As part of my personal healing journey I spent 6 months at agirlcalledhope.org.nz  It was life changing for me.  I recommend a girl called hope to young women who are wanting receive intensive support for healing.

Graduation speech- Dec 2010

Poem: Tuesday, 29 July 2008

 

Do you love me?

 

What does love have to do with it?

All you want is a piece of me

Just a little time, money and a piece of my soul

 

You think it’s not much that you’re asking

 

I protest you want everything of me that I value

How can I give you my love?

And why would I give you my life?

What’s the used of laying down my all?

 

Its just seems to cost me a little more each day

The pain just won’t go away

 

Is there not another way 

another road to wholeness?

 

God you laid down your all for me

And I wish I could respond gratefully

But I’m wallowing in the pain of wrestling with truth

 

Who are you and how can I find you?

They say you are good but I don’t understand…

What about this pain that seems to remain?

 

Have I got it all wrong?

Am I just not that strong?

I want to live fully for you and nothing else 

But I struggle with the pain and the shame.

 

I was born on July second 1983 to proud and loving parents David and Kathleen Campbell, and older brothers Andrew and Daniel.

 

I grew up in a Christian family, where I was brought up in the ways of God.  My earliest memories include prayer and singing Christian songs.  God has always been a part of my life; I feel I can honestly say that I have never lived outside of His love.  I made my first commitment to Christ when I was 3 years old, recommitting my life at the age of seven. 

 

I was breast-fed until I was five years of age this kept me very much in my mothers world.  Dad put a stop to this on my fifth birthday.  My brothers had each other and Mum had Dad.  My friends already had best friends so I felt like I’d never be good enough.  From an early age I felt different, alone and rejected.  

 

I spent a lot of time with my brother’s dog and made friends with the seasonal workers on the Central Otago Orchard where we lived till I was almost 6.  In many ways during these years I felt safe and enjoyed country living, for the most part I was a friendly and happy child.

 

I lost my innocence very early, sexually abused by an older boy who I knew well and greatly admired.  I went on to share my new knowledge with a peer.  These experiences left me confused and ashamed.

 

For reasons I am unclear on, at an early age I began to withhold my heart and inner self and conclude that the deepest part of me was not very important.

 

My Family moved to Wellington after my paternal grandmother died when I was six.  I grew up quickly, Mum was sad a lot and I didn’t have any friends.  I felt very alone in the world.  I prayed that God would give me a friend and He did.  But I struggled to relate well to my peers, I didn’t know how to be childlike.  I enjoyed ‘grown up’ conversation and didn’t know how to connect with others my own age.

 

I completed my education at home, from the age of 5 through 16 years old.  I learned to be self motivated with study.  I made friends with many books and learned to relate confidently with people of all ages except my own.

 

For 10 years my family homeschooled through a conservative American organisation, it promised to protect us from what was bad in the world and make us model citizens.  Alongside the education component, which was presented through the lens of Scripture; there was extensive teaching on how to live the Christian life.  I was presented with a pattern for life which promised me fulfilment and satisfaction.  It gave me rules, guidelines and commitments for living a godly life.  It provided me with a definition of my identity as a woman in terms of homemaking, submission to authority, feminine dress and demeanour.  I was intensely shaped by this programme, I learn to live my life by the legalistic rules it provided.  These included direction for forming relationships, what music to listen to and gave me instruction on how to be a godly woman and an honouring daughter.  It offered me the role of a wife and mother as the ideal in life and discouraged me from pursuing a career outside of the home.  I so badly wanted to belong that I took all of this teaching onboard.  I learned to think their thoughts and argue their points.  I didn’t realise that I could question what I was taught, or believe differently to those in leadership.

 

I became a model Christian young woman; from the outside I looked pretty good.  But much of the time my faith was external and fear based.  It was godliness which lacked God’s power.  I became accustomed to striving to earn God’s approval through outward acts.  I found in religious observance a mask for my shame.

 

Through out my life I found solace in books and creativity and food.

 

At the age of nine I was sexual abuse again at the hands of the older boy, who’d robbed me of my innocence in my preschool years.  I concluded from this experience that being a female is dangerous, sexuality is dirty and my body is not my own.  I became afraid that this would happen again.  I thought it must have been my fault, or something I’d done to cause it to happen again.  So I didn’t tell anyone for many years of this experience.  I also reached physical maturity very early, which reinforced my belief that I was different and didn’t fit.

 

During my teenage years my brothers both spend months at a time in Russia doing ministry within the homeschooling organisation we were a part of.  This left me in the position of being an only child at home with my parents.  This had some advantages but also was a lonely place for me.

 

I had the privilege of visiting them with my parent in Moscow at the age of thirteen. This was during a round the world trip which deeply instilled in me a love for the nations of the world.

 

Unfortunately my brothers returned damaged by their experiences and rebelling against the system of thought and religious restrictions they had been under.  My mother spent hours mourning their choices, which left me alone many evenings.

 

From my earliest years my life has been affected by the unpredictability of Bipolar Depression.  One day my father would be normal and the next he would be Manic, obsessed with saving the world and struggling to sleep or rest.  I missed him and needed him when he was sick but he could not be there for me.  Mum did her best to protect me and keep me safe from his sickness.  To prevent myself from being hurt I would build high internal walls to protect myself.  It took me a long time after each episode to feel safe to take these down.  

 

I also formed a crippling idea of God around my dad’s sickness.  I expected God to withdraw when I hurt the most and so started withdrawing from Him at any sign of trouble. 

 

My father didn’t make eye contact with me when I was growing up.  So I often felt unseen and invisible.  He was often in his own world pursuing his latest project, and left the parenting up to mum.  Mum did the best she could to parent me.

 

Because I couldn’t share my heart, I often felt lonely and unloved.  Logically I knew my parents loved me but my heart had a hard time feeling it.  

I searched for ‘others’ to meet my inner needs.  But I often got rejected in my search so I began to build more permanent walls shutting people out and isolating myself to protect my heart.

 

I learned to cope with the pain I felt inside through isolation, withdrawal, intellectualising and religion.

 

Because of the gender roles I was offered through the home education I didn’t see myself as having a future and identity outside of a marriage. 

So after a couple of short term overseas mission trips I came to the conclusion I’d like to be a missionary’s wife.  I left home to pursue Bible College at 18 years of age to prepare me for that vocation.

 

Bible College was a huge culture shock for me.  As my values around music, gender, clothing and Christianity were very different from those of my peers.

 

It was an environment of mixed gender, new ideas and more freedom.  In my search for acceptance I made some huge changes to my life.  I joined a dance and percussion band at the end of my course, with the view of doing ministry around New Zealand.  It was a stressful time of trying to fit and belong to something which was very foreign to me.  

 

Unfortunately my plans were dashed when I burned out at the ripe old age of 19.  I became suicidal and depressed.  It took me almost a year to get back on my feet.  I learned a bit about boundaries, learned to say no more but didn’t deal with the root causes.  

 

At this time I didn’t seek professional help because of some religious teaching I’d been under which led me to believe I should look only to God for healing.  My family had also had negative experiences within the mental health system, which didn’t make this an inviting option.

 

A turning point in my recovery from burnout was receiving teaching on the love of God through an International House of Prayer Conference.  I had hoped God loved me but until this time wasn’t really sure He did.

 

I returned to Bible College with the view of proving to everyone that I’d recovered.  I worked for a few months in the local area with the intention of engaging in further study.  I enrolled in the second part of the course I’d already completed.  But about a month out from the beginning of the course I started having anxiety attacks and freaking out about what would happen if I did the course there.  

 

I decided to go home… giving some vague excuse for my choice and again spent time depressed and suicidal.

 

During the majority of my life neither of my parents worked in paid employment and so when I came to finding a career or work I didn’t have a clear example to follow.  

 

I floated around for a while, working with disabled children, labouring, working as a shop assistant and working on a friend’s farm during lambing season where I was challenged to do something with my life. 

 

In 2005 I moved to Auckland and studied for a certificate in Teaching English as a second language, I expected a lot of myself and was very disappointed that I passed without distinction.  I didn’t end up using it as I was afraid of not finding a job and not having enough money.  Instead I got a job as a receptionist at a newspaper.

 

After a year in Auckland I followed my heart to join an internship with Tauranga House of Prayer, I began to admit my brokenness and seek for answers through the truth I was learning there.  But again I felt on the outside socially and experienced intense loneliness.  It was during this season that I had my first thoughts of self harm, which I was able to reject at this time.

 

Loneliness set me up to be vulnerable to meeting my needs through the family with whom I boarded; they seemed to accept me unconditionally.  When they offered me the opportunity to stay on with them in a housekeeping capacity I jumped at the chance to fulfil a homeschooling dream of being a woman who worked in the home.  I finally felt like I belonged somewhere.  During this time I also worked in a café and spent as much time as I could in the House of Prayer.

 

After living with this family for nine months I was challenged by them to get an education and be able to provide for myself through a career.

 

My parents gave me a phone counselling session with a counsellor they liked.  I explored with him my likes and dislikes, my personality and what my skills were.  After which I conclude that I’d train to be a counsellor.  I didn’t know much about counselling, and I hadn’t experienced much counselling personally but it seemed to fit.  

 

Conveniently 5 minutes away from where I was living was Bethlehem Tertiary Institute.  I enrolled in their counselling programme and began study there in 2007.  

 

During the summer of 2007 I did a 2 week counselling school as an introduction to counselling.  In my complimentary personal session I was ‘diagnosed’ and having same sex attraction issues (which was in fact untrue) but it left me afraid of making friends with other women.  And due to the sexual abuse I’d experienced I was already afraid of men.

 

This again left me, isolated, ashamed and very much alone.

 

As part of my degree programme I began to acknowledge and try to change some of the religious programming I’d received through homeschooling and began to question some of what I’d been taught.  I also began to work through some of the issues surrounding burnout.  I fell in love with academic study and poured myself into each subject.  I discovered I have a gift for learning and communication.  During this time I began to express my inner brokenness and as a part of this I got a girly Mohawk to externalise what I felt inside.

 

The family I lived with were my world so I didn’t make many attempts at getting to know other students.  I spend a lot of time with the oldest son who was six years my junior, we became good friends.  I was his driver, his dishes companion; we would jam on our instruments, had fun together and good chats.  All went well until we became attracted to each other.  Suddenly my world got turned upside down.  I was asked to leave, and felt shut out of the hearts and the lives of people I considered family.  We tried to be reconciled, but this was only partially successful.  I can honestly say, I had never before in my life grieved for anything as intensely as I grieved the loss of this home, the family I’d been boarding with and the relationship of loving friendship I’d had with their son.  I felt betrayed by a family I’d begun to consider my own.

 

I moved into another living situation, which was unsafe emotionally.  I no longer wanted to journal or express myself through writing; I wept often, found it hard to stand tall and smile anymore and didn’t want to sing.  I lost weight, interest in things I’d formerly enjoyed and struggled to complete the year of study.  During this time I began to receive significant support and help through counselling, God provided me with a safe and wise counsellor at this time.

In counselling I began to acknowledge the loneliness I felt but was unable to shift it at this point in my journey.

 

I lost my confidence in being able to find a good living situation.  This left me vulnerable to another student taking me under her wing in a way which proved unhelpful in the end.

 

During the second year my degree, I began to lose my enthusiasm for study, but I kept pressing on.  At the time I was planning towards fulfilling an eight year old dream to return to a Middle Eastern country with the view of exploring the possibility of long term Christian work.  I poured my enthusiasm into that.

I continued to lose motivation and enthusiasm throughout the year, trying harder to pray more and find strength in God… but my striving did not good.  I found myself empty and wounded and vulnerable.

 

That year I acknowledged the self hatred I had towards myself, and began to face the sexual abuse through specific counselling.  Near the end of the year I had a difficult conflict situation with a lecturer at school, this was followed by a conflict of epic proportions with the student I’d been boarding with.  She said some very cruel things about me which I believed one hundred percent.  Two weeks before the end of semester I had a breakdown.  The anxiety and self hatred were overwhelming; I became suicidal and went home to my parents.  I had to cancel my dream overseas trip and continued for months to believe the awful things my landlady had said about me.

 

October 2008- January 2009 were the worst months of my life.  I was home with my parents, I felt isolated and alone geographically.  I was off the charts anxious, suicidal and hearing voices.  I started self harming and starving myself.  I wanted to quit God and quit life.  My parents did the best they could to help me, watching me and doing there best to protect me from myself.  Again through this season God provided support through the counsellor I’d seen as a student, he played a big part in God’s rescue plan to save my life.

 

On way to end it all one day, God interrupted me with a question.  “What legacy do you want to leave your grandchildren?”  Against all odds I answered “hope” I couldn’t follow through with my plans.

 

Through that time I was protected from further attempts and long term scarring because God had spoken to me a couple of years earlier that despite my brokenness I was beautiful.  I also knew I had a nice singing voice so I didn’t want to permanently mar my body if I were to fail at my attempt.

 

I stopped reading the Bible, as everything I read condemned me.  My thoughts were completely poisoned against me, after a few months I stopped going to church because I found it too upsetting.  I couldn’t do anything I’d done before in pursuit of God.  The only think I knew to do was to put myself before God which I did by taking myself in the house of prayer as often as I could.  Although I didn’t know how to reach him, I wanted to find my answer in him. I was so angry at God for all the pain but I also knew that He probably wasn’t anything like I though He was.  Along the way I realised I was trapped in religion and religion was trying to kill me.  I realised that I had two choices either quit God completely or find the truth in the midst of the confusion.

 

In February 2009 I returned to Tauranga.

For many months I lived with almost constant suicidal thinking.  I worked as a waitress, God provided me with good accommodation and kind friends.  I also received weekly counselling support, and I survived one day at a time. 

 

It was during this stage of my journey that I applied and was accepted onto the Mercy (now called A Girl Called Hope) waiting list, I’d learned of its existence through a friend.

 

Virtually every week my counsellor would say to me, “you are not the answer to your problems.”  I would leave and go about trying to save myself and fix my problems… this legalistic way of being held me captive.

 

Finally God revealed the truth to my heart, that my faith was based on my own efforts.  I deep down believed that his love was dependent on my good behaviour and my actions.

 

I was at a church during an open baptism service, where I finally made the decision I would accept the free gift of salvation that God has purchased for me on the cross.  I got re-baptised and began to walk towards a new relationship with God.

 

But even after this, self harm and suicidality didn’t leave me life.  I continued to struggle often with these thoughts.

 

During this year God was faithful to speak to me even though I wasn’t doing any of the ‘spiritual things I‘d learned to do to be a good Christian.”  

 

Through counselling I began to dare to break out of the boxes I’d lived in, getting my ears pierced and getting a tattoo.

I was deeply impatient while on the waiting list.  I wanted to be at Mercy already, but now I can see during this time God did the preparation work in me that has enabled me to focus on change here.

 

For the three months before I arrived God took me to a safe place of loving Christian community and continued to heal my heart rift with Him and show my that some Christians can be trusted.  He began to restore my heart for worship and awaken the prophetic gifting he’d placed within me.  Yet I still struggled with self harm and isolation.  I was changing but I knew I needed more time and opportunity for change.  So I am very grateful God brought me to A Girl Called Hope.

These last six months have been intensive, hard but fruitful.  I’d like to share some of the treasure I’ve gained during this time.

 

I have learned that I am completely accepted as I am.  I am fully loved by God in my humanity, imperfection and brokenness.

 

My strong perfectionist parts have made friends with my gentle, childlike and fearful parts.  This has brought me to a place of being able accepted all of myself and be whole in my personality.  I have discovered as I accept myself I am able to receive God’s love and acceptance of me.  This frees me from self hatred.

 

I have begun to learn what it means to walk in grace.  Accepting myself as God accepts me allowing my heart to open up more and more to his love.  I’ve learned that I can’t earn God’s love. Nothing I do has any impact on his extravagant love for me.

 

I have found that only in God can my deepest hurts be healed, but part of his healing is through other people and this is a way he shows me his love.

I am learning to bring all of myself to God, without hiding anything, He loves all of me.

 

I’ve discovered that surrender is the most loving and relaxing place to dwell.  Letting go of control doesn’t actually hurt me, in fact it sets me free.

 

All I have to surrender today is as much as I can right now… and do this again tomorrow… I don’t have to wait till I can do it perfectly and completely before I surrender.

 

God loves me completely and perfectly – I can let go of trying to be loved and relax and receive his love.

 

I’m learning that I don’t have to live my life by rules but in relationship.

 

I’ve learned that intimacy is not formed by what I know about God but by the time I spend with Him.

 

I’ve found my imagination helps me to ‘see his work in my life’.  I’ve discovered a new way of being with the bible so that I hear God’s voice of love to me, not the old condemnation of the past.

 

God values my femininity, the womanliness of my heart and form.  He likes me as a daughter and a woman.  He invites me to live life as a woman without shame.

 

I’ve learned that when I can accept that people can only give what they’ve got.  I can grieve the lack and become open to what they can give.

 

I have discovered that God doesn’t leave me on my worst days.  Even if I can’t feel him, he’s right with me.

 

I am learning to identify and change the behaviour I’ve developed around keeping myself safe.  I am learning that in God’s care I’m always safe no matter what people think of me.

 

I’ve learned that honestly stating my truth is more loving than saying what I think someone wants to hear.

 

I’ve discovered I have to let go of the lies and old ways of being before I can receive the new good things that are available to me.

 

I’ve learned that God loves me bringing myself to Him.  All parts of me are welcome in his presence.

 

I’m learning to stay when I want to run, knowing that my emotions will pass.

 

I’m learning to love the church, because it is the place and the people He chooses to make His home with.

 

I’ve learned that life is not perfect, and I will not be perfect until I am in heaven.  God will be walking with me all the days of my life, teaching me, helping me to change and live fully human, imperfect but completely loved.

I want to end with a poem I wrote about God’s love story with me

 

Step by step

You’re winning me over

You’re not in a hurry

 

Taking your time

So I would know

You can be trusted

 

You draw my attention

To you

Helping me see

Reality

 

Dismantling

Every flawed belief

Breaking out of boxes

In which

I’ve tried to contain you

 

You are so much better

Than I thought

You let me know

You can’t be bought

 

We do this dance

Two steps forward

And one step back

 

Yet you’re not worried

By the time I take

You’re winning me over 

With a love

That frees me from hate!

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Lisa and I at my graduation Dec 2010.
(Witnessing her transformation at a girl called hope that inspired me to apply.)