#enditmovement

enditmovement

#enditmovement

Relief.  Voices are being heard and stands are being made.  Join us. Stand up for the voiceless; take a stand against sexual trafficking, slavery, and abuse.

The following are links for more information about The END IT Movement:

#enditmovement on twitter,   and their main site: located HERE 

Below are links to our personal story of survival and redemption, ABUSE and UNVEILED are the two most explicit links…reader beware.  LILACS is the gentlest retelling:

Uncovered and Exposed

Finding Hope’s Sunshine – Gracie

Who I was, who I am, and who I will become

Abuse

Lilacs and Shackles – Sneak Peek

Unflinching and Unveiled

Remember, raise your voice.

End it now!

#enditmovement

Envelope-pushing and a Shepherd

Religious rules and traditions make me claustrophobic. My off-beat sense of humor and lilting sarcasm are here to “shake things up and keep things honest”; at least that’s what I have repeatedly told myself.  Have you ever had a moment of truth so startling that you found it hard to catch your breath?

My last post chronicled my ever-present struggle with my language.  What it didn’t mention or divulge is how fast my words leap out of my mouth ahead of my mind sometimes. I cringe to think about the slew of recklessness that I have unleashed at different moments in my life.

The weekend after my post, Pastor’s message rang true with me. I was convicted of my sinful lack of self-control; but wanted to get to the heart of the problem.  I prayed, “Father, give me your eyes.  What is the issue here?”

The answer was like a kick in the gut.

“You are terrified of the image that I carry a rod and a staff.”

I began to cry.

It’s true.

Psalm 23: 4b says, “…thy rod and thy staff they comfort me” (KJV)

I see a rod and a staff as weapons to inflict beatings and undeserved punishments.

My ex-husband’s abuse warped my view of God.

In life, psychologists describe the “flight or fight” response.  Simply put, when in danger, people either respond by fleeing or by fighting.  I fight.  In my former self-defense training, I was taught to unleash cuss words when fighting…especially if fighting in a conservative society where the language would draw more attention and therefore bring more help.

Gold star for applying my lessons in self-defense to my relationship with Christ! (Told you I have the gift of sarcasm). Seriously , though, I have felt threatened by the image of God holding a rod and a staff.  I have spent years pushing the “envelope” of Christianity with my language, my rebellion, my attitude, my life; all while waiting expectantly to go too far, to have the rod &/or the staff whack me back into submission.

envelope-pushing.jpg

I sobbed like a little girl who’s been hurt.

I sat down with my mentor after church and we talked through this…all of it.

She lovingly pointed out that any area of sin is really a spiritual strength that is being allowed to run uncontrollably, without being submitted to the Holy Spirit.  She reminded me that my “dragon-lady speech and cutting remarks” are really witty, truthful words that are not being spoken in love or kindness.

When I told her about my terror at the thought of God holding a rod and a staff, my eyes became floodgates.  I explained that I don’t want to be hurt like that again.   We began to pray, and she asked that I see God’s love as a guardrail, not as a fence of confinement.

Simultaneously, I had the image of my cheek up against a red wall of rock.  I could feel the heat and smell the fresh air of high altitude mixed with flowers.  I looked over to see a guardrail on the edge of the mountain pass, and just over the railing; there was a steep drop down thousands of feet to a certain death.

I looked up, and crumpled like a rag doll.

All these years, I have been flinching every time I pray; just waiting for the recoil and the certain blow of a rod, a stick, or a fist.

I have reacted like a penned animal who is cornered instead of embracing the beautiful truth that I am loved and protected.

It’s not an instantaneous turn-around in my mind.

I am studying the true use of a shepherd’s staff and a shepherd’s rod so that I may have a fresh understanding of how God shows love to me by protecting me.

Like all wounds, I know that this will take time to heal.

For now, though; I am content to lean up against that rock wall in my mind and look out over the panorama that is laid out before me, careful to stay far away from the guardrail that warns of certain danger.

I am choosing to trust that Isaiah 42:3 is true when it says, “He will not break a bruised reed, and he will not put out a smoldering wick…”(HCSB).  It seems to me that if he carries a rod and a staff, but doesn’t break a bruised reed that is weak already; then I am safe as I learn WHO he is and what he uses his tools to do.

 

 

Uncovered & Exposed

Almost a decade.

I have been stalked and harassed and intimidated for almost a decade.

I have cowered in fear, been cornered, and failed to live my life.

I have had moments of triumph, moments of courage when having a voice was more important to me than attempting to keep the insidious waters of his family’s power and abuse calm.

I have settled, at times, for less than I wanted; because it meant momentary peace for my family.

I have advocated and debated and been cross-examined, I have had knees knocking and voice wavering and hands trembling, yet with an officer at my side, I have unflinchingly told the truth, and been awarded with yet another PPO.

I have tried to live in a shadow, under a social rock so that I wouldn’t draw attention to myself or the kids.

Eventually, my passion for others; the voiceless community around me, won out.

My desire for them to find equality in the public arena was greater than my desire to stay “safe”.

He had five years of my life during the hell-marriage.  He controlled me with fear, intimidation and stalking for too many years after I left.  He skirted the justice system for too many years, got away with attempt to plan a murder, if you will; for long enough.

I spoke.

I stood.

I dared to be the victor instead of the victim.

I stopped cowering in fear and bowing my life to its control over me.

I stopped allowing my fear to be a defense mechanism.

Despite my greatest fears that he would act out his threats to kill me and/or anyone that I grew close to, I took faltering steps of faith.

I fell in love, and married the man who truly knows me…all of me.

There are still days when divulging more of my past causes me to dry heave, but James isn’t shaken by it.  He simply holds my hair out of my face…and reassures me that he is still here.

I am learning that when I get overwhelmed and the momentary panic hits, I can say, “I need to walk; I will be back…I just need a bit of space” as I run out the door.  As I power walk, I speak truth. I say, “God’s love never quits!”.  I repeat, “God is good, and His Love endures forever.”  I remind myself that when all Hell seems to break loose, I serve an All-powerful One, who even Death cannot conquer, whose love for me and you cannot be severed, squelched, or silenced.

You know, there was a time long ago when I did a puppet show for some kids.

Puppet

Puppet

 The people who set up the stage told me that if the stage fell, your first instinct would be to cover up like you were naked.

I teased them for being a bit ridiculous.  During our show, the stage fell forward, and sure enough, I covered up like I was naked, uncovered and exposed.

Puppet Exposed

Puppet Exposed

But I wasn’t naked, uncovered and exposed.

I was fully clothed.

Today, after yet another security breach; after yet another night of interrupted sleep, and an overwhelming desire for target practice at a range so that I can feel more powerful than the fear that rises up like bile in my throat; today

I choose to believe the truth.

He may have gained access to records that are none of his legal business,

his family may have again attempted to silence my voice and steal my happiness.

I am no longer a slave to fear, I am a CHILD of God.  My God, the one who is called El Roi; My God is the One who sees me.  I claim the blood of Jesus Christ, I am loved by HIM, and

NOTHING CAN SEPARATE ME FROM HIS LOVE.

Romans 8:1-2, 15, 35-38 (NIV) excerpted from Biblegateway.com

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus,because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you[a]free from the law of sin and death.

15 The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again;rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship.[f] And by him we cry, “Abba,[g] Father.”

35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?36 As it is written:

“For your sake we face death all day long;
    we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”[j]

37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,[k] neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

I am not naked, uncovered or exposed.  I am clothed in Christ’s righteousness.  Eventually, I trust that the truth will come out.  Their schemes will be brought to light, and justice will be served.  Meanwhile, I am loved.  They can’t change that.  Today, this moment, this is my chance to raise my voice and declare, “Nothing will separate me from the Love of Christ!”.

May you also be blessed with the revelation and acceptance of that same love, may you be strengthened by His love to stand in courage and raise your voice.  Beloved, be loved…then be love!

Established in His love,

Gracie K.

Bride of Christ

Bride of Christ

Domestic Violence & The NFL: Five Things Roger Goodell Needs to Know

I appreciate her perspective as one who has seen the legal system side of domestic violence, as well as her experience in the sports world. Don’t add to the silence, please read and learn.

The Game - 87.7 FM

I don’t blame people who don’t get it. I didn’t get it for a long time. In fact, it wasn’t until I was sitting in domestic violence court with a client, holding her jaw (which was clearly broken) closed as she sought a civil Order of Protection, that I got it. I was the only person there on her side. Her ex-husband, who had put her in the hospital more than once, showed up to court with a Bible, his pastor, and a host of church members ready to attest to his excellent character. He was a “great guy.”

RayRiceElevatorVideoDomestic violence is an ugly, dirty, soul-sucking corner of American life. Before I was lucky enough to get to talk about sports on the radio, I spent years in domestic violence and family court, both as as a defender of abusers and as an advocate for victims. I’m ashamed to say…

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DP – “An Extreme Tale” – The precipice of Faith

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “An Extreme Tale.”  NOTE: There are technical difficulties right now that are not allowing Pingbacks.

The precipice of faith (c)Gracie K Harold 2014

The precipice of faith (c)Gracie K Harold 2014

Trigger Word Warning: painkillers, rape, blackouts, miscarriage, grief.

The following was my first ever post on my blog, from 3/25/2014:

I think my toes are curled over the edge of life right now.  I know that going back is not an option, I believe that we are on the verge of launching forward into an incredible new reality; and yet I feel my stomach flip flop as I inhale slowly.

When on earth will I stop being “afraid of good”?  I think I am more excited than afraid, and yet I still feel the adrenaline coursing through my veins.  For over 14 years I have dreamt of my story being told; of being able to share how the hideously painful and broken pieces have been somehow miraculously transformed into a beautiful reality that still leaves me speechless.

My journey through pain began in Chicago.  It was Fall Break of my senior year in college; and my good friend and I had decided to leave our campus in the Midwest cornfields for the lure of the “Big City”.  We had freshly emerged from a popular dessert spot and my left arm was jauntily swinging my bag which held all of my chocolate delicacies.   I was aware of the staccato that my platform heels made on the sidewalk as we made our way over towards the lakeshore.

Unexpectedly, I lurched through the air as my left heel caught in a 6 inch hole where the sidewalk was missing.  When I opened my eyes, I saw an extreme close up of the concrete and tasted the grit of the city on my lips.  The rest of the weekend is a blur of flashing snippets.  I vaguely remember being driven to the emergency room once we were back on campus; I recall being told that my collarbone was dislocated.  I started taking painkillers that night.  The next two months appear in my memories like a party with a strobe light flashing.

I was on the couch in my apartment with a guy friend.  Everything went dark, and I awoke on the floor with him on top of me.  I screamed, “No! Stop!” and he covered my face with a pillow as he pinned me to the floor.  I felt excruciating pain; and blacked out again.  I awoke to find myself in blood on the floor.  However, I had no recollection of this whatsoever until the following spring, when I started suffering from flashbacks.  Six days after the first flashback began, I miscarried my daughter.  I hadn’t even known that I was pregnant.

I had been in counseling to help me cope with my parents’ divorce; and I brought up the flashbacks and the miscarriage to my counselor.  She asked if I remembered having sex.  “No, I just remember everything going black, and then waking up”, I told her.  “Well, if you don’t remember actually having sex, then nothing happened.  You couldn’t possibly have been pregnant.”

I spun into a desperate state of denial, keeping as busy as possible to avoid thinking about the miscarriage.  During summer vacation, however, I was in a doctor’s office filling out paperwork for my appointment.  They asked how many pregnancies and miscarriages I had experienced.  I ran to the bathroom sobbing as my walls of denial crumbled around me.  I began my war with grief.

I call it a war, because my losses scarred me and altered me in ways that can never be reversed.  However, as wars often create warriors who emerge stronger than they ever imagined; I too have learned that my scars give testament to the fact that I have survived.  My purpose in life has become unwavering, because I have been through the hell of death and the loss of a child.  I have mourned the death of my innocence, and grieved all that was stolen from me.   I have been unexpectedly wracked with sobs in the most inconvenient of times, and I have survived.

I have learned to be authentic and vulnerable with my wrestlings.  I have faced God unflinchingly and spewed my truest, darkest doubts.  I have expressed my anger and cussed in the midst of my prayers.  I have discovered that God is big enough to take it.  I have been surprised by the nearness it has resulted in.  It makes no sense whatsoever, and yet I can honestly tell you that His tender compassion is why I have survived.  My wrestling is far from over.  Even now, sixteen years later, my grief still battles within me.

In hindsight, I think my willingness to be honest and raw with God was a demonstration of faith.  I trusted that if I jumped off that precipice into the unknown chasm of my grief and emotions; somehow I’d eventually find a way through my grief and pain.  My prayer is that as I share my journey in a raw, unedited and gritty way; the reality of my grief will somehow encourage you in your journey…whatever it may look like.

An honor

Meghan, over at “Finding Hope’s Sunshine”, gifted me with the honor of featuring my story on her blog.

The link is below, and is my story of Domestic Violence that I endured in my first marriage.

http://findinghopessunshine.wordpress.com/2014/11/20/abused-women-gracie/

I spent many years cowering in fear, almost a decade of silence.

My kind, patient James has walked beside me in my journey to find my voice and my courage.

He recently summed it up perfectly by saying, “Gracie, you’ve moved from being a victim of Domestic Violence to being a Victor over what you survived.”

May we all find our voice.

May every victim become a victor!

Love ,

Gracie

Wildflower Tenacity (c)Gracie K. Harold 2014

Wildflower Tenacity (c)Gracie K. Harold 2014

The Kindness of an Atheist

friend (c)Gracie K Harold 2014

friend (c)Gracie K Harold 2014

**Please note that this post is about FRIENDSHIP and the kindness of an atheist and is NOT about dating an atheist…that’s a post for another day.**

I was still getting moved into our new apartment when I received the phone call that started our friendship.  I had been in a shelter for Domestic Violence survivors for the last few months, and my children were four, two and a half, and eight months old.  The conversation flowed easily on a variety of topics.  Although the call originated as a business call, it wasn’t long before we considered ourselves friends.  He was an adamant atheist and a devout environmentalist, I was just as adamantly a Theist. One of our first conversations consisted of the following debates:

Me: How can you be an environmentalist but not a creationist? What’s the point if you’re an atheist?

Him: How can you consider yourself a creationist if you care nothing about the environment? What’s the point?

He was right. I told him so, and apologized.  I started recycling more, and trying to consume less.  I became aware of my wasted energy and cut back on my carbon footprint.  Our lively discussions continued, and his friendship filled an emptiness inside of me.  I was so lonely.

I was attending every women’s Bible Study that was offered at my church.  I attended morning church, evening church and Sunday School.  I had good friends who intentionally had the kids and I over, or who cut our hair, or even watched the kids so I could escape for coffee…but I lacked a best friend.

Still reeling from the chronic abuse that I had endured for five years at the hands of what I call a “biblical psychopath” ( a man who had a degree in Theology but was mentally disturbed and abusive); I longed to connect with someone who I could debate and discuss life with.  My best friend from college lived in Indiana, and we made every effort to talk, but my heart ached for local companionship.  I longed to be listened to, appreciated as a wise woman, and have someone laugh at my jokes.  He did.

Before the inevitable judgments begin racing in your brain and start being slung into my comments section like stones in a stoning; know that I took faltering steps in courage to reach out for friendship at church with the young adults.  I soon discovered the “ooh and ahh” reality that exists when a single mom appears on the neat and tidy “Christian scene”.  Guys tended to either respond with (a sometimes literal) running to the hills as they seemed to scream, “Ahh….she’s a single mom!  I wonder if it’s contagious!” or they would seem to be purring, “Ooh…a single mom who obviously had sex…I wonder how long she’s gone…”  It’s vulgar but true.  Most of the young adult girls would literally (and possessively) grab the arm(s) of the closest guy(s) and plaster a “perma-grin” on their face, without ever making a real effort to know me.

From the church, I learned the conflicted dance of religious grace.  I received both patronizing glances and genuine compassion.  I received outpourings of financial assistance and gifts and food; along with slammed doors, condemnation, and hurtful, ignorant comments.  I often felt like the anomaly kept in the China hutch for certain guests to see on special occasions. “Oh, that’s our single mom…she has had it rough…whisper whisper whisper (gasp).  She is quite a dear, though…and we all do what we can to help her.  It’s so sad, isn’t it? (sigh)”

From my atheist friend, I learned that I had a voice, intelligence, and a good sense of humor.  I learned that real men see the beauty inside a woman…not that her appearance isn’t important; but a funny, witty, kind, intelligent woman has a lot to offer the world for it’s betterment.  He taught me how to navigate around and through red tape, while empowering me to learn how and when to cut through it.

He taught me that attractiveness is multifaceted.  Through our friendship, I relearned my confidence.  I found a safe place to vent and cry and grieve.  I was challenged to sidestep the very things that had tripped up and entangled my loved ones. I learned that even after one or both of us was a jerk to the other, our friendship continued.  I learned that my ex-husband was indeed an “Insert-expletive-of-your-choice-here”.

The kindness of an atheist is what prepared me for my dating relationships that eventually followed, and also for my marriage.

You read that correctly.

The kindness of an atheist prepared me for my marriage to my Jesus-loving, Bible-College-attending, Shepherd-hearted Man that is my best friend, lover, and husband.  My James challenges me, understands me, hugs me, loves me, fails me, apologizes to me, romances me, and encourages me to be more like Christ.  I love my James.  I thank God for him every night and every morning.  I do.

I like to think that in His Kindness, God saw my loneliness, and he heard the cry of my heart for a deep, visceral connection.  My atheist friend stepped up when no one else dared to.  My husband eventually entered my life, and took it from there.  I thank God for both of them.  Whether you like it or not, I tend to think that both offered a beautiful sacrifice of worship.  The first one had a heart stirred to compassion by an inexplicable desire to make a difference.  The second had the same compassionate heart, stirred to draw me in with loving kindness, as he committed to continue on loving me for life.

My belief is that God smiles on both of them.  Both of them showed me the heart of God, whether or not they were aware of it.  The kindness of an atheist drew me into the intimacy of a forever marriage with the man who chooses every morning to simply love me as God has loved him.

Please do not misunderstand; my heart is only fully devoted to my husband James.  I am my beloved’s and he is mine.  In looking back over the last decade of my life, though; I have realized that my Atheist friend was like one who tills the soil on a farm.  His
kindness prepared me for God’s goodness, and stopped me from running away from the thing I so desperately needed but was too terrified to be vulnerably available for.

I like to think that when James stepped in, he took the plow, and began to sow seeds of kindness and love in such an overwhelmingly tender way, that I couldn’t help but allow him past all of my defense mechanisms.  God be praised for seeing my heartache.  Where a Christian man wasn’t willing to courageously walk beside me, an atheist was moved to compassion for that season of preparation.  When the time was right, James entered my life and opened my eyes to what true Biblical love means, accompanied by an everlasting commitment to me as his wife.

If your heart is shattered as mine was, and you are terrified of allowing people past your defense mechanisms, may a Godly person have the courage to walk beside you.  If they fail or refuse, may you have the kindness of an atheist as a preparation for God’s overwhelming goodness and love.  Heal well. Rest well.  Commit yourself to your faithful Creator…and continue to do good.  (I Pet. 4:19)

If you are in any way aware of a hurting soul, in God’s name, gently and courageously reach out to them time and again in love!

Love and kindness,

Gracie

Abuse

"You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book." Psalm 56:8 (NLT)  Photo (c)Gracie K. Harold 2014

“You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book.” Psalm 56:8 (NLT) Photo (c)Gracie K. Harold 2014

The following was posted in my comments recently, after I shared a brilliant post that I had read about Domestic Violence and Abuse.  I feel compelled to share the comments and the links again; as I feel so strongly today that our story needs to be told for others on their journey.

If you or someone you know is suffering Domestic Violence and/or abuse, You are NOT alone!  Please get help!  Please find hope.  You deserve help.

National Domestic Violence Hotline 1 800 799 7233

“Dear Dani,

This post that I re blogged was originally shared by my “sister-in-courage” on her blog “begin to believe”.

I also survived 5 years of Domestic Violence. The most comprehensive chronicle of what I survived is found in my post, “Unflinching and Unveiled”, (It’s very candid, reader beware) it’s found here: https://adjustmentstonormal.wordpress.com/2014/06/30/unflinching-and-unveiled/

A gentler explanation of our journey is found in my sneak peak of my book chapter, used by permission. “Lilacs & Shackles, sneak preview” here:

https://adjustmentstonormal.wordpress.com/2014/07/25/lilacs-shackles/

I was scarred for many years. During that time, Jesus so tenderly loved me and gently walked alongside of us on our journey. I wish I could say that “I gave it to God and now I’m fine.” I HAVE given the years of abuse over to God, sometimes multiple times an hour. I’m not always fine. I have learned that that is okay. Instead of desiring “Christian denial” and pretending that nothing ever happened, I have learned the immense amount of courage and freedom that is found when I speak the truth in love. I, Gracie K. Harold, survived abuse.

I did not deserve it; no one EVER deserves abuse! Being abused does not diminish the facts that God is a good and loving Father who loves me, and even though I still sometimes see the scars that the horrific abuse left behind; I am learning to see that they are truly lines left behind when the Artist took my broken pieces and made me into a new creation; His beloved daughter. I have also finally had my heart enlarged enough to stop being consumed by the hurt, pain and abuse; and instead, to fix my eyes on the Everlasting Father who loves me so much that His son was with me every step of the way. The hardest wrestling match for me spiritually came when I finally accepted that I was NOT abandoned during the abuse. Instead, I believe that He held me as the abuse went on, and whispered, “I am so sorry that this is happening! This is NOT my will, and I will never treat you this way! I love you, and I am here!”

I came to see it as a caregiver who is outside with a child that gets unexpectedly hit by a soccer ball which a neighbor kicked at the child. The caregiver has no desire for the child to get hurt, and yet sometimes other people’s choices result in our pain. The caregiver rushes to the side of the child, reassuring them and seeking medical attention if necessary. The point is, the child is not alone as they heal.

Neither was I. It is one of the hardest paradoxes in God’s love to understand; yet His fingerprints are seen everywhere in our journey. I can’t always see Him, and I don’t always like the way things go, but I know that He is here and He loves me. I have learned to focus on that as I unflinchingly face my scars, knowing that I am dearly beloved.

Thank you for your encouragement and sharing your heart, Dani. The way that you have journeyed alongside me in the world of blogging has spurred me onward in my courage to speak and no longer be silenced.

Love, Gracie K.”

Why I Stayed/ Why I Left

This post eloquently captures the journey. #NoMore.org http://www.aplaceforwomen.org

prayer & practice

To be abused dehumanizes. You won’t know its happening but it slowly takes away your sense of self worth, power and control. If he doesn’t kill you, one day, if you’re ready and only if you’re ready, a spark of light will appear. It will be faint but its there.

That light may come in the form of a helping hand, a story, a word said, a sign, a song or even the voice of God. When you see it or hear it, you will know that it is time and this spark will begin to light the way and lead you out and you’ll find that you’ll have the courage to follow.

But sometimes you’re are so beaten and broken, the only sparks you can see come after a blow to the head. And you’re so lost and it’s so dark that hope is unrecognizable. At this point, it…

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From Ruby

Ruby's Letter

Ruby’s Letter (c)Gracie K. Harold 2014

Translation: “Dear Mom,

My reading program says to [write] and send a letter to my favorite author. (That’s you).

I love you. Your book is a good book (well, the parts I’ve read, that is).

-Ruby”

Happy Tuesday!  This made my day!  🙂

The link to my book is here: “Across the Street From Normal”.

I have absolutely no regrets about leaving the abusive situation that we were in all those years ago.  Instead of seeing her mother as a victim, Ruby sees me as an author, an income earner, a society contributor, and a confident woman who is loved by God and her husband.  That’s all I ever wanted.

Today, I feel like I have what I wanted.

Love, faith, family, friends, and confidence.