Clarity & Care by Michael Ramsey

In an effort to continue our question and answer series, we have asked Michael Ramsey to be a guest author on our blog. Michael is a youth pastor, currently residing in North Carolina. He has studied counseling and has a wonderful blog called “Faith, Film and Food” that you can find here. Michael has a great big heart and I am sure he will be guest-blogging often. Thank you, Michael! Read on:

The decisions made by abuse victims are often misunderstood by those closest to them. Many people wonder and sometimes openly ask questions like:

How could she have children with that man who has been abusive to her?

Why won’t she just leave him?

Why would anyone accept that sort of treatment?

These questions expose the fundamental misunderstanding of many family and friends who have not experienced abuse themselves. Abuse damages its victims in more ways than just physically and sexually (although that damage is very difficult). At a deeper level, abuse begins to alter the way the abused person perceives reality. The changes can be subtle and are often not visible in other parts of the person’s life. For instance, their performance at work may remain unchanged or their friendships can be very balanced and healthy. Inside the microcosm of the abusive relationship, however, the person who has been abused is filled with doubt and oftentimes feelings of guilt. Added to this is the fact that many abuse victims tend to be “givers” by nature. Wonderful character traits such as loyalty, devotion, and a willingness to sacrifice for others can be twisted and used against someone by an abusive person. In those settings, it doesn’t take long for someone to begin to lose clarity in how they perceive the abusive relationship they are in. Many people who have been abused believe things like: “If I were more careful with my words, he wouldn’t get so angry” or “I don’t understand why I can’t make him happy”. These thoughts betray an unhealthy shift in terms of her understanding of relational boundaries and responsibility. It’s even possible for the abused to believe that she is close to being “good enough” to make relationship work. At that point, she digs her heels in and works harder than ever to please her husband, protect her children, or whatever she feels is needed most.

It is often in the midst of this storm that family or friends step in and in an effort to “help”, push the person to make a change, or even criticize their decisions. It’s important to note that the family or friends may be right about the injustice the person is suffering in their relationship but, their callously spoken right answers will only cause the abused person to doubt themselves more and at times, like themselves less. So, if you have a friend or loved one who is suffering abuse, but is unable to escape it, keep these things in mind:

1)Unconditional love is better than uninvited advice.

What an abused person needs to know more than anything else is that she is loved, and that you believe in her as a person. Critical words and pressure only contribute to the dark place they are in, it doesn’t help.

2)Be honest.

If asked or given the opportunity, always be honest about the nature of what your friend is going through. Your love for her allows you to say that it is never ok for her to be physically harmed or degraded, but also that it doesn’t change the love that you have for her.

3)Be Patient.

People don’t normally make life altering changes overnight and those enduring abuse are no exception. Don’t begin to doubt yourself or the impact your friendship has in her life simply because visible changes don’t seem to be occurring. Hang in there! Your friendship means more than you could possibly know.

People who are enduring abuse need good people around them, and by remembering these three simple things, you will able to offer an honest, patient, and loving relationship to people who desperately need it.

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.

Our “Give One” Wishlist: Updated 8-16-13

Give Her Wings "Give One" Campaign Wish List

As you may already know, we’re doing things a little differently around Give Her Wings this month.  Instead of selling something or taking straight donations for one recipient, we are asking for donations of funds to give some pick-me-ups to “our” mamas and their children.

These are for people that we know that just don’t have the money for the “extras” in life that a lot of us take for granted.  If you haven’t seen it, Kelley posted about the Give One Campaign earlier in the month. Check out her post for a full description.

You can still pick anything you want to gift, and we’ll get it to someone who will appreciate it. But, as we made a list of the folks we’d like to gift to this month, we came up with some more specific items and direction for you.  We’ll do our best to keep this list updated regularly (new items & crossed off items).

All you have to do to participate is to click the donate button to the right and donate the amount you wish to give to cover the gift (or put toward a gift…eight $5 donations work just as well as one $40 donaton).  Just make sure you click on “+Add instructions to seller” on the left of the Paypal checkout so you can tell us what you want your money to go for.  If you choose not to do that, we’re happy to put it where we think it’s most needed. If you want to be really specific in a gift, we’ve had a couple people pick something on Amazon and donate the funds and just supply us the link.  We have access to a Prime account, so any Prime Eligible items ship for free.  We can order from other sites too, but if you would be able to help with shipping, that would be great.

Here’s the list:

  • $30 Amazon gift card
  • Christmas gift / gift card for 17 year old boy
  • Mani/Pedi
  • Christmas gift / gift card for 13 year old boy
  • Christmas gift / gift card for 7 year old boy
  • Floral bouquet
  • Starbucks gift card
  • A gas card

Give Her Wings is covering Paypal expenses out of our account so the full gifted amount can go to the recipient, so if anyone is led to share just a bit to help us with that, it would be appreciated too.  Every dollar that we pay on fees, is one fewer dollar that we can share with someone who needs it.

 

 

 

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.

Welcome to August’s “Give One” Campaign…

This month we are going to do things a little differently.  After several months of raising a large amount for a specific recipient, we have decided to change it up a bit and offer our ladies a month of small, random acts of kindness.  Survivors are usually just getting by financially, and that is about it.  Every extra penny goes to paying for basics.  A month with food, housing and electricity is a blessing and a relief.  Things that might be considered necessities by many become luxuries to these women.  And this month, we feel it is time to spread a little sunshine, share a little smile, and send a little love in a very practical way.

In August, we are asking that you give one of your daily luxuries away.  We challenge each of you to think of one thing you can share to help give HER wings…

If you give us your morning coffee, we’ll put it in the hands of a lady we think would be blessed by such a simple gesture.  If you tell us that you’ll give up your weekend movie, we’ll send her and her kiddos to a show.  Give us those groceries that weren’t on your list, and we’ll gift her with a few splurge items that she hasn’t tasted in a while.

There is no right way to do this.  We are simply challenging you to think about all the things you don’t necessarily need.  Things that make life a little easier.  Happier.  Brighter.  Then, we want you to give one up to give her wings.  Make HER happier.  Make HER life brighter.  Make HER fly.

We are committed to helping make each gift happen.  We’ll pair your gift with the perfect recipient.  And families can get in on the action too!   Maybe your family can eat in so that her family can eat out.   Perhaps your little one could forego a new toy so that her little one can have one.  The possibilities are endless and we are so excited about these possibilities!

We would also like to really see our social media outlets gain exposure over the next month.  For that reason, we have created a lovely set of “collectible” images that will help you share our campaign with friends and family.   Each image is a suggested gift and can be posted on your Facebook wall, Pinterest page, and on Twitter.  We ask that when you make your donation, you also post your gift for all to see.  This will raise interest and awareness and we hope to gain exposure as a result.   And if you want to give something other than what you see, please tell us!  We’ll do our best to create an image that represents your gift.

gaveAPizza gaveACoffee gaveAGrocerySplurg gaveAnAccessory gaveAMani gaveAShoppingTrip

How do you give your gift?  The simplest way is through a PayPal donation.  You’ll donate the estimated value of your gift, and we’ll purchase a gift card or voucher that can be redeemed by the recipient.  We ask that you please factor in things like tips and sales tax when applicable, as we want the coffee, dinner, or outing to be completely free of charge to our lady and her family.   We will also be accepting gift cards to larger chain retailers like Starbucks, Target, Toys R Us, Wal-Mart, etc.  You send them to us and we’ll take it from there.

Thank you for your continued support for our ladies and their families.  We are humbled and excited by the possibilities of continued growth as we work together to give her wings…

To see our full gallery of gifting suggestions and to snag your image for use on your personal social pages, please visit:
www.giveherwings.com/html/currentFundraiser.html

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

July Fundraising Update

With two days left to go, the cash donation goal has been exceeded! Even though our goal has been met, cash donations are never wasted.  If you still want to give, your donation will be rolled over into the next fundraiser.

Cash donations $1630.25, Necklaces sold 42

We have 8 more necklaces to go to buy the minimum for the price we were quoted.  If you haven’t purchased yet, it’s not too late!  We’re also still asking for someone to purchase a necklace to give to “Embraced”, one of the mothers GHW helped in a previous month.  Just note it in the message part of your purchase.  We’re also asking that you share this post to help us get the word out.  (There’s a pin-it button at the bottom of the post for Pinterest users – please choose the necklace photo)

Give Her Wings Limited Edition Necklace.  Fundraiser through July 31, 2013.  $39.99

We are so thankful for each of you who has given, purchased, prayed and encouraged throughout this month!

Fearfully and Wonderfully Made

For those of you that don’t know me, I’m a photographer. Photography is not my profession, but it is one of my greatest joys. It gives me a chance to capture the world as I see it. It gives me a chance to share my artist’s heart and mind that work in pictures much better than in words.

Every photograph has a purpose. It may just be that it’s fun to look at. It may capture an otherwise unnoticed detail. It may be to freeze a moment in time. Any viewer of the photograph can take a guess as to what the purpose is. But, as the photograph’s creator, I know that purpose better than any other.

Almost anyone would be able to figure out the purpose of this picture.

orchidThe flower is beautiful in its dew-kissed perfection. It’s pretty obvious that the purpose here is to capture that beauty.

But what about this one? shoes

Do you have any idea what the purpose of this is?  I’m guessing that you don’t.  But I do.  This photo captured a very special memory for me.  After spending two months in a walking boot, I was finally released to do something!  These shoes went with me up the stairs to the top of two lighthouses and a sand dune.  In that moment, they represented new found freedom and ability.  They also represented protection from that hot sand.  I didn’t know it at the time, but this photo has also come to preserve a special memory from the last trip I would ever take with my Daddy before he died.

Without the viewpoint of the creator, you would probably never have seen that simple photograph for what it really is.  If you ever came across it and you didn’t know to whom it belonged, it would have been ignored, disregarded, thrown away or destroyed.  Even knowing the story behind it, some people might still do that.  But it holds a very special place in my heart.

God is the most remarkable artist.  We are His creation.  Each of us has a purpose that sometimes only He can see and tell.  No one has the right to disregard or destroy us based on his/her judgment call of our worth.  But it happens.  Every day.  We are making decisions on how to treat others based on our own view.  It’s wrong.  We should make every effort to treat each person with the care that their Creator does.  It’s not easy. I’ll admit, I’m not always good at it.   But it’s the right thing to do.

I’m just the maker of photographs that are replaceable.  God is the maker of every person: each  is unique and completely irreplaceable. I know how sad and angry I would feel if someone destroyed or defaced one of my photographs on display.  Even knowing that, I can hardly fathom how God must feel when one of his precious creations is put down or damaged.

When a woman (or man, or child) is abused, often times she even forgets herself that she has value. She is full of a purpose that God himself has ordained from her beginning.  That is one of the reasons I’m a part of Give Her Wings.   Anything that we can do to remind one of God’s precious creations that she is valuable to Him is worth our time, effort and money.  She doesn’t belong stuffed in an album, marked up by a pen, disregarded or destroyed.  She needs to be restored, framed, and out in the world showing off the purpose with which she was created.

*************************************

I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.
–Psalm 139:14