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When Spiritual Trauma Leaves You Lost

Growing up, I heard the word "lost" all the time. That word was used to describe anyone who wasn't living according to the standards we had been taught were required. It was literally the worst term one could use to describe someone else. You wanted to avoid that word at all costs. I never liked using it to describe myself - ever - for that reason. 

But I couldn't find another term that summed up how I'd felt for the last year.

So, I'll say it. 

I was lost. 

Trying to climb out of a religious net you were so tangled in is exhausting... and takes forever! Intentional work. Retraining your brain. Healing your heart. It's a lot.

Top that off with trying to find "your place" again... man! Highs and lows like you've never seen. You're thrilled to be out of a circle of fallacious judgment and limitations. Yet, struggle to find where you fit now. You feel out of place everywhere. Nothing feels comfortable or familiar... because nothing is. You're filled with new excitement for a limitless future but have no idea how to mold that excitement into something that fulfills you.

Then try to fill your gaps with new people... welcoming anyone and everyone... only to realize that's not always the best idea. Sure, you get acquainted with some pretty amazing people, but you also invite people struggling with their own negativity and toxicity in. Drama occurs. Wounds are inflicted. Eyes are opened. Choosing to remain quiet when so much can be said takes a strength that is hard to maintain. Weaving in and out of lies and truths and opinions and facts will leave you mentally tired in a way I can't even describe. I didn't know how to get out of it all. How do you avoid the same traps in the future? Guard your emotions? Protect your heart? 

When you focus on those kinds of things, it can smother you with a fog so thick you can't see at all which path to take. You stumble down this road, stagger down that one, and fall flat on your face more times than you want to admit. Each time you stand back up you feel more dazed and confused than the time before until you're ready to throw up your hands and quit. 

Been there?

We were. I'll say it with zero shame. 

We lost who we were. We were angry, frustrated, over it all. Impatient, irritable, and just plain done. While I'm glad we finally felt the release to address what we didn't deserve, I wish we had been in a better place while handling those things. Do I regret ties cut? No, because I have good reason and needed to break free from some toxic behaviors. Still, we were blundering about in the dark, fighting the air, wearing ourselves out, and still unsure of what to do with our lives. 

We were trying to figure it all out ourselves. Convinced we couldn't count on anyone. 

We'd lost faith- in friendships, work ethics, honesty, shallow commitments, family, churches, even our own goals and efforts. I'm not playing- one hit after another left us nearly dead. 


Something clicked with me. While so many things in my past were screwed up, unnecessary, harmful, and ostracizing, the foundation laid for me was solid. How do you get back to that - solely that - when there's so much crap you have to prune, trim, and cut down to even recognize it? Do you know how hard it is to move past a deeply implanted fear when trying to discern the actual truth for your life?

I had forgotten one important thing. 

I didn't have to do all that work alone. I just needed to ask for help... from the one who was always willing. 

I had to relearn how to lean on another again. I needed that peace, direction, and consistent joy even in the midst of pain. 

I'd let myself believe that we were abandoned and unseen. Forgotten and uncared for. Completely disregarded by a Savior I had spent my life loving. I actually said out loud once, "It would be easier to not even believe in God, because then life wouldn't hurt as much." I truly felt like he was sitting up there oblivious to - or unbothered by - how hard we had been fighting just to keep breathing.

Then, somehow, at some point over the last week or so, something clicked. I realized that in the midst of losing my faith in so many people and things, I had lost my faith in Jesus. I still believed in him. I still thought he was great. But I'd let myself forget just who he is and how he is. I had convinced myself that he didn't really care about our hearts, the unfair circumstances we've had to face, or the missing "home" we'd felt for many years. 

We visited with some long-time friends over the weekend and The Chosen series was brought up. That led to us discussing events from our past and present... and even hopes for our future. That conversation cleared out a lot of the thorny branches that had held me hostage for a while. I was able to take a few steps forward again. It removed a lot of the brush spiritual trauma had left behind.

 Over the next few days, I decided to watch another episode. Which one did I land on?

The account of the lame man at the Pool of Bethesda. (If you don't know what I'm referring to, you can google it and find something about this story or read John 5:1-15.) A man who had been forgotten and abandoned by people who could have been there for him. A man hurting and broken. Crawling and scraping at a chance for positive change. Dealt an unfair hand. Desperately waiting for his miracle... for 38 long years. 

In this show, Jonathan Roumie portrays Jesus in the way I truly believe he was/is. When he approached the man, there was so much love and compassion in his eyes. You could see the hurt he felt when he recounted with him the years of waiting and struggle. The acknowledgement. The desire to heal. The joy to restore. 

In that moment, I broke. 

I know it's a tv show, but it's based off of an account I believe with all my heart is true. And I saw me in that man, and I felt Jesus assuring me that he knew where I'd been, too. He hurt with me. He saw. He understood. He cared. And he was there to lift me back up to my feet. 

Is my life all better now? No. 

And also, yes. 

Some of the same situations are there, sure. But there is a peace and comfort again, knowing that things will start to work out a little more smoothly since I'm giving him full control. And even if they never change or go away, I know that I'll be taken care of and thrive just the same. I don't have to try to figure everything and everyone out. I don't have to care about unhealthy drama or give thought to words from toxic people. I don't have to carry guilt for being human sometimes. I don't have to work so hard to "get it." Just trust. Relinquish the weight of it all to him. It really is that simple. 

I know so many of us come from troubled backgrounds... a lot of unhealthy religious ties, too. While I believe it's good to draw attention to the aspects of those things that are harmful, let's not forget there's a ton of good news to be shared, too. Life is so hard. Be someone who empathizes and assures people they're not crazy for doubting or struggling... and who also reminds them why they don't have to all the time. 

I know not everyone gets this. Some find it foolish or annoying. But I've experienced so much over the course of my life already, and trusting Jesus really is the only thing that's brought me deep peace. I know how stressed and upset and hopeless I'd been feeling for too long. I'd let people and things, situations and memories, and my own insecurities get in my way of seeing him clearly for much too long. 

I was lost. 

lost- 1) unable to find one's way; not knowing one's whereabouts. 2) denoting something that has been taken away or cannot be recovered. 3) an event in which a defeat has been sustained.

1) He is the way and he leads me, so I'm good. ✔

2) He restores my soul and all that was stolen from me, so I'm good. ✔

3) He overcame the world and all victory belongs to him, so I'm good. ✔

Lost? Not anymore. 

found- 1) having been discovered by chance or unexpectedly. 2) equipped; supplied.

That's more like it. 

He found me... and through Him I've been equipped with hope and life and strength and security and so much peace and joy. 

Thank you so much to the friends in my life that were there... When the crying was ugly and the doubt was smothering. When the anger was boiling over and the fear was blinding. Thanks for truly listening. Checking in. For allowing me to be raw and human without judgement. And for taking time to gently remind me that he was still taking care of me even when I couldn't see it. I'm so grateful you took time to swing at life's overgrowth over and over again on our behalf... because of you my foundation became visible again. 

If I may, let me remind you to take time out of your busyness and reach out to your people. You have no idea what they're facing when they're alone or what they so desperately need. Whether they open up to you or not, knowing they're thought of and cared for helps lift a lot of the burden off their shoulders. 

You matter more than you realize. 

White Chocolate and Orange Chocolate Chip Cookies

Can we just talk about these cookies for a minute?

They're literally everything.

White chocolate and orange chocolate chip...

Soft, moist, filled with goodness.

I will most definitely make these again!

2 eggs, large
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking soda
3/4 cup light brown sugar, firmly packed
1 cup milk chocolate chips
1 cup white chocolate chips
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp salt
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup butter, unsalted (room temp)
Juice and zest of 1 orange

Preheat the oven to 350°F and line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a medium bowl, sift the dry ingredients: flour, baking soda and salt together.

In another large bowl, using an electric mixer at medium speed, beat together the butter, and sugars until smooth and mixed together well.

Add the egg and vanilla and mix on low speed until mixed in.
Gradually add the flour mixture and mix in until just incorporated. Do not over-mix.

Add the chocolate chips and stir with a wooden spoon, again just until incorporated.

Add the zest and juice of the orange and slightly mix again with the wooden spoon.

Using a heaping tablespoon, drop the dough onto the prepared baking sheets, about 9 per pan.

Bake one sheet at a time for about 10-13 minutes. You should pull them out while they are still soft. They will finish baking/firming while sitting on the counter.

Let them set for about 15-20 minutes... then enjoy!


Another Trek Through Rising Waters

When it rains, it pours... and can continue for forty days and nights... until your world is under water. 


Life can be so beautiful for long periods of time, too, sure. But we've all experienced that flooding downpour. Some of us have a constant flood watch warning hovering over us at all times. 

Where my people at?

As I type this, I'm trying to encourage myself just as much as I'm hoping to bring a spark of joy back to your heart, too. Let's try to get there together. 

I've mentioned a few of the situations going on in my life already, so I won't repeat them all here. But yesterday we were hit with another rainstorm. It won't last forever, but it adds to the already knee-deep river we're walking through. 

That sucks. It takes a lot of energy to trek through rising waters. 

When you add on the weight of those you care for, even more difficult. 

How do you push past feelings of frustration and hopelessness you see in someone else? That's tough, isn't it? There's no way to control their thoughts, their feelings. Doing all you can to be positive and point to hope, but unsure if they're grasping it? Seeing another person you know and care about be put in the middle of a crossroad? Watching them nervously trying to sort through an unplanned event in their life? Witnessing the look change on their face when they receive some news they weren't expecting? Wanting so badly to take all the uncertainty and unease away from them?

That's the hardest thing about leadership, in my opinion. If you truly care about those you're leading - which in our case, man, do we! - it brings out some emotion when you have to deliver the news no one wants to hear. Aaron's honest and transparent, so I know he won't mind me sharing. When we finished our day yesterday, he shed a few tears thinking about the conversations he had earlier and the ones still ahead. He puts his all into people and projects... and because of that, he has an innate desire to protect those things. I love that about him more than mere words could ever say. But just as much, I hate how this unsteady life causes more pain for him because of that, too. 

Instead of laying down under water last night, we decided to look ahead and move a little quicker. Put some ideas on paper that could possibly grow into more amazing things. Sort through a list of what we've learned in these hard things. Remind ourselves that we will continue to focus on being good people and rolling with the punches. We won't stop. We'll observe. We'll learn. We'll grow.

And we'll do our best to help others do the same. 

Everything is a lesson, if we look it at that way. I'm not saying to put on a facade of happiness in all situations. Be human. Feel the feelings. But, once you've given yourself time to do that, take a few minutes to see how you can learn from whatever you just went through. There's something there, I promise. 

Today's post is shorter than most... mainly because I just don't have a lot to say at the moment. I'm taking a little time to be still, be quiet, and listen a little longer as I sit in it. 

That's helpful sometimes, too.

I will share a poem I wrote several years ago here, though, that came to mind as I began writing this. It, too, is about rain. This isn't the first time I've felt pursued by gray clouds for long periods of time. Absolutely not. I'm one of those "constant flood watch people" it seems. 

It's all good, though. I really like umbrellas. 

I appreciate the ones who stand next to me in the rain-

The torrential downpour of emotion that knocks the breath from the lungs

with each drop that hits the skin.

On the days it's soothing; liquid petals caressing the flesh, dried and weary from mental beatings-

Seeping in to satisfy the drought of relief and ease.

But those suffocating moments when every watery bullet cuts through every inch of comfort one possesses- 

a flood of chaos and confusion that just won't let up- 

destroying any familiar shelter, hiding all points of refuge. 

When the rain falls too thick and heavy to make out my own hand in front of my face, I feel yours clutch my arm;

a steadying constant in my life. 

While you can't stop the unpredictable outpouring of loaded questions that leave me drenched in disappointment-

you stand there and feel it with me.

Thank you. 

Chiseling at the Wall Trauma Built... for Your Husband

I missed "Tell it Thursday" last week due to a lack of inspiration, you might say. My mind was pretty overloaded with all the goings on of life, and I just couldn't seem to filter anything out well enough to publish. 

Aaron and I talked the following afternoon, and he asked me if I'd written anything. (I'm an Enneagram 9, remember? Sometimes I give up too easily on "me" things. He knows this and keeps me in check.) When I told him I hadn't, and gave him the explanation above, his response caught me off guard.

"You have a ton going on in your life right now. How did you find nothing to write about?"

I shrugged. 

He continued, "What would you most like to talk to someone about right now?"

For a split second all the current bombs currently blowing up within my "should be life," raced to the forefront of my mind. 

Do I want to talk about my brother being in jail, awaiting a trial that was scheduled on his birthday, and all the crazy emotions that come with that?

How about the frustrations that have paralyzed me in this adoption process?

A hard conversation with a parent that left me in awe at their inability to accept responsibility for something that has and will affect so many aspects of my life?

Y'all. Let me say this before I go on any further. If you know me or hang around me at all, you'll experience a light, peaceful, good, encouraging time. Maybe some deep conversations if we're at that place, but I've worked hard to be a person that feels like sunshine. The world is dark and dreary enough and I determined long ago to be a little bit of light in the midst of it. Like any human, I can be a little rain cloud momentarily, but the moment it's made known, I push that gray away.

Nonetheless, I want to be relevant and real. In order to do so, I have to be honest and vulnerable. Willing to share the truth that life isn't always grand. Or fair. Or fun. But we can manage it... and we can enjoy it. 

So... after several more emotionally exhausting events did little dances in my brain, I stopped on the issue most pressing.

I looked at him and said, "How to make your husband happier when he's drowning in disappointment. That's what I'd like to chat about."

He said, "Then there you go. Write about that."

So here we are, with his permission. 

Aaron has struggled a decent amount over the past several months. As I've mentioned in previous posts, faith has been something we've had to work at really hard to keep intact. When you've prayed prayers for years that are left unanswered, and you encounter more hard things beyond your control, doubt has a way of creeping in through one of the crumbling walls of your faith. He's also had a very close friend hurt him in a way that honestly shocked anyone even remotely aware of the situation. This added several layers to the already high wall he'd built around himself. Trust doesn't come easy to either of us because of the people in our past, but it's especially hard for him. 

From the moment I met 18-year-old Aaron, I was smitten. For one, he had the buffest bod I'd ever seen in the religious world I was in... so that definitely caught my (almost) 17-year-old attention. Yup. I said it. He was also refreshing for me in so many other ways.

He was funny. Genuinely, on-a-whim, funny. 

He could sing, play all the instruments... but that guitar! Man. So much talent. He cared about those that were left out. Fitting in was not his main goal. People pleasing annoyed him. He didn't pretend to be anything he wasn't. He didn't stoop to anyone's level of expectations. I mean, he wanted to make people proud. Don't we all? He desired to do what was right. He wanted to learn, grow, and follow a certain path for his life... but he wasn't about changing his personality just because he didn't fit the largely censorious crowd we found ourselves in.

I wasn't used to that. I grew up in a home and in a religious community where you had to cave if you wanted a place in the circle. And you didn't realize it was caving, because you'd been convinced that was the requirement. Anyways- most of the guys I had been around were all the same. Judgmental. Entitled. Flirty, but flighty. And looking more for specific talents and last names than any other quality in a gal. Aaron just appreciated my heart. My passions. He even showed an appreciation for my little quirks. He was the sincerest young man I'd ever met. His only desire was to be a good person, bring people hope, and be loved. Truly loved. 

He was met head-on, with egotistical leadership in many facets of our early ministry. Not all- but several. It's almost like they forgot he was a kid. How would anyone expect a barely-20-year-old young husband to have everything in life together? I don't know. But they sure did. 

There was so much talk that went around about him not having the best jobs our first few years of marriage. (Yet, they left out that he was told to decline several because of "internet" and "cable." The possibility of missing the occasional Wednesday night service...) We were supposed to heed all this advice, so we did... and at the same time were crucified for it. 

What's crazy, is even now, with a very successful career, he still sometimes struggles with feelings of inadequacy all because of the bullying he received by those twice his age years ago. Abuse comes in many shapes and forms, intentional or not, and can take years to fully lose its affect.

Then we move out of state to take a $300/month position to be treated worse than I even want to recount. We were 20 and 22 years old. Babies. Longing for someone to see what good we had to offer and show us how to capitalize on that. Praying for one of these leaders to take us under their wing and make us feel safe and excited about our future. We wanted family. We wanted counsel. All we got was belittled, backstabbed, and bullied until we finally said, "We're done."

There are so many rabbit trails to go down in that little paragraph, but maybe we'll space them out for another day... or 10. Today, it's just to set the stage for understanding how all these current emotions factor in. 

I'm sure some people would think you should just "get over" certain things. While that is the goal, it takes work when you were traumatized and abused at a young age. Even more so, when it was all ignored and avoided by everyone else around. Grown, religious people, that succumb to self-righteousness can be the ugliest of all. You'll never convince me otherwise.

Aaron and I have both been in counseling, separately, trying to work through things from our childhood and our young adulthood. I won't share much of his personal details here, but I know he struggles with being misunderstood more than anything. And because of that misunderstanding certain people put him in a box and refuse to let him out. That's suffocating. And it's infuriating to the woman who knows and loves him more than anyone else in the world. 

Have you been there, ladies? 

It's tough, isn't it? Seeing this strong, capable man shrinking back a little because of hurts brought on for no reason by people that should have coached and cheered him on. I've poured my heart out, tried my best to convince him of how they don't matter... but he has to find that place within himself. What's frustrating is when you see that smile coming back only to witness another idiot pile more bricks back on the wall. 

I remember a short time when I was blinded by disappointment and anger myself. I had these high expectations of certain people we'd allowed into our lives... only to be dropped or forgotten. I had convinced myself for too long that it was my fault... something I did or couldn't do. But once I realized it was their own issue with maybe selfishness, maybe their own hard times, I just got angry. Like, how dare you ask me these personal questions, persuade me to be vulnerable, just to move on to the next person and drop any effort to invest? I was done with that. For too many years of my life I was a gullible and naive little girl. I had to finally grow up and face the fact that not all people have time to care about you. 

Aaron's doing that now. But when it feels like no one has the time... and maybe God doesn't really either... that's a thick wall to break down. You can't do it overnight on your own, or even with another person (me) giving it everything they've got. Walls that thick either take a crowd with the same intent to knock it down, or a span of time consistently chiseling away. 

And that's where we are. Chisels in hand, working day-in and day-out to destroy this wall that a traumatic past built up. 

The one thing we're learning, though, is how easily you can be pulled into a lie that a bad 5 minutes equates to a bad whole day. If we learn to let things go the moment they're over, or the moment we realize we have no more control over them, we'd live a much more blissful life. 

That's not always easy, though, is it? The aggravation, the fear, the sadness, the feelings of loss that come from some of those "bad 5 minute things" tend to linger. It takes intentional effort to put them in their place. But it can be done. One of my favorite scriptures is 2 Corinthians 10:5, "...bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ." It's possible to do... but it does take that intentionality.

That's the piece we're working on. That's the whole reason for the chisels in our hands. Breaking down those walls... those thoughts... those memories. We always think the protection we build around our hearts is to keep bad things from making their way in. Maybe so... but it keeps the good things out, too. But what's most heartbreaking to me, is it limits the amount of good already within us that gets out. 

Aaron is my hero. Truly. Is he a perfect human? Pretty close, but no. He's not. Still, his heart is unlike any I've ever been so blessed to truly know. And I notice when he's hiding behind his internal fortress, that incredible light he carries within himself has a harder time breaking through. The whit isn't as quick. The smile doesn't come as easily. That natural ability to extend some sense of security and a zeal for life stays hidden. I want those lucky enough to be a part of his day to encounter all the amazing nestled inside his soul. Before that pile of bricks began growing, nothing but joy radiated from his eyes. Fun practically oozed out of him. He established a net of safety naturally and quickly for anyone around. The best kind of energy. 

It's still there. I see it all the time. But I know the level of goodness is stifled a little due to the time it takes to climb over that blasted wall. 

So, we keep chiseling. And we'll continue to do so. Friends of ours have picked up their own tools to help with the process. Given time, I'm sure the crowd will grow, and we'll all celebrate when it crumbles. 

Friend, if you can at all relate to this, don't stop trying to remove the stones thrown at you. I know you think you've built your own castle with them, and kudos to you for standing in the midst of a war zone, but come outside. Experience the freedom of no walls. No limits. Find you a person or two that is willing to do the work with you to destroy anything blocking you from that. If you can't think of anyone, reach out to me. I'll help. I'll cheer you on. 

Trauma sucks. Plain and simple. It temporarily destroys at any stage of life. But it can be overcome. Don't let it take any more from you than it already has. Take control of your life again. Be who you want to be. Don't let people or situations hold you back. Pick up that chisel and go to town. You'll be so impressed when you see what's on the other side.