Morning Meditation: Good Friday always evokes mixed emotions for me, sorrow an grief for Christ’s suffering, thankfulness that He was obedient to the end, and joy knowing His death restored my relationship with God. #morningmeditation #GoodFriday #redeemedbible.com/bible/59/isa.53.5.ESV
Author: Charlotte B. Thomason
Conquer Evil with Good
Morning Meditation: I have a choice. I can allow the evil I see overwhelm me or I can respond to it by doing good and demonstrating grace and mercy to others. #morningmedition #mercy #grace
Without understanding the unconditional love of Jesus Christ, we cannot fully comprehend love.
We love because He first loved us.1 John 4:19
As I child I endured sexual, physical, and emotional abuse from multiple family members and others until I left home at age 18. The experiences left me with a distorted view of love and sex. To me, love meant power, control, and pain. In my mind, there was no distinction between love and sex. However, I also knew Jesus as my friend from a very young age. His presence gave me hope, but also confused me. How could He love someone like me? I didn’t understand the kind of love I heard about in Sunday school until years later when someone demonstrated unconditional love to me.
Without understanding the unconditional love of Jesus Christ, we cannot fully comprehend love. He showed us what love can do. Love that transcends our human understanding comes only from the Father through His Son. Love like this transforms our perspective of everything and everyone we encounter. We see the world and ourselves differently when we are touched by the unconditional love of the Lord.
Have you experience unconditional love? Describe the experience in the comments.
Painting Pictures of Egypt
Leaving the security of familiar coping mechanisms is terrifying. Especially when nothing seems to ease the fear and pain like what I knew. When the “new life” became difficult or not what I expected, I wanted to return to the comfortable. I wanted what was comfortable even though it was dangerous and painful.
NOTE: This was originally posted in 2019. I’m posting it again because I was recently reminded how difficult moving forward can be. When an unexpected trauma occurs, it is easy to revert to old habits and thoughts. We want to grab hold of what we know or the first thing we see. The problem is we what held us up in the past doesn’t work anymore. Most recently, I’ve struggled to understand several disruptions in my life that seemingly blocked what I thought God wanted me to do. Although I was briefly tempted to reach for old, unhealthy coping mechanisms, I resisted the temptation because I recalled the song I write about in this blog. When you are tempted to hold on to what brought relief in the past, remember you are most likely, “painting pictures of Egypt and leaving out what it lacked.”
As I reflect on my healing from childhood abuse and my recovery from sexual and food addiction, I am reminded of a song by Sara Groves entitled “Painting pictures of Egypt.” I always liked that song because it illustrates how hard it is to move forward from a place that is comfortable. Even when the comfort is painful or unhealthy, moving forward is very hard. Leaving the security of familiar coping mechanisms is terrifying. Especially when nothing seems to ease the fear and pain like what I knew. When the “new life” became difficult or not what I expected, I wanted to return to the comfortable. I wanted what was comfortable even though it was dangerous and painful. “I was dying for some freedom/But … I hesitated to go. /I was caught to between the Promise/And the thing I [knew].” I was often like the Israelites who constantly complained and rebelled even though God had delivered them from slavery.
They said to Moses, “Is it because there are no graves in Egypt that you have taken us away to die in the wilderness? What have you done to us in bringing us out of Egypt?” Exodus 14:11
“the place they used to fit me/[Could not] hold the things I’d learned.”
I remember times memories flooded me and I forgot the strength of the woman I had become. I became the frightened child curled up in the corner wishing I could magically teleport to somewhere, anywhere that was not my parent’s home. I convinced myself that I could hold on to the “what if’s,” that “it wasn’t so bad.” and the “let me tell you about…”I told myself so many times, “I’ll get it right this time, but let me just stay here for a little while.” “I’m not ready to leave this yet.” Sometimes I took baby steps out of Egypt. Sometimes I took giant leaps. Each time, I would forget the downside of dissociation, promiscuity or overeating because “the future [felt] so hard/And I [wanted] to go back.” But as Groves writes, “the place they used to fit me/[Could not] hold the things I’d learned.”
I felt the old patterns, “calling out to me/Like a long-lost friend.
I wasn’t comfortable in my new life, but returning to my old habits wasn’t an option because “Those roads were closed off to me/While my back was turned.” I longed to escape reality even though dissociation was frightening to my adult self, mentally disappearing brought momentary relief to my ravaged soul. I tried to revisit the past because as Groves writes, “The past is so tangible. /I know it by heart. /Familiar things are never easy/To discard.” Letting go of addictive behaviors and temporary mental escapes that kept me sane for so long was excruciatingly painful. I held on for my life. I knew there was something better because I experienced it in moments of sanity and clarity. Groves words rang true to me so many times during those early years of recovery and healing, “I don’t want to leave here/ I don’t want to stay/ It feels like pinching to me/Either way.” I felt the old patterns, “calling out to me/Like a long-lost friend.”
Wanting to return to old patterns wasn’t about “losing faith…or about trust/It [was] all about comfort.” My addictive behaviors were comfortable. They weren’t perfect, but they were comfortable. I depended on them for my life, or at least I thought I could not live without them. Then I learned I could live without them and I learned new healthy ways of managing anxiety and stress. Memories did not send me into a spiral of irrational thought.
no longer caught between the Promise and the things I know.
After years of work I realize, “I am no longer caught between the Promise and the things I know.” Groves ends the song with “If it comes to quick/ I may not appreciate it. /Is that the reason behind all this time and sand?” I firmly believe there is no quick fix for healing or recovery. While I believe in miracles, I also believe sometimes the journey is the most important part of healing. A quick fix might rob you of the ability to appreciate the change in your soul. However, change requires taking the first step out of Egypt. Waiting too long might cement the habit or thought pattern and makes it harder to leave it behind when you walk toward your Promise.
Leave Egypt once and for all
To move forward, we must take a close look at what we are holding onto. What is keeping us stuck? When we keep one foot in Egypt as we look toward our “promised land,” we hinder our ability to move forward. Through Christ, you have freedom. In Christ, you can move forward. We can leave Egypt and not be trapped by, “Painting pictures…leaving out what it lacked.”
Sonnet III. How Can I Make It Right?
 Sara Groves, Painting Pictures of Egypt lyrics © Music Services, Inc
Equipped for Recovery-News/Updates
The workshop is less than a month away and we are working hard behind the scenes to ensure your experience is amazing and life-changing. Wondering what to expect at the workshop?
Watch for updates about Equipped for Recovery 2023!
What is Recovery?
“Recovery is commonly defined as the process of getting better from an illness or otherwise returning to a state of physical and mental health.” –Lives of Substance
Celebrate Recovery, a Christ centered 12-Step program, uses the phrase, “hurts, habits, and hang-ups” to describe the program’s focus. Everyone experiences one or more of these over the course of their life, making recovery an essential part of our lives. Overcoming the inclination to use unhealthy and destructive ways of coping with life stressors, hurts, trauma, or anything that disrupts our well-being is a lifelong process. Building and maintaining a Recovery Toolbox of healthy coping tools, knowing how to use them, and using them regularly greatly improves our chances of success. The “Equipped for Recovery Workshop ” offers the opportunity to explore your toolbox, add new tools, revitalize existing tools, and practice what you learn.
Click Links below to find out:
What to Expect (Sneak Peek)
Live Experience and Livestream Experience
- Jillian Roberts-Live experience Host
- Carla Alvarez– Livestream Experience Host
Four Interactive Sessions
- Kelly Mata
- Charlotte Thomason
- Krystl Michalek
- Mike and Jennifer Orenstein
- Korine Martinez and Angellee Jones
- Drawings at the end of each session
- Participation prizes during each session
Shout Out to Our Sponsors
We are so grateful to our sponsors. Check out the video for more about our first Builder Level Sponsor, Michalek Plumbing, and see the list of Suppliers who provided gifts, resources, and snack items for the Equipped for Recovery Workshop.
I’m Not One of “Those People”?
Sometimes I still struggle with asking for help because I don’t want to be a burden or I think my needs aren’t important, but I also struggle with self-reliance. Because I grew up in an abusive home, I learned early that I couldn’t rely on anyone for help.
We all struggle with something, but admitting we need help is often difficult.
Over the past few weeks I’ve recalled just how scary it was for me to admit I needed help when my life was falling apart around me. I was, after all, trained to help others. Surely, I didn’t need to seek help for the anxiety, depression, and destructive behaviors that disrupted my life. I thought, “Something must be wrong with me. I should be able to handle this on my own.” Pride overtook reason and I rationalized, “I’m not like those people,” but, in reality, I was no different than the individuals I worked with daily in my job as a social worker. I realized everyone struggles with something and there was no shame in admitting I couldn’t manage my struggles without help. I was, and continue to be, one of “those people,” because “those people” are every human on the planet.
Seeking Help is Not a Weakness
Sometimes I still struggle with asking for help because I don’t want to be a burden or I think my needs aren’t important, but I also struggle with self-reliance. Because I grew up in an abusive home, I learned early that I couldn’t rely on anyone for help. My sense of self was grounded in the belief that seeking help meant I was weak and that was terrifying. My survival depended on withstanding the onslaught of evil that surrounded me. Yet, I also discovered an ally in Jesus, who bolstered me up during moments of darkness. While He didn’t rescue me from abuse, He did protect my soul. My faith gave me hope that there was a possibility of something better.
The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”Mark 12:31
Do You Love Me?
Many individuals read this passage as simple guidance for interacting with others, but in actuality, the words also refer to how we feel about ourselves. For years, I couldn’t give or receive love because I hated myself. Plus, I felt unworthy of His love because my behavior was far from what I believed He would accept.
Separating my behavior from my identity was agonizing. Everything I did was powered by the belief that I was nothing, a product of evil, a worthless piece of garbage, and completely unlovable. In my hopelessness, I contemplated suicide several times. I saw no way out of my situation and believed God had given up on me, but each time I wanted to take my life, God showed up in rather dramatic ways to stop me. He never forced me to choose life, but sent someone to encourage me. I was not alone and, for a brief moment, I believed I was loved.
Asking for help, seeking out friends and family in times of stress keeps me grounded and prevents relapse when triggers or temptation occur. Everyone needs help if for no other reason than reminders that who we are is not defined by what happens to us or by our struggles. Our identity is in Christ and that never changes.
Equipped for Recovery Workshop-September 10, 2022-Hutto,TX Livestream also available!
Hear more of my story, learn and practice new tools to equip you for recovery from trauma, addictions, or simply navigating life stressors.
Get Tickets Here
Equipped for Recovery Speakers/Hosts
I’m surrounded by an amazing group of speakers for the upcoming Equipped for Recovery Workshop!
Livestream Experience Host/MC
Carla Alvarez is a founding board member of and contributing editor to An Unexpected Journal. She lives in Houston, Texas with her three daughters. She holds a Master’s degree in Cultural Apologetics from Houston Baptist University. She is a writer for RaisedtoWalk.org, and a Bible teacher for Bright Sheep Ministries.
Live Experience Host/MC
After great success in the corporate and non-profit sectors, Jillian is now a Professional Freelancer. Her services include Virtual Administration, Non-profit Financial Consulting, Personal Identity Coaching, and is a certified Notary Signing Agent. Single mom of two amazing teen boys, she delights in watching them grow into manhood. She is an engaging Public Speaker who is able to bring laughter and joy to any audience. Website
This mother-daughter duo brings energy, creativity, and passion for sharing God’s love wherever they go. Korine holds a Master’s degree in Cultural Apologetics from Houston Baptist University and currently teaches High School English at Hitchcock High School. Angel joined the staff at Hitchcock this year as an Aide. She also serves as the worship leader for The Way Worship Movement.
Krystl has a passion for missions, teaching and conveying God’s Word to others. She holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Graphic Design from the University of Texas at Austin, a Bachelor and Master of Arts in Theology from Life Christian University and is a doctoral candidate at Life Christian University. She currently teaches at Life Christian University’s Lockhart Campus and serves as the CFO-Advertising Director of Michalek Plumbing. Website
Speakers-Accountability and Support Systems
Mike and Jennifer Orenstein have been married for 30 years. They raised three amazing men and are new parents to one feisty Australian Shepherd. Currently, they are pastoring and leading the recovery ministry at Shoreline Church. “God has called us to do hard things – really hard things. Things that will leave us marked forever, but will also leave a mark on the world.”
Kelly is passionate about helping people in a very authentic and practical way. She loves to share wisdom and encourage others and see them overcome whatever barrier, pain or challenge they may be going through, as they grow into doing the same for others. She loves to laugh and enjoys serving God as she serves people from all walks of life.
With a Master of Science in Social Work, a Master of Arts in Cultural Apologetics, over 30 years of experience in social work, and as a survivor of childhood trauma, Charlotte Thomason has seen, both professionally and personally, the devastation created by child abuse. She wants to use her experience to bring hope to those who feel lost and hopeless due to childhood trauma and bring encouragement to those who help them.
Learning Brain vs Survival Brain
In the video, Dr. Ham excellently explains the impact of trauma on learning. While his intended audience is teachers, the points apply to survivors of childhood trauma.
Thoughts on Video by Dr. Jacob Ham
Learning vs Survival
In the video, Dr. Ham excellently explains the impact of trauma on learning. While his intended audience is teachers, the points apply to survivors of childhood trauma. The rock illustration provides a clear image of the effort involved to access the learning brain when the survival brain dominates a person’s actions and reactions.
Dr. Ham also stresses that a strong support system is vital to the child’s ability to relax, have fun and learn. Without such a system, a child becomes overwhelmed by the circumstances and cannot see beyond their immediate surroundings. Instead of enjoying life and learning, the traumatized child worries about the next episode of trauma.
As I look back on my childhood, I wonder how I did well in school given the abuse I endured. Where did I get enough emotional support to counter the dominant survival brain? I recall times when I struggled with learning and those were the times when the abuse was the most severe.
During most of my childhood, I loved school. School provided an escape from the trauma. From the first day of kindergarten through most of the third grade, my teachers created the environment that Dr. Ham describes in the video. At the end of third grade, I lost my teacher’s respect when the teacher caught me cheating. (which I did to avoid losing a friend.) I also lost the friend. My support group vanished as did my ability to control my survival brain. I did not regain my love of school until Junior High when I formed friendships and the severity of the abuse decreased.
However, there is an aspect of the battle that Dr. Ham doesn’t address—The role of faith as a support system. I knew Jesus from a very young age, but I did not fully understand God’s unconditional love. I did not understand the idea that Jesus was in my heart, so I sought Him in the external world. When I could not connect with God, my survival brain took over and my performance in school declined. When I connected to God (Jesus) my learning brain seemed stronger and I performed well in school.
As an adult, understanding how the brain functions helps me cope with my emotional response to triggers. I know when brain fog settles in, it’s time to engage in self-care, rather than beat myself up for not being able to think. Dr. Ham states that “survival brain trumps learning brain every time,” but there is a way to alter the automatic response. When my survival brain kicks in, I’ve learned to pause, focus on who I am, rather than what survival brain tells me. God determines who I am, not the world. I also have a support group that prays for me. I realize I don’t have to fight my battle alone, but I have to ask for help. Now, admittedly, in times of intense stress, I do not always remember to use these tools, but when I succeed, learning brain trumps survival brain. The rock (from Dr. Ham’s video) gets pushed to the top of the hill and stays there.
Community, support, faith and accepting that I need help are key components to short circuiting the survival brain response. Science explains how my mind reacts to trauma and triggers. God provides tools to level the playing field. Both are essential to healing from childhood trauma.
Equipped for Recovery Workshop-Interactive recovery workshop
9/10/2022 In-person and virtual!
Learn more about self-care, support systems, boundaries, and taking thoughts captive!
Tickets available now! Click Here to register
One Year Later-A Note to My Younger Self
Today, on the release anniversary, I wrote the sonnet included in this post to continue the conversation. The sonnet has the same form as the four sonnets included in the narrative and honors the child whose courage and faith allowed me to tell my story of sorrow, hope, and redemption.
I can’t believe it’s been a year.
Today is the one year anniversary of the release of What Kind of Love is This? Finding God in the Darkness, the memoir that recounts my journey to understand love and accept God’s unconditional love. Throughout the narrative I include conversational sonnets to give the reader a reprieve from the horrific events of my childhood. However, the sonnets serve another purpose. I wrote them to my younger self to encourage her to tell her story. So, today, on the release anniversary, I wrote the sonnet included in this post to continue the conversation. The sonnet has the same form as the four sonnets included in the narrative and honors the child whose courage and faith allowed me to tell my story of sorrow, hope, and redemption.
One Year Later-A Celebration
Oh, child so fair, what do you need today?
A year is gone and here we are again.
Oh, child so fair, I don’t know what to say.
Oh, Little one, are you free from your pain?
Oh, child so fair, you are so brave and strong.
You told the tale, defeated fear and doubt.
Oh, child so fair, do you know you belong?
There is no need to hide or sneak about.
Oh, child so fair, the journey must go on.
Oh, little one, walk with me as we share
The hope we found in the eyes of the Son.
And now you know Jesus was always there.
They know your story and they have not fled.
You can stand tall; you have nothing to dread.
More Sonnets, Letters to my younger self and the full story of sorrow, hope, and redemption!
What Kind of Love is This?
Audible version available for free with membership Click Here
Paperback version on sale for 75% off Click Here
Because We are Good
As I struggled to comprehend how God could love me, I struggled with an equally troubling question, “How could God love the family members who hurt me?”
“How could God love the family members who hurt me?”
Note: As I prepare to launch ticket sales for my upcoming Equipped for Recovery Workshop, I’m reminded of why I began the journey of sharing my story with the world. I want others to know the peace and contentment I’ve found along the path to recovery from trauma, addiction, and mental illness. I’ve not held a workshop in years and I am excited to get back to what I love. This post, from a few years ago gives a glimpse of things I learned about love, hope, and healing.
As I struggled to comprehend how God could love me, I struggled with an equally troubling question, “How could God love the family members who hurt me?” Such questions are common among women who experienced abuse as children.
For many years I simply could not understand why God did not stop my family’s abuse. I was angry at God, yet I never lost hope that someday I would understand. I wish someone would have pointed me to St. Thomas when I was overwhelmed with anger and guilt. Now, do not misunderstand, I eventually forgave and moved on. However, I think St. Thomas’ argument about the basic concepts of ‘being’, ‘good’ and how He views sin may shed new light to help women who struggle with how God’s love extends to their abusers.
We are beings created in God’s image and hold a place higher than every other creature.
The initial question is: Does God love all things equally? The answer is no. When you consider all the things God created, He definitely has a hierarchy. He loves humanity more than animals or rocks or trees. Why, you may ask, because humanity is rational and created in His image. We are second only to the love God has for Christ. We are beings created in God’s image and hold a place higher than every other creature. God came to earth as a man, not a rock or a tree. He did not come as a dog or a cat but as a man.
How does this affect a survivor that questions God’s love for their abuser? First, as we determined in Part I, God loves all things. Secondly, He loves humanity more than other things because we are beings, not things. As I stated in Part I, we know that every being that God creates is good just because God creates it out of His perfect goodness. Based on the definition of ‘being’ in the glossary of St. Thomas’Shorter Summa, being means “that which is, whether actual or potential and whether in the mind (a ‘being of reason’) or in objective reality (a ‘being in nature’).” In other words, a being exists as an entity that has qualities and potential.
What changes is God’s love of our actions and choices, which affects our relationship with Him.
What happens after creation does not change the fact that God created beings that are good beings. Even a being who makes choices that lead to evil are still beings, which exist no matter what choices they make. God’s love for that being that He wills good to does not change. What changes is God’s love of our actions and choices, which affects our relationship with Him. No matter what, the good being still exists. God still considers the creation good. He still loves the being (person) that He created.
However, as C.S. Lewis describes it in Mere Christianity with each choice we make, we either become more a heavenly creature or a more hellish creature. If we think of it as two aspects, the person, and the choices that change the relationship, we might understand the concept better. The person(being) is always loved because God created us. However, the choices we make either bring us closer to God or move us farther away.
God knows the potential of each person and wants us to receive the fullness of the good that He desires for us. He desires this for all His creation including abusers. He loves them because He created them and they exist, but He does not love what they do. The more they sin, the more they lose the humanity God created in them. Sin decreases their ability to experience the fullness of life and removes their desire to know God.
In all of this, God loves them as the being that He created. When they yield to evil, He cannot interact with them because evil does not come from God. While this explanation may seem too rational for some survivors, for me, it clarifies how God could love those who abused me. Knowing that God loves all His creation, but not their sin makes sense to me. When I combine that knowledge with faith, I understand that even when I feel ill-equipped to show love to those, I care about, I can ask Him to help me love them. He will empower me with His strength. He will be there. Perhaps understanding that God loves all things and that we are second only to Christ in His hierarchy will help you accept God’s love and the fullness that He desires for you. Perhaps you can fully comprehend John’s statement, “See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God, and so we are.”
Want to learn more, have an opportunity to practice some of the tools I’ve used over the years, hear from others about their journey and what has helped them, and network with like minded peers? Join me at Equipped for Recovery on September 10, 2022. Get Tickets here.
 Peter Kreeft, A Shorter Summa: The Essential Philosophical Passages of St. Thomas Aquinas’ Summa Theologica ; Edited and Explained (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1993), 86.
 Ibid, 28.
 Lewis, Mere Christianity, 86.
 Kreeft, 85.
 I John 3:1-3.