Forgiving Yourself

Valerie Hayden Dropping Jewelsself

A few years ago, our local City Mission ran a program to help women get a fresh start in their lives. I was blessed to teach a class in the program where we dealt with the issue of abuse. Some of the women had just gotten out of prison and had nowhere else to go. Some were dealing with and trying to overcome drug and alcohol addiction. Some were escaping abusive relationships. Some were dealing with all of the above. I have to tell you, I thought my childhood was hard until I heard some of their heart-wrenching stories of loss. Though each story was different, they all had to deal with one issue – forgiving self.

It didn’t take them long to forgive everyone else. It wasn’t impossible to think about forgiving God for something. Their problem was “I just can’t forgive myself!!!”

Self-hatred, or un-forgiveness of self, is common in our society today, especially in those of us who have been abused. I’ve ministered to many women from all walks of life. The issue is the same no matter where they came from or what they’ve done. Some women believe that hating self somehow pays for the damage they did to their families and loved ones, or to themselves. They beat on themselves over and over with this kind of negative self-talk: “If only I hadn’t done (fill in the blank) “If I didn’t ________ I wouldn’t have lost my kids forever!”  Or “I was such a horrible mother, I beat my child!” The list goes on and on and on. I’ve been ministering to my friend for the last twenty + years. She’s finally willing to talk about forgiving herself for the hurt she caused her children. She is not willing to forgive herself yet. The pain is real. The hurt is so deep we can’t see a way to ever let it out, even if we want to. However, our reality today is that we can NEVER go back and undo the bad choices we made in the past. Self-hate harms our self. It can never pay for the damage we did to others.

Something I deal with today is forgiving myself for the abuse my daughters suffered from their Dad. And for my grandson and granddaughter who were abused by their Daddy. I didn’t stop the cycle of abuse in my family. It continues through four generations. But the love of God heals my children and grandchildren, just like it heals me. They are all believers. I know God has a plan, hope and a future for each one of them.

Many years ago I learned to “walk in forgiveness”. Forgiving everyone of everything every day was a long, long process for me. It started with the baby step of being willing to want to forgive Dad who hurt me so deeply. What makes forgiving so worth the pain is the freedom I experience. Each forgiving step I take brings that much more relief. I walk in forgiveness every day, especially forgiveness of myself when I make bad choices. I love myself in the appropriate way God wants me to. I get my self-worth and value from my relationship with Jesus, and it is an amazing thing!

I end with one question for you today, dear reader:

What is the worst thing that can happen if you forgive yourself?

Forgiving God

Valerie Hayden Dropping Jewelbe still and know

Early in my healing journey, I ran into a big problem. It was something I couldn’t blame anyone else for, it was all mine. I was just too proud to admit I struggled with it. The name of my problem is pride. Not the proper pride if there is such a thing. Mine is the pride that will not bow before Jesus unless I deliberately force it with my will.

The depth of my pride was revealed in one of the two memories I have of Dad molesting me. I  begged God for years to ‘PLEASE make Dad STOP!’ I knew God could. I believed He should because I asked Him to. By the time I was nine or so, I was done begging. I remember screaming at Him in my head, “Fine, God, if you won’t make Dad stop, I’ll TAKE CARE OF IT MYSELF!!!!” Living in marriage number five today shows how well THAT worked for me. However, I will share what I have learned about my Father God after all of these years. Are you ready? Here it comes!

God doesn’t think like we do.

Isaiah 55:8 gives us a very clear picture about God’s thoughts. “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways.”

Standing in my nine year old pride I couldn’t see the end of my Dad’s life like God did. I couldn’t see suffering as a child meant I would turn Dad in to the law as an adult. I couldn’t see that after ten years in prison Dad would surrender to Jesus. I couldn’t see God’s perfect timing in restoring the relationship between Dad and Jesus, between Dad and me, between Jesus and me. But God sees my end from the beginning, before I was ever born. His ‘timetable’ is for all  eternity. Yes, there is pain in this world. Yes, there is suffering in this world. Yes there is evil in this world. However, from God’s perspective, evil will be dealt with once and for all in about six of His days. “… beloved, do not forget this one thing, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.” 2 Peter 3:8

Somewhere in my healing journey, I chose to forgive God for not stopping Dad. Maybe it happened when I finally realized that God used my suffering to bring one of His children home for all eternity. I also realized that, while shaking my fist at Him in pride, God still loved me. He saw me healed, strong and whole. He saw me writing this story. He saw it going out to you, the hurting woman reading this, to tell you He loves you. It’s impossible for Him to stop loving you because God is love. He wants you to know He has a plan for you, to give you hope and a future, even if you can’t see it today.

Will you let God reveal His love to you right now?

 

 

 

Forgive? No Way!

forgivenowayWho gets hurt when we hold a grudge against someone? Who gets the pain when we absolutely refuse to even think about forgiving the one/ones who hurt us? We do.

A grudge, also known as un-forgiveness, harms the one holding on to it. Un-forgiveness works like a ‘cancer’ that can literally kill us if we don’t deal with it.

When the Lord first began dealing with me about forgiving my Dad, I wouldn’t listen. I shook my fist at Him and told Him it WAS NEVER GOING TO HAPPEN!!!  I refused to think about it. I did not want to hear one more word from Him about it. He was a gentleman and backed-off. I chose to stay in un-forgiveness for four long, miserable months. I got so sick and tired of being miserable that I finally gave in to the will of my Father. I surrendered. I forced myself to say, “OK, OK, I forgive Dad!” I wish I could tell you that I experienced instant total recovery it didn’t happen that way. It took time to process my feelings about Dad. However, saying “I forgive” opened the door for God to start my healing journey.

Quoting from a Mayo Clinic article:

“What are the effects of holding a grudge?

  • Bring anger and bitterness into every relationship and new experience
  • Become so wrapped up in the wrong that you can’t enjoy the present
  • Become depressed or anxious
  • Feel that your life lacks meaning or purpose, or that you’re at odds with your spiritual belief
  • Lose valuable and enriching connectedness with others”

A few of their listed benefits of forgiving are:

  • Less anxiety, stress and hostility
  • Lower blood pressure
  • Fewer symptoms of depression
  • Stronger immune system

These are all valid points showing the physical benefit of forgiveness. However, God is the ONLY ONE who can get deep enough to heal the shattered heart of our wounded past. I pray you will try this “forgiveness” thing.  When I surrender to God, He heals my heart, my soul and my spirit. God is waiting for you just like He was waiting for me. If something doesn’t change in your life, nothing will ever change. Forgive? YES I CAN! With the help of Jesus, I can forgive all day in every way.

Valerie

Love for the Lost

loveforthelostMy healing journey began when I reached out for help for my two daughters. I was reeling with the reality of Dad molesting my little girls along with my day care children. In getting help for my children, memories started surfacing in my own mind about Dad molesting me. I remembered that Dad told me I was ugly, that I “made him do this”, and the most damaging, “God will never love you!” Seeing a counselor gave me tools to live daily life while I struggled to heal.

Over a period of five years, one memory started reoccurring. Pure terror rushed through my veins, shaking my whole body. I gagged and choked. I screamed inside my head, “l can’t breathe! NO, NO, NOl” Then everything went black. I was an emotional mess for days after. I was so frustrated to be “stuck” at this part of the memory. I begged God to let it surface, heal me, and let me move forward. I believed this memory was the key to remembering my lost childhood.

My friend told me about her Pastor who was trained in a healing prayer tool called God’s Light. I was cautiously hopeful and scheduled an appointment. We started praying and Pastor Darrel invited the Lord to be with us. I opened my heart to Jesus. Not long into our prayer session the choking memory started. The Pastor knew that this was as far as I ever got. I remember hearing him ask Jesus to keep me from “passing out”. Then Pastor asked Jesus to show me the truth. Jesus “ran” a video picture in my mind. Dad and I were in my bedroom in the basement of our home when I was six. I was lying on the bed, choking, and Dad was standing at the foot of the bed. I looked at Dad, and he became a moving double exposure picture. Dad was standing there, and Satan stepped out of him. When I reported this to Pastor he said, “Jesus, now show her where you are”. I looked up from my bed and saw Jesus standing by my right side. He was holding a “dead looking” little girl. Me. I cried out in the present time “Ohhh!” Truth had triumphed and I was finally able to believe; Jesus loves me. Jesus LOVES me!! Jesus loves ME!!!  I felt His love wrap tenderly around me and heal every wound from that episode.

I did not regain my lost childhood memories. What I received is infinitely more precious than memories of a very painful past. Jesus restored my relationship with my Father God. Nothing is more important in my life today. Jesus exchanged my pain for His peace. He wants to do the same for you. His precious, priceless love is for everyone, especially the lost.

“But God demonstrates His own love for us in this; while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8

Valerie

 

Greatest Love

greatestloveMy Dad went to prison for molesting my daughters and day care girls. I am the one who turned him in to the law. I did not do it for revenge. I turned him in because I had to protect the children. While he was locked up the Lord started working on me about forgiving Dad. Four months later I was able to start the forgiving process. Feeling very shaky, I wrote to my Dad. He even wrote back now and then.

Dad moved in with his sister in Kansas when he got out. We started talking on the phone. I learned right away that he had walked out of prison a new man in Christ. Dad was happy and he greatly enjoyed his freedom, both physically and spiritually. I actually enjoyed talking to him for the first time in my life because our conversations were mostly about Jesus.

Three years later I received a call from my brother. Dad had been hit by a car while walking across the street. I lived closer to him than my siblings, so I was first to arrive at the hospital. A severely broken leg, three brain-bleeds, and unconsciousness were the pressing problems for my eighty year old Father. He survived the surgery on his leg. If that wasn’t amazing enough, God healed the brain damage and Dad remembered everything but the accident when he woke up!

I took on the responsibility for Dad’s health, so we transferred him to a rehabilitation hospital in my town. I received an early morning call from a nurse one week later. Dad was back in the hospital with a very high fever. The doctor told us that Dad had pneumonia. I had to tell Dad that he could never go home alone again. Dad decided he was done living here on earth. I heard his prayer as he asked the Lord to stop his beating heart. He spent the rest of the day in prayer. That evening Dad said he wanted to tell me something that he had never told another living soul. He finally shared pain he had carried alone for so long. Dad’s older brother molested him when he was a child. Dad told me, the daughter he’d tried to choke to death. He told me, the one who testified against him, who made sure he went to jail for his crimes. He told me, the one who hated him for so long. He told me his death-bed confession! Four short days later, Dad moved home to Heaven. I still miss him.

I knew my forgiveness was complete when God moved it all the way through me to compassion. Dad and I were just two pilgrims walking on the path to Jesus. It took a very special kind of love to teach us to walk it together near the end of Dad’s life. A love so big, so perfect and tender, so true, so far outside of our humanity that we will never understand it. God, Creator of the universe, God my Father is this Love! He is the Greatest Love.

“And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.” I Corinthians 13:13

Valerie

Hope For The Hurting

hopeforthehurting1“For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.” Jeremiah 29:11 How can we think about hope when our hearts are shattered into a million pieces? All we know is the pain. All we feel is the pain. Pain that consumes us until we’re convinced that even God can’t take it away. Pain that makes us plan to end our life so we don’t have to feel it any more. Who can think about hope in such dire pain? Not me. I had a plan to make the pain go away. I was going to take enough of my migraine pills to put me to sleep forever. God stepped in at that moment.

My two girls were in bed, my husband was at work. It was time. I went to the kitchen cupboard to find my pain killers. My bottle was not there! I searched high and low. I looked in places they wouldn’t normally be found. Where are they?!! I know I took one last night, so they should be right here! I finally gave up the search, went to bed, and somehow slept through the night. The next morning I opened the dishwasher door to put dishes away. There, right on the top shelf, in the middle, upside down, was my empty bottle! No drugs left, not even the lid.

Twenty-six years later in God’s perfect timing, I get to share my story with you. I believe, I know that God, the Creator God of the universe, sent His angel to dump my drugs down the drain to save my life. When I was at the end of my rope and let go, the Lord’s hand was there to catch me. He is ready to hold you right now. He is there to give you hope when you feel you can’t go on. All it takes is one wobbly little baby step toward Him, believing that He might have your answer. He is waiting for you right now with His arms open wide.

Will you enter into His loving embrace?

Valerie

Faith for the Falling

faithforthefalling1I was angry at God for years, starting at age nine, because He didn’t stop my dad from verbally and sexually abusing me.  I didn’t tell anyone what dad did to me because he told me not to tell.  I believed with all of my little girl heart that He COULD have stopped dad but He just WOULDN’T stop him. Since He didn’t, I decided to take care of myself. I was all alone and on my own.

I still went to church, read my Bible daily, and stayed out of trouble as much as I could. I wanted to follow Jesus. To be “a good girl” meant stuffing all of the pain deep down inside so I couldn’t feel it any more. It went so deep that I finally convinced myself the bad stuff never even happened. The truth is that all of the pain and misery still boiled inside of me. My pain came out in wrong behavior. I didn’t get addicted to drugs or alcohol, but I got addicted to my own adrenaline. I believed the lie that a man broke me so a man had to fix me. Men became my god, and I pressured them into stopping my pain. They never lived up to my expectations. When I found out that dad had molested my two daughters and my daycare girls, I could no longer deny that something was dreadfully wrong in my life. I didn’t seek help for myself, but I swallowed my pride and looked for help for my girls. What a surprise! Getting help for my girls started my own healing journey!

I believed one of the biggest lies the enemy Satan tells us is that we are alone in our suffering and misery. He tells us that no one will ever care, especially God. The enemy is correct in one respect. We stay alone in our suffering and misery as long as we believe his lie. Satan doesn’t want us to reach out to God. If we take one tiny little miniscule step in faith toward God, if we can believe there is the slightest hope that God has the answer for our pain, the enemy knows his game is over. God already gave us the answer for all of the hurt, for all of the pain. He gave us His one and only Son Jesus Christ, who is willing and able to exchange our pain for His perfect peace.

“For God so loved the world (that means you, dear reader) that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” John 3:16

May you be faithful to God…even if you fall,

Valerie