Healing in the Aftermath: How the kids and I used our sanctified imaginations to heal trauma (and you can too)

Healing in the Aftermath: How the kids and I used our sanctified imaginations to heal trauma (and you can too)

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.

Like a Child: Why God wants you to reclaim your imagination

Like a Child: Why God wants you to reclaim your imagination

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 Strength of Family, The Kindness of Friends

The Strength of Family, The Kindness of Friends

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.

My Building, God's Building: A Guest Post by Superman

My Building, God's Building: A Guest Post by Superman

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.  

A Tornado Came Through

A Tornado Came Through

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.

Ten Quick Reasons to Download Ten Tools for Inner Healing

Ten Quick Reasons to Download Ten Tools for Inner Healing

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.

Finding Beauty in Brokenness: Talena Winters' Journey in Healing from Child Loss

Finding Beauty in Brokenness: Talena Winters' Journey in Healing from Child Loss

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.

Me Too: Conclusion

Me Too: Conclusion

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.

Me Too: Part Eight

Me Too: Part Eight

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.

Me Too: Part Seven

Me Too: Part Seven

Before I continue my story, let's review a few important steps on the path to inner healing.

God's Pursuit

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. 

Confession

We have to agree with God that we're broken. Sometimes, we have to speak this agreement aloud in the presence of other believers.

Me Too: Part Six

Me Too: Part Six

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.

Me Too: Part Five

Me Too: Part Five

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.

Me Too: Part Four

Me Too: Part Four

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.

Me Too: Part Three

Me Too: Part Three

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.)

Me Too: Part Two

Me Too: Part Two

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.

Me Too: Part One

Me Too: Part One

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.

The Power of Story

Stories are important.

At some level, we all know this. It's proven in historical records, ancient paintings on cave walls, handwritten books, and the fact that everyone likes a good movie.

The Bible is one large story told through many stories. Our lives are stories—full of “inciting events,” struggles to return to “normal world,” “turning points,” “all is lost” moments, plot twists, climaxes, and resolutions, all which lead to character development.

Our stories are particularly important, especially the stories which tell of our encounters with God. Revelation 12:11 tells us that we overcome by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of our testimony—the adventure romance/buddy story starring us and Jesus.

The world needs our stories. Eric Johnson of Bethel Church said in a recent sermon that he believes storytellers are the most powerful people in the world. Why? Because they have the power to shape the future by preserving the past.

I'm still amazed by the impact of my own story and by what God continues to do with it. And I love to hear the stories of others.

Today, I'm spreading the love. 

Meet my friend Marsha Carson.

I met Marsha online a little over a year ago. She was in the mast cell group on Facebook where I posted the story of my healing. While that blog post garnered a way bigger reaction than I'd anticipated (back then I had no idea how uncomfortable and angry people could become over the issue of healing...I know better now), it gave some people hope. Real hope.

Marsha was one of those people. This is her story.

I first met Jesus as a little girl.  I loved Him, but in my teen years, I began to question God. I turned my back on God and started experimenting with the occult.  By the time I graduated from college, I believed there was a force sort of like Star Wars. However, I never knew what to do about Jesus.

I began to have dreams at night in which I was worshiping God and praising Him like I did when I was a little girl. It took nine months of these glorious dreams before I finally thought, "I think I might be a Christian!" I immediately gave my life back to Jesus. I felt so loved that God would woo me back to Him in spite of my hardness of heart. He bypassed my conscious mind and went straight to my spirit. Thank you, Jesus!

I became ill in May 2011. I was living my dream of working with wildlife at a wildlife rehabilitation clinic. I loved it. But in May, I had a routine sore throat and cough that would not go away even with powerful antibiotics. 

By August, I was no longer able to work. Every breath was labored. Just walking across the room left me exhausted and gasping for air. I ended up on oxygen 24/7 and by the end of December, I was hospitalized, hooked to a ventilator, and placed in a medically-induced coma for 11 days. Twice, I thought I was dying.

I was unconscious and could only see blackness. I was scared, but Jesus appeared to me both times. I put my hand in His and said, "Jesus, I am with You wherever You want to take me, Heaven, hell, or alive."

I was filled with such peace both times. Then I woke up alive! I knew I was alive because Jesus wanted me to be alive! It never occurred to me to be upset about the fact that I couldn't move. I was too happy to be alive. 

After months of physical and occupational therapy, I learned to use my body again.

 Marsha holding an owl right after leaving the hospital.

Marsha holding an owl right after leaving the hospital.

I was breathing well when I left the hospital, but soon after coming home, I was back to needing oxygen 24/7. None of the doctors knew why I couldn't breathe. In fact, my pulmonologist told me he did not know why I nearly died or why I was alive. I told him I knew why I was alive. I was given a miracle by Jesus. People I had never met had been praying for me.

It was during one of my follow-up visits after leaving the hospital that I realized I was highly allergic to environmental irritants. Car exhaust made my airways close. Over time, I discovered more and more triggers that made my airways close, including all kinds of smoke, fragrances, freshly mowed lawns, and my Great Dane.

I had asthma prior to this illness but never to this extent. My life suddenly became very small, scary, and filled with unease. I began to see cars as sleeping dragons that could wake up at any moment and threaten my ability to breathe. I avoided going anywhere unless absolutely necessary and tried to never leave my house alone. I never knew when my airways would start closing. I had to wear a mask just to walk outside and eventually had to carry EpiPens with me.

I was eventually diagnosed with severe GERD, which was causing lung damage. I also had a lung fungus cryptococcosis, most likely from working with one particular goose at the wildlife clinic. His name was Monty, and I loved him.  

As to what caused the severe reactions to everything around me, I was never diagnosed. No one knew what to do to help me.

During this time, I clung to God as never before. My mother had died from very similar symptoms just a few years prior. I began making "My Thankful Posts" on Facebook. Most days, I found something for which to give God praise.

God showed me things in my life that could no longer be a part of my life. He began a cleansing in me and purged things that hindered my walk with Him. One very simple thing God told me to give up was a TV show called Supernatural. I never watched it again. But that is just the surface of the things that God changed in me. He changed my desires and began a process of growing me in Him. I spent more time in prayer and yearned for more of God.

In February 2016, I found Melissa's blog and read how severe her illness was and how her very life was in danger constantly. As I read about her struggles, her dependence on God, and ultimate healing, I just knew that God was going to heal me. Her illness was far worse than mine. If God could and would heal her, I knew He could and would heal me as well. I wasn't sure when He would do it, but my faith was built up through her story.

In May of 2016, a pastor from Peru came to our church and preached. He made the statement that someone was thinking they could not go on a mission trip due to their health. That was exactly what I was thinking! The moment he said that, I knew God was going to heal me that very day.

I could hardly wait for the pastor to give the call for me to come down and be prayed for! As soon as he did, I practically ran down the aisle. I had read Melissa's blog not long before and was so ready to be healed! When they anointed me with oil and prayed over me, I knew I was going to walk out of the church with no mask on and never have to wear it again. And that is exactly what happened.

God also delivered me from fear. I did not realize how much fear I was carrying until God healed me and the fear went away.

Now I go outside without ever even thinking about a mask. I leave my car running when I go through a drive through. I have even walked right up to a fire barrel and put something in the fire with absolutely no breathing problems. I can be outside when the grass is being mowed and never even think about it. I live my life breathing well outside completely mask free and even more importantly, free of fear.

Jesus was there at my darkest hour and gave me peace. The fact that I am alive today is an absolute miracle. God just topped it off by healing me so I can go outside without a mask and without fear. One of my prayers right now is for God to fill me to overflowing with the love of Jesus so that everyone I come in contact with is touched by the love of Jesus. It's a journey, but it's truly my desire. 

What a wonderful reminder of God's presence and care in every moment of our lives! What a picture of grace! Thank you Marsha for sharing your powerful story with us!

If you have been touched by Marsha's story and would like to leave her a message, leave a comment below.

 

Eleora Book Launch and A Few Favorite Things

The culmination of a love affair with story, a lifelong dream, hard work, perseverance, and heaping helpings of God's presence and relentless grace arrived at my doorstep on Wednesday afternoon, May 10, 2017. It was an exciting moment, even if it didn't fully sink in.

A storm of unwelcome news, heartbreaking events, exhausting days, and weighty decisions distracted me from the joy of holding my book for the first time. Still, the event broke through the clouds of an otherwise bleak week. What a precious gift.

And what can I say about these precious little joy bombs?

They were so excited with me. And so concerned when I found a typo on the back cover of my sample copy. I love these two. They teach me so much about life, God, and how to love people. Like how to...

Rejoice with those who rejoice,
and weep with those who weep.

As I've turned my burdens over to Jesus and gotten some sleep (praise run), I've been able to enter into book release and end-of-school-year related excitement.

Favorite Things

1. Friends texting and posting selfies with Eleora.

2. Sara made her own "Eleora book." How cute is that?

3. The book release party my parents threw for me.

4. Superman's dessert making skills. He is systematically learning to make all my favorite desserts. His lemon ice box cake and chocolate pie are slap yo mama good. The other desserts pictured aren't his, so I didn't try them, but I hear they were amazing as well.

5. Visiting with friends and family at the party.

6. Also, my pink and purple unicorn hair. So. much. fun. Props to my sister Hannah for the awesome job she did. And no, I'm not rebelling or having a midlife crisis. I like it, okay?

7. Seeing reviews pop up on Amazon.

8. Hearing that people who don't even know me actually like the book.

9. Finding out that people who don't often read are reading my book.

10. My friend Emily's reaction texts to the story. You should all pray for a friend like Emily (pictured above). Seriously, she is one of the bravest and best, having stuck with me in sickness and in health and now sending me sweet and hilarious reactions as she reads.

What Now?

My first summer objective is to physically, emotionally, and spiritually recover from the last few weeks. This looks like spoiling myself with lots of sleep, time outside, fun with the kids, fiction only, a family vacation to the mountains, a birthday getaway with Superman to NOLA, and plenty of time with the Lord.

I need to schedule book signings and contact a few local bookstores about stocking my novel. I don't know a ton about marketing and book promotion, so I'll be learning as I go. (Experiences, ideas, and helpful articles are welcome.) I'll keep everyone updated on upcoming events here and on my new author page on Facebook. Like me.

I'm currently in the planning phase of the sequel to Eleora. Ready or not, I'll start writing the first week of June. I want draft one DONE by the end of summer.

In the midst of R&R and book shenanigans, I'll also be learning all I can about homeschooling. To my great surprise and evolving delight, we've decided to educate our kids at home next school year. Home school wasn't in the plan books--mine anyway--but when the Lord extended the invitation to try it, I couldn't refuse. More on that later.

Meanwhile, you can help this fledgling author in the following ways:

1. Buy my book

2. Read it.

3. Review it. Amazon, Goodreads, and More Than A Review are all good places to review a book.

4. Share book-related posts, my author page, my website, etc. on social media.

5. Tell people about the book. Word of mouth is powerful and inexpensive marketing. If the people you tell are authors or church leaders or are involved in publishing or sex-trafficking ministry, this is especially helpful. Reviews from moderately well-known to well-known individuals are HUGE for baby authors like me.

6. Buy a copy for a friend.

7. Download the book on Kindle Unlimited for free. Every download helps.

 

Thank you so much for all the love and support! A girl couldn't ask for better friends and family.