“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

 

 

 

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 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

 

 

 

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

 

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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.”

 

 

 

Why You Should Stay Ahead of Your Kids Regarding Technology.

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Yesterday and today was my first time being on a web tv talk/radio show promoting one of my seminars, “Help! I’m a Parent of a Tech Savvy Teen.”  Thanks for having me Bakersfield.com

When talking about this issue, I’m referring to parents of teens and younger children.

From the feedback I’ve received, I’ve seemed to strike a chord not only with the parents who are my age, but the 20 something’s as well! These young men and women are telling me they wish they’ve had some sort of boundaries as they grew up with the world at their fingertips. Crazy!

Here are my reasons why parents should be ahead of their kids on technology:

  • Being educated keeps you in the know of what your kids are into.
  • It gives you insight into the world of your son or daughter.
  • It helps teenagers feel understood if parents have a clue or can relate to current trends they navigate every day.
  • It takes away the fear that can paralyze parents who don’t know how to benefit from technology.

Let’s be clear that I’m not promoting that parents become experts and start writing code. Bottom line, technology is NOT going away. I just pray for parents with high school or college age kids become empowered and that they don’t become that parent that wakes up to a world they no longer know.  I get it.  Technology can make one feel inferior in a heart beat.  But our God is bigger than all of the fears satan sends our way.  Parents DO have the power.  Dedicate 10-15 minutes a day and resolve to learn something new about social media or how to download music…whatever…just take the time and learn their world.

There’s a difference between being “up in all their business” and being aware of what your kids are into.  Helicopter parents…land the aircraft please.    One  benefit I’ve found with all three of my older kids is being educated about technology opens up opportunities for conversation. Your kids can even help you set up your Instagram account and be a filter for you. There are unwritten social rules about posting too many pics within thirty minutes etc.  Believe me, they’ll let ya know when you’re close to a violation.

 

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Here’s the link to my interview.  How’d I do?

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=ER-IKZpRXmo

 

Plan Something For Them Or They’ll Plan Something For You

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Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage – with great patience and careful instruction.”  2 Timothy 4:2

There are many challenges teachers face for those who teach Sunday School and unfortunately those challenges hinder many from leading in a classroom.  Below are normal tensions that are manageable simply by having a plan.  No child development degree needed.  Sunday school leaders across the nation are navigating their Sunday mornings well.  BE PREPARED!

1.   LESSON PREPARATION

I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some.” 1 Corinthians 9:22b

Realize teaching is a position of HONOR.

You don’t have to teach these children…you get to these children. Having this mindset is half the battle of fulfilling your commitment.  Ask to decrease as the Lord increases in you. If you’re a new teacher, pray against fear and for the Lord to calm your nerves as you help kids grow closer to you.

What does this look like?

BE PREPARED

This is done by reviewing your lesson on Monday for Sunday. Gather supplies before Saturday and put them in your class or in your car. Review the activity page and make copies for color pages early. Run through the lesson each day at loud or even in front of mirror. Fear takes its grip when the unknown is lurking around the corner.  Defeat that line of thinking and study your lesson. 

ASK QUESTIONS

If you’re concerned with anything..classroom supplies, curriculum or snacks, ask the person in charge about it.  Check to see that the supplies you’re assuming are in the room are really there. Make sure they work. Talk to someone if you have questions or need help setting up the tech you are planning to use.  Knowing these things are taken care of can ease your mind.

ARRIVE EARLY

This gives you time to make preparations that can only be made at the last minute. You can also ensure the room is as you expect it.

REVIEW GUIDELINES AND EXPECTATIONS

Especially if you are new teacher, every time your class meets take a quick minute to establish guidelines and expectations. Setting two or three rules or “traditions” for your classroom will save you from conflict later.

FOCUS ON RELATIONSHIPS

Learn the names of the kids in your class…parents too!  Think about how you feel when some one in authority knows your name? Tell kids about yourself, share appropriate life moments… even find a picture of yourself of the grade you are teaching. They may actually believe you were once a 2nd grader. Model the relaxed friendship you want kids to have with each other.

2.  PERSONAL PREPARATION

“Now it is required that those who have been given trust must prove faithful.” 1 Cor. 4:2

When you look out over a classroom full of “Turbo Tommy’s,” do you ever hear yourself saying. “Why I’m doing this?” Were you excited to volunteer for this ministry, or were you made to feel guilty or thought you’d fill a need?

There are many wonderful reasons to teach kids, but guilt and obligation are not on the list. Guilt may prod you along, but it will never empower.

How can you personally prepare? Take a deep breath and be honest with your answers.  

What does this look like?

TEST YOUR MOTIVE

Ask yourself, “Do I want to teach?”  Kids need and deserve to be taught by someone who enjoys being with them.  There are many personality or gift tests out there.   A good teacher says, “I choose to be here.” But a great teacher says, “I want to be here.”

LISTEN FOR YOUR CALLING

Ask yourself,  “Am I called to teach?”  To thrive in kid’s ministry, or any ministry, you must sense of calling from God.  Fast, pray and ask close friends and mentors to join in prayer with you.

EXAMINE YOUR HEART

Ask yourself, “Do I have a servant attitude?” You know if you’re a servant by your reaction when you are treated like one. Leading requires our time, discipline and commitment.

Teachers don’t teach because they have to, they teach because they can’t help it. If you are called, gifted, and motivated by a desire to serve, God has a group of kids waiting for you He has the perfect place for you to serve.

3. MANAGING THE UNEXPECTED

“Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.”  Proverbs 19:21

If there’s one thing you can count on when teaching kids, it’s that you can’t count on things going as planned.  

Has this ever happened to you?

  • Out of town guests…ALL ending up in YOUR class.
  • Snacks for 10 kids NOT 15.
  • Shortage of craft supplies
  • Parent helper is sick – AC isn’t working
  • Pastor goes over an extra 20 minutes.

Sound familiar?  The solution is all about ADAPTABILITY.  And realizing you don’t have to be perfect.

Ways to handle the Unexpected:

  • Knowing you’re lesson is VITAL. We should know it without looking at our notes. This is beneficial when behavior problems arise.
  • Think about why it is easy for your to share how you were saved? YOU KNOW why, because it is FAMILIAR.
  • Identify those “Turbo Tommy’s” & “Debbie Downers”  That way you can pray specifically for the situation and or avoid trouble.
  • Have a plan to handle interruptions.  Seek advice from your Director or Kid’s Pastor.  They have been in your shoes before and I guarantee they can share some tried and true methods that have worked for them. 

The bottom line: Kids should leave your class knowing Jesus a little better whether they’ve been there for 15 minutes or 90. Only God can make that happen each week. Ask the Holy Spirit to empower you with the ability to make brief moments of time count for eternity.

4. DISCPLINE IN A LEARNING ENVIRONMENT

You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather. Serve one another in love.” Galatians 5:13

When a child defiantly asks, “Why do I have to sit down? How do you respond? Most of us grew up with the answer being , “Because I said so!” How’s that working for ya?

If you know of a discipline issue that is hard to deal with, ASK the one in charge for support and ask how they have handled similar situations. Glean from seasoned teachers or volunteers.

God gives us the freedom to choose, so try this approach. Give kids a voice to make a choice.

LET THE KIDS CHOOSE THE RULES

It’s great to set guidelines with your class. To create a sense of ownership, et them have a say in the rules. Start with three basic suggestions:

  • Respect others
  • Take care of our resources
  • Participate with enthusiasm

LET KIDS CHOOSE THE CONSEQUENCES

Sometimes even when kids set their own expectations, they don’t live up to them.

It’s too easy and anyone can remove a child from the environment. But that also keeps them from learning and in my experience, a way out. Give two or three options instead:

  • You can either choose to participate with everyone or choose to spend time at the quiet table. It’s your call.”

Or give a choice of consequences:

  • You can either be my partner for this activity or spend time away from the group. You decide.”

If you’ve given choices and the child breaks the rule again, take away the privilege to choose.

  • Say, “I’m sorry. You’ve been given choices and the chance to make the right choice. Now it’s my turn.”

When you give kids power to choose, they’ll learn that they have power over their own behavior. And you won’t be seen as the disciplinarian.

Adapted from Keith Johnson, “Teacher Training on the Go”

What are some things that have helped you succeed in the classroom?  Please share!  I may use them in my next workshop.