Merry CHRISTmas!

For this month’s blog I’ve decided to take a break from writing about anything but gratitude, and the joy I experience in celebration of the birth of Christ!

For me, Christmas is not a pagan holiday. And though December 25th might not be the actual day that Jesus was born, it is the day I reserve to remember His birth. Sure, mistletoe and lighted trees, Santa, Rudolf and Frosty are all joyous and fun to experience during this time, and I do, but I choose Jesus to revere at the center of this day—CHRISTmas Day!

Yes I am one of those American’s who keep’s Christ in Christmas, a time to celebrate His birth by “sharing the gift of love, peace, compassion and fellowship with family, friends, acquaintances and others I encounter—regardless of their beliefs.

I recently read a disturbing request of one of my dear friends who is a Christian Music Director, Worship Leader and Dove Award wining Songwriter. All of his work and efforts are about glorifying Jesus, yet he was asked by community sponsors of his upcoming Christmas concert, to deemphasize the musical focus on Christ. Now, if I were sponsoring a Christmas concert and invited a Christian music leader to participate, I would expect the musical emphasis would include their faith.

I have many friends and acquaintances that are not Christian, yet they still celebrate Christmas with love, peace, compassion and fellowship among their family, friends, acquaintances and those they encounter. They will invite me to their celebrations and they do not ask me to deemphasize my celebration about Christ. The fact they don’t include Jesus makes me sad, however, their choice doesn’t change my faith, and I will not demean them nor demand they include Jesus in their personal celebrations. (…and on earth peace, good will toward men.)

I will not remove Christ from Christmas, and I will continue to love and respect non-Christians, and will include them when sharing my gifts and expression of joy at the birth of Christ on Christmas. (Just as I believe Jesus would have me do.) No-one is exempt from the love of Christ, and if we Christians do not include everyone, even those who don’t know or recognize Him, then we are not doing the will of God.

If you are a Christian, I invite you to join me in respecting those of all other faiths, nations, race and creed during this Christmas Holiday Season, while keeping Christ in your Christmas no matter what! As a Christian you deserve the same respect, but you may not always receive respect for making Christmas about Christ, just like what happened to my friend. Do it anyway, and love those who will persecute or shun you for it. You will be blessed!

My Christmas is about celebrating this wonderful, marvelous occurrence many years ago!

18 This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit. 19 Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.

20 But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”

22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: 23 “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”). Reference Isaiah 7:14

24 When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. 25 But he did not consummate their marriage until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus.

Matthew 1:18-25 (NIV)

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Merry Christmas with BIG, BIG LOVE!

Brandee Nielsen-Smith

Why Don’t They Call it Feticide? An Abortion Synonym.

Feticide? Have you ever heard this word? I hadn’t until I looked up synonyms for the word Abortion. Then when I realized the word Feticide sounded a little bit like Homicide, I looked up the meaning of the suffix “icide,” and found that it means “to kill!” Yikes!

According to this Wikipedia reference, “Feticide” or “Aborticide”, are words that fall under the category of “Killing of Family”! Hmm, that must mean that in order to commit Feticide, a baby needs to be a fetus. But wait, fetal development starts at just 5 weeks! Wow! This is all so interesting. I’ve never known so much about pregnancy or abortion, even though I’m a mom! In fact, since I posted my last blog I’d been digging deep for the next blog topic. Remembering the reason why I blog is to reach women through sharing real life struggles and victories that will instill a sense of Power, Hope and Purpose in everyday life, I was convicted. But I was surprised when I felt pulled to write about this particular subject—a subject that I never speak about! I mean, what subject is more polarizing than Abortion? Not many. Well then, get ready to be polarized! Those of you who know and love me, but have never had a conversation with me on this topic, might want to put your polarized shades on while you read the rest! 🙂

My opinion is that although there are many women who support the pro-choice side of the abortion spectrum, I don’t believe that any of them want to kill or murder an unborn child, regardless of the circumstances under which the child was conceived. I don’t believe any one of them believe they are killing their unborn child or committing Feticide. I also agree that freedom of choice is a God given right to all women, and if the laws of the land say that a woman can have an abortion, she obviously has the right to choose it. God gave us the right to choose our actions. Heck, women were choosing to have abortions before they were legal anyway. Whether it’s legal or not is not nearly as much of my concern in this blog as is the truth about what an abortion at any or various stages of pregnancy really is, and how it affects the mother choosing to have the abortion. So now that I’ve shared my opinion on the subject, I will tell you my “personal experience” is that choosing to have an abortion, (get ready for the polar activity) “is killing your unborn child!”

I’m not alone in the act of abortion. Not even close. In 2011, approximately 1.06 million abortions took place in the U.S!  And here’s a kicker for the faithful according to a study by the Guttmacher Institute: “Almost three-quarters of women obtaining abortions in 2008 reported a religious affiliation. The largest proportion was Protestant (37 percent), and most of the rest said that they were Catholic (28 percent) or that they had no religious affiliation (27 percent). One in five abortion patients identified themselves as born-again, evangelical, charismatic or fundamentalist; 75 percent of these were Protestant.”      

So now, it is not with a holier than thou attitude from which I type. It is from within my faithful heart, and my own experience that I plead with your ear, oh woman of any faith or no faith at all, whether you are on the side of or teetering pro-choice or pro-life, or whether you or someone you know is considering abortion. I started out on the pro-life side of the abortion spectrum as soon as I was old enough to understand what abortion means, but I didn’t always carry it out in my actions. There was a time I put my feet on the ground of the other side of the fence, where some of you are allowably exercising your freedom of choice today. Here’s my story:

I was 19 years old the first time I got pregnant. I was using birth control pills and likely missed a day in the cycle, because there was no other explanation for why I should have been pregnant. It was an honest mistake, and I was already three months pregnant when I received the doctor’s confirmation in my blood test results. Since I was a believer, in that moment I accepted my pregnancy and I told God that if He needed a child to be born, it would be safe with me because I’d never have an abortion. I went forward and married my baby’s father when I was 5 months pregnant, but we were divorced by the time our baby turned 2 years old.

I was a single mom by the time I was 22 when I met a guy who was a very young president of a local bank branch. He was 25 and a graduate of The Citadel (a high-ranking military college in the USA). He was very successful and very charming. We began dating and fell in love. By this time I was working as a Pre-K schoolteacher at the same school where my child was attending. My new boyfriend was very romantic and wanted to sweep me off my feet, and asked me to move my child and myself to his home. Though this was not the right thing to do before marriage, I agreed and moved in. Soon after my child and I were settled in his home, he proposed to me and we got engaged. He then asked me to quit my job so that I could stay at home with my child and be a housewife. But after I quit my job, he became controlling and demanding in every aspect of my life. He was jealous over the fact that my child was not his own, and demanded that we have a child together. I fearfully agreed.

When I missed the first day of my period the following month, I went out to purchase a pregnancy stick test from the drug store. I couldn’t wait to get home to take the test! I followed the instructions and stood in wait starring at the little window that indicates a positive result, hoping I would see a blue line. My heart leaped with joy as that beautiful blue line began to appear in the little window! I was pregnant! And I was very happy about it! I ran back out to the drug store and bought a package of infant sized diapers and some gift-wrap. I put the positive pregnancy stick test inside one of the little diapers and wrapped it as a surprise for my fiancé. When he got home that evening I handed him the gift. He opened the wrapping, then the diaper, and when he saw the stick test he quickly dropped it on the table. His initial reaction was shock. He seemed a bit scared, somewhat happy and somewhat concerned. It wasn’t the reaction I thought he would have, but I understood this could be a shocking experience for anyone. I was thrilled at the thought that I was going to have another baby. But his controlling behavior and jealousy over the fact that my first child had different father got worse. He demanded that I legally revoke the rights of my first child’s father, so that he could adopt my child. When I refused, he threatened to beat me, and told me that we would not get married, but that he would see to it that when my baby was born, he would take it away from me. In that moment I panicked! I panicked beyond any situation I had ever experienced to that point in my life! I was afraid for my life, my first child’s life and now my unborn baby’s life. In this moment I was somehow turned around in my own thoughts of despair, believing the best thing to do was abort the child, so that it’s father could never hurt it or take it away from me. I thought that since abortion was legal and I was only 9 weeks pregnant, it was the accepted and right thing to do in my situation. I privately sought an abortion and made the appointment.

At 9 weeks pregnant, I’ve since come to learn that my baby’s heart was already beating, and all of its essential body parts were accounted for. During the week before the abortion, I remembered my promise to God when I was pregnant with my first child, and darkness began to consume me. Every day I sat in a dark room starving myself and praying to God to please remove the soul of the child from its body before I killed it via abortion. I was crushed to a million pieces. I loved and wanted my baby, but not under those circumstances. I kept praying and pleading with God to take it from me and give it to a couple who could not have a child. After I had the abortion, my life was never the same again. I began to punish myself and became anorexic, which eventually lead to body image disorder, exercise bulimia and vanity issues that took on a life of their own for almost 2 decades—regardless of where the issues originated. It took all these years for me to finally learn that a controversial term called “Post Abortive Trauma Syndrome” was a real experience in my life. 39% percent of women who experience post abortive trauma have eating disorders.

I felt worthless, and that God would never forgive me for breaking my promise and aborting His gift of life, His own creation from within my body. Nothing seemed to matter anymore. Three years later I found myself pregnant again, though the circumstances where not with an abusive man. It was just the wrong time in the lives of two young people in a relationship void of abstinence. Misguided again, he and I both believing it was the right and only thing to do, I had another abortion. I was 7 weeks pregnant. Since I’d already had one and felt worthless, I went through it again, and now I believed my actions sealed my fate as an unforgivable human being among all human beings. I conducted my own little private ceremony for my second aborted child. Like the first, I loved it and wished I could have kept it. The ceremony was to make sure I would remember it always.

Since I was already punishing myself for the first abortion, the second added to my unspeakable internal pain and darkness, anchoring me in my self-condemnation and perpetual doom. I yearned and grieved the loss of my two unborn babies for many, many years until my anorexic, body image disorder and insecure vanity issues consumed me. In them I put the abortions behind me, shoving them way down deep and never addressing them again, while believing I would never be forgiven. It was now a secret that I feared would ruin my good heart and name among people if they ever found out.

It took years for me to realize that I had bought into Satan’s cunning lies. Before I went through with each abortion, I prayed that God would take the soul of the child out of its body before I took its body out of my womb. I knew I had the power to destroy my unborn babies bodies through legalized abortion, and Satan whispered a truth that helped me justify it. He told me that I could not destroy souls. I have no power to destroy a soul created by God, even if I had the power to abort the body. This was truth, which helped me to feel justified in having the abortions. How cunning and evil of Satan. In this, he helped make sure my children would not get to live out God’s plan and purpose for their lives on earth.

Today I am on a journey to heal my heartbreak from abortion and I am seeing the lies for what they truly are. I am now 100% clear and convicted that legalized abortion granted me (grants women) the power to decide whether another innocent human being get’s a chance to live or die. I allowed myself to believe that abortion would cure my desperate situation when faced with threatening or challenging circumstances, regardless of why I became pregnant. I believe that as a people, we have come to look for all opportunities we define as the easiest or most convenient, or less impacting in order to remove our obstacles in life as opposed to dealing with, living through and learning from them.

What I am saying is that the fact abortion is a legal option does not mean it’s right for me, for you, or anyone. I was brave enough to go through with my first pregnancy at 19 years old and be a single mom, and thank God I did, because it made me understand the true miracle of life. The purpose and potential of womanhood was made known to me through full term pregnancy and the birthing of my first child. It made me understand my parent’s love for me and their parent’s love for them. It made me want to be a better person and work harder to succeed. Yes it was extremely difficult, yes I lost out on some youth experiences because I had my child when I was only 19, but I don’t regret those losses. What I gained though my choice of giving life was far greater than those losses. Today when I look back at the brave little 19-year-old girl who turned weak and aborted two children after the fact, I want to go back and save her from making those two grave mistakes! I want to go back and save her from getting pregnant in the first place! Oh the blessings that abstinence would have brought me! Understanding now that I had better options than abortion whether I could raise my children or not is like permanent torture! I am so fortunate that I raised one child, but the truth is that there were two more children, two gifts from God that I refused.

I wish I could see them. I want to tell them I’m sorry for taking their life so that I could save mine. I was wrong and I was selfish, further blocking my birthed child from the opportunity to have siblings. I cheated myself out of holding them and seeing their little eyes open for the first time to see me smiling back at them as I say, “hello, I’m your mommy”, like I did with my first child. I dream about who they’d be today, and what our lives would have experienced while they grew up. The laughter, the love, the hard times too, would have all been for the good of my life, and theirs.

I want to encourage you, women, even men—not to do what I did! Your baby is a gift to you that will bring blessings to your life through raising it. Blessings so great you couldn’t possibly dream up in your life.

Here below is what a baby looks like at 9 weeks of gestation, well into the fetal development stage. It is clearly a human baby forming in the womb! Though it is not yet capable of living outside the womb, it IS LIVING INSIDE THE WOMB just like you did! It is not a blob of tissue! It is intelligent, divine creation. Here it squints, it grabs, it’s heart beats, it reacts to sounds and touch, it has finger prints! This is exactly what you looked like when you were in your mother’s womb when she was 9 weeks pregnant with you. If she decided to commit Feticide, (that Abortion synonym), then you wouldn’t be here reading this right now!

9weeks

Because I did twice, now all I have left is this poem:

Misguided I thought I could save you

From an insecure mother like me

Lost in my fears that I’d fail you

Darkness was all I could see

 

The law said that I could erase you

As if you were not meant to be

And so I bought into this deluge

Of lies wrapped in Satan’s deceit 

 

I knew you when I conceived you

I knew you belonged to my God

But I lived in a land built on freedom

Where rights made by man pierced my heart

 

I took away your right to have life

By acting on my right to choose

But I lost so much more than I bargained

On the day they emptied my womb

 

My pain without you has consumed me

My heart devoured by lies

The truth of your life was my blessing

Which now is no longer disguised.

Along my journey to healing from the heartbreak of abortion, I’m learning about the true meaning of unconditional love. I recall that old cliché “you can do no wrong” and always thought this was reserved for circumstances of blind love. But the love of God is not blind, and though we can and will do wrong, He still loves us! As part of my homework in my healing journey, I was encouraged to open my heart and ask God what He would say to someone who was faced with the same circumstance. This is what came to me:

 My Daughter,

 I love you. You are mine. I created you, and I am heartbroken to see you in such great fear, for I have not given you that fear.

 Hear me daughter. See me as my hand is stretched out to you. Take it, please!

 Open your heart to truth. Hear me and I will save you from this. You can do all things through my Son who I sent for you.

 Daughter, if you are not ready to hear me, please know that I will be by your side as you make your decisions. There I will be waiting for you to come to me, because I love you, and I want the best for you.

 Your Heavenly Father

Ladies, because abortion is legal it means you have the power to give life or take life. Before you choose to take life through abortion, and face the emotional damage that can seep into every aspect of your life, please do the research!

I pray that you will be blessed with the same strength and courage I had at age 19, which saved my child’s life, who is an amazing and beautiful human being that I am beyond privileged to have in my life today!

To those I have polarized, know that no matter what you believe, or what you choose regardless of my truths, you are still loved. I pray that knowing this will be a strength in your life when you need it.

If you are being faced with the same choices, below are some possible resources for consideration: 

Pregnancy Resources:

Post-Abortive Resources:

One last word on the subject: did you know that the woman behind Roe v. Wade, which is the case that made abortion legal in the USA, has dedicated her life to undoing the legalization of abortion? Her real name is Norma McCorvey, not Jane Roe. Read about it!

Sending you all BIG BIG BIG LOVE no matter what side you’re on,

Brandee Nielsen-Smith

Back Note: Having already written and published my own testimonial book Unforgotten, which did not include these experiences, I tell you that this post is by far the hardest work I have ever written! Causing me to dig deeper, let go of my fear and lean on God to strengthen me while surrendering my secret and making it public, here in free display for anyone to see. Though potential rejection and backlash may now come my way, I say let it be so! My hope to inspire and help save a mother and/or father and an unborn child from the terrible truth and consequences of abortion, outweighs those potentials a thousand fold! Be bold! Be brave! Live with Power, Hope and Purpose! What’s your story?

 

 

 

Why Don’t You Just Leave?

When it comes to domestic violence, and other forms of abuse in the home, if you know or suspect someone is experiencing it, please do address it—however, be informed before you speak. Asking someone why they don’t “just leave” can be one of the most painful, insensitive, ignorant and important questions… wait, what? It’s insensitive, ignorant AND important? Yes, it’s all of those things depending on who is asking, and how it’s asked. I’ll insert that ole cliché “until you walk a mile in someone else’s shoes”, it’s best not to assume that someone can “just leave” even though you know that leaving is the best option for that person. A better question might not be a question at all, but a confident, genuine appeal such as affirmation of worth by listening and lifting them up in spirit, and confirming their ability to do the right thing in their situation. You might also say; “I’m worried or concerned about you, or, I’m concerned for you and your children,“ reminding them there is help to get out of the situation. But beware, someone who is living in an abusive relationship is often in denial, and may not welcome your advice. If this happens, GIVE IT ANYWAY, with love and persistence.

Most often, no matter who is asking this question, if the victim doesn’t deny the abuse is happening their response will include; “because of the children; because I love him; because I can’t afford to; because he needs me; because he’ll change soon; because he’ll get more angry, because he won’t let me go, because I have no-where else to go, because I’ll never find someone else; because of what people will say, because, because, because!”

If you are someone living in an abusive relationship and you’ve given any of these answers to the question “why don’t you just leave,” I understand how you feel. I know you have it in you to break the chain that binds you to your abuser. If you don’t break that chain, you (and your children if you have them) will be scarred and damaged throughout your/their lives, and may carry it forward as you continue through life and either become abusers, or allow yourself/themselves to be abused.

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Here’s where I stay true to the purpose of my blog in being transparent about why I have an opinion on the matter. I grew up in a home where for a time, “liquid courage” (alcohol) yielded verbal and physical violence between my parents who “loved” each other the best and only way they knew how. The sheer horror of watching the violence occur as a child—but not only watching it, actually trying to physically break them apart, has scarred me for life! I’ll just be frank in saying that when you witness any type of verbal abuse or physical violence between your parents as a child; it will leave an impression (scar) that you can never erase from your life. It’s a deeply rooted seed that will rear ugly fruit as you grow, and you won’t know what type of ugly fruit it is until the fruit is ready for harvest in the midst of dealing with people and situations that would otherwise invoke a normal response. All of a sudden, out comes a dysfunctional reaction to negate any chance of a positive outcome. The ugly fruit yielded within me has a name; it’s called “co-dependency.”

(Here’s a great article on the effects of alcohol on the family that gives more insight to the different types of effects.)

When I witnessed the violence in my home as a child, I knew it was wrong, but I didn’t know that it wasn’t normal. This understanding, my understanding, was dysfunctional and disastrous. But I did what most kids do when they grow up and out of their parents home and said, “I’ll never allow that to happen in my life!” I’ve come to learn that the best advice I can give to myself is never say never! Today I admit that I am one of those women who ended up in an emergency room denying and lying about what got me there, when I signed a document stating that it wasn’t caused by domestic violence. This didn’t happen when my own child was young, nor in my child’s presence (thank God). It happened later in life when I spoke nearly every one of those excuses, which allowed me to endure six occurrences of physical violence over a two-year period. (You can read the whole story in my published book Unforgotten.)

NOW HEAR THIS LADIES, ONE TIME IS TOO MANY! You know that seed I mentioned that was planted when I was a child? It began to grow and flourish, weeding me in and out of emotionally abusive relationships which eventually lead me to the physically abusive one. The darkest parts of living in that situation wasn’t the actual physical part, it was my shame in it, my denial of it, making excuses for it, and even considering if there was any truth to his claim that it was my fault! My only fault was that I allowed it to happen even once. ONE TIME IS TOO MANY!

Ladies, living in denial of our truths is one of if not “thee most“ self-destructive forces on this planet! It will devour our sense of worth and purpose in life. There will never be a reason that grants a man the right to hit you, or abuse you in any way, shape or form. It goes for women as well, who are the abusers against their husbands. Domestic violence and other forms of abuse caused upon any person is wrong, is not normal and is inhumane no matter what pains and dysfunctions may be experienced during an upbringing or adulthood.

So, if you are wondering why women in domestic violence situations don’t just leave, please understand that there is always more to the story that can’t be seen on the surface. Women really do feel trapped in these situations and they don’t feel that they can “just leave”. So please don’t be the type that takes an insensitive stance. Her truth is that if she could just leave, she would. She needs a lot more than this question to help her, and a lot more than you or any human on this planet can offer her. What worked for me is the love and strength of my savior Jesus Christ, and the love and support of my best girl friend who did not judge me, who was not insensitive, but who loved me through it… and I was finally able to “just leave” in one piece 🙂 happy and whole.

Here are a few links to information that might be helpful:

With deep love and compassion I pray that you or your friend or acquaintance become well informed about what to do, about what is right, about what is truth. I pray that you connect with the truth that you or your friend or acquaintance “is beautiful!” You (all) are fearfully and wonderfully made! I pray that you gain the strength, courage and will to act accordingly, within your God given right, without causing more harm or damage to yourself or anyone else who is close enough to the situation to be impacted by it. I pray that you receive love, peace, joy and healing. A sense of purpose to wake you each and every day, with God’s light to shine the way out of every darkness… for the remainder of your days on Earth. All of this I pray In the name of Jesus, Amen.

BIG LOVE,

Brandee Nielsen-Smith

FreedomBlog

Dedication or Addiction?

Being transparent is not an easy thing to do. Especially in my first post on my Blog! But as I wrote in my About page, you’ll always read the real me as written right from my very own fingertips! I hope you find something useful in it!

Being honest about events in our lives that reveal our weakness is difficult, can be excruciating, terrifying, often causing a sense of alienation through fear of rejection, and many other negative ailments that manifest within the mind, body and soul. However, being transparent and honest “is being real”, it is courageous and responsible. Identifying and dealing with one’s own weaknesses is the first step toward overcoming.

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When this picture was taken in 2003, my passions were engulfed in fitness and music.

I spent 8 to 10 hours a day working a full time corporate job during the week, performing at least two singing gigs on the weekends, which burned about 6 hours each gig, while also working as a part time personal trainer in-between these jobs–up to 7 days per week for more than 4 hours per day. I managed to fit this part time job between the hours before and after my day job. And oh yeah, there was also somehow time left for writing songs and vocal training for approximately 5 hours a week, in addition to my own fitness training–which encompassed a staunch  program comprised of both strength and cardiovascular exercises for a duration of 2 hours per day−seven days per week! Would you say that I was a little driven? Hmmm, maybe.

Considering the amount of energy I spent living my life this way, and the fact that I only slept about 5 hours per night, I’d say I was crazy! My self-restricted daily food intake amounted to approximately 1200 calories or less, and actually I felt good about myself! I felt like I was on top of the world and that I  “had it all together.” I was proud of my achievements, especially my mountainous physical accomplishment. I believed it was attained through sheer dedication and through pride, I decided to add more to my plate by being a swimsuit and fitness model, as well as to pursue figure competitions!  Much to my surprise, it actually paid off! I was clearing all the hurdles as I landed a few shots in a couple of fitness & swimsuit magazines, I played the role of an exercise model in a fitness video, was sponsored by a reputable supplement company, and in the depths of this dark pool of vanity, I actually allowed myself to be photographed in a manner referred to as implied nudity. Ooooh look at me! What an achievement! Right? (NOT!)

Now I felt I was ready for my first figure competition! Would you believe I aimed straight for the top by entering a high-ranking amateur NPC event known as The Southern States, which qualifies winners to enter the Nationals−a step away from entering Pro level. Yep! At 36 years old and never having competed before, I signed up for the most popular Open Women’s division (though I was the oldest in this category by about ten years and should have entered the Masters). My drive had quite an engine!  This was my very first show, in which I placed in the top 5 out of 25 women, with 2 of the judges scoring me in 1st place. Look at me!!!

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Impressed? Many people are when they look at these pictures. They see the results of dedication and all the hard work it must have taken for me look like that. However, what they didn’t know and what they couldn’t see, was the truth. The truth? Yeah, the truth is that I had a severe “addiction” driving these achievements. It was an obsession growing out of control. The truth behind what it took for me to look like that was self-perpetuated oppression and bondage. I was trapped within my own life, unable to break free from this evil addiction! It was driving me like a high-speed rail to maintain and perfect my body-image as thee priority in my life. Anything less was unacceptable to me. Anything less made me fear rejection.

The truth is that I was killing myself. Working all of those jobs, exercising far more than is necessary to be fit without proper rest or nutrition, all so that I could “look” a certain way. The truth is that I was possessed by evils known as body-image disorder and fear of rejection. These evils took root years before they manifested into a fitness obsession−otherwise known as exercise bulimia. It began with anorexia until I couldn’t handle the fear of rejection in constantly being told that I looked too skinny. I had lost my appetite from starving myself and consuming cleansing aids, daily. But I thought I could take the fixing matters into my own hands. I decided to work out incessantly to spark my appetite. It worked. But as I began to eat more, my fear of becoming fat made me work out even more to burn off the food I ate.  I raced from one extreme to another, and soon my obsession was perfectly packed into a box of ego waiting to explode! A ticking time bomb! Add the fact that those around me suffered, because my priority was my body image, not my loved ones. I sacrificed precious, quality time with those who deserved me if they interfered with my workout regimen.

Still impressed? I am, and here’s why…

Today I am no longer chained to this obsession and addiction. When I look at these pictures now, I’m reminded of the fine line that exists between dedication and addiction, and the truth which was my own choosing to disguise my addiction as dedication on the outside, while on the inside, it devoured me like cancer.

These pictures remind me that while I was living in my addictions, (which were many and far reaching that are not mentioned in this blog but detailed in my published book Unforgotten”), allowing them to control my life, I was completely lost and void of faith. Today I am grateful to God for showing me a better way, the promise that I could live free from addiction and fear of rejection by trusting in Him. Thank God I did! Addiction comes in many disguises. Addiction does not discriminate, and is most certainly not reserved only for those who drink alcohol and use drugs. If you or someone you know is suffering from addiction(s), please know that recovery is attainable! Freedom is real, it is true, and it can be achieved through faith. I know because I’m doing it!

UPDATED BELOW: on Sept. 22, 2014

Since I posted this blog I’ve been asked to share how I view fitness for myself today, and if I still struggle with body image disorder. I’m happy to answer and of course, should have included the answers to these questions in the first place! (I’ll remember to anticipate questions as I write my next blog 😉 ). Well here goes:

Today I work out for the purpose of staying healthy, and performing optimally in every day life. I do still work out, and it is a priority as exercise is essential for healthy living, but I’m much smarter about my regimen! My workouts incorporate resistance and cardio vascular training, but not both on the same day like I used to do! Each workout lasts up to 45 mins (which is about 55% less than the duration I spent back in those darker days), at a frequency of up to 5 days per week (not 7!).

My daily caloric intake is anywhere between 1500 and 3000 consisting of clean, whole food, and lots of it! I try (really hard) to drink a lot of water and fail miserably at it because I don’t like it, especially if it’s cold because it contracts the muscles in my voice box! (And that doesn’t help when I’m singing!) I supplement my diet with healthy, non-synthetic pharmaceutical grade supplements and vitamins specific for my age and activity level. (Example includes protein shakes, multi-vitamins, GABA, OMEGA-3, vitamin-D, AdrenoMend, L-Theanine, ProBiotics, Biotin and others. I don’t recommend that you follow anyone’s regimen shared in an online post, ever! If you ever consider taking natural supplements, it is paramount that you seek and meet with a professional who can assess your individual needs!)

Now for the big question: Do I still struggle with Body Image Disorder? (Actually in my case was more like an Eating Disorder mixed with Body Dysmorphic Disorder BDD, which falls under Anxiety and Depression… will save all this for another blog!)

My Answer: Yes I do still struggle from time to time, and I am conscious to combat those “lies” (because that’s what they are, lies) with the truth whenever I’m caught in a moment. This is a fact with any addiction or disorder. You’ll be reminded of it from time to time, though with the right tools you will beat it every time.

My tools are in the words and promise of my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Here’s a great scripture on the subject: Romans 5:3-5

All of this I share with BIG LOVE,

Brandee Nielsen-Smith