Thursday, July 25, 2013

A Different Pair of Shoes



Friends, we're knee deep in the issue of American poverty. We have so many questions, so much to learn. My prayer today and every day is that we begin to love as simply and wildly as our Creator. I continue to be amazed at your hearts as we come together and search for truth on this topic that most of us know very little about.

A few days after writing this post I received an email from a woman I don't know asking if I might allow her to write a guest post about her personal experience growing up in extreme poverty. This is something I have never done before and likely won't do again, but I knew it was a gift, one that we needed. I immediately said yes, and I asked her to speak freely, to not hold back.

While not every person living in poverty has lived through similar horrors, Debbie's story reads achingly true as I compare it to many of the lives around me, lives that I love. Let us remember, always, that poverty is complex. It is a cause and a symptom. 

I was humbled by Debbie's courage in sharing with us here. Her words are, at turns, painful to read and incredibly redeeming. She lived this. There is much we can learn from her story. You may find yourself wanting to turn away or plug your ears. It is often easier to pretend this isn't the reality for so many. But God heals the brokenhearted and Debbie is living proof.

In love,
Shannan


Warning: This post contains depictions of sexual abuse. If this is a trigger for you, please sit this one out.


I happened across shannan’s post about discrimination when a friend of mine posted a link on her facebook. I thought it was the most awesome, transparently honest depiction of judgment that I had ever read

lately, god has been showing me that people who judge the marginalized really do so out of a lack of understanding rather than out of a feeling of superiority - and the comments on the discrimination post were confirming of that

it has been really eye-opening for me to discover the lack of knowledge in middle class, christian people about the plight of the less fortunate in our country - honestly, I always thought you knew, but you just didn't careand so, yes, I have been guilty of "judging the judgers"

maybe if more of us told our stories, we could learn how to love each other better...

I was taught by my parents that I was inherently worthless. my father had an explosive temper that I was most often on the receiving end of and I spent most of my childhood trying to figure out what I had done to cause it. my mother would tell me over and over that it was me, that I was the problem, and with her expression she told me how much she hated me.

at 5 years old, my father raped me for the first time

when he left my bed that night, god was there. He held me as I sobbed and I eventually fell asleep in His arms
  
the abuse continued for 7 years and I never told anyone until I was 33 years old

are you thinking why didn't I just tell someone?

the morning after the first time, there was blood all over my sheets and I was still bleeding a little. I saw my mother strip the bed and wash the sheets, and say nothing about the blood or my hobbling around or my sniffles and puffy eyes. and when she put me in the bathtub that night, I saw her see my pain as my wound went into the water, but she ignored it and I knew that somehow this was my fault too, and so I bit my lip and swallowed my tears

I accepted the lie that I was born bad, that I was a piece of shit (excuse the language, but there really isn't a nice way to convey it), that I deserved all of the pain, and the rest of the world confirmed it to me - my brother and my uncle both molested me, the state put me in a home where my foster father abused and prostituted me, and all the men and women who I sold myself to in order to survive when I ran away treated me as just an object

everything and everybody in my world told me that my body was the only thing I possessed of value

I "chose" to smoke cigarettes and do drugs and alcohol, yes - as much as a burn victim "chooses" to take morphine

at fifteen, I was living in a condemned building, selling myself for survival and drugs, when some friends thought I had taken too many drugs and they dragged me up to the emergency room and left me. the doctors gave me ipecac and the mental health lady came down to interview me. she asked where I lived and by that time, I was so exhausted, I was ready to be "rescued" by the authorities and so I told her the truth

they just let me go. I walked back to my building, to my nasty old mattress and sleeping bag, and I went to sleep. in the middle of the night I woke up and puked on my sleeping bag. this was march in the northeast and the building had no glass in the windows. that was when I decided that I had to save myself - that no one was going to rescue me and I didn't want to live that way anymore

I could tell you the rest of the story, but it would be a book and not a blog post. I didn't get it all together at once, it was a long, hard road

suffice it to say, I was one of the lucky ones in my "class" - I was born with above average intelligence and one of the ways I escaped was reading. I read everything I could get my hands on and still do. and more importantly, god was always there in my life. even when I got angry at Him and ran away from Him

I'm 48 years old now, and He has healed me from much of my childhood but not all - its still very much a work in progress

I spend my life now doing the best I can to love others who have been abused and never rescued.

and if I had a dollar for every time a christian told me I was going to hell for smoking cigarettes... ;)

I am a survivor - of poverty, of incest, of physical and emotional abuse, of childhood prostitution, of drug addiction, and the adult sex industry

but that is not who I am - I am a child of the one true king. ransomed by His blood from slavery, redeemed, and adopted into His family

if you are a christian, then we are siblings, no matter what class we come from, and we are called to love one another

we are also called to love the widows and orphans

what does that look like? most times it looks like a big mess honestly, lol

in 2007, I made friends with an alcoholic single mom of 3 little boys who had just gotten out of the shelter - I started bringing them to church and then since I had 2 extra bedrooms and they lived in a nasty trailer in a bad trailer park, I had them move in with me. six weeks later, she got a DUI and disappeared after they let her out of jail in the morning - suddenly I had my 13yr old daughter and her 5yr old, 2yr old, and 9 month old boys

I worked a paper route at night every night and went to school during the day - for six months, someone from my church drove to my house at 1:30am and slept on my couch while I did my route - 52 different people have slept on my couch - the church paid for daycare for the boys and when the mom showed back up, they paid for her to go to a Christian rehab - they made up any money I was short for years and to this day, they still help her with paying for the boys' daycare - after six months she moved back in with us and after two and a half years she got a nice trailer in a good neighborhood, works at a place a lot of our church people work at, and is a good mom to the boys, and loves jesus

and now, I have another single mom of 4 little kids living with me. she came from an abusive family, foster care, and her first son was from being raped at 18, which she never got counseling for and so, yeah, she's been looking for love and has three more kids from three more daddies, two of them in jail - and it's not easy, it's definitely messy, and it's definitely worth it - because they are worth it, because they are all wounded image bearers of god

it's a broken world with broken people - that's why He came isn't it? I'm pretty sure He didn't save us so that we could be comfortable - I think He's more interested in making our hearts look like His

--debbie
 

82 comments:

  1. This...

    "it's not easy, it's definitely messy, and it's definitely worth it - because they are worth it, because they are all wounded image bearers of god

    it's a broken world with broken people - that's why He came isn't it? I'm pretty sure He didn't save us so that we could be comfortable - I think He's more interested in making our hearts look like His"

    Awesome. Thanks so much for allowing her to share, Shannan.

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    1. I was amazed and so totally humbled and awe struck when I read that quote. I'm glad it hit home with someone else, too.

      Thanks for sharing this story, Debbie, and for allowing her to share it with us, Shannon.

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    2. Amazing in so many ways. I don't know anyone like this....sheltered and comfortable and humbled....open the eyes of my heart, Lord.

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  2. Debbie. Thank you for sharing your story, and Shannan for providing the place. I spent the day, actually I've spent decades, asking why, and that last line resounded with me so deeply.

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    1. thanks lisa - it's such a short life here compared to eternity, but it doesn't feel that way - it feels like all we have and sometimes that makes it hard to submit to being "uncomfortable" - I get that too

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  3. Debbie- thank you so much for sharing. For being so brave. I hope you have a blog or write a book one day, because you could help a lot of people. :)

    I can't relate to the sexual abuse, but I can relate to being raised in an abusive home. My dad drank all the time, brought sketchy men to our house and liked hitting my mom. When she died, life seemed like a cruel joke. My mom's family pretty much forgot about us. However.. When I turned out okay as an adult, they were sure to make me feel guilty about how I " never invite us to anything. We're your family you know!"

    I had a few comments for her as well. The point: it's amazing how many people can and will fail you. The kindest and most loving people have not been family. Sometimes they've been strangers, a friend of a friend or a co worker I never knew we'll until one day.

    I'm so glad you're doing well and are loving others- I'm sorry your journey was largely painful. I always go back to my childhood and try to give my little self a hug from my stronger adult self. Xoxo

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    1. generational sin sucks - but I feel like we can choose to be the fifth generation, and break it off so our kids are free

      my daughter is a 19yr old college student and graduated high school with honors - she's never been in trouble and is one of the most well adjusted kids I know -- beauty from ashes ya know ;)

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    2. Yes!! The next generation in our family is well adjusted and lovely. I always feel so grateful for that. :)

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  4. Thanks Shannan for having Debbie share. Thank you Debbie for sharing. There really isn't much more to say... I think you said it all.

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  5. crap, lol - I just realized I'm signed into google under my blog and coming up Kathleen Laurie - sigh

    my daughter doesn't know everything of my life - she knows enough that if she wants to know more, she'll ask - so I protect her from finding out more details in some random way that may hurt her - that's why I blog under the name I was born with

    sorry for the confusion :/

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  6. How brave, honest, raw and real. Reminds me of a song from Casting Crowns.."Stained Glass Masquerade."

    But would it set me free
    If I dared to let you see
    The truth behind the person
    That you imagine me to be

    Would your arms be open
    Or would you walk away
    Would the love of Jesus
    Be enough to make you stay

    It's easy to sit on our pews and sing the doxology every Sunday plus two hymns, listen to the sermon and head out to lunch and then next week repeat the whole process. But I've been so convicted lately that God is calling us to so much more. Are we capable of loving when it is MESSY? I pray Jesus will show me how. Where to start. And I thank you Shannan and you Debbie for confirming the call.

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  7. I have no words that don't seem shallow but I'm pretty sure the world doesn't need more words but better attitudes, compassion and open doors. Your last sentence need to be on a pillow somewhere next to the "Jesus loves me" needlepoint. All He asks is that we love others in the same way and you (Debbie) and Shannon are showing us how to do that.

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  8. Debbie, thank you for bearing your soul. I'm guilty of living with rose colored glasses for the majority of my life and you have caused me to see more clearly.

    "it's a broken world with broken people - that's why He came isn't it? I'm pretty sure He didn't save us so that we could be comfortable - I think He's more interested in making our hearts look like His" So beautifully said.

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  9. Thank you so much for sharing this, Debbie! Your story is gut-wrenching, and your redemption is so beautiful! I attend an inner city church and am very, very interested in stories from people who know. Because you are right - I knew my culture, but not the one I moved into. I still don't, but I have learned a few things. May God continue to heal, restore, and redeem.

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    1. thank you - and the misunderstanding goes both ways - I'm understanding more and more that all pain weighs the same - and that some of the "snobbery" I run into actually comes from some insecurity and hurt inside them

      we're all His kids, I wish we would stop wasting so much time in sibling rivalry and get busy spreading the kingdom :)

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  10. SO thankful for God's redemptive story in your life....and mine, though they look very different! Your story helps move me to a deeper level of understanding. THANK YOU for that! May God continue to bless you AND your church for opening your arms!

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  11. I am so glad that you survived and shared your story. God Bless you for helping others. You have to be one strong lady for sure. I know from adopting a child from a poor abusive family that things like this go on. I have had to sit through many Child Abuse classes for my line of work. I can hardly handle them anymore. Many taking the classes don't feel the pain of the class like I do. They are so unaware that things like this actually happen. Thanks Shannan for sharing this story with us.

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  12. And that last paragraph is so powerful. Yes and yes, again.

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  13. Debbie...thank you for sharing. I am also a "cycle breaker" and instead of helping others to break out, I've been very busy pretending I don't recognize their stories. You are an inspiration, I'm so grateful Shannan shared you with us.

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  14. Thank you for sharing your life,your heart. Most of us Re walking wounded This is why we need mercy.

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  15. Debbie, you are beautiful and brave. Thank you and thank you.

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  16. Dear Debbie,

    I work with you.
    I work with girls just like you every day.
    Sometimes I get frustrated.
    Sometimes I am overwhelmed.
    Often I am disenchanted by your surroundings.
    I continue to come. Into the city.

    I weep for the things that have happened to you. I rejoice that you got out. God made a way. I thank you from the very bottom of my heart for helping someone who is so much like you. Thank you for helping and for making a difference.

    You are an inspiration.
    Thank you for shining your light and telling your story.
    The poverty in other countries is immense, but so is the poverty in our inner cities.


    Love, Becky

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    1. thank YOU Becky for the work you do

      when I get overwhelmed, I have to hit the word and remind myself that I am not their shepherd - He is their shepherd - I am just one of the tools in His hand

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  17. Debbie, thank you for sharing God's story in your life. We have recently moved into an area where we are surrounded by much more rural poverty than I have seen before. I am praying and hoping to be a friend, to understand, to not judge, to come alongside.
    "Wounded image bearers of God"...that phrase will stick with me for a while. I am so grateful for you and for Shannan having you here!

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  18. Debbie, thank you for sharing your story!

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  19. I love how you started your post:
    "people who judge the marginalized really do so out of a lack of understanding rather than out of a feeling of superiority."
    I know your story, and the stories like yours, have helped give me the perspective I need. Thank you so much for sharing, Debbie.

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  20. all I could possibly say...is I wish I could send you flowers and tell you that you are awesome.

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  21. The last paragraph says so much. Thank you for being brave and sharing so we might all understand and love better.

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  22. Thank you, Shannon for having Debbie share her story.

    Dear Debbie, You are awesome!! thanks for writing this post.

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  23. Deb, you are my hero. You are truly living the gospel. I am so proud of you.

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  24. Bless you both. I'm so thrilled you found Shannan, Debbie. Yours is the story of so many women I worked with over the years. You are a beautiful, intelligent blessed child of God. You have my admiration and respect for surviving and thriving inspire of what others have done to you.

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  25. "it's a broken world with broken people - that's why He came isn't it? I'm pretty sure He didn't save us so that we could be comfortable - I think He's more interested in making our hearts look like His."

    Bless you Debbie! Thank you for sharing.

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  26. Thank you, Debbie and Shannon. I needed to read this.

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  27. Amen and thank you Debbie. Sending love and prayers your way.

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  28. Blessings to you both Debbie and Shannan for allowing God to use you to help open so many eyes and hearts - especially mine!

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  29. Just beautiful. What a breath-taking and amazing story of His redemption. Beauty from ashes. Generational curses broken and falling to the ground. Wow. Yes, this. This is His love.

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  30. Sobbing...because I loose hope that things can change for people. My husband has chosen to pursue a second career in correctional medicine, but the cost (financially and otherwise) has been hard on our family. Still, he believes in redemption, and this gave me hope that it does exist!

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  31. I am weeping at what you experienced at such a young age.
    But i also weep with a grateful heart for the redemption that God has given you.
    you are a miracle. Jesus brings HOPE to many through your story.
    praying you know of your great worth to Him.

    this post did more for me than I'll ever be able to put in words.

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  32. amazing!!!!!! what a story. I agree with what the person before me said, that this post did more for me than I can put into words.

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  33. tears.... thank you for sharing and for reflecting the love of Christ so thoroughly... may we all view His children as you do, Debbie!

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  34. DUDE! May we be able to love like this. Please.

    Way to go, Debbie. Way to go. You rock, lady.

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  35. Incredible. Thank you for your honesty, for your insight and for your heart, Debbie. My mom is a survivor of sexual abuse at a young age as well, as she has also said that although it was happening, she could feel the Lord with her. There is so much power in that when it's such a powerless situation. You're incredible and I hope to love like you do. Thank you.

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  36. I keep thinking that you had 52 people volunteer from your church to come to your house in the middle of the night and sleep on your couch so you could work. Wow. Would my large church have 52 volunteers? Would I have been one of them?

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    1. I love Debbie's entire story, but I am blown clean away by how her church is truly The Church for her. THAT is what church is supposed to be. I'm amazed and inspired.

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    2. yes, they amaze me - my pastor actually did the route with me one night when my knee was blown out - and our staff member the next night, and an elder and 2 others the next night (Sunday papers)

      they are the real deal :)

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    3. that's what it's all about! Jesus in skin. wow!

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  37. Dear Debbie, you are amazing. With God ALL things are possible!!! The two of you have proven this. I don't think I will ever forget your story of victory. You are a true over comer. And to think your story didn't end with you, you are making it possible for so many others to turn ashes into beauty. Thank you for sharing.

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  38. Thank You. We need to hear these things so our world can stop revolving around ourselves. God Bless YOU!

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  39. Wow! What an amazing post and an amazing author. Debbie - may God continue to bless you. You are a miracle and are truly living the life that He has given to you. May those who know you continue to receive the blessings in which you give to them.

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  40. Incredible story of an amazingly strong woman. God has given her the courage to both change her life and tell her story. Thank you!

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  41. Debbie & Shannan, thank you.

    I take so much for granted.

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  42. if only i could sit around a bowl of salsa and iced tea with you two it would do this soul some good i tell you.

    Debbie, my story is similar to yours on so many levels-the abuse, the prostitution, only i come from middle class. i wonder if that is why my journey out looked the way it did? i wonder a lot of things.

    but the story of redemption is a beautiful one. it is hard to fight the voices that say that i'm putting my kids at risk by the folks who warm our couch and i struggle with why it is i love with out judgement the woman who is pouring out her recent relapse grief, weeping with her at the latest child protective services meeting.
    but i can't seem to love (without judgement) my lost middle class sister whose problems seem so trite to me.

    so i guess i still need God's help to love.

    what i appreciate about you, Debbie and Shannon is your gift of encouragement in both fighting the voices and learning to love.

    and sharing the gift of hope - that anchor for my soul.

    thank you

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  43. Gut wrenching and moving. I hats but need these reminders. My favorite quote, "wounded image bearers of God"

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  44. I am humbled and honored to have read your message Debbie.

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  45. Thanks to Shannon for allowing you to share your story here! Debbie my heart aches for you for your wounds you have had to endure.I am your age and growing up during our time there was a lot of abuse going on and it was physical, mental, sexual.I had many friends who where abused by their fathers, brothers, uncles and friends of the family.I was physically abused and mentally abused by a step father.I am thankful it was never sexual and I was so happy to turn 16 to find a job and finally move out and be in control of my own life.Though I did not live in poverty but we all were poorer back then as well as my friends.Sad to say abuse is all around us still today in such a broken world.It saddens me you were always thrown back out on your own to try and survive anyway you could.
    I would so love to attend your Church as I have yet to find a Church/Congregation who are as loving and helpful as yours.That is truly how a Church Family should be like.What a Blessing you are to others! You use to be able to go to a Church and seek help and direction and have it be a safe haven.Bless you many times over for reaching out to others and giving them a chance as you truly know what it was like to be on your own with no support group and no safe haven! ~Blessings

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  46. Oh Debbie..how many Debbies have we passed up because we did not understand? Thank you for allowing God to show you how beautiful and how valuable you are to us and to His Kingdom work! You have blessed us with your words and challenged me to get uncomfortable ..all for Him! May God continue to use you as His light and may He bless your service to Him!

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  47. Debbie-. You are a blessing from The Lord and He is well pleased. Thanks for sharing your life and heart. You are what redemption is all about...living it out and being the hands and feet of Jesus while the rest of us sit in our ivory towers. Thank you. Thank God for you and bless you! You taught me something. 😊

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  48. I never really comment but Shannan....I LOVE your blog. It is real, raw, authentic and comes from a heart for the Lord. Tonight I had to comment...I had to. Thanks for allowing your blog to be a place for Debbie to share and thank you Debbie....for loving people even after all you've been through. It truly is a testimony that allows God to be seen fully. So sad that you endured so much but so joyful that you KNEW that God showed up then....during those horrific times.

    Grateful and humbled to have read this tonight....Lord, let it change me!! Thanks from the bottom of my heart.

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  49. Amen!! God bless you and may we (me) all see the people differently!

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  50. your life, your story makes me love Jesus more than I did before "knowing" you. Thank you for sharing. Hearing He was with you, holding you, those nights... brings me to tears. I know I believe that about Him usually (I want to so badly), but hearing it from someone who has NEEDED Him there holding you, with every fiber of your being, means more. He is so sweet to love you the way He has and continues to... the way you recognize that love and shout it from the rooftops and love others in the same way is so stinking glorifying to Him!!!! Ah. Thanks again, so much.

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  51. thank you all so much for your comments - they are all so encouraging and fill me with hope - I love the way god can bring so many different people together - as my pastor always says, "the ground at the foot of the cross is level"

    peace, debbie

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    1. Blessings Sweet Sista! May you continue to heal, move forward and bless others as you are.Just know you are not alone there are many others.I Pray for healing for our so very broken world. xoxo

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  52. Thank you so much for sharing. That obviously was not easy for you but I admire your courage and strength!

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  53. Here I am sitting here worrying about why there isn't anything in the house I want to eat...skim through my favorite blogs...now I'm in tears wondering why the world has to be filled with such evil...and wondering if it's just enough that I give my kids a safe Godly home to grow up in....so what if I adopt some kids and save them from possibly growing up abused...is that enough? Why can't I save them all...just because I can't save them all doesn't mean I don't help a few....but really it's overwhelming...thank you for this post...it's a real reality check....sometimes daily life we forget what the real purpose of our life is...it's not just eat play sleep...we need to be making a difference...wow...this is hard to read....I can't imagine how hard it was to live...thank you debbie! thank you God for being our healer..our provider...our savior...there just aren't words

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  54. My heart hurts for what you went through as a child, for what countless other children are going through. Thank you for sharing, Debbie. You have a gift for writing, but also for simplifying a seemingly complicated issue. We are all so broken, and pain does weigh the same no matter what our lives look like from the outside. Amen and amen, Debbie!

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  55. I have said this before and I will say it again: You are incredibly inspiring and I thank you deeply for sharing!

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  56. so very beautiful! your courage. your heart. the beauty He's given in place of ashes. thank you so much for sharing, debbie. bless you, sister.

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  57. Oh, Debbie. This is powerful. When I read this earlier this afternoon I sat on my deck and just sobbed for your five year old self. Thank you for sharing your story -- what courage. Thank you for being the hands and feet of Christ to women and their children who need exactly that -- live and in the flesh. Blessings.

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  58. I love this blog! I always walk away from it with something. Rather it be a reminder or a smile. And today is no different. I can relate to some of Debbie's message. But more importantly I am reminded that there are those suffering out there that need the love that Jesus and others can bring. Not to be judgmental to ANYONE because you may not the whole story. Thank you both for sharing!!!!

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  59. One of the best blog posts I've read in a long time. Write that book...

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  60. As I always say, everybody is dealing with something. And this makes it clear that some are dealing with the unimaginable! Thank you for sharing a bit of your story. My eyes (and heart) have been opened quite a bit more today.

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  61. Amen. Hallelujah. Where do I start to help? (honest question). ♥

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    1. the best question :)

      there are so many ways to help - ask god to show you and he will

      and there are so many ways to find things to do - google nonprofits in your area, foster care, etc

      if its your heart to help, he will use you

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  62. debbie's candidness is amazing. i am also 48. and i have such a different life. i hope to never forget her story or the fact that everyone has a story, whether we know it or not.

    love to you, shannon, and all this good you do. xo

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    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

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    2. I made an error in my first comment, but I'd like to post the intended comment again, though verbose. Please bear with me. :)

      In my eyes, there are two kinds of poverty. Financial poverty and Worth poverty. My parents were both victims of financial poverty, most notably my Philippine mother, having washed all her clothes in a stream, having used the restroom in holes she dug around her family's shack, having shared a meal of one sardine on a bowl of rice as dinner. I grew up in and continue to live in an undesirable area, but I wore my family history of poverty as a badge, an "I'm an exception" kind of badge, and sometimes, I still play that card.

      Debbie, your story to me is first about Worth Poverty. By the choices of others, you were stripped of the knowledge of your worth, not being told as a child that you were loved, not being redeemed daily by kindness and the presence of God in others. But praise God He was there and that you knew! Praise God that He continued to be there long enough for you to find a way out of a downward spiral, and into a position of someone who brings healing to others. You are a healer now, Debbie, and praise God that he uses our brokenness for Glory!

      Having lived where I do, and having taught students who have stories of worth and financial poverty in line with yours, having walked dangerous streets at midnight trying to find someone dear to me, having been in the position to watch them lose their mind to substances, and nearly lose their life, I still can't say I've walked in your shoes. But, I've been a pair of shoes scuffling seconds behind, kneeling in the gravel beside, trying to find a way to let my love seep deep enough, strong enough to heal.

      When I think of Luke 19:10 now, I picture Jesus coming to share our inherited value through his Grace. He comes "to seek and to save that which was lost" in us, in our understanding of our gifts, in our worth as a family of God, and in the consequential results of our perceptions. He is the ultimate presence, the feet beside us that we cannot see, but can feel, whispering love and peace to us in our shadows. Debbie and Shannan, thank you for both being His disciples, and walking the path with Him in word and in deed!

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  64. Sometimes we find people that lead us to stories/people like you Debbie. Restores our faith in mankind and reminds us that we are never forgotten by the Lord our Savior! Thank you both!

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  65. God bless Debbie, Shannan and all the others who educate and enlist armies of warriors to help those suffering. Your efforts yield real results and inspire more. God bless all those suffering, each with their own story. My eyes (& heart) are always opened wider after my visits here. I will not judge. I will help.

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