Walls

Ragged Edges

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Ragged Edges

Pieces of the past

Falling Away

Slowly, one day at a time

Nothing is off limits

God is restoring

God is moving

God is ABLE

For years, I lived a life that just was down right unhappy. Not unhappy because of my husband or children, but unhappy because my life was so limited because of fear, anxiety and agoraphobia. Life became enclosed by the four walls of my house and the dependence I had on others to feel “safe”. My life never felt secure or normal, even though I had a great life with a wonderful husband and children, yet something was always missing.

Today, I can see how the ragged edges of my past have fallen away more and more over the last two years. The last year has been life changing.

The edges are almost all gone.

Life is wonderful. Peace is present. Self acceptance is mine.

Freedom is Sweet.

I am not claiming to have it all figured out, but I do know that if God did this for me

Anything is Possible Matthew 19:26

Lord, I thank you for giving me a life full of possibilities. Nothing is beyond your scope of repair, restore, renew. I am a living testament of your power in the life of a believer. Without You, Lord I would be lost, alone and fear bound but through your saving grace and wonderful healing touch, I am free. I am forever thankful and I will continue to give my testimony as long as I live. My life will never be the same. The walls are no longer keeping me captive. Now the windows and doors are open to FREEDOM and JOY. You have called me to a new place and I am ready for the next step. Move now Lord.

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To Know Me

To know me, you would have to know me on many different levels.

For years I hid behind a wall that was so tall no one could get close. I hid behind a mask as well, pretending that all was well while on many levels, my life was a chaotic mess.

What do you look like behind the walls and masks?

Do you like yourself?

Do you enjoy being alone with yourself or do you always need others around?

Do you feel happy with your life or are you just pretending everything is okay?

Do you believe you are living a life full of purpose or just going through the motions?

I could say for many years; probably most of my life I could say I didn’t like myself, didn’t want to be alone and certainly was only going through the motions.

Life had dealt me a hand of many trials, tragedies and pain that I seemed to be unable to overcome.

Pain so deep that I often just wanted to crawl in a hole and die.

Hurt2

Pain so deep that no one could understand.

Loss so painful…

Too much to handle, yet my life continued on no matter how desperately I often wished it would end.

Can you relate at all?

Life can be tough just in everyday life. But my life has been anything but normal.

Tragedy has followed my family in so many ways. Too painful to even describe on many levels because the reality is just so disturbing. Disturbing  images of loss of loved ones to suicides and murder are just too damaging to even describe, yet that is what I have had to live with in my own mind for over 20 years.

Yet, God has allowed me to overcome much of my painful past. He has done a tremendous work in my heart and mind over the last two years.  Freedom is possible.

I will never allow the enemy to speak to me of the past and try to control my present. The past will never be forgotten but the past is over. Today is all I am guaranteed. Tomorrow is not promised and the past cannot be changed, so why continue to live there.

Would you mind if I prayed for you?

Lord, I come to you asking you to allow freedom to come to the reader. Help them to find peace and freedom through Your Word and  to feel Your love in the situations they are facing. Help us to allow the walls and masks to be laid aside while we seek to find our true selves. Life can be a battle but the battle is ultimately won by Your Word and by the power of the blood. Evil has no power in our lives. Help us to know ourselves and to believe in ourselves. We deserve the best and often the best is misplaced in the battles of life but YOU have overcome the world by sending YOUR son Jesus Christ to live in our hearts. We believe and want the best, which also means we want to KNOW YOU and KNOW OURSELVES. Thank YOU, Lord for all YOU have done in my own life and for the continued peace. God, grant it to everyone reading this today.

His Story by P. J. Di Benedetto

HIS STORY

Guest Post

By: P.J. Di Benedetto

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Three years ago, in 2010, I was standing on my 2nd floor balcony porch, staring off into the distant trees, totally peaceful, with my mind a million miles away. (Picture yourself there.) My sweet husband innocently came up behind me, and lovingly wrapped his arms around me….upon which I almost JUMPED OUT OF MY SKIN IN SHOCK AND FEAR, terrified, electrified, as if a bolt of lightning had just struck me! He so startled me, that I was shaking uncontrollably, and then, suddenly I just burst into tears! I want you to know right now that my husband didn’t MEAN to scare me…in fact, he is a wonderful, Godly man who wouldn’t hurt anybody, intentionally. As I stood there having a complete meltdown, he pulled me into his arms and held me close, saying, “I’m SO sorry, Sweetie! I didn’t mean to frighten you, Honey!”, and many other comforting words that soothed me. (My husband is a gift from God, especially chosen for me! He’s not perfect, but he’s perfect for me!) So, when I finally calmed down, my husband gently, TENDERLY talked to me about maybe going to see a Christian counselor who specifically deals with victims of rape. It was obvious to him I was suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

I am a survivor of a rape by a serial killer, which occured when I was 14 years old, but that I’d never dealt with. I didn’t tell ANYONE when it happened, and actually went to school the next day as if nothing HAD happened. It was how my brain survived the trauma, because that rape COMPLETELY blew my mind! (Fast-forward for just one second: I DID tell my mother, in 1983, when my rapist was caught by the police for rape and murder, TEN years after he raped me.) Then, after telling my mom, for the next 20 years of my life, after my rapist was in prison, convicted in the deaths of 2 of the 6 murdered girls the police came to find out about, I never talked about it again. I never sought help, or counseling, and I simply did what was expected of me in life, trying to pretend everything was normal. This was all totally sub-conscious. I had no idea I was doing that! I like to say that I wore a mask…my, “I’m fine!” mask.

And now, standing there on my porch, 38 years after the rape, I had just simply fallen apart. I was like a puddle of water on the ground, my mask floating there on the surface, leaving me feeling naked. (Looking back, I think that was God’s perfect timing.) After agreeing with my husband that I would seek someone for Godly counsel, FROM THAT MINUTE ON, everything in life as I knew it before began to change. Just making the appointment was like a breakthrough! I was not going to keep quiet anymore! No more stuffing this down…I was coming out of hiding, I was breaking my silence, I would be bringing everything into the LIGHT. I was very afraid of what would come out of me during this counseling, scared of how much I would have to dredge up about my past, but I’d had enough of the “LIVING WITH FEAR” even MORE THAN the fear of re-living the past with a counselor.

Right now, it’s been three years since then, when I went to that counselor. It really helped me…HEALED me by pointing me to God, and after some very intense months of hard work, I graduated! I felt so healed by Jesus’ loving-kindness to me! I was even able to forgive my rapist. I wrote him a letter telling him how he could also know this wonderful Jesus of mine! (Forgiveness is not a natural thing for one to do…it is SUPERNATURAL.) My pastors’ wife had given me some scriptures on an awakening, and of chains falling off. and that was exactly the way I felt! Free!!! I turned it into a sketch, that will one day become a painting. Then, the Women’s Ministry at my church was having a conference/workshop, and asked me if I would be one of the speakers and workshop leaders. I agreed, and afterwards, many women came to me with stories of their own. It was, again, another very healing experience.

God was using this story, my story, to touch other women’s lives. I shared with them many scriptures and promises from the Bible that I had learned! Now, God was taking something bad that happened to me, and replacing it with something GOOD, for His glory! My “history” became “HIS-story!”. Because, during my healing, Jesus did such a miraculous thing, that, now, when “RAPE!” roared it’s ugly head in my brain, Jesus Himself reminded me of what HE did during my counseling, and everything He taught me! The lies I had believed had been removed from me! And, once they were gone, Jesus clothed me with Himself! I told this group of ladies this: Instead of viewing my life from the perspective of being a rape victim, I now was making Jesus my “point of reference”. I learned that, “I have been crucified with Christ, yet I myself no longer live, but Christ lives in me; And this life I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the One who loved me and gave Himself up for me.” (Galatians 2:20)

Jesus was living IN me, THROUGH me, AS me! Then, right after having these wonderful things happen to me, a story came out in the newspaper about my rapist, and his cousin, who were partners in the crimes of raping and killing girls. They were dubbed, “The Killing Cousins”, and it was one of the worst things to ever happen in our small town.The main story was about how the one who got the death sentence should have been executed already! He’d been on death row for 27 years! Their final victims’ family, (their 17-year old daughter was raped and killed in 1983), was angry about it that “justice had not been served” yet. (Her killer was put to death 2 years later, in 2012. The other cousin, my own rapist, had been given 2 life sentences.) The story told of how the mom would put a memorial in the obituaries each year, and how, once her daughter’s killer had been put to death, she would write a new, healing, celebratory memorial instead! I was so moved by the column, that I wrote a private letter to the columnist, telling him how well I remember the day these two had been caught, and how I finally told my mother I had been raped by one of these men.

He asked me if I would do an interview with him about what happened to me. I prayed, and I prayed, and I prayed! God revealed to me, over and over again, that I SHOULD do it, even if only to help ONE person who was suffering. (But, He assured me, there would be HUNDREDS of healings, after all was said and done!) So, I did 2 interviews, during one of which I got to meet the final victims’ mother, and tell her how very sorry I was that her daughter had died, I got a chance to talk to her about the guilt I had felt all those years, thinking that if I’d only TOLD SOMEONE, maybe her daughter and others would still be alive…(though, at the age of 14, I did not have the tools to speak about it to anyone.)

On the 2nd interview, we drove to my old neighborhood, and I showed him where I grew up, and where my rapist lived…right across the street. The only way I got through those interviews was with Jesus holding my hand! I’m serious! He even SPOKE through me! I was shaking like a leaf throughout! Eventually, my story would be published on November 28, 2010 on the front page, along with 4 or 5 other stories, each with different angles, about these “Killing Cousins”, who roamed through our little town, and other towns close by, searching for victims, FOR THE PURE SPORT OF IT! (Yes! They did it for the FUN of it! Did I mention that the entire time I was being raped, my rapist laughed his head off crazily, non-stop, like some hysterical maniac? He actually ENJOYED robbing me of my innocence! Because, while I was DYING inside, it was visibly exciting to him watching it happen!) My story being published in the paper did help many people, though! My counselor told me of one person, a 70-year old man who had been sexually abused in childhood by his own father, came in saying, “If she can find freedom and forgiveness, so can I!”. Other people called me, and sent me cards in the mail. One letter began, “There are no words to say what we feel in our hearts for you except you have got to be one of the most courageous, strongest, and bravest girls we know.” I don’t always FEEL courageous, or strong, or brave….but the Jesus that lives in me IS!

After my story came out, I kind of went backwards for a time, because I feared retaliation. His family still lives in my same town. I started having Post Traumatic Stress, again, and also began having a fear of leaving my house. I became agoraphobic. On the heels of agoraphobia, I began to experience deep depression. Things that I once enjoyed, I stopped doing. Probably because, also during that period, still in the year 2010, I suffered great loss in other areas of my life. Three separate people who I loved very much died. My oldest son, (23 years old), went to jail for a year. (Can you just imagine how hard it was for me to go to the jail and visit him twice a week, being agoraphobic! Back ON went my masks!) I was suffering 2 very debilitating health issues. I had to end a long friendship with my best girlfriend. Then my husband moved us from the church where he and I were both thriving, because our teens needed a good Youth Group, which was non-existent in the church we were attending at that time. Keep in mind that the church was one of the few times I could leave my house, and be with other Christians. The ladies there were a big support to me. When we left, I pulled away from everyone. We wandered from then until now, 2013. All of these events made me seek God’s face like never before in my life! It was like I was actually STALKING Jesus! I sought His direction for every single thing! And, slowly, I started trusting again. I was invited to speak at a huge church, 4 hours away from my home, and my sister went with me, and GOD DID IT! Yes! God used my story for MORE people to get healed and to be free! Praise God! That was a very positive, healing thing for me…seeing God touch people using my voice, not to mention getting me to leave my home and travel 4 hours away, and spend the night in a strange city! It was empowering!

Last month, my husband and I decided to return to the church where we began, because they replaced some of the staff, and they are presently looking for a new youth minister. We were welcomed back warmly there! And it’s a great thing, because with no warning at all, the newspaper had a story about my rapist again, saying 3 members of his family were trying to get him exonerated.That story was on a Wednesday, and on Sunday they re-told my own story. Nobody asked me, and they printed it without giving me any heads-up whatsoever!!! And, I felt traumatized all over again! What a setback that was! I was so angry! My scab had been ripped open, AGAIN! It triggered all of my weaknesses….the PTSD, agoraphobia, and depression all over again! I’ve had to seek God with my whole heart, soul, mind, body, and spirit! I have to be very careful where I allow my mind to go, and also who I allow into my life! I have had to do whatever it takes to put into practice all I’ve been learning over these few years…like realizing that when I am weak, God is strong! When I think a negative thought, I make myself say three POSITIVES. I count my blessings, one by one. I have to, like David in the Bible, “encourage MYSELF in the Lord”, because other people are not always available. I will read my Bible or a devotion, I’ll listen to uplifting music, (and sing along!), journal, pray, listen to a sermon, call a friend, force myself to do a favorite hobby…whatever it takes! I just need to redirect my mind to what I know is the truth! I quote scripture right out loud! This is what it sounds like: “Whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is right, true, noble, if anything be excellent or praiseworthy, think on these things! I am NOT ever alone! Jesus will NOT forsake me! Jesus is my Rock and my Salvation! All things are possible with Him, who strengthens me! He who is in me is bigger than he who is in the world! If God is FOR me, who can be against me? For God knows the plans He has for me, and they are not plans to harm me, but to prosper me, and give me a hope and a future!”. That is how I survive, and I am grateful for all things that can and DO bring me closer to God! Knowing HIM is my GOAL in life! I am living my life for a reason, and that reason is Christ!

I started taking photographs with the new camera my husband bought for me, and it has gotten me to take baby steps away from the house. I still panic when it’s time to get in my car and drive to pick up my kids from school, but popping in a praise and worship CD has been working for me! It gets me there to the school,singing all the way, and my kids talk to me all the way home! And, now, Angie Kay Webb has asked me to write this guest blog. I guess that most recent setback/attack from the enemy must mean Satan is really worried about how Jesus will use THIS blogged story for His glory, too! I pray that is the case, and that the Lord Himself LED YOU HERE to read this today, to help you on your journey to wellness.

For the record, I’m just an ordinary person who has an extraordinary God! I have a long way to go, (I know that), and I have a TON of more things to still learn, yet, “…I am confident of this one thing, He who began a good work in ME will see it to completion, until the day of Christ Jesus!” (Adapted from~ Philippians 1:6) . I trust Him, the Author and Finisher of my faith! Will you? God only wants the very best for us, His children. You CAN put your faith in Him! He is trust-WORTHY! Follow Him, with all you have inside of you, and you will find healing, too! It might seem like a lot of work, but it’s a process, a journey, a walk with the Lord, and SO worth it in the end! What a friend we have in Jesus! Just imagine…He’s the King who wants to be OUR FRIEND! I keep running toward the prize! I pray one day I will hear those words, “Well done, My good and faithful servant!”. Amen!

P.j. Di Benedetto is a married woman, with 7 children, and 12 grandchildren. She is an accomplished artist, whose work includes a 50-foot mural at her local Salvation Army in Vero Beach, Fl. P.J. enjoys gardening, sewing, writing poetry, playing musical instruments, photography, and Bible study; her favorite scriptures are Galatians 2:20, and Philippians 4:6-7.

Walls

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To some, this next sentence will not make any sense but then there are those that will totally understand.

Walls are a way to protect myself from being hurt but also erected in an effort to protect you from me…

As a child and then later as an adult, I never fully trusted anyone but I most certainly did not trust myself.

How could I trust an individual that has been told all of her life that she was screwed up, messed up, nothing, worthless and pretty much not worth any type of love or acceptance?

That is the situation I found myself in from a very early age.. Not trusting anyone else other than a few certain adults that always provided unconditional love. Other than that; TRUST was a no-no.. I certainly didn’t trust others but I didn’t trust myself either.

Such began a life of trying to control the situations I found myself in and around, which then led to more and more anxiety because the world and life cannot be controlled. No matter how hard I tried; it just didn’t happen. I would try to be a good, little girl and I thought I was but then the one day that I wasn’t walking on eggshells around my family, that was the day once again I was told that I was just a waste and a nothing. So then began the walking on eggshells again in an effort of trying to please.. It would go along fine for a bit and then wham… Failure again. The straight A student just couldn’t do enough to please my parents… I would try and try but it just never happened.

More and more anxiety, fear and agoraphobia developed. I can sense now that even as early as 9 or 10 years old I suffered with some agoraphobia, yet it like all the other problems I carried around went undiagnosed and untreated.

Trust was not an option for me with anyone; especially myself.

This is when the problem began because if I was such a failure at life in general how was I going to be a good wife, mom and employee….

I always felt like I had to have someone to fall back on in situations that I felt unsure about or anxious about because this was certainly an area that I knew I was not prepared to handle.

Yet, over the last year; after 47 years of life…. I have decided that God has not called a weak, unstable, fearful, anxious woman to tell my story. He has called a powerful, forgiven, loved, confident woman that has a powerful story of healing to tell others.

If I hide what God has done for me and in my own life; then my story is wasted..

God deserves so much praise for all He has done in my life in the last 11 months. A year ago tomorrow was the night that God really began doing a major work on my life and in the area of healing me from anxiety, panic attacks and agoraphobia.

To be continued:
I will be speaking tonight at a conference called Beautiful Women in Levelland Texas. It will be a powerful service and this is God’s plan for me at this time. The doors have opened so I will now go through them.