The post-trauma transformation, part 4 of 4

Forged by fire

Pruning to the extreme
Let’s start with a very picturesque transformation story. One Saturday my husband Brandon started trimming this big, taller-than-our-roof bush that’s outside our kitchen window. It’s an evergreen with beautiful green and burgundy leaves year-round. He kept cutting and cutting and cutting. At some point, he decided to turn the bush into an ornamental tree. I wasn’t sure how it would turn out, but—Shazam! It is gorgeous. And now I have so much more visibility out my kitchen window and beyond.

New habitat
Turning our Big, Fat Bush into a Beautiful, Delicate Tree changed the look of the side of our house. Even better—the birds totally dig it. This is Dovey’s Tree. You remember her, right? Well, Dovey has moved on, but the neighborhood birds and squirrels provide plenty of smiles and entertainment.

New identity
What was once a bush is now a tree. No one would look at it and say, “What an interestingly-shaped bush.” You’d never know that it used to be a bush unless your name was Neil Sperry or something like that (i.e., a famous horticulturist). Even though the bush has been there for almost 20 years, the tree looks new. It is new, when you think about it. But it has deep roots. Hmmm. I’m smiling.

Maybe you can relate to that kind of transformation story. I sure can.

Endings and beginnings
Last time on Choosing Peace, I used the analogy of doors. Today we’ll focus on endings and beginnings.

We perceive certain traumas and losses as an ending—at the time we experience or acknowledge them. While this perception is obviously true, as time passes and as we successfully do the work of grieving, we come to learn that new things can be born and can grow in our lives because of the loss or trauma we experienced. This is the More Than Conquerors aspect of our traumas and losses.

Let’s walk through The Endings and Beginnings Exercise regarding the major traumas in my life that I’ve unpacked in this series. Some of the endings I listed are things that ended for a period of time, not permanently.

The Endings and Beginnings Exercise

Trauma: Abortion

Endings
Sam’s life
Motherhood (for many years)
Consistent peace in my heart (for many years)

Beginnings
Heightened compassion
Understanding the complexities of forgiveness
Understanding long-term denial
Experiencing and learning about the healing process
Tying these concepts together: Compassion + forgiveness = My post-abortion healing
Greater courage and transparency—the willingness to speak about it
Coming out of emotional hiding/killing the secret

Trauma: My dad’s emotional abuse

Endings
Feeling like I belonged
Feeling known
Feeling loved
My ability to develop good judgment

Beginnings
My search for truth
My yearning for authenticity/transparency
My search for courage
My need to identify my own thoughts/feelings/opinions/beliefs
My search for love
My yearning to truly know and be known by another person
Asking why
Putting the pieces of my childhood and young adult life together

Trauma: My mom’s emotional neglect

Endings
My belief that I mattered
My hope that my parents cared about me
My ability to say things that mattered, things of value

Beginnings
My search for good friends
My search for what “family” should mean/look like
My devotion to getting it right as a wife and mom
My yearning for meaningful, healthy connections
My need to be a participant in life, not just an observer
My need to express myself
My writing

Trauma: My ex-husband’s abuse and our divorce

Endings
My confidence in being able to choose people wisely
My hope that he’d love me
My hope that he’d want to be with me

Beginnings
My new life in Jesus Christ
My new family
Being married to Brandon, who loves me
Being Logan’s mother, with all the blessings of motherhood
Our life together—love, truth, authenticity/transparency
Our home—peaceful, truthful, loving, funny, safe
Our friends—loving, healthy, true
Our church—the truth of God’s word boldly preached; wonderful people
Logan’s school—Christian, safe, solid, amazing
Our jobs—blessings

Unpacking the endings and beginnings exercise
I found this particular exercise to be tricky. I was able to write the section about the endings and beginnings associated with my abortion fairly readily. But it took me a while to move forward on the sections about my parents. I looked at those headings several times—on different days—and wrote nothing. I opened my laptop again last Tuesday and—again—nothing. I closed my eyes and prayed to God. I asked him to show me the answers. And he did—a little slowly, gradually. I added more to the lists about my parents the next morning. I took my time drinking it in.

Since I spent my childhood and most of my adulthood not understanding what was going on, there was a certain complexity to those endings and beginnings. They were hidden. I had to search for them. Deep inside.

What I found was healing… revealing… smile-inducing…. Why in the world was it smile-inducing? Because I’m focusing on the beginnings, not the endings.

I’m focusing on the beginnings….

Your turn
Get out your journal and start working on The Endings and Beginnings Exercise from one (or more) of your older traumas or losses. Take your time. As you’re thinking about the beginnings, ask yourself these questions. What characteristics, strengths or pursuits were born from this trauma or loss? What new ways of thinking or living were born from this trauma or loss?

Leave the spaces blank if you can’t think of the answers. I hope you’ll find that with patience, reflection and prayer, the Lord will show you the truth—the answers—in time.

Reflecting on this post by our fireplace

Forged by fire
Precious metals, like silver and gold, are placed into a very hot fire to purify them. In a similar way, you may have found that traumas or losses created valuable things in your life—a better, more Christ-like you. If you became a better person because of your traumas or losses, you’ve been forged by fire.

What suffering produces

Being therefore justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ; through whom we also have our access by faith into this grace in which we stand. We rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only this, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope: and hope doesn’t disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.
Romans 5:1-5, World English Bible

What kinds of qualities—or proven character—make us better? The Fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness and self-control.

The passage from Romans 5 tells us that proven character—forged by fire/suffering—produces hope. How? What is the connection? I had to think about that one….

As we experience the refining of our character, we understand the why of our sufferings. In a seemingly strange way, we come to understand why they’re actually good for us. We dig deeper. We cling tighter to the Lord. We see truth more clearly. The depth, the closeness and the clarity expand our faith, our hope and our peace.

Depth  →  faith.
Closeness  →  hope.
Clarity  →  peace.

We walk in quiet confidence—not because of ourselves, but because of our Lord who loves us and refines us.

Frankie Ann’s list of post-trauma beginnings
Now I’m going to write a list of only the beginnings that I wrote in The Endings and Beginnings Exercise. These beginnings came from four different long-term traumas. (I drew a line after each trauma’s list of beginnings.)

Heightened compassion
Understanding the complexities of forgiveness
Understanding long-term denial
Experiencing and learning about the healing process
Tying these concepts together: Compassion + forgiveness = My post-abortion healing
Greater courage and transparency—the willingness to speak about it
Coming out of emotional hiding/killing the secret
My search for truth
My yearning for authenticity/transparency
My search for courage
My need to identify my own thoughts/feelings/opinions/beliefs
My search for love
My yearning to truly know and be known by another person
Asking why
Putting the pieces of my childhood and young adult life together
My search for good friends
My search for what “family” should mean/look like
My devotion to getting it right as a wife and mom
My yearning for meaningful, healthy connections
My need to be a participant in life, not just an observer
My need to express myself
My writing
My new life in Jesus Christ
My new family
Being married to Brandon, who loves me
Being Logan’s mother, with all the blessings of motherhood
Our life together—love, truth, authenticity/transparency
Our home—peaceful, truthful, loving, funny, safe
Our friends—loving, healthy, true
Our church—the truth of God’s word boldly preached; wonderful people
Logan’s school—Christian, safe, solid, amazing
Our jobs—blessings

Take your journal out again. As you read and reflect on the beginnings from your Endings and Beginnings Exercise, I hope you’ll find, like I did, that the reality of your new beginnings—forged by fire—brings you to a place of profound gratitude and awe.

Coming next: It came as a bit of a surprise to me that the next post will be the last post in this series. It makes sense to me now. I’m nodding my head. I’ll be writing another letter to my dad. This letter will be very different from my anger letter. It’ll include my expressions of gratitude. I’m curious about what I’ll have to say….

Healing through truth and music
Peaceful Readers, I’ve found great healing in my life through the beauty and truth of God’s word and through music. I hope the truths and songs that I share at the end of each post will bless you too.

Truth from The Word: 1 John 5:3-5

Song for Healing: Enjoy one of my favorites, Resurrecting by Elevation Worship.

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