No matter where you are in your life, no matter whether you are a person of faith, have no particular faith, are a Christian, Catholic, Jehovah Witness, or follow a different spiritual faith…I hope you will read this blog. It is about an experience that enriched my life in so many levels I wanted to share it with you, maybe it will speak to you too. I hope all my Facebook readers will “share” this with their friends and those with their friends and so on and so on, to reach as many people as possible. Let me say upfront, this blog has a personal tone to it because it is my story, it is not a plea for sympathy or even understanding…it is just my story. Though it will be hard for me to keep this limited to highlights of the weekend and not fill the pages with my life, I will do my best. This weekend I went on a retreat with the women of my church. I have always dreamed of experiencing this part of my journey with my daughter, Kristin, through our church in Lynnwood, WA, but it never happened due to scheduling with children, work or expenses…maybe someday this will still transpire, but for now it is a regret I hold because I didn’t make it happen. This time I was able to go with my church in Colorado, timing is everything. I could not have been more blessed, this weekend was an experience I will always treasure. We were a small group, maybe 40 total…an intimate group of women bonding in many ways. The speakers for our retreat were women from our church. It was raw emotions filled with guidance, support, and love from God. The four women that facilitated the event prayed for guidance from God on what the theme should be since there were no guest speakers planned.  Through God’s direction the theme was forgiveness. A powerful word, a universal word, one that defines emotions we can not deny…regardless of faith. One of the processes we went through was understanding that forgiveness does not mean we condone what the person did, but in order to move forward in our lives, forgiveness is needed. We stay captive by the enemy by holding on to what we have not forgiven, and we only hurt ourselves in the long run. Each facilitator shared their thoughts and desires for us regarding forgiveness. Many other women share personal stories and yes, tears flowed freely, as we all listened, learned and loved. Whether it was their story or the story of a friend, the moments of vulnerability were staggering. Though all speakers get kudos from me for their ability to share, one of our retreat leaders, Jenny, spoke to me in a way that penetrated deep to the core of my heart…and that is what prompted my blog. As she spoke, she shared a prayer that was written to guide us with words many of us are not able to put together, it carries blank spots to be filled out by whomever is saying it…and can be changed as needed. If you are not a person of faith, maybe you can use this as a guide to create your own…it goes like this:

Father God, I confess that I have been holding on to_______. I repent of holding on to that and not trusting you with _________, I repent of relying on my own power to handle the situation and not relying on you. I ask for your forgiveness and deliverance from all of its effects throughout my spirit, soul and body. With the blood of Jesus, I now encircle __________, and all entities associated with it. I bind it as one package and cast it to the cross. I ask you Holy Spirit, to fill me more fully with your presence and your ________. Undo all damage done by the enemy. Breathe your life into what the enemy declared dead. Thank you for delivering me and healing me. In Jesus Name, Amen.

I had to come to terms with forgiveness this weekend, but in doing so it was clear it isn’t others I need to forgiven…it is myself. Through time I was able to forgive others because I learned to understand what drove them, whether it was sadness, fear, anger, loneliness, or a vast number of other emotions. Some of the people were co-workers, some acquaintances, some family member…but regardless of who it was, I forgave…not in a righteous way, but in a humble way, if that makes any sense, love and forgiveness prevailed…except where I was concerned. I have hurt many people in my life because of choices I have made, all for the same reasons…sadness, fear, anger, loneliness or whatever. For anyone reading this that knows my story, was involved in a situation or is close enough to my soul to know the circumstances…you understand my regrets. Realizing I am too weak to forgive myself without God’s help was humbling to me. I always think I can do anything on my own…I am woman, hear me roar…but I have learned I am not able to. I often give my struggles to God, but I’ve held onto this one issue because I feel I don’t deserve to be forgiven. How can I be relieved of punishing myself after the mistakes I’ve made…so, instead I tied the brink of regret onto my heart and continue to carry it around weighing down my soul. One of our exercises was to take about 10 minutes to meditate and listen to God. I have practiced meditation for years but this time I was instructed to ask God what he sees in me, a humbling question. Whether it would come to us in one word or a phase, we were to listen. Almost to the minute the time was up, I heard a single word…courage. I realize this can have many meanings coming from God…was it the courage I had drawn on to get through my childhood, life experiences of losing family members and friends through death, especially one of my children, my many divorces (not a glib comment by the way) or maybe milestones in my professional life. As the weekend progressed I thought, yes it may have been for all those reasons, but maybe…just maybe…it is that God knows it will take courage to forgive myself and He believes I have the courage to accomplish this task. Heather, another retreat leader, provided each of us with a geode stone…and with her loving guidance, told us when we were ready to break through the hard crust and let forgiveness evolve, we could crack open the rock where we will find beauty inside. I would like to believe I could do this overnight…but forgiving myself will not be a quick task for me. I will get there because I know God has faith in me, so I plan to work hard to accomplish this soon. I cannot change what happened, but I will learn to forgive myself, then I will crack open that rock to find the treasure within…peace. So, whoever you are out there reading this…I hope you will take time out to reflect on giving and/or accepting forgiveness…and start healing. I also sincerely hope if I have hurt you, that you have found it in your heart to forgive me…as I hope someday to forgive myself.