Tag: healing (Page 1 of 3)

The Poison that Destroys

Harboring the chains of our hurt

When we have been wronged we rightly feel pain. The damage inflicted on us by the evil and selfish behaviors of others is real. It’s palpable and raw. Confusing and disorienting. This is how we are supposed to respond instinctively when we have been threatened and hurt. Our minds, bodies, and souls were created with the ability to respond to pain, emotional or physical, in a way that allows us to process and heal as quickly as possible. This system is often hijacked by a lack of support, validation, and numerous other external and internal factors. But the fact remains, that we are still programmed to respond and move on, not get stuck. But so often, we come out of trauma stuck as a victim and not living as a conqueror.

Stuck

One of the things that keeps us from being able to move forward in our lives, is how we tend to hold on to the hurt. I’m not talking about the expected scars and other damage that comes from surviving trauma, but of the way our minds adapt in an effort to “protect” us. When we have been hurt in such a way that the damage goes deeper than we can imagine, our minds want to do whatever it can to keep us alert so that we don’t ever experience that pain again. Unimaginable and gut-wrenching pain is not so easily processed and healed. But we can add layers to that already difficult process by choosing to identify with or replay the trauma, and holding on to the past.

I think that in part, we do this because we want justice. We want to see that the person that has hurt us will eventually feel the same pain that they have caused. In short, we want revenge on those who have destroyed our lives as we knew them. In the same way that we have been forced to reconcile who we were before to who we are now, we want them to suffer so it’s not just us. It is incredibly unfair that the people that cause us the most pain, often never experience the reality of that pain themselves. That we are the ones left picking up the pieces of our lives trying to heal, while they move on, in most cases, completely unaffected by their sin. In that accurate sense of it being unfair, we naturally want to right that wrong done to us. The problem is we go about doing that in a way that causes no damage to the perpetrators but immense damage to ourselves.

The Poison of Holding On

Romans 14:12 tells us, on the day of judgement, we will ALL have to give an account of ourselves to God. What does this mean for survivors of trauma? It means that we are responsible for our own actions, not those of others. We will never be held accountable before God because of what others did to us. That those who have hurt us will ALL have to come before God and try and explain the pain they’ve caused to us. But further, they will also be judged and punished for the evil that was done. I don’t know about you, but the idea of standing before the God of the universe, the sovereign over all, and trying to rationalize why they hurt us, kind of makes me feel better. However, in the same way, so will we have to explain our choices and responses to the evils we experience.

When we have been wronged, no matter how horrific the trauma and pain is, we all have to choose what to do with that pain. We have basically two choices in this. We can choose to forgive and let them go, or we can choose to obsess over them and the damage they’ve done. Let me explain.

One of the most deadly chains that keep us bound, is the powerful chain that weaves unforgiveness, hatred, bitterness, and resentment together. While we are absolutely justified in feeling anger, betrayal, and hurt when we are traumatized, we don’t need to stay there. The reason anger is part of grief, is because it’s a step, not an encampment. When we choose to harbor and cling to our “right” to feel that way, we are doing nothing to the person who caused the harm. They don’t care, usually. While we can be angry and hurt by what happened, we shouldn’t stay that way. The poison of harboring these destructive emotions causes immense damage to our own mind, body, and soul. In addition to what was done to us.

Alternately, we can choose to be free. Choosing forgiveness, allowing ourselves to let go of the anger and pain we rightly feel in response, cleanses us from that poison. Here is where most people get stuck. In the misguided belief that to forgive those who have hurt us means that they “got away” with whatever they did. We can convince ourselves that if we aren’t angry or hurt all the time, then we and everyone else will forget the harm that was done to us. That if we just hold onto the anger, hatred, bitterness, and resentment, then we are somehow holding them accountable for their sin.

But this isn’t what forgiveness is. At all. Forgiveness is letting yourself let them go. Meaning that, when you choose to forgive, you are no longer letting them control you today. You are not allowing your past hurts to dictate how you live in the present. You are taking away the valuable space in your mind, body, and soul, from the evil that shattered you, and giving it back to yourself to fill up with life again. When we hold on and refuse to forgive those who have hurt us to the depths of our souls, we are giving them permission to stay in our lives. Forgiveness kicks them out of our lives, and allows us to be free from their strangle hold.

Freedom or Control

Ultimately, we have to decide how we want to live our lives. Do we want to be chained to the people and events that traumatized us, or do we want to be free from them? Do we allow these people, their evil choices, and the destruction they caused to take up residence in our lives, or do we evict them permanently? We aren’t always meant to completely remove from our lives those who have hurt us (family, friends, relationships, etc.). But sometimes we are. The only way we can get to the place where we are making choices that will lead us to freedom and the life we are supposed to live, is to forgive those who have hurt us and let God deal with them. This frees our minds to move us to where we need to be, instead of keeping us tethered to a past we were never meant to live.

Will you choose the courage to forgive those who have hurt you and break free from their control over you? Or will you choose to harbor the “right” to feel angry, bitter, hate, and resentment because of what they’ve done to you? The choice is yours, but personally, I prefer life to death. I choose to remove their control over my life today so that I can be who I want and who I am meant to be. This is a daily, sometimes hourly if I’m honest, decision to consciously forgive. It doesn’t mean that what happened isn’t important and that you are not still struggling to heal from the wounds they’ve inflicted. But it does mean that when you pursue true healing, you will find yourself able to live without them being in your mind turning you back to the darkness.

Flee the Darkness

Trauma creates darkness. We step into our lives full of light. The lifeblood of hope and God flowing through our being. Looking into the future with eyes full of wonder and excitement, we begin to tentatively explore our world. Our senses come alive with the experience of newness, of discovery. Instinctively, we know that life is meant to be beautiful. That it’s meant to be full of light.

However, for many of us, this light and hopeful expectation of life, is quickly snuffed out. When we enter the world, and until we can reasonably take care of ourselves, we are wholly dependent on another human being to sustain our life. We trust that our needs will be met, that we will be safe. Until we’re not. The darkness slowly creeps into our lives or is ushered into it suddenly and with force.

Trauma. Pain. Hurt.

The Darkness Happens to Us, It Is Not Us

Depending on when we first experience the dark evil of this world, we can begin to believe the lie that we are the cause of our suffering. Children, until around age 8, believe that everything that happens to them or their loved ones, is because of them. That they are the cause of theirs and others suffering. What a horrible lie to internalize as a child! Slowly that light and hope begins to fade and the poison of the darkness seeps into our very beings. If we are not given adequate help in overcoming this darkness, we are left in the pain of what happened to us.

It takes many years and intentional healing for most people to overcome this basic, yet profound lie of the enemy. If the initial trauma we survived is compounded by further traumas, the darkness and the lie become ingrained in our cells, down to the DNA. Many times, people choose to decide that they ARE the darkness. They ARE the problem. That it’s easier and safer to embrace this lie then to fight it. We can grow up believing that we are worthless, broken, and that we deserve the bad that happens to us. Making the evil of another person replace our God given identities. Giving up on the life we were created to live.

Expose the Darkness, Don’t Embrace it

Ephesians 5:8-21, states, in paraphrase, that we used to belong to darkness, but now, as believers in Christ, we belong to the light. We are to have nothing to do with the deeds produced by darkness. That everything done in secret, will be exposed by the light. We are called to pay careful attention to how we choose to live our lives. Despite what we have suffered at the hands of others. If we are called to expose the darkness instead of becoming the darkness, then it must be possible to do it!

Many times, when we have embraced the trauma that was done to us, when it becomes our identity, we do anything we can to make that pain go away. Our intuition screams at us that we are not the thing we think we are, but we are beloved children of God. The fight between the identity of a victim or of what was done to you, and who you truly are, causes many to seek out ways to escape the conflict. Trauma survivors choose many ways to escape including addictions and becoming like the person who hurt them.

Life Come With the Light

Friends, this is NOT who we are supposed to be! It’s not how we are supposed to respond to the evil that is done to us! No! We are called and equipped to overcome the darkness and step into the light. Just because you have lived in darkness, either by your own choice to embrace it or due to other’s actions, doesn’t mean you have to stay there.

Jesus did not die for us and rise from the grave so that we could stay in the tombs created for us by trauma!

He has called us out of the darkness, out of the trauma, out of the false identity placed on us by trauma! We are meant to expose those evil men/women and behaviors that continue to perpetrate the darkness against the innocent!

This is part of the reason the enemy wants us to stay locked in the darkness he created in our lives. If we do not step out of the trauma and into the light of Christ, we won’t speak against the evil happening in our world. When we are so stuck in the hurt caused by what we never asked for nor deserve, we can’t speak the truth. Step out of your darkness today. What happened to you, is not your fault. However, choosing to embrace the darkness and live in that darkness rather than a life that is full and whole, is your fault. The battle to fight back the darkness is hard. But it’s a battle that we’ve already won in Jesus.

Be the one that speaks light into the dark. Expose the deeds and persons who are intentionally hurting innocents. Do not let anyone force your silence when you shine that spotlight. Make it harder for the dark to hide. Save your own and someone else’s life! Be the voice for those who don’t have one yet. Speak up. Speak out.

The Heart’s Cry

Releasing Yourself From the Burden of Silence

We Have Permission to Lose Control

Lamentations 2:19 tells us to “Arise, cry out in the night…pour out our hearts like water before the presence of the Lord.”

We are literally told to cry out in anguish, to scream and shout as if an intruder is invading our camp in the night. There is such power and truth in those moments of raw pain and anger. Releasing all the barriers we’ve put up to keep those emotions hidden, releases us. Yet we resist. We allow society, religion, and others around us, to tell us how to handle our grief and suffering, instead of seeking God’s truth.

How many of us have been told that we can’t be angry with God? That we can’t scream and question and yell at the one who created us? That we should be content and have joy in our suffering, every time? Often the scripture that talks about the clay challenging the potter is a favorite quote. I’ve repeatedly been told, or it’s been insinuated, that my anger, my grief, my pain, is wrong. That expressing grief and hurt like I do is too much. That if I just “gain perspective” about my suffering I will be able to just move on. In reality, the deepest pain that we can endure, the brokenness that shatters our soul, can’t be kept silent without causing us harm.

The people who say these things, often, do not mean to hurt us. People who are regurgitating what they’ve been told or are genuinely afraid of their own extreme emotions, are rarely trying to hurt us. When someone is afraid of dealing with their own pain, they tend to shame those who aren’t and attempt to shut down others’ expressions of pain as well. These are people we love, or that we look to for guidance and help. Reaching out for help and being are shut down and shamed for our pain stops the grieving process that sets us free!

No, we are not meant to hold in and silence our pain. The Bible literally gives us permission to come before God in anguish. With screams and hurt that can only be verbalized in groans. We have God’s permission to come before Him no matter where we are in our mind, body, soul, and spirit. So why would anyone else’s opinions on this matter? If God says come, shouldn’t we come? Ask yourself if you are free to cry out to God. If not, ask yourself why.

Why Should I Stay Silent When All I Want Is to Scream?

I don’t know about you, but when I’ve been hurt beyond my ability to “handle it,” it’s almost as if the pain takes on a life of its own. Being still and quiet is not the way my mind, body, and soul express pain. I was created to be animated, passionate, and unwavering in how I pursue my life. In my pain and suffering, that doesn’t change. The idea that I am required to go against my nature, to violate the way God created me to express myself, is actually an invitation into sin. When we go against who we are meant to be, we are saying God made a mistake, and we “shouldn’t” be this way. And usually, if I’ve gone silent, it’s not a good thing for anyone, especially if you’re the one who has caused the pain…

Why, if we are supposed to be silent in our pain, does God tell us that “when we don’t know what to pray for, the Spirit cries out in groans that we cannot understand?” If the Holy Spirit cries out in groans, I’m pretty sure that we should be able to do the same thing. We are, after all, made in the image of the Triune God. The Bible is full of examples of individuals (Jeremiah the weeping prophet and King David anyone?), including Christ Himself, pouring out their tears before the altar of God’s throne.

Beyond that, why would anyone demand that we not express our pain and hurt before God? We are supposed to bring our anxieties, cares, and hurts before the loving God who is the only One who will ever truly know us. Relationships require us to interact with God, it’s one of the reasons we exist in the first place. How will we ever allow God to meet our needs and bring us comfort and peace beyond our ability, if we never release all the hurt and pain that is creating the walls around our heart? As believers, we have to begin questioning the intention and scriptural validity of what we are being told to do. We have the Holy Spirit for a reason. Part of the reason is so that we can hear that “still small voice” telling us something isn’t in line with God.

What is Really Happening When Silence is Demanded

Forcing someone to stay silent when their physical body cannot hold in the sounds of pain, is a form of torture and control. It’s what predators do to their victims…force them to stay silent. If we look at the way pain and suffering is handled within this society and within the churches, we see this same systematic silencing of victims, especially women and children. Women and children who take a chance to go to church leadership, law enforcement, or anyone who is in a position to help them, are often left shamed and re-victimized. And men are rarely allowed to experience suffering beyond expressions of anger. No wonder our society is full of suffering and pain! Imagine what would happen if everyone was able to feel what they need to feel without shame?

When you are not allowed to speak about and confess your pain and hurt, when you are forced to stay silent, the pain of that makes whatever you are going through exponentially worse. While not everyone tries to silence you out of a desire to hurt you, the end purpose is always to control you. To change what you need, to match what they want or believe. All the more why we should allow ourselves permission to come before the throne of God and be as loud as needed to release the pain inside us.

God did not create us to remain silent in our pain. There are numerous examples in scripture where Holy men and women, the disciples, and Jesus Himself, cry out in anguish over what is happening. When we learn that Jesus is in such anguish over what He has to do that He is literally sweating blood, how can anyone tell us that we can’t feel the same intense pain? Christ was called a “man of sorrows” for a reason. While He did not STAY crying out in pain and suffering, He absolutely grieved when it was needed to cleanse and refocus. He regularly withdrew to pray and commune with God. It is ridiculous to believe that Jesus did not include cries of His heart in his communion with His Father.

Freedom Comes When We Honor That Part of Us Hurting and Needing Release

Often times we get stuck in a cycle of grieving because we don’t allow ourselves to grieve as we need to. We look to the advice of others because we do not believe what we know we need to do. Many times, we are so afraid that if we open the door to truly pour out every ounce of anguish and bitterness in our soul, we will stay there. When in truth, refusing to release the pain you are feeling, internalizing it and silencing your heart’s cry, is the thing that keeps you where you don’t want to be. Repeating lessons and pain in different areas of your life, is God’s call to you to fully open yourself up to Him. God is calling to you from the depths of your pain and hurt, waiting for you to turn to Him and let Him comfort and redeem your pain.

Jesus is the Great Comforter and our Healer. He redeems what has been taken from our lives in ways we can’t possibly imagine. But we have to let Him in so that He can move in our lives. Trying to control your pain, to “stay strong” or comparing your suffering to others, prevents God from being able to move. God will never force Himself or His will upon us. He offers what He has promised, and we get to choose to let Him in.

If you are in physical, emotional, and spiritual pain as a result of trauma and the things of this broken world, why are you holding on to it? Instead of begging God to change whatever it is or getting angry when He doesn’t do want you want Him to, why not try a true heart cry? Give yourself permission to say whatever you need to, in whatever way you want, to the God who sees you. Give God everything that hurts then be still and let Him fill you and comfort you!

Some of the biggest turning points in my own healing have come from these gut-wrenching, guttural cries from the depths of my wounded heart. God is waiting for you to let Him in. Cry out to Him today, and release the “control” you have created to not feel the pain. When you pour yourself out before God, I promise you He won’t let you stay there, and He will fill you up in ways you never knew you needed.

Safety, Hope, and the Onsite Foundation

What does hope look like? What does it mean to feel safe for the first time in your life? How can these things create an environment where you can truly begin to heal from the traumas that have shaped the landscape of your life?

An Unforseen Opportunity

At the beginning of March, I had a unique and unparalleled opportunity to attend a workshop addressing the trauma of being a mass shooting survivor. This was an opportunity I never had after surviving the Columbine Massacre in 1999. Another survivor spoke to me about the program, and I will admit, my first instinct was to see how I could help. I am a trauma specialist after all, it made sense for me to want to come alongside a program specifically aimed at mass shooting survivors. I inquired into coming on board with the program and then thought nothing more about it.

Funny how the things we avoid tend to assert themselves even stronger. The phrase “what we resist, persists” is very fitting. Being someone who has consistently avoided many things surrounding the Columbine Massacre even to this day, the idea of opening up that wound again was not appealing. I’ve always done the work, but also held a lot at arms length. I did not “want to go there” so many times that I convinced myself that I didn’t need to.

When my friend got back to me about joining the foundation, they were excited about the opportunity I presented, but everyone they work with has to go through the program first. If I wanted to help, I needed to travel this healing path myself.

What I Didn’t Know

Into the Unknown

When I said yes to the process of attending the program, I had no idea what I was really saying yes to. I did all the research I could on the Onsite Foundation and the Triumph over Tragedy Program (TOT) offered. The part of the program that appealed to me the most was the idea of having 7 glorious days of uninterrupted me time. Healing from whatever God brought me to. The fact that the setting for the program in Cumberland Furnace, TN, a 250 acre property that is beyond idyllic and serene, didn’t hurt either.

It was the second day of the program that I begin to feel the strong, visceral resistance to the work. I did not want to experience the pain. The crux of the program is somatic experiencing. Your body knows how to heal itself, but we get in the way. In order to heal from the pain, you have to grieve what happened. It’s not possible to break free from the past if you are unwilling to experience the strong emotions and responses associated with your traumas.

Apparently, I also developed a strong inclination and ability to not really feel what trauma had done in my mind and body. This was the cause of my strong resistance to the work. But I had chosen to embrace this opportunity no matter what God asked me to do.

Taking a deep breath and choosing to dive into the unknown, I experienced something I’ve never experienced before. Safety, a sense of truly being safe in a place and with the people in my group. We became a family. Bonded by tragedy, strengthened by the process of being known and seen, and not judged or devalued.

A sense of safety, being fully known and seen, created the exact environment needed for healing. Experiencing that I can feel the emotions and not die or get stuck in them, opened up the door to healing I didn’t know I had shut.

Reconnecting Me To Me

Our minds and bodies are intricately intertwined. Trauma breaks that connection between our mind and body. Our mind or our body is loudly screaming at us that something is not right, but we don’t always get that message the right way. The tendency to seek out medical help for physiological symptoms such as digestive issues, chronic pain, autoimmune, and other physiological concerns, is a consequence of this disconnection.

Your body will always remember what your mind forgets.

Our signals get crossed, and we don’t relate the onset of these physiological symptoms with a traumatic event. The rational mind can’t make sense of what the body is feeling because it is stuck in a memory loop of our trauma. A loop driven by the primal, unthinking, part of the brain.

Your mind will always be working to try to resolve your stuck trauma. It will cause you to remember in whatever way it can so that you can heal. Many times this is what triggers panic, anxiety, irrational fear, paranoia, and vivid nightmares. A key indicator of unhealed trauma is whether you still respond strongly to the events or memories of them.

This disconnect between mind and body is the focus of somatic experiencing. The goal being to reconnect us to ourselves. When we are connected, we can heal. If we are dissociated from ourselves, we stay stuck in trauma. We live in the past, in the present.

Goals

Onsite is the first program of its kind and it is incredibly unique and effective. Through the somatic experiencing process, the incredible knowledge of the group leaders and educators, I left with a new perspective on my trauma.

The goal at Onsite is NOT complete and total healing. The expectation of complete healing in a week would cause immense shame and further trauma because no one would get there. The goal is a 1-2 degree change. The illustration of a pilot is helpful. If a pilot shifted his course by 1-2 degrees he’d end up in a completely different and unexpected place.

So it is with us. 1-2 degrees of change will alter the trajectory of our lives.

Changing course

Being able to embrace the knowledge I already had as the truth for myself as well as everyone else, set me free to experience change. Realizing that the parts of me that I was so determined to eradicate are not my enemy and meant to protect me, let me see my pain for what it is.

Moving Forward

After this week, I came home to shut-down and shelter in place orders. I was thrust from a safe, healing environment, into toxic chaos and lack of control. The transition was extremely hard, and I am still learning and recovering from the abrupt change. Because of the work I did at Onsite, I am able to navigate this chaos in a very different way.

I am stronger. I am healthier. I am still on that healing journey.

The process began that week, and I am continuing it now. Healing from trauma is complicated, messy, hard, painful, and takes time. Instant, magic pills, do not exist. Trauma does not simply go away. Your body and mind will always try to force you to stop ignoring the trauma and heal.

Embrace the bad with the good. Realize that you are interacting with the world through the lens of your trauma response. Believe that you can heal. Then take the next step forward on your journey to freedom.

A Letter to A Survivor

From A Survivor

Right now you are in shock. You’re broken, numb, and wondering what just happened. You’re questioning everything. You’re life no longer makes sense. You are desperately trying to undo what has happened, but you know that you will never be able to undo this. You understand that your life has been forever changed. Tomorrow you will have to return to life in some capacity. You cannot comprehend how everyone else’s worlds did not just shatter like yours did. You are wondering how you will ever breathe again, let alone go back to a “normal” routine. As you lay your head down tonight, you wonder if you will ever sleep again, whether or not you will be consumed by nightmares, and if you will ever be OK again.

What you won’t hear from most people, especially those who have never survived these horrible things, is that, you’re not supposed to go back to being who you were before. Witnessing and surviving most people’s nightmares should leave you questioning everything. It is the people who are not changed by trauma that are the most unhealthy and detached. The truth is that the life you lived before you survived is no longer there. You are not the same, you will never be the same, you will never go back to the way it was before. And that is ok. It’s completely healthy, normal, and human. Embracing these truths rather than trying to live in the before, is what will allow you to heal. To finally be OK again.

After Columbine, being a senior, my classmates and I had to navigate this nightmare without any resources or connections. We were simply dismissed and ignored while the rest of the school were given everything they could ever need. Because of this, we had to learn how to survive on our own. I had to learn what was wrong with my by doing research and studying my psychology text books. I had to learn what treatments were most effective for Complex Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), or PTSD that has been compounded by additional traumas. No one knew how to help us. No one knew what to do, so they just ignored the problems and let us flounder alone. The result of that, for me, was a 5 year dissociative black-out in which I have very few memories and essentially existed without any cognitive or coherent life. Some of my classmates succumbed to addictions or resigned themselves to be barely functional for the rest of their lives. Some of my classmates founded The Rebels Project, which is a non-profit that provides those resources we never had to other survivors of mass shootings.

Right now, you don’t really care about any of that because you are in the middle of your nightmare, not 20 years removed from it. But you will care soon, the numb will wear off, and you will start to feel everything. It will feel like every thought, emotion, body sensation, is magnified exponentially, and you will again start to question everything, hope for something to change, but wonder if you will ever get out of the black cloud that surrounds you. You are now part of a community of survivors, a community that we never asked for, never wanted, but desperately need. You will need people who know exactly what you went through, people who are struggling like you, people who have healed and taken back the life that evil threatened to destroy. This is why The Rebels Project and trauma specialists exists. So that you never feel alone in this journey to reclaiming your life and healing.

This is why I wrote my book, Healing the Invisible Wounds of Trauma: A Columbine Survivor’s Story, and why I am a certified trauma specialist working in private practice. My path to healing and regaining my life was more difficult than was necessary. I do not want you or anyone else to have to suffer more, or for longer, than you already have. I want you to know that you:

  • are not crazy
  • are not alone
  • are not a monster 
  • you are completely normal
  • that you are responding exactly as you should when you survive a nightmare
  • that there is absolutely hope for the future

You can heal, you can break free and regain the life that was taken, you can be OK again.

Those of us who are part of this not so exclusive community of mass shooting survivors have been there before, or are just beginning the journey towards healing. If what you’re doing isn’t working, try something else. Not every treatment for PTSD works for everyone. That is OK if some things don’t work for you but work for another. We are unique, we are individuals whose response to trauma is influenced by our past, our perceptions, and our life experiences. No one will react or respond the same way, even if they were right next to you and experienced the exact same thing you did.

The most important thing you can do now, is take care of yourself. Sleep if you need to, get away if you need to, cry if you need to. It is not selfish to put your healing above other things that used to dominate your life. Reach out. Do not suffer alone or in silence. You are not alone. 20 years ago, there was nothing. Now, we know how to heal from trauma. Those of us who are both survivors and counselors have made it our mission to reach those who are suffering and who have lost hope that things will ever change. There are many people and professionals, who can help you navigate this winding and bumpy road that is healing. Your family and friends may never understand what you’re dealing with, but someone else will. There is always another person to turn to, another treatment to try, another day to live.

When you wake up tomorrow, after a long night of nightmares and exhaustion, you will be OK. Tomorrow, reach out and ask for help. Don’t wait until you’re in a dark hole before you ask for help.

When you wake up tomorrow, go outside, breathe in the light of a new day, engage every sense you have to experience the world around you. Then choose to take that hard first step to reclaiming your life and healing.

Columbine…20 Years Later

It’s today, the 20 year anniversary of the worst day of my life. 20 years since I lost any remaining childhood. 20 years since having to become an adult overnight. 20 year since I began the most difficult journey of my life…the one that set me free.

As I am reflecting on the fact that the 20th anniversary of the tragedy that changed my life coincides with the darkest day in history, the full day that Jesus was laying in the tomb, I realized that His death can bring hope in the midst of this pain.

2000 years ago, Jesus was innocent, he was lovingly showing His people the way to God. Yet evil invaded, and He suffered a brutal death, the most brutal death they had, willingly so we could be saved. 20 years ago, 13 innocent lives were taken in a brutal, horrific way. Mr. Sanders died to save his kids, credited with saving over 100 lives that day. The children we lost were completely innocent, living their lives, trying to honor God and others.

Today as I both remember the loss of those 13 innocent lives 20 years ago and the death of my Savior on a cross, I look toward tomorrow. 20 years ago we had no one of knowing what tomorrow would bring. But because we know that Jesus was raised to life after 3 days in the grave, and that because of His sacrifice we can live in eternity with Him, we also know that someday, we will see those lost again.

We can have hope now because we know that their lives were not taken in vain. So much good and healing has come from their stories and their testimonies of their life before that day. The 13 innocent remain a part of us today and will forever. We will always remember that day, but as the years have gone by, we are able to remember and celebrate their lives while feeling the emptiness of their loss.

We will always carry them in our hearts and minds. We will remember to honor them in our actions and our lives. They are forever etched in our hearts and we can know that we can be free from the pain and live in celebration because we know that Jesus lives. That in Him, one day all tears and sorrow and pain will be gone. In Jesus, we can rejoice and hope in a new life that is healed and whole, both here and for eternity.

We love and miss those taken from us. We will never forget:

Cassie Bernall

Steven Curnow

Corey DePooter

Kelly Flemming

Matthew Kechter

Daniel Mauser

Dan Rohrbough

Dave Sanders

Rachel Scott

Isaiah Shoels

John Tomlin

Lauren Townsend

Kyle Velasquez

WE ARE…….

That Thorn in Your Side is a Creative Lie from the Enemy of our Soul to Keep us in Chains. There is another way to FREEDOM

I’ve been in pain for as long as I can remember. Seemingly out of nowhere I began to realize that I was not able to function the way I was supposed to function. This began at a very young age and has plagued me my entire life. At least as long, I have been trapped in a body that I couldn’t control, feeling like I was living a lie because I knew that I wasn’t who I was supposed to be, but there was nothing that I did that seemed to be able to change these factors. Nothing I tried provided true relief from my pain and my struggles with my body and my health. I must have tried literally almost everything available in order to gain some semblance of control over my body and my health. I grew despondent, frustrated, and more times than I can count, gave up on trying to be healthy, trying to heal, and just resigned myself to be unhealthy and in pain for the rest of my life. I punished myself with the ferver of the Pharisees, and beat myself up every chance I got because I could not change.

The longer I waged this war with myself, the worse I became. Before long, I was a shell of the person I knew I was meant to be. The hope for a life that I was meant to live, the experience of the calling on my life a distant memory. I wasn’t happy, but it was more than that. I was angry, hateful, seeking revenge on myself and my body for the perceived flaws and what felt like self-sabotage. I hated myself which meant that in turn, I hated pretty much everyone else too. I knew that I was not who I was meant to be, and I hated myself for the fact that I could do nothing to change it. I believed the lie, that this was the way it was meant to be, and daresay, I believed that I deserved the pain, I deserved to suffer and to be plagued with my existence because of the things that I had done. Ironically though, in early childhood, there were not many things that I had done that were horrible enough to evoke such senseless rage against myself.

Angel and Demon battle

But our minds are not always rational, especially when you have given control of your body and soul to the one thing that never should have had any claim to your existence. When I began counseling following the shootings, a lot of the work focused on this anger and rage towards others and towards myself. I made a lot of progress, I figured a lot out about the root cause of all of it and was able to regain control over the hatred and rage towards others. Until recently though, I have not been able to tame the beast inside my head that wants to destroy the very fabric of my being and rip my heart to shreds with the things he speaks to me inside my head. I have fed that beast for many years, allowing it more and more access to the inner parts of my mind, soul, and body. Every time trying to fight back harder, but every time failing to gain control over the ravenous appetite of this beast. That is the nature of the beast that seeks to steal, kill, and destroy, he makes you believe that he is unstoppable. All he wants is destruction. If he can destroy one of God’s people and keep them from becoming who God created them to be, then he takes great delight in doing so.

The reality is that we are all broken people. Every single one of us has experienced things in life that left us wounded, broken and hurting. For whatever reason, the enemy is allowed to be present when we are at our most vulnerable and that is when he is able to sneak in and offer something to us that we are usually too weak to resist. The idea of bargaining with the devil is a great story plot in Hollywood, but we play that game unwittingly when we are the most hurt. He offers us the idea of peace, the ability to forgot what has happened, or any other tantalizing things that in our broken state, coupled by immaturity, we willing accept what is offered to take the pain away.

What in your life is the thing that you cannot change? No matter what you do, no matter how often you pray, no matter how good of a Christian you are, you struggle to defeat the things in your life that you know are not really who you are, but that control your existence in ways you never thought would happen. I used to believe that this was the proverbial “thorn in my side” like Paul talks about in 2 Corinthians 12, but what if it’s not. What if that is another lie that we believe, that we must endure because this is what we were given to “humble” us? There have been many times that I believed that, but then I turned around and screamed at God for allowing such pain and suffering to exist in my life. My perspective has changed, significantly.

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I have a counselor who was desperately looking for a treatment for trauma that provided real healing and that was permanent. She found Splankna. I had never heard of it, but she gave me a brief synopsis and we went to work. In April, I was able to receive the first level of training in this same protocol and became an apprentice in the treatment. What the treatment entails is for another post, because, it’s incredible, amazing, and the backstory is complex. What I can tell you though, is that this treatment is ridiculously effective and the impact is felt immediately and you are permanently free from the things that have been plaguing your life.

Last week, during a session with a counselor, we were led to begin the work in healing the brokenness in my body. I will admit that I was very excited, but I was also skeptical. I have seen this treatment do amazing things in my own life already, but my body and my health were like the holy grail. It’s the one thing that has haunted me since age 5 and that has kept me from fully being who I was created to be. Even though I had trepidation, I dove right into whatever healing God was going to bring. You see, God is the God of healing. He wants nothing more than for his children, his beloved, to be free from the chains that have bound them for too long. I know now, that God is not the cause of the suffering, and I also know now that He is the deliverer of healing, and there is little more I can say than to sing praise to Him who loves me.

Yesterday was my final session in healing work for this particular issue. I confirmed what I had been expecting, but around age 5, whatever happened to me (I have some ideas but no memories yet), I gave up control of my body and my soul (specifically with regard to my memory) to the enemy in exchange for the ability to forget what had was happening and to escape. I obviously would have had no idea that was going on at age 5, but the enemy used my vulnerability to attack, and I unconsciously gave up control of my existence to him. This knowledge made me incredibly angry and I went after my healing with renewed vigor. I broke the chains, revoked the agreement, rebuked the lies, and submitted myself fully to Christ instead of the enemy, permanently revoking his access to my body or my soul in Jesus name!

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I left that office feeling giddy, knowing that something powerful had happened, but I wasn’t sure how that would play out in my daily existence yet. I prayed for increased awareness and discernment of the movement and shifts that had taken place in my body, mind, and soul so that I could really see the small changes that were done when Christ provided complete healing to me. Today, I really got to see that. I went for a run this morning, with my son in his stroller, which is significantly harder than just running and always results in physical pain and suffering as punishment for my desire to be healthy (the common theme). As long as I remember, walking any distance was enough to cause severe pain in my back, let alone the pain I would endure as a consequence of my running (something I’ve done since 2009). I have a high pain tolerance and so I always pushed through the pain, medicating with ibuprofen and later, the good stuff, after a run because I could barely breathe because of the pain. As I gained weight, I blamed it on that, but the reality is, that pain with any type of movement has always been there. But not today. Today, I ran 4.5 miles, then took another 2-mile walk later, and chased a moving toddler throughout the rest of the day. I racked up 8 miles of movement today, over 18,000 steps on my fitbit, something I haven’t done in years…and I’m not in pain. Not only am I not in pain now, I wasn’t in pain when I was doing it. I am sore, of course, because I worked my muscles, but I am not in pain. Not only that, but the beast that lived inside my mind, punishing myself if I had to slow down, walk, or modify my workout, was silenced forever.  I AM FREE!!!! 

For those of you who deal with chronic pain, what I just said speaks volumes to you. For those of you who know me personally, you know what this means. I know that God wants to heal, I know that we often beg whoever (which is always the enemy in disguise) for relief from whatever we’re suffering from, and I know, that Splankna is the tool that God will use to bring real and permanent healing and restoration to anyone who wants it. It’s not a magic bullet, a magic pill, or anything like that, but a cooperative agreement between myself and God that I am ready and willing to accept His healing in my life. When you submit to Him, ask Him for healing, He will show up, every time. The conflict that keeps us from fully submitting to Him for healing is what keeps us sick.

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If this is something you want to explore in your own life, contact me. Give yourself permission to hope, one more time. I am an apprentice (looking for people to work on) until the end of August when I will be certified, but God can and will use me to facilitate healing in your life. That’s what Invisible Wounds is all about. True healing from the brokenness that haunts us and destroys everything we try to do. It’s what I am passionate about, and now because of this tool, can bring to you.  

When Pride Masks Itself as Strength and Gets in The Way of Healing

I am a fighter. I believe in wrong and right, have a passion for justice, and embrace the reality that life is a fight sometimes and that fight requires courage and strength. To me, courage is getting up after every blow, brushing the dust off your back and charging forward into the battle again, hopefully a little wiser and with more knowledge than before. This is how I have lived my life as long as I can remember, and how I still will live my life. But my life has been harder than it needed to be, I’ve fought demons that no one should ever have to fight, and I’ve been on the verge of destruction and defeat, eating the dirt that I’m thrown down into as I struggle to get back up, more times than I can count. Everytime, I’ve pulled myself up and stood strong ready to fight again. This is something that I am proud of, that I never gave up. 

It’s how I chose to fight back and to recover from the fight that helped me feed the idea of strength and courage that I wrapped around me each fight. It was not until tonight, after months of prayer and asking for insight into the pain and battle of the last 2 years, that I think I understand how I weakened myself in the many battles I’ve faced, not truly recovering, all in the name of strength. Disclaimer: strength and courage are forged in the fires of life’s hellish moments. I do not discount my own or other’s battles and victories in surviving. My only point is that sometimes there are other options that are still strong and courageous but that we ignore or dismiss because we’re “to strong to need help.”

You see, I’m in severe pain, all the time. I’ve had fibromyalgia since I was young and went decades before a diagnosis. After I finally got the right diagnosis and they told me what kind of drugs they wanted me to take, I said, no, I’ll find a better way. I felt the standard treatment of antidepressants and narcotics was their way of telling me that it was all in my head and I was not about that. I found other ways that were wonderful, until I chose to try and get pregnant and had to stop treatment causing a massive increase in my debilitating symptoms in addition to the pregnancy. 

I continued to fight and “be strong” through the pain and my worsening mental state because that’s what you do…you deal. Because I was used to shunning help or really acknowledging the depths of my distress, I was also unable to see that I was becoming horribly depressed and anxious while I was pregnant. This time, I told myself that “it’s just hormones, I’ll feel better when I deliver,” except I didn’t. 

The last two years have been spent in a deep, dark abyss of physical and emotional pain that I was not prepared for. I didn’t know that I would need other, outside interventions and help to fight this battle. I kept telling myself that I was strong enough on my own to defeat this giant, until I wasn’t. But tonight, as I sighed and gave in to taking a half dose of my prescription pain med because walking and breathing were hard, right after taking my 4th prescription antidepressent (because apparently I trained my brain to shun meds also) and found myself starting the familiar script of all the ways “giving in when I should be able to handle this” makes me weak, that the thought of, “wow, this is pride, not strength” interrupted my narrative. 

I realize now, and will probably have to work to retrain my brain to understand, that sometimes strength and courage means allowing yourself to find relief from the pain, to give yourself permission to stop hurting. The physical and emotional pain of this life is inevitable, but there is nowhere that says, the only way to remember where you’ve been is to feel the pain. I don’t have to live in the dark abyss of peri and post partum depression, anxiety, paranoia, and ocd, in order for those struggles to matter. I don’t have to suck in my breath after I go for a run, pick up my son, or do normal everyday activities to remember that I have fibromyalgia. My past trauma, the emotional pain of ppd, the pain of my autoimmune disorder will always be in memory or the present. Staying in pain because I am “too strong to give in” and get help is pride. I don’t have to suffer to be alive, to feel alive, or to remember those who “have it worse.” I can choose to take care of myself and still honor my past and those who have been lost. I spent many years not believing this which cost me the chance for healing and wholeness earlier on. Pride will always get in the way of healing, but sometimes pride is hidden behind the cries of strength and courage. I am choosing to unmask my pride, embrace true strength and courage, and allow myself to be healed.

For I Have Not Given You A Spirit of Fear…Do It Anyway

For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline.

2 Timothy 1:7 NASB

I don’t know about everyone else, but I have read this verse many times and every time I tend to think, “oh that’s nice” and move on. In fact I tend to do that with a lot of the verses that discuss living a life free of fear. I have lived so much of my life controlled and manipulated by fear, that until recently, I’m not sure that I even registered what God is actually saying to us. What I am beginning to understand on a deeper level is that not only is a life of fear not what God has planned for any of us, but that He has commanded us to not be afraid and has equipped us to do so.

That’s not to say that living in this fallen and broken world will not bring us into situations that evoke a deep and intense fear. Terror exists, people perpetrate horrific crimes against innocent victims all the time. Our minds were created to elicit a fear response in these situations in order to preserve our lives. But this is not the fear that God is speaking of when He is speaking about fear. God is speaking of the daily anxieties and fears, the what ifs that can leave us debilitated and non-functional. God is saying to His children, that even in those moments that scare you, where you are unsure and afraid of what could happen, in those moments, fear not! It is those moments to which God is saying “I have not given you a spirit of fear, but of power…”

God speaks directly to our spirits, to our minds, knowing that we hate the unknown, that we will worry and stress about every little thing that could bring harm or create fear. To this part of us, God is telling us to let go, to “cast all your anxieties (fears)” onto Him 1 Peter 5:7 and let Him carry the burden of fear. He is saying to us, “I got this.” God does not dismiss our fears, He specifically states that in this life we will face troubles. But he also states not to worry because He has overcome the world!! (John 16:33)

This gives us freedom to live. Freedom to let go of the fear that debilitates and binds us and to live the life we were created to live! We can live life fully and still feel fear. We become paralyzed when we let that feeling make our choices for us. Courage is being able to feel the fear and still do what you need to do. Live in the freedom of Christ’s promises today. Accept that you will feel fear but choose today to not let that feeling control you. Go and do what you were called to do, even if you feel afraid. The reward and benefit from not letting fear immobilize you, are beyond understanding, but they will always be better than living a life paralyzed by fear.

Reflections on a Life Bound by Chains

I just returned home after attending the Writers on the Rock Conference 2017. I knew from the previous conferences that today would be powerful and that at the end of the day, I would have a renewed passion for writing, for pursuing Christ in my calling, and for using my gift to reach those who are broken and hurting. Those were my agenda items, and without a doubt, every single one of those was checked off of my list. However, as is always the case when the Holy Spirit moves, God had bigger plans for me. He used the gift of another author to not only inspire me, but help me break free of the chains that keep my bound and unable to write, but that also bind my ability to function freely in the way that God has created me. As a writer, it is easy to come up with ideas, especially on the topic and passion that you have identified for yourself. What is not so easy, is the execution of the plan and the understanding of why the struggles exist in the first place. Today I found that answer, and not only am I angry that I could not see this before, but I am free and emboldened to smash through the barrier thrown up by the enemy of my soul and which I have allowed to stop me from pursuing my life’s calling for far too long.

See, I entered the conference today, completely free in Christ, in belief only. I have desperately been fighting the chains that are binding me to the hollow life in which I have existed for too long, but have resisted the true freedom that comes from a relationship with Christ. I know all about spiritual warfare and how the enemy desperately wants to keep us alone, broken, and in pain. Even with that knowledge, I did not truly understand how to break free from the chains of my past. I know that the moment I accepted Christ as my Lord and Savior, I became a new creation. The sins of my past, present, and future were forgiven and I was set free from the chains of the enemy…However, I did not live in that truth. I have often chosen to get sucked into the lies that the enemy craftily devises to convince me of my lack of worth, of my failures, of my hopelessness and that fuels my shame and self-loathing. Today I met a writer who showed me how to change this.

I innocently entered her discussion entitled “Writer, Thou Art Loosed” thinking that this would be a great conversation about how to break through writer’s block, motivational issues, and stumbling blocks. I had no idea what God had in store for me. From the moment she began speaking, I was laser focused on what she was saying as if she was speaking directly into my bones and marrow. Turns out, God was going to use this woman to free me from the chains that have bound me for years. This conversation encompassed the excuses and things in my life that prevented me from fully and wholly embracing what God has been calling me to do for years….to tell my stories. I was hearing myself and the excuses that I had for why I was having a hard time finishing my book, and I was enthralled by how she related those struggles to the chains imposed by the enemy to keep me from finishing what God has ordained me to do. Towards the end of the class, she picked me to come up to the front and participate in an activity…she’s a legit retired army drill sergeant, it’s not like I could have said no! Then she began to lead me through a declaration of “I am loosed from…” and I chose the word fear. That in and of itself let out a torrent of emotion and release, but she had more in store for me. Responding, I’m sure, from the promptings of the Holy Spirit, she then grabbed my list of things that are keeping me shackled and chained in my life and proceeded to repeat the process with each one of the things that I wrote down. To say I had no idea what was coming is an understatement.

Most of my life, I have spent bent over and in pain of some sort. Emotional and psychological pain has led to significant physical pain, including the development of an autoimmune disorder. I am in a constant battle between what I know to be the truth in who Christ proclaims me to be, and who the enemy claims I am. What I didn’t fully understand or realize until today is that this is a battle that does not need to be fought. This battle was already won many years ago, yet I continue to revisit that battle that Christ died to win, over and over in my life. Every time something happens in my life, and there have been numerous excruciatingly painful traumas and tragedies, and every time I experience a setback or roadblock in my pursuit of the life that God has called me to live, I have reacted in predictable ways that tightened the chains around my heart and soul rather than in a way that removed them from my life. The beauty of other people embracing and using the gift and calling that God has placed in their life is that they can be used by God to speak truth and bring healing into another person’s life. This is my experience at the conference today. God used a woman who has fully embraced her life and calling and successfully defeated her past and loosed her potential in Christ, to free me from the chains that bind me.

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Declaring freedom from the chains that have devastated me for so long is a powerful, intensely emotional experience. I believe that at that moment, I broke free of so many of the things that have sought to keep me broken and in pain. But I know that the work doesn’t stop with moments like these. At that moment, when the physical weight of what I had been carried was removed from my bones, I decided to begin to declare this freedom in my life every time I begin to feel burdened by my circumstances. The chains that have long bound me were not necessarily overtly obvious. Yes, I have suffered from depression, PTSD, fear, shame, pain, etc., but I just thought that was my destiny with the life that I have lived and with what has happened to me. I didn’t truly grasp that I could actually be free from these things. Not surprisingly, the enemy has successfully, up to this point, capitalized on my pain and suffering, especially in the last few years, and has attempted to destroy me. This realization coupled with the reality that the enemy has not just tried to keep me quiet, to keep me from embracing my gift and calling, but that he has specifically tried to end my life and the life of my loved ones many times, awakened a beast inside of me that has been dormant. So from this point on, I declare through the power of the Holy Spirit that I am loosed from fear, from pain, from infirmity, from depression, from shame, from brokenness, from hopelessness, from misery, and from everything else in my life that has kept me bound in chains. I will no longer accept these chains as a part of my existence, and I will no longer be devastated by the tactics of the enemy. I am free.

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