Giving birth was my first true injection of empowerment as an adult. When my oldest was born, I waddled into that hospital at 25 still very much a child. A few days later, I walked out a woman. With each subsequent birth I became more empowered. I became less “I” focused and more “others” focused. I became more resolute in things I believed to be true. Most importantly, I became more determined to be the best version of myself that I could possibly have control over. I dived deeper into my faith. I  spent time unpacking the whys of who I had become. Finally since childhood, I again began to dream of who I wanted to be. The best for them, the best for me.

At age 30 and 3 babies later, I entered into another stage of empowerment. I began the hard work of looking at the parts of me that I categorized as broken. I began healing and breaking the chains that bound me. My husband built me up and saw such wonderful things in me. I was finally ready to see those things for myself. As my faith grew, I began to step into who I understood God saw me to be. As a result, my confidence grew, mothering became more joy-filled, and my marriage deepened. It was in this season that I first learned how critical self forgiveness is in living empowered.  In this, I forgave myself for living so lackluster all those years.

I was three years into this new venture of discovery and healing when Mike died. I now see that all the lives that I “happened” to intersect with and all the precious healing was divine. The driving empowerment I experienced with the birth of my children -followed by the exploration of faith and self and all the forgiveness I did in the years following – was preparing me. It was preparing me to be the 32 year old woman that would have to bury her husband. To lead my children ages 3, 5 and 7 with purpose and wisdom. It was preparing me to be brave, strong and confident when previously, I would have laughed uncomfortably if someone would have said I was so.

Around the third year mark of being a widow, I entered into a new season that needed my attention. I realized that I really loved my life. I felt so much confusion at how that could be when I had endured such uprooting and heartbreak. At this point, I felt freer that I had ever felt. I liked myself and rediscovered things about myself that I had long lost. For the first time in my life I felt really proud of the woman I was maturing into.

This next season required me to again forgive myself. I had to forgive that I couldn’t be for my children and husband back then, who I was now. It seemed cruel and unfair that now that I was alone and brokenhearted that I would be more myself than I had ever been. That this better version of me, my husband would not get to experience.

So here is what I think about living empowered: You only become truly empowered once you forgive yourself. Self-forgiveness is ongoing. We are human and do things that betray ourselves that need to be made right. Not embracing who we were created to be and liking ourselves is a betrayal of self.

Forgiveness of self is brave. It is the ultimate form of self love and self care. Forgiving yourself enables you to truly love people unconditionally because you are walking in freedom. It doesn’t matter how they act or what they carry. Forgiving yourself helps you to enable others around you to do the same.

Self-forgiveness takes you to a place where you can walk boldly into an unknown life you never would have chosen for yourself and take ownership over it. Now that is truly living empowered! Forgiveness of self allows you to be able to be refined and sharpened for whatever purpose and calling your life has on it because you are free.

It took me going through so much heartache, engulfing despair, fall on my face worship, reconciliation, glimpses of joy, and resolute hope to realize that God has been preparing me all along for this life that I live today. I have to continuously let go of anything that jeopardizes my recognition of this. He spoke life into me.  He already saw all of the things in me that it took me going through all of the yuck and sadness to see for myself. How paradoxical and yet, it is out of ashes that we rise, and it is for that that I am forever grateful.