Love, for Goodness Sakes… (Thoughts on Faith)

I don’t want to be weak & ineffective. And I do not want to be mean-spirited. Most definitely in my faith. But I find myself caught in between two ideologies & it’s a tough line to tow. On my right, the militant & unashamed, wearing theological combat boots & bum rushing through  a person’s wounds & hurtful history in order to dominate the conversation with their own piety. But of this they aren’t aware. On my left, the blended believer whose faith is so contoured into the universe, it’s hard to know where their feet are planted. They unintentionally coax people into embracing their sickness, often giving no true remedy. 

Honestly, I can only share with others the God that I truly know. During my church’s prayer service yesterday, I heard the following, “Don’t be afraid to talk about my Love.” 

Why be fearful talking about God’s Love? And how are we missing it by dwelling in either of the two extremes: militant Christianity or passive Christianity? My guess would be we are defining Love through our own experiences, rather than through God’s explanation. 

The militant believers are afraid of using Love as the center of their evangelism and theology because it appears weak. In their eyes, it waters down the Gospel, taking away the urgency in the call to repentance. 

On the other hand, the well meaning passive Christians oversell the Love aspect as if God is not multifaceted. They take the compassion of God and dumb it down to the fickle level of human experience. And that would be doing the world a great injustice. My feelings change often. But the way God feels about me never will. It isn’t necessary to be overly emotional to help people identify with this Truth: God truly loves me. 

Romans 8:38-39 sums it up immensely:

“I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

If we have an inaccurate view of God’s Love, then we cannot fully grasp the Gospel in its totality. I can have a head knowledge of how sin entered the world or how I need a Savior, or even the difference between good and evil, but if I do not let His Love affect me, to the point that I am fully convinced of it more than anything else, then I run the risk of dwelling in the extremes of my Faith. Either I conjure a emotional counterfeit that lulls the heart into a slumber or I will push potential believers into a corner of self-righteousness. 

God is Love. And He loves you. There’s more, but it’s that simple.

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Ten.

I’ve loved Nick George for 10 years. Give or take. May 18, 2007 was the day I realized it was actual love. There we were, walking across our college campus, mere hours before we were both meant to go home for the summer. I’d spent a week in a sort of funk because I knew that our friendship would end up whittling away to “oh, she’s just that girl I hung out with my sophomore year”. I had come to accept it…until he asked me to take a walk with him.

That Day led to a forever.

Because three months after May 18th, he asked me to be his girlfriend. Another almost 5 years after that, he asked me to be his wife. And a year after that, we would start to have our kids.

Our path has been far from easy. And we have both felt like giving up at one point or another. But the fruit of being loved by Nick is immeasurable. The “18th” will always be significant for us. I’m so glad I agreed to go take that walk.

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Untitled (Thoughts on Marriage).

It’s odd having brief seasons when you desire your spouse but cannot have them in the way you’d like.

I blame myself, really.

Let me explain…

My husband and I are always busy. Two full time jobs. Two small kids. A nonprofit. Board and church responsibilities. Not to mention our families, friends, and other lifestyle pursuits and interests. Despite how ordinary marriage is, it feels like our marriage is not so ordinary. Or at least isn’t meant to be.

I knew the moment I met Nick that he carried around a heart too bright for this world. And that heart carried something meant for the world. I felt, even back then, that I’d be sharing him with the world. Our world, at least… I recognized that sacrifice would become like a regular house guest. And my home-body ways would get pushed into the background. For that, I have both loved and resented his heart.

I do not have to fight or pine for his attention. Our family is his first priority. Do not misunderstand. Just know that I adjust and readjust often in our lives. I want him all to myself. I want to monopolize every spaced expression/daydream. I want every filled page in his poetry notebook to be about me. I want the road to his dreams to all end at the doorway of our bedroom.

I understand that I am sharing space in his head even though I have been given residency in his heart. And it’s always crowded up there…

Found this piece that I wrote forever ago:

Smile. (Mini-Series. Part 6)

December 14, 2009

 look in my direction
linger there for a moment
give me your eyes’ shine.
and slowly perk cheekbones
let your lips part
while their corners
reach for the heavens,

show me you’re delighted…
…love,
smile for me.

Even back then I wanted his full attention. I was an incredibly smitten young woman, hopelessly in love with a very kind poet. On one hand, everything changed: We belong to each other now, unlike we did back then. But on the other hand, not much is different. There are still times (when I’m at my most vulnerable) that I feel like I’m still that young girl: smitten and quietly whispering prayers of gratitude that he picked me.

50 Shades of Black & Blue

Confession: I spent much of my life being an in-closet feminist.

Not only did I recognize how women are viewed as having minority status, but I soon saw countless examples of how women seemed to exist for a man’s pleasure. I understood the Biblical design for men/women, but yet my ideology of equality and shared submission battled with the way things actually are. And I was angry and even bitter.

When you only have your rights to rally for, it’s easy to simplify the struggle to a moment of protest. A single march. But it appears that something as simple as an erotic book series can ignite talks of inequality.

For example, I should be able to read a book surrounding a straight-laced young woman, who lived her life suppressed, finding a supposed “sexually liberated” experience. Anyone discouraging me from reading are being oppressive, right? After all, men are able, and even encouraged, to be sexual. Women, however, are expected to be both Mother Theresa & Nikki Minaj when beckoned.

I want to read these books. Because it is my right as a person. I should do it without being judged.
Simple.

But then I gave birth to a woman.
…well…she’s a toddler now. But it is inevitable that she will become a woman.

I’m not responsible for her gender. God already took care of that part. But I’ve been given the thrilling, tumultuous task of showing her how to be a woman (Lord, help me.). She may not take one ounce of my teachings/example with her into adulthood, but darn it if I won’t still try.

The process of rallying for certain rights become complex when you are considering how it will affect the next generation. I’m picturing Naomi as a 29 year old, and I’m praying that she will not only feel equal with men, but that she will recognize her uniqueness/role as a woman.

Regrettably, books like 50 Shades of Grey does not give respect to a woman’s uniqueness. Only nods to the most debased version of her desires. A 2D version of the fire that a woman’s heart actually contains. It shifts the perspective too far right that love becomes abuse. But isn’t that the typical narrative that we hear of a woman in love?

Crazy. Desperate. Ultimately misused.

I know it is not a philosophy book or a textbook for Women’s Studies. And I understand that the poster-child for the Anti-50 Shades movement are largely conservatives. However, communities are coming to this book’s defense as being normal, acceptable treatment between a man and a woman. And that is not what I want my daughter to desire; not in her love or her sexuality.

This book teaches that pain is the path to desire. I won’t nick pick here because I understand people have various tastes. But this isn’t about having different desires, but about the definition of desire being altered. In my opinion, true desire is only unlocked when two things are present:

Safety
Commitment

By safety I mean a relationship where two people can explore and deny any part of the sexual intimacy. Being tied up, blindfolded, coerced, manipulated, and emotionally and physically gagged does not create safety for the woman. It only enhances the distorted satisfaction of the man. The woman’s satisfaction is not a byproduct of this set up. A happy accident, at best.

And then there’s commitment. When two people make the ultimate commitment (dare I use the M word here: Marriage), they are declaring openly that they share the responsibility to respect one another: mind, body, and spirit. In these books, there was no such commitment made, leaving this woman in danger of being physically, emotionally, and spiritually wounded by an already wounded man.

Another complex portion of rallying for rights is recognizing your part in narrative. The young lady in the first book constantly pursued the man, even after him telling her to stay away.

Raising, not simply head-strong, prideful, self-absorbed young women, but those in touch with their identities is integral to helping them know when a potential relationship is toxic. Not simply knowing what they are attracted to, but gaining a wisdom about what traits to stay far away from.

Ultimately, it’s not all about changing policies or evening the playing field at the end of the day. The heart is hard to legislate. As it has always been, confident, wise women will till their own fields. I will teach my daughter and daughter-types to conduct themselves as if no glass ceiling exists….until it no longer doesn’t.

Signs You’re too Young Minded for a Commitment

Today was the day that the term marriage was redefined. Whether you agree with the decision or not, the institution of marriage is on an examination table. A whole collection of people will finally get to experience the challenges & heartaches of marriage. On some level.

Ironically, there is an entire generation that will simultaneously rally behind marriage equality but are wrestling with commitment. The term “prolonged adolescence” means that young adults are waiting longer than ever to finish college, move out of their parents’ homes, and get married. Perpetual bachelorhood is romanticized over romance itself. It seems to me that there is more warring against traditional marriage besides the recent declaration.

But I’ve been thinking….current culture reveals so much evidence that not only are most 20 somethings not choosing to get married, but they aren’t even prepared for the commitment. And not only that, but they aren’t attempting to prepare themselves. I can’t speak on this without having the experience to back it up. I wasn’t married at 22. I made a ton of mistakes.

…so, I’m not at all pointing any fingers here…

Anywho. Here’s the list I came up with of signs that you are too young minded to handle a long term commitment. Feel free to comment/add/minus any of these….

1. You cannot take constructive criticism with humility.

2. You haven’t the foggiest idea of where you’d like to be in 5 years.

3. Your ideals/beliefs change depending on who you’re around.

4. You have multiple personal electronics which their cost add up into the $1000s but you can’t seem to save for a car.

5. You cannot make a full meal on your own (including a starch, a meat, a vegetable, and maybe dessert).

6. You stink at having roommates or always choose to live alone.

7. When out with friends, you can’t (at least once) pick out the restaurant.

8. Your FB timeline is filled with passive aggressive/attention seeking posts.

9. Your previous relationships ended due to the same, exact reason. Doesn’t matter which one, but they are all identical.

10. You believe its the opposite sex’s fault you aren’t in a relationship.

11. You spend most of your time looking for someone, rather than becoming someone.

12. If you’re female, you still say the following: “I have more guy friends than girls. I just don’t get along with girls.”

12b. If you’re a male, you still use derogatory terms for women (e.g. thot, etc.).

13. You either feel like marriage is a) a prison sentence or b) your salvation.

Little Me.

So, our little Naomi is coming up on 3 months.

…sheesh…can I just pause and say that happened really quickly?

Anywho.

She’s been doing a really terrifying thing lately:

While I breastfeed her, she will pause and stare at me.

(That’s some hilarious imagery for you, huh?)

No, I am quite serious.

And her stare isn’t, in itself, frightening. Meaning those big ol’ beautiful brown eyes aren’t creepy or eerie. They are very, very intentional. Observant. And almost…”knowing”.

As if whatever secret or shame I am hiding or fronting for at the time, she has already found it. She knows it. This little person stops for a few moments (which feels a lot longer), takes a big, long look at me, & break wide my whole world.

I’m afraid because I remember that soon she won’t be just an ornament on my hip. A super cute, 10 lb. ball of soft flesh wearing a diaper that I can show off on Facebook. Sure, I will blink and she will be an independent, capable young adult who lives her own life and makes her own (hopefully wise) decisions. But, there exists a sliver of time in the near future where she will be at her most impressionable. And not only will she see me, but she will mimic me.

The scariest part?

I can’t control which parts, which moments of mine, she will mimic. “Do as I say, not as I do” has to be the biggest paradox that exists for a parent. And I don’t want too see those big, brown eyes filled with confusion when I chastise her for repeating something that she’s seen her mother do often.

I will naturally try and hide from glances that have a knack for seeing too much of me, too quickly. But I don’t ever want to hide from her.

Not her.

So, after a few moments of Naomi’s glancing up from feeding….

…most of the time, she will giggle or smile at my nervous expression, as if to say,

“Chill, mama. I love you anyway.”

10 Things I Love About You

My daughter turns 1 month old today.

This past week, in particular, has been quite a unique one, because I’m beginning to see small bits of her personality become clearer. I stare at her more often. And she spends more time awake than she has since she was born. I thought I’d create a list of 10 things I find cute/lovely/funny about her. I’m sure in the days/years to come, this list will grow…

10. Naomi loves to cross her ankles while feeding

At first, I thought this was a coincidence, considering I habitually cross my legs/ankles while relaxing, eating, etc. I remember when we went to the mid-pregnancy ultrasound appointment to find out her gender, but couldn’t see her private parts because she was lounging with her ankles crossed. Ha. She’s definitely my child.

9. “The Pirate Eye”

Something unique that she does that I find adorable. While floating in between awake and milk coma stages, she will open only one eye…as if she’s considering whether or not it’s worth waking up yet.

8. Her sleep positions

When asleep, this child looks like she has worked 2 12 hour shifts back-to-back. It’s hilarious…

7. Her lips

Our poor little one has baby acne concentrated around her mouth because her dad and I can’t keep from kissing her little face. Her lips are so distinct and I’m guessing will be one of her many unique physical characteristics.

6. Her eyes

GORGEOUS. The prettiest baby eyes in the history of baby eyes. Hands down.

5. Flatulence

She will “poot” in front of anyone, anywhere, anytime. She could really care less. If she’s being held by the POTUS one day, I suspect he’d better be prepared.

4. Sound sleeper

Hopefully this observation will continue until she’s well into high school, but when in deep sleep, she has slept through 2 hours of jackhammering, noisy street traffic, and loud video games with shooting and car chases.

3. Her smile

There’s nothing cuter than a tooth-less, squinty-eyed, wide-mouthed baby smile. And she has one that will stop your heart for a few seconds.

2. Her chill-ness

I didn’t think I’d have such a chill kid. At least for right now, (when she’s not fussy of course) she is as cool as a cucumber. Not really bothered by much 🙂

1. She’s our miracle

I’ve concluded that she and God conspired about the day she was to be born. Even though we were all worried and concerned that she’d come too early, everything about her points to the fact that she was already in on that little secret from day one. (See number 2)

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