Hiatus

I’ve sat down in a restaurant and I look over and see two people staring at their phones instead of looking at one another. I always think to myself, “wow, they can’t put their phones down for 5 whole minutes.” I then look away with disgust and pick up my own phone and scroll through Instagram or Facebook. I’m a critic of something I find myself doing constantly. So I took a social media hiatus… I am nearing the end of week three.

A break from social media has been one of the best things I’ve ever done for myself. I’m not on instagram, Facebook, or Snapchat. My blog is connected to Facebook (so it appears I’m still on) and I have Facebook messenger because my brother is deployed and it’s our only form of communication. So you might say I’ve ended my relationship with MOST of social media. At first, it was really challenging. I almost felt a sense of loss and contemplated what to do with all my free time. I actually had to pay attention at stoplights and look at the road while I drive (I know phones and driving are bad but we all do it). I had to make real conversation with people that didn’t begin with “did you see what BillyBob wrote on Facebook” or “did you see what Helen Keller tagged George Washington in?” I had to think of my very own topics and use my intellect instead of the gossip I read about (sigh).

At the start of week two I noticed that I was reading more, using my phone less–my battery actually lasted a whole day–my marriage communication seemed to really improve, and I wasn’t constantly holding something in my hands. I made a New Years resolution to gossip less and I think ridding myself of a constant blast of people’s lives is getting me closer to that goal.

I’m not saying Social Media is bad or that I am giving it up forever, but I do think taking breaks is something I’ll have to consistently do. I’m the type of person who will compare my life, my body, my marriage, etc with the snippets of others’ lives that are portrayed so perfectly online. Rational Erica knows there is more to my friends and family than the picture they posted, but crazy Erica strives to be more like that perfection. I also think I’m becoming more empathetic and compassionate. I don’t immediately assume something just from one post or photo. I have to make an effort to reach out to my friends and family and ask them what is going on in their life. I don’t just look on Facebook and assume everything is going great. I find myself with a lot more free time and at first I was kind of bored because all the other free time went into staring at the screen. But then I started being active and doing those things I kept saying “I don’t have time for.”

My husband is not a social media person, he has Snapchat, but that is it. When he comes home from work, I get excited to see him and ask him about his day. I listen actively and not half-heartedly like before. I don’t have a phone in one hand and pretend to be engaged by looking up every now and again. I literally listen without being distracted. This has been AMAZING for my marriage. I hear my husband when he compliments me and I believe him because I’m looking at him when he says it. I can hold his hand in the car because I don’t have a phone in my hand. At night (he always falls asleep first) I can snuggle him and say our good nights without worrying about what is happening on my phone. I feel like our communication has improved tremendously and all because I had an obsession with social media I was missing out on so much.

I tend to take a lot of photos and put them online. I LOVE photos. But I’ve found myself taking more photos of everyday life and not trying to retake it a million times to get the ‘best’ one for social media. Instead I laugh at the blur in the photo or the fact half the people have their eyes closed. I take photos of my nanny kiddos while they’re doing the most ridiculous and hilarious things and I don’t obsess over if they’re smiling or not. Life isn’t about perfection and our memories aren’t filled with only picture perfect smiles and laughs. Our memories are sad, beautiful, imperfect, filled with pain, love, joy, and all the emotions in between. And I am learning that although social media is a great tool and resource to stay in touch and post our favorite things, I cannot strive to fit the lives of the people I follow on there. They have sad memories too and that’s what makes us all human.

I am not saying farewell to social media, but I am saying goodbye for now. I am just one of those people who needs a reminder of the reality of life through lenses that aren’t half discolored. Please don’t assume I am saying social media is bad and you all suck for using it. I am not. It is a wonderful thing, but for me it became a little less wonderful and caused me to stumble a lot more than I need.

Domestic Violence

My name is Erica Chapin and I am a survivor of Domestic Violence. It took me a long time to believe those words and here I am, saying them aloud. I used to hear the term Domestic Violence and think only physical abuse. I thought that people who were treated poorly, but were never physically assaulted were just in a shitty relationship. It was not until my Junior Year of College when I took a Domestic Violence Course that I was able to fully comprehend what Domestic Violence means.

According to the United States Department of Justice’s Office, the definition of domestic violence is a pattern of abusive behavior in any relationship that is used by one partner to gain or maintain control over another intimate partner. Many forms of abuse are included in this definition: physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional abuse, economic abuse, psychological abuse, threats, stalking, and cyberstalking. Victims can include anyone regardless of socioeconomic background, educational level, race, age, sexual orientation, religion, or gender.

After taking the course in college, I really thought I would be prepared and able to identify an abusive relationship within my social groups and definitely within my own relationships. But, like the definition says, it does not discriminate and a year later I found myself dating a perpetrator.

His name was A and he was seven years older than I. We started dating very seriously right away; seeing each other almost every single day. A had a child and I quickly took on the roll as a stepmother as well. He told me he loved me only two weeks after we started dating. I thought this was how a mature relationship worked and I became infatuated by him. He would tell me how beautiful I was, that I was the greatest thing that ever happened to him, that his ex was a horrible person and I was nothing like her, and that he had never felt this way before. His compliments were laid on thick and I believed every word of them.

About three months into dating, A and I went to the St. Louis Zoo with his son and my family. It was a busy day due to the drive, walking around, and my family showing up late. On the drive back to Columbia, I could tell A was agitated, but I left it alone. In Columbia, a few of my roommates had some friends over to play washers and hang out. A took his son home and came back… He decided that he had enough of me and decided I was a “dirty whore” and that I could “go fuck myself” as he then left and walked home. A few hours later he came back with an apology and tons of excuses about being tired and not meaning what he said. I forgave him almost instantly and put that day behind me, as this was not his typical behavior, I thought.

The next couple of months went by quickly, I was finishing classes at MU for the semester and A was transitioning into a new job. His new job required a lot of road-time, so I did not see him nearly as often. When we were together, his family and son usually surrounded us, so things were decently smooth. That summer I decided to move to Iowa to be with A while he worked on an eight-month long job. I would travel back to Columbia every other week to pick up A’s son and bring him with me to Iowa. We started sharing a bank account and all the money coming in was from A, as I was unable to work while I took care of his child every other week. A made sure I knew the money wasn’t mine. He would scream at me almost every week about money and bills and that I was useless because I wasn’t bringing any money in. After a fight, he would cry and beg for my forgiveness… I would quickly forgive and move on.

The first time A used physical force was at my cousin’s wedding, that same summer. My Uncle and A had gotten into it over something and A decided this situation was my fault. He came up to me after I had asked him to dance and said “you’re a fucking whore and I hate you, I am leaving you here” as he grabbed my arm and squeezed until the last words left his mouth, so he could push me out of the way. He then took my car and drove back to my father’s house, where he then called my phone multiple times leaving me voicemails saying the same things, saying he threw all my stuff in the yard and was driving back to Columbia. My father and his wife, at the time, then drove me home. I walked into the house and found A crying… once again, begging me to forgive him. I forgave him and we moved on.

Nine months after we started dating, A proposed. I accepted and we started planning our wedding. He had since moved back to Columbia and we were living together while I finished school. The fights were happening more frequently and he would often go out in public with me, just to leave me so I would have to find a ride home. He would call my phone and leave voicemails when he left me places about how much he hated me. And after every fight, he would cry and beg for forgiveness. Eventually, I joined a gym and became friends with a different group of people that A did not know. We would have social outings that A often times decided he did not want to come to. One night, I went out with a bunch of my girlfriends and did not make it home. I ended up waking up at a friend’s house around 6am and started walking home because I knew I was going to be in trouble. My phone had died around 12AM that night and I did not call A to let him know where I was… I walk into the house to see A sleeping on the couch. He woke up almost immediately and I tried to play it off as if it wasn’t a big deal… He started pushing me and throwing things around the house; throwing things at me while I cried on the floor and begged him to stop. I told him my phone had died and while I understood his concern for me not coming home, he knew whom I was with and how to get in contact with them. After this event, A started tracking me on his phone.

We went on a date a few days later and on the way home, A and I got into a fight over something. I fell into fetal position as he threw the ottoman my way, screaming that I was a whore and how much he hated me, that he wished I would fucking die, that I didn’t even love him, that I didn’t care about him or his son, and how horrible of a person I was. I cried, begged, and pleaded for him to stop… He said he was leaving, but I decided I was going to leave since both vehicles were mine. I got into the car and turned my phone off so he could not find me. Eventually I had to come home… and I found A crying and begging for forgiveness. I forgave him…

A and I tried to go to counseling after a few more escalated fights, fights that ended with him telling me to kill myself; or him leaving me somewhere after causing a very public scene. A told me that he did not want to be this way and that he was sorry and was hoping he could get help. The counselor gave us some tips, but nothing changed. The fights became more frequent; the name-calling almost a constant in our relationship, throwing things seemed to be a normal for A. We eventually had to move out of our apartment and decided we wanted to live in a bigger house. After we moved in, I started working three jobs to make-up for lost income due to leaving my job so I could fit more classes into my schedule. I had the summer left at MU and had an internship a few days a week as well. I was only sleeping a few hours a day; which meant I rarely saw A. I didn’t see A very much, so our relationship seemed to level out and things were finally looking up again.

A liked to brush his teeth in the shower. He would often misplace his toothbrush on the sink after getting in the shower and have to jump out to grab it. One afternoon, A misplaced his toothbrush, but did not want to look for it himself. He started yelling for me…, which then became yelling at me… which escalated into coming after me… I ran into our room and moved the dresser in front of the door so he could not touch me. I stayed this way for hours, buying my time. Once I finally came out, A pretended he had no idea I was hiding behind the door and dresser and thought I was just taking a nap. He acted like nothing had happened at all. He was getting very good at making me feel like I was making things up; like the fights had never happened.

A and I eventually split up when he left me 3 hours from our home. He left me a voicemail almost every single minute for the entire 3 hours he drove back to Columbia without me. My dad decided I could no longer see A and drove me back to Columbia to get my things. I went to the house and A acted as if he was devastated and begged me to stay, but I told him I could not. I told him we could still date, but I needed to move out while he figured things out. I moved in with a former coworker and talked to A almost daily while I was gone. I was horribly sad and did not know what to do. I started seeing a counselor and became more open with a dear friend about my relationship. One night I went to my old house to get another load of my things and A was acting very strange. He seemed almost euphoric. He started asking me questions about my whereabouts; what I had been up to the last few weeks. He asked me if I had slept with anyone else and I stood dumbfounded as he asked me if I could tell him a story about sleeping with another man. He said it turned him on. A grabbed my arm and pulled me back into his room, where he laid on top of me as he masturbated on me. He kept saying that he would be so turned on if I had sex with someone else and he watched… Once A finished, I left. I drove my car up and down a road contemplating how fast I would need to go to kill myself.

My life with A ended a few months after the masturbation situation, but the feelings did not just vanish. I felt guilty. I felt ashamed. I felt sad. I felt guilty that I left A. I felt like he needed me and I left him when he was at his worst. I thought that maybe if I would have kept his toothbrush in the shower or if I would have ditched my friends to be with him all the time, that maybe he wouldn’t have reacted the way he did. I thought that if I could have been a better girlfriend, then he wouldn’t have had to be the way he was. BUT that is what abusers do. They tear us down to make us feel like we deserve to be treated horribly and inhumanely. They tear us down and take away all the feelings of self-worth we ever had. They use their tears and fake apologies to get us to stay and feel sorry for them, just so they can turn around and do it all over again. They make us think we are crazy and make us fear telling anyone what is happening. They take us away from our families and our friends and make us dependent on their money and housing. They make us feel ashamed to tell anyone, that we are overreacting and making the abuse a bigger deal than it is. They rip us to pieces so they can gain more control over who we are. People who use power to gain control over someone else do NOT love. They do not love you, they do not love me, they do not love anyone. They love power and control. No matter how often A told me he loved me or how many tears he cried, it was NOT love. He would wake up in the middle of the night and try taking my clothes off while I was sleeping; saying he was just dreaming about sex and didn’t realize he was taking my clothes off. THIS IS NOT LOVE. THIS IS ABUSE.

I am sure some of you think it didn’t take long for me to get to this place, that maybe I overcame this trauma quickly because I am can blog about this only 5 years later. But, I want you to know that I am not over it. I still have nightmares about him. I still hear the word “whore” or “slut” and the hair on the back of my neck sticks up. I get into an argument with my husband and I am afraid to state my opinion because what happens if he doesn’t like it and decides to hit me? What happens if I don’t have sex with my husband whenever he wants, will he try raping me? I fear that I am now happy and it’s all going to come crashing down because I am unworthy of that happiness. I have to see a counselor every month because I still have PTSD. I still feel guilt. I still feel unworthy… But I am get stronger every single day.

Everyday I get another chance of healing. I have really worked on extending grace and forgiveness to A. I know that I might sound strange, but God has given me grace and has forgiven me over and over, even though I will never be deserving of it. For me, if I do not extend that same grace and forgiveness to A, I will never be able to heal fully.

Today I am not angry or mad at A, I am sad for A. I am sad that he is a broken person who does not know God, a sinner who will not admit his own sins, and a child of God who has turned his back on the only person who can truly renew him. If I stayed angry, I would still be giving A the power and control over me. Only I have the power to forgive him and he cannot take that away from me. He will not take that away from me. I hope that sharing my story has opened the doors for others to share theirs. I hope that if you are in a relationship that is based on power, that you know YOU ARE NOT ALONE. IT IS NOT YOUR FAULT. YOU DO NOT DESERVE TO BE TREATED LIKE THAT. There are organizations, people, friends, family, and a God who will meet you where you are and help you get out of it. It is not going to be easy, it is not going to be stress-free, and it is certainly going to come with a lot of tears, fear, and heartache. BUT I believe we can live in a world that does not promote male violence or power over women. We have to stick together and raise awareness and eliminate stigmas. We have to raise our children to know what a healthy relationship is, and we have to teach our children how to get out when it’s not.

My time in the psych ward

In third grade someone invited me to do something I wasn’t ready to do. My innocence was stolen. That year I tried to throw myself down a flight of stairs to kill myself. Fast-forward through a few counseling sessions and made-up lies, I hit 7th grade. We wrote these letters to ourselves that we got to open our senior year of high school. Mine talked about how I didn’t deserve to live and as long as I was doing things for others or sacrificing myself for others happiness then that was all that mattered. Sophomore year of high school I would pop a bunch of pills and drink a ton of alcohol in hopes the two would mix and I could die. My friend caught on and told my parents. My parents were sad (of course) and sent me back to counseling. This time it got real. I lost a bunch of weight, stopped eating, quit doing life. I was miserable… But my mom was dying and how could I be miserable over something so dumb while she was literally miserable because she was given a death sentence. I was put on meds and given a person to discuss my issues with. This lady didn’t really dig too deep, so it was easy to surface level my life and give her what she wanted. I watched my mom breathe her last breath. I pushed those feelings inside and kept living. Freshmen year of college and my high-school boy dumps me. I was crushed. I became an obsessive person who worked out too much, didn’t eat, stopped going to classes and cried myself to sleep every night. Sophomore year and I meet a guy who changes my world. Taught me about racism, diversity, and how the world wasn’t as smooth as I thought. I got drunk at a friend’s birthday and had sex with my then best guy friend. Cheated. The desire of dying had never been so real. Every night I would call my boyfriend and tell him how sorry I was while I held a knife in my hand. Or I would dump out all my pills and try to take them while he screamed at me to stop. I couldn’t forgive myself. I became this person I was more than devastated to be. And like the person that I am, I didn’t deal with my issues and I stuffed them away. College boy and me broke up. I met someone else. He wrecked me. All the fears and irrational thoughts I had before came flying at me. I was a whore. I was a bad person. I didn’t deserve to be alive. He hoped I would die. I wanted to die. I was left and tormented. And I deserved it. I would beg for forgiveness and ask him to stop, but nothing could calm the rage inside. Nothing could stop that storm and it only intensified the fire inside of me. I was burning from the inside out and I didn’t know what could extinguish me. About a year later I found Jesus and a hope I didn’t have before began to burn inside of me instead of self-hatred. I found friends and happiness that wasn’t fake. I found a peace that I didn’t know existed. I started working at a dental office and I thought life was finally going to be on track… then one day I had a panic attack. I started to be irrational and the tears came and just kept coming. I couldn’t stop them. I wanted to die. It was an urge I didn’t have before. I’ve always wanted to die, but not like this. I wanted to leave work and grab a knife and slit my wrists. Before I imagined popping pills or swallowing bleach and slipping away in my sleep. But this day it came full force and I had to leave to go home and slit my wrists. I drove myself to the ER in hopes they’d give me some Xanax and I could calm my nerves and be on my way. (I still had my hope then and Jesus was definitely on my side). But the ER didn’t do what I wanted. Instead they stripped me down into a red paper suit. Paper pants and paper shirt–bright red. The whole hospital knew where I was going. They had a police officer escort my paper-ness and hunched-over blubbering mess into the psych ward. They took my belongings, my phone, my clothes, my purse, everything and locked it up in this closet after they searched my body for weapons. They brought me upstairs to the crazy house (I can say this because I’ve been there) and had me room with someone who thought she was my mom. I spent two nights there before my boyfriend forced them to let me leave. You see, when you get locked up in the looney-bin they put a 96 hour hold on you. But I wasn’t going to make it 96 hours. The floor was relatively nice. The nurses and doctors had their shit together. But the patients did not. I was surrounded by people who didn’t know who they were, patients who were super violent and physical, and people who were forced to come by the law. I didn’t talk to a doctor until my final day there, even though they promised me a doctor/counselor after my first night. She told me she thought I was faking my mental instability and depression and that she loved diagnosing people with this disorder. (I can’t remember the name). She immediately went into diagnosis instead of listening to me. She wasn’t helpful. I wasn’t getting help. I was having a mental breakdown in the worst possible place. I finally got out. I started counseling (again) and more medication. I wish I could say I’m healed now, but I’m not. Just last week I cried myself to sleep while I held all my pills in my hands and thought about meeting my maker. I didn’t sleep for two days so I had to bust out the good ole sleeping pills. My depression has never found an ending. My thoughts have never vanished forever. Every single day and every single minute I fight against the urge to throw myself in front of a moving car or to drown myself in pills and booze. I have a wonderful life and I finally have HOPE but it doesn’t change the little person inside my brain. I wish I could say he was gone. And I wish I could say my time in the psych ward cured me. It didn’t. I’ve tried yoga, mediation, medication, running, exercise, counseling, church, talking to people, blogging, writing, crying, home-remedies, etc. I haven’t found a way to turn off the little man. But it is easier now to want to live. I have dreams and hopes. I want to be a mom. I want to see my nanny kiddos grow up. I want to keep my siblings from burying me. And I want to see what God has in store for me. I didn’t write this blog to get sympathy–my life is actually pretty solid. I wanted to write this because it’s fucking okay. It’s okay to feel like you aren’t going to make it. That one more thing might actually crush you. It’s okay to let your emotions get clogged up and then burst when it makes zero sense to other people. It’s okay to have to use the psych ward to prevent yourself from ending your life. And it’s really okay to feel like you want to die. BUT DO NOT DO IT. People around you, physicians, boyfriends/girlfriends/lovers, friends, everyday citizens may not understand it. And they might tell you to just get over it. But you know what, I UNDERSTAND. and MILLIONS of other people have felt like this and they get it. Don’t be afraid to reach out. Don’t be afraid to spend 3 miserable days in the psych ward if that’s what keeps you alive. Just remember, no matter how hard it gets, it can get better. It won’t be easy. And it sure as hell won’t be over night, but it can get better. I promise. We are still so behind in the medical world when it comes to mental illness. Doctors mean the best and the psych ward isn’t made to make you feel the way I felt. But there are too many people and so many disorders. Give it a chance. And don’t be afraid to talk to someone. Even if it’s a stranger. Our lives aren’t meant to be cut short by our own doing

Unsatisfied

I browse the internet, ask my friends, go out and look around, send Snapchats, find & fixate on the flaws, I scroll through social media searching… I’m unsatisfied. I’ve always wanted more in my life and when I get whatever it is I’m wanting, I find myself desiring even more. I’m like a starving puppy who’s hunger is never satiated. I thirst for a drink from the well of satisfaction. I cry out for answers to questions I’ve been asking the wrong person. Is there someone who can love me more? Will I be happy where I am? What if I would’ve pursued a different degree? What if I would have taken that job? What if I would have said what was really on my mind? What if I would’ve succeeded in killing myself during my first attempt in third grade? What if my mom wouldn’t have died? I’m given a great life and I find a way to make it unhappy. I find a way to be unsatisfied. I’ve always been afraid to speak what I truly think… I’m afraid to say how I feel when those feelings could hurt someone else. I’m afraid to let go, to let loose, I hold tight to the people and things in my control. I do what is expected of me… I get lost wondering what I really want and wondering what someone else wants. I’m unsatisfied with not knowing who I am. I’m asking the wrong person… I’m unsatisfied because I don’t know what I want. I’m unsatisfied because I’m a human. I’m unsatisfied because there’s more to this than the world can offer. I’m unsatisfied because I fixate on the what if… At what point will I learn that there isn’t what ifs, there are just right nows?

Waiting…

Have you ever felt like you were waiting for something for no reason? That God put this command on you and it was really silly to follow?

Sam and I waited until our wedding night to consummate our marriage… and it was HARD but it was also the BEST decision we ever made (besides to get married of course 😊)! About 3 months into our relationship (we had sex during this time) Sam came home and asked me if we could wait until we got married to further our sexual relationship. At this point my relationship with Christ was not very strong and I was honestly shocked he had asked me to do this.

You see, I had been having sex for almost 10 years. I started dating very young and every guy I dated was usually 3-5 years older than me. I thought sex was just something you give to people and in return they will love you or make you feel worthy. I had equated sex with feeling loved and desired. I had been with guys who would make me feel guilty if I didn’t want to or would tell me they loved me in return for going further… (not everyone I dated did this). But the point is, at a very young age I thought sex was just a part of the dating package. I didn’t think sex and love had to go together, but I felt like if I didn’t give sex, then there was no way I could be loved. Mix those thoughts with alcohol, partying, and loose boundaries and sex just became a part of who I was. It wasn’t until my relationship with Sam and my growing relationship with Christ that I started to understand how this thought process was damaging my relationships and my self-worth. When Sam came home and asked me to wait, he explained to me that he wanted me to feel like I was worthy of love, a relationship, and I could be desired for my mind, soul, and heart, NOT just what I could do with my body. He also explained how waiting for marriage would teach us so much about waiting on God’s timing and the love God has for us.

“Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God?” 1 Corinthians 6:19

The first couple of weeks of reading, waiting, and praying were very challenging and difficult but I had a wonderful support team and great mentors. I read scripture about waiting for marriage, how God’s timing is never wrong, and the meaning of marriage and sex. Sex is a beautiful and wonderful gift from God. It is meant to be shared with the person we love. Sex is not meant to be used as a tool to get others to do what we want, make others feel guilty, or as an act of something that feels good in the moment. Of course after the first few weeks things got easier and it became easier to hold off our temptations. But as year 2 and almost 3 got closer and we knew we wanted to get married the idea of waiting was not as magical or fun. I had learned so much about myself, relationships, Sam, and the respect we had for one another. I had learned to give myself to God instead of others first, I had learned patience, to rely on God, and to wait for God’s season and not my own. “There is a time for everything and a season for every activity under the heavens” Ecclesiastes 3:1.

But if I knew I wanted to marry Sam and he wanted to marry me, why were we still waiting? That’s where my question at the beginning stems from… I felt like we were waiting for something for no reason. The first year of our relationship I needed to wait, I needed to know I could be loved without giving myself sexually. I needed to know that God and his plans are so much bigger than my own, but I felt like I had learned this and I was tired of waiting. Wouldn’t it be okay if I just went ahead and stopped waiting? I mean God showed me so much…

“Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them. For everything in the world–the list of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life–comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever” 1 John 2:15-17.

That verse taught me that my lesson was not finished, my season of waiting was not over, and once again God’s timing is ALWAYS correct. God did teach me how to love myself, how much love I could have for another human, and how much love our relationship could have if we put God first. But he also taught me that his will be done. No matter my earthy desires or wants, his plan is far better than my own.

So we waited… And it was and still is one of my favorite lessons from God. Being with my husband on our wedding night was worth the wait, it was something that is indescribable. I have never felt more loved, appreciated, respected, desired, or needed than I do with my husband. I know the waiting was incredibly challenging and we questioned it a lot, but it built a beautiful and strong foundation for our marriage. It created a foundation that puts God first and then our marriage. It created a biblical marriage and a Love I’ve never felt before and that is more than enough to make me say I would go back and do it all over again. God’s plans are not always my plans, but they are WORTH the wait.

It is Finished

A few weeks ago I got one of my favorite tattoos to date. “It is finished” is written on my spine. The lovely Jessie Felix Garcia at Tattoo You did this for me. (she’s amazing and a total babe…go see her). This tattoo is exactly what it means. Jesus said, “It is finished,” with that he bowed his head and gave up his spirit (John 19:30). This was the final word [Tetelestai] Jesus said before he died on the cross for our sins.

When Jesus died on the cross, he didn’t say “do good and you’ll go to Heaven” or “Be kind and you’ll go to Heaven” he said “It is Finished.” In those final moments leading up to his human death, Jesus took all our sins, all our wrongdoings, all our hatefulness and all of our brokenness to the cross so that we could be forgiven and be given the chance to live in Eternity with God and Jesus Christ himself. He died so that we could live. I’m not saying we can live our lives full of sin and greed without asking for forgiveness and still go to Heaven. But I am saying that if we spend our time trying to do “good works” so that we will be noticed or look like a Christian, we aren’t getting the big picture. We are inseparably with Christ in all he did. His resurrection, our resurrection. We are alive and raised up from the dead not because something we did, but because of what Christ did for us. It is by Grace we have been saved and it is a gift of God. Nothing in ourselves or nothing we can do raised us up. It is purely 100% God and a gift from God.

I am not saying that we can/should live our life in sin and blatantly not care about the consequences of that. “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall nor perish, but have eternal life” John 3:16. We must believe that Jesus died for us, that no matter how much we give, donate, do acts of kindness, Jesus is who gave up his life for our sins. Once we accept Jesus into our hearts, our hearts should crave to be more like him. We are not able to be free of sin on Earth, but acknowledging our sins and asking for forgiveness and a softened heart is how we can be more like Jesus. Again, we CANNOT live our life in sin and disregard of Jesus and his sacrifice and expect eternal life. But there is nothing we can do to change what Jesus has already done for us. It is finished.

Christmas Magic

As most of you know, I LOVE CHRISTMAS. Christmas is magical–literally another world full of unicorns and cupcakes (but seriously). Christmas is my favorite time of the year. 

What most of you do not know is why I love Christmas and there are two BIG reasons I do.

On December 4, 2007, my mom took her last breath of air. Christmas being only 21 days later, you would think Christmas would be a sad time for me, especially since it was the first Holiday without her. However, that Christmas morning my siblings and I woke up to stockings, gifts, and a FULL living room of presents my mom had picked out before she died. My mom spent the last six months of her life in excruciating pain; chemo and radiation, hospital stays, IV’s, a port attached to her as a constant reminder she was dying, and a life-sucking disease taking over her body. However, she spent those months making sure her children were being kids, not letting us visit her when we should be out with friends, and acting as normal as she could–laughing, playing, singing, dancing. She still believed in the magic.

Mom spent her final days making sure each of her children opened the perfect presents with the best stocking stuffers because that is who my mom was. My mom believed in the magic of Christmas, the feel-good of finding the prime gift for a loved one, the baking, Christmas carols, and of course Christmas movies. We would make Oreo-reindeer, watch The Grinch, decorate the tree, go look at Christmas lights and we always had the BEST gifts. She knew how to turn a little money into a gift that she put thought into–she never gave us gifts that were “fillers.” Mom believed in the reason for the season; I remember going to midnight Mass. My mom made Christmas about family and doing things together, the gifts were phenomenal, but it’s the feeling that made it so perfect.

I love Christmas because it reminds me of her.

December 25 is not just another American holiday for gifts and spending money, but it is the day our Savior and Lord Jesus Christ was born. People of all nations come together on this day and celebrate and commemorate the birth of Jesus. I know lots of people do not celebrate the real reason behind the day, but I believe every year on this day more people draw closer to God. I believe we see more giving, forgiving hearts, donations, acts of service and kindness, and more love because even if not everyone believes, God is working in and on those hearts to better people. Christmas is about God and even though we have really put pressure on spending during the holidays, we have also put emphasis on giving, love, hope, and grace. These things are all qualities of Jesus and the magic of Christmas exudes them from his people.

I love Christmas because I believe in Jesus and his unwavering love.