What Is On The Mountain?

Who could possibly desire to smoke “weed” when our highs in the Lord are far greater than anything we would smoke? I have never smoked even a regular cigarette, so can’t speak to anything “smoked”, but certainly have heard folks talk about the experience. I know every day of our lives can’t be a mountain top encounter. However, I know that when seeking God’s direction for us, even the valleys can be filled with “son” shine and fragrant flowers.

If we allow it, the daily elements of life can rapidly pull us into dark valleys of despair, disappointment and frustration. Each of us also realize that often while attempting to seek only the positive of life among the cacti, Satan will try us to the maximum.  We comprehend the more we seek God, the more Satan is there is tempt us. I’ve heard several pastors and bible study authors say recently, “when Satan has us in his grasp, there is no need to entice us.”  I have to remind myself of this when I see persons whose lives have very few or minor trials. I have compared myself to them, asking God why, when I’m trying so diligently to do what He wills and to be where He desires me to be, must I be the one that has been stung, burned and scarred by life? God reminds me He knows this, but He is with me.

I will never forget the wise words from one of my Christian counselors. I shared with him that as a Christian I didn’t wish to be angry. He queried me in-depth about this concern. I informed him, it would be detrimental to my testimony. His reply took me off guard. “God gave us the emotion of anger, so it’s fine to be angry. However, it is what we do with the anger which matters.” I reflect on that often while tussling with life. When I’m in the valley, I choose to climb up and out as rapidly as possible to experience God’s high for me. Emotions such as anger prevent us from experiencing the joys God desires for us. Psalm 28:7 NIV, “The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in Him, and He helps me. My heart leaps for joy, and with my song I praise Him. “

Are Your Ears Open?

When you have those times of life when you are discouraged and if you live alone with no one to converse with, do you reach out to a friend for a word of encouragement? Do they “listen” with their ears and hearts? Perhaps, they are too eager to give their opinion.  It’s not always words of inspiration, but quite often adverse.  These persons may choose to diminish our heartaches, to validate their circumstances are worse than ours. We understand life is not always ideal. Nonetheless, we seek the “gift of encouragement” during these perplexing situations.

Isn’t it wonderful that because God always knows our needs, He often gives us what our fellow mankind refuses?  After reaching out to a friend while encountering a particularly arduous situation, I realized they lacked understanding or concern. God knew this even before I telephoned the friend or read His word.

As I read my devotional, Chuck Swindoll shared what I needed, “encouragement is the opposite of discouragement. Hope is the opposite of despair. When you accept the fact that sometimes seasons are dry and times are hard and that God is in control of both you will discover a sense of divine refuge, because the hope is then in God and not in yourself.”

However, when you know someone has confided in you seeking encouragement, I trust you will use God’s gift of “hearing and listening” to be an inspiration to them. Romans 5:3-4 NKJ, “And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character, and character hope.”

Returning Home

Have you ever had those times in your life when you think, “God, how did I miss this one?” Such is the case with this long and challenging journey which began last week. As I shared, I arrived at my original volunteer destination only to realize this was false advertising.  While heading back home, my daughter encouraged me to investigate if another resort or inn could utilize my time and talents. As I knocked on an innkeeper’s door in another village, I was informed “yes, indeed they could use me.” With much kindness and hospitality, they accepted me as a volunteer, but quickly realized this was not beneficial for them.

I’m returning home, but this time not stopping to smell roses along life’s path. I realize that with every event in life, there is a purpose and often a lesson. God is always in the details, even when it appears things went awry.  I know if God lays something on my heart again and I pray for Him to direct me, I will not back down from a challenge.  However, I will be more cautious and perhaps expend more exploration.  Even though I did my research this time, I “missed the mark.”

As in all situations there are positive elements if we choose to seek the optimistic and not the pessimistic. I spent some loving and memorable time with my brother, sister-in-law, niece and her family.  I also learned things are not always as they appear. Although, laughingly I acquired that lesson many years ago. Additionally, I was blessed to be a part of the Sunday morning worship service at the church where my brother is interim pastor, interacting with many caring individuals. This was a time to be reminded of I Thess. 5:18 KJV “In everything give thanks…”

Is This Really A Room?

As I had shared, I was heading north to WI for a month-long volunteer stint. After two days of driving over 1,150 miles, I arrived at my destination. Shock and disbelief were the first words which came to mind upon  arrival.  After telephone calls and e-mails to the owners for over two months, I was astounded to see the accommodations were unfit for even my little dog. The room smaller than my closets contained not a bed, but a cot without a full set of linens or even a pillow. There was not a closet nor a rod for hanging my clothes. They knew I was coming with my bicycle and sewing machine as this had been discussed “at length.” The filth and stench of the room allowed me to realize most probably non-human residents would have been bunking with me.

I wondered how anyone would be willing to allow someone to volunteer for them 40 hours per wk. for a full month and then provide accommodations inferior to shelters? As I drove away, the numbness was so enormous I could not even cry. I telephoned my daughter informing her I had no option, but to return back to OK. Not dealing with the situation as I was, she was wise in her counsel. “Mom, there has to be someone else in the area that can use your time and talent.” I said, “you are right.” I will see if I can locate someone. If not, I’m heading back home.”

As I pulled over to the side of the road, I continued the prayer I had begun when viewing the appalling living arrangements at the resort, “God I prayed about this before I began this adventure, so please show me now what you would have for me to do.” I researched resorts and inns in the area. God is always in the details, so He led me to an inn where the owner/innkeeper was present. I inquired about anyone whom could use a retired volunteer for a month. God led and God intervened. Yes, the new inn could use me. So now on day 2 of this adventurous, journey, I’m awaiting what will be in store for me. Psalm 37:23 NKJ “The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord and He delights in his way.”

Cherishing Our Family

How could anyone desire more? Hearing, inspirational words from Chuck Swindoll and his team on cherishing our family, meeting dozens of other Christians and hopefully making friendships to last a lifetime, viewing God’s majestic handiwork, but most of all making beautiful and treasured memories with my daughter have filled my blessing basket to abundance and overflowing.

I had never been on a cruise, but chose to go on this one, as it was Chuck’s 40th anniversary of Insight For Living and having been a member of his church on two separate occasions, I knew this would be an opportunity I didn’t desire to miss. I also knew there was no one I would rather share these memories with than my beautiful daughter. Words are inadequate to describe all which transpired over the 10 days I was gone. I can only say “thank you God.”  Andrea and I had never been on a trip together and this was also a “first” for each of us with the cruise. It was far more than either of us expected, so that too was a joy immeasurable.

As Andrea and I shared often during the trip, it would not have been as memorable had we not shared it with the other 848+ travelers whom were there for Chuck’s tour. As with many things in life, there was a week of “emotional and inspirational highs”, but reality returned.  As Chuck shared on our last night of the trip, we can’t spend our lives being waited on as we were for the week aboard the cruise. Nonetheless, what an elation to return home, knowing that all the words we heard and hymns we sung are reminders that God is with us for our every need in every situation.

I depart in the morning for a month-long volunteer commitment. I will share as much of my voyage with you as possible; not disclosing my locale until the conclusion of my journey. Years ago, I promised God for as long as He gives me the stamina and abilities to do His work, I will. No matter what we do or where we go, we are always witnesses for Him. When others know we are God’s children, we can choose to be shining lights or impediments.  Matt. 5:16 (NKJ), “let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good words and glorify your Father in heaven.”

Is This Love? Conclusion

Dear Readers,

As I’ve taken you on this short journey of domestic violence, I trust it might have caused you to reflect on situations you have been aware of but dismissed as DV. Focus Ministries says, “behind closed doors is a cancer that has permeated our Christian community and is destroying our families. There is no typical batterer…but the word of God calls them fools. Not every fool is an abuser, but every abuser is a fool.”

Brenda Branson and Paula Silva, “Violence Among Us”, states, power and control are the fundamental elements that drive abusive behavior. When joined with entitlement, they become powerful forces in an abuser’s mind, giving him the right to speak or act in any way necessary to gain and maintain control over his wife and children.” There is also an excellent resource on white collar abusers, Not To People Like Us, Hidden Abuse In Upscale Marriages.

As with my own saga of child abuse and DV there were hundreds of emotionally and physically painful situations which were not shared in these few short blogs. There were countless incidents which bore deep scars into my heart; the nights of sleeping in my car in parking lots to avoid the physical abuse, knowing that my husband mandated I work and bring home a paycheck, but then went to the bank to remove my name from any/all assets so they would be in his name only, telling our daughter he didn’t care if I starved to death. The list is lengthy and the assaults equal, but I did survive each of these situations and countless more with God’s love and strength.

Abuse becomes the “norm” for the victim and a way of life. They never know what will upset their abuser. During a recent interview to become a volunteer for an organization that helps abused victims, I shared that even though educated, I was an idiot when I believed my life would change with love and devotion. The interviewer reminded me that many victims of DV believe that.

Yes, I overcame the beatings and physical bruises from my childhood. Over the years, even the unkind words my parents spoke against me faded with time. I also returned to college to complete the education Charles requested I abandon. However, as I’ve said to dozens of counselors, I never understood the abuse from my husband for he is the one that asked me to be his wife; not reversed.  I loved him, or I would never have chosen to marry him. Even when he withheld what I so greatly yearned; his emotional and physical love, I continued to believe; to have the faith and trust that God would heal us.

The greatest sorrow during the 44-year marriage was when I learned Charles withheld years of love and devotion to me, but readily and quickly gave it to another when he began an affair before our divorce.  That is a sorrow which will remain. However, as I also noted during my volunteer interview, God didn’t allow such abuse and destruction of a marriage, family and home, if not for His glory. As I shared when I began this series of blogs on DV, I have been a survivor. God gave me the strength to not only endure, but to be a testimony to others whom may be walking the same path. Please remember, those sustaining such trials, seek only someone to hear them, to believe them and to understand them. Proverbs 29:11, NKJ, “a fool vents all his feelings, but a wise man holds them back.”

Is This Love? Part 8

As I continue to share some of the highlights from the Faith Based Domestic Violence Training at Focus Ministries, there is no way I can cover all that we discussed, but hopefully as you read some of the traits/actions of an abuser, if you know of anyone experiencing such treatment, you can recommend they seek solace from the abuse. I had no resources, so I continued to endure my abuse.  God knew this would happen. I don’t believe abuse is God’s divine will, but rather His permissive will. The end result will be that God receives the glory for allowing me to survive and share that I was able to overcome the sorrows and evils of abuse.

Focus Ministries states, “abuse is a heart problem, not a marriage problem.” This is most valid, for what man whom loves his mate abuses her? We have covered numerous areas of both verbal and emotional abuse. Yet they are too vast to include each of them. There is probably not a survivor whom has not experienced shaming, insulting, ridiculing, using words to destroy self-worth, demeaning, accusing/blaming, abusive anger, withholding, discounting, blocking/diverting, judging/criticizing, trivializing, undermining, forgetting, ordering and denial. For me personally, I have experienced each of the above traits and most often dozens of times during our 44-year marriage.

One of the most disappointing was when I was seeking so earnestly to become a better wife. While attending a bible study on becoming Godly wives, we were reminded we are not to putdown, criticize, complain about and/or condemn our husbands. We were asked to find one good trait about them every day; not a fabricated accolade, but something which we sincerely admired about our mates.

In spite of Charles’ abusive behavior toward me, he was and remains a good man. He was not a good husband to me, for his desire was not to be my husband. Nonetheless, on the third day of sincere gratitude to him, his harsh words of mockery caused tremendous heartache. He shouted at me as he said, “I’m so sick and tired of your contrived compliments.” I sobbed, as he bellowed at me. I assured him they were not contrived, but sincere. I reflect on the countless times I tried to show him how much I loved him, but my words and actions were received in anger and hostility.

As stated earlier in this series of blogs on DV, one can heal more readily from physical abuse than from emotional and verbal. The abuse toward the victim is as individualized as the abuser, but one of the current traits of emotional abuse is gaslighting; a tactic in which a person, in order to gain more power, makes a victim question their reality or sanity. Yes, I certainly did. I was accused so often of being mentally ill, that I sought psychiatric counseling and was assured on each occasion that I was not at all mentally ill. However, psychologists and psychiatrists cited I suffered a type of PTSD from the length and severity of abuse.

In addition to gaslighting, Charles implemented some of the other forms of emotional abuse; “no judge would see you as a fit mother” (when I attempted to leave him when our children were young), “you are too sensitive” and “you are too emotional”  (I heard each of these statements from before we married through post-divorce), “if you hadn’t aggravated me, I wouldn’t have exploded at you,” (yes, how often I heard this one), “something is really wrong with you “(gaslighting).

“Abuse has no place in love.” Words spoken so honestly! Ephesians 5:25 NKJ, “husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her.”