Is This Love? Part 4

But he doesn’t look like an abuser! Are abusers identified only by appearance, career or social status? Of the countless times  I would confide in fellow church members that I was seeking prayer and support, how often I heard, “oh Charles can’t be abusive because he is an executive.  He drives a Mercedes and wears expensive clothes.”  As the lyrics of the song “what does love have to do with it”, well what does appearance have to do with it?

A huge component of Charles’ persona was his image. That was his rationale when he required us to move to the smaller, but more expensive home; appearances of prestige and success. That is the reason he mandated I work outside the home and he would dictate what expenses I must cover so that he could purchase Mercedes vehicles (trading frequently for newer models).

I was commanded to take a jobs requiring travel and working week-ends. I loathed being away from my home and family, but I would learn over the years, my time away allowed Charles to develop relationships with our children and others whereby I would be excluded. With his commands on what I would do with my payroll check, he hid money which I never learned about until years later and which I would never receive even a portion of.

As I came home one Saturday, our young son excitedly said, “guess what Daddy bought today?” I had not yet seen his purchase. Chris was thrilled to tell me it was a Mercedes. As I sobbed, I said, “you force me to work outside the home so you can go and purchase a luxury car?”

For years, I pleaded to remain a full-time wife and mother, but each request was denied. Charles always stated, “you need to work.”  I didn’t need to work, but this is a trait of financial abuse. I was obligated to be employed so that he could spend what he deemed “his money” for his desires. Until the day he left me in 2012, he declared the home and all our joint assets were “his.” No, they were ours, for as a young couple whom married at age 21 and 22, we acquired everything we had as a couple. We had no inheritances of financial or monetary assets.

As I stated in my recent blog on DV, with the “Me Too” movement more people are realizing that status in life and appearance has nothing to do with the desire to control, manipulate, humiliate, intimidate and harm another person. In my situation, it was imperative that Charles was always in absolute control; in his career, his home and most especially with me.  This had nothing to do with biblical submission which our church touted frequently to the wives and women of the church. I was in submission, doing as he required. However, being physically and emotionally abused is not a component of submission.

While accompanying Charles on a business trip only months before he left me, one of his colleagues introduced himself and queried whom I was. Before I could reply, Charles cited, “she belongs to me.” The surrounding colleagues chuckled, but I knew what he meant. I was merely property to him. I had been from the day I became his wife. I was never viewed as his “other half”; God’s intention for our spouses. I was merely someone that brought him an income, maintained his home, cooked the meals, ran his errands and cared for his children. I was never deemed “his wife.” Ephesians 5:25 NKJ25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her,

Is This Love?-Part 3

 

According to the NCADV (Nat’l Coalition Against Domestic Violence)  1 in 4 women in the US is or will become a victim of DV. As I have shared with pastors and church staff dozens of times, as you stand in the pulpit and look out over the congregation, 25% of all the women there are victims of DV. Most church staff choose to disregard the statistics for they believe if ignored, it will go away.

There are many elements of DV, some of the most prevalent are: intimation, humiliation, physical injury, power and control. At the core of each case of DV is a component which is a trigger to the abuser. For me personally, despite the enduring love I had for Charles, the more I desired him to fulfill the roles of a husband; emotional and physical interaction, the more he pushed me away. The more Charles withdrew, the more I tried to be accepted by him. The countless hours and thousands of dollars spent in counseling to be loved and accepted by a man whom years later touted he never truly cared about me, caused the cycle of abuse to escalate over the years.

I understand the statement from Focus Ministries, “Abuser wants power and control over their victim and they will use any means they can to do so.” The examples of this power and control in my life, would fill a multi volume book. I will remember always a house which Charles insisted we purchase. We were in a new house only 4 years old. I loved the house and the neighborhood.  He desired to be in a smaller house, but a more prestigious neighborhood at a much greater cost.

Because Charles mandated that I work outside the home, specifying what things I must pay for, then purchasing a more expensive, smaller home was irrational to me. Additionally, the increased mortgage would only place an unnecessary encumbrance on our budget. I did not desire to move or to purchase that house. He manipulated the realtor to pressure me to the point he purchased that house. This would not be the only time in our marriage he did this. He purchased other homes and automobiles without my consent.

In all relationships there must be compromise, but husbands that love their wives don’t “bully them” to achieve what they yearn. I Cor. 13: 4-5 NKJ, “Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely…”

Is This Love? Part 2

As we walk on life’s paths we often ask, “what is God teaching me in this?” Because my abuse has been the fiber of my entire life, those in the faith community have cited often, “share your story, for God has a purpose in this and He receives the glory.”

Before I became Charles’ wife, his control over me had begun. We had dated for a year and were then engaged for another year when he cited “we could not marry if we both continued in college.” Thus, his desire was that we wait several more years to marry. My parents were adamant, “break off the engagement or marry.” When Charles heard this, his demand was that I must drop out of college to work full-time to allow him to graduate.  The information and knowledge we have today would have been a red flag this was a controlling and manipulative man. Because it was the 1960’s and this information was not available, then “in love”, Janie continued on my journey.

In less than 12 hours after I took my vows to be “Mrs. Woods”, I realized something was atypical. What  22 year old groom would invite his 17 year old brother to arrive at our residence at 8:00 a.m. to  linger for the entire day? By that night when Mike remained in our apartment, my tearful pleas for his departure were received only by Charles’ anger, “this is my brother and he can stay as long as he wishes.” This came after weeks of pleading to Charles for a “honeymoon” of any kind; even a night in a lovely hotel, but all were denied.

Over the years I would come to understand such behavior was termed, “avoidance” by counselors; another way to avoid being alone with a new wife whom desired love and attention from her husband. I had dreamed of the time I would have a husband with whom I could cherish the physical attributes of our union. This component of the marriage was missing.

As a naïve 21 year old bride reared in an ultra-conservative fundamentalist church, after meeting with a psychologist about the lack of intimacy and the desire for Charles to spend our first day of marriage with a brother instead of his wife, his advice revealed this was indeed not a typical marriage.  I believed it was imperative that I have our marriage annulled.

My parents requested that I converse with our pastor about my desire. The pastor was unyielding; I had taken a vow before God and I must remain married.  Less than 30 days after taking my wedding vows the abuse had begun. It was initially from my husband for denying me what I would learn years later is considered “sexual abuse” (to deliberately withhold physical intimacy from a spouse) and then emotional/spiritual abuse when I was instructed to remain in this celibate marriage. As years passed and the abuse escalated, numerous pastors in as many different churches, mandated the same advice.  The old cliché that hindsight is 20/20 could not have been more apropos in my situation. Believing that I must remain in this union, began a very long and arduous journey for me.

For years, Charles denied he was abusive for he cited he had never severely beaten me as my father did. Focus Ministries states, “anyone who has been a victim of verbal, emotional, psychological or financial abuse understands the power of oppression. DV may not be evident in physical bruises or open cuts to show the world-but often the wounds of oppression are much deeper and slower to heal.” Proverbs 22:24 NKJ, “Make no friendship with an angry man, and with a furious man do not go.”

Is This Love? Part One

Dear Blog Followers, For the next few days, I will be deviating from my normal “thanks and gratitude” blog to share something which has personally impacted me. Not only has it imprinted and changed my life, it is something which is real and exists in our communities, but many choose to disregard it. Due to the “Me Too” movement and much coverage in the media, it is no longer something which is hidden. The pain is like that of a jellyfish; its’ tentacles reaching out with poison and touching all those it comes in contact with. It is domestic violence (DV) as I will refer to it from this point forward.

Because my blogs are faith based, I will share some notes and statistics from training I received in 2017 at Focus Ministries in Elmhurst, IL. My references will refer to he/him as the abuser for as this training and other workshops note, the majority of abusers are male.   I was a counseling client in a battered women’s shelter, as well as attending several workshops and conferences on this subject for it has consumed my entire life. From being a severely, physically and emotionally abused child to enduring all forms of DV as a wife for 44 years and beyond, I am choosing to share my journey. I have been urged to do so for I have been able to endure and survive without bitterness and anger. I can truthfully say, to God be the glory for that.”

For victims such as myself, active in church, the emotional agony has  been exacerbated when church staff and fellow members have turned a deaf ear to us or touted, we were being dishonest in our cries and pleas for help. As I share more in this blog, I pray that if you know of someone that is walking this journey you will give them the support and love they so greatly desire and require in order to move beyond the grief.

Child abuse and DV is nothing to be grateful for, but the correlation between this blog and thankfulness is that persons like myself have survived it. I know there are thousands like me; encouragers to those whom may still be walking the path or have been unable to overcome the pain of the journey. Ezekiel 45:9 NLT, “For this is what the Sovereign Lord says: Enough, you prices of Israel. Stop your violence and oppression and do what is just and right.”

Our Curb Appeal

Have you ever driven down a street and been captivated by the exterior or lawn of a home? Realtors say most buyers will never give a home a second look if the curb appeal is negative.  I understood from the time I was a young teen that first impressions may also be the last impression. Our personal appearance, as well as our homes are reflections of the persons we are.

What about personalized vehicle tags and holders?  Do they also portray the people we are? There are tags which promote professions or hobbies, as well as those touting love for families or pets. The variety of quotes on tags is as limitless as the people owning them. My own tag, although not too original, denotes the car is owned by someone with the letter “J”; J-Bug, as I drive a 2013 VW Beetle. My tag holder also alerts others to one of my hobbies. It states “happiness is quilting”. That may be in question as I often must rip and re-sew or rip and re-arrange, but it was a gift from a quilt shop and I’m proud to share with others that I do enjoy the “gift” of quilting.

Recently I was behind a car with a tag holder I had never seen. It left me smiling all the way home; “another beautiful day, compliments of God.” Oh yes, indeed! Every day is a gift from God.  What kind of image do we represent when others see us?

Are our lives filled with weeds; the things which choke out the goodness from God?  Are our homes dirty and cluttered with junk which don’t allow others to come in, sit down and hear about the love of God?  How about dirty and ragged clothes, which cover up the beauty God instilled in us? Our impression to others does matter. Our image, words and actions are our “curb appeal.” People may walk by and never get to know us, for they don’t like what they see.  Matthew 5:16 NKJ, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.”

A Day Of Reflection

As I reflected on the day to honor fathers and read these words from Charles Stanley, I was reminded of what God instructs fathers to be and to do, “According to Scripture, the father’s responsibility is to lead his family physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Most dads work hard to provide for material needs, and many give the family adequate time and love. But how many are diligent to lead spiritually?”

I was saddened as I thought of my own father and perhaps thousands of others like him as he chose to withhold time and love, while also choosing not to fulfill the physical, emotional or spiritual needs of our lives. He lived for only himself. Over the years I have shared countless times that I honored my father because God imparts that to us, but I didn’t love or respect my father, due to the extreme physical and emotional abuse.

Dr. Rabbi HaLevi cites, “to begin with, it’s important to remember that the Hebrew Bible says, “honor your father. It doesn’t say obey your father. It doesn’t say respect your father. It doesn’t say like your father. It doesn’t even say love your father. Of course, it would be wonderful to feel love for one’s father, however, love is a feeling and feelings can’t be commanded. Some fathers are lovable. However, some fathers are not. For a myriad of reasons, they are outside the realm of our love: abuse, neglect, absence, abandonment, betrayal-many fathers have simply made it impossible for their children to feel the emotion of love or demonstrate it back.”

No matter how diligently I tried to be loved and accepted by my father, I received only rejection. Yet, I honored him. I would have cherished a “hallmark” father, but that was not a gift I was given. However, on this day as we reflect upon the men in our lives whom we call “Dad”, may we always esteem the love our heavenly father gives as no other can. Exodus 20:12 NKJ, “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long upon the land…”

Taking Cover In The Storm

As I left departed for church there were a few clouds in the sky, but it was dry. Minutes later as I was driving down the highway the winds blew, the rains fell, and hail dropped from the darkened sky. I quickly found a medical center and pulled in under cover, awaiting an escape from the storm, so that I could proceed to church. Believing it was safe enough to continue my drive, the rain remained relentless. After sitting in the church parking lot for over 30 minutes with rain so strong and unforgiving, it seemed it would crash through the car at any moment.

At long last, a reprieve. Although it was still raining, my umbrella would protect me from the cool, wet drops. A surprise awaited me as I stepped into a darkened church. Due to ferocity of the rain, our church had lost power. The early service was canceled.

Along my commute back home, I thought about our lives. How often are we in dark storms and take short-term, emergency cover in the arms and love of our Lord? Then we feel the storms have passed, so we proceed on, only to learn they had not ended; they had merely been lessened “for the moment.” We once again seek His shelter. Then suddenly, we lose all control, all power. We are totally at the compassion of God. Just as our church was at the mercy of God calming the storm so we could once again have power for our electricity, so too must we rely on God for control of our lives; in storms and tranquility.

If we walk with God during all the times of our lives, we won’t have a worry or fear when the storms come. We will have a peace that He will be with us. Isaiah 4:6 NIV…”it will be a shelter and shade from the heat of the day and a refuge and hiding place from the storm and rain.”