An All-In Life

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My dad once told me that I am an “all-in kinda kid.” When I inquired further he said, “You put your all your eggs in one basket, and that means you are committed. But it also means you will probably get hurt.” This was in the parking lot of a Krogers when I was 13 or 14. My mom had run in to get a couple of things, and as per our parking lot history, the conversation turned deep. This is one of those conversations that has stuck with me. I am an all-in person, and that means I open myself up enough to get hurt. Yet that pain has not led me away from an all-in life – in most areas.

In friendship, in work, in church I do not know how to be an acquaintance – we are either family or just not. But there is one aspect of life that has eluded my all-in mentality: my feelings that extend beyond friendship for the opposite sex.

I wonder if it is because I grew up at the height of purity culture. Promise rings, True Love Waits, and I Kissed Dating Goodbye were the trappings of my Christian generation. And I was part of it. I had an amazing promise ring my parents bought for me; it was presented to me on my 13th birthday. My mom helped me get dressed up and my dad and I went to a fancy restaurant, where I received a beautiful ring and letters from godly adults in my life. It was a special night and I knew what all this meant, because in our home we talked about sex – it was not shameful, it was not gross, it was in God’s design for marriage. I think this is where my experience with purity culture differs from my peers. I may have signed the True Love Waits pledge and sang along to theme song – thank you Uncle Barry for that gem – but this commitment was not to shame me into self control. It was to lovingly guide me, the way parents should, armed with information and biblical truth.

And yet, when I have a crush, I talk myself out of being all-in. In my mind there is this alarm that goes off whenever I begin to crush on a guy. This alarm triggers a check list and this list has kept me single (or the Lord may have a different plan). It is a list that begins with self doubt and ends with self deception. Items on the list include: 1. A man like that would never be interested in a girl like me; 2. I will probably have to forego my calling to be with a man like that; 3. He is not going to want to be in the urban context that I love and cannot leave; 4. He probably wants kids. This internal list has held me hostage for years, and I want to shut it down. I want to be able to be all-in.

I think the idea of a list is universal – all women have self doubt. But how do we dismantle this list? How do we go from self deception to appropriate discernment? I do not know. What I do know is that I want to delete my list and rely on the Lord’s guidance and the gift of the Holy Spirit for loving who and where I am. Maybe that will lead to someday riding the ebbs and flows of a crush, until either something sparks or something fades. But for today I want to be all-in on erasing the list I made and replacing it with the list the Lord has.

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The Bible, Hymns and The Violent Femmes

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I do not remember the first time I heard it; there was no life altering revelation – it just always was. There are a few things in my life that seem to have just grown up with me: the Bible, Hymns, and the Violent Femmes. As a kid, my dad would play the opening chords of “Blister in the Sun” mixed in with church music and tuning and goofing off. But there was always something about the playful notes that drew me in. As I got older and fell more in love with the Lord and hymns, I grew to have a deep affection for the Violent Femmes.

I know why all these things are tied together in my mind. My dad. He did not allow us to watch the Smurfs, but listening to the Violent Femmes was OK. The odd dichotomy of this only strengthens my belief that discernment is taught. The Violent Femmes were OK, because my dad could control which songs we heard, and there was such energy in their music, we would run around dancing. The Smurfs were not allowed because Gargamel was a sorcerer and that was not OK, fun or something to be toyed with, ever.

As I have become an adult, the Violent Femmes have always been there as a part of the soundtrack of my life. I have one of their cassette tapes in my car (because that’s how I roll). I love playing it when the air is warm and the windows are down. I relive the memories of dancing in the living room and singing a swear word loudly for the first time in my teen years when I discovered their entire, uncensored catalogue.

I to went see them over the weekend and the whole crowd felt the same joy with each acoustic bass thump, with lyrics we all know by heart, and each count that has been repeated I take one, one, one ’cause you left me/ And two, two, two for my family. With hands lifted high, we danced and sang – we went to church – and as I realized this as they began “Jesus Walking on Water.” “This story and this song will outlive us all,” Gordan Gano introduced. Gano grew up in the church, his dad was a preacher, and his music draws people together the way the church should. I stood singing along and worshipping Jesus, while some may have been hearing the Gospel for the first time, I was hearing the Violent Femmes proclaim truth. I know they do this song on Hallowed Ground, but hearing live was a completely new experience.

They are a very simple and yet complex outfit. They talked of training up their saxophone player since he was 14. They are a family, and I am a part of that family. They helped raise me, they were peppered in among the Bible and hymns, and my dad was right: good music will point you to truth.