Love Story: Abby & Isaac’s Garden + T-Swift Wedding Meditation

*Note: My cousin Abby LOVES Taylor Swift. A few months ago, there was a viral tweet which invited people to list their top ten Taylor Swift songs. Since Abby isn’t on Twitter, I texted her to ask her top ten T-Swift songs and she responded with the following (of course, she didn’t exactly follow the rules, and picked 11 songs- ha!):

Abby & Aimee
My Cousins, Aimee & Abby, at T-Swift in Seattle

 

1. Mean 

2. Call it what you want to 

3. The man 

4. Afterglow 

5. Wildest dreams 

6. Starlight 

7. All too well 

8. Out of the woods 

9. End game 

10. Long live 

11. Gorgeous

So when I was working on her wedding, I thought I had to incorporate her greatest loves into the meditation and am quite pleased with how it turned out! As you read, see if you can identify all of the T-Swift references. After the original text of the meditation, I will include a section at the end where I highlight all of the references (only from her favorite songs).  Do you think you can find them all? Good luck and ENJOY!


As Abby’s cousin, and fellow minister, I will apologize (sorry, not sorry) for how my forthcoming words are steeped in five things that I know my cousin loves, four of these being things which Isaac also loves: God (both), Isaac (for Isaac, Abby), wit (both), military references (both), and (of course) for Abby, Taylor Swift (note: as a Wilhelm who honors her homeland of Minnesota, I refuse to include any mention of the Oregon Ducks or the dreaded Yankees, though more gracious ministers than I might).

Dreaded Yankees
Abby & Isaac cheering for the dreadful NY Yankees

For what follows, I am indebted to my lovely spouse, Andy who not only came up with the original idea to compose one paragraph of this message solely utilizing Abby’s favorite song lyrics (which for those of you who love TSwift will note, I’ve amended to pepper the lyrics throughout—you’re welcome, Abby), but also who commented about Abby & Issac’s “The story of Us.” “You know that’s a Taylor Swift song reference, right? The one with the music video from the library.” So well, played Isaac and Abby as I missed that until Andy said it. Some of these references to the four/five loves will be apparent to many of you— and some of the quotes  more obscure, but I trust that in the end this meditation will prove an edifying invitation for us all to let love in. So, let us begin.

“Are you ready for it?”

People sometimes ask me what it means to me to be feminist. Case in point: When I first started dating my spouse, Andy, he queried: “So you’re a feminist…does that mean you hate men?”

Isaac
Isaac, being Isaac.

I looked at him and meaningful signaled to indicate that I was sitting with him as I said: “Clearly.”

In a world where heterosexual relationships are so often steeped in power dynamics, the feminism that my cousin and our partners ascribe to is one that is rooted in our faith and an effort to live out the redemptive promise of the gospel of Jesus Christ: that we were meant to walk naked in the garden with God and with one another…without shame.

And I think that’s the invitation and promise that lies before you both this day. It’s the beautiful work of love…the love that remembers and is committed to living the way we were meant to live: seen in all that we are and loved for it.

And this is what love allows…for you to be complex, and to be cool. And to know it’s ok for you to do.

Abby Airplane
Abby, being Abby.

To be a fearless leader.

To be an alpha type.

To find we believe you and get to know what that’s like.

Relationships rooted in garden love remind us that you don’t have to run as quick as you can.

Because love doesn’t ask either of you to be “the man”. Love asks you to be what the Genesis creation story actually names us: “earth creatures” people made from the dust, for me in the fecund creative love of God, where—as you live into this skin and your bones— you get to walk hand in hand with one another in the fullness of your humanity and love for one another.

This looks like: when people come at you, you have each other’s back. That you are profoundly for each other. That you don’t have to hustle. You don’t have to question how much of this you deserve.

No, for here, in the love we were meant to embody and enjoy, you get to be each other’s end game, be each other’s first string, you get to be the A-team.

Abby & Issac 2
(pc: Ashley LaMattino- Perlberg)

And yes, you both have big reputations, and big hearts, and big personalities. But who decided that is the problem? The beauty I have seen in my own life and that I know you both have already known with one another is that it is precisely your fully orbed personhood that drew you to one another. And what joy to dance in the wonder of such a love…dancing just like you’re made of starlight, dreaming (seemingly) impossible dreams!

So don’t run.

Don’t hide.

Let yourselves be seen. First by the creator who has fashioned you in love and made you to walk in freedom and life. And then, to walk with one another. And to remember that even when you want to put on the protective layers to cover your vulnerability and fear, that love invites you to drop the armor and walk hand in hand—naked and unafraid.

You might be tempted to blow things out of proportion and put each other in jail for something you didn’t do, pining one another’s hands behind their back, sure you might have had reasons to attack, but no…because fighting with a true love is boxing with no gloves until there’s no us.

As T-Swift reminds: sometimes the fear and self-protection is just in our head and we want to burn stuff down but it’s not what you mean, and you know it all too well. So don’t do this to one another. Don’t lose this love; don’t forget the garden promise. 

And if my life and loving my spouse for the past 12 years has taught me anything, it’s that love’s promise in the gospel…to heal and redeem, to bring peace and goodness and healing and resurrection…this is true. 

And your lives are a testimony to that good news too..that God’s love can heal and redeem us, that a perfecting love can drive out fear.

Me & Abby
Me & Abby in 2018

So let it.

You both have known what it means to have your castle crumble overnight, where you’ve brought a knife to a gun fight, where the liars are calling you one. Where your flowers grew back as thorns with windows boarded up after the storm. You’ve survived as people have come at you with words like knives. Swords and weapons have been used against you, which have knocked you off your feet again, got you feeling like a nothing.

But you both also know from your military service that fear is a force that sharpens your senses and you are both here because you never quit, you have persevered and thrived in view of adversity. So yes, “if you are knocked down, you will get back every time and draw on every ounce of strength to accomplish your mission for you are never out of the fight (Isaac, that is a Marcus Lutter’s paraphrase from his book Lone Survivor, you’re welcome). 

And yes, Abby, he’s gorgeous…but don’t be sad, cuz he’s fit like a daydream, and you’re the one he’s walking to.

My point here is this: Let love in again and again. Meet each other in the afterglow. Remind each other that you’re what each other wants, even when you break each other’s hearts. We were built to fall apart and fall back together. So let love heal and invite you to live and laugh and dance.

You can “Call it what you want to” but I’ll tell you what I call this: Love. I call it good.

Abby & Isaac 4
Isaac & Abby in London on their honeymoon

This isn’t the stuff of wildest dreams…this is the stuff of your real lives, the life you have already been building with one another. It’s the good that happens when love comes in, when God’s kingdom comes in our midst.

Love that doesn’t own, or possess, or save each other, but love that knows each other.

On a history book page it was the end of a decade but the start of an age. So long live the walls you’ve crashed through. All the kingdom lights shine for you two. And indeed, “long live all the magic (you’ve) made.”

So walk with freedom, dear friends. Walk to each other. Fly like the jet stream, high above the whole scene. Love each other like you’re brand new.

Walk the way you were meant to…in the garden with God and one another.

And together, help us all get this world to find its way home to the love that we were all created for.

Cuz that’s always been the end game of Emmanuel- God-with-Us.

A world where Yankees and Twins both always win (yes, I did just say that). A world where zero-sum fighting is exposed as being weak in the face of the peace that rode in on a donkey, announcing the coming of a new way of being human, one that is actually the oldest and simplest place: the garden which is our home and soul’s true longing.

So win by being on the same team, win by loving each other. Win by choosing vulnerability, and being willing to risk love.

Remember this day, remember what you commit to one another. You aren’t out of the woods yet, no instead you are invited to go deeper in to the depths of the wild where the Spirit of God dwells. Because this is where the clear is…

Abby & Isaac 3
Abby & Isaac in Paris on their honeymoon

Remember because sometimes you’ll hit the breaks too soon, 20 stitches in the hospital room, and you’ll both start crying, but when the sun comes out, be looking at each other, and discover that the monsters will turn out to be just trees.

Walk in the garden, my friends. Naked and unafraid. For this, this is what we were meant to do. 

And trust me…if you do this, if you remember, if you fight for it, if you lean in even when you want to run out and cling to safety, if you choose the garden in the way you love God, yourselves, and one another, then this love and life you are creating together will be beyond your wildest dreams.

To you Abby and Issac, may you be persons, together.

And God looked upon this and called the creation…very good and blessed it.

AMEN.

AbbyIsaac1
Abby & Isaac: Being Human Together (pc: Ashley LaMattino- Perlberg)

Here’s the text again, but with all of the references highlighted and noted. Did you catch them all? THERE ARE TWENTY-FIVE T-SWIFT REFERENCES!

Again, here’s Abby’s favorite Taylor Swift songs:

1. Mean

2. Call it what you want to

3. The man

4. Afterglow

5. Wildest dreams

6. Starlight

7. All too well

8. Out of the woods

9. End game

10. Long live

11. Gorgeous

“Are you ready for it?” (from the song by that name, though not on the list, I couldn’t resist)

People sometimes ask me what it means to me to be feminist. Case in point: When I first started dating my spouse, Andy, he queried: “So you’re a feminist…does that mean you hate men?”

I looked at him and meaningful signaled to indicate that I was sitting with him as I said: “Clearly.”

In a world where heterosexual relationships are so often steeped in power dynamics, the feminism that my cousin and our partners ascribe to is one that is rooted in our faith and an effort to live out the redemptive promise of the gospel of Jesus Christ: that we were meant to walk naked in the garden with God and with one another…without shame.

And I think that’s the invitation and promise that lies before you both this day. It’s the beautiful work of love…the love that remembers and is committed to living the way we were meant to live: seen in all that we are and loved for it.

And this is what love allows…for you to be complex, and to be cool. And to know it’s ok for you to do.

To be a fearless leader.

To be an alpha type.

To find we believe you and get to know what that’s like (all from “The Man”…btw, “The Man” is my favorite T-Swift song).

Relationships rooted in garden love remind us that you don’t have to run as quick as you can (from “The Man”).

Because love doesn’t ask either of you to be “the man” (from “The Man”). Love asks you to be what the Genesis creation story actually names us: “earth creatures” people made from the dust, for me in the fecund creative love of God, where—as you live into this skin and your bones— you get to walk hand in hand with one another in the fullness of your humanity and love for one another.

This looks like: when people come at you, you have each other’s back. That you are profoundly for each other. That you don’t have to hustle. You don’t have to question how much of this you deserve (from “The Man”).

No, for here, in the love we were meant to embody and enjoy, you get to be each other’s end game, be each other’s first string, you get to be the A-team (from “End Game”).

And yes, you both have big reputations (from “End Game”), and big hearts, and big personalities. But who decided that is the problem? The beauty I have seen in my own life and that I know you both have already known with one another is that it is precisely your fully orbed personhood that drew you to one another. And what joy to dance in the wonder of such a love…dancing just like you’re made of starlight, dreaming (seemingly) impossible dreams (from “Starlight”)!

So don’t run.

Don’t hide.

Let yourselves be seen. First by the creator who has fashioned you in love and made you to walk in freedom and life. And then, to walk with one another. And to remember that even when you want to put on the protective layers to cover your vulnerability and fear, that love invites you to drop the armor and walk hand in hand—naked and unafraid.

You might be tempted to blow things out of proportion and put each other in jail for something you didn’t do, pining one another’s hands behind their back, sure you might have had reasons to attack, but no…because fighting with a true love is boxing with no gloves until there’s no us. (from “Afterglow”)

As T-swift reminds: sometimes the fear and self-protection is just in our head and we want to burn stuff down but it’s not what you mean (from”Afterglow”), and you know it all too well. (from “All too Well”) So don’t do this to one another. Don’t lose this love; don’t forget the garden promise. 

And if my life and loving my spouse for the past 12 years has taught me anything, it’s that love’s promise in the gospel…to heal and redeem, to bring peace and goodness and healing and resurrection…this is true. 

And your lives are a testimony to that good news too..that God’s love can heal and redeem us, that a perfecting love can drive out fear.

So let it.

You both have known what it means to have your castle crumble overnight, where you’ve brought a knife to a gun fight, where the liars are calling you one. Where your flowers grew back as thorns with windows boarded up after the storm (from “Call It What You Want To”). You’ve survived as people have come at you with words like knives. Swords and weapons have been used against you, which have knocked you off your feet again, got you feeling like a nothing (from “Mean”).

But you both also know from your military service that fear is a force that sharpens your senses and you are both here because you never quit, you have persevered and thrived in view of adversity. So yes, “if you are knocked down, you will get back every time and draw on every ounce of strength to accomplish your mission for you are never out of the fight (Isaac, that is a Marcus Lutter’s paraphrase from his book Lone Survivor, you’re welcome). 

And yes, Abby, he’s gorgeous…(from “Gorgeous”) but don’t be sad, cuz he’s fit like a daydream, and you’re the one he’s walking to (from “Call It What You Want To”)

My point here is this: Let love in again and again. Meet each other in the afterglow (from “Afterglow”). Remind each other that you’re what each other wants, even when you break each other’s hearts. We were built to fall apart and fall back together (from “Out of the Woods”). So let love heal and invite you to live and laugh and dance.

You can “Call it what you want to” (from “Call It What You Want To”) but I’ll tell you what I call this: Love. I call it good.

This isn’t the stuff of wildest dreams (from “Wildest Dreams”)…this is the stuff of your real lives, the life you have already been building with one another. It’s the good that happens when love comes in, when God’s kingdom comes in our midst.

Love that doesn’t own, or possess, or save each other, but love that knows each other.

On a history book page it was the end of a decade but the start of an age. So long live the walls you’ve crashed through. All the kingdom lights shine for you two. And indeed, “long live all the magic (you’ve) made” (from “Long Live”).

So walk with freedom, dear friends. Walk to each other. Fly like the jet stream, high above the whole scene. Love each other like you’re brand new (from “Call It What You Want To”).

Walk the way you were meant to…in the garden with God and one another.

And together, help us all get this world to find its way home to the love that we were all created for.

Cuz that’s always been the end game (from “End Game”) of Emmanuel- God-with-Us.

A world where Yankees and Twins both always win (yes, I did just say that). A world where zero-sum fighting is exposed as being weak in the face of the peace that rode in on a donkey, announcing the coming of a new way of being human, one that is actually the oldest and simplest place: the garden which is our home and soul’s true longing.

So win by being on the same team, win by loving each other. Win by choosing vulnerability, and being willing to risk love.

Remember this day, remember what you commit to one another. You aren’t out of the woods (from “Out of the Woods”) yet, no instead you are invited to go deeper in to the depths of the wild (from Mumford & Sons song “The Wild”, which was a super important song to me this year) where the Spirit of God dwells. Because this is where the clear (from “Out of the Woods”) is…

Remember because sometimes you’ll hit the breaks too soon, 20 stitches in the hospital room, and you’ll both start crying, but when the sun comes out, be looking at each other, and discover that the monsters will turn out to be just trees (from “Out of the Woods”).

Walk in the garden, my friends. Naked and unafraid. For this, this is what we were meant to do. 

And trust me…if you do this, if you remember, if you fight for it, if you lean in even when you want to run out and cling to safety, if you choose the garden in the way you love God, yourselves, and one another, then this love and life you are creating together will be beyond your wildest dreams (from “Wildest Dreams”).

To you Abby and Issac, may you be persons, together.

And God looked upon this and called the creation…very good and blessed it.

AMEN.

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