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Wanting More

September 22, 2014

In case you haven’t gathered from any of  my other blog posts, I am a big … fan? admirer? supporter? … of Tullian Tchividjian. On his blog every Monday morning he recommends a song, calling it ‘Monday Morning Music.’  Last Monday’s song was something that I enjoyed but also that I think my brother would like.  Both Tullian and my brother live in South Florida.  That part of the country is it’s on entity.  I await the day that they file for independence from the rest of the country.

As a writer, sometimes artist, and general observer of human behavior, I often like to read lyrics and listen to songs for their literary value. This is not a novel idea.  I’ve commented on a pop song or two in the past.  And in listening to so many pop songs in the last several weeks, I can’t help but continue to see how they point back to something bigger and recognize the hurt and brokenness in the world (in explaining that Young Life leaders need to be culturally relevant in club talks and campaigner lessons, Cliff Wright was one of the first people to point this out to me).

When I first heard Mary Lambert’s “Secrets,” I wasn’t sure whether to congratulate her on being brave and honest or to console her for thinking that there isn’t something more for her. There’s an apathetic notion in her realization though, because she doesn’t “care if the world knows her secrets anymore,” implying that the hurt and suffering she’s held onto is insignificant and that she’s moving on.

What really sparked this post though is a track on Maroon 5’s new album V.  “Unkiss Me,” initially struck me when I was scrolling through new releases on Spotify.  What does that even mean?  I though as I double-clicked to listen.  Unkiss me? How can you unkiss someone?  Is that even a word?  I guess Adam Levine and Maroon 5 have made it a word.  On it’s most basic level the song describes a love gone bad, and the desire to have all memories from the love erased and taken away. Listening to Adem Levine’s sultry voice describing something so painful that he would ask the other individual to ‘unkiss him,’ brings back my own memories of relationships (friendships, romantic trysts, etc) where when things ended, and ended badly, I wanted to have it wiped from my brain, much like the memory eraser in Men in Black.  But after contemplating all the memories and emotions, I don’t want to be ‘unkissed.’  I have the power to look at the kisses (metaphorical and literal) that are in my past and determine whether I will let them permeate my memory not just as a good or bad, but as something to learn from: learn how to (and how not) love people. And not only that choice, but the option of seeing everything as an experience that will help me realize why I do chose to love the people around me.

My mom was in town last weekend for my wedding shower, and I’m embarrassed and glad to say that it was a much better visit than I expected.  But at times my mother does make biting comments on my choices that are judgmental and unwarranted.  I have more life experience that she realizes, and so behind the curtain of what I have let her see of my life, in her mind I have not had enough experience to have already picked a husband, because I “haven’t dated enough people,” and I “don’t know enough,” to have already picked a husband.  In that same conversation she brought up an old relationship of mine, stating, “I didn’t think he was right for you, but I don’t know what happened between you two.”  “Well, he lied to me about a lot of things; namely he lied about loving me.”  I retorted.  “Oh, well that’s weird.”  My mom didn’t know what to say.

I love my mother, and I know she loves me a lot, but often her love doesn’t come out right.  I’m not a mother yet, but I can only imagine how hard it will be, and how it will probably be the biggest challenge I will face.  My relationship with my mother has made me see how obvious it is that no one can love us more perfectly and wholly than God because as human beings we mess up every single relationship at some point or another, even the ones we choose (husband, wife, work, friend, etc).  But if I raise successful children, (my definition of this is based on how my brother and I are both functioning members of society – job, school, friends, relational skills, etc) the way my parents have raised successful children, the first thing I will recognize is that their choices are exactly that: THEIRS.  As much as I would want to spare them the pain and hurt that I have felt, I know that they will experience it in their own way.

The words in “Unkiss Me” mimic experiences we have all had.  Who hasn’t been jilted by someone?  But what I would add is this: the choices we make, the words we chose to say to people, and our actions speak to who we are at the end of the day. Don’t ‘lie to your heart,’ let alone someone else’s.  Take ownership of what you have decided to put yourself through. (That’s something I’ve been working on, and it’s a daily process.)  And you know what?

Want more for people than they want for themselves.

This I Believe

September 18, 2014

I grew up listening to NPR, and one of their programs called, “This I Believe,” always made an impression on me.  The intensity that even a brief essay read aloud can convey often keeps me thinking for hours on end. The program has been ongoing since the 1950s.  It’s a powerful way for people to share their thoughts on life.  I wrote a short essay in college (can be found here: This I Believe) with these guidelines and felt inspired to write another one recently.  Writers that share their written “This I Believe” also record it (for the radio program), so I have both of those formats for you here.  

~

I believe in making decisions quickly and efficiently.  I believe in simplifying as much as possible.  I believe in cutting out the extras.

But most of all, I believe in having a laid back wedding planning experience.  Planning a wedding in less than four months has revealed to me a lot of ways that our society pressures brides (and grooms) into thinking they need at least a year (or more) to plan a successful wedding.  And I haven’t even gotten married yet. In 17 days I will marry my fiancé, John, and I know that some things will go wrong.  I know that some aspects of the wedding planning already have gone wrong.  In fact, I printed the wrong day on our wedding invitations!

Despite all this, I believe that being relaxed and calm while making efficient decisions for my wedding has saved me both my time and my sanity.  At the end of the day on October 5th, 2014, I not only believe but know that John and I will be married.

I believe what’s important on that day is the first look he will get of me when I walk down the aisle in my wedding dress: not because of the dress, and not because of my hair or makeup, or even my veil. That look is important because that day I will be his wife.  I believe in capturing his first look at me in that moment as I walk down the aisle and as I walk towards him, moments away from being his wife.

I believe sharing our love on that day is foremost, because it represents what we believe; that there is so much more than even we as human beings can share with each other.

I believe that we get a glimpse of that wonderful love, by having a day to celebrate what God has given us.  I believe in celebrating with reckless abandon, because the brokenness in our world shouldn’t win. I believe love should win.

I believe that the endless choices given to a bride and groom for the day they share with their families and friends gives the deceitful impression that for some reason the type of table centerpiece or welcome table is how you share with your family and friends that you love them or that you want to show them your love.  Here’s the thing though … No one will remember the food you had at your wedding.  No one will remember what song you entered the reception to.  No one will remember the colors of your wedding.  No one will remember the best man’s speech.  But I do believe that they will remember your promise, your covenant.

I believe that weddings are important.  I believe that making a promise in front of witnesses is important.  I believe that the process of planning my wedding is important and that it should reflect what I believe about love: that it is never perfect, but that it is to be shared, and shared abundantly.

~

Here is the audio for this post.

Mary Magdalene and Grace

September 5, 2014

My dad is the best.  We’ve been exchanging emails about wedding details and whatnot, and in his email today he included a question about whether or not Mary Magdalene was a prostitute.  My dad teaches at a great private school outside Boston, but the theology often directly contradicts what he and I hear on Sundays at our respective churches.  As I was typing out the email I realized it was a blog post in the making, so here’s the excerpt of my response to his question:

Mary Magdalene.  This article was helpful when I looked into it; people like to focus on things like, “Was she a prostitute, or the wife of Jesus, or …?”  When really all that matters was that she was a follower of Jesus. It happens in this day and age too – people are more concerned about what someone does for a living, what they had for dinner, what they’re wearing, etc, when really we have so much grace and love in Christ that it doesn’t matter.  No one is righteous enough, and no one is perfect enough, so that’s why we need Jesus.  I’ve been listening to a great sermon series by Tullian Tchividjian (a Presbyterian pastor in FL) on the book of Romans and how it’s all about how no matter what we do or how we live, we still need Jesus.  Catholics have a distorted view of grace that undermines the power of the Cross and puts emphasis on what WE as individuals DO (or don’t do) – they claim ‘mortal’ sins will cause you to lose your grace and salvation which makes no sense.  Jesus didn’t say “Oh hey, I’m only sacrificing myself for those of you who don’t commit the REALLY BIG SINS … you know who you are”.  As Jesus died he declared, “It is finished,” implying THAT WAS IT, the price had been paid, for ALL SINS.  There’s so much legalism and moralism and emotionalism that gets tied into all that that doesn’t matter. … Ok. Rant over.  

Maybe I’m just Protestant to the core, but I really get bent out of shape when I look at Catholic theology and see them twist the Gospel into anything more than The Cross.  Trying to make grace about sinners and not about the Savior.  Or maybe I’ve just been listening to too many sermons from Tullian Tchividjian.  

God is good.  He did everything for you, so your success, achievements, failures, losses, and gains are covered.  

Perfection or Purpose

August 20, 2014

Somehow I had forgotten the joy that my soul normally maintains.  I realized it at the end of last week, and it’s been pervasive through this current week.  So I wrote a list:

list

               First Version of the List

I’m such a task-oriented person, that having a list of things to accomplish often satisfies my need to feel successful.  But today I had one of my recurring epiphanies that I don’t need to accomplish anything.  Jesus has accomplished it all.  A weight lifted off of my soul.

This and last week is a blur though still.  My personal life has been filled with wedding plans and spending time with friends in Fredericksburg, and and my work life has been overwhelming and filled with stress over a number of projects and new violin students.  I often don’t give myself time to breathe, and when I do, I don’t feel justified in it; “I don’t deserve time off, I haven’t earned it,”  is often what I think.  I have trouble sitting still, so it’s a wonder I’ve been able to work in my office more the past couple of weeks.

The list helped a bit.  I even added some things to it over the course of the weekend that I realized I’d been longing for:

List

                 Edited Version of the List

In the end though, the list only helped a little.  The high of retail therapy (I bought an awesome new Scout Bag that I LOVE) and exercising only last for so long, and I eventually realized I have had a heart problem.  I have felt worthless.  I feel worthless at work and worthless to my fiancé.  I feel like a worthless daughter who will never be good enough for her mother.  I feel like a worthless employee who doesn’t do a good enough job.  I feel like a worthless roommate for leaving dishes around and not being home enough.  The root of my heart problem: where I was placing my worth.  

I should be finding my worth in Christ and not in anything else.

In the end, I will let people down.  I will not succeed in loving people well, as hard as I may try.  I’ve been reading a lot of comments and articles that some of my friends post on Facebook (don’t start, you won’t stop), and a lot of them are from a humanistic viewpoint, which at first sounds appealing, until you realize that it will only suffice if people are perfect.  And let me tell you, people (especially myself) are not perfect.

In planning my wedding, I have been thinking about how I want everything to be perfect.  But I have had to remember that there is no way it will be perfect.  Something will go wrong, and that’s ok.  Our wedding can, and will, have purpose, and that is far better.  Having direction, purpose, and a focused heart is so much better than being perfect.

So over the weekend, getting our first ‘Mr. & Mrs.’ gifts, travel coffee mugs (thanks to my secret sister at church!), I have been reminded that marriage is my next big step in learning where I can have direction, purpose, and focus.  

Mrs.

Loving my new Mrs. travel coffee mug!

My heart longs for so many things, and I think it’s unrest in part is due to the fact that I wasn’t meant for this broken and hurting world.  But until something else comes along, I will remember (what my friend Craig reminded me of today), that:

“But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me.

1 Corinthians 15:10

Us vs. Them

July 22, 2014

You can’t deny that as you scroll through your social media feeds on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc, you find yourself comparing your life to those around you.  I know I do it.  And I know I’m not the only one who does.  On the beach yesterday, I listened to the 2nd sermon in Tullian Tchividjian’s Roman’s series, he addresses the comparative nature of our society, saying, “So much of our identity is wrapped up in thinking we’re better than others.”  We tell ourselves, ‘Well, I’m better off than that person, so I’m doing fine.’  The comparative nature of our society is so toxic.  It creates a vicious cycle within ourselves that is destructive to ourselves and to the relationships in our lives.

Scrolling through my own Facebook feed this week, a number of the Christian women I’m friends with re-posted an article titled “Three Immodestly Dressed Women Walk Into a Church”.  So many people post and re-post different articles about varying social, political, and religious viewpoints, there’s no way to read it all (unless you spend all day doing it).  It can be hard to sort through and decide what to spend time reading, but after so many people re-posted this particular article, I finally caved and read it.  It resonated with what Tchividjian summarized in the sermon I listened to yesterday, but it drew on a particular aspect of it.  Using Romans 1:18-2:11, Tchividjian explained that people inside the church often draw on a self-righteousness and moralistic life-style where judgmental attitudes are rampant.  This is exactly what Kimberley is drawing on in her article; looking at how some people focus on what people wear to church is one aspect of this judgmental lifestyle.  At the end of the day, if we decide to judge someone for what they’re wearing, we’re allowing ourselves to stop looking at our own hearts to figure out what’s really going on with us.  Kimberley even says this at the end of her article: it’s a heart matter.  If you have an issue with what someone else is wearing, look at yourself and figure out why.  Have some compassion for the people around you.  Ask them about their story.  Learn how to listen.

I grew up in a legalistic society where moralism and self-righteousness was rampant.  I thought that things in The South were different, but they’re not.  People do the same things everywhere, but often mask it with different reasons.  In the North, Catholicism explains that your salvation can be earned through works. – just work hard enough and Jesus will bestow His grace on you. In the South, Baptists tell you to just have faith – just walk down the aisle and kneel and give your heart to Jesus.  There’s very few communities that will tell you: it’s NOT ABOUT YOU. It’s about what JESUS DID.

Don’t have an Us vs. Them mentality.  Have an “It’s About the Heart” mentality, and recognize that everyone is hurting just as much you are. Just. As. Much.  And trying to figure out where they fit in.  Just. As. Much.

Learning How to Listen

July 22, 2014

I have felt totally out of my element the past couple days: I’m with John’s family at the beach, and it’s a blast, but there’s a learning curve.  His family is here (parents, grandparents, aunt), as well as a lot of family friends, but everyone really does their own thing.  It’s a vacation they go on every summer, and it’s a blast, but it is not what I’m used to.

View from the House

View from the House

Growing up we always did a lot together as a family, even on vacation.  We hiked together, walked together, went to the beach together, ate meals together, played wiffle ball together … getting the gist?  So as I’ve grown older and realized that now vacation is what I want it to be, and it’s what I make it, I’ve had a hard time reconciling that no one is telling me to be somewhere at a certain time, and I have minimal responsibilities.

As a result, the first two days of this vacation have been what I’ve made them and what I’d do on an ideal vacation: sleep in, listen to sermons (which I never do at home because I don’t have the patience to sit and listen), read a novel, relax in the pool and the hot tub, sit at the beach and enjoy the view, and just enjoy having minimal responsibilities. I’m such a daddy’s girl though, so the only thing I’m really missing on this vacation is my dad.

~

I’m thankful for the time to learn.  Learn how people care for each other in this family.  

Learn how people cope with hurt.   Learn how to love my future in-laws better.

Learn how to listen better.