Broken to Brave

Hi, my name is Cara and this is my story. 
I was not raised in a religious home, but I somehow still slowly began to find my way towards the Lord in my mid-twenties. It was a long and windy road, that I was led astray from many times. Thankfully, I always had a voice deep inside that kept leading me back. This voice, which I now know as the Holy Spirit, got louder and harder to ignore as time passed. It wasn’t until I was 30 years old that I fully believed in the Lord and began my attempt to follow Him completely. Surrendering my life to the Lord was not easy for me, because I had so much anger and pain in my heart.  
On Easter Sunday 2014, I was lying in my bed so broken, depressed and hopeless that I was begging for the Lord to take my life. It seemed that every person I had ever cared for had hurt me, and I could not explain or justify any of it. God heard me crying out to Him but instead of taking my life, that was the day He began to walk me through the fire to transform it.  
The first place I experienced healing was in my relationship with my mother. I was so full of anger toward her that I hadn’t spoken to her in 9 months. A friend of mine contacted her and let her know the condition I was in and she immediately got onto a plane to come and stay with me. That week, a great weight was lifted off my shoulders. The anger in my heart left and I was able to forgive her for things I’d carried with me since I was a child.  
The months that followed were full of trials and lessons that slowly began to mold me into the woman that God is helping me become. By December, I had come to the realization that I was extremely co-dependent and I finally began to understand why my life had been so painful and out of control for the previous 15 years. I started seeing a Christian therapist to find out why, and how to stop these unhealthy patterns. I read the book Co-dependent No More and for the first time in my life, I felt normal.  
Through therapy, prayer and reading I realized that my childhood lacked the nurturing, compassion and safety that I deserved. Both my parents came from households that were full of anger, abuse and lacked love. They did the best they could with my younger brother and I, and I know that we had it much better than they did. My mother was a housewife and stayed home to raise my brother and me, she was the only safety and love I remember as a young child. My father was physically abusive and was unable to show love. I grew up in constant fear of him. My parents divorced when I was in 6th grade and my brother and I were left with our father until our mother was able to get on her feet. I felt very scared, confused and abandoned.  
During my teenage years, my mother and I rarely got along. I always felt as if she didn’t like me because I was so different than her. I remember her pointing that out to me many times and telling me I was just like my father. This led to an extreme lack of self-worth and I began to look to anyone I could to fill that void in my heart. I used my looks and popularity in an attempt to obtain validation from others. I was surrounded by people, but constantly felt alone with an internal conflict I couldn’t explain at the time. I was miserable.  
Throughout my twenties, I was drawn to anyone who needed me. I would give emotionally, physically, and monetarily to others hoping that if I gave enough they would love me and never leave. In therapy, I learned that I was drawn to the “wounded bird”, because I felt in control of those relationships and that made me feel safe. If you were jobless, going through a break-up, broken or needing a place to live, you were my new best friend. I would give everything to these people and try to fix them, until I got frustrated and ended the relationship. It was 15 years of constant heartbreak and broken relationships.  
By the beginning of 2015, I had completed the challenging task of getting honest with myself. I knew why I did what I did and how I did it, but now I needed to focus on how to heal and stop these unhealthy patterns. I realized that the voids in my heart that I had been trying to fill with other people could only be filled with the love of Jesus. I finally began to develop a REAL relationship with the Lord and hear His voice. I knew the Lord was calling me to surrender every part of my life and seek him with my whole heart. I knew that I wasn’t going to change or be healed if I continued living the way I was and surrounding myself with the people, places and things I had been. So, I surrendered everything to The Lord: what I watched, what I listened to, who I surrounded myself, how I spent my free time, how I dressed, my finances, my dating life, how I spoke. I dove in and sought the Lord with everything I had. This was one of the most challenging, but rewarding periods of my life.  
The first month was a season of grieving. I grieved the pain and shame from my past, the broken relationships, the wasted years, and much more. This was the hardest season for me because I knew I was being called to be alone, and being alone was not easy for me. I had many friends in my life that I knew I would have to distance myself from until I was stronger and more secure in the woman I wanted to be. I know that if they are truly my friends, they will understand and we will still have things in common when I have completed this journey. It was a very lonely time because I didn’t have close relationships with anyone who was walking with the Lord. I went to church every Sunday, but I didn’t really talk to anyone because I didn’t think I was good enough or that I could relate to them. I had to have faith that the Lord would provide when I was ready. And He did.  
I attended a Freedom Movement event at my church and I knew I was being called to attend their workshop. I thank God for this workshop because it truly gave me the tools I needed to get through the next season of my life. I learned that grieving was important, how to forgive and how to open up from my isolation.  
Since completing the workshop I have experienced miraculous healing and changes in my heart. I have been able to forgive many people, including my father. My self-worth is getting stronger every day, and I now know I deserve and will only accept equal friendships. My relationship with my mother is better than ever. I am beginning to make wiser decisions and truly allow the Holy Spirit to guide me in every area of my life. I have joined a women’s bible study at my church and am helping The Freedom Movement with administration. I am now surrounded and supported by women that inspire me, hold me accountable and encourage me to keep becoming the woman I want to be. I know this journey is never ending, but I am excited about the woman I am becoming. The labels & pain from my past no longer define me. I have peace, joy & hope for my future. I am free.  
I hope my story gives hope to all women who are hurting. You can attend as much therapy as you want, go to church every Sunday, read every self-help book in the library, and run away from or mask your pain, but freedom did not come until I truly knew and accepted the unconditional, unfailing, unexplainable love of Jesus. I used to roll my eyes when people would tell me that, but until you know this feeling you cannot understand, and trust me– you WANT to know this feeling!  
Be brave, be courageous and never give up!  

Love Changes Everything

So often we want to jump in and fix everything that is wrong, then move on with our lives and forget about everything that took us to the places we've been to begin with. I get it! Even as I write this, I want that too. I want to jump right in and tell you all the reasons why you are doing what you are doing, fix what is wrong, and help you to live the life God has for you. Seems reasonable, right?! HA! As you can imagine, I was pretty shocked when I was writing my "How to Fix Everyone" manuscript and God stopped me to give me this revelation: I had gotten it backwards!!! 
I was dumbfounded as God gently showed me that I had gotten it ALL WRONG. Jesus, through prayer, took me back to my own dark days of healing and took me to the very first moment I knew I needed help.  
Far before my life hit rock bottom, He was calling to me, showing me one powerful word OVER AND OVER again. He showed me through my imperfect parents, he showed me in the quiet nights of my shame and guilt. Relentlessly he pursued me with one word. LOVE. I could never escape it.  
There were so many times I didn't believe it, so many times I knew I didn't deserve it, and so many times I rejected it, but no matter what, there it was.  
When I opened my eyes, when I went to sleep... Love. When I would reluctantly go to church, and even when I wanted to end it all... LOVE.  
I never really thought about it until I took a step back and looked over my life. It was there, always comforting me, begging me to come to HIM. People judged me and society wrote me off. My parents were hurt and many times I put God's love for me through the grid created by the type of love I'd given and been given. I thought that God loved the way others love. I WAS WRONG. He loved me in my darkest moments and finally, after years of fighting and years of hopelessness, I decided to see if He really meant it.  
Turning from my rebellious behavior, going to therapy, digging deep and really facing the truth about why I hurt and who had hurt me, forgiving all those who wronged me and forgiving myself for the ways I had wronged others were all part of my journey towards healing.  
But I want to make something crystal clear: NONE of this would have happened if it were not for GOD'S unending love for me.  
Something happens to us we we realize we are loved, especially when we know we don't deserve it. Love heals in ways nothing else can. Without love, we have nothing. When I realized God truly loved me, I was finally able to see myself through a grid of unconditional love instead of the flawed grid I had previously created for myself.  
Resting in his love was a challenge. My self-destructive brain naturally veered back towards shame and judgment, but His love would not let me go there. It surrounded me. His love gave me a new identity. It gave me hope and purpose. Christ's pure love, over time, changed my name from defeated to overcomer.  
I AM LOVED! And not only am I loved, I AM HIS!  
ME! The girl who had made mistake after mistake, who was abandoned, and who brought shame upon her family and herself. LOVED. How could this be?  
God does not love with human love. It's perfect, untainted by human junk. When I would feel like giving up, throwing in the towel, His love would scream to me...YOU ARE MINE. Don't believe the lies. Trust Me. I will set you FREE.  
Why did I fight against this love for so long? Why did I not cry out to Him sooner? The hurt that I felt and the things that had happened to me caused me to believe that I was not worthy of this kind of love. I thought that I needed to get my life together in order to accept it. Boy, was I wrong. I wasted so many years believing God was like we often are, judgmental and harsh. I imagined he had a to-do list for me and that until all of those things were checked off the list, I couldn't be close to Him. Again, I was so wrong. I believed Jesus is who people said He is instead of who His word says He is.  
How this must break His heart for us.  
Jeremiah 31:3 says He loves us with and everlasting love. EVERLASTING. It never ends! It has no stipulations on it, it is just there, waiting to be received.  
I hope that you will realize the power of this love and begin to trust that what Jesus says is true. Then and only then will your heart find the courage to start to change.  
His love gives you a new identity. It causes you to be identified with someone perfect. You'll no longer be identified by the hurts of your past but with the King of Kings, the Creator of the universe. You are His most beloved and that understanding changes everything!  
This won't mean that the struggle disappears, but knowing you are not alone in the fight will give you a new strength to press on through it, onto the other side of the pain. His love gives you courage to fight hard to be healed.  
I remember many days when I felt that the fight to be healed was more than I could bare, but as I would literally cry out to God, He would pour out His love onto me. He would give me the courage to keep going, and remind me that healing was coming. It was His love for me that ministered to me. When you are identified by God's love, you are given a new name. A new identity starts to rise up within your soul and the things that controlled you before don't have the power they once had.
There is only one thing you have to do: Accept this gift.  
It is waiting for you to receive it, and true, deep change can not happen until you choose to accept what Jesus has for you. To know you are loved, to feel His acceptance of you, and to walk in the confidence of this will be the beginning of a life forever changed.  
Romans 8:37-39 - In all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.  
Found. Unbound,
Karrie Garcia

Thriving (no longer just Surviving) after Sexual Abuse

My name is Veronica. Both of my parents worked and sent me to a Christian private school from Kindergarten through my Sophomore year in high school. Because of their work schedule, they readily accepted help from others to get me home after school and after practice for sports. Unfortunately, they trusted the wrong person. This is my story.

Warning: this may trigger other sexual abuse victims.

The man they trusted to take me home sexually abused me. He was a "nice" guy. He had a family, a wife and kids. He has 4 daughters, 3 of whom were younger than me. Safe - right?!

I began having Grand Mal seizures from the stress. This abuse lasted for years. For a few years I lived two lives. I lived one life as a typical teenager. I went to dances, I had boyfriends, I hung out with my friends, I played sports, I studied hard in school.

In my other life, I was a woman. I knew a familiarity about sex, and lust, and pain that no one should have to endure as a child. I was confused and alone, and filled with shame and guilt and hopelessness.

I left that school, but that man and our secret didn't leave me. Even in a new environment I was unable to relinquish myself from this abuse, this duality of lives. My life began to spin out of control. I began using drugs, drinking heavily, and became promiscuous. I hated myself. More seizures. I wanted to be numb. I wanted the confusion, pain and hopelessness to stop.

I found power to disassociate with my life. I decided I would not look back. I decided that if I could just pretend long enough, like this was not a part of my life, then somehow, I would be fine. So I shoved it deep. I entered into "normalcy" the best way I could. I had a job, I went to college, I got a new and steady boyfriend, he proposed, I said yes.

Then the man and I ran into each other at an event and my friend saw my face as I saw the face of my abuser. Somehow she knew, in an instant that something within me was coming undone. More seizures. My friend suspected I had been abused so she was brave and said something to a pastor. They confronted this man, and he admitted to the abuse. I pressed charges. I was given a chance to try to find closure, and asked him, "Why?"

His response? "If God wanted me to stop, He could have stopped me."

My abuser was sentenced to jail even though the statute of limitations had run out on most of his crimes against me. So, you see, after the pain and trauma of sexual victimization, I did see worldly "justice", but in that moment, some small dark thing began to brew. IF God is real, how can He be good and allow things like this to happen? Why didn't God stop this from happening?

I got married. I almost divorced my husband 2 years in. We had problems because I hadn't dealt with all of my pain and shame and confusion from my past. My hurts became my husband's hurts. I began going to therapy. I began sharing my story. I found Jesus. I found a love that truly washed me clean. I found a God who saw me through my pain and through the lens of His son. He made me whole. No more seizures. I began to heal. We began to heal. I found security and healing and hope. I felt the shame and guilt shrink back until I couldn't find them anymore. I found passion and joy in intimacy. I then began seeking God to reveal himself to me as a father. He met me. He spoke to me and allowed me really see how much He grieves, as any good father does, over the injustices that I walked through.

Five years after my healing began, I thought I was done. I thought I was whole. I had experienced acknowledgment, pain, grief, sorrow, anger, forgiveness, love, redemption, and hope.

In February 2015, while sharing my story with a small group of friends, God revealed to me that some part of me still doubted his love for me. I was still holding on to the lie of my abuser that because God did not miraculously intervene, He was not all good. And in that moment, He recalled to me all that He has redeemed in my life.

It does not make sense on paper that I believe in God at all, much less adore Him or walk in relationship with Him. It does not make sense that I have a healthy marriage and sex life, because statistically my hurt and dysfunction should have been bigger than my mind's ability to heal. It does not make sense that I am comfortable in my own skin, because the weight and shame of abuse so often eats away at self worth and self esteem. It does not make sense that I would be comfortable in churches, a place where a good chunk of my abuse took place.

If God is real, then He is the source of my redemption and hope and restoration. If God is real then He is big enough to take all of my pain and my anger and sorrow and doubt - and He is big enough and good enough to love me wholly in spite of it all. He is good enough to bestow good gifts unto me simply because I am His. I do not deserve any of this goodness, but because God is good, He exchanged the lies for His Truth, and because of that I am set free.

My story of freedom did not come with my abuse, it did not come with conviction and sentencing of a criminal, it did not come with a rocky marriage that became safe, it did not come with therapy, it did not come with "being good enough". My freedom comes from the redeeming blood of Jesus Christ.

"Jesus said to him, "I am the way, and THE TRUTH , and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me." John 14:6

"and you will know THE TRUTH and THE TRUTH shall set you free." John 8 :32

While this is my story, it is also His story. So, I share my story, as a free woman, because, "Free people free people."

"We love because He first loved us." 1 John 4:19