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Megan Broadhead Jun 22, 2012

Once Upon a Time: The Use of Memories

I once was a little girl around the age of 9. Our family always went on vacation with my dad’s side of the family. We rented cabins along a lake in the northern woods of Wisconsin, and we would spend the week hiking, fishing, swimming (if the water wasn't icy cold in the month of June), playing Frisbee golf, biking, hanging out by the camp fire, and oh-so-much more... Some of my best childhood memories are centered around these trips, and there's one in particular that I'm thinking about today. I believe that significant memories of our past show up in a BIG way in our present and our future. If only we will pay attention, we can learn so much about ourselves.

Usually the whole family would arrive to the resort on Saturday afternoon, which meant that we would all miss our Sunday church services the following day. For some reason, I took it upon myself to make sure that my parents, brothers, sister, aunts, uncles, cousins, and grandparents all got their spiritual fix for the week and that we wouldn't have to miss out on the "church experience". Perhaps part of their vacation WAS missing church for a week, but I didn't take that into account.

I planned an entire church service complete with music, scripture, a sermon- the whole nine yards. I would arrange the common room in the resort to resemble a chapel- complete with rows of folding chairs and an aisle down the middle. I recruited my brothers and sister and cousins to help with the service.

I made church happen, and I LOVED every minute of it.

Life experiences combined with going through seminary and my counseling master’s program have allowed for some substantial confusion about my life’s purpose, my theology, and about what I am to do in general. It’s helpful for me to think back to substantial memories like creating church at a resort in the northern woods of Wisconsin, and I now say to myself, "There's something to that."

While I'm not sure what twists and turns my new and growing career will take, I am sure there's something to that memory. That I loved every minute of creating church for my family reminds me of a time when I felt comfortable in my spirituality. That I loved to create a space for God tells me that I fully believed that God could enter any space and make God's mysterious self known. That I cared about the spiritual health (narrow view of what that looked like or not!) of the lives of those closest to me at the age of 9 tells me that I've always had this work me. I've always wanted to dig deeper and to help others do the same for themselves.

I think this sort of “memory inventory” exercise can be helpful in our work with clients who are undergoing intense identity work, role confusion, career changes, and more. For me, helpful questions included: What's the first memory you have in which you truly feel ALIVE- where you felt like you were doing exactly what you were created to do?
What characteristics of you from that memory still exist today? What's gotten in the way of you doing exactly what you feel made to do?

Go after what you think might make you feel alive. Doing so doesn't mean you'll automatically feel 100% certain of what you are to do. It doesn't mean the process will be easy or that it will look exactly the way you anticipated. My process hasn't looked at all the way I anticipated. If you had told me a few years ago that I would graduate from seminary and counseling school and working as a counselor, I wouldn’t have believed you for a minute.

It's rather FREEING to remember and to be open to what was and to what might be. It’s enlightening to pay attention to our lives- past and present.

Megan Broadhead is a counselor who is entangled in the pursuit of theological and psychological integration and women's issues, for more information go to

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