December 19th, 2008 at 10:29 am
ROUND ROCK – The gray clouds and rainstorms that trailed her from her East Texas hometown to Round Rock weren’t the only things dark in Brandi’s life on the day she pulled in front of Reid House at Family Care on the campus of Texas Baptist Children’s Home.
“Darkness was my only friend,” said the 28-year-old single mother, recalling that day in May 2007. “There was no light in my life.”
In a battered compact car filled with clothes and her son’s toys and with less than $20 to her name, Brandi arrived looking for a better life for her and Ruben, now nine. In front of her was the possibility of a brighter future, a career and an escape from the bad choices and guilt that had plagued her for 10 years.
But, as she sat there in her car, she couldn’t move, frozen by fear.
“She was just a wreck,” recalled Marie Schmidt, the resident case manager who was there to greet her that day. “I sat in the car with her for an hour before she would come inside. She was very, very scared.”
“It was overwhelming,” admits Brandi (who asked that her last name not be used). “I had left my home town, all of my family, all my friends. Now I was facing something unknown, living in a house with other women I didn’t know, wondering if I made the right choice.”
Brandi’s escape from her hometown was precipitated by an abusive relationship with a man whose parting blow was to clean out her checking account. But at the heart of her problems was regret that started when her mother was killed in a car accident in October 1998, when Brandi was 17.
“We were very close, but I was a typical teenager,” she said. “The night before her accident we had a big argument about the guy I was seeing and I said some ugly things. The next morning when I left for school, I was still mad and didn’t talk to her. I never dreamed it would be my last chance to see her, hold her or tell her I loved her.”
When she arrived at Family Care, Brandi was carrying a tremendous amount of guilt from her mother’s death and the bad decisions that followed.
“Her body was alive, but inside she was completely dead,” Schmidt said. “For the first couple of months I would get up in the morning and look in her room to see if she had left. Sometimes I don’t know how she made it through. It took a year before she felt she was safe.”
Brandi today is far removed from those days of depression and darkness. Thanks to counseling, the unconditional love she found at Family Care and her acceptance of Jesus into her life, her life today is filled with light.
She and Ruben, a quick-to-smile youngster who says he is proud of his mom for all she has accomplished, have moved out of Reid House into transitional housing on the TBCH campus while she waits for her name to reach the top of a waiting list at a local apartment complex. She works as a teacher’s aide in a local school and attends college part time with a goal of becoming an occupational therapist.
The counseling she received at Family Care was crucial to her life change. She was able to break down the walls of fear she had built around her and all of the pain she kept inside of herself. She learned to trust, open up and talk about her feelings.
She also learned there is light in her life, thanks to God, who she calls “the ultimate Healer. He’s the only one who can pull you out of anything and give you the strength to overcome whatever you are going through.”
The changes in Brandi are startling even to those who have walked with her on her journey since she arrived at Family Care.
“I took her out for lunch on her birthday not too long ago and it was like having lunch with a totally different person,” Schmidt said. “She’s excited about life and she feels she has a purpose. I could hardly believe that was Brandi sitting across from me.”
Most of all, Brandi has come to terms with her mother’s death and any unfinished business she might have felt she had.
“I finally let myself off the hook,” she says. “It used to be too much to bear and too difficult to talk about, so I closed myself off from everyone. But I allowed myself to grieve and I don’t have to carry that heavy burden with me any longer. She knew that I loved her more than words could describe and I know that she loved me the same.”
Brandi’s story embodies the heart of Texas Hope 2010, a Baptist General Convention of Texas initiative to share the gospel with every person in the state by Easter 2010 through praying for others, caring for them and sharing the Christian message.
What she has learned in the past 18 months is also helping her deal with her father’s terminal illness.
“Three months ago I found out my dad has liver cancer and has six months to live,” she says. “Instead of being over-stricken by grief and letting it consume me and take the life right out of me, I have given that burden to God. There’s nothing too big for Him to handle. He has given me strength to get through it.”
She adds, “I’m very grateful for all he has done. God gets all the glory, not me. God never stopped loving me, even when I didn’t love myself. Because of Him, my chains are broken off and I’m set free.”