Monday, February 24, 2014

A Beautiful Photograph

Last summer I had my picture taken. The photographer that I used encouraged me to have my hair done, my makeup done and to be as rested and ready as possible. My response was to roll my eyes and think that there was no way. I've never been a big fan of makeup and had never had it done..... It made me embarrassed and left weird feelings to even consider it. I had never and would never be fashionable. But I found that inside me- there lurked a girl, a girl that had always wanted to be a princess. A girl that had spent far too long being named ugly and doing nothing to be anything else. So, I decided to let that weird hesitation out- to embrace what I didn't know. I was after all getting my picture made, had been so sure that I needed to, that I wanted to, that it was important.... So I went to a salon the photographer suggested. My words to the makeup artist- "Make it look like I am not wearing makeup!!!!!" My words to the hair stylist- "Make it look really natural, maybe just blow-dry it and let it be!!!" Both listened and then did far more than I thought I wanted. The most surprising part of all of that was, I looked amazing AND I saw myself. The photographer knew I wanted my photos to be ME. And now I see a beautiful photograph, and it is me. I see what was created to be lovely and to love. It was one step in this journey to embrace me- me unknown. It is so scary to know oneself sometimes; to live and love and be with ourselves. It requires that we acknowledge our pains, our failures, our loves, our hair and our goofy noses (the weirdest body part we have!!!!). My name is Abigail. My body is the home to my soul. Sometimes what is farthest away and most distant in our journey is really right there with us. Be Brave- be brave with yourself!

Dark Corner
I know what it is like to be hurt. I know what it is like to be scared. I know what it is to be scared for my life. But the following is part of how I disengaged. It wasn't just the violence, it wasn't just the threats or the controlled lack of sleep. I lost sight of how wonderfully I'd been made, I lost sight of the love that had been put into myself because he swore I was a mistake, a problem that would be blotted out by God. 
You are so ugly, he said. Look at how fat you are, he said. Why should I love you, since you are so ugly- look at yourself, he said. 
The sinking and disappearance of myself occurred slowly and yet it happened. I closed my eyes. I quit smiling. I was married. I loved him. I heaped praise on him hoping he would feel better about himself- that maybe that was the reason why he thought such bad things about me. But I remained ugly. I remained the most horrible woman on the earth, one that would be punished and reprimanded. One that would be killed for her ugliness and harmful ways. And in that I, Abigail, became too far away from myself to see myself.

Lies from a loved one are like tar. They stick to us and trap us. Lies spoken or inferred by someone we are close to hurt. And that hurt can make us forget or discard truth. My niece and her friends are always saying online "Truth is...." and they finish their statements with things like "I like you"  or "you are beautiful" or "I like being your friend." I love the boldness and strength of their statements. The pictures I have of me are an artful expression of myself, my body expressing my soul. And truth is... I like that. I like seeing myself being honest, knowing myself and being with myself. If you are in a situation in which you are hurt or being harmed remember truth. Take a deep breath and know truth or just try to see yourself- who you really are. It is to that person you will want to be most kind to, who your significant other should want to be most kind to. If you are being harmed please get help. You were made to love and be loved. Be Brave. Be brave and know truth today!
Sincerely, Abigail

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Hello Hurt

I'm lying on my back, I see the sky above me but that isn't what I am actually seeing. I feel the grass beneath me, poking at me but that isn't what I'm feeling. I hear the quiet movement of the wind, whispering and doing princess twirls around me but that is not what I hear. I see no one. I feel the empty and yet somehow heavy heart, alone. I hear just my breathing, just myself. I want to scratch at my chest until I tear it open. I want to force my hands into my flesh to find my heart. I want to touch where I am bleeding. I want to make it all stop. The alone. The hurt inside. The weighted tasks and responsibilities. 
Now I know that I am not alone in this life experience with hurts- I know far too many women that are survivors of far too many things. I know that I am not actually alone. I have children, a loving extended family, a church that is the Samaritan herself and friends that surprise me in sincerity and kindness.  
But the emotions that lurk and tease me behind all my good days... they are still there. This must be true for others. I fell apart the other day. I could not contain what mocks me. And on that day, along with a whole lot of other days I wept. Knowing there are others who have pain does little to help. But knowing that there will always be pain here on earth and that now I am familiar and getting comfy with it- that thought actually helps. I cry real easy now with those that are hurting. I know an empathy for deep sorrow I never knew. I don't have an end to my thought here- but I think a hurt heart that does not pretend to not hurt, ache and struggle is the bravest and most beautiful of hearts. I so often want to just be strong, be "together" and just worry about my hair, my kids or how my jeans are too small. But I cannot. I cannot be so strong because I have been hurt. Its as if saying "hello hurt, I see you" is where our brave might be. Be Brave- in your strength or your hurts, either will do. Be Brave. 

Dark Corner
Why is your leg purple, Abby? he asked. I looked away as he pressed his hand onto my discolored thigh. Why, Abby? his voice growing darker. I looked back at him. He wanted me to tell him it was because I was bad. So I did. What did you do, Abby? he asked, snarled, growled- I don't know how to put words to the voice he kept for me. I could not answer his question. The answer was that I, had fallen asleep during the movie we were watching. I had resisted when he ordered me to bed after he woke me. Thus that bruise and a few others. I never knew how to answer him though. But as his fingers were starting to make my bruise throb I explained to him that I didn't submit, that I was arrogant; the "right" answer. He moved his hand as he laughed and told me I must like getting hurt. I was quick to respond, as always with this statement, that I do not like getting hurt. But his eyes were small and his voice mean when he answered that I did. I made no comment.

Every 9 seconds in the US a woman is assaulted or beaten. Those women do not like getting hurt. Regardless of all the reasons or excuses that women continue to be hurt- help them. Hear them. Support them. Please. If you are being hurt, look for help. Ask for help. You have a life to live, a story to tell and people to love. Be Brave. Be Brave. Be Brave. 
With plenty of tears, smiles and hope, 

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Love and Grocery Stores

Hello,  my name is Abigail. I am so honored that you have visited with me today- or rather that you are letting me visit with you. This is Brave- it is my hope of freedom for women stuck in situations of domestic violence, it is my belief that all people need to be reminded to be brave and my story- as I have been in both places. If you are a woman stuck then please accept this as a hug. You are okay and you can also be brave. 

I have a very simple story to share today. It begins on a trip to the grocery store. I am a mother of five and I only had four of my children with me on this trip- truly a luxury! But my four were acting slightly rambunctious in the van... as in there was no small amount of squealing, giggling, yelling, hollering, teasing and poking going on in my rather small mini van.... My level of usable patience was decreasing by the second. I admonished, I breathed deeply, I reminded myself that nap time would come, I prayed a little prayer and I still felt the bristle of irritation with my angels. Like the grumpy old troll (yes that is a Dora reference) I had small eyes and a serious lack of smile. Three of the wriggling, squirming, jumpy children piled out of the car continuing this childish behavior as they waited for me to unbuckle the youngest. She too had not a still or peaceful inch about her- just squirmy! Squirmy! (Can you hear me say "ARGH!!!") My youngest wanted to jump from the van, I breathed deeply and let her hold onto my finger as she took a flying leap... right onto my naked toes. My silent grumbling became vocalized. My toes hurt! And, and, and, and, and...... My two year old squirmy daughter bent over and kissed my toes. She looked up at me and flashed me a giant smile while saying, "All better!" While I was grumbling they never stopped loving me. I hadn't stopped loving them. And she kissed my toes- right in the parking lot, right next to my van. I scooped all the kids into a big hug and we as a big squirmy group went shopping. This is love, a Brave, true and simple love. I'm not sure if I need to be willing to kiss someone's toes or just remember to not lose sight of the love I have with my family... Maybe both! Be Brave today.

Dark Corner
Another grocery store tale:
Four children, pregnant with another and I walked to the grocery store and then back home. Four hours later I was ready to fall apart. There had been no big loving moments- we were walking because I was in trouble. We'd figured out how to pull the gallon of milk and our other small items in the wagon with two of the kids- they had been done with walking long before we were even close. It was dark before we were close. I was stuck between two emotions- I had done what he had made me do, I felt a weird distorted pride that I'd done it. But at the same time I, on the brink of melting into my tears, wondered why I had to do that. Why didn't he go get the milk? Why was he "teaching" me lessons? But those questions only brought the tears closer to my eyes- and that was not allowed. That would be dealt with in a way I was trying to avoid. I breathed deep, I cleared myself of all of those emotions and removed myself from any care- or tried to. He hurt me that night anyway- I couldn't hide my dislike.

Love is amazing. What I described in the Dark Corner is not love. Love has actions, love has care. Love has forgiveness and humanity's imperfections covered; reality enjoyed and a longing to share life. If you live in a situation of love be so very thankful. I am astounded with the stories from women that are in abusive relationships- it is an evil that is rampant in our society, in our schools, in our churches, in our - it happens everywhere! I cannot tell you how many times I was hurt outside of Costco on Dimond Blvd, or REI or Carrs or Hilltop.... I cannot tell you how many times I was thrown out of the car on O'Malley Road. Violence and verbal abuse does not always happen behind closed doors but it takes mindful watchful people to see it, to be brave and find a way to help. It also takes a woman who has lost hope to wake up enough to accept it. Be Brave. Be the one that helps. Be the one that wakes up. Be Brave! 

The US National Hotline for Domestic Violence Victims

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

First a whisper

All we need is love...All we need is love! So it's the week that outside of Christmas ranks the most depressing week for people in America. Yay for Valentine's Day! I've been caught a bit lately in the circular thinking of "poor me". And thus Valentine's Day felt like it would be one more poor me moment. But, when I came home from work this morning I had a bit of an epiphany. I think it will change not only my view of Valentine's Day but maybe me as well. As I checked on my still sleeping children I realized LOVE my children, in a sky shaking, whole heart effort kind of way. I also love my babysitter- in a truly grateful for a trustworthy sitter kind of way. I love my friends- they are amazing people and holy cow have they been good to me the last couple of years. And my mom loves me and my aunts and uncles and sisters and.... Are you grinning yet? I am dearly loved. Oooo.... I got a huge smile on my face and tears in my eyes just typing that. I think I'm going to do that again. I am dearly loved. I get to love and be loved. No matter what I struggle with, no matter where I've been or where I'm headed. No matter what I have- I am so very rich, so very blessed so very happy with that. I can say it like a secret to myself, I can shout it out as I hug my kids, I can sing it as I'm driving- I am dearly loved. I get to love others and they love me back. That doesn't mean I'm not lonely, that doesn't mean that I am relived of all sadness and stresses and most certainly doesn't mean everyone loves me or that I love everyone- but... We can enjoy love. I can be purposeful about loving my kids- almost selfish in it doing it because I love it. I felt a bit silly sending out Valentine's Day cards but realized I was going to send them because I wanted to- it brought me loving feelings to send them! What a blessing to be free to express our love for each other, to tell each other we care. I am loved by my God and He put all these people around me and my kids, so we would know the joy of loving them and the delight of being loved- DEARLY LOVED! You should try it. Whisper it first. And then say it for real like a fact- cause it is a fact, cause you can say it, cause you can know it. Let your heart feel how loved you are because there are some that can't. I am dearly loved. I bet your heart felt that too! Be Brave and enjoy your Valentine's Day!

Dark Corner
I wanted to be pretty but he called me ugly. I wanted to buy my children something, anything, for the joy of providing but he called me wasteful. I wanted to have friends but he called me unfaithful. I wanted to cook food that would be really tasty but he said he would buy the food. I wanted to watch a movie but he said to do my chores. I wanted to sleep but he said I had to cook. I wanted to walk but he said to run. I wanted to run but he said I was selfish. I wanted to be alone but he said I should love him. I wanted to disagree but he said I need to learn respect. I wanted to do something good but he said I should be humble. I wanted to be seen but all he saw was stupid. I wanted to be loved but all he said was why. 

Domestic violence is not always physical. Lies and manipulation within a relationship can be more damaging to a person's well being than the physical harm done. We crave belonging because we were meant to belong to God, to be cherished and loved by the people around us and to love them back. Domestic violence in any form crushes and destroys the people involved. If this is you, Be Brave! Get help. There is hope, there is love and life for you. Whether you are being physically harmed or emotionally you most likely need help. Talk to someone, and keep talking until find the help you need or until you can take steps to make it better- you are worth it. You are dearly loved. The darkness you walk in will not last forever. Be Brave, and strong, and wise and as wonderful as you are. You have my deepest sympathies and hopeful prayers.  -abigail

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Kermit, kids and a trail of........

Its not easy being green. Kermit was so very right. I have never really struggled with comparison of stuff- maybe a bit envious of charismatic people, or the women that make beauty seem like something they just can't help. I've never had very expensive tastes or been in love with my belongings. Ok, well I have fallen in love with my cowboy boots. They are perfect- they look so cute with jeans, dresses, leggings... (Oh my goodness I can't believe I wrote that. Should I delete that? I am blushing with embarrassment.) Back to the point- today I got green in the face, or heart rather. I was booking a client and offering to work with her schedule. She, a mom of three young children and I were comisserating on how exhausting it is to take care of kids all day. And so I was offering complete flexibility. Until she let mention that her Monday thru Friday day nanny also stays over on Friday nights and generally Saturday nights so as to ensure she can go out or at very least sleep well. I looked at my coffee cup in hand, there to keep me awake as I had slept my usual four hours the night before. As I listened I realized I was standing in water that was now leaking from the dishwasher. (And this part is no joke- no joke at all.) I politely excused myself from the phone call to attend to the puddle at my feet at the same time my youngest daughter came into the kitchen. Except she wasn't there.... her smell had come before her. I laughed, laughed a huge laugh even for me. A couple of seconds later my daughter arrived saying "STINKY" with the predicted explosion in her diaper... leaving a trail of brown foot prints down the hall. I laughed at her wrinkled nose and then.... I used the leaky dishwasher water to start cleaning up the mess. Every woman that I know of has struggled with being green. Believe me wishing I had a nanny was not far from my thoughts as I cleaned up the brown floor.... The survivors of domestic violence that I know look at the seemingly ambivalent world around them and stay silent in the shame of what happened to them... and then often crumble a little more facing the unfairness of life. It is so very slippery that slope of envy. Life after domestic violence is not easy. But life in any situation is not easy. My advice, laugh. Laugh bravely and then use your leaky dishwasher water to clean up the mess you are standing in!

Dark Corner
The knife soared past my head. I was not practicing for the circus. I was running down the stairs. The chair came crashing down the stairs. It caught my calf and I fell down the last three stairs. Why I wasn't faster I couldn't figure out. After years of this you would think I would have evolved. I could read the imminent anger better but I had not gotten faster. The reality at the moment was that I was reeling. After hours of trying to be "submissive" and "good" my eyes were swollen from the amount of tears I had shed and my head hurt. He had spent the last hour hitting my head with his fist every time he deemed that I needed it. My thoughts were that I needed to feed the kids. They were watching cartoons ignoring the scene in front of them. I needed to get them ready for bed. The knife had scared me. It had been pretty close and I couldn't think anymore. I just had to get them fed. I was so fixated on the fact that I was persistent in returning upstairs. Each time I came up he hurt me again. And it got late. He took a break from whatever he was watching and went to play on the computer. I fed the kids and put them to bed. The night was far from over for me. Worn out, a house that was messy to which I "had no excuse" for and an angry husband waiting for me. Silently I cried over the dishes.

It is often that we can only see to deal with now. No matter what kind of family that you have "now" is what is most necessary. But if you are being hurt, if you are in danger please think with me ahead. Your "now" may not be the same tomorrow. Most abuse escalates- as in unless stopped by an outside intervention or the removal of yourself or your partner it is most likely going to get worse. I didn't have the time or ability to plan ahead. But you might be able to and if you can you should. Make a plan. Find resources. But be safe. If you can't make a plan safely just leave. I did. You can and will make it. Be Brave! 

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Moving Stones

I heard recently someone use these words, "Have no fear for God is with you." It took a lot for me to stay in my seat. Warrior Woman emerged from the dark corners of Abigail's heart.... "Go ahead- tell me to be fearless. Tell me to be strong.  Challenge me to a fear competition. I wonder who will win." I know that the majority of that is my pride, that I don't like to be "wrong" and that those sentiments feel like judgment. To a former abused wife words that speak to bravery are like salt in a wound- they are judgement itself. Have you ever been strangled until you passed out? Have you ever been beaten until you bled internally? Have..... and down the road of saddled judgement we go. Big sigh as I put away my own defensive weapons. (I should someday paint a picture of myself all ready for war- its such an intense emotion filled with fight!) People that know fear know fear. Fear is almost a being, a presence. Once fear is known its stays by the power of familiarity and in a circular fashion only a lie can create- by fear. But hold on here for a minute, "Have no fear for God is with you." Now I am telling you that. It doesn't have any more or less truth coming from me. That isn't the point. I am saying those words because they are true. 

In fear and lies we make a prison, the walls are high with lies, the walls are thick with evidence supporting the lies and they get higher and higher all the time. It would have been nearly impossible for me to be fearless while being beaten. I could not have listened to him describe what he would do with my body after he killed me and not been afraid- you did not hear the evil in his voice, scary is an understatement. I had an enormous stone prison of lies to live in and to keep the fear in. The day I ended my relationship with him I told one of his lies. It was the easiest to tell- He. hit. me. And I didn't even speak at first- all I did was nod my head when asked if he had. But regardless that truth moved ONE, just ONE stone. But it let the person I gave the stone to see in. They spoke truth and I gave them more stones. And then another friend spoke truth and I gave away more stones. The prison is coming down. After almost two years I look at my feet and I still see stones. I cannot even see the end of these stones, but that is ok. I am intimately aware that the stone prison I was in was a lie. And that I can fearlessly take the stones away. I am still familiar with fear but it needs no lies. I starve it of my attention and it lessens. I'm just moving stones. And obviously I've moved a stone that was fearful of judgement this week! <big smile> Be Brave friends, there is much to live for!

Dark Corner
When speaking with me his voice turned. Gone was the smile that he showed everyone else. Just his dark small mean voice was left. He spoke of the garden, of draining my body and cutting it up. He spoke of how he would do it all during the night or two nights. No one would notice- he had often had me do the gardening at night with a headlamp. I was so tired. I couldn't wrap my head around his words. Why did he have this plan? Why would God really tell him to kill me? But his explanation included that- I was evil. I was teaching the kids to be evil and they would be better off without me. The hurt surrounding the word kids coming from his mouth was as a knife to my heart. I was so so tired. The fear had bred an exhaustion that I cannot describe. I did care about my life, I did care about my children. I was just ... so so tired.

I want domestic violence to be spoken. I want all the lies that keep women in these prisons to be shown as lies. Too many women are living in fear propped up by lies. If you are being hurt, get help, accept help, find help! Your life is important and you can live. If you can be a truth speaker do that! Speak what you know, speak what you see. With kindness and a careful understanding that you may be "judging" the women that so very much so need your help. Move stones. Abigail

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Shaking Skies

Brave is a place in which I share about domestic violence, my experience and my delight in the strength and bravery of humanity. Sometimes in my journey and writing there is much that is of delicate nature. Normally I reserve that for the Dark Corner below. But today my tears extended beyond just that Corner, today my tears touched the sky. And so, read for understanding, read for courage to face your challenge, read with sensitivity for what I hold dearest is below. 

I am watching my children hurt. There is nothing that I have experienced thus far in my life that would prepare me or equip me for the emotions of seeing my children ache and face hurt. Suffering is not new to anyone- certainly not to us. We all to some extent will suffer, walk through difficult circumstances or have extremely difficult tasks that we are called to do. I might complain and groan about my faulty tv, my washing machine that has an airplane complex or my lack of sleep... but none of these holds a candle to watching my children hurt. This week has been difficult. Our counselor has often reminded me that at times going backwards is the only way to move forward. My children are going backwards- looking back on their own. Oh it makes me want to shake down the skies. I hurt for them. And as they hurt every trigger that I have is in full blown "thrashing in the wind" mode. Shaking down the skies sounds pretty good right now. Believe me each hand would hold on to those clouds really tight and I would not let go until I'd shaken every answer,  and a whole lot of peace and hope down on my kids. Down on myself. Memories are disgustingly hard. I've known that at some point my kids would and will struggle. I have approached my own healing with an intensity and urgency because so much time has been wasted already. But we are moving backwards. This is not forever, it is just right now. I am however surprised at what we can handle. My own hurt and seeing my children hurt is bigger than the sky I would like to shake. And yet- so is my love for them. So is my tenderness and complete enjoyment of snuggling with them on a Saturday morning or after a nap. I love being able to wipe their tears away, to hold them, to sing them to sleep. I wouldn't trade that for the world. So maybe while this is so very hard- maybe it is the greatest gift I have- to get to be a comfort for my children. To get to be love to them. To be brave and share courage with my little babies. Be Brave my friends. There is so much to live for.

Dark Corner
I lay on the floor before him, my two daughters beside me. My hands shaking with the desire to cover their ears, to shield them from his words. 

I stood next to my son. His chin was lifted in defiance. My breathing shallow as I shook my head. Knowing I would get hurt at my defiance. Screaming inside for this to stop.

On the floor I clawed at his legs, reaching for his arms. He has taken my son, my baby son away from me. No, No, No, No, No I yelled as he threw him outside. 
These are just the beginning of three stories. Three stories that were "normal" life. Three stories that are so sensitive I cannot tell them well. Our lives are precious and yet during that time were not valued and that thankfully occurs no more. 

Violence that involves children is abhorrent. Studies suggest that nearly 10 million children witness domestic violence annually. That means EVERY YEAR. That is an enormous number of children that are hurting, children that have seen trauma or felt trauma. Children that were supposed to be cared for and held and loved that aren't. Children that aren't sure what is safe, that are fearful of the future and nervous about the past. Memories are forgotten but the emotions and senses always remember. My children do.  
If you are being hurt let someone help you! You are worth the life you were given, and the fear you live in is NOT that life. The US has a wonderful hotline that can help you make a plan, connect you with resources- anything you need. Call the police. If you know of someone being hurt help them. Be the friend that stands with them, that doesn't give up even when they act weird and distant, that helps them get out. Be Brave.