Day 20: Terminal Uniqueness

I’ve been attending an on-line conference the past 3 days called “She Speaks.” It’s been inspiring and intimidating. And worth it!

For years, I didn’t like attending womens’ events. Today, I am very confident in who God made me to be, but the woman He made me to be is, well – different than a lot of women. I never, ever think about accessorizing. I don’t dye my gray hair. I barely wear makeup. I don’t own foundation or blush or eye shadow. I have a smaller wardrobe than most men I know. I don’t knit or scrapbook or have a lot of shoes (I don’t think 3 pairs of workout sneakers counts!).

Today during the conference, my husband was in the room as I watched a segment on putting together a good outfit, and we both laughed out loud!

I could see these differences and use them to distance myself from these women, but I chose not to.

Why? Because what I have seen so much in the lives of myself and other followers of Christ is that we let perceived differences divide us. In ministry, we call this “terminal uniqueness.” I don’t know who coined this term, but it appears to be based in recovery ministries. To me, it is the line of thinking that no one can help me or relate to me because no one has been through what I’ve been through. We could also extend it to mean that I am so different than this group of people that I have nothing to learn from them.

I spoke at my first womens’ event in 2003. I was sharing a 3-minute testimony because the event was gifting money to the ministry I was a part of. I had been a Christian for less than 5 years and was in a season of depression and anxiety. I thought we were going to a board meeting! When we arrived at the conference, there were well over 1000 people there. This was not what I signed up for! I read off an index card, voice shaking and hands trembling. And at the end, all those women stood up, clapping and screaming not because I put on a good show (trust me – I didn’t!), but because God did an amazing work in my life.

They asked me to come back the following year. And in 2006, I was a workshop speaker.

Am I different? Absolutely. Because God made me different!

I’m glad I didn’t check out emotionally because the last portion of the conference was extremely powerful.

Jennie Allen, founder of IF:Gathering said at tonight’s session, “Satan shuts you down by making you love something more than God.”

This is exactly why I am breaking up with food. Today I’m 20 days in. It’s been a very imperfect week during this imperfect journey. But I’m not giving up. Because God has much more for me than a bag of pastel-colored Caramel M&M’s has to offer.

(Don’t ask any questions about that last part, OK? Rough week.)

Bible Reading: Romans 15-16
Prayer Cards Prayed: Check
Food Tracked: Check
Activity: Check
Daily Reading: Check
Worship in Song: Check
Choosing to Trust: Check

“Born Again This Way” Book Review

“Born Again This Way” by Rachel Gilson is book #15 of 2020.

This was a fantastic book about Rachel’s journey of coming out as gay, coming to know Jesus Christ as her Savior, and how those two things impact her life today. I read a lot of books in this topic, and appreciated how many new and fresh ideas she brought to the conversation. She also brings a theological depth that other books lack, but she writes in a way that makes those concepts accessible to anyone.

A couple concerns brought up and several addressed:

Conversion Therapy

She speaks against conversion therapy without ever thoroughly defining it (to the best of my recollection, she only gives a general idea on pg. 83). Why is this concerning? When conversion therapy is not defined, many things are lumped into that term that don’t even resemble therapy or conversion. Many in the type of ministry I do are accused of doing “conversion therapy.” Recently, when Massachusetts proposed a ban on conversion therapy to minors, there was not a single Massachusetts resident testifying who actually had undergone conversion therapy (the ban passed). So I am VERY leary of this catch-all term, which feels like a red herring in the conversation for me.

Transformation

A concern I heard from others is that Rachel does not believe in transformation (i.e that God is able to change one’s sexual attractions if He so chooses). Because I heard this concern prior to reading the book, I kept my eyes open to what she did – and didn’t – say. On this point, the overarching theme of the book is 0n obedience, not sexual orientation change. I actually commend her for this. I have seen WAY too many people give up this fight because God did not take away their struggle. As I state in my book #learningtowalkinfreedom, same-sex attraction (SSA) is a form of temptation. If we expect to live a life free of temptation, then we expect to be more free than Jesus. So I actually appreciate very much her focus on obedience rather than sexual attraction change. She does share a story from a woman who was same-sex attracted and is now opposite-sex attracted. I also do not recall her speaking against transformation. I actually write in my book that if we focus only on sexual attraction change, we are missing the point (freedom step one).

On-Going Same-Sex Attraction

Another concern was that Rachel wears her on-going SSA as a “badge of honor.” I did not give this one much weight, and here’s why. I speak openly about my on-going SSA. I share about the presence of on-going temptation in my life because I feel it’s important. Church leaders need to know that someone who experiences SSA is just as free and healed and changed as the person who know claims a heterosexual identity. I state that I “experience” SSA rather than I “struggle” with it – because it’s no longer a struggle. Rachel and I also agree that calling oneself a “gay Christian” is problematic. Here is my post explaining why.

I highly, highly recommend this book, despite a few concerns. It’s one of the best I’ve read in a while.

Buy “Born Again This Way” here.

Great Article: “The Pastor’s Wife Who Went Crazy”

This popped up on my Facebook feed this week: The Pastor’s Wife Who Went Crazy

I so appreciate her honesty in sharing her story of mental illness, suicidality, and self-injury. The world needs to hear what she has to say.

While I never really tried to take my life, I frequently toyed with where the line was. How many aspirin could I take and still function? How skinny could I be without dropping dead? How deep could I plunge the razor without doing permanent damage?

In 2008, I “came out” on Focus on the Family’s webzine as a cutter. It was definitely one of the most difficult articles I’ve written.

As I read Heather’s article, I knew I needed to take my confession a step further.

I then shared with my husband several incidents where I experienced what Heather Palacios, the author of the article, describes: epsiodes where it was almost as if I lost all control of myself, where I didn’t even feel as if I was inside my body any longer. I was a animal desperate to harm myself, desperate to numb the emotional pain I felt.

As  a high school student, I hit myself so hard and so many times with a meat tenderizer, I gave myself a horrible black eye. Just imagine the rage that is required to hit yourself over and over with a hammer, and you will get the picture. I lied at school that week, saying I tripped in a dark hall and hit my eye on a doorknob.

A few years later, I got into a fight with my married girlfriend. As I was leaving the house, I took the boot I was putting on and repeatedly hit myself in the eye/forehead with it. I don’t remember feeling pain. When my girlfriend realized what was happening, she ran over and gasped. In my frenzy, I didn’t notice that I had been hitting myself with the sharp corner of the boot’s heel. I was covered in blood.

There were other episodes, some less frenzied, some more calculated. While many of my scars have faded, I will forever wear on my body evidence of one of the last times I self-injured: a “W” carved into my thigh. “W” is for worthless. I was a Christian when I marked myself in that way.

All I can say to close is God is able. Seriously, guys. When I began to allow Him to, He poured His very life into me and birthed a new freedom inside of me. Just because He loves me.

He loves you, too. And He can do the same for you.

So that is my confession. Now go read Heather’s article. It’s important.

The photo was taken from this article at Christianity Today.

An Interview with Abby Kelly, author of “The Predatory Lies of Anorexia: A Survivor’s Story”

Several times on this blog, I’ve mentioned Abby Kelly, author of The Predatory Lies of Anorexia: A Survivor’s Story. Abby is a joy to know! She has really allowed God to work in her life in so many ways. Today, I’m thrilled to be sharing my interview with her here at Living Unveiled.

Abby Kelly small

If you’d like to read her interview of me on her blog, here it is 🙂 My answers might surprise you!

So without further ado, here’s Abby!

Brenna Kate: Tell me your book title and publication date.
Abby: The Predatory Lies of Anorexia: A Survivor’s Story. The paperback was released in early March. The ebook is currently available in most formats.

BK: One word that sums up this book…. (and then why?)
A: Rescue. I like to use that word instead of recovery because “recovery” makes it sound like I did most of the work myself—I recovered. But in very real terms, Jesus rescued me. I had nothing to do with it. I had tried to “recover” from anorexia using almost every method out there. And truly, at least half of me really wanted to get better. I got over the denial pretty quick, but something else kept me stuck. It’s like Paul talks about in Romans 7, I kept doing what I didn’t want to do. But after years of trying, when I finally broke, Jesus stepped in and rescued me. I think that word also applies because I can tell you the exact day my eating disorder was triggered, but I can’t tell you the exact day I got “well.” It kind of overtook me by surprise.

BK: Is this your first book?
A: This is my first book-length project. I currently write for a lot of Christian publications, both physical and online, but those are short devotions and articles.

BK: Who is your intended audience, and what do you hope your readers take away from your work?
A: When I first concluded the book, the last chapter addressed the three demographics that I imagine will benefit most from this book: an individual personally struggling with an eating disorder, a parent of someone struggling with an eating disorder, or someone whose marriage is crumbling due to an eating disorder or another type of addiction. That said, anyone and probably almost everyone is connected to someone who has food and body image issues. Anyone in that position will benefit from this book.

I want people to feel sorrow and fear when they’re in the middle of the book. The point is to reveal the gravity of eating disorders—anorexia is the most deadly mental illness. Because our culture is so adjusted to fad diets and the term “obesity epidemic” we’re often blinded to the dangers of weight loss tactics.

At the end of the book, I want people to be buoyed by hope and feel like they know where to go next to find help for their own struggles. I want them to see Jesus as their first and last resource and to understand His love for them even in the middle of the mess, even when they’re “sick.”

BK: What was the hardest part of writing this story? What brought you the most joy?
A: The hardest part was actually asking about and listening to the honest accounts of the pain I caused other people in my illness. I wrote to each of my sisters and asked for their memories of that time—how they felt and what they thought. I knew my eating disorder had affected them, but in the process of treatment, most of the focus was on me. I was constantly searching internally and being asked what I thought or felt. But it was eye-opening and a little painful to listen intently to how others were hurt in my chaos. The most joy was definitely the end and not just because I was done writing. But the book ends at “now.” And now, I’m discovering each day afresh. Now, I am walking in freedom. Now, I am enjoying Jesus. Now, I am engaged in relationships. And now, I enjoy food 🙂

BK: Who has inspired you most in your writing career? Personally and professionally.
A: Personally, my mother. No one else in my life has been so open and honest and vulnerable with me about her mistakes, finding forgiveness, changing and growing in the Lord. From the time I was little, she showed me what it’s like to be a woman after God’s own heart. Also, when I was the most rebellious and hateful, she never turned her back on me. And when my husband was struggling, she always honored our marriage and respected him and gave us grace.

Professionally? Well, this is an eclectic list, so bear with me. First, my dad. He’s the consummate professional. He respects everyone, absorbs every opportunity to learn, innovates and leads with kindness. Second, my husband. He’s an incredible leader which is something I’m always told I “should do” and I’m never comfortable doing. Patrick is an Army officer. I’ve watched him lead humbly, from the front, fearlessly and consistently. His time management skills, creativity and innovation amaze me. He can see third and fourth degree consequences and anticipates both the best and the worst.

And yes, there’s a writer mentor too. 🙂 Bethany McShurley has edited several of Beth Moore’s Bible studies. At one point, I sent her an email because I loved her words at the front of the study. She replied to me and offered encouragement in my current writing projects and even sent me some opportunities. I want to have the characteristics of all those people in my personal and professional life.

And now, some random little things about Abby…
• Nickname as a child (and story behind it) Oh-so-many! Squilly (who knows, my dad came up with it) Abs, Ab-ner (that had to happen) Jenny (one of my sisters) even shortened my name to “A” for a while.
• Favorite color (and why) Again…so many! Green first, I think. Then blue, brown, orange—can I keep going?
• Preferred writing attire? Yoga pants usually, or if I’m coming in from a morning dog walk and the idea simply struck, then it’s my tennis shoes, jacket, whatever I have on!
• Tea or coffee? Coffee! I’m like you, Brenna, mostly decaf. I get really jittery with caffeine but I LOVE the taste of coffee!
• Starbucks or Dunkin Donuts? Starbucks all the way! I worked at Starbucks for a while when we were stationed in Washington State. Now, I’m more hooked than ever!
• Favorite author? I have no idea! Actually, wait—C.S. Lewis. That’s not because I’ve read all or even most, maybe not even many of his books. However, I am unceasingly amazed by the beauty of his writing. How he manages to combine that beauty with such deep, raw thought is beyond me. It’s like he takes questions that have never before been posited and then tumbles and spins and polishes them, providing an answer that gleams like expensive jewels.

Thank you so much, Abby, for allowing me to interview you! Mostly decaf for the win! 🙂

You can read my review of The Predatory Lies of Anorexia here (I loved it). Get the paperback or the Kindle for yourself or someone you love today!

Welcome to Living Unveiled, the blog of Brenna Kate Simonds, Author of “Learning to Walk in Freedom”

Featured

Welcome to the blog of Brenna Kate Simonds, author of Learning to Walk in Freedom.

Don’t know where to start?

Read Brenna Kate’s story, straight from the back of Learning to Walk in Freedom.

Check out Brenna’s new series: Breaking Up with Food

Read Living Unveiled’s 3 most popular posts:
You Have Not Because You Ask Not
Do I Still Struggle With Same-Sex Attraction?
Remind God of His Promises

Check out Brenna Kate’s speaking page.

LTWIF.front.cover

#FreedomBook is Here!

It has been one challenge after another in getting my paperbacks of Learning to Walk in Freedom to actually arrive at my home. After a long string of issues, I was told my books would arrive Monday. When I checked the tracking Sunday, it said the book would arrive 1/28 (6 days prior). I called Monday, and the terminal was closed due to weather. They are supposed to call to schedule residential delivery, so when I hadn’t heard anything at noon Tuesday, I gave them another call. They said my books were out for delivery! I turned to tell my husband, and he said, “I think I hear a truck.” Don’t you know – it was my books!

IMG_7776

My 4 year-old JJ is guarding the goods.

IMG_7779small

IMG_7782small

Don’t worry. It wasn’t loaded.

18 boxes of #FreedomBook!

IMG_7789

Order your copy today!

Merry Christmas! Download “Learning to Walk in Freedom” For Free on Christmas Day!

Tomorrow, for Christmas Day only, I am offering Learning to Walk in Freedom for free!

LTWIFreedom Christmas

If you or a friend receive a Kindle for Christmas, download away! If you have an iPhone or iPad, there is an app that lets you read books for Kindle. That’s what I use.

If you already downloaded Learning to Walk in Freedom, why not grab some other resources to help you start the year strong? Here are some of the resources I reference in Learning to Walk in Freedom.

 Relational Masks by friend and mentor Russell Willingham talks about more about the concept of core beliefs and how these false beliefs impact our relationship with God and with each other. He wrote another great book entitled Breaking Free: Understanding Sexual Addiction & the Healing Power of Jesus.

 Think Differently, Live Differently by friend Bob Hamp addresses how the way we think impacts our choices and the truth we live out of.


The Life You’ve Always Wanted: Spiritual Disciplines for Ordinary People by John Ortberg is an easy but challenging read with a new take on spiritual disciplines. Learn how to work spiritual disciplines into your everyday life.

And then some personal favorites, also referenced in Learning to Walk in Freedom:
Healing Is a Choice: 10 Decisions That Will Transform Your Life and 10 Lies That Can Prevent You From Making Them by Steve Arterburn. There is an accompanying workbook.

Boundaries: When to Say Yes, How to Say No to Take Control of Your Life by Henry Cloud and John Townsend.

Margin: Restoring Emotional, Physical, Financial, and Time Reserves to Overloaded Lives with Bonus Content by Richard Swenson.

Sacred Pathways: Discover Your Soul’s Path to God by Gary Thomas – finding your spiritual temperament with its traits, strengths, and pitfalls.

Enjoy! And spread the word 🙂

Learning to Walk in Freedom: Here What People Are Saying

Front Cover

 

Back cover

Read some new reviews of Learning to Walk in Freedom:

“Brenna has written a wonderful gem and a terrific resource. In almost 15 years of college ministry, I have witnessed students’ struggles with addiction, sexual brokenness, and controlling habits. This book provides an inspiring and holistic approach to helping us find freedom. She aptly encourages the reader towards intimacy with the Father, study of the Word, authenticity in community, and practical changes in behavior. I’m excited to use this as a resource with students on my campus.” Joseph Gavin, Chi Alpha Vermont

“I am privileged to have known the author since her college days and have seen the growth and maturity that freedom in Christ has developed in Brenna. This is a story of inspiration, rescue, and hope, but not just for the author. Like the traveler in Pilgrim’s Progress or Hinds Feet for High Places, Brenna leads the reader on a journey to meet the One who can help anyone learn to walk in freedom. Join her on the journey and find out for yourself.”
Mike Olejarz, National Chi Alpha Training Team

“This is a tremendous book, with so much depth and strength. It thrills the heart to read Brenna Kate’s testimony in the back of the book. Her journey in five steps is an easy read. God is so good to His children. We just haven’t truly let Him give us the freedom in our walk with Him, that He desires for us. This book will help the one seeking to walk in God’s freedom. Thank you, Brenna Kate. I will reread the book and will be sharing thoughts from the book at a local support group. Thank you for your obedience in writing this for the rest of us. For those who have not yet read the book, you’re in for a very special blessing. Again, THANKS.”
Nora S.

This excerpt is a continuation from yesterday:

Later that week, as I continued to cry out to God, He spoke clearly to me concerning some of my questions and struggles. Most of all, He called me to choose to trust Him, to rest in Him, and to allow Him to teach me. He beckoned me to go on a journey with Him, a journey to further whole- ness and freedom, choosing to believe He is who He says He is.

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light. (Matthew 11:28–30)

Thus began this journey into my current understanding of true freedom. (You can read a full testimony in the back of this book.) I’m sure it’s not over. I invite you to join me where I am now.

Wherever you are on this journey, there is something to be learned from Him. Even if you’re not generally a praying person, I encourage you to pause. Pray the following for yourself as inspired by the Scripture above and prepare to dive into a new level of freedom in your life:

God, I come to You. I am weary, burdened, and I need Your rest. God, I lay down my heavy burden and take Your yoke upon my shoulders, whatever that means, because You say I can learn from You, in Your gentleness and humility of heart. Your yoke is easy and Your burden is light. God, help me to receive that, and prepare me to really hear from You as I read this book. I surrender to all that You have for me as I learn to walk in freedom. Amen.

Get your free copy of Learning to Walk in Freedom today!

Cover and interior design done by Rusty and Ingrid Creative