Today we’ve invited Brandie Green to share her story with us, the story of “hitting a wall” in her overseas life.
Brandie, what did “hitting a wall” look like for you?
In a twelve month period, my life was overwhelmed. Every six weeks for one year, something stressful happened, sometimes good, usually not good, sometimes big (death), sometimes not so big (crisis at work). By the third or fourth event, I was no longer able to recover from the previous situation before the next one hit.
Tuning out or running on autopilot is a great ability sometimes, but this should only be done when an end is defined, and a period of recovery is built in. Picture children sitting on a couch watching movie after movie, day after day, while mom is curled up behind the couch, crying to the Lord, head phones on blasting worship music. That was me.
My crying to the Lord ended with, “God where are you?”, “God, I cannot believe in your love for me anymore,” “God, I don’t trust you anymore.” I played worship music because I couldn’t worship. It was a substitute that I could only hope God would accept. I look back at that time and honestly do not remember making meals, keeping house, etc. Many things that were accomplished were done by my husband or done by rote, as if by memory or chore more than on purpose or intent. I was a shell of the old me running on battery fumes.
As you look back on the time leading up to “the wall,” what were the warning signs in your life that you were headed for a crash?
I became more forgetful. I was moody and controlling, trying to wrest control over everything so that nothing else could go wrong. Criticism of everybody and everything. Anger, I yelled at my kids for everything. I remember one day sitting on the couch thinking I had been drained of all life. Hopeless and expecting disaster. When my daughter was severely ill, I had so little hope that I just sat on the floor and waited for whatever was to come – which at that point I had decided was death. Fear became increasingly present, particularly fear of flying (a problem when your work requires travel). Pride and pretense. At some point I think I could see that life was starting to crumble but I was determined that it would not crumble. I would not crumble. As much as possible, everything was “I’m good” or “it’s good” even when I wasn’t and it wasn’t.
What was your road to emotional and spiritual health after the crash?
Step one was emailing a friend, someone who I respected, who had been on the field at least 10 years longer than us. I wrote something like,
“Dear Friend, I think I’m in trouble.”
Emotional and spiritual health came in many forms, most of which could only happen because we started a home assignment a few months after crashing.
Leaving China was huge and in itself stress-reducing. Physical rest was big. Our youngest started school, so having all three kids out of the house each day was so helpful to my mind and body. I could live, move, and breathe slowly. Church was nourishing for my soul. My first few Sundays back in our home church I didn’t sing. I just sat and let the worship and good preaching pour over me.
Freedom to be honest. People would frequently ask me if I was looking forward to going back to China. “No.” A very simple succinct answer that most people didn’t know what to do with, but it was like opening a locked cage in my heart. In fact for the first three or four months, I didn’t even talk about China, I wouldn’t even mention the word. All these things allowed me to begin thinking straight again.
However, I needed more help. I didn’t know how or where to get it though. I also realized that other workers, likely, also needed help. Through many interesting turns, I ended up taking a pastoral counseling class. The professor, a pastor and counselor, took me aside one day and said very graciously to me, “Brandie, you need counseling, do yourself a favor and find a good counselor to help you through your time overseas.”
I wrote my pastor and said, “I need a counselor, one who understands the difficulties of ministry.” I learned about limits, boundaries, and what does emotional health look like. One of my main text books was actually Peter Scazzaro’s “Emotionally Healthy Church”. I began putting suggestions from that book into place in my life; understanding that I had priorities and limits.
Another counselor (this came once we were back on the field) helped me to see in a new way the love the Father has for me. I could trust God again. I could see his love for me in so many ways. One session was so poignant that my fear of flying was gone. What a gift that session and that counselor was to me from the Father.
Forgiveness and apologizing. I had hurt people, my family in particular. I needed to apologize to them, my husband, children, and sisters. I had to forgive people who should have warned me much earlier that I was heading for trouble. I had to forgive those whose job it was to see I had burned out, but didn’t.
Now that you’ve experienced healing, now that you’ve examined the patterns that led you to hitting a wall, what do you do now in your life when you see those warning signs showing up again?
I take a big breath and slow down. I take time to walk every day. I don’t meet with as many people as I could, or should, or would. I call or text a few friends who will ask me, “How’s your heart doing?” knowing that they are asking for full answers, not simple ones. I make time to worship, to talk with the Lord, and to read the Bible.
For a day or two I do no work. I do a check up. What is out of alignment in my spiritual life, family life, emotional life, work life, etc? What do I need to change? What can I ask of others? I talk with my husband and my kids. Are we connected? Do you need mom-time? I make sure I have been having fun. Some of the most life-giving times were spent with friends not afraid to be silly. People who know how to laugh, who can cut loose, and fall off the couch with tears of laughter.
Getting back to work and “doing”, then, I am more clearly able to prioritize what needs to be done and what can wait.
Thank you, Brandie. Thank you for offering yourself and your story. We pray that we’d all be encouraged by it to examine our lives, the patterns in which we live and minister. We’re celebrating with you the restoration you’ve found in him.
What about you? Have you had an experience similar to Brandie’s? Do you see similar warning signs flaring up in your life? What do you do to connect with Jesus, to find the healing and wholeness he has for you?