Last week was my birthday… then Thanksgiving… then Black Friday… followed by a weekend of wrestling with God about all that had been going on in my head. I was hesitant, not wanting to write this letter — but finally accepting that I needed to.
As I blew out the candle on my Washington Apple birthday cake (it’s absolutely heavenly, so I’m attaching the recipe as my way of saying THANK YOU for reading this), I was given the traditional command: “Make a wish!”
What did I wish for? The same thing I’ve wished for over the past two decades of ministry – for more and more women to find HEALING from their sexual and emotional “stuff.”
Then came Thanksgiving, and when asked, “What are you most thankful for?” of course my mind went to family and friends. But I’m also incredibly thankful for the dozens of women who have sat in my living room over 4-day spans of time, unpacking and HEALING from a lot of that aforementioned “stuff.”
Black Friday followed, and I couldn’t bring myself to brave the crowds gathering in stores to save money on some different kinds of “stuff.” I wondered – if HEALING were a “product” that people could walk into a store and purchase off the shelf, would they go out of their way to obtain it?
While healing can’t be purchased from a store shelf, I’ve learned that by God’s grace it CAN be obtained, and it CAN be life-transforming, marriage-saving, and family-strengthening for sure! I’ve experienced it, and I’ve witnessed dozens of other women experience it as well. As they go out of their way to fly to Tyler, Texas and attend their own 4-day Women at the Well Intensive Workshop, they discover a room full of compassionate strangers who quickly become friends, confirming that they are NOT alone on their sexual and emotional journey.
But here’s the problem, and the reason I’m writing this letter. Over the past 3 years of doing these workshops, I’ve accumulated a list of 87 applicants who have NOT yet followed through on their hopes of attending a workshop and experiencing the healing they long for. Why? Strictly because of legitimate financial limitations.
I grew up with a dad and a step-dad who were both sex addicts, and I was sexually abused by other family members. Then I married a sex addict, I guess because it felt so “familiar.” I’ve done things with him that I’ve hated myself for, trying to earn his love and “fix” his addiction for him. I’m exhausted. I hate my body. I hate sex. I hate who I’ve become. I know God wants more for me than this. I’ve had dreams about attending this workshop and learning how to have better boundaries and how to love myself in spite of all I’ve done. But with only one income and four children, it would be such a stretch…
My dad left when I was 13. I became promiscuous looking to medicate that pain of abandonment, and I struggled my whole married life with emotional affairs and self-esteem issues. My husband was verbally and physically abusive, and we divorced two years ago after my health declined and weight soared so out of control because of all the stress, not to mention what the stress was doing to our children. Now, as a single mom, no one in my church seems to know how to relate to me, and I’m incredibly lonely. I don’t want to make the mistake of getting involved with another abusive man, but sometimes I worry I’ll settle for ANYONE who will pay me attention. I need this workshop in the worst way, but with my ex-husband falling behind on child support, I don’t know how I can ever afford it.
I’ve been married 35 years, but I’m pretty sure I’ve made my husband feel rejected and neglected for the vast majority of them. He’s a wonderful man, and we have a beautiful family and a vibrant ministry in a local church, but I’ve never been able to “let go” and enjoy sex the way he wishes I could. I know it’s because of things that happened when I was little (molested by my grandfather from ages 6 – 11, then raped by two men in college). I just don’t know how to move past any of it. Sex seems so dirty and degrading. I have hope that God can use this workshop to “wash me clean,” but on a pastor’s salary, I don’t know how we’d manage to find the needed funds.
If I had an unlimited supply of money, THIS is what I would spend it on – helping women get the healing they need to strengthen their good marriages, the courage some need to end abusive marriages, and the vision for single, divorced or widowed women to hold out for a man who is going to treat them with the dignity, respect, and sensitivity they deserve. By strengthening women, we ultimately create stronger marriages and families, which strengthens society and the church as well!
While I don’t have an unlimited supply of money, I DO have a pretty BIG supply of FRIENDS – friends who know my 20-year passion for ministering to sexually broken women… who wish the best for these and other dear sisters in Christ… who are thankful for the opportunity to invest in something far more important than what stores are selling these days.
So I’m asking you to prayerfully consider sowing a financial seed (of any amount) into the Women at the Well Scholarship Fund so that together, we can help women like Tammy, Elizabeth, and Amy experience the unconditional love, grace, and mercy of Jesus Christ, the Ultimate Lover and Healer!
To learn about the TWO ways you can give financially – by designating funds toward someone you know who would benefit from attending, or by donating funds toward any woman in need (which IS a tax-deductible contribution) – simply go to https://www.shannonethridge.com/donate/ and let me know if you have any questions at all!
Wishing you the warmest of holidays,
P.S. Don’t forget to open the WASHINGTON APPLE CAKE recipe! Your family will LOVE you for it!