Calvary Gospel Church, Childhood, Rapture, Salvation, Sexual Abuse, Shame, Stress, Trauma, United Pentecostal Church

Set Point Stress

Maverick and I going for a walk in the snow. This is one of the things that helps me cope with stress, especially in the winter.

I have been spending a lot of time thinking and not writing. There comes a point when you have expressed all of the surface junk and everything underneath seems so much harder to put into words. I am at a point in my life, 49 years old when things are not moving as fast for me as they were when my kids were little. I have a bit more time to breathe and time to reflect on things that I want to unravel. One of these things is stress.

I cannot remember a time in my life when I wasn’t stressed. Stressed about my parent’s marriage, school, money, food, church, and god. Some might say that stress is a normal part of life and I agree with that to a point. Being stressed shouldn’t be your set point and for all of my life, it has been my normal. My first teacher about stress was my mother. She was always stressed and for good reason. Money was tight, her jobs were stress-inducing, her marriage was a disaster, and she was always afraid of missing the rapture. Along with that came other things like untreated Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. She and my dad were always overly concerned about being late and so they created a child who is always early and never not stressed about time. Before we could leave the house my mother would have to check all of the nobs on the stove to be sure they were turned off and then check the door multiple times to be sure it was locked. Sometimes she would have to tour the rooms of the house to be sure all of the lights were off. She taught me to always check the backseat of the car for a masher even if all of the doors had been locked while we were away because…you never know. You never know became a big part of my life.

My experiences with the church and the UPC specifically only added to my stress response. I never felt good enough and always worried about my salvation and along with that came all of the end-time theology. The church was well acquainted with “You never know” and so they reinforced that message. You never know the day or the hour when Jesus might return. You never know you might have some unrepented sin hiding in there. You never know what book, movie or music might be a doorway for Satan to get into your heart. All of this made me one stressed-out kid and that in turn led me to be a stressed-out adult.

As you probably know we lay down these patterns as kids. Our brains and nervous systems are being formed and habits are laid down before we can even comprehend what is happening to us. So even after becoming an adult and being in a place of being able to make my own choices about what I believe my default is to be stressed. It’s funny how and when things hit us, it just hit me today that I’ve always been this way to the point of having ulcers when I was in grade school. I have always had what my grandmother would call a “nervous temperament.” So some of it is a natural disposition and a lot of it is learned. The whole time I was growing up and surrounded by religious adults I never felt the peace of god or grace. I felt like my mother, teachers, youth leaders, and others were always wagging their fingers at me saying be careful. Starting really young, “Oh be careful little eyes what you see, for the father up above is looking down with love.” Hmmm kind of a weird song, be careful because he is watching but “with love.” I learned the hard way after my interactions with Steve Dahl that I couldn’t trust myself or my body. My body could really get me into trouble simply by existing. This caused enormous stress and made me wish I could disappear. I started to feel like all men could be dangerous, also stress-inducing because well half the population were men. Along with checking the backseat, my mother would check closets and under the bed when we returned home from being out. She was checking for those dangerous men.

So what do you do when you realize your default is stress? One thing that brings me some relief is moving my body. I like to hike, go for dog walks, get to the gym, and do yoga. I enjoy dancing when I get the chance! I try to remind myself to breathe and I enjoy a hot bath from time to time. These are all coping mechanisms, what I am seeking to do is move my set point and that is not an easy task. There was a time when this would have been an impossible task. Before I started to give voice to my trauma and really deal with it I couldn’t have even approached this work but now I feel like maybe I can start. I am going to begin the process by just trying to move the needle a little bit. Rome wasn’t built in a day and so I’m going to try not to stress myself about stress. One simple thing I’ve been doing is trying to change my self-talk. When I get up in the morning instead of thinking, “I have to do all of this stuff today”, I try to say “I get to do all of this stuff today.” I remind myself that so much of my stress is self-generated and that I can cut myself some slack. I will probably post about this more after I have been working on it longer.

Does my experience sound like yours?


Calvary Gospel Church, Childhood, Devil


Halloween is my favorite holiday. This probably comes from how much I enjoyed it as a child. My mother was a candy hound and liked going out to get treats almost more than I did. My mother was very conservative but never saw Halloween as anything more than good clean fun. I’m sure my grandparents didn’t approve but they lived too far away for it to be a problem. Mom could be counted on to take me out even if it was very cold and near blizzard conditions. This was back in the ’70s when everything was made out of plastic and the masks would stick to your face once you started to sweat. We often didn’t have money to buy me a costume and we would be out shopping at the last minute trying to find something in the right size. I was a good-natured kid and could be happy with almost anything. My favorite costume memory is from the year I was “Police Woman”. This costume was modeled after a popular 70’s show featuring Angie Dickenson. After we were done my mom and I would go through all my candy. I would give her whatever I didn’t like and we would enjoy a few pieces. If I was lucky “It’s The Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown” would be on TV and everything would be right in the world.

We had these wonderful decorations for the windows. They are coming back into style now. I was at World Cost Market the other day and saw they had replicas of the ones my mother used. We had witches, black cats, bats, and all the usual fare. It was innocent and a bright spot in a sad childhood.

When I was a kid I was never a fan of the really scary movies and didn’t come to embrace them until I was an older teenager. The church was always talking about the ways in which the devil could trick you and lead you straight to hell. This was more than enough scary for me! There was a time when the church would hold parties around Halloween. These parties involved going to church in some sort of Bible character costume and I avoided these gatherings like the plague. If I wasn’t going out to get candy (because I was too old) then I wanted to dress up and give it out to the little people coming to the door. It was one of the only times I felt like we were normal. We were participating in a community event and a part of things instead of being on the outside looking in.

When I think about it I rarely ever heard people talking about the devil, Satan, demons and the like outside of the church. The church acted like the devil was some kind of boogie man who would jump out at you from the movie screen or record you were listening to. He could be found roaming your thoughts and wanted nothing more than to pollute your soul and make you one of his. They believed that if you listened to music about the devil like the Rolling Stones “Sympathy for the Devil”, you would instantly be inhabited by a demon. They warned us about how reading the wrong books would open a doorway to hell. Really they seemed very fixated on Satan and demons, much more so than the rest of the world I encountered.

There is a point to all this I promise, let me use this as an example. The church focused on sexuality and talked to children about it too much and the adults seemed to always be thinking about sex. To be honest they seemed to have their minds in the gutter, always expecting the worst. Within the congregation of CGC so much inappropriate sexual activity went on and some of it was criminal. I have to wonder if these things would have happened if the church did not have the attitudes about sex that it has. Where every little thing is sexualized and made unclean and evil. I wonder if they made Halloween, metal music, scary books and movies more enticing and interesting to certain young people because they railed against it and at the same time talked about the devil like he was a real entity that might try to get you. I feel they introduced some of the demonic stuff they were telling us was so wrong and so real just by talking about it so much. Was it the world that had been turned over to Satan because the world did not seem as impressed by him as my church was?! CGC really brought all the scary things into my life during my childhood. I think if I had been raised like a normal kid I might have encountered those things as I grew up and it was an appropriate time to be exposed. My children were only able to watch scary shows and movies as they were mature enough to handle the material. I was the mean mom that said no to certain things I didn’t feel my kids were ready for. They never knew the terror of being raised with a devil around every corner, you have to attend church to get that kind of horror.


United Pentecostal Church

What’s Next

I have been struggling to write anything. Both here and other places. I am proud of all that I and other survivors have been able to accomplish over this past year. At the same time it can be hard to handle the fact that CGC still exists and my abuser is still a pastor. People have asked me what comes next and to be honest I don’t know.

Ultimately I think I and others need a bigger platform to create big change. I’m not sure how to get there. I have been trying to engage the help of people who offered assistance but replies have been slow and silent. I’m happy to remind people of things but I don’t want to chase them down. Most of the time I feel pretty good about the work I have done but there are times I feel like I’ve failed.

Everything has its season and so I know it will pick up again and there will be more work to do. I might write some here about childhood stuff that has less to do with CGC because it was never my intent that this blog only be focused on one thing.

What would you like to hear more about?