Porn and how it destroys lives

What you do think of when you hear the word porn?

girl-in-white-dress-2571411_1920Don’t be shy, we’ve all seen it one way or another. And even if we don’t actively watch it, we’re aware of what it is. Do you call it art? Visual stimulation? A movie? Whatever it is to you, I’m going to talk about how it destroys people’s lives today. Yes, this may seem harsh, but it destroyed mine and I’m here to tell you how.

I was married to a person who I thought only had eyes for me. That is, until I found out he watched porn regularly. I didn’t find out because he told me or I caught him. No, that would’ve been too easy. And, to be honest, the idea of him watching porn didn’t bother me until it destroyed our relationship and the life we were trying to build together.

I watched the way he saw our sexual relationship transform from reality to fantasy over time. It wasn’t like I woke up one day and he had completely different sexual expectations, but gradually he kept bringing up the same oddball requests. As any normal human being would do, I would consider fulfilling his desires, and even try best I could, but I kept falling short. I just wasn’t into what it was he was looking for.

The problem wasn’t so much that I couldn’t deliver what it was my husband wanted, instead it was that what he wanted wasn’t realistic. Instead, it was what the magical world of pornography portrays as sex. And I’m here to tell you, porn is not sex. Porn is fantasy. Porn creates an unrealistic expectation of sex. And it destroys lives.

I also had sexual desires that weren’t always fulfilled by my husband. I would tell him certain things that I would like him to do, things he had done once before but stopped doing once we were married. And while I found myself frustrated, I never sought the answer anywhere else. I just utilized the tools at my disposal (i.e. myself) and made do with what my husband was willing to partake in.

face-848537_1920I tried my best to keep things interesting in the bedroom, in hopes that we could keep our passions alive. But over time, this felt very one-sided. And it became increasingly common for him to become frustrated with me and my inability to fulfill his unrealistic expectations. I started despising the porn, and started praying for change.

And change happened. God answered my prayers in the form of my husband seeking the answers to his desires in other people. At the time, all I could see was my life, our life, being completely destroyed though. This marriage we tried to build together came crumbling down. All thanks to pornography and the belief that what is meant to be fake was mistakenly taken as real. God freed me from this world of distortion that I was trapped in. And every day I thank Him for it.

How do you see porn? Do you think it affects people as much as I do?

 

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Thoughts and Prayers

You know the standard saying, “My thoughts and prayers are with you during this difficult time.” It’s one of those nice things you say to someone who’s lost a loved one, maybe a parent or a family pet. It provides a little tiny bit of comfort in the midst of sadness. When I lost my mom, many said this in their own words. So many different combinations of the same saying. Some people offered their help, but I wasn’t sure how or what they could do to bring my mom back, or to alleviate even an ounce of the pain.

But losing my mom to cancer seems to be a drop in a bucket compared to the oceans we’re experiencing with these recent mass shootings. When will the turmoil of killing innocent people end? Thoughts and prayers are just a starting point, but what we need to see is action and change. Without these things, nothing will change other than the location and number of deaths. This past weekend, it was a church and 26 dead. Next week, who knows where and how many will lose their life prematurely.

More than words..

We are quick to talk. We are quick to pray to God, especially during these difficult times. We think if we have a list of prayer requests and pray daily that we’re good. Like God loves us and we did our part. But I think we’re missing the major point of prayer. It’s not a one-sided conversation where we blab our problems (and sometimes praises) to God and hope that He fixes everything. Actually, even more importantly, prayer is meant to open our ears, mind, and heart. This way we can listen and hear God when He tells us what to do. The answer is rarely “sit and wait,” although it may be in certain situations. But when it comes to something so epic and life-altering like 307 mass shootings in the USA this year so far, I feel like more than nothing is needed.

The irony

thoughts and prayersYesterday, as I was sitting in a church not very different than the First Baptist church of Sutherland Springs, Pastor Chuck was speaking on evil, the devil, and the fallen world. The Fallen Worlds consists of the evil within us, the evil around us, and the evil above us. There are four tactics of the evil one that leads to him winning in this fallen world. He uses doubt, temptation, deception, and accusation to get inside our heads and make us feel like we’re the evil ones.

But know that with God we can conquer anything. With the right tools, we can stand our ground and say “Not today Satan.” With the Belt of Truth, the Breastplate of Righteousness, the Shoes of the Gospel, the Helmet of Salvation, the Shield of Faith, and the Sword of the Spirit we rise above evil and are protected from the Devil himself. Unfortunately, this past Sunday, for one man he succumbed to evil and chose to take the lives of as many church members as he could, and then his own life.

No panacea?

universal-health-care-1095124_1920.pngIs there a cure to this madness? Can we stop these mass shootings from happening? Is it the guns or the mental illnesses? Or is it terrorism? Whatever you may think the cause is, it all roots back to evil. And without God, there is no hope. But on the same token, we can’t just think and pray away this. We must act. Pray, think, be quiet, listen, then do. God calls us as Christians to go above and beyond for our fellow man. We can’t just sit by the sidelines and hope for a miracle. We have to be the miracle.

If you enjoy my writings and would like to see more, please leave a comment below, subscribe to my newsletter HERE, and consider donating HERE for the holiday season. Thank you to all of my readers, I love all of you.

 

Marvelous Halloween Weekend

Halloween at church

yTBhfbDThis past Sunday was a blast! Captain America, Black Widow, Antman, and Dr. Strange all made an appearance at my church (Free Church)! And almost every kid was dressed up either as their favorite superhero or their favorite character. Historically, church and holidays like Halloween have been kept separated. Many traditional churches don’t even acknowledge Halloween, or they say it’s evil and try to encourage their members to not participate in the holiday.

While I grew up attending very traditional Catholic churches and schools, my parents always let me dress up as who (or what) I wanted to be (other than when I was a toddler and they dressed me as a strawberry). I actually trick or treated through high school, well beyond the normal age limit for trick or treating. But I never saw the holiday as an evil tradition. If anything, it was one of my favorite days of the year since I got to dress up as someone else and I got to collect candy.

I think it’s cool and important to recognize and celebrate Halloween inside and out of church. One way to think about it, we are celebrating the eve of All Saints Day, which is a day to recognize the saints.

Marvelous Superheroes

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Not only does Free Church recognize Halloween, it also celebrates it by bringing in the good guys and gals. The Avengers are some of the best superheroes out there! They make great role-models as they fight crime and protect the good guys. Children and adults alike can look up to these superheroes, very similar in many ways to looking up to Jesus and His teachings. I see the similarities between Jesus and superheroes and can honestly say that I admire and look up to both. This is one reason why I love to dress up as a superhero.

Another reason is that feeling when a kid recognizes the superhero you are and wants to be just like you. I love seeing people smile and feel safe around me (or Black Widow). In general, I love to dress up though as any character that I can pull off. (I.E. Wonder Woman or Han Solo)

Who’s your favorite superhero? Do you like to dress up? Who are you being for Halloween?

See more pictures from this event HERE

Have a happy, safe and ghoulish Halloween!

Relationships and compromise

Because without compromise no relationship would ever work out, today we are going to talk about how much of yourself you truly have to give up to make that “perfect” or (in reality) not so perfect relationship actually work. This is a perk of my always-thinking (read: overthinking) mind and also has been inspired by other people in my life who have opened up to me in regards to their relationships.

Self Love

A lot of us, as humans, are selfish. At the end of the day, we only have ourselves to rely on and love. And self-love is very important! Actually, if you don’t love yourself you won’t be able to properly love someone else. It is nearly impossible. So the very first thing you must learn to do is love and respect yourself. Without that, the relationship will consume you. You know, that “perfect” relationship with the “perfect” guy or girl. It will chew you up and spit you back out. It will destroy you, if you let it. But defend yourself with the proper mindset and it will help you grow and become a better version of yourself.

But on the other side of the same token, if you’re too selfish and focused on yourself that relationship will shrivel up and die. And you’ll be left with just yourself again, wondering what went wrong since you seemed to be doing fine the entire time.

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You have to find the right balance between yourself and your significant other. You have to compromise the right amount, and spend the right amount of time together (growing together) but also still have time for yourself and your hobbies/passions. And sometimes those passions and hobbies will overlap, but you still have to have your own interests so you don’t feel overwhelmed by the other person. As humans, it is important that we feel a few things as listed below.

  • Unique. We want to feel special, like there is no one else like us.
  • Loved. We want to feel wanted by others, their love validates us that we are lovable.
  • Strong/Independent. We don’t want to feel weak or that we have to depend on someone else to live our lives the way we want to.

But what about me?

With all this in mind, there will be sacrifices and compromises that we will have to make to be with someone. While the idea of there being “the one” perfect person for us is nice, it isn’t true. Instead of hoping/waiting for the perfect person to fit ever so perfectly into your life, you should create a list or two to help narrow down your choices (plenty of fish) so that you can find someone to work towards having a healthy relationship with. The lists that I created that have helped me are the two below:

  1. A list of ten deal-breakers. If the guy I’m dating doesn’t meet all ten, I move on.
  2. A list of red flags. Everyone has luggage, no one is perfect, but after going through my marriage, my husband cheating/living a double life, and my divorce I learned which red flags I won’t accept. If these pop up, bye felicia.

Are you in a healthy relationship? One that helps you be a better person? If not, perhaps you should make these lists and re-assess that relationship and what you’re looking for in a significant other. Feel free to comment below your deal breakers or any red flags that make you leave. And let me know if you’d be interested in my lists I’ve created for my next relationship.

Orange you glad I met ya?

Open for Business: Mini Target

target-express-oak-parkYay Target!

The cutest Target opened up this past week in Oak Park, IL. It’s one of eight small format stores in the Chicagoland area, and as an Oak Park resident I couldn’t be happier.

No longer are the days I’d have to cross the busy street of Harlem to go to Walgreens to pay for over-priced convenience-store items (i.e. Gwen Stefani Revlon Makeup). Now, it’s as easy as walking comfortably a few blocks from where I live to get any and all of my Target (Trademark) store needs (and those I have aplenty).

While there is even the added bonus of a mini Starbucks (hello, coffee!) there is a part of me that is sad over the opening of this store. First of all, it’s at the bottom of a new high-rise that’s now a part of the Oak Park skyline. Which, since I’m new to the area, I don’t really know Oak Park without it. So that’s fine. But a part of me does worry how this Target will affect the little guys. You know, the small local businesses of Oak Park. Which I personally like to try and support as much as I can.

I’m an avid fan of these local businesses and always out and about looking for more to add to this list.

Local Businesses I love

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What businesses do you frequent in Oak Park? How do you feel about the new Target? I was in there the other night and look forward to utilizing the store when needed. Especially on those days I don’t feel like driving and would rather walk around my beautiful Oak Park neighborhood.

Writings from the other side

I’ve been dealing with a few thoughts lately that have been coming at me from the other side. Bear with me.

“No offense Jen, but I’d never marry someone who’s divorced.”

How I remain unoffended is another story for another time, but what about being divorced makes someone undesirable? Why is it an instant red flag situation? And if this is true, why did I marry a divorced person? Where were you 4 years ago as I was tying the knot with the devil himself?

I guess if I had that mindset, then I would’ve never gotten married in the first place and I would have less baggage. A less red red flag. Or maybe I’d have more. Who knows. A part of me thinks the marriage kept me out of trouble though. And it taught me a lot.

It taught me that just because I know how to love unconditionally and trust someone doesn’t mean everyone knows this. Also, while I saw a glimmer of hope and felt loved by my ex, it was fleeting as once things got hard, he ran away. But only partially. I learned that some people can literally live on lies, and create two separate lives based on these lies. A part of me wonders if there’s an app for that: keep track of all your lies app.

I also learned how to love myself. By being discarded, I found myself and finally see how much I truly am worth. I found not only my legs, but my entire body, mind, and soul all came in sync with each other. Enough to not just run my first marathon, but also to start a whole new life that I never thought I’d have. Finally, I am happy to be on my own. I am getting comfortable in my independence and freedom in this new world.

But there’s that nagging voice inside my head. What about my future husband, if there is one? Another marriage? I mean, if I can find a guy willing to roll the dice on me (since I’m so unwanted). Please note the tone of sarcasm in this last sentence. But for real, if and when I do decide to potentially marry again, what does this mean for me? And for the man I decide to take a chance on?

There will be demons that I will have to fight. I’m actually already fighting them now, way before even considering marrying again.

Am I good enough? Will I be good enough for someone to marry? Will someone love me the way I deserve to be loved? Unconditionally and until death? The way marriage is supposed to be. Will I be able to trust someone enough to take the plunge again, after everything I’ve been through? They say better to have loved and lost than to never have loved. I find comfort in that and I agree with it. Which is really hard to say because I was really hurt, for a very long time. Longer than I’d like to admit. Some days I still hurt a little over it, but everyday is getting better as I find my strength and courage to push forward and move on, one step at a time.

One thing I have learned is that until I am completely over what happened to me, and completely happy with myself, I won’t be ready to even entertain the idea of marriage. I know this time is the time that I need to focus on myself and my relationship with the Lord. My strength and courage come from Him. He has opened so many doors in my life it’s overwhelming. He has answered all of my prayers, and has given me more than I could ever even imagine asking for. One year ago he freed me from the hell I was living in, and he answered my prayer by having my friend invite me to her church, which is now my church. And that was just the beginning.

IMG_20170923_104230I’m not perfect. I will likely always have doubts and those voices in my head that I must battle. But I know what I deserve, and I strive to be the best person I can be. I know my ability to love, deeply and unconditionally. And I feel that same love from Jesus, so at the end of the day even if I end up being alone (and with 30 cats) I will be just as happy as I would be with someone. I don’t find my worth or happiness in others (if I did then that comment above would affect me way more). Instead, I find my happiness within me and my joy in God. He brings me everything I need and even the things I don’t realize I need. He goes above and beyond to show His love to me. And it’s indescribable.

So to my future husband, if you exist, if you’re reading this then you can see that I’m a work in progress. But aren’t we all? All I ask from you is patience and love. If you choose to love me, I will choose to love you. Everyday. For the rest of our lives.

But until then, I’m going to enjoy the shit out of life with my fur babies, my friends, and my family. I’m going to run marathons, or maybe just half-marathons (they’re much easier!). I’m going to lift weights and practice yoga. I’m going to not only attend but also provide help at my church. I’m going to spend time in God’s word and grow with Him. I’m going to enjoy my alone time as much as my time with others. And I’m going to heal myself. I choose myself everyday, which may seem selfish, but I know it’s necessary during this season in my life.

All I can say is I’m worth it. We’re worth it. And with God anything is possible. Always and forever.

With love.

Jen

Modern art

On September 23rd I went to the Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA) in Chicago to see the acclaimed Takashi Murakami exhibit: The Octopus Eats its Own Leg. It was the last weekend to see the exhibit, so I bought some tickets beforehand and was able to snag an early time to avoid most of the crowds.

The art was beyond anything I’d ever seen before (very interesting!). And the stories/ideas behind it were amazing to learn about. I spent about an hour exploring the exhibit and another 45 minutes seeing the rest of the museum. The entire museum is pretty small, which is nice as we know most museums can be overwhelmingly large and tend to take a day or more to take in everything.

Please enjoy my pictures below. Did you check out this exhibit? If so, leave me a comment. I’d love to hear what you thought of it!

Do you even riot, bro?

Riot Fest Chicago 2017 was this past weekend. It was only my second time attending Riot Fest, but I’ve attended similar music festivals (i.e. Lollapalooza) many times. This past weekend was a blast!

Friday night opened up with amazing acts like New Order and Nine Inch Nails. Saturday I took it easy, and Sunday I partied the hardest with The Vuluptuous Horror of Karen Black and Prophets of Rage. Overall, an amazing weekend of talent and entertainment. Before the fest, I ran 20 miles on Thursday morning for Chicago marathon training. I hit the gym twice (Friday & Saturday) and I made it to church on Sunday morning. I had 4 days off work and I feel like I definitely got the most I could out of my time off.

The only bummer part was Paschen being sick and missing Friday & Saturday of the fest, but we made up for it on Sunday. Epic. I also ran into my cousin on Sunday after we kept missing each other on Friday and Saturday. Enjoy the photos, and if you’d like to see some videos check out my instagram @tanoshii66

 

 

At first, because of the crowds, I was tentative to go next year, but I think it’s worth it to attend this festival again in the future. Did you go to Riot Fest? Did you enjoy it? Would you go again? Do you like concerts? Do you even riot, bro? 🙂

What faith means to me

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Some common questions I get from friends, family, and acquaintances:

  • Why are you not more angry over what happened to you?
  • How is it that you’re happy despite everything you’ve been through?
  • How is it you continue to believe in God even after He took away everything you wanted?
  • How do you find your strength and courage?

I’m here to tell you that this journey I’ve been on, the one I call faith, has not been the easiest one. It has had it’s ups and downs, and I fully expect it to for the rest of my life. A quick look at my history within the Christian realm:

I was raised Catholic. For three elementary school years, I attended two different Catholic schools. The three years were miserable, with the third taking the cake. My mom listened and showed me grace by placing me in the local public school starting in 4th grade. But no fear as I continued CCD (Confraternity of Christian Doctrine) through middle school. Basically, continuing education for Catholics. After I graduated high school and went away to college, I decided to officially stop pretending to be Catholic and leave religion for the old ladies with rosaries.

During my first semester in college, I dated a guy who wanted me to “know Jesus” so I dumped him. #byefelicia. By the second semester, I was lost, alone, and sad. Someone invited me to a bible study, and I went mostly to just make friends. Through the small group, I started making some amazing friends. And I discovered Campus Crusade for Christ. While I was a part of the small group, I didn’t really get into Cru until my sophomore year. Through this small group and the amazing things I did with Cru, I accepted Jesus as my savior and chose to have a relationship with Him. The rest is history. But like I said, it hasn’t been an easy journey. At times, I’ve fallen away from my faith, but I’ve always had my belief in God to fall back on. A crutch, if you will. Even when I disobey, I still feel His love.

But I never needed it as much as I’ve needed it over the past two years. Through the death of a parent, a divorce, a life-changing move and now marathon training, I’ve never felt closer to God. And that’s where I am now.

This past week, we celebrated our 5th birthday at my church (Free Church) and this amazing pastor Brett Jones visited us and had an amazing message. And it’s too good to keep inside. So this is my version of it. Welcome to my mind. Make yourself comfortable, today we go deep.

(Genesis 22:1-14)

It’s important for us to know that not every test comes from Satan. The life of a Christian should be expanded and grown upon. For example, one way to know if someone is ready to be passed from one grade to the next is to test them. God doesn’t test you to break you. He tests you to prove you. The difference between temptation and test: Satan tempts you. God tests you. One is to destroy you, the other is to promote you.

A sure way to wreck your life is to think you can take everybody with you. God calls you for your assignment and you alone must go. Some people need to stay with the donkey (Genesis 22:5). Don’t try to take them where they don’t have grace to go. Abraham knew that something was going to happen on that mountain that the young men he was with couldn’t handle. There are some places that only you and your sacrifice can go.

Most of the time there isn’t a crowd when God proves himself to you. God will allow you to prove yourself and He will rewrite the story after your proving ground. If you’ll give God your stuff, He’ll give you His stuff. This story in the Bible introduces one of the greatest themes of the Bible: substitution. Abraham and Isaac met God on a hill outside of Jerusalem. Abraham saw a lamb (substitution), Jesus was the lamb.

Jesus was crucified on the same hill where God tested Abraham, just thousands of years apart. As Abraham climbed that hill, his thoughts centered around the death of his only son. As God climbed that hill, his thoughts centered around how amazing Abraham was and his amazing will to pass the test He was placing on him. His faith led him to where God wanted him. God tied up a lamb to replace Isaac as the sacrifice. And Abraham had no idea this all was in store for him, he just took a step in faith.

Are you living in faith or fear? Do you check everything before taking every step? Do you over-analyze everything going on? God sees the whole picture. He is the author of our story, and He has the ability to rewrite it. Even if you feel like you’re destined to live without God, anything is possible. Even if you feel too evil, or too far from Jesus, He still loves and chooses you. If you’re interested in learning more about what I believe in, reach out to me. This is just a tiny snippet of my story, and my story is still being written.

Lots of love,

Jen

Dating in 2017 – a mental shift

Dating is dead, or so they say. In my opinion, it’s not completely dead, it has just changed into something very different compared to when I started dating many years ago. Back in the day, guys used to try. I remember my first date like it was yesterday. The nerves, the effort, the flowers (kinda), the missed first kiss, the sweaty palms. Wait, am I talking about a date or a sporting event? Oh, that’s right, this was when I was a teenager and dating in high school. Pretty sure I was way too nervous to even talk to boys at that point. So let’s fast forward to college.

In college, I was still weird (actually this never changed) so after a short but sweet long distance relationship, I turned to what was a new way of meeting people: dating websites. Even though I met people unconventionally, I still got to know them the organic way: through phone calls and dates/hanging out. And they still tried their best to impress me, or at least create a good time. Going on dates was fun. At one point, I met three different guys in the span of a week. Despite feeling like I had endless options (plenty of fish, anyone?), I settled on one of the three and ended up in a long term relationship with him.

Fast forward through even more awkward dates, some guys I met face to face, others also through the magical internet, I always appreciated the effort when a guy would try to actually court me. Not just bring me to Starbucks, but to actually plan something out like a nice dinner, or a local musical or concert. When they paid attention to what I like and executed a successful date based on similar interests we shared meant a lot to me. I actually have developed a similar skill where once I start to get to know someone, I pay attention to what their interests are and try to plan dates and events that would interest them.

Sometimes I feel like I can be a little aggressive though, and sometimes this backfires on me. There are many guys I’ve scared off due to my straight-forward, no-nonsense personality. But I’ve come to terms with the fact that if a guy can’t handle me, it’s his loss.

But with the new age dating, and the popularity of dating apps, dating has turned into more of a game. With the endless swiping you can do, it definitely feels like there’s an abundance of eligible single people out there. Some days I feel like I can swipe for ages, but never actually find anyone or anything interesting. It makes me yearn for the older days of simple dating. I just want to get to know someone. Someone who’s willing to get to know me, and try to court me as I try to court them. Make it a more even playing field, guys don’t always have to take the lead. But once in awhile, it’s nice to not have to wear the pants all the time. 🙂

What are your thoughts on the current dating scene? Are you dating or just laying low? Are you in a relationship? Or married?  Also, this image sums me up pretty well:

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