i will not be silent

His Glory is Revealed

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When Christians gather, the devil goes to work.  When we gather in the name of Christ, the power of Christ of present.  The Kingdom of God grows in strength and numbers, and the constant battle of good and evil is claimed for the side of good.
So when you are assembled and I am with you in spirit, and the power of our Lord Jesus is present.  1 Corinthians 5:4
The devil reigns where Christ does not, so he works hard to destroy those that gather in the name of Christ.  He launches attacks  to weaken our faith in Christ by turning us on each other.  If we allow the devil to be successful in undermining our efforts to grow the Kingdom, the constant battle will be claimed for evil.
Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls about like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.   1 Peter 5:8 
I experienced an attack while preparing for a gathering in Nashville a few years ago.  I had been asked to share my story and rejoice in the works of God in the stories of others.   In the week leading up to the event, my anxiety and stress began to overwhelm me.  I was unable to truly pinpoint what had me worried.  Retaliation from ex was definitely a concern.  Although I’ve been very open about my story, this event offered a much larger platform.  I felt the immense pressure the impact my story could have.  I had the opportunity to reach thousands of women in abusive situations.  I shuddered under the weight of being the one called to deliver Christ’s message of hope and healing to these women.  But I had to let them know that they were not alone,  I could show them there was a way out.  My mind swirled with self doubt and worry.  I reached out for support as the negative tape of self loathing tried to play over and over in my head.
My stress level was escalated as this full time working single mom struggled to find care for my boys who were not yet back in school.  Our district had (and still does have) the latest start date in our area.  This meant all the day camps had closed for the summer.   The inevitable answer was  me to work from home, while walking the tightrope of trying to make my boss, my client, and my children happy.
As the tightening in my throat increased, I continued to take one step at a time… right into a size 7 high top.  The aftermath was a very large, dark purple and black toe that the doctor insisted required x-rays.  Hours of waiting room waiting with two rambunctious boys later, much to the orthopedic’s surprise, there was no fracture.  Surely my week was looking up!
By Wednesday though, it appeared to not be the case.  My daycare dilemma for the boys had not been resolved and arrangements for a sitter that evening fell through.  Unwilling to miss an opportunity to enjoy dinner, dancing and fireworks while sailing around Lake Michigan with my co-workers, I brought the boys along.  As spouses and families had been invited to attend, they were not the only children on board and soon they had made fast friends and were off enjoying themselves.  The ever distracted mommy in me did my best to keep tabs on them.  While peering through a window into the lower cabin to check on them, I slipped and hit the deck hard.  Praise God there was really no one around to see; just my friend and the boat staff.  Despite a wicked bruise on my arm and a blow to my pride, I was fine.  At this point I should probably allow that I can’t really give the devil credit for the bruised toe and arm.  Anyone who knows me in the least bit, knows I’m an accident waiting to happen.  But these clumsy moments definitely weren’t helping my overall state of mind.
 As the boat docked at Navy Pier, and we all were saying our good-byes, my world stood still for a minute or two.  A highly intoxicated co-worker began to verbally assault my oldest son.  After threatening him multiple times that he would throw him overboard, he insisted on a hug.  So frightened by what was happening,  my son refused the hug.  At which point, I intervened and asked the boys to head down the stairs to exit the boat.  However, before they could make it down the stairs, my co-worker ran after them and started cursing at my oldest son, specifically calling him by name.
I just stood there.  I didn’t do a thing.  I didn’t stop it.  I didn’t say anything.  I simply watched in silence.
When his tirade was finally over, I ran down the stairs after the boys, and we left.
I don’t know what hurts most.  The fact that I stood there and let it happen, or the fact that it happened at all.  No attack could have been deeper, more sliced to the bone than watching my son be assaulted.  No shame more relentless than facing the reality that I had not stopped it.
Do you see the lengths the devil will go to?  He tried to break me, but he did not succeed.  He tried to silence me once again through the fear of abuse. but I was not silenced.
My first day in Nashville, I sat down on a bus beside a man whose story is no easier than mine.  He looked straight into my heart and spoke this verse.
Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed.    1 Peter 4:12-13 12
The DVD made that weekend is powerful, and my story is right there exactly as God scripted it.
I’m chalking this battle up to good.
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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.

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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)

It was not for you that I mourned

While in in the shelter my case worker told me I needed to grieve.  That was the last think I wanted to do at that point in time.  I definitely felt an immense sense of loss, but it was overwhelmed by the freedom I felt.  I’m not sure I ever took time to mourn the loss of marriage.  Until last night.

 

I cried myself to sleep last night

I allowed myself to grieve

The space inside won the fight

That which was suppressed broke free

 

Do not find glee or joy from this fact

It was not for you that I mourned

But the loss of that onto which I held

For way to long

 

Any love once there died long ago

What it actually looked like

I don’t really know

 

But such a large part of my life

At one time even hopes and dreams

Were tangled up involving you

And that just doesn’t go away it seems

 

Your life moved on and yet here I sit

Not once having regretted my choice

For it was when I stepped out of your darkness

That I discovered my voice

 

When I awoke this morning

It seemed hope had bled through

I’m blessed and grateful for all I’ve been given

I need not shed another tear for you

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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.

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