It’s just before 7:00 on Friday night. I sit in the high school auditorium, about the fifth row from the front, and smack in the center. I am not all that thrilled to be here – the annual student talent show. Based on my attendance for three years prior, the word “talent” feels a bit of a stretch. But I will, as I have before, wince my way through the next couple of hours. Still, I’ll give them credit – these brave souls. Teenagers who have seized a moment in the spotlight to sing pop hits that sounded far better in the shower than on stage.

I could do without the whole experience. (Well, except for Emma.)

The lights dim and I lean back in my chair, settling in for what’s ahead. Two girls, the emcees with printed scripts in hand, begin the painstaking process of introducing one act after another. “That was great, wasn’t it? How about another round of applause for __________!” No. Not so great, but nice of you to say so. Keep it moving, will you? Let’s get to the real talent!

Finally. She walks on stage. Smiling and poised. How is it that she is so comfortable in her own skin, so at home? I watch as she tries to adjust the mic and jokes about it being way too short for her. She is nonplussed. How is that possible? Unable to raise it, she finally pulls it out of the stand and holds it loosely in her hand – as though it’s an everyday occurrence. Oh, her confidence! Where did that come from? She steps back, lets herself breathe, then looks up at the sound booth with a nod that says, “I’m ready” and the music starts.

She sways slightly as her eyes lock on her audience. Then one, slow, deep breath and “At . . . last . . . ” The first two notes are more than enough to know that this girl deserves to be here. Perfect pitch. Perfect vibrato. Perfect presence. The cheers erupt before even her first measures are complete. “. . . my love has come along.” Indeed.

Emma Joy channels Etta James.

*
I want to stand up and cheer, but need to hold my phone still – the video recorder capturing every moment. I feel the tears brim behind my eyes, but know she’s only getting started and that I dare not. And I am inundated with flash-backs: an infant, a toddler, an adolescent, and now this strangely-unfamiliar young woman – my daughter. Electrifying. Captivating. Stunning. Perfection.

Then, all-too quickly, I hear the last lines: “You smiled, you smiled. Oh, and then the spell was cast. And here we are in heaven, for you are mine . . . ” And her final notes – held even longer and stronger than the first: “At . . . last.”

As she places the mic gently back into the stand, she grins slyly, steps back, and takes in the well-deserved applause. I turn off the camera and wipe away my tears.

************

Moments of personal power and strength are the closest we ever get to God. For in these moments we are most fully ourselves. And though my theology has too-often convinced me of just the opposite (acknowledge your lack, your sin, your need) the truth is this: when we are most fully ourselves we are reflecting the very image of God. Genesis 1. It is good.

I have spent a lifetime trying to be good enough, to make the mark, to meet expectations and, in the process, have missed God because I’ve not been myself.

*
How much more of God might we know, incorporate, and feel if we were just ourselves – unapologetic, glorious, wild, dangerous, bold, and (pitch)perfect. If we were in families, relationships, jobs, circumstances, situations that consistently allowed and encouraged our on-stage selves. If we sang out unrestrained truth with conviction, no 2nd guessing, and not a hint of doubt. If crowds went wild. And if tears flowed in response to the rapture and beauty of it all. 

Those 2+ minutes of Emma Joy singing Etta James was God made-manifest. I’m certain of it. No trying. No striving. No question of her ability, her right, her value, her worth, her deservingness. And no holding back. She was power. She was strength. So very good. She was (and is) the Divine enfleshed and dwelling among us. Impossible to miss. And if in and through her, this 18-year-old girl-turning-woman; so too you . . . and me. 

Emma sang and God said, “At . . . last . . . ”

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    I have recently uncovered an interesting belief I hold within. It’s not pleasant. And frankly, I’m not all that crazy about admitting it. But it needs to be exposed.

    *
    My truth always equals pain.

    *

    My story, my memory, is littered with scenes in which I finally stepped into integrity, let the consequences be damned, took the risks, and told the truth. In my marriage, at my job, in relationships. Consequences did ensue – just like I knew they would. In those particular situations, when I stood up for myself, let the words come out of my mouth, and expressed how I really felt, all hell broke loose.

    *
    Just because something is true, doesn’t mean it is a truth to live by.

    *

    I’ve extrapolated those experiences (along with many others) into an anticipation that this will always happen, that this does always happen. And that anticipation has become a belief. Poured in concrete. Set in stone. Won’t budge. Without knowing it, I’ve constructed a hard-and-fast tenet by which I now live. It has impacted my past, to be sure; but more, my present and future. I don’t like it, but I recognize it and I actually believe it: my truth always equals pain.

    *
    It is a lie.

    *
    This is true: Much of what I say and do is helpful, expansive, and healing. I intentionally and passionately offer hope, encouragement, and strength. I know this. I believe this. You can’t convince me otherwise. But here’s the bind: Even though I know that my truth does not always equal pain, I act like it does. 

    *
    I make choices, measure risks, and determine actions based on a false belief.

    *

    Let me give you just the slightest (and scary) taste of the insipid voice in my head:

    If you were really telling the truth – in your writing, in your work, in conversation and relationship, it would be too painful. Pain isn’t good when you inflict it on others – only yourself! No one would want to be around you. No one would want to hear what you have to say. You’d be alone. You are too much. Better to tone it down, hold back, rewrite, rewind, retreat. Better to not tell the truth, at least not all of it. See? Your truth equals pain.

    And if that voice doesn’t work, then this one chimes in: 

     Are you crazy? It’s irrevocable: “your truth always equals pain!” You must hold on to the pain! Pain is good! Think about it: a blog post should be excruciating to write, a meaningful relationship should include suffering, struggles with money are a sign of strength, trying to understand God should be nearly impossible. And the book? Oh, that most-definitely should be hell-on-earth. See how hard all of this is? That means it’s worthwhile, that you are. Well done! 

    *

    You can hear the insanity, yes?

    *

    Some of the stories we tell ourselves need to be exposed for the lies they are. And the best way to do that is to actually tell them, name them, expose them (often out loud and to another person) in order to hear the (false) beliefs and ties that bind. Even more:

    *
    We need to write-speak-believe-live new stories that corroborate what’s actually true.

    *

    So here’s the new story I’m telling myself:

    *

    My truth does not equal pain. Ease, rest, creativity, and flow are my birthright. And the crazy voices are just that. I get to listen to and trust the know-that-I-know-that-I-know voice within. It is glorious, wise, worthy, and telling the truth.
    As am I.

    *
    How about you?
    *

    May it be so. 


     

    SacredConversationsCreating a safe space for you to tell your stories is what I do. It is my truth-filled (and free-from-all-pain) work in the world. It would be honor and privilege to offer that to you. Email me (ronna@ronnadetrick.com) to schedule a free 20-minute call to talk about SacredConversations. You and me. Together. It’s time. 

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      The day I spoke up in classFor most of my life I’ve been a rule-follower. I am really good at figuring out what’s expected and then never disappointing. Especially true in school, I transitioned from smiley-faces at the top of my papers to 100%’s and straight A’s. Though I’ll take some credit for being smart and doing the work, I am also aware that at least a portion of good results was because I was willing, able, and highly committed to complying. Nothing other would have ever crossed my mind.

      The day in class that I shakily-but-firmly said, “You don’t know what you’re talking about!” shocked me more than anyone else in the room.

      *
      I was 40, in my Master’s degree program, and listening to an in-class discussion about when the Judges ruled the Israelites. One of the stories told was of Samuel: a boy who grew up in the house of priest and heard the voice of God. He lived there because years earlier, his mother Hannah, heartbroken-yet-endlessly-hopeful, made a vow. She promised God (and Eli, the priest) that she would give her child away (to the temple, the priest, the God) if only she could have one in the first place. A fellow student – a young man in his early 20s – decided to express his opinion: how crazy a woman would have to be to promise her unborn child. “What woman would do that?!? I can’t believe any woman could make that kind of a choice! What’s wrong with her?!”

      As memory serves, my blood boiled and a switch flipped. The highly-honed and years-practiced parts of me that had always done the right thing and said the right thing (which usually meant saying nothing) said no more. I turned from my front-row seat toward his in the back and said (at a volume that increased word-by-word) “You don’t know what you’re talking about. You don’t know what you’re talking about! How could you? You’re not a woman. You couldn’t possibly understand. I do. I know. Any woman who that desperately longs for a child will promise anything, anything to get what she wants – even if it seems like it’s the craziest thing in the world! I made promises like that! Hoping-praying-believing that if I just offered enough, gave enough, prayed enough, suffered enough, waited enough, was faithful enough, that maybe I would be granted my only wish, my deepest desire. Frankly, I didn’t care what it cost me. I’d deal with the consequences later. In fact, I would have lied, stolen, and done nearly anything to get the only thing I wanted, the only thing that mattered. And it wasn’t crazy. I wasn’t crazy. I was willing to sacrifice what I most wanted to get what I most wanted. That’s what a woman knows. That’s what a woman promises. That’s how a woman lives. You don’t know.”

      I turned back to the front of the class. Discussion continued. I don’t remember a bit of it. I do remember that I was never the same.

      That day I heard a woman’s story being told in a way I knew wasn’t true, wasn’t accurate, wasn’t right. She was being misunderstood and misinterpreted, even maligned. And though I couldn’t quite see it at the time, it seemed as though his words were being spoken about me. It seemed that way, because it was that way. If I allowed Hannah’s story to be told in a way that felt shortsighted, lacking in grace, and frankly, just wrong, why would I expect that I should feel anything different on my own behalf?

      The way in which I hear and tell the stories of other women is directly proportionate to the way in which I live my own. (The same is true for you.)

      *
      It doesn’t matter that nearly 15 years have passed since the day I spoke up in that class. The stories of staying quiet, following the rules, and doing what’s expected are still being told within my psyche. I can hear the doubts, the insecurities, the fears. I desperately need to (re)tell stories of women in reimagined and redeemed ways so that I can reimagine and redeem my own. (The same is true for you.)

      And so I do. I (re)tell the ancient, sacred stories of women – over and over and over again. The more they are understood, the more understand myself. The more their voices are heard, the more mine is. The more they are seen as brave and beautiful, the more I see myself as such. The more I bring their wisdom forth, the more my own does the same.  And the more I free them from old, tired tellings that silence and shame, the more I am freed, unsilenced, and unashamed. Did I mention? The way in which I tell the stories is exactly the way in which I live my own. (The same is true for you.)

      Listen to the stories you’ve been told (about yourself, your past, your history, your lineage, your culture, your beliefs). Listen to the way in which they’ve been told. And especially listen to the ones you’ve been telling yourself. Stand up to misunderstanding. Disallow misinterpretation. And put a stop to the maligning. Then look for the stories you need; the ones that will invite you to living your own the way you most desire and most deserve. (I’ve got just a few of these to tell…)

      It might be that once you have some reimagined and redeemed stories in your own queue, your own psyche, your very soul, that you, too, will speak up in class, stand up at work – at home – in relationship; that you will say “no,” shout “yes,” step forth, and shine. May it be so.

      ********

      The woman’s story I defended that day? She did get her heart’s desire – and then some. Call her crazy if you want. She knew better. So did I. So do you. 

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        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

        *
        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.

        *
        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.

        *
        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. 

        *
        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).
        *


        *
        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?
          *

          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.
          *

          And this is no fairytale. No imagination is required. I am Jael and you, the true you, are my daughter, my lineage, my kin.
          *

          ***
          *

          Just in case you still can’t imagine it (even though I told you that no imagination was required), allow me this:
          *

          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.
          *

          Maybe you’d like to hear a few more?
          *

          As for me, I can hardly wait to hear the stories about you!
          *

          May it be so.
          *
          *

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