I am the survivor of childhood abuse. I was born to a fifteen year old, mentally ill little girl. She brought me into a world that was full of corruption and fear and she did not have the capacity to protect me from the very evil that destroyed her childhood.
I remember sitting at a church service, as an adult, and responding to an altar call to ‘just spend time in the presence of God.’ The front was full and people filled the aisles, so I sat in the walkway next to the pew. In my imagination I was sitting next to Jesus, who came and kneeled beside me. I looked up at him and unzipped myself from my head to my toes and I laid flat on my back so he could see every maggot of my experiences that threatened to kill me from the inside out.
I didn’t say a word as he looked at the child being sexually abused, beat with fists and threatened with the barrel of a gun. I let him see my cigarette burns, and the holes where the man tortured me with needles. I let him see me being pinned down and suffocated within an inch of my consciousness. He watched as the lice crawled my scalp and the dirt dug into my flesh. He heard the stomach of a starving child growl and then subside with resignation. He watched my eyes sink in and my breath become shallow. He watched as I lay alone in my pee stained bed at night and cry for my mommy.
He watched it all and while he watched, he showed me how he was there with me, too.
I sat in that aisle for a while and cried the tears of a little girl who was abandoned and forgotten, abused and tortured, starved and ignored.
And then in my mind, I looked him in the eye and said, ‘Daddy, it hurts.’
My mind raced through every part of my memory and found a place where that little girl sat in a church singing ‘Jesus Loves Me’ and felt his lap beneath my bruised little legs.
He met my eyes and without an apology or pity, but just a deep understanding he said, “I know.”
And I know he did.
The experience of having the depths of my pain witnessed had an enormous healing effect. Just being seen and validated in my pain was enough to move me to the next phase of healing. Nobody can go back and take it away, but having my agony witnessed gave me the sense that I could move forward.
I have wondered why God allows evil to touch one of his little girls. I could choose to be angry and demand better treatment. But, I’ve learned that there is purpose in everything.
Something that I want more than to be a ‘normal’ person with a ‘normal’ life is that I want to be a person that God can use.
I find my purpose when I make myself available to those who need to tell their story. The pain and torment that people face in a world where evil has a say rivets the souls of God’s little lambs. If healing can come by bearing witness, then I am one who has a set of eyes that can meet the pain in theirs.
I find my purpose and sometimes the only way my purpose is displayed is when I get to be the one who looks at those bloodshot eyes and says, with everything in me, ‘I know.’
Serena Woods writes books, teach Bible studies, dances with her daughters, paints pictures, make her husband laugh, wears three inch heels and doesn’t drink enough water.
Follow her on twitter as @SerenaWoods. Or visit her on grace is for sinners to find out more and get the book. Serena’s story was also featured on Like a Warm Cup of Coffee.
Enter to win a copy of Serena’s book by leaving a comment below before midnight on Monday.Leave a Comment
~Grace & Peace says
I don’t even know what to say…. I’m so sorry for what you went through when you were a young girl. (((HUGS))) Thank you for baring your soul. May God continue to use you in a magnificent way and may your life continue to be an inspiration. It is a testament to the healing power of God.
Through that relatively short post, you took us on an incredible journey. Thank you, Serena, for being so transparent and giving us a better idea of what it means to be so completely LOVED by Jesus. You have a true gift.
Fiona@ A little bit of honesty says
Wow. I am in awe of what God has done and can do through you. Thank you for sharing. You really are a gutsy girl.
There really are no words – just a grateful heart that you let Jesus shine through you to minister to others.
My goodness. Thank you for sharing your story, and for showing how it is possible, through Christ, to remember, heal, find grace, and know HIS power.
You are a force and a pillar…There are so many women, young ladies and children who will be healed because you are bold enough to open your heart and testify to the grace of God through your pain. Praise God for the strength he has given you, you are an inspiration.
God Bless You 🙂
Awe, Serena, thank you for sharing from your heart! I am so sorry for the hurt you have been thru. I felt Jesus so close while reading your post-I will pray for you as you continue to bless other’s with your gift, girl.
Thanks for sharing – so many times we think we need to hide the yucky stuff not only from other people, but from Jesus, as well. Thank you for your example.
This may sound strange but, what a lovely post. I think it’s so important that we talk about child abuse. It’s such a widespread dirty little secret in our society that kids and adult survivors continue to suffer needlessly. Bravo.
What a beautiful testimony. I just shared part of “my story” on my blog yesterday.
I’d love to win a copy of the book.
Thank you for sharing. Your story touched my heart more than you know. A similar pain beats in my chest. But knowing that I am now in God’s hands brings me peace. Thank you again.
I am so, so terribly sorry you were mistreated and abused. You deserved so much better than that. I’m glad you know Jesus and that He gives you comfort. God bless you, ma’am.
I’m so grateful that you’ve been able to share your story and glorify Jesus through what satan tried to use for your harm. You are an encouragement to others of us who have endured some of these kinds of pain, reminding us there isn’t anything we can’t bring to Jesus.
“[to] provide for those who grieve in Zion— to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the LORD for the display of his splendor.” -Isaiah 61:3
You are a lovely example of how He makes beauty from our ashes.
Serena Woods says
Thank you so much for all of your kind words and fir sharing your own pain here. 🙂 We ALL have a story. We can ALL use our stories to reach out to others and show them the hope we have in our eyes and why that hope is there!
Keep it coming! I’m enjoying your responses!
Thanks for your courage in sharing this post and giving us a glimpse of your faith journey and your healing.
Thank you for sharing. You touched a cord in my heart; it is now screaming, “I know.” Your courage is inspiring. God bless.
amazing story of God’s redeeming power. and also the story of someone who was willing to let God define her and not her past. thank you so much for your transparency. honestly, i am awed!!
What a testimony of experiencing God and worshiping in spirit and in truth. What a story of His Redemption. Yyping that seems so trite and so “christanese”…I am repulsed and indignant over your story and encouraged and thankful. All that wrapped up together. Thank you for stirring in me an opportunity to worship in spirit and in truth.
Lisa H. says
Thank you so much for your story! Everyone has a story and although mine isnt as traumatic as yours to others, it is to me, and I can completely understand your statement that just knowing Jesus knows what happened and validates the pain I felt/still feel! Unfortunately I still hold onto a lot of anger from my past and fear but I’m learning to let go little by little and learning to trust God knows whats best for me. He has never left my side even when I walked away from him for a long time–he let me come back and said–Its okay, I love you! Thank you!
As I am sure you already know; your name, Serena, means serene and calm. Thank you for being a calming agent in the midst of raging storms.
Thank you for baring your soul and for telling your story.
Serena, your experience and courageous recovery are a wonderful example of how God can make something good result from the evil in the world! I am inspired by your journey and attitude–my mother always told me that I had to hear about someone else’s troubles before I realized that mine weren’t as bad as I thought they were and she was right (again!).
Mary @ Passionate Perseverance says
Serena ~ you are courageous and brave to open your life to the light of the world for all to see and witness the grace and healing that God can bring. may He continue to bless you and bring you peace.
Serena, that post was exactly what I needed to read at this very moment. Thank you so much!
You are a remarkable woman. I am honored to be your sister in Him.
Thank you for sharing !!! What saddens me is there is so many of us out here the broken one’s and no not all of ourstories are the same.It has taken me soooo many years to realize that God loves me.God Bless You!!!
Angela Nazworth says
Deep breath…I have few words as I am left stunned by your story…I am so very sorry that you had such horrid experiences and am so filled with Joy that God brought beauty from those grotesque ashes. You are beautiful…beautiful.
I was deeply, deeply touched – by you & by the Lord through this story. I have linked back to share this story with my friends on my own blog … Thank you for sharing this.
Thank You more than words can share! I wept while reading about your past. This came to me at such a perfect time. I have been looking for validation in my past pain when this link was sent to me. I never even realized that though people don’t know God does and He seen and HE was there keeping me through everything.Thank you for helping me to give this part of my life to God. Praise the Lord that God has used your life to help others get their validation from HIM! Thank you for letting Christ work through you!
What powerful words. thank you for sharing.
May God bless you and use you mightly for His glory. I pray everyone who is hurt as you were will find His love and healing.
sara cross says
Thank you for sharing your amazing story. I really needed to hear that God is here and always is. Your book looks amazing.
Serena, thank you for sharing your life with everyone and letting them see that God knows and he wants you to be healed.
Thank you for sharing this. God bless you.
bravo, serena. bravo.
Thank you for your bravery.
Thank you so much for sharing this.
I read an excerpt of the book and felt chills as I was comforted of my own memeories of abuse. You are being a very special blessing!!
L.L. Barkat says
your post was beautiful…not because of what was said but becasue of the testimony you have allowed God to have through you. At times we are so afraid of the testimony’ forgetting that He us holy and good and righteous and sovereign. Other times, we simply can’t see that throught the pain we are experiencing. Regardless, I am thankful you opened yourself up to Him and allowed the ashes to be used…So sorry for it all but thankful none the less. blessings
Thank you for sharing your story.
I am in awe of your bare naked realness! Thank you for this…it inspires me to be even more real and to love those around me! Really, thank you.
Serena Woods says
All of your comments have warmed me from the inside out all day. Thank you!!!
My interpretation of ‘giving your life to God’ is by literally letting him use every bit of you for his purpose. My word to him is, ‘I will not keep anything back, nothing is off limits.’
Real people with real issues need something real to connect with. Thank you for showing me that it is connecting.
Mindy Harris says
I’ve never looked at healing in this way; it’s a facet I’ve yet to explore. Thank you for planting that seed in my heart. The Lord has born witness to the hurts and wrongs done to me. I am FREE in Him and praise Him every day for it!
I’ve got tear stains on my cheeks. Thank you for telling your story. It resonated with me because for nearly 7 years I did child protection work and have remained so burdened for so many of the kids that I met that have faced such horrific experiences. Reading your words- from one who has been there- I have a picture of what healing can look like, and I feel more equipped to know how to pray for them.
Lynn McCallum says
Thanks for sharing, Serena. You are a blessing!
Frances I. Brensdal says
This is an amazing testimony. It makes me realize how blessed I’ve been. I am so thankful.
I read a preview on her blog about her story. It was so amazing… She has a beautiful style of writing 🙂
I’d love to read her book from cover to cover. Please enter me in the giveaway.
Thank you! Your ministry of “hearing” will lead many to God’s grace!
Thank you for your beautiful testimony. Hugs. Your post just got me thinking of a couple of painful incidents in my childhood and reflecting that God knows and He understand and cares. Thank you. Hugs. May God Bless You.
Amy Honestly says
What an inspiration!
Thanks for the giveaway! I would be blessed to win her book!
Tiffany Belford says
I am speechless as I read your story. Just 10 minutes earlier I sat here complaining about my insignificant troubles. God bless you and may God forgive me for being ungrateful for the blessings in my life.
Melissa@a long way from the Theta house says
Thank you for sharing your story and showing us even more of the Lord. His light shines so bright through your writing.
Elaine Truex says
Grace covers hurting lives with His blood and sustaining power. What a miracle to experience God’s love. His look at us is full of love and longing. His everlasting arms hold us from all that hurts or harms. Thank you for bravely speaking out from the refuge of your Father’s love.
I must read your book and I thank you for writing it. My Mother was a child of abuse and to her dying day, had not recovered from the memories. She re-told her stories over and over as she declined. I was embarrassed by them, confused and at a loss as to how to help her. She had had psychiatric counseling for years, without relief. She did know the Lord, but He had not removed her anguish. She died in 1983. So much more is available to us now about this subject. Serena’s story is above and beyond the bravest one I’ve heard yet ! Thank you, dear Sister, for sharing your pain and your power with us. God continues to put woment in my life (I’m 74 ) who need to share their stories of childhood abuse. I understand now why Mom told me her’s so many times. Who would have guessed that God could use her pain through me to encourage other women? Now,with your book, I’ll have another tool.
Thank you and may you continue to find JOY in being who HE intended you to be, because you ARE !
BLESSINGS IN ABUNDANCE UPON YOU AND ALL THOSE THAT YOU LOVE.
Thank you for baring your soul.Bring to light that Jesus knows is absolutly beautiful.
As I read your story, once again I am convicted of my lack of appreciation for the life I have had, free from such abuse and being born into a loving, Christian home. I wasted so many years of my life not serving my Lord even after He saved me and now I am trying to do His will in all areas of my life. Bless you, Serena, for sharing this and helping me to better understand, so I may be able to help someone who comes to me for guidance. Just having gray hair doesn’t qualify me to play counselor to hurting people who seek me out. Thank God He guides me to sources such as this to help me. Bless you and your loved ones as you continue to sow your life into the lives of hurting women. Your book is a must read!
Beautiful words and sentiment. We exist to bear witness to others. Thank you for that reminder.
Lee M. Berry says
May The Lord send special women to the Door of Your Heart offering you the gift of a “Mother’s Love” just for you!
In Him Who is Always with us,
From Beautiful Lake Guntersville, Alabama
Thank you for sharing a little of your painful story and allowing God to use you to help others.
I am thankful for this post not because it makes me feel sorry for you, or that it gives me hope or because it gives me warm fuzzy feelings of any sort. I am thankful because I relate. So few of us who are going through things like this have the courage or the ability or resources or even the connections to write about it. I am currently writing a book of my own life story, not because I especially want to but because Daddy told me to. My favorite scripture is
2Cor 1, about vs 3-8 or something (I don’t have a bible handy while I type) but it says that the God of all comfort comforts us in our sufferings that we are then able to comfort others with the comfort we have received. When I discovered that, it gave meaning to my suffering and made it easier to bear.
What a courageous woman you are! Gifted by the grace of God to give freely the very thing needed here….grace. That word is taking on fresher meaning to me as I recently encountered a very challenging circumstance. I have struggled with the Lord asking Him where He was when this happened. He is showing me that He was with me and He still is. Your words reminded me again. May the Lord bless you in your ministry.
Serena,I know too, It happened to me also, Thank you, for your courage and strength in god to tell and bless other people with your story and to encourage other people this has happened to. Your a voice for god and a voice for his dear children who did yet not tell their story.Your voice is touching so many people.God bless you,
What an encourgement you are…blessings to you for sharing
Kimberly Staben Broadus says
What a story of Gods love and redemption!
“If healing can come by bearing witness, then I am one who has a set of eyes that can meet the pain in theirs”,an awesome insight into the human need for companionship on the journey of restoration and wholeness. You encourage me to be a gutsy girl also, at the ripe old age of 54.
LOVE what you’re doing!
I love that our Lord ‘knows’… Thank you for your openness.
Thank you so much for sharing your story!!! I am also a survivor of childhood abuse who has learned who El Roi is in my life. Your story made me cry, and then encouraged me. I often stop short, or leave out details, while sharing my testimony when I watch people shift in their discomfort; yet, I seek to glorify God in the story of what He has done.
Nancy Carrera says
Thank you for sharing this article and for having the courage to do so. I live in Guatemala and my sister works with an organization that supports women and children that suffer or have suffered different types of abuse. It was touching and encourangin how God restaured you and how you are a living testimony of His faithfulness, care and love. As 2 Corinthians 4:8-9 says, “We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.” God is always present and He promised to be with us ALWAYS. God bless you and may He encourage you in His strenght.
Serena Woods says
Nancy, I love that verse. If you say it all out loud, it makes your hair stand on end.
I am reading every single one of these responses and am so appreciative. You are all so amazing!!
Anni UK says
This was my first visit to this site and I am just ‘blown away’. Thank you, you have no idea how much I needed the thought right now that I’m not alone. That Daddy knows……..
I too experienced far too many hurts etc. but right now I know of someone who ‘needs’ this word as well. I am going to send the link and let Dad do the rest. Bless you and thanks A
mary bailey says
Serena, I wept as I read your story. God is so good to heal your hurts and to show you He was there with you all along. Thank you for your willingness to let God use you to help others. Blessings to you.
Trish McKenzie says
Thanks for sharing your story…I love hearing how God works through people, and who He chooses to use.
April C says
Thank you for sharing. I would love to read your book.
Thank you for giving God the honor and glory of what happens when we truly “surrender it all to Jesus”.I’m grateful to God that He led me to your site because I just had a conversation with Him in the bathroom and this is definitely the physical answer.I’m encouraged to let God have His wonderful way and stop feeling ashamed about what people will think. Thank you and remain blessed.
S E R E N A !!!!!!!
There has come a crack in the dam of cyberspace this past week of days … a glorious hole in a tidy wall that had, until now, kept so much truth hidden … truth about living broken in a broken world at the hands of broken people … even our own. About your story … and about ann voskamp’s … and about all the other stories that have been pouring out from the heart’s of women. And when i ask God where He is in all this story telling … because i cannot do otherwise … He tells me over and over as i read that the untold story keeps the healing power of testimony and of witness … bound. the hearts that receive your story are being set free to courage … and to a hope that their stories can be set free. i thank Abba Who knew how and when and where to meet you and how and when and where your story would take flight … Bless you my sister … Bless you!
Serena Woods says
I am watching this all go down and it’s so amazing! My phone beeps at me every time a new comment is posted and I stop everything to read and smile and nod.
Keep it coming…
I understand all you went through. I lived something similar. Your courage is inspiring. Thank you for sharing and opening up a tender wound to the world. You are helping many.
Thank you for sharing. How encouraging to hear the way God began healing your heart. I will print this out and file it away under “Healing”. My daughter has lived though so much of the same hurts. Your insight is precious to me.
Even at 6, she is beginning to understand that Jesus was there, and He saw her tears and pain.
Thank you, from the bottom of my heart.
Serena, thank you for telling your story and baring your soul.
jamie wise says
First of all, great post! It means a lot to me, a survivor of childhood sexual abuse.
Second, I know the guy who took your picture at the top! I love Ryan! He is an old friend and just great 🙂
Serena Woods says
Jamie: small world. 🙂
deb @talk at the table says
My heart hurts for you, and fills with seeing how you heal and touch with sharing. I pray that softens your pain a little. Our tears fill holes.
Mary @ Giving Up on Perfect says
Wow. I don’t think I can truly comprehend what you have been through. But I love this statement: “Just being seen and validated in my pain was enough to move me to the next phase of healing.” I love that about God! That He KNOWS. He just KNOWS.
Serena, reading your post I just want to reach down scoop you up and hug you tell you its gonna be ok and shield u from any more pain. God Bless you for coming thru this and fighting for your life. You are an inspiration.
Toni Harvey says
Wow, it never ceases to amaze me how God can heal any one of us from the pain and suffering we may have endured at the hands of another. Thankfully Serena was able to bear her soul to God and let Jesus help her to get to a beautiful place beyond her pain. And that she can use her story and her redemption to help others is the most beautiful part. Blessings to you Serena!
Mary Jo Brown says
Serena ! am overwhelmed at your story and courage to share it with others.What a wonderful Christian you are to share God’s love and understanding in your situation.I felt like I was in that service with you,and could almost see JESUS looking at you with such compassion and love in His tender eyes. He must be overwhelmed with you,as I am. Continue your wonderful work with Jesus as your guide and Counselor. This is my first time to be on your site and what a first time experience,WOW God continue to bless and lead you is my prayer for you Mary Jo
JAN GOBLE says
Serena, I´m so grateful for your boldness and courage to write so openly and honestly. I just want to encourage you that it´s helpful to myself and many other women for our “sister” to share so candidly since many of us (I can definitely speak for myself) have suffered very traumatic childhoods and we need to feel that we´re not alone…..and that someone really understands, and cares. I can also tell you that my own past has greatly hindered my relationship with Jesus and at age 60 (even though I received salvation many years ago) I still struggle with trust issues in regards to christianity and other women. It´s just been a rocky path for me to really find myself and enjoy a solid relationship wih my Saviour. I´ve even had many beautiful experiences with God only to go through other times where my faith was tremendously shaken, and anger dominated my life. I appreciate your prayers for me and the prayers of all the women who share here. This is a beautiful site that I´m grateful to be a part of. Blessings abundantly, JAN
so many women will take courage and began to walk in boldness, it’s so needed..thank you.
Thanks for posting this
Thank you for the reminder that God does know my pain and my heartache. He KNOWS. And that is enough.
WOW… It’s really true that His power is made perfect in our weakness. I just prayed for you.