The Garden

Every life is a garden, and you are the gardener.

Each garden is different- some are beautifully landscaped, planned and prepared with care, with thought going into each stage. Some seem to happen by accident with almost no planning, no thought and no preparation.

These gardens will always grow, something will always manage to live in almost impossible conditions…..but will they thrive?

There there are the plants, the people that fill our lives.

Each plant has its own place in the garden, some are beautiful trees and bushes that continually flourish and flower regularly, some never stop flowering. These are the steady, strong friendships we carry throughout our lives, year after year. Those family members and friends who strengthen us each day, without whom we could absolutely not survive. The bring life, hope and courage to our lives.

Be grateful for these plants in your garden, they are the anchor plants around which the rest of your garden grows.

There are plants that flower every so often, releasing their fragrance intermittently, those people who seem to move in and out of our lives, they pop in, we lose touch, we find them again and again they are gone. An email here, an sms there, they are always friends, even though we don’t contact them regularly but you always know that they will be there one day.

There are no guilt feelings, just joy at making contact every so often. When you see that flower blooming in your garden you know the blooms will not last, but you are sure they will be back soon.

Then there are the flowers that bloom quickly, and just as quickly fade away to nothing, never to return but the memory and the photographs remain.

These are the holiday romances, the school friends you lost touch with, the family members who passed when you were a young child, the friends you have for a certain period of your life but then lose contact with.

They enhance your life while they are there and when they are gone you remember them fondly. They each add something to your life, and when they are no longer around you feel grateful that you had the experience because you learnt something about yourself, and the world around you. And they brought you joy, even for a short period of time.

And then there are the weeds.

The plants that do not belong in your garden. Some can look pretty, some don’t look like weeds at all, but slowly over time they move in and start to choke your very existence.

These are the control freaks, the ones that want that want to tell you how to run your garden, the negative ones who drain you of all energy, the demanding, critical horrible people that just seem to make you miserable and sap the very life out of you.

In the beginning they may seem harmless, attractive even, but over time they just seem to create more damage and destruction as they take root in your life. If not dealt with, they will destroy everything you hold dear in your precious garden of life. These weeds need to be destroyed at the roots, so that they can leave and never return. They need to be cut off at the very core, so that they cannot infect you or your garden ever again, so you can return to enjoying everything you have created around you.

The key as a responsible gardener is to know which plant is which.


More about the church….

I thought last night about a couple of other situations with church leaders.

I was working for a couple who were home-group leaders, and ran a business. It was bizarre, we would have a prayer meeting every morning before work, and within 2 hours he would be screaming and swearing at customers on the phone. There were a few other issues that I had with them, including the way I was treated at work, and I went to the church for help.

At the very least, I expected to have a joint councelling session with them so that we could try and sort things out. Nothing was done, ever. I assume it was because they were tithing thousands of dollars a month and I was not.

If I missed a Wednesday night home group, Friday night prayer meeting, Saturday morning prayer meeting at 5am!!!!, Sunday morning service and Sunday evening service, I was accused of “Back-sliding” the next day at work. It felt like  was working for them AND the church. I just got sick of it, especially since my abusive husband had run our marriage into the ground, all the while pretending to the church that we were a perfect little family. It made me sick.

The last straw came when my best friend got into some trouble. I refused to ditch her as everyone else had done. It’s when we are our lowest that we need our friends the most, and I was there for her.

I was called in for a session with one of the leaders, who showed me some Bible versus that apparantly made it impossible for me to continue being her friend if I was a Christian. I told him and his wife in no uncertain terms that I would NEVER dump a friend in trouble, ever.

He told me that if I continued to be friends with her, I would be going to hell with her. I said to him:

“I would rather be in hell with my friends than in heaven with you bunch of hypocrites.”

I realised then that the relationship between me and the church was over.

The church and me

I know I am going to upset a few people with this post, but I will not apologise for my experiences or feelings. I am respectful of other people’s beliefs and views and all I ask in return is that if you reject my views, you don’t reject me as well.

My earliest childhood memories are of lying on a blanket on the church floor. I literally grew up in the church.

There were so many rules and regulations that had nothing to do with the Bible or Christian doctrine. We were not allowed to phone boys, we were not allowed to wear jeans, mini skirts, bikinis and any other piece of clothing that was deemed “Not Nice”. Church, and what the people in the church thought, was an enormous part of our lives.

I never felt good enough for God. There were so many rules and regulations, and of course, I was a sexual abuse victim, I always felt that I had failed before I had even tried.

When I left home and started studying, I rebelled and acted out terribly. I then moved to Namibia, got involved in my first abusive relationship and spent the next year on a downward spiral of self destruction. I ended up marrying an Aussie soldier, which is how I ended up living in Australia.

We got involved in a church a few months after I emigrated and I really gave it a go. I loved the sense of family but there was a lot I did not enjoy about church. I found it unbelievable that my husband could be yelling at me on the Saturday night and on the Sunday morning would be prophesying over people in church.

Any time I went to the church for help with my abusive marriage, I was told I was not submissive enough and if I would just submit myself to his authorioty, everything would be fixed. If it was up to the church, I would have submitted myself into the grave.

I got more and more unhappy with the hypocrisy in the church, even from such a lively, supposedly liberated pentecostal church. I ended up leaving my husband, and the church. I tried going back for a couple of months a few years later but I would leave the service feeling more lonely than I was when I arrived. I stopped going and have never gone back.

I read “The Secret” a few years back and it changed everything for me. I realised that it is not possible for us to know everything there is to know. I realised that anything the church did not understand or could not explain, was labelled demonic or occultic. I have done a lot of reading about this and the only conclusion I can come to is this:

The basic message is the same. The message of loving your neighbour, sowing and reaping and generally living a good life is the same across most religions. I believe that each religion is the universe’s way of getting the message across to a particular group of people and there is truth to be found in each one.

As I said at the start of this post, I know some people are going to be annoyed with me and possibly even a little bit angry. Remember though, it is not a requirement of friendship that we all believe exactly the same things. There is room in this amazing world for all of us, imaginary friends included.

Back to the Beginning

I thought the post about the conman would be difficult to write, and it was, but this one will be the worst. But I have to do it- for myself first, and for anyone else that has been through the same thing and is trying to make sense of what happened to them.

I am only realizing now, through counselling, how important the early years of our lives are in shaping who we become as adults and the relationships we form. I hope that by me telling my story, someone else will be inspired to tell theirs. Isolation and fear are an abuser’s greatest tools. As soon as the silence is broken, his power diminishes.

I was sexually abused at the age of 9.

*I was a very lonely child, the youngest of three children, and my siblings are quite a bit older than me.
*I was also raised in a very strict fundamentalist Christian home, where sex was never discussed with the children.
*My brother, who is 8 years older than me, bullied me mercilessly and nothing was done to stop him.

I believe these three factors left me very vulnerable to the sexual abuse I was subjected to. It was the situation at home that led me to spend more and more time with the boy next door, who was a lot older than me. Old enough to abuse me and old enough to know better.

He gave me attention, which I craved desperately. One day he asked me if I knew how babies were made, and when I said I did not, he asked if I wanted him to show me. I was a curious child, always wanting to know everything, and that was how my lessons in Biology 1-0-1 began. It continued for over a year I believe, and although I remember feeling uneasy and knowing that something was not quite right, I kept going back.

I know now that child sexual abuse is a seduction, and he used to tell me how lucky I was that he was teaching me adult things but that if I told anyone, they would be very very angry with me. This is how abusers suck their victims into keeping secrets and telling lies, until the victim feels that they are a part of the abuse, and responsible for it.

I eventually told my sister but made her promise not to tell ANYONE, and she never did. She explained to me what sex was, and I believe she spoke to him, because it stopped after that. For months afterwards I remember lying in bed trying to sleep, terrified that I would have a baby and thus reveal everything to my mother and father.

Maybe she should have told someone, we have discussed that at length but the fact is, she kept a really difficult promise and I trust her with my life now.

Child sex abusers teach their victims a lot of things about themselves- they teach them that they are different to other girls, that they are damaged, that they don’t have any rights to any boundaries. He taught me that i was not quite good enough and also, that i was not allowed to talk about it.

The problem with sexual abuse is that the body responds to the touching etc, and because your body responds, you start to believe that you want it, that you are responsible for the abuse. The victim becomes even more scared to talk about it because they know that they are to blame. Or so they believe, anyway. At the very least, they believe that they wanted it. And they know that makes them different to other girls.

The guilt was tremendous, and although I managed to suppress it as I grew older, I believe it was always there. I felt a lot of guilt over the fact that I kept going back, that I enjoyed the attention, that I kept the secret, even though I knew something was wrong. Shame at the fact that I was no longer a virgin, and being a Christian, that was a HUGE thing. I carried a lot of fear that people would be able to see inside me and know that I was dirty inside. I was always terrified that people would find out, that they would just somehow know.

I also carried a lot of anger towards my mother that she did nothing to protect me, that she was too busy to realise what was going on. I was also angry at myself for a long time for allowing it continue for so long, even though I was a child. I am sure that every single victim of child sexual abuse goes through these emotions over and over, which is why so few abusers are charged and brought to justice.

A child sex offended was interviewed by Oprah, and she asked him if he knew how the abuse had affected his victim. He said “I killed who she could have been”. My abuser destroyed my self esteem, it is only recently that i can look at myself and see an attractive person. He killed my ability to set personal boundaries, which is why abusive men have walked all over me my entire life.

I hope that by me telling my story, you can feel brave enough to tell yours.