Sunday, August 24, 2014

Blogging Hiatus

As you probably noticed, I've taken a break from blogging. There are many reasons for it, which I may go into at some point in the future. There were some posts I'd like to have written, but felt the timing wasn't write. I plan to return to blogging soon, and hope I will write posts that are meaningful to my readers!

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Finding Time (or Not as the case is!)

I have 5 unfinished blog posts that were pressing on me when I started writing them. Other things squeezed out the time I would have devoted to them and I'm not sure if I will return to some of them, despite the importance of the topic! I find that life seems to move along with many responsibilities, many distractions and many goals that are more pressing then sitting down to write. This is sad, as it's always been a passion of mine.

In order to make time for it I am considering trying to schedule it into my day, which means something else will have to go! Hopefully once I'm back in the habit of writing regularly I will not need to schedule time for it, as I find that sitting to write at a specific time instead of when things are tumbling in my head usually means that the passion doesn't come through as well. Or the quality of my thoughts feel forced instead of natural trajectory of thoughts that was spurred on by an event.

If I had the time to write I would maybe blog about the loneliness and lack of connection I have with my family - who chose to not tell me for a whole month (!) that my sister had a massive heart attack, coded 5 times and is walking around with a defibrillator vest. Not only that they didn't tell me, but that they told my brother to NOT post about it on Facebook so I won't find out. Talk about feeling like an unvalued part of the family!

I haven't seen my family in around 6 years. I'd have to think back to exactly how long it's been because I've been through so much. They don't visit me, rarely contact me and yet I get lectured at how much time goes by since I'd last contacted them. Yet I get clear messages that I'm not an important factor in their life. I'm an afterthought. I wonder if that's the punishment I get for moving far away! I would visit if I could afford it, but it would remind me about how I'm not really a part of the family. I always feel like a guest....and that I don't belong.

My mom recently said she's going to stop sending me money each month. What she gave me was the part that made the difference in making all my bills. Now I'm going to be stuck not being able to cover all my expenses. She recently told me about an elective surgery she had and how happy she is at the results. Knowing these types of surgeries are not medically necessary AND expensive made me feel that my children and I are low on her priority list. From now on, things are going to be more difficult then they have been! So it will be even longer before I'm able to go home.

Yep, that's probably what I would write about. Trying to define who I am, and it seems being a part of a family doesn't appear to be it. But I've taken too much time already when I'm trying to finish 2 weeks of schoolwork in 2 days. I must sign off and get back to work.

Soon I will come here more often and get back to sharing my heart with people who want to listen. I wonder if I'm alone in feeling unconnected, pressed for time and busy with the normal things of life. I suspect many people feel similar sadness when thinking about their family. And I'm confident most of us feel we bounce around from one thing to the next while some of our dreams and desires are left undone. I hope to change that and make more time for more of what I enjoy!

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Overcoming Pain

The past 6 weeks have been a challenging time for me. If you know me you will think this isn't anything new. And in some ways it's not. Yet the recent challenges have been in different ways then usual. I was hiking about 5 weeks ago and sprained my ankle really bad. My ankle was swollen to three times the normal size. In the beginning I was constantly in pain. It was hard to move around for a week. I followed typical instructions for a sprain - pretty hard since I work at a gym and am a very active person. I missed my workouts, and wasn't able to teach classes for a couple weeks. I slowly adding back in workouts, starting with strength training and then attempting to run. It still hurt some, but the doctor said it was ok to add back in activities. I am mostly back to normal, able to do the activities I love and be on my feet a lot. Yet sometimes by the end of the day everything adds up. Today is one of those days - I was moving furniture around, had done workouts 2 days in a row and was on my feet a lot.

As soon as I got in the car after work tonight I couldn't keep the tears from streaming down my face any longer. When I get home at night I continue icing my ankle and rest it. Yet tonight I must finish a school assignment and it's hard to focus when my foot is throbbing so bad. Coupled with the fact that last week I had multiple viral infections and a very bad cough. I just finished my antibiotics, at night I start coughing hard - at times so hard that I can barely breathe. By morning it's gone, but it's more challenging to rest.

Why do I say all this? I've had to think a lot about my desires and needs. I've had to face pain when it comes...and face the fact that while I feel great at a given moment, that participating in a workout might cause pain later. I'd really like to avoid pain. I'm sure I'm not alone in that fact. Yet I know that pain is caused by many things. It can be a signal that good things are happening, or a signal that something needs to stop. I have learned that I'm willing to endure pain for things I love. Yet there are some activities that are pleasing to God that I don't like to do, want to do and sometimes try to avoid, because it's likely it will cause me some type of pain. I have seen that I'd rather do a workout and feel great, knowing the pain will come later then to skip the workout and not have any pain. God often wants us to lay aside our plans and (sometimes) selfish desires to do something for him. One thing I've noticed about being single is that I've become more self-centered. I control my life and I'm often able to do what I want when I want it. I believe God is calling me to expand my activities to include others, to give to others and to serve others. A part of me cringes at this. I have an agenda of trying to make my life as a single parent be as easy and painless as possible. Yet I also feel an isolation and laziness that can be overcome by reaching out to others.

I will spend more time contemplating what I feel he's leading me too. For now I need to try and focus on pushing through the pain and finishing my paper for class!

Does anyone else have these struggles or thoughts to share?

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Poor Neglected Blog

I have been terribly remiss in blogging. My next few posts will likely be something like passing time, or the books I've been reading (I haven't posted the recent ones I've read yet!) or tv shows I've seen. Still haven't finished some of my posts on abuse so have those on my list too.

But since I want to post things relevant to my audience, leave me a comment as to something you want me to write about and I'll add it to my list. Hopefully it will prompt me to get back here soon!

Sunday, December 15, 2013

The Problem With Change

I don't like change. I'm confident I'm not alone in saying such a thing. It disrupts something that is often precious, though sometimes change threatens something we don't want but we have been accustomed to. Change is scary because it calls a person to something new and different. There is no guarantee that the change is better. That is one reason why abused women hesitate to leave their spouses. It is why people would rather not seek treatment for serious medical issues then deal with a nagging cough, or persistent pain. Yet when we say we don't like change we often mean there are things we don't want to change and aren't happy if they do change. However, give us a situation we don't like and we'll be wracking our brains trying to figure out how to create change! 

So we end up with 2 sides of a coin, both leading to discouragement. In one situation we don't want anything to change and it does. In the other we have a situation where we do want something to change and it remains the same. It is no secret to my friends that discouragement haunts me. I'm an extrovert that has changed into a introvert due to pressures and pain of life. Good things turn sour and I find it harder to open up and trust. I long for release from the stress and discouragement that plagues me and it rarely comes. I have brief moments when the sun shines in the dark and all seems right with the world. Yet it quickly fades and I find myself hiding so that more bad things don't happen to me. 

I have often thought there is something wrong with me…that I am disappointing God by not handling the trials in my life with a more positive outlook and stronger faith. I would like to trust and believe he truly loves me and knows what is best, but I often struggle due to not understanding why pain and hardship have to remain as close as my shadow! I do eventually come to places when I'm able to look back and see the good things that have resulted from difficulty. Occasionally it helps in a dark place. Sometimes it doesn't. I have come to a place where I can find some comfort that a weak faith is still faith. And sometimes I think that it is more precious to God. In my times of doubt when I run to him and even question him - instead of forgetting him, instead of not interacting with him in my pain - it is then that I acknowledge there are things I need to get through my struggles that has to come from somewhere else. And even in those times it seems like I'm not receiving what I need, there is something that helps. That is what I remind myself in those times I can't see the good.

When we want change we can cling to hope for it when there isn't any to be found. This can prevent us from moving on to a safer place and can cause more pain. When we don't want change but it happens we can miss the blessings (even small ones) that are occurring when we only look at the loss. It's inevitable that change will happen, sometimes when we don't want it. It's also inevitable we will seek change and instead stay stuck in the same situation. I'm currently going through situations that have me on an emotional roller coaster. There is loss, resulting in sadness leading to fear. There are blessings that bring some relief - and yet I'm tempted to fear that the good things won't last. Why do the things I long to change stay difficult with no relief in sight and the things I wish to stay the same crumble like sandcastles pounding by waves? 


My hope is that I'll be able to use my suffering to help others when they go through tough times. I don't know what's coming in the future but I keep trying to look for the good to help get through the rough times. I try to believe God is there doing something good in the midst of it all. Is there anything you've learned that helps you in difficult times? Feel free to share, it may help someone who reads your thoughts.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

An Encounter With an Autistic Child

     A couple months ago I walked to a nearby park with my kids. As we approached there was a girl (probably close to my sons age) swinging while her mom watched. My children all ran up to the swings. There weren't enough seats so it was clear that they would have to take turns. My youngest daughter ran off to find something else to play with. My son stuck around the swing set to watch. The girl started talking loudly to my kids and repeating the same thing over and over. Her mom convinced her to swing a couple more minutes and then let one of my kids have a turn. After a few minutes the girl was trying to negotiate for more time on the swings. Eventually she was able to get her girl off the swings and my son started swinging. He had patiently waited and watched the girls contest to see who could go higher. Almost as soon as he got on the girl started telling him his time was over and it was her time again. Her mom intervened and told her that she would need to wait a bit longer for another turn. The girl had fixated on the swings and wasn't happy about this. After a few minutes my son chose to get off and let the girl have her swing back. My youngest had come over and wanted a turn so my oldest sat her on her lap and did some swinging with her.

     During these events the mom apologized to me for her daughter and told me she had autism, which I had already suspected before she mentioned it, since I have friends with autistic children. We talked for awhile about the challenges she had raising her to learn boundaries, consideration and respect for others. The mother isn't able to work because her daughter needs full time care and her husband couldn't handle the situation and left them. Many of us are uncomfortable with people who are different then us, though we don't want to admit it. We label them as difficult because they don't act, speak or respond the way we want them too. In situations like this we see the character of the person interacting with the different person. While conversing with this women about her difficulties I watched my children speak kindly to her and try to include the little girl in other play activities. I was thankful the kids had taken to heart the times I'd instructed them in kindness, compassion and respect. (While we were walking home the kids said to me they knew the girl was different and felt sad about her struggles.)


     The mom thanked me for being understanding and expressed relief that my kids weren't being mean or frustrating to her daughter. Many people have judged and criticized her and her little girl. It is hard enough teaching my three children the lessons I want them to learn; I can't imagine the daily struggle of attempting to teaching a child with impaired cognitive function the same lessons! I have watched friends agonize over situations where they are unsure if they should let the battle go or push a little harder, hoping for even a small amount of growth in an area or situation. It's a delicate balance between responding to your child where he's at and also trying to lead them out of their comfort zone. Over time progress can be made, but sometimes pushing a little bit can lead to meltdowns and the parents second guessing themselves. Life with an autistic child is exhausting both mentally, physically and spiritually! This woman was honest about her struggles. I was sad at the number of times she apologized for her daughter. I'm sad she feels she constantly has to share her daughters autism in order to explain her odd or inappropriate behavior. I sensed her embarrassment, frustration and sadness at how often it interferes with the normal life she wants for her daughter. I was glad that for a short moment of time, both she and her daughter experienced being treated like normal by those around them. The mother said she couldn't remember the last time children and adults just accepted them and treated them the same way they usually do others. I almost cried when she shared that with me. I wish people were more comfortable reaching out to those who struggle with disabilities. Many people think it will be challenging and uncomfortable - and it often is - but It is often a rewarding experience too!


     If you know someone with autism I would encourage you to ask their parents to explain what it's like for them and then ask them how you can help. Most people with autistic kids don't get a break and so they live with a high level of stress, always waiting for the next crisis. Most parents feel alone. Having someone willing to support and encourage them can re-energize them and lessen the stress. If you have any experiences or tips to share, please feel free to post them in the comments.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Books Read in November

Well, I didn't read as much in November. I spent more time organizing items in my house and cross-stitching a design that will go on my wall. I'm nearing the end of that project so spent a lot of time focusing on it! Here are the books I read.

  • Loving God When You Don't Love The Church - Chris Jackson
  • The Emotionally Destructive Marriage - Leslie Vernick
  • Give Them Grace - Elyse Fitzpatrick and Jessica Thompson
  • Lit! - Tony Reinke
  • Working The Angles: The Shape of Pastoral Integrity - Eugene Peterson

The first book is an excellent book one on learning to heal from church wounds. It starts by accepting and validating that there are many churches out there that harm people. Then it moves to working through the issues and the importance of getting involved in a community again.

The second book is the one I won in the Goodreads drawing. I finished it in 2 days. I wish I'd had this book when my marriage was failing. While it might not have changed the outcome, it would have given me more knowledge to confirm my experiences, more courage to stand up for myself and help me know I'm not alone. I would highly recommend everyone get this book so you know what abusive marriages are like. And if you are in an abusive marriage I would recommend showing it to your church leaders! If I'd had this book I would NOT have accepted advice I knew was wrong just because it came from the church!

The 3rd book is a parenting book on how best to teach your children what true grace is like. Many of us do focus more on good behavior and so we create systems to get the desired results. This book shows that every one of our instructive and corrective conversations is an opportunity to explain to how children how gracious God is to us - an undeserved people. This book has changed the way I have conversations with my children. (And they are already responding better.)

The 4th book is about reading. Why we should read, how to read and what we should read. It has a great section on reading classics and non-Christian books, including movies. He doesn't tell us what is right and wrong, but gives good thoughts on why we should be more inclusive of the material we read. 

The 5th book is about the three areas pastors need to work on to maintain integrity of the gospel and their lives. The first area is prayer. He does a great job of explaining that prayer isn't initiating conversation with God, but continuing the conversation he's started already! The second area is Scripture. Here again he brings up new points that reading of scripture is meant to bring us to listening. Reading isn't the end, but listening and understanding what is being read is important. The third area is spiritual direction and he points out that it actually take two people to accomplish this. The spiritual director needs to know how to appropriately guide the recipient, who of course needs to listen and act. He pointed out that in all these areas pastors often become lax because of their training and the amount of time they have to study. The main goal of his book is to call pastors to rethink their calling and be more focused and intentional in their duties.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Pre- Thanksgiving Post - Dealing with Pain

I'm still working on some posts regarding abuse, but other topics keep pulling at me too. I will alternate going back and forth I guess. Today, I want to take some time to acknowledge my favorite holiday!

Many people who know this might be surprised at this. I have developed into a pessimistic person over the years. Yet I've learned that doesn't exclude the ability to find peace or joy in little things from time to time. I am one of many people who have suffered several prolonged difficulties that wear away my strength, challenge my beliefs and leave me crying in a puddle on the floor at times. Yet part of how I make it from day to day is in little blessings. I am able to smile when I see gorgeous sunsets, have time to relax in my first home, read books, work on hobbies, help someone through a difficult time. I have brief moments of feeling blessed. The moments slip away and the struggles and pain returns. I have at times felt my emotions were a curse that I needed to change. I no longer believe I need to hide my emotions or try to change them. I am instead seeking to acknowledge them and process them better.

Earlier this year I started a 5 year gratitude journal. I bought one for my daughter as well, as she is hitting that hormonal stage, resulting in emotional outbursts and complaining a lot! Some days it is challenging to find something that I feel is a blessing, but if I keep thinking I eventually find something good. The reality is that I'm always worn out from raising kids alone and working hard while barely being able to pay my bills. So most days the pain and exhaustion I feel is a barrier to seeing good things.

That's part of why Thanksgiving is important to me. I love everything about Thanksgiving. I love the food associated with the holiday. My southern roots mean homemade macaroni and cheese, pecan pie and candied sweet potatoes. I always loved this time of year when the trees change beautiful colors. The rainbow of colors remind me that while we are are different we make something beautiful when we work together. The oranges, reds, browns and yellows of fall decor always make me feel warm in a cold and cruel world. I have a cute collection of scarecrows, wreaths and pumpkin theme dishes that make me smile when I walk by. I love the story of the pilgrims perseverance. They came to America to escape persecution and struggled through harsh conditions where many of them died. Yet after the harvest they stopped to celebrate what they had...and they shared it with others.

I am especially blessed this Thanksgiving. I am able to celebrate this holiday with my children. Because the previous two years I couldn't afford food and needed to work as much as possible I wasn't able to spend it with them. Last year I sat in my apartment and ate a frozen dinner and watched TV alone. Now, I have a new home that truly feels like a safe place! If I'd thought in advance I would have invited someone over to share it with us this year. I'll have to plan better next time! Since I won my case for food stamps we will have a great feast this year of all the dishes my children have requested. We will cook together, play games, read books and decorate for Christmas. My struggles will continue and I will have days when I struggle to think of blessings to write in my journal, but Thursday will not be one of them and I'm thankful to have a worry free day with my children!

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Memorable Quotes - On Gifts



"Every gift breaks the barrier between the sacred and the mundane and floods the mundane with the sacred." Miroslav Volf in Free of Charge: Giving and Forgiving in a Culture Stripped of Grace.

I love this quote so much I decided to hold off finishing current drafts of blog posts to write this one. It comes from the first Chapter, titled God the Giver. He calls to our attention to the truth that the real image of God is a giving God. He dispels the incorrect ideas we have about what it means for God to give us gifts and what our response to those gifts should be. Genesis 1: says we are created in HIS image. Despite our sinful tendencies we are called to reflect his image. Since his image is one of giving freely and abundantly to us, this means we must pass on the gifts we have received to others. On pg 50 he writes, "We are not simply the final destinations in the flow of God's gifts. Rather, we find ourselves midstream, so to speak. The gifts flow into us, and they flow on from us…they flow to those in need."

We may be imperfect people but we can reflect God when we set aside our selfish desires to help others through difficult times. Maybe it's a simple gesture of donating money to a organization that helps homeless people. Maybe it's visiting sick people in the hospital, serving meals in a soup kitchen or more time intensive actions of mentoring orphans or opening your home to struggling people. All of these examples reflect his image. Yet a godly reflection isn't limited to only these types of actions as the quote reflects. Any action, even those mundane ones like waking in the middle of the night to care for sick children or cleaning the grungiest bathrooms is a gift. When we have a proper understanding of our calling to live for God every selfless action is a gift. "When a gift is given, life becomes extraordinary because God's own gift giving flows through the giver."


Our Christian identity and purpose results in knowing the mundane and sacred blend together into a beautiful story where we are able to lay aside selfishness for the good of others resulting in glory and honor to God! When we go through times of being discouraged in the mundane and difficult seasons of life we must continue to remember the gifts he has given us and his plan for us to pass those gifts on to others. 

Another quote from the chapter gives a powerful picture of this truth, "If we don't turn from facing God, so to speak, to face our neighbors, the flow of God's gifts will be arrested with us...it is as we serve our neighbors - our family, friends, and acquaintances - that the dam holding the flow of gifts is lifted and the life of God continues its intended flow." What a thought to think that our actions can impede the flow of gifts to others. This is the height of selfishness, to keep God's gifts to ourselves and not share them with others! We needn't fear that the gifts of God are in limited supply. Volf's picture helps us here. When a dam breaks water can't be contained and rushes everywhere. God graciously and lovingly gives wonderful gifts. God longs to use us to spread gifts to others and there is an abundance of gifts to go around. With these truths in mind you can keep your eyes open for opportunities to spread his gifts to others. They might pop up when you least expect it and be carried out in ways you never could have imagined!

Please leave your thoughts or experiences in the comments.

Monday, November 11, 2013

All About Books....

I love to read. I always have. When I was a child I almost always had a book with me. There were times I was in my bedroom after school. Instead of doing my homework I was reading a book. I taught myself to read in Kindergarten and was at a 6th grade reading level by the end of first grade. Books were an escape for me when I was unhappy. Books were also a way to learn and I loved to be exposed to new things. My dream one day is to have a house with at least one room filled with books - I'm talking floor to ceiling bookshelves along all four walls! I probably should have been a librarian! Or a book store owner! I have ebooks books on my iPad and laptop, but there is nothing like holding a real book! Especially a new one!!! :)

This past month I read 10 books.

  • Lundy Bancroft - Why Does He Do That?
  • Lundy Bancroft - When Dad Hurts Mom
  • Paul Hegstrom - Angry Men and the Women Who Love Them
  • Patricia Evans - The Verbally Abusive Relationship
  • Barbara Roberts - Not Under Bondage: Biblical Divorce For Abuse, Adultery and Desertion
  • Dan McCartney - Why Does it Have to Hurt?
  • Paul Tripp - A Shelter in the Time of the Storm
  • Nancy Leigh DeMoss - Choosing Forgiveness
  • Leslie Vernick - The Emotionally Destructive Relationship
  • Brian Crosby - Giving Up Gimmicks: Reclaiming Youth Ministry From An Entertainment Culture


The first 5 books are ones dealing with abuse (one of the later ones is at well). I'd read all of them before - but wanted to re-read them to be able to accurately quote from them in some of the previous posts and hope to quote more in future posts. If you keep up with literature on abuse there is a lot of common knowledge up to a certain point. There isn't as much literature on abuse when it comes to spiritual matters, though recently there has been more attention brought to how abuse devastates a person's faith. I'm confident there will be more resources and help available in the future.

The next 2 are on suffering. I marked many pages that bring up things I want to blog about. It's going to be hard to figure out what post to write on next! 

The next 2 books are about relationships, the first centering on forgiving those who've hurt us and the next another book talking about destructive patterns in relationships (some of which are abusive). Very many good things in these books as well.

The last book is on ministry, specifically around ministry to youth. It has some great thoughts on the current culture of youth groups and how it's lacking in fulfilling a biblical model of teaching children. I really liked this book! 

There were other books I started but didn't get finished before the month ends...so those will be added on to my list for next month. I may take a month off of reading in December to write my thoughts on these all these books!

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Why Doesn't The Victim Leave?


I apologize for being unable to post for the past couple weeks. I've been going through some problems with my family and other transitions that have taken up a lot of time. I intend to continue blogging about abuse, but also write on other topics, since I had drafts on social issues I put on hold during October that I want to finish! I hope to get back into the habit and blog 2 or 3 times a week….
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Since I've given a good overview of different facets of abuse I will switch and discuss Frequently Asked Questions. If you have a question you want me to answer let me know in the comments and I'll work it into upcoming posts. 

One frequently asked question is "Why don't you / doesn't she just leave him?"

While each situation is unique, most abused partners fall within several categories here. To the person being abused, the abuse feels like many different things. If abuse if publicly witnessed it can bring embarrassment…but much deeper then that it will bring shame and guilt as the victim has been humiliated and feels they should have known it was coming to be able to avoid the public spectacle.

It can feel like a punishment for failing to do something or be someone. The abuser makes it clear the victim can't live up to expectations. These expectations are continually thrown in the victim's face, until they begin to feel normal (even when they aren't.) This is a big factor in why many abused women don't leave. They can't imagine a relationship where they could have freedom, much less it be ok! When your actions are heavily controlled, freedom is scary! Having to think for yourself is difficult…This is even more difficult when the other person has criticized you so much that you don't have confidence in yourself anymore. Abused women second guess every decision they make, because someone else is trying to define reality for them. When they are alone and need to make a decision they will find themselves wondering what the abuser would think….and their decisions are often based on what they think will make him the happiest. It is devastating when even after all the time spent considering an issue the abuser is upset over their decision. Over time she believes that she is the problem in the relationship and she just needs to try harder to make him happier. Once a person reaches this point, they will take responsibility for the abuser's actions. This makes it a lot harder to think about leaving, because it means she would have to admit that it isn't her fault and she can't make it better. Sadly, these issues are reinforced when church leaders tell the women who come to them for protection that they need to go home and try harder and pray harder. Telling them they need to learn to love their husband in the way he needs can cause them to be abused more, as some of the abusive mans "needs" are destructive and unbiblical. 

Eventually some women come back to the point of knowing they should leave….that they need to leave if they want to be safe. Some never do. These reasons may all be a part of it. Children are also a big factor in whether to stay or not. Finances are a huge reason, as most abused women are at a vast economic disadvantage. Some women have become convinced they don't deserve safety or love. Abuse doesn't just affect the emotions and cause physical pain, but it actually changes the beliefs and attitudes of the victim over time. In order to make the decision to leave, the woman must somehow realize and become convinced that she deserves something better. It is hard to get to this point if you've been isolated from others and are in a community that believes the abuser is a great guy. The hardest part of stepping out and telling others what you experience is having them not believe you or doubt that it's as bad as you say. 

The most important thing I can say to those going through abuse is that God didn't design this world for you to be treated like this. The most important thing I can say to those who hear of a friend going through abuse is to compassionately listen to them, believe the seriousness of the situation and help support them practically and emotionally. We need to be involved in other's lives and let their struggles affect us. Most of us would say that we don't know anyone being abused, but if you started asking people you know I'd be shocked if you didn't find someone admit to being a victim. I'm not necessarily suggesting you ask everyone you know if they're being abused. What I am saying is it's more widespread then you realize. If you do find yourself discovering situations of abuse, please do what you can to help. You can be a person who helps to bring healing, or if you turn away you can end up causing more wounds. 

I will continue blogging intermittently about abuse. As always, please comment with thoughts or questions. Thanks!


Monday, October 21, 2013

What Exactly is Abuse? Part 3


This post is a continuation of the previous post, which you can find by clicking here. Again, I reiterate that when you add all the little things in with what most people label abuse you discover the weight of the oppression the victim lives with every day. 

1 - Aspect of Threats - This is another aspect that leads to intimidation and fear. Remember the previous examples of threats listed were to end the relationship, to hurt her or the children, to hurt pets or property, to report her for something. While it may only take the threat to keep a woman in life, usually this threats are more likely to work if previous threats have been carried out or physical violence has already happened. If a woman has been stripped of all her freedoms and feeling of value the threat of him walking out on her will make her want to stay and be the good little wife that he wants her to be. She knows that it will be difficult to make it on her own. Threatening to hurt the children is a powerful tool that can convince the woman to do almost anything to keep her kids from getting hurt. He will threaten to report her for things he has forced her to do (I'm thinking of men who have convinced their wives to do drugs with them or sleep with other people and so on.) These women don't want to do these things, but they don't want to be hurt. If they give in then the man has ammunition to use against them in court. Women don't really want to be hurt, yet they know that it will happen at some point. This tension is hard to stomach and the threats increase the tension and fear. 

In a healthy marriage partners do not threaten to hurt the other spouse or things that are important to them. Threatening if you don't get your way is childish behavior that demonstrates a lack of maturity and compassion for others. I already mentioned the man is called to nurture and protect his wife. Intentionally causing fear in a woman to try and get your own way goes against what God has designed our relationships for. 

2 - Aspect of Property Violence - Here when the man is angry at her he will break things like doors, punch walls, abuse pets, break souvenirs and other important mementos. This facet shows the woman that nothing around him is safe. It will increase her fears that if she's not careful she will be next. Sometimes this aspect continues after separation. He may destroy belongings she left behind or sell them. He may go over to her new residence and leave things for her or damage her property to send her a message that she's not safe at her new place either.

In a healthy marriage, a spouse wouldn't think of destroying property or special items belonging to the other person to get their way. While objects are not more important then people, they still serve many purposes, some sentimental. A caring spouse will want to carefully take care of the belongings of the other spouse to show that what is important for her is important to him as well.


3 - Aspect of Stalking - I previously mentioned using this aspect of spying on her, following her around, leaving gifts or tokens behind making it clear he doesn't trust her and feels she shouldn't have any freedom. This aspect is terrifying for the victim. Looking over your shoulder constantly leads to the fear that you can never be safe. Stalking often crosses over into physical violence, but not always. Some specific examples of this are staking out her work or home and following her when she leaves, bugging her phones, putting tracking devices on her car and putting spy software on the computer. These things often happen during separation. It's a good idea to check your phones, cars and computers to make sure that you aren't being watched all the time.

In a healthy relationship there is a degree of trust  that values both partners separate identities. A stalker can't bear the thought of being apart or the other party having freedom from them. They want control at all times. Good relationships can thrive by having separate interests, time apart and opportunity to be involved in another community of friends.

4 - Aspect of Emotional Abuse / Verbal Abuse- They are similar but not exactly interchangeable. Verbal abuse uses words to attack the woman, demeaning her, strip away her positive view of herself. The tactics are cursing, name-calling, accusing her and using past issues to hurt her and thereby control and manipulate her. We all want to be cared for by others. We want to be appreciated and liked. Verbal abuse tears down the victim and takes away respect due to the other person. The words continue ringing in the persons ears long after the sound has finished. The wounds linger in the mind and wear down the person's ability to see and accept the good parts of themselves.

Emotional abuse is a little bit different. It isn't enough to use words to control her. He will use words to control her emotions as well. It includes putting her down and name-calling but also includes playing mind games and withholding affection from her. I had a friend who would spend forever looking for her missing pair of car keys. He would laugh at her, call her stupid and tell her she didn't deserve to be in charge of anything - all the while knowing that he had actually taken her keys and hidden them. Then after she had looked long enough to his satisfaction he put them back in plain sight and make her question whether she was losing her mind. It is sad to 

This is counter to a healthy relationship where each person wants to build up the other person and honor their strengths. In a healthy relationship you won't be attacked for your weaknesses. A partner may lovingly try to help you gain some tools to help address the weakness, but he won't bully you into changing or belittling you for your struggle. A healthy person wants to encourage their partner, knowing that the way to growth is often through positive words that empower the person to overcome fears and struggles! The person who tears down another person is trying to elevate their importance by judging the other person as inferior to them. Many people have said, and I agree, that the verbal abuse is often more damaging then physical abuse. It degrades a persons worth, identity and purpose and is clearly opposite of the way God calls us to treat each other.

5 - Aspect of Religious Abuse - Here a man tries to maintain control and get what he wants by using scripture and other Christian language or doctrine. He will point out the passages on submission and use words like obey. He will tell her she always must give him sex when he wants it because her body is his. He mentions the Bible states men are the head of the household and use it for ungodly purposes. This aspect is extremely damaging to the women's personality and also her beliefs. It is hard to believe God truly cares about your pain when your spouse is using the Bible to justify abuse. Most abused women who are Christians have a severe crisis of faith.

In a loving and mutually supportive relationship each spouse will actually have times of submitting to the other. Healthy marriages have a team attitude and sometimes it is better when the man defers and sometime the best choice is for the woman to defer in an area. We must help women realize that the Bible is compassionate in it's commands. It doesn't give a man permission to belittle his wife if he isn't happy with her. Scripture is used to help guide us to live lives that honor God. A man who uses scripture for his selfish gains is bringing dishonor to God, himself and his family. Each spouse must put aside their desires and seek God's purpose in their lives and marriage.

6 - Aspect of Physical Abuse - This aspect has the most variance of activities, some which you might not even consider as abuse at first glance. Again, the list from Paul Hegstrom is: beating, biting, choking, grabbing, hitting, kicking, pinching, pulling hair, punching, pushing, scratching, restraining, shaking, shoving, twisting arms, slapping, excessive tickling, using weapons, spanking, smothering, tripping. Important things to realize here is that everyone has their own idea of what is and isn't abusive. Many abusers will rationalize certain behaviors as non-abusive. They may come up with a reason she deserved it or say, grabbing a woman isn't abusive. From this list you may be thinking the same thing of certain activities listed. A common one is restraining a person. "What's the harm in not letting someone go until I want to?" W hen you think about it from the aspect of controlling another person you can see that it's not good to prevent someone from leaving an area or situation because you don't want them too. Excessive tickling is one that may seem silly. After all, a lot of us think it's fun to tickle other people because they laugh and it seems fun. But when a person's tolerance has run out and they want to stop being tickled and you refuse…then you are going against their wishes. All these actions are damaging to the victims safety and demonstrate a lack of concern and respect for their well-being.

In a healthy marriage stop means stop! The partners want to build each other up, NOT get their way. Many men will excuse their behavior by saying it was an accident they hurt their wife. Yet the women and children can see a man go from destructive and rage-filled to calm and smiling if the doorbell or phone rings. It is not ok to hurt another person. Men are called to protect and cherish their wife. It is THEIR responsibility to present their wife blameless to God as a result of their care and affection for her. Abuse is counter to that and destroys lives. Healthy men are able to put their hurts and disappointments aside for the greater good for the relationship. 

7 - Aspect of Sexual Abuse - He attacks her in sexual ways, demands unwanted acts, interrupts sleep for sex, forces sex on her, treats her a sex object, extreme jealousy. Often after an argument he wants to have sex with her. After the woman has been knocked down and beaten verbally or physically it is no wonder she won't want to be intimate. Yet he must maintain his control and if she refuses he feels justified in forcing himself on her. Other aspects fall into play here. He may bring scripture in about her not denying his need for sex. They may argue late into the night and yet he will keep her awake for sex or wake her up to have sex. His actions show that his needs and wants drive his behavior despite the harm it is doing to his wife. This is the ultimate degrading of the wife's identity. She believes marriage is designed to be a partnership where both spouses honor God and learn how (and when) to sacrifice their desires for the good of the relationship. His actions strip away this partnership. She realizes he sees her as property…as an object to bring his fulfillment and nothing more. This can lead her to doubt everything, including God.

This is clearly counter to a healthy relationship. There are times that both spouses must accept their present need for sex isn't what is best for the relationships at that time. A partner should never coerce or force a person for sex. Healthy relationships won't be jealous of good friendships between members of the opposite sex. It is very damaging to a person's value and identity to be raped. This aspect of abuse within a marriage is even more damaging to the person being taken advantage of.

When you put all these things together, it's no wonder that abused women often don't make rational choices and suffer a lot of negative effects from their mistreatment. We must learn how to recognize abuse, how to protect ourselves and others from it and we must do what we can to change the communities around us to be more helpful! In my next post I will begin to explain other aspects like why she doesn't leave, the red flags that can alert you to the possibility a man is abusive.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Helpful Resources on Abuse

Some of the books I recommend regarding abuse:

The Verbally Abusive Relationship by Patricia Evans

Domestic Violence - What Every Pastor Needs to Know by Al Miles

Why Does He Do That by Lundy Bancroft

Angry Men and The Women Who Love Them by Paul Hegstrom


Here are some great blog posts and videos on topics of abuse:

http://www.ccef.org/video/how-can-church-minister-victims-sexual-abuse

http://www.ccef.org/blog/shame-and-sexual-abuse-church

http://www.ccef.org/marriage-counseling-class-part-5

I'm in the process of finishing a blog post on the major aspects of abusive relationships. Then I will dig in to other topics surrounding how the abuse feels, should be addressed and how you can help.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

What Exactly is Abuse? Part 2

This post is a continuation of the previous post, which you can find by clicking here. Here are more of the lesser known or less often considered aspects of abuse we can gloss right by, not realizing the serious effect on the victim. Again, I reiterate that when you add all the little things in with what most people label abuse you discover the weight of the oppression the victim lives with every day. 

1 - Aspect of Power - This is the aspect behind all the actions and words of the abuser. The goal is to gain power over the other party, so that she is controlled by him and indebted to him for everything she needs. This aspect denies her basic rights to make her own choices. He will use his rules as laws to enforce the power he has to keep her in line. He will deprive her of a private life and control everything that he feels entitled to. If he senses her gaining some independence he will say or do things to take that independence away so he maintains control over her. 

A common example of this is in denying the person the basic necessity of sleep. An abusive person will often prevent her from sleeping when she's tired because he still wants to spend time with her. Arguments rarely end until he's ready for them to end, usually meaning they can last long into the night regardless of how tired she is. There are different degrees of how this grasp for power manifests. Some men dictate exactly when the duties he've assigned to her must be done. If she steps outside the lines of what he wants then he feel justified in punishing her in some way.

In a healthy marriage it is ok for partners to discuss roles and tasks that each spouse will do. Yet from observing healthy marriages I notice more of a give and take. The spouses are a team and when one person isn't able to do a task the other will often take up the slack without punishing the other for it. A cooperative spirit is demonstrated. This mutuality in the relationship recognizes each person has different strengths and weaknesses and works together to a common goal where both people are stronger together. Differences are acknowledged and even celebrated as opportunities. Neither person seeks to win at all costs. 

2 - Aspect of Using ChildrenThis facet is particular hurtful to the woman who carried these children during pregnancy, sacrificing her own needs for her unborn children. She labored to bring them into the world and continues to love, nurture and sacrifice for them everyday since. This aspect happens during the relationship and sadly, it often happens after the relationship has ended. If an abusive partner is not happy with his partner he will seeks ways  to keep her in line. One way is using the children to shame her back into the place he wants to keep her. Another is public humiliation, which will be discussed next. He will criticize her in front of the children, which in impressionable children often interferes with her relationship with her children. They will see her as the cause of the tension in the home and will pressure her to do everything to keep dad happy. 

When the couple divorces this aspect often continues. The man will use child support as leverage to continue controlling the woman. He often will say negative things to the children that they will pass along to their mom. This results in continued abuse by indirect messages from the children. These young children rarely realize that they are being manipulated and controlled for the purpose of continuing to harm the other parent. The woman feels great pain at hearing her children repeat all the things daddy has said about her. This is one of the great injustices of trying to break free of abuse. When children are involved it is rarely possible to be completely free from abuse.

In a healthy marriage, spouses will not attempt to use the children to win the argument. They won't want to interfere with the children's relationship with the other parent. True families seek to build up each member and encourage them to overcome difficulties. It is a great disservice to the children to observe one parent trying to win and control at all costs. Our children are set up to be in unhealthy relationships when they are subjected repeatedly to this tactic from a young age. Most of them won't even realize the manipulation they are undergoing. Children long to believe their parents are caring, safe and wise individuals. They struggle to accept that a parent is being inappropriate. This can negatively impact their future and hurts future generations! 

3 - Aspect of HumiliationI previously mentioned using children as one way he can humiliate his wife, especially if the children publicly humiliate their mom as a result of things he's said to them. He can appear to have done nothing wrong if the children say something and not him. There are many other ways this tactic can be used. Inappropriate touching in public sends a message to her and others that she is property and is not respected. It is embarrassing to be mistreated and demeaned in front of others. Also putting her down in front of others or making jokes about her in her presence is humiliating. This man can degrade everything from her appearance, financial, parenting  or housekeeping skills. Anything that he doesn't approve of can be used to hurt her and embarrass her.

Christians know God instructs us to love one another and within marriage man is called to cherish his wife. Clearly, publicly humiliating the woman doesn't show true love and certainly doesn't cherish her presence in his life. A man who is hurting his spouse is actually hurting himself. He may think he is winning, but he is actually losing! If he is going to change he will need to come to the point he realizes this and learn how to treat her differently. 

4 - Aspect of Silence The main example here is giving the silent treatment when not approving of something the spouse has said or done. She will know that he is punishing her. Sometimes she will know why he's angry and other times she won't know what caused it. This is a very tense and stressful way to live. A woman's attempts to discover what caused the tension in order to resolve the issue will usually result in one of the other aspects flaring up - either emotional, verbal or physical abuse. Some people may think the absence of hurtful words is good. Yet knowing something isn't right but being ignored or neglected is damaging to the person's worth. The message conveyed is that if you upset me you deserve pain in return. 

This is counter to a healthy relationship where each person wants to demonstrate love and care. While there are times when discussing issues need to be postponed, the normal pattern is to kindly bring up issues to work through and have healthy dialog that doesn't attack the other person. Relationships thrive on interaction and withholding that from one of the parties is detrimental to the person and the relationship.

5 - Aspect of IntimidationHere a man tries to maintain control through actions designed to intimidate her. He will look at her a certain way, make gestures, do certain actions, argue continuously and loudly or curse and rage. These actions scare her because she realizes how pervasive his desires to be more powerful are. Over time she will learn what things cause him to act this way and will often try to placate him beforehand so she isn't exposed to these unpleasant experiences. Her life becomes driven by fear and she is always thinking and analyzing situations to figure out how to avoid getting hurt.  

In a loving and mutually supportive relationship neither spouse will try to scare the other person to influence decisions, activities and other wants. It seems like a given that to truly love a spouse would mean to not want to cause them to be afraid of you. 

6 - Aspect of Isolation - This makes her dependent on him for her view of herself. 

Here the abusive person seeks to control her actions in many different ways. He will control who she talks to, convince her to drop outside interests, prevent her from seeing and talking to friends, listen to her calls, he wants to always know where she is and will sometimes move to separate her from a good support system. I met a woman at the shelter who was forced to sell her car and stay in the house all day while he was at work. They didn't have a house phone and he would take her cell phone with him when he left for work. One man wouldn't let her have the password to the internet so she could only be surfing the web when he was sitting right next to her watching! If they do leave some contact with the outside world with the woman (phone or email) they will often check in multiple times a day to keep tabs on her.

These things often happen so subtly that the victim doesn't realize that her ability to relate on equal footing is being stripped away. What woman would want to question why her husband wants her to not hang out or talk to family and friends? It can make her feel important and special that he wants to spend so much time with her. Things progress pretty far before she wakes up to the realization that the attention she's getting is NOT the kind that she has always wanted.

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In my next post I will break down the more talked about aspects of abusive relationships. Then I will begin to explain other aspects like why she doesn't leave, what red flags you can spot and helpful links and books to read.