Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Holiday Strategy

Holidays can be fun, but they also generate stress with the extra activities, the entertaining, and the extra expenses. For victims of domestic violence of any kind (verbal, emotional, physical or sexual) the holidays can be extra tough.

What does one do with bad holiday memories in the season that suggests that everyone should be happy and share in joyful family events? How do you handle it? What can you do when you feel more like crying than celebrating?

These are real and painful questions. There is pressure to have a Rockwell image Christmas with lots of warm family togetherness—but it isn’t always the way things really are. Sometimes old memories blot out the present.

I believe we can improve our holidays even while we are engaged in the process of healing from abuse. We can take actions, such as any of the following suggestions:
1. Take a Break
If you can, give yourself the gift of a break from counseling until after the holidays. If you are in crisis, then keep on going and reward yourself for attending. Go to a park or take a hike or visit an art museum. Do whichever calms you.
2. Get your Heart Pumping
Include a time most days to exercise. It will release endorphins that will lift your mood. Plus, as an added bonus, it will help your body burn those calories from holiday sweets.
3. Write Freely
Use your journal when old memories come up. Honor your feelings by recording them. Let your writing be uncensored. Journaling can help your process your thoughts and release your emotions all at the same time.
4. Find Fellowship
Share with a trusted person what you are going through. Let another see your pain. It really will help. Absorb the kindness, understanding, and caring that you receive. Let it sink in. Allow yourself to be comforted in your pain, knowing that talking and being heard will bring you further along in your healing.
5. Create Fun
Make time for your hobby or watch comedy movies. Doing something you enjoy will refresh and strengthen you. Do not consider this a waste of time—it isn’t. Don’t save it for last all the time—sometimes play first makes work happen at a more efficient pace.

May your holidays include restorative moments. May God help you to feel His presence during the season of celebrating the good news that Jesus Christ lived, died, and rose up to live again so that we might be reconciled to God. Hallelujah!

Do healthy things, dear Reader, it will reap so many benefits that will reap so many benefits that will encourage your heart. Let’s give Jesus our hearts and our healing process this holiday season.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Giving a Priceless and Pleasing Gift

Years ago I wrapped an empty shoebox in birthday paper and cut a slit opening on the top. Its tag read: To Jesus Christ.

My idea was twofold. The box under our Christmas tree would help our children grasp that it was the coming of Christ as a baby that we were celebrating. And the slit on the top would be for index cards. Each family member has written a phrase on the card each Christmas about what they'd like to give to their Lord during the following year and put it into the box.

I already know what I will write on this year's card. I will give my Lord my willingness to continue to do whatever it takes to further my healing from childhood incest. The work is painful and sometimes I feel like calling it quits. But I will press on knowing that it is the right time-- the God-blessed time for me to heal.

I look forward to when my memories won't haunt me. When I won't feel shame at being noticed in any public setting. When I won't crave and then push away from deeper connection with people due to trust and shame issues. It will be so good to look at others without shame and to trust the trustworthy people with confidence.

How about you? What would you like to give to Jesus Christ in 2010? Is it going to be a year of continued healing from abuse?

Whatever season you are in remember that Immanuel (meaning God with us) is with you. He knows. He cares. He can help you. He can empower you by the Holy Spirit to do healing things that may seem impossible to you. He can do more than we even dare to imagine.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

What Can We Do?

We all agree that domestic violence is wrong. It is a tragedy that effects way too many homes. But what can any one of us do about it?

I think we can do more than we might guess. Those of us who have been there are positioned better than anyone else to offer understanding and encouragement to women and men who are still trapped in homes that are ongoing nightmares of verbal, emotional, or physical abuse. Acknowledging our own past abuse story is painful, but it may be just what another needs to hear.

Here is a list of ideas on how any one of us might be able to make a difference:
--Call 9-1-1 if we hear a domestic violence situation at a neighbor's home
--Invite another out for a cup of coffee or a lunch, if they have indicated that they are having marital problems. Listen. Share honestly from your own experiences.
--Encourage your pastor to address domestic violence in a sermon.
--Share your testimony of your past and how God helped you--it is a story that glorifies God and may help another to seek help.
--Donate money &/or time at a domestic violence shelter.
--Post a shelter magnet on your refrigerator.
--Keep shelter information in your wallet so that you can pass it on when an opportunity presents itself
--Pray for those who are feeling fear in their own home.
--Pray for children who are witnessing abuse or being abused themselves.
--Hold a fund raising project for your local shelter.
--Speak up when you hear someone verbally bashing another.
--Write a letter to your editor when there is a news story about another victim of spousal homicide.
--Ask direct questions when another hints about abuse.
--Teach your children how to live Jesus' way.
--Don't allow sexist jokes in your home.
--Teach your children to respect other people's boundaries.
--Never pass up a chance to pray for someone who is hurting.
--Join a national abuse prevention organization.
--Respond with warmth and sensitivity any time someone shares about abuse.
--Pray asking God to use you however He wants to, and see what happens.

Loving lives lived authentically and transparently make a mighty difference in this world. Jesus said that we are shining lights. So let's do some shining, right where we are.

List Making

Whenever I talk to someone who has recently separated from an abusive partner, I encourage them to make lists as soon as possible. Having thoughts written down while they are fresh can be a powerful motivator. Just the act of recording information onto paper can clarify our thinking and solidify our resolve.

First, list all of the reasons why you decided it was time to separate. Write down specific incidents and specific feelings. Write down the specifics about things your spouse has said and done. Write down your fears about what might happen if you were ever to return. Write down why this is a positive move for your children (or future children). Write down what hurts about the relationship.

Second, list all the fears you have about leaving, and then write down why you are moving forward despite your fears.

Third, list all your desires for the future. Write what changes you would need to ever return to your spouse.

Finally, list who you want to be, regardless of the outcome with your marriage.

These writing exercises will help you to clarify things. In the future, when you may be tempted to return to the abuser prematurely, re-reading the list can strengthen you.

For those readers who ended abuse a long time ago, allowing yourself to remember why you took action when you did is sure to fill you with gratitude for all that the Lord has done in your life since that time. Little did you know at the time that one of the my most painful decisions in your life would lead to a fulfilling life. Joy and peace seemed impossible then, but now that you are free from abuse and walking in freedom with your Savior--joy and peace are welcome gifts that grace your life in a way that just wasn't possible when you were oppressed by domestic violence.

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