Tag Archives: faith

Q&A with Abuse Survivor Shannon Deitz

Abuse survivors are not fragile individuals. They are strong; worthy individuals who have overcome tremendous suffering whether it was physical, sexual, or verbal. Every form of abuse affects the person emotionally, lowering their self-esteem and sense of worth. The best way for a survivor to heal is to give a voice to what has been done or said to them; to be heard and to know they are supported and loved. – Shannon M. Deitz

  • What has inspired you to reach out to others?

I am a survivor of rape and incest. The years I kept the facts of these traumas within me led me down some
dark paths that were filled with bad decisions based on my lack of worth and self-esteem. I want to educate and reach out to other survivors before they get entangled in that dark path and make decisions that can affect them for the rest of their life, adding to the trauma of what has been done or said to them in the past.

  • You recently spoke at a women’s prison, tell us how that came about. How did the women respond to you and your story?

After speaking at a Women’s Conference in Texas City, TX, I was approached by a deacon who was a part of a prison ministry and felt many of the women would relate to my testimony and offer a sense of hope, even if they were not going to end their term in their lifetime. I have spoken at other prisons where many of the women were in for drug possession, prostitution, aggravated assault, etc. who would be released in 3-5 years.
In this particular prison the women in the room with me were in for murder, or attempted murder.

When I prayed about what I felt God wanted them to hear, it was Jeremiah 1:5 “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I dedicated you, a prophet to the nations I appointed you.” The only thing that kept me from being in their shoes, in that prison, was the simple grace of God. These women had suffered many of the same abuses as I, incest, rape, domestic violence, but most especially emotional abuse. What put them in that prison was the biggest lie we are left with “I am not worthy”. They made choices that
will remain with them forever and now that lie seems cemented into their soul.

But God’s grace prevails, even in prison, no matter how long the sentence they serve, they are God’s beloved, He knew them before he created them. He gave them a purpose and that purpose can be carried out no matter the surroundings they live in. It’s never too late. They can turn their sights on the Lord every day and reconnect with the gifts and talents He has given them and He will open the doors for their purpose to be fulfilled.

This is what saved me and I prayed in some way it would give them the same hope. Paul was in prison for much of the end of his life, chained to guards too! And yet he still fulfilled his purpose of ministering and spreading the good news. It was what God had planned for him before he was born and no matter his circumstance, because Paul acknowledged every door God opened, he fulfilled it to the end.

After visiting with these women I knew I immediately wanted to go back again. They were welcoming, receiving, and genuinely amazing women. The only difference between us was the civilian clothes I wore. I was invited to speak at the Angela House not long after, a halfway house for women coming out of prison. Once again I witnessed the lie of ‘I’m not worthy’ threaten their true purpose and freedom. I shared the same testimony and the same verse because they no longer have to be bound by what was done to them – and what that shame, anger, guilt, and rage caused them to do.

  • How has sharing your story with others helped you in your journey to healing?

The more you share the truth about your experience the easier it is to accept it and move passed it in order to embrace your present and future. By sharing my story through both REDEEMED and EXPOSED, speaking to groups and leading retreats, I find that it gives me strength and fortifies the healing process. What has been ‘done’ to me is a part of who I am, but it doesn’t define who I am. In fact, I’ve come to the place where I can thank God for every aspect of my life, the dark and ugly moments, along with the joyous times, because He has brought good from it all and allowed me to recognize that I am stronger because of it.

  • Low self-esteem, especially among teens, has become a national epidemic. What do you want someone struggling with feelings of low self-worth to understand?

You are worthy! You are unique and there is no one else in this world just like you and this world needs you and the skills and talents YOU have because each one of us has been given a specific purpose to use these talents and gifts and no one can replace you.

But I also have been in a place that I have felt extreme unworthiness and insecurity. I know that if I heard someone say that I’d doubt what those talents or gifts were, because I wasn’t like everyone else. To that I say, “Would being like everyone else make you happy? Would going against who you are, what sparks interest and joy inside of you just to get others attention bring you joy? Most likely not.”

  • The Hopeful Hearts Ministry offices were affected by Hurricane Harvey with flooded offices. You and your son were also recused from your home by boat. Tell us how your ministry is moving forward despite catastrophic damage and loss.

We are dedicated to helping survivors of all forms of abuse. I have found in these past few weeks how that the trauma of water rushing in and overtaking your home, giving you no preparation only to steal any sense of comfort or security elicits the same fear, anxiety, and betrayal as any other form of abuse. Physical boarders do not define Hopeful Hearts Ministry. We have continued to move forward with God’s grace and held our programs in homes hosted by donor’s .We continue to meet with men and women, peer to peer, to discuss the traumatic experiences they’ve been through whether it is from the flood or from abuse done in their past.

Hopeful Hearts Ministry is a faith-based 501 c3 non-profits which supports the long-term recovery of survivors of all forms of abuse through peer support sessions, counseling, programs that empower, and public awareness services.
www.HopefulHeartsMinistry.com

This may be used with permission and credit given to Shannon M. Deitz 2017.

The Pink Toolbelt – Spiritual Remodeling for Women

“The decision to be like Christ has touched every area of my life. Nothing has been harder to implement, yet nothing has been more rewarding. Because of the changes it has brought to my life, I am passionate about helping others remodel their lives according to the example we have in Christ.”         Mary C. Dodd

  • The Pink Toolbelt – Spiritual Remodeling for Women sounds interesting. What do you mean by spiritual remodeling?

Until just a few years ago, I was a carpenter by trade and spent my life building and remodeling homes, barns, whatever I could sink a nail into. Because of my background, I easily saw an analogy between the process used in remodeling homes and one that could be used to remodel lives. Spiritual remodeling is a process that begins by identifying areas of your life that you are unhappy about, tearing them out, and rebuilding them better than before. All under the guidance of the Holy Spirit of course. Our goal as Christians is Christlikeness, and I believe the spiritual remodeling idea presented in The Pink Toolbelt will help women reach that goal.

  • Women carpenters are a unique group. What started you down that road?

 I often tell people that I think I was born with sawdust running through my veins. I worked with my two brothers to complete my very first construction project. It was a tree house suspended some twenty feet in the air and was little more than a few boards nailed precariously to the branches of the tree. My father was a great influence as well. He built the home that we lived in and always had a project of some sorts in the works. After my brothers left home, I became his right-hand girl and spent countless hours holding the tape-measure and learning the tools of the trade.

After high school, I went to college to study elementary education. But after a year and much to my mother’s dismay, I joined a silo construction crew headed by my brother-in-law, Ron and we traveled the U.S tearing down, relocating, and rebuilding the big blue silos that dot America’s heartland.

  • You likely faced many challenges working in an industry dominated by men. Do you have any advice for young women who find themselves in a similar situation?

 Don’t try to be anyone other than yourself, work hard, and do your best. You have gifts and talents that only you bring to the project. Be proud of those gifts and give glory to GOD for them. I used to put on a tough girl façade, but at the first sight of a mouse, my blood curdling scream would quickly shatter that tough exterior. I soon realized that when I worked hard and did my best, I would always gain the respect of the men co-workers.

So, be the best ‘you’–a ‘you’ that is going through a spiritual remodel that will be an even better version of ‘you’–a Christ-like you.

  • How did you get from carpentry to writing a book, specifically The Pink Toolbelt.

Writing is another great passion of mine and when God began to radically change my world, it seemed a natural progression. Several years ago, my life, my marriage and my family was falling apart around me. As you often hear, I was at the bottom and didn’t know what to do except pray. It was out of that prayer that I heard God say, “You can trust Jesus—be like Him.” I took that to heart and decided that I wanted to be like Jesus in every area of my life. The Pink Toolbelt is my way of sharing the things I learned as I began to live my life as a true disciple of Jesus.

  • What makes you an expert on the subject of discipleship? Are you a bible teacher?

Not by any means. I’m just a carpenter following the Jewish carpenter, Jesus. His words have changed me, day by day, word by word, action by action. While some of my circumstances remain unchanged, I have changed. My perspective has changed. I no longer let circumstances bring me to a state of hopelessness, because I know that Father hears my prayers and is working things out for my good

My credentials come from simple obedience to Him. Father challenged me to be like Jesus in every area of my life. I rose to that challenge and as a result, every area of my life is being remodeled. I have learned to tear out un-Christlike thoughts and rebuild my mind with Christlike thoughts. I have learned to tear out words that are not His words and rebuild my speech with Christlike words. My actions, my attitudes, the way I forgive and resist temptation, even the way I love others and pray, are being remodeled into the way that Christ loved and prayed.

  • You wrote The Pink Toolbelt as a devotional. Can it be used in other ways?

 It’s a devotional in the sense, that the lessons are presented as 70 daily readings with a scripture, application questions and a prayer, but I like to think of it as a remodeling guide. It meets women right where they are and takes them on a step by step remodeling process that will move them from unhappiness to something better than the original. I believe it is also a great tool for small group discussions.

Each lesson draws from my real-life experiences and is presented with construction analogies and anecdotes in a style similar to the way that Jesus often taught. From learning to use the right tools, serving an apprenticeship, building in stormy weather, or passing final inspection, I develop the theme of remodeling one’s life through true discipleship with Christ.

I realize that many women may not think that they will relate to carpentry, but they will quickly find common ground with the principles that are covered. We may have different occupations or interests, but our needs are the same and God’s call to Christlikeness is the same.

www.marydodd.com

The Pink Toolbelt

With the walls of her family falling around her and an ever-present storm cloud of hopelessness overshadowing her, this carpenter from deep in the heart of Texas would begin the most important DIY project of her career. But this time, it was no building that would be transformed. Her very life would be slowly, but radically changed under the guiding hand of her Savior.

It is through this journey that Mary Dodd, a female carpenter following the Jewish carpenter, presents a practical guide for the everyday DIY woman in The Pink Toolbelt – Spiritual Remodeling for Women (Carpenter’s Guide Publishing, October 2017) – leading her readers to their own personal transformation to Christlikeness.

“The decision to be like Christ has touched every area of my life. Nothing has been harder to implement, yet nothing has been more rewarding,” reflects Dodd. “Because of the changes it has brought to my life, I am passionate about helping others remodel their lives according to the example we have in Christ.”

Throughout the book, Mary uses analogies from her lifelong work as a carpenter to illustrate and explain the spiritual lessons that she has learned. While some women might read The Pink Toolbelt in one sitting, it is designed to be read and used as a devotional guide. With the questions for application at the end of each chapter, the book can also serve as a great tool in group bible studies and ladies meetings. From learning to use the right tools, serving an apprenticeship, building in stormy weather, to passing final inspection, Mary develops the theme of remodeling one’s life through true discipleship with Christ.

The Pink Toolbelt is no study on the theory of spiritual transformation but is a work born out of Mary’s apprenticeship served in the workshop of the Master Carpenter – Jesus. In 70 daily readings, she will guide the reader through their very own remodeling process, enabling them to more closely match the life that Jesus intended them to live.

Mary will tell you that she was born with sawdust in her veins. From the rich, black-dirt farmlands of Minnesota, her fledgling instincts were fostered under the steady hand of her father who built the house she grew up in with her 7 brothers and sisters. When her brothers left home, she quickly became his right-hand girl, spending countless hours holding the flashlight, learning the tools of the trade, and assisting him in his next great project. As an adult, she pursued her passion as a carpenter in an industry where less than 2% of the jobs are held by women.

Today, along with her husband Tony, Mary leads Carpenter’s Guide Ministries, a non-profit dedicated to rebuilding the lives of others. They both enjoy sharing their story and the principles they have learned at conferences, seminars, retreats, and churches. In addition to The Pink Toolbelt, Mary will release her new marriage primer, Remodel Your Marriage in 2018. She also regularly shares her love for Christ and spiritual remodeling tips through her blog.

The Pink Toolbelt Spiritual Remodeling for Women by Mary Dodd

Carpenter’s Guide Publishing

www.marydodd.com

Domestic Violence and Sexual Abuse Survivors Have a Voice

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month and Shannon M. Deitz, author, speaker, and founder of Hopeful Hearts Ministry offers hope to survivors. One in every four women is beaten or raped by a partner during adulthood. One in every four girls and nearly one in every six boys will be sexually abused before the age of 18. Until recent years, these widespread problems were rarely made public.

Through the I Have a Voice video project, Dietz encourages survivors to give voice to their pasts. This crucial project consists of ten intensely moving videos, all with a collective purpose to help survivors recognize the abuse they have suffered and expose the truth. Through this they understand they are not alone and that abuse does not define them. The survivor can overcome being a victim and realize the full potential of their lives moving forward. In the most recent video, Victoria shares her difficult story: “I was told all my life that I didn’t matter, I heard it so much that is all I knew and I believed it. I believed I was worthless. But I know better now. I know God loves me and has a future for me”.

Through an online survey Deitz conducted new data and revealed interesting information regarding domestic abuse survivors. 98% of survivors polled indicated that they had suffered abuse by a family member during childhood. Deitz comments “I found that women who have suffered through domestic violence in past relationships have lost nearly all sense of identity and the natural boundaries that come with simple dignity and self-respect. They suffered mental and psychological abuse before the abuse ever turned physical.”

Many survivors of domestic violence also suffered some form of mental and emotional abuse or neglect during their childhood. With this in mind Hopeful Hearts has added a support group program on the topic of boundaries as well as a self-defense course that includes a focus on inner strength and self-worth.

Deitz recently shared her story with a group of incarcerated women. “The universal language of those who have suffered abuse enables Shannon Deitz to speak to their hearts. This was amazingly demonstrated during her recent speaking engagement at the Carol Young Unit of Texas Department of Criminal Justice. Female inmates are the epitome of women who have been the victims of every imaginable abuse for the majority of their lives. Shannon quickly connected with them in a way no one ever has,” comments Deacon Sid Cammeresi.

Raising public awareness of the prevalence and the insidious nature of abuse is vital. People may not realize that domestic violence rarely begins with actual violence. More often, it starts with emotional and verbal abuse. This erodes their self-confidence and self-worth and causes the victim to question their instincts. Ultimately, this dominance can turn to violence when the victim begins to show signs of defiance. “Most domestic violence fatalities occur when the victim has left the abuser,” comments Deitz.

Abuse changes things forever, but healing is possible if the choice is made to overcome the victim mentality and work hard to become a survivor.

To hear Victoria’s story please click here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Thwe-b947Hg&feature=em-share_video_user
For more information please visit www.HopefulHeartsMinistry.com.

Hopeful Hearts Ministry is a faith-based 501 c3 non-profits which supports the long-term recovery of survivors of all forms of abuse through peer support sessions, counseling, programs that empower, and public awareness services.

Overcoming Fear to Fight Abuse

Q&A with Abuse Survivor and Founder of Hopeful Hearts Shannon M. Deitz
As a sexual abuse survivor I know first hand the pain that abuse brings, emotionally, physically and spiritually. Survivors want to know they are being heard and that they will be safe and protected. We do not need to be silenced because our situation makes others feel uncomfortable. To the contrary, we need people around us who are willing to listen and willing to stand up for us if we choose to go public. This focus in April is important because the more people who become aware of just how prevalent this problem is in our country, the more beneficial it will be for everyone. Being able to share our story with others serves to help prevent future abuse from taking place. If there is a survivor in your midst, be willing to listen. Be willing to hear their story.          Shannon M. Deitz

What do people need to understand about sexual assault and child abuse? How have these tragic crimes continued to take place and have they grown over the past 5 years?

Child abuse is more difficult to determine the true statistics because those reporting the abuse are often outside of the home, however still, 3.6 million referrals are made a year. Both sexual assault and child abuse are issues that render discomfort and disbelief when discussed so it takes an extensive amount of courage to speak up and tell someone what has happened. The stigma of shame and displaced guilt often keep the victim quiet and fearful.
However, the more we can bring awareness to both issues, especially during Sexual Assault Awareness and Child Abuse Prevention month, the louder survivors can be with their stories, and the more prevalent the issue can become in the public eye. The statistics (from what is reported) rarely change. 1 out of 6 women will be sexually assaulted in their lifetime and 15% of them will be under the age of 12 the first time they are assaulted. Often when one is assaulted the shame and guilt are embedded so deep that their defenses become lower and they find themselves in the same situation repeatedly throughout their lifetime.

These crimes continue to remain high in numbers because it is such a difficult and uncomfortable subject. We must pay attention and react and respond instead of turning a blind eye when we notice something out of the ordinary, or when a friend admits to an assault.

One young man confided when he was a freshman in college and rushing a fraternity he walked out of the bathroom at his frat house’s party to find a line of his ‘brothers’ waiting to ‘rape’ a young woman in the bedroom. While he didn’t participate, he also didn’t do anything to help the young woman. To do something would have meant to take a stand, to cause waves, and people instinctively shy away from confrontation. Yet that moment missed to help her still haunts the young man today.

These crimes are not fading, yet the more we continue to bring awareness the better chance those listening to other survivors’ stories will be apt to recognize the abuse they are suffering and want to speak out, and or make safer decisions. In bringing awareness we offer the opportunity for survivors to speak out and help others to know that they are not alone and to inform generations to come, encouraging them to get beyond the discomfort of confrontation.
*statistics taken from RAINN and Child Help
What do people need to understand about survivors of abuse?

Survivors of abuse, both male and female, are not fragile. They are strong, worthy individuals who have overcome a great amount of suffering whether it was physical, sexual, or verbal. Every form of abuse affects the person emotionally, lowering their self-esteem and sense of worth. Often survivors will hide or bury the facts and the deep effects of the abuse out of fear, shame, and lack of support. The best way for a survivor to heal from the abuse is to give a voice to what has been done or said to them; to be heard and to know they are supported and loved.

What has inspired you to reach out to others?

I am a survivor of rape and incest. The years I kept the facts of these traumas within me led me down some dark paths that were filled with bad decisions based on my lack of worth and self-esteem. I want to educate and reach out to other survivors before they get entangled in that dark path and make decisions that can affect them for the rest of their life, adding to the trauma of what has been done or said to them in the past.

Why do you feel it is important for you to share your story?

When I began to live my life in the freedom of being a survivor, no longer tethered to chains of negativity, pessimism, and insecurity, I realized how much I longed to see others free from these same chains. I knew the only way to reach others was to tell my story in its truth and entirety. What affected me in my healing process was to hear other stories similar to mine and to witness their successful triumph and victory overcoming their past. I began to realize if they could do it, I could too. I want to share both the stumbling and the victories so that others can relate and recognize that they can also be victorious over their past.

How has sharing your story with others helped you in your journey to healing?

The more you share the truth about your experience the easier it is to accept it and move passed it in order to embrace your present and future. By sharing my story through speaking to groups and leading retreats, I find that it gives me strength and fortifies the healing process. What has been ‘done’ to me is a part of who I am, but it doesn’t define who I am. In fact, I’ve come to the place where I can thank God for every aspect of my life, the dark and ugly moments, along with the joyous times, because He has brought good from it all and allowed me to recognize that I am stronger because of it.

Low self-esteem, especially among teens, has become a national epidemic. What do you want someone struggling with feelings of low self-worth to understand?

My instinct is to respond, “You are worthy! You are unique and there is no one else in this world just like you and this world needs you and the skills and talents YOU have because each one of us has been given a specific purpose to use these talents and gifts and no one can replace you.”

But I also have been in a place that I have felt extreme unworthiness and insecurity. I know that if I heard someone say that I’d doubt what those talents or gifts were, because I wasn’t like everyone else. To that I say, “Would being like everyone else make you happy? Would going against who you are, what sparks interest and joy inside of you just to get others attention bring you joy? Most likely not.”

In this day and age of social media, self-worth is defined by the number of followers we have on Instagram or how many ‘likes’ they give to your posts. It is important to realize that those are numbers and most of those people have so many numbers because they ‘follow’ and ‘like’ everyone just to get more numbers. When it comes down to knowing you, who knows you best?

You, my friend, are worthy of life and others would be so lucky to know you, who you really are and share in the gifts and talents you’ve been given.

What is your goal with Hopeful Hearts Ministry and what motivated you to start it?

Hopeful Hearts Ministry aids the long-term recovery of survivors of abuse through peer support sessions, counseling, and public awareness services. Our faith-based care alleviates suffering and helps restore confidence and self-worth.

When I was called into speaking on a national and international level on various topics regarding faith, the most popular message I gave, the one that resonated best with audiences at least, was when I spoke of my own personal journey, the abuse I incurred and how I overcame the stigma of shame attached.

As the years progressed and my voice became stronger, God led me to more and more opportunities to work with survivors of all ages, especially those in my generation and generations ahead of me who were taught to keep skeletons in the closet. It became very clear that there was a desperate need to empower all survivors to have a voice, to educate the world on what abuse is, to teach others how to listen to those who have suffered abuse, and to learn how to stop the generational cycle of abuse. In 2012 a friend said to me, “Why don’t you start a non-profit? Think what more you could do.” Hence, Hopeful Hearts Ministry was formed.

Tell us about the I Have a Voice project and the feedback you have received from viewers.

In 2013, I realized the importance of a survivor speaking truth and being heard. I decided to create the “I Have a Voice” YouTube video series, revealing 5 emotionally-charged personal stories of survivors of abuse. This hope-filled project consists of intensely moving interrelated videos, all with a collective purpose to help victims to overcome their past and be empowered to move forward. Men and women have responded as a result of the videos, expressing their gratitude in knowing they are not alone. They are empowered to move forward in their lives. Since 2013 we have added 2 more I Have a Voice Videos. From one male viewer:

I came across your website yesterday and was very moved to listen to your short YouTube video “I Have a Voice – Childhood sexual abuse and forgiveness”.

Your sharing of your story, your truth, was very powerful. I especially liked the part where you defended the (any) abused child by saying “it’s not right” (to take away the voice of a child).

That really hit home and I was moved by your honesty, courage, and willingness to stand up for and speak out on behalf of the abused child. ~ James, TX
Shannon M. Deitz is the award-winning author of Exposed: Inexcusable Me, Irreplaceable Him and Redeemed. She was recently listed as one of the best authors in Houston by CBS Houston Radio.

For more information about Shannon Deitz and Hopeful Hearts Ministry, please visit her website:

www.HopefulHeartsMinistry.com

I Have a Voice

This may be used with permission and credit attributed to Shannon M. Deitz, Hopeful Hearts Ministry 2017.

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Forgiveness: Making Space for Grace Q&A with author Nan Self

“Forgiveness is the gift of grace from the heart of Jesus. He carried your sins to the cross and bore the pain of those sins so that you might be pardoned from their binding power and consequences. Through His grace, you receive a release from sin that you have not earned or deserved. In order to receive this gift, you need to accept His forgiving grace.”

Nan Self

The title of the book indicates that there is a connection between forgiveness and grace. Can you explain that connection?

Our sin is what keeps us from enjoying a relationship with God. You could say that each of us offended Him through our disobedience. He chose to forgive us and restore our relationship with Him through His son, Jesus. Forgiveness is the gift of grace from the heart of Jesus. He carried our sins to the Cross and bore the pain of those sins so that we might be pardoned from their binding power and consequences. Through His grace, we receive a release from sin that we have not earned or deserved. It is a gift, and in order to receive this gift, we need to accept His forgiving grace.

There are many people that may not understand the importance of forgiveness. Why is it such a big deal?

Forgiveness is the key to healthy relationships with God and with each other. Our failure to accept the grace of forgiveness for our own lives and then give that very same gift to others prevents us from experiencing a vibrant relationship with God and with other people. When we don’t forgive, we can become prisoners of unforgiveness, judgment, and bitterness. We may be physically alive, but we are held captive by our past and unable to walk in the freedom that Jesus died to give us.

You’ve dedicated a chapter to “bitter-root judgment”. What is it and what does it have to do with forgiveness?

The Scripture refers to a “root of bitterness” in the book of Hebrews. We are warned to watch out for it, to be sure that we do not lose our grip on grace and allow bitterness to overtake us. Bitterness poisons us and can ruin every relationship we have. It is the result of judgments we have made of others especially the judgments we have made against our parents. When we judge one or both parents, we set in motion a bitter-root judgment and an expectation that we will do the same thing that we have judged them for. It is vitally important to uproot our bitter-root judgments by confessing them and repenting of them so that we can be set free to honor our parents and live a long life. Deuteronomy 5:16

You describe unforgiveness as a prison. What does it mean to be a captive and what is the first step to making space for grace?
A captive is someone who is taken by an enemy and put into prison. Unforgiveness, refusing to forgive your offender, is an enemy because it is a sin and a bondage. When a person will not forgive, they go into the prison of unforgiveness. This prison isolates and separates them from others because they are holding onto the offenses of another person from their present or their past.
God requires everyone to forgive. It is not an option. Some of the consequences of unforgiveness are fear, anger, bitterness, resentment and rage. A few of the gifts of forgiveness are love, gratefulness, joy, mercy, and faith. Forgiveness brings peace, freedom and healing.
Our first step to making space for grace occurs when anyone offends us. God offers us the grace to forgive them. We have a choice to make as soon as the offense occurs. We can choose forgiveness or unforgiveness. If we choose to forgive the offender and release their offenses to God, then we have extended God’s grace to them. That is the first step to making space for grace. We are free and they are freely released. We received the gift of God’s forgiving grace from Him and we share that grace with them.
If we do not choose to forgive the offender, then the first step to make space for grace is to confess our sin of unforgiveness and repent of it.

When did you create the steps of forgiveness for restoring relationships?

The steps of forgiveness for restoring relationships are really a compilation of years of my personal journey of walking in forgiveness, teaching and counseling. After teaching on a variety of different subjects related to forgiveness for many years, I realized that I had a list of steps that fit together.

Briefly describe the steps of forgiveness for restoring relationships with others.

a) No matter how big or small your relationship wound, God is always waiting for you in expectation and patience. All you have to do is say His name and He is there with you. He heals your wounds and meets your needs.

b) Allow yourself to experience any feelings surrounding the offense toward you. Take an honest look at how the offense has impacted your soul and spirit.

c) Give yourself permission to grieve over the offenses. Release your wounded feelings to God.

d) Extend grace to yourself and give yourself time to heal.

e) Allow grace to bring you to a place where you confess, repent, and release yourself
and your sins to God. Ask God to forgive your sin of unforgiveness.

f) Receive God’s forgiveness by faith for yourself and others.

g) Pray for yourself. Ask God to show you what your needs are. Ask Him to meet them.

h) Choose to actively forget the offense as the wound heals. If the memory of the wound tries to come back to your mind, refuse it and verbally choose forgiveness.

You state that the prison of unforgiveness and the prison of passivity are similar, yet very different at the same time. How so?

The two are similar structures because they are both prisons. We place ourselves in the prison of unforgiveness when we are unwilling to forgive. We can release ourselves from the prison the moment we offer forgiveness to those who offended us. The prison of passivity is different because we become incarcerated over a period of time through our unwillingness to make choices and act on them. We become passive and stuck. To be set free from the prison of passivity stand against passivity in yourself. Accept responsibility for making decisions. Each decision that you make and act on removes a bar from the prison of passivity. Coming out of the prison structure of passivity is a deliberate process that requires diligence and perseverance. Freedom from the prison of passivity is a gradual process while freedom from the prison of unforgiveness can happen quickly. If you choose to forgive someone, you make space for God’s grace in your heart and you are released from the prison of unforgiveness.

Even though you had personally practiced the principles of forgiveness for years, you found that there had been a “missing ingredient” that prevented you from consistently walking in forgiveness. What was the “missing ingredient”?

Placing my faith in God was the missing ingredient that kept me from consistently walking in forgiveness. For years, I realized that I had tried to leave the dark place of my sin and my past, which I thought I had taken care of through confession and repentance. I kept going through the steps of forgiveness, but I still felt as though I was dragging my past with me. I never realized that in order to leave the past, I had to have faith in God and His provision for freedom in my future. I told God that I was ready to leave my past behind me. As I put my faith in Him, I felt as if a very powerful, heavy weight had been lifted from my spirit. I was no longer in bondage to the past. My struggle to find what I was missing was over.

To read more about Nan visit www.ForgivenessByGrace.com

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Faith, Fear and Fighting Abuse

Sexual violence, including child sexual abuse, spans across all ages, genders, races, ethnicities, and economic backgrounds. According to a Child Maltreatment report from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Children’s Bureau, 60,956 cases of child sexual abuse were reported in the United States in 2013. On top of the guilt and shame that abuse can bring, most victims know their attackers, which can lead them to be silent about their traumatic experience. Staying silent, however, does not lead to healing, according to Shannon Deitz, abuse survivor and founder of Hopeful Hearts Ministry.

Recently speaking at Baylor University Chapel Deitz specifically addressed sexual assault and date rape. Shannon comments “In helping survivors recognize the abuse they have suffered and being able to speak about it allows a deeper level of healing.” Through Hopeful Hearts, survivors receive compassionate support from a trusted peer and are able to realize that the abuse they have endured does not define them as a person. As a result, they are able to rise above victimization, embrace their full potential, and thrive.
“Both sexual assault and child abuse are so devastating that most of us don’t even want to think about them being present in our society. This makes it extremely difficult for any victim of assault or abuse to feel comfortable enough to speak out, which is exactly what they need to be able to do. Be it a child, a teenager or an adult, anyone who has been abused needs to be able to speak about what has been done to them without question or judgment.,” comments Dietz. With this in mind, Hopeful Hearts Ministry started the “I Have a Voice” abuse awareness project where survivors share their personal stories of abuse (domestic, sexual, incest, rape, neglect, emotional and verbal) through intensely personal and honest YouTube videos. The nine videos have been viewed more than 5,000 times and show the power of giving a VOICE to survivors that was once kept hidden, and not only aides in their personal healing, but shows others they are not alone and there is reason for hope.

Five years later, Hopeful Hearts Ministry has outgrown its facility and the number of survivors from all of over the world receiving peer support, Christian counseling, and attending the programs it offers has grown exponentially. The organization receives at least two to three calls a week from new survivors seeking healing support. “It’s a catch 22 with the growth of our organization,” said Deitz. “On the one hand, I would rather be out of this business because there are no more survivors to help. But until then, I will continue to do what it takes to offer the programs and services needed to help survivors thrive in this life.”
Hopeful Hearts has served over 350 abuse survivors on four continents with individual and group peer support sessions. 90% of these individuals are female; and 75% have survived sexual abuse. Deitz has participated in over 60 public advocacy opportunities for abuse survivors.
With firsthand experience, Deitz understands the pain and stigma of being a survivor of sexual abuse both as a child and as an adult. She sees the month of April as an opportunity to encourage other survivors to speak up and speak out, knowing that it is a crucial step towards healing. “The shame, despair and inability to cope with the painful events can lead to depression as well as dangerous behavior, as survivors tend to seek other ways to block out the memories and dull the pain.” comments Deitz. “My goal is to help others see their worth and become the best they can be.” Through the power of her own testimony, she helps people see that they no longer have to live as a victim. They can begin a journey of healing because they are not defined by their past and they have immense value.

In her newest release, Redeemed (Hopeful Hearts Ministry October 2016), Deitz shares the struggles she has faced, including how she worked to overcome sexual intimacy issues, and abusive behaviors that carried over into parenting. Redeemed reveals the self-destructive behavior Shannon was led into because of the shame of rape and guilt of self-imposed inexcusable sin during her formative years. Deitz, in a gripping and riveting read, unfolds this truth through the continuation of her journey in accepting love, intimacy, worthiness, and forgiveness. Redeemed portrays Shannon’s ever strengthening love story with God as she struggles to accept the good gifts He has waiting for her, and the courage it takes to trust God and others, when her spirit has been so deeply wounded by sins of her past.
“Survivors want to know they are being heard and that they will be safe and protected,” explains Deitz. “We do not need to be silenced because our situation makes others feel uncomfortable. To the contrary, we need people around us who are willing to listen and willing to stand up for us if we choose to go public.” This focus in April is important because the more people who become aware of just how prevalent this problem is in our country, the more beneficial it will be for everyone. Being able to share our story with others serves to help prevent future abuse from taking place. If there is a survivor in your midst, be willing to listen. Be willing to hear their story.”

www.HopefulHeartsMinistry.com

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