The WAY We Give

I have been continually blessed by both the receiving of the gifts and then the turnaround . . . giving to the recipients. I believe I can speak for the entire team in saying that it is ultra-fulfilling to match up gifts with mamas and kiddos. Kelley put it this way:

I can’t really describe it… kind of like riding a roller coaster, working a complex puzzle, living in Santa’s workshop, and maybe one other thing… all at the same time.

It is indescribable. I have also watched the way the team at GHW is giving to these precious women of God. And I love it. When David sent “Lifted” her check, he included a simple note: “You are His.” Lifted said that she wept as soon as  she read it. Another team member wrote a note to one of our ladies, along with an Amazon gift card, that insisted she pamper herself. I have have the honor of explaining to several ladies that they must accept their gift . . . that God loves them . . . that they are princesses.

Here is what we don’t do:

  1. We don’t condemn
  2. We don’t pry
  3. We don’t pity

Here is what we strive to do:

  1. Keep dignity intact
  2. Honor
  3. Simply love

It is not our job to judge. It is our joy to show spiritual widows and spiritual orphans that they are treasured and loved enough by our Heavenly Father to be provided for . . . even beyond that . . . to be adored.

Walk On By

Yesterday, I met the man who owns the retreat center in the mountains of North Carolina where I rested for a few days (thanks to my crazy-wonderful husband). We talked about Give Her Wings. He said something like, “Well, I think it is great that  you have decided to reach out and help other women like that!” And I said, “Well, I have been there . . . I know how it feels.” And he said, “But, you are happy now. You could just say to yourself, ‘Well, I got through that and now I am going to move on and not look back.'”

Don’t think I have not thought of that. Before it begins to sound like I am tooting my own horn, you all need to know that it would be very easy for me to just move forward into a life of bliss with my husband and never think of hardship again. 

I don’t want to be the priest.

I don’t want to be the Levite.

It is tempting for me to convince myself that the man attacked by robbers somehow brought it upon himself. Maybe he was flaunting his riches. Maybe he was not being wise somehow. Maybe he was suffering consequences of some kind. Why should I help him?

These thoughts make me sad. Sad that I am capable of thoughts like this; sad that others are, as well.

I want to be the Samaritan . . . who not only picks up my sister and brings her to safety . . . but who pours oil and wine on her wounds. I want to enter into her pain with her. I want to share her burdens. I do not want to look the other way. I could just walk on by. But, God help me, I will not. That is why we are doing what we are doing at Give Her Wings. Jesus told the experts of the law that they would inherit life when they “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your strength and with all your mind . . . and love your neighbor as yourself.” (Luke 10) And then, He proceeded to tell them how to do that with the parable of the Good Samaritan. That is life!! To be proactive in loving those who need us is the very quintessence of experiencing the Kingdom of God right now. 

Take this journey with us. Stop on that path between Jerusalem and Jericho. Go out of your way with us. Enjoy the blessings and the fruits of loving intentionally. Wipe her tears; wrap your arms around her heart. Come with us . . . and love her.

Review of Leslie Vernick’s new book: The Emotionally Destructive Marriage

Reading Ms. Vernick’s new book on abuse has been refreshing to my soul for many reasons. When I first began, I tried to read it through the eyes of the woman I once was — the woman who was hanging by a thread in an abusive marriage — the woman who was not even sure what I was experiencing WAS abusive — the woman who felt crazy and did not know why. When I took the tests at the beginning of the book that determine whether or not a woman is in an emotionally destructive marriage, it made my skin crawl. Memories came flooding back. Any doubt that may have crept into my mind over the past year or so dissipated. I even learned (through the tests) that “crazy making” was my ex’s favorite form of emotional abuse. Ms. Vernick’s book is good for all: those who are in the trenches, those who who are trying to work on their marriage, those who are breaking free, and those who have left abusive relationships.

Ms. Vernick breaks the book into three sections: (1) Seeing your marriage clearly (2) Change begins with you and (3) Initiating changes in your marriage. The crux of the work, however, is her emphasis on “developing your CORE”. Ms. Vernick believes that there is hope for destructive marriages. She wants to offer that hope. However, she is not dogmatic about this.  As hard as it is for me to believe, there are marriages that can survive emotional abuse . . . there are men and women who are willing to admit to  abuse and begin taking the long road from repentance to massive change. This was hard for me to swallow. One of the blessed aspects of this book is that Leslie Vernick is clear about what that road looks like and how difficult it is.

Ms. Vernick gives a blueprint for how a woman can approach her husband (all the while creating clear boundaries) about abuse and the needed change. But, before all of this can happen, the CORE must be developed. A woman/victim must be . . .

Committed to Truth and Reality — That is, admitting to herself that the marriage is in a bad place. No more covering, pretending or masking.

Open to Growth, Instruction and Feedback — This is where we put on humility (confessing that the old way is not working and a willingness to try a new way)

Responsible for Myself and Respectful Toward Others Without Dishonoring Myself — I especially liked this part. Writes Vernick, “If you are going to stay in this marriage, then stay well; and if you are going to leave your marriage, then leave well.”  (p. 112)

Empathic and Compassionate Toward Others Without Enabling People to Continue to Abuse or Disrespect Her — This CORE attribute maintains the dignity of the victim. A woman must protect herself from taking on any of the characteristics of the abuser.

Once these CORE values are in place, Vernick then gives the go-ahead for confrontation of the abusive spouse.

Disclaimer: I realized, as I was reading this book, that my ex-husband would not have tolerated my “building my core”. There would have been no breathing room to do so, either. If he had found a book like this one, he would have raged. I would be in hiding all the time. When he saw me displaying any sort of grace-filled or graceful conduct, he would drive me to the point of distraction. I realize that this plan cannot work for every single marriage. And the author recognizes this. But, for some, Vernick offers hope. Throughout her book, Ms. Vernick is very aware of the plight of an abused woman and her tendencies. She reminds the reader over and over again that God cares more about human beings than He does about marriage.

As I read through the author’s plan for approaching an abusive husband (which is spot-on) and the possible outcomes (good and bad) of her approach, I became more and more confident that I had done everything possible to “save” my  first marriage. It was very affirming, as I had (unknowingly) tried almost everything Ms. Vernick suggests. I feared, however, that she was not going to offer an option if it did not work. She stresses the fact that a woman cannot hold a marriage together on her own . . . but I was not entirely sure that Ms. Vernick was going to support divorce if all of these things did not “work”. Thankfully, toward the end of the book, she writes that divorce is not just permissible, but encouraged, for the sake of the protection and stability of a woman and her children (as a last resort) if things are not getting better and are only getting worse. After giving women a voice and empowering us to begin to make decisions on our own, searching Scripture and seeking out wisdom . . . after stating clearly that every situation is different and no one can tell women what to do . . . she writes this:

” . . . for some women, divorce might be the best choice because of her and her children’s safety and sanity. I’ve already shared stories from women who wished they would not have stayed married for the children. They see their adult children living out the same destructive patterns that they witnessed as children. How they wish it could have been different . . . ” p. 176

Particularly encouraging to my heart was Appendix B of “The Emotionally Destructive Marriage”. There, the author lists five common mistakes “people helpers” make. Among them was “Encouraging the Wife to Try Harder”. It is a fine line to try to help a wife keep herself from dishonoring herself (it is very difficult when she is being made crazy on a daily basis) without sounding like she is being blamed. Vernick states the importance of not using a counseling session to further the abusive husband’s control by pointing out what the wife “needs to work on, as well”. This was an important finding for me in the book.

Overall, I am grateful that I read it and I highly suggest this book (coming out in September) to those who are not sure if they are being emotionally abused or to those who believe there is a chance for healing in their marriage OR for those who want to be sure they have done everything they can . . . before they leave well. Vernick’s book is affirming and refreshing. Read it and be edified.

Why Did You Have So Many Children With An Abuser?

We are beginning a new series, as per a reader’s request. Sometimes, we victims forget that people who have never been touched by abuse have a difficult time fathoming what has happened. They ask reasonable questions like, “Why did you stay so long? Why did you make it look like you had a perfect marriage? Why didn’t you tell anyone about the abuse?” So . . . we will begin a question and answer format that will, helpfully, educate others about what is happening to a victim’s psyche when he or she is in an abusive relationship. 

I (Megan) have asked a dear friend and survivor, Katy, to tackle the first question: Why did you bring so many children into an abusive marriage? 

Katy is an accomplished writer and a beautiful, successful single mom of three. Read her post and be edified.

PS . . . Feel free to write in with questions and we will do our best to answer them. And now . . . Katy:

This is a question that survivors of domestic abuse face from incredulous outsiders, who haven’t experienced abuse. People who have not experienced this themselves can’t understand why a woman would #1 stay in an abusive relationship, or #2 have children once they realize that their spouse is cruel.

There are many different aspects of this question and many different answers depending on the scenario, so this will just hit the high points (if any of this could be called a “high point”).First: an excellent video TED talk given by a survivor of domestic violence on “why victims don’t leave” :
http://www.ted.com/talks/leslie_morgan_steiner_why_domestic_violence_victims_don_t_leave.html

(her talk is given from a secular perspective, to a secular audience. It’s not a faith-centric answer but it is still very true and accurate.)

Leslie is an educated and “accomplished” woman who was able to escape before having children with her abuser, but this is not the case with many. For those of us who escaped after having children, our situations are all varied. For some of us, we were so terrified of leaving that we wouldn’t dare. For others, who grew up in abusive homes, we may not know any better. And then there is the religious aspect. Those of us who come from strong faith backgrounds will have the hardest time leaving, especially if the violence isn’t extreme (or the threats are not followed through), because we are taught that God hates divorce and we are extremely committed to following our God.

I personally tried to escape after my first child was born but I had no where to run, and no one to support me. I was trapped. I had to go back. I had two more children after that before I finally was set free for good. I also happen to be a mechanical engineer with a great deal of common sense. But when I was trapped in the abuse, I was lied to every day about my worth, my intelligence, my ability to “survive without him”, and I had no one to counter those lies.
I am a different person now that I have been free for 4 years. I am the person that I was supposed to become, before my Abuser got his filthy hands around my neck. My in-laws were atheists, and when they found out about the divorce and the reasons behind it my former sister-in-law demanded to know why I hadn’t aborted my children. How dare I bring children into that relationship if it was so bad, right?
Here are some things that people need to keep in mind when questioning a survivor about her situation:
#1. Don’t assume that the woman is a fool who couldn’t figure out how to use birth control, or that she even had regular access to birth control without interference from her abuser.
#2. Don’t assume that a pregnant woman can easily throw herself up on the abortionist’s table, no matter how mean her husband has been to her.
#3. Recognize that you don’t understand what she’s just survived, and you should not insult her by implying she is stupid for having given birth to her children.  Remember that she loves her children more than her own life, just as you love yours, and that she has likely fought a hellish battle to protect them. She does not deserve scorn.
#4. Above all, when you are genuinely trying to understand a victim’s situation, recognize the great evil that was done to her, and don’t lay the responsibility for it at her feet.

There are many scenarios and circumstances that will affect someone’s ability to leave their Abuser, not the least of which are finances, family support, and cultural baggage. No one is perfect, or immune from bad decisions, or immune from being tricked by an Abuser. Everyone is vulnerable to some degree; and it is the most vulnerable that Jesus was particularly concerned for. Those that call Jesus their King will rightly concern themselves with comforting and encouraging the downtrodden, rather than condemning them for not being smart enough to avoid a wolf. (Remember that you may get trapped by a wolf at some point, too, and desperately need someone to come to your aid.)

Katy

Lifting Up “Lifted by Love”

We are about halfway through the month . . . and, as far as I can tell, about a third of the way toward reaching our goal of $1500 for “Lifted by Love”. This is when I start to pray . . . a lot. I am afraid of letting down our friend. I know that she is counting on this money. But, even more, it seems she is counting on receiving the love from the Body of Christ that she has been missing. Like so many others who are in her shoes or have been through her shoes, “Lifted” was not supported by her church family. Her ex has money. And clout. And equally moneyed and clouty parents who are prominent members of her former church. Our friend, Lifted, has been suppressed for such a long time that she did not develop any sort of fame in circles. She carried on through life . . . trying not to upset her husband. Tiptoeing around the eggshells in her home . . . expending all her energy in protecting her children and begging her husband for counseling.

When the ‘c’hurch lets you down . . . and you are trudging through trauma and tragedy, you are at risk of forgetting that Jesus cares very much about where you are.

I remember how I felt. My faith was hanging by a thread. I tried to go to other churches. Sometimes it was OK and other times it was not. I had been unloved for so so long. And I had been receiving letters from ‘c’hurch members who told me that I was wrong to leave an abusive husband . . . or that they did not believe me (he was charming and talented). They told me I was disrespectful . . . they told me that they were doubting my salvation. They even told me that God is no longer with me. In those moments, God always saved my faith, again and again. Sometimes, it was simply an act of kindness from someone who went out of their way to do something small for me. Other times, it was Scripture. I never gave up on what God says. I held onto truth . . . even if it seemed like so many around me did not believe that I walked with the Lord. I could not accept that.

I want desperately to give Lifted the sense that we . . . we who know her story and know her . . . will do something for her to remind her that God cares very deeply for her. That He will not leave her destitute.

Crying now, as I write this. Remembering . . .

At the same time, I know that I am not really the One in charge of this at all. That I take too much on my shoulders. So, I please with Jesus on Lifted’s behalf. I believe that God is moved by our genuine pleas. And that He is just as touched by my tears as I am my little child’s. Pray with me for Lifted. Let our cries reach His ears.

Our New Video

This will be somewhat vulnerable . . .

I admit that at the beginning of every month since we started Give Her Wings, I have panicked a little bit in my heart. Our entire team knows it. I struggle with doubt. So far, I have been the one on the team to connect with the ladies we are helping. I see their struggles . . . their doubts . . . they helplessness  . . . And I am so afraid that we will not pull through for them. How could I get their hopes up and then we offer them nothing? Nothing?? What if that happens? These women have been broken enough already . . . what if we tell them we will raise money for them and can only offer something small? I would be heart-broken. I would feel like I let my sisters down. I grow anxious.

And, every time, without fail . . . God pulls it all through. By the end of each month, we have raised more than we hoped for or imagined. And I cry a lot . . . and I rejoice at getting to tell the lady we are helping . . . she feels loved, treasured (sometimes for the first time in years) . . . and I thank God, tearfully. I thank Him tearfully because I doubted He would come through for us. I believe . . . I still have a bit of a broken spirit. Just a bit. I still have a hard time believing that God is listening because I felt He was so far away from my cries for such . . a long time. I really think Jesus loves to delight His children. And, He delights me by coming through for each lady we sponsor (sometimes, in the nick of time). And it never gets old. And He never says to me, “MEGAN. Have I not shown you enough??? When will your faith grow strong??” He just doesn’t seem to talk to me that way. He is patient . . . long-suffering . . . and He is good with my faith growing a tiny tick at a time.

When we first started our July campaign, we had a facebook page and a (somewhat lame) Paypal link for donations. We had our necklace designed . . . but we were lacking. However, the team (that is, Dawn, Jeff, Bethany & Kelley) saw my frustration and they got on the ball (ON THE BALL, PEOPLE). Without complaining, while encouraging me in my weakness, they created. And, now, just a few days later, we have this beautiful website (thank you, Dawn), we have a real Paypal account (correct settings) and now . . . this. This beautiful video which gives understanding to what we do here. Set to a song by Jeff S. Perfection.

I wish my faith were greater. I wish I could just be a greater overcomer. Tiny steps . . . with the help of my friends . . . Now, presenting this . . .