*trigger warning - talking about physical and sexual abuse*
Sometimes when people talk about "being blessed", it can leave us feeling left out, isolated, decidedly "unblessed" due to difficult circumstances in our lives.
You've probably seen or heard it said "don't compare your life to someone else's highlight reel" and I can't stress this enough.
When we find ourselves in the middle of trauma or abuse, it is easy to think that we must have REALLY blown it in order to find ourselves here. And not only that, we sure aren't "being blessed"! Where does that leave us?
It's hard to speak to anyone about this struggle because we often feel so much shame "Look what I've gotten myself into", "People are going to think I'm a loser for this", "I'm a fake! If I was who I claim to be, I wouldn't be in this situation".
These are just some of the defeating lies the enemy whispers in our ears to keep us down.
It is the enemy who smothers us in shame, not God. It is the enemy who tries to convince us that we are to blame for the abuse that someone else commits, rather than it being the other person's choice.
I have done a lot of reading about narcissists and who they target since my own experience and what I found was encouraging. I read that narcissists prefer to target people who are kind and forgiving, people who tolerate the behaviours of others in an effort to keep the peace in a relationship. If you've been abused by a narcissist, what it actually means is that you have a good heart. Although abuse can make it seem like becoming cold and hard will make us safer, it really doesn't. Please choose love, no matter what. Of course, I don't mean to continue to stay in an abusive situation. I mean to continue being a loving person and allow others to benefit from your gifts, while learning how to create distance when you find yourself getting close to another possibly abusive situation.
Let me tell you my story.
When I returned to Canada from the Gaza Strip after being seriously ill in 2010, I brought with me the man that I had married in Gaza in 2009. I thought he was a great guy, just a bit undisciplined (which isn't always a bad thing!) He was with me through my hospitalization and I begged the Canadian embassy to let him accompany me home as I was afraid to travel alone in such fragile condition and we wanted to be together.
Very shortly after arriving in Canada. he met some new friends and I was happy for him. I was struggling to recover and so accepted that I wasn't much fun to be around.
I tried to complete his immigration documents but was unable to understand what I was reading, which was a lingering affect of the brain injury I had sustained. The forms didn't make any sense at all, and when I'd ask for his help, he would angrily tell me that he wasn't Canadian and so shouldn't be expected to know how to fill out the forms.
Instead, he started going out more often and for longer periods of time with his new friends. He started staying out for days, up to a week, at a time.
If I called and asked where he was or what he was doing or when he would be home, I got an angry response and was blasted "Why should I have to stay home?? There's nothing to do!"
I couldn't disagree. I wasn't able to do much at that time.
As I began to recover, suddenly my hair started falling out. I was horrified. I had thick hair my whole life, but now I was getting what I called "runways", bare strips of scalp showing through.
When I would wash my hair in the shower, I would pull away handfuls of hair, to my shock and horror. I would stand under the water, my hands shaking, tears pouring down my cheeks, and stare at the clumps of hair in my hands.
When I would mention it to him, his response was "So what? I'm bald! Do you think I want to be bald??" and I would immediate silence myself.
I didn't know the cause of my hair loss and so I didn't know if it would grow back. Finally, it stopped falling out, for which I was very grateful.
I started getting sick benefits because I wasn't able to work and finally was able to get into a self employment program to learn to create my own business. I was excited and hopeful!
With him always asking me for money so he could go out with his friends and the other expenses I needed to cover, I found it necessary for me to take a part time job.
With the self employment program, I was allowed to work part time as long as it was for a limited number of hours per week.
Eventually, my hours crept up to where I was suddenly kicked out of the program without any discussion. I hadn't realized that my hours had crossed the threshold. I was devastated and very disappointed.
At this point, the fights at home were getting louder and more violent. When I was asking him to stay home and stop leaving for days at a time, he would grab my arm and pull me into the bathroom, in front of the mirror. He would yell "LOOK AT US!" I was confused. "what do you mean?"
He would yell again "LOOK AT US! LOOK AT YOU AND LOOK AT ME!" I saw a woman who was struggling to recover and who had lost a lot of hair and certainly didn't look her best.
I'd ask again "What do you mean? What am I looking at?"
Then he'd land the final blow "WE DON'T LOOK LIKE WE BELONG TOGETHER! LOOK AT ME AND THEN LOOK AT YOU!!!"
I was humiliated. How could I argue with that? I looked terrible. On top of that, the brain injury had robbed me of my confidence. I had nothing to say.
And he'd go out, convincing me that he deserved so much better than to be stuck at home with me.
I don't know how I managed to pay rent, feed us (my youngest son was living with us), pay the household bills and manage to keep giving him all the money that he took to spend.
I later learned that the money he had was being spent on mostly cocaine and ecstasy, as well as a few other things.
He would routinely take my car and get parking tickets as he had no respect for the laws, for me, or for money. It was exhausting.
But I was so ashamed of the mess I was in that I kept trying to make peace with him. It took nothing more than direct eye contact to set him off into a rage.
I began taking drugs that would make me lethargic so that I didn't risk responding more than he wanted me to and thereby raging at me again.
I felt so bad for my son, having to witness all of this so I did want I felt necessary to calm the raging.
Then he added a new twist to our relationship.
Whenever I was about to leave to go to church or work or visit a friend (or anything), he would insist on engaging in sex first. He claimed he loved me and was going to miss me and it wasn't fair for me to just go out like that.
I hated it but would comply to avoid another fight. When I would protest, he would get angry and accuse me of neglecting him.
He would always choose to time this just as I was about to walk out the door so I had to either leave dirty or miss out on what I was supposed to do.
Shame washed over me like an ocean. I was drowning and didn't know how to get out.
I was still in a mental state where I believed I couldn't take care of myself as well as feeling guilty about kicking him out because he was in a foreign country because of me.
So the months dragged on. The thing about abuse is that it keeps eroding your heart and mind, and coupled with the brain injury, I really didn't see any options.
But I continued to heal! I had to work very hard on my healing but I was reading books about the brain that convinced me that I had every reason to hope for a good healing!
I pressed on.
Was I blessed? You might say no, not at all - and it would be hard to disagree, but God never left me. It was God who gave me the mind and wisdom to keep reaching for books and online resources so I could learn about my brain and how to help it recover.
It was God who kept me alive in spite of frequent threats and intimidations.
I finally started noticing that not only was he leaving for extended periods of time, but he was also "breaking up with me" but only doing it as a means of scaring me into being alone. I realize that to you, this doesn't seem like much of a loss but to my continued insecurity, this was frightening. As bad as it was, I wasn't sure how I'd cope having to take care of myself.
What I didn't realize, is that I was gradually healing and getting stronger mentally and emotionally.
Finally, the day came when he "broke up with me" again and left for a few days. This time I was ready. When he returned, I had already packed up all of his belongings and had them outside for him.
I had a reliable vehicle and I was making progress with work as well. I was feeling stronger and more confident and realized that I could choose to end this abusive relationship, no matter what he said.
When he arrived home that time, I had locked the door. He hadn't brought his key. When he knocked, I opened the window and informed him that he wasn't coming in and that all of his belonging where packed up for him.
He raged loudly, calling me every name under the sun, telling me how unfair I was being to deprive him of his home, but I stood my ground.
I offered to drive him to the bus so he could go back to his friend's home. He was furious. I remained remarkably calm because I realized that freedom for my son and I was imminent. All that stood in the way was one more car ride.
As I was driving him to the bus, he was, of course, raging at me, threatening me and demanding that I allow him to come him. I wasn't persuaded. In an attempt to intimidate me, he punched the windshield of my car from where he sat in the passenger's seat. The window broke badly enough that I couldn't not safely drive my car without replacing it.
As was intended, that action scared me. If he had enough force to break a car window with a punch, how much more damage could he do to me?
I was no longer going to give him an opportunity to let me find out and kept driving.
In the weeks after I dropped him off at the bus, I began hearing from people that I was horribly mean and cold to just kick him out "for no reason". His friends believed his story.
I later learned that our marriage wasn't valid and is considered null and void.
I was free.
Was I blessed? Absolutely! I am alive, and healed. God has blessed me with wisdom and knowledge that I didn't have before.
My son and I were protected from terrible consequences that were otherwise possible.
I have not become cold and cynical, but rather I have grown in my empathy and understanding of what it's like to suffer trauma and how that affects our brain.
I have studied the brain for almost 10 years now and I have learned how to help myself and to help others.
Had I never been in that abusive situation, I might not have been so motivated to learn so much about the brain.
In the years since, I have had the privilege of helping people who have suffered traumas of various types or their loved ones.
I have hope!
Am I blessed? I sure am! And I am doubly blessed in that God has taken my terrible experience and made it a training ground from which I can do so much more for so many people.
I am grateful!
Any my hair has completely grown back to its former thickness and shine!
“To Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen” Ephesians 3:20-21
IMMEASURABLY MORE THAN WE ASK OR IMAGINE!!
What would that look like?
“According to His power that is at work within us!!!” Wow!
Live the “immeasurably more” that God has for YOU! 🙌✝️🙏
And don’t wait until you’re near death to realize that God’s immeasurably more is for you!
Today marks the third anniversary since my mom’s death from glioblastoma, brain cancer.
In these three years, I have learned to navigate life around her memories rather than with her actively involved.
But today, grief came for a visit.
I didn’t argue with her, didn’t plead with her to stay away
Instead, I slumped down on my bathroom sink and let her linger. I wept tears of sadness, pain, and loneliness as she quietly stood beside me.
She said not a word but gently laid her hand on my back as I wept.
She reminded me that it’s better not to grieve alone and so gave me a break from my tears to go into the other room and find Cameron.
He was busy and I didn’t want to interrupt, but Grief reminded me that I needed him and that it was ok to ask for help. She reminded me also that he can’t read my mind and so I needed to speak.
I gently asked him if he could finish what he’s doing after I left for work. He said he could and looked at me.
I have learned that by expressing pain as anger, it only pushes people away and I desperately needed him to draw close, so I said quietly, “I need a hug today”
As he hugged me and I began to weep again, I managed to say, “My mom died three years ago today” and then allowed myself time to express the agony I was feeling over the loss of my mother.
He held me as I sobbed, tears flowing like a river down my face and onto his neck.
Grief is lingering with me as I go about my workday, but she isn’t being pushy about it. She was consoled this morning when I allowed her to come and sit with me and I with her. Together we mourned anew the loss of my mom.
By being open and asking Cameron to hold me in that moment, Grief backed away a little, took her hand off me and is allowing me to do my work.
I know she will come calling again. And I will allow her to sit with me for a while until we quietly go our separate ways.
There is no straight path to healing, and I am reminded of the quote (although I don’t know who said it first) “Grieving is the price we pay for having loved someone”. And I loved my mom. Still do.
So, I know that Grief will stop by again sometime for a visit.
Be sure to check out my page dedicated to Gaza's Christians.
Since working there in 2010, I have had the opportunity to give a seminar twice at a major missions conference in Vancouver, BC called MissionsFest.
Please read about the miraculous way God got me to Gaza and the abundance of miracles He poured into my path along all of my journey.
Look across the top navigation for Gaza's Christians and take a look!
I have started going to the gym in the mornings and I spend an hour on the stationery bike. I have decided (with the help of my kids) that it's time for me to take charge of my health and do my part to be a strong, healthy and happy human being.
It is so important to realize that when, in 1 Cor 10:13, we are told to "do all for the glory of God", that means everything, including how we manage our health. I feel a bit ashamed that it has taken me this long to see the eternal importance of being a good steward of ALL of my resources, including this physical form God made for me, but I am happy that I'm here now.
Back to the gym.... While I am spending my hour on the bike, I use that time to pray. I pray for those who are on my prayer list and I also pray for whatever God leads me to pray for.
Yesterday, as I was praying, I was moved to ask God to give me direction and insight. We've now been in this Covid world for 6 months and I am also 2 weeks since having a surgery that I'd been waiting about 9 months for. It is time to move forward. But where? And how?
So I prayed and left the answer to God.
Today, a friend called me. I had met Svein at Missions Fest where I spoke earlier this year. It was a providential meeting as he is involved in Open Doors ministries and I also have a heart for persecuted believers. We have kept in touch via Facebook and I so appreciate his Godly passion also for persecuted believers.
We have corresponded over the year on a few matters, and then a few days ago, he asked if he could call me. Of course I said yes.
I had no idea that this phonecall was going to be God's answer to my prayer of yesterday. As Svein and I spoke, he shared so many things and among them were 2 passages of Scripture. One from Luke 3:1-2 where, among all the important and wealthy people of the day, God chose John to be his messenger. John was an outsider who lived and dressed differently from other people. He definitely would not blend seamlessly into crowds of people in the cities. Svein's reference was so poignant to me because I too live differently from a lot of other people. I don't live in a house or an apartment. I live in an RV and my only wish is that I could be more mobile, not less. I am not wealthy and do not keep up with new fashions.
Of all the Biblical characters that could have been referenced in our conversation, John is one I can relate to very well. I cried tears of gratitude as Svein talked about God choosing John. If God would choose an oddball like John, surely He could also choose an oddball like me!
So often I feel inadequate, ill equipped, unworthy to be called to anything great in God's kingdom and yet, today, I was reminded of who John was and yet he was specifically chosen.
My heart is full of joy, gratitude and hope as I know that I am someone that God can use for his amazing purpose.
The next passage that Svein referenced was Jeremiah chapter 1. Jeremiah thought he was too young to be used by God but God's reply was to ask Jeremiah what he saw in front of him and then God went on to explain his meaning and message for Jeremiah by these simple items that Jeremiah saw.
When God calls us, he will inform us of his purpose through what is already around us. He meets us where we are to take us to where he wants us to go.
What do I see in front of me? God can speak to me and show me the next leg of this journey for me by simply opening my eyes to what's around me.
Look around, Linda. What do you see?
Thank you, my friend, for being faithful in making that call to me today and for being faithful in speaking the message that God gave you for me.
I am, as always, humbled, inspired and blessed that God goes to the trouble to reach down to me to answer my prayer.
As I said on the phone, I have no idea why God is so good to me but I am grateful that he is.
And I am grateful for this wonderful answer today to yesterday's prayer.
“Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland”
As I was going for my daily walk through a local forest with my friend, I saw a tree. It was more of a tree within a tree, or a tree within a stump, really. It caught my attention because it made me think of how God is with us.
The stump is dead but there is new life growing right up out of it!
How often do you feel that something you needed has died? Maybe you never did get that relationship you wanted, or the job? Maybe that goal that you are sure will finally make you happy just seems to stay a little out of reach, or the life you once had crumbled away in a death or divorce.
Now what? We often feel like we have failed at life, failed in our walk with God, failed our children, failed completely as a parent, a spouse, a….. fill in the blank.
The part of us that we were has died and it’s easy to think there is no way forward after that. It’s easy to think there is certainly no way to victory after that!
But God – those two words are always the game changer! What does God say? “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing!”
We often brush off God’s promise in this area. “But I messed up too much! I failed too completely for God to ever be interested in me!”
But look at what He says – “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past” Oh what comfort there is to be found in those words!
We all have a past and for some of us, that past haunts us, tapping us on the shoulder way too often to remind us of our failures. “Do not dwell on the past”. God knows our past, He knows our every thought and every deed and yet He instructs us to not dwell on the past.
He knows that’s not good for us. He knows that dwelling on the past will only hold us back from future blessings and fulfillment.
We will never enjoy living in today’s victory if we insist on seeing ourselves through the lens of yesterday’s failures.
Look at this tree. The stump isn’t even reduced to soil yet but that new tree is shooting up, strong and tall! The ground is fertile – period. So it is with God working in our lives. He doesn’t wait until we are utterly defeated and beaten down into dust. God can bring new growth, new life, new opportunities at any time! Do not dwell on the past.
That tree doesn’t mourn the loss of what it originally intended. That part is gone. Caput. The stump is still standing and God has already brought about amazing growth in the new story.
Don’t worry if there are still memories of your past failures. Those don’t need to get in the way of God’s new blessings!
He is doing a new thing! Did the tree hold back the new growth because it was intent on dwelling on the past? Not at all! The new growth pushed up through the remnants of the past and carried on to new heights!
Take heart, my friend. God is doing a new thing in you too. Look up and reach forward and let Him unfold new opportunities for you.
Enjoy the new blessings.
“being confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” Philippians 1:6
"And we know that God works all things together for the good of those who love Him, who are called according to His purpose." Romans 8:28 Berean Study Bible
God works – these are two of the most important words for me to remember when I don’t understand what’s going on around me.
Since COVID-19 shut down “normal”, I have been doing grocery shopping and delivery for people who cannot or should not venture out into public places. I love what I do, knowing that I am providing a helpful service to the people of my community.
There are those moments, however, when things don’t go as planned. Not as I planned, anyways.
This morning, I decided to confine my work to a specific community in order to save money on gas. This community is not one where I get a lot of work, and yet I had an unmistakable urge to focus my service there.
My second client only wanted a few things from a store that sells all premade food frozen in easy to use portions.
I had to substitute an item for this client but everything was approved and I was able to complete the purchase and began making my way to the client’s home to deliver their order.
I was part way there when they messaged me, questioning one of their items. They told me they didn’t want it. This had never happened before so I had to check on how to handle the situation.
I quickly got back to the client, assuring him that I will return the item and that he needn’t worry about it.
When an item needs to be returned, there is always the possibility that the store won’t take it back, so I was instructed to either dispose of it or donate it. I couldn’t bring myself to dispose of a perfectly good cake so I asked myself who I could donate it to.
Suddenly, one of my friends came to mind. She lived in the city I chose to focus on and she has a family of boys so I was sure a cake would go quickly!
I called her and asked her if I could drop something off, not telling her what it was. She invited me to come without hesitation.
When I arrived, I handed her the delicious cake and told her the story of how I came in possession of it.
Then we started to talk. It turned out that my dear friend was struggling due to the isolation that has been imposed upon her by this virus situation.
We stood and talked and I listened to her agony and frustration.
We ended the conversation with a plan go for walks together to tackle her isolation and my need for exercise.
God is SO good! Only God could have directed me to choose to work in a community where I don’t normally get enough work to have an acceptably profitable day.
But God knew what His plan was. He put a cake in my hands that needed a place to go and God knew which friend needed a visit today so He put her name in my mind and spurred me to call her.
It is so humbling and heartwarming to be used by God to encourage someone who needed encouragement.
When I see how God loves my friend, and today used me to show His love to her, I can see how much He loves me too. It is such a blessing to be part of this community that God has given me.
Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so.
The Bible says that God works all things together for the good of those who loves Him. And God showed me again today what that looks like in simple, everyday moments.
Yesterday, as I was sitting at home for my second week due to this coronavirus, I found myself wondering how I would make ends meet while I waited for the emergency benefit funds to be deposited. We have not been given any clear dates so there is no way to plan during this period. I was feeling unnerved and unsteady.
As I contemplated the uneasiness in my heart, I realized that this is not what God wants for me, this is not what God makes available for me every second of every day.
So I started praying, and my mind was flooded with the memory of when I was in a coma in 2010. I remember in one of my dreams (visions? hallucinations? I'll never know) I was in a room at the bottom of a staircase, like a vestibule.
I could hear voices upstairs and it sounded like there was a large committee having a meeting. I could hear the consistent voice of the chairman asking for reports from the committee members. Each member was evidently responsible for a different crisis point in the world.
Each member was asked what the need was in their area and they would give a report of the nature of the crisis, then end the report with the amount of funds that would be required to meet that need.
Without hesitation, the chairman would call out to the treasurer (apparently) to instruct the treasurer to forward the amount asked for to that member to address the need they were overseeing.
I remember listening in amazement. This committee had immeasurable wealth. There were no probing questions asked when the amount needed was presented. The only question was "How much?", never "Why so much?"
As I lay there listening to this intriguing meeting, I felt an overwhelming calm wash over me. I didn't know who was upstairs but I realized that I was in their care! My every need would be met. I had nothing to fear as I was in the best care possible.
Suddenly, a line from an old hymn popped into my head "He owns the cattle on a thousand hills and He will care for me"
Those were God's own agents meeting upstairs! And they were who was taking care of me!
I thanked God for this amazing miracle and the comfort I experienced as a result.
God, who has infinite resources was in charge of me, even as I lay in a coma, in a hospital bed. I breathed deep and relaxed. Everything would be okay.
As I contemplated my situation yesterday, I realized that all I was wondering about was money. I was not in a coma nor was I suffering from a deadly illness.
Once again, "He owns the cattle on a thousand hills" came, like a spring breeze, through my troubled thoughts and I smiled. My Lord owns everything and has everything. He knows my need and He has unlimited resources. Immeasurable resources.
Ephesians 3:20 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen
I suddenly found myself celebrating God's goodness. I am still in His care!
Then another verse shone through - Phil 4:19 - "For my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus."
I didn't have to hope or imagine just how amazing God is! I can remember specifically how He cared for me when I was completely helpless. He came through in a huge way and He can be trusted to come through again.
My prayers turned into joyful praise, thanking God for His goodness to me.
With my mind and heart at peace, I no longer carried that concern. I left it in the hands of my Heavenly Father.
Today, I unexpectedly received a letter from my employer, letting me know that I was dismissed without cause, effective immediately, and so, as provided by the law, he would give me 2 weeks' pay in lieu of notice.
God has, again, met my need! This money will hold me over while I am waiting for the emergency benefits to be rolled out.
Also, that letter frees me mentally to move forward, to make plans and to take action without wondering if I will be interrupted with a call back to work.
Below you will find the comforting words of the hymnist as inspired by Psalm 50:10. Sing along if you remember the tune and know that our God really does own the cattle on a thousand hills - and everything else. Put your trust in Him, for He, alone, never fails!
Linda blends warmth, wisdom and humour into every presentation. Enjoy the ride!