Stop This World

Gracefully going from victim to survivor to servant

“Once the storm is over, you won’t remember how you made it through, how you managed to survive. You won’t even be sure whether the storm is really over. But one thing is certain – when you come out of the storm you won’t be the same person who walked in.” -H. Murakami

I had a completely different post schedule for today, the one-year mark of when I faced my rapist for sentencing and read my victim impact statement. Then, the quote above popped up on a support group I participate in and it was just perfect for today.

I’ve had several people comment over the past year say that they couldn’t have survived what I went through. How did I do it? Well, I simply had no other choice. I had to keep on living somehow. You decide to live with the struggle and try your hardest. Some days trying your hardest is simply getting out of bed and showering. Some days it is facing your rapist. Some days you cry in your apartment and other days you laugh with your friends. Somehow, you keep on living and hoping for things to get better.

I hesitate to say that the ‘storm’ is over. It scares me because I feel like the minute I say that, something awful will pop up again. I need to get over that fear and learn to appreciate every day and not be scared. I’ve been through one hell of a storm and I’m appreciating the calmness that comes at the end of a storm.

A year ago my friends drove me to the courthouse to confront my rapist. Today, I’m with my aunts, uncles, cousins, parents, sister & niece looking out on a beautiful lake. A lot changes in a year and I’m excited for what the next year brings.

June 29th will always be a significant date in my life because it was the day I found my voice again. The day I finally had my say in the whole ordeal. June 29th is and will continue to be a day of reflection and celebration remembering all that I have gone through. Only by God’s grace & mercy am I able to be here today laughing with my family and feeling good.

So, here’s to one year of taking my life back!

To read my victim impact statement, you can go to this previous post:  https://stopthisworld.com/2018/01/

-J.Lynn

Sitting here on the shoreline of Como Lake in St. Paul, MN on a perfect summer Friday. The flowers smell sweet, there is a slight breeze and it is not too hot & not too cold. Just right. Idyllic.

I have nothing but time to write, read a book and sip on a local craft beer. It is blissful and I almost feel guilty. Almost.

Como is where I have come over the past 25 years during good times & bad. It served as my long, country road for contemplating but with a city setting. During my years at the University of Minnesota some friends introduced me to this place. We would sometimes walk to the park from campus while getting to know one another. We would enjoy an ice cream cone or a concert and learned to love the city. I’ve listened to community bands here on hot summer nights and watched weddings from a distance with the beautiful backdrop. It is a place where the good things in life are on display and I feel calm.

It was my walking path for several years as there is a nice path around the lake. I have done some of my best thinking and decision making at this lake. During my St. Paul years, I didn’t make any major decisions until I trekked around the lake. It was almost instinctual. I needed to walk Como to make sure my decisions were correct.

I have walked the lake during every season. When the trees are in full bloom with their pink petals and walking underneath them is like a pink canopy. In the fall, the colors of the leaves turn intense orange & reds and there is a carpet of leaves to walk in. Summer is a time to sit along the shore, sip a beer and look out at the kayakers. Winter is barren and quiet, but that is the way I like it.

This is also the place where I trained for a half-marathon with like-minded friends passionate about finding a cure for crohn’s & colitis. I’ve been around this lake countless times trying to push myself to make another lap. As running is about my least favorite thing to do, at least I enjoyed the place.

When I lived away from MN, this was a place I visited often to get some serenity and reflection time. After I moved to Indianapolis and would come back to visit friends, I was often homesick for this lake. I loved living in St. Paul and wanted to come back. When I lived in DC, this was a nice place to remind me of good times had at the park. Good reminiscing. Then, after my assault this park became somewhat of an escape for me. I spent several hours on trips to the Twin Cities sitting along this lake thinking, reflecting and praying.

I remember watching the sunrise in spring 2015. I had a bagel from my favorite shop & piping hot coffee. I was one of the few people on the path that time of the morning. I was sad and defeated. The long trip into the pit of despair was just starting and I needed some clarity. As I watched the sunrise over the trees, a calming peace came over me and I knew that I would be okay. It was something that I felt in my bones. I just didn’t know how I would be okay, but I knew I needed to keep on moving forward. I’ve been back here several times since then and each time I am advancing on this journey of healing. Sometimes the visits are good and I go for a joyful walk. Other times, I try to hide my tears behind my sunglasses as I slowly walk the path. Today, I feel good. It is a beautiful day & I want to enjoy it. This is a big change from a couple years ago when I didn’t want to leave my apartment on even the nicest of days. I am so thankful for this day that God created.

Como relieves my stress like no other place other in the city. I am safe here and I can think here. So, it is only natural that I bring my writing to this place. I’ve been reluctant to write lately because I’m trying to find that balance I’ve talked about before. My job with 4-H is fantastic, but when I come home at night I want to eat supper, go for a walk and relax with my family. Writing is the last thing on my mind, yet it continues to nag at me. What is your message? Will anybody read the book? Does anybody care? Maybe I should give it up and move on? Maybe I’m not cut out to do this? Maybe I should settle for mediocre and not go after my dreams? After all, the big city life didn’t work out for me.

Lots of big decisions are on the horizon this summer. Will I continue to be gainfully employed by somebody else? Or, do I create my own business focusing on sharing my story, writing, speaking & coaching? It is nice being safe & secure after so many years of being the exact opposite.

This is why I’m at Como Lake. To figure out my next steps.

So, if you will excuse me, I am going to make a couple laps around the lake on this glorious day and do some serious thinking. After I walk Como, the decisions will be well with my soul.

PS – don’t worry…I’m going to continue on the writing and public speaking path. I just don’t know if it will be full-time or part-time. I just needed to visit Como Lake and get my mind right.

Happy Summer,

J.Lynn

Spring is really going fast! So much so that I have not been good about blogging. I started a full-time job last month working with 4-H members and that takes the majority of my time. I absolutely love working with the families and I get to help implement their county fair in July. County fairs are one of my most favorite things.

 

Thinking about this post of switching gears, I can’t help but think about life growing up on our farm.  I spent most of my time with the animals, but I did get in my fair share of driving tractor for baling and raking hay.  You know what I always had trouble with on the tractor?  Switching gears.  The poor person who was on the hay rack behind me usually suffered dire consequences because I couldn’t switch gears smoothly.  Maybe they would fall off, fall down, or have bales topple on them.  I was definitely not smooth.  Never been good switching gears and am still learning to switch the gears of life smoothly.  I think I need more practice.

 

There have been a lot of positive changes going on in my life the past few months.  I look at the quote above and I’m happy that I have moved on from broken & helpless. It was important for me to accept that I was broken. I denied that for a long time after my assault. I tried to convince myself & everybody else around me that I was fine. Better than fine actually.  I wanted to portray that the assault hadn’t affected me at all.  In reality, I was absolutely miserable and truly broken. I had never felt the depths of despair quite like that before. I knew that someday I would not feel this way, but I had no clue when. I also had no clue what hard work I would have to do to get better. I had to let myself be broken and accept myself that way. But, I couldn’t let it stop me from healing. The healing didn’t happen on my timeline though. Not even close. I wasn’t expecting 3.5 years of hard work.  I had to accept that season of my life.

 

So, what does my life look like now? Well, I have been allowing God to open doors for me that I wouldn’t have opened myself.

 

I started working with a local 4-H program about a month ago. It has been a whirlwind of activity, but I have really enjoyed getting back to something I love and am passionate about. This is only a short-term position, but it has been perfect to get me back to working and accomplishing goals. I could only take so much time off!

 

I need to really buckle down and find more time to work on my book. I joined a mastermind coaching group in April to help me with writing & publishing my book as well as starting my own company. It is a big dream, but deep down inside I have always wanted to be an entrepreneur. I would just never let myself dream that big. My goal is to get the book written this spring/fall and get it published early in 2019. I’m also starting to strategically look at speaking engagements like at Rotary Clubs and such so that I can start spreading my message of hope & resiliency. My ultimate goal is to be on the public speaking circuit world-wide. I absolutely love public speaking. I just need to get my message down and get polished. I can only do that through practice. So, I’m looking forward to developing my platform through my book, speaking engagements and training seminars. I have a really great team of cheerleaders from friends, family, readers, and Ziglar family, so I’m going to shoot for the stars. It is so exciting!!

 

Finally, I have decided to take on a venture that never in a million years would I have thought I would take on. I enjoy beauty products and have spent thousands of dollars on different potions and lotions to make my skin look better. Well, I started learning about the products that are in our skincare products and make-up and I was completely floored. I never found the need to look at those ingredients before and I wish that I had. There are so many ingredients that can potentially be hormone disrupters and/or cause severe damage or even cancer.

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So, I have joined on to work with BeautyCounter. I had never heard of this company before, but once I started trying their products I was sold. High quality, luxurious products made with safer ingredients. I also like the fact that they are actively advocating on a national level for more regulations in the beauty industry. Now, I’m not typically big on regulations, but there hasn’t been a bill passed about beauty product ingredients since the 1930’s. The time has come to advocate. So, if you want to try out some exceptional beauty products & make-up, take a look at my BeautyCounter website: Www.beautycounter.com/Julietesch

 

So, as you can see I have become very busy. It is time to put into practice all the things that I have promised myself. I need to remember to practice self care, yoga, reading, spending time alone. Those are the first things that have always fallen by the wayside when I have gotten busy. This time I am very aware of how I am balancing my life. It is difficult because I do find great pleasure in my work, but I need balance. I need to set boundaries and be kind to myself.  I’m working on it!

 

This blog is going to be changing gears as well. I’ve written mainly about my past trauma from the assault and the trial. There is still plenty to write about there, but I’m going to start writing more about my life currently. I’m rebuilding in real time and I look forward to sharing parts of that rebuilding with you. Is it scary not knowing what the future holds? Absolutely, but it I sure exciting too! The Lord has guided me this far and I trust him with my future.  I hope that you will continue on with me on this crazy journey of life.

 

It is time to switch gears from broken & helpless to growing & healing. I’m ready.

-J.Lynn

 

It seems there is a ‘day’ for everything now. National Ice Cream Day, National Cat Day, National Sibling Day and the list goes on. I mostly ignore these days because I tend to celebrate my cat, sister & ice cream on a daily basis. I have enough to keep track of besides what special ‘day’ it is.

 

Once you or a family member are a survivor of something you take notice of those special days and months. You might donate money to the cause, do a walk, jump in a lake (polar plunge) or post things on social media. I know that I pay attention when it is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month in October because I have several family & friends who are currently fighting breast cancer and others who have survived as well. I also pay attention when it is Crohn’s & Colitis Week in December since my sister and several friends suffer from these diseases.

 

I wish that we didn’t have to have this month of awareness for sexual assault, but as we’ve seen over the past 9 months, there is a serious problem in this country with sexual assault, harassment and abuse. We have these months to build awareness to those of us who would never think of learning about sexual assault. Trust me, I don’t need to be celebrated for being assaulted and surviving. But, it would mean the world to me if you learned how to support victims of assault and help make it stop. Be an advocate. Be a friend.

 

As I have learned, April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM). I always thought of April as the beginning of spring and my departed Grandma’s birthday. Now, April has a new meaning for me and one that I’m still working on accepting.

 

This month had many events happening across the country to raise awareness, but the most important thing I am participating in is saying ‘thank you’.

 

Not a day goes by that I don’t think about my new normal of being a rape survivor. The day of the assault and the week after have pretty much faded in my memory (after a lot of work). I’m also doing really well on working through my PTSD, anxiety and depression. Unfortunately, my new normal is that I will always be a survivor, but it doesn’t have to define me.

 

So, to bring awareness to Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM) on this last day of April, I would like to say thank you:

 

Thank you to my family
for making several trips to be with me in Washington, DC
for letting me move back home and not feel awkward
for letting me get my ‘therapy cat’, Guppie, even though the household is allergic
for letting me sleep…A LOT
for keeping tabs on me, but still leaving me alone
for letting me take over the house & garage with all my ‘stuff’
for continually looking for jobs for me while I turn most of them down
for the unconditional love

Thank you to my friends
Who ask, “how are you doing, today?”
Thank you for the hugs (when I am comfortable with them)
Thank you for the knowing eyes of sadness and struggle
Thank you for the notes of encouragement
Thank you for noticing me and my assault. Simply being acknowledged is a big deal.
Thank you for the laughter
Thank you for letting me have a pity party, but not for too long
Thank you for asking about other aspects of my life besides the assault
Thank you for not pretending that the assault didn’t happen
Thank you for sharing my story & blog so that others may learn and heal
Thank you to my country neighbors and old friends who have allowed me to come home as the prodigal with grace
Thank you to those who have reached out to me with your own story
Thank you for the quotes, books, podcasts, and websites that friends think that I may like or gain something from
Thank you for the prayers. Lots of prayers.
Thank you to the people who encourage me to ‘step out’ into my greatness
Thank you to old friends in MN who are reaching out to have coffee and catch up
Thank you to the Washington National’s baseball team for keeping me occupied for 4 seasons of baseball
Thank you to my baseball friends in DC for keeping me entertained & laughing
Thank you to my healthcare teams in MN and in DC
Thank you to the churches I attended in DC, Waterfront Church & National Community Church

Thank you to my Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE) for your gentle care
Thank you to the many detectives who worked on my case, especially Detective 3
Thank you to my county-appointed advocate
Thank you to my prosecuting attorney
Thank you to my friends who came with me to appointments and court dates
Thank you to my former staff in DC for being true pillars of strength in my darkest times
Thank you to the people who came and got/bought all my furniture in DC so I didn’t have to haul it to MN because I wanted a fresh start

Thank you to my rescue cat, Guppie, for letting me nurse her back to health and give her lots of hugs, even though I don’t think she appreciates them.

Thank you for making me laugh
Thank you for the encouragement
Thank you for offering to listen, even though I don’t have much to say most of the time
Thank you for seeing the real me
Thank you for rallying behind me as I continue this path of recovery
Thank you for not shutting me out
Thank you to the people reaching out with speaking opportunities
Thank you for the encouragement to write a book
Thank you to Minnesota for being my landing pad
Thank you to my friends at MN 4-H for believing in my talents
Thank you to each & every one of you reading this blog

 

Most importantly, thank you to the Lord for carrying me through this tragic storm, making me rest and getting back on my feet one step at a time.

 

I could obviously go on & on with thanks.  I am one blessed woman.

 

With All My Appreciation,

J.Lynn

Before my assault I always assumed that I knew how I would react if I was ever raped or a victim of a violent crime. Prosecute and let the sucker rot in prison. No holds barred.

 

Prosecuting someone who you don’t know seemed fairly easy to me at the beginning. I didn’t know the guy, had no connection to him, so I didn’t care if he rotted in jail. Little did I know that I would end up caring. A lot.

 

After 1.5 years and 3 detectives, the guy confessed. Detective 3 gave me time to consider my options. Drop the case or move forward with prosecuting. He went through all the reasons why it might be a good idea for me to drop the case and get on with my life. I now knew who the guy was and he confessed. Was that enough for me?

 

Detective 3 reminded me that there is absolutely no guarantee that the Commonwealth will take up the case. Actually, the odds were stacked against me greatly. Just because he is arrested doesn’t  mean it will go to trial.  He also warned me that there is a very real possibility that moving on with prosecuting and going to trial could do worse damage to me mentally than the actual assault. I heard this sentiment echoed by several friends who were in law enforcement.

 

Did I want to risk even more mental damage?
No, but I had come this far. I just didn’t know what to do.

 

I prayed a lot and cried a lot seeking answers. How can I possibly put someone in prison, potentially for the rest of their life, and not feel guilty about ruining his life and his family?
Had he ruined my life? Yes, but being a Christian I forgave him. I didn’t want to inflict harm on another person or his family. It just felt wrong. And this is why I get taken advantage of a lot. I care too much.

 

Again, I thought that the idea of arresting him would be easy. It truly was the hardest decision I have ever made.

 

On a rainy Sunday morning, April 10, 2016 to be exact, I found myself at National Community Church. It was jam packed that day. So packed that I had to sit in the very corner, back chair in the balcony. That was fine though because I just needed to be there and hear the word.

 

The church service went on as normal. Singing, readings, message, prayer. I didn’t know anybody around me at this service. (Thank goodness). When it came time for prayer, the pastor asked us to pray for those around us. Greet our neighbor and ask what you can pray for in their life.

 

**For those of you that know me well, you know that I was raised in a church where you don’t shake hands with each other. You keep to yourself and mind your own business. Nod your head or whisper hello.  No body contact.  So, shaking hands for me is one thing, but telling a stranger my problems and asking them to pray for me is another. My German Lutheran upbringing had me cringing. Hard.**

 

So, the woman next to me asked what I would like her to pray for in my life.

 

Oh boy, here we go…deep breath…

 

“I have to make a decision about sending a person to prison potentially for the rest of his life. I don’t want to ruin his life or his family’s life, but he did something really bad to me. I honestly don’t know what to do.”

 

And then I cried. I cried like all those times before in church and that wonderful woman hugged me and prayed over me. I had never experienced that before. A complete stranger praying over me just blew my mind. I was so thankful.

 

I never saw that woman again, but her understanding and praying helped me find some peace in making my decision.

Later on that evening I was reading the bible for some inspiration and came upon Joshua 1:9, which I have leaned on before.

Strong and Courageous

 

Alright, I’m going to go through with this and put it ALL in God’s hands. Thy will be done.

 

But just to make sure, I thought about it some more (of course). What hit me square in the face was thinking about all the other times in my life that I had let people run over me. I am typically the first one to say “sorry”, or “no problem” if something is wrong, even if is not my fault. I don’t want to make other people feel bad or awkward. I’ll take the brunt of it to keep everyone happy. It’s ‘just’ me, so no worries. Obviously, this is not good and it was time to stand up for myself. I tell friends and family all the time to stand up for themselves. Maybe I needed to follow my own advice.

 
Am I going to let a complete stranger who did an awful thing to me get away with it?

 
No. Absolutely not.

 

So, on an beautiful April day full of cherry blossoms in Washington, DC I got the call from Detective 3. It was such a beautiful day that I got off the Metro (subway) a stop early to take his call and decided to walk rest of the way.

 

I wasn’t expecting this to move quickly, so I figured he was just checking in on me as he typically did.

 

“Do you want me to arrest him?” he asked

 

“Excuse me, what?” I replied

 

“I’ve got all the paperwork filed and everything in order with warrants. If you want to book him on the charges you need to tell me. You can take more time to think, but we can do it whenever you want.”

 

I remember standing there outside the Metro station on this gorgeous day and feeling numb. I had thought long & hard about this. I told him that I had my answer.

 

“Book him,” I replied

 

“Are you sure? Need more time?”

 

“No, I’m sure. I’ve contemplated this for a long time and I’ve decided that we will take this as far as God lets us. I’m tired of being a victim.”

 

“Alright, let me get in touch with his lawyer and I will let you know when he gets booked.”

 

I let out a really, really long sigh.

 

“You alright?”

 

“I think so. I’m wrestling with the reality that I just made the decision to put a man in prison, potentially for the rest of his life. I did that. I potentially am ruining his life and his family’s. I am causing great pain.”

 

“Well, he raped you and has changed the trajectory of your life. He doesn’t get a free pass. What he did is wrong & illegal.”

 

“I know. I just never thought I would be in a situation like this. I know it is the right decision though.”

 

After we ended the call I couldn’t really think straight, or enjoy the beautiful day. I ended up at the nearest Starbucks and I’m sure I looked like a deer in headlights. Ordered my iced tea and called my sister to tell her the news.

 

She could sense that I was freaking out and made sure I was okay.

 

I just couldn’t get over the fact that after all this time, after all this sheer agony & pain that what I had wanted was actually happening. And it was all my decision. Not only is my family destroyed, so is his. I did that. Lots of guilt.

 

That day was a Thursday and Detective 3 gave him until Monday at noon to turn himself in to the courthouse. If he didn’t turn himself in, Detective 3 would come and break down doors to get him.

 

He turned himself in.

 

Then the real circus began.

 

 

6 Months

Hard to believe that it has been almost 6-months ago since I started my blog and started telling my story. I can honestly say that sharing my story has been the best decision I have ever made. There was a lot of risk involved and it was scary, but it has been a helpful story to share. I look at my self-confidence from even 6-months ago and I have come so far. I don’t often pat myself on the back, but I’m pretty darn proud of myself!

 

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month. I never thought much about this awareness until assault happened to me. Take a look around in your communities, there are probably a few quiet events happening for survivors. 2 years ago I was going to go to an event outside of Washington, DC for survivors. There they had people you could talk to for resources and counseling and they also had a time where you could publicly say that you are a sexual assault survivor. Very empowering moment.  I wanted to go and do this really bad, and even asked a friend to come with me, but I just couldn’t do it. I was still a victim and couldn’t bring myself to publicly say that I was a sexual assault survivor.

 

Resources

I’ve had several people inquire about some helpful resources for dealing with sexual assault & abuse as well as some inspirational materials. Below I will highlight some of my favorite websites. In a future post I will highlight books that have helped me. I’m not being paid to advertise any of these books or websites, but they have been really helpful to me.

 

Once I started therapy to work through my assault and the impending depression, anxiety & PTSD I decided to immerse myself in all the information I could about how to get better. It is strange because there is so much information out there, yet I felt none of it pertained to me because I was in sheer denial that the assault happened.

 

RAINN
www.rainn.org

RAINN is the largest anti-sexual violence organization in the country. They had a lot of resources that I read through and relied on. I really didn’t know how I should be feeling or what I should be doing and the RAINN website helped me greatly. The one thing that I did not utilize was their 24-hour hotline. You can call at any time and talk with a trained professional about where you are at in your journey. I was often tempted to call, especially late at night, but I never did. It was scary for me to talk with a complete stranger over the phone, and for a long time I didn’t want to actually verbalize what I was feeling.

Joyful Heart Foundation
www.joyfulheartfoundation.org

I found this website awhile after my assault and was inspired by their message. Their goal is to help survivors heal and reclaim a sense of joy in their lives.

 
Joyful Heart is an organization that was founded by the actress, Mariska Hargitay, from the popular show Law & Order: Special Victims’ Unit. I used to watch the show and was intrigued by the mystery of the cases, but now I can’t watch it anymore. Hits too close to home and I don’t need more reminders of my assault than I already have.

 
Mariska started this organization in 2004 and they have been gaining traction ever since. They are a huge champion for the rape kit backlog and are working on legislation in each state to help solve this problem. I was ‘lucky’ in that my kit was tested relatively quickly, but I am one of the few across the country. Joyful Heart is working to end the backlog.

 

 

National Sexual Violence Resource Center
www.nsvrc.org

I discovered this website more recently and really appreciate the work they are doing. Their mission is to provide leadership in preventing and responding to sexual violence through collaborating, sharing and creating resources, and promoting research.

 
Since I have an education background, I greatly appreciate all the research they are doing. More & relevant research is needed.

 

SurvJustice
www.survjustice.org

I discovered SurvJustice about a year ago. I wish that I had come across them sooner because they would have been a big help in my case.  They are based out of Washington, DC but are a national organization. SurvJustice is a national not-for-profit organization that increases the prospect of justice for all survivors of sexual violence through effective legal assistance, policy advocacy, and institutional training.

 
What makes me love this organization even more is it is a grass-roots non-profit started by Laura Dunn, who was sexually assaulted in college and decided to take matters into her own hands by becoming an advocate.

 
For those of you who see me on a regular basis you may notice a teal-colored bracelet on my right wrist. The bracelet supports SurvJustice and says ‘Be Brave’. I bought one to remind myself to keep on moving forward and not to be discouraged. I looked at that bracelet a lot in the courtroom the day of sentencing. I wear it almost every day to remind me of bravery in every situation.

 

 

These are some of the most helpful websites that I have and continue to rely on. There is no roadmap for success on being a victim and survivor, but these websites have helped me feel a sense of normalcy and a feeling that I’m not alone.

 
I hope that these websites can help you, or a loved one, in their time of need.

 
Do you have a website that has been helpful to you on your journey? Please let me know!

 
Truly,
J.Lynn

Since my last post, I have struggled a bit with what to write. I want to continue to tell my story and how I have survived, but I also want to move on as well. I still have parts of my story that need to be shared, but I don’t want to be defined by my assault. And quite honestly, I’m finally moving on and letting go. It’s hard to tell the story while moving forward.
I guess it is all a part of learning how to incorporate the assault into your life story. It is a defining moment, but not the end.
I’m working on some really exciting ideas for the future and I can’t wait to share them with you in the months to come!
But for now, I want to share with you a poignant day a year ago. A day where I knew God was calling me further into the furnace. That day was Palm Sunday.

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I started going to a new church in Washington, DC at the beginning of 2017. I had several friends who really liked this newly planted church called Waterfront Church, so I thought that I would give it a try. I immediately loved it! I even went out and bought a new bible to take to church with me. Growing up, we never took a bible along to church. They were typically provided, or verses were printed in the program. So, this was a big deal for me. The last time I had a new bible was the one I received as a gift from my grandparents on my Confirmation day.
Have you ever been in church and you swear that the minister is preaching directly to you? I had felt that way for about 3 months since starting at Waterfront Church. I didn’t know Pastor Zack before I started attending worship, but I swear he had an inside track to my mind. Every week I resonated with the message. Not just like, ‘oh that’s nice’, but the message was in my face basically screaming at me. The message was always right on cue with where I was on my journey, especially during those waiting times for the trial and sentencing.
Of course Palm Sunday is the start of Holy Week in the church. I attended that day prepared to hear the word and to pray for the upcoming week with potential sentencing.

 

Sentencing had been moved back to Good Friday of all days. It was originally set for February, but of course that didn’t happen. At first I was really upset that sentencing would be around the Easter holiday and on Good Friday of all days. But, then the more I thought about it, the more I liked that date for sentencing. It would indeed be a ‘Good Friday’ to get sentencing out of the way and start new again. What a great time to start the resurrection in my life.
A week before Good Friday, I received an e-mail from my attorney. I was hopeful that we would be able to sit down and go over my victim impact statement and get me ready for court and facing my rapist. Well, she had to tell me that they will probably have to extend the sentencing to another date because the judge is out of town.
Excuse me what?!

 

They set up the sentencing with the judge and she won’t even be here? Thanks for letting me know only a week before the date!  They had to know this awhile ago. This is so far beyond unbelievable. (Wow, my chest still tightens up when I think about this. Time for some deep breathing.)
“FINE!”, I grumbled to myself. “Getting overlooked AGAIN. When will this ever stop?”
I called my attorney back and said that I wasn’t happy, but go ahead with it. Nothing I could do to stop it. She was very apologetic because she never had good news for me. She also told me that sentencing might just happen on Good Friday, so be prepared just in case.
I’m so used to being let down at this point that it doesn’t even matter. Why am I always getting the shaft?
I just went and cried…again. So frustrating.
I ended up going for a walk on the Washington, DC Mall. I did that walk a lot since October, 2014. When I needed to calm down and needed a good cry I would walk past some Smithsonian museums and sit at a park bench looking at the Capitol. Then, I would continue my walk and go to the Newseum and check out the daily headlines from each state’s newspaper. Depending upon how upset I was, I would either then go to Starbucks to get something to drink and then walk part of the mall again, or I would walk to my therapist’s office if I couldn’t calm myself down.
That day I went the route of Starbucks. I sat outside and contemplated some more while looking at the wonder that is Washington, DC. I was so upset, but it was also the first time that the thought of ‘you don’t belong here’ ever popped in my mind. I quickly pushed that thought aside because of course I belong in Washington, DC! I’m just getting my mojo back and I want to stay here a long time. (Reflecting back, this really was the beginning of the end. I was not well mentally, spiritually or physically) This thought about moving back to Minnesota would creep into my head more and more, but I didn’t want to go home a failure.

______________________________________________________________________________________________

Back to Palm Sunday at Waterfront Church…
The question Pastor Zack asked that Palm Sunday was, “What should you do when God asks you to take a painful path?”
Dang.
He’s speaking to me again. I better hold on tight.
Now let’s be clear, God had me on an extremely painful path for the past 2.5 years leading up to that Palm Sunday. How could I possibly be asked to take on more pain? I couldn’t take any more.
When I heard Pastor Zack ask that question, I knew right then and there that God was asking me to extend my walk on the painful path and that it was going to get even more painful.
That feeling hurt…badly.
I’m not comparing myself to Jesus & Holy Week in any way, but think about what God asked Jesus to do on Palm Sunday. He knew this week was going to hurt…badly, but Jesus went on with it anyway. Jesus cries, laments & keeps moving forward, doing it all in faith.
I took diligent notes that week at Waterfront, as I did every week, but this time I had this deep, deep heavy feeling that I had never felt before. Sentencing was potentially on Good Friday and that was going to be rough, but then what? What is Jesus going to ask me to endure?
Pastor Zack hit it home that week that God is calling some of us to walk a tough path and that our struggle matters to God. But, we have to walk the path we have been called to.
I really thought that I was going to start hyperventilating at the end of the sermon. What was going to be happening in the days, weeks and months ahead?

 

I sobbed…oh boy did I sob. I thought I had cried in church before, but that was at a different church that was very large. This was a small, intimate church where I knew a few people. Only two people there knew of my story. One was Pastor Zack and the other was a good friend. So, I’m trying to control my sobs after the sermon as they are playing music & praying. All the while trying to stay out of site of my friends who don’t know my struggle. I seriously fell to my knees right there. I didn’t care what anybody else thought. I was being torn apart, but yet told to fight.
Church ended and I pulled myself together, puffy face, red eyes and all. I immediately found my friend who knew about my assault and he gave me a big hug. I cried some more and he made sure that my other friends didn’t see me leaving. I wasn’t ready to share my story yet, especially after that emotional service.

 

After church I turned to one of the verses from the sermon that day, Philippians 4:6-7.  It is a popular passage, but it really struck me differently that day and calmed me down.
Don’t be anxious about anything, but in every situation, through prayer, and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.
Basically, don’t sit in your selfish anxiety. I need to hear this daily.

 

I listened to that sermon again yesterday. I remembered almost all of it (yeah for note taking) and I didn’t cry. I took notes again and it reaffirmed this past year. It has been a tough year. A year that I never would have imagined last Palm Sunday. But, do you know what? There is peace. The peace that God promised.
It wasn’t until the very end of the sermon that Pastor Zack reinforces that some of us are being called to walk that tough path with God. God’s power is made perfect in weakness.

 

 

When I heard that last part again, I did choke up a little bit. It’s hard not to when you know what you were asked to do and then realizing that you survived.
I’ve made it to another Palm Sunday.
I’m at peace with that part of my life.
I’m still on the painful path, but I’m better equipped. Right now the painful path is leading me through struggles with finding a new job that I am passionate about. It is rough. For someone who was so defined by her career, not having a job is extremely difficult. Is he calling me to go out on my own in a big way? Potentially.

 

I look forward to the walk to see what He calls me to do.
Onward down the path.

 

Blessings to You During Holy Week,

J.Lynn

 

If you are ever in the Washington, DC area make sure to stop by Waterfront Church!  It is an amazing place doing amazing things in the community!  http://www.waterfrontchurchdc.com

 

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Nobody tells you that when you are turned into ashes that there is not a timetable for returning as the Phoenix. Honestly, I thought that I would be further along in my recovery by now. I’m not quite sure what it is that I thought would be happening, but a year ago I was thinking that my life in 2018 would resemble what it was before my assault, which I really enjoyed.
Obviously, that couldn’t be further from the truth.
The first photo below is of me heading back to work after my leave of absence a year ago. I was excited to get back to work and be with my work family. I felt that I had made great progress on my PTSD and anxiety. I thought I was ready to ‘get back in the game’. Now when I look at this photo I can see how absolutely exhausted I still was. My soul was depleted. My smile was there, but my eyes were empty.
Sigh…

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Now, compare the above photo to the ones below which were taken last week:

 

I honestly can’t believe the difference! That my friends, is a genuine laugh & smile. I have missed that feeling of joy & confidence for over three years. Y’all this is amazing! (sorry for the southern thing, I was in Dallas last week)

 

What brought about this eruption of joy and confidence? Well, it was a long time coming,  honestly. I’ve been patiently trying to follow God’s plan for my life and you know what? I haven’t been a fan! But, I’m still trying to follow as best I can because I know his plan is better than my own.   Previously, I was a hard-charging person that had to be busy with work to be satisfied and fulfilled. Now, for the past year God has basically told me to rest…a lot. I heard a lot as a kid when I got revved up, “cool your jets.”. I’ve been cooling my jets and my patience has been tried.
Every couple weeks I think, “maybe this will be the breakthrough and I can get on with life”.  Every week goes by and no breakthrough. That was until I re-learned last week that goals take patient and diligent small steps to achieve. My breakthrough is happening in real time. It’s just not happening on my schedule, but God’s schedule. Every day is a little bit better.

 

I have been “getting on with my life”, just not in the traditional way I thought. My soul has been getting filled in ways I never imagined. That empty soul from a year ago is starting to shine again. I’ve been able to take family members to doctor appointments, drive my niece to dance practice, and have coffee with long-lost friends. Those things fill my soul. I am blessed to be able to do all these things and more, now that I am back on the farm. I have phenomenal people in my life and they fill me up with their love.

 

 

Last week, I had the honor of being selected to become a Ziglar Legacy Certified trainer and speaker. I had been thinking about doing this for about nine months and finally bit the bullet. I had had enough of the, “I’ll start living my goals tomorrow” chatter in my brain. I craved personal development and motivation to keep me going on my path of going from victim to survivor to servant.

 

 

At the time I applied for the Ziglar Legacy Certification I didn’t have any real job prospects, so I thought that this would be a good way to potentially jumpstart a training and speaking business. Currently, I’m interviewing for a couple positions that would be wonderful fits for my passions in life, but I know that the time I invested in myself at Ziglar will come in handy no matter what happens in the future.

 

 

I met seventeen other individuals who are passionate about making a difference in other people’s lives. We each have our own stories to share and they are all powerful. I am proud of myself in that I shared my story of sexual assault and survival on our ‘graduation day’. Throughout the week, I really battled with my self-image and self-esteem. We actually went through the trainings that we were coached to present and I had a hard time. Why? I realized that I don’t have any specific goals. How am I going to teach goal setting if I don’t have any goals? I told the group that I felt like a blank canvas ready to be painted on and I didn’t know where to start. So, I’m adopting the Ziglar philosophy of goal setting and striving for a balance in my life between the physical, family, mental, financial, spiritual, career and personal aspects of my life. I have a lot of work to do, but I am excited to get started.
I want to get back to having more focused energy rather than “going with the flow” so much. I used to focus on dreams and goals when I was in college (twenty years ago), but I had abandoned this important habit until last week. I forgot, in the midst of being an adult, that I am an achiever. I enjoy setting goals and I love reaching those goals. Before my training last week, my very lax goals were around how much money I made and where I lived. So, I have started fresh with my goals and am excited to get going.
Can I share with you one of my goals?
I want to publish a book about my experiences over the past few years. This blog has helped me so much, that I would like to have a more formal book that can help people overcome their personal obstacles. I’m hoping to start working on my book this spring, so wish me luck!

 

 

I’m going to bask in this glow of new found happiness for as long as I can. I can’t wait to see where I am in a year and compare that photo with the others!

 

 

For those of you not familiar with Zig Ziglar-

 

 

This song was released at about the time that I decided to move forward with my case in 2016.  It has become my mantra.  Not my will, but His will.

 

 

Two years ago I was facilitating a meeting back in Minnesota over the weekend. It was at a beautiful Northwoods resort that was nice and cozy complete with roaring fire places.  I had the opportunity to meet with women in agriculture and talk with them about their value on their farms and communities. Trying to instill confidence in them that they truly do matter on their farms. Doing that facilitation was good therapy for me because it reminded me that I was of value too. I didn’t feel of value for a very long time. Being raped took that from me. That facilitation was a little glimmer of light.

 

Leading up to this weekend I knew that detective 3 was going to be trying to talk with the guy who assaulted me. He had been trying for a few weeks with no luck, so I wasn’t holding my breath. Detective 3 had to do some creative thinking to get the guy to meet with him, but he succeeded. I’m telling you, God had a hand in getting my case to detective 3. He cared and he wanted answers as much as I did.

 

After the facilitation with the women it was time for dinner and then for a fun group activity. I was having great conversations with the women and noticed that my phone was ringing. I saw that it was detective 3 and excused myself.

 

While walking out of the conference room I felt a combination of nausea, anxiety, grief & hope. My chest was so tight as I answered the phone, pacing in the lobby.

 
For the sake of ease and not messing up all the dialogue below, D=Detective 3 and J=Me

 

D -“Who’s your favorite detective?”
J – “Hmmm…Matlock I think.”
D – “Is Matlock even a detective? I thought he was a lawyer.”
J – “Okay, then Horatio Cane on CSI Miami. I like him.”
D – “You are messed up if you like him.”
J – “Are you my favorite detective?”
D – “I think I might be now. I got the guy to confess.”
J – “WHAT?!”
D – “Yep, I brought him in to talk with me at the station. We talked about something unrelated and then I pushed a photo of you across the table and asked if he knew you.”
J – “No way… what did he say?”
D – “His face fell immediately when he saw your photo. He knew exactly who you were. I asked him if he knew you and he said yes. After a little more pushing I was able to get him to talk. After about four tries at telling the truth, I think we got somewhere close to the truth.”

 

 

At this point, I’m speechless. I’m also trying not to start crying in the lobby of the resort as the women I was working with were passing by. Put on a smiling face and paced some more.

 

D – “He of course says that everything was consensual and that he thought you were having fun.”
J – “FUN???”, I screamed.
D – “I know. I know. He confirmed what you remember. He said that you were stumbling around on the sidewalk outside of his Persian rug store. He offered to help you and take you home. Do you remember any of that?”
J – “Nope”
D – “Well, he said that he tried taking you back to your place but the address that you gave him didn’t exist, so he decided to take you to his vacant condo. He didn’t know what to do with you.”

 
At that moment, my shame kicked into high gear. If I hadn’t been drunk, none of this would have happened. I’m such an idiot, I thought to myself. This is all my fault. He was trying to help me.

 
Detective 3 cut through my thoughts and said, “he knew you were very intoxicated but that you gave no signs of not wanting to do anything sexually.”

 
At this point I’m crying. No more keeping it in. I’m standing outside in below zero weather without a coat so people don’t see me.

 
J – “How can I consent when I’m blacked out?” I asked
D – “You can’t. He knew you were extremely intoxicated. He also said that you passed out on the bed and that you were basically dead.”
I’m speechless at this point.
D – “I told him that this has really messed you up and ruined your life. I asked him if he wanted to apologize to you and that maybe that would be enough for you to not press charges.”

 
Okay

 
D – “I have an apology letter from him that is basically a confession. Do you want me to read it to you?”
J – “No”
D – “He said that he would take a polygraph test and do blood tests, but told him that he didn’t have to do that. And, he never asked for a lawyer. So, I think we got what we need.”
J – “Is he sorry for the assault or sorry that he got caught?”
D – “Probably more of the getting caught.”

 
At this point I’m bursting with excitement because confessed, but I’m also extremely sad to be realizing that everything is true. This really happened.

 
J – “Now what?”
D – “Well, you continue on with your weekend and we’ll talk more when you get back to town. I wanted to let you know the good news so that you didn’t stew about it over the weekend. This is good news for you.”
J – “You are my absolute favorite detective ever!”
D – He laughed and said, “let’s get him booked and to trial before you say that. We’ve still got a lot of work to do.”
J – “I know, but you are my favorite regardless,” I replied.
D – “One last question, he has your apartment keys still. Do you want them back?”
J – “Hell no! Why does he still have them? That is creepy! What am I supposed to do with them now? My locks have been changed. F*ck him!”
D – “Got it. No to the keys.”

 

So, we hung up and I’m sure I looked like a deer in headlights. I went to gather my things from the conference room and told them I had a family emergency and had to go back to my cabin.

 
I called a friend right away and prayed that she would answer. I just couldn’t wrap my head around this yet. She answered the phone and I just started sobbing.

 
“He confessed! The @@@hole confessed to everything! He even wrote me an apology letter. Can you believe that? I knew I was right! I knew it!”

 
We both had a good cry and it was the first time in a year and a half that I felt a little pressure lifted. I wasn’t lying. I didn’t make this up. It wasn’t in my imagination.
I called my parents after that and had the same weeping discussion.
So many emotions; relief, shame, guilt, happiness, shame, guilt, shame, guilt…
Yeah, lots of shame and guilt even though there was a confession that I was indeed passed out.

 

So, that confession was the start of the next chapter. Do I press charges, or is the apology enough? Do I file a criminal case or a civil case or nothing at all?

 
I thought that making up my mind about moving forward would be pretty easy and straight forward. It was neither of these things. That’s a post for a later date. Let’s just say that this good news of the confession turned into my second worst nightmare of being involved in a trial. What wasn’t wrecked of me from the rape soon would be because of the stress of decisions and the trial.

 
Bottom line though, is that at the end of February, 2016 some progress was finally made. I had my first win in a long time. I finally felt some redemption.

-J. Lynn

I had the rare privilege to grow up on a dairy farm. Being raised on a dairy farm influenced every aspect of my life. It gave me the bedrock of hard work, dedication and determination. We worked together as a family to care for these animals that we loved. It was a luxury for me because it meant that not only were my parents close by, but my grandparents were always on the farm too. I loved working with the animals, especially the calves. I would help my mom and my grandma with calf chores when I was young. Honestly, I don’t know how helpful I was!

 

There was one time in the deep, dark part of winter when I was feeding calves with my Grandma. It was cold, snowy & windy and the calves had to be fed their bottles. Grandma was trying to hurry as quick as she could because it was so cold, and there I was probably 5 or 6 years old putzing along. I had a flashlight that I was in charge of using to help my Grandma find everything in the snow. Well, I wasn’t much help as I remember. I wanted to give each calf a ‘candle light dinner’ with the flashlight. How cool would that be? In my little mind this was the best idea ever!

 

Grandma was not impressed. But, the calves got fed that night and every other morning and night following. Dairy farming is a 24-hour a day/ 365 days a year job.

 

One of the other things I was trusted to help with was cleaning out the stalls in our cow barn. Cows make big messes & we had to keep things as clean as we could. So, that meant we had to muck out the individual cow stalls every day and put down new bedding. This was my least favorite job. Boy, I hated that. If I remember correctly, I probably ran off to find a random kitten half way through and left my Grandma to finish the stalls.

 

One thing I learned cleaning stalls was that you really do have to keep up with it daily. Cows produce a lot of ‘stuff’ and things can get deep really quickly if you don’t stay ahead of it. We had a pen where we would keep cows who were getting ready to give birth and that pen always looked nice & soft with fresh, clean straw. Imagine my surprise when I was older and my Dad told me that my job was to pitch out the maternity pen. I went to start pitching it out and realized very quickly that I was in for a long, awful time. We let the ‘stuff’ pile up too long. We kept on laying new straw on top and it sure looked nice, but we never cleaned up the previous mess. Just kept on adding to the pile. I wanted to quit.

 

Transition to around 35 years later and me being at the police station for one of my many visits with the detectives. Detective 1 called me in to look at some new evidence and I was telling him how I was in therapy and it was going well, but now I’m having to deal with other unresolved issues from the past.

 

He knew I grew up on a farm and he had a farm background himself and said, “Going to therapy is like cleaning out a barn. You start pitching the top stuff and then you realize you have a whole lot of smelly ‘stuff’ to deal with that may or may not be related to why you are in therapy. You end up knee-deep in your own ‘stuff’”.

 

Truer words have never been spoken.

 

(I bet you never thought you would read about mental health related to cleaning out cattle barns. Welcome to my world.)

 

After the detective mentioned that, my therapy sessions started making a lot more sense. This was about 6-months after the assault and I was getting in knee deep in all areas of my life.

 

I started therapy about three weeks after my assault. I didn’t know where to start, so I started looking for places that took my insurance. Made an appointment and prayed I got someone good. During my intake session with my therapist she asked all sorts of questions. The main one being, “is there an event that led you here?”

 

I took a deep breath and in a very matter of fact way told her about my rape. I remember I had no emotion when talking about it. This happened and I want to deal with it.

 

“How long do you think this will take?” I asked

 

“Well, everyone is different and some people recover from trauma quickly and others it takes longer,” she replied.

 

“How long then?” I asked

 

“It can be anywhere between a few months to several years or beyond,” She stated.

 

Right then and there I decided that I was going to be healed and moving on with my merry, little life in 3-4 months. I’m an overachiever, so I can do this quickly. I have a life to live.

 

Too bad therapy and dealing with your mental health isn’t like a check list. I mean, it can be if you just want to show up at therapy and put on a front to check the boxes. If you really, really want help and to deal with your demons you have to be honest. Honest with your therapist and honest with yourself. That is when you get knee-deep in the ‘stuff’.

 

I realized after a few sessions that I was going to be in therapy for a long time.

 

So, we started working through things related to my assault. After about 6-months, other things started popping up in my sessions that had to be dealt with. It just wasn’t things from the assault. I was turning 40 that year and watching other friends celebrate their birthdays, planning weddings and having kids was hard. What was I doing for my 40th birthday? Trying to find my rapist and reassure myself that I was of value.

 

I worked a long, hard time on finding by self-worth again. I felt damaged. Alone. What man would ever want to even think of dating me, much less marrying me since I was damaged goods? Maybe I shouldn’t have been so focused on my career and instead been focused on getting married and having a family. I’ve never been focused on my personal life and now it has caught up with me. My career brought me to DC and if I hadn’t been so ambitious then I would never be in this spot. I could be the best darn soccer-mom out there if I wanted and I missed the boat because of my career. Dammit. Game over.

 

We’re about waist deep now and we keep on cleaning things out. It got real deep. It wasn’t pretty. It was hard. I cried. A LOT.

 

I would never be the same as I once was. I was forever changed and I didn’t like it. I would have to carry this with me forever. My life was ruined.

 

Now, I know what your response to this might be, “You are fabulous! So many people love you!”

 

At this point in my trauma journey none of that mattered. I was spiraling down and nobody could really help me except myself. All I heard was that awful sound that the teacher in Charlie Brown cartoons makes. Inaudible noise.

 

That sucks, plain and simple.

 

There is no magic pill or app to download on your phone to cure this. This is all you and YOU have to do the work. You can’t cheat off of a friend’s test to get by. It is all you.

 

So, we continued cleaning out the barn. Over time we got really deep and did some good work cleaning out the ‘stuff’. It has taken years to get to the point that I am at now, but I am glad that I put the work into myself.

 

I now know that I am of value. That I have a life worth living. That this assault does not define me, but is a part of my story. That I am loved.

 

For those of you in the world struggling with trauma, PTSD, depression, and anxiety I hope that you can find the strength in yourself to put in the hard work. You are worth it.

 

Where am I at now with cleaning out the barn? Well, I have a big barn and we’ve taken lots of loads out of there. The barn looks pretty darn good, but it’s not done yet. It’s hard keeping up with all the ‘stuff’. So, right now I’m just going to enjoy the progress that I’ve made and get back to cleaning out rest of the barn in due time. I know that I’m worth it.

 

Prayers to you as you get cleaning,

J.Lynn

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