Life in FOCUS Blog

In the last post, you were introduced to Eva and Jason who had a whirlwind courtship. They met in July, quickly fell in love, and before Eva had the chance to catch her breath, Jason proposed—in October, three months after they met. Eva was beginning to pick up on a few things, in her spirit but she couldn’t wrap her head around them.

Did you pick up on any red flags as you were reading? I hope so. At the end of the last post, Eva’s best friend Jessica, wanted to know what was going on…

            “Eva! What happened to your ring!?”

            Embarrassed, Eva involuntarily felt for her ring. “Oh, girl, I’m having it cleaned. What do you think about this dress?”

            Ohhkkkay. Jessica thought, knowing Eva was lying. “So, has Jason been keeping his word and attending church with you?”

            “Well…yah.”

            “Was that hesitation I heard in your voice? What’s really going on?”

Jessica and Eva were like sisters. They’d grown up together, literally. They’d spent so much time together that they each knew the other well. They looked out for each other and were often each other’s sounding board. They’d always told the truth to each other, no matter what. And they loved each other as if they shared the same blood.

            Eva, still not ready to give in and tell the truth said, “Nothing girl! I’m so excited about our wedding! I’m sure we’ll be able to work out our little differences. I’m confident that we will because we love each other.”

            “Eva—there’s something about him that doesn’t sit right with me. I noticed how he watched every move you made, the night we had dinner at my house. And did you hear him question Brian when he made a simple comment about you and his girl taking the plunge? Brian had to explain that you were like a sister to him. Really, Eva? You don’t see something wrong with that?”

            “Jess, you’re being overly dramatic. Semantics, that’s all that was. Now, you did say that you would be my matron of honor, right?”

“Eva! Are you serious right now!? I told you that there’s something about him that doesn’t sit right with me. Are you hearing me? He seems possessive to me, and didn’t you pick up on what he said when Brian asked him to help with the dishes…oh, and the beer thing?”

“I hear you Jess. I just think you’re over-reacting. What color do you like best? Sea green or mauve?”

Jessica saw that she wasn’t getting through to Eva. Amazed that her best friend was refusing to hear her concerns, she quietly said, “I like the sea green, but Eva, that’s not what’s important right now. I want you to pay close attention to your conversations with Jason and watch his actions.” Her voice became even softer, “Would you do that for me?”

Eva looked at Jessica, tenderly took her hand and said, “I know you only want what’s best for me.”

The next day

            “Jason, are you alright? I’ve left you three voicemails and texts. Call me when you get this, okay?” Eva hadn’t been able to get in touch with Jason for two days. Her next move was to go to his parents’ house.

Jason showed up on her doorstep that night. Happy to see him, she pulled him inside and hugged him then asked, “Where have you been! I’ve been so worried that something happened to you.”

            “I’m a grown man. You have no right to know every move I make.

Eva, shocked at his response, pulled back. Sensing his anger and for the first time feeling afraid of him, confused her. The first thing that came to her mind was the conversation she and Jessica had. “Hmm, what do you mean? I’m not tracking you. I was concerned.”

“Gotcha! Jason said, smiling. “You should know where I am and that I’m okay. That was just a test, and you passed it.” With that, he walked past her and headed straight for the kitchen. She followed him. He sat at the head of the table and pulled her into his lap. “What’s my beautiful fiance’ have ready for dinner?”

She smiled, concealing fear. I’m over-reacting, she thought to herself. Smiling she said, “baked chicken, mashed potatoes, and green beans.”

With her still sitting on his lap, he abruptly stood, dumping her to the floor. Looking down at her scathingly, he said in a low menacing voice, “you know I don’t like chicken. How many times do I have to tell you that!? If you really cared about me, you would have listened when I told you that.” He stepped over her. “Get up and take me home!”

She was so shocked that she couldn’t stand up. What just happened? The sweet man she knew had turned into someone she never wanted to know. He said he loved my baked chicken two weeks ago.

“Jessica!” he shouted, “come on!”

She got up, grabbed her keys from the rack on the wall by the door, and drove him home.

After dropping him off, she went directly to Jessica’s house after taking Jason home, ignoring his repeated attempts to reach her. Through tears and angst, she said, “Jess, you were right. Something is going on with Jason. I saw another side of him that scared me.” She felt sick. All of the wedding plans and money she’d already spent was simply going to be a waste.

“C’mon in Eva. Let’s have a cup of tea and talk like we used to do.”

“Is Jason here?”

“No, he’s working over-time.”

“Okay.” Jessica took off her shoes and curled up with a pillow in the light blue vintage Lazy-Boy recliner. She was soothed by the soft cushions that enveloped her, making her feel safe. Something she desperately needed to feel. Taking a deep breath and after a sip of tea she was ready to talk. She felt as if someone else was relaying what had happened. With tears streaming down her face and in a flat monotone voice, she began telling her best friend what she’d experienced. By the time she’d finished she was emotionally and physically drained. She felt like a wet noodle. Just then her phone vibrated indicating there was a message, which she put it on speaker.

“Eva, I’m so sorry. I’m going through so much right now. I love you. I don’t want to live without you. Please forgive me. Please. I need you!”

Eva and Jessica looked at each other. “Jess, do you think he’s really sorry and that he would be a different person if he wasn’t under so much stress? Did you hear how contrite he sounded? He really is sorry. Maybe I could have handled the entire situation differently and he wouldn’t have gotten mad? I mean…everyone deserves a second chance, right”

Emphatically Jessica replied, “No.”

Eva’s phone began ringing incessantly—back to back to back. She ignored the calls, at first.

Putting the phone on speaker, again, they listened. “Hello.”

“Eva! I finally got you. Oh, honey are you alright? I’m so worried about you! Did you get my message? Can you come back over, and talk?” The sound of his voice gave Eva pause. She was so confused. She loved him and he loved her, didn’t he?

Eva was looking at Jessica mouth the word Nnnnoooo!

Jessica didn’t know what to say or do. As she stood to put her shoes on the told Jason she’d be at his house in 20 minutes.

“Eva, you are not going over there, right!”

“I love him Jess. We just need to get a good understanding. I’m not going to run away after the first argument. I just need a thicker skin. I’m too sensitive.”

“Eva, please, don’t go over there.”

Eva’s phone rang again. It was Jason.

“How close are you, can you bring a bottle of wine, please. I think after we talk, we’ll have cause for celebration.”

 

What should Eva do?  

Stay tuned for the conclusion in Part 3.                         Yvonne Cole

Eva and Jason were in the throes of a whirlwind courtship. They met in July, quickly fell in love, and before Eva had the chance to catch her breath, Jason proposed—in October, three months after they met. It was Christmas Eve and they were at her parent’s home for dinner.

Out of the corner of her eye, Eva saw Jason slowly push back his chair and bend to one knee. Her eyes grew huge and a warm wash came over her.  At the sound of his voice, Eva turned to face him. Her Mom, Dad, and siblings were all smiles, because they knew what was happening. Tears filled Eva’s eyes. In his sonorous voice, that deep one that she loved to hear so much, he said, taking her hand, “Eva, I love you. From the day we met, I knew you were the one. Would you do me the honor of marrying me? I want to protect you and keep you safe. I want to honor you and spend the rest of our lives together.” He slid the ring up to her knuckle awaiting her response. Eva wiped the tears from her eyes and shook her head in the affirmative. She was ecstatic but ignored the sense of unease she felt. Jason was perfect for her, wasn’t he?

One-week post-proposal.

            “Eva, honey, I know you said you wanted a long engagement, but…”

            Eva held her hand out admiring her ring. Thinking about how wonderful this man was and how much she was looking forward sharing her life with him.  “Jayce, I still feel the same way.”

            “What difference does it make if we get married a year or one month from now. We know we’re going to get married.”

            He must really be ready to start our lives together. “True, I just think we need to spend more time getting to know each other better, first.”

            “Awh girl, I know all I need to know about you.” He smiled. “Let’s see, you are beautiful. Your eyes are light brown. Your smile makes me feel woozy inside. Your favorite color is jade. You should own your own restaurant; everything you cook so good. You’re my genius—I.Q. 140. You are caring. Want me to go on?”

            Eva smiled. She loved that Jason was so perceptive and the way he always commented on just about everything she did. They agreed on almost everything. “Well, since you asked. I have a question.”

            “Okay.”

            “I’m contemplating starting a business?”

            “Sounds great! I know you can do anything.”

            “It would mean that I’m working my regular job and dedicating a large amount of time after that to the start up. I wouldn’t have a lot of time to spend with you at the beginning of our marriage if we were to get married sooner than if we waited.”

            “I make enough for us to live off one check. Go ahead and quit so you can fully commit to the business, I know you can succeed at anything you do. I support your decisions. Oh yeah, when can we go get our phone plans combined? I’ll pay the bill.”

            “Let me think on it.  How do you feel about my having my own bank account?”

            “As long as the bills are paid and we have savings, we should each have money to spend the way we want to.”

            “You know that I tithe out of every check, and speaking of that, why haven’t you gone to church with me more?”

            “You’re right. I see how into that you are and if we’re going to get married, we do need to be on the same page.”

Eva was pleased.

The following week.

Eva and Jason were at her best friend Jessica’s house watching movies and eating popcorn. Brian, Jessica’s husband was listening carefully to the conversation.

            “Well, Jason. I heard you and my girl are taking the plunge!”

            Eva showed off her ring.

            “Your girl!?”

“Yeah, Eva is like a sister to me.”

“Oh. Yeah, well, I finally met my Mrs. Right. Her ring set me back a pretty penny, but she’s worth it. “Hey man, you got any beer?”

            Eva playfully nudged Jason in the side and said, “Brian, he’s just playing. He doesn’t drink beer.”

            “Good,” Brian said, ‘cause we don’t either.

They were sitting at the dinner table shooting the breeze when Brian stood and began clearing the dinner dishes. “Hey, man, grab a few of these dishes and meet me in the kitchen. It’s my turn to do the dishes.”

            “Uh, no thanks.”

Awkward moment.

            Jessica said, “why not Jason? You don’t like dishpan hands?”

            “Well, I was raised that the woman handles the kitchen duties.”

            “Hmm.” Eva thought as she mentally tucked that little piece of information away.

            “Let’s play cards,” Jessica said. I want my baby as my partner.”

            “No problem,” Eva said. We got this.

The next day.

            “Jason, now that we’re engaged, when do I get to meet your family?”

            “Eva, soon. I told you they are always traveling. I barely see them myself. But I got the house all to myself, wanna come over? I’ll be nice.”

            Eva didn’t think she heard that right. “Jason, really? I thought you told me that you had your own place.”

            “Well, I used to. I didn’t want to tell you. But two days ago, I temporarily, moved with my parents because…because I got fired. I’m looking for a new job.

            Eva was shocked but wanted to show how understanding she could be. In a nondescript voice she asked, “What happened?”

“They were always sweating me to produce more and more.” He stood and began to pace.  “Bring in more and more clients, they kept saying. Then they said I took too many days off. No worries, I’ll have a better job in no time. I have responsibilities that I’m getting ready to take on.”

            “Sooo, when were you going to tell me you lost your apartment and your job? Do you have any money saved?”

“Um, yeah. Well, I did, but I had to help out my cousin.”

“Oh, no.” She hugged him. “You could take the ring back if you’re short on money. I don’t need a ring as long as I’ve got you.” When she got no response, she figured he was embarrassed. “Jason?”

            “I love you Eva.  Are you sure about the ring, though? I couldn’t do that to you. I’ll figure something out. No worries.”

“I’m sure, Jayce.”

“That’s my baby. I knew I chose the right one. I’ll be there in an hour.       

One week later

            “Eva, what happened to your ring?”

            Embarrassed, Eva involuntarily felt for her ring. “Oh, Jess, I’m having it cleaned. What do you think about this dress?”

            “Okay. So, has Jason been keeping his word and attending church with you?”

            “Well…yah.”

            “Unconvincing, Eva. What’s really going on?”

Stay-Tuned for Part 2! How do you see this scenario playing out?

Can you locate all of the Red Flags?

                                                                                                                                                                   Yvonne Cole

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The calling out (to cry unto, speaking aloud) of His name brings enormous victory! So, the next time you are caught in the midst of fear, anger, grief, etc. call out and depend on the name that is guaranteed to make demons tremble! The name that is above all names! Which of the names below will you call out to in your time of need or when you want to praise Him?

The Bible says the name of the Lord is like a strong tower; the righteous can run to it and be saved. When you believe in and call on the name of the Lord Jesus, confessing Him with your mouth, you are saved eternally from God’s judgment; you are forgiven, justified in Christ, and born again with the divine life of God!

I don’t know about you, but that makes me shout Hallelujah, especially since salvation is free! Even though Christ paid the penalty for our sins with His life, He offers salvation as a gift. What do we do when someone offers us a gift? We take it. But the gift is not ours unless we accept it.

The Bible uses different names of God to convey specific, personal meaning and identity. Let’s look at the meaning of some of the names God. I invite you to make them your own.

Jehovah Jireh – God will provide. Do you really believe He will provide your needs? The blessing may not come in the shape, form, or fashion, you think it should, but in His providential omniscience, the specific way He provides for you is always right on time and exactly what you needed. If His word says He will provide remember…

Numbers 23:19 (KJV) – God is not a man, that he should lie;neither the son of man, that he should repent: hath he said, and shall he not do it? or hath he spoken, and shall he not make it good? 

Jehovah Rapha – God who heals. The Bible reveals many accounts where God healed because he was moved by and empathized with the sick. There was an account where he couldn’t heal, though.

Remember the last miracle Jesus performed before being crucified;when Simon Peter drew his sword, and sliced off Malchus’ ear?  (I always wondered how he became so precise with that sword.Wasn’t the soldier’s helmet in the way? smile) God miraculously healed/replaced his ear.

What about the woman with the hemorrhage or issue of blood? It was 12 very long years that she suffered. She was considered impure. She was anemic. She’d gave all her money away to those who failed to heal her. At this point, she was desperate! Guess what happened! All ittook was one touch of Jesus’ garment and she was healed! She didn’t even touch his body! Just the hem of His garment.

Unbelief in the heart of a human can limit God’s healing power.

“Isn’t this the carpenter, the son of Mary and the brother of James,Joseph, Judas, and Simon? Aren’t His sisters here with us as well?” And they took offense at Him. Then Jesus told them, “A prophet is without honor only in his hometown, among his relatives,and in his own household.” So, He could not perform any miracles there, except to lay His hands on a few of the sick and heal them.And He was amazed at their unbelief. Matthew 6.

Soul Healing is conditional and requires effort on your part.

A person enduring an abusive relationship is understandably overwhelmed by hazardous-to-your-soul emotions, i.e., anger, unforgiveness, bitterness, fear, rejection, offense, etc. Your soul must be renewed and healed in order for you to mount up with wings as eagles as the Bible says we can.

According to Betty Miller of Bible Resources; “When a person is“born again,” he becomes a new creature, and the soul then must be renewed, or the person struggles by trying to communicate with and live in the world through an old-nature soul.”

Jehovah Shammah – The Lord is Present 

When you’ve experienced the presence of the Lord, you never want that time to end. I wish I had the proper words to convey and capture the true essence of the experience, but there are none.

The following is an inept attempt at best. The experience is purely blissful, extraordinarily peaceful, ethereally serene, enormously powerful, and time suspended. You cry tears of joy! Every one of your senses is heightened. Safety is monumental during this time. All worries, stress, fear is erased. 

El Roi – The God Who Sees

Everything that happens in our lives, God sees. No one can hide from Him. He sees the good and the bad, the ugly and the indifferent. He sees injustice and is a JUST God. Recompense is His. He rights wrongs, just ask Moses when Pharaoh and his army chased the Israelites to the Red Sea. God saw what was happening to His people. When Pharaoh heard that the Israelites were fleeing, he decided to gather an army of more than 600 people and go after Moses, Aaron and all the Israelites. The Israelites were afraid and when they complained Moses said…                                   

“Do not be afraid, God has protected you before, He will protect you again.”

The presence of God, in the form of a pillar of cloud, blocked the Egyptians of Pharaoh’s army giving the Israelites time to put distance between them. And guess what happened next!

(Exodus 14:21) tells us: “Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, (Gulf of Suez – Width: 19.88 miles – Max depth: 230′) and the Lord drove the sea back by a strong east wind all night and made the sea dry land, and the waters were divided.”

Whoa! God Seas (Sees).

The parting of the Red Sea was a supernatural phenom.

Man has tried but continue to fail to explain of it. You can not understand supernatural with a logical mind.

God sees the situation you are in right now. He can manifest supernatural favor in your life. If you are content, praise Him. If you are in a trial call out to Him, trust and believe what He says in His word. Act on His word.

Yvonne Cole

TESTIMONY

Fear turned Sharon Bryson’s heart to ice as her attackers pushed their way into her apartment.   She had no doubt that she was about to die as they pointed a gun at her face and told her they had to kill her.

“I said, ‘Lord, please, I don’t want to go to hell for all of the things I did wrong.  Please, forgive me in my heart. I just said, ‘Jesus, take my spirit, Lord.’  She just put that knife so deep in my neck that it severed an artery. She had thought she got my jugular vein, which she missed the doctor told me by only half an inch. I was stabbed so deep in my stomach that it hit my spine at the back. I had two ruptured bowels. I was stabbed so deep in my eyes and my eyelid was literally hanging off.”

Sharon sustained 30 stab wounds but miraculously she had survived. Doctors were amazed.    

This story is paraphrased and Adapted from: cbn.com

Heading into the Christmas (Christ More) season can be extremely hard on someone experiencing domestic violence. I mean, commercials express perfect happy families blissfully smiling as they sit around the beautifully color-coordinated Christmas tree. Office parties gear up and on your desk in a greeting card envelope, you’re dreading opening, sits the invitation for your annual Christmas party, calling loudly “hey, over here, open me.” Glancing through the Christmas cards at the store you come across one where a happy couple holding hands is walking through the snow all bundled together in their winter parkas…looking so in love.

Then you look in the mirror and what you see saddens you because you’re going into the New Year exactly the way you’re ending the current one. Ugh! But I implore you to remember the reason for the season! Jesus Christ. He can make your New Year a New Year.

Some wonder why He allowed them to go through such tragedy. Some wonder why He didn’t stop the violence. Could it be that you are stronger than you think, or that your enemy the devil wants to take you out, or that Christ has a plan for your life?

I know, I know, it’s hard! You had hopes and dreams of a life-long marriage. Growing old and grey haired together. Creating lasting memories. Having the grandkids over…because you love them so much and then you can send them back home. Ha Ha! Okay, look at me. You, reading this blog. I need your total attention. Read my lips. God has a plan for you. Despite ev-ver-ry-thing you’ve endured. God has a plan for you. It’s true. Take it from someone who has been where you might be right now. Your life is not over. You are still here. You can’t see it because you’re immersed in your current situation, mind, body, and soul. You’re too close to your situation to see your life objectively.

Let’s think about this. If you’re reading this blog, you are a survivor of domestic violence. You may currently be in the abusive relationship. You may be reading it from a jail cell, a library, in the park on your lap-top, maybe even from a hospital bed. Okay, some of you are barely alive, but none-the-less, you are. You may have a black eye, been burned with acid, have beaten down souls due to extreme and consistent emotional abuse, living in a shelter with your kids, are on depression medication, whatever your current situation, you’re still here. You know what that means? There is HOPE! God will give you beauty for ashes.

What we experience is not necessarily for our own benefit. Whaaat? I had a hard time digesting that truth. But, it’s true. What Jesus experienced during his long walk up Golgotha hill, while the Roman soldiers were taunting Him, slicing his skin open with a cat o’ nine tails (a type of multi-tailed whip that originated as an implement for severe physical punishment), and nailing his body to the cross, was all for our benefit. He was blameless, yet, He went through that horrible experience when He could have called legions of angels to His rescue. He chose not to.

In the same vein, we make choices too. Some of us fall prey to the conniving wiles of our abuser with eyes wide shut. We get confused by the Dr. Jekyll Mr. Hyde syndrome and the honeymoon phase. Some of us are drawn into abusive relationships because that’s all we know. Placing no blame here, in some cases, the abuser showed us who he was when he hit us the first time.

In His sovereignty God either works through His perfect or permissive will in our lives. His perfect will is found in Romans 12:2  “Do not be conformed to this present world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may test and approve what is the will of God – what is good and well-pleasing and perfect.”  God is omniscient; all knowing. He knows when we are walking in the flesh and making unwise choices. We have free will. This is when His permissive will comes into play. Even through our unwise choices, Romans says 8:28 “And we know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to His purpose.”

Okay, hocus pocus, focus. Focus On Christ for Ultimate Satisfaction. Every day let’s make it a point to get renewed, revived, and rejuvenated by reading God’s word and storing it in our minds and hearts! No one can take something from you that is hidden in your heart. When you read God’s word daily, something extraordinarily wonderful and ginormous happens. God’s word is as vital as the blood that pumps through your veins. It is one of your connections to Abba. It helps us to view ourselves and our situation in a new light. “As for God, His way is perfect: The Lord’s word is flawless; He shields all who take refuge in Him.” Psalm 18:30

For some of you, reading God’s word may require a lifestyle change. Change is good. Perhaps you read God’s word already. Let me encourage you to meditate on it by taking short scripture verses and studying them until they penetrate your soul. Write them down. Ask the Lord to reveal what He wants you to learn. The word of God helps us combat the negative self-talk or the negative tape recording that sometimes, we’re not even aware is going on in our minds.

You might say, “I don’t have time.” Make time. You are in survival mode! Your life is at stake and God’s word is your lifesaver. “For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” Hebrews 4:12. “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.” James 1:22

You can help others by sharing your story in a safe environment. You’d be surprised what other people are experiencing and are extremely ashamed and afraid of sharing. Don’t worry about what someone is going to think of you or say about you, that’s a trick of the enemy of our soul. The more you keep contained inside; it becomes a nasty virus that eats away at your vital organs.

Vow to make this Christmas better than last Christmas. The reason for the season is CHRIST and Him personified!

Please pray this prayer with me…

Lord, I exalt You! I honor You! I give You praise! Please forgive me for my sins of omission and commission. Thank You for being a lamp onto my feet and a light unto my path. As you already know I need you! O God do not ignore my plea; hear me and answer me. My thoughts trouble me and I am distraught because of what my enemy is saying, because of the threats of the wicked; for they bring down suffering on me and assail me in their anger. My heart is in anguish within me; the terrors of death have fallen on me. Fear and trembling have beset me; horror has overwhelmed me. HELP me, Lord! Your word says, no weapon formed against me shall prosper, and every tongue that rises against me in judgment I shall condemn. Lead me, guide me, along the way. For if You lead me, I cannot stray. Your word says, but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary; they will walk and not be faint. I pray this prayer believing, receiving, and with expectation, in Jesus’ name. Amen

Yvonne Cole

This true story is shared with permission. It chronicles the life of a young lady who had no idea she was experiencing domestic violence, let alone how insidiously the effects would affect every future decision she would make. Having witnessed domestic violence from her family of origin, she thought that all families had visits from the police daily. She thought shouting and chaos and not feeling safe was normal. She thought that all parents used broken bottles to defend themselves. When she’d frequently see one parent standing at the front door to their home, spread-eagled in front of the door preventing the other from leaving the house, she thought that there had to be a logical reason. As her body grew physically and she emotionally matured abnormally, she found that this behavior was not normal. Was it too late for her?

Rena was 11 when her parents divorced. After one terrifying episode where she and her sister sat on either side of their parents, frightened, as one parent straddled the other, what occurred next was where her lapse in memory occurred. She says that there were black holes in her memory during this chaotic and murky time in her life. She now realizes that the black holes were defense mechanisms. “I had to survive,” she said. Sadly, the next thing she remembered is the new apartment she, her mom, and brother moved to. She doesn’t remember packing her clothes or the moving van. She doesn’t remember how long it was in-between the straddle-fight and her Mom looking for an apartment. She doesn’t even remember enrolling in a new school. “It’s all gone. That timeframe is gone, and I don’t remember any of it,” she said.

Still a “child” emotionally, Rena had trouble adjusting to the facets of her new life. She loved her Dad but lived with her Mom. Who were these new kids she was supposed to get to know at her new school? Who was the boy who pushed her to the ground and punched her in the nose as the crowd shouted their approval? She kept wondering if she caused her parents to fight, scream, and push each other around because of something she did.

Subsequently, she began to go “inside of herself” more often. She’d sit for hours on her bed feeling like she was losing her mind. There were no hugs or bed-time stories or “it’s going to be alright” forthcoming. In her adolescent mind, it was her against the world—but wait— “How do I do this? How do I take care of myself?”

Both of her parents were in their own worlds, and Rena was in hers…alone. “It was like being in a crowd of people and feeling completely alone,” she said. Life got so ugly for Rena, her mom yelling at her, the new kids bullying her, not seeing her Dad…it was all too much. Everything began to go in slow motion. She found herself in the bathroom, opening the medicine cabinet, picking up and opening the bottle of Excedrin, dumping a handful of the pills into her hand, filling a glass with water,  putting the pills and water in her mouth—tossing her head back—swallowing.  She laid on the floor and waited to die.

Later that evening…

Rena awakened to, “Fool, she tried to kill herself again.” And, “Hey are you alright?” Rena’s Mom called her a fool and her brother wanted to know if she was alright. Fortunately, Rena lived though she was in such pain that she wished she had not. Fortunately, her brother came home just in time.

When one has no idea of how to cope with the unfamiliar, they often want to give up. They just want the pain to stop.  Rena…well, she kept going. Thank God. She didn’t have any counseling. It may have helped. She was still left to her own devices.

All too often we let the rejections and pain of our past dictate our future choices.

When Rena turned 16, she started dating. Oh boy. She had no idea what she was doing. He was the first “real” boyfriend she had. Daily after school, he’d wait for her in his shiny white car to take her home. “He must like me,” she thought. Just happy that someone felt she was “worth” paying attention to. Months and months passed before she met his parents. That’s when she found out that he too was enmeshed in domestic violence through his family of origin. Could it be that they, unknowingly, gravitated to what was familiar in their lives?

By 18, they were married and by 21 she was pregnant. Three times during her pregnancy he told her to get out of “his” house. He yelled and cursed at her and she repaid him in kind. Disaster. Was their son destined to their same fate?

Years later, Rena remarried. This marriage was her last marriage on steroids, but not her last marriage. He wanted to get married quickly, she was honored. Her son would have a stable family environment. Wrong. She found that out when his mother had to pull him off her, you get it, as he straddled her on the floor demanding that she do what he said. Isn’t that what she experienced as a child with her parents? With her new husband, she experienced physical, mental, emotional, sexual, financial, and spiritual abuse. Unfortunately, her son experienced all those unstable changes with Rena.

After two failed relationships, subconsciously, Rena felt undeserving of a loving relationship. Wow!

Of course, her son experienced the same horrible abusive relationships, except he was the victim.

Consistent exposure to or witnessing of domestic violence has major psychological effects on the undeveloped mind of a child. The effects can include excessive sadness, guilt, inability to experience empathy or guilt, fear of abandonment, cognitive dissonance, habitual lying, emotional distancing, poor judgment.  The memories imprinted onto a child’s mind become inextricably linked together and forever taint—or else filter—feelings, beliefs, and choices in relationships and so many other facets of life. These children are not merely innocent bystanders. They are victims.

The parents may have no idea what they are doing when they consistently place their child in a climate of chronic emotional volatility. This behavior lends itself to painful and isolating emotions and frequently unmet needs for affection and attachment.

The Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) study led by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has classified exposure to DV as one of several adverse childhood experiences contributing to poor quality of life, premature death, and risk factors for many of the most common causes of death in the United States. There are countless children who witness domestic violence between their parents. There are also many detrimental consequences to innocent lives.

Yvonne Cole

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Have you ever shouted with joy and been extremely grateful because God answered your prayer? You have joy so unspeakable that your insides quiver like jelly! You go about your day with a smile, a hum, a little tune. People on the street wonder, “What’s happening with her?” I have! Why? Because God Is! The great I AM THAT I AM—IS!  Ask yourself, “Would I still have joy and be grateful if God never answered another of my prayer requests?” “Is my relationship with the Almighty, the Lover of My soul, The Alpha and Omega, contingent upon Him doing something more for me than He’s already done?” When He uttered “It is Finished,” He meant everything is finished, accomplished, paid in full! There is nothing else He can give or do for us than what He came to do, die a cruel death on the cross, in my place and yours. The Bible says in John 19:30 “When He had received the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished.” With that, He bowed His head and gave up His spirit.” We can be joyous and have gratitude simply because GOD IS!

Read these lyrics sung by a very talented artist, Vicki Yohe: “I worship you Lord; Lord, I love you, Lord; Because of who You are, I give You glory; Because of who You are, I give You praise; Because of who You are, I will lift my voice and say; Lord, I worship You because of who You are; Lord I worship You because of who You are!”

Despite everything that has, is currently happening, or will happen in the future, GOD Is! Those of us who have been abused Psalm 103:6 says, “The Lord executes righteousness and judgment for all that are oppressed”; bullied Ephesians 6:12 says, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms”; those of us who have been lied to, cheated on, stolen from Luke 8:17 says, “For all that is secret will eventually be brought into the open, and everything that is concealed will be brought to light and made known to all”; those who reap the benefits of bad decisions, consider that David and Bathsheba are Solomon’s parents; those of us who are poor in spirit…the Beatitudes say, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

This Thanksgiving be joyous and grateful simply because, GOD IS!

Yvonne Cole

 

 

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After 20+ years of being in an unhealthy marriage, I finally realized that I had been abused all that time.  Not physically, but definitely both emotionally and verbally.  But even as I started to wrap my head around the new vocabulary, I was using to describe my relationship with my spouse, I still struggled with how I was expected to respond toward him.  Wasn’t I still supposed to be respectful and submissive since that was God’s clear mandate to wives from the beginning?  How do I practice those qualities when I am on the receiving end of abuse?  Is it assumed that I am supposed to just take it?

            Years later, I continued to ask those questions, not for myself, but for those who are the recipients of a different kind of abuse…neglect.  How is a wife supposed to respond when the husband fails to demonstrate love?  When he withholds affection?  Or just continually allows himself to be distracted with other people and other things?  Or just checks out emotionally?  Neglect comes in a variety of forms, and while it can be much more invisible than most types of abuse, it is equally damaging and hurtful to the neglected wife (or husband, depending on the situation.).

            So is she supposed to just have a stiff upper lip and paste on a smile, showing continued respect and support for her husband, despite his failings?  It’s Biblical, isn’t it? 

            Or is it?

            God is always providing simple analogies to help us think more biblically and deeply.  He takes what we know in order to teach us more about something we do not know as well.  In Ephesians 5: 21-33, there are some specific guidelines about relationships, marriage, and the role of both spouses.  Some of the key phrases encountered are:

  • Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.
  • Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord
  • Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.
  • Husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies.
  • The two will become one flesh…a profound mysterybut he is talking about Christ and the church!
  • The wife must respect her husband.

            These commands are often our “go to” directives for instruction as to how we should respond to our spouses.  There is a lot going on here, too much to address each detail, but I remember at one point in my journey, I was at my wit’s end, having failed to fix my marriage through submission, respect, trying to win my husband without a word, etc.  What did God expect of me?  It was at that time that the passage mentioning the “profound mystery” in scripture came to mind, reminding me what marriage is supposed to look like.  God used the simple picture of Christ’s love for the church (sacrificial love) and the church’s devoted obedience to Christ as its head to give us a bigger picture of what marriage is like.  When I think of Christ’s ultimate sacrifice of love in order to win back His bride, the humble steps of submitting to crucifixion for our sake, I realize how mind-boggling that is.  But it was because of Christ’s obedience that He was eventually exalted by God and it is said that one day “every tongue (will) confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Philippians 2:11)

            When the church has Christ as its head, God is glorified.  When the church demonstrates its love and affection to God by showing love and affection to a lost and dying world, God is glorified.  When God told Adam and Eve to “be fruitful and multiply”, surely He wasn’t just talking about physical procreation.  There is an assumption that the children that are born to them will be raised in the knowledge of God.  It has always been about relationship with God.  He created us to have relationship with Him.  And our relationship with Him should be reflected in our relationships with others.  When we live that way, more people are won into wanting a relationship with God, too!

            So if the marriage relationship is supposed to reflect the love relationship between Christ and His church, what should that look like?  If I’m going to draw out the previous description and apply it to marriage, then…

  • Marriage should glorify God.
  • Marriage requires a spirit of humility.
  • Marriage’s foundation should be the love and affection of both partners toward God first, then each other.
  • Marriage should show the world the meaning of true sacrificial love.
  • Marriage should be an avenue of winning others to Christ; this would include our own children of course, but it extends beyond our immediate families. (“For God so loved the world…”)
  • Marriage should be an avenue that draws each spouse closer to God.
  • Marriage should reflect the fact that both husband and wife have Jesus as their head.

            As I contemplated this, I realized that we were desperately missing the mark in our marriage.   I hesitated to call what we had a “marriage” at all based on this description.  Then I felt conviction.  I knew all too well that our marriage did not reflect any of these qualities.  We were falling way short.  And yet I had been okay with pretending that all was well and thinking (hoping) that I was pleasing God all these years because we were not divorced, since everyone knows after all, that “God hates divorce.”  Well, of course He does!  Would you expect anything less of Him?  But that’s not the point!  Was I thinking that He loved what He saw in my marriage simply because at that point in time I was not divorced?  Is that the only measure of my marriage?  If that is what I believed about God, I truly did not understand what it means for God to be holy.  A holy God is not pleased with a relationship that is full of deception, pretending, pride, apathy, and hypocrisy.  I suddenly understood that looking the other way from my husband’s sins was as bad as publicly proclaiming that his actions (or inactions) were OK.  Not addressing what was wrong was blessing what was not right.  Not only was my marriage not a true godly marriage by God’s definition, but I had the audacity to pretend that it was and I let others believe the same thing!

            I knew at that point that it was time to come clean.  I had to stop worrying about what everyone else thought of me, my supposed marriage, and my life’s circumstances.  I only needed to be concerned with God’s opinion.  I had to admit that my marriage had completely failed and I had to commit to stopping the lies and trying to believe that we were fine.  It was time to stop enabling the deception, and instead confront it.

            How one confronts the abuse and/or neglect in a marriage is a whole other topic in and of itself, but I had learned that I needed to see the sin for what it was and to see how deeply it had penetrated into my own way of thinking and rationalizations.  Moving forward, I was committed to truth, even if it meant I might be embarrassed at first.  Clearly, Jesus was shamed when He took His steps of obedience toward the cross. My situation pales in comparison, but I realized the battle is for something much bigger than my own personal reputation.

            I believe all scripture should be read in context, but sometimes we get tunnel vision.  For example, a wife reveals that she has been struggling with abuse in her marriage.  Too often, the responsibility to submit and respect is put back onto her in order to change her spouse.  But what many people do not realize is that showing respect and honor to the person committing the abuse only empowers and enables the abuser to continue the same actions.  We need to step back and look at the totality of scripture, not just confining our input to only the verses directed at marriage.  We need to answer the bigger questions:  Is there sin? (If sin is defined as “missing the mark”, then there is definitely sin happening!)  So what are the scriptural mandates when sin needs to be confronted?  Matthew instructs us that if individual confrontation does not work, we are to approach the person with one or two witnesses.  If that does not work, then we bring the matter to the church.  Hmm…how often have we missed the opportunity to follow that directive in matters of marital abuse or neglect?

            Or considering another point of view, it is interesting to see that the Bible describes a fool as someone who thinks he is always right, uses anger to control, and only trusts in his own heart.  Note that this definition sounds exactly like an abuser!  So what does the Bible say about how we are supposed to relate to an abuser (aka “fool”)?  Proverbs has a lot to say on the matter.  We are encouraged to NOT be a companion of fools (Proverbs 13:20), not speak to a fool (Proverbs 23:9), and basically to stay away from fools (Proverbs 14:7).

            This is not an argument for divorce necessarily; but it could definitely be a Biblical blessing for those needing to separate!  Of course, we hope and pray for reconciliation, but my real point is that as Christians, we have a variety of options when we find ourselves in abusive or neglectful situations.  There is no 3-step approach that is mapped out, telling us exactly what to do.  Like any major decision, it must be bathed in prayer.  But don’t limit your options to continuing the same ol’, same ol’.  You know it doesn’t elicit change in the other person!  If you expect a different outcome, you must act differently yourself as well. 

            God wants something better for our marriages.  He is not pleased in a marriage that hides abuse or neglect behind closed doors; it does not glorify Him, and I believe He is insulted when we use the excuse that “God hates divorce” to justify keeping a person with an abusive spouse.  There are options, and the church needs to learn how to be a part of those options to come alongside an unhealthy marriage.  Let’s not taint God’s beautiful institution of marriage by pretending that all is well.  God is never glorified by the lies that we let people believe.

Karolyn Dekker – Guest Post

A diverse church congregation worshipping together

Ann sat gazing at the stain-glass window as she listened to the worship songs being sung. She noticed the varied colored pieces that had been carefully placed to form the intricate design. Her mind wandered to the hopes and dreams she had once carried inside now stomped on and broken by the person who was supposed to love her. The court system had played havoc on her life adding to the abuse that had weighed her down. Contempt of court was only a laughable phrase that meant nothing to the abuser. Where was the justice?

The church that was supposed to be a safe place for the brokenhearted was ill-equipped to handle her situation and others like hers. Just give grace was all she heard. Truth was not acknowledged and no accountability to the perpetrator was given. Friends disappeared tired from hearing about the mess. Christians judged. The phone sat silent in its holder. No encouraging and supportive messages were left.

Although she had long left the destructive marriage behind, she sat noticing that every movement caused the shattered pieces to move and rewound. Life was a hard struggle financially and loneliness seemed to be her constant companion. Trust still remained an uncertainty.

Her emotional roller coaster kept her encircled in a journey she did not want to repeat. Progress in her personal growth came in baby steps that were sometimes hard to measure. She was free from the relationship but was she really free from what dwelt within, the persistent struggles. Will God transform the shattered pieces of her life into a masterful piece of art?

Like Ann most of us struggle with the effect of hardships life brings that has been buried deep within. We may or may not be aware of the churning inside for our body has become numb to the pain.

Sometimes we cover the struggles with outward addictions to people, food, drugs, alcohol, or things. These self-medicating coping skills keep us from addressing the issues that have permeated our life. The issues associated with the hurt and pain have mounted up like a pile of garbage that is toxic to our souls.

Not only do we hold on to them with every bit of strength we possess, but we remain in situations and relationships that are detrimental to our well-being. We don’t realize that the splinter of hurt caused by the initial pain inflicted by others has penetrated deeper over time. The infection of our thoughts and feelings caused by the puss oozing from the wound spreads rapidly throughout our body.

Do we allow the wound to fester until it makes the whole-body sick or possibly die? Are we willing to endure the pain to remove the splinter, cleanse the wound with antibiotics, and give up our coping mechanisms? Or do we just slap a band aid on and pretend it doesn’t exist as our God given treasures are eaten away?

An important question arises to the surface. Are we being a good steward of the treasures God has created in each one of us, the treasures that make us unique?

Our treasures:

  • Relationship with the Lord
  • Soul and spirit
  • Feelings
  • Attitudes
  • Beliefs
  • Opinions
  • Thoughts
  • Values
  • Talents
  • Abilities
  • Desires
  • Dreams
  • Personality

How we use and protect these treasures is our responsibility. Setting appropriate boundaries is necessary. Being consistent and giving consequences when they are violated is essential. Allowing others to come in and destroy our treasures is not good stewardship.

Ann’s treasures had been shattered. She realized she had been holding on to each little piece trying to figure out how to put them back together. As she looked up, her eyes were drawn to the cross. “Give Me your broken treasures,” she distinctly heard.

Ann glanced back at the stained-glass window. A rainbow of color shone through. A tear rolled down her cheek.  She heard a soft whisper. “Ann, I have collected the pieces. They are in my hand. Be patient for I am creating a unique masterpiece so My glory will shine through the pieces of your life.”

“I have caught every tear. I keep them close to Me. I know every heartache. Nothing is a waste. Hold on to Me. There is a purpose, My purpose, in all of your suffering. There is coming a time of rejoicing when everything will be revealed.”

Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.

Psalm 27:14 NIV

 

Paula Silva©2010 FOCUS Ministries, Inc., www.focusministries1.org

 

bigstockphoto_woman_attending_church_1913667Then they came to Jericho. As Jesus and his disciples, together with a large crowd, were leaving the city, a blind man, Bartimaeus (that is, the son of Timaeus), was sitting by the roadside begging. When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout, “Jesus, son of David, have mercy on me!”

Many rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!”

Jesus stopped and said, “Call him.”

So they called to the blind man “Cheer up! On your feet! He’s calling you.” Throwing his cloak aside, he jumped to his feet and came to Jesus.

“What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus asked him.

The blind man said , “Rabbi, I want to see.”

“Go,” said Jesus, “your faith has healed you.” Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus along the road. Mark 10:46-52 NIV

This passage of Scripture denotes elements that correlate with devastating times in our lives. Times when we desperately need Jesus.

Bartimaeus, a blind beggar, did not possess the appropriate social status to be noticed or acknowledged especially in a large crowd, but he had a pressing need that he knew Jesus could meet. His need created a boldness within that was expressed by shouting “have mercy on me.”

When our circumstances become greater than our ability to fix it, we cry out to Jesus hoping that He will supply. As our need increases, our desperation is more boldly expressed.

The crowd’s reaction though to Bartimaeus’s cries was one of rebuke. It was as if they were saying, “You are not worth being heard. Shhhhhh!!!!” But that did not stop Bartimaeus. He shouted louder trying to get Jesus’ attention.

This kind rebuke often happens to those who turn to the Christian community looking for compassion as they tell the secret of domestic violence that is destroying them and their families. They are told to be quiet and to live in peace, but Jesus is calling them to him for He hears their voice just like He did for Bartimaeus. Jesus values each one of us in spite of our circumstances. (more…)

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istock_000006493749xsmallWhen life is chaotic and out of control, we have a tendency to hold on to areas of our life that are detrimental to our well-being. We hold onto:

LABELS

Labels become badges of negativity: ugly, fat, dumb, too sensitive, uncooperative, no talent or abilities, unlovable, reject, etc.

ANXIETY AND WORRY

Racing thoughts compounded by the “what if’s” increases anxiety and worry. We become so accustom to the chaos and trouble that peace and rest are absent.

Scripture reassures us. “So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them.” But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” Matthew 6:31-34 NIV

ANGER

Holding on to anger leads to bitterness and unforgiveness. This keeps us in bondage to our circumstances and can lead to vengeance. Since anger is a feeling, learning constructive ways to release it is critical.

SHAME

We compare ourselves to others who seem to have it altogether pointing out our failures and judging ourselves harshly. We long to be all that God created us to be and to experience His grace, but we have become stagnant in our perceptions telling ourselves we are not worthy of anything. (more…)

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