Over the course of just four years, I went through a series of back-to-back traumas:
- I was in an abusive relationship for just under four years.
- My father was diagnosed with stage four cancer, went into hospice and passed away.
- My dog of 14 years passed away.
- I was working at a stressful job in a very toxic work environment.
- Two significant friendships ended.
- My mother (who was also my BFF) was diagnosed with stage four cancer, went into hospice and passed away.
It was an unusual amount of loss to say the least. And every time that I would get my head above water to take a breath, another wave would come crashing down on me.
By the end of 2013, I found myself depleted – emotionally, spiritually and physically. The continuous stress of being in the relationship, the grief and trauma from my parents’ deaths and the overall emotional turmoil had left me with advanced adrenal fatigue. Not only did my entire body feel like it was falling apart, but I couldn’t even do something as simple as take a shower or carry the laundry across the house without feeling like I was going to have a heart attack or need to go lie down.
Although I was still going through the motions of everyday life, that’s all I was doing – surviving, not living. I didn’t really have any moments of significant joy, no sense of purpose or direction and worst of all, I had been “groomed” to always expect the worst, so I was always bracing for the next thing to go wrong – hence, the adrenal fatigue.
I also had a lot of credit card debt, a car payment and a ridiculous rent payment (like most Americans), was bouncing around between jobs and was living paycheck to paycheck.
It had begun to feel like I was never going to be happy again; that the former “innocence” of my life was over and this was going to be my new reality.
But thankfully, just when I could’ve spiraled downward into a pit of despair and depression, God did something amazing.
He began to “clean up” and “strip down” my life in every possible way. I may have thought I had already let go of a lot, but He was just getting started.
It began with my physical belongings. Although I had never really been too materialistic… I was never into designer labels and never felt compelled to have the latest electronic gadget or cell phone… I did have way too much for one person. Again, like most Americans.
I had enough to fill up every cabinet, closet and drawer of a two bedroom, two bathroom condo, plus a small storage closet. It had never really struck me as out of the ordinary, because again, that is what we are all used to. But suddenly, God was allowing me to look at all my “stuff” with a new set of eyes. And I was beginning to see just how unnecessary it all was.
Through a divine intervention, I learned about tiny houses and set out to get one as my new home. Since I was going to live in just 160 square feet, I got rid of about 80% of my belongings including furniture, books, clothes, shoes, knick knacks, kitchenware and electronics. I was getting back to basics and it felt GOOD.
The more I downsized and de-cluttered, the freer I felt. Not only because I was getting rid of all this clutter that had been taking up space, but because something else happened during the process. As I got rid of physical items, I began to do some emotional work too.
I was forced to go through mementos, sentimental items, things that belonged to my parents, photos of old friendships and so many other things that had significant emotions attached to them. And through that, I was forced to actually address those feelings. No more shoving them down or setting them aside. I actually sat in those feelings and let myself feel them. And you know what? It was only then, that I was able to truly let them go and move on.
Of course, that was God’s plan the whole time.
As I got rid of the physical clutter and did the emotional work, I started to feel stronger and lighter. And I could feel God moving my attention to my body.
If I was going to clean up my home and my spirit, I needed to clean up my body as well.
I had already begun natural health remedies for my adrenal fatigue like meditation, prayer, affirmations, vitamins and supplements, an infrared sauna and neuromuscular therapy, and the results spoke for themselves.
After running into multiple dead-ends with “traditional” medicine, I was finally starting to get better. Slowly but surely, my symptoms were starting to decrease and my body was starting to get stronger. So it was up to me to take proper care of it.
In the same way that God had simplified everything else in my life, He did the same with my diet. He reminded me that all of the toxic, sugar-laden, genetically-modified foods available to us were produced by man, not Him. And that the simplest thing to do was to go back to what He provisioned to us in Genesis – every seed-bearing plant and everything that lives and moves.
I cut gluten, sugar and dairy out of my diet and minimized or eliminated as many inflammatory foods as possible. I cut caffeine out entirely, reduced my alcohol intake and began drinking more water.
And the results were amazing.
Symptoms I had been having like insomnia, cystic acne, shakiness and GI issues all cleared up. I began to sleep better and found myself with more energy. As I began to put better things in my body, I was getting better results out of it.
And it was all coming together at the same time – the clean house, the clean body, the clean spirit. God was simplifying my life for a reason.
To know Him better and to find who He created me to be.
As I let all of the excess fall away… the clutter, the toxins, the stress and the old baggage, I found myself taking more time to sit with Him. I found myself more actively seeking His direction and more obediently following His will.
I could hear Him more clearly and more often. And in the midst of all that, I found my life. The life He had intended for me to live all along.
Here I am, at the other end of a long string of grief and trauma… yet, I have more joy and more peace now than I ever did before. It may sound a little crazy, but it’s true.
Of course, I would never wish those kind of storms on anyone. But what I can say with certainty, is that no matter what your storm, if you let God use it and you can trust Him to carry you through, He will. And not only will you get through it, but you will rise above it.
He will use the hurt, the pain, the fear, the confusion, the frustration and He will turn them all to good.
Now, I am living a life that I love.
Of course, it’s not perfect. And many days, God is still teaching me tough lessons and continuing to refine me. But I am living with purpose and freedom. The “blinders” have been taken off and I am focused on what really matters.
And I am blessed to be able to help others do the same.
Your misery becomes your ministry, after all.
And I want others to know this truth – that all the busyness, all the pressure to buy and have stuff, the constant bombardment of things to eat and consume… they’re all spiritual weapons meant to keep us distracted from the one thing that matters the most.
God. And the life that He created you to live.
He’s waiting for you. So, put your hope in Him and He will show you the way.
Jenn Baxter is an accomplished author, speaker and freelance writer based in Charlotte, North
Carolina. She has been published in numerous print and online publications and appears at tiny house festivals, healthy living festivals and private engagements across the country, speaking on the subjects of downsizing & minimalism, clean eating, healthy living and spiritual health. She appeared on HGTV’s “Tiny House Big Living,” is a regular guest on the NBC morning show “Charlotte Today” on WCNC-TV and has also appeared as a guest on several tiny house-themed podcasts including the Tiny House Podcast and Tiny House Canada.
In 2015, Jenn launched her website, Live a F.A.S.T. Life, based on her own experiences with clean living and downsizing into a 160-square- foot tiny house. She now teaches others how to make similar changes in their own lives through her online webinars and her e-course collection, De-Clutter, De-Tox, De-Stress. Her new book, Live a F.a.s.t. Life: How Stripping Down and Cleaning Up Gave Me My Life Back is available now on her website, Amazon and Barnes and Noble.