• P A I N •

Five years ago TODAY my hubby asked me to marry him. As you may know he had the paparazzi hiding in the bushes taking pics of us the whole time- and I had NO IDEA! 🤣

If you would have told me 6 years ago that within the next 6 years I would be happily married with a 2 year spitfire of a little girl, running my own mom boss business from the comfort of my home I would have probably laughed right in your face.

Six years ago I was in the deepest darkest place I have ever been.

I was in an abusive relationship, feeling stuck, feeling alone, feeling like I wanted out but I didn’t know HOW to leave. I didn’t know how to admit to anyone that I had let it get so bad.

He had control of all my money, my cell phone, my credit cards, my bank account, he told me when I could go to work and when I couldn’t.

I wasn’t allowed to leave the house or go anywhere unless he was with me, not even to go to the grocery store. He put a tracking app on my phone so he knew where I was at all times.

I was a prisoner in his home.

How did it get that way?

It sure didn’t start out that way.

No one in their right mind would jump into that willingly.

He started out loving, caring and kind.

He sent me roses to my work almost weekly.

He held the car door open for me.

He told me I was beautiful.

Then slowly it started to change.

The fun happy loving person changed into a horrible, controlling, mean, manipulating, abusive man. That still sent me flowers to work, to make himself look good- and to confuse me. CONFUSION is an abusers best friend.

I eventually got out.

But I had to take the steps to get out.

I had to get uncomfortable and admit what was going on.

I had to reach out and tell someone and ask for help.

This was not something I could do alone.

God sent me two amazing women, that helped me leave that horrible situation.

To this day I literally owe my life to them.

He got me home safe to my moms house.

He sent me to live with my cousin, who opened her home and let me live with her and her family rent free so I could get back on my feet.

She invited me to church, where I found my purpose and my passion.

She helped me find a job.

She helped me get on a budget so I could get out of debt & save money.

Because of her I accepted Jesus as my savior & was baptized.

God orchestrated all of that for me.

But I had to take the actions of accepting the help.

I had to give in and let others help me.

Then God sent me Dallas.

He knew I needed him.

He knew I needed a patient loving kind man, who supported me and loved me though my healing progress. Even when I was hard to deal with, even when things got bad, even when I lost all hope in myself, doubting that I would ever heal.

Dallas stayed, he told me I would get better- and he believed what he said.

He believed in me even when I didn’t.

My cousin believed in me even when I didn’t.

My friends believed in me even when I didn’t.

My family believed in me even when I didn’t.

If you are in a place in your life where you feel stuck, you feel like there is no way out. I’m here to tell you there is.

But you HAVE to take action.

You can’t sit there WISHING something will change.

You have to WORK for the change.

It won’t be EASY,

But take it from me,

It will be WORTH it.

You will have to step out of your comfort zone and do scary things.

I always thought that leaving the abusive relationship was the hardest thing I had ever done, but it wasn’t-

It was actually the SCARIEST thing I have ever done.

Staying in that relationship was the HARDEST thing I have ever done.

There are two types of pain in this world

The pain of discipline &

The pain of regret.

Don’t regret not trying,

That’s the most painful pain of all.

Bitter to Better

HOPE.

“We don’t have HOPE just because-

Jesus was a good teacher,

A prophet,

A miracle worker,

A healer.

The ONE and only reason we have HOPE is because he was resurrected from the dead. He came back to life to prove his love for us.”

~ Paraphrased from Pastor Levi at Easter Service this morning.

1 Peter 3:15 in the Bible says,

“Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you the reason for the hope that you have.”

My answer?

My hope?

Is Jesus.

Why?

Because I fully believe with 100% of my whole entire being that He saved me from my past & from an abusive relationship that would have eventually lead to my death.

I truly and honestly believe if I didn’t get out the day that I left, the day I literally fled the state while my abuser was at work, drove half way across the country to my family, I guarantee you I wouldn’t be here today. I know thats hard for some of you to hear. But it’s the honest truth.

I didn’t even know if I believed in God at that time. Well, I believed there was a God, but I don’t think I believed that He could do anything for me, or maybe I thought I had messed up too much for Him to take the time to help me. I didn’t think I deserved help because of the choices I had made.

But- He gave me enough strength to ASK for help. I didn’t even know what type of help I needed. I don’t even know what I said when I called for help. But God sent me 2 special friends who came to my rescue, they knew the type of help I needed. They got me out quickly & safely. I believe He rescued me so I could share my personal story of HOPE.

God guided me home safely & provided a smooth easy path. I drove a U-haul towing my car all by myself over 1,200 miles home to my mom- who had no idea I was coming.

If you know me, you might know that I have an eye condition that prevents me from seeing depth properly. I have no depth perception in my right eye, my eyes do not work together as a team & have a tendency to cross so, I see double a lot- especially when I’m tired and stressed.

For me to safely judge turns (like those around Chicago) with a huge truck towing a car was legit a modern day miracle in itself.

I remember being so scared driving all alone. I repeatedly said out loud to God & to myself, “Please, please I beg you just get me home safely, don’t let me hit anything or hurt anyone. Please just get me home safe.”

And guess what? He got me home safely.

Once I arrived to my moms house, I didn’t have a job, no money, no place to live but their spare bedroom. I didn’t have anything to my name- but I was SAFE.

I lived on auto pilot trying to get things squared away, accounts closed, passwords changed, address forwarded, my name taken joint accounts & bills and I tried to figure out my new life, what my new normal would look like. I honestly can’t remember that first month or two home. I was in shock.

I eventually moved to my hometown of Sioux Falls and in with my cousins. They so graciously offered to let me stay in their spare bedroom in the basement. They took me in as one of their own, treating me like I belonged, like I was instantly a part of their family, asking nothing in return. They wanted to help me get back on my feet & help me thrive.

My cousin invited me to Church, repeatedly. I turned her down a few times-

Then one day I decided to go, mostly to get her off my back- haha, But I really was genuinely curious as to why she liked it so much. Growing up I wasn’t ever really excited to go to church. I also felt like I owed it to God since He got me home safely.

The sermon that day was on being held hostage by bitterness.

Link to listen to sermon here:

https://ransom.church/sermons/hostage-to-bitterness/

I felt like it was directed right at me,

I felt like I was the only person in the auditorium that day.

Like there was literally a spotlight shining on me, the Pastor knew EXACTLY what I needed to hear that day.

I was a very bitter person.

Bitter at the abuse.

Bitter at my choices that lead me to that relationship & others.

Bitter at my abusers- yes there were several.

Bitter at myself. Just bitter.

And that bitterness was killing me.

From then on I worked hard,

Learning more about Jesus & His teachings,

More about the Bible,

More about what it really meant to have a relationship with Jesus.

More about Forgiveness.

I started listening to sermons and pod casts online.

I tuned in to the Christian radio station instead of my normal station.

I surrounded my self with POSITIVE people.

People who wanted nothing from me but for me to be the best version of myself.

This was the first time in my life that I felt like no one was out to get me, no one was trying to take advantage of me, make fun of me, or lower my self esteem.

They really wanted to help me succeed.

I went from BITTER

To BETTER.

I’m not perfect.

Im far from it, but that’s why I need Jesus.

I have moments where I have flashbacks and I let the past get the best of me. I get angry and mad.

But FAITH is a journey not a destination.

I’m always growing & changing.

Always willing to learn.

I am confident in knowing where I can turn for hope & for help.

So this Easter Sunday I ask you,

Do you have hope?

What is the reason for your hope?

Featured

Tattoo Testimony

I did not make the decision to get a tattoo lightly. The reception of my new tattoo wasn’t taken lightly either!

Reactions varied from, Oh that’s so awesome! To was that what you really wanted? To mild shock, and some people were even disappointed in me.

The most surprising reactions came from other Christians like myself. Some coming right out telling me I would lose my salvation if I got a tattoo.

The most common verse quoted to me was Leviticus 19:28: “Do not cut your bodies for the dead or put tattoo marks on yourselves. I am the Lord.”

Others have told me that my body was not my own, that it belonged to God and I had no right to alter his masterpiece. (1 Corinthians 6:19-20)

I guess we have to ask ourselves-

What does the Bible really say about tattoos?

When we look back at the Old Testament laws, we must do so through the understanding of the customs & rituals of that specific time period.

God gave the command about tattoos (Leviticus 19:28) to the Israelites around 1444 B.C. Right after the parting of the Red Sea, to forbid them from practicing the idolatrous customs they had picked up while they were being held captive by the Egyptians.

Their captors, the Egyptians, had a custom of slashing themselves to express grief & to appease their idols & gods. They also tattooed their bodies with symbols of pagan gods.

So God, basically said to the Israelites, I don’t want you to practice those silly superstitions. You ARE my people & I love you. So, you don’t need to do that to yourself anymore.

The HEART of God’s message isn’t about the tattoos, but it’s about reminding the Israelites that they belong to Him and there is no need for those rituals anymore.

In the New Testament, Jesus gave us a new way to understand the law. He actually fulfilled the law for us (Matthew 5:17-20). Jesus completed the requirements of the law (those rules written back in Leviticus) because God knew we could never live up to them. Because of Jesus, we have a repaired relationship with God (Romans 10:4-13).

If Christians today adhered to the legit literal application of every ceremonial rule & law handed down to the Israelites, No one would be able to –

• Eat shrimp or hamburgers (Leviticus 11)

• Mothers would be considered “unclean” after childbirth which means 40 days of separation from society after a boy, and even twice as long after a girl. (Leviticus 12) (now that I’m thinking about it would actually be amazing to put that law back in place!)

• Menstruating women would have to separate from friends and family for 7 to 10 days during that time of month (Leviticus 15)

• You wouldn’t be allowed to shave your beard or cut your hair. (Leviticus 19)

• Etc…

So is Getting a Tattoo a Sin?

It depends on how you look at it I guess.

1 Corinthians 6:19-20 is a great verse to read when considering a tattoo:

“Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.”

The most important question to ask is,

“Will me getting a tattoo honor God?”

The tattoo I picked is a portion of a bible verse. Genesis 50:20, “ you intended to harm me; but God intended it all for good.”

I purposefully & prayerfully put my tattoo on my right forearm. So, when I shake peoples hands they will notice it & hopefully ask me about it. It will allow me to have deeper conversations about my past & my faith with people I normally wouldnt get an opportunity to share Jesus with.

People who would NEVER ask me about my FAITH, will ask me about my TATTOO.

I can share how Christ provided a way out of my abusive relationship & how He helped me recover from it.

How He gave me his strength & hope to travel half way across the country by myself without any money, no job and no place to live to escape my abuser.

How He handpicked & saved my husband specifically for me, so I would be able to experience a healthy marriage.

How He brought us though infertility and provided a way to have a family.

How He remained strong for us while I was fighting for my life in the hospital with sepsis.

That no matter how hard the things we go though that God will work it out for good.

It’s a reminder that my enemy will always try to harm me, and will try to find any way he can to stop me from sharing my faith & story.

If your motives are to glorify His work in your life (Romans 14:23), then a tattoo can be an excellent conversation starter and tool to use!

Just as we are commanded to do all things to the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31), we can view the act of tattooing in the same manner.

The Old Testament law no longer binds Christians. Avoiding tattoo parlors, not eating shrimp or hamburgers and refusing to cut your hair doesn’t make you righteous-

Your acceptance of Jesus does!

His death and resurrection do!

While yes, you should honor God and remember that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 3:16; 2 Corinthians 6:16), you don’t have to let other people’s sense of religious rules constrain you from the truth.

Being BRAVE.

It’s funny how some things don’t seem hard until you made it though them and then you look back and think holy crap that was hard!! I can’t believe I did that.

And then there are other things that are hard from the get go. Things that scare you, but you push through them – because you HAVE to, even when you don’t WANT to.

Doing hard things is BRAVE.

I always thought that in order to do brave things & be brave that I had to stop being scared.

– Being brave isn’t the ABSENCE of fear.

Being BRAVE is pushing through the fear, it’s doing things even though you are scared.

It’s okay to be afraid!

Somewhere along the lines we are taught to Just stop being scared. While at times that can be a good thing, it has often stopped me from doing hard or things that brought on my fears. I would look at something and say well that scares me- so I guess I won’t do it.

Leaving my abusive relationship was hands down the hardest thing I have ever done, until last week.

Last week I spoke at my childhood friends funeral. She lost her battle with depression and took her own life. This news hit me so hard. Not only because I lost my dear friend, but because that could have been me.

There have been times where I felt so low, I’ve considered ending my life. Thinking it would just make it easier on everyone else around me.

I’m still in a fog of disbelief.

It’s a strange feeling that I’m having a hard time wrapping my head around.

I can’t get her out of my mind.

I can’t stop thinking of her family, her husband, her kids, her mom, her dad, her sister, her brother and all of those beautiful people that came to celebrate her life.

Walking up to speak at her funeral was one of the most surreal things I have ever experienced.

I was scared, yet calm.

Anxious, yet confident.

In a shock of disbelief but yet so sober.

I knew there would be a lot of people there, But; there were A LOT of people there.

She impacted so many people, most she probably didn’t even realize she affected.

Amber accepted you for who you were and made you feel comfortable with yourself.

I wish I could have done the same for her.

I wish that there was something I could have done to help her.

Depression doesn’t care who you are or where you are in life.

It doesn’t care if you are an amazing mom, a wife, a fun friend, because Amber was all of those things and more.

It doesn’t care that you have overcome & battled through the hard stuff, it doesn’t care that you are the happiest you have ever been.

It takes all that good in your life and it tells you that you don’t deserve it. It tells you that you aren’t worth it. Then, when you least expect it- it sneaks up behind you taps you on the shoulder and sucker punches you right in the face.

This is why I have to work on myself EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. This is why I surround myself with people who challenge me and make me better- even when my introverted self wants to hide under a blanket.

This is why I love my job. It encourages me to work on my whole self. I not only get to work on my physical self but my mental and spiritual well being. I’m always learning and trying to be as real and transparent as possible- so that others know it’s okay to not be okay. It’s okay to be okay one day but not okay the next.

It’s hard, some days I’m good, other days- it’s a struggle. There are days where I want to quit and give up, But I push though it anyway. Then there are days where I have so much planned and so much I want to do I don’t even know where to start.

I won’t wake up one day and be magically “fixed.” I won’t just forget about my past. It doesn’t work that way. Believe me I wish it did. Whether I like it or not, my past has shaped me into the person I am today.

All the good, the bad & the ugly.

Those same choices and circumstances of my past- the ones that whisper in my ear & tell me I’m not good enough- also give me the strength to push through and prove to my past self I AM good enough.

Yes- I made mistakes, but I am learning that I am not a mistake. Those mistakes don’t define who I am.

It’s okay to struggle it’s okay to fail.

Learn from it.

I’m learning to embrace it.

I am learning that I can use it to help others.

If me being vulnerable, scared, embarrassed, honest & open helps just ONE person know they are not alone, than it’s all worth it.

Health & Healing is lifelong journey.

It’s not a destination. You are always moving.

Embrace it, work with it, grow with it.

It will be hard.

But I can do hard things.

And so can you-

Even if you are scared.

Relationships, Grace & Hope.

I don’t even have the words.

This one hit way to close to home for me.

Way to close. Way to personal.

And not just because I lost my first ever best friend.

But because- that could have easily been me.

I’ve been there. I’ve felt that pain, it’s a horrible dark pain.

It’s an indescribable feeling that I can’t even comprehend myself.

It’s a pain that doesn’t care who you are, if you are a good mother, a wife, a daughter, a sister, a friend – it has no preference.

It doesn’t care that you are happy, bubbly, unique and original on the outside.

It’s a pain that no one truly can see because the bearer of the pain hides it ever so well- and pretends that everything is fine.

It’s a deep dark sad place.

The fact that our friend felt so bad, that the pain consumed her so much, that she felt like there was no where else to turn, rocks me to my core and makes my heart ache like it never has before. I am truly heartbroken.

I feel like all we ever share on Facebook is our good moments, our highlight reel. Which is great, of course I want to celebrate the good, and I want others to succeed and be happy. But I also want you to know its okay to be real. It’s okay to not be okay. It’s okay to need help.

I do try my best to be honest and transparent with my life on here, but often times when we publicly share struggles or state that we have a chronic illness or are suffering with mental health issues we are often brushed off or labeled as seeking attention.

It’s so hard to know how much to really share and how much to hold back.

Wanting to be oh so real – but not too negative or too needy.

We are so overly connected with technology, media, status, and checking in on peoples virtual lives, that we often overlook the real connections in our lives.

How many times have you been in a restaurant and have seen an entire table of people staring at their phones. We are right there in front of people but we aren’t THERE. So consumed with checking in seeing how everyone else is doing online that we don’t even acknowledge the people right there in front of us. I’m guilty of it. I do it all the time.

We just assume that people read our facebook status, Insta-stories & snapchats so that when we pass by in real life –

We often offer a trivial, “hi how are you- I’m good, you? Eh, I’m busy, but good.” Small chit chat and chatter. And then we move along, being our busy selfs – without ever really asking the deeper questions.

We don’t take the time to truly get to know one another anymore.

We are so busy and so consumed with life, plans and other things, that we forget to connect, we forget to form a bond and a forget to build relationship. Life is all about relationships – and we are losing them to our phones.

Most of you know that I struggle with my mental health, depression, anxiety and major PTSD from an abusive relationship.

Maybe most of you know, maybe most of you don’t know?

I’m currently partaking in a mental health study with the University of Michigan. It aims to work with people struggling with PTSD and/or bipolar depression.

But I don’t often talk about how hard it is to truly live day to day with it.

I don’t really share with you how much it really affects and impacts our daily life.

How hard it is on my husband to know that he can’t do anything to “fix me.”

I don’t share the mundane in and the outs because I’m afraid that people will get sick and tired of hearing about how much I struggle every day.

The stuff you see me post about my workouts & nutrition is part of what I do during my day, but it’s not my full day. It’s usually the happiest part of my day. So it’s why I talk about it so much, it’s why I post about it so much.

My day is filled with mess, chaos, screaming at my child, crying because she’s so stinking stubborn, throwing my hands up in the air saying enough is enough!

Questioning if I am a good mother.

Questioning if God made a mistake in making me a mother.

Asking my husband if he thinks that he would be better off without me.

What if I just left him and Jade?

I feel like such a burden to them and that maybe he could find someone else that would do a better job of meeting his needs.

These are the types of things that run though my mind. ALL. THE. TIME.

I have flashbacks. Not so many now. It’s been 6 years since I left, and I can’t believe I still have them. Vivid ones. Terrifying ones – that leave me in such a panic that I wake up wondering if I’m back in PA? Back in the abuse? Wondering if my current reality is just a dream.

There are times when Dallas will unknowingly do something to trigger thoughts or feelings of my past, and I get angry, I snap and I’m mean.

It’s not his fault, sometimes I don’t even know all of my own triggers.

He hasn’t done anything bad to me, but he ends up taking the brunt of it all. We are working on this. But it’s a struggle.

The feelings of insecurity creeep back in.

The feelings of, “Am I ever going to be good enough?” Seep though.

The feelings of “I don’t ever do anything right” and that I’m a bad person come back.

The feelings that I don’t deserve Dallas, that he is “too good” for me.

They are uncontrollable.

Even when I tell myself, that they aren’t true.

There is such a stigma attachted to mental health.

The kind of stigma of, “Well its just your thoughts and feelings, so change them.” “Just change it.” “You shouldn’t feel that way. “

Friends, I wish it was that easy. If it was, then no one would struggle.

Like I said, even my own husband (who is a saint, mind you) doesn’t understand it, or what I’m going though.

He doesn’t understand why I’m depressed because I currently legit have no reason to be.

I’m out of the abuse and I know I’ll never be treated like that ever again.

I’m with someone who loves me, unconditionally.

After struggling with infertility for just a year we had our little miracle baby.

He has a great job and is able to make enough money so I can stay home and care for our little girl.

I don’t have to work, even though I choose to, because I’m passionate about and love what I do.

I have had some major health issues the past few years, but we seem to always make it thought them okay.

He feels like he should be able to fix me by loving me enough.

By just telling me that I’m safe, that I’m fine and he’s here to protect me.

It makes him feel like a failure.

And it breaks my heart.

I wish I had the perfect answer my friends.

I wish I had a cure that could just fix it all.

But I don’t.

What I do have is HOPE.

That is what keeps me going.

Hope that the past abuse and trauma that I went though from age 14 on up to age 30 has made me stronger. It has made me the person I am today.

It has shaped and defined who I am. And I am proud of all that I have overcome.

Hope that when I share my story and my struggles that it might help just one person be brave. Just one person to say, if she did it then I can do it.

One person to say, I see you struggle but I also see that you are succeeding though the struggle.

I have the compassion, empathy and understanding to help others going though hardships- because I have been there myself. It’s a unique gift, that makes people feel super comfortable talking to me. It’s a gift that I have that makes others feel safe in knowing that I will not ever judge them.

I have hope in knowing that by sharing my struggles it helps others know that they are not alone.

My hope is in Jesus,

He saved me from my horrible past, my mistakes, my bad choices-

And I know that he can save anyone. And that He wants to save everyone.

He’s not asking you to be perfect my friends,

Perfection is impossible.

He’s just asking you to put your faith and trust in Him,

To follow his ways, his teachings, what he taught.

To try to grow, to work on yourself, and to get better daily.

There will always be setbacks.

Life is a journey. Filled with ups and downs.

There are no straight A’s.

No Perfect 10.

He grades you by Grace.

So give yourself a little Grace today,

And show some Grace & Love to those around you.

You never truly know what someone is battling.

Blessings to you my friends.

If you ever feel like you need any type of help, please reach out.

To me, to a friend, to a loved one, to a stranger.

Promise me that you will reach out and get help.

There is ALWAYS help.

There is ALWAYS HOPE.