#MeToo

Social media feeds have been buzzing with the hashtag #MeToo, a movement started 10 years ago by activist Tarana Burke that catapulted into global attention this week with actress Alyssa Milano’s tweet to ‘give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem.’ 

The problem being sexual harassment, abuse and assault.

For many women, it’s a chance to speak up. To be heard. To realize we’re not alone.

Although not an easy thing to share, I add my #MeToo as a victim of violent assault: third year in university, wrong place, wrong time, bad stuff happens. Lying in the snow, battered and bruised, violated; suddenly life seemed important, a gift.

Faced with death, I asked God for life… and miraculously I survived.

Why is it so hard to share our stories? Why is it victims are ashamed? When will we get it through our heads “it’s not our fault?” Part of this shouting out is to let others know we are NOT alone.

And, we are NOT to blame.

Many suffer in silence, too afraid to say anything that might chip away at masks we put on that everything is OK. As a southerner I can masterfully whip on an ‘everything is fine’ mask. But, when you’ve endured abuse and assault, it’s certainly not fine or OK.

Back then, it was hard sharing even with close friends, because I didn’t want to drag them into the dark place of fear where I lived for awhile. Total terror, even in bright sunshine? Not an easy place to be.

A few years later, while working in D.C. in 1990 when a speaker couldn’t come to a monthly women’s gathering, a friend said, “Virginia, you should share your story.” It took a bit of courage to ironically give that talk entitled ‘Courage,’ but it opened something up in the women in that room as over half shared personal stories of abuse, rape, and assault.

Wealth, color, age – didn’t seem to matter (although we were mostly 20-somethings.)  It opened my eyes to how violence and abuse against women is such a horribly big issue. Not just here, but all around the world as I saw later in Kosovo, where rape was used as a weapon of war, and with Congolese refugees in Tanzania.

Today, when there have been over half a million tweets & Facebook “MeToos,” the magnitude of this challenge has not diminished. If anything, it’s worse.

“You are more than the bad things that happen to you. You are the grace that follows.” (Malaya, Code Black)

There’s a lot of horror associated with abuse and violence. Victims do not just immediately bounce back into the groove of life. It can take years to sort out, especially dealing with fears that jump us in all shapes, sizes, and ways. Insecurities, ditto. How we view ourselves? How we find our beauty grooves when denigration chips away at our insides?

Life is a gift, but sometimes it’s hard to receive when it comes in wrapping paper of suffering. It takes courage to open our hearts to love, the healing kind that’s God’s specialty, to find beauty again inside the gift of our lives. To let ribbons of celestial joy lift our desolation. To let the Everlasting Arms of God’s everlasting love encircle our hurts and ease our pain.

We cannot change what happened to us. Some scars will stay with us forever. But, we have a choice: these scars can be red and throbbing, debilitating, or we can let the white-hot poker of God’s love pass over them with healing grace.

Scars still, but white & fading.

It’s an arduous journey, courage required. One size does not fit all, but the love of God does, will, and is, all about helping us deal with impossible hurts in our hearts, our minds, our lives.

For me, there has been so much grace, so much healing, so much love.

God used that horrible event in my life to open my heart to helping others. From being scared of my shadow to later standing between gun-toting-soldiers and children in conflict zones – God dried my tears, took away my fears, and turned my pain into compassion for others with the healing love of Jesus.

As all these ‘#MeToos’ overwhelm us in magnitude, there is HOPE.

We are not alone.

grace, peace & hope

Virginia

She Walks in Beauty

She walks in beauty, like the night
Of cloudless climes and starry skies;
And all that’s best of dark and bright
Meet in her aspect and her eyes:
Thus mellow’d to that tender light
Which heaven to gaudy day denies.

Lord Byron

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TERESA OF AVILA (OCTOBER 15th!)

“The Lord does not look so much at the magnitude of anything we do as at the love with which we do it.”  –Saint Teresa of Avila

It’s late on this busy Sunday, but I wanted to post something about Teresa of Avila before the clock strikes twelve. (Cinderella Blogger must get grooving – without a glass slipper – although hanging out with a handsome prince would be nice.) 🙂

I am a huge groupie of this AMAZING woman of faith who lived a long time ago (1515-1582), but who continues 500+ years later to impact many people through her writings, life of dynamic faith, dedicated courage & passionate love of Jesus Christ. She loved Jesus with her whole being, everything of hers was His. She put all her trust in Him during tense times of the Inquisition, whilst writing when she was under rigorous scrutiny (one investigator priest consulted a huge stack of deep theological books “to understand an hour with Teresa”), and as she pushed for the reform of her contemplative order when many challenges were stacked against her.

Reading Saint Teresa of Avila’s books, “The Interior Castle” and “My Life” in my early 20s strengthened and deepened my faith in new ways. Teresa’s images of long ago are still relevant today as she likens our faith journey to a castle we enter level by level (dealing with tough internal stuff along the way.) Her “Way of Perfection is also excellent, and anything else of hers you can let your mind and heart to munch on! Her words have a way of jumping off the page and zapping our hearts, edging their way through difficult doors to get our interior change motors moving in Christ.

Saint Teresa’s strong sense of humor helped infuse joy in joyless times (like making a formal street procession with musical instruments after a lice infestation to mock the unwelcome critters out of her nun sisters’ hair!)

Teresa of Avila had a tough go of it as a woman in times when women did not have much recourse to realize their dreams and initiatives. Her father didn’t want her to be a nun, but she managed to become a nun anyway. She ended up as spiritual director of St. John of the Cross – totally radical for that time. Today, Teresa of Avila is a Doctor of the Church – the first woman so named, and one of only four (with St. Catherine of Sienna, St. Therese of Lisieux and Hildegard of Bingen.)

“Christ has no body now, but yours.
No hands, no feet on earth, but yours.
Yours are the eyes through which
Christ looks compassion into the world.
Yours are the feet
with which Christ walks to do good.
Yours are the hands
with which Christ blesses the world.”

Saint Teresa of Avila

Now Cinderella blogger must dash on to feast-making (on this feast day of one of her most favorite saints), taking to heart St. Teresa’s admonishment to her contemplative sisters who had to leave prayer stations for food duty:

“Know that if it is in the kitchen, the Lord walks among the pots and pans.”

grace, peace & (joyful) simmering pots

Virginia : )

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The Problem of Pain

That may be a title of a C.S. Lewis book, but, really, it is a problem.

PAIN.  It comes in all shapes and sizes.

Physical pain manifests in many ways (& places): sharp, tingling, zinging, aching, mind-numbing, nauseating pain in our tummies, backs, necks, knees, shoulders, elbows, kidney stones… (ouch!)

Heart pain runs rampant when our hopes for love are trampled, relationships run askew, partners let us down (or leave us), friends desert us, maybe our parents disappoint us, perhaps our children reject us or become a source of angst?

Life pain erupts when our dreams go off the rails, failure hounds us, we move three steps forward only to fall eight steps back, and nothing turns out like we hoped (or planned?)

Pain of loss catches us by the throat when the holes in our hearts and lives are so deep we feel like they will never be filled.

There’s the pain of unknowing, when fear looms larger than the best coping mechanisms we can muster and it hurts deep down in the recesses of our bewildered minds.

Certainly, there are more kinds of pain, but that’s an initial go at it. And this came to mind today, because?

Virginia’s neck discs are misbehaving again, zing, zing. Makes one reflective (in between steroids & loosen-up meds.)

Pain can be humbling, too. Asking others to do simple tasks? & waiting on the completion of said tasks? (Like vacuuming, which my kind brother has temporarily taken into his half of weekly chores.)

Another challenge with the problem of pain is how to maintain ‘nice’ when in the throes of it. Pain tends to make me grumpy. Pain killers make me loopy (more than normal.) Steroids set me over the edge (not edgier, just weirder.) While lucidity is generally preferred, sometimes pain makes us take our meds and live with the side stuff.

Although we may give others in our living spheres advice like SHIELDS UP (in Star Trek parlance), we may need to adapt our shields to prevent leaky pain valves decimating others with our steaming frustration.

We pray. And pray. And pray (some more.)

It doesn’t mean our pain goes away. Sometimes, as God wills, we are healed. Other times methinks God wants our reliance upped a notch (or two.)

That’s the thing about prayer and pain. After we pray our bodies, minds, hearts, and lives may still hurt, but God is good about filling us with peace to face whatever comes. Amidst hurt and pain swirling around us and within us, God is with us.

In the pain.

As we walk (or crawl) through our pain, one tiny step at a time, God’s Hands are there to hold the hands of our hearts with Divine Love, the kind that never ends.

We just need to reach out, ask & grasp God’s love. God’s peace. God’s grace. God’s mercy. God’s joy (that is available, even in suffering.)

Sounds weird, I know.

“Joy is a promise.” Madeleine L’Engle

Just ‘sayin. Virginia’s preaching to the choir today (herself!)

Here’s to asking & grasping God’s love, peace, grace, mercy, and joy to help us over – around – under – in – & through our pain.

grace, peace & pain management

: /   Virginia   : )

“God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks to us in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: Pain is God’s megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” C.S. Lewis

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Everybody (let’s do) Do the Wilbury Twist!!

Amidst horrific shootings in Las Vegas and the aftermath of rampant violence around the world, it’s hard some days to put the next foot forward. Add to that all those recovering from hurricanes in the Caribbean, Puerto Rico, Texas & Florida who have lost everything, where just accessing food and water is a struggle and rebuilding is a long journey of doing without, for now.

Our hearts and prayers (& pocketbooks) are with the suffering, as much as we can do.

But, there’s so much we can’t do, and therein lies the rub. We get depressed, or at least a bit overwhelmed, at the senselessness of it all.

We can cry out our frustration to God, ‘why, why, why?’ But, methinks God is more interested in answering our cries “help, help, help (please.)” And then we try to be light and love where we are (with Divine assistance.)

But, in the doldrums of bewilderment, there are also spirit-lifter-upper aids to get our feet moving forward (or at least tapping toward inertia.)

Music can lift our spirits. Really. It can (and does.)

Listening to NPR this morning, I was saddened to hear Tom Petty died yesterday. While his status as a rock star giant with his Heartbreakers band from the 1970s-1990s is cemented in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, I came to appreciate his musicianship in the Traveling Wilburys.

Working in a Middle East conflict zone in the 1990s, a friend visiting from Paris introduced me to the Traveling Wilburys. Their music quickly became (& remains) a favorite – inducing happy vibes into challenging days spent dodging bullets & stones whilst trying to do something about mind numbing injustice & poverty.

Five rock music giants – Roy Orbison, George Harrison, Jeff Lynne, Bob Dylan and Tom Petty – got together in friendship and created music, for the love of music, in their 1988 “Traveling Wilburys Volume 1.” Followed up a few years later with “Traveling Wilburys Volume 3.” (Roy Orbison died between the two compilations.)

Although these rock greats released Traveling Wilburys under assumed names (Nelson, Otis, Lefty, Charlie T. Jr, and Lucky), it quickly became (& remains) a best-seller because their music is so good, fun, and foot-tapping uplifting.

“Music is real magic: it affects human beings, it can heal, it can do wonderful things…a lot of people have told me, your music got me through a really hard time.” Tom Petty

Amen.

Thankful for Tom Petty (& the Traveling Wilburys), the joy of their music that lifted my spirits during tough times – and continues upbeating me from their position high on the playlist.

When your outsides in (inside out)
And your downsides up (upside down)
Yeah, your upsides right (rightside up)
Yeah, don’t it make you wanna twist & shout
When you’re inside out

The Traveling Wilburys

Let’s all do the Wilbury Twist!!

grace, peace & upbeating music legacies

Virginia : )

R.I.P. Tom Petty!

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Snapshots & Whatnot: DON’T PANIC!!

Snapshot…

& Whatnot…

Sometimes things just don’t go our way. We try to keep on going when suddenly it’s raining hiccups. Other times we can’t figure a way out of our challenges. Over, under, around – all blocked – the only way is to muddle through them (however frightening they may be.)

Then, there are times when a catastrophe looms on the horizon.

The unexpected hurricanes of our lives.

It’s easy to panic. But, take some sage advice from my pillow (hitched from Douglas Adams’ Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy): 

DON’T PANIC!!

The sun may (or may not) come out tomorrow, but we can take this reminder to heart:

“When we are feeling sad, when it feels like everything is going wrong, we should remember: God loves me. God never abandons me.”  Pope Francis

grace, peace & hope

Virginia : )

p.s. Posted this quote on Instagram a few weeks back, but it kinda fits here with the no panic theme. A little more perspective from one of my favorite authors…

“I have sometimes been wildly, despairingly, acutely miserable, but through it all I still know quite certainly that just to be alive is a grand thing.” Agatha Christie

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Pages of My Life

Turning the pages of my life, there are some chapters I’d rather not revisit. Tough times weathered my own way, not necessarily the right way.

Perhaps there wasn’t a right way per se, bumbling about the fringes of ok and not ok, but I somehow passed through intact (if barely.)

Ever-evolving scars – some harsh and throbbing, others healed and fading – fill pages of my life (the hardest to write, and read.)

Certain moments define us, who we are, who we become.

Choices: to rise above or be crushed under life’s load.

Reactions: to multiply the good and survive the bad, learning from mistakes, seizing failure as an opportunity to grow.

Seizing failure?” Yeah, right. (A whimsical theory reality seemingly abdicates.)

I have failed, at times spectacularly.

But what defines us, and me, is how we get up again.

And again.

To keep trying, to keep on going.

I have gotten stuck for long whiles at the end of a chapter until muddled into moving on to the next one. Other times life zoomed by so fast I could barely hold on to mark ends and new beginnings.

Yes, I have failed, and at times succeeded (by the grace of God.)

Alive to hope, love and joy – being all three.

We have choices how we write the pages of our lives. We can choose to courageously write our narrative even if the plot of our lives has spiraled out of our control.

Facing fears and myriad challenges is difficult, because this thing called life is difficult (courage required.)

It’s a choice. We can choose to courageously write hope after pages of despair leave our hearts gaping and gasping for air.

We can choose to write love, and be love.

And, get by with not just a little help, as per the Beatles, but a lot of help from our friends. “I’m gonna try with a little help from my friends…”

Who add words of hope in the pages of our lives and help us weather tough times, together.

“You aren’t an accident or an incident; you are a gift to the world, a divine work of art, signed by God.” Max Lucado

grace, peace & life pages

Virginia : )

p.s. Scribbling notes a few days ago about the pages of my life, this post crystallized after Bernadette over @ Haddon Musings posted an inspiring blog (& amazing photo) about writing the chapters of our lives. Together – with friends. You can access it by clicking here: Do Not Judge My Story By the Chapter You Walked in On

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a Funny Thing called LOVE

It’s not Valentine’s Day, but for some reason got to pondering (& pontificating) about love, that word that sometimes stands us on our heads. 

Love is a funny thing.

We think we want it, but all the work that goes in it, not so much.

Because love is about commitment. Not just butterflies in our tummies and hormone rushes, but the decision to love day in and day out.

Washing up together, forever? Through tough stains, crusted plates, and cracks that come. Perhaps a few shattered glasses?

Love continues despite it all – mending, tending, fending for one another. At times sparkling, at other times barely holding on.

Love keeps working at it, despite the strains that inevitably come.

Love keeps trying: making an effort, taking initiative, offering sponges of forgiveness when needed (and necessary.)

Love is not always easy, not by a long shot.

Letting go of me to become we.

But love, funny thing that it is, makes the world of our hearts go around and around. And keeps it spinning through ups and downs.

Love can take us to the highest peaks of our miserly existence, filling us with a sparkling joy that inspires, ignites and empowers us to do and be more, more, more.

For others. For ourselves. For Love.

Love can also leave us desolate and despairing when our loved ones are gone.

But joy, the joy of loving and being loved, this joy is a spark that makes life worth living. A spark that keeps our hearts alive in the afterglow when distant memories fill the treasure chests of our lives.

Love is a funny thing. It is. Indeed.

Pass that next dish. I’ll get the soap, you do the rinse.

grace, peace & washing-up (forever) love

Virginia : )

p.s. My parents were married 58 years before Papa passed, suffering 25+ of those years from a debilitating disease that left him a bedfast quadriplegic. Mama looked after him tirelessly. Papa called her his ‘care lover.’ You wouldn’t believe how mushy they could get, whispering sweet everythings to each other, not realizing just how loud their ‘whispers’ had become (heard clearly by minion daughter at the other end of the house during my caregiving gig.) Mama passed a year and a few months after Papa, but the legacy of their love lives on in the treasure chests of our hearts and lives.

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