What is the purpose of a wildflower?

With this new community I call home for the summer, we often sit around campfires underneath the stars. It’s a refreshing space full of love for God and each other. It’s been difficult to transition after finding such a tight knit community in Memphis that meets my needs, even when I didn’t necessarily know what they were. I’m learning that I know myself well enough now to reach out for what I need in new relationships too, even if reaching out in vulnerability to new people is terrifying at first. Anyways, it’s a sweet time as we sit around a fire sharing stories and laughing after a hard day’s work. Sharing life with 25ish people in the same space is stretching and growing me. More than anything else, it causes me to think more deeply about myself and other people.

The other day, we began pulling up “weeds” in the common spaces around the house we all share. The weeds have small yellow flowers in the middle of them. Dandelions, I think. Maybe not the type of flower I would spend money on, but far from ugly enough to rip out of the dirt. So, questions arose in my mind as we kept pulling up these wildflowers: Whoever decided these were “weeds” and what is the purpose of a wildflower?

Before I answer those questions, story time:

A few months back, I entered into a type of therapy called EMDR. This therapeutic modality utilizes bilateral stimulation of the brain to help someone with traumatic experiences reprocess their memories connected to the trauma. In one of these sessions, as I closed my eyes, I found myself in a pitch black room surrounded by nothing but mist, a sense of terror, and a door which could be seen at the opposite end of the room. As I huddled in the corner, a figure began walking towards me. I was at first surprised and afraid, but then grew curious as I saw compassion in this figure’s eyes, kindness in its’ mouth, and strength in their shoulders. Everything else about the figure shifted and changed beyond recognition with every passing moment. They gave me an invitation. An invitation to come outside the door. Then the figure left. Initially, I clung to what I had always known: darkness. Though, as my eyes were suddenly opened to the devastation sitting in the dark all around me, I ran to the door, banging and begging for the figure to let me out. What I heard: “You have the capacity.” I sat there by the door sobbing for a moment, then reached up to try the door handle. To my surprise, it opened for me. I had the ability to leave the darkness on my own all along. As I entered the open air for what seemed like the first time, an image of mountains and a valley of wildflowers rose up. That figure danced with me in the valley of wildflowers as it began to rain. I have never felt so much joy envisioning dancing in the rain and a valley of wildflowers with what I believe to be my image of God, or as they laughed with an enthusiasm I have never heard before or since.

After this experience, even though it only occurred in my own mind, for me to think of wildflowers as weeds to be dug up is absurd. Why can’t all people see value and worth in the simple beauty each wildflower or “weed” provides? Sure, weeds can grow so quickly and overcome so much in a certain space that they become aggravating. But what if God created the wildflower simply to permeate every sect of our life with beauty no matter how defiantly we try to rid ourselves of it in our own dysfunction and misunderstanding of what beauty truly is? What if it isn’t just the wildflowers that God uses to show us beauty, but people and experiences that nag at our subconscious and make us uncomfortable with what they find there? Human beings tend to trample beauty and classify certain people or experiences as “weeds” in life to dig up and leave for dead just because they make us uncomfortable in the way they mirror our own dysfunctional behaviors. Maybe… just maybe these seemingly little moments of aggravation or irritation in life from people or experiences are God’s way of continually attempting to get our attention and steer us toward beauty and life as it was meant to be lived: full of joy intermingled with sorrow of the pain we’ve experienced that could be brought to healing if we only let Him do work in and through us.

Instead, we humans are much more apt to miss out on seeing beauty as we trudge through life on weary feet. As human beings, we so often overlook the simple joys in life and trample beauty with our own warped desires. The most concrete example of this for me was seeing new ground broken for a subdivision in Colorado covering up these simple wildflowers that exhibit simple beauty. Of course, this movement in society isn’t wrong, but I think motives behind such changes matter. More importantly, I am speaking to the negative movements we make emotionally and physically in our own lives and others. I believe it is our responsibility to become more self-aware, so we don’t let these behaviors rule our life or those around us.

In our subconscious behaviors, we miss it. By “it” I mean we miss out on life as it was meant to be lived. We end up unintentionally hurting ourselves and others based on our own dysfunctional behaviors.

I came across this article in looking up more information about weeds (see below). In it, I learned that weeds often spring up and grow quickly in response to whatever is deficient in that area’s soil and needs further attention. Weeds grow with the purpose of bringing attention to that which is MISSING. I think this is so applicable to life when certain areas of aggravation show us areas of our life that we may be deficient in. The main area of my life I cause pain to myself and other people in has been my addiction to relationships. For most of my life, this is how I sought to validate my worth.


When I classify myself as a “love addict” I typically have to preface what that means for me. Love in its truest form can never be overused or lead to an addiction. I believe, love was intended by God to show the world a picture of life as it was meant to be lived from the beginning of time. But because our broken human nature is to twist and distort, our view of love has become warped over time. I believe there are different forms of love the English language does not capture well enough. The Greek language uses a variety of terms in observation of love. “Eros” is used in reference to sexual passions or love of the physical body. In contrast to this, “Agape” is the type of love that transcends all other types of love. “Agape” love can also be understood as the love of God for us, His children, which goes beyond understanding. So, when I talk about being a “love addict,” I hesitate. I do not want to confuse the unconditional type of love God offers us with our human dysfunction that has twisted love in our own misunderstanding of what love was originally created to be.

Do I think someone can be addicted to “love” specifically? Maybe not. But can I be addicted to relationships, the validation they bring me, and the chemicals that seep into my brain and body during interactions with another human being I’m “in like” with? Abso-freaking-lutely. I raise both my hands to that because it’s this addiction that led to most of the harm I caused myself and others in my own story. I dated guy after guy after guy in high school and college sometimes harming them or allowing myself to be harmed. It was a tragic string of relationships I allowed in not knowing myself well enough to set healthy boundaries. I projected my warped experiences on them or took their own story on my own shoulders, as if I could be responsible for or save them myself. Yes, I am a love addict. And it’s not in the way I think love was ever intended to be understood. My mind that’s been warped by the trauma of my story is slowly being re-wired to reflect a more closely aligned image of what God intended from the beginning of time.

The way I’ve seen this most vividly in my life recently has been in studying the book of Hosea. It’s likely many of you have heard of or read about the book “Redeeming Love” by Francine Rivers. It’s a fictional story based on the biblical book of Hosea. This is one of the books I read that brought me to a deeper understanding of God’s love and pursuit of me and eventually led to my belief in a higher power and savior who’s sacrifice covers my story full of harmful behaviors. It’s an imperfect story written by an imperfect human being, but it opened my eyes to so much truth as a high school student.

As an adult, I recently began studying and digging into the real story of Hosea. Despite the Israelites continued rejection of God and the covenant He made with them, God demonstrates His willingness to suffer and pursue relationship with a people who are clearly missing out on a life fully lived. There are consequences for their actions, but God chooses to renew covenantal relationship with them time and time again regardless of how much it causes Him pain to be rejected.

Hosea 2:13-15

I will punish her for the days
    she burned incense to the Baals;
she decked herself with rings and jewelry,
    and went after her lovers,
    but me she forgot,”
declares the Lord.

“Therefore I am now going to allure her;
    I will lead her into the wilderness
    and speak tenderly to her.
There I will give her back her vineyards,
    and will make the Valley of Trouble a door of hope.
There she will respond as in the days of her youth,
    as in the day she came up out of Egypt.

This commitment to punishment in verse 13 should be followed with rejection of a people who had already rejected God. BUT INSTEAD, God comes back with His desire to pursue and renew covenant AGAIN with a people who have caused so much pain and harm. This just really blows my mind. And it is this that God is teaching me out here in the Colorado mountains with wildflowers (aka “weeds”) all around me. Despite my own continued attempts to find other tangible things or people in my life to fill needs I think I have, which causes me to create innumerable idols out of them, God still pursues me. This idea fills my heart with hope despite my love addicted tendencies that have caused so much pain. I hope some part of it will resonate with you too, no matter what your own addictions or idols are. Allow yourself to recognize the “weeds” in your life that keep springing up, and acknowledge what God may be attempting to bring to light in your own life during these moments of aggravation. This story of pursuit in my own life is something I’ll never full understand or be able to describe. I am just in this moment,



I feel ashamed, guilt ridden, afraid, frustrated, and deeply grieved. More than anything else though… I feel like a FRAUD. Or that’s what the voices in my head are telling me. I talk openly about addiction and my sexually driven dysfunctional behaviors, regularly have people ask me questions about this topic, and act as if I “know” myself and others in this realm. So, right now, my inner judge is having a field day, shaming me for all my failures, past, present, and future.

"Nobody knows who you really are. If they knew, they would reject you. You put on a good front, but really you're manipulating everyone. You know this is true. If only they knew... you talk about healing, but all you really are is FAKE. You'll always be an addict. You'll never experience true healing. How could you? No one could ever accept you as you are... such a fucking mess.
You're not worth good relationships.
No... You're not worth anything at all."

Logically, I can tell you these are lies. I have found enough of who I am in the past few years to “know” this in my mind, but to make my heart believe it? A whole different story. This shame feels like it could kill me. I’m drowning in it. I need to cry and yet the tears won’t come. I’ve regressed back to six years ago me when I thought if I let the tears flow freely now, they might never end. So how do I get out of this hole I find myself in, once again?

I have to accept that today is Day 1.

Today I enter back into my recovery process. Day 1 is a concept in addiction recovery circles that refers to the day after you fall back into addictive patterns of behavior. “Relapse” used to sound like a dirty word to me. After quitting masturbation and porn cold turkey for eighteen months, I thought I was immune to the affects of my addiction. I even began judging others who couldn’t stop their addictive patterns completely, believing they just weren’t trying “hard enough.” I thought I was free. The problem with this?

I stopped paying attention.

It was precisely in the moment when I needed to be aware of my triggers and set up protective factors against relapse, that I failed. I had my first relapse in November of 2019. It took six months for me to get out of that hole, and six months later I fell back into it. My addiction has been a wave of ups and downs since then. One day, I think I’m fighting well: going to therapy, practicing self-care, being honest with myself, God, and others. The next? RELAPSE.

For those of you who are less familiar with the addiction recovery world, this podcast episode is really informative! Also, Dax Shepard is just a freaking boss.

It’s hard to admit that right now, I am NOT in a good place. When I talk about addiction, I want to act like I have my life together, as if I’ve been healed and have answers for other people. The reality is, I don’t know very much, but I am trying to be honest. This is the first step in the recovery process, coming out of denial and beginning to tell the truth.

So here I am, in all my mess, trying to hold onto the truth that I am worthy of love and healthy relationship.

I abandon my addiction to the certainty of life
And my need to know everything
This illusion cannot speak, it cannot walk with me at night
As I taste life’s fragility

I am searching for meaning
I am looking for healing
I am haunted by your reflection
I was blinded by my addictions
I am torn apart by the dying
I am giving up on escaping
Will I learn to live without taking
Will I learn to see beauty in the making

I can’t pretend to know
The beginning from the end
But there’s beauty in the life thats given
We may bless or we may curse
Every twist and every turn
Will we learn to know the joy of living

And to myself I say, welcome back, Anna Kate. I love you.

secrets will kill you.

For most of my life, I’ve kept secrets. So many secrets. At first, I thought not talking about the past was protecting me from the ridicule and rejection I would face if I did. Eventually, despite a panic stricken body that gasped for breath, I dared to say one of my secrets out loud. Then another. And another. They all started to come spilling out after that. In those moments of gasping, I learned that…

Truth can only be found if you’re willing to stand in the light.

As I’ve been reflecting on this thought over the past few weeks, a song has been on repeat in my car:

Wide awake while the world is sound asleep.
Too afraid of what might show up while you’re dreaming…
Everyday you try to pick up all the pieces.
All the memories they somehow never leave.
Nobody nobody nobody sees you.
Nobody nobody would believe you.

For the longest time, I believed I was worth very little, if anything at all. My sexual escapades started young, much younger than most. I was compulsively masturbating by five, had ongoing sexual experiences with two other children my same age between six and twelve years old, and was sexual abused for four years in the midst of all that. So much sexual devastation occurred in those early years that my mind was left to wander into various types of confused panic. The worst being night terrors that come unbidden to my sleeping self, less now that I’ve found and restored certain pieces of me again, but still…

My body is one ravaged by shame and degradation.

The biggest shame factor for me was not grappling with the reality that I had been harmed by someone else, but that I had potentially hurt others, children my age who I played out my distorted view of sexuality with.

Paul Young, author of The Shack, states it this way while sharing his story, “I was a predator when I was six years old. I was looking to set up sexual situations… I was trying to survive… sexual abuse is a devastating thing for a child, because it takes a child and takes away their childhood. It pushes them into adult issues without the ability to be able to think about them as an adult. And it breaks a child into pieces… it’ll break a person into chunks. That person holds these little worlds together by lies.

Watch the whole video of him sharing his story HERE! His healing journey truly is amazing.

That is exactly what I did, held my world together with secrets that turned into lies. I was a child made to deal with adult issues too early in life and became confused about who I was and was supposed to become. So it’s no surprise really that moving into an adult body, my view of sex and sexuality was so warped I didn’t know much beyond what other adults around me taught me to believe:


While as an adult I have never harmed a child, the memories of these sexual “games” from my childhood still haunted me. At one point, I remember such turmoil in my heart remembering these events that I started believing I must somehow be evil and irredeemable. This thought was compounded in one moment, when a 35 year old white man in leadership at a church where I served looked me dead in the eyes and said, “I don’t want to be standing across from you in a court room some day testifying about how you hurt kids at _________.” That day I had the worst panic attack I’ve ever had or likely ever will again. It was a sick confirmation of my deepest fears, that someone else believed I could be capable of such evil too.

It took me a long time to unbind the words that man spoke as a curse over me in contempt and sheer hatred. He did not know me well, did not even try to hear my story, but made a snap judgement based on two facts: (1) I openly talk about my beliefs and struggle regarding sex and sexuality on this blog, which he stumbled across at the time, and (2) I occasionally use the words “masturbation” and “rape” when sharing my story with others, which apparently are inappropriate words for a Christian woman to use (just in case you’re a woman reading this blog and were unaware… HAHAHA. Obvi this is a joke). He told me I needed to take my blog down and never speak these words out loud again, as they were “proof” of my potential to be a child predator, which if you know anything about actual child predator’s is highly illogical and unlikely. Unfortunately, he allowed his own fear of vulnerability and restricted religious views about sex to determine his thinking and attempted to shut me up with more judgement and shame.

Except, it didn’t work.

I didn’t allow the wrong assumptions he made to determine how I live my life. It was at this point in my faith journey that I started questioning my unwavering dependency on religion; deconstructed a lot of previously held dysfunctional beliefs about who God is; had many more panic attacks and lonely sobs in the dark; and I cried out with everything in me for something to come and reveal truth. Somewhere along the way, I began to realize what For King & Country speaks out loud in the song I posted above…

I am the lonely.
I am the ashamed.
I am the misunderstood.
I am the one to blame.

These things are the truth about who I have been.
But they are not the whole truth.

I am seen, known, and deeply matter.
I am the one who was lost and then found.
I am loved beyond what I could ever comprehend.
I am not bound by the past, but am free to be who I truly am.

For so long, I thought I was alone. I believed it was possible that I was the only one who could have ever acted out in this way during my childhood. After a while, I realized it is more common than people know to have confusion surrounding their sexuality as a child. More often than not, children play that confusion out with whatever other objects or friends are around them at the time. I found this to be true when I started sharing my secrets with others who jumped in to say, “oh, me too. I thought I was the only one.” These statements helped me find acceptance for myself and for the brokenness of the world we all live in.

Through it all, even when I felt the most alone in this work, I never truly was. God came into those spaces of pain with me to heal the broken parts of my being. He accepted me as the child I was who unintentionally played out my sexual brokenness with other children, and He accepts me as I am now: the adult that can look back and remember that pain without breaking and sit with others in that pain knowing what it has cost them from a deeply personal place.

“God only knows how to find you.

God only knows how to break through.

God only knows the real you.

God only knows.”

I have a renewed courage as I continue to take steps towards my own healing, and I someday hope to walk alongside those who want to heal through these confusing experiences too, no matter how many secrets they need to tell along the way that they believe are unacceptable, shameful, or too devastating to name.

Speak your secrets out loud, friend. You might be surprised by the freedom you find when you do.

what you dont know wont hurt you… right?

Did you know your brain will do anything in its power to protect you from pain? Not only do we have a built in flight, flight, freeze mechanism, our brains also have the distinct ability to completely disconnect during intense moments of pain (physical, emotional, psychological). In the therapy world, this is know as “dissociation.” This creates a sort of memory where you can see a moment you lived as if floating from above. Your mind sees your body from a separated viewpoint in order to escape that moment of pain. Dissociation can also lead to the brain intentionally blocking memories so that it doesn’t have to relive them (Bessel Van Der Kolk, The Body Keeps the Score, 2014)

What a powerful capacity to protect. It’s beautiful really, that the brain was created to help us survive in this way. For a child, this disconnection is the only way little bodies, little hearts, and little brains can make sense of any sort of trauma that’s happened to them. When I use the word “trauma,” I think that can mean anything from sexual abuse or physical assault to an absent father or lack of emotional connection from a mother. It’s all devastating to the developing mind of a child. Children need connection at a much deeper level than most adults understand or know how to offer them. A child could not survive such devastation without disconnecting or blocking it out altogether.

However, as we grow into adulthood, we then bear a responsibility... to heal. So the question is, how?

There is an Egyptian myth about a god named Osiris. His younger brother Set, jealous of Osiris power and wanting to take it for himself, seeks to destroy him. The problem is you can’t really destroy something that is divine. So, Set does the only thing he can. He cuts Osiris’ body into pieces and scatters them throughout the world, making it near impossible for Osiris to put the pieces of himself back together. The only way this can be remedied is if the scattered pieces are first found. (Get the full story and more mythology stories here: https://mythologyexplained.com/story-of-the-egyptian-gods/).

Found at: https://www.thegreatcoursesdaily.com/osiris-seth-horus-and-the-divine-origins-of-kingship/

Similarly, I’ve found on my journey that the only way to become whole again, despite all the brokenness of my childhood trauma, is to REMEMBER. I have to go back into my memories and find the pieces that my mind needed to at one point break apart, for my own protection. As a child, I could not survive the brokenness of my reality. But as an adult, I have the capacity to face that pain and come out on the other side with a new piece of my soul.

What’s more difficult is realizing I have this capacity. More often than not, going into those memories causes me to revert back to a child self that experienced that moment of pain. It’s terrifying to remember the story as I once again feel as vulnerable and terrified as that child part of me once did. What that means is this:

I can’t do this work alone. I need safe people to go into a memory with me. I need others to remind me who I am when I lose myself in the darkness.

The reality of remembering is this: once you know… you can never NOT know again.

I wouldn’t trade my healing journey for anything, but it has been and still is one of the most painful experiences I’ll ever go through. Remembering is painful, as it must be if healing is to happen. The saying comes to mind: you can’t cover a bullet wound with a band aid. I mean… you can, but it doesn’t work. The wound remains and will continue to bleed, controlling every move you ever make. Unless you’re willing to uncover the wound, look at it, and I mean REALLY look, and stitch the skin back together with your own hands and with the hands of safe people willing to come alongside you in that work.

Your past will control you if you don’t evaluate who and why you are the way you are. So, either way, you’re not escaping anything. You can choose to remember the pain and work towards healing, or be controlled by that which you ignore. Some wound come from harm someone else caused us. Other times, we find a wound left from things we’ve done that has harmed another. Both are difficult to realize, but it’s something we must face if the wounds are ever to heal.

“Can you face it?
Can you look?
Or are you ashamed of what you have done?
Does it haunt you?
Does it hurt?
Is it too much to bear just to let it all out
Are you there?

That’s how I like the falling apart

‘Cause sometimes it’s too hard

Can’t tune out tonight

Alissic, “Like”

Don’t let the darkness scare you away from entering the wounds. It is terrifying, but you never know what kind of light you’ll find on the other side. Stay tuned. My next post will be about the secrets I’ve kept and had to speak out loud in order to find healing. In the mean time, I’m attaching some references below if you’re looking for healing in your own life!

Sexual abuse specific healing: Dan Allender, Healing the Wounded Heart (2016)

Sexual addiction specific healing: Jay Stringer, Unwanted: How Sexual Brokenness Leads Our Way to Healing (2018)

Psychology and healing: Adam Young, the Places We Find Ourselves podcast

General relational healing: Justin and Abi Stumvoll, The Connected Life podcast

Body healing: Bessel Van Der Kolk, The Body Keeps the Score (2014)

dating as an addict.

I’ve been single for over four years and then BAM… January 1, 2021 three different guys show interest in taking me on dates. When it rains, it really rains.

In all seriousness, this was a terrifying moment for me. As long as I’ve been in therapy working through my addictive tendencies, I’ve been afraid to date. It’s not just my addiction that impacts my process though. I have sexual trauma too. This means, I am simultaneously obsessive over and avoidant of romantic attachment. I crave this sort relational intimacy, and I abhor how being invested in someone else romantically affects me. I pull a man in only to push him away in just a few days’ time, or even just a few hours. Bottom line: I don’t really know how to date.

            So what can I do?

Well, mostly I am finding the need to take stock of and relearn the intuition I think I have that is really born out of subconscious past experiences and beliefs that affect how I view men in the present. I have to break through everything I think I know to get into the nitty gritty of what is really true. For example, I am used to intense and highly emotionally volatile relationships. I am a person that likes to go deep very quickly and for the other person to meet me at that kind of depth. These kind of intense emotional interactions draw me in and attach me to a person very quickly. I love to be stimulated in this way. High cost, high reward. Coming down off this high is always painful in the end, but the build-up of relationship is so intense, I am left craving more. Therefore, any kind of guy I find myself only mildly attracted to that does not almost immediately stimulate my dopamine addicted brain is not worth my time. (side note: I found this really interesting article on the neuroscience behind love and attachment relationships. Check it out!)

Is that healthy? Obviously not. What does this look like practically though. For me, it tends to mean I am attracted to charismatic, emotionally unavailable men that are more interested in sex or the same high intensity relationship than who I actually am. It’s a pattern I am becoming to recognize more frequently. Because of this, I almost have to question every interaction I have with a guy, especially those that I find myself immediately attracted to. I have to ask myself WHY. Why this guy? What about him am I attracted to? Is this just about sex, or could it be something more? Am I just drawn to the intensity of the moment? How might this play out if the trajectory of relationship continues at this rate?

Don’t hear me say I think it’s wrong to go deep in a relationship, I believe quite the opposite. However, I do think it’s unwise to go too deep too quickly. It leaves a lot to be desired in the long term and can cause the relationship to fizzle out more quickly.

If the intensity cannot be sustained, it is unlikely the relationship will last long at all. Or if it does, will more likely lead to a toxic and enmeshed relationship leaving both parties with a difficulty to separate in healthy ways because of the codependency created.

Another thing I have to be careful of is my tendency to become obsessive. My relational addiction LOVES to play games. A guy wants me too much, I push him away. A guy doesn’t want me enough, and I immediately want him to notice me more. Instead of being honest about any of that though, I tend to ignore everything until I move on to something different. It’s much too risky for me to let someone know how I really feel. This is where my trauma brain comes into play: I cannot let anyone control me, particularly any man.

Even in ignoring a guy I am becoming obsessed with, I end up liking them more. I create fantasies of what could be if they came after me. I play out scenario after scenario in my mind to stimulate the addictive parts of my brain that crave the attentions that a relationship could give me. In it all, I build up a false sense of reality. A reality that could get crushed at any time… because it’s not really real. Somehow, even the pain of let down has its own addictive quality. At least I am feeling something, right?

To counteract this, I have to be more aware of my thought life, where it is I am making up stories in my head about who someone else might be or is thinking. Truly, 90% of the time humans are thinking about themselves. So while I am over here thinking about me, any guy I might make believe is thinking about me too is probably just thinking about themselves. Ok, maybe that is a little cynical. But if I go around thinking every guy I ever feel attracted to is thinking about me, it just makes me think in prideful and unrealistic ways.

Then I think, what even is the point of trying? If my love and sex addicted, traumatized brain is so crazy that I only attract men at the same caliber of crazy, what is the point? Honestly, some days I don’t know. I have built a really healthy single life for myself, but the second I throw someone else into the mix, things get messy. Relationships are messy.

Maybe what I really need to do is stop thinking so hard about who or who not to date and just TRY. So that’s just what I did. I went on a few dates, and am still looking at going on a few more. I am testing the waters of relationship to see if I like what I find. I am taking it slow, not oversharing or overthinking my position in the process, and just letting it be what it is. For right now, it is enough just to try and see where things go!

Just gonna throw some funny dating memes out there… cause sometimes I get a vulnerability hangover after writing about my life and I need an outlet to promote laughter:

an idyllic view of sex

When I find a new song that I really like, I tend to over listen, repeating it for days at a time. My most recent find:

Break the hands on every clock so we can take our time

Make the most of every minute so that I can make you mine

Tell your friends you’re staying in tonight, can’t get you out of my head

Take it slow so we can do this right, if that’s what you want then I’ll beg

Don’t you know we can do anything

If you feel it too then girl don’t be ashamed

Don’t you know we can do everything

If you just let me lay you down.

Cold nights, closed eyes

Feel your body light a fire in mine

Turn out the lights and I won’t lie

I’ve got sinning on my mind

Same scene, repeat

Our thoughts tangled underneath these sheets

Turn out the lights and I won’t lie

I’ve got sinning on my mind

“Body on Fire” by Slaves

It’s pretty obvious what the lyrics here are communicating. Intense, drawn out sexual exploration. I hear these words and long for this kind of interaction. Almost subconsciously, I replay the song over and over and over again as I lust after that which I do not currently have. It serves as a sort of self-indulgent habit to roll over old sexual memories or create new ones in my mind, imagining this song playing in the background, creating the perfect night… or nights rather.

As a love and sex addict I often find myself idealizing what I imagine sex should be like. I listen to songs or watch TV shows that make sex into a sort of god and find myself fantasizing about sex in culturally designed ways. Then, what I find myself believing is that you should be able to have sex whenever you want, however you want, wherever you want, and as much as you fucking want. How very individualistic. Is this realistic though? Specifically, if you choose to have sex with another person, it stops being completely about you. There is another human being in front of you that has to be considered. What are their wants, desires, longings?

Reality Check: surprise, sex isn’t all about you. It’s about connection, to yourself and the person across from you.

On the opposite end of my idyllic connection to sex is an avoidance of it. According to this song, sex is actually a “sin.” Modern Evangelical Christian culture, which I grew up in, often fails its’ members in this area. Bound by fear, instead of talking about sex as a gift of intimate connection created by a God that wants us to experience pleasure, the church often ignores the topic altogether; or, if it is talked about, only briefly and in ways that shame sexual desire.

We are supposed to see the body as bad and therefore reject any pleasure we could possibly experience through its use. Therefore, we are left with an opposing cultural perception that sex is a “sin.” We must become rebels if we want to experience intimacy in this way at all. Unfortunately, because of this approach, a part of our generation has been imbued with intense feelings of shame surrounding their sexual experiences, no matter what context sex is explored in.

And so the cycle of misunderstanding, distortion, and ultimately trauma in regards to sex and sexuality continues.

Due to personal belief and a story of sexual harm, I am waiting to have sex until in a marital relationship with someone. I’m not married yet, but it’s very possible that if I do choose to get married someday, I will be disappointed by the sex life I end up with. Why? Because I allow these distortions about how culture views sex to rule my thinking. Both are wrong points of view, the idealism and the disgust. So, how do I mitigate the negative effects this may have on me? Ultimately, I have to choose to reevaluate and wrestle with…

  1. My subconscious thought that when I do choose to have sex with someone, it will be a multiple orgasm a day endeavor.
  2. The reality that I will likely feel some sort of residual shame in my body during sex that causes me to internally shut down and disconnect from the moment.

From my conversations with people in sexual relationships, it’s highly unlikely that I’ll be having sex multiple times a day for the rest of my life. Additionally, having an awareness of my trauma history, it is also highly probable that I will have a lot of negative feelings about sex come up that need to be talked about with the person I am choosing to have sex with.

Reevaluation of a previously held belief system shaped by culture is HARD. Everything in my easily addicted heart wants to believe the images, thoughts, feelings I’ve been fed by movies, songs, billboards and discount the reality of sexual and spiritual trauma in my story. In part, this is due to the fact that not many people are willing or open to talking about their sex life. It’s a topic that fluctuates from being culturally taboo to the punch line of a casual joke. The lack of real and intentional conversation leaves most of us to muddle through our sexual desires, thoughts, and experiences to figure out what we believe ALONE.

Thankfully, I have an intimate group of friends who are willing to have these hard conversation and don’t shy away from expressing their past experiences, beliefs, and opinions about sex to me. I need people in my life to help me do this work of reevaluating my own internal and subconscious beliefs. For a long time, I was afraid of facing myself, afraid of the pain this could cause. In recent months, I’ve become more accustomed to the pain and all that it brings with it: disgust, empathy, rage, sadness and ultimately… healing. No matter what I do, if I do choose to have sex with someone, it will be messy. The mess is unavoidable as I bring my understanding of sex into a relationship with someone who has their own, and likely different, understanding of sex.

I want to be willing to sit in the mess and fight for goodness, a goodness I believe includes healthy sexual exploration, whether or not I ever do or do not have sex. Regardless, I can explore my own sexuality and the sexual beliefs of others in a curious way. I don’t have a lot of answers, just a desire to keep digging into knowing myself more in the context of who I am as a sexual being. So…

Bring on the mess, I say.

what they don’t tell you about masturbation…

Preface: this is purely personal reflection from my own experience. It’s funny because I’ve recently been reading back through old journals I kept in high school, and I couldn’t even write the word “masturbation” down. The terminology and all that the word’s meaning held brought me so much shame that I minimally and only vaguely referenced my struggle with this as “M.” It makes me chuckle to think of how far I’ve come in overcoming what shame I once felt in talking about this subject.

For those of you who consider yourselves “evangelical Christians,” we have in the modern day church come to believe it’s much less threatening to use the word pornography as a stand-alone to communicate sexual sin, if in fact you believe it is a sin. But the issue here is this, watching porn is its own sort of dysfunction. Masturbation is another. They often exist in conjunction with one another, but not always. For most of my journey, I never looked at porn when masturbating. Why can’t we call the action what it is? It is uncomfortable. To say, to think about, to talk openly about. So, let’s all just go ahead and get over the awkwardness we feel when seeing or hearing the word masturbation, cause I’m about to say it a bunch of times in this post.

Fair warning.

What I’ve found to be true…

  1. Masturbation is lonely. People often argue with me that masturbation is a way to explore your body and find the ways you feel pleasure best. Regardless, unless someone is watching you do this, you do it alone. In my experience, there is a moment, right after, where I feel completely and utterly alone. I think to myself, “what was the point?” Then I attempt to go about my day trying not to think THAT thought again. If masturbation is supposed to make me feel so good about myself, why does it make me feel so lonely? Some people will deny, minimize, or refute this idea altogether. After having masturbated for a majority of my life up to this point, I can’t remember one time where it felt genuinely good without any negative feelings attached. These feelings can’t have been born out of a cultural expectation, because I didn’t even know what sex was or what I was doing to make my body “feel good” at the time I started masturbating around five years old. There was nothing to base my feelings about sex off of then beyond a vague sensation that something wasn’t right, even at that young age.
  2. There is a lack of connection created in these moments. If sex was just about the climax, what then is the point of ever having sex with anyone BUT yourself? You could figure out ways to feel pleasure better alone that need not require anyone else much less communication to another human about what you like or dislike. It is my opinion that there is some deeper purpose sex was intended for: that is connection to another human being, and you cannot experience this if you are alone (side note: go check out the podcast “The Connected Life” to hear to more about this concept!). In fact, I would say it’s rather disconnecting to masturbate alone. For me, it requires a splitting off of parts of who I am to engage that which I do not really want, but feels like it’s the only way to get what I think I need. In other words, I desire the deepest sense of intimacy that can be felt through sexual connection to another, but when I don’t have an outlet for this, I allow myself to FAKE IT through a conjuring of images that supposedly meet a desire in my heart… except it never does. My soul longs for MORE. Which brings me to my third point.
  3. It’s pretty much impossible to masturbate without a fantasy in mind… and normally, whatever we are fantasizing about is a signal of that which we cannot control. Jay Stringer wrote a book not too long ago called “Unwanted: How sexual brokenness Reveals Our Way to Healing.” In it, he talks about research he did of over 3,000 people that connects certain sexual behaviors to childhood wounds. I won’t go into any super deep details here, so you’ll have to go buy the book to read for yourself! The premise of his work is that almost any “unwanted sexual behavior” we have is born out of core beliefs or false realities we’ve created in our subconscious mind over time. Your childhood held pain that tells you, “you’re not worth connection. In fact, you’re not worth anything at all.” Those little voices that whisper in our mind, “people don’t really like you,” “you’re a terrible person,” “what a poser,” “you deserve to be hated,” or whatever else you hear those voices say. There are things we learned we could not control in childhood that often develop into sexual behaviors to hopefully gain back the control we did not have. We hope that by being in control, we can somehow disrupt the “truths” these voices tell us about ourselves. Most of the time though, the ways we try to attempt to self-heal these traumas of our past really end up becomming self-fulfilling prophecies. We can’t heal on our own, which confirms that the pain we have must have been deserved. And so the shame cycle continues. We go back again, and again, and again to the pain we now believe we deserve. Until we are willing to look at the mental fantasy world we engage in more deeply, we cannot find what’s underneath, what pain our fantasy worlds are covering up within. It seems easier to live in a false reality than face the real reality of what might be true about who we are and what we believe we’re actually worth.
  4. Finally, it never seems to be enough. There is never enough satisfaction that you stop wanting more and better options for masturbating. The images you start with get boring after a while and you have to come up with new ones. A new face, a new bodily experience, a new sensation. For some reason, there always seems to be this emptiness or “lack” that follows a masturbation attempt for me. It comes from a lack of connection and meeting of my REAL needs that I try to cover up with the chemicals that get released in my brain during a climactic experience. In the end, the climax trails off; my needs for connection are not really met; and once again, I am alone.

In my own life, I’ve found a sense of peace in the midst of my shame about this. For me, masturbation has been addictive in nature, to the point that it felt like a constant battle to overcome for a while. I experienced “sobriety” (for lack of a better term) for upwards of 18 months, and then failed… again. I struggled for a while then was able to reach a point of sobriety again. It’s been about three months now. In it all, whether in sobriety or my perceived failure, I have found pieces of myself along the way. I have learned to love and care for the parts of my soul that desire intimate connection through expressing my sexuality or wanting sex. The desire within me is GOOD, so good. I do not try and beat the desire down anymore like I have in the past in order to escape my shame. No, now I embrace the shame, my own failures, the parts of me that have been broken and warped by sexually painful experiences. SO much so, that I can live out of a reality that I now (better than ever before I chose to examine my mental fantasy world) know and love myself, but more than that, I live out of the reality that the God I believe in knows and loves me at a deeper level still. In ways I cannot even begin to fathom of their depths. It is this reality that I live out of daily. And in it, I feel FULL.

Full of life, love, connection.

I kind of really like you, Anna Kate.
Sincerely, your Self.

Maybe you’ve read all this and want to call bullshit. You like masturbation. It seems alright to you. Other people believe as long as you don’t look at porn, it’s just fine. My main purpose in writing this is to push people think about it for a second. For one moment, just think about where your beliefs on masturbation came from and why. There are reasons why we believe it is or is not healthy to engage in this kind of sexual behavior. Whether you do engage in masturbation or not, whether you believe it is fine or not, you might be surprised by what you find in your story or background that brought you to this point. Think about it. And shoot me your genuine thoughts and questions! I want to hear your experience.

how do you start over?

I’ve left home.

More permanently than I ever have before. Memphis is the city that grew and molded me into who I am today. Yet here I am in Utah so very different from the little girl who grew up in Tennessee, and it’s clear to me that this is where I’ve always been meant to end up. Amber Run speaks my thoughts on this best:

“We’re all just skin and bones… scattered in the wind. We’ll end up where we’re supposed to be… It’s thanks to you that I am here and you’re here to. The entire world seems brand new. And it’s thanks to you.”

Amber Run

Maybe I’ll end up back in Memphis some day, but then again maybe not.

I don’t know where life is taking me, but right now it really feels like I’m flying. Flying in ways I never knew I could until this summer.

This only happened after I was told I couldn’t be who I was created to be in a toxic space that shut me down and ultimately pushed me out based on a difference of belief regarding my openness about sexuality, trauma, and addiction. This came from an organization that claimed to “value vulnerability.” Though apparently vulnerability in this space had unspoken limits I was unaware of. Historically, it has been an unspoken rule, a forbidden apple if you will, to talk about sex or sexuality in the conservative church. It’s an environment filled with shame for those who cannot be honest about the darkest parts of their story in this way. It’s part of why I decided to leave the South for a time. Moving out West is where I know I need to be right now, in part to escape the tragedy that I perceive is Southern cultural Christianity. Before I can return, I need to gather my thoughts and become more established in my ability to speak up about my beliefs on this matter without getting steamrolled by those unwilling to sit in the tension of people harmed by these unspoken rules. Writing helps me find my voice. Obviously, here I am.

Some days I feel like this lone buffalo. Content, but also lonely.

It’s true, Christians aren’t always what they claim to be. I encountered that for the first time this summer working for a outward seeming healthy community made up of professed Christians for two months. Yet, they pushed me out of their space for simply exhibiting a willingness to be honest about who I am and my passions for justice in a world full of pain and trauma. It crushed me for a while, this dismissal of passion that makes up a lot of who I am. Old patterns of panic attacks ensued yet again. These come up from time to time when I feel pushed into a space too small to contain what I believe to be my God-given hopes, longings, and dreams. Some people have asked why I stayed as long as I did seeing and feeling this legalistic control and letting it push me so far into anxiety in the first place? The simple answer is that I felt called to be there for the time I was. I don’t regret those months. In fact, I feel proud that I was able to sit in the unhealth of that space and not loose myself entirely for as long as I did. It was more lonely than anything I’ve experienced previously. Still, I was able to stay ME and not conform to the standard that everyone else around me seemed so willing to do.

In my mind, I couldn’t understand or accept how a group of professed Christians would not allow me to have personal beliefs about non-salvific issues related to the gospel (basically all that means is there are a lot of shades of grey in the Bible when it comes to relating to other human beings). It was their way or the highway, asking if I could say I believed the same things they did up to a certain percentage. You can guess which option I chose. I chose the highway and packed up my stuff in less than a few hours with seemingly nowhere to go or sleep. My car for a time became the only place I could feel safe. So, I took to the road, living out of the back of my car, sometimes sleeping in it or with strangers I met along the way that offered me kindness I could not repay. For eight weeks I traveled, mostly alone. Little did I know then, my faithful civic would never make it back across the bridge to Memphis.

I will miss this city terribly.

For a time after leaving this organization that so fully ruined my perception of healthy Christian community, I became hardened and bitter, raging at God and the world for creating people so closed off to the truth of what it means to LIVE, each person in a unique way. I hated it for a while, as I went out west that everyone else saw as such a fantastical adventure on social media. Don’t get me wrong, it was an incredible adventure, but it was also a time of breaking and renewal for me. I truly hated being alone and calling myself a “Christian” in a culture where that has become a dirty word because people (like those I lived with for two months) try to control everything to the point of causing pain and suffering.

“How can this be possible,” I would scream at the wind, “when this gospel I believe in was meant to relieve pain, or at least give hope in the midst of it!”

Alone for weeks, I sat with these thoughts wondering where to go. Often, I thought I’d lost who I was. Until, God reminded me of the pain that limited, blind, dysfunctional human beings ignorantly bring about on a regular basis. It was like looking in a mirror at who I have been and am also still at times, and I had to begin accepting my own limitations as well as that of those around me.

I miss it terribly… this life I lived so briefly on the road

That’s when God showed up. God showed up in my life in ways I can barely describe now and wrecked the harmful thoughts that space produced in me entirely. I can’t describe it to you, the ways They were present with me. All I know is that God was there. Every time I turned around They were there. As I wrestled with these thoughts and feelings, I was alone and yet not ever truly alone. After a time, peace settled around me, and I began to enjoy the road with all its uncertainties. I was no longer afraid of being harmed as a single woman on the road as so many others told me I should be. I didn’t have to be afraid, because no matter what was to come, I knew I would not be alone in it. Pain or no pain, I would be ok.

Time alone on the road brought me to a sense of self and purpose that overwhelms me even now. In those weeks, I found so much fullness to life! I wish everyone felt this full, and yet it’s not a feeling I can give away. Each person has to choose that fullness of life for themselves. There are few that have been able to sit in that space with me: allowing me to be fully myself and not try to take any of it for their own gain or spurn and reject me out of envious intention. Yet, here I am. Still learning to thrive and feeling so full of life I wish I could describe it to you. Days can still be hard, and nevertheless they are always FULL of sorrow, joy, and wonder… so much wonder that many days I feel like an expansion in my chest and the tears that constantly gather in my eyes might consume me altogether.

Finally, I couldn’t help but believe in the foundation of salvation that had already been set firm in my life from years of engaging with this God I believe in. I continue hoping for a better world full of kindness and care for the weak, hurting, and marginalized; I hope for a space where people can dig in to their hearts more deeply than ever before and be accepted for all the good and bad that resides within each one of us (because in many ways I am a monster, and can admit those deepest darkest thoughts because I’ve been given freedom over them); I hope for me, and I hope for all of you. It’s a lot of hope I carry around in my heart that often causes me daily pain. Yet, to hope is to be in pain. I can’t be in relationship with everyone, but I can share kindness with every person I come into contact with and hope for each individual to find a life of fullness in their own time. It’s worth it, the pain of never knowing these things may come to fruition. People are worth hoping and being in pain for.

To all of you who have experienced a similar sort of oppression from professed Christians too, I am truly sorry. Our community has not been kind to those that look different from what we perceive to be righteous. This summer, I cried many tears over the broken reality we all have been subjected to by a system so broken and blind to what it means to truly love another human being.

In conclusion: I do call myself a Christian. I am not conservative. I am not liberal. I believe in the Bible and all the stories that depict messy people living messy lives. I believe in showing up and being present to the best of my ability. I believe in having boundaries in life that should not be crossed no matter what, I love people no matter what, and you are welcome in my space no matter what. I believe in those areas of truth in the Bible that seem black-and-white to me and many others that don’t, and I believe in kindness and Agape above all. If the whole world turned against me because I won’t choose a side, then so be it. I will still live a really full life because of the presence of God I feel so potently today. It’s not all I desire out of life, but it’s all I really need to be FULL. Moving to a new city is scary, but I’m just out here in Utah trying to figure out how to continue living fully. Stay tuned.

Being alone might sound daunting to some, but for me, it’s what brought me more life than anything I’d ever experienced before. It’s in this space God had enough room to speak to my heart as I finally allowed Them to… I’m only saddened I didn’t allow this space for God sooner.

i looked at porn this week.

(should probably warn everyone that there is adult content featured in this post)

For over a year, I’ve been sober. What does “sobriety” mean to me? It meant restraining myself from looking at pornographic images and acting on lustful thoughts based on what I saw by masturbating. Lust, meaning wanting that which I don’t currently have. So I end up just taking what I want from myself or other people, in this case, in a sexual way. For a while, I’ve prided myself on my “cold turkey” quitting such detrimental behaviors to my overall health and wellbeing since May of 2018. Then one day this week, it just happened.

Instagram. That’s how I found porn in the first place. Social media may seem innocent to some, but for me it dramatically altered the way I viewed sex from the day I started accessing pornographic accounts in its’ site. It was the fall semester of my senior year in college. I had never once seen or desired to look for porn until the age of 22. But I had just been through a bad break-up with the boy I thought I was supposed to marry, who turned out to be a sex addict and had suddenly, overwhelmed with guilt, come clean to me about his ten times a day addiction to pornographic viewing. For months after the break-up, he promised to “get clean and come back around for me.” Then one day… it all just stopped, going from 100 to 0 in the matter of one weekend. I was devastated. So what did I do?

I started looking at porn.

How else was I supposed to connect with the guy I’d been so desperately in love with for four years? He wasn’t talking to me anymore, so I subconsciously found the only way I knew how to connect with him at all. It started with pictures on Instagram. Interesting what you can find on a seemingly innocent social media site. The sites of women I found attempting to sell themselves through the guise of a social media account got taken down as quickly as they were put up, but there was no way to keep the flood of accounts from being recreated time and time again. I was hooked.

There is something intense about the rush of adrenaline you get from looking at images you know aren’t ok. It was sickening at first, but eventually, the guilt I felt dulled to a soft roar that could be ignored behind the loud demand for “MORE.” What I viewed only escalated from there. For the next year and a half, I struggled with an escalation to pornography that went from limited images, to more pronounced images, to actual videos. Everything I found was right there at my fingertips on my favorite social media site whenever I felt the slightest bit lonely and needed my “fix.”

As I began being honest in group counseling session and with close friends, the addiction threw me into intense shame cycles of feeling worthless and incapable of nullifying the effects this behavior had on me. I was a slave to myself, unable to escape my “desire.” However, it wasn’t desire at all. I was just replaying my story of sexual trauma over again in what I viewed in a subconscious attempt to gain control over it. Over time, I was able to find the root issue of my pornographic use. But that required a very painful time of introspection and honesty with others about the darkest parts of my story and what I believed to be true about myself because of my sexually distorted experiences.

I had struggled with masturbation from a very young age, a coping technique of escaping to a mental fantasy world when life seemed hard or too much for me. As a young girl, I had already begun to buy into a belief that I wasn’t wanted for who I was. If I couldn’t be worth much emotionally or personally, culture told me, I could at least be wanted for my body. SO, naturally, I gave it away, to any boy who would have me. I was a hurricane of hurt and hurting others throughout most of middle and high school. I let myself be used and abused by any guy I dated because my core belief said this was all I would ever be worth, so I might as well give myself over to their advances.

Watching porn in college only escalated and enhanced what I already believed to be true about myself. Because I felt like I was worth very little, if anything at all, I allowed myself to watch as women in these images were degraded to seem worth very little, and I related to them. Yet, they were WANTED. Or at least their bodies were wanted. That made them worth something, right? I engaged this material because in my mind it all made total sense. This was my life after all. Used, abused, abandoned. I could not escape that this was my reality. Might as well engage it. At least if this was my reality, I could make it seem ok by reliving my experiences through others. I was not alone. Ironically, I was more alone than I’d ever been.

During those first few months of looking at porn, I fell into a deeply rooted anxiety and depression, leading to self harming behaviors and suicidal thoughts. I was lost in the void of nothingness: being nothing, wanting nothing, hoping for nothing. All I could do was survive, and the porn numbed me out considerably by helping me escape into a world outside of my current reality. “Thank god,” I often thought. I kept looking at degrading images of women who looked like me to escape any and all feelings of real pain. It was easier, not feeling so alone in it all… or so it seemed. It took me a long time to come out of that dark place, and I know for some, it takes much longer.

To the point of this post, it’s been over a year since I’ve actively chosen to look at porn. But this week, I did. I found myself in a moment of feeling completely rejected and alone. Then as I was scrolling through Instagram stories, someone had posted a pornographic picture that was driven by the great realm of photography. Maybe photographers aren’t affected by the body the same way as us addicts are, but this has been a huge area of temptation for me since experiencing sobriety. Pictures considered to be art affect me the same way as any other sort of visual pornography. So, I clicked on the post link. Aaaanndd it spiraled down from there.

For about 30 minutes, I found myself looking at images I thought I would never return to, yet here I was. Again, fragilely human, incredibly vulnerable, weak. One image on a bad day was all it took to fall back into previous dysfunctional behaviors. I could rage against the person who posted the photo, blame them for falling into old bad habits. Still, it wasn’t this person’s fault for posting a picture that may or may not have affected them in the same way as it did me. It is my responsibility for clicking on the link, knowing what I would find.

After scrolling through the account and finding myself in a state of pent up arousal, I finally threw my phone on the ground… picked it back up, and texted three different friends. With support from an accepting community, I was able to say no to taking what I viewed further into sexually acting on the images I saw, but it was one of the most shame filled moments I’ve had in a while. There is comfort in finding myself capable of some self-control and being honest about this with safe people in the moment, rather than letting the shame eat away at me for days afterwards. I am ok. And despite the shame, I still know who I am. Nothing about that or the foundation of my beliefs has changed. It simply means that (1) I’m still an addict and (2) the addiction can catch me unawares at times. Of course, I wish this weren’t true, but I’m better off knowing that it is and letting my awareness shape me into a more wholistic and healthy version of me.

Where do I go from here? Well, I’m not sure. What I do know is that this is not the end of my fight, and I am not alone. Make of this what you will. I’m still processing it all. It’s easy to talk about issues you’ve conquered or moved on from. It’s much more difficult to sit in the tension between what you hope for and what is your reality in the given moment. This is the tension I live in, and I’m willing to share it with others who aren’t sure where they are in their own struggles with sexuality and intimacy either.

Thanks for reading and being on this journey with me!

freedom in feeling.

So it continues, this healing work by delving into pain. Yeah, yeah, I get that I’m an enneagram four, so I suppose this is just normal for me. I regularly engage my pain so that I can have freedom from what keeps me disconnected and living a mediocre life. Generally though, I do think inner work and new perspectives on self are neccessary for everyone who chooses to enter into healing.

HAHAHA this honestly isn’t inaccurate… I wish.

FEELINGS. Where to begin? Lets start with a misconception I heard pretty often growing up in the church. Clearly, I’ve been doing a lot of reconstructing beliefs lately.

“The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; Who can understand it? ‘I the Lord search the heart and test the mind, to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his deeds.’”

Jeremiah 17:9-10

Growing up, I often heard this first verse quoted as a way to shame people for their emotions. “You’re heart is deceitful. Make sure not to let your emotions inform your life decisions.” Let’s break this verse down at its roots for a moment. The Hebrew word for “heart” here is Lev, which more properly understood means “the inner being of a man, including the intellect, emotions, and functions” (Blue Letter Bible). Jewish people in the time that the Old Testament was written had no concept of the brain’s functions, so in their understanding: thoughts, decisions, and desires were lumped in with the other functions of the heart such as sustaining physical life and the human ability to feel emotions. That is how this word for “heart” biblically needs to be understood. For more information, watch this cool video from the Bible Project about this concept:

The word for “deceitful” can also be translated as “crooked” or “distorted.” This means that what we are talking about here is not that our emotions alone are messed up sometimes, but so are our minds?! That can’t be, after all, our minds are where we hold information about doctrine as laid out in scripture and we could never be wrong about how we perceive what we read on a page (written with much sarcasm). No one had ever told me this verse in context before I decided to study it for myself. Hence, for a long time, I believed my emotions were somehow always wrong. The next verse of this passage further proves that is it not only our emotions that are a focus here. God will search and know not only our hearts but our minds as well, and God will be faithful to bring these things to light in His timing. It stands to reason then that, because of sin, our whole being has been warped and distorted, NOT JUST OUR EMOTIONS. Despite what some Christians will tell you this verse says… to “control those emotions cause honey they will deceive you.” I could also tell someone that about their intellect then. Noted.

Too often, we forget about context and the original language these words were written from. In fact, the Jewish culture and language is full of examples where they experience a depth of emotion most Americans are not comfortable with:

  • In times of mourning, Jewish people in the old testament would tear their clothes, wail, and pour ashes on their heads. Sounds like a whole lot of intense emotions to me.
  • David and other writers of the Psalms cry out to God again and again in a state of despair, noting their own anxious and depressive tendencies. Psalm 88 is often depicted as the “darkest” Psalm in the entire book. There is a Hebrew word used here that is not found anywhere else in the bible: PUWN, meaning “to be darkened.” Other terms used in the Psalm point to depressive tendencies with phrases like “my eye grows dim” and “darkness is my only companion.” The depth of emotion in this one passage is overwhelming (Blue Letter Bible).
  • In Exodus 2:23-25 when the Israelites “cry out” to God for deliverance from slavery, one of the Hebrew words used here is: Za-aq, meaning to shriek from anguish or despair (Blue Letter Bible). Jewish people knew how to feel and feel deeply. It was not a sin in their culture to display these emotions openly.

Emotions themselves are not bad, friends! Sure, just like everything else in life, they can become distorted and lead to negative behaviors. It is my belief though that God created feelings for our benefit in order to become more connected to God, ourselves, and others. If we were honest about where our emotions truly were in any given moment, they would not control us, but rather we could have a better understanding of them and not live under the weight of having to “stuff them down” all the time. This misconception is what I believe really controls us, the act of constantly attempting to ignore our emotions altogether. So why do some people keep using this one verse to communicate the opposite of what God created our emotions for? We have become uncomfortable in our own skin, unable to identify who and where we are internally. This leads to shutting down our emotions entirely, because we are afraid of them. I’ll be honest with you, it is painful to feel the depth of emotion our hearts can lead us to, but without our emotions, we cannot be full human beings as God intended from the beginning.

This is a dangerous place to be: unknown. Being and feeling known gives you a greater depth and ability to understand what love as God intended truly is so that you can live this out in your relationship with others. Not to mention, NOT truly knowing yourself can lead to all kinds of subconscious relational issues. God KNEW Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden before the fall, and they KNEW each other. This word “to know” comes from the Hebrew Yada, to know intimately. So how do we get here? Like anything, it takes time and a willingness of being in process to experience what it means to be “fully known and fully loved.”

Ok kind of a cliché song, BUT the words make sense for what I’m talking about here.

I’ll give you an example from my own life:

For most of my life, I truly believed I could only be worth use and abuse in an intimate relationship with a man based on the traumas in my past. Well, really, my brain was unable to separate the concepts of “intimacy” and “sex” altogether. I believed if you weren’t having sex with someone, you couldn’t truly be intimate with them. Now, I can see the flaw in that belief because then how would I ever have deeply intimate relationship with another woman or God? I hadn’t figured that out yet. I was scared. Sexual interaction to me for many years had only meant pain and abandonment. Because this belief permeated my life, and was reinforced time and time again by experience, I began to use a mental fantasy world as my drug of choice to escape that reality. Fantasy for me came in the way of books, idealization of relationships, and eventually led to an addiction to masturbation and pornography. What I didn’t recognize for a long time was I acted out of a place of believing I was worth very little. Of course I couldn’t let myself FEEL any of that. The pain would have been too great to bear and overtaken me, or so I believed.

That may have been true if I was actually worth very little, but that is not how God designed me or created me to live out today.

It took time, patience, and acceptance by me and others to finally realize and not hate myself for this toxic trait of escaping into a mental fantasy world every time I felt the slightest bit lonely. Then one day, that belief of having very little worth turned into something sort of neutral. As I began to feel deeply, let myself grieve loss and the pain of my past, acknowledge the damage done to my heart and soul, my Lev began repairing itself. Over time, I eventually had no issue resisting the urge to go to pornography as a coping technique for my pain. It no longer fulfilled my needs because I now believed I deserved more than allowing myself to live in a warped mental fantasy world of distorted sexuality. I was finally feeling the effects of healing I long worked towards. God designed our minds and bodies to recover from trauma, but we have to be willing to enter into the depths of pain in order to come out more wholly on the other side. I now knew I was worth more than being used, abused, and abandoned, but I didn’t really know what I WAS worth.

Somewhere along my healing journey, I met a man who treated me with kindness and respect in a moment when I was extremely vulnerable and could have been easily taken advantage of. Instead of experiencing what I’d long believed was just “normal,” as guy after guy pushed any physical boundary I ever set, this man cared for me by not even questioning why I set the boundaries I did. It sounds funny, but I had never met a man who sincerely respected boundaries I put in place without having to reinforce them multiple times over and push the guy away in the process to protect myself from their own manipulative advances. In one moment though, I set a boundary with this man who just said… “ok?” And didn’t push the issue, not once? It couldn’t be real. But it was. Wow, did that throw my brain for a loop or what. I was suddenly left wondering if I could actually be worth something, specifically a man who would allow me to set boundaries and NOT push them or manipulate my emotions to get me to a place where I eventually met their own desires. Or maybe even more than that, I could be worth someone who would CARE enough to notice when I was emotionally checked out because my trauma brain had kicked in. I could possibly even be worth a relationship with someone who would notice my most vulnerable parts and truly see me as I am.

All of a sudden, it clicked. I am worth more than I ever believed possible.

I wept for what seemed like hours in the car one afternoon during a long drive and understood that I finally had the piece of information I’d long searched for: there were men in the world willing to give up their own desires for the sake of my need to feel safe and secure, specifically in terms of how my broken and fearful view of sex affects almost every interaction I have with a man. I now understood that I was worth a sacrificial type of love. You might think I should have known that as a Christian believing Jesus sacrificed His own life for mine. Sure, in a salvific, eternal perspective way I knew this. But what about in the here and now? Nope. I did not believe I could not be worth much at all until the day I would someday be brought to completion in Christ. But that’s not true, because otherwise why then would I be LIVING? If God had no other purposes for me on this earth, I would be dead. So, I must be worth something in THIS life, right? Not until this moment with a man I knew very little did I actually at a heart and soul level understand my worth. He had no obligation to me, did not have the same convictions as I did, could have pushed on the boundaries I set without any guilt. But he didn’t, and it has made all the difference for me.

Truly, never in my life have I ever wanted to have sex with a man (I guess I should say “had” now). Sex has always been a terrifying and unwanted part of my future. “It couldn’t possibly be good after all the sexual trauma I experienced,” I often considered. Yet, as my mind and heart shifted, I was left with desires I had never known possible for someone with a story full of sexual trauma like mine, by a man who could not possibly comprehend how one choice to respect boundaries I set was about to change my entire life. Personally, I believe this sort of physical intimacy should be reserved for a committed, monogamous relationship before God, so for now I am choosing to wait for something I truly thought I would never want. My future husband will have this man to thank for giving me an actual desire for sexual intimacy, not an action born out of duty or fear.

Side note: Listen to this podcast of a Christian couple talking openly about their sex life and how past trauma affected their relationship and the healing they've found in being open about those things! https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/episode-19-sex-sex-and-more-sex-creating-a-sex-life-you-love/id1447545040?i=1000437953175

In the therapy world, they call these “mismatching experiences.” When you live with certain core beliefs that are reinforced by experiences and those around you time and time again, there is no reason to disbelieve their truthfulness. However, when you have an experience or interaction that counters what you’ve always believed to be true, you’re brain starts to wonder… question what truth actually is. It is in this space that true heart change can occur.

Your brain and body have to actually experience something different in order to accept its’ potential validity.

Just because this picture makes me happy!

We all have pain in our stories that causes dysfunction in our adult lives, even if we don’t always realize the dysfunction for what it is. Why wouldn’t we? Because it’s NORMAL to us. We all have a sense of what’s normal that has often been twisted by our own personal perception of the world, or our “lens of perspective,” that was shaped from our earliest years of existence. The experience I wrote about above created a tension between what I had always believed and what was actually true. I can now live more fully out of the reality that I BELIEVE at a deep heart level: I am worth more than I thought possible based on my previously warped understanding of sexuality and intimacy. Now, I can healthily set boundaries and stick to them, not settling for relationship with someone who may be abusive like I have in the past, because it is no longer my normal to subject myself to this abusive behavior. I know what I am worth. Therefore, I no longer have to settle.

It wasn’t just a passing comment as Jesus said, “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly” (John 10:10). It is possible to live a full life out of a place of freedom from the traumas of our past, whether those come from abusive experiences like they did for me, or other traumas brought on by over controlling mothers, absent fathers, unkind friendships, etc… each one of us has some sort of trauma, and each one of us is worth fighting the lies we’ve believed from a young age in order to live a fuller life. You are worth fighting for, friend. Let those dark spaces come out into the light with safe people and begin to believe this. The feelings will not overtake you, but refine you into more of your true self as God intended.

I’m rooting for you wherever you may be.

“Love the Lord your God, and love one another. Love one another as He loves. Love with strength and purpose and passion and no matter what comes against you. Don’t weaken. Stand against the darkness, and love. That’s the way back into Eden. That’s the way back to life.”

Francine Rivers, Redeeming Love

how we hide.

Life is messy.

I think we forget that sometimes. Or maybe it’s just that I’ve seen it become normal in Christian communities to use doctrine as a way to hide our mess. Then again, we all do this. It comes in many different forms, the hiding. Using doctrine to escape pain is just another example. We fear being rejected for the deeper parts of who we are, but most of the time we aren’t even aware of these fears in us. They have been stuffed down since childhood, so deep that it takes a lot of effort to even reach them. That’s when the real work begins. How do you do it though? Go down so deep in the pain without loosing yourself? Well, we all need help to get there.

“(As human beings) We require an environment of safe relationships in order to come out of hiding, no matter how much insight and information we have about our spiritual and emotional makeup. That is how God Designed it.

This point is often missed in our Christian circles, where it is often assumed that doctrinal exposure to truths of the Bible is sufficient to ensure solutions to all problems. Yet Jesus Himself stressed the necessity of relationship in order to take in truth. His statement, “I am the way the truth and the life” (John 14:6) is one indication that knowing a person is necessary to knowing his truth. To know means to understand personally, not just intellectually. This “knowing” applies to relationship with people as well as God.

The Heart of God places great value on our needs being met. Jesus’ anguish over His people turning from His provision is a poignant picture:
‘Oh Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were unwilling.’ (Matthew 23:37)”

John Townsend, “Hiding From Love”

I had an experience recently where an authority figure in my life began to shame me for the way I share my story. Even to the point that I was told (1) I should not use the word “masturbation” in conversation because saying a simple word out loud apparently “causes men to stumble” (Romans 14 anyone?) and (2) to take my blog down because it was “inappropriate” for someone that wants to work with children (hence why I have not posted in so long. It also should be NOTED that sexual addiction is not synonymous with child predator. I believe God will make it possible for me to talk about sexual addiction openly and work with children some day as these are two very strong passions ingrained deep within me). I’m fairly certain that if you read the whole passage of Romans 14 in context it also speaks to not breaking fellowship with believers over non-essential convictions to salvation (like talking about sex). Not to mention Paul also talks a lot about taking personal responsibility for your own actions and not blaming another for the sin in your life (Galatians 6:1-5).

In this particular passage of Romans though, it also stands to recognize that Paul says no one is to loose or change their own convictions over another person’s personal stance on a non-essential issue as that would become a “lack of faith.” My choice to use the word masturbation in writing or conversation cannot CAUSE anyone to stumble. I would hope that if I struggled with murderous thoughts, someone simply saying the word “murder” or “death” wouldn’t cause me to go kill someone. I’m exaggerating at this point, but that’s where this line of thinking gets you. If we cannot start taking personal responsibility for our own actions that hurt ourselves or those around us, we will grow more dysfunctional by the day. Jesus even commented time and time again that a person’s core struggles come from within their own heart, not from anything another person says or does (Mark 7:20-23).

I’m sure you can hear the rage in my words, but really I just get annoyed when Christians continually take passages of scripture out of context to meet their own end goal. Too many of us choose to play jury and judge over those around us, just as I experienced authority figures in the church play God by judging me for a personal conviction to talk about my story of sexual trauma and addiction publicly. Their own shame in this I will not claim. Never again will I go back to the oppressive nature of feeling such intense shame over my story that I could openly talk about it. God has clearly redeemed and accepted all parts of my story for His good and given me the freedom I long searched for in coming out of hiding. I will stand before a judge one day and answer for my life, but I will not stand to answer before any human when that day comes.

I lost my house and my good name
When I found the road of my King
When I was young I dreamed
Of a life that had beauty that had joy
But now I lost my life
For the one I dreamt of as a boy

Please don’t wait for me
I ain’t coming back again
I cannot turn around
From the place I’m going to where I’ve been

Josh Garrels

Once again however, I was told by people in the church to hide parts of who I was. Not in so many words and with lots of back stepping by literally telling me, “we don’t want you to hide, we just see things differently.” It went so far that at the end of one conversation I was told, “wow we thought you’d give us the finger and walk out of here,” while all I could do was cry and sit silently in disbelief at how the conversation had occurred: sudden, brutally blatant, lacking any grace to ask clarifying questions or attempts to see from my point of view. A clear indication of how harsh the conversation had gone and how little character this person seemed to think I have. The concept of “trusting authority” was brought up often in conversation. It wasn’t until a white male under the age of 25 looked at me and said, “why don’t you trust our authority’s view of scripture in this? You feel one way about it but we are telling you we feel differently.”

That’s when I knew. This wasn’t a conversation about trust of authority. It was a conversation about BELIEF. What that statement communicated is that your convictions are right and mine are wrong… makes total sense, right?

I could not and never will in good conscious say I 100% believe what any one human being tells me is the absolute truth. It is my personal responsibility as a Christian to go to scripture and wrestle over truths outlined there asking God for discernment myself. Knowledge and CONTROL can turn into addictions just as much as anything else. There was no grace for me in this. Only “real, hard gospel truth.”

It was one of the most painful moments of my life, feeling misunderstood and outcast by people in the church I had previously looked up to and respected. Still, it was in this time I felt closer to God than ever before, knowing that as I experienced rejection and abandonment, He himself had been outcast to the point of death for my sake. My own experience doesn’t even begin to touch this sort of sacrifice, but what a humbling thought. Still, I feel convicted deep in my gut to share my story as a female struggling with sexuality and addiction. We need more of these voices in the church to help others come out of hiding and stand firmly in the light of true freedom that God offers each of us. I will likely get rejected for my honesty again and again and again. Even now, some of you reading this may be rejecting who I am because of these abrasive words. But I cannot ignore this calling God has made me so passionate for, even if that means I stand alone.

Me. Living a really full life, by not hiding who I am.

Clearly, my rage isn’t healthy. It comes from my fear of rejection and abandonment by a community I desire acceptance from. Though part of my rage stems from a rebellion against the unhealthy systemic oppression of dogmatic belief I grew up in, with those who would say their way is “right” and all others are “wrong” with absolute certainty… or you could call that wearing blinders to real truth of the gospel’s stance on grace.

There is a way I believe God intended us to live outlined in scripture, but it takes people time and processing to understand these boundaries for themselves. Just like Townsend mentioned in the quote above, in our perception of knowing “truth” through biblical doctrine, we forget that what hurting people need more than anything else is to feel safe to come out of hiding and know they can BELONG somewhere. This is precisely why God came to earth in the form of a man, not just to show us healthier realities of living, but to show us personal aspects of his character we forget about when attempting to live out the letter of the law. We forget that He is King, an authority which no human can ever take away or diminish despite how hard we try to be in control and live life on our own terms.

If we have to err on one side or another, God grant us grace to err on the side of love.

John Townsend, “Hiding From Love”

Many people in the church would much more likely choose to hide behind the ambiguity that “Christ’s sacrifice covers all our sin” than actually deal with the sin currently playing out in their lives. If you struggle more sexually after hearing someone simply saying the word “masturbation” there is so much more going on beneath the surface of your heart than you’re letting on. To shame someone else because of your own dysfunctional thoughts or behaviors is simply a denial of this fact and an unwillingness to stare your own shame in the face. So what do you do? Shift the blame onto someone else. It’s much easier to escape your own issues and not have to take personal responsibility for your actions.

This has been my experience. That I was treated with a special kind of harshness for simply saying out loud that “I am a female love and sex addict” and “I have struggled with masturbation and pornography.” Why? Because I broke the unspoken “rule” in conservative churches that “we just don’t say that word out loud.” Again, people in the church are encouraging each other to HIDE rather than step into the light of reality that life is painful and full of human brokenness. Yet, it is stepping into these truths that are the only way we can find true freedom from the shame our lifelong hiding has allowed to fester for decades.

We are far too squeamish humans with far too limited hopes and dreams for our stories to ever live the full life that God wants for us.

In believing in these ways, we put God in a box and begin to tell Him what WE think He intended life to look like. How absurd. The God I believe in is more boundless than I could ever describe or imagine and gives limitless amounts of freedom to those willing to step into a new reality with Him. So yes, I will continue to share my story and use the word “masturbation” when doing so, and I will try my best not to put God in the box of what I personally believe to be true. Rather, I will let Him create a more expounded version of truth in my life as I understand more deeply His character through time, study, and the practice of sitting and BEING in His presence.

Where God brought me after experiencing rejection and loss of community: Angels Landing in Zion.
I was able to rest and recuperate in the “city of God.” I LOVE THE SYMBOLISM.

It is sickening to me that we somehow value doctrine more than the human soul. No wonder the conservative church pushes so many away. It makes me want to reject the system altogether, even knowing that many of my beliefs are similar to and line up with conservative ideals. However, I also believe there is some middle ground we are missing. And I am still wrestling with this concept. How do we live a life fully as God intended? I’ll probably never get it right, but I sure will continue to sit in God’s presence and trust His voice to lead me in the right direction. Disciplines are healthy, but not when one allows them to become an idol in order to have knowledge that makes them feel in control. The pharacitical nature of it all bogles me. I now understand why Jesus called out those who He named “whitewashed tombs,” with external cleanliness but dead rot festering at a deep heart level not yet recognized (Matthew 23:25-26).

I’m here to say I don’t have all the answers, but I do know I believe in the God called YAWH, the I Am, that came to earth in the form of Jesus Christ and gave His life so that I could live mine to the full, in all it’s messiness. I will not let those seemingly more powerful than I pressure me into conforming to the norm that has become Southern Christianity. Though it is still raw and painful, I have grown through the shaming I experienced and hope some of my story can be used to connect with those who feel similar contradictions: anger at a legalistic church that has painted a poor view of the life God intends for us and yet still wanting to be a part of the universal church because a belief in the gospel means engaging in community, no matter how dysfunctional it becomes. It’s a tension I’m still wrestling with that feels just as awkward as this baby giraffe looks trying to drink water.

You’re welcome.

And, I’m out.