Splendid by the Sea: Relinquish and Restore

I’ve always been an introvert, a wallflower and a loner. Group activities give me anxiety, especially groups of women. So when I decided to go to the Splendid retreat in 2016, with a group of 37 women I’d never met, I was excited and terrified. 

I’d been “friends” with these women for years in a safe, supportive group online, but I’d never met them in person. What if I didn’t fit in? They knew my story, but what if, in real life, I was different. Self defeating thoughts raced in; I’m weird, I’m shy, my life is a mess, I have secrets. How did I belong with these women I so admired? Women who I thought, for sure, didn’t have problems like me. I thought I was the only one, which is the worst thought of all. Soon I’d learn that you are never the only one.

I expressed my concerns to a friend who said I needed to talk to Ticcoa, who had experienced anxiety before going to Splendid. Ticcoa said the most wonderful thing that I will never forget. She told me I was wanted there, that I had a place at the Splendid table, my place was set and I just needed to show up, pull up a chair, and lean in. Since then, I know that “leaning in” is more about leaning into love and friendship, of other women, and of Jesus, than just a meal at a table.

From the day I decided to go to Splendid, until 9 weeks later when I got there, it seemed like everything was against me going. So much hardship and heartache. I grasped on to the one thing I knew to be true, that God wanted me there, and that my life would change for the better afterwards. But better doesn’t always mean easier, and I would have to give up the control I was trying so hard to maintain in my life, surrendering it all to God. 

Heading to the airport, I felt a great weight lifted off me as I left my stressful life behind even for a few days. I had no idea what I was walking into or how much it would change me. When I arrived at the retreat I met Jenni, my roommate for the weekend. I’d never met her before. She gave me a bracelet in the shape of a key that said “believe”. I believe, I thought, help my unbelief.

The location of the retreat was beautiful, by a lake at which I’d spend many hours by myself praying, crying, and journaling. There were no rules really, but the the Splendid Team had put so much work into planning events for us all. From worship and testimony, small groups, and classes to learn about authenticity, abiding in God, restoration and friendship. Friendship was the hardest thing for me because I believed so many lies about myself. 

I’d not read my Splendid journal until very recently. What I read sent shivers down my spine and tears from my eyes. I wrote things like “no one likes me; no one wants to”, ” I’m not a good person, I’m alone, I’m a burden”, and “why would I ever tell anyone else about my secrets; please help me God”. 

Then I learned about restoration, and how it comes from a breaking down of the old so God can rebuild to a point that was even better than the before. I learned about how God’s peace was so much bigger than the hole in which I’d dug myself. God’s love was bigger than all those lies, and if I would surrender to Him, love would win.

The most surprising thing I read in my journal from Splendid was that my prayer had changed. For a decade prior, I’d been praying that God would give me and my husband something to change our lives for the better. I was focused on the healing and not the healer. At Splendid my prayer, as written in my journal, changed to “God, I want to be closer to you. Please heal my life and my husband’s life, no matter what it takes. I surrender control to You.”. Whoa, “where did that come from?” I thought, reading it months later. 
I know now that it came after deep prayer and a rising up of the Holy Spirit within me, while new friends held my hand and prayed silently for me.  

That was a big surprise prayer for me. Giving up the control I had so purposely, and not so winningly, managed for years, thinking I could do it alone. I didn’t realize that God’s idea of healing would be very different than my idea. God’s ways aren’t always easy or fun, but necessary to move you in the direction He has already forged. I made up my mind to surrender to Him and willingly allow the Holy Spirit to lead me. I decided to get out of God’s way. Not only in my life, but in my husband’s.

Six days after returning home, I left my abusive marriage. Not because I decided I wanted to; I was scared to death leaving behind a decade of everything I knew. But God was pulling me towards a better life. I felt it in my bones. I was shaking inside as I left. Sometimes God shakes you to let you know you need to get moving to more firm a foundation. Soon after that, I quit my 20 year addiction to opiates and am now 6 weeks clean. Best of all, I’m discovering just how splendid and lovely I truly am. 

Categories God

She Believed She Could So She Did

Today is Monday. Most of you woke up early, maybe wishing it was still the weekend, bribing kids to get out of bed, and hurrying off to school or work. 

I have a different sort of purpose today. I’m in the process of healing. In past posts I’ve mentioned the abusive relationship I was in and the drug abuse. It wasn’t just my husband who was abusing drugs, I was too. For years I’d been getting treatment for my addiction from a specialist. I’ve decided it’s time to stop taking the medication that treats my addiction, not to take another drug, and to take on the big bad wolf, quitting altogether and getting healthy. My doctor agrees it’s time. Which means I’m in the business of trusting God. I could not do this without God’s help. I know that because I’ve tried many times and failed for over 20 years. 

This time it’s different. This time I have Jesus by my side, the Holy Spirit in my heart, and God coming for me. I may have been wounded by emotional, physical, and drug abuse, but the wound is not fatal and I serve the greatest healer of all, God.

Trusting God is not always easy. If you don’t know God, imagine trusting someone that you cannot see and surrendering your entire life to Him. Then waiting to see what happens on His time, not yours. 

During this process, I have to be honest with myself & God, confessing my sins. I have to be willing to surrender to His will for my life. I have to stop depending on myself, let go of the reins, and let Him lead me. I have to be able to be silent and still, listening for His instruction. 

Trusting God means going down the road less traveled when most people are going the other way; it’s usually not the way you wanted to go, or thought you were going, but it’s His way, the best way. It is not easy.

Trusting God means trusting the people around you who He sent to help, and trusting that He always has your best interest at heart.
I made the decision to break this chain about a month ago. Since then I’ve gone through many ups and downs, physically, emotionally and spiritually. I’m blessed because God has sent many people to help me, including my family, doctors, and my friends. 

My friends are integral to this process because they always remind me of my goal, which is to be free and to accept the freedom that Jesus bought for me on Calvary when he died on the cross for me. They are my spiritual supporters, my midnight cheerleaders, and mid day musketeers, coming to the rescue with words of encouragement via text messages and phone calls. A sweet picture or meaningful scripture; just a soft reminder of how important it is that I do this, to break this chain that has held me back and weighed me down for 20 years. The enemy cannot have hold of me anymore. 

My family and my doctor keep me in check, ensuring I do what I need to do. Things like eating well and checking my blood pressure. It sounds so simple, but when you’re in the thick of it, when you’re in the fog of war, a physical, emotional and spiritual war like this, it’s hard to remember what you’re supposed to do. If you cannot see the shoreline because the storm is raging all around you, you have to trust the people who love you. You have to trust they were sent by God.

In four days, by the end of the week, when everyone is saying “TGIF” and making plans for the weekend, I will be celebrating a major milestone in my recovery. I don’t know if I will feel horrible or okay. It will take my body some time to heal. I’ve been abused, and abusing myself, for quite some time.

I do know that God is going to take my brokenness and put me back together, better than ever, healthier, wiser, and stronger. A friend of mine once said that “brokenness blooms beautiful”. All I have to do is hang in until He gets here. To wait on Him, for His perfect timing, to trust in that and to not waver in my faith. To have blind faith that keeps going no matter what. Even when I cannot see the shoreline through the storm. 

Sign by Melissa Weimer @ Mel Belle’s http://www.facebook.com/MelBellesCustomDecor

I’m scared because I have no idea how I’m going to feel and excited because I know that the healing process has started. My body will regulate back to normal over time, and I will start a new journey, whatever path the Lord has carved for me.

Normal. Whatever that means. But I’m looking forward to finding out who Bree is. She’s been missing for quite some time.


Faith sprung forth

No one sees it happen in the twinkling of an eye. A seed falls to the ground, the rain falls from the sky. The sun shines down its brightest, day after many day. And beneath our feet, that seed cracks open, life is on the way. The roots go down in search of water, the sprig, up, in search of light. No one sees it happen, many people pass it by. Beneath our feet that little plant reaches upwards towards the sky. It pushes through the darkness, soaking in the morning light. Then walking by, I look down; I see a little green. How slowly and discreetly has faith sprung up in me. As quiet as a growing seed right beneath my feet.


Categories God

The Loved Bible Project

It was the summer of 2016. My husband’s birthday and my birthday, a week apart, had just passed. The sticky heat of Florida summer had me praying for rain. We lived in the country with wildflowers and wild animals; it was lovely and I truly enjoyed it’s beauty. 

Two days after my birthday a tragedy involving my husband brought me to my knees in the middle of the night. It was too much. I wailed at God. I’d like to say I was hanging on to life by a string, but that’s not true. God was holding me up because I had no strength left. I felt alone and broken. But what I had failed to notice through my tears was that God had seen all of this coming long before the days of summer. 

God had put a vision in a woman’s heart to send me a Loved Bible. At the time I’d never seen or heard of “The Loved Bible Project”. I’d also never communicated with the woman who mailed it to me in the beginning of September. This Bible was beautifully decorated with scriptures highlighted, fancy ribbon, and special notes written just to me. Imagine my shock. Why would anyone, especially someone who didn’t know me, take time to create this beautiful Bible for me?

As I read it daily, it’s words sank deep into my heart, patching the aching holes that fear had caused just weeks earlier. It was, to me, a gift like no other, of the upmost importance. This Bible, that seemingly came out of nowhere let me know that God knew what I was suffering. God was with me. 

About a month later, following more problems, I decided to leave my marriage. I didn’t take much with me, but I certainly grabbed my Loved Bible. I walked away from my life, everything I knew, and followed the Holy Spirit down a path I’m still on today. 

I’ve arrived at a point of rest where God has asked me to “be still” and wait on Him. With time on my hands, I pray and read a lot. I especially read my Bible. While praying, I decided I wanted to make a Loved Bible for someone else, someone specific I was praying for.

I got a Bible, pens, stickers, washi tape, notecards, and lots of ideas from The Loved Bible Project Facebook page. Then I got stuck. I just couldn’t do it, I was afraid to ruin the Bible by writing in it. I was afraid that I would mess it up, or do the wrong thing. I had all these plans, my favorite scriptures, great ideas, but fear took over. Weeks passed. 

Finally, I did it. I created my first Loved Bible page! It was exhilarating! I was so excited. I drove a couple of people crazy by messaging pictures of every page I created. Now I can hardly stop. It is so much fun and something I look forward to doing every day that I can. In fact, I think I need to start a new Loved Bible before I completely fill this one up and leave no room for its recipient to take their own notes.

As for the woman who sent me my Loved Bible, Kelli Moore, we are now friends. Though we’ve never met, we hope to one day. We message often and talk sometimes. She is my beloved friend, a beautiful woman, and an angel sent by God; the hands and feet of Jesus that loved on a Bible just for me. And, because of her generosity, I am loving on Bibles for others. 

If you have never tried to love on a Bible, you should. It is so simple and fun. Imagine reading the word of God and coloring, highlighting, drawing and decorating all of your favorite verses! You can make one for yourself, for a family member, or even for a stranger. Who knows, maybe that stranger will end up being one of your best friends. All you need is love. ❤️

Please check out The Loved Bible Project at http://www.lovedbibleproject.com

The following 3 pictures are of the Bible I received in the summer of 2016.

These pictures are from the Bible I’m currently “loving” for someone else.


My Journey to recognize myself in Christ.

“I will cast my cares on you” Lord (Cast My Cares by Finding Favour), as I start down this road to healing. You have given me such a sweet, straight path to follow. 

The air smells of honeysuckle and hope. The sun is bright but not hot. My heart is at peace with the decision I’ve made. 

My family, and those who care about me have come into agreement that this is the best thing for me; confirming, for me, that we have come into alignment with God’s plan. My friends (you know who you are), have agreed to pray for me and check on me, being the hands and feet of Jesus when I need them.

Thank you Lord for this soft place to land after such a difficult decade. I made many bad decisions, and I’m so grateful for your never ending grace, mercy, forgiveness, faithfulness, and love. You, Lord, are faithful even when I am not. You are the anchor of my hope! 

“We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.” (Hebrews 6:19)

You, Lord, are making all things new, and “You are making a miracle in me. When I see nothing but damaged goods, You see something good in the making. When I see wounded, You see mended.” (Mended by Matthew West).

Sometimes I get scared, but when I turn that fear over to you, you give me strength instead. When I get anxious, you give me peace. I’m so grateful for my faith in Jesus Christ as I face these challenges and choices. I believe my faith will heal me. I believe that because God said it would. Looking forward to this time of healing, and abiding in Christ; listening for what God would have me do. No matter what road I take, Jesus will always be with me. That is for sure, that is unchanging, that is a promise from God. 


Sipping sweet tea

I was in my early twenties when I met him. He was so charismatic, funny, charming, smart, and cute. He was a DJ and locally “famous”. He said I was beautiful every day. Literally every day, he told me how beautiful I was and how much he loved me. He told me he loved my body. I followed him everywhere, to the grocery store, to his new apartment because he decided to move to my town (leaving his children and their mother), and followed him all over Florida for years. When things went wrong we always moved back to our hometown and stayed with one of our parents, weaving together whatever lies we needed to just long enough to stay. 

Then I got it. I got what I believe was my first big obvious warning from God (who I didn’t know yet) that this was not the man for me. 
He wasn’t working at the time and had developed a habit of not coming home at night. On this particular morning, I knew where he was and I drove over there before work to get him. I found him locked in a room with a hooker and a bunch of drugs. He was drunk. I was so angry, upset, and confused. I tried to leave, but he followed me. We argued on the porch. I slapped his cheek, he spit on my face, then put me in a head lock and pushed me to the ground. I remember my face being pressed onto the wood planks of the porch at the house where he was partying night before. Don’t get me wrong, I had partied too, just not on nights where I had to work in the morning. He was good at putting people in headlocks; he’d been a wrestler in high school. But he’d never done it to me before. Not once. That morning in particular, he didn’t want me to leave because I got paid that day and we had drugs we needed to buy. I tried to get In the car and leave, but he took my keys and wallet with my ID so I couldn’t cash my paycheck. Finally all the screaming must have woken up one of his drunk buddies. They stumbled out asking what the heck was happening and they convinced him to give me my stuff back so I would just leave. They didn’t want the neighbors to call the cops. 

I drove home, woke up my mom and cried to her. She said he couldn’t stay in her home anymore. I wailed “I can’t start over! I’m too old. I can’t do this without him. My life is over.” 

Truth is, my life wasn’t over, it was just starting to roll down hill, and as it did it would gain momentum, getting faster and faster. Quickly approaching the dreaded “rock bottom” where everything would come to a halt. Rock meets rock. My rock would shatter into a million pieces. Then, left with nothing but shards of a broken life, I would look around and find myself completely alone.
But rock bottom was still at least 6 years away from that morning. I still had so much awfullness to face. So much loneliness and darkness, terrifying moments that would make that morning on the front porch feel like sitting in a rocking chair with your neighbor sipping sweet tea.

Most importantly, I still had to find God. Of course He was always there, waiting for me, but I didn’t know it. He was just waiting for my messed up life to come into alignment with His plans for me. God was waiting for me to want something greater, better, safer; something more. Something I could only find through Him.

And thank God I would.


I’m not abused. Am I?

Abuse. Abusive relationship. Being abused. My loved ones, the ones I trust, tell me that I was abused. My brain understands the concept, but my heart doesn’t believe it’s true. The thing is, we really did (do?) love each other. He was my best friend, and I was his. We were together all the time for 12 years. Maybe that was his way of controlling me; I don’t know. Maybe he did it purposefully, but I don’t think so. I never saw it that way. Honestly, I still don’t. I’ll talk about that later. I’m starting therapy this week or next, so I’ll write about that after I’ve had some time to hash it out with myself.

For now, I’m going to continue to share my story. It’s not pretty or easy or fun. It hasn’t gone the way I thought it would. My plans were not even close to God’s plans. Thank God. I’m going to keep sharing this journey because God’s plans are always better than our own. God has a great plan for me, and I cannot wait to see what I’m becoming.


So after “the beginning” https://breenicolem.wordpress.com/2017/03/11/in-the-beginning/ I followed my boyfriend all over Florida, moving for jobs or just because our lives had crashed and burned where ever we were living. We moved back home, staying with his parents or mine more than once. Continuing to abuse drugs and emotionally abuse each other. Needless to say, life was not good. But Jesus was there. I know this now because I can look back and see him through the tears. He was waiting for me. He was protecting me. He was loving me. I just didn’t know it yet.

My boyfriend and I were abusing drugs. It’s gross and I look back with shame and disgust. We managed; we were what you call “functioning addicts”. We held down jobs (usually), had friends (drug dealers) and we were able to look like a normal couple. I think. But maybe not. I’ve never really asked anyone who knew us if they thought something was going on. I don’t really think I want to know what they suspected because I thought I was doing such a good job of pretending to be ok. I’ve written about how I came to Jesus earlier in this blog if you want to check that out here: https://breenicolem.wordpress.com/2016/02/29/tell-me-about-jesus/

What I didn’t know at the time is that in order to truly find Christ, I’d have to lose myself and be broken into a million shards of scary sickness and sadness. Of course God had a plan for those shards, but I needed to surrender. And I did on November 20, 2016. I left my life and walked toward a God I cannot see; blinded by tears, terrorized by my thoughts and feelings, and guided by the Holy Spirit.

I want to tell you all about what lead up to that horrible, terrifying, exhilarating moment of surrender. The months of constant attacks and hardships. Then I want to tell you about my healing and my growing relationship with God. I’m still in the middle of all of this, I have no idea where it will lead.


Surrendered and Free

Five months ago my husband attempted suicide. Four months ago I was in a bad car accident, totaling my car. Three months ago the abuse in my marriage escalated to physical abuse.

But God was there. He never took His eyes off me. He gave me Splendid and women who poured light and love and Jesus into my soul.

Less than three months ago, in a matter of hours I decided to leave my whole life behind trusting that God had something better for me. I left my husband in a whirlwind of tears and fear. I quit my job and lost my health insurance. I had no car, no job, no money. I had my purse and a couple of outfits.
Who would have thought in the midst of that chaos I would find peace. True peace like I’ve never known before, and rest and hope and love.

Surrendered and scared, I cried out to God. I didn’t know what I wanted. I was so confused about everything. So I asked for peace.
He heard me and answered. I received peace and so much more. So many truly unbelievable things have happened. Unbelievable … but God.
So many blessings. All because I surrendered to God, confessed the truths in my heart, acknowledged the lies i was living and chose Jesus.

Six months since my life fell apart I now have an amazing job, my own money in the bank, health insurance, reunited relationships with my family, and new friends. Today I’m flying to Texas to see my best friend and join her at IF:Gathering.

Yes, God is with us all time. Even in the hard stuff. Especially in the hard stuff.


In the beginning

A while ago a girl met a boy, the chemistry fantastic; like nothing she’d felt before. Yes, he had a family, 2 daughters and one on the way. But he wasn’t married; so she thought it ok. Her heart skipped a beat when he drove over 4 hours just so they could meet. Then he’d drive back home to his family. She was young and confused. Surely thIs is love she thought; he loves me.
(Doubt that’s what the mother of his daughters thought).

Many days and months passed; he’d hold open her doors, and hold tight her hand, paying the bills, and being her man. He once brought her roses “just because he can”. Swooning at the sight, she thought “this man is just right”. At night before bed, the comforter he’d heat, a few tumbles in the dryer is all it needed. Providing warmth and comfort, it’s what she needed. Surly this is love, she thought. Surely this is love indeed.

One day he was crying, we needed to talk. With tears in those big brown eyes he said “I’ve fallen in love with you”. Excitedly she said “I love you too!” But the boy replied, “No, this is my moment to love you”.

I was young and that thought was sweet. But looking back now, I wonder if this is where the control started, because it only got worse. At the time it was sweet, but now it’s perverse.