Cult and Abuse Survivor Comes Full Circle

I love the title of Athena Dean Holtz’s book, “Full Circle.” Picture a half moon, and now, a full moon. When you hear the words, full circle, you know it means completion or the fullness of a thing. You’re hopeful from the outset that things will be set right in the end. The author’s story will lift you up, pull you back, fling you sideways, and then twirl you back around. And then you get to do it all over again! So, fasten your seatbelts. In reading Full Circle, you become an armchair traveler in the author’s very personal journey of restoration, reconciliation and redemption. Including periods of time trapped in childhood sexual abuse, deception, false religion and cults, along with poor personal choices. Choices that led to a ripple effect of mistrust, fear and damage in her personal and business relationships. As is so often the case, early memories of abuse, dashed expectations, not fitting in, or outright rejection can become false guideposts for what is to come, and what we are to become. They help fuel the flames of a morphed personal connection to our God-given destinies, dreams, reality and/or future.

We revisit her places of affluence and privilege, influence and prestige to places of failure and shame, false accusations, heartbreak and loss. A constant juxtaposition between having and losing, success and failure, fullness and emptiness. The author candidly shares of her great love for her father. The father who chooses another woman over her mother, redefining the family as they once knew it. A perfectionist mother who she never fully bonded with and whose approval she struggled to win. And early influences that shaped her perceptions about life and God. She walks us through her entanglement with cults, deception and legalism. And her inner struggles with identity, control, workaholism, perfection and perceived wants and needs. We see how her choices mixed with others’ controlling and manipulative influences made for lethal concoctions. A colorful, sometimes toxic, sometimes confusing, sometimes simply human whirlwind of individual pieces to an ultimately beautiful puzzle.

At the conclusion, we are gratefully relieved and encouraged as we see the necessary course corrections put into place. We are relieved and encouraged in part, because readers can find bits and pieces of their own stories within her story. Places in our own lives where we drifted, (purposely drove, or were manipulated/coerced) off course without our navigational systems fully functioning, only to find ourselves shipwrecked and suddenly wondering how we got ourselves so off course.

The author touches on a multitude of issues in Full Circle. Issues that were no doubt difficult to deal with, much less admit. It serves as a painfully transparent reminder that we all have choices. Choices that will reflect what we believe. What we believe about ourselves, others and God. And because we are a part of a greater entity called humanity, choices that will, for better or worse, ripple out to effect the lives of those who touch ours.

Full Circle is the real and personal story of Athena Dean Holtz. But we all have a full circle story of our own. And even if our stories are stuck at “half-moon,” the best message in this book is that by making wise, discerning, healthy choices coupled with the faithfulness and grace of God, we too can come full circle. The stars can shine that bright for all of us! He is a God of restoration, reconciliation and redemption. He never leaves us alone. That’s his promise. If we seek him, we will find him. That means, step-by-step, thought-by-thought, choice-by-choice.

Thank you Athena Dean Holtz for being vulnerable so that others can be more alert, learn, change and grow. I love that when we give, we receive. As the author chose to give, forgive, “do the work” (reconciled business issues, restored personal relationships, redeemed the time and resources God had placed in her hands from an early age, took personal inventory, underwent counseling and now shares her “lessons learned” with others), she received. Not only wholeness, but forgiveness, restored relationships, healthy perspectives, new opportunities, and so on. I love that God’s plans and purposes for us are always for our good. And they are always so much better than we could ever imagine.

CONNECT WITH THE AUTHOR:

You can purchase Athena’s book, Full Circle, online. Visit her website athenadeanholtz.com or blog. Athena also produces and hosts the Always Faithful radio show where she interviews authors, artists and women of faith spotlighting the faithfulness of God.

Athena Dean Holtz is an Author, Speaker, Radio Personality, Pastor’s Wife and Publisher. She has been speaking to groups, large and small, for over 30 years. She is passionate to see women recognize the faithfulness of God, no matter how difficult life may be. 

(I received an advanced reader copy of Full Circle. This writing represents my personal and honest review.)

(c) By April McCallum, Destiny’s Women™ – “Championing the Life, Freedom & Destiny of Women”

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America: We Can Choose Better

American Flag (Kevin Morris)

I’ve been thinking a lot about the current personal, national and now global discourse about our nation. About our future. About our families. About us as unique individuals. Sadly, the “discussion” phase buckled under the weight of disrespect, mistrust, hatred, violence and eventual anarchy. Tidal wave after tidal wave of blame. I suppose it’s nothing new to the human race. But it’s ugly and messy and us not at our best. We can choose better.

People are fighting for what they say they believe in for the whole. But in so much of the activity, it is not. It is for themselves. When our soldiers fight for our nation, they check their political party and personal beliefs at the door. Why? Not because these things aren’t worthy. Because they believe in something much greater than their own personal preferences and opinions. They are fighting together to secure and strengthen something that transcends the individual struggles. And importantly, they know that unity matters. There is power in unity. The same goes with families. Healthy families choose to go higher. They choose the greater good. When we step outside of our personal protective walls, we can see a world much bigger than ourselves. Humanity seems to trip on “self” a lot.

Unfortunately, we have come to a place in history where we can’t even agree on the definition of “greater good”. Therein lies the rub. A nation divided against itself. Sounds cannibalistic. And because of our collective intolerance, pride and catering to self-interest, we’re about to lose much more than an eye. I would like to see a nation fighting together, not AGAINST itself, fighting FOR its common good. But then again, we can’t seem to agree on what “common” means anymore either.

Sounds dismal. And it is, if you believe that’s the end. But it’s not. We still have the freedom to dream, create, build, speak, worship and to “become”. To become smarter, braver, kinder, more reasonable, giving, thoughtful, compassionate, prayerful, wiser, loving and discerning than we were before. But it’s a choice. It’s always a choice. Who do you want to become?

(c) By April McCallum, Destiny’s Women™ – “Championing the Life, Freedom & Destiny of Women”

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Feelings Are Often Liars

 

Feelings Are Often Liars

How we feel is not necessarily indicative of what is. How we feel is often subject to those we have chosen to surround ourselves with, the voices we choose to hear, and the choices we’ve made for ourselves based on circumstances. Choice is about freedom. But our choices are not always what serve us best. Sometimes, through our freedom of choice, we end up crippled and imprisoned by that same freedom. Not by way of the freedom itself, but because we mishandle our own freedom. We sometimes make the wrong choice, and in turn, hurt ourselves or others in the process.

As I said in my last post, Feelings: Friend or Foe?, feelings can sometimes be fickle and sometimes be liars. A person can be told that they are worthless or ugly or that their dreams are stupid and will never come true. If they begin to believe those lies,  they’ll start to feel that they are worthless or ugly or that their dreams are stupid and they will never come true–essentially, coming into a false agreement.

There are people whose own parents, bosses or culture told them that they were worthless and would never amount to anything, and so, they didn’t. Women who have countless times been turned against by a lover, family member or so-called friend who labeled them “ugly” or “less than”, and they took that sting and allowed themselves to start believing and perpetuating that same lie to themselves. How often have we seen the pulling back of someone who once believed in their dreams, but because someone’s words tore the roots of their dream right out of their heart, they curled up and wilted right in front of our eyes?

On the other hand, there are people we know who have faced the same exact accusations, and yet, in the face of hate, hardship and hurt, chose to reject those words and those feelings. As if symbolically taking the poison arrow out of their own heart and saying in faith, this is not who I am. What a better way to take a stand and show the world, than to rise and to shine? It’s beauty from the ashes. It is shining a light of truth on a lie. It’s calling foul on the lie and on our own negative feelings. Even when it’s painful or uncertain, we stand. We keep moving forward. And importantly, we don’t wait to rise until we feel strong and able, but in our smallness, our weakness. Because we know, when everything feels hopeless and broken, feelings are often liars.

Best not to mix the past with the present. The present paints the past with gold. The past paints the present with lead. –Henry Rollins

The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there. –Lesley P. Hartley

Bring the past only if you are going to build from it. –Doménico Cieri Estrada

The obstacles of your past can become the gateways that lead to new beginnings. –Ralph Blum

Look not at the days gone by with a forlorn heart. They were simply the dots we can now connect with our present, to help us draw the outline of a beautiful tomorrow. –Dodinsky

Our doubts are traitors, and make us lose the good we oft might win, by fearing to attempt. –William Shakespeare

Courage is the power to let go of the familiar. –Raymond Lindquist

Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage. –Anaïs Nin

I am not afraid of storms for I am learning how to sail my ship. –Louisa May Alcott

There is much in the world to make us afraid. There is much more in our faith to make us unafraid. –Frederick W. Cropp

Never let the voice of others drown out your dreams. Never let how you feel dictate who you are or where you want to go. Never let your past define you. Never let the circumstances of what has been, keep you from what can be. Our courage to climb a mountain, real or perceived, always begins, as the saying goes, with a single step.

Join me on Twitter @DestinysWomen

(c) By April McCallum, Destiny’s Women™ – “Championing the Life, Freedom & Destiny of Women”

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Feelings: Friend or Foe?

One of the definitions of “feeling” is an emotional state or reaction, and in its plural form: a susceptibility to impression. The Merriam-Webster dictionary offers the following: feelings, emotion, affection, sentiment, passion mean a subjective response to a person, thing, or situation; and, “feeling” denotes any partly mental, partly physical response marked by pleasure, pain, attraction, or repulsion. This post is based on that little (yet powerful) word referring to our response to our “feelings”. The word is subjective.

Subjective — relating to the way a person experiences things in his or her own mind; based on feelings or opinions rather than facts.

How often have we heard others make comments like these, or we’ve thought or spoken them ourselves:

I hate how this feels. I love how this feels. I don’t know how I feel.

I feel unworthy. I feel helpless. I feel hopeless. I feel lost.

He makes me feel so unlovable. He makes me feel like a loser.

She made me feel stupid. She made me feel like I was a bother.

I felt like they never had time for me. I felt like I had no future.

It feels like no one cares. It feels like no one sees me. It feels like no one would ever listen to me.

I feel like I could take on the world. I feel so empowered. I feel like a million bucks.

I feel so old. I feel so young. I feel so ugly. I feel so pretty.

It makes me feel so vulnerable. It makes me feel so uncomfortable.

It makes me feel like a winner. It makes me feel like I’m nothing.

I feel like I have my whole life before me.

I feel like I can never overcome my past.

I feel like everyone else knows where they’re going, but not me.

Did you feel the rollercoaster of emotions, of feelings? We’re up, we’re down, we’re spinning around. I had a friend that used the expression, “like a box in the wind,” to describe uncertainty. And that’s just it. When we aren’t grounded within ourselves, we are likely to listen, consider, think and then eventually, believe what “they” tell us. And who are “they” anyways? Anyone outside ourselves, including the culture, the media, teachers or coaches, friends or strangers, parents or family members. Everyone busy telling everyone else how they “ought” to be or think or respond.

How unhealthy is that? It’s like giving away little pieces of the most valuable part of ourselves, our ability to think and make decisions for ourselves based on reality, not subjective or fleeting feelings based on circumstances or imaginations. People will have opinions, to which they are entitled, but we can’t allow other people to define us. Just because they try to doesn’t make it so. By the same token, our past does not define our future. Both of these have the potential to lock us into positions and places not based on reality, derailing what we were truly meant to accomplish, feel, and believe.

Certainly, feelings are an important part of being human. They are a gift. How magical it feels when love is present in our lives. How grateful we feel when we are blessed with unexpected kindness and goodness. Likewise, it is normal and important to be aware and feel concern when danger is looming or feel the heat of a hot stove warning us not to touch it. But to base our self-belief, dreams and futures on mere feelings, which can sometimes be fickle, and sometimes, be liars, is to allow ourselves to be robbed of our best, and the hope of what can be, the hope of who we can be.

If you’re one of the people who’ve been stuck in a place where someone else’s negative and untrue words or behaviors have invited you, it’s time for you to get “unstuck”. Get on up, and start dreaming again. Start believing for something more, something better. It’s not what “they” say. It’s what you say, and it’s what God says about you. Even if it’s hard, have faith that there is more for you waiting up ahead around the curve. You only have to be willing to take the first step, and then the second, and so on.

You were created for a purpose. What is that purpose? It’s your dream, it’s your life–choose to get on up and move forward. Your true life is waiting.

Join me on Twitter @DestinysWomen

(c) By April McCallum, Destiny’s Women™ – “Championing the Life, Freedom & Destiny of Women”

 

 

 

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End It: Shine a Light On Slavery

#EndItMovement

Love is the light by which all are brought forward out of darkness. -LeeAnn Taylor

Today is Shine A Light On Slavery Day. It’s a day to join other Freedom Fighters from around the world to shine a light on modern-day slavery.

END IT is a Coalition of the leading organizations in the world in the fight for Freedom. With Coalition Partners engaged in work on the ground, together they bring AWARENESS, PREVENTION, RESCUE, and RESTORATION.

Learn More about Human Trafficking, Modern-Day Slavery, the Red “X” and the #EndItMovement. Share your #EndIt selfie on social media to join the collective voice and continue to raise awareness. Here’s your chance to get creative while linking arms with others to stand up for justice and freedom for the millions still oppressed and enslaved today.

Join me on Twitter @DestinysWomen

(c) By April McCallum, Destiny’s Women™ – “Championing the Life, Freedom & Destiny of Women”

 

 

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Overcoming Fear and Worry

 Book Cover - Overcoming Fear and Worry

The good news is, we can decide whether we prefer a life of fear and worry or a life of freedom from fear and worry.

Dr. H. Norman Wright’s book, Overcoming Fear & Worry is broken up into sections that help readers understand fear and worry and how to overcome both. It is an easy-reading book that offers practical ways to challenge and lift readers out of unhealthy and defeatist ways of thinking and behaving. The author discusses the healthy and unhealthy power of fear and the negative impact of worry, including how we view and relate to both, and what we allow or disallow.

The book addresses the causes and effects of fear, and helps readers to take inventory and assess the role allowed and assigned to it. This underscores the importance of how we relate to fear and worry in regard to decision-making and the impact in both pivotal and everyday decisions in our lives.

While fear can be a negative force–debilitating, paralyzing and often the cause of a life of mediocrity, the author says, “Hope is a totally different motivating force—a positive drive. Hope is like a magnet that draws you toward your goal. Hope expands your life and brings a message of possibility and change.”

The author also speaks to the correlation of fear and perfectionism, and “taming the monster of what-ifs”. He clearly discusses our human capacity to analyze, identify and re-train our minds about the thoughts that form beliefs that we eventually act upon.

“The fear of life is actually more debilitating than the fear of death. Fear disables. Fear shortens life. Fear cripples our relationships with others. Fear blocks our relationship with God.”

Readers will learn how the roles of physiology, genetics/biochemistry and personality relate to fear and worry; and, how real or imagined fears and worry play a part in our emotional, spiritual and physical well-being.

The book offers practical advice on how to rearrange destructive “what if” scenarios into potential for positive outcome “what if” scenarios; and replacement thoughts and statements. All meant to help re-align a person’s thinking with reality, logic and/or real possibility.

Unhealthy fears and worry starve our potential and strangulate our freedom keeping us from living our best lives. Learn how to break patterns of fear and worry and re-focus on solutions versus problems from a biblical perspective.

This book is ideal for individuals seeking freedom from the burdens created by fear and worry and as a tool for use in a group study/discussion. It would also work well as a guide or supplement for counseling situations.

About the Author

Dr. H. Norman Wright is a grief and trauma therapist and a licensed marriage, family and child therapist. He has been on the faculty of Biola University and Talbot School of Theology, where he has taught graduate students in counseling and psychology for four decades. He has authored more than 80 books including Experiencing Grief and Recovering from the Losses in Life. 

Join me on Twitter @DestinysWomen

Note: Rose Publishing provided me with an advanced reader copy of this book.

(c) By April McCallum, Destiny’s Women™–”Championing the Life, Freedom & Destiny of Women”

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International Women’s Day 2014: “Inspiring Change”

INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S DAY is a day to celebrate the economic, political and social achievements of women past, present and future with participants and advocates around the globe. Each year the United Nations declares an annual theme. The theme for International Women’s Day 2014 is “Inspiring Change”. View themes for previous years.

The vast array of communication channels, supportive spokespeople, equality research, campaigns and corporate responsibility initiatives means everyone can be an advocate inspiring change for women’s advancement. -International Women’s Day

It is a day we are challenged to make a difference by “thinking globally and acting locally.” Thousands of events are held annually on March 8th to inspire, challenge, and celebrate the achievements of women around the world. Whether they are business or government-related, social or networking events, the world stops to take notice of the progress and impact of women in and on our societies. Other events will focus on uplifting, inspiring, or commemorating women through the telling of history, by serving us through education, or through a variety of artistic presentations. Whatever form it takes, and wherever we are individually, we will celebrate the achievements, advancements, and value of women, with a combined voice.

For a brief history and timeline of International Women’s Day, visit InternationalWomensDay.com.

What does the 2014 International Women’s Day theme “Inspiring Change” mean for you personally?

Follow the conversation on Twitter at Women’s Day 2014 and use hashtags #womensday and #IWD2014.

Related Reading:

International Women’s Day 2013: You’ve Come a Long Way Baby… But We’re Not Done Yet!

Join me on Twitter @DestinysWomen

(c) By April McCallum, Destiny’s Women™ – “Championing the Life, Freedom & Destiny of Women”

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Wherever Human Beings Endure Suffering

“I swore never to be silent whenever and wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation. We must take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.” –Elie Wiesel

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Live Fearless, Live Free.

It has been said that fear is the prison of the heart. Look up, Push forward, keep going, don’t look back, because fear is a liar… and you’ve got better things to do with your life. Don’t give it power, don’t let it hold you down. Keep on dreaming, keep on hoping, keep on praying, keep on believing, keep on living, keep on keeping on, even in the face of fear. Live fearless. Live free. 

The more you are motivated by love, the more fearless and free your actions will be. –Unknown

As fear is a close companion to falsehood, so truth follows fearlessness. –Jawaharlar Nehru

We have to be fearless, we have to take chances. We can’t live just being afraid of what comes next, that’s not what living is about. –Unknown

The thing you fear most has no power. Your fear of it is what has the power. Facing truth really will set you free. –Oprah Winfrey

Courage is never to let your actions be influenced by your fears. –Arthur Koestler

When we love, we are courageous; and courage has nothing to do with being fearless, it’s about being willing to experience fear, even dread, to do what we must, without guarantee of outcome. –Vanna Bonta

Fear cannot take what you do not give it. –Christopher Coan

There is only one you for all time. Fearlessly you. –Anthony Rapp

Courage is fear that has said its prayers. –Dorothy Bernard

Let us not pray to be sheltered from dangers but to to be fearless when facing them. –Rabindranath Tagore

Be fearless, create your own world with courage. –Unknown

I have a lot of things to prove to myself. One is that I can live my life fearlessly. –Oprah Winfrey

The ground of fearlessness is fear. In order to be fearless, you have to stand in the middle of your fear. –Larry Rosenberg

I am afraid yet fearless. For fearlessness is not the absence of fear, but the bravery to do it anyways. –Unknown

Do you think courage means being fearless? Or daring? Courage, real courage, is taking three steps when it terrifies you. –Catherine Anderson

Becoming fearless isn’t the point. That’s impossible. It’s learning how to control your fear, and how to be free from it. –Veronica Roth

Fearless is living in spite of those things that scare you to death. –Taylor Swift 

He who fears something gives it power over him. –Moorish Proverb

The only thing we have to fear is fear itself–nameless, unreasoning, unjustified, terror which paralyzes. –Franklin D. Roosevelt

Fear is a poser masquerading as truth. -April McCallum

The wise man in the storm prays to God, not for safety from danger, but for deliverance from fear. –Ralph Waldo Emerson

Be truthful, gentle, and fearless. –Gandhi

There is much in the world to make us afraid. there is much more in our faith to make us unafraid. –Frederick W. Cropp

It’s not what you are that holds you back, it’s what you think you are not. –Denis Waitley

I have accepted fear as a part of life, specifically the fear of change… I have gone ahead despite the pounding in the heart that says: turn back. –Erica Jong

Courage is being scared to death… and saddling up anyway. –John Wayne

Don’t fear failure so much that you refuse to try new things. The saddest summary of a life contains three descriptions: could have, might have, and should have.Louis E. Boone

Look at hopelessness in the face and say: “We are simply not meant to be together.”  Hold courage’s hand and walk away. –Dodinsky

You were put on this earth to achieve your greatest self, to live out your purpose, and to do it fearlessly. –Steve Maraboli

How we handle our fears will determine where we go with the rest of our lives. –Judy Blume

Here’s to all of you who live bold and brave, not because you aren’t afraid, but because you choose to push past your fears in order to live your life more fully, more freely, more alive.

Join me on Twitter @DestinysWomen

(c) By April McCallum, Destiny’s Women™–”Championing the Life, Freedom & Destiny of Women”

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Risks Worth Taking

Life, hope, love, all risks worth taking…

To laugh is to risk appearing the fool
To weep is to risk appearing sentimental
To reach out for another is to risk involvement
To expose feelings is to risk exposing your true self
To place your ideas, your dreams before the crowd is to risk their loss
To love is to risk not being loved in return
To live is to risk dying
To hope is to risk despair
To try is to risk failure
But risks must be taken because the greatest hazard in life is to risk nothing
The person who risks nothing, does nothing, has nothing and is nothing
They may avoid suffering and sorrow, but they cannot learn, feel, change, grow, love, live
Chained by their certitudes, they are a slave, they have forfeited their freedom
Only a person who risks is free.” -Author Anonymous

Join me on Twitter @DestinysWomen

(c) By April McCallum, Destiny’s Women™ – “Championing the Life, Freedom & Destiny of Women”

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