moments of grace

image sourced from the CALLED Magazine facebook Page

this quote is SO true to what i have been learning for the past 18 months...
i have always been ashamed of my weaknesses,
my failings, my 'lack'.
[and oh, there are a TON of them to choose from.]

over my lifetime, i've done myself the dis-service
of believing that i could never let go of or overcome those things
and was destined to 'pay' for them forever.
that i deserved to suffer.

there are a lot of reasons that i felt that way
but the GOOD thing is
that in this process of healing from other things,
God has opened my eyes and allowed me to begin to heal my mind
from that very flawed way of thinking.

now, i'm the first to admit that i've REALLY screwed up. a LOT.
my own personal history holds secrets and pain
that have affected me and the people closest to me.

what i have come to see is that 
a secret only has power in the dark.
when you speak it, reveal it, and bring it out into the light,
it becomes nothing. like smoke in fresh air, it dissipates.
it can't choke the life out of you anymore.
you can breathe in and out and LIVE
instead of die to yourself and your purpose.

a weakness in me can become strong through my faith in God.
that, my friends, is one of the most powerful things i have realized.

i don't need to hide the weaknesses anymore
or lie about the failures or cover up for anyone.
i can hand them over to God and let Him turn them into something beautiful...
i can dissipate the darkness by letting the light of truth shine in my life.

and so, in my moment of grace this week,
i stepped out of the dark and into the light...
and allowed one of my greatest weaknesses to be seen
and transformed by my faith.
it happened for a reason and God will make it matter.

a conversation with my sister on facebook
involved me speaking up about an issue that has damaged me
all of my life.
it's ok - no anger, no problem in the discussion - 
we both stated our beliefs and positions and agreed to disagree.
and that's perfectly fine. 
her experience has been somewhat different than mine,
and we are both entitled to our beliefs and opinions. 

but the thing is that when i wrote the 'secret' down in words, publicly,
i felt my heart lighten up by about six hundred thousand pounds.
the burden was lifted a bit.
'God rushed in' , as Anne Voskamp says.

i know that i am one of millions of women dealing with this particular 'secret'
and so i am going to say this 
to any one of you who might be reading this right now...

do not be shamed by your past.
do not be ashamed of your SELVES
due to a bad situation you got yourself into
and a bad decision you made.
or even a RIGHT decision for you that you made
that has caused you to suffer at the hands of others.

you know what i mean, don't you?

deeeeeep breath

i was an unplanned teen pregnancy.
my mom was just 16 when she got pregnant with me
back in 1961.
i can't. 
even with my own personal history,
i can't begin to know what she endured.
i can't begin to hear or see the reactions she got from people
who saw this little petite teenage girl - pregnant.
in 1961.
he married her, then he left a few months later.
he's never been part of my life.

i will say this right now:
i would not have blamed her if she had ended that pregnancy.
not one bit.
[it's ok if you disagree with that... 
i am just sharing my opinion. on my blog]

she didn't end it, she endured it.
she was courageous and strong and selfless.
she brought me into the world and her parents, my grandparents,
adopted me to protect her and me from a lot more pain.
my uncle watched over me like a big brother.
i will be forever grateful to all of them for the sacrifices they made for me.

deeeeeeeeper breath

i was also a teenager who got pregnant.
though very much in love with my boyfriend in high school, 
i lacked the moral fortitude to stick to my guns and say no to sex.
i knew what i believed, but i lied to myself and did something
that my body wanted but my mind and SOUL opposed.

and i got pregnant.
at 17.
in 1979.

i remember the pain in my mom's expression when i told her.
now, 34 years later, i understand that she was most likely 
remembering the reactions that SHE had received back in 1961,
but to me, at 17,
and that is damaging to a soul.

i carried that self-imposed damage
 and it lived deep within me all my life.
i knew that my mother was disappointed in me.
I was disappointed in me!

the decision was made to end the pregnancy
and at the time, i told everyone that 'my mom made me do it'
but that's not true.
my mom wanted me to end it for several reasons,
as did my boyfriend and his parents,
and so did i.
i wasn't ready to be a mother
i wasn't able to provide a future for a child.
i chose to end the pregnancy by abortion.
and i did.

i have regretted it ever since.
i didn't have reasons that were sound enough to do what i did.
i had been an irresponsible teen and got myself into a mess.
i should have stepped up and accepted my responsibility for that child
but i didn't.
and i've hated myself for that. i really have.

six months later, 
i still hadn't learned my lesson.
i was newly-engaged, still very much in love,
and i got pregnant AGAIN.
on my 18th birthday. 
[same guy, btw]

and i kept the baby.

she was there when i graduated from high school.
she was there when  my boyfriend - her father - and i got married.
we were together for 32 years.
that sweet baby was born a few months later, and has been
one of the greatest blessings of my life,
along with three more beautiful children
[and two miscarriages].
she is now an incredible 32-year old woman
whom i am so very proud of.
i am so very proud of ALL of my kids... so grateful to be their mom.

it wasn't easy being 18 and pregnant,
but i was able to look at myself in the mirror
and know that it was the right, the best, decision i could have made.

the women in my family have been affected by this kind of situation for generations,
and i prayed over my three daughters all through their lives
that the legacy would end and they would never be pregnant as teens,
and have to face the pain and agony that the women before them had.
i prayed over my son, too, that he would not put a girl in that situation.
God is good! Those prayers were answered.

here's the deeper part of the story:

still breathing.......

for years, i tried to be the BEST mom and the BEST wife
doing everything right and perfect
to erase the guilt and shame i felt for choosing to end my first pregnancy.
i somehow convinced myself that if i could be the perfect everything to my family,
[though i was faaaaaaar from perfect]
then i would be able to forgive myself for my bad choice back then.
others would be able to forgive me.
i would not disappoint anyone anymore.

i love my children, and i love being a mom.
i wanted to be the best that i could be for THEM and for my husband.
but beneath all of that, 
i wanted to be forgiven.


what i am learning now
i prayed, i asked God to forgive my selfishness and foolishness
that resulted in the death of a child.
and He forgave me.
i just never accepted His forgiveness.

until now.

now, He has made it clear to me
that i have punished myself long enough.
i can't earn His forgiveness. it is freely given.
i can't earn the forgiveness that i felt i needed from my mom
as i stood before her that day back in 1979. 
she didn't feel the way i thought she did,
and she didn't know that i thought she disapproved of me.
and i can't earn the forgiveness that i so desperately need to give myself.
 if God can forgive me, i can find the strength to accept that and forgive myself.

the burden is lifted,
and i realize now that my first child sits on Jesus' lap, 
just as shown in those beautiful illustrations in children's Bibles.
so do the two children that i lost to excruciating mid-term miscarriages.

God is reaching into every part of me
and healing all of my past wounds.
ALL of them.

in learning to trust Him,
i am being laid wide open
as he almost surgically removes all of the damaged tissue
so that He can make me healthy again.

if YOU are in this place,too,
know that He can do it.
i can't.
you can't.
but He CAN.

let go of the burden that you carry,
even if it is the responsibility for the death of your unborn child.
it's ok. He will forgive you. 
[i can't speak for PEOPLE forgiving you...
but that's not what is most important]

i am not opposed to abortion. not at all.
i believe that there are situations that are so terrible
that a woman has every right to end a pregnancy...
life-or-death health issues for the mother.
a pregnancy that results from rape or incest.
i believe this because although unborn children are precious lives worth saving, 
so are the women who carry them.
neither life is 'worth more' to God.

and i also believe that a woman who HAS had an abortion
for whatever reason
does not deserve to be berated, bullied, judged and villified
by people who think abortion is wrong.
we aren't supposed to judge. anyone. ever.
that's God's job, not ours.

forgive yourself.
forgive others.
when you know better, DO better.
speak your truth.
live your truth.
trust God.
trust yourself.

finally letting out that deeeeeeeep breath...........

edited to add:
i just came across a blog post written by Sarah Bessey

called 'I am Damaged Goods'
and i HIGHLY recommend that you read it
if the issue of sexual shame is part of YOUR story
especially if you have struggled in your faith over it

i welcome your comments -  but be respectful. 
i will not publish comments left in hate or anger or judgement. 
it's not a debate - i'm not trying to convince you or anyone else to believe what i believe.
i'm just telling my story. on my blog.


Laura said...

God is a God of Grace and love. I agree to disagree about abortion. I personally can't support it, but I can support YOU. You are my beautiful sister in Christ. He paid the ultimate price for both of us and our pasts. Even though we have never met, please know you are loved.

Cyndi said...

I love reading your column and following your healing process. You seem to be at a peaceful place now. Isn't it funny how we mortal beings make things so hard for ourselves by forgetting that God loves us even though we're not perfect (in our eyes)? We're supposed to make "mistakes"! How else can we learn and advance our souls? You are an inspiration to many Deb. Thank you for sharing your journey.

Kim said...

God IS a God ofGrace and loves us not for our goodness but HIS! God bless you for being so transparent and I pray this will be a pivotal part of healing in your life my friend! Thank you for sharing. I love you very much!

GardenGirl said...

i pray grace falls and continues to cover you like a warm blanket deb.

romans 8:24-25 "i am saved by hope"

it has kept me often. He gets you deb, He gets us. for that i will be forever grateful.

sending love from snoho.

Christine said...

"Christians have largely accepted the culture's view of "tolerance" which forbids negative opinions about socially acceptable sins."
~Barna study of 2010~

Matt 28:19-20

I too, want to support you and encourage you to keep growing and healing.

Meghan Grace said...

Dear Deb, thank you for sharing your deeply personal story and feelings. Years ago, I got involved in a relationship that should have never happened. It was a bad, stupid choice on my part and it ended my marriage and took away my self esteem. I finally had the courage to end that relationship and for years after, I would beat myself up for my mistakes. Finally one day, my dear mother asked me why I couldn't forgive myself. She went on to remind me that I need to forgive myself because our loving savior, Jesus, forgave me a long time ago. Her loving comment finally started my road to healing and forgiveness to myself for my mistakes. I cannot take back the past but I can move forward with courage. Hugs, Meghan

Deb Kennedy said...

Christine, I'm not exactly sure what the quote you included in your comment was meant to say, but I do want to clarify that I WILL post comments with an opposite opinion to what I have expressed here. I just won't publish anything that is screaming, yelling, ranting, raving, and tearing people apart. It's not tolerance or rejection of the negative - it's about respect.

Garden Antqs Vintage said...

I love that you share your experiences. Thanks for just being real and not sugar coating things.

FredaB said...

I felt very sad when reading this. To think that you have carried this with you through all your life is so wrong. I am glad you are finally able to think this through and accept who you are now - a loving wife and mother.

Also until you have walked in their shoes no one else can ever say what you or anyone should have done.

Good for you.