Thursday, June 4, 2015

At the Heart of the Purity Paradox....and Lasagna

Imagine a world where there was a teaching about lasagna.

You see, in this world lasagna is only meant to be shared by married couples. It's holy, sacred, and set apart. You grow up in a home where lasagna is never mentioned outside of phrases like, "Lasagna is meant for a man and a woman within the covenant of marriage" and "Some people eat lasagna together before they're married but God tells us that is sin." You have questions about it but you don't feel comfortable with talking about it since it seems like no one else is either. You've got a few friends who say that they've been eating lasagna with their boyfriends but the thought is scandalizing to you. After that emotionally charged True Lasagna Waits weekend at church you're positive that saving lasagna for marriage is the right thing to do. But how?? In the movies you've gotten glimpses of what it might be like to share lasagna with someone but it's all smoke and mirrors and romanticism.

But it. looks. good.

You're in a relationship and it's getting pretty serious so thoughts like, "What if we just have some noodles without the cheese and sauce??" or "How bad can it be to just take one bite, right?" But after years and years of being told that God has designed lasagna for marriage without much practical application for why or how you're feeling pretty lost. So what happens next? You're in the car on the way to your honeymoon full of jitters and nerves. You get to your destination, take a long look at one another and your heart cries out, "We did it! We made it! Here we are on our wedding day about to share some lasagna!" But after some awkward glances and looks around the kitchen you both get a little nervous. Things go quiet until you say what you're both thinking, "Hey, honey. Ummm. Do you even have a recipe for lasagna?"

"Well. Um. Actually. No, I don't. Don't you?"

"Sure don't."

And then a resounding chorus of "Well crap." is followed by a most awkward attempt at cooking by two rookies who've been, 'til now, just making toast. I hate to break it to you, folks, but lasagna takes a little more preparation than toast.

I love a good analogy for many reasons, but one of the main ones is that it can make me laugh about an issue that's really needing some hard thought. We all know that lasagna isn't just for two people who love one another. I'm actually talking about sex. Duh. But now that we're on the same page here are five things I want to say about what I feel like is at the heart of the purity problem.

1. Open up the discussion
Parents, let me ask you this: do you want your children learning about sex from their friends or from you? If you want them to be comfortable asking questions then you must first create an atmosphere of trust and a platform for discussion. If you communicate then you'll probably be pleasantly surprised that they do, too. And answer real questions with real answers! If a child or teen is old enough to ask a question then they're old enough to receive an age appropriate answer. This is preferable to "I'll tell you when you're older" or skirting around the issue. Pray over this and ask God to lead your answers. Use grace and heavens, don't be awkward about it!

2. Keep it sacred
As I sit here and write about this I also admit that yes, this is a topic that deserves to be treated as special and sacred. Sex isn't just an action between two people, it's a reflection of love and God's covenant for marriage. Focus on the power of love that should be driving a desire for sex. 1 Corinthians 13 would be a great place to start.

3. Never resort to shame
I'm so weary of the shame that has been placed on the hearts of my Christian brothers and sisters in relation to sex. If the message is always focused on the "No" it will be difficult, even in marriage, to experience enjoyment in the "Yes". Because after years of being taught that sex is something perceived as sinful and dirty it sure is hard to wipe that reputation clean.

4. Don't give instruction without a reason and a plan
"Because I said so" is not a good reason for saving sex for marriage. Just in case you didn't know. Where is our teaching on WHY and HOW. Why should I save sex for marriage and how do I actually accomplish that? That's what our youth really need to know. For the "why?" I would point to passages like 1 Thessalonians 4. For the how, I think it's important to talk about boundaries, consent, communication within relationships, and what it means to be "holy and set apart" which leads me to.....

5. Focus on the heart
Purity is a state of the heart, not just of the body. I could enter marriage having never even been touched by a man but that doesn't guarantee that I have a pure heart that is seeking after God. However, if I've been instructed to study what the bible says about living a holy life and my heart reflects God's teachings then the outward signs of purity will overflow from God's presence in my life. It's a backwards theology to say that avoiding sexual sin will lead to a purity when it's really the pure heart that leads to a desire to abstain from sexual sin.
2 Timothy 2:22 says, "Flee the evil desires of youth and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart." The pure heart is the goal here. Everything else lines into place along side it.

Before I end this post, I want to go back to the lasagna. Our newlywed couple didn't have a recipe, so they didn't know how to make lasagna. But what's in the recipe? I don't think it's another form of physical affection, and I don't think it's some book called "Let's talk about Sex", either. I think it should be made up of realistic expectations, lots of grace for yourself and your spouse, a lot of prayer, and a mind and heart that is expectant instead of heavy with guilt. It will look a little different for everyone but I think each couple will reach a place of comfort with their recipe by being open and communicating with one another in love.

And this is the best part. That first batch of lasagna is going to suck a little, right? Right?? Come on, please share a laugh with me over this. It's the truth. But it's also going to be awesome and completely worth it. And you're going to have years and years to spend more time in the kitchen together making lasagna until you have it just right. I think there's very little in life more special than that reality. You see, this is why it's so important to me to talk about this. To bring it up even if it's awkward. Because the shame and the guilt that so many Christians face after years of seeing sex as sinful is hurting the church. It's breaking our marriages and leading our youth to sources of information about sex that treat intimacy like it's casual instead of sacred. If we want to see a change we have to be the ones to make it!

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Changing the Perception of Purity

I have something on my heart. It's not an easy thing to share because it's on a topic that everyone likes to avoid. But I'm feeling sassy enough to bring it up, so let's hope I don't regret it in the morning.
I started a blog post that was meant to gently share my thoughts on this but after more than half an hour and only finishing a couple scant paragraphs I realized that I was going about this the wrong way. So instead I'm unleashing my real, raw emotion because I think this topic deserves it.

Modesty. Purity. Sex. Breastfeeding.

In the modern American Christian church we've got a little problem. We've been teaching our young ladies and gents for quite some time that modesty equals covering your body and purity equals saving yourself for marriage. But I've got a bit of a problem with that. I do believe that God designed sex for marriage and I also believe in wearing clothing that reflects modesty. But there's more to purity and modesty than the superficial, outward reflections of what God is doing in our hearts.

It wasn't until Kris and I were engaged that I started to become aware of the major flaw in the system. Now, as we're approaching our five year anniversary and I'm breastfeeding our second child my eyes are increasingly opened to how skewed our teachings are.

I have talked to too many young women who walked into their marriages terrified of sex. Why? Because after years and years of being taught a one-sided theology of the importance of modesty and sexual purity they're lost. They've valued their virginity and their covered bodies so much that they can't find pleasure in the act of sex. They are filled with so much mental conflict over finally giving up what they've held onto for so long. Then, a little down the road, they are approached with the task of giving birth to, and breastfeeding, a baby. I have a little newsflash for you here: God doesn't reach down and place a holy covering on every new, modest Christian mom. Birth is raw and it's eye opening. Breastfeeding is a learned skill. Neither of these things comes as naturally as you might think and both require an immense amount of comfort in your own skin.

If we really want to impress upon Christian men and women that purity isn't defined by virginity, but instead a state of being in Christ, then I think we'll pull them into the depths of God's abundant love. That is where the real teaching begins, you know? But here's the catch: we aren't going to change this flawed perception of purity without talking about sex. I'm so tired of the idea that simply saying "Save sex for marriage!" we're somehow teaching a deep truth. It takes talking about the WHY and the HOW and the WHERE in the bible do we learn about that? In depth, real, raw discussions of the every day challenges of sexual purity in today's American culture.

What I want is for every woman struggling with this is to understand a little something that I've struggled with and learned along the way. Modesty and purity are as much a state of your heart as they are of your body. God made your body and he didn't add an ounce of shame. I want to see our young women saving themselves for marriage because they believe in God's design for sex, not because they think that God is standing in heaven with a checklist. I want to see them choosing clothing that is a reflection of the modesty and purity of their hearts, not a shallow representation of their church's teachings.

These are my very short and to the point musings on this topic. Seriously, I could go on and on and on. But I'd like to hear the thoughts of others in my faith community who have been a part of this generation of teaching about purity! Please feel free to (gracefully) share your thoughts :-)

Saturday, December 6, 2014

A Day of Remembering

It had been a really busy week. Like, the kind of week that should go down in history as the busiest week ever. Thanksgiving was over so christmas preparations were underway. On Sunday we had our normal busy day at church and a rehearsal for our Christmas musical. I was keeping another baby full time during the week and that night found out that a friend had an opening in her in home daycare. This was a true godsend! I knew I was at the end of the road with keeping another baby because I was nearing the end of my first trimester and wanted more time to soak up my last few months as mama to one baby. So, by a sweet miracle, it worked out for baby Melanie to start in my friend's care the beginning of the following week instead of at the beginning of January like I originally thought. Monday night we had our children's choir performance at a local nursing home. Tuesday night we had our private studio Chrismas recital. Wednesday night we had church and musical rehearsal. Thursday was my last day with Melanie and that night we went out to dinner to celebrate the end of a very long week before my 12 week OB appointment the next morning. I'll never forget that evening. It was beautiful outside and everything seemed perfect. 

The next morning we were laying in bed talking and praying together that we would have good news at my appointment. Those were such perfect moments. Just peace and sweetness. Then Kris's phone rang but he didn't pick it up. Then my phone starts to ring and it seemed odd so we checked it and saw that Kris's mom, Valerie, was calling. It was 7am and that seemed rather strange so Kris stepped outside to take the call and not wake Harrison. He came back in several minutes later and I remember laying there just knowing that something was wrong. He walked in and he told me what the only thing we knew. Cameron was pulled over and, for a reason unknown to us, was shot by the officer and killed. 

Heart stopped. Life forever changed. We just sat there and cried. What else can you do? 

I've written a little about what happened next. I dragged myself to my appointment and saw a healthy baby growing after my second miscarriage. Family, friends, church family, and complete strangers rallied around all of us with love, prayer, financial help, a plane ticket for me, and countless other expressions of kindness. Love in the face of pain and grief. Thank you all. 

But today is just a day of remembering. A day to grieve the loss of someone so special that it's hard to put words to the impact he had and life he lived in such a short time. A day to look around and be thankful for we have but still be entitled to to feeling hurt and angry for what we're missing. 

So we're spending it together. Kris, his brothers, parents, Harrison, Lincoln, and I all piled in a cabin and living little adventures in a place that Cameron loved and adventured in. 

We appreciate your prayers, as ever, and I hope that you can find a moment to remember Cameron today. 

Monday, November 17, 2014


Pointing to a shark on the window at a local restaurant 
"A mama shark!"
"Cool! Why is it a mama shark?" 
"Because it's scary!!!"

While fighting a nap 
"Mama, I has a Popsicle pleeeease." 
"Sorry, but you need to wait until you've woken up from your nap. Why don't you go lay down and nap! Then you can have a Popsicle when you wake up."
"Ok! Yeah!"
Runs back to his room and waits a few seconds then runs back into the living room.
"Mama! Look! I wake up from my nap! Has a Popsicle now!"

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

A Christmas Analogy

I'm one of those people who can't stand getting in the mood for Halloween before October, Thanksgiving before November, or Christmas before December. It's just wrong. However, I do know that preparing for it is necessary and so I've had holiday prep on the brain lately. One thing that I know will be quite different this year is Christmas with Harrison. For the first time I think he'll actually have a small understanding of the anticipation of Christmas. Granted, I think by this time next year he'll be old enough to really grasp it, but this year is still the beginning of the fun. Kris and I have looked forward to celebrating such an important religious holiday as a family and starting our own traditions with our kids. So, of course, we've had the Santa talk.

I genuinely feel like this shouldn't be a big deal. But it seems as though many people think it is. So here are my thoughts, in mediocre analogy form.

Kris and I believe that Jesus is the one true son of God. This is something that is very important to us and that we want to instill in our children. However, I understand that we have many friends who do not share the same faith we do. As an evangelistic Christian, that saddens me and I do wish to see them come to know Jesus as their God and savior but I love and respect them just the same. Eventually, I am sure that someone will tell Harrison or Lincoln that Jesus isn't real, just a character from an old book. I imagine that this will come as quite a shock to him and that he'll have a lot of questions for me about it. I feel like a simple explanation like, "His family doesn't share the same belief we do but that doesn't make Jesus any less real." I may have to continue reassuring him of that but I won't be upset with the other family and I certainly won't be upset with the other child. We just don't share the same belief.

So turning this same logic to Santa, I feel like it's ok if some children believe Santa is real and some don't. At the end of the day, it's a decision made by each family and not one that I want to judge. And as for my son spoiling Christmas for another child? This is simple to me. "Well, Johnny, his family doesn't celebrate Christmas the same way we do and that's ok. Santa isn't for everyone." It doesn't have to be some earth shattering revelation; it just comes down to how you handle it.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014


One thing that is endlessly entertaining for me is Harrison's expanding vocabulary. I love to see how he says new things and develops his personal language style. So in order to keep up with all the little funny phrases I'm going to do a once a week Harrisonism post. 

I figured I would play a joke on Harrison on Monday so when I went into the other room to pick up Lincoln I roared into the baby monitor. He came running in and said "Mama! Mama! You hear that? My grandpa! On the phone!" Apparently he likes his Grandpa's roars. 

"Mama, look!"
"Oh great, you found your whale!"
"No, mom. Dat's an orca."

...and in a similar vein:
"Is that a digger?"
"No, it's an excavator."

While talking to my Granmother on the phone:
"Are you excited to go see Granmother and the cows at her house?"
"And her monkeys!"
"I don't think she has any monkeys..."
"No, probably not any gorillas either."
"I see her sharks!"

I've been working with him on saying, "yes ma'am". Tonight while I was in another room I hear Kris talking to him...
"You need to stay in your room and read this book while I go get your snack."
"Yes ma'am!"
"Well when you're talking to daddy you can say 'yes sir'"
"Yes ma'am!"
"Yes ma'am is for mama, yes ma'am is for daddy."
"Yes ma'am! Yes ma'am!"
Then as he comes back to remind him to stay in his room
"Yes sirrrrr!" 
He finally got it!

Friday, October 31, 2014

Crappy Halloween!

"Crappy Halloween!"

Doesn't have the same ring to it as "Happy Halloween!" does but hey...that's life sometimes. This was not our greatest holiday ever. The entire day was an experiment in meltdowns on Harrison's part which had both Kris and I on edge. Then we lost our minds and took that big ball of meltdown energy to a big fall festival at a local church. Our energetic toddler, who already has a hard time handling crowds, went absolutely in.sane. Lincoln slept the entire time. And, as usual, I am not in a single one of the very few pictures taken.

It shouldn't bother me so much, really. But it does and I hate that. I hate that I want so much for days like this to be perfect even though, in the mind of a 2 year old, there's nothing different about this day. It's just another day and then suddenly your mom puts funny clothes on you, takes you to a big crowd, and says "have fun! But be on your very best behavior!" Not exactly a recipe for success.

I wouldn't even have sat down and gotten these thoughts off my brain except for the following reasons:
1. It's good to be real.
2. Next year I want to look back on this so I can remind myself to not repeat the same mistake. Ha!

So live and learn.
And next year just keep calm.