Chapter 20: To Those Who Love Domestic Violence Victims

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Glory Revealed

An Open Letter To Those Who Love Domestic Abuse Victims

I am a daughter, a sister, an aunt, a cousin, and a friend. I think that covers it, maybe I forgot some label but that really isn’t the point. I wanted to take a break in the story, you know the one of how I got from THERE to HERE, and wherever ELSE this crazy journey will take me.

But it occurs to me, I have something that many of you don’t have. I have lived it, I have survived it; and I am OK. I am not convinced that you know this though–more than one of you has told me that some of the postings are hard to read. That feedback has made me take a step back and pray, think some more, cry a whole lot and then think some more. You see, it’s hard for you to read because you love me; and how can I put you through this? Those closest to me know I am okay; and I think those people have an even more difficult time reading the postings, because some of you walked the steps with me; breathed the air with me and had more than one meeting with each other to figure out how you were going to keep me alive.

This BLOG, never intended to achieve anything, is still evolving. I started it out of anger of how the world views and treats victims of domestic violence. Then all of you kept asking questions and suddenly I am telling not only my domestic violence story, but also the story of so much pain, neglect and abuse that it is even hard for me to read back. And, yet, here we are.

I have thought about stopping. There is a whole lot more to write. I thought about spending the hours I spend trying to craft these postings on my business, or at the beach, or I don’t know, sleeping. And, yet, here we are.

I have landed at the exact same place—this is a story to be told. I am to be a good steward of the pain. It will continue to be hard to read for some; and for that I apologize. But, if it is hard for you to read because you are sad about the things I experienced, the chances are my phone number is in your phone and if you need to know if I am ok, just ask. So, for now, I will obey. I will keep writing, and we will see where it takes us, fair enough?

“Sad, broken-hearted at an alter I’ve knelt, until I found God’s Peace so serene. All that it takes is child-like faith and a heart that is learning to lean. Learning to lean, learning to lean, learning to lean on Jesus, finding more power than I’ve ever dreamed and a heart that is learning to lean.” Learning to Lean on Jesus

We sang this song when we traveled around and sang at churches when I was at the children’s home. It was the alter call. If you weren’t brought up in church this may not be a term you recognize. But it is an opportunity for the congregation to respond to a message by walking down an aisle, kneeling at the alter and praying—some alter calls could last 2 minutes but if people were still coming 30 minutes later– we would keep singing, while people did business with God. People were responding to a message of redemption from a man who started the children’s homes, we call him “Dad”—and folks all over the country knew that if a bunch of orphans could be so relatively “normal”—that they too could learn to lean. I write this because I believe it was these days that got me through 12 years of getting beat up and beat down. At some point, I knew “finding more power than I’d ever dreamed” was the only way I was going to stay alive.

I have no desire to be an expert on domestic violence, but I want all of you to know where and why it starts and how and when to stop it. So, here is my open letter to you, who love me, and probably somebody else getting beat up too.

Dear Loved One:

I know you know something. I know some of you have never even met my husband. We don’t do things together, I can rarely make plans with you, because my time is not my own. I know I strategically return your phone calls when I am in the car—riding home from work, when there is nobody around and/or before I have had a chance to pick my substance of choice that would slur my speech if I called you later in the day. You won’t ask, and I don’t think it’s because you are worried about being nosey, I think it is because you really don’t want to know. You love me too much.

But then the signs become increasingly more difficult to ignore and for whatever reason, you have gotten it out of me. Then you just sit down on the beach that we were walking together and stare out at the vast ocean; and neither of us knows what to say, or to do. So, there is silence. We finish our walk and then I don’t return your phone calls or texts for long periods of times, because I am embarrassed, I am ashamed and most of all I am in no position to do anything about it.

Domestic violence is a combination of two things, and it is important for you to understand them. The first, everyone knows. Domestic violence, in any form, verbal, physical, or emotional is about power. With each opportunity to beat you down he feels more powerful. And if you cry, well now he knows he has the key to the window of your heart and your soul. He will make 10,000 copies of that key and will use it every single time he doesn’t get what he wants from you. He knows, however, that you have friends with the master key to the ENTIRE window to your soul and he will do everything in his power to keep you away from those people. This is where the second ingredient of domestic violence comes into play. This is where family members and friends get so incredibly frustrated with you for staying. When you are being punched, slapped, pushed or controlled by another being, something is taken from you every single time. It is your value. It is your self worth. You believe the lies, you believe you can’t do anything, be anything, or even breathe air without this person who holds 10,000 keys to your soul.

So, for whatever reason, people begin to figure it out and perhaps you start telling more and more people. You may even leave, call the cops, move and start a new life, only to go back. This frustrates the people that love you; they do not understand. You need people that, absent of him, will build value in you. Value separate from him, or what you do for a living or what car you drive or a bank account balance. Incidentally, for me, my life looked perfect. I am grateful that the people who loved me weren’t pushy—trying to do some great intervention to get me to leave. I think, in that situation, this approach would have backfired on them. I was doing a good job of keeping the episodes at bay while they were building value and it worked out for me that we didn’t have to have a traumatic intervention. Some situations need this type of intervention, but my crew and me took a strategic approach that worked out.

With that being said, I carried the burden that more and more people were getting specifics of the level of violence. And it broke my heart that they were hurting because of me. I will never forget Mitzi telling me that she was talking to her mom one day on the phone about how scared she was that he was going to kill me. Then what happened next I didn’t know until much later, but Mitzi’s mom said “what would be worse is if he tries and fails and she lives disabled or on machines for the rest of her life”. Mitzi didn’t tell me that story until much later. How she knew when to push and when to just watch will be a question only she can answer.

But slowly, and without me even noticing, my friends began to build value in me. My church life-group leader asked me to teach a Bible study, on Daniel—which if you know me I am a New Testament girl, so that meant I had to actually prepare! But, she knew that teaching was a sweet spot for me. It made me remember that teaching was and is a gift and every Sunday I got to lead women older than I, she was building value. Viv called me everyday for 2 years to check on me; she never missed a day, not one single day. On those phone calls, she would ask questions and catch me off-guard, and I would tell her the truth. The time he put my head through a wall she made me send her pictures of it. My cousin Emily talked to me one time for 5 hours on the phone; seriously about everything but the obvious. She is a smart cookie and she was taking the temperature of the situation. She lives in Canada and all of this was before social networking, but I am pretty sure she or somebody she contacted would have been at the door if she heard something that made her fear for my imminent safety.

My story is my story, and for me, those who loved me built value all the while watching out for my safety—and this was exactly what I needed. None of them were afraid to stage a forced exit if they ever thought that was absolutely necessary. It may be a different version of the same for others, but I think it is fair to say, when she is not shamed, when she is not invisible, when she understands her value, she stands a much greater chance of escape. Victims of domestic violence don’t stay because it’s a fantastic life, they stay because they don’t think they could do life outside this person who has wielded away her self-worth. I could go on and on, but I hope those of you who love victims of domestic abuse are seeing a pattern here. You watch carefully; you pray diligently; you speak cautiously, but you build value with fury. And then, then she will figure it out, she will leave and she will stay gone. Because she knows then, that the locks have been changed and the key that he has doesn’t work anymore because suddenly she has stepped into who God made her to be, a Precious Daughter of the Most High God.

Glory Revealed


Chapter 19, I Still Believe

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We had made it to October of 2009, almost a year to the day from my stint in the psych ward, I was at home recovering from major surgery, and nothing, absolutely nothing seemed to get better from one year to the next. I needed help to do everything. The medications I had to take required a physics degree to not mix and match, some with food others without. I was in pain with each breath and I could not bring myself to look at the gaping scars from the surgery solely meant to save my life.

We were studying John at the time in our life-group and for the first time- ever, I understood what it meant to have a crisis of faith. Everything I ever thought to be true, suddenly were questions in my heart and in my mind. How would a loving God continue to throw darts at me? When was it going to end? Would my heart ever heal from the pain of a divorce? Would it heal from the reality that this person wanted to kill me? Did it matter that I loved God with all of my heart and all of my being? The nausea I felt from the drugs and the surgery was only matched by the stomach turning nausea of cliché’ Christianity.

If God is good all the time and all the time God is good, would somebody please explain this to me? If His plans were to prosper me and not to harm me, would somebody explain that to me too? I lay flat on my back, staring at the ceiling, because that was the only “comfortable” position. So I lay there, taking pain meds as often as the doctor would let me, and it did it’s job, it numbed the pain—both physical and emotional, but I was haunted by these questions. And God and I had lots of talks; well I talked a lot. And, I landed in one place. But before I tell you that part of the story, let me take you back about 25 years.

I was 10 years old and I had my head buried in the lap of whatever “dad” we had at the time. He was a good one, I think. He and my mom brought Lisa and me into the living room to talk to us. It was cold, and I remember that because we had one space heater in the whole apartment and that is the only warm place in the house. “Your mom has cancer”. Never in my life will I forget those words. I think it was the time I turned into the world’s youngest adult. As ill equipped as she was to be a mom, she was still everything to me, I guess it is that way for all mother’s and daughters. But I had a handful of memories of her—teaching me multiplication tables; drilling me on spelling words; and her dancing after her one limit drink on Christmas Eve. They were so few, but so precious to me, they still are.

All I heard when I heard the word cancer was that she was going to die. It was 1981, the only answer to her type of cancer was radical; and that is what she did. I watched her recoup from that surgery and I would walk into her room every morning to watch her chest to see if she was still breathing. I was so afraid that this horrible disease was going to take her from us—and even though she was rarely present she was still my mom. My most precious memory to this day was on time she actually acted maternal when I was sick. She rubbed my forehead and pushed my white blonde hair out of my eyes. After many months she recovered from that surgery; but it left marks on me; marks that still are with me to this day.

So, on a warm Florida August day in 2009 when I FINALLY decided to get my first screening for the same type of cancer (5 years after the recommended time given the nature of the cancer—very genetic), it was just another test, another painless procedure that was over in 10 minutes.

And then 7 days later my phone rang and suddenly I am 10 years old again—except this time it was my name and “cancer” was being mentioned in the same sentence. There was not a certain diagnosis, but we all knew we weren’t going to take chances.

It is 2009 and the surgery is not as radical, but the approach to the disease is just as aggressive and it meant major surgery for me—actually it meant 3 major surgeries for me. And that–that was when I could not agree to “God is good all the time and all the time God is good”. It was just way too much. Like a robot I signed up for the surgery, which involved 2 doctors and a cardiologist on stand-by—because you know my heart was damaged from a virus—another gift from my 12- year marriage.

Crissy would beg me to come out of my room. I refused. I shuffled from my room to the bathroom and occasionally to a recliner for visitors. I was done. I had not yet figured out if all that I had learned and believed about God was true until one night, literally in the middle of the night, I got my answer. It came from music, of coarse.

“Scattered words and empty thoughts, seem to pour from my heart. I have never felt so torn before, it seems I don’t know where to start. But it is now I feel Your Grace fall like rain, from every fingertip washing away my pain. I still believe in Your Faithfulness, I still believe in Your Truth, I still believe in Your Holy Word, even when I can not see, I still believe” Jeremy Camp, “I Still Believe”.

So, where did this leave me? I still had questions. It became apparent to me that I was going to be a voice to counter-act cliché Christianity. The words, which were memorized, repeated in my mind. I found my phone, found the song, and listened to the rest of it.

“Though the questions still fog up my mind, with promises I still seem to bear, even when answers slowly unwind, it’s my heart I see You prepare. But it’s now that I feel Your grace fall like rain, from every finger tip, washing away my pain.”

You know that “shuffle” button on your iPod/iPhone? Yeah, for hours in the middle of the night, I played this song over and over. I don’t have time to tell you the pain that brought Jeremy Camp to write this song; but I knew these were words coming from somebody that understood pain, and actually admitted throwing his Bible across the room, and questioning God on every level you can imagine. I was in good company.

By now, I was sobbing and I couldn’t move to get a tissue or anything to wipe away the tears; and I pictured the tears like Grace like rain, washing away, at least the pain that made me feel like I was going to die. Jeremy ends the song with these words:

“The only place I can go is into Your arms where I throw to you my feeble prayers—in brokenness I can see that this was Your will for me, help me to know You are near”

That night, I wasn’t sure how, but I knew that I had to figure out how God is good when life isn’t. I had to figure out how to tell a world looking for a fairy god- father in the sky, that it isn’t that way at all. I had to figure out how to tell the world that this world is not our home, and if we expect it to be comfortable all the time, we will be sorely disappointed. I had to figure out a way to tell the world that given abandonment, divorce, a cancer scare, and much more to come, that my Jesus loves me like nobody else ever could. There was still plenty more pain in store for me; but that next morning I got up and decided to fight. It was at the moment I knew that I had to figure out a way to tell this story to all who would listen. I knew I had to figure out how to demonstrate God as loving, and just, and at the same time confusing—but most of all, good.

Chapter 19, I Still Believe

Jeremy Camp, Rock the Universe, September 2009

Chapter 18, When the Sun Goes Down on Hope

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Sun Set

I woke up in the recovery room, and I was really confused. There aren’t really words to describe the pain—the deep pain that sat on my chest and the unrelenting nausea. At one point, I remember the nurse telling me that they had given me everything they could give me for nausea. I was in and out of it—but I remember the sounds of the heart monitor beeping and suddenly there were 5 or 6 people standing over me and calling my name. It seems my heart didn’t want to continue working—looking back, I am not surprised by this.

Once the machines stopped beeping they let Michelle and Crissy take turns in the recovery room. Michelle grabbed my hand and kept squeezing it and using her other hand to wipe away her tears. They had been at the hospital for hours. Every time Crissy came back I asked her over and over: “where is Bootsie?”.

Remember when I told you how cool Crissy’s mama was? Yeah, well that is Bootsie, and I wanted her in the recovery room. She had to go back home and wasn’t able to see me in recovery because the surgery took longer than they thought and my plummeting heart rate meant that I did not leave the recovery room for hours and hours. I sobbed each time Crissy told me her mom had left—apparently asking 10 or 20 times, not remembering Crissy’s answer each time.

The moment I met Bootsie was almost as important as the time I met Crissy. I had heard plenty about both her parents and how they had, themselves, not had the best of childhoods. Bootsie and I had something in common though—neither of us knew our father’s at all. Both Tom and Boots are salt of the earth kind of people—you know those kinds of people that just love others and that love is only secondary to their passion for God. They loved me, almost from the beginning, and their house in Crystal River was immediately a solace for me—I could walk in their house and straight to the refrigerator and get whatever I wanted—because they are just those kind of people. I still have the first (of many) books that Bootsie gave me, “Streams in the Desert”—it is one of my greatest treasures.

I had learned to love them quickly, and before I knew it I was a part of the family. So, that day in the recovery room, in a very child-like way, I wanted a mom—and for the first time ever, we all saw some evidence of healing in this heart of mine. Conventional wisdom would indicate that a person like me could never love like I loved these new people in my life—especially a mother figure. All I know is that day she is the only person I wanted in that recovery room. I settled for two of my best friends, though. ☺

I finally stopped asking for people who weren’t there and they finally got the nausea to go away. I was finally able to be moved to a room—and I tried hard not to look at the drain tubes from the two large incisions from the surgery. That night was horrible, I was so sick and in so much pain. I can almost remember the moment when I lost my fight-which was too bad because I was going to need it to recover from all of this.

I spent a few days in the hospital; I was finally allowed to leave. I had zero fight in me—zero fight. When I got home, I rarely left my room. I needed help to even sit up in bed, and I had another steady diet of red kool-aid, it was impossible to get me to eat anything. The exception to that was when Cheryl brought her pumpkin cookies—which is like a religious experience in it’s self. Friends from church would come see me and when they did I would shuffle from my room to the recliner, but that was the extent of my interaction with the outside world. All of this started because of a dark shadow on a basic screening from my last physical. I was done, I was finished—there seemed to be no way out of this one, and if there was—well I didn’t know how to find it.