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?

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

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

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

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

New Every Morning

My relationship with God began at age four when I first heard the song “Jesus loves me” and grew stronger as I embraced His unconditional love. He gave me hope in my dark world of abuse and pain. Each morning I ran to Him and He made me feel safe. Sometimes the feeling only lasted a few moments until reality hit me in the face, but those moments sustained me. I somehow understood the truth of the passage listed above.

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;

his mercies never come to an end;

they are new every morning;

great is your faithfulness.

Lamentations 3:22-23

This passage lifted my heart this morning. The song based on this passage is
one of my favorites. God’s love endures forever. It never wains or leaves us. His mercies surround us and are refreshed by the morning dew. His faithfulness is beyond our understanding. He smiles at us each morning and whispers, “l am here.” ️

Every morning, I begin my day by talking to God. The tone of the
conversation depends on my mood, how well I slept or how I feel, but over the
course of a few minutes my laments turn around to grateful worship. I know this
pattern doesn’t follow the model Jesus provided in the Lord’s Prayer, but try
as I might, it is often how my day begins. The beauty is God understands me,
loves me with all my flaws and patiently waits for me to finish my rant. Then
His gentle voice whispers a simply phrase, “All is well, daughter, all is
well.” I smile, close my journal, and finish my morning routine filled
with peace. My conversations with God continue throughout the day because He is
my friend. He is a faithful friend who never leaves me.

My relationship with God began at age four when I first heard the song “Jesus loves me” and grew stronger as I embraced His unconditional love. He gave me hope in my dark world of abuse and pain. Each morning I ran to Him and He made me feel safe. Sometimes the feeling only lasted a few moments until reality hit me in the face, but those moments sustained me. I somehow understood the truth of the passage listed above.

God smiles down on you each morning and says, “I am here.” He longs to comfort you in your sorrow, lift you out of your pain, and strengthen you for the day. Without that assurance, I do not think I would have survived the abuse I endured.

Is Your Faith Showing?

Faith empowers us to act even when the world tells us to stop. When we listen to world our shield of faith shrinks and cannot protect us. With a shrunken shield, we are less able to demonstrate our faith in our everyday actions.

So also faith by itself,

if it does not have works

is dead.

James 2:17

Recently, several individuals have asked me how I maintained my faith during the abuse I experienced as a child. In my childish understanding of faith, I sought Jesus daily. I knew He was somewhere and I was determined to find Him. The search for and eventual connection propelled me to stand my ground and refuse to yield to the evil that surrounded me. My faith gave me hope that perhaps there was something better than the life I lived.

James 2:17 speaks to demonstrating faith. However, I think it is one of the most misunderstood passages in the Bible. Many use it as justification for the belief that salvation is based on “works” rather than Christ’s sacrifice. However, I do not think James intended his audience to interpret his words as support of earning our salvation. Rather, the verse is an admonition for believers to demonstrate their faith through their actions.

Faith empowers us to act even when the world tells us to stop. When we listen to world our shield of faith shrinks and cannot protect us. With a shrunken shield, we are less able to demonstrate our faith in our everyday actions.

Faith equips us to face the giants and topple them. When the world sees us act like David when he faced Goliath, we draw them toward Jesus. My Sunday School teacher taught me about Jesus and showed kindness to me that pierced the darkness of my world. Her faith gave me hope. Because her faith was active and alive, I wanted to know more about Jesus.

As a believer, I am charged with the task of demonstrating my faith in everything I say, think, and do. I want to show others that faith is not just a thought or belief, but is the fiber of who I am.

Why We Love

As a survivor of childhood trauma, I struggled for years with the truth found in John’s words. I believed in Jesus, but I wasn’t at all sure He loved me. I spent years bargaining with Him for approval. Every time I broke a promise, I begged for forgiveness, but wasn’t sure how to earn His love. I didn’t realize His love was a gift.

We love because He

first loved us.

1 John 4:19

John’s words are simple, straightforward, and powerful. Without Jesus we would not know how to love. His life demonstrated the steadfast, unconditional love of God toward humanity. He loved profoundly, authentically, and without a thought for Himself.

As a survivor of childhood trauma, I struggled for years with the truth found in John’s words. I believed in Jesus, but I wasn’t at all sure He loved me. I spent years bargaining with Him for approval. Every time I broke a promise, I begged for forgiveness, but wasn’t sure how to earn His love. I didn’t realize His love was a gift.

When I allowed Jesus’s unconditional love to permeate my being, I realized I could give and receive love without a cost because Jesus paid the price for me. The more I embraced the love Jesus showed me, the more I understood how to love others.

Surrendering to, abiding in and receiving from Jesus nurtures the love He planted in me. As His love thrives within me, I am better equipped to reflect to those I encounter each day.

The journey is ongoing. I am not finished growing and learning what love is or how to express it in healthy ways, but I am closer than I was thirty years ago when my healing journey began.

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