27 August 2013

The Real Transformation Tuesday

I was in my own world driving this morning.  School has started again and so has the associated traffic, so my iTunes have become the soothing beat against a backdrop of brake lights and honking horns.  I was almost to work and the faint sound of a siren lifted me from my music haze.  I couldn’t see the emergency vehicle anywhere, which always makes me nervous there’s a cop pulling me over yet I haven’t realized it, then I will end up on Cops, spread eagle against the side of a cop car, looking all kinds of crazy on TV.  Luckily, that wasn’t the case. 

I kept looking for the vehicle so that I could move out of the way and suddenly the ambulance appeared with bright lights flashing.  The ambulance was merging onto the freeway so I slowed down and let him in front of me.  For a few moments, the sound of the siren and the rhythm of the lights took me back to a very awful memory of following the ambulance that carried my infant son.  I remember that moment all too clearly – the color of the chevron pattern stripes on the back of the ambulance, the lights and the all too painstaking sound of the siren.  If I let myself, that memory can put me in a trance, then the flood of all the emotions return – I’ve learned to not let it get to that point.  I’ve learned to disassociate one isolated trauma from the normal of everyday life. 

I pray that you’ve never experience anything like that, but the reality is everyone has an “ambulance moment” in their lives.  Be it an old flame, a place, a smell – there’s something in your life that, if you let it, can take you to the depths of emotion.  Friend, I want to tell you today that you are the one who has the power to unlock the hurt from your pain; to bring yourself out of the depths.  Just as a prisoner locked in a cell, you are the one with the key.  God slid it under the door to you and told you how to turn the lock.  You can be set free from your pain, but it is a choice – one that only you can make.  When you have moments of frustration, disappointment, anxiety – here’s what you do 1. Pray 2. Give it away 3. Breathe Deep.  Then, when you pray – really make the commitment that you are giving your hurt or anxiety to God.  Don’t be an adulterer with your worry – once you give it away, walk away – commit your worries to God and be done.  Let freedom be a banner in your life over the pits of emotion because emotion will always exist. 

People often ask us how we do it – to move forward after such pain.  Honestly it’s a choice every single day.  You’ve got to wake up expecting to have a good day, number & embrace your blessings, and find solace in the fact that everyone has troubles and yet, there’s still peace to be found.  Don’t expect to stay locked in a cell of depression or fear – pick up the key and unlock the path to freedom to find happiness again!  And when you step through the gate – take the hand of the One that will lead you through a life of refreshment and victory!

Don’t be afraid, for I am with you.
Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you.
I will hold you up with my victorious right hand.

Isaiah 41:10

19 March 2013

Me - a poem

I’m okay with being me; with my flaws and my finesse
I do not need a label; I know that I am blessed
It’s not that I like uniformity or discredit the unique
You see I’m just content with whom I am, it doesn’t make me weak

Perhaps we’re all too busy putting name tags on ourselves
That we lose our sense of person to find our place upon the shelves
All packed up nice and neatly; the world will lead you to your spot
To be tucked in with the primo where you soul might surely rot

I think it’s just that simple; that yourself is fine indeed
So let us stop this nonsense and be happy being “me”
A poem by Gina Brown; inspired by those who love who they are and those who need to know they were made just right

09 February 2013

A "Thin Place" moment

Good morning early Saturday, and by early yes, I do mean 5:11am.  I think there’s something completely wrong with me that I would wake up before the sun on a morning that I have permission to sleep to my heart’s desires.  As soon as I woke up this morning, and before I had actually opened my eyes, this story kept playing over and over in my head.  Hopefully purging all of it out here will help me achieve a successful 7 hour minimum night sleep tomorrow. 

I traveled to Ikea this week to purchase some new items for the office; we’re going through a small remodel and renovation, and we need to “freshen” things up.  In between meetings and interviews, I rushed to the big yellow and blue store in search of finding new matching coffee mugs and “modern” heavy duty flatware for the office.  I think I am the only one at my office who’s bothered by the fact that I have to offer my client a cup of joe in a Mickey Mouse mug, window vendor freebie mug, or slightly chipped 1980 coffee mug that no one wanted at the White Elephant Christmas exchange.  I mean, c’mon, we’re an architecture firm – these things matter, trust me they do.  My instructions were simple, find these items, make sure they look nice and expensive but purchase them cheap.  Sure, no problem….I’m a great shopper, and I’m great at buying “expensive” looking things for low prices.  I found these really great delft blue mugs, with a honed ceramic finish outside and a glossy ivory inside.   DINERA Mug IKEAPerfect for the office, they looked “architecy” and I refuse to drink out of dark colored coffee mugs, whoever knows if those are really clean?  Bonus: they were $2.99 each.  I also some found some great modern looking flatware that had a nice heavy hand – they looked like expensive Alessi pieces, but for only $39.99 for a set of 4 they were mine! 
I loaded up my car and headed back to the office, seemingly in la-la land for a Thursday afternoon.  I was stopped by the redlight on the feeder road and something caught my attention…a cat…on a leash.  I looked once and then a second time to make sure my eyes had not fooled me.  There stood a homeless man with a cat on a leash, a grocery cart padded with soiled blankets and coats, another cat and a dog inside of the grocery cart, and two more large dogs on leashes soaking up the sun on the pavement.  I didn’t really think too much of it at the time other than how that cat really did not like being on the leash.  The man was not begging for money or food, he didn’t have any signs that requested a job or help – most of the cars around me seemed to be ignoring him, checking their mobile devices or sitting patiently at the red light, and that was fine as he wasn’t requesting any attention.  Yet I noticed him, not by my own will, I originally just started watching wondering what was going on with all of the animals, but then I was blessed to witness, as my Pastor would say, a “thin place.”  Thin places could be thought of as moments in life where Heaven and Earth as close together, moments when God is revealed in the everyday.

I watched the fully tattooed, tattered clothes man pull a bowl out of his cart, set it down and proceed to fill the bowl with bottled water.  (Sidebar: I know what some may be thinking, I thought it too, how can this man provide for these animals, yet he can’t even provide for himself?  I’m not sure the answer to that, but I think too often we are quick to ask those questions.  It doesn’t make us bad people; it makes us informed people, right?  Sometimes I think if we were less inclined to be informed, we’d happen upon some everyday miracles.)  He guided the two large leased dogs over to the water with a loving hand.  He then took the cat and the dog in the cart and gently put them down next to the water bowl.  Then he softly called the leashed cat, which was meowing with thirst, over to the water bowl.  He never looked up; he never seemed to wonder if anyone was watching, except that I was.  After he watered the animals, he went to his cart and fluffed and neatly folded the blankets and coats.  He “organized” the cart from the disarray the animals had caused.  Then he knelt down near the animals and pet them with such a gentleness, with such care and love.  It was obvious he truly loved the animals and they loved him too.  Tears of humility started trickling down my face.  In that moment I witnessed the gentle loving spirit of a human, not a “homeless man”, not some “rich fancy client”….just a human.  I felt sad for our society, for the labels we give ourselves and the boxes we like to fit in.  I felt privileged to witness such compassion and love.  I felt silly for caring about those matching coffee mugs while moments like this happen under my nose daily.  Possibly if I would take in these moments and pause to see some “thin places” my matching coffee mug moments wouldn’t seem like such a big deal.  I often think about how many people are unhappy because they want to look expensive but they feel cheap, yet this man had little and was seemingly very content.  I think about how everyone likes to appear they don’t care about fitting in, yet all we crave is a seal of approval from others….this man never looked up for approval, he never did hat tricks to get my attention for money, he was just human.   This "homeless man” was a great picture of parts of ourselves that we never want revealed; we are vulnerable, we are broke, we are poor, we are worn out, but don’t dare show it.  In this “thin place” moment I felt I was privileged to be reminded that every human needs one simple thing: love.  Perhaps if each one of us could not just happen upon “thin place” moments but expect them and respect them, we’d see glimpses of the world the way God does?

22 January 2013

My rut & the sheep

Lately I have been in a funk, a rut, a place that I'm neither over joyous or severely depressed, just stuck somewhere in the middle.  I attribute my funk to numerous things: winter, daylight savings time, winter, cold, no outside time, transition in life, the unknown, houses, oh lordy houses, winter :) I've been trying really hard to identify why I'm feeling the way I am so I can build and bridge and get over it already - with some recent sunshine, I think I've found the prescription to get out of it!

My grandparents (also our neighbors) have 4 sheep we help tend to, we call them the "girls".  We enjoy it, our daughter enjoys it; she's earning her certification in countryfication, while at the same time my husband earns his man card for handling the "livestock".  I just generally watch from the fenceline and let the pros handle things.  Sometimes I'll turn on the water and fill the bucket just to validate my wearing of polka-dot rubber boots.  One evening everyone was gone and it was my duty to pen up the sheep.  I'd seen them do it, but never alone have I handled such brooding livestock.  It was cold this night; I mean like frigidly freaking cold and really really dark!  I had just come home from work in my "designer black" Tuesday attire (more on that another time) but I just pulled on my boots over my trousers.  I thought it would be easy, shouldn't take too long but whew those "girls" gave me a rough time.  Typically we call them, bang the feed bucket against the fence a few times and they come running, but on this particular night, they were not listening!  I called, and called but they would not budge.  It's freezing, I'm cold, it's dark, and they are being stubborn!  Finally I walk out to the pasture where they are, mud slopping all over my "designer black" clothes.  Of course, when I approach they are skittish, but finally I coax them back to the barn with the feed bucket.  Once inside the barn, the momma snuck out...back to the pasture it was for us....chasing for a few minutes until I threatened to make jerky out of her (kidding, vegans, kidding.)  They are all penned up and ready for the night, meanwhile, I in my muddy boots retired for the evening. 
(disclaimer: this is NOT one of the "girls"; just some random online sheep image)
Later that week I was telling my grandpa the story and acting out my shenanigans.  He shared with me that sheep don't see well in the dark and that's typically why we close them up at dusk.  I never realized that the sheep not coming into the barn that night wasn't because they wanted to stay in the cold wet pasture and be stubborn, it's because they couldn't see...they were scared.  I've thought about that connection to me; about how my rut could be attributed to my fear.  The analogy of sheep and shepherding is used many times in God's word.  I've always related to it, but never fully understood until we started dealing with the "girls".  I started to make the correlation between myself and the "girls" - how even though God has something really good for me in store at the barn (because His word promises this), I won't move, can't move because I am scared to death.  Scared/worried of the future, the plans I have for myself and our family...scared to walk through darkness to get to the reward.  I guess at times we're all like the "girls"; feeling like it's safer in the darkness because we can't see the barn; feeling like there may not be any food if we do get to the barn and I imagine God like me in that situation - frustrated and annoyed that we won't be led by His voice to receive the reward!

So, I'm getting out of the funk.  Gonna walk through the pasture (and trust me there's more to step in than darkness in the pasture) and get to the barn.  Going to trust the voice of God leading me to the reward.  Won't you join me?

04 December 2012

5 years: acceptance & beyond!

Well you can just call me your dormant blogger :)

I have been overwhelmingly productive (aka BUSY) since my last post announcing the formation of our Foundation.  You can find out more details about that here.  Things are going great!  We are so excited to begin taking The Marshall Brown Foundation to the next level, but, that's not what this post is about today.

As many know, our reason for beginning the Foundation is to honor our son.  Five years ago tomorrow marks the day our world changed forever.  My post last year, My Day That Lives In Infamy, says a lot about "that day."  This year I've reflected a lot on seeing beauty develop from the ashes and it got me to wonderin' about what's beyond?  How will we really live the rest of our lives with this on our hearts?

Anyone whom has ever suffered a loss and seen a professional counselor may be familiar with the K├╝bler-Ross model of the 5 stages of grief - Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, Acceptance.  I felt like I moved through the first three very quickly, hung out at depression for a while, went back to anger, and then lingered in depression some more.  I don't think I really moved into "acceptance" until a good two years after.  Since I arrived at destination "acceptance" I feel like it even has stages of it's own: a little acceptance, more acceptance, able to do the holidays & his birthday without becoming a blubbering mess acceptance, able to make it through one week, one month, etc. without visiting the cemetary acceptance, and so on. 

I know there's got to be something beyond "acceptance" right?  I mean, it just makes sense.  If all I ever do is "accept" this loss, "accept" this burden, "accept" this story then has true healing occured?  Merriam-Webster defines "accept" as to endure without protest or reaction, what? Wait a minute!  How can one be expected to "endure without reaction"?  I mean, this is a child, this is my child, are the 5 stages implying that I should move on and continue life without reaction, like a tombed mummy shrugging my shoulders at the hardships of life, does that count as acceptance? 

I've always found healing in talking about our son and our pain in losing him.  It's not comfortable, I know it makes people uncomfortable, but so do g-strings and everyone loves them.  Revelation 12:11 speaks of OVERCOMING by the power of Jesus and speaking our stories in truth (that's my paraphrase anyway).  Not to be taken out of context, Revelation is speaking of overcoming satan, but by the proof of my own experiences, I believe this passage applies to overcoming our obstacles as well: trust in Christ and talk about it.  I don't have the perfect story, or even the perfect outcome, but takling, releasing, and sharing helps other people know it's ok to be messed up, and THAT my friends is what keeps you moving forward.

As long as I live I will not stop with "acceptance."  I will press on, even when it hurts, even when I sob through the email of another mother grieving the recent loss of her child, even when it's uncomfortable.  We WILL overcome!

One last thing, I still miss him deeply you know; and love him endlessly.  We never stop thinking about Marshall, and healing and moving forward doesn't mean you forget.  It's ok to move forward and at the same time it's ok to be in the middle of Carter's and have a bawling breakdown over a t-shirt.  My baby would be wearing this t-shirt - his daddy picked it out, and it's cool. 

Long-Sleeve Layered-Look Graphic Tee

03 September 2012

Taking the next step!

Hello Readers!  I have been absent from blogging for a while now, not purposefully, just due to being overwhelmingly busy this Summer.  I hope that you have enjoyed a fun & restful Summer, too!  I have a HUGE announcement today!  No….I am NOT pregnant….but it is something just as equally exciting for Phil and I.  I am going to make you wait a while for the details though – no scrolling down! :O)

In the past few months we sold & closed on our first house.  We moved out of the house 2-1/2 years ago.  A very bittersweet moment – it was our first house, the first place our babies came home after they were born, the first walls we painted in anticipation for all that would take place in our home, and yet, somehow we were very happy to see it go.   It’s time to move on, time to take the next step, time to plant our roots; because we wanna live where the green grass grows, watch our corn pop up in rows, every night be tucked in close…….haha sorry for the serenade there, got carried away!  Over the next few months we’ll be looking for our new place to settle.  It’s very exciting and a little scary because it means making a commitment.  No more transient Browns!

The theme of taking next steps is at the heart of our big announcement.  Almost 5 years ago our world was shaken by the loss of our son.  It has been a growth experience; of course there’s heartache, of course there’s still a sense of a hole in our souls; but it is time to take the next step in our healing. 

For a while now we have daydreamed of the idea of beginning a foundation to help other families that walk through similar situations as we did.  We have always thought it was in the future; we didn’t have enough time, money, emotional strength, but a few months ago we got the “ah-ha” when our church was doing the “At the Movies” series.  The movie was spliced into several snipits to give you an overall sense of the plot.  On this particular Sunday, the movie was “Bella” (you can learn more here  During the entire service I felt full – I had that huge cry baby lump in my throat and kept telling myself not to blink for fear my Revlon non-waterproof mascara would go streaming down my face and I would come out of church looking like a member of KISS.  It was so good, yet at the same time, so hard.  I walked away that Sunday with this summary – we will all suffer tragedies in our lives, some more severe than others, and one day there must come a point when we decide what to do with the pieces left in our hands.  I thought about this for many weeks beyond the movie series; so much so that it consumed my mind on my commute to work and kept me awake at night.  How much longer would we continue to be “the couple that lost their son”?

The time has come – it’s time for action.  Time to use the story God has written for us and make a happy ending.  In the next coming months you will hear more details about the foundation.  I don’t want to give too much away right now, but know this; we need your prayers for the success of this foundation!  We have formed our board of directions, hosted our first meeting, and even received our first donation!  This is very, very exciting for us and we hope that you will consider being a part of this foundation with us!  Start looking for more information about this foundation on Facebook, email, and potentially your snail mail over the next few weeks.  If you have any questions, feel free to email me at

As always, thanks for your love & support.

30 April 2012

Hiking, and biking, and gators OH MY

Image Detail

Brazos Bend State Park…I would say it’s one of my all-time favorite places to camp. It’s a great place; very quaint and serene; very well cared for and clean considering it’s a state park.  There are no fancy modern day waterslides, zip lines, cave tours, or even swimming pools, but BBSP brings back lots of memories for me.  My grandparents (whom I cherish and love to the ends of the Earth) would take us camping there often.  We would ride our bikes around the park for hours on end (I had a pink bike with a white banana seat and handlebar streamers, oh yeah) and have campfires at night with s’mores and my Meme’s homemade vanilla ice cream.  Those were the days, and surprisingly not much has changed at the park.  It’s always such a refreshing flashback to the past when life was simple. 

On our most recent family day trip to BBSP we had the joy of marveling at the curiosity of our two and a half year old daughter.  We would lean over the edge of the pond in hopes to catch a glimpse of a turtle, or a blue egret, or better yet (what BBSP is known for) an ALLIGATOR!  We walked the mossy oak lined park trails for hours without a care in the world; skipping, laughing, and just enjoying each other’s company.  We saved the best trail for last – 40 Acre Lake - the main walking trail around the lake known to have the most alligators.  I knew what to expect; alligators in the lake, lying in the marsh or under the pier but about one quarter of the way into our hike we were startled to see a large alligator sun bathing about 3 feet from the trail.  I would have never given it a second thought before but suddenly my motherly instincts kicked in and we devised a plan to dash by the gator.  For the remainder of the trail I was consumed with the idea of protecting my daughter; what had been a blissful carefree day suddenly turned into a finale of a fear-filled mother. 

Not that the fear of a gator eating your child isn’t realistic, I do have a God-given right to protect my child, but for me to let it consume me and steal my joy is a parallel to my life.  I wonder how often we go through the motions of life so fearful and consumed by what may be; what could be; what should be that we forget to enjoy the hike?  I wonder how often we have missed the blessing of a brightly colored butterfly landing on our shoulder or the joy of our child discovering rolly pollies for the first time because all that we can focus on is the unknown lurking gator ready to devour us?
I am famous for being a worry wart; for letting fear consume me.  I learned a hard lesson four and half years ago that changed me forever.  We have to do our part, of course, but there are ten thousand plus “parts” out of our control; parts that are in God’s hands. Though I have not shaken completely potential anxiety or fears that can invade my life, I know without a shadow of a doubt that giving validity to my fears renders me useless.  When I am blinded by the “what if’s” of the future I can’t enjoy the here and now. 

Whatever the “gator” in your life may be – do your part but then leave it to God. 

Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?  Matthew 6:27

The wording on the plaque in the photo above:
In the end, we will conserve only what we love, we will love only what we understand, and we will understand only what we are taught.