My Story | The Valley’s End

dance-valleyAfter 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

Straightforward

As I started the process of writing for this ministry, Takiela asked me to come up with a name for my column. I didn’t know what to do. It stumped me for hours! My husband had some really good ideas. He claims he’s not a writer, but he’s quite poetic. Anyhow, we threw around good names, but they weren’t quite right. So, hours passed and I remained stuck in a rut!

Then, straightforward came to my attention. I wish that more adults would be straightforward. Let me tell you something, spending time with children can be refreshing and embarrassing. Why? Because, they are straightforward. They say what’s on their minds without the expended energy of beating around the bush. Kids don’t have a bush!

As you get older, you learn discernment. This is good! We should be discerning with what we say. But with age, we’ve also learned how to hide within ourselves and shut people out. We’ve learned to gloss over our problems and only show so much.

However, as a young woman, I want older women to be transparent with me. I want them to tell me what they have experienced, what they have learned. I want to hear their stories, so that I can grow from them. As people, we have all these experiences that we stack in a corner of our heart. We don’t tell or show anyone. Our hearts are closed tight, and we are closed off.

 

Sierra Straightforward

But this little column here? It’s going to be straightforward. This place will share, open up, and welcome you in. This tiny nook is going to be the corner of my heart that you get to sit inside. I’ll be discerning in the things I share, but I’ll also be straightforward and transparent. I hope you’ll do the same. Leave comments, tell me your story, and become a part of this FLOURISH community. I want to get to know you as you get to know me!

You don’t know many things about me yet, so I hope to take the next few weeks to show you some of the biggest mountaintops and deepest valleys of my life. Let me tell you, my story isn’t all sunshine and lollipops. No one has a sunshine, lollipop story! We just don’t. Each life holds hardness, goodness, heartbreak, joy, suffering, pain, hope, wonder, fulfilled dreams, and unfulfilled ones.

My life doesn’t resemble Pinterest-perfect images, and I’m glad for that. Life is much better than a perfect image. The tattered parts bring me closer to God, as the joy and fullness show me how much wonder God has given.

I hope that as I write and we share our lives together — we will come to realize the joy of imperfection, the wonder of life, whole and beaten.

Oh, how whole and beaten it is!

I have struggled with anxiety since the age of 12. It doesn’t burden me all the time. Rather, it comes in waves and knocks me off my feet. I fall flat for months at a time as I re-learn how to apply God’s truth to the battles in my mind.

At 15, I transitioned into chronic pain. It confused me. My thoughts grew dark. I took various pain medications. At times that the pain became so bad, I just wanted to die. The deepest part of the chronic pain valley stretched on for four years before I found a semblance of relief. I still struggle with pain today, but God has poured His strength on me. I have sought and found the comfort He provides. Even more, He has shown the mighty power of His healing.

So you see, my life is beaten and torn, but it is whole and joy-filled. That’s what I want to share here, the details of this beaten, whole, weary, full life. I’ve barely even scratched the surface of my young heart, but today, I wanted you to see some of what Sierra Straightforward will be about. I’ve said it before, but I can’t wait to share this life with you. And perhaps, you’ll want to share your life with me too.

In Christ,

Sierra Straightforward

Meet Sierra Fedorko

sierrab-33

How do you compose the opening sentences that will introduce you to a community of people? How do you jump in and introduce yourself? First meetings can be awkward, so maybe it’s nice you’re behind a screen for this one!

All that to say, I’m Sierra. I’m glad you joined me, and I’m thrilled to be here! I won’t attempt to explain myself in one post. You might get bored and my fingers might cramp. But I can tell you that I’m thankful to start this journey alongside you.

Before we dive in too deep, I will share a few things about me. I’m young, though this last birthday had me feeling old. I mean, I’m in my 20’s now! YIKES. Also, I’ve never been a flower girl, but both my sisters and a lot of my friends have. I jokingly started the Never Been a Flower Girl club. Feel free to join if you fall under this category! Our club is small. Really small.

I started writing at about the age 10 or 11, and I took to all things poetry. I had a little desk in the trees where I wrote quite a bit of my young poetry. As I got older, I continued to write, but my writing and thoughts became darker as I endured heavy, hard chronic pain.

I eventually created a blog. My need to write only increased as I journaled, composed short stories, and worked on my first book. The journey of my life traverses through valleys and mountains, and my writing expressed all of that. Looking back, I see joy and anguish in my penned words.

As life moved forward, I continuously wrote on my blog. I recorded my journey, wrote from the darkness, wrote from the joy, and shared my life with people. Then in December 2014, Leading Young Women to Hope presented me with an opportunity. After reading my blog, talking with me, and explaining the ministry, LYWH offered me the position of columnist. This provided a place to write, a place to share my hope in Christ, and a place that would stretch me. Of course, I was excited.

The opportunity was right there, open for me, ready for me. Without obligation, they gave me time to consider it. Boy, did I consider it! The opportunity dangled close enough to touch, but I found myself in the middle of the busiest two semesters in my life (so far anyway)! To top all that, I got engaged soon after the offer came in.

A bit into the New Year, I made the decision that I couldn’t commit, not yet. I wouldn’t be able to give my best, not between teaching, taking classes, planning a wedding, enduring chronic pain, and going to numerous doctor’s appointments while waiting for approval for surgery. I couldn’t dedicate the time needed when embarking on a new project. Time is tricky. You never get more of it, forcing you to choose how you use your limited supply. So I did. I said no, and in doing so, I said yes to commitments I already had.

I took my busy classes, continued teaching JH students, planned a wedding, went on school trips, had doctor’s appointments, had surgery, got married, and honeymooned.

AND SURVIVED.

November 2015 rolled around and with it, perhaps the time to say yes to this writing opportunity. I had less commitments now and could devote my time even if it came months and months later. So here I am. I can now confidently write, invest, and share with this community, with you. I look forward to it! I want to share many things in my life with you.

I want to impart my experiences, my hope in Christ, His grace in my life. I want to cry the anguished tears together and walk hand-in-hand as we encourage each other to press on for Christ. I don’t want to hoard this journey but rather open up and let you in. I want God to receive glory as we walk together along this beaten path.

Thanks for letting me be a part of your life.

In Christ,

Sierra Straightforward

Hope Courage Strength

Takiela Bynum Leading Young Women to Hope

hopecouragestrength

So be strong and courageous, all you who put your hope in the LORD! ~Psalm 31:24 NLT

 ATTENTION: All you who put your hope in the Lord

It’s easy to hope when you’re skipping through the roses of life. However, do you have hope when life is anything but a walk through the garden? Are you desperately clinging to hope when everything that was solid in your life has been reduced to a heaping pile of debris? Where is your hope when all that you’ve secretly feared has suddenly become a harsh reality?

There have been times that my life was devastating and as a result my hope was dashing, (and I don’t mean good looking either). My hope was shattering because of what was happening.

Most of us have a basic knowledge of what it means to hope, but the actual definition of hope gives us a clearer image.

hope: the feeling that what is wanted can be had, a person or thing in which expectations are centered, to look forward to with desire and reasonable confidence, to believe, desire, or trust* *Merriam-Webster Dictionary

Unknown to me the image wasn’t as sharp as it could be and the Lord stepped in with His holy Windex so to speak. He cleaned up the lens of my perspective and what was cloudy become crystal clear – He revealed a deeper meaning of the word hope. Two little words, smack dab in the middle of the definition, lit up and flickered before my eyes.

hope: await, to be patient, trust, be pained, stay, tarry, wait* *Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance

Precious hearts, there are times it will be painful to hope. There will be moments that every fiber of your being will scream – give up! I’ll be the first to admit that in a few instances, I did actually give up. I’d been depleted of even the shadow of hope. Have you ever been there, has life ever mercilessly snatched every fraction of hope from you?  I remember on a couple of occasions my hopelessness devoured my well-being, my reasoning, my faith, it swallowed me whole. Oh but thank God that my Father stepped in and did not allow it to consume me. When my hope became too frail for me to hold on to Him, my God in all His glorious power held me, just as He is holding you right at this moment.

Yes, to hope is the feeling that what is wanted can be had, it is a person/thing in which expectations are center, it is trust, it is being patient, but it is also being pained…and painful it is, painful indeed.

In the previously mentioned verse (Psalm 31:24 NLT) it instructs those who put their hope in the Lord to be strong and courageous. It’s an interesting fact that the writer (David) specified exactly who he was addressing.

A lot of people put hope in a lot of things, and it’s not always the Lord. Hope is often misappropriated. It’s been put in finances, self, government, society, other people, celebrities, gods, etc. Make sure you are putting your hope in the right one, which is the Lord.

Several chapters later David asks a question and then answers it when he pens this verse…

And so, Lord, where do I put my hope? My only hope is in YOU. Psalm 39:7

When we mistakenly put hope in anything but the Lord it is guaranteed to disappoint. God alone has the power to fulfill the absolute terms and conditions of hope. If your hope remains in Him it will always be secure. Ultimately, He is the driving force (power) that enables the hope you put in Him, to accomplish what would otherwise be impossible.

Hope feeds the courageous appetite; it satisfies the hunger of strength.

For those who hope in the Lord, strength and courage are essential. It is not for the faint of heart. Although the words are similar in meaning (actually their definitions are intertwined), there is a fine line between strength and courage, and the Lord has a way of clarifying what He wants us to understand.

This is what I discovered…

Strength is measured by what you carry, however, courage is measured by what you can bear.

Without hope there is no courage. Without strength courage cannot exist.

How can you be courageous without hope? There is no need to be courageous if hope isn’t present. How can there be courage without strength? The world is full of strong cowards (our enemy, satan, for example – he has some strength with a limited amount of power but he is also a coward) however, courageous wimps have yet to be discovered. I’d venture to say that strength and courage are a few of the prerequisites to putting your hope in the Lord.

In this life you will have trouble, but put your hope in God, be strong, and courageous. For strength may be measured by what you carry, courage may be measured by what you bear, but hope is measured by the light you hold while surrounded by darkness.

May the hope you put in God be illuminated with courage and strength.

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

Two Times, Same Message

Proud to announce the new columnist at Leading Young Women to Hope! She is the IPD (Intercessory Prayer Director) of  the LYWH Ministry!

Introducing to some and presenting to others, Starlet Ware:

LYWH Starlet1I, Starlet Ware, declare over myself that I am emotionally well!  Most days I look totally together. I move through life praying for people, speaking kindly, and helping whomever I come in contact with. I can even counsel wisely. I love those days and interactions because I feel loved, needed, and used by God.

However, the days/moments I lash out and have temper tantrums are not productive, but at that moment, I don’t care. I want to scream at the top of my lungs, rant, wave my hands and lash out at whomever I believe has hurt me (usually my husband). Today, as I write this is one of those moments.

What was my journey to emotional wellness? Well, let me tell a little of my story.

I graduated from high school at 18 years of age, 1984. I went to work at a fast food restaurant owned by a family member. I happily worked, enjoyed my co-workers, and most customers. My mother came to have coffee daily. She’d sit and talk to us as we worked.

One day, my mother told me to “watch out for that man.” I didn’t know why but she emphasized it. I went on working. Time past and then the owner of the restaurant approached me and said “watch out for ‘J,’ he likes you.” Two times, same message. I couldn’t miss his over 6’ frame but I didn’t know what I was watching for.

Two occasions made me know why I was to ‘watch for him:’

  • Business was slow so we were told to clean, restock, and get ready for our next wave of customers. I ran downstairs to get supplies and as I ascended the stairs, ‘J’ descended. His large frame blocked the small stairwell. He embraced me and kissed me! I was stunned but continued upstairs and put the supplies away.
  • Days came and went. Another cleaning, restocking, and readying the place, I ran downstairs for supplies. I heard someone else descend while I was in the storage room. Arms loaded, I go to the door and find it locked. I call for help but realize ‘J’ is the one responsible. He came to the door, taunting me. I was irritated, frustrated, and wanted him to quit playing. He finally unlocked the door and as I went to go around him, he pulled me close with one arm and slid his other hand… well, you get the picture.

With two warnings and two different work incidents, my virginity was stripped away.

I wish I could say I reported him, told my mom or cousin. I did neither. I felt dirty. I went on having sex with him for about a year till I came to myself. I remember the breakthrough, freedom of no longer sinning against my body. Thank God for mind renewal.

Until age 38, I had only told one person in addition to the co-worker, about my experience. I will tell some more of my journey next week. Thank you so much for reading. I pray this has been an encouragement to you and may you be able to tell your story and get your emotional wellness every day. God bless you!

Have You Heard?

In case you missed Takiela on Choose NOW Ministries Teen Talk Radio, here’s your chance to hear her NOW – just scroll to the bottom of this post.

Also, if you haven’t heard about The Scarless Pledge…

by Takiela Bynum 2013©

The Scarless Letter

Hello Beautiful.

I know you are carrying the weight of the world on your shoulders right now. Family issues, the kids at school, boy drama, grades, and the list goes on. Add sex (pregnancy scare or worse), drugs, or alcohol into the equation and it upgrades your life from bad to worse.

You’ve isolated yourself and are drowning in depression. Numb from any feelings of hope, craving death. You pick up a razor and start to cut, ultimately leaving scar after scar until…red-eye-liner-swatch

Does this sound familiar?

When I look at you, I see the past me. My prayer is that when you look at me, you’ll see the (possible) future you. Twenty years ago I was fifteen and dealing with the issues of life. Feeling lost and I would often embrace thoughts of eternal sleep. My mind had grown tired of the endless troubles going on in my life at that time. I wanted to escape. I wanted peace. I began to cut. My only hope was that one day I’d hit a vein that would take me out of my misery…forever.

Understand that no one told me that my life wouldn’t always be filled with hurt and pain. I didn’t know that I’d have a life bursting with more joy that I could ever imagine. I wasn’t aware that every scar I put on my body, I’d have to give an account for one day (to my children). My present hurt prevented me from seeing my future hope.

When you’re in a hopeless state of mind, you may not realize it, but you’re telling God that even He is incapable of solving your problems. It’s too complicated for Him to resolve. You’re saying things are the worst it could ever be and will always be this way, ultimately shutting out the only One who can bring you out.

Your future in Christ is much brighter than any darkness you will ever endure. (Read Roman 8:18) No one shared that truth with me which makes me obligated to share this vital information with you.

Today let’s make a pledge, from this day forward we’re going “scarless!” We can’t do anything about the old scars but we can choose not to make new scars. Let’s put down our razors and pick up scarlet red eyeliner. When or if we ever get the urge to cut, use the red eyeliner. It’ll help remind you of the blood Jesus shed on the cross for you and it’ll also wash away…never leaving a scar.

I, (insert name here), being of sound mind and body, here do pledge to God and all who love me on this month (insert month here), of this day (insert day here), in this year (insert year here) to bury all self-harming ways, never to be exhumed again! In the sight of God and all witnesses, I promise if and/or when I get the urge to self-harm, I’ll replace my instrument of destruction with an instrument that represents hope, a scarlet red eyeliner pencil, instead. I will do this in remembrance of the blood Jesus shed on the cross for me, (insert name here). I am committed to the “scarless” pledge. With God nothing is impossible.

Find an accountability partner, someone who will help you commit to this pledge. Know that you have fans cheering you on and praying for you in heaven and all over the earth. Even though I’ll already be praying, if you’d like me to pray for a specific person/situation or if I can help in another way comment below publicly or email me privately (takiela@takielabynum.com).Take the “scarless” pledge today!