My Story | The Valley’s End

The Valley's EndAfter the surgery, visible healing followed. I could stand for longer than 5 minutes. I could walk and run without intense pain. Overall, recovery took longer than expected, but the joy of feeling my body heal was worth the struggle! I had finally reached the moment I had dreamed of for so long.

On May 23rd, Ben and I were wed, and over the course of the next year we became one. It was a wonderful first year, a year in the sunshine, a year of healing.

For a long time leading up to my surgery, I spent many nights crying, many days frustrated, and many months confused. But God knew all along that this would be my story. This would be the way of my healing. This would be my lot.

No amount of asking why or railing against the pain in anger could change the course of this story. I just had to wait. I had to learn WHO my God was, rather than WHY I feelt so much pain all the time.

I still get migraines often. I throw up. I get sick easily, and to this day, I deal with chronic pain. I believe it will follow me the rest of my life, but there has been incredible healing in this valley. I have learned to accept my story, to not be angry with it, to live within it even as I learn how to better care for myself.

Having emerged from the valley with scars to show for it, I urge you to wait patiently within the valley you find yourself in. I urge you to learn about WHO instead of always searching for the WHY. I encourage you to remember that while shadows, rocks, and unexpected holes litter your valley…you can also find sunshine, hope, and love.

Look up, not down. Grieve, but not without hope. Worship God through the tears. Wait on Him. His story for you does not change even when your feelings and emotions rage. Trust God with your life, the whole of your heart. Walk through the valley, and when you get near the end, reflect on all He has shown you. You will be amazed! You will see miracles. You will find love abundant, God ever caring!

Still reflecting,

Sierra Straightforward

My Story | Miracles in the Valley

Miracles in the ValleyThe healing process can prove slow and painful. Exhaustion dragged me down as I entered my sixth year with chronic pain. My determination waned along with my will to improve. A valley, though hard and fiery, can become in many ways a comfortable place to stay.

Ben and I dated seriously and knew that we would get engaged by the end of the year, though we kept our plans quiet. He was finishing his final year in the Institute of Ministry, so I left my beloved daycare job at Wolf Mountain to join him. I taught Junior High, did secretarial work, and took classes all while we happily dated. I also quietly sat undetermined to take the necessary steps for surgery.

Somewhere along the way, I finally picked up the slack and began making the calls to switch my insurance to my new county, hoping to acquire a primary doctor so my body could get on with physical healing.

On December 23rd of that year (2014), Ben proposed. My heart brimmed with dreams, and the planning began. Ben was my anchor and proved over and over that he really was the keeper of my heart. In the process of finding decor, making paper roses, and feeling beautiful in my simple (yet detailed wedding dress), my medical insurance finally updated me to my present county … in February!

Needing the surgery, wedding plans took a back seat while I tended to the medical hurdles. I hoped to accomplish it before our May 23rd wedding, but May approached quickly, and the hoops to jump through seemed endless. First, I had to have a series of doctor’s appointments in order for them to recommend me for surgery. Once they placed the request, the waiting game began.

Though simple in nature, the procedure still required the insurance company’s approval. As experience had taught me, a response could take a month if not longer. After that, we would need to schedule a surgery date, and then factor in healing time. It all seemed impossible to meet before our May 23rd wedding date. I needed a miracle!

Hope abounded and with it a renewed determination to heal. I made calls and worked hard to get the appointments as fast as possible. My first doctor’s appointment was scheduled for March 11, but I called the office every day to see if anyone had cancelled so I could have my appointment sooner. Finally, someone cancelled and I was schedule for March 3rd! Praise God!

After the multiple doctors’ appointments, I finally had a surgeon. I scheduled two appointments — the first so the surgeon could look at me and recommend surgery, and the second for the actual procedure. It would take a miracle to get this surgery less than week after the general appointment.

I prayed desperately for this desire of my heart, reigning in my wild pleas as I asked that it only be done if it was God’s timing. I would receive an answer on Monday or Tuesday. I was used to hearing a no, but I was convinced that God would give me a yes. Though I admit my confidence wavered, then flew back in with strength.

I let Monday go by without calling, because surely it would be Tuesday before we received an actual answer. Then Tuesday came … and I was not happy with what I heard. The request was faxed to my primary care doctor, but they never got it. My request for surgery hadn’t even crossed with the insurance company, and they would no doubt take days to approve the surgery. I was disappointed.

But this time, I wasn’t giving up! I picked up the phone and made calls back and forth between both the surgeon’s office and my primary doctor’s office. After things sorted out and my paperwork was submitted to the insurance company, I felt better. I had done everything on my part that could be done.

After all the calls on Tuesday, I stopped the work I was doing at the school and knelt to pray as I again begged God for surgery if it be His desire for me. Waiting wasn’t as difficult as I had made it in the past. God knew my needs, and He knew the timing with which those needs should be met.

I went to my IIM Tuesday class. Prayer requests were asked for, I gave mine, and we prayed that I would have surgery soon.

Minutes later, I was called with this news, “The insurance company went ahead and approved your surgery.” She kept on going, but I was amazed at God. The insurance company approved my surgery in less than 24 hrs! I cried in awe.

This is sunshine in the valley. This is healing in sight. This is wonder because my God is great.

Still in Awe,

Sierra Straightforward

My Story | The Hard Middle

Fall of 2013 dawned as a time of beginnings. I still struggled with my chronic pain, but my job as a child-care worker and my growing friendship with Ben added a vitality to my life that I had left behind in the many months before. The emotional cavities in my heart were healing as Ben helped me grow and live a fuller life. We began officially dating in October. We had a magical Christmas holiday and made long-lasting memories. I really liked dating Ben, and I loved him! By December of 2013, I was certain I would marry him.

We talked about everything that was important, shared the same passions, complimented each other’s strengths, and stood by during weakness. He became my best friend. I avoided calling him boyfriend because boyfriend seemed too shallow for what he meant to me. Long distance proved hard, but fun.

Story4Enduring chronic pain seemed more hopeful alongside a best friend who refused to leave and always comforted me through the tears. The following February (2014), while I took a shower, I noticed a lump on my body. Fear stole my breathe. I had never seen it before, but in the previous months I had experienced a different kind of pain.

Continue reading “My Story | The Hard Middle”

When the Journey Changes

At the age of 15, I experienced intense, regular headaches. They came so often that I began to worry. By 16, I suffered with unbearable migraines. I would lie down in the school nurses station between classes so I could gather enough stamina to sit upright for the lecture. I would groan quietly to deal with the sharp twists and turns knifing through my head.

It was agony.

near the beginning of my chronic pain journey
Near the beginning of my chronic pain journey

For the last 4 years or so, I’ve recounted this tumultuous journey of chronic pain. Every chronic pain story differs, but each one hurts. My own journey holds much personal depth, and I hope that soon I can adequately communicate my experience with you.

However, in the past year, I have known healing and rest from physical pain. It still remains, but not in the same agonizing way. I am not in darkness. How unique that you and I should meet when this journey of mine has just begun to change.

You see, I recently did a 5-minute cardio workout. Those of you with chronic pain understand the significance of that statement. It feels so good to have my muscles burning again. It is a happiness that I have just begun to re-experience. I thank God for a body that can move intensely for 5 minutes and for these moments of exercise that leave my body burning in the best type of pain I could ever wish for.

This is healing pain. My journey has just begun to change, and I must record it.

I have clearly documented my chronic pain. It is set in my history, but I cannot only recount the dark and hard part of my journey. I must also share when it is full of light and ease. I must remember today. I must remember this healing. No journey stays the same forever. At times, I felt as though the pain held me tight, pulling me closer and swallowing me up. But that’s not the truth.

It can feel desperate, black, and eternal, but this chronic pain journey has slowly changed throughout the last 6 years. Here I am today, having completed a 5-minute intense cardio work-out! The journey does change. It just takes time.

Whatever you face today is hard and often unbearable. But if I could offer you a cup of coffee and have you sit at my kitchen table, I would tell you this …

Don’t impatiently wait for the journey to change. Keep living day by day, step by step. If you need to cry, do it. If you fall into discouragement, fall. But let every pain, heartbreak, and discouragement push you closer to Christ. He is your refuge. Trust in Him.

It is easy to remember and memorize the hard times, but when a moment of joy, light-living, and healing comes your way…savor it, recount it, weave it tightly into your history. That is your journey changing, and just as you remember the hard times, remember the good times too.

As you pray for healing, strength, and guidance, bind your heart closer to God. You may not always receive the answer you hope for, but never let your wishes stand as a barricade between you and the Savior who loves you more deeply, freely, and fully than anyone else ever will. To be frustrated at God is to forfeit your only peace and hope.

You are not alone on this path. Everyone deals with some type of chronic pain. It may not be physical, but it could be mental, emotional, and even spiritual. We all hurt in some way. We were not meant for this world after all. But we have hope! Draw nigh to God and He will draw nigh to You. Then, look at others and really see them. Ask how they are doing. See how you can share in the burden.

The journey will change, and it will most assuredly take a long time. But we cannot lose heart, God is our refuge and there is joy to be realized in this life of hard valleys. As a woman struggling under chronic pain, I experienced 5 minutes of intense cardio.

That is joy. It is healing.

And I am determined to remember it.

In Christ,

Sierra Straightforward

 

 

 

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?

 

 

 

Forgiving the Unforgiveable

SONY DSCMy childhood was so painful that I can’t remember most of it. God, in His mercy, allowed only a handful of memories to surface during the many years of my healing process. One memory I had to deal with was about my mother. The hardest part about allowing this memory to surface was that I had to re-live the pain just one more time. I had to feel abandoned again. I had to cry again. However, my desire for healing was stronger than my fear of the pain. I asked Jesus to come with me, and I let the memory surface. I felt again the devastation Mom caused in me by abandoning me to Dad’s perversion. She knew what he was doing. She saw him hurting me, and she just walked away.

Why did God have me deal with this memory so many years after Mom passed away? I couldn’t call her up to tell her I forgave her. I couldn’t ask for her forgiveness for all the anger I had against her.  I had the answer the minute I chose to forgive her. It wasn’t about my mom. It was about me. Forgiving my mom set me free!

So how can we even think of going back to that place of pain? How can we forgive the unforgivable? Maybe we believe we hurt more than anyone else on earth. I know I did. Or we believe that holding onto a grudge really hurts our those who hurt us and our unforgiveness can somehow make them pay for our pain. It doesn’t work that way, my friend. The truth is we only hurt ourselves when we hold a grudge.

Forgiving others is our choice, it’s not about how we feel.  Does choosing to forgive sound too simple? It is. It’s just not easy. It’s one of the hardest things we’ll ever have to do! Jesus is the only One who can help us face our pain. He not only helps us be willing to want to forgive, He walks with us every step of the way. It’s so worth the struggle because He heals our wounds forever. I can visit my memory of abandonment without any pain, even after all of these years.

God’s Word says “by His stripes we were healed.” His healing is perfect. It is final. It is complete. God will heal you if you will let Him. Or you can hang on to your pain. The choice is yours.

“Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed.” John 8:36

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

 

In The Wait of God

terryonepilepsy“I’m sorry Mr. and Mrs. Bynum but your son has epilepsy.”

I knew something strange was going on with my son. He would have these moments of “spacing out” and unresponsiveness and when he came out of it he wouldn’t remember anything. Initially no one noticed but me because I spent the most time with him. I asked my husband about it and at first he hadn’t noticed and then one day he observed this strange behavior himself. We shared our concerns with a few family members and some of the responses were unbelievable, “he’s just being a boy,” “he’s ignoring you,” “boys just don’t listen,” “you’re overreacting,” etc. No matter what they said there was a nagging in my soul that wouldn’t rest, I knew something was wrong and I began to pray. My husband and I both began to watch and pray…and wait.

Can I be honest with you? I am not a patient person. I hate waiting. Unfortunately, the world we live in today completely caters to my inability to wait. Inevitably, there are times in life that waiting is the only option available. Like it or not.

The situation (my family and) I encountered with my sons’ epileptic diagnosis forced me to learn firsthand what it means to be “in the wait of God” and it has given me a different perspective on the subject.

First, let me point out the fact that God is a timeless God. He does not operate within the restraints of time. He is not restricted by time. He is the creator of time and therefore He is not subject to it. Unlike His creation, we are bound by its laws and obligated to function within its realms.

Now, let’s define the word wait. Wait has a several definitions. We will discuss three.

WAIT:  1. to remain inactive or in a state of repose, until something expected happens

2. to be available or in readiness

3. to remain neglected for a time

Definition number three jumped out to me because when we are waiting on God to respond to our urgent need, we feel neglected until He moves. As long as He is silent we feel forgotten about which is amazing because He is omniscient or all knowing. How is it possible for an all knowing Father to abandon His child? It isn’t possible. We know this but yet we struggle with it each time we’re met with a situation that we deem worthy of God’s immediate attention. However, while we’re in the wait of God we fail to realize what is taking place  spiritually. Hope, trust, and faith are simultaneously being strengthened or weakened. Often times the outcome of the situation is the determining factor.

Definition number two gave me pause. When we are unexpectedly thrown into a chaotic situation would we describes ourselves as available or ready while we’re in the wait of God? I don’t know about you, but for me the answer to that question is absolutely not! I’ve not made myself available to God for crying out loud I need God to be available for me. Is that how you feel? I’m neither available nor ready for anything but a quick miraculous solution to my problem.

Finally definition number three is probably the most out of character for me sad to say. I don’t remain still until something expected happens. I beg, I plead, and sometimes even bargain with God in a desperate attempt to spare me from whatever awful situation is looming over me.

I realized that I needed to reevaluate this “in the wait of God” concept.

While we were praying, watching, and waiting our son’s “episodes” were getting worse. Lasting longer and growing more violent. He would have these occurrences without any warning. We called his pediatrician and she got him in immediately and sent him to a pediatric neurologist. Well if you know anything about specialist, it usually takes a while to get an appointment, however our pediatrician voiced the urgency of the situation and God opened a door that allowed us to get in within a week.

We checked in to Children’s Hospital on the day of his testing. (The pediatric neurologist wanted to run tests before she would see him.) It was an all-day process. The nurse initially told us that it would take about a week or two for the results to come and they would call us with more information and set up an appointment at that time if it was necessary. When the tests were complete, the nurse pulled me to the side and said, we’ll be calling you tomorrow morning because the doctor will want to see him tomorrow afternoon.

My heart skipped a few beats and I took a deep breath.

One of the longest 24 hour periods (my family and) I have had to endure. Praying. Watching. Waiting. Needless to say, sleep escaped me (and my family) that night. The following afternoon we entered the patient’s room at the pediatric neurologist’s office and waited for the news from the doctor.

“I’m sorry Mr. and Mrs. Bynum but your son tested positive for epilepsy.” “However,” she continued, “if I had to have epilepsy, this would be the one I’d choose.” You see, he’ll grow out of this around the time he’s a teenager. He shouldn’t have issues with obtaining a license either. This type of epilepsy is easily controlled by medication. We already know most of his triggers so you’ll know what to avoid. I want to see him every few months unless something changes or he has a seizure. We’ll teach you how to respond if he has a Grand seizure and write out an action plan for the school, babysitters, etc.

It’s been a while since that day at the hospital. It’s been a learning process. It’s been hard at times (especially when he had a Grand seizure because of a high fever), however, even in sickness, God gave us favor…but we had to wait.