Friday, June 12, 2015

She Matters: Deanna's Story

This post is a part of She Matters: The Mended Heart Project, a project to bring awareness to stories of overcoming sexual abuse through grace and redemption and an attempt to give survivors a voice. To check out more on this project, see the original post here

I am so very excited to share with you the story of my sweet friend, Deanna, today. Deanna is a testament to the amazing redemptive work of Christ and is both brave and vulnerable in her writing. I am so grateful for her willingness to share her story and I pray you'll be encouraged by it. Send some love her way in the comments. Let's cheer on her bravery! 

Meet Deanna:

I don’t remember exactly when I became aware that is was happening, I just remember that it happened.  I remember that I started sleeping in the same room with my little brother, who was 4 years younger than me because I thought if I was in there, he wouldn’t come in.  But he did.  No matter where I slept, he came in.  Mostly in the middle of the night, or when my mom was not home or first thing in the morning when everyone else slept.  My mom suffered with deep depression and was in and out of mental hospitals a lot when I was growing up, so there were times when I was left alone with him.  It stopped when I turned 13.  I have no idea why.  It just stopped.

My parents divorced when I was 15 and when they did; I got up enough nerve to tell my mother what had happened.  In the trauma of telling her this, she told me that it was okay, he was not my real father anyway.  What?  Wait, what?  Not my real father?   Had enough not happened, now this?  I completely lost my identity at that point.  She went on to tell me that she had gotten pregnant when she was 17 by a boy that would not marry her.  She was also seeing my father at the time and he agreed to marry her right away, knowing she was pregnant with me.  Except for the abuse, he treated me just like a daughter.  Such an odd statement.

I spent the next 25 years of my life coming unraveled.  Bad decision after bad decision.  No one to teach me the right way.  Even though I became a Christian at age 9, my entire perception of who God was, was based on who my parents were....abusive, addicts, mental disorders, just to name a few.  I can totally relate to Paul in the bible when he says that Jesus came to save sinners and I am chief among them.   I can’t even begin to say the twists and turns my life took growing up in an abusive home, sexual, physical and emotional.  However, at some point, I did reach an age of accountability.  And all the terrible things I did rested squarely on my shoulders.  I know now that I did the best I could do with what I had to work with.  I know better now and I do better now. 

I struggled over the new 25 years but eventually I realized I could not do life on my own terms.  I was messing things up.  I was hurting people I loved.  I was leaving a terrible legacy for my children and I was walking through life wounded and broken hearted, contributing nothing.

I am so grateful for a God and for godly people who never gave up on me and who loved me every step of the way.

Even though my father abused me, I stayed in contact with him.  He was my father.  He was the grandfather to my children.  It was all very dysfunctional but I had a deep desire to honor God by honoring my parents. 

When I was 41 years old, I was sitting in my father’s living room.  I had taken my youngest child there for him to see my father.  While we were sitting in the living room, completely out of the blue, he said to me that he wanted to apologize for “everything” he had ever done to hurt me.  He said he knew that he had done some terrible things and that he just could barely live with himself.  He asked me to forgive him and I forgave him on the spot.

He died four years later from complications of Agent Orange, from a tour in Viet Nam.   He died alone, an alcoholic and suffering greatly.  The pastor that counseled him in the hospital told me that he was satisfied that my father had accepted Christ as his savior before he died.  He said he would ask the pastor to read the bible to him and pray with him.

I did not have a lot of contact with him after that day in his living room.  Forgiveness is one thing.  Forgetting, well, it was never going to happen.  I forgave him for me and for him because I knew he was suffering and no matter how mad at God I have always been for letting me be abused, I always, always had a heart to honor him.

I knew that I had messed up so badly in life and I knew that I could not ask for forgiveness from God if I was not willing to give it to my father.

My father was a product of his environment.  His father abused him.  He was an alcoholic too.  His mother abandoned him when he was a young boy. 

Life hands us misery sometimes.  Sometimes, we don’t always get the happy family, with the white picket fence, and godly legacies.  Sometimes, we get abuse and neglect and addiction and pain so deep, you think you will never reach the bottom of it but I have discovered that no matter what road we are placed on, God is always at the end, waiting for us with open arms, with healing power for our broken hearts and eternal life for our broken spirits.

Reconciliation, restoration, justice, mercy, compassion, grace, and love.....these are aspects of the gospel.  These are the things that Jesus so freely gives us when we call on his names.  He saves us in every facet of who we are.  He came that we might have life and that we would have it to the full....even in the face of childhood trauma....that we would have it to the full.   All glory be to God.

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