Ask Big, Beth Johnson’s Broken Girl Story

I asked my friend, Beth Johnson, to share her story with us. I have watched Beth go through devastating circumstances and her strength and faith have moved me in so many ways. I love Beth…and I know you will too! 

~Jennifer

Beth's family

This past Sunday was unusually cool for early September, and we were unable to attend church due to my recovering from eye surgery and my son with a stomach virus. When I felt the inviting cool air I mentioned to my husband I would like to take a walk, and with a silent but understanding current passing between us he encouraged me to do so. So with nearly blind eyes, all covered with protective goggles and topped with awkward sunglasses he helped me find worship music on Pandora on my phone and I set out to walk our circle drive for some alone time.

Time alone or “me time” is very rare, and as my soul began to absorb the worship, and my skin the much needed sunshine, my tears began to fall. How had I sunk so far into depression so quickly? I have struggled with it on and off for years and of course I knew the answer for this latest episode and anyone that knows me would know the answer as well. But this year of all years I should be full of thankfulness and abundant joy. And thankful I truly am, but somehow I find myself completely empty, void of joy and to the point I was fearful for where I felt mentally and physically.

To make a long story short and one that I will save for another time, my eight-year-old son underwent lifesaving brain surgery this past April 1st, 2014. For years we had watched him decline, and then for two long weeks we watched not knowing if we would ever be able to take him home, or if God would call him to his eternal home. But God miraculously saved him and he is thriving.

I am sobbing by now, “Please feel my thankfulness.” I pray to my heavenly father. Even though I am empty I am so thankful. I will never forget what a miraculous healing God is doing in my son. I am humbled that he heard this mother’s cries for her son’s life. Months of much needed tears burst forth and in my currently near blind state and my gift for coordination I stumbled on a rock and nearly fell. Not a pretty picture I assure you. I had to laugh through my tears and was thankful we live out in the country where no one could see my current condition. Hot pink t-shirt, yoga shorts, layers of protective eye gear and hair that had not been touched for days. And then the symbolism hits me, just as the rock I nearly fell on. How had I come to this dark place so quickly? Surrender and Trusting. If there has been one thing I feel God has been trying to change in me for the past 9 years of my life, it would be surrender and trust. I am a Blood Type A, OCD, and schedule everything. But it is the only way I can keep up with the demands life has given me. But in this, I know I have to lean on him, surrender my will and ideals, and trust that with his strength I can carry the loads I have been given. And foremost to trust he still loves me and sees where I am and what I need. I continued to cry and prayed for forgiveness for continuously plunging ahead thinking I could work full time, take care of a recovering disabled child, keep up with a teenage daughter and be an attentive wife as well as keep up with laundry and meals, all without his help. All without taking the needed time alone with him and for time I need for me. I’ve been a Christian since childhood, I know how to answer well-meaning people who say “I don’t know how you do it” to which I smile and say “All with God’s help,” but it’s so easy to say and yet I have never learned to surrender and truly accept that help. Especially when that “help” might mean stopping and doing nothing or taking time for myself.

“Bless the Lord Oh My Soul” came on Pandora and I tried to sing through my abundance of tears, entering into deep worship before the throne of God. And as my heart surrenders I tell my heavenly father, “I am done, I am empty, and I can’t see hope. I can’t keep going like this.” I had scared my husband and myself with the words I had spoken just the day before, “The week after surgery when I was all drugged up on pain pills and slept for a week was like heaven to me.” I had prepared ahead easy menus, my sweet and helpful mother-in-law was helping with the kids, and all I had to do was sleep. And as I had to come off all that medication and got back to life, the terrifying realization hit me; I didn’t want to do anything but sleep, to hide, to not have to feel or take care of anyone.

Now that sounds like a strong Christian woman whose son had been miraculously healed only five months earlier doesn’t it? But the truth is, although God is healing my son’s seizures, unless God has other plans and more intense healings Zane will always be disabled and have Hemi Plegia Cerebral Palsy. The daily struggles of feedings, behavior issues, health issues, lack of sleep, school nightmares all while having to play these many roles was not going to change. And please do not get me wrong, I love my children, my son is a rare gift God chose to bless me with, I child I begged God for and prayed into this world. But unless you have a child with special needs, there is no way you can possibly realize the work, the extreme stress and tears that go into raising these precious gifts. So I continue to pray and cry out for help as I walk and look around at my dream home and lovely yard my husband built for me seven years ago. Seven years ago that I jumped ahead of God’s will and talked my husband into building this house that we would struggle to keep for years to come. More tears come as I again repent of my charging ahead and being led by my emotions. God had revealed to me years back as I prayed through a financial struggle that I had used the building of this beloved house to try and comfort and heal the pain and disappointment of having a disabled child. I am not proud of the huge mistakes I make, but I know he has forgiven me. But regardless, when you get out of God’s will or rush it too soon; there will be consequences. My consequence is to work full time. This all happened before I knew Zane would face such terrible health issues and I would struggle to work and keep up physically and mentally. But God knew what was to come, and I often wonder how changed life might be if I had not blindly jumped and had waited for His timing.

In my praying I began to plead for help. “Give me more energy, strength, healing to my body so I can get out of bed every day and be a good wife and mother knowing the struggles I will face.” Just then the song “Mighty to Save” came on and the specific line, “Savior he can move the mountains, my God is mighty to save” came on. And almost audibly the Lord spoke to me, “Beth ask big!” And I just stopped and wept the deepest, most healing tears. Again he whispered, “Ask big Beth.” And the most beautiful peace came over me. This God, my heavenly father who loves me though I jump ahead of his plans more than naught, was urging me to ask him for bigger things. I nearly dropped to my knees. “How can I ask you for more than I already have? I have a beautiful home you have provided for us to keep, a loving husband, beautiful daughter and you are healing my son and restoring him to me. I do not dare ask for more.” My heart whispers in return. What an unworthy child I felt like, getting in over my head and then crying for help and waiting until I could go no more until I surrendered all to him. The word “Trust” pressed on my heart strongly. So I began to worship, walking with vigor, in humble awe that my savior could love me so much and want to give me more than I could even think of asking for. And so in trusting him, I did, I asked. I asked “Big”.

When I came back inside the house with red swollen eyes my husband said, “Your better!” And I smiled, “Yes, I am.”

Ephesians 3:20 (KJV) says, “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his purpose that is at work ,within us.”

I encourage you, do not let your feelings of inadequacy keep you from feeling like you are a child of the ALL MIGHTY GOD, and I encourage you to ASK BIG!

With Love,

Beth Johnson

Restored, Michelle Bollom’s Broken Girl Story

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To fully understand my story, you have to know my history with brokenness. I was a broken girl from as far back as I can remember. My first fracturing came when my parents divorced when I was too young to even remember my parents together. My dad got custody of my two sisters and me while my two brothers went to live with my mom. Little did I know, we would not see our mother again for several years. My dad was broken. My mom was broken. My whole family was broken.

All the years of fighting and the tug of war of divorce left a vulnerable child without adequate protection who became an easy target for others. The next fracturing came from sexual abuse from not just one, but also numerous people who were in my life from the age of seven to around twelve. From that abuse I became good at self-blame and began my search for love in all the wrong places. As I grew up I attracted broken people myself. I lived most of my life trying to pretend I was not broken. I was out of balance in almost all areas of my life. I was a person that carried those secrets for far too many years. I learned to operate in a false self, burying my secrets deep. Smiling on the outside to cope with those feelings of guilt and shame from my buried secrets, I tried to medicate with alcohol, drugs, shopping, and sex. There is no balance in brokenness.

I married a wonderful man in 1996 that did not know of my brokenness. When I became a mother three years later to twins, I was fractured by post-partum depression and then medically-induced menopause after a total hysterectomy. With my emotions now out of control I became a workaholic to try and escape the despair I felt, as I became a broken mother. I ran my family into credit card debt three different times from buying things to compensate for my guilt of being an absent mother.  I also bought things to fill all the aching voids I felt inside.

My next fracturing was the one that almost shattered me. In the spring of 2006, my brother died suddenly. He had lost his battle with addiction. By this time I had learned to hide my brokenness in the church pews practicing religious rituals. However, because of his death, I became very angry at God. I wanted nothing to do with Him. That summer, I found The Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren. It was a life-changing book for me. I made a barter with God that if He was all that people claimed He was, I would follow Him…if He would deliver me from my smoking addiction. He was faithful and took that addiction away from me in 2007. I began finding comfort for my brokenness in God and His word, but still I did not fully trust God enough to surrender all my secrets to Him. In 2008, at age 38, I was fractured by a stroke that later uncovered diabetes. Right after came another fracture from my Dad’s sudden death later that same year. The months following my stroke led to an overload of doctors and diagnoses. Looking back now, I realize that all my health issues were a manifestation of trying to keep my secrets buried and turning to everything for comfort except God, The Greatest Comforter. I had revealed my secrets to my husband and a few others over the years, but it wasn’t until I released my secrets to God and became obedient to Him to let Him use them, as He wanted to that He could finally do some of His best restorative and transforming work in my life. It is true, “We are only as sick as our secrets.”

My secrets of abuse, addiction, and debt were bad, but my biggest brokenness was from a secret I had buried for over 20 years. Abortion. Abortion affects 1.3 million women each year. It is the one topic that gets people really fired up. I have been in churches where pastors went on and on about the Sanctity of Life and many so-called Christians got so riled up over the subject that they came across as condemning. Condemnation from our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ only tends to make the isolation and shame worse for many wounded women.  I saw no one offering to help restore lives after the effects of abortion or reaching out to these women to offer them Hope.

When I saw all my brokenness that was weighing me down by the shame and guilt I was carrying from my secrets, I cried out to God. He knew all my brokenness all along. He was waiting for me to release all of it to Him so that He could use it for His Glory. I wrestled with God for two years before I let go of the fear and let God strengthen me to the point of sharing my secrets with the world.

I clung to this verse in some of my darkest moments:  

And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace [Who imparts all blessing and favor], Who has called you to His [own] eternal glory in Christ Jesus, will Himself complete and make you what you ought to be, establish and ground you securely, and strengthen, and settle you. (1 Peter 5:10 AMP).

God did strengthen and settle me, but I was desperate to overcome my brokenness. Then one day I saw: “And they overcame him because of the blood of the Lamb, and because of the words of their testimony;” (Revelations 12:11)

That was it! God was confirming to me that we only overcome by sharing our “Broken Girl Stories.” Sharing how God has restored us. There are far too many Broken Girls not operating in the best that God has for them. Whether that secret be abortion, abuse, unplanned pregnancy, not finishing school or college, yelling at your kids, anger at your spouse, vanity, a critical or judgmental spirit, cursing like a sailor, having an affair, getting a divorce, self-hate, turning to pills, alcohol, drugs, sex, shopping, work, volunteering, or food for escape or comfort. It doesn’t matter what it is, God can use it all to create something beautiful out of our brokenness. Vulnerability is not weakness; it is courage! We can’t repair our stories until we share our stories. The broken, the ugly, and the messy. Real Wholeness from our brokenness begins when we release ALL the broken pieces, all our (secrets, sins, struggles) to God. Only when we release it are we able to obtain real emotional deliverance.

My hope is that everyone will begin to Live R.E.S.T.O.R.E.D.

~XXOO Michelle Bollom                                Michelle Bollom is Founder of Restored Ministries, http://www.restoredministries.org    Michelle's profile pic

Happily married to Joe for 18 years and mom to twins Connor and Curran. Michelle resides in the North West Suburbs of Houston, TX.  She is a Lover of Jesus, words, and enjoys encouraging others.

 

 

The Story Without Ending, Julia Miller’s Broken Girl Story

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Sometimes God places you somewhere and you have no idea why, but later it all comes together and you realize that you didn’t just sit down at a table with a few women you’ve never met…you were placed there to help someone cry a little and know that they are not alone. I met Julia Miller this summer at She Speaks and instantly loved her and felt like her story needed to be told here on Broken Girl. I know you will love Julia as much as I do. ~Jennifer Renee

Stories have a beginning, a middle, and an end.  In my fifth grade classroom, I teach my students this very simple reading strategy.  

“Look for the conflict, then tell me the plot events that lead to the resolution,” I say.  

We learn at an early age that a story must have an ending, and in most cases, it is a happily-ever-after ending.  

However, when asked to share my story, my first thought was one of self-doubt.

“I can’t share my story.  I don’t have any answers yet.  It won’t help anyone because so much has been left unresolved.”  

I can share the conflict, and the beginning plot events.  I can weave hope into the story, however I can’t yet share an ending.  

Once upon a time….last October, after a summer of invasive and time consuming fertility-based testing, and two rounds of a fertility drug that had frighteningly strong emotional side effects, my regular ob-gyn told me that he could no longer help me, and referred me to a fertility clinic.  

That was on a Tuesday.  

I called the fertility clinic, scheduled the first available appointment, and stomped around the house for the rest of the week.  I cried and I yelled and felt very lonely.  Fertility struggles are often private, and isolating.  Everyone around me had beautiful, healthy babies, and I was on the deserted island of reproductively challenged women.  I was angry that my journey to become a mother was going to be a difficult one, and I was furious that my body was “broken”.

This news was heartbreaking.  I had no idea…

The following Sunday morning, as my husband and I were getting ready to go to church, my father rang our doorbell.

I toasted us English muffins, poured orange juice and coffee, and we sat together at the dining room table.  After I finished my breakfast, my dad reached across the table and took my hand.  

He very softly said, “There is no easy way to say this.  Your little brother has gone to be with the Lord.”  

My beautiful, 27-year-old, talented, smart, funny, beloved baby brother Matt lost his struggle to addiction on October 18th, that previous Friday night.  My mom and dad found out on Saturday.  My sister and I were told on Sunday morning.  

My world came crashing down.  I know that sounds cliche, but that is how October of 2013 felt to me.    

I wish that my continued “plot events” would be that my family is healing in our grief gracefully and easily, and that we have been blessed with a baby to bring new life and joy back to our lives.  

It has not been such a neatly written story.  My mom still cries every, single day.  My dad bought them a new house because the memories of our childhood home are often too painful to bear.  My sister grieves quietly, not always sharing her pain.  I know she breaks down when she is alone.  I fell apart in the grocery store last Saturday, when I saw Matt’s favorite yellow-smiley face bakery cookies.  I had to leave the church foyer on Sunday, when two women with beautiful baby girls were standing in front of me as I walked out of the sanctuary.  I lost my first pregnancy in May.  That little life went straight to Heaven and is with Uncle Matt.   

Here is the thread of hope in my story…

The despair will fade.  Just as stars break through the dark night sky, joy will begin to intersperse itself through the pain.

Did I also laugh on the day that I broke down over cookies?  Yes.  Am I persevering in my journey to become a mother, and praying fervently along the way?  Absolutely.  Is my family coming together tonight to eat dinner on the back porch, catch up, and love one another?  With God’s healing hand guiding us, we will never stop gathering together.

God brings healing slowly but surely.  The pain is not so acute, and the fear for the future is slowly dissipating.  We will always miss Matt.  I will never give up on trying to become a mother.  And while many hours still are painful, I can honestly say that they are less painful.  Nothing can be as awful as last October.  And while many days are still uncertain, they are less uncertain.  I know that I will be a mom, in the time and way that God has planned for me.     

I would rather become a mother in a time that is ordained by God than myself.  I wish I could hear Matt laugh, see his smile, wrap my arms around him and hold him close, call him to tell him that he is going to be an uncle…but not at the expense of him being sick and in pain.  

God has a perfect plan, to keep us safe, to protect us, and guide us.  I hold fast to this verse, in my times of weakness and fear of the ending to my story:

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” -Jeremiah 29:11

When it is time for my “resolution”, I will happily go to meet Jesus and hug my brother.  For now, I am excited to witness the story that God has written for my life.  

 ~Julia Miller

Julia Miller's family

Matt, me, my husband Jeremiah, and sister Colleen.  We were so happy together, but we will be even happier someday in Heaven.

Julia Miller is a Chicago girl living in the suburbs who loves the Lord, her husband, her family and friends. Julia writes in an attempt to heal, share hope, and maybe even a little bit of humor. You can read more of Julia’s writing over here.Julia's bio pic

Updates

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Hi friend!

We’re so thankful for each one of you and this community here at Broken Girl.

As Jennifer told you last week, we’ve received some good advice from friends, mentors, and professionals who are all encouraging us to create our own sites with our own content. To say we’ve drug our feet about that is an understatement. We simply love this space here, and we love doing ministry together.

Here’s the good news, none of that is going to change! We’ll still be here on a regular basis unpacking what makes us Broken Girls tick and discovering together how God wants to mend all of our broken places. If you’d like to be a part of that, we’d love to hear your Broken Girl Story. You can submit that here.

In addition to Broken Girl, you now have access to Jennifer and I in another location, and we’d love to connect with you there as well! You can find Jennifer at her new lovely home here, and I (Keri) will be posting when I get the chance over here.

Would you do us a favor? We’d love to get your input on our new blogs. Can you stop by and take a tour and let us know what you think? While you’re there we’d be so honored if you’d consider subscribing and if you’d like to share with your friends we’d be overjoyed.

If you’d like to see what we’ve been up to this week here’s a sneak peak:

Years ago a classy lady that I absolutely adore walked up to me and grabbed my hands. I knew a moment was coming. As we held each other’s hands I waited on her to find words to say to me.

Words can linger in lonely moments and be a reminder of connected hearts and moments shared. With one carefully crafted sentence you could set a heart free and be the catalyst for a life-altering change. I want my words to be a lifeline, not a vast ocean for others to drown in.

During that season of life when I felt like I was sinking, I held onto her sweet hands and listened.

“You have such an amazing life. You really do. The things that you are doing, the open doors, and the ministry that you do weekly…you really lead such an amazing life.”

In my heart I asked a question, “Then why don’t I love it more?”

Read the rest of “Unnecessary Baggage” here… 

 

“I am lonely, yet not everybody will do. I don’t know why, some people fill the gaps and others emphasize my loneliness.” ― Anaïs Nin

“This makes me mad!” She had emailed me a link to another article from another Christian organization with the same tired points about why singles should be joyful and uncomplaining in their current season.

There was nothing wrong with the article. It made the exact same (good) points that every other article addressed to single Christians made. It was just one little line that set her off. Just nine little words; “there should be no lonely people in our churches.”

If you’ll allow me, I’m going to beg to differ.

Read the rest of “The Lonely Soul” here… 

We truly do love you ladies and pray for you often. Thanks for supporting us and each other.

With love~

Keri

P.S. Later this week we’ll be sharing a crazy awesome Broken Girl story with you. I can’t tell you more now… you’ll just have to wait!

Photo by Lign Nguyen Licensed under CC BY 2.0