By Terri Ray
Going from being a strong woman hiding behind fears to being empowered by grace in strength is like moving from invisible to being transparent. Your fears keep you hidden, but recognition of yourself makes you visible to the world.
The subject of this piece has been on my heart for quite some time. It took facing a life changing revelation that allowed me to share my innermost thoughts.
During my youth I never felt “good enough” and I had “too much to deal with” at home. All I knew was that matters close to my heart writhed in pain and suffered distortion over what I considered unresolved matters of my childhood. An abuse of power (physical and verbal abuse) shaped and painfully affected me every day. I was not allowed to have my own voice, be my own person or have the ability to see myself or our world in the way God intended.
As I matured, strength meant going faster, driving myself to higher levels of performance to provide results that were buried under abuses of power and shame. The constant pounding of discouragement and attempts to beat me into a “form” caused my perception of myself to be different than what God had in his life plan for me.
More than 25 years ago – following my “growing up years” – I was given the privilege to become a member of the Factory Kawasaki Race Team Rider (jet-skier). I was head-strong, strong-willed and blazed through opportunities and challenges in the form of intense trainings, relentless hours of daily practice along with bleeding hands and feet. This all led to Budweiser National and World events, tour stops across the U.S., winning the 1993 Busch World Cup Championship and traveling to Japan as a “test rider’ to evaluate what research and development had implemented in stand-up models of jet skis.
Each win and acknowledgment drove the desire to finally grasp the ownership of the strength and power I knew resided inside me. It painted a much prettier picture than that which I faced each day looking in the mirror and seeing an identity broken by the abuse of power, words that discouraged and bruised the strength that naturally grows within. I believe this caused me, a strong woman, to “hide” in the confines of a shattered identity. I believe responsible expression of order, authority and power begins with the home.
Following my racing career, I was led to Hollywood and literally “fell into” work as a stuntwoman and my first “set location” was on the filming of Waterworld. I filmed in Hawaii and doubled for actress Linda Hamilton.
In my 26-year Screen Actors Guild career, I would have opportunity after opportunity to “get back up again.” As this relates to life isn’t that what we do as women? We find the strength to get back up again . . . following betrayal of the heart, abuse of power, brokenness of heart and shattered identity and being pushed to the ground in shame and disappointment. These real-life experiences have taught me – just like a stuntwoman on set after you hear the word “cut” – you find your feet as quickly as possible. It would take this “get up again” attitude and years of therapy to help me sift through the misguided notions and strive to find a place for the images that shadowed my sense of identity that I fought for years to conquer.
Through a relationship with Jesus I found comfort in bringing these difficult memories to Him for His love and healing. I found much release in the heaviness of carrying it all by myself by handing it over to Jesus for His care and help in carrying the load. I would find a natural rhythm of being in God’s freedom and feeling I had found a way of being in a world every bit enjoyable as the world could offer. Gaining traction in life, one might say.
“Cut to” is a term used in film to signify a “new scene.” A new scene in my life was revealed in a doctor’s office on September 11, 2019 with a new diagnosis. I suppose one might say that is the day my life changed, but not at the announcement of meeting a giant called cancer or having a battle choose me. When the doctor “TIME STAMPED” my life, I retorted; “YOU CAN’T DO THAT.” “YOU DON’T HAVE THAT RIGHT.” This is when a strong woman hiding became a strong woman wrapped in the love of Jesus and empowered by grace to stand and face the giant of a beast called cancer.
On this day when I read Matthew 16:15 my life changed to a “new life in Christ” in a “new” way. The scripture reads: “Who do you say I am?” When I read this my life took on new meaning and quite frankly many lies and untruths began falling off my heart, my mind, my way of being that included “strong woman.”
It took this experience called cancer to pierce through in a twist of irony and release a very strong woman and call her up in Jesus! I was a strong woman hiding behind a veil of strength. God gifted me with an ability, but in no way was “my own strength” going to be a match for the giant of stage 4 terminal cancer. I will not wait to get chemo and surgery; I WILL GIVE GLORY TO GOD TODAY!!! Look what He has done. He allows me freedom in heart, healing the hurts of the past, hope for the future and faith to BELIEVE HIS PROMISES!
God is the only one allowed to “time stamp” my life. He wrote each day of my life in a book and it is His decision to honor His timing.
He is with you NOW and can empower you with His strength to get up and stand in His power to face your giant and you get to OVERCOME!
My story is one of extreme high accomplishments and getting back up again following life’s most challenging blows.
I am blessed to be called an xPro Athlete; former Factory Kawasaki Race Team Rider setting in total 7 World Records with the last one still unbroken, to date. I was deemed “the fastest woman in the history of the sport. To that additionally, I am a retired Hollywood stuntwoman. As a 26-year vested Screen Actors Guild member, I was granted the distinct honor of the SAG Award in 2009 for Best Stunt Ensemble in a Television series; ‘24’. That year would also complete my heart’s passion project, “Stuck In Traffic,” a documentary short on human sex trafficking. As Executive Producer/Writer, I would receive my most humbling and highest honor; the Los Angeles John Chow Humanitarian Award (2009).
As a woman, I have faced many giants in my lifetime; the giant of betrayal, abuse of power, brokenness of heart and shattered identity, being ‘pushed down’ to the ground in shame and disappointment.
Interestingly, just like my work as a stuntwoman, inside me was the will to “get up again.” Because of the most recent giant, a diagnosis of ovarian stage 4 terminal cancer on Sept. 11,2019, I have discovered a strength inside to, literally, shift the entire grid of my life to hope and courage. I could only receive this, there was nothing I could do, or did, to earn this grace.
Terri’s book, Live Courageously, is available on Amazon: