Last week, our sweet daughter (Mila, 13) had a bad experience at a birthday party. A few nasty texts and some typical middle school drama put her in tears. She lost, at least, one friend and felt betrayed by others. It was pretty rough. We hugged outside of the party place. My mama’s heart ached, wishing she did not have to experience these types of relationship issues. Simultaneously, my heart swelled as I watched her grow into a new level of maturity. As we drove away, she wiped her tears and talked with me about how to navigate all of the new relationship challenges she will have at school. We talked, also, about how some of the girls (and their families) simply have different values than we do and it becomes obvious during the adolescent years. With tears in her eyes, Mila looked at me and said, “Mama, I’m so thankful for Jenny. I just want to be with Jenny.” Jenny is Mila’s super-good friend. Both girls are seeking Christ and both girls are growing into mature young Christian women. So, on the way home, we stopped in at Jenny’s house so Mila could sense some of that “Jenny-love”. We all chatted outside their home and the girls ended up having tons of time together over the weekend. Mila knows where she can find safe-haven. She knows who her safe friends are.
The next morning, I was praying. I broke down and wept because I have learned, time and time again that Jesus is my “safe friend”. He is the one I want to run to whenever things feel strange or unsafe or hostile. I have always loved The Message Version of these verses:
You’ve always given me breathing room, a place to get away from it all, A lifetime pass to your safe-house, an open invitation as your guest. You’ve always taken me seriously, God, made me welcome among those who know and love you. Psalm 61:3-5
I do not know how many times I have holed up somewhere, crying out to God and finally feeling *safe*. His truths give me safety . . . something to stand on, something to cover me. Breathing room . . . a safe-house . . . to the God who takes me seriously. When everything is falling apart, I cannot wait to talk with Him. I love Him so so much.
He will never leave you; you don’t have to have “abandon issues” with Him.
He will always love you. Furthermore, He even likes you! Did you know that?
You can be completely yourself with Him.
He has good thoughts toward you; He is never judging you.
He is excited about your future.
You make Him smile (He probably laughs over us in that good-natured way, too)
He wants the best for you.
He is happy for you when good things happen to you.
He is jealous of you and protective of you. In a fierce way.
When He receives a gift from you, He probably puts it on His fridge and beams with pride. (OK. He might not have a fridge, but, if He did . . . )
One of the greatest lies we can hear from the Enemy is that ever-pointing finger of accusation, “God doesn’t want to hear from you; you have messed up too badly this time; God is disappointed in you.” Oh, friends. How I wish I could somehow come against this ancient lie. We have heard from several beautiful and hurting women, just this week, about how they have not been able to pray because of another “mess up”. I often try to get these sweet women to imagine what it would feel like if her child were crying on her bed, not willing to allow you to come into his or her space and bring help and comfort. Do you know that God is your Abba Father? Bring whatever it is that is keeping you from Him! He is full of grace and forgiveness! And, oh, how He wishes you would open that door. He will never force because He is a gentleman that way. He just wants you! . . . Hand gently touching the door of your heart, forehead pressed against that boundary separating you and Him . . . listening to your sobs and hoping. Hoping that His beautiful girl will let Him in so He can offer His mercy and love and healing and wrap His big beautiful arms around your heart.
Go to Him tonight, darling girl. Open that door. Talk to Him. He is your safe Friend.
Recently, we made a post about going “no contact”. It was incredibly popular and we received several messages asking about how to go no contact with abusive individuals. As a result, we decided we ought to blog about some suggestions as to how to protect oneself. At Give Her Wings, we consider three different methods of “managing” these high conflict personalities (with several caveats) to be basic strategies.
1. No Contact: This is the most highly recommended form of avoiding abuse. We cannot stress the need to be free of abuse enough. We urge no contact over and over and over again. No contact means no communication via phone, texting, email and “in person”. But, it also means no peeking at a person’s social media. No twitter, no breezing through photos, no Facebook, nothing. Furthermore, it means asking others to refrain from communicating with you about the abuser, as well. This can all be very difficult for two reasons. First, it is overwhelmingly problematic for a former victim to go no contact. We do believe there is such a thing as Stockholm Syndrome. There is also a great, big natural desire to forgive, forget and move forward. It is often too difficult to sift through all of the painful feelings, PTSD and intense desire for things to be “set right”, especially when the abusive person is love-bombing. The victim finds herself alone, being pursued and struggling with breaking trauma bonds. Truly, only the power of Christ can help her. Second, it can cause conflict or uncomfortable feelings when we have to ask a person to stop talking about, sharing or gossiping about said abuser. I have written a little guide on writing friendly notes concerning setting up boundaries here.
2. Low-Contact must occur when a former victim is unable to completely disconnect. This is seen, mostly, when a victim has to parallel parent with an abuser. This, also, is extremely taxing. We hear, repeatedly, how deeply a former victim wants to be completely liberated from the abuser. These momentary connections with an abuser are used and manipulated (by him) to try to pull the former victim back into the fog. Or, he jabs at her, throws her off balance or attempts to make her feel as though she will never be free of his influence. It is simply awful. In order to go low-contact, a former victim needs to shut down as many avenues of communication as possible and leave the door open for only one. Conversation must be limited, as well. For example, “John, I will only communicate to you via email and only about the children. If you cannot abide by this, I will contact my attorney for further advise”. And then, the former victim must be strong enough to keep to this promise or else be ready to inflict consequences. It always helps to have accountability. Perhaps someone to call or text when the temptation to stray away from these boundaries threatens to overcome. So, at this point, we just want to admit that we know there are a million different scenarios. Maybe low-contact is not even possible, which brings us to our final suggestion . . .
3. Grey Rock Method: We drew the name for this technique from this article here: The Gray Rock Method of Dealing with Psychopaths. Essentially, the author writes that one way of warding off the attacks of an abuser (particularly one with whom a victim shares custody of children) is to be a “boring person”. To be a gray rock; to be bland. In other words, to have an emotionless affect when an abuser jabs. Many psychopaths, sociopaths or those who are just flat out emotionally draining crave drama. If we do not give into that drama, they will soon lose interest and, perhaps, wander away on their own, eventually looking for a new place to stir up crazy. This method is different than just cutting abusers off.
The article makes sense and there is much good to be pulled from it. At the same time, we want to caution readers to recognize that it is not written from a Christian world view. That does not mean there are not some gems in there (as we have seen time and time again from “secular” psychologists and authors). But, there are a few times in reading the article where it is obvious the author may not share the same values as we. We also cannot claim that the gray rock method. will “work”. But, it might. And it is certainly something to explore.
One positive aspect of the gray rock method is that it keeps the victim from feeling powerless or losing control. It may anger the abuser more — for he or she cannot get a “rise” out of the victim — but it may aid in helping the victim to stop feeling so powerless, crazy or out of control. We do caution our readers, however, to be careful. If “gray-rocking” makes an abuser angry, there needs to be another way. I do know that some abusers scream and scream and do all they can to get a rise out of the victim. Of course, this is miserable.
We hope that this helps, as a short guide, all of you precious ladies who are trying to enforce boundaries and feel as though you have some control over your life! If you know of any other methods or you have thoughts or ideas, please comment!
Remember, each time you allow him to have unnecessary contact, in your life, you are allowing him to abuse you all over again. You are too precious and too valued to allow that — ever again. No contact. Low contact. Grey Rock. You can do this.
Imagine standing on the dark and dangerous downtown streets of a city, at two in the morning, bargaining with a drug dealer to get back the car your husband traded away for drugs. It’s a difficult scenario to put yourself into, and one “Faith in the Storm” never thought she would live out, over and over again.
“Faith” fell in love with a man who was a Christian, a requirement that was very important to her. She was told of his previous struggles with drug addiction, but was assured it was in the past. For several years, it was in the past, but the pull of addiction drew Faith’s husband into a dark and violent place. Bruises, broken teeth and falling asleep to the echoing of his vile words in her head became commonplace. She wanted a way out for herself and her son, but could not find one. Thankfully, God could and God did.
A person living in Faith’s apartment complex had heard the screaming, knew about the abuse, and offered a vacant apartment for her if she needed a place to go. This was the chance she had been waiting for. With determination, Faith gathered the strength to leave. After 13 years, she could be free and her son would no longer live in a stress-filled home that aggravated his medical conditions.
Leaving is rarely easy and Faith in the Storm soon found herself receiving hundreds of calls and texts a day from her husband (post-separation abuse). He would show up at all hours of the night, on drugs and without warning, demanding to see their son. Faith realized she needed a protective order and bravely took steps to protect herself and her son.
“We are learning to live again without the stress,” Faith said as I listened to her story. They no longer live in a home with floors coated with eggshells needing to be tiptoed around. There can be peace.
However, in the midst of her new start, there are challenges. Challenges that Give Her Wings needs your support to help Faith overcome. She has taken the scary step of leaving behind the past and now needs help as she transitions into carrying the financial responsibilities for herself and her son. Give Her Wings stands ready to provide that help, but we cannot do it without your generous prayers and financial support of this ministry.
Near the end of my time with Faith, she said, “No matter what lies ahead, I know the worst is behind me.” I could not agree more! We believe in Faith and we believe we can help her! Please partner with us and click here to help us financially support this precious mama. Thank you, friends!
I grew up firmly believing what I had been taught: Divorce is not an option. I chose a man who claimed to be a strong Believer. He wanted to go to seminary and be a missionary! He led worship, was talented and believed in family. Surely, if we both loved Jesus, we could get through anything! On our wedding night, I wept quietly in the bathroom alone, as I had discovered exactly what my husband thought of me: ThatI was created to be used by him. And, oh . . . did I feel it. For the first 11 years of our horrific marriage, I held on to (what I believed) were promises God made about marriage. Most of those “promises” were twisty half-truths other Christians told me:
1. If I showed him unconditional respect, he would become respectable.
2. If I “suffered for Christ”, God would fix this mess.
3. If I were more lovely, I would be easier to love.
4. God was using my husband to sanctify me.
5. If I were more submissive, my husband would love me.
6. If I gave up more of myself, I would be pleasing God.
7. I would be more like Christ if I sacrificed myself on the altar of marriage.
8. If I could somehow manufacture a “quiet and gentle spirit”, in the midst of chaos, I could actually be responsible for my husband’s salvation.
Then came the day when I realized that my children were going to be destroyed. And none of the above requirements mattered, anymore. Then, another day when I realized that my husband was not going to change because he liked the way things were. Then came the day when I realized that he enjoyed seeing me strive, as he withheld the love I so desperately needed. He felt he had control over me as he watched me try to “respond appropriately” to his attacks (when I did not fall apart, in which case he pointed his finger at me in derision). Those 8 “commandments” gave him even more power over me. So, on a day when he did the unthinkable to my oldest child, I decided to leave. I went against everything that I had ever known or ever been taught in order to protect us. Half of me was saying, “God wants you all to be free.” The other half was saying, “God wants you to stick it out.” I was experiencing cognitive dissonance. My mind was warring against itself. It was so confusing that I had thoughts such as, “Well, God is no longer with me but He is pleased that I am giving my children a chance to have a healthy life.” What?! How could those two separate thoughts come together?
It took a year of unraveling and study about what God really says about me, about His children and about marriage to finally find some relief from the dissonance. The lies I had been told had to be undone, one at a time and (not only that), truth had to be accepted. Slowly, the fragments of my mind began to be pieced back together in all the right ways. And I found peace with Jesus (and joy) and calm, cognitively.
For many of “our” mamas, that cognitive dissonance can cause extreme anxiety, sleeplessness, panic, uncertainty and can shake one’s faith down to its very core. Do you know how many of the mamas to whom we minister believe that they will never be in a right relationship with God again? Or, when things are hard, that God is punishing them because they could no longer stand the abuse and had to get out? Part of our service here, at Give Her Wings, is to help untangle these lies with biblical truth. Not only have these mamas been reduced to almost nothing (in their minds) by their ex husbands, but they have been reduced by church people, as well, because these precious ladies could not keep their marriage together. (Of course, all of this stems from our strange idolization of marriage over the gift of life, but that is another blog post.)
One of the ways we counter-act these lies is by constantly reminding these precious ladies of whom they are. Our emails, letters to them, gifts, etc., all include their names, followed by, “Beautiful child of God.” We also explain that none of us is responsible for another person’s salvation. No way. We tell them that they do not have to die for their husbands to come to Christ — that Jesus already did that . . . and it was enough. We tell them that their lives matter more to Jesus than their marriage (this is often shocking to them). And we tell them that God was not pleased by the abuse they endured (also shocking).
Have we, as a Church, really swung this far over in our thinking about marriage that these precious ladies believe that they are going to hell because they left an abuser? Or that they will barely eek into Heaven? As hard as it is to admit . . . yes. And I say this as a woman who is joyfully married to an amazing man and who now has a healthy marriage and family life. I have a very high view of marriage . . . but not idol-high. There are things that the Bride of Christ needs to go back and fix. We have some undoing to do. Right now, we are doing the best we can, in our little ministry, to do just that.
If you are one of the women who has been so deeply hurt by the same lies I once also believed, please know this . . . He will never leave you nor forsake you (Deut. 31:6). You are written on His hand (Isa. 49:16) and there is no place you could ever go to escape His presence (Psalm 139:8). You are deeply and infinitely loved by the One who died for you. Did you hear that? He died for you . . . so you would not have to die.
She thought she had married the man of her dreams . . .
“Redeemed by Grace” (our February mama) started seeing signs of abuse shortly after her marriage to her Prince Charming. One day, she came home and he had smashed everything in their house. He was becoming irrational and unhinged. It wasn’t long before he tried to choke her the first time. Redeemed found out that he had a hidden drug problem. She tried to get help and counseling but to no avail. The physical and emotional abuse was escalating and, pretty soon, Redeemed was the classic victim, hiding her bruises and feeling ashamed. This sweet mama held out for eleven years. When she finally pursued divorce, her then abusive husband fought against her to gain everything. Finally, the abuse became so intolerable, Redeemed and her daughter grabbed their suitcases and left. He took everything. Redeemed and her precious girl started out trying to live on a quarter of what they had been making before and, for the past two years, have scraped by. We believe that, by helping Redeemed move into a smaller and cheaper apartment and by helping her catch up with her bills, she will be in a much better position. Just due to some small (but counter-productive) financial crises, she has become so far behind that she cannot even afford the $50 fee for the apartment application and they are struggling to buy groceries. Goodness! Our hearts break as so many of us have been there!
Redeemed is so precious and she loves Jesus with all her heart. As I spoke with her, on the phone, she said, “Megan . . . people ask me why I don’t think about dating and remarriage but, Megan . . . I just can’t.” For so many women, the trauma is so great that fear overwhelms any hope or possibility of being able to ever dream about being intimate, again. Please pray for this sweet lady. Pray that her burdens and stress are relieved and pray for her healing. Pray for us, as we seek to show her Christ’s deep love for His daughter.
As always, all of our mamas have been vetted as per our strict policies and all giving is tax-deductible. Please consider donating if this ministry finds a place, in your heart.
In other news, Valentine’s Send Outs Were Successful!!!!
Thanks to all of our “angels” (regular monthly givers) and the gifted artist, Indira Jimenez, we were able to lavish our mamas with Valentine’s gifts this year. We are SO THANKFUL to Indira for DONATING 20 lovely hand-made pieces, beautifully decorated with encouraging Scripture, to our mamas! She also hand-wrote encouraging letters to each mama. Wow! If you would like to check out her Etsy shop, click here: Sure and Sweet. She also has a deeply encouraging blog, if you need a shot in the arm today. Indira, you are amazing!! We also got to send out the cutest Valentine’s Day cookies to our mamas. Hopefully, they felt lavished by love this holiday!!
“I can’t imagine what he did to you.” The older couple stood on the stoop of the tiny house in which the kids and I found haven, bringing us gifts from my (then) soon to be ex husband. This couple had spent a week with my ex husband, trying to show him what marriage should look like and be like, showing him videos, admonishing him, etc. I still didn’t feel safe with them because they thought there was still hope for our marriage. They were the kind of people who just believe that we should never give up on marriage, even at the expense of the children’s health and my safety and sanity. But, I could still tell that they got it. They saw it. Even if they thought I should go back to him. I can’t imagine what he did to you. I wanted to cry and tell them everything, but that would be vulnerable and I did not want to make myself vulnerable to them. I wanted to tell them but I could not form the words. I wanted to tell them exactly what he did to me.
We have already started helping mamas this month. We received a nomination that truly broke our hearts and, even though we have been wrapped up in end-of-the-year-non-profit-stuff for January, we just had to help this precious woman right away. Her alias is “Eren”.
Do you struggle with understanding just “what he did to her?” I remember not being able to put things into words when people would ask me, “What was it he did that was so bad?” When Eren was nominated, included in that nomination was a piece written by Eren that brought me to familiar & agonizing tears. Finally, someone could put into words was abuse looks like and feels like. We have chosen to pay $1500 of Eren’s bills to help her and her four children move forward in life. Eren has greater needs, however, than money. She needs to know that she is safe with us, and we are working on that. She needs to know that God loves her because . . . I am not sure she knows that. Your donations are going to help this lady know that Jesus adores her and that she is not forgotten. That He does not condemn her. This is so important. Thank you. Thank you for giving so we can help our sister. Read the following (and prepare yourselves) because it is rough. It is graphic and real. She doesn’t sugar-coat and I am glad. But, do note this trigger warning. If you have ever wanted to know what it is like living with an abuser and why we do the things we do, here you are. From Eren’s own hand:
You lied to me about who you really were. You sat in front of the pastor who was going to marry us and lied about your sexual sin. You withheld all of it until a few months into our marriage. You continued to lie to me about phone sex, porn, masturbation our entire marriage. You would tell me I was responsible for keeping you accountable and then lash out in anger if I would ask you questions, and if I didn’t ask you questions you would lash out in anger and say it was because of me not asking you that caused you to be in sin. You would yell and call me selfish if I showed any hurt from your sexual sin. You would constantly tell me that I had no idea all the things you had done and all the lies you had told me. You would tell me how dark and twisted your sexual sin was and how it needed more and more extreme things to get the arousal because you had been doing these things your entire life.
The constant lies and threats of me not knowing the extent of your sexual sin caused me to take an HIV test when I was pregnant with my son. They would allow me to take it without you knowing. You caused me to be fearful for my health and the health of our unborn baby.
When our daughters were very little you would ask me if I ever thought you would do something sexual against them. I didn’t dare answer you honestly. But I did live in this fear because of the depth of your lies and perverseness of your sin. I would talk to the girls privately about their bodies. I was fearful for their safety in their own home.
You withheld my medicine from me after my C-sections. You would count the medicine before you left for work and then when you would get home. You accused me of taking them when I didn’t need them and wasn’t in pain. You wouldn’t give me the amount the doctor said I could have even when I was in severe pain. I had to go without medicine to drive and pick the girls up from school because you wouldn’t help.
You stole money from me when I left my wallet at your apartment when we were engaged.
You lied to me about your other daughter and because of that we spent our entire marriage paying 60,000 dollars in child support that you never paid.
You yelled at me relentlessly when I was pregnant with my first child. And if I would cry you would yell even more.
You called me stupid and dumb constantly.
You would mock me in front of the kids and it caused them to think this is how they should also treat me.
You made fun of the size of my head, you made fun of the size of my ears, you made fun of the size of my chest, you made fun of the size of my feet, you made fun of the size of my legs.
You made fun of my face,
You made me feel ugly.
You made me feel worthless.
You made me not even know why you married me because of all the things you said were wrong with me.
You told me I was mad at God for making me a woman. And told me I needed to deal with that and said I was hurting our marriage because I was lying about really desiring these things.
You told people at church I was having affairs with other women. And that you thought I was gay when we first met. You put that on me. I NEVER did or said anything ever to warrant that accusation. NOTHING! You made me worthless. You put shame on me and made me feel guilty for something I never ever did! Do you know how horrible I felt as your wife to hear you say these things?
You threatened to have affairs. You told me if you ever did, I would be to blame because of how difficult I was to be married to.
You told me there were tons of women who wished they could be married to you and I better start realizing that.
You threatened to leave me over and over again.
You threatened to kill yourself over and over. You told me that I wished you were dead. You accused me of trying to kill you.
You told me that you wanted to kill me.
You would try and scare me by acting like you were punching and kicking me and tell me you wished you could really punch me in the face as hard as you could. That my face just made you want to punch it.
You would look at me and try to scare me by saying “kill, kill, kill” over and over again in a creepy voice. Then when I would get scared and ask you to stop you would get angry at me for being scared of you.
You would ask me if I was scared of you. If I answered no, then you would do something to try and scare me. If I said yes you would get angry and tell me I was crazy.
You didn’t let me have a bed to sleep in. You made our kids think the couch is where a wife and mom sleeps.
You would point to animals like gorillas and walruses on TV and tell the kids “look its mommy” then they would also do that on their own.
You called me gay, and accused me of having affairs with women our entire marriage. You told me over and over that you knew I was going to tell you I was gay one day and run off with another woman. You treated me as if I had already done this. I told you to stop and I didn’t like that and you wouldn’t stop. You just accused me more saying I wouldn’t be bothered by it if it wasn’t true.
You accused me of having affairs with other men our entire marriage.
You accused me of being attracted to any man or woman that I spoke to at church, and made it nearly impossible to have any sort of friendship.
You kept me from being able to see my family. You restricted relationships with my family so much that I missed out on knowing my nieces and nephews. You wouldn’t let them come over, you wouldn’t let me go see them. You told me it was sinful to desire to see my family and want to be around them. You told me that I was your wife and not part of that family anymore. Because of this my family was kept from their daughter, sister and aunt and our kids grew up without family in their lives.
You destroyed any friendship that I sought out during our marriage. You would say I was sinfully trying to get something from these women. You told me you were supposed to be enough for me, and I shouldn’t need any other relationships outside of you and if I did then it was sin on my part. Then you would make it even worse by asking me all the time how come I didn’t have any friends and never wanted to do anything with any of the women at church. You told me lies and said other women I knew from church had come to you and said awful things about me. They thought I was arrogant and better than everyone and cold and mean and judgmental. No one ever really said these things, but you told me they did and you made me feel awful and cry and think I was really making people feel like this. You let me think this for months and months and then you just laughed and said you were lying to me.
You told me you didn’t think I was really saved because of what you saw in my life. You told me all the sin you saw and that I should question whether I really knew Jesus or not. You were supposed to lead me and keep me safe. All the sin you were accusing me of never happened. You made me feel guilty when I didn’t do anything you were saying.
You would go into my email and read everything and send messages out, like it was from me. You would demand to know all my passwords and if I changed them you would yell at me and demand to know what I was hiding from you. You set up Facebook profiles for me without my knowledge.
You wouldn’t speak to me for days at a time.
You would call me all throughout the day and if I missed your call you would leave mean voicemails and swear at me.
You would just hang up on me if I was trying to talk to you on the phone and then wouldn’t answer my calls again.
If I forgot something at the grocery store you would tell me I did it on purpose because I hated, you. When I would try, and tell you it was an accident you would say there’s no way I could be that stupid, so I was lying.
You lied and told me my dad had an affair.
You would tell the kids mommy shouldn’t treat you the way I do, and that I was in sin and it was right for you to yell at me and get angry.
You made the kids feel scared for me and want to try and protect me and comfort me. Our 7-year-old daughter would come whisper “what daddy said isn’t true mommy.”
You caused our kids to start wetting the bed again because of the fear and stress they were living in. I was awakened multiple times a night because they would have nightmares that they lost me or I was killed.
The kids were scared of you. Our son would ask me over and over, why daddy didn’t love him.
You rejected our kids.
You asked one of our sons who his dad was, and told me I had cheated on you and got pregnant.
You made it so the boys couldn’t even play in their room in the morning. You would get so angry and yell and call me selfish if you were awakened by the kids. We had to whisper and not go upstairs till you would get up.
You neglected the kids and I and wouldn’t leave your bedroom for days or weeks.
The kids would have to ask permission to just open the door and say hi or goodnight from the doorway.
They would ask me if they could slip notes to you under the door. Sometimes you wouldn’t see the kids for days at a time when you were in the same house as them. This made my son cry inconsolably for three days in row. He wouldn’t eat, would barely walk, wouldn’t leave my side. He was crushed by you.
You treated me like a prostitute. You called me a prude in our bedroom. You laid there like you were dead, naked in the bed and told me to get to it and do my womanly duties.
You told me to go upstairs so you could “bed me”.
When I told, you it was painful to have intercourse after the C-sections you called me a liar and said I was making excuses to not have sex with you.
You accused me of thinking of other men and woman while we were having sex.
You told me I had to ask you to have sex. If I didn’t ask enough you would blame me for you looking at porn and masturbating. Almost every time I asked you would say no, when you did agree you would make it seem like you were having to do the most disgusting thing ever. You would say fine, let’s get it over with.
You told me multiple times to get out of the bed and sent me out of the bedroom naked because you would get angry at me and say I wasn’t making you feel good and I wasn’t doing what you wanted. You humiliated me. You rejected me.
You would tell me to “clean up my mess” after we would have sex. You would send me out of the room to go make you food and bring it to you in bed after we were done and continue playing video games or watching movies while I went downstairs to sleep on the couch. You made me feel dirty and used by you.
You slammed your fist on the table and chair and couch and threw the clock across the room and it smashed into the wall. You did these things and blamed me for causing it. You yelled at me in anger and told me to shut up. You pointed your finger right in my face and threatened me to start respecting you or you were going to take the kids and leave me.
You told me you were going to tell the pastors at church what type of wife I really was and you weren’t going to put up with me any longer. You told me the pastors would believe you and would take away my leadership roles at church.
You called me the most selfish human being you have ever known.
You lied about our entire marriage and your treatment of me and the kids in court! Over and over and over you lied to your attorney and the judge and other people involved.
You lied to our children. You lied to them about me. You lied to them about church. You lied to them about other people. You lied to them about what you had done. The impact of this in unending. I see it and hear it and feel it every single day!
You’ve continued to this day your torment of me through email. Even though you have said repeatedly that you know you’re not supposed to send me personal messages. You have continued your lies toward me. You have said you would stop sending me messages, but you haven’t. You threaten, intimidate, manipulate, control and hurt through your messages to me.
I don’t even know how to try and put into words the cruel and twisted and manipulative and scary place you made our marriage and home. It was so awful I wanted to die instead of trying to endure another day. Evil is the best word I can use to describe it. But you made it even worse because you kept telling me and everyone else it was good. What went on in our marriage can’t be described fully to someone outside of it because most people can’t fathom treating another human being the way you treated me. Their mind doesn’t go to the dark places yours did. You sucked the life out of me and crushed me. I am terrified of you.
So many of “our” mamas suffer from depression and I am discovering that some of it is (at least) related to what psychologists call “black and white thinking”. It is a real problem, especially for those with fundamental Christian backgrounds, and I want to call it out for what it is (distortive thinking) because I used to suffer with so many of the same damaging thoughts.
Black and white thinking is the thought process that accompanies “all or nothing” beliefs, and is a form of cognitive distortion. Now, I want to be very careful here because, as a Christian, I do believe there are some things that are true — whether we believe them or not. Basic, doctrinal truths are not what I’m talking about. I want to discuss the distortion that, because you are tired, you are exhausted. Or, because you fell at the skating rink, you are a total klutz. Or, because you have a checkered past, you are a complete failure. This thinking has crept into the church and is a danger to emotional health. Yes . . . we sin. We are sinners. But, we are also saints. And our pasts are part of the tapestry of our lives that God (yes, God) has been weaving together. And, my fear is that, if we do not embrace ALL of it, we will never be whole. This embracing is difficult in the church because we are supposed to be super-holy. Or, at least, our mistakes should have been made before we came to Christ. Right? I don’t agree.
For people with abusive pasts, all or nothing thinking is particularly harmful because it triggers a fight or flight response that causes anxiety (sometimes) several times a day. An abusive past plus a fundamental past equals extreme anxiety. For women who were in abusive marriages for years and years (or grew up in abusive families), they faced life-threatening situations every day. Compounded by that is the prevalent belief that we are either good or bad inside. That belief produces shame (not true moral guilt). And down the spiral we glide. Statements like, “I’m a terrible person!” “She has a perfect marriage!” “I deserve this bad thing that is happening to me!” and so on over-generalize our very life and can cause massive mood shifts.
A lot of things are massive disasters. But, a lot of things are not massive disasters. A lot of things are grey . . . or blue or yellow and it is OK to acknowledge that. The abuse you endured when you were a child was bad. Very bad. But, that doest mean that you are bad. And it doesn’t mean that you must hate yourself. The self-harm you are partaking in does not make you “ruined” . . . it reveals a symptom, in yourself, of a greater problem that God wants to address. It is only a symptom; it is not who you are.
These are some words that reveal black and white thinking, as noted by the clinical depression blog of the UK:
Do you recognize these? The more we polarize our thinking, the more we risk emotional ups and downs throughout the day, triggering that fight or flight response. It might be more boring to be “a little tired” or to say, “Today was a little rough but it ended well.” . . . But, that’s OK. Practice seeing things for what they are. Because when we see ourselves in black and white, all or nothing terms, we see others that way, further breaking down relationships around us. We don’t accept differing opinions and we have less compassion for others.
I found that, five years ago when I left several unhealthy situations, I was somewhat addicted to drama. Not because I loved it or anything. It was simply what I knew and was used to. It was wearing me out in all areas of life. And it was exacerbating my PTSD. I love this quote from Brennan Manning (my fave author):
As psychoanalist Eric Erikson once noted, there are only two choices: integration and acceptance of our whole life-story, or despair. Thus, the apostle Paul writes, “For all things give thanks to God, because this is what God expects you to do in Christ Jesus.” ( 1 Thess. 5:18) (Ruthless Trust p. 31)
Are you like me? Do you look at your life, wondering how it could have taken so many twists and turns that you never ever could have imagined? Its OK. Because, as much as we would like to believe we have power in our lives, we really don’t have the kind of power to snatch ourselves out of God’s hands and do what we please. Our lives are not one big blight because they did not turn out the way we thought they would. Your life is a beautiful, colorful quilting that has had incredible purpose and will continue to. He is always there . . . always has been. There is so much evil that I’ve done and that has been done to me. There is so much good that I have done and that has been done to me. It is all working together. These are our lives . . . our stories. Embrace, re-think, grow and live in the color and joy of your history and future. God will take all of it and use it for good, somehow. And it will be beautiful.
When I first left my ex husband in 2011, I kept having this recurring dream. We were all in the pool. It was a large outdoor pool and there were hordes of people. My youngest son, Camden, was in the pool and he was carrying his (then) beloved blue blanket and wearing his (adorable) footie-pajamas. He was barely four years old when we left. At that time, our children did not know how to swim. I was distracted and I looked around and I realized that my little boy was at the bottom of the pool in his red jammies. I started screaming for someone to help me. I could not seem to get to him and no. one. cared. No one could hear my voice. I had no voice. And my little guy was dying. I was hysterical. I could not help my son. I woke up crying.
I had this same dream over and over again. I believe that my dreams, during that time, were simply revealing my fears. I wondered, later, why it was just Camden I would dream about like that when I wanted to save all four of my children. I finally concluded that he was in the most danger of being lost in the abuse. My ex husband was already scaring him pretty badly. He also called him a “mama’s boy” over and over. It was like my ex husband had already decided (consciously or unconsciously, I don’t know) that Camden’s esteem would be damaged beyond repair.
I also realize that I felt I did not have a voice and I could not get anyone within arm’s length to listen to our plight, at the time. I was grasping for someone to hear me and to see and understand what the children and I were going through. It was as though I was screaming, “My children and I are drowning! We are dying! Please, someone see us!!!” And, at the time, no one would. It was a desperate place.
I sometimes feel like I grabbed my children with all of my grip and I would. not. let. go. I was solely responsible for their safety and, while the responsibility was overwhelming most of the time, I was not about to let them drift. I felt like no one else would love them; no one else would see what we were going through and no one else would help them. I was the only one.
You know exactly what I’m talking about, mama. You have had to protect them. You have had to be the only one. Gathering your cubs around you and holding them hard while looking over your shoulder to protect them from evil has been an exhausting way of life. Believe me, I do know this.
Last week, we had a snow day, right after coming off of an 18-day Christmas break. I could NOT believe it. I was worn out from being the “only one” over break and here we were, stuck inside in 5-degree weather. I woke up, realized it, and cried. I was weary to my bones and I called upon my Give Her Wings ladies to pray for me. Right away, Carrie knew what the issue was. So did Michelle. And Bekah and Laura. And all of them (I’m pretty transparent, I guess). Michelle told me that she loves how much I do with the children but they might enjoy a little bit of independence. Carrie pointed out that she understands how the need to protect them all and be with them all the time is great, in my life, since I spent so many years in my first marriage having to be the mama bear. She said, “You are safe now. You don’t have to do that, anymore.” Bingo. So much of my stress has been due to the fact that I often still live like I am their sole protector.
This is why it was so incredibly hard for me to give up homeschooling several years back. Who would protect them? They were so vulnerable and small. How could I send them out as sheep among the wolves? Eventually, I did release them from home schooling because I had to work, as a single mama, and, guess what? They did great. In fact, they started to thrive.
I’m still learning. I’m still the world’s biggest mama bear (just hurt one of my children and watch what happens, if you don’t believe me.) But, I realized that my stress level over protecting them quite that much was causing them stress and was not fabulous for my PTSD. Not fabulous, at all. My children have proven to be fantastically resilient and I need to pretty much just get out of their way a whole lot more. They need room to breathe and to just be. And they need to figure out how to navigate the tough stuff. Most importantly, they need to see that mama is not a wreck . . . that she is calm and she believes in their abilities to protect themselves and each other. And shine and be beautiful and all that vibrant goodness. And one of the perks? They have watched mama believe in them. And when I am at peace, they seem more at peace, as well. I cannot live out of a place of fear, anymore.
Mamas who have left, try (if you can) to relax a little bit. Your children and my children have been in the palm of His hand all of this time. I think that, when we don’t feel safe, we don’t feel like our children are safe. But, the truth is, they are so incredibly safe in Christ. Sure, they have struggles because maybe they have been traumatized. I get that. But, they are going to be amazing adults because they are working through it. Even without you. The problems are big, I know, but they are not bigger than Jesus. Breathe, dear mama. Find your voice; it is in there. Give some room for Jesus to work, as well, in their lives. It is going to be OK, even if it is so hard to see right now, it is going to be OK.
A sweet mama that I know, who is in a lot of pain due to her husband’s abuse, recently said to me ,”He said he doesn’t want me to leave because I am all he has.” Somehow, that did not make her feel like staying. He has her; he is comfortable with her; he knows how to push her buttons. She cooks for him; she is a warm body in the home; she takes care of the children. He “has” her. She is his. So, he doesn’t want her to leave, even though they both know that the abuse is heating up to an unbearable temperature.
I remember when I first met my ex husband. He was super-possessive and, in my naïveté, I mistook that for love. I thought, “Oh, he cherishes me! He is protecting me!” I should have heeded the red flags. Later, I experienced much anger from him if another man spoke to me. In fact, when I first left my first marriage, I could not look a man in the eye. I had spent years training myself to stay away from other men, lest I roused anger in my spouse.
In my book, I talk about how love and freedom are inter-twined, like strands of licorice (the good kind — the red kind because it tastes better and love and red go together). Love and liberty cannot be separated. Love is not control. Love loves toward freedom. Love does not give a bit while it hurts a lot. Love does not take, then take some more while offering a crumb of hope. Love is extravagant and healing in its generosity.
For the former victim of abuse, she stands at a crossroads. She may not understand what love truly is . . . . she may have never experienced love. This may help:
Love is creatively discovering what is best for another person and then carrying it through. Love is sacrificial. Love gives freedom. Love is looking outside oneself to help another. Love is helping others to become all the can be for God’s glory with no expectations of a return.
The reason my young friend does not feel love is because the abuser, in her life, did not tell her that he loves her and wants the best for her. He told her that she belongs to him. Abusers always see others as an extension of themselves or as a person to be used. If you are a victim of abuse and you have left, the anger that you are experiencing is the same kind of anger as though someone took away his favorite play-thing. You are his and no one else can have you.
Abusers are takers. Look back over your life with him. What were your prospects before he came into your life? What were your dreams and plans? What talents and gifts did you have, just waiting to be used? What material possessions did you have? Did he take it all? Maybe he did. And for that, we all grieve. But, if you have gotten away and you are free, then he really truly did not take it all. He couldn’t. That dreamy little girl is still inside you, no matter how old you are. And, even better, you have freedom in Christ. A freedom intertwined with His love for you. In fact, He is in the business of freedom . . . freedom from slavery, freedom from abuse, freedom from sin, freedom from our own chains, freedom from unhealthy relationships, freedom from our own selfishness. I could go on and on. You are free! And He paid a high price for your freedom . . . Oh, did He ever. Do not give that up nor give it away. It is your gift. Do with it what you want. I choose to follow Christ and belong to Him. But, not as a slave . . . as a friend. He calls me friend. He calls you friend.
We are incredibly grateful to Leslie Vernick and her CONQUER group, one of our valuable supporters and “angels” for her generous offer of matching every gift that is given to Give Her Wings, Inc. (all tax-deductible) for one week (December 26, 2016 to January 1, 2017). Wow! We are so excited, friends! We got busy vetting some of the mamas who were nominated. Friends, it would have been “safe” to support only one mama this month but we found that there were two in dire situations and so, we prayed . . . and stepped out in faith . . . and we are supporting two mamas who desperately need help. For only one week, we are asking people to donate to help raise $3000 to pay the bills for these two mamas. EVERY DOLLAR YOU DONATE WILL BE MATCHED BY LESLIE AND HER CONQUER GROUP. In finding out just how desperate they are, our team has already sent (ou of the goodness of their hearts) grocery money, warm blankets, fuzzy warm socks and a few Christmas gifts. But, they need more than this. They need their rent paid. They need to get on their feet somehow, and they need (more than anything) to know that they are loved and not forgotten. Does your business need to give a quick end of the year gift? Please consider giving to Give Her Wings and donate here. Your gift is life-changing and life-saving to these precious women. Here are their stories:
1. “Free To Breathe’s” husband is a chaplain and they have been married for 21 years. They make precious little money to support their children. “Free’s” husband is highly spiritually and emotionally abusive. I have seen several emails and texts that he has sent to their church, as he hopes the church will exercise “church discipline” upon Free. It was more than sickening, friends. When I spoke with Free, she was incredibly fragile, as she had just fled with her three children (5 year old twins and a 10 year old) to her elderly mother’s house. Free was really smart. She fled with the kids while he was gone, left a note for him that he could speak with her attorney and had him served with divorce papers the next day! She is shaky and afraid (understandable) but she is firm in her decision to be free. He is highly manipulative and causes the children a great deal of psychological harm. She simply could not allow him to ruin the children. She has also had concern that it seems her husband is grooming their daughter for future abuse. Free’s plan is to stay with her mother for a month and file to be able to stay in their rental home. She has no church support, as it seems her husband has completely infiltrated that arena, and she has a wonderful mother who is elderly. When Free returns to her home, she will need to find a way to bridge the gap, financially, until she can figure out work. She and I wept a lot on the phone. Her voice would have broken your hearts. She told me that she knows that God opened the way for them to leave. She is incredibly brave. Love, Megan
2. Eleanor Jones (there is a fun story behind her alias!) was married for 25 years and has four children. Eleanor explained that her ex showed signs of being a pedophile early in their marriage. Her ex was a deacon and very respected, he was also a Boy Scout Master. Eleanor experienced extreme sexual abuse during the marriage and was aware of sexual abuse toward children. Once Eleanor decided to divorce, she told the church what he had done to her. The church did not support her and she left. Eleanor homeschooled and did not work outside the home, except for tutoring. She has been divorced since 2014 and is having trouble finding work due to having no work experience. Eleanor has sold everything she can in order to keep herself afloat but she is struggling, deeply, financially.
Eleanor struggles to connect and trust people still. She does not have family support and she has had a few friends help here and there, financially. They were living in their car last Christmas and this is their first apartment, which they hope to keep.
Eleanor’s most urgent needs are for rent. We hope to be able to help her as soon as possible so she can stay in her home. She asked for prayer for healing, for work, for her children and for friendships. Love, Lori
Please donate, friends. Please help us to help these mamas and their babies.
The Team of Give Her Wings & Leslie Vernick and her Conquer group