Five years ago: 2002

I was trying to cope with what I considered to be one of the biggest failures in my life. My very identity as an individual unravelled before me. For the majority of my life I was known as the smart one or the scholar in the family as well as in my classes at school. I was not Brandy the amazing singer, Brandy the amazing dancer or Brandy the amazing athlete. I was Brandy the smart girl. I had plenty of certificates, plaques and awards to prove it so I had to be smart….right? My identity was wrapped up in my accomplishments. Going off to college ushered in a huge awakening. I was accepted into my first choice (my only choice) and joined the ranks of several thousand braniacs on that small campus. What happened? I still don’t quite know, but one fact remains. I totally bombed. No matter how hard I studied, no matter how late I stayed in the library, no matter how many times I visited professors for assistance there was no relief from the stress, no clearing of the fog swimming in my mind and no peace. My GPA was non-existent. I saw letter grades that I had never seen beside my name before. My worth began to plummet like a 747 in the sky without fuel. Since I could not maintain the continuance standards, I was forced to leave. I asked so many “Why”s during that time period. Kicked out of school. No job. No prospects (from what I could see with my physical eyes). There were so many moments of pain (and still are at times). I thought of other students who went through some of the same conditions, but didn’t live to tell their story. I was fortunate. I was blessed.

5 years in the wilderness………….2002-2007

During that time period I did a lot of seeking the Lord. I also did a lot of seeking employment. If I couldn’t be in school (since my record was now tarnished), I needed to work, right? Thankfully, I received no pressure from my mom and nothing but loving encouragement from dad and grandma. My mom’s boss offered me a part-time position as a test procter at their school. It didn’t pay much, but it at least gave me gas money! I spent a lot of days visiting and talking with grandma. I volunteered with an international missions organization called Youth With A Mission (YWAM) at their Richmond location. I led a missions team to Jamaica, although I didn’t know I was “leading” the team until I arrived at the base in Jamaica. I made friends with a fiery little lady from Ivory Coast who will forever be my “big sistah”. I worked at a Christian bookstore for two years which enabled me to hear tons of amazing Christian and Gospel music for free as well as read a lot of great books. I met a lot of wonderful people there and made some lifelong friends (and fellow United (Hillsong Australia) fans). I was able to see a new generation of teens come of age at my church (they just graduated this year!). I spent a lot of quality time with my grandmother during the last four years of her life (passed in 2006). I cheered my mother on through grad school as I helped proofread her papers and give her ideas for her assignments. I came in to help the teen choir at my church just as two of the leaders were leaving, giving me an opportunity to greatly stretch my vocal and worship leading skills as well as become friends with a girl who grew up at my church (We directed the choir together). I had the wonderful opportunity to attend the Urban Youth Workers Institute (http://www.uywi.org/) in California (that’s a whole ‘nother testimony). I have had numerous opportunities to talk to the pre-teen girls and teens at my church. I was hired to take photos for a state agency located in my hometown, a simple job that allowed me to have my weekends off (unlike my old retail job) and hourly pay twice that of my old job. The consistent hours also gave me more time to write (my #2 passion).

5 years later….2007

God answered my prayer for a full-time job with benefits (right as I was being bumped off of my mom’s insurance!). He’s healed some of my heart issues. :o) He’s given me more time and resources (new dell!) to develop the things I enjoy (writing/photography). He’s blessed me with peace of mind (although I’m still asking Him tons of questions). He’s allowed me to meet or see some amazing guys, His special way of letting me know that it’s all worth the wait. The current absence of The One doesn’t mean I won’t ever meet The One. ;o) He’s given me favor with my manager at work who genuinely looks out for my best interest (imagine that!). He’s given me new grandparents at church who look for me on Sundays. :o) He continues to give me new ideas and a sense that my aspirations are possible. He gave me the patience to wait to buy the camera that I was spying on for months. And He’s helping me capture images that my eyes have been trying to remember for years. Now I’m just waiting for my Oscar nomination. Believe me, the speech is already written. ;o)

(Me on 04/16/2007 – Excited about my new camera!)

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