# MeToo

My first real job was selling tickets at a brand new movie theater in a mall near my home. I was sixteen and felt like an adult for the first time in my life. I took my job seriously and was determined to do it well.

The Terrace was the perfect place to work. I not only got paid to sit and sell tickets, I also got two free passes to all the theaters in town. I could see every new movie as many times as I wanted. I saw True Grit sixteen times!

As if that weren’t enough to satisfy this new independent woman’s heart, I could also have all the popcorn and soda my skinny little body could consume. That was far more than you might imagine. I think they might have lost money with that perk!

I loved my job, and I did it well. Counting money was no problem for me, and giving change was second nature. I had it made and could not believe such good fortune had befallen me. My disillusioned dream state was disrupted one evening as I headed upstairs to tally the totals for the night.

My boss was not a nice man, so everyone steered clear of him whenever possible. He had an ugly mole on his face and combed his gray hair over his balding head. He told inappropriate jokes and had a tendency to leer at the girls. I ignored him and did my job, but I could not ignore him when it was time to count money.

I usually followed him upstairs after the last movie began, but on this particular evening, he insisted on my going up first. I was taught that ladies should always go first, so I thought perhaps my boss had a change of heart and was just being polite until his grubby hand made its way up my dress and rested on my behind.

I spun around and told my boss that if he ever touched me again, I would tell my daddy. I also described what my father’s reaction would be. My speech was fervent and filled with vivid imagery. Since my boss did not want his teeth or other essential appendages to end up on the floor, he began apologizing with a tone and manner I had never seen in him before.

He walked upstairs ahead of me after that, and I gained a sweet sense of empowerment. Like a predator who had mistaken a young rattlesnake for a timid milk snake, my boss quickly dropped his prey and never made the same mistake again.

I’ve often wondered if I should have told my parents about my dirty old boss. I think daddy would have been proud of the way I handled the situation. He would not, however, be proud of the way I handled other predators who made their way into my path.

It’s funny how I had more courage at sixteen than I had in my twenties and fifties. If I had always taken the same approach as that empowered young teen, my journey would have been much different. The attention #MeToo is getting caused me to pause and think about the importance of seeing predators for what they are and standing up to them as my sixteen-year-old self did.

God has been trying to get me to see the light, and someone else having the courage to turn on their own light helped me to do just that. It’s not easy to shine a light on predators who are in positions that make preying easy for them. Bosses, mentors, teachers, coaches, ministers, family members, and trusted friends cross lines and make standing up to them difficult or impossible. I admire those who stand up even when their predators have the power, money, and influence to destroy them.

Katherine Kendall was Harvey Weinstein’s first victim to be heard, not the first to speak out. She says she was 23 when he convinced her to come to his apartment. He has allegedly been behaving in a predatory fashion for decades. It breaks my heart that so many were possibly hurt by him, knowing that no amount of money or vengeance will ever bring back the person his victims were before encountering him. One is never the same after an encounter with a predator. The body may survive the encounter, but the spirit and heart are rarely repaired.

Evil’s greatest power is its ability to pass itself off as good, and no one is better at doing that than a predator. Weinstein has won numerous awards, has been hailed as a genius, and has been courted by politicians and other powerful players. He is getting a taste of how powerlessness affects the human soul. If he is guilty, I pray he finds the opportunity to reflect upon how many people he put in that same position. It’s not for me to judge Weinstein or any of the predators in my path. That is reserved for God. I can, however, stand up with confidence to those who see me as less than God created me to be and tell them they will have to deal with my Daddy if they mess with me.

So You Think You Can’t Sing!!

I was happily singing “The Orchestra Song” in fourth grade music class, when my music teacher sarcastically snipped, “You are not a violin!” He laughed and instructed me to try singing the clarinet part quietly.  The incident ranks very high on my list of most humiliating moments.

I learned the hard way that I couldn’t sing, and it took decades for me to unlearn that terrible lesson. I didn’t wait for someone to ask if I could sing, I volunteered the information every time I was in a singing situation to all those around me. It breaks my heart to hear someone say they can’t sing, dance, read, draw, or do any other activity that requires a particular skill. Doing begins with thinking, and a thoughtless remark can create the indelible tattoo “I can’t” on the heart of its recipient.

I’ve often wondered if my teacher realized the damage he did to my heart with his hateful remark. I’m not sure a comforting voice away from the class would have resulted in a different outcome, but it certainly would have been less humiliating than having to look at my peers while they enjoyed a good joke at my expense.

Fifty years later, during Holy Week of 2009, a very different teacher planted a singing seed in my heart. When I retired from teaching in 2007, I took on the job of Secretary/Treasurer at the church I was attending. My pastor, a former choral director, was in charge of music for the community Holy Week services and needed someone to accompany him. Those who had been helping him were not available, and he needed help.

When he asked me to sing, I thought he must be kidding. He knew how I felt about singing, so why would he ask me to sing in front of a group of people. I knew him well enough to know that he would never joke about something he knew was painful for me. He has a wonderful sense of humor, but I could tell by his countenance that he wasn’t kidding. The crowd was a loving group, so I decided to give it a shot.

As we practiced, John told me I had a beautiful voice. Again, I looked at him as if he had lost him mind; but he still had that serious look that let me know he wasn’t kidding. I lost myself in the songs and even sang a few verses alone. My heart was as light as it had ever been. When we got back to the church office, I asked him about ways to improve my voice. He gave me some pointers and explained that singing was mostly letting go and breathing. The rest could be learned in voice lessons. He said my voice fell naturally in the soprano range.

I floated out to the car that afternoon. I was a violin! There’s absolutely nothing wrong with being a clarinet; my mama had a beautiful alto voice which I tried to copy without success. In fourth grade, I was singing what felt right to me, and it turns out, I was right. My choir director and voice teacher both agree with John’s assessment. I am definitely a soprano.

When I decided to write this post, I looked up “The Orchestra Song” on youtube. My music teacher changed the words to the song. In his hateful version of the song, “the clarinet, the clarinet; he doesn’t know it but he learn it yet.” I remember that line vividly and decided, after trying to be a clarinet, that I was never going to get it.

Method and manner are very important when it comes to learning. My music teacher was a horrible example of what not to do. I thank God for placing another teacher in my path; the seed he planted eight years ago is finally beginning to bloom.

I decided to take voice lessons last month, and my teacher is amazing. I approached her after my grand daughters’ recital back in June and asked if she would be willing to teach me. She said she would love to. During the first lesson, she told me that she envied my range,  but my natural singing voice was a soprano. While practicing my “mee, mee, mees” during one lesson, she beamed and said, “Wow! What a wonderful meee!”

I laughed and replied, “I’ve been working on that me for fifty-five years!!”

 

Breathe…..

I’ve gotten back into yoga after decades away, and my body is both loving and hating it. I look like the tin man in most of the poses, but I’m beginning to feel my muscles let go as I make the connection between breathing and releasing tension. I’m thankful for a very patient teacher and a friendly group of supportive ladies who encourage me to stretch beyond my comfort zone.

Comfort and breathing go hand in hand. I have the tendency to hold my breath during difficult poses, and that causes my muscles to contract and stiffen my body. My yoga teacher is a patient, wonderful woman who comes around and helps us ease into the proper alignment. Obviously, she spends a lot of time with me.

She came over last week, stood in front of me, smiled, and began to shake my hips. She used the image of the old vibrating exercise machines to get me to loosen up. We both laughed because it was working. She did the same with my shoulders which, like my hips, lock into place at the first sign of stress.

I’m a visual learner who loves laughing, so the teacher’s technique was perfect. She certainly helped me relax and breathe. Yesterday during class, I found myself shaking my hips and shoulders while imagining myself on a 1950’s exercise contraption. The best teachers find a way to get their students to learn. Jackie did just that. In fact, the image helps outside of class. When I feel a little tension building, I just think of that crazy machine, laugh, and give myself a little jiggle.

Modern day versions of the old exercise machine are available. It turns out the workout can be beneficial when used correctly. I don’t think I’ll purchase a machine because recalling the image and the remembering the laughter is enough to get me to relax and breathe. Turns out letting go works as well with breathing as it does with loving.

Namaste -_-

Make Room

Making room for God requires letting go of self. That doesn’t mean I can’t be me; it simply means I can’t keep all of my stuff. When I moved into my tiny apartment in town, I had to downsize considerably. The home I shared with my son and his family for two and a half years was over 5,000 square feet. My new place is 550 square feet. My bedroom and bath were larger than my apartment, so I had some serious downsizing to do.

Taking stock of my belongings wasn’t easy, do I did it while the kids were away on vacation. I made three piles: treasures to keep, things to give away, and things to sell. Two of the piles were easy, but the one in the middle brought me to tears. I love books and had hundreds of them, but I knew they would never fit into my apartment. The same was true for all I had accumulated over the years. After agonizing over each possession, the largest pile held treasures I wanted to keep. I decided to deal with the other two first because they were easier on my heart.

The pile to sell was easy. I felt great after taking several car loads to a nearby consignment shop because I was going to get paid for letting go. I was energized and ready to tackle the give away pile. It was fun to think about who would love and appreciate the stuff I no longer needed. I started with materials and books from my classroom. I had given away a ton of materials when I retired. I left most everything behind in my classroom when I retired, but I did take special books and units with me just in case I decided to teach again.

I knew several wonderful young teachers, one a former student I knew would put my things to good use. She was elated, and that encouraged me to press on. It was time to deal with that troubling treasure chest at home. I made a new pile of things for my son. That was fun and made a big dent in the pile, but there was still the treasures to keep pile!

I decided to take a break and do some praying. God knew this was a hard process, and He knew that was more about letting go than sorting out. Not having room is convenient when it comes to homes and hearts. There is a certain safety in not having space because it keeps me from inviting in the new or stepping into the unknown. If I don’t have time or space, I don’t have to worry about growing. We all know that growing pains are very real and apply to more than teenage joints and muscles.

With God’s help, I was able to let go and grow into my tiny apartment with room to spare. I absolutely love my new home because it is filled, but not full. Simplifying was satisfying and opened the door for a similar transformation in my heart. My apartment and my heart are loving the openness. God is loving it too because His Holy Spirit has enough space to dance. That makes both of us very happy. My grand daughters are happy because they also have space to dance and play. Making room in a house or a heart isn’t an easy process; but once you create a little open space, you want more of it and will never be satisfied with crowded again.

Patience

Patience is a virtue that took over sixty years for me to grasp. It took a lot of patience on God’s part to teach me the importance of patience. Stillness and patience are kindred spirits, so it’s not surprising they came into my heart at the same time. I’m not claiming to always be still or patient, but I do have a greater understanding of both thanks to God’s lessons of late.

I’m learning to wait in a different way, and I believe that is at the heart of Advent. My busyness kept me from the patience and stillness needed to wait as God desires, but that was my own doing. Busyness is the perfect hiding place, and that was just what I was looking for. God, however, had something much better in mind.

Busyness kept all that was whirling around me from crashing down on me. Like staying in front of a wave on the shore, those breakers could not catch me if I kept moving. God knew I would have to face the waves eventually, and He knew they would break me. He also knew I must come to a stop on my own, so He didn’t force me. He just held my hand and picked me up after they hit.

Fear of the waves and a lack of faith kept me from experiencing the stillness and patience God knew would bring me nearer to Him, but He also knew it would only work when I chose to stop. As I told my grand daughter, God doesn’t cause the bad things that happen to us; He simply holds and loves us while they are happening. Like mommy and daddy, He is there to make sure we know we are never alone. She liked, and understood, that kind of love as only a loved child can.

In the same conversation, she asked if she could ask God for things. I told her God heard our prayers and would answer them, but we don’t say give me this or give me that to God. Her response was, “No, that’s Santa!” I grinned and said, “Yeah, and there’s a big difference!”

I love learning from my grand daughters, but I’m afraid they didn’t offer much help with patience and stillness. Children are wiser than we, but they are still novices when it comes to patience and stillness -particularly at this time of year 😉

They do, however, sit  beautifully still when there is something worth waiting for or watching. This photo of the girls is a beautiful example of just that.

 

Thankful

Embracing that which is in my path is giving me a grateful heart. I’ve wasted too much time fretting over what might have happened or what isn’t happening, and it’s kept me from enjoying what is. This Thanksgiving was the best ever because I savored every single moment.

One of the sweetest moments was when I held my new grand daughter while sitting between her big sisters. My heart was as complete as it’s ever been, and that caused me to pause and offer thanks to God in the stillness of that moment. Most of the moments were not still ones, but the stillness I was feeling didn’t require me or those around me to be still.

Thankfulness requires mindfulness, and mindfulness requires stillness. I’ve struggled with being still for most of my life because I saw it as something I had to do rather than something I could be. Relaxing into obedience is not sitting still and being quiet. I learned at an early age to do that or suffer the consequences. It took every fiber of my being to accomplish the feat, but fear is a powerful motivator.

The stillness God has in mind is not about sitting still or being quiet. It is about letting go and trusting God to know what He’s doing. True stillness allows me to see and hear things I never noticed, and that is allowing my heart to listen in a powerful way.

Hearing God, hearing my own heart, and hearing the hearts of others is what stillness is all about. I am very thankful to finally understand that beautiful truth.

 

Differentiated Unity??

Differentiated unity may sound like an oxymoron, but it is a beautiful truth I am learning to embrace. I first learned about self-differentiation eight years ago when a friend introduced me to the concept. He used a pencil and a rubber band to help me understand the difference between unhealthy fusion and healthy differentiation. I don’t pretend to be an expert on family systems, but I have learned to discern how being who I am allows me to connect as God desires.

Fusion creates a tight bond, but it is a bond that doesn’t allow movement or growth. It is the type of connection I preferred because there is a sick sort of safety with fusion. It’s concrete walls are a powerful form of protection. Self-differentiation requires letting go and allowing myself and those to whom I connect the room they need to expand, move, explore, and grow.

God is the ultimate example of self-differentiation. He describes Himself as The Great I AM. He is Who He is, and He always will be. He refuses to fuse, but so many Christians refuse to follow His example. It’s easier to fuse to a group or set of beliefs than it is to have a personal relationship with the Creator and those He created. I have struggled with the notion most of my life. My lack of faith caused me to focus upon what I could do for God and others and avoid differentiation.

Doing is, and always will be, much easier than being. Being requires stillness and trust that God knew what He was doing when He created me. I have to admit I have often believed He must have been having an off day when He created me. My early childhood cemented that belief into my head and my heart. I was not like everyone else. I knew this because my father pounded the notion into my body, and my mother whispered it into my spirit. Difference defined and confined my heart, so I and learned to make others happy by doing for them or making them laugh. It worked by all accounts, except for the one God was keeping in my heart.

I learned about self-differentiation in an honest, loving environment where I could be me and still be loved. I loved the freedom of being myself with someone who understood and encouraged, but I didn’t learn how to apply the learning to all aspects of my life until recently. Letting go is the test of self-differentiation, and anyone who has an adult child understands the pain involved in letting someone you love go so they can become their truest self.

As I watched my son love his family and help clean up after our wonderful meal, I was filled with pride. The mark of a great relationship is not how tightly I hold on to those I love, it is in how willing I am to let them go and grow into who they are meant to be. It is like the quote often attributed to Richard Bach, “If you love something, let it go; if it comes back, it’s yours. If it doesn’t, it never was.”

I never felt closer to my son than I did in a quiet moment when we hugged yesterday. I told him it was the best Thanksgiving ever, and he said that they just kept getting better and better. I will not completely understand self-differentiation until I am with God in heaven, but I experienced a sweet taste of it in that beautiful Thanksgiving hug.

The unity God desires does not come from holding on; it comes from letting go. Differentiated unity makes perfect sense to my heart. It took eight years for me to understand it, but that moment when it settled in my heart yesterday was well worth the wait 🙂