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If we could have coffee together…

If you and I were sitting across from each other, sipping coffee, it would be inevitable that eventually I would tell you stories.

Stories of ancient, sacred women who have miraculously stepped into my life, who have spoken into it, who have gifted me with the honor of speaking on their behalf.

I would tell you the story of Hagar, the Woman at the Well, and the nothing-short-of-glorious Woman of Revelation 12. I would tell you of Eve – of course! And Mary Magdalene and Hagar and the Persistent Widow and Jairus’ Daughter and Lot’s Wife and Noah’s Wife and Job’s Wife. (Yes, I wish they had names, too.)

I would recite an infinite list, filled with the ways in which each of them have been a transformational part of my story; about all that happened when I allowed myself to imagine their voices, their experiences, and their wisdom. 

I would tell you about how all of these stories and so many more, have been buried under centuries of patriarchy and religion’s doctrine and dogma (in which I don’t conspire).

I would tell you about how all of this has silenced their voices, often shamed them, left them misunderstood and frequently maligned, and worst of all, forgotten. And this is hardly unique to them – but the VERY thing that has happened to us. It’s a direct correlation: our stories, our voices have been buried, silenced, and filled with shame. We’ve been misunderstood and often maligned. 

Stories have to be told or they die, and when they die, we can’t remember who we are or why we are here. ~ Sue Monk Kidd

I’d tell you what they’d tell you: “Your story is NOT to be mine! No more silence, shame, or misunderstanding. Live the story that we long for on your behalf – one filled with voice, courage, beauty, brilliance, and grace!”

And I’d tell you how I’ve been about this work for nearly 20 years now – curating these women’s stories, remembering them, reimagining and redeeming them, letting them speak. First, for them. It’s what they deserve. Second, for me – for my own story and my insatiable hunger for women’s wisdom – spoken on my behalf. And third, for you – because your story, your reality, your life deserves to be companioned, accompanied, supported, and strengthened by these stories; by women who know exactly what you feel, who know exactly who you have the capacity to be, when you remember, reimagine, and redeem your story.  

I write because there are stories that people have forgotten to tell, because I am a woman trying to stand up in my life. ~ Natalie Goldberg

This would be the stuff of more than just one cup of coffee, to be sure…

So, I do all of this through Readings: one woman’s story that will come alongside you in the New Year and offer you all of what you deserve to hear and know – the story you deserve to live!

The process of storytelling is itself a healing process, partly because you have someone there who is taking the time to tell you a story that has great meaning to them. They’re taking the time to do this because your life could use some help, but they don’t want to come over and just give advice. They want to give it to you in a form that becomes inseparable from your whole self. That’s what stories do. Stories differ from advice in that, once you get them, they become a fabric of your whole soul. That is why they heal you. ~ Alice Walker

These stories, the women within them, and every bit of their wisdom – honored in 2021 Readings are 50% off for a limited time – because I want you to have the healing they’ve given me.

*****

[In lieu of the gift of time and generous conversation over coffee, please reach out to me with any questions that come up for you about Readings – for yourself or as gift for someone else. I so want you to know why, with everything that’s in me, I believe in their power. ronna@ronnadetrick.com]

Photo by Brigitte Tohm on Unsplash

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.

 

Believing the Voice Within You

A voice dwells within you that can be trusted, that longs to be listened to, that consistently speaks truth.

I promise.

Other voices dwell within, as well. They have strong opinions, speak irritatingly louder, and often trick you by sounding far more sane. “It’s dangerous!” “You’re dangerous!” “It’s way too risky.” “Think about the consequences!” “You’ll never be understood.” “You’ll be completely alone.” “Are you completely insane?”

They’re hard to ignore, no doubt about it. But when you listen closely you’ll hear that they actually sound plain-old boring and pretty damn tired. After all, they’ve been droning on and on for a very long time. And really, anymore, they’re not all that convincing. So give them a retirement party. Send them packing. Wave goodbye.

Then choose to believe the voice that knows what it’s talking about. Choose to believe you.

You can be trusted. You already know. You are beautiful and wise and amazing. You are that Sacred.

I promise.

How do I know? How can I promise? Well, because at least at this moment, I’m practicing what I preach. I’m believing the voice within me! The one that speaks deep truth. The one that knows-that-it-knows-that-it-knows.

Yes. That one.

The Widow of Nain

There is an ancient story told of a widow whose only son died. With him went her last semblance of family, belonging, and even physical security – not to mention every last shred of hope and joy. On the day of his funeral, she moved in slow motion as the procession paraded through the streets of her village. Her head was down. Her heart was broken. Her sorrow was bottomless. Her tears were unstoppable.

Until she heard a man’s voice speak directly to her: “Do not weep.” Grief was replaced by white-hot rage. Her red-rimmed eyes rose to meet his only in time to hear him speak again, this time directly to her dead son: “Young man, I say to you, rise!” And her fury was just as miraculously replaced by joy-beyond-belief as her son rose and began to speak for himself. The prophet/healer disappeared into the crowd, leaving everyone speaking of what they had just heard, seen, and experienced.

I have struggled with this story – with my writing of it. Still, she is in the “canon” of stories with which I work because she deserves to be heard and I trust-trust-trust that she has wisdom and meaning to offer.

  • Her story puts me face-to-face with patriarchal power/authority and a woman’s lack thereof.
  • Her story puts me face-to-face with words spoken that are painful but ignored, because of who he is; because the rest of the story somehow redeems the earlier harshness.
  • Her story puts me face-to-face with my own resistance to speaking out in response to these very stories and the god within them (not in critique, but with allowed honesty, perspective, and hope).
  • Her story puts me face-to-face with the paradox of the divine – things understood and far more not.
  • Her story puts me face-to-face with me; with the heartache I know on behalf of the woman in this text and all those within the larger Text; the silence that too-often envelops them and the voice I long to give.
  • Her story puts me face-to-face with my fear: my visceral awareness that to speak – to weep – to express my perspective, my opinion, even my rage, carries with it the nearly certain risk of profound loss.
  • Her story puts me face-to-face with my own known grief and hope, silence and voice, heartache and endless-longing for miracles.

When it comes right down to it, her story is about me.

And you.

Fanning Desire’s Flame

Desire is a tricky thing.

  • To desire feels dangerous because we might not get what we want.
  • To desire is risky because, when expressed, is too much for the people in our world.
  • To desire reveals the dulled desires of those in our midst.
  • To desire means that we see ourselves of worth.
  • To desire calls us to foresee a future that is better than what we have now.
  • To desire requires that we actually believe we are deserving of that which we seek, even demand.

Some even say:

  • To desire is entitled or arrogant.
  • To desire is privileged or elitist.
  • To desire is assumptive and arrogant.
  • To desire is to be ungrateful for all that we have; to somehow be demanding of even more.

I completely disagree.

The biggest risk is not our desire itself, but that we do not desire enough!

We are far too easily pleased. We somehow believe that our desires will never come to be, anyway. And so, we choose to believe that we’re better off hedging our bets, playing it safe, and toning things down.

I completely disagree. Did I mention that?

Here’s the thing: the heart, when listened to and trusted, will have none of this! Nor should you.

One of the many ancient, sacred stories I so love tells of a woman’s desire. And surprise! It’s not Eve (though hers does, of course – in beautiful and to-be-trusted ways).

This woman was so determined in the expression and sustenance of her longing, that a priest saw her praying and was convinced she was drunk. He reprimanded and shamed her. But she was not to be stopped. In fact, just the opposite: she boldly and blatantly persisted. She held on. And ultimately? Well, ultimately, finally, her desire was fulfilled.

Instead of desire’s diffculty slowing or stopping her, it grew in power and force until she could not, would not be denied.

[A brief intermission: Lest you think I am saying that if you just desire enough, your every desire will be met, think again. (That would be a lovely formula, wouldn’t it?) What I am saying is this: Her desire remained intact without its fulfillment. And it is THIS to which she calls us.]

It is to this that she calls you. Longing even more instead of letting go. Persevering instead of settling. Fanning desire’s flame instead of dousing it. Holding on no matter what.

Desire for desire’s sake is what matters most.

Listen to her voice (as I imagine it). She speaks on your behalf:

Oh, the beauty of your desire! The stronger and fiercer and more tightly held, heaven rejoices and earth stands still in reverential awe. Know this: the object of your desire is not as important as having and holding on to desire in the first place. Desire for desire’s sake is what matters most. The act and art of desiring causes your body temperature to rise, your pulse to quicken, your heart to beat, your life-force to surge, your voice to swell, and your very presence to make a visceral, unmistakable and impossible-to-ignore mark on this world. Believe me, I know all about this. I am Hannah, and YOU are my daughter, my lineage, my kin.

I know all-too-well the temptation to tone down my desire. But that has not served me – ever. Nor does it you. Hannah’s story reminds us that perseverance makes a difference, that faith matters, that hope must endure, and that desire – whether fulfilled or not – is a force to be reckoned with. Desire is what makes us – you and me – a force to be reckoned with.

So go ahead: want more, pray more, long for more, desire more. Less is, well, just less. And that is not to be your fate.

*****

[A version of this post appeared in April of 2016. When I came across it, I realized I do not feel any differently – for myself or in regards to what I desire for you.]

These Stories Still Speak

I’ve been awake since 4:30 this morning. Uncharacteristically, instead of lying in bed and trying to tame my immediately-upon-waking thoughts or my desire to sleep for at least a couple more hours, I just got up. I turned on the Christmas tree lights, made the coffee, had a handful of Chex Mix (that remains far too tempting to pass up, no matter how long the supply lasts), and then sat down at my computer.

I thought about lighting a fire and snuggling in with a book, but once I was in front of the screen I was stuck – for hours – almost unaware of how much time had passed. It wasn’t until both of my girls got up, the dog came running to me, and I moved my hands away from my keyboard that I realized it was no longer dark; rather, almost afternoon!

I was working on New Year SacredReadings – the 5th year in a row that I’ve offered them.

And though you’d think that the stories themselves are old hat and probably repetitive to me by now, the exact opposite is true. With each card I pulled, I realized a truth to this particular story (and then the next one and then the next one…) that is actually tied to my own. I heard her voice speaking into my heart. And as the minutes and hours ticked by, I found myself surrounded by text that yes, I am offering to others, but that actually feels like it’s all for me.

Which, of course, is why I continue to do this work – and offer it to others: these stories still speak!

None of this is surprising – at least not to me. These are ancient, sacred stories of women who have been, for the most part, marginalized and misunderstood. Still, all the while, they have laid in wait – longing to be heard, longing to be seen, longing to be known and trusted and called on for their wisdom, encouragement, and grace.

Every single one of them has lived through things unfathomable to us…and…all too real and relevant even still. Every single one of them knows what it means to pursue desire and have it thwarted. Every single one of them knows how it feels to be silenced or small (but to refuse such!) Every single one of them knows what it means to abide in a world of patriarchal power and yet live a powerful and out-loud story in spite of it all. And every single one of them remain profoundly relevant.

As I worked on their stories and held the stories-and-hearts of those who have already purchased their 2018 New Year SacredReadings, I thought of so many other women; all women, actually. And I felt such hope. Hope that these women’s
stories – the ancient, sacred ones I love – would be yet heard, known, honored, and loved. Hope that you will discover which one of these stories is choosing you and, in truth, longing for you to know and believe that your story still speaks – in ways you have not yet imagined…or dared to hope.

I’ll gladly wake up tomorrow and the remaining days of this year at the same early hour if it means that more and more of these women’s stories from days gone by can be placed into the hands and hearts of women today.

These stories still speak and we deeply, desperately, perhaps more than ever before, need to hear them.

May it be so.