A season of Grace

Children grow up and take flight into their own lives. And although that’s how it should be…

01-a-college

…it’s hard.

Seasons come and go on this earth and in our lives as well, but even though this time of letting go has been creeping closer, I’m struggling to accept that it’s actually here. Kind of like knowing that summer is coming to an end — those carefree days filled with barbecues, watermelon juice-stained faces, and running barefoot late into the evening. I don’t know if we’re ever ready for it to end and a new season to begin.

From my kitchen window I watch as the trees drop their fiery-colored leaves across the yard signaling the transition from one season to another. And that’s how it feels in my life lately. My identity as a mother suddenly feels like it’s been shelved even if that isn’t the case. Those moments which brilliantly colored my life for so many years have dropped away just as the leaves on the trees, and now suddenly my life feels bare.

There’s this inner struggle deep within myself, as if the longing for days past are trying to catch up to the reality that those days are over. My heart aches while also bursting with pride as I watch my boys move into their own lives. The two conflicting feelings struggle to intermingle with the other and it’s that forging of the two which causes a dull ache in my heart.

While I’ve watched those little boys of yesteryear suddenly morph into young men my heart still holds onto the feeling of their little hands in mine.

01 child-holding-hand

Yet it’s no longer for me to kiss away the boo-boos or wrap them in my arms comforting them through the trials of this life or give them gentle direction on making tough decisions. It is now for me to give love and encouragement from afar while teeter tottering on the line of letting go and yet still being there.

There is this gentle shifting in my life as the old merges into the new. Floods of smile-inducing memories occur one moment then a deluge of regrets the next causing tears to intermix with the happy thoughts. And some days are overshadowed with the realization that your only regrets in this life are of those moments never taken and now lost to time never to be recaptured for a do-over.

I’m feeling a little lost these days as I try to settle into this new season of my life.

And while wrestling with those feelings one day, my husband spoke these simple words as he wiped away the tears on my cheeks, “You’ll find your way. It may take some time to figure it out but you always do.”

And I know he’s right. I’ve always found my way and I will through this season as well.

“…when my identity is tied to circumstances I become extremely insecure because circumstances are unpredictable and ever-changing…I’m desperate to keep a relationship that makes me feel valuable. Then I’m constantly terrified of that person slipping away. Because I don’t just feel like I’m losing them…I feel like I’m losing a big part of myself as well.” -excerpt from the book Uninvited by Lysa Terkeurst

These words describe this feeling deep inside my soul. Like I’ve lost a part of myself as the relationships with my sons shift and change — like I’m no longer valuable or needed even if that is not true. I feel as if I’m searching for something, perhaps trying to find another part of myself to replace what I’ve always known my identity to be. While talking about life with my youngest son one day and trying to put into words how I’m searching for something to do in this new season, he matter-of-factually asked, “What is it you want to do?” Good question. And one I ponder often these days.

What is it I want to do?

I think all of our life experiences bring us to a place of finding ourselves and what it is we were put here to do. Maybe though it’s not so much about finding ourselves and figuring out what it is we want to do or are meant to do, but it’s more about growing through each season and finally emerging into the person we truly are. I’m beginning to realize that sometimes we find ourselves shifting direction with the changing of the seasons in our lives. What we did at one time was meant for that moment, but then time moves on, some things wither away preparing for new growth, and we emerge one day a new person into a time just for that purpose.

01-a-empty-nest

Letting go can be so difficult and it’s in that place where we meet those hard feelings face-to-face. Where regrets creep up causing us to weep over the things we never did. It’s often said that regrets in this life are more about those things we didn’t do rather than the things we did. And I’ve come to see how very true that is. I often say these days how I would give anything for just one more day to spend with my  boys when they were little. If only for one more day to turn back the clock and go back in time for a do-over. A chance to do those things I never did; to take a risk I was too scared to take; to live out a dream that only stayed in my heart.

But in this life there are no do-overs, there are only do-right-now’s. And all those things we never did or may never do will still continue to lead us right to this very moment in time. Life will march on. We will find our way. And yes, we will have to let go along this journey.

How I wish for just one more moment to hold those tow-headed boys on my lap snuggled up tight reading the same book again for the umpteen time and hearing “Good-night Mom, I love you Mom”.

I am finding my way and learning how to gently transition into a new season of my life.

My house is quiet these days though, too quiet. I find myself still straining to hear the once familiar sounds like that of my son’s car pulling up out front, early morning noises of him getting ready for work, a guitar being played behind a closed bedroom door — and just the everyday knowing that they will come home. Yet while my house is quiet and my heart aches a little, I know I will find my way into a new season. For every storm comes to pass (Acts 27:44b) and no season lasts forever.

Eventually new leaves will begin to grow in the place of the old and the bareness will once again be covered in brilliant colors ushering in a whole new season of life. Just like God’s Grace in our lives.

“Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” ~Hebrews 4:16

His Grace covers us with mercy and showers us with favor. His Grace covers our lives with brilliant colors turning the old into something new.

I am slowly finding my way as I move into a new season of grace bringing color to my life once more.

26773_1399223190791_3975_n
My boys about 12 years ago — Nick (10) and Zach (13)

Slow Down

Blessings!

01amy-signature2

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Hidden abuse

My copy of Healing from Hidden Abuse by Shannon Thomas, LCSW has finally arrived! Now I can get out the ol’ highlighter and pen and really dig into it, since it’s much more difficult to dog ear pages and highlight and underline passages with a digital copy which I previewed last month.

IMG_20160902_140733978_HDR

 

I cannot sing the praises of this book enough! Healing from Hidden Abuse is a book which should be in the hands of anyone living with this type of abuse or who has escaped a relationship of this kind and needs to find healing. Such invaluable information and insight into the mind of a psychological abuser and the dynamics of a relationship with one.

People who have experienced hidden abuse know things are not normal. You feel it and sometimes you can even see solid glimpses of the dysfunction. More often than not though, it is like a snake. It moves quickly and slithers away before you can get a good look at it. You may have tried to explain to people the exact harm that has been done to you. I bet it often comes out sounding as if you are exceptionally needy, petty, or even paranoid. Without a specific set of terms to describe the actions of a hidden abuser, targets of this type of harm feel frustrated with their inability to make other people see the games that are being played. This happens because the average person doesn’t know about psychological abuse. -pg. xvi

Not only does the author explain who this type of abuser is, why they do what they do and how it affects a relationship with someone like this, she also describes six stages necessary for healing from psychological abuse. As someone who lived with this type of abuse for over 20 years reading this book opened my eyes to the fact that healing takes time and perhaps I still have some work to do. Oh sure, I’ve moved on with my life since my ex walked out over seven years ago and have even remarried and now live in a healthy marriage, but I still experience triggers which suggest more work may need to be done on my part for complete healing to take place once and for all.

I also would love to see Healing from Hidden Abuse on the bookshelf of every pastor, elder and anyone else involved in church ministry who may come in contact with a survivor of abuse and have the opportunity to help. Too often, the church can be one of the worst places for a survivor of abuse to turn to for help because of the lack of knowledge about this type of abuse and/or the unwillingness some have to help for fear of appearing to support divorce or dissolution of marriages. No one without proper knowledge and/or training regarding abuse should be giving counsel of any kind to someone in an abusive relationship. Typically more harm than good is done and the toxic person is let off the hook while the victim is left feeling attacked all over again even if that is not the intent.

Church leadership would be wise to watch for inconsistencies in people’s stories, and not ignore red flags that are present. When church leadership fails, or flat out refuses, to recognize abusive people, the leaders are further abusing survivors by omission. -pg 35

My experience within the Christian community, and mind you it was a small amount of people, was to be questioned about whether I’d ever been hit and then made to feel invalidated if I meekly said no. I didn’t open up to many people about what happened in my first marriage for this very reason. Yet even God’s Word speaks to how powerful words can be, either bringing forth life or destroying as a fire:

The tongue has the power of life and death… -Proverbs 18:21a

The words of the reckless pierce like swords, but the tongue of the wise brings healing. -Proverbs 12:18

But I tell you that everyone will have to give account on the day of judgment for every empty word they have spoken.  For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned. -Matthew 12:36-37

The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell. -James 3:6

 

So let me ask you:

Do you feel safe in your relationship? Or do you feel fearful or nervous when your spouse comes home?

Do you walk with confidence through your home? Or do you constantly walk on eggshells wondering when the next storm is going to hit?

01-a-eggshells

Do you trust your spouse to listen to you and engage in a conversation with love and respect? Or are you too scared to speak up and have a voice in your marriage?

Do you share your lifelong dreams with your spouse? Or do you keep them to yourself knowing you will only be disregarded or even looked upon with disgust.

Toxic people like to accuse survivors of being selfish. This is often done when a survivor attempts something good for himself or herself. The abuser wants to ruin the enjoyment of the activity. -pgs. 46-47

Do you freely pursue activities outside of the marriage and find enjoyment in your God-given gifts? Or does the fear of being labeled selfish or stupid keep you from enjoying life?

Do you find security in the arms of your spouse? Or are you degraded and devalued in the marriage bed?

The person who was intended to be the safe harbor in their life is actually silently drowning them…Frequently, the emotional homicide is happening while other people go on clamoring about what a great guy or gal the abuser is and how lucky the survivor is to be connected to the abuser…What is seen behind closed doors is radically different than the public persona she or he is selling to the world. -pgs. 21 & 22

 

Does any of that sound familiar? Do you pray frequently and fervently for God to take you out of your relationship? Do you cry out to others for help only to be told that maybe you’re just too sensitive or need to submit more and stop being so selfish? Do you feel that nothing will ever change and that there is no hope?

01 a abuse

If so, you may be living with psychological abuse, the hidden abuse which shatters a person’s self-worth causing feelings of doubts and insecurities, while quietly and insidiously destroying the very depths of their soul. Please read Healing from Hidden Abuse, find a counselor to talk with and visit Shannon Thomas, LCSW for further information about psychological abuse.

Life is too short to spend just trying to survive, it should be spent living each day to the fullest.

Survivors do themselves a huge favor when they do not make excuses for harmful actions. An important question for targets: Would you treat someone the way you’ve been treated? If the answer is no, then the abuse is easier to recognize. Resist remaining in any level of denial. The truth is painful to see, but necessary. -pg. 62

May you, dear reader, take that first step right now today towards freedom from abuse which holds you captive to a lifeless existence. Only you can start the process of change in your life, but know that you are not alone on this road to a richer, better life away from abuse.

Blessings!

01amy-signature2

 

Find healing from hidden abuse

The book, Healing From Hidden Abuse, about psychological abuse and the six stages of recovery which I talked about in this post, is now available to preorder from Amazon! 01 a healing

I’ve read a lot of books on abuse through the years, but this is truly one of the best I’ve come across. Healing from Hidden Abuse takes us into the mind of a psychological abuser explaining the who, what, where, when, how and why of this type of abuse. The author, Shannon Thomas, LCSW, then goes on to explain the six stages of healing which are necessary for any survivor of psychological abuse.

“Psychological abuse is perhaps one of the most hidden injustices of our times because it leaves the targets unable to trust even themselves. It is as if their lives are being violently shaken…and everything is swirling in chaos.” –Healing from Hidden Abuse

 

Until I read this book the term psychological abuse was not in my vocabulary. I had always referred to the abuse I endured as emotional and/or mental, but the author explains what the difference between psychological and emotional abuse:

“[Psychological and emotional abuse]…are two distinctly different forms of abuse. I believe that people can be emotionally abusive, but still have empathy for others. Loved ones who are struggling with addiction will harm others while living out their compulsions. They harm others while in their own lethal state. Once the addiction is fully addressed through recovery, most of these individuals are able to make an authentic amends for the harm they have caused.”

She goes on to explain about someone who is psychologically abusive:

“On the other side of the coin, psychological abusers damage others–not out of impaired judgement–but because they enjoy the control they gain from abusing people.”

“Psychological abusers play games with their targets, and know precisely what they are doing.”

 

I cannot say enough good things about this book. My abusive ex walked out in 2009 after 20 years of marriage and although I’ve been out of that relationship over seven years now, this book gave me validation after all these years that 1) it was abuse that I lived with and 2) that it wasn’t my fault.

I am a survivor.

This is the term used by the author to describe what most people, including myself, call victims of abuse. Why does she use the word survivor? Because she believes that people who have endured psychologically abusive relationships have had to learn to deal with an insidious form of abuse and often come out the other side stronger and more confident.

The definition of survivor given in the book:

“To remain alive; to carry one despite hardships or trauma; persevere, to remain functional…”

As a survivor of abuse, whether still living with it or having gotten out, it doesn’t usually feel like you are strong or even able to function, but as Shannon states in her book:

“Showing up for life every day is functioning.”

And if you choose to read this book and do the work to heal from hidden abuse then you are indeed functioning, you are a survivor!

01 a woman

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So, if you or someone you know is living with psychological abuse, or if you are in a ministry or leadership role, this book is for you!

Blessings!

01amy-signature2

A book review

Last week I was invited to join a book launch group for a new book, Healing From Hidden Abuse, about psychological abuse due for publication the end of August. I just happened to be at the coast visiting my husband while he was there for work and was excited to dive into the book during the mornings while he was working. So I settled in at a local coffee shop with the downloaded book on my Kindle, my journal for note taking and of course, a yummy coffee.

01 a book

After reading the advanced copy of the book I was asked to write a review which you can find here: Healing from Hidden Abuse: A Journey Through the Stages of Recovery From Psychological Abuse book review.

As a survivor of psychological abuse, or what I’ve always called emotional and/or mental abuse, I have to say this book far surpassed my expectations on the subject.

The author, Shannon Thomas, is a Christian counselor. In her book, Healing From Hidden Abuse, she clearly defines what psychological abuse is, who this type of abuser is and why it happens, and once you understand the what, who and why of this type of abuse, the author outlines six stages of recovery necessary for a *survivor to work through so they can find healing and recovery from abuse.

Shannon’s straight-forward, no nonsense approach to defining this type of insidious abuse left me feeling validated after all these years. Trying to explain what was happening in my first marriage was difficult because most people equate abuse with hitting and battering, but my abuse left no outward wounds only tremendous damage to my heart and soul. I was asked several times after my ex walked out over seven years ago if he ever hit me. And the question was usually asked in such a way as to insinuate that if I had not been hit I had not been abused, and therefore, I had no reason to leave that marriage. I needed to just suck it up, be more respectful and submissive, and deal with my lot in life.

 

This book should be placed in the hands of every pastor, elder and any other authority figure within the church so they can be better equipped, if necessary, to work with survivors of psychological abuse who seek their help.

Better yet, I hope and pray this book makes its way into the hands of survivors so they can equip themselves with knowledge and help for them to overcome abuse in their lives. I know I will be recommending it often!

If you are living with abuse or think you are, please seek help. There are many resources available to help you heal and recover from abuse so you can live an abundant God-honoring life.

Shannon Thomas

Hurt By Love

A Cry For Justice

Lundy Bancroft

Leslie Vernick – Christ-Centered Counseling

Patricia Evans

Blessings!

01amy-signature2

*Survivor is the term Shannon Thomas uses for victims of abuse as she believes people who have been in abusive relationships often come out the other side stronger and better able to handle things in life.