(I just finished and went back and read this post and it’s really long….it has taken me ALL week to get this post out…and I had no idea that this is even what I needed to say…..but, I guess it is…and now I know even more about why and how things happen the way that they do…and did…..and wow…..life is so full of miracles and surprises)
Before I get into what happened at Brave Girl Camp, which I will refer to as BGC from here on out in the post, I must take you back a little bit so that you can fully understand all of this from my perspective.
Like…how on earth did this ever even happen? (this was the question that I asked myself over and over DURING it all….and had to remind myself of the path that led us to where we are now.) This is me on the first day.....right when our busload of Brave Girls arrived......not many times in my life when I have felt this much happiness...but I will write about all of that later...
This is my sister. ONE of 2 of my amazing, incredible older sisters, who had TREMENDOUS impact on my growing up, and who “raised” me in so many ways….and one of 3 of all of my sisters, because we have a baby sister, too….who is wise and wonderful beyond her years…
But, THIS, is about my big sister, Kathy……my partner in Brave Girl’s Club.
Just a little more than 3 years ago, I felt very compelled to call her up and ask her for help. Now….in my family, you have to be careful when you ask for help because you will get so much help that you won’t know what to do with it all….that’s just the way my family is. I am the 6th child of 9 children. I am kind of a rebel. I decided early-on that I was gonna be the colorful sheep…..so, I’ve always been one to go and pave my own way and have always had a hard time admitting that I need help, and especially asking for help…..especially from my family. I have learned many lessons in the last 3 years.
Kathy came to help me with some problems in my business. Marq was very sick at that time, and had been for years, and I was in way over my head. I had been very diligent about not sharing my burdens with my family….half out of pride, half out of fear that they would be over-burdened and take the problems onto themselves. But, I needed help with some problems….problems that I did not even know existed, but that I could “feel” were there…problems that were going to devastate me and I did not even know it yet, but God did…so when Kathy came, she stayed….for the next 2 years…..and she held my hand through some of the worst hell of my life. Just like she held my hand and pushed my buggy when I was a baby…and taught me how to read along with my other big sister, before I was even in Kindergarten…and brushed my hair and fixed it….and made sure I knew that it was totally o.k. that I was the only one in the family who wanted to be the wild and colorful sheep. (or maybe I just thought I was the only one)
How come I am crying already? Dang it.
Ok….well, for the last 3 years…..I have grown SO CLOSE to my family. SO CLOSE. You might look at us and think that we have always been this close. We have always LOVED each other this much….but, because there was never the time made…we have not been this close since we were kids. Kathy left to conquer the world when she was 17….that means I was 5….I remember when she packed up her car and drove away to live in the city. That was a hard hard hard day…I went in my room and cried and cried and cried…but then, I got to go and visit on weekends and summers and even got to be in a big production play one summer with her when I was 8….where she got me one of the lead roles…it was a musical. That was probably the last time I ever, ever ever sang in public……because I had to be the rebel…and I came from a family of singers and I decided that I was never gonna sing……I was gonna be colorful.
And so…..I made all of these plans….like….I was gonna go to art school. I was gonna live in New York City….I was not gonna marry til I was 30….I was only gonna have 2 kids…….I was gonna be a colorful, wild artist.
…and then I met HIM
(sorry if this photo is a little graphic...this is just exactly how I feel about him right now)And Kathy and Lynda told me that they felt like it was gonna be o.k. if I got married at age 18 when I asked them if it was nuts that I was so absolutely in love with him and could not imagine ever living without him and I felt like I had loved him and dreamed him up all of my life and that he was born for me and I was born for him…and I asked them what they thought…and it’s kinda crazy, but….they said that….a guy like this, who meshed so well with a girl like this….and a LOVE like this…..this was the real deal…….(and I think that they knew what they were talking about) So Kathy made my bridesmaid dresses and Lynda helped make decorations….and they helped me plan my wedding and I got married……2 weeks after High School graduation. And ALL of us fell in love with this man…..the whole family.
Well flash forward 16 years. I was almost 35 years old. I had been all over the world…I had made all of my dreams come true. My life was everything I dreamed up…..but my heart was broken into thousands of pieces and it was about to get waaaay worse. My sister showed up. You have to understand that I’d spend the last 10 years traveling, working, working, working, working, working…………I hardly EVER saw my extended family. On holidays I was often so exhausted that I didn’t even go to holiday stuff…..my priorities were totally messed up, and I had fallen into a “survive”’ pattern.
BUT during those years, Kathy had given birth to her first 2 daughters, Kallie and Chelsea. (I was 10 when Kallie was born, 12 when Chelsea was born) When I got married they were just pre-teens…..they used to come over just about every weekend and stay at MY house when I got married…we never were in a musical together…but we made stuff, we danced, we sang songs, we had parties…..I remember so many times we had 8 or 10 of their friends lined up in our tiny living room for a huge slumber party…..then, they became teenagers, and still spent so many of their weekends with friends, and boyfriends…..at our house, influencing OUR daughters, loving OUR kids…..and the circle went on. They were our “nannies” when I was working so much and Marq was so sick. They “raised” my children in so many ways. Over the years, I have held hands on one end with my older sisters and my younger sister, and on the other end with their daughters and my daughters…..and then there’s our mom….who taught us about ALL of it….she is so close to her sisters, and her mother…..and we learned this from her.
My nieces were there through ALL of the stuff, it felt like it was ok that they saw all of the hard stuff that was happening because they were just girls….in some way, I trusted that they would not see how much I needed help….but, they did…they never made me feel like I was failing…. I didn’t know that little girls could be such a huge and amazing strength……but, now they are women. And, they were my best friends then, and they are my best friends now, along with my sisters and my other nieces.
Sooooooo, during the hellish few years when Kathy showed up……..I finally started telling her things that I should have shared with my family all along. Things that were weighing on me, things that were killing me. She kept asking me why I didn’t ask for help sooner……I didn’t even know the answer. I think we just sometimes forget about all of the people who love us who are right there to help us if we will just ask. She would be there every day to tell me I needed to fix my makeup because I had cried again, all the way to work. She was there a few years later when I told her that I had just realized that it had been an entire week since I had shed a tear……and what a miracle that felt like. She has been here over this last year when we really only cry tears of joy or extreme laughter. I don’t even have to ever mention again what has happened in the past, because she was there.
But….over those years, she would just ask me questions. That is where her brilliance lies. She knows how to get very deep and personal answers out of us……she does not ever give her opinion or start preaching, even though she is one of the wisest human beings I have ever met, and filled with more peace than I could ever describe…..she just asks questions….and asks and asks and asks…until you get to the truth BY YOURSELF….sometimes she will share stories about her own life…but never to preach, just to share the way SHE got there….
And, one of the questions she would ask me over and over and over….is what do you really really really want to do? What do you really really really love? What makes your heart sing…..what do you feel like you were sent to this earth to do?
I would start talking……it was hard at first to remember my dreams. It was hard to think about things that I loved to do, or that I was good at, because I was so far away from it…..it was hard to see how off track I was from a joyful, authentic path….but, she kept going……she kept asking.
Those questions led me to place of bravery. When I started to see what it was that I really wanted, I started to feel like I wanted and needed to fight for it. It was a slow process…..it took tons of patience…I went backwards lots of days….I stopped believing, but I kept answering…..
And, the culmination of those answers that were lying deep deep deep in my heart, under layers and layers and layers of disappointment, fear, pain, anger, resentment…….was a big huge dream…a big huge idea…..Brave Girls Club.
We would talk, and talk and talk about this idea…..about what we REALLY wanted to do with our lives, and who we wanted to do it with. We realized that we wanted to do the same sorts of things……but we had different pieces. She had all the things that I lacked….I had some of the things that she lacked……we talked and talked about how we could make it a reality……LIFE-CHANGING FUN FOR WOMEN……a website, an online community, online classes….RETREATS.
We made a plan. (she made me make a plan….kicking and screaming……..I am not a structure person)…….I wrote the content, she built the website….we made schedules….we sketched out a vision for it….we prayed…A LOT……we talked, asked each other questions…enlisted trusted loved ones in the idea…….BELIEVED.
We decided to sacrifice everything we had to make it happen…….because it felt like the right thing to do.
And…….of course….the gals showed up to work their booties off and brainstorm with us…Kallie and Chelsea…………..and….we decided to just GO FOR IT……we’d start with the retreat and then we’d keep working on the rest……and more gals showed up…true blue friends…more family (which I will talk about in part 2)
And….HE showed up…..my soulmate…my best friend….my life’s gift…my eternal gift. He finally showed up again this year…THIS YEAR after being so sick and gone for the last 5 years….he came back…..and he has been such a HUUUUGE part of making all of this real. We could never have done this without him.
And of course, God was in it the whole time.
I guess I wanted to start this series of posts about BGC by telling you that never, ever EVER in a million years could we EVER have done this without our family. I would not be here living this joyful new life without the help of my family and dear friends, our retreat would never have happened, EVER, without the VERY HARD WORK of so many loving people who could see and believe in our vision the way that we did.
AND, most of all, I want you to know that even though everyone who participated in BGC had a wonderful, fulfilling, even life-changing time that we so wanted, prayed for, envisioned and worked very hard to prepare for because we loved every single one of those women SO MUCH….the unexpected thing that happened for me is that I am pretty sure that I came away with just as much, I know Kathy did too.
I thought that I already knew the power of love…..I didn’t. I saw it more, I felt it more….I thought I knew what it meant to heal to wholeness…..but became even more whole. I thought I had seen the greatest miracles I would ever see in my lifetime….but more were waiting, and so spectacular. I thought I was done making best friends…..but NO WAY….forged friendships that are eternal and deep and wonderful…….
I thought that God would show me how I can help others heal the way He helped me heal, and He did….but, what He REALLY did……..was healed up everything that was left to heal in ME too….stuff that I thought I would just have to live with for the rest of my life, and I was even o.k. with living with.
I watched beautiful women make incredible things out of scraps from my past (literally and figuratively) that I had a hard time parting with……and take them home in the form of birds and collages and miracles………….so many of my experiences that I used to tearfully ask “WHY ME?” about….finally made sense…….because my pain was a tiny part of someone else’s miracle. I saw other’s women’s pain turn into someone else’s miracle….I saw their scraps turn into someone else’s treasure. I saw women find themselves and find each other. It was so beautiful for me. I was not expecting that part……I just wasn’t. So many blessings come when we are least expecting them. Kathy even got me to sing with her......which was a huge miracle in and of itself!
So……I have millions more words to write…but I will stop here for now. I wanted you to know, before I show what a spectacular event we were so blessed to be a part of, that it was SO MUCH BIGGER than one person, or two people…….it was a watched-over, blessed, miraculous week, possible because of hundreds of helping hands and good thoughts and prayers and donations of time and gifts and talents…….and thirty or so PHENOMENAL, SOULFUL, FAITH-FULL women who came with willing hearts, ready to fly, ready to soar. You have touched my life more than you will ever know, and I love you more than those mascarpone chocolate desserts and even the lemon blossoms. I love you with all of my overflowing heart.
And, I just want to say thank you.
THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU.
We are already ready to do this again.......if you wanna sign up for one of the 4 Brave Girl Camps we are gonna do next year....we would sure LOOOVE to have you there...
If you want to read testimonials from some of our beautiful Brave Girls....