t grow apart.

Then I remember that God’s love is perfect and mine’s not.  Paul talks about God’s ideal love in 1 Corinthians 13:4 – 8, “Love is patient, love is kind…It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things...Love never fails.”  I’m always moved after reading these words precisely because they speak to my heart.  They remind me that God’s love is always authentic.  He passionately loves me, you, and everyone else like that, and the words “God’s paradise is the human heart,” not only melts my heart but consoles its trepidations.

God gave us an intellect, so I don’t believe God wants us to have blind faith.  Otherwise, I don’t think Jesus would have said, “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.  For everyone who asks, receives; and the one who seeks, finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened."  (Matthew: 7:7)  All we have to do is open the door of our hearts and let God into our paradise.

Finding Your Wonder of the World

Wonders of the world
They say are seven
All breath-taking,
A slice of heaven,
Yet, they always forget the most
Beautiful
Mystical
Amazing
Wonder of them all.
Miraculous.
Deeper than the ocean,
Infinite, yet mortal, and
Reading this now.
That wonder is you.


Feeling lost?  You can be found.
Don’t keep going round and round,
Afraid of losing and finding you
You are amazing.  Breath-taking
The eighth wonder of the world
You are the slice of heaven that you crave
Stop living with one foot in the grave


I pray you find professional counseling in your community.  Meanwhile, I hope Mariah Carey’s song “Hero” inspires you to follow your healing path.

 

I Hope You Dance!

While most people I knew were exploring the world in their twenties, I was hiding from it.  Living in survival mode in my twenties and thirties didn’t help me develop long-lasting friendships.  Among other things, I realized the other day that I feel as if I missed out on making lifelong friends because of it.  Now, I feel the urge to explore the world, so what do I do now?  I’m not sure, but I’m not dead yet, so there’s still time.  Meanwhile, I'll be dancing.  Watch this video of Lee Ann Womack singing I Hope You Dance, and you'll know exactly what I mean.

Don’t Ever Give Up!


There will be days when you feel like you can’t take it anymore.  Days when you can’t think, focus, and can’t even begin to pray because all your energy and strength is almost gone.  When that happens, close your eyes, open your heart and ache for God.  Words aren't needed.

Promise me whenever you feel like this, you will always remember, you are loved.  You are precious.  You are remarkable, and you’re still here for a reason.  

Promise me you will fight the lies the criminal(s) who assaulted you repeated and the victim-blaming crap you read and hear about in the media and society.  They're all lies from people who don't want to believe that someone in their community can commit such evil acts.  

God loved you into life.  When he created you, he sculpted a masterpiece.  You’re a beautiful work or art.  Some people will appreciate you and others won’t.  Some will criticize you and others will praise you.

It’s not always going to be like this.  I pray you get the counseling and support of loved ones that you need.  Don’t ever give up!  I will NEVER give up on you and neither will God.  Remember that when you listen to this Jason Mraz song, I Won’t Give Up.

PTSD Trauma Survivors Suffer Mirrors the PTSD War Veterans Suffer, so Please Be Gentle with Yourself

Did you know that as early as 1993, the American Psychological Association published a report referencing 45 clinical studies that found post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) often occurred in child sexual violence victims?  When survivors of childhood sexual violence and other trauma survivors experience PTSD, the disorder mirrors the PTSD war veterans suffer, so please be forgiving and gentle with yourself or your loved one.

It’s unfair you’re fighting a war with yourself because you’ve been brainwashed into believing the sexual assault you suffered was your fault.  That’s a lie perpetrated by the criminal who assaulted you or your loved one.  To make matters worse, it’s outrageous you’re also in combat with a society and worldwide media that refuses to believe that someone in their community can commit such violent and evil acts, so they usually choose to blame victims.  Remember, not only is God there for you, but millions if not billions of survivors are sending you their love by praying for you every day: for your peace, joy, and healing.  I pray you hear and feel our spirits reaching out to yours cheering you on.

Here are the lyrics of the beginning of Katy Perry’s “Part of Me” video that talks about fighting for her soul.  Below is a link to this YouTube video.  I hope you find it inspiring.
Days like this I want to drive away
Pack my bags and watch your shadow fade away
‘Cause you chew me up and spit me out
Like I was poison in your mouth
You took my light, you drained me down
That was then and this is now
Now look at me

[Chorus:]
This is the part of me
That you’re never gonna ever take away from me, no
This is the part of me
That you’re never gonna ever take away from me, no
Throw sticks and stones, throw your bombs and bones
You’re not gonna break my soul
This is the part of me
That you’re never gonna ever take away from me, no

You deserve to live a happy and peaceful life!  Maybe you don't feel like it right now, but you are in control of your life.  You and God, Nature, or whatever you call your higher power, together you can do anything.  Keep praying/meditating, fighting, and we'll keep praying/meditation for you and continue sending you our love.  It won't always be like this.  You will feel better one day!  You might lose some battles, but you're going to win this war!!!
I’m not a licensed doctor or therapistI’m one of your billion cheerleaders.  We're all someone just like you or your loved one:  conquering evil one day at a time.  If you or a loved one is suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder or another anxiety disorder and is not in therapy, please seek professional help in your community immediately.  Here’s a link to Resources on my website page that can assist you in your search:  https://apprenticebutterflies.com/resources/

Remember, you are loved.  You are precious.  You are remarkable, and you’re still here for a reason.  Belong to the truth.

How Were You Touched by God, or How Would You like to be Touched by God?


Like I’ve written before, we habitually ask ourselves negative questions that keep us in a negative mindset.  Try writing about when and how you were touched by God.  If you don’t believe that you have been touched by God, then write about how you would like to be touched by God.

I suggest you consider creating a book titled, How I was Touched by God or How I Would like to be Touched by God, and keep adding to it.  When you’re feeling sad or depressed, your book can be a source of inspiration for you.

There’s Always Hope

As long as you’re alive, there’s always hope. 

As long as you accept God’s love, there’s always hope.

As long as you believe God loves you, there’s always hope.

If you can imagine what you’re hoping for, there’s always hope.

Wherever you are reading this, there’s always hope.

Unconditional Love

God’s unconditional love, priceless faith, and infinite graces saved my life years ago and as recent as a few weeks ago.  Suffering from the worst depression I ever experienced, I struggled to keep my mind occupied, so I wouldn’t disappear into the darkness.  God shattered and disintegrated the bleak abyss that had been crushing my mind, senses, and spirit.

Before my major breakthrough that followed, mentioned in an earlier post (God’s Love is Always There for You), I listened to positive, upbeat songs to keep my spirit alive.  My favorite song being Katy Perry’s Unconditionally.  I believe she was inspired by God to write the lyrics because every single word is so full of pure love.  When you listen to the YouTube video below, you can feel the passion, compassion, and love.  I hope it brightens your day and lifts your spirits.  Most of all, I hope it reminds you of how much God truly loves you.

God’s Love is Always There for You


More than 10 years ago, when the darkness had control over me, I remember seeing a bumper sticker that said, “The Meaning of Life is to Live It.”  At the time, I was going to the YWCA for sexual violence counseling, and I remember how it made me feel hopeful.  I thought about that recently when I saw an ad in the subway that read “I got my life back.”
Recently, I went through a difficult, dark period.  I thought I forgave my father, but I really didn’t:  not wholeheartedly.  Don’t get me wrong.  I’m definitely no saint.  I only did it, or thought I did, because I thought it would help me heal faster.  Overcome with the darkness again, this time, it was worse.  I was in survival mode like I imagine soldiers at war must be.  I felt like I had to keep myself busy, so it wouldn’t devour me.

Thanks to a new friend who’s also a survivor, he reminded me of the power of God’s love while carefully guiding and counseling me about forgiving my father.  However, I had to finish the process on my own in private between God and me.  The excruciating pain left my heart feeling like you do after exercising when you haven’t done so in a long time.  Sore and weak, my heart felt like it had been beaten up, and I guess it had been for all these years.

Thank you, God, for not giving up on me!  Thank you for putting people and signs (some literally and some figuratively) in my life to help me remember that you are always there for me.  You are truly awesome!

Finding Me


Along with a lot of therapy, living the words of this poem helped me in my healing process.  I just wrote it tonight for you, and I hope it helps you find your healing path. 
Finding Me

Passion.  Compassion.  You deserve it and more!
Yet, spirit and human duality creates
Unlimited dilemmas in time and space
Follow me.  Learn from me.  Be authentic.  Be true.
What do I mean?  Essentially, just be you.
Not sure who you are or who you might be?
Write about the life you wish you could live
Then, keep writing until you find yourself in your words.
And one day, you'll find the real you when your spirit is heard.

The Power of Prayerful Affirmations

We’ve all heard about the wonders of affirmations, so why not turn your spoken words in prayer into affirmations that can help you transform your life.  

When I started making prayerful affirmations, I truly didn’t believe what I was saying.  However, I committed to praying the same words over and over again until I believed them.  It didn’t happen overnight, but it was pretty cool when it finally did happen.  Of course, a lot of therapy preceded my even thinking about doing this.

I prayed “My Lord, and my God, I give you my heart, my mind, my body, and my spirit:  all that I am and all that I can be.  Take away all the darkness.  Take it all away, so I can be with you.  Be one with you and be truly free.”

Try it, but remember, the key is not to give up.  You're definitely worth it!

Beautiful Me


Today, I realized I’m feeling frazzled.  Looking back, I realize that I saw this coming.  I’ve been working too long and hard without checking in with myself.  That’s something I learned during a group therapy session at the YWCA.  
For six or eight weeks, we met and discussed stresses that we experienced in our bodies.  It wasn’t just a bitch session.  We kept going deeper until we found the source.  For example, earlier this evening my heart was racing, and my entire body felt tightened like a rubber band stretched to the max.  As it turns out, that’s exactly what I did to myself.  I’ve been there for everyone else, but I forgot to make time for me.
After you become aware of the stress you’re experiencing and narrow it down to a feeling and reason you’re feeling that way, it’s time to think about an action for you to take to begin healing your body.  For me, after I realized I was overextended, I started taking deep breaths.  Then, I took my hands and ran them from the tips of my toes to the top of my head with outstretched hands as I literally and figuratively gave myself to God and prayed, “My Lord, and my God, I give you my heart, my mind, my body, and my spirit:  all that I am and all that I can be.  Take all my fears, anxieties, and the rest of the darkness.  Take it all away, so I can be with you.  Be one with you, so I can be beautiful me.”

Be Gentle with Yourself


Recently, I realized that I was so stressed out, I was becoming depressed.  I needed to nap an hour every day at the same time.  I thought it was just my body’s way of resting up, so I could continue working into the night. It became habitual, so I didn’t think anything of it.  After crying spurts over the weekend about missing my mother who’s been deceased for almost 20 years, I realized that over the past few months I neglected my mental health.  Of course, depression was starting to set in and I was stressed out.
Like I mentioned in an earlier blog post, this time of the year is not my favorite since my birthday and hers are in late April followed by Mother’s Day.  What I just realized this year is that I had been ignoring this time of year instead of celebrating it in a positive light.  Why not celebrate Mother’s Day a different way by writing her letters about all of the good things that have been happening in my life?  I like that.  I just wish I would have thought of it sooner, and I wish I would have been gentle with myself instead of stressing myself out.  How can you transform an unpleasant time of the year into a better one?

Tears of Sorrow, Tears of Joy


My mother’s been gone for almost 20 years, and I miss her every day especially this time of year.  With my birthday and hers last month followed by Mother’s Day, my heart desperately aches for her hugs, sweet smiles, and infectious laughter.  I’ve been busy working on launching my book, and I just realized that I forgot to make time just to sit, reflect, and let the tears flow where they may.

I remember when I repressed everything about my father raping me as a child, and how I didn’t want to feel anything because I thought I would never stop crying and go insane.  On the outside I was laughing and joyful, but on the inside horrible flashbacks tortured me non-stop.  

Like I mentioned in my blog about the importance of having a “safe place,” I thought my mother was my safe place since my father wouldn’t touch me when she was around.  Now I realize that God has always been my safe place, and my mother was the instrument through which I experienced His love.  Thank you, Lord, for turning my tears of sorrow into tears of joy.  And, thanks mom, for being totally open to the spirit of God and giving me the priceless gift of faith that saved my life.  Happy Mother’s Day, mom, and Happy Mother's Day to all mothers everywhere!  Without you the world would have imploded by now.

Lights in the Darkness


A friend just sent me a photo of his latest collage where I observed the way he photographed the interior night lights at a public building in downtown Chicago.  They have a star-like quality about them which I think is really cool.  I’ve always loved the “light in the darkness” metaphor because as a rape survivor I have been overwhelmed by the darkness many times, and I know how important that light has been to me.
What’s the light?  Hope, love, compassion and anything else I need at that moment in time.  Sometimes it’s hard to articulate, but the heart and soul know better than our heads do because they seek the real world that lies in our true essence:  our infinite, spirit.
How have I held onto the light?  Sometimes it meant and still means going out for a walk to distract myself or just hanging out with trusted family or friends.  The two most important things for me in my healing journey have been prayer and therapy.  Prayer is a powerful force that should never be underestimated.  Holding onto my faith in God and constantly asking God for strength has saved me many times from slipping into the darkness for good.  Combined with prayer, therapy saved my life.  Without therapy, I would still have a foot in the darkness and would never have been able to follow my healing path.
What’s your light and how do you hold onto it?  If you're not sure or don't know, I suggest following the advice found in Matthew 7:7 – 7:8, “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.  For everyone who asks, receives; and the one who seeks, finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.”

Centering Prayer Helps Me Stay Grounded in the Present Moment


Like I mentioned in an earlier blog about controlling flashbacks, it’s critical for survivors to stay grounded in the present moment.  When I start thinking about the abuse I suffered in the past, I always remind myself that I am safe and in control, so the flashbacks don’t start to control me.  Focusing on taking deep breaths also helps.

Centering Prayer helps me stay grounded in the present moment and develop a deeper relationship with God.  I’ve been practicing it for more than 20 years.  Like any relationship, communication is important which also means learning how to be a better listener.  I am far from perfect about this although I’ve definitely improved over the years. 

You don’t move around like yoga.  You pray either sitting on the floor or in a chair, and you remain sitting wherever you are and focus on your meditation.  Before you start, you need to choose a sacred word.  Your sacred word is the symbol of your intention to allow God’s presence and action in your soul.  It can be love, peace, or your own name for God.  I love the fact that anyone from any faith can practice it!

Once you have your sacred word and you’re seated comfortably, close your eyes and take a few deep breathes to help you relax.  Imagine something like you’re inhaling God’s powerful peace and love.  And, exhaling all the tension and worries in your mind, body and soul.  Visualize God’s powerful, peace and love flowing into your body.  First through your mind and head, down to all your limbs, and then penetrating your soul melting away your anxieties overpowered by God’s awesome peace and love.

When you’re ready, silently introduce your sacred word, be with God, and just listen.  When you become aware of your thoughts, gently return to the sacred word.  Don’t be discouraged.  Be gentle with yourself.  Think of it as if you’re meeting God in a noisy coffee shop like Starbuck’s.  You’re next to a loud table.  There’s nowhere to move, so you’re trying to focus on what he’s telling you.

It’s important not to get upset about all the distractions.  Don’t worry about your thoughts.  You just let them come and go like noisy distractions in Starbuck’s you ignore, and remain focused on your sacred word and your intention and listen.  Then, at the end of your prayer remain in silence with your eyes closed for a couple of minutes.  It’s awkward at first, but you get used to it.

In case you’re interested in finding out more about Centering Prayer, here’s the website:  http://centeringprayer.com/.  What I love about Centering Prayer is that it emphasizes prayer as your personal relationship with God!  

How Centering Prayer Helps Me Stay Grounded in the Present Moment


Like I mentioned in an earlier blog about controlling flashbacks, it’s critical for survivors to stay grounded in the present moment.  When I start thinking about the abuse I suffered in the past, I always remind myself that I am safe and in control, so the flashbacks don’t start to control me.  Focusing on taking deep breaths also helps.

Centering Prayer helps me stay grounded in the present moment and develop a deeper relationship with God.  I’ve been practicing it for more than 20 years.  Like any relationship, communication is important which also means learning how to be a better listener.  I am far from perfect about this although I’ve definitely improved over the years. 

You don’t move around like yoga.  You pray either sitting on the floor or in a chair, and you remain sitting wherever you are and focus on your meditation.  Before you start, you need to choose a sacred word.  Your sacred word is the symbol of your intention to allow God’s presence and action in your soul.  It can be love, peace, or your own name for God.  I love the fact that anyone from any faith can practice it!

Once you have your sacred word and you’re seated comfortably, close your eyes and take a few deep breathes to help you relax.  Imagine something like you’re inhaling God’s powerful peace and love.  And, exhaling all the tension and worries in your mind, body and soul.  Visualize God’s powerful, peace and love flowing into your body.  First through your mind and head, down to all your limbs, and then penetrating your soul melting away your anxieties overpowered by God’s awesome peace and love.

When you’re ready, silently introduce your sacred word, be with God, and just listen.  When you become aware of your thoughts, gently return to the sacred word.  Don’t be discouraged.  Be gentle with yourself.  Think of it as if you’re meeting God in a noisy coffee shop like Starbuck’s.  You’re next to a loud table.  There’s nowhere to move, so you’re trying to focus on what he’s telling you.

It’s important not to get upset about all the distractions.  Don’t worry about your thoughts.  You just let them come and go like noisy distractions in Starbuck’s you ignore, and remain focused on your sacred word and your intention and listen.  Then, at the end of your prayer remain in silence with your eyes closed for a couple of minutes.  It’s awkward at first, but you get used to it.

In case you’re interested in finding out more about Centering Prayer, here’s the website:  http://centeringprayer.com/.  What I love about Centering Prayer is that it emphasizes prayer as your personal relationship with God!  

Where's Your Safe Place?

Years ago, when I went to group therapy at the YWCA, the two therapists who conducted the session told us that it was important for them to create a safe place for us.  They wanted all of us to feel that we could be free to talk about our experiences without being judged or feel uncomfortable in any way.  That's why they wanted to set some ground rules.  Actually, they ended up asking us a series of questions, so we could set the ground rules.  For example, they wanted us to decide what we should do if we run into each other outside of the YWCA like at the store, movies, etc.  We decided that we would not speak to each other until after all of the group therapy sessions were over because we all needed to focus on our own healing.

We always had a good group who respected and supported each other.  We would never ask each other questions about the assaults we experienced.  That was one of the rules and something I don't think we would have ever done anyway.  When it was our turn, we would briefly mention our similar feelings and struggles which reassured someone who just shared their feelings that they're normal and not crazy or weird.  Then we would go onto to share our own feelings and obstacles we were facing.

The whole idea about creating a "safe place" seemed a little weird at the time, but after a while it all made sense.  Everyone whether you're a survivor of sexual violence or not needs somewhere you can just be yourself.  However, survivors need a lot of Tender Loving Care (TLC) when it comes to creating a "safe place."  When society, the media, and even some of those we love and trust blame us instead of the criminal who assaulted us, we need and deserve a "safe place" to be ourselves and say whatever we feel.

Growing up, my "safe place" was beside my mother because whenever I was with her, my father would never touch me.  She died when I was 35, and I was devastated.  My "safe place" and my mother were both gone.  I didn't realize until years later why her death left me depressed for an entire year which almost led me to start drinking excessively.  I also didn't tell any family members about my father raping me until years later.  While I made it through the wake with my father present, when my sister called me about an anniversary mass the following year, I started crying and going into convulsions at the thought of seeing him again, so I decided not to go.  My boyfriend at the time, held me for hours as I lay in a fetal position until I stopped crying and convulsing from exhaustion.

If you don't already have a "safe place," I urge you to find or create one because it will help you in your healing process.  I also recommend you check out the You-Tube video below which features Dr. Esther M. Sternberg where she talks about how important healing spaces are and how they can help trigger the brain's healing process.  Dr. Sternberg is the author of Healing Spaces:  The Science of Place and Well-BeingShe has done extensive research on brain–immune interactions and the effects of the brain’s stress response on health. She is Research Director of the Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine at the University of Arizona, Tucson.


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HkLoHtvwLIA

Where's Your Safe Place?

Years ago, when I went to group therapy at the YWCA, the two therapists who conducted the session told us that it was important for them to create a safe place for us.  They wanted all of us to feel that we could be free to talk about our experiences without being judged or feel uncomfortable in any way.  That's why they wanted to set some ground rules.  Actually, they ended up asking us a series of questions, so we could set the ground rules.  For example, they wanted us to decide what we should do if we run into each other outside of the YWCA like at the store, movies, etc.  We decided that we would not speak to each other until after all of the group therapy sessions were over because we all needed to focus on our own healing.

We always had a good group who respected and supported each other.  We would never ask each other questions about the assaults we experienced.  That was one of the rules and something I don't think we would have ever done anyway.  When it was our turn, we would briefly mention our similar feelings and struggles which reassured someone who just shared their feelings that they're normal and not crazy or weird.  Then we would go onto to share our own feelings and obstacles we were facing.

The whole idea about creating a "safe place" seemed a little weird at the time, but after a while it all made sense.  Everyone whether you're a survivor of sexual violence or not needs somewhere you can just be yourself.  However, survivors need a lot of Tender Loving Care (TLC) when it comes to creating a "safe place."  When society, the media, and even some of those we love and trust blame us instead of the criminal who assaulted us, we need and deserve a "safe place" to be ourselves and say whatever we feel.

Growing up, my "safe place" was beside my mother because whenever I was with her, my father would never touch me.  She died when I was 35, and I was devastated.  My "safe place" and my mother were both gone.  I didn't realize until years later why her death left me depressed for an entire year which almost led me to start drinking excessively.  I also didn't tell any family members about my father raping me until years later.  While I made it through the wake with my father present, when my sister called me about an anniversary mass the following year, I started crying and going into convulsions at the thought of seeing him again, so I decided not to go.  My boyfriend at the time, held me for hours as I lay in a fetal position until I stopped crying and convulsing from exhaustion.

If you don't already have a "safe place," I urge you to find or create one because it will help you in your healing process.  I also recommend you check out the You-Tube video below which features Dr. Esther M. Sternberg where she talks about how important healing spaces are and how they can help trigger the brain's healing process.  Dr. Sternberg is the author of Healing Spaces:  The Science of Place and Well-BeingShe has done extensive research on brain–immune interactions and the effects of the brain’s stress response on health. She is Research Director of the Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine at the University of Arizona, Tucson.