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Looking back, Thursday, April 7th, 2016 feels like the dividing line between two lives. My first life started from the day I was born and went on for almost 23 years before it reached such a marked change that words like “shift”, “transformation”, “new chapter” don’t even come close to portraying my experience. It was an explosion, a demolition, a departing. So many things ended on that day, that in truth, it feels like a death. All the smaller cliff-hangers and page turns and developments of my story up until then culminated so distinctly, so intensely that I have found it makes more sense to me when I view it this way: the end of my first life.

At almost the same time, the sense of being born into a new, second life was just as strong. I was full of contradictions: I was a weak and vulnerable child and somehow already an adult.  I was on my own for the first time and finally not alone. There was nothing that I knew for certain and I was somehow sure that was right. Somehow, everything that has happened since has transpired in only four years.  These years are a marvel to me. They must be made of elastic, somehow seeming to fit what feels like the equivalent amount of life as the first 23 years. At least that’s how it seems looking back and reflecting today. 

If you had asked me what such a change would feel like before I found myself there, my best guesses would have been laughably inaccurate. As a tapestry is torn fiber by fiber, so I felt the tearing and pulling of my body into two opposite directions compelled by an overpowering movement from one life into the next on that April day. My mind shook between sanity and insanity as every belief and thought came untethered and most of my consciousness seemed to float off to some other place apart from my physical awareness. My stomach rose to my throat and I could barely breathe for the nausea, trying to calm myself as I bore the pain of the ripping down to the molecule. I was not sure. Nor was I present enough to be afraid or brave. The accusations of betrayal, of rebellion, the voices of terror and condemnation, I could not refute them. I had nothing left to say to them. I found myself finally taken over by the current I had been moving into step by step. I wondered whether I was doing this or whether it was being done to me. Could I know the difference? Perhaps this was always where I had been going since what had been done to me was begun so many years ago. I had no memory of any life before the doing and now the momentum the doing had created would bring about this ending. Or perhaps this ending was the only thing I had ever done. Maybe this was the first action that had come from within me. Maybe it took 23 years for me to respond. For deep inside, the littlest, truest part of me had slipped away and escaped. It was taking refuge in some hidden place and would wait until my body passed through this threshold and could get to the other side. She had brought me here. Tiny and invisible, for better or for worse. She had stepped bit by bit and I had followed. In her frailty, she was proving to be the most powerful part of me. I had no choice but to let her only decision come to fruition.

But that feels like a lifetime ago, a lifetime of four short years bursting with good things. The beauty and fullness of this new life sometimes makes it hard to remember without effort what came before it. It takes time to call the past up into view. The impression of amnesia is usually welcome because the memories of who I used to be can still cause pain and I am surprisingly slow to believe and accept what actually happened for all those years. I have done so much work and much work still remains. And so it shocks me when I get a glimpse of who I was and remember what she went through.

And I am grateful.

That’s what happens when you get the chance of a second life. Grace is ever-present and permeates all things. I am still finding some part of each day where I am stunned by a reality that would never have been possible before. Really simple things are magical because to me they are the impossible come true before my eyes. That’s why it’s important for me to take the time to reflect and remember.  To see how far I’ve come.

I survived that day. She lives. She is learning, she is growing. 

I am celebrating four years free.

– Jessica 4.7.2020.

 

Note: I know this post may be a bit cryptic if my story is not already familiar to you…for more context about what I’m referring to, READ HERE.

45 Comments

  • Kim Rogers says:

    Wow…no words really. I have not experienced…Jessica…what you have experienced…and yet I feel your emotion…in this moment…and I’m speechless. You are so much more then what we see…and here you are showing us everything … you’re a true gift…thank you. Thank you for being you…and thank you for sharing yourself with us. You are loved and admired…always. 💗

  • Suzanne says:

    I wish for your (and your family’s) life to continue to be full of love, light, laughter and music. Always be proud of the person you are. Take care and goddess blessings x

  • Kelly Zimmer says:

    Happy Rebirth Day ❤️🙌 Love you to pieces, sugar plum💕

  • Myanna Carbin-o'brien says:

    Jessica…you have felt like a part of my family for….7 or 8 years. I am so proud to be that third or fourth cousin you never see but loves you and champions you nevertheless. For better or worse so many parts of our stories are similar and the work YOU have done and the ensuing results have helped me. Kelly (earlier comment) was right. Happy Rebirth day!!!

  • Debra Cochran says:

    God has you in the palm of his hand. Thank you for sharing your courageous journey of healing. You will never know in this life how many you have helped. Keep stepping forward, embracing your beautiful gifts, sharing them with the world and allowing yourself to feel the joy God intended for you all along.

  • Sherilyn says:

    Really insightful words! I am So Glad you are choosing to live in ever-present grace and gratefulness. That puts you in a truly good place emotionally. Cheering you on!

  • Andrea Jenkins says:

    Amen, Sister! Congrats & happy birthday! I watched your family for the few seasons it was aired and fell in love with you all. You are so amazing! So very happy for you! Keep the faith! May God continue to bless! ✌🏻❤️

  • E. S. says:

    I’ve followed your story since the start. You have no idea how much hope and strength you’ve brought me by your courage and journey of healing. I grew up in an extreme religious cult and was abused in many ways. I also recently celebrated four years of freedom. The healing process continues and is sometimes very hard, but there is also so much new-found beauty and joy to celebrate.

  • Lisa says:

    You are beautiful inside and out. My wish for you is for you to find peace and joy in all the things you do. Life is not meant to be easy but it’s not meant to be this hard either. When I look at you I see light. I sincerely hope you post more.

  • Lisa Jones says:

    You are beautiful, brave and a force to be reckoned with, so please keep on keepin’ on. I am proud of you and proud of your resolve for standing against years of control and pressure to do not only what was right for you, but it was right for everyone else in your family. You protected some and you prosecuted some, but to everyone you were the face of freedom and right. Continue to live your beautiful life and encourage all the rest to do that too.
    Lisa

  • Laura says:

    Jessica,You have come so far. You are a survivor. God used your experience to grow you into the amazing person you are today. Full of life, love and hope for a better tomorrow. May God continue to bless you and keep you. I am sure your story has given many great hope.
    Blessings,
    Laura

  • Pattie Sirois says:

    Your amazing honey! You went through so much at such a young age! I pray you will continue to heal! Your 2nd life will bring you much love and your beautiful baby and husband had helped you through it❤️ God Bless you Jessica!🙏

  • Terry King says:

    Wishing you well on your journey. You are a fabulous woman with strength and resilience, and the voice of an angel.

  • Kristin says:

    Absolutely inspiring, Jessica. You have inspired me to make a change and face those who hurt me. I don’t want to hide anymore. Thank you for sharing your heart.

  • jane hook says:

    Love to you always Jessica

  • Rhoda Sorensen says:

    Wish for you all the success in the world and thank you for your bravery. You have no idea how many people you have helped with your story.

  • Michael Cardone says:

    Amazing post, you are so brave. I am so happy God’s grace sustains you through all you have been through. May your inner peace remain❤️

  • Melani says:

    You are a hero … trust and believe. You saved the rest by your flight. God bless u and your family. ❤️

  • Chelsea Wood says:

    April 10, 2016 is when I left my first life and started my journey of healing, and self discovery. I think that first night I cried the whole night but I knew in my heart it’s what I was supposed to be doing. I was 18 at the time and two days later married my best friend in a small ceremony consisting of less than ten people. It was perfect and I would do it over again if I had to. I’ve never known such happiness and freedom.

  • Elizabeth Garrick says:

    It is wonderful to hear of your blessings found in your journey. Wishing you all the best in your future endeavors.

  • Ruth LaChapelle says:

    You are so strong and very much loved! I’m happy you are celebrating your new life.

  • T. Andrews says:

    You are courageous!
    This quote reminds me of you:
    “Do what is right, not what is easy.”
    By Roy T. Bennett

  • Julie Detjen says:

    Dear Bard,
    As you have mentioned on insta, looking back at photos (and I have a few) you can see in your eyes what a heavy burden you really were carrying. It is so very wonderful to see the twinkle that rebirth, new love, new challenges and new outlook have brought to you and to those around you. You are a shining light to so many simply by speaking and putting thoughts into your posts, your lyrics, and simply conversations. Seeing that you are 4 years into this new life makes me smile right along with you. Don’t let this virus slow you down. We are all looking forward to what is next for you once the world gains a bit of normalcy back, hopefully for the better. ❤️❤️🎻📝❤️❤️, Julie (WI)

  • Shelley Burdon says:

    Getting stronger and more amazing every day… Many blessings for the journey still to come.

  • Moriah says:

    I’ve watched your family since the time you were on agt. I come from a similar background and my transition and liberation happened 4 years ago in May!
    Thank you for so vulnerably sharing your story with us. Even the way you write is poetic and drew me in as I read. I could relate and feel what you were sharing, especially with how quickly things have transpired and shifted for you in 4 short years!
    I bless you with deep abiding peace as you continue to grow, that you would encounter the Lord and know His love and pursuit of you this whole time!

  • Reese Dion says:

    You’re a rock star and an inspiration. One day at a time. Thanks for sharing your story. Makes me feel more capable of telling mine.

  • Mary Beth says:

    You are a beautiful survivor of all of it and each day will be a breath of fresh untainted air!
    ❤❤ MB

  • Lorraine says:

    Jessica, my heart breaks for what you and your family have been through. I was lucky enough to see you perform at the Oprey. I wish you and your whole family much love and healing going forward.

    Lorraine

  • Susan Williams Lockhart says:

    Many thanks for your story and strength..God bless you and your family..keep on moving!!

  • Denise Louyakis says:

    Hello, sweet girl ❤️
    I have enjoyed all the talent, love, kindness, and strength of you and your family for years. Beautiful, inside and out. You are an amazing woman. It’s clear that so much healing is happening, and that brings me joy. I truly appreciate all that you’ve chosen to share. I can imagine all the details and memories that you have chosen to keep private. You have no responsibility to share anything with anyone, and that will always be your choice. As it should be. I believe that we are all vessels for God. His plan for you was created long before He blessed us with you. I don’t believe you were ever weak. When you felt weak, God was letting you rest, for He knew you would one day need all the strength you could muster. When you felt alone, God was preparing you for the abundance of courage you would one day need. Could He have protected you from your first life? Absolutely! You may not have felt it, but He walked by your side, through your first life, every step of the way, and therefore, He has big plans for you. My heart will always break for first life Jessica. But Jessica 2.0, well, that girl is badass fierce! That girl is kind, joyful, and simply amazing. April 7, 2016, the day you chose freedom. I love you, and I wish you a life that will make all your dreams come true. A true warrior. #HappinessForever ❤️

    All my love,
    Denise

  • Ragena says:

    Jessica,
    What a beautiful soul you are. Thank you for being courageous and sharing your story. You give hope and inspiration to so many others who have walked a similar path. I pray that your future is bright with love and full of joy.
    Much Love

  • Charles says:

    Jessica, thank-you for sharing. No one can imagine what you have been through. Even your beautiful writings cannot tell the true hardship and burden you carry. But following you and seeing you grow through the beautiful pictures your husband takes and hearing you sing and play again you are getting that twinkle back. Stay strong.

  • Monica says:

    So happy you were able to find your freedom and seem to be living your second life the way you want! The only good thing about your first life for me is coming across your music!

  • Tiffany Jane Noble says:

    💚😊💚 xx

  • Jeanette says:

    💚

  • Jeanette says:

    Your an amazing young lady 💜

  • Adrian Hagger says:

    Beautiful put.
    I am a survivor too, & can feel every part of your pain.
    The only way is forward.
    We have had enough our past stolen ❤️

  • David Coe says:

    It’s a heck of a thing to have the strength to rescue yourself at that age but to be rescuing the rest of your family at the same time makes what you did truly incredible. Kudos to you, Jessica!

  • Elizabeth says:

    Happy re-Birthday Jessica. You deserve all the good things in your life, and to have peace, love and happiness. You are an amazing women, and will continue to heal, and things will get even better for you. I am humbled by you!💖💖

  • Melissa Thompson says:

    Congratulations hun I so happy and so proud of how far you have come. Can’t wait to see where you’re gonna go from here. Much love always Mel 😊❤️🙏🏻

  • Christina says:

    May God Bless you and all your family. You are all strong and will overcome! Never lose faith.

  • Tammy says:

    Jess, thank you for sharing this update. Your courage and determination is so inspiring to so many. I am so happy for you and to see how far you have come in the past four years. I am thankful you were able to take that first monumental step because it has brought you to this place today.

    God bless you, Tammy

  • Monica L. says:

    I’m glad that you are finally able to live the life that you deserve!

  • Robert Prenoveau says:

    Hello Jess,
    Just wanted to say thank you for sharing your experiences and feelings. I can not imagine the strength that takes but I hope it helps you heal. I was brought to tears the first time I saw you and your family perform on TV. It struck me immediately how special you all were. I have been lucky enough to see you perform LIVE 2 times. I wish you continued success and happiness and look forward greatly to what your future has for you.
    Much Love,

    Robert Prenoveau

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