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

Open the Eyes of my Heart

This verse is an open invitation for the Lord pierce our heart with truth, not just give us knowledge to process with our mind, but with our heart.  In The Abolition of Man, C. S. Lewis describes “The Chest-Magnanimity-Sentiment” which, functions as the liaison between the intellect and sentiment.[1] Being that it is the chest suggests that it is the “heart” of man.  It is the element that guides the choices we make.

Having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints.

Ephesians 1:18  ESV

At the heart of the matter

This verse is an open invitation for the Lord pierce our heart with truth, not just give us knowledge to process with our mind, but with our heart.  In The Abolition of Man, C. S. Lewis describes “The Chest-Magnanimity-Sentiment” which, functions as the liaison between the intellect and sentiment.[1] Being that it is the chest suggests that it is the “heart” of man.  It is the element that guides the choices we make.  It is the element that causes us to have internal conversations when faced with moral decisions.  Lewis also refers to the middle element as “emotions organized by trained habit into stable sentiment.”[2] 

It’s my choice

Choice is a key element in God’s interaction with us.  In Mere Christianity, Lewis writes, “I would much rather say that every time you make a choice you’re turning a central part of you, the part of you that chooses, into something a little different from what it was before… slowly turning this central thing either into a heavenly creature or into a hellish creature.”[3] Without an open and active heart, we risk enduring unbridled emotions that lead to chaotic choices or the cold and calculated choices of pure reason. When the eyes of our heart are open, we view our circumstances from a balanced perspective that intersects reason and passion and allows us to hear and see the truth God has for us, which allows us to make better choices.

[1]C.S. Lewis, The Abolition of Man, (New York: HarperCollins Publishers, Inc., 1974), 25.

[2] Ibid.,25.

[3] C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (New York: Macmillan Publishing Company, 1952), 86.

Never too Old-The Adventure of Play

The adventure of play keeps me feeling alive and brings me joy. I laugh at myself and learn new things which keeps my brain active and alert. Childish games are not just for kids anymore. You’re never too Old to play.

I’ve always loved to play

Playing games and using my imagination kept me entertained for hours as a child. My brother and I role played nearly every afternoon in our backyard where the apple tree became a fort or the mast of a pirate ship and the grape arbor was transformed into a villain’s hideout. The time spent in our imaginary worlds provided an escape from the pain of our home. As the years passed, our adventures together stopped and I was left to play alone. Even in my solitude, play gave me joy and brightened the darkness of my existence.

As a young adult, I played in the snow with my fellow college students and experienced the magic of Fox and Hound as we permanently engraved a circle in the grass outside one of the academic buildings. Our snow packed design remained long after the snow melted. We made snowmen and had snowball fights throughout the winter. We played board games and cards into the early morning hours.

When video games arrived, my family bought nearly every Atari game that came out. I wasn’t very good at them, but I loved playing. However, my interest waned as life became complicated. We sold the consoles and all the games and I put my love of playing on pause. Board games became a source of anger and conflict between me and Marty, my first husband. So I soon lost interest in most forms of play. I actually saw play as a waste of time.

Then I had grandchildren. Angel and Isaac loved playing games especially when Wii, Xbox, and Playstation came out. John and I bought a Wii console and played together often, but the fun really began when the grandkids visited. Finally, there was an activity we could all enjoy. My love of playing was reignited and continued to grow as the years passed.

Hello Minecraft

I’ve posted an entire blog on my interest in Minecraft, but I want to tell you how much the game brought back the joy of play to my heart. For those who aren’t familiar with the game, the best way to describe it is as virtual Legos with creatures that try to blow you up (in Survival Mode.) In Creative Mode (where I tend to stay) you have all the supplies you need and none of the creatures bother you. You can build worlds to your hearts content. You can also talk to other gamers if you share a server, so it’s a form of community. I resisted playing for a long time, but I love it now. It provides the escape I need to refresh my mind while being creative. I don’t know how many other grandmas play, but discovering Minecraft was like reawaking the child who played hero and villain so many years ago.

The Cool Kids

A couple of years ago the sitcom, “The Cool Kids,” was set in a retirement community and followed the adventures the residents. The show was funny because it touched on issues I experience daily. While I don’t consider myself one of the cool kids, I do live in a retirement community with some pretty cool folks. One of things I’ve enjoyed most is the times we play. We laugh, play Bingo, share stories, and do crafts together. Playing in a community brings us all joy and takes us away from the aches and pain of growing old. I love my community and the current manager is kind and caring.

Never too Old to Play

The adventure of play keeps me feeling alive and brings me joy. I laugh at myself and learn new things which keeps my brain active and alert. Childish games are not just for kids anymore. You’re never too Old to play.

Related Posts

Never Too Old-The Adventure of Learning

When I retired in 2015, I didn’t know what to do with my time. I worked full time for most of my adult life and the lack of a regular schedule did not set well with me. As the months passed, my love of learning prompted me to explore learning opportunities. I looked at a few online opportunities, but nothing fit what I wanted to explore. Then my daughter shared her experience with the Masters of Apologetics program at Houston Baptist University. She loved the program and encouraged me to apply. I did and was accepted into the program.

Growing Old is an Adventure

A few months ago I created a Twitch Channel so I could livestream my book launch to the platform. For those who don’t know, Twitch is a platform where gamers, podcasts, and others can livestream. I chose Twitch solely because my daughter livestreams Minecraft on the platform and she agreed to host the book launch. Setting up the channel wasn’t complicated, but involved creating a title. I decided to name my channel “Never too Old,” primarily because, at age 68, I enjoy playing Minecraft. However, today I realized I have experienced many new things and learned several new skills over the past few years. So, I thought I would share my thoughts on the adventure of growing old.

The Adventure of Learning

When I retired in 2015, I didn’t know what to do with my time. I worked full time for most of my adult life and the lack of a regular schedule did not set well with me. As the months passed, my love of learning prompted me to explore learning opportunities. I looked at a few online opportunities, but nothing fit what I wanted to explore. Then my daughter shared her experience with the Masters of Apologetics program at Houston Baptist University. She loved the program and encouraged me to apply. I did and was accepted into the program.

The program was the catalyst for starting my memoir. During the final year of the program, I began sharing parts of my story in the class discussion boards. Opportunities to share appeared in the form of questions related to life experiences, love, miracles and the problem of evil. Each time I shared, the class response was supportive and encouraging. I went “public” by sharing a video about my near death experience on Mike Licona’s YouTube Channel in November 2017, which motivated me to create this website and begin sharing more. The video has over 230K views the last time I checked. The success and positive response to the video motivated me to re-visit the idea of writing a book about my life.

However, the influence of my professors and fellow students didn’t end with the video. Over the next two years, I wrote essays, sonnets, and blogs related to child abuse. In my final semester began writing my memoir as my capstone project. Holly Ordway, the instructor for the course, encouraged me to write my story as a memoir, rather than follow my plan to write a self-help book. The thought terrified me, but I changed the focus and found the process encouraging and healing.

The adventure of learning began as a way to fill my days but resulted in a published memoir. I realized you’re never too old to begin something new.

Next Time…The Adventure of Play

Reflections on Writing

While the memoir focuses more on hope, redemption and faith rather than detailed descriptions of the abuse that I endured, it sometimes left me raw. I thought I had processed all the baggage from my childhood but writing my life as a story around a specific theme has peeled away more layers. I discovered that showing my readers what happened differed greatly from telling the story.

A Look Back at the Process

Writing my memoir, What Kind of Love is This?-Finding God in the Darkness was hard, much harder than I expected. I often became exhausted physically, spiritually, and emotionally. While the memoir focuses more on hope, redemption and faith rather than detailed descriptions of the abuse that I endured, it sometimes left me raw. I thought I had processed all the baggage from my childhood but writing my life as a story around a specific theme has peeled away more layers. I discovered that showing my readers what happened differed greatly from telling the story. Telling allows me to create some distance and describe events like a narrator of a documentary. Showing puts me smack in the middle of the events. Those scenes brought new insights and understanding to aspects of my childhood that carried over into my adult life. My hope is my readers will see and feel the scenes through the eyes of the child I was rather than through the eyes of an adult recounting past events.

The biggest revelation came early in writing.

I realized that writing the memoir transformed memories from a slide show into a feature-length movie. I entered the center of the action and experienced nuances of events that were left out years ago when the memories surfaced. I discovered I still have grief work to do for the child that had no voice and suffered in silence. I gave her a voice through the narrative, and she spoke loud and clear. Her message was one of struggle to find hope amid the despair and loneliness created by my family. While I struggled to understand who Christ was and how He interacted with me, I found hope through my faith in Christ.

Writing the memoir has also brought an element of joy. Several times, I smiled when I realize where a habit originated. Some seem rather silly, but they show the power of childhood experiences. For example, until recently, my kitchen décor comprised 80s’ style grapevine themed everything. I didn’t know why I liked grapevines, but the themed décor brought comfort to me. Then, I recalled escaping the chaos of my home by spending time in an old grape arbor in our backyard. I encountered Jesus in that enclosure, which kept me sane during the time we lived in that house. Perhaps, subconsciously, the grapevine themed kitchenware provided that same comfort. (Yeah, I know that seems silly, but it made me smile.)

I also realized that I could not complete this project on my strength.

Early in the process, I created a group text with four women that supported me through prayer many times over the last several years. Each time I began writing I sent the message, “writing now.” I briefly described goals and specific requests for the writing session. When I finished for the day, I sent the message, “done for the day.” Knowing I had four powerful intercessors praying for me while I wrote encouraged me and gave me the stamina to complete the session.

I revisited self-care throughout the process as I tried to balance writing my story with getting enough rest, eating well, and taking care of other essential activities. Sometimes I wrote longer than I should because I felt an urgency to be done with it. I realized I can’t just be done with it, because that shortchanged the frightened, yet very strong little girl showed me parts of our story that I had not attended to. I recognize the need to take breaks, take naps, and listen to my favorite hymns frequently to stay grounded. 

The process did not send me back to the darkness of my early days of healing because I know the physical, emotional, and spiritual signals to prevent that from happening. I have tools that keep me in the present. I have friends and family who pray for and encourage me. I was not alone in this process. I did not relive the trauma, instead I gave a voice to a very strong young lady who never gave up and who trusted Jesus to keep her soul safe from destruction. If you embark on a similar journey, be careful to rest, have a support group, listen to your body, and pace yourself.

Related Posts:

New Every Morning

Letter to My 13-Year Old Self

Finding God in the Darkness

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.

In the video, Dr. Ham 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.

What Kind of Love is This?

As I held my beautiful newborn daughter for the first time an unfamiliar feeling flowed over me. As tears rolled down my cheeks as I thought, “How can I ever give her the love she needs?  I don’t know what it feels like to be loved as I love her.”  

newborn-baby-feet-basket-161709.jpegAs tears rolled down my cheeks as I thought, “How can I ever give her the love she needs?”

As I held my beautiful newborn daughter for the first time an unfamiliar feeling flowed over me. As tears rolled down my cheeks as I thought, “How can I ever give her the love she needs?  I don’t know what it feels like to be loved as I love her.”   As Korine opened her eyes, I prayed, “Lord what kind of love is this?”  How do I show her this kind of love?”  My greatest wish was to show my daughter the love I never received.  I wanted her to feel the depth of love that I felt at that moment.

To me, love meant abuse. Love meant pain, betrayal, and isolation.

As I look back on the experience, I understand why I felt so lost when it came to showing love to anyone, even my child.  To me, love meant abuse. Love meant pain, betrayal, and isolation.  For much of Korine’s childhood, I was a mess of depression and anxiety.  As I journeyed through the darkness created by the abuse I endured as a child; I often could barely put one foot in front of another.  I made mistakes. I felt helpless. Worry plagued me that I was a horrible mother. But in the midst of the chaos, somehow, Korine felt loved.

For some, associating the term love to God brings up fear and anger rather than peace and joy.

As the years passed, I constantly wondered: How could I love my daughter when I felt so unloved?  How did I know about unconditional love?  Sure, I considered the idea that the source was God, but I never completely believed He could love me or show me how to love someone else.  I knew God loved my daughter, but could not comprehend His love for me. I experienced intense emotions associated with what I thought was God’s love, but seeds of doubt kept me from fully embracing the idea that God loved me. I had faith, but rationally, God’s unconditional love eluded me.

Eventually, I realized my story was common among survivors of childhood abuse. For many, scripture and faith may provide a level of healing. However, the idea that God could love them simply does not make sense, which makes accepting His love nearly impossible.  While they can accept Christ and love God, many women need to understand how God could love them.  Like me, they may believe that God loves others but struggle with being loved by Him. For some, associating the term love to God brings up fear and anger rather than peace and joy.

St. Thomas Aquinas provides answers to the question, “How can God love me and How can God love the person who hurt me?”

Fortunately, a medieval philosopher, St. Thomas Aquinas provides much needed and reasonable answers to the survivor’s questions. “How can God love me and How can God love the person who hurt me?”  St. Thomas answers the questions by skillfully marrying reason and faith in concise arguments that may help survivors understand the extent of God’s love.

St. Thomas begins by explaining what he means by God’s love, which helps eliminate the distorted view of love that survivors of sexual abuse often have of the term.  According to St. Thomas, “God loves all existing things.”[1] St. Thomas continues by explaining that because God’s will is the cause of all things, any existing thing exists because God willed that it should exist.  From Genesis, we know that at the end of every day of creation, God looked out on what He had created and said, “It is good.”  It is reasonable then to say that we are good just because we exist. Since according to St. Thomas, love means to will good, God loves all things, no matter what happens to you.  God created you. Therefore He loves you.[2]

Such a description may take some of the mystery out of the nature of God’s love. For a survivor who often views love as power, control or pain, considering the alternative that God’s love means that He wants only good for you may help you see God differently.  He is not the father, uncle, cousin or brother that abused you. His expression of love means He wants the best for you, with nothing expected in return.  He does not want to control you but wants you to experience unconditional love.  Just as I experienced incredible love for Korine the day I held her for the first time, God loves me simply because I exist. The knowledge helps me understand that the kind of love the Father has for me is the love of a Creator for His creation.

Other relevant posts: What Kind of Love is This?- Part II  What Kind of Love is This? Part III Sonnets

[1] Peter Kreeft, A Shorter Summa: The Essential Philosophical Passages of St. Thomas Aquinas’ Summa Theologica ; Edited and Explained (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1993), 85.

[2] Ibid.

Reconciling Faith with Suffering

I had the opportunity to share my thoughts on the problem of evil with Jordan Hampton on Crash Course Apologetics YouTube channel. In the video, I share parts of my healing journey, resources that helped me on my journey and the importance of faith in healing from childhood trauma.

Last year I had the opportunity to share my thoughts on the problem of evil with Jordan Hampton on Crash Course Apologetics YouTube channel. In the video, I share parts of my healing journey, resources that helped me on my journey and the importance of faith in healing from childhood trauma. Now, a year later, I revisited the interview and realized I answer questions interviewers ask when I talk about my memoir, What Kind of Love is This? Understanding the mystery of why God allows suffering is complicated. In this video, I share my thoughts on three factors that impact how we view suffering.

  1. Our experiences shape our perception of good and evil.
  2. Our choices transform our character either toward goodness or toward evil.
  3. Our faith opens our heart to the possibility of redemption.
Going Beyond the Intellectual Problem of Evil
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