The Greatest Accomplishment…

I have a friend and mentor who retired a couple of years ago. He’s a well known community leader with a long and successful career. The last time we met right before he retired he told me, “Well, it looks like I made it!”. Because of our relationship and his willingness to share both his successes and struggles over the years, without him even needing to explain I immediately knew what he was talking about. He was thankful that he had made it to retirement without anyone realizing that he really didn’t know what he doing. That’s actually quite humorous because I know what a smart and talented guy he is and he certainly isn’t someone that would ever be accused of not being an expert in his field. That conversation made me realize that even guys like him have “impostor syndrome”.

If you’re not familiar with imposter syndrome, here is the definition:

the persistent inability to believe that one’s success is deserved or has been legitimately achieved as a result of one’s own efforts or skills.

I used to frequently say, “I’m just making it up as I go.” My friend Christina once told me that I should stop saying that because it made it sound like I didn’t know what I was doing. But the truth is, most of the time I don’t have any idea what I’m doing! I really am just figuring life out as I go. It seems to work pretty well for me…most of the time. I’m not sure why being honest about who I really am is a bad thing, but often it doesn’t meet the standards of the people around me.

We all know that there are plenty of people in this world who seem to put more stock in those people who are big talkers, and arrogant know-it-all’s. They swoon over celebrities of all sorts. I’m always surprised at the amount of people who fall for that crap. Can they really not see through those people? It just makes no sense to me. The only thing I can attribute it to is that perhaps they are so insecure themselves that they cling to those people who are big talkers and appear to be overly confident in their knowledge and abilities. However, I also believe that most, if not all, of those arrogant know-it-all’s are really just over compensating for their deep feelings and fear of inferiority.

Here’s what I do know. I am a…

Wife. Mom. Daughter. Great-Leader-Wanna-Be. Boss Lady. Noodler. Jesus Follower. Table Sharer. Community Builder. Dot Connector. Bleeding Heart Conservative. External Processor. Pot Stirrer. Collector of People & Ideas. Sometimes Prayer Warrior. Consistently Inconsistent Human. Aspiring World Changer. And an External Processor…who is just making up as I go.

…I also have imposter syndrome.

Here’s what else I know

My real name is Gertrude. I was named after my maternal grandmother. I come from a large family and grew up on a small farm outside of a small, rural community in the Midwest.

I’m a wife of 27 years to my darling husband Mr. Bodenbach, and mom to three 20-something daughters who amaze me more every single day.

I’m crazy passionate about my faith, great leadership, sharing life around my table and community building .

I love gathering people around my table, learning how God is at work in people’s lives, and encouraging others…in their faith, with their leadership and with their efforts to practice intentional hospitality. It usually encourages me more than it encourages them.

I tend to see life as a big jigsaw puzzle and I’m always working to figure out how the pieces and people fit together.

…I love words and quotes.

I’ve worked in retail, education, and healthcare. I’ve worked in a restaurant. I’ve been a stay-at-home mom. I’ve run a nonprofit and now I’m working in government. With every new adventure God leads me to I seem to take a hard left turn into something totally new; but I’m always amazed by how what I’ve done in the past has prepared me for the present. And I’m always wondering what God is preparing me for next.

I’m very goal oriented but I don’t set long term goals. I just trust God to show me what’s next.

My friend, Bob, every once in a while asks me what my goals are. He is an expert, professional goal setter. Literally. He’s always a bit disappointed with my answer. But he never gives up on me and trying to get me to set some goals.

While I tend to be very goal and task oriented, I just don’t set long term goals. They don’t motivate me. Honestly, if I had ever set long term goals for myself earlier in my life I would probably be married to a farmer and working as administrative assistant in a small, rural community. Don’t get me wrong, those are perfectly legitimate and worthy goals for someone to have. I happen to love farmers and rural communities. Although, I’ve always said I’m not qualified to be an adminstrative assistant. Those people make the world go round! Wowzers!

My point is that I would never have set big goals for myself because that’s the biggest thing I could imagine for myself at one point in my life. Therefore, I likely wouldn’t have done many of the things I’ve been able to do.

So what do I do instead of setting goals? I just try to go where God leads me and to always be open to whatever He might have for me next. He has led me on some amazing adventures. I have had the opportunity to go places, meet people and be a part of things that I would have never dreamed of or set a goal towards.

Trusting God to lead you through life is, however, not the same thing as passively sitting back and hoping for the best. But if you want to know more about that send me an email (below) and let’s talk.

I’m an external processor. If you aren’t familiar with the term external processing, it just means that in order to make sense of the world I have to write or talk about it.

This external processing stuff can make for really long emails and text messages….according to at least one of my friends some of my text messages are so long that they should really be emails. Maybe that’s the real reason I started this blog, just as another avenue for externally processing the world.

So here we are, externally processing all of this stuff that’s swimming around in my brain here on this blog post as I try to sort my world and myself…thinking through who I really am at this point in my life, who I really want to be and how all of this may or may not fit together.

I am also…

consistently inconsistent and just trying to figure how to best share my gifts with the world. Although my imposter syndrome often makes me wonder if I really have gifts to give. (I mean seriously, who am I to be writing a blog anyway?)

These days I consider myself politically homeless (in case you’re interested). But that’s probably another post for another day.

I am always trying to…bring ideas to life through relationships and conversation…learn to be a better leader and to live out my faith as follower of Jesus…make my community a better place…gather folks to share life around our table…noodle on how to connect the dots so this all fits together…bring positive change to my small corner of the world…be more open minded and a better listener…and be a better human being in general.

Why should you care?

Honestly, I’m not sure that you should. But if externally processing myself here in this space helps someone else process some of their “stuff” then I guess this blog post will be worth it.

A couple of years ago I had a journalist tell me that I am “refreshingly honest”. I wasn’t quite sure if he meant that as a compliment but I decided to take it as one. When I don’t know something, I will just tell you I don’t know. I won’t pretend to be smarter than I am and I won’t pretend to have it all figured out….because I never do and it wouldn’t take you very long to figure that out. But if you ask me, I’ll probably just straight up tell you what I think about most things, so be careful what you ask me.

If you’ve made it this far then my encouragement to you is this…It’s ok to feel like an imposter. And it’s definitely ok if you feel like your greatest accomplishment today is just being the real version of you and staying true to who you are.

I started noodling on all of this because my friend Dave told me that I should write a book. I asked him what he thought I should write about because in my estimation all I’ve got is about 3-5 semi-intelligent sentences on about 500 different topics. That would make for a weird book. But I began to wonder if I might really have something to say to the world, and if so, it must be somewhere in here, in all of these things that make me who I am. So then I started to wonder how all of these things fit together…or if they even do.

I’ve also been noodling on just how many people would like me to be someone that I’m not. Sometimes those people have the very best of intentions but often they are people who only want me to be something other than me for their benefit not for mine. In some spaces in my life it seems like there is a constant pressure to conform to the will of others. Thankfully not all the spaces in my life are like that, but that constant pressure challenges me daily to wrestle on some level with who I am and who I am going to be. Some days I make better choices than others.

I think that’s why I love so much this quote by Soren Kierkegaard. ⬇️⬇️⬇️

Now, with God’s help, I shall become myself.

Soren Kierkegaard

The greatest accomplishment many days really is just staying true to myself and being who God has called me to be.

Have you spent any time lately pondering these kinds of things? It’s worth the doing. You don’t have to know all the answers. You don’t even have to set lofty goals…but you can if you want to…or if Bob is your friend too. It’s ok if you feel like an imposter as you work to become more of the you that you were made to be. It can be really hard sometimes. But let’s face it. There is only one of you, and the world needs the gifts that you have to offer!

Don’t forget to also remember who you belong to.

I belong to the Sternbergs, the Bodenbachs, my church family, my many friends who love and encourage me, to the people I lead and to Jesus. (There probably others that I’ll think of later.) We belong to each other because we need each other. We count on each other. Sometimes we frustrate the heck out of each other. That’s just part of the deal. All of these people need me to bring my best gifts to the world (whether they know it or not) and I need them to bring their best gifts too. That includes just being themselves.

While you are noodling on all of this with me maybe invite some friends to your table and share together your struggles, your dreams and your goals. Life is always better around the table, that’s where the magic happens! And it’s certainly more fun when you have friends cheering you on. Come to think of it, who could you cheer for today? Send them a text or an email, give them a call or send them some old fashion snail mail. (Everyone loves snail mail!) Tell them what you appreciate about them. Give them permission to be who God has created them to be. Remind them that being who they are is a beautiful thing, and a great accomplishment…even when they feel like an imposter.

Drop me a comment below and I’d be thrilled if you’d share my blog with your friends and family on your social media! 🤗

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