my roots were grown in this soil (pt.2)

Meet Erin. Since Russ & I started going to the Stone, she’s become one of my closest friends – she’s one of the most genuine and God-seeking woman I know. We’ve shared fears and dreams, and both have an unequivocal desire to see human trafficking end in our lifetime. When I got the idea for this series, Erin was the first person I wanted to introduce. Her story isn’t an easy one – but she recognizes the One who saved her for something more beautiful. Today and tomorrow she shares with you some of her greatest pain – but also how God is bringing redemption through  it. During the summer and over holidays I’d go back to our hometown to be with my extended family. My aunt had some land with horses and freedom to disappear for hours. It was wonderful. My cousins and I would sit on top of the barn and smoke cigars, ride horses, and swim until it was dark. These are also some of my favorite memories. I loved the rodeo. I loved the sound of the announcer over the speakers and the smell of livestock (I know, strange). I loved going to the state fair every year. I loved boots, jeans, and cowboy hats. But, now I can't walk into a rodeo arena without clinching my eyes closed for a few seconds as the sounds and smells remind me.

My uncle (now ex) inflicted more violence and fear into my family than I can probably describe as only part of a story. He was emotionally, verbally, and physically abusive. Married to my aunt for well over a decade, he terrorized, beat, and destroyed her and what small threads of a family we had. I watched and listened as he fractured and broke her bones, knocked holes in walls, and one can only imagine what else, for hours. I sat in a tent in the backyard over a package of uncooked hot dogs and oreos while one of my cousins pounded the window, screaming for the nightmare to end. It was a horrible horrible night just like the others.

I've stared into the unrecognizable face of someone I love, blue and purple, swollen and aching and had no idea what to do.

I've sat in a closet hearing tortured cries and choking as I drifted away into a fairy tale where my dad would find out the danger I was in and rescue me.

I have battled guilt that it was, at least one time, my fault.

One night after the rodeo, we stood in line for a ring I wanted. We stood in line for too long.

The ride home was intense. I didn't sleep that night. Neither did anyone else in the house. Yelling and breaking filled the night air.

Right now, as I write this, I'm battling it. I have the knowledge that it was not directly my fault. I know that's what you want to tell me. But, you weren't there. I still have that ring- It cost too much to discard.

When I was twelve, we moved to Austin and I sunk, quickly, into a deep depression. My loneliness was thick, consuming, and torturous. When school started, I immediately landed some friends and a boyfriend. Stuffing my memories and reality at home, I spent as much time as possible at friend's houses and having dinner with my boyfriend's family.

No one knew I was living with an alcoholic and a person who barely seemed to exist. No one knew the only time I was really spoken to was if I was in trouble for something- and then, it was just yelling. I became the great avoid-er leaving home by 6am and walking to school in the dark to avoid morning yelling exercises at home. Then, I'd wander home as slowly as possible at the end of the day, spending the entire evening in my room.

I wrote poetry.

I read books.

I watched TV.

I slept.

I cried in my closet.

The following two years were dark. I began self mutilating (there will be more on my blog about this in the future) and stopped eating. I researched suicide methods online and ached deeply to disappear like a mist, never to be seen again. I was becoming a very angry girl very quickly. At only thirteen years old, I was done. I wanted out and so that's what I asked God for- to die. There were mornings where my eyes would open at the sound of my alarm, and I would lay in bed and cry that God hadn't answered my prayer over night.

Junior high is a muddy suicidal blur in my mind. During this time I had been sexually abused by a cousin from my step-family at an annual picnic and, of course, no one knew. The summer after we bid adieu to middle school, all but one of my girlfriends called me to let me know we would not be entering High School as friends- they didn't want a suicidal friend with bandaged wrists.

And they stuck by their word. I ate lunch in the not-so-cool-kids cafeteria at an entire row of tables alone for a few weeks, until I eventually ended up waiting lunch out in the last stall of the bottom floor girls bathroom.

By sophomore year, the only friend I had left got lost in a world of cocaine and acid and dropped out of school.

Finally, by my senior year of high school, I had settled into a small group of friends who loved well. I decided I wanted to do theatre, had been cast in a commercial, worked on a few plays, began writing more, was accepted to a modeling agency and looked forward to graduation.

Then, my mom asked me, for the first time in my life, about my dad. She said if I wanted to collect child support, we had to do it before my 18th birthday. Blinded by the fact that I'd be meeting my father, the man I'd dreamed of every single day of my life, I said I wanted to go to court. I had no idea this meant we were suing someone. I had no idea that there was another option for meeting him. The time from this decision until meeting him is a whole story in itself but it was through this broken relationship and a desire to be fathered that God revealed himself to me.

I had never heard the gospel. Maybe people had told me (I don't remember if they did). But I'd neverheard it. Not until that day. All the hand sewn stitches in my heart ripped open as the loss and grief I had been carrying came un-done. My heart ached from His love and I could not contain myself. He is God. For real, you guys.

Fast Forward ten years to today. I'm sitting in my house on my couch with my warm dogs curled up beside me snoring. I'm staring at the photos on my book shelf, taken by my very talented husband of more than six years. In one picture, I'm sitting on a curb with my two half brothers and half sister, who I've only known several short years. They have brought more healing and gut busting laughter into my life than they'll ever possibly know. There's a black and white of my strong, smart, sister-in-law and her hard working fiance and another of my other sister-in law in a park before she graduated high school with the sun shining brightly behind her, both taken last year. There is a stack of adoption paperwork at my feet on the coffee table and I have chicken thawing in the kitchen for dinner with my husband after church tonight.

These small things do something enormous in my heart. God reminds me every day of his affectionate love for me. I know that my life has been perfectly planned. I know that God knows my suffering. He knew it before it began. If God is willing to allow us to suffer so greatly, with such anguish in our souls, when He has the power to rescue us from it, He must have 1) incredible purpose in pain and 2) something really incredible for us on the other side that makes our suffering seem like a drop of mist in the morning.

I still struggle with self punishing thoughts every day.

I still ache to be mothered and fathered.

I am in the middle of a case against Krista's father for the abuse that has been much more difficult that I'd anticipated.

I am terrified of motherhood.

I still struggle with a hatred and fear of men.

I still sit in the closet and cry sometimes.

My husband has to remind me that nothing is ever as good or bad as it seems.

Sometimes he has to convince me that I'm safe.

But there is something in my soul that keeps me afloat that I didn't have before. I hear God. I believe His love. I'm learning to trust His provision. I believe he has fought for me.

I am his daughter.

My healing hasn't come without work and sacrifice. I saw doctors, took dozens of medications, and probably should have been in a hospital for a while. I've sought mentorship and counsel from women in the church and this past year I completed a 12 step study in Celebrate Recovery, where I continue to go to hear the stories of people like me.

My hope is that people in the church will become active participants in the healing of others. That we would learn about these issues people face, even when it turns our stomachs. I have a lot to learn from healed people and so do you. These people have lived their painful anguish, twice- once by force and once by choice. The process of healing is a road marked with immense grief as a person chooses to stare their abuse or addictions in the face. Ask these people questions. Please don't let the fear keep you from going further into their story. Please don't avoid people's pain. They're "playing" in it every day. Your company means more than you know.

Posted on November 16, 2010 .