Once upon a time, long before women had volition or will as to who they married, a search commenced for the perfect wife. A servant was sent out – commanded to find a bride, but only from particular tribes, with particular lineage, holding particular pedigree. Perplexed as to how this would ever happen he prayed. “O God of my master, please give me success today. I will stand by this spring as the young women of the town come out to draw water. I will ask one of them, ‘Please give me a drink.’ If she says, ‘Yes, have a drink, and I will water your camels, too!’ let her be the one I am to select…”

As the story goes, this is exactly what happened. As she finished speaking the words he had hoped to hear, he adorned her with a gold ring for her nose and two gold bracelets. She took the servant to her family. Negotiations ensued with her father who finally asked her: “Are you willing to go with this man?” She replied, “Yes, I will go.”

The servant began the long journey back to his master with this young woman in tow. One particular evening, after days of traveling, she looked up and said, “Who is that man walking through the fields to meet us?” The servant replied, “It is my master.” She covered her face with her veil as the servant told his master the story of how he had found her. And the text says, “Isaac brought Rebekah into his tent and she became his wife. He loved her deeply…” ~ from Genesis 24

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Tell the truth. Even if only for a brief moment, don’t you feel desire stir? The part of you that wishes her story was yours. But if you’re anything like me, that quickly passes, you heave a heavy sigh, and you hear the resigned internal response that says, “Forget it. That only happens in other people’s stories. After all, you’re not the answer to the craziest of prayers. You’re not recognized as the perfect woman. You’re not being adorned with expensive jewelry. And let’s be honest: there are no camels anywhere in sight! What could her story possibly have to do with yours?”

In one swift movement – from desire to cynicism – the in-between is bypassed. How convenient.

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Want some more examples? 

  • “I could step into my strength, my power, my amazing-ness, but no one will be strong enough to handle it. Better to play small.”
  • “Sure, I could write the book and it would be fabulous, but I’m certain no one will buy it. Why bother?”
  • “Yes, I do have an amazing business idea, but it won’t make enough money to support me. I’d be foolish to even start.”
  • “Of course, I could tell the truth in my marriage/relationship/job, but it will create way too much trouble. I’ll just suck it up – again.”
  • “It’s true, I could clean the house/get my eyebrows waxed/exercise, but I’ll just make a mess/have to wax them again/quit. There’s no point.”

Brilliantly, this pattern grants carte blanche permission to hold back, not risk, not do. We stay stuck. We leap to the ending we want, witness it in others, assume it won’t be ours, and then wonder why our story doesn’t go the way we had hoped or planned.

Lest you think I’m preaching here, know with complete certainty that this has been my reality more times than I care to count – or admit. The narrator in my brain tells me incessantly that I want too much, that I am too much, that less would be better, smarter, and far less rife with certain disappointment. I stop before I start. And even worse, I get irritated at the stories around me that I want for my own – like Rebekah’s. 

Unless…I look at her in-between. 

Here’s what I believe: Far before we were invited into her tale, she had learned, loved, lost, tried, failed, laughed, grieved, and then some. Far before she was discovered, wooed, adorned, and loved she was generous, brave, strong, and courageous. Far before she was chosen by the servant and then by Isaac, she had chosen herself; she knew and believed herself to be worthy of love; worthy, period.

How could anything else be true? It was all of this – and so much more – that created the perfect and seemingly coincidental circumstances at the well. Far before that day ever came, she was doing the work, living her life, dwelling in her in-between.  

There is no other way.

And this is one of the many reasons why I love her story (and those of so many other ancient, sacred women). She calls me back to what’s most true about stories; most true about mine: 

After once-upon-a-time and before happily-ever-after there’s a whole lot of in-between.

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When I can see this in Rebekah’s story, I can begin to see it in my own. 

I can stay put instead of wishing. I can choose hope over resignation. I can do the good, hard, ongoing work of being the protagonist in my own story. The one I’m in this day, not someday. I can be strong and powerful and amazing. I can write the book. I can build the business. I can have the hard conversation(s). And I can maybe even clean the house/wax my eyebrows/exercise (though admittedly, some days, those seem about as probable as watering camels). I can live my in-between. So can you.

Turn your attention from the outcome and fix your gaze on the in-between. Trust that the day-in, day-out work of living, hoping, choosing, risking, being, makes a difference far beyond what you can imagine; that you are writing a story worth being told. 

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And for the times in which you’re tempted by cynicism more than compelled by desire, listen to Rebekah. She’ll gladly and graciously remind you of her in-between and yours; of who you are: her daughter, her lineage, her kin. See how amazing your story is already? Wow!

May it be so (with or without the camels).
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SacredConversationsThis space, this in-between, is where I am privileged to walk; where I am privileged to work. 
In the midst of your story, your everyday life, your hopes, your desires…and even (maybe especially) the places that feel less than. I’m taking on new clients in the weeks ahead. I would be honored if one of them was you. Learn more.

 

 

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    There’s a story I love to tell of a mostly unknown woman who singlehandedly won a huge battle for a whole tribe of people by doing the most unlikely thing. In the thick of the fighting, she offered the enemy commander (who was sneaking away) a safe place to hide, made him comfortable, and then, as he slept, drove a tent peg through his head.
    *

    It’s a violent story, to be sure. Which would explain why it’s rarely told. But just imagine if it had been, if she was known.
    *

    Imagine if you had grown up hearing her story instead of Cinderella or Sleeping Beauty. If you had been been lulled to sleep by the tale of a shockingly brave woman who overcame every fear and did what had to be done – no matter what others thought, expected, or even allowed. If you’d had a model, a template, a subconscious plot line within that invited courage, boldness, and strength.
    *

    Imagine if no part of you ever, whether admitted or not, waited for a Prince Charming or a Fairy Godmother or a perfect kiss. If it never crossed your mind to choose being good over being right. If you had no idea what seen-not-heard even meant. If you never compromised yourself on behalf of another. If no part of you held back, played it safe, or waited to be invited into the, arena onto the stage, or out of the shadows.
    *

    Hard to imagine, isn’t it?
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    Well, no imagination is required to hear that same woman’s voice on your behalf; to hear what’s true. Listen.
    *

    This is no time for fear. And though it sometimes courses through your every cell, it cannot be given rule or reign. You are braver, stronger, better. You will do what must be done. No matter what. I’m sure of it – and you.
    *

    It may not be pretty – this brave act of yours. And it won’t be simple. Messy. Difficult. Exhausting. Even bloody. Still, necessary and right. I’m sure of it – and you.
    *

    Perhaps no one sees it coming; sees you as the one who will win the battle and the war. Perhaps hardly anyone expects that your courage, your actions, your clandestine measures will be sung about for centuries to come. And perhaps only a few know that within you dwells more boldness and brashness than can begin to be imagined. I’m sure of it – and you.
    *

    I will not be shocked by you. I know you – the real, brave, confident, courageous, defiant, win-the-battle you.
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    And this is no fairytale. No imagination is required. I am Jael and you, the true you, are my daughter, my lineage, my kin.
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    ***
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    Just in case you still can’t imagine it (even though I told you that no imagination was required), allow me this:
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    You are surrounded and supported, cheered and celebrated, held and honored by more than just Jael (though she’s something, isn’t she?). There are countless ancient, sacred women whose stories when told, and voices when heard, will remind you of who you truly are: their daughter, their lineage, their kin.
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    Maybe you’d like to hear a few more?
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    As for me, I can hardly wait to hear the stories about you!
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    May it be so.
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      Basket of ApplesWhat if Easter was about Eve? What would it be like if the entire “Christian” world celebrated the day that Eve ate the fruit and exited the Garden? What if we painted eggs to symbolize the embryo of all women yet-to-come, her “birthing” of a new world, her breaking free? What if we covered the ham with apple slices instead of pineapple? What if we wore snakeskin shoes instead of patent leather? What if we wore hats adorned with fig leaves?
      *

      Does all this seem scandalous, sacrilegious, shocking? I’ll admit it does (a bit) to me, too. But here’s the thing:
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      You get to decide what you imbue with meaning and significance. You get to decide the symbols that hold sway. You get to decide the stories that speak. You get to define the Sacred – for you!
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      To have it prescribed, decreed, or demanded never works out all that well.
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      Believe me: this is not to decry the beauty and mystery inherent in the resurrection story. Not at all. Nor am I arguing that centuries of religious tradition should be abandoned. What I am saying is that were we to hear and embrace other stories, especially those of women, we might just have a different affinity for the Sacred – both within and without. More, I am saying that this is what I most want for you: an experience and understanding of the Sacred that is unbound and imaginative and extraordinary.
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      • Perhaps that comes through a remembering of the empty tomb, Jesus’ resurrection, and the glorious singing of Handel’s Messiah.

      • Perhaps that comes through painted eggs and chocolate bunnies and family ’round the table.

      • Perhaps that comes through a morning of incense and yoga or a cup of coffee and the New York Times.

      • Perhaps that comes through a walk in the sun and the spotting of Spring’s return.

      • Perhaps that comes through holding close the story of a woman who was created in the image of the gods and infinitely loved by the same; who risked everything for the life she imagined was just on the other side of boundary and border and rules; who made dangerous and bold choices; who trusted the know-that-I-know-that-I-know voice within; who survived and persevered and labored and birthed and lived outside Eden; from whom we all descend – her daughter, her lineage, her kin.

      • Perhaps that comes by believing that it is possible to be freed from all that binds (like the darkness of a tomb) through stories and symbols and all-things Sacred; that maybe impossible-to-explain faith somehow endures (like a resurrection).

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      Ultimately, that is what Easter and the Sacred and Life are about: being loosened from the grip of hopelessness and despair and ushered into the profound awareness that life and joy and miracle not only await, but actually exist.
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      May it be so.


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      I’ve written about Easter for a number of years now. I am aware that the day can be filled with high levels of ambivalence for many. I get it. And I want you to know you’re not alone.

      2014: I will not be attending Easter services today…
      2013: Choose to believe – even if only today.
      2012: Why I Believe in Easter this Year (a tribute to Beth)
      2011: The resurrection is a woman’s story.
      2010: Easter 2010

       

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        *clink*About four weeks ago, I posted a picture on Facebook of a glass of champagne, hinting that I had something to celebrate. This past week I did so again – declaring that the celebration was now officially “on.” In between the two pictures and the posts, many have guessed, others have blatantly asked, but most have just requested that I end the suspense already. 

        It’s not an engagement. 
        It’s not a book deal.
        It’s not a lottery win.

        But from where I sit, it feels like all three of these rolled into one. 

        Some history. On March 31, 2009, I got laid off from my job. I won’t go into the years of angst that created, the gallons of tears I shed, the anxiety and worry that plagued as to how I would continue to pay my bills, take care of my girls, and manage my life. For six years now I have pieced income together. Consulting gigs. Contract work. All part time and three or four things at a time. I’ve purchased for my own medical/dental benefits, forgotten what paid vacation means, and have slotted my writing, my daughters, my life into a schedule that has been driven by keeping plates spinning and responsibilities sustained. One of those “pieces” has been my role as a trainer/facilitator with the Department of Labor. For 5+ years I’ve spent 3 days a week with Army, Air Force, Navy, Coast Guard and Marine Corps separatees/retirees – helping them with their transition from military to civilian life. I’ve stood at a podium, clicked through Powerpoint slides, provided witty anecdotes, written on more whiteboards than I care to count, talked about resumes/networking/interview skills/salary negotiation, and gotten choked-up when, each week, I’ve thanked them for their service and genuinely hoped such good things for their futures. I’ve been grateful. It’s been rewarding. It’s been constant. It’s paid the bills. And only a few plates have crashed to the ground.  

        In the midst of all this, I have been working on my business, this business, my heart. All along I have been waiting, hoping, praying for the scales to tip, for earnings to be significant enough that I can let go of outside work and devote my time and energy to that which I prefer. And all along I’ve been dreaming about finding any way in which I can be ‘location-independent’ – able to work anywhere there’s internet connectivity, my laptop, and good coffee – no suits, commutes, or witty anecdotes required.  

        Cutting to the chase. As of April 1, 2015 (exactly six years later – how amazing is that?!?) I will be working exclusively from home. Even better (if that’s possible), I’m being provided medical/dental benefits, paid vacation and holidays, accumulated retirement and sick time (whaaaaaat?) – all the things I’d long-since abandoned and complete flexibility as to how I structure my time and total freedom to integrate my business, this business, my heart into every day – not just some; no longer squeezed into the slightest open moments, my lunch hours, late at night, and during the dark morning hours far before any civilized human is awake, let alone out of bed and at their computer. 

        In the interest of transparency, it feels important to acknowledge not only how hard it is to grow an online business, but to name honestly that mine does not support me (yet). Oh, the progress I’ve made. Oh, the gift it’s been to watch its slow-but-sure movement and growth. Oh, the thrill to pay taxes that hurt just a bit this year – realizing I earned more than I’d saved for. It feels important to acknowledge just how hard it is to press on and persevere as an entrepreneur when we see people around us who appear to have somehow landed on the perfect formula, the ideal business model, the phenomenal and endless client base. I don’t know if they have, or not. What I do know is that I have built a business, this business, my heart while working like a crazy person, making huge compromises in many aspects of my life, and somehow surviving. What I do know is that it has been – and continues to be – a TON of work (unpaid, paid, piece-meal, part-time, and combinations thereof). 

        I am still in shock, quite frankly, not yet able to grasp what it means that five whole days stretch before me this week – and many, many more to come – without the necessity of a calendaring system sophisticated enough for the Pentagon, with nothing other than yoga pants as dress code, with no lunch to pack, with no traffic to endure. Really, I can’t quite get my head wrapped around it. But my heart? It is certain. It is sure. It is full-to-overflowing. 

        It will be a glorious day indeed when I am writing the post about leaving behind even this job because my business, this business, my heart now makes enough to support me (or a very lucrative engagement happens or the book deal comes or I win the lotto). That day I will do more than post a picture of a glass of champagne on Facebook. You’ll see me bathing in it!  

        This morning I read my Sunday pleasure, Brain-Pickings Weekly, and nearly came undone over this quote: 

        Start with a big fat lump in your throat. Start with a profound sense of wrong, a deep homesickness, a crazy lovesickness, and run with it. If you imagine less, less will be what you undoubtedly deserve. Do what you love. And don’t stop until you get what you love. Work as hard as you can. Imagine immensities. Don’t compromise and don’t waste time. In order to strive for a remarkable life, you have to decide that you want one. Start now. Not twenty years from now. Not thirty years from now. Not two weeks from now. Now.

        Sometimes we don’t get to choose when we start. Events overcome. Layoffs happen. Change is forced. 

        Always we get to do what we love – even if it’s in the dark, behind the scenes, after hours, and barely noticed. We can imagine. We can work hard. 

        And sometimes everything changes. Miracles happen. Perseverance pays off. Grace pervades. Champagne pours. *clink*

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          I see the tears behind your eyes. I know about the lump in your throat. I hear the thoughts that swirl in your mind. Every single one of them. Longing for things to change, wishing for different circumstances, wanting to live a more significant story.

          *

          In-between the reality in which you dwell and the one you desire, I know about the ache that will not be soothed, despite your best attempts – whether through good soul work or dulling dissociation.

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          I watch as you persist in the belief that there is something missing; something you’ve yet to attain or manage or get past/through before you can truly step into your place in this world, before you can step into the stunning story that is yours.

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          All of this breaks my heart on your behalf.

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          Because I know better. Because I can see the end from the beginning. Because I have perspective you do not. Because I can see exactly who you are, all that you offer and invite. Right now, not someday. This very moment in time.

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          Who am I, you ask? I have been in existence since before the beginning of time. I was there when the earth was formed. I breathed your matrilineage into being, whispering the Wisdom that was hers, that has forever been hers. My heart beats within every story of every woman who has ever lived. And I endure no matter the oppression, the silencing, the abuse, the fear. Nothing and no one can keep me down. Not even you.

          *

          I am the you that rises above all that restricts, restrains, limits, or binds. I am the crystal clear voice that may, as yet, not speak out loud, but that is no less real, wise, and right. I am your potential. I am your future. And more than all else, I am your present – right here, right now, exactly this day, this life, this you. Always. Endlessly. Infinitely.

          *

          Lean into the truth of this. Let the tears flow in relief. Let the lump in your throat dissolve as your voice sings out. Let the thoughts that swirl rest. You are not alone. You are not alone. You are not alone. And you need not wait for things to change. Your right-now story is enough, perfect, amazing. You are.

          *

          You can trust me: there is nothing you need figure out or rise above. All that you require, desire, and deserve is already yours. Reach within. Rise up. Then step into the limelight, enter the fray, and embrace the truth of who you are: my daughter, my lineage, my kin.

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          I am completely-and-without-reservation convinced of every word I’ve written above. They could be are spoken by every one of the ancient, sacred women whose stories I love; by the Sacred Feminine herself. Easier said than done to accept, but no less yours, mine, ours to claim. Legacy by which to be transformed; the stunning story through which we will transform the world.

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          May it be so.

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