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Thursday, August 27, 2015

Today, We Grieve

Today is no day for social issues.

It's not a day for politicians - with their (maybe?) well, but ill-timed intentions - to get a hokey-pokey right or left leg up on the left or right side.

It's not a day for a conversation about race. Or feminism. Whether or not mother's should bare their breasts in public. Or a day to celebrate dogs. Or Josh Duggar. Or Ashley Madison. Or Planned Parenthood.

Today is a day for grief.

Today is a day to hold each other close. Today is a day to remember that life is fragile. Death is serious.

It's a day to remember that none of this is a flash in the pan, a blip on a social media platform. A voyeuristic video.

This is not a day to be fake nice. To write pseudo-encouraging, high and mighty comments (or blog posts) to prove how well-developed and educated and reformed you are. This is not a day for trolling. Or pointing a finger at trolls. Trying to reason with the trolls.

There will be no social issues here. Not today.
There will be no stomach twisting arguments. No wringing out of a dirty dish rag, absorbed with white guilt, racism, disagreements, the-way-I-see-its, and acts of swift, curt, illegitimate, lunacy.

This is a day to remember that you could be doing your job one day. You could be pursuing your dream. And someone could, at any moment, end it all.

It's a day for respect. It's a day for memorial.

It's a day to shut up if you can't get along with the rest of the world. Just one day.

There will be plenty to argue about tomorrow.

Monday, August 24, 2015

This Christian Has No Idea When to Stand During Church.

Happy Monday, friends! The following post is an excerpt from a work-in-progress called Prodigal Sister: Redeeming Stories for the Bad Girl Coming Home.

It's a collection of essays about being single. Struggling with faith. And making the decision time and time again to return to Christ.

I never knew when to stand up during church services.

I must’ve missed that lesson the year our eighth grade Sunday school group went through the Confirmation class in the Presbyterian Church.

Yet, that couldn’t be true, because our family never missed a service.

Regardless, I was always caught off guard when the other members of our church made an impromptu surge to their feet. I’d hear the stampeded of heels to the floor and bulletins fluttering to the seats behind them. And only then would I feel the need to quickly follow suit.

Of course, I can respond to the prompting of the pastor or even the written instructions in the church bulletin.

Please stand if you’re able.

Please stand and greet your neighbor.

Please stand as we sing hymn number 478.

Please stand for the benediction.

But, even with all our collective church experience on our family’s resume, when the Holy Spirit moved in our church, when the music swelled into a dramatic key change or when a woman gave her testimony one element of worship remained the same: the adults, the real Believers in our congregation stood.

It was perplexing. If no one told us to stand during a worship song toward the end of the service, then why was everyone moved to their feet? Where was it in the Bible, this manual for life, that explained this phenomenon?

Was it in a Testament between the Old and the New that I 

was missing? Or was I missing something else entirely?

Maybe I was too distracted by the high yellow walls and the black and white checkered floors of my home church in Richmond, Virginia. Maybe the pews were too hard on my thighs. Or maybe I was caught up in wondering how much longer it would be until Mom passed a roll of berry-flavored Lifesavers down our row.

I knew this knowledge-gap was a problem, so I watched Dad carefully. He was a respected leader, a loving husband and a perfect storm of playful, kind and firm when it came to guiding his children. Surely, he knew when to stand up. I followed his lead.

Sometimes, I’d even have to keep one eye open during prayer to see if he was simply closing his eyes, bowing his head, or burying his face in his hands. If Dad was the sort of Christian who bent over in the pew during prayer, I wanted to be that sort of Christian, too.

So, a few months ago when the pastor asked congregation to stand if they had sin in their lives that they knew the needed redemption for, I stood. I was in the front row, and I couldn’t be sure, but we all have sin, don’t we?

This was the pastor’s prompt for everyone to stand, right?

I craned my ears and listened for the familiar stampede of heels to the floor and rustling of bulletins. But there was nothing. Just a few of us foolish, honest sinners standing among a congregation weighed down, legs and arms crosses in their seats by their own righteousness.

Even after the pastor thanked those of us who stood, and even though I was 25 years old at the time, I still felt very much like the same naive child. For standing up. For owning up to my mistakes. For being pin-pointed in a chapel full of my peers.

I wished then that Mom and Dad were book-ending the pew with me again. At least they would have stood up beside me. At least there would have been berry-flavored Lifesavers.


Monday, August 17, 2015

To the Man Who Won't Sleep With Me (Part Two)

Spoiler alert! This is a follow-up story to a blog post I'd written a little over a year ago. This man is now my husband.

What were we thinking? Saving all of this for marriage?

When you got down on one knee almost one year ago and asked me to be your wife, weren’t you worried that we weren’t physically compatible? Weren’t you worried that we wouldn’t fulfill each other? Weren't you worried that we hadn't already ridden ourselves of the mystery so many want to test before they make a big commitment?

(I was, a little.)

That’s why after you proposed I kept asking are you sure? Are you sure?

When you asked my parents for their blessing on our future together, weren’t you forgetting that we hadn't lived together before? We hadn't tested the waters, or entered any other euphemism for making a commitment with a frayed edge? A commitment that could easily unravel with the pull of a thread.

How could you possibly know that you wanted this forever? How could you possibly commit to me without knowing all of the facts? We’ve only dated for two years before we jumped into this marriage.

After all, you signed up to buy a car without taking it for a test run. You signed an irreversible doted line before you even knew if I snored or hogged the covers.

Dismiss the way our culture esteems fifty shades of sex over romance. And that even our moral breeding of not having sex before marriage makes sex all we can think about, sometimes.

Glaze over the fact that I wanted you there. I wanted you there

more than anything.

Should we have absolved all of the unknown bits about each other before you carried me across the threshold after our wedding in July?

Or did you find value in our relationship outside of our physicality? 

Did you enjoy our coffee dates where we talked about everything and nothing? Did you find delight in holding my hand by the harbor lights, or swirling a fresh, foaming pilsner at the cafe across the street? Did you come to value the friendship part of dating. The part that's not a scene from Titanic, or an imprint of a steamy novel, but the actual honest-to-goodness relationship of it all.

What were we thinking?

A few people in my life asked me the same thing. People who I love and trust. Be careful of the man who won’t sleep with you. There must be something wrong with him.

Intimacy issues. Unspoken traumas.

Because what man in his straight mind wouldn’t want his girlfriend to spend the night with him? What sort of intimacy issues does a man have who won’t invite you into his home past midnight?

When you proposed to me in my parent’s home, were you hoping that marriage would mean more to us than mandatory sleepovers? Were you prepared to spend forever with me even if that mean that we’d have to work at intimacy? Even if we'd have to start with a clean slate on our wedding day?

When you told me that I made you happy and that you wanted to spend the rest of your life with me, were you hoping that this would be a part of forever. And that even if we didn’t get it right the first few times that we’d have ‘til death do us part to work on it together anyway?

See, many others write about these sorts of things. They hook you in with their bait. They say things like “don’t stay pure until you’re married,” and “I’m not saving sex for marriage.”

They, of course, are written with a punchline in mind. They’re meant to tune people in and turn their worlds upside-down. They are meant to show their readers a new way of thinking when it comes to sleeping, sex and marriage.

They don't want you to miss out on the pleasures of life. From the brim to the dregs, they want you to drink life in.

But our lives don’t amount to a simple blog post. Just as our married life doesn't amount to shared duvet covers and pillow shams.

You were content with me and only me. You were comfortable not only taking the slow road but leading me through it. Even when I took offense. Even when I saw it as a sign that you were shutting me out. And that you only wanted me for a few hours before you showed me the door.

I take that as a sign of your commitment and character. A sign of the sort of husband you'll be during the long, slow years, and the sort of father you'll be to our one-day family.

So, to the man who wouldn't spend the night with me before we got hitched, thank you. It's an honor and a privilege to drink in life with you.

photo credit: @sage_solar via photopin cc

photo credit: Shandi-lee via
photopin cc

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

What Are You Doing With Those Hands?

Your hands shook.

They trembled when you slipped the silver band on my ring-finger. And in my sun-streaked church, where I'd thought and dreamed of this day for thousands of moments, God placed a marriage covenant into our hands.

Our hands clasped together and bumped under the weight of it.

Like golden apples on a silver scale.

Remember how we didn't spend much time in our engagement season reading books about how to be a husband and wife to each other?

We put our hands at other plows: searching for a home, the perfect couch and ottoman for the living room corner, dreaming and writing about days to come. We registered for gifts. We leafed through catalogs and venue options.

We wriggled and twisted our fingers, waiting for the day when we'd be placed into the hands of the other.

Then the day came. And I knew the moment I wrapped my palm around my almost-husband's, while we were speaking our vows, we were being given something delicate. Strong. Assured. We were being given to each other.

We're more than a bride and groom. We're more than a couple who chose to do their dating relationship a little differently. We're entrusted to each other.

And that's no small task to put our hands to.

I don't know where your hands are today, but maybe it's time for

a hand-check.

Not a middle school youth-retreat hand-check, but an honest-to-goodness look at what we're putting our hands to these days. 

Maybe they're relaxed and unfurled, springing from the fresh new weight of something in your care. Like a marriage. A job prospect. A child. A new relationship. A talent. A dream. Anything.

Or maybe your palms are marked with the scars of betrayal, disappointment or a sense that you don't know where you're going. Or if you're doing enough. Or if this pedestrian day-in-and-out way of living, the traffic, the grocery shopping, the job you wish you could grow out of, is all that there is.

Maybe your fingers are clenched. Maybe they're bound in bitterness. I don't know.

All I know is that when I was holding his hands, the hands that were trembling at the altar, I thought about how my palms have the lines of bitterness and panic traced into them. And how it seems so easy to keep your hands clenched from giving or receiving.

But it's those fists that hurt us the most.

And they're primed to be the force that hurt others, too.

I believe we serve a God who wants to place hope and a future into our hands. And if you're a Believer, you know that they're the things we know we didn't work for or deserve. They were placed there. We were given a quiet tap, tap, tap! on the shoulder about them.

Whether you're the lover of a man, a woman, a career, a God, a family, a friend, a dream, a passion: I hope you hold them gingerly. I hope you unfurl your fingers, and I hope you let the hurt topple out so you can move on.

I hope you let the hurt topple out so you can spend time tending to the things God has placed in your hands.

photo credit: Free Blue Teardrop Rhinestone Ring on Finger Creative Commons via photopin (license)

photo credit: via photopin (license)
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