One Of My Favorite Memories: Brielle’s Spirituality

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The “Oh, you’re such a sweet baby!” picture, with tickles.

One of the memories that David and I continually come back to is the memory of Brielle jumping at the sound of Jesus’s name. She consistently expressed joy when in worship and praise for Jesus. It was incredible and really made David and I think more about what a baby understands and feels.

“At that time Mary got ready and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judea, where she entered Zechariah’s home and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. In a loud voice she exclaimed: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her!” Luke 1:39-45

More about this memory here.

“I watched this earlier and as I was watching it I felt Brielle start to move. The longer I watched the more she moved. And once the clip ended? She stopped moving. Brielle does things like this all the time, things that make me wonder just how much she understands. For instance, every time we pray she starts moving. When we’re at church she dances during the music. No matter what kind of music it is. We can be in a church that is all acapella and incredibly quiet. We can be in a church filled with thousands with a choir and orchestra, people singing out loudly and boldly for the Lord, and she dances.

During a sermon a few weeks ago, the preacher stated, “Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through him.” She jumped. She jumped so suddenly she knocked the breath right out of me. I don’t have an explanation for these things. And quite frankly, I don’t need one and I don’t think there ever will be one. But these things make me wonder. I wonder if she has her own faith, her own opinions and feelings about God. And it makes me ponder on this quote: “We are not human beings having a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings having a human experience.” While I’ve always thought this to be true, I never once thought of it through the eyes of a baby. Through the eyes of my daughter. And I really don’t think there is anything quite as beautiful as pure innocence celebrating God.”

A Look Back At The Past Year & The Light At The End Of The Tunnel

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I have been silent for quite a bit of the past year. It has been one of the strangest years of my life. But I’m not writing this to rehash what has already been said, rather, I’m happy to share with you how this past year has changed me and while I could write a book on this past year alone, here is my small attempt at communicating the transformation I have gone through.

I’ve stepped back and looked at my life, a childless mother, a young caregiver, a victim, a survivor and I’ve asked myself over and over again, “Who am I?”

I’ve felt the weight of Brielle’s loss in a strange, almost surreal, way. Life went on and David and I were left with a gaping hole in our lives. Walking through everyday feeling as if she was only a dream. Asking ourselves if our reality is really real. I’ve dealt with the hard questions of, “Does God really answer my prayers? Does he really care?”

In the fog of my trauma and pain, I decided to pursue new relationships within my church, and signed up for a morning bible class and an evening bible class. I didn’t check the subjects we’d be studying. I didn’t expect much at all. As I sat there during the first class, a study on 2 Timothy (the Entrusted study by Beth Moore), I was shocked with how relevant the study was to my current season in life, but was also shocked at how seriously this church takes their bible studies. They weren’t messing around, these classes expected memorization, homework, deep personal and spiritual growth. We were going to dig in and root out the chaos of our lives and find our calling.

I watched myself transform as I dug into scripture, a true fire igniting within me. I have lived my entire Christian faith filled with questions and seeking answers. I would turn to those around me and receive criticism for even venturing outside of the confines of order, but I have always been spiritual and have felt a deep connection with God, could no one explain to me then why this was? Could no one explain to me my purpose? Could no one guide me and help explain to me the truly, spiritual, almost supernatural, things that have occurred in my life?

No, not one. In my search for answers, I have spent the past six years (previous to Brielle’s conception) in search of a church that felt alive. A place where I could feel God’s presence and see a sincere devotion to God’s calling. I wanted to see Christians who sought to do good and who were transformed by Christ. The unfortunate truth is that our nation, our world, is largely disconnected from it’s spirituality and Christians do not always behave in a Christ like manner. In the church we call this a Form of Godliness.

I walked out of class a month ago, hurriedly walking to my car, when I felt the pull of God’s voice on my heart and mind, “Go back. Go back and ask them to pray over you.”

I swerved, “Uhh, I don’t know about that. That’s weird. That makes me uncomfortable. God, I’ll just send them an email.”

I felt that all familiar pull at my heart, “Go back.”

“Do I have to? This is weird.

“Go back and ask them to pray for you. Go back.

I stopped, awkwardly standing in the parking deck, turned around and stormed into the chapel. I grabbed one of the women whom I greatly admire for her candor, she would not mislead me or sugar coat things, I wanted to be corrected, I wanted Godly advice. She grabbed another woman and I another.

They sat me down and gathered around me as I spoke to them of my past, the loss of Brielle, and the conviction on my heart. I asked desperately for discernment as I faced new paths in my life. They placed their hands on me and prayed over me. Praying for freedom from those who have prayed against me. Praying for freedom from my pain and trauma. Praying for discernment, blessings, and healing.

As they spoke, I felt a warmth encircle my head and spread through my brain. I felt it move through my body and felt a weight disappear from my shoulders. I could breathe easier. I could smile easier. My aches and pains, my heartbreak, my world, glowed in a pure sense of happiness and relief. I felt free for the first time in my life.

They directed me towards scriptures that would aid me through this process and I returned home. David was astonished, he had never seen me so carefree. My therapist was happily shocked and my scores for depression, anxiety, and anger have reduced by more than three times.

I happily joked about how ridiculously crazy I sounded. I laughed at how many would mock my crazy spirituality. And I found joy. Over the past three weeks I have watched my life transform into something sincerely beautiful and full of life, joy, and happiness. God has filled me with more joy and blessings than I could imagine. He has revealed to me my calling in life and set me on my path. I have experienced things that I had only read about in the New Testament.

My heart is free. I can begin again. And as I reach the milestone of Brielle’s first birthday, I find myself joyful. I have work to do. I have growing and learning to do. I still have memories that I need to confront and grow from. But I look forward to all of this. I have been given a remarkable gift, I can begin again. My life, my world, is renewed and I can find joy in the knowledge that I can rebuild my life and myself into something beautiful, loving, and filled with happiness.

I say this often, but I have no idea why God has been so good to me. I have no idea why he has kept me safe for all of these years. But I am thankful. I would be lost without him. I look forward to a new year of love and happiness and discovering who I am in Christ. And, while I am not ashamed, I hope I won’t scare you all off. 😉

 

 

A Call To Action To My Fellow Christians, How We Should Use This Political Season

I know that many have been upset by the election of Trump and have chosen to act out violently in response. I also know that there are those who feel free, under a Trump presidency, to unleash their racist, homophobic, xenophobic beliefs in sickening acts of hostility. I’m not here to add another voice to the madness of politics, rather I wish to call on my fellow Christians during this season of political and social upheaval.

As Christians we are called to spread love and peace. To serve those who suffer and to live a life beneath others. In our materialistic American world we’ve lost sight of that and we’ve all suffered. We’ve grown complacent. We don’t wish to offend. We are too busy to do one more thing. I understand, really, I do.

We all know we have failings. We all, no matter religion or political party, hear about our many flaws on a constant loop. And again, I’m not here to go into that.

What I ask, as one Christian to another, is that we band together and serve the hurting hearts of our country. Let those who lost this election have their protest. Pray over them. Bless them. Bring them food and water. Listen to their feelings and fears. Encourage them in their despair.

Quiet the voice inside you that wishes to gloat, to speak of your feelings, to draw attention to your pain. Yes, I know, many of you have felt (and are) oppressed, persecuted, and patronized for being conservative. Let them persecute you and instead give them your kindness, your generosity. As we often do not know why we do foolish things, so is true of those who are afraid and hurting.

“Forgive them, for they know not what they do.” Luke 23:34

We all want the same thing, a unified country, we want peace. Ultimately someone has to humble themselves and reach out with open arms. As Christians this is our calling.

“Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:34-35

As Christians we all have a specific calling and duty in Christ. I encourage you to use your gifts and calling in this time to encourage and uplift the hurting. For those that are unsure what their calling or gifts are; I encourage you to ask God for revelation and guidance and to speak to a trusted mentor in the faith.

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In the same way, I encourage my fellow Christians to listen to the voice of the church and openly, in Christ’s name and love, rebuke those who carry words of hate and a lukewarm faith. Now is not the time to be proud and selfish. This is a season of humility, responsibility, revival, and rebirth. Do not lose your way in a sea of hateful and foolish speech.

“As for those who persist in sin, rebuke them in the presence of all, so that the rest may stand in fear.” [Paul instructing Timothy in regard to the church.] 1 Timothy 5:20

“If anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted.” Galatians 6:1

“All scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness…” 2 Timothy 3:16

Most importantly, I strongly remind those in the faith to remember that rebuke is to be given to those within the church, not to those outside of Christianity.

“I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people – not at all meaning the sexually immoral of this world [those not in the faith], or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother [Christian] if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler-not even to eat with such a one. For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? God judges those outside. ‘Purge the evil person from among you.'” 1 Corinthians 5:9-13

Modern examples of this behavior (I imagine you understand drunkard and sexual immorality):

Greed: Selfish desire for something, especially wealth, power, or food. Materialism (materialism is one of my greatest struggles), self-indulgence, lust

Idolatry: Extreme admiration, love, or reverence for something or someone. i.e. celebrity preachers, self-gratification over worship, busyness (I’m guilty of this), personal prosperity (I struggle with this), treasuring anything more than God (even our loved ones), a desire to please others more than God (I’m guilty of this), sexual stimulation, education, career, etc. Great article here

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Revile: criticize in an abusive or angrily insulting manner. Denounce, slander, vilify, bad mouth. i.e. speaking poorly of baby boomers, speaking poorly of millennials, criticizing Clinton voters, criticizing Trump voters, disliking those who differ from you, speaking against those who have different beliefs

(I have been and can be a reviler at times, aren’t we all? Thank God he convicts us of our foolishness! I’d be a bigoted angry mess without him.)

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Swindler: use deception to deprive of money or possessions. i.e. fraud, cheat, deceive, deceiving other Christians with the amount you put in the offering plate, using the church for personal gain or even power, Christians can swindle more than money

I encourage my fellow Christians to ask God to purge any evil within yourselves, purify your heart before God, and follow his calling for your life so that we can unite this once great nation. Politics and intelligent conversation will never unite us, but Jesus can, love can.

“…Perfect love drives out fear…” 1 John 4:18

We are to be the balm to aching souls, but to many we have become a poison. We can only correct this through humility and God’s grace and guidance. We have purpose, we have a calling, and I am calling on you to join me in uniting a fractured nation, not through politics or grand gestures, but through Jesus Christ and his love.

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My Trauma & Struggles For The Past Nine Months 

I want to apologize for being so quiet lately, it has not been my intention. I’ve still been writing, working on a long series of posts that I wanted to complete first. I want it to feel more like a series of short stories. But that’s a whole other topic.

Things for us have been hard since Brielle died. Not long after her death I began struggling with flashbacks of my childhood, recovering memories I had forgotten (dissociative amnesia), and was diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) by two different therapists.

I did not have the home life my family would like everyone to believe I had. I suffered immensely at their hands and am beyond thankful that God has kept me safe. He has led me to a place in my life where I am safe and have been introduced to a trauma therapist that can help me and guide me through this process. I am even more thankful that I do not exhibit any other symptoms of disorders associated with child abuse. However, I do struggle with dissociation (thankfully within the limits of PTSD and not enough to qualify for dissociative identity disorder).

I’ve struggled with my memories. Struggled with my fears, my anxiety, and my flashbacks. I especially struggle with safety since I’ve never known what it is to feel safe. So I’m working on it. I’m extremely motivated to heal and to better myself. I do not want to be bound by my past and to forever relive my trauma. I want to build a good and loving future for my family.

Because of my trauma I’ve been unwilling to have anything to do with my parents. This has caused both family church friends and family to turn their backs on David and I when we desperately needed support. I have been spoken to cruelly and unjustly with false accusations being thrown my way. And not once have I been allowed to defend myself. I have suffered from many who claimed love for Brielle and I, but I can only assume that it was not genuine. David and I have felt the cruel sting of their betrayal and grieve the loss of the friendships we thought we had.

Even for this I am thankful. I would rather know the truth than to let liars into my heart and home. And so I happily move on from them and look forward to the future.

My grieving process for Brielle has also been a struggle. Pieces of me desperately try to hold onto her memory, but dissociation hides my pain and memories of her. In many ways I feel like I’m losing her all over again, but I knew this could happen. Which is why, during my pregnancy, I kept a diary of the majority of my days with her. I try to comfort myself with this and tell myself that I at least have my writing. And this is also why I work so hard to heal my mind, I know I can recover the memories I’ve lost, I just need to recover from trauma.

While I’ve been struggling with all of this, David and I have also been taking care of Bernice, moving her to assisted living, and then back in with us. It’s been difficult to know what is right for Bernice. Everyone has their opinions of how another should be managed, but it’s not that easy and David and I want her to be happy and respected. She’s a very kind and loving woman and we want to do our best to maintain her dignity.

Through all of this I’ve been unsure what to say. How do I talk about what’s important to me and not retraumatize myself in the process? It’s been a confusing, difficult, and painful time. And through it all I’ve felt the need to speak and have heard God call me to speak about my trauma, but I have remained silent, my fear and shame keeping me paralyzed. I’ve found myself feeling more like Jonah than a faithful follower and obedient servant. I remind myself that fear is not from God, but even still I struggle, and I know this comes from my trauma.

I am well aware that many hate me. Many refuse to believe me or listen to me and that many of these people claim to be Christians. Christian hypocrisy is not something I am unfamiliar with. But I do not report to friends or family, I report to God, and my silence defies him, and this leaves me ashamed and disappointed in myself. God has continually worked in my life and protected me. He has used even my mistakes and sins for good and he deserves recognition and glory for this.

And so I need your prayers. I need your support and encouragement. I’ve spent the majority of my life fighting for the good in me. I am weak and beat down. I need hope. I also need prayers for guidance, wisdom, and healing. My body has suffered greatly and fought hard to keep me alive and it is exhausted. My mind’s trauma and abuse limits me and keeps me from functioning as I should, I want to be healed from this. I want to do more than survive. I want to live. I want to thrive. And so I desperately ask for your prayers, love, and compassion during this season of my life.

My Motivations For Transparency and Why I Need Openness In My Life

For those who don’t know me personally, you wouldn’t know that I am as just open here as I am in person. And sometimes I wonder if I’m too open. I wonder if I’m making a mistake. Should I be embarrassed?

I wrestle with this. And maybe I am too open, but is that really a bad thing? I really couldn’t say. All I do know is my own experience and my own reasoning. Isn’t that true for all of us?

I suppose one of my motivations for transparency lies in my faith. Christians are called to speak out about their struggles so that fellow believers can help build one another up. To keep each other accountable. Because let’s face it, following any religion is hard and it’s unreasonable to do it alone.

And that’s a big motivator for me. Do I make mistakes? Do I sin? Do I represent Christ poorly? Yup, all the time. And I want to be held accountable for that. I want to know when I’ve messed up, so that I can fix it. So that I can apologize and clean up my mess, because I will make a mess of things. I’m human. That’s the grace of God, the confidence that I can screw up, apologize, and it’s forgiven, it’s forgotten. No matter how big or small, my mistakes are always redeemable. God’s offering, I might as well take it.


But outside of my faith, I have other reasons. Memories in my past of cruelty, prejudice, sexism, and hate. I have memories of good people, respectable people, turning on me in private. Tearing into me and spreading lies about me.

When your nightmares become a reality and hell becomes a place you frequent, it becomes hard to trust. Hard to believe. Hard to hope. And living in hell taught me that I wanted to be free. That I wanted to be more than my past. My past taught me that some of the kindest people we know are often the cruelest. My past taught me to look for lies. To look for deceit.

And so I live a transparent life. I speak candidly. I want you to call me out on my mistakes. Because I know monsters and I don’t want to become one. Living in secrecy, hiding who we truly are, breeds evil, and I desperately want to be good. To distance myself from my nightmares, look in the mirror, and see a whole, loving and kind woman. I am and will be more than my past.