Saturday, May 23, 2015

The Duggars, Hypocrisy, Damnation, and the Aftermath of Child Molestation

My First Time...

     He said we were going to play a special game. He told me to take my clothes off. Once I was naked, he told me to turn around in a circle....slowly. I remember him suddenly start to breathe reminded me of a dog panting. He had me lie down on the bed and then he took his clothes off too. He pushed a finger up inside of me. I couldn't move and I just wanted the game to be over. And then he used his tongue on me.
After what seemed like forever, he moved up, rubbed himself against me, grabbed my hand and made me hold on to him. He moved back and forth, over and over again. Then he climbed up higher, put his penis in my mouth and began moving again. I gagged. He stopped and told me that I would get time. I went into the bathroom and cried.

I was six years old and he was a relative. And there were many next times.

 Me - around age 5

Even after I told, nothing was done to him. What happened to me was just hidden in a closet and I was told to forget it ever happened. And because he was a relative, I still had to be around him some. And we all acted as if none of it had ever happened. But acting doesn't make it go away. Do you know what it does? It tells the victim that what happened to you wasn't that bad. It wasn't that heinous. It wasn't that violent. It wasn't that wrong. It wasn't that traumatic. It wasn't that life altering. But it was and it is. 

The term "Molestation" is an understatement of what happens. The definition is: to make annoying sexual advances to; to touch someone in a sexual and improper way.

"Annoying" and "improper."  What actually happens is murder. The murder of innocence and feeling safe and feeling self-worth. 

So, what does this have to do with the Duggar situation? I know what his sisters went through and still go through. I know what it is like to be in a room full of family and be reminded of how dirty I felt, and struggle to no longer feel, because I have to face him over and over again. To wonder when we will ever be given the time away from our attacker to heal. I know that feeling of nausea and your gut ripping open when people carelessly brush the crime aside. And I know how it feels to forgive.

The Duggar scandal has drawn a dividing line. And people are choosing a side. The word, hypocrite, is getting thrown around a lot - mostly at Christians.....and with just cause. 

I was a bit shocked when I read the social media post by Mike Huckabee where he defended the Duggars. This is the same Mike Huckabee who had this to say about Roman Polanski:

     "There should be no defense of him from anyone. What he did was evil and reprehensible. The fact that he is a great director doesn't obscure the fact that he robbed a child of far more than Bernie Madoff stole from his victims. What has our culture become when people can commit despicable criminal acts and yet get defended and excused because they are celebrities."

The fallout that the Duggars are facing is something called a consequence.

Here is what is really going on:

Life is messy and dirty and horrific at times. When non-Christians sin, it's easy to sit in the pew and call it out.....why? because sinners sin. What freaks a Christian out is when the world finds out that they sin too. That is when the pew gets a little uncomfortable. Christians don't want to look messy. They work hard to make themselves look white as snow so that the world will want that cleanliness. And Christians want to protect that image at any cost. I've seen a church cover up the fact that one of their leaders had a woman living with him and they were sleeping together. They condemned the woman because she wasn't a Christian, put the blame on her and kept him in his position. The woman became disillusioned with church and he continued to practice his sin, and just hid it a little better. But to the world and the church, all looked right.....and clean. And we hear examples like that from churches all over. The Duggars are another example. They are trying so hard to make God look good, that they are missing their opportunity to witness. 

Christians - we can be a witness in our dirty brokenness. God doesn't need us to look perfect because He IS perfect. He wants us to expose our sin so we can be victorious over it. (I like to think of sins as vampires - once you expose them to light - poof! vanquished. If left in the dark, they continue to suck the life out of you.) Jesus paid the price for all of our sins......even the ones we commit after we're born again. God is big enough to clean us up, even us Christians.

The Duggar fallout would not be happening right now if the family had been honest and upfront on their show. From the beginning. Can you imagine the witness and impact they could have had on the world had they shown the real Duggar family (in all their messy, broken struggles) and how God transformed them? How they got through one of the worst times as a family? The same horrific things that others are trying to navigate their way through?

Christians should not be trying to sweep this under the rug. Christians should not be taking a side. Christians should be standing in the gap. This is our opportunity to be real. We can take the hypocrisy out of the conversation. 

Can God forgive Josh Duggar's sins? Yes. Can God forgive the sins of the men who molested and raped me? Yes. Can God forgive my sins? Yes. Can God forgive yours? Yes.

God is big enough to do it all. We don't need show people that we are perfect. We need to show them that we're forgiven.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Just Me - Why I Am Running For President

Ever since I announced via facebook, back in January, that I intended to run for President, the most commonly asked question is  - "Why?"

The answer to that is a bit of a journey, so I ask that you please stay with me as I share it with you.

At first glance, I am a nobody. I probably couldn't fill a stadium with all of the people who have ever even heard of me. I have never been a Senator. I have never been a Secretary of State. I have never been a Governor. I have never even been President of the PTA.

My love for this country and it's history and founding and my interest in the dynamics of our government began my junior year of high school in my Government class taught by Mr. McKinney. I was mesmerized in that class. They way he taught it, the way he loved was a fever that I easily caught.

Over the years, survival and struggling to make ends meet became my primary focus. I also slipped in to that all too common mindset of "who am I?" and "I can't make a real difference." I had given up the fight because I had forgotten what to fight for. And then I was reminded.

I was reminded at a parade when no one stood for our veterans riding through. I was reminded when I saw the need to protect my children and rights as a parent and fight against common core. I was reminded as I have watched my rights be slowly taken away. I was reminded in the defeated slump of shoulders on the woman next to me in line at the grocery store as she had to ask that some items be taken off because she didn't have enough money. And I was reminded when my husband stepped forward and paid for those items.

I believe it is time to make a Declaration!

We the People are taking our Communities back.
We the People are taking our Schools back.
We the People are taking our Rights back.
We the People are taking our Families back.
We the People are taking our Country back.

I believe We the People of America have the right and the ability to choose who we want to represent us. I believe that we don't have to pick the lesser of two evils. I believe that We the People can take this country back and restore it to greatness.

We are standing at a crossroads. If we continue on the current path - the one where we are told what is best for us, where we trade our rights for security, where the freedoms intended for us by the founding fathers are lost forever......we not only lose our country and all it once stood for, but we lose our humanity and sink into a depravity from which we will never recover.

Why me? Because I am an American. Because I am a mother who wants a better tomorrow for her children. Because I am a woman who wants to see other women succeed. Because I am a wife who wants her husband to have the opportunity to achieve his dreams. Because I am a daughter who wants her parents to be free of worry in their advanced years. Because I am part of You, the People who want to see our country get back on track.

The two headed tyranny that has been running our country isn't working. We are a nation divided. We need to come back together and Unite as one People.

I won't give empty promises. I can promise that, as President, I will uphold and defend the Constitution. And I promise to represent the American people.

We the People can do this together. I am taking a stand. I hope that you will stand with me.

~Brianna Gardner, 2016 Presidential Candidate

Click here to go to my fb page and spread the word

Friday, April 10, 2015

The Food Stamp Family: How Dare You Think You Are Good Enough To Eat Like The Rest of Us

Steak and Seafood: Only for the Rich and Famous?

Yesterday on social media, I kept seeing an article come up in my news feeds. It was talking about a Missouri lawmaker wanting to have steak and seafood (among a few other items like chips) banned from food stamp users accessibility. I read the article, shook my head over the idiocy, and moved on. Well.....I tried to anyway. It was while I was reading comments on these various posts, last night, that I lost my composure and my husband asked me what was wrong.

I looked up at him and replied, "God forbid that I should ever become so calloused against humanity, especially as a Christian, as what I have witnessed on here tonight."

I kept seeing the same theme running in all of these comments.

"If you're on food stamps, you don't deserve to eat steak and seafood."

"Those on food stamps are scum of the earth. They live off the system and never work."

And, I am sad to say, most of the negative, hate filled comments that I read were coming from people who professed to be Christians.

Portrait of A Food Stamp Family

Once upon a time, several years family was once on food stamps. My husband had lost his job and it took several months for him to find a new one and it was part time. It wasn't long before we were faced with the very difficult budgeting decision of keeping the electric on and a roof over our heads or feeding our children.

Now, allow me to digress for a moment. If you were to ask my husband what my greatest, most paralyzing fear has always been, he would be quick to answer that it is of my children going hungry. You see, I went hungry when I was little. There were days without food and there were days of digging food out of dumpsters. The fear of not knowing when or if you will get to eat again is truly terrifying, especially as a child.
Once my grandparents took my sisters and me in, I hid food (just in case) and I ate a lot and quickly because inside of me was that terror that something could happen and there wouldn't be food again. That isn't something you can get over easily when you have already experienced it.

Back to my story. We had to go on food stamps in order to eat. I was not willing to put my children through what I went through. You can call it selfish - I call it parenting. And do you know what the worst part was? The kicks we got while we were down. The looks, the comments, the advice on what we should be eating (name brands were too good for people in our position).

Do you know what we had once while we were on food stamps? A clam bake. It was a highlight during a very dark time for us. You see, we couldn't go on vacation. In fact, our youngest has never been on vacation. The last time we took a vacation our teenage son was a year and a half. We were actually planning a vacation this year, until something recently came up and we needed to use that money we had put back. (Maybe next year!) Anyway, because of the food stamps, I was able to buy the food for a clam bake that summer. It was a meal that reminded us that we were not less than worthy. It was a meal without shame and humiliation and fear. And all these years later, our children still talk about that first clam bake. It's why we do a shrimp boil every year. It's a reminder of that moment for us, that pivotal moment when we saw our worth through God's eyes instead of people.

So, I have to ask, "Where is our compassion?"

I know I saw compassion when Jesus fed fish to the five thousand. He didn't keep some back from the people who weren't working or poor or barely making ends meet. He fed them all the same. And out of that compassion, came abundance.

How dare we try and dictate what another human being is worthy of eating.

We must find our compassion. Love and kindness are our most powerful weapons against darkness, but it does us no good if we don't use them.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Christian Women Hating On Fifty Shades of Grey: Repeat After Me - Sex Isn't Bad

When the book, Fifty Shades of Grey was first released,  I didn't read it. I wasn't interested. When the movie was being made, again, not interested. And then.....the countdown to the movie release began. I was suddenly interested in finding out what the hooplah was all about. My curiosity and interest was piqued. Piqued, not because of the endless movie trailers and sneak peeks......but because of the "Christian" blogs that had suddenly flooded my news feeds. I realized that these blogs and articles were written by women (and a few men) who had no idea what they were talking about.

Now, before anyone gets their puritannical bloomers in a bunch, I am in no way endorsing this movie to be watched by any Christian. I am, however, about to question where your line is...

The running theme I have been seeing in the Christian outrage over 50 Shades, is that any sex that isn't boring is of the devil. Only heathens can enjoy a blindfold or a whip. Apparently, the only sexual position approved by God is missionary.

You can imagine my confusion, when I was researching this book/movie. The way these blogs/articles read, what this couple was doing was really, really bad. I was expecting something terrible. Actually, it turned out to be really tame. My husband and I are more creative with 15 minutes in the middle of the afternoon.

Less than half of these blogs/articles mentioned having a problem with the fact that these two people were not married and having sex (Which the Bible does speak against). The problem was the type of sex they were having. Spoiler Alert: They have some pretty vanilla sex in this series.

In talking to non-christians about this, (and they read your blogs and posts), they came away primarily with two thoughts: Christians have the worst sex lives ever and Now they really want to see the movie. Which is sad, but also true. I counsel women and for Christian women, they have a real struggle with seeing sex as something other than bad.

Believe me, I've been there. In the beginning of my marriage, I really struggled. I had been taught that sex was bad. There isn't much that is more mortifying (for all involved) than calling your Pastor and asking if oral sex is a sin. Praise the Lord it isn't! Thankfully, I was able to overcome all of that so that I can enjoy my sex life with my husband.

SEX between a husband and wife ISN'T BAD. And if it includes a little rough play now and then (and both want it and are okay with it), have fun. I, for one, like a bit of domination from my strong man (take that feminism).

So, I don't understand the Christian women who are so outraged over Fifty Shades of Grey, yet never miss an episode of Grey's Anatomy.

I will say that the Christian community outrage has given the movie more publicity (and free) than any of the trailers have done. Those blogs/articles aren't keeping people from seeing the movie, they are however pushing people away in droves, away from the angry condemnation that is missing the mark. Maybe instead of talking about how bad sex is, we could have used this opportunity to open up a conversation of just how great Biblical sex is. Real Biblical sex. The marriage bed. Because there is nothing like it. Married sex between a Christian couple is the best there is. It's loving and honest and hot. We should be pro-sex!

Christian Ladies - Get upstairs and have wild sex with your husbands - without shame - without guilt - only with pleasure.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

I'm Not Ready.....

It has been quite a week. Lonely. Heart breaking. Enlightening. Gut wrenching. Life changing. Hectic. Grief stricken. Lost. Scary. Numbing. Angry. Searching. Fear facing. That pretty much sums it up. I have spent most of my week just trying to survive and endure.

I'm not even sure how to write this coherently. Forgive me as I muddle through this. Hopefully it will make sense in the end.

October was a month of intense struggle for me. I have been going through some very private things and I was exhausted. So, I was looking forward to a Missions Conference at the end of October. I knew I needed to go. It began last Sunday.

Sunday: I never checked any messages that day. I was so excited about Missions Conference that evening. During worship, my current world of bliss shattered. I was given the news that a dear friend had died.

There is so much I could say here about Shaun, but I won't. He had been a very important part of my life. And those who knew him, know how special he was.

I stayed at Missions Conference through Tuesday. The need to feel something besides grief was overwhelming. In the services, I felt as though I had been flayed wide open. There was no barrier. Nothing to protect me from pain. Suddenly I was vulnerable. Over and over, I kept saying, "I'm not ready." I wasn't even entirely sure what I "wasn't ready" for. So I ran.

Wednesday: I prepared myself for my friend's funeral. Each step I took in the funeral home became heavier and more difficult. Again, my chant began, "I'm not ready." I ran as the funeral was beginning. I wasn't ready to say goodbye.

Thursday: We had an outreach at my church for trick or treaters. So, I stayed busy. Running away from what I needed to deal with and believing, "I'm not ready."

Friday: My 36th birthday. I had a third grade class party that afternoon to prepare for. That morning, I pulled in to Wal-Mart parking lot.....and froze. I broke. Completely. There was no running. I couldn't move. There I was, sitting in my car, wailing. I was broken. For forty-five minutes, I sobbed and screamed and shook. Drained, I quieted down to silent tears running down my face, matching the rain falling on my windows. When had I lost my hope?

My phone was making all kinds of racket. Facebook notifications were blowing up. I opened it and saw all of the Birthday greetings.  My spirit got quiet, no longer twisted up in torment. And I heard the whisper, "You must say goodbye." I whispered back, "but I'm not ready." And the answer, "You don't want to be ready."

It was true. There were so much that I wasn't saying goodbye to that kept me from moving forward. I didn't want to say goodbye. I didn't want to say goodbye to a man who had been like a brother to me. I didn't want to say goodbye to some old relationships that were dragging me down. I didn't want to say goodbye to old dreams. I didn't want to say goodbye to comfortable ways of doing things.

I was frightened.

My phone, still in my hand, lit up. Looking down, I see a post from my wonderful, beautiful friend: "NO FEAR FRIDAY", followed by this verse -
And I could finally breathe again.

Thank you everyone who made me smile and laugh this week. And thank you to those who held me up when I started to fall. A simple "Happy Birthday" did so much more than you realize. I thank you with everything in me. Thank you.

I have an art piece in my kitchen that says, "you are my sunshine." It is and always has been one of my favorite songs. So many of you are a shining light to me - more than you know. Thank you.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Just Smile

I was so excited to get back on here and blog every day again. Life doesn't always go as planned. And, I found myself in quite the predicament. I promised to always put all of myself out here on this blog. Yet, here I am unable to discuss some things that I have been hit with recently. Not because I don't want to, but because of how discussing those things affect others. So, I have remained quiet.

It has been amazing to me how much smiling I have been doing throughout all of this. The kind of smile that doesn't quite reach your eyes. That fragile shield between you and the world that can crumble under the scrutiny of those who know you best. That has been me lately. I am exhausted from the effort. And still....I smile.

I know what waits for me on the other side of this mountain that I must overcome. There is no fear. It's a lonely journey. That is the hard part.


Monday, September 22, 2014

This Is Not What I Planned On Writing This Morning

     We lost one of the great ones today. Her smiles. Her laughter. Her compassion. Her humor. Her love. Her light. Her light shone brightly. 
     I wanted to be her when I grew up. She was something I aspired to be. Her impact on me was eternal. 

    I will continue to think of her, as I often have over the years, with a smile on my face. 

    My love and prayers go out to her family and everyone who was blessed to have been touched by her.