Sunday, November 29, 2015

Joel. Michawn. {Part 58 - Physical Health, 2}

As I talked about last time, stress is no joke.

When you are constantly under a huge amount of stress, it really messes you up physically.  I'm not going to type out all of what others have said so eloquently in their own articles and videos.  I'll just include some links and videos here.

It truly is amazing, in a very devastating way, what continued stress being applied to you can do.  It's even more devastating when you know it is happening and you try to sound the alarm over and over, but nothing is done about it on your behalf.  When you aren't taken care of by the people who are supposed to care for you...and instead even more stress is applied, completely out of your control (barring cutting all ties with the people applying the stress...which most often produces even more stress, so it's not seen as a valid option).

I had hoped for a time of healing to start around the first of June 2012.  Didn't happen.  Around August 2012, after a full year of pretty heightened external stressors (more than ever before), when I noticed things like brain fog, rapid weight gain, exhaustion, and hair thinning...I knew what was going on. I knew that my adrenal glands were experiencing some major changes...that the stress of the year, that didn't show any signs of ceasing by the way, was already doing major damage physically.  I had known it would start if I wasn't afforded time to rest...and here it was.  I begged for time to rest and heal.  It was denied.  But, your adrenals are very important...and keeping them healthy is very important.  Therefore I knew just how serious this was.  From this article...
Adrenal fatigue is a condition that has far reaching effects when it comes to our health.
It’s not just feeling tired, but all the other things that start to become compromised as a result of high cortisol (our stress hormone).
Another thing to be aware of is that if you have thyroid issues, your adrenals have usually become compromised first. So in order to effectively address thyroid problems you have to heal the adrenals as well.
I knew that if I didn't get this adrenal/stress hormone issue under control, it would lead to other things.

I knew that swimming in a constant sea of stress hormones was horribly bad for you.  That's why I had always made sure I was not affected by stressful situations, even when everyone around me was.  I knew how to keep myself 'chill.'  And if it got too bad and I wasn't able to have any control over the effects, I would just get myself out of that situation, therefore blocking the stress altogether.

Along with adrenal problems, look at all of the other things that can happen...


From the above video:  "Your life will always be filled with stressful situations.  But what matters to your brain and entire body is how you respond to that stress.  If you can view those situations as challenges you can control and master rather than as threats that are insurmountable, you will perform better in the short run, and stay healthy in the long run."

That's what I had always done before...the stressors, after marriage, were always things that were super stressful, but I could see them as a relative temporary challenge.  Packing up and moving, setting up house in a new location, packing up and moving again, setting up house again, things like language school, uncertainty about the immediate future (always), travel, adding onto our family, loss, etc.  These were all things that filled our lives always.

And...I handled it.  Through the grace that I had for these things (from God) and the tools that I had always been able to use to just 'remain chill'...I handled it.

But, there came a time when I knew that none of those things could come at me for a time...that I needed a significant time of rest and a break from all of that.  2012 was that time.  Again, the ones who should have cared for me most during that time in order to heed my warnings that were based on my own body's warnings...they did not listen.  And their counsel from others was, in fact, not to listen to me.  I was in sin, they said...I was not submitting, I was trying to control and manipulate, etc.  I was the problem, they said.

So, it continued.

All of these videos and all of the research says that in order to not succumb to stress in your life, you have to manage it.  I'm smart.  That is exactly what I was trying to do.  I'm in tune with my surroundings and my body...I had recognized what this lifestyle, and what the added stressors of 2011/2012, was doing...and I was trying to manage that stress by retreating from those things in order to heal.  Again...denied.

They say that there are a few things that help in decreasing the effects of stress in your life:
1.  exercise
2.  meditation
3.  oxytocin - what's called 'the love hormone'

1.  I was literally just trying to survive at this point, with the person who was supposed to be my strongest ally coming against me...and nobody else at all coming to my rescue.  When you are in survival mode, you literally have to conserve your energy stores.  While I didn't stop exercising completely at that time, because I knew it was important and health was a huge passion of mine (and I'd always loved exercise)...everything changed.  And it definitely didn't serve to alleviate stress in my was harder to exercise and therefore actually created more stress for me.
2.  I prayed, I watched wonderful spiritual teachers, I listened to music that helped me, and I researched what could possibly be happening all around me...these are the only things that got me through.
3.  See #1...I had no one.  I promise that is not me having a pity party.  I'm just telling you the truth.  And it's a very common story.  Very common.

Unrelenting stress is a killer...literally.

I had been so careful to stay healthy and do all of the things that would combat sickness and disease in my life.  Right before all of this, I was actually in the best shape of my life.  You can read about that here:  Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4.

But through all of this, my own personal health has declined drastically.  I'll explain next time.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Joel. Michawn. {Part 57 - Physical Health, 1}

I had never even used the word 'stress' or 'stressful' until the last half of 2011.  I barely used it then, but then the beginning of 2012 hit, and I had to admit that 'stress' and 'stressful' were the only words that fit.

I started noticing some physical effects of the stress around August 2011.  Motivation sometimes escaped me.  That had never happened before.  Ever.  Joel was gone for 10 days, then home for about 3 days, then gone again for 24 days around that same time.  The kids were ages 7, 6, 4, and 3.  We were in Brazil...where everything has to be made from scratch, there are no dishwashers, there are no dryers.

We had also been in the states in June for 2 weeks, went back to Brazil and my brother visited for 3 weeks, and then he and Joel left the same day.  The weeks of fun were over...and I was all alone.

I just chalked up my lack of energy to all of those things combined.  And it wasn't was just something new and different that I noticed.  But, the lack of motivation wasn't so bad...and I rested on days I needed to and pushed through on the other days.

That fall (2011) was busy with visitors and teaching childbirth classes and doula-ing for a childbirth and wondering about/looking for alternate housing since we were being told we might have to vacate our rental house, plus normal things like homeschooling and taking care of my kids and home, etc.  Things were busy and I had started recognizing it as stressful.  But, I just dealt with it.

Christmas was hard.  The baby we had lost that Spring had been due the first part of December.  And I was just tired.

Still, I pushed through.  It wasn't a huge deal yet.

But then 2012 arrived and proved to be very, very difficult from the beginning.  There were great highlights, but even those highlights produced stress, partly because of all the other things going on.  We had visitors, we took a trip up to the Amazon...and we also got news of a huge, devastating schedule conflict (although it turned out to be much more devastating than I ever imagined) and very seriously thought we might adopt 3 siblings after traveling to southern Brazil to meet them, but it didn't work out; all of this within the months of January, February, and March 2012.

After the huge blow of the adoption not working out, I was in full-blown grief.  About many things.  So...I grieved.  I was exhausted by it all.  Just exhausted.  We were already planning to take a trip back to the states that summer...and that was just what I needed.  I knew that not only emotionally and spiritually and mentally I needed to retreat, I needed rest and time to heal physically from the stress that had been ever-present since the summer before.

The same amount of stressful situations had been present since we had gotten married really.  We had been 'on the move' our whole marriage.  By the time we moved into this house we're in now, we had set up house 18 times in 11 years and travelled sooooo much.  But, in the middle of all of those moves and travel, I also had 4 babies in 4 years...and within those 4 years of babies, we moved 11 times, including a huge international move.

Honestly...I'm kind of in awe that I never felt the effects of all of this before I did.

But, by Spring 2012, I felt it and knew it was was all catching up to me physically.

We bought airline tickets at the end of March to head back to the states at the end of May.  I cannot tell you just how in need of rest I was.  So, I pushed through and even set goals to keep me going and pushing before we left Brazil.  At the end of April, I ran a 5K.  And then my next goal and focus was just packing up our things and our house to leave.  All for 'the joy set before me'...that rest I'd get when we got back to the states.

As you all know, the rest never came.  Instead, more stress.  And because of that, more symptoms of physical effects.

In August 2012, three months after we got back to the states (a year in to the peak stressful time), I noticed my hair thinning.  When I saw that, I knew what was happening.  It scared me greatly...but there was nothing I could do but just hang on and hope that it would be over soon.

As time went on and I was still denied rest...only more stress...I developed acid reflux, sleep apnea, skin problems, 'foggy' thinking/memory at times, major fatigue (so exhausted always), TMJ, headaches, and major weight gain.

You can tell many of these things by just looking at me.  I am a totally different person physically than I was even when we got here in May 2012.

Here's a comparison picture of me.  The one on the left is taken in June 2011...about a month before the really stressful situations started coming.  The picture on the right was taken just last month.

What a difference a few stressful years make!!  The picture on the left shows healthy skin, healthy hair, a healthy weight, a healthy glow.  The picture on the right shows all of those things gone.

There is a scale that counselors and social workers is called The Holmes and Rahe Stress Scale.  It is a survey that one answers in order to gauge the amount of risk of illness in their lives.  If you score 11-150, you have a low to moderate risk of illness in the near future.  If you score 151-299, you have a moderate to high risk of illness in the near future.  And if you score 300-600, you have a high to very high risk of illness in the near future.

A friend who was very concerned for me told me about this scale last spring.  I answered the survey going back and answering for each of the past three years.

What I found was scary, but not surprising to me.

For each of the past three years, I have consistently scored 845.

Is it any wonder that physically I was now at the point of basically dying a slow death?

Stress produces stress hormones...cortisol, epinephrine, and norepinephrine.  I've said it before, but I've been swimming in a sea of stress hormones all of these years...and literally almost drowning.

What do those hormones do?  Can chronic stress really cause hair loss, acid reflux, sleep apnea, skin problems, 'foggy' thinking/memory, major fatigue, TMJ, headaches, and major weight gain?

Watch this...

About weight gain in particular, which can also lead to/exacerbate other problems, many who are under chronic stress struggle and beat themselves up about it.  They don't realize that it's not about a lack of discipline.  It's chemical and's survival.  For instance, I never had a weight issue until all of this started happening.  I would gain a few pounds when we traveled, as most do. But, when we 'landed' somewhere again, those pounds would quickly disappear.  Why?  Because I know how to be healthy.

This?  This is much, much different.
Every time you have a mental or emotional stress, it’s causing chemistry in your body. Real chemistry. And when that chemistry is the same chemistry as a famine, your body is going to want to gain weight. It’s trying to protect you from the stresses in your life. It doesn’t know what to do. We’re living in a world where it’s so different from the way it was thousands of years ago where all we had to worry about was not being eaten by a tiger and where our next meal was coming from. Now we’ve gotta worry about how we’re going to pay our mortgage, or our credit card, or if our kids are going to go to school, or if the world’s gonna get blown up. And all these stresses are causing chemistry and our bodies are trying to protect us. And people get so mad…we get so mad at our bodies…you know, we hate our bodies because we think that our bodies are trying to sabotage us or are out to get us. No…it’s a protection mechanism! it’s nothing more.   
-John Gabriel
I'll stop here for today...and will continue this part of the story very soon.  Unrelenting stress doesn't just affect your mental, emotional, and spiritual is detrimental to your physical health too. It's basic chemistry and physiology.  It's scary what unrelenting, chronic stress can do.

We'll talk more, next time.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Joel. Michawn. {Part 56 - True Marriage}

True - 1. firm in allegiance; loyal; faithful; steadfast. 2. being or reflecting the essential or genuine character of something. 3. right and not wrong

How is it that you ended up in a relationship that you say you didn't sign up for, Michawn?

I'm no idiot, y'all.  I didn't sign up for 'patriarchy' or abusive leadership.  Of course the word 'abusive' was never used.  But also, the term 'patriarchy' was never uttered either.

The way it was all presented to me was that a husband and wife give themselves to each other.  The wife gladly and beautifully submits to the husband as he also submits to her, given 1) the verse that calls them to submit to one another and 2) that the husband is even called by scripture to lay down his life for his wife.  What could go wrong?

As I now know, that is not actually what is taught.  No, it's not that simple in patriarchy.  That teaching above might be a part of it, but what is also taught is that the man is the head, the man is in charge, and the man is responsible.  The man is to be revered and respected above the woman.

I grew up in patriarchy.  I didn't even know all.  Why?

It is presented as God's way.  Anything else is rebellion.

Anything else is said to be motivated by not wanting to do 'hard' things...women (and men) wanting to make it easier for themselves.  Women who believe anything different than 'man leads, woman follows' aren't 'strong' enough to lower themselves to a place of submission and are too full of themselves to admit that they are 'the weaker vessel.'  Men who believe anything different than 'man leads, woman follows' aren't strong enough to assume leadership and are so weak that they welcome equality.  At best, these men and women are just terribly deceived.  But they are usually said to be rebellious and said to have 'issues with authority.'

Patriarchy, as it was presented to me my whole life, was The Way.  It was Gospel.

Anything else was unholy.

What I've come to find out is that, thankfully, although patriarchy still prevails in much of theology and women are marginalized the world over, some of the most holy and righteous and wonderful people I know oppose patriarchy vehemently.   Some of these people I know personally, and some of these people are well known and revered, even in the 'gender roles' complementarian crowds.  Maybe I'll write about some of those well-known and revered people in the future (Bill Bright, founder of Campus Crusade; Loren Cunningham, founder of YWAM; Jen Hatmaker; Ann Voskamp; etc.).  But for today, I want to tell you about someone else.

I have a friend.  She's a virtual friend only...I've only ever communicated with her via computer and the written word.  But, I've known her for years now.  We don't talk often, but we keep up with each other, and we'll usually talk personally once or twice a year about something or other.

From the outside looking in, it would be easy for one to think that she and her family probably fall into the patriarchy/complementarian camp.  I personally didn't know much about her background or beliefs of that nature.  But, from the outside looking in, I thought she looked like most I know in complementarianism.

What do I mean?

She and her husband have been married for 26 years.  Once children started coming, she became a stay-at-home-mom.  They now have a total of 9 children...the oldest in his 20s and the youngest, age 4.  She has always homeschooled them all.  Her husband goes to work every day.  She stays home with the children and manages all things home-related on their farm.

While she has never blatantly said anything complementarianism-ish...she has also never really made it a point to mention being against patriarchy either (not that I've seen...of course I haven't read every single thing she's written).  I always knew she was a strong woman...but, honestly, I always thought, as complementarianism teaches...well, her husband must be 'ok' with that.

See that?  It's subtle.  But, we're taught that the lady has to mold and tweak herself into what her husband is ok with.  She has to 'watch herself.'  She has to be mindful of his preferences.  It's never the other way around.  Sometimes it happens the other way around too and the husband is mindful of the wife's preferences...but that is shear luck.  It's not because that is taught by complementarianism.

Complementarianism requires women to do that.  Complementarianism allows for men not to do that.  

So, back to my friend.  I had just guessed and supposed at her beliefs from the outside looking in.  Which is why I seriously BEAMED when I got her message the other day.  Here are a few excerpts of a couple of different messages:
My theological background does not teach that man is over woman in any way - not patriarchal at all, so I am not going to even think the same way as other friends might.   
I wouldn't put up with *any* crap in marriage.  Just...wouldn't.  So I wouldn't judge someone nor try to correct/control.  I might not handle it nearly as well nor healthily as you. 
Anyway...didn't want you to have to wonder nor mistake my quietness for disapproval.  Not at all.  
I am very sure that I wouldn't have survived patriarchy more than 15 minutes.  Even subtle patriarchy is too much to bear.  It's not what God wants.  I think it is beginning to fall, though - probably not among the leaders, because they will do almost anything to retain their grip of power, including shame, isolation, shunning.  It's a hard thing to approach from the outside, though, because if one tries to tell the truth (to the one inside) they become suspect and heretical, accused of being godless and trying to break up a marriage.  
How incredibly validating and reassuring to hear this from a Christian wife and mother whom I respect greatly.  And all that she said there was just full of truth!  She knows that what I've been through, much of it 'in the name of God' and religious beliefs, much of it because of a theology and belief system...she knows that it's wrong.  She knows that deep down in her soul.  She was never taught that man being over woman was The Way.

She's deeply devout and also what most would consider very 'conservative.'

So, look and listen to this.  It's very important...

Deeply devout and conservative Christians who are opposed to patriarchy of any sort do exist...and they are much more plentiful than anyone raised in patriarchy and complementarianism know.

I believe, like my friend, that the tide is turning.  I am a part of a group on Facebook called Biblical Christian Egalitarians.  I would highly recommend this group to anyone.  There are Christians there who are seasoned egalitarians.  But also there are sooooo many there like me and Joel...people who are coming out of patriarchy and complementarianism.  Lots of people who have experienced personally the destruction of such belief systems...and also some who fortunately haven't experienced it personally, but have seen it over and over nonetheless, and have learned by watching others.

A quick google will point to so many sites that give story after story of such destruction.  I pray everyone wakes up to the dangers and risks of patriarchy and complementarianism.

I love what that particular friend, that stay-at-home homeschooling mom of 9, wrote a couple of days ago on her Facebook page:

One of the things I'm most grateful for this far in to marriage (26 years) is how my husband consistently gives me the gift of letting me. He does more than "allow" for my quirkiness, he enjoys it. He has never tried to change me nor control me. My projects pile up, he steps around them. I invade his space, he scoots over and makes room for me. When I get distracted, he steps in and does the laundry. He never fusses nor corrects. He's no pushover, either. He's a very strong man. It's just that we belong to each other, and I do the same for him. He's for me, and I'm for him. There's no upper-hand to be gained, we just enjoy each other. We trust each other to do good, and to do it for each other and for our family.    
I write with humbleness, knowing full well that much is not as it should be in this world. I know that many suffer from things which have not gone right in marriage, and I write with no condemnation. I'm not writing for "likes" or for comments; it is difficult for me to share things like this. And yet I want to give a glimpse from inside a long marriage. What do I value about my husband, and what does he treasure about me? Why do I think it has worked? Is it because we are super people? No. Definitely not. We have flourished because we have grown together by allowing each other to be fully alive, fully ourselves, to listen and follow God's heart for our life, considering each other, with both laying down a desire for power or control.
Marriage is the deepest, best friendship of all.
And that is true marriage.  That is what God has always had in mind.

Thursday, November 05, 2015

Joel. Michawn. {Part 55 - It's Important and Needed, 4}

There are more words written to me from precious people with similar stories.  But, I'm going to cut it off here with Part 4.  I think you get the picture.  (Click here to find Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3)

Going through all of this the past few years has really, really changed me in many ways...changed us...changed our marriage...changed our beliefs...changed soooo much.  As I told someone recently, there is just a whole other layer to me that simply wasn't even there before.  In going through this extremely difficult time, many many things have been revealed.  And so many issues that need great reform have risen to the surface.

And I think you can tell that instead of keeping these issues, that affect so many, in the darkness, we need to just take them out into the light.  We need to talk about them.  We need to learn about them.  We need to face them full on and change has to be made so that health can be our families, in our marriages, in the church, and in our world.

It's important.  And it's needed.

Here are more stories of people whose lives show that.

--"Tears... I don't even REALLY know you but am so continually amazed at your level of authenticity with people. It's beautiful and encourages me to uncover the dark areas of my life that I've chosen to remain hidden and allow healing to take place. Thank you! Thank you so much."

--"Michawn.  I read your post and am praying for you and your family.  My wife and I struggled too and I can tell you our marriage is better than ever.  I didn't know if it would be possible to feel love again but you can. It is a healing process but it can happen.  God brings dead things to life.  He is the only one.  He may have wanted the old way to die before he could create something new out of the ashes. My wife and I have plenty of room here if you and or your family want to get away."

--"I miss you so much!  Been reading your blogs and wow....I'm so proud of the way you are sharing this with everyone.  I HATE that you went thru and are going thru all this but man, what a beautiful testament to the power of Christ.  I am praying for you guys."

--"Hey Michawn!  Just wanted to say that I am reading your posts and I think you are very brave! Too many times people want to sweep unpleasant things under the rug rather than admit failure or issues they have gone thru. Thank you for your candor and sincerity without great bitterness towards Joel. I am reading a book called With by Skye Jethani (very good by the way) and something he wrote brought Joel to mind. 'Missionalism starts slowly and gains a foothold in the leader's attitude. Before long the mission controls almost everything: time, relationships, health, spiritual depth, ethics and convictions. In advanced stages, missionalism means doing whatever it takes to solve the problem. In its worst iteration, the end always justifies the means. The family goes; health is sacrificed; integrity is jeopardized; God-connection is limited.' This was an original quote from Gordon MacDonald from a leadership journal article. Some churches and people push this agenda and feel they are in the right because what they are doing is for God. Not good for anyone. Anyway, just thought this might be encouraging or interesting or something. Heal up and I'll be praying for a complete restoring of your marriage and partnership!"

--"I so appreciate your reflections.  We are all so frail, pitiful and needful of our Lord.  Keep working towards transformation, sancification. You are coming out stronger, stripped of the fleshy pretence us humans wear, and ready to be used by God.  Press on!"

--"My heart hurts for what 'godly' people have done to you. You are standing your ground and it's wonderful, I just wish you didn't have to. I appreciate your openess. It means that someone else going through something similar (even remotely so) will know that things can turn around. I applaud you doing it publicly because that's what is right for you. My love and tears are with you now. I can't wait to see what the Lord does in all of this."

--"I have been through the fire and I made it through.  I did not have much support from the Christians I knew and have lost friends and family when I stood up against abuse.  I understand the hurt that you feel because I lived it.  My heart is breaking over your posts, but I also admire you so much.  I'm praying.  Hang on to Jesus; He is nothing like most 'Christians.'"

--"I appreciate your transparency, your honesty, your humility in sharing all of this. There is something very very wrong with the Body these days...the tendency to hide our hurts and struggles so we can put on a facade of perfection. It's very damaging.  It's important what you're doing. It's encouraging. And though so much of it is heartbreaking to read, it gives us the power to pray specifically for you guys."

--"Even in the midst of this Horror (strong word but true) that you have lived through you have shined your light so bright illuminating the path for so many and leading them to the true love of Jesus that never fails no matter our circumstances! Keep on being you, my Godly friend, I believe God has anointed you for such a time as this and that there are many in the white field that will be harvested through your testimony! Praising God for His unspeakable gifts! Love you BIG!"

--"Both yesterday & today you stated word for word some things I have been shouting for years, but no one ever seemed to hear me. Seeing those words in print have rocked me to my core. I know I'm being vague, partly out of my hatred for typing on my phone & mostly because for so long nobody has understood or valued what I had to say, they've been more interested in assuming the worst & putting me in my place so over the years, I now realize, I  just stopped I never know what to say & what to keep to myself! I dont say that to have a pity party, its just the truth. But...back to why I messaged you! I had to thank you for your posts. I had to thank you for having the courage to remain confident in who you know you are. I had to thank you for putting yourself out there & taking the abuse you've taken so that people like me can know we aren't alone. Thank you for continuing to share your journey...this new counselor is a breath of fresh hope for me & I look forward to hearing more of what you learned, how he dealt with yall & especially how he dealt with Joel. I will continue to pray for true repentance to come, so that true healing can take place & that God would restore all that was stolen from you."

--"I love and admire your transparency. I know you've helped so many by being so brutally honest. And I am one of them. Thank you!"

--"I hate that you have had to experience this, but it has truly helped me."

--"I believe most people have marriage problems and never take the bold step to really be a catalyst for change within their marriage... What you endured, wow. Thank you for your transparent words. My husband and I have had our ups and downs in marriage. It really means a lot to me you sharing your story. Thank you."

--"Your truth is liberating and people will have HOPE for once in their lives ... I believe more people are going thru stuff and your story makes their stories real and hopefully people will be catalysts for change like U did. Your words are encouraging and bring HOPE!"

--"I just really appreciate your honesty and letting everything come out! Hope u turn this into a book!!!"

--"Nobody wants to talk about the ugly side of marriage ever and that is crazy to me! I'm grateful for your posts!!! Keep it up!!!"

--"The best soldiers in the Lords army are wounded and have healed and know how to help others heal too.  You will be a general.  4 star.  :)"

--"I have been praying for you and your family. I get your beautiful Christmas cards and of course I see perfect pictures on FB and read your posts. Your life just looked like perfect bliss. To be honest, I've just needed time to process because I was so shocked. Your family seemed so perfect from the outside, and my marriage and family is so broken from the inside. We struggle so much. I didn't think you and I would ever be able to relate. You just seemed like a perfect person with perfect people in your life. Thank you for sharing your hurt, and letting me in. I don't have any advice, I know what it is like to hurt and be betrayed over and over...I am so very sorry. Please know I feel an ache in my soul for you, you are not forgotten, you are loved, follow your heart and stay close to Jesus. I've learned that true Christ followers are far and few between...and that our fight is not against flesh and blood, but against Satan and his demons. So I continue to pray for you and your precious family...and cover you with the blood of Jesus. May peace, courage, comfort,  strength and love be with you today."

--"I have to tell you that I'm really fascinated by your story. I read every update/blog. I'm praying for you guys. You are a brave woman to put it out there for all to see and all to respond to!  I just couldn't stand to not tell you that I'm reading it and (dare I say it???) enjoying reading it. I suppose *enjoying* isn't the best word, but I can't think of a different one right now.  :) I can't imagine how wiped out you were after so many hard years of instability. Well, I can imagine it a little, but not to the extent you lived it. I've been praying for you since you first sent a newletter saying your family needed healing. Now I see in better detail what I've been praying for!"

--"I have been praying for your family & for God to heal your broken heart.  I keep up with your blog post & you & your kids have been through so much & so many people have turned their back on you.  We are supposed to stand together for our family & friends in Christ & help in any way we can.  If there is anything I can do for your family I'm here to listen or offer a shoulder.  Love you & your family my sister in Christ.  God Bless!"

--"I have been on a deep journey with the Lord.  Everything you have shared about egalitarianism,  man/woman church stuff......yes.  Yes.  Yes.  I read, feed on, and listen to whatever I can get my hands on.  I am being healed.  Little by little, step by step, day by day.  And I am so thankful for my church.  So many of us women are walking into this freedom thing together.  I am so blessed to have a church body that is getting it.  I am so thankful. And I am so thankful to have a husband that listens to me and lets me be me.  I so want you to have that.  So many times I have wanted to message you, but it was either too deep in my heart to get it out, or I had some other distraction pop up.  And there is so much going on in this season of my life that I just sometimes break down and cry when I read about your journey.  I just wanted you to know that I have been praying for you both for as long as you have been writing.  I am believing that the revelation will come for Joel.  And I am praying that deep healing will come to you and the kids.   I don't know if any of this rambling makes any sense.... ;o)    HOpe it does.  Just wanted to encourage you.  Bless you and hugs.  Keep standing!"

--"I always find such insight and wisdom in your blogs, what a powerhouse you are, full of such experience and amazing knowledge. You make me smile. Love ya."

--"I have read every single blog post that you've written since you started writing about issues in your marriage.  I admire you for your honesty no matter the consequences."

--"Hi Michawn, I've been following your blog and have found you and Joel's journey so interesting. And I think it is really brave of both of you to put it out there. These are important conversations for married couples, the church and society to have. So important."

Sunday, November 01, 2015

Joel. Michawn. {Part 54 - It's Important and Needed, 3}

This is a series, within this 'Joel. Michawn.' series, that I'm posting in order to document one of the many reasons I'm doing what I'm doing and sharing our story.  These few parts here are actually giving voice, although anonymously, to many others.  And showing how useful and beneficial this is and how common this story is and how global these issues that caused our problems are.  It is a common tale known the world over, but yet not talked about or prevented because the victims are silenced...hence the reason it all keeps happening...hence the reason the sins involved just continue.  The perpetrators are called 'blameless' by their peers and their 'juries' and are left free to just keep doing these things and causing this unbelievable damage.

The victims are silenced.  And when one starts speaking up and refusing to be silenced, it causes waves in the forms of accusations, blame, distance, shunning, loss, etc.

We all need to be more open about our lives...esp. the parts that are destructive and need reform.  Otherwise nothing ever gets changed.  And we become enablers.

While I'm not defensive or irritated, I am firm.  There are so many women who live without speaking out about these things...and they are grateful for the women who can speak out.  People need to stop blaming and accusing the whistleblowers.  What are the whistles being blown on?  The wrong in the world.  Sin.  Corruption.  And blowing the whistle on those things?...that is a good and honorable thing!

As I went back over some of what has been written by others to me encouraging me in this fight, I stumbled across these words again from a friend...the quotes she uses here were from a blog post I wrote...
"This is just reality right now. Don't be so scared of reality, folks. Just sit there in it for a while...admit the reality, accept it...and then maybe eventually you can move forward. Faith doesn't mean that we don't acknowledge reality. Faith doesn't only sound like name it and claim it statements or 'It'll all be alright.' 
"Faith involves knowing just where you are, trusting God in that, and leaning on Him no matter what happens...because so often in our lives, it is not up to us what happens. But He's there...always."  
This is me. All me. I so often remain silent in my trials because I don't want to hear all the cliche phrases. I can't and won't be fake so I typically close everyone out anytime I am going through life's crap.
Oh how common this is!!  I wrote the following in reply...
yes(!)...i think that's so common. it's so rare for people to talk about their problems because instead of getting help and love and compassion from others, they are *beat down* by cliches, and many times other things too (accusations, blame, "if you would just do this..."). it's a horrible cycle. 
without personally having the combo of 1) being so sure about right and wrong and root issues at play here in all of this mess for the past few years + 2) being stubborn (which i now see as a complete asset, praise God for it!!), i would have been silenced and completely shut down in this situation years ago. and we would definitely be divorced. because that is all i heard were cliches, accusations, blame, and "if you would just do this..." directed only at me. and i heard those things from 'sweet, loving Christians.' yet in reality, and in practice...these 'sweet, loving' people were beating me down and being horrible to me...not being sweet and loving at all. 
as is the case *most* of the time in situations like this. but also just no matter what the circumstance or situation. because we use cliches like artillery. and jump to conclusions even when there aren't any conclusions. 
*so many* remain silent. that is the norm. they are SHUT DOWN by the people who should care for them most. therefore, we have a *lot* of lonely people in the world going through trials *all alone*...and, nobody benefits from learning from these people and their trials, because they have been silenced...therefore the same things just keep happening to us all. 
(i'm just a tad bit passionate, read: incredibly angry + incredibly sad, about this subject and how things are handled, can you tell? ha. it truly is infuriating and heartbreaking.) 
that's why i grabbed onto the song 'in the end' by natalie grant a couple of years ago. it was my anthem for a while. the first verse said it all. it "had me at 'cliches.'"  
Can't catch a break
You've had your fill of old cliches
Like "life is hard but God is good"
And even though it's true
It won't stop what you're going through
I wish that I could say it would
People...we have to do better.

And so I write.  I write and tell my story.  Because as you read in the 1st part and the 2nd part, and as you will continue to read below (and there is more to come in this series within a series)...this happens all the time.  And there is a need here.  A need for acknowledgement that it happens, a need for repentance about that, and a need for 100% change concerning these things.

And now more words from more women who have lived this too and from others who see it and know this needs to change...

--"We have been invited into the fellowship of the suffering so God can grow our mercy and compassion and help us grow brave about speaking up against injustice on the behalf of others."

--"My heart breaks every time I read your posts. I wish I had words to encourage you! I can relate to almost everything u have shared. Which I think is why your story is so dear to my heart. My love and prayers are with u."

--"Michawn, i love you friend. you have so much strength. i appreciate you have always been one who is amazing at writing and communicating. your blogs....that could be a book one day. just know i love you and i am praying for you and joel."

--"I love you dear Michawn! Never forget that you have a praying support sistem right here in the brazilian northeast. You are brave, and through your pain you are helping others... So, SO PROUD of you."

--"This gave me the same anxiety I felt the first time I tried counseling with my husband. We decided to go because of things he had done that broke my trust. Yet we walked in there and when the counselor asked my husband why we were there, I kid you not, he said something to the effect of, 'I'm just here for her. She is broken and depressed and I just want her better.'  The male counselor never once asked me why we were there. He simply started badgering me about my past and concluded that all of my trust issues were because of that. My husband would chime in on occasion like he was some saint trying to help me through my past issues. I walked out of there so flustered and angry. I could not believe he threw me under the bus like that. We did two more single sessions with that guy and I was done. It only further broke my trust. Maybe one day I'll just tell you our whole story and not just bits and pieces, lol. We have since come a very long way. : ) But seriously, I feel the heart palpitations just reading this! So maddening!"

--"I'm just so sorry for you. These things need to stop and thank you for bringing light to deep issues, it just really stinks that you have to speak out of experience. I have a friend who experienced something very similar and because of all the horrible counseling and blaming of her for her husband's bad choices, she left the church and turned her back on God altogether. The whole way of thinking and blaming the victim is truly tragic. Praying for you and your whole situation."

--"You've been on my heart for a couple days now... not sure why exactly, but I can only assume it's a God thing.  I just wanted to encourage you and let you know that you are being prayed for. Praying specifically for there to be real life, in person, support for you and accountability for Joel. Praying for someone to be 'the church' for your family... the way we are supposed to be... even in the hard stuff like accountability for husbands. Praying for your kiddos. Praying for discernment and wisdom for you. Thank you again for your openness and willingness to be real... the church really needs to get better at that... better at doing it and better at responding when others do it. Praying!!"

--"Keep your head high and walk proud my friend - you are fighting the good fight. May the Lord continue to walk your marriage through a complete restoration."

--"I have been silently following along since the first of your blogs on this issue and have to say I am SOOO incredibly proud of you for sticking to this fight. I believe this is a battle the enemy has been dreading for many, many years. His worst nightmares are now coming true. The proverbial 'cat is out of the bag' . I have been struggling with some of these same lies for over forty years, (as well as, I'm sure, many other women have). This road you have been on for these 3 and 1/2 years (and more, really) have been a real enlightenment for many, I believe, as you have been used to bring it out into the light. Thank you, for not staying silent, even though you, yourself, were in pain. I believe the Spirit of God has been all over this battle and that it will help others, if they are willing to be honest and read through the whole thing with truly 'listening ears'. I WILL continue to pray for you guys, as the Lord leads (and I'm SURE He will). May He continue to bless you both with more victories and blessings as you continue living as light in this mixed up crazy world."

 --"Warning: I'm 'bout to preach! LOL. Reading about your counselor led me to read Galatians 6. Because he reminded me of 1-2: "Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. 2 Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ." Of course, I was only remembering the "you who are spiritual" and "restore" parts, rejoicing that you found someone particularly gifted in this. But when I looked up the scripture in context, it did make me kind of sad. All regenerate believers who have the SPIRIT of the Living Christ should be able to spiritually SEE each other and see truth and prayerfully and carefully restore those who need restoration (instead of blaming and beating down someone who does not). Because it is the very law of Christ to see the fallen state, see the truth, offer love and grace to the one in peril, and not stop there but bear the burden and restore the spirit. As you kept restating in your very wonderful that you found someone to do very sad that it is so rare. Praying for you guys and rejoicing in this hope."

--"'You want to know them.... You want to love them'.... So so so true!!!!! More people need to get this. To know someone is knowing the good, bad, and ugly and being there thru it all... So sad it's rare nowadays!!! Be u Michawn Madden Ebersole cause as Taylor Swift says, 'haters gonna hate hate hate hate hate' but just shake it off , shake it off and you - brave, sincere, vulnerable, thoughtful Michawn will prevail and everyone else too being healed thru this process of honesty and brave truth too."

--"Wow my friend once again your transparency almost leaves me speechless. As u said Joel has always had a heart willing to change. I hope he can continue to fight for you and your family. I am so proud of u! Sounds stupid to say that but I am. Thank God for this amazing Godly counselor and Joel finally being unblinded. I hope restoration can come! My ex is still so blind and his family. One day I hope I'll be vindicated."

--"Praying you get the rest you have needed and deserve... praying for healing for you, Joel, and the kids... praying for restoration in your marriage, but also for restoration in your friendship with Joel... praying his eyes continue to be opened... praying you can all fully enter the grieving process and come out on the other side fully healed... just praying for you all. Be encouraged that no matter what happens going forward, you are a strong woman with a lot of wisdom who has encouraged so many through your sharing your story. You are loved and appreciated!"

--"Funny... Your list of what to do is almost a carbon copy from a bystander training I just did on how to help rape victims. They also pointed out that the most hurtful thing was that, even in court, people tend to not believe the victim if she is a female and instead 'victim blame.' 'Well, she was asking for it being alone in a bar like that.' 'Of course she got raped, look at the skirt she was wearing.' Etc. Why do we, as a people, think that little details like clothing choices or working of words is justification for a male to be abusive, in any way, to a female. Why do we trivialize female wellbeing so much???"

--"As iron sharpens iron could probably be your mantra, Michawn Madden Ebersole! Personally I love it because I don't really have a filter AT ALL! I get that it isn't everyone's cup of tea and it is more fun to read between the lines and invent than take things at face value in our hyper sensitized world, but spoken or not TRUTH is TRUTH! I don't want rocks and stones doing the job I should be doing. Sometimes the greatest love there is is speaking the truth in love, sanding down those rough spots, and getting to the heart of a matter! After all, the me Jesus died for is the real me, not the glossed over version that others are comfortable with. love ya!"

--"Love, keep speaking truth! You are an ambassador speaking against the lies of women's roles and the lies that her voice should be silenced."

And for this blog post, a closing quote:

~The truth is that women will never be equally respected in the Church, home, or society until we demand to be respected equally. Women have been taught that offering ultimatums is manipulative, but the truth is that if we don't offer ultimatums we get paid less, treated as less, committed to less and such. We must learn to demand more or walk away and truly mean it. This boils down to knowing our value and identity in God. If God is king/queen and he/she is our father/mother, then we are royalty and deserve the very best. People will call us arrogant, but knowing our worth and being unwilling to settle for less is called confidence. ‪#‎HowToBeAGirlBoss‬ ‪#‎GirlOnFire‬ ‪#‎NeverSettle‬~
-Jory Micah