“But God!” A Lesson About Moving Forward After Loss

I spoke at the “Bakersfield Gives Thanks” event on November 4th and the Women’s Club of Bakersfield was full of people from different denominations and cultures.  I made new friends that night but it was a blessing to be reunited with old friends too.

In particular, I saw a mom whose children went to junior high and high school with my children.  Nneka and I have seen each other throughout the years at school functions at our son’s tennis events.  But this time when our eyes met, I had no words.  I was overcome with emotion.

You see this was the first time I’ve seen her since her 15 year old son Nedu went home to be with the Lord last summer.  My friend Nikki happened to capture the moment:


Typically when a friend loses a loved one, WE are the ones consoling, hugging, loving them through the grief.

However, that night I experienced and witnessed true healing.  Nneka was consoling me!!

I remember looking at her and reaching out my arms to her.

I had no words.  My ugly cry face in the photo above communicated how sorry I was for her loss of a son gone too soon.

She looked at me square in the eyes and exclaimed, “I know…I know….BUT GOD!”  As tears filled my eyes, she said, “a year ago I would never think I could be here today….BUT GOD!”  Tears could not stop flowing.  With every breath I took, Nneka kept encouraging me, even saying…”it’s going to be okay…BUT GOD!”

As I sit here typing, I’m filled with emotion again.

What I’m learning on my journey of recovery is our trial isn’t going to last forever.  The sting of hurt, in time, doesn’t affect us like it did on day one. Every story has a beginning, middle and an end.  

Think about the end.

The end is what you’ll be telling your children.  The end is what others who are wounded are most interested in.  The end is what brings glory to our Lord.

I heard this quote from William Vanderbloomen, “Will I be healed up? Or damaged goods?”

We cannot control our circumstances, but we can control our response to said circumstances when: 

  • Churches split.
  • Children reject parents.
  • Spouses betray.
  • Friends move away.
  • Life storms challenge our faith.
  • Relatives misunderstand.
  • We have to say goodbye to loved ones.

Some of us, like Joseph in the Old Testament, are victims of hardship and broken hearts.  In the end, Joseph was found “healed up.”

If you are indeed a victim, my advice is to resist the temptation to have a pity party and welcome sympathetic hugs and words of agreement to your situation.  The world welcomes an attitude of entitlement and culture teaches us to seek vengeance.  

Pray to have a response such as my friend Nneka.  Remember this earth is NOT our home and our response to devastating situations is an important testimony to those watching us live out our Christian walk.

Nnekas’ son, Nedu, left this earth at only 15 years old.  No parent should out live their child.  I know there were times when her weeping became unbearable and her heart literally ached…however her words, “But God!” reminded her and should remind us, God is in every circumstance of our lives.

Genesis 8:1
But God remembered Noah and all the wild animals and the livestock that were with him in the ark, and he sent a wind over the earth, and the waters receded.

Genesis 50:20
You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.

Psalm 73:26
My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.

Matthew 19:26
Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.

2 Timothy 2:9
for which I am suffering even to the point of being chained like a criminal. But God’s word is not chained.

That evening left me encouraged.  I too want to be found like Nneka in the middle of life storms. She is living and moving forward in her new normal only via the grace and promises from our Lord.  

Thank you Nneka for inspiring me, being a Godly example and reminding me of God’s undeniable healing power.

Need prayer? kidmin.kelli@gmail.com 


How To Leave a Narcissistic Environment 

This video brought so much clarity to my situation and helped me understand why I didn’t leave my unhealthy environment earlier than I did.  I thought a “meeting” with talking points was the way to get out.  Praise the Lord I left swiftly without setting myself up to fail and without trying to compete with the mastered skill he possesses…MANIPULATION.

Your situation is unique.  Your situation may differ from others who’ve endured abuse.  The main thing is, it’s YOUR story and healing journey.  It matters! It’s your reality and the Lord uses all things to work together for good. 

Gleaning from Author Paul David Tripp’s book “New Morning Mercies,”  he explains that the storms of your life are not in the way of God’s plans…they are a tool of it. 

He asks, 

  • What in the world is God doing right here, right now?
  • How in the world should I respond to what God is doing? 

Tripp answers and directs us to the way James answers in James 1:2-12

Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.

If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking. But when you ask him, be sure that your faith is in God alone. Do not waver, for a person with divided loyalty is as unsettled as a wave of the sea that is blown and tossed by the wind. Such people should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Their loyalty is divided between God and the world, and they are unstable in everything they do.

Believers who are poor have something to boast about, for God has honored them. And those who are rich should boast that God has humbled them. They will fade away like a little flower in the field. The hot sun rises and the grass withers; the little flower droops and falls, and its beauty fades away. In the same way, the rich will fade away with all of their achievements.

God blesses those who patiently endure testing and temptation. Afterward they will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.”

Tripp reminds us, “He is employing the difficulties of life as tools of grace to produce character in you that would not grow any other way.” 

May you grow as you heal and reflect our Lord and Savior. 

May you continue to experience the gift of clarity to your situation.  All of this is survivable. Stay aligned with Jesus and accept His work of grace in your life. 

Need prayer? Please don’t hesitate to email me KidMin.Kelli@gmail.com 

 

Surviving Spiritual Abuse from a Narcissistic Leader-How to Know if You’re Dealing With a Narcissist 

When we are in pain, the only thing we seek is RELIEF.  Relief from a headache, the pinch of a splinter, the throbbing of a stubbed toe and the aching from a slaughtered heart of betrayal. 

We know ibuprofen can cure a headache. We know as we take the splinter out of our finger, the pain will cease. And after ramming our toe up against the couch, we know the pain will eventually decrease over time. 

But what is the remedy for a slaughtered heart? A heart that was carved out of your chest by a rusty jagged knife. A heart held tightly while slapped with hands dripping with betrayal, until unrecognizable and shoved back in, only to be carved out again the next week? 

Remedy to my relief and acceleration of my healing began when I started understanding exactly who I was dealing with. 

When in the middle of a life storm we cannot see clearly because we’re trying to survive while dodging the debris of emotion swirling around us.  For seven years I felt like David running around the castle trying not to get speared by Saul. 

When I was lying on a gurney, detoxing and resting…it was during that time when I began to educate myself and learn more about the abuse I suffered. But most importantly, I exhaled and gleaned understanding WHY my abuser did what he did. 

If you’re not sure if you’re suffering from the hands of a narcissist, this article titled “7 Things Only Narcissists Do” from Psychology Today may help you identify your situation. 

https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/what-mentally-strong-people-dont-do/201511/7-things-only-narcissists-do

Again for me, as I unpacked my circumstances with my counselor and mentors, I was empowered by His promises and empowered with my understanding I was dealing with a Narcissist. 

I was diagnosed as suffering from traumatic loss after serving at the church for 23 years. I was instructed to “grieve” my losses which included; friendships, routine, title, position, influence. It was insanely difficult to NOT try to push through the pain like I’ve always done in the past. This time,  I leaned into it.  

Ungrieved loss is toxic and its effects will come back stronger in time, prohibiting you from freedom and blinding you to see the plan God has for you. 

Understanding narcissism enabled me to feel the full effects of detoxing. Month by month I began to take my life back and it was then I decided I was going to write my OWN narrative and no longer be influenced by the abuse of the past. 

I’ve heard it said “Grief always precedes glory.”

Getting to this point of healing took time and discipline. My faith muscle was broken down then built back up time after time.  Triggers of the past and monumental waves of grief would splash over me but I remembered how the Lord provided for Joseph, led Samuel to David, rescued Daniel and sought out Hagar. I believed the Lord would do the same for me. 

Here’s a quote in my bible: 

It took a resolve to not sit in pity but to sit in His Word. To camp out in the very presence of Christ. To decide, decide, decide to show the world our God is big enough to get me through all I had endured. 

God surely uses all things for His purposes and glory. 

“You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.”‭‭ Genesis‬ ‭50:20

It’s empowering to recognize God allowed our trials…for life altering reasons presently revealed or shown to us on the other side of heaven. 

I pray this entry offers you hope and becomes a tool you can use on your road to recovery. 

Surviving Spiritual & Narcissistic Abuse – There’s a Blessing in Closure Video #8

August 19th, 2015 – I fondly remember this day.

If you ever left a job or moved away to another city, the proper thing that usually happens is… you get to say farewell.


Some of you may not have had the opportunity to say goodbye to the church family you served.  Don’t fret, this is the plan of the abuser to keep you from exposing them.  They do not want you talking or answering the loaded question, “Why are you leaving?”

I’ll never forget the time my husband and I were visiting our son at a Military Prep Academy, NMMI, in Roswell New Mexico.  This was about 4 months after I resigned.  Kiani had found a church to attend and we were excited to go with him on a Sunday morning.

We sang 3-4 songs then it was time for announcements.

Well.  The next 15 minutes were dedicated to saying goodbye to the woman’s director that had served there for the past 30 years.

There were gifts given.  Songs sung in her honor.  Heartwarming letters read. And the dreaded video of people sharing personal messages of how her life impacted theirs.  

I snapped a photo of my view: 


With each goodbye I heard, the deeper I sank in my seat.  I felt as if I were the only one in the room.  A wave of sadness came over me and faces of families from my old church overtook my mind.  One by one, by one.  I began to weep.

I tried to hide the fact that I was crying as I reached for the box of tissues on the ground.  My husband noticed my tears.  He wrapped his arm around my shoulder and proceeded to hug me and pat me.

Kiani looked over and for a second I caught his eye.  His look communicated, “Why are you crying?”

That was the longest 15 minutes ever!  I confess, I felt betrayed… again.  I admit that I felt I should have at least gotten the chance to say goodbye to my church family.  I saw the congregation love on this woman on that stage and they were able to say thank you….they were experiencing closure.  I felt ripped off.

On Friday August 15th 2014, we had a staff meeting and the staff was told I gave my 2 week notice and that they will announce to the church that I am leaving.  Then on Sunday, August 17th, I was called into his office 10 minutes before service and basically told to go home.  (I know now, I was too much of a threat to them and the less time anyone on that campus had with me, the better for them.)

So in New Mexico, I endured watching a heartfelt celebration of this woman’s life and I coveted her feelings.  I had wished I could have experienced the blessing of closure.

As Ernie leaned over and said to Kiani, “Mama feels like this should have happened when she left. That’s why the tears.”  Then my son put his hand on my knee and proceeded to say something so poignant, “Mom, it would have been so fake.”

Floored!  He was absolutely right.  My abuser would have had said things about me that he really didn’t mean.  It would not have been genuine nor sincere.  It would have been 15 minutes of going through the motions and fake smiles all around to support a false narrative that I was leaving on good terms.

The Lord spoke through my son that day.  The Lord also gave me the day I speak of in the video.  The Lord knew my needs and He knows yours too.  I experienced the closure I was seeking in God’s timing, not mine.

May you exhale.  May you surrender.  May you never loose hope.  May you rest in the arms of Christ who is in control.  He will never leave you not forsake you.  My blessing came a year later, but to God, it was right on time.  And that’s all that matters.

Here are the steps that helped me survive Spiritual Abuse:

  • Confide in a trusted friend, mentor or counselor.  Simply have a conversation about what has been going on in your life.  They will be able to identify there’s a struggle that’s unhealthy.  They can direct you, pray with you and more importantly become a safe place for you. Talking about it, helps you heal.
  • Make a decision to distance yourself from the abusive environment. Leave. Unfollow people on social media. Take a different route to a destination.  I treat my abuser like an ex-boyfriend. I got rid of all the things that remind me of the relationship. Why traumatize yourself?  Self care is NOT selfish.
  • Follow through with the above decision.
  • Seek help from a reputable Christian counselor or mentor on a regular basis. This breeds healthy accountability.  Now is the time you need to surround yourself with wisdom.  There is so much to UNLEARN.  There’s healing power in knowing how you are doing week to week or month to month.
  • Get educated about Spiritual Abuse and Narcissistic Leaders. The more understanding you have, the less you are influenced and affected by the past. They wanted to keep you in the dark.  You will acquire tools to defeat and unlearn things that cause you pain. There will be some reminders that are out of your control, but at least you’ll understand your situation and will be more equipped to handle them.
  • Keep a journal either video or written.  This helps you document your healing as well as helps you sort out your thoughts. YOU are not the cause of this!
  • Surround yourself with other survivors. Spiritual Abuse has been ignored for decades.  It has been part of Christian vocabulary recently with the Mark Driscoll and Mars Hill controversy.  Not everyone will be able to relate your story.  Others that have experienced what you have experienced are the best sounding boards and can offer you the best advice.
  • Remember vengeance belongs to the Lord I was a mandated reporter and I fulfilled my duty. However, resist posting on social media your distain and anger.  I did not blog for months because I did not want to regret what I wrote.  I knew I my emotions were not at a place that would please the Lord.  What gives me satisfaction is that everyone will stand before the Lord and give an account of their lives.  The Lord knows ALL about our story, the Lord will judge, it’s His battle.

Need prayer or just someone to listen?  Email me at kidmin.kelli@gmail.com

 

 

 

I Know This Is God’s Plan, So Why Does My Heart Hurt?

 

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On Mother’s Day, I said farewell to my daughter and son in love as they embark on a 2-3 year adventure in South Korea. Did you know Korea is 13 different time zones away from California? Did you know that South Korea is literally on the other side of the world?  And, Korea is 16 hours ahead of the Pacific time zone?  I never thought I would ever want to know those facts.

In the past two years I have suddenly become a proud military mama.  My youngest son is attending the United States Merchant Marine Academy and last December Ilyssa married Charlie, a 2014 West Point Grad.  Charlie is now proudly serving our country abroad after graduating from Army Aviation School at Fort Rucker Alabama this past March.  He is a Chinook helicopter pilot.  Whoo Hoo!

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When they were dating and eventually engaged and then married, It was crystal clear to Ernie and I that Ilyssa and Charlie would not live in Central California and that they would be traveling where ever the Army sends them.  I knew, I knew, I knew.

Just like we know the following:

  • We know our children will graduate from high school and possibly move away to attend college.  
  • We know our kids will move out and start a family of their own someday.  
  • We know their room will be empty.  
  • We know there will be no more recitals or games to attend.  
  • We know we won’t be able to smell them.  
  • We know it’ll be quiet around the house.  
  • We know our simple weekly routines like grocery shopping or to Target will remind us of them.
  • And oh, we now know how grateful we are for today’s technology.

If we know all of that…WHY DOES IT STILL HURT WHEN WE SAY GOODBYE???  I thought I was prepared but my head knowledge wasn’t syncing with my heart knowledge.

Part of the problem is that I have said goodbyes in the past and I knew the hurt that was ahead of me.  I knew that sinking feeling of a swollen heart. I know the heaviness and huge lump that would once again take residence in my throat.  Ilyssa moved to The Master’s College in 2010, my daddy passed away in 2013 and Kiani has moved to New Mexico and moved to New York last summer.  

All throughout the day on Sunday, I caught myself praying and trying to pump myself up for the hug and kiss goodbye.  We did a little Mama / Daughter bonding and got pedicures.  I brought a 12 inch Smith’s Cookie to help celebrate the 3 birthdays that we would be physically missing.  


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But as morning became the afternoon and afternoon became the evening our hugs got a bit longer.  My breaths became a bit deeper.  I wanted to shut down the ticking time clock that was the elephant in the room.  I even thought let’s just get this over with.  

I was mentally trying to prepare myself like a batter with an 0-2 count or when I have to make an awkward but necessary phone call.  “Deep breaths. It’ll be okay in few days.  This is God’s plan,” was the mantra in my mind.

I cried for the first hour and a half of our trip home.  Not gonna lie, I was a blubbering  idiot.  My son Jordan drove home and was so sweet, patting and holding my hand, attempting to console me.  I remember saying, “I know, they’ll be okay and this is the Lord’s plan.”

I felt guilty for crying.  I felt like I was doubting God.  But the Lord reminded me that I’m grieving.  I’m grieving a relationship.  I’m going to miss them.  Period.  And it’s okay.

I did the same thing when my daddy died.  I remembering vividly yelling out to Jesus, “Why am I crying???  I know he’s in heaven.  I know he’s in paradise!   Why am I crying??”

I’ve concluded that grief is a part of our life on this side of heaven.  There is no escaping it. I’ve realized that our bodies need to process the loss we feel.  It is not a sign of weakness.  It’s the way our bodies and how our hearts heal.

I fought it with the death of my daddy and to no avail.  Grief hit me again at La Guardia when leaving New York WITHOUT Kiani.  I remember walking to our gate when I realized he’ll never be moving back.  I distinctly remember telling Ernie, “He’s never going to live in Bakersfield again.” Heavy, heavy sigh.

What has helped me cope is recognizing that our children are designed to grow.  It isn’t God’s plan for them to forever be under our care.  It’s a time for us to focus more attention to our spouse.  He has perfect plans for our kids.  Who am I to stymie their growth?

 It’s been almost a week since Ilyssa and Charlie have moved to the other side of the world and the Lord has helped me through my sadness and sense of loss.  FaceTime has also helped too!  Ha ha! The Lord reminded me that the emotions I’m enduring are the instruments He uses to help me surrender to Him.  As a strong willed woman with type A characteristics, I have learned through the many “goodbyes” in my life how to trust in my Lord instead of myself.  

“My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.”   2 Corinthians 12:9

My need for peace has deepened the doorways for my need of intimacy with my Savior.   This is why Jesus left paradise to live on earth.  I have assurance that Christ is entirely good because the Lord has met my every need in every circumstance of my life.  Even saying goodbye to my children.  The Apostle Paul was telling the Corinthians here about a difficult situation he went through… 

“For we do not want you to be unaware, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself.  Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead. He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again. You also must help us by prayer, so that many will give thanks on our behalf for the blessing granted us through the prayers of many.  2 Corinthians 1:8-9 (ESV)

For all of my future empty nest friends that will eventually have to say “goodbye” to their lifelines of joy, and who are diligently documenting the “lasts” in their lives….lean into the pain with Jesus.  It’s normal to cry and feel sad.  This is not heaven yet.  Don’t try to be strong. Or as Queen Elsa sings, “Let it go!” and trust in Jesus.

“Jesus answered them, “Do you finally believe? In fact, you’re about to make a run for it—saving your own skins and abandoning me. But I’m not abandoned. The Father is with me. I’ve told you all this so that trusting me, you will be unshakable and assured, deeply at peace. In this godless world you will continue to experience difficulties. But take heart! I’ve conquered the world.”  John 16:33 (MSG)

 

I’ve looked up some articles and blogs that might help as you navigate your new normal.  The sadness will come upon you like waves of the ocean.  Stay and abide in our Savior’s presence.  I’ll be praying for all of us.

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Highlights from USA Today:

  • Shift aside the terrifying thoughts.
  • Explore the ways that you intend to keep in touch with your children.
  • Understand what empty nest syndrome is, so that you can recognize the symptoms in your own situation.
  • Accept support.
  • Start looking to your own needs.
  • Rediscover the love of your life.

http://www.today.com/id/3079353/ns/today-parenting_and_family/t/six-steps-surviving-empty-nest/#.VzVJH4fXJUQ

Grown & Flown.  Parenting Never Ends   http://grownandflown.com/category/high-school/

Celebrating the Empty Nest    http://www.christianitytoday.com/biblestudies/articles/churchhomeleadership/celebratingemptynest.html

 

 

 

Surviving Spiritual & Narcissistic Abuse – The Benefits of Self Caring – Video 7

This was the first time I experienced “self-caring.”  

I was advised by my counselor to “self-care” as it is not “selfish.”  I was perplexed by this idea as I have never thought about this concept.  I know of women having a spa day or girls night out and so I thought I’d give it a try at a conference I was speaking at in Pasadena Ca

There is something refreshing to chill and relax…intentionally.  I spent some quality time praying, journaling and spending time with Jesus.  I’ve become a fan of self-caring as it’s important to stop….and allow the thoughts and ideas we have to fully develop and be documented.  Everyone has a system of innovating.  Some people go on a retreat or spend the weekend at the beach, whatever they need to do to wind down and self-care, I say do it!

May all of us who serve the Lord be found worthy of the call in our lives.  May we be found consistent in living a life that is pleasing to our King.  May we self care so we can properly reflect Jesus.  However big or small your circle of influence is, you are influencing  a soul and you will be held accountable for that soul when heaven fills your eyes.

Be a legit follower of Christ.  When you fall and fail…fall and fail forward.  Cast down your pride and take the call in your life seriously!  I was let down by those I looked up to and loved.  I was mistaken thinking those men had my best interest in mind.  Christ has our best interest first and foremost.  The Lord does place people in our lives for His purposes.  For me, the people that were in my life, started living for themselves and their own agendas.  I let them know I knew what was going on and they decided to cover the sin up instead of honoring the positions they had and biblically handle the situation.  They decided to not get mad and get even…. this is how abuse and hurt happens to those we are serving if we forget who we belong to,  that we have a responsibility to the flock and this earth is NOT our home. 

I pray I can help just one person that has been affected by spiritual abuse with my story.  I am healing and want to say..YOU will too.  All of this is survivable.  My prayer is that hope and God’s promises are revealed to you as well.

Questions?  Need Prayer?  Email me at kidmin.kelli@gmail.com

Surviving Spiritual and Narcissistic Abuse – How I Started My First Step of Recovery at KidMin Conference in 2011

It’s gratifying to listen to someone who has lived a life that you aspire to live.  In sports, you’ll find older athletes speaking to the up and coming ball players. Sharing their advice of what to do and most importantly what NOT to do.   There’s something special about the younger generation gleaning from the next.  We are inspired to hear how they succeeded and if we are honest, when they start to share their failures we listen more intently.  Why?  Because we don’t want to make the SAME mistake.

In ministry, I believe it’s just as important to listen and glean from “those who have gone before us.”  I am now in the category of what I call the “Seasoned Saints.”  I am 50 years old and I am more interested in whom I’m building rather than in what I’ve built.  I have about 30 years left on this side of heaven and I want to be found giving back and helping the generation that will be ministering to my grandchildren one day.

I am compelled to share how I took my first step in my recovery from being Spiritually Abused. I know there are others that are suffering in silence, frozen, because they don’t know how to take that FIRST step to healing.  I was so afraid that no one would believe what I was witnessing at church that I did not tell anyone in my hometown.  It was when I was 2,100 hundred miles away from home that I felt safe to open up and talk about my situation.

My first steps to my healing journey started in October of 2011 at Group’s KidMin Conference in Chicago, Illinois.  I was in month 2 of my 6 month forced sabbatical and I honestly thought I was losing my mind.

I’ve attended many conferences in my 23 years of serving, but I never imagined a conference could literally change my life.  It was at a conference,  I received personal attention to a very private matter.

Praise the Lord for The Shelter and all who have served in this ministry.  The Shelter was a place Group set up at the conference center for prayer support and free counseling from licensed counselors.  It was surreal that me, Miss Kelli, the Director of Kid’s Ministries, would sign up to meet with someone I didn’t know, to explain the abuse that I had no clue I was suffering from.  Being so far away from California, helped me to feel safe and I liked the fact I would talk with someone who was there to listen and even advise.

I met with Patti Gibson.  I don’t remember all that I shared, but I know I felt better and I had hope!  Patti was so very kind and empathized with me and my situation. She was truthful and I felt cared for.  My first step to my recovery was with someone I didn’t know but the Lord knew he’d use Patti to help me start to get my life back on track.

At the conference the Lord also allowed my path to cross with Seasoned Saints like Lisa Bruney, who spent close to two hours with me, sitting on the orange coaches outside a workshop.  Lisa listened intently to this traumatized KidMin Director.  Lisa graciously ministered to me and frankly told me that I was not alone.  She shared her own personal story of church conflict and told me the way the Lord provided for her.  That gave me hope that the Lord would do the same for me.

Lisa and I at KidMin in 2013


Looking back, another part of my healing was due to the fact that I connected with other KidMin Directors and Pastors at the conference.  Distance didn’t matter when I needed prayer.  When I was suffering,  I was frightened and I couldn’t turn to anyone in my own church and city.  I was in secret mode and wouldn’t dare tell anyone in my church the information that I had.  Exchanging phone numbers and private messaging safely via facebook literally became my prayer lifeline.

Throughout my healing journey I’ve made a conscious effort to surround myself with those who offer biblical counsel and who tell me what I NEED to hear, not what I WANT to hear.  Currently (six years later), because of the KidMin Conference, I’m part of a supportive Facebook group “Thriving in Transition” that ministers to me each time I go the page.  I’m forever grateful for my long distance brothers and sisters in Christ like Lisa, Nikki, Gloria, Pat, Carole, Anthony, Greg, Stef, Peggy, Suzanne, Kathie and Francine.  I still call upon them today .  I get inspired by their lives as I follow them on social media.

All of this started at a C O N F E R E N CE 2,100 miles away from home!!!!  So what’s the take away?  What would I have you learn?

  • Don’t be embarrassed or prideful to seek out help.
  • Use the venues provided for you such as the counseling services at the next conference you attend.  More and more conferences are offering this service or something similar.
  • Believe the Lord planned the service with YOU in mind.  It can be your first step to healing as it was mine.
  • Stay connected with your ministry friends.  You may call upon them or they may need your shoulder to lean on.

 

Steps I took that helped me survive Spiritual Abuse:

  • Confide in a trusted friend, mentor or counselor.  Simply have a conversation about what has been going on in your life.  They will be able to identify there’s a struggle that’s unhealthy.  They can direct you, pray with you and more importantly become a safe place for you. Talking about it, helps you heal. Even AT a conference.
  • Make a decision to distance yourself from the abusive environment. Leave. Unfollow people on social media. Take a different route to a destination.  I treat my abuser like an ex-boyfriend. I got rid of all the things that remind me of the relationship. Why traumatize yourself?  Self care is NOT selfish.
  • Follow through with the above decision.
  • Seek help from a reputable Christian counselor or mentor on a regular basis. This breeds healthy accountability.  Now is the time you need to surround yourself with wisdom.  There is so much to UNLEARN.  There’s healing power in knowing how you are doing week to week or month to month.
  • Get educated about Spiritual Abuse and Narcissistic Leaders. The more understanding you have, the less you are influenced and affected by the past. They wanted to keep you in the dark.  You will acquire tools to defeat and unlearn things that cause you pain. There will be some reminders that are out of your control, but at least you’ll understand your situation and will be more equipped to handle them.
  • Keep a journal either video or written.  This helps you document your healing as well as helps you sort out your thoughts. YOU are not the cause of this!
  • Surround yourself with other survivors. Spiritual Abuse has been ignored for decades.  It has been part of Christian vocabulary recently with the Mark Driscoll and Mars Hill controversy.  Not everyone will be able to relate your story.  Others that have experienced what you have experienced are the best sounding boards and can offer you the best advice.
  • Remember vengeance belongs to the Lord I was a mandated reporter and I fulfilled my duty. However, resist posting on social media your distain and anger.  I did not blog for months because I did not want to regret what I wrote.  I knew I my emotions were not at a place that would please the Lord.  What gives me satisfaction is that everyone will stand before the Lord and give an account of their lives.  The Lord knows ALL about our story, the Lord will judge, it’s His battle.

 

 

 

 

Surviving Spiritual Abuse – A Description of my Abuse – Video 6

In describing the abuse that I endured it’s better to first share what it was NOT:

  • I was never told that if I don’t do something I wouldn’t be going to heaven.
  • I was not physically or sexually  abused.
  • I was not told to tithe more or to donate this or that to earn my way to heaven.
  • I was not told to wear certain clothes or asked to have a certain hairstyle.

I was abused by a narcissistic leader who was highly skilled on manipulating feelings and distorting the truth for his personal gain.  He would test our allegiance to him by talking about others and invite others to agree with him.  He used the pulpit to gain influence with others.  He’d include them in his sermon so they would feel like they were included in his inner circle.

Here’s a helpful article by Mary Demuth’s blog that may describe your situation:

Spiritual Abuse: 10 Ways To Spot It

http://www.marydemuth.com/spiritual-abuse-10-ways-to-spot-it/

In the video I describe what I went through by reading the definition of what abusers do.  I write about this for understanding, NOT to rehash or tear an old scab off of a wound.  

When I was searching for help online I had a hard time finding someone who experienced the same spiritual abuse as me.  I desire to provide a place for clarity and to offer help to you so you can move forward and start to wrap your head around what happened to you.

In the video I shared that I ran into a family from my old church.  I was not given the opportunity to say goodbye to the children I served.  So when I saw Jade, I just wanted her to know that I loved her and that I was proud of her.  Here’s the picture of us at the McDonalds:

image
Seeing families that are still at my old church is getting easier.  The first 3-6 months after I resigned my heart would race when I would see families at the store on at an event.  Now, I wouldn’t hardly  know anyone there as many of the families that I was close to have also left that church.

Here are the definitions of spiritual abuse for you to review.  Hopefully you can gain insight and clarity to your situation:

Jeff VanVonderan, author of Soul Repair writes: “Spiritual abuse occurs when someone in a position of spiritual authority, the purpose of which is to ‘come underneath’ and serve, build, equip and make God’s people MORE free, misuses that authority placing themselves over God’s people to control, coerce or manipulate them for seemingly Godly purposes which are really their own.”

Dr. Ronald Enroth, Professor of Sociology at Westmont College, defines spiritual and pastoral abuse this way:

“Spiritual abuse takes place when leaders to whom people look for guidance and spiritual nurture use their positions of authority to manipulate, control, and dominate.”

Dayna Drum, contributing author at revelantmagazine.com wrote:

“Spiritual abuse is similar to other types of abuse, but it’s committed under the banner of spirituality. It can be subtle or painfully loud—anything from unquestioned pastoral authority, to practices of shaming members if they don’t fulfill religious expectations, to badmouthing members who have left.”

In the book Healing Spiritual Abuse, Ken Blue compares other types of abuse with spiritual abuse:

“Abuse of any type occurs when someone has power over another and uses that power to hurt. Physical abuse means that someone exercises physical power over another, causing physical wounds. Sexual abuse means that someone exercises sexual power over another, resulting in sexual wound. And spiritual abuse happens when a leader with spiritual authority uses that authority to coerce, control or exploit a follower, thus causing spiritual wounds.”

Another definition of the term spiritual abuse is found in the book, The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse, by David Johnson and Jeff VanVonderen and it states:

“Spiritual abuse is the mistreatment of a person who is in need of help, support or greater spiritual empowerment, with the result of weakening, undermining or decreasing that person’s spiritual empowerment.”

How I wish I could see your face as you read the above definitions.  Some of you may not even realize you’re in an abusive situation until the clarity found here in these definitions.  You are not alone.  You are not going crazy.  You ARE seeing it right.

All in all, Spiritual Abuse is when someone in a key leadership position at church manipulates and takes advantage of you for their personal gain.  The abuser has worked hard at mastering the skill of manipulation.  The deceit and maneuvers are effectively subtle that you are unaware you are being used.  Because of your respect of their position, you assume they are above doing wrong and are above sinning in the manner in which you have witnessed. They have covertly earned your trust, which causes you to dismiss the sin, believing they are held accountable by others.  But often never are…

Hope this helps you on your recovering journey.  Need prayer or have a question? Please reply or email me at kidmin.kelli@gmail.com

Surviving Spiritual Abuse- It’s Time To Take Back Your Life – Video 5

 

April 13th, 2015

I love and serve in ministry but the other love of my life is softball.  It was because of a softball scholarship in 1989 that I moved from the Central Coast of California, Santa Maria, to the Central Valley.

In retrospect, coaching softball served as a form of therapy for me and became a way for me to find a glimpse of reality the last 7 years I was on staff at church.  It was like “chap stick” is to chapped lips for me.  Haha!  Softball wasn’t frustrating to me like ministry was.  Softball helped me release the stress and tension that I didn’t know was building in me.

Here’s a photo of me when I first returned from a 6 month forced sabbatical.  (March 2012)

Notice my hair?  My bangs were the result of breakage and I had a mini mohawk on the top of my head.  I didn’t realize it at the time,  but the stress I was under caused my hair to fall out and become brittle!   My emotions were all over the map.  I didn’t even put it together.  I was in “survival mode.”  Our body must release the stress in order to function and for me it was via my hair.

When we go through a traumatic life event, the pain can blind us and inhibit our thinking. That’s why it’s recommended we don’t sign important documents after a life changing event. 

During my alone time with Christ, I would journal and beg for the Lord to show me what it was He wanted me to do. I was confused. I knew something was wrong and I felt like a hypocrite by belonging to that congregation. 

Screen shots from my 2011 journal:img_9922

In the video above, I was understanding my situation more and more each day and because I was gleaning understanding, I was starting to gain back my confidence. I resolved to stand up, dust myself off and take back my life and be the one to write the narrative of my story.  Instead of reacting to the shenanigans of my abusers,  I was empowered and began to name the sin….SIN!  The place, the church, that should have been a sanctuary was a place full of lies, half truths, deceit and crime!  I was feeling freedom.

I am blessed to have placed around me mature mentors that I’ve confided in since 2005.  They wholeheartedly counseled me for years to leave the unhealthy environment I was in. Even though it took me years to act upon their counsel, they each empathize with me now and did not judge.

After my decision to resign, it was important for my family to find a church.  We decided to attend a large church in town.  We sat in the back.  I prayed to be invisible and that no one would notice me and my family.  We had never been to another church in 23 years.   I would weep during worship. Every time.   I did get friendly smiles and then surprised looks.  I could read their lips as they asked their husbands, “I thought she was at ______”

I saw families that used to attend my old church and words were not needed to explain why I was there…it was just understood.  That in and of itself was validating.  The church I had left, had hurt others.  And now it had hurt me. That added to my resolve to focus on getting better and getting healthy.

Here are the steps that helped me survive Spiritual Abuse:

  • Confide in a trusted friend, mentor or counselor.  Simply have a conversation about what has been going on in your life.  They will be able to identify there’s a struggle that’s unhealthy.  They can direct you, pray with you and more importantly become a safe place for you. Talking about it, helps you heal.
  • Make a decision to distance yourself from the abusive environment. Leave. Unfollow people on social media. Take a different route to a destination.  I treat my abuser like an ex-boyfriend. I got rid of all the things that remind me of the relationship. Why traumatize yourself?  Self care is NOT selfish.
  • Follow through with the above decision.
  • Seek help from a reputable Christian counselor or mentor on a regular basis. This breeds healthy accountability.  Now is the time you need to surround yourself with wisdom.  There is so much to UNLEARN.  There’s healing power in knowing how you are doing week to week or month to month.
  • Get educated about Spiritual Abuse and Narcissistic Leaders. The more understanding you have, the less you are influenced and affected by the past. They wanted to keep you in the dark.  You will acquire tools to defeat and unlearn things that cause you pain. There will be some reminders that are out of your control, but at least you’ll understand your situation and will be more equipped to handle them.
  • Keep a journal either video or written.  This helps you document your healing as well as helps you sort out your thoughts. YOU are not the cause of this!
  • Surround yourself with other survivors. Spiritual Abuse has been ignored for decades.  It has been part of Christian vocabulary recently with the Mark Driscoll and Mars Hill controversy.  Not everyone will be able to relate your story.  Others that have experienced what you have experienced are the best sounding boards and can offer you the best advice.
  • Remember vengeance belongs to the Lord I was a mandated reporter and I fulfilled my duty. However, resist posting on social media your distain and anger.  I did not blog for months because I did not want to regret what I wrote.  I knew I my emotions were not at a place that would please the Lord.  What gives me satisfaction is that everyone will stand before the Lord and give an account of their lives.  The Lord knows ALL about our story, the Lord will judge, it’s His battle.

Need prayer or have a question?  Please email me at kidmin.kelli@gmail.com

 

 

 

Surviving Spiritual & Narcissistic Abuse- What Was Meant For Evil, God Uses For Good – Video 4


March 28th, 2015

As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive. — Genesis 50:20 NASB

For those who do not know, I have served in KidMin, Children’s Ministry, since 1991.  I have also been speaking and teaching at Conferences for the past 15 years.

The Lord put it upon my heart to put together a workshop titled “When Your Life Is Interrupted”  There are many interruptions the Lord allows in our lives: job change, a move to a new part of town, a move out of town, prodigal child issue, health scare etc.  So when creating this workshop I knew I’d be testing the waters in regards to sharing about my spiritual abuse.  I did not go into detail.  I did not name my former church or former pastor.

I did know there are others out there suffering in silence as I did for 7 years.

If I could help them respond to their interruption, whatever it may be,  in a way that pleases Christ, it would be considered a win for the day.  I learned much by going through and devouring the book by Debbie Alsdorf, “A Woman Who Trusts God.”

  • I have learned that we cannot control our circumstance, but we can control our RESPONSE to it.
  • Whatever is happening to us, it’s so God can work something in us.
  • Acknowledge that this “thing” is a test – testing what you believe, not how you behave. This test was ordained just for you by the God who knows what you need.
  • The situation does not have to change for you to find peace, but your reaction to it changes when you have faith.

Here’s the link to her book:

http://www.amazon.com/Woman-Who-Trusts-God-Finding-ebook/dp/B005WVIUJK

As per the video, when Daniel stopped me after my last workshop, I did not know what to think.  But as soon as he shared he had sat in one of my workshops about 5 years ago, I knew exactly what he meant.

Five years ago, I was right smack in the middle of my abuse.  I was frustrated.  I was confused about my Pastor who was supposed to be a positive example to me.  My frustration spilled over into my teaching.  I was in need of a shepherd that cared for the flock.  Instead I was under a shepherd that manipulated.  Spiritual Abuse is soooooo subtle and the effects so real!  I agree that I was aggressive in my opinions back then.  I understand why…now.  I was trying to navigate through the hypocrisy of my leader.

The Lord has used this unfortunate circumstance to help me sand off the rough edges of my personality.  I am more empathetic and I can relate on a deeper level to people’s pain.  The Lord has used evil for good.

What ever state you are in currently as you deal with Spiritual Abuse, God is still on the throne and He has a plan.  You may not see it clearly right now.  But our God is faithful to complete the work He started in you.

There are many worship songs on Christian radio today, but this one by Danny Gokey ministered deep to me personally.  In bold are the words that spoke volumes to me.

“Tell Your Heart To Beat Again”

You’re shattered
Like you’ve never been before
The life you knew
In a thousand pieces on the floor
And words fall short in times like these
When this world drives you to your knees
You think you’re never gonna get back
To the you that used to beTell your heart to beat again
Close your eyes and breathe it in
Let the shadows fall away
Step into the light of grace
Yesterday’s a closing door
You don’t live there anymore
Say goodbye to where you’ve been
And tell your heart to beat againBeginning
Just let that word wash over you
It’s alright now
Love’s healing hands have pulled you through
So get back up, take step one
Leave the darkness, feel the sun
Cause your story’s far from over
And your journey’s just begunTell your heart to beat again
Close your eyes and breathe it in
Let the shadows fall away
Step into the light of grace
Yesterday’s a closing door
You don’t live there anymore
Say goodbye to where you’ve been
And tell your heart to beat again

Let every heartbreak
And every scar
Be a picture that reminds you
Who has carried you this far
‘Cause love sees farther than you ever could
In this moment heaven’s working
Everything for your good

Tell your heart to beat again
Close your eyes and breathe it in
Let the shadows fall away
Step into the light of grace
Yesterday’s a closing door
You don’t live there anymore
Say goodbye to where you’ve been
And tell your heart to beat again
Your heart to beat again
Beat again

Oh, so tell your heart to beat again

 
Here’s the link…be blessed