Slow Mornings

I love slow mornings

Coffee, cuddled up under warm blankets

Waking up slowly and letting the light in

I love the hot sun on my face in the morning

Green gardens with bright flowers peeking through to greet me,

to say good morning,

to release God’s new mercies afresh unto my soul.

I love new mercies

New days, new mornings, fresh starts,

Potential, of new smiles and new lessons.

Fresh chances to love, to live, here, now. Presently.

 

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Too Christian for the Buddhists, Too Buddhist for the Christians: A Christmas Reflection

I’m the kind of person that likes for things to be very clear. Are we fighting or are we okay? Are you coming over, yes or no? Exactly what time should I expect you? Are we going or not? Are you a Christian? Yes? Well, do you love Jesus? Do you have a deep, personal love relationship with Jesus Christ? In fact I started dating someone several months ago and I remember asking her these exact questions in the early days when we were considering a relationship. I was sending her voice notes of prayers to Jesus about whether or not we should try dating before we even went on our first date. Most people question whether or not I am a Christian. Hell, so do I. But one thing that no one ever questions including myself is weather or not I am a lover of Jesus. I’m not sure if I am down with certain aspects of Christian culture, but I know, and most people that I know also know that I am deeply, madly in love with Jesus and I live my life as a follower of His. Jesus has been the answer to every question I have had in my entire life, and it has looked a certain way. It’s looked like (to me at least) a very liberal kind of Christianity. So when problems have arisen in my life I have always gone straight to Jesus in traditionally Christian ways: by praying to a Jesus that lives in Heaven, by studying and meditating on the Bible, praise and worship, getting Christian counsel when needed. And sure enough Jesus brought me through what I hope was the worst two years of my sickness through these practices.

But over the past almost a year now I have been adding to my spiritual practices. I have discovered practices that literally counteract the effects of my illness and I have been doing them. Most of these practices come from Eastern religions but are now widely accepted in the west, particularly yoga and meditation. But about 5 months something changed. I found myself praying excessively about healing my illness and spending hours every day with God begging Him to take this affliction away from me. I also continued with my worshiping and reading the Bible and meditation etc. But in my prayer time about 5 months ago… and this is the part where I will probably offend all my pastor and fundamentalist Christian friends if I haven’t already… I started getting this impression that I should try chanting. It wasn’t like an audible voice or anything, it was just an impression upon my heart “you should start chanting”.

So basically, to be clear, what I am saying is… and this is where my Buddhist friends get offended… Jesus lead me to start chanting. I started with simply chanting “OM” for 15 minutes with a group. When we finished it felt as though I had taken an anti-anxiety pill. I felt so much better than before I started chanting! It was amazing!! Once I realized that I could use the vibrations of “OM” to combat my depression I started chanting it several times a week whenever meeting were held. And then one day while reflecting on the power of OM chanting I remembered a conversation that I had with a friend in LA. When I was having the conversation it didn’t seem significant, but as I sat at my alter reflecting, I realized the Holy Spirit was obviously so present during that conversation. My friend was telling me about how much her life had changed since she began chanting. She shared with me that she chanted a simple phrase “nam-myo-ho-renge-kyo”. I remembered the phrase from the Tina Turner movie. About 5 months later at my alter in Nairobi, Kenya I started contemplating chanting the phrase. Eventually, through my friend in the U.S., I met several other people here in Nairobi that chant the phrase. It’s a practice of Nicheren Buddhism. The group that practices this Buddhism is called SGI (Soka Gikkai).

As soon as I started chanting I saw an immediate effect on my illness. SGI is all about overcoming suffering and I noticed that when my depression and anxiety tried to push me down to a literal living hell, I was able to overcome it through chanting. I have been hospitalized every 5-6 months since my first psychotic break. I have had symptoms of psychosis, anxiety, and depression daily since I first got sick. I take tons of meds to combat it. But what started as me using the practices Jesus preaches to overcome these symptoms turned into adding chanting to those already powerful practices. The more I chanted, the more I learned about Nichiren Buddhism. I learned that chanting is more than just a prayer. You can’t “just chant” and expect for things to change. I learned that I also have to put effort in whatever it is that I wanted to change. Now let me slam on the breaks. SGI does not worship a different God than Christianity. In fact there is no worship at all in SGI. It’s not even about God. Most people who practice don’t even believe in God at all. This practice is about what we call “human revolution”, you using the power that you have inside of you (which I call the Holy Spirit) to change your life and even your emotional state. Since I have started practicing I haven’t been hospitalized at all!!! Before I started practicing I would have a depressive episode maybe once per week. Since I have started chanting I have had only 2 episodes in several months!! Chanting has raised my vibrations and allowed me to recognize that the power inside of me is strong enough to overcome my schizoaffective disorder and it’s symptoms. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m definitely not (yet!) cured or healed from my illness, but I have a practice that helps me overcome it daily even though it’s still there. Don’t worry! I haven’t stopped taking my meds or seeing my therapist and doctor, or stopped praying to Jesus and reading the Bible and getting encouragement from it when I’m low etc. But this practice and the teachings have become a vital part of my life,

So now my issue is that i’m too Christian for the Buddhists and too Buddhist for the Christians. Both tell me that I am not allowed to identify as both, but honestly I do. I will not deny that Christ is my savior and the Lord and love of my life. However, I do believe that this Christ lives as the Holy Spirit inside of me and is what I evoke when I chant. I also will not deny the power of cause and effect (the power of nam-myo-ho-renge-kyo). But, I do believe in God (Jesus) at the same time. I think God is the embodiment of the Mystic Law. I have been praying about reconciling this in my heart since I started to believe it. Then yesterday (Christmas Day) something happened. I was at the beach with my kids and my partner and we were swimming and laughing and playing around in the ocean and I realized: I was there. For the past 2 years I have missed Christmas with my kids because I have been sick in the hospital and completely psychotic, depressed, and anxious, almost completely unaware of where I was, what day it was and what was going on. But yesterday on Christmas day, I was present. I was present with the people I love. I wasn’t in some psych ward or recovering in someone’s house. I was present on Christmas. Isn’t that what Christmas is all about, presence? I was aware of Immanuel, Christ With Us, not only being present with us in that ocean but being present, brought into the world for Love, because I am not perfect and never will be no matter how much I try. But Christ’s presence as my savior saves me from the death that is the consequence of that. I was also aware of the presence of my own Buddha nature, how I had made a determination to be well for Christmas and to make this Christmas the best Christmas ever for my kids, and I did it. I made the determination, added the effort and made it happen. Right there in the ocean with my girls and my love, I started worshipping, singing songs of thanks to God as I thought about this. I said a special thank you prayer to Jesus for introducing me to chanting. And as I sang worship songs and danced around in praise in the ocean,I realized I had been given the best Christmas present ever: presence… then I got up the next morning and chanted.

Lessons from goddess Glennon Doyle

Do the next right thing, choose the next right person.

If you want to grow, serve the ones you have.

Figure out what it is that makes you wanna stick forks in your eyes and don’t do that thing!

Make whatever boundaries you need to make so that you don’t quit.

“Do whatever it is that I need to do today so that I don’t quit”

Figure out what kills you and don’t do that thing.

RESPECT THE DREAM!

Everything beautiful in the world is created by people who are not ready.

“Write like you’re being paid until someone pays you” -Mark Twain

Each day you figure out what your values are and then you match up those values to your hours.

Figure out what your daily job is and show up for yourself every single day.

Be an artist, don’t be a babysitter (of your art).

WATCH the video below for more yummy lessons from the video I pulled these from:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=upqNHz4RSSc

When Darkness Invades

I was in Mombasa when I got the call. From the other end of the phone “Sarah is missing”. I didn’t even blink. I thought for sure my daughter was just misbehaving, maybe ran off with a boy somewhere, or running away because she didn’t want to go back to school since it was the first day back to school. I continued with my day as usual, taking the other kids back to school and flying back to Nairobi. But then when it started getting dark and she still wasn’t home was when I began to get scared.

A week ago my daughter was abducted right off the street we live on. The supposed “safe” street that I’ve walked down a million times. She was abducted, drugged, and then held in a trafficking ring for 2 days. I had no idea where she was. It was the most terrifying experience as a parent. I was afraid she may be dead. The first night I slept on the couch, as close to the door as I could, just hoping the bell would ring and it would be Sarah. Two days later I got a text message saying “Mum it’s Sarah. Don’t call. I’m in trouble. I need help”. We continued to text and through her texts I learned about what had happened to her and the hell she was living. That’s when shit got real to me. The search was on. It was even more painful for me to be in contact with her and hear what was happening to her and not be able to do anything about it. As a parent you want to protect your kids. Not being able to do that was so hard.

Eventually Sarah escaped and after jumping through lots of hoops, she is safely home with me. I thought when she was finally home with me the hell would be over. No. She’s completely traumatized. She won’t even sleep in her own bed. She sleeps next to me every night and spends most of her days in my bed.

I am writing this because my therapist told me that I need to process what happened instead of trying to be so strong and trying to escape reality. So this is an attempt to process what I experienced and what I am feeling. My house feels full of weight, especially my room where Sarah is. It just feels heavy and dark. I sage, I diffuse oil, but her sadness is stubborn. So of course I am experiencing vicarious trauma. As her main support, a lot of her emotions fall on me and I have been absorbing them. I feel like I need a bath to wash off all the pain and trauma. I feel like there’s a shell around me and I need someone to crack it open for me.

The past several days I have just been running away trying to pretend this didn’t happen. But it did. And it makes me really fucking angry. I was in such a good space before this. I was so happy. I have plans for the next few months that will make me happy. But this awful thing has just come in and destroyed all of that. I want to feel better. I want my baby to feel better. I want this to be over. But one step at a time. And me actually writing this is the first step. Sarah is going to therapy and going on her own healing journey as well. I can’t let this awful thing completely ruin everything. Light overcomes darkness. So I am going to keep praying, keep thinking positively, fight for my joy, do yoga, burn my sage and incense, diffuse my oils, write, meditate and use all the tools I have to overcome horrible tragedies like this one. Eventually the light will overcome. Jesus. Jesus will overcome and bring peace and joy. Eventually i’ll be able to feel more and even tell the story. Eventually I won’t be angry anymore. But one step, one step at a time.

 

Letting Go

I just listened to a talk on reaching for your mediocrity instead of trying to be the best. It also talked about not letting your dreams ruin your life. I know, it sounds depressing. But it was actually a  really freeing experience for me. For the past 5 years I have been striving so hard for greatness, to achieve my dreams- even at the cost of my own health and relationships. We are at a hard time in Art and Abolition (my non-profit that I have given my life to). We have been through hard times many times before but I always push through and work really hard to keep us going. The issue is money. The issue is alway money. Raising 11 children (soon to be 22) is not cheap. School is expensive. Housing is expensive. Therapy is expensive and the list goes on. Because I love my girls so much usually I always figure out a way to hustle and provide for them. But here is the thing…. I’m tired. There is no money for next month and I just don’t have the energy to hustle and raise the $4,000. I’m exhausted. Doing that every month for several years is exhausting. I’m sure all the single moms understand. It’s literally driven me crazy.

So, i’ve decided that I am letting go. I am not going to toss and turn all night trying to figure out a way to raise $4,000 in less than a week.  I’m not going to beg everyone I know to help. I am not going to spend night and day praying to God to please come through. I am just going to do what I am supposed to be doing: resting. If this is God’s work, then God will provide for it without me striving so hard this month. I’m supposed to be on sabbatical for 6 months, but regardless these problems are always brought to me and I am expected to fix them. There’s a certain fire I normally have that this last bought with psychosis and depression just snuffed out and the only way for me to get that fire back is to take an actual break.

So I’m going to try it. My kids may lose their home because of this, some kids may get kicked out of school because their fees haven’t been paid, staff may have to be laid off, but I’m preparing myself for any of it. I can’t kill myself trying to keep Art and Abolition going. Maybe this is the month it all comes tumbling down…. maybe not. Either way, I am letting go and trusting God to sustain me through either situation.

I’m Coming Out

If you are a part of my life in any capacity it’s not a secret that the past couple of years have been a challenge. Let me stop being polite. They have been heart-wrenching. 2016 was one of the most painful years of my life, so much so that at the end of the year I had a psychotic break (scariest thing ever) and was diagnosed with severe anxiety, depression, and PTSD. I was hospitalized for a while, put on medication, and started taking my therapy more seriously and had a procedure done to treat my PTSD. Several months later I was feeling great so my doctor started weening me off my medication and I thought that was the end of my journey with mental illness.

After reducing the medication to a certain level I began experiencing symptoms of psychosis again (delusion, disassociation from reality, hallucinations, hearing voices) etc  and also became very anxious and fell back into a deep depression. I was hospitalized again but this time I got a more clear understanding of my diagnosis. I never thought I would be saying that I have a mental illness and I honestly feel the shame even as I am writing this. It almost brings me to tears. I am still in a bit of disbelief. But the truth is, I have a mental illness. I have schizoaffective disorder (the depressive type) and because of this my life has to change quite a bit in the next several months, especially in regards to Art and Abolition.

Learning that I have this chronic disease has broken my heart more than the person (people) who triggered the first episode did. I have to give a lot of things up: the ability to live alone, the ability to party like a rockstar, some friendships, most painfully- my current job, and more. But through therapy and prayer I have come out of the place where I feel helpless and hopeless and I now feel like I have victory over my illness. If I continue taking my meds and going to therapy I can live a pretty normal life- I can have a job with Art and Abolition even if it’s in a position that’s much less triggering, I can have a couple drinks even if I can’t party like a rockstar, I can have friends that truly love me and accept even this part of me, and I can still do my art which I enjoy. That can be a life well lived.

Like many of you I wondered, “How did this happen? I was okay my whole life” The truth is (and my really close friends know this) I wasn’t ok. The disease doesn’t manifest until adulthood, but my whole life I have struggled with major depression and anxiety. It is believed that schizoaffective disorder is caused by unresolved trauma that happened in childhood and then something in adulthood triggers it causing psychosis. I experienced some pretty intense trauma in my childhood related to abandonment and rejection as well as sexual abuse. When these two things are triggered in me is when i go into psychosis if I’m not on medicine. I also live in a constant state of deep depression and anxiety as well if I don’t take my meds. I just hide it well when I am in the U.S.

But I am tired of hiding. It’s exhausting. So I decided to just come on out and say it to everyone. I am learning not to be ashamed. Some people have physical illnesses. I have a mental one. Because my job is so triggering I will be stepping down as executive director of Art and Abolition and moving into a different role within the organization.  It is a role I have been so humbled to hold all of these years.

Phew, now all of that is off of my chest…. Thank you to everyone who has been so supportive along this journey for me.

 

For a Little Girl Named B*

I keep coming across this quote that says, “Your only a writer if you write. Once you stop writing you’re no longer a writer.” Well,  I haven’t written in a long time, so mostly out of fear of no longer being a writer, I’m writing tonight. There couldn’t be a worse time for me to choose to write because when you come from a writing hiatus you are supposed to write something flowery and cute and easy to swallow. Trouble is, my day was all but that. To be honest, my life isn’t that either. My day and my life are what I like to call a beautiful mess. It spills all over the place. It slips into places it shouldn’t. But somehow, it’s still beautiful.

Today I watched hopelessness and hope crash into one another and winced and prayed as I saw hope overcome in what looked like a reflection of my life: a beautiful mess. Today was one of the hard days at work. I don’t have them often anymore because we haven’t done intake in years. So my normal workday is seeing how the hard work of me and my team (and of course the grace of God) has transformed former child victims of sexual violence into young ladies who are survivors and thriving in their new lives. So when I met B (that’s what we’ll call her) today, my heart was confused. It had kind of forgotten how to shatter the way it did as I listened to B’s story. For the past few years I have been listening to young ladies who used to be my little girls tell me of the extraordinary ways their lives have changed since they became a part of Art and Abolition. I have been watching pieces of the monster that is sexual violence against young girls chip away. So when B walked in the room, the monster that walked in with her jolted me and I sat up a little straighter to listen to B’s story. I realized that the monster was still alive and well and torturing this little girl.

B is 8 years old. When it came time to speak my instinct was to say was any person would say to an 8 year old. “What’s your name? What grade are you in? What is your favorite subject in school? What games do you like to play with your friends?” Questions that 8 year old should be asked. But I asked those questions for as long as I could before my social worker chimed in and asked the question I had been avoiding. “So, tell us what happened on that day”. We all knew which day she was referring to. B’s face immediately changed and she started peeling away at a pink pencil in her hands. The pink specks were falling off the pencil and onto her green school uniform.

“That day” B was playing outside… like 8 year olds do, when a man came and lured her and her friends to his house. He enticed them with the promise of rice and meat, things B’s family sadly cannot afford. What started out as a fun afternoon playing with friends quickly turned dark when the man stripped all the girls naked and instructed them to lie down in a line on the ground. As B is telling us this more more of the pink specks are falling down and her skirt is now covered in them. My social worker asks “And then what happened?” B is silent. She doesn’t cry or make a sound. She just chips away at what used to be a pink pencil. Eventually she says, “Alinirape” which means “he raped me” in Swahili. The social worker that is seated next to me expands on the story and tells me that the man lined them up on the floor and then penetrated them one by one. When B was taken to the hospital his sperm was found in her urine. The room went quiet. The only sound was B chipping away at what was now about half of a pencil. Everyone in the room waited with a heavy silence for me or my social worker to say something. But what do you say? “Thank you. I’ll let you know if you make it into the program?”. I couldn’t say that. My social worker, who is obviously much more experienced with hearing these cases than I am went on to ask her more questions like “What happened next?”etc. But I stopped her, and I put my hand on B’s knee. I tilted my head down so I could look into her eyes which were downcast and I said, “I’m sorry”. That’s all I could say. “I’m sorry”. There was so much behind that short sentence. I was sorry she knew what the word rape meant and felt like. I was sorry that she may never feel safe to go outside and play with her friends again. I was sorry that she was raped. I was sorry she couldn’t save herself from the man. I was sorry she had to tell the story to us. I was just so sorry. But I let all of that out in two small words. Then I let the social worker continue with her questions. This is all necessary to make sure the girl fits our criteria for our program. We do these interviews for intake. We are taking in 11 more girls this November and so we are holding interviews with survivors to see who we will choose.

As the social worker continued to talk to B, I stopped listening and started praying. I asked God “Please, let me see what you see” and immediately hope won. I saw B in the future after receiving the therapy and healing she needs. I saw her educated and well dressed instead of in a ripped school inform. I saw her smiling and confident instead of her head being downcast as she peels away at a pencil. There is a whole process that we go through before we accept a girl, but I made the decision then and there that B was going to be accepted into our program. That little girl changed my life. She was so brave. She didn’t have to come for that interview and she didn’t even have to speak. But she did. And not only that, she goes to school everyday and continues with life after experiencing such hell. What a resilient spirit for an 8 year old.

I would love to say that’s how the day ended, but it wasn’t. We then interviewed more girls with equally heartbreaking stories. But for some reason B has stayed with me. There is something special about her. I believe that God is going to use her for something great.

So after a morning of interviews it’s easy to be depressed and overwhelmed by the immensity of this monster. But somehow, God has lifted me above the problem and allowed me to see hope. Restoration. Justice. God has given me the courage to keep chipping away at this monster until it’s completely dead. Me, along with all the other fierce warriors out there fighting this beast. When I got home today I wanted nothing more than several glasses of wine to drown out all the little girls voices that where echoing in my head “alinirape, alinirape,alinirape” (“he raped me, he raped me, he raped me”). But I resisted the temptation to drown it out with wine as I’m trying a lifestyle change challenge that is alcohol free for 30 days (along with sugar, bread and lots of other things I love). So I went to the pool and swam out the voices. I called my pastor and prayed out the voices. I did yoga and stretched out the voices. I sat in mediation and breathed out the voices. They are quieter now. And as I prepare for bed the overwhelming voice I hear is God’s, and the promise that “there is hope!” I get to be a part of that hope and so do you if you join our movement. I’m taking my example from B. I choose to be brave, a survivor, one who speaks out. For B’s sake, and for every girl who experiences sexual violence I will keep fighting for them. That’s what Art and Abolition is all about. Join us. http://www.theartandabolitionmovement.org

Crashing into Rock Bottom

I remember being very young. Not sure of my exact age but maybe 8 years old or so, and having made breakfast for my great grandmother. She was very thin by then with a mouth full of only gums and her gray hair pulled back with a black hair clamp. I couldn’t find a small table to put In front of her chair for her to eat off of so I used the ironing board. It screeched as I opened it and placed it in front of her. When I sat her plate on top of it and moved it closer to her I warned her to be careful because the food was hot. It’s one of my last and most vivid memories of her. As I  was moving the plate, she stopped me. She looked me straight in the eye and said, “You are special. There’s something different about you. You are going to be great one day.” It’s one of the last things she ever said to me.

I think about that morning and those words often. I feel as though professionally they have come to pass. I believe that Art and Abolition was one of God’s great ideas and God chose to make it a reality through me. Art and Abolition is great just like my Gram said it would be. It gives some of the most marginalized girls the great gift of education, healing, and financial stability. I look at my girls grow and change everyday and I am amazed each time.

But this has come at a cost, and to be completely authentic, sometime I’m not sure I have what it takes to pay that cost. When I am feeling that way I think about the greats who had public flaws and vices but still made huge differences in the world like MLK, Nina Simone, and the like. I know it sounds silly but I do. And usually I do that to console myself because although my great grandma was absolutely right, I have done something great with my life, I struggle in my personal life. And I mean really struggle.

The last 2 years have been the hardest and about a month and a half ago I had a mental break down and had to be admitted to the hospital. I had gone through a series of traumatic events and my body just couldn’t handle it anymore. I was carrying all the weight of doing this work for the past few years which is extremely heavy especially financially, some of my closest friends and support system pulled away from me because of a misunderstanding that happened when a friend of mine came to visit, one of my girls tried to commit suicide, and I went through a really hard break up with someone I deeply love. It was all too much for me. So, I just broke.

I have been diagnosed with PTSD (from my work). That’s not surprising. I fight child rape for a living and am financially responsible for about a dozen children. I’ve also been diagnosed with major depressive disorder and acute anxiety. Also not surprising. Who wouldn’t be depressed and anxious when fighting child rape and trying to keep a dozen kids in school on a shoe string budget?

Before the break happened things got really bad. I am embarrassed to say that I locked myself in my room for about 3 days and did nothing but cry, drink, smoked cigarettes, took sleeping pills, and slept. I didn’t eat. I didn’t talk to anyone. I just sank and sank until I could felt myself crash into rock bottom and took myself to the hospital.

I have been healing now for about a month and a half. It’s still extremely hard, but I am getting better each day. Some days I feel like I am drowning again, lots of days in fact. But the medicine, prayer, meditation, therapy, psychiatry, and focusing on God’s love for me is helping me get better.

Sometimes I get sad because I wish I had gotten help sooner because I feel that my sickness pushed some of the people I love away from me. But then I remember that everything happens at the time it is supposed to.

In about a week I get on a plane to America and will get to see most of you who read this blog face to face. I ask for your grace as I am going through a healing process and am not yet fully myself.

This is as honest as I can be.

Much love,

Brittanie

Find Me In the Lifting

The last several months have been really hard. It seems that the hardness is all I have been talking about/writing about for over a year now. But that’s because it was really fucking hard. But, finally, what I have been praying for has happened. The part where it just gets less hard… The part where it feels like the heavy burden has been lifted… The part where living, where taking the next breath seems totally doable again… The part where the whole Emmanuel (God with us) thing seems like a real thing… That part is finally here. Exhale…

At this time last week I thought I was going to die. Literally. I went for an emergency session at my therapist’s office (not that all my sessions aren’t pretty much an emergency), and she was more direct with me than she has ever been. Almost to the point where I wondered if she had crossed a boundary. She said, “Brittanie, stop talking and listen. You cannot go on like this. If you continue to live this way you are going to die. This work is destroying you. You have been destroyed. You have to choose. Brittanie or the girls. Choose. Choose right now.”

It felt like a brick fell from the sky and landed on my heart. I swallowed hard. Crying was not an option. I didn’t want to give her that much power. I was offended. I was shocked. I was afraid. I was in denial. I wanted to remind her that we pay her $70 per session to listen and not to talk. I was hurt. But mostly it hurt because I knew it was true. So I gave in and let a single tear fall. Surrender… exhale… Then for the first time in what felt like forever, I exhaled, and I said, “You’re right”. In that very moment I decided that I needed to make some drastic changes and made them almost immediately. It was as if, even though they hurt, those words set me free. They gave me permission to save myself from drowning. Before I felt as if even though I felt like I was drowning, that couldn’t really be true. I’m a badass. I’m a soldier. I love Jesus. I don’t drown. So maybe I was making it up. Maybe I was being dramatic. Maybe I was being a baby and needed to stop it and put on my big girl pants. But usually if you can’t breath and the water is rising higher and higher, you probably really are drowning.

I love my children. I love them dearly. But I love me too.

I chose me.

I can’t love them well if I don’t love me first.

So I sat and thought about the last time Brittanie alone was really truly happy. And that was at a time when I didn’t have so much responsibility and I didn’t have so much stuff. It was when I didn’t have to know all the answers. When I didn’t have to come through for everyone. When I could say “I don’t know” and “I’m sorry, but I can’t help you”. I wanted to get back there.

I started with the stuff. I just started getting rid of stuff. I let go of my house. I let go of all my furniture. I let go of some clothes and electronics. “Where will the kids sleep when they come home from school? Where will you live?” Those are the kinds of questions I got as I was doing this. My answer was simple, “I don’t know”. I DON’T KNOW!!! Ah. Every time I said it, it felt as if the load got lighter and lighter.

I then started decreasing the amount of programs we provide for now. I had been trying to offer more help than what was financially and emotionally possible for me to too many people. I put the after school program on hold. I spent several days without stepping foot into our slum. I stayed home and ordered in. I put meetings with children on hold. I let go of some staff. I drastically downsized for a season. And even though that was really hard, it was invigorating. The pressure was off. I had some breathing room.

This is all just the beginning of the “choosing Brittanie” journey, but already I feel so much better. I am rising above the water. I am catching my breath. I am breathing. I am living and not dying. I even catch myself smiling often. For the first time in almost a year today this thought crossed my mind: “I am happy”. I am not happy because of my children. I am not happy because my work is flourishing. I am happy because of Brittanie. I am nourishing Brittanie. And it feels really, really good.

So I have decided to devote the next two months to filling up my emotional and financial bank accounts. I am tired of operating out of a deficit. It’s crushing. What does that mean? I am investing in the emotional well being of Brittanie. I am also spending less time with the girls over these months and focusing on fundraising so that when we resume all of our programing I won’t be distracted by thoughts of “how am I going to feed these kids tomorrow”. So please be praying for me and even join me on this journey. You are so worth investing in!

I Get By With A Little Help From My Friends

“Come, all who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost” Isaiah 55:1

This has always been one of my favorite Bible verses, and sums up my time in the States well. This trip has been perfect, exactly what I needed. It has been like drinking from eternal waters after a season of extreme thirst. I came completely broken, weak, with no money and nothing to give, but was honored and feasted like a queen among royalty. Love was poured out on me without measure. I came here feeling like a failure, feeling lost, and feeling completely rejected and unloved. I felt like a throwaway. I was a casualty of war crawling my way up through the rubble. I was grasping for anything that even mimicked genuine love, connection, or comfort. You see- I live in two worlds back in Kenya.

My real life is filled with many good things, but more often than not it’s filled with a lot of pain. Freedom isn’t free. It’s a process. And it costs. So I’m constantly faced with lots of children being raped, non-stop abuse cases, seeing the ones I love suffer extreme poverty, sickness, almost unbearable heartbreak, having to pay staff weather there is money or there isn’t and losing sleep over the stress of that, losing battles I was sure I’d win, and a paralyzing loneliness like I’ve never felt before. So, to escape from all of that, I also have my other life.

My other life is filled with going to the other side of town (the uppity side) to escape it all. I eat good food, drink good coffee and cocktails, hang out with friends and just try to live as close to what I think a “normal” life is. The problem with that is: my life isn’t normal. So when my friends ask “how you doing, girl?” I can never really be honest. I feel awkward and embarrassed to answer that question honestly to a bunch of people my age with “normal” jobs because my answer always feels so much more dramatic than theirs. And I feel like they probably get tired of hearing “I’m really sad because another one of my kids was sold by her mother to a john for less than a dollar” every single time we hang out. So I close myself off, swallow my feelings and try to be normal, and say something like “Oh girl, I’m good! Just tired. Went to sleep late last night.” And I suffer alone.

So when I got to the States I had a belly full of sadness and a deep need for connection and love. I had told God that I couldn’t go on like that and needed to feel His love replace the sadness- the kind of love that makes laying down your life to go into the darkness to lend a hand to children being used as sex slaves so they can use it to pull themselves out seem like nothing. As always, He was faithful.

From the time I got off the plane I have had people hug me and not let go for several minutes. I never get that in Nairobi and physical touch is my love language. I have cuddled with friends on beds and couches as they rubbed my back or stroked my hair and just listened without judgment. I have been taken for countless breakfast, lunch, dinner, and cocktail dates. Food and drink is my other love language. Strangers have written generous checks to relieve some of the financial stress I’m constantly under. I’ve laughed, I’ve cried, I’ve brunched. I’ve been showered with “I love yous” and “ you are not alones”. All my empty places have been filled. I feel like myself again. And I am so grateful.

plane pic

Now I sit in the Boston airport waiting to board the flight that will carry me back across the ocean to Kenya. I feel many things. I want to say that I am excited. But the truth is that I am more afraid than excited. I feel so much better and don’t want to go back to being sad again. But what is life for if I just crawl into my Western bubble of comfort and luxury and hide from the scary things in the world at the cost of children’s freedom? My freedom is tied up in my children’s freedom. I’m not free until they are. None of us are free until all of us are. So we must pay the price no matter the cost. I must go to battle even when I know there is a high possibility I will be wounded in it again. But that’s what happens in battle and that’s the price we pay…

So as I board this plane I ask for your prayers. Two big prayer requests:

  1. Comfort and love- that God would comfort me and I won’t feel alone. That I would feel Spirit constantly with me. That when I need the love and comfort of a physical person that I would use technology to reach out to people who genuinely love and care for me and not revert back to looking for comfort in people who are not safe for me.
  2. Safety- please pray for safety as I get back to work. Safety while in the field as well as in our home. Physical and spiritual protection for the girls, my staff, and myself.

I will actually be right back to the States very soon for some meetings, fundraising, and more healing time before my team and I head back into the brothels to recruit more girls in a couple months. So see you all very soon! Thank you so much for such a beautiful time!