Sunday, January 17, 2016

It's been a long day without you, my friend....

I haven't posted in a long time. Hence Wiz Khalifa's song floating through my head today.

It's been a long day without you, my friend
And I'll tell you all about it when I see you again
We've come a long way from where we began
Oh, I'll tell you all about it when I see you again
When I see you again.....

Indeed, there is a lot I can share. I will summarize 2015 by posting my Christmas letter when I finish it. Then I will try to come back and post blog posts from time to time. I don't have a lot of readers commenting on my blog and I let that make me feel like no one cared to hear from me. Yet I have missed writing and posting and I will try to not let the fact I don't have many readers prevent me from sharing what I'd like to share! Have a great week everyone.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Loss of Dreams and the Passing of Time

Today I couldn't help but reflect on the past. Without meaning to take that trip back in time, I found myself there. It's been 4 years since I gave up on the dream of saving my marriage and fled to the domestic violence shelter. Even then I hadn't completely given up. I believed there was a chance my actions would stir up sorrow and repentance and change. While a lot has changed, a lot has stayed the same. The things I wish to change (the struggle) hasn't relented a bit. If I could, what would I tell that girl that ran to a safe place, hoping that one day she could return to a safe marriage? I am truly at a loss for what I would say. I wouldn't want to let her know of all the heartbreak and turmoil to come. That her faith in God wouldn't help her...and that she would barely have a shred of it left after dealing with losing her marriage, losing many of her friends, losing her church, losing her ability to always protect and provide for the children.

I would feel an obligation to prepare her, but how can you do such a thing? How can you tell her the people who should protect her would turn away? How can you tell her that her prayers and confidence in God would come crashing down around her. At times she'd feel buried under an avalanche of sadness and pressures. Other times she'd feel like she's holding on the side of a cliff watching her grip loosen, feeling gravity pulling her down.

This is what violence does to people. This is what happens when the justice system doesn't provide justice. This is what happens when friends can't be found. People struggle alone. Some people don't make it through the journey. There are many women who have left unsafe environments. A few are doing good. Many still struggle. Some of the ladies I met in the shelter are dead. Some of them are in jail as their efforts to cope led them down dark paths. Many, like me, live well below the poverty level and never know if the money for bills will be there in time. Is that truly freedom? There are many who haven't left. I suspect I would be one of those if I had known how incredibly difficult every day would be. If I had known how wrong things would turn out...I would have given up before even starting. This is why the ladies still trapped by abuse need us to speak up and set things right.

October - Domestic Violence Awareness Month - is over....but the violence hasn't stopped. Somebody right now is being beaten by their spouse for no good reason. I remember the days when it wasn't safe to feel, wasn't safe to cry. I cry for the ladies still trapped. I cry for the likelihood that things won't turn out for them the way they should. Everyone needs to wake up to what is really going on in many homes. A lot of people were talking when the Ray Rice video came out. The discussion was a good thing. Yet it shouldn't stop as people begin to forget and move on to the next media scandal. Women are special and should be treasured. Women have value and don't deserve to be emotionally, physically,  verbally, financially, spiritually and sexually abused. Children shouldn't have to witness abuse, and certainly shouldn't be subjected to it either.

Somedays I wonder, what is God thinking. Does He cry for us? Has He cried for me? Is he angry at all the organizations, people and churches who fail to provide us safety, support and love? What is He doing? How can this be ok? How many women have turned away from God, unable to reconcile the silence with their view of who God is?

If you know someone who is or has been abused, reach out to them. They need to see kindness. They need the love, companionship and hope that you can give. You have a part in saving them from despair. They have had enough harshness to last a lifetime. Show them understanding and gentleness, even if they mess up. They already know their faults, having had their faces rubbed in them day after day. They have many demons clinging to them. Your interaction can help separate them from the ones that haunt their steps.

Does it get easier? I'm not sure yet. I would like to hope so, but I rarely let myself go there. I stay in the day to day - doing the next thing in front of me, trying not to look in the past and trying not to look into the unknown, scary future. Back in the days when I had unwavering faith in God I was confident the end would be ok. It sure sounds like a dream. Some days I can get there again. Other days I'm sure it will end in a nightmare, like many other things have in my life.

4 years....they've gone by fast and they've gone by slow. My children are growing and time with them is slipping away. Progression towards a better life seems stuck going at a snail's pace - if I'm even moving at all! I left because I believed there was something better out there...I believed that I deserved something better. I don't think I've found it yet. Sometimes I don't try. Some days I look around, scanning the horizon to look for it. Because I guess time does bring the capability to dream again. As time separates me farther from the past it is taking me to something. How I would like for it to go somewhere good!

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Testing - in school, in life and what God has to do with it

Back in March I had a conversation with my oldest daughter where I felt I was encouraging her to see daily life from a biblical mindset. I began this blog post yet didn't take the time to finish it. When I came back today to review where I had left off on my neglected blog, I discovered it was a lesson I needed today.

I've had a very difficult life. Very few seasons of good times with the majority of my life being one trial (or multiple severe trials) stretching out before me as far as I can see!

On this particular day, I was driving my three kids home after picking them up from school. My daughter was complaining about school and taking tests. She doesn't like preparing for them - the act of studying and having to spend time studying. She doesn't like taking them - the pressure of trying to recall the answers to questions. She doesn't like getting the results - especially when she wanted to do better on tests. She expressed a desire to never have tests. I sympathized with her, letting her she is not alone in this struggle. I told her tests in school are an important way for teachers to evaluate her understanding of the subjects she's taking and it can prepare her for a future career. We discussed the fact that unfortunately, the process of learning never stops and there are many types of tests.

I told her that in life God uses tests to show us where we are (what we've learned) and what areas we need to work on (what we need to study more). Personally, relationally, professionally, spiritually, physically, and on and on and on. We continue to develop and learn in all these areas which means we will always have tests in some way or the other. I encouraged her to look at tests as an opportunity for learning and growth.  I encouraged her that setting good habits in studying, along with good attitudes about learning, testing and trials will help her in the future as her responsibilities grow and others depend on her. Our conversation was fairly quick and she both understood and acknowledged she agreed with me. We came away from the conversation remembering that learning is actually a good thing. Testing can be difficult and stressful. Yet it teaches us about ourselves, others, the world and God. My other two children were quiet during this conversation. I don't know if they listened or where thinking about other things. Often in the car there is a bunch of conversations going at once so having the time to address this aspect of her life was unusual!

As I started reviewing this post this morning I recalled my frustration at the trials of life...I recalled the times I've wanted to change my story and give myself a happy ending (starting today!). My life is exhausting and emotionally charged. Past or present trauma seems to lurk around every corner. I often wish, pray and BEG for a break. Just give me a month of peace and prosperity and I'll be good to go for whatever you want the next 39 years. Things remain difficult. I struggle through many days and get to the end with the knowledge the next day will be another struggle. Yet what I have craved - a time of rest and prosperity - should be more concerning.

Matthew 5: 3 - 13
Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.
Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.
Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.
Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.
Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness' sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake.
Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.
Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted? it is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men.

Maybe we should be concerned in prolonged seasons of prosperity. These verses show God sees the struggles, tears and down-trodden people. He sees the desires of our hearts. He not only sees, He understands the struggles. AND each one of them has a result and a purpose. People who are blessed with seasons of rest may have turned away from God without realizing it. If life is easy people can get complacent. People that are meek, mournful, poor in spirit truly know their need and desperation. They deeply feel losses, pain and even joys when they do come. Often my mindset is just to survive the difficulties...And try not to complain, which I often fail at. I often don't feel God with me and sometimes I get very angry with Him. In time he breaks through to me and I see glimpses of Him. It can be very unsettling in those times of doubt. Yet they humble me and teach me. I don't always want to learn the lessons before me. But each day I wake up and and face them. So finishing this post today has been encouraging to me. I hope it has helped you in some way. Feel free to share any comments!

Originally started March 6th, 2014

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Blogging Hiatus

As you probably noticed, I've taken a break from blogging. There are many reasons for it, which I may go into at some point in the future. There were some posts I'd like to have written, but felt the timing wasn't right. I plan to return to blogging soon, and hope I will write posts that are meaningful to my readers!

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Finding Time (or Not as the case is!)

I have 5 unfinished blog posts that were pressing on me when I started writing them. Other things squeezed out the time I would have devoted to them and I'm not sure if I will return to some of them, despite the importance of the topic! I find that life seems to move along with many responsibilities, many distractions and many goals that are more pressing then sitting down to write. This is sad, as it's always been a passion of mine.

In order to make time for it I am considering trying to schedule it into my day, which means something else will have to go! Hopefully once I'm back in the habit of writing regularly I will not need to schedule time for it, as I find that sitting to write at a specific time instead of when things are tumbling in my head usually means that the passion doesn't come through as well. Or the quality of my thoughts feel forced instead of natural trajectory of thoughts that was spurred on by an event.

If I had the time to write I would maybe blog about the loneliness and lack of connection I have with my family - who chose to not tell me for a whole month (!) that my sister had a massive heart attack, coded 5 times and is walking around with a defibrillator vest. Not only that they didn't tell me, but that they told my brother to NOT post about it on Facebook so I won't find out. Talk about feeling like an unvalued part of the family!

I haven't seen my family in around 6 years. I'd have to think back to exactly how long it's been because I've been through so much. They don't visit me, rarely contact me and yet I get lectured at how much time goes by since I'd last contacted them. Yet I get clear messages that I'm not an important factor in their life. I'm an afterthought. I wonder if that's the punishment I get for moving far away! I would visit if I could afford it, but it would remind me about how I'm not really a part of the family. I always feel like a guest....and that I don't belong.

My mom recently said she's going to stop sending me money each month. What she gave me was the part that made the difference in making all my bills. Now I'm going to be stuck not being able to cover all my expenses. She recently told me about an elective surgery she had and how happy she is at the results. Knowing these types of surgeries are not medically necessary AND expensive made me feel that my children and I are low on her priority list. From now on, things are going to be more difficult then they have been! So it will be even longer before I'm able to go home.

Yep, that's probably what I would write about. Trying to define who I am, and it seems being a part of a family doesn't appear to be it. But I've taken too much time already when I'm trying to finish 2 weeks of schoolwork in 2 days. I must sign off and get back to work.

Soon I will come here more often and get back to sharing my heart with people who want to listen. I wonder if I'm alone in feeling unconnected, pressed for time and busy with the normal things of life. I suspect many people feel similar sadness when thinking about their family. And I'm confident most of us feel we bounce around from one thing to the next while some of our dreams and desires are left undone. I hope to change that and make more time for more of what I enjoy!

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Overcoming Pain

The past 6 weeks have been a challenging time for me. If you know me you will think this isn't anything new. And in some ways it's not. Yet the recent challenges have been in different ways then usual. I was hiking about 5 weeks ago and sprained my ankle really bad. My ankle was swollen to three times the normal size. In the beginning I was constantly in pain. It was hard to move around for a week. I followed typical instructions for a sprain - pretty hard since I work at a gym and am a very active person. I missed my workouts, and wasn't able to teach classes for a couple weeks. I slowly adding back in workouts, starting with strength training and then attempting to run. It still hurt some, but the doctor said it was ok to add back in activities. I am mostly back to normal, able to do the activities I love and be on my feet a lot. Yet sometimes by the end of the day everything adds up. Today is one of those days - I was moving furniture around, had done workouts 2 days in a row and was on my feet a lot.

As soon as I got in the car after work tonight I couldn't keep the tears from streaming down my face any longer. When I get home at night I continue icing my ankle and rest it. Yet tonight I must finish a school assignment and it's hard to focus when my foot is throbbing so bad. Coupled with the fact that last week I had multiple viral infections and a very bad cough. I just finished my antibiotics, at night I start coughing hard - at times so hard that I can barely breathe. By morning it's gone, but it's more challenging to rest.

Why do I say all this? I've had to think a lot about my desires and needs. I've had to face pain when it comes...and face the fact that while I feel great at a given moment, that participating in a workout might cause pain later. I'd really like to avoid pain. I'm sure I'm not alone in that fact. Yet I know that pain is caused by many things. It can be a signal that good things are happening, or a signal that something needs to stop. I have learned that I'm willing to endure pain for things I love. Yet there are some activities that are pleasing to God that I don't like to do, want to do and sometimes try to avoid, because it's likely it will cause me some type of pain. I have seen that I'd rather do a workout and feel great, knowing the pain will come later then to skip the workout and not have any pain. God often wants us to lay aside our plans and (sometimes) selfish desires to do something for him. One thing I've noticed about being single is that I've become more self-centered. I control my life and I'm often able to do what I want when I want it. I believe God is calling me to expand my activities to include others, to give to others and to serve others. A part of me cringes at this. I have an agenda of trying to make my life as a single parent be as easy and painless as possible. Yet I also feel an isolation and laziness that can be overcome by reaching out to others.

I will spend more time contemplating what I feel he's leading me too. For now I need to try and focus on pushing through the pain and finishing my paper for class!

Does anyone else have these struggles or thoughts to share?

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Poor Neglected Blog

I have been terribly remiss in blogging. My next few posts will likely be something like passing time, or the books I've been reading (I haven't posted the recent ones I've read yet!) or tv shows I've seen. Still haven't finished some of my posts on abuse so have those on my list too.

But since I want to post things relevant to my audience, leave me a comment as to something you want me to write about and I'll add it to my list. Hopefully it will prompt me to get back here soon!

Sunday, December 15, 2013

The Problem With Change

I don't like change. I'm confident I'm not alone in saying such a thing. It disrupts something that is often precious, though sometimes change threatens something we don't want but we have been accustomed to. Change is scary because it calls a person to something new and different. There is no guarantee that the change is better. That is one reason why abused women hesitate to leave their spouses. It is why people would rather not seek treatment for serious medical issues then deal with a nagging cough, or persistent pain. Yet when we say we don't like change we often mean there are things we don't want to change and aren't happy if they do change. However, give us a situation we don't like and we'll be wracking our brains trying to figure out how to create change! 

So we end up with 2 sides of a coin, both leading to discouragement. In one situation we don't want anything to change and it does. In the other we have a situation where we do want something to change and it remains the same. It is no secret to my friends that discouragement haunts me. I'm an extrovert that has changed into a introvert due to pressures and pain of life. Good things turn sour and I find it harder to open up and trust. I long for release from the stress and discouragement that plagues me and it rarely comes. I have brief moments when the sun shines in the dark and all seems right with the world. Yet it quickly fades and I find myself hiding so that more bad things don't happen to me. 

I have often thought there is something wrong with me…that I am disappointing God by not handling the trials in my life with a more positive outlook and stronger faith. I would like to trust and believe he truly loves me and knows what is best, but I often struggle due to not understanding why pain and hardship have to remain as close as my shadow! I do eventually come to places when I'm able to look back and see the good things that have resulted from difficulty. Occasionally it helps in a dark place. Sometimes it doesn't. I have come to a place where I can find some comfort that a weak faith is still faith. And sometimes I think that it is more precious to God. In my times of doubt when I run to him and even question him - instead of forgetting him, instead of not interacting with him in my pain - it is then that I acknowledge there are things I need to get through my struggles that has to come from somewhere else. And even in those times it seems like I'm not receiving what I need, there is something that helps. That is what I remind myself in those times I can't see the good.

When we want change we can cling to hope for it when there isn't any to be found. This can prevent us from moving on to a safer place and can cause more pain. When we don't want change but it happens we can miss the blessings (even small ones) that are occurring when we only look at the loss. It's inevitable that change will happen, sometimes when we don't want it. It's also inevitable we will seek change and instead stay stuck in the same situation. I'm currently going through situations that have me on an emotional roller coaster. There is loss, resulting in sadness leading to fear. There are blessings that bring some relief - and yet I'm tempted to fear that the good things won't last. Why do the things I long to change stay difficult with no relief in sight and the things I wish to stay the same crumble like sandcastles pounding by waves? 

My hope is that I'll be able to use my suffering to help others when they go through tough times. I don't know what's coming in the future but I keep trying to look for the good to help get through the rough times. I try to believe God is there doing something good in the midst of it all. Is there anything you've learned that helps you in difficult times? Feel free to share, it may help someone who reads your thoughts.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

An Encounter With an Autistic Child

     A couple months ago I walked to a nearby park with my kids. As we approached there was a girl (probably close to my sons age) swinging while her mom watched. My children all ran up to the swings. There weren't enough seats so it was clear that they would have to take turns. My youngest daughter ran off to find something else to play with. My son stuck around the swing set to watch. The girl started talking loudly to my kids and repeating the same thing over and over. Her mom convinced her to swing a couple more minutes and then let one of my kids have a turn. After a few minutes the girl was trying to negotiate for more time on the swings. Eventually she was able to get her girl off the swings and my son started swinging. He had patiently waited and watched the girls contest to see who could go higher. Almost as soon as he got on the girl started telling him his time was over and it was her time again. Her mom intervened and told her that she would need to wait a bit longer for another turn. The girl had fixated on the swings and wasn't happy about this. After a few minutes my son chose to get off and let the girl have her swing back. My youngest had come over and wanted a turn so my oldest sat her on her lap and did some swinging with her.

     During these events the mom apologized to me for her daughter and told me she had autism, which I had already suspected before she mentioned it, since I have friends with autistic children. We talked for awhile about the challenges she had raising her to learn boundaries, consideration and respect for others. The mother isn't able to work because her daughter needs full time care and her husband couldn't handle the situation and left them. Many of us are uncomfortable with people who are different then us, though we don't want to admit it. We label them as difficult because they don't act, speak or respond the way we want them too. In situations like this we see the character of the person interacting with the different person. While conversing with this women about her difficulties I watched my children speak kindly to her and try to include the little girl in other play activities. I was thankful the kids had taken to heart the times I'd instructed them in kindness, compassion and respect. (While we were walking home the kids said to me they knew the girl was different and felt sad about her struggles.)

     The mom thanked me for being understanding and expressed relief that my kids weren't being mean or frustrating to her daughter. Many people have judged and criticized her and her little girl. It is hard enough teaching my three children the lessons I want them to learn; I can't imagine the daily struggle of attempting to teaching a child with impaired cognitive function the same lessons! I have watched friends agonize over situations where they are unsure if they should let the battle go or push a little harder, hoping for even a small amount of growth in an area or situation. It's a delicate balance between responding to your child where he's at and also trying to lead them out of their comfort zone. Over time progress can be made, but sometimes pushing a little bit can lead to meltdowns and the parents second guessing themselves. Life with an autistic child is exhausting both mentally, physically and spiritually! This woman was honest about her struggles. I was sad at the number of times she apologized for her daughter. I'm sad she feels she constantly has to share her daughters autism in order to explain her odd or inappropriate behavior. I sensed her embarrassment, frustration and sadness at how often it interferes with the normal life she wants for her daughter. I was glad that for a short moment of time, both she and her daughter experienced being treated like normal by those around them. The mother said she couldn't remember the last time children and adults just accepted them and treated them the same way they usually do others. I almost cried when she shared that with me. I wish people were more comfortable reaching out to those who struggle with disabilities. Many people think it will be challenging and uncomfortable - and it often is - but It is often a rewarding experience too!

     If you know someone with autism I would encourage you to ask their parents to explain what it's like for them and then ask them how you can help. Most people with autistic kids don't get a break and so they live with a high level of stress, always waiting for the next crisis. Most parents feel alone. Having someone willing to support and encourage them can re-energize them and lessen the stress. If you have any experiences or tips to share, please feel free to post them in the comments.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Books Read in November

Well, I didn't read as much in November. I spent more time organizing items in my house and cross-stitching a design that will go on my wall. I'm nearing the end of that project so spent a lot of time focusing on it! Here are the books I read.

  • Loving God When You Don't Love The Church - Chris Jackson
  • The Emotionally Destructive Marriage - Leslie Vernick
  • Give Them Grace - Elyse Fitzpatrick and Jessica Thompson
  • Lit! - Tony Reinke
  • Working The Angles: The Shape of Pastoral Integrity - Eugene Peterson

The first book is an excellent book one on learning to heal from church wounds. It starts by accepting and validating that there are many churches out there that harm people. Then it moves to working through the issues and the importance of getting involved in a community again.

The second book is the one I won in the Goodreads drawing. I finished it in 2 days. I wish I'd had this book when my marriage was failing. While it might not have changed the outcome, it would have given me more knowledge to confirm my experiences, more courage to stand up for myself and help me know I'm not alone. I would highly recommend everyone get this book so you know what abusive marriages are like. And if you are in an abusive marriage I would recommend showing it to your church leaders! If I'd had this book I would NOT have accepted advice I knew was wrong just because it came from the church!

The 3rd book is a parenting book on how best to teach your children what true grace is like. Many of us do focus more on good behavior and so we create systems to get the desired results. This book shows that every one of our instructive and corrective conversations is an opportunity to explain to how children how gracious God is to us - an undeserved people. This book has changed the way I have conversations with my children. (And they are already responding better.)

The 4th book is about reading. Why we should read, how to read and what we should read. It has a great section on reading classics and non-Christian books, including movies. He doesn't tell us what is right and wrong, but gives good thoughts on why we should be more inclusive of the material we read. 

The 5th book is about the three areas pastors need to work on to maintain integrity of the gospel and their lives. The first area is prayer. He does a great job of explaining that prayer isn't initiating conversation with God, but continuing the conversation he's started already! The second area is Scripture. Here again he brings up new points that reading of scripture is meant to bring us to listening. Reading isn't the end, but listening and understanding what is being read is important. The third area is spiritual direction and he points out that it actually take two people to accomplish this. The spiritual director needs to know how to appropriately guide the recipient, who of course needs to listen and act. He pointed out that in all these areas pastors often become lax because of their training and the amount of time they have to study. The main goal of his book is to call pastors to rethink their calling and be more focused and intentional in their duties.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Pre- Thanksgiving Post - Dealing with Pain

I'm still working on some posts regarding abuse, but other topics keep pulling at me too. I will alternate going back and forth I guess. Today, I want to take some time to acknowledge my favorite holiday!

Many people who know this might be surprised at this. I have developed into a pessimistic person over the years. Yet I've learned that doesn't exclude the ability to find peace or joy in little things from time to time. I am one of many people who have suffered several prolonged difficulties that wear away my strength, challenge my beliefs and leave me crying in a puddle on the floor at times. Yet part of how I make it from day to day is in little blessings. I am able to smile when I see gorgeous sunsets, have time to relax in my first home, read books, work on hobbies, help someone through a difficult time. I have brief moments of feeling blessed. The moments slip away and the struggles and pain returns. I have at times felt my emotions were a curse that I needed to change. I no longer believe I need to hide my emotions or try to change them. I am instead seeking to acknowledge them and process them better.

Earlier this year I started a 5 year gratitude journal. I bought one for my daughter as well, as she is hitting that hormonal stage, resulting in emotional outbursts and complaining a lot! Some days it is challenging to find something that I feel is a blessing, but if I keep thinking I eventually find something good. The reality is that I'm always worn out from raising kids alone and working hard while barely being able to pay my bills. So most days the pain and exhaustion I feel is a barrier to seeing good things.

That's part of why Thanksgiving is important to me. I love everything about Thanksgiving. I love the food associated with the holiday. My southern roots mean homemade macaroni and cheese, pecan pie and candied sweet potatoes. I always loved this time of year when the trees change beautiful colors. The rainbow of colors remind me that while we are are different we make something beautiful when we work together. The oranges, reds, browns and yellows of fall decor always make me feel warm in a cold and cruel world. I have a cute collection of scarecrows, wreaths and pumpkin theme dishes that make me smile when I walk by. I love the story of the pilgrims perseverance. They came to America to escape persecution and struggled through harsh conditions where many of them died. Yet after the harvest they stopped to celebrate what they had...and they shared it with others.

I am especially blessed this Thanksgiving. I am able to celebrate this holiday with my children. Because the previous two years I couldn't afford food and needed to work as much as possible I wasn't able to spend it with them. Last year I sat in my apartment and ate a frozen dinner and watched TV alone. Now, I have a new home that truly feels like a safe place! If I'd thought in advance I would have invited someone over to share it with us this year. I'll have to plan better next time! Since I won my case for food stamps we will have a great feast this year of all the dishes my children have requested. We will cook together, play games, read books and decorate for Christmas. My struggles will continue and I will have days when I struggle to think of blessings to write in my journal, but Thursday will not be one of them and I'm thankful to have a worry free day with my children!

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Memorable Quotes - On Gifts

"Every gift breaks the barrier between the sacred and the mundane and floods the mundane with the sacred." Miroslav Volf in Free of Charge: Giving and Forgiving in a Culture Stripped of Grace.

I love this quote so much I decided to hold off finishing current drafts of blog posts to write this one. It comes from the first Chapter, titled God the Giver. He calls to our attention to the truth that the real image of God is a giving God. He dispels the incorrect ideas we have about what it means for God to give us gifts and what our response to those gifts should be. Genesis 1: says we are created in HIS image. Despite our sinful tendencies we are called to reflect his image. Since his image is one of giving freely and abundantly to us, this means we must pass on the gifts we have received to others. On pg 50 he writes, "We are not simply the final destinations in the flow of God's gifts. Rather, we find ourselves midstream, so to speak. The gifts flow into us, and they flow on from us…they flow to those in need."

We may be imperfect people but we can reflect God when we set aside our selfish desires to help others through difficult times. Maybe it's a simple gesture of donating money to a organization that helps homeless people. Maybe it's visiting sick people in the hospital, serving meals in a soup kitchen or more time intensive actions of mentoring orphans or opening your home to struggling people. All of these examples reflect his image. Yet a godly reflection isn't limited to only these types of actions as the quote reflects. Any action, even those mundane ones like waking in the middle of the night to care for sick children or cleaning the grungiest bathrooms is a gift. When we have a proper understanding of our calling to live for God every selfless action is a gift. "When a gift is given, life becomes extraordinary because God's own gift giving flows through the giver."

Our Christian identity and purpose results in knowing the mundane and sacred blend together into a beautiful story where we are able to lay aside selfishness for the good of others resulting in glory and honor to God! When we go through times of being discouraged in the mundane and difficult seasons of life we must continue to remember the gifts he has given us and his plan for us to pass those gifts on to others. 

Another quote from the chapter gives a powerful picture of this truth, "If we don't turn from facing God, so to speak, to face our neighbors, the flow of God's gifts will be arrested with is as we serve our neighbors - our family, friends, and acquaintances - that the dam holding the flow of gifts is lifted and the life of God continues its intended flow." What a thought to think that our actions can impede the flow of gifts to others. This is the height of selfishness, to keep God's gifts to ourselves and not share them with others! We needn't fear that the gifts of God are in limited supply. Volf's picture helps us here. When a dam breaks water can't be contained and rushes everywhere. God graciously and lovingly gives wonderful gifts. God longs to use us to spread gifts to others and there is an abundance of gifts to go around. With these truths in mind you can keep your eyes open for opportunities to spread his gifts to others. They might pop up when you least expect it and be carried out in ways you never could have imagined!

Please leave your thoughts or experiences in the comments.

Monday, November 11, 2013

All About Books....

I love to read. I always have. When I was a child I almost always had a book with me. There were times I was in my bedroom after school. Instead of doing my homework I was reading a book. I taught myself to read in Kindergarten and was at a 6th grade reading level by the end of first grade. Books were an escape for me when I was unhappy. Books were also a way to learn and I loved to be exposed to new things. My dream one day is to have a house with at least one room filled with books - I'm talking floor to ceiling bookshelves along all four walls! I probably should have been a librarian! Or a book store owner! I have ebooks books on my iPad and laptop, but there is nothing like holding a real book! Especially a new one!!! :)

This past month I read 10 books.

  • Lundy Bancroft - Why Does He Do That?
  • Lundy Bancroft - When Dad Hurts Mom
  • Paul Hegstrom - Angry Men and the Women Who Love Them
  • Patricia Evans - The Verbally Abusive Relationship
  • Barbara Roberts - Not Under Bondage: Biblical Divorce For Abuse, Adultery and Desertion
  • Dan McCartney - Why Does it Have to Hurt?
  • Paul Tripp - A Shelter in the Time of the Storm
  • Nancy Leigh DeMoss - Choosing Forgiveness
  • Leslie Vernick - The Emotionally Destructive Relationship
  • Brian Crosby - Giving Up Gimmicks: Reclaiming Youth Ministry From An Entertainment Culture

The first 5 books are ones dealing with abuse (one of the later ones is at well). I'd read all of them before - but wanted to re-read them to be able to accurately quote from them in some of the previous posts and hope to quote more in future posts. If you keep up with literature on abuse there is a lot of common knowledge up to a certain point. There isn't as much literature on abuse when it comes to spiritual matters, though recently there has been more attention brought to how abuse devastates a person's faith. I'm confident there will be more resources and help available in the future.

The next 2 are on suffering. I marked many pages that bring up things I want to blog about. It's going to be hard to figure out what post to write on next! 

The next 2 books are about relationships, the first centering on forgiving those who've hurt us and the next another book talking about destructive patterns in relationships (some of which are abusive). Very many good things in these books as well.

The last book is on ministry, specifically around ministry to youth. It has some great thoughts on the current culture of youth groups and how it's lacking in fulfilling a biblical model of teaching children. I really liked this book! 

There were other books I started but didn't get finished before the month those will be added on to my list for next month. I may take a month off of reading in December to write my thoughts on these all these books!

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Why Doesn't The Victim Leave?

I apologize for being unable to post for the past couple weeks. I've been going through some problems with my family and other transitions that have taken up a lot of time. I intend to continue blogging about abuse, but also write on other topics, since I had drafts on social issues I put on hold during October that I want to finish! I hope to get back into the habit and blog 2 or 3 times a week….

Since I've given a good overview of different facets of abuse I will switch and discuss Frequently Asked Questions. If you have a question you want me to answer let me know in the comments and I'll work it into upcoming posts. 

One frequently asked question is "Why don't you / doesn't she just leave him?"

While each situation is unique, most abused partners fall within several categories here. To the person being abused, the abuse feels like many different things. If abuse if publicly witnessed it can bring embarrassment…but much deeper then that it will bring shame and guilt as the victim has been humiliated and feels they should have known it was coming to be able to avoid the public spectacle.

It can feel like a punishment for failing to do something or be someone. The abuser makes it clear the victim can't live up to expectations. These expectations are continually thrown in the victim's face, until they begin to feel normal (even when they aren't.) This is a big factor in why many abused women don't leave. They can't imagine a relationship where they could have freedom, much less it be ok! When your actions are heavily controlled, freedom is scary! Having to think for yourself is difficult…This is even more difficult when the other person has criticized you so much that you don't have confidence in yourself anymore. Abused women second guess every decision they make, because someone else is trying to define reality for them. When they are alone and need to make a decision they will find themselves wondering what the abuser would think….and their decisions are often based on what they think will make him the happiest. It is devastating when even after all the time spent considering an issue the abuser is upset over their decision. Over time she believes that she is the problem in the relationship and she just needs to try harder to make him happier. Once a person reaches this point, they will take responsibility for the abuser's actions. This makes it a lot harder to think about leaving, because it means she would have to admit that it isn't her fault and she can't make it better. Sadly, these issues are reinforced when church leaders tell the women who come to them for protection that they need to go home and try harder and pray harder. Telling them they need to learn to love their husband in the way he needs can cause them to be abused more, as some of the abusive mans "needs" are destructive and unbiblical. 

Eventually some women come back to the point of knowing they should leave….that they need to leave if they want to be safe. Some never do. These reasons may all be a part of it. Children are also a big factor in whether to stay or not. Finances are a huge reason, as most abused women are at a vast economic disadvantage. Some women have become convinced they don't deserve safety or love. Abuse doesn't just affect the emotions and cause physical pain, but it actually changes the beliefs and attitudes of the victim over time. In order to make the decision to leave, the woman must somehow realize and become convinced that she deserves something better. It is hard to get to this point if you've been isolated from others and are in a community that believes the abuser is a great guy. The hardest part of stepping out and telling others what you experience is having them not believe you or doubt that it's as bad as you say. 

The most important thing I can say to those going through abuse is that God didn't design this world for you to be treated like this. The most important thing I can say to those who hear of a friend going through abuse is to compassionately listen to them, believe the seriousness of the situation and help support them practically and emotionally. We need to be involved in other's lives and let their struggles affect us. Most of us would say that we don't know anyone being abused, but if you started asking people you know I'd be shocked if you didn't find someone admit to being a victim. I'm not necessarily suggesting you ask everyone you know if they're being abused. What I am saying is it's more widespread then you realize. If you do find yourself discovering situations of abuse, please do what you can to help. You can be a person who helps to bring healing, or if you turn away you can end up causing more wounds. 

I will continue blogging intermittently about abuse. As always, please comment with thoughts or questions. Thanks!