The Hidden Life Awakened’s mission is to provide a path that will encourage and nurture physical well-being, mental balance, and deep spiritual hope in as many people as God brings our way. This path is based on documented science, faith-based practices, and the wisdom and living testimony of Betty Walthour Skinner. We offer this beautiful work to the world through BWS Ministries, Inc., a 501c3 charitable organization.
Over 50 years ago, Betty Skinner was hospitalized and told by her doctor, “You have a hole in your soul.”
She was forty-two years old, a mother of four, a wife of a successful businessman and community leader, a suburban socialite, a Sunday school teacher, and a civic volunteer. She was also the daughter of a father who suffered with “combat fatigue” and took his own life after surviving WWII’s Battle of the Bulge; the sister of a brother who died in the Korean War; and the daughter of a mother who never talked about the deaths of her husband and her son—or her daughter’s suffering.
Guilt, confusion, and shame gradually covered Betty’s true self with layer after layer of false behaviors she used to protect herself, and the gift of a precious soul, uniquely created by God, was lost to itself and the world.
Clinging only to her faith and a glimmer of hope, she embraced the burning fire of her pain and journeyed from desperate clinical depression to healing, wholeness, and profound wisdom one choice at a time.
The beautiful wisdom Betty learned through her suffering offers us the gift of the possibility of intimacy with God and is the focus of our book, The Hidden Life Awakened. On August 17, 2021, Betty’s fondest hope was granted when she was called home to heaven. She continues to be the guiding hand inspiring and encouraging all of our work.
Science and Faith-Based Practices
“Be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind.” —Paul, the Apostle
The first version of our book was called The Hidden Life: Revelations from a Holy Journey. (Navpress 2006) Emerging science slowly began to document and affirm that the organic path Betty travelled alone really does have the power to change the brain, heal the broken body, renew the mind, and awaken the spirit. We realized we had to update the book, so in 2016 we revised, enhanced, and republished it as The Hidden Life Awakened.
Now neuroscience, through stunning new technology, can actually map how our thoughts, emotions, and choices register in the brain by a cascade of physical and energetic changes in the structure of its cells. Scientists know that how and where we focus our attention dictates the content of the brain structure we create. When we choose to focus our attention on uplifting emotional content for only twenty-five seconds, we actually begin to change our brain structure, which changes mental activity, which changes biochemical communication in the body, which epigenetically changes gene expression and thus our physical, mental, and emotional well-being.
Think of it this way: the act of replacing negative thoughts with good thoughts physically impacts the synapses in our brain, causing them to disconnect and make brand new connections, creating new pathways and cells devoted to right thinking. We turbocharge the process by engaging in positive lifestyle choices such as exercising, adding nutrient-rich foods into our diet, sleeping and resting well, and cultivating positive relationships. These combine synergistically to provide critical nutrients to grow healthy brain structure.
The effects of this self-directed neuroplasticity are cumulative, so every time we make a choice for hope, we are turning the part of us that chooses into something different than it was before. Just as it takes more than one footstep, though, to create a new path in the ground, it takes more than one thought to make a new pathway in the mind. We have to choose to cultivate the good we want in our mind over and over again. By changing her thought patterns, Betty changed her life.
After years of a close spiritual friendship with Betty, we realized her amazing story had to be told as an encouragement for others who were struggling with depression and their search for God.
The day we arrived on her doorstep to begin taping, she was wearing the white sweatsuit and deerskin slippers that we teasingly called her “saint suit”, because with her snowy white, monkish haircut she looked for all the world like a tiny, cherubic saint. She invariably greeted us with a welcoming hug that we had to fold in half for since she is not even five feet tall. The first thing you notice is the warmth and radiance of her smile. Her steady brown eyes are faded now but still so tender and full of love they seem to pull you into her soul—or maybe their safety just opens yours.
We spent five years and endless hours recording her words, her memories, and her astonishing wisdom. Betty gave her life to us in utter vulnerability—widely, freely, and holding the hope that it might speak to the wounded hearts of others. She willingly shared the most private and painful details of her life but would always move beyond the facts to the truth and tender wisdom God had revealed to her on her journey from the dark valley to the high places of Love. Our times together were sweet and profound, but even sweeter was the depth of love and wordless Presence we experienced in our silence together.
The Hidden Life Awakened is a beautiful story of healing, hope, and deep intimacy with God that was birthed out of Betty’s suffering, her faithful practice of spiritual disciplines, her solitude in the midst of creation, and her quest for the loving Creator of it all. It is our heart’s desire to offer you the gift of a spiritual friendship with Betty in the hope that her wisdom and story might light a path for your own healing into wholeness, and make you a little more homesick for God.
Kitty Crenshaw & Cathy Snapp, Ph.D
Kitty and Cathy’s lives are totally different—Cathy is an off-the-charts extroverted heart person who has spent her entire career in the introverted world of graduate medical education and Kitty is an introverted head person who has spent her entire life in the extroverted world of politics—but the things that brought them together bridged that gap. They share a love for constant laughter, great food, good wine, creation’s beauty, silly pranks, and glorious gratitude for the extraordinary gifts God has showered on them through Betty Skinner’s life and writings. That gratitude led them to write The Hidden Life: Revelations of a Holy Journey and then The Hidden Life Awakened to share Betty’s powerful life story with the rest of the world.
Kitty has had the gift of a deep spiritual friendship with Betty for over fifty-five years. She is a mother, grandmother, and has been married to Ander for fifty years. For most of her life Kitty was immersed in the world of politics as Ander’s partner when he served in the Florida Senate and then in the United States Congress. She now spends her time writing for this website and offering Betty’s beautiful work to the world. Over the years, she has been involved in numerous civic and charitable organizations with a very special interest in Hospice and The Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation. She coauthored The Hidden Life: Revelations from a Holy Journey in 2006 and The Hidden Life Awakened in 2016 with Cathy. She and Ander live in Jacksonville, Florida.
Cathy is the Director of Behavioral Health for The Augusta University/University of Georgia Medical Partnership and its undergraduate and graduate medical education programs, including the St. Mary’s and Piedmont Athens Regional Internal Medicine Residency Programs. She is an Assistant Professor of Medicine at the Medical College of Georgia, Augusta University. Prior to that she was a clinical psychologist and served on graduate medical faculty as the Director of Behavioral Medicine at the Tallahassee Memorial Healthcare Residency Program. Dr. Snapp and her team have been awarded over $9 million in grant funding to develop lifestyle medicine systems-based training models of diagnosis, treatment and training for academic family medicine faculty, resident physicians, collaborative care teams, and patients. They were awarded the first family medicine residency program pilot collaboration with the Institute for Functional Medicine and have successfully piloted their work throughout the U.S. She lives in Athens, Georgia.