An Open Letter to Cecile Richards, CEO of Planned Parenthood

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Dear Ms. Richards,

You don’t know me, and I suppose you never will — but I feel compelled to write to you because you’ve been at the forefront of my mind as of late. Some might say that you and I are on opposite ends of a seemingly neverending battle — you, a well-known figure, and me, somebody 99.99% of the world has never and will never know.  I’m writing not with the intent of changing your mind, but with the intent of correcting some misconceptions you may have of me and others like me.

I am a twenty-something woman, a wife to a wonderful man and mother to a cute, round little six month old. I believe in working hard and working with excellence. I believe I have value as a woman and have gifts and abilities to contribute to society. I am thankful for my freedoms and believe in the right to exercise those freedoms within reason.

And I am also fiercely pro-life. 

The recent videos released by the Center for Medical Progress are videos that I have shared on social media and talked about with others. I have also followed the limited mainstream media coverage, including your responses to these videos. You have consistently stated that these videos originated from people who are “part of the most militant wing of the anti-abortion movement that has been behind the bombing of clinics, the murder of doctors in their homes, and churches…”

For one who hates being categorized and defined by practices that are allegedly only 3% of your offered services, I find it ironic that Planned Parenthood is so quick to label those who oppose what you do as violent extremists who commit violent acts such as bombings and murder — when in fact, those incidents are the exception. I know there have been instances in history where pro-lifers have acted out in horrendous violence, and I don’t condone those actions — but let’s look at this present situation accurately. CMP has had no history of violent acts, and the vast majority of those who identify as “pro-life” are not violent either, because that sort of violence  contradicts the very values in which pro-lifers claim to believe: that all life is precious.

Based on your interviews and statements that I have seen and read, It would seem that a person cannot be pro-life and also care for and love women at the same time. I take offense at this view, and I just want to briefly share why.

I’ll be honest and say that I have never experienced a crisis pregnancy, and so I have never had an abortion or even considered having one. But I have sat across from countless women in that very situation. I have stood beside women in the moments when they have first realized that they’re pregnant. I have sat in strained silence with women who agonize over a decision that is portrayed as being easy, normal, or just another medical procedure — like getting your tonsils removed. I have seen tears shed by women who are still dealing with an abortion they had many years ago.

I have helped women get connected with prenatal care and with treatment for STIs. I have helped women with applying for Medicaid, with receiving free or low cost maternity clothes and baby furniture. I have signed women up for parenting classes and have participated in workshops that educate women about their fertility. I have spoken with women over the phone as they process their decision. I’ve met women for coffee to talk not only about their anxieties about being a new mother, but also just about life in general. I’ve explored the option of adoption with women who were wrestling with the moral dilemma of abortion. I’ve visited women in the hospital to meet their new babies, and I’ve been to their houses months later to see how life is going. I have told women again and again how valuable they are, how they are of immeasurable worth, and have encouraged them to make wise decisions regarding their sexual lifestyles.

I’ve been able to take part in all of these things. And never once have I connected anyone to a local Planned Parenthood.

I am sharing this for two primary reasons: (1) I know firsthand that it is more than possible for women from all walks of life to receive healthcare and guidance from organizations other than Planned Parenthood. It happens every day. And (2) it is also possible to both care for women and be pro-life (or “anti-abortion” or “anti-choice” to use the mainstream media’s preferred buzzwords).

There seems to be this idea that to be “pro-life” means that I want to deny women all of their rights and send us back to the dark ages where we are seen but not heard and most definitely not viewed as equals. There could be nothing further from the truth.

Yes, I care for women, and I would actually venture to say that I care for women more than you do. That is why I am irrevocably pro-life — because of the more than 56 million little unborn women (and men) who have had their bodies ripped, shredded, and dumped into waste containers.

The little girls — and yes, I can say “girls” because science has shown that gender ( as well as eye color, hair color, and other defining characteristics) is determined at the moment of conception — who will never see the light of day because their choice to live was ripped from them just as they were ripped from their mothers’ wombs.

The little girls who are given names such as “products of conception” or “clumps of tissue” so that their mothers will more easily be able to justify such a decision.

The young women who, within the counseling room are “not a baby” or considered human, but back in the lab spread out in pieces on a table are valuable precisely for the fact that their livers, neural tissue, and hearts are human livers, human neural tissue, and human hearts.

These tiny women and men are stripped of their humanity for the simple fact that they are in the wrong place at the wrong time. Because they are small, dependent, and at early stages of development, their rights are deemed nonexistent at worst, and less valuable than their mothers’ at best.

Science, contrary to what mainstream media reports, no longer debates whether or not life begins at conception, or whether all major organs are present and functioning by just the eighth week of an unborn child’s life. By eight weeks from the LMP, brain waves are detected; eyes, ears, fingers, and toes appear; the heart has already been beating; the baby has reflexes, her own blood type, and her own fingerprint. Never in the history of the world has a pregnant woman brought forth a baby animal, plant, or inanimate object — the unborn life is distinctly human. In fact, Planned Parenthood’s participation in procurement of human fetal tissue testifies as much.

I feel as though I could talk for days about the mountains of evidence showing us that these “products of conception” are nothing less than a miraculous human being. In fact, this evidence makes the industry in which you work and profit all the more frightening to me, because I realize that Planned Parenthood no longer has a leg to stand on in the “it’s not a human life” debate.

The fact is that we all know. We all know what abortion is and what it does. We know.

And I know that you are an intelligent woman — I can tell this is true by the way you speak and carry yourself. And that is why I believe that you also know. You know what abortion is and what it does. You know that you lead an organization that slaughters children. You may hide behind clever semantics, behind words such as “termination” and “products of conception.” You wave your “right to choose” and “women’s rights” banners. You talk smoothly and convincingly about making abortion safe, legal, and rare, and the right to not be pregnant.

But you know. You know.

And I hope you know this: that as long as I’m breathing, I never plan to stop caring for women — both the women experiencing crisis pregnancies, and the women who are yet to be born. I will never stop trying to speak for the ones who have no voices.

And I hope you know that there are hundreds of thousands just like me who also will never stop speaking and fighting for the rights of the unborn, regardless of whether or not this practice remains legal or PP remains government-funded. “Legal” is not synonymous with “moral” — and someday when we look back on the monstrosity of the abortion industry and have to explain “why” to the generations after us, the “it was legal” argument is not going to hold any water.

And lastly, I hope you know this: that you can leave this blood-stained industry any time you want.

You can choose to help women have access to safe health care without fostering a culture of death and destruction.

You can choose to connect pregnant women with families who long to adopt a son or daughter of their own but are unable to conceive naturally.

You can choose to teach women how to live with sexual integrity and to take responsibility for their actions rather than looking for an “easy out” through abortion.

You can choose to walk with these women before, during, and after a pregnancy rather than leaving them to sink in the guilt, depression, and mental anguish that so often follow the act of abortion.

You can be part of a movement that rejoices and celebrates the miracle of life even in the midst of less than ideal circumstances rather than continuously ending life and diminishing the immeasurable value of children.

You can choose.

And if you do so choose, I hope you know that we who are fighting for life — fighting for women — will welcome you with open arms.

Sincerely,

Mary Holloman

 

DIY: From Old Drawers to Distressed Shelves

I recently learned how to distress items using only Vaseline and NO sanding or scraping. I’ve always hated sanding so when I found this idea, it seemed too good to be true — but after giving it a try, I was hooked! I really loved the finished product on my first project (see below — I found these two tables on the side of the road!) and so of course immediately started running around my house looking for more things I could distress.

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I ended up finding two drawers from a set of bedside tables Matt and I had found in yard sales when we first got married. We paid next to nothing for them and had fun painting them. We ended up tossing the tables last year but kept the drawers in case we could use them for another purpose someday.

Well that “someday” finally arrived!

I browsed Pinterest and saw some cute ideas for making drawers into decorative shelves. So I set to work!

Here are the supplies I used:

  • Two old drawers
  • Black and white spray paint (I bought two cans of Rust-Oleum paint for $3.86 each, but ended up only using one since I already had some black paint on-hand)
  • Four picture hanging brackets
  • Vaseline
  • Old rag
  • 2 Pieces of scrapbook paper (2 for $1 at Hobby Lobby)
  • Mod Podge
  • Polycrylic protective finish (it’s about $17 at Wal-Mart but lasts for several projects)

I ended up having a lot of items around the house already, so in total I only spent about $9 on this project — less actually when you consider I didn’t use one whole can of the spray paint.

IMG_3349These are the drawers I started with. I started by cleaning and wiping them down. Then covered them with a coat of black spray paint.

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This was the color that I wanted to show through once I distressed the drawers. Once this coat dried, I dipped a paint brush into the Vaseline and brushed it onto the edges and ridges that I wanted to appear distressed. Once the Vaseline was on, I sprayed the next coat white:

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The Vaseline keeps the distressed spots from being painted white, so now the only thing left after the paint dried was to simply wipe off the Vaseline with an old rag.

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Here is the finished distressed look:

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I then brushed on one coat of polycrylic finish to add a layer of protection. The instructions for the finish advised three coats, but since these shelves won’t be handled much at all, I just stuck with one coat.

Next, I picked up a few pieces of scrapbook paper in a print that I thought would go well with the distressed look. I used Mod Podge in order to attach the paper to the bottom of the drawers.

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After adding the paper, I screwed the drawer handles back on. They started out as a bronze color, so I just spray painted them black.

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After this I attached two brackets to each drawer so that I could easily hang them up. I decided to use the shelves in the entryway of our house. I had a panel of hooks that we used for hanging keys in our old apartment, so I attached it to the back of one of the shelves so we could keep our keys, sunglasses, and whatever else.

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I also distressed this little frame I got from the Dollar Store — I think it turned out pretty well, especially with my son’s cute little toes displayed in it.

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I was really happy with the finished product! I rearranged some things on our entryway table as well and added a new distressed chalkboard to unify the look.

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Not too shabby! I think it’s safe to say I’ve caught the distressing bug. It’s a simple (and affordable) way to add some character to regular household items — and an option for unique gifts as well!

Happy distressing!

Mary

 

 

Cheerleading, Laughing, and Marveling: 3 Things Learned in Month 6

Oh hello, 6 month old — when the heck did that happen??  I took a brief break from my “3 Things Learned…” posts, but couldn’t pass up this milestone and opportunity to share a few thoughts as Benjamin hits half a year.

1. Prepare to transform into an obnoxiously enthusiastic cheerleader. Who knew that rolling over, burping, or swatting at random objects could be actions deserving of such high praise? I’ll be honest and say that, prior to joining the parent club, whenever I witnessed a proud mommy gushing over the fact that her precious little cherub accomplished some fantastic feat such as turning 180 degrees on the axis of his belly, I would often do my best Stanley Hudson “not impressed” face:notimpressed
But now that I have a little nugget of my own, I have to admit — I get pretty pumped whenever he does something new. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not so much a my-child-is-God’s-gift-to-this-world-and-aren’t-you-oh-so-lucky-to-be-in-his-presence mentality, but rather a holy-cow-this-kid-wasn’t-here-6-months-ago-and-he’s-changing-so-much-can-you-believe-how-much-of-a-miracle-human-life-is mentality. Add to that the fact that Ben himself always acts pleasantly surprised whenever he does something new and, well, it’s just pretty cute.

But regardless of pure motives, it is still pretty obnoxious, and I know this because I found a video on my phone of Ben when he was only a few weeks old. He was on his belly and barely — I mean barely — lifting his head off the ground. And all you can hear is his mommy in the background saying, “Go, Ben, GO! Good job you’re so AWESOME! YAY, BEN, YAAAAAAAY!!!!!!” Yeah. Oh well — not going to apologize.

2. Either learn to laugh at yourself or accept that you’ll be crying a lot. You know what I’m talking about: those days when it’s not even 8 am yet and you already smell like regurgitated milk. Or when you’re happily playing with your kiddo and suddenly realize the entire front of your shirt is now a nice shade of yellow/brown. Or when the moment — yes, the moment — that you strap on a new, dry diaper, a painfully long “thpppppptt” and a silly, gummy grin signify the arrival of yet another fiesta explosion. Or when you roll through the drive-thru and realize you just ordered your food in a sing-songy-rhymy voice and there’s not even a kid with you. Or when you finally get to the cash register with a crabby baby and realize — yep — you left your wallet at home:Michael-Scott-angry-stare-at-toby

Don’t get me wrong — I’m all for having a good cry every now and again. But there’s also something incredibly therapeutic about just admitting, “You know what — this day was ridiculous and kind of got away from me, and I’m still not entirely sure what happened but let’s just briefly relive it, laugh, and then thank the Lord that it’s over.” Reminding myself that Ben is in fact only a baby and is not maliciously plotting to take me out (I don’t think…) helps me to chuckle and then just move on.  I’ve also really enjoyed writing down the silly/exhausting/ridiculous things that have happened so that I can go back and remember. Things are often much funnier when some time has gone by and eased the sting of the initial moment.
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3. Life is miraculous. I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that we have become callous to this self-evident truth. It’s hard for me to comprehend how one could argue the non-existence of an Intelligent Designer when faced with the wonder of life. The process of conception, pregnancy, labor, and delivery should be reason enough to at least consider the possibility that we are not an accident. When you consider the transition a baby makes from the womb out into the world, it’s just absolutely astounding.

Sometimes I find myself just sitting and marveling at Ben as his fingers explore his toys, or as he grins when he sees that baby staring back in the mirror.  He’s mimicking sounds and scooting across the room on the floor. He makes it very clear when he’s hungry. He rubs his eyes when he’s tired. He giggles when his dad tickles his neck. He’s a fully functioning person. Fearfully and absolutely wonderfully made. How can this be?

I took physiology my sophomore year of college. Whenever readings were assigned, I usually just skimmed the chapters to pick out the most important information for quizzes and tests. However, when we got to the chapter on the reproductive system, it was the only chapter in the book that I read in its entirety. I remember devouring the information and thinking, how great is our God!

Scripture is so very clear on the miracle of life, but even without looking at the Bible — even if you whip out an old physiology text book — the evidence tells us that humans are intricate, complicated, and miraculous — from the moment of conception until the moment we breathe our last.

As I watch Benjamin, my nephews, and hopefully my future children grow, I hope I never stop wondering at the unspeakable miracle of life that whispers — no, shouts — the name of our Creator.

Here’s to acknowledging and marveling at the miracle of life — one little milestone at a time.

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“For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.
– Psalm 139:13,14 –

The Choice

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Whether intended or not
Two worlds collide.
And whether you feel me or not
The heart inside
Beats, it beats again and again
Growing, expanding, helpless to defend.

Defend, guard,
Protect, shield —
Verbs held in high esteem,
Refusing to yield
To the demands, the pressure, ever unending.
My protector’s resolve now seems to be bending.

“Accident” they call me,
Unwanted, wished away.
Not meant to be,
No invitation to stay.
“Potential,” “potential” is my new name —
I don’t matter yet. You and I aren’t the same.

Heart beating, brain thinking,
Buds forming, blood pumping,
Bones growing, ears hearing,
Eyes seeing, limbs jumping —

Heart stopping, flat-lining,
Bones crushing, life ending,
Limbs ripping, lungs bursting,
No one is defending.

Who will I be?
The world will never know.
To keep your choice alive,
My one choice had to go.
But pretend, pretend that I never was real —
Swallow the lies, hold it in, refuse to feel.

The body count rises
And “choice” limps along.
“It’s my right, it’s my right” —
The same unending song.
It plays, it wounds, it tears, it scars,
Boasting liberation behind invisible bars.

“It,” they call me —
I am an “it.”
A problem, a mass,
A blob to forget.
But you can’t, you won’t, you’ll never forget,
Because although I am gone you’re still left with regret.

Your choice, it’s your choice —
Your precious, precious choice.
Your choice that has silenced
My small silent voice.
But more than one life has ended inside —
The day my life ended a piece of you died.

The day my heart stopped, a part of you died.


If you or someone you know is hurting from a past abortion, know that there is healing. Contact a pregnancy resource center near you to get connected with an abortion recovery program.

The Art of Left-handedness

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A few weeks ago my husband and I were in our bathroom brushing our teeth before bed.

“Why are you brushing your teeth left-handed?” my husband asked me. I glanced down and saw that, yes, my toothbrush was in my left hand.

“Uhhh…” I paused, trying to think why I was doing this when I am in fact right-handed.

Then I remembered.

I used to play basketball in middle and high school. Looking back, it consumed a lot of my life. If I wasn’t playing a game, I was practicing. If I wasn’t practicing, I was probably thinking about how I should be practicing. I loved it. And I always wanted to get better.

I am right-handed. Most people are (70-90% – and that’s coming from Wikipedia, so you KNOW it’s true). But being right-handed is rather unfortunate for a basketball player. I used to actually be envious when I met left-handed people – they have such an advantage on the basketball court, and they can be much harder to guard.

I’ll never forget when my basketball coach once told me, “Everyone knows which direction you’re going. You will always go right. You have no left hand.”

I took it personally. Mainly because I knew he was right – I didn’t have a left hand. It might as well have been removed, because I didn’t use it in a game. In fact, I might as well have just roped off the entire left side of the court – because I didn’t use that either.

It just didn’t come naturally.

But I also took this as a personal challenge. I have no left hand, huh? We’ll see. 

So I started making a few changes. During practice, I dribbled more with my left hand. I worked on ball handling drills, working my left hand more than my right. It felt awkward and a little uncomfortable. And sometimes when my coach’s back was turned, I’d switch to my right. But I tried.

Game time would come. I’d use my left more often, but in pressure situations, I’d panic.

Back to the right hand.

It was just more comfortable. Using my left just…didn’t come naturally. keep-on-trying-1197550

I didn’t understand – I was using my left hand during practices…why wasn’t it easier in games? My coach then brought to my attention the fact that I only spent about 2 hours a day in basketball practice. The rest of the day’s hours I was also using my hands – and most of the time, it was my right hand that I used.

But I’m right-handed! I thought. Why wouldn’t I use that hand?  It comes more naturally!

Do you want a left hand?

Of course, I said.

Then do everything left-handed.

I thought it was ridiculous. But I really liked basketball. So I tried it.

I ate with my left hand.

I brushed my teeth with my left hand.

I tried writing with my left hand (key word, “tried”).

Any task I encountered throughout the day, I attempted to do it with my left hand first.

Things didn’t go so well in the beginning. I pushed food around my plate awkwardly with my fork. I overshot when brushing my teeth, sometimes getting toothpaste all over my cheeks. I knocked things over. I dropped things.

Using my left hand just didn’t come naturally to me.

I did this for several weeks. Weeks turned into months.

Pretty soon, I forgot why I was trying to use my left hand more. I just kept doing it.

It just came naturally.

I don’t know the exact moment when it happened, but I suddenly started to use my left hand to get out of pressure situations in basketball games.  I used the left side of the court.  I did left-handed layups.  I dribbled the length of the court left-handed.

I still turned the ball over sometimes (sometimes a lot) when going left. The left-handed awkwardness would take over, and I’d lose control, or the ball would get stripped away. I would awkwardly over-shoot my layups.

But those mistakes happened less and less the more I used my left hand.

Why am I sharing this? Here’s why:

If you are human, you were born with some natural tendencies. From the first moment you breathed air, you were inclined to sin. You were taught when you were young how to do the “right thing” – but no one ever had to teach you how to lie, gossip, think envious thoughts, cheat, or steal.

And what’s more, we all know this to be true about each other. We know that our friends and family are more inclined to be selfish, rude, hateful, dishonest, etc. It comes more easily. Don’t believe me? Start checking yourself when you’re driving down the road and someone cuts you off, or changes lanes without signaling. Or when you’ve picked the one line at Wal-Mart where the lady in front of you decides to actually write a check. Or when your 5 month old absolutely refuses to take a nap (not speaking from experience or anything…).

All these self-loving and self-centered tendencies come easily and naturally.

So in a way, we are all “spiritually right-handed.”

If “going right” means that we go with what comes naturally, then we sin. Plain and simple.

But if you are a Christ-follower, God has called you to something more. He wants you to be a lefty.

God calls us to put off the old man and put on the new (Eph. 4:22-24). If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has gone, the new has come (2 Cor. 5:17).

God’s Word says that he has given us everything we need in order to live a godly life (2 Peter 1:3). So while it may not always come naturally for me to make right decisions or to put others before myself – God has enabled me to do those things through Christ’s redemptive work on the cross (Phil 2:13).

So for example – it may not come naturally to choose to wait to have sex until marriage, or to choose not to act on homosexual feelings, or to choose to carry an unplanned pregnancy to term when it doesn’t seem to make financial sense – but Christ strengthens us to make these hard (but also right) decisions.

I hear people say this all the time to explain the reason for their actions: “This is just the way I am.” “I’m just being myself.” “God made me this way.” “You don’t understand, If it weren’t for (enter names here), I wouldn’t be this way…”

I definitely think there is something to be said for different personalities or for the influence of family members and peers on our actions and reactions. But most of the time (and I include myself in this) I think this is a copout  – an excuse to not take responsibility for our short tempers, angry spirits, complaining attitudes, lustful thoughts…whatever it may be. But if I claim to be a follower of Christ, that means I have forfeited my own rights to my body, attitude, and actions. I am not my own (1 Cor. 6:20).

Using my left hand wasn’t natural for me. But it became more natural when I changed my lifestyle – when I altered my behavior and began performing daily tasks with the goal of becoming a better ball handler. In the same way, truly following Christ means changing our lifestyles – our way of thinking. It means doing the hard things in the small moments of life, so that when game time comes, we’ll be ready. This is a work of the Holy Spirit in us – we can’t manufacture this heart transformation on our own.

This concept rubs a lot of people the wrong way. People want the benefits of a relationship with God without all that “dying to self” stuff. In fact, there’s a good chance you’ll be called “intolerant” or have people roll their eyes at you if you try to hold others accountable for this truth.

ball-1419026But if someone claims to be a believer, then the best, most loving thing we can do for them is to hold them accountable. 1 John 1:6 says, “If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth.”

Whoever says they walk with God yet denies that any self-discipline is required of us in order to follow him and continues in the same old lifestyle patterns is – well – a liar. These are frightening concepts.

As I shared with Matt my reason for using my left hand that night, I felt humbled by the great amount of self-discipline I demonstrated back in high school versus the sometimes lacking spiritual disciplines I practice now. But I believe this moment of humility was meaningless if I do not follow it up with action.

I want to be a spiritual lefty – not in order to gain right standing with God, but because he has already declared me righteous because of the perfect sacrifice in Christ alone.

May my spiritual disciplines come out of the overflow of a thankful and transformed heart – and as a result, make me a lefty.

 

What Date Nights are Not (After You’re Married)


wahtdateIt had been a while since we’d been on a date. The whole having-a-kid thing makes it a little more difficult. Suddenly, a month rolls by and you begin to ask yourself the question, “Have I talked to my husband about anything other than poop, bath time, or nap schedules?” I don’t know about other new parents, but for us, it has been easy to start treating one another like co-workers rather than spouses. Rather than greeting my hubs with a smooch and a hug, I sometimes find myself tossing him a 4 month old and running out the door and yelling, “Don’t try to find me!” over my shoulder. We’ve drastically improved our teamwork skills (“you start dinner, I’ll feed him, then you give him his bath, then I’ll finish dinner…”), but the whole husband/wife dynamic can really start to take a back seat if you’re not careful.

So a few weekends ago, my mom graciously offered to watch Benjamin while Matt and I went on a date. We were both pretty excited and couldn’t wait to have a few hours to ourselves. So on Friday evening around 6:30 PM, we pulled out of the driveway – both stifling yawns – and set out on our adventure.

The evening didn’t go quite as planned.

The Mexican restaurant wouldn’t take our Groupons (stupid fine print) so we ended up paying way more for our dinner than planned (which is kind of a big deal when you’re on one income). We wanted to try out an indoor glow-in-the-dark putt-putt course at the mall. We got there only to find out they closed in ten minutes (seriously? On a Friday night?). We attempted to go to the batting cages down the street, only to find out they, too, were closing.

Then – light bulb! – we remembered the janky Celebration Station on Wendover – THEY have putt-putt, let’s do that!

As we pulled into the parking lot, my leftovers from dinner came flying off the dash, dumping nachos on the floorboard, the passenger seat, and – yes – on my white pants.scorecard2

I just sat and stared. Maybe we should just go home, I thought.

Matt gallantly ran into the station of celebration and grabbed handfuls of napkins. Several minutes later, the faint aroma of nacho cheese hovering around me, Matt and I walked silently into the building.

Kids were running around and screaming. Teenagers were hanging all over each other and getting a little too cozy by the skeeball machines. Parents were staring blankly into the distance and holding piles of tickets shoved into their hands by children. Smells of sweat and pizza mixed together in the air, and not for the first time that night I thought, Maybe we should just go home.

But no, we were not to be deterred. We purchased our game, picked out our golf balls, and headed for the course.

By this time it was dark. Half the golf course lights had burned out, kids kept running through our game, and less than halfway through, one of the holes ate Matt’s golf ball (no, really…we never found it).

But as we began junk-talking each other and laughing and overreacting whenever we missed an easy putt, it suddenly dawned on me: this was the first place we had ever come together, just the two of us, before we had even begun  “officially” dating.

Once we finished our game, we sat on a nearby bench to tally our scores (see picture to the right if scorecardyou’re interested in who won) and to chat. Would we have ever guessed six years ago that we’d be back in this place now, enjoying some time out together with a little one at home?

I can still remember that night like it was yesterday. I was a freshman at UNCG, and quite frankly over the moon that Matt had asked me to go out. I’ll never forget hanging out with my roommate and another friend in the dorm before leaving. My friends had asked what I was going to wear, and they looked at me, mortified, when I motioned down to my jeans and t-shirt. They ended up forcing me into a nicer top, claiming I had to look cute. (If you guys are reading this now, you should know that Matt still remembers what I was wearing that night, so – good job).

Date nights were a little different then. Who cared how much it cost where we were going (I mean, I wasn’t paying…)? What did it matter if we got back late? We could just sleep in the next day. So what if we spent 3 hours talking after playing putt-putt? 2009 Matt and Mary had the time.

Fast forward back to the present. As we drove home that night, I thought about how our date nights have changed.

I used to agonize over what I would wear on each date. I’d purposefully order food that I could eat with the certainty of avoiding getting anything stuck in my teeth. I’d analyze my responses to his questions and triple check my hair when passing a mirror.

Don’t get me wrong – it’s not like I’ve let myself go since then or anything. I still prefer not to have food in my teeth and still try to dress up for dates. And I still feel my heart beat a little faster when Matt smiles and tells me that he likes the outfit I chose or that I look beautiful.

But somewhere along the way, date nights ceased being let-me-put-forth-the-best-possible-and-possibly-phony-version-of-myself-and-order-the-nicest-thing-on-the-menu-because-I’m-not-paying nights and started being I’m-exhausted-and-would-be-perfectly-content-going-to-bed-before-9 PM-tonight-but-I-also-can’t-wait-to-just-BE-with-you nights.

Somewhere along the way, date nights went from closing with, “It’s 2 AM, want to hit up Cookout?” to “It’s 9:30 PM, let’s go to bed early.”

Somewhere along the way, dinner topics switched from, “You wouldn’t believe how hard my badmitton class is this semester,” to “You wouldn’t believe the amount of poop in Ben’s diaper today.”

Somewhere along the way I went from only ordering things that could be eaten with a fork to unashamedly digging into a heaping plate of nachos while simultaneously sampling whatever is on Matt’s plate at the time.

Somewhere along the way – around the time we said, “I do” – we went from sharing pieces of life with one another to sharing every moment of life with one another.

As we walked out of the Celebration Station madhouse that night, I couldn’t help smiling at the thought of how much we’ve changed in the past 6 years. We’ve had incredible highs and also been brought extremely low. Date nights aren’t the same as what they used to be, and, quite frankly, we’re not the same two people we used to be either.

I wouldn’t trade those early dating days for anything. They were sweet, innocent, and carefree. But I also wouldn’t trade this season we are in now. Things are different, but also good. And I know someday, years down the road, we’ll look back at the two people we are now and probably think, “Man…those were sweet, innocent, and carefree days.”

Our dating relationship is, I’m glad to say, not what it used to be. Neither will it be the same one year from now, or ten, or twenty. Someday when our kids have long been gone, our hair long turned gray, and our bodies long worn out, Matt and I will still be discovering new dimensions of one another one date at a time. And it will mean so much more because we’ll know that we’ve endured together, for better and for worse.

And that’s a pretty cool thing.

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When #Love(Really)Wins

I love my son.

blogblogAnd because I love him, I want him to feel loved. Accepted. Safe.

I don’t want to do anything to push him away or make him feel alienated.

As he grows up, I want him to be understood. Comfortable. Appreciated. Heard. I want him to have freedom to explore and learn and to do the things he loves.

The last thing I want is to infringe on his free will. I don’t want him to be limited. He may want to make some decisions that I don’t necessarily agree with, but because I love him, I’ll let him make those decisions. I want to be accepting of his lifestyle choices.

There are certain things I believe to be right and wrong. I believe in absolute truth, in moral laws that are designed to protect us.

But I love my son.

And I wouldn’t dare try and force him to live by my set of beliefs. So if I see him walking down a self-destructive path – if I see him disrespecting others and disrespecting my God – I won’t call him out. I won’t speak the truth to him. Because that might make him…

…uncomfortable.

Misunderstood.

Isolated.

And that would make me…

…intolerant.

Overbearing.

Unloving.

And I will be none of those things.

Because at the end of the day, who am I to tell someone what they should or should not do? What right would I ever have to hold my son accountable for his actions?

What could be more unloving than providing boundaries for my family? After all, real love has no boundaries. “Loving” is synonymous with “accepting” – so I cannot both love my son and at the same time disapprove of how he lives.

I hope I’ll never be so closed-minded as to teach my children that morality comes from some place other than their own heads.

Because that’s real love.

Right?

May we never cease speaking the truth in love just for the sake of being politically correct or tolerant. Only then will love really win.

Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped,when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.”  Ephesians 4:15-16