April 12, 2021

Livin' Up To My Name by Brenda Leyland


"A name is the blueprint of the thing we call character.
You ask, What's in a name?
I answer, Just about everything you do."
MORRIS MANDEL

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"Brenda, quick like a bunny, run and get me some dill from the garden."

"Brenda, come set the table for supper."

"Brenda, you didn't practice your piano at all this week, did you?"

"Brenda, come to the blackboard and work out this math problem for us."

"Bren-da, hurry up, we're getting in the car!"

 

When I was a girl, I couldn't decide if I really liked my name or not. Looking back, I realize it wasn't the name itself, but rather because I most often heard it spoken when I was either in trouble or my mom (or teacher) required something of me—which often meant tearing myself away from the latest book I happened to be immersed in at the time. If I heard "Brenda Colleen, come here right now!" well, there was no escaping it, I knew I was in deep trouble. So, you can appreciate why I did not pick up good vibes from hearing my name spoken. Oh yes, I got accolades for getting good grades in school, and I felt the love when my family sang happy birthday 'D-e-a-r Bren-da'. It's just that those other times stuck more vividly.

Still, that didn't keep me from pondering how my parents came to choose the name for their first-born daughter. After all, our name identifies us from others, and we identify with our name, and please don't misspell it. I knew some kids who were named for a grandparent or special aunty. When I thought to ask my mom years later, she told me a couple they knew called her daughter Brenda; Mom and Dad really liked the name when they heard it. Popular at the time, it was in the Top 20 for baby names during the 1950s, the decade of my birth.

As a youngster, I learned in Sunday School that God called his children by name and these names found in the Bible often had special significance—names like Abraham, Sarah, David, Mary, Jesus. I was curious—did my name have any such significance, I'd never seen it in the Bible. I searched out the old Baby Names book on the family bookshelf and found that the accepted origin for the female name Brenda came from the Old Nordic Brandr, a male name meaning 'torch' and 'sword'. For a girl hoping for something more romantic, I was less than impressed. Colleen in Irish means 'lass'. I liked that. As an avid reader, I was tickled to learn years later that Brenda was ensconced in English literature, ensuring its place among female names on the British Isles, when Sir Walter Scott gave it to his heroine in his 1821 novel The Pirate.

In my youth it was especially popular for gift and book stores to sell personalized name mugs, bookmarks, and beverage coasters. I'd often stop to scan the racks of cups and smile when I spotted my name, even if I wasn't buying. One day I found a coaster with 'Brenda' inscribed on a cheery blue background with the epigraph: One who lives with enthusiasm; one who encourages others. That grabbed my heart - I loved the possibility of what I could do with that. The coaster came home with me and was used until it grew old and coffee stained. By then I no longer needed its daily reminder - it was part of me. I was glad to discover Bible verses that confirmed the message on the coaster:

"Whatever your hand finds to do,
do it with all your might."
from Ecclesiastes 9:10

"...that I should know how to speak a word
in season to him who is weary."
from Isaiah 50:4

"A word fitly spoken is like apples
of gold in a setting of silver."
from Proverbs 25:11

They became my watch words as I set about learning how to live my young life with enthusiasm, pouring myself into whatever I put my hand to. I watched for opportunities where I could share encouragement with my family and friends, neighbours and coworkers. At first, it was often through letters and cards that I reached out; then it was emails, and more recently, blog posts and social media pages. All with the desire to share a hopeful 'word in season'.

I'm grateful for my name. I like the sound of it when someone speaks it. I'm happy to report I don't get scolded much anymore, although the Lord will pull me up short on occasion, but he's kind about it so I never mind. I know my dear parents chose my name with careful thought and a lot of love, and so I cherish their gift to me. It's a marvel to think that God used an ordinary beverage coaster with its simple motto to set me on a lifelong journey where I could grow into my name. 






A long-time InScribe member, Brenda Colleen writes from her home in Alberta, Canada. She is inspired by the beauty in the world around her and writes about it on her blog It's A Beautiful Life and Facebook page.






30 comments:

  1. I enjoyed your story on your name and how God used a coaster to help you understand how He made you even more!

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  2. Lovely thoughts on your name. I especially like your thought about growing into your name. I wonder if a carefully chosen name is perhaps one of the best gifts a parent can give a child:)

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    1. Thanks, Kathy! The more I think of your comment, I think you are right about carefully chosen names being one of the best gifts a child can receive. After chatting with Mom this morning, she confirmed all over again just how much care she and Dad took in naming us.

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  3. Brenda, I love how you found your name in the Bible in a round about way. Yes, I believe we grow into our name too. Such a beautiful post.

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  4. I like both of your names. And what a great story you told.

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    1. Good to hear from you, Bruce. Appreciate your comment.

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  5. Hi Brenda. My sister’s (in heaven) name is Brenda Colleen :) I also think it means, dark, keen eyed. Did you know the word enthusiasm means God Within? Only with God can we have true enthusiasm. Thanks for sharing. You have a special name.

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    1. Gloria, what fun - I hope I get to meet your sister one day! I didn't know about the 'dark, keen eyed'. I did learn eventually about the meaning for enthusiasm, God Within, which was quite wonderful to learn. Thanks for sharing, it means a lot.

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  6. What a lovely post! I think it is so precious that God 'gave' you that coaster as something to aspire to! Wonderful! Blessings friend!

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    1. Thanks so much, Tracy. Sometimes it's not until a person looks back in reflection (like for this post) that we recognize the true value of something like that seemingly ordinary coaster.

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  7. I'm sure enjoying these posts on names! When I think of your name, Brenda, I think of a gal who shares beauty, hope, and encouragement, a girl who I love to visit in person and online. Keep on living up to your name, Brenda!
    Pam M

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    1. Oh Pam, now you made my heart smile and my face too. Thank you so much for your lovely comment.

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  8. I never thought of growing into my name, coming from someone who learned to accept my name. It's been interesting reading the stories this month and everyone's different thoughts about their names. Thanks for sharing!

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    1. Thanks, Vickie. I, too, have been enjoying this month's theme about people's names.

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  9. I enjoyed your thoughtful post about your name. It has made me think about my name and how it came to be.

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  10. Thanks Brenda, yes there is much in our names, and I love the coaster story ... well said and encouraging. Thanks!

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  11. I love how you came across that coaster and it was such an inspiration to you. Great post, thanks for sharing ~ FlowerLady

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    1. Lovely to see you, Lorraine! Thanks for visiting.

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  12. It’s wonderful when God uses the everyday things of life, like a coaster, to encourage and edify us. What a wonderful post. Thank you, Brenda.

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    1. Thank you, Sharon, for your note. Much appreciated.

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  13. I love your coaster story, Brenda. Isn't it amazing how God uses unusual things to bring to our attention what He wants to share with us!! And I'm glad you grew out of your name as one being reprimanded, into one who gives encouragement and enthusiasm!

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    1. Thank you so much, Sandi, for the great prompt and the chance to explore our own names. Yes, I am ever amazed at His tender, intimate involvement in my life -- I love how He knows what will ignite life and joy in our inward parts, even using something as ordinary as a coffee coaster to bring it about.

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  14. Dear Brenda, what a beautiful and inspiring story about your name. I love happy endings.
    Blessings as you continue to bless us with your encouraging posts.

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    1. Thanks, Wendy. Yes, like you, I too love happy endings. Blessings back at you!

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