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Bethany G. Paget

Midwife of words

Month

May 2014

Because I Didn’t Believe I’d be Raped Again

I met Micah through the internet’s.  His emerging views of the church and the story of his breakaway we’re a comfort to me as I sought my own freedom.  We became friends and banter about on facebook.  His lovely wife is one of my best friends and has a goal of teaching me of teaching me to climb a tree!!  It’s our hope for the summer.

It’s an honor to be sharing at his place.

This is the second time I’ve written about this. The first time was a few days ago. But the words didn’t sound right. They sounded, honestly like someone who has been scripted to talk about abuse in a nonchalant way. That is how I speak of much of my trauma and experiences that I have had in light of simply having breasts and a vagina.

The story that belongs to #YesAllWomen is all of our stories. I do not know a single woman alive who hasn’t experienced something on the spectrum of harassment, stalking, abuse, rape, or even death. Not one of our stories is identical, yet as women we are all intrinsically bound. Our stories are unique to us but with the power of speaking out and sharing our experiences we can stand together and say “ME TOO.”

Come Read The Rest over here

http://www.facebook.com/l.php?u=http%3A%2F%2Fredemptionpictures.com%2F2014%2F05%2F28%2Fyesallwomen-a-victim-again%2F&h=FAQHu58In

I was Drugged and Raped

***TRIGGER WARNING, DESCRIPTIONS OF RAPE***

I was raped.

I say it so nonchalantly, like it means nothing.  Right now it does mean nothing.  I look back and think what could I have done differently, should I have seen the signs and the worst one of all is why was I so stupid to allow it to happen again.

That’s the key word.  I am no stranger to sexual abuse or assault.  Those two things run rampant in history more than I can count on two hands.  I thought that once I had moved past that place I was in my life, now that I had learned boundaries and consent that it would stop and never happen again.

Except that in the back of my mind I was always preparing for when it would happen again.  PTSD mentality means I always have to be aware for the next attack.  Every man I meet in an elevator could be the one.   Even worse I fear that the next time I open my apartment door there will be a man waiting for me, to get the final one up.

This time I opened the door to him, I invited him in because I thought he was safe.  The how and the why of him getting to my apartment is not important to the story and his choice.  It doesn’t negate his actions.  When someone chooses to rape they take away anything leading up to the assault.  Such as “well you were drinking so you kind of put yourself there” or “if you hadn’t been texting those things he wouldn’t have thought you were into it” even worse “if you had just given in it wouldn’t have happened”

Those disgusting remarks are things that I have heard all in the past, from therapists, friends and even people in the church who were apparently ignorant of rape and its consequences.  There is not one single thing that a person can or cannot do that makes it their responsibility for being raped.  However right now I am struggling with believing that for myself, because the wound is still so fresh and so open.

I don’t know what to do, I am stuck I keep telling myself that it couldn’t of happened the way I remember (up until I stopped remembering.)  I tell myself he couldn’t have drugged me because I was watching my glass the whole time, but was I really?  What I clearly know is there was a point I was conscious and then I was not; and then I was vomiting, excessively. 

I don’t want to sit here at 33 years old and say that I allowed this to happen because in the logical part of my brain I know that I did not choose for him to drug me, rape me while I was unconscious and then leave.  I don’t want to tell you that this was just last weekend and that I have spent every day this week wishing for the ache to go away.  I haven’t called it what it is until now because why would I?  When I spent my childhood years being groomed by an abuser only to grow up and have the cycle continue.

It pains my soul to say this, to write it out here for you now.  But I needed to; I had to because I cannot keep it inside.  If I do I am liable to self destruct.  I know myself.  However I have never gone through an assault with healthy coping skills or a therapist before so I suppose that’s my one up this time. 

I know I’ll always want the pain to go away.  This further perpetuates this thought I constantly have that I am just a target for people.  I feel like I have this radar that I put out that says “ABUSE ME PLEASE.”  Honestly it was a lack of boundaries and not understanding what consent meant.  I thought that my worth only amounted to one thing pushed me in the direction of severely abusive and unhealthy people.

Now I ache, I ache because that word stains me again.  It traces its way down my body and stays there.  No amount of water washes it off; no amount of sleeping makes the hurt stop and no amount of staying away and fighting the night makes the nightmares go away.

It seems as though this is my reality again.  I keep promising myself that I won’t go into the deep, deep dark like I so easily want to do.  I’m promising those inside me who carry the hurt of abuses past that I will keep doing those things that bring them life.  I will be a light bearer to them, to myself and to Abigail.

Going to the police was assessed but I decided against it because there really is zero evidence and it’s my word against his and I am not going to sit with a bunch of police officers and talk about something that I hardly remember.  I thought about it again today as the reality started to sink in, my heart came up in my throat and the anxiety increased.  It’s not worth a police report when nothing usually happens.

I honestly believe that I will eventually be okay.  I have the best therapist.  She gets me like no one else does and has dug deep with me into the trauma of my past.  To be truthful this kind of feels like one more thing on the stack of already really fucking shitty shit in my life.  Even though the reality is sinking in I still feel pretty numb.

Numb, scared and tired.

As Always,

Bethany

Hard Won Feminism

Feminism didn’t come easily for me. I fought it tooth and nail because everything I knew about feminism was “bra burning liberal flaming left wing anti birth women” How wrong I was and how I allowed the thoughts of others to influence what I thought about people that I did not even know. When I was younger it was about the politics and the tree hippie feminists. My step dad is a staunch republican as they come and if you live in his house you vote red.
When I became a Christian my new baby Jesus brain was filled with thoughts of anti birthers and gun haters. Because of course now that I followed Jesus I was filled with bright red blood, guns, God and America. Liberals and feminists were here to take over our God Blessed country.
Just to write that out makes me feel very sad for the narrow minded beliefs that I spread to others because of what I was taught. I am sure more than once that I lost what could have been an amazing relationship because I just couldn’t let a topic go because I was sure my “American Christian” view was right.
Feminism was one of the last parts of my faith transformation. I wonder if the tough part about it was that those old beliefs about women and the church. You know those words of Paul hang on pretty tight to someone who slept with her bible for over a year.
I hate that one of the hardest parts about leaving fundamentalism is unlearning and rewiring all those old thoughts and beliefs. I spent six years hearing that women aren’t this or cannot do that or that our sole desire in life should marriage and children.
I allowed those thoughts to limit what I thought I could do with my life. As a single mom I felt that my daughter and I were a broken family because I am not and nor have I ever been married. If I couldn’t live up to these so called Christian standards than what good was I to God.
Learning to lean into new beliefs started to soften my heart. I started reading the Gospels with the thought of Jesus as the ultimate notice of the broken and downtrodden. I don’t mean to say that women are broken and down trodden more that Jesus notices the least of these. I would say in fact that women in our culture are part of the least of these.
One of my favorite stories of Jesus is when the woman who was bleeding crawled along the ground just to grasp onto the hem of his robe. He felt the power go out of Him and He asked who touched Him. See here’s the thing, He’s Jesus; He already knew who touched Him. He wanted to stand her up and allow the crowed to see this woman that He noticed, that He had touched and healed. He wanted to crowd to see that He loved her above measure.
That’s the Jesus Feminist I know. That’s what led me to seek out more of what feminism means. It does not mean bra burning and pro choice and gun hating like the sterotypes from the 60’s and 70’s read. There are those that carry over yes but far and wide it means equality for all people. It doesn’t mean that women are to be elevated above men and that every feminist wants to see men down graded to a lesser position, at least for me it doesn’t.
I am a feminist because I spent way too many years having my body be used and abused. I was owned and called property. The church felt it appropriate to have a say in what I was allowed to do with my vagina and I still felt the shame of everything that all those men did to me. Learning about consent, bodily autonomy and the shaming ways of purity culture were eye opening in this journey. No longer did I have to stand by and allow someone else dictate what I did with my body.
I walk the road of feminism because I want my daughter to grown up in a world where she can go to church and see a female pastor who can preach the Word of God to her. Preach it to her with love, grace and peace just like anyone else. I want to her to know that she can do anything, be anything and be an equal wherever she goes.
It is sad to me that there are so many churches that see and treat their women as substandard and limit them to certain positions because of their gender. They are told to be subservient to their husbands, to ask him first before making any decisions and to keep their strong emotions under check. What happens under this belief system is that abuse and neglect get covered up by submission.
I am a feminist because I don’t want to be told that I am emotional, dramatic or strong willed. Those things are not inherently bad, nor are they character defects. They are a part of me, a part of the way God intricately put me together.
I see feminism as an open door to important conversations and not just within the church. I believe, or hope to believe it a bridge builder when it’s brought with love and grace rather than conceit and embittered attitudes.
I am a feminist because first I am human, second I follow Christ and third I am a woman.
As Always,
Bethany

Then and Now

I have been having this feeling lately. This odd and uncomfortable feeling of missing what I called a relationship with Jesus. It felt real and pure and oh so right. I had this thing that was keeping me from going back to the girl I was before Jesus. I miss those moments where I felt like I was so close to God and filled with the Holy Spirit. Those were the moments that I felt the most alive and the freest from the constraints of life.
Deep down however there was this building pressure trying to escape. I used my relationship with Jesus to mask that deep pain. Feeling that pain would have killed me and that was something I was not able to bear at that time. Using legalism was the best cover. It allowed me to be something different and not the anxious and fearful wreck I was on the inside.
I was trying so hard to keep this façade up, yet just underneath the surface I could see fragments starting to crack. Splits in the glass that was showing me that where I was being so vocal about Christ underneath I didn’t really mean everything I was saying. It was this constant tension between what was happening in my soul and who I was trying to be on the outside
I am not that legalistic person anymore, but it’s hard because I feel like I don’t have any faith. I am not tethered to anything these days. I haven’t been to church in six months and I am not reading my bible right now. It all feels too hard and not safe. I know that’s the best place for me right now. I also know that God and I are connected in our own way. There is a different feeling to it though because it’s nothing like it was when I first started falling Christ.
I think that’s where I struggle. I know I do not want to go back to the false faith I had before, that wasn’t getting me anywhere. This space I am in right now feels very strange. I don’t know how to connect with the God I know and love without feeling unsafe or overwhelmed by people in the church who really don’t understand. The lack of a consistent faith practice is troubling. My soul deeply needs consistent connection with God.
That is where I think I’m that missing that old faith. I don’t miss the legalism or the fundamental behavior that drove me to cling to rules. I miss being tethered to Jesus and having those kinesthetic, emotive feelings that were present every day. Now there is nothing, no daily connection. I know that I am not alone; I fully believe that I do not have to go to church or read my bible to experience intimacy with God. Yet there is this open feeling in the chest that used to be filled with those daily quiet times that is now filled with a couple hours of 1 hour dramas.
I am a firm believer that God sits with us wherever we are. Whether one is a preacher and our place with Him is behind a pulpit every Sunday or one is struggling deeply with how to reconnect with God and suddenly finds herself in the mud of faith. That being said I do believe He is here every step of the way, I just can’t see what the steps look like.
It took me a long time to learn that emotions and flights of feelings do not make up our relationships with Christ. I banked those old moments hoping they would get me through the tough times. When I wasn’t feeling them I was sure that God had decided He was done with me. That is how much my faith was driven by earning God’s acceptance through the work I was doing. Those emotive feelings passed and I had nothing to bank on. I was dry and weary.
I could never go back to the way I lived my faith out before. There was no outcome that was going to prove beneficial. I absorbed what I was taught and told about God and those were lies yes, but then I turned around and told the same things to other people. It affected all of my relationships and how people saw me. Things are different now, there’s softness and my views on things and what I believe have flipped 180 degrees and for that I am thankful. Actually thank the internet and all the progressive and loving bloggers out there.
I want to find my way back to a safe place where there is structure, a place where I can be in community with other people who serve and love Jesus in a like minded fashion. Not to say that differences aren’t beautiful, I long for that too. When I say like minded in a church setting I mean I could never go back to an evangelical church, which would not be safe. I’ve thought of a few different denominations that seem to have the history and service setting I am looking for.
As far as the bible goes; sometimes I hear a scripture of two and it sounds so beautiful I think I am ready to open it up. When I do I get that same rush of anxiety that caused me to put it on my bookshelf in the first place. I believe I’ll get there one day, one day when it doesn’t hurt so bad to read words that were once used in condemnation of my personal life and how I loved God.
One day I will feel that tethered feeling again and it won’t be because I’ve gone back to legalism or am seeking an emotional relationship only. I’ll feel tethered because I’ll know that I have healed and that all things Christian no longer feel like a threat.
As Always,
Bethany

I Count this as Gold

To start with the same old “where I’m at right now” seems so cliché.  I wouldn’t have an easy answer, because well nothing is ever explained easily and it’s been a long season and right now the mud is up to my neck but I’m still breathing.

I’m still breathing.

I count that as gold today.

It really has been a long season, two years exactly from when things started to unravel and I was propelled face first into “where I’m at right now”

It’s been a constant state of near turmoil, not knowing one minute to the next if I am going to be able to pay rent, buy groceries, and when I had my truck the concern was gas and getting to work.  Now that I don’t have my truck anymore I can’t get to work, so I lost my job.  Without a truck I cannot get to the library, the pharmacy or the biggest one the grocery store without a ride.

We don’t live on an accessible bus line that would get us (my 7 ½ year old daughter and I) to the grocery store and back so I rely on the kindness of my friends.  Right now a neighbor that I have grown close to takes us once a week.  Worst case scenario and if I am desperate I can call my taxi driver friend who has taken kindness to me and drives me for nothing.

It’s frustrating, and shameful to say that I cannot provide even the basic things for my daughter.  I have been in dire straits before but I was on my own, not trying to also take care of a child.  I feel the weight that she feels every time I have to tell her no to something, or that I cannot take her anywhere because we don’t have a ride.  I am dreading summer because although I deeply adore my daughter (I really do) if we are home, all day, together, there will be war.  We are the same person.  It’s never pretty when we get on each other’s nerve and because we love each other so much there is a lot of nerve-getting-on-ing.

I digress.

The shit really hit the fan and I am embarrassed.  I am embarrassed that I haven’t been able to work.   That I cannot just get over the chronic state of my headaches (still, after surgery.)  I am embarrassed that I still hurt, that I am still dealing with pain, on a daily basis, that I am not better and that it’s still affecting my life.  I am ashamed that I cannot provide for my daughter.  I am her mother, her only parent and I have let her down.

This is about more than being able to get to the grocery store, or pick up my prescriptions.  It’s about me, the mom and the one in the traditional “leadership position” not being able to provide.  I feel like I let her down.  I also imagine that there is part of me listening to that little voice of my mother’s that says “I told you, you couldn’t do it” Because that voice is there, it always has been.

I have had to start over so many times before and never has it been easy.  The last time I really did it my daughter was a newborn.  This time she is 7 ½ and the stakes are higher because she’s watching and she is going to remember how mommy got us through this.  She is a witness to everything I do.

These last two years have wrecked me and called into question everything I believed about God, Jesus and my faith.  I take these last two years and I use them to filter my relationships and how people have championed for me, blessed me and LOVED me well.  I want to be able to take that and in turn love people well also.  It’s hard to use that when the only thing I know of loving people well is monetarily.  That’s at least in part thanks to my view of the evangelical church.

God’s honest truth here is I am ashamed.  It is deeper than not having direct access to groceries or my medication.  It is really about more than, well at the very least getting out of the house.  Because gosh dangit I have cabin freakin fever.

In truth it’s about identity, restoring hope and starting over.

I have been given a second chance but that doesn’t mean that second chances are easy.  There are roadblocks that I have to maneuver around, I get that.  I am sure as shit not giving up, both my daughter and I have a future to look toward and I am NOT gambling that.

So again, come with me as I go forward.  I know my community is good and wise and stable.

As Always,

Bethany

On This Mother’s Day

It’s Mother’s Day; I am sitting on the couch with Abigail watching Tom and Jerry.  It takes me back to my childhood, sitting on the couch in my princess slip, wearing a tiara and eating cereal.  I was alone though.  I never see my mom when that memory replays in my mind.  The feelings that are evoked when I think about the way I was mothered versus the way I mother Abigail; stun me.  I am doing things so shockingly different that I feel sad when I think about I missed out on.

I have to grieve that, those losses.  I don’t want to though, grief is scary.  Who wants to look back at the mountain of ache and memories and sort through it all?   Especially when the layers of trauma are so deep that it really only feels like I’ve just begun.

The healing really started with setting firm boundaries and walking away.  Cutting off contact so that the anxiety of always having to be “on alert” for triggers could lessen.  It did.  Then the grief started to flood me and the waves kept coming.  I honestly didn’t expect it.  Truthfully though I know that part of what is holding me back in healing is that I refuse to grieve.

Grieving feels – too much –

Like if I give in and fall into the arms of grace and grieve; my skin will fall off and my heart will fall on the floor.  I cannot even handle that.  That amount of vulnerability and rawness is unheard of in my world.  Being that exposed would feel like another layer of wounding.  I go a little bit into that layer and I get scared and stop, walls go back up and I.am.done.

Yet I know the only way to truly grieve is to go there.  To allow myself to be fully open, fully free with what it all means; what happened, and how to let it all fall off of my shoulders.  I can continue to hold it tightly in my chest and refuse to let it go because it’ll hurt; while simultaneously the wound hurts.  Or I can let it hurt, while it heals and then be free.

It hurts to parent Abigail, but in a good way.  In parenting her I am reparenting myself and those parts of me that never received the love and nurture that they needed from my parents.  I am learning about unconditional love, support and self care.  Both for Abigail and me; we both need it.  I have never known what it is like to love out of purity.  To love when things really suck and you are angry.  The other side of this is being loved by an amazing seven year old little girl, who is learning to trust me again after our rough start.  We are rebuilding our relationship and the redemption I am seeing is nothing short of miraculous.

So today is a paradox for me.  I want it to be over because I don’t want to think about grieving never having a real relationship with my mom.  I am afraid of a knock at the door, them popping by to try and talk to me.  I slept through the majority of the morning, grumping at Abigail every time she would try to wake me up.  It was only because she wanted me to be in the family room with her because she was lonely.  As I write this I think about that memory of me watching cartoons not knowing where my mom was.  I think to my own promise to myself to be a different mom.  As much as I want to hate today I don’t think I can.  It doesn’t have to be about my mom, it can be about Abigail and me.

It has taken me a long time to understand that she and I are truly a family.  All these “days” can be about us now, redemption and reclaiming family.  It’s not about me and family it’s about Abigail and me now.  Saying that makes this Mother’s Day seem a little less harsh and demanding on my soul.  I don’t feel like I have to keep up the hurt.  I can lay it down and rest in being with Abigail, mothering her and loving her.

I was in no shape to be a mother when I found out I was pregnant with her. I was in no shape to be her mother for the first five years of her life.  However when I realized that I was repeating the cycle that my parents were, when I really looked at that brown eyed wild gypsy girl that God gave me; I realized that I needed a reset and I got one.  He’s given me that reset over the last three years and I am not going to take it for granted.

It’s been a nasty three years no doubt.  Part of me wants to erase them and move on.  Except I can’t move on without these last three years.  They are 100% foundational to moving forward; as is grieving.

It’s time, I know.

It’s been time for awhile; I think I needed the perspective shift of what Mother’s Day really means to me now.   I needed to look at it through the lens of being Abigail’s mom, rather than my mom’s daughter.

Going forward feels good, different and right.  The last three years have been a testament to really doing the work and seeing that I can in fact change.  I spent so many years being told and then believing that I would never and could never change.  It honestly feels amazing to know that even though I still have work to do that I am NOWHERE near where I was when I started therapy in May of 2011.

 

“Walk with me

Go into the dark

See the cracks

Watch them shrink

Light breaks

Dawn in coming

Soon

Until it comes

Sit with me

Sit with me in Saturday

Don’t rush

Don’t push

Watch me grieve

Hold my hand

It’s coming”

As Always,

Bethany

The Sacred In Between – A Guest Post by April

April and I met on Twitter and her guest posting came about one night from a bet on who could guess the movie quote I posted.  What started out as a joke prompted this series.

I love the different posts that have been coming through since I started the series.  Here today is April’s post.  Won’t you welcome her.

 

Every month I get together with a group of pastors in my denomination. We all minister in churches in the same geographical area, and most of our churches are rural. Being a part of this group has been critically important for me – important enough that I go even when I’m so busy it would make more sense to stay in my office and work on my to-do list. During our meetings we usually share what’s going on in our ministries, take time for learning something together, and we pray for each other. There have been tears, and we have done a lot of laughing. It’s a true Christian community, and every month I long for our time together.

This month, we shared about the journey of Lent and the joy of Easter in our congregations. I shared with the group that our congregation would be doing Holy Humor Sunday for the first time this year. Holy Humor Sunday (also called Bright Sunday or Laughter Sunday) is observed on the Sunday after Easter. It’s not really part of the liturgical calendar, but it has a lot of history. Holy Humor Sunday is about inviting the joy and laughter back into worship and into our lives after a trying and emotional season of Lent. One way congregations have done this is by singing Easter Carols – Christmas carol tunes with Easter lyrics.

This led to a rousing discussion about the way hymn writers often used popular tunes, and about how Martin Luther used well-known drinking songs as settings for hymns. We joked about the meter of “A Mighty Fortress” lending itself well to pausing for a swig in between lines. Yet, Martin Luther’s hymns are well-loved today. If you go into a nursing facility and sing hymns with the residents, many of these hymns set to drinking songs are so hidden in the hearts of the saints that even when other memories fail, the words to these songs come bubbling forth from their lips as though they learned them not long before. Is it the singable tune that is sacred? Is it the lyrics that make it sacred? Or is it something else?

This intersection between the secular and sacred is one of the holiest places for me. I guess you could say that this in-between place is sacred in itself. Something mysterious happens here, something that reminds us that we are not the keepers of the sacred. The sacred isn’t hidden in my ability to write a memorable song. The sacred cannot be contained by the words I write on the page. Somewhere in the midst of the act of word and music coming together, something sacred is taking place. The ordinary is made extraordinary. The earthy is made transcendent.We can’t put our finger on just what is taking place, but we know it is other-worldly. And it causes us to give praise.

For me, sacred is found in that in-between place. It takes place when the simple is transformed. It happens when someone makes a decision to live differently than she did the day before. It happens when we sing holy words to old bar tunes. We find it as the sun first crests over the horizon. We find it in the morning silence right before the joyful buzzing of kids getting ready for school fills the house. It comes to us when the mundane somehow turns magical. It happened when a feeding trough became the cradle of the Son of God.

I can’t put my finger on what makes something sacred. Sacred comes from God, and somehow as the bearer of God’s image, I engage in things that are somehow made sacred – even though I’m not the one making it so. And in those moment of sacredness, I feel tremendously grateful to have been given a front row seat to what is happening in the world. And when God uses me to bring about something sacred, all I can say is, “Wow.”

 

April has served as a co-pastor with her husband Jeff for 7 years. They are raising two fantastic, school-age children, which keeps life fresh, fun, and a bit chaotic at times. April enjoys running (at a snail’s pace), baking bread, reading (theology and children’s books), crocheting, and taking pictures of nearly everything.

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