“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 


Advertisements

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?

 

image

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!

image

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.  


image

 

image

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.

image

 

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 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

Pulling Back the Curtain on Spiritual Abuse – Video #1

I recently read a quote, “An untold story never heals. It just festers until it comes out in unwanted behavior.”  I write this today as a survivor.  I write this today because the last thing I need in my life is unwanted behavior. I think you’d agree there is enough of that in this world already.  If you are currently experiencing conflict or have survived the hurts and wounds of an unhealthy church atmosphere, I’m telling my story with the intent that you’ll be comforted, inspired and given hope.  The hope needed to make it through one more day, one more hour and even those times hope is needed to endure one more minute.

February 27, 2015

As a survivor, I’ve  resolved to live the rest of my life serving the Lord healed and whole. It’s because of the grace of Jesus, I can take back my life and write the narrative of my story of abuse and recovery so others can see the faithfulness of God. By documenting my journey of healing via writing and video, it’s enabled me to safeguard any unwanted behavior that may result in me hurting others.  Knowing I was wounded, I was afraid of becoming a wounder.  My purpose is to be a voice of the indescribable healing power of Christ, while offering hope and clarity for those who suffer in silence.

I recorded myself on February 27, 2015 one day after my first counseling appointment and have it here for you to watch. I have more videos documenting my journey.  Deep down in my soul I felt my story may help some one. I watch this vlog now and notice how TIRED and EXHAUSTED I was at this time of my journey.  I was still shaking the sadness and seeking to understand what was happening to me. (This was recorded 6 months after my family left the church)

I consider myself a “Seasoned Saint.”  I am part of the older generation in my church and I believe God allowed my life storms so the younger generation can learn from.  One such storm that’s guaranteed in this lifetime is the experience of intense pain inflicted by betrayal, rejection, grief, or you “fill in the blank.”  Relief from that pain becomes the primary obsession of the victim. I compare my search for healing of my hurt heart like that of a drug addict looking for their next fix. Or like a mom searching for her child that has been abducted. It was my obsession to understand my circumstance and be better.  Healing, peace and forgiveness became the finish line I strived to cross every single day.

This pain however is magnified to a confusing degree when its source comes from the Church.  By the leadership you trusted.  By the very people you’ve prayed with, served with, labored with, admired, respected, loved, and done life with.  I so relate to the words of Anne Graham Lotz in her book Wounded by God’s People:

“Those who have been most hurtful, those who have been the most unkind, those who have betrayed, slandered, and undermined me have been those who have called themselves by God’s name.”

After serving at my local church for 23 years, I was compelled to walk away in August of 2014.  I was not fired.  I resigned.  I could no longer be associated with the decisions that were being made by the leadership.  The decisions were not biblical and my conscious was getting the best of me.  I struggled with resigning since, wait for it… 2007. I’m not proud that I stayed seven years longer than I should have, but now I understand WHY I did.

I’ve been diagnosed as being Spiritually Abused.  A term not well known but the practice is wide spread.  As soon as I heard those two words come out of the mouth of my counselor, I felt an overwhelming sense of freedom and an immediate relief of distress.

No more rationalizing it, defending it, ignoring it, excusing it or covering it up.  The weight of seven years consumed with confusion and shame immediately lifted off my shoulders.  It’s like I knew something was wrong but I couldn’t put words to it.  I have beaten myself up wondering why I didn’t leave that church when I first witnessed the sin.  I was abused by narcissism and frozen with fear.  Uncovering and naming  my problem was like sitting in the doctors office thinking you have a terminal disease, but then the  doctor diagnoses you as simply having the flu.  Heavy sigh right??  There is nothing like the gift of CLARITY.

As I dove head first into researching my diagnoses, I’ve found that churches across America have swept this issue under the preverbal rug.  I’ve also discovered that many people who are aware of this type of abuse are afraid to talk about this subject due to many factors. People don’t want to believe that someone they admire, especially a Pastor, is capable of abusing others.  Denial, denial, denial.  Across the nation, church leaders are hurting others as they hide behind the mask of position and authority.  Why isn’t something being done?  People fear change. People don’t want to be the one who calls someone out. People have been deceived to think their need for a leader supersedes taking a stand for what is right and wrong.  This line of thinking overpowers them and they end up compromising what’s right in order to keep the status quo and not interrupt their comfortable routine of life.

One detrimental factor that the enemy uses in today’s church community is fear.  Fear is paralyzing.  Fear is clever.  Fear and complacency  caused me to compromise the very principles I believed in and taught to children and their parents.  My fears overwhelmed me and got my eyes off of the promises of Jesus.

-The fear of thinking that no one would believe me.
-The fear of leaving the families I’ve nurtured without a leader.
-The fear of misleading families by leaving the church without exposing the true reason.
-The fear of not providing financially for my family.
-The fear of committing social suicide by leaving friends of 23 years.

2 Tim 1:7 “For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.”

I read that scripture on this side of my situation and it’s so clear.  I’m ashamed it didn’t resonate within me years ago, but I understand all that was attacking me and all that I was navigating just to survive, hindered my ability to make proper decisions.

There are many things that have helped me on my healing journey but reading the definitions of Spiritual Abuse was the best resource that jumpstarted my road to being whole again.  With each sentence I read, validation and redemption swelled up inside of me, as I had a clearer and deeper understanding of what I had endured.

It’s difficult to describe what happened to me.  So I have provided the exact definitions that blessed me and here’s praying they bless you:

Defining Spiritual Abuse

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…

What do you do next?

Talk about it!!!  Talk about what has been honestly going on with a trusted colleague, friend or family member.  Strongly consider counseling.  Getting help from a reputable  Christian counselor is nothing to be ashamed of.  I believe Christ gifted those individuals for such a time as this.

I learned that your abuser is counting on you to NOT talk about it.  It is one of the things they know about you. They are well aware that you are concerned about the image of the church that you’ll keep its secret.  You see, if you keep the church’s secret, you will conveniently keep their secret too.  I was manipulated in this exact way.  Trust that the Lord of the universe is BIG enough to handle your situation.  The church belongs to our Savior, not the pastor or leadership.  Talking and processing your experience is healthy and it is your first step to recovery and healing.

1 Corinthians 3:11-13
“For no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if any man builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each man’s work will become evident; for the day will show it because it is to be revealed with fire, and the fire itself will test the quality of each man’s work.…”

A good friend of mine, who served on staff with me for ten years, reminded me that all the ministry I built in the past, under the stress and unhealthy circumstances was built with hay and straw.  Pastor Eric McPherson witnessed first hand what I endured and went on to explain that if fire was put to the Kingdom work of that time period, it wouldn’t stand the heat and would burn away.  He encouraged me that in the new chapter of my life, to focus on rebuilding using precious stones, as those stones will withstand the heat of the fire and persevere because Jesus is the foundation.

I’m led to believe that this blog/vlog is one of my precious stones. There many teachable moments I know the Lord wants to use relating to my story and to try to fit them here in one post would not do them justice.  Please stay tuned as I piece them together with each upcoming post.   I covet your prayers and comments as my intent is to give comfort to those who are hurting and confused.  There’s hope in our Lord and He will meet your needs and shelter you in your storm.  He did it for me.  Healing and feeling myself again didn’t happen overnight.  It’s a process that needs to run its course.  Decide to lie down at the feet of Jesus and allow our Savior to save you. Victory is around the corner…I promise!

Spiritual Abuse Links:

Soul Repair and The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse by Jeff VanVonderen

http://www.jeffvanvonderen.com

Dayna Drum Article – “It’s Time to Address Spiritual Abuse”

http://www.relevantmagazine.com/god/church/its-time-address-spiritual-abuse-church

http://www.spiritualabuse.org

http://www.spiritualabuseawareness.com

This link from Truth Guard helped me navigate my last few months on staff.  “Should I Confront My Pastor”

http://www.truthguard.com/Articles/answering-the-question-should-i-confront-my-pastor-a64.html

10 Ways to Spot Spiritual Abuse

http://www.churchleaders.com/pastors/pastor-articles/155481-10-ways-to-spot-spiritual-abuse.html

Facebook Pages to like:

Spiritual Abuse Recovery

Spiritual Abuse Awareness

Follow my Spiritual Abuse Recovery board on Pinterest

Confessions of a Mama Who Misses Her Son

 

imageimage

I just returned from dropping off my baby boy at the New Mexico Military Institute. Heavy sigh.

Our family was blessed as the United States Merchant Marine Academy sent Kiani as a sponsored “prep,” to NMMI.  He’ll attend 2 semesters to prepare him for the rigorous military life at a Service Academy.

Kiani is my youngest child and he was sooooo ready to take his education to the next level.  Our family has already experienced sending our oldest off to school. My daughter Ilyssa is a Master’s College graduate, has a full time job and lives at home with us and my middle child, Jordan.  Jordan is entering his junior year as a Music major at Cal State Bakersfield.  I realize I have 2 out of 3 of my children still with me. So why am I sad?  I know I still get to be a “mom” to a daughter and son.  I know, I know, I know!

Not gonna lie…. I miss my son, my heart sill hurts and is swollen with bittersweet sadness as Kiani starts the next chapter in his life.

Anyone who knows me well can say it doesn’t take much to make me happy.  I don’t require a lot of attention, I coach softball, love to watch sports, love ministry, and I consider myself a low-maintenance type of gal.  I also have the privilege of serving the  families of my church, celebrating and supporting them in their good times and in their bad.

So as I begin to navigate the feeling of loss that’s welling up inside of me, I thought it would be easier than this.  Grief is felt when a loved ones dies, but it also manifests itself when there’s separation or major change.  We grieve what “used to be,”  a type of loss.

My heart is swollen as my mind replays the videos of Kiani turning on ESPN, opening and closing our blinds, parking his car, playing basketball and turning off all the lights before going to bed.   In all honesty,  I’m disappointed in myself as thought I’ve had over a year to prepare myself for his departure .  I also disappointed myself in January 2013 when my daddy passed away.  I was blessed to lead him to the Lord in 1993, so I know I’ll see him again and thought with all that knowledge, his passing is something I’d handle well.  But I found myself weeping more than I thought I would and the profound void I felt was horribly overwhelming.  Triggers like white Cadillacs, Costco and NCIS still bring tears to my eyes. I’m surprised by my reaction as I come from a line of very strong women, I’m a child of divorce and my mom and dad were married 4 times…each.  Survival mode comes easy for me as a coping mechanism.

The Sunday before his funeral, I remember waking up and looking at the clock.  It was 8:00 am and I remember saying to myself,  “Oh good, I can catch the 9 a.m. service at the local church in my hometown.”  As I tried to shower and get ready, it was like a wave of grief was simply poured over the top of my head.  Bawling uncontrollably  I said out loud, “I know, I know, I know, I know!”  I was telling the Lord,  “I know he’s in heaven, I know I’ll see him again.  Why am I crying?” The next thing I knew, it was 12 noon and I had a pile of used up Kleenex next to me on the couch.  To this day, I don’t know where those 4 hours went.

I concluded, it didn’t matter how much I prepared for the day when my daddy would die.  It didn’t matter that I was a Kid’s Director and worked at a church.  It didn’t matter I knew for a fact my daddy was in heaven.  It didn’t matter that I’d already buried my mom when I was 28.  It didn’t matter that I’ve consoled many families and counseled them on loss.

My body HAD to grieve.  God’s design is that the loss was to be released somehow…to Him.

So at this stage of being a mom, it doesn’t matter that I’ve known over a year Kiani would go away to college.  I am sad.  I miss him and my body is designed to grieve, whether I act strong or not.  Just like Kiani and all of our children, I remind myself they are DESIGNED TO GROW.  This is what the Lord has planned.   This season will pass and the days will get easier, but for now heading into my new normal without my baby boy can only be done as I surrender it all to my Jesus.  It is only through the comfort of my Savior and the hope he has given us that Heaven is eternal, that enables me to endure.

Here’s how I’m letting the Lord care for my Mama Heart:

There are two things that are helping me currently cope with missing my son.

The first is a wonderful support group created on facebook recently for us moms with sons and daughters prepping at NMMI for the USMMA.  There are many Empty Nest themed blogs and articles on the internet. Here are some examples:

http://www.christianitytoday.com/biblestudies/articles/churchhomeleadership/celebratingemptynest.html?start=2

http://www.modernmom.com/c763efd0-3b35-11e3-be8a-bc764e04a41e.html

Maybe your blessed to be friends with other parents that are experiencing the empty nest syndrome just as you are, connect with them.

The second, but most important is God’s Word.

I love what Exodus 34:29  says, When Moses came down from Mount Sinai with the two tablets of the covenant law in his hands, he was not aware that his face was radiant because he had spoken with the Lord.

After spending forty days in the presence of the Lord, God’s word says Moses’ face actually glowed. According to Pastor Jon Courson, “Moses’ face reflected the glory he had experienced on the mountain.”

  • Spend time in the presence of Lord
  • Be still at His feet
  • Take time to pray
  • Worship
  • Spend time in the Word

When we do the above, refresh and re-energize, our gloom is replaced by a glow.

Moses spent time with the Lord and that is a simple example to me and to us all who are dealing with loss, grief, betrayal, sadness etc.  I want to be found a woman whose face glows. I pray that I can light up a room when I enter it and yet not know it, like Moses.

Isaiah 40:31  “Those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.”