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When the Walls Begin to Crumble

Charleston, SC

Adelai Brown reflects, “It was like, I have all of this love; you should be happy. But I'm still missing that one thing.”

Growing up with a loving single mom in Charleston, South Carolina, Adelai Brown had one question burning in her mind: “‘Where is my dad?’ Like ‘What did I do?’ Like ‘Where is he? Why isn't he here?’” she says. 

Adelai was a toddler when her parents broke up, her father becoming at once a stranger she’d rarely hear from. And despite her best efforts to become “the perfect daughter,” it was never enough to earn his love and attention.  

She thought, “‘Maybe if I can be happier, or prettier or smarter, if I can not mess up so much he'll come around.’ I developed that conclusion that, ‘Something must be inherently, like innately wrong with me.’”  

Then, when Adelai was in the 6th grade, her mom started dating an emotionally abusive man. He not only commanded her mom’s attention, he led her back into drugs after she’d been clean for several years.

Adelai explains, “He was being manipulative, like trying to pull my mom and I apart. I just got angry. I felt rejected by her. I knew she would protect me, but I never felt safe emotionally.”

Adelai’s only relief was the time spent with her grandmother, a Christian who taught her to trust in Jesus as her Savior. But when things didn’t change at home…

“I knew God was a good God and a just God, but that's why I thought something was wrong with me. ‘I am bad, and that's why God isn't helping me,’” Adelai believed.   

By high school Adelai was known as the model teenager, the “A” student who did no wrong. But at home, life had become unbearable, and she was in a dysfunctional relationship of her own. So at 17 she moved out, and two months later, she was pregnant.

She says, “I just felt like I was slipping. Because I was the girl who was the all-A student. You're not the girl that gets pregnant. You're a good girl.” 

Despite the stigma and shame, Adelai pressed on and finished high school, got a job, and began putting herself through college – all while raising her daughter and caught in an unhealthy relationship. But her hard work and sacrifice still didn’t bring what she needed most. 

She shares, “Deep down inside I’m like ‘For what? Am I ever going to get real love? Or can-can I fall and people really uh just embrace me, give me grace?’ Mentally I started feeling like ‘I can’t handle this.’”

Eventually she broke up with her boyfriend. But the pressure she kept putting on herself was suffocating. So to let off steam, the now 21-year-old dabbled in alcohol and drugs with friends. One day she realized it was taking her down a familiar path.

She remembers thinking, “‘I-I'm not good enough to be a mother, I'm turning into my mom.’ I just kinda broke down in tears, just crying, like uncontrollably, I was thinking, ‘I'm losing my mind. I'm going to end up losing my daughter.’”  

She continues, “My mind was spiraling just that fast. I was like ‘I'm losing it. Like I can't get it together.’ And in that moment of desperation it was like I felt this calming feeling. And I just knew, ‘Jesus.’ Like, ‘Christ in me. Like a-a voice on the inside.’ And it was like ‘It's going to be okay.’ And from that day on I started pursuing Him.”

Adelai would spend years going to church, Bible studies, and prayer meetings, and doing “all the right things” trying to get closer to God.   

She says she thought, “‘I'm still not good enough.’ I’m not getting the feeling I was looking for. I'm not getting the peace. I'm not looking in the mirror and liking what I'm seeing.”

Finally, she began to accept that God’s love wasn’t something she had to earn.

She explains, “He started showing me ‘No, your-your heart is hard.’ I just wasn’t receiving His love. He was trying to give it to me.” 

As the walls around her heart began to crumble, Adelai understood that through Christ, she was more than worthy of God’s love.

She shares, “I can love myself because Christ loved me. If-if Jesus died on the cross for me, if He went through such a sacrifice for me, it’s a slap in His face for me not to love me.”

Now an author and working in ministry, Adelai is married to Kevin and raising four kids. She’s also built strong relationships with both her parents, and her mom has been clean since 2010. Adelai says that seeing herself through God’s eyes helped transform her life.

“Only Christ could have done that!  We can get caught up in all of our imperfections, but He said, ‘I'll give you beauty for ashes.’ But we have to receive it and that's really my story, just receiving it,” Adelai says.

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