We all have a lot of baggage, junk, or stuff we don’t like about ourselves. But each woman has an important story to share, even if she doesn’t realize it right away.

Brené Brown, from her book The Gifts of Imperfection, shares, “Owning our story can be hard but not nearly as difficult as spending our lives running from it. Embracing our vulnerabilities is risky but not nearly as dangerous as giving up on love and belonging and joy—the experiences that make us the most vulnerable. Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light.”

This truth about light is repeated in the Bible over and over.

“For nothing is hidden, except to be revealed, nor has anything been secret, but that it would come to light.” Mark 4:22, Matthew 10:27, Luke 8:17, Luke 12:3

My story is no different. God already knew me and my messy, broken life. He knew about my dysfunctional family with my dad who was an alcoholic, inflicting emotional, verbal, and physical abuse. God knew that from the outside our family looked good going to church every Sunday, but behind the scenes there was yelling, anger, and frustration brewing in our home daily. He also knew that I was going to bring this baggage into my marriage and that my marriage and my finances feel like they are at a breaking point, and that I just can’t take it anymore. Yes, my life is less than perfect. And yes, He loves me anyway.

To be totally raw and vulnerable, I feel so lonely, and it’s difficult to figure out how to make life better all by myself. The perfectionist in me feels like I have to help God figure out how to deal with me—what baggage He can and can’t handle. My thinking used to be, “He can handle this issue, but not this one,” and “This sin might be too heavy for Him. I’ll just hang on to it myself.” Sound familiar? What I’ve come to allow myself to accept is that He sees me for who I am in all of my brokenness, and yet He still chases after my heart.

As I prepare to share with you the overbearing baggage that used to inhibit me from being my true self—true to who I am and who God created me to be—I am humbled by His never-failing mercy, forgiveness, and grace. It’s only because of that knowing I can now step into the light.

I aborted my child when I was 18. For 20 years, I chose to keep this a secret and spoke to NO ONE about it. I was so ashamed of what I had done and what others would think if they knew. I felt like I was the worst of the worst sinners and no one’s sin could compare to mine. I had created a ranking system for sin, and I felt my sin was so horrible that I kept it hidden and a secret.

It’s only been in the last year and a half that I’ve shared my personal testimony, my deepest and darkest secret. Only five people knew, and thank goodness, only one of those five lived in North Carolina where I live. I eventually told this secret for the first time publicly on a mission trip, and by doing so, I learned other people share the same painful story as I do. I also felt that I had found peace and that I was healed. I thought, “I know God loves me and He forgives me. He forgives all sins alike,” even though for the last 19 years it was too painful for me to even say the word abortion.

As I continued to grow spiritually, I learned that although God has forgiven me, I had not really forgiven myself. And while I tried to convince myself that I had forgiven me, I knew I wasn’t being honest with myself or with God…but He already knew that.

He always knows.

God revealed to me that while I was and am indeed forgiven, I still needed healing. I was ready to let the story rest: I shared it; I repented; and it was time to move on with life. But He had plans to heal me fully and completely, and to do that, there was more sharing to be done.

Some people may be wondering why? Why do we need to be talking about abortion? Why do I need to reflect back on my past? Why dig up those skeletons in the closet? Why do I really need to unpack the baggage?

I know in my personal situation I experienced stress and problems with marriage, finances, parenting, and sexual intimacy. This brokenness will lead to other brokenness if it is not brought to light and healed.

I was stuck in my life. I didn’t feel like I was good enough. I didn’t feel like I was a good enough daughter, sister, friend, mother, or wife. I know there are women out there who feel unworthy of love and peace because of what they did or what happened to them. I know because I didn’t feel worthy. And I know they may feel stuck, like me, and may not know why they are having challenges, or why life is such a struggle.

And so THAT is why we need to talk about abortion. Reflect on the past and dig up those skeletons. To unmask the shame that is not ours to wear in the first place.

Over the last 19 years I’ve had many thoughts, dreams, and reminders of this painful experience. It was easy for me to lie, be silent, listen to others judge those who have made this choice, and just stuff the emotions and memories and live in darkness.

As I have been through my healing process, it’s been a blessing to be connected with the Hand of Hope Pregnancy Center and to be able to do a Post Abortion Bible study called Forgiven and Set Free. As I’ve unzipped that suitcase and let the past go, I’ve learned some amazing and loving lessons about my life.

To know who God is and how He loves and accepts a messy, broken, woman like me.

  • To grieve the loss of my first child.
  • To experience the relief in sharing my junk with others to have deeper connected relationships.
  • To let go of guilt and blame and living like a victim of my circumstances.
  • To understand anger and how strong and powerful of an emotion it is. I’ve learned when anger arises, it demands a response. Anger does not go away on its own. When denied, it finds a way to express itself, and it tends to form roots of bitterness. Anger expressed without self-control is destructive and hurts those who stand in its way.
  • To let go, and let God.
  • To understand and practice forgiveness and compassion for myself and others. I’ve also learned what it is to be truly forgiven and set free.
  • To love myself for the first time. I learned to truly forgive myself and let go of the roots of bitterness that were holding me back. I’ve learned who I am in Christ and to be true to who I was designed to be.
  • To allow Him to use my mess and brokenness for His Glory–Romans 8:28.
  • To accept I am in need of a Savior in this life we live.

It was a difficult journey, but one that was worth the effort in order to continue to have peace in my life. I’m overwhelmed daily by His grace and His mercy.

My prayer is that through my story the seed of hope and healing has been planted in the post-abortive mom or dad, and that it draws them closer in their relationship with the Lord. My prayer is that by me unpacking my baggage, my story can help change a family to leave a legacy of love and hope in each one of their relationships with friends, in parenting, in marriage, and in life!

Jeremiah 1:5 says, “Before I formed you in the womb, before you were born I set you apart and I appointed you a prophet to the nations.”

Me? A prophet to all nations? What nations? Yes! Me…and you! A prophet to those nations right there in your home, your neighborhood, your community, or somewhere around the world. By unpacking the baggage, you’ll be able to live a life forgiven and set free. You’ll be able to love fully and completely, to give grace and mercy, and to live more like Jesus every day. By shining The Light where darkness once lived, you’ll be able to not only travel with less baggage, but you’ll also create more space to share that same light with the world—the light that replaces lies of shame, guilt, and sin with thoughts of love, forgiveness, and joy.

“Do not conform to the pattern of this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” Romans 12:2

Satan has had a stronghold on me for the last 20 years. He tried to hold me back by keeping me afraid of what people might think if I shared my story—if they knew I’d had an abortion. Satan would like me to keep this deep, dark secret covered in shame all to myself, but I choose to not let him have that power over me. I choose to shed light on my past, let it go and let God do this work because HE IS ALWAYS FAITHFUL. The thought of sharing this with you overwhelmed me, put fear in me, and created in me the doubt that this is what I am truly supposed to do. But then I realized those are the exact messages and conflicting feelings Satan wanted me to have, and so I choose to release myself from the bondage of my secret and not live imprisoned in my own body another day.

I choose to share my story because…“this is my story, this is my song,” and I choose to be praising my Savior all the day long. If you’re not familiar with that song, check it out. As you hear the words, I hope they’ll inspire you to unpack your story, release your secret, and live fully and completely as you were designed to be:

Free, powerful, fearless, forgiven, and…LOVED.

With much Love and Light-

Irene is a wife and mother of one heavenly child and two earthly children that teach and convict her to live a life in the light, practice grace, mercy and forgiveness everyday. As a result she founded Loving Lessons Pediatric Sleep Consulting (http://loving-lessons.com/) where she helps families navigate the exact lessons children will teach us through a path of love, respect, grace, mercy, joy, patience, kindness, goodness, forgiveness, and rest.  When she’s not spending time with her family she loves hanging out, connecting, serving, and building relationships with other women. And daily she’s working through and letting go of perfectionism she jams out to Elsa’s song, “Let It Go” as her life’s current mantra.