Briana Meade

You are Not a Gift to be Unwrapped: A Letter to my Daughter (Guest Post by Briana Meade)

Briana BioFor the second part of my Sex and the Church series I am so honored to have my dear friend, Briana Meade contributing this beautiful letter to her daughter. I am so moved by her vulnerability in this post. Briana and I went to Wheaton College together and even did a study abroad together one summer, but somehow didn’t really connect until we both began writing years later. I am a huge fan of her writing and an even bigger fan of her heart. Briana is currently working with her agent on a book about millenials and blogging at http://brianameade.com

If you missed the first post in this series, you can find it here. You can also subscribe to or follow this blog (see the Subscribe via Email box on the side) to make sure you catch the rest of the awesome guest posts in this series. I am also still accepting guest posts. If you have a story you want to tell you can email me at lily.e.dunn at gmail.com.

*****

Dear Zoe,

I want to tell you a story. It starts out with a group of boys and girls. They are handed thick pledges that look like business cards.

“I promise God…” the cards begin.

There is a 5th grader in the corner. She has sparkly tennis shoes. She bites her lip in concentration, doodles sparkly pen onto the card. She whirls her signature carefully, dotting the “I” with a little star.  She giggles and turns to the girl next to her.

I remember exactly where I was. It was an air-conditioned room with pillows strewn on the floor. I had a crush on the boy next to me—another fifth grader with a cowlick haircut. I determined, in my heart, way before I knew the obstacles I would face, that I would meet my husband at the altar. That I would be proud.

That same day, I was told that I was a gift, waiting to be unwrapped. I imagined myself as a silver present with a droopy silk pink bow. What a beautiful gift I would be. My future husband would round the corner to see a shiny treasure bound with perfect execution, tiny triangles folded and taped on the edges. That was virginity. Me wrapped in a box.

This was the beginning. Over the next eight years I learned more lessons from the church – that my womanly body was dangerous and shameful and needed to be hidden.

That my body was a commodity – a wrapped gift, a perfect rose, an un-chewed stick of gum. And along with that, that I had no agency in the matter of my sexuality. It was something that would be “opened” by or “given” to someone else.

That there are two kinds of girls in the world –girls who adhered to modesty/virginity requirements and those who didn’t. That those girls would be separated like grain from chaff. That this was the ultimate value judgment. And we did not discuss what it meant in cases of sexual abuse and rape for girls to be “unwrapped” without a choice.

I lost my virginity at sixteen. I heard every single one of these messages communicated loud and clear. But I also heard very gentle messages from my parents that were affirming and compassionate.

This was a message I received from the church—your body belongs (as a gift) to your future husband, your parents, Jesus, the church.

I want you to know, darling, that this was a lie. My body belongs to me. It is me. I am my body. My self cannot be separated from it.

You are a beautiful gem. Your body is yours. That doesn’t mean that you don’t have to learn to steward it but you are not a gift for any human being, nor will you ever be. You are not a bouquet of roses or dahlias or sunflowers waiting to be “given” away. You are purely, ultimately, only you.

You with your ability to jump a foot in the air. You with your twirling on the tile at your daddy’s work like a ballerina. You with your laughter and underwater bubbling in the soapy tub. You as a stomping teenager. You someday as a spectacular, beautiful adult with a body.

The real gift, my dear, is sex. Sex is the gift, waiting to be unwrapped. Sex is lying on the table wrapped in blue paper hearts, waiting for the perfect occasion.

If you open sex early, you are still loved. You are still body. You are still you.

If you open it on time, the celebration will be easier and it will be good.

This gift is for you, dear. When you open it early, it is often disappointing. It diminishes the power of perfect timing.

Could it still be disappointing if you wait to open the gift? Maybe. I can’t promise you anything. It’s entirely possible.

Wrap your heart around the receipt of the gift and the true giver. That celebratory day will have streamers and confetti and cake.

You’ll join the person you love the most, who has shown up to enjoy your gift with you.

This man who will carry the treasure side-by-side—from apartment to house—for the rest of this remarkable short life.

What a holy, surprising, and beautiful adventure.

It is good, this gift that God has given you of sex.  I’m sorry if anyone’s told you differently, but you are not the gift. Your body is not the gift.

Don’t let anyone tell you anything else.

_______________________________________________________________________________

Briana Meade is a twenty-something mother of two toddlers who is passionate about singing “Royals,” Starbucks Salted Caramel Mochas, and learning that she is not a special millennial snowflake. Though not in that order, exactly. She writes at http://brianameade.com  and tweets @BrianaMeade.

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What I’m Into: May 2014 Edition

It’s officially June! Which means it’s time for the May wrap-up/What I’m Into post. I started participating in Leigh Kramer’s link-up a few months ago and I’ve found it’s a fun way to review what’s gone on in the previous month and read other people’s suggestions for new things I may not have heard of.

What I’m Reading

I haven’t read a huge quantity of books this month, but the books I’ve read have been long and good. And I have quite a few things on-deck for next month


wise man's fearThe Wise Man’s Fear
by Patrick Rothfuss. I started the month with The Wise Man’s Fear – the book that follows Name of the Wind in the Kingkiller chronicles. It did not disappoint. There are times that this book feels a little winding and unfocused, but it’s hard not to love each individual part anyway. The prose is really spectacular and the characters are complex and engaging. It’s a hefty 1,000 pages, but well worth the time.

 

book thiefThe Book Thief by Marcus Zusak. I had actually read part of this book way back when we were still living in the US, but I had borrowed it from the library and didn’t finish it before we moved so I had to return it. It was on sale a while back as a cheap kindle book so I went ahead and purchased it so I could eventually finish reading it. There was no reason except for unfortunate circumstances that I didn’t finish this book earlier because it is a gem and a quick read. This book has gotten a fair amount of attention and I think rightly so. The characters are unique and interesting and the story is moving. I sobbed through the ending. I think it’s the best WWII fiction book I’ve ever read.

carry on, warriorCarry on, Warrior: Thoughts on Life Unarmed, by Glennon Melton. This book was an easy read that was mostly a delight. Not only is Glennon hilarious, but she writes in such a familiar way you feel like you’re sitting at a coffee shop having a chat with a good friend. While I don’t subscribe to all of her views on life, there’s a lot about Glennon’s writing that I really appreciate and resonate with – especially her emphasis on showing grace to yourself and allowing yourself and others to be the messy human beings that we are and find beauty in that anyway. Glennon is a recovering alcoholic, drug addict, bulimic, etc and in spite of it all has such a hopeful outlook on life even with its messy bits. I especially like Glennon’s mantra that “We can do hard things.”

Lies of Locke LamoraThe Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch. I’m not quite finished with this one, but I’m including it this month anyway since I’ve read most of it in May. I’ve found this to be both highly entertaining and well-written. My friend Josh recommended it to me by describing it as part Oceans 11, part swashbuckling pirates which sounded like a winning combination to me.! I’m not quite finished with it yet, but it’s been great fun and I look forward to reading the other books in Lynch’s “Gentleman Bastards” series.

 

 

On Deck: I’ve got a lot of books queued up and waiting for me to “click to buy” on Amazon, but I think my next few books will be Daring Greatly, by Brene Brown, Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird, and maybe Elizabeth Gilbert’s The Signature of All Things. I’ll probably also sneak some sort of light fiction book in there for my long weekend at the beach. Honestly…I have like 20 books on the “read ASAP” list with new ones popping up on my radar almost every day, so we’ll see what happens. If you want the play-by-play you can follow me on Goodreads.

signature of all thngs

bird by birddaring greatly

What I’m Watching

I’ve finished all the episodes of Call the Midwife available to me on Netflix, so naturally I’m listless and depressed by that. We are still catching up on a few season finales but have finished up some of our favorites including Parks and Recreation, Mindy Project, New Girl, and Community.  In new discoveries, I’ve become fascinated by Anthony Bourdain’s series, Parts Unknown which explores both food and culture in different parts of the world (two of my favorite things). There are two incomplete seasons on Netflix that I am working my way through haphazardly.

In movies, we recently saw the new X-Men movie. Twice actually. I thought it was fantastically entertaining despite some weird plot holes. (SPOILER ALERT: So a mutant drops a stadium on the White House and tries to kill the President, but then everyone decides the mutants aren’t dangerous because one of them saves the President? Sure, they proved that not all of the mutants are bad, but Magneto just got away!)

I’ve got a big thing for James MacAvoy, so watching him is always enjoyable. And as much as I hate to follow the crowd, I do still love J-Law, so it’s always a pleasure to watch her. I will say though, I remain perplexed by the supposed controversy about her body… I hear in the media all the time her saying things like, “I’m sorry! I like to eat! I don’t want to look like a pre-pubescent boy, I want to look like a woman!” and then I see her more or less naked in this movie and think, “Who the heck thinks you’re fat?! That has to be made-up.” Because not only is she objectively thin, she also has this killer body!

We also saw the new Amazing Spiderman movie at the beginning of the month and I really like the new franchise in spite of my initial misgivings. Andrew Garfield is a superb on-screen crier. And I’ve always liked Spiderman’s smart-alecky ways.

 

What I’m Listening To

My amazingly talented friend Avery Bright has a new EP out called Under the Influence that everyone should listen to. You can even get a Free Download here!

 

What I’m Eating

I’ve been experimenting with a few new recipes lately and while this hasn’t been a great thing for my resolve to “eat healthy,” it has been a great thing for my amazement in my own culinary abilities. 😉 For example, check out these pretzel bread buns that I actually made FROM SCRATCH! Who knew such a thing could be made in my own home toaster oven. I felt like an awesome professional baker.

You can get the recipe  I used here or check out my Pinterest boards to see what else I’ve got cooking. I think my next project will be homemade naan and curry.

I took this picture with my phone! These are the actual buns that came out of my oven!

I took this picture with my phone! These are the actual buns that came out of my oven!  Be sufficiently amazed!

 

On the Blog

This month was pretty busy. My parents came to visit until May 12th so the beginning of the month was jammed with lots of traveling around and showing them Korea. (You can read about their visit here.) I wrote a post introducing people to the real me, even the parts I’m not proud of, and you readers were very gracious to me. I wrote about my Bible study girls and how we might not be the best Christians, but we sure are good at eating cookies. I told the story about my first grade teacher outsmarting me and trying to let go of control. And last week I talked about cellulite and other things a 26-year old never-carried-a-child body isn’t supposed to have.

On the Internets

Some of my favorite pieces on the internets this month include my friend Meredith’s hilarious piece about accepting ourselves as we are. I think the title speaks for itself. “My Mustache Brings All the Boys to the Yard.”

My friend (OK, she’s not like my “real-life friend,” but a girl can dream) Addie Zierman wrote a fantastic piece over at A Deeper Story about how there is no fool-proof parenting plan that will produce kids who love God and how maybe spiritual struggle is just part of life.  It reminded me a lot of some of things I wrote about in this post a while back.

An anonymous writer wrote a guest post on my friend Briana’s blog, sharing a very important story that challenges the assumptions the evangelical purity culture has made about post-marital sex. I appreciated that this woman was brave enough to share something so personal because I really understood some of the harmful ideas and thought processes even if I didn’t have the exact same experiences that she did.

I was also really moved by this video of a talk by Shauna Niequist about the importance of women pursuing their calling and not pushing it to the back just because they have a family. I think it was a really good message for those who feel like pursuing something outside of caring for the family is a selfish thing. I made my husband listen to this too because I wanted him to be on the same page about what I hope our life looks like once we have kids and are more settled.

In Life:

I suddenly got up the stamina to start running again, and then a week and a half into it, summer hit Daegu and we’ve got highs in the mid-to-high 90s (between 35 and 38 Celsius, people) which has derailed some of my more ambitious plans. It is just not healthy to do long runs in that kind of heat.

Last weekend I went out for my first girl’s night in I-don’t-know how long. This partly made me feel good like, “I’ve still got it!” in spite of being more of a homebody the older I get. And it partly confirmed that I am in fact an old lady now that it’s taking me three days to get over staying up so late. (I was in bed at 8:30 last night and I’m still exhausted today).

This coming weekend is a 3-day weekend for Korea (Friday is a holiday) so we are taking a trip to Namhae where we will go to the beach, snorkel and kayak I am ready for a break, if not for wearing my swimsuit in public. We’ll try to take some good pictures and get a full report up next week!

Sometimes Love: A Spoken-Word-Poem Guest Post

Today I am excited to be over at my sweet friend, Briana Meade’s blog with a guest post for her For Better or Worse series. I am also excited/incredibly nervous to be debuting a little spoken-word poem.

When I heard about Briana’s series on marriage I had just published a more traditional post on the topic here, so I decided to take a risk and do something very new and different (for me) in this post. Not only did I write a poem, but it’s a spoken-word poem AND I decided to record it for you. I don’t usually do this (and by don’t usually I mean NEVER) so please bear with my lack of expertise both in performance and videography. I hope you can see past those things and hear my heart in this piece. And I hope maybe something you hear will move you. Because I believe we need each other’s stories to understand our own.

So…(slightly panicking)….here it goes. Check out the video (and the rest of Briana’s awesome blog) here. Let me know what you think! Unless you really really hate it. Then just don’t say anything. (Also, sorry, Mom, about the cursing.)

 

Little baby Jonathan and Lily.

Little baby Jonathan and Lily.

Grown-up Jonathan and Lily (well, sort-of). And don't be confused by this picture. Buddha has not granted us a son.

Grown-up Jonathan and Lily (well, sort-of). And don’t be confused by this picture. Buddha has not granted us a son.