• 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.

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All In

Throughout our marriage there have been times when one of us wasn’t able (or let’s face it, sometimes not willing) to step up to the plate, so to speak and do their share.

((Like this time, when I was so sick from a serious complication from having my gallbladder removed. I suffered a bile leak about a week after I got home, which turned into a liver abscess, which eventually turned into sepsis, that permanently damaged my liver. We were new parents to a 6 month old baby at the time. My hubby is a high level hockey coach and travels 3-4 days a week during the season with his team. He balanced taking care of me, shuttling me back and forth to the doctors and the hospital almost daily, administering my IV antibiotics at home for 6 weeks, caring for our infant baby, who refused to take a bottle at the time, he cooked, he cleaned, he juggled scheduling people coming over to our home to help care for me, as our extended family lives 10 hours away. He did all this- without skipping a beat. Just because its what you do, its what you have to do to survive. There is NO way I could ever make it up to him or repay him for all he sacrificed for us during this difficult time where I was literally fighting for my life.))

There have been times when one of us had to do way more than our (quote, unquote) fair share. But you know what, that’s okay. Because I know eventually he will need me to step up and do more, or I will need him to do more. That’s what a team does. It’s not about being divided equally in half. It’s about working together as ONE.

Marriage isn’t about giving a half-hearted attempt. It is not meant to be transactional. Meaning, I’ll do this ONLY if you so that. That is a business transaction not a relationship. That’s keeping score and using it against the other person.

A good marriage, a great marriage – is about giving your ALL, even if the other person can’t. And even if they won’t.

• In a 100/100 marriage, you don’t keep score.

• In a 100/100 marriage, you give even when giving is hard. Even when you don’t want to give. Even when you feel like you have nothing left to give.

• In a 100/100 marriage, you give your all, holding nothing back, even if you don’t get anything in return. Even if you feel like you might be doing more than the other person.

• In a 100/100 marriage, you give, because you love, unconditionally. You give them your all.

Now, Hopefully- Your spouse will see that you are ALL IN and they will return the favor and love that you are giving, but hear me out… Even if they don’t return it-

Your wedding VOWS–

Your PROMISE,

Your COMMITMENT,

Those things, You made before God, before your friends and before your family–

They are NOT based upon on your spouse and what they do and what they don’t do.

They are based on you,

And what YOU DO.

They are based upon the commitment you made to your spouse and to God.

A 100/100 marriage is not easy.

But it is worth it.

{**Disclaimer**- I will be the first person to tell you the only instance in when this is NOT TRUE is when you are being abused, manipulated and blatantly mistreated by your spouse. If you think you are being abused or are in an abusive situation (mental or physical) – Please take it from me- I was in a very seriously abusive relationship before I met my current husband, and didn’t realize it until it was too late. Please if you are being abused- Seek help NOW. }

Judge-y Judgerton

I’d like to think of my self as a pretty non-judgmental person.

Not much surprises me anymore, as I have been though the ringer in life.

I’m very willing to give people the benefit of the doubt based upon life’s circumstances.

I’ll see a kid screaming in the grocery store and instead of rolling my eyes, like my 20 year old self would have done, I say to myself, “oh that poor mama has probably had a rough day.” If we happen to make eye contact I’ll say “Oh my little one does the EXACT SAME THING, hang in there mama it will get better!”

But something happened when I got down here on vacation in Naples. I became super self conscious and kinda judgmental towards the people here. I literally had to snap myself out of it yesterday.

People here have more money than they know what to do with!

I have never seen so many Porches, Range Rovers, Bentleys, Maseratis, or Teslas in one place!

Everyone is so put together. Their make-up is all done up, beautifully styled hair & the women are dressed to the 9’s in bright colorful beach clothing.

I’m over here still in hibernation mode, pasty white legs (which are now sunburnt) and pretty muted, not very colorful clothing. Along with my HUGE wavy frizzy, beach hair & don’t even get me started on the humidity, putting on makeup is the LAST thing I want to do!!

I quickly felt out of place.

I kept thinking to myself, people are probably starring at me & making fun of me. It started to really get to me.

It brought me back to a time in my life where I didn’t like myself very much. Always trying to please others, do what society expected, or what others told me I should be doing, instead of doing what just made me comfortable & happy.

All the girls are in their cute little bikinis and I’m over here in my mom tankini, thinking- “ugh!! I should have brought a different swim suit. You know, that cute little one, the one where the second I get up & move around,

I fall out of it & flash people! Yeah, that one.” Then I sigh and remind myself how extremely comfortable my mom tankini is- and how I don’t have to worry about flashing people in it.

I got really angry getting dressed yesterday, Which rarely happens to me anymore. I have gotten really good at dressing & shopping for my body type. Not to mention, where I currently live- Hancock MI- The style for the last 8 months has literally been jeans, a hoodie, Sorrels and a warm coat!

That is what everyone wears and that is honestly what I have felt most comfortable in. I think went through a bit of a culture shock here!

I yelled out to my hubby, who was anxiously waiting for me to get ready-

I have NOTHING to wear. (Not true)

NOTHING fits me anymore! (Not true)

I HATE my body! (Not true)

NOTHING fits my chest , it drives me crazy!! I can’t find ANY cute flattering clothes that don’t show off my cleavage!! I WANT A BREAST REDUCTION!!!!! (Eh, Somewhat True)

Then the REAL truth came screaming out – literally.

“The people down here make me feel bad about myself!

I feel like they are judging me, & making fun of me behind my back.

I feel frumpy! I feel out of place, I DON’T BELONG HERE!”

My hubby, the amazing person that he is – says,

“Well, lets just go shopping! I’ll help you pick out a few pieces of clothing that will look good here and back home!’

Me: “I have NOTHING TO WEAR TO THE MALL TO GO SHOPPING!!!”

Obviously, I was being ridiculous. But it is how I felt at the time.

Isn’t it funny how a change in the environment can make your perception of the world around you change? I went back to the girl that I was in my 20’s. That self conscious girl who worried what others thought. That girl who wanted to be just like everyone else. That girl who didn’t want to get looked at for being out of place. But the TRUTH is-

I AM OUT OF PLACE HERE.

And that’s OKAY!

We aren’t rich.

We don’t have enough money to buy a Maserati.

We don’t wear fancy schmancy clothes.

It’s not who we are.

I like who we are.

I had to remind myself of that!

I like our little Honda Accord

I like my jeans, flip flops, & T-shirts.

I’m comfortable that way!

I had to give myself a little pep talk, “JANET, JUST BE YOU!”

And those people that I THOUGHT were judging me.

Who cares what they think? I reminded myself that I don’t base my self worth and self esteem on what others opinions of me are. I base my self worth on who God says I am.

I was judging them. Thinking that they were probably thinking that they are better than me. But in reality, are they? Are they thinking that? Just because they dress a little nicer? Probably not. And if they are? Who cares! Were they judging me? Who knows?

But I do know ONE thing –

I was being the judgey one.

I was judging that they were judging me.

Don’t let the things that you PERCEIVE, that others are THINKING make you CHANGE who you are. YOU ARE YOU. You are the only you. You are the youiest you there is! Your differences, your personality & your style are what make you stand out! They make you unique. Don’t let any one dim that because of your desire to fit in someone else’s parameters.

If you need me, I’ll be over here, ENJOYING my time at the beach in my gym shorts, tank top and flip flops. Me- just being ME!

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Hope • Help • Healing

M E N T A L • H E A L T H

Last week I had an appointment with the physiatrist at the U of M for the mental health study I am participating in.

{Quick back story if you aren’t aware. I suffer from PTSD from a past abusive relationship, actually several abusive relationships. After I had our baby girl, I had severe postpartum anxiety & depression- that I’m still trying to get a hold on.}

To be honest the whole process with the study has been annoying & frustrating on my end. I’m trying my best to stick with the program so I can help with getting better care in this area. For some reason the U.P. (Upper Peninsula of Michigan, where we currently live) is almost like cut off from the rest of the world when it comes to finding certain kinds of health care. My hubby lived in Alaska for 4 years and said he had better access to things there than we do here.

That being said, GOOD mental health care is really HARD to find. I mean there are doctors up here that will write you prescriptions and their are a handful of counselors here, but no psychiatrists or physiologists. This whole process has been so difficult that I’m ready to be done with the study and find care on my own.

This has been the process over the past 8 months-

• The Health Care Manager contacts me & asks if I need anything.

• I’ve been handed over to 3 separate care managers as they seem to be having issues keeping them on staff. That’s been frustrating in itself.

•I tell them how I’m feeling and fill out a survey. We discuss my medication and how it’s making me feel & any side effects.

• I’ve been wanting a change of medication doe several months now because I don’t like the side effects of the one I am on. Stopping an antidepressant is hard when you have been on a high dose for so long. Withdrawal symptoms are real!

• The cafe manager relays my concerns to the medical doctor.

• The medical doctor talks to the physiatrist.

• The physiatrist tells the doctor what prescriptions he thinks they should prescribe or what ones to keep me on, take me off of, change etc.

• The doc fills the prescriptions {Sometimes this gets lost in translation and they don’t get filled or they get filled improperly.}

• The care manager is supposed to call me back. {Sometimes they do and sometimes they don’t, I honestly usually end up calling and ask if everything has been taken care of.} Then the care manager fills me in on what the doc & psychiatrist said.

This process takes about 2 weeks. Literally.

I feel like a lot of what I say and what the psychiatrist & medical doctor say gets lost in translation when it’s relayed back and forth so much and that I’m not fully being heard or told things properly.

I’m not sure if you know anything about depression or anxiety medication, BUT It takes about 4-6 weeks to take full effect.

So we have tried 3 medications that have given me undesirable side effects that won’t go away. I’m back at square one feeling like I haven’t gotten any help within the entire 8 months of the study.

This past week I got to actually meet with the psychiatrist via telemed (it’s like a secure version of Skype). I explained to him my struggles and frustrations and he totally understood that.

We have created a new action plan with finding the right medication & a counselor that does the right kind of therapy for my needs.

He told me since I’ve been shuffled around so much because of the staffing issues that he would be willing to meet with me directly from now on, which is also hopeful.

My biggest concern is not actually for myself in this process. It’s realizing how hard it is to get the right type of help in this area.

Now, as you know, I’m a pretty strong advocate for myself. I know when to reach out and ask for help if I need it. {even when I’m being stubborn about it, I can still realize the warning signs.}

But just think about someone who doesn’t recognize those signs in themselves. Or if someone was suicidal or if their medication gave them horrible side effects, and they felt hopeless & knew it would take too long to get actual help –

I have a legitimate fear for that persons well being. Their life could literally be in danger.

So this is why I’m sticking with the process of the study even though it’s been hard & frustrating.

They never promised me it would be easy, that’s why it’s called a study.

But I know it will be worth it.

I’m determined to help bring better care to this area and other rural areas!

If you feel like you need help there are several resources that can help you right NOW!

In our area we have a help line called Dial Help that is there 24/7 to offer help & support.

• Dial Help • Phone: 1 (906) 482-9077

We also have a woman’s Shelter for domestic violence survivors & their children. {I’m actually finishing up my volunteer training there this week!}

• Barbra Kettle-Gundlach Shelter •

Phone: 1 (906) 337 – 5623

• National Suicide Lifeline• Available 24/7

Phone: 1-800-273-8255

Live Chat: https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/chat/

Remember there is always hope & always someone that can help, so you can start healing. 💙💜

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?

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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.