Beyond The Fallout

The Bitter Weed 

Hi Everyone! 

One of the greatest challenges we face in this life, no matter what the circumstances inspiring it, is not letting bitterness take root.  I have struggled with the bitter weed.  I feel like bitterness is a terrible weed, that if unchecked, and left to take root it spreads in our souls like quack grass. 

I don’t know about your experiences with quack grass, but my flower beds have had their fair share and when I try to pull them, I always miss some of the roots.  I’ve tried different ways of getting rid of it, but it’s tenacious.  Winter is coming, but as soon as the snow melts and things start to grow again, the weed will come back, as some of the roots run deep. 

As hard as things were, and still are, with my ex, the one thing I wanted most was to protect my soul from the bitterness that could take root.  I prayed and struggled with it.  It was, and still is, a daily surrender to God.  I had to talk to God often about how I was feeling and give it to him over and over.  I had to ask God to forgive me when I was feeling resentful and bitter.  I had to forgive my ex each time he said or did something that upset me. 

As hard as it was, with the things my family faced, I could have felt like it was my right to be the victim.  I could have felt justified in being bitter and angry, and no one really would have held that against me.  However, I knew that for me bitterness and anger were like a weed that would spread and poison my soul.  I feel like, with unchecked bitterness, I would have lost more of myself to my circumstances.  I would have lost the part of me that I like. 

The one thing I didn’t want either, was to pass on any bitterness or resentment to my children.  I wanted to show them what grace and compassion look like, what forgiveness looks like and what it looks like to take the high road. 

Ephesians 4:31 & 32 says, “ Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.  Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” (NIV) 

This is so much easier said than done, yet, it is so worth the struggle to keep the heart weeded and free from the bitter weed.  So, when I say that bitterness is like quack grass and when I pull the weed, sometimes I don’t always get the root; I say this because, I still struggle at times.  There are times, when I thought I had pulled all of the weed and I was doing good.  Then I realize, something grew again in me that I needed to weed once more.  There are no quick and easy fixes for our hearts.  We have to be vigilant and diligent to weed them when needed. 

One of my favourite verses is Proverbs 4:23, “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” (NIV) 

Don’t let bitterness, the bitter weed, grow you into something you don’t want to be. If you need to, do a bit of weeding, and by that I mean praying. Whatever you do, be the best you! 

Blessing, 

Andrea Vestby

Roses and Thorns 

Hi everyone! 

I had a thought this week about roses and thorns.  It is a reflection of the years and all the struggles I have faced.  Roses are a beautiful flower. So delicate and pretty.  However, you have to hold them just right.  As beautiful as they are, they have a sharpness.  I am a rose.  I know God sees beauty in me, as He sees beauty in all of us. 

However, I sport some good thorns.  I know that I have hurt those who’ve gotten close to me at times. I know that there have been times where in my desperation to deal with my situation, I have hurt people and I have offended others.  They see the rose, but when they get too close to help they get pricked by the thorns.  Some people give up right away and don’t feel like this rose is worth the pain.  Some people push past the initial pain of the thorns and find a way to still see the beauty and how to hold the rose. 

For all those who have held this rose despite my thorns, I want to thank you. 

Please be encouraged, do not avoid the roses.  I am not the only rose.  There are many who need us to see the beauty of who God created them to be.  The circumstances we have weathered have created a few thorns, yet each one of us is worth knowing despite the thorns.  Don’t give up on those in your life who are struggling with painful circumstances and are sharp at times.  Hurt people often hurt people.  Please see the beauty in each person, and find a way around the thorns to love them and nurture them. 

Love the Roses and the thorns. 

Blessings! 

Andrea Vestby

Every Little Blessing 

 

Hi Everyone! 

In every tough circumstance I have walked through, there is one thing that has been so important to me and that is reflecting on every little blessing.  No matter how little the blessing.  There is always at least one thing to be thankful for. 

I try every day to list a few things to thank God for, no matter how small or big.  I believe it is important to guard my heart against bitter thoughts, against being negative and against thinking critically.  I have tried my best to remain an optimist, which is challenging some days. 

I believe strongly in what it says in 1 Thessalonians 5:17 & 18: 

“Make your life a prayer.  And in the midst of everything be always giving thanks, for this is God’s perfect plan for you in Christ Jesus.”  The Passion Translation 

In my darkest days, I could thank God for those in my life who surrounded me with love and  helped me where they could. I could give thanks for the little things my kids would do that would put a smile on my face in the middle of my sadness and brokenness.  For the many pictures the kids would draw, the jokes they would tell, the little hugs they would give, and their boundless energy that kept me busy. Too busy during the day to stew over how I was feeling.  Sometimes that felt like a good thing. 

One of my favourite memories during this time of my life, was two little fingerprints.  My daughter was only three and by accident she left two little fingerprints on my windshield, directly above my steering wheel.  It created a perfect heart.  When I would drive at night, the lights from the oncoming traffic would light up her heart-shaped prints and it would always put a smile on my face.  It would remind me of how in the hard times, I had the beautiful love of a child. 

I wrote a song about her little fingerprints. It was one of those little blessings that meant the world to me.  I called it Fingerprints. I knew she would grow older one day and I wouldn’t have that van anymore.  Believe me, I left her fingerprints on my windshield for more than three years, I wouldn’t let anyone clean them away.  I wanted to forever remember counting every little blessing. 

I believe a shift happens in our souls when we start giving thanks for the good things, no matter how small, and refuse to focus on only the bad things.  The bad things don’t go away and we need to process them and heal, however, there is a time for that and a time for focusing on the good.  It doesn’t do us any good emotionally and physically to only focus on those things that weigh us down. 

I want to encourage each of you to think of one or two things each day to be thankful for.  Count every little blessing.  See how it changes your heart and your perspective.  The hardest things we have to walk through can sometimes become a little more bearable, when we have noticed the things that have made us feel thankful. 

May God reveal to you today and this week every little blessing! 

Blessings, 

Andrea Vestby

You are Not the Only One 

Hi Everyone! 

I started attending a course called Family Connections to learn more about emotional dysregulation.  The first class was an overview and all about getting to know the Instructors and the fellow attendees.  It reminded me that no matter what we are going through in life, we are not the only ones and we are definitely not alone. 

So many of their stories resonated with events in my life that I had gone through in one way or another, as my children and I journeyed through healing from abuse and divorce.  We have had our share of struggles with mental illness; depression, anxiety, PTSD, and bipolar to name a few. 

I remember when the tough times hit, my first impulse was to isolate myself from others.  I didn’t want to have to explain what was happening in my life and I didn’t want any judgement either.  Life was hard enough to get through without anyone adding to it. 

However, what I fail to realize is that we all have a story and things we’ve had to walk through.  All too often we put up a false front, so that others think things are great. How sad that we can’t just be real with each other and tell the truth.  How important it is to share our burdens with one another and not feel like we carry the weight of it alone.  It is so invaluable to learn that you are not the only one who has gone through something. 

Ecclesiastes 1:9 says, “What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.” 

There is nothing new.  It’s only new to us when something happens that we are completely unprepared for, ashamed of, or struggling with.  For example, this past month when my son went into the hospital due to mental illness, I was struggling with my emotions over the situation.  I was overwhelmed.  The moment I phoned my cousin, who’s own son had struggled with mental illness, I felt relief.  She listened, let me cry and she prayed with me.  She offered the understanding I needed so that I didn’t feel like I was alone in my struggles. I was not the only one. 

I want to encourage you, it is refreshing to the soul to speak to someone who knows your struggles and can share in your journey with you.  I recommend you use wisdom; not everyone is understanding and non-judgemental.  However, look for the right person who shows understanding and kindness.  Look for the person who is a good listener or who you know has faced tough times in their past, or is facing something similar presently. 

I want to encourage all who have found healing to look for those who need encouragement, who need someone to talk to, who need someone who’s willing to be real with them.  It says in Ephesians 4:2, “Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.”  I believe we can love others by being truthful and honest, being real about our lives and helping each other understand that in this life we are not the only ones. 

Help someone today to realize they are not alone and not the only one.  Please share this encouragement with others.  If you have no one to talk to, please email me at info@andreavestby.com.  I would love to support you on your journey.  Let’s shake it up a little and be real with each other! 

Blessings! 

Andrea Vestby

Live With No Guilt 

Hi Everyone! 

I wanted to post a video, as I had shared last week, of the song Be In The Moment.  However, I had technical difficulties and will have to post that when I have it recorded properly.  I am so sorry for not sharing it this week. 

So instead, I thought I would share from my heart a part of my story.  One of my biggest struggles, after living with abuse and divorce, was living with guilt.  I had stayed in a relationship longer than I should have.  It hurt me, but it also hurt my children.  I noticed that the burden of guilt weighed down my children, as much as it did me. 

The Cambridge dictionary defines guilt as a feeling of worry or unhappiness that you have because you have done something wrong, such as causing harm to another person. 

I had a heavy heart, feelings of guilt and my own sense of condemnation.  I was condemning myself for staying in the abuse, for how it affected my children, and for not recognizing how unhealthy our lives were until it became painfully obvious.  There were so many things I wish I could have changed.  So many things we lived through, that I couldn’t change, but wish had never happened. 

Romans 8:1 says, “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus…”  The word condemnation according to the Oxford dictionary means the expression of very strong disapproval. 

The one thing I had to learn was the difference between feeling guilty and feeling condemned. I had a strong sense of disapproval of myself, why had I stayed until it had gotten so bad.  Yet, how could I have fully known how life would go.  I was not in control of the choices my ex made.  Yet, I was in control of my choices.  I didn’t recognize the abuse, and I didn’t get out when I should have.  Staying so long caused so many wounds that needed healing. 

So, how did I find healing? 

A counsellor recommended a book to me called Self Compassion by Dr. Kristin Neff.  It opened my eyes and my heart to understand forgiveness more.  The one thing I am really good at is self-criticism, which makes living with guilt so much easier.  However, the book walked me through the journey of learning self-compassion and forgiveness.  Simply put, if a friend came to me and shared everything that I was dealing with, what would be my response? What would my advice be to that friend? 

I would tell my friend I was so sorry she experienced such suffering and I would encourage her that it was not her fault.  I would want her not to feel guilty or condemned.  I would encourage her to let go of the things she couldn’t change and to have grace for herself.  I would want her to forgive herself from perceived failings and find peace in her heart. 

So, I had to put this into practice.  Each day, I would pray and ask God for wisdom and strength to let go of the guilt and the condemnation I felt that was really not mine to hold or carry.  I would pray for peace in my heart.  I would remember how Jesus forgave us, and that I deserved the same forgiveness for myself.  He thought I was worthy and I needed to find my own sense of worth again.  The guilt could not define my life.  I learned to let go of living with guilt and I embraced the freedom God had for me. 

It doesn’t mean I don’t remember the past; it changed my life.  However, I’m not living with the guilt anymore.  I pray that this encourages you to have self-compassion, to forgive, and to let go of guilt and condemnation.  I pray you find peace and freedom to be who God made you to be. 

If you know someone living with guilt, please share this encouragement with them, that they may find freedom too. 

Blessings! 

Andrea Vestby

Be in the Moment  


 

 

Hi everyone! Thank you so much for joining me again this week 

The last three weeks, my family has been going through some difficult times and it would be overwhelming;  if I let it be.  I have been on this “beyond the fallout” journey for the last eleven years.  It takes time for healing to happen and for each person in the family it has happened at different times and in different circumstances.  The past can affect us in so many ways and we don’t even realize it until we are triggered.  At least, that’s how it has been for our family. 

So, as I felt the stress these past three weeks and those overwhelming feelings, God brought the words to my mind…Be in the moment

It’s so easy to feel distracted, to let life’s worries control my feelings and actions.  It feels like I need to do something to fix it or help, when sometimes there is nothing I can do and no easy fixes.  So, this week I had to practice surrendering my situation, my heart’s cry and my will to God.  In the middle of the chaos of what we are going through, the most important thing is to seek Him first.  For all of the things we cannot control, we need to trust in God’s love for us and in His redemption. 

Matthew 6:33-34 says,  “Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.  Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself.  Each day has enough trouble of its own.” 

In reflection of this, I set my heart on seeking God and finding peace in it all.  What God brought to my mind was the story of Martha and Mary.  Martha opened her home to Jesus.  She got distracted during his visit, doing all the preparations, and became frustrated with her sister Mary, who wasn’t helping her.  She came up to him and said “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!” Luke 10:40 

His response to her was, “‘Martha, Martha,’ the Lord answered, ‘you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed-or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.’” Luke 10:41,42 (NIV) 

The words really struck something inside of me…only one thing is needed.  Being in his presence.  Finding that space and time to just be in the moment.  Letting the stress, the distractions, and everything just fall at his feet and just be.  I am so guilty of avoidance when my stress tolerance gets high.  When I am overwhelmed by all the things I can’t control;  I watch tv, scroll facebook, and find so many other ways to not think.  I felt God calling me to be like Mary and just “be.”  Be in the moment, trust Him with my whole heart, and with my family.  I found peace there.  I also saw God work in amazing ways at just the right time.  I could not have planned my life better. 

God gave me a song for this very moment and I’m going to try recording it, just at home.  I would like to share it for the next blog. So stay tuned… 

I want to encourage you to seek His presence this week.  Be in the moment, be present with God, and find peace.  No matter what storms surround you, find His peace and trust Him with all of your heart. 

Please share this encouragement with those you know are struggling and let’s spread the news that God is a loving God, who cares about us deeply, and can bring us hope and be our peace.

Be Your Own Advocate 

It’s just a short post this week.  It’s been a rough week personally, as there have been some mental health challenges in my family. 

I was trying to be chronological in my own recovery and healing from my past, so that I could encourage you in the journey.  But I feel this weeks post applies to both my current struggles and to the past, beyond the fallout.  It is so important to be your own advocate.  I know that in the midst of our greatest struggles, it is hard to even know what to advocate for and that’s okay.  Truthfully, I didn’t know where to start either, I listened to the victim services worker that the court and the RCMP provided.  She was awesome at giving me a list of resources and places to go to for help. Be willing to listen to others for good places to go.  If you have access to the internet, search for reputable places that provide support and help after abuse in your community. 

I found amazing support through an agency called SAIF,  Stop Abuse In Families.  They put on a program for the whole family called New Directions.  It helped me to see the cycles of behaviour we had as a result of the abuse, and how to break those coping mechanisms to find healthier ways to behave and live as a family.  They also provided one on one counselling. 

There are so many great supports.  I can only speak to the ones in my area, province, and country.  My point is, that it would be all too easy to stay home and struggle on our own.  However, I knew that would not be in the best interest of my children or myself.  We deserved and needed to find a way to live healthy lives and what that means.  I want to encourage you to search and seek help, to be your own advocate and fight for yourself and your family.  If you need help, contact victim services, they are a good resource. 

I know it is hard and it is a long journey. Personally, a journey that has not ended for me yet.  Every year there is something new that I have not healed from or a family member is still struggling with.  It is a step by step process and you have to be in it for the long-haul.  Be aware and understand that it takes time to walk through it, a little at a time; too much too soon can be too hard. Healing is a process that takes time and it is so worth the effort. 

I have learned so much through the years and I will share it with you, as you continue to read the blogs.  Please take the step towards healing and your own emotional and mental health.  Be your own advocate and fight for what you need in the middle of your pain.

Be Courageous  


 

Hi Everyone! 

Reflecting this week on my experiences and my current life struggles, I want to encourage you to be courageous. 

The Websters dictionary defines courageous as “:having or characterized by courage: BRAVE” 

The Oxford dictionary defines courageous as “not deterred by danger or pain; brave.”  Some Synonyms from the Oxford are brave, fearless, valiant, lionhearted, bold, daring, audacious, undaunted, unshrinking, determined, resolute…to name a few. 

It is very brave for anyone who has suffered abuse to get out of their circumstances, to push through the fallout, and to find healing.  It is not an easy road to recovery and it is full of the unknown. It is a battle of the mind, the soul, and a fight for a better life.  I like the words “not deterred by danger” because it is hard and it’s a tough battle to fight.  It is a fight filled with separation/divorce, court orders, mind games, lawyers, appointments, and counselling.  If children are involved, it is a fight to help them survive it; getting them counselling and trying to create a healthy “new” home.  Yet, all the while not feeling healthy yourself, or even ready for all the changes. 

Today, I want to encourage you that whatever you are walking into, whatever battle you face, that you are never going to be ready for it.  However, I believe you can be courageous.  You can walk through it not deterred by the danger.  I am reminded of the words Moses spoke to Joshua when he was passing his leadership onto him,  “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.” Deuteronomy 31:6 

He said this to Joshua three times in Deuteronomy 31.  Joshua was about to lead Israel into the battles that would take them to the promised land.  Again in verse 8, Moses said,  “The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.”  And in verse 23, “The Lord gave this command to Joshua son of Nun: ‘Be strong and courageous, for you will bring the Israelites into the land I promised them on oath, and I myself will be with you.’” 

I believe God knew that he needed to hear it three times, so that it would sink in.  I hope you find encouragement today by reading it three times.  I believe God can help you to be strong, to be courageous, to give Him your fears so that you can walk unafraid for He is walking with you.  He will never leave you, nor forsake you.  He is fighting your battle with you.

Unrecognizable  

Hi Everyone! 

I want to speak candidly today about how living with abuse can be so unrecognizable to victims.  I think it’s hard to understand sometimes why people stay in abusive relationships. 

I want to clarify that there are many forms of abuse.  Some are easier for the person to recognize as unhealthy, yet, it doesn’t make it any easier to leave.  Those suffering domestic violence with physical abuse can be filled with so much fear, it paralyses them into staying.  Other forms of subtle abuse are equally unhealthy and destructive to the soul.  Sometimes these forms of abuse are unrecognizable to the one suffering them, yet visible to others witnessing it.  Sometimes, hidden from everyone, victims suffer behind closed doors. 

There are many forms of abuse; physical, sexual, verbal, mental, emotional, and financial, as well as senior abuse.  How is it that a victim can’t always recognize what is happening to them? 

I want to share a little of my story.  I got married very young, I was nineteen years old.  I was a very naive Christian girl, who fell in love with a man who was a new Christian.  He explained some of his past to me and I believed that God had redeemed him.  I still believe God can redeem us from our past and from our struggles if the heart is willing, and a person pursues what it takes to be better.  However, these should have been red flags. 

We married and everything seemed fine for the first two years.  Until it wasn’t. 

I listened to the justifications for his behaviour and his pleas for forgiveness every time he hurt me.  Until the words “forgive me” didn’t mean much anymore.  In the midst of all this I still didn’t recognize what I was living under. 

My family would talk to my ex about how he was treating me, encouraging him that how he was treating his wife would be the same way his sons would treat their wives, if he didn’t try to change.  He would be good for a while, but always revert back.  Even the term of endearment, “dear”, took on a horrible connotation for me.  It followed words of contempt and blame. Yet, my family still didn’t know what else was going on, behind the closed doors. 

When I finally found myself free, I discovered all the abuse I had lived under through counselling.  I excused his behaviour and justified it as much as he did.  I had been living a co-dependant existence and I had been afraid to leave him.  When I was with him I wasn’t able to recognize what was going on.  I had feelings of shame and guilt, low self-worth, and I felt constantly on edge, never knowing what to expect.   I felt like everything was my fault and I felt violated. Yet, in the midst of that, I could not name it.  When my counsellor started naming what I had gone through, it finally made sense, and I could begin the process of healing. 

So why is it so unrecognizable? Why couldn’t I see it? I believe I was isolated and ignorant of the signs.  I wasn’t taught what to look for in an abusive relationship; what was healthy and what wasn’t.  I married so young that I grew up in those “unhealthy” conditions.  My sense of worth was wrapped up in one person’s view and entwined in his life. 

It is so important to start talking about what is healthy versus unhealthy.  It is important to educate ourselves and those around us, so that we can have good relationships and healthy boundaries.  I posted a link below, a Help Guide for Domestic Violence and Abuse.  I like what they have to say: 

“When people think of domestic abuse, they often focus on domestic violence. But domestic abuse includes any attempt by one person in an intimate relationship or marriage to dominate and control the other.  Domestic violence and abuse are used for one purpose and one purpose only: to gain and maintain total control over you. An abuser doesn’t “play fair.”  An abuser uses fear, guilt, shame, and intimidation to wear you down and keep you under their thumb.” 

Help Guide - Domestic Violence & Abuse 

Until I was free, I didn’t see it.  It was unrecognizable.  I hope to encourage anyone who is feeling low self-worth, shame, guilt and the feeling of being trapped or violated to search out information that may help you understand what is triggering those feelings in your life.  If it is from an unhealthy relationship, I want to encourage you to seek help.  There are places to find the help you need and resources online or by phone. 

In my local community, the Jessica Martel Memorial Foundation provides support for victims of domestic violence.   Get Help - JMMF

In Alberta, there is a 24 Hour Family Violence Info line 780-310-1818.  The information is provided in more than 170+ languages. 

For those suffering Sexual Abuse, there are local agencies like The Sexual Assault Centre of Edmonton at www.sace.ca or 780-423-4121 or the Canadian Association of Sexual Assault Centres which provide links to family violence and sexualized violence programming, at http://www.casac.ca 

The Alberta Council of Women’s Shelters provides information and lists shelters/services in Alberta at Find Shelter 

These are just a few, there are so many resources out there for those in need. If you feel you need help or know someone who might, please talk to someone; family, friends, a hotline or professionals. 

There is hope! I believe in redemption.  I believe God has the power to heal us, to rescue us, and to redeem our lives.


 

Loneliness 

Hi Everyone!

I believe what held me in my broken relationship longer than I should have stayed was the fear of having to do life by myself.  I knew I had the children and I had a supportive family but it’s not the same.  The pain of being alone is hard and learning to become comfortable with the loneliness is difficult. 

I remember walking into church with the kids by myself, as a new single Mom, and how hard it was.  It was depressing.  Before, I looked forward to church because as a stay at home Mom, I could connect with others and feel that community.  However, I didn’t feel the same way when I was alone.  I felt awkward and lonely.  Most people had known my ex and I as a couple.  On top of that, I couldn’t explain the circumstances that brought me to this place in my life.  I was trying to protect everyone from exposing the abuse our family had lived with.  It was really hard to go, but I kept going despite how I felt. 

 My one son and I were talking just recently about the subject of loneliness and he made an amazing point.  There is a difference between being alone and learning to live with that, developing and establishing that being alone is healthy and okay.  However, loneliness is different.  It’s a feeling we can have even in a crowd.  It’s the craving for relationship. 

I had a pretty amazing support network, I had relationships, family and people to help.  I was blessed.  However, I had to learn to be okay with being alone.  Not having the deep intimate relationship of a spouse anymore.  When others were no longer around, I had to learn how to handle the loneliness. 

There are times in life when others want to help, but the feelings you have to conquer cannot be conquered by others.  It’s a battle only you can fight and no one can fight it for you.  The victory has to be yours.  It’s a healing only you can find.  In saying that, I believe God wants to fight that battle with you.  Deuteronomy 31:8 says, “ The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.” (NIV) 

I also love The Passion Translation of Psalm 23:4, “ Lord, even when your path takes me through the valley of deepest darkness, fear will never conquer me, for you already have!  You remain close to me and lead me through it all the way.  Your authority is my strength and my peace.  The comfort of your love takes away my fear.  I’ll never be lonely, for you are near.”  Let him be your peace in the loneliness, and trust Him when he says that he is near to you.  Have faith in Him to give you the strength and courage to be okay when you are alone and to recognize when you need to reach out to others when you feel lonely.  I also want to encourage others to reach out to the lonely.  You can’t fight the battle for them, but you can help them feel like they have an ally.