Little Girl, Soiled Dove

She plays with other girls, laughing just like them
But behind this girl’s laughter
is the echo of her pain.
Innocence lost too soon, purity just a memory
Life still fresh and new
when he tore her world apart.
Too young to say the words screaming silent from her heart,
What sin did I commit to deserve a tarnished start?

A cruel voice whispers in her ear,
“They can see right through you, girl
And the secret that you hide inside.
You bore a curse that called his name;
They can see that you are to blame.
A girl that’s dirty who will love?
You are nothing but a soiled dove.”

She smiles everyday, and dreams the memories aren’t true
Behind that pretty face
is a heart that’s black and blue.
A battered, broken girl
left bleeding in her past
He took it all from her
and never stopped to ask.
And still a crying child lives behind her grown-up mask.

A mocking voice whispers
“They can see right through you, girl
And the secret that you hide inside.
You bore a curse that called his name;
They can see that you are the one to blame.
A girl that’s dirty who will love?
You are nothing but a soiled dove.”

She teaches others to be strong, and with her presence all she blesses.
Behind that confidant woman
stands a girl who second-guesses.
Everything she’s ever done or been,
even her forgiveness
Trying to control her life, how she wished that she had then.
She prays to feel whole again,
and the pain will someday lessen.
But tears just keep falling even after her “Amen”.

Then a gentle voice whispers,
“Child, I can see right through you now
Will you hide My love for you inside your heart?
I have marked you with MY name
And for his sin, my child,
you aren’t to blame.”

So be made clean, be forgiven
Start again ’cause life’s worth living.
You are precious, you are pure.
You are worth as much as every girl.
Daughter, you’re My child, and I’ll be near
So you can live tomorrow without fear.
You will be cherished,
You will be loved.
You are so much more than just a soiled dove.

~Lauren A. Brownlee (2004)

These words were written by my 21-year-old self after journeying through the valley of my childhood trauma to ultimately experience healing and freedom on the other side of the darkest time of my life. In honor of Sexual Abuse Awareness Month, I share this with you: to remind you of your worth, tell you to seek healing from those traumas that bind you, to beg you let go of your shame and learn how to forgive YOURSELF, to ask you to advocate for the abused, and to encourage you to share your story because it is powerful.

I have shared my story in settings where I have had several young woman come to me later to thank me for my bravery, to ask for prayer and to share their own painful tales of abuse. Do not live in the dark isolation of your pain. Do not continue to settle for the lie that you are not worthy, that you deserve a life of less, or that people will reject you. GOD DOES NOT REJECT YOU. And Jesus will reach into your pain and pull you out of the wreckage if you will let Him. If you would like to talk to me further about this, please reach out to me. I promise to offer you an affirming hug and a safe space to share your experience without judgment. My college years were the battleground for my joy, and through forgiveness and God’s grace, I battled back from shame, depression, and an eating disorder to experience healing, joy and a life of freedom and purpose.

I highly recommend reading or listening to the audiobook “Love Heals” by Becca Stevens, author, speaker, priest, social entrepreneur, founder of Thistle Farms and fellow survivor of child sexual abuse. She describes her book: “We all have a story. Whether written from the hardships of deep wounds, grief, or longing for justice, your life can overflow with hope. In Love Heals, you’ll find principles that have transformed lives. Each chapter brings encouragement and practical steps for anyone going through a difficult season or searching for a deeper faith. Along with other ways that love heals, read true stories of healing and joy, where brokenness is transformed into compassion. And believe the truth that you, too, can be changed and grateful for this life you live.”

If you need recommendations for counseling, resources and support, I would love to help you find something. Do not wait, ask for help.

Here are some wonderful resources for Preventing Child Sexual Abuse:

Darkness to Light:
This national organization empowers adults to prevent child sexual abuse and their work is guided by the vision of a world free from child sexual abuse, where children can grow up happy, healthy and safe. They believe that prevention is possible, and believe that it is an adult responsibility to protect children. They offer online/in-person classes, trainings, hotlines and support. You can learn the signs, stats and equip your staff, friends and family to stop child abuse in its tracks.

Our local expert, Cary Rayson offers free D2L trainings in Nashville. I considered myself to be an expert on the topic and still learned so many things at the D2L Training Cary offered.
Prevent Child Abuse Tennessee
4721 Trousdale Drive, Suite 121
Nashville, TN 37220

Family, Health, Social Awareness, Uncategorized

Lost On the Road Home: Mental Illness

She is lost. Gone away somewhere in her mind. I squeeze her warm hand and catch her gaze, offering anchor. Where is she? Somewhere dark, devoid of truth or reality? Sometimes I think it may be sweet oblivion, a coping mechanism. The screen of her mind plays blissful memories or creates fairy tales in which she can play the lead. I smile and put my arm around her to mask my confusion. Her voice drops low, softly intent upon each unintelligible word, like we are confidants sharing secrets. I speak sweet affirmations to her: you are safe; you are loved; you are so special; I’m so glad that I’m here with you. I turn on a gospel cd, not knowing how to fill the hours of our day, but to hold her hand and give her mind rest, her body safety, and her soul comfort.

What must it feel like to lose your self, to feel yourself slowly slipping away? And how alone you must feel to share this with others, but they cannot hear it because you are not an average capable, independent adult? Sometimes you wake up an angry tormented stranger trapped inside of despair. What kind of nightmares does the mind weave when it has a lifetime of abuse and pain with which to paint its canvas?

The guilt weighs heavy on us. How did we not recognize the signs? Could we have paused this shocking decline? Maybe not, but we can give her something now – dignity and love.

Mental Illness – we try to make it suit our rational order, but by its very nature, it is the brokenness of that order, the fragmentation of the mind, the disintegration of our world. It is the scourge of generations. What can we fight with except kindness and respect for human dignity?

Our fears and inadequacies are not more important than the person. Our emotional pain and discomfort are not more important than the person. It is a hard line to walk; healthy boundaries are often trial and error. For our family, it is a constant tug of war. We vacillate between normal life and chaos – a beautiful complete life or weeks of burnout from the sheer magnitude of being responsible for another human adult’s quality of life. I am in awe of families that fight this good fight for decades. Our battle has been more of a sprint, and we are blessed with support.

If you, or someone you know, are dealing with a loved one with mental illness, you do not have to walk this journey alone. Find your local chapter of the National Alliance of Mental Illness (NAMI), bravely make the decision to attend a meeting, and realize that there are thousands of others fighting the fight. There are resources available to you and your loved one. Don’t wait. You are your loved ones’ only champion. If you are defeated in the battle for their health and dignity – who will fight for them?

NAMI Davidson County, Nashville TN –
NAMI All 50 States –
NAMI Tennessee Helpline: #800-467- 3589
Mental Health Crisis #615-726-0125
Suicide Prevention Lifeline #800-273-8255
Family Services #615-244-7444

~lr (2017)

Family, Health, Mental Illness, Uncategorized , , , ,

Ode to Eyre on Her Birthday

Eyre Connelly Rayburn

You came early, impatient to see the world.
The nurses called you,
You surprised us with your red hair
and continue to surprise us
day by day.
Quick to walk, then to run.
No patience
for sitting still,
you seize the world,
literally with both hands and feet.
Touching everything,
sensing, experiencing.

Climbing, jumping, dancing,
You have an untamable spirit.
You claimed your ownership of self early on.
Dressing yourself,
Climbing out of your crib;
Choosing your outfits,
Your shoes,
Your lot in life.
Your charisma is catching
Your energy unceasing.
You’re an artist, an athlete,
A leader, a friend.
We are proud of who you are –
And who you will be.
Carpe diem,

~ lr (aka. Mommy)


A Review: “Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus” by Nabeel Qureshi

I recently completed “Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus” by Nabeel Qureshi, a devout Muslim who encounters Christianity. Qureshi speaks fondly of his Islamic upbringing, taking the time to educate readers on the foundations of Islam, defining terms and sharing quotes from the Quran. He explains the deep influence of paradigms and the internal clash of East and West as a second generation Pakistani American. Qureshi states that “people from Eastern Islamic cultures generally assess truth through lines of authority, not individual reasoning…and leaders know best…Islamic cultures tend to establish people of high status as authorities, whereas in Western culture authority is reason itself….(in the East) correct and incorrect courses of action are determined socially, not individually…this positional authority yields a society that determines right and wrong based on honor and shame. Rational authority creates a society that determines right and wrong based on innocence and guilt…much of the West’s inability to understand the East stems from the paradigmatic schism between honor-shame cultures and innocence-guilt cultures.” To obey your elders was paramount. Muslim immigrants view the West as a promiscuous domineering immoral culture, and because it is called a Christian culture the two must be intertwined.

Qureshi also outlines the central differences and points of contention between Christianity and Islam which essentially worship the same God, Allah. For example, our entrance into Heaven is not dependent upon salvation through Christ but by our good deeds outweighing our bad deeds. Qureshi finds the common practice of “foisting Christian beliefs on strangers” problematic and believes that “effective evangelism requires relationship”. He details his path to experiencing Jesus, beginning with a college friendship in which their differing faith systems were a source of discussion and debate that were never greater than their mutual love and respect for one another. Years, and many insightful and challenging conversations later, Qureshi began to apply methodical critiques to both Christianity and Islam. A decision that would eventually erode his devotion and dessimate his bond with the family he so loved and respected. This a poignant dialogue on the difference between faith and religion, and one young man’s cry to Allah to reveal His truth, so that he may honor Allah with his life.

I highly recommend this book to educate and to combat the prejudice that is born of misinformation, fear-mongering, and to re-humanize the faces of Islam.

I review for BookLook Bloggers

Disclosure: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers book review bloggers program. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

christian, Reviews

A Sacred Sorrow

In the last year or two, I’ve watched friends walk around in heartache. They are emotionally wounded facing uncertainty and on the threshold of a new chapter in their lives for which they did not ask: a broken marriage, the death of a child, miscarriage. To those of you living an unexpected life, I pray you recognize these truths:

First, you need certainty to step into the future. The only true certainty in life that any of us have is that God loves us. In His love there can be sureness, identity and wholeness – no matter your story. And second, not only do you deserve to live a full life, but you can love again. Human love is a product of God’s love, who’s love is infinite. We can each know love deeper, longer and stronger than we can imagine we are capable. Love is not an exchange of real estate in our hearts. We simply grow to add each new love, each new friend, each new child, the rest of humanity. Love heaped upon love – our hearts can expand to hold each gift of love as it is given to us.

I have experienced great love, and for it I know great sorrow. And yet, in my loss, was given the gift of love again – new, different, yet sure enough to build a future upon. I am not promising you a fairytale. And I do not promise you will forget the joy and the pain of what you lost. Make no mistake, when you love someone, you will always carry a part of that person with you. Do not be afraid of this, it is the intangible remnant, a part of your soul that continues to cleave unto that love. So do not be afraid to mourn. A wise motherly friend counseled me once, and left me with a powerful truth. She said, “When you have lost something great, a love, your innocence, you will have days you wake up with an unshakeable need to grieve even decades later. Do not ignore this, do not try to reason it away – embrace it. Mourn your loss where and when it finds you, and then keep moving.”

Dr. Gerald May, MD says, ” Grief is neither a problem to be solved nor a problem to be overcome. It is a sacred expression of love…a sacred sorrow.”

The way out of grief is through it. And it may continue to find you in the quiet and even in the busyness of life. Give it it’s due, for it is sacred. And then continue to live without being crippled by it. Come close to the heart of God and find safety. You are stronger than you know.


Family, Marriage, Motherhood

Many Questions, One Answer

Hello again! So it’s been almost exactly a year since I’ve posted anything, and I thought I may as well start with why that is; I got a job. Last Fall I started working at a Mother’s Day Out, so it’s a part-time 2 and 1/2 days each week and my girls attend but have different teachers. Much of my “free- time” is spent having play dates and simply catching up on all that domestic stuff I have to squeeze into my 2 days off. My writing this year consisted of lesson plans for my endearing class of three-year-olds. What a blessing this “little job” has been on many fronts.

The first day of school I was moved to tears praying with my fellow teachers. I was recalling that I had been four years old when I accepted Christ into my heart because of a Sunday school teacher. And I was thinking about my little 3-year-old sensitive, empathetic, passionate Eyre. I was imagining her astute little mind grasping the gift of the Gospel. Not all the religion and politics, the confusing names and history, but the universal and simple fact that Jesus loves her deeply, selflessly and she will never be alone. No matter what her skin color, clothing or hairstyle, regardless of her mistakes, life choices, and career. She is valuable, she is worthy, her spirit is beautiful, and her life has meaning and purpose. This is the Joy of the Gospel. This is the best gift we offer anyone, much less a child who has yet to grasp the world and its brokenness. “Dear Child, you will never be alone. Jesus knows you and loves you, His heart is for and not against you. He will strengthen and comfort you, He will whisper of your worth when you have forgotten. If you leave Him, He will be waiting, ever waiting for the Joy of your return to Him. For He delights in YOU.”

I was reminded that Jesus truly is the answer, the best tool for our children to navigate life. I want to teach my children to value diversity, that every life is valued equally, that forgiveness is the way to healing, humility and kindness are a virtue, that the world is God’s beautiful Creation to be cared for, protected and appreciated, that our bodies are beautifully-designed no matter our exterior, that our minds are a gift to be opened, challenged and stretched,and that we are a global people and Jesus came for every man, woman and child not just white Americans.

And Jesus is the reason they don’t have to be perfect, for me their mom, for anyone, or for themselves.

Family, Motherhood, Uncategorized

Putting the Family Back in the Family Farm

You may not know this about me, but I’m a farm girl, born-and-raised. My dad is a farmer, and his dad was a farmer. However, I would say my four siblings and I have a love-hate relationship with farming. Growing up, we felt that we had an unreasonable amount of chores that conflicted with video games (my brothers) and reading books (me). Although, I’d have to say there was some innovation when it came to incorporating reading books while washing dishes or folding clothes, just ask my mom. We also blamed “the Farm” for not having the expensive clothes we wanted, or the cool cars other people owned. We got picked up from soccer or football practice in mud-splattered trucks, and I believe my first ride was a ’79 GMC truck with stacks on the back, true story. We forked tons of manure-laden straw, and stacked thousands of straw bales. Unknown fact: I’m experienced at artificially inseminating female pigs and vaccinating their babies. Summers at the Brownlee home were spent at 4-H meetings and fairs all the while avoiding the topic with our non-farm kid friends. We were embarrassed when our friends got asked to help us with our chores while they were staying at our house. Wow, we wasted a lot of time being resentful and mortified. In all our complaining and making “the Farm” the scapegoat for all our woes, I see now that we missed the true value of farm life.

A common goal, and quality time that I no longer enjoy with my family.

When I was a senior in high school, I dated another farm kid. Farming was in his blood and in his heart. Sometimes I would help with his afternoon chores, milking the cows or feeding the sheep, and we did all the farm chores for my dad while he was out of town. One day my little brother Jay observed my boyfriend’s sister-in-law riding on the tractor with her husband and envied that he could find himself a girlfriend who would do the same. He watched us ride around together, talking, mowing, hefting feed buckets, shearing sheep and forking straw. Suddenly the chores weren’t evil time-stealers but exactly where we wanted to be, and we enjoyed it – because we were together.

Don’t get me wrong, family farming is often a hard, non-lucrative business, not to mention unglamorous. I don’t mean to sound idealistic. I’m simply mournful that what could have bound us together, hands and heart, drove us apart because we missed the opportunity to appreciate our relationships.

At age 30, I’m a city mom who grows a backyard garden, aspires to have more land, and a few chickens and other animals. As I reflect on my childhood and the things I value now and appreciated then: growing our own food, sharing meals and chores together, working hard and feeling strong, being outside in the fresh air…some things don’t change. Maybe it’s just in my blood.


I’d like to dedicate this post to the farm families that made me see the value of farming together: the Burgers and the Gadsbys. And to my grandparents, who let us “help” feed the chickens and the sheep, and fed us from the labor of their hands. And my mom, who taught me how to garden and snap green beans. And to my dad, who always dreamed that we would love farming as much as he does.

Family, Farming & Gardening, Motherhood, Uncategorized , ,

You Are Mom, Hear You Roar

On the day set aside to honor and esteem mothers, I’d like to give a web “shout out” to all the mamas out there. You juggle everyone’s health and happiness minute by minute, day after day. You’ve eaten hundreds of cold dinners and re-heated too many cups of coffee, you’ve listened to the Frozen soundtrack on repeat, and discovered sticky fingerprints in unimaginable places. You’ve washed countless loads of laundry, lost multiple months worth of sleep, and kissed enough grubby boo-boos to probably have typhoid. You are like Sisyphus, pushing your stroller uphill mile after mile. You’ve learned to tune out immature tantrums, and they’ve learned to tune out yours. You’ve suffered public embarrassment, carried many tons of groceries, and wore a gracious smile. You’ve won hard-fought battles and lost your temper. You are wonderful. You are flawed. You are unceasing.

And their hearts beat only for you.

Be blessed on this day and everyday.


Family, Marriage, Motherhood , ,

A Review of Longbourn – Downton Abbey Meets Pride and Prejudice

In keeping with the current fashion, author Jo Baker, has written a novel highlighting the men and women in service at Longbourn, the home of Jane Austen’s most beloved Bennet sisters. My snort of derision at this rather obvious bandwagon approach to my favorite novel was quickly followed by hitting the “Place a Hold” button on my library’s online card catalog. What can I say, I adore Jane Austen, and I’m  a sucker for just about any adaptation, sequel or retelling of Pride and Prejudice. Skeptical, I set to reading.

Adjust your expectations before you read, our favorite players of Pride and Prejudice are merely shadowy non-essential characters in this novel. The heroine, Sarah, poor orphaned maidservant to the Bennet household was a hardsell as my new best friend. She was bright, inexperienced, dissatisfied and thrown quickly into a rather obvious love triangle by the author: girl dislikes boy, falls for an overly charming handsome chap, but later is ultimately won over by the devoted love and selfless acts of the first man for which she had such disdain. My cynicism made it difficult to continue past the shallow start in Volume I, but I trudged onward to Volume II which gained back little confidence. The book does expand a few supporting characters like the handsome and deceptive, George Wickham and his sordid hobbies. And Baker gives attention to the matriarch and patriarch of the Bennet household. Mrs. Bennet becomes better understood as do the tense undertones in her relationship with Mr. Bennet.

However, my loyalty was rewarded in Volume III when the story blooms to life with the missing backstories of Baker’s important players: Mr. Bennet’s hidden relationship with servant Mrs. Hill, their bastard son and his journey across war-torn Europe during Napoleon’s war. This unexpected delving into these new characters had me spellbound and made me grateful that I had forged ahead. A great work of langauge and historical detail, this book eventually blossomed into a great story with a few well-crafted characters whose lives were worth the telling.


Checkout the book here!

Interested in other Jane Austen-inspired books? Checkout a long list of options at

fiction, Uncategorized , , ,