In April of 2017, my dear friend Elizabeth VanTassel launched a series on her blog–stories of resilience and overcoming. She asked if I would be willing to share. The following is a mere glimpse into a very complex story. It lends itself more to my heart than the full scope of my husband’s own resilience, hard work, and victories. I’d say it is my part of the story, but it’s ours–an overlapping of mindsets and individual moments that affected us both. Life looks differently for our family. You can check us out at TheDoublingProject.com. We’re an open book–happy to talk and happy to listen.
We knew it was coming; we tried to prepare, but we had no idea how bad it would be. Heavily invested in real estate, in 2008 we began our descent into the hold of a crumbling economy. We were in such a financial hole that a 9 to 5 job would barely cover our immediate needs, let alone the newly amassed real estate debt left to us by a fallen market. My husband fought to keep us afloat—unique business opportunities, investments, contracts—one big win and we would survive the fate in front of us. He sunk deeper inside himself, holding in his fears as the enemy whispered the word failure. He contemplated life . . . and death.
During this time I hid in the Word of God. I dug through the pages of my Bible looking for peace, comfort, and provision. So much so, that the idea manifested inside me to create a fictional series for children that would make them see the power of the words within the books. In the midst of it all, I unearthed a verse I had heard preached more times than I could remember, but this time, it held a deeper meaning: Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they? Matthew 6:26
On the day the verse spoke so clearly to my heart, my husband walked into our bedroom. I laid down on the bed beside him; he explained the hard reality of our situation. In that moment, the Father told me to tell him what I had just read. I asked him to look at God as our Daddy—a loving Father who would never let us go. I told him that I loved him and that we could live with his parents for the rest of our lives. None of the “stuff” mattered anymore. If we had each our children and each other, we would be okay. We prayed that day, on our knees, in complete submission to God’s will for our lives.
Several months later I learned my husband had planned to take his life the day after our bedroom conversation, but the Word of God had pressed upon him so intensely, and he knew even though we were losing all of our earthly possessions, he would not lose his family.
In a matter of months we went from vacation homes and trips abroad to filling our refrigerator with items donated to our church food pantry. Our vehicle was repossessed one night while we slept, and our home went into foreclosure. I dug through free clothes bins for my children and learned the art of eBay. We had plenty of family and friends who would have willingly helped out, if we had told them—those that figured it out, gave in abundance. To the rest of our circle, the Brandenburgs carried on as usual. When I finally let it slip, we felt free of our secret bondage. We went on to tell our church family, our close friends, and our immediate family. Some were sympathetic, others not so much.
Under the advice of a mentor, we surrendered our grip on the lifestyle we thought we wanted and turned to serving those in need. We established community dinners, free clothing centers, after school help for struggling students, salon days, and even a project to dress and fluff girls for prom. In our time of need, we served others in need. We saw need in all of its various forms—shelter, nourishment and in most cases, love. We learned, we grew, and came to an understanding of how we wanted our future to look. Life took on a different meaning, and had it not been for it, our fall from fortune, we would have never seen a better side. I sought God in one of our family’s darkest hours, and He showed me a truth. As parents we made sure our children were fed, educated, clothed, clean, entertained, and loved on. We would do whatever it took to make sure they had everything they needed. And as His Word promised, God was doing the same for us through various, often unconventional, but miraculous means. He provided for us and used us to provide for others.
Eight years later, our lives are a mere glimpse of the people we once were. We are happy, loved, and under the grace of a Father who tells us that no matter what happens, we are going to be alright, because He is our Father, and we are worth more to Him.