Tell yourself the truth

I sat across from her with hope, maybe this counselor would help me. I knew the drill. I pour out my hurting heart, she tells me what she thinks.

And then she said words I had not heard before, and I felt hope flicker inside.

“I believe your shifter is broken.”

I sat in disbelief. Could it be as simple as that? Is that what made my life so hard? Counseling was work. I learned that right away.

You need to find out what your core beliefs are and when they’re faulty, you need to change them. But that’s when things became difficult for me. Change was always hard. Change made me get stuck.

If it was just a matter of fixing my shifter, maybe there was hope.

But as always, there was more. There were things told to me as a child that I needed to uproot and totally replace. I thought back to my family of origin and that was a dark picture. I thought of how things were done. There were no requests by my dad, only orders, just like…

The Snack shop

For the other waitresses, Dad would ring the bell once and say, “pick up.” 

But for me, he’d hit that bell repeatedly and yell, “Annie, pick up!!”

I was the owner’s daughter but felt more like his property.

And in our house, change was never good.

Like the day I worked with my dad when he was tired from working mom’s shift too.

Why weren’t the hands on the clock moving? Those four hours seemed to take forever.

Finally 8:00 came and my shift was over. I picked up the bags of dinner for my siblings, grabbed my coat and walked out the back door.

Ten minutes later I arrived home. The walk felt good in the cool, November air. Someone had burned leaves. 

I barely walked into the back door when the bags of food were snatched from me.

“How did it go with your father?” mom called from their bedroom.

“It was okay, but he was crabby.”

And with that I hit the front couch, uniform and all. I didn’t plan on getting up for church either.

Photo by Sven Brandsma on Unsplash

Minutes later my brother woke me up with the words, “Mom’s calling you.”

“No she’s not.”

“Yes she is.” 

Maybe tomorrow I’d play, but not now.

A short while later my father’s hands shook me.

“Where’s your mother?” he demanded.

“She’s in the bedroom,” I said, shifting again on the couch.

“No, she’s not.” he said minutes later. “Where is she?”

“Then she’s in the bathroom!” I snapped. Our house was not that big.

Finally asleep 

The next morning, I awoke to this conversation.

“Dad, you have to do something. Something’s wrong with her.”

“She’ll be okay,” he said quietly.

But my brother insisted. And we watched as an ambulance came and left with our mother. Her eyes opened and terrified as she was rolled out the back door.

She died the next day leaving five kids with no mom and a dad that didn’t care. Yeah, change was never good in our lives. 

Photo by Jerry Wang on Unsplash

Maybe the counselor was right. Maybe my shifter was broken. So what was the next step?

It was more counseling, more looking into what I thought about myself and how it affected me. And I learned something valuable. I didn’t think too much of me. But I found out why. It was the words I had heard from my dad.

It was the way we were treated, or rather mistreated. And so, I had to identify those words, and learn how to refute them.

It’s funny how your body can grow up, but inside you’re still little. Still un-nurtured.

A defining moment

One day I was invited to a Bible study. Little did I know it would change my life—a good change. For starters, it would change the things I told myself.

Names you’re called as a child, stick like strands of spaghetti on a wall.

I had to learn new names to replace the bad ones.

Even more than the names I heard, were the looks on his angry face. Nothing but anger and rage, though I never understood why.

When it would get loud in our house, my heart would race. I knew what would happen, and sadly, I was right.

He would slip off his belt and start whipping it around. And one by one, we were his targets. 

I grew up thinking, we must be bad. He’d grit his teeth, order us to put our hands down or we’d get it worse and no amount of pleading would get him to stop. I know because we tried.

I don’t know what was worse, being hit, or hearing my brothers crying as he got closer to me and my sister.

To this very day, when things get loud, I start getting panicky.

He lacked a softness that dads sometimes need

No more ballerinas

Photo courtesy Kate Cox — Pixabay

When we were little, my dad would tell my sister and me to make our legs stiff and like magic he would lift us up as we held our arms out. We were ballerinas that owned the world. What happened to that dad?

I remember haircuts dad gave my brothers. Never once did they end well. Instead, you would hear.

“I told you not to move! Now look what you made me do.”

And they would leave the chair with a slap across the face and a spot where the electric razor got too close.

Hands were meant for hugging, not hitting

When I kept attending the Bible study and heard about how God was like our loving father, I got stuck, I could not relate.

Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

But the more I read, the more I wanted to know about this loving Father God. And eventually, I did understand more about him. And the most wonderful thing happened. I learned that God loved me so much he sacrificed his Son, Jesus for me.

And then I learned the names God had for us.

Not “stupid idiot,” but “my child.”

God calls me his beloved. And the tone God uses is never a harsh tone with us, but a loving tone. 

Now I could change my mind

I could now replace things I had heard with the truth.

I could believe what God said over what I had believed for so long. And the good news is, it’s not just for me. It’s for you, too.

We are valuable.

God tells us that we are his. We are valuable. So even if you’ve heard all your life that you are worthless, you can refute that with the truth. 

We are accepted.

I used to believe I had a list of things I needed to do before I was accepted. And even then I came up short, I always came up short. But God said we are accepted when we accept the payment Jesus made for us.

We are secure.

I never felt secure growing up. Too many changes, no safety at all. But since I became a Christ follower I know that God holds me in the palm of his hand. And his hands are big.

We are loved.

As a child, I felt unloved by my dad. How can you love someone and then beat them? I felt like we were tolerated, but not loved. Mom loved us, but then she was gone.

God tells us that he loves us. And he proves that love over and over.

New names

I’m done with the old names that used to taunt me.

Instead I am God’s daughter. I am a child of the King. God even calls me his poem.

God loves me, just as I am. It feels good. I feel safe in my Father’s arms.

Writer. Poet. Speaker. Married to Michael, grandmother of 5. Author of 14 books, including Broken: A story of Abuse and Survival. AnnePeterson.com
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Writer. Poet. Speaker. Married to Michael, grandmother of 5. Author of 14 books, including Broken: A story of Abuse and Survival. AnnePeterson.com

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