This weekend, we were charmed to keep the company of Ann-Marie and Shaun. They are very wonderful, fun, and engaging and we are always thrilled to have them as house guests. After they got in on Saturday night, we walked to the downtown mall with Pyrrha and had dinner at The Whiskey Jar.
Sunday night, we started a rousing discussion on the definition of marriage. It was energetic and compelling and thought-provoking and it even made me miss college a little. Remember college? Remember sitting around and having conversations like that all night long? We don’t do that much anymore. And maybe it’s good that we don’t, it’s good that we’ve moved on from finding our opinions so valuable, but at the same time, I do sincerely miss that heated exchange of ideas. It’s something I’ve always loved.
Does this blog feel a bit stale to you? I’ve been getting steadily worse at this hobby.
We have already had such a busy summer, but it has been a very happy one.
I had even forgotten how married love
is a territory more mysterious
the more it is explored, like one of those terrains
you read about, a garden in the desert
where you stoop to drink, never knowing
if your mouth will fill with water or sand.
. . . . . . . . . . . . .
For Guion. Thanks for taking me to poetry readings, for getting our new car fixed after an anonymous idiot plowed into it, for listening to me, for taking me on dates, for helping me with whatever I need. Happy Friday.
Memory Is Like a Shotgun Kicking You Near the Heart By Frank Stanford
I get up, walk around the weeds
By the side of the road with a flashlight
Looking for the run-over cat
I hear crying.
I think of the hair growing on the dead,
Any motion without sound,
The stars, the seed ticks
Already past my knees,
The moon beating its dark bush.
I take the deer path
Down the side of the hill to the lake,
Wade the cold water.
My light draws the minnows,
Shines through them, goes dead.
Following the shore
I choose the long way home
Past the government camping grounds,
And see where the weeds have been
Hear the generator on the Winnebago purring.
The children of the tourists
Are under the wheels
Like a covered wagon.
They scratch in their sleep
Until they bleed.
When I get home
I drink a glass of milk in the dark.
She gets up, comes into the room naked
With her split pillow,
Says what’s wrong,
I say an eyelash.
. . . . . . . . .
OK, so it’s kind of a rough poem to leave you with for the weekend, but WHOA. Isn’t it awesome? Stanford is Guion’s general muse. We’re off for the weekend to see Daniel and Lauren get married and, boy, are we pumped for them! See you Monday!
These days, I’m thinking a lot about the shifting model of marriage. Marriage is shaking up and many in my demographic (the ones who married very young and very Christian) are uneasy about how to proceed. Departing from the traditional marriage model–where the husband makes most if not all of the money, the wife stays home with the kids–is an issue that has frequently come up among my friends who also married young. We start talking about leadership, earning potential, childrearing, and power structures and all hell breaks loose. It’s perhaps a very weird time to be 23, Christian, and married. This subset I belong to is definitely in the American minority.
Here’s a large part of the issue. From anecdotal reports, in the newly formed households of my young married friends, the woman is more likely to be the breadwinner. Wives surpassing husbands in income might still be an unusual thing overall, but I get the sense that it’s an increasingly common phenomenon. (Hanna Rosin would likely back me up on it.) This is a great thing on the whole, that women are FINALLY starting to earn as much (if not more than) men, but it certainly shakes the foundation of the “Leave it to Beaver” marriage we all know and secretly idolize.
I can’t tell you how many different variations of this conversation I have had with young wives since I got married. Long conversations along these lines: I make more money than he does; what is going to happen when we have kids? What if I want to stay home but can’t financially? Will our children suffer if I work? (Side note from the Woolf scholar side of me: These are questions that men never somehow have to ask.) We’re all scrambling around, looking for a model, a standard–anything we can point to–but the bold reality is that we are being forced to make a new standard, a new model for modern marriage. It’s a topic that seems to be constantly cropping up among women, and not just the young Christian ones. I was really encouraged to know that I’m not the only one thinking about it, after having read this thoughtful piece by Jenna from Sweet Fine Day, “When You’re the Breadwinner in the Family.”
As children of the Great Recession, we are grappling with the traditional marriage model in a way that our parents and grandparents did not have to. These days, it is often essential that both the husband and wife work; staying at home with the kids is an increasingly rare luxury.
So. Everything is changing. But maybe we’re just going back to the way things used to be? As external support, I point to a segment from Kate Bolick’s recent cover story for The Atlantic Monthly, “All the Single Ladies:”
Not until the 18th century did labor begin to be divided along a sharp line: wage-earning for the men and unpaid maintenance of household and children for the women. [Social historian Stephanie] Coontz notes that as recently as the late 17th century, women’s contributions to the family economy were openly recognized, and advice books urged husbands and wives to share domestic tasks. But as labor became separated, so did our spheres of experience—the marketplace versus the home—one founded on reason and action, the other on compassion and comfort. Not until the post-war gains of the 1950s, however, were a majority of American families able to actually afford living off a single breadwinner.
All of this was intriguing, for sure—but even more surprising to Coontz was the realization that those alarmed reporters and audiences might be onto something. Coontz still didn’t think that marriage was falling apart, but she came to see that it was undergoing a transformation far more radical than anyone could have predicted, and that our current attitudes and arrangements are without precedent. “Today we are experiencing a historical revolution every bit as wrenching, far-reaching, and irreversible as the Industrial Revolution,” she wrote.
Last summer I called Coontz to talk to her about this revolution. “We are without a doubt in the midst of an extraordinary sea change,” she told me. “The transformation is momentous—immensely liberating and immensely scary. When it comes to what people actually want and expect from marriage and relationships, and how they organize their sexual and romantic lives, all the old ways have broken down.” (The Atlantic Monthly)
So, if the old ways have broken down, where do we go from here? I think that’s the question that remains firmly lodged in our minds, but I have come to a place of seeing the crumbling traditional marriage model as a non-threatening event. Instead, I see it is a hopeful frontier. To be young and married in 2011! I’ve decided to see my life status as a gift, to suspend judgment on non-traditional marriage models, to appreciate the fact that we’re all figuring it out for ourselves and that it is high time to reject the cultural law that says we all have to practice marriage in the exact same way.
General rule: If I don’t have any photos from the weekend, it means that we had a very peaceful, uneventful one, which, in this case, was true. Except for the mice infestation, which is something I am not brave enough to discuss right now.
Formerly Known As. A thoughtful and great article by a Christian man on why he decided to take his wife’s name when they married. (The Curator)
Kyoko Hamada: Letter to Fukushima. A poignant photo essay and journal of a photographer’s journey back to Fukushima. As the media frenzy dies down, the residents of Fukushima still carry on their extremely difficult lives in a barren town. (The New Yorker)
Veiled. Unbelievable Italian sculptures of veiled women. I remember my mother talking about the incredible beauty of these in an art book when I was young. Since then, I’ve always been mesmerized by them. (Even Cleveland)
Flick Chicks. Mindy Kaling reflects on the absurd and limited number of women that are permitted to appear in romantic comedies. My favorite tropes: “The Klutz” and “The Forty-Two-Year-Old Mother of the Thirty-Year-Old Male Lead.” (The New Yorker)
Ask an Orthodox Christian. Orthodox Christianity is also incredibly fascinating to me, and it seems that way for all of the people who asked questions here, because they all sound like they want to convert. Interesting answers, though! (Rachel Held Evans)
Another busy weekend in North Carolina: Guion backed Daniel Levi Goans at his CD release show in Greensboro, and I was in Charlotte/Davidson, hanging out with my fam and celebrating with Eva and Peter.
Grace was Eva and Peter’s wedding photographer and has just put up some of her amazing photos from their “first look” on the railroad tracks. Check it out.
Quick selection of photos below:
“Cruel,” by St. Vincent. New favorite song (I’m OBSESSED) and album. I can’t wait for her concert here in October! This music video is also totally crazy and creepy. (The Fox Is Black)
The Psychologist. Why novelist Vladimir Nabokov may have actually been the greatest psychologist of his time. (The American Scholar)
The Writer’s Voice. A reflection on the experience of hearing a great writer read his or her own work–with links! Listen to the dulcet tones of Flannery O’Connor, W.B. Yeats, Philip Larkin, James Joyce, Vladimir Nabokov, and J.M. Coetzee. (The Book Bench, The New Yorker)
Al Gore’s Excellent Timing. You know all this apocalyptic weather we’ve been having lately? Al Gore chimes in on a reason, and it’s not the Second Coming. These statistics are chilling… or should I say warming? (The Atlantic)
Bookish Illustrations. Lizzy Stewart’s solemn and wonderful sketched book covers for beloved classics. (Wolf Eyebrows)
In my experience, the world’s happiest man is a young professor building bookcases, and the world’s most contented couple is composed of that young professor and his wife, in love, employed, at the bottom of a depression from which it is impossible to fall further, and entering on their first year as adults, not preparing any longer but finally into their lives.
What a busy and full weekend! I got to see my parents twice, take the train to D.C., spend a weekend laughing and making dumplings with Angela, brunch with Eric and Cristina, and see Kelsey all in a matter of two days. Whew! More photos on Flickr.
Brief reflections on D.C.: The city as a whole seemed a lot more neighborly than I thought it would be. Everyone was out on their front stoops hollering at each other. It was great. I loved how everybody so carefully and meticulously cultivates their tiny squares of grass in their front “lawns.” Free museums = totally awesome. Most stressful part of D.C.? DRIVING. I got really anxious every time we had to get in a car. I don’t know how anyone drives in that city. Those roads were not made for cars. Or people. But the Metro was fun and you can walk just about everywhere, so that makes up for those barbaric streets.
Snax with dumplings made from scratch, which are clearly the best:
So! You Want to Get Married! Ladies, please enjoy this 1947 book for young Catholic women, advising them on how to snare a man and be a perfect wife. My favorite bit of advice? “But if you whine and complain, if you get your ‘feelings hurt,’ you can make him a nervous wreck: when that happens, you will have your hands full. You might have to go out to work to pay for his hospital expenses.” Take this to heart, wives! If you complain, your husbands might get committed to an asylum and then, heaven forbid, you might have to go WORK. (The Hairpin)
In Which We Take Notes on the Important Parts. I resonated deeply with this author’s childhood self, because it was my childhood self. I was also an obsessive list-maker and I still am. I enjoyed her guesses as to why this might be, why girls like us loved Harriet the Spy. (This Recording)
George Steinmetz Lands in the Lower East Side. Charlottesville’s photo festival gets a shout-out in the New Yorker! These giant, aerial-view photos were so mesmerizing and beautiful–especially when hanging in treetops on the Downtown Mall. (Photo Booth, The New Yorker)
(This was supposed to be posted on the 29th, but WordPress decided not to. Oh well. Here it is anyway!)
One year ago today, Guion and I got married at the Chapel of the Cross. Guion’s mentor and our pre-marital counselor Cleve May gave a beautiful and soul-stirring homily for our ceremony. He was kind enough to send it to us a few weeks ago as a reminder of the promise we made to each other, and so I wanted to share it with you today.
We’re celebrating our year together on the beautiful shores of Atlantic Beach right now, but our thoughts will be very much with that heart-stopping moment on May 29, 2010.
Abby and Guion, I know that the commitment you make to one another today has been thought through and prayed over for a long time, and over the last several months I have so enjoyed the privilege of sharing with you the counsel of the Lord through the wisdom of scripture concerning the beautiful gift and awesome responsibility of marriage. With these things in mind, I want to encourage you to continue seeking deeper understanding of God’s will for your lives. To this end, I exhort you to implant yourselves in the community of the church, in order that God may grant you wisdom and grace with and through God’s people, that your marriage will be refreshed, strengthened and held accountable in the body of Christ, and that you may continually realize and live into God’s calling for your marriage to witness to the love and faithfulness of God exhibited in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus.
In the Gospel Lesson Jonathan read a moment ago we heard some of the most potentially daunting and yet hope-filled words Jesus spoke to his disciples and now speaks to us: This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you… love one another as I have loved you. In similar fashion, Paul calls us to Christ’s likeness in the Philippians passage Mac shared with us: Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus. Love like Jesus. Think like Jesus. Guion, do you feel the weight of that? Abby, need we any explanation of why these words can feel so daunting? And particularly in this context, as we gather to witness and bless your marriage, these calls to imitate Christ can sound completely overwhelming because there is a simple fact that everyone here who has ever been married will attest to; there is nothing like marriage to open our eyes to just how un-Christ-like we can be. No other relationship can so expose the sin of our selfishness, our insecurities, and our pride. And yet it is precisely in the face of this simple fact that Jesus’ and Paul’s words are so profoundly hopeful!
You see, Jesus did not merely love us in the past by giving himself to us and for us; Jesus loves us now! He prays for us, and dwells within us by the gift of the Holy Spirit, who is not only a gift of presence, but also of power! Jesus never gave a command in order to crush his people under impossible expectations. Rather, Jesus’ commands operate as sure promises of all that He intends to work in us through the power of the Spirit. Love one another as I have loved you is a command of promise; the Spirit will empower us to love this way. Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus is an exhortation of hope! The Spirit will so tutor our minds!
You see, the sustained beauty and blessing of your marriage will require the miracle of God’s producing in you the love and the mind of Jesus. Guion and Abby, as much love as you feel for one another at this moment, I can assure you that there will be days when you wake up and wonder why on earth you committed your life to the stranger lying next to you. In your life together, the feelings of love will come and go, and it will be in the hardest days that you will discover the true depth of love that persists, not because of romance or utility or convenience, but because of the love and humility of Jesus, who determined to love both neighbor and enemy alike, humbly laying his life down for both, and calling us to do the same; because in marriage you will undoubtedly find your spouse to be both your most intimate neighbor, and sometimes the enemy who can hurt you the most. In both instances, you must determine to humbly love, for our Lord so commands, and what He commands he can accomplish in us through His Spirit.
Guion and Abby, I am so thankful that God has given you both the gift of faith in Jesus, and the desire to honor God with your lives, but for the sake of your marriage and ultimately for the sake of Jesus’ name, you must never cease to steward that gift, nurture that faith, and feed that desire. As Paul puts it in the verses immediately following what Mac read about Jesus’ humility: work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure. Guion and Abby, by the power of the Holy Spirit who dwells and works in you, love like Jesus, think like Jesus, and your marriage will be what it is designed to be, a beautiful, living picture of Jesus. Amen.