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The Morning After: Things You Learn When Half a Million People Read About Your Sex Life

In light of my 4 Lies About Sex article being re-printed in Relevant’s print magazine this week, I am re-blogging this response for those visiting my blog for the first time after reading the article in print. Thanks for visiting!

Such Small Hands

Three days ago I had an article published by Relevant magazine online. I had submitted the article a few weeks before and knew it was coming out sometime this week, but didn’t know when. I was excited to have something published at Relevant, but nervous because of the highly personal content. I hoped my words would be meaningful for others who had had similar experiences and felt alone in them. I was also excited for an opportunity to potentially gain a few more blog readers and make some new friends. I expected a few thousand people to read it. I figured some people would identify with it and others wouldn’t. I was not prepared for 60,000 shares and half a million people to read and comment and debate and argue and praise and judge my very personal story.

Here’s how Wednesday went down for me:

Wednesday, June 11th

6am –…

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Lies About Sex Part III: Sex is for Boys

Head over to Irresistibly Fish, my friend Brett “Fish” Anderson’s blog, for part three of four in my guest series on lies about sex. In this part I tackle that constant, subtle implication that sex is a distinctly masculine interest and concern.

“Without a model for how to be a woman who can embrace her sexuality even while setting boundaries, young women are faced with two options: admit to having sexual curiosities and interests and be seen as “slutty” or build up fear to protect ourselves from it. Many Christian communities are lacking a model for how to live purely without rejecting or denying our sexuality.”

Read the rest of the post HERE.

Image from: www.elsevier.com from a presentation by Dr. Ute Habel

Image from: http://www.elsevier.com from a presentation given by Dr. Ute Habel

Let’s Talk About Sex: A Guest Series

Today I’m excited to be over at Brett “Fish” Anderson’s blog, “Irresistibly Fish” for the first installment of a 5 part guest series I am writing about sex. These posts are a spin-off from my Relevant article last month and will build on some of the ideas I shared there as well as in my follow-up post here. If you aren’t sick of hearing me talk about sex yet, be sure to head over there for a few more of my thoughts on the subject.

And while you’re there, check out some of the other stories Brett has on his Taboo Topics page for some powerful stories and interesting perspectives on things we don’t hear too much about in our churches.

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People Are the Worst: A Rant

As many of you know, I recently lost almost 30 lbs over the course of 3 months. I was unhealthy and I felt bad both physically and emotionally. I had a friend introduce me to a program she had done to lose weight and create better habits for long-term health. I was fed-up with trying to do it on my own so I decided to follow my friend’s example and I made some pretty dramatic changes in my diet and my habits. I had fantastic success. Not just with losing weight, but with ridding my body of all the junk I had been putting into it. I felt like I was starting over. I was losing pounds, but with each healthy choice I made I was also reclaiming my health and gaining the power to master my cravings and destructive habits. I felt revitalized and excited about life.

When I reached my goal, I was offered the opportunity to become a health coach. Just like the friend who shared the program with me, I could become certified to share the hope  and the health I had found with my friends and family. Now, here are a couple of things you should know about me:

  1. I am the worst salesperson in the world. This is because I don’t like being pressured into things and am therefore uncomfortable being aggressive towards other people when it seems clear that they are uninterested.  I rarely hold strong opinions, I hate arguments, and I am turned off by anyone who thinks they know all the answers.
  2. I am moved deeply by instances where people realize their potential and feel proud of themselves (in a good way) and validated for the work they have done. I weep openly while watching shows like The Biggest Loser, The Voice, the Olympics, even What Not to Wear, because something about seeing people achieve something they never thought they could resonates with something deeply ingrained in me, whether it is losing 100 lbs or catching the attention of a pop star or just being confident about who they are and not trying to hide themselves from the world. 

I told my coach, “Thanks for the opportunity, and I would love to coach others, but I am terrible at sales. And I hate it very much” She said, “You are not selling the products. You just share your story and then you will have the opportunity to walk alongside anyone who is interested in doing the program you did .” I said, “Oh. I would like that very much. I love helping people. I love sharing their successes. I could really enjoy doing that.”

 So I did it. I went through the process of being certified as a health coach.  Then I started putting up some before and after pictures on facebook, telling people I had become a health coach and would love to help my friends reach their health goals. I probably didn’t communicate it perfectly, but I had only the purest of intentions. I thought, “This makes me really uncomfortable, but this is how I found out about this program and maybe this will help some of my friends too.” So in spite of my own discomfort I did it. I put up (somewhat embarrassing) pictures of myself and I told people my version of the “good news.” And here is what I found out.

People are the worst. Certainly there were many people who complimented me on my new trimmer body, which was kind. But there were also many people who were mean. Who responded to me as though I had singled them out and told them they needed to lose weight, when all I had done was post something publicly on my own wall. Some people chose to “unfriend” me (because apparently we are in the 6th grade). Some people responded that they thought I was incredibly arrogant and just wanted to brag about my own accomplishments. Some thought I was trying to guilt them into buying something. Many asked what I had done to lose the weight, only to be disappointed when I told them how I had changed my habits. And some (my personal favorite) thought that I had joined a weird cult because it didn’t “sound like me.” Even those closest to me were only nominally supportive. When it came to helping me in a substantive way, nobody wanted a part of it.

All of this was deeply hurtful to me. I in no way expected everyone I knew to undertake the program I did. In fact, I spoke to a couple of people whom I actually advised not to do it because I don’t believe it’s the right thing for them. I didn’t expect everyone I knew to be super positive about it, but I certainly wasn’t prepared for this.

I understand now why so many people are afraid to try new things. Because the minute you do something out of the ordinary for you, people attack you. They do not want you to grow or to change. They want you to stay exactly as they expect you to be. This experience ended like many such experiences do – with me crying on the phone to my mom, who still possesses the magical power to make everything, no matter how dismal, better. And at least I learned my lesson. I probably should have known this before, but the school of hard knocks has just confirmed, sometimes people really are just the worst.

To the few of you reading this rant…let’s all go home and think about how much we collectively suck…and what we could maybe do to fix that.

Life and Death: You know, the little things

My great aunt passed away this past Sunday. I know for many people a great aunt is a more distant relative, someone they only see a few times during their life, but my great aunt was like a second grandmother to me. She never married and didn’t have children of her own. She was handicapped her whole life and my grandmother took care of her, so she was a part of all of our family events and gatherings.  When my grandparents moved from New Orleans to live next door to my family after Hurricane Katrina she moved with them into a retirement community right around the corner from my grandparents’ new home. And when she was no longer able to manage her own apartment, she moved across the street into the nursing home.

My great aunt, Eva Marie Hubert. Isn't she lovely?

She was 80 years old, but she was mentally sharp as a tack, remembered everything, and didn’t even need reading glasses to see things perfectly. She was born in 1931 and contracted polio when she was only 10 months old. For her entire life she wore braces on her legs. She used a walker, and later a wheelchair when she lost the strength in her arms required to use the walker. My husband and I went with my family to visit her on Christmas Day. She was sitting up in her chair, looking very frail and incredibly thin, but talking about how she didn’t want to miss the Saints game on Monday night and her friend who was bringing her a pecan pie later on. She loved to give gifts. As a child I remember that every time we saw her she’d have picked out a few little things for us and have them wrapped up nicely, even after she was retired and had very little money to live on. Even in the nursing home, she would take candy or little things that people brought to her and tie them up in little plastic bags and hand them out to others in the nursing home who she thought looked sad. This Christmas she decided to give each of her grand-nieces a piece of jewelry from her own jewelry box.

Here she is opening her Christmas present when we went to see her on Christmas Day

A few days after Christmas she went into the hospital with pneumonia and didn’t recover. It’s always sad to lose someone, but I genuinely know that she was ready to go. She had lived a very full life and she wasn’t afraid to leave it. I think my grandmother will be affected the most by her loss as she has been caring for her sister since she was a little girl, but we are all thankful that she isn’t suffering and that she lived such a long, full life.

While this post is partly meant to remember and to celebrate my great aunt, it’s also about those of us still here. Even though my aunt has been steadily declining over the last few years, the finality of her death has really impacted me. It may not be as jarring or as tragic as a sudden death or the death of someone very young, but it’s still strange to me that she was here and we were talking with her just two weeks ago and now she’s not anymore. It’s made me realize how attached I am to this life, in spite of all the little things I find to complain about.

I was talking to Jonathan a few nights ago about how there’s a sense in which I feel that I, as a Christian, am not supposed to fear death. I’m not supposed to long for more of life. I’m supposed to embrace the time I’m given, but rest knowing that when this life is over I move on to something greater. But if I’m honest, I do fear it to some extent. I like this world. I love doing life with my husband and having a home together. I want to have babies and to see all of the amazing places in the world. I want to experience cultures, learn languages, adopt a child, write a book.

Here is a secret about me that is going to sound terribly morbid. For some reason I could never identify, I have always believed I would die young. I have no reason to think this –no medical conditions, no family history of sudden, early death, no impulse to engage in dangerous activities. It’s just something I’ve always believed somewhere in the back of my mind. It wasn’t until my relationship with Jonathan got really serious that I was able for the first time to even imagine myself growing old –because I can imagine him growing old and I can’t imagine ever being without him. And I think maybe it is this underlying belief, however unfounded, that subconsciously drives my overwhelming desires to travel and see and go and do and be and not waste time doing things I don’t care about.

I know that as a Christian I am supposed to feel that death only ushers me in to something greater than I can ever imagine – the presence of God.  And I do believe that. But there’s something even about heaven that I’ve always found frightening. Jonathan says it is because we cannot wrap our minds around something as large as eternity and it’s unsettling to think about the unknown and the unknowable. We are always somewhat afraid of what we don’t know and can’t anticipate. Sort of like how I (and I think many people) felt right before I got married—you know it’s going to be the most wonderful thing and you are excited for it, but at the same time, you are sort of anxious because it’s something you personally have never experienced and can’t quite imagine. You don’t have a mental framework for it. It is unlike anything you’ve done before.

I am not one of those people who can just pretend to have the “right” perspective on everything. I believe that there are people who genuinely feel more excited about heaven than earth, who have a more eternal perspective on life and death. But I admit that I am not there yet. And while this distresses me because I have always wanted to give the “right” answer, to have the “right” attitude, to say the “right” thing, I also think there’s something to learn from my own frailty.

If I recognize that I love life and say that I’m so grateful for the minutes and the hours and the days that I’ve had and that I hope to have, why do I still spend so much of that precious time just trying to get through it? Why do I sit at work and wish the time away?  Why do I spend the week just trying to push through so that I can get to the weekend? If I make the goal of each day to get to the end of it so I can once again crawl into my lovely bed, will those days add up to a life whose goal was just to reach the end of it? And isn’t that the exact opposite of that driving force that (sometimes unhealthily, I admit) beats with my heart Go everywhere. See everything. Don’t waste your days.

Conclusion: it’s ok that I can’t grasp eternity and that in my frailty, I even find it somewhat frightening. There is grace for that. It’s ok that I love life. It is a gift. I can’t place all of my value on things I will gain or experience in this life, but I can take these feelings and allow the Holy Spirit to use them. To say to my wandering heart, focus yourself. Live with intention. Stop running through your days just trying to make it to the end. Be attentive and be present, even when all you want to do is go home. Be mindful that the life you want to live is made up of what you do with your individual days, not just a handful of special moments.

So…Aunt Nan, I hope you’re dancing for the first time in your life with no braces on your legs. I have no way of knowing how many days I have left, if there is any validity to my feeling that I will lead a short life. But I trust that whenever my time here is over, there will be grace to bring me home. Without fear. And I sincerely hope, without regret.

On Being RED!

 

So on Sunday afternoon I went to get my hair colored. I had had it a reddish brown with some highlights and the red had faded out really quickly. So this time I asked my adorable stylist, Adrienne to go ahead and kick up the red so that when it fades it won’t go completely brown again like it did last time. The result was this shockingly bright color.

When I wear green, I look like an elf. Or a leprechaun.

 
And from the side…
At first I was little intimidated by my flame-red locks. They were honestly a little brighter than I was expecting and I wasn’t sure I could really pull it off. But while the girl was still blow-drying my hair, the salon-owner came over and started raving about it. He said the color was incredible and he wanted to have me do a photo shoot with their professional photographers so that they could use the photos in the shop or their guide books. I said sure, why not, so sometime in the next few weeks I’ll be getting a fancy photo shoot with a free re-glaze and also possibly a new cut. (They want to do a new cut, but I don’t want to cut it all short again, so I’ll have to see what they’re thinking.) All the attention was definitely a confidence booster and I’m feeling good about it.
 
And Jonathan thinks it’s hot. Like Jessica Rabbit (without the boobs, obviously.)  Or Ariel (without the tail, obviously.) It’s definitely festive and I am feeling ready for Christmas! Also, I’m pretty sure redheads really have all the fun. 🙂
 

Totally me, right?

      

Ariel has great hair. Uncontested fact.

Good Enough: For those of us who feel like we aren’t

I’ve been thinking  the last few days about some of the lessons I’ve been learning over the past few years. I think one of the biggest ones is simply that there are many, many times in life when you don’t get what it seems like you “deserve.” I’ve been thinking a lot about my habit of trying to earn things, trying to prove my worth through good actions.

As a child I tried to be invisible, and when I had to be visible, to be helpful.  I stayed in my room and I read. I played make-believe games with my dolls and toys and dress-up clothes and sometimes with my imaginary friend Sammy the Squirrel. I was afraid to ask for things. Though no one ever said these words I somehow believed, “You are in the way,” “You are a burden.”  “It’s your job to keep others from being stressed at all costs.” When I visited my dad (my birth dad) I stayed in my room or watched tv. I often made his breakfast or lunch for him, set the table, folded the napkins nicely, cleaned up after myself.

In high school I was a model student. Certainly I had moments of being a moody teenager or moments where I spoke disrespectfully, but by and large I was a teenager most parents would kill for. I didn’t sneak out, I didn’t party, I never smoked, never drank, never so much as held hands with a boy, never said a curse word. I made straight A’s without being hounded about it. I got into several great colleges with full scholarships. I chose the best people available as my friends. I never broke my curfew. I never lied about where I was going or who I was going with. I was grateful for things and I was mostly respectful. I helped around the house. I was kind to my sisters. I served at my church. I genuinely loved the Lord.

This is the sum total of my obvious sins during those four years: There was a boy I liked very much, although I never told him and nothing ever came of it, I liked him.  I totaled my mom’s car the first time I drove alone, not because I was being wild…I somehow am the only person I know who could manage to total a Volvo while going 20 mph. I was sometimes disrespectful or had a bad attitude. I loathed my English teacher. And for three weeks I had a secret blog which I then felt guilty about and deleted.

And yet…I spent most of high school with my stomach in knots. I felt like I was constantly walking on eggshells. No matter how badly I wanted to make everyone happy and how good I was trying to be, I would inevitably do something wrong, make someone angry, disappoint someone. And whether it was wearing too much make-up (while wearing the same amount I wore every day) or disagreeing with a pronouncement, or forgetting something I was supposed to remember, the overwhelming feeling was that no matter how hard I tried, it wasn’t enough. I wasn’t enough.

It’s not as if I think about these things regularly. In fact, I rarely think about them. And it isn’t that good things never happened to me. I have great memories of special times with my family. I have a mom who is one of my dearest friens. I had a prom dress that made me feel like Belle. I went to a wonderful college. I made good friends. I married the love of my life. I had the most beautiful wedding I could have imagined. I was able to take some amazing trips. I got to spend the last year helping to raise some of the sweetest kids imaginable. And these are the things I hold onto.

I am twenty-four years old and it’s time for me to stop believing that if I’m good enough I will eventually have the things I want. That if I’m smart enough I can have a job I love. That if I’m kind enough I will have friends and won’t be lonely. That if I’m generous enough I won’t have to worry about money anymore.  The reality is, sometimes, I am good enough and helpful enough and my dad (my birth dad) still doesn’t love me. Sometimes I work hard enough and I’m still not the best or the smartest and I don’t get the job I want. Sometimes I am as generous and giving as I am capable of being and that isn’t rewarded with financial stability. Sometimes I am as kind and friendly as I know how to be and my coworkers still all go to lunch together and don’t invite me. Sometimes I am disciplined with my eating and work hard with my body and run more miles than I’ve ever thought I was capable of and I am still ten pounds overweight and I still can’t sleep some nights from stomach aches.

So I think the lesson in all of this for me is that sometimes I don’t get a new car or a job that pays well or get to travel or have the ability to buy a house or thinner thighs or a better digestive system. And it’s so frustrating when I feel like I’m doing everything right and it’s all for nothing, and those around me are getting all of those things I desire. I still don’t know why this is. But I do know why it isn’t. And it isn’t because I am not enough.  The God-King of the Universe wrapped himself into a little ball of squirming, stinking human flesh and grew into a kind and humble man, and stretched himself across a heavy, splintered beam of wood and suffered and died. For me. For my shame. For all the ways in which I am truly not enough. And I know that when God looks at me, He sees His son. He sees More Than Enough. It is the miracle of the Incarnation. That even when everything in my life is screaming “Not enough,” God looks at me and whispers, “Enough. More Than Enough. Just as you are. Enough.”
 
I can’t change the fact that often, no matter how hard I try, I’m not “rewarded” for my hard work, and I might never fully understand why. But I can choose to believe what God says about me. I can choose to believe that I am Enough.