Revive Our Hearts Podcast

Chaos in the Environment

Leslie Basham: Marcia Arnel grew up in a home full of chaos. Here is one of her early memories.

Marcia Arnel: The first time it happened, my friend and I were just playing in the basement. His uncle came down and said, "Hey, I need to see you guys in this room." So we went in there. Then he asked us to step inside of a closet. It was more of a voyeur-type situation. He just would watch and have us interact physically with one another.

Leslie Basham: This week we're going to hear an incredible story of hope. This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Monday, January 26. If you have younger children, you'll want to get them busy doing something else for the next few minutes because of the nature of today's content. Here is Nancy to introduce our guest.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: This week I want our listeners to meet Marcia Arnel, a young woman who has recently become a friend of mine. I have been so encouraged by hearing her testimony of God's grace in her life. Marcia, we're so delighted that you're able to join us today for Revive Our Hearts.

Marcia Arnel: Thanks, Nancy. I'm glad to be here.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: Marcia, it's been such a blessing to get to know you a little more personally recently and to hear something of your story. I know that you grew up in a home that had a lot of different and difficult issues. Tell us, what are some of your first memories about your home as you were a little girl?

Marcia Arnel: Well, Nancy, I was born into the home of a drug addict and alcoholic father. I have an older brother and my mom. The first six years of my life, we lived in California. My memories from then, being so young, aren't too numerous. I do remember people coming and going quite often in and out of our home, as my dad would have people come and go for different reasons. It wasn't uncommon for me to see even the coffee table in the living room to be covered with marijuana and different things--drug paraphernalia.

I do remember we had lots of animals in my home. We had birds and dogs and iguanas and tortoises, because my mom worked for an exotic pet store. So that was an exciting part of my childhood that I remember.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: At age five or six, did you know that was marijuana on the coffee table? Were you aware of what it was?

Marcia Arnel: I knew that it was something that my dad and his friends would sit around and they said they would get high from it. They did call it marijuana. I was aware of it being that, not knowing that it was a drug or illegal at that point, but aware of what it was, yes.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: And your mom, was she participating in this? Or was she saying anything to you about what was going on with the drugs?

Marcia Arnel: It was very common for mom to be part of the activity. I can't say I actually remember seeing her holding anything at that point, but I do know that mom was there and very aware of everything that was happening.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: So as a child, you just grew up thinking, This is how everybody lives.

Marcia Arnel: Yes. I didn't know any different, of course. So, yeah.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: So as you think back on those first several years of your life, are they pleasant memories of your family? Do you look back and say, "I had a pleasant childhood"?

Marcia Arnel: I'd say those first six years, I was pretty innocent-thinking. So yeah, I do remember liking California and being there. All the people--I loved having the people around and having them interact as a child with me. So I would classify it as rather pleasant.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: What kind of relationship did you have with your dad and with your mom and with your brother? Was there conflict in the home or was it a pretty easygoing environment?

Marcia Arnel: Oh, it's so hard, being just six years old. I only remember a few very realistic events from that time. None of them at that point were regarding my father in any negative nature. I remember swimming in the pool in our front yard and hanging out in our yard and playing around the neighborhood, but it wasn't ever a family event. It would be me and my brother and our friends, but not necessarily our parents were involved in that.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: Now you spent the first several years of your life in California, and then you had a move.

Marcia Arnel: We moved from California to St. Louis. My father had been abusive to my mom prior to this. Her brother had walked in on this a couple of times and had threatened that if he ever saw it again--I believe possibly it was my mom's way of escaping her family being involved in that.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: So there was abuse going on in the family, even during those early years.

Marcia Arnel: Yes. At the age of three years old, my parents had quite a few people over and they were tripping LSD, acid, as you might know it. They had lost one of the hits of acid. I had found that and had taken that. Mom said that I was put in a room and locked by myself. The only thing that would keep me quiet was holding Mickey Mouse over me.

Later in high school, I realized I hated Mickey Mouse and didn't know why. I was able to relate that back to the time I was three years old when all of that chaos was going on in my mind through that drug.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: So there really was chaos in your environment during those years, even though perhaps early on you didn't realize there was anything unusual about that.

Marcia Arnel: Right. As I look back now, things have come out in my life. But the actual memories, being that age, I can't recall much.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: What are your first memories as you made this move now and you're living with your family in a different city?

Marcia Arnel: First of all, we stayed with my uncle for awhile. It was all of us just piled into a house, which we didn't really have rooms or anything. We slept on the couches and different things. After we got into our first home and into a neighborhood, things began to develop. New friendships. The hurt of leaving California finally wore off. I met a friend down the street, a boy my age. In his home, tragic events started taking place as his uncle began to molest me and him at the same time.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: So you were in this boy's home. Would this be during the daytime? In the evening? Did the uncle live in that home?

Marcia Arnel: The uncle did live in the home. My friend and I would play. He would come and ask if we would go down in the basement and do different things down there. My parents would just let us go play, just tell us to go play to get us out of the house. I realized later that was so different things could take place in the house regarding drug situations. But, yes, I would be asked to leave and go play. His uncle would intervene in our playing time.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: What was going through your mind in those early experiences?

Marcia Arnel: I remember as a little girl many things happening in my home. Dad, at this time, I began to see him act out in fits of rage--slamming things, breaking things around the house, throwing the phone. Any violent activity became very evident in my home.

So I just liked to be out of my house. I would go visit my friend. Since that is how everything had started with that molestation situation, it was just kind of normal. I guess in a sense, in the beginning it was rather uncomfortable. I didn't really understand what was going on, being so young. But it just became a part of life. That's just what we did when we went over there.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: Is this something you discussed with your mother or with any other person?

Marcia Arnel: I don't recall ever discussing it, because my friend was there as well. So we probably talked about it on our own. But outside of that, I don't remember it ever becoming a topic of discussion.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: So did it seem to you to be--you said at first it was uncomfortable. Did it seem to you to be a shocking thing or a negative, painful thing? What were your childhood impressions?

Marcia Arnel: To be quite honest, I don't know that I ever recalled an emotional feeling from that. I do remember feeling accepted by him. He desired me to be there.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: Did that mean something special to you?

Marcia Arnel: Yes, definitely. Because at home, I was told just to go play or whatever.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: So this was a sense that you had not had from your parents.

Marcia Arnel: Definitely. It would be someone wanting us to be there and be around.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: So you felt loved, you felt accepted, and yet in your heart did something seem not right about what was going on there?

Marcia Arnel: I don't know that I ever pondered that, being six, seven years old.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: Do you remember the first time that it happened?

Marcia Arnel: Yes. The first time it happened, my friend and I were just playing in the basement. His uncle came down and said, "Hey, I need to see you guys in this room." So we went in there. Then he asked us to step inside of a closet, at which point he began to ask us to touch each other in different places. It was more of a voyeur-type situation. He just would watch and have us interact physically and sexually with one another.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: You don't remember that striking you at the time as anything other than maybe a new game that you were playing as a child.

Marcia Arnel: Actually, I remember thinking it was something like hide and seek. No one is going to find out. We have to hide in this little room and do this.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: It was more of a little secret that you had.

Marcia Arnel: Definitely.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: And then how did that progress?

Marcia Arnel: I remember as a little girl coming home and his uncle had asked me to not wear underclothing when I would come visit and different things like that. I remember specifically having a skirt on or something and making sure that I was okay to go down there. I would remove that before going to the house, because he had asked us not to wear so much clothing there so that things could I guess happen faster, I'm not sure. But I remember thinking through that before I would go visit my friend down the street.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: Was there ever fear involved on your part as this began to develop?

Marcia Arnel: I think there was a fear that someone might walk around the corner when we were in that little room, just wondering if anyone was going to catch us. I guess in a sense, I knew in my mind that it was a secret and maybe secrets aren't always the best.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: At what stage as you were growing up were you able to look back on that whole series of circumstances and say, "That wasn't right"?

Marcia Arnel: As odd as this might sound, I don't remember really until college when a girlfriend began to really question me and talk to me more about what it meant to say no to guys and to walk away from situations. That was the first point I ever shared that instance and those circumstances with my friends. They began to talk to me about those and I realized that that wasn't supposed to happen. But I would say until I was 20 years old, I just thought that's how life was.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: We've been listening to a conversation I had with my friend, Marcia Arnel. I know that the details of this story are very, very bleak. Perhaps if you've not had any experiences like this in your own life, maybe even hard to believe. I want to encourage you to hang in there with us as we continue our conversation with Marcia throughout this week. I can assure you that God has done some amazing things in this young woman's life. It really is a story of God's grace and God's redeeming love.

In fact, when she was a little girl, she began to hear in Sunday school for the first time about the love of God. It's a love that she desperately needed and wanted to experience. But at that point in her life, she didn't know how to accept the love of God. In fact, she rejected that love for the first 20 years of her life.

Whether it's someone from Marcia's background with the horrible abuse and family dysfunction or maybe somebody from a very religious and churched background without all that baggage and those issues, it's only through the love of God and the grace of God that anyone's story can end with hope.

I want to encourage you, wherever you are in your personal spiritual pilgrimage, not to reject the love of God but to receive it. It really is our only hope.

Leslie Basham: That's Nancy Leigh DeMoss. We'll hear more of her interview with Marcia Arnel tomorrow. You can get a copy of the entire conversation on two tapes for $8 or two CDs for $10 by calling us at 1-800-569-5959. Or visit ReviveOurHearts.com. There you can find information on healing from sexual abuse. If today's program brought to mind some painful or unresolved issues in your life, we hope you'll visit ReviveOurHearts.com and learn how to start the healing process.

Occasionally we air programs as part of our transformed women series--stories about God's ability to change incredibly difficult situations. Would you share with us how God has transformed your life? We'd like to rejoice with you.

Thanks for listening to Revive Our Hearts.

 Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss is a ministry partnership of Life Action Ministry.

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