Game of Life

Dice

I’m all for second chances. Lord knows, I gave my ex a million.

But how do you know where to draw the line?

I think most of us want to see the best in people. We are optimistic when they promise change, promise to get help, or promise they won’t hurt us anymore. What we don’t realize at the time, is that usually those promises are empty. We’re told what they know we want to hear. They know exactly what to say to pull us back in and have worked too hard to mold us into their puppet to lose us. And we’re left gambling our life away, taking a risk that they’re being serious this time. This time they mean it, this time they’ll get help, this time. . . how can you tell if they’re sincere in their desire to change their circumstances?

Yes, occasionally, the person causing you emotional pain wants to change. . . but it is a rare occasion!

Here is what I did, and suggest to others experiencing these issues:

First, if they can’t discuss your fears and concerns in a civil manner, they will not be willing to seek help for the problem at hand. Whether it be a drug addiction, constant abuse, discord (we’re talking about seeking help and change for toxic behaviors that are tearing down your relationship and possibly even endangering you). Asking them to change their personality because you’re embarrassed by how loud they are, or you don’t like it when they’re lazy is never okay.

Second, if they are willing to sincerely seek out rehab, counseling, family counseling, or therapy to overcome their addiction or problem and they are not abusive to you during the process, it may be worth it to give them another chance. However, if this is the umpteenth time you’ve been through this they are never going to change.

Third, always ensure that you are not in danger staying in your environment.  If you are in danger, seek out help immediately. It is not worth it to risk your life. Healthy relationships will never put you in danger, make you feel worthless, or feel like your concerns don’t matter.

I endured the roller coaster for so long that I exhausted every bit of my ability to forgive my ex. I reached the point to which it was easy for me to walk away because the constant emotional abuse left me depressed, resentful, and cold. Don’t wait until you are so miserable you would rather die. Don’t wait until you are no longer able to lead a happy, normal life. Don’t wait until your kids can read your pain on your face.

Your happiness is the most important because without it you cannot successfully make those around you happy. We can only pretend for so long until exhaustion takes over. Do what you need to in order to find peace.

~Christa G.

Abuse Under a Bushel

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This week’s post is by a very special guest . . . our mother.

 

Any form of abuse is not okay and you should avoid such relationships if you can. This article comes from a situation that a friend of mine is currently facing. I’ve been disciplining myself to not make Facebook a platform for discussion on religion and politics. I still need to work on that discipline. I try to be positive, most of the time, but this incident has really shaken me to the point of needing to write or do something to make us aware, not only as a person, but as Christians too. I confess, if I lived in the Victorian era I would be the mama chained to the wheel for Women’s Rights Movement. So, here I go.

A friend recently explained to me about certain issues her family is facing with their church. There is one thing about my friend that I know, they have put their life into serving the people and pastoral team. Several families are the backbone of that particular congregation. Are they perfect? No, but neither are we.

I realize every church faces different circumstances and every pastor has their way of handling these situations. I would not want to be a pastor, as I know this job is very stressful. Let’s face it, when you pastor a congregation, you are dealing with people. And dealing with other people’s problems has got to be the hardest and most frustrating job in the world. That is why it is important, that it is really your calling from God.

1 Peter 5:1-14

The elders who are among you I exhort, I who am a fellow elder, and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that will be revealed: Shepherd the flock of God which is among you, serving as overseers, not by compulsion but willingly, not for dishonest gain but eagerly; nor as being lords over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock; and when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that does not fade away.

Not much else needs to be said, this verse wraps up the calling of a Pastor, but the fruit of the Spirit is also key for any Christian.

Galatians 5:22

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against, such there is no law.

Abusive situations can and will arise and there are abusers even among church leaders and church members. Here are some things to look for in an abusive situation:

1) Public or private humiliation
2) Angry yelling
3) Afraid to invite others to church because of what may be said from the pulpit or by other church leaders or members
4) Ignore or put down your opinions or accomplishments
5) Blame you for their own abusive behavior
6) See you as someone that can be ordered around
7) Intimidation or threats
8) Accusing and blaming
9) Judging and criticizing
10) Shunning

If you are a church member, leader, pastor, teacher or if you feel that you are in an abusive atmosphere, respect yourself by walking away. If you are enlightened and find yourself being an abuser in either one or more of these areas, you can change. We all have moments where some of these characteristics need to be squashed. However, when it is reoccurring, then we need the grace of God to change us. Self-help books, counseling, prayer…whatever it takes to help us to not abuse those around us.

I too, have taken on the mindset to be more positive, more caring, more respectful to others. It’s not always easy, as there are some times great aggravations when dealing with people. However, God is the only one that can change a heart. The only thing we can really do is encourage and support.

~Cindy C.

Impressions

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When I was a little girl, I was described as a giggle box, deliriously happy, always smiling, and a bundle of joy. I was the little blonde thing bouncing around, skipping along, singing, playing, imagining, and creating. I couldn’t sit still, but I’m pretty sure I was a bucket of fun! Always mischievous and getting into something.

And then. . . I grew up. Growing up changes us. Through our teens and early twenties, we are the most impressionable. Soaking up the actions, words, and advice of others like sponges. It only takes one insult to bring in doubts. A few jabs at your looks, intellect, actions, or opinions and your self-esteem will drop fast. And sadly, in most cases, it’s only one person wreaking havoc on your self-worth.

My unhealthy relationship took its toll on me and left me stripped of the ability to find joy. I soaked up the degradation, name-calling, and misery. And it left me feeling worthless, depressed, and confused. I began believing all of the insults and twisted stories.

I lost myself in his version of me . . .

There was a time when I heard my mother say that I was like a zombie. I showed no emotion, and seemed to be walking through life aimlessly.

My father, at one point, told me he missed my care-free spirit and the girl that laughed at everything, even the things that weren’t that funny.

I had been molded into a woman with no confidence in myself or my abilities to overcome obstacles. I was quiet, compliant, never spoke my mind, looked at myself as plain, unattractive, and unable to achieve success.

This is what happens to people that are continuously put down, and made to believe their opinions don’t matter.

This is what happens when you’re told you would look like a guy with a short haircut.

This is what happens when you’re blamed for everything that goes wrong.

This is what happens when your life is dictated by your partner.

Today, three years free of that relationship, I have found that bubbly little girl that can laugh freely. My grandfather, rest his soul, recently told me that he was glad to see me so happy and successful. People that have only recently met me can’t believe I ever struggled with low self-esteem or confidence, and can’t even begin to imagine that I was ever depressed and suicidal.

Once I was free from the manipulation, I was able to find myself. I was able to see that I am smart, confident, and successful. I was able to be the mother that my children needed. I no longer allow the degrading criticism of others to dictate how I should feel about myself.

Don’t get lost in the opinions that other people have about you. Don’t let your abuser define you.

Find yourself. Find your inner-child. Find your happy ending. . . and free yourself from those that hold you back.

I decide who I am.

~Christa G.

 

 

Slipping Away

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Sister night. Girl’s night. These were impossible to have with my sister while she was still in her abusive marriage. He always had a reason for keeping her from spending time alone with me or her friends. The only chance we had to hang out was if we went to her home, unable to speak candidly or even relax because she was still the one to have to watch the kids. I didn’t understand it at the time. I thought he was just being selfish and lazy, not wanting to have to deal with the kids once we left. I thought his reasons were more innocently mean. I thought he was just a jerk. Until I actually lived through an abusive relationship, I never realized his underlying motives.

On the surface, isolating a partner from friends and family may just seem like an act of selfish disregard. And at first, the abuser may disguise this type of control as flattery . . . “You look too sexy in that dress, I don’t want any man lusting after you . . . I don’t want you to spend time with your friends tonight, I want you all to myself . . . You’re too smart for those friends of yours, how can you hang out with them? . . . If you stay in tonight, I promise I’ll make it up to you this weekend . . .” Early on, this type of possessiveness may seem a compliment. But as the abuse continues and worsens, the isolation is a way to maintain that control. By destroying the victim’s support group, by breaking it down, it increases the victim’s dependency on their partner. This is exactly what the abuser wants, he has her right where he wants her.

Eventually, with the loss of a support group, the victim loses their individuality. My sister was able to be molded into the wifely drone that her abusive husband desired her to be. She could not express herself outside of his manipulative grasp. This is vital to obtaining complete control over someone, because they will have nowhere or no one to turn to.

I felt my sister slowly slipping away from us. She was no longer the bubbly, optimistic and loving woman I used to know. I attributed it to exhaustion, to taking care of the kids and cleaning and working all on her own. I had no idea she was little by little forfeiting her identity over to her abuser. I had no idea she was having to keep the peace in her marriage at such an expense to herself. And then one day, after I left my own unhealthy relationship and began researching patterns of abusive behavior, did my eyes truly open to the reality of my sister’s situation. It was heartbreaking, but it was like suddenly stumbling across the cure to a disease. I knew she had to leave him. He was the tumor. He was the cancer destroying every cell in her life. I knew it was a life or death matter.

Years later, I have my sister back. We now can unabashedly drink wine and eat chocolate and drunkenly sing as many Phantom of the Opera songs as our little tipsy hearts desire. I will cherish these sister nights for the rest of our lives, because there was a time when I truly thought we would never have a chance to spend time together again. There was a time when I thought her husband would keep her from us. And there are those who have lost family members to an abusive partner. Verbal abuse most often leads to physical abuse and physical abuse most often leads to death. And if verbal abuse does not lead to physical abuse, it can lead to serious depression or suicide. If you know someone who is in an abusive relationship, please go to our helpful links section of our blog, there is plenty of material out there that helped us learn how to best help our loved ones. If you have a sibling or a loved one, treasure your time together.

~Lindsey V.

Transparent

More Transparent

I write a lot about what I went through in the past with my abusive relationship, but I haven’t shared much about the night that I made up my mind to leave for good.  I tend to stay quiet about it because it was the start to some nasty rumors that tore me apart and destroyed some friendships. But tonight I am going to be completely transparent. . .

I had been working as a security guard for a few months, 12-hour shifts that could be quite boring.  I made several new friends while working that job, both male and female.  One such friend was a great listener and during times of high stress I would confide in him my marital problems. We began chatting via Facebook or text message, and it never stemmed beyond friendship. There was never any indication that he wanted more than a friendship, and I never gave that vibe either. I realize some would say a married individual should never confide in someone of the opposite sex, and maybe I was wrong . . . but I didn’t have a relationship to begin with.

I was alone in a miserable marriage, with a man that never wanted to talk, and when he did it was to belittle me or yell at me. I lived for 12 years believing I was the problem, I was unlovable, I was incompetent, I was crazy, I was a terrible mother, and an ungrateful wife. And so I talked about my frustrations with others because he wouldn’t, and didn’t care to listen.*

So, I befriended a young man that I worked with. One night, my husband went into an outrage and began throwing a fit over this friendship. He cornered me in our laundry room and while hovering over me, began accusing me of cheating on him and wouldn’t listen to reason. It was in that moment that it dawned on me, I had done nothing to deserve the way he treated me! I was the one who had been truly faithful for twelve years while he lied about going to parties, doing drugs, and spending nights with “friends.” I had endured all of his name-calling, yelling, and fits over the years. I was the one that took him back after his family decided to hold a drug intervention for him. I was the one that took care of everything. Why was I letting him get away with being angry when it should have been the other way around? When I couldn’t answer that question, I decided that it was enough. I would no longer let him dictate my every move, or decide who I could befriend, or decide when I could go out with my sister. . . I had enough. And so I left.

Of course rumors spread that I was the reason we were divorcing. I cheated on him, oh how unfortunate and pitiful for him. It ate me alive! I couldn’t stand the fact that people actually believed him. I constantly worried about how everyone viewed me. What everyone thought of me. I hated that anyone thought badly of me and was stressed over it for months. But in the end, those that truly loved me saw the entire situation for what it was. They knew the truth to everything and that was all that mattered.

If you are in an abusive relationship and are contemplating leaving, please know it will be incredibly difficult at first. One of those difficulties is that your partner will try and manipulate family and friends to think that you were the one that cheated, lied, and tore apart the relationship. They will do and say whatever necessary to appear to be the victim. Just remember to keep your head up. You know the truth, and you will be much better off when everything is settled.

~ Christa G.

*In a healthy marriage, you should discuss your problems and concerns with your spouse. It is not healthy to discuss every little issue with friends and family. They will not hold the same respect for the spouse that you will, especially if they feel that person has wronged you. This could, in turn, create a rift in family relationships that could be difficult to undo.

Objects

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She lived in constant fear. Her husband claimed to protect her, to know what was best for her. But she couldn’t ever do anything right. It was so easy to anger him, the way she dressed, walked, and even moved. He could be incited to violent outbursts against her. It was always her fault, he was never accountable. And when she tried to stand up for herself, he minimized her suffering by brushing it aside. She exaggerated; he never hurt her as bad as she claimed.

He blamed her when he had to senselessly beat her into submission. If only she had sat where he told her to sit. He blamed her when he nearly strangled her to death. If only she hadn’t made a snide comment under her breath. He blamed her when he raped her. If only she put out as much as he liked, he wouldn’t have to take it by force. He isolated her from all of her friends and family. He spread nasty rumors about her throughout their entire neighborhood. She was a lying and adulterous slut who didn’t appreciate everything he did for her. He controlled her finances and prevented her from working a good job. She had nowhere to turn. No one in her community trusted her. In their opinions, she had brought this misfortune on herself.

 

We all are painfully familiar with this story, but not in the way you may realize. The abusive spouse in this story is “white privilege” and the victim is the black community. I could even compare this to the way other minorities are treated, but for this post I am going to focus on the black community due to recent events. Obviously, the racial strife which has been tearing apart our country for hundreds of years is the result of small-minded prejudice. But I couldn’t help noticing a correlation when the Black Lives Matter movement was met with an extremely dismissive “All Lives Matter” campaign. I couldn’t get the injustice out of my mind.

It reminded me of how when my abusive boyfriend got aggravated with me one morning and kicked me in the ankle. I flipped out and started yelling at him, telling him how much it hurt. He scoffed at my reaction, insisting he did not kick me and that it didn’t hurt. He mocked me and said incredulously, “So what now? You’re gonna tell your friends and family that your boyfriend abuses you?!” He was minimizing my pain and indignation, twisting it around to make me feel like I was overreacting. I feel like this is exactly what “All Lives Matter” is doing. They are completely dismissing the concerns of an entire race of people! They are ignoring the injustices that have occurred. They are silencing these victims’ voices with their stupidity, screaming back to those overcome with grief and hopelessness, “Oh, you’re hopeless? What about all the other people who have died? What makes you so special? It shouldn’t be all about you!”

We have entire communities living in constant fear of being pulled over for mere traffic violations and having to reach for their wallets. Mothers will now be afraid to let their children hold toy guns in a park. Kids in Jena, Louisiana will be scared to sit under the “whites only” tree for fear of death threats and if they decide to stand up for themselves, the law won’t see it that way. White judges with all white jurors will rule in favor of “white privilege” in order to destroy the lives of black petty criminals.

Yes, this is all very much an issue of racism and prejudice, but also very much a prime example of abuse. In an abusive relationship, the abuser does not view their victim as a human being, but rather as an object. Let that sink in. They do not relate to their “loved one” as another human being. Have you ever wondered how someone who claims they love and care for their partner, could be so cruel at the same time? It’s because they do not love them. The abuser views that person as a representation of what they can do for them. In most cases, that person acts as a “whipping boy” or a “punching bag.” They know that person has nowhere else to go and no one else to turn to and so they can take out their frustrations on them. They get a sort of thrill in dominating them. It’s about authority and power.

So ask yourself, when you hear about people like Trayvon Martin, Tamir Rice, Philando Castile, Alton Sterling, and many others, do you relate to them as a person or as an object? Let me be more specific, do you think of the lives they may have led? Of the children they served food to at school or even at home? Of the person they might have become when they grew up? Or do you think about how they represent something you fear?

Do you fear a cop pulling you over and panicking at the mere mention of how you have a license to carry? Do you fear being beaten to a pulp because you happen to have the bad luck of drawing the attention of a racist cop? I can’t imagine the fears that blacks and any other minority group experiences. But I can imagine the wound, the gaping infectious wound, that our country has caused and seemingly refuses to treat. How can we fix a system that does not relate to these people as fellow human beings but as objects to oppress and dominate? How do we stop cops from panicking and taking it upon themselves to be the judge, jury, and executioner for these people?

I always said that an abuser who does not take responsibility for his own actions will continue to abuse. We need to hold these cops that took it upon themselves to kill these people accountable for their crime. It is not their job to kill. It is their job to bring people to justice. We need to hold racist judges accountable for egregious sentences that ruin the future of young adults whose only crime was to refuse to let an entire student body of white racists intimidate them. We need to not let others dismiss the suffering and mourning of those whose family members have died at the hands of these cops. Do not allow others to dismiss fellow human beings.

I have been guilty of remaining silent in the face of blatant racism, because it was too infuriating to involve myself or I did not wish to alienate myself from those close to me. But from now on, I must speak out against this abuse and so must you.

~Lindsey V.

Brave

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“I’m not courageous, brave, or strong.  It’s not like I was being beaten every day.”

I still have to fight back the urges to constantly justify the terrible way that I was treated for so many years.  Always repeating to myself that yes, I am a survivor, I have overcome obstacles that would have kept me a prisoner in my own home.  There is no form of abuse that is justifiable.  Regardless of the severity, we need to understand that it is an incredible accomplishment to free ourselves from it.

“How could you cry while singing the song at the funeral?! It was your job to maintain composure for the sake of the family and you completely ruined it. I never should have let you take my place, I should have just sung through my hoarse voice.”

“It’s all your fault we’re overdrawn again, I should be in control of  the finances.  You will give me your paychecks from now on.”

“I’m calling in to work again today, I’m going to say that one of the kids is sick and you aren’t able to stay home from work with them.”

“If you don’t like it then just stop reading my text messages because I’m not quitting pain killers.”

“F@%* you then! You do nothing but nag!”

Over and over again, I would repeat to myself, while alone in my misery. . . “It could be worse, at least he doesn’t hit me.”

We ALL have stories.  Varying in degrees on the platform of abusive behaviors, but nonetheless, abuse.  Whether it be that one night when you were in high school and that boy made you think the only way you were attractive or worth anything was if you performed sexual favors for him. Or the girl that constantly put you down and made you feel like you weren’t good enough. Or the guy that beat you senseless because you used a “condescending” tone with him. Or the spouse that made you feel like you were worthless, incapable of success, and crazy. These are all abusive situations that have undoubtedly left an impact on your self-esteem, self-worth, and on your life.  None are to be excused with a “well it could have been worse” attitude.  Never let yourself think that you were in any way deserving of those situations. Never let yourself justify their actions because you don’t think it was severe enough to be considered abusive.  Never tell yourself that it was no big deal.

~Christa G.

Dangerous Innocence

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Every time I would contemplate leaving my abusive partner the first question that would come to my mind was “what will everyone think of me?” And it wasn’t simply that they would think I didn’t try hard enough, but that they would blame me for the failure of my relationship.  It was an irrational fear, most of my close friends and family could see past his charm and knew there was more going on than I admitted. But a fear none the less, and one that kept me from leaving multiple times.

Society is chomping at the bit to throw the blame on anyone that finds themselves in a threatening situation. Women are blamed for their rape because they were dressed too provocatively, or were giving off the wrong signals, or were too drunk to say no. Women and men are blamed for their physical abuse because they were being too strong-willed, or used the wrong tone of voice, or didn’t do as they were told. Children are blamed for their abuse because they were misbehaving, or didn’t clean their room, or didn’t follow the rules. The point is the victim is usually the first to be scrutinized, and this is why so many rape and domestic violence cases go unreported every year. Victim’s fear being blamed for their torture, and fear having to relive it with every statement they make to try and gain justice.

Why are we so quick to think that the victim asked to be assaulted?  Well, she was wearing such revealing clothing, so she was asking to be raped. Remarks like this are never okay! No one wants to be beaten, raped, or dehumanized. No one deserves to be shamed and made to feel guilty for the illegal acts that someone cruelly subjected them to. Regardless of your social status, financial stature, ethnicity, gender, etc. . .  you are not at fault for the illegal and unspeakable acts done to you.

It seems as though we are quick to blame the victim because no one wants to be held accountable for their actions, but victim blaming is not just about avoiding accountability. It’s also about avoiding vulnerability. The more innocent a victim, the more threatening they are. They threaten our sense that the world is a safe and moral place, where good things happen to good people and bad things happen to bad people. But when good people fall victim to vicious acts, it implies that no one is safe and we are all vulnerable. The idea that misfortune can be random, striking anyone at any time, is a terrifying thought. A thought we are faced with every day. Therefore, blaming the victim makes us feel that they must have played a part in the tragedy that befell them. Giving us a little more sense of security in our own well being.

It has to stop. Everyone must realize that a victim is just that, a victim that will suffer mental trauma for the rest of their life due to the unforeseen circumstances that happened to them. No one asks for it. No one deserves it. No one. Stop blaming the victim and hold abusers accountable.

~Christa G.

 

 

A Father’s Love

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(From Left: Dad making one of his usual goofy poses, Christa, Mom, my brother)

We are once again taking a break in our usual routine to honor someone very special to us . . . our father.

I’m extremely lucky and privileged to have such fond memories of my childhood. I have no one to thank but my parents. Parenting is a difficult and challenging undertaking, of which you are responsible for the sound upbringing and psychological development of your offspring. You are bringing a living being into this world and with that there are so many social responsibilities involved that can leave a heavy weight on your shoulders. Kids are tiny little sponges, soaking up everything, good and bad. I don’t think my dad understands how much of a good influence he has been in the lives of his children.

My sister and I fought relentlessly growing up. Nasty fights that sometimes led to us saying things we didn’t mean. We were kids, we didn’t know any better. But I’ll never forget my dad always quoting the Bible to us, “Never let the sun go down upon your wrath.” He made sure that we understood to go to bed with love and forgiveness in our hearts, rather than hate. And because of him, we always did. He demonstrated a genuine compassion and empathy for others.

The thing that I love most about my dad is the fact that he was not afraid to cry in front of us. He didn’t care about acting manly. He was usually the first to cry during a dramatic scene in a movie. He showed us that a man does not have to be disconnected from his emotions. He taught us to daydream as much as make realistic plans for our future. He supported and encouraged me to pursue all of my aspirations, even when they didn’t turn out the way I wanted.

And there were plenty of times he spoiled us more than he should have. My sister and I begged our parents for a Barbie Doll house, but we couldn’t afford one. He surprised us by building one himself and he even included a spiral staircase. My science fair projects were always a big deal and I’ll never forget all the trouble he went through to build a volcano in which you could see inside, he even made a small air pump that I simply squeezed to make the “lava” erupt. I know, I cheated, but it was always so much fun asking for his help with those sorts of assignments because he took it one step further, he just had to make it special. That’s his thing.

I would like to thank my dad for showing me that a real man doesn’t have to guard his emotions. For all those extra hours spent helping me with school work. For teaching me compassion and understanding. And most importantly, thank you for all of your incredible support during one of the hardest times in my life . . . leaving my abusive boyfriend. You helped rebuild my self-esteem, and you offered financial help until I could afford my own place. I don’t know where I would be today if it weren’t for you.

~Lindsey V.

‘You Don’t Have To Try So Hard’

There can be one-sided relationships in every aspect of our lives that can leave us feeling used, worthless, and as if we don’t matter. .. similar to how emotional abuse affects us. But we have to teach ourselves to overcome the pain of pouring our heart into someone that doesn’t return our affection. Either let them go, or continue drowning yourself to keep them afloat. …

The following is one such story,

The Hopeful Wanderer

I didn’t realise how hard it was to maintain our friendship until I stopped messaging you first. I didn’t want to seem needy, so I would wait for you to text first, but that hardly ever happened. Eventually, I would miss you too much and text you first to check up on you. The way our friendship was going, wasn’t healthy … it felt like I was making too much of an effort, and you weren’t making any.

Walking to the bank or the post office, I’d always pass your house. Sometimes, I’d take a different route from school just so that I could see you. But, whenever you were in my area, you would never stop by because you thought it was intrusive. I guess I didn’t see the signs, that maybe our friendship was convenient for you. As I’m typing this, I’m wondering why I didn’t notice…

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