All posts by Joy Forrest

Joy Forrest is an experienced bible study teacher, writer and speaker. She has spoken in many venues: from women's bible studies and retreats, to prisons, radio and television. As former Community Educator of a domestic violence shelter, Joy is equipped to speak to serious issues like physical and emotional abuse, but her message is relevant to women from all walks of life. Believing that too many fail to walk in the abundant life God offers His children, she focuses her lessons on practical steps to victory. Joy's passion is to help women overcome thoughts, choices, and strongholds that prevent them from realizing God’s best for their lives. Joy holds an M.A. in Biblical Counseling from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, and has served in the counseling ministry of 2 local churches since 2004. She helped establish Called to Peace Ministries in 2015 to help families transitioning out of crises such as domestic violence. She and her husband Nathan ("Rusty") have 5 grown children, 10 grandchildren. Visit www.joyfulsurrender.com for more information.

How Twisting Words Destroys Relationships

Anyone who’s lived with abuse knows what it’s like to have their words distorted, to be accused of thinking things they weren’t even thinking. In counseling we call it assigning motives. This happens when one partner starts judging the other’s intentions. So many times my abuser accused me of having evil intentions towards him when nothing could have been further from the truth. Generally, I put his interests far above my own, but he always saw my intentions as evil. This twisting of words and distortion of intentions kills relationships, and those who face it have little power to change things.

Uniformed people helpers tell us that if we would just win them over with a quiet and gentle spirit or bless them enough, they’ll come around. Nothing could be further from the truth. They don’t understand the dynamics of abuse, but apparently the writer of this psalm did, and Jesus certainly did.

No matter what people tell you, dear friend, He understands what you’re going through. In fact, He’s been through it too. He loves you and sees your heart. Entrust it to Him.

“Then the Pharisees went and plotted together how they might trap Him in what He said.” MATTHEW‬ ‭22:15‬ ‭

“Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” HEBREWS‬ ‭4:14-16‬ ‭

From Hopeless to Hope Filled: A Survivor’s Story

For every survivor, there’s usually a moment of clarity where they fully realize the abusive nightmare they’re living in is a choice he’s making.  They know they need help, but those difficult steps to freedom are filled with trials of their own.  Here’s one survivor’s journey from clarity to freedom.

The day I finally knew no more excuses would do, and I had to leave, was the day he threw a glass of milk in my face and then yelled at me because there was a milky mess.  I kept thinking maybe he would change, or maybe I was the problem, or maybe he’d stop drinking. But that day, I knew I couldn’t take any more. I was losing weight fast and could barely eat. My 3 year old son was watching horrible things happen in his home. So I left and found a temporary solution. He wouldn’t let me take our son with me. But if I couldn’t get better, I couldn’t take care of him or fight for custody.

When the day came that I had to go back to live with him, I couldn’t do it.*  I was going to die in that house. I attempted suicide. For six weeks I lived in a hospital and had a wheelchair. I slowly learned to walk and eat again. But God used that time, my most hopeless situation, to give me renewed hope. My nurses and therapists encouraged me to get well, get help, and get a divorce. Where many people in the church had told me super unhelpful things like “God hates divorce,” or “You need to respect your husband when he’s not beating you,” (I’m sorry, doesn’t God hate seeing abuse?) my angels in that hospital told me I was loved and beautiful and I deserved so much better. I went through years of hearings and finally my divorce was final.

Had I not had that horrifying experience, I don’t believe I’d be where I am today. I still have 2 bullets in my brain, but I am happily remarried to my best friend, and there is sunshine coming through the window of my little house on my little brick street, tea in my mug and flowers on my table. Yes, there are several nasty emails I’m currently refusing to read from my ex-husband, but I never imagined on those awful nights that I’d be in this place of peace someday. I want other women to know they don’t deserve abuse, they are beloved and treasured and I will spend the rest of my life and my second chance being the kindness I needed during the worst days of my life.

The best part of my story is the word “was.”

I was abused.
I was afraid.
I was suicidal.
I was hopeless.
I was sick.
I was desperate.
I was heartbroken.

And today,
I am alive.
I am full of hope.
I am healed.
I am bursting with the good news that God can take women like me and make something beautiful.

I will put beautiful crowns on their heads
in place of ashes.
I will anoint them with olive oil to give them joy
instead of sorrow.
I will give them a spirit of praise
in place of a spirit of sadness.
They will be like oak trees that are strong and straight.
The Lord himself will plant them in the land.
That will show how glorious he is.
Isaiah 61:3

He has made everything beautiful in its time.
Ecclesiastes 3:11

* This story was sent to us anonymously and we do not know where her temporary solution was or why she couldn’t stay there.  It could have been a friend or family member who could only house her for so long.  It could have been that she was able to get a space in a shelter, but even those have time limits. It could be that she was being pressured to return by someone who thought they were helping.  We don’t know, but those are some of the most common scenarios.

(Comments in italics were made by one of our ministry helpers.) 💗

Faith for the Impossible

After working with victims of abuse for over twenty two years, one thing has become clear to me. Those with faith do so much better on the road to recovery than those without it. Perhaps you’re thinking there’s no way to have faith after you’ve been beaten down and told how worthless you are, or when you’ve been in an impossible situation with no power to change anything. Yet, scripture is filled with stories of impossible situations that turned around.

This morning 2 of those stories came to my mind. Actually, this verse came to mind:
““Certainly there were many needy widows in Israel in Elijah’s time, when the heavens were closed for three and a half years, and a severe famine devastated the land. Yet Elijah was not sent to any of them. He was sent instead to a foreigner—a widow of Zarephath in the land of Sidon. And many in Israel had leprosy in the time of the prophet Elisha, but the only one healed was Naaman, a Syrian.”” Luke‬ ‭4:25-27

Do you remember these stories? Neither of the people Jesus mentioned had great faith— they just acted on what little faith they did have. The widow shared what she thought would be her last meal with the prophet, and Naaman reluctantly dipped himself in the muddy Jordan River seven times. The actions alone would not have resulted in miracles, but they both acted on the tiny bit of faith they had. They weren’t anything special. In fact, as Jesus pointed out, neither of them were Israelites (God’s chosen people), but as they matched their hope in God with action, God met them and overcame the impossible.

Are you facing an impossible situation today? Is there a glimmer of hope somewhere deep inside that God could work if you took a step in the right direction? If so, I encourage you to act on that hope. Don’t be foolish— make a plan (Prov. 15:22)— seek out wise and informed counsel (Prov. 19:20), but don’t let fear keep you stuck. God shows up for who act in spite of fear— the ones who choose to walk ahead holding on to that tiny mustard seed of faith. Faith isn’t a lack of fear, it’s moving ahead in spite of it, and putting your hope in the One who is bigger than the impossible.

💗Joy

Surviving Domestic Abuse is Like Being a Refugee

F6DD681D0-7356-4970-8272-7D9E027AD8EAAnonymous Guest Post

Surviving domestic abuse is like being a refugee.  You miss your home, but know the danger is too great to ever go back.  It’s the hardest choice I ever had to make.  I knew fleeing my homeland was a one-way trip.  Any chance of the turmoil within the country being restored and the terrorist miraculously transforming into a loving husband would be lost.  I knew in my heart there was no reason to stay because the home I’d built with my husband, expecting to grow old there, was now a daily battlefield.  The house even bore scars to bear witness.  Like a refugee, I sought help.  First from my church, who assured me if I prayed enough and dodged enough bullets in the meantime, that the terrorist I was living with would surely improve slowly over time, if only my faith were strong enough.  The responsibility of the terrorist changing was placed on me.  

After all, the terrorist had spoken with the church and convinced them I was irrational.  It made sense even to me.  I would mention something he said and he would adamantly deny he ever said that, getting angry if I insisted my memory was fine.  Eventually I took to writing things down because I stopped trusting my own memory, but even with it written down, he would still say I was mistaken. By that, I mean speaking to me in such a derogatory manner that I– and the children listening– would be sure to know just how stupid I was.  I prayed— a lot.  My pastor even told me that if things weren’t getting better, that it was basically an indication I wasn’t praying hard enough or wasn’t being true enough to the faith I claimed.  Heartbroken by the home I only recognized as a prison, and once again by the pastor who couldn’t see how bad it truly was, I was blessed to find Called to Peace Ministries.

Before I joined the support group, I already knew a lot of jargon about how the terrorism manifested.  Previous research had helped me identify many of the behaviors like gaslighting, emotional manipulation, and veiled threats. What became more clear to me is how I had been attempting to control the severity by working hard to manage my abuser’s emotions. Called to Peace showed me how I’d allowed my terrorist to become my lord by filtering all my thoughts through what he would want instead of asking what would please God most.  I would distract the kids from annoying him, make his favorite meal, or give him sex in hopes he would be happier and therefore our shattered house might temporarily be a little safer— because it was always temporary. The temporary changes were always the most difficult as it perpetuated a cycle of hope followed by more heartbreak. Setting some healthy boundaries and learning to respond appropriately were invaluable tools.  I was learning how to let God have the control instead of thinking I could manipulate my living conditions into something safer on my own.  

I made the same mistake again, however, only this time I set my pastor on the Lord’s throne.  I invested a lot of time and energy reasoning with the pastor because I knew he could be my biggest support if he would hold my abuser accountable.  Joy advocated for me, trying to help the pastor see the patterns of abuse.  I thought he was going to hold my terrorist accountable and agreed to counseling.  Instead, he gave us communication exercises.  Sit with your terrorist and have uninterrupted time to talk about your day.  So then the terrorist would get mad if I didn’t want to share anything, and used that to show the pastor I wasn’t really trying.  Poor heartbroken abuser with the bitter wife. Think about the kids.

Yeah, let’s talk about the kids, because it was like watching a train wreck you can’t stop.  You try watching them cower under beds, hide in closets, or even start to act like miniature little abusive versions of the man they called father, repeating his irrational arguments against you.  Overhear the campaign made against you by this terrorist hiding in plain sight, telling your kids that Mom can’t do anything right, and much more.  Try having them beg you with tears running down their faces to live somewhere without the monster that was living amongst us.  I could see it was getting worse.  Things were escalating.  I couldn’t protect them anymore.  I had to escape, for their sakes.

I knew it would be dangerous, even with my safety plan in place.  There would be no going back.  I had to hope that a judge would grant me protection, but if not, risk being homeless with my kids.  On that note, when it is bad enough that a mother will risk homelessness, stop yourself before you ask her if she tried hard enough to make it work.  No woman wants to be a refugee.  No woman wants her marriage to end and to let go of the dream that one day he might change.  It’s not the easy way out.  It’s the only way out.  Ask her if she is safe.  Connect her with a resource like Called to Peace.  This might be a good time to point out a woman’s risk of homicide increases exponentially when she tries to escape or shortly thereafter.  As it turns out, a judge granted us temporary asylum, but it wasn’t accompanied by a sense of safety.  

We returned to the same place we’d lived with the terrorist for years– him having been removed– and thus started a new level of hypervigilance I didn’t know existed.  Before, the daily barrages were expected, and their terrifying source was easily identifiable as he stomped through the house.  Afterwards, every sound outside, every sound inside, every car’s headlights driving past, every time a child woke up from a nightmare crying– my body was on high alert, constantly watching, barely sleeping.  I shut all the blinds, barricaded the doors, and checked the perimeter every time before opening the door to the outside world.  I visited different stores than usual and took different routes.  It has a name: Complex-PTSD.  Years of living under the terrorist’s reign left their mark.  My body was on defense mode, ready to protect myself or my children.  Insomnia, nightmares, panic attacks, hypervigilance, anxiety, flashbacks.  

During this time, we had court hearings where the terrorist put on his church clothes and started having visitation.  I lost friends who thought I was making it up, who then felt sorry for the terrorist.  In reality, I had made up a story so convincing- I had made up this story of redemption through the years, how the terrorist was always showing a glimmer of hope, or how the terrorist was just troubled because of his own poor upbringing, or how he was such an excellent provider he didn’t have the energy for church.  Amazingly now he was incredibly dedicated to church attendance.  I found it ironic that people were willing to believe the lies I’d invented but not the awful truth I’d hidden over the years.  I was isolated and marveled as I watched the terrorist waltz in and take over the friendships I thought I had.  I remember being envious of a friend sharing about her husband’s cancer diagnosis because that was a respectable, allowable prayer request and I wanted to be surrounded with support like she was.  Instead, my prayer requests stayed silent because sharing them in that atmosphere usually had me labeled gossipy or bitter.  One time at church I made the mistake of talking about how overwhelming it all was and my “friend” said, “You had to know it was going to be difficult.”  I had “friends” be offended I hadn’t reached out to them.  I had a “friend” tell me I was ruining my children’s lives and should call up that terrorist and not give up “so easily.”  Many weren’t interested in taking “sides,” which is another way of taking the abuser’s side.  At the risk of being labeled bitter- a favorite label of the “righteous,” I could go on about the heart-wrenching judgment and isolation I experienced with my church, but I won’t.  

I’ll talk about the blessing of isolation and losing my community instead.  How else do you ask for prayer that your terrorist lessens the continued child abuse?  I don’t blame people for not being able to comprehend the depths of my despair.  Rather, I’m grateful that at Called to Peace, I had a safe place to share those requests where everyone understands and there’s no judgment.  They stayed a constant support in my life, as I struggled and grieved as I lost friends and church community.  When my church failed to protect me, I learned so personally that God still would.  When attending the service felt like an exercise in worshipping rightly as I felt watched by the leadership and the friends I’d lost, I learned worshipping God was more than simply being surrounded by your friends while singing wonderful music.  When listening to the same pastor preach about the sinfulness of abuse after he’d been unwilling to identify the terrorist as nothing more than a wayward sheep, I learned I couldn’t rely on any one person to be God’s authority for me other than Jesus himself.  I released the desire for my pastor’s approval or my friends’ acceptance.  


I sought the Lord instead and found him more satisfying and healing than I ever thought possible.  I put the Lord on the throne and started asking him what would bring glory to him.  Not how I could serve my church, not how I could present my case to reluctant friends, not how I could improve my isolation in my present situation by getting a better response from the church.  Then, I did something that could only be described as reckless and ungodly.  I attended a different church’s worship service, secretly.  It was as if I had been walking through the desert and had stumbled upon an oasis.  The first Sunday there, I wept in that church, because I was free to worship.  Complete healing will take a long time- it’s to be expected when the abuse has taken a long time, but even with the turmoil of the courts and church, my worship can be free.  I don’t know what all my future holds, but I see domestic abuse advocacy as part of it. I want to help others as Called to Peace has helped me and is still helping me along the way.  I want them to know they can be free.  Free Indeed!

Finding Gratitude

This is a beautiful reminder from my friend Terri that circumstances do not determine our joy.

Diary of a Quadriplegic

Lately I’ve been thinking about all I have to be grateful for, even as I sit in this wheelchair. When I think about what my life was like before this injury occurred, I am even more thankful for my current circumstances. This paralysis has given me a chance to finally live authentically, a chance to have a truly meaningful relationship with God, and an opportunity to have deep and abiding relationships with others.

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A Look at What Called to Peace Ministries Accomplished in 2018!

I wanted to post an update on what our ministry accomplished in 2018. Be sure to check out our website and sign up for our newsletters if you aren’t already subscribed. We are so grateful for those of you who have a heart to help the oppressed and abused. Blessings, Joy

We are so grateful to each one of you who has supported CTPM us through your prayers, volunteer time and donations in 2018! Without you, our reach would have been far shorter, but because of individuals like you, this ministry grew exponentially last year. As you may remember we did not start our outreach efforts and support groups until March of 2017, but by the end of the year, 283 people had reached out to us for some type of help. From that number, we were able to provide direct assistance to 170 survivors and their children. This past year we received requests for help from 899 people and provided direct assistance to 475 individuals! 

While most who reached out to us were survivors of domestic abuse, 153 of those requests came from people helpers, and a dozen requests for help came from individuals who admitted to using abuse and control in their homes. Many of the requests received simply resulted in referrals to other agencies. However, we were able to provide individual counseling and advocacy to over 170 people (compared to 60 in 2017), emergency fund relief for 23 individuals, and direct consultation with 52 people helpers (counselors, pastors, and concerned friends or family members). Approximately 150 women participated in our online support group, and 70+ participated in our three local support groups.

Education is so important to us at CTPM because we know that a lack of knowledge in so many places (courts, churches, social service agencies, etc.) simply allows domestic violence to flourish. In 2018, we were able to provide education to about 600 people locally through our spring and fall conferences and speaking engagements in churches, seminaries and other venues. In addition, our online videos, podcasts and radio appearances reached thousands across the US, Great Britain and Australia. 
 

On a local level we were blessed to have nearly 50 volunteers provide hundreds of hours of support to our clients in 2018. In addition to helping with our two conferences, these volunteers accompanied clients to court, provided them with childcare, assisted them in moving, helped with minor household repairs, bought Christmas gifts for their children, helped them with transportation and offered multiple hours of moral support. 
 

In the midst of our very busy year, several new things happened. 1. We began a church advocacy program to help church leaders more effectively deal with domestic abuse cases in their congregations. 2. We had our first interns from Southeastern Baptist Seminary. 3. We introduced a new logo and new website. 4.Called to Peace: A Survivor Guide to Finding Peace and Healing After Domestic Abuse was published and has sold hundreds of copies throughout the nation and overseas. 5. We hired Priscilla Arthur as our part time Development Coordinator. 6. We partnered with House of Peace Publications to offer a faith-based advocacy training program. By the end of the year, over 90 people had requested more information on the courses. 7. We helped advocates in West Virginia and Indiana start support groups using our curriculum that will be published this coming May. 8. We enlisted the help of 12 local church leaders, including Dr. Danny Akin. president of Southeastern Baptist Seminary, to help promote domestic violence awareness month and our fall conference.

We are so thankful that you have chosen to partner with us to make our mission of providing life-changing care to victims of domestic abuse possible!Last year was only our second full year as a nonprofit, and honestly, we got too busy to even think about fundraising! Yet, you faithfully answered our online appeals. Your giving helped us bring in enough to meet our basic needs and to increase the limit on available emergency funds. Still, the needs are almost always beyond our ability to provide, and many times victims of abuse return to abusive marriages because of a lack of financial resources. At some point in the future, we would love to be able to provide transitional housing to help prevent this sort of scenario. We ask that you keep this concern, and the many others our clients face, in your prayers. We also ask that you continue to make those who are oppressed and abused a priority in your charitable giving by continuing to donate to CTPM.

Sacred Cows in the Church: Honoring Marriages over Lives

At least once a week we hear from abuse victims who tell us how their churches turned on them when they reached out for help for an abusive marriage. Today I got a particularly sad one in which the pastor told the victim that her actions were provoking her husband’s abuse. There is never an excuse for domestic abuse, and the effects of trauma on victims and their children can last a lifetime. Responses like these simply reinforce the abuse and lead victims to believe that their marriages are more important than their lives.

JoyfulSurrender.com

Recently our ministry hosted a conference on domestic violence in the church. We promoted it to pastors and church counselors, but the majority of participants turned out to be former and current victims of abuse. As participants introduced themselves, I heard an all too familiar story. Several mentioned surviving abuse only to find themselves being hurt again by their churches.

One dear lady said she left the church altogether after she reported the abuse and separated from her abuser. Her husband was in leadership at the church, and the other leaders believed his story over hers– even when she provided proof and got a protective order. Rather than finding help when she mustered up enough courage to reach out for help, she received blame. According to the church, she was desecrating the holy institution of marriage by separating from her husband, and there was no way she could convince them…

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