Why Your Marriage Needs Community

Today please welcome back Ngina Otiende from IntentionalToday.com, as she shares her wonderful wisdom about how your marriage needs community to thrive and grow!

Why Your Marriage Needs CommunityA few months ago, I wrote a guest post for Sheila, where I talked about the differences between marriage in Africa and marriage in North America. How in Kenya, and in Africa as a whole, we tend to do life and relationship from a community perspective. Now obviously this is a generalization. There are pockets where this is not the norm and people are not as interconnected. But it’s the case in many places, where we value and derive significance from our families and the community around us.



Many readers expressed admiration for such a lifestyle and how it seemed to affect marriages and people in a positive way.

So today I want to share a few thoughts on why community is important for your marriage and how you can go about building it.

We are generally nicer when we are around other people

We don’t always realize how rude or cold or irritating we are in our homes. Until we go out there and try to repeat the same behavior or words in public! I’ve been around wives, who sass their husbands in public. And I’ve observed how whenever there’s a sense of displeasure or discomfort following their remarks, they tend to muzzle up. Now other people’s reactions might not change someone’s behavior. But at least it helps them understand that it’s not just their spouse who finds their behavior unpleasant!

But when you close off the outside world and don’t seek to engage with others, some of these habits can go unnoticed, and therefore unchallenged or uncorrected.



Community can also be like the sun, helping you produce the much needed Vitamin D for your marriage. We’ve had instances in our marriage when we had storm brewing behind closed doors but had to honor prior commitments with others. Being out there and having to act kind and nice towards others (and my husband) ended up rubbing off on me. Spending the day, or some parts of the day, being good (or acting good) might open doors and create goodwill that did not exist before. You’ll be able to start working on your differences.

We learn differently .

Learning can happen in all sorts of ways. Sometimes we need to be taught things, other times we need to teach ourselves things. As a wife I’ve learned that my husbands likes to learn from watching other men do things as opposed to someone sitting him down and telling him what to do. So hanging out with others creates huge opportunities for our growth.

Some of those changes you want to see in your marriage might not come through the traditional ways e.g meeting your pastor, sitting down to hammer them out e.t.c. Most guys don’t like to be put on the spot. But when you hang out with other positive couples, he might see how other men treat their wives and how they carry on as husbands (it’s called learning with dignity!). You might observe how other wives treat their husbands and how they don’t personalize every little thing. These good habits might begin to rub off on both of you. Thing is and just like the sun, you have to leave your house and go out there in order to catch all the goodness!

Purpose to learn together, not apart.

I love church ministries, small groups and activities. What I don’t always like however, is activities and groups that always separate married couples. Gender based groups and activities are good, but you need couple centered interactions as well. We all have the same amount of days per week, and if you have to divide those between a women’s group, a men’s group and a couples group, it becomes a strain.

So it’s important to look out for church activities that provide opportunities for your growth and interaction as a couple. Don’t be so wrapped up in your women’s thing you forget your marriage needs. It might mean dropping out of something you love, or not picking up a ministry opportunity because you have to keep your priorities in check.

It’s easier for friends to call you out.

As a marriage writer, I receive many emails from wives, even husbands, seeking help for their marriages. While I do my best to help and counsel, I always want to find out if they are part of a community. If they have a mentor, a pastor, godly friends etc., who can walk with them through the challenge.

As one who has walked through fiery seasons myself, I know how hard it is to open up about problems.

One of the things that really helped our marriage in the early days, was having friends who were not afraid to tell us when we were messing up. I remember many afternoons, sitting with our couple friends in our living room, talking and ‘fessing up our issues, crying (we girls did all the crying), learning together. Times when our husbands would drive across town to seek counsel from one another, when they would stand outside in the dark, talking man things. And how they’d be transformed as a result.

Counseling is good. In fact we need counseling for deep-seated issues or “preventative maintenance”. But some things won’t need counseling if we address them at their infancy. Issues won’t become monsters when we have friends and a supportive community that keeps us accountable and in check. We fare better when we have men and women who have permission and a say over our lives.

So we need to start knowing people. Cultivate quality relationships so that they (and you) have access and permission in each others lives  when you need it.

You can develop your community, but it’s not easy.

My husband and I moved to the United States three years ago. And by that single act, we lost all our community! We’ve been trying to build new friendships and connections. Last week I told my husband I was done trying; no more reaching out, no more hopes, no more silent aspirations when we meet new people. I am soul-tired. My man sensed I needed to vent, so he allowed me to talk and listened and nodded. I have not given up on friendships or community, but I am learning it’s not easy to build from scratch.

Creating community is a delicate balance. Still we can create our own – a small tight-knit community or a huge rolling mix of people. Thing is you have to be ready to give yourself too. To go out of your way, not just once or twice, but all the time. To take an interest in others, invite people to your home, be there for coffee dates, release  – in fact encourage highly! – your husband to hang out with friends (and don’t be sour when he comes back!), keep an open door to your heart and home.

Being part of a community of people will be an inconvenience sometimes. You can’t do life with others from a place of comfort. You will have to make sacrifices e.g maybe miss out on extra pay because you did not pick up the extra shift because you had a life group meeting to attend. You don’t connect only when you feel like e.g you honor prior coffee dates with your girlfriend even when your own marriage is stormy.

Bottom line; God did not create us to do life alone. He made us for community, to know people and to be known.

And so we need to go out of our way to create these friendships and closeness because we need people and people need us.

 

Ngina OtiendeNgina Otiende is a wife and writer, who blogs at IntentionalToday.com where she encourages and equips the earlywed wives with tips, tools and resources to establish strong foundation for their marriage. She and her husband are passionate about making a difference in their world and are currently organizing a marriage retreat for Pastors and Leaders in their native Kenya. You can connect with her on Pinterest and Facebook.

Top 10 Ways to Show Your Husband He’s Important After the Baby Comes

How to show your husband he's important after the baby comes!

How do you show your husband he’s important when you have a new baby and you’re exhausted?

A reader asks this question:

I’m wondering what there is that I can do to make sure my husband feels looked after in the time after a baby arrives. We just welcomed our first 16 days ago and I feel bad for my husband because taking care of the baby takes so much time I feel like I have no time to take care of his needs too. Do you have any advice? I know it’s very soon after baby but I want to make sure my husband knows he’s still a priority despite how much the baby needs.

That is a challenge, isn’t it? I’d say carve out “us time” when the baby goes in the swing for half an hour, but my youngest was colicky and that wouldn’t even have been an option. So I asked Arlene Pellicane, author of Growing Up Social and 31 Days to a Happy Husband, to share her best tips for letting your husband know he still matters to you.

When our first baby came into the world ten years ago, he was like little Simba being presented in the Lion King.  That exalted, tiny 7-pound lump was about to cause some serious changes to the kingdom of our home.  When baby makes three, it’s extremely helpful to realize that baby is prince (or princess) but daddy is still king.

If you’re not intentional about it, your husband can become like wallpaper in your home, quietly existing while all your attention goes to your sweet baby.

Here are the TOP TEN ways to make your husband feel special after baby:

Keep gazing into his eyes. 

The picture of a mom gazing into her baby’s eyes is powerful and iconic.  Deep bonding happens through this eye contact.  Make sure you spend time gazing into your husband’s eyes too.  You don’t have to stare at him for hours, but whenever you have the chance, savor each opportunity to look into his eyes.  By the way, this includes putting your phone down more often and looking him in the eyes when talking.
Top Ten

Oxytocin is for him too. 

Oxytocin is the bonding hormone – if you’re breast feeding, oxytocin is produced so you feel close to your baby.  When you kiss or hug your baby, your oxytocin level goes up and you like your baby more.  Guess what?  Oxytocin is necessary for you and your husband too!  Don’t forget to kiss, hug, and make love (once you’re physically able to again) to your man.  It will make you like him more and vice versa.

Kiss everyday for 5 seconds. 

In my book, 31 Days to a Happy Husband, I interviewed sex therapists Dr. Cliff and Joyce Penner who suggested a daily 5 – 30 second kiss.  Since you have a baby, I’m making the assignment easier:  5 seconds will do!  Let your husband know that this daily kiss is not the “GO!” signal.  It’s just a way that you want to stay close and keep the pilot light lit between you.  These 5 seconds will speak volumes to your husband.  Just 5 seconds will let him know you still find him desirable and you care about him.

Bring on the babysitter.

Whether it’s a grandparent or a trusted teenager, hire a babysitter so you can go out.  Sometimes mothers are afraid to leave their precious baby, but trust me on this one.  As long as your baby is being watched responsibly, your baby will not remember that you went on a 3-hour date when he or she was 6 months old.  (But your husband will).

Skip the donut.

I had three babies and two miscarriages in my 30s.  My weight went up of course with each pregnancy, and it meant a lot to my husband when he saw me trying to lose that baby weight.  Men are wired to be visually stimulated so don’t be mad at your husband if he would love to see your “before pregnancy” body back.  Obviously your body changes through the years.  But when you skip the donut and grab the apple instead, it communicates you are doing your best to by physically healthy which means a lot to your husband.

Plan for sex. 

Exhausted and sleep deprived, you may not want to have spontaneous sex for a very long time!  But when your body is able, plan for romance and put it on the calendar.  Dr. David Clarke says parents who don’t schedule their sex, don’t have sex.  I agree!  You’ve got to make room in your calendar for what’s most important to your marriage and lovemaking falls into that category.

When baby naps, you nap.

It’s hard to be a caring wife, let alone an amorous one, when you are so sleepy and tired.  When your baby takes a nap, leave the laundry alone.  Fall off the planet with social media.  Don’t watch TV.  Take a nap instead.  The more you can snatch pockets of time to catch up on your zzz’s, the nicer you will be to your husband and everyone else.

Connect with other positive moms.

You need time with adults who are not burping, drooling, or needing to be changed.  This way you’re not expecting your husband to meet every conversational need in your life.   Join MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) or other mom group that will connect you to positive moms.  Or you can have a weekly playdate with a friend who has a child similar in age.  Just make sure that the moms you hang out with are positive.  Avoid moms who constantly complain about their spouses and their kids.  Complaining is contagious and that’s a virus you don’t want to catch.

Pray for your spouse.

My friend Sharon Jaynes has a wonderful book, Praying for Your Husband from Head to Toe.  It’s easy to use, giving you Scriptures to pray over your man to protect and bless him.  As you bring your husband to God in prayer, he will feel your prayers and love.  And your heart will turn towards your husband.  When you’re praying for your husband, it’s hard to be irritated or callous toward him.

Respect his opinion.

Yes, you may know more about how the baby should be burped and when she was last changed, but when your husband has something to say about parenting, listen to him.  Continue to show him respect in your marriage, especially in this new role of child rearing.  So many men feel inept as fathers because their wives make them feel foolish.  Instead view parenting as a team sport, where both husband and wife have something valuable to offer.

Okay…which way are you going to practice today to make your hubby feel special?  After all, it’s awfully hard to compete with a 7-pound lump of cuteness and perfection! 

family website

Arlene Pellicane31 Days to a Happy Husband: What a Man Needs Most from His WifeArlene Pellicane is a speaker and author of Growing Up Social: Raising Relational Kids in a Screen-Driven World (co-authored with Gary Chapman), 31 Days to a Happy Husband, and 31 Days to Becoming a Happy Wife.

Arlene has been featured on the Today Show, Fox & Friends, Focus on the Family, Family Life Today, The Better Show, The 700 Club, Turning Point with Dr. David Jeremiah, and TLC’s Home Made Simple.

She and her husband James live in San Diego with their three children.  You can learn more about her ministry at www.ArlenePellicane.com

How to Really Make a Difference

A few years ago I was absolutely obsessed with politics. I read the news voraciously, I devoured blogs, and I complained nonstop about the country’s direction and the political system.

There was just one problem. I wasn’t actually changing anything. I could see what needed changing, but I was putting all sorts of emotional energy into worrying about something that I couldn’t actually do much about.

I came to the conclusion that the world wasn’t going to get better until people understood that family mattered and that morals mattered. We needed to take responsibility for ourselves and act right. Reading the news constantly reinforced my views and made me sure I was right (which is a very heady and great feeling–to be right), but it didn’t do anything about the essential problem–that people were ignoring their families.

And so after one election I quit cold turkey. I decided no more blogs, no more news, I would just write this blog. By writing this blog I might be able to actually help a family or two. I decided to put my energy into the places where I might actually have influence.

My mother shared with me this concept about influence, and I thought it was brilliant. I’m going to adapt it slightly here, but essentially we live in a world that can be divided up into three circles: the things you can control; the things you can influence; and the things that you cannot influence or control.

How to make a difference: Spend time in your sphere of influence

Things I Can Control

Basically, this circle is very small. It contains only one person: yourself. You can control what you do, how you react, how you spend your time, etc.

Things I Can Influence

You can influence those closest to you: your family, your friends, your coworkers. And you have a higher degree of influence on those closest to you.

Things I Can’t Influence or Control

You can’t change the weather, the economy, what your boss decides to do with your company, what ISIS terrorists do, what happens with Ebola, etc. etc etc. Most things are out of our control, and God does not ask us to spend time in areas that are out of our control. He asks us to do what we can–in the areas we can control.

But where do we spend most of our emotional energy? Worrying about things that we can’t control or influence.

Yet here’s something interesting: the more time we spend in the circles we can control and influence, the more influence we will have. And as we do that, often our sphere of influence grows. We’re actually more effective. And there’s a side benefit: people who spend most of their emotional energy in these two circles tend to be more joyful and peaceful. They aren’t worrying about things they can do nothing about; they’re pouring their energy into things they can influence, and often they’re seeing real changes.

Let me give you two examples of how this plays out. In marriage, we often spend most of the time wondering how we can get our husbands to change: how to make them more romantic; how to get them to spend more time with the family; how to get them to want to talk to us. But you can’t change him. If you spend more time in the circle you can control, though–yourself–you will likely see your marriage changing. You can change how you react to him. You can find ways to insert joy into your life. You can change how you react to the kids and change the tone of the house. And as you do that, you’ll find your marriage, and your attitude about marriage, improving.

Here’s another one: when I was pregnant with my second child, we find out that he had a serious heart defect that would likely end his life early. I spent a lot of time in that outer circle, worrying about him and fretting and crying. But I couldn’t do anything about his heart defect. When I decided to spend time in the circle I could control–my own reactions–I started looking for little things to be grateful for everyday. I started learning to savour every moment I had with him. And when Christopher did pass away, I was much more peaceful about it because I had leaned on God rather than given over to worry.

How Big Is Your Umbrella: Weathering the Storms of Life, Second Edition

If you want to read more about this story, my book How Big Is Your Umbrella talks about the things that we yell at God when life is difficult, and what God whispers back. It’s available in paperback and for only $2.99 as an ebook.

When we spend time with our kids and their friends, we can change this little bit of our culture, and that can have an effect on the wider society. When we help out a single mom in our neighbourhood, we can give her kids hope that marriage can work and show them good role models of strong, responsible men. When we choose to act in our circle of influence, we can end up changing, albeit in a small way, the culture that so upsets us.

they call me dadThis week I’ve read a memoir called They Call Me Dad where this idea of influence really struck me. It reads like a novel–almost an action thriller–and it’s the story of how an American pastor ended up rescuing kids from the Romanian orphanages in the early 1990s. It will bring tears to your eyes and cover you in goosebumps.

But what really struck me was how the whole story started. The pastor was happy in his life at his home, speaking and raising his kids and loving his wife. And then his dad in Scotland, who was suffering from cancer, called and started pestering him. “Babies are dying!” Camera crews had gone into Romania and were sending back pictures on the news of these horrible conditions, and this poor old man was overcome. He pestered and pestered his son until finally he flew over to Scotland to take his dad to Romania.

Meanwhile, his dad had been on the phone constantly, drumming up donations of diapers and formula and clothing and medicine. By the time he got there, the guy had a tractor trailer worth of stuff. And soon, after getting on the phone some more, they found a tractor trailer to haul the stuff, too. So off they went.

The story doesn’t end there, it only starts there. But that old man saw a picture on the news and he didn’t just cry about it or worry about it or lament about it. He did something about it. He thought of all the people that he knew that he could influence, and then he began calling in favours. And it wasn’t through that old man that God rescued those orphans; it was through his son Philip. But that man started the chain of events by spending time in his circle of influence.

I don’t know how many of us are called to do big things like Philip Cameron was, but his story is still amazing and I hope all of you read it. Yet the principle, I think, is a sound one: if you want to have influence, don’t just worry and fret and complain. Actually do something in your circle of influence. That’s the way we change our marriages, our communities, and the world–and that’s the way we find true joy, true purpose, and true effectiveness in this life.

 

Helping our Daughters Navigate Through a Sexually Aggressive Culture

Today please welcome Sarah Ball, aka The Virtuous Woman Exposed, as she shares about how to help protect and teach our daughters in a sexually aggressive culture.

Sexually Aggressive CultureMy husband was shocked to hear from me that from the age of 13 -19, I had never had a job where I wasn’t sexually harassed by a male boss or coworker.

It was to be expected as a young teenaged waitress, for my boss to ‘brush’ past me, pushing his crotch against me, as I stood collecting food from the back. It was the running joke for him to make a comment about how perky my breasts were, and if he could check out for himself if they were real. It was even more common for old male customers to invite me back to their place, or for a drunken man to try and put a tip down my shirt. I wasn’t a waitress at a strip club if that’s what you’re thinking; I was working at a small town golf course, midday, every Sunday afternoon, and I thought it was normal, so I giggled.

It was not uncommon in high school either, for me to receive sexually implied comments from male teachers, or for another male student to pinch, grab or whistle as I walked down the hall to class.

As a college student, my friends and I had to be extra cautious at parties, making vows to not let any of us go off alone with anyone we didn’t know. This caution was before the date rape drug was mainstream. It still didn’t prevent some young college girls from being raped, or if they drank too much, sexually assaulted while they were passed out, which in my opinion is rape. This was not shocking news to us. It didn’t set off alarms and cause us to storm the campus, because it was normal to us. It was an expected part of college culture in Canada.

I was sexually abused at the age of 12 by a friend of the family, and at the age of 19 I ran out of a room seconds away from being date raped.

I have never not known sexual exploitation, and it’s not my fault.

We think we are so progressive as a culture, and we think we are getting this female exploitation theme beaten, but we are not.  We live in a culture that is so twisted in their thinking. Posts go viral on social media of women of all colors; shapes and sizes posing in their underwear, in the attempts to say all women are sexy and of value. Then, the next viral video is a post blaring outrage that women aren’t being taken seriously by the universities they were raped in. We are a culture of mixed messages, trying desperate to find a solution to our sexually aggressive culture, and failing miserably.

Even Christian culture is making it worse.

We are told to shelter our kids from the world and shove purity messages at them.  So we avoid talking about sex with our daughters, instead we just shelter them from movies and stories that reveal any sexual theme, and we call it a great day in the parenting world.

These approaches will not protect your daughter from a culture that paints its walls with sexuality–walls your daughter is eventually going to live under without you.

What we need is a reality check and a never-ending conversation with our daughter about it.

Ask my teen-aged daughter, who works at a fast food restaurant. She has been raised to stay a virgin until she is married and to avoid watching shows that are above a PG rating. My husband annoys the heck out of her, as he frequently bursts out into song “be careful little eyes what you see.”

I send her back to her room to change several mornings a week, and Modesty is Hotesty is a song on our family playlist (yes, that is actually a song!) Yet, my daughter, at age 15, shows up to work in the most unattractive; button-upped, mustard yellow, starched, stained, short sleeved, burger attire, and she still receives countless offers for sex by creepy customers and comments on her looks. She’s not flirting and she is not dressed immodestly. She is merely being a young woman, with a beautiful smile in a sexually aggressive culture.

So what do I mean by a sexually aggressive culture?  These recent Canadian statistics should share some light. According to The Justice Institute of British Columbia, these statistics will have us hiding our daughters under a rock.

One out of every 17 Canadian women is raped at some point in her life

A woman is sexually assaulted by forced intercourse every 17 minutes in Canada

Girls and young women between the ages of 15-24 are the most likely victims

80% of assaults happen in the victim’s home

70% of rapes are committed by a perpetrator who knows the victims (relative, friend, neighbor, colleague, or other acquaintance)

Approximately one half of all rapes occur on dates

62% of victims are physically injured in the attack; 9% are beaten severely or disfigured

Statistics Canada has found that one in four girls and one in eight boys have been sexually abused by the time they are eighteen.

 Source : www.assultcare.ca

Pause for a sobering moment.

I am not writing this to be a dooms-day prophet, but I am writing this to say, it’s not enough to talk to our daughters about virginity and shelter them from the media. One day our daughters will be university students, professionals, and young mothers, and we need to prepare them for a sexually aggressive culture without shaming sex, scaring them, and making them prudes.

This is one tough topic parents, and we need God’s wisdom to navigate them through it and I am so thankful that we have voices like Sheila’s who are initiating this conversation.

So where do we begin? How do we teach our daughters to love sex, to embrace their sexiness for their husbands, feel no shame, guard their hearts, and protect themselves from assault or harassment?

Let your daughters have an attitude!

I want my daughter to walk around confident, knowing she is carrying a treasure inside of her, proud of who she is and sassy. I want her to spit in the face of a man who tries to exploit her, not giggle shyly in embarrassment like I did.  I want her to be street-wise, knowing she has to be smart, and cautious, because she has a treasure hidden. There are a lot of pirates out there who will sail any sea to get it.

I want her to think boys are cute, and smile and giggle at the one she REALLY thinks is cute, and I want her to experience love. I want her to be able to pick out a good man from a line up of rats. I want her to marry that good man, and be a sexual goddess for him.

I don’t want my daughter to be a man-hater, be mistrusting or paranoid. I want her to respect men in authority, but respect herself more. I recently asked my daughter what she thought of the biblical teaching that husband’s should have authority over their wives. She responded – “I think God meant that he wants husbands to protect their wives, and you can’t have someone protect you if they don’t have authority over you.”  I love her point of view!

This is a big, tall order I am asking God for–and this is not a “sit down” and have ‘the talk’ kind of teaching. This is a lifetime of discussion and relationship we have to continually have with our daughters and our sons!

This is you, Mom, having the courage to reach into the skeletons of your past and share them, at an appropriate age, with your daughter. This is about dads, stepping up to be the 1st example of a GOOD MAN, and setting her bar high. This is about us as parents, allowing our daughters to feel safe enough to talk to us about anything. You don’t overreact, and scramble to find the chastity belt, you talk to her, you love her and you walk with her.

If it’s too late, and your daughter has already fit into the statistics, I want to tell you that I am so sorry. I also want to tell you there is hope.

I stood, face to face with my sexual abuser, under oath, 15 years after I was victimized. My eyes were blurry with tears, my hands shaking in fear. I was in immense pain, but I had a loving husband, waiting in the gallery to console me, treasure me and pour purity back into my heart with his love and respect for me.

 I also have a God who puts his arm around me, drawing a line in the sand with his hand against a culture that wants to stone me.  Hagar, Sarah’s bondwoman, – which you can read more on here – was sexually exploited, the woman who washed Jesus’s feet with her tears who was labeled a slut, and even King David’s daughter was raped by her own brother. This is not a new issue.

God always defended these precious women, pursued them and pursued justice. Jesus came to pour hope, value and purity back into a shamed culture, and we must look to him for healing.

So tonight, before your daughter goes to bed, give her a big hug, tell her how precious she is, show her how to drop kick a pirate and pray for her, a lot.

 

Sarah BallSarah Ball is the blogger behind Virtuous Woman Exposed, a columnist, freelance writer and mother of 5 children ages 4-15 and she’s exhausted just writing that. Her passion is to see women set free from shame, fear and bondage. She wants you to know that you can hold your head up high knowing they you are a precious daughter of God.  You can visit her blog at http://www.virtuouswomanexposed.com and you can follow her on FACEBOOK & TWITTER

 

 

What if Balance is Overrated?

Balance is Overrated

Here is an older post that I really love, so I wanted to resurrect it–in case you missed it the first time!

Balance. It’s the buzzword of this generation.

In our hectic lives, everyone is searching for that elusive thing called “balance”, where we feel like we’re living out our priorities, we’re able to get the rest we need, but we’re still being purposeful.

What if the whole idea of finding balance is more like a millstone around your neck than it is a real thing to aim after, though?

Let me explain.

Finding Balance, in and of itself, says that some things must lose.

It says that you have to put less of an emphasis on one thing so that you can put more of an emphasis on something else. To aim for balance is really to aim for a constant series of trade-offs. You decide that this will have to go, that you can’t do this, all so that you can do this.

It’s not exactly an easy psychological process.

What if there’s a better way?

A bunch of very disparate but interesting things have led me to this conclusion. First, I was reading Kathy Peel’s book The Family Manager while staying at a friend’s home recently. Her point is that many housewives are extremely capable when it comes to organizing work or organizing big functions at church, but we can’t seem to organize our homes. The solution? Take what you’re good at and apply those same principles at home. In other words, work to your strengths.

I’ve read something similar in another book recently, which even though I disagreed with much of it, that one part I thought was useful.

Forget finding balance; instead, figure out what you’re good at.

What makes you feel alive? What gets you excited? Now concentrate on maximizing your time for that.

At the same time, I’ve been delivering a number of messages at various speaking engagements about finding your purpose in life. And it occurs to me now that if we apply all three of these principles to our lives, we’d be a lot happier than if we just sought balance. So here’s what such a life would look like:

1. Figure out your purpose.

What is it that God is calling you to right now? Where does He want you investing your time, your money, your energy? Sometimes there may be just one area; some of us have several areas. I feel called to speak, to homeschool, and to lead the Bible quizzing program with our youth at church. One of those areas is simply my specific responsibility (my family). God always calls you first and foremost to your family. The others are more where I am using my gifts and serving in my particular church.

When you figure out where you are most called, then it’s easier to emphasize those areas. Forget everything else. Let it all fall by the wayside. We don’t need to be “balanced”, doing everything in moderation. We need to be sold out to the areas where God has called us!

Figure out where God has called you, and ditch the rest. Yes, the other stuff needs to get done. But God will call someone to do that other stuff. Your responsibility is just to live out the areas where you are called.

I believe that we are always called primarily to our families and to the people who are closest to us. Those are the people that God has trusted us with to show them Jesus. We are also called to our local body of believers, to serve in at least some capacity. I don’t think having children gives you an excuse not to serve. We all can be serving somewhere, because without us the church can’t function. So ask God to show you in what one area you can serve that will make a difference.

2. In those areas where you feel called, work to your strengths.

Maybe you don’t cook. Maybe you never will learn to love cooking or cook very well. That’s okay. Stop beating yourself up about it. Learn to make 7 meals well, and rotate them every week. You’re allowed. Maybe your real gift is in making a fun home where you play lots of games and create an atmosphere where people just plain have a roaring good time, even if the house is never in tip top shape.

That’s who you are. Stop trying to become someone you’re not. What are your strengths in your family? Play to them. Do the things that you do well, and then figure out how to minimize the other tasks which do need to get done so that you have more time for your strengths. Don’t strive for balance, because in your case, balance means spending more time on stuff that frustrates you and makes you miserable, and less on stuff that gives you life.

I was reminded of this a few years ago when I went on a craft binge. I bought painting supplies. I bought fabric to sew. I bought all kinds of stuff. And then I started doing it and hated it. I sewed my maternity clothes and they never fit quite right. I tried to stencil something and kept going out of the lines.

And all the while my knitting sat beside me, untouched. I was trying to conquer all these other crafts that I admired, instead of doing the one that I am great at (if I do say so myself) and that relaxes me. So now I proudly announce that I don’t sew, I don’t cross-stitch, I don’t scrapbook, and I don’t crochet. What I do do is knit. Everywhere. Even in line at the grocery store (I always have a pair of socks on the go in my purse).

Sheila Wray Gregoire knitting--work to your strengths!

It may not be balanced, but it’s what I’m good at and it’s what I enjoy. You don’t need to do everything. Work to your strengths.

When you figure out what you’re good at, it’s easier to apply those things to your home. If you’re a spontaneous person, then create a spontaneous home. Work less to lists and more to creativity. That’s okay. Don’t try to be someone you’re not. Figure out how to get done what does need to get done, but then create a tone for your home where you’re laid back, and people can drop in anytime and it doesn’t bother you.

If, instead, you’re very organized, then don’t try to be spontaneous! Create a schedule for your day and stick to it. You’ll feel better.

Often instead of working to our strengths we work to our weaknesses. We see the things we’re not good at and we spend all kinds of time trying to make ourselves better at these areas of weakness, rather than spending productive time in the areas where we do excel. If we each worked to our strengths, we’d get things done a lot more quickly and with a lot less grief.

God made you the way you are for a purpose. You do not have to be the typical Christian woman, because God may not have made you that way. He sure didn’t make me that way! I function best when I have a ton of things on the go. I work really hard, and then I crash really hard, and my family loves it. We’re busy, we do interesting things, we talk about interesting things, and no one day is ever exactly like the other.

That’s who I am. Do you know who you are? Or are you still reading all these books that tell you that you should fit into a specific mold? I think often we mistake our identity and calling with the things in life that need to get done. Just because laundry needs to get done does not mean that you are naturally a laundry person. Just because you’re looking after your children at home does not mean that you are naturally a kid person. But you can take what you are naturally good at and you can apply those things to how you manage your home, how you raise your kids, how you serve in church.

3. If you don’t fit the mold, break it!

Just don’t try to have balance, if what you mean by finding balance is that you do a little bit of everything. It seems to me that God calls us to live out our purpose, and to work productively six days a week, and then He calls us for one day a week to rest in Him, to have time to think, to meditate, to enjoy each other. That’s the balance that we need.

So make sure that you’re spending time connecting with God so that you can find your purpose. Spend time on your own everyday rejuvenating yourself so that you can live out that purpose. And then apply your strengths to living out your calling day by day. Don’t be everything to everybody. Be uniquely you. And that is perfectly okay.

This One Tip Revolutionized Our Marriage

Tip_1Today, welcome Kyle Gabhart, author of The Phoenix Marriage, who wanted to share how to revolutionize your marriage.  His experiential story will change how you see your spouse!

One weekend in February of 2013, my wife and I attended a weekend marriage conference that rocked our world. The workshop was presented by Dr. David and Teresa Ferguson at our local church. We had so many amazing realizations that weekend, but one of those stands out more than any other. Dr Ferguson walked the couples through a simple visualization exercise:

Imagine you are sitting next to God and both of you are gazing a short distance away toward your mate. Rather than seeing him or her as your spouse, try to imagine what God sees – His child. Uniquely created for a divine purpose, He has cared for and nurtured this child for years. Now ask Father God what He loves about His child. What is it about him or her that delights the Father? What special qualities has He uniquely placed within him or her and why did He choose this person to be your soul’s mate?

This simple exercise transformed our marriage. Our physical eyes that saw only chores and bills and schedules were exchanged for spiritual eyes to see one another with grace, compassion, and love.

How do you see your mate?

If your marriage is anything like ours used to be, you likely see your spouse in terms of his or her function. Your mate is a partner that helps with chores, finances, logistics with the kiddos, and makes sure you never have to go alone to the movies. While all of those are true, they only scratch the surface. All of those functional elements are generic qualities which would be applicable to anyone operating in the role of husband or wife. Beneath that surface layer is someone specially crafted to share a life and a mission with you. Yet, losing sight of this truth is so easy to do.

This one tip revolutionized our marriage--see like God does!

What does God see?

“The LORD does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.” -I Samuel 16:7 (NIV)

God sees His son or His daughter. He sees a precious child whom He uniquely endowed with talents and capabilities. Your spouse didn’t come from a mold. There was no factory assembly line. This was a custom job for a specific purpose. God lovingly crafted your husband or wife and chose to trust you with loving this person for the rest of your life. Before the two of you even met, He was delighting in this person every day. Long before the two of you said your vows, He was weeping over your mate’s failures and celebrating each success. He LOVES your mate unconditionally. Do you?

Honor your mate

“Commit your work to the Lord, and your plans will be established. The Lord has made everything for its purpose.” -Proverbs 16:3-4 (ESV)

The Lord has made EVERYTHING for its purpose, your spouse included. Those qualities that annoy you most, may actually be a side effect of the unique gifts that your spouse has been blessed with by God! My wife sometimes gets frustrated by my absent-mindedness. But this is just a natural side effect of being a thoughtful and introspective person. These are the very same qualities that I use in ministering to her heart and shepherding marriages on a daily basis! Likewise, I tend to get aggravated by Tammy’s insistence that we leave on time to get to places we need to go, and yet it’s this very quality that makes her so invaluable to managing our crazy family of eight!

Commit to honoring your mate. If one or more qualities bother you, ask God to help you see why He created them that way. Chances are, you’re missing out on an incredible aspect of your spouse. Then once you discover it, commit to celebrating this quality of your mate and praise them for it. The dynamic of your relationship will radically change when you honor your mate’s uniqueness by seeing them the way Jesus does.

Kyle and DebbieThe Phoenix Marriage: God Creates Beauty Out of AshesKyle Gabhart is a devoted husband and father of 6. He is also a blogger, public speaker, entrepreneur, and author of the the newly released The Phoenix Marriage. He and his wife Tammy, founded Equip Your Marriage, a faith-based ministry dedicated to empowering, equipping, and restoring marriages. Kyle is an avid soccer player and board game enthusiast, but he prides himself on being a constant embarrassment to his children.

WEBSITEEquip Your Marriage

BOOK: Phoenix Marriage

 

A Little Higher Than the Squirrels

character of humanitySquirrels are nature’s little speedbumps, my daughter likes to say.

This time of year it’s a pretty apt description, with all the plump squirrels scampering to and fro fervently collecting food for the winter. They’re bulking up, so they’re a tad slower when cars rush by.

A few farmers have told me recently that we should be paying closer attention to these hyperactive rodents. They seem to be gathering more than usual, signalling that we’re in for a bad winter. Animals, you see, operate on instinct. They know when it’s time to gather, and when it’s time to sleep, or mate, or fight. It’s all hardwired.

That’s why animals are mostly concerned with the here and now.

Their goal in life—in as much as they’re able to make goals—is to get all their physical needs met. And by and large, they instinctually know how to do that.

People, on the other hand, have to be taught. Then, even when we are taught, we have the capacity to refuse. We can act in ways diametrically opposed to our well-being. We can be stupid. We can be selfish. We can even be noble, something most animals, with the exception of a few dogs, aren’t able to do. That’s what makes us essentially human: we have a choice. And because of that, we have the capacity to actually be good and to choose to do what’s right.

So let’s do a thought experiment. When you sit with your mother who has Alzheimer’s, even when she can’t recognize you, are you closer to a human or a reptile? On the other hand, when you leave your baby with a baby-sitter you hardly know so you can party at the bar, are you closer to a chimp or to Mother Teresa? When you stick with your marriage vows, even during the rocky times, I think you’re being human. When you have an affair because you feel like it, and betray your kids and your spouse in the process, you’re being a lizard, a rhino, or a baboon.

When we decide that our lives are all about our appetites—eating more and better food, getting more and better sex, having more and more fun—are we not becoming mere animals?

There’s nothing wrong with the fun things in life, of course, but if we deliberately ignore our responsibilities, or betray our commitments, in order to get those appetites filled, then the character of humanity isn’t advancing. We’re regressing.

A few centuries ago people had to work hard in order to survive. The rock fences that dot the countryside in my native Ontario hometown are standing monuments to the effort that farmers of old had to put in to clear their fields just to be able to plant. You worked, or you did not eat.

Today we have the freedom to be far lazier and far more self-centred than people did when work was a necessity to life. Our basic needs are much more easily met. And yet that also means that we have the opportunity to be even more human. When we choose to do what is right, to work with integrity, or to honour our commitments, even when we don’t have to, then we grow as people.

Unfortunately, I’m not sure those kinds of decisions are really honoured. Our society celebrates lavish lifestyles and the baser instincts rather than integrity, responsibility, and generosity. Too often we’re just living for the moment and doing what makes us feel good, rather than thinking about our character. In so doing, I think we’re losing what makes us human. We are, after all, a little higher than the squirrels. It’s time we remembered that, before life runs us over.

Marriage Box

It’s Wednesday, the day when we talk marriage! This week I’m taking a hiatus while I finish the edits to my book 9 Thoughts That Can Change Your Marriage, and so I’ve asked  guest poster Darlene Lopez to tell us about her marriage box–and how it changed the way she saw her relationship.

When I got married 13 years ago we were given a beautiful wooden  box with this poem, Marriage Box, written in it.

Marriage Box

This box truly has been an inspiration to me in my marriage. Marriage truly is like an empty box. Many people get married for all the wrong reasons and have an abundant of expectations when they get married, I was one of them. I thought marriage was going to be filled with all sorts of companionship, sex, love, romance, intimacy, prayer, Bible studies, understanding, deep friendship and love. Boy, was I  wrong.

I found out that marriage truly is empty unless you are infusing into it daily.

The truth is marriage at the start is in fact like an empty box. There really is nothing in it at the beginning. All the things you look for in marriage is really what is in the other person and it is up to both of you to infuse those things into your marriage lest it become an empty box. You can not day after day take out of your box if you don’t put something in it to withdrawal from. It reminds of a bank account. You can not keep spending and withdrawing money from your bank account if you have not deposited any money into it. If you attempt to do so, you will find your account over drawn and eventually the account will need to be closed because you were irresponsible and unable to maintain it.Early on in my marriage I would complain about my husband not being romantic enough, affectionate enough, serving enough, loving enough, not spiritual enough etc.

I remember being reminded daily as I saw the wooden box sit on our bedroom dresser, that marriage was like an empty box. As I complained about how “empty” my marriage felt and how lonely I felt, God showed me that it was because I was withdrawing more than I had deposited. I was in the “negative” so to speak.

I remember calling my husband during the day frustrated and overwhelmed with homeschooling and housework. I’d want him to drop all he was doing to pray with me, I had no consideration that he was working nor did I care that he didn’t need the added stress. To top it off when he would get home, dinner wouldn’t be ready, I’d have him make dinner because after all I had been with 5 children all day. I wanted him to rub my feet while I relaxed, I was very selfish always wanting to be served, even sex became all about me and my needs. I was taking so much out our marriage box and would rarely deposit anything in it. If I did manage to make a deposit I was sure to take out my portion before my husband took out a with-drawl.
I would daily look at that box and it would serve as a reminder to daily pour into my marriage.When I would take out, there was a sense of entitlement, after all I had infused whatever I took out into my marriage so I had every right to take out my fair share.

I remember keeping a running tab and account on how much my husband was infusing and putting it.

It was terrible. Can you imagine the kind of wife my husband had to endure?  Just thinking about how I behaved makes me sick.I remember if he wanted to be intimate sexually, I would check our marriage box to see if he had infused romance lately and it had to be in the form that I approved. If he didn’t read or pray with me, then he had no right to to tell me how to behave spiritually. If he didn’t listen to me then I wouldn’t listen to him.Marriage isnt 50-50 its 100-100

Our marriage became this you scratch my back, I’ll scratch your back kind of love.  The only problem,  I was so quick to point out when he wasn’t scratching my back and therefore I would withhold scratching his.

How horrible to live this way. I was so judgmental, always pointing out his faults/failures as a man and leader of our home.  We both were miserable.

I knew the scriptures, Love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, soul and strength and love thy neighbor as thy self.

You see,  It was not a love issue for me, I loved my husband. I loved him the same way and as much as he loved me.

Until one day, I was reading and the words of Jesus to His disciples really penetrated my heart so deep. They were the words in John 13:34-35 “A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.”

I was hit with the pondering truth of the love of Jesus.

Jesus was calling me to a different kind of love, a gospel kind of love. If I was going to love my husband the way Jesus said to, then I would need to think about how he loved me.

This led me to the cross. The cross is where love was demonstrated and ultimately on display for all to see. While we were yet sinners Christ died for us. Scarcely, would one die for a righteous man but Jesus laid his life down willingly for the joy that was set before him.

He showed us what love is. He loves without condition, without reservation, and without wanting anything in return. His love is unconditional.  This is gospel centered love.

Jesus love isn’t a if you do this or that then I will love you, but rather nothing can separate us from the love of God neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come,  Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

What a glorious love indeed. I remember after reading and thinking about the way Jesus loved me the next question was this, “Is this enough for me?”  Was the way Jesus loved me enough to compel me to love my husband the same way, or would I continue to love my way, the way I had been, the if you scratch my back, I’ll scratch your back kind of way?  Was Jesus enough for me?

This is what it boils down to in marriage, it isn’t about putting in–in order to take out.  It isn’t about serving to be served, loving to be loved, nor giving to get.

It’s about sacrificially laying down your life, saying my life is yours.

Marriage represents Christ and the Church, we wives represent the bride of Christ to an unsaved world. Therefore, the way we love our husbands shows the world our love to Christ.

The gospel in marriage changes our attitudes from a serve me attitude to a glorify God and love my spouse attitude.

The gospel is enough and until Jesus satisfies you, you will continue to love selfishly.

 

WIN_20140829_115619 (2)Darlene Lopez  I am vintage_retro_women_kitsch_50s_kitchen_magic_postcard-r1bc589a962f149588e409401d9d4f2c9_vgbaq_8byvr_512a wife of 13 years, mother to 5 (including a set of twins), keeper of my home but most of all I am a  blood bought saint.  By the grace of God I am raising a generation of  future homemakers and men. I am passionate about herbalism/natural living and love to inspire and motivate other homemakers to love their husbands and chidlren. I am learning that I am more sinful than I ever knew yet more loved than I ever imagined. You can read more about my journey at http://homemakingforrealwomen.blogspot.com/.

Christian Marriage Advice

Now it’s your turn! What marriage thoughts do you have for us? Just enter the URL of your marriage post in the linky below!

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 10 Things I Want to Teach My Teens About Sex

Top Ten

Yesterday we talked about how to talk to your younger kids about sex. Today’s guest post from J at Hot, Holy & Humorous  offers some great advice for parents of older kids–how to begin, KEEP the conversation going and how to teach your teens about sex.

“Hey kids, gather around and let’s talk about sex!” No, of course, I don’t approach my teens that way. Instead, we have an ongoing conversation about sexuality in my home, because I want my kids to be well-informed, well-armed, and also well-excited about sex when done the right way.

As we raise our teens, here are ten things I want them to learn about sex:

Top 10 Things to Teach Your Teens About Sex

1. God created sex, so it’s good.

Sometimes in our quest to get across the message that sex before marriage is bad, we communicate that sex itself is bad. But it’s not. Sex according to God’s design is a wonderful thing—a beautiful gift—and I want my kids to have that foundational belief.

2. You can always talk to me about this topic.

One of my kids asked me a question about something mentioned at school, but prefaced that friends had warned him not to ask a parent because he might get in trouble. Thankfully, I’ve made it clear my kids can ask me anything about this topic. It’s not taboo. God created sex, He talked about it (the good and the bad), and He put parents in charge of instructing kids. I tailor my answers to age and context and so on, but my door is open for tough topics. It’s part of the parent job.

(By the way, that question was about condoms. The friends had erroneous information, and because he asked, I got to provide better information, along with our biblical values.

3. Pregnancy and STDs aren’t the only consequences for premarital sex or promiscuity.

These concerns get drilled into teens’ heads so much. Many believe the worst, or only, consequences of having sex before marriage or having multiple partners is unwanted pregnancy or contracting an STD.

Yes, kids, those things could happen, but the scars left on your heart, the disruption to your future marital happiness, the disobedience to God—these matter so much. They may be intangibles right now, but in time poor choices can wreak havoc on your life. So make the right choice.

4. Birth control is not 100% effective.

Speaking of which, many expect to dodge an undesired pregnancy with birth control. Sure, we have some great contraceptive methods that couples have used successfully. But I could also sit down and make you a list of couples I know who got pregnant while using contraception. If a birth control method is 99% effective, that means that 1 time out of 100, you’re on your own. So don’t rely on it, and only make love in the context that could properly support a child (aka marriage).

5. Sex is more than intercourse.

What constitutes sex? Is it merely intercourse? Is foreplay fair game? When I was a teen, the phrase “technical virgin” meant you’d done just about everything else, yet considered yourself a virgin because you hadn’t done “the deed.”

I look back and think how utterly stupid that perspective was! Sex is the whole kit-and-caboodle. If you’re getting the least bit naked to do something with someone, welcome to the world of sex. Even purveyors of porn and erotica know this, so we really have no excuse. I want my kids to understand sex isn’t everything but, and that sex encompasses far more than intercourse.

(By the way, this is good news for their future marriage. There could be times when intercourse is unavailable, but they won’t have to give up being intimate with their spouse!)

6. “How far is too far?” is the wrong question.

However, that’s the question youth workers hear again and again when the topic of sex is brought up with teens. Teens want to know where the line is—how far can they go without sinning or risking consequences. It’s basically, “What can I get away with?” Which is not the attitude God wants us to have toward Him or His gift of sexual intimacy.

Rather, we should ask, “How can I honor God when it comes to sexual intimacy?” Framing it that way, some of our nitpicking questions simply go away, and it becomes clearer what we should and shouldn’t do.

7. If you mess up, it’s not over.

Activities such as dabbling in online pornography, chatting promiscuously in a chat room, going much too far on a date, engaging in premarital sex—yes, they are bad, but they definitely don’t make the unforgiveable list.

Messing up doesn’t mean it’s all over… and you might as well give in, and God’s already mad at you so what’s the point, and you have to hide your ugly stuff or people will know how bad you really are, etc. No, no, no! If you fail at some point, God’s grace and healing can cover our sins and both He and your parents are here to help you get back on track.

8. The Bible has a lot to say about sexuality.

It’s easy for kids and teens, and plenty of us adults, to feel that a book written thousands of years ago has little bearing on our modern-day challenges. After all, where are the verses about sexting and 50 Shades of Grey and the hookup culture?

But the Bible is relevant. There are direct stories of sexual sin and sexual love, as well as many verses about guarding our hearts, measuring our actions, and honoring others. If God’s Word is true, it permeates every aspect of our life, including the bedroom. You can’t compartmentalize, believing that “loving your neighbor” has nothing to do with treating that girl or boy in your arms with respect. So if you want to know the real deal about how we should approach sexuality, read the Bible.

9. More sex happens in marriage than outside it.

One might think it’s the opposite based on media, entertainment, and conversations. But studies show that married couples are getting more, and more satisfying, sex. If kids think the sex well is going to dry up the second they say “I do,” they’ll buy into the sow my wild oats theory before marriage, or put off marriage for fear of their sex drive going unheeded.

But I love what one newlywed man told our youth group: “I’m having lots of sex now, and I never, ever think, ‘Man, I wish I’d had sex back in high school.'” It’s kind of like Christmas, kids: It takes a while to get here, but the gift you receive is worth the wait.

10. Your parents love each other—yes, even in the bedroom.

My kids are well aware that marriage includes sexual intimacy, because they see it hinted at with their parents. Of course, they don’t have details, because that aspect of our relationship is private. But they see us flirt and display appropriate affection in front of them, and they know the bedroom door gets closed and locked at times.

They might roll their eyes at our hugs or kisses, but they also smile. It’s reassuring to know their parents love each other and that marriage, even as long as we’ve been married, includes true passion.

What do you want your teens to know about sex? Which tip speaks most to you (for me it’s #6!)? Let me know in the comments!

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

 

Do We Need to Stop Using the Term Virgin?

Do We Need to Stop Using the Term Virgin“If you get raped, does that mean you’re not a virgin anymore?”

That was one of the anonymous questions asked at a small group my 17-year-old daughter was a part of this summer. The adults leading the discussion hemmed and hawed, saying technically, they guessed, you weren’t a virgin.

My daughter, worried that one of the girls in this group had actually gone through this and was in agony, piped up. “It’s not the physical that’s important to God. It’s the heart. And God looks at the heart, and He can heal you and still give you a wonderful pure marriage.”

She’s heard me talk about this a lot around the table, and she’s quite passionate about it.

But this was one of a string of things that I’ve heard of lately that make me think that we need to change the way we talk about sex. This is the last of a 3-part series I’ve written on how I wish Christians could reframe the way we talk about modesty and purity. Today I want to talk about purity, the word “virgin”, and how we’re emphasizing the wrong thing. Unfortunately, for this conundrum I don’t have a clear answer; I just see the problem. I hope, after reading this, that you all can help brainstorm with me and find a new way to talk about purity instead of emphasizing virginity.

So let’s start with first principles:

God made sex to be a beautiful, wonderful thing.

It is also meant to be experienced within marriage. It’s also only in marriage that sex can reach its full potential, because sex is supposed to be intimate not just physically, but emotionally and spiritually as well. You can’t feel “like one” if there is no commitment. So sex is supposed to be beautiful and passionate, and marriage was created to be the environment for that passion.

I hope that’s clear–God does want us to wait for marriage for sex. Absolutely no doubt about that. And He wants us to do so for very good reasons. That’s why we say that God wants us to stay virgins until we’re married. However, I’m not sure that saying “God wants you to be a virgin when you’re married” always gives the right message. Here’s why:

1. You Can Be “Impure” and Still Be a Virgin

When we stress virginity as the sign of acceptance by God and the church and obedience to God, then we inadvertently say that “anything up to that point goes”. Of course, no youth pastor or parent would say that’s their message, but it is one some young people hear. One friend of mine, now 45, told me that he was 22 years old before he realized that heavy petting was actually not okay.

We need to talk not only about sex but about everything sexual. If all we ever say about sex is “don’t have sex until you’re married”, then you haven’t explained why purity isn’t about making sure that you’re a technical virgin; purity is an attitude of the heart. And you haven’t talked about the fact that other things can be sexual as well, and should be saved until marriage. We simply need to open lines of communication.

2. You Can Be Pure and Not Be a Virgin

In the surveys that I did leading up to the launch of my book The Good Girl’s Guide to Great Sex, I asked people about their sexual experience before marriage. Then I left a box where people could write anything they wanted to say. I didn’t prompt them, but over 35% of women who weren’t virgins when they were married volunteered that they wished that they had waited. It really wore on them.

I so want to say to these women that God’s healing is available to them. You are not the sum of what you have done with your body; your identity is about what Jesus did with His body for you. And God takes our filthy rags and makes them new. He restores!

If you look back at the Gentile New Testament church, it was filled with people who were mostly NOT virgins when they were married. The Jewish culture protected chastity, but the Roman culture did not. When Paul was saying things like this, in Ephesians 2:1-5:

As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, 2in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. 3All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesha and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. 4But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, 5made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.

When he said that the people in Ephesus had “gratified the cravings of our flesh and followed its desires and thoughts” he meant it. Ephesus was a haven for temple prostitution. We think we live in a sexual culture, but so did they! These early Christians had quite the background, but they also were so grateful that Jesus had made them pure.

Because everyone in those days came to Christ as an adult, after they had messed up earlier, they could celebrate Jesus’ forgiveness perhaps easier than we do because most of  us were raised in the church and then messed up. And so we carry great shame. Maybe we need to identify more with these Ephesian Christians and stop beating ourselves up, but be grateful for what Christ has done for us!

3. Stressing virginity makes it sound like once you’ve failed, there’s no point in even trying anymore.

A few weeks ago a friend of mine in the military, who had been transferred to another base, crashed at my house for a few days with his wife and 21-year-old daughter as they were moving across Canada. During one of our conversations (don’t you love catching up with old friends?), my friend told me about one of her daughter’s friends who wasn’t a Christian. That girl had decided that she wanted to be a virgin when she was married all on her own, which is great.

But then one day she and her boyfriend got carried away and her virginity was gone.

She realized that she had lost her dream–to wait until her wedding–and so now there was no point. The horse has left the gate. You can’t close that door now.

I wonder how many people, both inside and outside the church, feel that same way. They want sex to be special and to be saved, but then if they mess up, they figure there’s no point in trying to reclaim any kind of boundaries, because you’ve already completely blown it.

When we stress virginity, then once it’s gone, it’s gone.

4. Stressing virginity makes purity legalistic

And that’s essentially my problem. Talking about virginity makes the issue a physical one, not a heart one.

God cares about the heart, not the hymen.

Of course, for our own sakes and for the sake of righteousness He wants us to wait until we’re married. But what He wants even more than that is people coming to Him with a pure and eager heart for a real relationship with Him. He looks to the heart (purity) not to outward appearances (the hymen). And you can have purity when you come back to God.

Listen, I still want my girls to be virgins when they’re married. Absolutely. But I just wonder if by using that word we’re stressing the wrong thing.

I really and truly don’t have an answer for this one. I would prefer to stress purity over virginity, but I’m not sure that’s a good answer, because “purity” has a bad ring to it in the wider culture, too. It sounds judgmental (though I don’t mean it that way. Our purity, after all, is not from our behaviour. It’s from what Christ has done for us).

I know this has been a heavy week. I’ve talked about how the modesty message can mess up women’s body image, and how the purity culture (the one that says that you can’t do anything other than hold hands before you’re married) can mess up our view of sex. And now I’m talking about how perhaps the word virgin is being used wrongly. I don’t mean to criticize the church, and I also don’t mean to demean modesty, purity, or virginity–all of which are important.

I just want to make sure that we’re stressing heart things and we’re pointing to sex the way that God intended. I think the time has come to have this discussion–with your youth pastor, with teens you know, with engaged couples–and start to reframe things.

As part of that discussion, then, let me ask you: how would you handle the virginity/purity issue? How would you frame it? Let’s talk! Just leave a comment below.

Good Girls Guide My SiteIf you’re struggling with understanding sex and not being ashamed of it, please take a look at my book, The Good Girls Guide to Great Sex. It’s a fun book, and it explains in detail how God made sex to be intimate emotionally, spiritually, and physically. I think you’ll find it really helpful in dispelling some of the negative things you were taught!

 

Other Posts in The Healthy Sexuality Series:

Does the Modesty Culture Make Women Ashamed of Their Bodies?
Does the Christian Purity Message Make Women Ashamed of Sex?