by Emily Walton in Leading Hearts Magazine
NOT VERY MANY PEOPLE CAN SUM UP THEIR WHOLE LIFE IN ONE WORD, BUT JENNIFER TRACY CAN. THAT WORD IS COURAGE.
From surviving an abusive childhood to losing her husband and daughter in a car crash, Jennifer has carried the courage God gave her throughout her entire life.
“From a young age, I tapped into courage. I think that God just gave that gift to me,” Jennifer says. “The more you use that muscle the stronger it gets. I just wanted to feel like a warrior, I wanted to hear Him say, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant.’”
This courage has been tested, though. Jennifer has lived through things that most people couldn’t even dream of. Her parents divorced when she was a child and she endured abuse. It was during this time that Jennifer would experience something that would help her through these trials and the many more to come. As a child, Jennifer got involved in a fanatical church whose ideas and practices strayed wildly from the Bible. After being indoctrinated by this church for five years Jennifer had a series of dreams one night.
“God kept waking me in the middle of the night and giving me a memory of something that happened [at the church] and then a Scripture,” Jennifer remembers. “One by one, God demolished those lies.” Jennifer believes that this deeply imprinted His character on her heart.
“I was shown how Jesus really treated the broken, the stinky, the ugly, the imperfect, the outcast, the addict. So from a very young age, my mission was to move forward, to treat people the way that Jesus treated people,” she says.
Following a hysterectomy, for two years Jennifer battled deep depression, which eventually turned her to thoughts of suicide. If that wasn’t enough, her husband, Brian, and daughter Brittany (pictured below) were then killed in a car crash with a drunk driver that left her other two daughters permanently injured.
After Jennifer was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), she received another more ominous health report — a life-threatening brain malformation. Her only choice was to endure excruciatingly painful high-risk surgery to attach a titanium plate to her skull. She spent many months in a wheelchair and had to regain strength to walk. Jennifer continues to deal with chronic physical pain and permanent nerve damage as a result.
This was when Jennifer’s faith started to waver. “In my heart, I couldn’t believe that a God who really loved me would allow me to experience such needless pain. That’s when I lost the ability to trust God and unknowingly sought to control everything in my life.”
It took a while, but because of God’s faithfulness, many people continued to show up in Jennifer’s life. Reluctantly, she began attending church services, and over the course of the past few years the Jesus she knew so well as a child won her heart completely over again.
She realized that having His Word so deeply written on her heart as a child was something that she had taken for granted. “Having that did not change my circumstances. It didn’t make my life any easier. It didn’t make my trials go away. It did bring me closer to Him,” Jennifer says. “Having His Word is really what gave me hope”.
She also credits another thing often not talked about in church circles. She sought help physically. She went to her doctor for assistance and found out that she had thyroid disease and virtually no estrogen in her body. She had not slept well in two years. Her doctor convinced her to go on medication for a while in order to help herself recover, and she went to therapy for years.
“Once we fixed that physical piece, all of a sudden my mind came back and I was able to tap into the spiritual side and find peace in that.” Jennifer had to accept this. “I was willing to lower the barriers and look past the stigma,” she remembers. “I didn’t just come at it with one thing”.
Jennifer uses her life and experiences to give speeches and lead workshops about courage, forgiveness, hope and motivation. She has forgiven the man who killed her husband and daughter and even advocated for him to get therapy and rehabilitation. Later, she gave her blessing for him to be paroled. She has also recently written a book entitled Inside “The Mind” of Suicide.
A verse that encapsulates her whole life is, “We remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thessalonians 1:3). Her mission is to help others be “Inspired by hope to forgive and truly live”.
Jennifer still has struggles. However, she continues to face them with the courage and values that God instilled in her so long ago. She has recently moved from Colorado to Florida to help manage her pain. Not many people would decide to pick up their whole lives and drive across the country to a new state with no real plan, but Jennifer Tracy is clearly not most people. Some might call this irrational or absurd. Others call it courage. LH
Stuffed Peppers with Penelope Carlevato
This is a colorful and healthy meal using different colors of bell peppers. I like to add a green salad or coleslaw, plus some warm rolls for the ultimate comfort-food dinner.
1 lb ground beef
6 to 8 bell peppers
½ diced onion
1 can chopped tomatoes
1 Tablespoon olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 Tablespoon red pepper flakes
1 cup cooked rice
1 ½ cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
Salt and pepper to taste
Wash and dry the bell peppers, then cut off the tops and remove the seeds and membrane. Chop the tops and set aside. Brown the ground beef until cooked, then remove the beef. Add the olive oil to a skillet and cook the onion and peppers until just softened. Add the spices, then stir in the ground beef, rice and almost all the cheese. Save a small amount to add to tops of peppers.
Put the peppers cut side up in a baking dish. Fill the peppers with the beef and rice mixture and top each one of the peppers with the remaining shredded cheese. Cover with foil and bake for 40 minutes. Uncover and bake until the peppers are cooked and slightly browned about 15 minutes.
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