Saturday, December 20, 2008

A Different Type of Predator

Bam, crackle, smash....the sound came from the screened in back porch and the birds were screeching wildly. Kiwi and Lemonade, my two cockatiels love the back porch where they can perch freely here and there and fly about at their whim. They sometimes panic in the dark but not in the middle of the day. What could have startled them?

Opening the back door, the answer flew past me to perch on the screen - a small hawk. Kiwi and Lemonade were scuttling all over the area. We went after them to make sure they didn't end up as lunch for this predator. Squawkkkkk, but they let us pick them up, though my husband was pierced severely by Lemonade's beak. She did not intend to go down without a fight!

After releasing them into the house and seeing that they could fly, we took on the hawk. The screen on one side of the porch was torn, but it couldn't seem to find its way back out. Amazingly, it let me pluck it off the screen after attempting to escape twice. With its mouth open wide, its eyes glaring into mine, it rested limply in my hands. I scratched its head as I do the cockatiels and felt its wings relax a little. Its little heart was beating rapidly in my hand.

I took it outside and set in on a stump. Our worries that it was wounded from the repeated crashes into the screen were eased as it spread its wings and swooped up into the tree next door.
Bye little one. Next time you are hungry.......go look for a mouse!

We think it is an immature red shouldered hawk. That seems the closest match in the bird book. We have a pair in our area and knew they had nested this past year. I think we just met their offspring!


Sunday, November 2, 2008

Enjoying Freedom

It is good. I am smiling all over, inside and out, as I fill up my skin, snuggly and warm. Longing for oneself is so much nicer than longing for something that it unobtainable. I am here full, complete and at peace. Taking time to enjoy it has seemed important.

Now, how does this new becoming affect my relationship with God?

I began that relationship at the age of 17 with the intense longing for something outside of myself that spoke to my soul love, attention, and belonging. Disenchantment grew as nothing of God, the church, or anyone else for that matter filled that longing.

Anger remains. I imagine it will need airing out.

God is silent. Or is He? Who asked that question of me, "What if it is not Paul you are longing for? What if you are longing for yourself?"

Who stirred my heart to return to counseling and to seek a minister as a therapist?

Who has led me down this path for the past 8 years? 8 years? Why, if this is God, did He make it so dang hard and so very long? I have suffered and struggled. I have been shaken to my core. I am angry that this has been so arduous. I want life to be easy. Is that too much to ask?

Stupid songs we sing at church - I am the potter, You are the clay..... I surrender all...... Are we nuts!?

All of these are rambling thoughts but somewhere in them is my future.


Friday, October 31, 2008


My time in therapy was good and challenging this past week. I shared the news of my breakthrough and celebrated it a little. As I expected, Paul was slim with his praise but managed to get a little in via a "Now why would you ask me what I think, Di, when you obviously know how big this is." That was enough. It was as big as I thought.

My response to him was that he was the shrink - not me. When he asks me "Now why would you want to focus on me," I have started responding with the reason and the reason is often not so stupid as he makes me feel it sounds. I figure if I actually answer his question, maybe he will quit asking it. It is really irritating.

We pushed on to some more recent woundings within the walls of the church. Woundings I am not free to share the details of right now. Suffice it to say that I find myself seeing difficult situations as having two options - all in or all out, right or left, yes or no, truth or lies, black or white, etc.

During a recent encounter with a couple of folks, I felt I had two choices, to take the full blame for a situation I was only partly to blame for, or to defend myself revealing confidences I had promised to keep. I chose to keep my promise of silence and take the blame. Paul seemed to think I had sold myself out. I felt like I had quieted the flow of anger and opened the door to allow myself to speak. The words of anger had been torrential. They stopped and I was listened to once I took the blame.

As I discussed the painful situation, Paul challenged me to come up with some other options. I couldn't. He pushed. I still couldn't, so he gave me homework to come up with 10 other options. TEN! I exclaimed! You have got to be kidding!

I guess I have always seen things black and white from the time the second pastor pressed me for a kiss. Only recently had I shared with he and his wife my previous encounter with my youth pastor. Instead of ministry I opened the door to more abuse. When it came, I felt I had two choices, after all I had lost everything with his advance. One, I could walk away from his influence in my life and find another spiritual home; or I could go along with his advances. Even now I have a hard time imagining other options. Were there really more than two?

Sunday, October 26, 2008


This week began with two sessions in the shrinks office. Determined, I sought to get at the feelings Paul wanted me to experience.

How does it feel to see oneself as defective? What is it like to be shut down by yourself, to be told you cannot be yourself? How is it to tell oneself that you cannot be real?

I only pulled a blank to his questions. I was confused. My mind blank, my ability to verbally respond was silent. That which comes so easy for me had deserted me and all I found was emptiness. Me - who is seldom at a loss for words found myself unable to speak.

Paul pushed on until the end of the session but I could not break free. I could not connect with any of those emotions. All I felt was silence and confusion.

Then, at home, the first lightbulb came on. I would begin by yelling out to the world that I was finished being silent. The child who ran to her room angry, who was left alone with that anger, who eventually denied the anger and with it her right to express it, was choosing to voice that anger.

I called Paul and went back into therapy for day two. I yelled. I yelled to the world beyond his door. I yelled that I was not going to be silenced any longer. I yelled for the child. It was kind of fun. I talked about how it felt to have been told repeatedly in life that being myself was not acceptable. I didn't lack for words. But, when Paul asked me once again how it felt to silence myself or to be silenced by myself, I sat like a knot on a log - very silent.

It was frustrating, though he assured me I would get there. He also informed me that he would be out of the office the remainder of the week.
That evening the truth suddenly sank in. It was ME, not the world who was silencing me. It was no longer my parents, the church, or society who told me to be quiet and rock no boats. I know this sounds like a given - surely I must have realized that before - and I had - at one level. Now at a deeper level, the realization stunned me. All these years, the anger I had felt towards the universe was my own. It was me who was telling me that I could not be myself.

That is when I saw the picture of the two me's fighting that I described in the last post. Fear wrestled with anger. The fear of reprisal and rejection causes one part of me to try to silence the other. The other responds forcefully and angrily and spews that anger everywhere she speaks.

The realization humbled me. Sadness came. I thought about it, finally able to feel and trying to wrap my mind around all the feelings that I will need to express to Paul in therapy tomorrow. I knew that now I could answer his questions and was anxious to get on with it. Very anxious, like a claustrophobic in an tunnel is anxious to get out.

The old torment had begun. Slowly at first and then with immense intensity, I longed to be in Paul's office. I NEEDED to talk with him. I could not get my mind off of therapy. I HAD to be there. I hungered and thirsted for his attention. I was desperate.

At first I decided the thoughts of Paul were my mind's way of avoiding dealing with the pain of my self rejection but it grew nevertheless to agonizing proportions . Finally with the lust for Paul's nurture and attention at levels I have not experienced since the beginning of therapy with Cheryl 8 years ago, I had enough. I spoke out loud. "I will not go through again. I will quit. I was doing fine without Paul and I WILL NOT put myself through this kind of torment again."

Then I heard these words "What if the longing you feel isn't for Paul? Di, what if it is really yourself you are longing for?" With those two questions the shocking reality hit. Like a rubber band that is stretched to its limit and pops back to sting its shooter, so the truth stung me. In that moment I stretched my mind around the truth - it is myself I am longing for.

As the moment of clarity snapped into place, the horrendous torment released me. I was free. The addictive longing for Paul's attention ended. All of last night, all of today, it has been gone. Freedom. Blessed freedom.

I am looking forward to telling Paul these happenings but it is myself I long for, not Paul. No torment exists - just peace. I am quite sure Paul will avoid offering me any kind of praise lest I latch on to it. I am sure he will simply question me as to how it is with Di at this moment? Then he will find my limits and push more.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Two women, hair tied up, dressed in black tights and turtle necks, pit themselves against each other. Both are wrestling to throw the other down.

One is afraid of the other and the second hates the first.

This, I believe, is me.

Told in a thousand ways throughout life that to be me is wrong, I have embraced the belief that doing so will bring reprisal. With this belief comes great fear of that true one within.

Hush. Be silent. You shouldn't have said that. You will be hated. Shhhhhh. Draw no attention to yourself. Quiet....quiet....quiet!

The silenced one seethes with anger at fear's imprisonment, fighting to get past the halting of her words.

You will see, yells the first. I am protecting you.

You liar yells the second. You hateful bitch. I will scream the truth past you, until I am heard.

On they fight the never ending match.

Tossed between the need to speak truth and the fear of reprisal, I tense and wait. It is not the world that silences me, but myself.

Fear, be calm, for the worst reprisal, the only reprisal that can destroy you, is that you shove upon yourself.

Silenced one, speak, for I will hold fear and comfort her.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Truth in Therapy

As I left last week Paul commented on my getting on with dealing with my wounds. The comment was a spin off on treating myself as if I was defective rather than wounded. I have chewed on both comments this week. Funny how hard he tries to not lead me with his direction and yet he does anyway. I don't know why he doesn't just suggest a direction. This psychotherapy crap has a lot of crap in it. I am not going to change him so I choose to grow regardless of the method but I still think it is a lot of excess confusion.

As I have considered his leading remarks, I have realized that I have been shielding myself from the pain - hoping I can avoid it. It isn't working. Instead my anxiety rises. As I let myself admit the wounds I have experienced with the church the anxiety lessens. Feeling the hurt is much easier than hiding from it.

Instead of trying to convince myself that if I never heard again from the task force that is working on the misconduct policy, I would be fine; I admitted to myself that I would be hurt and angry. I decided it was worth recontacting the guy rather than sweeping it all under the rug. I immediately heard back from him. They have had a hard time all getting together and he still wants my input. Perhaps he is just talking but I choose to hope. His words ring honest and clear without a lot of excuses or pussy footing around the issue.

I realized that Reg has been stretching the truth and trying to placate me with his reports of "it is coming along" and "they are seriously considering what I wrote in my letter." I don't trust Reg very much though I wish I could. He is defensive and proud and very protective of his turf. I think he is also scared of me. A lawsuit from me would probably put the church in the state out of business. They are hanging on by a thread.

I think I have been trying to not be wounded, when I still am wounded. It is hard to not ever get over it. I cope a zillion times better than 8 years ago but I am still wounded. I feel like an alcoholic admitting I have an addiction. It also feels very freeing inside.


Monday, October 13, 2008

What Am I Built Upon?

I haven't written much lately because I haven't known exactly what to say about my journey in the present. I am still working with Paul but it is the most uncomfortable therapy relationship I have experienced. Paul is 100% pure psychotherapist and he has evidently had enough practice that he has it all down pat.

Paul refuses to let me lapse into seeking his approval in any form. He doesn't even accept it when I ask him if I am doing what he thinks I am supposed to be doing. That is taking the focus off myself and putting it on him - according to him.

He pushes me relentlessly and at times I have no clue what it is he is after. Of course upon hearing that statement he would point out that I am once again focussing on him and should be deciding what it is that I am after.

I am beginning to wonder why exactly he is there......

Today I managed to get some anger out that I have been carrying deep inside. Managing to share it and not pooh-pooh it away is difficult. I feel as if I have been here long enough for anyone and should surely be finished with this stuff. Paul says I seem more focussed on being good at therapy than on working on my stuff. At that point, I fought back. I may suffer from caring what he thinks - dang who wouldn't in that kind of setting, and I may think I am good at therapy after 8 years of it but I am not more concerned about my appearance in therapy than I am at getting well. He underestimates me. And perhaps he is simply challenging me to stand up for myself.

When I asked if I could trust him, if I opened up my deepest emotions towards God, Paul turned it around (oh aren't they good at that) and asked if he could trust me not to take something he said and hurt myself with it all week. I thought about it and replied that I trusted myself to not hurt myself with something he said. I had not done this before with him. I was honest. I do trust myself in that respect. Paul then replied that NO, I did not trust myself that I did not display to him that I trusted myself. At that point I butted in and simply said that I thought he was wrong - that I will not and have not done this. His reply, "I hope you give more weight to what you believe than what I believe."

A week ago I would have left frustrated and quiet but this week I challenged him and refused a couple of statements he made. I think this is what he is after.

He left me with a thought: You present yourself as one who is defective instead of one who is wounded. On this one - he is right. I believe I am defective. For most of my life I have believed something was wrong with me.


Monday, September 8, 2008

The Good Girl

I shared with Paul this evening about the two me's that existed when I was 17. The me that was seeking God and the me that was sleeping with Bob. Paul asked me how I felt about those two me's. My feelings shocked me.

I felt love and compassion and understanding towards the me who was having sex with Bob. I have accepted her and love her. That step has been real for me. However, I feel anger and hatred towards the me who was seeking God. This completely shocked me. Why would I hate her? For what am I angry?

The picture I see of her is a young lady walking away from me with her back turned. Is my hatred for her coming out of my shame over my questioning God? Am I angry at her because she has all the answers and I now have none of them? At the same time I love and identify with the humaness of me that was sleeping with Bob.

I am not sure of the answers, only of the feelings.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Back to Work

Well, it is back to work in more ways than teaching. I do my best therapeutic work when I am not off for the summer anyway. Regular work keeps me occupied so I don't spend my whole day focussed on the emotional/mental/spiritual work.
Last week I paid a visit to a local pastoral couselor, Stephen, that I have corresponded with via email. I have "God" issues I would like to deal with in a more intense way than dynamics with my pastor allows. However, the couselor I wanted to see is booked. He suggested another and I met him on Tuesday. I'm not sure what I think. This guy Paul is pure psychotherapist and that really isn't what I am wanting. It may be what I am needing or can at least use, but it is not what I set out to get.

I want a pastor who understands the therapeutic process, one I can let it all out with and get angry at if necessary. I need someone who won't get defensive and I won't have to constantly explain my transference to. I want someone who understands the fact that my "stuff" is going to get smeared on him and it may have little to do with him.

I am sure Paul can do all of that, but he doesn't seem to want to assume the more open role of a pastor versus the more blank slate role of a psychotherapist. I will talk with him more about this next week and see where things go. After all I can go back and do psychotherapy with Dan and I already trust and know Dan. Though, I am not sure I haven't milked Dan for most of what he has to give. I have internalized most of the wonderful stuff Dan taught me.

Last night, I found myself mighty frustrated with Paul's blank slate and realized almost immediately that my frustration is really with God. Who is he anyway? Where was he when my pastor was abusing me? I find myself emotionally beating against this great shiny black wall to what seems no avail.

At 17 I cried out for God believing that there must be something more than the flimsy relationship I had been taught could exist. In the time two things happened. I encountered God in a fresh and real way. I also encountered a youth pastor who abused me. So, if God will not give you a stone when you ask for bread, why did Bob happen? If you say, "Well that was Satan," then why didn't he stop Satan? Isn't that the same thing as giving me the stone?

I was crying out with my whole heart for God. I do not know how to answer the pain in my heart.


Monday, July 21, 2008

Gosh, I Have Been Away a Long Time......

........ but the break was needed.

This summer has been a time of restoration and rest for me. I have played golf, put puzzles together, played Canasta with my mom, read, and taken a wonderful trip with my love to New England. We just returned on Saturday.

Since I last wrote, I had three disks in my neck fused and quite a few bone spurs removed. The surgery was a success and I can type now without my hands going to sleep or my back hurting.

I also terminated therapy for the time being. Dan and I both agreed that I was doing most of the work myself. More importantly, I felt for the first time in 8 years, the ability to stand on my own. Dan is there if I need him, a phone call or email away, but I have been fine these last two months. Writing this gives me the opportunity to celebrate that milestone.

I imagine therapy will be a part of my life again in the future when life offers me difficulties. It has been such a powerful place of healing that I see it in much the same way as the medical doctor or surgeon. If I need the care, I will seek it out.

The state church has remained in touch and they are continuing to work on the new misconduct policy. I recently heard from Reg that they are paying close attention to my suggestions. The head of the committee called me right after my surgery and with vacations and recovery I have not managed to get back in touch with him in person though messages have been left. His message to me was respectful and encouraging and I will try again soon to contact him by phone. I expect to sit down with the committee in the future.

In my spirit I have felt at peace and hopeful. I have not felt any need to press further.

Balancing my own need for a season of rest with the never ending need of those who have been hurt and the need to educate the church is impossible. For the first time in my healing, I am at peace walking away from my story and allowing other forces in my life to be absorbing.


Friday, April 18, 2008

Talking the Shame Away

As I talked with Dan last week about the importance of talking about any issue that I felt shame over, I realized why it works so well for me. Let me see if I can put it into words.
Any thing that is "not to be talked about" equals shame to me. From time to time I still hear my name stretched out in the surprised whine of my mother's voice when I do something or say something that is "just not done or said." I was taught to handle anything uncomfortable by not discussing it and stuffing it away as if it did not exist. The concept that silence and shame went hand in hand was embedded in my brain in multiple instances I can recall and probably hundreds I do not.

Now when shame surfaces, I find myself wanting to hide it away, but find myself also incapable of doing so any longer. Sooner or later I must take it out and look at it and speak it. In sharing it, I am declaring my struggling belief that it is not shameful. As I speak it, I am defending that child within that was herself hidden in shame and declaring she is not shameful. Finding my voice and my own declaration, I break the binds of the past's power over me. Shame crumbles.

I used to need to talk a lot, and always. I often emotionally exposed myself to others seeking out their approval because the shame inside was so non-approving. I began this blog at a time that I desperately needed to share my story - no longer for any one else's approval but to declare my own approval of who I am and what I have experienced. To hide it equalled shame; to share it means I am free from shame. I needed a place where I could declare what I was determined to deeply believe - that I am not shame-filled and the path I have walked is not reason to feel shame.

As time has passed, I am no longer driven to type and declare. Sometimes I write out of committment and belief that there is purpose in this. Sometimes I don't write at all because I just don't need to. Sometimes I throw out a little fact like my masturbating at a young age to declare one more thing off the taboo list.

If it can be talked about then it is not shameful. If it is shameful you must not talk about it. It was deeply engrained in me and I now use it to find freedom.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008


Looks like another break from school may be imminent. I saw the neurosurgeon today and we looked at the MRI I had done last week of my neck. Pain and numbness have been the norm for me on and off for 20 years. The past couple of years has seen a constant numbness in my face and intermittent pain. When the pain a few weeks ago began to interfere with my ability to play golf, I said, "This is enough!"

I was surprised when the MRI showed enough pressure on my spinal cord that the doctor was willing to do surgery. I am hoping to have a go at it in a couple of weeks. I am EXCITED that a lot of things I have enjoyed and had to give up may return. I will be able again to play golf without worry, bike, bowl, and maybe even back pack a little. If you saw how overweight I am, you would be laughing your head off at me.....but hey, why not? Maybe I will even take tennis back up. I used to be pretty good at it.

Don't know where the money is coming from to pay the deductible but we will charge it if we have too. Freedom is too good to consider letting it pass me by for any further length of time.


Monday, April 14, 2008

More Shame Defeated; More Questions Asked

My visit with Dan last week melted that shame away. (Read the last post.) When I am in the thick of it, I can't see the way out, but I have learned if I will talk, the shame will fade. In talking with Dan there truly is no shame. Quite an amazing relationship. Could this be the way God desires to relate to us?

Guilt if appropriate is healthy, but when shame coats your life it destroys everything - even your ability to walk away from things that lead to more shame. Shame becomes a force of its own devouring all truth.

As a child I began masturbating around the age of 9 or 10. According to Dan, not unusual for a female. This was a long time ago and at least in my home this subject was not acknowledged. Instead anything to do with one's sexuality was avoided and the message that parts of my body were dirty and yukky was instilled.

I thought I must be really weird and rather childishly believed that something must be wrong and evil about me to have discovered this new experience. I could not imagine how I stumbled onto such an intense happening. I assumed I was the only person to have ever done this. When I discussed with Dan the drive I had felt at that age and how horrible I felt about myself, (I think I used the word horrendous. I saw myself as horrendous.) he reminded me that what we despise in ourselves often becomes our focus as we try to work out the issue outside of our minds. If masturbation is OK and a natural part of growing up, we imbibe but are not so driven. If we are hiding it in shame and darkness, it begins to consume us mentally and then physically.

Dismantling this past with Dan and talking without any shame, I found freedom from my present sense of shame. I wish I could develop a recipe that always worked one certain way, but one ingredient I have discovered is that freedom from shame ALWAYS involves bringing the issue into the open and out into the light. At first it took a lot of talking to break myself of the self hatred that accompanies the shame. As I have gained more health the amount of talking has greatly decreased. Extending grace to myself comes much more easily and being human is something I rejoice in.

So the shame issue is dealt with for the moment but the faith issue is not. On one hand, I feel as if I am embracing the reality of God's grace and so much of what I have learned in therapy has aligned with the message of grace. Law brings death. Grace brings life and freedom.

This sounds good but so much of the Bible is law. Go back to Leviticus and you find it says, It is better to put your seed into a whore than to spill it on the ground. Now, I am sorry but that sounds like some pretty stupid advice. Should I recommend this to the students I teach? I think not!

Yes, I understand that the author was coming from a totally different view of "seed." I also know that for years I said I believed that the Bible was THE infallible word of God. If that is so then what has brought me life isn't supposed to work. So I can continue to lean toward another more frightening view of the Bible - that it is human composed and while inspired by God it was filtered through humans, or I can say that I belief it IS completely God's word and continue to throw out the parts I don't like which really means I am lying to myself. You know, like woman having the heads covered. I haven't ever covered my head unless it is freezing outside.

So what is the answer? It is a scary question.

Tom, my pastor, says that doubt is not separate from faith but part of it. It was a lot more comfortable though when I just stuffed my questions away and did not try to answer them.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Shame Again!

This shame issue is really frustrating. For the past few months I have been defeating it in my life everywhere. My relationship with my husband has shown the fruit. Our lives have become intimate in a new way. I am not sure I can even explain the place of acceptance and freedom from shame that I have felt with him these past months.

Then on Saturday, I was thinking how here I am at 52 feeling more sexual and more sexual freedom than I have felt since I was.......... and then the memories hit. And with them came the shame. It was as if I was being smothered. I began to panic as it overtook me.

I did what I know to do and quieted myself and assured myself that I could get past this too. If I had more I needed to deal with then so be it. I went to be hoping it would be gone by the next day. It was not.

Sunday I shared sexually intimate time with my husband and though everything was fine physically, I was not fine. I was not fine because I was not me. I felt the way I had felt for years - lost. Only I would not have described it that way before I knew there was something better. It was as if I was not there in some realm - perhaps spiritually. I went through the physical motions but a part of me was not there. Afterwards I fought panic even more. Finally I talked with my husband and that helped.

Today we have held hands and hugged and spent time together. I feel safe and accepted but I did not want to go beyond that. I am afraid.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Talking Openly About Sex

How about you, have you ever talked about sex with a member of the opposite sex who you were not emotionally or sexually involved with? It is not exactly most people's choice of a dinner table conversation.

Bob was a pro. He could talk about sex as if it was the weather. At 17, I found that fascinating and tantalizing and freeing. He awed me talking about a topic that my parents could not even admit existed. Yet, he too bent the topic and made it unhealthy.

I have now, in my marriage, an open and vulnerable and safe relationship and sex has never been better. Being so completely open and vulnerable with one you love and trust is a heady sensation - knowing your imperfections are accepted as you accept his. Safe and secure and sex all go together so nicely! And fun too. I am learning that sometimes sex is just for fun.

I needed to take the topic out and discuss it and perhaps undo some of what Bob did. So, I did just that in another safe and secure environment. This week with my therapist, Dan, I talked. And, he talked. It was a really neat conversation. Personal but with healthy boundaries. Sex was not shameful and neither of us felt shame. We talked about our very human thoughts and lusts. I talked openly. More openly than I think I ever have. It was so freeing and safe. I celebrated my own boundaries and the healthy way I handle myself now.

So, I talked about sex with a man 15 years younger and felt sexual and knew he surely did too. Neither of us needed to use the other. We both had boundaries and we both cared for one another.

I wouldn't recommend this with someone that isn't a professional, but with a professional, it was freeing and what a long way from the sex conversations with Bob!

Thursday, March 6, 2008


After a fight with the flu, that I am not sure I have won , I decided I was past due for a post. Flu and strep are going around voraciously at school and church and I was running a touch of fever again this afternoon.

Mostly I have just been tired - physically, emotionally, and spiritually. I spent my therapy session with Dan discussing a need to just rest for awhile. My heart is just not into giving my all. Then, upon arriving home I discovered an email from the regional minister asking me if I had the updated suggestions ready to be handed to the task force. So much for an emotional rest but his taking the initiative to prod me on was very encouraging. He could have just moved on and not mentioned me when they first meet next week. Instead he chose to find out where I was in the process.

So, I spent two hours Tuesday evening finishing the letter and list of suggestions that I had begun to write prior to my episode with the flu. I sent it on its way and then heard back from Reg tonight. His reply is hopeful:

"Diane, I did get it and wanted to say to you that I appreciated the way you worded your letter and the spirit which came through. It really is a submission with suggestions based upon a desire to move things ahead. Thank you very much. I will send this off to the sub committee and let them be aware of it as they start."

As for my typed suggestions - they were worded as carefully and gently as I could but I did not soften my desires. Here they are:

1. Include in the policy "a copy of the misconduct policy will be delivered, faxed, emailed, or mailed to the victim on the day a report is initiated."
2. Specify the number (or range) of individuals to be appointed to each section of the response team and what if any overlap of members with the ministry commission or regional office will be allowed.
3. Clarification of the meaning of “discipline committee”. What are its procedures? Who composes it?
4. The addition to the policy that the victim and the accused will have the opportunity to speak directly to the discipline committee if they so choose.
5. Clarify whether the accused will have access to the victim’s statement and vice versa.
6. Implementation of zero tolerance for sexual misconduct and loss of standing within the region upon a finding of guilt.
7. Require psychological testing of all ministers accused of misconduct.
8. The requirement that the boards of all prior regions and churches will be notified when guilt is established – especially when a question of predation exists.
9. Assure that the policy adequately covers situations when:
a. the victim is an adult
b. the victim is a child
c. when reporting is occurring years following the abuse
10. Include in the policy the way a victim will be offered an official apology on behalf of the church.

Though it would be nice to simply blast ahead, my hope is to gain the trust of those I am sharing with. I have no desire to hurt anyone and only hope to see positive come from all this. I think the relief I have heard from the regional minister in the last two emails has expressed his relief that I am not seeking to expose my predator. Though I would disagree with this need were he not retired, I have no desire to embarrass or damage my perpetrators daughter or son-in-law's ministry. He struck me as a good and honest man and his words gained my respect. I see no need to hurt anyone as long as Bob stays away from the ministry and my voice is received.

My letter, that accompanied the list of submissions explained my connections to the church and requested an opportunity to sit down with the task force personally to share my suggestions. Hopefully sometime soon after next Wednesday I will hear a positive response from the task force.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

You Won't Believe This

I am sitting here with my friend, Sandy, who has also experienced abuse at the hands of a youth minister. Living far out of state, she flew in on Friday and we have spent the last two days getting to know each other.

Sandy and I are the same young age of 52, both came to know Jesus at the same age of 14, were both molested the same year, 1972, both have 2 children the same ages, and have both been married the same number of years. Sandy's birthday is the same as my son's, and my birthday is the same as her daughter's. My anniversary is her sister's birthday. We both studied to be nurses and no longer work as a nurse. We both play at the game of golf.

Both Sandy and I reported our abuser during our late 40's and we both still deal with the implications and affects of the abuse. Both abusers maintain good standing with the region in which they were licensed, though they are now retired.

Our hearts are similar. Having both forgiven, we seek to prevent further abuse at the hands of our abuser and others. We look for ways to strengthen and improve policies concerning pastoral sexual abuse.

We have both dealt with regional ministers in our efforts - Sandy having talked to members of the general (national) church counsel as well. We have both been heard but experienced frustration over the lack of response. Due to the time that had elapsed in both of our cases, both ministers were allowed to continue in ministry, albeit with monitoring.

Should passage of time diminish the consequences? Is it possible to be safe after living years of your life as a predator? Should a denomination risk the lives of those entrusted to their care? Neither one of these men could be hired as an educator, counselor, or therapist. Yet, the church hires them to be the spiritual guide for God's flock.

These men deserve all the love and grace God gives to all of us, but they deserve that love and grace sitting in the third row of the church, not standing in the pulpit.

Sandy's experience with the regional minister was more disturbing than mine. Unlike my report, hers was substantiated by witnesses, by the birth of a child of his next victim, and by his subsequent removal from ministry. Three years later, following a year and a half of therapy, he was reinstated to the ministry. When he left that state, his files remained in the region where he was disciplined and were never transfered to the new region.

When contacted by Sandy, the new regional minister was unaware of any detail of her abuser's past, only that he had at one time been disciplined. He did not feel it was important to know any details but chose to trust the other region's reinstatement. Thus, a known predator had been allowed to pastor a congregation for 13 years with no one there being aware of his past.

Sandy found this unacceptable and intended to write the elders of the church. After seeing the letter she had written, the regional minister responded in a letter with these words: "....I have doubts that sending the letter, like the one you drafted, will bring you healing. Instead, I would be afraid that the damage to people's faith, the damage to their sense of security and relationships, the damage to their ability to trust, and the collapse of their spiritual dreams would weigh upon your spirit. If you were to send such a letter, you would know in your heart that you may have single handedly (emphasis mine) vetoed the experience of God's grace for many, many people. That to me would be quite a load to carry. I believe it would create new wounds for you."

Sandy responded: "You said that if I were to send the letter to the officers of the church 'it would weigh upon my spirit.' On the contrary, failing to send the letter will result in everlasting regret if anyone is ever again the victim of (minister's name) despicable misconduct. I was a victim because those who knew (of his prior misconduct) failed to protect me."

Needless to say, Sandy notified the elders.

The very thing this regional minister suggested Sandy would do to a congregation by sending a letter, had already been done to her. To seemingly manipulate her in such a way was horrendous.

This weekend we have used the "s" word a lot. While shaking our heads in disbelief the word "stupid" had leaked from our lips excessively! Why is it that church leadership fails time and again to remove ministers from their positions, only to allow them to prey again upon the unsuspecting? The regional minister's head in the sand mentality would truly be laughable if it were not so painful.

Thursday, February 14, 2008


I never thought that one word could sound so good! But, last night it sounded better than I ever imagined. I received a reply from the regional minister and for the first time I feel truly honored and heard. His first paragraph is worth quoting:

"Last night, at Ash Wednesday service, the thought came to me as I sat in silence that I need to say something to you on behalf of the whole church. As a person charged to speak for the church I need to extend an apology. At a time when you should have been nurtured and growing in faith, you were abused and set back in your faith. That was wrong and on behalf of the church, I am sorry."

Now that is powerful! Not only did he apologize but he recognized it as abuse - not misconduct, not a difficult experience, not sexual misbehavior, or some other nice way of saying it - but ABUSE. My heart was touched and as I sat in traffic reading the letter, sobs broke out of my soul.

He continued to say that he still intended to present my request to the task force, appreciated and accepted my request to rewrite my thoughts, and apologized if any wording he used earlier had caused me distress. It isn't perfect, but at least I know where he is now.

As far as monitoring issues with Bob and my questions that have not been answered, it seems the file is slim, and to discover the answers he would have to dig and disrupt a congregation from which my perpetrator has retired. Were he still there, I would deem that necessary. Since he is gone, I understand his reticence though I am not sure it is really for their best interest. I'm not sure I agree with him but this time he was upfront and honest as to his thoughts and feelings. I can deal with that. Transparency goes a long way with me.

He refers to the statement I made in my last email as to his role as regional minister and my questions making it a difficult place to walk: "It is indeed. Thanks for your openness to the understanding that I cannot do all that you would like in the way you would like. I continue to work towards a solution that will give us both ease about this and the ability to move on." In that statement and the rest of the paragraph, I hear a man struggling to meet the needs of all and finding it a sticky place to reside.

He ends once again with that word "abuse". "Be assured that I continue to pray for you and for all involved in the abuse you suffered."

It is amazing how much power a timely response with a heartfelt apology carries. That one word, that has been so hard for me to accept, has now been spoken by one in a place of authority in the church. There is freedom for me in hearing this declaration!
I am touched.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Prickly Issues

I had a conversation with Tom tonight that went well. He is concerned with how this is affecting my relationship with God and the local church. I don't think it is distorting either and I appreciate his pastoral heart in offering his time. I didn't ask for it - he offered.

I struggle to not slip back into the needy child when I am with him. Part of me really wants to in order to be coddled and given some nurturing attention; yet, I managed to stay the adult and even argue some minor points with him.

Tom would not wager a guess as to the regional minister's response to my email. I think he is glad I ventured out one more time for clarification. My expectation is that I will not hear back from him until after the task force meets and then it will be to tell me that he gave them my suggestions and they were grateful.

One of the elders (the head elder) at church is pretty torn up by all this. He is the only lay person that is aware of it all. He has a 17 year old daughter and I am sure that plays into his facing the reality. Never having given this issue much thought, as he looks at it now, he is discovering how rampant of a sin it is. His heart is truly grieved and he is considering taking a step toward contacting someone in order to assure me a place to share. I listened to him sob tonight at the altar. I have no doubt that some of those tears were over the church's response to me and other victims. Between he and my sister-in-law maybe something even bigger than I hoped for will be stirred up. It is truly time for the church to take this issue out from under the basket and deal with it. It is time for congregations to be educated as to how often this occurs and how to spot perpetrators and what to do when they expect one.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

A Good Session

It is hard to bare myself at times but if this blog is going to offer to others anything different then it does no good to hide in shame. My session with Dan this evening offered me some good stuff. I discussed all the happenings of the last week and my feelings of frustration, betrayal, and pain. Dan asked me how I felt I needed to respond which I soon turned around to ask him what he thought. He reminded me of the picture I had painted for him of myself meeting my second perpetrator and lying down to hide myself from those that might see me riding in the car with him. It was such a powerfully shame filled memory. Dan's suggestion for now is that whatever I choose to do needs to be the opposite of that shame filled picture. What that means, he would never attempt to define for me, but encouraged me to seek for the response and image that is the opposite.

For the present, I only know that silence, in the present, is equal to the shame filled hiding of the past. My choice is to speak. My dream is to speak to ministers, congregations, seminaries, and anyone else that is willing to hear my story and what I have learned through my journey.

How do I get from point A to point B when the church does not want to hear the truth. I asked my sister-in-law why the church is so afraid of the truth. She replied "truth hurts". Mary also honored my tenacity in this pursuit. She is looking for a way to help my pursuit to be heard.

I feel sort of like gum that is stuck on the floor in my classroom. The powers that be (me and administration) did not want it in my classroom, but it came anyway and stuck itself firmly to my floor. There is no way to sweep it underneath the carpet. It is stubbornly stuck and going no where. And so am I. I suppose I can bombard a lot of folks with the truth, stubbornly refusing to be swept away - the question that remains is "how?"

Monday, February 4, 2008

Betrayal?? Deception?? Or something else??

What a title, huh?

I went back and read the regional minister's email to me last September in order to compare it to the one he sent me this past week. His change in tone and wording is disturbing.

In September he wrote: "Because the Ministry Commission has such an incredible workload, we felt it would get things accomplished quicker if we appointed a separate panel. That panel is being appointed and as soon as they begin meeting we will find an opportunity for your input to them. I can’t predict the time line right now, but wanted to let you know that we are serious about responding to the issues you have raised and want to do so in a timely fashion."

Last week he wrote: "I am aware you desire a personal session with them but I cannot say right now whether or not that will happen. "

I think that is a major change, wouldn't you? So, is it betrayal, deception, or something else?


Saturday, February 2, 2008


Years ago before my mom had cataract surgery, I took her shopping for a dress to wear to a wedding. She picked out a lovely one but I was surprised to see it was purple - a color she seldom wore. I had a feeling she was not seeing it clearly and pointed out to her that purple was an unusual color for her to choose. Being my loving but stubborn mother, she insisted it was navy blue! I calmly told her it was purple. Finally she asked the sales clerk just in order to prove me wrong. It was purple!

Like my mom and the purple dress, I see the church and pastors through damaged lenses. Time after time, I find myself struggling to know the truth in the present because the past distorts it.

In reading the regional ministers late reply to my requests I experienced the same. My first response was to only see his "no's" and his wishy washy political efforts to pat me on the back and send me on my way. Then I reread it and thought surely I was completely mistaken the first time and went into a state of feeling shamed by my reaction. This man sounds so gentle and kind. Then finally I read it a third time and was just flat confused because both are evident.

I somehow expect that the truth is somehow a mismash of all of the above.

Though I had sworn that I would not reply to his email I gave it one more swing this morning. I don't know if I am simply stubborn like my mom, hearing the voice of God, being a fool, or all of these options. I have chosen to risk once more.

The regional minister promised to give my typed suggestions to the task force. This sounds encouraging on the surface, however I have specifically asked for the opportunity to do so myself. I asked this time to be able to trim down and organize my thoughts and remove any reference to Bob, and to include a letter to the task force. In it, I will personally make my case for speaking to them myself. I also asked if he is planning to encourage them to allow me the opportunity to speak. If he chooses the wishy washy on that, I will know he does not.

I also offered him an education on dealing with victims and enlightened him on the pain and damage his waiting so long to answer my questions had caused. I asked him to consider that and to answer me in a timely manner.
No answer this time will speak loudly. I have confronted him in truth but without angst over the power he carries to wound or heal. If he does not choose to heal then I will know his true heart. We will see. Only time will tell.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

The Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) Failed to Protect Me

As of this evening, I feel no need to protect the denomination of which my perpetrator was a part. I have received a well written and seeminly caring response from the regional minister but I am discouraged with his answers.

It began when they certified a predator to be my pastor when I was 17 and he abused me.

Then they did not follow procedure when I reported him 7 years ago.

Once I realized that fact this past August and asked to be given the answers to several questions, the regional minister put me off for 5 months and then finally tonight told me he could not answer my questions. I am grateful to finally hear something but angry that it took 5 months.

Finally, last August I requested to speak to the ministry commission to be told "No, but a task force was being appointed and my request to speak would be presented to them as soon as they met." There was much positive to hope for in that statement, though it would ultimately be the decision of the task force. I felt with the support of the regional minister they would choose to hear me. Now I hear a much watered down statement as to my being able to speak. The regional minister cannot offer me any assurity that this will happen.

I am angry and wrestle to hold on to the truth that this is not a statement about my value. I am sad that the denomination of the church I have been attending is no more concerned for a sheep than this shows. I am also determined to not be silenced.

How do we force the church to take its head out of the sand? Do we have to suck the sand away so they have nothing in which to bury it? Will God send a wave to wash the sand from around their heads? Am I part of that wave?

I so wanted to find a voice in a setting that would cause no damage to anyone but could make an impression that could bring a positive change for the future. Once again the church disappoints me.

Sunday, January 27, 2008


Yesterday afternoon I attended my second SNAP meeting (Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests). My presence will be more frequent now since they have changed their meetings to Saturdays.

I met 3 new survivors. One fellow was experiencing the presence of other survivors for the first time. It is a radical experience to know you are no longer the only one out there.

We each shared something that had helped us heal. We talked of therapy and relating to ourselves. We talked of shame and the exorbitant about of time it takes to heal from the shame. We talked about triggers that set us off in the present. We compared notes on depression and panic attacks. We shared tears and pieces of our stories. We listened and we nodded and we loved. We discussed God and all the questions that have besieged us about His existence and His goodness.

Sameness. That is what stood out to me. Everyone knew. Everyone understood. Everyone had shared in the same emotions, the same turmoil, the same pain.

I was moved in a unique way.

I kept thinking - if only church government could hear what I am hearing. If only they could hear the cries of pain. If only they saw the struggles over faith. Would they still turn their heads away and treat this sin lightly?

We shook hands and hugged and left.

The meeting ended. The day ended. But, the richness of the sharing will travel with me.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Confused and Ashamed

I haven't written in a month because I have been emotionally smothered under thick layers of shame. I felt ashamed of having to write that the same old issues were defeating me. When I unearthed my relationship with the second pastor, and began dealing with it in therapy, the shame from that relationship broke over me like a tsunami and overwhelmed me. Finally this last week the ultimate question arose in therapy.

"Why is this taking me so long, Dan?" I asked it, voice cracking and heart begging for him to tell me that I was not a failure. I realized from the panicked tone of my voice that shame was at the bottom.

What Dan offered was comforting. For those of you seeking your healing from pastoral sexual abuse, listen clearly.

"Not many choose to confront this. Most leave it stuffed down and undealt with. Not many go this deep. Most get caught in the pursuit of false love and never break free of the "plastic" relationships. They go to their grave having fallen victim over and over because they can't face it all. Plastic lilies sit on their graves. You are facing it. This is no small thing you are doing. You are taking the road less traveled and it takes time to traverse it."

For all of you out there who also face the shame and sometimes find it overwhelming , who shudder at the pain, who wonder how much longer, may Dan's words to me give you comfort.