Distorted Love

Sometimes poetry allows expression of emotion that prose does not allow. Writing these Sonnets helped me connect the thread of how my early experiences affected how I defined love and my relationships with others, with myself and how I interpreted everyday experiences.

Repost: The following blog was part of an assignment in the Apologetics program at Houston Baptist University. It was one of the first blogs I posted to this website and was my first attempt at writing sonnets. This month as I focus on the topic of love and healthy relationships, I thought I would revisit where my writing began. There are links in the text to the five sonnets I wrote for the assignment. 

Modern culture often distorts the love through carelessness, but sometimes “deliberately… by those who find it in their interests to render” the term love “empty of meaning.”[1] Child sexual abuse, for example, distorts love at a vulnerable age. The abuser deliberately manipulates the child by implying that love and sex are the same act. For me, love distorted by my father and others from a very young age.

There are many ways to convey the hurt, anger and confusion created by such a distortion. Poetry provides an avenue for creative expression that helped me reveal my inner turmoil and eventual relief in a simple form. I chose a specific form of poetry, the sonnet.  In the four-sonnet sequence, I describe how my early experience of sexual abuse from my father created a distorted understanding of love in my mind. The distortion continued for most of my life. My sonnet sequence describes the paradox created by language distortion through sharing my experience at five stages of my life: age eight, age twenty-six, age forty-five, age fifty-five and age sixty-five.

In Sonnet I-Are Daddy’s Words the Truth or Does He Lie? I describe the confusion created by sexual abuse. In ‘Sonnet II-Does Love Reside Where I Cannot See?’ I describe how the distorted link between love and sexual performance led me to marry my first husband. In ‘Sonnet III-How Can I Make It Right?’ I describe my battle with pornography and promiscuity, a common outcome for an adult who experiences sexual abuse as children.

In “Sonnet IV-The Truth Revealed,” I describe the pivotal event that redefined love for me.  I describe my inner transformation and tentative acceptance of a different meaning of love.  The first two quatrains describe meeting John, my second husband. In the second quatrain, I describe our wedding, emphasizing the kiss. While I do not say this directly, I imply that the wedding kiss was our first kiss. I begin the sonnet questioning love but move quickly toward acceptance of John’s love which did not include sexual intimacy prior to our marriage.

Sonnet V-At Last I Stand Approved” describes how my relationship with John transformed my distorted view of love. The last six lines describe my current understanding of love. I begin with the disclosure that I am a widow, but the loss does not change the truth. Line ten answers the question asked at the end of Sonnet I.  The declarations found in the remaining two lines of the provide the transition from earthly love to Divine Love. The final couplet confirms that the language distortion no longer controls my thinking and I know the true meaning of love.

Sometimes poetry allows expression of emotion that prose does not allow. Writing these Sonnets helped me connect the thread of how my early experiences affected how I defined love and my relationships with others, with myself and how I interpreted everyday experiences. I hope they provide comfort, hope and encouragement to you or someone you love.

Each Sonnet tells part of my story. Please contact me if you have any questions or comments. Sonnet I -Are Daddy’s Words the Truth or Does He Lie?  What Kind of Love is This? Part I   What Kind of Love is This?- Part II

[1]Holly Ordway, Apologetics and the Christian imagination: an integrated approach to defending the faith (Steubenville: Emmaus Road Publishing, 2017), 59.

Covid-19 Hidden Impact for Trauma Survivors/ Tips to Cope

Updated Repost: I wrote this in the middle of lockdown 2020, not realizing that we would still be managing the COVID Pandemic in January 2022. While we are no long in lockdown, the world remains on edge. Reviewing this post brought me comfort today. I hope you find strength in the thoughts I presented nearly 2 years ago. The message remains the same. I still have a choice how I respond to the triggers from the past.

Updated Repost: I wrote this in the middle of lockdown 2020, not realizing that we would still be managing the COVID Pandemic in January 2022. While we are no long in lockdown, the world remains on edge. Reviewing this post brought me comfort today. I hope you find strength in the thoughts I presented nearly 2 years ago. The message remains the same. I still have a choice how I respond to the triggers from the past.

The Covid-19 virus has upended everyone over the past few weeks. While the new normal creates havoc for nearly everyone, I’ve realized a hidden impact for trauma survivors. With each new restriction comes less control over my life, which triggers old fears and sometimes anger. At first, I dismissed these thoughts as silly considering the restrictions haven’t significantly changed my lifestyle. Yesterday I realized why anxiety and anger resurfaced. I feel the same loss of control I felt as a child when my family members abused me, but I also realized I am not a powerless little girl anymore. I am a strong, healthy woman who knows the truth about my identity.

I can choose how I respond to the triggers from the past.

Several years ago, my late husband, John, told me a story that illustrates one way to manage the emotional turmoil the current circumstances create. The town he grew up in has a city park with an old playground. The playground includes one of those old merry-go-rounds which consists of a circular platform with bars for standing. The riders push off the ground to increase the rotation speed of the merry-go-round. Sometimes one person stands beside the equipment to push it to maximum speed. Running on the platform will also increase the speed.

Keep Your Eyes on the Tree

One day, John and two friends (all of them in their 20s) decided to see how fast they could go and still stand up. So the contest began. Each attempt ended with falls, bumps, and bruises. They ran fast, but at some point looked down at their feet. When they did, they fell. After many attempts, John’s friend suggested they focus on the tree that stood next to the merry-go-round. When they kept their eyes on the tree, they did not fall. The speed increased far beyond what they thought possible. Then they looked down, and chaos ensued. Years later, while on a mission trip to Haiti and felt overwhelmed by the darkness that surrounded him. As he prayed for peace, the events at the park came to mind. He heard a whisper, “Just keep your eye on the tree.” He had the sense that the tree represented Jesus Christ, who hung on a tree for us.

As you struggle with old tapes in these uncertain times, remember to keep your eyes on the source of comfort. You are not a helpless child living in a chaotic and abusive world. You are a survivor. You are loved by the one who died for you. Keeping my eyes on Him when anxiety and fear threaten my peace, helps ground me in the present. For me that means turning off cable news, listening to music that soothes, reading scripture and stopping the thoughts that creep into my head before they take root. None of these things change what is going on in the world, but they change how I navigate them.

Changing How You Cope

As a survivor, you have learned ways to manage triggers, but some of those may not be available now. It’s hard to change our way of coping, but not impossible. Draw a picture, write a poem (even if you don’t think you can), stay connected via texting and phone calls. Find an online church service. Reach out and let someone know this is a hard time for you. Above all, be kind to yourself. Don’t beat yourself up because this triggers emotions you haven’t felt in years or months. Change your focus. Keep your eyes on the tree. When you look down and fall, get back up and try again.

We can support each other through this season: Share your coping strategies, your struggles and get support in the comments.

A New Thing-New Beginnings

We cannot change the past, but we can look for evidence of God starting a new thing. He can water the deserts, clear the wilderness, and chart our course for whatever plans He has for us. We cannot see Him at work unless we keep moving forward. 

Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.

Isaiah 43:18-19

As we begin a new year, Isaiah reminds us to keep our eyes forward. While I don’t think he intends for us to forget the lessons from the past, his prophetic words stress the importance of seeing God at work even in desolate times. 

Our vision gets clouded when we focus on missed opportunities, failures, or hardships from years gone by which may cause us to miss the wonder that awaits us in the new year. We cannot change the past, but we can look for evidence of God starting a new thing. He can water the deserts, clear the wilderness, and chart our course for whatever plans He has for us. We cannot see Him at work unless we keep moving forward. 

Reflection

Where do you see God working in your life?

Be Still and Know

Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!

Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!

Psalm 46:10

Repost-This week I’ve reflected on this scripture once again. Although we are currently experiencing an unusually warm December and I am not freezing in the darkness, I am reminded of the need to be still and listen. I’ve made the effort over the past few weeks to spend a few minutes each day in silence. Not in prayer or evening listening to music, but just sitting in silence. I turn off my phone and listen for God’s whisper. Many of the thoughts expressed in February, return as I allow God to wrap me in His arms each day.


I love this verse for so many reasons. 

“Be still” is a powerful phrase. The words are gentle, but firm. They declare God’s sovereignty over everything, yet do not evoke fear. They convey God’s love for us through His assurance that He has our back. He calms our fears by reminding us He is Alpha and Omega. He chastises us to “be still and know” He is in control. It is in the stillness that we experience God most fully. When we shut out the world and draw apart we can hear His voice and “know.”

Last week when the power went out in Texas, I found myself in total darkness and silence surrounded me. The silence woke me from a deep sleep and I was startled by the darkness. I was not afraid, rather I was annoyed. I focused on staying warm and deciding if I should stay in the apartment or go to my daughters. By evening, a small degree of panic set in as my phone battery strength diminished and the temperature continued to drop. I was about to be alone in the darkness and the cold without a way to connect with my daughter. I closed my eyes and listened to the silence. While I didn’t hear an audible voice, I experienced a calmness that allowed me to sleep. I knew I was not alone, but safe in His arms.

God reveals Himself in the stillness if we are willing to listen for His whisper.

Suggested Resources

You Don’t Have to Heal Alone!

Here are just a few places you can get help. Please remember you do not have to do this alone. There are people, groups, and other resources that can help you heal.

Reporting Child Abuse:

https://www.childwelfare.gov/topics/responding/reporting/how- to-report-child-abuse-and-neglect/

Symptoms of Child Abuse:

https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/child- abuse/symptoms-causes/syc-20370864

Resources for Healing

Books:

A., Van Der Kolk Bessel. (2015). The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma. New York (New York): Penguin Books.

  • Explains body memories. One of the most troubling parts of my healing was understanding how my body remembered things my brain did not. This book provides answers to that question.

Bass, Ellen, and Laura Davis. (2008). The Courage to Heal: A Guide for Women Survivors of Child Sexual Abuse. New York: Harper.

  • The first edition of this book was a vital part of my early work as I navigated the onslaught of memories. It provides concrete tools to sort through the confusion of processing the lifelong impact of abuse.

Websites/Organizations

Relate: In the fall of 2016, I transferred the intellectual property of Living as Conquerors to Cheryl and Eleanora Luke. The updated the name to Relate and are currently upgrading all the material to bring it into the twenty-first century. While I don’t discuss the full scope of the ministry in my memoir, the concepts and tools found in Relate transformed my life. It is much more than a Bible Study. It is a way of life. I continue to use most of the tools found in Relate. For more in- formation  and current group offering visit: https://www.cherylluke.com/campaign-1

Celebrate Recovery: Celebrate Recovery is a Christ-centered, 12 step recovery program for anyone struggling with hurt, pain or addiction of any kind. Celebrate Recovery is a safe place to find community and freedom from the issues that are controlling our life. https://www.celebraterecovery.com/

Helping Survivors: helpingsurvivors.org Their mission is to assist anyone who has been victimized by sexual assault or abuse. The website is a compilation of information around different instances of sexual violence. They offer resources to assist survivors and their families, and we will continuously be adding more. Survivors can also reach out to them if they have any questions at all or are looking for advice.

Resources for Information:

Looking Back: The Journal of a Mental Hospital User in the 1960s: The Psychologist.

Nelson, Barbara J. Making an Issue of Child Abuse. Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Pr., 2000.

Myers, John E. B. The History of Child Protection in America. Sacramento, CA: University of the Pacific, McGeorge School of Law, 2010.

A Letter to Baby Jesus

Jesus was fully divine and fully human. What went through Mary’s mind on that night so long ago? How can we relate to her mixed emotions as she gazed on the face of God.

[Repost] For some reason I’m already thinking about all things Christmas which is not my normal pattern. I generally wait until mid-December to put up my tree and other decorations, but this year, the celebration of the birth of our Savior already brings me joy. In anticipation of the event, I thought I’d repost this letter. I wrote it a couple of years ago for another website as part of their Advent Calendar and posted it here last year.

As you know, if you’ve followed me for anytime at all, I love writing letters to express my thoughts and feelings. The letter below is a letter to Baby Jesus. For those who are familiar with the song, “Mary Did you Know?,” some of the inspiration comes from the lyrics of the song. In the letter, I express my journey toward understanding and accepting God’s unconditional love. It has elements of my experience as a new mother, my journey to freedom, reflections on Mary’s experience as she gazed on her newborn son, how important Jesus is to me and all of humanity.

Dear Baby Jesus,

The good news of your birth announced by the angels was not just for the shepherds gathered round the manger or the Kings who found you by following a star, but for all humanity. As the day we celebrate your birth draws near, I thought I’d write you a letter to tell you how much you mean to me. 

You came into this world as an infant who depended on your mother, Mary for all your needs. She was not much more than a child herself on that night long ago, but she knew that God had touched her. I wonder what she thought as she held you for the first time. Did she see the man you would become? Or did she only see her son and feel a mother’s love? Maybe she wanted to hide you away and protect you from harm. Did she wonder what God had in store for the beautiful boy that she held so close to her breast. How could she fully understand what the future held or how you would fulfill your destiny? 

You were fully divine and fully human, but when she kissed you for the first time, Mary touched your divinity with her humanity transposing divine love into human expression. For years, I did not understand the love Mary felt for you. Nor did I understand God’s unconditional love. The revelation came forty-one years ago, when I gazed upon my newborn baby girl for the first time. As I held her, joy and peace filled every fiber of my being. In that moment, your divine love for me intersected with my human frailty. I finally understood that your entrance into the world as an infant demonstrates that intersection. You were divinely conceived but born to a woman. Humanity and divinity united to bring salvation.

I rejoice knowing you remain steadfast and that your love never fails. I rejoice knowing that your divine love still intersects with humanity. What began 2000 years ago in a manger, still brings peace to the hearts of humanity. 

Your adopted sister,
CHARLOTTE THOMASON

Hope Today-Finding God in the Darkness

I am grateful for the opportunity to share moments when God showed up to give me hope in the darkest moments of my childhood as well as the importance of both counseling and faith in my healing process.

Today I had the privilege of being the guest on Cornerstone Television Network’s program, Hope Today. I must admit I was more nervous about the interview than normal because it was a live broadcast. However, the hosts immediately put me at ease. Their approach to the interview allowed me to share aspects of my journey that I’ve not shared on previous programs.

I am grateful for the opportunity to share moments when God showed up to give me hope in the darkest moments of my childhood as well as the importance of both counseling and faith in my healing process.

I wanted to share the interview on my website so others may better understand the dynamics of healing from childhood trauma.

Oops! Email Blooper!

I am not Cloe the Fashion Designer Apparently, the Funnel automatically sent a welcome email to my mailing list. The problem is the email was the template. So, my entire mailing list received a welcome email from
“Cloe, the fashion designer.” I was mortified and a bit annoyed that the system doesn’t explain things better.

I am not Cloe the Fashion Designer

I’ve shared my tendency to obsess about mistakes a few times on my YouTube channel. Well, today is another episode of the same adventure. Yesterday, I decided to explore a new email marketing platform which promised to provide simple access to marketing funnels, book promotions, and a variety of other seemingly cool tools. I exported my subscriber lists successfully and proceeded to “play” around on the platform.

One feature was automated funnels which is where things went south unbeknown to me. I looked the feature, checked a couple of the templates and decided the platform was too complex for me. I exited the platform, canceled the trial, and thought all was well. Wrong!

Welcome Email Goes Out

Apparently, the Funnel automatically sent a welcome email to my mailing list. The problem is the email was the template. So, my entire mailing list received a welcome email from
“Cloe, the fashion designer.” I was mortified and a bit annoyed that the system doesn’t explain things better.

Damage Control

If you received an email from me yesterday that welcomed you to Cloe’s Masterclass, I apologize for the inconvenience. Please delete it. I am no longer using the program. If you know me, you know that I am as far from being a fashion designer as I can possibly be. The only emails you will ever receive from me will be related to the topics I discuss here.

Now to Not Obsess

I tackled the issue head on this morning in hopes that I will not fall into an old pattern of obsessing about it. I’ve had a good laugh at the thought of me being a fashion designer and that helped me move on.

Again, my apologies for the random email. I hope it gave you a good laugh.

Surviving the Holidays-Tips for Trauma Survivors

Not So Merry and Bright?

Are the holidays difficult for you? Are you dreading upcoming family gatherings? Do you wonder how you’ll manage the chaos of returning home for the holidays? Maybe you’ve decided not to go. How do you manage telling your family you’re not coming home? How do you manage loneliness an isolation? What about temptation to indulge in addictive habits-is there a way to avoid relapse?

The holidays are tough for trauma survivors. For some reconnecting with family means triggers, anxiety, fear, sorrow, or guilt. For others the decision to not attend family gathering means loneliness and isolation.

Whether you’ve been through significant losses, abuse, or any other traumatic life event, you may have discovered that the holidays don’t always feel merry and bright. There have certainly been times mine didn’t!

Keri Kitchen

What To Do

While there may not be one answer to the dilemma faced by many during the holidays, on Friday, November 12, at 12PM CST, Keri Kitchen M.Ed, LPCC, NCC and I will host a live lunch time conversation to address some of the common questions and concerns we’ve heard over the years regarding holiday events. We’ll share, not only from our professional experience, but from our personal healing journeys.

Topics to be covered:

  • The role of journaling
  • Plan ahead
  • Accountability
  • What works for us
  • Identity in Christ
  • and other topics the you bring up
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