Marriage

Super Bowl Sunday is for Lovers & a Spoken Word Poem

Super Bowl Sunday is one of the most romantic days of the year to me. What’s so romantic about giant sweaty men pummeling each other for a few fleeting moments of glory, you might ask?  Absolutely nothing. My tender feelings towards Super Bowl Sunday have nothing to do with the event itself, but are rooted in the fact that Jonathan and I first started dating on Super Bowl Sunday 9 years ago. (A story I wrote about here).

In honor of our date-a-versary I wanted to share this spoken word poem I wrote a few years back. I’m posting the text here so you can follow along, but I’d recommend listening. Since it’s written as a spoken word poem I don’t give special attention to the line breaks and the way it displays on the page. Also I use the word Love in at least 3 different ways which is probably a huge technical mistake, but I think it matters less if you’re listening to it. (Maybe?) In any case, it’s a little something different. (PS- Photo of us in the recording was taken in Korea by the amazing Laura Rhoades).

Sometimes Love is 19 years old on a swing set at midnight,
Two swings tangled around each other,
Expressing something their bodies can’t.
It’s warm and the night is quiet and
Love runs his finger up the back of her arm
Like it’s something sacred
And he is the first person in the world to discover it.

Sometimes Love waits at the end of an aisle,
Looking strange in his tuxedo and his too-shiny shoes,
Eyes full of Love as she tumbles towards him,
Fighting to pace herself
To keep herself from sprinting to Love,
The space between them feeling unbearably large.

Sometimes Love comes home from work and covers Love’s face with kisses,
making up for each moment spent apart.
Sometimes Love pulls love into his lap,
folding her into himself like a handkerchief he’d like to fit into his pocket
where he can keep her – every bit of her—close to his heart.

Sometimes Love makes Love laugh so hard she cries,
Lying on their backs on the living room rug –
the rug Love swore they had to have because “It ties the whole room together”
—laughter tears dripping down the funnel of her ear,
collecting like sea water inside of a conch shell.

Sometimes, Love cries and doesn’t know why,
So Love lays quietly beside her and holds her until she falls asleep.

Sometimes love is romantic, surprise flowers and slow-dancing in the kitchen.
But…
Sometimes Love forgets about Valentine’s Day.

Sometimes Love is lonely… because Love can’t seem to understand her.
Sometimes Love is Spock, when what Love needs is Captain Kirk.
Sometimes love feels broken, fractured, splintered,
Like a glass bottle shattered on the kitchen tile,
shards of green glass oozing red wine like blood.

Sometimes Love feels like they are two pieces that don’t even belong to the same puzzle.
And sometimes…Love DOES go to sleep angry,
Because Love knows that everything will look brighter in the sun.
Because sometimes it’s better to go to sleep when you’re too tired to be kind
than to go on trying to pull the right words from a heart that’s running low on grace.
Sometimes Love knows that, against all the advice,
it’s better to stop than to force resolution to fit into your timetable.

Sometimes Love has to choose to love again and again and again.
I choose you.
I CHOOSE you.
I choose YOU.

Because sometimes Love really fucks up.
Over and over and over again.
Sometimes Love wonders, “Will Love give up on me?
Will he throw up his hands and say he has had enough?”

But the answer is always, “No.”
No no no no no no no, never.

Sometimes Love doesn’t have to say, “I forgive you,”
because Love is too busy living, “I forgive you.”

Sometimes Love says the true thing instead of the easy thing.
Even when it hurts Love
Because Love sees the magic in Love even when she’s lost sight of it in herself.
And Love will never give up on Love being his best self.

Sometimes Love means you don’t have to be the loudest or the smartest or the best.
Because Love says you are heard, you seen, you are known.
You have nothing to prove.
Sometimes Love doesn’t have to bring anything to the table.

Sometimes Love doesn’t look the way it used to.
Skin sags in places where it used to stretch and
Stretches in places where it used to sag.
Sometimes Love is different shape than Love expected.

Sometimes Love doesn’t feel beautiful.
But Love sees her beautiful anyway.
Sometimes Love doesn’t feel strong.
But Love sees him strong anyway.

Sometimes Love leads.
Sometimes Love follows.
And sometimes Love means no one is in front or behind.
Sometimes Love means two people standing side by side,
Hearts beating together, feet stepping together,
Testing the next step, looking for a way.
Together.

Sometimes Love isn’t strong enough to stand.
Sometimes Love feels like she is sinking with no hope of rescue.
And then, Love says, “When you cannot walk, I will carry you.
When you cannot see a way, I will hold a light for you.
When you want to give up, don’t despair, Love. I will fight for you.”

Sometimes Love fights in the darkness, in the hidden places
And sometimes Love fights in the light.
And sometimes Love fights in the gray spaces, quiet and overlooked.

Sometimes Love goes to the grocery store twice in one night
because Love realizes she forget to put tomatoes on the list.
And sometimes Love does yet another load of laundry,
because she knows that every folded sock and towel make up a liturgy of love.
And every dish that Love washes whispers, “I love you.”
And every plate that Love dries says, “I am here. I will always be here.”

_________________________________________________

*Sorry if the cursing offends you. I don’t use that language often, but when I do, it’s on purpose. You can read my thoughts about that here.

 

 

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When Two Million People Read About Your Sex Life

A year and a half ago I wrote an article for RELEVANT magazine that was published online and later in print. I was utterly unprepared for the amount of attention it got. It ended up being RELEVANT’s number one article of the year for 2014 receiving over two million hits. This article was re-promoted by RELEVANT today on their Facebook page, so I wanted to post the link to my original reaction piece here for those who may be checking out this blog for the first time.

I have written much more thoroughly and extensively about this topic in a series of guest posts on my friend Brett’s blog and also hosted a series of guest posts from other writers on this topic here on my blog.  If you have questions for me, feel free to reach out here or through my contact page. I love hearing from you!

 

 

 

 

 

Married 2

On Getting Married Too Young

When you fall in love at 19, people talk. People think that you’re naïve. That you’re too young to understand love and commitment. And if you choose to marry young then you shouldn’t be surprised when it doesn’t work out.

So we waited. We waited until we were 22. And still, people talked. They said, “When you marry young you still have so much growing to do. You’ll change. He’ll change. You might become totally different people.”

After five years of marriage I can say that they were right.

We are different people and Lord knows I’ve changed. Sometimes I feel guilty that this woman who shares your bed now is not the girl you married. It feels like false advertising. As though I promised you one thing and delivered another.

But then, you’re not the boy I married either. And I love you more because of it.

See, love is not one fixed shape. It’s elastic. It stretches like a balloon or a gum bubble or the belly of a woman around the body of her child. Its parameters are set by the beloved.

Maybe marriage starts with “I love who you are now, today, in this moment,” but it is also, “I will love who you become.”

Marriage means our roots are intertwined. No matter which direction you grow, you can only go so far from me. We are hopelessly tangled. And this is a miracle. This is why we say that marriage is holy. Because it requires an act of God.

I will change and you will change and we may grow in different ways that are impossible for us to imagine. But love will grow as we do. Sometimes it will grow easily and naturally. Sometimes it will require work, like a master gardener prunes and weeds and coaxes a sapling. It might be hard, but hard and bad are not the same thing, Love.

After more than eight years of loving I can see that every change in you is a gift to me. I get to discover a new part of you, and the more I know you, the more I love you. It makes me wonder if the people who grow bored with their relationships are simply the people who stop changing.

Yesterday you asked me for something simple and easy to give and I snapped. I sighed. I exaggerated. I may have even stomped my feet. But after a few minutes I came back. I was embarrassed. I apologized.

And you wrapped your arms around me and lifted my feet from the ground, which always makes me feel small even on a fat day. Then you put one hand behind my head and planted the other on the small of my back and pressed me into your body. We swayed back and forth in our little kitchen without any music and I fell in love for the thousandth time.

Note: The photographer for this picture can now be found at http://www.grainandcompass.com

52 weeeks of adventure

Fifty-Two Weeks of Adventure # 24: Anniversaries and Love Motels

On Saturday my husband and I celebrated our 5th wedding anniversary. I’ve been waiting for years to feel like a grown up. I kept thinking I would feel like one when I moved away from home, when I graduated from college, when I got married, when I got my first “real” job, when I moved across the world. But I have to confess that I’m often amazed that other people seem to think of me as an adult. Cause I just don’t see it most of the time. 🙂 I thought that perhaps a five-year wedding anniversary would be the kind of milestone that made me feel grown up. And I admit that this made me feel a little old. But then I ate nachos for dinner. So not really all that grown up.

Speaking of not grown up...these guys were just chilling on their stilts.

Speaking of not grown up…these guys were just chilling on their stilts.

For our anniversary, we spent the night in Busan, our favorite city in Korea. We stayed in a love motel near Haeundae Beach, one of Busan’s most popular areas. “Love motels” are a very common form of accommodation in Korea. As the name suggests, they are motels specifically marketed as places for couples to tryst. In Korea, most people marry in their late twenties to early thirties and people live with their parents until they get married, which means there aren’t a lot of options for couples to spend time together. Additionally, Korean families often sleep together in the same room, so even a married couple with a few young children might utilize a love motel for some alone time. Actually I’ve heard that a few years ago, there was some sort of law that required businesses to close mid-afternoon one day per week so that people would be encouraged to make more babies. There is something of a population crisis in Korea where the average family has only have one child, two maximum, which means they aren’t replacing themselves and the population is in decline. So the government invented a way to encouraged people to spend more “quality time” with their spouses. As far as I know, this is no longer in effect.

Some motels are themed and have interesting decor and others are essentially just like small mid-range hotels that happen to provide you with condoms. It may sound sketchy, but the love motels are often cleaner and nicer than hostels and are much more affordable than fancy hotels. The one we stayed at this time wasn’t themed, but it did have mirrors all over the place, including the ceiling. It also had a lovely bathtub which was easily my favorite part of the room since we don’t have a tub or even a proper shower in our apartment. (Like many Korean apartments, we simply have a “wet room” where our shower head is attached to the sink and you just stand in the middle of the bathroom to shower with no curtains or anything).

IMG_8711

It was pretty overcast the entire time we were in Busan, so while we spent a bit of time walking along the beach, the views weren’t the best we’ve seen. We did have a nice dinner in a restaurant near the beach that’s known for it’s Western menu where we had BBQ chicken sliders and a giant plate of nachos. Nothing gourmet, but certainly some comfort food.

IMG_8704

We tried so hard to selfie, but we weren't very good at it...

We tried so hard to selfie, but we weren’t very good at it…

This guy right here = most wonderful man in the world.

This guy right here = most wonderful man in the world. Also, so handsome!

It’s hard to believe we’ve been married for five years, but when we reflect on all that we’ve done and seen and the ways that we’ve changed and grown we have been amazed. I am beyond blessed to be married to such a kind, patient man who makes me laugh every day. We are as crazy about each other as we were when we were 19 and I never want to take that for granted. I’ve written a bit about my thoughts on marriage and why I think ours works so beautifully well, but I am still overwhelmed by the gift that it is and I’m pretty much fine with owning the fact that I have the most wonderful husband in the world. I am so humbled that he chose me and that he chooses me still, every single day.

IMG_8718

If you have an adventure to share, add your link to the link-up by clicking the button below. You can participate in all of the adventures or you can just do a few – no pressure. If you missed last week’s adventure about the MERS scare in Korea you can find it here. And if you are new to my Fifty-Two Weeks of Adventure project you can find out more about it here.

abstinence

Sex Talk: New Relevant Article and Some Better Ways to Talk about Sex

A few months ago, Relevant asked me if I would do a sort of follow-up article to the article I published back in June, one that specifically dealt with overcoming shame in your sex life. I admit, I felt oddly stumped by this. I didn’t want to offer generic advice that boiled down to a bunch of clichés like, “Let go and let God.” At the same time, I didn’t want to take my experience and make it a how-to list. I didn’t want to claim that anyone can find freedom from shame by following these 5 easy steps. In the end, all I could really say is, “This is what happened to me. I hope it’s helpful or encouraging in some way.” That article was published over at Relevant today.

When I write pieces that point to the places I think purity culture got it wrong, I inevitably get comments saying, “Ok, but how should we talk about sex?” That’s a fair question and one that I hope a lot of people who are smarter and more influential than I am will put a lot of thought and time into answering. I don’t have a complete answer, but I do have a few thoughts about it.

I’ve shared some of these thoughts in different articles and guest posts over the past few months, but I decided to streamline them here. If you’re tired of reading about sex and purity culture, I will understand if you give this one a pass. I’m kind of tired of it myself. 😉

I don’t think churches are going to stop teaching abstinence. I’m not trying to make an argument that churches should stop teaching abstinence. But if churches are going to teach purity and abstinence then one thing that needs to change is the language we use to talk about sex, especially with teenagers.

What We Should Stop Saying:

Purity culture is famous for its metaphors. Growing up I heard things like, “Don’t start the engine if you aren’t ready to drive the car” used to warn teenagers that any physical contact (including holding hands and kissing) was a slippery slope straight into the jaws of fornication. I also saw and heard many illustrations that compared a person (usually a girl) who lost their virginity to a stick of gum that had already been chewed, to a rose that has had all of its petals pulled off, to a toothbrush that a lot of people have used, or to a cup of water that a bunch of people have spit into.

These kinds of metaphors equate humans and human sexuality with objects. They carry connotations that have resonance far beyond their intended effect. If you are used to thinking of human sexuality as a machine – an engine that starts if you hit the right buttons – you are ignoring the complexity of human sexuality and are isolating it from its place in the framework of our humanity.  Before marriage it looks like this; “Don’t press this button or flip that switch or you’ll cause sex to happen.” After marriage it can look like this: “I pressed all the buttons and flipped all the right switches – I am expecting sex to happen.” And if it doesn’t happen, “What did I do wrong?” or worse, “What’s wrong with my partner that they aren’t responding the way they are supposed to?”

Human sexuality is complex and it can’t be (and shouldn’t be) separated from our emotional, mental, spiritual, or otherwise physical state. This kind of language enforces the idea that our sex drive is the thing that controls us, rather than teaching a biblical, holistic view of the person where all the aspects of our humanity are equally valued.

The second set of illustrations (the chewed gum, the stripped rose) carry the message that our primary value is in our sexuality, or more specifically in our virginity. They say that our worth is tied to one part of us – our sexual status. This a terrible way to talk about a human being. It creates the image that sexual sin is the unforgiveable one because you can’t get clean once you’re dirty. It also provides a strong connotation of sex being dirty. Sure these illustrations are meant to be about pre-marital sex, but it’s pretty hard to make that distinction when the thought of sex conjures up the image of a dirty toothbrush or a communal spit cup.

What We Could Say Instead:

I think churches should focus more on teaching wholeness. Youth pastors should teach about whole and healthy relationships instead of isolating sex as though it exists in a vacuum.

I have seen and heard many Christian leaders try to produce “purity” in teenagers by building fear. The message is often something along the lines of “If you take one step down this road, you will lose control and not be able to stop yourself.”

I have to wonder if this isn’t a little bit of a self-fulfilling prophecy with teenagers. If you are constantly being told (directly or indirectly) that you are incapable of making good decisions, eventually you will start to believe it.

This kind of language fails to look at the person (specifically the teenager) as a holistic being. This attitude ASSUMES that teenagers must be controlled by their sex drive above all else. It teaches them to set strong boundaries out of fear that they will lose control instead of teaching them that their sexuality can exist in healthy balance with the other parts of their humanity.

I wonder if instead of teaching teenagers that they need to set these boundaries because they CAN’T make good decisions, we honored them as whole human beings who possess a sex drive, but also will and intellect and emotions and, most importantly for Christians, the indwelling of the Holy Spirit which gives us the power to make right choices. Teenagers (and adults!) are still growing in their ability to handle all of these things. Even as adults we need healthy boundaries around any activities that we may go overboard with and that would cause one aspect of our humanity to be out of balance with the others. Setting boundaries is a way that we help ourselves to grow in wholeness.

So instead of looking at it through the lens of “These are the things I’m not going to do because I am afraid I’ll lose control” I think it would be far more powerful to choose what you ARE going to do and why you are going to do it. “I’m going to set boundaries that help me make wise choices so that I can grow as a WHOLE and complete person.”

With this kind of attitude, the boundaries you set are not just about controlling or suppressing sexuality. They are about engaging your mind and your will, creating opportunities to listen to the Holy Spirit and to grow in your ability to consistently make good decisions. Boundaries are not about restricting you because you are out of control. Boundaries are about creating opportunity for you to make the good decisions that you ARE capable of making.

52 weeeks of adventure

Fifty-Two Weeks of Adventure # 10: Putting a Ring on It

Living abroad can be exciting, but there are some really difficult things about it as well. One of the hardest things is missing out on important events in the lives of the people I love. Our first fall in Korea one of my roommates from college got married. On her wedding day I cried for hours because it felt so wrong not to be there. This week’s adventure is a story of me trying to be involved in the big moments from the other side of the world.

Last summer when I went home to the US for vacation, my best friend, Christina, flew out to my in-laws house to spend the weekend with me. At the time, she had just begun a serious relationship with a guy I’d never met – Andy. In the way of best friends, I knew almost immediately that this was it. He was “the one.” So I dragged her to every jewelry store in the mall and made her try on engagement rings. They’d only been dating for a few months at the time and I never would have done that under ordinary circumstances, but I was about to leave for another year and a lot can happen in a year. I wasn’t about to miss this.

Me and my Christina.

Me and my Christina. Can’t fight a love like ours.

See what I mean? You can totes tell they want to be together forever.

Christina and Andy. Not quite as much love as Christina and me, but you can totes tell they want to be together forever.

It might have been pushy at the time, but I felt pretty validated when Andy started asking me about rings in December. If I’d been there I would have just taken him ring shopping, pointed out what she liked and didn’t like, and graciously tried on as many rings as necessary for him to get a visual. But I was in Korea, so I did the next best thing. I made him a thorough, 20-slide powerpoint complete with quiz questions and prizes that plays Beyonce’s “Single Ladies” throughout the presentation. (Remember, Andy has still never met me in person and so undoubtedly thinks I am a complete freak. Worth it).

Put a ring on it

This is the final slide of the powerpoint I made for Andy. For the record, Christina was not being picky and demanding about the ring. She would have been delighted by anything he picked out. I was the one being picky and demanding.

So I “helped” Andy shop for a few months. There was much conferring. There was much secrecy. Then, a few weeks ago I was skyping with Christina and she said, “I think he’s going to propose soon.” At THAT EXACT MOMENT I got a message from Andy.

“Are you still skyping with C? I have an excellent update.”

“Ring has been purchased. I’m picking it up in an hour.”

I stayed stone-faced like a baller. I deserve an award for this. I have a VERY expressive face.

Last weekend Andy and Christina got engaged. (Hurray!) I knew it would be happening while I was sleeping Saturday night which made me so excited I hardly slept at all.

If I had been there I would have met Christina at the door with champagne and a Brides magazine and I would have taken her to get a manicure the next day. Since I am in dumb Korea (just because everywhere that is not where my friends and family are is dumb at times like this) I had to improvise. Another awesome friend of mine who lives near Christina agreed to act as my agent and got the champagne and the bridal magazine and other goodies and brought them to her apartment while she was out getting engaged. The whole operation was a big success.

Christina's engagement

Didn’t we…er he…do a great job? Look at that bling!

Now to tackle my next trial – obnoxiously inserting myself into every part of the wedding planning that happens in the six months before I get back home. Challenge accepted.

If you have an adventure to share, add your link to the link-up by clicking the button below. You can participate in all of the adventures or you can just do a few – no pressure. If you missed last week’s adventure you can find it here. And if you are new to my Fifty-Two Weeks of Adventure project you can find out more about it here.

Superbowl Sunday 2010

Super Bowl Sunday: A Love Story

Do you remember the day that you and I became “us”? It was Super Bowl Sunday, 2007. You were in Indiana watching the Super Bowl at your best friend’s house, a tradition I wasn’t yet a part of. I was in Chicago with my parents who had spontaneously flown up after I’d called to tell them I wanted to date you.

I remember hanging up with my mom and thinking, “How can I possibly explain to this nice 19-year-old guy that my parents are flying all the way to Chicago because he wants to date me?” It was intense. I didn’t know how to tell you they were coming. I was certain it would freak you out and scare you away forever.

But you didn’t miss a beat. While I stammered apologies all over the place for how dramatic this was becoming, you smiled and said it was fine, that you weren’t changing your mind. (Though I do remember you asking, “They know I didn’t propose or anything, right? I just want to date you”).

I think I knew you’d be my one and only right then – because of the way you took some serious crazy in stride.

Super Bowl Sunday holds special significance for a lot of people – there are traditions, parties, special foods, and friends that come together for this event. For some it’s about the game itself and for others it’s about the social ritual – the shared experience, the sense of togetherness. As far as the football goes, I could take it or leave it. (Ok, to be honest, I could just leave it). But Super Bowl Sunday is heavy with memories for me.

On February 3, 2007 I said goodbye to my parents and as they drove away I called you in Indiana to say, “So…do you still want to date me? Because you totally can.” You told me later that when you hung up the phone and told our friends we were officially dating the whole room cheered.

We spent the next three Super Bowls in Indiana, surrounded by college friends who packed the Henderson’s living room to the max so that we had to have the game projected onto a sheet hung up across one wall so we could all see it.

The first year we were married we spent the Super Bowl at a party at a pastor we hardly knew’s house in Naperville with strangers who would become our friends.

We spent two Super Bowls in North Carolina – the one in Raleigh when we’d had a huge fight just before the game, and the one in Charlotte where we crashed a party for friends of our friends.

These past two years we’ve been in Korea and the Super Bowl hasn’t been a Sunday night event shared with friends, but something you had to stream on your computer Monday morning around your class schedule–something I was only aware of because of the date and the memory of that Super Bowl Sunday that changed the course of my life.

Eight Super Bowls later and you are still my favorite. You are still my one and only. Never once have I wished for a life apart from you. Never once have I wanted out.

People say that marriage is hard work. That love is a choice we make even when we don’t feel like it. I agree with those ideas. Marriage does take effort and commitment. Love is more than a feeling. But, Baby, you make loving you SO EASY.

Sometimes I look at you and wonder how? How did we grow a love so big and beautiful between two broken, imperfect people? And how did I get someone like you to love me in the first place? And the answer seems clear – we didn’t. I didn’t. We are living a miracle. Every good and precious bit of our marriage is a grace.

You and me, we’re nothing special. We’re just a Southern girl and a Plain-Toast Midwest boy. But somehow, we ended up with a miracle. On Super Bowl Sundays I like to remember those two 19-year-olds, giddy with infatuation, with no idea that this thing between them would grow into a love big enough to rattle the stars.

Image credits: Wedding picture by Taylor Rae Photography, “Twenty-Four” anniversary picture by Grain & Compass.