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].”[1] 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.”[2] But as Groves writes, “the place they used to fit me/[Could not] hold the things I’d learned.”[3]

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.”[4] 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.”[5] 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.”[6] I felt the old patterns, “calling out to me/Like a long-lost friend.”[7]

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.”[8] 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?”[9] 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.”

Related Posts

How do I Change?

Sonnet III. How Can I Make It Right?

[1] Sara Groves, Painting Pictures of Egypt lyrics © Music Services, Inc

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Ibid.

[9] Ibid.

Spring is Coming!

When I am in the midst of a difficult season in my life, I sometimes forget that spring is coming.  I can’t see any further than my circumstance.  Fortunately, God knows SPRING IS COMING!  I ask myself, why should I worry.

Note: I think this blog may become an annual post. Each spring I think about the joy John found in our yearly jaunts into the Texas Hill Country in search of Bluebonnets. Other than watching sports, our annual trek was his favorite activity. As our birthdays draw near, the lessons I learned from this post return to my thoughts. Spring is coming! No matter how difficult the winter, spring is coming!

“Did you get it?”,  John asked with eager anticipation in his voice. “Yes, here it is,” I replied, “Looks really good this year.”   “Should be, after the rain we had in January, he commented.

As he opened the pages of the magazine, he reminded me of a child who just opened the best Christmas present ever!  For the next several hours, John poured over page after page of pictures of wildflowers.  Nothing else mattered at that moment.  I sat on the couch smiling each time he made an excited, “Wow! We need to go here this year!”  Or “I know exactly where that is! I have a picture just like this one.”  By the end of the day, John had our route for our annual sojourn through the Texas Hill Country mapped out.

Every year we made the trip.  It did not matter to John if we saw one bluebonnet or thousands.  What mattered was the journey and ultimately seeing the result of God’s workmanship throughout the winter.  The bluebonnets peeked out from the grassy field’s along the Texas highways like tiny beacons of light that illuminated the drab, colorless landscape of winter.  Each blossom represented victory over the harshness of winter.  Each blossom represented a new life and a new beginning.

Before each flower pushes through the earth to show off its beauty, it must endure the winter.

I often wondered how these seemingly fragile plants bloom year after year.  What miraculous events occur that result in such beauty?   So, like any good 21st-century researcher, I Googled, “How to plant bluebonnets in Texas.”

From this search I learned:

  1. Bluebonnets need full sunlight to for best growth.
  2. Bluebonnets can be planted from September 1 through December 15, but for the best growth no later than mid-November.
  3. Bluebonnets produce large, hard-coated seeds that take time to soften, but also protect them from potentially destructive forces of nature (winter) until they are ready to form deep roots and push through the ground.
  4. Do not soak or prick the seeds.  Although doing so may improve the first year’s growth, it may also damage the seed.
  5. A significant amount of rain is needed during the winter months to soften the seeds enough to germinate.
  6. When scattering the seeds, seed to soil contact is essential. (the grass and weeds need to be cut)
  7. Seeds need to be covered by about 1/4 inch of soil to protect them from being eaten by birds or “burning” up in the sunlight.

In short,  to endure the winter, bluebonnets need to be planted in the right season, need sunlight, need contact and covering from the soil, need enough rain to soften their hard shell and need to grow at their own pace without being picked or rushed.  As I read this, I was reminded that God works the same miracle with us every time we go through a severe (winter) season in our life.

God has a perfect plan to help us endure the winter.

Spring always follows winter.  New life happens in every part of God’s creation in the spring.  Spring can be one of the most beautiful times of the year!  However, when I am in the midst of a difficult season in my life, I sometimes forget that spring is coming.  I can’t see any further than my circumstance.  Fortunately, God knows SPRING IS COMING!  I ask myself, why should I worry.

If God takes care of bluebonnets surely He will give me what I need to endure the winter:

  1. His Son, in all his glory shining down on me. John 3:16
  2. He knows exactly how long I need to endure the winter before spring arrives Isaiah 40:31
  3. He covers me with his wings until I can safely stand and flourish. Psalm 91

Although He provides all this, my part is:

  1. Not try to endure the winter without relying on Him. Psalm 78:7
  2. Not allow others to push me, shame me or blame me for being in the circumstance. Romans 8:31, 39
  3. To remain connected to God by abiding in Him. John 15:7
  4. Allowing Him to stand over me when I am weak. Philippians 4:13

No matter how cold or dark the winters of your life seem, remember SPRING IS COMING!  God provides all that you need to endure the winter.  God’s perfect plan will get you to spring.

How has God helped you endure a winter season in your life?

Faces of Love-Agape

While Till We Faces primarily illustrates love becoming a god rather than God is love, it ends on the same note as The Four Loves, with a description of Divine love. Lewis skillfully takes the reader deep inside love, leaving the noise of technology behind so we understand more fully what love is. Understanding love in all its complexity is the beginning for many who are blinded by the current culture. Perhaps the best lesson we can glean from Till We Have Faces is we cannot love God or anyone until we love ourselves.

As we discuss the two presentations of love in The Four Loves and Till We Have Faces, we must consider the negative elements of love that Lewis’s presents in both books. Lewis emphasizes that “our imitation of God in this life…must be an imitation of God incarnate: our model is Jesus…of the workshop, the roads, the crowds, the clamorous demands and surly oppositions…the Divine life operating under human conditions.”[1]  He says this to introduce the idea that “love begins to be a demon the moment he begins to be a god.” Recognizing this distinction is important to maintain the truth that “God is love” rather than moving toward, “love is God.”[2] As Lewis warns, any of the natural loves can become gods and seem to have the voice of God.

Lewis provides vivid and compelling examples of the complexity of love turned into gods through Orual’s relationships.  Orual’s demons were self-inflicted through her distorted sense of love. Because the gods were silent, she made Friendship, Need-love and in a distorted way, Eros became her gods.  As Ansit revealed, Orual devoured Bardia by demanding his presence through manipulation.  What Orual perceived as a Friendship, was a demon that destroyed her Friend.  In the encounter with Ansit, Orual is surprised to realize her feelings for Bardia are more than Friendship. She loved him, but selfishly. Although the Fox was Orual’s mentor, grandfather, and friend, Orual saw only that she needed him. She wanted him to herself with no regard for his welfare.  The same selfish, all consuming love causes her to rip Psyche’s happiness away.  Need-love dominated everything and destroyed her relationships until some were restored in the end of the story.

There is a striking similarity to both The Four Loves and Till We Have Faces in that, the final pages describe Charity [Divine love]  In The Four Loves he returns to the scripture from John which states, “God is love.”[3] In the propositional narrative, Lewis argues that “God as the Creator of nature, implants in us both Gift-Loves and Need-Loves.”[4] Lewis describes the three methods of giving and receiving love as “Need-love cries to God from our poverty; Gift-love longs to serve, or even suffer for God; Appreciative love says: ‘We give thanks to thee for thy great glory.’[5] Lewis admits that “the three elements of love mix and succeed one another, moment by moment… none…except Need-love ever exists alone, for more than a few seconds.”[6]  According to Lewis, through Charity “natural love is taken up into, made the tuned instrument of, Love Himself.”[7]  Similarly, Lewis uses metaphors of caves, silent darkness, rocks, and light to describe Orual’s conversion experience. Orual wanted the God’s to answer her complaint. She wanted them to speak, but after she had voiced her complaint repeatedly, she realized, “The complaint was the answer. To have heard myself making it was to be answered.”[8]  Through Orual’s experience, perhaps Lewis helps the reader understand the value of listening to those who doubt or are angry at God. 

Continuing the discussion of Divine love, Lewis argues in The Four Loves, “Thus God, admitted to the heart, transforms not only Gift-love but Need-love; not only our Need-love of Him but our Need-love of one another… natural loves are summoned to become modes of Charity while also remaining the natural loves they were.”[9] God transforms us but does not remove the natural loves. Instead, He changes us to instruments of His love.  The key phrase in Lewis’s statement is “admitted to the heart” not forced or coerced, but admitted. Lewis uses Orual’s elaborate vision illustrate God’s transforming grace. In the vision, Orual realizes that voicing her complaint and being heard is the long awaited answer to the riddle that plagues her.  By accepting the “answer,” she is transformed, her anger fades, and she sees her true self, much as God sees each of us because of Christ’s sacrifice. 

Supernatural Divine Appreciative is the one element of Divine love that Lewis briefly describes in The Four Loves, but he beautifully illustrates in the last pages of Till We Have Faces. In The Four Loves, Lewis writes, “He [God] can awake in man, towards Himself, a supernatural Appreciative love…here, not in our natural loves…lies the true centre of all human and angelic life. With this all things are possible.”[10] Lewis expresses his inadequacy in discussing this grandest of all loves because he has never “tasted this love.” However, in the last pages of Till We Have Faces, Lewis exquisitely captures Orual’s expression at the sight of Psyche, “Joy silenced me. And I thought I had now come to the highest, and to the most fullness of being which the human soul can contain.”[11] Just moments later Orual speaks of a greater love, “the earth and stars and sun, all that was or will be, existed for his sake. And he was coming. The most dreadful, the most beautiful, the only dread and beauty there is, was coming. The pillars on the far side of the pool flushed with his approach. I cast down my eyes.”[12]  Here, Lewis guides the reader into an incredible scene through the eyes of the heroine through perfectly chosen words and descriptions. We can almost “feel” him coming as Orual describes the approach, much like a song that evokes the emotion of indescribable beauty.   Once again, Lewis uses the imaginative form to say what he struggles to express propositionally.

When discussing Lewis’s presentations of love in both The Four Loves and Till We Have Faces, it is important to consider possible apologetic implications of Lewis’s use of propositional and imaginative form to address the subject of love. In the 21st century, we are competing with Social Media and other technology which is often overwhelming. When someone can “Google” any topic brought up in a conversation in real time, engagement becomes difficult.  For engagement to occur, Multiple tools are necessary. Just as Orual’s answer from the gods in Till We Have Faces was ultimately voicing her complaint without interruption, many skeptics have a “complaint” against God that we must hear before they will “hear” anything we say. Earlier, Orual fails to understand the miracle of Psyche’s rescue partially because there was “no answer” to her complaint.  She remains full of self-doubt and self-loathing and cannot see the beauty and wonder of Psyche’s new life and love.  During the initial encounter in the hidden palace Psyche wisely stopped the argument when she realized Orual could not understand.   Another skeptic who is struggling with Divine love may need Lewis’s propositional description that Divine love lifts us out of the natural loves and makes us an instrument of His love. Still another may respond best to a combination of rational and imaginative presentation.  Lewis skillfully demonstrates through these two books that there is no “one size fits all” method for describing love or God to a skeptic, and it is important for 21st-century apologists to acquire sufficient tools for the task.

While neither of these books are simple, the underlying message rings true. Love is a complex and multi-faceted subject that cannot be explained in short quotes found on Social Media.  Lewis provides a comprehensive look at the complexity of love through his propositional work, The Four Loves, and his imaginative work, Till We Have Faces.   While both books are engaging and relevant on their own merits, together they provide a more complete presentation of love.  Although these books were written before the Internet age, the metaphorical and descriptive language may succeed in grabbing the attention of those who describe love as love. Lewis’s captivating dialogue in Till We Have Faces mesmerizes even the most reluctant reader.  I can imagine my grandson reading this book with some sort of video game on his mind. The language of myth stimulates imagination which makes the introduction of the propositional descriptions of The Four Loves easier to convey.  In some sense, Till We Faces is like a metaphor of the thoughts presented in The Four Loves.  While Till We Faces primarily illustrates love becoming a god rather than God is love, it ends on the same note as The Four Loves, with a description of Divine love.  Lewis skillfully takes the reader deep inside love, leaving the noise of technology behind so we understand more fully what love is. Understanding love in all its complexity is the beginning for many who are blinded by the current culture. Perhaps the best lesson we can glean from Till We Have Faces is we cannot love God or anyone until we love ourselves.


[1] Ibid.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid., 126.

[4] Ibid., 17.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Ibid., 127.

[8] Lewis, Till We Have Faces, 288.

[9] Lewis, The Four Loves, 133.

[10] Lewis, The Four Loves, 140.

[11] Lewis, Till We Have Faces, 307.

[12] Ibid.

The Faces of Love-Eros

Lewis’s discussion of Eros is perhaps the most complex and yet most relevant of all the loves, in both The Four Loves and Till We Have Faces. Of all the loves, Eros ignites the most emotion for it is what Lewis describes as “being in love.”[1]

Part 3 of a four part series based on an essay I wrote a few years ago. In this segment, I discuss eros or romantic love.

Love is a universal subject for writers, artists, and musicians both past and present. However, current media often presents love as sex and sex as love.  Social media creates a new expression of love through the click of a button on a smartphone.  Commercials for sexual enhancement and performance products appear on prime time television.  Sex is no longer taboo to prime time television rather the more sex, the higher the ratings.  Relationships change daily on Social Media with a single entry.  Our attempts to define love devolve into meaningless memes on Social Media that reflect our attempt to oversimplify the complexity of love. While engaging the hurried, hurt confused and often angry skeptics of our current culture presents a significant challenge, adding Devine Love to the equation increases the difficulty. Somehow, we need to slow down, take a deep breath and turn off the smartphones long enough to experience and understand the complex subject of love. Fortunately, C.S. Lewis was a master of slowing down the hurried mind with profound, provocative and engaging writing. In keeping with his style, Lewis offers two books that address the subject of love in unique yet complementary ways, a propositional work, The Four Loves and Till We Have Faces, a rewriting of the Psyche and Cupid myth.  While in The Four Loves, Lewis adapts four Greek terms to present a propositional explanation of love, he brings the terms to life in Till We Have Faces by drawing the reader into the experience of the characters. While each book eloquently depicts love’s complexity, the rational approach to defining love found in The Four Loves and the imaginative approach of Till We Have Faces enhance each other to provide a complete understanding of the nature and complexity of love.

Lewis’s discussion of Eros is perhaps the most complex and yet most relevant of all the loves, in both The Four Loves and Till We Have Faces. Of all the loves, Eros ignites the most emotion for it is what Lewis describes as “being in love.”[1] He quickly distinguishes Eros from sexuality by saying that “Sexuality may operate without Eros or as part of Eros…My treatment rules out mere sexuality-sexuality without Eros-on the grounds that have nothing to do with morals; because it is irrelevant to our purpose.”[2] Throughout the discussion of Eros in The Four Loves, Lewis attempts to distinguish between Venus (sexuality) and Eros, “a delighted pre-occupation with the Beloved—a general, unspecified pre-occupation with her in her totality.”[3]  Similarly, Lewis describes Eros through Orual’s thoughts during her second trip to the Grey Mountain. Although she refuses to yield to the possibility, Orual considers that she “should leave[Psyche] alone”[4] because “She is ten times happier,” [5] when she makes her second trip to the Grey Mountain.  Orual wrongfully concludes that “there is a deeper love than theirs who seek only the happiness of their beloved.”[6] Orual dismisses the existence of Eros because, at the time, she cannot comprehend such love.  The reader feels Psyche’s sorrow that her sister doesn’t understand the love she has for her husband, much like 21st-century apologist attempting to explain love to a young person, who can barely look up from their phone.  While the propositional language of The Four Loves may not engage the young person, Psyche’s plight might interest them simply because it is a provocative story of love.


[1] Lewis, The Four Loves, 91.

[2] Ibid., 92.

[3] Ibid.,94.

[4] Lewis, Till We Have Faces, 138.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Lewis, The Four Loves, 121.

The Faces of Love-Affection

Love is a universal subject for writers, artists, and musicians both past and present. However, current media often presents love as sex and sex as love.  Social media creates a new expression of love through the click of a button on a smartphone. 

Repost: February is all about love and relationships, so I thought I would report my series of posts about “The Faces of Love.”

This is an excerpt from an essay I wrote in 2017 comparing and contrasting two book by C. S. Lewis, “Till We have Faces” and “The Four Loves.” Both books address the complexity of love, one is imaginative and the other propositional. I used the essay as a basic for my YouTube Videos this week as I discussed the Advent theme of love. This is the first of four posts from the essay.

Love is a universal subject for writers, artists, and musicians both past and present. However, current media often presents love as sex and sex as love.  Social media creates a new expression of love through the click of a button on a smartphone.  Commercials for sexual enhancement and performance products appear on prime time television.  Sex is no longer taboo to prime time television rather the more sex, the higher the ratings.  Relationships change daily on Social Media with a single entry.  Our attempts to define love devolve into meaningless memes on Social Media that reflect our attempt to oversimplify the complexity of love. While engaging the hurried, hurt confused and often angry skeptics of our current culture presents a significant challenge, adding Devine Love to the equation increases the difficulty. Somehow, we need to slow down, take a deep breath and turn off the smartphones long enough to experience and understand the complex subject of love. Fortunately, C.S. Lewis was a master of slowing down the hurried mind with profound, provocative and engaging writing. In keeping with his style, Lewis offers two books that address the subject of love in unique yet complementary ways, a propositional work, The Four Loves and Till We Have Faces, a rewriting of the Psyche and Cupid myth.  While in The Four Loves, Lewis adapts four Greek terms to present a propositional explanation of love, he brings the terms to life in Till We Have Faces by drawing the reader into the experience of the characters. While each book eloquently depicts love’s complexity, the rational approach to defining love found in The Four Loves and the imaginative approach of Till We Have Faces enhance each other to provide a complete understanding of the nature and complexity of love thereby, providing a some insight for those struggling to understand love and all its complexity.

Lewis clearly expresses the difficulty of defining love when he begins The Fours Loves with, “God is love,” says St. John. When I first tried to write this book, I thought that his maxim would provide me with a very plain highroad through the whole subject. “[1] He soon discovers the complexity of the topic and begins the internal conversations that ultimately lead him to the four terms for love: Affection, Friendship, Eros and Charity adapted from the Greek terms Storge, Philia, Eros, and Agape. Even so, Lewis does not stop with the four terms; he also includes the terms Need-love, Gift-Love, Appreciative Love as methods of expressing and receiving love. Lewis describes each term in detail, providing metaphorical and imaginative examples for each throughout the remainder of the book. Without reading Till We Have Faces, the reader of The Four Loves would have a basic understanding of each term, butthe mythical tale provides added insight and understanding for each term.

          Beginning with Affection, we see how the imaginative style of Till We Have Faces, breathes life into the description presented in The Four Loves, thus enhancing the reader’s understanding of the term. In The Four Loves Lewis describes affection as “a mother nursing a baby; … a cat with a basketful of… kittens;” [2] In a similar manner, through Lewis’s description of Orual’s first encounter’s with the infant Psyche,  “I soon had the child out of their hands. I got for her a nurse a free woman, a peasant’s wife, as honest and wholesome as I could find, and after that, both were in my own chamber day and night…I lost more sleep looking on Psyche for the joy of it than in any other way,”[3] we experience mother-daughter Affection through the eyes of Orual, Psyche’s surrogate mother.  We readily accept the level of affection expressed by Orual for Psyche because the language takes us into the bed chamber with Orual to gaze upon the beautiful Psyche through Orual’s eyes. Orual’s experiences become our experience.

To Be Cont’d…


[1] C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves, (Orlando: Harcourt, Inc., 1988), 32.

[2] C.S. Lewis, Till We Have Faces, (Orlando: Harcourt, Inc., 1984), 21.

[3] Ibid.

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.

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

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