Cycle Breakers

I am not even quite sure how to begin. There are so many thoughts going on in my mind recently. With the reports of the scandals in the SBC and the school shooting in Texas yesterday claiming the lives of several innocent victims, it seems like the bad news just keeps coming. What is going on? More importantly, how do we fix it?

I don’t have the answer to this. I don’t believe there is one right answer to any of it, but I will say this, be a cycle breaker.

I’ve began using the term, “cycle breaker” lately during conversations with many brave souls I am privileged to know. Many of us grew up in some kind of trauma situation, and most of us now have our own children. We are all terrified of our children graduating childhood with the same scars we did, and I have to say, that’s a very real concern. Generally speaking, abuse breeds more abuse.

I don’t usually divulge much in the way of abuse in my childhood. It’s personal, and I tend to downplay it by saying, “many people had it much worse”. Because it’s true. But trauma isn’t that easy to dismiss is it?

I remember getting “spanked” a few times growing up. An innocent family member told me recently, that she has a vivid childhood memory of being in the same house as I received one of my “spankings” and she was terrified because she could hear my shrill screams coming up from the basement. She was traumatized so much, she still remembers the event thirty-five years later. That memory is one that my brain has since blocked out, along with a few others I’m sure. I guess my therapist and I will have to dive into that one at some point.

Sprinkle some spiritual abuse into the mix and it is no surprise I am a little concerned about carrying the cycles of abuse on to my children.

My kids are older now, my daughter is in college, my son in high school. Whatever has been done is done at this point, and I will be the first to say, I have made some grave mistakes.

When my kids were small, unfortunately, I began parenting them similar to the way I was raised. I was young, which is no excuse, but that was literally all I knew. Fast forward to my son’s mental health diagnosis when he was four, a kind psychiatrist sat down with my husband and I and explained to us healthier ways to parent. I decided right then and there I would do better by them.

Five years or so after that, my husband and I made our exit from the UPC. Scars had already been made I fear, but I am thankful we got out when we did. My children were thirteen and nine at the time.

Ever since, I have strived to do better. Make myself better, for them. I have worked on me in order to make their worlds a safer place. Have I been perfect? Absolutely not. But I do hope and pray that stopping the abusive situations they were in when we did made a difference.

I pray their scars are not as deep as mine.

I often jokingly say, “we all mess up our kids in our own unique way”, and it’s true. But hopefully, as generations pass, the scars will get lighter and lighter until they are nonexistent.

How are we going to solve the world’s problems? I don’t have the answer. But we as adults, with or without kids of our own, HAVE to do better. We HAVE to step up and heal our own hurts in order to stop the cycle of abuse from continuing to hurt our kids. If we save the kids in our own lives from the abuse we suffered, we’ve made a difference.

So cheers to everyone who is working on themselves. Kudos to those working hard to challenge the flaws in their own upbringing.

We HAVE to be the responsible generation.

We HAVE to be the “cycle breakers”.

Exciting Announcement!

Hey everyone! I just wanted to take a minute and give a you all a really cool life update!

Some of you may already be aware, but I am excited to announce, my husband Jereme and I, along with our good friend Gary have started our very own podcast!

We had some technical difficulties the first few episodes, so until I got things going smoothly, I wasn’t going to announce it, but here we are! I wanted to take this opportunity to give some details about this super fun project!

What is this podcast called you may ask?

The podcast is called, Amateur Faith Night!

Why in the world is that the name?

Because we are amateurs and are completely winging this! Plus, we think we’re funny! The name made complete sense during a rather hysterical brainstorming session.

Who are the hosts?

My husband Jereme, our friend Gary, and I will be hosting. We plan to have different guests on from time to time as well, but it will usually just be us three. Jereme and I, as you probably already know, have a United Pentecostal Church background, and Gary has an amazing testimony about God delivering him from a lifetime of drugs and alcoholism. The three of us have been friends for a number of years, of the which none of us can quite figure out the exact number of. I think we bring an interesting compilation of viewpoints to the table.

What is the planned content?

We will be discussing anything and everything from trying to sort out our own issues, to our crazy kids, to current events in the world of Christianity and/or Oneness Pentecostalism.

What is the format like?

Like I said, we are totally winging this! None of our episodes will ever be scripted. We will have notes that we have researched for some of the topics, but for the most part, we are just three friends chatting over coffee. Real life. Real conversations. No pretenses.

Where can you stream?

Right now, Amateur Faith Night can found on Google podcasts, Spotify, and Anchor. We are working on Apple, however, we have had some technical issues there, so it’s not happened just yet.

Is there a YouTube channel?

I have gotten this question a lot, and in my normal fashion I’m going to give you a straight up answer. No, we do not have a YouTube channel set up yet, and I am going to be honest as to why. We record our episodes late in the evening, so we all look a hot mess. Trust me, ain’t none of you want to see that! We also have our “studio” set up in my office, which is also a hot mess. Jereme and I get to share a work space since he has been working from home because of the pandemic and it is a rather small work space. However, my children are beginning to move up and out soon, so this issue may be rectified as soon as a room has been vacated. We’ll see how it goes.

How to stay up to date on podcast info?

Follow our Facebook page here: https://www.facebook.com/Amateur-Faith-Night-Podcast-105394378728516/

I want to let you all know I appreciate the support of each and every one of you! Some of the topics we discuss can be difficult to talk about, but need to be openly talked about. I’m not in the business of talking smack about the UPCI, however, I am in the business of speaking truth about the UPCI. The hard truths that can make people uncomfortable, but I think are super important. People need to be validated in their feelings and experiences. It always helps to know someone else has “been there”.

I hope you all give us a listen, I promise you will laugh at least once per episode, no matter how uncomfortable the episode topic is! We are beginning a series about the history of Pentecostalism, I promise, you will NOT want to miss it!

Love to you all.

Google link here:

https://podcasts.google.com/feed/aHR0cHM6Ly9hbmNob3IuZm0vcy84MzVhNTI0OC9wb2RjYXN0L3Jzcw?ep=14

**Edit**

We are now on Apple Podcast!

https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/amateur-faith-night/id1622190968

One More Post About “Modesty”

The following blog should not be taken as judgmental in tone. This is not the intent. However, people have questions, valid questions that I feel should be honestly and blatantly addressed.

Recently, the superintendent of the UPCI, David K Bernard has made some posts on his public Facebook page regarding women’s “modesty”. I use quotation marks for the word modesty because as most of you know, this word has a completely different meaning in the UPCI church.

The definition of modesty according to Marriam-Webster is:

Propriety in dress, speech, or conduct.

Some synonyms of the word are: humbleness, humility, lowliness, meekness. Some antonyms are: arrogance, assumption, pretentiousness, pride, loftiness, among others.

Now that we have given the word modesty the proper definition, let’s look at some of David K. Bernard’s definition according to his Facebook post from March 24, 2022. I’m sure he has much more to say on the subject, but this post probably sums up the gist:

“The NT teaches basic principles of Christian adornment & dress: modesty, moderation, avoiding personal ornamentation (which is why we don’t wear makeup and tattoos), distinction between male & female. (See 1 Tim 2:8-10; 1 Pet 3:1-5)”

Is he wrong about this? Actually no. Well, not all of it. As Christ followers, we should be modest. We should be humble, lowly, and meek. The idea that modesty has EVERYTHING to do with outward adornment such as makeup and tattoos and less to do with our attitudes and spirit is wrong.

One can try to tell me the UPCI doesn’t teach that modesty is all in your outward appearance. However, if you begin scrolling through some of the comments under DKB’s recent posts, you will have a difficult time convincing me otherwise. The more people began expressing their concern with his statement, the more pushback they got, including many pictures that “modest” women uploaded of themselves to show off their particular brand of “modesty”. Of course, upon seeing the pictures of these women, I immediately thought, “yes, this comment with a picture certainly embodies the definition of modesty such as meek, humble, and lowly.” (That was complete sarcasm if you couldn’t tell.)

I ask, how is bragging about our modesty to others modest?

This isn’t the only question people are asking of the UPCI. Many in the post comments asked how the expensive clothing with flashy purses, crazy hairstyles, and extravagant cars, homes and such things that are commonly seen among UPCI churches are okay, but a little bit of makeup or a tattoo is considered immodest?

It doesn’t take a long time of scrolling through social media to see sequin skirts, jewels in their hair, Gucci shoes and handbags, and I’m not talking about us sinners. I’m talking about UPCI influencers.

We need answers. How is this okay? How can you judge my blue jeans when your outfit costs more than it would cost to feed a homeless family for a week? How can you judge my earrings when your women are carrying purses that are as expensive as a sofa? How can you judge other denominations about their modesty when you have changed the definition of the word entirely?

Other great questions that have been broached around this same general topic include:

How are red shoes okay now, but they didn’t used to be?

Why were TV’s so vehmently outlawed when we were growing up, but are now deemed okay?

Why do some churches think wedding bands are okay, yet others preach against them? So are they are all still going to heaven?

Why did the first general superintendent of the UPCI buy women haircuts, but trimming your hair is now considered a grave sin?

Why weren’t “holiness standards” addressed in the first Articles of Faith of the UPC if they were indeed upheld upon the formation of the organization as is always implied?

I could go on here, but I won’t.

But those of us with history of the UPCI as well as many of those who are still “in” have questions. We deserve answers, actual answers, not skewed definitions of words and out of context Bible verses.

For more on this subject see my other blogs on the topic:

The Oxymoron of “Modesty”

The Repercussions of Modesty Culture Gone Wrong

When Things Are Out of Our Control

I remember one night kneeling on the back pew of my UPC church, tears flowing down my face, I prayed to God with all I had in me, pulling every trick out of the bag that I knew, begging him, pleading with him to heal me. My pastor’s wife saw that I was struggling and came to ask me what was wrong. I completely word vomited all over her. I was distraught because I have a rare medical condition and the message the pastor spoke on that evening was that of the Word of Faith persuasion. Name it and claim it! Speak those things as though they were! If God didn’t perform whatever miracle you were demanding of him, it was because of your lack of faith.

I was a second-class saint.

No matter how many times I asked, no matter how I asked it, I was still bound to my medication on a life or death level. Clearly something spiritual was wrong with me.

She could offer me no comfort or solace. How could she? If she honestly believed what her husband had been yelling about from the pulpit, there was no other explanation other than me.

I thought God hated me.

Fast forward to this past week. I have been surrounded by sickness, sadness, and even death. While most of these things did not affect me personally, I’ve had to watch friends suffer through them. I also received a frustrating medical diagnosis and found myself going down the dark pit of self-pity and perceived second-class saintism.

I have questioned many different topics since I left the UPC, including the name it and claim it doctrine. As I was mentally trying to pull myself into a better mindset, a few verses came to mind.

If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.”
Daniel 3:17‭-‬18

Though he slay me, I will hope in him; yet I will argue my ways to his face.
Job 13:15 ESV

But I trust in you, O Lord; I say, “You are my God.” My times are in your hand; rescue me from the hand of my enemies and from my persecutors!
Psalm 31:14‭-‬15 ESV

Am I suggesting my situation is the same as these Biblical examples of incredible faith and trust? No way. However, I have found great comfort in believing that God hears my prayers, yet I have no right to demand him to do anything. I can ask him, and it is in every right of God Almighty to say no.

Do I believe God can heal? Yes! One hundred percent! Do I believe God always does things on our time? No. And oddly enough, that brings me peace.

It’s all about trust. It’s all about actually having faith that God’s ways are higher than mine. He really does have me in his hand and I have to trust in his righteous, holy love.

Jackie Hill Perry eloquently stated in her “Holier than Thou” devotional: “No one told or taught God how to be good, that is simply who He is, and He can be no other way.”

God is good. He only wants good things for his children. He has given us eternal life with him. That means, ultimately we get to live forever. You can’t want more than that. You cannot demand anything more from him. That’s not how this works.

Why is it the charismatic Word of Faith theology is so prevalent today? I’ve given that some thought this evening and here is my layman’s theory: Pride.

These are generally the same group of people who will tell you there is more to getting saved than just belief. They will tell you your salvation depends on specific works on your part. They will claim if you do not follow specific rules you can even lose your salvation after you worked so hard to get it in the first place. These people will tell you, you can do something to twist God’s arm into giving you what you want.

There is a whole lot of you in that paragraph, and not a whole lot of Jesus.

It comes down to pride. It comes down to humbling ourselves and laying down what we think we want and need and fully trusting in God. We as humans like to be in control, it takes faith to admit we were never in control to begin with.

God saves us, God keeps us, and God alone can heal us. It’s much more comforting to trust.

Freedom To Give!

Happy Holiday season everyone! I don’t know about your last month, but ours has been a rush of going out of town, buying presents, and spending time with friends and family.

I have a kind of love-hate relationship with this time of year. I love getting to see people I don’t get to see often, love the laughter of cousins, yummy food, and celebrating the birth of Jesus. Yet, on the flip side of all of the goodness, there is an overshadowing sense of commercialism and pressure of expectations to give the perfect present that I never can seem to live up to.

All of that being said, I have always loved to give to others. So much so that sometimes, my ever patient husband gets annoyed with me from time to time. As I was letting my my mind wander as we drove down a country road on one of our many recent road trips, it dawned on me, I have experienced a freedom I hadn’t realized before, the freedom of giving.

When I was in the UPC, and I’m sure many others who have ever been involved with fundamental religious groups can relate, I was expected to give. Not just to give, but to give exclusively to my church. Giving to any other charity was almost out of the question. Our church came first as a representative of God, and it was required if you wanted to participate in anything to give the church at least ten percent of your income plus additional offerings to be used as the church saw fit, such as building funds, pastor appreciation month, or any other ministry that needed additional funds at the moment.

Now, I am not saying that giving to your church is a bad thing. I give to my current church. However, in years past, I gave so much to my church that I did not have the financial freedom to even have the option to give to those around me.

If you are one who believes a Christian should give a strict ten percent to your church and your church only, I am not here to convince you otherwise. Although the amazing YouTube channel, Responsible Faith has a great video about tithing and Christians today, if you’re interested in researching the topic.

https://youtu.be/TvZ-BBlMbSA

Here is my point: I was so wrapped up in giving to my own church, who, let’s be honest, wasn’t letting the money go too far past their own doors, that I neglected to give to those in my community who truly needed it. I was so consumed in my own little world of religious traditions I couldn’t see those directly around me who were hurting or in need.

Let that truth sink in for a moment. Conviction hits hard, at least for myself. I still give to my church, but I don’t give exclusively to my church. I do not depend on someone else to dictate where my gift goes, I get to choose and ensure the funds are used for their intended purpose. I am free from obligatory giving until it hurts and am free to bless others with a cheerful heart. I think this is how God intended his followers to be.

This holiday season, I challenge you to look around you. Don’t be blind to the pain others may be feeling as you are bustling around getting last-minute shopping finished or finding that perfect ham for Christmas dinner.

James 1:27 tells us the very core of religion is to take care of others who are in need. This can be in whatever way our abilities allow, whether with our time, our gifts, or our finances.

How does that old children’s song go?

Joy is Jesus first, Yourself last, and Others in between.

Happy holidays to you and yours!

Strong Roots

To quote a friend of mine, family can be a “tricky thing”. As time marches on, everyone spreads out, moves away and begins their own lives. The more involved we become with our own branch of the family tree, we end up communicating with the other branches less and less. We all have the tendency to make relationships work simply out of convenience, and sometimes end up unintentionally neglecting relationships that require more effort on our part and by default we drift apart.


I am thankful that although most of the above is true about my own family, we still have the ability to show grace and love when the situation calls for it. This speaks volumes about the very roots of our family tree.


As much as I would like to say I am my own person, and my parents and even my grandparents had nothing to do with my personality traits, that would obviously be false. We would be foolish when evaluating ourselves to not factor our heritage into the equation.


The fact my family has the ability to put our lives on pause on a moment’s notice and hold each other up when needed, says our family’s roots were grounded with just the right dose of love, tenacity, and grace. Not that our family is perfect by any means, but my grandparents clearly did something right and I would like to think they passed some important values on to me.


My grandma was a complex mixture of faith, spirited tenaciousness, tenderness, sassiness and love. She loved hard and I certainly would not have put it past her to throw a punch at anyone who would dare to speak against one of her children or grandchildren. She never let anyone walk over her, she always knew exactly what she wanted and made it happen. She showered her love on us by lemon sugar cookies, always-on-time birthday cards, and overnight stays at her house. Her love language, just as my own, was without question acts of service.


Today, as I was bossing around a crowd of people who are all taller than me, (something I seem to naturally be good at) my grandpa joked with me and told me I was acting like my grandma. And it’s true, I was, and I was totally fine with it.


My grandma was not without faults, but she obviously did something right when raising my mom and uncles.

I hope and pray that my children and grandchildren will be able to say the same thing about me. I pray I create strong roots so my children will always have each other and continue to pass on my grandparent’s values onto their own children and grandchildren.

What a legacy my grandparents have established. I am thankful for their influence in my life.

Train children in the right way, and when old, they will not stray.
Proverbs 22:6

And that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, as you are being rooted and grounded in love.
Ephesians 3:17

This Is Not Our Battle

The battle is not yours
God said, “It’s mine.”
The battle is not yours
God said, “It’s mine.”
If you’ll stand, stand and see
He’ll show up on time
The battle is not yours
God said, “It’s mine.”

Did you ever sing this song? I remember this song bringing down the house when I was younger! People would dance and shout proclaiming whatever dilemma they were facing was in fact a battle and God would show up just in the nick of time and save them from their circumstance.

I actually hadn’t thought of this song in a long time, but something that was said to me today brought it to my mind.

Disclosure, this blog has political undertones so if that is a trigger for you, stop reading here. Also, I am not looking for a fight and will not engage in one with you on this topic. Like, ever. 

I was chatting with a group of people this afternoon about the current state of US politics and their effect on us as Christians. This was in no way a debate or heated conversation and the point wasn’t as much of conversing about politics, but more along the line of how we, as Christ followers, should treat our neighbors who may disagree with us on seemingly important and personal political topics. Everyone stated their opinions respectfully and in an adult like manner and we all left as friends just as Christians should.

The question was asked: “how far do we as Christians allow things to go before we stand up and fight?”

I think this is a valid response for someone who is very passionate about their beliefs. And let me just say, you should be passionate about your beliefs! Which is actually my very point here.

As I left that meeting, I began to really ponder over that question. My mind went to the New Testament and the followers of Jesus in those days.  I honestly could not think of a single situation where they got together and “fought” for their beliefs.  They were passionate about the gospel for certain and never denounced Christ, even while being persecuted, but I could not think of any instance where they rose up in a sort of revolt against their governing leaders. And these people were being treated terribly! They were being stoned in the streets, thrown into prison cells, crucified, beheaded, well, you get the idea.

Now, before you start fuming out your ears at my passive response to what some may perceive as a battle against the very core of your beliefs, hear me out.

IF we believe the Bible like we say we do. And IF we want to proclaim the gospel to our family, friends, and neighbors as we say we do, something very important needs to happen here.

We need to practice what we preach.

Romans chapter 13 tells us that God has appointed our leaders. Matthew 6 tells us that God takes care of even the sparrows. How much more will he take care of his children? 1 Peter 2 states we are to honor the emperor and accept the authority of human institution.

Now, I know where you’re mind is headed. “But Jen, what if our leaders say we can’t worship Christ?” Let me bring up Acts 5. Peter said he must obey God before men, but what was happening around this statement? God had miraculously freed Peter and the apostles from their prison cells. (Key word here being “God”) Peter didn’t bow down to the demands of the authorities to not preach the gospel, however, you don’t see the apostles going around to other believers and speaking disrespectfully about the authorities, they didn’t arrange a revolt, they didn’t even create rude memes and blast them all over Facebook. What they did do, is continue preaching the gospel and trust that God was going to take care of them somehow, and that’s exactly what happened.

I’m not saying we should compromise our beliefs as Christians. I’m not saying we shouldn’t do our civic duty and vote for whoever the Spirit leads us to. I’m also not saying we should back down in the midst of a difficult social situation. I’m not even saying we can’t advocate for change. What I am saying is this, trust God. We as Christians either believe he will direct or paths or we don’t.

I used to do this very thing. Wring my hands and worry about things that were outside of my control. That was the religious environment I was brought up in. I thought that’s what I was supposed to do. But, all that did was give me premature worry lines on my forehead and deprive me of nights of precious sleep.

So, my dear, fellow believer, stop carrying the weight of the world on your shoulders. It’s not yours to carry! I’m sure it takes a lot of time and energy to get worked up about what’s going on in our world today and you shouldn’t. Not if you trust God! It’s not our battle to fight! It’s his!

Many of the apostles and disciples in the New Testament were tortured and killed for not backing down from their beliefs. There are amazing Christians around the world even today who have suffered a similar fate. It’s heart wrenching to think about. But the fact remains, our times and seasons are in God’s hands, and if we believe in him, we know there is life after this world. Does he not take care of you? Even when things aren’t going as we think they should here on earth, God is bigger. He is bigger than the political parties of the United States, he is even bigger than the Queen of England, and I have to think it breaks his heart a little when he sees his children all out of sorts stressing over situations he already has handled.

As we look back through history, God has always had a church. The church has been through so much worse than what is currently going in our first world country, why do we think we are any different than those who have gone before us? God’s got this.

If you are struggling to find peace in our world today, I challenge you to give that stress over to God. And you know what? His burden is easy and his yoke is light. We aren’t created to run around in a constant state of panic all the time. We were created to worship our Heavenly Father. Let’s not get distracted from what is eternal by what is temporal and fleeting.

But Does it Matter Really?

First off, how is your summer going? This is my favorite time of year and it always seems to fly by! This year especially because we are so busy trying to play catchup on all the fun things we missed out on last year because of Covid. I mean, who wanted to go to a water park wearing a mask?

Anyway, I have been mulling over several things the last few weeks, different theological ideas and such. The topics are not important however to the conclusion I have drawn. In the end, it doesn’t really matter.

I used to think someone needed to have all of the answers in order to be saved. I thought in order for you to be “right with God” you needed to have your stuff figured out, all of your ducks in a row, your special holy revelations if you will. I thought God cared about these things.

Thank goodness I was wrong!

I feel completely inadequate at life most of the time, and even more so in the department of all things spiritual! I am an uneducated, underpaid, middle class woman from the Midwest. It’s a wonder I can tie my shoes, much less have all my spiritual ducks swimming in a solid straight line.

Enter grace.

While I have been wracking my brain and beating myself up over the fact I can’t explain things such as the afterlife or the age of the earth with absolute certainty, God is standing by saying, “Seriously though, does it really matter?”

Some may say, yes. And I do agree, to a point. Not to mention, I prefer to know somewhat about what I’m talking about when engaging in conversations about such topics with people much smarter than me. Knowledge is important. In fact, God gave us brains to use and when we neglect to use them, I’m sure he views that as the master in the parable of the talents. Why would we not use what God has given us to explore what we do not know for certain?

However, the heat is off me. I can freely investigate and make opinions based on the information at hand and know that even if I am wrong, it doesn’t really matter. Would I like to know exactly what happens after we die? Of course! Do I wish I had all of the answers for someone who is fearful of the “endtimes”? Obviously. But the fact of the matter is, I have no freaking clue. And anyone who says otherwise is a liar.

I know that there is a God in heaven, and I believe that Christ’s death on the cross covers my multitude of sins. Everything else is irrelevant in the end.

I think if we ever get to a place where we think we have it figured out, we are in danger. Pride is foolish according to the Bible and if we are truly honest with ourselves, we’re all struggling out here.

I guess what I’m trying to say is give grace. Give grace to yourself for not having life’s biggest mysteries figured out. Give grace to those who are figuring out their own path in ways different than you. Give grace to those who come to different conclusions. Give grace even to the ones who claim to know all of the answers. That’s what Jesus does.

We are all just doing the best we can.

I Will Never Be the Same

I had a very interesting day today. I got to chit-chat with several different amazing people throughout the day who have had a similar journey to freedom as me. It is awe-inspiring to me how we all lead different lives, are on different paths, and then in eerily similar ways, God exposed the religious bondage in which we were held captive and set us free. The road to spiritual freedom can be a little difficult to navigate at times and I think God strategically puts people in our lives to encourage us along the way.

One of these beautiful people said something that struck a chord with me. Something that I have said myself. In fact, I may have even written it out in some fashion, because I believe it, or I thought I did. They said, “I haven’t changed [since I left the church], I am still the same person I was before.”

I pondered on that statement this evening and it’s true, kind of. I am the same person I was before I left the UPCI in many ways. I am still sarcastic and laugh during inappropriate situations. I still have a serious problem with rolling my eyes out loud, and you can forget about me being able to hide my thoughts behind straight facial expressions. I am still an empath and a fixer, those parts of me didn’t change. I have always been one to root for the underdog and refuse to blend into a crowd. I am still not a cat person and absolutely loathe mornings. Yes, in many ways I am still the same person, but in many ways I am completely different.

I have awoken from my state of oblivious naivety. I have discovered how true friendships operate and my eyes have been opened to how convenient relationships can be mistaken for friendships. I have unfortunately been made aware of just how far people will go to obtain and maintain money and power. Once you see these things, you can never unsee them.

My outward appearance has changed quite a bit, so in that way specifically, I am not the same. I would say I have upgraded. I now have the freedom to present my unique self to others in a way I am comfortable with. But deeper and more meaningful than clothing and hairstyles I can say I have positively changed in some unexpected ways.

I find I tend to choose love over judgment more often. I have learned to recognize the still, small voice of God in my life. I have discovered my identity does not lie within a religious organization, but with Christ. I have become more sure of myself and confident about my status with God. I have found to sometimes in order to win an argument I have to just walk away. (That was a difficult lesson.) I have learned to apologize less for the things I cannot control and take more responsibility for the things I can. I am seeking to be better, stronger, kinder, and more Christlike every day. In these ways, I have changed.

While it sounds good to be able to say, I haven’t changed, I am still the same person I was before, I simply cannot truthfully make that statement. Truth is, I have changed. There is no way I could go back to the way I was before. I have seen too much. Experienced too much. I will never be the same again, and honestly I prefer the new me. I walk with my head held a little higher, smile a little brighter, and treat people a little nicer.

Sometimes change is good.

Confessions of a “Strong Woman”

The last week has been an emotional roller coaster of sorts. My oldest child attended her last day of high school, so right off the bat this mama is a wreck! However, aside from the normal day to day, a few other things happened to cause me to still be awake at 12:32 AM, because believe me, usually I’d be fast asleep dreaming of puppies and rainbows by now! Let me explain.

A few days ago, I received an incredibly flattering compliment. Someone in complete passing remarked how they viewed me as a “strong woman”. Wow! I was flabbergasted! I always feel like a hot mess, so to hear an actual “strong woman” use these words to describe me, I’m not going to lie, it felt good. It felt more than good, it felt amazing! I have worked very hard to make it to the ranks of women who could be considered “strong”, and although I don’t feel it most of the time, I’ll certainly take the compliment!

The other compliment that was given to me today was that I was considered by this person to be an “authentic Christian woman”. I have to say, it brought tears to my eyes! If this is even half true, I feel so humbled that they would even think to tell me they thought this way about me! That is what life is all about after all right?

Words like these spoken into someone’s life are so encouraging, and I truly did feel encouraged.

Then reality set in.

I’ve said over and over again, I write for me, and the way this blog has grown, has not been from anything I have tried to accomplish that is for certain. And when my book came out, I knew it may ruffle some feathers, but I had zero idea of the ripple effects it would create.

While I use this blog and used Free as my own personal growth and healing outlet, others have been using it as a vendetta to destroy me.

I don’t usually play the victim card, I mean, religion is personal, I get it, I’ve stepped on people’s toes here. However, while I have received the most incredible compliments I have ever received in my entire life this week, I have also been reminded of the ugly extent people will go to protect their religious traditions from anything they view as a threat.

I guess it hasn’t been enough for me to leave out specific names and locations from my story. I suppose it doesn’t matter to people the amount of trauma I have had to overcome and the importance that writing has to my personal growth. I assume people just don’t care that I always make a point to say, I have no hard feelings or anger towards them. I guess instead of actually having a difficult, awkward conversation with me, it is easier to spew out false accusations and lies.

So, here it is guys, my open, honest, vulnerable self, heart still freshly bleeding from the falsehoods you have spoken about me, here is the bottom line, absolute truth:

This is hard.

This is hard! Speaking out against the very religion I grew up in is hard. Knowing that many people whom I loved dearly are lying about me behind closed doors is hard. Looking people in the eye after I know what they have said about me and my family is hard. Loving them as myself in spite of the hurt is hard.

But it’s so worth it.

I will continue to hold my head up high. I will continue to use my voice to be vulnerable and authentic not only for myself, but also for those walking this path of healing behind me. I will continue to open my door to whomever is hurting no matter what they have said to others about me. I will not back down. I am not going away anytime soon. And you can rest assured:

I am a strong woman. Your lies cannot and will not shut me up or shake me.