Dear College

Dear College,

My first two years at school, I partied far more than I’d like to admit, I made pitifully average grades, and I struggled emotionally. My last two years, I had matured significantly, I made increasingly excellent grades, I sought counseling (however unsuccessfully), I worked a part time job, and I found my calling in education. 

I also finally talked with my parents about the assault. 

My very first week at your school, I was sexually assaulted by a fraternity boy, and that introduction to a social life at College colored my entire four year experience. College came with many sweet friendships, growth experiences, a variety of adults that held influence over future choices, and an opportunity for personal maturity and growth. And yet. 

My junior year, I finally went to the counseling center on campus to talk with a therapist about dealing with the lingering emotional turmoil surrounding the event. I wanted to go home to talk with my parents, but I was nervous.  I asked the school therapist for help in sorting through the mixture of emotions I didn’t know how to process. Joining a sorority, being popular, weekends full of parties, and flirting with college boys had only exacerbated the deeper yearning to be “fine” that was secretly driving my destructive behaviors. Yet telling my parents that I had been assaulted meant explaining that I had been out drinking heavily. It meant admitting choices I knew to be negative and in direct conflict with how I had been raised to think and behave. It meant admitting that for two years, I had hidden my secret instead of seeking help. I did not want to have that conversation, but I knew I must have that conversation. The therapist (your therapist) asked if I really needed to talk with my parents and implied that maybe I should deal with the incident myself. 

Did I really even need counseling? 

I hadn’t been raped, per se, so wasn’t I being a bit overly dramatic or creating more chaos than necessary?

Maybe – Was I just afraid of being on my own in the world and searching for attention? 

Thankfully, I’ve never been the best at following directions. Ignoring the ridiculous advice of that therapist (your therapist), I went home to have a heart to heart with my parents anyway. Simply being open with them gave me the confidence to turn my college experience around. My final semester, I finally received a 4.0.

So, I guess what I want to say is…

Dear College,

Talk about assault. 

Talk about safety. Talk about bullies and victims. Keep your doors open to those students that need to walk through them to you. Listen when girls misbehave in ways that point to trauma. Talk about trauma. Listen to boys that misbehave in ways that point to trauma. Talk about trauma. Talk about brain changes and PTSD and pregnancy and abortion and drugs and drinking and the next day. 

Talk about the walk of shame. (Surely by now we all know what I’m referring to. But why is it the victim seems to get the honors? Talk about that.)

Talk about The Next Day

Then. Talk about grace and redemption and love and support and also. 

Listen. 

Listen for signs of hopelessness and guilt and shame and confusion and sadness and anger and humor. Listen for the self deprecating humor. Listen for the covering up of the vulnerable. 

Talk about suicide and second chances. Talk about religion. Talk about Jesus. Talk about Buddha. Talk about death and nothingness and family and friends and dorm life. Talk about showering. Talk about showering on The Day After. Talk about sex. Talk about love and lust and kissing. Talk about dating. Talk about sweatpants and yoga pants. Talk about failure. Talk about money, and stress, and those freaking Joneses. Talk about bodies. Talk about being in a melting pot of a bajillion people the same age and how the real world is not like a college campus. Talk about homesickness. Talk about mommas. And dads. And little siblings. Talk about the loneliness in the midst of a campus full of people. Talk about grades too. Talk about taking each day one step at a time. One teeth brushing victory at…. A…. Damn…. Time.

Then. Talk about grace and redemption and love and support and also.

Listen. 

Because.

I guarantee I am not alone in my journey on your campus. I have written this letter over and over and over in my mind for twenty five years, and it never comes out eloquently. But. Listen still. 

Dear College, 

Listen.

Talk about assault.

Sincerely,

Your graduate and a Boy Mom of a rising College freshman

Home

When I was a little girl, I begged my momma to let me stay home alone while she ran an errand. Feeling big and brave, I insisted I’d be fine. Knowing I would be, Momma left me in the living room while she drove two blocks to get us hot dogs and come straight back home.

Home.

Immediately after she left, I panicked – a little girl, big scary world, full blown anxiety attack. When Momma came back a long ten minutes (lifetime of misery) later, she found me hanging on the brick wall of the garage screamin’ crying out of fear. I couldn’t handle the house all by myself, and had instead come to wait for her arrival out in the carport.

Home.

I loved that house. Oh, it held treasures! We had six bedrooms, rotating family, one whole room dedicated to our books, our own library! My father had a wood working shop, and there was this huge basement full of exciting surprises that could entertain any child’s imagination for hours. The kicker was that to get to the basement door, one must either brave this freaky carved mask with beady eyes that my parents hung over the stairwell or go out and around to the dungeon door off the yard. I chose to puff up my chest, hold my breath and run clodding down the stairs as fast as possible past the mask. Every time. Until we moved.

Home.

Years ago, I don’t know how many moves later, my older sister lived in a house in Atlanta with a basement and she hung that same dreadful mask over the stairwell. She had her own children by then. Why on Earth would she subject a whole new generation to the mask? Tradition? Nostalgia? A twinge of evil? As the younger sibling, the latter is a reasonable assumption.

Home.

Today I live in a beautiful historic home in downtown York. We’re in the heart of southern charm, we’ve found our place, and we’re settled. And yet. We’re selling it. Seven years ago, this house gave us the hope of finality, and for someone it may become that. It has been standing here in this very spot for ninety years minus a few months. I’m guessing it’s seen it’s lifetime of stories. It’s withstood almost a century of human experiences, and so it will continue to serve its community well. Our own stories are tucked gently within its walls.

When my husband left, that hope of finality for us staying here left as well. It’s taken us over two years to live into that truth, and all during that time our house has unmistakably been our refuge. It’s loved us through a bunch of just plain Hards, a sanctuary for us to escape – a birthplace for our changed family and our strengthened, resilient selves.

Home.

My momma went Home five years ago. I talk with her all the time, hear her voice in my conscious, think back to all the times when dramatic me had gotten so worked up, and can still see her sighing, “Oh Patrish.” I feel her hugs and her practical, sarcastic wit pulling me back into the present. Oh, Momma. Her kindness. Her patience with me in my irrational moments. Mom embodied “home”.

Dad still lives in their house, invited in a new wife who’s different from Mom but worthy of her place there. That house needed a woman again, and while a bit awkward at times, her merging of their lives provides a chance to witness growth. New love. (And new love, even in eighty year olds, is just as cheesy as new love in teenagers. Still fun to watch.)

Home.

We get incredibly attached to our buildings, our bits, and our things. We think we aren’t that connected to our simple clutter until change introduces itself, and then we panic all over again. It is completely true that Home is in the people, not the tangible, but it’s still a Hard Good – moving. The boys and I run the gamut of emotions on any given day on how we feel about letting someone new live in our house while we’re gone on this next adventure. Of course these people will have paid for this house and taken over the deed (and would probably be a bit disturbed if we showed back up announcing our adventure finished). But. The ownership of this space will still be ours until another landing spot deems itself worthy of the title.

Home.

H.O.M.E.

Home.

Penee with Penny Moss

People of Yorkville Series

Penee with Penny Moss

Me: How long have you been in business?

PM: 17 years. I’ve been in this location (26 North Congress) a little over a year. I started out at 17 North Congress and I was there five or six years and then that building sold, so I had to move. I was going to build onto my house, and Ann over here at Hummingbird Florist heard I was leaving downtown, and she said, ‘You can have my building.  I’ll give you the same rent. We don’t want you to leave downtown; you’re a big asset.’ So I moved from 17 down to 35, which is now Holley’s Beaded Dragon.

Penny goes on to explain that she then, through a series of events, ended up moving across the street to 26 North Congress, which is where her spa currently resides.

We’re having conversation about client base, where people come from…

PM: My type of business, these days people fist pump, they use hand sanitizer, they don’t like people touching them. They communicate through typing and text, you know; nobody really gets touched. Especially if you’re single. And so a destination like this, once you come to relax – and I won’t even just say Penee – a massage therapist, somebody you can connect with and that can also touch you and can pray over you….you remember that. It stays in your heart.

God called me to this. He gave me a vision. I was working in corporate America and I had a terrible day one day. And I went and got a massage. I went to Carmen and Carmen because I worked in downtown Charlotte. I went in and I was like – I need a massage, I need to relax. She said, ‘We don’t have any massage appointments available but we have a facial.’  I’d never had a facial before, but I took her word and went in. And sure enough, I was at one of those crossroads in life and I was laying there and I was in tune with the Spirit and He gave me a vision. He showed me doing what she was doing to me. And I thought, gosh, this is what I need to do! I researched it, went and took out my 401K, lived off my 401k, went to school, and opened up my business in December.

She went on to share about getting started and moving into her own space, the first space at 17 North Congress.

It has been like that. He (God) has opened doors. Every time.

Penee - Penny Moss
Penny Moss sharing essential oil samples

Me: Memorable clients, moments, stand out poignant instances?

PM: I would say this is the one… The Lord put a specific calling on my life. He said you will make people happy and you will inspire a billion. And I didn’t know what “billion” meant. And then He sent me to the Pregnancy Crisis Center and I learned that one in three women have had an abortion. Well, I had an abortion in my early twenties and I knew God had forgiven me, but I didn’t realize I hadn’t forgiven myself. So I actually got healed from an abortion I had 20 years ago. It put me in dangerous situations with men, with life, I didn’t feel I was worthy, and I overdid myself trying to make up for that. And I got healed there. So, I am a career counselor there on Wednesday, and I counsel women that are in crisis situation.  …  Well, when I share my testimony here (Penee), and I don’t share it with just anybody, but when God lays it on my heart to share, I would say those instances are the ones I remember.

Penny goes on the share that when she shares her story at her spa, women will open up and share their stories with her. Women that have had their own abortions, their own traumas early in life and haven’t ever told their husbands. Women open up about burdens they’ve held on to from before ….. Before marriage, before kids, before ____.

PM: And it is such freedom to be able to speak it. And some of these women have never said it. And when they say it, it’s just a flow of tears, and the enemy can’t hold them anymore. It’s like Vegas in here. What is said in here, stays in here, and people know that. It’s a place to come out of the world, to just come in here and be gone for a little bit and just recharge.

What is a facial?

Penee 3I have a 30 minute, 1 hour, and an hour and a half. If you’re a beginner, and you just want to feel it out, I recommend the 30 minute, but after, you’re usually like, Ohh, I need an hour at least! It like Starbucks – you got the tall, the grande, and the whatever.

There’s a double cleansing, an exfoliating mask, a peeling mask, I put it on and I have these cucumber eye patches and then I start the massage. I start with the decollete (the shoulder blade, chest area), and then I go to the shoulders, and the neck and down the arms and then I put a heated bag across your chest. Then I go down and I massage your feet. Our hands and our feet are all connected to our organs, so I use different massage techniques on your hands and feet. I put essential oils on your feet. I have a scanner I use on your hand so I know what oils to use, and I put a hot towel over their face, and then I ask if there’s something I can pray over them for, and then I take that hot towel and that last mask off. I then use a toner, a serum, and a thicker cream over dry spots and I put on an eye cream, and that’s about it.

Me: That is a facial?!? Laughter…SOOO much better than Walmart! (I joked about buying my facial scrub at Walmart because I am not typically a girly girl.) It does not even compare!

PM: (Laughs) It does not even compare!

Penee 4

Then she explains lots of other treatments she can do. Visit her website for dermabrasion, peels, make up, and more.

She goes on to discuss future plans and listening for God’s call. Penny has started a Facebook page called Heart Rebalanced for women that would like to reach out to her. Penny and I had a wonderfully uplifting conversation, and I highly recommend everyone go see Penny. She has such a positive and infectious, joyful spirit that any customer is sure to have a renewing and heart filled experience.

Penee Spa

26 North Congress Street, York, SC 29745

803.430.6091

One Word

cropped-cropped-door-at-brattonsville-2014.jpgOne Word.

Love.

Determined.

Determination.

Courage.

Trust.

Believe.

Relentless.

Dominate.

Growth.

Empowerment.

Empowered.

Faith.

Feminine.

Focus.

Strength.

Yes.

 

I must admit, in a culture of more, having a way to focus the entire year seems smart. What a marvelous solution to the overwhelming push of excess in our lives, living into just one word, c’est la vie to all other words. 

I drove around for at least two days, sometimes consciously, sometimes not, thinking about the concept of choosing my word. Did I feel brave? Could I be persistent? Do I even want to dominate? What if I failed at faith? Am I ready for growth

I thought about the New Year’s card the boys and I created together.

 

Eucharisteo.

Charis. Grace.

Eucharisteo. Thanksgiving.

Chara. Joy.

– from an interview with Ann Voskamp, found here.

It’s amazing how our Spirit reaches out, touching our thoughts; how a soul feels what a brain names. The tears welled up, and I drove along, streaks running down my cheekbones. Friends and family gifted us more love than I shall ever be able to repay. What humbleness it is to receive that which is unpayable!

2017- a year of such intense heartbreak and challenge and turmoil – held captivating miracles of Grace, Thanksgiving, and Joy.

And yet, as the rush subsides and the memories of a year past slow, I feel fear – a pinch of the throat, a doubt in my choice, a questioning of my ability to live into such a courageous word. Because every time in my life I have chosen a path righteous for God, requiring focus and discipline and practice and intentionality, the devil has shown up to play. I am not sure I am willing to tempt the devil just yet, and I am certainly doubtful I am ready to give what Eucharisteo asks. Eucharisteo is the act of saying in the face of agony that I choose Thanksgiving. I choose Joy. I choose Grace. In the face of adversity and trauma, during the storm of chaos and legalities and uncertainty, I choose God. I choose to give thanks. I choose Eucharisteo. It comes before all else. It must come first in order for the forgiveness and the love and the faith to come too. To choose Eucharisteo means to choose bravery and courage, to give thanks for the broken and the angry and the whole mess. To say in this hard good, I choose to see God, I choose to say Thank you. For all of it.

Eucharisteo.

That feels quite daring, and frankly, a bit audacious. 

(Thank goodness I have a whole year to work on it.)

**My current reading list that has greatly influenced my thoughts and writings recently:

One Thousand Gifts, by Ann Voskamp

Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less, by Greg McKeown

Going Home.

I’m good at teaching, a gift I’ve confidently used for more than half my life. I’ve taught third grade, sixth grade, special education, preschool, homeschool, private school, music lessons… I can teach.

But playing teacher and being an actual student aren’t necessarily so familiar as merely different sides of a coin. I hadn’t taken a test without an answer key in twenty years, and the prospect of doing such a thing all over again seemed a bit overwhelming. Yet, there I was, sitting cross legged on the back row of a modern classroom, attempting to focus for stretches of time on just one subject.

Real Estate. Realtor. The act of helping others buy property, buy houses, businesses, large investments, buy homes. That’s the subject of the tests I willingly took.

And after class, and when my world seemed exhausting and when I needed to breath easily, I went to my own home. Home to my kids. Home to my dog.

Home to my particular spot on my particular couch. I just. went. Home.

An old fireplace with an intricately carved mantle surrounding old, faded, sooted brick. Antique apple crates stacked in such a pattern as to create the perfect desk base. My child’s portrait hanging on the foyer wall. A viola propped at attention. Books stacked carelessly, piled high about every room.

The dog, blonde and small, curled in his favorite chair, snoring quietly. Soft, worn rugs scattered about the house. An extra large bed, wrapped in flannel and down, warm lamps illuminating pale corners. Sudsy soap in the kitchen sink, last night’s dishes haphazardly soaking, the hum and slosh of the dishwasher running.

Children stomping through the hall, doors opening and closing loudly, hurried sounds of boys focused on the business of play. My mother’s ring resting in the pottery dish a child’s hand shaped years ago. Light streaming through the cool glass of a front window. Daylight indoors. Me, nestled beneath the coverlet, computer perched on a pillow, writing.

After a weekend of classes, it was these familiarities that fed me. Nourished me for another week. Wrapped me warmly, welcoming and restful.

When I visit my childhood abode, or I breathe Tennessee air or drink coffee on my porch in York – When I set bare feet upon damp, warm soil or I attend a Sunday service at an Episcopal Church or I sit in the balcony at Allison Creek Presbyterian – I experience home.

Home.DogMonths have passed since real estate school. The license firmly hangs at Keller Williams in Fort Mill. Marching forward, real estate offers new, surprising, fun opportunities.  And still, at the end of the day, that particular couch in that particular house on that particular street calls on me.

The little blonde dog waits, curled and snoring. And I, well, I go home.

Being Jesus

 

cropped-key-and-kelly-in-train-station-oct-20143.jpgAnd the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me. Matthew 25:40

Jesus said whatever we do for “The least of these,” we actually have done for Him. This shows me that when we reach out to the poor, the marginalized, the prisoners, and the broken, we are not being like Jesus to them; they are like Jesus to us. – Christine Caine

Have you ever given money to a homeless person? Kept a care package in your trunk to hand out on the street? How about serving food at a soup kitchen, shelter, community cafe? What about at Christmas? Made a box for Operation Christmas Child? Or Thanksgiving? Dropped food off at the pantry? Cleaned out your closets and donated? During one of our many, many natural disasters – did you send money? Bought water bottles? Served on a board for a nonprofit? Donated your time, your talent, or your treasure in any way at any time? Heck, did you go on a mission trip or build something? What about Habitat for Humanity? Ever helped with one of their projects?

….

Put a coin in the red tin can so that the guy ringing a bell outside Walmart would think you’re generous? Showing that stranger that your Heart is in The. Right. Place?

I hate to break it to you.

You were Not Jesus in those moments.

You were simply a good and giving person. Another person that made a kind gesture. Maybe a human follower of Christ’s teachings. Not to belittle the gift, as the gift is still significant. It is. But.

You gave To Jesus.

The people drinking those water bottles. Taking your money. Living in those houses you nailed together during that summer in Belize. Opening those Shoeboxes. Eating that pantry food. Using the services of that nonprofit. Holding the cardboard sign you may or may not have answered while sitting at the red light on that corner just the other day.

They were Jesus.

I have had the humbling and overwhelming opportunity to give to Jesus and to be Jesus. Giving to Jesus feels good. Being Jesus, well, that’s a bit more complicated.

Here’s the thing. In the past when I have given of myself, it’s been a source of pride. Thoughts such as – I am blessed enough to give; At least I’m better off than the current person/ disaster/ situation that I am gifting; If I have more than the person in need, then it’s time to consider sharing my bounty – these thoughts flood my consciousness and the invisible compliment in my brain about how Good I am fires off those neurons and the day, well, it just seems more hopeful. Humanity restored for the moment, and all because of some kind act that I did. See how that focus just goes right on me? A kind act I did.

But being Jesus. Well….

That’s humiliating.

Being Jesus means being vulnerable and naked. Often soul weary tired.

Being Jesus means accepting the gifts of others on their terms and in their time. It means often accepting these gifts of soul and body nourishment even when they are wrapped in awkward packages. It means waiting for help from others because on your own is no longer feasible.

It means being open to the calamity of grace.

Being Jesus is one of the hardest parts I’ve ever played in my life. And right now it’s a part I will be playing for some more time to come, and all I can think is that Jesus has put me here on purpose. To humble me. To show me thankfulness. To show me my community. And let me tell you, the amount of support and gifting and lifting up is something I will never in my life forget. It has been tear streaking and breathtaking and beautiful and I will always be forever thankful and grateful to those people God has gifted to me for my life. So yes. He did it to humble me. But maybe, just maybe, also to make me think through all those times when I’ve given gifts myself.

Recently I had the privilege to witness a child receive a gift. Have you ever seen a child receive something precious? Maybe it was your own child on Christmas morning? Maybe it was the face of one adopted? Maybe that face came through mission work or summer camp or just a glimpse of pure happiness in a child’s expression in passing? The most vulnerable and naked and soul sensitive of humanity are the faces that bring us the most hope and joy and simplicity in our ability to love. They are the children of Christ and we, in our identical moments, become those faces of Jesus for others.

Imagine if in our giving, instead of feeling proud of our generosity, we felt anticipation and joy at the opportunity to meet Christ?

And….imagine if in our receiving we could see Jesus in ourselves?

Just Imagine.

 

Why Not Me?

Last week a student sat in the hard wooden chair to my left, brow furrowed just a bit, focused on the notes, violin under chin, playing away. Her dream is to go to college for veterinarian medicine. Fiddling is her fun hobby. Her mother said she wants to get into a really competitive school. Only certain top students get in.

A few weeks ago, my own son toured Notre Dame University, wide eyed and lovestruck with the culture the school oozes from its very own pores. Notre Dame accepts 18% of their applicants yearly. The current freshman class beat out thousands of other applicants, over 100 of which graduated high school scoring  perfect SAT’s and ACT’s.

What would change if my sweet violinist and my gifted son ask themselves – Why. Not. Me?

Somebody is at vet school. In fact there are lots of people at vet school or it wouldn’t exist. Lots of somebodies make up that 18% that Notre Dame tells YES each year. What if, instead of looking at the wall, we looked at the opportunity?

How could simply changing the dialogue change the outcome?

Where in your life should you be asking Why. Not. Me?