I grew up in a first generation Christian home. Neither of my parents were raised in Christian families, and both came to know the Lord before they were married. Ours was not a perfect household. My parents' mistakes or shortcomings were not malicious, but our home environment was rigid. There was little affection. Our small family unit was ruled, operated, and controlled by one member... my dad.
I love my dad. He’s a hero in my book, but he’s far from perfect. He did not know how to demonstrate his love for my brother and me. Dad fought in the Vietnam War when he was only nineteen years old. When people say, “Veterans served their country,” I like to add, “And so did their families.” The three of us served and sacrificed for our country too.
My brother and I were ruled by threats, and consequently, the most well behaved kids on the block. My parents regularly received compliments when we went out to dinner, "How well behaved your children are." But those complimenting us did not know that two adorable kids were required to repeat the following words to their dad before heading out the door, “If I misbehave, you’ll break every bone in my body.” He wanted to be sure we were listening.
I knew he didn’t really mean it. I was never actually afraid my father would hurt my brother or me. While he never hit us, still, I was fearful of him. Dad was a man of few words, but had a commanding and scary presence. To this day, I’ve never heard my dad say the words, “I love you,” to me or my mom. My beautiful mother was just too young and fragile to make an impact in my dad's development as a parent. I am certain Mom and Dad did the very best they could.
As I remember, Dad wasn’t always careful about what he watched on TV when I was in the room. I recall seeing 007 sex scenes at a very young age. This exposure to sex, coupled with the lack of love and attention from my dad, caused me to search elsewhere for comfort. In early grade school, I developed the practice of masturbating, and it worked! The habit gave me the sense of security and comfort I desperately longed for.
I did not realize I was playing with fire. No human on the planet knew my secret. Of course, Jesus knew, and I’m quite certain the demonic realm knew, but I was too ashamed and embarrassed to talk to anyone about it. The masturbation habit continued into Junior High when I made the connection (on my own) that what I was doing was sex. Oh no! I had previously concluded that sex was bad. This thought was due, in part, to my rigid, conservative upbringing and my private Christian school education. I believed that sex was wrong, dirty, and evil. Since I was engaged in solo-sex, then I too must be wrong, dirty, and evil.
Then began the dark fantasies. To justify my acting out sexually, I mentally played the role of a rape victim. This helped to soften my sense of guilt and shame. My fantasies usually began with being kidnapped and then raped. They always ended with being rescued and brought to a safe place by whatever boy I currently had a crush on. Sex, a good gift from a loving God, was being corrupted in my mind and experience. In addition to these horrific fantasies, I would occasionally creep out of my bedroom at night and to find something dirty on cable TV. I rarely succeeded and I’m still shocked my parents never knew, or if they did, they never said anything about it.
My dark fantasy ritual continued into college. After receiving my first laptop, I added soft porn to my private sexual routine. I began to believe the absolute worst about my identity. I thought of myself as a monster. I was a poser, a fake Christian. I feared going to hell when I died.
I needed help and it came to me through a simple question from a trusted friend. We were in the park blocks at Portland State University when she inquired, "Do you masturbate?" I was so painfully sheltered, I had never even heard of the word. I did not know what "masturbation" was. My friend was a nursing student and described the word in formal terms. I willingly admitted that I struggled with masturbation, and she and I agreed to become accountability partners. I remember the relief I felt right after disclosing my secret sin for the first time. By sending me an honest friend, God began to pave a way of escape for me. My brokenness was exposed to the light and the dark bondage began to lose its grip.
From that moment forward, the "rape and rescue" fantasies ceased. The Holy Spirit kindly convinced me that sex is a gift. Sex was not gross, nor was it evil. I began a journey of repairing my wrong thinking about sex. My long road toward self-discovery and healing consisted of accountability, counseling, and even prayer sessions renouncing generational sin. The transformation and physical recalibrating of my brain has been such a sweet experience. The true Healer and Comforter has brought me to Himself for powerful times of refreshment and forgiveness. Jesus has been patiently changing my life, leading me into seasons of peace and freedom.
Today, my life is so much brighter and closer to victory than ever before. I now know that freedom is possible. This new mindset is a miracle. For years I believed that healing was forever out of reach, but now I know there is hope. He is leading me "beside the still waters" and is restoring my poor wounded and damaged soul (Psalm 23.2-3). Jesus is taking His time to ensure we don't miss a thing. He wants to restore everything... my mind, heart, soul, body, and even my family relationships. There is so much joy, and I'm smiling at the future.
About five years ago, my church asked me to help start 423 Women for my sexually broken sisters. I had no structured recovery program when I needed it most, so I was passionate to provide this resource for other women like me.
Shortly after starting 423 Women in 2014, I received prayer from an older couple at a church in Vancouver, WA, where I was visiting with a friend. The woman said she saw me holding a very large sword. A sword so big that someone of my size (4’11") should not be able to budge or lift it. The woman with the vision said that, not only could I move the sword, but I would learn to wield it forcefully.
Soon after, I was worshiping in downtown Portland at a Bethel concert where I met a young married couple. During worship, near the end of the gathering, the man tapped me on the shoulder, explaining he had just received a word for me. We crouched down and he proceeded to yell into my ear. (The music was blaring loudly all around us!) He told me that there was something from my childhood that Satan intended to use to destroy me. God had stepped in and handed me a sword, a sword I would use alongside of God while we saved many women from the very same thing that was meant to destroy me. He ended with warning me that Satan has found out about the sword and is not happy about the ground he’s losing. I knew this vision was speaking of the work Jesus is accomplishing in women’s lives through 423 Women.
These encounters with faithful members of the body of Christ remind me that what Satan means for evil, God can (and will) use for good (Genesis 50.20).
Please pray for us! We have an real "enemy... who prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour" (1st Peter 5.8) and seeks "only to steal and kill and destroy" our freedom in Christ (John 10.10). Satan will do all he can to keep us in sexual bondage, so we must fight back.
Pray for 423 Communities, and especially 423 Women. Pray for me. Pray for our leaders. Pray for 423 Men, and all our 423 Communities! Join us in taking a confident stand against the works of the enemy for "the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world" (1st John 4.4).
Thank you for reading my story.