Blessed are Those Who Mourn

The pastor of the local church fellowship that I attend has just begun a sermon series on Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount (Matt 5-7).  He will be preaching through it over the next 6 months.  Meanwhile, we are to be working on memorizing it in small portions.

On this, the national day of remembrance of the terror attacks of 9-11-01, and the 8 month marker of the death of my own father, I find it so appropriate that our next verse is Matthew 5:4 – Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.

Blessed Are Those Who Mourn | Dawn S.

I’ve had losses in my life before, but I’ve never known mourning quite the way I have in this past year.  Sometimes it feels quite like the picture above: cold, grey, just barely alive, lonely, but covered in the “snow” that makes everything look beautiful to the onlooker. It’s hard.

But, you know what?  (This is where the cool part comes in. Don’t miss it.)

Jesus knew that we would experience loss.  He knew it would difficult.  He promised that we would be comforted in the midst of it.  And that comforting?  It doesn’t come from a person who will fail you. It comes from the God of the Universe.  How cool is that?

The Message version of the Bible really drives the point home for me:  “You’re blessed when you feel you’ve lost what is most dear to you. Only then can you be embraced by the One most dear to you.”

No matter what you mourn (someone you love dearly, your marriage or family, a relationship with a friend, or a grand-scale loss like the national loss we all experienced 12 years ago), be encouraged with me today that God sees you.  He knows you.  He understands you.  And He longs to embrace you and comfort you through your mourning.


A Message From “A New Free Life” or, “Anew” (affectionately)

Friends and supporters,

This is a message from the first lady that we helped (“A New Free Life”). I feel that this letter is vital for giving all of you precious donators an understanding of just what our goals at Give Her Wings are. We hope and pray that we can be a springboard to financial health and restoration. We hope to provide a buffer. But, as you can see, we desire to do more than that. We wish to keep dignity intact for spiritual widows and orphans who have already left abusive situations . . . and to show them that they are “God’s girls”. It is not unusual for one of us to write “You are God’s princess” on a gift card or package sent to one of these precious mamas. I know that I desperately needed to know that I was still valuable to God when I was in the trenches. We want “our” mamas to know God loves them, still . . . and is walking with them . . . even in the depths of hell. Please read:

I was very surprised when Megan told me that I would be included in last month’s fundraiser.  I am struggling, but I’m not destitute.  GHW lifted me up and out of that horrible pit this past spring, and it gave me the ability to keep going with that momentum.  It changed the way I thought of myself and provided me with the encouragement to look differently at where my life was going.  I feel like it pushed me into the next phase of recovery from abuse.  So, I just assumed I was moving on, and so was GHW.  

I have been so touched by the continued generosity and concern shown to my children and me by those at GHW.  In general, we do feel forgotten as we are moving on.  Others are asking me for help with things.  We have found a new church.  I’m creating work for myself.  The children are thinking about activities and longing for friendships.  We’re starting to think about being normal again.  But, life is still hard.  Sometimes I think those around us here locally just don’t understand how long and difficult this road is.  It is such a comfort to have those of you at GHW come alongside us and remind us that someone does understand.  Someone cares about our continued struggles.  

I so deeply appreciate the gifts for two of my children.  I know my youngest will be delighted.  I put the toy up for Christmas and have it well hidden.  I did, however, tell my 17 year old about the gift card.  He was THRILLED!  And, wanted to kick me off the computer so he could start shopping!  I told him it is a Christmas gift from someone who wants him to have that lift and gift in December, so we’ll save it.  🙂  It also eases the burden on me of trying to provide gifts for all of the kids come Christmastime.  
My necklace is absolutely beautiful, and I will treasure it always.  I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to put it on without crying.  It is a lovely, tangible reminder of all of you with big, loving hearts who stepped into our lives and loved us at our lowest point.  Even my boys just stopped and quietly stared at it when I opened it.  They realize the monumental difference that the individuals at GHW have made in our lives and what a special necklace it is.  
I used my coffee card to treat myself one afternoon last week, and it was like buttah (winky face at Megan!).  Soooo good!  I shared with Megan that I often envy those who walk around in the stores with their coffees.  I see the cars all lined up at the coffee stands as I head off to work with my water bottle and wish I was in that line.  It was wonderful to be one of them!  The amount on the ecard was very generous, so I can get quite a few coffees and have decided I’m going to ration them out and enjoy this as a monthly treat throughout fall and winter.  It will be a nice lift on the weekends I have to drop the kids off for visitation with my ex-abuser.  
Your expressions of kindness and your tangible assistance are also standing as a shining example for my children.  They’ve had selfishness, cruelty, neglect, and rejection modeled for them.  And, your deep concern for others gives them a perfect example of Christians expressing the love of Christ, the perfect example of how we should act.  You give them a better model to follow.  For that, too, I am eternally grateful to you all!
Thank you for caring about us.  Thank you for remembering us.  Thank you for continuing to lift us up.  May God bless you all richly for being the good Samaritans in our lives!  
With much love, ANFL

September with “Walking In Integrity”

We are entering a new month today . . . for us at Give Her Wings, this means that we have a new goal. I am nervous. We are all a bit nervous because we are going to ask for donations this month to cover $1500 of expenses for our new mama. I tend to believe we have maxed out our givers. I tend to doubt. This is not my favorite quality in myself. I know this woman we will be helping . . . I know her heart is golden. It is difficult for her to understand why she is in this situation when she had tried, all her life, to obey God. It never makes sense, does it? Nevertheless, she continues to work steadily, in the midst of great strife and heartache, to care for her two small children and do right by them. One can often hear her say, “Why is this happening to me when I have tried so hard to walk in integrity?” Because of this, we have named her “Walking In Integrity”. As you precious readers know, we do not reveal the identity of those who are in need. We work hard to preserve dignity . . . because each woman deserves dignity, as a child of the King.

Here is our September lady’s story:

I was married for almost 15 years to my high school sweetheart. His abuse escalated to physical violence several times and I was finally able to get a restraining order and custody of my children. I have been completely dependent on God’s provision, trying my best to walk in integrity and keep my hope, despite ongoing battles. I moved across the country to be near my grandparents. My ex refuses to support his children in any way. I was able to get a good job, but I could not afford rent and had to move back in with my grandfather (currently battling cancer). I am an hour from my job, I cannot afford childcare, and my car is breaking down. Every day is a struggle of prayer, hoping that God will lift us up. I know my friends’ hearts are with me in all of this!

It is heart-wrenching to hear about these day to day struggles because “Walking” really is doing all she can for her children and herself. She has  chosen the higher road by raising the children on her own, despite a gross lack of financial support from her ex husband. She is in need. And, taking my cues from a recent conversation with Kelley, I believe that God cares deeply about our girl and her children . . . and that He is big enough to provide for her.

Please donate this month. Anything you can give will help. Our goal for September is $1500. This may help with Walking’s car or her rent or help with childcare. Please join us. I know God can do this through His people. I just know He can.

Love, Megan

The Erroneous Idea that Leaving is “the easy way out”

Lately, I have seen little Facebook posts or blog posts that talk about the tough road of marriage. There have been discussions about how marriage is not a fairy tale . . . how you must stick it out and make it work. How it is worth it in the end. I do not doubt this. Almost everything worth having takes a tremendous amount of work. In fact, I believe this with such fervor that I tell it to my kids. Do you want something? Well, then, you are going to have to work for it. Oftentimes, these well-meaning-marriage-posts will then tack on something at the end to the effect of:

Don’t take the easy way out. Stay in. Fight for your marriage.

I can see that. And, boy . . . would I EVER fight for the marriage I have right now with my amazing husband, David. He is most definitely worth fighting for. I have the utmost respect for my man. And I hope and pray that we would never get to the point where there is even a question of whether or not one of us should stay or go. I have full confidence that that would never happen. We nip things in the bud; we stay on our toes; we do not allow little sins to enter into our marriage and grow and fester. My husband is a loving and model husband and . . . a man of God. For reals. I don’t have to cowboy up with him and press on as though I were in this dreadful thing called “marriage” and I hope that I can just “make it through” because “it will all be worth it in the end.”

Here is the thing . . . when a woman, who has shown signs of following the Lord . . . who has tried and tried and tried . . . . finally leaves an abusive marriage . . . most likely . . . it is not the easy way out. Good heavens! Do you know what she is facing? She faces divorce, court hearings, terrifying child custody issues and scares, loss of income, possibly having to go back to work for the first time in years or decades, the possible loss of support from her own family (depending on whether or not they were raised to believe that “divorce is not an option”) . . . she definitely loses his family, she may lose support from her local church, she faces single-mother-hood, she wonders if she will ever find love again. She wonders if her self-esteem and/or self image will ever grow from the minuscule dot it has become. She wonders if she will be rejected from church. She is looking at a failed marriage. And those around her are watching the marriage fail. She does not know if she will receive child support or alimony. Listen . . . Whatever small amount of security she may have had in her marriage will now be gone.

Whoever says that leaving a marriage is the “easy way out” . . . has never walked in her shoes; has never lived in her home; has never EVER had to face the kind of gut-wrenching decisions she has had to face for herself and her children.

Let’s not judge; let’s stop saying things like “don’t leave and take the easy way out”. Let’s have some compassion.

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.