If you came over from Encouragement for Today’s devo or Crosswalk, welcome! In today’s devo, I introduce you to my friend, Michelle.
Our common ground 30 years ago was our love for each other, and our love for Christ. At that time, our families were messy and our road to Christianity wasn’t always smooth.
When we reconnected, she told me how grateful she was for the depths of God’s mercy over her life.
This is Michelle’s story:
by Michelle Bechtold
I have a college degree, nice income, a great home in the suburbs. . . but you would never guess my secret.
I have a son incarcerated for alcohol related charges– multiple times. My other son struggles with raising his family due to bad choices as well.
But this is the hard part. I know that their struggles are a direct impact from my parenting failures.
How does a parent forgive herself when her past has impacted her child’s future?
When Suzie asked me to tell my story, I thought, “I’d love that!”
But then reality hit. When you talk about forgiving others, that’s one thing. But this is hard. I’m sharing it because I hope it will help someone else.
When I was in college I started wild partying and I fell away from my relationship with Christ. I attracted negative male attention. I had children and then demonstrated inconsistent values.
It was hard because I once was such a strong disciple. I led at my church youth group. I had strong Bible knowledge. I walked close as you can. . . and still let Satan have a front row seat at a critical time in my life.
My list of regrets is pretty extensive.
After all the disappointments I put Holy Spirit through, am I really past my past, I sometimes wonder?
I have accepted His forgiveness with His help. But I needed His strength to overcome the guilt I put on myself for the negative impact on my kids. Even though I got my life right, it’s hard to know that my children went down the same path I did.
Drugs. Abuse. Court system. Prison. Suspension from public school. Military school. Teenage pregnancy. Their children being raised by their mom.
How could I have seen where my life would go way back then?
When I read The Unburdened Heart: Finding the Freedom of Forgiveness, I related to the journey of recycling of emotions. Suzie said:
Once you forgive, then it’s over’, is easy to say but hard to do. Life brings up reminders or reveals new shades of the situation and surprises you. Then you’re right back in the forgiveness process to work through it one more time.
That’s so true. Recently, my ex mother-in-law passed away and I reconnected with those family members. I had chosen not to keep close because of the addictions of my ex-husband. While preparing to go to the funeral, my youngest son shared with his wife some of the trauma he went through.
When it was shared with me, I was shocked. I was not aware that this had happened. I discovered that my ex had used my children in their grade school years to help sell drugs in order to finance his own use. He had provided drugs to my kids at that same age.
Emotionally I was thrown back into that hard place as I tried to figure out when it happened, and asked, ‘how could I have not seen it’.
There’s so much potential for guilt.
I was so wrong to try to keep a doomed relationship with a flawed person together so long, when all I was doing was destroying my sons’ lives.
I can’t go back, so what can I do?
I can take full responsibility for allowing this to happen on my watch.
I didn’t know it them, but I do now: One of the markers with co-dependency is ‘not seeing’ the obvious. But I see it now.
Though I cannot go back and try to fix the past, I can make amends for what happened and once again claim the forgiveness that God has ready for me.
God knows me. He knew that when I heard what took place with my sons that I would struggle with recrimination and blame.
I know that my adult sons are responsible for their own recovery and they have the tools and spiritual background to let Christ overcome in their lives.
But I want them to see what Jesus can do in me.
Recently I read Psalms 25:6-7, and it reassured me that forgiveness was ready for each of us even before we sinned.
Remember, Lord, Your compassion and Your faithful love, for they have existed from antiquity. Do not remember my sins of my youth or my acts of rebellion; in keeping with Your faithful love, remember me.
God did this for all of us!! He did it for me. He did it for my sons. He did it for you.
In my book, The Mom I Want to Be: Rising Above Your Past to Give Your Kids a Great Future, my mom shares her story at the beginning of each chapter.
Her story shows how dysfunction is not only a cycle, but how you can get trapped in that cycle, even though you desperately want out. So many don’t make it out of a cycle of abuse or dysfunction.
But my mom did.
So did Michelle.
And for that I want to stand so tall and lift my hands and praise God for His love. He REACHES for us, even if that means He goes deep to find us in those places we want to hide.
Maybe, like Michelle, your struggle isn’t totally about forgiving others, but working through the afteraffects on those you love.
You see, when God reaches for us and we reach back, that’s not the end of the story. There may be some hard work to do, but as your life is impacted, it can also impact those you love.
Will you join me today to pray for Michelle’s sons, so loved by God?
Will you pray with me for Michelle, and thank her for her courage in being real. It would be easy to hide behind a nice job, respect, and a life in the suburbs, but that’s not where Michelle took it.
She is shining a light on her past and God’s healing power.
Michelle Bechtold is a grandmother of four granddaughters, mother of two grown sons, married to her husband Norman for almost 6 years. She is an IT professional. She also volunteers at a women’s shelter in Oklahoma that ministers to women who have been abused and/or are homeless.
She leads a Celebrate Recovery small group, Boundaries study and Bible studies, and listens and loves a lot. She is taking a mission trip with her oldest granddaughter next summer!
Michelle will be checking in throughout today if you have questions or comments.
THANK YOU, MICHELE, for having the courage to share your story. Although it is unlike mine in many ways, I, too, am a mom/grandmom who is concerned about and prays for those The Lord has blessed me with. He has assured me that His faithfulness continues to ALL generations (Ps. 100). Praise Jesus!
Dear Michelle, what a blessing your testimony is! I am not a parent, so can only imagine what you have gone through as a mother, but isn’t God’s grace and mercy wonderful!? I will be praying for you, your boys, your girls and your husband.
Michelle – you are a light for those of us who are struggling with forgiveness and guilt. I carry the guilt of divorce, poor choices in relationships and abortion. I have quit going to church but God speaks to my heart so loudly that he misses me…and I miss him. I have a son who seems to have lost his personal relationship with Jesus and a daughter who has so much potential – and I am holding her back. While I am learning not to “compare” the stories of our past – I am touched by yours and reminded that through anything God is there for us if we just reach out to Him. Thank you for being courageous to share and know that you have touched a life today and helped in making a decision to return to church. Much love and prayer. Melissa
God’s cool like that…glad i was there for you when you needed it…
Michelle, I woke up today needing some inspiration to start a new day with my girls, to be the mom Christ wants me. This following a tough day where I felt I just got it all wrong. I am grateful that God led me to your testimony today! Thank you for sharing and inspiring me! I love how God uses the best and worst parts of our lives to transform us…and then to reach out and use our stories to grow His kingdom! I will keep your family in my prayers! Thank you Jesus!
Like we would not have half the Bible if those like Paul/David/Jonah decided to shut down and not be used because of their sin…Keep fighting the good fight…I am so with you!!!
Currently, my two sons, ages 13 and 15 are visiting their dad in CA. I have spent long hours praying for them.
My story is similar to yours. I was a party girl, abusive relationships, dysfunctional up bringing. I broke away from that life style 7 years ago, but the guilt and shame can drag me down. My favorite Psalm when I started this journey was 25 and I still go back to it.
My sons come home tomorrow, please pray for us. I have grounded them in the Lord since they were small boys. I stand on the word of God for my sons “Blessed are those who have learned to acclaim you who walk in the light of your presence, Lord. ” Psalm 89:15
Dear sister in Christ, thank you for your courage. The Lord is counting on us.
God Bless you and your family, Noreen
Thank you for this today. I’m praying for my son as we speak who has made poor choices and is leading a life of drugs alcohol lies and theft. I’ve tried to help him and felt horrible that this has happened. We were very involved with church for years and I’ve tried not to blame myself for his actions. Please keep us in your prayers. I do know that God answers prayers. Sometimes not the way we want but I do know He knows what’s best for all of us. Thank you again and God bless.
Lord, lead this son straight to the cross. If that means that a great Light is shining on his every move so that he’s always caught, let it be so. Let him know that he is so valuable to you that you’ll lead him straight into your mercy, but also to transformation and redemption and a changed heart. In Jesus’ name, amen.
Sometimes, Leslie, our greatest prayer is that their actions will lead them to a place of being caught, so that they have no option but to see that they are in need of a Savior. Lord, let it be so, and protect his life as you lead him home.
Thank you Michelle for sharing your story. I attend a small neighborhood church and sometimes feel like I really don’t fit in even though I believe with all my heart that God loves and forgives me. Most of the people in our congregation were raised in a christain home and God has always been a part of their lives. Your story encouraged me. I was raised in an alchoholic home that had some levels of abuse. I too made so many poor chices in my youth that affected my four children. In my early thirties I finally came to the end of myself and my husbands drinking and started attending the church in my neighborhood. I also found out about alanon , a support group for family members of alcoholics and started going three times a week. For the first time in my life I started having real peace in my life. God helped me to see that he loved me and my family despite all of our probls and mess. And he helped me to let go and trust Him. Almost ten years ago my husband stated going to church with me and a few years after that after a long stay in the hospital for heart failure he surrendered his life to Christ and quit drinking. I would like to be able to say that everything has been all rosey and wonderful since then but he truth is that it has been really hard trying to put our relationship back together. And like you shared, all of our kids are struggling with dealing with the poor choices me and their dad made while they were growing up. I am trying to let go again and trust that God will “work everything out for good” for me and my family. I recently heard someone say that God can handle our messes. It gives me so much hope to know that He can handle our “messy families” 🙂 love and prayers to you and yours.
Oh, sis. Please take time to celebrate what has taken place in your life. It’s HUGE! Yes, there are more real nitty gritty and tangible challenges, but look at all that has taken place in you. I am so proud of the harder roads of faith that you’ve traveled to find healing. How beautiful and courageous is that! Lord, thank you for continued moments of celebration as this daughter finds you real and ever present as she follows you. Heal this marriage. Give them direction and wisdom, and let the past take its rightful place in their home. They are a new creation. Give them new tools of communication. Surprise them with little things that bring joy and happiness. Give them words and wisdom to work through conflict to find compromise and a plan to work together. In Jesus’ name, amen!
Thank you for your transparency. It is comforting to know that I am not alone with struggles of my past. I seem to be haunted everyday by poor choices and a sense of regret. Jealousy has become quite comfortable in my mind. I don’t typically reply on websites, I wouldn’t want anyone to think that everything is not ok in my like, but somehow I needed to lay this down and move on to the life that Jesus paid so dearly for me to have. There was also a selfish motive because as I prayed for everyone posting a comment, I thought that I’d have many people praying for me as well ( and of course I feel guilty for having that motive.) I exhaust myself!! I love my son with ALL MY HEART and pray that he will bring God glory as he grows up.
Peace, love and continued healing to all
Lord, Thank you for this daughter of Christ who longs so much to sense and feel your love. Lord, every word in scripture is for her. You change, you love, you teach, you lead, you guide, you transform, you direct, you give wisdom, you show us the places where we get sidetracked or even harmed by choices that have nothing to do with your plan for us. All of these things are for your sweet daughter. Let her rest in you. No more striving. Just grace. Mercy. Joy. Peace. In Jesus’ name, amen.
Thanks for your courage and willingness to share your story. It will not only impact your sons and other women going through these same struggles, but it will impact future generations. If it’s OK, I hope to share your story with my teenage daughters. You see, I know the evil one prowls around hoping to devour God’s children. If they make mistakes which they regret in the future, they will know from your story that God does not stop loving us when we make mistakes. He doesn’t say “Sorry Charlie, that one is too big for me to forgive”. He will be there willingly for them upon their return. Praise God! Thank you!
Yes please share, and thanks for asking. Thanks for your kind words. God is with us!!
God bless you Michele, for sharing your story. I too struggle with a past of which I am heartily ashamed and still blame myself for the impact it has had on my children (at least from my perspective it has). I was always a “good” girl. Ha! I got married for the 1st time at 19 and separated a little after 2 years. I was pregnant when I left because my husband was having an affair with his boss. I was not a true believer at the time. With my parents help, I went back to college and got a degree and struck out on my own. Marriage #2 occurred right after college. It was a disaster from the beginning and lasted only 9 months. Marriage #3 happened when I was 29. Yep, 3 marriages before 30. How’s that for a “good” girl?
Marriage #3 produced a child as well. We divorced after 4 years. All three marriages involved abuse in some way – verbal, emotional, physical. I now know I was way too young to have married and knew deep down in my heart that none of the marriages should had taken place. I was so immature and I put my wants and needs before my children. I really believe that I was a lousy mother, though both my children deny this. My oldest, my son, bore the brunt of most of it, as he was with me before the 2nd marriage and from then on.
After my 3rd divorce, I had an affair with a married man; completely believing his lies that he was going to divorce his wife and loved me more than anything. From the time of my first marriage, I rarely went to church or read the Bible. I did feel a yearning in my heart for something (Someone?) but didn’t know what to do about it.
At 34, I met and married my soul mate. This is the 4th marriage for both of us. We both are believers now (that’s another story altogether) and attend church regularly. We both firmly believe that God has used all of our past experiences, pain & heartache, to prepare our hearts for each other. We have now been married for 20 years. However, my son is currently in court-ordered rehab after violating his probation after being in jail for “unauthorized use of a motor vehicle”. He is bi-polar and self-medicates with alcohol because he doesn’t know how to handle the situation. He will be out of rehab next month and hopefully has learned how to deal with his life and his condition. He has always had my love and support, unconditionally.
My daughter has long felt that she is gay. I know what the Bible says about it, but I truly believe that God loves her. She attended church for most of her formative years. She was only 3 when I got married for the last time. She calls him “Daddy”. She has just told me that she is involved in a 3-way relationship with a superior and his wife and has asked the wife to marry her. I only found out yesterday and asked her for a few days to think and pray before I responded. I am praying constantly for the right words.
Did I condemn my children to this? I don’t know, but I feel like it. Depression is a family trait, from both sides of my family and both of my children have inherited it from me. I can’t get over that. Had I known how bad things could be, I would not have had children, even though I love them beyond anything.
Obviously, I am still stumbling as a Christian. I blame only myself for my past actions and behaviors. Is what is happening with my children because of me? I know God has forgiven me and my husband and children do not blame me for anything. How do I forgive myself? What do I say to my daughter? If my son stumbles yet again, can my parents and I really provide “tough love” and stop enabling him and bailing him out of trouble? I pray for their well-being constantly and hit my knees several times during the day when guilt or depression overwhelms me.
I am praying for you Michele, and all of those who have responded. May God bless you with his richness and bring you true joy. I am asking for prayers for my children mainly, although I could use a few too. Thank you for letting me ramble. God bless you!
Thank You for sharing Jennifer, I am praying for you and your family.
I want to share this verse, which I hang on to daily. ” Be still and know I am God” Psalm 46:10
Remember He will never leave you or forsake you. God Bless You
Oh Father, you treasure these children. You treasure this woman. The enemy longs to destroy and distract and dismantle this family, and yet you are the ultimate potter. Shape the heart of this son. Go into the deepest places of hurt and begin to heal. Lord, for this precious daughter, create a hunger so deep inside of her that she begins to search for it, finding that you have been nearby all along. Lord, take this guilt from a momma’s heart and replace it with peace. Let her life be such an example of your transforming power and love that it shines brightly, drawing her children to know you and to be wrapped in your love. In the powerful, all-mighty name of Jesus, amen.
please pray for my relatives who because of my poor decisions are going down the same road. I pray for consistancy even in painful times. thanks. I pray they get saved and avoid the traps passed down to them my wayward family.
Lord, today I stand with my sister in Christ and I pray for her loved ones who are going down a wrong path. Give her the words to say, and the wisdom to know the words not to say. Ignite a fire of joy in her life so big that it overshadows the past, pointing to who you are in her today. Thank you for a clean slate. A fresh chapter in her life, and Lord we ask for that same grace and mercy and direction over the lives of her loved ones. In Jesus’ name, amen.
What an amazing woman, so brave. Will be praying for her and her sons. Thank you for sharing and for the great work you are doing to help others. It is very much appreciated, I needed to read this today
Thank-you to everyone for sharing a little part of their life. I would like to share a wonderful book that I read, “PSALM 91 for Mothers: GOD’S Shield of Protection for Your Children” by Peggy Joyce Ruth and Angelia Ruth Schum. My four daughters are ages 26, 24, 18 and 17, while I love them so very much, I learned that GOD loves them even more. I try to do what I can and forgive myself for any “mistakes”, but I also try to pray everyday PSALM 91 over each one of my daughters too. May GOD bless you all.
I believe that praying the word over our children is one of the most powerful examples of faith and prayer that exists. Lord, thank you for Psalm 91 pouring out over these adult children (and teens) in such a powerful way that Cheryl cannot help but praise you and trust you as they turn their hearts toward your love, but also that she finds strength and joy on a personal level as she trusts you in the process.
Thank you Michelle for sharing your story. I have four children, four beautiful grandchildren, 2 teens which still live at home. Our daughter 17, has been making poor choices, and in doing so was arrested. She will probably face probation, which is what it looks like. My husband and I with the help of the Holy Spirit, have handled this fairly well. She did make a comment to me, “You and dad drank, and smoked pot, why are you surprised I’m doing it?” It cut through me like a sword, but I asked God to help me “keep it together”, and responded with “Yes, we did do those things, both made poor choices, but we have worked hard to teach you that road is not a good one to take, and we have surrendered our lives to God, and He has forgiven us. We walk in this life daily striving to be obedient to God. We still make mistakes, but we turn to our Lord for guidance and forgiveness. You know you can do the same.”
I pray that she understands and, I ask God to protect her and bring her back to Him.
I made a lot of mistakes growing up, and things happened to me that scarred me, but in building my relationship with God, I have learned that He forgave me for my sins and I am healing and have forgiven myself and those who hurt me. Not at easy thing to do…but “with God anything is possible!”
Lord, thank You for Michele, for the courage she had to share her story. Many times we believe that only we have gone through hurts and failures in our lives. But since I have joined Proverbs 31, I have read stories of sisters who have endured pain, quilt, failures. But You are an amazing, forgiving, merciful and gracious God, and all we have to do is seek You, reach out to You and You will take our hands, heal us and comfort us. Lord, I pray for Michelle and Her family, let her light continue to touch us and millions more, and be a constant reminder that You are a “God who will never leave us or forsake us.”
In Jesus name I pray, Amen
I love your response to your children. Beautiful!
I have subscribed to this email for quite a few months but I do not read the message on a regular basis. Today is the first time I read all the way through to the end. . . I have them all saved in a file but today I read this as my devotion. Thank you for your courage to share. I too struggle with guilt and beat myself up sinful behavior and choices I made after my husband died. I was not at home with my sons – I was busy working at a ranch so I could not have to deal with the grief. . . but I was not there for them!
I would like to share a verse that I have claimed since 1991 – unfortunately I stopped claiming the promise when I NEEDED to claim it the very most!
“For I know the plans I have for you.” Declared the LORD. “Plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
This i one of my favorite verses..It is so powerful to know that it is shared by others with similar histories. God bless you for your comments. we can be our worst enemies and satan gets a lot of pleasure. Lets agree to fight satan back on that one and not give him any power….
I almost couldn’t believe what I was reading. I am in tears right now. I am struggling with the same issue. How I wish I had not allowed my relationship with my children’s father to go on for as long as it did. Now I watch as my children make the same mistakes, my heart breaks, and I don’t know how to forgive myself for giving them such a bad example. Now I have grandchildren.
Thank you for sharing this–I really needed it today.
Hey Lora, I’m so glad that Michelle’s story ministered to you. Even she, behind the scenes, struggled to tell her story, and yet as she has read these comments and those on the Encouragement for Today devo site, she’s been overwhelmed with joy at the response. God takes our open hands and willing heart and He works in us. That’s a new legacy to share with your children. It may not be in words, but the actions of your life creates a second chapter, a new story, and my prayer is that they’ll see Jesus so big in you that it draws them to His love as well.
I opened a previous email in my ‘in-box’ about David’s sin with Bathsheba…it left my stomach in knots beause the shame of divorce does not go away so easily. Almost immediately, I started to second-guess my security in knowing that we are forgiven. But four minutes later I opened the email to your story, Michelle! A reminder to walk in His redemptive blood…to stand in His grace & power! Your story hits close to home, thank you for your transparency: I know The Lord will use it for good. I’ve got you & your sons covered in prayer. -jess
Oh, Jessica. I love how God works. We clearly see who we once were and yet ever so much more clear who we are today, all because of Him. What a reason to celebrate!! Standing in His grace and power, yes, that’s who you are now.
I feel like so many of you share a part of my story. I, too, feel that my poor choices both in my past and stumbling in my present have lead to my son’s drug abuse (and arrest) and my daughter’s depression. Before reading this today, I thought I was alone. I thank each of you and praise God for your testimonies letting me know that others struggle just as I have for the last 20 years of my life with the choices that I have or have not made. Today, I fall at the feet of Jesus, confess my wrong doings and pray for each of us as we take on the forgiveness that He has given each of us freely if we will step aside and allow Him to shine light into our darkness. He may uncover things that we do not want to remember, but it is by remembering and acknowledging these things that we can live in the fullness of His love. God bless each of you.
Thank you for your encouragement, Joy you are not alone!! I am glad to share now that I see it makes you stronger.