Reclaiming 101

December 30, 2017

The hashtag #Reclamation2k17 has been plastered on nearly all my social media posts this year. Many have said to me “I love your ‘Reclaiming’ thing on Facebook but I’m not sure what it means.”

Soon after I discovered my ex-husband’s affair, I began facing the pain of the betrayal intentionally. I called that process “Reclaiming.” Here’s my definition:

Reclaiming (v): Identifying a fearful, painful internal reaction to a place or a thing that holds a once happy memory, choosing to face it head-on and create a new, positive association.

This type of “exposure therapy” did not come from something I read or advice I received. It was born out of my intentional desire to face the sometimes debilitating pain and fear I experienced on a daily basis. Reclaiming has been my purposeful strategy for moving from immobilizing sorrow into a new and beautiful life.

Identify the pain

Example: after I was separated from my ex-husband, I would drive past our restaurant and overwhelming sadness would flood me.

“I can never go back there again.”

I soon recognized dozens of places that held memories of wonderful experiences. Places that had now become off limits because of my fear – fear of facing my pain, my past, and even my ex-husband. What if I run into him at our restaurant, or that city park where we used to walk, or the theater where we saw that movie…?

Fear steals. Yes, fear has its place. It’s designed to keep us alive and safe, but I began to notice a pattern of fear dictating my decisions. My entire life had fallen apart through a situation that was out of my control. Although I may not have control over experiencing fear, I can control my response to the fear.

Fight or flight?

When facing fear, I chose to FIGHT! I just needed a practical way to do that. So, my Reclaiming project was born. I called together a few friends and family members and I walked into our restaurant.

The goal:

  1. To face the pain of my past.
  2. To create a new association.

We sat in our booth. I talked about our memories and I acknowledged the pain with people I trust. And we had fun in the process. We laughed, cried, told stories and prayed. By the time the check arrived, I could look around the place and honestly say, “This place is Reclaimed!”

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The Flameburger – Reclaimed on March 12, 2017. Left to Right Michael (brother), Ellie (me), Bethany (best friend), Jill (mom), Mark (Dad)

New memories have baptized the old memories. Now, I drive past my Reclaimed restaurant and remember the time I faced my fear with people who love me and supported me in my deepest heartbreak.

In 2017, I organized nearly 100 Reclaiming events which included restaurants, music venues, park benches, food, and so much more. In this blog, you will hear me recount many of those stories and the invaluable lessons I learned about God’s redemption.

If you’re reading this thinking, “I have a few things to Reclaim,” share your thoughts in the comments. We’re in this together!


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16 comments on “Reclaiming 101

  1. Anne Kadue Dec 30, 2017

    Dearest friend,
    Your courage is amazing, but you have more faith than courage and it is this very abundance of faith that moves mountains. You are living out the greatness that God provides for us all. Thank you for inspiring me again and again through our Lord Jesus Christ. God loves you and so do I.

  2. Thank you for your encouragement, Anne! God’s faithfulness continues to astonish me. He has so much goodness in store for all of us. Keep following along on the journey!!

  3. Karleen Witt Dec 30, 2017

    As much as I hate the pain you have gone through,. I wish I could love this profoundly moving and life giving endeavor a thousand times over. Thank you for your transparency and invitation for others to walk through the journey of wholeness with you.

  4. Natasha Ferguson Dec 31, 2017

    I am so very proud you! I love your fierce determination, Sweet Girl! This morning as the Holy Spirit began to move in our church service I heard the Lord stirring within me a word for our people. The word was…He rose now we must rise. Without sharing your name I shared a piece of your story. I told them how you have risen above a very heart wrenching situation. I love our Champion, Jesus! What a beautiful work He has done in you! I know your story will inspire others to reclaim what has been taken! I will share your story, Brave One!

    • Wow! Thank you for your encouragement and thank you for sharing my story! It is HIS story and I’m so blessed that it can be used for the encouragement of others.

  5. Trish Jan 1, 2018

    Rise up!
    Ellie, I’m so thrilled for you! I admire your strength, resilience, honesty & courage!
    I look forward to reading more and sharing my journey with you as well! Happy New Year! 🕊

  6. I love this and I am honored to know you! I doubt I’ll ever revisit the exact room where I was in August of 2016 when I learned that my baby had no heartbeat, but I reclaimed the hospital building on July 22, 2017 when my husband and I welcomed our rainbow baby. God is good, and He will truly use your story to help others, because you are allowing it. Blessings in the new year, and may you have more happy days than you did in 2017!

    • PRAISE GOD, Andrea! Thank you for being brave in sharing this story. Your bravery in the face of your loss is inspiring to me as well. Thank you for finding a parallel in Reclaiming. I’m so glad you resonate with it.

  7. Oh my word. The courage, the heart break, the redemption in store. Amazing project, amazing woman Ellie!

    • Brooke,
      It’s been a while! Thank you for your encouragement. It means so much to me. Reclamation is redemption and that’s what God has done for me!

  8. Thank you for sharing! As I got to the end of your post, a situation from my past came to mind as something that I would like to reclaim. The only problem is that I’m living on the other side of the world now and cannot currently go to the places that I would wish to reclaim. Do you have any thoughts on dealing with memories that aren’t necessarily tangible but still cause fear/sadness/anger/etc.?

    • Such an awesome Question Caity! Reclaiming anything is challenging, but this is particularly hard because you can’t go there! This has been a struggle for me as well since many of the places I have needed to Reclaim were across the country or around the world. For me, symbolism is huge! When I thought about a particular national park in South Africa that I went to with my ex-husband, fear and anxiety would be so tangible. I decided to write out the memory. Putting it in writing made it somehow tangible rather than hypothetical. I wrote down why this place brought sadness – the root. Bringing people into the process for me has been very important. I shared what I wrote with a Reclaiming buddy and talked openly and honestly about the memories and the emotions that they bring. As best as you can, visualize yourself in that location with a Reclaiming buddy. If you need to do something that will bring some symbolic resolution, perhaps burn the paper. You’re not alone in this! Bring a friend you trust to step into this memory with you. I’d love to know what works for you and how you Reclaim this place and this memory. You are a Reclaimer!