#PostPartumProblems

Last summer, when I found out I was pregnant, I thought to myself, “How fortunate to be in my third trimester during the winter! Now I won’t have to suffer in the unbearable summer heat like so many other mothers!”

It was incredibly naive and short sighted.

Because as terrible as it would be to spend the final months of pregnancy in sweltering heat, your belly at its most glorious, there are wonderful inventions like central air conditioning and snow cones to combat feeling like a sweaty hippo in search of a mud hole. Then, you give birth to your beautiful little meatloaf and you have all fall and winter to hide the tragic remains of your body under bulky, cozy layers of fleece and cable knit while you get yourself together.

When you have your baby in spring, and you’re totally pumped to “treat yo’self” to some new, non-maternity clothes, this is what you’re presented with.

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Guys, someone cut the bottoms off all of these tank tops.

When I told the lady at Target that I suspected youths of this horrible vandalism, she just laughed and walked away. Then I saw this.

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What is this???? Where is the rest of the shirt? Don’t they know some of us are not going to be able to conceal the jello bowl remains of our stomachs in shirts like this??

Excuse me, where is the section for stylish, postpartum moms?
Tough luck moms. Don’t even get me started on swimwear.

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I’m pretty sure these triangles are the same size as my breast pads.

I eventually found a maxi skirt with a wide elastic waist band, perfect for popping a squat anywhere to nurse a screaming child.

And these beauties.

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Hello friends.

I guess it’s time to tuck my stomach pooch into my big girl panties and accept the fact that I’ll be sweatin’ it out in gym shorts all summer.

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Killing Regina George: Confronting Your Inner Mean Girl

How do I begin to explain Regina George?

reginageorgeisflawless

We all know Regina George. That girl who comes to school every day with perfect hair and the cutest outfits, the woman at the gym who sweats in the most beautiful way, the mom in Target with well-behaved children in adorably coordinated outfits, the lady at the office who brings delicious snacks to the break room each week. Everyone has a Regina George in her life.

I can guarantee that every girl and woman can think of at least one girl or woman who has made her feel bad about herself at some point in her life, whether it was intentionally or unintentionally. Many times, it has been intentionally. In fact, most of us can think of more than one Regina George who victimized us at more than one time in our lives. These incidents leave deep scars on us, down in the hidden parts of our hearts that we don’t want anyone to see. And we do a lot of unhealthy things to try to heal that hurt.

liferuiner

But what we learned about Regina George is that she is just as broken as the rest of us. She doesn’t have a good relationship with her mom and dad. She’s been with a lot of guys. She’s insecure about her appearance. She covered up her issues with a cocktail of manipulation, gossip, false compliments, nice cars, and pretty handbags, and created a cold, shiny, hard, plastic veneer to keep the world at bay.

Now, we could all get together and sit in a circle and share our stories and cry and hug and talk about baking a cake of rainbows and smiles and we could all be happy.But if we were honest for one second, we’d realize that it’s only a temporary fix, a small Dollar Store Hello Kitty band-aid over a gaping, festering wound.

alotoffeelings

I think we need to approach the problem from a different angle.

All too easily, women play the comparison game. I teach middle school and high school students, and I hear it every day.

“Today, I weighed…”

“Okay, did you hear what she….”

“Oh my god, what was she…”

This greatly distresses me.

Not just because I know how physically, emotionally, and spiritually dangerous this game can be, but also because I know that this is only the beginning for them. Today it’s their bodies and the number of followers they have on Instagram. Then it will shift to boyfriends, colleges, weddings, husbands, careers, income, homes, cars, pregnancies, post-pregnancy bodies, children, parenting skills, and on and on and on. And they will continue to play this game for the rest of their lives.

But the only way we are going to begin to fix this problem is to face the pure, sweet, difficult truth.

There is a Regina George in all of us. And she thinks that she should be better than everyone else.

We know this because our natural reaction when we feel the “injustice” of another woman’s success is not the celebrate but to tear her down. We scoff at the first time mom’s decision to use cloth diapers, calling her “naive” and “idealistic” despite her thorough research and careful decisions. We downplay our neighbor’s healthy weight loss by crediting good genes or an excess of free time instead of recognizing the hard work and dedication it took to get there. We ignore our own unique beauty and the beauty of other women around us because we’re too caught up in measuring beauty by unrealistic magazines and Pinterest boards. We keep our own personal “burn books” in our hearts and visit the pages whenever we’re feeling sad, angry, disappointed, or inadequate.

burnbook

It’s time to kill Regina George.

It’s time each of us recognized that little Regina George in all of us and pushed her in front of a speeding school bus.

“Regina George is an evil dictator. And how do you destroy an evil dictator? You cut off their resources.”

#1) Stop surrounding yourself with women who let their inner Reginas thrive.

#2) Practice thinking about yourself in a realistic way.

#3) Be excited for the women in your life. And not just your friends.

It’s going to be so fetch.

Writings from My Students

Report Cards
By Racine, 8th grade

Stressed.

Time is pressed.

Only a day ’till all these tests.

 

This year, I am teaching a creative writing class. At the end of the first quarter, my students made poetry portfolios showcasing their best work. Here are some works from two of my students.

 

Jordan, 10th grade

Tornado

Thunder roar,
   Lightning flash.
The rain began to soar.

  Thunder, lightning, rain and all;
next thing you know the trees will fall.

The clouds start spinning,
    a tornado’es beginning.

When the sun arrives,
  we’ll see who else has survived.

Unknown Future…

I don’t know where
to go from here

As my future comes really near
I get stifled with fear
because my future is unclear.

There is one thing I know
that wherever I go
God will always be there.

Poems!

A beginning.
A start.
The first of it all.
An ending.
A finish.
The last of the fall.

 

Racine, 8th grade

Untitled #1

Black night,
Dark night,
Fall night,
Star light.

Grey skies,
Dark skies,

Rain skies,
Scattered lies.

Blue breeze,
Cool breeze,
Whisper breeze,
hard to please.

Pretty flowers,
Swaying flowers,
Many flowers,
Persuasive powers.

 

 

Untitled #2

    Star light,
                         Fall night.

Lake serenity, tree whispers.

                        (Rise loon call) to the lake, wander.

                                  To the sky, mourn.

                        Like a lost shadow, cry.

                                  (To the islands) sing.

And to the dead of night,

Call the stars to life.

 

Untitled #3

The forest calls

Before the dead of night,

After the early morning.

                           The leaves,

                                                                                      they

                                                                                                      whisper.

                          The wind,

                                                                                      it

                                                                                                     talks.

                          The trees,

                                                                                     We

                                                                                                     laugh.

We tower,

We call.

                               (The sky) we touch it.

                               (The ground) we hold it.

The birds flock to us,

Delighting us with their songs.

They pay us with their voices and we keep them safe in our outstretched limbs.

 

We stand and watch the dirt turn to dust, until finally…            We topple.

When your wedding is more popular than you are.

I have been a wordpress blogger since September of 2011. Since then, I have had a total of 722 views. It’s safe to assume that at least 100 of these views have been from my mom.

On April 29th of this year, I told a certain young man that I would marry him. I was telling the truth. Several days later I built a wedding website, courtesy of theknot.com.

As of today, that website has had 825 views.

The conclusion? My upcoming wedding is more popular than I am.

As an aspiring writer, I am enormously offended. Just because a handsome and talented young man puts a gloriously radiant ring on my finger, suddenly I am interesting, witty, and charming.

I have always been interesting, witty, and charming.

Perhaps not. More like snarky, biting, and abrasive. In my defense, people seem to like that. That’s why the reanimated corpse of Joan Rivers has her own show on the E! Channel.

So why this sudden surge of popularity? There are several possibilities.

1) People are assuming it will be outrageously tacky and they are pumped to have a good laugh over it. If that is the case, I’m uninviting everyone ever.

2) People think it is a joke and that any day we’ll pull a great big “SIKE!” If this is the case….I’m indignant.

3) People have heard me talk about my “Beyonce sang at my wedding” dream so much that they think it’s real. Well, as of yet, Beyonce has yet to respond to any of my letters, facebook messages, emails, telegrams, tweets, carrier pigeons, or smoke signals. But if anything changes, I’ll let you guys know.

But really, the only obvious answer is that I am marrying the coolest person on earth.

Seriously, the guy that I get to marry (I’m purposely not using his name to appear more mysterious, though I’m pretty sure most of my readership knows him in real life) is the nicest person ever. People love him. He can talk to anyone, and they feel like he really cares about what they have to say, because he does. There’s no phoniness about him at all.

He loves helping people. Helping them move things, helping them do yard work, helping them find jobs.

He makes people and his relationships with them a priority.

He is easy going, kind, funny, fun loving. He is eternally optimistic, one of the things I love most about him.

He is wildly creative and he loves sharing that with people.

He’s the coolest person ever and I couldn’t be happier with anyone on earth, not even Zac Efron. (I can’t believe I said that but it’s true!!)

So if I’m cooler by association because I’m with the most over-the-moon incredible guy, I am perfectly fine with that.

But I would like for all of you to subscribe to my blog. Just sayin’.

PS: Here’s the link to the wedding website. http://SmolenParker.ourwedding.com

PPS: I realize this is a little more sappy than my usual stuff. Cut me some slack! I’m in love!

Lessons they didn’t teach you in Sunday School

If you were raised in church, you probably spent about an hour and half every Sunday morning learning important life lessons from a woman with glasses too big for her face, feathered bangs, and an ankle length denim jumper. She taught you important lessons like don’t fight with your brothers and sisters because one of you might end up dead (Cain and Abel), obey your parents even if they are trying to sacrifice you on a mountain because there’s probably a good reason for it (Abraham and Isaac), and listen to Jesus instead of cleaning your room (Mary and Martha). We also learned important trades like glueing macaroni to paper plates, making homemade Christmas ornaments, and using so much finger paint that it would inevitably end up all over Mom’s dress and she’d still have to be happy about it.

However, as I have grown up, I can’t help but think that we missed out on some important life lessons. I have taken to liberty to compile a list.

  1.       Samson and Delilah- Lesson learned: don’t let your friends cut your hair. They don’t know what they’re doing and are probably working undercover for the Philistines anyway.
  2.     Eve and the Serpent, and Balaam and his…..donkey- Lesson learned: if animals are talking to you, you’re in trouble. Don’t buy into C.S. Lewis’ nonsense.
  3. Joseph and his brothers- Lesson learned- be nice to your irritating younger siblings, just in case they grow up to be more successful than you.
  4. David and Goliath- Lesson learned- sometimes, throwing rocks is a good thing.
  5. Rachel and Leah- Lesson learned- don’t steal your sister’s man.

Personally, I feel as if I have been totally unprepared for my adult life because I missed out on these lessons. I can stitch a mean macaroni wallet though.

How I made it out of Bible College without an M.R.S. Degree

Recently, I accomplished something quite amazing. Something that very few women have accomplished, despite courageous attempts and valiant efforts. It’s not something you hear about very often, and in my strains to remain humble I have not broadcasted this achievement, but I am broadcasting it now, not to throw myself into the spotlight, but to give hope and encouragement to those who will pick up the noble cause of my quest.

Five years ago, I went to Bible college. And on my first day, as I went through the arduous registration process, figuring out my classes, finding my dorm room, getting over the shock of how small and shabby it was, fending off the badger that had taken up residence in my closet over the summer, meeting my room mate and introducing her to our new pet badger, and saying goodbye to my parents, this sentence was running through the back of my head: “You could meet your husband today.

Could I?

It was certainly a possibility.

In reality, if you’ve ever been to Bible college, you’ll know that it was a probability. And let me tell you, I was prime Bible college wife material. Allow me to elaborate:

1) I was a pastor’s daughter.

2) I sang on my youth group’s worship team and led Bible studies.

3) My favorite band was Superchic[k] and I had seen Toby Mac in concert at least 5 times.

4) I wore a purity ring and had never had a boyfriend.

5) I had a plethora of gender neutral tee shirts with Scripture and/or Jesus’ face on it.

The odds were stacked against me. Yet here I am, five years later and where’s my ring by spring? I’m not sure, but they definitely didn’t give me my money back.

Here are my best tips for making it out of Bible college without being shackled to a man by the ring finger.

#1) Learn to recognize the “wife scope”: The quickest way to tell if a guy is only interested in being your friend or if he’s looking for someone to take home to his momma is the “wife scope”. Inexperienced Bible college men will be super obvious about it. It comes in the form of a very specific question, posed casually, usually in the cafeteria or in one of the coed common areas: “So, do you think you could see yourself serving a children’s ministry at a small church plant in the northern regions of Peru in the next 4 to 5 years?”

Pause and consider: “What’s your major again?”

“Peruvian missions, with an emphasis in church plants with children’s ministries”

#2) Master the “Don’t talk to me” vibe: Once you realize that you’re on a guy’s wife scope, it’s time to deflect his affections with what I like to call the “don’t talk to me” vibe.

First, use closed body language and avoid eye contact. Even if he’s sitting between you and the white board, and you desperately need to copy down the 5th petal of Calvin’s TULIP, look resolutely in the opposite direction. You can get notes some other time. If you find yourself trapped in his gaze and he attempts conversation, resort to one word answers, half hearted smiles, and non-committal shrugs and grunts. Make sure you’ve alerted your roomie and hall mates to this development, so they can bail you out of a desperate situation. Most importantly, NEVER acknowledge his presence unless he speaks to you directly.

#3) Say crazy stuff: Develop the habit of talking about your “potpourri” of theology as frequently as possible, particularly in class. Say stuff like, “Maybe God is a woman,” or “Is it really necessary to submit?” Granted, you might get your rear handed to you by your professor, but they’re used to hearing crazy stuff. It’s best if you get a little emotional during times like this; it’ll tell your unwanted suitor that you’re a time bomb of insanity just waiting to go off.

#4) Never ever ever EVER bring your Bible to class. Don’t even have one on your smartphone/ipod. Just memorize it (but don’t tell anyone).

There are many other methods to avoiding the wife-seekers of your Bible college. These have worked for me. What has worked for you?

what your coffee says about you

There’s a secret language that exists among everyone who consumes liquid beverages. It is spoken by many, but understood by few. Those who understand it are given the title of “barista”. The most common understanding of the Italian word “barista” is “a person who makes and serves coffee in a coffee bar”. Since my assimilation into the ranks of the baristas two months ago, I have learned the true meaning of the word. Barista: comedian, weather person, therapist, and drug dealer. A barista is more than just the person who pulls your espresso shots and steams your milk. We have also learned the art of discovering exactly who you are based on what you order. And it is here that I offer this handy guide as a way of looking into your inner self.

Decaf Sugar Free No Whip Soy Snickers Smoothie:
This is also known as the “Why Bother?” These people are the fun sponges of the world. They soak up all the fun for themselves but instead of enjoying it, they squirrel is away like some bizzare episode of “Hoarders: Burried Alive”. You might fall into this category if you find yourself asking “Is this water sanitary?” at the public pool, insisting that everyone wait half an hour after eating before swimming, and only allowing one person on your trampoline at a time.

Americano with Heavy Whipping Cream/Caramel Breve
(For those who don’t know, a breve (pronounce brevay, NOT brawvay) is essentially a latte with half and half instead of milk.) I like to call this the “Suicide Watch”. Orderers of this drink are typically trying to kill themselves slowly and make it look like an accident. That, or they’re tempting fate with the “die young and leave a pretty corpse” philosophy. This beverage is usually accompanied with a slice of marble bread, the pastry with the highest calorie count. You might be this person if you gravitate towards dark, musty basements, or you’re saving money to go skydiving over a chain of active volcanoes.

The Incredibly Precise Cup of Coffee
This is affectionately called “The Control Freak”. It sounds like this, “I’ll have a large coffee, medium roast, half caf, exactly 137 degrees Fahrenheit, 4 miligrams of half and half, 73 granules of Splenda, and 3 U.S. currency nickle sized cubes of ice from the polar ice caps, Northern hemisphere, please.” Even though a cup of coffee is the easiest thing to make, these customers are the most intimidating. You think they won’t know if you only put 72 granules of Splenda in their coffee, but they know. And they will rage hard. Steaming hot coffee will come flying in your face (it won’t burn you because of the 3 U.S. currency nickle sized ice cubes from the polar ice caps, but it will cause a lot of wailing and gnashing of teeth.). These people are similar to fun sponges, but way more intense.

Extra shot, extra flavor, extra whip
We like to call this beverage “Luxuriating”. These are the extravagant types, the kind of people who want more, more, more with all the toppings. They tend to get carried away with themselves. Typically, they order a simple drink: “Medium white mocha.” Then they decide to get a little fancy, “Make it a large….” then it gets crazy. “Add an extra shot….and extra flavor….and extra whip….and sprinkles…..and soak a cookie in it……and toss in a puppy….no, FIVE puppies…..and some balloons…..and candy!!!” By the time they get to the drive thru window they are in such a frenzy that they start throwing wads of cash at you and practically climb into the window and get the drink themselves. These people get easily carried away with everything. Their cars have an excess of bumper stickers and things hanging from their rearview mirrors, and there are usually at least three very excited dogs in the backseat.

These are only the 4 most common types of people who come through our drive thru. You may be asking, “Don’t normal people come to your store?” The answer: NO. Normal people don’t drink coffee.

Trial by Fire: The Epic Journey of Student Teaching

It is quite clear that I lack to ability to keep this blog accurately updated with the happenings of my life, but if you knew how exciting my life is, you would be more understanding of my lack of updates. In reality, it is easier to tweet than to blog. (Interesting note: 10 years ago, I would have no idea what “tweet” or “blog” means. Technology..)

I can’t remember where we left off on this wild ride called my life, so I’ll just jump right in and hopefully my readers won’t be too disappointed. (Since I don’t think I actually have readers, there really is no disappointment to be had.)
On January 5th, I began the ultimate test of the previous 4.5 years of my life: Student Teaching. Student teaching is a strange limbo to be in. To the students, you are a teacher. To the teachers, you are a student. You have no real power, and no actual rights since you are not under contract. The teachers and administrators can do whatever they want with you because they don’t need you and you can’t quit unless you want to waste years of education and countless thousands of dollars. The students see you as a fun game: who can make the student teacher cry first? (I am three weeks in and have yet to shed a tear. However, I think some of the bigger ones can smell my fear.)
I never went to public school and my high school was rather small. (I graduated from a class of 11.) After 3 weeks of wandering the halls, (I have to leave a trail of bread crumbs, Hansel and Gretel style, wherever I go so I can find my way back. The downside is the freshmen keep eating them.) I have a newfound appreciation for my friends who went to big public high schools. High school is TERRIFYING. The hallways are jam-packed with people of all shapes, sizes, and degrees of hygiene. Some students have beards, others are still wearing velcro shoes. The 5 minutes between each class are a mad rush of people opening and closing lockers, finishing homework, cultivating popularity, and doing damage control on their social lives. And then they’re expected to learn. I don’t think I would have cut it as a student here.
The most intense part of my day is probably pit duty. In the main hallway there are two “pits” that serve as a student common area where the kids mingle between classes, during study halls, and during their lunch period. During 1st lunch and about half of 2nd lunch I am supposed to stand at one end of the pits and maintain order. This means, preventing teen pregnancy (“You two are creating a scene. Please keep your hands to yourselves.”), diminishing bullying and gang violence (“I need you two to stop throwing plastic bottle caps at each other.”), and maintaining a sanitary environment (“You’re going to have to finish your pizza in the cafeteria.”). It’s basically crowd control, but as I stood there on my first day, the crowds of hungry, angry, hormone-frenzied teens swirling about me, I had a realization. “If something were to happen right now, I would have no idea what to do.” Seriously, what was I going to do? About 5% of the student body is smaller than me, and they are probably all stronger than me. I have no idea what any of their names are and it gets so loud in there that I highly doubt any of them would hear me or even care if I started shouting at them. Then I was given this piece of advice, from one of my professors: Fake it. And you know what? It works. These kids don’t know me, so they don’t know if I’m going to go crazy on them or not. The fear of the unknown is a powerful thing. So now, instead of, “Please stop throwing paper at me,” it’s “If I see another piece of flying paper I will construct a giant paper airplane, strap you to it, and push it off the top of the gym.”
My 7th hour class is also a place of despair…well not really, but is it a challenging 50 minutes. There are almost 30 sophomores in one room, and each one needs a lot of attention. What I like about them is there is a lot of personality in that room. Sure, at the end of the day there is nothing I would like more than to sit at my desk and let my brain dissolve into some kind of brain broth, but these kids will simply not allow it. In all honesty, this is probably my favorite group of kids, though 6th hour Creative Writing is a close second.
At only 3 weeks in, I have seen, heard, and smelled many new and terrifying things. I feel the students’ secret desire to break me, but if I can keep the tears in until they all go home, I should be fine.

Grace

Grace. It’s a word we hear often. In fact, I attend an institution that is so named. And at Grace, we often use our name as a joke in class: “I fell asleep trying to finish all the reading for today’s class. Can’t you show me a little grace, professor?”

But what does that actually mean? Several times throughout my life, I’ve pondered the meaning and the deeper meanings of grace. I’ve memorized verses and definitions (and quickly forgotten them), I’ve been through various Bible studies, and I’ve had several “Eureka!” moments when all was made clear to me, like a veil being lifted from my eyes.

I have been wrong on every occasion.

Recently, I began reading (again) The Ragamuffin Gospel by Brennan Manning (this time, I hope to get farther than the 2nd chapter). In the very first chapter, Manning begins to discuss this abstract and elusive concept of grace. Here are a few lines:

“Though the Scriptures insist on God’s initiative in the work of salvation-that by grace we are saved, that the Tremendous Lover has taken to the chase-our spirituality often starts with self, not God. Personal responsibility has replaced personal response.

“Though lip service is paid to the gospel of grace, many Christians live as if only personal discipline and self denial will mold the perfect me. The emphasis is on what I do rather than on what God is doing.

“Our huffing and puffing to impress God, our scrambling for brownie points, our thrashing about trying to fix ourselves while hiding our pettiness and wallowing in guilt are nauseating to God and are a flat denial of the gospel of grace.”

I cannot count the number of times I have thought that if I just fix a few of my many flaws, then God will be ready to use me, then I will be ready to minister to the people of God. If only I start reading my Bible more, praying more, serving more, then I will be good enough to worship God with a clean conscience. I have spent much of my relationship with God focussing on what I’m doing rather than on what God is doing. Why am I always trying to “work on” things? Where in the Bible does it say “God wants you to make a spiritual checklist of goals and habits He would like you to accomplish in the next 5 years”? How did this become ingrained into my mind and my spirituality?

Even as I am coming to this realization that my relationship with God is not about what I’m doing, my mind is straining to wrap itself around this concept. It is so foreign to me. Especially having grown up in this American culture that is all about working hard to make the most out of your situation and opportunities. I am struggling so hard to just let God do the work. Which is so silly when you think about it, because for Him, these things that I feel are so impossible are just small details. It is uncomfortable to think about doing nothing in my relationship with God. Shouldn’t I be doing something? Anything, it’s the least I can do in light of the salvation that He’s given me. But that’s not grace. Grace isn’t about earning achievements. The thing that makes grace grace is that it requires nothing from the recipient. It is totally undeserved and given for no reason at all.

So what does this mean for my life, my ministry, my relationship with my God?

It means, I do nothing, and God does everything.

Doesn’t that just sound wrong? It almost makes me cringe.

But that’s grace.

Obviously, this is a concept I am going to struggle to understand for a very very long time. (Probably the rest of my life.) But that’s okay. It’s okay to wrestle with the great things of God.

Eros, Phileo, Agape?

Lately I’ve been noticing a trend to make very vague “love is” statements.

“Love is here.”

“Love is now.”

“Love is everything.”

What does that even mean???

Really? Love is everything? So if I decided to pick up your cell phone and throw it in the street, that’s love? If I let someone steal your book bag, that’s love?

It is way too easy to take these statements and distort them to mean whatever you want. Maybe one of the reasons United States culture is so messed up is because we don’t know what love is, and we’re willing to let a tshirt define it for us.

“You’re so cynical.”

If cynicism means questioning a tshirt, then sign me up. I’m sorry everyone else seems to think that we should just accept everyone’s definition of love blindly, but I hold love in very sacred regards. And something that is so precious should not be cheapened by fluid and flimsy statements.

What is love?

According to Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary: unselfish, loyal, and benevolent concern for the good of another.

“Love…bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”

“Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.”

“For love is as strong as death.”

“Many waters cannot quench love, nor can the floods drown in.”

“Perfect love casts out fear.”

Love is a sacrifice. Love is a gift. Love is a verb. Love is many things, but there are also many things that love is not. Let us continue to hold love in a sacred regard, and protect it from society’s attempts to turn it into something it is not.