It’s been a tough year, to say the least… The best is yet to come!

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Warning: This is a long story. But it’s been a long road for me, to trying to get back to feeling normal.

So, flashback to over a year ago. I had gotten a couple of infections that landed me in urgent care. I had to take a couple different antibiotics (which I hate), there was no way around it. Then, I get off the antibiotics, and immediately develop a really weird skin rash. Then I have to take a medication to help with that.

I started really feeling fatigued, to the point where I had little motivation, about six months before that… but at this time, about a month after getting the infections, and treating them, my fatigue was getting to the point to where it was affecting my day to day. I wanted to sleep all of the time, I did not want to get up in the morning, I felt like my sleep was not restoring my energy, I started pushing my snooze button as many times as possible before I was literally running late for work, I didn’t even want to go to work (and I love my job and used to be excited for work every morning), my brain felt foggy, I had a hard time remembering things I had said (which made me feel terrible for my poor husband, plus terrible about myself— as I used to be known by others for how well I remembered details and the such), I was having a hard time focusing and concentrating, I was spacing out a lot while I was driving, I was extremely exhausted after any form of exercise, which was so hard for me because I was trying to run and exercise as much as I could and didn’t want to stop. I was just off. So I finally broke, and decided to see a doctor. Before this point, I had refused to see any doctors, because I knew it was going to be an ordeal that would overtake my life, that was going to cost money that we did not have, and that most likely, nobody was going to get to the bottom of my “problems.” And I was partly right in thinking that…

At this point, I had forgot to mention that I had already been seeing a counselor. I had been feeling off for awhile, but just did not know how to address it. I was stressed about something that I did not feel like I had the right to be stressed or anxious about in that point of my life, but I was consumed by it. I was so hormonal, and it was making me believe so many lies. It made me believe that I was ruining my life, my marriage, my future. I had not felt like myself for awhile.

My counselor came to the result that I was most likely struggling a lot with some hormonal imbalances, which is something I had thought too before I had even began seeing her. Just want you all to know, HORMONES EFFECT EVERYTHING. Bleh… She recommended a women’s doctor that she had heard great things about, and I finally gave them a call. When I went in, they did a lot of blood work on me. Before then I had not had to see a doctor for anything in many, many years, so there was not much on file about my health, because lucky for me, I had been rather healthy my whole life. The results of my blood work did point to a severe hormonal imbalance, which I was not surprised to hear. But, it also pointed to me being insulin resistant, which I found pretty surprising. My Nurse Practitioner said that she would like to start me on some medications to help get my numbers back to normal —- of course she did, this is why I didn’t want to go to the doctor, they put you right on a way overpriced medication, and call it day, and bill you for it… I did not want to be on meds. But, I did want to feel like myself again. It had been awhile now that I had felt so off, and not like myself.

And bless my dear sweet husband… I just have to throw that in there. I thank God constantly for the man he blessed me with. Who has been walking this what feels like a very long road of health ridiculousness and doctors visits, and trial runs with meds, and putting up with all of my hormones, and walking by my side through all of it. There is no love like the love he has shown me through my “crazyness.” Because before they came to the conclusion of my severe hormonal imbalance, I did think that maybe I was crazy.

Thank you Lord for my husband.

Anyways, I tried to trust my doctor, and started taking the meds she had strongly suggested. She put me on metformin for insulin resistance, and put me on a natural progesterone cream, in hopes of bringing back up my extremely low progesterone level. So I started both of these at roughly the same time. She told me to give it at least four weeks to really start working and getting into my system… So I do. And that was a long month. Oh, and I should also mention that she told me to completely change my diet while doing all of this. She said to cut out gluten/wheat completely, to cut out dairy, and to cut out all sugar. I mean, what???? How is that even possible? There is wheat in a lot of things, ummm I love dairy… AND, there is sugar in literally everything, even FRUIT! But, I was willing to do what I had to do to start feeling better. To get my energy back. To get my life back. As dramatic as that sounds, with my hormones being so out of wack, I did in fact feel like my life was not what it had ever been. I felt like I was in a weird funk or dream, that I could not get out of.

So I did it, I changed my diet completely, and started the meds. At first, I felt like I was starting to see a difference. Maybe a small light that could be pulling me out of this funk, and bringing me back to where I wanted to be. But, I noticed right away that my fatigue was not better. If anything the meds were making me more tired. SERIOUSLY???? It was not long after starting the progesterone cream (which I started a couple weeks after the metformin, just to ease both into my life…), that I was at work, sitting in a late afternoon meeting… and I literally felt like I was going to pass out right then and there. My heart started racing, and felt like it was going to palpitate out of my chest… I was pretty freaked out. I called my husband and told him I needed him to pick me up, because I did not feel comfortable driving myself home from work. I told my mom how I was feeling too, and she suggested going over to urgent care. So we did. Figured I was having a weird reaction to the medication. Well, of course we get to urgent care, and there is nothing that they can do when it comes to the heart… so they send me right to the ER… which just plain sucks. I did not want to go to the emergency room; it felt a bit dramatic going to the ER as well… I just wanted urgent care to make sure I was okay. But no. So we sit in the ER, in the middle of the night. And they are all worried about my heart. So they do an EKG. And it’s abnormal, so automatically that’s a concern for them. So they do a chest x-ray. Which looks fine. They watch and monitor my vitals, and they seem okay after awhile, and my heart rate goes back down to normal eventually. So they send me home, and refer me to a cardiologist.

But I don’t go; because the last thing I need to do right now is go to a cardiologist. It was a reaction to a medication people; my heart is fine, just fix my hormones already please!!! All of that to say, my doctor cuts the dose of my medication in half, and I don’t have the side effects anymore… but I still am feeling more tired than ever before. So I decided to rebel, and stop taking my metformin. I feel as though it is only feeding into my fatigue, I mean honestly. And at this point, my goal is to get to a place where my fatigue is gone, or at least more gone… I get super strict on my diet though, and start feeling much better. I feel like some of my energy is coming back.

Also thrown into that mix, my doctor also said that I was probably way too anxious, so she wanted me on anti-anxiety medication… of course she did… because 90% of our population is anxious or depressed, right??? That’s probably a safe go to for me too… and yeah, maybe I am a bit sad… because you guys keep pricking me left and right, but aren’t exactly getting to the bottom of anything… So she put me on an extremely low dose of an anxiety medicine… and I’m on it for literally four days, which was such a sucky four days (not to mention, we had a lot of people staying with us at our house that week, and it was BUSY and was supposed to be a fantastic week of fellowship with an amazing group of people…crap…), four days where I literally don’t think I slept hardly at all. All of that to say, that crap of a medication was no longer going to be allowed into my body, and I stopped taking that junk.

Then I decide it’s obviously time to take a more natural approach. Medication is never my first choice. So I go to a natural clinic, and am introduced to acupuncture therapy. And, to be honest, this is the first time that I meet a doctor that actually genuinely cares about my well being, and me… and that is actually listening to my issues and concerns. I am super hopeful about acupuncture. And, this may sound weird to some, especially those that may not know what acupuncture is, but I immediately started feeling a difference after starting acupuncture. I felt like it was immediately helping with my energy levels. I started feeling like I was gaining enough energy again to get through my workdays without dragging. And I’m sure the diet was somewhat helping as well. I was excited and hopeful to tackle whatever it was that was holding me back from feeling well.

So they retested my blood work later at the end of this last summer, and it looked a TON BETTER! This was a huge win. BUT, they discovered some more elevated hormone levels… LONG STORY SHORT, come to find out, my DHEAS level was sky-rocket high, which was concerning, BUT, it had been that high since when my blood was first tested at the beginning of February (at this point, it’s the end of July…), the doctor has apparently completely overlooked it before???? SERIOUSLY??? Who are these doctors… This was like strike 17 with this doctors office… So I leave that doctor and decide to go to an OBGYN… because I’m prone to bladder infections, and I had wanted the prior doctor to do my annual pap, only to find out she had done an STD scan… UMMM… I ASKED FOR A PAP, and you gave me an STD scan???? First of all, I asked for my annual and you said you were going to do my annual… and you didn’t!!! Second of all, I’m not concerned about STD’s, there’s absolutely no way I have them, I definitely already know that and do not want to pay for you to check it, and you already checked for that stuff not very long ago anyways…. AHHHH! *This same doctor also performed an internal ultra-sound to check my body for endometriosis, only to tell me after the fact at my follow up, that the internal ultra sound cannot actually see endometriosis…. THEN WHY IN THE WORLD DID YOU DO AN INTERNAL ULTRA SOUND TO BEGIN WITH??? And they said they didn’t see anything on my internal ultra sound, when I got another later and they found A LOT OF STUFF… how did you guys overlook all of that stuff? But I’ll get to what was found in a moment. So anyways, this prior doctor is no good. And I go to a new OBGYN. They do my pap, and it’s normal. But I begin to share what I’ve been going through for the last year, and they want to look deeper. Especially because I’ve been having pain and discomfort. Definitely in my ovaries, definitely chronic bladder infections, definitely painful intercourse, etc…

—- Not to mention, this whole time, I’m wondering why I have never gotten pregnant. This has been a stressor and something of concern for me for a long time now. Going back awhile now, I have not been on any form of birth control since the beginning of January of 2014, and we have not been preventing pregnancy in any fashion, and it is now the end of August 2015, and I have not had any pregnancies… so, why is that???—–

So the OBGYN wants to do an internal ultrasound (HAHA another one, because the other doctors office obviously did not know how to perform one… wow…), and they want to refer me to an endocrinologist, to look deeper into my hormones and the severe imbalances. Finally feel like maybe we’re getting somewhere, people!

So I finally get into the endocrinologist (because apparently they are quite the “rarity” in this area, and it TAKES FOREVER TO SEE ONE!) Months later, I see her, and she wants to run a bunch more blood work, and saliva tests, and glucose tests… my DHEAS level has been in the upper 500’s, lower 600’s, and normal is in the 100’s, so this isn’t just high, it’s like scary high. The endocrinologist wants to do a CT scan, to rule out the much more serious… tumors on my adrenal glands. So naturally, I want to freak out. One side of my brain wants to believe “OH MY GOSH, I HAVE TUMORS, THIS IS SO NOT GOOD. NO WONDER I FEEL SO TERRIBLE AND OFF ALL OF THE TIME…” and of course the other part of my brain so badly wants to keep its cool and preach “Hey, there is nothing to worry about until there is something to worry about!”

So this past November, I have my CT scan. And after what feels like the longest wait ever, like ever… seriously… IT COMES BACK NORMAL! PRAISE JESUS!!!! But then it’s like, what the frick is going on then??? Gahhhh… And I had been having a huge pain in my back like right where both of my adrenals sit on both sides, and I’m sure that it’s “because of the tumors…” (ha I know, I’m ridiculous…), so now that it’s not, I’m like, why is my back aching so much then… So then my acupuncturist introduces me to a chiropractor… and the chiropractor decides that I have a small infection in my stomach and small intestine… but he also cracks my back for the first time in my life, and my pain is fixed by putting an out of place disc in my ribs back in place (well that was easy…. Hahaha oh my goodness…), so he starts me on an intense Vitamin C cleanse for 6 weeks to help with my “infection”… and during the holiday season too…. WHYYYYY??? HAAAAA…

Although my CT scan looks normal… My internal ultrasound results do not come back as normal… I get those results in December. Funny though (Only not funny at all…), because my prior doctor told me they didn’t see anything on my internal ultrasound, guess they weren’t looking very hard… but my OBGYN says she has to refer me to a different OBGYN that can work more directly with “my case….” Okay…. So what’s that mean?

So I meet yet another doctor, is this doctor like 36???? Probably… and he gives me the break down, and bless his heart, he does not sugar coat it at all… He lets me know that both of my ovaries have multiple cysts on them, that I have a fibroid (which about 60% of women have at least one, so that’s okay), but where mine is at is not as normal. Mine is right on my endometrial lining, which could potentially be blocking any eggs from coming through… and yet one more thing, my right fallopian tube is completely blocked, and in my doctor’s words, completely toxic to any pregnancy that could potentially occur. He said that my right tube, by the looks of it, is not repairable. It is blocked to the point where it needs to be taken out. So he says, whether I decide to do it now, or decide to do it in a couple years… that surgery is what needs to happen. That that tube, and the fibroid too, need to come out. ESPECIALLY if we want to have any hopes of becoming pregnant in the future…

The way he put it though, was that if I am in fact insulin resistant (which most doctors don’t think I’m “truly” insulin resistant, that it’s just something my body is doing because everything is imbalanced right now…), and am polycystic, and my hormones are way off, and one of my tubes is toxic, and a fibroid is blocking the flow for a pregnancy to form, and my adrenals are off, and that I do in fact have endometriosis, that this all plays a role in the scary word of “infertility”…

Great, just great. I mean, yes, my husband and I have not been trying our absolute hardest to get pregnant this entire time, we knew we “had plenty of time for all of that still.” But we have not been preventing it by any means either. We have definitely had the mindset that “it’ll happen when it’s supposed to happen. Essentially that God will do his thing when the timing is right…” And I’ve trusted that. At least I’ve tried my hardest to. But at this point, when all of these many things are thrown at me, and said to me. When my blunt, but smart doctor tells me that “Yes, you’re still young, but in your case, I think if you desire to have a natural pregnancy, that with everything you have against you, sooner than later is your best bet of maybe lucking out with doing it naturally…” Wow, okay.

Yes, my husband and I have had to have a lot of conversations about this. More than we assumed we’d have at his point… And for a long time now we’ve been having conversations here and there. Conversations of meeting in the middle. Because maybe this isn’t the time we had envisioned of talking about this. But at the same time, are we running out of time? There is nothing that I want more, and have wanted more, in like forever, then to have a family. To have babies. And to obviously have them naturally. God’s will is what I want, an ultimately I want to trust that he will take care of us and grant us the desires of our hearts, even if it doesn’t look the same way that we may have envisioned it… All I know, though, if I’m being completely honest, is that I have a hard time trusting sometimes. Maybe even more than just sometimes. I have a hard time not getting angry at God. I have a hard time having any understanding for why bad things happen to incredible people, as to why I’ve been going through all of these various and random things these last two years. It’s just been hard. It’s been hard on my marriage. It’s been so hard on me individually. It’s tried to rob me of every ounce of my joy. I constantly try so hard to remind myself that circumstances could be SO MUCH WORSE. I know this. And I am so thankful that they are not worse. But it has still been hard for me to endure, and with grace, and with consistent trust and love for God. I have been angry many times. I have cried my eyes out to my husband way too many times to count. I have yelled to him, I have said I have wanted to give up, I have asked so many times when I will wake up and feel like me again… there’s always that next landmark I feel like I will hit and then everything will be “back to normal.” At first I said, “I will make it to the summer and life will be great again…” “Once Christmas hits, I will be me again…” “Okay, the new year is almost here, and this next year will be the year I have my body back…” GAHHHH…. Still waiting for that moment. God is good, and I know that to be true. But I still struggle pretty darn regularly.

So, now we’re in January of the new year, and we don’t know what we’re going to do about the surgery, and about trying to do whatever we can to get pregnant, even if the timing is not ideal (taking into consideration that we are both working full time, we just bought a house, we are both full time students in graduate school, just to name a few…), just to make sure we can do it naturally still before that may not be an option anymore… because I forgot to mention that my doctor/surgeon also told me that he knows for a fact that he would remove my right tube when he gets in there, but he said that he wouldn’t know for a fact if he could save my left tube or not, until he gets in there. So basically, I won’t know until I wake up after my surgery is over, whether or not I still have one of my tubes, and still have the hope of conceiving naturally. Without my tubes, the only means of getting pregnant is through IVF treatment (at least 10 grand per cycle, yikessssss, not ideal, but worth it if that were our only option obviously…)… this is all still super surreal for me.

So my menstrual cycle hits in January of this year, which I also just have to be honest… every month when my menstrual cycle hits, a little part of me kind of dies… Basically since September of 2014 when Jacob and I really stopped preventing pregnancy and more so playfully started seeing about getting pregnant if the timing was right, and then a month would go by and I would start to think “maybe I’m actually pregnant, that’s why I feel this way, that’s why my hormones are going haywire, that’s why I feel nauseous, that’s why I’m so tired, that’s why this, that or the other…” and then reality would hit, my cycle would come yet again, and I’d be pretty sad, but try to just hide it, because it obviously just was not the time yet… but then the next month, I’d let my emotions take over again… and this would go on for literally over a year… where a new month and a new cycle would start, and I would have totally let myself believe that I was probably pregnant this time around, and then over and over and over again, I just was not. This has been stressing me out for awhile… and yet I get so hard on myself, and say that if I would “just fully give it to God, then maybe something amazing would happen.” But I felt like I had given it to him completely already, but then, maybe I hadn’t? I just didn’t know anymore. All I knew was that I obviously was looking forward to that pregnancy more so than maybe I had originally thought. But who was I kidding? I’ve been thinking about that moment for like ever, for like even way before I married my amazing guy. Darn it. I couldn’t help the way I felt.

Anyways, sorry for all of the rabbit trails, but I haven’t “just been straight up honest with myself, or many others, about all of this”, I’ve tried to just keep my cool and perhaps pretend like “everything was just fine.” Yeah, marriage is amazing, I’m thankful for marriage, for my husband, for his love and support, for everything that marriage brings, everyday. But, I would be lying if I said that some days I just don’t even know… because marriage is hard. I mean marriage is hard by itself. Then you throw in a hormonal and completely off kilter woman, and marriage is hard on a different level. And I feel like I just have to be such a burden to my husband. I mean, just look at how many doctors I’ve had to see, how many visits I’ve made, how many bills that have racked up (okay, seriously, THANK GOD, THANK YOU GOD SO MUCH, for double coverage…), how many times I’ve been a crying mess because nobody can get to the bottom of what is going on with me, etc. Some days I have wondered why God let me get married, especially before all of this took off and my health went in a weird direction. I feel like I am not worthy, because I have to be such a burden… Some days I wonder why I’m married because my hormones will be off the charts and I just don’t feel like I even know how to be married. It’s so tough to admit these things. To be completely honest. It’s so tough to be honest that my mind has not always been Johnny on the spot, that I have not always had joyful and hopeful thoughts… But then on the other hand, God knows. And he knew how much of a rock my husband would be for me during all of this too…

Okay really this time, back to where I was going like two or three paragraphs ago… so my menstrual cycle hits this month at the beginning of the month, and I’m at work. And it hits me with no warning. None whatsoever. That never happens. And I’m literally suddenly in excruciating pain like never before, like fall on the floor about to black out pain. Literally, the most embarrassing thing, pretty much passing out while I’m at work. It was ridiculous, and I had to go home. But that was my breaking point. Aside from the fact that I wanted to do everything that I could to help us get pregnant naturally, and sooner than later (especially when you have all of these people that ask you why you don’t get pregnant already, and you smile and chuckle it off, when in reality, you want to just yell “Well, because my body actually cannot get freaking pregnant right now peeps…” Why would I say that though, that just sounds dramatic and “woe is me,” which I HATE TO BE THAT PERSON. Like hate it. I don’t want to be overdramatic. But the doctor was pretty clear when he said that my chances are not improving, if anything, they are decreasing the longer that we wait…)…. And aside from the fact that I just wanted to get out of my “funk” and feel normal again, not fatigued, but full of energy and joy and personality again! But on top of all of that was also the major pain factor.

So I scheduled my surgery. And it will take place in less than a week, on February 4th. I was not going to share. I feel silly sharing about something that is pretty “personal” on the Internet. I really try not to do that… but at the same time, I feel as though we’ve been doing this somewhat alone for a long while now, and I mean it’s been a long road so far. I feel like whoever wants to read this and pray with us, will read it. And those that do not, will not.

I’m not nervous yet. I’m totally sure I will be the day of. I’m very hopeful about this procedure though. I’m hopeful that my doctor/surgeon will not have to remove both of my tubes, just the one. I’m hopeful that by the grace of God, we will be able to conceive naturally, despite what any other opinions might say. I’m hopeful that this procedure will help me start feeling good again all around, not just by taking away the consistent lower abdominal pain, but by clearing out my inflamed intestinal and GI issues, my overall digestive health, my heart palpitations (which I have since been to a cardiologist, yes, yet another specialist, bahahaha, and they have cleared me saying that my palpitations are non-harmful and that my heart is otherwise healthy and normal…), my brain fog and lack of focus and motivation, my fatigue, etc. I am hopeful that overall, my health in general will improve after taking out the bad.

I am asking that my friends, family, loved ones, friends from afar, friends that pray, everyone that may read this and my/our story over the last couple of years, that you pray with us, pray that this surgery will be the beginning of a new chapter for us. I still completely believe that the best is yet to come for us. Pray with us for health. Pray with us that everything will go great, and that someday we will be able to naturally have healthy pregnancies and babies, but most importantly— pray with us that God’s will and timing will take place.

There are still unanswered questions. I still have no idea why my DHEAS hormone level is so, so elevated. It is still something my endocrinologist is trying to get to the bottom of with me. I have no idea what route we will take after my surgery. We can either try very hard to get pregnant immediately, we can try birth control again to “perhaps normalize some of my hormones and to maintain my body from the re-growth of endometriosis,” or we can try a medication that in a sense will “induce menopause within my body” for six miserable months (after the two years I’ve just had, do you honestly think I want to sign up for a miserable six months? Are you insane???), that will get rid of any of the remaining endometriosis that my surgeon cannot see when he is inside my body getting rid of the endometriosis he can see… which will increase fertility perhaps in the long run, but I am opposed to any medications at this point, and menopausal symptoms? No thank you… so… those are our options. Pray we make the right decision please! And pray with me that my adrenals start kicking back in and controlling my hormones better already, so I can learn how to handle stress again, by golly… and perhaps even feel human again!!! That would be a bonus.

I love you all, who have taken the time to read this novel, and pray with me, and walk alongside us as we have some big things coming our way, and want to make the right decisions, and the decisions that are going to help me feel better long-term, and make babies naturally. Amen.

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Recipe’s My Husband and I are fans of.

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I’ve accumulated a lot of recipe’s over the past year, which also happens to be our first year of marriage! We just recently celebrated our One Year Anniversary, which is super fun. I’ve tried a lot of recipe’s, I’ve been trying to learn how to be creative in the kitchen! It’s definitely all still very new for me. But it has been fun trying new things out (let’s face it, trying anything out is new for me ;).

For the most part, my husband is really honest with me. I believe him when he says he likes what I cook for him, because there have been a few times when he has said the dreaded “That wasn’t my favorite babe…” God bless him for saying it in the sweetest way he can muster up, and also praise Jesus that he is honest with me, and doesn’t always just tell me what I want to hear. It is always just a little hard for a new wife to hear her husband say he wasn’t one hundred percent satisfied with her cooking skills. Luckily for me, I haven’t heard those dreaded words but rarely over the past year.

I’ve decided to compile together some of our favorite recipe’s over the last year, so try them out if you’d like, and ENJOY!

You may notice that I like soup, a lot. Any kind of soup, a lot.

Oh, and one more thing that you will figure out very, very quickly. My favorite appliance in our home is my crockpot. I love it with all of my heart. Some people may call crockpot cooking lazy cooking, but I personally call it efficient cooking. I love to throw all of my ingredients in a crockpot, then go to work, or run all of my errands, and then come back home to a wonderful smell in our home, with little effort. Now that’s efficient, and it almost ALWAYS tastes just as incredible as it smells. Here you have it:

 

Crockpot Lasagna:

(Prep Time: 20 min. Cook Time: 4 hours 15 min.)

Ingredients:

*1 lb. ground beef

*1 onion (chopped)

*1 can sliced mushrooms (or sliced fresh mushrooms)

*1 can black olives (sliced, or green olives, I personally like green olives better)

*1 can tomato sauce (29 oz.)

*1 can tomato paste (6 oz.)

*2 t. minced garlic

*2 t. salt

*1 t. dried oregano

*1/2 t. basil

*1 package of lasagna noodles (about 12 oz)

*12 oz. cottage cheese

*1/2 cup parmesan cheese (grated)

*18 oz mozzarella cheese (shredded)

Directions:

1. In a large skillet, cook the ground beef, onion, and garlic (over medium heart, until browned). Add the tomato sauce, tomato paste, salt, basil, oregano, mushrooms (brown the mushrooms at the beginning with the beef if using fresh mushrooms), and olives, and stir until mixed well. Cook until heated well.

2. In a very large bowl, mix together the cottage cheese, parmesan cheese, and mozzarella cheese, until mixed well.

3. In the crockpot, spoon a layer of the meat mixture onto the bottom. Add two layers of uncooked lasagna noodles (break if need to, to fit in crockpot). Top the noodles with a layer of the cheese mixture. Repeat these steps, layering the meat sauce, then the two layers of noodles, then the cheese, until the ingredients are all used up. Make the top layer the cheese mixture.

4. Cover your crockpot, set to low, and cook for 4-6 hours. Then,enjoy!Yummy with french bread and caesar salad.

photo 4  (Pictured is some of my Crockpot Lasagna & some of my Crockpot Spinach Dip)

 

Crockpot Spinach & Artichoke Dip:

(Prep Time: 10 min. Cook Time: 2 hrs 15 min.)

Ingredients:

*1 package of frozen spinach, thawed out (12 oz)

*2 cans artichoke hearts, drained & chopped (12-14 oz)

*2 cloves garlic, crushed

*1 onion, diced

*8 oz sour cream

*1 cup parmesan cheese, grated

*3/4 cup milk (I used 2%)

*1/3 cup mayonnaise

*1/2 cup feta cheese, crumbled

*1/4 t black pepper

*1/4 t salt

*1/4 t garlic powder

*1 T vinegar of choice (red wine vinegar, white wine vinegar, or my favorite, balsamic vinegar!)

*8 oz cream cheese, still cold, cut into cubes

Directions:

1. In the crockpot, place the spinach, artichoke hearts, garlic, onion, sour cream, parmesan cheese, milk, feta cheese, mayo, vinegar and spices. Stir all ingredients until mixed well. Top it off with the cubed cream cheese.

2. Cover crockpot and cook on low for 2-3 hours.

3. Before serving, stir until the cream cheese is well mixed into the dip, and then cover and cook on high for 15 more minutes.

4. Enjoy! I like to dip cut up french bread into the dip, it’s AMAZING.

Gluten & Dairy Free Lentil Soup:

I have a good friend who cannot eat gluten or dairy. I don’t know how she does it. But, this may just be the best gluten/dairy free meal I ever make! This recipe is also free of soy, eggs, and corn.

(Prep time: 10 min. Cook time: 45-60 min.)

Ingredients:

*2 T olive oil

*3-4 large carrots, peeled and sliced

*6 stalks celery, sliced

*2 cups onion, diced

*4-5 sweet peppers, chopped

*4-5 cups vegetable broth (unless you want it to be vegan, you could use chicken broth instead)

*3 cups water

*2 t basil

*1 t marjoram

*3/4 t coriander

*1/2 t salt

*1/2 t black pepper

*2 T parsley

*4 cups kale, chopped well

*1 can tomatoes (28 oz)

*1/2 cup red wine

*2 cups dried lentils

Directions:

1. In a large stock pot, heat the olive oil (low heat). When hot, add the carrots, celery, onions, sweet peppers, basil, marjoram, and coriander. Cook for 5-7 minutes.

2. Add the broth, the water, the lentils, and the liquid from the canned tomatoes. Crush the tomatoes, and then add them to the mixture. Bring the soup to a boil. Reduce the heat and let the soup simmer. Add your salt and pepper, maybe some garlic powder too, continue simmering the soup. Stir occasionally. Let simmer for about 40 minutes.

3. Add the wine, the parsley, and the kale. Continue to let simmer for just a few more minutes.

4. Serve and enjoy. Yummy with crackers or bread.

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Grilled Sausage & Veggie Pizza:

(Cook Time: 20-25 min.)

Ingredients:

*2 t olive oil

*1 lb. pizza dough (thawed)

*Flour, for the dough

*8 oz. Italian sausage, sliced

*4 oz. mozzarella cheese, grated

*1 red pepper, sliced

*1 orange pepper, sliced

*1/2 onion, sliced (red or yellow)

*2 cups fresh mushrooms, chopped

*1 package sliced salami

*Pizza sauce

*Parmesan cheese, grated

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 425. Dust flour onto a baking sheet. Also dust some flour onto an area of your countertop. Shape the pizza dough on counter, then stretch onto baking sheet. Spread 1 t. of olive oil over the top of the dough. Cook in oven for 4-5 minutes. Remove dough from oven.

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2. In a large skillet, place 1 t. olive oil, the peppers, onions, mushrooms, and sausage, and cook on medium-high heat for 3 min. Flip the peppers and sausages over, and cook 2-3 minutes longer.

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3. Spread the pizza sauce over the dough, spread half of the cheese over the top, place the salami on next, then spread the sausage and veggies over the top. Lastly, top the pizza with the rest of the grated cheese.

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4. Place pizza in oven and bake for 20 minutes. Cut pizza into squares and enjoy! Great with iced tea.

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Grilled Salmon with Radishes & Mushrooms: I LOVE SALMON!

(Cook Time: 25 min.)

Ingredients:

*1 1/2 lb. skinless salmon filet

*a small bunch of radishes, sliced

*a small bunch of fresh mushrooms, sliced

*2 T lemon juice

*4 t Dijon mustard

*1 T honey mustard

*3 T olive oil

*Salt and pepper to taste

*Fresh dill

*2 t Worcestershire sauce

*1 T balsamic vinegar

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Directions:

1. Heat stove to medium-high heat. Whisk together the lemon juice, mustards, the Worcestershire sauce, oil, vinegar, the salt and pepper. Add the radishes and mushrooms and mix together.

2. Season the salmon filet with salt and pepper, to taste, and also some garlic powder would be good. Top with fresh dill. Cook in a large skillet for 4 minutes on each side.

3. Lower the heat on the stove, then once cooled off, pour the radish and mushroom mixture over the salmon. Let it cook until hot. Remove from heat. Serve with salad and french bread.

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Thai Beef with Broccoli & Salad:

(Total time: 25 min.)

Ingredients:

*1 package flank steak (about 1 lb)

*1 head of fresh broccoli

*1 T olive oil

*1 T soy sauce

*1 T Worcestershire sauce

*3 T lime juice

*1 T balsamic vinegar

*1 small carrot

*1/2 t sugar

*1/2 of a head of green cabbage, sliced

*2 cups bean sprouts

*3 cups mixed greens

*1 cup fresh cilantro

*Toasted sesame seeds

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Directions:

1. In a large bowl, whisk together the oil, balsamic vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, soy sauce, and sugar.

2. In a large skillet, add some oil, and cook the sliced steak until brown, add the broccoli. Add spices to taste.

3. Peel strips of carrot into the dressing mixture. Add the bean sprouts and cabbage, and mix well together. Gently toss with the greens, cilantro.

4. Add to steak, or serve side by side on a plate. Also pairs well with baked sliced potatoes (I added a package of onion soup/dip powdered mix to the potatoes before I baked them in the oven, very yummy).

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Crockpot Applesauce (couldn’t get any easier than this! Perfect for fall 🙂 Make in a large crockpot):

Ingredients:

*20 apples (I used Macintosh), peeled, cored & sliced

*1/2 cup water

*1/2 cup apple cider

*1 T cinnamon

*1/2 cup brown sugar

*pinch of cloves

*pinch of ginger

*pinch of nutmeg

Directions:

1. Put all the ingredients into the crockpot.

2. Cover and cook on low for 8 hours (or high for 3-4 hours).

3. Mash the apples.

4. Store in the fridge.

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Crockpot BBQ Chicken:

(Prep Time: 10 min. Cook Time: 4 hrs.)

Ingredients:

*3 frozen boneless chicken breasts

*1 12 oz. bottle BBQ sauce of choice

*1/2 cup Italian salad dressing

*4 T Worcestershire sauce

*1/4 cup brown sugar

Directions:

1. Place the frozen chicken in the bottom of the crockpot.

2. Mix the BBQ sauce, Italian dressing, Worcestershire sauce and brown sugar in a bowl. Pour it over the chicken.

3. Cover, and cook 4 hours on high, or 8 hours on low.

4. Shred the chicken and serve on a bun with whatever toppings you choose. Enjoy.

 

Crockpot Corn Chowder (with potatoes):

(Prep Time: 10 min. Cook Time: 8 hours)

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Ingredients:

*24 oz. red potatoes, chopped

*16 oz. bag of frozen corn

*6 cups chicken stock

*3 T. flour

*1 t. dried oregano

*1 t. thyme

*1 t. basil

*1 t. parsley

*1/2 t. garlic powder

*1/2 t. onion powder

*pinch of cumin

*pinch of salt

*pinch of pepper

*1/2 cup heavy cream

*2 T butter

Directions:

1. Place the potatoes in the bottom of the crockpot. Place the corn over the top.

2. Stir in the flour and blend well. Stir in chicken stock and all of the spices.

3. Cover and let cook on low for 8 hours (or high for four hours).

4. Stir in the butter and the heavy cream and serve immediately. I like to eat mine with crackers.

 

Ravioli with Roasted Zucchini and Corn:

(Time: 30 min.)

*1 pound cheese ravioli’s

*4 zucchini’s, sliced

*1 cup corn kernels (fresh or frozen)

*3 T. olive oil

*3 cloves minced garlic

*1 lemon

*Parmesan cheese, grated

*4 t. basil

*1 t. parsley

*1. t. onion powder

*pinch of salt and pepper

Directions:

1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil.

2. Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

3. Peel the outside of the lemon, and chop about 4 strips of lemon zest into tiny pieces.

4. Mix together the olive oil, sliced zucchini, garlic, spices, 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, and the lemon zest (and add the corn now, if it is frozen). Place the mixture onto a baking pan, and cook for 15 minutes (if using fresh corn instead of frozen corn, add it to the mixture and cook 3-5 minutes longer).

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5. Add the frozen ravioli’s to the bowling water on the stove top, and cook according to the ravioli package.

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6. Once the ravioli is cooked and drained, serve it on the plate, and add the zucchini/corn to the top. Add as much Parmesan cheese as you like to the top and enjoy! (I like to add marinara sauce to mine also)

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Italian Sausage Soup (the BEST soup!):

(Prep Time: 10 min. Cook Time: 30 min.)

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Ingredients:

*1 pound italian sausage, sliced

*1 onion, chopped

*2 cloves minced garlic

*1 t. olive oil

*2 cans of chicken broth

*2 cups water

*1 can stewed tomatoes, do not drain

*1 can rinsed cannelloni beans

*2 cups of uncooked pasta (I’ve used shells, I’ve used rotini pasta, your choice)

*2 cups fresh spinach leaves (I used baby spinach)

*1/2 t. garlic powder

*1 t. parsley

*pinch of salt and pepper

*Shredded mozzarella cheese

Directions:

1. Fry the sausage, with the onion and garlic, over the olive oil. Cook for 10 minutes until starting to brown.

2. Add the chicken broth, the water, the tomatoes, the beans and the spices. Bring to a boil.

3. Add the uncooked pasta and cook for 8-10 minutes.

4. Remove the soup from the heat, and add the spinach. Cover and let stand for about five minutes.

5. Serve, top with cheese, and enjoy. I also really like to add crackers to mine.

 

 

So there you have it, some of our favorite recipe’s! I have a few more that are pretty killer. I have a homemade fried chicken recipe that I absolutely love. I also have a buffalo chicken balls recipe, and an incredible meat balls recipe, used them both for the Super Bowl last year! I’ll include them in my next recipe post. For now, enjoy all of these tasty meals 😉

Suffering is Normal? Love and Marriage (and Relationships)

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I cannot even believe I haven’t blogged in over a year, when this has in fact, no doubt, been the craziest, busiest, and most truly chaotic time in my life- both physically, mentally and emotionally.

No wonder I have those days where I wonder if I even have a brain anymore to decipher between what I’m feeling, what I’m doing, etc. I haven’t written down my thoughts and such in well over a year! So- warning: this may be a lot to handle all at once, because it has been on my heart and my mind for awhile now, and I am finally making time to write it out in a somewhat constructive and organized matter, but, I am still a woman 😉

To catch anyone and everyone up, my last blog was about my most amazing proposal story, which I’d totally recommend for anyone to read, it is positively the most precious thing in the world. And I have since then endured a long distance relationship with my fiance for more of our engagement than not, planned my entire wedding (a very large wedding) mostly by myself,  using only my brain power (which was completely worth it in the end, as everything turned out just magically- but, it is safe to say that my brain hasn’t exactly been the same since), GOT MARRIED, gone on my honeymoon, and came back to take on the lovely lifestyle of marriage, which I can say most ecstatically, is AWESOME!

I have already learned a lifetime of knowledge about myself (may be slightly dramatic, but also pretty true), and we haven’t even been married for two months yet. I have a lifetime still ahead of me to learn even more. You will learn quite quickly within a marriage relationship just how selfish you have been all of the years prior (unless you are just wonderful, and have never been selfish… good for you). I mean, I’ve always thought, in the grand scheme of things, I was a pretty good person that had a lot to offer to another. And, I still believe this. But, I am also a pretty messed up woman who is too selfish for her own good. Marriage is amazing already, and I am beyond words thankful (“it is not happy people who are thankful, it is thankful people who are happy”) for it everyday, and the absolute blessing of being married to the man of my dreams, my very closest and best friend, the most gracious and wonderful human being around. It is true, not just some mooshy gooshy nonsense, that I fall more and more in love with him everyday. He’s pretty great, to say the least. 

Well, I didn’t know it was possible, but as we spend more time together, pray together, grow together, cry together, have moments of realization as the other speaks, have moments of life and reality checks, have arguments and then make solutions and resolutions, as a team, together- I find myself loving him more and more through those very hard and critical moments. I mean, yes, I am still a woman. And he is still a man. We are NOTHING alike. We process just about EVERYTHING differently, we’re as different as they come from one another. So yes, in critical moments, where we are sharing with each other, each putting in our two cents, he is sharing where he is coming from, and I am sharing where I am coming from (which is obviously entirely different than him), sometimes I find myself very uncomfortable, perhaps even letting my emotions take complete control over my body, allowing me to break down and feel less than (in other words, being a total girl about it)- but as that moment passes (which sometimes it passes very quickly, and we’re all over each other again just as we were prior to that moment- other times, not as quickly, not because I am putting up my guard and pushing myself away, even though it could most definitely appear that way, but because I do in fact, take everything to heart, and DO want to be better at the end of the day than I was a the beginning of the day- this means SO much to me).

Having a reality check, through a critical conversation, yeah it sucks in the moment. But the next day, as everything pieces together and I am able to process everything aside from the purely emotional standpoint I had in the moment, I am beyond thankful and grateful to have had those critical conversations. I am growing and learning how to better communicate through those times. They are not glamorous moments, I may cry a lot in those moments and let myself ask myself “why am I so darn messed up? Why can I not communicate in the right tone? Why am I such a girl?” But, suffering through these moments is what truly helps me learn, grow, and try harder and harder.

I have not been perfect at relationships. I have been far from perfect in the area of communication. Everyone has their strengths, and everyone has their own weaknesses. My weakness has always been communication. This was something that terrified me about entering into marriage. It wasn’t a foreign thing for me, I’ve known for a long time now that I grew up in a home where communication wasn’t always clear, in fact it wasn’t clear very often at all. I carried this trait with me into adulthood, whether I liked it or not (which I obviously did not). I’ve always been comforted by the fact that at least I know this about myself and am not denying it, but have still suffered a lot through this weakness. I have had some absolutely incredible relationships with people in my life, where we have remained friends through thick and thin, we have remained friends through times of being together, and times of being long distance. I have always loved the quote that “true friendship isn’t about being inseparable, it’s being separated and nothing changes.” I have a hand full of friends actually that live very far from me, which for someone that isn’t the best at communicating, this can be a nightmare for the relationship. I have also learned over time, that every single person is made differently. We are all made up of different personalities, of different backgrounds, and as I’ve said, of different strengths and weaknesses. I truly believe that each of our personalities determine our natural tendencies and reactions, but at the end of the day, it is the choices that we make that determine our actions. For me, sometimes I make great choices, and sometimes I make choices that I immediately regret (I’m definitely still learning). Some of my relationships with others have withstood time, even through weaknesses, through a lot of grace, a lot of forgiveness, a benefit of the doubt, through obviously prayer as well (prayer is vital people). And other relationships I’ve also lost along the way, for the lack of these things, both on my end and on others’ ends.

Needless to say, marriage is forever (at least that was the way it was designed to be- forever, now that’s a long time. But, I believe life definitely begins at the end of your comfort zone, right?!). What terrified me the most about marriage was the fear of letting my partner down, in one way or another. During my engagement, I found myself asking myself “What if I’m not a good wife? What if I cannot please my husband (not just in that way 😉 but in everything)? Is there only so much grace for one another? What if I mess up A LOT in marriage?” If there is one thing I have learned through the last couple of months, even more so through jotting this down, it is that you only get good, or better, by making mistakes. In my book, mistakes are proof that one is trying. And the only expectation we should have for one another is that expectation to keep trying. That is all we can ultimately do. Because, mistakes are going to keep happening. We have to be okay with that within our relationships with others. Suffering for one another, in relationships, is normal. We can see that and also attest to it through the Bible, Jesus suffered A LOT, to be in relationship with those around him, to continue to be in relationship with us today. Relationships are hard, they require a lot of sacrifice, a lot of pain. It is not always pretty, not always daisies and rose petals, but we are better together. I love the quote, by I don’t know who… that says “Truth is, everybody’s going to hurt you, you just have to find the ones worth suffering for.”

The things you say about others say a lot about you. If I do nothing else right, I ALWAYS try to be mindful about what I am saying to others, about others. I may not have the exact right words to say to you in the moment, but I will never talk poorly about you behind your back. I have never been into gossip, into drama. In fact, if I am faced with such a thing, I tend to turn around and run as fast as I possibly can in the other direction. Even if I don’t agree with what someone in my life has said to me, or what they have done to me, I bite my tongue to prevent myself from blurting my feelings I may have against the person, because my desire is only to be uplifting others. This is a good practice, but can also hurt me if I keep it all just bottled up. I do not ever want to be known as the girl who was talking bad about another girl, or who was talking negatively about her husband. Even if I don’t feel it, my goal would be to only exemplify joy in my life (to my coworkers, to my patients, to my friends, ect.)- even if I am suffering. “Joy is not a matter of what’s happening around you, but inside you.” – Steve Miller. Sometimes it requires a lot of prayer and thinking positively, even if you do not want to. I have learned that once I have a heart change about a situation, or about a person, I find peace and am able to move on from the situation, even if it is still chaotic around me. There is a quote that I stumbled upon as I was checking my social media for updates (yes, I like quotes), and it definitely hit home for me and the things I have been going through in my heart lately as I have been dissecting relationships. It said,

“The truth is that the more intimately you know someone, the more clearly you’ll see their flaws. That’s just the way it is. This is why marriages fail, why children are abandoned, why friendships don’t last. You might think you love someone until you see the way they act when they’re out of money or under pressure or hungry, for goodness’ sake. Love is something different. Love is choosing to serve someone and be with someone in spite of their filthy heart. Love is patient and kind, love is deliberate. Love is hard. Love is pain and sacrifice, it’s seeing the darkness in another person and defying the impulse to jump ship.”

I especially love the line that says “Love is CHOOSING to SERVE someone and be with someone in spite of their filthy heart.” Let’s be honest, we can all have filthy heart’s at one time or another. So then, when others in our lives are having those same hearts, we should be loving and embracing them all the more, just as we all wish they would do for us. Love IS hard. Love IS pain and sacrifice. Love IS suffering. One of the most dear to my heart truth’s I have learned so far through my marriage, is that true love is putting one another before yourself. Yes, that is hard. But, we were designed with the desire to be empowered by one another. We were also designed to work together to meet one another’s needs- AND to ADJUST as needed- it doesn’t “just happen.” Love HAS to be intentional, bottom line. I’ve learned this through successes, and also through a lot of failures. And that’s okay. I have hope that I am getting better and that I will continue to grow and be better, as I continue to try each day.

Lance Armstrong says, “What other choice is there but to have hope.” Sure, if I had it all together, if I was the person that maybe other’s “expected” me to be for them, then maybe I’d be this inspirational person that everyone looked up to (I mean, isn’t that what we all want to be?) Of course I want to inspire people by my lifestyle, by being a Proverbs 31 wife for my husband. Of course I want other’s to look me in the face and say, “because of you I’m a better person… because of you I didn’t give up…” etc. Sadly, I have wasted a lot of time focusing on who I “wish I was,” which really is, in fact, time wasted. We are who we are, and that’s just that. We’re going to be who we’re going to be. It’s time for me to embrace me, and for you to embrace you. We can grow and be better at things that we may not be great at now, but wasting time is never something we’ll look back on and be glad that we did. I CANNOT (and you cannot) let my life be dictated by all of the expectations. It would become far too stressful and I would continually just let everyone down, and then in turn let myself down tremendously. I can try to be better, and try to be good, but that is all I can do. You only need a heart full of grace to serve others, and a soul that operates by love. Grace is hard. I have been hurt by others’ actions. But, I want to give grace, because I would not in a million years want those that I love dearly to run out of grace, and then love, for me. Suffering for the sake of others, for the sake of relationships, for the sake of our relationship with Christ, I have learned, it is normal.

The best night of my life thus far.

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I’M ENGAGED to my best friend and the love of my life!!!

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A lot of people keep asking how it happened, and as much as I love telling the story over and over and over again (really, I do 😉 ), I thought I’d post about it so I can always remember every little detail that went into making this the most memorable night for me… I’M ENGAGED!!!! AHHHHH, I have been waiting for this moment since I was about, well, six years old 😉 or at least I’ve been dreaming about it since then. Yes I am all girl for real.

So, Jacob came up to visit Washington a couple weeks ago. He’s been living in Texas all summer and I haven’t seen him since my graduation, so you can imagine my excitement level to seem him after months and months. I had also kind of built up this large desire to finally move to the next step in our relationship, wishing and hoping he’d finally put a ring on it. I mean we had dated almost all the way through high school, we went our separate ways when college came, but managed to get back together (and I managed to convince him to move down to Texas 😉 ) in the middle of college. I was finally done with college, and he has one more year. I totally was thinking he was finally gonna put a ring on it after all this time.

So every time we hung out these past two weeks, in my girl-ish, silly mind- I was trying to turn every situation into an engagement. It was ridiculous, but let’s face it, I had marriage fever or something like it. I have been hinting for a lot of months now how making a commitment and moving forward in our relationship would make me very excited and happy- but let’s face it, Jacob is one of the most least likely guys to ever get tied down 😉

It was the last day before Jacob would be flying back down to Texas and I wouldn’t see him again for at least another few months, and at this point I had made myself stop thinking about it. I knew it wasn’t going to happen, and it was sad. I was sad knowing Jacob was leaving again, and even more sad that I still wasn’t engaged. I thought… “what’s a girl gotta do these days?” 🙂

Anyways, I had to work all day the day before Jacob was leaving town, but he said he wanted to take me on a date one more time so we had planned to go on a nice date after I got off work Tuesday night. I texted him as soon as I was off and he asked me to meet him downtown at Shenenigan’s for dinner. At that point I had lost all hope in getting engaged (I KNOW, I’m such a girl.). I was thinking as I was driving “Come on! He can’t even come pick me up from my house for our “hot date”? I have to meet him down there and try and find a restaurant that I don’t even know where it is?” Haha I made myself stop thinking about how I wanted to get engaged before he left, and I was determined for him to not have any idea that I was bummed about it. And then- on my way to the resaurant I got pulled over by a jerk of a cop. I was practically in tears but was trying to hold it together for our date.

I finally found and got to the restaurant. Jacob was siting outside, the restaurant was really nice and we had a great view outside of the river. And Jacob was dressed up really nice- oh how great it all seemed for a proposal, but I made myself forget about it. We ate dinner, it was very good. We were having fun. I mentioned during dinner how I was kind of sad that we hadn’t taken any pictures at all the whole time Jacob was up visiting- and he non-chalently said we could go take pictures by the river after dinner. We left right after the sun had set and were just walking and talking along the Centennial trail right along the river. It was great and I was trying not to be sad knowing this was going to be our last date for awhile again.

I started having hope again that maybe something was up when we randomly ran into Jacob’s brother Jordan, Jordan’s girlfriend Tay, and Jacob’s best friend Spencer. But, they were acting so normal that I figured nothing was up and it was totally just coincidence that we ran into them- because I know for sure that when Jacob is trying to hide something he gets all nervous and awkward 😉 they played it off smoothly. We were talking to them for a little while, and they all said they were actually getting ready to head out and go to their car- so Jacob said “Oh, we’ll walk you to your car.” At this point I was like “Yep, nothing is definitely up- get over it Whitney!!!!”

We were walking in the park, just talking and stuff and I was trying so hard to just be happy and have a good time- and not think about wanting to get engaged at all. All of the sudden everything turned into a complete daze or dream, seriously in an instant my life was turned completely upside down. I will never forget all the emotions and feelings that came over me as we walked up to the beautiful wooden bridge in Riverfront Park that goes over the Spokane River and is all lit up. I was in the middle of saying something to Jacob, Jordan, Tay and Spencer when everything just went completely quiet and blurry- the only thing that was clear was the big banner I saw straight ahead on the bridge. My best friends Katy and Tricia were on the lit up bridge, holding a huge banner that said in big letters “Whitney, Will You Marry Me?” And my mom, Jacob’s mom and Jacob’s sister Jaalah were standing on the bridge too- all with big and bright faces. All I remember when I saw it all is dropping everything in my arms (I was carring my purse and a big boquet of flowers) and practically collapsing on the ground bauling my eyes out and pretty much hypervenalating (Jacob’s mom keeps telling me I was bent over practically heeving and Jacob told me after the fact that he has never seen my cry that hard ever, and I’ve cried a lot in my day…). I seriously would’ve controlled it if I could, and was actually kind of embarrassed how badly I was crying, but I cannot even begin to express or explain the happyness I was feeling in that moment. I had been waiting for that moment for such a long time, and it was finally here. I was freaking out, I was shaking, I couldn’t control myself, I was laugh-crying A LOT. I felt like I stood there and was just staring at that sign for minutes without anybody saying anything. I was a mess.

I finally kind of contained myself a wee bit and turned to look back at Jacob- and at that point he was already on his knee. I lost it again, I couldn’t have possibly been any more excited or happy. He said some sweet things to me before he asked me to be his wife and marry him, but those words are honestly kind of a blur. It wasn’t like I wasn’t listening to him, I just was so happy, excited, everything, that I could hardly keep myself still or contained. He expressed to me that he couldn’t possibly imagine doing life without me though, that he couldn’t imagine life without me and wanted to spend the rest of his life with me- how exciting is that??? 🙂 He asked me to marry him right after that, and of course I said YES! I think I had a hard time getting it out because I was still a big ball of mess- but it happened! And it is the most exciting thing- it couldn’t have been more perfect.

I’m pretty proud to say I must have somehow over the years somewhat tamed Jacob Von Kuhn. He made a commitment to marry me and to spend the rest of his life with me, and I could not possibly be more ecstatic! I no longer have to say “if” I marry Jacob when talking to others about the future, I can proudly say “when” I marry Jacob!!!! It’s the greatest feeling and I cannot wait!

I have to be honest that he didn’t quite plan it all out until very last minute- he admitted to it- he called all of our closest friends and family the day of to invite them to join us (which it meant the world to me to have them there to share that moment with us- even Spencer and my mom both raced down to the park from work and were still in their work uniforms) and he bought the ring last minute- but he had said he had wanted to make it happen while he was home on break but just couldn’t find the time. He made it happen right before he left though, and it honestly all went perfectly. And I don’t expect anything different of Jacob- he’s not a planner, he just goes for it in the moment! And I’m so happy that he did. Seeing the excitement all over his face after it happened made me even happier (as if it was even possible at that point). I totally knew he didn’t regret his decision, it was FINALLY the right timing for us and that we were both completely ready to do this thang together 😉

It was perfect, having really close friends and family there was perfect, the feeling of being Jacob Von Kuhn’s fiance’ is perfect 🙂 I’m going to stop being mooshy about it now but we all know this moment has been long waited for- but was totally worth the wait!

I love Jacob’s little addition to that night and “the story” when he talks about it with others though- when we were driving back from downtown after it all happened we were talking about it and saying our sides of the story, and we both looked out the window at the same time and saw a HUGE shooting star. Now I know it’s just a shooting star, those happen all the time blah blah blah- BUT it was just the cherry on top of our special night. So fun! And my ring is seriously perfect for me. I honestly didn’t even really get a good look at it until minutes after he opened the box and put it on my finger. I was just so excited and freaking out so much that I could hardly function- and I guess I just could hardly care what my ring looked like, because all I was thinking was “I’M FREAKING ENGAGED! I’M GETTNG MARRIED! EEEEEEK!” But seriuosly, my ring is one of a kind, everyone (well all girls everyone 😉 ) keeps saying it is so gorgeous and unique. I never imagined what my perfect engagement or ring would look like- but Jacob went up in beyond with both. Absolutely everything was perfect.

Everyone is so excited, we cannot even begin to grasp all the love and support we are receiving from all the people we love and love us- engagement is an absolute BLAST so far- I could definitely do this forever. Thank you to everyone who loves us and is so excited for us, WE LOVE YOU ALL SO VERY MUCH! I hope I didn’t leave anything out. Was trying to capture all the details so I can continue to remember this day- total landmark moment in my life, especially considering I’m a girl and a really girly girl at that- I just keep thinking “Finally, my day has come!!! I can finally plan MY wedding, I can actually think about it and I actually have to start sitting down and really planning out the details- it is the most exciting thing on planet earth 😉 ”

I know most likely only girls will appreciate this, but that’s okay. 😉 We’re so blessed and so happy and are so excited to embark on the beginning stages of this journey together- with all of our loved ones too of course!

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This picture was after his “actual” proposal- naturally I’m still crying my eyes out!

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Re-staged a bit 😉

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Everyone, minus Tay, that shared in the special night with us!

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Couldn’t be happier :DDD

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Meant so much to have my mom there!

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My best friend Katy and I 🙂

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My best friend Tricia and I 🙂

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My bling 😉 my perfect and beautiful ring- I’m the luckiest girl alive! So blessed! Love him so very much!

The trip of a lifetime. Processing the journey.

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Colossians 3:23 (NIV) “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord…”

I went into my trip knowing I was not by any means doing it for myself. I wanted to glorify God by doing what I could to help others. I went into my trip fully for the cause. I even admitted to my team pretty much right off that I didn’t enjoy biking very much. I also went into my trip with the intention of making it through Day 1 of biking- and hopefully half of Day 2. But, I was sure that by that point I would have to stop for awhile. I didn’t think I was fully physically or mentally prepared for what I was getting myself into. It is absolutely incredible and insane how drastically your abilities and capabilities can change, and your mindset can change in such a short amount of time.

I went into my trip praying for my team, praying for the people in Africa that we were raising awareness and support for, I also asked for direction for my life personally if God was so willing to show me…

I fell in love with my team right off when I met them our first day on the tour. We spent a few days before we started biking just getting to know one another, in fellowship with a church that hosted us for the first weekend, and learning as much as we could about each other in a very short amount of time. I think 10 people was a perfect amount for our trip- and all the people along the journey that took us into their church’s and family’s, and made us meals and shared and talked with us- God’s love shined through all of these people over and over again. The community that was experienced in those 10 days was beyond expression amazing.

It is crazy to think about my emotions going into the tour, as opposed to my feelings and emotions leaving the tour. I was completely nervous. And it showed in every which way on our team training ride. We rode downtown Seattle to get used to riding with each other, and every little thing that could go wrong was going wrong. I knew how nervous I was, but I was letting my team know how nervous I was too. I did not want to be this way throughout the rest of the trip- I had to step it up, I had to trust God completely. I didn’t make the time I had wanted to to train as well as I would’ve liked, but bottom line, I was not doing this trip for myself, I was doing it for a greater cause, my heart needed to ring louder than my nerves, and now there was a new dynamic added into the mix- I had an incredible team of amazing people that I did not want to let down even a little. I wanted to work hard right beside them all, I wanted to work for the cause- with my team. I just had to do it, all nerves and lack of training aside.

The pastor at the church that was hosting us our first weekend on our tour, Josh Crandall said on Sunday morning that “we must make time to train to achieve something.” He also said “Everyone runs somewhere, but few people run some place with purpose and on purpose.” He went on to talk about how we are all charged with such great opportunity, it was time to carry the challenge and just go! It was a perfect message to carry and to meditate on as we headed out for five days of non-stop biking for 450 miles!

All I could think about after Day 1 was, “surely I can bike in any kind of weather after today…” It was freezing and raining. My mom took a pretty mean fall (okay really mean fall!), and I was alone for a leg in a downpour, hilly area… let’s just say it was a stretch for me, a big stretch- to keep going. It took a lot for me to go the full 80-ish miles. Physically it was rough, but mentally I had to coach myself through to keep going strong. I learned that I am completely motivated by my team. I needed my teammates to help me keep going. After lunch when I was back up with my team, I made sure from that point on that I would not be alone again. By the end of Day 1, one of my leaders was pushing me to go harder and harder to catch up with the front end of our team. In that moment I was thinking “Oh come on, why are you doing this to me? I would really enjoy if you didn’t push me…” but after I was really motivated and thankful for him helping me stretch my limits. My mind was blown by the encouragement and support that existed within our team, and I was so thankful. My motivation to do the entire tour was better than ever! And thank God that motivation came when it did… because our last hill before reaching our destination for Day 1 was INSANITY!!!! I have never been more happy to see a Walmart in my entire life than I was when I saw the parking lot, trucking up a very steep and long hill, and saw Mother Falcon (our Ride:Well van) on my right in the Walmart parking lot of Port Angeles, WA. The host families that took us in that night were AMAZING- and the feast they prepared for us was more exciting than Thanksgiving- it was perfect, God is so good.

Day 2 was just under 100 miles- I had only ever done 80 miles in a day up to this point, but I woke up ready to do the whole day! And Day 2 ended up being my favorite day, start to finish. I was with 3 other teammates pretty much the entire day, and my goal was to make sure to keep up with the person right in front of me, no matter what. Today marked my first century ride (well close enough!!!), but today also marked my starting to actually enjoy biking! My mind and body were trying to make up reasons right away to be a good excuse to sit in the van… but for whatever reason nothing seemed like good enough of a reason to leave my team. I knew I just had to push through it. Today I learned how much biking with a team really meant to me- I felt such unity, it was a challenge for me, but it made biking so much more fun! The day actually flew by… and the view- my goodness, by the last stretch of the day, we were literally riding along the coast! You’d look out to the right and see the beach and ocean, it was breathtaking. I felt so much more comfortable on the road today- really was feeling confident (not too confident of course though…) and getting stronger and stronger- both physically and mentally. And then the cherry on top of an incredible day was getting to stay in a very nice cabin with my team that night! It was literally on the beach of the ocean- it was seriously paradise- not to mention hot showers, fireplace, smores, comfy beds, complete awesomeness, and fellowship with my team is seriously priceless. Was very thankful for a teammate that night 🙂

Day 3 was a huge stretch for me. First of all, I’m pretty sure none of us wanted to get on the road and leave our paradise beachfront cabin. Day 3 definitely felt shorter, only ending up being about 75 miles. But, I may or may not have been scared for my life the first half of the day… I was not used to even riding on the side of a highway going into this trip, but I took it on (my mom and I only trained on trails… not roads). But today was the first day I have seen a logger truck, and we got our fair share of them throughout the entirety of the day! And lets just say they didn’t quite like to slow down for cyclists, or get over if they could- no I think they liked the thrill of seeing just how close they could pass by us without hitting us. It was quite a thrill- I completely had to trust God today. Like I said, it was a stretch, through all of the chaos that the road brought, to shut it all out and just trust that God was going to take care of everything- that God was going to make sure that every driver was aware enough to watch out for us as we were riding with them on the highway. The second half of the day was GREAT! As I was processing through my day and working through mental roadblocks, everything got easier! I decided to “man up.” At this point I still couldn’t believe I was actually doing this trip, but pushing through the pain and everything else brought so much accomplishment and reassurance! Once we arrived in Aberdeen, WA today, I had realized I had developed quite a sunburn, but I was just so thankful for the amazing weather we had been having on our trip! I also got the opportunity to speak to students at the youth group at River of Life Fellowship about what we were doing as a team, why I personally had joined, and I got to speak about the heart behind Venture Expeditions, the Ride:Well Tour, and Blood:Water Mission. It was so amazing, I continue to fall more and more in love with these organizations, with this cause. My heart for the people that we are helping that are across the world, is getting bigger and bigger. I could not possibly be more passionate about this cause!

Day 4 and I still could not believe I was still doing it!!! I was still cycling! To this point, there were many times I had wanted to sit out, to rest, and at this point, I was having some pretty good pain in my knee, but nothing seemed legitimate enough to sit out. This is hands down one of the hardest things I have ever done- but also one of the most rewarding! Finally landing in Oregon today was such a great feeling- today I realized over and over again how God-ordained our team, tour and opportunity was. It blows my mind how God put all ten of us together on this journey- we’re from all different places (well except for the three from Chicago!), all different walks of life, all different seasons- and yet we all get to experience this together- it’s incredible! At the end of this 75 mile day, I was actually getting feelings of sadness that our cycling as a team was almost over (going into the tour, I never thought I would ever have these feelings!). Me, and I know the rest of the team too, were so overwhelmed by the blessings of so many people, taking us in and hosting us throughout the entire trip, and feeding us amazing food!

Going into Day 5 I realized… man people can snore 😉 and my sunburn lines are as unattractive as ever! And I am growing fond of my leader Karl’s singing to us in the morning-times… it was the final day of cycling, which is sad because our time was FINALLY getting the hang of being ready on time 😉 today was another “almost” 100 mile day. My mom and I went into today wondering why the two “rookies” were put in sweep together! It was an adventure- BUT, changing my first flat tire, and ALL by myself, was a very “rugged” and “manly” moment for me. I finally felt like I had earned the status of being a true-blooded cyclist! And it felt grrrrrreat! Sure- it put my mom and I way behind the team, but hey… we changed a flat, we could take on the world now 🙂 Side note- my mom later found out after the tour that she had broken 4 ribs on Day 1 when she had wiped out majorly– but she finished out the trip strong, now that woman can take on the world ANY day!!! We made it to Portland today, the feeling of accomplishment was overwhelmingly awesome! And being cheered in by The Groves Church family was so amazing 🙂 they were amazing to us our entire stay in Portland- so very thankful for each and every one of them!

I learned that I had gained A LOT of confidence throughout the journey of this trip- it was insane, but so incredibly amazing at the exact same time! I would do it again in a heart beat- I was even talking about taking on a cross country tour- or running across Minnesota- I’m already ready for the next thing! It is so amazing to do something that challenges you so very much, that raises awareness, that raises support, that helps you benefit others across the world, but at the exact same time helps you find yourself and who you were made to be! The trip may have been full of chaos, with traffic- and crazy logger trucks, but yet at the same time there was such a peace, such a quietness, a sense of completeness. It was a ten day escape from the real world- doing something with purpose, on purpose!

Personally this trip has affected me so immensely. I am so overwhelmed that God has spoken to me in so many ways in this short, ten day trip. I have been so concerned about my future, about career plans, about starting something huge now that I am a college graduate- God has called me to love others. Simply- I am called to love Him with all my heart, and to love, serve and help others the best that I can. I may feel like what I am doing right now in this season of life is very small and insignificant. But, it’s not. There is no need to stress and fret about the future and what it holds. I will get wherever I need to be, whenever I need to be there- as I am trusting God with my life. There is so much comfort in knowing that what I am doing right now, though it seems so small and insignificant to me perhaps, truly isn’t. God is using me where I am at, and there is absolutely no need to worry about the future!

It undoubtedly affects a person to be on a journey. And what a journey we were/are on! This trip- even with it being so short- affected each and every one of us, though we were together throughout the entire journey, were all affected in different ways. It blows my mind! It is crazy how close you can feel to a group of people that you have only known for 10 days. I had the privilege to sit down and talk with one of my teammates and leaders for quite awhile one of the days, and I felt like in such a short time I knew her and respected her in such an intimate and awesome way. I made lifelong friends on this trip- this was not an expectation I had going into the tour, but such an amazing gift that I got to take away from it. And doing the entire thing with my mom there was such a blessing and treat. What a once in a lifetime opportunity that I did not take for granted for a moment, and I will never forget for the rest of my life. The community that was built within this trip makes me so very happy and blessed. I am so thankful for my team and family: my mom, for Margie, for Theresa, for Anne, for Angela, for Erika, for Karl, for Matt, for Robby- for all the churches, host families (way too many incredible people to name every single one of them!), for these organizations and communities- so thankful that we were able to help people in Marsabit, Kenya. This trip will always have a place in my story, in my journey.

At The Groves Church (amaaaaazing church plant with incredible community) our last Sunday of our trip, Paul Gibbs said to the congregation that “we are meant to be His witnesses- we must have the character to carry the gift.” This trip was such an incredible blessing. I am so thankful that we were able to be a part of what God is doing- as a team, we were able to be witnesses for Christ this week. That we could speak to so many about why we were doing what we were doing- that is was for a greater purpose, for something bigger than just riding bikes for a lot of miles… this week was such a blessing- no doubt God put us together for a reason, and used each and every one of us to speak to different situations and such that the rest of us were going through. I had the opportunity to talk to different teammates one on one- and was so blessed and encouraged in so many different ways. I was privileged to be the youngest on my team- there was so much wisdom spoke into my life this trip- and I will always be thankful and grateful for the things God spoke and did through this trip! God really did allow us, as a team, to discover our souls, as we benefitted the world at the same time. It was definitely very, very hard to say goodbye.

Ephesians 2:10 (NIV) “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”

Bike for Life- the process of training for my bike trip

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I have learned over and over again in the last month that it is not at all about me. I personally would not even still be doing this if I wasn’t prepping/training for the bike tour. This has honestly been one of, if not the hardest thing I have ever done. And not just physically…

Obviously it has physically had an impact on me. In my 22 years of life, I have never really been at a place where I have said “this is seriously as much as I can take…” A few months ago, training for my first half marathon was definitely a challenge for me. Trying to stay consistent was a challenge, but adding on more and more miles was also very hard for me. I definitely pushed my limits while training, but it was never more than I could handle. It never got too painful. The key was to stay consistent, to reach the next goal, and to force myself not to stop until I did reach my goal. Now that I have conquered my half marathon all I can think about is how I want to take on a full marathon.

I assumed if I loved running so much than surely biking would be a piece of cake for me. Not only is running bearable for me but is also completely enjoyable. I only assumed biking would be much easier than running. Lets just say I was completely mistaken in my assumption.

Running continues to get easier and easier for me as I fall more and more in love with it. Since I have laid off running some to train for the Pacific Northwest Ride:Well Tour, it has been so hard for me to get on the same level with biking. I have only been biking for almost a month and a half now, but it has seemed like one long month and a half. My first ride wasn’t too bad at all and I figured “it only gets easier from here on out, right?” No that most certainly is not right. I began to feel quickly as though my body was starting to fall apart over and over and over again, one piece at a time. I can tend to be a little overdramatic sometimes, but biking against a strong and cold wind, and a downpour of rain… will make you think of some choice “curse” words. Now of course I’d never verbally say them… but I may have honestly thought them at one point. Lets just say biking was getting somewhat painfully hard for me. I didn’t understand why. I was frankly getting quite discouraged. I remember thinking to myself a lot when I was biking… “I don’t ever remember feeling this much pain when I’ve ever ran… I really don’t know how much further I can go before I give up…” This led me to believe that I was not just being challenged physically in my new biking endeavor.

I quickly found myself realizing that I was mentally and emotionally being affected too. Why in the world was I letting one little sport affect me so much? I found myself getting discouraged early on in each of my bike rides. I was getting really hard on myself… and I wasn’t only discouraged, but I was bored. And it wasn’t the kind of bored where it just felt too easy (in fact, I have never once been out riding my road bike and thought “Wow, biking is so easy…”). I found myself bored because I simply was not “connecting with the bike.” I was sitting there, my feet pedaling away, but mentally I was thinking, “What am I doing? This isn’t even fun…”

My concern was that I had never felt this way while running. I could be out on a 12 mile run day and not feel bored the entire time. I was confused. I really and truly wanted to enjoy biking, I wanted to pick the bike up and just love it right away. But I just couldn’t.

When I initially signed up for the Ride:Well trip I didn’t for a second think about the fact that I’d actually need to go out and buy an expensive road bike, yet alone start riding and training on the thing. I fell in love with Venture Expeditions as soon as I heard about them and what they’re all about. All that they are and what they stand for- I have always been drawn to this community and have always had the heart and compassion to help out in any way I could. And getting signed up and accepted on the Ride:Well tour was completely a God thing and something I hardly even thought through before I just did it, and I didn’t doubt for one second when I signed up. Even fundraising was so easy for me. This completely built up my faith even more and confirmed to me over and over again how much I knew this trip was a good fit for me! I couldn’t possibly be more excited at this point. Normally raising a few thousand dollars in just a couple months would seem nearly impossible to someone like me… but the funds all came in exactly when I needed them to (and I am so thankful for each and every person in my life that helped in any way that they could!!!), and I was able to raise all of my funds in time!

Well- I finally did get the actual bike and I think it was actually when I physically saw my bike that I looked at it and thought “Oh yes, guess I better start actaully riding this thing now…” Up until this point all of my energy, motivation and time had been going towards preparing myself financially and also spiritually- asking God to use our team and to prepare us to have the tools we needed to reach out to others to raise awareness and support, asking God to help us to do whatever we had to do and prepare us to be able to do whatever we could to help those in Africa in desperate need- fundraising like I never knew I could to raise every last penny- to partner with Blood:Water Mission– I didn’t allow any time or energy to actually think about physically preparing and training for this trip. But, at the same time I didn’t really think there needed to be much room to worry about the physical aspect of the trip, because “surely biking is a piece of cake… I’m in pretty good shape, it’ll be totally easy.”

No, biking is hard for me. Maybe it’ll get easier someday, but for now that isn’t really the case. The first few miles were easy, then time passed, and more time passed, felt sore in some areas, made some modifications and adjustments to help with the discomfort, then more discomfort would develop in different other areas, and this process seemed to continue and to be consistent for me. At the end of my rides I was just flat out exhausted in every which way. I kept asking myself “What is wrong with me? Why am I having a poor attitude?” And not only was training exhausting, it was very time consuming. Hours and hours out of my day, just to bike. At this point, I had no idea what I had gotten myself into. Running never was a “waste of time” for me, I was so confused why biking was so much different for me.

I even remember praying to God to just help me to enjoy biking… I was afraid that if I let this whole “biking is hard and not as enjoyable as I want it to be” get to me, than my excitement for the upcoming trip would go away. And not only was my attitude about biking getting worse, but the pains that had developed in my body were getting worse too. I had gotten to the point of dreading my daily rides. This was not how it was supposed to be. Whether long or short rides, the only goal getting me through the miles was thinking about what I would eat and how much food I would get to eat once we made it to our next destination. Bottom line: I let myself believe I didn’t enjoy biking at all, and it made me start to question a little bit why I felt like I was supposed to go on the trip to begin with then…

It really just slapped me in the face one day while we were on a ride and I was sad because I was in pain… biking/riding is not at all why I am doing this trip. God was subtly reminding me of my heart back when I first signed up for the tour. I was beyond excited and ecstatic when I signed up and joined the Venture community.

All the pain, the “bored-ness,” the lack of enjoyment of the sport- whether or not I enjoyed biking, whether or not I was good at biking, whether or not I had as much fun biking as I do with running, whether or not training was hard as hard could possibly be for me, and whether or not I was in some pain- this trip is not about me. This trip is not about my comfort, about my wants or needs.

More often than not we do the things that we love and those things alone. As humans we find our “nitches” in life, our passions, the things that drive us, and we run after those things- we usually just stay away from the things that we’re naturally not as good at, the things that are perhaps very hard for us.

God is continually reminding me that biking for this Ride:Well Tour, for Blood:Water Mission, it’s not for me. I’m doing it for them. I’m doing this trip for a cause- to help others- to raise support that is needed to help those in desperate need. I’m pushing through for them. I’m training and preparing for them. Often times we like to do things for others, but it always works out wonderfully when we can do the things that we love while we are helping others. But sometimes sacrificing for the sake of helping others isn’t always in the areas that we necessarily would decide ourselves. Sometimes we just gotta do it for them, and not worry so much about us.

And the funny and ironic thing is- as I’m training, hurting and enduring for them, I’m most definitely growing myself as well. I’m pushing and stretching my limits- and my passion and compassion is growing steadily.

I’m learning about me through the sacrificing of me for the needs of others who are facing injustice. That’s why I ride.

And that’s what it’s all about- I totally believe it. And I believe that is part of the heartbeat of Venture Expeditions and their mission. I could not be more excited to head out tomorrow morning on my tour. I may not be the best biker, I may not enjoy biking as much as the next guy, but my heart is growing and growing as I think about them, I am not bored as I am thinking about them while I ride, and I’m actually starting to enjoy biking more and more now that I’m figuring it all out and seeing it in a different light. It’s pretty incredible- training alone for this trip is changing me, I cannot even imagine how incredible of an experience we will have as a team as we get out there and bike together for a cause!

What I’ve learned over the course of training for this trip- I “bike for life”- not mine, but theirs.

The Effects of Pornography and Sexual Addiction

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In my Human Sexuality class today, we watched a video about the effects of pornography. The video was moving and made me very sad and mad. People do not realize the effects of the porn industry, not just on adults, but on children too. Pornography starts a sexual addiction that was not there before, and it feeds one that is already there and makes it grow to even worse.

Statistics that are ever growing:

The total porn industry revenue for 2006 was $96 billion worldwide, $13.3 billion in the U.S. alone. And this number is ever increasing each year.

10% of adults admit to having a sexual addiction, 28% of those being women.

Over 70% of men between the ages of 18-34 visit a porn site in a typical month.

There is said to be over 20,000 images of child pornography posted online every single week.

About 20% of pornography on the Internet involves children.

Over 100,000 websites now offer illegal child pornography..

Also- 51% of pastors say that Internet porn is a possible temptation. And 37% say it is a current struggle.

57% of pastors say that addiction to porn is the most sexually damaging issue within their congregation as well.

47% of families say pornography is a problem within their home.

It was also said that the Internet was a significant factor in 2 out of 3 divorces in 2003, it is even more today.

9 out of 10 children between the ages of 8 and 16 have viewed Internet pornography.

It is also said that youth with more exposure to sexuality within the media were much more likely to have had sex between ages 14 and 16.

It is also said that 1 in 7 kids who use the Internet have been sexually solicited. 1 in 5 children between the ages of 10 and 17 receive unwanted sexual solicitations online. 76% of victims in Internet-initiated sexual exploitation cases were between the ages 13 and 15, and 75% were girls (safefamilies.org/stats).

The effects of pornography are progressive and addictive. Children, now having access to the Internet, are much more apt to being exposed to porn- and this threatens to make children victims of sexual violence. In the video I watched today in class, the main woman on this video was an ex-porn star. She did not see her life going this direction when she was young. But, she had been exposed to sex at a very young age. She was taken advantage of and molested at a very young age. She did not even know what sex was at that point, but knew that she felt dirty and ashamed. After this, she started having sex all the time, she was completely lost, confused and hurt. Her road down the path of entering the porn industry path did not start because it was what she had always wanted for herself, she had gotten swooped into sexual addiction at a very young age, all because a guy took advantage of her one night, and she could not control the situation or stop it.

Research says that the more porn an individual has access too, the higher risk they are to acting out what they see- and this could be in the area of sexual assault, rape, and child molestation.

According to a study, early exposure to porn is related to greater involvement in deviant sexual practice, such as rape. In a study of people convicted of child molestation, 77% of those that molested boys and 87% of those who molested girls admitted to have been habitually using porn.

Researchers also say that from being exposed to pornography can bring on the issue of sexual illnesses/diseases, unplanned pregnancies, and the onset of sexual addiction. “Sex without responsibility is acceptable and desirable.” Expressing sexuality without right responsibility will ultimately endanger children’s health.

In the U.S. alone, 1 in 4 sexually experienced teens acquire an STD every year. There has been research that says that guys who are exposed to a great deal of sexually explicit images or porn before the age of 14 are more sexually active, and engage in more varied types of sexual behaviors. 90% of male sex addicts, and 77% of female sex addicts say that pornography was significant to the onset of their addiction.

Children should never be exposed to pornography. Kids often times will imitate what they see, read or hear. There were study’s done that say that exposing children to pornography prompts them to sexually act out against younger, more vulnerable and small children.

Whether viewing pornography seems innocent and not damaging to you, exposing oneself to porn will shape their attitudes and values. Parents, and those that are not parents but hope to be parents one day, want to be the most caring and responsible parents that they can be. Ideally, parents want to instill their own personal values about relationships, sex, intimacy, love and marriage into their children. The Internet and the porn industry is educating children in a different way on these issues. “Just as thirty-second commercials can influence whether or not we choose one popular soft drink over another, exposure to pornography shapes our attitudes and values, and, often, our behavior (Hughes, 2001).”

Porn, as well as other sexually explicit images and messages, the media, all of these things have powerful effects, but wrong views on the education of sex and sexuality. Studies show that regular exposure to pornography has a dramatic effect on how adults view women, sexual abuse, sexual relationships and the topic of sex in general.

Researcher’s did a study on males that were exposed to porn for even as little as six weeks: and they said they developed a callousness toward women sexually, they began to question rape as not being a criminal offense anymore, they began to develop distorted views about sexuality in general, they began to develop a want for more violent types of pornography because normal sex did not satisfy them anymore, they began to devalue monogamy more, and they began to lack confidence in the union of marriage.

Adults and parents should want to protect the innocence and the purity of childhood. Adults should realize the effects of their actions. There is by no means a good reason to defend the porn industry. There is no research or studies that prove any positive effects from pornography. It itemizes women, it ruins the innocence and purity of children- that should be rightfully theirs to keep, it turns even the most respectable of men (and women too) into monsters.

The video we watched today in my class was full of a lot of interviews with ex-porn stars, ex-porn directors and producers… and they had nothing but regret for the things that they did, for the things they exposed themselves too. Even as they were in the porn industry, and filming pornographic films, they were not happy. It was because they were so unhappy that they were in that industry to begin with. They felt completely disgusting, de-humanized and regretful. Porn did not help any of these people gain help for the hurt in their lives, it only made it sting worse in the long run. Sexual addiction increases sexually related violence- an issue that would be non-existent if the media and our environment had it together when it came to the topic of sex, sexuality, sexually explicit images, etc…

In the video I watched today, they said “We have this vicious feedback between pornography and child abuse.” There needs to be a stop of the ability for absolutely anyone, at any time, being able to view and look up sexually explicit images and pornography. Anybody with access to WI-FI can look up just about anything they want to.

Anybody should want and desire a healthy and happy relationship with another. This is impossible when one is a sexual addict or exposing themselves to sexually explicit media. First of all- nobody wants to be compared to that naked man or woman on the screen- pornography and sexually explicit images bring with them insecurity. There is no way around it. Nobody wants to be compared with another. I, for one, do not want my husband comparing me with any other woman when we are married. I do not want to have any reason or temptation of feeling insecure. Secondly- I do not want to feel like I’m trying to live up to the way they did it on the screen. I don’t want normal, healthy sex within the union of marriage to seem boring or too generic. I want my sex life to be healthy, happy and satisfying, no matter what.

Looking for a healthy a long-lasting relationship that will bring happiness and no regret? Quit looking at porn (if you are), and focus more on making yourself right and able to be the best possible man or woman for that special somebody you hope to make yours one day. It is never gonna happen sitting in front of the screen looking at itemized, helpless, lonely, sad and confused naked people to try and fill your sexual void or need. Sorry for the bluntness- but you aren’t gonna find the love of your life, a man or woman in the computer screen (unless your into that whole online dating thing).

In my opinion, pornography, the porn industry, the media and images that create sexual addictions- there is no positive that comes out of it. Porn does not help your marriage, it does not fill the void you may be missing in your life, it doesn’t help your family problems disappear, it does not take away the loneliness you feel at night as you sit alone in your room, it does not prepare you to be a better man/woman for your next relationship- if anything, it destroys you more. I believe that sometimes people are screaming for help in all the wrong places. If you need help with an issue you are going through, seek help- don’t just mindlessly give yourself away to the Internet and porn- it’s not going to help anything ultimately.

I don’t know if anybody will read this that may be struggling with or viewing pornography and thinking “ah, it’s no big deal. Don’t go and try to make me feel bad about something that I think is fine.” I just want to know- do you honestly feel satisfied at the end of the night after you’re done viewing? Do you honestly not even feel the slightest bit dirty? Unsatisfied? That you benefited at all from viewing? That perhaps you may have been better off and felt less bad and less regret if you would have just not look at those sexually explicit images? Or have you perhaps become so de-sensitized to it at this point that you honestly can say you really don’t care anymore?

Ultimately, I think that anybody that struggles with sexual addiction should seek help. I also believe God can restore any circumstance. He can restore relationships, He can restore our body’s, He can make us clean- if we cling to Him, hand our issues over to Him, ask for forgiveness, and vow to change with His help.

“Therefore, if anyone is an Christ, he is a new creation, old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.” (2 Corinthians 5:17)

“But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.” (1 John 1:7)

“The eye is the lamp of the body ; so then if your eye is clear , your whole body will be full of light” (Matt. 6:22)

Just a lot of random thoughts and such that came to my heart (and stats) as I watched a video on the effects of pornography and sexual addiction in class today- take it or leave it 🙂