Loyal is the word most often used to describe me, besides hilariously funny (that’s two words, but who’s counting?). I’m so loyal that a majority of my friendships span 20 years or more; some I’ve been friends with my entire life. I find my people and I stick with them. It’s just what I do, so new friendships weren’t really my thing. I’m more of an acquaintance friend unless something supremely awesome draws me to you. Well, at least that’s how I was until a couple of years ago. God had been gently nudging me to go out of my comfort zone. I could talk to anyone but the “friendship” ended when the conversation did. So when a good friend of mine invited me to a book club at church, I was shocked when the word “OK” came out of my mouth. I reluctantly agreed since, to be honest, I had nothing better to do. I just knew that I was going to be bored so I brought my iPad with me and while everyone was chatting, I sat in a corner and played Angry Birds (maturity at its finest).
I sat quietly for two hours inwardly rolling my eyes at all of the stories being shared, the hugs being exchanged, the tears being shed. All of the emotion was way too much for me. Those women were nothing like me, or rather I was nothing like them. I didn't read my Bible daily. In fact, I don’t know if I even owned one at the time. I had a slight potty mouth (who am I kidding...I could go toe to toe with a sailor) and I KNEW that they couldn't handle my sense of humor. There was no reason for me to be there, and I was "fine" the way I was. I didn't need these Christian women looking down their noses at me, but I still went back the next week. I rolled my eyes a little less. And I went back the following week, and the week after that, and the week after that. At the time I really didn't know why I kept going. Was it the free childcare? Was it the yummy, flaky pastries? Nah, it was all God. He knew that I needed these women, this group, in my life. He knew my days before I did and He was setting me up for love, trust, and vulnerability because He knew that I would soon need it.
Over those first couple of sessions I realized that it wasn't the women in the group that I was reluctant to get to know, it was that I didn't want them to get to know ME because then they couldn't judge me, dislike me, hurt me, reject me. But I felt a nudge (who I now know was God) so I kept showing up and I opened my heart a little more. I let people know the parts of me that I felt were OK to share and kept the rest at bay, but God's a funny guy.
One morning, there was just a heaviness in the room. I can't recall why that particular day was so somber, but I do remember someone saying, "We just need to pray. Let's just pray." And as everyone closed their eyes to go to God, my phone rang. And not just a normal ringtone. Nope, my phone started blaring "I'm Sexy and I Know It." I couldn't get to it fast enough and it kept ringing. The word sexy seemed to echo off of the walls. I was absolutely mortified and I expected to be asked to leave, but instead all I heard was laughter. The tears in people’s eyes this time weren't from heavy burdens or sadness but from pure belly laughs at my blunder. I knew then that I would be OK with these women. I knew that I could slowly start peeling away the layers of protection I had put upon myself.
And it was working great until I was presented with the smashing idea to be a leader in one of the small groups. ME of all people! What lovely Christian woman would want to listen to what I had to say? What value could I possibly add to this extraordinary group of women? But I said yes. I didn't really even think about it much, I just knew that I had been placed on people's hearts and that I should do it. And you know what? I did have things to say, to add. Women actually wanted to hear what I had to say, and not in a toned down "not Brooke" way, but in my true-to-myself way. These women who read their Bible daily, who never said more than "shoot" when they were upset, wanted to be in my group because I WAS different but I loved our great God the same way they did. I was valuable to God and those women just the way I was.
I grew in ways that I never expected because I trusted why God put these women in my life. I made friends with women who I never in a million years would’ve crossed paths with. Our group expanded from moms with cute hair and minivans to include moms with tattoos, teenage mothers, and mothers who weren’t ashamed to put all of their hurts and hang-ups out there. Was that because of me personally? No, it was because someone looked at me and thought that I could do good work for God. And I, in turn, was open to who He designed me to be. People started talking, inviting those who could be labeled as “misfits” to church because together we created an environment of love and acceptance of all. God planted a beautiful seed in me and these women nourished it and we all flourished. What an amazing God He is.
Brooke is warrior mama to three rambunctious boys, wife to an honest, hardworking man, daughter to one of the greatest humans our great God ever created, and friend to anyone who talks to her. She's has been dubbed "the most inappropriate friend." She lives for a good belly laugh and to bring laughter to others - laughter feeds her soul. She loves the outdoors (not like hiking or rock climbing - she's not that cool - more like standing in the sunshine listening to nature!) and she finds God in the simple things.