I know that you are weary and worn.
You have tried and tried.
You have done everything that your friends, family, and church has told you to do.
You’ve forgiven, submitted, prayed, served, cried, and waited.
There may be moments or teasers of change, but underneath it all, you know his heart is the same.
He is one person in public and another person in private.
He charms others, and yet the words he uses with you cut like a knife.
He serves others with a smile but when you ask for his help with the house or the kids, the look he shoots you sends shivers up your spine.
Regardless of how he treats you, he still expects you to be available to him whenever he wants to have sex.
You know there will be hell to pay if you do not give in, so you lay there and take it.
You feel your spirit fade a little more each time he treats you like a prostitute.
You know he’s addicted to porn, and you feel that his addiction is somehow you fault and your responsibility to fix.
He’s known in the community as a stand-up guy.
His co-workers like him.
The neighbors like him.
Your family would pick him over you any day.
Other women tell you how lucky you are to have him as your husband, one even told you that she “adores” him.
The pastor is his best bud.
He holds a position of leadership in the church, and you feel sick every time he steps up to the podium or straps on his guitar to lead worship.
You’ve gone to the church leaders for help, and they end up siding with him.
Somehow, according to them, his abuse and adultery are your fault.
You need to forgive more.
You need to pray more.
You need to submit more.
You need to nag less.
You need to give him more sex.
Dear one, I am here to say that none of this is your fault and none of those things will change him.
You are beautiful, brave, strong, and kind.
God loves you and He wants you to be safe and well.
God loves you, a person, more than He loves your marriage (an institution).
Abuse is so much more than broken bones and bruises (there are thirteen different patters/systems of abuse and they are all vile in God’s eyes).
If you are in an abusive marriage, marriage counseling is unwise, unsafe and unethical.
God sees all, hears all and knows all.
You do not have to prove to Him that you have been abused.
You are worthy of love, safety, honor, respect, and fidelity.
You story matters.
We invite you to join our community at Held & Healed: Christian Women Rebuilding After Abuse.
If you are ready to dive deeper and explore the truths shared here, along with many others, I invite you to join our next session of Twelve Truths Groups Coaching.
Learn more here.
You are not alone.
We see you.
We hear you.
We believe you.
No trauma, no drama, no tears.
My childhood holiday memories and adulthood holiday memories were overshadowed by fighting, crying, and more trauma than I want to recall.
Along the way, I have learned some things that help me navigate the “most wonderful time of the year.”
These are things that I've been learning over the past two decades, and I hope they will encourage you and set you up for a more peaceful and joyful Christmas season.
1. Practice Healthy Habits
This is the time to take care of yourself.
You’ve been through so much and the holiday season can be a time when you neglect your basic needs and get caught up in taking care of 1,000 little details.
Don’t forget to:
* Get 6-8 hours of sleep each night
* Eat whole foods
* Drink water
* Take supplements
* Move your body
* Spend time outdoors
* Set and keep medical appointments
* Spend time with a trusted friend
2. Ask yourself and your kids which traditions are the most important.
So often, we try to keep all the traditions from our childhood, a spouse’s childhood and all the things we see others doing on Instagram and Facebook. IT’S EXHAUSTING, OVERWHELMING AND EXPENSIVE.
Ask each family member to share his/her top 1-3 traditions and create a list of 5-6 for your family.
* Decorating (do they like to buy a fresh tree or is artificial acceptable?)
* Gift giving (do they prefer several small gifts or one larger gift?)
* Stockings (do they love them or are they indifferent? Stockings can get very expensive, so determine if this is something they enjoy and if not, let it go.)
Start a NEW tradition, one that symbolizes the rebuilding of your life together.
* Misfits Christmas—invite others who may not have a family to spend Christmas with.
* Christmas carol and visit those who are shut-in, in retirement homes, etc.
* Put on Christmas PJ’s and watch Christmas movies
* Bundle up, fill mugs with hot cocoa and drive around looking at lights
* Game night
* Puzzle night
What are your favorite traditions?
What is one new one you’d like to add?
3. Ask yourself and your kids which holiday foods are the most liked.
Much like holiday traditions, we can get stuck trying to keep up with all the things that others are doing.
Does your family even like turkey and fixings or would they prefer another meal?
Don’t spend the money and time making foods that most of the family doesn’t even like.
Ask each family member to share his/her favorite Thanksgiving or Christmas food.
Ask for help! The whole family should pitch in so that mama doesn’t have to do all the work.
4. Set a budget and stick to it.
The most important part of the holidays is being with your loving, safe family, and friends.
Those who love you do not want you to spend money you do not have, and they do not want you to go into debt buying them gifts.
Set an amount and stick to it.
5. Bless someone in need.
Look around you.
Who needs a smile, or a listening ear?
Who needs help with a simple task that may take thirty minutes to complete?
Who would be blessed by a plate of Christmas cookies?
Who would feel seen by a visit from carolers?
Who needs help putting a festive meal on the table?
Who needs gifts to put under the tree?
These suggestions range from being FREE to more costly.
We can all do something to make others feel seen and loved.
6. Surround yourself with safe and loving people.
You are an adult, and you get to choose who you spend time with.
The holiday season can be extra triggering as you work through past trauma, so surround yourself with safe and loving people.
Schedule a tree decorating party, a Christmas movie picnic (throw a blanket on the floor, pile on festive snacks and watch your favorite Christmas flix), a game night, a Christmas lights hunt (put on PJ’s, fill a thermos with hot chocolate and ride around looking at lights), go caroling, etc.
7. Set boundaries and hold them.
If you have set boundaries to protect yourself throughout the year, do not dismiss those boundaries just because it is a holiday.
If you are no contact with certain individuals, maintain that stance.
If you are low contact with others, determine a length of time that you can be around them and make sure that you are not alone with them.
Establish who your safe people are and keep them close by.
Drive your own car and know that if you feel unsafe (in any way), you may get into your car and drive away.
If there are topics that you do not feel safe discussing with certain people, hold that boundary and walk away from conversations that make you feel unsafe.
Join us on Facebook at Held & Healed: Christian Women Rebuilding After Abuse, where I'll be sharing these tips and so much more in the coming weeks.
I will begin by saying that I love God and have accepted salvation through Jesus and want to live each day representing His love and being His hands, feet, and heart to the those around me.
I write on behalf of women who are victims of abuse, so my pronouns will be she (victim) and he (abuser), but I understand that women can be abusers and men can be victims as well.
I am not a church hater nor a man hater.
I am an abuser hater.
Abuse is happening in churches every day.
Reportedly, one in three women are victims of physical abuse by their intimate partners.
Countless women are experiencing other forms of abuse as well.
I hear stories each week that break my heart.
Most of the women that I hear from are devoted Christians and are or have been members or regular attenders of church.
There are thirteen patterns/systems of abuse: child, cultural, emotional, financial, intellectual, pets and property, physical, psychological, sexual, social, spiritual, and verbal. These patterns revolve around the thirteenth one, which is a core mindset of power abuse and entitlement. (For examples of each system, go here.)
Statistically speaking, at least one in three women who are in your church are experiencing physical abuse.
But, my heart and my experience tells me that MANY MORE are experiencing other forms of abuse and do not have visible marks to prove it.
Abuse is so much more than broken bones and bruises.
When these patterns of abuse are in play, marriage counseling is unwise, unsafe and unethical.
Most abusers are master manipulators and their personal and public personas are very different.
Whatever is shared in a session will put the victim in physical, emotional, psychological, and spiritual danger.
It is vital for individuals to pursue counseling with professionals who are domestic violence-informed/trauma-informed.
God loves people more than He loves marriage (an institution).
He loves His daughters and wants them to be safe and well.
If a loving father hears that his daughter is being beaten, hit, cussed, cursed, threatened, lied to or cheated on, he will do anything and everything he could to help her find safety and healing.
He would welcome her home, provide her with resources and assure her that she deserves to be loved and honored.
God is the perfect, heavenly Father who sees, hears, and knows all.
If an earthly father would protect and care for his daughter, WHY WOULD WE TELL WOMEN THAT GOD EXPECTS THEM TO ENDURE ABUSE?
It makes no sense.
And yet, far too often, churches tell women that they must return to danger, submit more, forgive more, pray more, nag less and give more sex.
Jesus called wolves “wolves” and told us to have nothing to do with them, but many churches tell women to go home and sleep with them.
ENOUGH IS ENOUGH.
There is an epidemic of abuse and conservative, fundamental church cultures are place where abusers feel safe hanging out.
Far too many churches welcome abusers (wolves) and shun abuse survivors.
Many survivors no longer attend traditional church because they do not feel safe.
They have been shamed and blamed for their abusers’ sins.
They are finding their voices and linking arms with other survivors and a church without walls is offering healing, resources, community, and tangible help.
Online support groups, local meetups, and retreats are bringing hope to the hurting.
I am using my voice to speak out on behalf of my survivor sisters.
Many of us desire to be a part of a safe, loving church community but when we bring our concerns to leaders, we are dismissed, shamed, blamed, argued with, and met with great opposition.
Would you be willing to look at resources and ministries that exist to equip and empower churches in this fight?
Twenty years ago, there were limited resources for equipping and empowering churches and other institutions to recognize and confront abuse.
Now, they exist, and I would be honored to send you information.
I love God and I love the model of Acts 2 church.
My hope and prayer is that the broken and battered lambs will find refuge under the care of safe shepherds, and protection from the wolves that seek to devour and destroy them.
Ladies, if you are a survivor or someone who is caring for survivors, please join us on Facebook at Held & Healed: Christian Women Rebuilding After Abuse. This is group of over 800 women and I have shared thousands of resources that will help you on your healing journey.
THAT'S NOT GOD.
Remember the dramatic, solemn, forsaken scene where she pretends to be the Lady of Shalot?
She rested inside a wooden canoe and was sent out to her watery grave.
500 survivors gathered to spend a weekend releasing, growing, learning, connecting and networking.
Some of us had the opportunity to go a boat tour and release lanterns.
The lanterns represented anything we wanted to let go of.
The mood was somber.
These precious souls are warriors and the battles they have endured have been brutal.
We carefully dropped the delicate vessels into the water.
Tears steamed down many faces as we sang a verse of a cherished hymn.
We sat in reflective silence.
As we began our trek back to the dock, we noticed several high schoolers who were taking prom photos at the lake’s edge.
They noticed us, too.
One young man yelled out, “PARTY BARGE!”
The entire atmosphere shifted.
Tears turned to laughter.
I blurted out, “If only they knew!”
Then, I caught myself and declared, “We’re BECOMING a party barge!”
Surely, He is turning our mourning into dancing!
He is trading our ashes for beauty!
“Those who sow in tears shall reap in joy.” Psalm 126:5
Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah!