A Perfect Moment: {STOP}

This week.

So many things clamoring. So much demanding attention.

I don’t know about you, but my personal life is a roller coaster.

Surgery in January. A close death in our family. Homeschooling three kids. Graduating a senior.

Just doing dishes has been a challenge. I’ve been sleeping under a pile of waiting-to-be-folded laundry at the end of my bed for a week. It’s kind of like another blanket.

The last couple of months were a blur as life and errands and kids and tasks and grief and joy rushed by.

And then, one night this week, it rained.

Like, really rained.

The sky poured. Pounded on the roof and on my windows, the most comforting sound.

I put on new flannel pajamas. I picked up a mystery that I had waiting by my bed and climbed under the covers. And the laundry.

The dark and the rain and the novel and the blankets wrapped me up in a beautiful pause. I needed this.

I heard little feet and looked up.

My youngest stood next to the bed in her pajamas, holding a teddy bear and a worn copy of The Secret Garden.

She looked at me with big green eyes as the thunder rolled.

“You want to join me?” I asked her.

She smiled a little sheepish smile. And jumped on the bed.

We pulled up the down comforter and read in the lamplight.

A few minutes later, my husband came in. He lay down next to us and put on his glasses and started reading the news and checking the weather.

It was a perfect family moment. I smiled and read on.  My mystery turned a corner. I shivered.

And then my head jerked up.

I looked over at my husband, sleepy and checking on all the things.

I looked at my daughter, head on my shoulder, teddy held tight, book in hand.

I looked out the window, the dark night, the rain drizzling down the glass.

And I looked around my room.

I felt solid and slow and electrified and aware all at once, like time folded in on itself and expanded simultaneously, the two ends of time swelling out and meeting like a ribbon or an ocean wave, right on top of me in my bed.

That’s the best I can do to explain it.

Arrested in a moment. Time stopping, but speeding up, and you have to grab it to make it count.

Once, when my oldest daughter was a toddler, I sat in the floor with her in our living room, playing with a puzzle. I was like most young parents, I think, in that I wanted to play with her, but I had a list running through my mind of all the other things that needed to be done. Clean the bathroom. Make some phone calls. Go to the store. Start supper. And laundry. Always laundry.

I loved watching the careful way she picked up the pieces, how she tried to put them in place with fingers that didn’t quite know how to do what she wanted.

I loved the way her hair curled over her round pink cheeks and the serious expression on her baby face. Intelligence incubating in sweetness. Pure vulnerability trusting me to teach her independence, the paradox of parenting. Precious, perishable time.

But the to-do list. It nagged at me. My own need for busyness. I felt restless, but I hadn’t yet let myself run away.

Lily looked at me, frowning, and held out a piece of the puzzle.

I reached out to take it, and over her shoulder, I saw the stop sign on the corner outside my window.

And that thing, that Minkowski spacetime thing, it happened again.

Time stood still, and yet I could feel it racing on, straining against the clock. Everything froze and blurred except the sign, and it grew larger and clearer and threatened to outshine the sun.

Huge and clear in white letters on a bright red field in front of my eyes.

STOP.

And I felt a buzzing like a light shock from an old refrigerator, and yet, also, a first-waking morning drowsiness. An awareness, and yet a stillness.

And I looked at her. And back at the sign.

And I stopped. And I told myself–it can wait. All the nagging to-dos. They could wait.

And I looked at at my daughter as through a frozen glass, she so clear, and misted white light all around her.

It’s a snapshot in my mind.

Like the other night.

The rain and the books and the dark windows and warm blankets and my husband and my daughter.

A perfect moment.

{STOP}

Stop and seize the time.

If you haven’t done it in a while, do it now.

Stop. Really stop. Lay down your phone. Put down the coffee and the stuff in your hands. Take a breath. Feel your feet, they are cold, or they are warm, in socks or shoes or bare on the floor. Be aware of your shoulders, your forehead, your scalp, all the parts of you that get forgotten in all the hustle of all the days.

Who is in front of you? Look. See. They are there for a reason, a divine appointment.

God, what would you have me do? What do they need? He is beautiful. She is beautiful.

Be grateful.

Thank you, God. For my feet. For my hands. For this moment. For the sensations, pleasant or unpleasant, that let me know that I am alive, stirred, charged, tingling, electric.

{STOP}

***

Seize life! Eat bread with gusto! Drink wine with a robust heart. Oh, yes! God takes pleasure in your pleasures. Dress festively every morning. Don’t skimp on colors and scarves. Relish life with the spouse you love each and every day of your precarious life. Each day is God’s gift–it’s all you get in exchange for the hard work of staying alive. Make the most of each one! Whatever turns up, grab it and do it. And heartily! This is your last and only chance at it, for there’s neither work to do nor thoughts to think in the company of the dead, where you’re most certainly headed. Ecc 9:7-10

 

 

 

 

 

 

Prayer for Loss

We had a death in our family this week. Today I’m praying for those who have suffered loss. <3

Father,

I lift up my friends who are hurting. I lift up anyone who has lost a loved one or feels any form of loss.

Thank You that You are a comforter and You are always there, no matter how we feel, no matter the circumstances.

God, I ask for Your touch on Your children, Your presence near enough to be felt. I ask for healing for all family members, friends, and loved ones who feel left behind, for those who feel shocked by suddenness or drained by a long battle, for those who feel betrayed and abandoned and robbed by death–Lord, bring comfort. Bring peace. Bring a light into the fog of grief.

Father, for those who are watching loved ones in the last stages of life, I ask for chances to say things that have been left unsaid until now. I ask for healing in relationships. I ask for salvation. We command pain to go, in Jesus’ name. Peace, peace, peace come in to spirits, souls, and bodies.

I ask that You walk each one through their own unique experience with grief. Whatever needs to happen, however they need to do it, Lord, help Your children through the shadow.

I ask for healing tears for Your time, and then for tears to end and life to go on in a way that honors our loved ones. Help us know and discern the rightness of the times and to press in to each time as it comes.

I pray for supernatural grace and stability when the whole world seems to be shaking.

I pray that old vices stay out of our way. We will not turn to any idol during this season. We will only turn our faces to You. Help us to keep our eyes on You. And if we stumble, God, thank You that You never leave us or forsake us. You are there to help us back on our feet again, always, and no matter what we have done.

I pray for healing. For forgiveness. For release. For peace in every way. For help in the practical things of life that go on oblivious of our sadness. For Your love to envelop and cover all. For tender mercies through tragic times.

We love You, Lord.

Thank You that You take us just as we are. Just as I am.

We lay it all at Your feet. All the regret and grief and loss. The new season that feels like so many things are missing. Lord, show us how to walk this out. Your grace is sufficient. Let us know the peace of Christ that passes all understanding.

In Jesus’ name.

Amen.

***

I keep hearing the old hymn this week, Just As I Am.

Thankful He takes us, always, whatever condition we are in, just as we are.

Just as I am, though tossed about
With many a conflict, many a doubt;
Fightings within, and fears without,
O Lamb of God, I come, I come!

Crybully Epidemic: Hijacked Stories of the #MeToo Movement.

The crybully connection.

I didn’t see it when I first saw #metoo.

I read a few stories. I posted my own #metoo.

It didn’t feel like crybullying–a mess of pitiful tantrums intended to control others with emotional blackmail–no.

It didn’t feel like that.

It felt like a way to participate in a sisterhood. A way to encourage hurting women who felt devalued and attacked. A way to increase awareness of a social problem in our country.

When I was in high school and college, I dealt with some degree of assault several different times.

It was humiliating, and it was terrifying.

I posted my own #metoo.

 

I started waitressing when I was sixteen years old. The first guy that grabbed me was well over fifty. I had absolutely no grid for what was happening in front of the table that I was supposed to be serving, a table of two couples in their thirties. They all stared while he went through his routine. No one said anything. No one stood up for me.

I couldn’t look at my table after he left. I rushed through their table service. Two adult men and two adult women, and not one of them said anything to him or to me, as young as I was. It would have meant a lot if one of those women had said to me, “Me too.” Or if any one of those people would have said just about anything to make me feel like it wasn’t my fault, and I wasn’t being judged. That there were ways I could stand up for myself. That I was worth more than being grabbed by a certain type of man.

When I wrote my #metoo story, I didn’t even mention the waitressing grab. Several other things happened to me over the years, things that were much more serious. I wrote about those. They left me with horror, and with awareness. They left me a little bit cynical and resigned to things that happen to women when they encounter a certain type of man.

A certain type of man.

A couple of months later, the #metoo movement exploded into something unforeseen.

Not long after I posted my story, the Harvey Weinstein stories began to come out. Woman after woman in Hollywood had a story about Harvey.  These stories are awful. Harvey is a “certain type of man.”

A certain type of man.

 

But I watched more and more accusations being made in the media, and the tone suddenly changed. And I started to feel like my #metoo, and many others, had been hijacked and exploited.

A story I shared to encourage others felt like it changed into something else, like it had been snatched up and melded into a tiny part of a huge crybully epidemic.

I started to feel like my #metoo had been hijacked and exploited.

 

I heard accusations against more and more men, made with more and more degrees of uncertainty, and less and less hard evidence. These accusations include a recent one against comedian Ansiz Ansari. If you haven’t heard this #metoo, it’s basically a woman’s account of a really bad date and some unfortunate choices made by both people.

The essence of the woman’s accusation is that Ansari was insensitive. He didn’t order the kind of wine she liked at dinner. He failed to read her mind. But. She wasn’t being forced. She went to his house of her own will. She stayed there. She never said “No.”

When I was attacked, I said, “No.” In fact, I yelled it while I kicked the guy in the nuts.

It is important that people feel heard.

It’s tremendously important that victims of actual crimes see justice and get the help that they need. It’s tremendously important that women are healed.

It is important that people feel heard.

 

At the same time, the #metoo movement seemed to stir up something else.

There is something about the #metoo movement that conflates real abuse with waist grabbing. (One of the actual officially listed accusations against Senator Al Franken. He squeezed someone’s waist during a photo-op.)

This ambiguity is epitomized by the confusion around the emergence of the Aziz Ansari #metoo story. Anyone who says that Ansari doesn’t deserve to be accused of sexual assault is in turn at risk of being accused–by a certain group of so-called feminists–of perpetuating rape culture.

As though a bad date is the equivalent of an actual rape.

This attitude delegitimizes real abuse. It devalues the real #metoo stories.

This attitude delegitimizes real abuse.

 

And now, many women are coming forward in the media with more and more unverified accusations against men in the public eye. And these accusations have almost all been treated as complete truth, with one man after another getting fired or stepping down from their jobs, as the innocent until proven guilty adage seems to be largely ignored.

There have been very few cases where hard evidence proves that every one of these men is, indeed, a certain type of man.

And even more accusations, particularly by actresses in Hollywood, against abusers that they refuse to name. Actresses, who not long ago, were seen schmoozing with the same perpetrator they gathered to malign, Harvey Weinstein. Actresses who are on record calling known child-molester Roman Polanski a “god.”

Bravery names names. It doesn’t lecture, and virtue-signal, and victim-compete without following through. 

The innocent until proven guilty adage seems to be largely ignored.

 

The posture of Hollywood contrasts starkly with victims in the recent case of Larry Nassar where women came forward in a courtroom, rather than grandstanding for the media. They saw justice through to the legal fulfillment. They didn’t vaguely allude to abuse and then back down.

Women should have justice.

And.

Men should also have justice.

Lives should not be destroyed, just because they can, by false or unproven accusations.

In many cases, women in Hollywood have been unwilling victims of Harvey and others on the infamous casting couch.

Women should have justice. And. Men should also have justice.

 

The casting couch is sick. It is a disaster. It is a social ill that has been well-documented since the beginnings of Hollywood. And all of us have looked the other way. It’s a good thing to see it being addressed.

But we have to differentiate between rape and ugly consensual agreements between adults.

It is also true that many of these women participated in the casting-couch culture, not unwillingly, but willingly.

It is unfortunate that the casting couch exists. But, it is also something that an actor or actress can walk away from. The casting couch might stand between a person and a high-profile acting job, but it does not stand between a person and every acting job. And it does not stand between a person and a good life.

In many cases, participating in casting-couch culture has been a consensual agreement by all involved.

It is absurd for Hollywood women to lecture us and threaten men that “time’s up” when these same women willingly and knowingly participated in a system that trades sex for jobs. One of the women in the Harvey Weinstein case, when asked why she never came forward, told police, “Harvey said, ‘You’re ready to become a real actress now.’ It’s what you do. You keep silent.”

How many other women were victimized by Harvey after this rape because this woman waited years to speak up, because “silent” is what you do?

These are sad stories.

 

I have seen video of famous women talking about letting famous men into their hotel rooms, but, if they had known that a man was only going to end up a C-list celebrity, they never would have let him in. I have read articles by actresses talking about the distress that they experienced as they did things in front of the camera that they didn’t want to do but did anyway because they didn’t want to lose a role.

These are sad stories.

These women are hurting. They need to know their true value. They need unconditional love and deep healing.

But cooperating within a corrupt culture does not make them heroes.

Many of these women, unlike actual sexual assault victims, were willing participants in a sick and perverted system.

If you did something you wish you hadn’t done, that is regret.

And as the saying goes, regret is not rape.

Cooperating within a corrupt culture does not make them heroes.

 

If you have violent stress symptoms in your body as you anticipate a sexual act that you are about to participate in by your choice without force, but you ignore those symptoms and go on and do that act as part of a job, there is a word for that. It is prostitution.

And if you do it in front of a camera, it is pornography.

Just because these women are famous, and have wealth, and some form of respect, that does not change the nature of what they are participating in, and honestly, what we are all participating in when we pay Hollywood to continue to entertain us at such a high price.

Regret is not rape.

 

I couldn’t help but think as I watched coverage of the last few awards shows, where were these powerful women when child star after child star came forward over the years with stories of pedophile abuse in Hollywood?

The recent documentary, An Open Secret, is well-researched and full of concrete evidence, including recorded confessions, against Hollywood pedophiles in high places. But the film was finally released for free on the internet after seeking and failing to find patrons and distributors for over two years.

Any one of a myriad of Hollywood women could have backed that film. What a statement of actual bravery that would have been.

Bravery does not crybully.

Bravery protects.

The feminist movement constantly accuses culture of infantilizing women.

Allowing women to participate in a known corrupt culture without asking them to also take responsibility for their conscious actions?

There is no worse form of infantilization.

Bravery protects.

 

There is an element of responsibility that mature adults take for themselves and their behavior, independent of others.

When we as women don’t take responsibility for ourselves and our choices, we keep ourselves from fully growing into our potential. And isn’t that really what feminism is all about? Isn’t that what God asks of us, to the best of our ability? Women, and men, actualized and activated in their greatest possible forms?

When we don’t take responsibility for our own power, we risk creating a culture of fear around us. And we risk destroying what every woman who has gone before us worked for us to enjoy.

I don’t want women to be shut out by men professionally or socially because men are afraid of what could happen if some woman chooses to accuse them of any thing at any time.

I won’t be in a hurry to jump on a # bandwagon anytime in the future. I no longer trust the culture with my stories. I’ll tell them in my own way, my own time.

Below are some great quotes from an excellent article entitled “Meet the Women Worried About #metoo.” You can find it at spiked-online.com.

***

The novelist Kingsley Amis used to say: ‘Women are trouble – keep them out of all institutions.’ He was a misogynist, but such notions will revive if women portray themselves as so fragile that they can’t deal with the small change of everyday life with robust common sense. ~Mary Kenny

 

Girl Power is real. Instead of carrying on about how frightened and degraded we are, maybe it’s time to acknowledge the truth: In 2017, we can destroy almost any man by a single accusation.

With power comes responsibilities. As Wesley Yang said, in the best article yet on the #MeToo frenzy: ‘Feminists should remember something they know well from their own experiences with men:  Nobody is so dangerous, to themselves and others, as a person or collectivity that wields power without acknowledging it.’  ~Christina Hoff Summers

 

The #MeToo campaign is very worrying and will achieve the opposite of what it pretends to want. The hashtag claims to be about empowering women to speak out when actually it is turning women into perpetual victims.

Women who put up with sexual harassment and keep quiet about it for years, protecting the perpetrators, are hailed as heroines and strong, powerful feminists. Yet, bizarrely, women who speak out and deal with sexual harassment forcefully at the time, and then happily move on with their lives as I and millions of other women have done over the years, are derided as ‘victim-blamers’ or even ‘rape apologists’. It’s almost as if a woman is only ‘the right kind of woman’ if she is willing to play the victim. ~Julia Hartley-Brewer

 

My greatest concern is that the #MeToo phenomenon creates a toxic narrative that casts every male as a potential predator and every female as a perpetual victim. This can be enormously damaging for women, particularly young girls who, despite having every advantage and legal protection in the West, grow up believing they face enormous, perhaps insurmountable, barriers. . . .Meanwhile, modern feminism all but ignores the plight of the most oppressed women around the world who are subjugated from the cradle to the grave. ~Rita Panahi