A Little Girl Lost

Archive for the ‘abuse’ Category

The Power of Friendship

I left my small Midwestern hometown at sixteen and I’ve never gone back. When I got on Facebook thirty-six years later, I was only interested in one childhood friend, Louise. I didn’t find her. I put my maiden name on my wall and prayed.


It only took a few hours for Louise to find me.
“Hi Berta, Not sure if you will remember me. I’m glad you’re on Facebook!  I’d always wondered what had happened with you and was talking about you just three days ago. And here you are!”
I was surprised she remembered me. She told me how afraid she was for me when my father moved my family of eleven into a converted school bus and to bottomland along the Illinois River.
Louise and I had a sense of each other’s lives in 1974, though we had never spoken of them. Today we have the closest friendship I’ve ever experienced.
In God, we are always growing and changing. “A friend loves at all times” (Proverbs 17:17 NIV). At sixteen, we were young and abused. As we grew older, we were taken advantage of for different reasons. We survived and became stronger for the trials.
I thank God every time I think of Louise. To know that for thirty-six years she remembered a tall, skinny girl with freckles and long, strawberry blonde hair is amazing. I thank Him for bringing her back into my life.
“As iron sharpens iron, so one (wo)man sharpens another” (Proverbs 27:17 NIV). Change per author.
“He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:6 NIV).
In Christ,
Berta

Friends, Remember to share with your friends. People are being blessed around the world for God. I am so thankful to be a broken vessel in the hands of a loving God.

 

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Starving For Love

I’ve made a habit of praying for all the women who come into my home as caregivers. As we work, I tell them how Jesus helps me get through each day.  
Often, these women open up emotionally and tell me their stories of abuse, fear, and loneliness. Many say they’ve never told anyone about these issues. Or if they did tell they weren’t believed.
These children of God are in pain. They’re angry with God because people who were supposed to love them have hurt them. Hatred flows through their veins and is venomous to their souls. They’ve been cutting themselves, abusing drugs and alcohol, and many have attempted suicide—having given up on life.

God’s children are created in love, yet many are starving for love—God’s love. They have no hope. Can you see the person hiding behind the angry outbursts, sad faces, baggy clothes, tattoos, and piercings?

Will you love these societal outcasts—these important children of God? Will you listen and not judge? Will you show them Christian love? Will you give them hope?
I pray these words will open your heart to the Holy Spirit’s guidance and that as you walk through life you’ll look people in the eye, smile and say, “Hi! How are you?” You may just save a life.

“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8 NIV).

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit” (Romans 15:13)


In Christ Alone,

Berta
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God Can Heal Your Past

Earl gave me a laptop computer in 1993 and encouraged me to journal. I pecked at the keyboard each day, writing about my life. I saw terrible words appear before me. Words that made me feel dirty. Ugly. They taunted me. I couldn’t face my past so I deleted it every afternoon before Earl came home.

A few months later God began waking me in the night and reminding me of the pain I’d suffered and caused. As soon as I was in my wheelchair each morning, my aide set up my laptop and I wrote until there was nothing more to write.
Weeks went by before I sat down to read my notes. Abstract and disconnected words and phrases confused me. Finally, I asked God for clarity and we went through it a little at a time. I took one or two words and built sentences. I took two or three sentences and created paragraphs, filling in details I recalled as I wrote. Each memory seemed to trigger another and another. Soon the story became clear.
I cried as I faced my past showing in stark detail on my computer screen. I prayed for forgiveness and my tears began washing away the hatred and anger, the shame and embarrassment, the regret and more.
God began healing my past with His love that day. He has walked with me through it all and brought me into the Light.
We can’t hide from our pasts. All of our life experiences have helped form who we are today. However, God can heal your past if you ask Him. He chooses to forget our forgiven sins.

Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” (Psalm 139:23,24 NIV).

In Christian Love,
Berta

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Loss, Loneliness and Leaving

My family in the Bottoms 1974

 I grew up in Meredosia, Illinois: Dosh—a small town of less than one thousand people. Dad sent Mom away when I was eleven. He was abusive and all my sisters and I had were each other. Our house burned to the ground that Christmas. A new house trailer replaced it, but we were on survival mode only. When our stepmother, Mary, and her four kids joined our family, we were isolated from the world we knew.

 
We moved to Arenzville—first into a trailer then an old farmhouse, then back to Dosh to the old Standard Oil gas station. Mary forced us to make and wear floor-length dresses and skirts every day. We didn’t play anymore. Then we moved to “the bottoms,” across the river in Brown County, where we lived in a converted school bus. I didn’t continue in school, opting to work the land.

Winters were the hardest. No matter where I lived after Mom left, I was cold—I still can’t stand to be cold. I left the bottoms at seventeen and never went back there or to Dosh.

Through the advent of Facebook, I’ve reconnected with a few people in or from Dosh. When we talk, I feel a deep loss. I don’t remember things they say I did or we did together, and I missed that “coming-of-age” time with prom and other school activities. It seems my sisters and I weren’t the only kids who suffered some type of abuse growing up there. As we share we are helping each other to heal.

Today Angela said, “Seriously, all of us know life can just suck, at times. But there is something in each of us that can overcome those times. I think Berta got an extra dose of the overcoming stuff… so… Super Powers is my answer.”

After lamenting about my despair and death wish, I realized I do have Super Power. I wrote:

“I didn’t know God knew me in the days I thought I was living in hell. Even after I made a profession of faith, I felt guilty. How could He love me? Didn’t He know how bad I was? Yes He did. It was my problem with self-deprecating guilt. When I quit hating myself and accepted His love and forgiveness, I forgave myself for doing what I’d done to myself, and others. God is my Super Power.”

“Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the LORD.” And you forgave the guilt of my sin” (Psalm 32:5 NIV).

“For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins” (Colossians 1:13-14 NIV).

In Christian Love,

Berta

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Blessed Are the Forgiven

After Earl and I married and moved to our first church as pastor and family, my non-Christian attitude didn’t change. I cursed and complained about the Christian music he played in the car. I continued habits that reflected poorly on his ministry. I refused to attend any service other than Sunday morning worship.

I watched Christians and couldn’t believe what they believed. Some showed me aspects of faith that downright scared me. After suffering years of abuse by men and my sinful lifestyle, I had an impenetrable wall of self-protection. When I felt weak I withdrew believing no one could love the real me, especially God.

Four years and four months passed in tension and turmoil for my family. Then I went on a Walk to Emmaus where the Holy Spirit ministered to my brokenness. I learned I wasn’t alone as new friends shared their stories of sin and redemption. I learned I didn’t have to bear my burden alone. Jesus died on my behalf long before my sins occurred.

When I accepted God’s forgiveness for my sin, He changed my life in an instant. Bible study became my favorite pastime. Reading the stories about my Savior and my brothers and sisters in Christ 2,000 years before, helped me understand God’s love, mercy, grace and forgiveness.

We are blessed beyond measure through the redemptive blood of Jesus Christ.

I am pressed but not crushed, persecuted not abandoned

Struck down but not destroyed
I am blessed beyond the curse for His promise will endure
His joy’s gonna be my strength
Though the sorrow may last for the night
His joy comes with the morning,*

Therefore, my brothers and sisters, I want you to know that through Jesus the forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you.” (Acts 13:38 NIV).

“Blessed are those whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. Blessed is the one whose sin the Lord will never count against them.” (Rom 4:7, 8 NIV).

In Christian Love,

Berta

*Lyrics: Trading My Sorrows by Delirious

Blessed Are the Forgiven

After Earl and I married and moved to our first church as pastor and family, my non-Christian attitude didn’t change. I cursed and complained about the Christian music he played in the car. I continued habits that reflected poorly on his ministry. I refused to attend any service other than Sunday morning worship.

I watched Christians and couldn’t believe what they believed. Some showed me aspects of faith that downright scared me. After suffering years of abuse by men and my sinful lifestyle, I had an impenetrable wall of self-protection. When I felt weak I withdrew believing no one could love the real me, especially God.

Four years and four months passed in tension and turmoil for my family. Then I went on a Walk to Emmaus where the Holy Spirit ministered to my brokenness. I learned I wasn’t alone as new friends shared their stories of sin and redemption. I learned I didn’t have to bear my burden alone. Jesus died on my behalf long before my sins occurred.

When I accepted God’s forgiveness for my sin, He changed my life in an instant. Bible study became my favorite pastime. Reading the stories about my Savior and my brothers and sisters in Christ 2,000 years before, helped me understand God’s love, mercy, grace and forgiveness.

We are blessed beyond measure through the redemptive blood of Jesus Christ.

I am pressed but not crushed, persecuted not abandoned

Struck down but not destroyed
I am blessed beyond the curse for His promise will endure
His joy’s gonna be my strength
Though the sorrow may last for the night
His joy comes with the morning,*

Therefore, my brothers and sisters, I want you to know that through Jesus the forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you.” (Acts 13:38 NIV).

“Blessed are those whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. Blessed is the one whose sin the Lord will never count against them.” (Rom 4:7, 8 NIV).

In Christian Love,

Berta

*Lyrics: Trading My Sorrows by Delirious

Healing From the Inside Out

Abuse tainted my childhood and four years in the Navy taught me the ways of a sailor. Later, a failed marriage sent me spinning out of control. As an LPN, I got a job at Methodist Hospital (Memphis) where I worked afternoons and weekends to limit my drinking hours.

I had no self-worth and no hope.

Then I met Earl, the chaplain for the floor I worked on. He invited me to eat supper with him at the hospital cafeteria often and became a friend.  I told him all about my life and he listened. He never preached at me but encouraged me to call him if I needed help. Still, I kept him at a distance—no home telephone number and no address.

One evening at supper, he asked me out. I said “No” and asked him if he was crazy. He didn’t give up, and a year after we met we went on our first date. He proposed just two months later and of course, I said “Yes.”

I went to church with him a few times, and we always sat in the last pew. I never listened to the sermon. I didn’t know Jesus but scheduled my baptism with the pastor because I thought a preacher’s wife should be baptized. I answered the pastors’ questions appropriately, making a profession of faith, and he poured a palm-full of cold water on my head. As it slowly trickled down my scalp, I thought, “Shouldn’t I feel saved?”

Four years into our marriage, and holding the esteemed position of pastor’s wife, my past had devoured my soul. I avoided church and church members for fear they’d see the real me.

Earl and a few of his close friends encouraged me to go on a Walk to Emmaus. I heard testimonies from several of God’s forgiven daughters. I felt like the woman at the well: I met a man who “told me everything I have ever done” (John 4:29 NIV). I accepted God’s forgiveness that weekend and promised I would tell every one of His great love and mercy.

Father, You saw and touched the depths of my soul—my pain, my shame, my past. You brought it all out of the darkness, into the light and under the blood. You healed me and freed me from my chains. May I always boldly proclaim Your Word as you bind up the brokenhearted and set the captives free (Isaiah 61:1; Luke 4:18 NIV).

In Christian Love,
Berta

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