Ephesians 5:25

“Husbands, go all out in your love for your wives, exactly as Christ did for the church—a love marked by giving, not getting. Christ’s love makes the church whole. His words evoke her beauty. Everything he does and says is designed to bring the best out of her, dressing her in dazzling white silk, radiant with holiness. And that is how husbands ought to love their wives…”
~Ephesians 5:25-28 MSG

The first time I heard this verse, this way, it broke my heart. I’d all but convinced myself I expected too much from the idea of “true love,” that real life looks nothing like the novels or movies I love. I was ready to settle for a faded out shade of love offered by a boy whose brokenness only sharpened my own.

Then I heard those words, and it captured perfectly what I’d wanted my whole life. Here was proof I wasn’t being completely unrealistic in my hopes for a love that lifts up without first tearing down.

I wrote my favorite snippet on an index card and hung it up over my computer: His words evoke her beauty. And I resolved to believe that sort of love was waiting for me.

It wasn’t some magical, life-altering thing. I didn’t end my current relationship — not right away. I wanted still to believe it could happen between us. And when we fell apart completely, I was hollowed out and worried I’d missed my chance.

When I met my husband, he made it very clear from the moment he said hello that he was interested in me. He wooed me like an oldfashioned gentleman, with gifts left outside my door and little notes just to say he was thinking of me. He made me feel wanted and adored and powerful, and not just with him, or because of him. I felt like the whole world should be able to see me that way, too. I’d never experienced anything like him, and I couldn’t find the words to explain just how amazing I felt.

Sometime in those early weeks, I opened a drawer I hadn’t since moving to my new apartment, and right on top sat an index card a hopeful me had scribbled more than two years earlier. His words evoke her beauty.

That’s how he loved me, even before he’d admitted those three words. That’s how he loves me still, seven years after our first date.

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Rambling Review: A Quiet Place

This is — obviously — not a book review, but I just saw A Quiet Place this weekend and I want to tell everyone about it.

It was SO good. I DO NOT do horror movies — my imagination is over-active enough as it is, thankyouverymuch — so believe me when I say everyone should see this movie (yes, Mom, even you). Sure, it is suspenseful. There are a those sudden “jump out” scenes. There are flashes of gore (very brief, and I’d say almost tastefully done). So much of the movie is spent feeling a chill creep up your spine, feeling each tiny hair on the back of your neck stand up in that delicious anticipation of terror. Don’t get me wrong, this movie definitely has those elements that make great horror movies (I assume, as like I said: NOT my thing).

But there is such a depth to the story as well. The premise is fairly simple: sound = death. There are creatures who hunt solely by sound, so the family has to live in silence. Because of this, the viewer gets to interpret the story in their own way, more so than in most movies. Actions truly do speak louder than words, and the beauty of the story is found in the facial expressions, in gestures and sign language. A life lived on mute makes everything more profound — both the joys and the pains.

I was afraid I’d be terrified to make noise the whole time, but there was a comfort in the crack of popcorn kernels and the seat shifting going on around me. There were times when I breathed into my sweatshirt, trying to convey advice to the characters on the screen. And I audibly gasped, empathizing with them. The movie made me stress-sweat, wondering if I could bear what they do without making a sound. And my admiration for them all grew with each scene.

I’ve said it many times, but I love for my entertainment to also move me. This movie did that. I cried, I rejoiced, I feared, and I cheered. It lingers in a way that doesn’t make me need to keep a light on to sleep, but makes me appreciate the little things like being able to swear loudly when I stub my toe — and the big things, like how much my own parents love me.

It is suspenseful without being horrifying, sweet without being trite, sad without wallowing, and triumphant without being cheesy. A Quiet Place is so well done, and so worth seeing.

Reflections on an Okay, Terrible Month

So if you remember towards the end of January, I wrote about how February is the bane of my existence each year. Maybe that was the opposite of a self-fulfilling prophecy — a jinx, if you will. Because this February has flown by, so quickly the usual misery didn’t have time to latch onto me.

I have several theories for why. Firstly, not exactly a jinx, but writing about it, being honest rather than hiding my fears, liberated me to face February in a way I haven’t been able to before. In a way, the demons were warned: I’ve sounded the alarm, and others are watching for the attack.

Partially, in an attempt to reaffirm to readers that I am okay, I’ve been better about writing and posting this month. It’s kept me distracted with a creative outlet to reenergize me every few days. Also, little things like my style challenge increased the distractions — keeping me focused on little, life things so the dull, boring February days couldn’t leave room for despair to fester.

I’ve been taking a bit better care of myself this year. Things like going for walks, hikes, and doing yoga with both more regularity and less rigidity than I would have in the past. And, without going into *too* much detail, this month for medical reasons I was taken off the oral contraceptives I’ve been on for the past thirteen years, and I think the lack of synthetic hormones has helped mellow out at least some of my more temperamental moods. Also, eating more vegetarian meals (and a lot less red meat especially) all probably helps in a healthy-body, healthy-mind kind of way. You know, because science.

And of course, I have to give credit to my current situation. My husband warns we’re still in the honeymoon phase of living in this new city, but after seven months I am still so in love with Saint Louis. More than the physical city, the feeling I have here — like I belong in a way I never felt in the DC area — is beyond comforting. Gone is the tension and stress of a life measured against every designer handbag and luxury vehicle rolling down the street. There are lovely, wonderful people in DC, but the people of the midwest have been so welcoming, I truly believe it’s a little bit magical. It’s soothed my soul in a way that has certainly helped me approach this season with a calmer spirit.

The struggle continues, but it’s becoming easier to cling to the edge of the precipice rather than give up and tumble into darkness.

Magic of Home

So as I was driving home the other day, I was trying to think of the right words to explain the love I feel for where I am. Every time I try to simply say “I love Saint Louis,” it doesn’t capture what I mean. My husband is able to make it smaller, explain away the magic with rationalities like the convenience of city living or the newness of this environment for us.

And he’s right, but he’s also so very wrong. When I say how much I love it here, I mean so much more than the architecture or stores or restaurants or people. They’re all fantastic, sure. But there’s something…more. Deeper. More pure. It’s a knowledge in my bones that I belong in the world. It’s magical. It’s home.

And as I reached my exit, I glanced up at the bridge that spans the highway like I always do — there’s often someone standing up there, just watching the cars pass, and for whatever reason, it makes me smile. Today, though, was more magic.

Someone had written a marriage proposal in painted cups wedged into the chain link barricade. Whoever Jonna (Ionna? Tonna?) is, I hope they say yes.


And for all the other people dating other Jonnas who take 44E home, tonight may get a little awkward.

MAGIC, GUYS!

One More Light

This song by Linkin Park quietly destroys me every time.

February has been the worst month for as long as I can remember. It makes no sense that the shortest month would take the longest to pass by. It isn’t the beginning of the cold, dreary weather, and it isn’t the tail end either. It just sits in the middle of gray and crushes me every year.

Part of it may be due to Seasonal Affective Disorder, but while all of winter is generally more of a struggle than the rest of the year, in February in particular, I’m a shell of a person. Everything is hollow and cold and faded inside. It has nothing to do with Valentine’s Day or any particular trauma — trust me, I’ve tried to trace this weirdness to some tangible explanation. My husband says it’s self-fulfilling prophecy: I expect February to suck, so it does. He (thankfully) can’t understand the depth of it — or sudden lack of any depth of emotion at all. Every year I hope it’s better — I hope I’m better, healthier, happier. And when it turns out I’m not, there’s still a tiny sort of comfort in knowing I just have to make it to March.

March is nothing special. In fact, I’d say it’s my second-least favorite month. March is when the cold and the damp and the wind wear me down, but at least it’s in a more normal way that nearly everyone is getting worn down. I know I’m more alive in March.

Recently, January has added a day or two of February-level angst. It happened today, which got me thinking about this time of year. At least with the January days, I know exactly where it comes from. Three years ago, I lost someone to suicide.

I felt strange at first, claiming the loss as my own. It’s his family I’m closer too. But he was a light; even in the snippets of time I shared with him, I could see that. Sometimes I could recognize his darkness, too. Along with his death, I lost my old friends. They are the same and yet wholly new people. How could they not be, after clawing their way back to the living, forever watching where they step around the gaping hole that will never fill?

Suicide brings loss in many ways, not all of them expected. That’s something I learned three years ago.

The January punch-in-the-gut doesn’t always happen on “the day.” But in each of the past three Januaries, I have woken up feeling hollow. My mind replays little details from that time, as vividly as if it were happening all over again. I feel the carpet fibers under my fingers as I lay on the floor beside my bed, tears leaking into my ears. My throat catches, remembering how I called my mom and said “what do I do?” because moms are supposed to have all the answers, but what mother can fathom losing a child until it happens?

Today I feel both carved out and filled with everything. Tears coursed down my cheeks as I drove to work, and for a terrifying moment, I feared February had come early.  Then that song came on and I realized it’s my January ghost. He sits with me and reminds me to feel it all. The pain and the anger and the heartache. He reminds me of carpet fibers and clogged eardrums. Of his mom promising to shower and brush her teeth, even if she couldn’t bring herself to do anything else all day. Of his stepdad, hollow-eyed and deflated, trudging through parking lots with the dogs that kept them both breathing.

My chest cracks open and pain bleeds through my shirt and it’s all I can do to get through the day without crawling under my desk and sobbing, but I make it. I always do.

Because January is here to remind me how imperative it is that I survive February.

“Who cares if one more light goes out?”

So. Many. People.

You are the Best Thing

This weekend, my husband and I will celebrate our first year of married life. It’s insane to me that a full year has passed since the “I do”s and the big dress.

Recently, someone asked how being a newlywed was going. I surprised myself by responding immediately with “it’s really wonderful.” That’s not to say it’s surprising that being married is wonderful — of course it is; why else would people do it? It’s just also hard sometimes, and annoying sometimes, and honestly, a little bit terrifying. But when faced with the question — asked in a way that was meant to illicit a deep, well-thought-out response — my first associated feeling was warmth and light and safety. My lips lifted. And then the words tumbled out. “Really wonderful.”

Trust me, this wasn’t some platitude to change the subject. It wasn’t naivety or boasting or sugar-coating reality. Sharing a living space with someone is annoying. Especially when one is introverted and has grown used to living alone. Suddenly having another person eating my food and using my bathroom and watching my TV 24/7 was uncomfortable (note: I should say that it is “our” food now, and “our” bathroom, and –if anything– “his” TV). I like coming home from work and writing or watching a good, detailed show on the DVR (like GoT) or reading a book or whatever it is that is silent and solitary and not peppered with questions. I’ve had to get used to there being someone who wants to hear about my day and tell me about his (and eventually ask for the umpteenth time “why does she have dragons?”) — literally every single day.

My husband is neurotic about very particular things. We all have our quirks. I’m seriously blown away he loves me so freaking much considering all of my own little weirdo-things.

We are also different people. This should go without saying, but being different people, we have different thoughts and ideas and different things are important or not important or done differently and this leads to fights.

This year has not been a walk in the park, though we’ve taken many. We’ve experienced loss, and learned how difficult comfort can be to find when he grieves differently than I. There have been eye-rolls and firmly-shut-doors (okay, I might have slammed one or two). There have been tears (in my defense, he knew going into this I’m a mess of emotions) and there has been heavy silence. I’ve learned (read: still learning) that sharing a life can be as windy and rocky as it is smooth.

But I’ve also learned that if I’m not feeling well, my husband knows without my saying which mug to serve my favorite soup in. I know he’ll go to three different stores to track down one ingredient for dinner if I say it’s important (and sometimes, even if I say it’s not). He always cleans up after dinner — he’ll say it’s because I cooked, but even if he makes his specialty rice-and-avocado-burritos, he cleans up.

When a funny movie makes him belly-laugh, he reaches for my knee. It’s a subconscious tick — he just likes to be physically connected to me while we’re doubling over with laughter. Sometimes he holds my hand as he’s falling asleep. He tells me he loves my singing (no matter how loudly, stupidly, or off-key I make it), and insists he’s not lying when I scoff.

He thinks I’m strong, and beautiful, and that I see the world with childlike wonder. He can be utterly selfless, my modern-day hero. He epitomizes one of my favorite lines from my favorite movie about my favorite fictional crush: “That boy would stand on his head if I asked him to!” (okay, so the original quote said “Gilbert Blythe” but I’ve thought it so often of my husband that it’s forever warped in my heart to “that boy”).

So despite the challenges that go along with all of life, despite the discomfort of fitting my life with another human being, when asked to dish about all the anxiety marriage can bring, the word that came to mind was “wonderful.” Really wonderful.

There were points during the past year where I questioned everything. I had panic attacks and really low periods and felt really lonely. There were also times I couldn’t fall asleep because my husband wasn’t home yet, and now I’m used to his arms around me at night. It’s all a beautiful, painful, wonderful journey to weave my life with someone else, the best someone else. It’s a journey we’ll continue on for a lifetime of years.