Dear Anxious Friend — a post by Megan Cox

When I first went for therapy a few years ago, I was diagnosed with Major Depression, General Anxiety Disorder and PTSD. Whew! That was rough. And I am open . . . people know my story and I am at peace with that. So, I’m fine with sharing. I was overwhelmed with the diagnoses that I had lived with for decades. I spent so much time trying to hold things together in the midst of abuse, pain, babies and stress and it was now (finally) time for my healing. And heal, I did. After much time spent with a few gifted therapists, my depression and anxiety subsided to the point that my only diagnosis, now, is PTSD. It is manageable, most of the time. It will just be something I will have to sustain for the rest of my life (without a divine intervention) and I can handle that. I have a toolbox now. And I can honestly say, at this point, that I am grateful for this thorn. I am grateful because it keeps me connected to those who suffer and I can better minister, if and when God calls me to do so. I haven’t forgotten the very real plight of victims; I still remember the overwhelming chaos of caring for children while trying to fight against my own pain.

With all that being said, here is a letter to those who struggle with anxiety. I have prayed over this. Because I fully grasp my own suffering, I want others to know that there is hope.  I am writing it as I would to my own child, only because that is how God sees us — as His own beloved and precious children. Good mamas and daddies know this love but we forget to apply it to ourselves.

So here you are, precious warriors:

Dear Child,

When I watch you, throughout the day . . . throughout the seemingly-mundane tasks you must carry out . . . my heart is aching for you. It pains me to see the sometimes angry, sometimes pain-filled, sometimes overwhelmed bursts of tears that come and go. I watch you trying to hold them back for the sake of those around you and to avoid embarrassment. I reach out to touch them, to wipe them away. My hand moves toward your face and my deep love for you is fathomless. I never forget my deep love for you, as a human would. You are my pride and joy. The fullness of all of my love has been laid upon you for all of your life. I see the anxiety you are suffering, now, and I long to heal it. But, I can see through all of it and see you on the other side of suffering, as well. I know that this will change, that it will get better. I know you must go through it. I know you are developing into the bright, shiny star that I created when I formed every tiny atom of you in your mother’s womb. I see the end of this story — and it is beautiful. 

Right now, your mind is overburdened. Wires cross as you are triggered. It is all too much. I know that, child. I know that. It can feel like your very life is in danger, even when you know, in your mind, that it is not. It feels out of control. When that happens, I am with you. I just want you to know that I am here . . . You probably don’t really “feel” me, right now. But that does not change the fact that I am intimately aware of every detail of your beautiful life. Of your story. And I care . . . I care so so much. 

The ugliness told you about yourself was not true. The pain inflicted on you to try to somehow convince you of your worthlessness cannot and will not prevail. I am WITH YOU — God with you. I was with you in the ugly. I was with you when he hurt you. When she hurt you. When they hurt you. And I was not pleased. It hurt Me. When people hurt you, they are hurting Me because I am your Abba Father. You were never alone and you are not alone now. I am there, in the midst of your suffering; I am there, in your tears; I am there in the betrayal and the confusion. The world does not make sense to you and I understand that. Even when I walked on this earth, in human form, the fully man part of me could not grasp how anyone could betray Me when I loved them so much. I have been there, daughter. It is devastating. 

There will be a day when these things are made clear. When you will have clarity and see the entire picture with Me. But, for now, I ask you to trust Me. Because you cannot see it all, yet, and there is so much grace for that. It is OK to not understand it all. I want to be the One you know you are safe with. When it feels like it is too much, try to breathe in my presence. I am your Friend and I am at hand . . .  but I am also YHWH . . . the unspeakable, all-powerful Judge and Creator of the universe. Your life is in my hands . . . your eternity is in my hands and no one and nothing can change that. 

In those moments where your head hurts and you are drowning, let My love — like a warm blanket — encapsulate you. Take one quick moment to know that I am God. Be still. 

In those moments where the anger of what you have been through threatens to take over, cry out to Me. I am waiting and watching . . . just waiting to hear from My girl. My boy. My child. Just hoping that you will reach out to me so I can comfort you with Truth: You are mine, you are redeemed, you are beautiful, you are going to get through this, trust in Me . . . 

Listen . . . those who have ears to hear: I love you. I love you and I love you and I love you. Let me quiet your mind for just one minute. Let my peace wash over you. The world tells you that peace is when everything is going your way. My peace is not like that. My peace says that I am with you always, even unto the end of the age. That day will come and you will have been with Me the entire time, taking my light yoke. 

Your story is not over, my darling, my treasure. Stay with me, under My wing. There is so much more I want to share with you . . . so much more I want to say. But, for now, just rest, knowing that your future and the entire world is under my sovereign control. You are not lost, my little lamb. You are found. 

“The Lost Sheep” by Liz Swindle

Triangulation: A Method of Abusers

This is Wikipedia’s definition of Triangulation:

The term triangulation is most commonly used to express a situation in which one family member will not communicate directly with another family member, but will communicate with a third family member, which can lead to the third family member becoming part of the triangle. The concept originated in the study of dysfunctional family systems, but can describe behaviors in other systems as well, including work.

Lights blog writes this:

When functional people have something to say, they say it to you. When dysfunctional people have something to say, they may tell someone else instead. (Lights blog no longer has this article published but I would like to still give credit. It was entitled “Psychological Triangulation”)

We believers would probably classify gossip in the category of Psychological Triangulation. But, there is also more to it. Those who practice triangulation also add manipulation to the pot. If I send one email to Johnny that plants a seed of serious doubt about Sally’s ethics (or something — I am just making this up) . . . then, I send a similar letter to Sally about Johnny’s ethics . . . I have just triangulated. I have, possibly, isolated them from each other. I have rather put myself in charge. At best, I have made myself an authority and dragged others into a game of sorts. At worst, I have managed to isolate both parties from each other, while still holding the power.

This paragraph in Lights blog is highly revealing:

Ill-intentioned triangulation comes from a toxic person who is manipulating. It serves this triangulator best to have others involved in their toxic drama games. In these cases, the triangulation is little more than a tool used to drag the most people possible into the toxic swirl of their schemes as possible. Telling third (and fourth, and fifth) parties brings them more power or more gratification than it does to work toward the resolution of any issues.

How many of us have experienced this??  After I left my abuser, I was getting letters from people I have not heard from in 15 years because abusers were just so very busy in pulling others into their drama games. Do they ever rest? I do not know. I imagine that those who are addicted to drama just move on to something else, eventually. Not one time did I receive a letter showing any amount of love or concern for our welfare (when we left my ex) from the very people who swarmed and buzzed around me, contacting every single person they could find in my circles except me. And, I know that I used to do this, as well, because this was how my family functioned (or dysfunctioned, rather). It was not until God set me free from these methods that I began to see how manipulative it all was. Afraid to speak up or speak out. I must say that it is not easy to break these habits and be direct — but I will also say that it can be done with effort and by the grace of God.

That being said, not all triangulation is bad. Sometimes, it is just life. I used to communicate with David about our (then) five year old because she was only five. She could not really make many decisions about her little life so David and I did isolate her, to a degree. This type of triangulation is healthy and fades as children get older. Sometimes, it is forced upon us. Divorced parents do not always communicate with each other so the children are isolated from unified parents. This is not always a bad thing . . . it is just something that is and has to be for the safety of the children.

However, abusers use triangulation to isolate and stay in control. They need to just stop it. Because of all we went through, when approached by someone who wants to gossip . . . or someone who wants me to somehow relay a message to my husband (who is a pastor), I just say, “Well, you’re talking to the wrong person!” or “I really can’t help you. You will have to approach so and so.” Our children know better, as well. They simply do not take part in triangulation or gossip.

How do we heal from the triangulation suffered at the hands of those who aim to hurt us (whether subconsciously or purposefully)? I love Shahida Arabi’s  comprehensive article on healing from this particular type of abuse. She mentions three very important tactics when pulling away from triangulation (shown in quotes):

  1. “Know that you are irreplaceable and know exactly why.” Abusers often want their victims to believe that they can have “another you in a minute” (yes, I just sang the Beyoncé song as I typed that. Sorry not sorry). Friends, we know better than this. Do you know better than this? Do you know that you are created and crafted by a Creator God who loves you more than you can imagine? Do you know that He was smiling as He designed you? Do you know how precious you are to Him? You are irreplaceable. If you were replaceable, He would have replaced you. Instead, He died for you.
  2. “Eradicate subconscious wounding that says you’re not enough and cultivate new seeds of self-worth. “ Yes, I know. Easier said than done. This takes time. Arabi says, “Childhood is where many survivors first learn to dim their own light.” This is heart-breaking. There is nothing like growing up feeling like you don’t belong and are not worth anything and then marrying someone to seal the deal. But, I promise you . . . this can be undone. Truth can be learned. Good, solid hermeneutics can change these lies. Find a way to do this. The hard work is worth it.
  3. “Minimize unnecessary comparisons and reprogram negative self-talk.” A wise woman once said to me, “Comparison is odious”. Oh, how true. Release such a negative self-focus and realize that you are a gem. A true, beautiful princess created by a God who loves you. Who redeemed you permanently. Own that. Again, find a way to do this. And then give that worth to others. Let those waters of life flow freely through you.

All of this is work — I know. Please know that I know this. I have spent the past seven years realizing my worth, in Christ, and I have had to be proactive almost every day, in realizing this. And yet, with each step I take, Jesus pours more grace on my efforts. Like a cleansing, fulfilling, splashy, refreshing and beautiful drink of water. I sense His pride in my baby steps, and His pleasure. I revel in His pleasure over this. I know that I am His and He loves me. Despite any triangulation, gossip, rumors or pain that have been inflicted on me. And despite any I have afflicted on others.

I believe that the damage done by triangulation is why Jesus spoke so definitively on approaching people face to face, rather than the round-about-way (Matthew 18). We go to people — face to face. We look them in the eye and then, in compassion, we speak. And why do we speak? Not because we want to prove others wrong .  . . but because we have the best interest at heart of the listener. In fact, we have their ear because they know that we love them. It has been proved over and over. We have earned that right. Otherwise, we need to keep our mouths shut.

Love,

Megan

“Water of Life” by Megan D Cox

Q&A #4: Do Abusers Ever Change? — by Megan Cox

Question: What is the likelihood of a narcissistic abuser making an about face? My divorce has been finalized and my ex husband was diagnosed with BPD (Borderline Personality Disorder) and narcissism. I mean, do you know of any cases where the abuser has truly repented and the relationship was truly restored? I’ve had several friends tell me they are praying that God will change his heart. That’s been my prayer for YEARS until it became too dangerous. Recently I heard of a marriage being restored after infidelity, but when it comes to abuse- verbal, emotional, sexual, and physical, how can one be sure of a true heart change? I know nothing is impossible with God, but I was wondering if in your experience you have seen that?

Answer: I remember asking myself and others this question so many times about several people, in my life, years ago. The reason we hope and pray is because we have heard incredible restoration stories (especially on popular marriage blogs) and because we WANT our marriages to work. For a lot of us, we were raised to believe that divorce is not an option. That further exacerbates our frustration, and even that belief can be used against us. We feel like we have failed because we cannot hold our marriage together. And our strength begins to wane because living with someone who is diagnosed with these disorders can be hell. You never know what to expect; you are always being drained; you are running on empty; you are walking on eggshells. No one can sustain a lifetime of this. I want you to know, friend, that we do not judge you. You did the only thing you COULD do, for your safety and sanity. And we honor that.

The thing is . . . abusers live as abusers. David and I (my wonderful husband) have hurt each other, now and then, as all married couples do. It causes us to ache, feel disconnected and pretty much ruins our day. We do not go long before asking forgiveness and feeling that closeness again because we love each other. Abusers hurt constantly and all the time. In fact, their aim and their goal is to “keep you on your heels”. They remain in a posture of hatred and abuse toward their targets. You know the routine; you’ve seen the patterns, abuse wheels and so on. They live in that place and it does not ruin their day. There is a difference between the occasional selfishness of all human-kind and the perpetual, intentional lifestyle of the abuser.

I will address both personality disorders below.

First, Borderline Personality Disorder (a cluster-B disorder) is hard on everyone — the disordered AND their families. Black and white thinking, crazy-making, angry outbursts, violence, yelling and confusion seem to reign. Personally, I believe that BPD can be overcome. I firmly believe that going through Dialectical Behavioral Therapy can help those who suffer with this disorder. In my humble opinion, there is little else that CAN help. The hard truth is that those with BPD usually do not see the need for help. They blame everyone around them for their pain and are not normally self-aware enough to realize that they are the problem — or, that they are contributing to the issues around them. I have exactly one friend who used to suffer from BPD and went through DBT and she is amazing. But, of all the people I hear about or know who are diagnosed with this disorder, very few get the help they need and they wreak havoc on those around them for decades.

Narcissistic Personality Disorder (also a Cluster-B disorder) is related to BPD but is still a different beast. This disorder is marked by grandiosity, a lack of empathy for other people, and a need for admiration beyond everyone’s normal need for esteem. Yoked together with BPD is a recipe for emotional and mental calamity. Many abusers fall in one of two categories: they are either NPD or they are Sociopaths. Both of these character disorders are near-impossible to cure. My limited understanding (I am not a licensed therapist) is that psychodynamic therapy would be needed for an NPD to recover. This is a lengthy and expensive process and, once again, most NPD’s do not even want therapy. They are just fine how they are (in their opinions) and are so entitled that they will take down anyone in their path before admitting they have a problem.

Most abusers have one or both of the above disorders and may be Sociopaths, as well. EVERYONE with these disorders will be surrounded by (and will perpetuate) unhealth. People are there to be used. Period. Indeed, people are not even seen as humans to most abusers but as something from which to draw supply. Having a love-filled, honest, vulnerable, mutual and beautiful marriage is literally impossible with someone with either or both of these disorders.

Being the bearer of bad news is a terrible thing. And I hate having to admit that I have never seen, in my own life, an abuser change.  But, if anyone does not believe me, I would hope they would believe Lundy Bancroft, who has spent decades counseling abusive men. He has very few (if any?) success stories. His reason? Because they like how they are. They want to stay how they are. They are feeding that selfish little beast inside of them by using everyone around them and they do not want to give that up!

For an abuser to make lasting changes, he has to work on himself very hard, and he has to completely stop blaming women for his behavior. He has to stay in an abuser program far longer than the minimum time that the program lasts; something more like 18-24 months, not 3-6 months. And it’s very hard to get an abuser to stay in a program that long, because deep down he blames his partners, current and past, for everything he does.

Don’t let too much of your life slip away, hoping that he’ll change. Over the past three decades I’ve heard a hundred or more women say, “I wish I could get back all those years I lost trying to get him to work on himself.” But I’ve never once yet heard a woman say, “I gave up on my abusive partner too soon. I wish I’d given him more of a chance.” ~ Lundy Bancroft

So, from my understanding, readings, education and counseling, an abuser never changes, with one caveat: Jesus can do anything. And a caveat to that caveat is this: an abuser can only change if he wants Jesus to change Him. We who know Jesus have His power in us. But, we don’t have the power to change anyone else around us. Only they have the God-given free will to want that change to happen. It would take a miracle. And then, common sense and the orderliness of this life and world would dictate that it would take several years of hard work for an abuser to become a different person. By then, so much damage to wives and children can happen . . . and worse than that, as we have all seen the horror stories on television and social media describing the death or near-death of victims of abuse.

I have known of many women who have gone back to abuse, only to leave again later, under, heightened and worse circumstances. I wish that were not the case. I know the feeling of grasping to try and find one ounce of compassion and kindness in a man . . . to hope that one thing could come out of his mouth that is not manipulative. It was like constantly digging around in an empty bucket, hoping to come up with something substantial and having your expectations dashed, every time, as you only drew air. Is there simply nothing there?!

These truths are what CS Lewis might call “a severe mercy”. They are severe because they bring a flood of tears. They are merciful because once we realize that our circumstances will not change (IF we realize that), we can make plans and move forward without the toxicity. Remember, Jesus masterfully either avoided or confronted toxicity during His days on this earth, depending on the situation. He did not try to live with toxicity or convince people to change, as His was on an urgent mission and He knew His days on earth were short. We have that same urgency . . . to raise our children in godliness to the best of our ability. We have so few years with them at home. In a blink of an eye, they are grown. Will we stay, in hopes of our abuser changing? Or will we get the children to safety and sanity, get them counseling and teach them that our Loving God is not like an abuser? What makes more sense?

That is your choice, dear reader, and we would never infringe anything upon you or judge you for leaving or staying. But, it is very important to be educated on these things and to be SAFE. My heart aches for the beautiful woman who sent us this question because she still wants her marriage to work or come together. And I get that. She still hopes. And that is beautiful. My advice to her is this: Hope is good . . . but check on what you are hoping for. Are you hoping for a restored marriage? Is that possible? Or are you hoping for health for the father of your children, in the near future? Is that possible? If these things seem to be impossible dreams, than hope that he eventually learns truth and beauty. Hope that you and the children can move forward into health. Hope that he will get the therapy he needs. Hope that you can break any trauma bonds. Hope that you all become beauty from the ashes. Hope for laughter and joy, in the near future. Hope in Jesus. Close the door on what needs to be closed, in your life, and open any doors to new opportunities to grow into the woman God desires you to be. That is my prayer for you today.

Love,

Megan

Art Credi: “Tree of Joy” by Megan D. Cox

 

Megan is President of Give Her Wings, Inc., and is a Pastoral Counselor (MAR), certified in Crisis Response with the AACC. 

 

A Charge to the Church to Have Compassion Toward Victims of Abuse

Sometimes I wonder if, when people think of my past (which I am not self-centered enough to believe that people are sitting around thinking about my past!), if they think if I was over-reacting when I left my ex husband. Or over-sensitive (that’s the kind of stuff my ex would say when he would kill my soul with his words). The people who were hurting me, once I left (for their own personal reasons or because they believed I was sinning by leaving my husband), may not have been aware of the other people, in my world, who were hurting me at the same time. It was kind of a group effort, unawares. It rather looked like this:

(by the way, you would never know I am an artist . . . or that I can spell)

Several years ago, my sweet uncle was in town and wanted to visit with me. Everything in me froze. My PTSD was completely out of control back then (pre-therapy) and I simply could not. I have not seen my family in many years. A few years ago, we attended church and the music minister was a robust, large man who was very dominating, by nature. I played the keys for him a few times and then I simply could not. When my husband worked at a church, a few years back, where people talked and gossiped and I was in the fish bowl of Pastor’s-wife-ville, I shut down. I could not talk to people. I just could not. There had never been a force, in my life, so strong, so paralyzing, so threatening, so fight-flight-freeze, so powerful, as the fear that accompanied my PTSD.

While trudging through the hard work of therapy and EMDR, we discovered that the PTSD  most-likely began when my parents died but morphed into a C-PTSD from the day-to-day emotional, mental and spiritual abuse in my first marriage. What finally tipped the scales, though, was the post-separation abuse that came from leaving my ex husband. See, it was not just one person. It was not even just one church. It was not even just one family. It was the combination of all of those and more. And, as a result, everyone became dangerous. I felt like everyone would betray me. I lived, waiting for the other shoe to drop. I was scared . . . so, so scared. I just kept proverbially gripping my children, trying to protect, trying to provide, trying to survive while having finger after finger pointing at me — in Jesus’ name. That does something to a person.  I know what it is to be desperate; to do things you would not otherwise do; to fight and fight hard; to accept cans of food; to shop at Goodwill because you actually have to; to sit on the cold floor with your kids and teach them Bible stories on Sunday morning because you are afraid to face God’s people for the hurt they inflicted on you and your family. This should not EVER be so.

Our response to the broken people in the world is to look at those who are enduring it, and we’re saying to them ‘all you have to do . . . if you had just . . . this is partially your fault . . . ‘, instead of sitting with them in the midst of their discontent and hurt and brokenness and loving your neighbor in the manner that you would like to be loved . . . how many of you would allow yourselves to starve to death? How many of you would allow yourself to be homeless? How many of you would allow yourself to endure injustice? Loving your neighbor as yourself presents an ethical imperative for you. — Pastor Brandon Washington, ENGAGE Justice

What are we doing, friends? Church, what in the world? Families? Where are you? Who do we think we are? Is the pride so tremendous, so all-consuming that church people believe that they can play with the lives of those who are hurting? Do you (church people) think that you are exercising “tough love” by accusing? Or by putting your ideas of doctrine above the well-being of the hurting and accuse, belittle, “discipline”, shun and more? Do you, Church, believe that Jesus is proud of this? That He has somehow put His stamp of approval on it? If you believe that, then you do not know Him.

The God-became-man of the Gospels went looking for the very man who was thrown out of the religious group (John 9). Jesus stayed at the home of the one of the most hated men in the city (Luke 19); he crossed a thousand boundaries to give women their dignity (John 4; Mark 14, Luke 8); He came down HARD on the religious leaders who “stuck to the law” (Pharisees) (all throughout the Gospels). 

I have healed, tremendously, over the past several years, thanks to really great and knowledgeable counseling, my own Masters’ studies in counseling, a TON of research and a lot of help. In fact, emotion-regulation has become my best friend. I worked hard to master it. My husband’s love, the love from my children and God’s love have carried me through this journey. I “should” have given up my faith altogether, considering what I went through. But, God gripped me. And I was not willing to allow anyone to take one more thing from me. I dug deep, studied original languages in the Bible, re-thought, re-framed and asked God to help me to understand Him deeply. What I see, in the Law, is protection and provision for the vulnerable — not “allowances”. And my faith is stronger than ever.

However, almost every day, I hear about or read about another woman whose decisions are not respected by the Church. Or about a church shunning her or exercising church discipline on her because she chose to do the the bravest thing, in the world, and leave her abusive husband to save herself and her children. When will it end? I know . . . it would take tremendous compassion and a whole lot of repentance (possibly even church-wide or family-wide) for these things to change. And that seems impossible to me. Admitting that you are wrong is hard. I get it. It must seem like there is so much to lose. But consider, what are you protecting? Do you think Jesus needs you to be the “keeper of the law” at the expense of the hurting? Do you think you are saving these women? Because you are not. Many of them leave church and never, ever go back. Or, they lose their families for good. Or (the very worst), they give up on Jesus. Do you think you are upholding the integrity of the Word of God? Ok, REALLY. Does God need YOU to do that or do you think He can handle that all on His own?

Where are the books you are reading on abuse? Do you know that a man will “repent” over and over so he can then garner the church’s support and continue to abuse his wife and further isolate her? Are you prepared to hold this man accountable for the long-haul it will take for him to get the YEARS of counseling he would need? Do you know how easy it is to re-victimize a woman who has been living in abuse for years? Do you know the percentage of abusive men who stop abusing? What research have you done?

It hurts us to know that our ministry at Give Her Wings is still sorely needed because so many churches won’t get it together and just love people. It is ultra-frustrating and painful to watch these ladies suffer and to tell them that Jesus loves them when you all have shown them the opposite. And yet we press on. We say things like, “I know what they said but they are wrong . . . your name is written in the Lamb’s Book of Life. No one can take that from you, beautiful child of God.” Oh, my heart.

When will it end? When will eyes be opened? When will you just love? Repent of the un-love. Repent of the lack of compassion and of the pride. And then . . . Just love them. Please, just love them.

Love, Megan

We are so EXCITED to be teaming up with Leslie Vernick for a special event!

We are absolutely thrilled to be joining Leslie Vernick for an incredible opportunity to raise money for Give Her Wings! This Fall, Leslie Vernick is offering her INCREDIBLE Conquer Conference in Lincoln, Nebraska, October 12-13. We are so honored and blessed that she has decided to offer VIP tickets to this worthwhile gathering, involving keynote speakers Leslie Vernick and Sherri Keffer. Nicole Nordeman will also be there as the main worship leader for the event! Further, our own Megan Cox will be giving a special workshop on Safety Planning!

The special VIP will support Give Her Wings! After you purchased your ticket to the Conquer Conference you will have the option to upgrade your ticket to VIP.

The entire $500 will be donated to Give Her Wings, our non-profit organization that helps women secure housing and pay bills when leaving an abusive marriage.

Your VIP ticket will also give you the following bonuses: 

  • You will receive a receipt for a tax donation from Give Her Wings
  • A sterling silver bangle bracelet with the words “Be Brave Grow Strong” hand stamped on it (designed by Lisa Leonard) 
  • A catered box lunch on Saturday during the conference, where you can meet and greet the speakers and ask questions. 
  • Special seating, close to the front for all sessions. 
  • A package of signed books and a CD from all main conference speakers.

Have you ever been knocked down or felt overwhelmed with life? Betrayed, abused or thrown away by someone you thought loved you?

Or just felt too small or too scared to
boldly and freely live your life? 

YOU are not alone. And,… you can’t grow into the strong godly woman God made you to be alone. God hardwired you to thrive with connection and grow in community.

At CONQUER 2018 you WILL hear stories from other women who became brave and strong through the most difficult situations. You will gain tools and be given specific strategies to move past your fears and become your best self. 

If you’re ready to stop living scared and to start living brave and growing strong, then come gather with other like-minded women October 12-13 for the 2018 CONQUER conference.

Click here to purchase a ticket and then upgrade to the VIP ticket to support Give Her Wings. This is so important, friends! Due to Leslie’s generosity in supporting our ministry, we have the opportunity to help COUNTLESS women who are in need of support after leaving an abusive marriage. So, sign up quickly, as it is already starting to fill up! And be deeply encouraged this fall by attending the Conquer Conference: Be Brave, Grow Strong!

Why A Woman Does Not Speak About Abuse While in an Abusive Marriage

I recently read this:

“Well, I was a friend Megan’s in seminary and she never ONCE told me she was abused.”

She didn’t see it and I never told her.  Reading her comment on a recent blog post about my experience (on another person’s blog) led me to realize, once again, that people simply do not understand the dynamics of an abusive relationship. At least, that is my giving her the benefit of the doubt. I would like to believe she simply does not understand and that there is not some sort of desire to “take me down”. I will go with the former and assume the best.

Friends, women hardly ever tell anyone what they are experiencing. And, even if they did tell someone, they probably would not use the term “abuse”. I did not use that term for my marriage until someone else pointed the abuse out to me. This is pretty typical. I left my first marriage because it had become unbearable. And I was so spiritually brainwashed that I believed I was going to hell for it. That’s how bad it had gotten. In talking with an advocate, a few weeks later, she explained to me that I had been abused for years. But, I waited until the abuse got physical before I left because, for some reason, I believed abused women were women who were thrown down staircases or given black eyes. I did not realize that I was (barely) living under spiritual, emotional and mental abuse, as well. Even back then, I said things like, “Well, he only squeezed me too hard once. He only hurt my child once (I am not giving details to protect my child). He only hit me once.” This woman actually put her hands on my shoulders and said, “He should NEVER ONCE hurt you, Megan. One time is one time too many.” 

I would like to just pull back the curtain a little bit into the psyche of a victim enmeshed in abuse, to help those who do not seem to get it (keep in mind that this is before she finds freedom). Here is a shortlist:

  1. Abused women make excuses for their abusers. There is a deep deep shame involved with being a victim. I mean, who wants to be a victim?! I, personally, thought I deserved it. I felt crazy. I did not want anyone to know what happened, in my home, because what if they thought I deserved it, too? And what if they treated me that way, also? Oh, how I covered it up. And it ate away at my sanity: “Loyalty to that which does not work, or worse, to a person who is toxic, exploitive or destructive to you, is a form of insanity.” ― Patrick J. Carnes, The Betrayal Bond: Breaking Free of Exploitive Relationships  
  2. Abused women are often seeking validation. Again, maybe if I please him, he will love me . . . There really is something to Stockholm syndrome. While it is often associated with those who are kidnapped, think about it: Women in abusive marriage feel like captives. They end up trying to please their abusers. They also end up trying to please those to whom they feel they are supposed to submit (church leaders, professors, etc.). In fact, if you find that a woman at a church or a seminary is overly grateful, it could very well be that she does not feel deserving of anything good she is given. If you find that a woman at a church or seminary is trying her hardest to be super-submissive to church leaders, you might find out that she thinks very little of herself and thinks that her only value is in being a servant/slave. Her esteem is shot. You might want to ask her if she is OK and look for signs of abuse that she probably cannot even articulate.
  3. Abused women may struggle with depression. Again, she cannot vocalize this well. Listen, when your life becomes nothing but submission and menial tasks, and there is very little by way of creativity or pleasure, getting up each morning gets harder and harder. If you believe it is simply your duty to re-populate the earth (spiritual abuse) and meet every whim of your husband (more spiritual abuse), it will not feel like life is really worth living. But, a godly Christian woman cannot say those things out loud, right? So, why is such dark fruit coming from doing God’s will? (sarcasm)
  4. Abused women may be living a double life. This cognitive dissonance takes a toll on a woman because she does not want to do this and may not be able to figure out why she is doing it. She tries to appear cheerful, godly and happy and like she is enjoying this miserable existence because submitting to an abusive man is God’s way (not God’s way, in case there is any misunderstanding of my sarcasm here). Believe it or not, she believes she is doing the right thing. Then there is the covering for her husband. Oh, the covering. Re-wording things he says so he doesn’t “leak” his narcissism on the friends you are having for dinner . . . making sure everyone knows how much you respect and admire him because godly women do that . . . praising him . . . pretending. Its exhausting.

Look for these things: Pretending, defending, covering, depression, physical signs of abuse, seeking validation from any man (by way of being subservient and administrative), making excuses and exhaustion.

Listen, most women in the midst of an abusive relationship do not come out and say, “I’m being abused.” They will say it later, after therapy and after advocacy help and after being educated. But, please, do not expect a woman in the swirling mess of abuse to be able to tell you all about it. Furthermore, certainly don’t expect her to if you are an unsafe person. In fact, be a safe person. For the love of Pete . . . be a safe person.

If she never told you about the abuse, maybe you need to look inside yourself and, instead of asking why she did not speak about it, ask yourself why she did not feel like she could.

Love, Megan

Megan is a Pastoral Counselor (MAR in Pastoral Counseling), founder of Give Her Wings and President of the Board. 

 

Megan’s Response to Recent Happenings in the Church

As I prayed for the Church this morning, I sensed God bringing me peace for the first time in days. My heart is grieving over all of the issues that are happening within the church, but I am grateful that there is a little bit of justice and that the painful uncovering of infested wounds may begin to bring some healing.

At the same time, I am still seeing the re-victimization of precious women happening. They are shamed into being silent. They are told to put the past behind them; they are told that they are bitter for bringing up their painful stories of abuse and misogyny. It HURTS to watch. I have seen men praised, of whom I know personally, who have carelessly put women down a hundred times. Today, I noticed a grand tweet praising a seminary professor who went to school with me. I’ll never forget the day that he blew up at our theology professor because I received an ‘A’ on a paper and he received a ‘B’. I sat there, in silence, watching him. I was afraid because he was so incredibly puffed up as he told our professor that I only received an ‘A’ because he liked me and I played the piano. It was humiliating. I have seen people ask for prayer for the man who perpetuated abuse at my seminary . . . and very little asking for prayer for those who are victims of abuse (not to mention their children). I have seen outrage over the “ruining” of men’s careers when these very same men ruined lives. What about the victims?

I don’t understand why there are not more expressions of deep sadness over the lives of the victims. But, if I focus on it too much, I become deeply sad. And, while that fuels my fire to continue with our work, at Give Her Wings, it also takes my mind off of issues at hand, on which I need to focus.

While praying this morning, the stark reality of the fact that only God can change hearts has hit me, once again. People get caught . . . but it does not equal repentance. Not real repentance, at least. We see it all the time. I have seen cover-ups, back-pedaling and discrediting of truth-telling victims. These leaders are not changing their minds. They are not saying to themselves, “Oh my word. What have we DONE?!” No, power is a powerful addiction. Its the same old story that we see in the New Testament. The religiously powerful seem to always abuse. How many times did Jesus point out the down-trodden, oppressed, poor and weak as His rightful followers when they knew Him? Everything is always upside-down.

I cannot wait until Jesus makes it right-side up again. Come, Lord Jesus.

Seeds have been planted and the ugly has been exposed, but powerful men still love their power and they will not give that up so easily. Deep-rooted ideas connecting to poor theology about women are not going anywhere, anytime soon. And it aches to know that.

Women still have very little voice, when it all comes down to it. But here is my joy: Women have a great big voice with God. No powerful man can alter that truth. And that is Who I will go to. He sees, He knows, He is intimately aware of the thoughts of all men and how some of them denigrate and belittle God’s daughters. We are not at the end, yet. So, in the meantime, I am praying. I am asking God to continue to expose evil and validate victims. In the meantime, we will continue our work at Give Her Wings to help women who have been shamed, left desolate, in pain and unsure about whether or not they are in the Kingdom of God because of what churches have done to them. That is all we can do. Please support us. We need you, now, more than ever.

Love,

Megan

 

“Sunflower Joy” by Megan D Cox

Do You Struggle With Hate Toward Your Abuser?

The struggle with hate is a very real issue among former targets (or current targets) of abuse. I include “current targets” due to the fact that so many of our mamas still often experience post-separation abuse from their ex abusers.  It is all understandable. Every single one of these ladies feel like they gave the best part of their lives to a narcissist –their younger selves, their stronger selves. They gave up their dreams, their hopes, their bodies their sanity to hold together an abusive marriage that lasted way too long. And look at what he is doing to their children. And what he has done. These ladies are spending their energy reserve trying to care for children who, very often, have to see him every week or every other weekend. And he hurts them. I get it. I really do.  Here is a direct quote from one of our mamas:

I hate what he is – he pretends to be a Christian but is the antithesis of a believer. He is a master deceiver and built our life on lies on top of lies on top of lies. I hate that he made me trust him when he cannot be trusted in the least. I hate that he manipulates and abuses the children. I hate that he made me look like the bad guy for filing and moving, when in reality it was his years and years of cheating and gas lighting and abuse that did it. I hate that he makes me out to be a gold digger when in fact I pay all the bills for the kids and he contributes almost nothing. I hate that he stole my youth, my innocence, my trust.

I used to hate my ex husband, I don’t mind saying it. It was an issue that was between Jesus and me and I have resolved it, with much help. My ex husband took my life and my body and used everything for his own gain.  Without going into tremendous detail, it took years of therapy to undo what he did to me. I hated him for that. I hated him for ruining our marriage from the get-go. I hated how he treated our children. I hated him because he knew what hurt me most and always did what hurt me most. I hated him because he seemed incapable of love.

I recently posed the question, on the private mama’s page, of whether or not anyone else had this struggle. I was shocked when there were over ninety comments in just a few days. It wasn’t just me. Some of the women still hate (I don’t blame them), some have healed. And then everything in between. I learned so much from this discussion. Those who have found a way to reconcile hatred for the sinfulness of their ex husbands and yet have no bitterness are my heroes. And I think I have finally reached that point, myself, which has released me.

Do you struggle with hate? Its OK. It won’t be this way forever. But, here are my observations, with help from my friends. After the observations, I will tell you how I overcame and resolved my own struggles.. Remember, though, each of our situations are unique. The way that I overcame will be entirely different than how you overcome. All I can do is share what I have done, for better or for worse. I hope this helps:

1    The ladies who have been able to go completely no contact are able to overcome their hate much easier than those who are constantly being poked at by their exes. It was faster and easier for them because the thorn was removed. Going no contact, for me, brought me tremendous healing and clarity. I began to see that the rest of the world does not function like my abusive marriage functioned. Most people are normal people. But, the women who still have exes tormenting them, on a regular basis, have a great mountain in front of them to deal with. But, they are dealing with it . . . . here is one way that I thought was particularly insightful:

2     Hate can be used. Here lies an oxymoron for the Christian, right?! But, typically, abuse victims tend to be more empathic than most people, which is why they are often chosen as a target for abuse. One of our mamas said that, because she always wants to quickly forgive and forget, she had to use her hate in order to keep herself and her babies safe. Once she was in a safer place and had moved away from her ex abuser, she could let the hate go. It reminded me of the Israelites when they had left Egypt. They forgot. They wanted their leeks and onions. They forgot what slavery was like. They complained. They had to be reminded of their former wretched slavery in order to get to freedom — to the promised land.   Here is another thought:

3   Holy hate is not a bad thing. “There are six things the Lord hates, seven that are detestable to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked schemes, feet that are quick to rush into evil, a false witness who pours out lies and a person who stirs up conflict in the community.” ~Proverbs 6:16-19.

How many of us were taught that “hate” is a bad word? When I was growing up, we could get soap in our mouths for using that word! But, the truth is, hating the destruction that abusive men cause is not bad. God hates the violence that causes divorce (Mal. 2:16 ESV — and FOR HEAVEN’S SAKE, FRIENDS, READ IT IN THE ESV OR ANOTHER more literal TRANSLATION). We can join Him in hating this.

Says team member Ruth,

I detest my ex because he embodies everything in this verse. The difference is, I do not allow that emotion to rule me, but instead, allow that emotion to ground me to what is True and Righteous. I’ve spent enough time catering to him, I’m not about to give him any more of my energy. I don’t think about my ex every day but when I do, I pray. Hate isn’t a bad thing. We should feel repelled by such wicked characters.

4   Many women feel indifference and wonder if they are sinning . . . they wonder if indifference is the same as hate. To that, I would say “no” — not in this case. Indifference can be one of two things. First, it may be a survival tactic in the midst of trauma. It is clear to those who have studied PTSD that dissociation is often the best way a person can survive a constant barrage of abuse. Ignoring, distancing one’s emotions, pretending to be somewhere else . . . these are all methods our subconscious minds use to simply make it through. It is necessary. Second, being indifferent could also be an indicator of having healed. For most of the women we serve, their marriage disintegrated years and years before they bravely take the step to leave. They have already worked through the hate and have moved on. The divorce was simply the last step in a lengthy process to get healthy.

5   Hate is a normal response to abnormal behavior. This is craziness we’re dealing with, friends. When someone snaps at me, out of exhaustion, I don’t struggle with hate toward that person. I say to myself, “Oh, man. She is so tired and stressed out.” Done. But, consistent abuse is abnormal, psychopathological and evil. Hate naturally follows. We have to accept that we are responding normally, while understanding that we cannot live in that place forever. We all know that bitterness will eat us up from the inside out.  But, give yourself mercy and time. There are stages of healing. As the wise mama above said, use the hate. Let it be the first step — the one that sets you and your babies free. Then, move to the next step.

For me, the next step, once we became financially stable (big shout out to my awesome husband, David!), I was finally able to get trauma therapy, including EMDR. A few years ago, as I described the things from which I suffered at the hands of my ex husband and others, I heard my wise, older-lady counselor says these words, “That. is. brutal.” I wept. She saw it and affirmed it. Through her wisdom, I began to understand that my ex husband did what he knew. He does what he knows. He decided, at one point in his life (AND despite all of the godly counsel he was given), that his way of entitlement and ownership was best. Contrary to the Gospel, he decided that he would always see me as his slave, as well as his children . . . just there to fill his cup and build him up or else . . .

I saw it. I remember the day where I saw that he is simply not capable of true, genuine, selfless love. He lived in his version of “the law” that had been passed down for generations. He did not want to be free. And, if he could not be free, neither could we. This is what helped me:  He is simply not capable of anything except mental, emotional and (a few times) physical abuse. That’s sad. Truly, deeply sad. He won’t ever get to experience the truly beautiful act of sacrificing something to see one of his children (from his first marriage) succeed. He will never get to understand that incredible rush of running around to make sure all kids’ events are attended, well-cheered on and supported. He will never understand how it is to give to someone freely, knowing that that person gives himself/herself freely, as well. He will never get to see them grow into the amazing people they are becoming. He will always be in charge, which means that he will never have the possibility of saying to his wife, “I’m going to support you for this season of our lives”, like my David is doing for me. He will never be anyone’s “safe” person. He will never get to see anyone freely choose to love them back and serve and bless them because she is loved so well. He will never have the good kind of pride, that my now-husband has, of being able to say, “I always give my wife just a little bit more than she gives me.” That was David’s goal when we married. And he is over the top. My ex will not be adored because of that. He will have things his way . . . and we all know how that feels, right? When we were children and we wanted our way, that just didn’t feel great. I just imagine being a grown up and struggling with wanting to control everything and everyone. That is a never-ending leaky bucket that cannot be filled. One can never have enough — always afraid of losing control. That is miserable.

In all of this, understanding his dysfunction will never and would never justify our staying with him. I can understand without subjecting us to abuse.

That is where I finally found this strange, unique compassion for this man who had stolen so much for me. He’s missing it — and choosing to! I cannot even comprehend what would have to happen to my heart to keep me from wanting to inquire about my own children or check on their well-being. I am sorry for him.

And, therein, I find my peace. And the bitterness is gone and the hate is gone and I just feel . . . nothing. To me, my ex husband is just another person who had an unfortunate upbringing and chose to live in that lack of fortune. And for me, finally — healing.

Regardless of your story, I believe that Jesus can always bring healing, even if it takes years. And, even if it takes years, there is still progress within those years, even if it is baby steps. And that is OK. Celebrate those baby steps as you and Jesus figure out how to overcome, eventually, as needed. And ask Him. I know He will tell you.

Love,

Megan

Art Credit: Megan D Cox

 

Megan is a Pastoral Counselor and also President of Give Her Wings, Inc. She carries a Masters of Arts in Religion in Pastoral Counseling and is certified in crisis counseling with the AACC.

A Former Victim’s Need for Self-Compassion

When I sit down to have coffee with a brave, brave woman who has left an abuser, one of the recurring themes in her lament is, “How could I have gotten myself into this? I saw the red flags and I married him, anyway. I should have known. I’m educated and smart. I never thought I would find myself in this position.” Listen, I understand. I will never forget standing in the middle of my mess and saying to myself, “I have a counseling degree and here I am . . . ” And the comments that others make about how they would never have put up with abuse for so long . . . or that they would never have been in that situation in the first place . . . these things hurt. They make it all worse. Its just a little bit more of re-victimization and a lot more judging.

So, here are the thoughts I have regarding self-compassion and the entanglement of “I should have’s” for former victims of abuse:

  1. Anyone who feels the need to tell you they would have never ended up in an abusive relationship is simply not your friend and not worth your time. We have the Holy Spirit, thank you very much, and we do not need people to point their fingers our way to tell us, right upon our leaving, how foolish we were to marry this person, in the first place. If there are extenuating circumstances, we know what they are. People who say foolish things about abuse are not educated in how abuse works (thought-reform).  They have not been in your shoes, in your home or in your difficult relationships. They do not get to judge. Let them go. In these vulnerable moments, our need is support and empathy. Period.
  2. If you park your emotional car in the parking lot of “I can’t believe I am finding myself in this position . . . “, you will stay stuck. There is plenty of time, later, for allowing the Lord to help you to understand what happened. But, for now, it is not your job to condemn yourself. Don’t you think you have had enough of that? Sadly, it seems the Church’s default is legalism. There is some tough condemnation there. Then, there are the lingering and ever-present words of your abuser(s). A cornucopia of finger-pointing and blame. Friend, be your friend. You need a friend, right now. And move forward. Be proactive. Do what needs to be done.
  3. There is not some deficiency in you that would cause the abuse to have occurred. Do you hear me? It is not you. It is your abuser’s psycho-pathology. He has used everything possible to abuse you — your loves, your vulnerabilities, your pain and fears, the Bible — because of his sickness. No more self-blame. NO one deserves to be treated that way.
  4. You got out of it is as quickly as you could. I know, I know . . . we all wish we had not stayed as long as we could. But, considering the kind of oppression we were all under (from all sides!), the fact that we escaped or walked away is nothing short of a miracle. As soon as you could understand the full extent of the abuse and pain, you left. You are to be commended. We all know the courage that entails.
  5. Look how far you’ve come. Do it! Just look back, over the past weeks or months or years and be amazed and wonder-filled. I mean, you have choices now. You did not have those choices before. You can make a decision, right now, about what you will do with all you have learned. That’s exciting! What you have accomplished, in the face of perceived hopelessness, is incredible. You have been brave, in the presence of intense fear. Each time you choose to stand up a little bit straighter and look people in the eye . . . each time you do not give into terror but breathe through those panic-attacks . . . each time you take one, tiny step toward independence or self-improvement, you are looking evil in the face and saying, “You will not conquer me.”
  6. The Christian life does not work this way: If I do thus and such, I will have a good marriage and a good life. This is the fallacy that is rooted in legalism and is can cause severe depression. Affliction happens to the best and shiniest of Christians because Jesus told us affliction would happen. The promise is that He will not leave us when affliction occurs. So, rather than beat yourself up, trying to figure out where you went wrong when you were trying, so hard, to make the right decisions before God, accept that life is messy. It always has been! And then look at the mess, knowing that Jesus loves you and is with you in the mess, and figure out what to do with it all.

Listen friends, treat yourself with compassion. In Jordan Peterson’s incredibly successful book, “12 Rules for Life: and Antidote for Chaos”, the very second rule is “Treat Yourself Like Someone You Are Responsible for Helping.” But, for an even more meaningful reason, consider this: Jesus cares for you, for your heart, soul and body. He adores you. His desire for you, beautiful and broken one, is that you live in a whole relationship with Him and others. In order to do this, you must start with being in a whole relationship with yourself. Jesus feels strongly about how you are treated — by others — but, also by you. You belong to Him! Show yourself compassion because, dear one, that is what Jesus shows you, every day. Be like Him.

Love,

Megan

 

 

Happy Galentine’s Day!!

Dear Friends,

One of the things we strive to do for our mamas is give them the assurance that they are loved, cared for and appreciated!  This year our precious team member Audrey spent hours putting together these beautiful picture cubes for our mamas along with a beautiful sentiment and of course…chocolate!!!

We hope you’ll help us fund these gifts to help remind our mamas how special they are!  They are are special gals…our Galentine’s!  For just a single $10 donation, you can be part of making this day special for them!

Thank you for your support of this ministry and of our precious, beloved mamas!