I’m not ready for marriage, but I’m doing it anyway – a man’s perspective.

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Last week I proposed to my girlfriend and, amazingly enough, she said yes. If you knew me, you would know that is nothing short of a miracle.

As I began to share the news with family and friends, a trend developed among my male cohorts. Their response took some form or another of the sentence, “Wow, dude, that’s a huge step, I didn’t know you were ready for that.”

My response was: “Well, I’m not ready, but that’s not really the point.”

They weren’t expecting that answer.

My friends were expecting something like what we hear in movies or from guys who are unwilling to be vulnerable with one another: “Yeah man, trust me, when you meet the one, then you’ll just know!” As if you know your love is real when you experience this magic voodoo feeling of clarity that will just overwhelm you when you meet the right person.

But if I were to say something like that, I’d be lying. And I usually try not to lie.

This outlook which is expected from us is in fact the soul crushing myth perpetuated by those who claim that love is nothing more than a feeling.

So why do my fellow men ask that question? Why have I asked that question of others in the past? Because for most guys, this phantom thing we call being “ready” is our bulletproof excuse to delay doing the best thing in exchange for the easy thing.

Just look at the three hallmarks of how the current culture does romantic relationships and it’s easy to see how good men have gotten at delaying commitment.

  1. Safe Sex: The reasoning goes something like this, “Well, we need to know if we are sexually compatible right? It’s a huge part of a relationship! But we aren’t ready for kids. Instead, we use contraception which allows us to have safe sex and know if we are compatible. Win win!
  2. Live together before marriage: “How else are we supposed to know that our relationship can work before making a lifelong commitment? We have to be sure, and living together is practical. It makes sense. It’s safe.”
  3. We should get a dog before we get a kid: “We don’t know if we want to have kids yet. We want to travel and just do us for a while. We’ll just get a dog and see how that goes. After all, with divorce rates being so high, we should practice being parents together before bringing kids into the world. It’s the safe thing to do.”

All of this is nonsense. Safe sex is a myth. People who live together before getting married actually have higher rates of divorce than those who don’t. And having a pet is NOTHING like having a child of your own.

If the wise people in my life, the ones who have been married for 25+ years, have taught me anything, it’s that you can never be ready for something as big and beautiful and incredible as a lifelong commitment to another person. Being ready isn’t the point. Freely and willingly choosing to give your significant other everything you’ve got, for as long as you’ve got it, is.

The real tragedy is that when men delay doing the best thing in exchange for the safe thing, we deny ourselves the ability to thrive. When a man defends, protects, uplifts, glorifies, loves, and serves a woman, yes he gives up his independence, but in return his life is elevated to an entirely new level. He goes from coasting to thriving. From passive to passionate. From selfish to courageous. From a good man to the man of your dreams. And that’s not by some uncontrollable fairy magic, that’s the power of love as choice.

Unfortunately, what women have failed to realize is that they are complicit in this. Women set the standard for the relationship. Not men. And most women let men off the hook. Ladies, if you really loved him you would challenge him to be more than a safe bet. You would challenge him to reclaim the power of choice. And you would challenge him to love you the way Jesus loved the world in his time on earth.

In the hours before he was arrested, Jesus said something to his disciples that really knocks me out. He asks God, if possible, to spare him of the immense impending suffering. He essentially says, “I don’t want to do this. It would be much easier for me to open the gates of heaven without having to suffer so please don’t make me do it.”

Now, I am no scripture scholar. Nothing even close. But, what I read here is that Jesus identifies the complex surge of emotion humanity experiences when we are faced with the hard choices. It’s this feeling that, we know we are meant for something and we know we desire it deeply, but we don’t want to do it because our fears are yelling things at us like, “what if it’s really hard?” or “what if I fail?” or “what if I am not good enough?” or “what if it doesn’t work out!”

Jesus knew his mission in life was to destroy the power of death and save the world. And he had a truly deep desire to do it. But he also had a moment of gut wrenching hesitation before doing what was required to accomplish his mission. However, contrary to what our culture might say, the solution wasn’t for Jesus to feel better or find some safe way out. The solution for Jesus was to stare directly into the eye of his fears and choose the better path anyway.

The same goes for all of us. Especially men in relationships.

The honest truth is, I am not ready for marriage. Marriage scares the crap out of me!  

I’m afraid of committing my entire life to one person. Terrified of accepting this incredible person’s love knowing that there is a really good chance that I will do something massively stupid that will hurt her. And, of course, scared of exchanging my independence for a life devoted to someone other than myself.

That kind of fear doesn’t get vanquished by some magic clarity that comes with “the one”. It’s still there and it will remain there even after I say “I do.” But that’s ok. It’s natural.

I didn’t propose because I was ready. I proposed because deep down in my soul I know God created me for marriage. I proposed because my future wife is an incredible woman and the life partner I don’t deserve but got anyway. I proposed because I love her more than I love myself. I proposed because she challenges me every day to become the man God created me to be. And I proposed because I want nothing more in life than her eternal happiness.

And that, my friends, is the point.

By Jack Beers

Marriage is an adventure – like going to war.
GK Chesterton

The comeback kid

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My mom loves to remind me of the day I learned to ride a bike. There was a big hula balloo because the Rodriguez siblings had gotten new bikes! Oh, happy day! My new bike was sans training wheels which only added to my excitement.

Unfortunately, as six-year-old Miranda soon realized, learning to ride a bike is like…learning to ride a bike; it’s difficult at first. So, long after the initial eagerness had faded and my brother and sister had gone inside, I could be found in the driveway, angry and frustrated but resolutely determined to figure the darn thing out, now.

I fell over and over, tears brimming in my eyes, my hands and knees stinging from scraping the pavement – yet I kept getting back on.

You can probably guess how this story ends…fifteen years later I still don’t know how to ride a bike.

Jk Jk

Of course, the reason my mom loves that story is because my “determination” – aka stubbornness – came to my aid, I didn’t give up.

Those of you who have been following my blog to some extent can guess that it has been a tough year for me – even more difficult than learning to ride a bike with only two wheels (if you can imagine).

This past year I fell in love with a man that surpassed my (very high) expectations. It was wonderful – like a chapter out of someone else’s life. We had so many lovely, sweet, fun, beautiful times it often felt surreal to me.

Obviously that wasn’t the difficult part. The difficult part was all the fear that accompanied this relationship. It was absolutely impossible to understand why I had such a difficult time trusting someone so good – someone who clearly cared about me. It was incredibly painful to constantly question him and his love. It was torture to be bombarded by doubts and insecurities about the relationship every day. Together or apart, no matter what he said or what I told myself or what others shared, fear plagued me as I struggled to love and trust someone and be loved by them for the first time in my adult life.

The joy of finding someone that until that point I had only dreamed of was tainted by my deeply rooted fears – fears that came true when Nicholas finally bowed out in February.

“I told you.”

That awful voice in my head which so often had urged me to make a run for it rang in my ears months after the fact.

It was right.

This year was also dramatically humbling. Amidst my turmoil and angst I came to the startling conclusion that I am one of the least qualified people to speak on the topics of love, relationships or familyThe fact that this has been my main source of content is almost laughable.

Almost.

Who am I to speak on the subject of love? When I fail so often to practice the thing in my own life. I am still the obstinate girl who falls over and over again – broken and bruised – only now the fall is emotional, spiritual and psychological, in addition to physical.

I barely understand what love is really meant to be – if anything I know better what it is not meant to be.

I guess that’s something.

The thing is – much like myself all those years ago – I have a streak of stubbornness that refuses to give up.

This became especially clear to me on this break, my mini sabbatical from publishing. It was a lovely and painful time. I did some travel (nowhere exotic but still fun), lots of bike riding/exploring, took lots of pictures, caught up on some reading and spent a good bit of time just reflecting. Even though I enjoyed all of this, it was difficult to face the reality of losing someone I had cared about so deeply. A reality not made any easier by our regular crossing of paths. Every day I had to accept all over again my loss and look ahead at the murky future with only wisps of hope to hang on to. 

On a particularly difficult day during this time I grappled with the tough question of why the heck am I doing this?

What’s the point? Loving only leads to bitter disappointment. People are too imperfect, too broken and too difficult to love (most especially myself). Why bother? I could be content doing my own thing; traveling, writing, enjoying casual friendships and relationships without commitment or difficulty. 

I had my chance and I blew it, who’s to say there will be another one?

Yet here I am.

I guess the reason for that is the reality that everyone else at some point in their life has also been faced with this question. If you haven’t yet, you will be. And the people I most look up to, I’m most inspired by and desire to be like, they chose to love. Not because it was easy, not because they didn’t get hurt, not because it always felt wonderful or rewarding, but (I think) ultimately because at the core of their being, they felt it was worth it. It was a calling too beautiful, too precious, too valuable to turn down.

Love makes us better people, it challenges us to grow and change in the most beautiful of ways. It heals and gives us strength to move forward, day in and day out.

Love is why we are here and what makes this treacherous, incredible, awesome life worth living. It’s an adventure in and of itself; the most fulfilling and challenging one. 

There is still a part of me – the wounded, guarded, angry part that taunted me after Nicholas and I broke up – that doesn’t believe a word of this. But I’m hoping to prove this side of me wrong in time.

I’ve fallen down, and I will continue to do so. But I won’t give up. I’m back and I’m in it for the long haul.

Here’s to the kid who got back on the bike one too many times, and to everyone who has dared to choose love – even when it hurts. 


On another note, there are two, more practical things I’d like to share with you.

  1. I’m changing the setup of this site just a little so that it can become more of a community and less of me ‘talking’ at you. To help me make it more collaborative, Some incredibly talented people agreed to write for you here and I couldn’t be more excited about it. Keep an eye out for some contributor articles coming soon.
  2. As of last week I have agreed to take a position as content lead at Dynamic Catholic. I will be moving to Cincinnati, Ohio this summer!

I want to sincerely thank all of you who have prayed for me and encouraged me during these past few months – it has done more than you can know.

And of course, to my readers..this wouldn’t mean much without you.

xo

Miranda Kate

“For what is life without love?”
Pedro Silva

Love is/Love does

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“If my inward coldness has burned you some way, please know, please know I’m sorry.”

Alanna Boudreau


Love is difficult
Love is beautiful
Love is sacrificial
Love is tender
Love is heroic
Love is forgiving
Love is painful
Love is miraculous
Love is sweet

Love is thoughtful
Love is vulnerable
Love is delightful
Love is meek
Love is intentional
Love is steadfast
Love is humble
Love is strong
Love is attentive
Love is grateful
Love is fruitful
Love is powerful
Love is obedient
Love is merciful
Love is receptive
Love is mysterious
Love is docile
Love is fierce
Love is gentle
Love is courageous
Love is free
Love is a choice.

Love commits
Love heals
Love gives
Love grows
Loves cherishes

Love submits
Love perseveres
Love protects
Love reveals
Love admires
Love accepts
Love dotes
Love affirms
Love corrects
Love assures
Love endures

Love consoles
Love laughs
Love moves
Love fights
Love trusts
Love resists
Love mourns
Love misses
Love understands
Love respects

Love disciplines
Love listens
Love stays
Love unites
Love transforms
Love prevails
Love never gives up.


As someone who tries to love and fails quite often and in the most clumsy of ways, sometimes it helps me to think about what love really means.

This list isn’t comprehensive, I’m sure you can think of more items to add (help a sister out and share a few!). But it’s a start. The important thing is to never, ever, ever give up. If we keep trying, we will eventually, haphazardly, brokenly achieve something that looks like that ⇑.

Just don’t try to do it alone, that was my mistake. Rely on Grace, it’s the only way…I promise.

Who’s the greatest Lover? You said You are I Am.

Alanna Boudreau

#alltheAlannaquotes #fangirl

Most importantly, please, please remember that you were made to love and be loved.

xo

Miranda

Queens Don’t

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For the past three or four days I’ve basically been listening to RaeLynn’s new song, Queens Don’t, on repeat.

#fangirl

It’s funny because this is a message I’ve been thinking about for a while but just haven’t been sure about how exactly to put it into words, and then she did…perfectly.

“I wasn’t raised in a castle
I grew up on the outskirts of town
No dresses with golden tassels
The rings on my hand are handed down
But I’m gonna find the one that needs me, sees me
And treats me like I’m already royalty
There ain’t nothing priceless on my wrist
I might not fly private, but that don’t mean I ain’t a queen.”

If you detest country music or can’t understand southern accents, the gist of the song is that she (RaeLynn) is a queen and expects to be treated accordingly. Not only that, but she realizes that there are also expectations on her end regarding her behavior as a ‘royal’:

“Queens don’t hate, queens don’t fight
Queens don’t stay unless their king treats her right, oh
Every jewel on my crown you better believe I earned it
Won’t keep people around that don’t believe I deserve it
No, queens ain’t fake
A queen’s gonna rule just the way she was made, oh
I ain’t ’bout to let nobody come and take me off this throne
Some girls might, but queen’s don’t.”

If it’s hard for you to take country music lyrics seriously, I understand. Another way of looking at it is thinking about the Netflix series ‘The Crown’.

Queen Elizabeth knew that there were exceedingly high standards on both sides because of her status. Being waited on and treated with the utmost respect was the norm for Elizabeth. However her status not only required others to treat her a certain way, it also meant there were extremely high demands being made from her. She had to look, dress and behave in accordance with her title. Even if she was not wearing a crown people needed to know she had one.

I know that we aren’t all royal in the sense that people address us as ‘her majesty’ (although I’m not opposed to that), and I know that RaeLynn isn’t ‘royal’ either (or that she thinks she is). The truth that she is sharing with us is a little less conspicuous than ballgowns or diamond headpieces.

It has more to do with our innate dignity: (noun) the state or quality of being worthy of honor or respect.

As women we have great worth. It’s something that is hard to put a finger on… is it our beauty? Our ability to bring life into the world? Our contributions to the workplace?

I think in general it has to do with less about what we do and more of who we are… in other words, our femininity. Which includes all of this but certainly not exclusively.

I’ve always detested these kind of messages (which is why I have been so reluctant to write about it): You’re so worth it; you are worthy; you are enough; believe in yourself, you deserve so much more…

Ugh, gag. Cringe cringe cringe.

I really hate talking about those things or hearing sentences like that. No thanks.

The unfortunate thing for me is that they (like RaeLynn) are right. Having a little more experience under my belt, I actually have come to realize that knowing this and living in a way that reflects it is of the utmost importance.

Why? Because it’s true; and because men need to be reminded of it…by us (unfortunately GQ and Men’s Health have yet to write an article about this).

Unless they happen to listen to RaeLynn’s music.

There’s a reason men get down on one knee before they propose, there’s a reason we are given flowers, there’s a reason chivalry is a thing (and if you think it’s dead then you need to hang out with better guys). It’s not superficial, it’s not an outdated tradition, it’s not silly or sexist…it’s vital. Why? Because we are absolutely the most beautiful and wonderful thing on this Earth (I can’t speak for other planets) and we should be treated like it, our nature demands it.

Guys don’t get addicted to looking at pictures of fancy cars. You don’t see billboards of beautiful trees advertising sweet smells or promises of luxury. It’s us.

There is nothing more beautiful than a woman, there’s just not. Part of our calling is to reveal beauty. And – this is important – we don’t do so by wearing clothes that are seductive or mountains of make-up. We do so by our demeanor, our words, our actions and how we love. There is nothing like it, and therein lies our absolute and unquestionable worth.

Our gentleness, tenderness, sweetness, receptivity, docility, hospitality, warmth, our strength, our loveliness, faithfulness, resiliency, vulnerability…so feminine, so wonderful, so life giving.

And let me just say, this doesn’t mean that you have to be the ‘nice girl’. I find the ‘good girl’ stereotype a little repulsive. It absolutely diminishes us. I don’t consider myself one. Nice is on the surface, these qualities run much deeper.

I don’t believe many guys intentionally think ‘yeah this girl is worthless’, but like most things our value is not necessarily an innate belief either: they need to be taught (or at least reminded…often).

Men should delight in us, adore us.

If we live and act in a way that says ‘hey, I’m pretty priceless’, others will typically follow our lead.

Okay so how?

You act as if you were the most precious thing in the whole world, because you are.

We take care of ourselves, physically, emotionally, spiritually…we nourish our friendships, we develop our gifts, we find joy in our lives. We are aware of what we say and treat others with the same care. 

Goodness is attractive.

I don’t mean being perfect. Goodness I don’t mean that. I get angry, I drop the ball, I wear my shirt inside out and backwards…but I know. Ultimately, I remind myself over and over and over that I am invaluable and the man who gets close to me will need to know that too.

Precious and sought after, we find comfort in the man who treats us accordingly and love him fiercely.

We don’t let him in until we know (or at least strongly suspect) that he is worthy. It’s okay for us to ask him to prove himself, to show his interest, to pursue. It’s not too much to ask, because the prize is priceless. We should not be asked to leave our throne, we allow them to approach it while watching attentively.

It’s not a chase, it’s not a game. Men’s hearts are not to be toyed with, but sometimes we have to be our own security guards. Really patting the person down (figuratively, ladies) before we let them through the gates. There is too much at risk. If we communicate our own value in how we act, how we treat others and how we expect to be treated, it’s a lot easier to narrow down the field to only a few contenders who are willing to rise up to our standards – because they desire us and they understand that it is worth it.

Honestly, everything I am struggling to tell you has already been said by a very wise man a few years ago.

“When a man loves a woman, he has to become worthy of her. The higher her virtue, the more noble her character, the more devoted she is to truth, justice, goodness, the more a man has to aspire to be worthy of her. The history of civilization could actually be written in terms of the level of its women.”

Bishop Fulton Sheen

So, yeah. That’s it basically.

We expect great things from men, but from ourselves first and foremost. When the temptation to ‘settle’ sneaks up on us, we don’t. Some girls might, but queens don’t.

xo

Miranda

My kind of broken

img_1069Kelly Clarkson has this song called ‘Dark Side’ that I really love. It’s not as well known as some of her other hits but I think it has a lot of truth to it.

The gist of the song is that we all have a ‘dark side’ and she wonders if we can be loved despite that.

“Everybody’s got a dark side, do you love me? Can you love mine? Nobody is picture perfect, but we’re worth it, you know that we’re worth it.”

I think there’s this subconscious myth out there that in order for us single people to meet someone and have it work out, we are required to have it all together.

Emotionally, spiritually, intellectually and physically we have to be ‘good enough’.

We are told by well-meaning individuals to use this time to work on ourselves.

Accomplished, in shape, out of debt, well-traveled, an excellent cook…there’s a long litany of things we can (and ‘should’) achieve during our singlehood. Until then we are vastly insufficient, which is why Mr. Wonderful is nowhere to be found.

Okay so yeah, I think self-improvement is a good thing – scratch that – an essential thing.

Isn’t the point of life pretty much to be a  better person day in and day out?

What I would like to challenge is this misconception that you’re single because you’re not good enough…You need this time to become better. Everyone else has already obediently achieved perfection (gee, what’s taking you so long?).

Not so, you want to use this time to become better. And all the time – even long after the right person has wandered into your life (took them long enough!).

No matter how hard you work right now on yourself, you will never be “done”.

Kelly Clarkson knew what she was talking about when she said we all have a dark side.

Insecurities that run as deep as our blood, hurts that still sting, jealousy, greed, vanity, selfish tendencies…these are vices we will be fighting our whole lives. And as soon as we feel we’ve improved in one area, ten other places that need some help will make themselves evident.

In fact, I believe that a lot of our “garbage” isn’t even apparent until someone tries to get a little too close. Struggles we didn’t even know we had come out of nowhere and slap us across the face as someone attempts to know us intimately.

Yes, we should certainly and continually strive for self-improvement – but this isn’t what makes us lovable or worthy of being in a relationship.

We’re already there, friends.

The question isn’t, ‘are we good enough?’ The question is the one KC poses: “Can you love me, even with my dark side?”

Sometimes the answer will be ‘no’, and that’s okay; it is heartbreaking and devastating too, I know. However dating is a discernment, and the question of ‘can I carry this person’s wounds?’ is one much better asked before marriage than after.

We only need one person to say this for the rest of our lives.

We all deserve to be with someone who will see us – brokenness and all – and say:

“this is my kind of broken.”

There are wounds that take a lifetime to heal, bad habits that we are perpetually ridding ourselves of.

The right person won’t ‘fix’ us, they will support and understand our journey toward healing and growth.

We have a responsibility to work on ourselves, to try and try and try again even if we fail 100 times before seeing a minuscule amount of progress. But this responsibility doesn’t go away once we are in a committed relationship – if anything it increases since we now want to be better not only for our own sake but for this person so dear to us.

You are not single because you need to work on yourself; you need to work on yourself, that’s it.

And, so does the person you date/marry.

The beautiful thing is that we are lovable right now, in our brokenness. And for the right person, we will be the right kind of broken (as odd as that may sound).

I know that there is so much that I want to work on, my dark side is dark. I also know that doesn’t stop me from being able to be loved and known intimately.

“Love is never defeated”

Saint John Paul the Great

Love, love and keep loving

xo

Miranda

Monday 5: Perspective & other things I’m excited about this week

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Happy Monday everyone! I hope your week is off to a great start.

This weekend was really a good one. Friday evening I had the privilege of hearing Immaculée Ilibagiza speak and it was truly inspiring (more on that later).

Saturday morning my brother and I hit up the local upscale thrift shop and a little later I got my hair cut!! There’s nothing like leaving the hair salon afterward, I always feel like a movie star. #bestdayever.

Saturday afternoon the Charleston pipe band played at a brewery near my house and it was so cool (and so loud). They were wearing kilts and everything, it was awesome (also, Ghost Monkey Brewery is my new favorite).

Saturday evening the Cundiffs went with me to their first oyster roast! We went to the Sullivan’s Island one that supports the fire station. It was a little chilly but not too bad. The oysters were so good and it was fun to watch the Cundiffs as they experienced it all for the first time.

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Sunday was the Superbowl, obviously. We watched it with the youth group teens and even though I didn’t watch the game that much, had a great time. We played multiple games of foosball and ate a lot.

All in all a wonderful weekend.

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Having said all of that, here are some things I’m excited about this week!

Seafood soup recipe

I tried this last week and it was delicious. The chef Nancy is a friend of my mom and my aunt Carrie’s and her recipes have been hits in our family. Her goal is to make healthy eating yummy which is good for me since I’ve been known to have chocolate chip cookies for lunch. Anyway, this South American inspired seafood soup was easy and yummy, I highly recommend it.   

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Retreat

This weekend my brother and I are helping lead a teen retreat together! It’s been a bit since I did this kind of weekend venture and I’ve definitely never done it with him. I’m excited to get away for a couple of days (we’re going to a retreat center called Camp Saint Christopher) and to have a weekend of service, which is always refreshing (and exhausting at the same time). It’s nice to have opportunities like this to be involved in the community, and to do so with family!

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Perspective

In Immaculée’s talk, she shared her story about surviving the Rwandan genocide. She spent 91 days in a 3X4 foot bathroom with 7 other women; not knowing if the that day would be her last. She came out three months later only to learn that her family and friends had all been killed. It was an incredible story of faith, strength and willingness to forgive. Sometimes I get so caught up in my struggles, my problems and difficulties that I forget how good I really have it; we all go through tough times, but they certainly aren’t all as bad as what Immaculée Ilibagiza had to go through. This kind of perspective is really necessary when you feel especially frustrated and discouraged. If she can survive 91 days of agony, waiting to meet her end, the death of her friends and family and the journey to forgiveness, then I think I can get through my own trials too. It could be so much worse; and even in the worst of it we know ‘this too shall pass.’

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Breweries

I’ve really been on a brewery kick recently. This weekend I went to two new ones I hadn’t been to before. The first was a brand new brewery on Daniel Island called Dockery’s. It is huge, which is kind of a nice change of space from the often crowded, smaller spots in Charleston. The beer was great and I loved the chic, rustic vibe. On Saturday I checked out Ghost Monkey which was awesome. It’s the opposite of Dockery’s in that it’s a tiny spot on the outskirts of Mount Pleasant. It has a very down-to-earth, no frills atmosphere that invites people to just have a good beer and a good time – no sophistication necessary. I’m not sure what it is about breweries that I like so much, I think they have a bit of a different feel than bars – they just seem more wholesome and cozy to me. In any case, I’ve very much enjoyed trying the different spots in the area.

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Corinithians 13:4-7

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.

Recently this verse has been on my mind a lot. To me it kind of answers the question of ‘what is love?’ Is it a feeling? A sentiment? A chemical reaction? Regardless of whether or not you are religious, I think these few sentences are a good starting point, something to keep in mind when we struggle with what it really means to love. It’s not always easy and it definitely doesn’t always feel good, we just have to hope that the effort will be worth it in the end.

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Monday 5: Grace & other things I’m excited about this week

For possibly the first time in over a year, this past Friday night I made zero plans. I went to bed at 9pm and woke up almost twelve hours later. It was amazing. Saturday was also very restful with a tiny bit of productivity mixed in there (yay for errands). My friend Juliana came over and we made empanadas (a Latin American dish similar to enchiladas…but not the same. It’s not the same, people).

We had so much fun catching up (she lives in Connecticut during the school year) and we went dancing after! Nicholas joined us for that which made it even better.

Sunday was fun since my sister was home briefly so the gang was back together for brunch before church. Love love love.

I hope your weekend was fun and restful! Oh! And happy MLK day!!! Hopefully most of you have Monday off and will enjoy that too.

Apart from a long weekend, here are a few other things I’m excited about this week.

Dance classes

I am so glad I can finally talk about this! For weeks I’ve had to keep it a secret and now I can finally share! For Nicholas’ Christmas gift I got us dance classes! We went to our first private lesson Tuesday and Wednesday we had a group class and a ‘social’ afterward. I was a little nervous at how he would react (I don’t think many guys ask Santa for dance classes with their girlfriend) but he was pleased! It was fun (if a little awkward) and super helpful to have someone give us instruction. I think dancing is a good analogy for relationships in general. Sometimes it is awkward and it takes a lot of practice. Learning to navigate the steps with someone is really similar to learning to navigate the ins and out of being in relationship with another person. It is a skill that can be acquired if one is willing to put forth the time and effort necessary; and the result can be beautiful. We have another lesson this week which will be our last, hopefully our increased confidence will encourage us to go and dance more often!

Sleep spray

This may seem a little silly, but one of my Christmas gifts this year was a ‘Deep Sleep Pillow Spray‘ that I’ve been using and love it. It smells soo good! And relaxing. My sleeping recently has gotten a lot better (such a relief) and this spray has made me look forward to bedtime even more. I am a huge advocate of good rest and I think anything that makes it more enjoyable/attainable is a great thing.

Afternoon tea

Mom and I are planning a mother/daughter date to go to high tea! Growing up it was such a treat when we went to one of the nicer hotels that hosted an afternoon tea and I’ve been wanting to do so again for a while now. Dressing up, eating tiny sandwiches and drinking hot tea is such a nice way to spend an afternoon every now and then. I started watching the Crown too which has rekindled my love for everything British..including afternoon tea!

Zumba

A rather humbling experience I had this weekend was attending my first Zumba class. I was so lost 99% of the time but enjoyed it nonetheless! I have basically zero hand/eye coordination but I’m hoping this will help me improve as well as get a better feel for feeling the beat of the music (another eternal struggle). I love the instructor at the class we go to and the Latin music makes it even better. It’s a fun, different way of getting exercise and I’m really excited to keep going Saturday mornings!

Year of Grace

Pope Francis declared 2018 the Year of Grace and I am so grateful. Something I’ve become uncomfortably aware of this past year is how often I need others to extend grace to me. And how often I need to show grace to myself. Making mistakes -sometimes the same ones over and over- is an inevitable part of life. The faster and more lovingly we can forgive ourselves and others, the more we can empathize and show compassion, the more our capacity to love grows. I can do very little without supernatural grace; especially loving myself or others. 2018 is going to be the year for us to practice receiving and sharing the grace that is available to us; something that improved our lives immeasurably.

Here’s to being just a little more grace-full today.

xo

Miranda

Monday 5: Obedience & other things I’m excited about this week

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This weekend included the first lazy Saturday I’ve had in a while and it was amazing. We also got drinks with friends Friday evening, I had my first bachelorette party Saturday night and yesterday we paddle boarded all the way to Shem Creek! It took us a couple of hours, between the ride there, the drink we got there and our ride back. But it was so cool paddleboarding at night under the stars! Nicholas admitted he was worried about sharks for the last bit, but we made it safely without running into any finned friends.

We also decided to try Husk Sunday evening, one of the more well known upscale restaurants in Charleston but backed out at the last minute (it was so fancy) and decided to just try the bar food instead (like the peasants that we are). We ordered a basket of 6 pieces of fried chicken (which ended up being double of what we needed) and a side of lima bean salad. It was very good and we both enjoyed the outdoor patio scene, but it wasn’t amazing. Next time we’ll have to try the real deal and see if it’s actually worth the hype.

In any case, it was a great weekend and I feel a lot more well rested than I have in a while, and that is definitely something to be excited about! In addition to that, here are five more things I’m excited about this week.

Family visiting

Nicholas’ mother, sister and brother arrive here tonight! We are so excited (Nicholas especially, obviously) to see them and to show them around Charleston. We spent a fair amount of time yesterday afternoon putting together a tentative schedule of fun things to do while they are here! Additionally, my sister comes back from school for her Fall break Wednesday, and my dad will be here this weekend! I love when family gets together, especially when you live in a place that has so many opportunities for outings. The weather is supposed to be a little cooler too, so that is exciting!!

Meditation

Anxiety can be super tricky. It creeps up on us and convinces us that are worst fears are becoming reality. It also becomes habitual, making it harder and harder to see things clearly. Our bodies become addicted to the chemicals released by the sympathetic nervous system when we feel fearful. This complicates matters further when we want to overcome anxiety because our bodies crave that rush of norepinephrine and adrenaline. There are medications out there I know are helpful for dealing with this, however I’m really trying to avoid that by relying on meditation instead. Mindfulness meditations have been shown to be successful in healing people of anxiety and increasing health and well-being. While I initially hated making time to do even just an 8 minute meditation, I’ve grown to really appreciate that time to just be and I’m hopeful that it is helping me make progress in my goal of being a calm, peaceful person. If you struggle with anxiety at all or are remotely interested in this, I highly recommend reading this book and doing the guided meditations that come with it.

This gyro recipe

Nicholas and I have been talking for a while about trying some Greek recipes, and last week we finally did! I loved this recipe for chicken gyros, it was simple and delicious. I will say gyros involve several steps, it was great doing it together but I know if I had done it alone I would have needed more time, so just a heads up. But it was so good! And a cool variation from our typical meals. I doubled the recipe for the five of us (three of which were men) and there were leftovers, which is always exciting. I plan on trying more recipes from this site soon!

Obedience

As adults, obedience may not be something we think about often. After all, we’re adults, we do what we want…isn’t that the point? We don’t have to listen to teachers, parents, or older siblings who want to tell us what to do! However, I think obedience is actually still highly relevant even as we get older, especially in relationships. This article gave some interesting perspective on obedience in marriage and how it actually helps us to love more. It’s not about being a doormat or being walked all over, but it is about sacrifice and gift of self. Mutual obedience can actually lead to a deeper, more beautiful love than if we are constantly trying to push our own agendas…who would have thought?!

This quote

A couple whose family I spent vast amounts of time with for a few years in my childhood recently celebrated their 23rd wedding anniversary. I love this family, not only for inviting me into their home, but also because of the example they set for marriage and parenthood. They were very well known in our community, partly because with 6 kids they were hard to miss, but also just because of their strength as a family unit. It was awesome to see a family so involved and so fun. I think there is such stigma with ‘settling down,’ but this family showed us that family life is supposed to be just the beginning of an amazing adventure, not what you resort to when you’ve checked everything else off your bucket list. For their 23rd anniversary, the wife posted this quote which I thought was so beautiful and so true! Something to think about as we move forward this week.

“We all bring our ‘garbage’ into this union, but if we have the courage and the heart to love even the weakest parts of each other, well, what happens is nothing short of miraculous!”

xo

Miranda

What we can learn from the evolution of Taylor Swift

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I still remember where I was when I heard one of Taylor Swift’s songs for the first time. I was riding in the back of a neighbor’s minivan and my friend showed me the CD case of her debut album as we listened to ‘Teardrops on my Guitar.’ I liked her music right away and from then on was an enthusiastic ‘Swiftie (Swifty?).’

Most of Taylor’s early tunes involve her liking someone, longing for them, enjoying and admiring them, or breaking up with them. As a fourteen year old, I related to her thoughts quite a bit. Even as I got older I continued to enjoy her songs and got so excited each time a new single or album was released. I remember freshman year of college gushing about ‘Red’ with my friends and two years later listening to ‘1989’ on repeat.

Over the years, you can definitely notice a shift away from the country style she started out with to a more pop sound. Not only that, but as Taylor got older, her lyrics also lost some of their hopefulness and sweetness that are so prevalent in her early songs like ‘Love Story’ or ‘Fearless’ or ‘Hey Stephen.’

Her song ‘Blank Space’ made this especially evident as she mocks the reputation given to her by the media of being a psycho man eater who preys on a guy any chance she gets. I remember watching the music video in a music class junior year of college and being in awe of the dark humor we hadn’t really seen before.

This change of tone was also clear in her song ‘Bad Blood’ with a threatening music video to accompany it; now the difference is especially vivid with her newest release, ‘Look What You Made Me Do’ which would give a younger me nightmares.

Taylor Swift certainly knows what she’s doing as an artist. Everything she does she does very well, she clearly has a vision and carries it out faithfully. Her tunes are catchy and communicate clearly what she wants to say with each song and video…it is admirably intentional. Not only that, but especially the last two albums have been sensational, meaning they have created a sensation. People talk about it, whether you like her, hate her, think she’s overrated…you’ve probably had a conversation about her newest release.

While I admire her work and can enjoy her latest hits, this last album especially has made me nostalgic for the sweet, romantic Taylor we first met. I think growing up in the spotlight has to be really tough, and I think her experiences have made Taylor Swift a lot more jaded. Even behind the scenes you see her joking around, playing it cool, not wanting to take anything too seriously.

Seeing her change you could say that this is what happens to all of us as we get older. We realize that life isn’t always peachy, we get hurt, we learn from it, we become more realistic…we grow up.

Maybe you can say that 27 year old T-Sizzle is a lot more mature than her 16-year-old self, and I’m sure you’re right; but I wouldn’t say that her outlook on life is somehow superior now than it was 10 years ago.

Her songs now express a hurt that has been caused by friends who turned on her, criticisms she’s received and repeated heartbreak. We see this in her lyrics that denounce romance and instead pronounce relationships as little more than games to be played (Are You Ready For it).

I think to an extent we all experience these sort of wounds over the course of our lives, but I guess I’m not sure becoming hard and cynical is the answer. I think as children we’re really good at trusting, we’re highly dependent on others. As we get older we become more independent and often reluctant to rely on others for anything. We have our own dreams, our own goals, our own needs and wants that don’t require someone else’s help. As long as we can get the job, buy the house, run the marathon, travel…we’re satisfied, complete, invulnerable.

I wonder, though, if those ‘acquisitions’ are enough to fulfill our desire for intimacy. I wonder if we let someone in, we could someday prove that the new Taylor Swift isn’t 100% right in denouncing love. I wonder if our dreams and goals are things we can share and work toward with another person. I wonder if maybe the young Taylor had it right and just got a little misguided on her rise to fame. I wonder if that’s what happens to all of us (minus the fame).

Maybe Taylor Swift isn’t as cynical as her new songs imply, I hope that is the case. Being open to loving and being loved by other people is possibly the most important part of our lives, hurt is inevitable but I don’t think we would ever want heartbreak to have the final word.

Recently I’ve been listening a lot to singer/songwriter Alanna Boudreau. In her song ‘I’ll be your Woman’, she says:

“Keep your affection in boxes, keep your heart free, that’s what they told you those sly foxes but that don’t faze me.”

Isn’t that so true though? We are told that, whether it’s by Taylor Swift, media, our friends or family or even our own experiences…we’re told to be on guard and I think that may be causing more harm than good. If we’re always looking out for ourselves we’ll miss the opportunity to experience the joy that comes from deep communion with others, from self-gift and from really knowing and being known by another person.

I may sing along with Taylor Swift’s newest, catchy hits, but I hope I live my life a little more like the teenager who sung about dancing in the rain and eyes that are like the jungle.

 

 

*Picture taken on our way to Sullivan’s Island while listening/singing along to some old school Taylor*

Unprotected: Why contraception isn’t enough

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Today we we’re generally very safety oriented. Speed limits, hand sanitizing stations, screen protectors, phone codes, childlock, birth control…prevention prevention prevention.

All these precautions have the good intention of protecting us from potential danger, and most do this effectively. Birth control is somewhat of an anomaly in that it does prevent (generally) women from getting pregnant, but it doesn’t really protect us. In fact, it actually has the opposite effect.

The reason is that there are ramifications to sex that aren’t pregnancy, or even STD’s, and a pill or condom is simply not enough to cover all the bases.

The weird thing about sex is that even though it’s a physical thing, it very much affects us emotionally and psychologically as well.

The human person is so integrated that it’s impossible to separate the physical from the emotional or the emotional from the psychological. Think about how much better you feel when you are working out regularly and eating well, your mood improves and you think more clearly. When you’re sleep deprived you’re a lot more likely to break down in tears because you feel stressed and overwhelmed than when you’ve had a good night’s rest.

Sex is an excellent example of how united we really are. There is a connection or bond that forms in sex that lasts beyond the act itself – a bond that isn’t merely physical. We know this because it has been studied a fair amount.

In the book that is linked we learn how a campus counselor witnessed the damage ‘safe sex’ is doing to our young women. Intelligent, driven, beautiful women are being overwhelmed by depression and anxiety that is largely due to the attachment resulting from detached sex. Birth control does not provide safety from the pain resulting from the tearing apart a unity made in a sexual act by someone who is not truly committed to that unity.

Just to be clear, the attachment itself is in actuality a very good thing because within marriage, that bond is essential. If we are to be with someone for the rest of our lives we certainly want to be connected to them in an intimate way emotionally and physically. We don’t just want to chat with them the way we share with our girlfriends, it has to be more than that, more complete.

Sex is inherently a wonderful thing, it is also extremely powerful. But like any good thing, it can also be dangerous (similar to a jar of Nutella in the pantry).

The problem arises when we form this bond with someone who is not around for the long term. As a necessary result of sex we can feel intimately connected with someone, and when they are no longer in our lives, we suffer a deep loss as a result. Our judgement can become clouded because we feel so close to someone and will do just about anything to protect that relationship (again, something that is so essential in marriage); without knowing if they will choose us for the rest of our lives or whether we should really be with them.

Birth control makes this attachment outside of marriage a lot more feasible. If we’re not worried about getting pregnant the ‘risk’ of having sex is seemingly minimal. And you may say that people sleep with their boyfriend or girlfriend and break up down the road and survive…no damage done.

Humans have the ability to become desensitized; to weird smells, annoying background noises and even to the powerful effects of sex. And unfortunately, though you may think this solves the problem, it actually creates a different one. The reason is that when someone who has had past attachments repeatedly broken, if they then do get married, that bond which is so necessary in a spousal relationship isn’t as effective. 

If someone makes a promise to you and then breaks it, you’re less likely to believe them the second time around. Similarly, our bodies intelligently form a defense mechanism to protect us from suffering that can result from bonding. Therefore, when we really need that bonding to come into play, we have difficulty forming that deep bond because it has been broken so many times before.

Yes, birth control ‘protects’ us from pregnancy, but it doesn’t prevent us from attaching to someone that maybe we shouldn’t have that level of attachment with. And it doesn’t stop that bond from losing it’s strength when we most need it. Contraception is considered to provide us with ‘safe sex’, but to me the safest sex is the kind that is with the one person you have vowed to be with ’til death do you part.

To most of us the idea of waiting util marriage to have sex is outdated at best and comical at worst. We have become increasingly cynical of marriage and so we resort to sleeping and living together as a pseudo-married life. I wonder what would happen if as as individuals and as a society we started to value sex as something beautiful and necessary, something precious to our families. I wonder if we would have more faith in marriage if more of them lasted because we’re bonded to our spouse in a special way.

I wonder if we saw that contraception just isn’t enough to save us from the risks of something as powerful as sexual intimacy, how we would benefit from treating it as the incredible gift that it is.