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See yourself as a miracle

When I was 8 or 9, my newborn sister went into the hospital. I don’t remember the details. I don’t remember ever visiting her there. I don’t even remember what was diagnosed. What I do remember is seeing my mother cry for the first time. She and my father stood in a corner of the living room — her shoulders hunched over as she shed close-to silent tears; his arms around her — trying to console. And I vaguely remember one of them telling me that Lorri was sick.

I can imagine they would have done anything remotely possible to have her back. I can imagine that their desperation would have driven them to cling to the smallest of options. And I am certain that they prayed — asking for her healing, longing for a miracle.

There’s an ancient story told of a father and his daughter. She was only 12 years old and dying. Desperate, the father went in search of a healer he’d heard rumor of, then begged him to come back to his home and heal his girl. As they set out together, messengers arrived saying, “Don’t bother the teacher any longer; she has already died.” The healer paid no attention, saying, “Don’t be afraid, only believe.”

When they arrived at the man’s home, there was nothing but confusion and wailing. Again the healer spoke: “The child is not dead — she is only sleeping.” When people started making fun of him, jeering at what he’d said, he sent them all away and went into her room — along with three of his disciples and her mother and father. He took her by the hand and said, ““Little girl, get up!” She got up at once and started walking around.

I imagine her skipping out of her room and into the crowd of people, all smiles, oblivious to both their shock and overwhelming joy. She probably asked for a snack and then wanted to go play with her friends. Just like that — all was as it should be.

She was a living, breathing miracle. From the age of 12 and for the rest of her life, this would have been her identity — the way in which she was known by others, the way in which her parents would have seen her, what would have been whispered about her as she walked down the street, grew, lived her life. In some ways, we might guess this was a burden to bear: others expect too much of you; an average life will not suffice.

What if she had a different perspective? What if being a miracle was what opened her up to a life of possibility and joy and expanse? And what if that’s exactly what she offers you today?

*****

Yes, you.

Imagine it. Dream big. Dig deep. Ask yourself: If I believed I was a miracle, I would…

Every answer that shows up is your wisdom speaking; your desire, your heart, your longing, your truth. And you can trust it. Because you are a miracle. Now…to believeing it and being it!

May it be so.

A 3-Step Plan Worth Following

I lived a very long season of my life (decades, really) in which I was endlessly on the hunt to find a plan that would make sense of everything, give me the happily-ever-after I wanted, ease my every stress and struggle.

What I learned, usually the hard way, is that those plans don’t exist. Which explains why I’m skeptical of them.

Still, there is a plan that feels far wiser than anything I’ve dared to try, have seen on a bookshelf, or have ever had recommended. It’s inspired by one of the ancient, sacred stories I tell — about a woman who had little-to-no power, hardly any choice, and realities that endlessly conspired against her. In spite of all this, here was the 3-step plan she somehow managed to live:

1. Trust your heart.
2. Take crazy risks.
3. Let go of the outcome.

I could tell you her story — both how it’s been told throughout time and my reimagined and redeemed version. I could fill you in on just how passionately committed she was to a life that was not only non-traditional, but completely counter-cultural, without any compromise or compliance. And I could certainly speak to all that she (still) has to offer you and me both, when it comes to working through resistance, getting past gatekeepers, and living in a world that often rarely sees or honors women’s voices, bodies, wisdom, or very selves. Without all the details, here’s the bottom line: to choose and embody any of these three steps (let alone all three) is MIRACULOUS.

Which is why she’s worth following, why we would be wise to trust her heart on our behalf and risk that she knows of what she speaks and somehow believe that the outcomes, no matter what they are, will be worthy and worthwhile.

And just to reinforce her relevance, this:

Though centuries have passed between her story and mine, I continue to work through resistance (internal and external). I endlessly strive to not only name, but get past gatekeepers (again, internal and external). And I still live in a world that rarely sees or honors me as a woman. I’m guessing I’m not the only one.

I’m also guessing that your actual three step plan looks a lot like mine (whether we admit we have one, or not):

1. Determine the outcome I want.
2. Mitigate every risk.
3. Find ways to get determined outcomes without the involvement of my heart at all; definitely no reliance on trust..

Not. Miraculous. At all.

So, back to where I started: Yes, I’m highly suspect of 3-step plans (or 7 or 12). But this one? It feels daring enough to invite the life I long for, risky enough to bring about results I’d barely dream of, and courageous enough to actually invite freedom, expansiveness, hope, and joy.

1. Trust your heart.
2. Take crazy risks.
3. Let go of the outcome.

May it be so.

*****

I write a letter every week. It’s filled with my stories, my thoughts, my doubts, my beliefs, my challenges, my hopes. And after I write it, I email it to you – every Monday morning. I’d love for you to have it. SUBSCRIBE.

The Power of Childhood Stories

We rarely give a second thought to the stories of our childhood. Fairytales, religious myths, favorite books, legend, lore, or those that just seemed to be “in the water” — the stories of our family, our culture, the systems and structures within which we lived.

But in not thinking about them – and with intention – we are prone to repeat the messages hidden within, often unwittingly, over and over again, no matter how many years have passed since those stories were told. The plots, the protagonists, the antagonists, and the morals/messages remain in our psyche, our way of viewing our world, our very DNA.

An example:

Cinderella. One of my favorite stories growing up – specifically, the Rodgers and Hammerstein version that played on TV only once a year.

The takeaways:

  • You can always count on something magical to make everything better.
  • Everything is better when you are pursued and chosen by a prince.
  • Yes, you feel forgotten, misunderstood, and unseen, but that will change when a prince sees you for who you truly are.
  • Yes, you’re sitting by the cinders, put upon and all alone, but it’s just a matter of time before your fate completely turns around.
  • When you are beautiful, everything changes.
  • Happily Ever After is a thing.

Underneath each of those, exist a few more:

  • Look outside yourself for answers, solutions, and the life you long for.
  • Being chosen by a prince (translate: man) is the penultimate goal; it gives your life meaning and value.
  • Just keep hoping and wishing for things to get better.
  • Buy the makeup, the clothes, play the part: you’ll be noticed, valued, and loved.
  • When you are beautiful, everything changes (Wow, does this one embed!)
  • There is a “someday” that will solve every problem, heal every hurt, and make you whole.

Made manifest in my life:

  • I don’t trust my own wisdom.
  • I see marriage (and the man) as the goal, the aspiration, the answer; he determines my value and worth, my lovability, even my beauty.
  • When things don’t change, I’m convinced that’s because I’m not pretty enough, thin enough, beautiful enough, perfect enough.
  • Because, after all, if I were beautiful, everything would change!
  • I chase the promise of Happily Ever After through relationships, jobs, money, courses and programs, shopping, you name it. I can’t settle into and be satisfied with who I am.

This is but one example! Clearly, I could go through the very same process with Snow White, Hansel and Gretel, and Eve (which I have done, many times).

The stories you’ve been told, even if they were many, many years ago, lodge themselves in your understanding of self, your understanding of the world around you.

You don’t have to think directly about Cinderella to have her show up in your deepest beliefs, your most painful insecurities, or your hopes for your future. (Bibbidi, bobbidi, boop!)

I have no critique of Cinderella. In fact, years later, I watched the Disney version of the musical with my girls — over and over again. Brandy replaced Leslie Anne Warren, Whoopie Goldberg played the queen, and Bernadette Peters was the wicked stepmother. It’s less about the story itself and more about a closer look at ourselves via the stories.

When you name and acknowledge the stories you’ve been told, you can unravel them enough to then proactively weave the story you desire and deserve.

Consciously. Intentionally. With agency and sovereignty and will.

You are shaped by the stories you’ve been told. Fairytales. Bedtime stories. Bible stories. Disney. Nickelodeon. Netflix. Novels. Around-the-table talk of family. The over-story of your predominant culture (patriarchy, racism, misogyny, colonialism, capitalism, etc.)

Knowing them, looking at them, and then choosing what serves and what does not, makes all the difference. The stories that make you you are worth your every effort. YOU are worth your every effort! Always.

*******

I believe that the stories we’ve been told (and the ones we tell ourselves) are almost single-handedly responsible for sovereignty’s absence. Its presence is what you deserve. Join me for SOVEREIGNTY — my live, 9-week program.

All the details are here. Registration closes on 9/6/21.

This program was way more and way better and way deeper healing than I knew to ask for. Though I had an idea it would be awesome, what I got was a gift I didn’t know to ask for, much less receive.  I’m so grateful I said, “yes.” ~ Sheri M.

SOVEREIGNTY was a “yes” for me because I wanted the opportunity to learn from Ronna. The most valuable impact from the 9 weeks was being able to acknowledge that in many, many ways I already am sovereign; that I contain all the necessary components. Jennie Alexis, Values Leader

No imagination required…

There’s a story I love to tell of a mostly unknown woman named Jael. She singlehandedly won a huge battle for a whole tribe of people by doing the most unlikely and shocking 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 and killed him. 

It’s a violent story, to be sure. (Which explains why it’s rarely told.) But just imagine if it had been, if she was known; if she was known by you…

  • Imagine 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 allowed.
  • Imagine if you’d had a model, a template, a subconscious plot line within that invited and compelled courage, boldness, and strength.
  • Imagine if it never crossed your mind to choose being good over being right.
  • Imagine if you had no idea what seen-not-heard even meant.
  • Imagine if  you never compromised yourself on behalf of another.
  • Imagine 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? 

What if it wasn’t? What if we just knew who we were – our strength, our wisdom, our  divinity, our sovereignty? No questions asked. No doubt. No wondering. Clear. Certain. Sure. Solid. 100% ourselves.

This is, at least in part, why stories like Jael’s matter. She moves us from *simply* imagining that kind of strength and courage to actually acknowledging it – to living it.

So, no imagination required – hear Jael’s voice on your behalf:

This I know – no imagination required: You are braver, stronger, and wiser than anyone knows, than even you know. 

This I know – no imagination required: You fight for what you love, for what matters most, for your very self – as your hands shake and your voice trembles and your heart races. Still and always – brave, strong, and wise. Still and always – bringing victory and peace. Still and always – worthy of endless song and celebration. 

This I know – no imagination required: I am Jael and you are my daughter, my lineage, my kin. 

She knows of what she speaks…

May it be so.

***** 

This I know – no imagination required: You are surrounded and supported, held and honored by more than just Jael. (Though she’s something, isn’t she?) Countless ancient, sacred women with stories and voices that remind you of who you truly are: brave, strong, and wise. Sovereign.  

I retell, reimagine, and redeem these stories – Jael’s and many more – in SOVEREIGNTY – my live, 9-week program. And companioning the stories is powerful and practical content about hearing and trusting your own wisdom, acknowledging your agency, stepping into courage, and holding on to hope. Every bit of this on behalf of you being 100% yourself, 100% of the time. No imagination required!

Registration is open for the cohort that begins in early September. Learn more. Apply today. Join me! 

The Divide between Silence and Speaking

Jan Richardson, one of my all time favorite writers and poets, has a poem called Having Taken the Fruit. Here are the last two verses: 

It took a long time to figure out
that my stifling silence
was not a path
back to a paradise
where I could never live. 

I finally learned to listen
to the hissing in my breath
that told me the roots / of my own soul
held the healing that I sought
and that each stilted syllable
I let loose
was another leaf
on the tree of life. 

I could stop here. Invite you to read it again. And then close with “May it be so.” That would be more than enough for this post…for a lifetime. 

But, not surprisingly, I have more to say…

Which is the point: speaking, saying what I think, not allowing “stifling silence.”

Believe me, I’ve known much of just the opposite. More stories, experiences, and moments than I care to count in which I did not speak up, did not use my voice, was not fully myself. 

Here’s a recent one:

I left my corporate job in September of last year. It was not an easy choice, but it was a clear one. One day, an average day, nothing out of the ordinary, I realized that I had (once again!) come to believe that my silence would save me. Surely, if I held my tongue, kept my thoughts to myself, put my head down, and just worked, I could survive. 

Even more, I had talked myself into believing that surely, over time, things would get better. I just need to be patient, bide my time, wait things out. Eventually I’d be able to come up for air and use my voice and speak my mind and make a contribution and be acknowledged for the brilliant contributions that were mine. Right?

(I cannot tell you how many times I’ve had these exact thoughts over the years: in my marriage, in other jobs and other relationships, in justifying every denial of my own wants, needs, and desires…)

Did I mention I left my job in September? 

[Perhaps it’s worth naming, at least parenthetically, that though there was dysfunction in my job – and my former marriage and and and – what I’m most curious about and committed to is understanding my own behavior in the midst, my own patterns, the ways in which I show up – or don’t. Dysfunction is probably a given everywhere; how I choose to “be” in it, is always up to me. OK. Back to where we left off: me leaving my job in September…] 

Choosing my own silence became more painful than the costs that would surely come with speaking up. There just wasn’t enough ROI (return on investment) to make it worth the price I had to pay. 

And therein lies the struggle, yes? 

To cross the divide between silence and speaking always carries risk and cost! (I am convinced that both are always part-and-parcel when a woman chooses to use her voice.) 

We keep wishing for a way to speak, a way to be, without having to bear the consequences that will undoubtedly ensue: the apple carts we’ll tip over, the ache of putting boundaries in place, the backlash that’s unavoidable, the misunderstanding that’s certain, the loss, the fear, and the unanswerable question of “what if…?”

Sorry. I don’t have a a three-step plan or easy-fix for you. Through instead of around. Deeper instead of skimming the surface. Awareness instead of avoidance. Yep, all that…

Thankfully, Jan Richardson offers much encouragement in this regard. Just two stanzas from another poem she wrote called The Magdalene’s Blessing

I tell you
this is not a banishment
from the garden. 

This is an invitation,
a choice,
a threshold,
a gate. 

This is your life
calling to you
from a place
you could never
have dreamed
but now that you
have glimpsed its edge
you cannot imagine
choosing any other way.

Not a three-step plan, or easy-fix, but true and rich and wise:

  • Your stifling silence is the opposite of your life calling to you.
  • The path back to a paradise where you could never live is the opposite of a place you could never have dreamed
  • And listening to the hissing in your breath is what enables you to choose another way, to choose yourself, to heal your very self and soul.

[Perhaps it’s worth naming that this does not always mean that you have to leave a job or a marriage or a conversation. But what’s almost always true is that when you cross the divide between silence and speaking, risks and costs are present. What’s always true is that your voice, your words, your heart – all these and then some – are worth every single cost, every single time. “…you cannot imagine choosing any other way.”]

May it be so.

*****

I send out a letter every Monday morning – with bits and pieces of my story, the telling of stories I love, and every bit of encouragement and support I can muster on behalf of your story. I’d love for you to have it. SUBSCRIBE

Choosing others’ comfort OR choosing self

I have a library of personal stories in which I let others’ needs demands overrule my own. I’m not proud of them, certainly not happy about them, and aware that without them I would have never learned the lessons they taught: boundaries, self-care, self-esteem, sovereignty, and more. Of them all, the hardest one has been learning to use my voice; not speaking in and of itself, but speaking my truth without editing, censoring, holding back, or apologizing.

“When we speak we are afraid our words will not be heard or welcomed. But when we are silent, we are still afraid. So it is better to speak.” ~ Audre Lorde

She’s right, of course. But knowing this doesn’t make it easier. It’s scary to anticipate the fallout, the misunderstanding, even subsequent isolation and still speak, still write, still tell the truth, still articulate an opinion, still stand our ground.

What’s far easier, at least in the short run, is compromising. Saying just enough, but not upsetting anyone. Hinting at what we mean and then getting angry (usually with ourselves) when we’re not intuitively understood. And worst of all, saying what others want to hear or doing what others want, even and especially at our own expense.

When I look back at my many experiences and stories of such, what frustrates me most is how many times I felt like I had no choice; that I had to bite my tongue or censure my thoughts or tamp down my desires. I could not see a way to honor myself without someone else paying a price (or so I thought). And all of this without any recognition of the tremendous price I was paying over and over again.

It’s a false dichotomy – and an untenable one: either keeping others comfortable or honoring our very self.

We should never have to deliberate between compromising ourself, no matter how slightly, or paying a price for holding fast to what we know, believe, and feel. And yet we do – over and over and over again. 

Ready for the good news in all of this?

When we inventory and acknowledge the times in which we’ve compromised, not spoken up, not told or lived our truth, not chosen ourself, these become the impetus to do nothing of the sort ever again! Our hardest experiences – past and present – are what enable us to change course; to reimagine and rewrite our story, then live into the one we desire and deserve. Our awareness is what enables choice – and change.

Do the risks, costs, or fears go away? Absolutely not. In some ways, they probably increase. But so does our strength and certainty and courage and sovereignty

Yes, in retrospect, I might wish that I’d chosen myself sooner, that I’d trusted my voice earlier, that I’d nipped any form of compromise in the bud and in the moment. But I’m profoundly grateful for the gift of perspective – to witness my own growth and transformation; to feel the surge of strength, even joy, that comes when I do  choose myself; to extend myself grace when that has not been the case – and may yet be again.

So, my invitation to you?

List out the stories you wish were not yours – the ones in which you compromised or stayed silent or said what others wanted to hear or sold yourself short or, or, or… Let yourself feel all the feels associated with each. And then stand back and look at you now – who you have become, what you have accomplished, how you have grown, what you now know and understand and believe about yourself that once felt like mist and shadow. That’s a story worth telling and living. That’s your story – complex and dramatic and challenging and amazing. And the awareness and appreciation of that story? That’s the reimagining and retelling and redeeming of stories that I’m talking about all the time. It changes everything. 

 

*****

A tiny PS: One of the reasons I keep telling the story of Eveand countless others – is because the common telling perpetuates the (wildly untrue) message that when women choose themselves, disaster befalls. It’s no wonder we compromise and comply and keep our truest desires to ourselves! This is why her story (and countless others ) must be reimagined and retold and redeemed. Ours, as well. And when they are? Yep: it changes everything.  Mmmm. Let’s do that, yes?