“How Deep The Father’s Love For Us”

I was talking to a friend not to long ago about my living with lupus, and the subsequent complications due to lupus. Growing up I had a plan for my life. I knew I was going to go to college one day. I planned to become an english teacher, and a part-time journalist.  I would get married  to a wonderful man, have 2 children, a girl named Lillian and a boy named Brandon,  travel the world and retire on some fabulous beachfront property where I would spend my days surrounded by all things that I love. None of my plans involved lupus, however the Lord had other plans for me.

I never planned to end up in Huntsville, Al. I am a Cali girl, from Riverside Ca, and I wanted to attend a state school. I knew that my family would not be able to pay for my education.  Oakwood College  ( now University) was an option, but not necessarily the highest on my list of possible college’s. Oakwood is a small  historically black Seventh Day Adventist school in Alabama. However, regardless of my plans, in the late summer of 1996 I was packed and ready to go to Huntsville.  I would have never imagined what the Lord would allow me to go through.  If I had known I would have run far away from Huntsville and Oakwood, and been unable to handle what the trials he would allow me to go through to save my life.

I grew up in the church. My mom became a Seventh Day Adventist when I was 3 or 4.  I can’t remember exactly when, but I remember her receiveng bible studies in our living room. I remember their was an evangelistic tent effort that happened to be right next door to our home, and I can still hear the sound of the preaching through our windows at night.  Once my mom joined the church, she became very active.  We practically lived at church! I knew right from wrong. I knew bible verses, and could sing all the favorite hymns. I was baptized in my tweens, and thought I knew who GOD was.  The thing is I knew who GOD was, but I didn’t really KNOW him.  I had heard what he had done in the bible, but I couldn’t say I could see what he had done in my everyday life, or those around me.  Even though I “knew” him, I never saw his hand on my life, and how his only plan was to save my life, so he could save my soul.

Fast forward to my senior year of high school. I could have stayed home, and attended a school in the city, but for some reason I was not aware of, I boarded that plan that August of 1996 to a place I wasn’t sure about, and really didn’t have plans to be.  I was traveling far from home, to a place that would become my new home; the place that would prepare me for his show of power in my life.  The “Oakwood Experience” isn’t anything that can really be put into words. It is more than the music or the history.  It is a community of believers that become like family.  It was here that I began to “know” who GOD was.  I craved to see him work in my life.  I have many testimonies of how he provided a way when there wasn’t any.  There were times I would get calls to show up for pictures for scholarship winners. I was too  afraid to ask to many questions in fear they would think they had the wrong person. One time I did ask another recipent and was told they all applied for their scholarships in the financial aid office. I knew I had not been to the financial aid office to apply for any type of scholarship! Actually out of all the scholarships I received I NEVER applied for them.  I wasn’t a super fantastic student. I surely wasn’t one they would hand out scholarships to without me applying first. Many times I would be told that I needed to go home because I didn’t have money to clear.  I knew that was not an option. I didn’t have any money to get home, so I had no choice but to stay and pray the Lord made a way. Sometimes I only ate once a day because that is all I had unless a friend would smuggle food out of the cafe for me.  One day I was in desperate need of money to buy books.  I had gone a long time without buying books. I did all I could by writing excellent notes, and borrowing from my friends.  It worked out because we were pretty much taking the same classes.  The problem came when I started taking classes for my major. Most of my friends were biology majors not English or education majors.  I  remember one time I was $40 dollars short of what I needed for a book. I was walking to my bible class. Usually at this time I was never alone.  There were always other students either going to, or coming from class.  This day I didn’t even notice I was alone. I saw something out of the corner of my eye blow across my feet.  I looked down to see 2 crisp $20 bills. You would think all of these miraclous miracles would be enough for me, but it wasn’t.

I started dating my husband in 1998. I had been in a year long relationship, and wasn’t really looking to be in another relationship.  I decided that I would spend that time getting to know the Lord better and focus on my school work.  I REALLY wasn’t checking for him!! He of  course has his version of the story that of course is a half truth, just in case it ever happens to come up in your conversation with him.  Really I wasn’t, but the Lord knew who I needed and when I would need it.  We dated for a while, and soon he became enthralled with my beauty and intellegence and couldn’t help himself. He proposed and I said yes!  The spring of 2000 I was taking 17 hours, working 2 jobs and surviving on the bear minimum. I am a worrier. I have been this way my whole life. If their is a problem, I will drive myself crazy wondering  the how, when and why. I need to find some way to fix it.  I worry about not being able to fix it. I worry about what will happen if it is not. I need to take care of it or nobody else will.  I worry about things that are clearly beyond my control. I hate to even depend on people because I feel I can do it all myself. It was no difference doing all I was doing, and trying to plan a wedding on a limited budget  for the date of August 13, 2000. I was doing a lot at the time. I even started working out.  I thought this was the reason I was so sore. I thought I was just really out of shape.  This went on for a couple of weeks until I came down with what I thought was the flu right before finals; the worst possible time.

I was in the hospital for almost 2 weeks before they finally diagnosed me with lupus. Up to this point I had never expirenced  any health issues this serious.  Here I was, flat on my back with no way of fixing anything; my health, school work, keeping my job, let alone planning a wedding.  Even though so many times GOD had made a way for me I still had to have my own back up plan just in case he decided he didn’t want to bless me. Though I had grown so much in my spiritual walk, I hadn’t totally surrendred to him, and still didn’t tottally trust him with my life.  It is crazy to look back now and not clearly see how many times the Lord had his hand on my life. I never noticed how GOD had snatched me from the web the devil thought he had me in. I mean he had set up things so perfectly to take me out even back then. I could be a drug addicted prostitute, locked up in jail, and could have died in my sin never knowing that GOD loved me so much!! The enime had fixed the deck to give me just the right amount of sadness, and to put the right people in my path  he thought he needed to excecute his plan. He even introduced me to a pimp and had him come over to my home, and made sure I was in his for a whole summer, yet he never propositioned me, or noticed the sadness in my eyes. Later I found out he had got a hold of one of the neighborhood girls who was also my friend.   We were both 10 at the time.  He probably was  betting that I would just give up, or blame GOD for my lupus diagnosis. He probably thought he had finally won, however, GOD used lupus to save my life!

Lupus is a debilitating disease. It slowly steals away everything you thought to be true. It steals your confidence, your independence, and everything you thought you had in a matter of weeks. I began to physically change.  I didn’t know who I was looking at in the mirror. My body would not listen to what I wanted it to do. Then I find out that lupus flares are related to stress.  This means, if  I worry to much, or try and do to much on my own I am in danger of having a lupus flare. Did you hear me? Me, the worrier , who always had a back up plan, who always was trying to find my own way out of situations and do things all on my own was now diagnosed with a chronic disease that has NO cure !! If I resorted to my comfort zone of doing what I needed to do and making my own plans regardless of what the Lord had in mind, was now in a situation where I had no choice but turn it ALL over to him. I had to trust him!!  I needed to learn that because he was planning to take me through some steep dark valleys, and if I didn’t learn to trust him tottally, I would have never made it out. I wouldn’t know he was a healer and a deliverer. I also wouldn’t know he had a way when I had none. I didn’t know that he would allow me to be his miracle. I also believe that if I had not been diagnosed so many years ago, in the spiritual state I was in, I wouldn’t have been ready for what he planned to do in my  life. Yes, lupus has taken so much from my life, and caused me so much pain, but I couldn’t say that if it did not happen I would have surrendered to him.  He had to strip me of all I knew. It wasn’t until then I was able to see clearly how he had his hand in every aspect of my life, holding back the devils snare. I could clearly see the times  he stepped in to let it not be. Yes, I continue to carry this burden for the past 14 years, but it does not equal what he sacraficed for me. I know he has always loved me, and even when I spit in his face, he doesn’t give up on me.  He did what he had to do to speak to me. He did what he had to do to save me.  I am now attentive, and forever grateful.

Brandi 🙂

 

 

 

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“It wasn’t easy, but it was worth it!”

I have had several people, including doctors that have told me that I am a very good patient, and that I deal with having a chronic illness pretty well. I am very meticulous about my medication regimen.  I know what medication I take, the milligrams and why.  I ask questions before procedures, and I am not afraid to tell a doctor no if I am not comfortable with their method of treatment.  I have been through a lot over the last 13 years, but by no means was I always this way. It wasn’t that long ago I was in the dark with no flash light.  I have learned to adjust to the “darkness” out of necessity.  My only hope and goal was to LIVE!

Lupus is an unforgiving disease.  You get a diagnosis on Monday, and by Wednesday you barely recognize the person in the mirror. My face became more round  and changed into what is known as the “moon face” with flattened  facial features. Hunger seems to never subside, and it wasn’t long before my  figure started to resemble that of a  spider with a rounded abdomen with arms and legs sticking out. All of this was due to inflamation and  the high doses of steroids.  It was hard to prevent because I was in so much pain just walk to the bathroom, let alone trying to walk laps on some bodies track.  Just the thought of it would make me want to cuss someone out!!

The changes are very hard to deal with. It is no wonder that many Lupies struggle with depression.  How would you feel if you woke up one day and your life was TOTALLY changed. One day you are able to walk, the next day you can’t. One day you can fit you favorite pair of jeans, and the next day  you can’t pull them up past your thighs. One day you can take a shower on your own, then the next day all you can do is sit there while someone you just met earlier that morning is giving you a sponge bath.  It is hard to all take in.  I get a little misty just remembering those dark days.

After much sadness, depression, anger and then acceptance, it was time to deal with my “new normal”. I may never look like my pre-lupus self ever again, but I learned how to work with what I have. My clothes may be a bigger size, and I may not be able to wear my favorite dress again, but I can still rock an outfit with the perfect shoes and accessories. My hair fell out, but my husband hooked me up with a tight cut until my hair was able to grow back. I can’t run the miles that I use too, but I can flop around the pool and still burn a few calories without feeling like I am about to die.  I had to learn I can still be me. Lupus can’t change that. No matter what diagnosis I was given, it couldn’t change my heart, my dreams or my desires.  I can enjoy the same things in life, it just has to be executed differently.  Once I realized that, I could deal with the diagnosis of a disease that may never be cured.  I didn’t get to this point over night.  It was, and still is a fight everyday to not allow myself to become lost in depression and hopelessness, but I have to keep on living, or keep on dying.  With an illness where control is relinquished without consultation, it is the one thing I have control of.

The other thing that I could have control over was my medical care. I researched all I could about lupus.  I learned about my medications and asked why they were prescribed.  To make sure I am at my best, I take meds and I don’t miss a dosage. I don’t put a pill in my mouth that I do not know what it is. When I am not feeling my best, I make sure if I have a busy day, I give my body adequate time to recover so I don’t  spend a week on strong pain meds trying to catch up on my pain. I keep up with new treatments and ways to make my life easier.  I had to become my own advocate. I am the only one who can know how I am feeling.  Sometimes it is a hit, others may be a miss, but every decision is an informed one.  It is talked about and decided by me and my doctors.  I don’t have to agree to procedures that I am not comfortable with just because the doctor told me to.  After all, it is my body, not theirs.

Everyday isn’t always filled with smiles.  I still have some days where I feel a little overwhelmed with the frustration of a body that won’t allow me to do what my mind wants too.  Depression still knocks on my door, and sometimes it is kicked opened without permission, but I know longer feel like I have a hopeless future where I am just existing. Lupus is not my death sentence.  It is up to me whether to keep on living, or to keep on dying.  I choose to live!

 

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“Three Times A Lady” (Happy Birthday To You!!!)


Today she would have been 81. It doesn’t seem like it has been a whole year since I saw her last.  We threw her  a grand surprise party, and I will have memories of it…of her, for the rest of my life.  For some reason I thought she would live forever.  She was 80 years young, and even sick she could run circles around me.  She had a quick wit, and a come back for everything. She was hilarious too!! I will never forget the conversation about “German Shepard Cake”, or my mom having a “Blue Bird” phone.  I remember a conversation she and I had just a week or so before she passed.  My mom is often hard to get a hold of.  I would call and leave messages and sometimes won’t hear from her until 2 weeks later.  She was having the same problem.  She said she was going to have someone call her and tell her that she missed her funeral.  She was the best with the dry sarcastic humor.

Vegas was her playground. She could hang with the best.  It seemed like she turned into the Energizer Bunny. She didn’t need a reason to go, and turned every holiday into a Vegas Holiday.  If it wasn’t Vegas, it was a Morango holiday.  You wouldn’t even know she was gone until she would roll into the house early in the morning.

She loved her family very much!! Though she may not have said it, her actions showed it.  She left behind a legacy, 4 daughters,  26 grand children, 40 great grandchildren and one great great grandchildren.  She will be missed but never forgotten. Happy Birthday Grandma Constance!!! Can’t wait to see you at the SAVIOR’S feet.  Oh what a reunion that will be!!!

One Great Day

Yet we must not forget
we believe in an everlasting hope.
One that conquers all pain,
And heals all wounds.
He raised Lazarus from the dead
And himself from the tomb.
With all power he rose again,
Proclaiming his promise of return.

Oh will you be ready,
When he returns and cracks the sky,
When demons are stifled and death itself will die?
Where hurts will be forgotten
And disappointments will be no more.
Loved one’s will be reunited
Some day on that distant shore.
His promises will all be reviled,
No more sorrow, loss, no more worry or pain,
With a loud cry,
The dead in Christ will rise
And the rest will meet them in the sky.

Oh what a joyous day,
When we all see him face to face.
Yes, we have hope to see our loved one’s again,
On that earth made new time will never end.

Until then I am getting ready,
For that wonderful place beyond the sky,
When years are but an instance,
With him forever we will abide
His grace was sufficient,

His promises were true
His glories I see,
His mercies anew.
One day we will all be with him
Oh what a reunion that will be“When we all get to heaven ,
We will sing and shout the victory”.

-Brandi Watts

Copyright © 2012, All rights reserved by author

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Constance Marie Clark-Daniels-Clemons

April 29, 1931-September 24, 2011

“If You Can Use Anything Lord You Can Use Me”

Clip art licensed from the Clip Art Gallery on DiscoverySchool.com

It has been a while since I have written a blog entry.  I have been trying to convience myself that I didn’t have anything to say, when I have had so much to say.  My aunt passed away last month. Yes, death has shown up on our families door step again.  I wasn’t able to go the funeral due to my recent surgery, so I really haven’t fully grieved yet.  I was sitting alone in my room this morning and  I actually  heard myself say I need to call Aunt Jackie and see how she is doing.   I had forgotten that she had passed away.  My eye’s began to well up when I realized I wouldn’t be able to call her ever again.  A week before she died I finally erased all the messages she left on my phone.  I didn’t know that would be the last time I ever would hear her voice again.

Sometimes I hate writing because it forces me to feel when I don’t always want to feel.  Sometimes living so far from my family (I am in Alabama and the rest of my family lives in California) in away shelters me from a lot.  It is kind of out of sight, out of mind.  The only time I am real with myself is when I write.  This is why it took forever for me to finally sit down and write about having lupus.  I hated being sick, and watching how this illness was slowly but surely taking my life away from me.   Talking or writing about being sick, while I was acutually sick didn’t make me feel any better.  Truthfully I ran from it.  I guess I felt Lupus didn’t deserve my attention because of what it had done to me. Maybe If I would have been brave enough, you probably would have seen me on the shelves at Barne’s & Nobles by now.

I thank GOD, even though I don’t always use it, for an avenue where my voice my ideas, experiences and feelings can be shared with others. I am often told how my blog has helped so many people. The truth is, it has helped me just as much.  I pray that my words will be able to reach who he feels needs to hear it, at the time they need to hear it.  I ran away from it long enough.  I am learning to do better. Lord use me as you will.

Stay tuned.

Brandi 🙂

“Grandma’s Hands”

Every Black History Month, there are children studying great American’s such as Martin Luther King, Rosa Parks, Harriet Tubman and more recently President Barack Obama.  I remember these lessons when I was a child.  I looked forward to talking about someone who looked just like me in a classroom where I was surrounded on all corners by white boys and girls.  I learned of great men and women who made a difference despite being mistreated because of the color of their skin.  While I loved to hear these stories about the people who looked just like me, I couldn’t relate to them.  They seemed like these great mythical creatures or super heroes.  I never thought that I would be able to ever meet anyone who was apart of this “great black royalty” that we heard about every January, and most in February. Even still, I was happy to learn about them since most of the American history I learned about was geared more towards  Euro centric history.

For some reason this years of Black History hasn’t been the same as the past 32 have been.  I don’t know if it is because I  have lost family members recently or what.  I have become more interested in my lineage, my ancestors, who make up the 20,000-25,000 genes that I possess and whose experiences influenced my life.. Because of this, I began to  ask questions from the matriarchs, and patriarchs of the family to begin to research my family tree.  From this information I began to build a history of the “great black royalty” in my own family.

My grandmother Constance Clark, married at a young age, and had 7 children.  After she raised her children, she went back to school for her GED, and then later to Nursing School, proving that it is never to late to follow your dreams. My grandfather Delbert Daniels grew up in Oklahoma, later relocating to Southern California where he was  the first black supervisor at the San Bernardino County Post Office.  My great-grandfather, Eugene Marks owned a very succesful sanitation business.  He would always tell the story of how Berry Gordy of Motown wanted to buy his property, and how he turned him down.  He always cared for his family and took time out of his busy schedule to talk with his grandchildren and tell us stories from “back in his day”.My grandmother Katie B Merriman served in the Air Force at a time when it was not popular to be black in the military, let alone a women. Her great-great grandmother Clarissa Murphy was born into slavery and was a single mother to 7 children in a time when it was hard enough to take care of yourself.  My grandfather Eddie King who grew up in a small town of Lower Peach tree Alabama, has always been an example to me of a hard worker, and an example of how a man should treat a women. He absolutely adores my grandmother.You can see it every time he looks at her. He is the great-grandchild of Leonard King that was the older brother of Martin Luther King Sr.

I was blessed to fine information through great oral history about my 4th great grandfather Elijah Daniel. Both he and his mother were from Ethiopia and enslaved on the Russel Daniel plantation.  Russel Daniel was a father of 4 sons, and 1 daughter that he had with a Native American woman..  Her name was Adeline.  Elijah worked in the big house because he was a rather small man.  It was there that Elijah and Adeline fell in love.  Adeline begged her father to allow them to marry.  He would not allow it until Adeline told him she would kill herself is she could not marry Elijah.  This was unheard of at this time in history.  This could not only be embarrassing for Russel’s family, it was also against the law.  Together Elijah and Adeline moved to the Indian territory and bore 8 children together.  One of his son’s was named Elijah Aaron who coincidentally is also the name of my oldest son.  I was not aware of this until I started researching my family tree.  After Adeline’s death he married another women by the name of Mary King and bore 2 more children.

All of these people, named and unnamed are all a part of me.  They may not be in all the history books, but  to me they are as important as those who are.   Without their pain and perseverance, trials and triumphs I wouldn’t be here.  It is upon their sacrifices I stand.  I realized I don’t have to wait until February or crack open a book to learn about important people in history.  I can see through my ancestors eyes, feel with their hands, walk where they trod, and sing and pray with their voice.  They are not mythical creatures, or untouchable super heroes.  They are all apart of me.  You posses a whole new strength when you know who you are and where you have come from.  I encourage you to learn as much as you can about your family history.  It has changed my perspective.  I hope it will do the same for you.

This Black History month I honor my ancestors. You will not be forgotten.

Brandi 🙂

“For Every Mountain…”

My friend Kristen posted this on facebook. This story really touched me. Even though our diagnosis is different our story is the same.  Please keep this young lady  in your prayers.

 

(Thanks Kristen)

 

Brandi 🙂

“It’s So Hard to Say Goodbye”

Written Oct. 11. 2011

Grandma passed away last week so all of the aunts are starting to go through her things to decide who wants what or where such and such will go.  As I look around I notice a lifetime of belongings.  You can learn so much from someone’s things.  I have known Grandma for almost 33 years yet I have found out things I have never known about my grams by just looking at her stuff.  When I say stuff, I mean a LOT of stuff.  I was looking through her hope chest trying to find family pictures and found her elementary school work form when she was learning how to write sentences. THAT SCHOOL WORK WAS OVER 70 YEARS OLD!!!! I was scared to touch it fearing it would disintegrate in my hands!!  What I also found was that she really loves her family.  Grams wasn’t the touchy feely type. Like my cousin Josh said at the funeral. Grandma didn’t always show her love by hugging and kissing us. She showed it in other way’s like his example of “Go in that kitchen and get you some food.” Lol! That was my Grandmother.  When you look back on it you realize that she loved us all so much.  Who else would pay you 5 times what you were really due to pick weeds or water plants on the patio.  Only Grandma Constance.  Also by going through her things I realized she held on to so many mementos of her mother, her uncle,  and my grandfathers, who have all passed away.  At first I didn’t understand it, but now I think I know why. It helps to keep the memories some how in your grasp so that you never will forget. I get it.

This has been a hard trip back home.  I always come home knowing that I am going to go by and see her.  I have been here for almost 2 weeks and haven’t heard her voice telling me there is food in there.  It all seems very weird. It’s like she is out-of-town.  I can’t get my mind to realize that she’s gone.  I went to her funeral. (Might I add the shortest funeral in all of history.  She never liked long church services, “with all of that singing!”)  She looked great by the way. Only thing was the mortuary made her smile to big! Lol!… I saw her in that casket.  I heard the eulogy, so I know that it happened.  I guess my heart won’t let me believe it.

My sister and my niece lived with Grandma the past few years.  Every time she would get mad at her mom she would run in the room and tell Grandma.  She did it a few times since she has died.  She say’s at the oddest times that “Grandma Constance is in the hospital and she died.”  She is only 3 so I know she doesn’t know the finality of death.  It’s like she know’s Grandma is not home now, but at some point she will be in her room for her to tell all that has been going on.  That’s about how I feel.  I can’t comprehend the finality of it.  I can’t comprehend that we will never see each other again…on this earth.  I know that we will someday be reunited in heaven, but the sting is still there.  The pain and the tears are still there.  The statement of “Why are you crying? You will see each other again.”, sometimes is not so comforting.  I know this, yet my heart hurts, my tears flow and the pain has not yet subsided.  I’m sure the day will come when the pain doesn’t cut so deep, but I am not there yet.  I really miss my Grandma!