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All posts tagged church

Published December 12, 2017 by Chloe Madison

The last few days have been weird. Saturday was ok. Sunday was different. I woke up around 4am with a massive borderline migraine. I took my migraine pills and hoped it would be gone in time for church. Just as I thought I’d have to skip church, my headache started to wane. After church, I broke down crying with a friend. She sat there and listened to me for two straight hours- nothing but me pouring my heart out, fears, anxieties, frustrations, everything. I’m so grateful for her and her willingness to listen.

The rest of the day I was in the most massive haze. I wandered around a mall in a stupor. I have no idea what was going on. For the first time I found it hard to be in crowds. I’ve never had an issue with that before. I viewed about every other person as a possible threat to me. I don’t know why. I was so out of it. I went to write here multiple times and I couldn’t even compose my thoughts correctly. I didn’t have the energy to try to make my brain work. ??

Last night came and left with very little sleep. Part of it was my brain- it was chaos. It felt like a bomb was continually exploding in my head. So many different things running through my mind, yet nothing made sense. Pure chaos.

The other part of it was my little pup. He was pretty sick last night. I wound up running him outside 6 times because of diarrhea. I gave him meds, snuggled him, and all I can do is hope he feels better soon. I feel so helpless with him. 😣

I had a nightmare last night, but can’t remember it. I don’t know how I had a chance to dream because I only slept for two hours. I didn’t think that was enough time to enter REM sleep. The other night I had a weird nightmare. I was a hostage with a lot of other people who were taken hostage as well. We were inside of an empty multi-story building and they had separated us into small groups- except I had been kept alone. I remember being crouched down on the floor and staring at several bright red maple leaves on the floor. Each leaf had three lines cut into it, all lined up next to each other. (I have no idea what that’s all about) And then there was something about a parade inside the building with the other hostages. I can’t remember that clearly anymore.

I don’t know what the hostage dream means. It could relate to earlier trauma, but I think it might relate more to being locked up. The strong feelings I had in my dream were the same overwhelming emotions I experienced while in the hospital. Maybe me being crouched down on the floor in my dream is the same as when I would retreat to my bed and curl up and cry. I’m not sure.

I hate that.

I hate that time.

Nov. 3 will forever live as a horrible, horrible day.

I see myself on that day as one little square piece of thin toilet paper. All the trauma, abuse, rape, abortion, deception and betrayal…it has all worn me so thin. As thin and fragile as one piece of toilet paper. Getting locked up was like someone violently throwing a huge bucket of water on me. I just disintegrated. So quickly.

I don’t see how people get through stuff like this. I really don’t. This doesn’t get better. It doesn’t get easier. People are mean. People are not understanding. I don’t know what else to say.

There’s no coming back from disintegration.

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Published November 26, 2017 by Chloe Madison

Stop for a minute and think. Imagine your life with no one. Imagine not having your spouse, your children. There are no family members living close by. No brothers, sisters, cousins, aunts, or uncles anywhere close. Seriously…stop and try to imagine this for your life. Years and years and years pass by…and you’re all alone. Every day. Every night. Every weekend. Can you even imagine this for your life?

This is mine. And it’s ok except for the fact that I’ve recently lost a few friendships. But this is why those friendships are so vital to my life. IT’S ALL I HAVE. Yes, you can say I have a relationship with God. But for living, breathing human beings…friendships are all I have. And I surely don’t have that many of them. I’m super shy so making new friends is near impossible and I have such a difficult time trusting people. I was just ruminating with a friend over how every single one of my relationships (boyfriends) was someone who was very outgoing. And when I was young I realized those were the only guys bold enough to strike up a conversation with someone as shy as myself.

Anyway, the point is that I’ve been racking my brain over what I can do to salvage my friendships and not sabotage them anymore. I need them. And those people all deserve better too. It’s not just for me. I want to be a better person and a better friend. That’s what made me start researching how PTSD affects relationships. It’s something I’ll be working on and I can only pray that my friends will be gracious and patient with me as I flounder my way through this. I’ve been so distressed over this one issue lately. I’ll probably continue to write about this because I’ve been tormented over the loss of these friends and I very much fear losing any more. I’m terrified of it actually. They’re all I have in this world.

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The last picture I put up on my Facebook is so disturbing to me. My sister-in-law took a picture of me holding my nephew, but it was right after I had two intense breakdowns. I’d cried for hours at this point. I was so out of it. My eyes are vacant and hollow. My nose is red from crying. My face is so downtrodden with sadness. I actually hate myself in that picture, but the baby is so precious that I decided to put it up. People commented on how that’s a moment to cherish…smh. No one knows. No one understands. I feel so disconnected.

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Nightmares have increased exponentially since I got out. They’re just about every other night now. And what used to be rare (continuing a dream after waking up from it and going back to sleep) is now commonplace. Gah…why does it have to be the nightmares that continue? I’m pretty good at analyzing my dreams and figuring out what my brain was trying to process. Lately, many of the nightmares have been from being locked up against my will. I was terrified and still am terrified that it can happen again at any moment.

There have been some weird nightmares though that I can’t quite figure out what they’re from. One is of me getting shot. I can’t remember the whole dream- only a sliver of it. I’m in a crowd of people and someone open fires into the crowd. A man is shot next to me and he falls on top of me, burying my face. He’s dead and is laying face up on top of my upper chest and face. I almost feel suffocated because I can’t breathe. But then I realize the shooter is still shooting so I freeze instead of trying to free myself. The shooter goes quiet. He’s taken the entire crowd down. He decides to open fire one last time on everyone laying on the floor- just to make sure everyone’s dead. This is when I get shot in the stomach. I feel the burn and sting of the bullet and my body contracts a little as the bullet enters. I wake up a moment after that. I’d go back to sleep and dream it again. I have no idea where this particular nightmare is coming from or what my brain might be trying to process. But like all my nightmares, I wake up with my heart beating out of my chest, drenched in sweat, and I can’t catch my breath.

Then there’s the creepy cult nightmare. There’s a cult that’s taken over this little town I live in and they dictate everything…right down to the food you eat. For some reason, I was suspicious about their food and didn’t want to eat it. So I didn’t. I knew the penalty was death. They would try to coerce you into eating and if you refused, they’d chase you down and kill you. So after various groups of people tried to coerce me to eat their food, it was decided that I wasn’t compliant and I’d have to be killed. I’d run and try to hide…but literally every person in the town is after me. No one is safe. I’d spend a good part of the dream running and hiding…I’d wake up just as someone is about to tackle me. Then I’d fall asleep again and re-dream the not eating part and the getting chased down part over and over.

This dream I can link to several things though. First and most depressing…is my church. I kind of equate the cult to my church and how I don’t feel wanted there or welcome there anymore. I’m afraid that’s why in the dream I’m not wanted…instead, they want to kill me. The other part is from getting locked up. I was so physically ill from being re-traumatized in there that I couldn’t eat, I fought back puking constantly, and had diarrhea nonstop. But I knew they were watching and noting every time someone didn’t eat. I was so terrified they’d hold it against me, that I put something in my mouth whenever they looked (this is also why I tried to hold in my vomit). When they weren’t looking, I gave the rest of the food away. I wasn’t trying to break rules on purpose…I was just so damned sick to my stomach. It was unreal. Anyway, I think that’s where the food part comes from…and the rules about “you must eat our food”…this is just like in the hospital. Then there’s the “no one is safe” part. Huh. I think that’s part of my PTSD and then some. I’ve never felt that any one human being on this earth is entirely safe. Never. I remember several months back trying to get myself to trust people again and picking out the most benign, harmless, most Christ-like individuals- and then questioning myself on if I fully trusted them or not. And if not, why? Never…I was never able to convince myself that any person was safe. There’s always a danger. There’s always the potential for harm. That’s just life. And now it seems even more dangerous to me- I’ve been stung by the people closest to me. No one is safe. Not a soul.

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Tonight I was driving back from somewhere. It took a few hours. I thought over and over again of different ways I could die. And then I started thinking, why is that considered bad? Why is that considered a failure? I’m not convinced that God wants me here on this earth. He surely doesn’t need me. I’m no good to anyone. But why is dying considered so bad?? Why does some person get to say that it’s not ok? Isn’t that between God and I? And like I said, I’m not so sure he wants me here. I’m pretty sure he doesn’t actually. He wouldn’t have made my life like this.

Everything has been so much worse since I got out. I can sit here and say how I want to be a better person…and I do…but things are not good. Everything is so much worse. I am doing so much worse. I feel so much more alone than I did before. I don’t see how this will get any better. But for now, I’m here. I’m open to help. I want to get better. I just don’t see it ever happening.

Published November 18, 2017 by Chloe Madison

My heart is so, so hopelessly sad.

My chest literally hurts.

I told my therapist about just how often I think of not being here. From here on out, I’m going to be fully honest and I’m not going to downplay my thoughts or feelings with her. And hopefully, in exchange, I’ll never be locked up again. I can always go stay with someone or someone can stay with me. That’s my hope anyway. I can’t guarantee that.

I’m not so sure I have people to do that. Every single person who told me they’d be by my side has left. I’m gifted at making people leave. It’s not what I want- obviously. But I feel so… ugh. I give up.

The other night I had my first nightmare about being locked up. It was weird because in my dream, the place was better than in reality. In my dream there were tiny jacuzzis that fit only two people at a time. And this is where you met with your doctor. Smh…I know…weird. But in my dream, I was terrified. Just like in reality. I woke up drenched in sweat and with my heart beating out of my chest. It sucked. In my dream, I acted the way I did in real life. I was so scared and cautious of everyone…I even moved slower because I was so unsure of everything happening.

I am here alone.

Again.

Still.

It doesn’t matter what I do.

It doesn’t matter what I say to who.

(I had to edit this part out…it wasn’t fair or right for me to say.)

Period. End of story.

And what can you do?

This is why my heart hurts so badly. I can’t tell myself I’m worth living, I can’t try to convince myself that I can matter in this life if everything consistently points to the contrary.

(Edited out)

Betrayal

Published February 14, 2017 by Chloe Madison

Memories are like that…like those chocolate chip cookies my grandma and I made…the cookies are your sweet memories and they’re sprinkled with bits of bitter darkness.

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Happy Valentine’s Day!

What a great day to write about love. Or betrayal…

Don’t you just adore your grandmother? I adore mine. She was always one of my most favorite people on the face of this Earth. I have so many fond memories of her taking care of me when I was sick (and my mom had to work), us baking chocolate chip cookies from scratch, playing on her property…climbing trees and running around wreaking havoc. Sprinkled in with these great memories are a few bad ones as well. One incident occurred that caused a great rift between my uncle and I. (This is the same uncle that committed suicide.) My sweet, ol’ grandma had Alzheimer’s and entered a phase where she started wandering off. She was at my house with me (in da hood) and we were the only ones there. She suddenly took off, went out the door and down the street. I panicked because she was a little old, white lady in a very bad neighborhood. It wasn’t safe at all and this situation was not good. I ran after her, caught up with her, and begged and pleaded for her to come back inside the house. She kept walking and so did I. As a last resort, I even tried taking her purse from her, thinking that she would follow her purse. I was going to use it to entice her to turn around and head back to the house. It didn’t work. She became furious that I tried to take her purse and I quickly folded. So, this being before the time of cell phones, I left my grandma and raced back to the house to call my uncle for help. He was staying at her house about 4 miles away. I asked him to come help me, to drive her car to us and pick her up. Mind you, this is in the sweltering heat and humidity of South Florida, where people literally melt if they stay outside too long. Not only was I concerned that my sweet grandma was easy prey in da hood, but I also knew it wasn’t good for someone so old to get overheated. My uncle denied my request and we got into it. He refused to come get his mom and I was shocked. I couldn’t believe it. I yelled something at him on the phone- can’t remember what- and I hung up. I had to get back out there with her to protect her. If nothing else, I would be by her side. So, I raced back onto the street and ran my little heart out to catch up to her. We walked (at a slow old lady pace) for what seemed like hours. We were over halfway to her house when my uncle pulled up in her car and got her to get inside. He took off and left me standing there on the side of the road. I was relieved he finally decided to come help her, but I was still so furious at his cold initial refusal. And it didn’t help that he LEFT ME there! He left me in the middle of a terribly dangerous neighborhood where gun shots regularly rang out. I figured he must have been mad at me too. We didn’t speak for years after that…so many years, that I actually lost count.

So, this past Christmas, my mom and I had a heart to heart discussion about the past. She told me things I never knew and I did the same with her. One of the things she told me hurt me so badly that I refused to believe her. It’s been stewing in my brain for nearly two months now. My mom told me that my grandma knew that my dad sexually abused me and that she worked to keep it covered up. It looks like she was more concerned with keeping her son’s (my dad) reputation flawless than with making sure that her 9 year old granddaughter was OK. I was in such shock when my mom told me this that I couldn’t even fathom it being remotely true. Perhaps my mom picked up on my disbelief because she repeated it and then expanded on the situation. She said that somehow in the conversation, my grandma offered to pay for therapy down the line, if I would ever need it.

Ever NEED it?!? Ha! I sat back in the midst of being dumbfounded. I am f**king ready to kill myself over this sh*t and IF I ever needed help, my dead grandmother was supposed to be the one to pay for it. Thanks, grandma.

I’m still processing it all…I still wonder how true this really is. The fact that I distrust my mom and now, my dear sweet grandma… I just don’t even know what to think!

Tears are streaming down my face as I write this…as the betrayal of someone so precious to me sets in.

All my fond memories…are sh*t. If she was so ready to betray me…to cover up her granddaughter’s sexual abuse, to leave her granddaughter in silence, with no support, no nothing, then that means that everything we did together was a lie. It was probably just her guilty conscience trying to amend things. And that’s giving her too much credit.

I’m not going to lie. My family sucks. Nearly everyone passed away when I was little anyway, but the few family members I knew and interacted with sucked. It’s a good thing that my pastor just did his sermon on the topic of family last Sunday. I guess I need to try to cling more to my church as my family.

Matthew 12: 49-50

Ephesians 2:13-22

I can’t even think of a good way to end this…my mind is fractured and I’m trying to tend to the various pieces. I can say that I’ll never look at a chocolate chip cookie the same way again.

Cancer blows.

Published January 26, 2016 by Chloe Madison

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I’m currently dealing with many old wounds being brought up. A pastor at my church, (whom I barely know, yet admire immensely for his compassion and work with others) was just diagnosed with cancer. It crushed me!  It affected me and continues to affect me way more than it should. I immediately had words with God. (That’s street talk for ‘we had it out.’) I was so mad at God. How could you let cancer affect someone so wonderful? Someone so young?  Someone who does so much to spread love and caring around this world?  Someone who has a beautiful wife and two young children? Why would you allow someone like that to be afflicted? I just don’t get it.

This brought me closer in to the Lord…I find myself in prayer constantly for this man. I feel so deeply sad for him and his family. I know they’re in for a long term struggle and I feel so helpless! I feel like there’s nothing I can do to help him. Yes, I can and do pray for healing and peace…but aside from that, there’s not much one can do for cancer.

I had a short conversation with him at church the other day. I had already decided I only wanted to lift this man up, always be encouraging, never say anything negative. I wanted to make sure that he only got hope…so I had already decided to NOT mention anything of the many, many family members I’ve lost to cancer. Only a week before I found out about his diagnosis, I lost my cousin to a rare form of incurable cancer. And yet, somehow my stupid mouth spewed out about my dad. Shit. I didn’t want to say that. I didn’t want him to know that my dad didn’t make it (because I wanted him to have hope that anyone can make it!) So, I tried to clarify right away- I pointed out that my dad did not want treatment and he gave up and let cancer eat him alive. My dad was diagnosed at Stage IV only because he waited so long to seek help for feeling sick. My dad hated hospitals and doctors and it took my mom forever to get him to agree to go see what was wrong. So, my dad agreed to surgery for the cancer, but he refused to do chemo or radiation. I remember my parents fighting about it multiple times. My mom felt (and still feels) abandoned by my dad. She just couldn’t understand why he wouldn’t want to fight it and try to live through it. So, in realizing that I just told my pastor friend about someone who died of cancer, I tried to show him the difference- that he was going to fight it and my dad didn’t. That he would have hope even though my dad didn’t.

Let’s not even go near the fact that I now believe that maybe my dad thought he deserved to die. He was a sexual predator- he had preyed upon and abused his little brother and his daughter. I can’t help but wonder if he felt guilty, if he felt that this was karma. Maybe he just accepted his cancer as a death sentence and that might be why he refused to fight it.

Maybe that’s part of why it’s affecting me so deeply.

Cancer has cut through me over and over and over again- with each family member it’s taken. And then all these memories come flooding back…my dad with cancer, dying at my house when I was little. I have one very distinct memory: my dad was yellow because the cancer had caused bile to spill into his body. He got up from the bed and rushed to the bathroom and started vomiting. As a little kid, I didn’t know what to do to help. So, I stood with my father and gently rubbed his back while he was bent over the toilet. In between bouts of vomiting, he yelled at me to stop and get away. At the time, I was deeply hurt. I was only trying to help and didn’t know what to do. As an adult, I can understand that when someone is nauseated, rubbing their back probably only makes them feel more sick. So, I understand why he pushed me away. But, that’s pretty much the last memory I have of interacting with my dad. My next memory is of him laying in his casket.

 

 

Update:

Cancer is in remission for the amazing guy I started off writing this post about. YAAAAAYYYY!!! I can’t exclaim that enough! I am so happy for him and his family! I thank God every single day for his healing and I pray that God continues to keep his body free of cancer.  🙂

So much has happened internally with regards to this situation. Since I first wrote this post, I’ve been in serious prayer daily for his healing and that’s brought me face to face with all kinds of issues that I personally have. I’d look at this guy’s children in church. I’d try not to stare. When all this started I believe his daughter was around 10 or 11 years old. I was 9 years old when I was first raped by my adult neighbor. I’d look at how sweet and innocent and frail-looking his daughter is and wonder how the hell someone could hurt or take advantage of a little girl like that. Even the thought of this is making my hands shake right now as I’m typing.

I think his son was about 11 or 12- the same age I was when my dad passed away from cancer. I remembered how I thought I caused my dad’s death and how the heaviness, the guilt, the seriousness of the situation weighed upon me and pressed me down.

Having this guy beat cancer was so important and symbolic to me on so many different levels. Yes, of course the victory is his and his family’s and the Lord’s…but seeing myself in his children had such a profound impact on me. I can’t even think of words to explain it.

Needless to say, I’m ecstatic for his healing and I’m so relieved he and his family can go on living their lives. He’s become one of the people that I admire greatly for their walk with the Lord…his selflessness and compassion, the caring nature of both him and his wife, the way they love their children…these are truly great people and this world needs more people like them! Praise God for remission!  🙂

The rock years

Published November 29, 2012 by Chloe Madison

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Years passed.  I still loved God and prayed for his help every day, but couldn’t have felt farther away.

I felt closer to the music.  Closer to the lyrics and the people who wrote them.  I began going to concerts and experiencing the thrill of live music.  During one of my first concerts, I was approached by the bass player of the band after the show.  He asked me if I wanted to go get dinner with him.  We wound up on South Beach at a pizza joint.  I had never really talked to a guy in a band before…but this guy was so casual about approaching me and talking to me that it seemed normal.  We began to date…or so I thought.  Well, we really did date and see each other for several months.  But, as I would learn, in the world of rock music, there’s no such thing as a monogamous relationship.  At the time, I had no idea.  He would call me all the time…each time from a different city.  Every time he was in the state of Florida, no matter how far away, we’d arrange to see each other.  He’d bring me backstage at different outdoor concerts where lots of other bands were playing.  I got to meet tons of other musicians who I had long adored.  I became sort of superficial friends with these people.  We were friends, but we didn’t know each other very well.  I extracted every ounce of meaning I could from these friendships though, since it was all I had.  Once I realized that we weren’t exactly in a monogamous relationship, I broke things off with him, explaining that I wasn’t like that.  He said that’s part of what he loved about me.  But, that was it.  We kept in touch for years through email and occasionally seeing each other at shows throughout the years.  His band blew up and he became incredibly famous.  Now, he’s married and has a child and I couldn’t be happier for him.  🙂

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Getting ready to play at Woodstock ’99

Meeting people backstage during our short lived relationship opened the world of rock music up to me.  All the years of listening, singing along and playing guitar…and here I found myself standing on the side of the stage, watching these various artists perform.  They momentarily took me out of my prison of depression and put me on a temporary high of music, glamor and partying.  Let’s get this clear right now.  I never did drugs and no, I was never a groupie.  I witnessed those things…rampant alcohol abuse, drug use, random sex with girls who would appear out of nowhere.  When I dated the guy in the band, he warned me to be careful of people…that because we were together, he said, people would try to use me.  I thought he was being silly and paranoid and all but dismissed what he said.  But, I kept it in the back of my mind…be careful, don’t get hurt again.

Like I said, I learned from him that there’s no such thing as a monogamous relationship for a musician.  I never got into another relationship with an artist again.  I had random times of partying a little too hard, perhaps a little too much drinking and I’d make out with someone…but that was it!!  I got to meet and party with Korn multiple times.  You can imagine how giddy I was inside…of course, outside, I was trying to play it totally cool.  They offered me weed and I said no.  They countered with “but this is Korn crypt, you’ll never have anything better”.  I told them I never smoked before and they responded with “Great!  Even better for this to be your first hit…c’mon, you’re with Korn, man!!”  Yeah, I was with Korn.  But, I passed.  I was told I was messing up ‘the rotation.’  At the time, I had no idea what that meant.

I loved going to concerts.  It was my time to come alive and enjoy myself, if only for an evening. Every time I met one of my musical idols, I had an even better time.  Knowing these people and even simply meeting them, made me feel important.  It was the first ounce of importance my soul had felt in years.  I went to hundreds and hundreds of concerts over the course of 15 years.

A friend introduced me to a guy who was in a local band.  I heard my ex’s words ringing in my head, “be careful…people will use you”.  I thought he just wanted to use the people I knew in the industry to get his band signed.  As it turns out, he went to my high school…but with my little brother!!!  He seemed super cool and we continued to hang out.  We eventually became best friends.  I’d do merch for his band at all the local shows.  Doing merch means selling their merchandise, manning the table, selling CDs, t-shirts, hats, hoodies, etc.

It was around this time that I found myself longing for God.  I was pining for my long lost relationship with God, my Father.  I mean, I did have a relationship with him…it just felt distanced.  I had no desire to go back to church, but I had a desire to fully reunite with God.  I prayed a quick prayer that God would then give me the desire to go to church.  I thought listening to a sermon would be the best way to get pulled back in with the Lord.  But, I needed the desire to actually go.

By the following Saturday, I had an undeniable, burning desire to go to church.  Well….who woulda thunk it?  😉

Part 1, Still continued…

Published November 6, 2012 by Chloe Madison

I kept going to church with Cam.  It was my safe place, my refuge.  I was learning to love God and to love others.  I was learning to focus on the joyous experiences in life and to love those who were hurting. I clung to those beliefs, that church, that youth group and those kids. I could be my silly, tomboyish self and was still loved.

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I also had my first boyfriend during this time.  He was my first real love.  His name was Paul Love. Isn’t that the best last name? He was like McGyver to me.  He could do anything, knew random facts…he was kind, gentle, thought the world of me and was a romantic. I learned what love was like with him.  We had a pure relationship, no sex, no lusting.  We simply adored each other and were deeply in love.  We spent a few years together and at that age, it’s like being together forever.  We wound up breaking up and he married his very next girlfriend right out of high school.  He disappeared off the face of the earth and as we unfortunately lived back in the days of no cell phones and no Facebook, we lost touch.  But, he will forever hold a special place in my heart.  To this day, I still look at aged pictures of us and read old, worn out love letters from him.

 

Australia…

In high school at the age of 16, I went on my first major missions trip.  Cam was on the team, which made it feel safer.  We went to Australia to build a camp for the kids there.  Do you remember the last few days of the school year?  The last couple of days are usually reserved for final exams and are sometimes even half days.  It was one of those last few days, right before I was to leave on the trip that I think I had an encounter with an angel.  This man came to visit my teacher…she recognized him as he was a former student and she chuckled as he explained that he was in seminary.  She said he was such a terrible kid in her class that she was surprised he was following God.  She pointed me out to him, stating that I was about to leave on a 2 month long missions trip.  He asked my teacher if he and I could talk privately out in the hallway.  She let us go outside and talk.  He said he felt like he needed to tell me something.  He wanted to tell me how to cast a demon out. Inside, I freaked!!  I thought ‘this man needs to get away from me!! What a weirdo!’  But, I heard him out as I kept casting a longing eye toward my classroom.  He told me three things were important.  The first was that “the name of Jesus Christ” had to be used.  The second was that we had the authority as children of God to do this and that our faith facilitated its effectiveness.  The third…. well, I can’t remember the third one to save my life.  😦   He asked to pray with me and over me and he did.  I never saw him again.

dark angel

 

I left on my trip and within weeks, found myself face to face with demonic possession. Her name was Grace.  She was a frail looking 14 year old girl who acted terrified of everything.  At first, we didn’t notice anything was really wrong.  She was covered in sores from head to toe, wore her frizzy, blond hair down in her face and over her eyes, and was thin and pale.  She threw up every, single day as we opened our Bibles to do our daily devotions.  She was timid, but had an amazing ability to draw.  The guys on the team would flip through her sketch book in awe of the ‘cool’ creatures she drew.  I caught my first glimpse of her art and asked to see more.  I remember thinking it was odd for a girl to draw such scary, scaly creatures in caves.  We first knew it was real when one of the team members saw ‘it’ with her own eyes.  One evening, we were bumming around our tents as the sun was going down.  I heard a shriek and looked up to see one of our team members running wildly toward her tent, which she dove into head first.  I ran to her, along with several other kids to see what was wrong and how we could help.  She was pale white, shaking violently, weeping hysterically and could only mutter Grace’s name.  I sat back, wondering where Grace was.  I looked around and saw that she appeared to be on the ground in the middle of the field.  A few of our leaders had huddled around her.   I went over to see what was happening, but they wouldn’t let us near her, so I went back to our hysterical team member to find out what happened.  She explained that she saw Grace on her knees in the field, looking up toward the sky.  She saw another figure floating up in the sky, reaching down and strangling Grace.  She said that at first, Grace was grabbing it’s hands that were around her neck and appeared to be trying to fight it off…but then, she gave up.  Her hands dropped to her sides and the figure appeared to be winning.  That’s all she saw.  From there, it was made clear to us that we were dealing with something else.  A few days later, I talked to Grace privately and asked about everything.  I asked about her drawings.  ‘It’s things and places they show me’, she said.  I asked why her hair was in her eyes and covering her face.  She shrugged that she didn’t really know.  I asked her if I could cut her bangs and she agreed.  I asked her what she thought caused this.  The only thing she could only think of was playing with a Ouija board when she was younger.  In retrospect, it all added up.  The sores on her body, the throwing up as the Bible was opened.  She explained it herself, ‘it won’t let me read the Bible’.  Things seemed to happen more at night.  One night, I remember my tent-mate frantically waking me up.  I heard screams and animal roars.  ‘It’s Grace!’ my tent-mate informed me.  I flew out of the tent and came to a screeching halt.  I saw multiple people huddled inside and half outside Grace’s tent, Grace flailing and thrashing around, animal roars coming out of her mouth.  Two of our leaders were commanding the demon to leave her as they were trying to hold her down.  Her eyes were rolling into the back of her head and she was yelling out in a deep, male voice incomprehensible things. Just then, from Grace’s thrashing about, a lantern got kicked over against the side of the tent.  Within seconds the tent was up in flames.  Everyone got out safely, but we were petrified.  Nearly all of us had commanded the demon out in the name of Jesus Christ, but it didn’t seem to be working.  On another evening, we had gathered outside for prayer…a special prayer time to specifically pray for Grace.  We were in a circle and taking turns praying out loud.  I heard a low rumbling that came from a distance and seemed to get louder and closer.  A great wind came rumbling across the field and blew a giant metal pot off its hook in our outdoor kitchen and flung it into the center of our prayer circle.  We literally had to duck out of the way! It seemed to be angry that we were praying against it and it was displaying a threat as it showed its control of nature.  It wasn’t until halfway through the summer that I remembered this man and what he tried to tell me.  Over the course of the summer, our leaders took her to multiple exorcisms in Australia.  None of them seemed to work.  It wasn’t until the end of the summer that she came to us all, looking like a completely different person.  Her face seemed to glow and she couldn’t hide her smile.  She said she must not have been giving herself 100% to Christ.  She explained that she prayed, offering 100% of herself to God…and it was then, that moment, that she realized it was gone.  I went home from that summer in Australia so joyous and relieved that God had rescued Grace.  My faith was now cemented.  When you experience things first hand, when you hear a man’s voice and animal roars come out of a 14 year old girl’s body, when you see her throw up on cue of an open Bible…it cements your belief.  I was back at school only days after returning home.  I had the same teacher again, but for a different class.  I couldn’t wait to tell the guy she knew about what happened and that I was thankful he told me how to handle it.  I asked my teacher the name of the man who visited our class and how I could get in touch with him.  She acted like she had no idea who I was talking about.  I reminded her that he was a former student, was in seminary now and used to be a bad kid.  He was only here, visiting her class just two months ago.  She couldn’t think of who I was referring to.  I asked her repeatedly, tried to jog her memory and years later, I was still asking her…’you really don’t remember that guy that came to visit you??’  She’s not a Christian, but she joked that perhaps he was an angel.

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After high school….

As I found myself graduating high school, I felt good and stable, even though I was too poor to go away for college like all my friends.  I stayed home and went to the local community college.  I stayed on with the youth group as a volunteer leader and was able to prolong my joy and my stay in my safe haven.

I met my next boyfriend at the time.  He was the temporary youth leader for the youth group. We fell in love and were together for a total of 4 years.  At age 18, I had willingly made love for the very first time.  And the very first time, I wound up pregnant.   We were scared, but excited and longed to do the right thing.  As we discussed how to tell our parents, he said…”well, I was already wondering if you were the one.”  As he clarified what he meant, he expressed wondering if I was the one that would one day be his wife.  We decided that we’d get married and have the baby.  Having the baby was never a question, just whether or not we should get married.  His parents were out of the country, so we approached my mom first.

To say she flipped out is toning it down. She demanded we get an abortion and opposing her was not an option.  Marriage was out of the question as well.  And to my surprise, she got me out of my college class early one morning and drove me straight to an abortion clinic.  She had already arranged for everything and it happened that day.  I mourned the loss of my child, but in my 18 year old, immature brain, I told myself that the very next child I would be pregnant with would be the same one.  I rationalized that I was just postponing the birth of our child.

The reality of what we did didn’t hit me until we broke up.  I didn’t find out until after we broke up, that he had fallen for another youth counselor at the church. Apparently, he lied to her and told her we had broken up when we didn’t.  But, when I lost him….that cemented the loss of our baby.  I realized that baby was never coming back again if we would never be together again.

As he was at church and she was at church, going to church became agonizing to me. Seeing them together hurt me more than I could express.  I felt so betrayed and thrown away. To make things worse, my church betrayed me next. I got called into the office of one of the pastors. He told me that my presence in working with the youth group made my very recent ex and the girl he cheated on me with “uncomfortable.” Ha! Made them uncomfortable?! I sat and listened as he explained to me that since the two of them were on staff and I was just a volunteer, that they would like me to stop volunteering. Hearing those words were like a hot knife slicing my entire torso open. I was in shock and was incredibly hurt that I was being pushed away from volunteering with the kids. That was one of my biggest joys in life. I walked out of that pastor’s office with my legs feeling numb…I was stunned. I never showed my face again in that youth group…and I decided to never show my face again in that church. I felt so ashamed that the pastor had asked me to stop being a volunteer. It made me feel like a complete and utter failure, completely and wholly unwanted.