A year later: Brand New life, Same Old Me.

I know, I know, it’s been a while.

And, honestly, I think I have tried to write a post around 15 times over the last couple of months. This time, I think I’m actually going to get somewhere because I have something to say.

There have been a lot of major life changes for me and my baby in a very short amount of time. Long story short, I got into law school and moved to a new town. Although a change was needed, it left me confused about my blog and the work I thought I was supposed to be doing.

I think, perhaps, I may have lost my way.

For me, it felt like law school was a new start. I didn’t have to be the abuse girl anymore. For the first time in around five years, people looked at me differently. I wasn’t just the girl who “got pregnant out of wedlock with that awful guy” or the abuse victim or a sob story. I had accomplished something that was extraordinary. After a whole lot of people looking down on you and pitying you for a long time, it can be easy to get addicted to approval. When people asked me how my life was going I could say the magic words, “I got accepted to law school” and they saw me differently. I felt like I had real worth. For the first time in forever, it felt like I could move on, forget the past, and take another stab at living out the dreams that I have always wanted. I have been through so much in the past year…

It was about that suddenly that I realized, on a sunny day in July, that a year had passed since I left.

It has been over a whole year and I have not only survived, but thrived. No going back, no more pain. I had lost everything and have come out on the other side with more than I ever could have imagined.

I guess some people could see me as a success story. Some days I see myself that way, like I am some kind of poster child for abused women everywhere. Some kind of role model of how your life can be if you’re strong enough to leave. I guess that is somewhat accurate.

But at the same time, it’s not.

I don’t know how to feel about this year milestone. It hasn’t been easy and it hasn’t all been success. I have had really difficult times. I have had times when I wanted to give up. I have had times when I really wished that I hadn’t left simply because being on my own felt too scary or overwhelming. I still have days when I have severe panic attacks and have to remind myself that I am safe and that it’s over. Days when I have to call one of my best friends and hear it from her to believe it, so that the images in my head will stop and the memories disappear. My son just stopped having the night terrors that were a result of his father’s abuse around three months ago. But most importantly, even when we have bad days, we are safe.

I suppose that’s why the term “success story” doesn’t sit easily with me.
On one hand, we definitely have thrived. On the other, it has taken a lot of dedication, strength, and faith to be able to make that happen. I think that is why making it to a year on our own is such a bittersweet landmark. I’m so happy that we are making it, but accepting that this is the road that I was forced to take is still difficult sometimes.

That is exactly why putting down the blog and stopping all work on my book was so easy. Talking about abuse is hard. It’s a subject no one wants to think about…least of all those who have lived through it. I got sick of thinking about it. I got sick of writing about it. And going to law school, even though it is very difficult and strenuous, is easier than working with abuse victims most of the time. I was in church a week ago, trying to really pray and figure out what to do about the blog when God convicted me about this very subject.

Just because it is the harder option doesn’t mean that you stop. Just because I’m going to law school doesn’t mean that the blog and my work stops.

I started thinking about where I was a year ago. And I don’t think I can find a lower point in my life. I had gotten to the point where I thought that my life wasn’t worth living. I was poor, hopeless, beaten and used. I remember thinking that I could never go to law school. It was impossible. My situation was too bad and we were broke. I was always alone, waiting up for someone who would only come home and berate me and slap me around… if I was lucky. I used to cry so hard that my face would be numb and my eyes would be stinging, just thinking about the life that I had given my son. I felt like a complete and total failure because my son deserved the best and the constant violence and sadness we lived in was not worthy of him. I feel like I had to fight my way out of that darkness to give my son the life that we have now.

Our lives then and our lives now are like night and day. I think, outside of some incidents with Pip the cat, our lives are completely peaceful. I really don’t worry about anything on a daily basis except school. And every single night is peaceful and no one is hurt.

For instance, last night my son got up in the middle of the night and he didn’t scream or cry. Instead, he just asked for some milk and a snack. And as I typed, he laughed and watched the Wiggles with his head on my shoulder. A year ago, I would not have believed that 1 a.m. could be so peaceful. When my son looks up at me and I realize that he has no clue what 1 a.m. was like a year ago, suddenly all of the bad days are worth it… and I have to remember that I am way too hard on myself.

Sometimes, I pressure myself to be successful so that I can be that poster child.
I make myself work harder so that people know that it’s possible to escape. So that other women who are being abused every day can know that their lives can change. But, I’ve lost sight of what is so important about this milestone of a year. Not the degree I got or the one I will get. Not the financial stability I’ve been blessed with or the new start I’ve been able to make. Not even the bad days I’ve had sometimes.

We are SAFE.

That peace is all that matters. At the end of every day, I get to put my child to sleep in a house with no screaming or beating. I get the peace that comes with knowing that my home will be peaceful until he wakes up. And, at 8 a.m. on the nose every morning like clockwork, I get woken up with his sweet little face right on my face (along with his perfectly rancid toddler breath) yelling at the top of his lungs “Hiiiiiiiii Mama Liza! Eat eat, waffles!” With no one there to get angry simply because he is awake before noon or to see him as an inconvenience.
When I think about going from that state of constant fear and anxiety to having perfect peace and safety, I know that stopping my work with abuse is wrong. As I prayed about what to do, God reminded me how I felt crying in the middle of my kitchen floor a year ago, how desperate and trapped I felt and how much pain that other people in abuse still feel every day.

It is wrong for me to have the gift of that peace every day and not to try to help others when I know there are still people sitting where I was a year ago.

So, I’m going to start writing again, working with abuse victims, and trying to spread abuse awareness in any way that I can. Not because I am superwoman or a success story, but because I am human and know that no one deserves to feel so hopeless, depressed and weak that they believe that abuse is their only option.

I deluded myself into thinking that having a better life meant that I could forget everything that I went through. That maybe I could pretend to be this perfect girl, in a perfect school, with the perfect son, with a perfect little life and I CAN’T. Mostly because most days my house is a mess and I’m running around like a chicken with its head cut off while my child is a naked blur of mud and snot.

That’s my life, guys.

I’m still the same woman. I’m just in law school now. And that’s okay. Because where I was isn’t where I’m going. And going through all of that pain and making it a year on my own made me a hell of a lot stronger. Burying all of that and pretending it didn’t happen doesn’t help anyone… least of all me. I have to keep working for those who are still stuck in abuse so that maybe, they will start believing that another life for them is possible.

Because that is what is the most important thing in battling abuse: giving hope to victims so that they believe they can have better lives. You have to believe it is a possibility for it to become one.

One day last week, me and my son were playing with a water hose outside. He was splashing around, making a huge mud puddle and pretty much ruining my driveway. He had the biggest smile on his face and was laughing like crazy. Suddenly, he looked up at me and said, “I’m happy!” I started laughing so hard and then I noticed I was crying. Because suddenly I remembered why leaving was so right and why stopping the work is so wrong. I feel like I have finally given my son the life he deserves.

So, It’s a year later and we are happy, free and SAFE.

If you are stuck and you think that you will never ever EVER be able to live a life you deserve, think again. You can always have a better life. You just have to keep fighting for it.

And, trust me, it will be completely worth it.

I would leave, but I’m married.

We need to stop prioritizing marriage over the safety of abuse victims. Period.

It seems that, especially in the south, there is this idea that abuse is simply a marital problem, one that needs to be “fixed” with counseling. The woman or man is not supposed to leave their husband or wife. Instead, they are supposed to undergo some kind of treatment in order to “change their hearts, minds and attitudes.”

This way of thinking is so dangerous on many levels.

First of all, abusers are cunning, charming and deceitful. They can charm counselors into thinking that they have changed. If it was so easy for them to hide the abuse the first time, then why would it not be easy to hide that it is ongoing? Meanwhile, the victim has asked for help and not truly received it. They feel like they have not been respected and that all the courage that they mustered up in order to speak out was for nothing. On the outside, everyone is patting themselves on the back and thinking that they have stopped the abuse while really they have most likely made things worse. The victim who spoke out could be severely punished by the abuser and the abuse is amplified.

This helps the abuser, not the abuse victims.

Another problem is that people tend to blame an outside source for the cause of the abuse. This can be anything from friends, alcohol, or work-related stress. There is a tendency for people to think that the abuser is being pushed to this behavior, not that the problem is the abuser. This is great for the abuser because it takes the pressure off them to actually change, as the blame is placed on the outside influence.

Nothing causes abuse other than the abuser!

Think about it. You may go out and drink with your friends, but you may not come home and physically or emotionally abuse your family. The abuser, like it or not, makes the decision themselves. Therefore, only they can stop the abuse.

Nothing that the victim or outside help can do will stop an abuser. Only the abuser can stop the abuse.

As Gottman and Jacobson point out in their book, When Men Batter Women, we must hold the batterer alone accountable for their abuse, not allow them to blame outside influences or even their pasts: “Battering has little to do with what the women do or don’t do, what they say or don’t say. It is the batterer’s responsibility-and his alone- to stop being abusive” (53).

The perspective that some Christian families have only magnifies this problem due to the fact that they are more likely to want to preserve the marriage than help keep the abuser’s family safe.

I’ve seen it so many times. The woman or man speaks out about abuse, and the family asks the key question:

“Yes, but what can we do to save your marriage?”

Or, when a spouse leaves due to abuse and someone says,

“What are you doing? Go back to your husband/wife. Do what God wants you to do and stop playing around!”

I’ve heard all of this, always from an outside perspective. Sometimes, even from people who have experienced abuse themselves. And when children are involved, the chances that either of these things will be said goes up dramatically. I know, the Bible says that we are supposed to stay married unless there is adultery. However, it isn’t as simple as that. I don’t believe that God wants someone stuck in an abusive situation, where they or their children are being hurt physically, emotionally, mentally, sexually or otherwise simply because of some kind of legalistic view of marriage. And then, heaven forbid, the family gets hurt, the same people are the first to ask, “Why didn’t she leave? How could she/he live like that?” (I swear, my blood is literally boiling as I type this.)

I know, for me, I wasn’t married. In some ways, that made it easier because people believed that we should either get married or not be together at all. However, I did feel a lot of pressure to get married. I felt that we needed to get married because that was what God wanted, for us to not be “living in sin.” The problem is that it was harmful for me to be with him, as it was for my child. I think that, especially once you have a child together, people want you to get married no matter what. And once you are married, to stay married. Under normal circumstances, yes. By all means, people should get married. The problem is that, many times, the abuse starts when a woman is pregnant. One in 6 abused women says her partner abused her for the first time during pregnancy, and according to the Centers for Disease Control, at least 4 to 8 percent of pregnant women suffer abuse during pregnancy. This means that a married woman feels pressured to stay in a marriage that is harmful and an unwed mother feels that she has to marry a violent man simply because they now have a child together.

This way of thinking is dangerous, not only for the victim but for the child.

If the woman has told her family or others who are more concerned about keeping the marriage together above everything else, then chances are they are going to make them go to marriage counseling. Possibly, they will coerce the abuser to go into anger management. While the abuser is in therapy, the family is still at home, possibly enduring abuse under the illusion that things are getting better. Also, in order to keep up the appearance that the abuser is getting better, the pressure is increased to keep the abuse a secret. Meanwhile, the victim feels that they cannot leave because it is sinful. Even if things seem to be getting better, there is a chance the abuser will relapse. Quitting a behavior is hard. How many of those quitting smoking that you know have a relapse? The case is the same with abuse, especially if the abuser feels that they did nothing wrong or blames the abuse on an outside source.

Our God calls us to love and abuse is the opposite of love.

What is marriage supposed to look like? Let’s take the example in Ephesians 5:25: “For husbands, this means love your wives, just as Christ loved the church. He gave his life up for her.” So, my question is: Is abuse loving your wife or husband as God loved the church? No. I don’t think that if you are abusing your wife or husband, then your marriage is nothing like God wants it to be. No one should be stuck in an abusive situation simply because they think that God wants them to stay. As Jesus said himself in John 13:34: “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another.”

Abusing your family is not loving them with the love of Christ.

Honestly, to me, the biggest problem is that there seems to be an idea circulating that, if we love our abusers with the love of Christ, then they will change. Yes, God changes people. I have seen God change even the worst person and make them on fire for him. However, they must allow God to change them. They have to submit to his will, accept Jesus in their lives, and then the change follows. I don’t believe that constantly taking abuse while loving someone unconditionally will change them, simply because we know that only the abuser can change themselves. I definitely fell into this trap. I loved him more the more he beat me. We know how that turned out… not well.

The bottom line is, even if you are not comfortable with getting a divorce, you have to find a safe place for you and your children.

Even if your abuser is penitent, they are going to have times when they relapse and put you in danger. I think that removing yourself from their house is the only way to make anything better. No, they may not change. However, it is not okay to live in constant turmoil simply because you are scared that to leave would be a sin. There is a chance that others will not agree with me, but they are not the ones who are being screamed at, lied to, beaten, having their children put in danger or their spirits torn down day after day.

You have to do what is best for your own well-being and that of your child, whether that be physical, mental or otherwise. And at the end of the day, that is between you and God. (not you, God, your family, your church, etc.)

  Every single time that I pray to God about what I am supposed to write, “I did not free people from sin for them to live in the bondage of abuse” is what echoes in my mind. It’s what I firmly believe with all my heart. Jesus came to free us and bring us peace, not for us to place ourselves in other kinds of heart-wrenching pain, simply because we feel we have to.

I know. We just want everyone to stay married and the abuser to change. I want a money tree in my back yard. Sometimes, no matter how hard we want things, it just isn’t the way it works out. Chances are the abuser is never going to change. Their behaviors are hard-programmed into them by years of development and learning from their environment and many of them do not wish to invest the time that it would take to truly change.

I do not believe that we should pin the safety of the victims on our hopes for the abuser to change.

This is putting thousands of victims in danger when they should be removed from the situation. I think we should start with separating the abuser from the family. Period. No questions asked, and work from there. It might not be permanent, but at least it would give the family some safety.

No, I’m not a theologian. And yes, I do believe that marriage is sacred. I might not have everything figured out or know all of the verses in the Bible that talk about marriage. However, I do know that God wants us to be free and safe. And as long as we are prioritizing marriage over the safety of abuse victims, I feel like we are forcing people to live under agonizing bondage. No one should feel religiously obligated to suffer abuse.

Why did I start this blog?

So… why did I start this blog?

I prayed for some divine inspiration and I received it. I told God I would do whatever he wanted me to do, and for a while I was lost. I had no clue… until several people told me I should start a blog. I hated the idea of it because I had a lot of issues with telling people what I’ve been through for the last few years. But, in the end, I just did it. I decided to do what I felt that God was asking me to do instead of constantly questioning. I really believe that my calling and ministry is to get people out of abuse and support them in finding the strength to be able to build a new life when they leave. That’s why I feel that supporting other single parents is so crucial, other than the fact that sometimes I need encouragement myself. No, this ministry doesn’t support me financially (God and I talk about this all the time…but I know he’s going to take care of us!). But, I think that allowing God to use me to free others from the bonds of abuse is what I am supposed to do with my life.

Why me?

That is something I have asked God many times since I knew that he was calling me to speak out about abuse. I don’t have much. I can’t start a foundation with my non-existent trust fund. I also have very limited funds to work with, and a child to support while I try to start this ministry. I haven’t always been perfect by any means, especially when I was in my late teens and early twenties. I also have very little time with a demanding toddler, but I’m writing a book along with posting to my blog every week.

I don’t have much, but I have a voice.

And as long as I still have a voice, I am going to use it to spread awareness about abuse. I realize that a lot of people are “aware” of abuse. However, it does not stop it from being a secret in our society. Many people around abuse victims might not even know that they are abused. Our communities seem to place a cloud of shame and secrecy around abuse, almost absolutely insuring that it continues. Abusers can be in positions of power, and may even be religious and community leaders. They are charming and only reveal their true selves to their victims. This is awful because it keeps so many under their abuse and it seems impossible when victims are honest about the situations that they are in. As a result, many times shock follows when abuse is revealed. How did we not know it was taking place, right under our noses?

Awareness of abuse has had little to no effect on its prevalence.

I believe that so many people are in bondage physically, spiritually, emotionally, and mentally because of abuse. There are so many kinds of abuse that it is astounding and overwhelming to even think about. I honestly believe that God wants everyone who is in abuse to be set free, no matter what kind it may be. The problem is, except for the cases of child abuse or others where the victims are otherwise powerless, it is up to the victim themselves to be free of abuse.

It doesn’t matter how many times you may want to rescue someone from an abusive relationship, unless they have made the decision themselves, they are going to go right back. Why?

The trap of abuse is powerful.

How many of you know someone, even if it is yourself, who is stuck in an abusive situation? Many times, you think that they are only stuck because they won’t leave. It can be so frustrating to someone who is watching from the outside. However, on the inside of an abusive situation, the person sees no way out. They are worn down from the abuse until they literally believe that they are stuck or that there are many reasons why they are not able to
leave.

I want to call out to the people who think they are stuck and give them back their power. I want them to see that they can have better lives, not only for themselves but for their children if they have them. This is what I am passionate and so driven to do. No, I can’t do this myself. I’m not that good! But God can.

I have felt worthless, powerless, stuck and hurt because of abuse. I know what it is to cry every night, wondering what I did to deserve such an awful situation. I have felt like a terrible parent, giving my child a horrible future with a father who claimed he loved him while destroying his chance for a normal, peaceful and happy life. Now, I see that I only felt all of these things, but they weren’t real. I only had to pray to God and find the strength within to ask for help. I don’t believe that anyone should feel as hopeless and low as I did. I don’t believe God wants anyone to feel that way.

If you are abused, there are so many people around you who are probably desperate for you to leave.

The problem is, abuse blinds us to the reality that freedom is an option. It makes us believe that we are worthless and deserving of abuse. Surely we must have done something to deserve this, right?

No. No one ever deserves abuse. And I definitely do not believe that a God who loves us, or a Savior who died to set us free, wants us to live in a situation that saps all of our happiness, hope, and sometimes the desire to live.

I think a lot of people read this blog and wonder about my intentions. That’s why I’m writing this. No, I don’t want to make my ex look bad or make sure everyone knew what he did. If that were true, this blog would be very different. And no, I don’t want to get a sob story out there so that people will feel sorry for me. Neither of those things is my intention. Honestly, the major problems I had with starting this blog was that everyone would know what I had been through and worrying about what people would think (especially my ex’s friends and family). I really hate people knowing the secrets I worked so hard to keep. I hate people knowing my business at all… much less it being common knowledge. However, I can’t help anyone if I keep it to myself. And if we are ever going to get rid of abuse, we have to stop preserving the secrecy around it.

I want to speak out about abuse and help other people who felt like I did: trapped and alone. I want abuse victims and survivors to know that they aren’t alone. God loves each and every one of us and wants us to have the freedom that comes with relying on him for everything and having a relationship with his son.

So, I prayed about what I really need to write about in order to be the most effective and God gave me the most awesome idea for a series of posts. I’m going to do one arguing against all of the things that I know keeps people in abusive situations. All of them crossed my mind when I realized that I needed to leave my abuser, but I wasn’t ready.

I should have left a long time before I did.

These are the things that held me back. I think these are the things that can potentially keep a lot of abuse victims from leaving the abuse and having freedom and better lives.

I would leave, but…

1)      I’m married. (Or in my case, engaged.)

2)      We’ve got a child (or children).

3)      What if people don’t believe me?

4)      What will people think?

5)      What if I can’t make it alone?

6)      What if he can still change?

I think all of these things not only can keep people in the bondage of an abusive situation, but abusers can also use these against the ones that they abuse to keep them in a harmful relationship. They are dangerous! This series, “I would leave, but…” will argue against these things from different perspectives. If you can think of any other thoughts/reasons/excuses that keep people under abuse, then feel free to email me! I have no problem adding a seventh if it helps someone!

At the end of the day, I think if I’ve helped just one person regain their self-respect and freedom, then all of this effort is worth it. Seriously, everyone deserves happiness and freedom. That’s what Jesus came for!

God is going to give us more than we can handle… but it will make us stronger.

God gives us more pic

Today, I was supposed to be married and on my honeymoon.

If I’m going to be really honest with myself, it was never going to happen. But, theoretically, that was the plan. I wish I could be enthusiastic, encouraging and uplifting. I really do. That’s who I wish I could be right now. I wish I could give you hope and pretend that I’m okay and that hard days like these aren’t that bad. You know, “The sun will come out tomorrow…” and all of that jazz.

But, that wouldn’t be honest either.

I’ve had a couple of really rough days one after the other. I got hit in the face with a coffee mug yesterday, my child decided he wouldn’t take naps anymore because climbing out of his crib was too exciting, I was bit and screamed at in the middle of Target while being stared at by everyone at the registers, my toddler dropped an eight-pound dumbbell on my toe and now it is bleeding everywhere and my toenail is about to fall off, I was turned down for my fiftieth job wihout even the chance at an interview and, on top of all of that, I will have to sit in a “divorcing parents seminar” for five hours with my ex tomorrow. Even though I grin and bear sitting with him for thirty minutes so I can supervise visitations with my son (no one else will do it because they all despise him), five hours is a long time.

Basically, life is REALLY difficult at the moment.

I think every single parent has days like these. Days where it feels like it is too hard, exhausting and impossible. Days where you really wish you could sleep through the night like the rest of the world or have a break for one hour, that there would be someone who would be willing to do that for you. But, as much as I would love to tell you that it gets easier, it doesn’t. You will always have days like this. They will always be horrible when they come and you will beg for bedtime to come so you can get a minute of peace.

In the beginning, when the bad days happened and my child was being crazy, I had tons of homework, little to no sleep and was trying to make ends meet without child support, I would scream at God. I would be in my bed, tears streaming down my face, and have my voice echoing off every surface in my skull. I felt like my head was vibrating from my desperate, angry prayers. I would cry out,

“You promised you would never give me more than we could handle, but I can’t handle this!”

Over. And over. And over again. It didn’t seem fair. None of it did. Why did I have to go through abuse? Why did I have to be a single mom? Clearly, it was more than I could handle. If I was as strong as I needed to be, then I would not feel that low and He would have at least healed my shrieking baby’s cold. Sooner or later, the streak of bad days would end and I would feel better, stronger, and more capable. But, it still made me angry because 1) I didn’t think that I deserved all the things that had happened to me and 2) In my opinion, he wasn’t keeping his promise.

God never said he wouldn’t give us more than we can handle, right? Nope. He never said that.  

1 Corinthians 10:13 is where this faulty idea came from, as it was taken out of context: “No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it.” So, God won’t give us more TEMPTATION than we can handle. Everything else, totally out of bounds of this promise. I think this false promise that I was holding onto in some ways made me weaker. I was crying out and accusing God of breaking a promise that he never made.

Honestly, I think we are supposed to have hard times. I think that we need them.

No, I’m not a masochist. No, I don’t enjoy crying my eyes out over the dishes while screaming in my head that I can’t handle my life. I don’t think anyone does. However, how many times do we cry out to God in the good times?

When things are going well, we have a tendency to forget to praise God. We are enjoying our lives! Or, I just kind of read my devotional, let it roll off and then go to bed. When I have days like these, I cling to my Bible. I am on my knees, begging God to let me be closer to him. These times build my faith and allow me to see the bigger picture when I am out of them. I appreciate the ethereally happy times because I have truly tasted what gut-wrenching sorrow is. I can enjoy feeling peaceful because I have been majorly stressed out. And, above all, my faith is stronger in God and myself because at the end of the day, at the end of the truly bad times, I have survived.

I have made it.

So, no. Today wasn’t good. Neither was yesterday or the day before that. And I really, really hate thinking about what this day could have been and the breakdown that came with that. I don’t have any funny stories about my life to tell and, if I did, I wouldn’t be in the mood to tell them as my toe feels like it is falling off. But, I do have hope. I have hope that I am going to wake up and things are going to be better in the morning. I know that, at some point, something has got to give and things will get better. I will feel better and happy again. I also know, that even if it feels like He is worlds away right now, God has got my back. And so do my wonderful friends and family.

God might give us more than we can handle as single parents. He gives everyone more than they can handle some days. But, next time we will be able to handle more and our faith will be stronger. We just have to hold on to the hope that things are going to get better, no matter how hard our present circumstances are.

P.S: I also recommend eating tons of carbs and chocolate. That seems to make me a little happier, even on the worst of days!

Wait a second before you buy all those cats! or Why being an older single woman doesn’t make you a spinster

cats pic blog

I got sucked into watching The Bachelor  for the first time ever this season, but not for the reason you think. I consider Juan Pablo to be almost as awesome as the thought of cleaning out the months-old Tupperware containers in my fridge. (He’s awful!)

Actually, the entire idea of 27 women simultaneously dating one man until one of them “wins” is a such a repulsive idea to me that I have always avoided the show. However, my roommate suggested that we watch it, so I gave it a shot. After suffering through watching the sleazy Juan Pablo kiss all the women yet still pretend that he had some morals due to having a daughter, I was disgusted. I wanted to punch a hole in my TV… but the women’s responses after they were booted off were enough to hook me. Every single one of them, even if they had just met this man and barely knew him, was devastated. “But I’m so ready for love!” they all lamented as they bawled in the limousine or outside of the bachelor mansion. And my response was,

Why are these women doing this to themselves? Are they that desperate?

Maybe they are, but I don’t think it’s entirely their fault. It seems like, in our culture, single is a synonym for lonely. And 25 and single is a synonym for cat lady. If you are older than 25 and a single woman, people start to think that there is something wrong with you. At family reunions, they are asking you when you’ll get married or reminding you that your uterus has an expiration date.

Apparently, if you are a single woman over 25, you must buy all the cats and become a spinster.

Why is that? There are plenty of people who are working on their careers in their twenties. Maybe they are not ready to start a family. Or, they simply have not met someone that they legitimately want to be with for the rest of their lives. These are all awesome reasons to be single. Even if you don’t have a reason to be single other than the fact you enjoy it and have no interest in a relationship, which is still awesome! You shouldn’t have to give any explanation anyway. There is nothing wrong with being single.

Single does not mean alone. It also does not mean lonely.

It simply means that you are not in a relationship at the moment. And that is completely okay! I think we have so many negative connotations of being single women in their late twenties and beyond and that is what pushes women to be like those I watched on The Bachelor. I don’t think that these women are honestly upset about losing the chance to be with Juan Pablo. Let’s face it; I feel sorry for the girl who won at this point that she is stuck with him right now. I think that they are mourning the loss of another opportunity to find “true love.”

We have deified the idea of true love in our culture… and it’s unhealthy and wrong.

Your life is not less in any way if you are single. Your life is not lacking if you are not in a serious relationship, engaged or married. You are whole the way you are, complete in the way that God made you. The result of elevating the importance of true love is that it is causing women to settle for less than they are worth simply to be in a relationship. Honestly, I have met a lot of awesome single women who are older. Most of the time, they are single because they know they are enough on their own, are successful, and refuse to settle.

What is wrong with that? NOTHING.

I’m not saying that getting married young is bad. Or that relationships are bad if they are exactly what you want and deserve. I am simply saying that you should never settle for a bad relationship and that there is nothing wrong with an older single woman or *gasp*

ENJOYING BEING SINGLE!

There are so many more different kinds of love than romantic love. Other than a romantic partner, there are the following: God, friends, family, children, pets, nature, and yourself.  And, dare I say that some of these are more important than finding the “love of your life,” especially loving God and yourself. If you don’t have love for God and yourself, chances are you still won’t be happy even if you do find the perfect guy and start a family.

Don’t let society tell you that you are only living a half- life if you are single!

I have definitely fallen into this trap before. It made me miss huge red-flags, think love at first sight was real and ended in an abusive relationship. Is this what always happens when you settle? No. But, Chances are, happiness is not going to result by selling yourself short and being with someone who isn’t right for you simply because you feel alone and lonely if you are single.  Loneliness is not a good reason to be in a relationship anyway… or to be desperate to find love like the girls on The Bachelor. While listening to the preview for the new season of The Bachelorette, Andi said that she loves her job but she doesn’t want it to be her whole life. And Wow! “I could be engaged before summer!”

It is insulting that ABC believes this is what women want. It is more insulting that we are falling for it.

You know what most women want? To eat whatever they want and not get fat. Also, to magically wake up and stop breaking out. Can we make a show where that happens? Or better yet, how about a show where they put someone through college and then America watches at the end to see if they get their dream job? That is a show I wouldn’t be ashamed to tell people I wasted an hour of my life watching.

Until we get better options, if you are single, don’t be in a rush to get into a relationship. There is nothing wrong with being single! If anything, there is something wrong with loving someone romantically more than you love God and prioritizing that relationship over His. It is a common saying to tell someone that you love them with all your heart. But, God is the one that we are supposed to love with all our hearts. Remember Mark 12:30? “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.”

The result of forgetting who we are supposed to love with our whole heart is that romantic love is never enough… no matter how important society tells us that it is.

The upside to remembering who we are supposed to love with all our hearts is that finding “true love” is no longer an issue… we have already have found it! Why settle for a man with imperfect love when you can have perfect love? More than that, why let society make you feel like you are missing true love when really you are missing nothing at all?

You are enough just the way you are, even if you have already embraced the spinster life and bought a starter cat for your collection. Never forget that! Single does not mean alone by any means. You can always have God. And if you have God, you have everything you need… even without a serious relationship.  

The best thing you can say if you really want to make me furious…

what not to say pic

Is something along the lines of,

“Wow. I can’t believe he was abusive. If my husband (wife/boyfriend/girlfriend/partner/ etc.) did that to me, they know better. I would punch them back and leave them.”

You would be surprised how often I hear this. I think it’s around 65% of the people I talk to who are in a relationship and have never been abused. Usually, I’m too tired to explain why they have no clue or why that they are wrong in that assumption. I nod my head, say something along the lines of “Uh huh…” and keep my mouth shut. But, today, I’ve decided to explain exactly why you should never say that to an abuse victim or anyone who has ever been around abuse.

First off, if you’ve said this to me, I don’t hate you. And I don’t want you to think that I harbor some kind of weird grudge against you.

That’s the last thing I want you to think!

I just want you to be educated. Because one day, you might really hurt someone by saying that. Personally, I know that you simply don’t know, so I don’t take offense. (However, if you read this and still have the gall to say it to my face, I’m a red head. I can’t promise you what my response will be.)

Okay. Still with me? Good.

Let’s say you are in a wonderful, healthy, functioning relationship. Or, even if it has its ups and downs, you are completely in love. You have trust in your relationship. You have built a life together and maybe have some kids. Either way, your future, at this very moment, rests in the hands of this person that you love. You can’t imagine a life without them. They are your everything.

And then, out of nowhere, they hit you. Or call you a “Stupid Bitch.” Or tell you to get the hell out of their house.
What are you really going to do? If someone, who has only been good to you, has your heart and your soul, is suddenly aggressive or hurtful to you? I tell you what you probably won’t do: punch them in the face and leave. You have nowhere else to go that is home for you. Your finances are connected. If you are a housewife, they support you and your children. You are stuck.

More than that, you are devastated.

Nine times out of ten, it is easier to forget that anything happened and to continue living your life. This idea is magnified if the person who hurt you acts truly remorseful and promises you the world if you will stay with them. They promise that it will never happen again. It was an accident. You love them, so you want more than anything to believe them. You have invested so much and you feel like you will have nothing if you leave. You will have to start over again… with kids. Be single. Deal with a divorce. All of the prospects are too daunting to think about if you leave. There is always the possibility that if you fight back, the violence will be worse. So, in the end, you just take it. You take it because, in the morning, you can forget and your life can be the same as it was before.

Not only that, the love you feel in an abusive relationship is some of the strongest that you can feel in the world.

I have been reading a lot about abuse and how the process works. I think that Dr. Donald Dutton really hit the nail on the head when he talks about traumatic bonding in his book The batterer: A Psychological Profile. According to him: “The bonds that bind abuse victims to their tormenters are legendary. They are like giant bungee cords. As the woman dives out of the relationship, the cords stretch to the breaking point. But, the further she gets, the greater the tension to snap back.”

Why? Why is it that people who are in this situation allow this process to happen?

This next quote is why I turned around and grabbed this book, adding 30 minutes to my trip to the coffee shop to write this thing. (Meaning, its CRUCIAL.) When abusers fight to get their victim back, there is a huge effect on the victim, “Codependence evolves from [the lengths that abusers go to get their victims back]. The two partners try to convince each other and themselves that they can battle the world, that their “love” will triumph.”

This totally blew my mind. This is how I always felt in my abusive relationship. Like it was this epic love that stories could be written about. Our song was “Living on a Prayer” for God’s sake. It’s ridiculous. And all of the romantic literature that is prevalent in our society doesn’t help. It only makes things worse. You feel like the abuse is just one more thing that you are fighting against to stay together and that it adds to the epic quality of your love. You can’t see your way out of it and it consumes you. Leaving feels like giving up. Your future, the life you built together, that “epic love” is something that you are giving up on. What heroine in a love story does that? You are supposed to stick by your man through thick and thin, right?

I know, you are shaking your head. No! This is different! He’s abusive!

On the outside, you can see that. On the inside, it’s a very different reality. Everything is distorted. You are trapped in a web of lies, deceit, hurt and abuse so thick that you can’t see your way out. I have talked to women who have been to the brink of death with abusive men and are still there, fighting to make it work. After everything, they still have faith that things will change. And they aren’t. There is nothing a victim can do or say to make their abuser change. (For more on that, check out A leopard can’t change his spots… and neither can your abuser.)

So, when an outside perspective comes in and just says, “I would get out of that! Punch him in the face and leave!” It’s insulting. It shows that the person in question doesn’t know what this kind of situation is like. Also, if the person that you said it to is still in an abusive relationship, they are going to avoid you. Even if they desperately need help, they are going to not tell you because you have hurt them, made them feel stupid, and have added to the problem instead of helping.

If we want to help abuse victims or survivors to escape and heal, we can’t judge them or their situations.

Even when I talk to someone who is under heavy abuse, I make sure to tell them that

1) They don’t deserve it.
2) They are not stupid.
3) If they can’t leave, it’s not their fault.
4) I don’t judge you and if you need help, I’m here.

Those are the things you can say if you want to be helpful. And even if they open up to you and are telling you about the fiftieth new abusive act since they’ve started talking to you, don’t act disappointed that they are still there. Be supportive! Build them up! Tell them that they can leave. Even if it is their fiftieth try, they can still escape the abuse. I know it’s hard. It’s hard to listen to someone you love or care about tell you that they are being hurt or abused. But, you know what’s harder? Being the one who is abused and not being able to leave. And harder than that? Having someone who doesn’t understand make them feel stupid for not being able to leave.

Again, if you’ve ever said this, I still love you. I know you didn’t mean anything by it! Just understand that you don’t understand unless you’ve been there. With a little effort, we can help those who are still in abusive situations. We only have to jump to help as quickly as we are apt to judge or compare.

Healing isn’t like ordering a Happy Meal, it takes time.

healing pic

The weather here has been really crazy lately. I remember that right before we had “Snowmageddon” it was getting warmer and gorgeous outside. We could finally go to the park without gloves and the cabin fever of winter was starting to go away.Then, the snow came. As beautiful as it was to see our new home and neighborhood blanketed with snow, it also brought problems. People couldn’t get home due to the conditions on the road being so horrendous. There was a possibility that power would be lost and for a while we were snowed in and getting anxious.

After the snow melted, signs of spring began to show themselves all around us. There were flowers popping up and the temperatures were warming gradually back up. We were going back to the park again and establishing a new routine. Then, Icemageddon. Everything was iced over again and we were back inside, not allowed to be on the roads and unable to walk in the driveway without falling over. Even though we were prepared, it was miserable getting everything together and trying to keep a 22 month old entertained without being able to go anywhere.

These periods of freezing over and thawing out remind me a lot of my own healing process after abuse and leaving a long-term relationship. Around three months ago, I felt like I was totally healed and could move on. I thought that I could totally handle being in another romantic relationship and I would be fine. Now, I’m discovering that the healing process is not as cut and dry as I thought it was.

I’m definitely not ready. And that’s completely okay.

Healing is called a process for a reason. It takes time. It’s different for everyone. And there isn’t a set time that healing will be completed. For some people it only takes months while for others it takes years. You can’t judge how long it takes for someone to be completely healed… not even yourself.

I think I thought that healing was a like a test.

You take it, you pass, and it’s done. If you don’t pass, you take it again until you do. But, with healing, sometimes you feel awesome and over it, and then out of nowhere it’s there again. Much like wanting the spring and feeling like it had finally come, Snowmaggedon can come and ruin everything. For weeks after I left, I would feel like I had accepted it. Then, one day, something would trigger the longing that I would have for the future I had once wanted and I would fall apart.

 It seems that moving on after abuse is a lot like grieving. You are grieving the hope of what might have been, all the horrible things you’d rather forget, and trying to repair yourself simultaneously. Sometimes, you think that you’ve completely moved on only to feel the same hopelessness that you felt in the beginning one day months later.

Healing is not an easy process. It is complicated, messy, and, above all else, hard work.

I think that the only thing that can heal your pain and trauma is time. God is there to help you when you feel low and to lean on in the hard times or when you suddenly get the old feelings of despair and grief again, but in the end time is still needed.  Healing makes you grow. The beauty in that is that eventually, the memories won’t sting as much and the anger subsides. Somehow, you are able to talk about things without breaking down and the sadness mysteriously disappears.

The true beauty of healing is that it ends in acceptance.

No, that doesn’t mean that what happened was okay. It doesn’t mean that it was fair. It simply means that you have accepted that it happened, it has made you into a stronger person and somehow you have moved on. I think a lot of people have a hard time moving on because they think that it means that you are saying that what happened was okay, but that’s a misconception. The ability to move on doesn’t lessen the importance of the trauma that has happened to you or the effect it had on your identity. It is simply the process of handling what happened and how you feel about it while not allowing it to crush your spirit anymore.

Acceptance is crucial to healing… and acceptance takes time.

I think the major problem is that we are now a fast-paced convenience-based society. We expect healing to happen in the time that it takes to get a happy meal. It’s never going to be that easy. There isn’t a magic pill you can take to heal and move on from trauma, as much as some days I wish it existed. I am the biggest offender when it comes to this because I’m an over achiever who is ambitious and doesn’t like to miss goals. When I told myself that I was going to be over this thing in six months, I meant it. And when I wasn’t over it in my set amount of time, my perfectionism went into hyper-drive. I had failed! I missed my mark and now did not earn an A in my self-taught healing class.

I hadn’t failed. Really, I just didn’t understand the process of healing.

Why? Because I didn’t understand that it takes time. It is a lot of little things that add up in the end to healing and moving on. It is realizing that the plans you made will never happen and that somehow you are okay with that. It is having the courage to make new plans when you are ready. And, equally, to have the courage to realize and admit if you are not ready.

I am not finished healing.

I really hate admitting that. I wish I could say that I did it in my self-appointed six months and now am the healing grand champion of all time. (Seriously, my parents probably don’t know the over-achieving perfectionism that came out of paying me by the A! Haha!) But, I’m not. It’s been almost nine months and I’m still healing. Some days, I still hate that I am not over it and that I’m still angry about the cards I was dealt. At the same time, I am proud that for the most part I have moved on and am building a new life. But…

Don’t judge yourself harshly if it takes you longer to heal than someone else.

I have decided that I am not dating right now. And I really don’t know how long I’m going to commit to that. Honestly, I’m just not worried about it anymore. I’m kind of tired of trying to date when I really don’t want to, just because I feel like I should be ready to by now. It’s hilarious because I really thought I wanted to date. But, I haven’t liked anyone that I’ve met enough to want a relationship right now. I think that I was pressuring myself to move on and I wasn’t ready. I think that also there are other things that take precedence over a relationship in my life at the moment. Making sure that I am completely healed, happy, and have built a new life is very important. I’ve finally found my calling from God and have a really awesome life with my baby. I think that, for right now, I really don’t need or want anything else.

 For the first time in my life, I am making my own happiness and God’s will a priority.

 And if you are getting out of an abusive relationship, you should probably prioritize those things too. Once you are in one abusive situation, your chances to be in another go up significantly. That’s the last thing anyone who is healing needs! I think that anyone who has been through abuse needs to incorporate learning about abuse into their healing process, especially the red flags that can show you that a man could possibly be abusive.

Knowledge is power.

It’s the power to understand how you came to be in an unhealthy relationship. It’s the power to allow yourself and your children to be protected in the future. It’s worth taking the time to heal so that you are ready when the time comes to move on. I know it can be frustrating and time consuming, but everyone needs to truly heal before they can really move on. Everyone, myself included, needs to know what they deserve and to understand that all of the things that caused trauma were not what they deserved, merely what they were accepting.

We need to take the time to allow ourselves to heal. And one day, after I’ve taken the time and really invested in the process of healing, I’m going to truly be ready to move on.  But, I can’t rush it. I just have to keep reminding myself that it is going to take a little more time to heal than it takes to order a happy meal. Soon, my spring will be here and no Snowmageddons will get in the way.   

Rebuilding your life, much like stuffing a duvet cover, is hard work.

And honestly, I never thought that I would be doing it at 25. I thought that my life was completely set until a year and a half ago. Now, after graduating college, I feel like I am rebuilding my life from the ground up. I know that one day, it will be worth it.

But somedays, it just feels like a harder job than I’m capable of doing.

Yesterday, my son and his kitten decided to put planting soil all in my bed. Between both of them digging in the plant and Ollie dumping the whole thing all over himself, my bed was filthy. (Don’t worry, I have totally learned not to put a plant on my bedside table. No matter how high it is, these guys are climbers!) Unfortunately, it meant that I had to wash everything on my bed.

Once I finally embraced being single, the first thing I wanted was what I refer to as “a princess bed.” I’m sure any woman knows what I’m talking about. Tons of sheets, blankets, pillows and ruffles, all piled up high on my bed to create a marshmallow-like pile of comfy deliciousness. (Seriously, having a beautiful, frilly princess bed for the first time in my life is one of the best parts of being single.) My favorite, and least favorite, part of my bedding is my huge duvet and cover. As gorgeous as it is, it is a pain to put together.

I don’t know if you have ever put a duvet into a cover, but when it’s a queen size duvet, its hard work. I usually hold it up and think that I know what I’m doing, but then get really confused after I have the wrong corners matched up in the end. I end up starting over around three times. As long as I live, I don’t think that I will ever master the art of stuffing a duvet into a cover. Last time, the method I used was to lay the cover on the floor and to crawl in with the duvet, matching everything up from the inside. I looked ridiculous and I think I might be the only person who has ever done it that way, but it worked. My son thought it was hilarious and tons of fun. You know, like a fort that you can’t stand all the way up in! I was just relieved that, after 5 tries, I got it back together. But, I know that no matter how much work it is, when my princess bed is back together, it is gorgeous, comfortable, and everything that I have ever wanted. I snuggle in and enjoy it, even if five minutes before I was sweaty and angry.

Sometimes, I feel like rebuilding my life is exactly like stuffing my duvet back in the cover. I think I know what I’m doing, hit a brick wall, and then have to start all over a couple of times. Sometimes, I feel like I look totally ridiculous, even if I’m doing it the best way that I know how. Regardless, at the end of the day, no matter what process I have had to struggle through, everything works out.

It’s pain, it’s hard work, but one day, as soon as I figure it all out, it’s going to be completely worth it.

I think, sooner or later, everyone hits a brick wall in their life when they have to start over. Whatever fairy tale plan that you had didn’t work out in the end and you have to switch to plan B (or C, D, E, M, Q, Z… Haha). And sometimes, you don’t have a plan B. I think the problem is that we are so busy making our own plans and being committed to one thing that you don’t realize that plans are just that, Plans. They are not promises. They are not guarantees. No matter how much you want things to work out the way that you have your heart set on, there is no way that to know what lies ahead in the future.  But just because your plans don’t work out, it doesn’t mean your life is over.

Sometimes, the act of rebuilding your life leads you to a better place than you could have ever ended up in your wildest dreams.

I know, sitting here at Starbucks with the first free moment that I have had in over a week, finally breaking my baby’s 103 degree fever that this is not what I planned for myself. Doing this alone was not what I wanted. This life, some days, seems impossibly hard. However, I keep telling myself that I’m stuffing the duvet cover of my life right now. Sometimes I’m frustrated, sweating, and desperately trying to make it work and it’s just not happening. Other days, I think that I finally have things together before figuring out that I the corners don’t match. I think, above all things, I have discovered what it is going to take to make this truly work is to blaze my own trail. I am going to have to do things my own ridiculous way and not give a damn what I look like or what anyone thinks. Because as long as it works and we are both happy, I think that it is going to be okay! And, most importantly, one day, I am going to be sitting very proudly upon the life that I am working so hard to build, just like I do when my princess bed is together and all of the pillows are balanced carefully on top.

No matter how hard it is, it is worth it.

Rebuilding your life might be tiring, horrible and scary, but it will all be worth it when you get to where you are going. I know that God is taking care of us, no matter what storm we are walking through right now or whatever struggles we are currently facing. As hard as it might be to accept, maybe the hard times are necessary. They make us stronger, better people who can face adversity with a smile. It allows us to connect to other people and to show them that God guided you through the same storm and you came out on the other side joyous and resilient. Sometimes, you have to be willing to work through the hard times to have a better life in the end. Without my pain of a duvet, my bed would be without its current level of awesomeness. And without the horrible times that I have gone through in my life, I wouldn’t be able to help other women who are in the same situation.

As hard as it is to say this, and as impossible as it is to believe, I am becoming thankful for everything that has happened to me.

I am getting the life that I want and becoming the person that God wants me to be. Sometimes, the process is hard and I am not doing it the best or most elegant way, but I’m getting it done. I grow and heal more and more every day. And if you give your hard times over to God and trust that he will take care of you, then he can help you grow and heal, too. I really cling to Isaiah 14:10: “’Do not fear, for I am with you; Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, Surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.” One day, it’s going to get better. And, maybe, you will look back on this and laugh. I know I do. As mad as I was that my son and his kitten had made my room look like a garden, now it’s hilarious. I am sure that one day Ollie will laugh with me too, because he is that kind of kid. (And, let’s be honest, his cat brother, Pip, is a bad influence. He’s probably just going to blame him anyway!)

Let’s smile through the hard times. Laugh when you feel sad or angry. Dance when you feel like crying. Soon the storm will be over and everything will fall into place. And once you are resting in the comfortable happiness of a life well built, all of the hard work and struggle will be worth it.

Enjoy every minute of it

Yesterday, after five hours in the car, exploring two college campuses, $220, and dragging a toddler all around the Atlanta area, Olliver’s first library fines have been paid. I call them “his” because he dumped a gallon size container of bubbles on two of the books I borrowed from other libraries last semester, destroying them completely. Honestly, I didn’t even get mad at him when it happened. I have accepted that, when you have a toddler, this is life. (Seriously, your life with a toddler becomes a lot less stressful when you cut all emotional ties to material things. As long as everyone is alive, you’re good!)

One of the libraries that I had to pay was in midtown. We had already been in the car over an hour due to traffic, so tensions were running high. It was busy, crowded, and hectic. There I was, surrounded by college students and busy, important-looking people, lugging a thirty pound toddler on my hip. Even though he was screaming in the car, throwing brownies and spitting milk everywhere, he was really happy to be walking around. He was covered in Oatmeal pies and Brownies from head to toe and I looked tired and was sweating like a pig. Basically, I looked crazy and my kid looked crazier. (Please, don’t judge the bribery food I give my child. I swear we eat fruits and veggies too. Lol!)

Midway through the ordeal, while walking back to the only public parking garage I could find within walking distance, this older woman complimented our beautiful red hair. She was explaining to me that she had two grown daughters that also had red hair and we had a five minute conversation lamenting about how much money that moms of red headed children have to spend on sunscreen and discussing how well behaved my child was (He really was being good at that moment!). While I was talking to her, I was thinking about how put together she looked. She must have been a professor or some kind of professional. Her outfit was immaculate and she looked so polished. She seemed to be everything I hope to be one day. Meanwhile, with a thirty pound child on one hip and a thirty pound bag on the opposite shoulder, I’m pretty sure I looked like the human equivalent of a pack mule. As we went our separate ways, she said something that a lot of women whose children are older say to me, “Just enjoy every minute of it!”

Every time I hear this, I laugh a little bit. And if you hear it while you are out with your little ones, I’m sure that you sarcastically think something along the lines of what I do when someone tells me that, “Oh yeah? While I’m covered in sweat and dealing with tantrums every two minutes? I’m too tired to enjoy it.” Or “I’ll enjoy it when he’s 18.” But, this time, I started thinking about it. This woman seemed to have the put-together life I want to have, yet she missed the messy toddler days with her kids. For the first time ever I realized that one day, even though it may be impossible to believe, I’m going to miss these days. I’m going to miss my child’s forceful tantrums about stupid things (like not being allowed to eat all the crayons). I’m going to miss when he is doing something extremely naughty, figures out that I’ve caught him, and he gives me the world’s biggest grin. And I might even miss the fact that he wants to be with me 24 hours a day, attaching himself to my leg and begging to be held.

We need to stop waiting for things to be perfect in order to be happy. Because, let’s face it, nothing is ever going to be perfect… not even if the plans we pin all our hopes on somehow come true.

This isn’t just for parents. I think that everyone should start enjoying the present. How many people are working themselves to the bone right now and only look forward to relaxing or traveling when they retire? How many people are living more for their future than their present? It doesn’t matter if your life isn’t where you want it to be right now. There is still plenty around you to enjoy. You just have to see the little things around you within the bigger picture.

I don’t think that most people are living their lives to the fullest. I know that most days, I’m not.

Not only that, I prioritize so many thing that are not important in the long run. When I’m on my death bed, I don’t think I’m going to be thinking about what kind of car I have or if my outfits finally started coordinating. Neither do I think that I will be thinking about whether all the dishes got washed or if all the laundry made it out of the basket. Yet, on a daily level, these are the things I worry about. So many times, I am more worried about tomorrow to enjoy today. Most of the time, the things that I worry about are so trivial in the grand scheme of things that I need to reset my thinking. The important things in life are God, my family, and my friends. Everything else pales in comparison.

I should be investing in my relationships, not things. I should be investing in my present happiness, not just the hope of happiness in the future. I think that everyone could benefit from this shift in thinking.

I’m not saying that we all should pull an Office Space and no longer care about our jobs anymore or that we should stop striving for bigger and better things. I just don’t think we should be so exhausted from our current situations that we lose any ability to be happy or forget how important our relationships are with the people around us.

In short, just like I’m told all the time, we should enjoy every minute of it! “It” meaning everything… even the messy imperfection that you might be dealing with in the present.

I came home after spending all of that time in the car and took the nice woman’s advice. We played with cars, we jumped on the couch, we played with his kitten, we danced… There may have been a thousand things to do around this house, but I decided that none of them were important. As the famous lines go, “Babies don’t keep.” The dishes might not have gotten washed or the laundry folded, but we were happy. And I have decided that, from now on, that’s all that matters. Cleaning this house is not worth losing precious, awesome moments with my son. And, seriously, playing with him is a lot more fun anyway… even when he’s having a bad day.

So, let’s start living life to the fullest! Don’t be so tied to your desk or running around exhausted after your kids that you forget that there is beauty and happiness all around you. Make time to sit down and hang out with your family and friends… cell phone free. Take the time to play with your kids for a while instead of working on the house. We should start being more people oriented instead of constantly worrying about our plans and the material things that surround us. Who knows? After a while, we might even find that even though our lives aren’t exactly where we want them to be just yet, we can be happy right where we are.

A Leopard can’t change his spots, and neither can your abuser.

Before I get started, I just want to lay down some statistics.

• Everyday in the US, more than three women are murdered by their husbands or boyfriends.
• Men who as children witnessed their parents’ domestic violence were twice as likely to abuse their own wives than sons of nonviolent parents.
• A child exposed to the father abusing the mother is at the strongest risk for transmitting violent behavior from one generation to the next. Source: “Report of the American Psychological Association Presidential Task Force on Violence and the Family”, APA, 1996
(The first two statistics are from Domesticviolencestatistics.org)

Basically, your abuser is not going to change.

No matter how much they say it, how long they can behave themselves, or how beautiful the last month was, they just aren’t. At the end of the day, they are just pretty words. Pretty words that I wish were true, for your sake, the children’s sake and mine.

But they are also clearly pretty words that can kill you.

I know it sounds harsh. I know I sound like a mean spirited person who has no hope or a pessimist who hates abusers. But, neither of those statements is true. Unless you have been there and heard the endless “I’m going to change” while your abuser is still kicking you around mentally, emotionally and physically, you don’t get it. And you probably won’t ever get it. I wish they could change. God knows, this world would be a better and happier place. But, from personal experience, it is only going to get worse. “I can change” is the calm before the storm.

When my abuser first hurt me when I was pregnant, I left him. I told him that I wasn’t an idiot and I would not have my baby (I didn’t even know Ollie was a boy yet) brought up in an abusive and violent home. He had always told me that he would change, at least every six weeks during the honeymoon period of the abuse cycle that we were stuck in. But, this time, his actions matched his words. He got a counselor, who helped him with his anger management skills, stopped drinking as much, started coming home after work and promised that he would never hurt me again. For my sake and the sake of his unborn child, he would never hurt me again. I’m actually really ashamed that I believed him. All the time I think to myself that I should have just stayed gone, never allowing him the chance to hurt me again. But, I was young and had never experienced any kind of physical abuse before. I naively believed in “the power of love” or whatever hippy-ish name that I had given it back then. I thought that if you loved someone enough that anything could happen. Leopards could change their spots, ugly caterpillars find their wings and even abusers could rewire their brains. But, no campy sayings or counseling was enough, or is enough, to change an abuser. Usually, when you return, things get worse.

It seems like, from talking to other people that have been through similar situations and reading more than one should about abuse, that when you return to an abuser (physical, mental, emotional, etc.) you are sending them a silent message that what they did was okay. You are giving them a statement of your worth. And by returning after whatever horrible thing they have done to you, you are saying,

“I forgive you. What you did to me is okay.”

You might not even intend to say that. You might feel indignant, outraged, defiled, and worthless. You might hate them with a passion that is ungodly. But, by walking back in that door and their open arms, you are letting them know that the abuse is okay. No matter what they have done to you, you will come back. I think this is why the violence escalates. If a little was okay, why not add some more? I don’t think that an abuser actually thinks this to himself. But, the next time they lose control, they will become more aggressive.
When you go back to them, you are accepting that this possibility could become a reality.

Once my abuser started becoming physical again, he was more aggressive. If we were discussing something and I wanted to walk away, he would hold me there in a grip that hurt. He would grab me by the arms and scream in my face. He would hold my child hostage when he was drunk and loudly yell at me that he was the father and knew what was best for him better than I did. And finally, all of these separate acts of violence culminated in him throwing me down on the stairs, spraining my arm, and holding a knife to my throat, saying that he would rather leave my child an orphan than have me leave him.

If I would have never listened to his sweet words and believed that he was going to change, I never would have opened the door to all of those things.

It’s hard. This week, I went to the lawyer with my ex to sign papers so I could have sole custody of my son. Once again, he told me that for my son’s sake he would change and that he was oh so sorry for all the awful things he has put us through because we never deserved it. He even wrote a public apology on Facebook saying that he was going to “turn over a new leaf.” At first, it made me angry. Everyone seems to be so supportive of someone who almost killed me in my own kitchen and made my sweet son, the best thing that has ever happened to me, an orphan. But no one knows your abuser and who they truly are like you do. And they haven’t heard the other 100 times that he said he would change and didn’t. They still have hope where I don’t because they haven’t been through this before. I want his sweet words to be true. I want him to change and, for once, be the father my child deserves. But I also know history. I know the statistics. And I know that only God could change someone who has hurt me and my son so much.

So when you say, “But, Eliza, he really means it this time!”

About your abuser, I get it more than anyone. But knowledge is power. Knowing that women are more likely to be killed by their abuser than an abuser is to change should strike terror into your heart and let you know that he probably won’t change. You are more likely to end up dead on your kitchen floor. Not only that, we are passing a legacy of abuse on to our children. My abuser was physically abused by his father and then he abused me. In time, he would have abused our son or he would have witnessed his father abusing me. After that, my son had twice the chance to abuse his wife or girlfriend. That is when I stomped my foot on the ground and said, “ENOUGH”.

He might have stolen my joy, dignity, and self-confidence for a time, but I would be damned if he would ruin my son’s future and his happiness.

I think it’s hardest to resist a man who says he is going to change. It gives you hope. You think that the man you fell in love with is going to become the knight in shining armor, saving you from the Mr. Hyde he turns into when he loses control. But, God can be your knight in shining armor. And if you think that sounds campy, BE YOUR OWN. You can’t be happy while you are placing your heart in the hands of someone who is constantly hurting you. You need to stand up and say that you have had enough. For your own sake, and your children if you have them.

And why? Because you deserve to be happy.

One of the only things I remember from the week after I left and moved in with my sister is laughing. One night, my sister and I were talking and we started cracking each other up. Before I knew it, we couldn’t breathe, our stomachs ached, and I almost peed myself. It was awesome! I went in to my counselor’s office the next week and I was talking to her about it and the first thing that popped into my mind was that it was the first time I had truly laughed in over a year. A YEAR. A year of my life was wasted to depression, unhappiness, and sorrow. If you are in abuse right now, you probably know exactly how that feels.

You need to set yourself free!

So, I suggest that you get away from anyone who treats you in a way that is less than you deserve! And once you have left them, stay gone. No matter what they do or what pretty words they throw your way. God wants better for you. It’s hard, but in the end it will be worth it because you will be safe and happy. You can always cling to Isaiah 41:10: “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” And if it takes a couple of times to leave, it does not mean you are a failure. Leaving abuse is hard and it can take an average of 7 times for someone to leave their abuser. I pray that it does not take that many times for anyone, but at least you know that you are not a failure and you are not the only one who has left multiple times to find their strength.

I guarantee that the only chance that anyone might be able to change will come when you leave. You have to stop the cycle of abuse. Now, thanks to having sole custody and visitation that stipulates that he will be supervised by someone in my family when he is with my son, my child is safe. I’m safe. And if his father wants to change, that’s awesome. But thanks to the fact that I had the courage and God provided me with an awesome support system that helped me escape, our lives don’t depend on the slim, possibly non-existent hope of him changing for real this time. And, even if he beat the odds and did change, we aren’t going back. Because a leopard never changes his spots, and chances are an abuser isn’t going to change either.

P.S. If you are in an abusive relationship and need to talk or someone to pray for you, you can definitely shoot me an email. You aren’t alone! You can always and reach out for help, no matter how desperate you think your situation has become. God is always listening!