Friday, November 27, 2009

Thankful for You

Abuse is horrid. Period. But thinking of my thanksgivings, I am grateful for the beautiful people who emerge from the healing process. I am grateful for their strength and their compassion for others. They are people anyone would want to be friends with--loving people who walk closely with their deliverer. They are beacons of hope.

Abuse attempts to destroy, but God redeems and restores.

Shine brightly, sisters and brothers. Today is a new day with our Lord who is good and wise. Our healing journey is in His capable hands.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009


With God involved even the darkest season can be punctuated with praise. He is with us and it makes all the difference.


Sing a song of praise, O my soul,
Sing to your deliverer
who has rescued you
from hurtful abuse
and undeserved shame

Sing a song of thankfulness, O my heart,
to your God who sees and understands,
whose goodness is present
intertwining itself in today

Sing a song of hope, o my mind,
your healing is secure
in your Heavenly Father's hand
forever etched upon His heart

Monday, November 16, 2009

Rejoice? Are you Kidding?

When you're ankle deep in the junk of abuse, you don't feel like rejoicing. Looking at the evil things in this life is painful. It can feel awful if someone who doesn't understand gives you a cheer up, it's not so bad type of talk. Sometimes it feels like others think you should get over abuse violations in about a week. Which is totally unrealistic.

So please note, I am not telling you in this post to "get over it" or to paste a fake smile on your face.

Addressing memories of abuse is important for good mental and physical health. It is not fun, but it is important. However, past abuse does not need to be a twenty-four hours a day preoccupation. One good way to maintain balance while working through bad memories and difficult counseling sessions is to make an extra effort to practice gratitude.

Look for positive moments in your day. Take the time to notice how God is blessing you and tell him a quick thanks. Simple things like sparkling snow covered bushes, an encouraging phone call, or laughter with one of your children counts. Be on the look out, I know you'll find things.

Create positive moments. Intentionally give a smile, a friendly wave or a hug as a way to express gratitude to the people in your life. Say thank you to anyone who serves you in any way today.

As you attend to your emotional and physical needs, thank your Creator for your emotions and your body. As you eat, say thank you for the provision of food. As you drive, thank God for your vehicle or as you ride the bus thank Him for public transportation.

If you're blue about your past, try grounding yourself in the present by saying thank you for each person in your life whom you love. If it's a really bad day, try just saying thank you for the mundane things you take for granted like your hairbrush, your ability to walk, or the way clouds look in the sky.

Please notice, that I am not telling you to say thank you for abuse. Sometimes Christians think they have to. I think this is a misunderstanding of an important verses in which Paul encourages believers to rejoice in all things(Phillipians 4:4). He could rejoice that he escaped after being left for dead at his stoning, he could rejoice about having a relationship with Christ Jesus while he was in prison, and he could rejoice when his plans were thwarted because he knew the Holy Spirit was in charge. He didn't rejoice because he was a masochist, but because He fully trusted in God, he knew that no matter what happened next God would be with Him. And we can do the same.

At this time, I'm thanking God for fall sunshine, a quiet house, and my comfortable office chair. And I am thanking Him for the healing work that He is doing in your life and in mine.

Friday, November 13, 2009

It's Not About You

Abuse is not about you. You did not deserve it or cause it.

If you've been recovering from abuse for any length of time you know this. At least you know it in your head. You've been in the healing process for awhile if you know it deep in your heart.

Unfortunately, society doesn't help you get these truths. People say things like, "You seem like a nice person, so what did you do to get him so upset?" or "You're pretty and smart, it is hard to understand why he did that!" As if women who aren't as sweet, pretty or smart deserve to be abused physically, sexually, or emotionally. And, as if men or children would never abused by women.

Once I was in a restaurant on Christmas Eve. A dishevled woman came in and frantically fumbled with the pay phone on the wall (this was prior to cell phones). She started putting coins in and then frantically called out, "Does anyone have a dime? I've got to make this call! My husband's going to kill me!"

She had everyone's attention. No one was eating or talking anymore.

I searched my purse and then nudged my husband.

He made no move.

I hissed, "I know you've got change. Please, give it to her." I had to nudge him again, then my husband who was big boned and a full 8 inches taller than most men got up and gave her change.

Just as he was returning to our table, a man came in and grabbed the woman by her hair and slammed her head against the wall, saying, "Enough, B-----. You're coming home where you belong." He looked at my husband in challenge.

It shocked me that no one else was doing anything. I stood with my cheeks flaming. I was so embarrassed that their were at least ten able-bodied men who were not moving and three other women who weren't responding outwardly.

My husband said, "Hey, man. Take it outside. You shouldn't be doing that here."

As if doing it elsewhere was fine.

In hindsight, I wish I had done more. I wish I had passionately implored that shocked, passive people get up and restrain the man until the police came. I wish I had tried to interfere physically if necessary. I wish I had said something to the woman that would help her battered spirit.

There was so much I did not yet understand about abuse.

Today, I want to urge all abused women to get help. Pray to God and then talk to people. There is hope. There is help. You do not earn or deserve the abuse, no matter what your abuser has told you. Call the National Domestic Violence Hotline (1−800−799−SAFE(7233)) for help from people who can listen and direct you to local help.

Today, I want to urge all those who are recovering from abuse to reject the lies your abuser(s) told you. Reject the false accusations, the name calling, and the devaluing words. Refuse to accept the insidious implications, the condescending looks, and the sarcastic evaluations. Recite to yourself important, true words. You are valuable. You do have a purpose. You are lovable. You are precious to the Creator of the Universe. You did not cause abuse. You did not deserve the torture you survived. If your mind is arguing against such truths, keep persevering in healthy, healing activities--better tomorrows are ahead.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Do You Believe?

Feelings can be so overwhelming. They can engulf thinking and feel too big, much too big. Too big to survive even, like a raging flood that destroys all in its path.

I have come such a long way in accepting feelings. I don’t live each day in a dark cloud of denial. I no longer keep lots of secrets from others and from myself.

I name feelings now and take a look at them. I can say that I feel confused, angry, disappointed, joyful, etc. I can acknowledge the emotions and allow myself to feel. I can decide what I want to do as a result such as celebrate the joy or cry the grief. I remember when I was totally numb for years and feel no desire to return there.

And yet, there are still days when I don’t want to feel. I have been working through long denied feelings surrounding the incest I suffered as a young child. I don’t like recalling the terror I felt. It feels huge. I don’t like remembering how I feared I might die. I don’t like thinking about how much I hated my dad when he was hurting me and using me. I don’t like remembering how I crawled under my bed or hid in a closet to hide from him. It is so uncomfortable to think back. There is a reason that I pushed all those memories down for so many years! I didn’t want to drown in the raging flood of emotions that felt way too big for a little girl and still hurt as a grown up woman.

I am looking at the feelings, knowing that it is part of a healing process. I’ve walked this same road with other issues from my childhood and my young adult years. I know that the fruit of facing the old shame is new life. I know that I will enjoy life more and live more freely after I face my pile of uncomfortable feelings.

But some days, it still feels almost impossible. The pain feels bigger than me. On those days, I tend to overeat or to eat forbidden allergy foods. I eat and feel a little better. Some endorphins bring temporary relief to the pain. I don’t like it for long though. It feels like I am copping out by hiding behind food and I don’t like how it causing me to gain weight.

I have been assured by other incest survivors that such pain is normal and that overeating is one of the typical coping behaviors. It helps to hear it.

And yet, I wonder if I would overeat if I did a better job at trusting God completely through this healing process. If I totally believed that He could carry me through this healing process would I seek comfort from a chocolate bar or a fudge sundae? What would happen if I asked God to comfort me and help me each time I feared drowning in tears? What if I were that trusting, knowing that He would comfort me and understand me? What if I believed enough to rely only on him? What if?

I want to grow into a woman of ever deeper faith and trust. God has been so good to me, over and over again. I know that he is compassionate and loving. I want to seek his mercy when I am in need of healing like the two blind men in the Bible who followed Jesus “calling out, "Have mercy on us, Son of David!" When he had gone indoors, the blind men came to him, and he asked them, "Do you believe that I am able to do this?" "Yes, Lord," they replied. Then he touched their eyes and said, "According to your faith will it be done to you"; and their sight was restored” Matthew 9:27-29.

God is able. Healing is easy for Him. He cares about each person’s problems.

I believe he can help me with the flooding emotions of old trauma. I am going to practice turning to Him more regularly and celebrate the times that I do it.

If you are a reader who has gone through this journey of facing difficult memories too, God bless you for your courage and perseverance. It is a long journey of healing--but a rewarding one.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Unconscious Manipulation

One of the problems I've encountered as I reclaim life after abuse is unconscious manipulation. I learned some bad habits while living in dysfunction and abuse. Bad? Well, at the very least, they are habits that served a purpose formerly but now they interfere with intimacy in my most cherished relationships.

In an abusive situation, the person who wields power almost always gets his/her own way. We know that. We lived it. The bully got his/her way. Period. Or so it seemed.

In reality, the victim also got her/his way sometimes. Not with demands. Not with threats. Not with compromising or bartering.

Someone who has no visible power in a relationship has to use indirect and passive things to influence outcomes. She lies or omits information to influence the abuser's perceptions. He works slowly and poorly to urge the abuser to do something herself. She suggests a particular action, coating it in flattery or in self-belittling terms, so the abuser can easily claim the palatable idea as his own. She asks a question, not because she doesn't know the answer, but so the abuser can realize something. He agrees to do something and then "accidentally" breaks the tools or cannot begin because he "cannot find" what is needed.

We all want our way sometimes. It is human to want what we want. But I don't want to be manipulative. I want to continue learning the tools of equality. I want to believe, really believe, that I have the power to ask for my needs directly. I want to show my intelligence, without feeling that I must tone it down or hide it. I want to tell an important fact in a way that alerts the other that I am saying something true and important. I want make requests, without battling false guilt and shame-ruled embarrassment. I want to honestly state wants as well as needs.

I want to shed being a martyr or manipulator forever. The effort continues. It isn't easy to change lifetime habits, but change I must, for I deeply want the end result. But I am recognizing more quickly the times when I slip into indirect terminology or manipulative language. I am acknowledging why I do it. I am practicing saying things that are revolutionary for me. Things like, "Would you...", "I want...", "I need...", and "I like..."

If you can relate, I'd love to read your comments.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Traveling Together

I was totally numb and shut down the day I was raped as a teenager. I couldn't think clearly. I could barely function. I went as usual to my water safety instructor class as usual--but got sent home as "ill" because I was not present mentally and had merely said I don't feel well when questioned.

By the next evening at bedtime, however, my emotions were screaming inside my head. I felt frantic one moment and then angry, despairing, and overwhelmed in other moments. I desperately prayed to God, asking him desperate things. I wanted God to turn back the clock and rescue me, I wanted Him to just take me up to heaven, I wanted Him to show me what to do next.

God didn't say yes to any of those requests. But He brought to mind a poem I had only read one time in a gift shop, the Footprints in the Sand poem:

Footprints in the Sand

One night I dreamed I was walking along the beach with the Lord.
Many scenes from my life flashed across the sky.
In each scene I noticed footprints in the sand.
Sometimes there were two sets of footprints,
other times there was one only.
This bothered me because I noticed that during the low periods of my life,
when I was suffering from anguish,
sorrow or defeat,
I could see only one set of footprints,
so I said to the Lord,
“You promised me Lord,
that if I followed you,
you would walk with me always.
But I have noticed that during the most trying periods of my life
there has only been one set of footprints in the sand.
Why, when I needed you most, have you not been there for me?”
The Lord replied,
“The years when you have seen only one set of footprints,
my child, is when I carried you.”

Copyright © 1984 Mary Stevenson

The authorship of the poem has been contested by several people, but I think this is the version I saw. At the time, it was printed as an anonymous author. But regardless of who wrote it, God used it powerfully. I don't memorize things easily, and yet, the poem came to my mind almost word for word perfect that night when I was seventeen.

I heard God reassuring me with the words and then the Holy Spirit reminded me of Jesus' words in Matthew 28:20: "And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age." Then I felt God's presence holding me until I finally feel asleep exhausted. From that day on, I've known deep in my soul that Jesus is faithful to His Promise. He is with us always. No matter how confused, stressed, or abandoned we might feel in crisis. He is Immanuel, God with us. We have a loving, eternal traveling companion who carries us whenever needed.

Recommended Books

  • 10 Lifesaving Principles for Women in Difficult Marriages by Karla Downing
  • A Way of Hope by Leslie J. Barner
  • Angry Men and the Women Who Love Them by Paul Hegstrom
  • Battered But Not Broken by Patricia Riddle Gaddis
  • Boundaries by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend
  • Bradshaw on the Family by John Bradshaw
  • Caring Enough to Forgive/Not Forgive by David Augsburger
  • Codependent No More by Melody Beattie
  • Healing the Wounded Heart by Dr. Dan B. Allendar
  • Keeping the Faith: Questions and Answers for the Abused Woman by Marie M. Fortune
  • Perfect Daughters by Robert J. Ackerman, Ph.D.
  • Recovery: A Guide for Adult Children of Alcoholics by Herbert L. Gravitz and Julie D. Bowden
  • Safe People by Dr Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend
  • Slay Your Own Dragons by Nancy Good
  • The Cinderella Syndrome by Lee Ezell
  • The Dance of Anger by Harriet Goldhor Lerner, Ph.D.
  • The Search for Significance by Robert S. McGee
  • Turning Fear to Hope by Holly Wagner Green
  • When Violence Comes Home: Help for Victims of Spouse Abuse by Tim Jackson and Jeff Olson
  • Why Does He Do That? by Lundy Bancroft