God has a funny way of bringing people together in seasons that you don’t even know the depth of at that time. I met Jennifer Brumit while serving at a church in Nashville, TN in 2012. She helped me launch a new volunteer team and from day one she loved people really well. After a coffee date to get to know her better, I asked what she was passionate about. She began to share how the field she was in wasn’t her calling and she actually wanted to step back into ministry. Noted. In 2014, I married my handsome Army man and Jennifer stepped into my role, growing, loving, and investing in people in her amazing, natural way. Over the last three years my beautiful friend has grown personally, spiritually and also transformed the volunteer community at the previously mentioned church. I have always known her to be an inspiration with this contagious joy and energy, but getting to dig even deeper for this feature was a blessing beyond words. Her story is saturated with hope… you are in for a great read!
Jennifer was born in Memphis, TN and raised outside of Nashville in Ashland City. Her grandparents lived within walking distance and Jennifer has fond memories of snapping green beans with her Nannie and of course, her famous southern cooking. Jennifer’s parents met at the babysitter’s house, of all places. “My dad had been raising my sister and my mom, my brother. Both my siblings were toddlers at the time. Three years separates each of us. Together my parents had me.” Growing up, Jennifer’s mom adored her. She was kind, inclusive, thoughtful and welcoming to everyone, but was physically and emotionally abusive to her sister. Jennifer’s dad being a truck driver was in and out. He wasn’t around often and when he was, he didn’t come across very loving, but he was the authority and the setter of boundaries in the house. She respected him for these things, but she always longed for his affirmation. “My dad was not what you think of… If you have a girl, you should be mimicking what she should pursue. My dad didn’t do that, he did the best job with what he was given. I know that. But, I was always looking for affirmation. I was a rule follower thinking it would “please” him. Then he left. He was gone. I didn’t see him. He would occasionally show up for things, or he’d take me to buy clothes. But he wasn’t super present.”
Looking back Jennifer now realizes that her mom was bipolar. If you’re unfamiliar with this disorder, it is very troubling and can affect everyone with which it comes into contact. While her mother preached kindness and taught Jennifer to care for the less than, she continued to be abusive to her sister. Finally, when her sister was 16, she decided to go live with her biological mom. Her brother threw himself into addiction. He was in and out of rehab and would frequently live with their grandparents. He, too, wasn’t around much. Then, when Jennifer was 13, her dad left.
“I remember it so well, him knocking on my bedroom door while I was in the middle of a girls sleepover. I’m moving out for a while, he said to me. The picture of that moment is so clear to me today. I had to shut the door. The peering eyes of an eagle looking at me from a hallway fixture on the wall. My mom is standing in the kitchen at the end of the hallway. ‘Keep smiling,’ I said to myself. I had three other girls waiting on me to come back and I had to be just as happy as when I left. ‘It’s okay,’ I thought. ‘He’s the rules in our house so now I won’t have any,’ I said to myself. Little did I realize how that moment and those actions would play into my life forever.”
Soon after her dad left, so did her brother. Unfortunately, her mother’s unhealthy attention turned to Jennifer. Along with this attention came a laxative addiction for weight loss. “I was never skinny enough, blonde enough, tan enough, or popular enough for her.”
Everything in Jennifer’s world became about looks, the perception of perfection. Because of this, Jennifer developed an eating disorder. Bulimia by laxatives, as she describes it.
At the age of 16 Jennifer became pregnant with her first son, Jay. “I was not promiscuous. My oldest child’s father was the first person I slept with. He started giving me attention. He was popular, captain of (a sports) team. (My mom) encouraged me to like boys. At my 10th birthday party, I had a boyfriend. There was no encouragement to be strong and independent.” So Jennifer did just what she was taught; she was in a serious relationship, with a baby on the way. Her mother encouraged her to marry the father, so she did. The young couple divorced after a brief marriage.
When Jay was 8 months old, Jennifer began dating a friend of hers at Harpeth High School, Bobby Brumit. They worked at a 50’s throwback diner together, “Stash & Stellas.” Jennifer’s senior year of high school was when they began dating and soon found out they were expecting a baby themselves. With two babies, they felt college was not an option, so Jennifer invested in vocational training and got a job to provide for her growing family. For the following two years she lived with her dad. She had two little ones and couldn’t afford to live on her own. That time was healing for their relationship. She was on welfare and food stamps, but he put a roof over her head and helped provide stability in her life. Bobby and Jennifer married a few years later. “Two really clueless kids had two babies, built a house, and got married (in that order). Bobby came from a divorced family and had little parental support. He dropped out of high school just a mere six weeks before he would be graduating with honors. (Eventually) he got his GED, worked three jobs at a time, and started his long seven year road to a college degree.”
Through job progressions, multiple jobs to pay the bills, moves, and the stresses of life with two toddlers, Bobby and Jennifer found their marriage falling apart. After a six-month separation 2 years into marriage, Bobby walked in one day and said, “Whatever it takes.” “That man worked his tail off for the dreams of our family. All while coaching our boys in basketball, soccer, and baseball when he wasn’t working a job or sitting in a classroom.”
Jennifer describes those years and some of the ones to follow as the “trenches” survival mode. They said “no” to a lot of things and put everything on the back burner. They focused on their relationship with Christ and their marriage to repair and rebuild. It was a long road. A lot of small good choices, intentional sacrifices, and they pulled through. Even now, those years and that discipline has carried them through. They have endured struggles with their own children’s life choices, long distance marriage due to work opportunities, and the everyday details.
“My mom and I became estranged. For the last 8-10 years of her life, she helped take care of my grandparents. When I would go visit with them, if she walked in the room, she would ignore me. Prior to our estrangement, she would flip flop between “life is rainbows”, then she’d rage at me. She’d pull me in, but then she’d rage at me. My husband told me I had to draw boundaries. My family didn’t understand it.” While this was hard for Jennifer, she drew boundaries and maintained distance from her mother… right up until the very end.
On a friday, I went to go visit my grandparents. I saw her and she greeted me, but that was it. 3 days later, she was found passed out on the stairs. They thought she had an ulcer and a hole in her lung. They went in to do surgery. She was diagnosed stage 4 lung cancer; it was everywhere. She died a week later. I got to her monday and we said our peace. She had a lot of unforgiveness for her ex-husband (Jennifer’s dad). I had let go of it… which is so sad that she lived her whole life with bitterness. I couldn’t have her in my life, because of the way she treated me. I grieve what we could have had. The hardest thing for me was the 400-500 people at my mother’s funeral. So many people approached me saying how wonderful my mother was… that very hard to swallow.”
Because of Bobby’s job, the Brumits moved around alot. Mere weeks before her mother’s passing, Bobby was offered a job in Australia. It was a 3 year assignment. Two weeks before the job, the project was halted. Had they left, Jennifer would not have been back for her mother’s death, but more importantly, their reconciliation.
Jennifer’s favorite quote is by C.S. Lewis “Don’t shine so others can see you. Shine so that through you, others can see Him.” She exudes this in talking about her journey. Two parts in particular are about her granddaughter and the passing of her mother. While she doesn’t see her granddaughter, she has hope that one day she will. She is completely at peace and knows God has His hand in that part of her story. Her boys have their ups and downs, like anyone. Some big changes and choices, some rough patches, but overall she says you can see God’s hand over both of them and she is clinging to the day when God will renew her family.
“It’s been five years since my momma passed away. Following her passing I was filled with anger, sadness, and overwhelming grief. Bobby’s job took him on a six month project in Oregon the week before my mom passed. I followed after handling details for her. I had no idea what was to come. Our boys were both in college in Tennessee. Just a few months into our time in Oregon not only did I learn a lot about being alone and walking through grief, but I would soon learn that we had a grand baby on the way. Our youngest son had been in a very unhealthy relationship with a girl we didn’t approve of. We had learned that they were both doing drugs and not going to class. After a move home for her (and no more drug use), the relationship continued to crumble. Meanwhile Bobby and I made what we thought was a permanent move to Charleston, South Carolina for a job. We settled in, found a church, and stepped out and joined a small group. Our sweet little granddaughter was born in July of 2013. Meanwhile both of our boys were knee deep in drug use and living a life that was really difficult for me to come to terms with.” Throughout this season, Jennifer says the kindness of others impacted her the most. “In all things I am grateful. Years of darkness and really hard times have taught me to be grateful because He is always in it. Our story says that Bobby and I shouldn’t even be together today…but God. In all of it, gratitude.”
We asked Jennifer if she could go back and tell her 16 year old self something, what would you say? She said, “Even though you seek your daddy’s love just know that there is a father above that sees you and loves you. This thing, this hole, this void you’re trying to fill, only God can do that. Don’t believe the lies that even the people you love are telling you! You don’t need a boy in your life to be complete. You are strong. You are capable. You are not weak. You are beautiful.”
She went on to explain, “My life as a young girl was defined by a separation of my parents at 13, an absent father in some pretty important years, and a not well mother that told me I was fat and ugly. I believed the lies my mother told me. More laxatives would lead to being skinnier and that would lead to someone loving me. I saw my mother doing it daily so why wouldn’t I believe her when she told me to “just take the pills”. I wish so much there was someone to tell that little girl that the world does not define who you are, God does!”
Today Bobby has an incredibly successful IT job and Jennifer works at Cross Point Church in Nashville, TN . Both would tell you they are right where they are supposed to be and living out an amazing journey. “Through it all I’ve learned to live in the season you’re in. I wasn’t always content in some of the seasons of our life. I’ve learned to deal with loss when I lost my mom one week after a stage four cancer diagnosis. I learned to forgive the past quickly when I only had two days to say all I needed to her after our relationship had remained strained for so many years. I learned to be grateful for those two days (and much more) in the months that followed as we moved to Oregon for Bobby’s work. I was alone in my grief on the other side of the country. It was in those 5 months that God met me right where I was. And it was in that season I learned that God had me right where he wanted me to be. I was where I needed to be and didn’t know it. God knew what was coming. But doesn’t He always?”
When Bobby left for Oregon, during the interim, Jennifer stayed with her dad. So when everything transpired with her mother’s diagnosis and passing, she was staying with her dad. “Taking into consideration their history, my father never had a negative thing to say about my mother. He was such a support. He listened. He was a shoulder to cry on. He showed complete and total grace. The irony of my mom passing (was that) my dad was the support I had… he was the constant voice in my life when no one else was. I was only connected to my husband. But because he was gone, my dad was just listening and supporting me.”
Jennifer says that through their seasons in Oregon and Charleston, she sees that God took her out of Nashville to get her out of the way. “So He could take care of it (all.) I am a control freak. (But) I dropped to my knees and God was saying, ‘This is where I needed you. There is nothing else you can do.’”
“Today I’m no longer chasing after what this world tells me to. I want my life to bring hope to the hopeless. My hope is that someone sees my life and that they see Jesus. I want to help the ones that feel hopeless and alone. And I want them to know that there is a God that sees them. I want them to know that there is a God that cares about the desires of their heart. I want them to know that Jesus is in tomorrow and the day after and the day after.”
Jennifer as a Catalyst Woman:
- She forgives. It was a journey and it took a while, but she forgave her mom. After everything that transpired between them, she let go and forgave.
- She trusts God. With her husbands moves, with her sons choices, with her granddaughter, in all situations she has learned to trust God’s will, not just His power.
- She is thankful. She is grateful for her story and the journey. She is thankful for her dad’s support and her husband’s.
- She chooses joy. While she doesn’t know what the future holds, she believes the best and chooses to be joy filled.
Jennifer’s story is filled with reasons to think she should be condemned or punished, according to Christian “rules.” But God. His grace is so big and so wide, that it covers us from the east to the west. Did you know that? Did you know that no matter what, nothing can separate you from God’s love? If you believe in Jesus Christ, you are saved, protected, ordained, and called. Jennifer’s road was bumpy. It had twists and turns. There were opportunities for the enemy to whisper lie after lie in her ear. She clung to the Truth of the Most High God. He filled her head and heart with purpose, hope, and life. He has all of that for you, too. He’s waiting to talk to you, to share your purpose, to share your story.
You are a Catalyst Woman.