Restoring the Faded

Today’s post serves as a sort of epilogue to JC’s multipart series on surviving abuse. However, abuse recovery is an ongoing process, and she will likely provide further updates down the road. Below are links to all of the installments in the “Nobody Knew, Yet Everybody Knew” series:

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6

If you are being abused, please contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline on their site or by phone at 1−800−799−7233.

Credit: Snow

My kids and I are now safe – we moved out and are beginning the long, arduous healing process. You never know how badly you were “damaged” until you are out of a situation. Once my kids were freed, I began to see how much they had lost themselves to survive in that environment.

It was such a slow fading away of ourselves that none of us saw it. We would tone down our laughter or our jokes for fear of being too loud and causing an outburst. We stopped having people over because we were ashamed of what my spouse might say to embarrass us or the guest. We stopped going out because there were so many hurdles to get “approval.” Not to mention trackers were on all our phones so we could be hunted down when desired.

It is now easy to see how much control my spouse asserted over us. The weapons that were used against us were sometimes subtle, sometimes not. When my therapist said I have post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), I thought, “no way.” But the more I live out of that environment, the more I see that my kids and I definitely do have PTSD.

My spouse continues to attempt to control me and the kids, even though he is not physically present in our lives. Just this week, he stole more money from the kids and then came after me again. The games continue weekly, sometimes daily.

Here is the secret to continued survival and, even better, for you to flourish: Peace – and perspective from that peace.

In John 14:27, Jesus said “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid” (NIV).

I either believe Him or I do not. If I believe Jesus, then I have His peace, and I need to focus on that. He also told me not to be troubled or afraid. If my spouse wishes to steal from his kids, there may be nothing I can do about that. But – this I know – God loves my kids even more than I do. He is their Father in Heaven and nobody will be successful messing with His kids. Sure, things may temporarily appear that way – but God is justice. We tend to focus on God is love, and He is, but God is also justice.

There is nothing I can do sometimes to protect my kids against the attacks launched by their earthly father, so I pray daily for their father and rest in the knowledge that God is justice. Sometimes I do not even know what to pray, but the Spirit does (Romans 8:26). My role is to pray for their earthly father daily and, in God’s strength, to best protect the kids God has loaned me. What God does with those prayers and what God does with someone who does such terrible things to his own children is up to Him.

It is very hard to heal the wounds when you keep getting attacked. I have had to learn that my healing is not contingent on the attacks ending – because they may not. My spouse lives to hurt me and the kids – so I needed perspective. I turned to the Bible, and God gave me this verse:

“Don’t be afraid of those who want to kill your body; they cannot touch your soul. Fear only God, who can destroy both soul and body in hell.”
Matthew 10:28 NLT

This does not mean we are barred from defending ourselves or our kids when physically attacked (as mentioned in Part 2). It does mean that there may be people who live to hurt you. Abusive spouses may make it their missions in life to hurt you, especially once you leave them. They may not relent, and you need to be prepared for that.

You need to understand that God is your Protector. God has made it clear we are to fear Him and not be afraid. We are to take everything to Him in prayer and not worry about anything. He is in control. This perspective can be hard to maintain at times when it seems like your abuser is constantly coming out on top. But, make no mistake, God sees all, and God is justice.

Your path to healing must be rooted firmly in Jesus and Jesus alone – not whether your spouse stops the mind games, the manipulation, the hate, the theft, the lying, or other forms of abuse. Once you have removed yourself and your kids to a safe environment, expect the hits to keep coming in new forms. Surround yourself with your support group, get a good therapist, do not be afraid to call the police, and above all, anchor yourself and your kids to the Protector, the Savior, the Creator of all things – Jesus Christ.


Heavenly Father,

Please bless all survivors of abuse. May You fill them with Your strength, Your peace, and Your resolve.

May You restore what slowly faded away, so Your light may shine ever bright through them.

You are love. You are justice. You are our Protector. We love You.

In the blessed name of Jesus we pray.

Amen

Credit: Snow

Nobody Knew, Yet Everybody Knew: An Abuse Survivor’s Story (Part 6)

This is Part 6 of a series on surviving abuse.

[Read Part 1 | Read Part 2 | Read Part 3 | Read Part 4 | Read Part 5]

If you are being abused, please contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline on their site or by phone at 1−800−799−7233.

I had to learn forgiveness. I needed to forgive my abuser, the same one who abused my kids.

“If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you.”
Matthew 6:14 NLT

It took time to forgive. I learned that praying for someone daily is a great start on the road to forgiving that person. I started to pray daily that is how I would behave towards my abuser.

“Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.”
Ephesians 4:32 NLT

Please take note that forgiving someone does not mean that you agree with or condone their behavior. Forgiveness is for you, not the one you are forgiving. When you harbor unforgiveness towards someone, you are giving that person control over you. You are better than that.

When I saw how hard it would be to forgive the abuser for what he did to my kids, I knew only the power of prayer, a strong support system, and spending more time with Jesus would enable the forgiveness to flow. There were days I absolutely did not want to pray for my abuser, but I did it anyway. After about a year, I finally let it all go. I let go of the hurt, the resentment, and whatever else I felt. It was very freeing to say to God, “He is yours, deal with him as you see fit.”

I know God does not condone abuse; we are created in His image. I also know He does not take kindly to people who abuse kids.

“And whosoever shall offend one of these little ones that believe in me, it is better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he were cast into the sea.”
Mark 9:42 KJV

I now faithfully pray for my abuser multiple times a day, and I mean those prayers with all my heart. My prayer has been and continues to be, “Let today be the day that (spouse) walks closer to You than ever before.”

I realized recently that specific prayer is something I want, too. Each day, I want to be closer to Jesus than the day before. Therein lies the key – pray a prayer for your abuser that you would pray for yourself, too.

And the other key is that a relationship with Jesus is all that matters. There is nothing else in this entire world or lifetime that will be more important than a relationship with Jesus. If you know Jesus as your Lord, strengthen your relationship everyday. The closer you are to Him, the closer you are to having the wisdom, strength and discernment you need to live in a way that pleases God. Every day, I pray that God will help me to be Christlike to my abuser.

I am learning that being Christlike does not equate to weakness. My therapist says to be “aggressively Christlike.” I am very much still a work in progress in this arena. I treat my abuser as Christlike as possible because I have three kids watching me. They know Momma loves Jesus. I must set an example for them.

Throughout my divorce and the time leading up to it, my spouse did and said many things to try to hurt me or the kids. And as he ramped up his ugliness, I ramped up the Light.

“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it.”
John 1:5 NLT

This verse came to life before my eyes. I was praying and fasting and studying the Word so much that my abuser could not stand to be in the same room with me for more than 90 seconds. The light makes the dark flee. This was a huge unexpected bonus for me.

Jesus is the only One that can help my abuser. It is freeing to let him go. Put that energy towards deepening your relationship with Jesus and showing the fruit of the Spirit to everyone around you.

As a single Mom, my identity has completely shifted. I have to look my kids in the face everyday knowing that they witnessed how I treated their earthly father: The words I said and did not say, the actions I responded to and did not respond to. I worked daily at being Christlike, and I continue to work daily at it.

The abuser is still in my life, although in a much more limited way. Due to prayers and the strength from God to be as Christlike as possible, I walked away knowing that I did everything I could to treat my abuser as a child of God, as a person made in the image of God.

You must stay strong in the Spirit, do it for Jesus, and do it for your kids. Do it for yourself.

I refused to stoop to his level and engage in mind games. Because of my relationship with Jesus, I had and have daily peace. Recently, I asked my abuser how I could pray for him. He asked for “peaceful sleep.”

While I am sorry he is having trouble sleeping, I sleep just fine.

[Read the Epilogue.]

Credit: JC

Nobody Knew, Yet Everybody Knew: An Abuse Survivor’s Story (Part 5)

This is Part 5 of a series on surviving abuse.

[Read Part 1 | Read Part 2 | Read Part 3 | Read Part 4]

If you are being abused, please contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline on their site or by phone at 1−800−799−7233.

I prayed for my abusive spouse for over a decade, but things became slowly worse until they imploded at the end. Not everyone will agree with my decision, and that is fine because I know I bathed my decision in prayer and fasting.

I believe that God blessed me with the children I have to protect them with my life, even if that means stepping between them and their earthly father. I finally left and took the kids with me.

Leaving took planning and a ton of prayer and so much help from my support system. I am grateful to God for His protection and provision. Now, as a single mom, I pray every day that He will show me how to lead these kids in a way that brings glory to His name. I pray for their relationships with their earthly father to one day be healed, as I focus them on their Heavenly Father.

For me, when I made the decision to leave, I needed to be ready to lose everything, and maybe even my kids. Our legal system is a mess and does not protect the ones needing protection. Hindsight is 20/20 – it would have made my life easier later to call the cops when my spouse did what he did. But, you know what, it would have made my life worse at that time had I called the cops when he did what he did. I chose not to call the police and yes, that made it more difficult from a legal perspective on the back end. But when you are afraid of what will be done to you and your kids, the police are not always the first call you make. When the abuser is in control of everything – bank accounts, cell phones, cars, etc – it is not that easy to “just leave.”

Credit: JC

I have learned there is life after abuse:

  • Tell your story.
  • Find a way to help those still in abusive situations – donate time, money, a car, professional services, etc.
  • Pray.
  • Remember, God is love. He will be your Protector, your guide, and hold you when you’re alone or scared.
  • Focus on your relationship with Him; this needs to be your priority.
  • Don’t give up on love.
  • Don’t give up on trust.
  • Find someone who loves Jesus more than you (some of the advice I gave my kids came from learning things the hard way with their earthly father).
  • Find someone who does not care whether your bank accounts are “joint,” which may become a foul word to you.

In addition to being an abuser, my spouse was a narcissist with an incredible talent to hide who he really was to everyone not living with him. In next week’s installment, I discuss why I needed to forgive him.

[Read Part 6]


“We know how much God loves us, and we have put our trust in his love. God is love, and all who live in love live in God, and God lives in them.”
1 John 4:16 NLT

Nobody Knew, Yet Everybody Knew: An Abuse Survivor’s Story (Part 4: For Pastors)

This is Part 4 of a series on surviving abuse.

[Read Part 1 | Read Part 2 | Read Part 3]

If you are being abused, please contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline on their site or by phone at 1−800−799−7233.

Credit: JC

Several weeks after I left my abusive spouse and moved out with the kids, our pastor of fifteen years left me a voicemail. He said that he had just found out “there were problems between” my spouse and me. He offered us counseling again. [We had one session ten years ago, which I discussed in the Beloved Walks post “Spiritual Abuse” (December 2019).]

To be frank, I was floored that the Senior Pastor had no idea one of his own deacons had been going through a divorce for over a year. Between the out-of-touch pastor and my lying spouse, the ruse of a happy family was alive and well.

I prayed about how best to respond to the pastor. I replied via email and shared that I appreciated him reaching out and that the kids and I were now safe in a Christian home. I also shared with the pastor that I pray for him and will continue to do so.

Shortly after sending my email, I received a reply. The Senior Pastor reprimanded me for not including him in my decisions and further chastised me by saying that he believes God wants a pastor involved in such marital decisions. He further encouraged me to come tell him the issues.

A few things jumped to my mind:

  1. I did come to you for counseling years ago. You told me to submit.
  2. You assume I do not have pastoral counseling. You are wrong. I have two pastors, one a close friend (and his wife) and the other a licensed psychiatrist who is also an ordained pastor.
  3. I have a personal relationship with my Lord Jesus. It is possible, and should in fact be, that people have their own close relationships with Jesus. I prayed and fasted for a very long time. On my knees, so many tears shed crying out to Jesus. I am obeying Him, and I walk closely with Him. I do not and should not “need” a pastor to tell me what God thinks. I should have a daily, deepening relationship with Jesus, so I know as I walk in the Holy Spirit what He is telling me.
  4. The invitation to come tell you all the issues appears to be a desire to obtain gossip. The decision has been made, I am in His will, and gossiping about issues achieves nothing. I have an amazing Christian therapist, who has been walking with me for months. I tell him my issues.

In the end, I decided to delete the Senior Pastor’s email and not reply. My broader point in sharing all of this in today’s post, though, is that if you are a pastor, consider the following:

  1. Stay involved with your deacons. Know them closely and ensure the best you can that they are and remain honorable (1 Timothy 3:1-12).
  2. Do not just tell wives to submit. Ask the husband, “Do you pray with your wife daily? Do you read the Bible with your wife daily?” If the answer to either of these questions is, “No,” then stop – you have found the root of most marital problems.
  3. If your long time parishioners do not engage you in their huge life decisions, perhaps ask them why instead of chastising them.
  4. Please do not assume that one of your parishioners will not have a close enough walk with Jesus to make huge life decisions. We should be walking with Him, and we are commanded to grow in the knowledge and grace of the Lord (2 Peter 3:18).
  5. It should be perfectly acceptable if another pastor is assisting your parishioners. Again, perhaps seek to understand why versus belittling.

As for me, I did not and do not believe it is my responsibility to inform my spouse’s friends or family members of our divorce unless I am faced with one of his lies, in which case I clarify with facts. I feel the same way about my spouse’s pastor, who I no longer consider my pastor.

I still have plenty more to share about surviving abuse, and this series will continue here next week. As I said in the initial post, this is a chance for me to share what I have learned and observed so far on my journey, but I’m certainly not here to say, “I figured it all out.” Thank you for reading.

[Read Part 5]


Heavenly Father,

We lift up the pastors of the world. Open their eyes and fill them with compassion, wisdom, and discernment. Help them to go beyond the “easy answers” and, instead, seek Your voice to enrich the spiritual journeys of their parishioners.

We also lift up all the survivors. May they realize Jesus is walking with them.

In the blessed name of Jesus we pray.

Amen

Nobody Knew, Yet Everybody Knew: An Abuse Survivor’s Story (Part 3)

This is Part 3 of a series on surviving abuse.

[Read Part 1 | Read Part 2]

If you are being abused, please contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline on their site or by phone at 1−800−799−7233.

As I slowly came to terms with the situation that I was in and what I must do to protect my kids from my spouse, I began to very gently and cautiously open up to the people closest to me – people I trusted with my life and my kids’ lives.

Each of them had various responses. They ranged from, “I am not surprised” to “I knew something was off about him” to “Yes, I knew he was abusive because I witnessed such and such.”

I would then ask, “Why didn’t you say something?”

They each had their own responses, but most of them centered around not wanting to hurt me. While I can see that perspective, the problem is I was being hurt. In some ways, irreparably hurt.

If you are friends or family with someone you suspect or know is being abused – say something. Of course, be discreet and gentle, but say something.

There are situations where the abuse ramps up so slowly over time that people may not even realize how bad it has become. The abuse becomes “normal” to them. It takes outsiders to point out things.

The reaction may not be great when you share your perspective, but I encourage you to risk the friendship/relationship. Risk the person being upset with you or being hurt by what you are asking or sharing. You may save lives.

I can also tell you that if and when the time comes for that person to need support, you will come to mind as someone who cared enough to say something.

In my case, I did not care what happened to me, but when the abuse crossed over to my kids, that was the trigger for me to leave.

The beauty in God and walking in the Holy Spirit is that He started preparing me 14 months before I knew I would take action. He started pointing me to save cash and leave it with trusted friends. He gently worked on my heart and soul, so I began very, very slowly to open up to close, trusted confidantes of what was happening and what my plans would be.

God placed people in my path to help me – some believers and some not. But it was clear that He was sending me these people to help me leave. Over on Beloved Walks, I have shared in at least two posts that many Christians, as a hasty, knee-jerk response, will quote how God hates divorce: “Spiritual Abuse” (December 2019) and “Please Listen, Church Family” (July 2019).

God created human beings in His image, and He never wants anyone abused. That is not who He is.

Before I moved out with the kids, I shared my specific plans with my spouse. (This is not always the best plan, you must consider your specific situation.)

The abuse increased once I shared my intentions with him. He was angry because I would no longer be paying his bills that he was running up. He was also on multiple prescription drugs and had become unrecognizable to the kids and me.

My abuser was and is able to pretend to be someone else to others, specifically to church friends. We went to the same church together for ten plus years. Nobody at church ever saw the “real” person he is. In the next installment, an oblivious pastor calls me weeks after I move out.

[Read Part 4]


“But those who trust in the LORD will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint.”
Isaiah 40:31 NLT

Credit: JC

Heavenly Father,

We lift up the abused. May You free them. May You heal them. May You fill them with peace.

We give the abusers to You. May they fall at the cross, repent, and find new paths. May You forgive them. May You heal them. May You fill them with peace.

Thank You, God. We love You.

In the blessed name of Jesus we pray.

Amen

Nobody Knew, Yet Everybody Knew: An Abuse Survivor’s Story (Part 2)

This is Part 2 of a series on surviving abuse.

[Read Part 1]

If you are being abused, please contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline on their site or by phone at 1−800−799−7233.

Credit: JC

In my situation, the physical abuse would ebb and flow depending on my spouse’s mood, but other types took place daily – mental, verbal, emotional, financial, and spiritual abuse. I am ashamed to say that I did not protect my kids as I should. I was afraid and confused. It took one of my kids asking me why I did not protect them after an incident occurred for me to wake up. I am not proud of this fact.

What I am saying is that God has not given us a spirit of fear, but one of power and love and a sound mind (2 Timothy 1:7).

I now see that I should have stepped between my kid and the abuser, and I should have called the police. Ever since that day, I promised my kids I would do whatever it takes to protect them. I have subsequently stepped between them, and I was ready to call the police. The legal system is not designed to help people when they are trying to leave an abuser. If you do not call the police, there is little support in the laws.

If you take your kids and leave without any legal history of abuse, it can be seen as abandoning the abuser in the event of a divorce. I am not a legal expert, nor am I saying you should stay in an unsafe place. When the line was crossed, I left and took the kids. What happened after that is another post altogether that is forthcoming.

My point here is to be prepared and surround yourself with help. You cannot and should not go through this alone, because you are not alone. You must have a support system that you can trust. Get friends, family, co-workers, therapists, professionals – whoever you can to listen and help you on your journey. You will need help leaving, moving forward, and healing.

I have heard the saying that the body may recover physically, but the mind does not fully recover. I now realize I have post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). When I used to hear a key in the door, I froze in fear. Now when I hear a knock on the door, I still feel fear: “Is it him?”

When I encounter everyday items that were used to inflict abuse, I freeze in fear. It is during these times that I must turn my attention to Jesus and remember that I do not have a spirit of fear, but one of power. Do what you need to to protect yourself and your kids.

Strangers unexpectedly around my kids or asking me about them puts me immediately into an overprotective mindset. I recently was out and came home to a supposed census taker asking my oldest child how long we lived here, etc. I politely and very firmly told the woman to leave. Jesus kept me from slamming the door in her face. I will never be okay with strange people asking questions about my kids, as they may be on a fishing expedition for the abuser.

My abuser drilled into my head that nobody outside the house should help me, he was all I needed. Any request for help was a betrayal.

That is a lie. Asking for help is not a sign of weakness or betrayal.

Recognize any lies that you are being told and reject them.

You must find privacy, ways to communicate that are not monitored. I discovered that certain carriers in their online cell phone accounts reveal everything – phone numbers called, call durations, text messages, etc. Educate yourself.

I also learned that there is an “owner” on cell phone accounts at a carrier we will call “V. Wireless.” There is one person who is the owner, even if the account is joint. It is irrelevant who actually pays the bill, it only matters who is labeled as the owner.

My abuser was the owner, and he had access to everything – every phone call, every text, and he also had to “approve” me making any changes to my personal cell phone even to the point of allowing me to get a new plan with the same carrier. Educate yourself.

Assume you are being tracked. Again, cell phones are a blessing, yet can be a curse. It is extremely easy to track you by your cell phone. Turning off Bluetooth may not be enough if there is an app on your phone you don’t know about that is tracking you, for instance.

Computers have history, and even if you erase it, there are key logger apps. Change your passwords constantly and use multi-factor authentication.

Ensure you have access to funds stashed safely that are not in a bank, to prevent the abuser from stealing them.

As I said in Part 1, I am grateful to God I survived to leave. I have more to share and will continue my story here next week.

[Read Part 3]


Heavenly Father, we lift up all those who are being abused. Please lead them to help, Lord. Let them know they are not alone. Never alone. In the blessed name of Jesus we pray. Amen.

Nobody Knew, Yet Everybody Knew: An Abuse Survivor’s Story (Part 1)

When you hear the word “abuse,” many ideas come to mind. People have their own feelings and ideas about that word. I have not shared my full story because it is scary to acknowledge you have been abused. People see you differently.

There are many emotions that run through people when we realize we are being abused and even more so when we choose to do something to end the abuse.

In my life, I have survived different kinds of abuse: sexual assault, mental, verbal, emotional, financial, and spiritual abuse to name a few. Most of the abuse came from my spouse, but not all of it. I first learned about how a grown man can attempt awful things with a young girl when I was an 8-year-old on a subway. When I tried to tell my mom what happened, I was ignored and told to, “Forget about it.” So, when similar things occurred when I was 15 and again at 16, I did what I was told.

I firmly believe in the Bible, every word of it. It is to Romans 8:28 that I cling, looking for good in everything that has happened to me and continues to happen to me: “We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.”

I share my story to find the good. My goal in telling my story is to help just one person and to give God all the glory. God has used every event in my life to make me stronger and firmer in my relationship with Him. Healing does not happen overnight. It takes God first, then work and love and help and support. It has taken me years to get to the point of being able to talk about some of the events in my life.

Credit: JC

I recently left my abuser. The wounds are still fresh for me, and now that I am no longer in this person’s presence, I can see with clarity just how deep those wounds are. But, with the help of many people, the raw wounds are becoming scars. I bear them proudly, as each one has a story that may help someone. I am not ashamed of my scars or my story. I am not ashamed that I need help or to ask for it (this is new for me). I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. He is my Lord and Savior. He was my Lord during the abuse and He remains my Lord after the abuse has ended and as my healing begins.

My body has scars and tattoos that are a daily reminder of my story. As survivors, we are not to be ashamed, but instead share with who we are led to share. I am led to write here – for the first time – my story.

While there are still many wounds that are being healed with the help of loved ones and an amazing Christian therapist, I choose to remain silent no longer. This is not a series of posts to say, “I figured it all out, and here it is!” But instead to share what I have learned so far along my journey.

As someone who is a survivor and not a victim, I offer the below thoughts to those who love a survivor and to those who will become survivors.

  • Please get help. Please contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline on their site or by phone at 1−800−799−7233. Do not be one of the ones who does not survive to leave.
  • There is a huge difference between calling someone a “victim” versus a “survivor.” Survivors fight, and we literally have survived abuse. We have lived to tell our stories, and we do. Not to make spectacles of ourselves, but to help others become survivors, too.
  • Unless you have been in an abusive situation, please stop saying, “I don’t know why you just don’t leave.” It is not that easy.
  • Leaving is a massive undertaking. You must have a plan, and it sometimes takes months to execute that plan in a safe way.
  • Please do just LEAVE if you or your kids are in danger.

I understand some statistics show it takes on average seven tries for someone to leave, and not all survive that long. I am grateful to God I survived to leave. I was scared, but God sent me a video featuring Joyce Meyer a few weeks ago, deeply impacting me. I will continue my story here next week, as I have much more to share.

[Read Part 2]


Heavenly Father, we lift up the survivors and the victims of abuse. May they always feel You with them. Please show them their paths. May there be no further victims, only survivors. In the blessed name of Jesus we pray. Amen.