The beginning of the end

The year was 2016. Everything in my life was changing, and not in a good way. My Dad was engaged and about to marry a raging alcoholic. I was still grieving the recent loss of my mother and there were few things that felt solid in my life: my marriage and my therapist were the top two. Kung Fu helped me vent, as well. But all through everything else falling apart, I felt like I could count on my husband and my therapist.

Even when my husband was frustrated over my grieving and stress about my Dad, I still felt like we were solid. Even when he spent more and more time away from home, I just wrote it off as his way of dealing with things. I felt like my stress may have been overflowing onto him, so tried my best to give him everything he needed, including many “massages” and other activities where he didn’t invite me to. It felt like I had blinders on until he blew up at me. What seemed like overnight, he started sleeping on the couch and stopped talking to me. All the love and warmth was sucked out of the room when we were home. My world was officially falling apart, not just everywhere else but also at home.

And the only solid thing I could cling onto was my therapist. And God. I started praying daily from the first day I felt a rift in my marriage, which was about two months before my husband left the house. I prayed for someone to go to church with me, since it was pretty clear my husband wasn’t going to go anymore. I prayed not just for someone to invite me but for me to find a community where I belonged. And God answered my prayers.

My co-worker Elizabeth who I didn’t know very well invited me to her church. I could tell she was nervous to ask me, but I couldn’t say no. Especially since it was exactly what I needed, at the right time. I started attending Free Church right after my husband left the house. Right around that time, I finally realized just how many lies my husband had told me. It spiraled out of control and I ended up in the middle of a panic attack late at night. It felt like the entire house was spinning all around me and my life was falling apart. I started hyperventilating and felt dizzy. I considered driving myself to the ER or calling 911 if I didn’t move in the next few moments.

As tears started rolling down my face, I started talking to God. I couldn’t say anything other than I’m sorry. I apologized, over and over again, because here I was losing my shit over a person. A human being. A shitty, awful one but at the end of the day just a creature. And in the midst of all my tears and apologies, I heard God tell me “It’s ok, I have someone better for you.” And all of a sudden, I’m calm. My tears dry up, and I feel a sense of warmth and relief. And I fall asleep.

That was the beginning of the end of my marriage. But that was also the year I learned that just because one thing ends doesn’t mean that everything is over. Actually, it usually means a new, different opportunity will present itself. And in the end, as long as you trust in God, he will take you where you’re supposed to go.

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Suicide Prevention and the Holidays

With the holiday season comes an increase of sadness and depression. Some blame it on Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) due to the decreased daylight, whereas other cases can be traced back to lonely or drama-included holidays. Speaking from experience, I can see where the holidays can be sad for someone since I lost my mom right before Christmas of 2015. I want to focus on suicide prevention and ways to lift your spirits despite the gloomy circumstances surrounding you.

Suicide Prevention: tips and tricks

  • Move! Stay active. I know it’s hard during these colder months, but staying active will increase your feel-good hormones. It may be too cold to exercise outside, but there are some great gym membership deals going on right now that you can jump on.
  • Eat better! Instead of grabbing processed and fatty foods, go for foods rich in protein, fiber, and/or good fats. I.e. eggs, avocados, oatmeal, etc. These foods will also help you stay full for longer and won’t tire you out.
  • Start or re-vamp a hobby! Whether you like to read books, watch movies, or play the guitar, pick up an old or new hobby to focus on. People who do what they enjoy find more joy in their daily lives.
  • Be social! Join a meet up group or a local running club. Whatever it is you like to do, there’s likely a group of people to do it with. Doing something you enjoy with others is a great way to make new friends.
  • Choose yourself. Love yourself. You are amazing and you are worth it.

If you find yourself considering suicide or suffering from depression, don’t hesitate to call 1-800-273-8255

Check out this website HERE for more resources and information. Let’s get the conversation going and let it continue on everywhere.

Late night thoughts

I have a theory. Or maybe a few of them. All relating to people and their behaviors. This is probably one of the latest blog posts I’ve ever done, but I wanted to write this week and didn’t have time until now.

scale-403585_1920There’s an article I read recently about this amazing couple that lost all this weight together. Like nearly 400 pounds between the two of them over the last two years. I can’t even make this up, it’s like two completely different couples. This story got me thinking about relationships and how they can literally build you up and push you forward, or knock you down and hold you back. This is an extreme case of the former. It’s like together they pushed each other to be healthier and to take back their lives.

Ideal relationships

This is the ideal relationship. We all want someone who will love us no matter what, but will also push us to be better than who we were yesterday. Settling is for dirt; people are meant to grow and evolve throughout their entire life. If we end up settling, we may miss an opportunity because we may not even get to that level to open that door. In my previous relationship, I thought I was with someone who was supportive no matter what. It wasn’t until I wanted to go back to school did I realize that he was holding me back from my goals and dreams.

Unhealthy relationships

Then you have the relationships that knock you down. “You’re tearing me apart, Lisa!” (The Room). You know, the ones where your partner tells you you’re fat or you’re boring. And somehow, despite all the weight you lose, you’re never good enough. In a way, they can push you to do better, but you’re only trying to do better because the person who’s supposed to be on your team is tearing you down. And you want to prove them wrong. Pretty sure this is unbelievably unhealthy. And if you’re in this type of relationship, the one where your significant other is extremely selfish, please do yourself a favor and leave it. You can do so much better.

Are you in a healthy, ideal relationship? Is your guy or gal willing to support you and push you forward all while loving you no matter what?

Pursuing my dreams

What does it look like to pursue your dreams? There’s a saying that if you find your dream job, you’ll never work another day in your life.

My many hats

Through the past several years, I’ve worked in many different fields. When I started out fresh out of college, I wanted to work in the veterinary field for the rest of my life. So, naturally, I started out as a Veterinary Technician (nurse). Through the years, and Grad school, I determined the Veterinary field wasn’t right for me. I also worked a little in Information Technology, where I thrived but wasn’t passionate about my role there.

I thought I broke through the mundane when after I received my Master’s degree, I got a Technical Support role at a laboratory supply company. It mixed my skills of IT with science, and I got to talk to customers. I love talking to people, something I found through the veterinary roles I had. Then the company management started micro-managing me, despite me being one of the top employees in my department. They pushed me away and into sales since they gave me sales goals with no incentives. And I entered IT sales, because it made sense. Yes, I knew it wasn’t my passion, but I thought there would be a bigger chance to make more money.

That brings me to now..

After a year and a half in IT sales, I wasn’t making nearly as much as I thought I would. The company I was working for actually lied about the role of the job and instead of it leading to a sales account manager position, it was more of a glorified admin role. And if you know me, you know I’m not one to just sit back and do nothing. I’ve been there, done that. And no way did I get a Master’s degree to be someone’s assistant.

So I decided to take a risk. After months of job applications and a handful of interviews, I received zero job offers. I was getting this itch to get out of my current role and into something that would help push me towards my dream job. Not to mention, I wanted to get away from my old life as much as I could and my career was the last string to be cut. So when LA Fitness called me, I agreed to interview with them. The words manager in training were said and I was instantly interested. After the interview, I knew I had a shoe in but that my life would be changing completely.

My passion in fitness

pursuing my dreamsThis is only my first week and I’m still in training and learning all that I can. So far, I’m loving it. It feels like I belong in the world of fitness. Technically, I’m still in sales. But now I’m selling personal training rather than laptops and servers. I’m helping people work towards and obtain their health and fitness goals. And this makes me happy. I know that I’m taking a huge risk. My income is based on how much I sell, and I have bills to pay. But for some reason, this feels right. And I believe that if you don’t push yourself and put yourself out there, you’ll never know your full potential.

Also, you can’t know success until you know failure. So if I fail, I will know what doesn’t work. But I like the saying do or do not, there is no try. I’m beyond trying and now I’m doing. I’m following my passions and dreams. And I know this will help me grow in the fitness field and gain the experience and knowledge needed to be a leader in the fitness field.

What’s your passion? Are you working your dream job?

Come see me at LA Fitness in Oak Brook if you’re looking to start or change your fitness journey!

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

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

This is 31

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Last year I did an entire This is Thirty series where I looked back at my past and took you through the process of my life pre-marriage and eventually to where I was, or where I thought I was. Looking back over the past year has me seeing double. It’s hard to believe how far I’ve come, and I’m only getting started.

It feels like where I was at 30 is a completely different world and different life than where I am now. The crazy part is I thought I was in control of my life and thought I was mature. Thought my mom passing away and my dad starting a new family helped me grow, but little did I know I had no control and my marriage was already falling apart.

Today, as a single and independent woman, I am no longer in that fake-happy world I was stuck in. I’ve grown up and out of the “American dream” and I’ve found my own dreams. I not only was thoughtful, but also methodological in my choices and actions over the past 9 months. Moving to Oak Park wasn’t the easiest choice, but it was a no-brainer for me for several reasons. Reasons relating to my job, my friends, my sense of community, my safety, and my lifestyle. Above all, though, I feel like God called me here. And I listened.

In the middle of the storm of my previous life, I grew quiet and listened to God. He told me several things that still ring true today. He told me “He’s just a person” “I have someone better for you” and “I have something better for you.” I believe that something better was and is Oak Park, Free Church, and the community I’ve found here. I’ve moved on from the person who tried to control me, and find it surprising when people ask me about that old, long ago time and place.

I’m still growing and I’m still maturing. There won’t be a time where I will say I’m mature and I’ve grown, because there is always room to grow more. I learned that even when you think you’re in control, you never really are. And I’m learning to let go of that need to control and to let God. So far, he’s steered me into this new, wonderful life that I would’ve never imagined on my own. And I’m savoring every moment.

Party in the Park

This past weekend my church threw an amazing party in the park. This is an annual summer party they throw that just keeps getting bigger and bigger every year. It was great to be a part of this event and to be able to hang out with my church community outside of church.

To give you some perspective, Free Church was started in 2012. In five years, it has grown from only a few to about 300 churchgoers. There were well over 100 people at this party yesterday. The growth is amazing to see, and we got our very own building this year (the Hemingway Museum). 🙂

I’ve only been going to Free Church since November of 2016, but I feel myself growing as well. While it’s great to see more and more people at church, it’s even better to feel my faith growing as I learn and dig deeper into this community I call home. I feel safe and cared for in my church community. And I feel strong. There’s about 46 of us training for the Chicago Marathon this year. We’re all running it for Team World Vision which brings clean water to those who need it the most in Africa.

This week is week 6 of training and I already feel myself changing. This past Saturday was the second time I ran with my church group, and it was amazing. We ran 10 miles and we crushed it! Not only do I notice my chub decreasing, I also feel my legs getting stronger. But beyond that, I feel healthier all around. Not just physically, but also mentally. My mind feels more clear and focused. I feel like I can achieve my goals that I have for myself.

If you have the means, please consider helping me bring clean water to the women and children in Africa. This small act will allow them time to do other things, like go to school and study. Thank you!

https://www.teamworldvision.org/participant/jenb

When to walk away

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Do you feel emotionally drained and don’t know why? Do you doubt yourself after talking to your partner? There are 5 things that every emotional manipulator does to confuse and drain you.

  1. They will persistently dismiss your emotions. If you ever tell your significant other about something they did or said that hurt you, they will turn it around and say you’re making it a bigger deal than it really is, disregarding your feelings. Their apathetic attitude will eventually make you start doubting yourself, so you introspectively gather your thoughts and start believing it’s your fault. You lose motivation to pursue the issue any further.
  2. They play “tit for tat” pretty well. If you ever become confident to approach them with what you think they are lacking in terms of affection or intimacy or emotional support, they  will respond by listing all the things they find lacking in you. They might try and throw it back at you and once again blame you for the reason there’s even an issue in the first place. If you’re like me, this will just make you crawl into your shell further.
  3. They are completely different people when no one else is around. You’re with your friends having a great time, everyone’s laughing. But then at the end of the night when no one else is around, your partner starts a fight saying how terrible you are with his friends and how mean you are to him in front of his friends. He can make fun of you but you can’t make fun of him back. Sometimes it feels like he just wants to fight.
  4. They try to convince you that everyone else is on their side. We all make mistakes, but if you make a mistake and you’re with an emotional manipulator, one thing to look out for is if they try and point out to you the error of your ways and tell you that everyone else is in agreement that you’re wrong. These supposed phantom alliances that allegedly conspire against you leave you feeling left out and insecure. If you inquire as to who’s saying this, you probably won’t receive an answer or they will just lie to your face.
  5. To them you are not intelligent enough to understand their reasoning. An emotional manipulator is not prone to explaining their own actions to you when asked, their reason will be that it’s too complex for you to understand. Their goal is to put themselves above you by pointing out to you your lack of intelligence. If your partner continues to withhold information from you, you will never know when you do something right or wrong. This puts you in a terrible, vulnerable place to be attacked over the smallest things.

Speaking from experience, if your significant other is doing these things, it’s time to leave. There’s no reasoning with someone who’s unwilling to be reasonable. And no one deserves to be manipulated like that anyways. We are all our own people and we all have a right to our feelings and emotions.

Defend yourself from these types of people. Raise your tail feathers and quills. Don’t let manipulators get to you.