Lacey Fitch Ondracek: Reclaiming Faith and Life After Loss


Lacey Fitch Ondracek has a Master’s in Social Work from the Garland School of Social Work. Her passion is to work with women and church congregations in the areas of addiction recovery and education.

She is married with a blended family, a biological daughter, her husband’s two biological children, and two nieces.

Lacey loves reading books about science and faith and particularly Christian books that touch on taboo areas such as mental health. Some of her favorites are by Jenny Allen “Get Out of Your Head” and “God on the Brain” by Bradley L. Stickler.

Her favorite scripture is John 16:33.

You can reach Lacey by email at [email protected]

Transcript
Donna Woolam:

Welcome to the ReInvent Your World broadcast. My name is Donna Woolam and I'm your host. My goal is for every woman to know that God loves you and He's for you. And no matter where you are today, you can start right now and create an incredible new life. Let's get started into the show. Okay. Hey, there it is so good to be with you today. And today I have the privilege of introducing you to Lacey Fitch Ondracek and she is an incredible woman with a powerful story. Now, Lacey has just finished her master's in social work, so I'm just like, yay. And she's. a Baylor alumni and she attended, let me see if I get this right. The Garland School of Social Work and that your heart is really to do a work with recovery for women or working with congregations and churches on education, addiction and recovery. Now Lacey's also a mom, a wife and an aunt, and she's very active in our communities. So thank you Lacey, for joining us today.

Lacey Fitch Ondracek:

Thank you for having me.

Donna Woolam:

I love to find out just a little bit about people, what you do in your everyday life. Now, I understand that you just graduated. So life last week looks probably a lot different than life this week. So could you tell us what an average kind of day or week looks like for you?

Lacey Fitch Ondracek:

Yeah, so like you said, it's completely different now that I have graduated. So now it's just a matter of finding rest and spending time with the kids and with family. But also seeking out employment. So I've already been applying and to different jobs in the community that are available, but then also preparing to study for my licensure so that I can become a licensed master social worker. So that's what life looks like right now. But yeah, it's been matter of picking back up the pieces of cooking and grocery shopping and cleaning those sorts of things and stuff. I'm very blessed to be able to return back to the simple things that matter.

Donna Woolam:

I bet, I bet, yeah. Being able to go to school and get that education is an incredible privilege of benefit and opportunity but simple is really nice sometimes. Isn't it. It's just a nice place. Of course Lacy, this broadcast and these recordings are all about reaching out to women who have faced some sort of loss and some sort of something in their life that has radically changed. I call it life altering loss that one day you're this way and the next day you're an entirely different way. So I would love it. If you would just tell us a little bit about your story and what has brought you here today.

Lacey Fitch Ondracek:

Yeah. So this has been a very difficult topic for me as it's something that I'm still navigating through. And you'll learn more about that as you hear me speak a little more about it, but as I really reflected on loss grief I really just. Realize that loss has marked my life since I was an adolescent and it's something that I've experienced since then. Whenever I was 13, my parents divorced. And so as a blended family, we were all split up. And this was during the time that my dad had formed a substance use disorder. And so that relationship was loss. And it ultimately changed my life as you were talking about. Except for me, it was a change that was not good. And it led to me forming my own addiction to substances and ultimately left me as a single mother. And so again, going through all of these different losses in all of these different areas it was very traumatizing for me. It wasn't until later that I encountered the Lord that I began to heal and watch him restore some of those areas that were broken. But I remember once I had given in my life to the Lord He had told me that the generations to come would change and that the history of substance use within my family would not be the story of our lives moving forward. And so I stood on that. And I was very confident in that, but early on in my recovery, this was the time that my sister had a recurrence in her use and so this led to my nieces, so her daughters, they ended up moving in with me and my husband and my daughter. And again, this was a very difficult time for us. It was another loss that we were experiencing. And so, you know, we were trying to in this season learn how to navigate healthy boundaries with the girls and my sister all around mentally, physically, emotionally and even spiritually as we were interceding on her behalf through prayer. Of course, you know, recovery, it has its ups and its downs and the girls and I mean, even in that, we were so confident that God was going to heal my sister and restore us from this place of loss and grief that we were going through. And, you know, my husband and I, we had to also, you know, use wisdom in that and still discern how we would make long-term decisions that would be safe for Raleigh and for Brooklynd my sister's daughters. But unexpectedly, my sister died in a single car wreck and and that was a very traumatic loss. And so it is something that I, now that I experienced, I find it to be very tragic. Not only as a mother, but sister, an aunt, and overall as a believer, as I strongly believed for a different outcome. And so, like I said, this place has been very difficult. This topic is very difficult. Grief is something that I have encountered my whole life it seems like.

Donna Woolam:

Wow, wow just Lacy it's just, as you're pouring out your story, it just, it's one of those things that I call sorrow upon sorrow, you know, you kind of get your feet underneath you and then something else happens. And for you and for you as a mom and as an aunt, to be able to help your nieces in the midst of that, and still be able to care for yourself and for your family that's around you that's experiencing this, there's just so many levels and layers of what you've experienced. Just. It's just a lot. It's a lot. So I'm wondering in the middle of all of that, you know, we learn good things about ourselves and we learn not so good things about ourselves that we look at and go, well, I did not realize that that was in there, but what would you say in both in any of those, what would you say is the biggest surprise that you learned about yourself in the middle of that?

Lacey Fitch Ondracek:

Yeah, so. Well, like I said earlier, I think. Now, just now I'm learning that grief has just been a part of my life and I really never looked at it that way. But specifically as I look at grief and as I learned about myself in this process of grief, I learned that there are two different types of grief. Now both of these groups, they vary person to person. And I would not say one is, you know, more than the other. I mean, they're, they both carry a lot of sorrow and pain, but grief is very complex and unique as we all have different experiencing, but then there's traumatic grief and this grief, this is grief, that accompanies loss that is unexpected. And so such loss triggers past trauma survival mechanisms in addition to the mourning of the unexpected loss. And so for me, it's been a combination of both I've felt the trauma that's come with the unexpected loss of my sister, as it's brought back from those memories of losing my dad and my family. But then also it's brought in this grief of losing an expectation that I had as a believer. And so trying to trying to understand and really walk through both of those areas of grief has been very hard. And so what I've learned about myself is, you know, we hear about the fight flight or freeze, and especially as it relates to trauma, I myself had been in this place of like flight or freeze. And so, you know I, I really was not giving myself the grace to go through it, nor was I giving myself the time to go through it. And I think that I rationalize this through keeping myself occupied with school. And really just through the fear of not knowing what's next or what the future was gonna look like for my family. And ultimately wondering, is this going to be a continuous cycle of grief? For my family's future moving forward. And so I just, a part of me did not want to deal with it. And I think that that's where those survival mechanisms come into play, you know, trying to reason out the reality that it would remain this way, moving forward. And so in return for me, that's brought internal isolation of just not wanting to deal with the pain. Yeah.

Donna Woolam:

Yeah. And I'm, I'm guessing that you're usually a person who just, you see something and you go forward. So for you to be frozen in in place was painful. In its own right. And I, from what I know of your story, this was happening while you were in the midst of school. So it wasn't like, you could just say, oh, I mean, you could have, you could have stepped back out of school, but you didn't, you kept going. Do you think that was part of your coping mechanism, then you talked about staying busy in school. Do you think that created this blanket around you to where you can just kind of move forward with some normalcy and absolutely. A normal situation.

Lacey Fitch Ondracek:

Absolutely. I think that for one, like, yeah, spiritually, I think. I was frozen. But physically I knew, I mean, I had a choice, but for the example and the things that God had already brought me through, I could not stop there. Now, there was a time, you know, if you were to talk to some of my professors, I considered just receiving, I's incomplete and not continuing to move forward. And you'll learn. But here in a little bit, that that was a part of my reclaiming was being able to face the very thing that wanted me to stop. And so, and I'll also talk about that just with the space that I was in and my education and the things that I was focusing on was the very thing that I was experiencing as trauma. And so I had every reason to just stop right there and say, you know what? This is not it. I can't do this. And it would be healthy and normal for me to step back. But no, it definitely was a sense of coping for me. for me to keep moving forward.

Donna Woolam:

Yeah, that's interesting. That's interesting. So in the middle of all of that, Lacey, I'm sure that there were days that were extreme highs. And then the next moment extreme lows. And you still have a husband, you still have a daughter, you have nieces, you have a mom, you have responsibilities. How did you find the balance in all of that? How did you not just pour yourself into school and ignore the rest of the world as a, as a protection for yourself? How did you find the balance in all of that?

Lacey Fitch Ondracek:

Overall, I think it was just the pursuit of other people's presence that followed me and sought after me. And so I think really organically through my relationship with Christ. I know that He's been my hiding place and really my compass when I felt conflicted. And so I knew that there was a safety net that was there for me to be able to just go to and cry when I needed to. And that most definitely, like I said, it would be those who surrounded themselves around me. I think that that really helped bring balance just by having people show up on our doorstep from church and providing meals each night or laying their hands on us and praying for us. It was a reminder that I was not alone and that I did not have to face the pain alone. And I think that that's really what helped me, but then also in the educational setting and I mean all my professors knew what was going on. And so again, just through their presence and their words and their grace again, it allowed me to sit with the grief. that I was experiencing it, it, it provided a space for me to not have to pretend that nothing was wrong and that I needed to keep going and moving forward without focusing on all the other things in life. But now it, it really did allow me to just embrace the pain and the brokenness that I was in, which allowed me to remember that it was o kay that I was in that place.

Donna Woolam:

Yeah. It sounds like that there was, there were constants in all of the different realms spiritually, emotionally, physically. And your mental place that there was a, there was something in each one of those areas that helped guide you. And with Christ as your compass, I love how you put that, that Christ was your compass in that. So if you were. were going to, and I'm sure that you have, and that you will, in the future talking to a woman who finds herself in a place like this. With this traumatic grief that is compounded by a life of grief what would you say to her? What, what would you want to give her that, that has been a help to you? That you hope would be a help to her?

Lacey Fitch Ondracek:

I really appreciate you bringing up this word reclaim, because it's allowed me to think about, you know, what would I say to someone else? And I would bring up the idea of reclaiming, reclaiming what seems to be lost or hopeless yeah. And so, you know, as I think about the definition of reclaimed, it is to obtain the return of, rescuing from an undesirable state, or return to a previous natural state, which really does describe the Father's heart for us. And so while there's some things. Or even some people that we can't necessarily reclaim, we can still do it for ourselves and for our future. And so I would encourage women to go back to their remembrance of God and what He's already done or spoken in their life. John 14, 26 says that we've been given the Holy Spirit known as our helper to teach us and to bring to remembrance all that Jesus has said. Which for us, that's His word and His promises. And if we go back to Psalm 77, it says that I will remember the deeds of the Lord and wonders of old, which means that there may be times that we have to go back and cling to what we know to be true. Okay. But also, as I think about encouraging women, there may be those who haven't experienced God or haven't experienced a sense of reclaiming. And so I would remind them of the words that Jesus spoke in John 16:33 which is my favorite verse, always. And it, Jesus reminds us that we will go through hardships, trials, pain, grief, and loss, but to heart, which means to be confident and undaunted because He has overcome, which means that we too can overcome all of the hardships, the pain, the grief, the loss, the trauma that we encountered. Now, if we practically think about grief, loss or trauma our human minds, and our bodies can only bear so much. So I would also encourage women, which is what I learned the hard way is not to rush the process of healing, whether that's physically, mentally, emotionally, socially, and spiritually, for it can take time. And I know that it's very important. And then I think just overall that, you know, God is a God of restoration and so no matter what has been or attempts to be taken from us, He will always restore us back to His purpose for our lives. And most importantly to Him.

Donna Woolam:

Yeah. Yeah. I love that. And I think that is, it's a common thread that I hear in the stories of women that that when they face something like that, they come face-to-face with an aspect of God that maybe they hadn't expected before. And so we learn so much about ourselves, but we also learn about who our God is. And I know for me that there have been a lot of opportunities in my life to either take God at His word or think that it's just a bunch of garbage and for me to make a choice and we all get that choice because God's not a puppeteer. He gets, he gives us that opportunity. So what, in this, we talked about what you learned about yourself, but what did you learn about who God is and who the Lord is to you in your life?

Lacey Fitch Ondracek:

You know, the first path of, of my walk with God, which was also the first path of my recovery. I really found out to be a God who provided, a God who re deemed. A God who was just very big on restoration and bringing things back to life. Yeah. And so I've experienced such this high personality of God and, you know, throughout the years, as I've started to relate to John 16:33 and understanding that even though I'm walking with Him I'm gonna go through these hard times. Specifically in this season I've learned. Just for one, more about God's holiness that even when we are not committed, he is still so committed to it. And I've learned really to just receive His patience yeah. Which is something that, you know, I've, I've had to walk through, which, you know, at the beginning of my walk, I've kind of had this mindset of like, okay, like now that I've given my last reward, I'm on fire. I'm going to go into this. And you know, I've just been going, you know, Straight forward in my walk and continue to, but there's been a lot of curves along the way. And, and, you know, it's easy or natural, at least for me to find God's disappointed in whether the way that I think or that I feel, or even the way that I respond. Even in these darkest places I've learned and have found God to still be still safe, sweet, and gentle patient and kind, and just so merciful on everything that He does. And so, yeah, really, it's just, you know, we think we know God as holy, but yeah, when you're in these situations, you really do see the depth of how holy He is and how it's never dependent on us, but it's always dependent on His heart, regardless of what it is that we encountered that we go through

Donna Woolam:

I love that. I love how you put that about that high personality of God. You know, that, that you knew Him as this mighty God and all of this, but then you understood His kindness, His personal kindness, and helped you. And I just love, love, love, love how you put that. It's just, it's just beautiful and powerful. Love that. Yeah. And that there are spaces and I, I believe this with everything within me that there are things that you will never understand about yourself, about others, and most importantly about the Lord until you walked through place of deep pain. And we can hear David's heart cry as he's, as he went through so many things. And you can read that and go, yeah, yeah, yeah. But until you've cried rivers of tears you don't know how comforting it is to have the knowledge that God is keeping your tears and that it's not wasted. So that's, that's just my own little thoughts on that. So there are, you've just received your master's degree. You're working towards your licensing, but I know that there are people who are going to want to reach out to you about your story. And of course, in all of the notes for our broadcast, all of that information, that contact information is going to be there as well as the articles, because you are a published writer, you've written a couple of different articles that have appeared in some really important publications, and we're going to make all of that available for the people who want to reach out to them. But if they wanted to get in touch with you in a more casual kind of way, do you have a way that people can reach out to you? What is the best way?

Lacey Fitch Ondracek:

Yeah, I would definitely say by email I have that accessible on my phone, my laptop. And so I think that that would be the most convenient way of getting ahold of me as of right now.

Donna Woolam:

Okay. Terrific. So what is now, we've, we've kind of had some questions that we've gone through and we've talked about those, but I'm wondering if there's anything that you think, oh, I wish that I had said that earlier or really would have fit in there. Do you have some last words that you would like to share today?

Lacey Fitch Ondracek:

Yeah. I, you know, going back to what you said about like how there's some things that we just will not understand either about ourselves so that people are even bad. I think what's helped me the most because I'm still in a place of not understanding I'm still in this space of process and healing. Right. But I was really encouraged when I looked at Hebrews 11, which talks about the state of those in the Bibles and how all those, they were weak, their faith imparted power to make them strong. And it talks about the victories that some of them experienced because of their faith, but then it also points out those who were mocked, killed and lost everything. Enduring great affliction because of their faith and the Bible actually considers them to be the true heroes commended for their faith. Yet. Living in hope without receiving the fullness of what was promised to them. And I feel like when we're in grief or experiencing some loss or trauma, that may be a place that we're in, which is, you know, having to walk out this faith, but yet not, it was seeming the fullness of what we believe to be promised to us. And so that would just be my encouragement, which is what later goes on in chapter 12 to say, like run with endurance. Which means our faith and our journey. It may be difficult. Yes. But we are encouraged not to grow weary or to become faint-hearted, which goes back to John 16:33, where Jesus calls us to take heart. And so I think it's interesting right there, how, you know, faith has highlighted and how it doesn't necessarily say that things will be perfect with our faith, but with it, we can endure and with it and we can take heart. And so I just think courage, whoever is going through grief loss, trauma, whatever it may be to be okay in that space of uncertainty, but to also to not let go of the faith that you have been given, because it is ultimately our guide and our compass to keep us going and to reclaim some of those things that God has spoken to us.

Donna Woolam:

I love that. I love that. And it reminds me of a book that I read that it's it's okay. That you're not okay. And I think, especially as Christians, we feel like that we're supposed to put on a happy face and, you know, Life is horrible, but I'm great, you know, but it's okay that you're not okay. It's okay that you're hurting and it's not a lack of faith or lack of commitment or lack of anything spiritually. It is who God made us to be. It's okay. That things that you're not okay in this moment and to continue moving forward. I love that. I love those scriptures. So some of my very favorite scriptures that you brought out, I love that. Well, Lacey, thank you so, so much for sharing your story for your vulnerability to everyone, and to really allowing people to see the journey that you have been on and the journey that you're continuing. And I just know that whoever chooses to work with you, whoever chooses to hire you, I know it's going to be an incredible blessing for them and opportunity for you. And I do know, I want to bring this out that your heart is really to bring this message into churches. So if there are any church leaders that are listening today that would like to connect with you, Lacey, I'm sure that you wouldn't mind them reaching out to you, right? Yeah. Thanks so much, Lacey. Thank you so much for joining us today. I really hope that something that you heard helped you to be encouraged and inspired. And in fact, if it has, would you do me a favor? Would you please just share this with a friend of yours and join me over on social media on Facebook. And Instagram, well, you know, wherever you are, I'm probably there too, but be sure and go to the website, DonnaWoolam.com and grab the free resources that we have for you. Thanks again, and have a wonderful Living At My Best day.

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