Tag Archives: friendship

Hard or Soft? The Choice is Ours

When TRUST has been broken, how do we avoid becoming hard and bitter?

I came face to face with this question this week as I suffered a disappointment regarding a new friendship.

Full disclosure, my friend was equally disappointed in me.

Two sides, neither willing to yield.

My stubbornness? Born of a newfound desire to not abdicate what I deem precious to make others’ comfortable.  To value my soul enough to give it voice and not dismiss my feelings is THE point of my current journey.

Perhaps as I find the balance and rhythm of my new life, I will be more willing to yield, but for now, it is critical that I not.

Here’s why: Because I know that in yielding that first important thing  can come a slippery slope of acquiescence; the path to losing myself again.

I refuse to.

And in my friend’s unwillingness to give my refusal space, there came a parting of the ways.

Here’s the kicker:  I have written about my carefulness to engage in new friendships.  When you have quality, beautiful people already in your life and you’re not needy, you have the luxury of being more discriminating about those whom you choose to spend time.

This person had checked off all the boxes that were important to me:  Depth, kindness, spirituality, humor, self-awareness…and I let them in.

Then, the great impasse.  The argument with no resolve.  The parting of the ways.

One side of me says, “Why even bother?  Who NEEDS this?!”

The other side knows that in each encounter are lessons to be learned.

That in the decision to “Get busy livin’ or get busy dyin'” comes the promise of disappointment,  hope, pain, joy – the entire kaleidoscope of feelings.

I’d rather live and feel…even if the feelings are sad for a season.

So back to the question, “How do you avoid becoming HARD?”

The freshness of the disappointment was wrapped in a sense of innocence lost.  Could I ever be so willing and open with someone new?  Had I lost my capacity to try again? Would I become hard – or stay soft?

The answer sank into my heart and was a soothing balm to my soul:

“You stay soft when you put your trust in God, not in people.”

If I put my trust in people, I will always be disappointed.  Because they are human!  They are as flawed as I am.  But to accept that the Universe is unfolding exactly as it ought; that some relationships are just for a season and that there are rich lessons to be gleaned from each one?  That comforts  me enough to put myself out there again.  And again.

Then I hear the words to Kesha’s song “Rainbow”: “What’s left of my heart’s still made of gold…”

But in the dark, I realized this life is short
And deep down, I’m still a child
Playful eyes, wide and wild
I can’t lose hope, what’s left of my heart’s still made of gold

You’ll find a rainbow, rainbow, baby
Trust me, I know life is scary
But just put those colors on, girl
Come and play along with me tonight
You gotta learn to let go, put the past behind you
Trust me, I know, the ghosts will try to find you
But just put those colors on, girl
Come and paint the world with me tonight.

You can hear it here:

The rainbow was God’s promise that he would never send another flood that would destroy the world.  Yes, there are floods…but they will not destroy you.

Keep living, my friends.  Take the hits – and stay soft.  What’s left of your heart’s still made of gold.

And now, my video take on the word TRUST and a new Word of the Week:

https://youtu.be/JrN1kMJoUns

Hmmmm….Sister/Brotherhood was a call to stop being lone rangers in life.  And now SUPPORT?

When we feel overwhelmed this week, let’s continue to reach out and get the support we need.  (Or, when we see a need, let’s jump in and be a support!)

Have a beautiful week –

Brenda

 

 

 

 

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Acceptance, Rejection (and the New WOW)

I am on a quest for self-acceptance – warts and all.

Concurrently, I’m becoming more and more clear about what I will NOT accept.

Unkindness.  Disrespect.  A callous disregard for my feelings.  Injustices perpetrated against myself (or those I love.)

I’ve discovered a new fight in me!  Brenda 2.0 is feisty!  She’s not buying what you’re selling (unless it is anti-aging serum, of course!) and she’s not afraid to tell you want she wants.

Which means that some new friendships have a short shelf life.

I have become a careful observer of behaviors that previously slipped under the radar screen.  For instance, I welcomed  a new friend to town and invited her as my guest for lunch.  The second time, knowing she was finding her footing, I took her to lunch again.  The third time was coffee…and she didn’t even attempt to pay her way.  The fourth visit – at her request – was another lunch.  When the bill came, she made no moves to her own pocketbook.

Here’s the thing:  I LOVE being generous.  But I do not love feeling taken advantage of or taken for granted.

And it’s not just about money.  Another new friend started a challenging position and was dealing with a host of nerves.  Each time I saw her, I’d encourage her and ask how it was going.  I delighted to hear about her progress and how what started as a source of angst had become a blessing.

When we recently ran into each other, an impromptu meeting turned into a half-hour conversation.  A completely one-sided conversation; a running diatribe about her position, her boss and her sales.

Not once did she ask how I was.  I don’t even think she knows what I do for a living!

I took a careful mental note.

Is it me, or is everyone completely self-consumed these days?

I used to be perfect fodder for narcissists because I was a captive audience with such self-esteem and acceptance issues, it never occurred to me that I was being bamboozled.

No more.

Now, we all fall into the trap of selfishness sometimes.  I love my other new friend, who admitted that in a recent conversation I wasn’t allowed to get a word in edge-wise.

Yes, I left the conversation considering if we would ever have another – after all, this is NOT the phase of my life where I’m going to waste time on one-sided friendships.

Then he called to apologize for running away with the conversation.

The point isn’t being perfect, but it is being humble enough to see how our behavior affects each other.

What are YOU accepting that is beneath you?  More on this (and the new WOW):

Oh, well let me praise my SISTERS and BROTHERS, because I am RICH with their love and kindness.

My real friends?  We FIGHT over who will pay the bill.  We always check in to see how each other is doing and usually have to be FORCED to talk about ourselves.  These precious gems are fail -safe cheerleaders, humorists, supporters, confidants…and truly the family God has given me.

This week, I will not retreat into my ever-ready shell.  I’m callin’ on you, sisters and brothers!  I can’t do this life without you, nor would I want to try.

Who comes to mind when YOU think of a sister or brother of the heart?

xoxoxox

Brenda

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Don’t Trust a Gossip (but Trust the New WOW)

I read a great quote about TRUST this week and, considering my entirely new life and a whole new set of people in my world, it struck a chord:

I really don’t want to be anyone’s topic of conversation, so I am careful to not enter into conversations about OPB (Other Peoples’ Business).

When someone casually slips in a slight dig about a mutual acquaintance, it’s a red warning light for me.

Good people are too busy living their own lives to passively aggressively slander a third party who is not there to defend themselves.

And seriously, can we just focus on the motes in our OWN eyes?

Here’s a great place to be: I’m not needy.

I’ve got awesome, deep, loyal friends that would take a bullet for me.  I am rich with relationships and don’t crave any new ones.

Yes, I am open to making new friends.

But I don’t need them.

Doesn’t that sound a bit cold?

I think it sounds smart.

I do love my new community, don’t get me wrong. It’s a vibrant place with incredibly interesting, accomplished, funny and outgoing people.  Some may actually end up taking up space in my heart…one day.

But for now, my heart remains guarded – and that is a good thing.

When I was a silly, insecure girl, I wanted everyone to like me. In desperately seeking acceptance, I let down my guard and made excuses for bad behavior.  The bad behavior I observed ended up biting me on the #$@.  Not right away, but eventually.

Now – and this is SO liberating – I don’t care if you like me.

Because I like me.

And I like me enough to protect myself like I would any person of value.

Trust is earned. Friendship is sacred. And I’m not setting sail on this new life to anchor myself to negative people.

Do you remember the song, “Ain’t No Stoppin’ Us Now” by McFadden and Whitehead?  If you have any connection to the Philadelphia area, it was THE song in the 70’s.

It came on the R & B station this week and I immediately began shimmying (as I drove; it was quite entertaining for the car next to me at the stop light.)  I always knew the chorus, but some of the verses struck me as just brilliant:

There’s been so many things that’s held us down
But now it looks like things are finally comin’ around
I know we’ve got, a long long way to go
And where we’ll end up, I don’t know

But we won’t let nothin’ hold us back
We’re putting our selves together
We’re polishing up our act!
If you felt we’ve been held down before

I know you’ll refuse to be held down anymore!
Don’t you let nothing, nothing
Stand in your way!
I want ya’ll to listen, listen

To every word I say, every word I say!
Ain’t No Stoppin Us Now!
We’re on the move!
Ain’t No Stoppin Us Now!

We’ve got the groove!
Ain’t No Stoppin Us Now!
We’re on the move!
Ain’t No Stoppin Us Now!

We’ve got the groove!
I know you know someone that has a negative vow
And if you’re trying to make it they only push you aside
They really don’t have, no where to go

Ask them where they’re going, they don’t know
But we won’t let nothin’ hold us back
We’re gonna put our selves together
We’re gonna polish up our act!

Are you singing?  If not, click here and make yourself declare it.

I refuse to be held down any more – and that involves exercising discretion about who I trust and let into my circle.

If you feel “held down” – maybe it’s time to make a break with bad vibe people.

And love yourself enough to surround yourself with quality people who have earned your trust.

More on that and the new WOW!

I think a great way to approach the word WILLINGNESS is to ask ourselves, what are we NOT willing to consider?

And why?

I’m learning not to stay stuck on what I’ve always thought just because it’s what I’ve always thought!

Because maybe (sharp intake of breath) – I was wrong!

Willing hearts open doors.  May many open for you this week!

Love,
Brenda

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Faith Works by Love (and the New Wow)

What I had faith for was that I should go to sleep and wake up when this birthday was over.

To look at the circumstances (which is never a great idea when it comes to faith), my life was in flux, my marriage over and the future uncertain.

Uncertainty, by the way, is the #1 culprit of fear…and since faith works by love, well you know where this story is heading…

…except I was love-bombed.

With each gesture of love, like a flat tire being inflated, so were my spirits.

First, a pre-birthday card from my mom, with a $10 bill to “go buy ice cream.” Thursday was like Christmas – every hour I got a call from the lobby desk saying, “We have a package for you, Ms. Viola…”

There are so many flowers in my apartment right now, I feel like Miss America, not Ms. Viola!  (Thank you Renee and Steve and Roseann and Mike).

Cynthia is NOT a card person.  But she knows that I am and she sent three awesome cards – two laugh out loud funny ones, and another tender one that prompted liquid to spill out of my eyes.

OK, I need to share this one with you:

Then Linda sent me a card that touched me so deeply I have to share the words with you:

THE OAK TREE

A might wind blew night and day

It stole the oak tree’s leaves away,

Then snapped its boughs and pulled its bark

Until the oak was tired and stark

But still the oak tree held its ground

While other trees fell all around

The weary wind gave up and spoke,

“How can you still be standing, Oak?”

The oak tree said, “I know that you

Can break each branch of mine in two,

Carry every leaf away

Shake my limbs and make me sway.

But I have roots stretched in the earth,

Growing stronger since my birth.

You’ll never touch them, for you see,

They are the deepest part of me.

Until today I wasn’t sure

Of just how much I could endure

But now I’ve found, with thanks to you,

I’m stronger than I ever knew.


I am writing this on Thursday night because another present is arriving.  My friend Anita hopped on a plane today and she will be here with me all weekend.  Vats of coffee, endless conversations, laughter and some tears comprise the agenda. And some Face-time with the rest of the Fab Four throughout our time together.

I am blessed.  I am rich.  I am not alone.  I have faith for tomorrow.

Love wove a miracle, stitched my broken heart together and has given me the best birthday of my life.

Who’d have thunk it?

Prior to being love-bombed, I faced another form of faith that attempted to suck the wind out of my sails.  Here’s more on that and the new WOW:

Never, ever, ever have I picked the word BEAUTY.

What a lovely word to begin a brand new year of my life.

Thank you for sharing it with me.

I love you –

Brenda

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Testy Challenges on the Way to Understanding (and the New WOW)

My greatest UNDERSTANDING challenges occurred this week on the way to Philadelphia for a work trip.

Impatience produced eye rolls, heavy sighs and overall displays of irritability.

It later struck me (hindsight is 20/20) that my inability to have EMPATHY for the other guy and gal was related to just how much the world (that day) revolved around ME.

It was the tri-fecta of doom when traveling: A middle seat in the back, a crying/screaming child behind me, and a seatmate who was at the height of a horrible, coughing, sneezy cold.

Yes, I asked for a seat change.  No, there were no other available seats on the flight.  Yes, I caught the cold.

It’s easy to be understanding when nothing goes wrong, isn’t it?

Fortunately, I arrived to my sister’s haven of a home and was love-bombed, which I can always count on from her.  Then I traveled to PA for my meetings and stayed at my home away from home with my friends Renee and Steve.  Steve likes to say, “If I can choose who I can come back as in the next life, it would be one of Renee’s friends.”

True that.  I’d want a repeat.  (This is the woman who has soft music playing and fuzzy slippers waiting for me when I arrive.  She makes me protein smoothies for breakfast and sends me to bed at 8 PM if I need it.  Plus, we like the same TV shows and can watch The Voice together.)

My prayer for both households is that they do not catch the bug I may have brought with me from my Sarasota seatmate.

Even though I was starting to feel yucky, all the love I received made me a much more UNDERSTANDING and kind person on the trip back home.

Which leads to my point: If your understanding tank is running on empty, maybe you need to fill it up with some love.

Don’t feel bad about being testy.  See it as a signal that you need some self-care.  Then take care of yourself.

This commercial demonstrates this concept better than any words could:

You might just be one snack away from a more understanding day.

Parting thoughts on that here (and the new WOW!)

Yep – we’ve definitely got a progression going on here.

Be good to yourself this week – and then you’ll have something to give away.

xoxoxoxo

Brenda

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Getting By With a Little Help from My Friends (and the New WOW)

It was one of those whirlwind weeks involving a quick trip back to PA, squeezing in a host of meetings as well as a charity event (more about that in this week’s video) and an oh-too-early flight back to FLA in less than 48 hours.

Why do I do it?

This trip was no mandate from corporate; I’m totally committed to The Main Line Chamber Foundation and it’s effort to raise money for volunteer firefighters. I fly back every year on my own dime for the opportunity to award over $40,000 in scholarships to these hometown heroes.

Overall, these past few years I’ve spent more time in airports and airplanes that in the previous decade combined.  I actually enjoy it (though my husband would prefer that it occur less often) and here’s why:

I get by with a little help from my friends.  (Yes, I’m singing it as I write it!)

I’m about to blow the cover off of a little known secret, but there’s no risk that the best little bed and breakfast in the world will be inundated with reservations.

Because you can’t stay there.

When I fly back to PA, I stay at a place called Kamp Kantor.  It’s better than any five star suite at the Four Seasons.

I arrive to the warmest hugs imaginable.  The kind that instantly comfort you and say, “You are so loved and welcomed here.”  The hostess looks me dead in the eyes and can assess in an instant if I’m up for conversation or need to be ordered directly to bed.  Even if it’s 8 PM.

I look around, and my always too heavy suitcase has magically disappeared, already hoisted (seemingly effortlessly) up the spiral staircase (really) to my deluxe bedroom.

When I enter the room, soft, spa music is playing.  This time, there was a gift on my pillow (knowing how I love turtles, the proprietor had a silver turtle anklet waiting for me.)

And the bed? Something transcends the normal challenges of menopause and I sink into a dreamless, restful sleep that refreshes me for the onslaught of activities that await.

NOTE TO FRIENDS AND FAMILY: Many times you may see that I am scheduled to be in the Delaware Valley and wonder why I’m not visiting you!  Believe me, I don’t usually have time to go to the bathroom let alone visit.  I’ll try to rectify that in the future, but for now, thanks for understanding.

When I descend from my morning shower/hair/makeup ritual to face the day, somehow the PERFECT cup of coffee is waiting for me.  Just the right amount of cream and sugar and with an octane level like jet fuel, it’s served in a “Friendship” mug that warms my heart while jump-starting my day.

The best mornings are when there’s time for a good 15 minute chat. The proprietors of Kamp Kantor and I can TALK.  Topics range from pop culture to sports to politics to religion (nothing is off limits because there’s such love and respect among us) and before leaving, there a WOD (Word of the Day) to pick.

Mrs. Kantor is the one that started me on the choosing of what she calls “angel cards” and, well, you know how THAT ended up.  For over a year it has become my signature WOW ritual every Sunday on Facebook (and all because of my friends, the Kantors, whom I have written about previously.)

Oh, and did I mention that Mrs. Kantor lets me borrow her car so I don’t have to rent one?

Yes, this is an ode to Kamp Kantor, written with love and appreciation for the friends who make it a home away from home, Renee and Steve.  In a week where Sisterhood/Brotherhood was our WOW, boy did I benefit from their place in my life.

My sister and brother friends are like a diverse bouquet; they each add a unique perspective that is so crucial to navigate the sometimes rocky waters of life.  

Here are my parting thoughts on this WOW and the unveiling of the new one:

Ah, SIMPLICITY!

No more trains, planes or automobile adventures this week for me.

Let’s strip down our lives to the acoustic version this week.

It’s a simple song of love that I hope we all dance to…

xoxoxox

Brenda

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Honoring Your Truth – and the New WOW

Honoring your truth is being true to you because you know you’re worth it.  It’s when I’ve played games to keep the peace that I’ve dishonored my self and settled for shams in my relationships.

As my friend Roseann always says, “Your feelings aren’t right or wrong, they’re just the way you feel.”

For too many years, I thought my feelings WERE wrong. “I shouldn’t feel that way…”

But that didn’t change that I DID feel that way.

Sure, maybe it was an ugly feeling, but denying it or sugar-coating it didn’t make it stink any less.

HONESTY is like Febreze for your soul. Only it’s better. It doesn’t just masque the stench, it opens the windows and doors and lets the fresh breeze in and clears the air.

The challenge is that when you open up those doors, it’s an invitation into the deeper chambers of your heart.

Like Jack Nicholson’s character screaming to Tom Cruises’ in A Few Good Men “YOU CAN’T HANDLE THE TRUTH!” – there is always the potential that the person on the receiving end…well…can’t handle the truth.

Or choose to love you, warts and all.

But even if they don’t like it, do they care enough to hear you out? This was a key part of my meditations and musings on honesty to close out the week:

Oh boy.  Can you believe after all of this time we have NEVER gotten this word before?

Methinks I’ve never needed it more.

How about you?

Special doses of LOVE to you, today and all week long –

xoxoxox

Brenda

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A Wise Friend and the WOW for 3.6.16

When we planned their visit over a year ago, we had no idea how wise the timing would be for our friends Judy and Jim Neubauer to come to town.

It had been over a year since I had enjoyed quality time with my friend and, for the guys, well – they’re great at being goofy together. I vividly recall one New Year’s Eve when they tried their hand at hip-hop dancing as the clock struck twelve.

Thankfully, they both decided to keep their day jobs.

The levity Jim brought with him is exactly what Duane needed after traveling home from his mother’s funeral services. A true pal, he even watched Johnny Carson reruns with us.

Jim and Judy are the kind of friends whose kids call us “Aunt Brenda and Uncle Duane.” Can I tell you how much I love that?

Not having a daughter of my own, I got to go prom dress shopping several years back with Judy and her daughter Laura (who is now practically a pharmacist).  Doug was Shasta’s favorite baby-sitter.  He’s now a Marine. I’ve watched Amanda grow from a “Little Cindy-Lou Who” lookalike to a stunning young teenager…and Daniel?  He was the only Neubauer offspring I’ve known since the womb.
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An entire essay could be written about Daniel, whose twinkle and star-shine wrapped into an irrepressible personality are likely to be famous one day.  (I called it, folks.)

Yep, I love those Neubauers.  But getting back on topic:

DISCERNMENT was this past week’s WOW and while I have enjoyed making my new Sarasota friends, there’s nothing like a long-time friend whose counsel you trust to boost your mental health.

And in this case, it wasn’ t just my mental and spiritual health – it was physical, too.  See, Judy is a Nurse Practitioner.  If you’ve got a belly ache, a pang in your side, a funky looking mark or…well, you name it, she’s got just the advice to put your mind at ease.

So while the trip here was supposed to be HER birthday present, I’m the one that really got the gift.

Sometimes you just need someone you can say anything to who won’t judge but will lend a listening ear and some sage wisdom.

And who will go shopping with you.

Thank you, Judy, for being such a friend.  For encouraging me to take those probiotics and for helping me with this week’s WOW!:

How freeing it was for me to discover that not everyone had to love me – or even LIKE me – for me to be at peace.

How relieved were my friends and family when I stopped trying to get them all converted to my point of view!

Trying to change anyone other than ourselves is an exercise in futility.  And who made us the other guy’s savior?

Yes, when I focused more on the moat in my own eye and embraced the concept that we can all agree to disagree, HARMONY began to blossom in my life.

And my life began to blossom.

May our week be filled with good music and inner peace – regardless of what may be going on around us.

Let others’ dramatics play on.  We don’t have to enter the fray.

xoxoxox

Brenda

 

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The Time I Starred in My Own Sitcom

I love making people laugh.

As I kid I remember singing passionately into a hairbrush and lip syncing to Donny Osmond for anyone who dared visit our home. At an early age, I discovered that being entertaining was a one-way ticket to garner attention, and attention was something I always LOVED.

I’ve stopped apologizing for this trait; it’s just the way I am. Some people don’t like a fuss, and others like marching bands, peacock feathers and disco balls.

Hey, it’s people like me that keep the glitter industry in business! It takes all kinds to make this juicy world so darned interesting.

So, back to me (of course). If there’s a lull in the conversation, I’ll break into one of my famous Cher impressions. Or do a goofy chair dance with wild, swinging hair.

But the time I most vividly recall being the star in my own sitcom was on a trip with the Fab Four (Renee, Cynthia and Anita) to beautiful St. Maarten.  Idyllic, aqua blue water, open air markets and powdery soft sand set the stage for a blissful, relaxing getaway.

But as you know from my previous tale, my friend Anita’s idea of fun is not sitting on a lounge chair and drinking pina coladas.

She wanted to go parasailing.

Cynthia and Renee gave her their best, “Not a chance” looks.  But, since I had yet to stop drinking and was feeling a bit wild and loose, I said, “I’ll go!”

I mean, how could this not go well?  Handsome, shirtless men on jet skis prepared to whisk us out to the launching boat (I am sure there are official words for all of this, but I do not know them.) I jumped on the back, held on tightly and readied for an adventure.

This jet ski ride was on STEROIDS.  Not a fun, bouncy little jaunt, the driver was full pedal to the metal and my inebriated self began screaming SLOW DOWN!  HELP!  WHAT IS YOUR PROBLEM?

He sped up.

I then screamed something I can’t print here, because this is a G-rated website.  It involved taking drastic action (with salty language and a threat of bodily harm) to get him to slow down.  Said with the emphasis only terror can evoke, my wild-eyed, hair flying, blood curdling delivery only served to make my driver, his buddy driver, and my so-called friend Anita dissolve into giggles.

Finally, we get on board and they begin strapping us in to our parasailing apparatus.  Anita and I were going up together.  I wanted to be a friend and a support to her on this adventure.  Instead, I was her comic relief.

Somehow, as the sails lifted, I shifted.  Instead of securely perched among the straps, I fell like a hanging sausage in an Italian deli.  Due to several cocktails and a lack of stomach muscles, I was unable to pull myself up into position.

And this is what I love about my friend Renee.  From the comfort of her lounge chair, she looked up and noted, “Wow.  Look at Brenda.  She’s really good at this – look at how she’s spinning in the air!”

One is not supposed to spin in the air like a rotisserie chicken when parasailing.  As Anita daintily sat enjoying the view while our altitude grew, my lady parts grew increasingly numb, tortured with every minute of the hang.

I could have surrendered to the moment.  But that was LAST week’s Word of the Week.  And I just wanted OFF the ride.

The screaming of obscenities began afresh but no one can hear you that far up in the sky, plus,  Anita’s giggles were drowning out my cries for help.  I’m ashamed to say I spun in her direction and said, “Shut up, you skinny @#$%#!”

See, she was lithe and lightweight.  I was chunkier at this juncture in my life, and it was a true disadvantage in the exercise of parasailing.

Finally, it was time for the descent.  Others gracefully landed in the water, floating down in slow motion.  My hanging sausage routine was now enhanced by my legs trying to run in the air (Renee thought I was doing air ballet) accompanied by screams of “No, no, no, no, NOOOOOOOO!” as we approached touchdown.

Anita’s last memory is of me coming up for air after dunking down and saying, “Oh.  That wasn’t so bad.”

To this day, we cannot retell the story without collapsing into belly laughs.

I only wish there had been video evidence, but this photo will have to do.

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Can you tell which one is me?

I hope you laughed ALOT this week.  You certainly all make ME smile.  🙂

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The Journey to Healing (and a Return to Purpose)

A long time ago (it feels more like a lifetime ago), I truly believed I was fulfilling my purpose in life.

So unshakeable was this conviction that anything that dared to interfere with it provoked my outrage.  So self-assured was I that my path was correct, I missed my sister’s baby shower and several other key family events.  They conflicted with my church obligations and church (notice I said church, not God) was numero uno.

This in itself should have been a red flag, but when you’ve invested a good deal of time and money into something, you are most resistant to hearing that, ahem, you might be wrong.

Yes, this former life of mine was wrapped around church life; I’ve detailed it previously but as my life continues to unfold, I see new layers and shades that tainted my life and my perspective…and, in keeping with our word of the week, I see where HEALING has taken place.

I’ll back up again for a very heartfelt disclaimer: My experiences are in no way an advertisement against church attendance or membership. Everyone’s got their own journey and there are certainly some wonderful houses of worship that serve as places of refuge and community that meet deep needs for so many people. Oh, and there are SO many wonderful men and women who sincerely want to help people and do so in the context of their local church.

But when my church broke my heart, the last thing I needed to do was jump back into the fray. I tried, by the way – after all, it’s pretty much all I knew in my adult life.  But when I would visit a new place, I’d find myself sobbing hysterically during the music or walking out in a huff during the sermon. I no longer “fit.” And for me, in retrospect, that ended up being a good thing.

However, before it was a good thing, it was a tormenting thing.  Here’s why:  I was no longer “putting out” for God.  That sounds crass, but hey, I’d been a productive little soldier for 15 years; spent every waking moment either ministering to, counseling someone or otherwise trying to lasso someone onto my religious team.  All of a sudden, I wasn’t even going to church?  My self worth was at an all time low.  Something on the inside was broken and I felt like it could never be fixed.

Had I plugged right back in and gotten back to doing what I had always done for the previous 15 years, I might never have had the breathing space to question, deconstruct, assess, observe, reject and embrace what the REAL me believed. Not the me that I created to fit others’ expectations, but the real Brenda.  The college girl with purple hair and a penchant for the Clash; the 100-pound kindergartener who developed a sparkling  personality to withstand the taunts of her classmates; the high- school sophomore who escaped into writing and dreamed of leaving Buena, New Jersey one day…and so many other versions of me that I let die on the vine in order to become what and who supposedly spiritual people wanted me to be.

I took my leave from all things that even reminded me of my former church life.  I avoided many sweet people, because I felt like I had nothing to offer them anymore.

I was certain that not only did I lack answers for them, I had nothing to say at all.  About anything.

Pouring myself into my career to make up for the lost years (and finances) was a form of healing for me.  To enter into discourse with intelligent people; to rediscover my creativity; to make friends with new people untainted by a memory of who I used to be…yes, like a deflated balloon slowly filling with air, I was coming back to life.

And for several years, that was more than enough.

Except for the yearning.  Where was my PURPOSE?  Why was I HERE?

Would I ever know the joy of feeling like I was doing what I was born to do again?

After some years had passed, my beloved friend, Cindy O’Krepki, created an amazing blog, “Simple Pleasures Everyday Love.” Cindy and I had ministered side by side, even calling each other “the bookends.”  I was so happy to see her unique and lovely voice; her beautiful take on world burst forth once again. Good for her!

When she later invited me to guest blog, I was nervous, excited, fearful and hopeful – all mixed together.  She knew…

In the fragments of my broken self, there were yet  stories to be told – and in the telling would come healing.

I vividly recall her saying to me, “When you have your own blog…” and thinking, “WHAT?”

It was too huge a leap for me to conceive that a one or two spot guest blogging exercise could ever lead to something more.

What it did, however, was stir a yearning in me to do what I have always loved most:  encourage people.  Turns out, I did have something to say – though the message was far different from those long-ago days.  And that message – of LOVE, love, love – was birthed from a heart that actually NEEDED to be broken so it could be re-set properly.

Would I have ever chosen my particular wound?  Not a chance.  Am I glad it made me who I am today?  You bet.

You know what they say; your mess becomes your message.  There’s no testimony without a test.  Such phrases may sound  cliché, but  I can’t deny that within them lies truth.

So for this outpost to stir up my gift and use it again, I am grateful.  Thank you, thank you, thank you.  It has been a long road to get here, but I am so glad to have found you.

And that hard and painful road you may be walking, even right now?  I promise you, if you continue to choose love, choose love, choose LOVE over fear, you will get to the other side and be a better version of you, with a story that can heal others (as it heals you, too.)

xoxoxox

Brenda

 

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