15 Year Anniversary

[This is Brandon.  I have hijacked the blog for this post.]

Any of you who know my wife know that the last thing Jeneil (Neally, to me) will do is talk about herself.  Or make someone uncomfortable by addressing her needs and wants.  Jeneil just doesn’t do personal marketing or advocacy.  It is always about the other person.  I have actually tried to gently move her out of some of the extremes of this behavior because it has caused dysfunction in our family life at times.  (She had gotten much better.)  But, the point remains, she almost never talks about or promotes herself in any way.  So, I have to be her advocate, her personal marketing director.

15 years ago (Oct 1996) I first laid eyes on my nerdy wife sitting on a couch oblivious to all the happenings around her at a Navigator (a Christian group) retreat.  She was studying while all the other Christian college kids were mingling and socializing hoping that the Lord might be playing spouse-matchmaker that weekend.  I interrupted her studying. I can’t honestly remember much of that weekend, except I learned this girl had written a book.  It was still in manuscript form, but I wanted to read it.  She eventually got me a copy.  It ended up being what initially made me fall in love with my wife.

You didn’t know Jeneil had written a book?  Yea, I was sure most who read this blog wouldn’t know, because Jeneil wouldn’t be the one to tell you.

It is her (nearly) unedited journal from her service in 1995 in Mother Teresa’s orphanage in Ethiopia.  Long before Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie, and Bono decided to visit on their world tours, Jeneil labored to care for those women and the orphans with no news cameras to capture her selflessness.  She loved those women and children.  Her book takes you with her.  You can feel the sickness, the drool, the bodily fluids, the things we would never touch in a million years.  You are scared when this young, naïve girl is stuck on the streets of Addis Abba at night, locked out of the compound until morning (you can imagine what almost happens).  You feel guilty as she vividly puts the poverty we will most likely never know in your face.  You see the people through her eyes as I believe the Lord sees them.  You just can’t put it down.

 Before she graduated from college in 1997, she had been on the short list of some publishing houses with the help of one of her professors at Dartmouth.  But it just didn’t get published and she lost contact with the publishing houses.  Then we got married in 1999.  One of the first things we did was self-publish her book through Xlibris.  We have always put away any money we made from the sales in an account that we intend to someday hand-deliver to the mission.  We haven’t been able to travel back  to Ethiopia yet, but the money sits waiting.  It won’t match what Bono and Brangelina have delivered, but I believe it will be with a different kind of compassion and love that no amount of money can manufacture.

I hear and see many of the e-mails and comments that readers of this blog send to my wife.  If those very gracious comments are true, then my hunch is that many would like to read more about my wife’s insights and experiences.  It has been my privilege to know her and be changed by her for the last 15 years.  Her book is more of the same writing that will challenge you to internally examine yourself and to externally try to do something about that conviction.

You can get Sunburned Faces here.

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23 thoughts on “15 Year Anniversary

  1. I have read the book and can attest to it’s beauty and deep insights. Brandon, I didn’t realize there was another great writing talent in the family. This is beautiful.

  2. I had the honor of reading the book a couple of years ago. Just as my relationship with both you and Jeneil has changed me, so too her book changed me. The story is breathtaking – often times literally – and I challenge anyone to read it and to look at their life the same way again. Thank you, Brandon, for sharing it and for loving my dear friend so well.

  3. Brandon, this is not only a beautiful love letter to your wife. This helps me understand the deep well of strength, faith and compassion I sensed in her when I met her in January and continue to feel as I read her words. She is an amazing woman who has touched and continues to touch the lives and hearts of many in ways she probably doesn’t even know. She is a gift, a bright light. Thank you for helping to move that bushel so more can see that light.

  4. I’m glad you hijacked the blog and could tell us more about Jeneil 🙂 I just love stories about how couples met, and yours is a lot sweeter than my own story (a club!)

  5. Brandon and Jeneil,
    As I always write…..wow, wow, and wow. Brandon, thank you for being Jeneil’s Marketing Director!! I too am moved by your love letter to Jeneil. Please know that Jeneil’s blog has been nothing less than a true gift in my life. I can say with utmost honesty that her sharing her journey has impacted my life in ways that I can not even begin to put into words. Brandon, thank you again for letting us know about Jeneil’s book!

  6. Thank you Brandon for this amazing post today. Your story has inspired so many, and this letter today shows why you are that incredible family we know and love. I can’t wait to read this. Her light shines on so many of us. This is just another way to see that.

  7. Hi Brandon, thank you for hijacking Jeneil’s blog. I had the priveledge of meeting your wife once and was taken immediately by her strength and kindness. I’m brought to my knees with her blog posts. She is one of the strongest people I have ever known. I look forward to reading her book ( which, until now, I had no idea she had written). Thank you for sharing this. Love to you both.

  8. WOW!! I had no idea. Thank you Brandon (and for your service to our country, I must add!). I can’t wait to check this out and get the book. I love this blog and have been inspired by the depth of Jeneil’s faith…I pray often for all of you!

  9. I had no idea Jeneil had written a book! Thank you for bringing this to my attention Brandon. Jeneil’s words often stay with me throughout the day, and I admire her strength and her way with words. I cannot wait to read this book!

  10. Just placed my order! I can’t wait to read it! If it is anything like her blog posts, it will leave me in tears, with goose bumps, inspired to make the world a better place, feeling closer to God or all of these things at once!

  11. How amazing! Not only the book, which I am putting on my short list, but the two of you and your obvious love and support for each other. It brings tears to my eyes.

  12. Yes! I knew it, I knew it,..well not exactly, but I’ve always thought that you have a beautiful writing voice and wondered if you are an author. I’m really looking forward to reading ‘early Jeneil’!

  13. Pingback: Faith Story « Autism In a Word

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