Tag Archives: featured

You are not your hymen. [Or lack thereof.]

10 Aug

Warnings:

1. If sex makes you queasy (I’m sorry), please feel free to come back tomorrow. I’ll have something less scandalous for you.
2. If you are either of my parents, you can leave, too.
3. If you are a virgin, congratulations. This doesn’t apply to you. Except for the very end.
4. If you aren’t a virgin (and you’re not married) or you’re a just-barely “technical” virgin (this isn’t the time for Clinton games), this post is for you.

/end caveats.

Dear Reader:

Cue: drum-roll. 

I am not a chaste little flower.

Exactly what I have or haven’t done when and with whom under what circumstances is between me, God, and baptism. And. . .maybe one or two confessors since then.

I’ve made my fair share of poor choices, and you know what? As much as I would like to say that I’m full of self-loathing at the very remembrance of most of them, I, uh. . .can’t.

One? Can I be honest? I thoroughly enjoyed most of them. But two?

. . .because I’m done with the whole self-loathing regret thing.

It’s a really bad look for me. (I also look really awful as a hipster, coincidentally).

There is an unhealthy obsession with holding physical virginity as some kind of status card by which the worth of women (and men) are judged. And to you, I say: You are not your hymen.

You are STILL YOU. 

Sin does not define you.

Newsflash? The waters of baptism, the redemptive power of Christ, and the continuing call to repentance are what defines you.

Choices define our situation and our situations can in turn shape who we become, but we are still – I repeat, still – the person God created.

Having intact physical virginity does not automatically grant you access to some secret higher level club in Christendom. Which is like, really good for me, because all other circumstances coming off the table, I had an extremely unfortunate freak bicycle accident when I was 9 that would have really shot me in the foot under Levitical law.

I’m not trying to excuse mortal sin or make it seem like it isn’t really that big of a deal. BECAUSE IT IS. But quite frankly, I am so. sick. and. tired. of hearing people plunge into the depths of utter despair because they think their future spouse will never love them fully after they find out that they got busy in the backseat of a car in high school – or made out in a movie theater – or held the hand of a guy they weren’t related to.

If a man doesn’t want you because you aren’t a virgin, then you have no business being with that man in the first place. Wash that dirt off your feet and MOVE ON, darling.

And readers who have maintained purity, physically and otherwise? I applaud you. But please, please be careful how you think of those of us who struggle with sex and lust and everything in between. Because fornication is mortal sin, but so is pride. We have so much we can learn from you, and I love and admire the women in my life that walked a different road than I did.

One of my favorite songs from my fundacostal days includes the line, “For a saint is just a sinner who fell down, and got up.”

You have value.

You have worth.

You have beauty.

And the absence of virginity doesn’t change that.

That’s the beauty of reconciliation and forgiveness. 

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The Waiters.

1 Apr

“My name is Waiter – not waiter in the sense of someone who waits at tables in a restaurant, but meaning someone who waits for a future which never comes.”

– Xinran, “Message from an Unknown Chinese Mother.”

I’m supposed to be finishing my senior policy analysis right now. But approaching the fertility management laws in China from a policy angle, while important and necessary, leaves a gaping sore in my heart that cries out for catharsis. That and my copy of “Message from an Unknown Chinese Mother” arrived today and it utterly and completely killed me inside. While I have an extensive dance background, I’m not really feeling the whole interpretive dance from the balcony form of therapy, and nobody wants to see me draw. So here I am.

I know a lot of people assume that I have a heart for China because they feel my parents somehow expect me to. Sometimes they’ll ask me,

“But what would you want to do if you DIDN’T have siblings from China?”

The answer? Exactly what I’m doing right now.

I don’t love China because it’s trendy. I don’t love China because I think Chinese adoptees are some kind of special designer child. A social status. I love it for that awkward burnt-liver smell that I can smell every now and then when I open a box that was made in China. I love hunting groceries in the Carrefour, not having to leave my name with a laundry mat in Guangzhou because mom and I have curly hair, I love letting the students practicing English make fun of my Texas accent that grows thicker the more exhausted/jet-lagged/emotionally spent I am, I love seeing the countryside – I can’t really say driving through the countryside because I get carsick in Dallas, much less China – I even love the food, and the not knowing what anyone around me is talking about, and letting elderly Chinese ladies drag me into Tai Chi sessions in the park, and watching homosexual ballroom dancers try to persuade my big, macho-manly-man-Texas-rancher-father to join them in a tango. . .(but that’s another story). . .

I hate being in the orphanages. I hate walking through the halls and seeing the faces of the twelve and thirteen-year-old girls that have spent their lives in the Social Welfare Institutes, excited at seeing new faces, but pain and bitterness in their eyes because they know the new faces aren’t for them.

But it isn’t a matter of feeling sorry for them. It’s not pity. It’s not philanthropy. And that’s where I do owe my family. Because it’s a sense of connection, in some small way. Connection to the mother who clung to Cait as long as she could, waiting until she was several months old before she left her wrapped warmly in a box on the orphanage steps in Nan Ping. Cami, found in a bus station still wet from her birth. Trent, abandoned for his missing foot. Aeren, left in the mouth of a coal mine. Sisters and a brother that mean every bit as much to me as Whitney, Logan, Kyle, and Trey. Cami who cried over Spring Break because she realized that I’m never really going to live at home again. Aeren who has fought for her life since the beginning – and has the stubbornness to prove it. Trent who was so ashamed of his foot that he screamed and cried the first night with our family because we had to take his three-sizes-too-small shoes off. Cait, 9 going on 40, who sits around reading science textbooks instead of picture books because she’s too old for childish things like fiction. . .and all four of them who pray diligently and sincerely every single night, with absolutely no prodding or instruction from anyone in our family, for their mother and father in China, and the rest of their biological families – and God help you if you tuck them in and forget to pray with them.

Just like my other four siblings have characteristics from our family members, somewhere in China someone passed those on to my siblings. Their families are out there, and I may not share any more blood with them than I share with my Penguins. But in a way, they’re my family too. I won’t ever meet them this side of Heaven, but I will fight for them. Through policy, through advocacy, through prayer.

Maybe someday I won’t have to think about the mothers that are watching from a distance right now, making sure their babies are found safely and swiftly. But until then I join my prayers with those of the Blessed Mother, who gave her son up to death on a cross, and knows perhaps better than any other human what those mothers are feeling now.

Smells, bells, and reality checks.

12 Mar

Sometimes the Gospel happens in ways you don’t really want it to. Sharing the love of Christ, joining yourself in the suffering of others, taking up our cross – and sometimes the crosses of our loved ones who can’t do it on their own. The tragedy in Japan is constantly in my thoughts and prayers. All of the people I’m the closest to here at ORU have been deeply wounded my tragedy over the last few weeks and months. One friend lost her father. There has been loss in my parish, with the passing of the beautiful Shannon, a dear friend of my godmother’s. Then my dear friend (and old roommate) and her husband lost their precious baby. The 3-year-old son of one of my best friend’s friend was senselessly murdered on the same day. Another very dear friend was in a head-on collision last night. And another of my closest friends just contacted me with the news that her grandmother has had a serious heart attack and needs to find a way to her immediately. It’s not all bad – my sister from another mister is being reunited with her biological family over Spring Break.

I didn’t get back from the hospital with my friend in the wreck until this morning, and am currently sitting in my dorm room waiting for phone calls from the friends at the hospital and the friend who needs a ride to OKC. I’m supposed to be at a retreat preparing for the Rite of Sending, but this, friends, is far more spiritually grounding than any retreat ever could be.

I am the Queen of Tradition and Ritual and Order. I get it from my old-school Southern family. I love ritual, I love the Rites, I love the tangible, formal, beautiful expressions of worship in our faith. But this week was a slap-in-the-face reminder that Tradition and Ritual and Order aren’t everything. And so I turned the other cheek and got slapped with the reminder that I really, truly love and own this faith I’m leaving everything I’ve known behind for. Sitting in the emergency room last night, discreetly clinging to my rosary with my godmother’s Miraculous Medal blessed by PJPII attached, and my Miraculous Medal blessed by Pope Benedict XVI in the other hand, my mother at home praying, my boyfriend and his (lovable) Rad-Trad roommates holding an impromptu vigil, the Holy Mother and Saints praying, my godparents praying (even though I texted her frantically at hours that are ungodly for mothers of young children), I knew that THIS – this union of people from all expressions of the Christian faith, uniting in prayer around one family, one moment in time, one cause, one purpose, one petition, is what the Gospel is. The liturgy is beautiful, invaluable, necessary – but not the be all and end all of our existence.

At some point waiting in the ICU I slipped down to the hospital’s chapel, with the precious Body and Blood of Christ in the tabernacle. All I could do was thank him. Thank him for this beautiful thing we call the Communion of the Saints. Thank him for the Church – Catholic and catholic. Thank him for the friends he’s brought into my life, in person and through the blogosphere, that are willing to pray for people they’ve never met and probably never will meet.

This is Heaven on earth.

This is the Gospel in action.

This is faith.

This is home.

On Tarzan and Conversion

28 Oct

I do not hug trees. I do not drink out of aluminum water bottles. I did buy some adorable reusable grocery bags at Forever 21, but half the time I forget to bring them along. Due to overexposure to Investigation Discovery and living in a city with one of the highest violent sexual crime rates per capita in the nation, when I’m alone I drive everywhere, even if the location is only a mile or so away. I’m not actively trying to slaughter the earth – but frankly, I’m just too busy/lazy/rebellious to do anything super active to SAVE the earth (more on this later).  All this to say, I am not usually a fan of environmentalist agenda that is entrenched so deeply in much of family entertainment these days. I am hyper-critical, I fully confess, and if I’m not careful I can find an evil conspiracy behind the most innocent of things (ugly disclosure time, you guys!). I am actively trying to combat this kind of negativity, though.

So the other day, when my young charges chose Tarzan as their daily movie choice, while I was elated that I did not have to watch Thomas the Tank Engine for the seventy-billionth day in a row, I was getting ready for a pompous, arrogant, IntellectaDouche criticism of the One World Peace Lovin’ Damn Frickin’ Hippie diatribe I was sure to find in this film that, in my far more ignorant, unenlightened childhood I counted among my favorites. Ahem. Unfortunately, I forgot that I’ve been praying to find God in every…single…thing like my daddy can. Forrealsz, he can get a divine revelation over a McDonalds Happy Meal. So, my expected 90 minutes of wild critical abandon was cut short by, you know, Almighty God?

If you haven’t seen the movie (and you really should – the writing is great, and the soundtrack is squee-inspiring), the basic premise follows the classic Tarzan story – Tarzan’s parents are killed by a cheetah, Tarzan is raised by gorillas, or apes, or something like that, and then the mandatory Disney romance transpires between Tarzan and the explorer Jane. So much of it reminded me of the conversion process that I just sat on the couch crying, with a snotty-nosed little boy asleep in my lap and a near-200-lb St. Bernard slobbering at my feet. Like Baby Tarzan, left to die in that tree house, our beliefs, our expectations, have been murdered. Our entire spiritual culture is gone – we know we have to find something different, but we don’t know what. We have to find shelter, but we don’t know where. I am so unbelievably blessed to have a family that loves me dearly, and for the most part either supports my decision to convert, or is getting over it – I did not lose my family in the conversion process. But I know of so many other converts who HAVE, and for them, they have to find an entirely new emotional home.

When you’re in that bleak chasm of I-can’t-keep-doing-what-I’ve-been-doing-but-I-don’t-know-if-I-can-really-make-this-leap, it is a genuine crisis. You’re terrified of what might happen if you stay, but you’re equally terrified by what might happen if you go. It’s not that God has abandoned us, it’s that we’re still too busy rationalizing and emotionalizing things within ourselves that we’re not willing to reach up and grab the hand that’s trying to pull us out of the abyss. And for far too many of us, the enemy is all too willing to seize that moment and whispers the lies that maybe, just maybe, ALL of this is a farce…maybe staying where we are is okay…maybe God will understand…maybe he’ll make an exception for us, this one time…maybe converting will spark a Beauty and the Beast style “Kill the beast!” villagers uprising and we’ll be martyred before we’re even able to be received into the church and made a Saint.

But when we’re faced with the beauty, and the peace, and the blazing, raging, earth-shatteringly silent roar of truth, we know.

We know what we have to do.

We know we have to obey God.

We know we have to follow this strange, new, thing that is so unlike everything we’ve known, and accept whatever comes next.

We have no choice. We’ve been burned by the flame of truth, and if we try to run there will be an ugly, blistering wound left behind that will kill us slowly.

Is it easy? Do we get everything right immediately? Do we have an instant metamorphosis into a beautiful CathoButterfly? No. We have fights. We have opposition in our new spiritual home. . .we have to fight battles just like we had to fight before. But it’s different this time. We have an entire community of Saints and Believers that have gone before us that are fighting and praying with us. We’ll fall down. We’ll screw up. But in the end? We win. Against doubt, against fear, against pain, and brokenness, and suffering, and starting over, we win. Not through our own strength, because we have none. But through the sweet, precious power of Christ, we win. We’re home, and nothing can ever, ever drag us out.

 

Also, the little elephant in the movie? Totally adorable.

Fundacatholics: why they make me want to jump off a cliff.

28 Sep

 I can see it coming. The glimmer in their eye that sparks as soon as I say something edifying about a Novus Ordo (or Eastern Rite) parish in town. When I’m caught entering the sanctuary without a headcovering (usually because unknowingly to me it floated off while running from my car to the church doors). When I quote Pope John Paul II on Facebook or mention reading the CCC or mispronounce a word in Latin.
Enter the Fundacatholic: “Pardon me ma’am, but your Vatican II is showing.”
Yes, well, the putrid scent of your Catholic arrogance is overwhelming me. When I decided to convert, I thought I was leaving denominationalism behind – unfortunately, it just tends to take on a different name in the Church. We call it Vatican II vs. Vatican I (or The High Holy Purveyors Of Truth). Do I consider myself a Traditionalist? No. Do I consider myself a Modernist? No. I’m Catholic. Period.

 I love the Traditional Latin Mass. It touches corners of my soul that before I began my conversion only ever came out of the shadows in the cold, dark, damp ballet studios where I poured out blood, sweat and more than a few tears. It’s personal to me. It’s coming face to face with God. The majesty and the imagery make me tremble before the Almighty, and I realize just how small I really am in Eternity – and just how powerful my God is.

 But the Novus Ordo is equally special. It’s like a family reunion. There are the cousins that irritate you. The grandfather that tells embarrassing stories. The crazy uncle who does things like hula hoop in a coconut bra in the middle of a barn. (True story. From family reunion. Not Mass). Is it as earth shatteringly beatiful as the TLM? Hardly. But it’s coming together in simplicity and union, and meeting God in community. Where the TLM, for me, is interior and vertical, the NO is exterior and horizontal. Both are necessary. Both are valuable. I recently attended my first Eastern Catholic Divine Liturgy, in the Maronite Rite, and it added even more to my spiritual life.

 I’m tired of the rigid “My way or you’re a heretical schismatic.” vitriol. My personal favorite is when it’s announced that non-Religious (and the definition of Religious is limited to only those who are anti V2) have no business studying the theology of the church, and should leave that to “The Intellectuals”. ?????

 But you know what? However blood-boilingly angry Fundamentalist-behaving Catholics make me, they are still my brothers and sisters, and I have to love them – just like I do everyone else. Just. . .in the meantime, please make sure you cover your Fundacatholicism when you’re in public – I can see your knees.