"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:
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.