Confession time. I haven’t decorated the house for Christmas since 2010…Brandon is the Christmas guy, so it made sense when the boxes appeared on the evening of Black Friday and he and the kids began decorating the tree and bookshelves. What didn’t make sense was my simmering resentment…
You may remember that my home was hit by a tornado back in April. My children and I were outside in the storm for a couple of minutes, debris blowing all around us. While we weren’t hurt physically, the terror of that moment left a mark on our spirits.
The three of us have utilized a combination of tools—spiritual and psychological—to recover from the trauma. If you’ve read my guide, Ten Tools for Inner Healing, you will be familiar with some of the spiritual tools.
What’s so interesting to me is how both approaches put the imagination to work.
Have you ever wondered what Jesus meant when he said, "Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it"? (Mark 10:15 NIV)
Imagine a little child. Maybe you're looking at one or holding her in your lap. What makes her childlike? Her trust, definitely. If you are her parent, her heart is wide open to you. She expects you to answer when she cries or says your name. She knows that even when she shows you the worst of herself, you will continue to love her. He probably doesn't worry. He's innocent--unless something has gone horribly wrong. He's humble. He knows he's a child, he's content to be one, and he's confident in his identity as a son.
But boy or girl and regardless of experience, they have this thing in common--a vibrant imagination. Unfortunately, many of us lose touch with our imaginations over time.
Jesus said the greatest commandment in the Law is to "love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind." All. He wants every square inch, every ounce of passion. Your full self. All your thinking capacity. Your logic and your imagination.
The morning after the tornado came through, we were all a little dull from lack of sleep and that hollow feeling you get after a trauma. Brandon left early for work. Text messages rolled in from friends asking how they could help.
Foggy-brained and feeling lost without Brandon, I didn't know how to answer. I'd never cleaned up after a storm. Not a literal one, anyway. And so I thanked them and told them we were okay. Even if it wasn't true at the moment, it would be in a few days.
The night after the tornado, we ate a lukewarm dinner in the dark. We slept a few hours, waking in the early morning to a series of text messages heralding a fresh wave of tornado warnings. This time we heeded them.
After a stop at the restroom, we all headed back out to Brandon’s metal shop. Mom, Dad, and Kelsay (our friend who lived with my parents at the time) joined us until the worst had passed. It wasn’t comfortable. The concrete floor was hard, the air around us cool and dark, but we were safe and content.
I was reminded of Noah’s ark—a place of safety in the storm, a symbol of our ultimate salvation. Just as there is a story behind the ark, there is a story behind Brandon’s building.
Four weeks ago today, a series of storms blew through North Louisiana, producing several tornadoes. My family shares property with my parents in a small community marked by a flashing light, a couple of churches, and a new Dollar General. We essentially live in Middle of Nowhere, Louisiana, which seems to be a tiny tornado alley of sorts.
It's been a while! For the past three months, I've been on a much-needed hiatus, sorting through soul issues I plan to discuss in the upcoming weeks. During that time, I also wrote an e-book, entitled Ten Tools for Inner Healing: A Learner's Guide to Wholeness. I'm excited to announce that I've made it available to you for FREE!
The book begins with a synopsis of my testimony and an explanation of how "healing prayer" was a major catalyst in my physical, emotional, and spiritual healing. From there, I share some things I've learned about inner healing and wholeness over the past two years as I've applied them to my daily walk with God and in ministry to others.
Have you ever experienced a moment where your world just broke?
Most of us have, to some degree or another.
For me, I had two such moments very close to each other. They changed my world, redefined almost everything I thought I knew about God, and through that, changed me.
The first, unfortunately, is not a story I can share publicly, because other people’s lives would be impacted. It’s enough to know that the moment happened on February 11, 2015, and triggered the deepest grief cycle of my life up to that point.
A little less than four months later, I was still deeply in mourning when my youngest son (who had just turned three) was killed because he’d thought it would be clever to dash out behind Daddy’s truck to “hide” as my husband was backing up.
The pain of what happened is gone, but healing continues. Because relationship continues.
I’m still learning to trust God—really trust him. No matter what happens. This one is hard for me. You see, I was always where I was supposed to be when the bad things happened (and not just sexual abuse)—in my classroom, in my house, with family, at church, at work, at youth camp.
Not that I was perfectly behaved, but most of my foolishness took place after all the abuse and betrayals had occurred. Evil sought me out. Hunted me.
(Not that a woman’s foolishness or wisdom justifies or condemns the wrongful actions of others. Assault is assault, no matter where she was when it happened.)
At times, bad things happened because I did the right thing. Doing the right thing usually comes at a price.
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
Blessed are the weak people.
I often forget this Kingdom truth, so central to Christ’s life and teaching. All my life, I’ve been at war with my own weakness. But weakness is the only way to glory.
We see it in Christ’s coming. King of the Universe comes as a tiny infant needing his diaper changed. He grows among us as a peasant—an ugly peasant, no less. He experiences our griefs, cares, sicknesses, and burdens. He lives as a homeless vagrant, preaching forgiveness and repentance, healing the sick, casting out demons, ticking off the upper and religious classes. And then he lets his own creation murder him. Because that was the plan.
Before I continue my story, let's review a few important steps on the path to inner healing.
No one goes anywhere with God unless first invited by the Holy Spirit. Ultimately, every healing story begins with God's desire for our wholeness, not our desire for wholeness. Apart from him, we don't even know we're broken.
We have to agree with God that we're broken. Sometimes, we have to speak this agreement aloud in the presence of other believers.
What you believe matters.
A belief is like a seed. Throw it into the soil of the mind. Wait. In time, the belief yields the fruit of behavior. As the nature of the fruit depends upon the nature of the seed, so the nature of the behavior depends upon the nature of the belief.
All beliefs bear fruit eventually, no matter how deep you bury them.
All healing is a process. It usually doesn't take place overnight. I've found that even instantaneous healings often include substantial backstory.
The reason for this is that healing isn't about healing. Healing is about relationship, as is everything in the kingdom of God.
Read 1 John. You'll see. It's all about God loving you, you loving God, and us loving each other. God is about relationship, so everything he does is about relationship.
Before I had this revelation, I knew the truth of it instinctively.
When I became so sick after the birth of my daughter, I clung to God for dear life. Inside of me resided this deep knowing that I would not survive without God. I needed him. More than I needed food, water, or sleep.
At age 10, I was caught in a tug-of-war between light and dark. God had delivered me out of childhood sexual abuse and experimentation. He pursued me and loved me. But the stain of what happened lingered in my soul.
I became an angry child. No one understood my outbursts of temper or why I was suddenly in trouble at school. Thankfully, Mom decided to homeschool my sister and me.
Particular consequences follow early childhood sexual abuse.
I remember always having a heightened sexual awareness--a sixth sense for anything sexual in conversation and entertainment. I could sniff out sexual lyrics in a song by age 6 or 7. Sex scenes in television and movies drew me in like the tractor beam on the Death Star.
I began to withdraw, carrying guilt and shame--not only because of what had been done to me, but because of my resulting interest in sex and accompanying sexual behaviors. (Forgive me. I have a strong aversion to the "m-" word.)
I turned five the summer before I entered kindergarten, making me the youngest in the class. I didn't care. I was excited to go to school. I'd loved pre-K.
The only blemish on the previous school year was the hailstorm that had made the sky go black, the windows break, and the teachers panic as they herded small children from the temporary buildings outside into the main building where we would be safer. I still remember that day and the cabbage patch doll I held when the teacher's face went white and she said we must do as she said and quickly. And while the hailstones that rained from the sky had been big enough to kill a small child had they hit her just right, I think I was in less danger that day than I was the day I entered my kindergarten classroom.
Those who have followed my blog for the last several years know that I don't spare my readers from the dark moments, and neither do I leave them there. We always find our way out again. Until recently, I couldn't have led anyone very far in this particular darkness, which is why I haven't told this story in the past.
If you choose to read this series, I'm going to take you to some places that may bring you to face your own darkness, but I'm also going to show you where God's light was in mine so maybe you can find him in yours. I'm going to tell you how he healed my deepest wounds in hope that yours might get healed in the process. If you're up for that kind of journey, keep reading. If not, file away the web address for a later time.
Before I begin, I feel it's important to state that my story isn't unique. In fact, it's tragically common. Furthermore, my personal experience isn't even close to the worst version of this story I've heard. I'm friends with people who have experienced much worse. You, reader, may have experienced worse.
I love how almost everything has a story.
Take my publication logo, for example.
This logo is a story roughly 23 years in the making. Like most good stories, this one begins with an epic friendship.
Chapter 1-Meet Torey
No one has been my friend longer than Torey. As kids, we were a couple of misfits. She was a wild and crazy extrovert. I was...not.
I didn't have a lot of friends when I was young, and the kids who pursued my friendship usually wanted to use me somehow. Not Torey. Like me, she just wanted to have fun with someone who would accept her as she was and wouldn't demand anything in return. Over time, she uncovered my hidden goofiness, and I balanced her out. Sort of.
The two of us hung out at least once a week. She took me camping, mudding on a four wheeler, and talked me into rolling down steep hills in a barrel and other such nonsense. We laughed together, napped together, and fought with one another. There was also this time we dressed up as Bob and Larry for a Lifeway Christian Bookstore event.
Once during a sleepover, I woke with a bad sugar crash and felt like I was going to die, and she got up and made me a cheese sandwich in the middle of the night. She came over the day my foster sister left my family and made us all laugh through the tears. She threw me a surprise birthday party when I turned 16-the only surprise party I've ever had.
I was her safe place and defender at church. There, the mean girls knew they could pick on me, but they were taking their lives into their hands when they picked on Torey. She had my back too. If other girls wanted to be my friend, they knew Torey was part of a package deal. Two for one.
We were close until she graduated from high school and left for college (without me...not that I'm bitter about that), but we've stayed in each other's lives in some capacity without fail, regardless of the distance and difference in experience, perspectives, and lifestyles.
She stood in my wedding and drove up for my baby shower. She grieved during my illness and rejoiced in my healing. Torey is an amazing friend.
She's also an amazing artist. With her whimsical creativity and sharp skill set, I knew she could take my logo concept and turn it into awesomesauce.
Chapter 2-You Are The Phoenix
Back in March 2016, I had a vivid dream that stayed with me long after I woke. (Do you ever have dreams like that? They may mean something!)
In the dream, I stood in the parking lot of a church about 15 miles south of where I live. My children and twin nieces were with me. The western sky darkened, a giant storm building and heading our way.
Out of the clouds flew a large flock of small birds. Behind them came a large, vibrantly colored bird, shielding the smaller birds with her body.
The storm blew in, and I led my four small charges into the safety of the church. I woke as strong winds began to pound the sides of the building. The kids and I were safe inside.
The next day, I Googled a description of the bird to be sure it was what I thought it was. It was. The bird in my dream was a phoenix.
But I didn't have an interpretation for the actual dream.
I prayed and felt the Lord prompt me to ask my husband, Brandon. B listened intently as I described the dream. When I finished, he was quiet a moment and said, "It's obvious."
I stared at him blankly.
"You saw yourself from two vantage points doing the same thing. You were on the ground with the kids, and you were in the sky with the baby birds. You are the phoenix."
"Huh," I replied, flummoxed by his quick and confident interpretation.
"It makes sense," he continued. "You burned up, and God brought you back out of the ashes to help the people around you. You are the phoenix."
Chapter 3-Born from the Ashes
When I decided to self-publish, I had no idea what all was involved. Fortunately, I had another longtime friend in my life who did know, and he graciously advised me. When he told me I needed a logo, I knew exactly what I wanted my logo to represent and who I should ask to design it.
The problem with a phoenix logo is that everyone and their mother have one already, and I wanted mine to stand out. Thus, the 61, which references Isaiah 61.
That whole bit about a beautiful headdress in place of ashes, building up ancient ruins, and raising up former devastations reminds me a lot of the myth and metaphor of the phoenix. Not to mention, it's one of my favorite passages in all of scripture.
Torey went to work, undaunted by all previous phoenix logos, and came up with this bad boy.
Torey, you are awesome.
I love how the phoenix looks like it's rising from the flames, how the flames also look like wings, and how the tallest flame dances over the bird's head like Holy Ghost fire. I couldn't have special ordered anything so perfect.
I love how God is always doing something. How small nudges and long friendships have lasting impact upon our destinies. How strange dreams find unexpected interpreters. How logos can turn out perfectly when you don't know what you want beyond "something to do with a phoenix". How a logo can be a conversation starter leading to what God has done for me...and what he wants to do for you.
Thank you, Torey, for your awesome contribution to my project, for your faithful friendship, for all the laughter, and for helping me get in touch with my inner weirdo. I love you.
If you want to contact Torey about a graphic design project, email her at tmorgan006(at)gmail(dot)com.