Growing up homeschooled

I’m aware that there are all kinds of ways to homeschool your kids. Some kids do school online, some with a homeschool group and multiple teachers, some parents travel the country while homeschooling out of an RV, kids can be homeschooled but attend public school for testing. Maybe you have a special room in your house where you do schoolwork. Not everyone who is homeschooled had the same experience and some people loved it and had great supportive parents through it all. Some of us hated it and were kind of left to figure things out on our own.

The thing about being homeschooled is that you must be self motivated and self disciplined in order for it to really work well for you. Some kids are like this which is great and they wake up early, study hard, get good grades and probably plan on attending college someday. If you were a kid who had a hard time focusing, liked to sleep in, didn’t care about your grades or wasn’t interested in school subjects, you won’t do very well. I believe that not all kids can be homeschooled which is not a bad thing at all. Everyone has a unique personality and unique ways specific to them that help them learn and thrive not only in a school setting but in life. Homeschooling cannot provide the things some kids need to be their best selves.

The reason I say that, is because homeschooling can be very lonely and most kids love socializing with other kids their age. It also teaches them people skills that you can’t learn at home. Homeschooling is also very limiting with extracurricular activities. You can pursue anything outside of school just like anyone else, but obviously nothing that your school offers. This is not much of a problem if your parents support you and find out what your state allows for homeschoolers to participate in and helps you pursue your interests.

In my experience (and for most homeschooled people I know) this would never happen. We could never join anything at our local schools because even if they did allow it, our parents never would. And even pursuing certain things through a different source, was not allowed.

There’s different types of homeschoolers and unfortunately, there are strict religious parents who chose to homeschool for crazy religious reasons and suppress their kids potential like you would not believe. I am one of those kids. I HATED being homeschooled and would say I’m one of the kids who cannot be homeschooled. I never cared about my grades, I half assed almost everything, did just enough to make my Mom happy but didn’t have any personal interest in learning. Occasionally science was fun but that’s about it. I wanted to play basketball, soccer, learn some kind of self defense and dance. I loved hip hop dancing and would secretly dance in my room.

As I mentioned above, my parents would never allow it. I didn’t even dare ask because they made it quite clear that public schools were the worst and we do not associate with them. I was only allowed to wear skirts and dresses so sports were automatically out and dancing? my parents think dancing is sinful. My brothers and I had a basketball hoop in our drive way, played football outside against each other or just played catch in the street. We played soccer and kick ball with our friends but none of us could pursue our love of sports. Being homeschooled in this restricting religious environment really crushed our potential.

Something I always got asked growing up was if I had friends or how I made friends. I mean, of course I had friends. I played with local neighborhood kids often but lost contact with all of them as we got older. I have one friend who has remained in my life from childhood. I met her when I was 10 and she was 12 at a church we attended once a week on Wednesday prayer night. We are both the youngest girls in our family and were super shy but over the years we became best friends. She started dating my brother when they were teens and eventually they got married so of course she’s still in my life because she’s my sis-in-law! She’s still my only close friend to this day.

When my siblings and I were young, school was pretty simple and we had structure. We woke up, ate breakfast and sat at the table and did our schoolwork and then had a lunch break and then back to schoolwork until we were done. As we got older the structure fell apart. Highschool was so hard for me and I hated it. I was working at Menards during the day and working for my sisters cleaning business at night. I woke up late and usually went to my room to work on school which consisted of listening to music on my phone and doing easy subjects like English, reading or Bible. Yes, we had a subject called Bible. For math or chemistry I usually needed my Moms help and would get so upset because I couldn’t understand it. Algebra made me cry many times and my Mom always said it would click someday but it never did.

I spent almost every day in my room alone working on just enough school to make my Mom happy. Sometimes I would beg her to let me go somewhere with my older sister and would promise to finish school later. I jumped at any chance to leave the house. We babysat my nephews almost everyday and that was very distracting.

I was always behind in high school and graduated without fully completing algebra or chemistry and probably even more subjects. My mom was not a bad teacher, she’s smart and patient most of the time but there were definitely some issues. She didn’t teach us about GPA, the SAT, options for college or future careers. My parents never encouraged us to do anything with our lives besides attending church, getting married and having kids. My parents allowed my oldest sister to attend a Baptist Bible college and I had an interest in becoming a nurse during high school and applied for a school in IL on my own. It was a community college and I only ended up going for one semester but that’s a different story.

The day I told my Mom I was accepted into college she responded with “Oh, okay” and changed the subject. My Dad sat me down to explain that I MUST attend church and read my Bible and to warn me that college teaches evolution. None of my other siblings went to college which is probably because no one ever encouraged it or explained it to us.

I think I would have loved school. I wanted to be involved in things and have friends. I couldn’t focus at home and think a school setting would have helped a lot. I dreamed of having a backpack, playing sports, going to prom, maybe having a boyfriend and attending football games. I would watch movies with kids in school and thought they were so cool. School looked fun and normal. When I was a kid I had this outfit that resembled a school uniform and I loved wearing it to hopefully fool people into thinking I went to a regular school.

Again, everyone has a different experience. Even kids from the same family can have a different experience growing up. For me personally, I hated being homeschooled and don’t think it benefited me at all. I know many homeschool families who are very religious and grew up in similar homes to mine. Some who are okay with it and live their adult lives with the same beliefs their parents taught them and some who hated their childhoods.

Let me know if you were homeschooled and what your experience was!

Sexism in religion

There are a few topics that really infuriate me and sexism is one of them. I can’t even get into how bad this issue is in our society in one post but I’ll do my best to at least cover how it shows up in religious environments.

I’ve said before that I was raised in a strict Baptist household. My Dad was a pastor for 11 years of my life but was working in the ministry long before I was born. Both of my parents have a sexist view of the world but I would say it’s worse with my Dad. So not only was I hearing comments from my parents but also from other pastors or faith leaders, even women who were influenced to believe the sexist teachings.

From the time I was a little girl I was taught to be ladylike, dress modestly at all times, aspire to marry a man and have children, never join the military or political world, never become a pastor, don’t cut my hair too short, don’t wear too much makeup, don’t touch boys, text boys, date boys and especially, never ever have sex. Don’t be too weak but don’t be too strong either, only go to Bible college, don’t move out of the house unless you’re getting married (or attending Bible college).

When I was 16, I remember telling my parents that I didn’t want to get married. They both laughed and said “Of course you do! Don’t worry, you’ll find someone and you’ll want to get married”. Umm I didn’t say I was worried there were no men out there for me, I simply was not interested. Not only is this a whole issue because of societal standards but it is a religious issue as well. Girls are taught that they HAVE to marry someone. It’s the goal in life. Get married, have kids, be a stay at home mom and then just be an unemployed old lady until you die. The end.

If you were a girl in a religious environment and were strong willed and confident, you were a problem. If you used your voice and showed your personality, that was a problem. You were not supposed to have personal goals, strong opinions or different beliefs. You weren’t supposed to have career goals, put your kids in public school, dress fashionably, have financial success or remain single through life. These things were either laughed at or strongly preached against.

I won’t name names here, but there was a pastor that my friends and I were around for different events and he’s one of the worst ones I know. One time while staying at a hotel for a conference, myself, sister and friend were running through the hallway and this pastor told the boys in his hotel room that the girls were running around like wild animals and needed leashes. This same weekend he got in my face and was yelling at me for something. The next morning after yelling at me the night before, I saw him in the hotel lobby and he said “good morning” to which I replied “good morning” and I guess he didn’t hear me because he grabbed my arm aggressively and told me “I said good morning, communicate!”. All while his wife stood there and said nothing.

Pastors said all the time that women can’t be pastors because they can’t teach men, only women. The men is these religious environments I speak of believe that women have no authority over men and do not have the knowledge a man has. They could only speak at women’s get togethers. Pastors would twist scripture to support this.

These pastors also preached how women have to dress a certain way to maintain God’s favor. Saying women who wear pants are an abomination to God. My Dad has said several times while he preached that God looks at women wearing pants and throws up. Women are blamed for being sexually harassed and assaulted because of the clothes they had on. Again, they twist even one scripture verse to support this and live their whole lives by it.

Pastors I grew up around never preached about how they needed to do better. Be better husbands, dads and leaders. They only preached at women for everything they did wrong. They used scripture to glorify men and hate on women. Even blaming women for sin entering the world. Claiming that women were created for the sole purpose of being a mans wife and serving her husband and of course, having children. Saying women are weak, sensitive, wild and ignorant. The same pastor from the hotel story said, in front of his whole church, that his wife should give him sex whenever he wants it regardless of how she feels. He believed that husbands or men in general, are entitled to sex.

Let’s not forget how some horrible pastors have made fun of women for having periods, having fun with their friends or being overweight. Some of these pastors believe grown women need male supervision. They also glorify having sons over daughters.

Are you mad yet? Me too. I kind of went off on a rant there. Let me say quickly that my Dad did not believe or teach everything I named. But I know plenty of other men who do. I will call out a few of these horrible men by name. Jack Hyles and Jack Schaap. If you’re ever bored and want to get really mad at something, look them up or watch some sermon clips on YouTube. The way they speak to women is absolutely appalling. These are big name men in Baptist history that other men aspired to be like. You will see in videos how much hate is inside these men. They speak and move like they’re possessed by anger.

I’ve been at youth conferences and sat in church every Sunday and Wednesday and the Baptist pastors speaking were always so angry. They screamed, punched things and jumped all over the stage. One guy did literal cartwheels. They claimed it was the holy spirit getting them all fired up but really it was all the rage built up inside them. These men were bitter, abusive, sexist, most likely racist, perverted, and hateful. I think the people they disliked the most were teenagers and women.

If you grew up around these types of people, I’m truly sorry. I’m not saying all this to hate on all churches or all pastors. I’m simply calling out the bad ones and sharing my experience. There are some great faith leaders out there who are doing so much good, so please keep that in mind. But there are also horrible men teaching very damaging beliefs in churches as well. They do not have God’s spirit in their life. They are what some refer to as false prophets.

If you have been in churches like this, let me know in the comments. I love to meet people with similar stories.

Realizing my personality

I have a strong personality which I think is awesome. I only recently realized this even though I’ve known I had some of the traits of this personality for a while.

Over the past couple years I’ve been working on self development and have learned things I’ve never been taught or thought about before. One of those things is about personalities. We all have a main personality that will never change and other traits of other personalities as well. We can’t change our personality, we can only mask it. Masking our personality would be acting a way that does not come naturally to us.

Growing up in my family, I was seen as shy and quiet. I actually had adults tell me they were surprised to see me being loud. I was shy and quiet but it was because I never felt allowed to express my feelings or thoughts in my house so I just stayed silent. I thought I was shy because that’s what people told me but really I was ignored and invalidated so I just didn’t speak at all and held everything inside. I didn’t even know what a personality was.

I was probably around 19 years old when I started noticing my personality and I didn’t like it. I was loud and expressed my feelings and opinions. I confronted people that said or did something wrong and was the goofy one in the friend group. When Christian and I had been dating for a while and I spent more time with his family, the more I felt like I didn’t fit in. Most of the women in Christians family are quiet and sweet and I felt like the odd ball. I tried to be pretty and quiet like them but always found myself speaking my mind, making the decisions in the group and wanting to have real conversations and have fun rather than sit around talking about work or looking at our phones.

The thing is, I’m not living my life to be quiet, sit still and look pretty. There’s nothing wrong with people who do that but it’s not me. I’m here to speak up about difficult things, share my story, heal myself and inspire others. My strong personality makes me comfortable doing those things.

I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with people with different personalities, they are just doing what comes naturally to them. No personality is all good or all bad, they’re just different from each other. We all have strengths and weaknesses. We should help each other thrive in our strengths instead of trying to change each other because of our weaknesses. If you try to change the personality of someone, you’re just causing them to wear a mask of a fake identity around you. You could even be stopping yourself from recognizing your own strengths because you’re too busy thinking about things you don’t like about yourself.

I am getting better at understanding and expressing my personality and I was actually surprised to realize I have a strong personality. I’m sure it was always there somewhere but now I can actually express it.

Sometimes strong personalities can get a bad rep. Let me explain some of the traits of someone with this type of personality:

  • You hate small talk.

I’ve always hated small talk because it’s such a waste of time. I want to talk about interesting things! People with strong personalities have lots of ideas and want to work on those big ideas, not waste time on things they don’t care about.

  • You can’t stand insensitivity or ignorance.

Strong personalities are the result of being well-informed and thoughtful. You seek to understand issues. You hate when people make false assumptions about things they don’t understand. Strong personalities are not bullies or mean people, they just want to educate others and stand up to injustice.

  • You do not need attention.

You don’t need the validation of everyone around you. You are confident in who you are. Strong personalities often receive attention because they tend to be the leaders of a group or fun people to be around but you are comfortable spending time alone.

  • You are fearless.

Of course you still have fears, we all do. I’m still afraid of the dark. What I mean is, you don’t let fear dictate your life. You do what you know needs to be done in order to accomplish your dreams regardless of your fear.

  • You speak your mind.

You share your opinion even if it is unpopular. You stand up for what is right. You don’t hide your feelings, you’ll have difficult conversations instead of holding your emotions and thoughts inside. You say no to people and set healthy boundaries.

  • You are goal oriented and know what you want in life.

You set goals because you know the steps you need to take in order to have success. You maintain a clear vision of what you want in life. You don’t believe it to be unrealistic no matter what obstacles you have to face.

These are just a few traits of a strong personality. Maybe you realized that this sounds a lot like you! Or maybe you had a negative view of strong personalities before and can see things differently. Like I said before, we all have weaknesses as well so I’m not saying this personality is better than anyone else’s.

Even though you might think a strong personality means horrible things like bullying, anger, someone who is self centered or judgmental, the exact opposite is actually true. A weak personality is all of those negative things.

Growing up with a strict dress code

My parents are Baptists. I know there’s different versions of that so let me explain a bit further. They only attend Baptist churches and look down on all others, only use the KJV Bible, my mom only wears skirts and dresses, my parents used to make us all go soul winning, they only played gospel or classical music in the house, we didn’t have a TV , my parents drove a big white 16 passenger van (7 kids to transport), we were all homeschooled, my dad was a pastor for 11 years of my childhood and both of my parents clearly hated homosexuals, public schools, democrats, secular college, modern music and girls wearing pants or other modern clothing. How’s that for an intro? My parents are not horrible people and they have improved a bit but man, when you type it all out. Yikes!

Growing up my sisters and I were only allowed to wear skirts and dresses. 365 days a year, rain, snow, or sun. Going to church, making a snowman, riding a bike, playing in the woods, or swimming? We had skirts on. Long, ugly, probably jean or homemade skirts. Now I’m not hating on skirts and dresses, there are cute ones that I like wearing but when you grow up not knowing how to style them properly, what’s trendy or where to shop for good ones, you’re not going to look very good. Trust me, you really run out of options when you need a skirt outfit for every day of every year. Even if you do find something cute, your parents will never allow you to wear it, so you’re basically screwed either way.

Growing up I hated getting dressed every day. It started around age 10 and lasted until I no longer lived with my parents at age 18. When I was really young I didn’t notice how weird I looked or how I didn’t fit it. I played outside every day and didn’t care who saw me. Then one day it just changed, I remember playing with my friends and they would wear normal clothes and my sisters called them cute and I wondered why no one said I looked cute. My friends wore sweatpants, jeans, shorts, pajamas, swimsuits, snow pants and I wore long skirts with t-shirts every day rain or shine. I was embarrassed and insecure around my friends, relatives, and even strangers. My clothes ruined my confidence, spirit and self worth. The clothes stole my identity.

I was that 10 year old wearing a nice grown women’s skirt from Christopher and Banks with a kids American flag t-shirt and sneakers. Thank God I had 3 older sisters to hide behind.

I remember going through phases as a teenager like everyone else did, an emo phase, girly phase, tomboy phase, but no one knew except me because I was wearing a below the knee length jean skirt with a hand me down t-shirt and sneakers through all of it. No individuality and no self expression. I stopped enjoying going outside during the day. I didn’t like going to the park, riding bikes, taking walks, or playing catch with my brothers unless it was dark outside. I didn’t want anyone to see me. I would watch my brothers play from my bedroom window sometimes and be jealous of how normal they looked.

To be completely honest, I still have anxiety being seen outside sometimes. I’m 23 and have lived away from my parents since I was 18, I’m getting married in 4 months, I have a full time job, freedom to buy what I want and go where I want and I still fight some childhood insecurities. You don’t just snap out of 18 years of someone controlling your identity.

If you’re not familiar with these types of environments or if you were raised in a similar environment but you’re a boy, you might be wondering why this is a big deal. It’s just clothes, it’s not that big of a deal right? But it is. Why? Because it makes you loose your passion for life. It ruins your self worth. Imagine wanting to play soccer with your friends but you have a long skirt on and people are watching and you don’t want to look dumb so even though you enjoy soccer, you sit out. Now you’re riding a bike and having a good time and your sister whispers to you that she can see your underwear and so can everyone else. Now your friends, strangers and your boss are asking you why you wear skirts all the time and are you cold? are you hot? are you religious? It’s embarrassing and exhausting.

Another huge problem is teaching someone that they don’t deserve love from their parents or love from God because of the clothes they wear. I remember pastors preaching against women wearing pants constantly and calling them an abomination. This is spiritual and emotional abuse. Every time a parent dismisses their kids feelings, beliefs or opinions, and screams at them or physically harms them for their appearance, they are destroying that kids self worth. They are causing that child to be resentful, bitter, stressed, depressed and learn how to lie and sneak around behind the parents back. The kid will not respect their parents because the parents do not respect them.

I avoided my parents as much as possible. I wanted to be anywhere except my house. I dreamed of coming home, putting pajama pants on and watching a movie on a couch in the living room, was that too much to ask? Yep. My sisters and I would sneak jeans or shorts in our purses and change in the car before going places. It was the only way to feel normal and confident. The first few times I wore jeans I loved how comfy they were and how I could do whatever I wanted and no one would see my underwear or look at me weird. I could wear any shirt and it always looked good. I had full range of motion in pants and it was so cool to me. I felt cute and normal! I wished I could feel like that all the time.

Growing up my mom made my sisters and I homemade swim skirts. When I was young I was allowed to wear my brothers swim trunks with an oversized t-shirt but when I was probably around 10 I had to wear the swim skirt like the older girls. Thus my hatred for swimming began. When relatives from out of state visited and got a hotel room my brothers were so happy because that meant swimming! and for them that meant wearing swim trunks and no shirts of course. For me, it meant a knee length ugly bright pink skirt with shorts sewn underneath and a t-shirt, so I told people I didn’t want to swim even though I did. When we went to the lake, I pretended again that I didn’t want to swim.

It really sucked having to explain to other kids and adults that I wasn’t choosing to dress the way I was but that my parents made me do it. I was living an identity that was not who I was because I had to lie about what I enjoyed doing and what I enjoyed wearing. I desperately wanted people to know and like the real me while having to play the part of who my parents wanted me to be which was someone I hated. When I was 16 I got a job at a local cafe as a waitress and my boss told me to wear black pants. I told him my parents were religious and I had to wear a skirt over my pants. I remember him telling other people that it was my religion and then I had to defend myself and explain that no, it wasn’t, it was my parents. And that kind of situation happened all the time. When I worked as a cashier at Menards I changed into jeans in the car before I got there and changed back into a skirt before I got home.

I wish I handled it better back then, I wish I knew how to style skirts properly and keep up with trends. I wish I knew about Pinterest for fashion inspo and which stores to shop at for teens my age. But looking back I don’t even think that would have mattered because I still wouldn’t be allowed to wear most of it even if it was a skirt or dress and wearing them every day, 365 days a year, is just not reasonable. I want you to know that I am not bitter towards my parents for this anymore but more sad for them that they truly believe you must dress a certain way to be a child of God. I did have some good times growing up but honestly almost all of them were spent with my siblings or friends doing our own thing away from home.

2020 in review

We made it fam!! 2020 is finally over and while I’m happy to close this chapter, I’m also cautious going into 2021. I’m sure you feel me, while there’s hope for better days ahead there are still so many changes and unknowns we are faced with. I wanted to write about my year but wasn’t even sure where to begin and what to even say. I found some good reflection questions and I’m going to answer them on here. Some of the questions will be pretty basic end of the year questions but I’ll also share things specifically related to 2020.

Let’s start back in 2019 really quick, I had high hopes for 2020 and I was so excited. A new decade and a new year to travel and make memories with my Fiance. We had plans to go to our favorite places like we did every year and even considered having our wedding in 2020 before the year went to sh*t (and before we realized we were way behind on planning). This year has been a wake up call for all of us. Life won’t always be the same and anything can happen regardless of our plans and dreams. In 2020 people were forced to adapt to homeschooling their kids, working from home, wearing face masks, social distancing, food shortages, loosing their jobs and isolation. We couldn’t attend weddings, funerals, parties or any other events. Your wedding might have been cancelled, my own wedding still has a chance of being cancelled. We couldn’t visit our grandparents or other at risk relatives or friends. We cried, worried and complained a lot.

This year has been craziness but I’m proud of you. If you held it together and made your kids breakfast every morning while you were falling apart, I’m proud of you. If you watched TV and wore pajamas all day, I’m proud of you. If you lost 50lbs or wrote a best selling book or started a side hustle, I’m proud of you. If you were an essential worker and busted your butt working long hours in a hospital, factory, grocery store or anywhere else, I’m proud of you. Let’s look back on this year together and give ourselves some grace and celebrate how far we’ve come.

During the beginning of 2020 after my workplace closed and I was at home for a few months, I spent a lot of time outdoors. I remember taking walks almost every day and listening to podcasts and walking with Christian when he was off work. We found a nice part of town where all the big houses are and explored other parts of town we didn’t usually go to. We took up bike riding in the summer and went swimming in Christians parents pool on hot days. We spent a lot of time with Christians parents and little sisters this year and I helped them clean out some bedrooms in the house with my time off.

I also woke up late a lot and was pretty lazy at home for the first few months. I finished watching every episode of Say Yes to the Dress and watched a lot of house hunters. I also watched the Bachelor and the Bachelorette, started watching Golden Girls (I had never seen it before) and watched lots of Christmas movies from Nov-Dec, even the super cheesy ones that I used to hate. I jumped on the Tiger King bandwagon and also watched Dancing with the Stars. I watched a lot of Hulu, Netflix and Disney+, more than any year before. But there’s also some things I accomplished, places I visited and people I grew closer to.

Let’s get into some of these questions!

  • What did you do for work during Covid

I currently work as a receptionist full time at a Senior Center and also work at the local YMCA about once or twice a week. In March the senior center closed to the public and I was sent home while thankfully still being paid. I went back to work at the end of May and we were still closed to the public so my job was just answering the phone. I read books to pass time and took walks outside a lot. In October I was sent home again but this time to actually work from home. I am still currently working from home and even though it’s nice to not have to dress up and drive to work, especially in the winter, it has been a strange adjustment for me and it is easier to fall behind on work.

  • Favorite place you visited this year

In late February, one of my sisters and my sis in law came over to visit from WI and we took the train to Chinatown Chicago. We went to Joy Yee and got bubble tea and a bubble waffle and explored the shops. It was really cold but we had fun and that is the only time I’ve been to Chicago this year. We used to go fairly often during the summer every year with Christians cousins and I miss that.

In September, my sisters came over again to go wedding dress shopping with me and stayed for a few days. We drove 2 hours to Dubuque Iowa for me to try on dresses and then went out to eat at an Italian restaurant after. We had good food and drinks and sang karaoke on the car ride home, got ice cream pints at culvers and stayed up late watching a movie.

In July over the weekend of the 4th, Christian and I went to visit my older brother and sis in law in WI and spent the day at Lake Wazee out on a big inflatable boat with a few other siblings of mine. We drank, laughed a lot and got sunburnt, it was a good weekend.

  • Best thing you did for someone else this year

I have an Aunt that I used to live with who is a night shift OB nurse. During Covid, people dropped off meals to many essential workers but no one brought meals to the night shift nurses at my Aunts hospital. I brought her and the other nurses working night shift food and snacks after hearing about their shift being left out. It was so fun surprising them, they loved it.

  • Time you laughed the hardest

Anytime I talked to my sister Anna. We had several phone conversations when one or both of us was feeling down and talking to her always makes me feel good and makes me laugh the hardest. She has always been my rock and my favorite person.

  • Something you learned to do/Had never done before

I rode a longboard for the first time this year and also got my own for my birthday. I have a lot to learn but it’s so fun riding it around whenever I can.

I learned a lot about handling finances from reading books by Dave Ramsey and from following his IG account. I learned how to save money, make a budget and spend money more wisely.

  • Most newsworthy event

Honestly, I don’t have anything very exciting for this one. Just wedding updates I guess, buying my dress, booking a DJ, photographer and officiant, asking our bridal party to stand up with us. Doing an engagement photo shoot.

  • Most memorable moments/days this year

Christian and I babysat my 2 year old nephew over a hot weekend in the summer. It was good to get away from our town for a bit and do something different because I was having cold feet about getting married at that time and our relationship was suffering. My nephew made me laugh a lot and with cooking, cleaning and taking care of him, I was worn out by the time we left!

On Valentines day, Christian and I had a picnic with snacks and wine and his cousin and her bf joined us. It was a fun little double date that we had never done before.

Christians parents got a pool and we spent time swimming with his little sisters on hot days. One night we had a bonfire, ate smore’s and watched the stars. We spent a lot of time with the girls and his parents this year.

We took Christians sisters trick or treating around their neighborhood and that’s something I love to do every year.

  • An achievement you are proud of

Starting my blog! And learning how to set up an email welcome sequence on Kajabi and create freebies and other things on Canva.

  • What or whom are you most thankful for

I’m thankful for my relationship with Christian, I really believe we have something special and will build a wonderful life together. I’m very thankful for Nathan, our marriage counselor for helping me see what we have and work through my doubt about marriage and family issues. I’m thankful for my sister Anna for keeping me laughing or crying with me. I’m thankful for my sister in law Charity for being another person to laugh with and talk with. I’m thankful for my employer for keeping a paycheck coming in even with work being shut down and for keeping me safely working from home.

  • One word to describe the year

Challenging. This year has challenged me emotionally, spiritually and mentally. It has challenged my relationships, my plans for the future, my viewpoints on many things. But if we’re being challenged than there is opportunity for growth and I think I’ve grown a lot this year.

  • Is your faith in God stronger now than it was in the beginning of the year

I love this question so I added it in here and I want to keep asking myself this every year. Yes, I do have stronger faith now at the end of this year. This year I went through months of depression where I felt so hopeless and fearful and I haven’t felt that way since I was 18-19 years old. I started prayer journaling this year and would write about my relationship, family, personal life and my fears and struggles. I felt better just putting my life in Gods control and trying to trust God more. I watched church services online and that’s something I didn’t do before. My favorite church currently is one my older brother and sis in law go to in Stevens Point, WI called Refuge and watching their services has strengthened my faith as well.

  • What did you learn about yourself

I learned that I still need to heal and work through some painful times from my past. I plan on starting personal counseling in 2021 and also having conversations with my Mom and a sister that are necessary for me to move on.

I learned that I can be lazy especially when I have more free time to get things done. I struggle with consistency and often give up on things. I am doing better at the end of the year at accomplishing things and creating better habits but I have a lot to work on.

I learned that I needed to slow down and be more present. To set boundaries with people who drain my energy and to work on my own life and not focus on others lives so much. I learned that I need to be more open minded and loving.

I know 2020 looked different for a lot of us, some suffered much more than others, but we can all relate to so many feelings from this year. I didn’t want to get into politics or the injustice and disasters from the year in this post but maybe we can talk about that a different time. This post is just a little peek into my personal life in 2020 and I want to always remember this year.

Let me know some of your answers to these questions or some of your favorite end of the year questions.

Religious trauma and Spiritual abuse explained

I’ve mentioned religious trauma several times before but many people are unfamiliar with the term. You might have heard of spiritual abuse or religious abuse which leads to trauma when you’ve experienced that abuse for years, but any of those terms can be used to describe harmful religious teachings.

Religious Trauma Syndrome or RTS, is a function of both the chronic abuses of harmful religion and the impact of severing one’s connection with one’s faith or faith community. RTS is not yet an official diagnosis but there are many common symptoms of those affected by it that I’ll share later in this post.

Spiritual abuse is abuse administered under the guise of religion, including harassment or humiliation which may cause psychological trauma. This abuse can be coming from a faith leader such as a pastor or church elder who is inflicting abuse on congregation members, often by creating a toxic culture within the church or group by shaming and controlling members using the power of their position.

I get angry even writing about this because I have personally experienced this many times in churches. The most common thing I have experienced in religious groups is harassing, shaming and controlling women of any age. Pastors abusing their position to force their own agenda. I’ve seen pastors or other faith leaders using God as an excuse to mistreat others, saying things like “If you have a problem with my teachings, God said it first, not me”.

You might have grown up in these types of environments like I did and are sure you have been affected by spiritual abuse but here are some examples that you may have experienced if you are affected by this:

  • You have been shunned (persistently avoided, ignored, or rejected) because of your beliefs, gender, race or lifestyle.
  • You were threatened to remain in your faith community.
  • You left your faith community and are living with psychological trauma from years of being in that community.
  • You have broken or lost relationships after leaving your faith community. Your parents or other family or friends cut off communication with you or treat you poorly.
  • You feel inferior to others and assume no one is genuinely interested in who you are.
  • You lost interest in anything related to spirituality and have negative views of God and the church.
  • You assume people are judging you and you do not express yourself around others.

Some situations are extreme, people receive death threats, loose their jobs, or loose relationships after leaving a religious community but no matter what you personally experienced, we can all relate to many of these examples and more.

Religious Trauma can be compared to a combination of PTSD and Complex PTSD.

PTSD is short for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and causes anxiety or flashbacks triggered by a traumatic event.

Complex PTSD is a condition where you experienced some symptoms of PTSD along with additional symptoms, such as: difficulty controlling your emotions, feeling very hostile or distrustful towards the world.

Some symptoms of religious trauma are listed below:

  • Confusing thoughts and reduced ability to think critically.
  • Negative beliefs about yourself, others, and the world.
  • Trouble making decisions.
  • Feelings of depression, anxiety, grief, anger, or lethargy.
  • A sense of feeling lost, directionless, and alone.
  • A lack of pleasure or interest in things you used to enjoy.
  • A loss of family, friends, or romantic relationships.
  • Feeling isolated or a sense that you don’t belong.
  • Feeling “Behind the times” with cultural happenings.

You may also be struggling with black and white thinking, irrational beliefs, difficulty trusting yourself or others, low self esteem, skewed views of sex, discipline, self expression, or relationships.

If you have been affected by spiritual abuse or trauma like myself and many others, there is hope for spiritual freedom and healing through exposing the damaging beliefs we were taught and starting the journey to a personal relationship with God. My hope for you and for myself is that through learning the truth of spirituality and trusting God to guide and bless our lives, we will find fulfillment and a purpose in this life.

So there you have it friend! I hope this was informative. Leave any questions or comments for me down below.

10 ways to reduce holiday stress

So it’s the end of another year and a crazy one at that! Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s are right around the corner. I know I’ve been stressed out this year and I’m sure you have too. When I think of holidays I think of family gatherings and speaking of stress, family gatherings are great at giving us plenty of it.

Be honest with yourself, what do you want to do for the holidays this year? Decide who you want to spend time with and how much time you want to spend traveling or if you want to spend the most time at home with your partner or kids. Don’t feel guilty for protecting your peace, you already know what you’re dreading and what you’re looking forward to. If big crowds are not your thing (especially during covid) this year is the perfect year for keeping it lowkey and staying home with your family or whoever you enjoy time with most.

  1. Decide if your partner will spend the holiday with your family or theirs.

I’ve visited my parents alone the past few times because it honestly gave me more to worry about if my fiance came with. I didn’t want to put him in an uncomfortable situation. I know it sucks going separate ways because you want holiday memories with each other but wouldn’t you rather enjoy yourselves? There are no rules just because it’s a holiday. You can decide to stay home together and do your own thing, attend different get togethers or go with each other or even split the day between your families if they live close enough. Try not to pressure your partner into doing something they don’t want to, if they take one for the team and attend your family event, give them some space from everyone and make sure you do something you both will enjoy. I’m getting ahead of myself there, let’s move on!

2. Have a game plan.

Write down what your ideal day would look like and then adjust your schedule to fit more of that. Decide when you will arrive and how long you will stay, if there’s something you want to do like go shopping, grab coffee, watch a good holiday movie or football game, put that in your schedule! Make sure you know who will be at the get together and what kind of activities are planned. You’ll want to know if you need to leave before the drama queen arrives or before your mom makes everyone play all of her favorite games and before you know it, it’s dark outside. Don’t feel guilty. Stick to the plan! You’ll have a much better time, I promise.

3. Have a buddy.

This might be the most important thing on here for difficult families. I only make the 4 hour drive to my parents for a holiday when my favorite sister or sister in law will be there. No shame! If no one you genuinely enjoy being around will be there, stay home please. Have a buddy! Someone you’re so excited to spend time with that nothing else matters. Another super important reason to have a buddy is that if you’re traveling, you need a safe and comfortable place to sleep at night and if your buddy has their own home, perfect! If not, get a hotel. I know I need to put cozy clothes on, drink, eat, or do whatever I actually enjoy and talk in private with my sisters. You could drive or fly in a day early or stay a day late to do something fun with your favorite people before you’re knee deep in frosting cookies while sitting in awkward silence with your mom that you only see twice a year. You get the point, no buddy = no fun.

4. Do something you enjoy.

My mom started a tradition of decorating gingerbread houses the day after Thanksgiving and I did that for the first time last year with some other family members. I happen to think decorating gingerbread houses is fun so I plan on stopping by for that this year. I also enjoy going shopping with my fiance and siblings, grabbing coffee at my favorite shop back in my hometown, and staying up late at my sisters house watching movies and talking so I plan on doing those things as well. The point is, don’t let everyone else call the shots. Make sure you’re having a good time too. I know there’s covid this year, but some other ideas would be to go see a christmas lights show (some do drive through lights), go do a winter sport, buy things for kids in need (Operation Christmas child, Toys for Tots, find a local Angel Tree), make a dessert or side dish for everyone if you enjoy that, decorate for Christmas.

5. Stick to your routine as much as possible.

If you don’t have a strict daily routine, it’s okay. Control what you can. If you wake up at 7am everyday and drink coffee while you watch good morning America, I suggest you keep doing that. It will help keep you calm and set the pace for the rest of the day, you don’t want to feel rushed, overtired and irritable because your schedule was thrown off. If you workout everyday, look up a gym in the area to go to. If you go workout everyday I assume you care a little more about what you’ll be eating while away from home. Find out what kind of food will be served so you can choose what to eat or bring your own healthy dish option for everyone and when your Grandma is trying to stuff pie in your face, ask for a slice to go or say you’re full and you’ll eat some later. Get some sleep! It’s okay to be a party pooper, don’t stay up way later than you usually do.

6. Set and keep your boundaries.

You know your family and you know 2020 has been a heck of a ride. Someone will bring up covid, the election or racism. On top of that someone will bring up the usual stuff that drives you crazy, do you have a boyfriend/girlfriend? When’s your wedding? How’s work? When are you having kids? Why didn’t your boyfriend/girlfriend come with you? Can we take that picture a hundred more times? Ugh. I’m annoyed just typing this. It’s so important to set boundaries with family. I love the idea of letting people know ahead of time that you won’t be involved in conversations about something. That could be the election results, wearing masks, your brother/sisters personal life, your personal life, fill in the blank. Make yourself clear that you will walk away or leave if someone breaks your boundaries. You don’t have to listen to that. You also don’t have to be in every picture or play every game or hang out with people you don’t even like.

7. Make a budget.

This is obviously important for Christmas but even buying food or decorations can get out of control. If you’re already following a budget, a holiday doesn’t cancel that out. Plan ahead of time how much money is for gifts or exactly which gifts you’re buying, money for food, gas, hotel, plane tickets, and anything else. This year I’m planning my wedding so gifts will be cheaper or more creative and that’s okay! Pinterest is great for DIY or cheap gift ideas.

8. Try something new.

I love the idea I mentioned above on ways to give gifts to kids or families in need. You can even do this for a family at your church or in your neighborhood. Another fun idea is to host a friendsgiving, ugly sweater party or New Years party. You could do a gift exchange with your best friends, go see a play or go to a parade. I get it, some people love traditions, but it’s good to mix it up a little! Doing the same thing every year can get old pretty fast. You could spend Christmas in Hawaii or skip out on the gathering this year because of covid and do Christmas in July with all your favorite siblings or friends. Again, there’s no rules so why not try something new.

9. Just say no.

People assume families must spend every holiday together and to be honest, it annoys me. You don’t have to do anything that your family or friends are expecting you to do or what the social norm is. If you don’t want to visit your parents, just tell them no. If you don’t like decorating your house for every new month or listening to christmas music, don’t do it. If you would rather eat pizza for Thanksgiving than spend 5 hours cooking food your kids won’t even eat, order pizza! If you can’t afford to pile presents under the tree this year, just get a few. You can let your kids or spouse know what to expect. Do what is best for you and your family, not what everyone else is doing. Listen to your body, are you tired? overwhelmed? angry? Say no to the things that are making you feel that way. There is no good reason to burn ourselves out doing everything we hate to make everyone else happy.

10. Ask for help.

There is no shame in asking for help. If you are sad because you can’t afford the gifts your kids want, ask your close family members or close friends if they can buy 1 or 2, I would be more than happy to buy my nephews or niece or friends kids a gift. If you need a babysitter while you clean or cook, get one. If you need someone to help you clean, cook or decorate, just ask! Ask for coffee or wine if you need some. Ask for someone to pitch in buying the food or drinks. Holidays are stressful enough, ask for help and don’t waste any time feeling bad for it.

10 Things most people don’t know about me.

  1. I was homeschooled K-12th grade and later did one semester at a community college in IL at age 18. I never paid much attention to school and failed my college classes.
  2. I love to decorate cakes! It’s one of my hobbies and if I wasn’t trying to build an online digital course business, I would probably open a bakery.
  3. I’ve had 9 jobs (not including side jobs) and started working at age 12.
  4. We didn’t have a TV growing up and I spent most of my younger years playing outside and teenage years in my room listening to music on my phone.
  5. I LOVE hip hop dancing and plan on joining a dance class.
  6. I’m scared of thunder, bugs, deep water and the dark (I literally have a night light).
  7. My Dad was a pastor for 11 years of my life. We were in church twice on Sunday and every Wednesday night.
  8. Growing up I was only allowed to wear skirts and dresses, even while swimming and in the winter. Maybe you understand the frustration of getting your skirt stuck in a bike chain or a big t-shirt almost drowning you in the lake.
  9. I love to read and write and want to become an author someday.
  10. I’ve been on a physical health journey for the past 4 years, lost 25lbs and became a certified personal trainer and then realized that’s not what I wanted to do (More on that story later).

Let me know if any of these things are true for you!

Connect with me on Instagram @leahjsari

Welcome to my Blog

Hi friend! Just wanted to fill you in on what this blog is all about and what kind of content you can expect from me.

I started this blog to share my experiences and passions with others. I hope that through sharing my stories, you will be inspired to share yours and connect with others like myself, who have been through similar journeys in life.

A few topics I’ll be blogging about are:

  • Spiritual/Religious abuse and trauma.
  • Living a God honoring life.
  • Health and Fitness
  • Personal development.

If any of those topics interest you or you’ve been affected by religious abuse or trauma, you’re just the kind of person I would love to connect with!

As I continue blogging I’m sure I will be adding other topics as well and sharing helpful resources with you.

A big part of my mission is to bring awareness to religious trauma and you might not have heard the term before, click the button below and read my short free guide that explains what the term means and common symptoms of those affected by it.

Thanks for taking the time to read my blog! Leave any questions or comments for me 🙂

Leah

My marriage counseling experience

My Fiance and I went through 6 sessions of pre-marrital counseling this year and while we don’t have any major relationship issues at this time, we did learn a lot and it has helped us connect and grow as a couple. I am sharing my experience here with you to help you get an idea of what marriage counseling covers and how it is good for anyone planning to get married or already is married.

I decided to start counseling when I started having doubts about our relationship and struggled with joining another family full of issues that I would deal with forever. I honestly wanted to run like hell in the opposite direction but my Fiance is a great guy and I knew my confused feelings were not his fault and I needed proffesional guidance. I spent about 2 months crying over my sudden doubts or “cold feet”, thinking of what I would do if we broke up, feeling guilty, having awkward and difficult conversations, looking at Christians family like I would never see them again and reading so many articles on what all this meant. Not to mention that our wedding date was less than a year away and we weren’t planning anything because in the back of our minds we thought it wouldn’t happen at all.

Well thank God and thank our counselor for the clarity and confidence in our relationship that came out of our time in counseling. My goal going into our first session was that at the end of 6 weeks, I would be confident in my decision to marry Christian. After the last session I can honestly say that goal was met.

I’m going to list some topics we covered, any concerns, questions, or beliefs I had regarding the topic and my main takeaways from the session.

Session 1: Introductions, Backgrounds and Personalities.

I knew Christian was passive but I didn’t know that was his personality, I thought being passive was a negative trait and he needed to change.

  • Everyone has a personality that has strengths and weaknesses. You can love certain things about your partners personality like how a passive person doesn’t get angry easily but they also have weaknesses like not having strong opinions or beliefs. Your personality has strengths and weaknesses as well.
  • You can’t change your partners personality, it’s who they are. If you constantly try to change them, they will wear a mask of a fake personality around you and it will damage your relationship. An example of this is if someone is an introvert, they can dance in front of an audience but they would probably hate doing it. You don’t want your partner to feel that way around you.
  • There are no 2 specific personality types that are perfect matches for marriage or who are destined to fail. You can make anything work if you are willing to.

Session 2: The creation of man and woman and your spiritual journeys.

I was concerned with Christians lack of interest in spiritual things. I grew up being told not to marry someone who wasn’t on your spiritual level.

I was taught God created Eve to be Adams wife. I was also in a religious environment that glorified being a man and judged women.

  • God created the world in an order from the most simple to the most complex. It started with dark and light and ended with the creation of a woman. A woman is the most complex creation of God.
  • God saw mankind was living alone on the earth and said it was not good. Humans need companions. This was the only time during creation that God said something was not good. Creation was not complete until a woman was created.
  • Adam and Eve were not married, at least not in the modern day sense. God created woman as another human being, fulfilling creation, not as a mans wife.
  • It’s okay not to know what you believe. There are no dividing lines in belief, we are all on a continuous spiritual journey.
  • If your partner has beliefs that clash with yours like if you are very spiritual and your partner is an atheist, this can be very problematic. But if you are spiritual and your partner is open to spiritual things but has no opinion on it, that’s okay.
  • There are no rules you have to follow in your marriage. You can go to separate churches, watch church online at home, you don’t have to pray together or use the same methods of spiritual expression. Decide together what is best for your relationship.
  • Submission in marriage should be practiced by the husband and the wife. Submission means your partner is more educated in an area than you and you are learning from them or letting them make a decision. It’s you choosing to let them teach you or take the lead in a situation where you keep your dignity and they keep theirs. It’s mutual respect. Submission in marriage as mentioned in the Bible, has nothing to do with sex.
  • God is not a man. We can not comprehend who God is. We only understand what we see and God relates to a woman and a man in the bible to make us understand God more.

Session 3: Sex and Friendships.

Is sex actually important in marriage? What if I hate having sex?

We need good friends who help us grow and are on our level. Gamers who play together are not real friends and co-workers are not real friends.

  • It is common for women, especially younger women, not to enjoy sex. There are so many reasons for this and it is not something to be ashamed of.
  • If you don’t enjoy sex, your partner should respect you and give you time to get professional help. Sex should make you feel safe and respected.
  • During sex, make sure your partner is enjoying themselves and work on being better every time.
  • Talk with your partner about what you like and don’t like during sex. Try new positions, use toys or other aids if you want.
  • Sex is very important in a healthy marriage but only within the consent and dignity of each other. Sex is meant to be mutually enjoyed. If you have past trauma or physical pain, get help from a counselor or doctor.
  • Friends are good but not friends who hold you back from growing, disrespect your relationship, or gossip 24/7.
  • Co-workers usually don’t make good friends, you just see them a lot. Co-workers are usually the kind of people mentioned above.
  • Have friends that you have fun with and have good conversations with that are not gossip or work related. You don’t have to be the same age or in the same stage of life, just be around people you enjoy.
  • Making friends doesn’t just happen, you have to get out there and try. Join local groups that interest you, take a class you enjoy where you can meet people, go to a young adult bible study. There are actually apps for making friends as well.
  • As for gamer friends, they can be real friends. Just be sure they follow the same rules mentioned above and are not doing you more harm than good.

Session 4: Communication and Happiness

I feel like Christian isn’t listening to me or doesn’t care about my feelings when he walks away from difficult conversations or has nothing to say.

The #1 thing I get upset about is issues with some family members. It does end up affecting my relationship with Christian because it puts me in a bad mood.

  • Usually men in a relationship want to fix problems. Christian doesn’t say much when I’m sharing my feelings or he walks away because he can’t fix my problem and doesn’t want to say the wrong thing.
  • I don’t want him to fix my problems, I want him to validate how I feel. With Christian knowing how I need him to respond to me when I’m upset, he can help calm me down instead of causing more frustration.
  • I hold some resentment towards a few family members and resentment, even if directed to someone other than your spouse, is detrimental to marriage. We can hold resentment towards someone even years after they die.
  • If I stop letting this family situation affect me so much, my relationship and personal life would flourish.
  • Marriage counseling is not the place to work on all our personal struggles that don’t involve our partner, but you should get help from another professional that can help you with your specific struggles.

Session 5: Understanding emotions

I never thought of how my personal problems that upset me made Christian feel.

I didn’t like that Christian doesn’t properly word things he says and doesn’t explain things well.

  • Christian has problems showing emotion because he’s not sure if his feelings matter or if he has a right to be heard and understood. His childhood gave him a negative example of emotions.
  • He feels hurt, sad and angry over things that other men did to me and the way some people treat me.
  • I used to get mad at him when we were dating for crying too much and being sad or depressed so he stopped showing those emotions around me. He still felt them, but was holding things inside so he wouldn’t upset me.
  • Christian doesn’t like to feel emotional or sad and tries to distract himself or hide his feelings and change the way he feels as soon as possible.
  • Most people treat their spouse worse than everyone else, even worse than complete strangers. We don’t properly greet or say goodbye to our spouse, we come home from work and immediately start complaining. We make fun of them and nitpick everything they do.
  • Everyone’s feelings and thoughts matter, even if they don’t speak them well.

Session 6: More on sex and handling finances together.

  • Your sex life with a new person is completely new, like you’ve never had sex before. Anything you experienced with someone else doesn’t have a place in your sex life now.
  • Don’t compare sex with someone else or think about that person, negative or positive experience, during sex with your current partner.
  • Dialog (talk or write) about sex each time you do it and discuss where to improve. You can schedule when you will have sex if that helps improve your experience.
  • Again, get counseling help with traumatic sexual experiences from the past. If you need to take a break from sex, that’s okay, but don’t let your sex life die completely.
  • Decide if you will have debt or not.
  • Agree on if you will have a joined bank account or separate accounts.
  • Make a budget together and go over it every month.
  • Agree on what money is ours and what is mine.

These are a few things we talked about during our counseling sessions but everyone’s session will look different depending on their relationship.

Below is the book and workbooks we used during our sessions. You can order them off Amazon.

Saving your marriage before it starts -Drs. Les & Leslie Parrott
Workbook for Women
Workbook for Men

For financial advice, our counselor and myself recommend following Dave Ramsey. He is a radio show host, author and businessman. I read one of his books last year and starting following him on Instagram @daveramsey. I learned so much and finally started saving money and making better financial decisions. I have more money now than I did when I worked at a job paying double what I make. Dave’s advice has helped Christian and I to plan for our future and make smart financial decisions together.

Thanks so much for taking the time to read my blog! I hope this was informative. Leave any questions or comments for me down below.