Top 10 Questions Teens Ask About Sex

Questions Teens Ask About Sex. Are you prepared?

Teens will invariably ask questions about sex. Are you prepared?

Today on Top 10 Tuesday guest poster Rajdeep Paulus joins us to share the questions she’s had from her teens about sex! Personally, the worst question I had was from my daughter Katie, who wanted to know, “How long does he have to leave it in for?” Let’s just say conversations are often awkward–but it’s so important to leave the lines of communication open! Here’s Raj:

I’m a big advocate of communication when it comes to parenting, and when you come from a culture that didn’t talk about certain things, and you look back and wonder if things had been different if you had talked about the tougher topics with your parents, there’s one thing you can do about it. Change things when it comes to talking to your own children. And I think most parents would agree that they’d rather have their teens ask them then go to their peers or some on line website that might not tell the whole story or tell our kids how to put the delicate information in context of God’s plan for their sexuality. It’s a much more complicated topic than just abstinence vs. experimenting, and our teens need to hear the truth from us, well before they enter serious dating relationships and move forward to wedding days. I’m blessed to have a great relationship with my girls at this point, and they seem comfortable enough to talk to me about things. I tease them every once in awhile about who they have a crush on, and they all know that mom chased down a boy in fourth grade and kissed him, so they know mom’s not someone who doesn’t “get it,” sort-a-speak.

Here are the questions that have come up in the last few years with my firstborn who is now fourteen. Usually after we’ve had some heart to heart about something else. Often when we’re driving somewhere. And always when it’s just the two of us.

The First Ten Questions Your Teen Might Ask About Sex

1. What does it mean “to try?”

When my teen was a tween, she overheard hubby and I chatting with newlywed friends of ours that were trying to start a family. When the kids streamed into the living room, we began to talk in code and assumed the kids weren’t paying attention. Until later when my then eleven-year old asked me, “What did Uncle J. and Aunty M. mean when they said, ‘They were trying to have a baby?’”

I took a deep breath, knowing that my response could end the conversation or open up the door to many more questions. “What are you really asking? What do you want to know?”

And then she said, “Well, what does it mean to try?”

And then we had our first conversation that involved a lot of pauses and, “Does that make sense?” and “What else do you want to know?”

2. Do you have to take off all your clothes?

I thought this was a cute question. I still recall this walk hubby and I took on Devon Street in Chicago a week before our wedding. We were buying garlands and found some nice ones that looked like they were made of real flowers, and Sun turned to me while holding the garland in the air and said, “Can’t wait for our wedding night when this is all you’ll be wearing,” and I nearly fainted with shock. He was thinking about it. Me. Without clothes on. And I went home and cried, because I didn’t love my body, and it just hit me that he would see it. So as a mom who understands that self-image and self-love are important, I try my best to encourage my girls and help them to love their bodies the way God created them so when it’s their time, they won’t be ashamed or afraid like I was.

3. His what goes where? Is there any other way? I mean, it seems so weird. Complicated. Did I mention weird?

I think it’s good to acknowledge that the puzzle piece aspect is both weird and wonderful. And it’s normal to think the whole thing is cu-razy weird when you first hear about it. I recounted my own personal reaction when I first learned about sex in Health class. We had some laughs. And then I reminded her that acceptance and celebration comes with age and maturity and security in a strong marriage.

4. Why do they call it “safe” sex?

I think that’s a good question too. There’s nothing safe about an act that will forever change your mental, emotional, and physical world. I think it’s the furthest thing from safe, and that’s why it’s so special and not to be dealt with or decided lightly. I think that’s all the more affirmation that God created this act for married people. That’s the safest place to learn and enjoy intimacy.

5. Should I close my eyes?

Funny how we often close our eyes when we kiss. But it’s up to each person to know how they want to experience things. And I encouraged her to try things both ways, with her eyes closed and open. With the lights on and lights off. With music and without. There’s something to variety that spices things up and when it’s her turn, I want her to know there’s room for creativity. God made us creative for a reason.

6. Will it hurt?

That’s something I think more teens and young newlyweds need to understand. That it could very well hurt, but there are also ways to keep it from hurting or hurt less. And it’s okay if your kids want to talk about things with a physician. And the knowledge of real truth can also keep teens from rushing into things knowing that it’s not all easy under the sheets like Hollywood often portrays it. Conversations are important to have, closer to the wedding date, in my opinion.

7. Why do all the kids at school giggle when someone says the number 69?

Yep. This came up. And we talked about it. Position and all that fun stuff. But we also touched on how sex-obsessed our culture is and how the exploration and experiencing of things out of place of God’s timing leads to a lot more than heartache. I know of couples who were actually “bored” on their honeymoon. And I always refer back to the picture my best friend gave me close to my own wedding day: sex is like a beautiful garden surrounded by the fence of marriage. You can steal touches and moments by reaching past the fence, but shameless pleasure and wonder comes after you say your vows, unlock the fence and roam the garden freely.

8. What if I just want to stick to just kissing? Is that an option?

That’s the beauty of marriage and communicating and as days and weeks, months and years go by, you learn that not every night is a night to “sleep” together. Some nights are a time to just snuggle and fall asleep in each other’s arms. ☺

9. What if I don’t like sex?

I was very honest with her when she asked this. I said, “At first you might not, but some day, when you figure out how your body works, I promise you, you will!” Hopefully. But there are no guarantees. But if things go as they should, it could go amazingly, but it’s like every great relationship, you learn together, grow together, and grow in your love for each other as God gives you time and patience with each other.

10. Does this mean you and Dad…?

Don’t answer that.

What did I miss? And you and your kids? What kind of questions have come up?

UPDATE: After Raj wrote this, she and her husband learned that he’s been diagnosed with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, a serious heart condition. She’s just asking people to pray for her husband, and for peace for her and her family. Thank you! I know she’d appreciate some kind words in the comments, too, to say that you did pray for her.

swimmingthroughcloudsRajdeep Paulus studied English Literature at Northwestern University, and spent over a decade as an English Teacher and SAT Tutor, during which she married her best friend from Chicago whom she then followed to the island of Dominica where he began medical school. Fourteen years, four daughters, and a little house on a hill in the quaint town of Locust Valley, New York later, she now blogs weekly and writes masala-marinated, Y.A. fiction.When Raj is not tapping on her Mac, you can find her dancing with her princesses, kayaking with her hubs, coaching basketball or eating dark chocolate while sipping a frothy, sugar-free latte. She blogs at www.insearchofwaterfalls.com and secretly hopes someday she’ll own a laptop that f51njxNzwd3L._SL160_unctions under water.

And check out her first YA Novel: Swimming Through Clouds! Sheila reviewed it here.  The sequel is and Seeing Through Stones.

How to Increase Your Chances of Marriage

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How to Increase your chances to find a spouse--and spend your twenties well!

Lately I’ve been preoccupied thinking about dating, engagement, and marriage (because my daughter got engaged! Yay!). And so I’ve written a number of things lately on why young people should prioritize relationships even in college, and why you need to be careful who you give your heart to. But there’s one more piece of advice that I have for late teens early twenty somethings, and it’s going to be controversial. But I’m going to say it anyway.

If you want to get married, then make yourself available to get married.

That may not sound controversial yet, but here’s the thing: that’s actually the opposite of what we’re often taught in church, and it’s certainly the opposite of what kids will hear in school. And my fear is that many young people who desperately do want to get married are acting in ways that make marriage less likely.

First, though, a caveat: Marriage is not the most important thing in anyone’s life. God is the most important thing in anyone’s life. And you can have a full and complete life without being married. I am not saying that we should raise our kids to obsess over getting married or to worry about getting married. But I do believe that if this is a goal that they have that they should live in such a way to make that goal more likely.

So here’s where the controversial part comes in: if you spend five years teaching English in Japan or China or wherever, you decrease your chances of finding a spouse. That doesn’t mean you WON’T find a spouse; you just decrease your chances. And it certainly doesn’t mean that if you feel called by God to go somewhere you shouldn’t go; it’s just that I think many twenty-somethings want to have these “experiences” before they get tied down, but in so doing they limit their chances to get tied down.

If you want to get married, it is smart to spend your time where there are large numbers of potential mates.

I have a young friend named Daniel who felt called to go to the mission field, so he moved to Central America in his early to mid-twenties. Yet while leading a youth group from North America on a short term missions one summer, he met a youth group leader. A woman. Who was wonderful. And they married recently. I know another young woman who was serving in India who met the leader of another short term missions group, and they were recently married. If God is calling you somewhere, you go. Absolutely.

But studying abroad for a year? Taking a few years to backpack across the world? Even living for two years on a cruise ship? Nope. If you want to get married, and it’s really important to you, then go where you will find a whole ton of young, Christian potential spouses.

There’s another exception: I heard the story recently of one man who became a Christian at 22 after leading a really messed up life. He took the next two years on the mission field just serving so that he could get to know God better. After that, he came home, went to seminary, met his wife, and the rest is history. Sometimes we need those few years to find ourselves if we have a lot of issues to deal with. But if you don’t, then don’t take yourself out of the pool of marriageable people at a prime time in your life.

I have served on the mission field with my husband AFTER I’ve been married, and we’re planning to again. Getting married does not end your dreams of travel or service. In fact, I’ve traveled more and served more since being married than I did before I was married.

Be very careful about what kind of post-secondary education you choose.

I would venture to say that about half of married people met their spouses in school–either in high school or in college. Those school years are vitally important, because they occur right at the time that we’re getting to the age where marriage is possible, and we’re with the largest number of people our own age at the same time.

And I think that’s why so many people send their kids to Christian universities. You get to meet other Christians, after all! There’s a reason we call them Bridal Colleges, not Bible Colleges!

But hold on a second. The majority of Christian universities have a terrible sex ratio of about 70 girls to 30 guys. Think about that: for every guy, there are at least two girls. So if you have a daughter, do you really think that’s the best place to send her? (If you have a son, he’s practically guaranteed to meet a wife. A daughter? Not so much.)

It may certainly be the best place if it’s the education you’re after, but having been to a secular university and attended the Inter Varsity Christian Fellowship group there (and met my husband there), I can tell you that you can get a lot of Christian training at the secular university Christian groups, too. In fact, those Christians are often extremely strong in their faith, because they’re in a secular environment but they’re choosing to spend the majority of their free time in Christian study and service.

That’s where my daughter met her fiance, too. And the opportunities for learning evangelism are amazing! My daughter has become a major evangelist when she didn’t even know she had the gift.

Secular university is not for everyone, but I’m just saying that one shouldn’t assume that one will marry just because you go to a Christian university. If you’re female, your chances are actually better at a Christian group in a secular university where the sex ratios are more even.

If you do choose a Christian education, then, make sure it’s in a city with a wide range of church options that have large college and career groups, so that you can meet other people in a church setting.

Don’t just believe “God will send me a spouse if I trust him”

A lot of girls (and it’s especially girls) are sitting at home on Friday nights, reading Christian books, watching romantic comedies, eating ice cream, and praying that God will send them a spouse.

And that seems like trust. They’re wrestling with God about not getting anxious about it. They’re learning to let it go. They’re not obsessing.

But does God really do that? Does God answer our prayers without requiring us to do anything at all? Is that the best way of demonstrating trust–to remain safely in our comfort zone, not doing anything scary, while waiting for God to show up? Or does he want us to stretch ourselves a bit?

It’s scary to join a whole bunch of college and career groups. It’s scary to invite people back to your house for dinner or for movies and popcorn. It’s scary to take up people you don’t know well on their offer of “do you want to hang out on Saturday?” But the truth is that most of us marry someone that we meet through our social circle. You meet a friend of a friend, or a cousin of a friend, or a brother of a co-worker. You know what I mean.

But to do that, you have to have friends. Hang out where there are other strong Christians. Volunteer in places that you care about. Serve in a lot of ministries in church. Serve on short-term missions trips. Go to weekend retreats. These are all great places to meet a wide variety of people–but, even better, they’re all great places to build your faith and to build yourself as a person.

In the church, we often give people the message, “You can do whatever you want, and God will provide.” I don’t think that’s true. I think we need to prioritize and put first things first. If you hibernate for five years in grad school, never talking to anyone, I’m not sure a mate will just show up. If you stay living at home after high school in your small town with few Christian marriageable options, then I’m not sure a handsome perfect guy will suddenly move in next door. Sometimes we need to move away to a larger city with bigger churches.

Sacred SearchThis is one of the main messages in Gary Thomas’ excellent book Sacred Search, too. If you want to get married, then get serious about making friends and growing your social connections. Live out your dreams!

Look, I am writing this for people who want to get married. If that is not your main goal–if you are focused more on career or on missions or on something else–then that honestly is fine. I believe that God puts stirrings in our heart that we are to follow.

But my fear is that we are not teaching young people the common sense facts about finding a mate. So if marriage matters, make yourself marriageable, and that includes putting yourself out there. It’s scary. It takes some risk. It takes a lot of time–you won’t get to stay home and watch Netflix as much. But it is worth it, and I encourage you, if it is important to you, to get out there and live a big life and meet lots of people! Then, even if you don’t marry, you’ll still have a wide circle of friends, a wide number of interests, and a really full life. And that’s worth it, too.

 

Their Dreams, His Agenda: God’s Plans And Purposes For Your Children

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Today, please welcome guest author Sarah Francis Martin from Live it Out, as she shares about God’s plans and purposes for your children and how to help them walk in it.

God’s Plans And Purposes For Your ChildrenFrom the back seat I heard my son emphatically declare, “Mom, I have an idea…” The tone of his voice told me that he had been marinating on this idea for the better part of the day.

Gearing myself up for a good parenting moment at the steering wheel driving home from school, I inquired about this great idea.

My six year old: When I grow up I’m moving to New York City. Yeah. That’s what I’m going to do.

Me: Oh yeah? Well, you know that’s a big city and you have to work hard to be able to live there.

My six year old: Ok! I will do what Daddy does, you know, make money. I’m gonna work hard and make money and buy legos!

Me: Well, sounds like you have it all figured out.

My six year old: Yep, pretty much.

As I recount this conversation I remember that my initial inclination upon receiving this “big news” was to guide my son along in this “big” life decision with a real, honest look at it.

I was tempted to almost squelch this dream with questions of practicalities:

What job will you have?

Will you make enough money?

Will you thrive in a big city?

We live in a small town, and I know the allure of a big city with exciting tall skyscrapers drove this declared life path of my six year old.

Over the past year I’ve been marinating on the topics of dreaming, life paths, and purposes. The idea of seeking after God and His presence in my life parallels with the topic of purpose and dreaming. How do we marry the two in order to make a difference with our lives and find satisfaction in God and His agenda? How does taking our place in God’s kingdom allow us to find this ultimate satisfaction?

As I’ve taken more of an adult perspective on this weighty topic, the “big idea” conversation with my son caused me to look at it from a different angle.

Facilitate God’s Dreams And Purposes In The Lives Of Your Children

The following excerpt from my book Just RISE UP!: A Call To Make Jesus Famous speaks to our interactions with our kids about their dreams and purpose. It takes a perspective of the individual, adult nature. But, as I’m circling back to this material myself, I find that it applies to my interaction with my six year old dreamer as well.

There’s a verse that I’ve read in passing before and probably even doodled on a note to a friend as a means of encouragement to her. God reminds us of His Word at just the right times for encouragement. I’ve got this heaviness on my heart in my own journey to rise up, as I want to be used by God. He has planted dreams in my heart, but doors have yet to open to allow me to fully walk through and live these dreams out. I hide ideas and plans in my heart, often checking to make sure they came from the Lord and not from my own fancies. If you don’t quite identify with this, know that it is okay. But if the idea of joining God in His kingdom work and making Him famous gets your heart pumping, that means the Lord is working in you and through you.

Here’s that verse: I am confident that the Creator, who has begun such a great work among you, will not stop in mid-design but will keep perfecting you until the day Jesus the Anointed, our Liberating King, returns to redeem the world. (Philippians 1:6 THE VOICE)

This great work God is doing in our lives starts with the work God does inside our hearts and minds. The word work is appropriate in my opinion as I imagine Jesus using His gardening tools while digging up roots of pride and jealousy in my heart, patting down fresh soil of trust and peace, watering my God-given talents. And if we believe Scripture, He will continue to toil, root out, plant afresh, and grow beautiful blooms in my life and yours—blooms that will RISE UP! and flourish. Even a novice gardener like me knows that before a plant comes to full bloom time, care, pruning, watering, and sunlight are in order.

Excerpt from Just Rise Up! by Sarah Francis Martin. Download a FREE Chapter from all three new Inscribed Studies Here. (No email required)

We have the privilege of working alongside the Lord to care, prune, and water our children’s life purpose. Just as we take care to nourish their bodies and minds, we can start today to nourish their souls and guide them to seek after God in all aspects of their lives.

As it is a process in our own lives, this endeavor won’t come to full bloom for some years in our child’s life. But there are a few key things to keep in mind along the journey.

Model An Attitude of Kingdom Perspective

We all know that our children are like sponges, soaking in even minute details from their environments.

My husband and I have started to become more intentional in sharing details of what we do as a family and as individuals to serve the Lord. We have learned the importance of taking time to explain on a six year old level why our family gives money to this ministry, or why mommy wrote that book about Jesus. Life gets busy and it is tempting to gloss over details like this during the rush to basketball practice!

Depending on your child’s maturity level, help them work through their own calling from God within their world. Explain how God uses them to be a sweet friend to the new girl at school. Or how they share the love of Jesus when they stand up to a bully on the playground on behalf of another kid. It’s neat to think and pray together about how God works in their lives at such a young age.

Nurture Your Child’s God-Given Talents

I love exploring my child’s gifts and talents and characteristics. It’s important that we spend time in prayer asking God for wisdom to best facilitate these gifts and talents.

How do we accentuate them and draw them out?

How do we express to our child that God blesses them with unique and individual gifts and talents that only they can fulfill?

Be The Soft Place To Land

This is one that I constantly have to remember: to allow space for dreaming and planning. I think this is best achieved when we help our child work through these dreams and plans in their own prayer lives.

If our child trusts us with their “big ideas” knowing that we won’t let practicalities squelch their passion, they will see that their Father God is the ultimate safe place as well. When we seek after the Lord, knowing we can trust Him, we become more in tune to where He is moving in our lives. Our hearts become open to following that path which will be fruitful and fulfilling. Walking with our children in this lifelong process can be exciting.

Several weeks after my six year old made his big city declaration, we sat together as a family watching the popular show American Ninja Warrior––a favorite in many households with boys. As we cheered on the men and women and heard their stories of hard work to get where they are in this physical competition, I could almost see the little cogs turning in my son’s mind. Another declaration burst out from his mouth, “I’ve changed my mind. I’m moving THERE.”

Before I could explain that he would have to train hard and sacrifice much physically to attain this goal, I let that practicality go for the moment. In the lives of our children, dreams and fancies transform and bloom. But it is God’s plan and His kingdom that never changes.

As long as our children take a stand on this firm foundation, they can not go wrong in their life purpose.

Sarah Francis MartinSarah Francis Martin is a wife, mother, friend, mentor, author and wanna be artist. She has a passion to ignite this generation to get up off the couch of complacency and do life differently for God’s kingdom. When she is not typing away at her laptop, you can often find Sarah on date nights with her husband, rough housing with her young son, or getting her hands messy with craft paint. She is the author of Just RISE UP!: A Call To Make Jesus Famous

Why I’m Anti-Divorce and Pro-Remarriage

Thoughts on the biblical grounds for divorce, what it says about remarriage, and to value both marriage AND divorced people in the church.

On Tuesday I made quite a stir on Facebook. In regards to this post on when you should give up trying to get your ex back, I wrote:

I’m having to delete a lot of comments on the blog today from people saying that divorce is never a biblical option. I find that sad. I know God hates divorce–but He hates people being wounded and abused and betrayed, too. And Jesus gave us some reasons for divorce. Anyone who reads my blog knows that I am very pro-marriage and anti-divorce, but more importantly I’m pro-truth and pro-healing. If a marriage is based on abuse, manipulation, and lies, then that is not God-honouring, either. Most of these situations are not black and white; they are grey, and I believe God’s grace is there for us. If I let those comments through, I fear that they will do emotional damage to the very hurt and wounded people whose marriages have fallen apart who wind up at my site. We need to be pointed towards following God in the situation we find ourselves in now, not being yelled at for very tortured decisions we made earlier.

The outpouring was immense, and so I thought I should do a follow-up and explain what I really think about divorce and remarriage. Please keep in mind that I am not a theologian. I have just thought about this a lot and prayed through it, and this is what I believe.

Divorce Is a Last Resort–and there are only a few reasons for it

I am absolutely against divorce. I’ve written that the vow matters. I’ve questioned whether women are leaving marriages too fast. I’ve said that sometimes we live in a loveless marriage–and we need to find a way to get through that.

However, with that said, I am also fully aware that sometimes divorce is necessary, and sometimes divorce happens when you didn’t want it to. My father left my mother. My mother certainly never wanted to divorce, and it pulled the rug out right under her. But divorce wasn’t her choice.

Then there are those who live in a dangerous marriage. For them, too, divorce was likely not what they wanted–but they had no option.

What are biblical grounds for divorce?

The Bible lists two: adultery and abandonment.

Adultery

Matthew 19:9 says:

And I say to you: whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery.

Abandonment

Then 1 Corinthians 7:12-15 says this:

If any brother has a wife who is not a believer and she is willing to live with him, he must not divorce her. 13 And if a woman has a husband who is not a believer and he is willing to live with her, she must not divorce him. 14 For the unbelieving husband has been sanctified through his wife, and the unbelieving wife has been sanctified through her believing husband. Otherwise your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy.

15 But if the unbeliever leaves, let it be so. The brother or the sister is not bound in such circumstances; God has called us to live in peace.(emphasis mine)

Clearly Paul here is saying that if a spouse leaves you, you are no longer bound.

Notice anything that isn’t mentioned here? You’ve got it:

What about Abuse?

And this is where I get really uncomfortable and why I started deleting those comments. The divorce “purists”, as I will call them, read the Matthew passage (and seem to ignore the Corinthians passage) and say that the only acceptable reason for divorce is adultery. Because Jesus gave us no other reason, then there can be no other reason.

To them I would ask this:

Why do you believe abortion is wrong?

It’s because we’ve inferred an awful lot from a few verses. Abortion itself isn’t mentioned in the Bible because it wasn’t relevant for the culture. So the Bible doesn’t speak directly about it, yet pretty much all Christians fight against it for one simple reason: Because of what we know about God from the rest of Scripture. He knew us while we were yet unformed in our mother’s womb, and He planned our days (Psalm 139:13-16). He planned good works for us before the foundation of the earth (Ephesians 2:10). God is love. The rest of Scripture speaks to the sanctity of life. The Bible doesn’t mention lots of things we struggle with today–pornography, career choices, education choices–because these weren’t talked about or relevant then. But we can still infer from the Bible what godly decisions are.

So what, then, can we infer from the rest of Scripture about living in an abusive marriage? Does God expect us to stay?

Absolutely not. Read the Old Testament prophets and you come away with the overwhelming impression of a God who goes to battle for the downtrodden and who notices injustice. We serve a God who hates abuse in all its forms.

God Cares About Children

And here’s an important point: living in an abusive marriage, even if the woman is willing to put up with it, harms the children. Over and over again in Scripture God talks about rescuing children from those who would mistreat them (see Luke 17:2).

If staying in a marriage to an abusive person, or staying in a marriage to an alcoholic or drug addict, would hurt a child, then God does not want that.

I do believe that the word abuse is thrown around a little too quickly today, and I’ve written what is abuse and what is not. Not all yelling is abusive; it depends on the pattern, the effect, and the bigger picture. But emotional, sexual, and physical abuse are real and this is not God’s plan for His children.

One important point, though: We often believe that “kids are only happy if the parents are happy, so if the parents’ marriage is unhappy, it’s better to divorce.” Not true. Researcher Judith Wallerstein found that kids who grew up in an unhappy marriage fared better than kids who grew up with divorced parents. The effect of parents’ unhappiness on the kids is not a legitimate reason to divorce–except in one case. Studies also showed that children who grew up in violent or abusive marriages did better if the parents did divorce. So if you’re just unhappy in your marriage, it’s better for the kids if you stick with it and make it work. If you’re being abused or in a high-conflict marriage, it’s not.

God Cares About Sin

Another theme of Scripture is that God cares about the heart, not appearances. Divorce purists seem to stress the form over the heart–as long as the two people are technically married, God is happy. But no, God doesn’t want appearances. God wants changed hearts and changed lives! Here’s what I wrote in another post, Are You a Spouse or an Enabler?:

If your spouse is acting in such a way that they are denying a vital part of themselves and a vital part of the Christian life–like responsibility or intimacy or community–then doing nothing about it enables that spouse to avoid any impetus for spiritual growth.

Churches should be places where the wounded come to find healing, not where the wounded come to give them cover so they can avoid healing.

And yet all too often that is what we’ve done–we hate divorce so much that we ignore the other side: God does not want an army of wounded, damaged people. He wants wholeness. And so we must deal with people who are refusing to confront huge issues.

In that post I show what the Bible says we should do if a spouse is sinning. One of the Facebook commenters on Tuesday wrote this:

One truth that I believe that is overlooked or dismissed by people who are quick to judge those of us who have suffered through divorce (it was a heartrending and crushing experience) is that pleasing God and being like Him is not about keeping up appearances. God looks at the heart, and in light of that reality a true divorce has happened long before any secular legal actions have been taken – or can happen even when no actions are taken. A dead marriage is equal to a divorce in all the ways that are visible and valuable to God, and it’s sad to me to see married couples who obviously despise one another or (perhaps worse) are completely indifferent – especially if children are involved and being hurt by their parents’ situation. I am a child of Christian divorce as well and our young lives were fraught with secret abuse, sadness and confusion until my father (a well-educated preacher who led a double life) left my mom and abandoned us. Life was hard and sad growing up after that too, and I felt very mixed emotions of relief, abandonment and guilt once our father was gone. However, I was nothing but glad for my mom because she had done all she could to be a good wife, and had been so mistreated and disrespected by him in every area you could imagine – she didnt deserve that.

Scripture does not contradict Scripture. We aren’t told in one place to confront sin and live blameless lives and look to the heart and then told in another place to just keep the form in place and ignore sin. The heart matters. And if someone is sinning so much, either through abuse or adultery or an addiction or a refusal to work, then this must be dealt with.

Love Must Be ToughNone of this means that divorce is necessary in these cases; usually, I believe, a separation is a better tool. If a spouse is addicted to porn, or refusing to work, or an alcoholic, or gambling away the paycheque, then a separation says, “you need to shape up and this will no longer be tolerated.” That’s what James Dobson recommends in Love Must Be Tough. And, ironically, it’s this separation that often kickstarts real change which leads to reconciliation.

Why Does God Hate Divorce?

Divorce “purists” point to the verse that God hates divorce as proof that we should not divorce except in the rarest circumstances. But here’s the thing–I think we would all agree. In fact, most divorced people would be the first to say that God hates divorce, because they hate divorce, too. They know how awful it is.

The more important question is WHY does God hate divorce?

I do not believe that He hates divorce because people who divorce are somehow worse sinners. I believe He hates divorce because He loves us so much, and He knows the severe trauma of divorce. He knows the havoc it wreaks on our hearts. He knows what it does to the children. And He knows what a culture of divorce does to undermine the culture of marriage and family and commitment. Divorce has major ripple effects.

So God hates divorce because of its effects–not because divorce is any worse sin. We know that if one is guilty of breaking one part of the law, one is guilty of breaking the whole law. We are all sinners. I believe that when it says, “God hates divorce”, it’s really saying that if your husband left you or beat you or made your marriage unbearable, and you are weeping buckets of tears, that God is weeping those tears with you.

The Beauty of Grace and Living in the Present

I’ve explained why I believe that adultery, abuse, abandonment, and other major sins that endanger the whole family (like addictions or refusal to work) are grounds for separation and/or divorce.

But what if you don’t have those?

Another commenter wrote:

I’m divorced. No excuses, no Biblically sound reason. I was young, stupid, and a big ol’ sinner. He didn’t beat me or abuse me in any way. However, it’s done. It’s in the past and I feel absolutely certain that it is forgiven like any number of other sins in my past. I was wrong but that awesomely mighty God forgave it AND was generous enough to send me a husband who loves me and doesn’t judge my past.

She did not have biblical grounds for divorce, and she knows that. But now she is a believer, and that means that she is a new creation. And you can’t turn back the clock, and God does not intend you to. Why is that we say some sins can be forgiven but not others? Paul was a murderer, yet God still used him. David was an adulterer, yet God still used him (and his son through Bathsheba). Indeed, that adulterous relationship is in Jesus’ line.

God hates divorce–but there is grace.

Choosing Him All Over Again: A Story of Romance and RedemptionSo if you divorced in the past, and then became a believer, are you supposed to reconcile with your husband? I believe that, if possible, you should try. That’s what Juana Mikels did in Choosing Him All Over Again, and God showed them tremendous grace.

But that does not always work. Sometimes you can’t reconcile because he doesn’t want to, or he’s moved on. So then what?

What About Remarriage?

Divorce purists will also say that there is never permission to remarry. God may have given us grounds for divorce, but not remarriage.

However, I don’t believe this is true for two reasons. In the Matthew verse quoted above, Jesus said:

And I say to you: whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery.

That means that if you divorce and marry another and it was because of sexual immorality, you are not committing adultery. So if you had grounds for divorce, you also have grounds for remarriage.

Yes, it says “whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery” (Luke 16:18), but you can’t look at that verse without also looking at this one. Jesus obviously was carving out an exception.

And in Corinthians, Paul wrote that the husband or wife was no longer bound if they were abandoned. They aren’t bound anymore–therefore they can remarry.

The Cultural Reason for Remarriage

Why isn’t the Bible more obvious that remarriage after divorce is okay? Because it was just assumed. In those days a woman was either under her father’s care or under her husband’s care. There was no way for an adult single woman to make a living. That’s why caring for widows was such a huge deal in the New Testament church. For Jesus to allow divorce, then, meant that He was also allowing remarriage. He would not allow divorce just to consign women to desperation and abject poverty. People simply had to remarry.

I know many of you who are here on this site are remarried–and want to make these remarriages work. I welcome you here; and I hope that I can help you with just that! I never want you to feel that because you are not on your first marriage that you are somehow inferior. God wants you to honour Him in the here and now.

And so that’s where I’m at: I’m anti-divorce, because I think it should be the last resort, and only in certain circumstances. But if divorce has been inevitable for you, then I wish you great happiness and intimacy with someone else, if God brings someone into your life.

The comment with the most likes was one from my friend Kathy, whom I know in real life. I’d like to leave you with it:

As a divorced person myself (with what I understand to be a biblical divorce–abandoned by an unbelieving spouse who was committing adultery), and someone who desperately wanted her marriage back, I feel the weight & sting of those who think in judgmental terms as if their own sin issues are minor compared to a divorce. I always jokingly say that divorce is the unpardonable sin in the church, but sadly, it seems far too often that it is looked at in that way. I have done my share of study on the topic of divorce and remarriage as a biblical counsellor, but also as someone who hoped to be married again one day, but only if it did not offend God. As far as I can understand in my simplistic way, God has allowed for remarriage in my circumstance. I was blessed with the offer of marriage just over two years ago from a wonderful Christian man who took divorce and remarriage as seriously as I, and also did his research (and by the way, he was widowed after 36 years of marriage so no divorce on his record). We consulted many “wise counsellors” and studied God’s Word before taking on our vows of marriage because again, we did not want to be out of step with God. We are convinced God is the author of our love story, but should we find that in our fallible state we were mistaken, is not the blood of Christ valid even on this? I believe we should take marriage, divorce, and remarriage very, very seriously, but I also believe we must approach it all with truth IN LOVE. Divorce seems to just be one of those divisive issues, and invokes much emotion, but hopefully it will not invoke undue unkindness from those of us who have been shown unfathomable love.

Blessings on all of you.

 

Wifey Wednesday: Why to Work Out as a Couple

Workout as a CoupleIt’s Wednesday, the day when we always talk marriage! Today welcome Jenn Faulk, who is sharing the life-changing effects and benefits that working out as a couple has had on her marriage. At the end, Jenn has a special gift for all my readers!

Four years ago, my husband was told that he needed to get fit… or else.

It was a doomsday diagnosis for us, a young pastor and his homemaker wife struggling to make a difference at a very difficult church. Stress levels were high but not nearly as high as my sweet husband’s blood pressure. When his doctor discovered this problem during a routine checkup, he told Wes there were two options — get fit or go on medication.

Like most young pastors and their wives, we doubted we could afford the medication, so we decided to go with the other option and get in shape together. Neither one of us could run a quarter of a mile at that point, so it was with great faith, anticipation, and even a little bit of fear that we signed up for our first race (so that we had a looming deadline on the calendar to keep us accountable) and began training, one tiny step at a time.

What we learned in the process was that getting in shape together, as a team, would do a lot for our health and abundantly more for the health of our marriage.

Here are just a few of the benefits we’ve discovered in working out as a couple.

1.  It makes you better teammates, on and off the pavement.

Communication is crucial in marriage, but it’s so easy to fall into patterns where we don’t adequately express ourselves or completely listen either one. In putting together a plan to work out together and actually making it happen, you’ll find that you’re more deliberate and intentional about communicating. I know that I’m never more communicative than when we’re eighteen miles into a race and I feel like dying. The freedom I feel at that point to say all kinds of things to Wes (some good, some not) honestly carries over to real life, where mundane tasks sometimes lull us into a routine that strangles real communication. Because we’ve learned to express ourselves in cheering one another on and supporting each other through physical challenges, we’re better able to keep our communication open in our everyday lives.

2.  It gives you goals to work towards together.

Remember when you first married and you had crazy dreams of all you’d do together? Everyday life and the routines we find ourselves in can sometimes rob our marriages of this wonderful practice. By tackling a fitness goal together, you’ll find yourselves dreaming big again! That first race we put on our calendar years ago gave us a definite goal to work towards together. It was such a blessing to us to have this common ground to keep coming back to and looking towards, even when life was, at time, difficult and challenging. As you work together to meet your goal, you’ll go through tough situations, challenging times, and celebrations. This only makes you better prepared for the very same experiences you’ll have in life as well.

3.  It gives you more time with one another.

When we started running, we had two preschool-aged children who sounded more like thirty preschool-aged children when they got worked up. (More like thirty wild chimpanzees. True story.) Time together where we could have coherent thoughts much less conversation was a challenge, but we loaded our girls up in a double jogging stroller packed with sippy cups, snacks, and toys and fought for those precious few minutes where we could run together. Now that our girls are older and more self-sufficient, life is still crazy busy, and the time we get to work out is sometimes the only time we get to be alone together. We guard it jealously and can honestly attest to how those miles covered side by side have been foundational in our marriage. That time alone together, even now, away from the demands of a busy home and the responsibilities that come with it, is priceless. (And the weekend trips away to go and run a race out of town, while the grandparents watch the girls? Bliss!)

4.  It makes the bedroom more exciting.

Speaking of those trips away (ahem), getting fit together makes for an all around boost in intimacy. If Wes had known this, he’d have gotten us into running much earlier, honestly. The confidence that comes with being in shape combined with the endurance that results from pushing your limits physically… well, need I say more?

5. It gives you another opportunity to glorify God together.

When we take the time to take care of our bodies as God calls us to do, we’re better equipped to serve Him. Getting in shape and adopting a healthier lifestyle alongside your husband benefits your health and his individually, making it far more likely that you’ll have more quality, healthful years ahead with which to serve Christ. We pray for daily health and strength to give back to Him as an offering, and staying in shape together has made it possible for us to do more than we could have imagined we’d be able to do this far into our ministry together.

This past year, Wes and I celebrated ten years of marriage by running our tenth marathon together.

One of the sweetest times of our marriage thus far has most definitely been the time we’ve spent running together, working towards better health alongside one another, putting our minds and hearts to a shared goal, and celebrating every finish line hand in hand.

In this season of fresh starts and new resolutions, let me encourage you to consider beginning to dream about, work towards, and meet fitness goals with your husband. It doesn’t have to be something huge to count. Start where you are and do what you can do, trusting that the effort you put into it will be of great gain down the road for your health, your life, and your marriage.

ResolutionsAs a special gift for all To Love, Honor and Vacuum readers.  She is offering her book Resolutions FREE on Kindle for January 14, 2015 only!

Check out her Amazon book page for other books Jenn has written, too.

Jenn FaulkJenn Faulk is a full time mom and pastor’s wife in Pasadena, Texas.  She has a BA in English-Creative Writing from the University of Houston and an MA in Missiology from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.  She loves talking about Jesus, running marathons, listening to her daughters’ stories, and serving alongside her husband in ministry.  You can contact her through her blog www.jennfaulk.com

WifeyWednesday175Now it’s your turn! Do you have some advice for us today? Link up the URL of your own marriage post in the linky below, and then remember to link back here so that other people can read these great marriage posts!

The Good Girl's Guide to Great Sex

Marriage isn't supposed to be blah!


Sex is supposed to be stupendous--physically, emotionally, AND spiritually. If it's not, get The Good Girl's Guide to Great Sex--and find out what you've been missing.



Top 12 Ways to Pray for Your Kids and Grandkids

Scripture to Pray for Your Kids (or your grandkids!)

Today’s guest post is by author Wayne Stiles, who writes about making the Bible–and its lands–relevant to us today. I saw this awesome list on his site about how to pray for your kids and asked if I could reprint it! I thought it was a great way to start the New Year–with more intention about praying God’s Word for your kids.

We all pray for our children. We want them to do well in school, or to get a good job, or to stay healthy. But their greatest need for prayer is their spiritual lives.

The longer I am a parent, the more I see the truth in the Apostle John’s words:

I have no greater joy than this, to hear of my children walking in the truth. —3 John 4

If our children have a genuine walk with God, they will be better equipped to make wise choices throughout their lives. Our challenge, then, is how to pray for our children in this way.

When our daughters were only toddlers, Cathy and I participated an excellent parenting class that gave us a handout called: “How to Pray for Your Children.” We prayed through this list for years. In fact, as I read through each point today, I can remember specific instances in which God answered the prayers. He is still answering them.

I have edited the list and added some verses to it. I have also made a PDF you can download and print to keep in your Bible or prayer journal.

It’s never too late to begin praying for your children—and your grandchildren.

It is one of the greatest investments you will ever make into their lives.

How to Pray for Your Children and Grandchildren

The list is not a magic formula. It doesn’t guarantee that God will answer right away. But prayer is powerful, even when the answer is delayed.

Because there are 12 prayers in this list, you could concentrate on one prayer per month. Within a year you will have consistently prayed the entire list.

1. That they will know Christ as Savior early in life.

Brethren, my heart’s desire and my prayer to God for them is for their salvation. —Romans 10:1

From infancy you have known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. —2 Timothy 3:15

2. That they will have a hatred for sin.

Let those who love the LORD hate evil, for He guards the lives of His faithful ones and delivers them from the hand of the wicked. —Psalm 97:10

3. That they will be caught when guilty.

It was good for me to be afflicted so that I might learn your decrees. —Psalm 119:71

4. That they will be protected from the evil one in each area of their lives: spiritual, physical, emotional, social.

And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men. —Luke 2:52

My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. —John 17:15

5. That they will have a responsible attitude in all their interpersonal relationships.

Now Daniel so distinguished himself among the administrators and the satraps by his exceptional qualities that the king planned to set him over the whole kingdom. —Daniel 6:3

6. That they will respect those in authority over them.

Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. —Romans 13:1

7. That they will desire the right kind of friends and be protected from the wrong friends.

My son, if sinners entice you, do not give in to them. If they say, “Come along with us; let’s lie in wait for someone’s blood, let’s waylay some harmless soul.” —Proverbs 1:10-11

8. That they will be kept from the wrong mate and directed to the right one.

Do not be bound together with unbelievers; for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness? —2 Corinthians 6:14

Then the LORD God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone; I will make him a helper suitable for him.” —Genesis 2:18

9. That they, as well as the one they marry, will remain pure before and after marriage.

Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a man commits are outside his body, but he who sins sexually sins against his own body. Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body. —1 Corinthians 6:18-19

Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled; for fornicators and adulterers God will judge. —Hebrews 13:4

10. That they will learn to submit completely to God and actively resist Satan in all circumstances.

Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. —James 4:7

11. That they will be single-hearted, willing to be sold out to Jesus Christ.

Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God –this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. —Romans 12:1-2

12. That they will be hedged in so they cannot find their way to wrong people or wrong places and that the wrong people cannot find their way to them.

Therefore I will block her path with thornbushes; I will wall her in so that she cannot find her way. —Hosea 2:6

Praying for your Children - Free Printables

Prayer ExamplesWant to pray more? Download these prayers–and more!

Download the .pdf of Wayne’s prayers here.

I’ve also created a group of Paul’s prayers for his “spiritual” children that you can use to pray for your own kids and grandkids! You can either download the printable version, or the version for mobile phones.

Printables of Paul’s Prayers

For Mobile (no background): Mobile Version of Paul’s Prayers

 

Wayne Stiles Waiting on God: What to Do When God Does NothingWayne Stiles loves connecting the Bible and its lands to life. He leads tours of the Holy Land and writes devotionals that help you incorporate history with God’s work today. He is the author of several books, including Waiting on God: What to Do When God Does Nothing. Download his free 30-day devotional, Grow Strong, when you subscribe to his blog here.

Reader Question: When Do I Give Up Trying to Get My Ex Back?

When do I give up on my ex-husband? Thoughts on when to stop trying to reconcile and move onWhen should you give up on trying to get your ex back?

Every Monday I like to put up a Reader Question and take a stab at answering it. I know most of my readers are married (this is a Christian marriage blog, after all), but a lot of people in crisis marriages also land on this blog. So there are plenty of separated/divorced people who also send in questions. And here’s a heartbreaking one that I’d like to tackle today:

I’ve been divorced for 8 years, and during all that time I have tried to reconcile with my husband. It’s just not working, but I’m scared to move on. When do I give up on my ex? When have I done enough? And what if I really want it to work?

I want to start by telling you a story.

When I was just getting started writing and speaking, in my early 30s, I was asked to come and speak to a MOPS group. I gave a talk about how to keep your priorities in order and how to feel as if you’re making a difference even in the diaper/temper tantrum years. The talk went well, and at the end everyone was mingling around eating some snacks.

An older woman who hadn’t been in the talk approached me. She explained that she was a grandma, and as a way of serving her daughter she acted as one of the baby-sitters for MOPS, so her daughter could enjoy the socialization and the teaching. So she asked me for a synopsis of what I had said, and I gave it to her.

She smiled as I explained, and nodded vigorously. “Oh, that’s so wonderful that you’re teaching these young women to rely on God in everything. I’ve had to learn that in the last few years. My husband left out of the blue 5 years ago to be with another woman. He spread lies about me and turned many in my family against me. It was so difficult. I lost my house and so much of my self-esteem.”

My heart went out to this poor woman. That’s so awful to have a spouse betray you like that!

But then she said this,

“But God has promised me that my marriage will be restored. I read verses about how God restores what is broken. I put them on post-in notes all over my apartment, so that when I doubt I can read them and know that God will bring him back. I pray all the time about it. And I have peace that one day my marriage will be saved.”

And at this point I felt distinctly uncomfortable. I didn’t know what to say, though, and so I left. But while driving home it suddenly hit me what I should have said. I don’t know who that woman is, and so I could never communicate this to her. But now, when I speak, I always share to the audience what I wish I could have shared to the woman:

“I am glad that you have faith that God can bring your husband back. But do you have faith even if he doesn’t?”

Do you have faith even if God doesn't answer your prayers as you would like?

Because isn’t that the point? God needs to be the centre of our faith and not a reconciliation. That’s why this truth is so important:

Your life needs to become about God, not about winning your ex back

That doesn’t mean that God WON’T bring your ex back. But ultimately, after you have been through such a trauma, you are really hurt. You’re beaten down. And you’re often desperate to get the marriage back together, thinking that this will fix your broken heart. But it won’t, because that kind of pain can only be fixed by God. And once He does this great healing work, so that you know that whatever happens, God will carry you, then you are whole again. You are strong again.

And if your marriage has any chance of working again, you need to be whole and you need to be strong.

Ironically, your marriage’s best hope is for you to let go of your marriage and cling to God. To do that doesn’t mean that you’re giving up on the idea of reconciliation. It’s just saying that your faith if based on God, not on your marriage, and that you know that you will be okay.

Let go of the dream of your ex-husband and get real

When a marriage breaks up there is usually a reason. In my story, the husband had left his wife. I don’t know what is happening with my reader, but I know many on this blog have had to separate with husbands who wouldn’t give up a pornography addiction, or who refused to work and squandered money, or who had affairs. But even though they couldn’t live like that anymore, these women often have difficulty letting go of the dream of their husband.

They could still see the potential–they could still see what the marriage could be like if their husbands would just get their act together. And because of that dream, these women had a difficult time moving on.

Letting go of the dream does not mean that you let go of the idea of reconciliation. But you need to stop living in the “what ifs” and start living with what is real.

Be honest about where you are at and where your husband is at, and reconciliation is not a healthy or wise idea right now, then put it out of your mind and focus on the now.

I am not saying that this is easy. This is likely the most heart-wrenching thing you will ever have to do your whole life. You can’t do it alone; you need a good church community and good friends around you–and often a good counselor. But it is the wise thing to do.

What is the right thing for me to do in the here and now?

If reconciliation isn’t possible, because your husband hasn’t gotten real about the steps that he needs to take, then you need to start living in the here and now and take steps to make your own life better as it is in the present.

Get some schooling or get a job if you have to support yourself and your children. Find a great church to be involved in and start serving. Start an exercise regimen to help you feel better about yourself. Move closer to other support systems that you will need, if necessary. Get your finances in order. In other words, do things that will help you so that if things stay exactly the way they are right now, you (and your children) will be in a better position. If you refuse to do these things because to do so seems like you’re saying “the relationship is really over”, then in the long run you’ll likely hurt yourself.

Love Must Be ToughLook, sometimes if a relationship is in really bad shape, the best way to turn it around is to give someone a big jolt and help them to realize the consequences of their actions. If he knows you are waiting in the wings to take him back at a moment’s notice, what incentive does he have to get his life together? But if he realizes, “she’s serious. We’re not getting back together until things change,” then he might do something.

That’s what the book Love Must Be Tough teaches you, and I highly recommend it for people in this situation. It shows how the worst thing that you can do is to show your ex that you’re always available to him, that you’ll always take him back, that you’re always there. Groveling does not work. Having sex with him when he comes over to visit you, when he’s not showing any kind of remorse, will not work. You need to show him, “this is who I am without you, and even though I don’t want to be alone and even though I’d rather be with you, I will choose to be without you and I will get on with my life until you show me that you want a real marriage.”

But when do I date again?

Ultimately, though, what I think women are really asking is, “when is it okay for me to date again? When can I actually move on?”

I can’t answer that one for you, except in generalities. Every situation is different. In some cases there are definite biblical grounds for divorce, and in some there really aren’t. (That being said, even if there aren’t grounds, if he has abandoned you by not reconciling, then that becomes a biblical ground, in and of itself.) In some cases he has made a lot of progress, or he is fixing things, and you do need to wait and give him a chance.

I had a friend who left a marriage, telling everyone it was because of his porn use and his cheating. The problem was that these things had been in the past, and he was working at making them better. Soon after she left him she started dating someone else, and she is now remarried. She claimed she had biblical grounds, but the fact was that he was getting right with God at the point where she started dating. That is not right.

One rule of thumb: I think it’s dangerous to get into a new relationship too soon. I’d give it at least a year and a half, if not two years, after a split with no sign of reconciliation. You need to give him time to change his mind, but you also need to give yourself time to heal, because otherwise you’ll be going into a new relationship with a lot of baggage.

That’s not set in stone, but I do think it’s wise to give some time, and likely the more the better.

Does God ever bring about reconciliation?

Absolutely! In fact, if you want a great story of reconciliation, my friend Juana Mikels has just written a book called Choosing Him All Over Again, where she shares her story.

Choosing Him All Over Again: A Story of Romance and RedemptionThirty-five years ago Juana left her husband. He didn’t give her what she needed, he didn’t know how to show her love, and they were drifting apart so fast she didn’t think there was anything left. They had only been married for two years, but it had all gone downhill.

A few months after their break-up, Juana started attending a Bible study. She became a Christian, and realized that the break-up was not her husband’s fault. It was hers as well. She hadn’t given selflessly in the marriage. She hadn’t loved him properly. And now she wanted him back!

There was just one problem. He was seeing someone else and had no interest in reconciling. Juana had hurt him too much.

So now what was she to do? She continued to draw closer to God and decided to just show her husband unconditional love. And after months and months of that, her husband’s heart began to soften. It took a long time to rebuild the marriage that Juana had already torn down, but God did it as He slowly started to change Juana’s attitude.

It’s a great story of hope–check it out here!

So, yes, God can rescue marriages. In fact, God loves picking up broken pieces and molding them back together again. He’s in the healing business. But sometimes the thing that He wants to heal is YOU, not your marriage. So chase after God now, and focus on God, not just on your marriage. And then, no matter what happens, you will find you still are strong.

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On Women and Food–and What We’re Really Hungry For

Accepting what you needToday’s guest post is from Emily Wierenga, author of the touching memoir Atlas Girl.

We were newlyweds.

I was anorexic.

Trent came home one day to find me crying on the couch about the living room—about how off-kilter and ugly it looked with our second-hand furniture—and I hadn’t eaten since the night before.

He put his arms around me. “Let me make you supper,” he said—this farm-boy I’d met in Bible School, who drove a car he called The Beast and volunteered at kids club.

I nodded, kissed him. Grabbed a bag of marshmallows and headed into the office to paint at my easel.

Half an hour later Trent called me for supper. He had made burgers, corn on the cob, and “fancy” salad (which is what he calls salad with grated carrots, cheese, onions, bacon and croutons).

I emerged from the office, my mouth white, the marshmallow bag empty. I sat down at the table, looked at the plate full of food, and said, “I’m not hungry.”

I don’t know why he didn’t leave me then and there.

I’d been so hungry I’d stuffed myself with marshmallows, instead of waiting half an hour for food that would sustain me.

All I could hear was the scratch of Trent’s fork on his plate as he ate.

It was the beginning of a three-year relapse into anorexia which would nearly wreck our marriage, and it wasn’t until we left our jobs and moved to Korea that I would begin to eat three meals a day, again.

Because sometimes it takes moving to another country to see what you have right in front of you.

I’m better now. I’m eating now—I never skip a meal, and I have two little boys whom doctors said I’d never be able to have, because of the damage anorexia did on my body.

And I’m wondering how many of us settle for the marshmallows when what we’re really hungry for is food that will last?

How many of us, sisters, sit down with a pint of ice cream after a stressful day, or binge on Oreos after the kids go to bed? How many of us try diet after diet but end up filling on junk because we’re just so hungry?

I think of Jesus at the well, with the Samaritan woman. How he asked her for water—but then offered her Living Water in return. He offers us Living Bread—his body.

Because this is what we’re hungry for, isn’t it friends?

A love so deep and long and wide and high it fills every crevice of our souls; a kind of love that would die for us, a kind that sings over us, a kind that walks through fire with us?

We are born longing for the kind of affection only a divine being can offer. We are born aching for the kind of fullness which comes from an everlasting love.

But it’s not a bag of marshmallows. It’s not fast fame or fleeting praise or accolades.

No, it’s a slow cooked meal and we need to wait, to be patient, as this is the kind of love prepared by a gentle pair of hands which feeds your soul.

Trent still makes me fancy salads. He still makes burgers and corn on the cob and I no longer eat marshmallows. Because I’ve tasted real food and there’s no turning back.

There’s no turning back from love.

Emily T. WierengaEmily Wierenga is a blogger and the author of several books, including her touching memoir Atlas Girl about her struggle with anorexia and figuring out where she fits in this world. She’s an artist, a writer, a mother, and a lover with a passion for Africa. You can find her at http://emilywierenga.com.

Atlas Girl

Hopeful New Year

A Hopeful New Year: The importance of an optimistic attitudeI have always believed that an optimistic attitude is more important than just about anything for success in life–spiritually, academically, relationally. And so as we begin this new year, I’d like to rerun this column I wrote back in 2005 about optimism and parenting. 

When my grandfather died last May, just days short of his 95th birthday, he left a hole in his neighbourhood. He had relocated to Ottawa from Winnipeg when he remarried in 1980, and on his little street he became the lifeblood that held it together. A contractor by trade, he was forever climbing up ladders to clean eavestroughs, advise neighbours about their roofs, and, his favourite, paint.

When his wife died in 1997, many worried he would not be able to stay in his own home. But he did, largely with the help of the neighbours who had come to love him. One had him over for dinner every Tuesday. Another every Thursday. Another picked Sunday, and yet another did all his grocery shopping. The neighbours, though, always felt like they were getting the better end of the deal. He made them feel special. He kept track of children, grandchildren, retirements and graduations. He knew everything about everybody on the street, and was friends with all, even those who didn’t like each other.

By all accounts, he should not have been this way. At the age of six his mother died, something that would surely scar any child. At the age of 11 he lost almost all his hearing due to scarlet fever, and until he received his first hearing aid in his late twenties he was virtually deaf. Teachers thought he was stupid. Girls wouldn’t talk to him. But he plodded on.

Shortly after the hearing aid acquisition he also managed to acquire a wife. They had a wonderful marriage that lasted 25 years until she succumbed to a brain tumour. Within a few years he had married again: a fiery woman not anything like my grandmother. Their marriage, too, was a lot of fun until cancer stole her away seventeen years later. And then came the final wife, another distinct personality that he cherished.

Here’s a man who endured the death of his mother; a profound disability; the near collapse of his business in the Great Depression; several heart attacks in his 50s; and the death of three wives. Yet he still radiated peace and contentment. He was not perfect. He fretted, and he didn’t know enough to stop when he should have. Yet his was a life anyone would be proud of.

As the new year comes I’ve been thinking a lot about my Poppa.

I want, beyond all, to be the kind of person who leaves a mark on those around me just as he did.

I want to be able to look at adversity and not just cope, but thrive. I want to be flexible enough to handle whatever hand is dealt me, even if it’s not what I envision. These traits, I believe, are the heart of optimism.

Optimism, if you look at my grandfather’s life, is not something that is borne out of things going well for you. It is cultivated in the way we choose to respond to things going badly.

Optimism: the importance of developing an optimistic attitude!

As parents, one of the best things we can do is cultivate an optimistic attitude in our own children, for optimism is far more important for academic and professional success than is intelligence. For social and personal success, optimism is even more crucial. When you go through life with a chip on your shoulder, as if everyone is against you, soon everyone will be. But if we can go through life being part of the solution, soon people will be rooting for us.

My daughter Rebecca recently had to practise for a piano recital. She didn’t like the pieces, and was making sure practice time was unbearable for everyone. So I had a talk with her. Did she want to do the recital? Yes. Could she change the pieces? No. So why fret? “You don’t understand!” she cried. “You’ve never been in a piano recital!” So we talked about Poppa, and how when things can’t be changed, it’s best to accept them and move on. “I guess I need a new attitude,” she said. I told her not to worry; such an attitude runs in her genes. Poppa knew that life isn’t just worth living, it’s worth embracing. Even piano recitals. That makes everybody happier, but especially you. Here’s wishing all of us that kind of hopeful New Year.

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How Sex is a Spiritual Experience

Can sex really be a spiritual experience? I thought I’d launch into 2015 by combining my two favourite topics: Sex and God. And I’m going to let one of my favourite guest posters, J from Hot, Holy and Humorous, give us her insight since I’m still on holidays. Here we go!

Sex can be a spiritual experience--not just physical. A look at how God, sex and #marriage go together.As Sheila has stressed here many times, and in her marvelous book A Good Girl’s Guide to Great Sex, sexual intimacy is more than just the physical. When we make love according to God’s design, there’s a spiritual depth to the experience.

Unfortunately, sometimes we wives don’t feel or believe that. Sex seems purely carnal, as if it couldn’t be associated with our deeper soul. Frankly, the only time God is brought into many marital bedrooms is when someone yells “Oh my God!” in the heat of climax.

Look, sex is physical. It’s very physical. But I believe this act can also honor God and touch our spirit.

Here are some reasons why.
God the Creator designed sex and said it was good. Who thought up this crazy thing called sex? Well, that would be God. He could have made sex a fairly straightforward, reproduction-only event. But instead He designed it for intimacy and pleasure as well.

Consider the pleasure centers of our bodies, the way humans often make love facing one another (not a feature of the animal world), and His words about husband and wife becoming “one flesh.” It was after God commanded humans to “go forth and multiply” (and we know how that’s done) that He labeled His creation “very good” (Genesis 1:28, 31, NRSV). His design for sexual intimacy in marriage was good from the beginning.

There’s a whole book in the Bible about sex. God made certain an entire book celebrating marital intimacy – the Song of Solomon – was included in His Word. This book is instructive to couples on what thriving intimacy looks like in marriage. It includes affection, affirmation, connection, and yes, sex.

Song of Solomon even includes a passage in which the married couple engages in sexual intimacy, followed by the encouragement to “be intoxicated with love!” (5:1, HCSB). In other words, get the full amount of pleasure and excitement from this experience that a husband and wife can. God is in favor of physically expressing love in marriage, and expressing it fully.

Sexual intimacy between a husband and wife is a metaphor for our relationship with God. This one can be difficult to imagine.

How can a physical experience between husband and wife relate to anything in the spiritual realm between God and His people?

Yet, that’s what God says. In the book of Hosea, God promises to take His people as his wife, in that intimate relationship of marriage (see Hosea 2). And in Ephesians 5:31-32, the Apostle Paul expresses it in this way: “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two will become one flesh. This mystery is profound, but I am talking about Christ and the church.” God likens the one-flesh experience of husband and wife, that deep intimacy, to the relationship our Lord wants to have with His church. When fully making love with your husband, you can’t get any closer physically. And this intimacy is a metaphor for how close God desires us to be with Him.

Sex is most intimate when we bring God’s commands and biblical principles into the marriage bed.

Intimacy Revealed: 52 Devotions to Enhance Sex in MarriageSex by itself is a purely physical act, but we know that in relationship – in marriage specifically – it means far more. Sex becomes an expression of emotional closeness, of trusting another with your most private self, of covenant love. As said before, it should be physically pleasurable. God created to feel good. But if you want the very best in your marriage bed, you’ll approach it with God’s commands and biblical principles in mind. That is, with love, kindness, patience, honesty, goodness, and joy.

That’s why I wrote Intimacy Revealed: 52 Devotions to Enhance Sex in Marriage—to help wives improve their sexual intimacy by applying the Word of God to their marriage.

No, I’m not constantly picturing God while making love with my husband. (That could feel awkward.) But I don’t leave behind the person God wants me to be when I enter the marital bedroom. Rather, I want to honor Him there too, while having a fabulous time with my husband.

God created my soul, and He created my body.

I can use both in tandem to follow His design. Indeed, as I’ve learned how to approach my marriage bed with a more spiritual focus, the sex has become even more physically exciting.

So yes, sex is physical. But God created it to go beyond the physical in your marriage. Even to embracing the spiritual in your life.

J from Hot, Holy and HumorousSex Savvy WifeJ. Parker is also the author of Sex Savvy: A Lovemaking Guide for Christian Wives. She writes the Hot, Holy & Humorous blog, where she uses a biblical perspective and blunt sense of humor to foster Christian sexuality in marriage.

 

Intimacy Revealed: 52 Devotions to Enhance Sex in MarriageSheila says:

J writes so well and so REAL about sex. And with the New Year upon us, it’s a great time to make a resolution to make sex awesome for BOTH of you this year. If you’ve always struggled to make sex intimate, and not just physical, why not embark on a journey with J this year and work through her book Intimacy Revealed? It’s one devotional a week–one thought to chew on and pray about all week–so that by the end of the year you’ll feel more confident, more excited, and more in awe of how God created sex to be.

From marriage-specific scriptures to biblical principles, Intimacy Revealed: 52 Devotions to Enhance Sex in Marriage guides Christian wives through weekly devotions that shed light on God’s gift of marital sex.