September’s post is from NazToo-er and brand-new Mom, Audra Foltz. Audra says of herself: I am a stay at home mom with two little boys (James and Jonathan) and now a baby girl, too (Junia). I’m not really your typical pastor’s spouse. I am not a great piano player and enjoy straight legged pants and leggings . I do enjoy music and attended MVNU as a performance major and psychology minor only to graduate with a BA in General Music, focusing on voice as my instrument, with a Drama minor. I also love sports, specifically softball, and enjoy fishing and camping. My outlet is mostly music and singing. Let’s not forget my love of using GIFS to bring humor to heavy situations. I didn’t grow up in the Nazarene denomination but joined shortly after my husband took an assignment 8 years ago. I’m still Nazarene too.
I admit, when Steve approached me to write a blog post, I panicked. I started saying “I am not as theologically educated as. . .”, “I am not a good blogger as. .. .”, “I don’t have as interesting a topic or story as. . . .” I soon realized that I just need to stop it and write my story.
You may be curious about my title, and would probably think it’s confusing. My hope, is that at the end, I have encouraged someone who has had similar life experiences, and shown them that they are never alone. I hope they are inspired to tell their own story, and find healing in the process.
I’ll start with my childhood. I was born in Mansfield and grew up in Galion, OH. To those of you that are unfamiliar, that is in North Central Ohio, about an hour north of Columbus. My mom was a teacher at that time and my dad, a grocery store stocks person. From what I remember they seemed happy up until our world turned upside down one evening at a softball game that my dad was playing in. I recall after the game, mind you I was only three years old, my mom started yelling at another woman. I was scared and confused. My oldest brother was quiet and crying. Next thing I know, my mom put us in the car in a hurry and started chasing this woman all the way to her home. Then a cussing match happened, my mom yelling from our little Blue Chevette, and the woman from her house. Later on that week, my dad packed up and left.
We immediately became a “Dysfunctional Family.”
Fast forward to about a year later, my dad married this woman. I didn’t know at the time, but later on in life, I found out my dad cheated on my mom with her. To make it worse, my brother went with my dad to visit her one evening and witnessed my dad and her kissing, he asked my mom about it, and that’s why confrontation happened. She seemed really nice up until they said “I do.” Not long after, she started saying hurtful things about the clothes my mom sent with me on visitation weekends, my hair, my tomboyishness. I can go into many details, but I will leave it at the fact that she verbally abused me. I struggled at a young age figuring out who I was simply because I had someone that tore me down behind closed doors when my dad was working and my brother was out with friends in the neighborhood. One damaging memory I had was when I was around 4, she had an issue with how I wiped myself after going to the bathroom and had all of her nephews and my brother come in and she shamed me. It is why, to this day, I don’t really like anyone in the bathroom with me. Fast forward to several years later, a struggling elementary student, no confidence, no faith or trust in many adults, my dad found another woman and then I witnessed his infidelity and was asked to keep it a secret. Interestingly enough, it happened twice, and he ended up leaving wife number two and his two daughters he had with her, for wife number three.
So along with “Dysfunctional Family” I add “Dysfunctional Family and Verbally Abused Childhood.”
Fast forward to high school. I became heavily involved with youth group at the church we were attending. I also was heavily involved with activities at school.
I played softball, cheered, played in concert band, twirled as a majorette for marching band, sang in show choir, concert choir, and for the jazz band, and even became involved with student council. I did everything that I possibly could to keep my mind busy. That helped me pushed a lot of my past down and gave me some fulfillment. I also met a guy my freshman year. I fell hard. He played basketball and our flirting started when my cheer practices were the same time as his basketball practices, so we hung out at school with a group until they started. He said the right things and was the biggest sweetheart. We had an awesome honeymoon period of about two years, until things started to go south towards the end of our sophomore year. Peer pressure of doing certain sexual acts happened. We didn’t go “all the way,” but enough to where those were not enough to quench his sexual tension. I wanted to stop doing those things all together, simply because of the guilt and shame, the convictions of the sex talks in youth group at the time. He wasn’t having it. The physical abuse started small. Pushing me into my locker when no one was around. Threatening by raising his hand to me when I said “no.” It grew worse and he would punch me in places where I could easily hide them or make an excuse that it was a bruise from softball practice or running into something. He cowardly hit me to where only he could have pleasure of power. I know some of you are asking “Why did you stay?” Well. . . as a high school girl that simply wanted a boy to love and like me, I believed his tear-filled apologies every single time. I was also manipulated with “I love you so much, I won’t do it again. Please forgive me.” I sadly believed it every time, until one day after a softball practice. This is where hurt gets deep. On that day he decided no wasn’t enough and raped me. I would go into details, but instead of ripping open past scars, I simply will say that was sadly the last straw for me. We broke up the end of our senior year; yes, I went through two years of abuse, and I never told him where I was going for college and even have had a restraining order put against him after numerous attempts of trying to contact me, thanks to the help of some officers that I became friends with later.
I now became “A Rape Victim and Damaged Goods.”
Attending MVNU was not my first choice; however, they were offering a softball scholarship, which I later turned down simply because of the conflict with my major, and I was also still healing from a softball injury. I dated a lot of guys my freshman year. Some of them are in this group, and I simply want to say that I appreciate your patience with me, since you absolutely had no clue what was going on in my life. I shoved a lot of my pain down from high school with weekend partying which turned into some middle of the week partying. My grades suffered throughout college because there were moments where I simply didn’t care. The heaviest of my drinking started after my grandpa died. He was my father figure. The only man in my life that fully trusted. That was right before my sophomore year had started. I ended up getting involved with praise team, which ended up being the start of a turning point. I ended up one day telling a few of them my story and also opened up to the team I was a part of and my praise team leader’s boss, who later becomes one of the most impactful women in my life. They loved me where I was at. Helped me find counseling services. Helped me by simply being there for me. They could have easily shunned me, but they didn’t. They continually prayed for me and checked on me.
One day in chapel, after a binge night of drinking due to some things that triggered some of my pain, God spoke to me in the most beautiful way. No, it wasn’t an audible voice, but simply some perspective. I was extremely hung over. I honestly wouldn’t be surprised if my friends near by didn’t smell the alcohol coming from my pores. I was only at chapel so that way I could get my credit and leave. I remember staring at these beautiful stained glass windows in R.R Hodges Chapel. I remember finding it unique how someone can take these beautiful pieces of broken glass and make a breathtaking window with them. Then it hit me. The epiphany. God can take someone so broken and turn them into a beautiful masterpiece. The artist makes a purpose out of that broken glass and turns that purpose into something beautiful. I am God’s “broken and beautiful masterpiece.” So as the song “In Christ Alone” played. . . I took some friends down and laid it all on the altar. I accepted God’s love for me, that I felt undeserving of, because I have been told I am damaged goods, and I just let that love take hold and surround me. That is where my healing journey with God started after years of hating and not trusting.
I didn’t share this story to feel pity. I only share it to hopefully inspire some who are scared to share their own story. I also share this story knowing that everyone’s healing process isn’t the same as mine. I also admit that I still have triggers. I still have had moments where I had and still have to communicate to my own husband why I shut down. I will also end my story with the fact that even though my dad ended up marrying for the fourth time, he has recently found Jesus. Thanks be to God. As my healing journey continues, I see God turning a broken past into a beautiful future, and I am forever thankful.
Thank you for this opportunity to allow me to share with you, for taking the time to read this, and for allowing me to be vulnerable for a bit. As you go throughout your day, know that you are loved.