Part 3 - the rest of the story

My Life In The Fishbowl

My Life In The Fishbowl

I had only been a Seventh Day Adventist for one short year, when my husband and I, and our one year old daughter, were called to our very first mission.

It was a city mission in Norwalk, CA, at a very special and unique Seventh Day Adventist Church. There was a health center, bakery, cooking school, Bible school, and a very active congregation. Within a year, I became the Pathfinder Director, the Cradle Roll Leader, and served on the church board. I was barely 20 years old. It was a good experience in so many ways and gave me a rich learning ground. I felt very free and had good support.

I remember it as being a time in my life that I felt very connected to God. My experience was fresh and the church allowed me to create my own lessons and adventures for those I was serving. So, I felt like it was me and God, cooperating together, teaching the young people that surrounded me. It was not easy and there were some failures, as well as successes. Which of course, sprouted a lot of growth in my own personal experience.

After three years, we moved back up north to be near my family and care for my elderly grandmother. We attended the church where I was originally baptized. It was here that my beautiful pristine religious bubble began to pop! It started when they asked me to lead Cradle Roll but promptly gave me lesson plans done for me. I let them know that I had been teaching for three years with great success and had dozens of ideas. They were not interested and basically told me to follow the plans as they assigned them. They wanted to control what I was teaching. I let them know I was happy to have them sit in, or provide my materials to them, but again. No. Not happening. I began feeling a bit squashed, but carried on with a good spirit “for the kids”.

At some point, my mother in law, a lifetime Adventist, gave me a little white book. It was called, “Child Guidance” by E.G. White. I was so happy to receive this book as a young mother with so many questions. But, she also promptly burst my bubble by telling me that I was to read it with a “grain of salt”. She told me that no mother could really do the things inside the book, but that if I read between the lines, I might find some good. Basically, don’t take it seriously, dear.

You’d think that would have discouraged me, but no. It didn’t. It made me want to read it more, and so I did.

I was thrilled as I learned things I’d never heard before and began dreaming of creating a “true” Christian home. I spent hours reading and then applying the principles I learned with great success.

I noticed though the whispered comments, “Debbie is getting a little fanatical. She actually believes these things.” And they were right. I did.

The years passed by and my children grew. And so did our trials.

My husband developed serious trauma patterns from his severe childhood abuse before he was adopted into an Adventist home at 6 years old. He suffered greatly and through self-medication he
became an addict of one thing after another. The betrayals increased through the years until I actually became aware he’d been living a double life and involved in underground crime. Yep, you heard me right!

All the while these things were taking place, I was trying desperately to have the “true” Christian home I so much wanted and read about in that “book,” but it always eluded me. So I would “try” harder. Fixing this and then that, running after my own shadow most of the time.

My marriage ended when I realized we were no longer safe because of my husband’s activities. I was whisked away to a safe place of hiding with three young children and the bare necessities of life. I never saw him again. One day I was living a life (based on fantasy and falsehoods mostly), and the next, I left that life, all our belongings, and all of our people behind.

It wasn’t long till we began to feel really free. We had been delivered in a miraculous way and we knew it. We had our lives, a few basic things, a place to live, and a small, very helpful, support system.

It was through this experience that my trust and love for God deepened.

I felt like He was listening and meeting our needs in the most amazing ways. I began to know Him as a Providential God, leading us every step of the way. He poured out His love and protection over us and provided abundantly.

I Am Not An Egg

The Great Contradiction

During this period of tremendous grief and loss, not only for me, but for my three growing children, God gave us a complete family.

I was now 31 years old and the family I was to become a part of for the next 25 years was very “spiritually oriented”.

Attentive and loving grandparents were part of the package and a huge blessing for the children. I married the man of my dreams, and we shared a beautiful love story, which included a deep spiritual union, which I had never known could exist.

Five years later we added a baby girl to our family which was the “topping on the cake.” Our family of six was now complete and overflowed with love and joy!

This “period of time” and experience would turn out to be the greatest blessing of my life. It would also prove to be my greatest sorrow.

I realize writing about this (→great contradiction←) may seem confusing to many. I also realize that there is no way I can express in human language how the next 25 years created the greatest culmination of “religious trauma” I’d ever endure, and at the same time, gave me the love, the lessons, and the tools, I so much needed, and would serve me well for the rest of my life.

It’s interesting how God uses life circumstances such as these, as our greatest lesson books, and the story of our lives is our education, for now, and for eternity.

I was completely unaware that I came into this new family with fully developed generational trauma patterns of my own. I had no idea how they would play a significant role in the trials ahead, and eventually in the implosion of my marriage. I also didn’t have any idea how the “religious trauma” patterns my husband had experienced from birth would dictate the future of our entire family, immediate, and far reaching.

We lived a quiet life but a very isolated life on every level. We worshiped God at home and did not attend any local churches. The structure of our family was dictated by the patriarch (Grandfather). It was never expressed, but everyone knew it. Because of the lovely appearances and joyful hearts, everyone believed we had freedom, but we actually didn’t. Our “one” leader once stated publicly, “God had ordained him to make judgments for us”.

Religious trauma here at work.

There was always a subtle controlling factor that created shame, guilt, and indecisiveness. All in the name of God and for His ultimate cause. There was overriding of sound parental decisions constantly, and we as parents were made to feel we weren’t able to make decisions for our own family. This went as far as creating a document that put the care of our younger daughter in the Grandparents hands, completely separated from her mother, for a period of time.

I ignorantly signed this document under the most subtle coercion. They continued to believe, and to tell the entire family, this was best, and that she was becoming a happier, more balanced child, in a free spiritual environment (the one her own parents could not provide, we were told). In reality, I would later learn that she was actually traumatized and full of fear.

She hid in her clothes hamper at night trembling and crying, as she listened to the Grandparents recite the inabilities of her parents, and other members of the extended family, from the next room. This, of course, created trauma patterns of her own. The separation between mother and daughter was excruciating, and so unnecessary. I was not an abusive, neglectful, or unloving mother, but somehow she grew up thinking differently. She couldn’t quite pinpoint exactly what was wrong with her mother, but her mind and heart had been implanted with the thought that there was something very wrong.

Again, religious trauma at work.

There was also peace and love and expressions of the greatest joy.

Again, (→the contradiction←). And because there was so much good, so much truth, so much joy, and this was my family, I stayed absolutely and completely committed on every level, even though inside I was tormented with the desire for freedom, especially for my children. While this structure in many ways saved my life, it also stole it. While I received a tremendous amount of help and support, and even love, I also lost myself as an individual person.

I slowly, through the years, became the “cause” of every trouble, because I didn’t have the “right spirit” (or so I was told when I asked hard questions). My own children were subtly turned against me in ways that were so insidious that no one could recognize it, and certainly no one could stand up against it. The price to pay would be too high. Namely, exclusion. Not just from the family, but from “God’s Will” I was told.

Orion Nebula Where Are You, God?

I Cannot Hear You, God

I slowly began to disconnect from God and from “the still small voice behind me” through the years.

Instead, listening to the “voice of a man”, and what a lovely voice it was, I thought. Strangely, this voice began to replace the Holy Spirit’s influence I had previously been so in tune with in my early days. This completed my dependency on others.

Approval and acceptance were at the top of the list now.

This is where my early “religious traumas” really came to maturity. Remember, the confession? By the time I reached my mid 40’s I was fully looking to please those around me, especially the “one religious leader,” my father-in-law, because I loved him, and I believed it was what God wanted.

I painstakingly cared for them, and for my family, but always felt that I never quite measured up. The feeling of being lost was always looming in the background.

I lost all integrity to myself, and what I truly knew and believed. A very strong case of Stockholm Syndrome developed inside of me, and because my husband had never known anything but this experience from birth, his own basic life needs were never met, which became the root and cause of years of secret dependent addictions.

Because he never had a “voice” that was authentically his own, he was never able or “allowed” to seek outside help for himself, or for his family, and lost the powerful force of his “own will” as he submitted to the decisions and judgements of his father. As his own thoughts and decisions were overridden, he was not able to stand up for us, even though he recognized the wrongs, and empathized with us.

“But while education, training, and the counsel of those of experience are all essential, the workers should be taught that they are not to rely wholly upon any man’s judgment. As God’s free agents, all should ask wisdom of Him.

“When the learner depends wholly upon another’s thoughts and goes no further than to accept his plans, he sees only through that man’s eyes and is, so far, only an echo of another.

“God designs that each shall use his mind and conscience for himself. He does not intend that one man shall become the shadow of another, uttering only another’s sentiments.”

Mind, Character, and Personality, vol. 2, p. 785 E.G. White

Eventually, I became very sick. First the cancer, then a deadly jaw infection, and other ailments. This I was told was because of my “spiritual unfaithfulness.” But even so, my family supported my decision to skip the “conventional treatments” and choose available natural alternatives.

This included a year of natural treatment centers, juicing and raw foods, and supervision under a well known “Medical Missionary.” I then flew across the country for surgery on my jaw as I continued on a serious natural healing journey. Our daughter (then 15) traveled with me.

While I was away, my best friend of 35 years was moved into my place. No. Not all at once. But slowly she took over my duties under the “guidance” of the Grandparents. At the same time this was taking place, I was informed by Grandfather, because my husband wasn’t living up to what he should be, and he wasn’t able to be the “priest” of our family at the time, he (Grandfather) would be “standing in the place” of my husband, and that all communication was now going to take place between me and himself. I wasn’t told what was going on, and I wasn’t allowed to talk with my own husband, without Grandfather being in the loop. So the wondering, separation, extreme hurt, and betrayals began.

Right. More religious trauma here.

What actually took place over the next period of time was no different than religious cults of all kinds use, as tactics of control. My shunning and replacement was orchestrated in secret, in such a cunning way, that no one was aware of the deception, not even the deceivers. I was never informed of anything that took place, but we (my daughter and I) were told to not come back home after numerous attempts.

Everyone that knew my husband and his gentle, loving spirit, was in shock, including me, and our children, as he divorced me, and married “her”. This “act of adultery” was condoned because it was “God’s Will” and apparently I was “spiritually unfaithful.” How, why, or when that conclusion was made I will never know.

Then the “one leader” recited to me the story of Jacob and how he had to endure his marriage to Leah, as he waited to marry Rachel. The one he really loved, and that God had planned to give him at a later time.

The fictitious application of this story to our personal experience and marriage was created and presented to me to appease “the one leader’s” conscience for the part he played in the destruction of our family, which at a later time he confessed to me.

His words: as he held his head in anguish, “Not letting my right hand know what my left hand was doing… I made huge mistakes. Oh God, what have I done.”

Because of this, all parties were in the dark as the “one great leader” made decisions and controlled the narrative, ultimately interpreting “God’s Will” for each of us.

By this time, I no longer could hear “the lovely voice” that stood in the place of God. I couldn’t hear anything. I was completely numb. Every time the explanation of “Jacob and his wives” came into my mind I would physically gag and vomit. I became weaker and weaker.

 Again, extreme “interpretations” here, by an individual, causing severe religious trauma.

So, this great love story bowed down to generational religious trauma, and our marriage imploded before either of us knew what was happening.

This experience was so jolting to me that I had a nervous breakdown and almost took my own life. It felt like an axe had cut down to the very core and foundation of who I was, what I had known, and what I believed.

I no longer recognized the family, and the leadership, I had entrusted myself to and served for over 25 years. Everything that I had worked and lived for was gone.

My life’s companion.

My home.

My worldly belongings.

My financial support.

And my moral support.

But that waned palely, compared to the fact I lost the only spiritual support I knew, and had to come to the conclusion…


This left “the sacred parts of my soul” wailing inside of me.

The Library Of My Life

The Library Of My Life

I could write volumes, books really, about this story I now call, “The Great Contradiction.”

The love, the happiness, the sweet home I got to create.

The exclusivity which separated us from family, friends, and other loved ones, which meant years, decades even, without their presence.

The deep spiritual wealth of Christian history and knowledge.

The command that we were never ready to give the message, so our own gifts and talents were kept in check, and not allowed to develop.

The happy family trips and excursions that filled our Sabbath Days.

The fact we were never allowed to learn from our own mistakes.

The years of practical knowledge we put to use together in so many amazing, fun, and productive projects.

The undermining and questioning of every decision, suggestion, or presented idea.

The wisdom and patience that taught me so much about life.

The secret meetings that took place behind closed doors.

You see how the story goes? It is a story that is almost IMPOSSIBLE to tell and to write. But again, I make this feeble attempt in hopes that someone will see themselves in my own story, or part of my story, and know one thing.


And He can do it with “grace” and “mercy” for all.

Healing Religious Trauma

He Is Enough

While it’s important to see and unravel the trauma story, please note, the real story is not here, in the “messy middle” of life.

It is in the deliverance from such things, and in submission to the complete transformation that is available to each one of us, as individual created beings.

This is the story I want to tell now and throughout eternity.

The one where we get to be delivered from the complications and deceitful lies the enemy brings into our lives as he shows up as “an angel of light.”


  • God sorts it all out for us.
  • He gives us the necessary discernment.
  • And He opens our eyes.

The one where He turns our sorrows into → BLESSINGS.

Where we become the whole human beings He created us to be, directly under His own loving wings.

The one where → HE IS ENOUGH.

So that is where we go next… it’s where the story really begins!