Familiar Bondage

Familiar Bondage

I would rather go back to what is familiar, even if it is bondage…

Exodus 16:1-4a and John 3:16,

And they took their journey from Elim, and all the congregation of the children of Israel came unto the wilderness of Sin, which is between Elim and Sinai, on the fifteenth day of the second month after their departing out of Egypt. And the whole congregation of Israel murmured against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness: And the children of Israel said to them, “Oh that we had died by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the pots of meat and when we ate bread to the full! For you have brought us out into the wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger.” Then the Lord said to Moses, “Behold I will rain bread from heaven for you….”

When the trials of the children of Israel were too hard for them to bear, they wanted to go back to what was familiar: bondage in Egypt. They wanted to be in control; they felt safe knowing what to expect.

How many of us can relate to wanting to go back to the dysfunctional relationships or sins of our past because there is comfort in knowing what to expect? Change is hard because it’s unfamiliar, and there is no safety or comfort in it. But God doesn’t want us to stay in our dysfunction. He wants us healed. He came to set us free from our bondage to sin. He wants us to trust Him completely with every area of our lives.

God provided the children of Israel with bread that literally dropped out of the sky. He called it Manna, “Bread from Heaven.” If God did that for them, don’t you think He can help you too? I think the answer is Yes!!!

What is the spiritual factor to consider when I want to be in control, instead of God being in control?

I am saying to God, “I don’t trust You. I don’t believe You are good. I don’t believe You care about me.”

So, what is the sin I am committing when I don’t trust God? The sin of unbelief.

Definition of faith in Hebrews 11:1 and 11:6: Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things unseen. But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.

Let me ask you, what are you still trying to control and refuse to release into God’s hands?

I learned at a very young age to take control of every area of my life; that, unfortunately, was not a good thing. A 12-year-old is not mature enough to take on such a responsibility. I controlled my voice but I did not use it. I controlled how I performed in school, sports, and in anything I set my mind to do by practicing until I could do something perfectly. When I was older, I controlled my weight by taking speed and diet pills and exercising excessively. I controlled what others perceived about me by wearing a mask to hide my true feelings and identity. It wasn’t until I felt safe to let God in that I was able to relinquish control to Him. By spending time in His Word, I began to understand the heart of God and discovered how much He loves us and wants us to be set free from our pasts, so we can live the abundant lives He came to give us. It’s by relinquishing control to God that we are set free. There is beauty in surrender.

Why are you not trusting God to help you in this area? What are you afraid of?

Relinquishing control was not a comfortable thing for me because I didn’t trust others not to hurt me. I became very self-sufficient and proficient in all I did. I had a huge wall around my heart that no one was going to penetrate, not even God. I grew up with a distorted view of God. I thought He was angry with me and would punish me if I was out of line, which is what I heard and saw as a child. Church was dark; people there spoke in another language, and the atmosphere was not warm and welcoming. So I associated these attributes with God. I felt He was dark, harsh, and unloving, which could not be further from the truth. I was fearful about trusting God because I was afraid of being hurt again. I didn’t know God’s heart toward me. When I got saved in 1994 and came across this verse from John 3:16, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life,” I started believing that God does love me. And once I received His love into my heart and believed that He died for me on the cross, I started trusting Him more with my heart. But it was a long process. I am so grateful today for His love. That truth changed my life forever.

I had everything under control, so I thought, until my life and health started spiraling out of control. I couldn’t afford stuff anymore and my health was failing, my marriage was on the brink of divorce, and I didn’t know what to do. I was plagued with suicidal thoughts because I just couldn’t deal with my depression and self-loathing anymore, due to the sins from my past. This was not a life; it was a prison. I was just surviving because I needed someone to take my pain away, someone I could trust to love and accept me for who I was. Did such a person exist?

Dear One,

I want you to know that there is such a person who loves and accepts you for who you are. His name is Jesus, and He is the only one who will love you right where you are. He will never hurt you or force you to do something against your will. He is kind, loving, dependable, faithful, merciful, and forgiving. Jesus is your Savior and friend. Why not relinquish control of your life to God? Honestly, what do you have to lose at this point?

You are loved,

Toni

 

What is the spiritual factor to consider when I want to be in control instead of God being in control?

I am saying to God, “I don’t trust You (God). I don’t believe You (He) are good. I don’t believe You care about me.” So, what is the sin I am committing when I don’t trust God? The sin of unbelief.

Definition of faith in Hebrews 11:1 and 11:6: Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things unseen. But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.

 

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My People-Pleasing

My People-Pleasing

From the time I was a young child, I never felt secure, confident or accepted. These insecurities gave the enemy an opening into my heart. He planted the lie in my mind that if I were perfect, I would be loved. Perfection in every task and responsibility set before me became my obsession. From school to sports and hobbies—basically anything I did—I had to be perfect. When I look back, I can see that my efforts were a waste of time. The enemy’s plan was quite insidious because he knew I could never be perfect. Only God is perfect. By striving for perfection, I would ultimately fall short and feel rejected.

The enemy drove me to failure so that I would look for other means of satisfying my longing to feel accepted, included and secure. He accomplished his mission. I failed. Being the good, quiet one in the family was not working for me anymore, so I decided to rebel. At the age of 12, I began sneaking Scotch whisky from my parent’s liquor cabinet when they were attending my brother’s football practices. Alcohol use was the beginning of my demise, which ultimately lead to the death of my child through abortion. My poor choices opened the door to more evil as a consequence. My striving for acceptance from all the wrong people would lead me to use drugs and sex to fill the void in my heart, which I would later discover could only be filled by a relationship with Jesus. I had no restraint. My conscience was slowly becoming numb as I failed to use sound judgment. Over time, I barely felt conviction for sin. I wanted to protect my parents from disappointment, so I kept all of this a secret.

My fear of rejection was stronger than anything else in my life. As a result, I became a people-pleaser. I would do anything to be loved and accepted. I would allow others to use me, and I used others to fulfill my desires. Heartbroken from my wound of rejection, I hungered for love, leaving the door open to accept abuse from others. I believed that I was not a person of value. I was easily manipulated and controlled by those closest to me because I had no boundaries. I had no self-respect, so others didn’t respect me either. I felt used, abused, unloved and worthless. During my teenage years, all of those unresolved emotions lead me into depression. When I entered into college, I was no longer restricted and restrained by my parents’ rules. I would drink alcohol to the point of abusing myself. I hated who I had become so much so that I wanted to hurt myself. One day in my dorm room, I actually kicked out the small window by my bed. Thank God I was wearing cowboy boots at the time, or else I would have badly cut or broken my foot. I was like a walking volcano. My excessive drinking led to fits of rage where hot lava came spewing from within my inner darkness, and I had no control over who was going to receive that hot mess. Afterwards, I would feel so much shame and guilt over my actions. It felt like being trapped in a dark pit all alone with the abuser and accuser—the father of lies. It was a living hell, but I didn’t know what to do to stop the destructive cycle.

I could never say no to anyone because I didn’t want to disappoint people. I just wanted to be loved and validated by others hoping they would see value in me because I couldn’t see it. My people-pleasing strategy backfired when I failed to follow through on all the things I said yes to. There were simply not enough hours in the day to accomplish all that I had agreed to do. I would overextend myself, and then I would have to back out of things. That was such an uncomfortable thing to do. A vicious cycle had developed, and I didn’t know how to stop it. I put others’ needs above my own needs. I truly believed that if I didn’t keep a perfect house, if I didn’t follow all the rules and if I wasn’t the perfect wife, my husband would toss me away. As a result, I tolerated unacceptable behavior out of fear. The enemy constantly tormented me with his lies when all I wanted was to be loved.

I realize now that the enemy wanted me to kill myself, but God had another plan for my life—one that was good and filled with hope and a prosperous future. (Jeremiah 29:11) He did not allow the enemy to succeed in having me take my own life even though I had taken the life of my child. God thwarted Satan’s plan to destroy my body and my soul. God knew that I would receive Christ as my savior at the age of 34. He knew that in 2006 I would start my abortion recovery and healing journey. He knew that in 2013 I would start My Ashes to Beauty, a post-abortion recovery and healing ministry. What the enemy meant for evil God turned around for good. (Genesis 50:20) God has been watching over me all these years while protecting me from the enemy so that I could fulfill His calling on my life. I now live my life to please God and Him alone. I no longer care about what others think of me, which is a form of idolatry. I am so humbled by and grateful for God’s mercy towards this poor broken woman who was dying inside. She is now alive and adopted as a daughter into God’s family.

Are you or/were you a people-pleaser?

Are you still concerned about what others think of you?

How did you break that dysfunctional cycle?

Jeremiah 29:11 – “For I know the thoughts I think toward you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.”

Genesis 50:20 – “But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive.”

Blessings,

Toni

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My Unhealthy Coping Mechanisms

My Unhealthy Coping Mechanisms

Coping mechanisms are defined as techniques we use to help us manage the stress and pain in our lives. Common coping mechanisms are avoidance and isolation, denial, busyness, rationalization and control. From my childhood, I learned avoidance and isolation to keep me safe from unhealthy people or situations. Running and hiding became my usual reaction to problems as a small child. Into adulthood, I continued to use those tactics until I began my recovery journey and learned new healthy coping mechanisms. Praise God! Instead of avoidance, God gave me a voice, and I learned to communicate my likes and dislikes. I never developed a voice growing up. However, once I put up boundaries, using my voice was necessary to communicate those boundaries to others. As time went by, I felt more comfortable sharing my heart with others without fear of rejection. God also told me to stop running and hiding and to leave the outcome to Him.

I had huge blind spots as a post-abortion woman when it came to my parenting. Regarding my children, I became extremely sensitive and overprotective. I parented out of fear. I didn’t want them to feel the pain that I had experienced. I thought if I could control them, perhaps I could prevent them from experiencing what I did. Now, I know that was wrong thinking. I was in denial until I realized two things: I cannot control another person, and doing anything out of fear never has a good outcome. So, I have learned to apologize to my children for my overprotective parenting leaving the all-powerful God to change the heart of others. When I feel powerless, I remember to relinquish control to God to create a change in others or situations. I was living in denial due to my fear of rejection from my parents and spouse. As a result, I obeyed ridiculous rules in order to be accepted and loved by others. Truthfully, that never worked. When I finally received the love of Jesus into my heart, I had the courage to stand on my own without fear of rejection because I knew God would never leave me nor forsake me.

Busyness was a tool the enemy used for many years so that I would not have time to recognize my dysfunctional life and work on myself. In the year 2010, God told me to stop serving. I couldn’t believe He wanted me to do that. What will other people think? Asking this question led me right to the answer—you need to work on yourself because you are one sick puppy. I responded in obedience and took time to work on my own healing from 2010-2012. During this time, God took me to a desert place with Him so He could dispel all the lies I had believed. By focusing on His truth, I could be healed and finally set free. Although God had called me to this ministry back in 2006, He was finally able to equip me once I slowed down and put my focus solely on Him.

I had rationalized my abortion because I believed that since I was doing so much heavy drugs and drinking while smoking 2 packs of cigarettes a day, my baby would be severely deformed. I felt that my parents would reject me and would be extremely disappointed in me. But looking back on these 40 years, I wish I had the courage to tell them I made a mistake and ask them for help. I cannot change my past. All I can do is learn from it and share my experience, strength and hope with others. Hopefully, those I reach with my testimony can make healthy choices knowing all the information beforehand.

Control was another tool I learned to use at a very young age. I honestly believed I could control how others feel and what they think in order to determine the outcome of a situation. That was all a lie. I had no control over any of those things. I tried to control how people reacted and behaved toward me. I tried to control what others saw in me by hiding behind a mask. I also tried to control how much I weighed by taking speed and diet pills and by purging after I ate too much. God showed me that by relinquishing control to Him, I can be set free from these obsessions and this bondage.

I am so grateful that today I have been set free from all my unhealthy coping mechanisms. I have learned new skills to help me cope with the pain and trauma from my past. I had to completely surrender everything and everybody to God. I no longer held onto my children so tight. I no longer cared about what others thought of me. I didn’t obey ridiculous rules out of fear of being rejected. I now had a voice, and God has taught me how to use it to express my feelings in a healthy, godly way. I am no longer in bondage to my old thinking and my old behavior patterns. In Romans 12:2, the Bible says “Do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind…” Daily time spent with God in His Word and listening to the Holy Spirit have helped me to move out of the chaos, dysfunction and misery into a peaceful, orderly and fulfilling life.

What unhealthy things have you used to help you cope with the trauma from your past?

What are some healthy ways you cope with things now?

Reach out and get the help and encouragement you need. We are here ready and waiting to serve you and help you to become the woman God created you to be.

Blessings,

Toni

 

 

 

—Toni

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My Mask of Perfection

My Mask of Perfection

Click Here for the Spanish Version!

From the time I was a small child, I did not use my voice and hid in the background to keep under the radar. As a result, I became what people wanted me to be. I was labeled, “The good, quiet one.” I was fearful of rejection, so I became a people pleaser. I believed the lie that if I were perfect, I would be loved. That’s when I started wearing a mask.

My need for love and acceptance caused me to hide parts of myself. I only showed the good sides so people would love me. Then, when I was 12 years old, I started sneaking whiskey from my parents’ liquor cabinet. Now, I was really hiding. I didn’t want my parents to find out. They were very strict with me being the oldest, and I didn’t want them to be angry or disappointed in me.

As I got older, my sins were more and more grievous, and my secrets became bigger and bigger. So, I isolated even more and hid everything. My mask morphed as I got older. As a child, I strived for perfection. I was a good student, good athlete, and an all-around good child. When that wasn’t working, I tapped into a lifestyle of alcohol, drugs and sex. When I was home, I was still the good one. But in high school, I was hanging out with those who smoked and did drugs.

At this point, people pleasing ruled my life. All I strove for were accolades from others and a place I could fit in and feel safe. But I would not find that for a long time. Honestly, I lost my own identity because I wanted to fit in with others. I no longer knew what I liked or what I wanted to do because I became a chameleon and changed depending upon the group I was with. I had lost my own identity striving to please others.

I felt unloved and lost. My drinking and drug use were out of control. I was a walking time bomb. I hated myself and felt so depressed. I struggled with keeping it all together. When I found out I was pregnant as a 21-year-old college student, I panicked. This pregnancy did not fit the narrative I was allowing my parents to see. I was not the good, quiet one. I was doing very ungodly, sinful destructive things, and now I was going to terminate my baby’s life.

How did I end up here? My whole life was a lie. I will have an abortion and act as if everything was fine. But everything wasn’t fine. After this traumatic event, I was more depressed than before, crying all the time and drinking more. My self-loathing and suicidal thoughts were now continually plaguing me. I just wanted to die so this torment would stop. It was too hard to keep up this façade. Slowly my mask was cracking, and I was so afraid of being exposed. All my sins and lies would come flooding out. I was scared.

In my early 30’s I had a physical and emotional break down. I could not function normally at all. I would lay on the couch for weeks at a time. All the years of stuffing and lying and all the pain I had been holding in all my life were starting to come out sideways. I was a walking volcano, spilling hot ash on anyone who got in my way. I was extremely emotional. I felt I could not look anyone in the eyes because if I did, I would not be able to stop crying.

Slowly I started recognizing I needed help. I needed someone who would love me, accept me, and heal me. I needed a Savior. Then on January 2, 1994, I heard the gospel for the first time. Within 4 weeks I gave my heart to Jesus, confessed my sins, turned from my old ways and turned toward God. I am coming up on the 26th anniversary of my salvation, and it is still the sweetest day of my life. It is the day I finally surrendered my life to God and allowed Him to heal my broken body, my broken heart and my broken mind. He transformed me into the woman He created me to be: a loving, confident woman filled with joy and peace. I have been adopted into the family of God; I am accepted, and I am finally loved. I feel safe to be me. I can take the mask off now because I am finally home.

Are you wearing a mask?

What does your mask look like?

Do you have the courage to take off the mask and be real?

I pray that as God heals you, you will be filled with His love and you will have the courage to take off your mask.

Blessings,

Toni

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The Tool of Detachment

The Tool of Detachment

John 10:10a, 1st Corinthians 14:33b, Proverbs 6:19b, James 1:19

The tool of detachment gives me the ability to love someone without getting caught up in their dysfunction. Satan is the author of confusion, chaos, and discord among the brethren and our families. He has made this his primary mission: to steal, kill, and destroy our testimonies, our relationships, our peace, our joy, and to make our lives miserable. We must guard our hearts from responding to others in ways that are hurtful and mean spirited, instead speaking the truth in love. Use your voice in a way that is pleasing to God and to the hearer. Recognize that everyone has wounds from their past and the way in which people respond to certain situations has a lot to do with where they are in their healing process. It’s important to remember, “Hurting people hurt people.” They are blinded by their wounds and cannot see how they are hurting others.

It is extremely important to have healthy boundaries. I grew up with no boundaries at all. I had to educate myself about boundaries and learn how to communicate them with others. Eventually, I started speaking up for myself and sharing how I was feeling. Over time, it became second nature for me to use my voice and to protect myself from unhealthy people or situations. Starting something new is always the hardest part, but it becomes easier with time.

If you have not read the book, “Boundaries,” by Cloud and Townsend, I suggest you do. This book is a very helpful resource. In my journey with the tool of detachment, I also had to recognize that I cannot fix, rescue, or save anyone. I had to realize that I cannot control another person, nor can I change them, but rather, God can. I had to surrender to God and relinquish all control to Him. As soon as I did, I began to feel more peaceful, calmer and less anxious about things.

When I trust God and humble myself before Him, I am released from being tormented by the evil one. A humble, teachable spirit is a very powerful weapon against the enemy, and God draws near to the humble. There are times I need to leave a room and walk away from a conversation because I feel I may say something I will regret. Once I say something that is hurtful, I can never take it back. Removing myself from a volatile situation is sometimes my only option. By doing this, I have a chance to cool down, think, and pray before I respond to this person or situation. I can now respond, instead of just reacting without thinking. God wants me to think and pray before I speak, knowing that my words can be used to lift others up or they can cause others to stumble.

Detachment gives me wisdom and discernment when dealing with a situation or an individual who is in a volatile state. I don’t have to fear or be anxious, and I don’t have to take the situation on as my own. Instead, I can recognize that the occurrence has nothing to do with me. I can respond in a calm and godly manner, and I can speak the truth in love. I can walk away and return when I am calmer and more composed. Seeking God during this process helps me to remain in peace and in control of my emotions; that’s all I am responsible for, and I leave the rest in God’s hands.

In His love and service,

—Toni

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Idolatry

Idolatry

What is idolatry and how do we define it?

I believe idolatry is the act of putting something or someone before God in our thoughts or hearts by obsessing over or being consumed by it. This idol can be your job, money, a sport or hobby, a relationship, or a physical problem; anything that we put before God.

Exodus 20:3-6 3 “You shall have no other gods before Me. 4 “You shall not make for yourself a carved image—any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; 5 you shall not bow down to them nor serve (worship) them. For I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting (punishing) the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me, 6 but showing mercy to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.

What are some of the things I have put before God? In the past, I have put my children, my husband, tennis, and what others think of me before God. In fact, I became consumed with them. But, why? I had an overdeveloped sense of responsibility; I was a people pleaser due to my fear of rejection and abandonment. I was plagued with unhealthy relationships that caused me to put others needs above even my own self-care. I obsessed over trying to control things because I did not trust God. I was fearful to put Him first; not being in control was a scary thought for me.

It was only after I learned to relinquish control to God (Step 1) and admit my life had become unmanageable, that I started learning what it looked like to trust God. I learned to release individuals and situations into His capable hands, which freed me from carrying these burdens and feeling personally responsible for way too many things. I learned that God wanted to be first in my life. Reading His word and meditating on scripture first thing in the morning became a daily habit for me. I look forward to that special time each morning with Him and Him alone.

I learned what co-dependency was and how I was so intertwined with others’ lives that I could not detach myself from them. Their lives affected mine too much. I had to step back and allow them to make their own decisions, learn from their mistakes, and to experience consequences for their own actions. I no longer had to jump in to fix, rescue, or save others. I learned I am not God; I cannot control another person. I grew up believing I had the power to make people happy or sad by my words and actions, that was a lie from the devil. I never had that much control. Once I realized this, I surrendered to God and gave Him all the people and situations in my life that I had tried to control. Finally, for the first time in my life, I was responsible only for myself.

Let me ask you what are some idols in your life?

Why have you not released them into God’s capable hands?

What are you afraid of?

I pray that this topic has given you awareness about some areas in your life that God wants you to change.

God bless you as you seek His wisdom and guidance.

IDOL’ATRY, n. L. idololatria. Gr. idol, and to worship or serve.

  1. The worship of idols, images, or anything made by hands, or which is not God.

Idolatry is of two kinds; the worship of images, statues, pictures, etc. made by hands; and the worship of the heavenly bodies, the sun, moon and stars, or of demons, angels, men and animals.

  1. Excessive attachment or veneration (great respect or reverence) for anything, or that which borders on adoration.

Definitions from Webster’s American Dictionary of the English Language, 1828.

In His love and service,

—Toni

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