Parole Protest 2018… Here We Go Again

Carl Edward Chambers is up for parole again.  I don’t think there’s a lot ‘new’ to say.   He should never walk free. Period.   I understand the asinine rules of mandatory release that the state of TX didn’t think through when they allowed for first degree felons to be freed, even if on parole/”supervision”.  Repeat offenders and those who have caused bodily harm to another human being have no business being among law abiding citizens.  They lost that right with their CALCULATED  DECISIONS to hurt others.    The State of TX is complicit with what happened to me.  All they can do now is keep Chambers contained like the animal he is.

1.  He plea bargained to a 60 year sentence, and is not due for mandatory release (again) YET.   It’s time he does ONE thing positive, and complete his incarceration (as much as possible with “mandatory-freedom-to-hurt-more-innocent-people” still in play with this case).   He’s already botched one round of mandatory release, so why give him the chance to hurt someone else?   THAT is my primary reason for continuing to protest his release.   My life is trashed, and I’ve made sure I have plenty of options for defending myself.   He was very calculated with what he did to me, even stealing my address and phone number from the sister he was staying with, in order to target me.   I can’t be the only woman who reminds him of his first wife…. that’s what I was told- I looked like her.   I’m fairly standard-issue…. overweight, brown/gray haired middle-aged white woman.   Lots of targets in the ‘free world’.

2.  EVERY time he’s been on parole, he’s committed a more violent crime.   Murder is the only thing off of his resumé, that we know of.   Why give him the opportunity?

3.  I’m getting older, and have multiple medical issues, to the point of being disabled for over a decade.   Because of the severity of what Chambers (I refer to him as Numbnuts) did to me, NOBODY else has touched me.  I can’t stand the thought of being ‘handled’ and violated.  The sensation of having another human’s body heat and breath near me is nauseating.   So, I know I’ll die alone.   When I was younger, I always envisioned a life with a husband and house full of kids.   Normal. Happy.  Fun.  LOVE.

4.   My parents are both gone now, but they suffered in knowing what had happened to me.  My dad read the very graphic police statement I gave, when they visited  just  a few months after it happened.  There is always collateral damage when someone violates another human being.  My folks didn’t deserve to have to deal with what happened to me.  They lived 1200 miles away, and I didn’t want them to come initially since there was so much going on with statements, meeting with various legal folks and the rape crisis volunteer, etc.  I encouraged them to talk to their pastor, or even friends… but my mom’s close co-worker at the time took me to dinner the next time I flew home, and asked if I’d been raped- she had watched changes in my mom, and mom wasn’t talking about it.

Initially, my mom just wanted to know if I was pregnant, and I was- but thankfully the spawned little bastard fell into the toilet at about 10-12 weeks after the rape.  I’d never had sex before, so I know ‘what ‘ it belonged to.  I wanted nothing to do with it, but struggled with abortion.  I am adopted, so didn’t want to go that route… so when the cramping started that morning that I’ll never forget, I was SO relieved to see that mass of %50 sociopathic DNA swirl away forever.   Had I gone the adoption route, what could I ever have told that kid if he/she came looking for me ?  How could I ever have spun the tale to make that kid feel like he/she wasn’t one big fat felonious mistake?   And I wouldn’t lie to an adoptee who simply wants the truth about his/her ‘roots’.    That was the only baby I ever ‘carried’…. the impact of the wine cooler bottle that Chambers rammed up my vagina for many, many minutes tore uterine ligaments…. think about that.  What kind of force is required to rip internal, unseen ligaments?    I could not have raised that ‘thing’ without prejudice, and that would have been unforgivable on my part to do to a child.  SO, the toilet ‘delivery’ was a blessing.   And still traumatic.  Rape….the crime that keeps on giving.

5.  The person I was before January 10, 1987 is DEAD.  “She” died the minute I knew what was going on… the knife at my neck, and threats to kill me repeatedly did the job.  My body may have survived, but my dreams of a  husband and kids of my own was gone. For good.   I avoided having time available during ‘normal’ social times like weekends and daylight.   I worked a lot of nights and weekends for a nice excuse to never be alone on a date.   My view of the world was mutated to see ‘plausible risk’ everywhere.  I’ve managed to not be paranoid, but I know that safety is never a guarantee, and nobody really ever knows what someone else is capable of.  That is my worldview post-rape.   There is no ‘safe’.

6.    He still owes me a ‘why?’ answer.   He could easily send it through the Board of Pardons and Parole and it would be forwarded to me.  The lack of any sort of explanation tells me that he would do it again in a heartbeat, and has no remorse.   Just another day for him.  S.O.P.  for Numbnuts.   I used to have ‘revenge fantasies’ early on, involving a vegetable peeler, and Numbnuts restrained in a chair for me to ‘peel’ the part of him that hurt the most.  It’s been years since I imagined that, as revenge isn’t  ‘me’.  But it was a way to cope for a while early on.  Now, I just want what I asked for with the plea bargain.   Sixty years.  No more, no less.  He’ll be in the TX DOCJ system until he’s at least 88 years old.  He’s nearly 60 now- and there is nothing about being 60 that makes him less of a risk.  Last time he was out, he had a lawn-mowing business (enabling him to be alone with homeowners any time he was ‘mowing the lawn’).   How was that idea approved?   He even moved while on “intense” supervision.  So intense he moved without anybody knowing.   Seriously?  That’s “intense” supervision?   I was told he would have an ankle GPS monitor and have to give detailed daily activity plans to his parole officer.   I guess “moving today” didn’t make the list.    Convict + secrets = more crime.

7.    Last go around with parole, he had obviously lied his way into the life of some woman with no self-esteem,  and she married him.  WHILE IN PRISON FOR RAPING  AND BEATING ME.    He’s still manipulating women.  Couldn’t have been honest about what he’d done- or she’s just nuts and passively suicidal.    Her grandsons wrote notes on Chambers’ behalf that sounded like someone with an 8th grade education had dictated them.    I guess Numbnuts was allowed around kids because he opted for adults to violate.   NO WAY I’d let any kid I had be around someone like Numbnuts.  Same idea as letting John Wayne Gacy be a Boy Scout Leader.  Just not a good idea.

8.  I’m a lot more angry now than I was years ago.  Mostly it reflects the isolation and no family of my own.   Had I not been raped, I would have had a shot at “normal”.   Chambers killed me.  He killed my dreams. He killed my belief that most people are good. He killed my ability to feel whole.  He killed any desire to be physically close to another person.  He tormented my parents.   He impregnated me and caused weeks of torment until the spawn was flushed.   He’s shown no remorse that I’ve ever heard about (but he’s a sociopath, so not expecting much there).

Geez… just thought of this.  For  8 years more than half of my life, I’ve been a rape survivor.   Still dealing with the aftermath of someone who CHOSE to make his life useless and cause irreparable damage to mine.   My life stopped at age 23.  And yet 31 years later, I’m still having to justify keeping my “killer” locked up.

 

To The Lead Voter in The Parole Board, Voting About the Guy Who Raped Me

Dear Sir,

I think this is the third time I’ve sent in protests to the parole of Carl E. Chambers, who raped and sodomized me for roughly 6 hours on January 10, 1987.  It was a lovely Saturday morning in Austin, TX that quickly grew to be a matter of survival, and the ultimate nightmare.  I’ll get to what he did to  me in a minute- both during the attack and the longterm effects.   But first to Chamber’s character and history on parole.   I’m writing because I’m not sure how long I’ll be able to keep it together during the phone interview.  It might be a bit scattered.

Chamber’s first known (adult) conviction per the Parole Division Adjustment Statement I received, and how I understand it,    was in Illinois in December 1976 (for forgery)… his 5 year probation was revoked due to a burglary charge.  He got 1-3 years for that, but let out on parole.  Then, he was convicted of kidnapping, and released on parole in 1985.  He was then convicted of Aggravated Assault with a Deadly Weapon (I believe this was the screwdriver to the neck of a woman at a bus stop in Austin, TX), for which he got 3 years- but was paroled 8 months later, in 12/1986…. Thirty-nine days later, he lied to get me to pick up his infant nephew (a regular babysitting job) under the ruse of his brother-in-law being in an accident, and someone needed to watch the baby.   I loved that little guy, so I immediately went.   I was very naive, and knew nothing of his sociopathic or criminal  history, other than his sister telling me that that last charge was a situation where he’d been in the wrong place at the wrong time (he probably lied to her as well- she was only 19 years old).  I didn’t know what it all meant.  His sister (the baby’s mom) told me he’d been a problem as a juvenile, and the ‘black sheep’ of the family… he’s never coexisted normally in society.

With the last parole violation (domestic violence), he pled no contest… he seems to be unable to function in a world he’s never really been a part of since December of 1976.  At least 4 parole approvals, during which time he became exponentially more violent. He agreed to a 60 year sentence during a bizarre change of plea mid-trial during the trial for what he did to me.  He AGREED to a 60 year sentence.  I understand mandatory release, but why send this type of “human” back out into the public unless it’s absolutely required by law?  His track record is that of progressive violence.  He’s not safe in public.  He also moved to an unknown location while on intensive monitoring in the past.  As a sex offender, he was around his step grandsons (maybe he only has to avoid the demographic group he’s violated- just seemed weird) who were given scripted things to write for the last parole protest.  His wife married him while in prison for what he did to me- she is not a safe or reliable resource for not helping him leave the area he is supposed to be in, if they are still married.  Seriously- someone marrying a convicted rapist? He must have spun some tale for her…. her letter protesting his parole revocation screams of bad judgment and poor self esteem, if she thinks Chambers is suitable spouse material….

That Saturday morning in January 1987changed my life forever.  Yes, it’s been 28 years since he spent six hours continuously beating, raping, and sodomizing me with his penis, his fists, and a wine cooler bottle that had ragged tin foil around the top.  The force he used tore uterine ligaments.  The pain was so intense that all I could do was hold on to the coffee table leg, and focus my attention to the pain in my hand, so I could keep from screaming during the assault on my internal organs. He told me he’d kill me if I made noise.  I saw blood halfway between his wrists and elbows, on both of his arms, from “manipulating” my vaginal area.

About 11-12 weeks after the attack, I woke up with horrible abdominal cramping, and what I assume was a fetus dropped into the toilet.  I’d been a nurse long enough to remember what the photos of the pre-born look like from my obstetrics class.  I saw the side of the placenta that attached to my uterus- not the baby (who would have looked like a baby by that time).  I was so relieved to not have to carry his spawn… and yet it was a baby, and the only one I’d ever carry…. I still have a lot of conflicting pain about that.  How could I ever have made that child feel wanted, and even if I’d given it up for adoption,and  he/she found me later, what kind of pain would that cause the child to know that he/she was the product of a violent rape by a career criminal , and essentially unwanted?   I am not a fan of abortion- but I thought about it.   In the end, God was merciful enough to end that pregnancy.

I’d always wanted a house full of kids, and a loving husband.  It had been a dream for a long time. I was known as “the babysitter” during junior high and high school. I spent 11 years in the church nursery, for both Sunday services as well as the Wednesday dinner service.  I wanted my own babies.   I was a virgin when Chambers violated me, and nobody has touched me sexually since that day.  Check that out…. I’m a 51 year old virgin, minus the rape.   The thought of someone getting that close is repulsive to me.  I have male friends and family that I see fairly rarely that I’m able to hug, and it’s OK,. but  I never have been able to be intimate.  That dream of a family and kids was over.   I’ve missed a LOT of normal life events because of the rape.  Sometimes I feel rather defective because of that.

As I get older, I realize how much I miss having a family of my own.  I only have my dad (who is nearly 83 years old, so not sure if he’s going to be around for 20 more years, or ????), and a biological mom who is several thousand miles away.  There are some assorted, beloved cousins in other states.  When my dad is gone, I will be alone here, and can’t help but wonder what my life would be like had I not be so viciously attacked.  There are very few friends nearby, and they all have lives.  There is no other person who has really shared my life as long as my dad has (I was adopted at 10 days old).   I’d always imagined a husband and four or five kids.  But that dream died when the experience of being so violated changed my perspective and ability to trust.  And being “handled” isn’t something I can deal with.  Who would want to marry someone who freaks out at being touched in a normal type of relationship?  I couldn’t tolerate any prolonged physical closeness, or the awareness of someone else in my home- like when I was sleeping at night.

My parents and coworkers had a lot to deal with after I was attacked.  It never is just about the specific victim… the collateral damage goes on for several groups of people.  My mom was hurt deeply (she died in 2003, or I’m sure she would have sent in a letter).  My dad has read my police statement, per his request.  NO dad should have to read those things about his only “child”.   My coworkers had to deal with my inability to focus, and general “not me”.   I was asked to leave that job 2 weeks before the trial.
I still have hypervigilence.  I’m still untrusting of most people (never really know someone).  I still have vivid memories that bring me to tears.  I still remember the positions he put me in, all over the apartment, that cold winter morning.  I remember being an object.  Each time I send in parole protest letters, it starts it all over again, and yet I feel a responsibility to fight to keep him contained.  If the person who was attacked before me had done that, I wouldn’t be writing this.  My jaw is still ‘weak’ when I open and close my mouth (it literally cracks).  I still feel the scar in my mouth where my teeth went through my lower lip when he slugged me in the jaw.  I’m still triggered when I hear about something in the news, or even in a movie.  My perspective about a lot of things is different now.

These are the ‘simple’ reasons I don’t want Chambers let out.  Emotionally, it’s much more complicated.  He will hurt someone else- it’s his pattern.  I don’t wish him ill will… but I do feel a need to do what I can to protect others from him.

Thank you for your time.
Sincerely,

The Survivor/VIctim of TDCJ# 00453210
His 60 year sentence is also a life altering sentence for me.

The Weird Thing About PTSD

I was raped, sodomized, and beaten for six hours back in January 1987.  Twenty-eight years ago.  Initially, I knew what I “should” feel like, but didn’t really register much.  But that wasn’t really anything new- I’d been pretty good about not registering specific feelings for a long time.  As I’ve gotten older, and had more life experiences, the specific emotions have become much more identifiable.  And unpleasant.  I’ve been through enough therapy to recognize specific feelings, as well as have a greater understanding of what others go through who have been in similar situations.  And sometimes, not so similar situations.  Those can be triggers as well.

I had never been much of a crier.  I’d boo hoo once in a while, but for the most part, I could suck things up and move on.  That has changed.  Some of that is from a good thing: I’ve been able to understand how other people feel with both good and bad events.   That has been a huge ‘plus’ in so many ways, but it also makes my own memories and reactions that much more intense.  I’m a regular faucet now whenever there’s anything that remotely sets off my own memories.  Doesn’t even have to be all that similar.  Just has to trigger a feeling of some sort.

With another parole protest going on, I’m even more on edge.  For the most part, my daily functioning is ‘normal’.  Movies and TV shows can be really tough.  The news stories can be absolutely grueling.  I feel SO badly for those who are violated and/or lose a significant part of their life.   I have to ‘pace’ my exposure to the news.  With TV and movies, I generally have seen most of the episodes before from several series, so know to ‘brace’ myself during specific scenes… but sometimes even that doesn’t work so well.   In one episode of “Law & Order: SVU”, ‘Olivia’ walks out into the squad room after having been held hostage by a serial rapist/stalker who takes her out of the city to a seasonal house (that doesn’t belong to him).  She beats the snot out of him, and has to make a statement.  When she walks out into the squad room, it brings up all sorts of feelings of when I had to walk out of the apartment of my neighbor, after being raped.  There were news stations/cameras and people lining the sidewalk, and looking at me.  One of them lowered her camera, and looked down- giving me the first bit of dignity after that life-changing event.  When ‘Olivia’ walks through that group of people, it stirs up so much.

Some would argue that watching such shows as “Law & Order: SVU” and “Criminal Minds” are poor choices given my background, but I disagree.   In those shows, they show as much as they can about the impact that crime has on the survivors (I hate the term ‘victim’) and, they get the bad guy in 48 minutes.  The good guys win.  There are characters that include the ‘collateral damage’ of crimes against individuals.  And sometimes, the shows are hard to watch.  But it was much harder to live through an event that would be a plausible story line for those shows.

I’ve been much more ‘tender’ this time around with the parole protest.  I’m getting so tired of them, but at the same time, I feel responsible to keep fighting to keep him locked up.   He doesn’t deserve to be out. He agreed to a 60 year sentence in a plea bargain.    He offends EVERY time he’s on parole. Since he was 18 years old, parole is just another opportunity to rack up more ‘victims’.  I’m angry that the woman he attacked prior to attacking me just blew off sentencing.  Had she made sure he got as much time as possible, I wouldn’t have been raped.   I don’t want that same burden on my shoulders.  I may not be able to control the decisions of the parole board, but I am involved.  If they let him out, it’s on them.

In the meantime, I have to talk myself down now and then.  And sometimes, I have to just let myself cry and feel whatever is going on.  On good days, I write.  And every day, I have to remember how much I have to be thankful for.   PTSD isn’t something that gradually resolves in a predictable manner.  It comes and goes when the triggers set something off that is associated with some memory or feeling.  It doesn’t have to make sense.  It just is.

 

Rape Reporting… If You Want Justice, You Must Participate and Report It !

This week,  an article about a famous individual who was raped many, many years ago and opted not to report it showed up online.  It came up during a radio interview, and the one who was raped moved the conversation along, not dwelling on it, or even bringing it up intentionally, to begin with.  Then the online comments started flowing about how hard it is to report rape, how bad rape victims are treated, blah, blah, blah.  But, these folks also seem to know  that they’d be treated horribly, even though they never came forward.  That, along with someone who was beating a dead horse, and more of a troll than anything else (I’ll call her ‘Inot’), really got to my belief that if someone wants something to change in their life, or a part of their life, they have to show up and contribute to the process.  For rape, that means going to the police and doing the rape kit at a hospital.

*For the purposes of this blog, I’m referring to females, but there are a LOT of  reported and unreported cases of male rape.  The stigma is even worse for them.  I still encourage them to report the rape/assault to the police, and seek justice.

*My main points refer to “general” rape (stranger/acquainance), one-time attack- which can be minutes to weeks in length (or longer- look at Elizabeth Smart and Jaycee Dugard).

Justice isn’t passive; it requires participation.  Being a survivor, vs. a victim, takes work.  The victim mentality is absolutely repulsive to me.  I don’t have sympathy for those who won’t take part in their own recovery and justice process.  Staying mired in the traumas of the past is as good as that person’s life will ever be- and that’s a choice. That isn’t the responsibility of the one who did the abusing- OR the justice system. That’s on the one who has to go on living.  It requires a lot of work to work through sexual assault and trauma recovery, but the alternative is to go around feeling defined by victimization, stuck in the memories of what happened.  Working through rape doesn’t mean the memories ever go away… it makes it so the attack isn’t the defining event in someone’s life.  Rape doesn’t define survivors.  It defines victims.  And survivors don’t use the rape to manipulate others- whether for pity, a means to be taken care of, or anything else that is age inappropriate, or indicative of regression to an earlier developmental stage.  It isn’t the focal point of the life of a survivor.

Once the man who raped me was no longer ‘in’ me, my survival and recovery were on me.  Not him. Not ‘the system’.  Not the courts.  Because no matter what happened, my life had to go on.  I’m an RN.  I’m a dog owner, a doll artist, a gemstone/mineral collector, a daughter, and many other things.  The rape was 6 hours of my life- that’s it.  With his imprisonment, I became the strong one.  He became the captive.  His parole protests are still hard, but I’m still the one who ‘won’. 

As I’ve blogged before, I was raped for 6 hours at knifepoint in 1987.  I managed to escape when numbnuts fell asleep after  exhausting, constant sexual assault and beating of me.  The police came and shot him in my bedroom, not killing him.  I went through the trial process, and long story short, he’s either in prison (as he is now), or on parole until 2047.  He’s my bitch now.  I showed up to make sure of that, and I was a 23 year old ‘kid’, who had no experience with being vocal about anything to do with sex, or crime.  I wasn’t brave, but I was determined.   I wouldn’t accept the lower number of years offered in the plea bargain that happened mid-trial after I’d testified after 2 hours.  I went ‘all out’ to get the maximum punishment possible.  I could sleep better at night knowing I did all I could to keep him off the streets- for myself, and whoever else he might have gone after, for as long as possible.  He has a very long list of convictions for progressively more violent crimes.

I was treated very well by the police, District Attorney’s office, judge, rape crisis personnel, detectives, people at the hospital, and pretty much everyone but my employer at the time (being off work as an RN is very much frowned upon, and they actually “encouraged my resignation” about 2 weeks before the trial, because I was distracted – ya think?- … so sweet of them).  My apartment complex also tried to bill me for the damage to the sliding glass door in my bedroom, as well as the carpet, from the shooting (bullet damage and blood).  Otherwise, the actual people in the legal process were extremely compassionate.   In 1987, in good-ol’-boy Texas.  And things are improving all the time..

For those who don’t report rape, that’s their decision.  I get it.  It’s not an easy thing to discuss, and while I disagree with that decision to let someone stay on the street to rape someone else, I know it’s  ultimately their  decision.  But then they have no room to whine about the system, or how rape victims are treated (since they have no clue).  IF someone wants ‘the system’ to treat rape victims better (but hasn’t gone through the process to actually know what that is), they have to show up and report what was done to them.  Show up or shut up.  Get some help in making that decision if needed. Rape crisis centers have hotlines, and trained folks to help with these things- they’re free, and available 24/7.

There are situations that make it more difficult to report…

For those who were raped by people in their families (no matter how often), or friends they’d known for a long time, it’s more difficult. I understand that.  I’d encourage them to report the situation as soon as possible.   Someone can call a local rape crisis center to find out where to go for kit collection, without naming names at the time, and to get some counseling for the violation aspect of what happened.

For children, it’s even more difficult- especially if they don’t tell their parent/ guardian because of threats or fear.  But if a parent knows about incest or non-familial sexual assault, it’s really not a favor to the child to try and pretend it didn’t happen (think future addict to numb the pain of the memories).  Rape crisis centers can also help with kids.  And if you know your kid was molested by someone you know, don’t make the kid see them socially.  I’m not sure what could make someone want contact with their child’s molester, but I’ve heard about it repeatedly.  That in itself is abuse, and continues the pain.

No matter when someone is sexually assaulted, their life changes.  If they don’t deal with it, it can become a chronic ‘victim mentality’, and the chances of meaningful recovery dwindle, and increase the risk of drug/alcohol addiction.  That healing process starts when someone seeks justice, and deals with the emotional and physical violation.  There are statutes of limitations on rape… it differs by state, as well as when it happened (i.e. if someone was raped as a child, but doesn’t disclose it until they’re 18, the clock starts then, I believe; each state is different there, as well).  But, at least for now, there comes a time when the rape can’t be prosecuted.  Better to deal with things sooner than later, whenever possible, before the choice is taken away in an already “powerless” situation.

For someone in a domestic violence situation, it’s even trickier.  There can be threats that are very real  if the victim has been physically injured before by the perpetrator.   My suggestion to someone in that situation would be to do as much documentation as possible, including photos, and keeping any clothing that they’re wearing in the photos, to at least have something if they report the crime later.  Having a trusted friend keep the evidence, so it’s not discovered by the perpetrator, might also be something to consider. Obviously, the best scenario is to get away from the abuser and report it immediately to police, for collection of evidence (rape kit) ASAP.   But, I understand that sadly there are  situations when someone’s safety after the rape might be even worse than during it.  Safety is always the priority.  Domestic violence shelters can be a resource, knowing that getting away is a delicate process.  They can offer support and advice.

The military and university campuses have notoriously been lousy at listening to someone who makes accusations of sexual assault.  They’re getting better, but it’s not great yet- but those who have been assaulted still need to TRY !  If you don’t do anything, you’ll get nothing in terms of help- or improvements in how cases are handled. 

The rape kit isn’t horrible.  It’s not painful- but does require some intrusive things that can be very hard after being violated.  But it’s one of the best ways to convict someone.  Now, with DNA, a rape kit can link other rapes, and get serial rapists off the streets (think if someone had done that and gotten your rapist convicted before he got to you).  Mostly, it’s swabbing the mouth, vulva, anal area, collecting hairs, trimming fingernails, and taking photos of any injuries.  That can be very daunting after something so traumatic, but it doesn’t take that long, and HELPS the police when a suspect is found.  It will prove what happened, in terms of the physical contact.  Knowing the purpose of the kit made it easier to tolerate for me.  There are backlogs of kits that haven’t been tested, but the more information someone has to give police (including the information in a rape kit), the faster they can find a suspect.  There are many states that are making rape kit testing more of a priority.    You might also be fingerprinted, to corroborate who touched what and when.  It’s not to make you ‘complicit’ in the rape, but to clarify what is going on with the evidence.  I had to do that, and it was just to see if my fingerprints were on some of the things used to penetrate me (they weren’t).  They must have the evidence to make sure the chance of conviction is as good as possible.

Dealing with the detectives was sort of hard for me initially, but not because of them.  It was only 6-7 hours after I’d gotten free, and I was still a little shocky.  But they made it as tolerable as possible, and had me come back the next day to finish when I was getting sort of punchy from being exhausted and overwhelmed. It required detailed descriptions of what happened. I talked with two male detectives, and that wasn’t an issue, as I knew they had a job to do. They were very professional, and I had a female friend or rape crisis volunteer with me.   It was not easy to talk about what happened.  My fervent belief that reporting rape is necessary isn’t in any way to say that it’s easy.   But for the type of justice I wanted  (lengthy imprisonment), it was what I had to do.  I had to know that I’d done all I could to prevent him from hurting someone else- and to keep him locked up for what he did to me.  He’d been on parole when he raped me, after being in prison for attacking someone at a bus stop with a screwdriver.  His violence was escalating.

As I’ve said in other blogs, it’s not a bad idea to have a mental plan of what you will do in the event you are attacked.  Survival is the first priority, and sometimes that means dealing with being violated.  I made it clear that I wasn’t consenting to anything, but complied purely to avoid physical injury.  I had to make a calculated decision when I escaped.  It took 6 hours for him to not have the knife at my neck or my body.  Even when he peed, he had me on all fours, tracing the blade on my spine.  You have to stay alive in order to survive.  Do whatever it takes to stay alive.

After an attack, the priority shifts to getting medical attention, and hopefully, reporting the rape, and participating in the legal process.  Have a mental list of who you would call in such a situation.  DO NOT wash or shower after the attack.  Save clothing and anything the attacker touched or left saliva on (even your face or other parts of your body).  If you are bleeding, take off the underwear you were wearing during the attack, and put it in a bag to take to the police/hospital. Put on clean underwear without washing/wiping your vulva/anus/ perineum (area between the anus and vulva), and a pad- not a tampon.  Do not brush your teeth.  If he kissed you, make sure you don’t wash those areas of your body.  They will be swabbed.  In short, don’t do anything that could remove body fluids before getting help.  You will have a chance to shower- as long as you want- after the exam.   It’s a small price to pay for increasing the odds of catching the jerk.  If a lot of things happened in your home, there is a chance that it will be sealed as a crime scene- so know where or who  you can stay with for a few days.  (I ended up with a friend/co-worker I trusted for a week).

Reporting rape can sound overwhelmingly frightening.  There have been stories of victims not being believed, stupid and hurtful things being said to them, and other dismissive and inappropriate actions.  That isn’t everywhere.  More education about sexual assault has been done in police departments for years.  I’m an example of someone who was treated very well, nearly 30 years ago.  Nobody deserves to be raped.  Everybody deserves justice- but that involves coming forward and reporting the assault.  It’s not easy, but in the end, there is such a sense of getting some sort of justice, and relief.   For those who choose not to report, for whatever reasons, please reconsider (for some, that means when it’s safe to do so).  If you don’t report, don’t complain about the way rape victims are treated, or ‘the system’.  Even if someone you know was treated badly, everyone is different- and every case is different (not to excuse being treated poorly at all- but it’s not a sure thing that it will be the same for you).  The only rape that applies to you is the one that happened to you. 

Rape victims stay stuck in the past in a self-defeating way.  Rape survivors work to put the rape in perspective, and don’t let the rape define who they are.

 

 

Just So Lousy… Death Is An Ugly Business

I’ve been looking back on the last year and a half, and it has become mind-boggling how many of my friends (or their close family members), family, former co-workers, and people who were part of my everyday life are now dead.  I don’t really even know where to start.

Most people know that my cousin died on March 2, 2014, so almost two weeks (tomorrow).  She had a  horrendous fight with neuroendocrine colon cancer, with every complication known to nurse-kind.  I was her ‘go to’ person (as she described me) for bouncing around ideas of what might be going on, and getting my take on what the symptoms she was having could mean.  Being eighty miles away didn’t help, but I did what I could, and my standard line was “you probably need to go to the ER” or “It would be a good idea to call your doctor now and let him/her know what’s going on.”  I was glad to be of some use- and it was also hard to know she was going through so much.

During the last twelve to eighteen months, I’ve looked up former coworkers to see if we could reconnect, and ended up finding their obituaries.   I’ve also been informed about friends’ family members- and in the case of two particular children, it was really so incredibly sad.  One died at age eleven from the same leukemia I had- less than a day after being diagnosed. Another child (8 years old) in that same extended family died from brain cancer, less than a year after she was diagnosed.  She had the best treatment there is (St. Jude’s), and she still lost the fight.  Even though their names are available on public ‘search’ links, I won’t post their names because they were minors- and I don’t have the family’s permission to name them.  I remember some kids who died when I was a kid (friend’s brother had a brain hemorrhage, kid at school had a brain tumor, skating coach’s six kids were murdered by her husband)… but as an adult, with the experience of  pediatric nursing-  hearing the screams of the parents when an infant or child died back in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit isn’t something I’ll ever forget.  It was the most guttural, primal PAINFUL sound I think I’ve ever heard.

I am going to name a few of  the people I’ve lost in the past few years, as I have nothing but good to say about them- and they too are easily found when looking their names up.  I hadn’t expected to find their obituaries, but ….

Madeline Spenrath, R.N. was one of my nursing supervisors in Kerrville, TX.  She was one of the best supervisors I ever had anywhere.  She maintained a bit of a strict ‘ship’…but she had a heart of gold.   I reconnected with  her after her breast cancer was found, and after she’d had to have her right hip removed from the socket (along with the whole leg), as the cancer had spread.  It continued to spread, and she eventually died at one of the nursing homes I used to work at (it helped to know she was getting good care).   Madeline was ‘good people’.   She was down to earth, very knowledgable, and could get an IV into a mosquito in motion.  She had amazing BBQs for the night shift crowd every year for a long time- those were great.  She had someone tend the pit, and everyone brought a dish to pass.  She was all about team work, and it was obvious she was an amazing team leader- and player. She wasn’t above getting her hands dirty.

I had started looking for the mom and godfather of a baby I took care of for most of the first 18 months of his life when his mom worked.  I worked 2-12 hour night shifts on the weekends, and his mom worked 3-11 shifts Monday through Friday, so it was perfect.  The first 3-4 months I had him 5 days a week (had the car seat so I could get errands done), then cut back to 3 days a week so I had some time off.  But he was my little angel bug.  He’s about 25 years old now- last time I saw him he was twelve !   Anyway, when I looked up Jae Arkeen and Dana Coy, I found their obituaries.  It stunned me when I later found out that Jae had relapsed into addiction, and had elevated levels of drugs in his system that he wouldn’t have touched when I knew him.  That broke my heart. He had been SO solid in recovery.  It reinforced that ANYONE can relapse and die with drugs and alcohol.  I really don’t think he’d mind me saying that, because he’d know it could possibly reach someone who is rocky in recovery, thinking they’re invincible with their 12-Step Program.  He was the kindest, most caring guy, and thought that his godson hung the moon. He was so funny, and great to work with.  He later worked in a very intense area of counseling, and I’m sure that, along with what seems like some serious instability in his addiction recovery, was very difficult.  I had contact with  someone who had been very close to him (that I didn’t know), via e-mail, and she let me know what happened.  While it was horribly sad, there was some partial comfort in knowing it was fast- at least at the end.  I’m sure there were some painful times emotionally for him to get to that place.  I worked with him on an adolescent psych unit… he was great with those kids before he moved into a much more specialized area that is polarizing, and very difficult. He was outstanding with those kids.

Dana Coy (RN in several psych units over the years) had a very brief obituary.  brief battle with cancer.  She had been divorced from her adopted-at- birth son’s dad for years, though the son kept in contact with him- so after losing two people who were so close, I’m sure it helped to have his dad there with a long history together.  Dana and I didn’t work shifts together… but we saw each other nearly every day when she dropped the baby off (starting at 9 days old since he was adopted, so not much time off for ‘maternity’ leave), and when she’d pick him up, or I’d take him to work to do a ‘hand off’ if I was working an 11-7 during the week.  I liked Dana.  She was very easy to interact with when I took care of her son… not high strung about things, and also appreciative of having an R.N. for a regular babysitter.   I loved the baby as if he were my own.  She knew that- and also knew that I knew my boundaries as ‘the babysitter’… I always asked her before doing anything with him.  Whether it was a trip to the store, or just going to the apartment complex swimming pool, I made sure she was OK with it.

Another shock was finding out that Tricia Heath, the administrator (and an RN) at a really nice nursing home I worked at in Round Rock, TX back in the early ’90s had died. She was so supportive when I was dealing  some personal things, and was just a kind, compassionate person, who wanted the residents in that facility to have the best possible life they could in an institution.   I really cared about her, and when she and her family moved to Memphis, TN for a job her husband was offered, it was so sad to see her go.  As often happens, people say they’ll keep in touch once they get settled, and then life happens, and they’re in the wind.  Back then, there were no internet search engines for finding people, and it was all basically just luck if phone numbers were in the 411 for a particular city.  Tricia was a great administrator- she kept the place in line for state requirements, but she also had a heart.  I had a lot of respect for her.

Madeline, Jae, Dana, Tricia, and Kathy were parts of my life for a long time. Madeline, Jae, Dana, and Tricia were people I saw every day I worked, depending on the schedule I was on. I wonder how all of their families are doing.  When Facebook and other internet ‘reconnection’ things were available, it was like we’d never been away from each other. I got to catch up with Madeline the most… Jae, only once with a postcard from somewhere, and Dana only briefly when her son was twelve, and I was in Austin for a week for my work; they came up to the hotel to see me one evening when there weren’t any seminars scheduled. But it was great to see her, and how much M had grown !      Tricia was harder to track down since she’d moved back to TX.   I could have paid to find out where she was, but there was information on that thing that was really too invasive for just trying to send a ‘hi, how are ya?” kind of note.  And then they were gone.

I stopped looking for people.  I sort of don’t want to know who else is gone. If more people pop up via Facebook, or whatever, that’s great.  But I think I’m done looking.   It hurts.

The Lull in Posts Over the Past Year

It’s certainly not for lack of material.  Or being too busy (well, having a new puppy has been interesting over this last 11+ months).  In many ways, it’s because I have too much rattling around in my brain, and trying to figure out what to write about (in a coherent fashion) has been more of a problem.

The last year has been wild.  In January of 2013, I was grieving the loss of my beloved Mandy- the miniature schnauzer I’d had since the summer of 2001.  She was my heart, my life, and my only consistent companion.  I knew the day would come, but it’s never easy.   I was really alone for a couple of months, and it hurt.  As in ‘boohoo’ type crying on and off for weeks.

Mandy Bluebonnet Tumbleweed Mar. 28, 2001- Dec. 27, 2012 This was her last photo… ever.

Mandy Bluebonnet Tumbleweed
Mar. 28, 2001- Dec. 27, 2012
This was her last photo… ever.

Then, I got my new miniature schnauzer puppy at the end of February.  She was a day short of 9 weeks old when I brought her home.  She wouldn’t get near me in her crate on the car seat until about 2 hours into the 2.5 hour drive home from where she was born (longest drive I’ve made in over 10 years, and my left knee still hurts).  Then she scooted to the wire door, and at least was close enough to see… she was so cute !  And the games began !!  She was  a crazy little thing, after being seen as the ‘shy, reserved little girl’ in the litter of three pups, two of which were males.   She got over that in a hurry !!  Just NUTS !!  But not a mean bone in her- she was just active, and always on the go.  It took quite a while for her to listen to my commands- which wasn’t about ‘dominating’ her, but making sure she was safe.  I had to get a shock collar, which broke my heart- but the little zap (about the same as when you rub your socks together on the carpet and touch someone, or something) was enough to catch her attention.  Now, I just have to ask her if she needs her collar. 😮

Shelby in one  of her toy bins :)  About 9 weeks old.

Shelby in one of her toy bins 🙂 About 9 weeks old.

Just a happy puppy kind of day !   Shelby- 4 months.  Silly girl !!

Just a happy puppy kind of day ! Shelby- 4 months.
Silly girl !!

Growing up !  About 10 months old in this photo…

Growing up ! About 9 months old in this photo…

Now, she is still active, and very much a young dog, but is such a sweetheart, and really understands a lot of what I tell her.  “Stay” needs some work, but otherwise, she knows the difference between the types of her toys, different rooms, and when she is NOT supposed to bark or whine at someone outside – I mean seriously, the mailman doesn’t require daily announcing !

My biological mom visited a couple of times, and it’s always great to see her 🙂   I’ve thought more and more about ‘biological bonds’ and how that never is severed by adoption- if anything it’s more intense.  Having my biological mom in my life has been such an amazing gift.  That’s something for a few blog posts.  My biological paternal uncle also visited- the first time I’ve met someone from my biological dad’s side of the family.  That was great !   I honestly enjoy both of them (as well as others I’ve met through my biological family tree- that is more like a group of trees).  Neat, really nice people.

This summer, my cousin was diagnosed with cancer.  It’s a tough kind of cancer, and she hasn’t  ever been really sick before, which makes all of the procedures, sensations, and inability to just do what she sets her mind out to do that much more difficult.   She has had so many side effects and complications- it’s been so hard for her (as it would be for anybody).  Since I’m the family ‘go-to’ for deciphering medical information, we talked and e-mailed a lot.  We still do.  I’m glad to be of some use to her (and other family members who know I’ve been an RN for nearly 29 years, even if I’m now disabled- which has increased my knowledge about a  lot of the little things with my own personal medical journey- it helps me find some ‘good’ in the bad I’ve been through).  She is SO strong mentally, and has such an amazing support system with friends and co-workers.  I told her how in awe I am, since the people around here (co-workers) dropped me like a hot rock when I had to leave work in 2004.  She is blessed with an employer who still sees what she can do, and co-workers who are really there for her.  It’s amazing how well she’s doing in such a truly lousy situation.

Last (early) summer, I started on a weight-loss plan, and did lose 35 pounds that have stayed off- but I had to stop the Nutrisystem products for the artificial sweeteners.  I had about 3 solid months of migraines… no days off. I might have some time during the day when my head didn’t hurt, but there were no days with no head pain (I’m never free of muscle pain, and that’s been for the last 19 years).  SO, I had to give in and start taking daily pain meds along with some ‘as needed’ migraine meds.  I’ve been avoiding regularly scheduled pain meds for years.  But, my quality of life is going down the tubes.  With the pain meds, I’m now able to do more around the apartment in short spurts, which has been good- though I’m in no way able to do ‘normal’ amounts of housework.

The dysautonomia is also getting considerably worse- so any activity has become incredibly painful and leads to problems with my heat intolerance, blood pressure and heart rate.  The chemo I was on for leukemia from early 2010 through the latter parts of 2011  is known to cause peripheral neuropathy (as are many types of chemo)- so with an already existent neuropathy, it makes sense that it doesn’t do it any favors.  The heat intolerance is much worse, and even though the ice vest helps considerably, I have the air conditioner on when it’s  less than 20 degrees outside because I’m over-heated inside, if I do any sort of activity that causes my internal thermostat to go whacky.  It’s miserable.

My thighs have begun to shrink.  As in visibly smaller, and not in the good way from weight loss, but in an abnormal way.  SO I had to have an EMG (electromyelogram).  That showed more neuropathy.  I was sent to physical therapy (PT) for exercises- which will be an ongoing thing to avoid ending up needing a walker (at best) or wheelchair (at worst) for just getting around my apartment.  That is scary.  Since last spring (or maybe before then- the time gets away from me), a childhood friend of mine has been volunteering to help me get my apartment straightened out and drag stuff off to the thrift store at one of the churches here.  That has been SUCH incredible help.  She will also go to the grocery store if I need something picked up, and we’ve made a sort of contingency plan if I can’t do much at the store  at all, where I ride the scooter and she pushes a cart.  My guess is that we’d spend a fair amount of time laughing with that arrangement, but it’s so nice to know she’s around.   Another junior/senior high school friend has also moved back to this area recently, and has also offered to help out – so I really do feel blessed to have two people (and my dad) who I trust, that are willing to help me out.   There are days when I feel like that’s the only way I’m going to be able to live outside of some type of facility- and having no longterm care insurance, I would have to go to some state run ‘pit’.

Last week, I went to the store for my monthly fresh food/dairy stuff.  I had my ice vest on, and when I got home, I was still in trouble.  I had to drag out my ‘arsenal’ of thigh squeezes, leaning over the counter, etc. to keep from passing out.  I am so thankful for days when nothing is so bad as to need some sort of quick ‘first aid’ maneuvers to stay conscious.  Or headaches that are bad enough to land me in bed.  Or muscle pain that causes me to be essentially immobile.   I’m getting more and more thankful for days that other people would consider to be very boring- but keep me from having to contact one of my doctors.

The first week and a half of January is rough every year because of two very painful anniversaries… the January 7, 1978 murders of my figure skating coach’s six children (by her husband)- and wondering how she has been all of these years. I miss her, even now.   And, the January 10, 1987  six-hour rape I went through by the uncle of a baby I took care of up to six days a week for about 6 months (back when 6 months of my life was a much bigger portion of my overall existence).

I’m not sure anybody ever ‘gets over’ things like either of those.  While I wasn’t physically hurt by the murders, it was one of the most traumatic things I’ve ever been through, and at age 14, I was miserably unprepared for how to ‘get through’ something so horrific. I knew the older girl a bit from the rink- which made it all hit so much closer to home.  She was a year younger than I was… and it was all so impossible to understand.  I was 23 at the time of the rape- and while I managed to keep myself alive, it was also something beyond my level of coping skills emotionally.  There isn’t a year that has gone by, or even a day or week since either of those events that I haven’t thought about the overall impact they have had in my life- and wondering how my skating coach has been.  Every few years, I have to deal with parole protest letters for the guy who raped me.  I’ve written other blogs about both of those.

So, I’ve had plenty to write about.  But sometimes, it’s just too much to try and put thought to writing.  Many things are rattling around in my thick skull… and writing about them does help me.  I feel ‘heard’ – even if the majority of things I write about won’t be seen by people I know- it still helps that ‘someone’ out there will have seen what I have to say.   Thank you for stopping by to ‘hear’ me.

*Ann, if you are out there… please comment.  I see a lot of people who look up information about that day.  If you are one of them – or know how she is… please let me know 🙂

 

 

Sharing Christianity With Love and Warmth

Sometimes it’s hard to be taken seriously as a Christian, as so many Christians come across as painfully judgmental in their tone and overall intolerance- towards those who don’t believe exactly in what they do. We can be our own worst enemies when trying to encourage non-Christians see how Christianity really is an amazing way to get through this life, and that it just gets better!   This age of so much communication being done between strangers with no interpersonal connection doesn’t help much. Reading comments about online articles, stories, etc. are horribly mean and hateful- and the Christians are among the worst at times.  It makes me sad.   I try SO hard not to be one of ‘those’ Christians (and also not to judge them– they have their reasons for their beliefs, even if I disagree with how they come across, at least with how I’ve perceived them in specific online conversations or about specific topics… and I’m not good at that).  I want to be used by God, not drive people away from Him.  That can be a lonely place.  The ‘holier-than-thous’ have no tolerance for ME, and I don’t fit in anywhere because I see approaching people out of love and respect being more important than being ‘right’.

I’m very limited physically in how much I can interact with people (Christians and non-Christians), and so much of what I am exposed to is lacking the ‘in-person’ body language and non-verbal subtleties needed for complete communication. I base my fairly open and ‘cleaning my own side of the street’ approach to a lot of topics based on my belief that Jesus spoke much more about love than He did about judgement.  Jesus loves everybody, and took the ragtag bunch of people around Him to be the ones He kept the closest to Him.  He didn’t look for the legalistic Pharisees. He didn’t take the ones who could recite ‘rules’ twenty-five ways to Sunday.   He chose the hookers, thieves, the poor, and later, even those who used to persecute Christians to help spread His message. Paul was a huge factor in the spreading of the message of Christianity in those early years, and he was horrible to Christians prior to his conversion !   Who am I to only seek out the superficially ‘acceptable’ people to care about?  Appearances mean nothing, both good and bad. (I LOOK very unfeminine, and pretty ratty a lot of the time. Because of some medical issues that make having hair actually a safety issue, as it gets me overheated very fast, and that triggers a lot of unpleasantness, up to losing consciousness… so I look stereotypically ‘butch’, because my head is shaved, and I don’t wear a lot of girly clothes… a t-shirt with flowers is about as ‘foo-foo’ as I get… that’s just me.  I’ve gotten a lot of nasty ‘looks’  and comments over the years about that).  God can use anybody who is willing!  Even if they don’t ‘seem’ like they’re capable of a meaningful relationship with Christ, or ‘look’ like a bonafide Christian 😉

It’s kind of a lonely place at times to not ‘tow the line’ in some very rigid manner. God meets us where we are, and I think we, as Christians, need to show the love of God in ways that fit the person we’re interacting with.   I don’t ‘fit in’ with how I view some very controversial topics in the conservative Christian community.  I believe in the Bible, and that it’s the inspired Word of God.  I also look at the social, scientific,  and cultural norms at the time the Bible was written, and look at ways to learn more about how that translates into today’s society. I am very aware that I don’t know everything.  But no matter how I view something or someone, I feel an obligation to love the person as someone God created in the womb first, and do all things in a way that doesn’t make them run from any message I may have about how God can have a real place in their lives, no matter what any person’s beliefs, strengths, or weaknesses may be.  What good does it do to judge someone, and push them away?  That isn’t the goal !  Jesus told Christians to go into all the world and preach the Gospel… not judge those who will benefit from hearing it (as in everybody !).   God didn’t appoint me, or any other human, to be judgmental.  Matthew 7 is very clear on that.  The Bible is also very clear on doing all things in love.  Focusing on the good, and showing everyone the definition of love in I Corinthians 13, and the Fruit of the Spirit in Galatians.  Those are our standards.

God has been a huge refuge for me during some really hard times.   When I was raped, He was Who I called out to (silently, in prayer) to give me the strength and wisdom to get through it, and escape.  With the chronic medical disorders I’ve got, God is Who gives me the strength to just deal with another day, even when I just want to curl up and sleep until things get better (problem with that is that the disorders are chronic, progressive, and not going to get better).  When I was diagnosed with an aggressive form of leukemia, my comfort came in knowing that no matter what happened, I’d go on in eternity if I died.  I’d be able to reunite with fellow believers who have died, such as family, friends, and people I’ve read about over the years.  I’d like to share that comfort with others.  I’d like others to know that no matter how alone they feel, God is always around.  When I was in the middle of the last eating disorder relapse, I’d ask God every night literally to just let me wake up in the morning.  He answered all of my prayers during all of those times.  I’m still here.

I don’t run around with my religion on my sleeve (though I do have a few cool t-shirts with messages on them ),  but I will be specific about my beliefs when asked, or when I decide to write about it.  I strive to live my beliefs (and I can always improve !).  I believe that salvation is  a choice.  It is not possible to be ‘good enough’ or ‘earn’ a place in Heaven.  Believing in Jesus, His death on the cross, and resurrection as a payment for our sinful nature -by simply being human- is how I believe people get in to Heaven.  The Bible is very clear on that.  But, there are no pre-existing criteria to ‘qualify’ as a Christian. It’s simply telling God that I know I’ve sinned (we all have, and anybody who is at the age of accountability- which varies with individuals and developmental stages and capabilities needs to make the choice for themselves to seek forgiveness), I ask for forgiveness, and I believe that Jesus died to pay the price for my very human nature and choices that have grieved God, and separated me from Him.  I believe that  Christ physically rose from the dead. I believe that He’s going to return one day to gather Christians still alive here on earth, as well as those who have already left this earth. A lot of really ‘good’ people will be left behind.  I believe that when my earthly life is over, my eternal life begins. And I know that no matter how other people, including  Pharisee Christians, see me, God knows my heart.  That is more important than human acceptance.  I don’t ‘do’ legalism…  I cherish my relationship with the Lord, and other Christians.

I also believe that people have the right to decline God’s offer, and by not making a choice, they actually do make a choice.   They have the right to their beliefs as  I have the right to mine.  My beliefs mean that I only see one way for someone to be ‘saved’, and eligible for eternal life.  But it’s not my place to ‘judge’ someone for not wanting or believing that (I can be sad they don’t choose the same beliefs, but it is NOT OK for me to judge that person).  Those who don’t believe as I do will say I’m being judgmental for saying that there is only one way to Heaven… my answer is this: what is in the Bible didn’t come from me.  God made it a choice, whether to believe or not.  He didn’t create us to be robotic followers.  He gave us all free will. But He wants everybody… He won’t push anybody away for any reason…. so how could I possibly think it’s OK for me to judge anybody for making their own decisions?  🙂

Humans (often Christians) screw up the Bible, and how Christianity is perceived, more than any other factor on earth.  The Bible itself is fairly straightforward, and with religious and historical scholars having written volumes on the various cultural, social, and scientific things, it’s easy to see that God’s plan for our salvation is timeless.  It was seen as heresy when Jesus died and rose again- a conspiracy of major proportions.  Some people still see it as such. Some just think it’s bogus.  That’s their right.  It saddens me, but I still accept that they have the choice to believe what they will.  Faith comes with continued belief, and it’s different for everyone.  God didn’t make us all identical cookie-cutter people (pretty great, eh?), so we all ‘do’ this journey in our own way.   And, we can pray for those who don’t believe, and continue to be kind and compassionate towards them.  How will they ever find Christ if Christians are the first to bail out on them?

To me, the requirements for salvation are absolute; there is only one way to become a Christian-  BUT there are as many ways to BE a Christian as there are people… . It’s a choice.  It’s an active belief, not a passive assumption.   God can use ALL of us 🙂 

I believe that God can use anyone who makes him/herself available to Him.  He doesn’t demand perfection. He doesn’t demand we ‘speaketh’ in a completely unnatural way when we talk to Him.  I am not a fan of religion at all (mindless rituals and rules)… God wants a relationship with every single person on this planet. 🙂  He waits until we seek Him, but then we are His forever.  He won’t force Himself on anybody.  He gave us free will.  And, He has a single requirement for being with Him forever…. belief.  Faith grows over time, but belief is a choice.

I can’t imagine NOT believing what I do.  I can’t imagine NOT believing in Jesus, or His death and resurrection.  I can’t imagine NOT believing that He is coming back.  I can’t imagine NOT having the absolute assurance of Heaven when I die. To me, it takes a lot more faith in “nothing” than it does in a loving God whose Son walked the earth in human form over 2,000 years ago.  I also don’t see humans as a lot who are higher up on the reliability scale.  I couldn’t believe in a mere mortal.  Just wouldn’t work for me.   I’m glad for my upbringing in an evangelical church.  I’m thankful that I had good experiences with how God was taught to me, and that I had several outlets that were wonderful experiences to reinforce what I’d learned (youth groups, summer camp, working at the same camp during 2 1/2 summers, choir, etc).  I’m also very glad I read through the BIble cover-to-cover on my own a few times, so I saw what is in there for myself…. not JUST how a pastor saw it. I’m thankful for study Bibles with amazing notes from reputable Bible scholars to enhance my understanding.

I wish that for everyone. 🙂