Chris Burns Stole Over 10 Million Dollars and Left us to Pick up the Pieces. What We are Thankful For

I started this blog to give voice to my experience, my kids’ experience, and even (in future posts) the community’s experience of trauma and betrayal. I hope that sharing my experiences helps other women see the signs sooner–and that maybe as a society we will understand the power dynamics involved in manipulative relationships, how subtle they can be, how one person can erode someone’s sense of self-worth and confidence slowly over time. How painful and drawn out the aftermath of any type of betrayal feels to those who are so deeply wounded by creative deception. There is a space in the middle of all of this that I haven’t been able to put words to. But, on Thanksgiving, I am just going to at least try.

A week after Chris left, I was staring out the window in my bedroom; I had a few moments alone to myself, and I could barely think my own thoughts. My eyes glazed over, unable to see the landscape through the glass because my mind’s eye was flipping through image after image of the years of my life. Images I could not reconcile with the truth that was exploding into our lives. I felt light-headed and dizzy–overwhelmed and in shock as I stood there alone.

In that moment, I clearly heard these words, “I am bringing you into the light. You will no longer be surrounded by darkness. You and your children are being rescued.”

What this means is that as far as our arms can reach to one side, we hold grief, betrayal, trauma, tears, panic attacks, and instability….and towards the end of our other arm at the tips of our fingers, we hold miracles, thankfulness, compassion experienced through loved ones, a provision that I would not have believed unless I had experienced it, people who have shown us a love that we have never known before, joy as a family of four, and a tenderness from life that consistently surprises us enough to bring tears of joy as regularly as tears of sorrow.

I don’t know what special grace is given to hold both extremes inside our souls, but I know that we have been given a great vision of what really matters in life, and how meaningful each day is that we are given to live and love each other, our family, our friends, and our community. It is a rebirth to truly see… Someone took off lenses that we were looking through–dark lenses shaped by entitlement, apathy towards the gift of each other, and an unintentional ambivalence to have that true knowing of the pain and opportunity for joy that each human being carries inside themself.

“Gives us ears to hear, and eyes to see.”

This only begins to touch on what we have seen this year. The goodness. The compassion. The generosity. The gentleness. The comfort. The loyalty. The safety. The provision. The tender care. The deep beauty of the love that radiates towards us from so many caring souls. These were all given to us in overabundance when we were weary, full of grief, confused, overwhelmed, and wanted to give up.

I look at these pictures, and I know that these amazing souls have kept me going. They are resilient, funny, caring, forgiving, smart, kind, and growing up into wonderful humans.

I wouldn’t have made it through this year without them. I will say it again, they have kept me going. They have taken care of me when I was sick. They have given up dreams and found new ones. They have learned to clean floors and bathrooms–cook dinner, do laundry, and manage their own personal finances. The boys are young men that I could not be more proud of. Anyone who meets Arabella knows what a light she is–pure magic. She leaves me notes around the house at least once a week of her drawings with a handwritten inscription, “I love you Mommy, I can’t wait to see you today!” My greatest gratitude is going through life with my children–they are safe and healthy, and I get to experience their presence every day.

My parents were empty nesters. They worked hard to raise me and my siblings and had come to a season of life without kids. But in an instant, they took us in. They have been in almost every detail of this life change with us–making us meals, fixing our glasses, calling so many customer service lines to help me manage my identity theft, crying with us, listening to our faults and fears, encouraging us to keep persevering and see our own strength, and helping us find joy, see the miracles, and choose to look for love in this life change. They remain our stability when we are fragile, and they look for ways to take care of us. I have often said, “I don’t know how any woman does this without family.” I will never comprehend how to do this without family because I’m not sure that I could have made it through this last year without them. The English language doesn’t seem to have a word to express a gratitude that you know you can never repay, but hope that you can at least pass on in your lifetime.

There is a void for all my children, but for my boys, at this age, the void is experienced in a way beyond my understanding. So, in steps my Dad. Every Thursday he switches taking one of them to eat–just to talk and see how they are doing. He sits with them and shares his own mistakes and feelings to let them know that they are not alone. To guide them. To help them in this crucial moment of becoming men. My father is a great man. He has loved them like they are his own children. He is at almost every event. On the day they were born, God knew that my boys needed their Papa in a way that is beyond my words. He is so steady, calm, and intentional. He has and is sheltering them through rough waters.

My Mom has been my lifeline–and Arabella’s. She feeds us when we need to eat. She answers the phone every time it’s me. She prays for us, grieves with us, consistently (really almost daily) tells me, “just think through today, one step at a time Meredith; you are strong, and the future will become clear.” She has stepped into mother my children when I don’t have the strength–taking the kids to fun events, planning birthday parties, Christmas, Mother’s Day, after school activities because I didn’t have the energy to initiate joy–when all I could feel was grief. She created joy for us.

When we had to move, I realized we were very short on time and money–and we were in the middle of Covid. I could only afford to pay movers for one day, and I wasn’t sure anyone would be willing to risk a run-in with Covid. It is no exaggeration to say that over a hundred people spent their weekend moving us into a safe home. They packed for me, they unpacked for me, they organized the kitchen, they painted closets, and helped fix up a few things around the new home, they took furniture apart and then put it back together; for weeks afterwards we were delivered meals to make it through the transition. We were very literally carried to safety.

Throuhgout this year, I have had moment after moment of “surprise” financial gifts. I will continue to tell those stories, but one that comes to mind: After taking the kids to family counseling, I was exhausted and just wanted to go take them to cheap Mexican food because my brain and body were tired. I wanted an experience that felt like something a family would do together–a baby step into solidifying our feelings around our new number, being a family of four. I knew it would cost around $50. When I got into the car to drive us home, I realized I needed gas–another $50. I was already struggling to justify spending the first $50 for a dinner out, so with the gas payment, I felt like it was a bad decision. I started talking and listening to my soul–asking God why so many things in life felt so hard. While pumping gas, I was going back and forth with the decision. I really didn’t have $100 to spend that day. By the time I got in the car, I was scared, but I had been assured that it was going to be okay to take the kids to dinner–that this was an important step of faith. Our check came to $49.57. Gas was $50.10. At dinner, my Mom texted me that there was a letter for me delivered to her home, so I stopped by after dinner to pick it up. When I opened it, a woman who has loved me all my life had written me the words I needed to hear to make it through the rest of the evening. She also sent me a check for $100.

This is one of over a hundred stories I have like it. In moments where I wanted to give up–truly, just felt like I wanted to die or couldn’t find anything in me to keep going, I was given a gift–letters, time, financial gifts, phone calls, texts, admittance to master’s programs at the last minute, vocational counseling, cabins to retreat to, even texts of songs that were exactly what I needed to hear in that moment. After feeling so discarded, thrown away….left feeling worthless by the person we adored, these moments…these miracles make us feel special, worthwhile, loved unconditionally and generously.

I have so many friends who reached out–from elementary school, middle school, high school, college, past jobs and communities–every message or text was one more voice helping me in the on-going healing process–telling me that I was a lovable person, that my life was meaningful and I had a future. I keep a shoebox by my bed of all of the letters–it is overflowing now. I re-read them consistently. I also have some taped up around the house–even on days when I am alone; they remind me that I am not alone. How could I ever ignore the goodness that is in my life today? Perhaps someday, I will better express the well of feelings, deep within my chest, that chokes me up, every time I think about the goodness we have been surrounded by this past year–the coming into the light.

There are certain people who really got in the putrid places with me. Who were willing to step into the ashes. There is nothing more beautiful than someone giving up their comfort and choosing to be in the tragedy of someone else’s broken life. I would do anything for these friends now. There were moments when they saved me from losing hope.

We were able to visit my grandparents this summer. It has forever been my safe getaway. And that is what it was for us this summer. My grandparents are the greatest people you will ever meet. They are generous, kind, love so deeply, make us laugh, feed us constantly…and listen. They listen, tell stories about their life in order to share the wisdom of what they have learned. And both the listening and the wisdom give me hope. Hope has been in very short supply for me this past year. To you both, thank you for always being there…always. For giving me hope. For reminding me who I am–you’ve seen me since I was a baby, and you’re so quick to really know me…and then remind me to stay true to that person.I needed those few days with you right at that time–I was struggling. You filled me with love and sent us back with more resources to keep fighting forward. I am a Brown.

I have had (and still have) a host of professionals who continue to fight for me–to clear my name, and help me navigate the legal process. I have had doctors see us for free, friends give us haircuts, friends watch the dogs, and so, so many meals (which truly is my love language as I’m not one to enjoy cooking). We have been blessed this year. I would hope you can hear the sincerity when I use that phrase. It is an overused phrase, but in it’s most sincere form, holds such deep meaning.

We are thankful for all of you. We are thankful for each other. We are thankful for family and friends. We are thankful to see goodness in this world–it is in such stark contrast to the darkness we lived in and have experienced.

We know that we were rescued. We know that our lives are meant to be lived in the light.

Happy Thanksgiving! Thank you to every single person who has held us in your heart–we are forever grateful.

6 thoughts on “Chris Burns Stole Over 10 Million Dollars and Left us to Pick up the Pieces. What We are Thankful For”

  1. God has truly revealed to you how much you and your beautiful family are loved and valued thru all the care you have been given by hundreds of people. Yes, much to be thankful for!! And it has been my privilege as your mom to walk beside you thru these dark times… but thankful fir all the Light that has shone thru bu soo many caring folks!

  2. Meredith, I tear up and I smile every single time I read one of your posts. Thank you for writing. While it’s healing for you, it’s blessing so many who read snd ponder your words. Yes, truly He is rescuing you, bringing you into the light and using that light to shine in so many others. I continue to pray for you and your precious family.

  3. Nothing but thank you to say….
    Your tears are not wasted. You are building me and others up with your open sharing of your heart. You are reminding us of what our God is like. I hope you feel the love from those who read these words of yours. You are a jewel.

  4. Oh girl. How beautiful. I’m crying my eyes out knowing that God is faithful and will never leave us. We always have hope. I’m so encouraged by your post. Thank you for sharing. ❤️

  5. I am extremely amazed at how strong you are Meredith. Now I know why people say that to me, (smaller scale, but still, the hardest thing I ever went through).
    But Meredith, you writing this blog is brave, extremely brave in my opinion!
    Your writing is so beautifully written, it brings joy, honesty, tears, love, courage, forgiveness, fear, every emotion. It shows your immense love for God, your family and friends. See Isiah 40:31~ my personal “go to” for years!
    I’ll finish and comment again I am sure. Rock Star 🪨 ⭐️ Golden!

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