hope and healing

Everything I Learned about Dating and Love, I Learned from Cinderella

cinderellaWhere did you learn about love?  Who taught you about dating?  If you had to answer this question, could you?  Maybe you don’t even realize where your concept of dating came from.  Perhaps you learned from your parents, family or friends.  Maybe you learned from watching Twilight or listening to Pink on the radio?  Commonsensemedia.org reports that for teens the main source of information about sex, dating and sexual health comes from what they see and hear in the media.  Quite possibly, your concept of love started at even a much earlier age.  For so many young girls, the first idea of a romantic relationship comes from fairy tales.

“Once upon a time” is a wistful, nostalgic phrase repeated countless times in the bedrooms of little girls around the world.  It sweeps children away into a fantasy land of imagination that helps foster creativity.  Fairy tales impart important morals and valuable life lessons.  They teach right from wrong and the consequences of making bad choices.  They demonstrate that bad things happen to good people, but through hope and perseverance, good will triumph over evil. Albert Einstein once said, “If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales. If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales.”  But what do they teach children about love and relationships?

In Disney’s version of Cinderella, the heroine is possibly the sweetest creature that ever lived.  She works as a house servant for her mean stepmother and her nasty step sisters, Anastasia and Drizella.  Cinderella sings and dances her way through her daily chores, despite the constant demands of the household.  Yet, she dreams for her wish of the heart to come true.  Cinderella’s wishes are of course answered in the form of her fairy godmother.  With the wave of a magic wand, Cinderella is transformed.  She is no longer the servant in rags; she is now the belle of the ball.  Cue the prince to enter stage left.  He lifts his eyes to see Cinderella and falls in love at the sight of her beauty. A little dancing, a lost glass slipper and a little drama later, they go on to live happily ever after.

So what does this version of Cinderella potentially teach young girls about falling in love?

  • You are not worthy of love. But if you can magically transform; if you wear the right dress, the right shoes, you too can be loved.
  • You are not complete without your prince. The longing of your heart can only be filled if he loves you.
  • Without love, you are nothing. You are only a servant in rags.  But with his love you can become a princess.  All your troubles will be gone, and you will live happily ever after.

Here’s the truth about love.

  • You are already loved. You are rooted and established in the love of Christ. (Ephesians 3:17)  The only transformation you need to make is to accept Christ as your Lord and Savior.
  • The true longing of your heart can only be filled by the love of Christ. If only you could grasp how wide and long and high and deep is His love, and know that it is this love that completes you.  Then you will be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. (Ephesians 3:18-19)
  • You are already a princess, a child able to do immeasurably more than you can ever imagine through your father, the one true King. (Ephesians 3:20)  This birthright, that you have only to accept, promises life ever after.

The parallels are so similar; one can’t help but wonder if Christ’s love was Disney’s intended message.  Yet, without the Christian context, it’s easy to be misled by the themes expressed in the story.  There is danger in continuing to seek fulfillment from another human being, instead of from the one who can truly provide it.  The danger is a life filled with disappointment and loneliness.   Constantly trying to transform into someone worthy of love in the eyes of world, leaves you incapable of loving yourself.  There is no true fulfillment apart from Christ’s love.

Originally posted in the FOCUS Ministries, Inc. Newsletter, Fall 2014.

focuslogo

Advertisements

They cried out to the Lord, and He saved them…

This past weekend, I had the honor of presenting two workshops on God’s Design for Healthy Relationships at the Ignite Shout youth conference in Des Moines, Iowa.  Encouraged by my story, one by one, others came forward and shared their stories with me.  One of those brave enough to step into the light shared the following story with me.

sig

 

 

 


 

I am the oldest of four kids. My family home life was awesome.  My mom and dad didn’t have a lot, but we had a great family.  Mom and dad were always in love and showing us how love should be.  We never, ever saw them fight, just love each other. It was great.

But there was always tension between my mom and I.  I was the result of a teen pregnancy.  My parents married a week after graduating high school.  Maybe my mom felt that I had taken away her youth.

I was always happy as a child, always smiling – you would never see me sad.  But when it came to boys – I was scared to death.  I dated in high school but was a “goody”.  Out of all the boys I dated in high school, I only kissed one.  I remember in high school I said “I would never get a divorce”.  I have now been divorced 3 times.  It kills me to even see that number. It leaves a huge pit in my stomach.  Here is my story..

After my first kiss broke my heart in college, I met husband number 1.  It was destined to be a disaster from the very start.  He was the first person that I gave myself to.  Even then I wasn’t sure if he was the one I should marry, we graduated from college and got engaged on my 20th birthday.

The day after we were married a letter came in the mail for him from a woman that he had been seeing – I had NO IDEA!!!! My stomach was just in knots, but I kept smiling and looking to God for help. I got pregnant about 4 months into marriage.  After I miscarried, I got pregnant again immediately.  When my daughter was born, he and his mother bought boy clothes and boy diapers.  He already knew we had a girl, but really wanted a boy. The first few months of my daughter’s life were hell.  She and I slept on the couch because he didn’t want her to hear her screaming.  She was born in January, and he was gone by August.  Despite having left us, he continued to insert himself in our lives.  He would threaten me, sometimes with a gun.  He hit me, just for trying to clean out his closet.  Over the years, he quit coming around, and my daughter refuses to have contact with him.

I knew my second husband for a few years before we started dating.  He moved in right away.  I didn’t ask him to, he just did.  I really loved him.  We were married for 8 years, and had 2 children. He was a military guy.  The first years were pretty good, but we frequently fought about money.  When I was pregnant with my second daughter, he needed help becoming aroused as he wasn’t attracted to me.  He turned to pornography.  As the years went by, he withdrew further from me and more and more “magazines” showed up.  Eventually, I discovered other women’s phone numbers and naked pictures.  He would frequent strip clubs with his buddies.  I felt so dirty.   That year for Valentines Day, he bought me porn.  I turned to God for refuge.  I started spending a lot of time at my church.  I would just go there and play the piano for hours.  However, I began to doubt God during this time as my second marriage was falling apart.  I yelled at God.  But he stayed with me, and I continued to pray.

While I was still married to my second husband, I met husband number 3 while out with a friend.  He pursued me against my wishes and despite knowing I was married.  It felt good to have someone want me.  I filed for divorce and started seeing him.  I felt so low for moving so fast into a relationship with him, but I felt as though I had too. After a few months, my kids and I moved in with him.  We were married a year later after I became pregnant.  I miscarried the day before the wedding.  He was good to me and the kids at first, although we fought constantly.  I got pregnant again.  The day I had my fourth child, he said I needed to get pregnant again.  I said no.  My doctor said no. He kept after me.

That year I lost my job due to cuts at the company.  He was angry at me for losing my job, and everything started to turn bad, really, really bad.  The kids and I started attending church again even though he hated it.  I loved it and so did the kids.  I felt God’s presence every time I walked through the doors.  I started playing the piano and then started singing.  I spent a lot of time in church. But things at home just got worse.  He constantly criticized and belittled me.  I continued to take it.  I thought that I deserved it.  When I started working with the youth group, he would accuse me of having an affair.  Then he began accusing me of having affairs with every guy I saw or ever talked about.  He called me a preacher woman that was a hypocrite. I started to believe it.  I hated myself so much.

He started abusing the children.  He took their Christmas presents and broke each one in front of them.  He broke so many things.  He would be remorseful but find a way to put the blame on me. We were married 12 years.  The kids were afraid of him.  Anything that brought me happiness he tried to ruin, and when that didn’t work, he would try and hurt them. When my oldest daughter graduated from high school, she informed me she had saved up $2000 for us to leave.  She had started saving when she was 16, by working 3 jobs.  And yet I stayed.  I didn’t want to fail another marriage.

I eventually hit bottom and I lay down on the floor of my church and cried out for God to help me.  My husband always reminded me he had a gun, so I hid it and the shells leaving only the case and left.  My last straw was watching him hold my son against the wall by placing his hands around my son’s throat.

We moved out the week of Easter, into a one bedroom across the street from the church.  I felt safe for the first time.  When the kids fell asleep I would run across the street and pray – for love – for peace – for happiness.

I have since found and married my best friend.  Our kids, all six of them, love each other like they were all meant to be brothers and sisters.  We will have been married a year in April.  He is a man of faith, a man who loves God before his family and me.  We pray together, worship together, and the day we were married, the whole world felt like it was at peace.  I know that God is blessing me.

I try hard to look at my past, but it burns my eyes.  I have to remember that it is part of what has shaped me into the woman that I have become. I know that God has amazing plans for me and for my husband. We are both led to help serve.  I want my story to help others.  I want to use my voice to make a difference.

Then they cried out to the Lord because of their problems.
And he saved them from their troubles.
He brought them out of the deepest darkness.
He broke their chains off.
Let them give thanks to the Lord for his faithful love.
Let them give thanks for the miracles he does for his people.

Psalm 107:13-15 (NIRV)

To the Next One

On my way home from being a Matthew West groupie this weekend, I found my ex-husband’s new fiancee on my heart.  Over the past year or so that they have been together, I have struggled with the desire to warn her.  But I have resigned myself to the fact that she needs to be the one to figure it out, as did I.  She may enlist my help or someone else’s at some point in time, and she may not.   I have done my best to let go of any responsibility I feel for her.  However, as I thought of her on my drive back to Chicago-land, I wondered what I would say to her if ever given the opportunity.  Never did I dream that the opportunity would come much closer to being reality as I learned of the events that transpired over the weekend while I was away.

It took less than 2 minutes in the car with the boys after picking them up from their father on Sunday to know that something was wrong.  I will not go in to details as they are not necessary, but I find myself with a stronger desire than ever to reach out to the fiancee.  This is my letter to her.


Dear <Fiancee>,

I know you do not want to hear anything I might have to say.  But this is not about me or you.  It is about those two beautiful boys, that I hope you have come to care about over the past year or so.  What they went through on Saturday night is not something any child should have to go through.  The worst part is it’s not the first time they have been subjected to such an event, and that is a burden I get to live with everyday.

Hearing the commotion and certainly seeing their father in that state was most certainly frightening  But what truly scared them was the thought that their father might be taken away that night.  They did not know what was happening; whether they would simply be left alone; or if they too would be taken by the police.  I cannot imagine how scary that was for them to go through.

The following day brought about all the uncertainty their father’s actions had created.  They didn’t know if daddy was still getting married.  They didn’t know if daddy still had a place to live.  Furthermore, they were asked to withhold the events of the prior night from their mother, a burden a child should not be expected to bear.

I have been through this.  I have been where you are standing.  I do not fault you for wanting to defend him or for choosing to stay with him.  I stayed for 13 years; 10 after the first time he hit me; 3 after he struck me in the head with a lamp and was arrested for battery.  Even though I was terrified enough to call for help, I didn’t press charges.  In fact, I begged the police not to take him.  I did not appear in court for the hearing, allowing the state filed charges to be dropped.

They see their therapist tomorrow.  If he recommends what I believe he will recommend, then I will file a motion to modify the custody agreement.  You don’t have to support my decision. But I am asking you to be stronger than I was.  I need you to be honest; to tell the truth when asked about what happened Saturday night; to be willing to tell that to whoever it may be when the time comes.  If you don’t, the boys will be forced to testify.

Most likely you do not think what happened was domestic violence, but it was.

Any person who physically assaults (which includes but is not limited to; hitting, choking, kicking, shoving, raping, destruction of personal property), threatens, harasses, exploits, neglects, deprives, intimidates dependents, stalks, or interferes with the personal liberty of another family or household member has broken Illinois Domestic Violence law.

Illinois also recognizes the impact to children who witness acts of domestic violence.

The witnessing of domestic violence can be auditory, visual, or inferred, including cases in which the child perceives the aftermath of violence, such as physical injuries to family members or damage to property. Children who witness domestic violence can suffer severe emotional and developmental difficulties that are similar to those of children who are direct victims of abuse.

I left <my ex> not for me, but for the boys.  I need you to do this for them.  They can not continue to be subjected to such trauma.  As easy as it might be to dismiss, it truly has a detrimental effect on them.  No child should live in fear of their father.

That is all I ask.

Sincerely,

sig

Letter to My Mother-in-Law

This is the letter I wrote to my now former mother-in-law, in the days immediately following my escape from my abusive marriage.


Dear <MIL>,

I’ve been slapped, punched, shoved, pushed to the ground, called every name in the book, spit on, restrained from even leaving a room, had things thrown at me and the children, had my children withheld from me and ripped out of my arms, deprived of sleep, and controlled to the point of no longer knowing my own thoughts. Simple things such as spending my time reading a book as opposed to watching TV could set him off.

Of course he is always sorry and promises to change. But with each promise of change the behavior always returns. It could be months or a even a year but the angry and abusive behavior always returned. As time went on I knew where the lines were, where the boundaries were and I stopped crossing over. All the while having no boundaries in my life. I could not even close the door to use the bathroom.

I have held all of this inside for years and I’ve lived in resentment as I watched <him> time and time again turn to his support system while I lived in isolation bottling everything in. Afraid and ashamed to tell anyone and most of all afraid that it would ruin eveyones feelings of <him> if they knew. While no one acknowledged my feelings or the pain I was going through.

After I became strong enough to finally turn to someone for help I was still unable to talk about the abuse. Instead I sought help for the fact that I was so depressed after years of emotional abuse that I couldn’t even walk without physical pain. All the while assuring <him> after each therapy session that it was not about him but was about me, just so he’d let me keep going. Still he ridiculed and tormented me, expecting me to recite word for word everything I talked about in my sessions and threatening me that if I talked they’d take the children away from us. And it worked. I didn’t open up about the abuse for months in therapy.

And even after gaining that support, I could not find the courage to end the abuse. It wasn’t until I watched <him> reduce <my son> to the point of hitting himself, wanting to kill himself and curling up in a fetal position, crying his eyes out, hiding in his classroom. All because <my son> forgot his backpack.

The wounds are deep and will take time to heal. But they will heal, and we are finally in a position to get the care and support we need.

The boys love their dad and need him as a strong presence in their life. But they need a dad who can truly love them unconditionally every minute of every day. And love them in a way that protects them and nurtures them, builds them up and inspires them to be good people who respect others and see those who are different from them as equals not inferiors. A dad that teaches them that you do not have to resort to violence or threats of violence in order to solve problems. <He> can be that dad, but he needs help and the courage to accept true responsibility for his actions. And that also will take time and a williness to change. We all pray that time will come.

I have no intention of hurting anyone. But it’s time I started no longer allowing anyone to hurt me.

sig