Equipped for Recovery-News/Updates

The workshop is less than a month away and we are working hard behind the scenes to ensure your experience is amazing and life-changing. Wondering what to expect at the workshop?

Less than a Month Away

The workshop is less than a month away and we are working hard behind the scenes to ensure your experience is amazing and life-changing. Wondering what to expect at the workshop?

Join us on September 10, 2022, for an afternoon of discovery, and interactive learning as we delve into your recovery toolbox to equip you for recovery!

What is Recovery?

“Recovery is commonly defined as the process of getting better from an illness or otherwise returning to a state of physical and mental health.” –Lives of Substance

Celebrate Recovery, a Christ centered 12-Step program, uses the phrase, “hurts, habits, and hang-ups” to describe the program’s focus. Everyone experiences one or more of these over the course of their life, making recovery an essential part of our lives. Overcoming the inclination to use unhealthy and destructive ways of coping with life stressors, hurts, traumaor anything that disrupts our well-being is a lifelong process. Building and maintaining a Recovery Toolbox of healthy coping tools, knowing how to use them, and using them regularly greatly improves our chances of success. The “Equipped for Recovery Workshop ” offers the opportunity to explore your toolbox, add new tools, revitalize existing tools, and practice what you learn.

Click Links below to find out:

Who Should Attend?

What to Expect (Sneak Peek)

What is Interactive Learning?

Live Experience and Livestream Experience

  1. Jillian Roberts-Live experience Host
  2. Carla Alvarez– Livestream Experience Host

Four Interactive Sessions

  1. Boundaries
  2. Journaling
  3. Self-Care
  4. Accountability

Guest Speakers

  1. Kelly Mata
  2. Charlotte Thomason
  3. Krystl Michalek
  4. Mike and Jennifer Orenstein
  5. Korine Martinez and Angellee Jones

Giveaways

  1. Drawings at the end of each session
  2. Participation prizes during each session

Buy your ticket today!

Register Early- Limited Seating Available for Live Experience

Shout Out to Our Sponsors

We are so grateful to our sponsors. Check out the video for more about our first Builder Level Sponsor, Michalek Plumbing, and see the list of Suppliers who provided gifts, resources, and snack items for the Equipped for Recovery Workshop.

Opportunities Still Available

For Major Sponsorships Click Here

Want to customize your sponsorship package? Click Here

I’m Not One of “Those People”?

Sometimes I still struggle with asking for help because I don’t want to be a burden or I think my needs aren’t important, but I also struggle with self-reliance. Because I grew up in an abusive home, I learned early that I couldn’t rely on anyone for help.

We all struggle with something, but admitting we need help is often difficult.

Over the past few weeks I’ve recalled just how scary it was for me to admit I needed help when my life was falling apart around me. I was, after all, trained to help others. Surely, I didn’t need to seek help for the anxiety, depression, and destructive behaviors that disrupted my life. I thought, “Something must be wrong with me. I should be able to handle this on my own.” Pride overtook reason and I rationalized, “I’m not like those people,” but, in reality, I was no different than the individuals I worked with daily in my job as a social worker. I realized everyone struggles with something and there was no shame in admitting I couldn’t manage my struggles without help. I was, and continue to be, one of “those people,” because “those people” are every human on the planet.

Seeking Help is Not a Weakness

Sometimes I still struggle with asking for help because I don’t want to be a burden or I think my needs aren’t important, but I also struggle with self-reliance. Because I grew up in an abusive home, I learned early that I couldn’t rely on anyone for help. My sense of self was grounded in the belief that seeking help meant I was weak and that was terrifying. My survival depended on withstanding the onslaught of evil that surrounded me. Yet, I also discovered an ally in Jesus, who bolstered me up during moments of darkness. While He didn’t rescue me from abuse, He did protect my soul. My faith gave me hope that there was a possibility of something better.

The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”

Mark 12:31

Do You Love Me?

Many individuals read this passage as simple guidance for interacting with others, but in actuality, the words also refer to how we feel about ourselves. For years, I couldn’t give or receive love because I hated myself. Plus, I felt unworthy of His love because my behavior was far from what I believed He would accept.

Separating my behavior from my identity was agonizing. Everything I did was powered by the belief that I was nothing, a product of evil, a worthless piece of garbage, and completely unlovable. In my hopelessness, I contemplated suicide several times. I saw no way out of my situation and believed God had given up on me, but each time I wanted to take my life, God showed up in rather dramatic ways to stop me. He never forced me to choose life, but sent someone to encourage me. I was not alone and, for a brief moment, I believed I was loved.

Asking for help, seeking out friends and family in times of stress keeps me grounded and prevents relapse when triggers or temptation occur. Everyone needs help if for no other reason than reminders that who we are is not defined by what happens to us or by our struggles. Our identity is in Christ and that never changes.

Equipped for Recovery Workshop-September 10, 2022-Hutto,TX Livestream also available!

Hear more of my story, learn and practice new tools to equip you for recovery from trauma, addictions, or simply navigating life stressors.
Get Tickets Here

Equipped for Recovery Speakers/Hosts

I’m surrounded by an amazing group of speakers for the upcoming Equipped for Recovery Workshop!

Carla Alvarez-MAA, Author

Livestream Experience Host/MC

Carla Alvarez is a founding board member of and contributing editor to An Unexpected Journal. She lives in Houston, Texas with her three daughters. She holds a Master’s degree in Cultural Apologetics from Houston Baptist University. She is a writer for RaisedtoWalk.org, and a Bible teacher for Bright Sheep Ministries.

Live Experience Host/MC

After great success in the corporate and non-profit sectors, Jillian is now a Professional Freelancer. Her services include Virtual Administration, Non-profit Financial Consulting, Personal Identity Coaching, and is a certified Notary Signing Agent. Single mom of two amazing teen boys, she delights in watching them grow into manhood. She is an engaging Public Speaker who is able to bring laughter and joy to any audience. Website

Jillian Roberts-Professional Freelancer
Korine Martinez-MAA-Educator-
Angellee Jones-Worship Leader

Speakers-Journaling

This mother-daughter duo brings energy, creativity, and passion for sharing God’s love wherever they go. Korine holds a Master’s degree in Cultural Apologetics from Houston Baptist University and currently teaches High School English at Hitchcock High School. Angel joined the staff at Hitchcock this year as an Aide. She also serves as the worship leader for The Way Worship Movement.

Krystl Michalek-Associate Professor, Doctoral Candidate @ Life Christian University

Speaker/Show Runner-Self-Care

Krystl has a passion for missions, teaching and conveying God’s Word to others. She holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Graphic Design from the University of Texas at Austin, a Bachelor and Master of Arts in Theology from Life Christian University and is a doctoral candidate at Life Christian University. She currently teaches at Life Christian University’s Lockhart Campus and serves as the CFO-Advertising Director of Michalek Plumbing. Website

Speakers-Accountability and Support Systems

Mike and Jennifer Orenstein have been married for 30 years. They raised three amazing men and are new parents to one feisty Australian Shepherd. Currently, they are pastoring and leading the recovery ministry at Shoreline Church. “God has called us to do hard things – really hard things. Things that will leave us marked forever, but will also leave a mark on the world.”

Mike and Jennifer Orenstein-
Recovery Pastors
Kelly Mata-Pastor

Speaker-Welcome

Kelly is passionate about helping people in a very authentic and practical way. She loves to share wisdom and encourage others and see them overcome whatever barrier, pain or challenge they may be going through, as they grow into doing the same for others. She loves to laugh and enjoys serving God as she serves people from all walks of life.

Speaker/Organizer -Boundaries

With a Master of Science in Social Work, a Master of Arts in Cultural Apologetics, over 30 years of experience in social work, and as a survivor of childhood trauma, Charlotte Thomason has seen, both professionally and personally, the devastation created by child abuse. She wants to use her experience to bring hope to those who feel lost and hopeless due to childhood trauma and bring encouragement to those who help them.

Charlotte B. Thomason-MSSW, MAA, Author, Speaker

Learning Brain vs Survival Brain

In the video, Dr. Ham excellently explains the impact of trauma on learning. While his intended audience is teachers, the points apply to survivors of childhood trauma.

Thoughts on Video by Dr. Jacob Ham

Learning vs Survival

In the video, Dr. Ham excellently explains the impact of trauma on learning. While his intended audience is teachers, the points apply to survivors of childhood trauma. The rock illustration provides a clear image of the effort involved to access the learning brain when the survival brain dominates a person’s actions and reactions.

Dr. Ham also stresses that a strong support system is vital to the child’s ability to relax, have fun and learn. Without such a system, a child becomes overwhelmed by the circumstances and cannot see beyond their immediate surroundings. Instead of enjoying life and learning, the traumatized child worries about the next episode of trauma.

As I look back on my childhood, I wonder how I did well in school given the abuse I endured. Where did I get enough emotional support to counter the dominant survival brain? I recall times when I struggled with learning and those were the times when the abuse was the most severe.

During most of my childhood, I loved school. School provided an escape from the trauma. From the first day of kindergarten through most of the third grade, my teachers created the environment that Dr. Ham describes in the video. At the end of third grade, I lost my teacher’s respect when the teacher caught me cheating. (which I did to avoid losing a friend.) I also lost the friend. My support group vanished as did my ability to control my survival brain. I did not regain my love of school until Junior High when I formed friendships and the severity of the abuse decreased.

However, there is an aspect of the battle that Dr. Ham doesn’t address—The role of faith as a support system. I knew Jesus from a very young age, but I did not fully understand God’s unconditional love. I did not understand the idea that Jesus was in my heart, so I sought Him in the external world. When I could not connect with God, my survival brain took over and my performance in school declined. When I connected to God (Jesus) my learning brain seemed stronger and I performed well in school.

As an adult, understanding how the brain functions helps me cope with my emotional response to triggers. I know when brain fog settles in, it’s time to engage in self-care, rather than beat myself up for not being able to think.  Dr. Ham states that “survival brain trumps learning brain every time,” but there is a way to alter the automatic response. When my survival brain kicks in, I’ve learned to pause, focus on who I am, rather than what survival brain tells me. God determines who I am, not the world. I also have a support group that prays for me. I realize I don’t have to fight my battle alone, but I have to ask for help.  Now, admittedly, in times of intense stress, I do not always remember to use these tools, but when I succeed, learning brain trumps survival brain. The rock (from Dr. Ham’s video) gets pushed to the top of the hill and stays there.

Community, support, faith and accepting that I need help are key components to short circuiting the survival brain response. Science explains how my mind reacts to trauma and triggers. God provides tools to level the playing field. Both are essential to healing from childhood trauma.

Equipped for Recovery Workshop-Interactive recovery workshop
9/10/2022 In-person and virtual!

Learn more about self-care, support systems, boundaries, and taking thoughts captive!
Tickets available now! Click Here to register

Because We are Good

As I struggled to comprehend how God could love me, I struggled with an equally troubling question, “How could God love the family members who hurt me?” 

pexels-photo-733881.jpeg

“How could God love the family members who hurt me?”

Note: As I prepare to launch ticket sales for my upcoming Equipped for Recovery Workshop, I’m reminded of why I began the journey of sharing my story with the world. I want others to know the peace and contentment I’ve found along the path to recovery from trauma, addiction, and mental illness. I’ve not held a workshop in years and I am excited to get back to what I love. This post, from a few years ago gives a glimpse of things I learned about love, hope, and healing. 

As I struggled to comprehend how God could love me, I struggled with an equally troubling question, “How could God love the family members who hurt me?”  Such questions are common among women who experienced abuse as children.

For many years I simply could not understand why God did not stop my family’s abuse.  I was angry at God, yet I never lost hope that someday I would understand.  I wish someone would have pointed me to St. Thomas when I was overwhelmed with anger and guilt.  Now, do not misunderstand, I eventually forgave and moved on. However, I think St. Thomas’ argument about the basic concepts of ‘being’, ‘good’ and how He views sin may shed new light to help women who struggle with how God’s love extends to their abusers.

We are beings created in God’s image and hold a place higher than every other creature.

The initial question is: Does God love all things equally?  The answer is no. When you consider all the things God created, He definitely has a hierarchy.  He loves humanity more than animals or rocks or trees.  Why, you may ask, because humanity is rational and created in His image.  We are second only to the love God has for Christ.  We are beings created in God’s image and hold a place higher than every other creature. God came to earth as a man, not a rock or a tree. He did not come as a dog or a cat but as a man.[3]

How does this affect a survivor that questions God’s love for their abuser? First, as we determined in Part I, God loves all things. Secondly, He loves humanity more than other things because we are beings, not things. As I stated in Part I, we know that every being that God creates is good just because God creates it out of His perfect goodness. Based on the definition of ‘being’ in the glossary of St. Thomas’Shorter Summa, being means “that which is, whether actual or potential and whether in the mind (a ‘being of reason’) or in objective reality (a ‘being in nature’).”[4] In other words, a being exists as an entity that has qualities and potential.

What changes is God’s love of our actions and choices, which affects our relationship with Him.

What happens after creation does not change the fact that God created beings that are good beings.  Even a being who makes choices that lead to evil are still beings, which exist no matter what choices they make. God’s love for that being that He wills good to does not change. What changes is God’s love of our actions and choices, which affects our relationship with Him.  No matter what, the good being still exists.  God still considers the creation good.  He still loves the being (person) that He created.

However, as C.S. Lewis describes it in Mere Christianity with each choice we make, we either become more a heavenly creature or a more hellish creature.[5]   If we think of it as two aspects, the person, and the choices that change the relationship, we might understand the concept better.  The person(being) is always loved because God created us.  However, the choices we make either bring us closer to God or move us farther away.

God knows the potential of each person and wants us to receive the fullness of the good that He desires for us.[6]  He desires this for all His creation including abusers.  He loves them because He created them and they exist, but He does not love what they do.  The more they sin, the more they lose the humanity God created in them. Sin decreases their ability to experience the fullness of life and removes their desire to know God.

In all of this, God loves them as the being that He created. When they yield to evil, He cannot interact with them because evil does not come from God.[7]  While this explanation may seem too rational for some survivors, for me, it clarifies how God could love those who abused me.  Knowing that God loves all His creation, but not their sin makes sense to me.  When I combine that knowledge with faith, I understand that even when I feel ill-equipped to show love to those, I care about, I can ask Him to help me love them.  He will empower me with His strength.  He will be there. Perhaps understanding that God loves all things and that we are second only to Christ in His hierarchy will help you accept God’s love and the fullness that He desires for you. Perhaps you can fully comprehend John’s statement, “See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God, and so we are.”[8]

Want to learn more, have an opportunity to practice some of the tools I’ve used over the years, hear from others about their journey and what has helped them, and network with like minded peers? Join me at Equipped for Recovery on September 10, 2022. Get Tickets here.

[3] Peter Kreeft, A Shorter Summa: The Essential Philosophical Passages of St. Thomas Aquinas’ Summa Theologica ; Edited and Explained (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1993),  86.

[4] Ibid, 28.

[5] Lewis, Mere Christianity, 86.

[6] Kreeft, 85.

[7] Ibid.

[8] I John 3:1-3.

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.”   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.

As 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.

Past Events

The pandemic opened up new platforms for me and others and virtual events became more acceptable to media and the public. Since the release of my memoir, What Kind of Love is This? Finding God in the Darkness, I’ve participated in multiple interviews, podcasts, and events on a variety of topics.

Here is a sampling of recent events

Hope Today-Healing from Child Sexual Abuse Trauma

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.

The Everyday Royalty Podcast with Keri Kitchen

Talking to Keri Kitchen was like talking to a friend over coffee as we discussed my journey to find God in the darkness and move from victim mentality to realizing I am not defined by the trauma I experienced as a child.

Good Morning Ozarks

Interview with Annie Broughton on Niteline.

She asked some tough questions, but we had a great conversation. Click here to watch

August 7, 2021-Virtual Book Launch

July 10, 2021 Santa Fe, TX Book Launch Party

Celebrate Recovery Austin, TX June 10, 2021

Trauma, Addiction, and Recovery

MARK YOUR CALENDAR! Ep. 3- airs on Saturday March 12, 2022 at 11:00 AM CST! In this episode, my guest, Cheryl R. Luke, and I will discuss: How trauma places survivors at high risk for developing addictive behaviors. Hope that is found in programs like Celebrate Recovery Personal insights from our experiences

Chatting with Charlotte-LIVE

MARK YOUR CALENDAR! Ep. 3- airs on Saturday March 12, 2022 at 11:00 AM CST! In this episode, my guest, Cheryl R. Luke, and I will discuss: How trauma places survivors at high risk for developing addictive behaviors. Hope that is found in programs like Celebrate Recovery Personal insights from our experiences

About my guest: Cheryl Luke currently serves as the National Director of Cultural Communities for Celebrate Recovery. She has been in ministry for over 30 years and has a wealth of knowledge and experience about the affect of trauma on all aspects of a survivor’s life. She is one of my dearest and nearest friends whom I’ve known for two decades. Cheryl’s passion is helping individuals discover and reach their God given potential. She is a frequent guest speaker at events across the globe at Women’s conferences, retreats and workshops. Her smile and her love for the Lord is contagious as she draws her audience in with her unique speaking style that sometimes includes an unexpected song that fits a specific audience. Cheryl engages her audience in such a way that you feel like you’re in her living room listening to a friend share their passion and experience. You don’t want to miss the opportunity to hear her story, her insights, and her wisdom about trauma, addiction, and recovery! #celebraterecovery #mentalhealth #addiction #recovery #PTSD #survivingchildhoodtrauma

Not a God of Immediate Gratification

David’s words are a great reminder to us that God is not a God of immediate gratification. The Lord expects us to wait on His timing. He expects us to trust Him and “wait all the day long” for His guidance while trusting Him to meet us at our point of need. We cannot rush God, but we can rush ahead of Him. When we do, the result is often disastrous.

Lead me in your truth

and teach me, for you are

the God of my salvation;

for you I wait all the day long.

Psalm 25:5

Surrender and Devotion

Note: In the 7 months since I posted this blog, I’ve experienced many victories, had expectations shattered, dreams fulfilled, and attempted things I never dreamed I could do. Sometimes I grew impatient because God was not acting “fast enough” for my liking. Yet, He always made a way for His plan to come to fruition.

Now, I find myself at another crossroads as I contemplate the path forward. As I considered what to share this week, this blog brought me comfort and reminded me to be patient, wait for the Lord to move, and to be still and listen for His whisper.

Surrender and devotion dominate David’s writing. Throughout the Psalms, he lays his life before the Lord and says, “teach me.” He knows his limits and desires to learn from the Lord. He basically says, “Lord, I can’t do this without you. I need you to guide me and help me know the truth.” However, he does not demand an immediate response from God. Instead, he says, “I’ll wait for you all day.” He makes his plea, then waits.

David’s words are a great reminder to us that God is not a God of immediate gratification. The Lord expects us to wait on His timing. He expects us to trust Him and “wait all the day long” for His guidance while trusting Him to meet us at our point of need. We cannot rush God, but we can rush ahead of Him. When we do, the result is often disastrous.

Moving too Fast

During the early years of healing from childhood trauma, I didn’t wait on God to teach me or lead me, and it almost destroyed me. I rushed to remember everything as quickly as I could and I set unrealistic goals for completing the healing process. The result- a year in a psychiatric day program. I could not work, nor was I emotionally available for my daughter. I pushed my mind beyond the brink and feared I would never return to normal life. Still, God did not abandon me. He waited for me, guided me and helped me recover my sanity.

Listen, Rest, and Learn

As you or a loved one progresses on their healing journey, remember to pace yourself. Listen to God’s whisper, listen to those that care for you, breathe, rest, and wait. Healing is a journey, not a destination.

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.”

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[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.

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