bandages

Each day that I sit in my counseling room, I listen to people share their stories. Stories that come with pain and stories that come with questions. Am I going to get better? Am I crazy? Will this ever end? Why did God let this happen to me?

To find answers and to feel better, people must experience the slow process of healing. And when there is pain, time always seems too long.

To help people understand the significance of time in their healing process, I have found a helpful metaphor. It is simple and understandable.

The healing of a heart wound is like the healing of a flesh wound.

Everyone has had a flesh wound and watched it heal. We all understand that.

 

The flesh that has not been wounded is like our heart when we are born, clear and undamaged.

Then the injury comes. To the flesh – a cut, a burn, a puncture. To the heart – abuse, yelling, neglect. The area becomes inflamed, agitated, irritated.

To heal well, a wound must be attended well. Here is what happens when a wound is not taken care of properly.

To the flesh, a hasty bandage is applied, maybe not adequate, but what is handy at the time. There may be no cleaning agent or antibiotic available.

To the heart, a crudely fashioned coping mechanism is applied, frequently by a child who has no idea of the extent of his injury or how to take care of it. Usually the adult who should be helping is not able. Or that adult may have caused the injury.

The flesh wound heals on the outside and for a while looks better. But underneath the skin, the poisons are brewing. They are destroying tissue, breeding infection and creating pus. This brewing poison can only be contained so long before it erupts through the skin.

A heart wound heals on the outside, too. A hurt child learns how to function and cover up the pain. Maybe to friends and neighbors he looks fine. He might do well in school. Inside, the child’s heart is secretly being destroyed. The poisons of hurt and pain are festering out of sight from the world. Just like a flesh wound, these poisons can only be contained for so long. Eventually they will erupt; acting out rebelliously as a teenager, drug or alcohol addiction, bad relationships, the inability to function at work or anger.

Once an eruption occurs, flesh or heart, the wound needs to be be dealt with. The exposed infected flesh is not pretty. The exposed hurt heart is not pretty. However, the good thing is that exposure allows healing to occur.

The pain of the eruption is harsh. The pain of the treatment will be intense. When an infected flesh wound is cleaned out, it hurts. It was already painful, now it is being hurt again on top of the original hurt. When a heart wound is cleaned out, it hurts. It was already wounded, now that tenderness is being touched again. When a person tells the story of how they were hurt, they feel that hurt again.

However, once the cleaning out begins, relief can come. The poison is being removed. The pain of abuse and the trauma of the wound are being healed. It has to hurt worse before it can begin to feel better. Cleaning out a wound is painful.

A flesh wound will not miraculously heal overnight. It will gradually begin to feel better, a day at a time. Likewise with a heart wound. God does not usually allow a fast healing. If we didn’t experience the process and learn from it, if healing were instantaneous, we might not be so careful with our flesh or with our hearts. We might not protect them well. We might be more likely to re-injure them.

A flesh wound usually leaves a scar. Depending on the severity of the wound it may be a big scar or a little scar. If it is a small wound and leaves a small scar, we will probably not remember how much it hurt. If it is a big wound and leaves a big scar, we are more likely to remember not only the wound, but also how it happened and how we survived it. With wounds of the heart, the scar is not visible to the naked eye. However, the scar is very visible to the eyes of our heart. It reminds us of the pain and how we survived it.

One way we let others see our heart scars is to tell our story. The telling of our story is healing, both for the teller and for the person who hears the story. If the person who hears has experienced a similar hurt, he feels hopeful. Someone else who knows the pain, who understands the experience, has healed.

Since each person has a different personality, a different temperament and a different experience, each person’s wound will be different. And yet, all wounds heal the same way. They are re-opened and cleaned. As the scar forms, there is relief and the freedom that comes as people discover who they really are.

We can’t heal our heart wounds alone. We need help. Help is what happens in a counseling room.

If you have a wounded heart, there is a healing process for you. There is hope and there is freedom.

[A counseling room is not the only place where healing occurs. At WDA, we are committed to helping the Church become a place where heart wounds can be healed. For more information, click here for Restoring Your Heart.]

Do you have heart wounds that need healing?

What are your heart wounds?

To understand more about how we get hurt, read How Emotional Problems Develop, a free download from WDA. Click here to access.

Brazil

Translation Team Established for Brazil! Partner with us to help!

Hello! How are you? and God bless you!

From Brazil.

WDA in Brazil

Rio Tinto, Brazil is a city of about 25,000 with a huge catholic church right in the middle of town. The whole city spreads out around this very visible church. And in this city of Rio Tinto, there lives a very interesting man named Fernando Frincu.  One of the interesting things about Fernando is that, even though he lives in Brazil, he is Romanian. Fernando and his wife Carolina are associate staff members with WDA.

Everette Albrecht, who is on the WDA Equipping Team at Purdue University, has been to Rio Tinto about seven times over the years to teach discipleship principles. The pastors in that area were learning a lot about how to disciple others and in the course of their training, Everette starting teaching them about the importance of emotional healing. Just like everywhere else, the emotional needs are huge there and the pastors wanted to learn more.

So, in the summers of 2010 and 2012, Margo and Jack, from the WDA Restorative Team headed south with Everette, to teach and train about emotional healing and the importance of this in the discipleship process. They had the privilege of returning there again in August of 2013 for another three weeks and this is their report…..

Testimony of God’s Healing Work

Last year in Brazil, Margo had shared her own story of healing and redemption with some of the women. Talking about her struggles empowered the women there to open up their own hearts.

“One lady (Helen) came up and thanked me for sharing my testimony in Joao Pessoa. We had chatted with each other last year. She shared more of her story with me this year. God has brought healing in her life. She has asked her Pastor for permission to lead a Restoring Your Heart (RYH) group in her church.

M., another young lady with whom I met last year, told me that hearing my “history” had helped her in the healing process. Since I’d seen her last summer, M. had participated in a Restoring Your Heart group and as a result, had forgiven her father. She told me with a smile that she was going to buy a gift for him for Father’s Day! She also wrote him a letter to apologize to him and tell him she loved him. M’s father wrote her back and asked her for forgiveness as well!

A highlight of our time was hearing feedback from a group of men and women (in Rio Tinto) who had participated in RYH groups during the year since we had been there. Each person talked about what they had learned, their initial concerns, the benefits to them and their desire for more healing in their lives. They all plan to continue participating in RYH groups.”

The seeds planted over the last two years had already born much fruit!

Discipleship and Emotional Healing

One of Everette’s goals for this trip was to introduce church leaders and seminary students to WDA’s philosophy of ministry, in two new areas, Joao Pessoa and Campina Grande. Everette has such a gift for teaching and has a huge amount of experience training seminary students in both Mexico and Brazil.

Fernando, Carolina, Everette, Margo and Jack in Brazil
Fernando, Carolina, Everette, Margo and Jack in Brazil

The team was encouraged by the fact that Fernando and Carolina both have a strong vision for discipleship and emotional healing. Since one of WDA’s objectives is to train people in the countries we visit, Margo, Jack and Everette spent extra time this summer with Fernando and Carolina.  They were able to share more advanced training in both restorative and discipleship principles and practices. This will allow Fernando and Carolina to better train the people in their own community and thereby spread the process. We feel this is the best way to multiply the blessings of healing and growth. Fernando’s schedule will allow him to do future training both in Brazil and also in Romania and their contacts will open the doors for WDA to hold even more seminars in Brazil.

“We work so well as a team with Fernando and Carolina. They are so teachable and it is a joy to be in partnership with them. We are very blessed to have them on staff with WDA.”

 Next Step: Translation of Materials

With most of the objectives of this trip being accomplished, including forming a translation team to work on both discipleship and restorative materials, Margo, Jack and Everette are looking forward to returning again next August. They plan, among other things, to do seminars in three large churches in different parts of Sao Paulo, a city where news of God is desperately needed.

We ask that you would pray with us for the trip next year, for Fernando and Carolina and for the people of Brazil. Many of the areas we visit are very dark and very much in the stronghold of sexual sin. There is a huge need for healing there, both emotional and spiritual.

Note: It is expensive and time consuming to have WDA materials translated into other languages. If you would like to contribute financially to this effort or to the ongoing training in Brazil, please click the button below. Your donations will be gratefully received and used to advance God’s Kingdom.


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To find out more about the WDA International Ministry and all the amazing places we go, click here.  To find out more about the WDA Restoring Your Heart Ministry, click here.

the heart tree

the heart tree

Because children interpret events with their emotions, it is important to protect your child’s heart. Many of the people I work with have been wounded by parents who have not been protective of this treasure. Some of their parents have been wounded themselves and have done the best they could. However, their own woundedness has driven them to make decisions that are harmful to their children. The following story was written by a 26 year old that I work with and is being shared with permission. It describes the events of a day that turned her life upside down. (All names have been changed.)

“That Day”

“That day. I will never forget it. It’s etched in my mind, clear as yesterday. It’s like a slow motion scene playing against the backdrop of melancholy violins. My world changed forever. The foundation broke beneath my feet into a million pieces. I was sinking, but there was no one to pull me out. I can see that little girl on that fateful day in my mind’s eye. She stands still, frozen as the unimaginable scene unfolds before her eyes; it seems unreal, like she is watching some twisted movie.

“This can’t really be happening,” I thought to myself. I had just returned from playing video games and eating chips and salsa with my brothers. My big brother, Charles, whom I loved and admired so much, had just given Richard and me the time of our lives at El Azteca. I remember on that sunny Saturday afternoon how happy I was to feel so loved as I played packman with my brothers at the local Mexican Restaurant.  In that blissful moment, I had no idea that Charles was shielding us from the hell that was unleashing at home. I had no idea that in a matter of hours, minutes, life as I knew it would change forever.

When we pulled up to the house, immediately, I knew something was going on. My dad’s car sat in the driveway with clothes piled high in the back seat. The car door was open. The front door of the house was open. My dad walked out of the house, still in his work clothes from the day before…only the front of his white collared dress shirt was unbuttoned, exposing his undershirt.  He carried a box in his hands. He didn’t look at us. He walked towards his car, and then I saw his back. His shirt was torn. He had scratch marks, and he was bleeding.  Confused, I stood there, not knowing how to make sense of what I was witnessing.

Charles put his hands on mine and Richard’s shoulders like protective wings. The fight must have drug out longer than he had expected. He must have brought us back too early, and now he was trying to figure out what to do. He led us inside, perhaps hoping that the worst was over. I was confused when I walked in by what I saw- objects overturned, broken glass, wax, presumably from a lit candle that had been thrown, plastered in dripping runs on the wall. WHAT WAS HAPPENING!? I didn’t understand. I heard my mom yelling. I can’t remember what she said, but I knew it wasn’t good. Every time my dad made his way up to the stairs to get another load, more screaming…I think I heard “GET OUT!”

I don’t remember how long this went on…time didn’t exist in that moment. But, I do remember, that whenever my dad would come down the stairs, he would offer Richard and me this sad look…of regret?  We stood still, absorbing this surreal reality. Once the car was packed, my dad made his way over to Richard and I as we stood in the dining room. He was lost for words, trying to explain to us what was happening with pain in his eyes.  My mother made her way over. She was furious, high on adrenalin, and impatient with my dad’s stammering. She butted in and, with vengeance in her tone, blurted out, “Your father slept with another woman last night in a hotel!”  Time froze.

I immediately looked at Richard who is two years younger than I.  He stared in shock.  Although, at his age, he could not comprehend the full extent of what my mother was saying.  However, at 11, I could.  “You have something blue on your lip,” I commented to Richard about the residual stains of the blue gumball he had chewed at the Mexican restaurant. “I don’t care,” he said, not breaking eye-contact with my parents. The details of what happened after this world shattering news are a blur to me.  At some point, it was explained to me that my dad was leaving to live somewhere else. I ran to grab a recent art project I had made at school, and I gave it to my dad to remember me by.  It was a box cut-out of a magical, beautiful world of flowers, rolling hills, and a majestic sunset, like the sunset I had watched with my parents set over the Gulf of Mexico just a few short months earlier on our first beach vacation. That time seemed like a different life now. My whole world was turned upside down in a matter of moments. I didn’t know if I would ever see my dad again.”

This young person’s self image has been wounded by the events of her life. The power of the Holy Spirit is enabling her to heal and recover. **We appreciate so much the prayers and support you give staff and to all the people with whom we work. Nancy currently is meeting with about 15 people on a regular basis, all of whom have been wounded by people who loved them. Our prayer is not only that their hearts will be restored but that all parents with young children will learn how to protect their children’s hearts.

**Please consider making a regular part of your prayer life, praying for the individuals who participate in our Restoring Your Heart Groups but the individuals many of our staff and restorative staff meet with regularly.

Other blogs relating to this subject:

 Hide and Seek: Where did I hide my emotions

The Philosophy of Pain by Nancy Higgins

More by Nancy Higgins

[edited by our communications team]

conflict resolution

conflict resolutionWho likes conflict?

Hmmm, I don’t see any raised hands or hear any resounding “I dos.”

Yeah, I hate conflict too. It is painful and scary and it makes me feel out of control and vulnerable.

And yet, conflict is a part of life. God allows it, God assures us that we will have it and we have all experienced it.

We don’t learn how to cause conflict. We just automatically know. Even as little kids not able to talk, we know how to grab something we want from someone else, thus causing them distress.

Conflict. If there are people, there will be conflict.

How do you handle conflict? Usually we run from it, or pretend like it isn’t happening, or get angry, blow up and escalate the conflict, or blame someone else for causing the conflict, or do things we don’t want to do to please someone else and on and on. Anything but walk into the conflict, walk thru the conflict and walk out on the other side of the conflict.

Even though we don’t learn how to cause conflict, we can learn some ways to handle conflict. There are all kinds of instructions on “conflict management skills.”

Just google it. All the steps to resolving conflict are at your fingertips.

However, in order to implement those conflict management skills, I want to propose the idea of changing our thinking about conflict.  A new “conflict paradigm.”

So here are two ideas to begin thinking about conflict differently.

1. What if we begin to look at conflict as an opportunity?

Since we know we are going to have conflict, what if instead of dreading or dodging it, we began to see conflict as an opportunity. Because when I hear the word “opportunity” it sounds like a good thing. Like something positive is about to happen.

When people walk thru conflict together, tolerate the uncomfortable feelings, talk about the feelings, talk about the need to repair, confess their own wrong actions and come out on the other side of the conflict, they are usually more emotionally bonded.

Doesn’t emotional bonding sound like a positive thing?

Also, going thru something hard, like conflict, and coming out on the other side is character building. Having a stronger character sounds like a positive thing, right?

2. What if we begin to look at conflict as something to be redeemed?

Typically a positive outcome of working through conflict is that it gets resolved.

But think about the even more positive idea of conflict as being redemptive. We know our God is a Redeemer, so what does the idea of redemption really mean? To me it means making something good out of something bad.

If we look at conflict as an opportunity, we are already halfway there to thinking of conflict as being redeemable. Going into the pain of conflict, walking through it with others and coming out on the other side, will give us a new appreciation for the beauty of the process. We will see the positive results. We will bond with others and have a new appreciation for doing something hard and scary.

So, use your conflict management skills. Learn some new ones.

But consider thinking about conflict in a positive light and notice if your conflicts become more of a creative challenge than a fearful encounter.

What conflicts have you encountered that seem impossible to go through?

When are some times that you have successfully gotten to the other side of a conflict?

Barren Tree

Barren TreeAugust 18, 1998. The day my younger sister Lizzie died.

I remember pretty much every detail of that day. I was driving with John, her 13 year old son, from Stone Mountain to Augusta so we could see her one last time before she died. John had been spending the weekend with me to try to get away from the sadness in his home. We never made that last visit. Halfway to Augusta, I got the call from her husband, Martin, telling me that Lizzie was gone. He did not want me to tell John. He wanted to tell all three children himself when they were together. Later that day I sat in their living room while he told John and John’s younger sisters, Emily 11 and Kathryn 5 that their mom was gone. It was surreal. It didn’t seem like it was really happening. Even though we had known for five months that she was dying, it still didn’t seem true. She was 42 and dead from breast cancer.

Yesterday was August 18, 2012. Fourteen years since my sister died. I didn’t notice the date until a friend of mine called to tell me that her younger brother had been found dead that morning. August 18. Suddenly all the sadness came rushing back. I felt such a weight for my friend as I remembered the early grief over my sister. The ache in my chest. The pain I felt for her children and her husband. The pain I felt for my parents. The endless crying until I just couldn’t breathe anymore. Nothing can compare to the pain of losing someone you love too soon.

I haven’t cried for my sister in a while. I am to the point of grief now where it is just a dull ache and random sadness over events and circumstances. But today, the pain was back, unexpected and unwanted. Hearing about my friend’s brother triggered all those old feelings. So I went for a grief walk and cried. I miss Lizzie. She was sarcastic and funny. She stood up for herself and for those she loved. She could be intimidating because she was so outspoken and no one on earth could annoy me more than she could. When we were growing up she was a pesky little brat but she and I became good friends in adulthood. I miss her every day, but the grief really hit me today.

As I walked and cried and missed Lizzie, I thought about some of the things I have learned from the people I counsel with. I call them my chickies because client sounds too clinical. My chickies think they are coming to me to be healed but it works both ways. I heal as much as they do. One of my chickies told me that as she gets older it seems like grief sticks to her more. I love this phrase because it fits my reality. I, too, have found that grief sticks to me more and knowing I am not alone in this is oddly comforting. Another of my chickies told me the profound way that God has given him hope through the verse “Joy comes in the morning.” (Psalm 30:5)  Frequently, when he is at his lowest, God reminds him of the joy to come and I thought of that today as I walked. Both for me, with my old grief, and my friend, with her new grief. And again I felt the comfort of being connected to someone else in sadness.

God gives us to each other to help the healing. We all hurt. We all have sadness and grief. We all lose people we love.

August 18 will always be a sad day for me. There are some pains that just will never be totally healed. And yet, I am comforted by the people God has put around me to share that grief, even when they don’t know they are giving me comfort.

Read more about how WDA’s Restorative Ministry helps people find healing from pain and loss.