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.

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!

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Wifey Wednesday: Don’t Stay Pure Until You’re Married

When you read that title of the post, you probably thought I meant this:

Don’t stay PURE until you’re MARRIED.

But what if I actually meant this:

Don’t stay pure UNTIL you’re married.

The until makes all the difference.

In the church, that’s the message we’ve been giving young people: you stay pure UNTIL you’re married. But what does that mean? That once you tie the knot, your purity is somehow lost? That implies that sex once you’re married is somehow impure. That you are now tarnished. And that you have lost something you can never get back again.

Nothing can be further from the truth.

Last year a woman wrote a blog post about how she regretted being a virgin until her wedding night, and the post went completely viral. Her point was that growing up in the church she felt that sex was dirty, and by staying a virgin until her wedding it made sex awful. If she had been able to embrace sex earlier her sex life would have been much better.

But the problem is not virginity; the problem is the spin we put on it.

And the best rebuttal that I read to her piece is this one by Sarah, a single woman in her twenties, who made the point I made above: Christians, stop staying pure UNTIL you’re married. Go read it. It is awesome!

Here’s just part of what she wrote:

If your goal is staying pure UNTIL marriage, you’re going to walk into a marriage highly dissatisfied. That’s because you were never meant to lose your purity. In fact, it’s not something that CAN be lost. It’s a lifestyle, not a state of being. Something either you walk in or you don’t. In accepting the exchange of Jesus, you can’t separate yourself from it. It goes with you to both the grocery store AND to the sanctuary, to the doctor’s office AND to the kitchen to make a sandwich.

It also goes with you to your bedroom.

It goes with you, because you go with Christ.

Purity isn’t lost in the moment, it’s an essential key to a happy (and lasting) marriage. It’s what keeps you connected to both God and each other, it’s what helps you stay strong and faithful to one another, it’s what helps you to build trust and affection.

And yes, blushing elders. It’s one of the most important ingredients in having GREAT sex.

Read the rest here.

WifeyWednesday175Now, today is Wednesday, the first Wifey Wednesday of 2015. And on Wednesdays I always talk marriage. And so today I’d do a bit of a rah-rah post to get us ready for great sex in 2015!

One thing I love about all you, my readers, is that so many of you send me articles you think I may find interesting. That’s how I first found out about that viral post, and that’s how I first saw Sarah’s great rebuttal.

Kathy R sent me this note:

One of my friends posted this article [about not being a virgin on your wedding night] on facebook calling it “One Hell of a powerful article” so I wanted to share it with you. While I understand the reasons behind this person’s issues with sex, it still bothers me that she is basically saying “I wish I’d had sex a long time ago because then I wouldn’t have all these problems!” And now that I’m pregnant with a little girl, it scares me to death what to do to train her up in the way God sees sex and marriage, not the fear-mongering that some churches do, but how it was designed!

Elizabeth C and others sent notes that echoed Kathy’s, and several mentioned the same issue: how do we raise our daughters so they don’t think like that?

I think the easiest way to raise kids who have healthy views of sexuality is to have a healthy view of it yourself–and to not shy away from conversations. If we are not ashamed of sex, and if we enjoy sex, our kids will pick up on the fact that sex isn’t something to be ashamed about at all.

So the key to raising kids well is YOU.

Making the new year awesome in the bedroom--by dealing with our attitudes towards sex

We all have issues regarding sex.

All of us. And that’s truly okay. Don’t berate yourself about it; just know that it is universal.

Why wouldn’t we have issues? Sex is so interconnected with our identity and with our spirituality. It’s all tied up in our ideas of true intimacy, both with our husbands and with others, and even with God. And we live in a fallen world. So that means that the parts of us that are the most personal, the most intense, the most vulnerable, will be marred in some way. Some of us will be marred more than others, but we will all be touched.

And that’s okay. There’s nothing wrong with you if you have issues! Truly. I had issues with sex–I couldn’t relax because I had such major trust issues and I didn’t feel that I could let my guard down. And if you can’t let your guard down, you can’t enjoy sex. I didn’t even realize I had these issues until we got married! But being married helped me get over those trust issues, and they slowly went away. God used marriage as a vehicle to heal me.

So whatever your issues, know that you are not alone, but also know:

God can handle your sexual issues.

Just like there’s healing for other issues in our lives, like perfectionism or rejection or grief, there is also healing for whatever sexual issues you have. Really. If you’re struggling, it honestly doesn’t always have to be like this!

Sex reveals our insecurities, and here are a few posts that may help you:

Getting over your own sexual baggage

Getting over your husband’s sexual baggage
Getting over the effects of sexual abuse
Developing a healthy view of sexuality

If you never had a healthy view of sex because of the same issues as the original blog poster, here’s my take:

Has our purity culture gone overboard?
Why we should stop using the term virgin

I echo a lot of Sarah’s points there with my own spin on them.

Good Girls Guide My SiteIf you enjoyed those posts, and if you’ve really struggled to get a healthy view of sexuality, you really need to pick up The Good Girls Guide to Great Sex. In it, I explain in detail (and with a lot of humor) why God created sex the way He did, and how we can see it as a fun, low stress, intimate thing. When you read this blog, you get bits and pieces. If you want it all in one place, get that book! It will help. (and give it to girls who are about to get married so they don’t have the same regrets as that blog poster!)

But sex also reveals our sin, and lays it bare. Here are some posts that can help with that:

4 things you must do if your husband uses porn
Discovering your husband is having an affair
What to do if he’s texting other women
When YOU’RE the one who needs forgiveness

Practice makes perfect–even when it comes to sex!

Sometimes it just takes time to figure out what you like, and to figure out how to make sex feel good.

And the more you do it, the better at it you’ll get! That doesn’t mean that sex will be an awesome trajectory, where you start out lousy and you continue getting better all the time, so that each encounter is better than the last. Hormones may interfere for a few months (or years), little kids may make you tired, you may go through a stressful period. But if you stand back at the end of several decades and take a look at your marriage, most women do see that it gets better over time. Indeed, in my surveys for The Good Girls Guide to Great Sex, I found that the best years for sex in marriage are around the two decade mark.

Here are some posts that can help you with that:

How to have an orgasm
9 Great Sex tips to make it feel even better!

31 Days to Great SexAnd, of course, my book 31 Days to Great Sex has challenges that build on each other. It starts with the first week addressing how we feel about sex. Then we do a week on feeling more comfortable and flirty with each other–emotional intimacy. Then we turn to a week of challenges on embracing physical intimacy and making sex feel great. And then we end with challenges on how to feel more intimate–that spiritual intimacy. It’s okay if the book takes more than a month to get through! You’ll find that you talk more about sex, and you learn more about each other and yourself.

Sex really is a journey in marriage.

Sometimes you’ll have months where everything is amazing and you work like clockwork and you both have libidos that are through the roof. And sometimes you’ll have months that are a bit of a struggle.

But those struggling months help you to pull together. They point out the problems that need to be dealt with. Maybe one (or both) of you is too stressed or overworked. Maybe you’re going through a depression or hormonal changes and you need to see a doctor. Maybe you’re grieving something and you need to be able to lean on each other. Problems in the bedroom can be a sign of other things, and when we deal with these other things together, it ultimately brings us closer.

I think sex shows us why we need the vow. Without that marriage vow, when things got tough in the bedroom many may throw in the towel. But because of the vow, if sex isn’t working well we can figure it out. We can weather the storm.

Think about that woman who wrote that article. If she had had sex before she was married, would things have been better? No. She still would have had the same sexual hangups. And sex wouldn’t have worked well. But because they weren’t married, they would have wondered: should we even be getting married if we don’t work in the bedroom? Are we sexually incompatible?

I know if my husband and I had had sex before our wedding that wedding may not have happened. It was so disastrous that we both likely would have had second thoughts. But instead we were able to work through it. It’s a journey.

And I think that’s a wonderful thing.

I don’t know where you’re at in your marriage. I don’t know if you’re in crisis, or if you’re in blahdom, or if  you’re in ecstasy. But wherever you are, know that 2015 will have its ups and its downs. It will be rocky. But regardless, it can also be very good. Sex can be one of the vehicles where God does great healing in our lives. It can be a vehicle where God helps us embrace more freedom and helps heal some of our perfectionism and control freak tendencies. It can be a vehicle that God uses to bring you and your husband closer together.

And let’s not forget–sex can be a great stress reliever! :)

So embrace it this year. Don’t despair if you have issues–just work on them and take them to God. Don’t despair if it’s never felt very good. Just consider it a great research project for the year ahead. Don’t despair if you’ve been going through a rough patch. It’s a new year–and new beginnings!

And I wish you a very great new year, even in the bedroom. We’re going to talk a lot more this year about what real intimacy is, and about how to deal with more of the common problems we have in the bedroom. So stick around! But whatever you do, don’t give up on sex. Don’t believe it’s hopeless. It can be awesome–and it will be for you, too. Just give it time.

Now, do you all have any advice for us today? Just enter the URL of your own blog post in the linky below. And be sure to link back here so that other people can read these great posts!

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Top 10 Ways to Relax More in the Bedroom

10 Ways to help you Relax During Sex!

It’s that time–you and your husband are ready to get it on! But there’s a problem. While you like sex, you’re awfully shy. You pull the sheets up to your chin, turn the light out, and your heart starts pounding–just not from arousal. What’s he thinking? What are YOU thinking? You just can’t relax during sex.

It’s a common problem. So I decided to ask Julie, the awesome blogger at Intimacy in Marriage and the author of Pursuit of Passion to come up with 10 great tips on how to relax during sex.

Here’s Julie:

For something that is made to look so easy in romantic comedy movies, sex in real life often is cumbersome and stressful.
Do you struggle relaxing during sex? If so, you are not alone.

Top TenAsk yourself these ten questions:

1. “Can I just not relax during sex or can I not relax during the rest of my life too?”

If relaxing during sex is difficult, possibly you have a hard time relaxing in general.

In our chaotic culture with endless details to corral, you wouldn’t be the first person to plead “stress” as an intimacy killer.

There are groceries to buy, bosses to please, permission slips to sign, appointments to set, lunches to pack, diapers to change, laundry to fold. The list really is endless. You run through a demanding day (or sometimes crawl, depending on how much caffeine you’ve had), and at the end of it, you find it tediously hard to shut the list off.

The list follows you everywhere.

Into the bathroom. In the car. It even crawls in bed with you, totally insensitive to the grip it has on your mind when you try to make love.

Take a good hard look at your life. Where do you need healthier boundaries? Where do you need more realistic expectations about what you can accomplish on any given day?

It’s okay to just let go a little and be at peace with a messy imperfect life (which, ironically, is what everyone else is living as well, despite what you’ve maybe told yourself).

2. “Is our bedroom too hot or too cold?”

We all think we can rationalize this away. The room is too cold or too hot and you figure that once sex gets going, you will forget how distracted you are by being too hot. Or too cold.

A better approach is to fix the temperature problem before foreplay even starts.

3. “Would a shower help?”

I’m a big fan of the hot shower or hot bath before sex. It gives you a few moments to wash the day away (figuratively and literally, especially if you’ve had newborns and toddlers pawing at you all day).

And it also allows you to come to bed clean.

Not surprising, a concern about cleanliness can cause some people to be anxious about sex, especially if oral sex will be part of the encounter.   A hot shower or bath can help ease these concerns and help you relax.

Maybe suggest that you and your spouse shower together. This can be a great precursor to fabulous sex. I’m speaking from experience on this one!

4. “Have I become too indifferent about my own sexual pleasure?”

Women have become masters at disregarding their own sexual pleasure, even going so far as faking orgasm just to end the entire encounter sooner. The irony is that if you are stressed, you likely need orgasm more, not less.

Your sexual pleasure matters. Do you struggle having an orgasm? Many women do. This is such a hot topic that I compiled an entire page of posts on it. Check out The Orgasm Page on my site.

5. “Do I just need to live in the moment?”

Sometimes we can “over-think” sex. It’s hard to relax if we are worrying about body image or wondering if we are “doing everything right.”

Stop over-thinking and allow yourself to live in the moment. Sexual intimacy with your spouse should be a place of uninhibited fun and connection, where you can let go of your insecurities and just live.

6. “Do I need more foreplay?”

I can’t answer how much foreplay you need, but generally speaking, women need more than men.

Teach your spouse what is arousing for you. Caressing? Kissing? Backrubs? Oral sex? The more you allow yourself to be aroused, the less likely you are to be stressed about sex.

Stop seeing foreplay as “an extra” if there is time. Instead, embrace it as a vital and enticing aspect of lovemaking

7. “Have I flirted with and affirmed my spouse throughout the day?”

This is an easy one for newlyweds (generally speaking). But for people who’ve been married awhile or who are in the throes of parenting little creatures?

Yeah. Takes a bit more effort to think sexy thoughts and say sexy things to one another. But there is a lot of truth behind that saying “sex begins in the kitchen.” I would add that a positive attitude about sex begins in the kitchen early in the day and must be sustained throughout the day.

A kind word. A tender text. A suggestive whisper. A discreet sexual touch. A lingering kiss. All are great aphrodisiacs if you start pursuing them as such.

8. “Have I considered what sex does for my marriage outside the bedroom?”

We often accuse men of compartmentalizing sex (and really everything in their lives). But women sometimes do it as well.

Some women see sex as nothing more than a task to check off their list and forget about until next time. But the positive benefits of nurtured sexual intimacy reach far beyond your marriage bed.

When you look at sex this way, it’s easier to relax about it, even intentionally go after it.

 9. “What’s the worst that could happen if the kids hear us?”

A big reason women have a hard time relaxing during sex is they are consumed with thoughts of the kids hearing them.

Consider this, though. If your children are young (under age 8), they are likely fast asleep. If they are older (over age 12), and they happen to hear you, they already know what you are doing and really don’t want to confront you about it.

And if they fall in-between 8-12? They are at an ideal age to be reassured that mom and dad are fine and it’s important they spend some private time together.

Instead of worrying so much about the kids hearing you, buy a lock for your bedroom door and turn on some light music. And remind yourself that the best thing for those kiddos is a mama and daddy in love. Sex is part of marriage.

Certainly your kids shouldn’t be privy to the details of your sexual intimacy, but you’re not doing them any favors by trying to give the impression that sex never happens.

10. “Do I really just need to connect first with my spouse?”

Marriage is hard. I know few people who think it isn’t. That being the case, there is a lot to be said for connecting with your spouse before you scamper beneath the sheets.

My husband and I have become more discerning about our genuine need to spend even 20 minutes at the end of the evening simply talking. That connection sets the tone for anything that might happen once our clothes come off.

Put the kids to bed. Turn off the TV. Sit close to each other. And just talk. You might be surprised at how relaxing it is. And how arousing it is.

When you consider these top 10 ways to relax, which ones are you willing to try?

Julie SibertPursuit of Passion: Discovering True Intimacy in Your MarriageJulie Sibert writes and speaks about sexual intimacy in marriage and is the co-author of Pursuit of Passion: Discovering True Intimacy in Your Marriage. You can follow her blog at www.IntimacyInMarriage.com. She lives in Omaha, Nebraska, with her husband, their two boys and one rambunctious German Shorthair Pointer dog who kind of wants to chew up the kitchen floor.

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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.

Reader Question: I Caught My Dad Watching Porn

Reader Question of the WeekEvery Monday I like to post a Reader Question and try to take a stab at answering it. With the Christmas holidays approaching and extended family being more on our minds, I thought this sad one would be an important one to answer. What do you do if you catch your dad watching porn (or another married relative)?

My reader writes:

I’m in my mid-twenties and still living at home while I finish up graduate school. I’m very blessed to have parents who are willing to support me financially while I pursue my career goals. But I have a HUGE problem: two years ago I walked in on my dad watching porn while my mom was at her weekly women’s bible study. In the two years since, I have walked in on or came close to walking in on him watching porn several times so I know this is a regular occurrence. I believe that God has allowed me to discover this about him. My dad has acted like nothing has changed between us, and I think that is because he has convinced himself that I did not actually see anything. There are times that he is colder towards me or dismissive and angry. He has verbally abused me on a few occasions and yelled at me for being a “petulant child” then the next minute swings back into his normal temperate state like nothing was even said. He has never treated me like this when my mom is around, and no one else in my family knows what he is like behind closed doors. Either my mom has no idea that he watches porn or has convinced herself that there is nothing that she can do about it. She has counseled me that porn use is an automatic no in a dating relationship (my dad was in the room when she said this-awkward few minutes for me).

I really need advice on what to do. I really do not want to see my dad in sinful bondage like this, but I am fearful because I am financially dependent on my parents allowing me to stay at home. I have debated and prayed and asked for advice on whether or not to confront my dad. I want him to get help, I want my parents to have a real, healthy marriage. But I have no idea how to go about that as an adult daughter still at home. There are lines that I am afraid to even toe for fear of retribution. I’ll be honest, I am very uncomfortable living in my own home and spend most of my time shut up in my room. I need advice on something, anything I can do to try and help make this situation bearable. Keeping my dad’s secret is exhausting, not just the porn use, but his verbal treatment of me at times.

This is a really hard situation, and I want to raise just a few issues which could help people make decisions about what to do in a case like this.

Do you keep the secret if you catch your dad--or another married relative--watching porn? Some thoughts on how to stop the cycle of lies in families.

You Are Not Responsible for Keeping Someone’s Marriage Together

No one is responsible for anyone’s marriage other than our own. Yes, we need to support our friends’ marriages, but that doesn’t mean that if we rock the boat and the marriage falls apart we are somehow to blame.

If something falls apart because of truth, then that something wasn’t really together in the first place. Look, what you want is for your parents (or other relatives in other cases) to have a good marriage. A good marriage is one that honors God. And Jesus said that He was the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Jesus is the Truth, and Jesus is in the Truth. We should never flee from the truth.

And if you really are the thing holding a marriage together (like if you telling a secret would break up a marriage) then that marriage wasn’t really together in the first place. Our aim should be for truth and God. God works when things are brought to light, not when things are hidden and when people refuse to address issues and work on them. Hiding things is lying. Often family tries to suck us in to agree with a big “family lie”, but that isn’t your role and it isn’t right. The Truth is what is right, and don’t ever let someone else convince you otherwise.

Secrets Eat at a Family

Secrets get replicated. What happens in one generation often gets passed on to the next, even if it’s never explicitly talked about. A woman marries a man who cheats, and even though the kids never specifically know that he cheats, somehow they all pick similar people to marry. These patterns repeat.

I once knew something about a young man at our church that I knew the parents would want to know. I went through a bit of a crisis of conscience, wondering if it was really my place to get involved. Is it honestly my business? But it came back to this: If someone knew something like that about my child, I would want to be told. And so how could I not tell his parents? They had the chance to do something about it if they knew; by not sharing the secret I wasn’t actually helping him or helping my friends (his parents). I was just allowing him to engage in really damaging behaviour under the radar.

In this case, her father is engaged in really dangerous behaviour. That sinful porn addiction is also likely responsible for the verbal abuse and the cavalier attitude about other things. Porn affects all aspects of our lives. I believe it needs to be told, either to her mom or to a pastor or to somebody, but it is absolutely not fair that she be put in a position where she feels like she has to keep a secret. That’s too big a burden to put on someone.

If you’re the one dealing with this, though, one word of caution:  you may tell your mom and she may choose to do nothing. That is her choice. But you have now given her a choice, and that’s important, in and of itself. Now you can let go of it.

We All Need a Support System

Find some mentors that you can tell these things to–not a whole lot of people, but some, who can pray for you before you disclose the secret and who can pray for you as you try to live in this environment. You can’t carry this all by yourself anymore.

We Need a Safe Place to Live

Here’s another thing that’s so important to realize: we all need a safe place to live. So many studies have been written about the effects of living in a toxic environment. If you are putting up with verbal abuse and lies because you need to save money, you still are likely paying too high a cost.

Toxic people hurt you. They give you a negative outlook on life. They wreck your self-esteem. They make you pessimistic and sad. That’s not a good combination.

Sometimes Life Involves Risk

Disclosing your dad’s porn use is risky; you may not be able to live at your parents’ house anymore. But often doing the right thing is also doing the risky thing. The reason so many of us live miserable lives is because we choose to live with the secrets rather than rocking the boat. And when we do that we limit what God can do.

God really can do amazing things, but He tends to do those things when we open ourselves up, make ourselves vulnerable, and stop trying to protect ourselves.

And that may mean not just disclosing a secret, but also moving out.

And it doesn’t have to be that expensive! A female grad student who stays in her room on wifi? Do you know how great a tenant that is? My mom rented out a room to a college student a few  years ago really inexpensively. If you’re prepared to just take a room in someone’s home, you can often find an older woman or an older couple who just needs a little more income and who has a spare room. Sometimes someone in your church, if you let the need be known, may do it for free to help you get on your feet. It’s not like you necessarily have to rent a whole apartment.

The unknown is scary, but when we step there, God opens doors.

One More Thing: Porn is Not Inevitable

This woman’s mom said that porn is inevitable in a dating relationship. She’s right, it is inevitable–IF you date people who use porn and IF you tolerate it. Whatever you tolerate will continue.

Whatever you tolerate will continue. #marriagetip

Most teens will be exposed to porn (which is why it’s so important to protect the gadgets in your home! See here for a special 2-month free offer from Covenant Eyes).  But while many teens will be tempted (including girls) not all will become habitual users. And if they are habitual porn users, that needs to be dealt with before an engagement or marriage–but it absolutely CAN be defeated.

People say porn is inevitable because it gives them an “out”–if their significant other uses porn, and they haven’t wanted to rock the boat for fear of losing that person, they likely justified it to themselves by saying, “everyone uses it”. But it’s not true.

If, in your circle of friends, everybody uses it and no one is struggling to stop, then you need a new circle of friends. Porn isn’t inevitable, porn can be defeated, and many, many people are fighting for pure marriages.

So those are my thoughts for this poor woman, but I know that there are many of you in the same position–people who caught their brother-in-law using porn, or their married brother, or an uncle, or whoever. Let me leave you with one last thought: what if your sister-in-law (or whoever the spouse is) has been struggling under this burden of her husband’s porn use? What if she has thought it was hopeless? What if she has convinced herself there is nothing she can do, and she feels so alone and so dirty? And then you come to her and say, “no, this is not acceptable. You’re right to be upset.” You actually free her from the trap that she’s built for herself. You’ve spoken truth into a web of lies, and it’s amazing how one word of truth can often turn a situation around. Maybe she’s hurting, and she needs the strength to do something about it. Maybe you’re the kick in the pants, the reality check, the support she needs.

Now, I’d love to know: have you ever been in a situation where you caught a relative using porn? Or did you have secrets in your family? What did you do? Let’s talk in the comments and encourage each other!

Kids, Gadgets, and Christmas: Protect Your Kids Online

Protect Your Kids Online: If you're buying gadgets this Christmas, don't let those gadgets become traps. Help keep them fun--and safe!

Have you done all your Christmas shopping yet?

Personally, I don’t usually start until panic sets in, likely around the 18th, but I have at least thought about what I’m getting everybody. We don’t tend to do Christmas big; I focus on 3 Gifts (something they need, something they want, and something to nurture their spiritual side). And that’s it.

But with teenagers in the house, often the “gift they want” is some sort of electronic device. And that can be a real treat and a real benefit to them, especially if they’re students.

But it can also be a danger, and so this time of year is a great time to reevaluate internet safety at your home. If you’re going to bring new devices into your house on Dec. 25, that means that you’re going to bring EVERYTHING that’s on the internet potentially into your home, unless you take some steps to stop that.

I don’t mean to be an alarmist, but because I write a marriage blog I get tons of emails everyday. And I would say that half of all the emails I get from women (and men) in troubled marriages revolve around porn. And often the root of that story isn’t “he started watching porn when we got married”–it’s “he started looking at porn when he was 11″, or “she started reading erotica online when she was 14.” Kids often start younger than we even think–younger than we think that they are even interested in it. And then they can easily get sucked in to something that will affect their sexuality, their spiritual life, their social life, and even their future marriage.

I am not against devices in the house. I love computers and I love spending time online.

But you simply have to be realistic about how to protect your kids online.

It’s the best gift that we can give our kids, and our future sons and daughters-in-law: to raise children who were not exposed to that much porn/erotica as early teens and teens.

And this is not just a boy problem. Girls watch porn, too! In fact, most estimates are that 30% of people who access porn sites are female. We often get scared for our boys, but our girls are in danger to temptation, too.

So here are four ideas to keep your family safe–even with all the new gadgets!

Keep Devices in a Central Place at Night

When do kids tend to access porn? At night, when they’re lying in bed on their own and they have complete privacy. So a simple solution is to make it normal to charge all devices in a central place every night. Bonus #1: your kids actually sleep rather than checking Facebook all night. Bonus #2: your phones actually get charged (I always forget to charge mine).

So get a central charging dock that can handle multiple devices, like this:

Great Useful Stuff Rustic Modern Collection: Ultra Charging Station Multi-device Charging Station and Dock for Iphone 5, 6, 6 Plus, 4s, Ipad Mini, Ipad Air, Ipad 4, Samsung Galaxy S3 S4, Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 3, Macbook Air, Smartphones & Tablets

Turn the WiFi off at night–or change the password

Another option? The wifi goes off at 11 every night. That stops kids from staying up too late, and it stops the temptation to browse questionable sites. I’ve also known parents who change the wifi password every week, and kids can’t get it until they do their chores (or their homework!)

Get an Accountability Program

Finally, I think it’s so important to get some sort of internet accountability program for your family, so that the temptation is removed. And I’m a big fan of Covenant Eyes. Here’s how it works:

You sign up for a family plan, and can get it installed on your computers, phones, tablets, and iPods. Covenant Eyes gives all websites a rating, from A-okay to Mature to Pornographic. And you can register each user as to what level they’re allowed to access (adults could access mature but not pornographic; 11-year-olds can’t access Mature either). Then, if that family member ever tries to access a site that’s out of their rating, an accountability partner of your choice will receive an email.

You can also have the option to block those sites altogether.

I think part of being a good parent is protecting your kids from the filth that is out there. So I’d encourage you–if you’re buying devices for Christmas, or if your family already has lots of devices, get some internet protection, too.

And the great thing is that Covenant Eyes is giving a discount JUST for people who click using my link where you’ll get two months of internet safety free!

It’s just $13.99, and that gives you a Family Account on multiple devices–really all that you own. There are no limits. You can assign everybody their unique user name, and add filtering to each account (or to only a select few) for free. You can set what kind of sites your kids can visit (a 5-year-old should be far more restricted than a 16-year-old, for instance). You can even block internet access at certain times of day (which is much easier than turning off the wifi altogether!).

You’ll get the discount automatically when you sign up through my link, but if for some reason it doesn’t appear, just use the code “TLHV” at the checkout (for To Love, Honor and Vacuum!)

This offer is only good until December 31, 2014. After that, you’ll still get one month free–but not two!

Get it here.

Don’t let those Christmas gifts become the vehicle through which your child starts accessing questionable stuff early–and forms a habit which is so hard to break.

It’s not “bad” kids who start to do this. It’s MOST kids, even good kids.

It’s those kids who are solid Christians, who just get lonely, and who are curious. It’s those strong Christian kids who end up marrying other strong Christian kids, but they bring all this sexual garbage into their marriage which messes up their libidos and their expectations and their ability to experience real intimacy. The emails I receive aren’t just from women who are married to BAD guys; most of them are women married to good, Christian guys who never dreamed these upstanding guys struggled with this, because they’re the last people you’d think had this issue. And it started when they were young teens. It often started at Christmas.

Please, talk to your husband about this and consider adding Covenant Eyes to those gadgets and phones you have or the ones you’re buying. It really is part of being a responsible parent today!

Learn more about Covenant Eyes here.

Now, maybe you’re thinking: but that’s just “window dressing”. We should be looking at the heart issues that bring up the temptation in the first place. If you simply take away the temptation, that doesn’t change the heart.

And I understand. But I don’t buy it. These are KIDS. They aren’t wise enough to understand what’s dangerous to them, and they’re naturally curious. It’s very hard to withstand that curiosity. And once they get sucked in, it gets much worse. If you can prevent that from happening in the first place, you do your kids a tremendous favor.

Look, back when I was a kid, if you wanted to see porn you had to find a friend’s father’s stash of Playboys in the garden shed. Or if you were older, you had to get in your car, drive to the corner store, reach for that paper-bag-covered magazine, take it to the cashier, pull out your wallet, pay for it, and drive home with it. Those are a lot of steps–and a lot of chances for your conscience to work and for the Holy Spirit to convince you to turn around and run. Now it’s available with one click. It’s too easy. And so we need to fight smarter.

Get Educated on Teens and Porn

Widespread internet access at home is only about 15 years old. In 2000, 43% of homes had access to the internet (and much of that was dialup). Today it’s 81%. That means that unless you’re in your late 20s, most parents today did NOT grow up with internet in the home when they were teens. But to our kids this is normal. We are the dividing generation. Every generation after this will have gone through it and will understand, and our kids will probably be more careful with their kids. But we didn’t grow up with it, and so we don’t understand. We can’t in the same way.

So we need to get educated.

Here are a few ebooks and resources from Covenant Eyes that you may find helpful. All are free and can be downloaded immediately:

  • When Your Child is Looking at Porn (what to do when you “catch” your child or teen accessing porn)
  • Your Brain on Porn (how porn actually affects the brain)
  • Parenting the Internet Generation
  • A Parent’s Guide to Cyberbullying

And more! Download these ebooks here.

And here’s a quick infographic on teens and porn use:

 

How Pornography Addiction Affects the Teenage Brain – InfographicLearn How Pornography Addiction Affects the Teenage Brain – Infographic

This Christmas, be a vigilant parent and protect your kids online. We need to live in the real world; I don’t believe in getting rid of technology. But I do believe in being safe. And so I wish you all a very safe Christmas!
This post contains affiliate links.

 

Beauty from Ashes: Part 2

Sexual Shame in Marriage: A beautiful 2-part series of a true story of how one woman broke free of sexual shame and found God's love--and a great marriage!

What is it like to recover from sexual shame and live a full life with your husband? That’s what Joy McMillan is writing about in her book XES:Why Church Girls Tend to Get it Backwards…and How to Get it Right. Yesterday I published an excerpt of her story, and today, for Wifey Wednesday, I’m going to run the ending to that story. There’s so much more to Joy’s book, but I thought you’d really enjoy her lovely testimony, which moved me.

Read Part 1 of Joy’s Story here.

XES: Why Church Girls Tend To Get It Backwards...And How To Get It RightThe very same week my world fell apart, Jehovah Sneaky was at work behind the scenes. The women from the Bible study that my mum led on a Thursday morning were taking a trip down to North Carolina for a conference. And I just happened to be desperate enough to go with them. While I don’t recall too much from the weekend, teaching or ministry wise, I distinctly remember the women who carried me through some of the loneliest days of my life. They scooped me up, lifted my chin, and like a flock of mommas, enveloped me with love.

I spent the next couple of years digging into my relationship with God, avoiding boys like the plague, weaning myself off shop-lifting, and trying desperately to avoid the temptation to slip into the sexual habits I had created years before.

Painfully aware of my inability to have healthy relationships, I told God that my heart was His. Fully and completely. I knew I couldn’t be trusted with my heart, as I had flung it at every passing boy over the past several years, so I surrendered that decision to Him, committing to not pursue a relationship again without knowing He was releasing my heart into their care.

I started leading youth group, teaching a Bible study, and even stumbled my way into Christian radio. I had started over, stuffed my past down deep enough that it was hardly even discernible, and was now determined to earn my way back into God’s good grace. I was going to prove to Him that I was worth saving.

After three years of celibacy, while perfecting my new ‘God’s girl’ image, a pastor I worked with at the radio station introduced me to a young man. While I didn’t notice him at first, we kept running into each other at random media events, first at a Michael W. Smith concert, then at a SonicFlood concert, and again at Festival Con Dios. We finally started to connect the dots when the general manager of the station, and our pastor friend, exchanged our emails and got the ball rolling. Because of the hour-long distance between us, we got to know each other via phone and email, and after a month of lengthily conversations, we had our first date.

When I had surrendered my heart to God a couple of years earlier, I had begged him for wisdom. Having run so quickly into physical encounters with boys in the past, rarely connecting emotionally, and never sharing a spiritual bond, I had asked God to reverse that trend when the man He had for me came along. I watched him honor this request in the following months as we connected instantly over our mutual love for Jesus first, developing a sweet friendship after that, and carefully putting boundaries in place for sexual purity. Everything seemed to be going just peachy!

An interesting thing happened on our second date, however, when the topic of sexual purity arose. Sitting in his Ford Escort in the Farmer Jack’s parking lot, I panicked. The conversation had turned to me and I had a choice to make. To tell, or not to tell. Dry heaving out the window, I turned back to him and whispered, “I was date raped when I was 15.” Nothing more. I had decided to share the ‘poor me’ part of my story, and keep the ‘bad me’ portion in hiding, assuming the basic knowledge of me being ‘used goods’ would validate the presence of some junk to work through.

Heaven knows, if he really knew the amount of sexual baggage I came with, he’d head for the hills.

Our relationship progressed and in March of the following year, he proposed in the white sand of a Florida beach at sunset. It was beautiful and glorious, and on that day I was only slightly aware of the farce I had become. I had grown so accustomed to pretending that I had almost managed to convince myself that my ugly past was simply a figment of my imagination. I would go through the mental motions of carving out ground at the bottom of the ocean, dumping all my iniquities into the pit, and then smothering them in cement. I would repeatedly drown out the memories each and every time they threatened to rear their ugly heads and remind me of who I was.

From the outside looking in, I had it all. The perfect job, a wonderful family, an amazing fiancé, and impeccable faith. The only problem was, I knew my life was still a charade, and the fear of exposure — and the subsequent ruin — kept me tightly enslaved.

While everything blossomed on the outside, I was quietly withering on the inside.

Secrets will do that to you.

I have learned over the course of the past decade or two that whenever I keep dirt hidden, it has power over me. These secrets fester and take on a life of their own, devouring my confidence and joy, and driving me further back into the shadows of insecurity. But when brought out into the light, they lose their power, and I gain power over them. As long as we allow the enemy a foothold in the darkest recesses of our heart, in amongst the secrets and cobwebs, he will poison our self-image, smudge our purpose, and chain us down with fear.

I developed such a warped sense of reality that I — to this day — have chunks of memory completely blotted out. I remember several times waking up in a cold sweat from a dream that left me gasping for breath, heart pounding out of my chest. Vivid scenes of my involvement in a murder, and the messy attempt to cover it up. I spent many days searching through my fractured memories, desperate to know whether this was something I had actually been a part of, or whether the devil was simply capitalizing on my inability to separate fact from fiction.

In the months leading up to our wedding, we did everything we knew to do in preparation — we took every marriage class, read every book, and spent time with older, wiser couples who invested in our relationship. While at times I felt like a fraud in talking about past experiences, simply leaving out massive chunks of my history, I had finally managed to convince myself that as long as I could keep up the performance, no one would ever be the wiser. But the alternative was no longer an option.

It was mind over matter, and I was determined to protect this beautiful new life I was living.

Two months before our wedding, in August of 2003, I ended up driving to New York with a close friend for a media event. I assumed it would just be a fun-filled few days at Six Flags, hobnobbing with artists and brushing shoulders with the big wigs of the music industry. But God had other plans.

On the final evening of the event, I found myself sitting front and center in the stadium, media pass hanging proudly around my neck. After Michael W. Smith’s set, TobyMac rocked the stage, followed by the delightful presence of Kirk Cameron. I was loving my front row seat, until she came out. Pam Stenzel1, purity advocate extraordinaire. She talked about abstinence and purity and virginity and boundaries, all the things I assumed I didn’t really need to hear at that point. After all, I was gettin’ hitched in 2 months. She went on to share how important it is to live with full disclosure in marriage, to dialog with honesty and transparency. And I wanted to die. I hoped the earth would just open up and swallow me whole. This was not what I wanted to hear. After all, I had quietly dragged these secrets around for the past several years, and with my wedding just around the corner, it made no sense for me to go rummaging through the trash now. Let bygones be bygones. Don’t stir up this hornet’s nest, woman.

But the pit in my stomach deepened as she drove home the need for relationships to be built on foundations of trust. “Fine, God. Just fine. I get it” I whimpered. Paralyzed in my seat I watched as people flooded the prayer tent. I was so very aware of an urgency in my spirit, a sense that God was saying, “Joy, I’m giving you the opportunity of a lifetime…but you have got to act within the lifetime of this opportunity.” I knew that window would close quickly, as making it to our wedding day without telling him the truth, would mean taking my secrets to the grave. I couldn’t possibly burden him with that after he was tied to me.

It was now, or never.

“You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives”

Genesis 50:20

The thought of allowing my fiancé into those dark, dirty places of my life seemed impossible, so I thought I’d outsmart God at His own game. “Okay, God. Let’s make a deal,” I started, “if I speak to Pam and she tells me I should tell him everything, I’ll do it.” Looking at the growing mass of sniffling bodies in and around the prayer tent, I was certain this was my ticket out. I wandered over, sheepishly standing off at a distance, trying to plan my next move, when I turned to go. Standing directly behind me was Pam Stenzel. How He did that, I will never know, but there she was in all her purity-advocating glory, and I couldn’t escape. 7 years of running came to a screeching halt and I fell apart in her arms. She cried with me, prayed with me, and confirmed what I felt God was prompting me to do; it was time to take out the trash.

I am so thankful for the precious friend who accompanied me on this trip, a dear friend of my fiancé’s long before she became my own. She quietly listened as I processed through my raw emotions, ranging from terror to anger and back again, and then helped me prepare my heart for what was about to take place in my relationship. She, too, prayed with me, encouraging me and speaking hope into my heart, and was the first person to hear snippets of the life I had kept secret.

Once home in Michigan, I went to the apartment we were renting, where my fiancé was currently staying, and waited for him to return home from work. Apart from the day I spent staring at my newborn son through cold ICU glass, being intubated and cardioverted, as medical staff fought to save his life, this was the longest day I’d ever known.

After avoiding eye-contact and dancing around the subject for as long as possible, he pried, and I cracked. I don’t recall how the words emerged from my lips, but through snot and tears, he heard snippets of a life very different from the one I had painted. Certain the filth of my true identity had manifested on my face, my chin remained planted on my chest as I dredged the secrets up from hiding.

Lies upon lies. Relationship after relationship. Sin cloaked in more sin.

And then he asked me what I feared most he might ask. “How many were there?” The number slipped from my lips, and then I was gone.

Convinced this sealed the fate of our relationship, I left my engagement ring on the couch and ran for the bathroom. Curled up in the fetal position on the bathroom floor, I ached for God to just take me home. I was an undone, incoherent and utterly destroyed by my own failed masquerade. Surely death would feel better than this mess I had made.

What felt like hours later, but I’m sure was closer to 30 minutes, I heard him in the doorway. He bent down, scooped me up and, hands firmly holding my face, forced me to look at him. I will never forget the pain I saw in his eyes. A pain I had caused. But mingled with the hurt, was a compassion I didn’t understand.

He took my hand, got down on his knee, and asked me — once again — to marry him.

Restored

Oh, friend. This moment will forever be sealed in my memory. Heaven kissed earth in the wee hours of the morning in that little apartment on Potter Street, and through this extravagant expression of grace and forgiveness, that boy changed my life. For the first time, truly, in my life, I understood — tangibly — the radical love of Jesus. The love that says, “even though I know you completely — with all the ugliness and brokenness you carry — I still want you!”

I was utterly wrecked in the most beautiful of ways.

The next morning, puffy-eyed and surprisingly courageous, I sat on my momma’s lap and told her what had happened back on the night of September 15th, 1996, and how it had impacted the choices I’d made over the next few years. We wept together as she wrestled to understand how they’d missed the warning signs that I was so deeply in trouble. She asked to share it with my dad, and shortly afterwards asked that I share my story with our women’s group at church.

Faster than I ever thought possible, this terrible tale that had held me captive all these years lost its power and become a powerful weapon against the very one who had tried to destroy me.

The following year, as we navigated the unchartered territory of life as newlyweds, we spoke at a purity conference. Sharing honestly and transparently from our personal journey, we were able to reflect on some of the struggles we were working through as a couple as a result of our poor choices, while celebrating God’s extraordinary faithfulness.

And while I’d love to tell you that our life has been sunshine and roses since the truth emerged, we’ve had a whole heck of a lot to work through.

My husband wisely sought counsel from a Godly mentor. He reminded him how hard it must have been for me to bring this to him, and how important it was that he work through it, forgive me, and then let it go. “Never bring it up again,” he added. And I am so incredibly thankful and blessed to say, he never has.

While I’m still uprooting lies I believed and associations I made during sexual encounters as a teenager, we’ve come a mighty long way! Despite the years of junk we’ve had to wade through, the many soul ties we’ve had to sever, and the deep insecurities I continue to wrestle with, the sweetness and freedom of our intimacy has grown exponentially over the past several years.

To add to the sexual baggage, I dragged a boatload of emotional wounding into our marriage. I had so cemented into my mind the notion that ‘conflict destroys relationships’ that it took me years to not shy away from it. Past experience had proven this theory time and time again, so when something was bothering me, I stuffed it. And when my hubby picked up that something wasn’t right, and brought it up…I hid.

Fear of disappointing him fueled my drive for perfection and gave voice to my inner critic. The lingering sense that I was never good enough, in the kitchen, bedroom or laundry room, bubbled close to the surface, rearing its head in hyper-sensitivity and defensiveness.

This poor guy had NO idea what he had gotten himself into.

I cannot imagine what life would be like for us today, had I tried to keep everything locked up inside.

I wonder whether we would have even survived. Secrets tend to breed more secrets, which destroy the trust and safety of a marriage, and eventually unravel the very fabric of your relationship.

While those tools we’d placed in our marital tool belt came in handy when dealing with love and respect issues, or gender roles, and finances, nothing could quite prepare us for the daily walking out of married life. Especially one that required much healing and reprogramming for our interludes between the sheets. Our sex life, once settled into, was lack luster at best, as I struggled to stay emotionally present, while shying away from anything creative that might recall the experiences I’d had years earlier. Honest, open discussion, coupled with prayer, really helped us overcome many of these issues, and continues to act as our go-to when, from time to time, unexpected things emerge.

It’s been amazing watching God use our journey and our struggles to encourage other couples wrestling with the same stuff. We’ve had the opportunity to mentor several couples, and lead many different marriage courses, simply because we’ve made our imperfect selves available to Him, and because we truly love watching our resourceful God redeem our brokenness and use it for His glory.

Redeemed

We had the opportunity to fly home to South Africa and Namibia in 2006, in celebration of our third anniversary, and to connect my hubby with the family of mine he’d not yet met. Many of our fondest memories together were created during the 5 glorious weeks we spent gallivanting across the countryside.

On our last evening in South Africa, before heading over to Namibia for our final week of vacation, I had another of those ‘God opportunities’. One of those, “I’m giving you the opportunity of a lifetime…but you have to act within the lifetime of the opportunity” moments.

We had spent a week with my parents’ best friends in Johannesburg and I had been sharing how I was still wrestling with some severe insecurity. In fact, my people-pleaser streak was threatening to become a fully-blown way of life. I was terrified of disappointing people and in my effort to never rock the proverbial boat, I had become relatively passive-aggressive in the way I dealt with things.

My mom’s longtime best friend, who had headed up their area’s Theophostic Ministry2 (and inner healing ministry; ”Theo” meaning God, “Phos” meaning light), had asked whether I’d wanted to set aside some time to really pray about these things and ask God what the root issue was. Initially I’d been eager, but as the clock ticked down and our final hours with them became fewer, I felt a mild panic. “I don’t really feel like being an emotional, snotty mess,” I reasoned. “Don’t worry about it…I’m good.” But there, in the pit of my stomach, was that bubbling sense of urgency.

Don’t miss it, Joy. Don’t miss what I have for you.

Just before we were scheduled to be picked up by my dad’s sister, who was going to take us to their place, and then drive us to the airport in the morning, I dove in headfirst.

Wait. I want in. I want everything God has for me…bring it on!

So we called and asked her to come 2 hours later, then jumped in with both feet. As I sat cross-legged on her bed, begging God to uproot this life-sucking burden from me, we waited. Allowing God to take me back to the beginning, where lies took root and truths got twisted, the tears and snot began to flow. From the forgotten parts of my heart, God brought to mind snippets of scenes that had taken place when my older sister and I were 4 and 6. He took me, in my mind’s eye, to the white garage door of our favorite worker’s apartment on the grounds of the hostel we’d lived in. As vice-principle of the high school, my dad also had the position of superintendent of the girls’ hostel attached to the school, and it’s the place we called home for 4 years after our arrival from Cape Town.

What took place in that small bedroom had been all but erased from my memory. Only fragments had remained, but slowly things shifted into place. Suddenly it all made sense.

All those years I’d wrestled with shame and guilt because something about our childhood had felt mysteriously dirty, but without remembering what had actually happened, I simply stuffed the feeling, owned the shame, and believed that something must just be wrong with me. I was broken. And dirty. And disturbed.

All those years my sister and I dabbled in things we had no place dabbling in. And now it made sense.

This was the missing piece of the puzzle I’d been desperately trying to assemble, and God — in His sweetness — had revealed it at the perfect time. The very next day we landed in Namibia, and as we walked the grounds a few days later, hand-in-hand, processing through and releasing the wound of innocence stolen, God brought closure to an incredibly confusing chapter of my life. We stood outside that white door, cried, and let it go.

Upon arriving home in the States, just before Thanksgiving, we discovered we were pregnant with our first child. We did the math and discovered our little lady was conceived in Namibia. How like our God to bring new life out of a chapter of my life that had reeked of decay.

We named our daughter ‘Alathea Grace’, Alathea being Greek for “truth.”

For she, our precious gift, was the new life birthed out of a season saturated in truth, and seasoned heavily with grace.

XES: Why Church Girls Tend To Get It Backwards...And How To Get It RightIf you’ve enjoyed these excerpts from Joy’s book, XES: Why Church Girls Tend to Get it Backwards…And How to Get It Right, pick it up now! She shares not just her own story but also what she’s learned along the way about how to nurture a fulfilling sexual relationship with her husband, too–despite sexual baggage, exhaustion from kids, or shame.

Joy-Bio-ROUNDJoy McMillan is a freelance graphic designer, writer, conference speaker, and tea drinker extraordinaire. She is the founder of Simply Bloom Productions LLC, a creative little company with a big heart and an even bigger dream.

Joy & Joe have been involved in leadership & marriage ministry for as long as they’ve been married (2003), and with one foot planted firmly in the law enforcement world, they feel a tremendous burden to champion and celebrate God’s passion & purpose for marriage.

Originally hailing from Southern Africa, Joy lives with her scrumptious husband and two beautiful loin-fruit in Michigan.

WifeyWednesday175Now, what marriage thoughts do you have for us today? Leave your own URL of a marriage post in the linky below!



Beauty from Ashes: From Sexual Shame to Grace and Healing

Sexual Shame in Marriage: A beautiful 2-part series of a true story of how one woman broke free of sexual shame and found God's love--and a great marriage!

Recently Joy McMillan asked me to review her new book XES: Why Church Girls Tend to Get it Backwards…And How to Get it Right. I read it and wrote an endorsement. But I was so touched by her personal story of sexual shame and redemption, and I knew my readers would be, too. And so I asked Joy if I could run an excerpt from her book on the blog.

It’s long, so I’m going to run it over two days. It reads like a fast paced novel, and I know you’ll love it! Here’s Joy:

XES: Why Church Girls Tend To Get It Backwards...And How To Get It RightMy older sister and I were born in Cape Town, South Africa, and grew up in Windhoek, Namibia, where our parents moved to a few years later to avoid the discrimination of the apartheid government. That may sound unusual coming from a white South African, but my parents were passionate about us growing up in multi-racial schools, and felt led to transplant our family in what was then called South West Africa. A few years later, my younger sister arrived, and 3 years after that, our baby sister.

If you’re doing the math, yes, that’s 4 girls. And a mum. And yes, my dad is a rockstar.

Random fun fact: with my dad also hailing from South Africa and my mom from Zimbabwe, our family of six were born in 3 different countries across Southern Africa.

I have many fond memories of my young childhood, and a startling amount of negative ones. Not because there were more negative than positive, not by a long shot, but because I think that this tends to be the way our brains process life. And the way the enemy of our souls wages war on the battlefield of the mind.

It floors me how, looking back, I can recall things my parents did in complete innocence that were misinterpreted and twisted in my vulnerable little heart. My older sister, with her skinny little body, did ballet. I, however, was “muscular,” so I did gymnastics, even though I ached to dance. Sarah, with her beautiful brown eyes, looked lovely in pink, so she got a pink ballerina dress. A blue dress was a natural fit for me with my piercing blue eyes. Sarah’s hair was straight and long. Mine, on the other hand, was curly. Only nobody knew this. We lived in a semi-arid desert climate, much like Arizona, which is very unsupportive of follicularly swirly girls. And let me just tell you, if you’re going to brush a gal’s hair like it’s straight — when it’s not — and not give her any anti-frizz serum to make it look good, it is not going to cooperate. And it didn’t. My super fine, frizzy hair went every which way, except when we made trips to the coast. Then it curled and looked lovely. Who knew!? So, my mum kept it cut short because it was the only way to manage my mop.

Blue dress. Short hair. No ballet. Large Unabomber glasses. They all spelled out the same thing: “You are not feminine, Joy, in fact you’re sort of like a boy.” It didn’t help that I naturally gravitated to the boys, because they were uncomplicated and fun, which further alienated me from the girls. When my body started to do weird things and the boys wondered what was going on, I simply lifted my shirt and said, “Yeah…check it out…isn’t that crazy? I’m sprouting boobs! Wanna touch em?” I was just one of the boys, and while I loved feeling like I belonged, I ached to feel accepted within my own tribe…

I started snipping diet tips from beauty magazines and compiling health folders before I hit my double-digits. I became obsessed with my appearance, desperate to battle the bulge before it battled me. Watching my mom struggle with her weight for as long as I could recall, and seeing the resemblance in how we were built, struck a fear in me that fueled my obsession.

Despite the lies I believed about my lack of worth and value, I became that girl. The one making out with the boys at every middle school dance, not because I really loved to suck face, but because it made me feel pursued and valued, and was, admittedly, rather fun to shock the other girls. I had a new ‘boyfriend’ every week and lapped up the false sense of confidence it provided me.

While I started to appear happy and confident on the outside, I was empty and broken inside.

My family moved to America near the end of 1994, where I attended my second high school. Talk about culture shock. By the time I had found my feet and nestled into a good group of friends, our visas had expired and we were moving back home to Namibia. With the difference in school year (our school year mirrors the calendar year, while a school year in the States runs from September through June), I begged my parents to allow me to try correspondence schooling, rather than repeat 6 months of school, and struggle once again to fit in with the other kids who’d maintained their friendships in my absence.

The few friends who had stayed in touch with me during my 18 months overseas, via snail mail, were eager to hear how life had treated me. And I was not one to disappoint. I conjured up all sorts of stories about beach volleyball and cheerleading, of which I knew nothing, because the pitiful time I’d spend shuffling through the halls, trying not to be noticed, was too painful to relive. Lying became second nature to me, and with no one to contradict my stories, I simply painted the picture of the life I’d wanted to live. I created the image of the girl I wanted to be, and they bought it, hook, line and sinker.

It seemed, for a time, that life was looking up for me, but the veneer was only paper thin.

After years of childishly dabbling in promiscuity, and yet never crossing the virginity line firmly established in our conservative Christian home, I started dating older boys on the sly. In September of 1996, shortly after I turned 15, I met the sons of one of my dad’s colleagues who were visiting from England. I quickly connected with the older one and started spending more time with him. Little did I know of the competition raging behind the scenes in this testosterone-charged household, and the night before their family flew back home, they spiked my drink and the younger one took me downstairs to his room. I don’t recall much of the rest of the night, except spending the wee hours of the morning rocking in the fetal position in my older sister’s bedroom repeating, “I’m not a virgin, I’m not a virgin, I’m not a virgin.” And then there was the phone call I received from a very angry older brother who wanted to know what the hell I’d done with his brother (that I’d refused to do with him) the night before.

I knew little, but I knew enough.

This was a pivotal point in my journey. Life as I knew it had officially changed. The little value I felt I had left had been taken from me, and I suddenly had no reason to say, “no.” I threw myself into the arms of any interested male in a hopeless attempt to find significance. I used people and pleasure to temporarily numb the pain, desperately trying to quench my thirst for meaning and value.

Following in the steps of Adam and Eve, I allowed my shame to drive me into hiding, away from exposure and away from God.

The deeper I slipped into promiscuity, the harder it was to get out. Not only was I worthless, now I was dirty.

I jumped from relationship to relationship, going home from the bar with boys I barely knew, often much older than myself. I was only 15, but looked much older, and in a country where underage drinking was the norm and no one was carded, I continued to slip beneath the radar. I had a love-hate relationship with this thing I had going on. I loved the temporary thrill of being pursued, but I hated that it only briefly drowned out the loneliness and isolation. Once over the high, I slipped further into the dark.

“One who is full loathes honey from the comb, but to the hungry even what is bitter tastes sweet.” Proverbs 27:7

I remember lying dazed in some guy’s bed late one night when his housemate returned home. There had been no tenderness, no affection. Only business, without any form of protection. And now, with a third person in the room, there was no introduction. No closing of doors. No respect. Only a sick awareness that I was his prey for the night and the joke was on me. He threw me my clothes and quietly drove me back to the bar where he left me. The next time I saw him was on the rugby field, where I discovered he played for our national team.

You might have thought, by the way I strutted my stuff around town, that I was making a bold proclamation to clear up any doubts about my questionable femininity, “See people, I have a vagina…and I’m not afraid to use it.” But it was nothing that blatant. Or glamorous.

It was a well assembled front that afforded me the attention I craved, while quietly destroying any remaining shreds of my identity.

I’d nab the boys with my charm and enjoy the temporary thrill of feeling valued. But then it would be time to cough up the goods, and I’d feel stuck. I couldn’t escape the hell hole I’d dug for myself, so I learned quickly to run away mentally, while remaining present — albeit half-dead — physically. A habit it took me years to break once married.

I was drowning, and no one knew it.

Looking back I’ve wondered where my parents were while I traipsed around town, wasted and used. But as I get older and wiser, and after several hard conversations with them, I’ve realized that they were battling their own devils. Knee-deep in good works, they were busy proving their own worth and value, while raising 4 girls.

While my older sister had openly rebelled and fast earned herself the label of ‘black sheep’, I was still trying desperately to keep my iniquities hidden. I had seen the devastation my sister’s exit from our faith had caused my parents, and had determined to not put them through that again. So I was a respectful, hard-working student by day and a faithful pew-warming kid on Sunday mornings…and a bar-hopping floozy by night.

During this same year, I started shop-lifting. It started small, with a lipbalm here or a pack of gum there, and grew to include near daily fixes of clothes, CDs and make-up. Getting things for free became such a thrill, despite the gnawing awareness that what I was doing was wrong, that when I finally committed to stop (years later), it was incredibly hard. Unless you’ve experience the pull of an addiction, and the cycle of adrenaline and pleasure you experience, it’s hard to understand the way in which it sucks you in and then quickly spirals out of control.

I lost two little side-jobs that year as a result of stealing. I even stole several home pregnancy tests that I hurriedly took in grocery story bathrooms, vowing to God that if he would not make me pregnant, I would stop what I was doing. I knew that if that little line were to imply ‘with child’, that I would be thrust into a new world of scary choices and heart-breaking consequences.

When my parents discovered I had stolen their bank card and had made several withdrawals, and after they’d driven around town early one morning trying to locate me after I’d lied about where I’d spent the night, they knew correspondence schooling had afforded me freedom I had no place managing. Into my third high school I went, where I earned the nickname “the body” and started dating the older brother of a school friend. I kept the fact that he had a son a secret, as I was sure my parents couldn’t handle the truth.

More secrets, more separation.

As the crowd I spent time with morphed into a different breed of people, pornography became something I was regularly exposed to. Once again fueling the dump of adrenaline that coursed through my young veins, I got sucked further out to sea.

When we got the news that our visas had been renewed, and that we would be returning to the States, I was all too happy to leave a country that had grown to represent a season of so much guilt and shame.

Two weeks before we flew out, while visiting family in South Africa, I met a young man. I had just turned 16, and he’d just turned 21. We got hammered, along with 2 others, then went for a joyride out on the town. Trucking down a main street in Cape Town at a ridiculous speed, we hit the broadside of a taxi that had pulled out in front of us. The next thing I knew I was getting a morphine shot in my butt and surgery scheduled for my jaw, broken in two places. You would think that the events of the evening would act as perfectly clear warning signals, but I was too blind to recognize them.

Our relationship continued, long-distance, over the next two and a half years.

I viewed moving across the world as a much-needed fresh start, and I could, once again, present the image of the person I hoped to be. Only this time…one unblemished by sexual baggage. I started my senior year at a small town school (my 4th high school, if you’re keeping track), and slunk into the background. Sadly, having an accent makes you stand out by default, but with ‘insecure’ written all over my face, I became prime real estate for those meanies looking for a target.

I had transitioned from a young girl who loved people and thrived in school to a shattered young woman who was afraid of letting people in and who hated the emotional torture of school. I was terrified of my mask slipping, convinced that if anyone knew who I really was, I would be hung out to dry.

While I wasn’t physically bullied or tormented, the battle that raged in my head made any encounter with unfriendly people miserable. If someone laughed in the hallway while I was walking through it, they were laughing at me. If more than one person smiled at me when I walked in to the room, it was because I was the butt of their joke. When people didn’t greet me in passing, I thought it was because they didn’t like me. I longed to be invisible, and yet, watching others blossom in things I was too scared to try out for — like sports or theater — made my heart ache for more. I was desperately jealous of their confidence and courage, but the thought of risking failure was too much to bear.

So I stayed in my shell, dragging my dirty-girl secrets everywhere I went. When my boyfriend would come up to visit, for months at a time, I’d quietly slip back into the lifestyle I’d lived back home, and then seamlessly revert back once he left.

After I had graduated, and while working on my massage therapy certification at the local community college, this boyfriend of mine popped the question. It wasn’t really a lovely surprise seeing I’d sort of pushed him into it. I was convinced he was the only one who would ever want me, so I informed him that this was the natural progression of our relationship. I bugged him to hurry up and buy me a ring… while simultaneously insisting that we stop having sex. Not really a good combination for the average male.

God had started to woo my heart and there were certain things I knew I had to weed out of my life in order to get my life back in order.

Little did I know, a new girlfriend had popped up on the other side of the globe — one who wasn’t insisting on a ring or pushing for purity — and when the email arrived that 18th day of February 2000, informing me that it was no longer working out and that we should go our separate ways, the world as I knew it crumbled. I slept and wept, unable to get out of my bed, spinning that meaningless new ring on my finger.

Renewed

But this, my friend, is where it starts to get good….

Come back tomorrow for the follow-up to Joy’s story, when you hear what happened when she reveals all! Or you can find out right now by buying Joy’s book XES today!

XES: Why Church Girls Tend To Get It Backwards...And How To Get It RightIf you’ve enjoyed these excerpts from Joy’s book, XES: Why Church Girls Tend to Get it Backwards…And How to Get It Right, pick it up now! She shares not just her own story but also what she’s learned along the way about how to nurture a fulfilling sexual relationship with her husband, too–despite sexual baggage, exhaustion from kids, or shame.

Joy-Bio-ROUNDJoy McMillan is a freelance graphic designer, writer, conference speaker, and tea drinker extraordinaire. She is the founder of Simply Bloom Productions LLC, a creative little company with a big heart and an even bigger dream.

Joy & Joe have been involved in leadership & marriage ministry for as long as they’ve been married (2003), and with one foot planted firmly in the law enforcement world, they feel a tremendous burden to champion and celebrate God’s passion & purpose for marriage.

Originally hailing from Southern Africa, Joy lives with her scrumptious husband and two beautiful loin-fruit in Michigan.

The Unglamorous Life of a Porn Star–and Why We Don’t Have to Compete

PureEyesCleanHeartIt’s Wednesday, that day that we always talk marriage! Today’s guest post is from Jennifer Ferguson, whose husband, Craig, battled through and recovered from a pornography addiction. Together they’ve written the book Pure Eyes, Clean Heart: A Couple’s Journey to Freedom from Pornography. Today she tells part of her story and how she had an attitude shift, regarding the unglamorous life of a porn star.

I used to think the voluptuous girls with the sleek bodies, cascading hair, and pouty lips were the enemies.

I would think horrid thoughts about them, judging them as they flaunted their goods in front of a camera to be broadcast for the entire world to see. I judged them the first time I saw them by accident on my husband’s computer screen and every time the incident replayed itself in my mind.

Unglamorous Life of a Porn Star

I couldn’t ask him, “What do they have that I don’t?” because the answer was obvious to me: Everything.

And it seemed that everything I had was detrimental to my ability to even try to get close to achieving what they had:

  • Baby fat…from 2 babies
  • An “A” cup
  • Stretch marks
  • Cellulite

The only time my lips were pouty was when I was complaining about lack of sleep. Not sure that jives with the sex appeal I was going for.

Even though I knew I could never look like them (at least, not on my budget), I tried to do what I could. I lost weight. I became a runner. I started trying to look better generally (a.k.a. taking five minutes to throw on some mascara).

But a shrinking me didn’t equate to less porn use by my husband. Trying to become more like them did not draw him more towards me. And the bitterness and rage building in my heart towards these porn stars started making me a jealous fool regarding any woman.

I gave anyone the power to make me feel less-than without the utterance of one single word. All they had to do was walk by. Wear a low-cut shirt. Breathe.

As Craig started his journey to freedom from porn addiction, God pointed out I had been ensnared by images of fantasy, too. Where he had been trapped by lust, I had been trapped by comparison.

Somehow, while working on our book, a miracle happened. I found myself filled with compassion for these women who had paraded across the screen and in my husband’s mind. Those whom I perceived as home-wreckers, I now viewed as women with wrecked hearts. Those whom I thought had it all, I realized had very little: safety, self-worth, family who cared. Those I thought were the definition of sexy were actually sex slaves.

Instead of spending so much time pitying myself, I found myself weeping for them.

And repenting. I had judged deeply and wrongly. I had let hate obscure my vision, not only of them, but also of myself. I thought I knew their world, but the truth is, I knew nothing. I started to turn my harsh language into compassionate prayers, that the women in the industry would find freedom, hope, and Jesus.

Because no one should think this is the way to live. No one should think they are worth nothing more than what the porn industry has to offer. The grass is definitely not greener. Consider these facts:
• One male pornographic performer, Rocco (600 films and 3,000 women), said: “Every professional in the porn-world has herpes, male or female.” (www.covenanteyes.com)
• The average life expectancy of a porn performer is only 37.43 years. The average American lives to be 78.1 years old. (www.shelleylubben.com/porn-industry)
• The US adult film industry earns between $9-13 billion annually. Performers make $400-$1000 per shoot and are not compensated based on distribution or sales. (www.shelleylubben.com/porn-industry)
• “Nobody really wants to date a porn star, stripper or escort. Also the whole family thing and having kids, I’m like ‘who’s gonna have kids with an ex-porn star,’” Belmond said, according to the Christian Post. “And even when I’m 60 I’m still gonna have this porn on the Internet. It’s like having a virus or something that never goes away.” Vanessa Belmond, former porn star (http://www.theblaze.com/stories/2013/10/24/ex-porn-star-reveals-the-horrors-of-working-in-the-sex-industry/)

Ladies, these women, or any woman, you deem as prettier, sexier, whatever-ier, is not your enemy. As Paul writes in Ephesians, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” (Ephesians 6:12, NIV)

When you feel the need to compare, pray.

Pray for yourself that God might show you how intricately you were made.

Pray for the woman you feel you’re up against, that she might know the same – that there is a God who loves her passionately.

Pray thanksgiving for beauty – that which is in you and every other sister – the beauty that is worn on the outside as well as the beauty that blooms on the inside.

Pray against the forces of darkness that belittle, that lie, that damage – those things within the porn industry and all the other dark places in this world.

And pray there would be no room for bitterness or rage to take root, for there is little beauty in those things at all.

JenniferFergusonPure Eyes, Clean Heart: A Couple's Journey to Freedom from PornographyJennifer Ferguson and her husband Craig are the authors of Pure Eyes, Clean Heart: A Couple’s Journey to Freedom from Pornography.

WifeyWednesday175Now it’s your turn to be part of Wifey Wednesday! What advice do you have for us today? Leave the link to your marriage post in the linky below.



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