Release

By Maddie Young

“One of the most courageous decisions you’ll ever make is to finally let go of what is hurting your heart and soul.” - Brigitte Nicole 

{release :// to free from confinement, bondage, obligation, pain, etc.; let go ; to free from anything that restrains, fastens, etc.}

There I sat, indian style on the lush green grass. My black yoga pants with a brush swipe of white paint on the knee and royal blue oversized T-shirt. “Shriners hospital for children,” printed in the top left corner. Hair thrown up wildly in a sloppy ponytail. The humidity seemed suffocating which lead to feeling gross and sticky. It’s the first day of fall but there were no signs of crisp wind or chunky sweaters anytime soon. That’s the south for you though. Airplanes roaring by like thunderous storm clouds and cicadas creating that distinguished sound. The day’s makeup nearly smeared completely off. I am an utter mess. 

There was this clear picture painted in my head. Matching colored balloons, each holding pieces of various letters inside. Atop the mountain overlooking the magnificent view right as the sun set. With my best friend capturing the moments as I released the helium filled latex. It would be perfect. Full of symbolism and faith. A joyous moment filling me with pride. 

Except this is nothing how it went. Grass smooshed between my toes, I took my mismatched balloons and plopped down in the side yard. I was angry and disappointed. Plans had fallen through and isolation was settling in. The image sculpted in my head was breaking down piece by piece. Part of me didn’t want to release anything anymore. I didn’t care about moving forward in recovery. Subconsciously, I was clinging to the discomfort and despondency created by my father, sister, ED and the monster. Emotional mind fogging up the view of wise mind. Tears began to fall. First gently then more aggressively. 

The sun was ready to turn in for the night and I was still gripping tightly to the white strings. Salty water droplets streaming steadily down my freckley cheeks. Clicking open the Pandora app, I choose Hillsong United in hopes my stubborn monster will shut up. Attempting to clear my mind the best I could and grow present in the moment, my heart is filled with the Holy Spirit. Jesus relit the fire inside my soul but I could feel the enemy seeking to suffocate the red orange flames. The world seemed to be spinning slowly, like a snail searching for food, yet the worship songs were adjusting momentarily. As the tears continued to roll, I allowed my heart to open up fully to embrace the complete rawness and brokenness. The moment my Heavenly Father was anxiously waiting for.   

Staring intensely at the mismatched balloons, subconsciously I think, “this shouldn’t be this hard.” Thirty seven minutes had passed and as I was on the verge of giving up, “I am not alone” by Kari Jobe blares out of the iphone. The angelic words capture my breath. 

When I walk through deep waters

I know that You will be with me

When I'm standing in the fire

I will not be overcome

Through the valley of the shadow

I will not fear

I am not alone

I am not alone

You will go before me

You will never leave me

In the midst of deep sorrow

I see Your light is breaking through

The dark of night will not overtake me

I am pressing into You

Lord, You fight my every battle

And I will not fear

You amaze me

Redeem me

You call me as Your own

You're my strength

You're my defender

You're my refuge in the storm

Through these trials

You've always been faithful

You bring healing to my soul

Keyboard notes filling the atmosphere. It’s as if the song was written specifically for me in this treacherous battle. My mind closes off the rest of the chaotic, monster filled world. It’s only me and Jesus. All that I could ever need in this moment. Swirls of orange and pink braid into strips of grey. “I am not alone” resonating deep within my soul. Gazing up at the jet black, sunshine yellow and violet purple balloons, with glossed over eyes, timing seemed just right. Taking in a deep breath, I slowly unwrap my crinkled hands. 

As if staying in path of my year of transition, a wave of relief washes over me. Ten balloons filled with shreds of paper drift off into eternity. Dusk has fallen over the country pumpkin town and I’m embraced with a sweet blanket of peace. The sliver of the moon greeting me with its warm white glow while the sun states its final goodbyes for the day. 

This is the ultimate transition. I feel that Jesus has been brewing this one for awhile now. Probably the hardest yet but also the most elegant and charming. Moments like this shift my perspective. My Heavenly Father doesn’t care how many Instagram likes I get or how perfect a Facebook post is. Instead, He wants my authentic, pure, broken self. While I see imperfections and unworthiness at times, my Father looks at me with the brightest smile and claims that I am chosen and holy. He welcomes my brokenness with open arms. He calls me beautiful one and vastly loved. 

They say, “the best view comes after the hardest climb” and this was my climb. 

I Am Not Alone By Kari Jobe: https://youtu.be/Ow4OfW4DP9s 

Maddie Young

Maddie Young

Manna

By Madison Garrett

The stories of the Lord do not end in ashes. 

The stories of the Lord do not end in ashes. 

The stories of the Lord do not end in ashes.  

I repeat this to myself over and over as we drive through a Suwanee sunset to Room 411.

The stories of the Lord do not end in ashes. 

It’s a prayer and a plea and a desperate kind of hunger, a howl for the Lord to be who He says He is. It is my longing, my belief, my guttural cry and hopeful rage that calamity, chaos, and cancer will not write the story.

It’s the second weekend in a row we’ve spent in the hospital, the second weekend in a row we’ve ordered pizza or gone for burgers because no one has the energy to cook, and the second weekend in a row we’ve given all of our energy to bring Christ-light to a florescently lit hospital room. We keep making jokes that it feels like Christmas, with the most recent hurricane sending Atlanta a brisk cold front that wipes away any trace of August as we settle softly into September. This September, as it turns out, is full of anniversaries, surprise surgeries, and more desperate laughter in dreaded waiting rooms. And, unexpectedly, that same longing for Christmas, for hope, for joy, is here too. That same desperate anticipation for a reprieve is here. The longing and desire for lightness, for Jesus, is here. We sing Christmas Carols around the hospital bed even though its the second week of September and we make dad and our friends laugh- and in that laughter we can breath a little bit deeper.

Joy feels really hard these days. It doesn’t feel natural. It feels like a fight, like a constant standard I cannot match, like pressure, like disenchantment, like despair. Joy feels like despair because it doesn’t come easily and I don’t always have the courage to fight for it- and that doesn’t seem okay. That seems inherently wrong, like I’m not doing this season well enough or believing hard enough and where is the God of Justice in all this anyway? The God who says He will fight for us if we are just still- how do I find Him admits all the hurricane victims and displaced refugees and cancer patients running out of patience and the families camping out on window sills and bedsides and waiting rooms, unable to really sleep deeply at night, laughing because it feels rawer and realer than tears? Where is the God who promises to repay the years the locusts ate? Where is the Jesus who looks at His Beloved and says “Your faith has made you well”? Where is the Lover walking with me, coming up alongside me out of the wilderness? Where is the Comforter when my heart feels suspended above fragments of best-laid plans and unknown futures? Where is the One who binds up broken hearts when I cut myself on the sharp edges of a story I never expected to be living?

Joy feels really hard in my pedestrian life, when my job description reads “enthusiastic” and when that is easy at work but hard in intimate relationships and even harder when I come home.

Home is a little difficult to explain. In an attempt to protect the privacy and hearts of my family, it is a lot more difficult to write about. For a long time, writing about this season came very naturally to me. It was an outpouring of everything on MY mind, all of MY emotions, all MY processing. But coming home after graduating college suddenly means that “where we are” means “where I am” too. I have always written from a distance, but now, I am in the thick. I am in the trenches. I am up close and personal with the day-to-day effects, huddling with my fellow soldiers amid explosions and shrapnel and surgery and chemotherapy. Suddenly, not all the brokenness is mine to write about. Suddenly, my every day life looks like the wear and tear and strain of a life lived daily alongside cancer.

My new normal, though no longer a knife to the stomach, is more like a toothpick. The discrepancy between what my life is and what I thought my life would be like is no longer gut-wrenching. I no longer feel my heart torn in two by a shattered expectation. Instead, this season pricks, mildly but consistently, no longer paralyzing me but simply irking me, like a poking toothpick, like a splinter in my finger, like a thorn in my side, like a lego I continually step on but can’t figure out how to move.

It is no longer overwhelming, but subtle: it shouldn’t be like this.

It is no longer a rage, but now a vile whisper in my ear: we deserve better than this.

But “deserve” is tricky.

Deserve evokes bitterness, resentment, a discontent. It reveals a heart wrapped up in the cobwebs of entitlement, a mind tormented and underscored by a secret belief in a grace-through-works doctrine that the beautiful Lord does not subscribe to or endorse. We do not deserve this. That may be true, but “deserve” eats at my heart until it cries out wildly, barbarically, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?!?”

Of course joy becomes tricky when I put myself on the cross. 

Of course joy is elusive when I make myself and my family the martyrs of this story, instead of recognizing the extent to which the Lord has provided for us in the trickiest of seasons. There are a lot of “should’s” about this season. My dad, the smartest man I have ever known, should not struggle to recall my birthday. We shouldn’t have to beg each other to treat others with love and grace and kindness. We shouldn’t have to help my dad do the simplest things, like take the stairs, when he has spent his life abundantly capable and always driven to work harder than everyone around him. This shouldn’t be the life my mom signed up for when she spoke the words “for better or for worse” at her wedding.

But all those “should’s” go out the window when we get to Room 411 and the Lord takes over. All the discontent and deserving evaporates when the drive and desire to bring joy to my father before surgery takes over, when I stop looking at my own heart to encourage the heart of the dad I know and love. What is it about that phenomenon, that desire to lighten taking over, which propels me to laugh and buoy spirits, to take back the atmosphere of the hospital and change it, to change pity to pride, to transform fear into fervor? When the instinct to let love surround the change shakes away all the “should’s”, that’s when I know, when I remember: joy never comes from me.

I am the one who wrestles with the Lord like Jacob, who runs like Gomer believing I am not enough, who cries out for my Beloved before seeking to know if He is there. The joy cannot come from me and all my fragmented pieces, who constantly wonders, cries, prays “Jesus, where are you? Jesus, only Jesus, come quickly! If not on this earth, then into our lives, into the stories that feel stagnant and cracking and bodies that are broken! Jesus,  WHERE is the joy in these tribulations? How do I count all these busted remnants JOY?”

The answer is one that I say I believe and say that I know, but the truth of which only becomes real and true and necessary when I look at it from the side of a hospital bed: joy only comes from Jesus.

And with that, the narrative of what we deserve, of “grace-through-works”, goes right out the window, which is right where it belonged in the first place. A gently-introduced humility abbreviates my expectations and invites love to come closer, closer to the hospital bed, closer to the man who is hurting and in need of grace, closer to the brokenness. No, this joy does not come from me. And what a relief that is! I do not have to be joyful. Joy comes from Jesus, daily, moment-by-moment, exactly when I need it. Joy is like manna reigning and raining from the heavens to feed discouraged hearts in the wilderness, to feed my downcast and weary soul. And daily, moment-by-moment, before we need it, we must make the decision to rise early and collect the nourishment, the provision, the miracles made available to us.

In Room 411, we tell stories, relive memories of before the diagnosis, letting the joy of then develop into the joy of now. We talk about Mitchell climbing buildings and getting queasy at the sight of blood. Molly explains her recent races, I interpret inside jokes for bewildered nurses, and we all burst into singing our favorite songs from Year Without A Santa Claus. And it’s in these moments that I can breathe deeply and remember: The Lord has not forsaken me. The Lord has not forsaken my father. Joy, in hospital rooms and outside them, is possible when the Lord is present. And the Lord My God is ever-present and ever-permanent.

But maybe joy, true joy, is not actually concerned with the permanent. In Exodus, the manna was not permanent. It was in fact extremely temporal. When the Israelites gathered more than they needed, they would wake up the next morning to a maggot-filled mess where their manna once stood. It couldn’t last the night; it wasn’t meant to. Manna is temporary. It is new every morning, not as an obligation, but as an invitation to believe more deeply. When the Israelites collected it and stored it, they compromised their view on the character of God. In collecting, in hoarding and grasping the gift with clenched fists, they were really saying “I don’t believe that the Lord will or can do this again.”  They lowered their theology to meet their needs and fears. The kind of reckless belief that I want, that Jesus delights in, collects with open hands, taking what is needed and believing that the Lord will be the same tomorrow as He is today. That kind of belief is not concerned with what is permanent, but Who is consistent. And the character of GOD is consistent, giving manna and delight and joy when they are needed, letting them be new every morning.

And now, once my mind is opened to one drop of manna, suddenly it becomes all I can see. Suddenly, everywhere I walk, I find my feet covered in manna. It brushes up against my toes, building up against them; layer upon layer of provision greets me when I look for it, when I let the little gifts of joy-giving manna be enough for me, rather than dragging myself down for not feeling joyful all the time.

And maybe THIS the miracle that I’ve been longing for and praying for. Maybe it’s the release of pressure to do things right, and instead be real and broken with real and broken people. Maybe the miracle happens when we as broken people stay and clasp hands in hospitals rooms and laugh even when everything in our world is shattering. Maybe that’s the miracle: when we sit together in our pain in gyms and box trucks and home offices, when we laugh together and when that laughter breaks the strain of pain just a little bit.

Maybe it’s the miracle or maybe it’s the manna that gets us through this season, that allows us to survive in the middle of the wilderness, that are the God-ordained moments of loveliness that keeps the heartbreaking-power of this season at bay, that keeps it from being wholly horrible. Maybe the miracle is the community that arises of the best people you wish you had met under any other circumstance. Having cancer in common both breaks and releases.

Maybe the miracle we get is the new sense of wholeness, of the holiness that comes in being wholly broken.

Maybe that’s the miracle. Maybe the miracle is something I don’t understand yet. Maybe it’s not a certain standard of health. Maybe its not a body free of cancer. Maybe it really is just the fact that God still exists and is still sweet and still listens and still gives me bits of loveliness to cling to in the midst of the really, really tough moments. It is another loaves and fish miracle from the Lord: taking what is meager and making it enough.

And daily, I want to seek it out. I want to gather it and hold it close and recognize the beauty of it, the holiness of a gift directly from the Lord. On Monday, it is in finishing ten pieces of a Thomas Kinkaide puzzle even when the purple trees make it really hard. On Tuesday, it is the people who show up and serve before my mouth can even form the words: “I need help,” the friends who bring dinner, who paint bedrooms, who bring toilet paper and paper plates when we forget to buy them, in the friends who see all the frazzled parts of our family and stay. On Wednesday, it is cotton candy clouds and a job that allows me to see both the sunrise and the sunset. Thursday’s manna is a deep, real, broken, intentional conversation with a co-worker, of two broken hearts dropping bombs and staying admits the wreckage willingly. On Friday, it is a Wendy’s frosty and a friend who is unafraid to be angry at God. On Saturday, it is listening to the same life-changing podcast over and over while driving around Atlanta and surprising my brother with a chocolate milkshake on a Georgia Tech parking deck. And then on Sunday, it is breakfast together, how rapidly we can eat bacon, and the victory that comes in making dad smile.

And the manna keeps coming:

That half-lit half-hour of showing up to work early and taking a moment to be still before I open the car door and my day begins.

Front-porching sitting with green tea and good books, filling my mind with the wisdom and words of authors and musicians like Ann Voskamp and Maria Goff and Andy Baxter and Amanda Sudano Ramierez.

The thrill of cardboard boxes on couches.

The sweet relief of laying down to sleep each night.

Joy-filled exhaustion at days that are lived meaningfully.

Watching the solar eclipse with a fifth grade class to the tune of “Dark Side of the Moon”.

A thousand stars on a clear night in North Carolina, the Cain’s dock rocking our up-since-four bodies to drowsiness.

Wind chimes playing on a morning that feels like fall.

Watching Bachelor In Paradise because silliness and simple delight is good for the soul.

Open couches from open-hearted friends.

A Lizzie McGuire marathon.

Ordering delivery after midnight.

The moment of breaking open with another broken human.

Sending good books to good people.

Winning one-armed cartwheel competitions against sassy fourth grade girls.

Staying an hour after a meeting ends to share in the simple joy of being together.

Cracker barrel at 11 o’clock on a Tuesday because our work day finished early.

Sky-streaking lightning on a drive home with the windows down and a new album on repeat.

This is all manna: the scattered bits of loveliness that barricade my heart from the hurt of this season. You are what I need. You are all I need. This is the land of the living and it is good to be alive here. Manna is the result of honest messiness, of the Lord seeing us in our wanderings and giving us what we need to keep going. He gives us- willingly, generously, and lavishly- that good, deep, intimate love that says in tangible gifts “I see you. I know you. I’m not going anywhere.”

Maybe the miracle, when there doesn’t seem to be a miracle at all, is this manna. He gives the miracle of bread and oil, of loaves and fish, of manna when we rise and quail when we are weary. He answers my cries of doubt, my questions, with quail and mourning with manna. We receive miracles in the form of manna, in the daily occurrences that I never thought I would get to have, in our puzzle time when dad can remember all the lead singers of his favorite seventies bands, in the text messages he sends, even in his groggier states, and in the typos in his Facebook posts. These are all manna- and manna is always a miracle.

We do not feel miraculous. We do not feel inspirational. We feel cracked open and broken and raw and we are hurting.

Yet our pieces, broken and scattered, are the evidentiary support that the Lord does not use people in the ways we expect. He goes above and beyond in the ways that He uses broken people, something that always always always humbles me. Because most days, our lives look like leaning: not on our own understanding, but into the messiness, into the fragmented future, into presentness, into the manna, into utter dependance, into reckless belief. He is not safe, but good, and that goodness pervades and extinguishes and relights what has been blown out. Even in doubt and heartache, I am determined: my theology will not match my pain. My pain will quiver in the brilliance and brightness and truth of my belief. Love moves closer even when love is rejected or unreturned or misread or misunderstood. When my prayers look like cries and sighs and groans too deep for words, when the unrecognizable cuts like a switchblade, love weaves us together and manna keeps us going. We gather enough for that day and we keep going, saying to the Lord “You are enough. I receive what you give as sufficient for me.”

When we look at the splintered expectations of what we thought our life was going to be and when we begin to wonder if we can actually do this, if we can actually keep going, the miracle of manna is the answer. It is the answer and the ability; it is the Lord saying “YES, my child. You can. Your strength will come from me. And you will always be able to keep going.”

The stories of the Lord do not end in ashes.

The stories of the Lord begin and end with manna.

Madison Garrett

Madison Garrett

Filter Coffee Not People

By Peyton Land

Sometimes I think about what will be left of me when I’m long gone from this world. Will my pictures still be here? Would I have written a book that sticks around? Will my words have any impact? Hopefully they will. When I think about the things I will leave behind, I mostly think about my words and what I hope they do and will do for people.

A long time ago I realized that I had no one telling me that everything that had happened to me was awful, but I was still a precious jewel underneath it all. Yes, I have the best parents in the world who support me as much as they can, but I don’t think anything prepares anyone for an overly sensitive kid. As great as they are, what about the other kids? The ones without great parents? Who is telling them how great and worthy they are no matter what their grade in a math class is or no matter how their significant other treats them?

I don’t know why, but I want to be that person. I always will be that person. I won’t ever stop telling people that they deserve to be here. This is the thought that fiiinally brings me to “Filter coffee, not people”. FCNP is a series I’m starting talking about a very personal subject involving my friends and I, and our different sexual abuse stories. As I grow more and more aware I see the impact our communities have on us either through the media or friendships and I just want to be able to say  y o u  a r e  n o t  a l o n e. You are not alone!! We lose so many people every day because of the shame they’re feeling. I hate the shame I feel on a regular basis. All of this to say; we all have different ways of getting over things; mine was and still is, talking about it. So I’m here to talk about sexual assault.

The other day while I was scrolling through Facebook, I came across an article about a girl who had been sexually assaulted in Alabama, she was a student who originated from Austin, and was on her way home after a party (not in Austin, Alabama). This is the same story for so many girls and unfortunately it ended the same way many others end, no one being held accountable for his or her actions. All anyone focused on in her situation was the strong and powerful man who had enough money to make it go away. When Brock Turner raped the women behind the dumpster, all anyone could do is talk about the great swimmer he was. The media never calls it rape. The media never covers the women in these stories. In even bigger news, coverage on people like Bill Cosby or Donald Trump, there’s a feeling of doubt consuming everyone’s minds on how true their stories actually are.

Why not make it harder for people to ignore sexual survivors stories? It’s also not just the hard and ugly I want to shed light on, but the happy and how we are thriving! There is life after being sexually assaulted. I can’t ask people to be open about their stories if I can’t be open about mine. I’ve had my fair share of things happen to me but I’ve never let them define me. I can thank my parents for that.

The summer I had turned 15 I was “dating” a boy, really, my first ever boyfriend. He made me feel pretty and wanted; he constantly made me feel heard in whatever I was talking about. Whenever we had met up we had only kissed a few times because as I had told him, I wasn’t ready for anything beyond that. He said he respected it, and moved on… Except he really hadn’t. The guy I really liked had disappeared and this aggressive, controlling boy came out. He didn’t want me to hang out with friends, and made me feel bad for things that weren’t even my fault. 15 was a rough year. It feels like forever ago. I honestly couldn’t tell you how certain actions happened. I can tell you though, that I didn’t want any of it. I remember breaking up with him the day after everything happened. I didn’t know for sure what had happened, but I knew I felt really unsafe. I didn’t want to talk to my parents about it. I could see my relationships with everyone around me crumbling, I was super sassy around my mom and dad, I was mean to my brother, Clay. I’m pretty sure he thought I hated him. I didn’t hate him; I hated myself. I was anxious all the time because I didn’t know my true feelings. I thought maybe I had wanted it and I was just a bad Christian. I thought it was my fault. I just really wanted to know what happened. It took me a year to figure out the name for it: Rape.

One night at bible study I remember crying and telling my friends what had happened and someone’s response was, “But did you do anything before that with him?” Someone backed me up immediately and said no, this wasn’t just him thinking there was a sequence of events happening…. I said no, but he said yes anyways. My story is real. This happened to me. This happened to me because of a really bad guy. Just because I didn’t know what to call what happened to me, didn’t scream, didn’t rush to the police, doesn’t make it less real. Of course there were many ways I could’ve gotten myself out of the situation- I could’ve seen the signs of emotional abuse a lot sooner, I could’ve realized how controlling he was, but I wasn’t educated on the signs. The lack of education teenagers get on sex education is appalling. I thought that the rape that happened to me was sex. The guy thought it was consensual too, he didn’t see how he was manipulating me.

Some guys literally have never been taught what consensual sex is. People aren’t being educated on what’s okay and what’s not okay. That’s not to make what happened lesser. It’s still important. My pain is important and me learning from what happened is important. I wouldn’t be as much as an advocate for girls if it wasn’t for this guy. My relationship with God wouldn’t be what it is today without it.

I tell this story because as a young girl, I wasn’t sure what the heck was going on. Maybe there’s another young girl out there who doesn’t know the signs of a controlling boyfriend. Maybe she doesn’t know what consent is. This is for you.

//////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////

I’m still very angry about this next part of my story, but I’m thriving. Thriving in ways I never thought I could be thriving. A few years after the last crap boyfriend, a guy a year older than me who I went to school with started to give me some attention. He was always the quiet and nerdy guy who had been in my classes so I never gave him much thought, but soon after dating, I fell in love. He was a game changer; at that point in life I viewed myself as unlovable in the eyes of boys. He was kind, sweet, and everything I wanted in a guy. After basic training for the Air Force, we spent more and more time together and I was convinced that I would spend the rest of my life with him. When he looked at me I knew he loved me back and that’s all I needed and wanted.

We went through a lot in the first year we dated. He moved and I went off to college, through his cheating and lies, I still loved him. A lot. I willed it to get better. For a while it did, but the emotional toll it took me on was getting heavier and heavier. I didn’t think highly of myself and was constantly anxious, as before when I was 15. Some how he had gotten me to think I needed him like I needed water and the idea of leaving him left me crippled. He had manipulated me so much, lying about all the cheating he was doing or attempting to do through our engagement season. Even through the early stages of our marriage. It was awful. I remember lying in bed and thinking, “Will this always be how it is?” I felt trapped. I lived for the few minutes a day he was actually nice to me.

Even with the cheating, the worst thing he did to me was not understand the word no. He thought that just because we were married (together, boyfriend/girlfriend, insert any situation you’re in, here) that he could do whatever he wanted. I should just have to say no to sex, and that be that. There were even some times I had to kick him off me, but mostly it was just easier to let the sex just happen. I would make myself sick thinking about what I would have to do when he got home, and I hated it. I hated my life. He didn’t listen to how I felt about it, and then he would hint at that if he didn’t get it from me he would go elsewhere.

Just because you are with someone, doesn’t mean you have to have sex. If they’re making you, get out. You are worthy of so much more than what some guy thinks of you. It took a long time, a lot of great friends, and family to help me learn that. It’s been over two years and I haven’t had anything serious because I now know what I deserve and what God wants from me. This is my light: You have options. Your story is important, you are important, and there is someone out there better for you!! I haven’t found that person yet, and I don’t even know if there’s going to be that person. I’m just happy with the season I’m in right now.

I won’t let people ignore my story. It’s really scary to put myself out there like this but I’m not sure anyone’s view sexual assault will change without people being open to sharing their story. It was hard for me to tell my parents what happened to me, and I couldn’t even imagine how mortifying it would’ve been to go to law enforcement with sexual abuse accusations. These men aren’t even that powerful and I was still scared. I can’t imagine what pressures other women who come out in the media trying to tell their story go through. Women are wise and strong. Our experiences speak for themselves.

Please, if you want to share your story, don’t hesitate to get in contact with me!!

peytontoftland@icloud.com

Jumbled Laundry

By Maddie Young

Wishy Washy. Like a load of dirty laundry floating in soapy lukewarm water. Swishing back and forth. Back and forth. There have been some decadently sweet moments but also some utterly sour moments. For the past couple days the wheels have been swirling like a rapid tornado. I've been teeter tottering between various pieces trying to comprehend why it was so easy to begin letting the hurt and pain out. This week seems to be different. I've barely written. The only thing screaming to come out was emotion. 

There was the fear of unknown causing a shoulder tensing stress. Last night tears strolled down my face, fogging up my purple rimmed glasses because of a movie. Reaching back into my memory, I don't think I've ever cried during a movie. Extreme hatred towards my body and how I look. An emptiness, unsure of how to repair the black hole inside. There were moments of numbness with a hint of fear that I was drifting back into the vegetable state. Other moments where I couldn't text my sister fast enough expressing my overwhelming thoughts. Sadness mixed in like a key ingredient of a recipe. A pinch of hopelessness and burdensome worry. Self destructive urges peaked up. Regret. Why did I eat that, when I knew better? Jumbled into the mix, there were times when I couldn't really place my finger on a specific feeling or emotion. Moments that took a little extra power to get out of the coziness of my bed. There were also times when I wanted to throw in the towel, throw up my hands and say, “ok, monster and enemy, you win right now!” It seems to be a whole laundry list of rancid feelings. Dull colors. Boring and lifeless. Bland. 

But underneath there seemed to be another load. A glimpse of sunshine and paradise. Brighter colors. An incredibly, breathtaking solar eclipse. The glowing smiley face from the tiniest of littles when catching fish from the blue green lake with the petite fishing pole. Sweet, pure surprises from a secret sister. Creating unexpected friendships in the nail salon. Messages filled with wisdom and truth. Receiving a book that was eagerly waited on. Movie nights with the one whom my soul loves. Hugs that were a little tighter. Jubilant birthday surprises. Ridiculously corny jokes. Encouragement and mighty power from irreplaceable sisters. Compliments catching my completely off guard. Happy and thankful tears.

Jesus never failed to show up. He heard my cries and carried me through the vulnerable times. The bad could easily outweigh the good but I clung to hope and faith. This part of recovery is so unbelievably difficult but Jesus is working in me. Scooping out the gunk and instilling a rawness that hasn’t been experienced before. I can’t expect to magically heal overnight or force myself to write about a distasteful history fully in one sitting. Casting Crowns, “Praise You in this Storm,” and Dave Barns, “Carry me Through,” have played randomly in my car several times this week. Each time, the words strike my soul a little harder. 

There's a mountain

Here before me

And I'm going to climb it

With strength not my own

He's gonna lead me

Or the mountain beats me

Carry me through

Carry me through

My Heavenly Father is and, will continue to, carry me through this storm. He’s filled me with the strength similar to a mighty warrior. Transforming my heart and mind. His timing is impeccable and sometimes it’s challenging to fathom such an overwhelming, selfless love. I will continue to fix my chocolate brown eyes on Jesus. I will strive to trust in Him more and more with each passing day. As I continue to travel on this path, I look forward to what will unravel and how my eyes will be opened to newer, fresher things. Some days I will need to remind myself that I am not alone and that there’s no shame to my story a little more frequently and that will be ok. No doubt will there be more cloudy, rainy days but that is part of the battle, as long as I don’t fester and start to live in those black hole moments. I will continue to cling so tightly and hopefully to Romans 12:9. Jesus, help me to cling to what is good.  

Romans 12:9 :// Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good.

Maddie Young

Maddie Young

Dear ______

By Maddie Young

dear ________, 

Using your name seems unnatural but it seems even more unnatural to say, “dear dad.” I've never considered you as a father figure. You were never there. Even if you were psychically there it still didn't mean you were actually there. We could be in the same building but couldn't be farther apart. It was like two separate worlds. 

Disappointment and anger are my mind’s instant reaction. There's a buildup of hurt and deep pain. I can't even begin to wrap my mind around what would posses someone to do the things that you did. How can someone be so self centered and loveless?

For so long I've craved a sweet relationship with a Daddy. A daddy to dress up elegantly and escort me to daddy/daughter dances. A daddy to build the perfect little tree house so I could play family with my baby dolls and have campouts under the starry black night. A daddy to eat snow like powdered donuts with surrounded by other cool dads at “Donuts for Dad.” A daddy to practice sports with me on Saturday mornings then share warm fluffy pancakes for breakfast. A daddy to carry me to bed when I had fallen asleep on the couch and tuck me in with sweet forehead kisses. A daddy who would be there to wipe salty kisses away with every breakup and heartache. A daddy to protect me like a knight looking after his castle. A daddy to be a role model and instill good morals into my heart. A daddy to love me unconditionally and wholeheartedly. A daddy to kneel beside me as we leaned against the bed, hands clasped together reciting our prayers. 

Growing up the enemy had blinded my heart and corrupted me with corrosive thoughts. I was deprived from The Truth. Ed, the monster and of course the enemy all joined forces to team up against me. It was like a jet black filter that only allowed the negative to seep through. I began to believe that all men were monsters. You were a monster in my head. 

Trust issues arise. Neglect and unworthiness. A wave of isolation and emptiness. Slight pinch of disgust. Hatred and shame entangled in. How could one person cause so much emotion to arise? You let me down. Every standard for how a daddy should be completely thrown at the window. Effort to mend a broken relationship wasted. You are the most egocentric and sadistic person to ever step into my life. 

Because of you, I had reoccurring nightmares that for so long my brain couldn't make the connection it was you. Because of you, I faced severe ptsd that took years for me to seek the truth. Because of you, I spent part of my freshman year of high school and entire summer unable to stay home alone because I was terrified you would show up. Because of you, I almost didn't go to my cousin’s wedding because you're her uncle and I was certain you would be in attendance. Because of you, my relationships with males tend to fail. I could probably continue to trail the list on but at this point there's no reason to. 

Despite the unpleasant interactions and disgusting memories, there also came beauty. I never thought I would pair those two together but as I've continued to travel on this journey of recovery I never fail to surprise myself. You haven't physically been in the picture for many, many years but there's still been a sense of control. My life is better without you. 

The lack of relationship with an earthly father provided me a key to an even sweeter connection with my Heavenly Father. All of those times I craved to have you there He was far more present. My desire to be closer to Him only grew stronger as you continued to fade. Thank you for that. Without Jesus, I don't think I would've made it this far. He has been the only stability in my ever changing journey. Regardless of the heartache you caused me, I don't think I would've changed anything. 

I guess what I'm trying to say is, I forgive you. In order for me to press on I must put this chapter behind. This was part of His plan all along. He opened my eyes to see the kind of strength I carried to forgive someone who isn't even sorry and accept an apology I'll never receive. There's only one person who holds the title of Maddie Rae’s daddy and that's Jesus. I'm sorry you missed the opportunity to love and grow with two exceptional young ladies. But you can't help the way you are. I pray that one day you will come to know Him and unfollow the enemy. I pray that my little half brother doesn't ever experience the same trauma as I did. I pray that my heart will continue to heal and forgive. I pray that I continue to chase my Daddy and love Him unconditionally. My worth is only found in Jesus. 

Sincerely, Maddie

Maddie Young

Maddie Young