I'd like to use this post to express what we are thankful for as we did a while back. There are a lot of reasons we have to be thankful. What is God doing in your life? What has He taught you recently? What has brought you encouragement?
I'll start. I want to share what's been going on with me personally.
I'm feeling a little verbose and I apologize in advance.
I guess I'm feeling a bit emotional thinking we're getting down to the wire with the court case. My spiritual journey has been a roller coaster. The bad church experience left me confused spiritually. Music and the beautiful lyrics from classic hymns were my anchor amidst the storm. There were times it was hard to read the music because my eyes were all teary - those words - from scripture - spoke life to me. Music was a gift from God to me.
The next church we attended for two years was my "haven of rest". I soaked up love and grace from this incredible Body of Believers. Some knew my story, some didn't, but the love of Christ was evident in them. This church is led by elders, not one pastor, and I saw Christ in those elders. They were humble and true shepherds. When we first went there, we met them, but they never even introduced themselves as "one of the elders". We had to find out through other people. That showed great humility and spoke loudly to me that these men were not there in a position to lord over the flock, but were among the flock caring for them.
When the KGW news reporter interviewed me nearly a couple months ago, he asked if the lawsuit had affected my faith. The bad church experience definitely challenged my faith. The lawsuit and all that has transpired because of the lawsuit has strengthened my faith and I'll share some of the ways below.
God knows me. He knows I have difficulty finding Him in normal avenues. He knows how to reach me and I can say without a shadow of a doubt He has done that. I've shared with some people about timing. I'm a musician when I am playing the piano at church or at the local high school, timing is so important. Because of the distance between my present home and Portland, it's been a bit of a challenge to figure out how to squeeze things in on our trips. I will never forget the day that I met our attorney and how all of the events seemed to fit together perfectly - with no minutes to spare. Hannah and I needed to meet several groups of people that day in addition to other errands/lunch, etc, and that day went together like clockwork. I couldn't have planned it so beautifully. His timing is perfect. There are so many stories like this.
I'm so grateful for the amazing support network behind the scenes from spiritual abuse experts, authors, website owners, bloggers, counselors, attorneys, and others who have been through difficult experiences and who rallied behind me. The support in the early weeks was amazing and some of those original people have continued to provide encouragement. Some have been my sounding board and heard my personal struggles and never once was I judged.
Some of you, my readers, have reached out to me privately - sometimes multiple times - maybe even regularly. You are precious to me and your support has been a blessing.
One of the amazing things about this experience is reading personal stories. Some of you have not told your story to anyone, yet you risked and shared your story with me - sometimes sharing things that happened decades ago. I have cried many tears reading those e-mails. I feel honored that you chose me to read your deeply personal story and hope that sharing it was the beginning of moving things along in a positive direction for you. Sharing your story is such an important first step because most of us were told to not talk. When you shared your story, you acknowledged the truth of what happened with someone else, breaking that code of silence. That is one of the first steps of emotionally breaking free and thank you for letting me be a part of that process. Wow. So powerful. That has blessed me and has shown me that God is here at work.
I am okay with where I am spiritually. Some of you may be way beyond me. That's okay. I think God is using this time with me to develop and deepen our relationship. In the spiritually abusive environment, this part of my relationship with God was not nurtured, in fact, it was squelched because it was so confusing.
As I said earlier, God has met me in personal ways. One was through timing, another is through people. He brought two pastors who became interested in the story because of the media (one in a not-so-nice-way as his church was mistaken for my former church because of name similarity). These two pastors have been brave enough to participate which is surprising considering some of us are a bit leery of pastors and sometimes pastors are discussed in unfriendly ways here. One came to offer support out of his difficult church experience, the other out of a sense of compassion and wanting to learn and understand. What a beautiful gift. I've seen God through these men in their responses with readers and through their correspondence with me privately. Thank you Ken and Craig. You have shown me Christ.
And then there are the former church members who for the most part have remained quiet here, but I know they support me. A few have taken pseudonyms, but most remain quiet (understandably) behind the scenes. Meaghan and Justice (and family) have provided regular support to me. Michelle and Don have been wonderful. Michelle would be rich if she charged by the hour because we have spent so many hours talking. She has been my sounding board many times and has always made herself available to me - even several times a day - when I have been so emotionally distraught. I love you, Michelle!
Bless the Lord, O my soul! Thank you, God.