When I was little, my parents would ask, “Brandy, what are you?” And I would proudly exclaim, “I’m adopted. And I’m special!”
I learned two things. First, I am AMAZING. Second, a way to explain why I didn’t fit in very well. Why I always felt like everyone was walking around with a joke I didn’t quite get. I had the sense that I was abandoned by people who were supposed to love me. I say this with hesitation because, the truth is, my life overflowed with love. I don’t want to diminish the way my parents cared for me. They waited seven years to adopt a child. And when I think about how much they love me, and how much my birth mom sacrificed (she’s amazing—a story for another day) even now, it brings me to tears.
But, this is the danger of bringing up an over-imaginative child. I have one of my own now, so I’m sure I’ll hear about it in her memoir.
Everyone in my little town went to church except my family. I wanted to fit in, so I started going, too. I found God fascinating. I asked a lot of questions that made my Southern Baptist youth leaders uncomfortable.
My dad is an atheist—and besides my husband, he’s the kindest, most loving, and generous man I know. I could not wrap my mind around a God who would condemn him to hell. Obviously, 15-year-old me became obsessed with the second coming. My church taught that Jesus would return when the Good News had been preached to every nation in the world. I secretly prayed that God would conveniently forget a country or two while I worked on saving my father. One day, I asked my Sunday school teacher what to do. She said she thought God would help us forget the people who don’t get into heaven.
That’s around the time I started getting high.
Being high was a lot more fun than going to church. It was also more fun than school or work. I tallied it once; I’d held almost 30 jobs by the time I was 23. I am slightly qualified for everything. But sometimes, I don’t show up.
We dated for three years and we brought out the worst in each other. I cheated. More than once. One day, I hooked up with an old flame. My first true love. He was charming, beautiful, and possibly a sociopath. We had this amazing day together. And then that night, he introduced me to his pregnant fiancé. It was like looking in a dirty mirror.
That got my attention. I stopped cheating. I told my daughter’s father what I’d done. And he told me what he’d done. I knew I didn’t love him. But I didn’t know I could leave him. I thought I’d made my bed. I thought Jesus was against divorce. Nevermind we weren’t technically married. Nevermind I didn’t listen anything else Jesus said. I had to figure out how to make this work. We started couples counseling.
We got engaged. In between dishing the details of my wedding ceremony, I told my counselor. “He says he wants to be a Christian, but some of the stuff he does . . . it makes me uncomfortable.”
“Are you sure you want to marry him?”
WHAT? No! I didn’t realize I had a choice! But if this respectable, inspiring woman thought I did, that was good enough for me!
I moved back in with my parents the next week. My life was a hot mess, but it didn’t matter. I was free! My counselor recommended me for a housekeeping position at a mega-church. That job swaddled me like a cocoon so I could begin healing the damaged bits. My boss was wonderful. He supplied me with a state-of-the-art vacuum for extra heady spills.
In return I scrubbed and shined that holy house until it sparkled. He put me in charge of the clothes closet and the food pantry (and allowed me to take from them as I needed).
I started reading again; I frequented the church bookstore, “vacuuming.” One day, in the clearance section, I came across a book called Velvet Elvis by Rob Bell. I liked the cover. We all have those books that change us from the inside out. Mr. Bell opened my eyes to a way of following Jesus that was intuitive and rock solid. I think back now, if I hadn’t found that book . . .
She was three when it happened. My little girl’s innocence, ripped away from her. It was a such strange time, less than a year after I started putting my life back together. People I didn’t know rallied around my little family in ways I could not have imagined. Still, I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy. Even though he did it.
I met Jermaine on an “evangelism retreat” about a month before the trauma. Honestly, I knew I’d marry him the moment we met. He is my lobster.
I was driving along the highway when it happened. Suddenly, I was sobbing. I felt it.
God was calling me to become a pastor. Me.
I’d been struggling to figure out what to do with my life. I knew I had been given a second chance. I knew I was a gifted writer and performer but until that moment, I couldn’t figure out how to combine the two.
I have long considered myself “the screw up”. That’s my story. I’m good at telling it. But there is a part in the narrative where it becomes less about me, the perpetual flunk, and more about me, a woman with the gift of wordplay, appointed to a role that’s generally filled by guys. That makes me incredibly nervous. But also more honored than I could ever explain.
There is more to my story. Every time I read this I find new parts that need editing. But that’s life, isn’t it? I’m working to turn it all into a memoir I’ll call Emergency Breakthrough. And damn it, this the year the book gets written.