“Why didn’t she just leave”

Recently, a blogger who writes about abusive relationships wrote something along the lines of — “Instead of asking the question, “Why didn’t she just leave?” maybe we should be asking, “Why did he hurt her?” How true! Why is it the most common question often regarding abuse puts the burden of the issue on the victim? Why is the victim the one questioned about why she was abused, instead of questioning the abuser as to why he chose to hurt the one he vowed to love, cherish and protect?

Why is that?

Perhaps the more important question should be — why do churches so often protect the abuser and shun the victim?

Aren’t we as Christians called to love one another and to take a stand against evil? If so, then why do we love the abuser and treat victims as the evil ones? Seems rather backwards.

I believe one of the reasons this happens is simply ignorance. The fact is, many people have no clue about the dynamics of an abusive relationship and while they may truly have good intentions, often their advice will cause more harm than good. While others simply find it easier to ignore or sidestep the issue and not get involved.

In an abusive marriage, a woman hardly ever feels heard or has her feelings validated, and while yearning to feel love and understood, she is often met with a lack of compassion and caring.

As a body of believers, there are a few things which can be done to help give the victim a voice and the courage to take a stand against the abuse — and become free.

First off, an abuse victim needs to be heard. She needs to feel safe in telling her story and part of feeling safe is having the trust that she will be listened to and accepted for what can be very painful and even embarrassing to share. She doesn’t need anyone diminishing her experience by telling her that every marriage is hard work or perhaps she is doing something to provoke the abuser. She often just needs someone to put a hand on her shoulder and ask to hear her story.

Second, the victim needs love and understanding, instead of being judged and condemned. She does not need to be admonished for not trying hard enough, not being respectful enough or not submitting more as if she is the cause of the abuse. She simply needs people who will stand with her in love and offer her help in whatever capacity she needs, even if they may not completely understand her situation. Lend her an ear when she needs to talk and offer her a shoulder to cry on.

And third, a victim needs to know that God loves her and no choice she makes will ever take away His love or salvation from her. She does not need pieces of scripture heaved onto her already heavily-burdened shoulders to make her feel guilty or doubtful about her situation. Most victims who are Christians already believe God will be disappointed with them if they leave their marriage or that they don’t have enough faith because their marriage is in shambles. So instead of perpetuating those lies, remind her that God loves her no matter what path she chooses and that her worth is in the Lord, not in man.

“Being alone may scare you, but abuse will scar you.”

 

Why didn’t I just leave an abusive marriage? The answer is so very complex — there were so many reasons — and even to this day I’m not sure I have a black and white answer, but fear was certainly a huge factor for me. Fear of the unknown, fear of what others would think — fear of God turning his back on me. But I realize now that my fear was so misplaced and came from a place of ignorance more than anything. While people from my former church admonished me with things like — “God hates divorce”; “We are all sinners”; “You need to forgive and forget”; and “Hurting people hurt others” — I was left feeling hopeless and fearful of losing God’s love. And I let that fear develop until I was keeping myself trapped in an unhealthy and unsafe marriage, becoming a shell of a person — being destroyed from the inside out. I actually find it humorous now how hard I tried to be the good little Christian wife to a man who acted nothing like a godly man who is to love his wife and lay down his life for her — yet it was me who was treated like I didn’t care about my marriage or keeping it together.

The wounds which no one could see, had been festering for decades and destroying my very soul and inner being, until one day, I said no more — Enough! Over the years I’ve had people tell me how strong I am, but honestly, the only time I remember being strong was the day I chose to turn my ears from all those insane words hurled at me and instead turn my focus to God’s Word. And what I found in Him was so opposite of what many were trying to have me believe. I repeatedly discovered that no matter my choices His Love never ends and He would never walk away from me — and He sees me as worthy, even when others made me feel less than. How sad when you think about that — how truly sad that Christians would make a fellow believer feel unworthy and less than for trying to save our own life and that of her children from a destructive situation.

Why didn’t I just leave an abusive marriage? Why did I stay so long? So many reasons but perhaps it’s really clearer than I realize. The judgement and condemnation from a place where I should have received love and support, left me feeling doubtful and even questioning my faith, which in turn made me feel like I needed to stay in an abusive marriage to prove how strong my faith was.

About a year before my ex walked out, a former neighbor who is a pastor said to me with a smile on his face, that one day I would receive a huge crown filled with jewels for staying and enduring, after he had witnessed an incident where my then-husband was being verbally abusive. Another pastor of a former church shared with me many years ago about my then-husband getting nose-to-nose with him at a men’s breakfast and through a clenched jaw angrily telling the pastor he did not have an anger problem, and this same pastor, the year my ex walked out on me, called me to his office to make sure I understood how expensive a divorce would be while trying to convince me how my ex seemed to be changing. As I write of these memories, I can only shake my head in disbelief at what these two men, leaders of churches, and others believed and tried to make me believe.

“Why doesn’t a victim of abuse just leave?” Perhaps because she is truly trying to do the right thing, and hoping and praying that one day her continuing to endure the abuse will cause some miraculous change in her abuser. Perhaps she has come to believe that staying and suffering is somehow pleasing to God because it shows her faith is strong. And perhaps — just perhaps — she stays far too long because those in the very place which should have come alongside of her and helped her out of an abusive situation, chose instead to wrongfully turn the other way after offering bits of judgement and pieces of condemnation.

Why didn’t I just leave?

Why did he abuse?”

 

Blessings!

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Silence

After my ex walked out in 2009, my relationship with my oldest son started to slowly deteriorate. The wall my son began building between the two of us would stand tall for the next 9 years serving to block me from his life. Brick by brick, stone by stone, that wall rose higher. The stones not thrown at me were placed one on top of the other in that wall, becoming more and more impenetrable as time wore on. Slammed doors, fist through walls, hateful stares, harsh words and silence — and up went the wall higher and higher.

While he kept his silence I kept mine too. But my silence was different.

His silence was full of anger, confusion, doubt — and I believe love, which he truly wanted to show at times but decided it safer to stay behind his wall so he could not be hurt anymore.

My silence served to protect — and came out of a place of love only a mother can know. My silence was out of protection against anymore confusion and doubt, in hopes of keeping him from more hurt and pain. My silence was not done with contempt, it was only done out of love.

The silence from both of us grew over the years and I’ve wanted nothing more than to break it wide open, but have been lovingly encouraged to wait. To wait for my son to be the one to break that silence and have him ask to hear my words, my story — wait for him to tear down the wall.

And it’s been a long wait — so painfully long — until this past weekend.

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My son’s wall has finally come down after all these years, at least part way, and he is starting to allow me into his life again — little by little, piece by piece. He has said he feels burned by his family and I can feel the struggle he has to trust and allow me — or anyone — into his corner of the world. And I find myself still tiptoeing warily around those fallen stones for fear of stumbling and failing yet again. My words are spoken with trepidation — said gingerly and softly as if to test the waters on how far in I can wade before being pulled under by anger or swallowed up by silence.

Last weekend I drove four hours to see my son in hopes of reconnecting and closing the distance which had come to feel like a chasm between us — and break the silence which I could no longer bear. How I prayed to be able to speak those unspoken words within the silence which hold the key to unlocking the past and hopefully healing wounds.

I wish I could say the silence was broken, but there is still much to be said. There is a story to be told which I have kept silent for almost a decade — a story worth sharing now that the stones have been laid down and the wall lay in ruins.

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Our time spent together last weekend was more of just being — coming together after all these years. Just my son and I. He talked of his life and he shared parts of himself I did not know — hurts, struggles, uncertainties about life. Perhaps he was opening the door a little for me to share also, but breaking that silence I have kept all these years is not so easy. I too hold back out of fear of pushing him away. So, for now, one day at a time. I will continue to patiently pray and wait for the door to swing open wider while continuing to love him as only a mother can and grasp tightly to the love he is able to give right now. This is all I can do as I wait in the silence.

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Coming home…

As I breathlessly walked through God’s beautiful creation this morning, inhaling the sweet smells of spring and feeling the warmth of the sun on my face, I was reminded of many years ago when God set me free — a time where I felt alive for the first time in so many years.

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During those days, I took early morning walks, savoring the beauty around me — perhaps, even seeing it for the first time. My eyes were opened to all I had to be grateful for as Grace filled my heart.

I remembered how awakened my senses became in those days so long ago. Springtime filled my nostrils with intoxicating smells, sounds of birds singing to each other was music to my ears, and the trees and flowers brought beauty to my eyes. And today was a similar day — today took me back to those days of yesteryear when life begin to come alive once again in my little corner of the world as I inhaled God’s presence.

God had removed evil from my home — and began to make something beautiful from the ashes of my life — but it would still be years before new life would be begin to emerge.

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Over nine years ago, my life changed, and it was not in a way I had envisioned 20 years earlier while walking down a church aisle, full of youth and naivety, towards a man who would come to feel more like an enemy than a husband.

When my then-husband walked out, my identity as I had known it for years suddenly shifted, and the hardest part, was losing my oldest son to the lies and manipulation of his father. Those days brought me to my knees, which is truly the only stable place when you think about it, and prayer was my constant companion — on my lips at the beginning of each day before my feet hit the floor running, peppered throughout the day to keep me breathing, and said as a sweet release at night before my eyes closed. Those prayers were my lifeline — they kept me afloat and also, most importantly, kept me connected to the only constant in my life — the Lord.

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One of my prayers was for the relationship with my oldest son to be restored — for us to become mother and son again, speaking truthfully, freely, and trustingly.

Just like the prodigal son, some of us may have had a child leave us whether due to discord in the home, our choice of leaving an abusive spouse, the hurtfulness of divorce, or just their own wanderlust. It is so hard to see a child walk away, to feel as if you have lost them, and the pain of not knowing when or if they will return creates a heaviness in your heart that you carry with you each day. I’m not talking about the normal letting go we do with our children when it’s time for them to fly, but them tearing away from us — taking their love from our hearts.

 

And this past weekend, God answered those prayers — my prayers — I had cried out for the past nine years when suddenly, the wall between my son and I crashed down! My son made the choice to trust me again and share his struggles, his anger, his loss — and his love. My son has come home — he has chosen to return his heart to mine.

I praise the Lord for working in my son’s heart and bringing him back to me,  but he still needs prayers to find his way back to Jesus during a still-dark time in his life.

“May the Lord lead your hearts into God’s love and Christ’s patience.”

~2 Thessalonians 3:5

For the first time in nine years, my son admits to his father’s destructiveness in our family. He feels crushed from the destruction his father left behind as he, like the coward he is, left the country and his sons. He feels betrayed and burned by how his father treated him, his brother and me. He says he has become his father, a man he despises and blames, and because of that has lost friends. And he feels helpless to a disease which has afflicted him for more than twelve years of his life.

And because of all of that, my son’s faith has been crushed and he does not know if he believes in God anymore.  Yet, despite the hopelessness my son feels in his life these days — he has come back — he has come home. And while he wrestles with confusion, doubt and anger, one thing is for certain — God has never left him nor will He forsake my son — He will, like me, wait patiently for my son to find his way back.

24 For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found. So they began to celebrate.” ~Luke 15:24

This mother’s heart is overjoyed, yet admittedly, still a little wary. My son is home! But I will continue to pray for direction in how to help my son through his battle with Lyme disease. And one day, these prayers too will answered in God’s timing.

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Blessings!

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A little Grace for Mother’s Day

My heart feels heavy as it does every time this year. Mother’s Day — a day in which regrets suddenly surface and guilt can weigh heavy on a mother’s heart and soul — and expectations bring a little ache to the heart.

I love my sons and am so proud they are mine. I did my best raising them or at least the best I knew how or could manage given the circumstances. And still, I made mistakes and failed them in many ways. I have regrets — but what parent doesn’t?

Regrets of not doing more or being better in some way. But with God’s Grace I managed on through in those tough years and continue to lean on that Grace these days too.

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People will say to me, as if to soften the ache, how much my boys love me. I believe that, I truly do.

And I hope and pray that they know how much I love them too. Perhaps that’s what causes my heart to ache every so slightly — did I do enough for my boys so that they know just how much I love them?

Thank goodness for God’s grace in my life — and I pray that my boys can grant me just a little bit of grace too for all my mess-ups and not-doing-enough. 

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My sons and me, what a happy day that was!

Happy Mother’s Day to all the beautiful women out there, who have loved unconditionally, without asking for anything in return. And who have and still are walking through trials and storms, and may be wondering if they are good enough as a mother. May God grant His Grace to you, and may we all learn to offer ourselves a little grace too.

Blessings!

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What is my blog all about?

My blog is all about me. And that isn’t meant to sound egotistical, it’s just the truth. My blog is not a job nor are the words written here necessarily for anyone else. They are my words formed from my thoughts and prayers, yet I realize these words do end up being written for someone who needs to read them because that’s just how God works.

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Last night, I ran across a podcast featuring a woman who blogs about abuse and who has taken off with her ministry making it a full time job. And that’s wonderful, it is certainly a great ministry and is helping countless women become free from abuse. But honestly, something she said, or perhaps the way it was said, struck a wrong chord in me and I felt something rise up — Defensiveness? Anger? Jealously, perhaps?

What she said was not directed at me, per se, because she doesn’t even know me — well, I believe she knows of me and my blog because I have often shared some of her Facebook posts on my Facebook wall and she has on occasion liked those posts. Her comment though, was basically directed at bloggers who have become stagnant or repetitive in their writing or lack thereof. She basically said, it is out of those lifeless blogs which led her to build her business and become something different — keeping her content fresh, new and always growing. Fair enough.

But her words took aim straight at my heart. And I suddenly found myself criticizing myself for becoming one of those stagnant, never changing bloggers, and admittedly, even shamefully — I became jealous. For the rest of the evening, I found myself dwelling on what she had said and almost getting angry at the fact that she, who has not been in the blogging world as long as I have, is suddenly very well known and growing a huge community.

Sigh…

Yet, what she has done and continues to work towards, came because she stepped out in faith, and just did it. She followed her passion of helping other women in abusive relationships, which has been grown out of her past experience of living in an abusive marriage. God is using her through all she walked through so she can be a source of encouragement and hope to other women in similar circumstances. And it’s awesome how quickly her ministry has taken off and continues to grow, it really is.

 

Me? Well, I began my first blog in 2009 after my abusive ex walked out and it served as a journal of sorts for me, and me alone. My words on that blog were written through a very painful time in my life and came from the very depths of my soul. They were a way for me to get the hurt out and find healing, and along the way, others found my blog and read those words. And once in a great while, a woman would contact me and share her story of abuse, reaching out to me like grasping a lifeline during a terrible storm. To this day, I have stayed in contact with several women from all those years ago, and while I never started writing online as a ministry, I believe that God has used my words, no matter how few and repetitive, to reach those in need of them.

And this blog begins where my old one left off in 2013, after the storm had passed and I began a new beautiful life the Lord blessed me with. The words written here often share those things I learned from my past, the healing I still work on achieving, and the goodness of the Lord in my life. Just like my first blog, this one was never truly meant to serve as a ministry or become a business. My words reach some, not many, certainly not as many as the woman I listened to yesterday, but what I write, even though sporadically these days, is still important to me and not stagnant or repetitive at all.

And I guess that’s why comparison is so dangerous — because it can keep us from doing what we do for fear it isn’t enough and someone else is far better.

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I may never have 600 shares on Facebook, I may be lucky to have one or two every once in a blue moon, and maybe that is because I don’t have anything worth saying or it’s all just too repetitive and stale. But my writing comes from my heart and is about my journey, and not letting all that I walked through be forgotten.

This blog is not a ministry or a business, nor do I intend it to be. Although, I suppose, our testimony of things we’ve lived through does become a ministry when it helps others have hope and encouragement walking a similar path. If even one woman receives a little glimmer of hope from my few and far between words, then my blog has served a purpose far greater than I thought would happen nine years ago as I hit the publish button for my first post.

Blessings!

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