Motivational Monday: Meet Rachel

RachelThis beauty’s name is Rachel, I met her through a friend I was in the Navy with. We used to hang out daily all summer at a private beach when I was fairly new in the Navy. We would party with friends and compare fantastic tans, our biggest concern in life was where we were going out that night or running out of ice for our drinks. Rachel became a mommy in her early 20s to the sweetest little girl. Like many young women, Rachel had a challenging future ahead of her being a single parent but that didn’t discourage her. She continued to work full time, go to college, and became an activist for human rights right along side me.   In a situation where many young people would crumble, Rachel soared. Where many would feel pity, she felt pride in being a successful young mom who would be the best example to her daughter. I am so proud to say that I know Rachel and I can only hope to be 1/10th of the shining example to my child that she is to hers. My only regret from our friendship is that we didn’t spend more time together while I lived in Virginia but I know Ill see her again. Until then, Ill follow her beautiful life unfold via social media and root her one. Thanks Rachel, you don’t know how much you motivate me.

Sexual Assault Awareness Month

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In honor of sexual assault awareness month, allow me to throw out some stats to you. 

  • Every 2 minutes in America, someone is sexually assaulted 
  • 97% of rapist will never serve a day in jail
  • 44% of the victims are under 18 years old
  • Children are most vulnerable between the ages of 7 and 13 for sexual assault

Are you pissed off? Good, yo should be.

Let’s talk about a taboo topic… one that people avoid and whisper the word whenever dare talking about it… RAPE.

There are many misconceptions about this word and the causes for it. 

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Let me tell you a story. In 2012, a few friends and I hopped in my car and drove to Washington D.C. for the annual SLUT Walk march. We joined thousands of women (close to 3K) in a march to stand up for women’s rights and to take back the word slut. See, before I went to this march,  I was warned to not attach my name to such a cause. The cause using the dreaded words slut and rape. I actually half listened, I didn’t post much about it, I was careful on my private christian campus to not speak much of the event, and didn’t dare talk about it to my student organization that I was the president of. Well, until I attended.

Imagine, thousands of women, mostly wearing close to nothing, or just a bra, some even wore exactly what they were wearing at the time of their sexual assault. Exercising the point that no matter what you are wearing, no matter how intoxicated you are, and no matter if you promiscuous or not; NO one has permission to enter your body without your consent. Silence, is not consent. Crying is not consent.  I don’t know is not consent. YES is consent and if you don’t give it, than that is rape. 

 

ImageThis slut shaming culture has got to end. Making women feel as if they can’t stand up against their perpetrator is not acceptable. Telling a girl tricks of “how to avoid rape at a party” is not okay. How about we teach our children not to rape instead of giving them a pamphlet on safety tips.

“Look, guys. No matter what a girl does, no matter how she’s dressed, no matter how much she’s had to drink, it’s never, never, never, never, never okay to touch her without her consent. That doesn’t make you a man, it makes you a coward.” Joe BIden said these great words. 
 

  

 

Why you haven’t found Mr./Mrs. Right

I’m about to solve your romantic life long question and yes I am serious. What you have been looking for for many years, I will shortly explain the biggest problem with your search for “the one”. Keep reading, I surely hope you won’t be disappointed. 

We’ve seen the movies, read the Nicholas Sparks books and dreamed about a Corey and Topanga kind of love. But what if “they” (pop-culture and society) have been steering us wrong. They have been leading you on for as long as you’ve understood the concept of “Finding Mr./Mrs. Right”. 

When I was a kid, I made a list of all the qualities of my true prince charming. Some of those qualities were: handsome, charming, sensitive, family oriented, good job, and of course goals in life. I was so sure the perfect man was out there, he has to be. That’s what all the fairy tales told me and the young puppy love novels by Lurene McDaniel and Joci Picoult that I read almost religiously as a teen. 

But let me tell you why you have never found “the right one”, It’s because you are not the right one. Think about it, if you sat down and made a list of the perfect man (or woman) would you stack up to them? Do you have all of the qualities that you expect your future forever to have?

I so often hear my girlfriends say, “I want to meet a man with a good career, nice car, who takes care of his body” and so on. But let me ask you, do you? Do you want a well rounded, worldly educated man? I think those are great qualities but how in the world can you expect such a thing or things that you yourself cannot offer. 

We spend so much time in life looking for a person that we aren’t even working on ourselves. Have you taken a season to take care of you? What could you work on to make yourself “the right one” but if you haven’t how could any Mr. Right want to be with you? Does this sound harsh? I sure hope so because reality check ladies (and gentlemen) you’re not ready to find that person because if a perfect man were to walk right into you, you wouldn’t know what he looks like because you’re stuck in a Disney fantasy land. 

The only way to really find Mr. Right is to become the equally yoked version of him. You have to boldly accept the challenge to becoming the best possible version of yourself. Could you take care of yourself better? Could you work harder towards a new career? Do you really spend enough time with your family? If you met the opposite sex individual who was exactly like you, would you be impressed? 

Another problem in dating in your 20′s is so often you are trying to use the person you are dating to right a wrong from your past or your families past. Every person is so unique and different this is impossible. Oh, I can’t forget my personal favorite; punishing your current love interest for something someone else has done to you. Keep pushing that one, the relationship will go real far with your past baggage dragging it into the mud. 

Are you attracted to bad boys and cheaters? Ever think about trying to change that up? It’s kind of like committing to a strict diet while walking into bakery, you’re doomed before you start. If you step over red flags and play victim, you are in the wrong sport. 

So my challenge to you is, look at your dating resume. How do you stack up? Is there some formatting changes you could make? Add a little soul searching or self knowledge and see what good it does you. Maybe shed some negativity from your life and wash your hands of the old you/old habits. 

Oh and while you’re probably already irritated with me, let me ask you to stop lying.  Stop lying to yourself and others. You probably have royally screwed up in relationships, even if the other person nailed the last nail in the coffin doesn’t mean you didn’t take a few swings with the hammer. If you’re a cheater too but you didn’t get caught you are not any less at fault, you just didn’t have the guts to speak up which makes you even more of a coward than they are a jerk.

Stop lying to men by telling them “Oh my gosh, I can’t stand jealous people that’s not me!” News flash darling, he will find out sooner or later we are all a little crazy and insecure. Don’t say “I’m one of guys and low maintenance” you check your makeup in your cell phone camera and actually work at looking like you didn’t try at all with the “natural makeup” and “I just woke up hair” you’re not fooling anyone. 

If you’re truly looking for your forever, stop looking for a drink buddy and look for someone you can see yourself sitting on the porch swing watching the grand kids play. The person that makes you giggle unlike anyone else and compliments you at your worst. 

 

Keep it real,

 

Jen

February 23rd, my roomate and I were shopping for new a mattress. We went to all the normal places in Toledo, our salesman was a handsome young guy that to me looked like a cross before Adam Levine and Charlie Day. I was a total smitten kitten and talked about him for about 10 minutes after we left. I didn’t give him much thought after that and not too long later left for Oklahoma for a few months but shortly after returning we reconnected.

Pretty much since that day we have been inseparable, best friends even. We both have had terribly sad younger years of life but both are survivors. We both turned our sadness into a will to succeed at any cost and have both turned out to be good people with morals and values based on Christian principals.

Adam is patient and kind, sweet and beautiful. He accepts me for me knowing all my shortcomings and all my baggage. I used to feel like damaged goods but he makes me feel like jewels from a crown. He Is the kind of man that makes me know why it never worked out for me in the past and is exactly the kind of person that everyone in my life has always told I deserved. I never believe I did until now. I feel whole, complete and transformed, not allowing my past circumstance to determine my future but just letting myself be happy.

Because of all I’ve been through, I never really allow myself to grow too close, naturally I sabotage things that are too good. That all has changed for me, I’m happy and dammit I deserve it.
And now we welcome the new year, full of things that have never been.
No, this is not the beginning of a new chapter in my life; this is the beginning of a new book! That first book is already closed, ended, and tossed into the seas; this new book is newly opened, has just begun and it is a beautiful one! I have no new year resolution, I simply will enjoy my new life and understand/accept that this happiness I am feeling is truly deserved.

Peace and Love,

Jen

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A little update

So, I committed to writing more regularly but once again failed. Funny thing is it’s the biggest thing I preach to my clients. Consistency is the key!

Anyhow, a little update about my life in Ohio. I’ve been working for a little over 2 months now at a group home for troubled teenagers, it’s going pretty good. The hours are a bit challenging but not worse than Diaster relief. The only difference is in disaster relief you’re away from a social life and family so you don’t really have anything else to do but sleep. It’s a bit of a pay cut but overtime is almost always available and even mandated most of the time.

My best friend is having a baby today or tomorrow, I cannot wait. I’m so excited to be a aunty and a supporter for her. It’s so crazy to think of where we were 10 years ago I’m a choir room thinking of ways to skip school and bribing the school security guard to let us leave. She doesn’t know how great of a mom she’s gonna be. Sure, her story isn’t the fairy tale with the perfect guy but she has a village behind her and it takes a village to raise a child.

My health isn’t where it should be and I need to recommit myself to eating good and running again. There isn’t a magical pill or shake that’s gonna fix this, I need to get off my a____ and stop making excuses. Sure a 80-90 hour work week is tough but 30-45 mins of lost sleep isn’t gonna make a difference. I need to take my meds like I’m supposed to and drink more water, that will cure my daytime fatigued.

I’m trying to grow my business it’s been hard with my work schedule and my new found social life but I’ve got to find a way to make it work. I’ve really loved the past month or so when it comes to my personal life so I just have to find a way to integrate it.

Well, that’s all for now folks. As always feedback and comments are appreciated.

Love and hugs,

Jen

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I have been avoiding writing this story, mostly because I knew that the second I started it would make me cry and I was right. I really hate emotions, I bottle them up, swallow the lump in my throat and try my best to be numb. When it comes to my personal life, I really never allow myself to cry or show too much feelings. This comes from years and years of pain and holding things in, and yes I know it’s unhealthy.

On May 20, 2013 I caught wind that tornado’s had ripped apart several cities in Oklahoma in the early afternoon. I was sitting at this 9-5 desk job that “American Dream” job my father has pounded into my head my whole life. I went home and read that it had hit a school killing 7 children. I went to work the next morning knowing I was going to quit, I was a mess the entire day but at the near end of it I sat down with my supervisor just crying. I had to go, I couldn’t explain why I had to but I did. Less than 48 hours later I was on a plane on my way to Moore, Oklahoma.

I had responded to 2 hurricanes with this NGO but never a tornado, I imagined that a tornado would be emotionally harder than a hurricane because it ripped through homes and is more visually devastating.

ImageOn the way from the airport to Moore, the taxi driver told me how he was affected by the storm. I began preparing myself for something I had never seen. Having to get past several military and civilian police road blocks was just an indication of the intense sites I was about to see. When I arrived, the church we were set up was on a hill (I believe the highest point in the town) and all you could see around you was devastation. Houses gone, farms destroyed, cars in trees, couches on top of roofs and a very clear path that the tornado took.

Shortly after my arrival, a facebook friend posted about a family that lost their child in the storm. They lost their home, their vehicles and all but a few boxes of possessions. We connected and he got me in contact with a family friend. This family friend and I communicated for a week or so before I was connected to the actual family. I called Ross and Danni once or twice a week for 2 weeks before actually assisting them. I could tell they were overwhelmed and really didn’t want to accept help, I knew I couldn’t force them to reach out but I also knew I couldn’t let go of the hope that I could get through to them. So, I continued to try until finally 3 weeks after the storm Danni finally text me a grocery list. I went out at 9pm after my 15 hour day and shopped for spagettios and other kid favorites. I have to admit I was very nervous to delivery these items because we had not met yet and I was afraid I’d get emotional if we talked about their son. The visit went great and Danni said something that I have not let go of, “I get 80 calls a day and yours is one I actually welcome and now I have a face to add to the name, call anytime.” I was worried calling them and being a bother, I didn’t want to be a burden to them and I now knew they accepted me as a new friend and someone that wanted to help them.

Image We had several visits and interactions after that, we brought them plastic totes so that they could move from their temporary housing to a rental home. I brought them several teams to help them, my biggest rules was that no one ask questions and completely respect their privacy. The volunteers did everything from landscaping, odd jobs around the house, cooked dinner, and painted the kids rooms. It’s not that these jobs were very important at all, but the presence of people that care and the support is what really mattered to the family.

We had a group of men from Washington State that served as “the men in black” to the family on the one month anniversary. The media was being absolutely tasteless and nearly stalking the family. So our guys served as security at the anniversary events and even walked the slab of concrete where the school once stood. Danni walked us all over the property and showed up each classroom, the cafeteria, and even the spot where Christopher lost his life as a hero. Christopher had a friend crying down the hall and he moved to comfort. He was much bigger than most kids his age and he shielded her when the tornado hit the building. He saved her life and died as a 9 year old hero. The property had notes written on the concert in chalk and makers, favorite teddy bears and toys of the children.

photo 1I cannot lie, standing next to the spots where 7 precious children lost their lives was the absolute most gut wrenching moment of my life. I wept, I could not control it. We all stood there together and just cried. I cannot even talk about it (nor write) without being overcome with emotion again, I feel no shame with that.

From this day for the next two months,  we chatted on the phone, I visited here and there a few times a week. Sometimes the family even came to visit me at the church site I was working at. I saw so much progress in the family, they were getting stronger and they could face the days more than before. I can’t say it was easier at all, I know that it didn’t get easier but they were surrounded by love and support which had to help.

I grew especially close to their daughter Haleigh, we painted and played on their swing set together. We did piggy back rides and held hands like we’ve been close forever. She really touched my heart and being able to get her a big dolls house and books she lost in the storm meant the world to me. Offering her comforting words of peace and hope was special to me also. My biggest fear is that when I go back to visit in a few months she will have already forgotten about me.

971040_10151784424923088_1314100086_nSharing moments with Ross had to be one of my favorites. When I first met him, I was scared of him. I thought I bothered him and I later realized that It had nothing to do with me. His heart was broken and no plastic tote or grocery item was going to give him his precious boy back. Some days he didn’t talk to me at all but one day I saw something in his eyes, he smiled at me and even gave me a hug. He asked me questions about the Navy and my boyfriend at the time, he truly cared about me and I knew that. He told me his family loved me and would miss me so much. He made me promised to visit and I intend to do that as often as possible. My last night in Oklahoma I saw on their patio talk for hours about his son. He told me how he couldn’t sleep at night and why (something I will not share). We cried together, I barley talked in those hours but instead listened. We talked about grieving and how it really never gets better but it gets bearable to face a new day.  I sat there thinking “How can I leave this family? I need them as much as they think they need me.” We talked about God and about the organization I was working with. We talked about what’s next for me in life and how I was hoping to get a job helping at risk youth. Sharing those few hours with Ross just talking has to be on the top 3 of moments with the Legg family. That night Haleigh and I painted on canvas and Danni even joined in. It was so special to me to share that with them.

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I think about the Legg family every single day, I pray for them as if It’s a part of my daily routine.  The opportunity to serve them has been a complete and total honor. I love them and miss them every single day and completely blessed to say I have been able to get to know them. It’s difficult for me to accurately explain what it feels like to walk with people through their most difficult time in their life. I wish that I had met them under different circumstances, I wish that i could have been Christopher because it’s clear he was a very very special little boy. I’d give anything to watch him and his brother in a football game because they were both so athletic and very smart. I wish I could watch Haleigh grow up to the beautiful young woman she will be. A visit isn’t good enough, but it’s going to have to do.

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I didn’t know what Oklahoma was going to be for me. I didn’t know at first if quitting my job and walking away from the best hourly wage I’ve ever earned and the full benefits of a “grown up job”. But I sit here today, writing this post saying it was beyond worth it. God put all the pieces together for me upon my return to Ohio. To a job that is exactly what I want to do with my life. I worked in Disaster Relief for 2 years and I’ve experienced the most amazing things serving people at their most difficult times. It’s funny, I went into a situation expecting to help others but I was the one totally blessed in so many ways. I don’t talk to the family as often as I would like due to my work/schedule load and both of our hectic schedules but they have asked me to manager their memorial page on facebook for their son so that’s really special to me that I can continue serving even after I’ve left. To the Legg family, I truly love you and will never forgot how you have touched my life and shared your most personal moments and memories with me of a beautiful baby boy’s life ended too soon. You are my family and I will be back to see you.

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A Hardened Heart

It’s been 8 years since I’ve seen my mother, it doesn’t make me sad. It’s my choice and always has been (since I was a teen) to see my mom. Just the other day I received a call that could quite change my life.  The 700 Club (Christian Broadcasting Network) will be filming my testimony. The show is viewed in 137 countries, it’s pretty amazing.

Since my testimony is very much about my childhood years and the majority of that pain was caused by my mothers actions (or lack there of) I felt that it’s only right to tell my mother. It’s hard for me even to type “mother” in this blog because I don’t even refer to her as my mom. I call her by her first name if I speak of her. I reached out to her on facebook because I don’t even have her number and asked her to call me. She did shortly after, we talked for about 10 minutes. If you know my story, you can imagine how hard that was. I told her that my story would be on T.V. and although her name or other details where she could be identified would not be used, I wanted her to know. We talked for a few minutes about what’s going on in our lives and it wasn’t bad at all.

I know that in my heart I forgave my mother years ago but I was reminded that forgiving someone is not a one time deal, it’s a long term process. I have been trying to forgive my mother for 19 years and although I’m better than I was I am not yet where I need to be. It’s always been hard for me because she never did ask for forgiveness. Neither did the man she is married to who is the person who created the problem that is between my mother and I.

Long term unforgivness creats a callused heart, an emotionally hardened and cold heart. Like a callus on your hand from working hard, over time your skin gets thicker and tough. Maybe it’s to protect or maybe it’s to keep others out, however while we think we are protecting ourself and keeping others out, we are in all actuality just fencing ourselves in. A callused heart is insensitive and unsympathetic or what I used to refer to myself as; numb.

Take the pumice stone of forgiveness and heal your heart, make it beautiful again. Scrap off the hardness, yes it might hurt a little (or a lot) but over time you will feel lighter and the brightness will return to your life.

Love,

Jen

Open your eyes and open your heart

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My first interaction with Justin other than a “good morning” or a “please sign here” was just a week ago. I was asked to “bend the rules” for him and I chose not to, luckily someone higher ranking than I decided to allow it. Justin’s group that he came to volunteer with was leaving but God had something else stirring up so he stayed.

Before coming to Oklahoma, Justin lead a life that you probably only have seen in movies. He took drugs, sold them and was involved in gangs. Justin was in rehab at 15 and has been in juvenile detention/jail off and on for 5 years and is a teenager father. Justin has tattoos on his face and a good portion of his body is covered in tattoos, most of then unrelated and he did them himself. You might be shocked to know that Justin is only 19 years old, at least I was.

Until I actually had a conversation with Justin, I only heard 2nd hand stories of his past and his different experiences in Oklahoma. I heard that Justin had accepted Christ on a worksite he was volunteering on. The entire community rejoiced for this. It sounds crazy I could physically see a change in Justin. He looked “softer”, without the hard look on his face and obvious attitude in his walk.  Just a few days later, Justin was baptized in the most beautiful baptism I’ve ever seen. I cried like a baby and I still never had a conversation with him. He shared a little bit of the testimony and we all just cried.

The next day, I was taking some female volunteers to dinner and I decided to ask Justin to join us. We had a blast, laughing, eating together and sharing about our stories together. After that day we interacted more, talked more and I grew closer to him than I expected in way less time than I knew possible.

When I found out Justin was leaving sooner than I expected I felt really upset. The selfish part of felt that I wasn’t ready to say goodbye because I had already learned so much from him and I wasn’t ready to stop. The other part of me felt worried about him and how his life is going to be when he leaves the environment of good influences and people to keep him accountable.

If you would have told me a week ago that I would learn lessons about life from Justin, I’d call you crazy. If you told me I would have hugged Justin and cried right before he left Oklahoma, I’d say, yeah right. But he did help me see something that I never knew was possible. That underneath the layers of callas and scared on our hearts that we really are alike. If you got down to the core of a person and just listened to their stories you would be shocked to know how much we have in common. That we share the same fears, that we want the same things in life and we have so much to teach eachother. I have a new friend and brother for life and I am so honored.

**Any information I shared was with permission and I read this blog to him before publishing.

Inspired

Okay, I know I am terrible. I break my own blogging laws but in my defense its hard to write consistently when you’re in this world.

I will be posting a meaningful/lengthy blog tomorrow and I want you to come back.

Teaser

What if I told you, ex-drug dealer that accepted Christ less than a week ago has inspired me? What if I told you that a man with a tear drop tattoo on his face, who was in rehab at the age of 14 and a teenager father has changed my life? Would you believe me?

Check back tomorrow, I can’t wait to share this with you.

Love,

Jen