Sunday, December 30, 2012

The Insidious Nature of DV

Domestic Violence (DV) is not typically restricted to one area of abuse. In most cases, the abuse invades multiple areas of the relationship. Emotional abuse is pervasive all the way through, but is almost always accompanied by verbal, physical, sexual, financial, spiritual or other types of abuse. In my experience, I didn't even realize that what I was going through was abuse for many years. Emotional abuse is insidious. It doesn't show as abuse immediately, in fact, it hides very well... sometimes making you feel loved because of their jealousy, wanted because of the time they always want to spend with you, crazy because your perceptions are so different from theirs, lost because you aren't sure if you're seeing what you're seeing.

The truth is that if they hit you the very first time, if they beat you to a pulp or leave bruises, knock you unconscious or throw you down the stairs... that very first time they abused you, you would walk away, you would press charges. The reality is that almost no relational abuser starts at that place. From the first conversation, from the beginning of the relationship, they are manipulating, twisting, lying, emotionally changing things to suit their perspective, their reality.  So, by the time they do something blatantly abusive, you have reduced self-esteem, and self-confidence so you question yourself and what is happening.

I am beginning to realize that there was sexual abuse throughout my marriage. I didn't recognize it, still struggle with the idea. I think that can be normal with almost any marriage where sexual abuse is happening, sex is supposed to happen within a marriage, it`s supposed to be a natural expression of love between partners. My ex was not violent in his sexual experiences with me, but he used it. If I turned down his advances, I would pay for it. He would withhold sex from me, he would turn down my advances. He would complain that he didn't get it often enough (sometimes in public!), that I didn't initiate it often enough and then deny me when I did try to initiate sex, claiming I wasn't obvious enough, that I didn't say the right words, so he didn't know what I wanted. It came to a point that I would give him what he wanted, when he wanted it as often as possible just to keep the peace. There were times when I didn't want sex and gave in because it was my responsibility, because I didn't want the drama that followed if I denied him, if I said no, it could, and often was, a month or more before he approached me again... all the while complaining that I wasn't giving enough.That is sexual abuse. It is not always a violent encounter, not always non-consensual sex.  

Porn can be sexual abuse and very often leads to sexual, verbal and emotional abuse, but that is a topic for another time.

The very strange, and often difficult part to grasp, about sexual abuse is that it can make the victim feel more loved, more attached to their abuser. This is not always the case, and especially not in the case where the sex becomes violent more often than not, but when no is not accepted as an answer it can feed a need to be desired.

There were times when my ex would comment how he wished my step-dad was still alive so he could harm him, when he would wish he knew some of my other exes who had abused me, where he wished I had lived a different life so I could have come to him unharmed, willing/able to do what he wanted me to do. This was designed to make me feel loved and protected, but also had the opposite effect of making me feel like damaged goods, like I wasn't good enough for him, like I was lacking in an important or significant area.

Another part of the insidious abuse I experienced was the frequency, after I began seeing the abusive behaviour with which he accused me of being "over-reactive" to things as a result of my sister's murder, and because of the abuse in my past. In fact, it got to the point where we could not discuss our separation, our parenting plan or any other aspect of us being apart without him bringing up my sister. While in mediation he brought it up in every meeting, finally blurting out some of the details of her death with crudeness just to make his point and to hurt me.

It is natural for someone who loves you to wish that they could have protected you from past harms, that they could do something about or to those who have hurt you in the past and to be sorry for you that you experienced such things, but to harp on it, to bring it up in intimate moments or disagreements is only abusive. We all have baggage, we all have hurts that we bring to a relationship, they should not be used to bring further harm or injury to our hearts.

Insidious abuse is not only difficult for the victim to see and realize, but once they do, once the abuse begins to escalate more and more so the abuse becomes apparent to them, it is still hard to walk away because it is insidious. When I left, I had people tell me that "everybody" acts that way sometimes, you just have to work through it, people told me they felt he had changed and I should give him another chance. People asked if I had gone to the police, but what was I to tell the police? He never left bruises, he never threatened our lives, he never escalated to the point where there was blatant, violent threats or actions... but he was escalating. Insidious abuse is even harder for your support team to see, he often has seemingly reasonable justifications for specific behaviours and the pattern is usually hidden from the outside world.. 

It is of the utmost importance to reach out to someone who knows abuse for support during the insidious period of abuse. When you begin to realize it, when you begin to see it, find someone who knows what they are talking about. If they feel what is happening is not abusive, they'll tell you so, but better it come from an "expert" than it come from someone who has never lived it, never studied it, never worked with it.

If you want to know some of the signs and symptoms of abuse, check out the webpage at the WHE Network.  There are some excellent articles there regarding the signs of an abuser. Dr. Irene is another excellent webpage and your local women's shelter (even if you are a man, they will help you find resources!) are great resources (My home city, Calgary, has 3 - Calgary Women's Emergency Shelter, Sonshine and the YWCA. Each offers counseling as well as an emergency shelter).

I'm still learning on this walk. I'm still recognizing the signs and as I continue to heal, I begin to dream. In my dreams I see things I had forgotten, things I had ignored or accepted as normal. There is very little that is "normal" in an abusive relationship. Everything is affected by the abuse, even the good times. In the good times you enjoy them to the fullest because you never know when the other shoe will drop. In the bad times you are constantly on edge, not knowing how far it will go this time, or when it will suddenly end and throw you into a "good time" where you have to pretend everything is okay, like nothing happened yesterday or even a few minutes ago.

I am not alone in this dance. I am only alone when I refuse to speak, when I stay silent. There are many on this path, there are many who are suffering in silence. Only when they hear the words of those who choose to say "No More" will they be able to take that step of freedom, to begin their dance out of abuse. Let us all stand up to say "No More"!

To those who are blessed to live free of abuse, to those who are blessed to be walking out of it, to those who have left it behind and to those still living in it, I challenge you to stand up for the weaker ones. Stop judging those who stay, stop being silent. Begin to speak out, let them know that this behaviour will no longer be tolerated, that there is a way out and that no matter their choice - to stay or to go - you will be by their side. Be aware of the resources in your community, know where to find them, know when to reach out for them on behalf of a friend or yourself.

Please join me in the dance to freedom!

Monday, December 17, 2012


I am angry today. Very angry. I find myself irritable, impatient, cranky and difficult to pull myself out of the funks.

I hate days like this. Yes, I teach my children to not hate, but I HATE feeling like this. I despise it, am annoyed by it... and to be quite frank, when I am already irritable, it only makes me crankier.

I'm hurting. The anniversary of my sister's death is quickly approaching and I've never really struggled with it before. Aside from those first, horrible days immediately following her murder, I have not truly allowed myself to let it affect me. This year, I have allowed myself to grieve, I have faced the pain of her death and I have struggled with the grief. It's been seven years and it is hitting me harder than ever.

I am not even just grieving her. I miss my brother, I miss my sister. I miss my dreams of a family, of knowing where I belong. I miss the hopes of having more, of being with someone else, being loved, cherished, wanted, desired and cared for.

I don't want to be alone anymore. I am forming new dreams, new goals, yet they seem so far out of reach, so unattainable that it feels foolish to want or work for them. I feel trapped in between where I was and where I want to be.

I guess there are so many things to be angry about. Innocent lives stolen from them, my life feels stolen from me. All those things that we ought to be able to depend on, define our lives by and feel safe in desiring have been ripped away like a rug from under my feet. One thing adds to another and suddenly I feel buried by grief, buried by anger, smothered by my own life.

I am so blessed. I am alive, I have great friends, I have my children, a loving cat who climbs on my face when I'm hurting just to snuggle and let me know she's here, family who loves me, a roof over my head, beds, Christmas presents, a vehicle, the ability and resources to help others and so much more. Yet, I hurt. I ache for what should have been, what could have been, what I wanted to be and have.

I am angry that last night I was tempted to return to a place of violence, of abuse. I am angry that I was weak in the face of an unusual niceness, gentleness and softness. I am angry that I can still be fooled by an appearance instead of a reality, that one moment can make me want to wipe away a pattern, a history and a knowledge of truth.

I am tired of grieving. I am tired of hurting. I want to be finished with this journey, to be in a place where I can give of myself without draining myself. To be able to do what I need to do without feeling completely worn out before I am even halfway through the task. To sleep at night without waking constantly to see the time slowly ticking by. To feel energized in the morning. To remember what I need to do and where I need to be without needing to constantly write it down. I want to be me, whole and complete. To be in a place where life doesn't hurt, and yes, I acknowledge the impossibility of that desire while on this planet. I pray constantly and fervently for Christ's second return. I desire that with all my heart, it is a desire I know will be fulfilled, sometime, someday and hopefully sooner than even I think.

I have days when I want to be finished. I won't choose that, but there are days I desire it. I will keep picking up the pieces and move on with my life. I will keep walking through this path of grief, I will survive this and come to thrive again. I will, as my best friend wisely advised me today, embrace the anger, use it to continue my healing process and become a better person, a person who can help others walk through this path with hopefully less angst and delay than I have.

I will be brave and I will keep dancing. May you do the same, no matter what you face today or tomorrow.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Borrowed Time

I heard a song on the radio the other day (Good to be Alive, by Jason Gray), not for the first time, but it started me thinking...

I feel like I`m living on borrowed time, my siblings were both dead before they reached my age. Yet, I frequently don`t feel like it`s Good to Be Alive. What does it mean to live on borrowed time? What does it mean to you?

There are two ways to live on borrowed time. The first is to live in fear that this will be your last day. I can understand this way of thinking because I have great responsibilities. I have two boys who need their mom and if I'm on borrowed time, that could mean a short time and I want them to know I love them, I would do anything for them and I would never leave them on purpose. At the same time, living in fear is never a good option. It fills your life with angst, pain, anger, frustration and ineffectiveness. I don't want to teach them that way of living. I want them to continue living in joy and delight.

The second way to live on borrowed time is like it says in the song. To give everything you have to the moment. To live joyfully, to see everything like it is the last time, or the first time you are experiencing it. This is a harder way to live. This means to forget what might happen tomorrow, to leave the worries behind because you might not be there anyway. To fulfill today what today holds. The Bible talks about that actually,  in Matthew 6:25-34 Jesus speaks specifically about worrying. Verse 34 says:
"Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own."
It's a slightly different twist on living like there's no tomorrow. Jesus just advises us to leave tomorrow alone until we get to it. We need to deal with today, with what today holds because it is more than enough for us to bear. He never intended that we try to deal with all our troubles and challenges in one day, He deliberately separated the days for us to take it in small enough chunks to handle. I can't handle things if I try to take them all at once. We have to "chunk it" to effectively manage... our work, our homes, our families, our schedules, learning new things, etc. I can't do tomorrows jobs today and thinking about them will not get today's work done any faster by focusing on what needs to be done tomorrow.

I am sliding off topic just a little there, but the concept remains. To truly live like you are on borrowed time does not mean living in fear of there being no tomorrow, it means to live for today. To deal with today and it's tasks, problems and joys in a way that leaves a legacy of happy remembrances for those who are left tomorrow. To trust God that tomorrow will be taken care of, whether or not I am here because He will be here. It's hard to do. Even harder when I look at my boys and try to imagine what would happen to them if I was suddenly gone... Given my family history however, that is something that is often on my mind. I need to teach them to trust God, to know He will always be there, whether or not I am. I need to trust that God will take care of them, no matter what.

Living on borrowed time means dreaming my dreams and making my plans, but not clinging to them so hard that it means the end of the world for all if they somehow fall through. It means trusting God to be in charge of my life, my plans, my dreams, my family and more. He knows the beginning from the end and He will make all things good. If I pursue my dreams today, then I have done what I can. If I fail to pursue my dreams, then I fail myself and my children. If I work today then I achieve all I can. If I have tomorrow then I can continue to pursue those dreams, if I don't there will be no regrets that I didn't do as much as I could.

Live like there's no tomorrow, love like you're on borrowed time, don't waste the time we're given.

And, dance like no one's watching!!!

Sunday, November 25, 2012


There was a picture post on Facebook today that struck me as how I'm feeling in this moment. I'm fighting for my soul.

I strongly believe that in life, behind every activity, struggle, challenge, joy, blessing.. behind everything we do and that happens to us, is a spiritual battle being waged. God and Satan battling for our souls. When I look at life from that perspective, it changes how I see other people, how I view their actions. It makes it easier to forgive.

However, I sometimes forget in my dark moments that it is Satan battling for my soul. You see, I also strongly believe that he has lost the war - lost it, in fact, when Christ died on the cross - but he has not given up, so he fights these skirmishes to take as many people down with him as he can. Christ assures us in John 16:33:
"I have told you these things, so that in Me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble, but take heart! I have overcome the world."
I have chosen to follow Christ, I have chosen to be His. Now, I am fighting for my soul against the darkness, against the fear, against the lies that I am without value. Those are Satan's tools of warfare and it feels like he has unleashed them against me in full fury lately. I cannot fight him in my own strength. I need Christ to fight this battle because He has already defeated Satan and all his weapons of warfare. Christ gives me peace during the battle, during the attack so I can rest knowing He has already won. I claim Christ`s power, Christ`s victory in my life.

I vow to remember this is not about me, this is about the spiritual battle raging where I cannot see it. When I watch battle scenes, when I see people fighting, I realize that it is a dance. Remove the weapons and the violence and it can be a beautiful dance. Today, my dance is one of defense, of self-protection. That`s okay. During battles there is always time for dances of victory and joy as well. I will do both and trust God to give me the energy to keep facing whatever comes my way

Saturday, November 17, 2012

You won't get a "Yes" if you don't ask...

“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. “Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him! So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.

It is so hard for me to receive. The reality is that often when I ask, I do not receive, speaking in a strictly worldly sense. I gave up asking for the longest time. Seriously, would you bother if the answer was usually "no"?

I'm not out to garner pity, please don't get me wrong, mostly I'm just thinking through the issue, the situation and the problem hoping to come to a conclusion for myself.

I had to ask for help from my dad recently. I'll be honest and say I'm not used to asking him for help. I'm used to being independent, to doing it all on my own. I feel I should not have to be relying on my parents to bail me out of trouble anymore, I should be standing on my own two feet, I should be self-sufficient, needing nothing, I should have strong enough faith that God will care for my needs. I shouldn't need anything. That's a lot of "shouldn'ts"

I guess that is the crux. I don't want to need anything from anyone. I have often felt I am in the way and don't deserve special treatment, that my needs are unimportant. I feel my needs are less important than others needs.

Jesus tells me to ask and I will receive, but what if I don't? What if I ask Him for things and He says "no"? What if He, like most others, let me down? What if He shows me that though He says He cares, He really doesn't? What if I am greedy, lazy, wanting something for nothing, wasteful, selfish...? What if I don't deserve any good thing?

There's a lot of rejection hanging on my asking. There's a lot of pain waiting to drop down on me. I don't know that I can handle anymore?

My dad said yes and he gave me heck for not asking sooner. It made me think of God. How often He wants to give me good things, but I don't ask. Does He get frustrated with me because I don't ask for what I want/need? Is He chomping at the bit, waiting for me to ask for help?

The verses above tell me that He is, that He wants to give me even greater things than my parents can. I working up the courage to ask Him, no, I'm going to start making it a practice. I know He hears me, I need to have faith that my dancing is enough for Him, that He desires to give me good things.

Is this the time to stop dancing for a while and spend some time kneeling? I am not totally sure, but I'm thinking it's just a different way to dance.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

The days after the suicide....

My brother, Cory, disappeared on a Sunday afternoon in late May. He was living with my sister, Angela, at the time and she had gone out for the day. When she returned he was gone and no one knew where. It was the start of a hellish week for us because we had no word of him until the next Saturday night and we would never have word from him again. A man, walking his dog, found his car in a gravel pit Saturday afternoon and Angela saw it being towed away on her way home from a friend's wedding that evening. She knew immediately what that meant. I had gone out to dinner with friends, to try to take my mind of the extreme worry of not knowing where he was, praying that he had "only" been kidnapped or any other possibility that excluded his death. I got the news when we returned home from the restaurant and I snapped. I had denied that he could, would do such a thing as take his own life. I refused to believe that he would take that option, knowing the pain his father's death had caused us.

I guess that's the thing. For one person the fact that a close relative committed suicide slams that door shut because of the pain, for another it opens the door so it becomes an option when the pain becomes unbearable. Whatever the case, it didn't matter anymore. He was gone.

I went to Mom's the next day. We grieved together, but already I had decided I was going to Angela's. I didn't think she needed to go through this situation alone and I needed to be with her, to be where he had last been. I didn't stay long at Mom's, maybe a night and then I was home and flying to Winnipeg.

Angela and I had a unique relationship. She was my older sister and yet I had played the part of oldest sibling to our brother for many years as we had not always been raised together. I was 11 when she left home to live with our dad, Cory was only 8. I had been the strong one during the difficult years at home with Mom, through the years when Mom was struggling to heal from the hurts from the abuses piled on her. I was the one who cared for Cory during the latchkey years. In a family of 3, we both were the older siblings and it made things a little weird for us so, understandably, my arrival brought confusion for Angela. At first she didn't understand why I had come. She was so used to taking care of others, that she began to take care of me too, until I told her I hadn't come so she could take care of me, I had come to be with her so we could take care of each other. It was easier after that.

There were so many details to take care of. Because of the nature of his death, there was an autopsy and we had to wait for his ashes to be released from the authorities. We met with the Medical Examiner who told us what we already knew and returned what few personal effects could be salvaged from his car. I`ll never forget the smell of death that still lingered in his belongings. We made arrangements to travel by convoy with his friends to Alberta for the memorial service. His best friend drove a red Peterbilt like the one Cory had dreamed of driving one day, Angela and her husband owned a red pickup and his other friends came in their red car. It seemed suiting that the convoy was all red vehicles even if it was unplanned.

It`s always a bit strange when you realize family reunions happen at funerals. People who haven`t seen each other for years show up and you want to catch up, but your grief gets in the way. We all decided to dress western for the service, it was how Cory always dressed and it was a way to honour his memory. I`ll never forget the tensions that ran high during the morning before the service. I don`t remember what triggered it, but Mom and Angela started yelling and I just couldn`t take it that day. I started walking away down the street to get away from it all. Someone came after me and I returned to the house. When Mom`s aunt arrived, Mom fainted and I feared for her, but was too grief-stricken to step in to be her strength. Thankfully her husband was there to be her strength instead.

In the middle of the memorial service, a major thunderstorm shook the building and I thought it fitting that God would be as angry and hurt as we were. Cory loved thunderstorms, so it was fitting in that way also.

We did family pictures after the service because it was the first time Angela had been to Alberta in many years, we didn`t know how long it would be again and we realized how short our time together could be. It seems when there is a death like that, a grief like that, that the world should just stop turning. It seemed wrong to be posing for pictures, to be smiling as if the world was right when I knew the world would never truly be right again. It still seems strange that the world hasn`t stopped, that life keeps going and joy keeps happening, but it is fitting. Life keeps moving on and on. I`m just glad I don`t have to be the one in control of it all. I don`t have all the answers, and I need to be okay with that.

I`m going to keep 2-stepping today. It`s what Cory would have wanted and I know that it`s what God wants of me. To lean on His strength when I have none of my own left. As long as I let Him lead the dance, I`ll keep going in the right direction.

Thanks for sharing my journey today.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Suicide... it`s not an option!

November 12. Today would be Cory's (my brother) 37th birthday. Hard to believe that he has already been gone for 14 years. 14 birthdays spent missing him, wishing he was here to celebrate.

Suicide is a vicious choice. It is something that leaves the family, friends and loved ones in stunned shock and silence. Wondering what they could have done differently, how they missed the signs. Asking why their love and care wasn't enough.

At the end of May, 1998, Cory was having a tough go of things. Life had not gone the way he wanted, planned or dreamed. Work was not where he wanted it to be, his relationships felt like they were falling apart, he wasn't feeling well and it became too much for him. He drove his car to a secluded place and killed himself with carbon monoxide poisoning. He wasn`t found for a full week and that week was full of torment for us, not knowing, not wanting to know, holding onto hope....

There were a lot of things that tormented him. We were raised in an abusive home, his father left on his 8th birthday and killed himself when Cory was only 11. The suicide of our dad left the entire family stricken and shaken. Things were difficult, we were dealing with the knowledge of unknown abuses by our dad to our sister, and each of us lived with the trauma of it. Mom was struggling with the ability to forgive men in general and raising a teenage son. Looking back, I believe now that each of us were dealing with PTSD in our own way.

Most of the time Cory and I lived in denial about what had torn our family apart, struggling and failing to understand the pain our dad has caused throughout his life and death. We wanted to be normal teenagers, we wanted to fit in with the world around us. We didn't know what to do with the pain, so we ignored it, we denied it and we did our best to enjoy our teenage years despite it.

What we didn't do was heal from it. Cory had great anger and frustration with life and against mom and I. We were just scapegoats, not the real problem and I knew that. We fought a lot, but we were still close. After I left to go to college, the fighting stopped and we became good friends. Over the years we became as close as possible. Spending holidays together, traveling together and talking often. Though he was younger, Cory was always my protector. He could beat me up, but heaven forbid anyone else tried to do it!

He was only 22 when he died. Not a long enough life, not long enough for us to be friends. He would never meet my children, never attended my wedding. We have missed much because of his short life.

I have heard suicide described as a permanent solution to a temporary problem. The reality is that to the person suffering, it does not feel temporary, it feels permanent.

The day after Cory disappeared he was offered the job he`d been wanting for years, and would have found out his girlfriend had only asked for some time to think instead of breaking up with him as he thought... knowing these things might have paused his suicide. It would have given him a boost of hope and given him something to live for, but these things weren`t the cause of his despair, only the last straw in his struggle.

Two things were spoken to me and our family that brought comfort after his death. One was that in the Bible there is no condemnation of suicide. The only way the Bible speaks of suicide is with fact, not judgment. The second thought was that suicide is an act of absolute insanity. The strongest human instinct is that of survival. To commit suicide is in absolute contradiction of that instinct, thus it must be an act of total insanity. In moments of total insanity we are not and cannot be held responsible for the decisions we make. This brings me comfort and hope, not believing my brother to be insane, but rather that suicide is not the end, there is still a promise of resurrection.

I miss him a great deal. I wish he was around to laugh with, to talk with, to share my children with. I`ll never get over missing him.

What I wish for is that others will reach out for help before they get to those last moments of insanity, before they reach the point of no return. There is no shame in asking for help. No shame in admitting that life is becoming too much to handle. Life can be too much to handle, and often is, on our own. Without the support of friends and family, without the strength of God to hold us up through those horrible, difficult times we can reach the point where life just doesn`t seem worth living.

I, too, have often felt the desire to just stop. I have felt like I could not handle another moment of pain, like life was no longer worth living. It is not in those moments that the decision can be made to live. We must choose in advance, we must make a pact with ourselves to make suicide impossible. Take it off the table when your thoughts are clear and you have not reached the bottom of the pit. Decide for yourself, for your family, for your friends, that you will not succumb to Satan`s attempt to destroy you.

If you are prone to suicidal thoughts, depression, write down the blessings in your life. Write down the names of the people you love, that love you, those that will be hurt by your passing. In our darkest, deepest moments, we don`t think that our passing will hurt anyone, that it will make life easier for them. Trust me, the opposite is true. I have lived through the suicides of two family members close to me. I have suffered extremely from both of them. My dad killed himself to stay out of jail. He had done horrendous things to me, to my sister, to our family and still we grieved him exceedingly, unable to understand how he could put us through the pain of his suicide after everything else. My brother couldn`t take it anymore, couldn`t handle life anymore and I still suffer the pain and anguish of his death. I still hurt knowing that I was not enough, my love was not enough to keep him alive. I know he loved me because he told me so the day before he died, I just wasn`t enough to keep him going one more day. It was a decision, or non-decision, he made because he felt he was not enough. He felt his life was too messed up to be redeemed. It wasn`t true. It was a lie that Satan repeated to him, over and over and over until he couldn`t hear anything else.

I beg you, if you feel despondent, if you feel that life would be better off if you were dead, if you are reaching the point that the love of your family and friends and the thought of their suffering should you chose suicide don`t matter any more, seek help!! Before it is too late, don`t leave your family and friends to wonder and to grieve. The grief after suicide is far more intense than any other type of death because of the guilt left behind for those wondering if they could have done something to change the outcome, wondering where they failed.

Life is a dance and sometimes the steps slow down and sometimes you can`t find the beat of the music. Don`t give up dancing, just find a new partner - a counselor, a pastor, a psychiatrist, a trustworthy friend. Reach out, make it a group dance but please, please, please never give up moving your feet.

The Canadian Suicide Help web page is HERE

The American Suicide Help web page is HERE

Never give up. Tomorrow is a new day and you can choose for life to continue and to improve. If you don't know my Saviour, please seek him out. Contact a church near you or contact me and I will help you as much as I can. Jesus will never leave you nor forsake you. (Deuteronomy 31:6-8; Joshua 1:5)

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Remembrance Day

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
      Between the crosses, row on row,
   That mark our place; and in the sky
   The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
   Loved and were loved, and now we lie
         In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
   The torch; be yours to hold it high.
   If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
         In Flanders fields.
(Written by: Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, May 3, 1915)

Today is a day when thoughts turn to those who have battled, won, lost, killed, injured, survived, but all changed through the wars that were fought to bring freedom to many. The power of freedom, whether we fight for ourselves or others is a power beyond compare.

My great-grandfather Charles Perry is buried at Flanders Field. He never came home to meet his youngest child, never knew his grandchildren or great grandchildren. He is a hero to me. To sacrifice himself, his life to fight for the freedom of others in a far away land. Not only him, but his family who must have prayed every day for his safety and return.

My grandfather E.T. Ferris battled in WWII. He came home and raised his family, met his grandchildren, and some of his great-grandchildren. He is another hero. He was fortunate to come home, but I can not believe that he came home untouched by the horrors he saw, experienced and engaged in.

There are many others in my family history. My great-uncle Charles Perry (the 2nd) also battled in WWII and returned safely home. My grandfather Fred Perry was medically unfit to go to war, but they are both heroes. One who went and one who stayed, they both fought a battle, for it was those who stayed that held up home and hearth in prayers for the safe return of the many family and friends who had gone, never knowing if they would return or if they would die.

There have been many wars since and I'm sure that there will be many more wars in our future. We should never forget how horrid these wars are. We, to this day, have men and women returning from war who are sorely touched and damaged and killed in fighting for the freedoms that we so often take for granted.

Today is a day to remember to whom we owe the honour and privilege of dancing in freedom. Lives have been laid down, changed, and damaged. No one comes out of a battle the same person they were when they went in. We must remember to thank them., whether they served for a day or a year. I urge you to express your appreciation, not just on Remembrance Day, but on any day you have the opportunity to say thank you. They serve us and our country with their lives. That is a great sacrifice.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Angela's Story

My sister would have turned 43 this week. Even today I am stunned that she is not here to celebrate it, I always thought we would have many more years together, to grow our relationship, to share our joys and sorrows.

Why isn't she here? The violence and suddenness of the day she was taken away from us still stuns me.

On December 22, 2005 I was preparing for Christmas, doing some housekeeping and dancing to "Six White Boomers" with my almost 2 year old son when a police officer showed up at the door. To be honest, I didn't even think anything of it, there were some ladies with him and I thought, weirdly, that they were there to give us a Christmas Food Hamper. I quickly realized they weren't when the ladies took my son to the living room giving the officer and I privacy. My mother was on holiday in the mountains and my first thought went to her, when the officer told me what had happened I didn't want to believe it. To say I was stunned is an understatement.

Angela's marriage had fallen apart. They had separated for a short time in November, reconciling for the children's sake and because he had promised change. Of course, when they got back together she discovered the change was only surface and knew that the marriage could not continue. She planned to ask him to leave again after the Christmas holidays.

I don't know what his trigger was that night. I don't know if he planned it or simply lost it. The night before my visit from the officers, without warning, without the major red flags that usually accompany death by domestic violence, my sister's husband beat her to death.

He had been verbally and emotionally abusive for years, but she told me only a few days before her death that he had never hit her. He had insulted her, exhibited extreme jealousy every time she had a friendly interaction with another man, demeaned her, criticized her and talked badly about her. He had discouraged her friendships, broken up friendships, and restricted her access to family. I had encouraged her to make a safety plan, to protect herself but she didn't feel she had a need to, she didn't perceive any danger to herself or the children from him.

After she was dead, my brother-in-law phoned a friend of theirs to tell them what he had done and asked them to come get the kids, telling them he planned to kill himself next. He left her body lying in front of the door in the house, went to the shed and shot himself. The friends, wisely, called the police and they waited, not knowing who, if anyone, was alive. Knowing he had guns, they had to be cautious so they didn't become the next targets. When the children finally answered the phone at 8 am, there was great relief to know they, at least, were alive. I can't imagine the horror they must have felt when they had to step over their mother's body to leave the home.

Over time, more details would come more to light, showing the horror and pain my sister went through that terrible night. My passion is to help other abused women realize the danger they are in before it is too late. To make it clear that it doesn't matter the form of domestic violence, it is dangerous and life threatening.

Freedom is within reach. You too deserve to be treated with respect, with courtesy. You deserve to be loved, not hurt. If you are in an abusive relationship, I encourage you to reach out for help immediately! Call the Distress Line (in Calgary it is: 403-234-7233), see a counselor. No matter the type of abuse, or how "bad" you perceive it to be, make a safety plan, have an escape route. Above all, do not remain silent. Silence holds you captive to your abuser, it is only when we start to speak up that we can become free, that abuse can be stopped.

Are you uncertain if your partner is abusive? You can check out this webpage to assess your situation. If you find this to describe you, please reach out for help! You are worth it!!

I won't stop dancing because in dancing I find freedom. In dancing, I show that I am still alive. Won't you dance with me?

Monday, November 5, 2012


My mind is spinning with all kinds of thoughts, actually, not really thoughts, more like feelings, emotions swirling through my heart, my brain. I am not even sure I know how to slow them down enough to identify them, I am not sure I even want to.

What happens if I slow down? What happens if I take the time to carefully look inside to see the pain, angst and emotion swirling through my system? I'm afraid. I realize that. It is my fear of myself that is the worst. My fear of second guessing me, my fear of falling apart.

I've made some big decisions in the past 3 years. I've set some boundaries that are pretty big for me to have set. I am realizing things about me I don't like, things I do like, but most of all I am afraid I am not enough, will never be enough, can not be enough. I fear all those stories spoken to me in my childhood are true, all those messages telling me I have no value are based in the reality of who I am.

Who am I to step outside of abuse? Who am I to break that cycle? Who am I???

I do not do this for me. I do this for my children because they are so full of value that it is immeasurable! I will stand strong to protect them from as much of the abuse and pain of life as I possibly can. Where I cannot protect, I must place them in God`s capable, willing hands to protect and heal the wounds that could not be stopped.

Knowing that I do this for my children though is not always enough. How can I teach them the dance steps of joy if I do not know them myself? How can I teach them to dance in the right direction if my feet keep getting tangled up in the moves?

How do I know if I'm dancing to the right music? How do I know if I'm dancing wrong?

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Anxiety Anyone?

I am fraught with anxiety lately. This is not my normal me, I have not felt anxious about life for many years... until my marriage broke up anyway. Suddenly, I fear normal things. My heart pounds in my chest, I struggle to breathe and, when I can't catch my breath, my chest begins to hurt and I know I'm reaching a breaking point. Why, when I have avoided excess worry and anxiety all of my life, is this starting now? I'm in my 40's, I should have the world by the tail and sitting pretty. Instead, I'm sitting tired and afraid.

Am I lacking in my faith in God? I am struggling, for the first time in my life to trust Him and I feel guilty about that. He who has carried me through much worse things; He who has sustained me when no one else was there; He who saved my life, eternally and temporally; He who continues to strengthen me even today when I struggle to belief He is doing it; He who protects me in very obvious ways... how can I be in doubt of Him, His love for me, His care, His protection?

I'm discovering I have Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). I don't want to have PTSD. LOL I guess life is catching up with me. Where do I go from here? I feel powerless. I feel hopeless. I feel joyless. Yet, I DO feel. Maybe that is the positive change I am seeing. For so many years, I felt nothing at all. In an effort to feel, there were times I made foolish, stupid decisions. In an effort to feel, to LOOK like I was feeling, I made head decisions that the heart should have been helping out with. As I  begin to feel, I am afraid of those feelings. I am afraid of the memories, of the pain in the past, of the pain in the future. I'm not sure what scares me more. The memories resurfacing, the haunting and imaginations of the past, or the fear that the present cannot or will not be better.

I don't like living in fear. Ha. Who does?! How can I break free of these chains that slow my feet from dancing in full joy? I will not go down without a fight. I will not allow these memories and fears to break my soul. I will keep dancing and even though it feels like I'm dancing in a bog, sluggish and slow - I WILL NOT STOP.

Will you reach out your hand to the person struggling at your side and help pull them free of their bog in order to dance with you until they find their own music? Who can you reach out to today and show that you care? That one voice of caring through the dark moment may save their lives.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Trials & Testings

It is so easy to look at life and wonder why I am being bombarded by so many trials and testings; yet, what if I'm not? What if it only feels like I am being passed through the fire, pressed in the wine press or stretched through the trials? What if I'm not the one suffering the trials and testings at all?

Take for instance Job. If you haven't read that particular book of the Bible, I encourage you to do so, go ahead, I'll wait for you. :)

Job was under extreme trial. We know this because we have the "inside scoop", we know the background to the story, where Job fits into the underlying Spiritual battle. See, the reality is that our life is not as simple or black and white as it appears on the surface. Behind all the situations, beyond all the struggles is a spiritual war that our decisions have an effect in. Job shows us this. I don't want to talk about Job though, beyond pointing out that it was JOB that was being tried and tested.

The forgotten person in Job's story is his wife. The only thing we know about her is that she encourages Job at one point to "curse God and die", and often we judge her for that. Take a look around her though. Put yourself in her shoes. She has just lost all of her children, their entire life's work, savings, retirement plan, wealth and community status. She is grieving a grief that most cannot even begin to fathom. She is as depressed as Job is, perhaps more because her woman's heart is bleeding. But... it is not Mrs. Job that is being tested here. She is being hurt, she is being damaged, she is being tormented, but SHE is NOT being tested. Nowhere in the conversation between God and Satan is Mrs. Job discussed. Oh, it is bandied about that Satan didn't harm her because he knew she could help him with his attack on Job, given that she encourages Job to curse God; but what if it was more? See, God told Satan he could not attack Job himself at first, and then He told him he could not take Job's life. In God's eyes a married couple is "one person", maybe Mrs. Job was included in that protection. Maybe Satan left her alone for other reasons. We won't know this side of heaven - and perhaps not on the other since it is HER life, not ours we are discussing.

The point being that even though Job was on trial, Job was being tested, that test affected the lives of many others around him. A ripple effect if you will. Job's children certainly probably felt as if they were the ones being targeted, the servants - especially the few that survived, his friends and most definitely his wife; and those are only the ones we know about. A loss of wealth that great must have rippled through the community like a wildfire. The fear of attacks from bandits would be heightened, fear of freak storms, fear of the economy failing from the loss of such a major player to the economy. Everyone affected must have felt at some level as if it was them who was under attack, them who was being tried and tested, them who was targeted to be hurt.

What if what has happened in my life has not been directed at me? What if I am a ripple effect? Does it make my pain insignificant? Certainly not - no more than the pain Mrs. Job felt at losing all of her children in one moment would have been lessened by knowing that Job was the one targeted. Would she have been okay with the situation if she knew the big picture? Maybe marginally but she still would have hurt intensely! What if God is not doubting my faith? What if God is not testing my faith?

What if the trials and tribulations I face in life have absolutely nothing to do with me and everything to do with someone else? Does it make it easier to handle, easier to come to grips with? Maybe.

The spiritual warfare side of our lives does not seem to be something many people focus on. I think we need to at least be aware that it is there and that it underlines every action and reaction; every activity; everything that happens to us in our lives. Satan hates me. I have an enemy that will never reconsider his position, will never surrender, will never walk away. He has almost unlimited resources to fight this battle to it's bitter end. And, it will be a bitter end. The good news is that I do have unlimited resources to fight the battle. All I need to do is call on Jesus, because when I call on Jesus, ALL things are possible. (Call on Jesus)

The reality is that it doesn't matter if I am the target or the consequence of the trial, it's gonna hurt me. It changes my perspective to realize that I may not be the target however. I can encourage or I can discourage the intended target, I can build them up to realize they have the strength or I can cut them down and deepen the pit being dug for them, deepen their depression. That's my choice.

Do I let my pain stop me from dancing? Or do I realize that it is truly not all about me and keep dancing, if only to encourage those around me? They might be suffering worse than I, they might be the target, it might be their hearts Satan is seeking to destroy in this moment.

I'm going to keep dancing; I'm going to keep smiling. I choose to build up and not to tear down. What will you do?

Tuesday, February 7, 2012


Sometimes it feels as if the weight of the whole world is bearing down on my shoulders, like I cannot carry anymore. I feel guilty for that, guilty for hurting, guilty for not being strong enough. I should be strong enough. Falling apart is not an option, I have to keep my head about me, my wits about me, my faith should be strong enough to sustain me, to keep my head above water, to keep me from being weak, from hurting.

Why do I think I am exempt from hurting? Just like everyone else, I live here, I get to suffer the consequences of living in a sinful world, of rebelling against God.  I was reading Job the other day and when I got to chapter 3, it struck me that Job's cry out, his desire to have never been born was his expression of his pain, of his deep depression, yet God never condemned him for that. In fact, Job was commended because through it all "he sinned not". Job did not sin by being depressed, by hurting, nor by expressing that pain and hurt.

When I cry out in pain, that is my honest expression of emotion, it is not sinful to say "I am hurting", or "I am depressed". I am normal, I am okay. I may be hurting, but my depression, pain and emotions are not necessarily sinning against God. They are honest, God given emotions. What I do with them, how I express them, decides if I sin or not.

Maybe it's okay if I slow down the dance. Maybe it's okay if I take the time to slow dance for a bit and just cry on His shoulders when I need to. No matter how we dance, as long as I let Christ lead, it will be a beautiful journey.