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Today is my birthday!

I am 60 years old today. How is that even possible?

The days leading up to this one have been filled with reflection, to be sure. I suppose that is always the case, but this year – given that 2020 has been, well, 2020 and that I left my corporate position and that both of my daughters have moved far away from the city we’ve called home for 25+ years now and that I’m turning 60 (!!) – it feels like a lot.

Still, there is a lot to be grateful for: health, family, friends, airplanes (made far more accessible, hopefully, in the months to come). And this year, in even more significant ways than ever before, I am grateful for the ancient stories of women that have endlessly companioned me along the way.

I drew a card for myself this morning. Though I’ve done this literally thousands of times – for others and myself – I never cease to be amazed by who appears and what She has to say. As I shuffled the deck, I asked “What is uniquely mine to know on this, my 60th birthday?”

Ready for this?

Mary Magdalene:

  • Honor and distinction are yours.
  • You belong in the inner circle.
  • Oh, the wisdom you have to impart.

I could tell you of her story – how it’s been told, how it’s been misunderstood, how she’s been silenced and shamed, and still, how she rises up anyway, always, and speaks. I could tell you of the many ways in which her story mirrors my own. And I could certainly tell you much of how powerfully these three themes speak to my heart. Maybe I will do all of this and then some in a later post…

But right now?

Oh, how this touches me. (Had I done this on video, you would have seen my tears.) Oh, how I needed these words – her words. And oh, how relevant and timely and compelling and challenging and honoring! Especially since this is exactly why I’m writing this post in the first place today…

Honestly. I started this post because it is my birthday. Because on my birthday I offer New Year Readings to you at a wildly discounted rate. Because I haven’t done this the past 2 years. Because 2020 has been, well, 2020. Because am offering them again this year (at a wildly discounted rate).

Honestly. I hadn’t intended to draw a card today, right in the middle of this writing. I certainly couldn’t have anticipated who showed up on my behalf. And I shouldn’t be remotely surprised.

Honestly. This is always what happens!

And this is perfect, actually! You can see who has shown up for me and I can invite you to find out who longs to show up for you. Truly. There are 51 more stories I work with besides Mary Magdalene’s – each of them powerful in their own right, each of them offering exactly what you need to hear and trust in 2021. Because, let’s be honest:

You deserve a year that does not disappoint.

Your 2021 Reading and the woman within will provide you every bit of the advocacy, wisdom, and grace you desire and deserve.

How can I be so certain? Well, the list of reasons is endless. But for now, let’s go with what just happened – for me (which is exactly what will happen for you)!

Today, my birthday, right now – I am clear and certain that honor and distinction are mine because I have the privilege of doing this work in the first place, being blessed by the presence and power of these women, and offering every bit of that to you. I am standing in an “inner circle,” embraced by 52 amazing women and their stories. And I am imparting wisdom – learned over 60 years to be sure; but endlessly supported by that of the ancient, sacred women who long to support you. Perfect!

Oh, how I’d love for you to receive all of this for yourself – as gift from me; the gift of your 2021 Reading. 

And the “wildly discounted” part?

Starting today, in honor of my 60th birthday, I am offering the first 60 Readings sold at 50% off.

  *****

I still find it impossible to believe that I am 60 today. But it’s not impossible for me to believe that I get to be here, right now, writing this post on this day and miraculously, graciously, still offering my deepest heart to you: these women, their stories, their knowing – and all on your behalf.

I hope you’ll take advantage of the 50% off. More, I hope you’ll receive the 2021 Reading that is yours – already waiting for you and filled with the perfect-perfect-perfect words your heart longs to hear, your year longs to make manifest, and your deepest, truest self longs to live into. 

Learn more.

Old Stories Make the New Ones Stronger

I listened to Brene Brown’s latest podcast – a conversation with Elizabeth Lesser, co-founder of the Omega Institute and author of Cassandra Speaks: When Women are the Storytellers, the Human Story Changes

I’ll admit, it was hard for me to hear their lovely conversation, given that the one in my head was constantly drowning them out: “Yes! That’s what I’ve been saying! Exactly! Thank you! You’re right!” If I’m being completely honest, I also need to admit that I was irritated. In some ways, Lesser has written the book that I’ve been talking about forever!  

I got over it pretty quickly because more than all else, I was flooded with gratitude. Wise and amazing women talking about the ways in which the ancient stories of women have been maligned throughout time because of the way that men have told them – and the ways in which those tellings still impact us today. That’s the most blissful conversation ever for me! 

Don’t misunderstand me: I’m not mad at men. I can hold the big picture, the larger cultural history, all of that. As Lesser names, the time has long passed in which that lens, exclusively, should be the one through which we view ourselves.

  • Blamed for the downfall of all humanity, too full of desire, too curious, too dangerous. 
  • Filled with centuries of shame. 
  • Convinced that we are not enough and worrying that we’re far too much. 

Enough!

Lesser says this:

Whether we know it or not, whether we have read them or not, whether we believe them or don’t, our daily lives take direction from stories that are hundreds, even thousands of years old…Once metabolized, the old stories are hard to shake from the mind of an individual or the hierarchy of a family or the guiding principles of a country. 

Mmm hmm. (Maybe she’s watched my TEDx talk?)

I downloaded Cassandra Speaks to my Kindle as soon as the podcast finished. I’ve finished Part One – she looks at Eve, Pandora, and Cassandra as the formative stories/myths that have created the mess we find ourselves in today. Parts Two and Three follow, so I don’t want to presume I know the direction she will yet take.

I’m clear on the direction I’ve taken – over and over again in my own life and on behalf of others.

For me, it’s not enough to name the ways in which patriarchal tellings of these archetypal stories have impacted us. Nor am I willing to do away with them completely. What I want, what I’m committed to, and what I do – over and over again – is go back to them, dust them off, breathe life into them, and let them speak. I reimagine how they’d be told when she is the protagonist, when it’s her voice we hear, when it’s her wisdom from which we learn…and are transformed.

Did I mention? Bliss!

When I was contemplating whether or not I had the courage to end my marriage, I was overwhelmed with all the internal and external messages that told me why that was a mistake and why I needed to work harder, try again, keep at it, stay committed. I was working with a Spiritual Director then who asked me to think about the story of Hagar. (If you aren’t familiar with it, here’s the Cliff Notes version: her suffering made mine look like a minor irritation.) She said, “What do you think Hagar has to say to you, Ronna? How might she see what you’re going through? What perspective does she long to offer you?” I opened up a blank document on my computer and answered every one of these questions. I wrote and wrote and wrote – as I wept. I could hear Hagar’s voice, crying out from the desert. I imagined exactly what she wanted me to know, what she hoped I’d hold on to, how she hoped I’d rise up, stay strong, and step forward…because that’s what she did. 

That process became a rhythm and ritual for me that I combined with ongoing academic work and research connected to my M.Div. and study of Feminist Theology. Before long, I’d written missives to myself from countless women – buried away in this ancient text. A bit later, I started writing them for others. And now, almost 15 years later, I still hear their voices whisper (and sometimes shout).  

They tell us what we’ve forgotten, but need to recall – and believe. They remind us that our story is NOT to be theirs – silenced, forgotten, or harmed. And they somehow, mysteriously, in the most sacred and secreted of ways, stay with us…when we look for them, when we seek them, when we ask for their presence, their wisdom, their generous kindness.

More bliss, to be sure!

I could go on and on. But that’s not actually what this post is about. (Hard to tell, I know.)

The reason I’m writing any of this today is because of Elizabeth Lesser and Brene Brown, because of a smart conversation between two women about realities that effect and impact us all – based on ancient stories of women that influence us still, whether we know it or not. 

The reason I write any of what I do, retell and reimagine any of these women’s stories is because I want them to influence us. Their voices deserve to be imagined and heard; their wisdom deserves to be honored. Yes, for them. But also for us, because along the way, our stories get retold and redeemed, our voices get heard, and our wisdom is honored. 

And when that happens? Everything changes…

I don’t know about you, but I’m up for everything changing.

May it be so! 

Listen to the podcast.
Read the book.
Subscribe to my blog.
Get a Reading. It provides you the perfect guidance and generous support you need to (finally) embrace the powerful and provocative story that is yours. I promise.

Bliss. All of it. 

More, please!

The power of women’s stories…of YOUR story

There’s an old, old story told that begins with a narcissistic, paranoid, and power-hungry man (which sounds vaguely familiar); an Egyptian Pharaoh who was worried about the slave population growing too fast. So he issued a decree that all newborn sons were to be put to death (as though it were up to him: the choices women made). And who was to carry out this ridiculous and violent rule? Yes, women. He mandated that the midwives in his employ would make sure the deaths happened – the very women whose sole purpose was to make sure life happened.   

Two of those midwives decided that their principles, their ethics, their choices mattered more than his, so they ignored his mandate – not willing to participate in genocide. They continued their work. They stood alongside women, reminded them to breathe, wiped the sweat from their brows, talked them through their pain, and placed their children – no matter the gender – into their waiting arms. 

At one point, the two of them were brought before the Pharaoh – now even more red-faced and angry than before (which also sounds vaguely familiar). “How is it that the slave population continues to grow? Did I not say that all the boys were to be killed?” Without missing a beat, the two of them explained that the Hebrew women were not like Egyptian women. “They are too quick! They give birth before we even get to their home!” 

The story ends by saying that “…the people multiplied and increased greatly.”

If I were preaching a sermon (which, admittedly, I sort of am), here’s my first point:

Women’s advocacy, friendship, and support for one another changes everything. Everything!

I suppose it’s possible, even probable, that one midwife could have stepped out of line on her own and saved a generation of humans. But the fact that she didn’t have to, that she wasn’t alone, is what makes this story so powerful. Together, the two of them let the baby boys live…which caused the Israelite nation to keep growing…which created the conditions for an entire nation’s escape from slavery to liberation. These two women did this! Their advocacy for one another. Their friendship. Their support. In the face their courage and integrity, the Pharaoh didn’t stand a chance. Not really. Not ultimately. These two women (who are rarely, if ever heard of) changed everything. 

We have the same capacity, you know. We are advocated for, befriended, and supported by the women we know and love. Even more, we are accompanied by the generations of women upon whose shoulders we stand – including the two midwives.

We are not alone! Ever.

And with this much beauty, power, and wisdom in our corner, what can’t we change? 

One more point (I’m making myself stop at only two): 

The stories of women (even when unknown, unheard, uncelebrated) are what enable the possibility of so many more yet to come. 

At about the same time of this story, another one was taking place. A baby boy was born. His mother, understandably afraid that he would be killed, put him in a basket made of reeds and let him float down the river – hoping that he would be rescued and given safety. Her hope was fulfilled when the Pharaoh’s daughter, bathing in the river, happened to see the basket and rescued the baby. Though that boy grew up in affluence and privilege, he could not ignore the ongoing mistreatment and oppression of the Hebrew people. He left his position and power behind – leading their rebellion and escape. His name was Moses. Maybe you’ve heard of him? The parting of the Red Sea. The 10 Commandments. And a few other juicy tales…

Could the midwives have possibly known how their courage would instill hope in others? Could they have possibly imagined that their actions would lead to one mother’s willingness to do whatever was required on behalf of her son’s life? Could they have known that this mother’s choice compelled compassion in yet another woman – the Pharaoh’s daughter – who took in that baby in as her own? Could they have known that their story would birth, nurture, and enable not only the story of Moses, but that of the Hebrew people’s deliverance? 

Of course not, but that’s the point. The stories of women, the ones we know and perhaps even more, the ones we don’t, are what enable the stories that are yet to be told. 

Guess what?! This includes your story. You are this powerful, this influential, this amazing. Just like the midwives. Just like Moses’ mother. Just like the Pharaoh’s daughter. Just like story after story after story of women since… Just like you. 

When we know these stories – the strength, courage, and beauty from which we descend – we begin to recognize just how powerful we are, the ways in which we shape the future of all that is yet to come, the way in which we have the capacity to change everything

Imagine all that you are yet to do – companioned by such a legacy of women; living your own story in ways that will champion so many more yet to come. How amazing are you? (I already know the answer.)

May it be so.

 

Militancy + Hope + Desire

(A Sunday Sermon, of sorts – even though it’s not a Sunday…)

To refuse to participate in the shaping of our future is to give it up…Each of us must find our work and do it. Militancy no longer means guns at high noon, if it ever did. It means actively working for change, sometimes in the absence of any surety that change is coming. (Audre Lorde, Sister Outsider)

Mmmmm. This is relevant, yes?

It is far too easy – and tempting – to not be militant; to let minutes, hours, and days pass with a wish and a prayer that things will get better. But to intentionally choose to shape our future? Militancy, indeed, is required. 

Militancy PLUS every bit of the courage, strength, heart, wisdom, passion, and tenacity we possess. 

Here’s the good news: we have every bit of these things in endless supply! It’s what, and who, we are at core as women. (Don’t let anyone – especially yourself – tell you otherwise!)

And because we possess all of this and then some, there is hope.

Hope for change.
Hope for justice.
Hope, period.

I’ve had acquaintances over the years who have critiqued me for holding on to hope – as if it’s somehow too whispy and whimsical, not practical enough. I completely disagree. Clinging to hope is what turns our eyes and heart toward what can be, what must be, and everything that we desire. And desire? Don’t get me started…

Well, ok, just this: if I know anything it is that a woman’s desire has the capacity to change the trajectory of the entire human race! It’s that powerful. You are.

So pursue desire (no matter who you upset along the way).

Choose hope (and defy anything that would influence you otherwise).

And be militant (on behalf of the change, the future, the world we long for and deserve).

 

Practically speaking, in the very near term, this means voting, advocating, speaking out, showing up, and doing everything in our immense-and-unstoppable power to actively work for change, yes, “sometimes in the absence of any surety that change is coming.”

And just because: one more worth-repeating quote of Audre Lorde:

When I dare to be powerful, to use my strength in the service of my vision, then it becomes less and less important whether I am afraid.

May it be so.

A crossroad, a cliff’s edge, & decisions

Over a lifetime, we find ourselves at crossroads: a relationship, a marriage, a divorce, a career decision, a location change, health issues, endings, beginnings… When peering over the cliff’s edge of a decision, we often feel as though few-if-any options exist. We feel stuck, lost, torn, frustrated, anxious, afraid, any number of emotions. (Or maybe it’s just me.)

We look into the unknown future and wish for an answer. But we need not look so far, so hard, or so wistfully to find one. The answer(s) are closer than we imagine or believe. They are already within. They are always within.

Just in case you’re not hearing them or not certain I’m right about this, here are three “answers” to apply at your crossroad, your cliff, your dark night of the soul. They’re trustworthy, I promise. (And I’ll tell you where they came from in a bit…)

Sometimes ‘no’ is the right thing to say.

I know: you’ve been trying to get to a ‘yes.’ You’ve been looking for a middle ground, some kind of give that will allow you to stay, to manage, to make it work. ‘Yes’ is the answer others expect you to give (almost as though they’d never considered you’d say anything other). But what if the answer needed here – and the one that will create the clear path forward – is a definitive ‘no’?

Say no to circumstances that cause you to second guess your values, your strength, your integrity, your voice. Say no to people who push you to give in, to come around, to agree with their way of thinking, their perspective, their feelings. Say no to situations that harm. And say no, unequivocally and with great haste, to the anything that deserves our firm and unyielding response: racism, sexual trafficking, domestic and child abuse, gun rights… The list is long.

Listen to the wisdom (I promise) is within. Then give yourself permission and claim the authority to say ‘no.’ Sometimes it is not only the right thing to say, it’s the only thing to say.

Do not compromise.

I know this place well. Years in a marriage that felt too costly to leave; an avalanche of guilt that had me believe that compromising myself was the right thing to do vs. compromising my children. (I can see now that these weren’t mutually exclusive; in fact, compromising myself WAS compromising my children.) Way too much time in a job that felt too costly to leave – and a sneaky, endless voice within that told me I wouldn’t survive without it: “It’s not that big of a deal. Take the paycheck. Be satisfied. Compromise a bit, will you?”

Do not misunderstand me: I am clear that these are huge decisions with vast consequences. In such places, much grace must be extended – to ourselves, to be sure, and to women we know who are struggling. Perhaps our role, for self and others, is to remind ourselves that we deserve no compromise, that we deserve the reality that eludes, that we deserve dignity and clarity of mind and the strength to stare over the edge of that cliff and then leap…

Do not compromise. But if that’s not feasible, at least not yet, know that you are worthy of living a life that does not require or demand such of you. Ever.

Choose yourself – always no matter what.

I know: completely counterintuitive to what most of us were raised with, socialized into, and what feels our very nature. But as above, things are not mutually exclusive: choosing yourself does not mean that you cannot choose another. The point here? Do not not choose yourself – ever – no matter what.

Which means that we must not compromise. Which means that we must say ‘no.’ Which means that we must, yet again, sit at the edge of the crossroad or cliff and make the decision, make the call, make the leap – guided first, foremost, and always by choosing self – always, no matter what.

There is an old story told about a beautiful woman whose husband, the king, was about a week-deep into a party with his advisors and staff. At one point in the debauchery, he called for her, commanding that she show her beauty to his guests. Some versions of this story say he wanted her to come dance for them, others say she was to parade before them completely naked. No matter the details, she was faced with a decision. (Before going a step further, let’s acknowledge that to the king, there was no decision here. She wasn’t asked. She wasn’t conferred with. No one even considered this a choice. ‘Sound at all familiar?)

She knew she had a choice whether anyone else did, or not. She knew the consequences that would befall if she did not obey. She knew it was more than risky. She knew it was unthinkable. She knew it was unheard of. She knew.

And still, she said no.
She refused to compromise (herself).
She chose herself, that time, always, no matter what.

So what happened? As you might imagine, the king was enraged. He met with his advisors and staff to see what they recommended. Their brilliant answer: “Her behavior might negatively influence our wives and all the women in the kingdom. Best to make an example of her so that they don’t get any ideas.”

The queen was banished. But not before the wives did get other ideas. I have to believe that her ‘no’ reverberated through the kingdom and that nothing was ever the same again. Because that is the power of a woman’s will, a woman’s ‘no,’ a woman’s knowing. No matter what.

This is what all of us need to witness and believe in order to turn the tide: examples of other women who have done what we need to do, want to do, must do. Not shiny examples in which everything gets better (though those are VERY nice to hear); rather, ones in which the costs are swift and exacting and it’s still clear that her decision was the only choice and the right one. We must champion a world in which saying ‘no,’ hardly merits punishment – rather, celebration; where any form of compromise seems laughable, a non sequitur; where choosing ourselves is simply, always, obviously, the best and only thing to do.

Nothing more was ever heard of the queen, but that was hardly her story’s end. In fact, her choice created the conditions for another woman to take the throne. And that woman eventually saved an entire nation of people from genocide.

In her story, just like her predecessor’s, her ‘no,’ her unwillingness to compromise, and choosing herself rippled throughout history, changed history, and altered its trajectory in redemptive and powerful ways. I’m pretty sure that’s always the case…(Or maybe it’s just me.)

I don’t think so.

Every woman’s story links to another. We are never alone in our hardship, our challenges, or our choices. We are bound – you and me, all of us, past and future. One crossroad crossed, enables another to do the same. One cliff stared down and jumped from, strengthens someone else. One woman’s decisions are not inconsequential. They are what empower us to make ones we cannot yet imagine. Which means that it’s worth it. Always. Every time.

Recognizing and calling on this connection to every woman who has gone before is what allows you to trust that wisdom does, without question, dwell within. Within you! You can trust it – all the time, and definitely in circumstances that require a decision, a direction, an answer:

Sometimes ‘no’ is the right thing to say.
Do not compromise.
Choose yourself – always – no matter what.

Should you still wonder if you have it in you to follow this wisdom, this advice, here’s one more thing to ponder: you’re not only accompanied by a queen, you are royalty yourself. The line of women from whom you descend give you the strength, the courage, and a bloodline that cannot be weakened. So rise up. Leap off and over the cliff. Do not fear: we are here to catch you, if you fall. But even more, we are here to watch you soar – knowing that we are now able to do the same.

May it be so.

‘Seems like the way to start a new week…a Sunday sermon, of sorts.

[Attribution to the ancient, sacred story of Queen Vashti for my inspiration – and hopefully yours.]

Photo by Einar Storsul on Unsplash

Take your seat at the head of the table

All of us know times, even seasons, in which we struggle and strain to feel like we’re on solid ground…in our minds, not to mention our lives. We toss and turn. We hear the inner fight. We know it’s not helpful, even sane. And yet we can’t seem to get ourselves out of the looping, the spiraling, the repetitive messages that do not help and worse, are not true.

I won’t assume to know what those internal messages are in your mind, but I’m highly familiar with the ones that circle and spin in my own.

In such times, we need something to grab on to. Not like a carousel ring; more like a pylon. Maybe what we really need is something that grabs on to us, that holds us tight while we finally let our breath slow and the internal storm calm. That stronghold, that safety, that holding comes from wisdom. And that wisdom comes from within.

I could tell you why we don’t turn toward this wisdom automatically, why it evades, why we often feel devoid of what we most need. But analyzing more deeply why we do the things we do isn’t the only avenue that heals. For right now, and in service to the calm that’s desired and deserved, let’s just allow it in (or perhaps remember that it already dwells within). No matter what, it longs to hold you fast so that you can hold on.

As you read what follows, maybe even for these few minutes, imagine some wise sage or crone reading your palm – more likely your heart – and offering you three truths. Each of them simply is. There’s no need to argue or dismiss. Just accept. Now, inhale. Breathe deep.

This first truth is an imperative, a directive, a call to place; a place that is yours.

TAKE YOUR SEAT AT THE HEAD OF THE TABLE. This is where you belong – even now and all the time. Assume this spot of distinction. Look at the people who surround – as they look at you. They are not surprised to see you here. They understand and unquestioningly accept your distinction, your belonging, and your role. You are honored. You are revered. As it should be. As you deserve.

And do not miss this one singular and significant point in the sentence above: sit down. Let the chair that’s only yours support you. Let the weight of your body be fully held and finally still. Exhale. You are here. We want you here. Ahead is the nourishment you most need.

Now, seated where you belong, hear this second truth.

YOUR ROLE IS SIGNIFICANT BEYOND MEASURE. Nothing is required of you to make this true. It just is. You just are. This statement intends no pressure, nor is it some marker by which you measure everything you’ve done (or not) thus far. It is simply (and always) true. You matter. You impact. You influence. And in ways beyond imagining, “beyond measure.”

What if, instead of wondering how this could be, you just believed? What if you just take this in? And what if you choose to live from and with this knowing? That’s the invitation – yours to accept – because of the third truth.

YOUR LEGACY IS CERTAIN. “Certain.” The word feels foreign, strange even. Especially now. But it’s the one you most need to hear, most need to draw on, most need to believe (yes, again). The less certain you feel, the more this deep wisdom-that-is-yours needs to be clung to tenaciously, fiercely, with every bit of grip and grit you can muster.

And what exactly IS certain when so much feels out of control – both within and without? You. Your lasting impact. Your legacy. The way in which your life lives and breathes beyond you. Done deal. Amen.

You may feel tenuous about what I’ve offered here. Uncertain, faltering, questioning, doubting. Which takes me back to where I started. We deeply, desperately need to believe what is more true, what is actually true – instead of the endless din that shouts within and without.

Let it in. Then let it hover like a fragrant offering to the ancient, endless wisdom within you. Listen with reverence and faith. And breathe deep, then deeper still. Now, push your chair back from the table. Rise up to the immeasurable power of your role. And stand in the full and glorious stature of your certain, incontrovertible legacy.

‘Seems like the way to start a new week…a Sunday sermon, of sorts.

Because I’ve been writing (again and finally). Because I need to remember, recall, and believe in what’s deeper, truer, wiser. Because I’m guessing you do, too.

[Attribution to the ancient, sacred story of Lois for my inspiration – and hopefully yours.]

Photo by Nadia Valko on Unsplash.