A Purpose in the suffering

Some of you are going to be able to relate to my story, and some of you won’t. No matter which side of the coin you are on I hope this brings to light some of the very real and scary situations that a lot of Christian women find themselves in. If you are in a healthy Christian marriage and have no idea what I’m talking about, well I think that is wonderful and a true blessing! But chances are you rub shoulders with someone who is not so fortunate. So maybe this blog and some of the resources I will publish on here, will offer you some insight into how you can help those around you who are suffering, or at the very least understand them better.

Now for those of you on the other side of the coin…First let me say I am so sorry that you can relate. No one should ever have to experience ongoing abuse in their own home, at the hands of someone who promised to love you and take care of you. I am so sorry that you are experiencing pain, frustration, betrayal, confusion, anger and a loss of self.

My hope is to encourage you. To let you know that healing from abuse is possible. But I will be completely transparent, and say that only by the power and love of Jesus Christ, is full healing something you can accomplish. He is the only way you will find freedom for your Soul. I believe in trauma therapy, counseling and practicing self-care, but non of those things in and of themselves will truly set you free. When you submit yourself to Christ you will gain what has been lost. You will see your infinite value and beauty.

I will also say that I am not there yet. I am still stumbling through the recovery and healing process. I will probably say things here one week and a few weeks later have to backpedal as I learn new information or recognize a new trigger. But that’s ok. I believe that there is a lot of value in being vulnerable and honest about the process. When all we see is someone who has it all together after they experienced something truly evil, it creates guilt and shame in ourselves. We beat ourselves up for not being better at this healing thing, thinking that something must be wrong with us if it takes a long time to get past something. I am tired of feeling that way and I am tired of pretending. This is me, it is messy, confusing and sometimes down right aggravating. But as much as I want to share my struggles, to let you know you are not alone, I also want to share my triumphs. Because healing is a lot of work, and there will be a lot of little triumphs along the way that no one will ever see. And we deserve a high five or a way to go once in a while when we succeed in doing something seemingly trivial, like find a job after being a stay at home mom for a decade…

I promise to always validate and believe victims of abuse, your reality is valid. One of the first steps to healing is acknowledging that you are actually living with abuse or have been subjected to it in the past. I will be posting some helpful links on this subject to help you identify if your relationship is destructive or just difficult.

So I will share my suffering and share my healing. There can be beauty out of the ashes of life. God is not done with me yet and he is not done with you either.

There is nothing special about me. My story reads like countless others. I got married young, to a man I met at a Bible School, thought we would have a good and happy life together, only to be blindsided with substance abuse issues, other forms of addiction, intense control, manipulations, lies and the kind of treatment that leaves you feeling hopeless, worthless and turns you into a person you don’t even recognize. I became a shell of a person. I was not allowed to have needs, opinions or values. Through all of the years in this environment there was only one truth I was able to count on. Christ. I didn’t always feel close to him, or hear his voice, but I knew He was there with me. He is who rescued me and set my Soul free. And He can set you free as well.

I Believe

These two simple words have been my anthem for the last 13 months. In fact these words were playing on repeat in my head so much that I ended up getting them tattooed on my left forearm (and in case you are wondering, yes it was my first tattoo and yes, I completely shocked my parents and my kids!).

People believe a lot of things, as kids we might have believed in magic or Santa, as adults we believe life should play out a certain way, we cling to a belief of happy endings. We also believe a lot of lies. The lies that have shaped my beliefs are, that I am not worth loving. I am not good enough, smart enough, pretty enough, skinny enough, capable enough. These believes have shaped who I am and the choices I have made. It is what drives my constant drive to improve myself, my chronic dieting and weight fluctuation, my (past) tendency to accept any man who will show me love, excusing his poor behavior away because, well at least he tolerates me and no other man ever will. I have believed that I deserve unkindness and abuse because I am just not good enough.

But this past year, the words I believe have meant something different. I have wrestled with my past, and my future. I have unanswered questions, oh so many questions, but I have made peace with not knowing everything. I will never fully understand why my prison guard fooled me into believing he was a godly man, or maybe he was at one point and then turned? See, more questions. I will probably never live to see him repent or change his ways and you know what, I’ve made peace with that as well. It is truly one of the hardest things in life, to forgive someone who refuses to acknowledge the damage they have caused and continue to cause.

The words on my arm carry weight. They are both a promise and a responsibility.

Here it is in a nutshell

I believe

1. God will not abandon me, like ever

2. God will provide for our us (in every sense of the word)

3. God will protect my children when they are in the prison guards care, gulp, this one takes an extra dose of faith

4. God will comfort me when I am lonely

5. God will be the true Father to my children and help them become men after God’s own heart

6. God will use my suffering to help others and to bring him Glory, hallelujah!

7. God will heal every part of my broken heart and spirit

8. God will reward my faithfulness

9. God will determine my worth, no one else will have that power any more

10. God is enough

Does this mean that I never doubt or fall back into old habits of self hatred? NO. Does it mean that I don’t struggle with my human nature of longing, anger, fear and stress? NO. Does it mean that I am filled with the Spirit and fully capable of taking my thoughts captive and living in obedience to my calling? YES.

I fully believe that God has a purpose for this road I have traveled. He was there in that prison with me, he stored every tear I shed. He has been faithful and true. His heart hurt for me and my boys for the pain we were living with, and he provided an escape. He is the reason I am not completely destroyed and the reason I can keep going, one day at a time.

Living this life with an eternal perspective takes belief. I will chose to walk in the path set before me believing I AM FREE IN CHRIST.

1 Peter 1:6-9

In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith-of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire-may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Through you have not seen him, you love him, and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

Hold my hand, Jesus

Yesterday was a hard day. There have been a lot of those lately. It was the first time as a Mom that I was not with my child on his birthday. I thought I would be ok. We had pretended that the previous weekend was his birthday and had had a small party, made a cake, opened presents, decorated the house, had all the fun. But watching him go off to his Father’s this morning broke my heart.

When your child tells you that what they want for their birthday is to not go to Dad’s house, and you have to send them anyway, well, that hurts. I pulled myself together enough to go to church, but cried throughout most of the service. Many reasons for THOSE tears. But I’ll save that for another post.

Later in the afternoon I ventured out for a hike with my pup, hiking against 60 mile an hour winds with icy snow blowing into my face, was a little intense and I’ll be honest, not very enjoyable, BUT I was outside and I needed to be outside. I chose my favorite hiking area because I am usually alone when I go there. Alone enough to cry as I hike, talk out loud to Jesus as I hike. Yesterday was one of those times where I don’t even have the words to pray, except to say over and over, Jesus hold my hand. Walking with my hand out to my side like He is there with me, I felt a little crazy I’ll admit, but He was there. Sometimes in life you just need to know that someone is there with you. I was feeling so very alone that day.

But I was not alone. I never am. Jesus holds my hand and is walking this bumpy, narrow, scary road with me. To the world I might look a little crazy, and that’s ok. I am starting to understand how precious it is to be this close to Jesus, and that you don’t find this closeness without being completely broken. So I can embrace my brokenness and not resent it. I can look to the future with hope that my brokenness led me to deeper understanding and relationship with my Father, the King of Kings.

It is really difficult right now to not feel like this phase will last forever. This unbelievable hard, challenging, exhausting phase. I don’t see a light at the end of the tunnel but I trust that one day I will.

I have this stupid habit of wanting to jump 5 steps ahead of where I currently stand. I want to skip all this hard stuff and get to the good part. I want to be done with the therapy and the waiting and the healing. I just want to be healed, whole, put together, and not this person who bursts into tears on a regular basis. When do I get to be that person?

But God, in his infinite wisdom, knows that if I skip this hard part, I won’t be whole. I will end up continually trying to pretend that my brokenness is not a part of me. But it is part of me, and it will always be a large part of what shapes me.

My prayer is that my brokenness shapes me to be filled with compassion, humility, servanthood, gratefulness, joy and perseverance. That my faith will never be shaken because I have witnessed firsthand the goodness of our Lord, the faithfulness of His love and the steadfastness of His wisdom.

I pray that I will never stop asking Jesus to hold my hand, even when it makes me look crazy.

Answer the call

I didn’t run away from my husband, I ran towards Christ. Those words have had to replay in my mind over and over. My prison guard would have me believe that I abandoned him, that I was selfish, entitled, arrogant and destructive to leave him. But that is not the truth. This guard was standing in the way of my calling, and my savior. He put himself in the place of God in our home. He ridiculed and mocked our 6 year old son for standing up for Christ in his school and declaring his love for God, this guard who also served for years as an Elder in our church. There was no room for God or the Holy Spirit in that place. It was already filled with a heavy darkness, a bully and an abuser. God had to wait outside.

I have ears to hear now. I have eyes to see. Christ was calling me, to come out of the prison, to be free. He was calling me because he loves me and has a purpose for me and for my children. Now God lives inside of our home. He is big and he takes up all the spaces. My children worship and love him loudly. We cry and pray together. We speak against the lies that try to ensnare us. We fill our home with music that praises our Savior and let other people into our messy space.

I know my call now. I know the one who is calling me, I know His voice. I will not be silent any longer. I am finding my voice, even if it still shakes and squeaks sometimes, it is growing stronger. This is not just my story, it is the story of so many women who are suffering in silence. In their prisons, too afraid to move. And I will use my voice to lift up and encourage those prisoners.

Let me encourage you ladies, you have a voice and it matters! You have a calling and a Savior. Get to know His voice, in the midst of the storm, He will keep you steady.

A starting point

Freedom starts within

I was living in a free county, yet barley surviving, in chains. My home was my prison, my husband was the prison guard and warden. Controlling every aspect of my life, slowly willowing away my identity and personhood.

On the outside, I was free. No one knew of the verbal, spiritual, emotional and sexual abuse that was happening behind closed doors, although some suspected…. They didn’t know that I was living in constant fear and anxiety. They could not see me being used as a prostitute instead of a wife. No one knew the depth of my emotional stress as I tried tirelessly to navigate the constant mood shifts, the anger outbursts, the drunken tirades. Protecting the children as best as I could by being their buffer. I was good at hiding. I was good about keeping that invisible tape in place, the tape that my prison guard had placed, over my mouth.

And I protected him, my guard. I believed his lies and manipulations. To my core, I believed him. I was not worth loving. I was crazy and demanding and ungrateful for this beautiful prison that he provided for me.

I tried being a good Christian wife who was submissive and meek. For over 15 years I tried. I did as I was told and I remembered my place in the world. Not good enough, that was my place. I prayed for years for a change. For some sign of conviction on his part for his drinking and violent outbursts. I tried to change, to be whoever he needed me to be. Still….not good enough. My bottom line.

Then the scales tipped. It was a slow change, almost unnoticeable to myself, let alone my prison guard. The power he held over me was fear. The kind of fear that leaves you immobile and unable to think or even breathe. Finally, beautifully, my fear turned and shifted, until one day the fear of staying in this prison was greater than my fear of leaving it. My heart beat rapidly and my voice shook as I declared that I was done living in his prison. That I will do whatever it takes to be free. The mocking turned to accusations, turned to begging. He loves me, so he says. No. For the first time I see that he is not capable of loving me or anyone else. There is no room for love when you are only able to focus on getting your own needs met. Love is patient, kind, generous, it protects and trusts and rejoices in truth it is not self seeking or arrogant or proud, it does not delight in evil, it does not destroy and devour. The life I was living was not love. The marriage I had was not godly or loving or even kind. I would have settled for kind.

No there was only darkness. And I was in danger of losing any bit of light I had left if I stayed. My children were at risk of being devoured by this darkness, of continuing this generational wickedness.

My freedom started in that moment. And while He continues to try and steal my freedom, I stand my ground.

This freedom is not without it’s costs. I earned my freedom with excruciating pain, exhaustion, tears, therapy, legal battles, empty bank accounts and a kind of loneliness that makes your body ache. I have had to pick up my children’s broken hearts and hurting souls, while barely able to carry my own. It took courage and strength. A strength beyond myself. Jesus carried me. He was my rock, my fortress, my sustainer. It took people holding me up when I was falling. And prayer. Praying without ceasing, reading God’s words as if I couldn’t breathe with out them, because I couldn’t.

Freedom for my soul was not free. It cost my savior his life and it is costing me mine. But my reward is full, it is Him. And HE is enough.