A note from the blog team: We reached out and invited our retreat attendees to share a piece of their stories as a way of exploring what it means live out our identities as sisters. Throughout the year, we look forward to sharing these sister-to-sister interviews in the hopes that you will recognize a bit of your story in theirs—and that you will be encouraged in the living out of your own authentic calling as a valued member of the Open Door Sisterhood.
In this second installment of the series, we are delighted to introduce to you Terri Conlin and Brenda Jacobson, who met for the first time for this interview. Here they are to share with you a bit of what it means to them to belong to the Sisterhood.
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A sister can be seen as someone who is both ourselves and very much not ourselves —
a special kind of double. ~ Toni Morrison
Our common notes tumbled out between us like a singing waterfall.
Holding hard stories
30+ years of marriage
Brenda and I met face-to-face for the first time at a quirky brunch spot on a random highway halfway between our houses. I was a bit nervous for having chosen the unknown spot, but I figured if it was a bust, we could laugh about it later. I hoped Brenda was up for the adventure.
We ordered handmade biscuits rugged as a mountain and slid into conversation as easily as we slid into that brunch booth with walls collaged in sheet music.
We began with discovering we both had four children. What I call quadraphonic mamahood is just another word for surround sound: experiencing noise that comes at you from the four corners of the wide world.
We moved on to things we both enjoy: thrifting, mentoring, being married awhile, grownup kids, grandkids.
And the one high note that brought us together: our love for Christ-centered non-profit work to reach vulnerable women and children. Brenda is a Family Life Parenting Coach at Shepherd’s Door, a shelter program with the Portland Rescue Mission for women and children recovering from drug, alcohol and sexual addiction. She knows what it means to hold hard stories, believing that sharing stories actually heals the brain and heart. My work is with Door to Grace, a faith-based non-profit bringing safe and loving family to sexually exploited children in Portland and Seattle. Here I, too, am learning to hold hard stories.
After finding so much common ground, it is also what was different that drew me to Brenda. She has climbed Mount Kilimanjaro for One Million Thumbprints — a grassroots peace movement for women who experience violence in war. That adventure stole my heart along with her photographs from another trip to Africa.
And here I was worried she might not be up for our quirky lunch spot.
The day Terri walked through the door I noticed her sparkling eyes and beautiful smile. I found her refreshingly creative and uniquely gifted. She arrived directly from Door to Grace, where someone from the outside had just busted through their window. Her concern to protect the vulnerable drew me to her immediately as I, too, have a passion to help women in our communities.
Like the sheet music papering the walls of our quirky cafe, our lives overlapped.
Terri shared her love for writing — more common ground between us as I am under deadline for a workbook for moms: Chosen Mom: Becoming the Best Mom in the World for Your Kids. Our difference? My writing feels like an act of obedience, while Terri’s is an expressive creative gift. Her whimsical style gives her readers a melody of hope, faith and family at www.whitepitchers.com.
Both of us love post-kid life—quite possibly the best yet. Grandchildren certainly are. When our children were leaving home, it felt like an end—more like a dead end. Turns out to be just a new beginning with joy to launch us into new places.
We both seem to be climbing new mountains in writing and speaking. Terri was leaving shortly after our meetup to speak about marriage in Idaho, while I was preparing to speak to young moms in Oregon. We parted with prayers for each other and plans for a couples dinner.
Common ground and new adventures: These are the theme song of the Open Door Sisterhood. As sisters, we connect to inspire, encourage, challenge. We celebrate each other in both melody and harmony.
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Terri Conlin is a writer, creative collaborator, and wholehearted encourager for living a soulful life. Terri has a degree in Architecture from the University of Texas at Austin. She thrives when creativity, social justice, and gritty faith flourish together with all of the qualities of home. You can find her sipping dark roast coffee in a thrifted mug while writing at www.whitepitchers.com or on Instagram @terriconlin. Terri and her husband, Mike, live in Oregon and have four grown children along with three feisty grandkids she calls the Wonders.
Brenda Jacobson makes her home outside of Portland, OR where she works as a writer and a photographer. Her adventures have taken her around the world, but she is always welcoming new friends to her own table. A mother and grandmother Brenda is a mentor to many with her wisdom and encouragement. You can connect with her at www.momaid.com.