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!

31 Days to Great Sex
31 Days to Great Sex is here (only $4.99!) It's the best $5 you'll ever spend on your marriage!

Learn to talk more, flirt more, and even explore more! You'll work on how to connect emotionally, spiritually, AND physically.

Find out more here.




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!

31 Days to Great Sex
31 Days to Great Sex is here (only $4.99!) It's the best $5 you'll ever spend on your marriage!

Learn to talk more, flirt more, and even explore more! You'll work on how to connect emotionally, spiritually, AND physically.

Find out more here.




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.

The Good Girl's Guide to Great Sex

Marriage isn't supposed to be blah!


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

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.

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!



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.



The Good Girl's Guide to Great Sex

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The Myth of Sexual Incompatibility

The Myth of Sexual Incompatibility: most problems can be solved!I’m a columnist for Canada’s Faith Today magazine, the magazine for the evangelical Christian community. And in this month’s issue I’m talking about the myth of sexual incompatibility! I’ve written before about how Christians can’t be sexually incompatible, but I thought I’d sum it up in this column.

The evangelical church has found sex.

After years of being rightfully accused of prudery, many Christians have done a 180, deciding that the best form of evangelism is showing the world just how much we get it on. In July 2013, Pastor Joe Nelms of Family Baptist Church in Lebanon, Tennessee started a firestorm when, in his opening prayer at a NASCAR race, he thanked God for his “smokin’ hot wife”. Disgraced megachurch pastor Mark Driscoll was renowned for riddling his sermons with sexual innuendos. Closer to home, Christians are hosting “Passion Parties“, just like Tupperware parties, except without as much plastic, where women can shop for lingerie, sex toys, and lubricants in their own homes, with friends.

The message: sex in marriage is awesome!

But is it? This sexual evangelism caused Rachel Pietka to pen an opinion post for Relevant Magazine saying that “Christians Aren’t Called to Have Amazing Sex.” After all, if we aren’t supposed to have sex until we’re married, there’s no way to find out if you’re sexually incompatible. Obviously, then, God never meant for amazing sex to be a staple of a good Christian marriage.

And so here I find myself in this messy middle, wondering when the church will get our act together to properly evangelize about healthy sexuality.

Let’s go back to first principles. God made sex to unite us in three ways: physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Yes, we feel a physical rush, but sex is also designed to make us feel like one–the mystery of “knowing” each other, as the Hebrew word used for the sexual union suggests. This spiritual intimacy then feeds the physical side. That’s why many studies–including my own that I conducted for The Good Girls Guide to Great Sex–show that married Christians enjoy sex more. Commitment is a powerful aphrodisiac!

But our culture doesn’t understand that because it has divorced sex from marriage, and then all that’s left is genitalia. It becomes crude and ugly.

And yet the “sexually incompatible” camp pigeonholes sex as well.

If we’re capable of being sexually incompatible, then our sexuality must be something static. She by herself is a static sexual being, and he by himself is a static sexual being, and the two may not match. Not true. God designed sex to be a relational thing. And because sex is far more than physical, as we open up to each other by becoming more vulnerable, more giving, and more trusting, sex will change.

That’s why I hate the phrase “sexually incompatible”. You’re not incompatible; you just have things you need to work out. If one spouse wants to make love much more than another, and this causes hurt, it’s sin, because one (or both) are not loving each other as Christ did. If one is being selfish in bed, demanding unreasonable things, or refusing to learn how to pleasure the other, it’s sin. When physical problems come, and one spouse doesn’t make allowance, it’s sin. If the spouse experiencing difficulties won’t get help, it’s sin, too. If one is using porn or erotica to get aroused, it’s sin. If one is feeling ashamed of sex, that, too, is sin, though it may not be theirs. Perhaps they grew up in a house where their parents made them feel ashamed of the fact that they were sexual, and now they need healing. Or perhaps they were abused (someone else’s sin) and that, too, has impacted their ability to enjoy sex.

Just like in every other area of our lives, our problems with sex stem from either from our own sin (selfishness) or from being
sinned against (brokenness). And so we need to go to God for healing and restoration.

God promised that we could have amazing sex; He never promised that we would.

In the same way that we can’t live a holy life without surrendering more and more to God, we can’t have great sex without surrendering more and more of ourselves to God and to each other. Sex isn’t something that’s static; sex is a journey that married people take as we grow closer to each other and closer to our Maker.

So it’s time to stop seeing sex like the world does–as something only physical–and start remembering that real passion and intimacy come from a true spiritual connection. As we grow more and more like Christ, we’ll feel that passion more and more, and we will have amazing sex. But I still don’t think we should announce that at NASCAR races.

The newest issue of Faith Today has tons of great articles, including an expose on missing aboriginal women; a Q&A with the director of International Justice Mission, which frees child sex slaves (a ministry near and dear to my heart, that our family has recently started supporting); an in-depth examination of the euthanasia debate; and a look at how churches can agree to disagree–graciously. Plus tons of news about Kingdom Matters in Canada!

Check it out here.

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Christian Sex Toy Parties: Are They a Good Idea?

Christian Sex Toy Parties: Are they a good idea?

What do you do if you’re invited to one of those “fun” sex toy parties?

Reader Question of the WeekIt’s Monday, the day when I post a Reader Question and take a stab at answering it. Today I want to tackle these sex toy parties–especially the “Christian” sex toy parties. Here’s a reader’s question:

I love to read your blog and when I was wrestling with this in my head I was curious what you would do. A good friend of mine has a direct sales business with “girls’ nights in” to explore sex toys, lubes, lingerie, other “fun” things for couples that her company sells. She’s asked me to do parties for her before and I’m skeptical only b/c we don’t like toys, and I just feel like this area of my life is more private (like I don’t share w/ anyone except for my BFF, not a room full of guests in my home). So what are your thoughts on this? Am I too uptight? Thanks!

Great question, and I’ve got a bit of a multifaceted answer. So here we go!

There’s a Difference Between Sex Aids and Sex Replacements

I’m all for using lube–It’s indispensable when you’re just married and you’re nervous about sex, and it becomes indispensable again when you’re in perimenopause/menopause and you aren’t quite as well lubricated as you used to be. It makes quickies easier, and it often makes arousal easier.

Similarly, I’m a big fan of lingerie. I think most women feel a lot more confident with a little bit of material on, and most men really appreciate us in lingerie! It also shows that we’re making an effort.

Massage candles, massage oil, even feathers–awesome! Some of the things that you use to make intercourse easier or more pleasurable–I’m fine with that. Really (though I’m not going to spell them all out). But there is a difference between something that makes enhances sex and something that basically replaces a partner during sex. For instance, I know there are times when vibrators are important–I’ve talked to some readers with health issues who have found that a husband using a vibrator on his wife is one of the only ways that he can give her pleasure, and I do understand that.

It’s just that, in general, the more you use a vibrator, the less likely you are to orgasm during intercourse because the feeling is so much more intense. No guy can vibrate like that. And I could say similar things about some other sex toys.

And the problem is that most of these parties don’t distinguish between the two, and that makes me uncomfortable. Many of them ask to advertise on this site, and I always say no. It’s not that I think sex toys are a sin–I don’t. It’s just that I think that many fall into the category of “Everything is permissible, but not everything is beneficial” that we read in 1 Corinthians 10:23.

You don’t want to stress the physical aspect of sex over the spiritual/emotional aspect

Good Girls Guide My SiteHere’s an argument I’ve made before, so I won’t dwell on it much here. But those who tend to enjoy sex the most are also those who are the most intimate–who have been married for about a decade and a half, and who rate their spiritual intimacy as quite high. In the surveys that I did for my book The Good Girls Guide to Great Sex, where I explained this point in great detail, I said that the best way to make sex better was to feel more intimate already. In fact, prayer actually makes a woman more orgasmic (which I know seems weird, but it’s true!)

I firmly believe that you can be both hot and holy–and indeed, the two tend to go hand in hand (as the holy-meter increases, so does the hot-meter!) But because of that, if we ignore the holy part entirely and simply look at the mechanics of sex, we often lose out on the beauty.

Those who feel closer will also feel more vulnerable and will be able to explore more. Sex will be awesome. But if you only look at the increasing the physical aspect without the other, then you often lose something. And especially in this culture where I’ve found the biggest sexual problem most couples have is that they’ve made sex completely physical–because of porn, or the way they were brought up, etc–then doing something else which reinforces that doesn’t end up helping sex.

You can read more about this in the Good Girls Guide to Great Sex, or in my post on Christians and sex toys.

Bondage is a slippery slope

Here’s another issue–many, if not most, of today’s sex toys are bondage oriented, especially after the success of books like 50 Shades of Grey. And bondage humiliates and degrades, and treats a woman as if she were an impersonal object.

Pulling Back the Shades: Erotica, Intimacy, and the Longings of a Woman's HeartLook–tying someone up playfully can definitely enhance sensation. When you can’t move, you feel everything more. Tying them up with the intention of hurting them in some way (like spanking and whipping) or humiliating them is an entirely different thing. And as I wrote before, I just don’t see how that correlates with treating someone in a loving way.

For more about this argument, see the book Pulling Back the Shades.

Remember the “weaker brother” argument when it comes to sex toy parties

In Romans 14, Paul makes a long argument about how we have to be careful not to put a stumbling block in another person’s way. We may not have an issue with something, but if another Christian does, and we pursue it anyway, it could cause them to stumble.

The classic example here is alcohol: you and your husband may enjoy a glass of wine, but if you serve alcohol to someone who is a former alcoholic, you’re causing them to stumble. Better to leave the wine somewhere else and serve orange juice.

So let’s say that you have a friend whose marriage has been under strain because of porn issues, or because her husband wants her to do things she doesn’t want to do, or because she’s wanted to push some boundaries a little too far. And then you invite her to one of these parties, thinking it’s just a “fun” way to spice up your life.

Her conscience may have been working on her lately: I need to confront my husband and tell him we’re not watching porn together anymore. I need to confront my husband and tell him that I want our marriage bed to be pure.

You then invite her to a party, and she thinks, “Maybe I’ve been hearing God wrong! Maybe I’ve just been too uptight. I mean, here’s my friend who is an awesome Christian and she’s advertising dildos and vibrators and lots of things, so obviously I’ve been wrong thinking that our sex life has become too impersonal. Anything goes, because there’s freedom in marriage!”

And she’s now silenced the Holy Spirit who has been working on her in this area.

Look, for some people using all of these things may not affect their intimacy or marriage in the slightest. But for some it really might. And in the same way that you wouldn’t host a wine tasting or shots party for the College & Career group in your church–even if you drink wine or the occasional mixer–why would you host a sex toy party for people when you really don’t know their back story?

Spread the word about how great sex is

The church has been really sex-negative in the past, and we do need to become more sex-positive and start talking about sex more. We need to tell our friends, “I enjoy sex, and if you’re not having sex in your marriage, that’s bad and I want to help you”. We need to stop making this a secret.

I totally agree.

I just don’t think that these sex toy parties are the way to do that. So I’d love to know in the comments: How can we become more vocal and sex positive WITHOUT going to the extreme? And if you think I’m wrong about the sex toy parties, leave a comment, too! Let’s start a discussion.

The Good Girl's Guide to Great Sex

Marriage isn't supposed to be blah!


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

 

 

 

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

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

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

A reader asks this question:

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

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

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

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

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

Keep gazing into his eyes. 

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

Oxytocin is for him too. 

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

Kiss everyday for 5 seconds. 

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

Bring on the babysitter.

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

Skip the donut.

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

Plan for sex. 

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

When baby naps, you nap.

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

Connect with other positive moms.

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

Pray for your spouse.

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

Respect his opinion.

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

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

family website

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

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

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

Pulling Back the Shades on Fifty Shades of Grey

Why 50 Shades of Grey will hurt your sex life and your marriage

Erotica has become mainstream. And that scares me.

Today I’d like to share with you about a great book I read recently: Pulling Back the Shades: Erotica, Intimacy and the Longings of a Woman’s Heart by Dannah Gresh and Juli Slattery.

They’re talking about how the book series Fifty Shades of Grey and other erotica can wreck your sex drive, your marriage, and your spiritual life. And they’re so right. We can’t ignore this stuff.

I write a lot about pornography on this blog: I write about the effects of porn, how to deal with a husband’s addiction to porn, and more. But while porn is a major problem for men (and increasingly for women, since 30% of porn users are women), that does not mean that women are immune from these types of struggles. They just take different forms–and erotica is one of the main forms.

And so I’d like to share with you some quotes from the book, and some of my own thoughts. They write:

We believe that the release of the Fifty Shades of Grey series was a transforming moment that fueled the erotica craze, normalizing its use. The series has done for women and erotica what the advent of the Internet did for men and porn.

Fifty Shades of Grey made erotica become mainstream–and acceptable.

My family and I were on a cruise shortly after the craze, and my girls were gobsmacked by how many women were reading it on their Kindles on the pool deck–with their husbands sitting beside them, where everyone could see. It’s socially acceptable now, because it’s seen as empowering! It just boosts a woman’s libido, and what can be the harm in that?

Well, Dannah and Juli show how it boosts that libido in a very significant way, by appealing to a woman’s five major longings:

  1. To escape reality
  2. To be cherished by a man
  3. To be protected by a strong man
  4. To rescue a man
  5. To be sexually alive

Think about how a book that’s about a strong, rich, multibillionaire who is troubled getting a young, naive girl involved in bondage will answer each of those 5 needs. The woman reading it escapes reality. She enters a story where this man who has everything is nonetheless obsessed and enthralled with this normal girl. He showers her with gifts, yet at the same time he is very strong–he totally dominates her. But he has these demons that only she can get rid of for him by her love. And in the midst of all that she has amazing sex (and as you read them you get aroused, too.

Erotica feeds right into our essential desires, but it does it in a counterfeit way.

“Erotica strategically and masterfully pulls you in by exploiting what your heart secretly longs for.”

Then Juli Slattery says this:

Having read the Fifty Shades trilogy, I will say with great confidence that these books are not merely fiction—a story that could be true but is not—but are actually fantasy— something that could not possibly be true.

Sure, they may meet our needs, but it’s completely not true. If you look at the plot, it can’t possibly be true. And that makes it a fantasy. The Narnia series is a fantasy–it breaks the laws of physics and nature by creating an alternate world you can travel to. Lord of the Rings is fantasy because it breaks other laws of nature to create a magical world that can’t exist. But those fantasy worlds are good ones, because they do not break moral laws. The erotic novels, on the other hand, actually change the laws–moral and relational laws. That’s why it’s called shades of grey–there aren’t black and white anymore. And the author says so explicitly in the book.

Breaking down moral rules is part of what she sets out to do in Fifty Shades of Grey.

Her main character is even called Christian. And look at what passes for love–dominating, humiliating, being abusive and making someone else complete you.

They do a wonderful job of explaining the black spiritual undertones to the books, but then they show why it is that even with these undertones we gravitate towards them.

Think about this, though: having to call someone Master–it’s a spiritual thing. And Jesus came to proclaim freedom! But they show how the BDSM lifestyle can appeal to women who are desperate to have a man act more like a man. Ultimately, though, it doesn’t enhance intimacy. It replaces it with adventure and danger, which does heighten sexual response because it releases certain hormones which make us feel more alive. But it isn’t intimacy. And the more that sexual response is paired with this kind of thing, the less your sexual response will even work when you’re trying to “make love”–when you’re trying to be intimate.

They share many stories of girls and women who have read the books and have gotten caught up in erotica. Some of you have shared those stories with me, too. I’ve had several women write about how they grew up in very conservative households, and they started with the Beverly Lewis Amish books. They devoured all those from the church library when they were 12 and 13, so then they moved on to the Karen Kingsbury and other romances there. When they had read all the romances, they went to the public library and looked for secular romances. And soon they were reading Nora Roberts and books with explicit sex scenes.

And before you know it they were seeking out erotica online–even as teens in a conservative Christian home.

Now they’re adults and they can’t stop. They count the moments until they can take some time to themselves and read an erotic novel. And they can’t have sx with their husbands without picturing some scene from the novel. It’s invaded everything.

But that kind of “boosting your libido” is fake.

The authors write,

Erotica like Fifty Shades of Grey is aimed at awakening your physical sexual desire without any connection to emotional, relational, or spiritual reality. Even if the main characters are “in love,” you are not! Whatever emotional and sexual response these novels create in you, they are disconnected from your love relationships and your longing to know and honor God.

Good Girls Guide My SiteIt’s not that adventure in bed is wrong–and they do a good job of what’s okay and what’s not okay in the bedroom, and came to EXACTLY the same conclusions I did in The Good Girl’s Guide to Great Sex on EVERYTHING, so I’m glad about that! Adventure is good, and discovery and exploration is good. But when it’s combined with something that isn’t about intimacy but is about humiliation or degradation, there are some serious problems.

Their conclusion:

While erotica might originally heighten sexual feelings, over the long haul it erodes something much more important—intimacy.

I know many of you are struggling with addictions or temptations towards erotica.

I know for many of us it IS a huge temptation. And that is not wrong. We’re all tempted towards something. But if you continue to read this kind of erotica, it will impact your sex life with your husband in a very negative way. You’ll be living your sex life through fantasy, and that is basically the same as cheating. How would you feel if your husband had to picture porn to get aroused? If you have to picture a scene from a book, you’re doing that, too.

Pulling Back the Shades: Erotica, Intimacy, and the Longings of a Woman's HeartIt changes what we respond to. It changes how our bodies work. It makes us dissatisfied in our marriages and with our husbands. And it just plain is dangerous.

Pulling Back the Shades is a great book. It’s not only about Fifty Shades of Grey–it’s about the whole erotic, BDSM phenomenon that is sweeping through our culture. And I’d encourage you to read it, even if you’re not struggling with this, because we need to understand what’s going on so we can talk to our friends, our sisters, and our daughters about it.