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

Strong Enough

I have depth. I have a voice. I have a sense of self, and it helps ground me.

I am not unique. Not in that way.

(I mean, I AM unique, but we’ll save that quirky bit for a lighter post.)

Women, we are smart. And beautiful. And worthy.

Worthy of love. Worthy of listeners. Worthy of respect. Worthy of gravity and reason and recognition.

And none of these attributes require an apology or an excuse.

In the past two years, many women have called. Each story different. Some abusive, some just plain miserable. But women call. Maybe they want to compare? To see if their situation is bad enough to warrant that desire to escape? To find out what single motherhood truly, practically, day to day entails? To find out the formula, the set of instructions in surviving divorce?

And the one thread that weaves through every story is the fear. Fear that this time, she is not strong enough. Or good enough. Or smart enough. Or thankful enough. Or Godly enough.

Fear holds women back. To be honest, fear holds humans back so often we at times can’t even recognize it as the barrier. Fear paralyzes, and it tells us we are weak or dangerously vulnerable or selfish. It pins us down and cements our dreams to a place of stagnation.

The first time I walked through the fear, it was terrifying and glorious. I keep doing it, situation after situation. Recently my son proclaimed that I just push through awkward like nothing he’s seen. And what he is truly witnessing is that determination to push through fear. Fear of hurt feelings, broken friendships, embarrassment, failure. Oh, the fear of failure is large and in charge. My three a.m. brain and fear have a deep, strong, relentless relationship. But no matter what the night holds, the beauty always wins, and the dawn keeps coming.

It keeps coming. Fear ain’t got nothing on the dawn.

So women. You are strong. You are worthy.

Keep cutting that thread and know….

You are more than Enough.

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.

Amen, y’all

Went to church this morning. Honestly, the whole family barely made it, since at 9:25 am we all of us Hatches sat about the living room, tired and in pajamas, wondering if our presence could be excused this week. 35 minutes til 10 am start time, 20 minute drive….you do the math…

But our church, Allison Creek Presbyterian, decided awhile back to join forces with Liberty Hill AME Zion Church, and it was our turn to go to them. The Hatch family’s first time experiencing a traditionally “black” church. I mean, Liberty Hill had brought some of their worship to us in the past, but this time we got to go worship with them in their sanctuary. Now I’m wondering if anybody from Liberty Hill had their first “white” church experience that day? For many reasons, in the south we still segregate when it comes to religion.  I’m curious if this is a southern thing or an all over thing?

Alas, we both tend to self segregate here.

African American churches have a reputation for being loud and emotional with a tendency to drag their services out past lunch. Hunger pangs, anyone?

White churches have the equal and opposite reputation of being stuffy, reserved, and appreciative of pastors able to summarize quickly. Stand strong and mumble through a few old hymns, right?

Now, when you throw two of our groupings together, it can be quite the experience for everybody.

We hadn’t been there five minutes when my leaky eyes started. It’s a curse all women in my family carry. Easily leaking eyes. First off, right in the front pew sat a mother from our congregation whose son died two days ago. Her daughter died not but a few months back, and this week, she lost her son. Well, seeing her not just at Liberty Hill, but sitting in the front row, made me flash back to going to church for the first time right after my momma passed, and Lordy. It’s a hard thing to sit through a service, composed and holding it together or not, after losing family. Every time I glanced in her direction my eyes leaked.

And the energy in the place. I kept sweating from the very beginning, even though the air conditioning was running. Maybe when a naturally reserved person joins in a lively worship service, the whole body chooses to jump into action. All I know is, now I get why all the regulars carried fans. We sang and praised God and stood up, speaking out, proclaiming, “Amen” with all the good and all the hard and even the funnies. By the time my pastor got to speak, we’d been carried on a wave, swaying to and fro (even some of the ACPC folks joined in) and calling out, showing our appreciation through clapping and singing. Clapped half the service, probably.

Now, just as a little background, our poor Pastor Sam had to follow their Reverend Thelma Gordon with his sermon. She’d preached at our church before, so it was his turn to preach at Liberty Hill. He’d admitted getting nervous earlier in the week, being that Pastor Gordon is known all over the whole York County for her preaching. Yet, honestly, he had no reason to worry. Liberty Hill is nothing if not gracious, and we were all just glad to be worshipping together. And when Pastor Sam preached, he delivered a fantastic sermon, one from his own voice, that spoke to all listening. It spoke of the oppressed becoming oppressors who oppressed who then became oppressors. We travelled from Scotland to Ireland to America to South Carolina to Liberia, this same theme repeating generation after generation. And how hopefully, through our love, we might be able to move past it in our community. How the pattern of sin carried our ancestors away from God and how our two communities, linked through a cruel history, could come together today in love to worship the God who loves us all. A straight arrow kind of message for the day.

Finally, after all was said and done, we fellowshipped. I love how us church people like to call chatting, “fellowshipping”. We gathered in their building and we ate together, a simple lunch of salmon sandwiches and summer tomato salad with fresh baked cakes for dessert. Delicious, made by their hands, again the gracious hosts.

Rev. Gordon told two women joining their congregation that today would be a day they won’t soon forget. We’re home now, back on the couch we left at 9:25am.  And I have to agree.

Amen, y’all.

Amen.

 

 

Making Room for Resurrection

***Twelfth Night – January 5th on the Christian calendar, the mark to an end of Christmas and the start of the season of Epiphany***

***A Beefeater***

Growing up, each and every Twelfth Night demanded The Boar’s Head Festival, a celebration of merriment, complete with carolers and beefeaters and a boar’s head mounted on a plaque and a yule log and dancers and hand bells and the symphony quartet. It was magnificent and grand and extravagant, and it grew year after year. Being Episcopalian in small town Tennessee usually meant to be a minority, except for Twelfth Night. It was our church’s grand gesture to the whole community. And in a show of curiosity and graciousness, the whole town attended The Boar’s Head Festival, save for the few anonymous fundamentals each year that wrote to the local paper (without fail) calling for an end of our pagan festival and animal sacrifice.

So a couple of weeks ago, I happened to be home on January 5th, eating lunch with Steve, the current priest of my hometown church. Being that I hadn’t been home on this date in years, I asked if St. Andrew’s still put on The Boar’s Head Festival.

And Steve said no.

The church chose to let it go due to the expense and the man hours and hiring the singers and the production of the whole event and how it was mainly the community but not any actual church members coming anymore and so on.

But that letting it go made room for Resurrection.

And the Resurrection may not look like The Boar’s Head Festival.

Initially my thoughts focused on imagining what on Earth could ever replace The Boar’s Head Festival. It had always been.

It was hard to picture anything but what used to be. Why change something that isn’t broken?

Except for those words, the making room for Resurrection.

And I thought about how many, many places in our lives need us to make room for Resurrection.

We as Americans especially, it seems, pride ourselves on busyness and rushing. We clutter our lives and our homes and our time. We spend not only our money, but our energy, and our focus, and our decision making, and our time on being busy, and therefore important, and ultimately proving our value or our wealth or our smartness. And yet, we are drowning under our busy clutter.

Over three million copies of The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing have sold. I haven’t read the book, but my understanding is that it helps readers walk through everything in their possession so that they may truly only keep those things that bring purpose and joy into their lives. And all the rest may go. The idea of a micro wardrobe has also taken many by storm, inspiring people to clean out closets, again keeping only those articles of clothing which bring joy in the wearing. The small house movement continues its evolution into tiny houses and mobile units and re-imagined buses. People are desperate for room outside of their stuff and for less to maintain and for relief from the daily stresses of choice.

It makes me ponder the question – What areas of my life could pass on by to make room for resurrection? We homeschool and work and volunteer and cart the kids from sports to music to events to field trips. We are always busy, always, and the list of things we yearn for, that could bring us joy, we keep postponing, and the list of somedays continues to grow. But what if?

What may need to die so that the Resurrection can take place?

Because that’s what Resurrection starts with – death. From the very first Resurrection to our modern day society, death leads to make room, and it can form in so many unsuspecting pathways of our lives.

Standing in the snow, watching my ten year old suffer through an early soccer game, I again questioned if club sports might be one of those things that could die on the vine, be pruned from our lives, in order to explore new avenues and interests. It may be that tomorrow when the sun comes out, soccer again wins the day, but asking these questions remains important. In prioritizing support groups and co-ops and weekly activities, in discussing what we do from day to day to day, we are allowing ourselves to truly recognize which ones bring joy and inspiration. And which ones bring us stress or fear or worry. These are sometimes easy decisions. But sometimes they can seem agonizing, compounded with a mixture of emotion and feelings of attachment or guilt.

But isn’t that the whole point of Resurrection? The first one didn’t come without pain and agony, without conflicting feelings of guilt and sadness and yet still, hope. It came with a whole bunch of mess. But once the death of Jesus happened, once Jesus left,  a space remained. And the Spirit came to us to fill that space up.

We get in ruts and routines and we can’t imagine anything else other than what we do, day after day after day. But what if we stopped? What if we made room in our lives for Resurrection?

Just, what if?