Pulling Back the Curtain to See the Truth

In my recent posts, I’ve been talking a lot about digging into our past pain and getting the help and support we need to do so. I’m not encouraging us to dig up our crap, just to dig it up or to live in the past. But I honestly believe once we uncover the truth about our pain, our hurts, our wounds – that’s when healing can begin. If our aim is to reclaim our soul voice? Well, our soul can’t fully speak if it’s being muffled. It can’t sing if it’s being silenced. Pulling back the curtain to the truth is paramount to us finding freedom.

When we are brave enough to pull back the curtain and look at our wounds, sometimes we uncover some harsh truths…

The abuse was worse than we thought.

That decision had more ripple effects than we anticipated.

Our spouse wasn’t as invested as we were.

That parent wasn’t as present as we needed.

We were more misunderstood than we imagined.

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I’ve learned that getting to the truth is what propels us into forgiveness. When we name the truth of our pain, sit with it and process it, I believe forgiveness is the natural progression. You can’t forgive something you suppress, deny or ignore. I love these words I once read from Donald Miller saying, “From an honest understanding of our wounds and a heart of forgiveness, will come our greatest voice.”

Let’s move towards truth and forgiveness. Let’s move towards reclaiming our soul voice.

Trigger (Un)happy

Last year, I trained for and ran a half-marathon. I used to hate running when I was growing up, but now as a mother – it’s a gift to me. I love the silence, the space to think and I especially love how strong I feel afterwards. But there was one run which stands out from all the rest.

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I was running along San Diego’s harbor on a beautiful Saturday morning. I was in a good groove, being a few miles in, and I was happy with my pace. But then a couple running together converged onto the boardwalk behind me. Like, right behind me. I could feel the twinges going on inside me – Do you really need to run that close to me? Really? I don’t actually want to hear your conversation. But then, it grew to something more. I imagined them watching my body as they ran behind me and I imagined them thinking critically of it. Behind one of my knees, I have a varicose vein I do not like. I imagined these running buddies staring at my veins with critical, laser vision. With every stride, I felt more and more agitated, hot and beyond annoyed. My insecure feelings intensified to the point I nearly turned around and yelled at them, “What the hell is your problem?!? What are you looking at?!?”

Thankfully, I did not do or say what I was feeling. Instead, I pulled myself to a halt, took a drink of water and let them pass on by. They gave me the runner’s wave and were completely unaware of my irritation. I composed myself and continued my run to the end.

“What was that?”, you might ask. Well, that was (what I call) the “triggery-me”. The part of me that was reacting to something external, causing discomfort and pain on the internal. You see, when I was about 18 years old, the guy I was dating at the time, commented on my leg vein saying, “It’s f*#%ing disgusting.” He said it with a snarl and left the room, leaving me with a guttural punch to an already damaged self-esteem and body image. I’m sure you’re wondering why I didn’t just slap him in the face and walk away… I used to wonder that too. Abuse is a crazy, hard-to-explain thing though. I never would have thought I would be the receiver of such treatment (I was way too strong for that, right?), but I did. It was an unbelievably slow boil, a handful of years later, and there I was just internalizing all of it.

Those runners? They were mere triggers. They didn’t do anything or say anything to induce such agitation and anger in me. They were just there. My past pain and fears were brushed up against and I felt the internal flare up.

When we brush up against people, places or circumstances that remind us of our pain or fears, we are triggered. It’s when we experience the discomfort, the churning stomach and the soul bullies chiming in. These are the exact moments we want to understand. We want to get to the root of why we are (internally or externally) responding a certain way.

One way that has been helpful for me to do this is to think of that “triggery me” as a separate part of me. How old is that part of me, who feels irritated, hurt, insecure and angry? What did she experience that might give us insight to her current reaction to things? What was she afraid of? How did life disappoint or hurt her?

My 18 year-old-self was in an abusive relationship, isolated and coping with an eating disorder. This girl felt invisible, not enough, unworthy of love and acceptance. Whenever I’m visited by anger, fear or not feeling good enough, not always, but most of the time it’s because my 18 year old self is being triggered. Once I identified this part of me, it has made it that much easier for me to deal with the underlying, root causes of my pain.

What are your moments of breakdown? When do the bursts of anger, bouts of tears, inundation of soul bully thoughts come? Can you identify an age to this terrified, insecure, hurt version of yourself? Does this help you understand some of your triggers?

When a Single Moment Changes Everything

A single moment can, in fact, change everything.

Sounds like a line from a movie trailer or a cheesy motivational slogan, right? When we are living out a healing season in our life, it usually comes as more of a bit by bit process. It’s a string of “Aha” moments strewn together that creates the whole. But what if I told you that one single moment DID in fact change everything for me?

My therapist, Elaine, and I had spent a few intense sessions digging into why it was so hard for me to hold compassion for myself. Why was I so on the hook for all of the mistakes from the past – mine and everyone else’s? Why should I have ‘known better’? Why was there so much disgust and hostility towards myself? As we would talk, we’d get a little movement here, a little there as far as processing some of my pain. But when asked what I thought about myself amidst the mistakes and the hurts? I literally could not hold any compassion for myself. Zero. It was as if I had put myself on death row, considering myself guilty of every crime in the books. I was ready and willing to sacrifice myself on the alter of humanity. Looking back on this view point now, I can see I was operating from a place of not truly believing Christ’s sacrifice to be enough for me. And I needed to pay.

Elaine suggested we try a specific therapy method that would help me re-process my pain – hopefully leaving me with the emotions, understanding and perspective I needed to move towards health. Amidst her modern method, Elaine invited the Holy Spirit to guide us and meet us in our process. She asked me to close my eyes and sit with all of my past mistakes, hurts and pain. Then she directed me to ask God what He thought of me in regards to all of it.

As I closed my eyes, I saw myself as a small girl, around the age of eight years old. I was small, lanky and blonde, wearing a pale pink dress that hit my legs mid-calf. I was standing in a wide open field, as dry and as flat as one can imagine. I was all alone in the great expanse. Out of no-where, an enormous tidal wave of water swept over me in all it’s furry. It knocked me over and consumed me in an instant. I knew this picture represented me being up against our family struggles, my feeling not good enough, being lonely in my younger years, and the narcissistic/abusive treatment I had experienced.

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The next imagery I saw was of Jesus, holding me like a sick child. His eyes were full of tenderness as He looked at me and gently said: It was all just too much for you. He set me down and knelt down to remove the impossibly heavy ball and chain around my ankle, which I hadn’t noticed was there. He stood up and let me touch the scars on His wrists. He said: I know what it is to be wounded… I understand your pain and fear, and I promise to help you heal. You don’t have to carry it any more.

When I opened my eyes, Elaine’s eyes held mine. We sat in silence together, honoring the enormity of the burden that had just been lifted. I whispered into the silent room, “It was all just too much for me.” Tears rolled freely down my cheeks. For nearly ten years I had been weighed down and had beat myself up for all the pain. I had to, because all I could see was God looking at me with eyes of anger and disappointment. But this?

This changed everything.

My God – who I usually experienced looking at me with eyes of judgement, anger and coldness – just met me in my desperate need with eyes of tenderness, understanding and love. He arrived to me, personally, in the midst of my brokenness and released me of the weight I had been bearing for so long.

I had experienced a personal paradigm shift in how I viewed God and how He viewed me.

And. This. Changed. Everything.

If you were to close your eyes and imagine Jesus sitting with you… What would His eyes look like? Do you believe, like me, that He’s looking at you with anger or disappointment? Or maybe you don’t imagine Him looking at you at all, as if He’s forgotten about you? Does this exercise give you any indication of what might need healing in your relationship with Him?

Mended

Tonight, I’m very simply sharing the lyrics to the song ‘Mended’ by Matthew West. My two tiniest loves have been dueling throughout the last few nights, including tonight already, so I have to wave the white flag and change my posting plans.

I’ve had a few people reach out to me recently, asking if I’d heard this song before. I hadn’t… but I’m so glad I was encouraged to listen. I’m literally in the middle of writing a post (I hope to share with you tomorrow) very related to these words. It’s about when we finally see how Jesus sees us – that He sees us through eyes of love amidst our pain, brokenness and all – it literally changes everything.
Enjoy my friends! ~ Audi

Mended
How many times can one heart break?
It was never supposed to be this way
Look in the mirror, but you find someone you never thought you’d be

Oh, but I can still recognize
The one I love in your tear stained eyes
I know you might not see him now, so lift your eyes to me

When you see broken beyond repair
I see healing beyond belief
When you see too far gone
I see one step away from home

When you see nothing but damaged goods
I see something good in the making
I’m not finished yet
When you see wounded, I see mended

You see your worst mistake
But I see the price I paid
There’s nothing you could ever do, to lose what grace has won

So hold on, it’s not the end
No, this is where love’s work begins
I’m making all things new
And I will make a miracle of you

When you see broken beyond repair
I see healing beyond belief
When you see too far gone
I see one step away from home

When you see nothing but damaged goods
I see something good in the making
I’m not finished yet
When you see wounded, I see mended

I see my child, my beloved
The new creation you’re becoming
You see the scars from when you fell
But I see the stories they will tell

You see worthless, I see priceless
You see pain, but I see a purpose
You see unworthy, undeserving
But I see you through eyes of mercy

When you see broken beyond repair
I see healing beyond belief
You’re not too far gone
You’re one step away from home

When you see nothing but damaged goods
I see something good in the making
I’m not finished yet, no
When you see wounded, I see mended

Ooh, I see mended
Woah, oh I see mended
I’m not finished yet
When you see wounded, I see mended

Songwriters: Matthew West
Mended lyrics © Atlas Music Publishing

Into the Deep

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A few months after my 4th of July breakdown, I experienced a moment of break through that empowered me and brought me a breath of life. I had spent the in-between months trying to see and understand why I had been making myself small in life, why I had deemed myself unworthy of love and belonging.

Our family was up in Oregon at our family lake cabin. The majority of our family and extended family had decided to go swimming at the communal swim dock in another part of the lake. While everyone else was in the water having fun, I sat in a chair on the dock disheartened because I had forgotten my swimsuit. I guess I would be a cheerleader and observer from the sidelines today. I felt my heart sinking deep in my stomach. Isn’t this how it always goes? Me sitting on the sidelines, watching, while everyone else fully lives?

I watched Harper scream with delight as Jeremy threw her into the lake. I felt my soul sinking down into the deep, dark pit of hopelessness. For a moment, I fully embraced the storyline of me being a mom who wasn’t any fun, who did her duty to care for her family but never engaged in the party. I felt trapped and incapable of playing any other role.

Having perceived what I was feeling, Jeremy walked over to me and said, “Remember what Elaine has been saying: don’t allow yourself to be small. You still have a choice here.” Elaine was my therapist and in our previous session she had challenged me to find moments where, when all I want to do is be small and fade into the background, that I choose to practice doing the opposite.

Instead of living out a life contract of “miserable victim”, I had a choice to make. I stood up and called to Harper to join me at the edge of the dock. “Do you want to jump in with me?” She studied my face to see if I was serious. When I raised my eyebrows and smiled in confirmation, her eyes sparkled and a smile swept over her face – “Yeah!” I grabbed her hand and we counted together, “One…two…three!!!” And there I was in the deep end of the pool with all of my clothes on.

David Benner says this about going on our soul journey:

Hear God’s call to a deep personal encounter as an invitation, not a reprimand. It is an invitation to step out of the security of your boat and meet Jesus in the vulnerability and chaos of your inner storms. It is an invitation to move beyond objective knowledge to personal knowing. It is an invitation to truly know God.

This is the choice we all have in front of us. Will we stay in our boat or will we brave the deep waters?

The confines of our boat offer us a certain kind of security and comfort. It’s where we’ve been able to rely on ourselves or the things around us to keep us afloat. It’s where we’ve known much about God and have forgotten who we really are. The boat is where we’ve been small, bound and voiceless.

Stepping out into the deep waters takes courage and faith that God will meet us in our need and carry us. It’s the scary place where we leave behind the security of who we think we are or who we have been until now. The deep is where we break contracts we made with ourself years before. It’s where our true self is revealed to us and where we were meant to thrive. The deep is where we get to know God personally and intimately because we are trusting Him to help us walk and not sink. There is no safety net other than a God who is ever so closely abiding with us. The deep is where we find our fullness, freedom and voice.

When I jumped into the water that day, clothes and all, I knew it represented more than a mere “carpe diem” moment. I knew I was committing my soul to the deep. To the things God wanted to reveal to me and restore in me as He journeyed with me in reclaiming my soul voice.

I’m believing your invitation into the deep is simply awaiting your ‘yes’.

Where do you find yourself living today? In the boat or in the deep?

 

How Do We Find Our Voice?

Many factors contribute to us not knowing our soul voice. Things like broken relationships, loss, abuse and shame can all been contributors. When we’ve lost our voice and our internal “true North”, we feel disoriented, disconnected and small. We feel afraid to be seen, because we’re not sure what other people are actually seeing – since who we are, can be lost on us.

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Reclaiming our soul voice is all about reconnecting with the person God intended and created us to be. It was never His intention for us to feel lost, afraid, disoriented, disconnected or small. In turn, it is His heart for us to feel loved, confident, worthy, secure, guided. The journey of reclaiming our soul voice is a deeper discovery as to how we grasp onto these truths with our own hands, how we believe them, deep in our soul, for ourself.

The journey is long and sometimes difficult, and although we’d love to just arrive to a place of everlasting beauty, we remember that healing is a bit by bit process. To truly experience solid, lasting transformation, we must show up every single day and just keep putting one foot in front of the other.

And that’s what we’re choosing to do.

As I’ve put one foot in front of the other in my own life, I’ve learned a few practical things that can help us begin reclaiming our soul voice…

1. Acknowledge the TRUTH about our pain from the past.
We all have gnarly scars from our past. Not one of us escaped experiencing pain. I’m learning that true healing can’t occur until we’re ready to look at our pain in the face and call it what it is. We need to speak the truth about our pain and stop shoving it in the closet, believing it will just go away. If we’re experiencing shame, let’s call it shame. If we’re experiencing addiction, let’s call it addiction. If we’re experiencing depression, let’s call it depression. When we’re willing to call our pain for the truth of what it is, only then do we open our arms wide to true, lasting healing.

2. Pay attention to our thoughts and feelings (Without Judgement).
It’s important we allow ourself to feel our true emotions and acknowledge them. Seems like a small thing, right? When we pay attention to our internal dialogue, we realize how difficult it can be to allow ourself the space to process what we need without trying to squeeze it into something more acceptable. A friend recently shared with me a “cheesy” little therapy strategy where you try to visualize and personify all of your emotions sitting around a single, long table in a board room. Anger pipes up and takes over the meeting in his tight collared shirt and suit, his slicked back hair, beady eyes, bulging neck and his fire-y red face. I look at him calmly. I tell him I see him and I hear him. I thank him for his service and then I kindly excuse him from the room. If there is anything to learn from Anger, I’m willing to take his complaints, and review and process them further. I’m learning that paying attention to my feelings sounds more like saying to myself, “I see you are feeling (blank) right now. It’s ok to feel (blank). When you are ready, let’s look at what might be causing your (blank).” Let’s stop judging our process and white-knuckling to get results. Our internal responses are telling us a story.

3. Connect with our childhood loves.
No. I’m not suggesting you research and connect with old crushes from elementary school. In fact, it’s important to remember what made us feel alive when we were young. Even if our growing up years were painful… Can we remember what made us feel free, lovely and US? For me, this has meant embracing my tom-boyish side whom I forgot about for many, many years. The tom-boy part of me loves going running, watching ice hockey and shooting guns at a range. I feel empowered when I remember this part of me. At the same time, embracing the elegant side of me is just as important. I forgot that my absolute favorite color my whole life was sparkling, glittering GOLD. Remembering things we loved is an important step in reclaiming who God made us to be. Can you make a simple list that helps you remember?

4. Trust ourself (Again).
This can be a hard realization. When we’ve lost touch with our soul voice, a very common correlation is that we can tend to over-apologize for things or distrust our own decisions. For me, this had much to do with the fact I spent many years in an abusive relationship and acting on an eating disorder. I’ve realized that both actions were HUGE betrayals of myself. Even though the internal red flags were there, I didn’t listen to them. Not listening to our own soul causes us to feel shaky in our opinions and decisions. Each decision we make that lines up with who God created us to be – that rings true in our heart of hearts – slowly erases our past betrayals and builds self-trust.

5. Practice using our actual voice.
Not exercising our honest thoughts and opinions can be a way of life for many of us who have lost touch with our soul voice. Fear of not being accepted, ruffling feathers or appearing imperfect covers up and silences our actual voice. We keep our opinions safe and tucked away, only making ourselves smaller and more invisible. We can intentionally practice finding ways to speak up, share our honest feelings and allow ourselves to be known by others.

How will you make space for your soul voice this week? Which one of these practices seems the most challenging to you?

What do we do with our Unprocessed Pain?

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When it comes to the journey of reclaiming our soul voice, we are inevitably going to have to process our wounds. It’s not easy work. In fact, my experience would tell you – it’s freaking hard.

Unprocessed pain is exactly that – it’s unprocessed. It’s pain we have shoved down, numbed, hid from, ignored or straight up denied. And in almost every case… it makes sense. The hurt was too much. The trauma too destructive. The pain too overwhelming.

Unprocessed pain separates us further from ourselves. We separate head from heart. We separate thinking from feeling. We cut the lines of internal communication because it is too painful to stay connected. Unprocessed pain lead to the creation of a fault line which exiles us from our emotional selves. At the heart of trauma is dissociation and self-alienation. – Daniela F. Sieff

And so there our pain sits. And sits. And sits…

Until we are ready.

Acknowledging our pain, staring it in the face, feeling what we need to feel (anger, sadness, numbness, etc.), grieving it and eventually accepting it are all steps that require a depth of courage, a commitment to your soul’s health and a belief that you are in fact resilient.

And friend, I believe you possess all of these.

 

Here are just a few things we can do to help us process our pain:

  1. Get a therapist. Let’s be real friends… We no longer live in a generation where receiving therapy needs to be seen as a black mark on who you are. We are about learning, growing, living more fully. Life is messy, painful, complicated and hard, but there are incredible therapist who are trained in guiding us to health and greatness. If you don’t have a therapist, ask around (I know a few jewels myself if you life near San Diego!). There is NO shame attached. In fact I’d actually call you wise.
  2. Talk it out with a few safe people. When we are trying to work through something difficult, we need to be able to talk about it in order to finally decide what we think about it. But not every relationship in our life is safe. Find one or two people who are FOR you while you walk through the process. Safe people: are able to listen well, don’t always offer solutions, believe in who God’s made you to be, encourage you towards growth, wholeness and peace, and most importantly keep your sharing confidential.
  3. Write it down. Whether you consider yourself a writer or not, putting down some thoughts, memories or notes about what you’re learning turns out to be a gift in the long run. It’s an incredibly effective tool to help you see your progress when you’re discouraged or help you remember strategies for processing your pain.
  4. Fill up with beauty. When you choose to walk down a difficult path that can be ridden with pain, it is essential that you fill up on beauty. Take some time to write down a few things, people or places that truly restore your soul and allow you to breathe. Then find ways to do more of these things throughout your week. For me this looks like walking next to the ocean, lighting my favorite candle (and not just when company is over), reading words that inspire and nurture me, making margin in my day to watch my kids play, taking a few extra minutes to kiss and breathe in the smell of my tiny baby, listening to my favorite songs while I cook.
  5. Get outside. There is something therapeutic in simply stepping outdoors. Make a point to get outside, even if it’s just for a minute to take in some deep, grounding breaths.
  6. Spend time with the Holy Spirit. Last but certainly NOT least, spending time in prayer or in silence helps us to calibrate our heart, mind and soul. When we make space for God to speak to us each day, we open ourselves up to His divine presence to guide us into healing.

Do you have any unprocessed pain or wounds that are affecting your life? Which of these strategies might help you dive into healing?