20 Years Ago Today…

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June 10, 1999

This was me 20 years ago today. I graduated high school with my class ’99 with honors thanks to CHIP empowering me to stand up to everyone who thought I should stay in high school! I hated Individualized Education Plan (IEP) meetings because it was more like “Plan Steph’s Life” meetings, but Chip was my boyfriend then and came to these meetings with me giving me the courage to stand my ground. I don’t think anyone but Chip and I wanted me to graduate with my class. I would have been SO UNHAPPY not graduating especially when I was in the National Honor Society, and as you can see, graduated with honors!

I went on to Waubonsee Community College, and had a wonderful counselor who encouraged me to take Psychology which led me to be an early childhood professional with my Master’s Degree. No, things haven’t worked out exactly how I wanted but I am getting my children’s book illustrated by Candace Lyon, and I will get my 2nd edition (non-religious) of Gentle Firmness out on Amazon and keep advocating for children.  Eventually I will find my place.

I have always had to fight for everything, but I am blessed to have a wonderful man to fight with me to accomplish what I am supposed. I’m glad I don’t have a boring computer job that everyone but Chip tried to push me into!

May we teach children to never give up!

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Why I Share My Story Of Abuse

April is Child Abuse Awareness Month and anyone who knows me or has been following me or has my first edition of my book, Gentle Firmness, knows that child abuse is something I am extremely passionate about.

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Tattoo by Candace Lyon

I am a child abuse survivor.  I was physically, verbally, and emotionally abused by my dad and various other adults until I was 17 years old and finally told people that I was being abused.   All abusers make their victims feel shame and guilt.  One often thinks, “If only I did better,” or “It’s all my fault.”  I still struggle with this and have recently learned of additional abusive behavior that I’ve continued to endure as an adult that I was either unaware of and/or denied it was real.  Unfortunately, I continue to get confirmation that this abuse and manipulation is real and am putting a stop to it.

Mental illness runs in my family most likely due to the horrible cycle of abuse.  Genes may also play a part in the mental illness of my family.  My Adverse Childhood Experience (ACE) score is a 7, which is pretty high, and I struggle with anxiety, PTSD, and depression every day. But every day I work towards healing and helping people.

To not share my story and pain would be like not sharing something that, unfortunately, is a part of me.  It would be like denying that I have severe cerebral palsy.  While I don’t allow either of these things to define me, I have wounds and scars from my trauma and I believe in using my pain to help others—others who were abused, others who are trying to break the cycle with their own children, and others who need to know that we’re not alone in this. And if I can prevent one child from abuse and heartbreak from the people who are supposed to love them, then it’s all worth it.

Another reason I share my story is to show that there is hope even when it doesn’t always feel like it.  Some days are harder than others for us survivors, but we are survivors.  There is no shame in getting help professionally.  There’s no shame in creating healthy relationships to support you.  Abusers and their defenders will make you feel like a horrible person for opening up about your abuse but don’t let them win.  This is typical abuser behavior.  Unless the abuser gets help, nothing will ever change.

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I hope also try to help people understand that even “normative spankings” are abuse in that corporal punishment can make children at a higher risk of being physically abused.  When a parent spanks/hits a child and the child doesn’t obey, the parent may decide to spank/hit even harder.  This is a risk for physical abuse even if one doesn’t consider corporal punishment as abuse.  No child ever deserves to be hit.

And countless other studies show that corporal punishment is harmful to children and it often includes emotional and verbal abuse because the child is told how “bad” he/she is and how he/she “deserves the spanking.”

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My dad hit me because of my spasms, which are involuntary muscle movements due to my severe cerebral palsy.  He also hit me for other things.  He was verbally and emotionally abusive as well. He passed away in 2003.  

After extensively researching narcissism as well as conferring with a colleague that knows more about this mental illness than meI do, I now believe that both of my parents very likely had/have this disorder.  In addition to refusing to admit they were/are wrong, they exhibited/exhibit other key characteristics of narcissism such as a lack of empathy, “an inflated sense of their own importance, a deep need for excessive attention and admiration, troubled relationships” (Mayo Clinic, 2019).

I have been over-analyzing my own behaviors because I am absolutely terrified of getting this mental illness.  It’s important to realize that it’s human nature to occasionally be selfish and self-absorbed.  It is also human nature to want recognition for accomplishments or to not to want to always admit when we are wrong.  Sometimes, like children, we want our own way and lash out when we don’t get our way.  This is not narcissistic as long as we recognize these tendencies and can admit that we do some of them occasionally.  I know I do these things sometimes but I always admit it.  I will always apologize if I am in the wrong.

To have Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD), one must exhibit at least 5 or more of these characteristics to an abnormal level and not be able to admit that he/she is doing any of this.  People with NPD will deny that they have it and will make their victims believe that it’s the victims’ fault, not theirs.  And as with any kind of illness, there is a spectrum wherein each individual lies.  Some people have narcissistic tendencies and some have NPD.  Unfortunately, because people with narcissistic tendencies or NPD will absolutely not seek help for this mental illness, it’s very difficult to diagnose.  These people usually seek treatment for depression or anxiety but not narcissism (Bressert, 2019).  In addition to this, NPD and other personality disorders can have the same kind of characteristics.

It has also been suggested that the stigma of mental illness can be associated with narcissism (Arikan, 2005, https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/aadd/5cd265bcaeeaff77d9ce4fe16abf4ad39dc8.pdf).

I forgive my parents and other abusers and their defenders, but I cannot remain silent.  This is now a part of my story and I will tell it in a respectful manner.  Because people with NPD or narcissistic tendencies are masters at manipulation, one must put up strong boundaries and stand firm.  Otherwise, through manipulation that isn’t always obvious, these people will break the boundaries.  Walking away from them is the best way to protect oneself and hopefully get them to get help.  But nothing is guaranteed with this mental illness.

One can and must forgive his/her abusers because the forgiveness is more about setting oneself free from harboring anger and resentment towards them.  However, this does not mean letting the abusers off the hook.  I can’t do this myself.  Forgiveness also does not mean that you have to reconcile with them.  It just means you are able to work through the pain and heal.

I also don’t believe that all abusers are narcissistic or have a mental illness.  The cycle is so hard to break especially when the community is actually encouraging the abuse and the silence of the children and adults.   I’m aware of many abusers and/or pro-spankers that have realized that they were wrong and have apologized for it.  They change the way they parent or interact with their grown children.  Change is possible!

I am learning how to not be in toxic relationships with people who continue to hurt me.  This is far from easy but having healthy relationships is crucial for healing and recovery.  Getting psychotherapy is a must.  And I heal from getting tattoos so I recently got the tattoo below.  It was very emotional for me but reminds me that I am a SURVIVOR!  I need this on the days that feel impossible to get through.

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Narcissistic survivor tattoo by Todd Bass

Gentle parenting is prevention for child abuse. If parents understand typical child development, then I believe that they are less likely to spank/hit or otherwise abuse their children.  Therefore, I will never stop sharing my story.  It is a part of my healing process.  I don’t do it out of spite.  I do it because I understand the pain and struggle after trauma and abuse.

May we value children and stop child abuse someday for good!

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References:

Arikan, K.  (2005).  A Stigmatizing Attitude Towards Psychiatric Illness is Associated with Narcissistic Personality Traits. Psychiatry Relat Sci Vol 42 No. 4 pp. 248–250

Black, R. (2019).  Personality Disorders: A Guide to the Ten Different Types.  Retrieved https://www.psycom.net/personality-disorders-10-different-types/

Bressert, S.  (2019). Narcissistic Personality Disorder.  Retrieved from https://psychcentral.com/disorders/narcissistic-personality-disorder/

Goodtherapy.  (2018).  Adverse Childhood Experience (ACE).  Retrieved from https://www.goodtherapy.org/blog/psychpedia/ace-questionnaire

Psychology Today.  (2019).  Narcissism.  Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/basics/narcissism

Mayo Clinic.  (2019).  Narcissistic Personality Disorder.  Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/narcissistic-personality-disorder/symptoms-causes/syc-20366662

 

Pain And Heartbreak: Finding Oneself

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This is a rough week for my husband and I as we commemorate the birthday of our sweet kitty on the 4th of July.  He would have been 12. Then the 5th marks the first year since he went Home to Heaven.  We love our animals like family, so this is hitting us harder than we expected.

The Bible says to endure hardship as discipline.

“You have not yet resisted to the point of shedding blood in your striving against sin; and you have forgotten the exhortation which is addressed to you as sons,

My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord,
Nor faint when you are reproved by Him;
For those whom the Lord loves He disciplines,
And He scourges every son whom He receives.”

 

It is for discipline that you endure; God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom his father does not discipline? But if you are without discipline, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Furthermore, we had earthly fathers to discipline us, and we respected them; shall we not much rather be subject to the Father of spirits, and live? For they disciplined us for a short time as seemed best to them, but He disciplines us for our good, so that we may share His holiness. All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness” (Hebrews 12:4-11, NASB)

Unfortunately, many Christians take these verses to mean corporal punishment.  But if you read the Proverbs section of this blog, it has nothing to do with spanking/hitting children or hitting anyone.  It just means that growth and discipline is not always pleasant and easy.

And being a Christ-follower, I take to heart what Jesus said,

“Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful.”
(‭‭John‬ ‭14:27‬, NASB‬‬).

After much research, and guidance from the Holy Spirit, I truly believe He that one of the many ways He does this is through His gift of cannabis, and the appropriate use of alcohol (see 1 Timothy 5:23, Ecclesiastes 9:7, and Psalm 104:14-15 also references cannabis).  Of course, the Bible makes it clear not to get really drunk, but to relax and relieve some medical issues, alcohol use is perfectly fine and encouraged throughout the Bible.  In fact, one of Jesus’ first miracles was turning water into wine at a wedding in John 2:1-11.  Please see this post for a link to the use of cannabis during Biblical times.

Yes, we go through hardships throughout our lives and these hardships should make us grow—and grow closer to Him. I truly believe we should use discipline to help everyone grow, opposed to using punishment which keeps us stuck in the place we are in, no matter how old we are.

For example, children may appear to be growing despite being punished, but it’s really them learning to hide things from their parents in order to avoid getting punishment.  For adults, such a punitive attitude and belief system can trap them in harmful legalism and toxic relationships.  They can’t see Who Jesus really is—love.

My husband and I watched the movie Reincarnated about Snoop Dogg changing his life to one of peace and love. He went to Jamaica and he became a Rastafarian.  While we don’t agree with some of the Rastafarian doctrine, we love the way they love all and respect all people no matter what they believe.

They use cannabis as both medicine and to grow closer to God.  I have absolutely fallen in love with this song:

Yes, heartbreak will hopefully and eventually lead to growth. It is not God punishing us.  It’s life. We, as Christ-followers, must learn and understand this.  We must teach this to our children so they can truly grow in Christ.

One last thing about cannabis: I have severe cerebral palsy and use it medically for spasms, pain, anxiety, and PTSD.  As the result of being blessed by this sacred plant, I truly believe I am growing in Christ.  I’ve become more open to more encompassing love and grace. I am still very imperfect and make mistakes, but I am slowly getting better at loving others.

For years, I bought into the doctrine that marijuana is “evil.” It’s anything but.  In fact, it allowed me sit here with fireworks going off next door, and I was not jumping as much and not being anxious about the next boom. I am looking forward to going to the fireworks on the 4th. I will be using cannabis, thereby remaining more clearly aware of  and the Holy Spirit’s guidance and comfort to continue to deal with my heartbreak.  I am hopeful that cannabis will continue to ease my spasms and other ailments.  Yay for Cannabis!

As the line in the song says, “so raise a glass to the memories, set em free, and fill up all those ashtrays.”

In memory of Sara (January 27, 2007), Grandpa (May 2, 2016), my father-in-law (June 29, 2007), YP (July 5, 2017), Penelope (July 6, 2012), my mother-in-law (August 8, 2015), Sadie (October 6, 2011), and the rest of my loved ones in Heaven.

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Disappointment, Competition, And Community. The Value In Learning About All Three.

Being an author, artist, athlete, or any other professional in which one is forced to compete is not an easy thing. As an author, I continue to have to deal with rejection and disappointment.  And sometimes, as a part of business, I must reject and disappoint others.

Writing books and finding an illustrator for my children’s book about my life with Cerebral Palsy has turned out to be much more difficult than I thought.  I hope to be able to contractually secure an illustrator for my children’s book this summer and still have it published in the fall, but nothing is guaranteed.  I may be disappointed again and/or have to disappoint someone else if the samples of illustrations don’t fit my vision of my children’s book.

Since this is a children’s book about me, it’s an absolute requirement that the cartoon character depicting me both as a child and adult is accurate.  I want young children to see what severe cerebral palsy looks like while showing them how much one can accomplish despite the disability.  I also want other children with cerebral palsy to be able to relate to the book.

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All of this got me thinking about disappointment, competition, and community.  I am 36 years old and I still don’t handle disappointment as well as I would like, yet we expect young children to deal with it better than we do. When they have a meltdown due to disappointment, we punish them instead of helping them learn to cope with disappointment.

And, at times, we even set the children up for disappointment by expecting them to do things that they are not ready to do like compete at a young age or go to a candy store without getting any candy when we know they can’t control their impulses.

Children are put in sports or other competitions and are expected to compete.  Even going to school has become a competition to see who can get the best grades and who can be the most popular.

While there’s a movement to give everyone trophies in competitions, I’m not sure if that’s the answer either.  I absolutely hate the way many conservatives talk about this; that giving everyone a trophy is turning them into “snowflakes (too sensitive).”  Yet, this culture and life requires hard work and earning things through hard work and talent.

Plus, children should be able to enjoy the journey towards their goals and accomplishments.  It is often the journey—whether or not it results in success or failure—that teaches us all important lessons.  We should not take this away from children by making everyone a “winner” or trying to shield them from all rejection and disappointment.

I love this meme from Calm:

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I believe that learning to work hard and how to cope with disappointment is very important for children. I also think for young children, there’s nothing wrong with getting a certificate of participation for participating in an event.  Teaching children that while everyone may not be able to be the best and win, it’s still important to be inclusive.

Then there’s community. Community is very important to teach children.  Having a communal attitude can go along way in helping this society to be more united. Children must be taught that, in basic human terms, everyone is equal no matter what!  Celebrating individual talents is fine but that doesn’t mean anyone’s “better” than the other when it comes to simply being a human being.

In many other countries, the culture is alll about community and putting others first. Children learn this from a young age and have been known to run together to reach a prize and then share it.  The children don’t believe that one can be happy if the whole group isn’t happy.  This is another great argument that children are not born sinful!  They act how they live. We are their teachers.

I recently attended an event with my husband and friend which was very community oriented. Everyone was happy, loving, and peaceful. It was very refreshing that there was no judgment or anything negative. We did play a game but it was all in fun and we were happy for the people who won.

I guess there’s a time for disappointment, competition, and community. However, we must teach children how to cope with disappointment and not push competition on them. Playing should be fun while teaching children about teamwork which is community. Disappointment is a part of life. We must teach them how to deal with their big feelings in a kind, compassionate way.

I must also point out that the Church is failing in community because the Church tends to pick and choose who they allow to be a part of the Church. The Church has been known to reject, be oppressive, and even abuse weaker groups of people of all ages.  Yet, Jesus calls us to love, help, and include everyone in the community.

But most of all, may we teach children community and inclusion. That looking out for everyone is what truly matters.  Working hard together and understanding that everyone has different talents is more important than anything else.

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Children’s Book Update

Good news!  My friend has a friend with a 14-year-old artist and the girl agreed to do the illustrations for my children’s book. We have to figure out all the details, but her work is amazing so it looks like my children’s book will hopefully be out in the fall on Amazon. No unethical publishers anymore.

I still have to work on the 2nd edition of Gentle Firmness and get it back out on Amazon, but the children’s book is ready except for the illustrations so I’m excited.

The book is about life with severe cerebral palsy and I hope many children will love it.  Stay tuned and let me know if you want one of the LAST signed copies of Gentle Firmness. $10 with free shipping—USA ONLY.

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Cancer Free And Trauma…Plus Some Potty Training Tips

I haven’t been up to really writing this post even though as of January 2nd, our beliefs were finally confirmed after a biopsy, that I am indeed cancer free.

You see, except for mild pneumonia, from which I was able to recover at home, this was my first medical scare that required a hospitalization, a MRI under anesthesia, and a procedure in the OR all within 3 months.  Going to an oncologist also isn’t fun even though nobody ever really threw around the “C-word.”

This is unusual for people with severe cerebral palsy.  I’m very blessed to not have needed surgeries to fix joints and other things that can come with having severe or even mild cerebral palsy.

But after over 2.5 years of trauma due to the three major losses in our family, this pretty much sent us over the edge. I felt guilty at first for not being as happy that I was cancer free like everyone else because, for me (and my husband since he has to care and comfort me), it isn’t over.

Plus, because I’m unable to walk around like typical people and I have spasms, it takes me longer to physically heal.

As one of my good friends says, it’s actually satan-induced anxiety and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) that I have.  They are not mine to own.  Going to the bathroom can still be scary for me.  Sometimes certain things that happen in the bathroom or in my body send me into a panic attack or PTSD episode.

I want to talk about PTSD for a moment especially with this recent school shooting.  As I said in my previous post, people in this society don’t take mental health issues seriously.  They worry about the physical well-being of people, and only and/or repeatedly argue about objects that hurt and murder people when they are in the wrong hands.  Keeping them out of the wrong hands is crucial but also almost impossible because if someone truly wants to do something bad, they will.

That’s the sad truth. So learning how the young mind works and about mental health issues is one of the best ways to stop some or most of these horrible tragedies.

What is PTSD?

“Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a psychiatric disorder that can occur in people who have experienced or witnessed a traumatic event such as a natural disaster, a serious accident, a terrorist act, war/combat, rape or other violent personal assault” (American Psychiatric Association, 2017, https://www.psychiatry.org/patients-families/ptsd/what-is-ptsd).

This video also describes PTSD very well.

I am working very hard to overcome this. My abusive background doesn’t make it easy because there’s PTSD from that as well.  However, through medication, including medical marijuana, meditation, professional counseling, writing positive notes to remind myself of all that’s good in my life, my small support group, and spending time with the Lord, I am slowly getting better.

It’s quite a process and I have to learn to be okay with however long this takes.  I have to learn how to not berate myself every time I perceive a “setback.”  Even learning self compassion is extremely difficult for me.

Why?  Because I grew up with a dad who was abusive, and school personnel putting me down. Plus, my disability has occasionally been treated as a “burden.”  Or at least this is how I felt as a child sometimes.

Children are very sensitive to their parents.  Everything we say to them is ingrained into their brains FOREVER — even if we don’t think they are listening.

Potty training for children is one of those crucial times when parents either remain patient, compassionate, and encouraging or become angry, punitive, and sometimes even abusive.  In both cases, most parents mean well but some understand gentle parenting and the consequences of not being gentle while others do not.

Bathroom trauma is REAL.  I found this article to be very informative about bathroom trauma in children.  It’s so important that young children have positive associations with going to the bathroom.

Here’s what I tell parents regarding potty training their children:

*Wait until the child is showing interest in the bathroom to slowly introduce him/her to the potty.

*Let them lead the way.

*Read fun books about going potty.

*Let them pick out their new underwear.

*Give them plenty of choices for what potty they want to use.  Some children like the small, portable potty chairs and use them while watching tv or wherever they are most comfortable.  Other children want to use the toilet with a small seat on the toilet and a footstool to put their feet on.

*Allow them to experiment with going back and forth between diapers and underwear.

*Expect many accidents and don’t overreact.  After all, we ALL have accidents.

*Gently remind children to go potty many times as they are often so into what they’re doing that they miss the signals that they need to go until it’s too late.

*NEVER force potty training.  Don’t punish or reward them.  This shouldn’t make them feel as if their whole identity is contingent on being able to go potty. You may celebrate by doing the “potty dance,” saying, “Yay! You did it,” and giving high fives.

*Poop is the hardest for young children to master when it comes to potty training. Give them plenty of liquids to keep their stools soft. Hard, painful bowel movements often make young children (and even some adults) afraid to go to the bathroom and then they hold it too long.

*Be careful with flushing the toilet in front of the children. It could startle them. And children can view poop as “a part of them” for a while and will get very upset when it’s flushed down the toilet.  This won’t last long.

*Use correct terms for body parts.

*Make the potty routine fun.  Read books, splash and/or run water (it helps them pee), sing fun songs, have special “potty toys,” and do whatever else you can to make going potty as fun as possible.

*Finally, feel free to set limits on the type of talk and behaviors that are only for the bathroom.  Children don’t have filters and exploring new language and body parts is so fun and funny to them. Give them a safe, private place to do this.  This is an excellent time to also reiterate body consent and who may and may not touch certain body parts.

If these basic guidelines are followed by us, most children will master potty training by the age of four.  Please be gentle during the whole potty training process even if it’s really hard sometimes.

Having experience with PTSD, abuse, and trauma, I truly implore anyone reading this to place more importance on, and time into, creating healthy human beings from conception on. They are our future.

Every child and adult reacts to trauma in very different ways and that needs to be fully explored and parents should do their best to look for warning signs as should others in the community.  It still takes a village to raise children.

Mental illnesses usually are rooted in childhood trauma.  Here are two excellent books that explain how trauma can affect children:

The Boy who was Raised as a Dog by Dr. Bruce Perry.

Ghosts from the Nursery: Tracing the Roots of Violence by Robin Karr-Morse and Meredith S. Wiley.

I truly believe that by respecting children from conception on and providing compassion to them in the worst of their moments is the way to a healthier—both physically and emotionally—society.  Compassion matters!

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The First Christmas

This is an especially difficult holiday season for us due to another loss of a loved one and my medical issues. I got the results of my MRI, and I now have to get the suspicious mass checked out that was discovered when I was hospitalized for a bowel blockage.  My biopsy is scheduled for January 2, 2018.

So we’re dealing with fresh grief again and my anxiety level is really high right now. As I have said many times, children who are spanked/hit/abused have a higher chance of getting an anxiety disorder. I’m working on getting my anxiety under control.  Not easy!

All this has me thinking about the first Christmas.  My friend and I were discussing grief and how this Christmas doesn’t feel magical or joyful to either of us.  One of my other friends got us a new small Christmas tree and scented candle to smell like a tree in order to change things up and make it a little less painful.  We also got a new outside Christmas light.

There’s joy amidst the pain.  Just like the first Christmas.

Imagine the emotional drama Mary and Joseph went through when Mary got pregnant with Jesus.  How do you explain that to people who might not believe you that you are carrying God’s child and did nothing wrong?  Thank the Lord, God explained to Joseph that he could still marry her after the Baby was born.  He was going to divorce her.

They had so much joy in having God’s Son!  How humbling it must have been for Mary.  But she had to deal with everything that comes with normal pregnancy.  And, again, how did she explain to people about the pregnancy?

Keep in mind that they were living in poverty and in tumultuous political times.  Imagine having to travel by camel to register in their hometown of Bethlehem while being in the last stages of pregnancy.  I can guarantee that Mary experienced pain which must have upset Joseph because he loved her and had to do his best to protect her and the Baby.    That must have been a lot of pressure on him!

Yes, God was with them.  But that doesn’t mean it was easy!

After arriving in Bethlehem, Mary went into labor.  She didn’t have the Baby in a nice home or hospital.  There was no room for them in the inn—both physically and emotionally—so she gave birth in a place where the animals were kept.   It was not very sanitary or comfortable, making labor, which is no fun in and of itself, even more difficult.

But here comes Jesus Christ and there was great JOY!

“In the same region there were some shepherds staying out in the fields and keeping watch over their flock by night.  And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them; and they were terribly frightened. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 This will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,

“Glory to God in the highest,
And on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased.”
When the angels had gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds began saying to one another, “Let us go straight to Bethlehem then, and see this thing that has happened which the Lord has made known to us.” So they came in a hurry and found their way to Mary and Joseph, and the baby as He lay in the manger. When they had seen this, they made known the statement which had been told them about this Child. And all who heard it wondered at the things which were told them by the shepherds. But Mary treasured all these things, pondering them in her heart. The shepherds went back, glorifying and praising God for all that they had heard and seen, just as had been told them” (Luke 2-20, NASB).

There was pain and joy. It wasn’t this totally joyful event for Mary and Joseph, yet, there was plenty of joy and rejoicing!

That was until King Herod found out about this Baby that people were coming to worship.  How dare they worship a baby and call Him “King!”  King Herod had a fit and ordered his men to kill all the male babies that were 2 or younger.  There was a lot of screaming and weeping from parents who had their babies murdered for no reason.  God told Joseph in a dream to take Jesus and Mary to Egypt until it was safe for them to return to Bethlehem (Matthew 2:16-18).

This meant another trip across the desert with the Baby.  Jesus may have been a toddler by then.  I know Jesus was completely without sin, but I truly believe that He behaved as a typical infant and toddler; crying and going through the typical developmental stages are not “sin” as many Christians believe.  See more info here.  He cried when He needed something such as a feeding, nap, diaper change, or just to be comforted.  We all know how difficult it is to travel with a baby.  And then they were in hiding until Herod died.

Yes, there was joy on the first Christmas but the reality is that it wasn’t all joy.  There was plenty of pain, fear, stress, and confusion.  God was there through it all, but due to sin in the world, He had to watch suffering too.  Jesus chose pain over continuous joy in Heaven in order to save us from our sins.

Also, God didn’t rebuke or punish them for expressing their pain and frustration.  He loved them and that’s what He still does with us.  He suffers along with us and comforts us while correcting us gently when necessary. 

We should do our best to be there for our children instead of punishing them. God does not punish us.  Therefore, we should do our best to help our children instead of punishing them.

 “Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow”  (‭James‬ ‭1‬:‭17‬ NASB).

We are going through some rough, scary things right now, but I know God is with me/us.  He will see us through this painful, scary season and I am counting on next Christmas being more joyful. In the meantime, I continue to look for the moments of joy.

Every good thing comes from the Lord.  If you too are going through some rough things this holiday season, please know that you’re not alone. God’s with you.  Please try to find friends to help support you.  It’s okay to change traditions if the old ones are too painful this year. We hope to get back into our traditions next Christmas. Whatever you need to do to find some joy and peace this Christmas, please do.

Please keep praying for me. Thank you so much!

Incidentally, I still have a very limited number of books if you want a signed copy for $10.  Free shipping in the continental United States. Please contact me and we’ll work something out.

May everyone have a peaceful, blessed, and merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

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MRI Update And Christmas Clearance Book Sale

I got my MRI yesterday. I had to be put to sleep for it due to my cerebral palsy and spasms. Hopefully tomorrow we’ll find out that the mass they found when I was in the hospital for my bowel blockage is benign. Thank you so much for your prayers and patience with me in not staying on top of everything like I always try to do.

Remember! My book is limited quantities and only $10 with FREE shipping in the continental U.S.A. It makes a great gift!

I hope to write a post soon about the first Christmas and how there’s so much love from God, but in this world, joy and pain coexist and this is not punishment!  We just live in a very broken world that Jesus came to restore.

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What satan Intended For Harm; God Is Using For Good. My Health.

Note: this was written on November 8, 2017 but I always want my husband to edit my posts.

“When Joseph’s brothers saw that their father was dead, they said, “What if Joseph bears a grudge against us and pays us back in full for all the wrong which we did to him!”  So they sent a message to Joseph, saying, “Your father charged before he died, saying,  ‘Thus you shall say to Joseph, “Please forgive, I beg you, the transgression of your brothers and their sin, for they did you wrong.”’ And now, please forgive the transgression of the servants of the God of your father.” And Joseph wept when they spoke to him. Then his brothers also came and fell down before him and said, “Behold, we are your servants.” But Joseph said to them, “Do not be afraid, for am I in God’s place?  As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive.  So therefore, do not be afraid; I will provide for you and your little ones.” So he comforted them and spoke kindly to them” (Genesis 50:15-21, NASB).

As many of you know, if you follow my Facebook page or Instagram account, I was hospitalized a couple of weeks ago for a bowel blockage and a mass was discovered on my CT scans.

I had to go to an oncologist even though they don’t think it’s cancer. Nobody suspects cancer. This doctor just knows how to go about this. The exam went well. The doctor was great at talking me through it. The nurses and my husband were also wonderful at talking to me and distracting me so I could relax as much as possible which isn’t easy with cerebral palsy and you’re nervous and having uncomfortable things being done to you.

I thank God for legal medical marijuana; my anxiety level would have been debilitating without it.  However, I was very anxious nonetheless.  My heart rate was 117 (a special “sign from Heaven from my mother-in-law) and then dropped to 115 so it helped me not get any worse.

The doctor showed us both CT scans and the mass in question.

He gently used his finger to probe the area and confirmed that the mass was still there.  I felt a little pain when he pushed on it but I’m not sure if it was from the mass itself or from me spasming because of the probing.  So I will have to get a MRI as an outpatient (with sedation due to my severe cerebral palsy and spasms).

Unfortunately, it’ll have to be done at the hospital so that the anesthesiologist can keep a close eye on me with my cerebral palsy and asthma, so an “open MRI” is not an option.

My husband can stay with me until I’m put to sleep for it and will be right back when I am done. I shouldn’t have to be so sedated that I will need intubation.  As of now, the MRI scheduling is still being worked out,  but I want to get it over with so they’re going to try to get me in sooner. I said any day but the 17th because I NEED ink therapy!

Tattoos really are one of God’s ways of bringing me peace and everyone at the shop have been very supportive.

We don’t know what the mass is but the MRI will tell us if it’s benign or malignant.  The doctor said it is a soft tissue mass. After the MRI, he will determine if I need to have a biopsy. He’s trying to take it slow and not go invasive with me unless it’s necessary.

My friend with severe cerebral palsy said she has many benign masses from having multiple bouts of bowel blockage, so hopefully this will be just a benign mass, too.  We’re trying to think positive and pray.

Walking through the cancer institute made me sad. All those people are fighting cancer. I’m NOT going to be one of them. Please Lord.

I wish this were over so I/we can keep working on getting back to a better place emotionally.  Our anxiety has been really awful and I met with a Christian counselor.  She confirmed that God isn’t doing any of this to us and that satan LOVES messing with us when we are down. She affirmed that everything we’re feeling is normal considering what all we’ve been through the past 2 years and God is right here even when we don’t feel Him. She’s walked this darkness too.

I can’t imagine what it must feel like for children who have been raised in Christian families where they are taught that God wants them hurt every time they are “bad.”  Even though my relationship with God hasn’t been the best lately, I know He’s helping and comforting us.

God is using this for good!  He turns everything that satan means for our harm into good.  I don’t understand His ways but I know He is love and that life just happens.  We must teach our children that God never hurts us!

Jesus wept.  Jesus pleaded for the cup to pass from Him so He wouldn’t have to suffer and die on the cross even though He knew that that was what He was here to do and would go through with it because of His great love for us.  Before He died, He cried out loudly, “My God, my God!  Why have You forsaken Me?”  It’s ok to feel anger, anxiety, pain, fear, loneliness, confusion, and despair.  Jesus felt it.

May we teach our children that God suffers right along with us.  He is a wonderful God Who comforts and loves us.  He is not the Author of suffering.

Please keep praying for us.

On a happier note, my husband and I celebrated 19th anniversary of togetherness-dating and married years combined! It doesn’t seem possible! I’m grateful to God that He gave me a WONDERFUL guy who loves me NO matter what and CHOOSES to keep caring for me and loving me 24/7!

My Child Abuse Awareness Ribbon Tattoo

About a week ago I got my beautiful child abuse awareness ribbon tattoo.  It came out so much better than I imagined!

It’s serious but I wanted something to give hope and the flowers do just that!  I honestly think it’s the best child abuse awareness tattoo I have ever seen.  I’m very grateful to my tattoo artist for coming up with it!  Please see my other tattoo posts on my getting tattoos with my severe cerebral palsy.

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Child abuse is 100% preventable!  Sadly, many pro-spanking advocates try to claim that spankings prevent abuse but any type of hitting is abuse because it leaves marks that are not always visible.  Plus, if one believes she/he can inflict pain on another human being, he/she will.

Research also shows that spankings usually increase in intensity, putting the child at a higher risk of being abused.

Then there’s the emotional and verbal abuse that often goes with the physical abuse, like telling the child that “you made me do it.”  Or that “you deserve it.”  Basically putting the child down in any way is verbal and emotional abuse.  The child never makes one do anything.  This is victim blaming.

Finally, there’s sexual abuse and sometimes this occurs alone or with the physical abuse because, for some, spanking children is sexually arousing which is absolutely disgusting.  

I believe that we have to educate people to get them to see that children are unique people. Understanding child development is crucial for stopping child abuse. And allowing corporal punishment with children does not decrease child abuse!  And one should never say he/she is against child abuse when he/she is advocating for corporal punishment.

It shouldn’t matter how old or big someone is, he/she should be protected from having harm inflicted on him/her by another person. It should not be left up to parents concerning how much pain can be inflicted on their children because “children can be subjected to an incredible amount of pain and suffering before our perception of parental prerogative changes to one of parental abuse” (Quinn, 1988, p.19).”

While April is child abuse awareness month, every day children are being abused by the very people who are supposed to care for them.  I got my child abuse awareness ribbon tattoo to remind myself why I keep fighting for children’s rights even though it doesn’t always feel like I’m making a difference. It will also make the public aware of child abuse all year long.

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Reference:Quinn, P. E. (1988). Spare the Rod. Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press.