Limits of Love

Christianity, love, marriage

It is the ultimate trump card. You toss it down with a flick of your wrist and no one dares cross you: ‘love.’ No one can question your actions. If done in the name of ‘love,’ it is good and decent and obligates others to support it. 
‘Love’ is god, we say.
But we have it backwards. God is love; He defines what it looks like, both its possibilities and its limitations. His love is far greater and more magnificent than I can ever understand, let alone write.
Since ‘love’ is our lowercase ‘god,’ we twist its definition into anything we want it to be. 
Love is messy. We know that. From the mama who wipes poopy bottoms, to the woman whose man keeps looking at porn, and the husband who tries but seems to have lost his wife to his children. Love is messy. 
And when Jesus went to the cross? That was messy, too. 
When we define love ourselves and manufacture our own cookie cutters of what it is and what it looks like, we miss out on the grandeur and truth of what God has given us. We tear down boundaries when we do not like them, because we are free, so there. 
If I made up ‘love’ myself, it would always be lacking. It would always be full of my mood swings and how I felt, instead of the everlasting and unmovable intrinsic characteristics of God. And because HE decided what love looks like, I no longer have to grovel in fear of being known, for He knows me, the real me. 
The moments I have most known love are those when I have sat on the porch of our house and cried, broken before my husband over sin in my life or confusion. Getting dressed up and smelling new roses is delightful, but it is only a symbol of love–not the substance. The substance of love is never sentimentality. 
Love is never a soft feeling that justifies sin. Rather, it is forgiveness and the hope that we can be more like Him today than we were yesterday.

Supreme courts do not define love. And neither do I. God does.

Those rose petals, lovely as they are, will fade and fall, and so will my relationship if only based on how good I feel. Love is messy. Who knew how beautiful messy could be, thanks to our Lord–Love in a manger, Love who sent the plagues, Love who told the adulteress to stop her sleeping around, and Love who is our glorious King.
Keep the Faith,
Audrey Ann

The Beauty of ‘Boring’

Beautiful, Boring, Christianity, marriage, Parents

There is a scene in Shall We Dance that makes me cry. The fact that I like this movie might surprise a few. However, so many movies show a love I do not recognize, a love I do not know…probably because it does not exist, or is not actually love. 
It is a story of a steady, married, middle-aged man who is intrigued by a woman in the window of a ballroom dancing studio window. He starts secretly taking ballroom lessons and even competes–all along not telling his wife that he is cha-cha-chaing with J-Lo once a week.

Now, do I like this part? Goodness, no. There is NO WAY that I would like to see my husband doing the tango with J-Lo (unless they happened to be related, seeing as they are both Puerto Rican). 
Anyway, it gets better. The man comes clean (after his wife hires a detective). He loves his wife–they have a good life, albeit a boring one. Life is sometimes boring.  
Her initial anger gives way to understanding, and she encourages him to go to the farewell dance party of the J-Lo character. She buys him a tux and shiny shoes, and slips off to her job at the mall.
Cue the part that makes me sob: the man comes to the mall wearing the tux and carrying a rose, for she is his true dance partner.
She says she does not know how.
“Yeah you do,” he says. “You’ve been dancing with me for nineteen years.”

Surrounding the scene is Peter Gabriel’s “The Book of Love.”
“The book of love is long and boring…and is full of…instructions for dancing”
We live in a world that is constantly trying to redefine love. We live in a world that says love should always be wild and passionate. We live in a world that (at the same time) says lasting love is impossible, so just go to the nightclub for an experience (and likely an STD).
Forget about the morning, because mornings are boring…and we couldn’t have that. But we get ‘boring’ all wrong. It is what you do with ‘boring’ that matters. It is the effort to spice things up and bring a smile to one another’s face; that is what matters. 
I saw my parents go through boring days. I saw them go through gut-wrenching days. But I also saw them dance. And that is what made the ‘boring’ beautiful. 
If you ask me, a man who is willing to risk ‘boring’ with you is much better than stupid “Hey girl” quotes from Ryan Gosling or fantasizing over Nicholas Sparks flicks.
Romance is important, but remember that it is only worthwhile if experienced with someone who is willing to do ‘boring’ with you. To quote Lady Grantham from Downton Abbey, “Marriage is a long business.” So let there some beautiful boring times. We serve a God who does exciting things, but most profoundly we sense His daily faithfulness. Can daily faithfulness be boring sometimes? Sure, but mostly…it is beautiful.
Keep the Faith,
Audrey Ann

“We need a witness to our lives…in a marriage, you’re promising to care about everything. The good things, the bad things, the terrible things, the mundane things…all of it, all of the time, every day. You’re saying, ‘Your life will not go unnoticed because I will notice it. Your life will not go unwitnessed because I will be your witness.'” ~Shall We Dance

Ballet and Feminism

Christianity, Feminism, http://schemas.google.com/blogger/2008/kind#post, Strength, Stretch, Work

We hear a lot about equality today. We hear a lot about women’s rights. We hear a lot from women who are loud and proud about this and that. Due to having a few friends in Women and Gender studies (one is a professor), I have learned that a war is still waging over a woman’s place in the American society. I sort of thought that ship had pretty much sailed by the 1970s, but I (reluctantly) stand corrected. 
We all come from different backgrounds. Some of us had fathers who let us down by preferring other women (or pictures of them) to our moms. That makes us angry. Some of us had fathers who said we couldn’t go to college because we are women. That makes us angry. Some of us have been abused in one way or another because we have two x chromosomes. That makes us angry.
And that is okay. 
However, what is not okay is to go through life like a scared, arch-backed cat pawing at everything, namely male, who dares even slightly cross us. Once an acquaintance of my husband, upon the first time we met, waltzed in the room and said, “Hello, young lady.” I’m sure he meant nothing…but I mean seriously, what if I had said, “Hello, old man“? Not so much. But I just smiled and let it go. 
And what about this new trend for men to wear soft porn on their t-shirts? To me, THAT is offensive…in SO many ways. But here’s the thing, if I go around like a wild banshee yelling at everyone who offends me,  I will probably be yelling a lot, and I will certainly not win any respect. 
True strength always has grace. It is like a ballerina. On stage they look so light and carefree. Their gracefulness entrances the audience. But what what makes them beautiful on stage is their strength, gnarly toes, and dedication to working through pain. 
Ballet hurts, let me tell you. After taking a sixteen-year sabbatical from ballet classes, I started up this past year. It was sort of my personal “Mt. Everest” to climb, and I have learned so much–about determination, poise, and plain ol’ humility. Trying to do the splits next to ten-year-olds who have no hips? Yeah. 
Every class I choke down some humble pie, but I also strengthen my muscles and learn how to hold myself up just a little bit more, and I learn how to fall out of my pirouette just a little bit less. I want to look lovely on stage one day, but first, I must get stronger. I must bend and stretch and hold my body in ways that feel extremely rigid and unnatural.

Beauty is always rooted in strength.
It has been an interesting road for women. That is for sure. But the women who have truly changed the world for the better, the women who have truly touched my heart, personally, are not the ones who keep screaming or refuse to wear bras. They are women who have lived in a graceful way, not just 1950s-Good-Housekeeping graceful, but truly graceful, extending a warm smile, a helping hand, and a hope for the future. Why? Because they were strong. 
And the strongest women are always surrendered to Jesus Christ, because He defines what it means to be human, and what it means to be a woman.
“Strength and honor are her clothing…she opens her mouth with wisdom, and on her tongue is the law of kindness.” Proverbs 31:25a-26, NKJV
Keep the Faith, 
Audrey Ann
“Being a Christian woman does not make me a different kind of Christian, but it does make me a different kind of woman.” ~Elisabeth Elliot

Photo Credit: nymag.com, photographer: Henry Leutwyler

Brave[ry]

Bravery, Christian womanhood, Christianity, Work

Bravery.  It can look different every time. The word brings images of everything from a soldier jumping out of a plane, a little girl singing her first solo at church, or a man confessing his affair to his wife. 
“He who is brave is free” said Seneca. To be brave is not to be without fear, but to allow that which is more important to break the chains of fear. You may still fall flat on your face, but the point is that you are not bound by those chains.

I remember a similar sentiment mentioned in Disney’s Princess Diaries, based on Meg Cabot’s novel. How I resonated with the awkward, opinionated Mia. In a letter from her deceased father, he inspired her to take courage, not because her fears were not a reality, but because her courage was a better one. 

We have all had a lot of fears, haven’t we? Thoughts of what people think of us, looking like a fool, being a “failure” wrap those chains of fear around us. Goodness, I have been scared of bringing a birthday cake to Eric’s work, because I didn’t know if they would like it and then think I was a bad baker. Ridiculous. I have been scared of taking dancing lessons, of submitting articles for publication, of opening up my heart to others.

It is always a question of importance. Is my fear more important then trying? Rarely. Have I looked silly in my dance classes? You better believe it. Ha! But I would have been even sillier not to try. Once you get past that fear of failure, you can truly be as ol’ Seneca said, free

Jesus is all about us being free, being free in Him to go and do in His Name and with a passion always for Him. We can be brave, because we know that if we are seeking to honor Him, He’ll be right there. It’s the reason for the risk that matters. And that will keep us going, even when the thrill has worn off. Are we jumping for an adrenaline rush, or for a purpose? Yes, sometimes the mountain just needs to be climbed, but you had better have a fairly concrete reason why on day 278, when it is getting so difficult and monotonous. 
The first step is about bravery. The next steps are always about discipline. So in this new year, let’s attempt to grow in both. It can be a beautiful thing. 
Keep the Faith,
Audrey Ann

Image credit: google images/goodmenproject.com

New Year’s…Remembrances

Christian womanhood, Christian women, Christianity, church, God, Gospel, http://schemas.google.com/blogger/2008/kind#post, New Year, Remember, writing

It is a tradition among some to write New Year’s resolutions, which involves writing your goals and hopes for the next year. Maybe this helps some people–I’m sure it does. However, I have not been one of those people.  Perhaps my goals were too broad, too big, or just plain dumb. Other than the good exercise of writing down goals, New Year’s resolutions sort of depressed me. I liked the idea of them, but it seemed like they were just paper, pencil, and lofty goals…lofty goals I was likely not to achieve. They were time capsules of disappointment.

Several years ago, someone challenged me to, instead of merely writing resolutions, write a list of all the things I had accomplished that year and some of the things God had helped me learn. It was one of the most encouraging things I have ever done.
Now, I am not a drunk-on-self-love type. I find all of that rather annoying and unbiblical. However, it is clear that God wants us to remember what He has done in us, and when we only focus on what we want to do or who we want to be in the future, we may miss what He has already done, and who He is already helping us to be right now.
In Joshua 4 God told his people to build a memorial to remind them what He had done and to be a remembrance for their children.
“When your children ask their fathers in times to come, ‘What do these stones mean?’ then you shall let your children know, ‘Israel passed over this Jordan on dry ground.’ For the Lord your God dried up the waters of the Jordan for you until you passed over, as the Lord your God did to the Red Sea, which he dried up for us until we passed over, so that all the peoples of the earth may know that the hand of the Lord is mighty, that you may fear the Lord your God forever.” (Joshua 4:21-24)
So try it. It doesn’t need to be anything fancy. Find a piece of paper, a piece of quiet, and remember. Write things you’ve accomplished, learned, and experienced. I bet you’ll be surprised. Chat with your family about the Lord’s grace and provision for the great and the small this year of 2014. 
And a Happy New Year to you!
Keep the Faith,
Audrey Ann
image credit: 1. google images/answerhub.com
 2. google images/mobilemarketingwatch.com