Victim Is Not A Bad Word

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Up until a few years ago, those of you who knew me, especially in high school and college, it is highly unlikely that you knew my story.  I am one of the many; one of the countless survivors of sexual assault, child abuse and domestic violence.

Working as a DV advocate some may say we are acting like a perpetual victim.  I have found that criticism is part of the job.  So, I wanted to take sometime and share my experience and how society views us.  How we are shamed, judged and in some cases shunned.   I am a victim. No shame there; it’s true. A victim is someone harmed, injured or destroyed as a result of a crime. That fits for me, and to claim otherwise would negate my experience and deny the damage of the sexual abuse I endured for years as a child or my rape at 15 or my many years of domestic abuse.  Victim. While it is not my primary identity, it will always be a part of who I am.

This is nothing new to me, being call a perpetual victim is not original and these kinds of comments just bounce right off me these days.  Unfortunately, we live in a society in which we are often told that we are at fault, that there is something wrong with us, we as women are taught that our bodies are here for the pleasure of others, we are judged by our appearance and shamed into keeping our trauma a secret because no one wants to hear it.  We are afraid that no one will believe us even if we seek justice or help.

It is very common when you are involved in activism, speaking engagements or the fact that you speak openly about overcoming your struggles, you will be more likely than not be accused of having a “victim complex or mentality.”

So should we stop talking about oppression and trauma in order to just “get over” it?  To make society comfortable?

“Victim” – has become a word used to hurt:

It has been my personal experience that sometimes when people want to hurt me, their default mechanism is to call me a “victim.”  This is not an empty word.  Before you call someone a victim please remember that the memories of the trauma we have been through stay inside our psyche always. We want and desire to be 100% strong as adults but we feel hurt sometimes and we CAN regress. Then we try to soothe ourselves somehow so we can be our adult selves and start over again.  Believe me, It is not easy to put your self out their day after day, being vulnerable in order to effect change and help others who are struggling and going through pain.  The best medicine I have found is to be able to come alongside someone and say “I know what you are going through.  In order to do this we MUST tell our stories and be vocal about what has happened in our lives.

On a recent TV commercial, a famous athlete admitted that he had been suffering from a debilitating disease for years but had never told anyone. Then he said, “I’m not saying I am a victim, but I just want you to know there is treatment that works.” He then went on to sell the product he was endorsing. The fact that he needed to make the point that he was not a victim upset me. He had just admitted that he had been a victim of this disease for years. Why did he feel compelled to let us know he was not a victim?

The answer I am afraid, is actually really quite simple. He probably said it because he was afraid that he would be perceived as a victim and it was going to tarnish or ruin his reputation as a famous athlete. He said it because he wanted to make it clear that just because he had this disease it didn’t mean he wasn’t still big and tough and strong. He said it because like so many other Americans, being perceived as a victim is synonymous with being seen as being weak and being a loser.

It made me wonder when did “victim” become a bad word? Merriam-Webster’s definition of victim is a person who has been attacked, injured, robbed, or killed by someone else or someone who has been harmed by an unpleasant event (such as illness or accident). There is nothing either stated or implied in the definition that indicates weakness.

More important, when did being perceived as a victim become a bad thing?

Yes, I am a survivor, but completely ignoring my victim hood minimizes the damage and pain that came about as a result of my perpetrator’s crimes. There is no way to make what they did OK. “Victim” is a reminder that he wasn’t just a good guy who made a mistake. He was a depraved criminal who sexually abused a little girl.  I was that girl. I was his victim.

When the Malaysian flight 370 disappeared a few years ago, we saw the families of the assumed dead wailing and crying. Some were expressing anger. This was a very human and a very appropriate response to the loss of a loved one, especially the loss of a loved one in such a devastating way. But many Americans were critical of such public displays of emotion. It made us feel uncomfortable. In this country we are supposed to see the bright side of things.

I think what is really going on here is that our hero-worshiping, optimistic, “Eye of the Tiger” mentality is robbing us of our very humanity. It starts in childhood when even small children are taught to “suck it up” and be strong instead of allowing themselves to cry or feel their pain. It is especially drummed into the minds of boys.

It shows up in the numbers of children who are bullied because they are perceived as weak.  It shows up in the way we respond to victims of bullies. We tell them “don’t let them see you cry” or “don’t let this get you down” instead of acknowledging to them how frightening, humiliating, and damaging it is to be taunted, pushed, or beaten by those who are bigger or stronger than we are.

We have become a culture of people who despise weakness when we see it. In that way we are all bullies to one degree or another. Think about it. Who are the school yard bullies?  Experience shows us that bullies are usually children who have been abused themselves in either their home or elsewhere. These are kids who are angry because someone has been hurting them. And they feel humiliated and shamed because they have been victimized. So what do they do with their anger? They can’t take it out on their abusers, who are usually adults or older children who are much stronger or who have more power and authority than they do. So they take their anger out on those who are smaller and weaker than themselves. And what do they do with their overwhelming shame at having been overpowered? They punish those who remind them of their own weakness and vulnerability.

It is no wonder that we are raising yet another generation of bullies and abusers. Unless we turn this thing around and make it OK to admit when we have been victimized, admit when we feel bad, and not allow other people to shame us for it, the cycle will continue.

After all, in our society a woman who has been emotionally or physically abused by her husband, she must have asked for it in some way or she is exaggerating. Even if we don’t blame her for being abused, we blame her for staying. After all, if someone abuses you, you need to just walk away, right? If you don’t, you deserve what you get.

Similarly, if someone is being sexually harassed or bullied at work by her boss, she should be strong enough to walk away and find another job, right? If you have any self-respect at all you don’t stay in a situation where you aren’t valued or treated with respect.  Never mind the fact that she lives paycheck to paycheck, supporting her family as a single parent.

As a society, we make all these assumptions about people who are victimized because we want to hold onto the fantasy that we all have choices, that life is always good, that all it takes to get out of a bad situation is courage and determination. We don’t want to admit that there are times when we have no choice—times (think child abuse or that single mother) when we have to take the mistreatment that others are putting on us just to survive.  It is so much easier to believe that all it takes for the poor or homeless is to step out of their circumstances that they find themselves in and “pull themselves up by their bootstraps.” We point to the few who were able to overcome tremendous obstacles and we say, “See, she did it. That means you can too.” We want to say stop your crying, stop feeling sorry for yourself and just move on.”

Again I ask, what price do we pay for this attitude?

How do you imagine that person feels? Like a failure, of course. Like a loser. She thinks, “If she can do it why can’t I?”  Why can’t I overcome my rape or sexual assault?  Why do I still cringe when a strange man comes up behind me? Or every time I close my eye’s I see my rapist face.

We expect instant recovery!  We expect nothing less.  We not only ignore and blame victims but we expect them to recover from their adversity in record time, usually on our time table. In our culture we are supposed to “get over” adversity and “move on,” and many people don’t have much tolerance or patience for those who don’t or perceive that they don’t.  It is funny to me, when someone who has not been touched by trauma tells me I should be farther along in my recovery.

What I want people to understand is this;  It takes time to recover from trauma or adversity, and healing can’t really take place until there is a complete acknowledgment of what actually transpired and how it made the victim feel.

Please know that Abuse and other forms of trauma cause victims to feel helpless and powerless, and these feelings can lead to feeling humiliated. In this country we tend to believe that the way to recover from adversity is for victims to deny these feelings of helplessness and powerlessness and instead focus on becoming powerful and successful.

Victims Need Validation

It is very important for everyone, but especially children, to have their feelings and experiences validated by others. Lack of validation will result in to feelings of guilt that somehow it was their fault and shame in reaction to their negative experiences. Validation is the recognition and acceptance of another person’s internal experience as valid. When someone validates another’s experience, the message they send is: “I understand your feelings. Not only do I hear you, but I understand why you feel the way you do. You’re not bad or wrong or crazy. ”

Just as I was shamed by a friend (who really does not know me at all). Instead of receiving validation, most victims are ignored, rejected, or judged. Instead of being encouraged to express their feelings, most are shamed into silence, we can’t admit that we are afraid to hear them, afraid to face the fact that this kind of trauma really exists.

Worse still, many have their feelings and perceptions attacked, dismissed, or question the reality of a person’s feelings. This is done through denying, ridiculing, ignoring, or judging another person’s feelings. Regardless of the method, the effect is clear: this makes the invalidated person feelings somehow “wrong.” Showing compassion for someone can be a form of validation.

By continuing to blame victims, we all get to avoid facing up to our own acts of inappropriateness, indifference, and cruelty. If we continue to hold to the ideas that it is always the victim’s fault, or if we can convince ourselves that there really are no victims and even when people are victimized they should “just get over it,” we can continue to avoid looking at how we have hurt others and how it has affected them.

We desperately have to get over our hatred of victims. We have to stop pretending that victimization doesn’t exist in our society. We have to admit that when a person is victimized—whether by abuse, by poverty, by racism, or by any other form of trauma or adversity, that person is changed, at least temporarily. We must allow that person to cry and to scream and to feel his or her pain. To tell their story and believe them. That person desperately needs our compassion for his or her pain and suffering. And perhaps more importantly, that person needs validation that yes, she was abused, yes he did lose his house, yes she was raped, yes she is living in poverty. And yes, it hurts, it is painful, it is debilitating to experience these traumas, these assaults, these inequities.  And it’s ok to not be ok.

So together, as a society let’s stop making “victim” a dirty word. Let’s open our minds to the truth of their situation. There are people in this world who are victimized and they have a right to have that victimization recognized and affirmed. They have a right to feel their pain and anger and helplessness. They have a right to the time it takes for them to heal. They have the right to not be pushed to “get over it” or to be grateful it wasn’t worse. They have a right to not be further shamed because they aren’t getting over it or seeing the bright side in our timeline we have made up in our heads.  And perhaps most important, they have a right to our compassion, our care, and our kindness.

So, as for that man who felt the need to tell me “As long as one chooses to be a victim there can be no Victory”  I have never met a victim of abuse, rape, or assault that chose to be a victim now or ever.  We don’t share our stories to give you ammunition in your arsenal to hurt us or anyone else who has faced adversity.  We share our stories to inspire, educate and come along side other victims of trauma.  To usher in healing and hope.

To my fellow survivors, know that you are not alone. You will have days where it feels like it is all too much, but you have to believe that what you have been through is something you can handle and that asking for help will never make you weak. You are no longer a victim, you are now a survivor and that is a powerful thing.  Never again will we be defined by what happened to us or what people may say.

And to those who fail to understand, I am not sorry for the words I have written here, for my story, for living my life to the best of my ability. I will not apologize for calling people out for their inappropriate behavior, for bringing awareness and educating the public on what it is like to be called a victim.  The choices I have made are my own and I stand by them as I heal and become a stronger woman.

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I Am The Women Sitting beside You In Church

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Church leaders say they abhor abuse of any kind. But advocates say the church is not just failing to sufficiently address domestic violence, it is both enabling and concealing it.

I hope and pray that all readers will pray about what they can do to help bring change to domestic violence happening in your church.. Whether you are in church leadership or part of the church. We can all do our part. No one should have to endure what many women have endured.  Psalm 91.4, “He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.” 

I pray that with the light shining on this issue, that there is a great opportunity for the church to better reflect what Jesus Christ calls us to be. May we listen to the Holy Spirit and may we listen and believe the women who seek help. 

I’m a normal friendly person, who loves the Lord with all my heart. If I didn’t tell you, you wouldn’t know I’m a survivor of abuse. Until this year, I probably won’t have told you because I was too embarrassed and ashamed. But I was sitting next to you in church. Watching your happy family with tears in my eye’s. Feeling like I failed. Like my husband was right – that I used his imperfections (i.e.abuse) as an excuse to run away. Don’t I know that God hates divorce? Don’t I believe in forgiveness, grace, second chances? In love that doesn’t keep a record of wrongs? In faithfulness, perseverance, and sacrificial servant love? I do, I really do!  I never threw my vows away, I just wanted to be safe and my husband to repent and change.  I desired reconciliation with all my heart and he knew that.

But, All I knew when I left was I could not do marriage on his terms anymore. I could not live with the fear pervading my body when he walked through our front door. Holding my breath, placating, saying whatever he needed me to, to make the anger go away.  And now I wore the double sided guilt. That somehow the abuse was my fault, and that I should’ve seen, should’ve known, should’ve protected my children. Oh the guilt, of the damage I have let come to them.

The reaction and blame shifting of some Christians after I chose to separate has added insult to injury. I was desperate for help, any help.  I sought refuse at a church in my new area that I loved, until my ex-husband wrote a letter to the pastor that in his words was “vile and hateful” and they asked me to leave.  Me leave??  I thought the letter would have shown them how abusive he was, but instead he said “we cannot get in the middle of this.”  Here I was, alone and now leaving the second church that I loved.

Some Christian leaders responded with compassion and a desire to do better at caring for survivors of domestic violence, some have cried foul and wanted to point the finger elsewhere: “What about that group? It doesn’t happen at my church! They have an agenda! Abuse has no place in the church! The stats weren’t reported improperly! Regular church goers are least likely to abuse!” etc etc etc.

Frankly, they’ve missed the point. Stories of violence in the church, like mine, actually happen. In my opinion, One story is one too many.

Here’s the response I wish I’d heard from all Christians:

These stories are heartbreaking.

What can we as a church do?

Do we believe the women who come forward, even if their violent husbands claim to be Christians and are regular churchgoers or are on staff, or do we disbelieve/dismiss/blame them/tell them to go home and learn to submit?

Just as my husband would lock me in rooms to teach me submission.  “Your problem is you won’t obey me. The Bible says you must obey me and you refuse,” he yelled. “You are a failure as a wife, as a Christian, as a mother.  For years, I believed that God wanted me to submit to my husband, and I did my best, bending to his will, despite the pain I was in.

The church needs to hear the wake up call, and proactively investigate claims and check the attitudes, beliefs, practices and structures of each church to discover if there is any inadvertent complicity or unhelpful misunderstandings that contribute here. One woman or child facing violence in the church is one too many.

Here are some questions for the Church:

Why have there been so few sermons on domestic violence? Why do so many women report that their ministers tell them to stay in violent marriages?

Is the stigma surrounding divorce still too great, and unforgiving? Is this also a problem for the men who are abused by their wives — a minority but nonetheless an important group?

And if the church is meant to be a place of refuge for the vulnerable, why is it that the victims are the ones who leave churches while the perpetrators remain?

“Often people say it is the guilt of going against the church teaching that leads them to stay in relationships well beyond a time they should leave because they are trying to please the church as well as please their partners … they often feel they will have to choose between the church or violence.

We have to see that some evil men are using their wives’ Christian guilt and the teaching about the sanctity of marriage as a weapon to keep harming them. I can’t help feeling that if more women started saying, “This is over” and were backed up by a church that enabled them to escape instead of enabling the abuse to continue, other men in the church, tempted toward the same behavior, might finally wake up and change their ways.

I hope that my story can shed more light on the issue of domestic violence so that effective strategies can be developed to address it. I also hope my story is of some consolation to others who are or have been affected by domestic violence. To those who care about this issue, I propose that it is not enough to address domestic violence as a problem in itself for often it is only the first layer of abuse. The second and subsequent layers of abuse are the unconscionable responses of people who are mandated to help and don’t. There is a phenomenon in which victims of domestic violence are often ignored and/or blamed and the actions of the perpetrators are denied and/or covered up. It is tragic enough that these layers of abuse occur in the wider community but when they occur as pervasively as they do in Christian contexts we need to ask some serious questions of our culture and leadership.

Abuse Breaks The Lord’s Heart

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As I have shared on this blog, I just completed training to be a victims advocate.  I am so thankful the Lord has entrusted me with this ministry.  Today, I spent time with a Christian women who had just escaped a domestic violence situation.  While I was sitting with her and holding her hand at the hospital, I was heartbroken for her and heartbroken for all the women who find themselves in this situation. This is a situation, I am all to familiar with myself. I thought of my heavenly Father and how his heart must break each time one of his precious daughters is hurt.

I am hearing stories of so many Christian husbands and wives who are hurting each other.  I have recently been privy to intimate details of one Christian marriage after another where someone was being desperately hurt by their spouse.  Desperate women with nowhere to turn who are suffocating emotionally and not getting the help that they are begging for.

Emotional abuse is defined as “an attitude of entitlement and profound disrespect that discounts at every turn the inherent right of the other person to dignity, separateness and autonomy.  Out of entitlement and disrespect spring various overt behaviors that use anger, violence and/or contempt to induce fear, guilt and shame.  The other person is controlled, punished or demeaned.”

Harsh words and selfish actions, coming from the person who vowed to love you like no one else, kills a spirit slowly and methodically.  The woman living within this kind of relationship, especially long term, begins to lose track of reality.  What is truth?  Am I actually crazy?  Am I really an idiot?  Maybe if I did this, things would get better?  Maybe if I prayed more, cooked better, spent less, served more, spoke less, I wouldn’t deserve to be treated this way?  Or perhaps, I really do deserve this.  Perhaps, it’s not that bad.  Perhaps, this is what God has called me to.

What does this do to your heart when your spouse is constantly yelling and disregarding your worth?  Making you feel unloved and constantly hurting you? Can you imagine this? Can you picture your spouse doing any of these things to you?

I can tell you from experience living within an abusive relationship is a slippery slope.  I knew things were difficult, but I was blind to how wrong it all had really become.  Especially, since, I am a survivor of long term childhood sexual abuse, my perspective on how I should be treated is was somewhat skewed.  Compounded by the fact that I loved my husband, still do and care very much for his spiritual life.  Being together two decades, is hard to not care about the person.

These thoughts just scratch the surface of a hugely controversial topic.  If you or someone you love is in this kind of situation, please get help.  There may not be a black eye, but a heart is being broken a little more each day.

There is no place among the followers of Jesus for violence or harsh words, for sexual manipulation (withholding),  or for making threats. Blaming tiredness or stress, or never wanted marry her does not cut it. There is NEVER an excuse for this type of behavior. These things are symptoms of a deeper issue in your heart. All such abuse is inexcusable, a betrayal of the standard set for husbands by the Lord Jesus Christ.

If you are abusing the family that God has entrusted to your care, then the issue is not with the Bible, but your refusal to trust and believe what it says.

The model for marriage that the Bible offers is good and beautiful. It depicts man and woman as complementary; it upholds the dignity of both; their equality and their differences. It takes its pattern from the person of Jesus Christ who loved his bride, the church, and gave himself up for her (Eph 5:25).

I shared an open letter to my ex-husband on my last post.  It was not posted to hurt or through bitterness, but to educate to tell my story and more importantly, to hopefully bring him into repentance.  It is however, frustrating, when you try to go thru the proper channels, by notifying the church and counselors, but come up empty.  With the church, I was told, first to pray for my husband.  The second said “well you claim he is abusive, why would you want reconciliation.”  Because his spiritual life is at stake. With the counselor, we were both told to write a letter detailing the abuse, including any unforgiveness or bitterness.  When my husband read my letter his response was “If that is the way you feel about me I am outta here, I won’t bother you again.”  He then filed for divorce.  Even though I was doing what the counselor asked me to.  I was hoping he would see his sin and like Isaiah 6 say before God…Whoa, I am a man of unclean lips.  Sadly, he did not give counseling a chance and was ask to leave it.

One of our major problems was submission, if he felt I was not submissive, he would lock me in a room shouting scriptures.  What he and many fail to realize is Headship is not wielding power over another, but is the exercise of responsibility, in love, for the fulfillment of others. Submission is not the forced subjugation of one person to a cruel authoritarian, like my example, but a choice freely made to honor a person and acknowledge the weight of the responsibility God has placed on their shoulders. (And it is precisely because of that responsibility that the Bible places on husbands that it takes abuse and family violence so seriously.)  If you stood before the Lord and promised to love your spouse and were joined in marriage.  There is NO excuse for this kind of behavior, no matter what circumstances brought you into the marriage, or lack of love.  The Lord desires obedience, the covenant you made to THIS spouse, is what the Lord cares about.

Revealing abuse, in whatever context it is taking place, is necessary. 

Warning: If you are an abuser then there is no road to salvation that does not involve the bright light of truth shining into your heart and onto your behavior. Mercifully, the God who is against us in our arrogance and violence is also full of mercy when we turn toward him in humility and begin the long, hard road of repentance.  Repentance means the action of repenting; sincere regret or remorse. contrition, penitence, the abuser needs to make himself right with God and the person he harmed.  If he does not make things right with the person he harmed there is NO TRUE REPENTANCE.  If there is no true repentance, he will abuse again.

The bible talks about true love in 1 Corinthians 13 makes it obvious that emotional abuse is wrong. The apostle Paul describes the actions of real love. First, he says love is patient and kind (1 Corinthians 13:4). Emotional abuse is neither patient nor kind but instead is quick to flare up at small offenses. Love “keeps no record of wrongs” (verse 5), but emotional abuse is all about pointing out how another person is wrong in everything she does, so as to protect the ego of the abuser. Love is not rude or selfish or prideful or irritable or resentful—all unfortunate qualities of emotional abuse. Instead, love “always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres” (verse 7). Sadly, it is the loving person—the one who loves unconditionally—who is most often the target of emotional abuse.  She is the one the abuser vilify’s at the end.

According to the Bible’s definition of love, should an emotional abuser be silently tolerated? Does love require that one overlook the abuse and “persevere” through the pain? The answer to both these questions is “no.” There are loving options other than tolerating the status quo. Abuse is a learned behavior, and if we allow it to happen and continue, we are in fact accepting it. We cannot and should not accept verbal or emotional abuse, for at least two reasons: it dishonors the Lord and it often escalates to physical abuse.

Abusing someone emotionally is not the behavior of a person walking in fellowship with the Lord. How does a relationship deteriorate to the point of emotional abuse? Somewhere along the way there was a failure to obey God’s commands regarding your relationship (see Ephesians 5:21). It takes two people to make a relationship, and each side is to have his or her own fellowship with God through Christ and to be actively choosing to honor God and one another. Without that fellowship with God, and without that commitment to honoring each other, there will be a relationship breakdown.

Any relationship with emotional abuse will eventually have to choose one of three paths: one, the abuser admits fault, sees his behavior as harmful, and changes; two, the abused person walks away, at least temporarily; or, three, the abuse is allowed to continue indefinitely, to the harm of both parties.  The latter is what was allowed to happen in my marriage.

My point is this; the abuser will only find healing and forgiveness through genuine repentance and calling on the Lord. Second Corinthians 7:10 says that “godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death.” The difference between godly grief and worldly grief is repentance. A person who truly understands the nature of his sin will be able to feel grief that leads to repentance and salvation and a clear conscience.

I learned through my recent failed marriage that we cannot make choices for someone else. We cannot stop someone’s emotional abuse. That is a choice that the abuser must make. But we can refuse to accept the abuse without arguing or making demands. The most extreme cure for emotional abuse is separation (see 1 Corinthians 7:5). A separation from the abuser can allow time to seek godly counsel from a pastor or biblical counselor so that spiritual balance can be introduced into the relationship and reconciliation can occur.  In my case my husband chose the easy road and chose to divorce me, instead of facing his sin.  He still feels that I blew things out of proportion, his words.  Even though I was hospitalized right after I left with an emotional breakdown from his abuse.

Regardless of the choices that your abuser makes, we can make the choice to obey God and honor Him in our lives. Accepting the abuse is not the way to go.

The human viewpoint is that we can do “something” to change things. The Word of God tells us that only doing things God’s way brings peace that lasts.

The Lord has shown me, through my advocacy and through my experience that I do have something to offer to my precious sisters who are victims of abuse. I can pray. We can pray together. After all, I understand this is an intense spiritual battle. The enemy loves contention and abuse in marriages. I realize, I don’t have all of the answers. But, I can come along side and counsel those who are finding there-selves in this horrible position.

Please join me in praying for those who are abused.  And, please for those who abuse, please pray for my ex-husband for his heart and repentance, not for me, but for his spiritual life.  That he would break this cycle and not hurt another women.

Let’s surround these who are hurting so much with the power of God and of prayer together!

Almighty God,

You alone are the sovereign God of the universe. You are the Creator of the universe. You hold every star, planet, comet, molecule in Your powerful hands. You alone are God – there is no other. You are the Wonderful Counselor. You are the Mighty God Who Saves. You are our Rock. You are our Fortress. You are the only source of truth and love. You possess all wisdom. You possess all understanding. Nothing escapes your notice. If we rise to the heavens, You are there. If we make our bed in the depths of the grave, You are there. Where can we flee from Your presence? You are everywhere. You are all-knowing. You are all-powerful. You will accomplish Your good purposes.

How we praise You that no human, no demon, no power or principality can ever thwart Your plans. No sinner is beyond Your reach. No human evil is too great for the blood of Jesus to overcome. The blood of Christ is able to cleanse all of our sin. We are all in desperate need of Christ. You are more than sufficient for us!

You love marriage Lord. You love families. You hate divorce. You hate all sin. You hate violence. You hate people hurting one another in any way – spiritually, emotionally, mentally, financially, physically, or sexually. You long for every marriage to represent the intimacy between Christ and His church, to bring You great glory. It is the enemy who wants to rob, kill, and destroy each of us, our marriages, and our families. Let us cooperate with You to heal and bless marriages, let us never cooperate with the enemy!

Lord, we lift up some very broken and hurting marriages and families to You today. We lay them at Your feet in heaven before You Father, the Most High God. We cannot fix these precious people for whom Christ died. We cannot heal them. But You absolutely can. They are not beyond Your reach. Wives cannot fix abusive husbands in their own power, wisdom, and strength. We cannot even fix or save ourselves. But You are the God who saves! You are the God who heals! You are able to change people by the power of Your Spirit working in them. You are able to turn wretched sinners into holy saints! You are able to change a person’s nature completely. You are able to destroy sin and death – Jesus already has done so on the cross! You are able to radically change sinners and evil people and broken, hurting people into people who demonstrate the very heart and mind of Christ. In Jesus, there is NEW LIFE! The old has gone, the new has come! In Jesus, You are able to make anyone a NEW CREATION! How we praise and thank You for this amazing miracle!

We lift up those who are being or have been abused by their husbands. We lift up those who are experiencing severe problems in their marriages. The spiritual, emotional, and mental damage that true abuse causes is so very devastating, Lord. And it is so rampant today. How my heart breaks and how I just weep for those who are being (or have been) mistreated – whether as children or as adults or both Father. I know that Your heart is greatly grieved over this oppression and cruelty. This is not Your will for anyone. You want all of us to have godly families that are healthy, vibrant, and flourishing. You desire all of us to walk in obedience to Your ways. You are a holy God. You cannot tolerate any sin. You will not ignore the cries of victims and You will not ignore the sin of abusers. You desire justice.You do not ever condone any sin.

Some of these precious people are hurting so very much, Father. The wounds are grievous. Draw them to Yourself. “The Lord is close to the broken hearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” Psalm 34:18. I pray that each one of these dear souls will find her worth in Christ. I pray that they will each find Your healing mentally, emotionally, physically, sexually, and spiritually. I pray that You might provide the resources they need, the wisdom of God, and the power of Your Spirit. I pray that You might help them to take each thought captive for Christ. Help them to see any lies they are embracing from the enemy of their souls. Set them free from spiritual oppression. Let them see that the chains that have bound them fallen away and that the dungeon door is open. Help them find freedom, joy, peace, power, and healing in Christ! Help them to have power over the wrong thoughts and ungodly ideas that hold them captive through Your truth and Your Spirit. How I pray that You might heal their wounds and bind up their broken hearts and let them stand firm in Christ. Let them know their worth in Christ!  Amen

 

 

 

A Letter To The man I Once Loved

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 My mistake was making you a priority, when I was your second choice.
Divorce isn’t something any woman wants, nor is it desired. As women, we long for intimacy. From a young age we dreamed of our wedding and what our husband would be like. How happy we would be. We desire to be loved, to be treasured, to have our hearts protected, and never harmed.
I remember when you asked me to marry you, the excitement and newness everything felt to me. I loved having someone open doors for me, the feeling of butterflies in my stomach, and having a smile that never seemed to disappear. You made me feel like I was on cloud nine and no one could take me off.

When I first met you, you were such a sweet person, extremely funny and charming. I could not find a single bad quality about you. The love and concern you showed for me made me feel over the moon, I had never felt so secure in my life. When you told me I was the love of your life, I believed you.  When you told me I owned every piece of your heart, I believed you.  When you told me That when I ministered to you after your breakdown and hospitalization, “No one has ever been there for me like you have, I will forever be in your debt” I believed you.  When you told me you thought I was beautiful, I  believed you.  When you told me you would love me forever, I believed you.  When you told me the Lord spoke to you, to marry me, I believed you.  Then we got married!  Dr. Jekyll became Mr. Hyde.  I didn’t believe you anymore.  But I guess the horrible treatment I received after we married made me forget all of the loving things you said.… I think you are just a better friend then you are a husband and step-father.  I just cannot for the life of me figure out why?  I just hope and pray, that you never hurt a women again, like you hurt me.

I remember thinking, this is the man I’m going to spend forever with. The one who will be my best friend forever. But then things started to change, your feelings started to change, you started to change in an angry controlling way. Everything that I expected and wanted, didn’t work out the way I planned and I was left confused as to why and in pain. (Matt 11:28-30)  28 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

On the outside we looked like a loving couple, especially in our Christian circles. You appeared spiritually mature. You prayed eloquent prayers, participated in deep theological discussions, and often referenced Scripture to support your insights.  I did everything I could to establish the appearance of the godly partnership I so desperately desired.  I felt so duped.  Who was this person I am married to?

But behind closed doors, things were far from normal. Unable to predict when the switch would flip on your anger, I walked on eggshells. Without warning, I’d suddenly become the object of your uncontrolled, frightening rage. There was no escaping your anger.

Sometimes, I think what you did to me was unforgivable, But now that I have grown and regained my confidence, I forgive you. You know why? Because not forgiving you was keeping me down after you already tore me apart.

All my life I have let people walk all over me and treat me how they pleased and I never complained.  You made me realize NO ONE should ever treat me the way you treated me.

Although I could not see the pain that was hindering my growth in the Lord, I continued searching for reasons to make our marriage work. I couldn’t seem to let go, I laid in bed crying for hours replaying over and over in her head the memories that we had created, trying to relive the sweet moments that are no longer a reality and blinded by all the bad.  (Ps 71:20)  Though you have made me see troubles,  many and bitter, you will restore my life again; from the depths of the earth you will again bring me up.

I tried so hard to walk around with a smile on my face. Yet, I was screaming on the inside wanting someone to take my hand and tell me that I will be ok. and I will make it through this. (Is 41:3) I just wanted someone to share my brokenness with me without feeling like I will be pushed aside.  Wondering why as a Christian you are not broken like me?  You were my husband, you were suppose to protect me, you were the one that was suppose to cherish me, not destroy me.

 

But, The lord wiped away my tears, and covered me with a blanket of His love, warmth and comfort. He said, “ My daughter, though you may be hurting, joy comes in the morning. There will be a time when you will look back on this situation and thank me for saving you from something that was harming you and causing you so much pain. For I have something far better, something far greater for you, if you just trust Me.” (Jer 29:11) “I never wanted you to be treated like this, you are my beloved daughter.”  As I began to wipe away my tears and continue praying to the Lord, I asked for strength because some days are harder than others. I also prayed for courage because it’s not easy not knowing what’s to come. I asked for healing because what I’ve been put through, I never ever want to go through again.  And I pray no other women will be hurt by you. (Prov 3:5-6)  Trust in the Lord with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct[a] your paths.
I understand that healing doesn’t just happen overnight. It is a process that involves allowing God to pull on the reins of my heart and patch up the wounds that once left me with empty holes and unhealed scars. It was then that I accepted that letting go of you, was better than being dragged around expecting to be picked up by the one that left me broken into pieces. (Ps 147:3)  He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.
It was then that I began spending less time worrying about what could have been and why our marriage did not work.  Why you decided to divorce me when you were the abusive one.  It was then that I started putting all my attention on the Lord, serving Him wholeheartedly. It was then I saw that the light at the end of the tunnel and felt myself start to feel normal again. It was then I realized that the pain that I went through, grew me in ways, I never imagined, and made me stronger. It instilled in me this other side of myself I didn’t even know existed. It was the power of learning to let go. Even if letting go meant losing something I thought I loved.
All of those nights of tears, turned into joy when I was able to move on and keep my heart guarded and protected. I know that I have to make sure every aspect of my life is totally aligned with God. I know my worth, I know what I deserve, and from here on out, will be able to love again.

I pray for you J.D, I really do, that the Lord will do a mighty work in your heart. That the Holy Spirit will reveal to you the damage you did to me and the children.  So, that then and only then can you truly repent and heal.

Use My Ugly Past And Turn It Into Something Beautiful, Lord

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I think we all (hopefully) have a tender side with a sense of empathy and compassion. Our hearts break for others when we see them in unfortunate circumstances, like the Las vegas shooting or the hurricanes.  Seeing a friend lose a child or other family member too soon, and you can’t help but feel compassion and empathy for that person. You send notes, make phone calls, send flowers, send money, you do anything in your power to help.

The question is, what about when it happens to those you don’t know? So many times, our passion is fierce and burns deeply when someone who is close to you struggles even slightly, but we can often find it easy to turn a blind eye or a deaf ear to those in desperation on the other side of the world.

The Lord has a very interesting way of revealing our calling in life. I had no idea that when I started writing my blog that a national coalition on assisting victims of rape/sexual assault and domestic abuse, would reach out to me and ask me to help with their cause.  This would also, be my biggest heartbreak to date. My counseling, support groups and writing was reaching many people and I started receiving a lot of  emails from women hurting, struggling and feeling hopeless. I was shocked at how many women were touched by domestic abuse in particular.

My prayer:

Dear Lord, please break my heart for what break yours.

I started saying this prayer shortly after my divorce. I was looking for His direction in my life.  I was searching for a purpose. It was a year in the wilderness with lots of  questions and confusion and lots of prayer.

I started to ask the Lord what was my calling in life?  What direction do you want me to go?  Should I focus on helping others?  I had one thing going for me; my passion was clear. I wanted to help people find hope through their abuse, sexual assault and rape. Since I am a survivor of all of these, I thought What the Enemy Intends for Evil, God Will Use for Good.  I did not want my life of suffering to be in vain, I wanted to be able to come along side women and be able to cry with them.  I wanted to help usher in their healing through Jesus Christ.  I wanted to be someone to break the stigma and help end the shame of rape/sexual assault and domestic abuse.  To raise awareness in the church and anywhere else I am needed.

I wanted people to see what real healing looks like. I wanted people to realize healing and hope is possible. The question was “how?” I needed direction. Should I go back to school to get my counseling degree. Should I get a job in a treatment facility? Should I write a book? These questions were never-ending.

He is Faithful and the Lord’s purpose for my life continues to be unveiled. Sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly. Each person, whether it’s rape/sexual assault, child abuse or domestic violence is searching for answers, when they reach out to me.  It is a part of my road map directing me in an exciting purpose driven direction.

I didn’t set out to become an advocate. It found me, the Lord used this pain in my life as a victim of childhood sexual abuse, stalker-rape, and domestic abuse/violence.  To help change people lives.  To be His hands and His voice, and be an instrument of His glory.  To do His will in all that I say and do.

Of course, being an advocate has been shaped by the fact that I am a survivor. I am here, not by accident, but because I am a fighter. From a young age, I’ve always had a sense of justice and felt that there was something larger, and greater than me, out there for me to discover and it was Jesus Christ.  My purpose in this world, is coming along side women in crisis as victims of sexual assault and abuse. Through out my life I have always kept going, through all the heartache and pain, because of this very calling.  I felt it deep in my soul. My hope is other victims will become activists and advocates. Because I know how it has changed my life and sometimes, it can even save it.  Every-time, I counsel someone or speak to an audience about my past, I heal a little more each time.  My scars are now a badge of honor not of shame.

So, as you can see this was a powerful prayer for me that completely changed the direction of my life. If you earnestly pray this prayer, be prepared it will change your life maybe through a series of heart breaks. It’s heartbreaking in the most beautiful way. The good news is, that your purpose to help others will become very clear.   The Lord will give you a lot of divine appointments as he trains you up. My heart broke not once, not twice, but hundreds of times over the past few years.

My sincere hope is that my heart will never stop breaking for those that are still suffering. My hope is that my heart opens a little more with each heartbreak and opportunity He gives me, and He will continue to use all of my heartbreaks to guide me. My hope is that compassion fills every crack that each heartbreak leaves. My hope is that your heart will break too and your purpose to help others will become clear.

And thine ears shall hear a word behind thee, saying, This is the way, walk ye in it,when ye turn to the right hand, and when ye turn to the left. Isaiah 30:21

So here is my challenge to you: Allow your heart to soften, allow it to truly and honestly break, and act on those feelings. That soft voice within you that wants to help is the Holy Spirit working within you. Don’t be afraid to be vulnerable and take a leap of faith.

Break my heart for what breaks Yours, I surrender everything I am for your kingdom – it’s a scary sort of prayer but we must pray it – our brothers and sisters need us to pray it! Don’t let the security of your world shelter you from the ugliness outside. Pull your head out from under the the rock, look around, and as your heart breaks be changed, be moved, be empowered!   Thank You Jesus for saving a sinner like me and using all my ugly past and turning it into something beautiful and precious in your sight.

If you find yourself in a difficult season right now, find encouragement through this reminder: God will turn it around for good. Somehow. He is faithful to His Word, and He Loves you. He will see you through, don’t ever doubt it. You will step out to the other side of the darkness. And who knows, but that many lives may be affected for the kingdom’s sake, because of your difficult season of struggle.

 

Seeking The Lord

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David acknowledged that the Lord is close to those that are humble of heart, and who are ready and willing to seek Him in times of trouble, distress and danger. David was a man who feared God and held fast to His precious promises. All through David’s life he witnessed God’s faithfulness and David trusted in the Lord’s deliverance, when his own, frail heart was fainting.. from fear of what was coming on the earth.

The Lord has promised that if we seek Him, we will find Him, if we search for Him with all our heart.

What a gracious and wonderful God we have.. for while we were yet sinners Christ died for us, and together with David and a cloud of witnesses, we are able to testify: I also sought the LORD, and He answered me. And He delivered me from all my fears. –

 Yes, we can rejoice and say with all the saints: I will bless the LORD at all times. His praise shall continually be in my mouth. My soul will make its boast in the LORD. The humble will hear it and rejoice. O magnify the LORD with me, and let us exalt His name together. I will bless the LORD at all times.. His praise shall continually be in my mouth. My soul will make its boast in the LORD. The humble will hear it and rejoice. O magnify the LORD with me, and let us exalt His name together!

Heavenly Father, You are worthy to be praised and I will bless You at all times. I will  boast in the Lord, for I sought after You and You heard my cry and answered me. You have redeemed my life from the bondage of the evil one, and delivered me from all my fears. You have forgiven my sin and clothed me in Christ’s own righteousness, for His name’s sake – and You alone are worthy of my praise and thanksgiving forever and ever.  my Father and my God, I will seek you with all my heart, mind, soul, and strength. I want to know you more completely. I want to fully respond to your leading and your will in my life. Be near me today and always. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.

 

 

Holocaust Memorial Day

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“What is done cannot be undone, but one can prevent it happening again” – Anne Frank

How can life go on? is the theme for Holocaust Memorial Day 2017.
The aftermath of the Holocaust and of subsequent genocides continues to raise challenging questions for individuals, communities, and nations. HMD 2017 asks audiences to think about what happens after genocide and of our own responsibilities in the wake of such a crime. This year’s theme is broad and open-ended, there are few known answers.
Author and survivor of the Holocaust Elie Wiesel has said:
For the survivor death is not the problem. Death was an everyday occurrence. We learned to live with Death. The problem is to adjust to life, to living. You must teach us about living.’