Tag Archives: violence in families

Update and Quote-Share

Joe Ceremony 1(One of my favorite cartoons ever).

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This is my update on NaNoWriMo: I did write 50,000 words! I started the month of November on schedule with the around 1700 words per day necessary to keep the pace. Then issues with my parents and a mild bout of depressions slowed me way up. To pick up the pace, I had to write a LOT….and did. It is really rough, but it is there.

It WAS worthwhile. I learned so much about my parents’ marriage and history. In my ethnic group, respect for older people is present, but not as it should be. My parents, whose bodies and minds are changing how they operate, think qualitatively differently than a middle-aged whipper snapper who wants to move too fast without understanding the depth of meaning behind their ways. Even if changes MUST be made. Being a basically insecure, very feeling, analyzer and second-guesser, it has been painful and frustrating navigating with my parents their process of reviewing their lives and grappling with the limitations that snuck up on them too fast. It has also been and is a great honor. So writing about how their lives (plural) become their life (singular, together) has opened an opportunity sometimes missed in my culture – to sit at their knees and learn from the wisdom of the aged. And to be reminded, with GLEE, that they are the same “swell kids” they once were. I learned so much from them that I have had all of my life to learn, but never put together quite this way before.

And it took me out of the problems and issues and challenging logic, into the souls of two people who have been blessed to live life with trust, success, and harmony overall, throughout their lives. A couple who, as very poor newlyweds, would make decisions like forgoing stouter fare and opting for oatmeal or pancakes for a while so they could afford to go out to a movie, yet would find something in the cupboard for happy siblings and spouses who would stop by with their own paltry offerings, and eat until it was gone – laughing and enjoying the company. Who had some of the funniest marital fights I have ever heard! Who forgive each other everything, always. Whose eyes dance with warmth and love whenever the other is reflected there.

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It is 50,000 words of facts and thoughts and ramblings. There is work to do to organize it and even out the styles of writing (personal vs factual narrative), and make it complete. I will do it, and soon, so it will be a legacy available for them to share as they wish in their lifetime.

Now for the request. I received a chain letter in my personal e-mail suggesting that each person send one positive and encouraging Bible verse to the e-mail address of #1 person, then move #2 up, then send on. I am really curious what verses people would choose, and in a rare state where I actually want to hear people quote Bible verses. I mean, this is almost weird. I’m not going to bombard anyone with a chain letter, but I did send a query to see if they want to get it. Weird again.

Truly, I have called you my blogger church. Still true, really. I wonder if you will do me the honor of sharing one particularly encouraging, positive verse or quote, scriptural or not, just for the joy of sharing a bit of your spiritual legacy and wisdom with me?

I would be so honored to sit for a moment at your knee and learn as I did with my parents.

Thanks, dear friends.

Blessings,

Diane

Domestic Violence Awareness Month – Ending the Silence

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month

The Color is Purple

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I am honored to be included with a number of wonderful authors on the website:

 Ending The Silence.

I invite you to visit the site for my articles and those of Lundy Bancroft, Melodie Ramone, Catherine Givans, Sherry Rentschler, P.J. LaRue, Vanessa A Ryan, Stephanie Neighbour, and Jenna Brooks (who is site originator, organizer and administrator), with individual site links and comment and contact opportunities. Each lends a valuable perspective to the diverse issues of Domestic Violence.

Throughout the month of October, Jenna will also be featuring Stories In the News, helpful information, and a Survey with results to be collected during the month, and write-in survivor’s stories.

I will be trying to post more often, on both sites. And I encourage you to take in the wealth of insight and information that will be available on all fronts during the month, not only web-based, but in communities. Check your local newspapers for articles, web-browse where services are located in your area and what they do. 

There is a HUGE need in churches, who preach compassion, to learn HOW to apply that to DV. 

I hear the salutation, “Love in Christ.”  And think of the motto, “Be Prepared.”  

This month is an easy opportunity to do both.

Blessings, Diane

JUST – Is a Four-Letter-Word.

 

 

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Just do it. You just need to say no.

JUST. RARELY have I heard the word “just” used, in the form of advice, when it didn’t over-simplify and minimize a more complex issue.  Sometimes simplification is needed, BUT more often, when dealing with abuse, it is applying a band-aid to a severed limb.

 

This version of “just,” as defined by the Free Merriam-Webster Dictionary, means “simply, only.” Abuse is not simple, and there is not only one solution or option to consider.

You just need to tell him to stop. Just let him cook his own dinner. Just leave it to God. You just need to pray. You just need to keep faith.  Just trust the Lord. Just wait. Just believe! JUST LEAVE…..You should JUST….. 

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See what I mean? On the surface, this APPEARS harmless, or maybe even helpful. 

But it’s not. Coming from someone without an individual’s experience or understanding, or who has not deeply attempted to understand,  it is simplistic and insulting. If a woman and children are in an abusive situation, this creates either further mental/emotional confusion. Worst case scenario, it can cloud the situation enough to place lives at risk. So, YOUR words cost you nothing to SAY; they could cost, OR ENCOURAGE AND STRENGTHEN, someone for the rest of a lifetime, and generations beyond. I am not being poetic here. One lifetime after another, one generation after another, the abuse and fear are perpetuated, OR TRANSFORMED into a BETTER view and life that will then be perpetuated. 

I catch myself half way through the word on occasion. Every time I do, I do a mental stop, and ask myself what I am minimizing or oversimplifying. It never fails to open up a wiser, more complete picture. And from that, an opportunity to listen and speak from greater discernment.  And even better, to know what I don’t know, and SAY NOTHING.

Which brings me back to one of my recurring themes. LISTEN!!

That urge, stronger in some of us than others, to be thinking of what we want to say next, or mentally solving the problem and wanting to verbally troubleshoot, NOW, must be set aside. We need to become calm, look at the abused woman talking to us, LISTEN to her with our entire awareness, hear what she says in words and beyond words – the core of what she is saying. She is dealing with a situation of colossal DISRESPECT to everything she is, in herself and as created by God. We must not disrespect her further by not listening, and JUST-ing. Instead, we can HONOR AND STRENGTHEN HER with one of the GREATEST FORMS OF RESPECT: LISTENING. Then, if she gives permission, and we truly have suggestions (not theoretical or theological) that MIGHT help, we can tell her politely without pushing or control.

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This is life-giving opportunity.

1) We want to fix it. It is uncomfortable, so we vomit out the solution that makes easiest sense and reinforces our philosophy of life, religion, or whatever. INSTEAD, BECOME CALM AND OPEN OUR MINDS TO LISTEN AND LEARN FIRST.

2) It requires little thought or effort. INSTEAD, THINK AND DEVELOP EMPATHY; LEARN MORE. LISTEN.

3) It sounds right. INSTEAD, CONSIDER HOW IT WOULD APPLY IN REAL LIFE. Test it. LISTEN.

4) It feels like we’re being effective, wise, supportive. INSTEAD, DON’T SETTLE FOR FEELING HELPFUL, LEARN HOW TO ACTUALLY BE HELPFUL. LISTEN. EDUCATE YOURSELF.

Our WANTING to help doesn’t mean we are ABLE to help – she needs options, not another person who (like her abuser) tells her what she JUST HAS to do.

There are other definitions and synonyms for the word “just” as well, again using the Free Merriam-Webster Dictionary, that are much more useful ways to use the word:

  • having a basis in or conforming to fact or reason
  • agreeing with what is considered morally right or good
  • treating people in a way that is considered morally right
  • acting or being in conformity with what is morally upright or good

TreatYourChildWithRespect  - www.nathanielbranden.com www.lifejourneycoaching.org

 

 

 

 

 

 

JUST – can be a four letter word.

JUST – don’t use it that way any more.

INSTEAD – BE JUST.

 

Blessings!!

Diane

 

The Big “D” and Malachi 2:16

Malachi 2:16  God hates divorce……

Ever heard that one? Ever quoted it? I included a survey of this verse in an earlier post, but got only two answers. One respondent answered “other” but I couldn’t access a comment. The other respondent said they had never heard the verse. One of the multiple choice answers was, “have you ever heard the SECOND HALF of the verse?”

Have you?

I found the complete verse, book, and context when I read through the Bible cover to cover the first time. Trying to see God and Jesus in context. The version I remember reading is different than what  pops up when I access Bible Gateway. So I went to other, older versions (like me), and voila! Here it is! So, let’s look at Malachi 2:16  in several versions:

    • New International Version 1984
      “I hate divorce,” says the Lord God of Israel, “and I hate a man’s covering himself with violence as well as with his garment,” says the Lord Almighty. So guard yourself in your spirit, and do not break faith.
    • New Revised Standard Version
      For I hate divorce, says the Lord, the God of Israel, and covering one’s garment with violence, says the Lord of hosts. So take heed to yourselves and do not be faithless.
    •  New International Version
      “The man who hates and divorces his wife,” says the Lord, the God of Israel, “does violence to the one he should protect,” says the Lord Almighty. So be on your guard, and do not be unfaithful.

NOT ONCE in 20+ years was this verse quoted to me, in its entirety or in context, by friends or clergy. Just the God Hates Divorce part.

Why was that? When so much care is taken to quote some other passages in context? Was it because the “God Hates Divorce” part came first in the verse, and was therefore more important? If God hates divorce AND he hates a man who covers himself with violence as with a garment….which does He hate most? And reading the entire book of Malachi, I saw that this related not only to a husband and wife, but to Godly offspring, and God’s covenant with an entire race. And what should I DO based on that? I chose caution, conservative (legalistic) interpretation, that man meant person, and didn’t want to take any chances with Godly offspring. And, aside from any Biblical admonition, to protect my kids from their dad and the court system.

Then I wondered why, if marital unfaithfulness (meaning sexual unfaithfulness as defining adultery) was the only acceptable reason for divorce, did marriage ceremonies (which sanctify the covenant of marriage) include words such as “love, honor and cherish?” I wondered why we didn’t just stand before the preacher and say “I promise not to have sex with another till we die,” and leave it at that…since that is what seemed to be the actual substance of the arrangement. Since meanness, coldness, fear, financial ruin….verbal and physical abuse, are often considered non-sufficient grounds for divorce. Or for accountability within the church. And since Ephesians marriage verses seemed to be recommendations, rather than contractual requirements.

Matthew 5:32  But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, causes her to become an adulteress, and anyone who marries the divorced woman commits adultery.

Matthew 19:9 I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, and marries another woman commits adultery.”

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At the time of my divorce, I understood it this way: I will go to hell more surely by taking my own life than by divorcing my husband.  I was shocked and bewildered by God’s silence, my unanswered prayers for healing (not just of Peter; I was willing to change, too) and for guidance. And had come (from a start of open-hearted faith) to believe that God was a harsh taskmaster, demanding colossal sacrifice and endurance in the form of testing and somehow displaying His glory, demanding no shrinking back or He would be displeased, and that fearing Him is a good thing (even after checking out the word “fear” in Strong’s Concordance for many verses hoping it really meant “respect” or “honor”). And that once divorced, I would, Biblically speaking, be forever in a poor plan B. These are some of the ideas, views of God, that come from some skewed interpretations of scripture and Christian counsel. And formed part of the gauntlet I ran.

I didn’t understand much about covenant, Biblically speaking. Thanks to Joe Pote (http://josephjpote.com/) I understand much better NOW. I wouldn’t dream of trying to express the content of Joe’s book, So You are a Believer…Who has been through Divorce…, because I could in no way accurately abbreviate the points he so clearly makes. But I will say that I have now been introduced to a kinder view of God’s interest in my former marriage and my life, which gives me greater peace in the present. This is what I learned (my understanding): God doesn’t use covenants to enslave or abuse – He redeems us from bondage, including that of marital abuse (and the word redeemed means a lot more than I thought it did); divorce isn’t sin (treachery IS sin); I have not missed God’s best plan for my life because I have been through divorce; I am not to blame for my divorce (it is not always the fault of both parties);  “divorced” is not an eternal condition that overshadows me or defines me – I am not Peter’s ex-wife – the marriage covenant no longer exists, so I am just Diane; my second marriage is not sin (my covenant with Peter no longer existed; there was no covenant to violate); my husband and I are each married to one person – the husband of one wife – the wife of one husband (we are not bigamists married to each other AND to our previous spouses – our former marriages no longer exist) and any evaluation for ministry can be made on that basis.

(If you want to do a very good thing, buy this book for your church library.)

There were two sides as I Ran the Gauntlet: my abusive Christian husband with his destructive and misinformed words and control on one side, and the Church with its destructive and misleading scriptural interpretations and control on the other.

As I am blogging and listening, both sides of the gauntlet are beginning to disarm and go away. Some of the harmful ideas used by both sides are now useless weapons, rusting on the grass. I’m listening. And feeling the breeze of freedom and the sun on my face.

Good Sabbath, my Blogger Church.

Sorry, It’s About the Salad Suppers!

I’m again at my parents home as we travel together the road of aging and adjustment and leftovers from the past. While here, where resources are varied and relatively plentiful, I am looking for the help I need.

My first inquiry was at the Arizona Coalition Against Domestic Violence. I asked about ways I could help and be helped. The dear woman who spoke with me listened, very still, as I described my mental stall and the decisions needing to be made and why I feel so divided and trapped.  Very quietly, like a gentle ripple on water, she said, “You don’t trust yourself.” This wasn’t news to me, but the way she said it…so gentle and direct, was soothing. I nodded. She added, “I am a survivor, too, and I don’t trust myself either.  I would like someone else to make the decisions. It’s been a while, and it doesn’t go away….I’ve just learned ways to cope.” Oh my.

I told her I had encountered much pain, frustration and loss of faith as a result of the teaching and counsel of my church communities. She said she hears that all the time. I asked if there was any training being provided to faith-based communities to help them stop giving such damaging advice. Yes, she said. There is a woman who started her own shelter, with full support of her Baptist church, and that she has formed a team of survivors who share their experiences and teach faith communities about domestic violence. She said that when she was abused, her pastor and church responded ABSOLUTELY APPROPRIATELY! Oh! Oh! How absolutely, positively, wonderful!

I have the contact information for the Baptist shelter founder, and three resources where I can have counseling and attend support groups for DA survivors. Today, I contact the counselors and find the times/places of the support groups. I will be asking the following questions, recommended by two generous fellow bloggers after I requested personal input about PTSD.

Questions to Ask:

1. Are you trained specifically in trauma?

2. If so, do you have experience with trauma patients?  How many years?

3. Are you in your own therapy?

4. Are you under supervision?  (I forgot to mention this and it is very important – you don’t want someone who goes rogue, on their own)

5. What is your training/approach type?  (Cognitive behavioral focus is more coping skills vs. Psychoanalytical which is more about getting to the root)

Would EMDR be helpful and are you trained to do that?

And I picked up an information sheet based on a 2010 survey of 35 out of 39 domestic violence programs in Arizona in a 24 hour period:

1,622 victims served (1,180 in emergency shelters or transitional housing)

442 adults and children received non-residential services (legal, counseling, children’s support groups)

336 hotline calls (more than 14 calls per hour)

131 unmet needs for services (short funding, short-staffed, lack of space)

105 of the unmet needs were from victims seeking emergency shelter or transitional housing

83% of respondents reported higher demand for services, attributed to job loss, decreased community resources, and decreased funding

For consideration:

1 John 3:16-18   This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters.  If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person?  Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.

Titus 3:14   Our people must learn to devote themselves to doing what is good, in order to provide for urgent needs and not live unproductive lives.

“Salad Suppers” and retreats were the ESSENTIAL women’s group activities at my previous church…so much so that any alternative ministry to women outside the church was superseded by these lofty priorities (which is why I resigned as WMs president after an ultra-short term). Wouldn’t it be nice if…instead of party decorations for the next salad supper…the money and time were donated to a nearby family violence shelter or program? And, instead of the usual paid speaker for the next retreat…advocacy training was provided by a survivor…or domestic violence professional?

And, if a church REALLY wanted to go for it, they could involve the MEN’S ministries, too! Since men are the Christian “authority,” and since domestic violence is so ruthlessly damaging to women and children (also known as families), maybe their speaker could be a professional who could address MEN’S roles in abuse, prevention of abuse, and recovery. OF FAMILIES – men, women, children.

Abusers and victims.

And, instead of manufacturing functions and campaigns to entice un-churched people into the building, creating relationships to serve them outside the building to heal their hearts and souls? Which would Jesus choose?

I am very, very grateful for funding sources and dedicated people who are making it possible for me, and others, to receive help. But there aren’t enough dollars and people to get it done  given the magnitude of the problem.

This isn’t just a women’s problem. It isn’t just for government entities and secular non-profits to address. Maybe, within the church, there could be less energy spent on indignation about prayer and the Ten Commandments in (or out of) schools (and other hot topics) and more energy spent on learning about and wisely addressing domestic violence (and mental illness, sex trafficking, neglect, homelessness, etc., etc.).

It’s not such a huge mental shift, really, is it?

The influence of Christianity and churches on the world is HUGE, for positive or negative. Representing Christ, or not. Can you imagine how beautiful this could be?

I welcome your thoughts and comments.

The Day I Figured It Out (contains obscenity, possible trigger)

 

Abby and Emily looked like this at the time of this story.

Abby and Emily looked like this at the time of this story.

“Peter” strode into the kitchen, cornered me and announced: “You’re a fucking asshole bitch, you know that? ” He raised his hand to squeeze and rotate my face, then neatly stepped beside me and kicked me in the butt.

Abby and Emily were happily coloring at the table, several feet away. All was happy, peaceful.

My counselor had told me to use “I feel” statements. So, I said, “I feel bad when you do that. I want you to stop.”

He sneered, repeated “You’re a fucking asshole bitch,” squeezed my face, and kicked me in the butt.

I said, “I want you to stop doing that.”

He sneered, repeated “You’re a fucking asshole bitch, ” squeezed my face, and kicked me in the butt.

I said, “You know, when you act like this, you put me in a really difficult position.”

“Oh, yeah…how’s that?” he mocked.

“Yeah.” I said. “If I allow you to treat me like this, then I teach those little girls at the table to buy into the same thing for their marriages. If I divorce you to make you stop, then they are trashed by divorce.”

He didn’t say a word, but seemed to tire of the game, and left the kitchen.

The girls happily colored and chatted at the table, oblivious.

OUT OF THE BLUE. I hadn’t done anything “wrong,” there was no prelude or issue. I suddenly understood something.  I DIDN’T DO ANYTHING. THIS HAD TO DO WITH HIM, NOT ME.  He wasn’t being picky, he was being ABUSIVE. For five years it had been eggs overdone or underdone, toast overdone or underdone, shirts not hung correctly, using the wrong word, wrong tone of voice, wrong route on the road, sausage overdone or underdone or “consolidated.” This time….it was nothing. Just because he felt like it.

A note on denial and crazy-making: I waited a couple of days, until Peter had changed back into Dr. Jekyl, and asked him about the incident. He didn’t know what I was talking about! I described in detail what he did and said. He looked at me as though I was insane, and said, “Why do you keep making up things to get mad about?”  I never knew whether he really didn’t remember, or if he was just not copping.

Over the years, he has told me how cruel I was to control him with threats of divorce (four times over 19 years – this was the second).

Now, I wonder what is going through your mind as you read.

My first guess is that you are confused about why I didn’t walk out of the kitchen, but stood there and “took it.” (He was blocking my way – it would have required a shove or physical body block to get out – which could provide an excuse for physical violence – escalate).

You wonder why I didn’t just INSIST he stop. (Because I knew that raising my voice or using what he called a “pointed tone of voice” would make him ANGRY and loud – escalate – and alert the girls of the ugliness in front of them).

You may wonder why I had seen a counselor alone. (Because, for him, it was MY problem. I guess, for me, it was my problem, too. I had to learn to cope better, because I was sinking).

Or why I hadn’t left long ago. (Didn’t want the court system to give him unsupervised partial custody, or for him to be more angry and with partial custody, hope for healing and that the “real and nice” Dr. Jekyl version of Peter would come to stay, honoring and fearing God as I understood Him, love for kids and him, no way to prove his actions, eroded confidence, financial inferiority, no one else seeing the problem – and more).

Or what did I do that might have provoked him? (ABSOLUTELY NOTHING, or heck if I know).

If so, you are responding typically, by focusing on WHY THE VICTIM STAYS. Which is just a gentler way of blaming the victim. Which maintains the status quo in public opinion about domestic abuse.

Did you also wonder:

What motivates him to abuse?

What would stop him from doing that?

What is his brokenness that needs to be healed, and how can that be done?

What can she do to protect herself and her kids?

What would she need for proof in a court of law?

How are his actions affecting the kids?

What recourse does she have?

How can he be held accountable?

How can I strengthen her and widen her options?

If you were wondering these things, you are FOCUSING ON THE ABUSER ALSO, which is right. And on stopping the abuse. And on practical, proactive steps to empower the woman/children to greater safety and health. And you are one person who can nudge public opinion in the right direction.

This doesn’t seem like such a hard change in perspective, once it has been explained. A Christian, however, may experience some conflict with scripture as he/she understands it, and some challenge from other Christians for focusing on the types of questions above, rather than more scriptural options.

Such as:

Wives and submission (the Bible tells me so)

No divorce (only half of the verse….)

Causing him to commit adultery (a man has needs)

Causing him to stumble (poor guy)

Not acting in faith (God is saying yes, no, or wait….wait for it…..wait for it)

Giving way to fear (God won’t be pleased)

God’s ways are not our ways (so don’t think for yourself)

God won’t test you beyond what you can bear (so you must be able to bear it)

Etc.

Not everyone expressed these views. They were just out there….for consideration and confusion.

So….. I figured out it was abuse. But I still didn’t know what I was allowed to do about it. As a Christian wife, that is.

Honor Your Father

Abby had crumpled to the floor, with Peter coiled over her in prizefighter stance (but without fists raised), shouting at her to “Answer me, answer me!” She hopefully opened her mouth to produce an offering of words that would soothe his anger, entice her loving dad to appear again from behind the clouds, regain a sense of his love….or maybe just to get him to leave her alone. “Don’t you talk back to me!” he shouted. So she closed her mouth. “Answer me!!” he shouted again. Again she opened her mouth.  “Don’t talk back to me!” Again he silenced her with his rage, size, voice, and authority.

She began to cry, sitting on the floor, a sweet and fiery 11-year old girl, educated in honoring her parents, and who innately loved peace.

“Oh, look at the little crybaby. You’re going to cry! Waah, waah! What a little crybaby!” he taunted derisively. She cried harder.

This was utterly out of line. She would never DESERVE this, but she didn’t do anything to INVITE this, either. The tape recorder was running, for documentation.  I had interrupted many such situations, to draw fire, deescalate, protect a tender child, or just plain shut him up.  Parents should be unified in front of the kids, I had been taught. Submit to husband and parent. Stand. Protect your children. LOVE.  I was weighing the issues again. Intervening would get the heat off Abby, turn the argument to me, display division and disrespect between her parents (like I could avoid THAT!). Non-intervention would leave Abby victim to her dad’s verbal assault – alone, with me shattered by doing nothing.  As I positioned myself to intervene, Abby answered my unspoken questions:

“Mom, don’t try to stop it. Because then I feel like you and Dad are fighting and it is my fault.”

He was finished anyway. Episode over. Yeah.

The mini-tape recorder hidden in my pocket picked up only muffled sounds from my position in the hallway. But I left it on, and it DID pick up the next half hour, during which we watched Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman on TV while Abby quietly sobbed in the background.

Abby, now 30 years old, is still calm and proactive but quickly and effectively sets the boundaries if someone is abusive to her, without second guessing or guilt. She also deals with diffused anxiety much of the time. Overall, she is fairly happy…but isn’t a big believer in religion or God, marriage or anything permanent. Can you believe she once started Bible College to become a missionary?

These are my practical questions for you:

What could I have done differently for a better result?

In theory, I should have gotten those kids out of there. But that wouldn’t have been the end of the story. They probably would have some sort of shared custody (he says, she says), which would put them with him alone. Or, they would have missed Dr. Jekyl Dad, and had anger and fear toward Mom for keeping him from them. Perhaps go from trusting one of us to trusting neither of us. How much Mr. Hyde justifies dumping Dr. Jekyl?

Does anyone know what would have been helpful to position myself for better legal protection? Would it have helped to get a better tape recorder and try to record the really obvious instances of abuse? For court or credibility? And to record in writing other instances, with dates, times? Maybe have a couple of trusted friends document having listened to and read these accounts, or, with modern technology, e-mail or mail them and ask the friends to keep them to confirm accuracy of dates recorded?

Would it have been less harmful for Abby for me to butt out, or butt in?

Here are my scriptural questions for you:

What could I (or others) have told Abby (and myself) about God to preserve the belief in His love, guidance, and protection? Or, is the expectation of guidance and protection a false ideal in the first place? Or, if love, guidance and protection are always there, then is being AWARE, FEELING God’s love, guidance and protection up to us to “cause” or is it up to God to “supply?” What inspires belief, trust, faith, perseverance when all one hears, for years, is silence.

How do you interpret the verses below, in light of this situation?

Col 3:18  Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord.

Col 3:19  Husbands, love your wives and do not be harsh with them.

Col 3:20-21  Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord. Fathers, do  not embitter your children, or they will become discouraged.

And the biggies:

Matthew 7:21  “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.

Matthew 10:37-39  “Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.

What do you DO, real life, when husbands ARE harsh? The spirit and letter of the law.

Talk with me.

Hammer or Helper – Knowing That We Don’t Know It All

I was hammered this week by a very good Christian friend as I attempt to make decisions that are fracturing me and torturing others as they wait on me. So the post by T.K. Coleman on his blog, “Tough-Minded Optimism”  (re-blogged on my post,  Nov. 20) really resonates, but in the context of how we understand and advise others.  My friend delivered her pronouncements and judgments from the passenger seat of my car as though she was Moses standing on the mountain with stone tablets in his hands. She heaved those tablets right at me.

She was trying to force a decision, get me off the fence, give me a kick in the pants. But it felt more like being bludgeoned further into a corner with a big stick. She wants to see me relieved of my painful inner conflict, because she cares about me.  But probably, even MORE, she wants to be relieved of the pain SHE feels by seeing my pain. Way MORE than she wants to integrate the complexity of my decision, to hear my heart and good intentions. It is easier for her to see it simply, judge me, and be more comfortable. (This is also relates to why people blame the victim – to relieve “cognitive dissonance.”).  She feels justified, self-righteous, loving, and helpful.

A quote from T.K.’s post:

What is left out of the above analysis, however, is the plethora of other factors that can constitute difficulty or ease for a person.

We have not yet discussed their childhood or their past traumas. We have not yet discussed their quality of education. We have not yet discussed differences in gender, ethnicity, or physical appearance and the advantages or disadvantages that come along with those. We have not yet discussed any addictions, allergies, or other ailments that may complicate life for them. We have not yet discussed the quality of their relationships with family. We have not yet discussed their support networks of friends and colleagues. We have not yet discussed their fears, insecurities, and personal weakness. We have not yet discussed their ability to process their emotions and cope with everyday stress. We have not yet discussed their personal philosophies and the burdens or benefits that accompany their worldviews.

We have not yet discussed many of the very things that could completely alter our perception of who is and who isn’t suffering.

Do we NEED to discuss those things? I hope not.

I hope that we can be skeptical enough to subject our assumptions to rigorous scrutiny whenever we feel inclined to put ourselves on a pedestal that elevates our hardships above the hardships of others.

Bravo!

When my children and I were being abused by our Christian husband/father, several people counseled me to stay, based on limited information and their own life perspectives. They didn’t understand, but they felt qualified to judge. My friend, the hammer, once went through a period when she had to leave abuse from her Christian husband for a time. She received similar counsel – strongly – from both camps. She was sinning to leave; she was a fool to go home. She once expressed gratitude that I had supported her during that period by being steady and non-judgmental. I understood her dilemma (somewhat, as I was in kind of the same situation, sort of), accepted what she needed to do (valued her and her health), and didn’t act mean to her spouse (stood with with her against abuse but respected the person). I wish everyone, everywhere, and IN EVERY CHURCH, would frame the quote above, re-read it often, and consider all those issues with prayer before speaking.

I admit it. I’m guilty. I’ve put myself on the judge’s pedestal. I’m framing that quote. Really.

Consider this if you are “supporting” a woman in an abusive situation:

Encourage her by –

  • listening for understanding – and trying to really HEAR her
  • identifying abuse as abuse
  • backing her with practical helps (financial aid or sources, lodging, legal, counseling, etc.)
  • sharing your belief in her strength and good intentions
  • sharing your confidence in her happier future
  • thinking through pros, cons, and alternatives with her
  • being patient – she is under crazy-making stress
  • keeping her company and doing normal, fun things
  • trying to provide her with TOOLS and STRENGTH to enable her to make HER decisions
  • respecting that she will make the best decisions she can with the resources she has

Do not assume that she is wired the way you are. Do not coerce, badger, or insult to force her to decide what she is just not able to decide yet. By doing so, you abuse her further and, in-effect, assert that it is her job to make YOU comfortable with her choice and timing.

If her struggle is too painful for you, help her connect with others who have the resources YOU don’t have – take care of both of you. Don’t guilt her, and don’t guilt yourself.  You can’t fix it.  You are a small piece of a long process. She needs your peace and steadiness, not your control.

How much kinder our world would be if we would know that we don’t know it all, and maintain respectful humility as we interact with others, especially when we are in a position to impact their lives with our judgments and advice!

For consideration:

Rom 14:13  Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in your brother’s way.

1 Peter 4:11 If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God. If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.

Matt 23:23-24 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices–mint, dill and cummin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law–justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former. You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel.

1 Thessalonians 5:14 And we urge you, brothers, warn those who are idle, encourage the timid, help the weak, be patient with everyone.

James 1:19 My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry.

If I missed something here, feel free to comment. I would love to hear what you have to add.

Seeking Help from Pastors # 5 – Pastor 5 of 6

Pastor # 5 (and wife) – SOUTH DAKOTA

One more time.

OK.  I was freaked – again (still). Thinking separation/divorce – again.  We went to a pastor – again.

Pretty pastor E had a plan. We would meet with him and his pretty wife to do a Marriage Bible Study. This one is really good, he said. This will get to the heart of the problem, not just put a band-aid on it.

We did the meetings and the exercises over a course of many weeks/evenings.  Pastor and Mrs. E  made a point to remind us several times that they were doing this on their own time.  We felt apologetic for taking their family time, but didn’t want to disregard their desire to help or their method of doing so.  I don’t remember the content of the Bible Study – or the name. It was another workbooky thingy where you fill in the lines. Usual content; usual verses.

Usual result.

Give them credit. They tried. Really. So did I, sincerely.

I don’t understand why, when people who are praying for guidance to deal with a situation (here I refer to Pastor and Mrs. E), they can be so far from the mark. Again, what hinders prayer for wisdom?

Hang in to hear about Pastor #6, next post. HE HAD EYES TO SEE AND EARS TO HEAR. HE FULFILLED THE LAW AND THE PROPHETS!

 Take this poll: 

Seeking Help from Pastors # 4 – Pastor 4 of 6

Pastor # 4 – MONTANA

So what will  you tell someone who is abused, struggling, confused and overwhelmed? To strengthen them in faith and action?

Pastor D is a good man, who worked hard for his congregation, which was like home to me.   We talked in general, not as in “help me, help my marriage.” I thought he said submit. I remember feeling surprised and irritated when he later said that he never tells women in difficult marriages to submit. Memory problems.  Maybe it’s just me.  Maybe it’s part of the backlash of long-term stress. Maybe I’m not the only one who can forget stuff.

I did go to Pastor D about another, related issue:

We had a dinner hour that got psycho then violent (another post). After this event, Abby had stomach problems. She was afraid to eat because she would feel sick, or vomit. She lost weight, became very skinny, and I had doctor’s orders to pump extra calories into everything I cooked for her. He didn’t call it ANXIETY. I went to Pastor D, who prayed for her, and explained how prayer for healing works. He told me you have to BELIEVE  that the person will be healed in spite of all evidence to the contrary. Abby continued to feel sick and lose weight. He said she WAS healed, in the HEAVENLY realms, but that the healing just wasn’t MANIFESTED yet. I was open to believing this, but was troubled by the theology – not only as related to healing my daughter, but to healing of a marriage or a damaged person.

So what was Pastor D telling me? To ignore the evidence that Abby was losing too much weight and living in fear, because that evidence wasn’t real? This is a little like Peter telling me to ignore the evidence that the girls and I were being bullied and living in fear, because it wasn’t really happening. Crazy-making.

 When Abby continued to be sick, I expanded the theme, with the help of others: That I didn’t have enough faith. If so, what could I do to correct that? What about Pastor D’s faith as he prayed for Abby? If I sought other medical care or counseling for Abby, would that be LACK of faith, and so hinder healing? Do I become more legalistic,  pursuing obedience – to gain God’s favor and help? Or search less, analyze less, rely on faith, leave it to God – to gain God’s favor and  help? Or does it just not matter – do what I see fit and God will bless me? Wow. OR, is it really horrible, as in “get those kids out of there now” – in which case I failed as a Christian AND as a mother. 

IF I had been able to hear what God was telling me to do, IF He was telling me anything, it would have cut all of that out. I was WILLING to do what He said. I asked, “If you want me to submit, stay out of Your way, so You can deal with him (and me) without me adding my human twist, I will do that. If You want me to stand up to him in love, please give me the strength and guidance, and I will do that.” I heard from others (and still do) that God IS speaking, but I’m just not hearing Him. Why? He knows me, right? He knows I want to hear His will but am confused. His Word says, if  you ask for wisdom, He will give it. I don’t get it. BUT I SO WANT TO.  So what will  you tell someone who is abused, struggling, and feels that way? To strengthen them in faith and action?

Again, crazy-making.  A little more intense and less fun than another salad supper, isn’t it? Feels a little overwhelming and maybe obsessive? Yeah. That’s it. That is the way it feels. You can take a break, do something lighter and more fun. That is good. You should.  Just remember that an abused woman or child doesn’t have that option. So don’t do something lighter INSTEAD of learning to identify or instead of preparing for the next time you will be exposed to the effects of abuse. Do both. Learn…AND take a break. There is a lot of abuse; you WILL be exposed again to abused women and children.

 It is NOT my goal to undermine another’s faith, OR to disrespect scripture or individuals. Faith is priceless. I envy those who have the peace that comes with faith. But I hope (pray?) that by expressing my doubt and isolation as I  “ran the gauntlet,” someone can offer better counsel or meaningful strength to someone else. I don’t apologize for my lack of understanding.  I’m not unwilling to understand, just unwilling to lie to myself or others by saying that I do.

 I WOULD LOVE TO HEAR FROM WOMEN WHO SURVIVED PSYCHOLOGICAL ABUSE AND KEPT THEIR FAITH. I am loving reading a number of blogs by people who are contagiously positive. I NEED that! I want to know HOW YOU THINK, day by day, through joys and disappointments. I want to say something positive that will encourage someone else. I want this blog to do good. But, today, I just hurt, and am so frustrated that I can’t JUST thrive and be joyful. I’ve heard it said we should spend 5% of our energy on identifying a problem and 95% of our energy on solving it. Today’s blog is my 5%. The rest of the day I need to spend trying to climb back on the horse. 

A few confusing (to me) verses, out of hundreds possible, for consideration:

Immediate tangible healing:

Matthew 8:4 Then Jesus said to him, “See that you don’t tell anyone. But go, show yourself to the priest and offer the gift Moses commanded, as a testimony to them.”

 Healing manifested on the way to giving proof of healing:

 Luke 17:14  When he saw them, he said, “Go, show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were cleansed.

 I guess this COULD mean that one is healed in the heavenly realm without earthly evidence:

Hebrews 11:1 Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.

 Never manifested, even with faith:

 Hebrews 11:39  These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised. God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect.

 Faith from the Word:

Romans 10:17  Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ.

Faith a GIFT given by God:

Romans 12:3 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.

 Plenty of faith:

 Matthew 15:28  Then Jesus said to her, “Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted.” And her daughter was healed at that moment.

Faith of others:

Matthew 9:2  Some men brought to him a paralyzed man, lying on a mat. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the man, “Take heart, son; your sins are forgiven.”

 Not enough faith:

Matthew 13:58 And he did not do many miracles there because of their lack of faith.

 Without faith:

Hebrews 11:6 And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.

 Measured faith:

Romans 12:3  For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more  highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you.

Talk with me.

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