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Arena of War: Battles of Faith, Relationships, And Sexuality and the God Who Led Me Through

Arena of War: Battles of Faith, Relationships, And Sexuality and the God Who Led Me Through

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Arena of War: Battles of Faith, Relationships, And Sexuality and the God Who Led Me Through

4/5 (1 valutazione)
380 pagine
4 ore
Jan 31, 2019


Relationships, addictions, heartache, doubt and emotional pain. People thought she had somehow escaped them, but there is no escaping. This is war, earth is our arena, and life our battle.

So many people allow themselves to get caught up in the notion that they fight their battles alone. They get lost, or feel hopeless and unsalvageable.

In Arena of War Jess shares her personal story of imperfection and perseverance through the battles of her own life. She reminds us as warriors of Christ to stand up and not let the enemy keep us knocked down. She encourages us to let the wounds of the past heal over and to let our scars be a reminder of what Christ has led us through.

Recommended for females ages 16+, or for anyone who has ever felt discouraged or alone in their battles or unworthy to be
forgiven, Arena of war is an inspiration to keep fighting.
Jan 31, 2019

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Arena of War - Jess Ventura



Adam rolled over to his side of the bed and lay there, frustrated and motionless, staring at the ceiling. His body rigid and tense and his eyes leaking disappointment, the body language spoke a million words.

I’m trying. I breathed. The words came out in a mere whisper. I tried to hold back the dam of emotions threatening to break through. My voice trembled. I don’t know what’s wrong with me! What am I doing wrong? No answer. We’d already had this same conversation.

As I lay there next to him, I propped myself up on my elbow. My eyes starting to glaze over with the tears that threatened to spill. Do you hate me? Do you wish you had never met me? My heart pounded in my ears, I couldn’t believe I was asking this just days after being married.

His eyes met mine and they constricted my heart. I knew how much he’d looked forward to the honeymoon. He turned away. Now, I was his worst nightmare. I’m just frustrated. The words finally tumbled out of his mouth. Building on each other, each of his words got louder and more forceful. I can’t believe this is happening. This is ridiculous. If you would just relax and try to ...

The dam broke. I burst into tears. Relax? Try? Are you kidding me? Lately you’ve been making it sound like I’m doing this on purpose! I shot up out of the bed and moved to reach for my sandals. My voice cracked on and off trying to get the words out. I’ve waited my entire life for this. I was looking forward to this as much as you were. I can’t believe you would think I’m just holding out on you and not trying!

I was so frustrated and couldn’t bear to feel any more disdain or disappointment from my husband. Didn’t he realize how much I loved him? How much this was killing me? I bolted out the door, slamming it behind me. I ran down the steps to the first floor with dangerous speed, then turned to run up the hill beside our resort once again just as I had days before.

A housekeeping maid stared at me inquisitively and watched me run by as she balanced her stack of freshly washed towels in the crook of her arm. I could hear the blood pounding in my head. Hot salty tears stung my eyes. I ran with a fury I had only known a small handful of times in my life. Footstep after footstep, one thought pounded in my head, Why? Why? Why?


So, this is my story. It’s simple; it’s about life and war. When I first began to feel God calling me to share about my life, I was moved to fear. I was afraid of revealing my brokenness, selfishness and days of faithlessness for the world to see. I was comfortable living behind my walls of security. I liked safety, and I knew there was no safety in vulnerability! But the prick in my heart would not go away.

After months of wrestling with the idea, I began to write. Through this book, God has challenged me to exchange safety for vulnerability so that my life can be an example of his never-ending faithfulness to humanity.

I’ve always been the type of person who cares what everyone thinks of me. At any given point in my life when I was struggling with something big or small, I kept it to myself. I didn’t want to be judged. I didn’t want to be thought less of. I didn’t think people would understand and I didn’t trust anyone.

To all the people who have thought me to be this picture of Christian strength and perfection, the truth behind the curtain is that my life is in fact stained with many failures, mistakes and heartaches. Behind the rule following, church going, shy, happy go lucky, smiling person the world saw me as, there was a person struggling to trust, struggling to forgive, and struggling to be faithful.

Here’s the thing. No matter the person, the smile, or the family – there is more to their story than meets the eye. No one has had life as easy as it looks based off of their Instagram or Facebook posts. Not every day has been filled with smiles and feelings of blessing. That’s not real life. Everyone has had bad experiences and mistakes in their life, myself included.

I’m not saying I did drugs and partied; so don’t expect some huge reveal on a double life. My life isn’t that exciting. But I have struggled with things— physically, emotionally and spiritually. Throughout my life these things have forced me to grow and become more vulnerable and dependent on something other than myself. Life after all, is unpredictable. When I look back and reflect on the path that God has brought me down, I feel humbled to know that He has been patient with me through it all.

We live in an arena of war. I don’t care who you are, you’ve been there. You know what I mean, right? A bad relationship, a breakup, a death, a betrayal, anger… they are all life’s battles. In the end, we leave those battles with two choices. One, we let the wounds fester and continuously bleed while we blame God for our misery. Or two, we let the wounds heal over and leave a scar to remind us of what God has brought us through.

I chose option one. Many times. And it was miserable! The pain just never goes away. It continually eats at you until you feel empty.

I figured that out eventually; but it took a long time. Oftentimes option two seems more difficult than option one because it requires you to be still and let God do the healing. That seems to go against our very nature. When we’re hurt, we want to do something and fix it ourselves. But once we let God come to do the healing, it’s gone. It’s taken care of. Gone is the wound that continuously consumed your thoughts, feelings and time, and in its place, a scar— a reminder of where you have been, what you have fought, and how you have conquered.

This story is about my life, my battles, and my scars. But most importantly it is about the God who has never ceased to love me despite my stubbornness. There are parts of my story that may not be pretty. There may be things that will surprise you. There are things that I cringe at sharing with the world. But it will all be honest; and it will all be true. Thankfully, I had fifteen years’ worth of journals to fact check myself on!

My hope is that through my life story, you will smile, you will laugh, you will be encouraged and come to realize— we are all in a war, we all have scars, and there is no shame in fighting battles.

The Birth of Me

I hold that a strongly marked personality can influence descendants for generations.

- Beatrix Potter

So an introduction is in order right? My name is Jessica Nicole Ventura, most commonly and preferably known as just Jess. I was born in Concord, Massachusetts, near to where my parents had gone to college, met and married. Apparently, I came into this world kicking and screaming? As did my mom when she gave birth to me. As the story goes, my mom was so loud and verbal during labor that after delivery her doctor asked with a sarcastic grin, Wow, did you grow up on a farm?! Yes. Yes, she did. Though I doubt she answered his question right then!

My mom, Lori Ellen Willumson, had grown up on a farm in the little tiny, no traffic light town of Harpursville, New York. (I would later spend thirteen years of my life there.) Her parents, my grandparents, had emigrated from Germany, lived in Long Island for several years, and then eventually relocated to Harpursville where they raised eight children— my mom being the youngest of all the eight. She grew up on country air, farm chores, and being the tail on all of her older siblings.

Dad was born and raised in the capital city of Honduras, Central America. His parents named him Osman Israel Flores, and he too was the youngest of eight children. (Thus, I have countless relatives.) The Spanish culture is a highly sociable, doors always open type of society, and he grew up surrounded by family and friends.

Growing up, Dad always had the best stories to tell about his childhood. My siblings and I would beg him to tell us bed time stories about his days climbing mango trees, his nights of hearing ghosts inside the house, and his many near death experiences as a result of boyhood shenanigans.

He came over to the United States when he was seventeen on a student visa and lived in New York City for a couple of years with his older sister and her family. He eventually got legal citizenship and says he’s been a proud American ever since. My dad is one of the most patriotic men I know. He’s a firm believer in the rights and beliefs this country was founded on, and raised us to recognize and fight for the preservation of the constitution and its freedoms.

Dad eventually moved to Massachusetts where he attended a Seventh-Day Adventist Christian College. It was while attending Atlantic Union College that he met my mom. He was going to school for English and Mom was going for Office Management. Their love story could make a chapter of it’s own and is filled with romance and comedy.

Mom and Dad met at McDonalds. They both worked multiple jobs during college and McDonalds was just another one of their moneymakers. Dad was the manager which my mom learned much to her embarrassment, when he walked in on her first morning of work and she greeted him with, Hi! Welcome to McDonalds! He’d snickered and walked behind the counter and grabbed his uniform complete with his manager label.

Nonetheless, she thought he was cute, and after asking around, Mom had finally gotten his number and got up the nerve to call and invite him to go bowling with her and her friends. When she called, a young woman had answered the phone and she’d heard a lot of kids in the background. When he got on the phone and she apologized for interrupting his evening, he’d said it was no bother and alluded to the fact that the woman was his wife and he had three kids. Mom was mortified and shocked to silence. Dad finally laughed and said, I’m kidding I live with my sister’s family. That was Dad.

Mom describes young Dad as romantic, mysterious and a jokester, while Dad depicts mom as a crazy, yet intriguing and beautiful American. During their romance, Dad was the type to show up on the route where Mom was running and bring teddy bears and roses. He was also the type to joke around and thus had given Mom a fake birth date when they’d first met. As a result, when his supposed birthday rolled around, Mom planned a big shebang with all their friends, only to have him tell her afterwards, Great party, but that wasn’t my real birthday. When Mom asked to borrow her aunt and uncle’s (who she lived with during college) baking pans three months later to bake her boyfriend a cake, they asked, it’s his birthday again?

In his college days, Dad drove a red thunderbird that had tinted windows and LED license plate lights, which my mom describes as looking drug dealerish. Because they always seemed to get stopped by cops and the fact that he had a ton of Spanish friends of whom she couldn’t understand, she says that there were a couple of times that she wondered if his good college grades and church going ways were a cover up as she considered the possibility that maybe he was really a drug dealer. Of course, he wasn’t and they laugh about it now.

Long story short, they dated and were engaged within a sixteen-month period. When they got married, he was twenty-one and Mom had just turned twenty a couple weeks before.

That brings us back to me. I was born a year and ten months after they were married. The three of us lived in a little apartment near the college for a couple of years. Then they bought a house in Fitchburg, Massachusetts where they got pregnant with their second child, Sarah. By then I was three. The apartment had been tiny, so the upgrade to the much larger and spacious three-bedroom house was a welcome relief for all. Especially since my grandparents were to move in with us.

During the first four years of my life, my dad’s parents, affectionately known as *Lito and Lita lived with us, which benefitted both us and them. They had a free place to live with people who genuinely loved and cared for them, and my parents had the best babysitters anyone could ask for. Even after we no longer needed babysitting, Lito and Lita came and stayed with us almost every summer, all summer until my Grandmother died when I was thirteen.

My parents were working several jobs day and night to try and pay off college debt and the mortgage, plus my dad was doing night classes to get certified in Computer Technology, so that left Lito and Lita to stay at home with us. They made the best babysitters. They spoke only Spanish, and thus I became bilingual from the get go. My mom confesses that at one point she wondered if I would ever speak English! Eventually though, I learned English and Mom learned Spanish. (I now wish I spoke as good of Spanish as I did when I was a kid. It’s true that if you don’t use it you lose it!)

Lito and Lita were some of the best examples of Christianity that I have ever known. They were so humble, giving, trusting, and patient. I never once heard either of them raise their voices at each other or anyone else. They were well loved by everyone who knew them.

Every morning I would walk into their room and crawl into their bed and fall back asleep as they studied the Bible and prayed together. Sometimes Lita would read aloud as Lito sat in his chair listening and then they would just talk. Sometimes they read quietly to themselves but no matter where they were, every morning was dedicated to time with God, and every evening, the same.

There were oftentimes when mid-day or in the evening before bed, I would be looking for Lita, and I would find her kneeling beside her bed, hands folded in front of her, head leaned back, and eyes closed as she prayed. Her lips would move as she whispered her prayers. I would stand at the door-frame with my little head poked around the corner watching and listening as she prayed for every child of hers and poured her heart out to God. I even remember her praying for me. It’s a scene I will never forget. She is the only person I have ever met who had calloused knees from prayer.

They were early risers. Many days they would be up, dressed, studied and starting breakfast in the kitchen before anyone else was even ready for the day. If Lita wasn’t starting breakfast, she was mending or ironing clothes and Lito was finding some household chore to keep him busy.

They weren’t only great babysitters, but amazing spiritual mentors. Throughout my childhood, if my parents weren’t home before bed at night, Lita would tuck me in and have me repeat a prayer with her. I still remember it to this day:

Con Dios me acquesto (With God I sleep)

Con Dios me levanto (With God I wake)

Con el amor y la gracia (with the love and grace)

De el Espiritu Santo (of the Holy Spirit)

El conmigo (He with me)

Y yo con el (and I with Him)

El adelante (He ahead)

Y yo detras (and myself behind)

No me deje (He will not leave me)

Al amanacer ni al annocher (From dusk to dawn)

Sin todos sus angeles, Amen. (Without all of His angels. Amen)

I also remember an occasion where I was upset about something. My grandfather took me to their bedroom and sat on edge of the bed with me standing in front of him. He took my hands and said in Spanish, Jesus doesn’t like it when little children aren’t well behaved. It makes him very sad because he didn’t create you to act that way. It also makes us sad and it makes your parents sad. Maybe it’s because I’m a natural born people pleaser, but even though I was only four years old and don’t remember everything from those younger years, that memory is as clear as day. I remember that it broke my heart to have let him down. His eyes had been stern and sad, and it had hurt me more than a spanking ever could have. My eyes brimmed with tears and he pulled me in and hugged me as I said I was sorry. He had then suggested that we pray so that Jesus would forgive me and so I would feel better.

Besides my parents, they were some of the best examples of Christianity, marriage, and parenting that I would ever have, and I’m thankful that they were able to care for me during those early years while my parents had to be away.

When I was about four years old we moved to Florida where Dad’s best friend had started up a company and offered my dad a great position. We lived there for five years and then moved to New York, back to the little town where my mom had grown up, and where I would live until I got married. The best and most memorable years of my life were spent there. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

When we moved to Florida we first lived in an apartment complex we dubbed the old green apartments due to the green trim on all the buildings. Very original, I know. The apartments were on a lake, and we had a community pool, tennis courts, and playgrounds right on the premises. The one thing that stands out to me about living there is being at the pool, every day, as much as I could. Mom would take us, dad would take us, they would both take us, Lita and Lito would take us... we were always at the pool.

There are however, a couple events I remember about being there, and as young as I was this one in particular made its mark on my mind. As we often did, we were out for an evening walk in our neighborhood— Mom, Dad, me, and Sarah being pushed in the stroller. I remember asking, Why does it stink? A horrible smell seemed to have fallen over our neighborhood over the last couple of days, and it was gradually getting worse. At first we had thought it was something wrong with the sewers in the complex, but it started to smell more like rotting flesh.

There must be a dead animal down by the lake, Dad had replied. We can go look down there tomorrow.

We continued walking and noticed that the smell seemed to be worse in one of the parking lots. Nearly gagging, we’d turned around and left the area. The next day, we had the news running on the TV and suddenly our apartment complex flashed across the screen. Come to find out, someone had been murdered and the body dumped in the trunk of a car and left at our apartment complex. After days of trying to track down the missing person, they had been found— dead in our parking lot. We were horrified and disgusted. As a little kid, you don’t forget something like that.

Even though we lived in good neighborhoods, living in the city of Orlando put us at the center of a lot of crimes like that. Later when we lived at a different apartment complex, we were put on lockdown when an active shooter had a hostage in the building across from us. At another house we lived in, the authorities were searching for a fugitive in the woods behind our house. While mini golfing, our car got broken into. There was always something. It was one of the deciding factors that helped influence my parents to move out of the city later on in life.

Most of Mom’s siblings were homeschooling their kids, and she and Dad hesitantly decided they wanted to try it out. They started me out with Kindergarten and when I seemed to be learning and performing as well as any other kid, it stuck, and they ended up homeschooling me and most of my siblings through twelfth grade. Mom was teacher, and Dad was principal should the students need any disciplinary attention. Dad also taught us the Sciences and Histories up until about seventh grade, while Mom taught Math, English, Spelling, Writing, Music, and Art.

In time, we joined a couple homeschool groups in the Orlando area. We were also active in our local church and were part of the Adventurers club there— a Christian club similar to boy/girl scouts. While we lived in Florida, we were always busy doing something or going somewhere with someone.

It was in Florida that I met my childhood best friend and we became literally inseparable. Our moms both taught the preschool class every Saturday morning at church, and we’d met during one of their planning sessions. It was instantly a hit.

Rachel was Colombian, pretty, shy, and a year older than me. She had big brown eyes, a dark olive complexion and long brown hair. When we met, she was seven. I was six. We were both shy, but somehow had gotten past that with each other and we became our own little clique. It was hard for us to include other kids because we wanted to only play with each other. At church and in Adventurers club, our moms were constantly reminding us to be inclusive. That’s a tall order and a big word for a six-year-old!

Lucky for us our parents had become best friends as well. I remember Rachel being at everything we did. We did swimming lessons together. We went to the beach together. We were at each other’s birthday parties. We begged our parents for sleepovers every weekend. We even spent quite a few holidays together. I knew all her aunts, uncles and cousins, and called them Aunt and Uncle as she did with mine. We started referring to ourselves as the twins and often lived in the fantasy that we were twin sisters.

One thing our parents had made my sister Sarah and I do together a lot was sing. We would sing together for family worship, home videos, family and then church for as far back as I can remember. Many of the times my parents would pull out the big, old, family video camera and let it roll. When we moved to Florida and became friends, Rachel joined us.

We were super shy and didn’t have angelic voices, but I think what got people to request us to sing often was that we were so young and we sang entire chapters of the Bible. It seemed to really impress people. One of the things I admire about my parents is the time they invested in us kids. As children, we always had family worship every morning and evening. Mom would play this read-along sing-along cassette tape that put entire chapters of the Bible to song. To this day I remember every single song and appreciate the time they put into helping us memorize the Bible. Before the age of nine, my sister and I had memorized the entire chapters of Psalms 91, Isaiah 53, Matthew 4 (the temptations of Jesus), Psalms 139, Exodus 20, and 1 Corinthians 13. Not to mention the other dozens of scripture songs we learned at family worship.

Another reason I think we were asked to sing so often was that our church music specials always seemed to end up being a bit comical. They were more like acts. We seemed to always have these shy,-mischievous smiles on our faces. The microphones were huge in our hands; so huge that they were almost as big as Sarah’s head! Let’s just say, we weren’t the most un-eventful singers. We have plenty of home videos to prove that.

On one occasion Rachel, Sarah and I were singing In His Time in both Spanish and English. We each held a microphone, and sang the English verse first. All was well until the second verse came and we were supposed to sing in Spanish. Suddenly, I croaked. Literally. I had a full-blown case of the hiccups, on stage, in front of our four hundred-member church. I was mortified! With every other word I hiccupped. Into the microphone! Rachel looked over at me, her eyes wide as she continued singing. Church members grinned, and some tried to stifle giggles. But I didn’t know what else to do so I kept on going. And so did Sarah and Rachel. The hiccups continued, and the song couldn’t end soon enough for me. As the last note played on our accompaniment, I gave the mic to the person on the platform behind us, and quickly dismissed myself from the spotlight. Lucky for me, my parents recorded the whole thing and it’s safely stored on an old video tape somewhere!

On another occasion, we were singing with some other girl friends of ours. There were about six of us including Rachel, Sarah and I. Sarah was probably only four years old then, but she was a firecracker. The little girl next to her kept trying to stand as close as she could to Sarah and was brushing up against her. Sarah kept inching away and the girl would inch up again. As if that wasn’t comical enough, Sarah suddenly started pushing her away from herself using her full body to shove her. The girl looked at her like what’s wrong? and Sarah returned with a grumpy glower and shoved her one last time. All of this while we were singing. To top it all off, Sarah started getting bored and began playing with the foam top on the microphone and soon it fell off and rolled off the stage. Sarah looked over at the rest of the girls singing to see if anyone had noticed what shenanigans she was up to, but luckily only I had. I gave her a disapproving glare and tried to shake my head no discreetly. Then Sarah bent down to pick up the foam piece and put it back on the mic. Again, my parents had the camera rolling and captured every second.

We sang a lot. When well-known evangelists came to the Orlando area, many times we were asked to sing one of our Bible chapter songs. I still don’t know how the connections worked and who told whom to ask us to sing and how we got hooked up with the gigs we got. But most of the time Rachel, Sarah and I didn’t want to sing. We were all super shy up front, but we didn’t have much say in the matter. Our parents would tell people yes. One big benefit that came for us with all that singing, was that it meant our parents had to get us together a couple times mid-week to practice and we had no issues with that!

Rachel and I were inseparable. If we got to choose whom to hang out with, we were each other’s first picks. But, I did have other friends. I was really good friends with a lot of kids from our homeschool groups, church, swimming lessons, gymnastics, and even had quite a few neighborhood friends. In one of the neighborhoods we lived in, I had created a clubhouse in the woods behind our house. My friends and I would spend hours back there in our mystical world framed in by the low hanging Spanish moss. One of my friend’s parents worked in upper management at Disney World, and through them we got to go to Disney many times. We hit up all the theme parks, nature preserves, and the state parks during those years in Florida. My parents were young and adventurous. We were always doing something or going somewhere.

I was a little kid full of a lot of energy and an adventurous spirit. Childhood was a time of never ending adventures. In Florida I had so many friends that I hung out with daily. Between having friends over, going to friend’s houses, field trips, campouts, theme parks, vacations and more, I broke every stereo-type of a homeschooler’s lack of a social life. My parents ran themselves ragged giving us the childhood we had. And for that, I am forever grateful.

*NOTE: The Spanish word for Grandmother is Abuelita, and for Grandfather it’s Abuelito. But to all their grandchildren, they were just known as Lito and Lita.

The House in The Hole

Rise in the morning with the spirit you had known in your childhood. That spirit of eagerness and adventure and certainty.

- Ayn Rand

In 1999 my parents made the decision to move our family out of the city and into the country. They searched for real estate in Tennessee, the Carolinas and Virginia, but we ended up much farther north— New York State. Though it was absolutely devastating leaving my friends in Florida, especially Rachel, there was a sense of excitement in moving to a new place.

Some of my best memories from childhood are wrapped up in the adventures we had in our house in the hole—as we’d dubbed our A-frame in the pit of the valley. Until my brother was born, it was just Sarah, my parents and myself. In the summers Lita and Lito would still come and visit. In their old age they didn’t really have their own place to call home. They had long ago given it up for one of their children to live in. As a result, they spent the later years of their life traveling between their eight children. Sometimes they would be in Oklahoma, then Texas, then Honduras (their home country), and then with us. They usually stayed places for several months at a time. They were never a burden to anyone; everyone offered them their homes with welcome hearts and open arms.

Soon after moving, our family grew. Months after the move late in 1999, my parents were surprised to learn that they were expecting. Samuel was born in July of 2000. My initial reaction had been shock, and I’d sat on the stairs in tears until mom found me and asked what was wrong. I feel like you’re not going to love us anymore! I’d said. Mom had laughed and explained that nothing would change the way she felt about us. Minutes after the consolation, both Sarah and I were ecstatic with the realization we would have another sibling. I was eight when Samuel was born, and Sarah was five.

Our first weeks and months of living at the new house were filled with busy work. We shampooed carpets, re-painted the walls, tiled some of the floors, made a walkway from the driveway to the house, re-graveled the parking area, painted the outside of the house, and burned trash— lots and lots of trash.

The previous homeowners had left a lot of their junk and unwanted stuff behind both in the house, attic and sheds, leaving us with the task of removing it all. My parents, always the prudent type, decided much of the stuff could be burned instead of hauling it to the dump and paying to discard someone else’s junk. And so, the fire began— a fire that literally burned twenty-four hours a day for a week right in the middle of our yard. To this day I don’t remember how that was even possible or how we’d found that much stuff to burn, but we had none-the-less.

There were two sheds on the property that were falling down and in no condition to repair so we tore them apart with sledgehammers and gloved hands and burned them piece by piece— everything from timber to shingles. We found old magazines, rags, boxes of stuff that we didn’t even bother to sort, even mattresses and box springs. All of it— burned. I’m not sure what we did was technically legal, and it may have been during fire ban season, and it was most definitely not good for the environment... and probably not our health. But we kept that fire going.


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