When Your Job As a Momma is Done (Almost!)

When your "momma" role is over

Next Monday we load up the last of Katie’s things, help the piano movers steady the piano in the truck, and head out on the highway to drop her off at university.

My job as a mom is done.

My youngest child is leaving home.

I know I am always a mom; my older daughter has needed lots of advice over the last few years as she’s been gone, especially around her wedding.

But I’m not a mom anymore. I’m an advisor. It is different. It’s lovely, but different.

I’m proud of my girls. They have both pursued Jesus wholeheartedly, and have a real relationship with Him that many times puts me to shame. They grew up in a healthier family than I did, and I can see the effects of it on them. They are more mature. More grounded. More willing to try new things.

This, again, is all lovely.

And I have a wonderful husband, and we’ve been working on our marriage for the last year, and figuring out new hobbies, and changing around work schedules, so that as empty nesters we won’t just be twiddling our thumbs and staring at each other, wondering, “who are you and why did I marry you?”

And that, again, is lovely.

It is lovely to have two children that you are so proud of pursue their dreams. It is lovely to see them make good decisions. It is lovely to know that my husband and I will stay close in this next phase of our life–and that this next phase will be an adventure.

But here’s the thing: I am going to miss Katie terribly.

Yes, I would miss her more if my husband and I were not solid. Yes, it would be much harder if she weren’t tracking with God.

But even so, I will miss her.

KatieSheila New York

And I will miss being a mom.

My role as mom was all-encompassing. We took Rebecca, our oldest, out of school after kindergarten and decided to homeschool them (Katie’s never set foot in a school; she’s going to get a picture of herself on the first day of university classes holding her backpack and her lunchbox and a sign that says, “First Day of School”.)

Girls Homeschooling Trailer

We didn’t do it because we were afraid the public school would corrupt them. We homeschooled because we felt that academically it would be better for them. And we pushed those girls. School was intense at our house–even if it was punctuated by marathon sessions of reading Anne of Green Gables out loud, or finishing Those Happy Golden Years (the last of the Little House books) in a day and a half “because we just have to get through it”.

We taught them Latin and Greek. They read the classics. We made them write essays and we pushed them in math. They are very well-educated.

We made them earn their lifeguarding credentials and at 16 they started working intensely at the Y. They made great friends, especially with the seniors who would come to swim during the day. One couple in their 80s even took Katie to a strawberry social last June and prayed over and blessed her as she goes on with her life. Their boss made the trip to Ottawa this summer and came to Rebecca’s wedding.

And we homeschooled because we wanted more family time. With Keith’s weird call schedule and my weird speaking schedule we needed time during the week together.

But the biggest thing was this: everyday, we’d go for a walk.

Sometimes even two! Whenever we started feeling restless we’d head outside and do our “loop”. So everyday, for the last ten years, I have taken a walk with one of my daughters. That’s when we talk, and when they open up, and when I learn about what’s happening in their hearts.

With Katie the walks have been intense lately, often lasting more than an hour. We’ve discovered new “loops”, and almost gotten lost several times.

When I visit Rebecca in Ottawa, the first thing we do is put on our shoes and go out for a walk by the river. It’s outside that we open up.

But now Katie is leaving.

Two weeks ago I decided to start taking walks by myself, to get used to the solitude. And I’ve turned them into quite intense prayer walks, replacing the time I used to spend talking with her to talking about her and for her with God. It’s a little nervewracking; I have a hard time praying without talking out loud, so my neighbours may think I’m nuts. But it’s real.

Because Katie is leaving.

Have I mentioned that yet?

It is not that I don’t want her to grow up. It is not that I don’t have a life outside of her. It is not that I don’t have a good marriage.

It is just that so much of my emotional energy has been caught up in my daughters for the last two decades, and now that phase is coming to an end.

I know I will still talk to her; Rebecca calls me twice a day. But it will be different.

And so I take my prayer walks.

I want the girls to still feel my support while they are at school, away from me. Part of that will be through prayer. Part of it will be through phone calls and texts.

But I want to share a fun thing that I was asked to review and tell you about. Kites & Ivy creates care packages for girls going away to college. It’s just little things to pamper college students: some beauty products, a healthy but fun snack, things to relax you.

Kites & Ivy Care Packages for College Students

They come four times a year: to welcome them in September; before they go home for Christmas; before Spring Break; and before Finals. And when you sign up, you tell them what school the recipient is going to, and they make sure the package gets there at just the right time for that particular school’s academic calendar!

Kites & Ivy initially hired Katie to talk about them in her videos. I told her about it, she shrugged, and said, “okay”.

And then the package came.

And she was so excited!

It had: some dry shampoo (because who has time to wash your hair during finals!?!), a yummy sea salt caramel chocolate bar, some essential oils to help you focus, some water flavouring powder, some natural facial wipes, a headband, and a neat water sipper cup. Katie loved it! Here she is talking about it: (the video is set to start playing where she starts talking about it, but if you want to see the WHOLE video of what she learned when she was 17, just rewind it to the beginning!)

And when she says that she’s just going to ask her mom to get it for her, she’s quite serious. She says, “as a university student I’m going to have no money to spend on myself! And opening the box was so fun!”

Here’s the box they sent out last year before spring break:

KitesIvy

You can buy just one box and send it immediately as a gift, or you can subscribe so that a college student that you know (a daughter, a niece, a sister) can get a treat when they really need it. I think it would be great for churches to do this for their students leaving, too–to let those students know, “we’re still thinking of you and praying for you!”

(Shipping is free within the continental United States–other than that you have to pay for it. I know that’s tough on Canadians like me, but I do understand as someone who has to ship a lot across the border, too. It is much cheaper to ship within the U.S.!)

Katie enjoyed hers so much–she’s sipping from the cup from the 5 minute point in her new video on Christian romance novels! So I guess I’m getting her a subscription!

It is a cute way of bringing a smile to a college young woman’s face, and I was excited to partner with them. The preorders are going out now for the school year, and you can use the coupon code Sheila10 to get 10% off your order! If you’re a mom, this saves you the work and trouble of putting your own care package together–and the items really are unique and awfully fun.

Kites and Ivy Button

So that is what I’ll be up to this year–I’ll be missing my daughters. I’ll be taking daily prayer walks and remembering them before God. I’ll be talking to them whenever they call when they’re lonely (or when they’re on the bus and they’re bored, which is more typical). And I will be sending Katie Kites & Ivy care packages, too!

It’s hard when your job as a momma is over. I’m feeling it acutely. I know I did a good job–not a perfect job, but a good job, which is perhaps better. But now I need to take a step back, and perhaps that is what will drive me to prayer even more.

Let me know in the comments: how did you stay close to your kids (or your parents) when college time came (or moving out time came)? What did you appreciate from your mom?

I was compensated for this post, but the thoughts are entirely mine (and my daughter’s!)

On Sexual Double Lives, Josh Duggar, and Peace

Josh Duggar and Finding Peace

News broke Wednesday that Josh Duggar had been using the Ashley Madison adultery site to cheat on his wife. Yesterday Josh confessed, taking full responsibility and apologizing.

I found myself so happy reading it. Sad at what that family is going through, yes. But happy because he is taking ownership, and that means that now, in the midst of this mess, even though it doesn’t look like it–that family is closer to peace and redemption and healing than they have been in years.

The mess is so much better than the picture of perfection, because the mess is honest.

On Fridays I usually do a weekly roundup, and I have a lot to talk about this week–my new book was released; I’ve got some hilarious videos of my daughters post-wisdom teeth surgery; and more. But this is important, and needs to be addressed.

How Does a Sexual Double Life Start?

Josh Duggar has been leading a sexual double life. He admitted to being addicted to porn; he admitted to infidelity; and we know that he admitted to molesting his sisters.

I wrote a while back that I believed that the Duggar parents had not handled that molestation well. I had a lot of pushback–“But they’re such a good family, and everyone was healed!”

In many families, though, especially those brought up with extremely conservative sexuality, true healing is swept under the rug in favour of looking like we have it all together. And that’s what I was afraid was going on.

Picture a 14-year-old in a hyper-conservative family. He’s experiencing sexual feelings. He doesn’t know what to do with them. He can’t talk to his parents. And he starts acting out.

He’s punished–but no one deals with the sexual feelings that started this. He’s told those feelings are “only for marriage”. And so he sees sexual feelings as sinful, because people haven’t helped him sort out the good from the bad.

But those sexual feelings are affected in another way: young people are told “sex when you’re married is beautiful,” but they’re also told that kissing is bad and hand holding is bad. And so touch, affection, exploration of any kind is seen as the enemy. This does not magically change once one is married. Passion–that feeling of being “out of control”–has been the enemy for so long that sex in marriage is seen as something which must be clinical to be sacred.

I am not saying that everyone who grows up like this experiences this–not at all!

But many do. Sexual passion is scary, and when we try to bury it, we can easily warp godly sexuality. Godly sexuality is not “controlled”.

But these young people get married, thinking that marriage will control the “lust”–those strong sexual feelings. But it doesn’t, because in their minds, sex in marriage must be entirely about love and never about want.

Where does the want go? It gets buried.

  • In some marriages, a spouse becomes a control freak about everything, not just sex, because these feelings are so powerful they must be kept under wraps. That means working hard to silence your inner adventure-seeker, and it ends up silencing your true self.
  • In other marriages, a spouse splits into two: one half is pure and chaste and unadventurous in the bedroom; the other half is looking at the most outrageous pornography or searching out something daring online.

Denying sexual feelings is very common. I get letters from young people who grew up in families like that, and now they’re married and they are LOST.

There is far too much emphasis in some schools of Christian thought on trying to control someone’s sexuality, as if it is a threat.

To give an example, there is absolutely nothing wrong with an adult deciding, “I am going to save my first kiss until marriage, and I am not going to have any physical contact until I am engaged.” God will ask different things of different people. To walk in obedience to what God is telling you is wonderful.

There is, however, a LOT wrong with a parent telling an adult child “this is what you are going to do.” That is a parent controlling an adult child’s sexuality, and it is wrong. It treats sexuality as an enemy, and it treats the adult child as a child.

We aren’t to control our sexuality; we’re to channel it. To channel it is to acknowledge it, to feel it, to name it, but then, at the same time, to say, “this isn’t for me to explore right now. So God, help me take all of this energy and put it somewhere else, to good use.

Being a PeaceKEEPER Rather Than a PeaceMAKER

And now I want to get to the heart of my message.

Nine Thoughts That Can Change Your Marriage: Because a Great Relationship Doesnt Happen by AccidentThought #6 in my new book that launched this week, 9 Thoughts That Can Change Your Marriage, is asking us to be peacemakers, not peacekeepers.

What’s the difference? A peacekeeper’s job is to keep the warring factions on their own side of the line. It’s to keep hostilities under wraps–simmering, but not erupting. A peacekeeper doesn’t deal with the root issues; a peacekeeper only deals with the expression of those issues, the fighting. A peacekeeper doesn’t solve anything.

A peacemaker, on the other hand, tries to bring the two sides together so that instead of being on opposing sides of the line, they can join each other on the same side. Instead of shaking fists they embrace. They become as one.

And Jesus said, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called children of God.”

Being a Peacemaker, not a Peacekeeper

I believe the Christian church spends far too much time keeping peace, and not enough time making it.

Peacemaking Parents & Children’s Sexuality

Josh Duggar, and so many of my readers’ husbands, led a double life. He had two halves of himself that were at war with each other. I believe that Josh was likely heartbroken, mortified, and horribly ashamed not just when the news broke but for years. He likely hated himself and what he was doing. But he couldn’t stop.

We don’t want that for our kids.

As parents, we can be peacemakers hopefully by preventing the sexual splitting. We can call out what is holy and help our children name, admit, and deal with what is not. When a child cannot talk about struggles, a parent is being a peacekeeper.  A peacekeeping parent says:

  • Good girls don’t touch themselves there.
  • God doesn’t want you thinking about sex. That’s only for marriage.
  • If you love God, He’ll take away your temptations and struggles. Just lean on Him more.
  • We don’t do that sort of thing in our family.

A peacemaker has open conversations.

Peacemaking and Sexuality in Marriage

But now let’s turn to what so many of you are facing: what do you do when  you’re married to a Josh (and even overnight, I had three more comments on older posts from people in just that situation. “I just found porn on my husband’s computer…”)

Dear, dear heartbroken woman: how I wish I could give you a hug.

But please listen to me. Please hear me today.

If your husband has admitted to cheating, to using porn, to texting with someone: you are closer to healing right now than you were two weeks ago when you thought everything was fine.

You are closer to God right now, in this mess, than you were when everything looked perfect.

God is in the mess, because Jesus is in the peacemaking business.

So many of the comments I get are like this: “I discovered this by accident. Do I confront my husband or do I let it go?”

Luke 8:17 says:

For there is nothing hidden that will not be disclosed, and nothing concealed that will not be known or brought out into the open.

Does that sound like a God who prefers things to look perfect, while sin festers underneath? Or does that sound like a God who is fully prepared to deal with the mess, because mess is better than dishonesty?

When your life blows up, don’t fall back on these typical “peacekeeping” reactions:

We just need to get past this and forgive.

You cannot forgive until you shine a light on the hurts and understand the gravity of what you have suffered. A rush to tell someone to forgive, or to take them through a forgiveness process, doesn’t do the hard but necessary work of the Spirit. And indeed, this was my main criticism of the original Duggar scandal; they made the girls forgive and they forgave Josh too early. The focus was on the forgiveness, and not on naming the hurt.

Let’s keep this just between us. Other people don’t need to know.

True repentance is humble. It does not worry about reputation; it worries about whether or not one is right with Jesus. True repentance asks for accountability. One does not have to confess to EVERYONE, but one does have to confess to a few people–and also give the wounded spouse someone to talk to.

Let’s just get back to normal.

You can’t go backwards. But even more importantly: you don’t want to go backwards. As comfortable as it felt, it was built on sand. Your “normal” won’t be your normal again. But that doesn’t mean that your normal won’t be something better. Let Jesus in to the healing process. You may find life messier. It will be more honest, which may initially cause more conflict. But in the end you will find that you are finally at peace, because you don’t have to hide those scary thoughts or suspicions.

And so, dear readers, I am glad Josh is in his mess.

I am sorry that Anna is. But they are now finally on the road to real peace. And for all of you who are walking in similar stories–peace is there, in the person of Jesus who so wants to redeem the two halves of your husband, and the two halves of your marriage, and make them one again. He can do it, if you both allow true honesty and true humility. That’s how we make peace. And you are never, ever alone as you seek it.

Women Need Authenticity! The Phenomenal Effect Campaign

Don’t we all thirst for something REAL–for authenticity?

We scroll through our social media feeds feeling inadequate because everyone else either seems so much more artsy with their photos or have gone on awesome vacations. We walk into church all prettied up, but we’re scared to tell any of the women in this community how lonely we are. We go to a family reunion and show off our kids, but we’re secretly praying that they won’t start fighting over the same things they were fighting over in the car.

We’re scared to let anyone see what we’re really like.

Women's Thirst for Authenticity: Part of Lean Cuisine's Phenomenal Effects campaign!

This summer I’ve been chosen as one of Lean Cuisine’s Phenomenal Ambassadors and sharing great stories of accomplishments. Earlier last month I helped share that the most important thing we should weigh is our effort–not just our success or our appearance.

Lean Cuisine wants to help you Feed Your PhenomenalTM by helping each other recognize the unseen things women do every day that go unnoticed, so I’m sharing the story of a woman who I think is phenomenal.

In my last post I told you about Natalie from Visionary Womanhood, who worked so hard to make her marriage work, and is now leaning more on God as she is learning that she can’t be responsible for someone else’s poor choices. And she’s come to such a greater understanding of grace in the process! She’s writing phenomenal stuff.

Today I want to share another blogger with you: Sarah Ball from Virtuous Woman Exposed. She’s a mom of 5. She struggles with her past. She struggles with keeping romance alive. She’s just plain honest. And that’s refreshing.

I first met Sarah at a writer’s conference two years ago. She was asking my advice on blogging and getting books published, and I invited her to guest post for me. Now, at that particular conference I invited dozens of women to send me guest posts. Sarah is one of the few who followed through.

What really stood out to me was her message. Sarah’s a busy mom of 5. But the whole point of her blog is that she isn’t just “The Virtuous Woman” from Proverbs 31 or anything. She’s “The Virtuous Woman EXPOSED“–the one who tells it like it is and opens up on her own foibles and where life is just plain messy.

As you all know, I’m on a crusade to end the “pat Christian answers” to marriage problems.

Sarah doesn’t give pat answers. She’s the mom of 5 kids, and she’s trying to juggle a blossoming freelance writing career while still being a great mom. And a great wife. And not losing it with everyone in sight.

I love her take on mommy porn–she’s upfront and honest about her own struggles in marriage, and she’s upfront and honest with her 16-year-old daughter. We need more of that!

I love her conclusion that bringing her muffin top on vacation to Mexico was absolutely okay. And I adore her advice to husbands on how to encourage their wives to lose weight. If every man followed her 7 day plan–wow, we’d have great marriages!

And one of the bravest things she did was to create her Fearless in 21 Days series–detailing her own battle with panic attacks and stress, and then showing how we can work through it.

VWE

Nine Thoughts That Can Change Your Marriage: Because a Great Relationship Doesnt Happen by Accident

In 9 Thoughts That Can Change Your Marriage, thought #3 is all about happiness and how our husbands were not put on earth to make us happy. In fact, we weren’t put on earth to be happy. But when we find joy in God and contentment in our circumstances, then happiness usually follows. It’s a by-product of the things that we choose to think about.

And as I told the stories of several women who had discovered happiness in marriage, one said this:

“I realized that my contentment was a gift that I could give my husband.”

Instead of waiting for him to make you happy, finding your own contentment is such a gift. He won’t feel like he has to fix things for you. He won’t feel like he’s inadequate. He’ll feel like he’s 10 feet tall and he can take on the world. And that really is fun to be around!

I’ve read so many “pat Christian answers” about how to find happiness in marriage. You know the kind–learn his love language and be absolutely amazing to him, and then he will do the same for you! Or just pray a lot and you’ll find that God will give you the desires of your heart.

That’s not what it’s about. It’s not about manipulating him. It’s not about trying to convince God to make you happy. It’s about realizing what is in your control, and then chasing after doing the right thing! It’s about honesty. It’s about authenticity before God and before your husband. And it’s about being real.

I love that Sarah has understood that. I love that she’s wrestling in the day to day with real problems, and she’s giving other people a window into that. I love that she’s not projecting this idea that if we have these perfect homes and we do these perfect devotions and we’re all perfectly organized that we’ll be happy. No, that’s not what we’re supposed to be chasing after. It’s not about having a perfect life. It’s about treating yourself well, treating others well, and chasing after God, even in the mess.

So check out Sarah!

Sarah’s all about getting healthy: getting healthy emotionally, getting healthy spiritually, figuring out how to get healthy physically even with 5 kids.

And now I want to know: which woman do you know who is phenomenal?

Visit the Phenomenal Effect website to enter Lean Cuisine’s promotion and help spread the Phenomenal Effect by recognizing the phenomenal women in your life and encouraging them to do the same. You could win prizes for yourself and everyone that you recognize. Also be sure to visit them on Facebook and Twitter

Who are some of the phenomenal women in your life? Tell us about it in the comments. Each comment will automatically be entered to win a $100 Visa gift card, thanks to SheKnows!

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This giveaway is open to US Residents age 18 or older (or nineteen (19) years of age or older in Alabama and Nebraska). Winners will be selected via random draw, and will be notified by e-mail. The notification email will come directly from BlogHer via the sweeps@blogher email address. You will have 2 business days to respond; otherwise a new winner will be selected.

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This sweepstakes runs from 8/13/15 – 9/30/15. 

Be sure to visit the Lean Cuisine brand page on BlogHer.com where you can read other bloggers’ posts!

On Planned Parenthood, Ashley Madison, and Marriage

The news has been filled recently with stories that are quite unbelievable and distressing when it comes to marriage–the Planned Parenthood “let’s sell these baby body parts and get me a Lamborghini” videos, and the Ashley Madison cheating website “I can’t believe I got hacked.”

On Ashley Madison, Planned Parenthood, and our Response

I normally don’t talk a lot about current events–I want to focus on marriage and what we can actually change in the here and now. We can’t do much about news stories, so I don’t like obsessing on them (though I do weigh in on the Duggars or gay marriage or culture at times).

But I’ve been thinking about these two stories–Ashley Madison and Planned Parenthood–and what they have in common.

Nine Thoughts That Can Change Your Marriage: Because a Great Relationship Doesnt Happen by AccidentNext week I’ll be done my summer vacation and I’ll be in full blogging mode again–Wifey Wednesdays will be normal, Top 10 Tuesdays will be back, Reader Question Mondays will be here, and best of all I’ll be gearing up for the launch of 9 Thoughts That Can Change Your Marriage, coming August 18!

But for now, while I’m still just relaxing and thinking, I thought I’d share some random thoughts I’ve had.

1. Our Consciences Are Seared

A few years ago I wrote a column called “Have We Forgotten How to Blush?” It was all about how guilt and shame can actually serve a purpose, and a culture which calls guilt the greatest evil accelerates its own decline.

We live in a society where self-actualization and happiness are the greatest goals, not doing what is right. It’s not about honour; it’s about enjoyment of life. And that is so dangerous.

Ironically, it’s also rather counterproductive, because studies have shown that the greatest sources of happiness are also those that you can’t achieve without being selfless. Marriage, children, friendships–all of these lead to the most happiness. Yet if you are only interested in what you want, those relationships will be frayed. And thus you’re unlikely to find happiness at all.

Today our consciences are seared because there is so much evil all around us. To bring this story even closer to home, apparently Ottawa–which is home to many members of my family and is the largest city near where I live–has the largest proportion of Ashley Madison users. And Ottawa looks like such a peaceful and upright city, compared with many others. Yet apparently we’re a den of adulterers. It’s just so sad.

2. There is No Privacy Anymore

And that can be a good thing! If our consciences are seared, then it’s great that we can get caught.

I found it so interesting reading the news reports about Ashley Madison–some newspapers were saying that the identities of more than 40 million innocent people may be compromised. Really? They’re innocent? How innocent can you be if you sign up for an adultery website?

And what about those images of the Planned Parenthood executives talking about baby parts so cavalierly, while eating and drinking or considering how to get rich. I’m glad that privacy is eroding in some ways, because perhaps then people will be reminded that what they may think is normal behaviour really isn’t normal at all.

3. Doing the Right Thing is Its Own Reward

But here’s the main point I want to make today: doing the right thing is honourable and rewarding in its own right. So don’t give up!

I remember a sermon I heard many years ago about the purposes of God’s commandments. When you read the Old Testament, you may think the relationship goes like this: You obey the commandment, and because of that God blesses you. So the blessing comes from the obedience.

Actually, it’s deeper than that.

The blessing is in the commandment. It isn’t the result of the commandment; it’s the commandment itself.

To see a baby and to love it wholeheartedly. To rejoice when someone you know is pregnant. To love life, even when that life is frail or disabled. To not be tortured by “is this life worth anything”, because you instinctively know it is. To be able to avoid many of those thorny questions because they’re so OBVIOUS and just to move on to the loving–all of that is a blessing.

To be able to rejoice at all baby showers, rather than feeling that if I get too excited about someone’s pregnancy that I’m betraying a cause. To smile at passing strollers and make faces at babies unabashedly because they’re just so cute–and not have to worry if they were wanted or not. To be able to not harden your heart towards children because you know they’re a blessing. To be able to love family because family is a gift–all of these things are blessings.

And we have them because we believe that life matters. It is not just that those who know God have healthier families. It is that IN the believe that life matters we are blessed already.

Or take the Ashley Madison debate.

To know that I don’t have to wonder whether life would be better if I had married another. To know that I don’t have to worry about my husband straying. To know that I am set for life. To know that I am safe. To know that I am loved, even when marriage is difficult (I know some of you don’t know all of these things, and for that I am profoundly sorry. I pray that you and your husband will be able to find true intimacy.)

To know that I don’t have to worry about impressing another man ever again. To know that I can transfer my energy to praying for my kids and for God’s kingdom rather than praying that I will find a partner. To know that I can invest in his life without it being thrown back in my face; all of that is a blessing.

The blessing is the commandment; it is not just a result of the commandment. The blessing is in the knowing right from wrong.

And so as you hear these news stories, do not worry if other people don’t get it. Yes, be righteously angry, especially about the Planned Parenthood story, but remember that you have a blessing that they do not. You understand something that they never will. You are blessed!

So do not worry if other people seemed seared. It’s okay. We still have that blessing, and let’s live in it, and revel in it, and eat it all up. Because it’s beautiful to love babies, and to love family, and to not have to cut off your heart for a cause. That’s a blessing. And I thoroughly intend to enjoy it.

What about you? What have you been thinking about these stories? Leave a comment and let me know!

UPDATE: Just checked the news and ANOTHER Planned Parenthood video has been released. Really gruesome.

Wifey Wednesday: Hope for Marriage–and Our Society

Sometimes life just seems hard.

I’m not even talking about our individual lives. I mean sometimes you look out at the world and it seems like such a mess. And you wonder if you can even make a difference. If there’s a point to anything.

It’s Wednesday, the day when we always talk marriage. And today I don’t have anything really profound to say, except that I’d like to make a few comments on current events–and then offer what may be a more hopeful perspective. And then I’ll still give you a chance to linkup your own marriage posts below!

In watching Facebook and Twitter explode over the last week I know that many are really devastated by a whole series of Supreme Court decisions. Some make one political stripe really sad and frustrated, and other decisions make the other political stripe sad and frustrated.

I understand.

Especially on the issue of same sex marriage, I know that to many this seems like the final straw–that America has crossed a line and can’t go back. That they have now really chosen not to be a Christian nation.

Hope for Marriage–and Our SocietyI can understand the grief, and the sadness, and the despair.

I know that others feel that way about the environmental decisions and about the lethal injection decisions. There’s been a lot of hard stuff lately.

And when  you combine that with the markets tumbling because of Greece, and with ISIS advancing across the Middle East, and with so many Christians being persecuted, the world can look like a hopeless place.

But because this is primarily a marriage blog, I just want to talk to those of you who are really upset by the marriage decision–and then get to some hopeful suggestions for all of us.

I’m Canadian, and so this hasn’t hit me as hard. We went through these fights a decade ago. And  you know what? The sky hasn’t fallen. It’s just that the law of the land now reflects the culture. The problem is the culture, not really the laws. (I know laws can then influence moral opinion, but I think we crossed that line already). And so what we’re doing is mourning the final death of something.

Not to be morbid, but it’s as if someone went missing ten years ago, and they just found the body now. You know your loved one is now dead, but really–they’ve been dead for a decade. It’s just that you now have that finality.

Last week we had that finality hit. And it hit hard. But let’s not fool ourselves–this wasn’t something new. This has been in the works for a long time. And now it’s just out in the open.

We need to stop trying to focus on laws and start trying to focus on hearts. That’s what I was saying in my post a few weeks ago on why Christians are losing the culture war–we forget that our primary battlefield is not in the political arena. It’s in our homes, our workplaces, our communities.

Regardless of your political persuasion, maybe some of these rulings will help us let go of the need to fight so stringently and turn our attention back to the individuals that God has given us to influence.

When we spend so much time worrying about things over which we have no control, it’s easy to get despondent. But when we spend time in the areas that we actually can influence, we feel more purposeful. More powerful. Just plain better.

It reminds me of this graphic I made in my post about how to really make a difference:

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

I don’t think God wants us mourning political change as much as He wants us excited about what we can do within our spheres of influence. So let’s take some time to grieve, if necessary, but then let’s get back in the trenches and turn our eyes to the people around us who really do need help!

And to do that, I’d like to offer you some “escapes” to bolster your marriage this month.

This year I challenged everyone to read one book a month that can help your marriage as part of our Ultimate Marriage Reading Challenge. In July I want to do something different. Instead of a typical nonfiction marriage book, I want to give some suggestions for beach reads–novels–that will help you think differently about your marriage.

Ultimate Reading Challenge for July: Novels!

So here we go. I’m going to give you three suggestions, and you can pick from these and read them. Why three? Because not all of us like the same kinds of books. And besides–you may have already read one! So I’m giving you some choice to make it easier.

One thing: I lean more towards books that can challenge how we THINK about marriage–not just romances.

Romance novels aren’t always helpful. Sometimes they’re wonderful escapes, but they can also make us very dissatisfied. And I get a little bit worried that in the Christian world we’re romanticizing the Amish lifestyle. I’ve seen Amish societies up close and personal, and my husband has done medical rounds there. Depression is rampant, and the women are often “old” by their midtwenties. There’s lots of problems there, too.

I also don’t like the fact that the majority of Christian romances focus on a young girl who is about 21 or 22, and end with her getting married. What about books about REAL LIFE? It’s kind of depressing that publishers can’t seem to publish decent books about real marriage issues.

So  here are three suggestions, that are all VERY different, that can help you this summer.

A Time to Dance (Timeless Love Series)A Time to Dance by Karen Kingsbury

I don’t love all of Karen Kingsbury’s novels–but I did love this one. It focuses on a couple in mid-life who have been married a little over two decades, and who are just plain done. Everyone thinks they have the perfect marriage, but they’ve been drifting apart for years. The love has gone. The passion evaporated eons ago. And now it’s time to call it quits.

But just as they’re going to announce their divorce their daughter announces her engagement. Not wanting to wreck things for her they decide to stick it out until after the wedding. And as they do, they both start examining what marriage means and how to rebuild a love that has gone. It’s actually very powerful, and very real.

Who should read this: If you like simple fiction that’s based in reality (ie. not historical or “other culture”, etc.)

Get A Time to Dance here.

Mark of the Lion : A Voice in the Wind, An Echo in the Darkness, As Sure As the Dawn (Vol 1-3)Mark of the Lion series by Francine Rivers

Likely my favourite Christian novel series of all time. Francine Rivers writes a trilogy of life for new Christians during Roman times, when persecution of Christians has picked up. You’ve got gladiators and barbarians and centurions and war. But you’ve also got this godly, lovely Jewish slave girl who is trying to live out her new found faith in Christ in the worst circumstances.

Each book focuses on a different relationship, but what I found reading the series is that Hadassah’s (the slave’s) goodness haunted me and stayed with me.

Some have criticized Rivers because she puts too much sensuality in her books (not erotica; sensuality). I think that’s silly. If you’re an adult and you’re married, it’s okay to read about how a woman is tempted by what a man looks like, or how she has to fight against that, or how she’s excited for her wedding night. It really is okay. And I’d actually rather see books do that MORE rather than less, so that they can start reflecting reality again.

Who should read this: Anyone who loves historical fiction–and anyone who wants to be really challenged in their faith.

Get the Mark of the Lion series here.

Redeeming LoveRedeeming Love by Francine Rivers

Okay, I asked on Facebook yesterday for recommendations for novels that will boost your marriage, and this was the #1 book mentioned. I have read Redeeming Love–it’s the story of the book of Hosea lived out in the American West as it was being settled in the last century. A man is called to marry a prostitute–and he does. But she’s not ready for that kind of unconditional love, and she doesn’t know what to do with it.

This wasn’t my favourite book, and I do think that the book teaches you more about God than it does about marriage. But like I said, it was the most popular book mentioned by YOU, my readers. So I know that it will touch many of you, and I know that my down-to-earth taste in books is not everyone’s. :)

Who should read this: Those who love a sweeping tragic story with a happy ending.

Get Redeeming Love here.

I hope you have a wonderful time reading this summer! And I hope your marriages are strengthened so that you go and help other people with their marriages–regardless of what is going on in Washington or in the rest of the world.

Wifey Wednesday: Christian marriage postsNow it’s your turn! Do you have something to share with us about marriage today? Leave the URL to your marriage post in the linky below. And be sure to link back here so other people can read these great marriage posts.



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What Not to Say to Someone Who Has Had a Miscarriage

Today’s guest post is from Sarah Philpott from All American Mom. She’s telling us what NOT to say when someone has a miscarriage–based on some of the insensitive things she was told. Unfortunately, I think far too many of you will identify.

What Not to Say to Someone Who Has Had a Miscarriage

Support provided by loved ones is one of the ways that people are helped through any grief process.

When a family member dies, society rallies around the griever. Refrigerators are full of casseroles, mailboxes are full of cards, and shoulders are loaned to cry upon.

But the grieving process of a woman losing her unborn child is often lonely. This loneliness might be by choice- she might choose not to tell people. But sometimes the loneliness is because society as a whole tends to minimize miscarriage. “Maybe next time” or “It just wasn’t meant to be” are very common phrases uttered. Unfortunately these comments are often quite hurtful to the woman who has just lost her baby.

Stop and read the end of that sentence again, “lost her baby.”

You see, this is not an abstract concept or a dream- we are mourning the loss of a baby: a loved baby.

We found out we were pregnant with our baby (we might have been nervous, scared or excited), we used our bodies to nurture our baby (we read books, blogs, envisioned rocking our baby, stopped drinking coffee, stopped eating deli meat, started planning our nursery), and then we lost our baby. The physicality of this is quite intense; the emotional toil is real. It might not have been “real” to onlookers, but we know that our bodies were nurturing a human life and even though we shouldn’t- many of us feel misguided guilt that we couldn’t bring the baby to term.

It hurts. Our thoughts are invaded by untruths. And even though we find comfort that our babies are in heaven with God, it still hurts. At the crux- all we ask is that you don’t minimize our loss and that you don’t offer comments that make us feel any further guilt. Pregnancy loss shouldn’t be minimized or brushed aside as not being worthy of grief. The loss of a baby is a grievous situation.

No one intends to be insensitive. I know you wish to bring comfort. I’m truly touched that you are reading this; it means you want to be helpful. Your heart is in the right place. I just want to help you with your words.

Grief and death are tricky topics for anyone to address. My hands get sweaty when I walk into a funeral home. I don’t know quite what to say. We’ve all been there- in that uncomfortable space where “I’m sorry” just doesn’t seem quite enough. Although I had a legion of support after my two miscarriages, my feelings were hurt numerous times by well-intentioned people. All of this is compounded by the hormones a female experiences after a miscarriage. There is a marked increase in risk for depression and anxiety after a pregnancy loss (Lok, I.H & Neugebauer, R. 2007). It’s not something we can control- it’s a common psychological consequence of miscarriage.

After having my feelings bruised numerous times, I finally accepted that we can never understand someone’s unique life experience; therefore, we can’t expect someone to understand the physical pain and emotional toil of a miscarriage if they have not had that experience. I also kept repeating the verse from Romans 3:10, “There is no one righteous; not even one.” To me, this means that there are no perfect people in the world. People make mistakes and I can’t hold a grudge for a person’s offhand remarks. God is the ONLY one I can count on for comfort.

I did decide that I could help educate people on miscarriage- this includes raising awareness of phrases that evoke more harm than healing.

Here are some commonly said comments you will want to avoid if you desire offering support to a grieving mama.

As you read these, please know that these are compiled by a large group of women. These are comments we all heard numerous times. I’ve also included the voices of some of the women.  Above all, please know- we appreciate that you want to offer us support. Thank you.

Please don’t tell me:

  • It happened for a reason.
  • Something was probably wrong with the baby.
  • Go and have a drink to take the edge off.
  • It was God’s will.

I feel too often in the Christian community that people want to brush over miscarriage like it’s no big deal saying things like “You’ll have another baby” or “This was the Lord’s plan for your life” without really considering what the mama is going through.

“Just Adopt”
We know we can adopt. We might one day, but I’m grieving the loss of a specific baby. One that I just lost.

“At Least You Have Another Child”
I’m so grateful for my other child, but that doesn’t mean I’m not sad over the loss of this baby.

“You Can Always Have Another Baby”
I had to have a hysterectomy. I can’t have another baby.

It hurt when people reacted like I’d lost a puppy. And followed it up by saying I could have another. I wanted the one I lost. I feel like people that haven’t experienced the loss unknowingly trivialize it to a degree because we never physically meet our babies. It made me mad, and still does, but I try to remind myself that I can’t blame people for their reactions if they have never experienced the loss.

People would say, “oh, you’ll have more kids one day.” Realistically I knew that I might not be medically able to have more children. I wanted to accept that fact and learn to be okay with it. I didn’t like false hope or people treating it like I had lost a puppy dog, ‘oh, you can get a new puppy again,’ is what it felt like. The doctor told me it would be extremely difficult for me to carry a baby to term.

“At Least It Happened Early”
Because losing a baby is somehow easier or less painful that way?

“Have you found out what’s wrong with you?”

“Did you exercise too much?”

“It was probably that insecticide you sprayed around your house.” (INSERT ANY AND ALL “BLAME COMMENTS”)

This person responded by basically indicating that I should probably ‘get checked out’ because something might be ‘wrong with me.’ It just really bothered me. I know there were good intentions somewhere behind what she said, but all it did was to bring back that flood of guilt that I had been trying so desperately to let go of.

“Well, you shouldn’t have announced your pregnancy so early.   You knew this could have happened.”

“So, when are you going to try again?”

All of those comments were just so incredibly insensitive.

Here is a picture of me cradling our second baby.

What Not to Say to Someone Who Has Had a Miscarriage

It was the day I found out I was pregnant. This was the first baby I lost. I’m not showing you this for you to feel sorry for me. I’m really not. I promise- I am okay now. I hesitated even posting this picture because I know it will make you uncomfortable. I am showing it to you for you to see the excitement in my eyes so that you realize that I was carrying a baby in my womb. I had hopes, dreams and fears.

Please be kind and thoughtful with your words- don’t minimize our losses and please be careful not to utter any phrases that could lead us to believe that you are blaming us for our loss.

Pray, offer a hug, tell us you are sorry. Give us time, permission, and space to grieve. Really- those simple tokens of love are the most helpful.

Sarah PhilpottSarah Lewis Philpott recently earned her Ph.D, but instead of climbing the ivory tower she happily spends her days being a farmer’s wife to her high school sweetheart and being a mom to young two mischievous children. She blogs at All American Mom.

Represented by the Blythe Daniel Agency, Sarah is working on a book that looks at the sensitive topic of pregnancy loss and also about cherishing the life that was conceived. She runs a Loved Baby Pregnancy Loss Support Group on Facebook that is open for anyone to join.

Reader Question: I Never Told On My Abuser

Reader Question: How do I stop the lies and tell about past sexual abuse?Do family secrets need to be brought to light? Should you confront someone who abused you as a child?

Every Monday I like to post a reader question and take a stab at answering it. Last week, after I posted on the Duggar abuse scandal, I started receiving quite a few emails and Facebook messages from women who were abused as children and weren’t sure what their next steps should be now. This note in particular really hit me:

I have been reading your posts about the Duggar ‘scandal’ with much appreciation. I have been on the receiving end of unwanted sexual behavior a number of times as a child and teen, even in the first year of our marriage (from someone other than my spouse) and I am struggling to move on.  It was all kept a secret. I find it so difficult to open up to my husband of 5 years. I have spoken to him, but don’t know if he wants to know more, or if he just assumes I am all healed. How much or little detail do I go into? My parents also were not very open about sexuality and anything really other than teach biblical doctrine and cooking and cleaning. I lack many insights on what a healthy marriage is and just feel like I am drowning in emotion and self pity and I just want it to END! My husband is also recovering from watching porn. He’s doing really well but I am the only one he has told about it. The people from my past are known to me and two are relatives that I see regularly at family functions and church. I have forgiven them in my heart but feel I need to do so face to face. Do I talk to to them?

What a lot of pain! Let’s try to give her some help:

Bringing Past Abuse to Light: How to stop the secrets

First, a couple of big things: she is dealing with so much, and she’s living in the center of shame: shame from her parents who never talked about sex; shame from those who abused her; and shame because her husband watched porn. And she’s never been able to properly talk about any of this because there’s this cone of silence around everything.

The secrets need to stop.

When we shed light, God is there and can do amazing things. When we keep secrets and keep things hidden, we prevent God from doing His work, too.

I’m reminded of Micah 6:8 here:

He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.

God wants us to love justice (which requires truth and speaking up); to do all this in a spirit of mercy (without vindictiveness or bitterness); and to be humble before God.

So often we think we’re merciful if we just “let things go”. But you can’t have real mercy without truth; you need both.

And so I’m going to suggest a radical shaking up in your family that may make you uncomfortable. I’m going to suggest that you tell the truth.

Here’s why:

Forgiveness and reconciliation are not the same thing.

Forgiveness is something that you can do on your own: you decide “I will let God deal with this person, not me.”

Reconciliation on the other hand requires acknowledgment on the part of the other person to the pain that that person has caused. Reconciliation helps not just your own relationship but that person’s relationship with God. They’re forced to confront their misdeeds and they have a chance to repent and make things right.

When there is no reconciliation, there can be no real relationship. There is only a false facade. A real relationship can’t be based on a lie, and when there is something that big, it is all a lie.

So you have to tell the truth in order to get your relationships on a path where God can work towards peace or can let people choose judgment (and He would rather that people be given that stark choice than that things remain in secrets and lies). Remember, he’d rather us be hot or cold, not lukewarm.

But there’s another reason this has to come to light.

If someone abused you, chances are you were not the only one.

Therefore, if these individuals have minor children in the home still, then you must call children’s services. You simply must, in order to prevent any harm to those kids. I know this will be tough, but morally it is absolutely the right thing to do.

If these individuals serve in leadership at their church, or if they serve with children in any way at their work or at church, you must also tell their church. You are not responsible for what the church does with that information, but you must tell. A simple letter or email is fine. So many churches have been rocked by abuse, and this will continue to happen unless we start speaking up. And churches desperately want to avoid children being hurt in their care.

Speaking of contacting authorities, if the statute of limitations is not expired in your state, you may also consider filing criminal charges. But that is up to you.

Also, there may be other adult victims in your family. You may have cousins or siblings who were also abused by these men. When you speak up, you give them the chance to as well.

So you must speak up to achieve reconciliation, to validate others’ abuse stories, and to protect others.

But what are your practical steps? Here you go:

How to End Secrets and Bring Past Abuse to Light

I’m going assume that you have already contacted authorities and the church, if necessary. But here’s what you do for the rest of your family:

Get some support around you.

Talk to a counselor preferably, or one or two mentors who can pray with you and stand with you. Once you have talked it over with them, be fully open with your husband. Tell him what happened to you, in as much detail as you are comfortable with, and tell him how you think this affected you. Tell him that you want healing, and you’re striving towards that, and you totally believe healing can happen. Sometimes this is easier to do with the counselor present. Then the counselor can also explain to your husband why you need to bring this to light.

Tell your immediate family

Now it’s time to tell your parents and your siblings (unless they are the abusers; in that case skip to the next step). Tell them what happened, and tell them this: “I am going to contact them and ask for acknowledgement of what happened and an apology. If it is not given, I can no longer be in fellowship with them. I ask you not to invite them to family events anymore. If you do, then I will no longer come.

This is not being mean; it is just acknowledging that while forgiveness can be given by you alone, reconciliation cannot. Reconciliation is only possible when the other party admits the sin.

Contact your abusers in a safe way

I suggest using email; it keeps you at a safe distance and it avoids you having to listen to them yell or be defensive or call you names. You can even do so using your husband’s email so that if they send back a horrible response your husband can screen it and shield you from the details, if necessary.

Say something like, “I have disclosed the things that you did to me when I was X years old to my parents, my family, and my husband (and the authorities or the church if you also did this). I would ask that you admit what you did and apologize. If you do not, I will no longer be able to see you at social functions or at church. I ask that you be open and honest so that healing and reconciliation can take place.”

Contact the church (if you haven’t already) and ask for church discipline

You go to the same church as these individuals. That must end unless you achieve reconciliation (and even if you do, it may still be a good idea to go to a different church).

However, if you like your church, then they should have to leave it, not you.

Contact the elders’ board and explain in as much detail as is necessary what happened at the time, and ask that the elders help your abusers get established in another church so that you can feel spiritually safe.

Warning: many churches will not handle this well, especially if your abusers are in leadership positions. This may cause you a lot of hurt. If you know it won’t be handled well, then you likely need a new church anyway. That’s not a safe church.

Recognize that this will be difficult

This may very well blow a hole in your family, and people may blame you. But you did not cause the rift; your abusers did. You are simply trying to mend the rift by achieving honesty and reconciliation.

A family that socializes without acknowledging harm done is not healthy. It may outwardly look fine, but there is no real love there. Real love can only be present when real truth is also present. If self-preservation and “not rocking the boat” are the main things people want, then that is not loving; it is holding God at a distance. If God is going to do something in your family, it will only be because someone is finally shining a light on Truth.

So, yes, you may lose some relationships with your family. But those relationships weren’t real anyway. It is better–even if it is heartbreaking–to move forward in truth.

What about your marriage?

When secrets are part of your past, it’s very likely that openness is missing in your marriage. You grew up without honesty and good communication, so it’s hard to achieve that now, even in a healthy relationship.

31 Days to Great SexIn our letter writer’s case, it sounds like she and her husband need to start learning to talk about and communicate about sex and marriage. I’d really suggest talking to a counselor for at least six sessions. And if you haven’t done it yet, I’d really suggest picking up a copy of 31 Days to Great Sex, which walks you through so many exercises that will help the conversations start. For so many people that’s what they need most: a way to actually talk about it.

My dear readers: my heart has broken this week with all of these stories I’ve been hearing. There are just so many secrets. So many. But Jesus came to be the Light, and He can handle those secrets. I don’t know if He will bring reconciliation; He leaves that up to us to choose it, and your abusers may not. But it is better to live under Truth, even if it means your family gets a lot smaller, than to live with a lie.

I’m so sorry. I really am. May God be with you and may He put the right people around you to support you as you tell the truth.

Let me know: has your family ever been rocked by something like this? What did you do? Let me know in the comments!

Why Christians are Losing the Culture War

Christians may be losing the Culture War--but maybe that's not the worst thing in the world if it gets us back to reaching out to our neighbors.Christians are in a Culture War. And I don’t think we’re doing a particularly good job.

Yesterday was my birthday, and I posted about the Duggar abuse scandal. Which got read a lot. And which kind of consumed the day (I didn’t even get cake).

So perhaps I’m just feeling a little contemplative today, but I have a bunch of thoughts in my brain that I thought I should try to get down. I hope they make sense, but after a weekend of watching many Christians defend the Duggars’ decision not to immediately remove Josh from the home; saying “the girls are absolutely fine! You can tell because we see that on TV!”; and “it was only touching; it wouldn’t have done that much harm”, I guess I’m just a little restless and rather sad.

So I want to give my hypothesis of what’s happening in our culture.

Western culture, and especially American culture, used to be quite Christian.

We had Christian values, even if not everybody believed. And, to a large extent, people felt that our country was blessed because the country reflected Christ’s values.

Then everything went off the rails starting in the 1960s. The family was attacked. Marriage was attacked. The church was attacked.

So we went into defense mode. Every time we were attacked we’d fight. We decided that we wanted to stand out from the world, so we created more and more rigid standards of what it means to be a Christian–even more rigid than in the 1950s (take purity, for example. No one was arguing for no hand holding until you’re engaged in the 1950s. This is a new cultural phenomenon).

And we treat this like a war. We’ve decided there are two sides: Us and Them.

We retreat into our own sides on the internet and in news media. Whenever one of ours is attacked, we fight back, regardless of the merits of the situation. We can’t give ground, after all, or we very well may lose everything.

Right now Christians are waiting, scared, for the Supreme Court decision on gay marriage to come down. What will happen if they allow gay marriage everywhere? What will we do?

And I guess I’m just afraid that we’ve gone a bit off track and we’re losing the bigger picture.

Our main job on this earth is not to fight a culture war. Our main job is to reach people for Jesus and to show Christ’s love to a hurting world.

I live in a country (Canada) where the Supreme Court legalized gay marriage years ago, despite the votes of elected officials. I was despondent when that decision came down, and I wrote articles in papers before the decision talking about why traditional marriage matters. Because it does. And once you allow gay marriage, a whole lot of other consequences follow. Marriage becomes about a lifestyle choice, making it less likely people will marry. Adoption issues become messed up. Custody issues become messed up. It’s just plain sad.

But you know what? Our laws simply reflect our culture, and our culture is already there. And sometimes a country gets what it deserves.

That isn’t to say that we shouldn’t care; it’s only to say that even if the Supreme Court doesn’t allow gay marriage, I’m not sure what difference that will make because people’s hearts are no longer for traditional commitment. They just aren’t. And your laws reflect your culture, so within 10-15 years you will have gay marriage anyway, regardless of what the Supreme Court says.

Abortion is a separate issue; we’re winning there. But that’s because both issues have as an undercurrent justice and human rights. The world sees gay marriage as a human right and as a justice issue (gays should not be discriminated against). They see abortion in a similar way, because ultrasounds have let us see that this is a child. And so people are against abortion but for gay marriage, and in their minds that’s perfectly consistent.

So what do we do?

We can keep fighting, pointing out every bit of liberal hypocrisy to show that we’re right. We can keep fighting this war and funding this war and try to keep our ground.

And there likely is need for this. I think of it as a day job–we need professional Christians to fight the culture war on a 9-5 basis. But then let’s get back to our real life with real neighbours and real friends and real individuals.

Fighting the Culture War can’t be our main strategy or our main effort for evangelism, because it can backfire.

First, because we think in terms of strategy rather than in terms of Truth, Compassion, and Love. Sometimes strategically it seems better to slam your opponent rather than to admit that your Culture War soldier may have been off base. But that’s not standing for Truth.

But it’s not just because it can turn people away from God; it’s also because it blinds us to our own mission.

I had a woman say this on Facebook yesterday about my post about the Duggars: “I totally agree with your post, but I don’t see how saying all of this will show non-Christians we’re reasonable or that we love the victims. The media would never report this anyway. They just like to play “gotcha”.

That’s the problem. We think the Christian life is lived out in the Culture War, and it’s not. The Culture War is important, but it is not our Christian life, nor should it be our main focus. She was saying, “talking about this won’t matter; it’s only what the media reports that matters.” But that’s not true at all!

Let me give you one example: both of my girls have large numbers of non-Christian friends on Facebook–from work, from university, etc. And they saw non-Christians saying things like, “The Duggar scandal proves God doesn’t exist”, or much worse things. So the girls posted Rebecca’s article that was critical of the Duggars, and talked about how appalled they were, too. And their friends understood, and many messaged them and said, “I’m so glad you said that. I thought all Christians were excusing the Duggar parents. I’m so glad to know that’s not true. Thank you for standing up for what’s right.”

In fact, in the whole hubbub, the girls were attacked by Christians and comforted by non-Christians. Katie, especially, had non-believers messaging her and saying, “thank you for standing strong. I’m sorry for all the hate you’re getting, but we’re with you. You’re a great person.”

The media didn’t share Rebecca’s Duggar article. The media didn’t say, “some Christians aren’t supporting the Duggars.” But these people got the message because the girls said it themselves.

I’m afraid that we have put ourselves in such enclaves that most of us don’t have non-Christian friends, so the only way we communicate with non-Christians IS through the media.

And we forget that evangelism is supposed to be one on one. It’s relationship building. And that’s the only thing that will bring people back to Christ.

The disciples wanted Jesus to lead an army and win Israel by force. I sometimes think that’s what Christians want for America, too. Look, I’m not against having Christian leaders–Canada’s Prime Minister is a Christian and I pray everyday that he will win the next election. A country is blessed when it has Christian leaders.

But our main goal on this earth is not to make America into a Christian nation; it is to reach individuals for Christ.

And sometimes in the way that we frame the culture war as Us vs. Them, and circle the wagons, we turn off the individuals. And we feel like we are so busy winning people to Christ because we are so engaged in the Culture War–supporting politicians, giving political contributions, keeping up on the news, writing political letters–that we forget we have neighbors who just need to see Jesus. Not a letter writing campaign.

One more thing: In our attempt to be Us vs. Them, we have created even more legalistic rules of what it means to be a Christian, so that you can be sure you’re on the right side of the Culture War. To me, one of the main problems of the Duggar show was that it made it seem like the only way to be pure was to save hand holding until engagement and kissing until marriage. By showing something so counter-cultural, we thought we could show the world there is an alternative and win people to Christ that way.

But we’re just setting up rigid rules that the Bible doesn’t have. If you choose those things for yourself I completely support you. But saving hand-holding until engagement is not the biblical definition of purity.

The more that we elevate these kinds of extreme rules for Christian living, the more we solidify the Us vs. Them.

Let’s remember that Jesus was radical–but He was radical because He hung out with tax collectors and sinners, and they enjoyed Him! He was actually, for His time, radically Progressive. We’re trying to be radically Conservative. And by doing that, we’re almost becoming radical Pharisees. (I’m not saying we should become today’s version of Progressives, by the way; I’m just noting that we’ve turned the idea of radical on its head.)

I just want us to get back to a life where it’s not about rules; it’s about Jesus. And when Jesus (not rules) is real in our lives, we will have a true love for our neighbours, not a disdain for them because of the Us vs. Them Culture War.

I’m not sure if that makes any sense; I didn’t get a lot of sleep last night. And, like I said, I do think it’s important to have good laws and Christian leaders. I do think holiness matters. But the Culture War can’t be our main focus of evangelism. It doesn’t work first of all, but it also makes us all feel like we’re part of the Great Commission when we’re really doing nothing of the sort. We will win the Culture War when we start winning individuals. And the louder and more stridently we fight the Culture War, the more we lose those individuals all around us.

Does anyone get what I’m saying? Or can you give me an example from your own life of how you reached out to an individual rather than seeing them as an Us vs. Them? I’m not sure I’m articulating myself well here, so I’d love to keep the discussion going in the comments!

And then I’ll try to get back to regularly scheduled programming and regular type posts tomorrow. :)

 

Why The Duggar Abuse Scandal Matters

The Duggar Abuse Scandal: Why it's so sad, and why it mattersOn Friday my daughter wrote a blog post about the Duggar sexual abuse scandal. I posted it on Facebook. And both of us had a whole pile of criticism thrown at us.

So today I’d like to explain, in my own words, why I think the Duggar abuse scandal matters and what we should learn from it.

Is Josh forgiven?

Absolutely.

Did the Duggar parents try to do the right thing at the time?

Inasmuch as they knew how, I suppose, though it took them a year to actually contact the police after they knew what Josh was doing; they did not remove him immediately from the home (and thus continued to put the girls in danger); and they did not get Josh counseling (Michelle has admitted that; they only sent him to a family friend where he performed manual labor).

But here’s the point:

Some of these girls had been sexually abused, some as young as 5. They were taken through a healing process to “forgive” their abuser. And then they were put on a TV show which had as its main premise that this family knows how to instill healthy sexuality into their kids.

It’s quite simple: the Duggar parents should either have been authentic about the abuse or, if they didn’t want to dredge it up publicly (a choice I completely understand and empathize with), then they should have turned down the show. That was their mistake; it was the minimization of the effects of abuse.

The Christian community as a whole has rallied around the Duggars and reacted vehemently against any who would criticize them. I think that is a serious mistake for our witness.

Here are two reasons why:

Christians Need to Be Authentic

When people see authentic Christians they are attracted to Christ. When they see Christians covering up sins they run in the opposite direction. It is hypocrisy that kills our witness.

So is Josh forgiven? Yes. He honestly repented, from everything I have seen.

But it’s not that simple. I have had people say, “David was forgiven! So what’s the big deal? He who is without sin cast the first stone.”

David wrote Psalm 51, where he laid his sin bare and held nothing back, when he was still king, knowing it would damage his reputation. But he did it because he was authentic before God and before his people. And God called David “a man after my own heart”. It was not that God approved of David despite the sin (as some are saying now about the Duggars); it was that God approved of David because of his authenticity.

If the Duggars had owned up to this at the very beginning of the show, not only would it not have been the issue that it is now, but they would have had such a powerful testimony of how God heals. Instead they have  tarnished their reputation and have lost their platform to speak for God. That is what inauthenticity does.

Many are saying, “but why should they have had to speak about something that was healed and forgotten?” Because they portrayed themselves as a family who had it all together–when they obviously did not. That is why they are in trouble now. It’s not the abuse; it’s the fact that they never acknowledged it earlier. So either don’t do the show, or own up to it. It’s that simple.

Right now, Christians believe we are in a huge culture war. And so when some of our perceived warriors–like the Duggars–are under fire, we close ranks, thinking that by preventing people from criticizing them we will somehow win that culture war.

The truth is the exact opposite. We win people by showing the world that God cares.

And despite people’s cries of “Judge not lest ye be judged”, they seem to overlook that Paul said, in 1 Corinthians 5:12: “What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside?” He was quite adamant that we were to judge those claiming to be Christians so that we do not ruin our witness. Paul knew that hypocrisy was so dangerous to the cause of Christ. So we should never cover up sin.

David and Paul were both very open about their sinful pasts, because they knew that their weakness and sin showed the power of God. The Duggars took a different approach. They chose to portray a family that did not struggle sexually, despite this huge elephant in the room, presumably thinking that showing an exemplary life would point people to Christ. Authenticity is far more effective in evangelism than perfection; it is authenticity that the world yearns for.

The Catholic church was in a world of hurt about the sexual abuse scandal in the 1990s. But the problem was not the abuse itself. It was the failure of the church to come clean along with its attempt to hide it. If we keep portraying ourselves as having it all together, and don’t admit huge failings, we ruin our witness because we are inauthentic.

I know it’s not in the same league, but when I wrote The Good Girls Guide to Great Sex I decided that I couldn’t share my thoughts on sex without going public about the fact that I suffered from vaginismus when I was first married. I had never told anyone this–not even close friends. It was really embarrassing. But how could I write an authentic book without also sharing the healing that God had done in my life–and how messed up I had been? Shouldn’t I use my story to point people to Christ? I didn’t want to talk about it, but I did. I never really intended to tell my girls about it, either, but now I have to because it’s in the book. But I’m glad I did, because I have had so many people share their stories with me since.

Authenticity opens doors; self-preservation closes them.

The lesson to be learned: We Christians need to stop having “idols” and stop thinking that keeping up perfect appearances will win people to Christ. We need to start being authentic instead.

We Need to Be Real About the Lasting Effects of Sexual Abuse

Can you be healed from sexual abuse? Absolutely. It’s a large part of my “Girl Talk” where I talk about sex and marriage.

But everything we know about the healing from sexual abuse shows that it is usually not quick, nor is it usually a one-step process.

A person can be healed and go on with their lives, but then something will “trigger” it again, sometimes even years later. Hitting puberty. Starting to have feelings for boys. Starting to date. Getting married. Having a child of your own. Having that child hit the age that you were when the abuse happened.

And at each stage you need to go through a deeper level of healing.

This is NORMAL. This does not mean that you weren’t healed at first; it’s only that much of healing from abuse happens in stages, because we don’t experience the full effects until later.

Almost all abuse survivors will report this.

By saying that the girls were “healed” because they “forgave” when they were so young–remember, some were only 6–the Duggar parents showed that they did not understand the normal healing process for sexual abuse.

And when supporters say, “the girls were healed back then, why dredge it up now?”, we show an extreme insensitivity to others who were also sexually abused.

Author Mary DeMuth, herself a sexual abuse survivor, puts it this way:

Instant forgiveness and “putting it behind you” only delays the healing process, a journey that only begins by stating the awfulness of the violation. By shoving the story under the rug for the sake of your family or church community, you may save the perpetrator’s reputation and the reputation of those near him or her, but you lose important ground in becoming free.

An untold story never heals. It just festers until it comes out in unwanted behavior.

Easy “forgivism” may gloss over the terrible situation in the short term, but it reinforces to everyone that the egregious, soul-siphoning sin committed against the victim was trivial, easy to get over.

I have no idea how the girls feel now. But I do know that those girls were in a position where they had to act as if their family had it all together. They even wrote a book about their sexuality and never mentioned it. Every sexual abuse survivor I know–without exception–has told me that their sexual abuse had a huge impact on their sexuality. To not be able to mention it is to invalidate a huge part of their story.

Besides that, apparently at least one victim was not part of the family. How did that victim feel watching the show where all the sisters were praising Josh? Does she matter?

The world is watching whether we will show compassion to sexual abuse survivors.

I am not asking us to string Josh up; I think he is a victim as well, and he will likely bear even more long term consequences. The incest taboo is one of the most hard-wired things in us. The fact that he was able to overcome this taboo and fondle his sisters means that he must have been going through something awful himself. It’s really very tragic for everyone.

So, no, we should not ask for Josh to be punished. But we do need to say that to require the girls to act like all is okay; to require them to extend quick grace; to portray to the world that “we are all fine” is to denigrate sexual abuse survivors.

Even if the Duggar girls are 100% okay, 95% of sexual abuse survivors were NOT okay immediately. And those survivors are hearing Christians say, “what’s the problem? It’s all behind them!”

What do they think if it is not behind THEM? What do they think when they hear, “we should let it go and forget about it!”–when THEY cannot let it go or forget about it?

What do they think when they hear that a 6 or 7 or 8 year old girl forgave and forgot, and is never ever bothered by it again? In the Duggars’ statement, they insinuated that this was all taken care of  years ago–even when the girls were so young at the time of counseling. I don’t know any reputable counselor who would say that you can make that type of pronouncement at that young an age.

And if they really were healed completely, and it honestly never bothered them–then what a testimony! Imagine if they had been able to share on their show how they got past this! But they didn’t. And now they have burned those bridges.

The lesson to be learned: The world is watching us. This is our chance to honor the stories of sexual abuse survivors and to show true compassion for those who have endured sexual abuse.

I have heard so many Christians defend the Duggar parents, and I understand. They’re in a horrible situation and we feel sorry for them.

But let’s remember that they are not the real victims here. However sad it is, they are simply bearing the consequences of poor decisions they made a decade ago. The real victims are the Duggar girls and the girl, or girls, outside the family who were abused; sexual abuse survivors hearing terrible messages about how “it was a long time ago” and “what does it matter” and “it was just touching”; and even, to a certain extent, Josh, whose life would be far better today had his parents, his church, and the authorities handled this appropriately back then.

If our voices of compassion are louder for the Duggar parents than they are for the victims, we, whether we intend to or not, minimize the severity of the effects of abuse. And I hope none of us would honestly want to do that.

 

 

Top 10 Ways to Get Turned On By Your Husband Again

How do you get turned on by your husband again? I get this question regularly. So I’m going to let one of my favourite guest posters, J from Hot, Holy and Humorous, give us 10 GREAT ways to keep the flame alive.

10 Ways to Get Turned On by your Husband Again--after not feeling attracted to him for a while. #marriage

J writes:

I recently fielded a question on my blog from a wife who wasn’t physically attracted to her husband. She wanted to have that heart-pounding desire for him, but just didn’t feel it. What could she do?

I answered her extensively, but I want to share a summary here, with 10 tips for how any wife can nurture her attraction and chemistry with her husband. How do we get or keep those heart-thumping sensations in our marriage?

1. Rethink Romance.

Many believe a successful marriage and satisfying intimacy requires falling in love, feeling like he’s your soul mate, being sexually compatible.

Look, I’m thrilled we live in a culture where I fell in love with the hubster and chose to marry him, but marriages in the Bible and throughout history have happened for various reasons—chemistry, love, family connection, alliances, physical provision. And more than a few were truly happy, regardless how they got started.

Why? Because a good marriage involves living out godly principles and acting in love. Start tossing love cookies your hubby’s way, and that target of your attention may start looking pretty darn good.

Quick tip: For real romance, read 1 Corinthians 13 and put “The Love Chapter” into practice.

2. Focus on the Positives.

Have you heard the saying, “folks are usually about as happy as they make up their minds to be.”? There’s truth to that, including how you feel about others. If you look at the positives, you might find your husband’s attractiveness improves from your adjusted viewpoint.

So reflect often on what’s so great about him! How about starting a gratitude journal and listing 1-3 things each day that make you happy to be married to your man? Focus on his deeper character traits, sure, but also list physical characteristics that are attractive or masculine.

Keeping track of what’s truly handsome about your guy, you’ll begin to appreciate him in a spine-tingling way.

Quick tip: Keep a journal listing your husband’s attractive physical qualities.

3. Express Loving Thoughts.

When you repeatedly compliment someone and watch them light up in response, you reinforce that positive behavior for both of you. So focus on an attractive trait of your husband and express that loving thought to him.

We get the idea sometimes we ladies are the only ones concerned about body image, but husbands usually respond very favorably to their wives expressing what they find attractive about their man.

Train yourself to focus on his handsome qualities. In return, you’ll find the compliments easier to give, and your mind and heart will respond to what your mouth has expressed.

Quick tip: Read Song of Songs for inspiration on describing your man’s handsome appearance.

4. Eat Healthy.

What does eating have to do with romantic chemistry?

Being attracted to someone involves the release of body chemicals that fuel that lovin’ feeling. Chemicals such as testosterone, oxytocin, endorphins, dopamine, and more can affect how attracted we feel in the moment to our mate. And eating well keeps some of those chemicals pumping like they should in marriage.

For testosterone (yes, ladies, we need some of that in our systems), make sure to get enough protein, vitamin C, and good fats, and to limit alcohol intake. Endorphins also respond to foods, particularly spicy foods. Oh, and chocolate. Yes, chocolate can be healthy for your sex life! (In moderation, of course.)

Quick tip: Keep a food journal for a week, then adjust your diet if you need to eat healthier.

5. Exercise Together.

Endorphins are one of those body chemicals I mentioned, and they cause that “runner’s high” long-distance runners report. Endorphins take longer to cultivate, but they’ve been compared to opiates in their ability to produce feelings of calm, stress-reduction, and general happiness.

When you pair your mate and your endorphins, the result is a “love opiate,” so to speak. And how do you increase your endorphin quotient?

Exercise. So exercise more, exercise together. Endorphins release with steady exercise, and sharing those moments with hubby means you get that opiate effect when he’s around. You’ll brain will naturally attach the two.

Quick tip: Suggest an exercise you can do together, maybe even a walk around the block to begin.

6. Pair Your Hubby with Pleasurable Stimuli.

Much as we love our dogs, we are far more complicated beings. Except when we’re not.

Scientist Ivan Pavlov conducted a famous experiment in which he studied the salivation of dogs at mealtime, but he noticed a side effect which became a far more interesting discovery. He rang a bell at dinnertime, then fed the dogs. After a while, the dogs began to salivate simply with the ringing of the bell. We’re like that too. Pair a stimulus with a pleasurable stimuli often enough, and the stimulus gets us licking our lips.

Now if you want to lick your lips over your hubby, pair that guy with pleasurable stimuli! Another body chemical, dopamine, is involved in the reward system of the brain—a chemical that provides good sensations when a particular activity is experienced. Matching the activity and the feel-good results, we learn to repeat that behavior again and again to get the same “high.”

So watch a fun movie together, ask for a relaxing massage, or experience orgasm in his arms. Let dopamine fire away and get you “addicted” to love with your husband.

Quick tip: Give each other massages this week—back, foot, or wherever you each want.

7. Be Affectionate.

Affection is wonderful for its own sake, but it’s also important for the release of yet another body chemical, oxytocin. Oxytocin is often called the “bonding chemical” because it gets released during deep embraces, infant nursing, and sexual activity, and creates feelings of connection, attachment, and yep, love.

Studies have shown you can increase oxytocin through physical touch, like holding hands and sustained hugs of 20 seconds or longer. Now you have to hang on long enough for your body to register the affection and respond with an oxytocin release. But it’s a pretty powerful effect once you put it into practice.

And yes, sexual encounters with your husband definitely impact the “bonding chemical”—with sex capable of producing an oxytocin rush for wives at three to five times the norm!

Quick tip: Hug or cuddle with your husband for at least a half a minute twice a day…or much, much more!

8. Laugh with Your Husband.

Proverbs 17:22 says, “A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.” And some of you wives are walking around with brittle bones when it comes to romantic chemistry for your husband. Cheer that heart up, baby! Laughter is wonderful for your relationship and your feelings of attraction—good medicine indeed.

Remember endorphins? The “love opiates”? Laughter triggers endorphins. When you and your husband share a good belly laugh, it’s good for your feelings of attraction to him.

So watch comedies together, share jokes and word play, flirt and giggle, even go to a Christian comedy show for date night. And as I’ve often said, learn to laugh with one another even in your marriage bed.

Quick tip: Rent a funny movie and watch it with the hubby (snuggled together is even better).

9. Have More Sex.

We wives tend to play what comes first? with this one. Most gals struggle with the idea of having sex with someone we’re not extremely physically attracted to, even our husbands. But it’s really a chicken-and-egg argument. There’s quite a bit of evidence that sexual activity in a covenant relationship increases feelings of intimacy and attraction.

Having regular sex releases endorphins, testosterone, and the bonding chemical, oxytocin. It provides an opportunity to touch extensively, notice your mate’s fascinating body, share laughter, and experience physical highs in one another’s arms.

And you know what? Many of the positive effects of sex noted by researchers only occur in long-term, committed relationships.

Quick tip: Make love one extra time this week. And the week after. And the week…

10. Pray for That Spark.

Not “feelin’ it” yet? Ask for God to reveal all these things to you—what’s so great and attractive about your husband, how to take care of your bodies better, what will make your spine tingle, how to see your husband the way only a sexy, loving wife can.

It may feel weird at first to ask God to get you all hot-and-bothered over your husband, but God wants your engine revving about your man. The very first verses of Song of Songs, the book in the Bible devoted to intimate romance and love, starts with the wife expressing how much her guy turns her on:

Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth—
for your love is more delightful than wine.
Pleasing is the fragrance of your perfumes;
your name is like perfume poured out.
No wonder the young women love you!
Take me away with you—let us hurry!
Let the king bring me into his chambers. – Song of Songs 1:2-4

If you want that can’t-wait-to-get-my-hands-on-you desire for your husband, ask God for His divine help. Pray for your romantic chemistry.

Quick tip: Pray for God to help you become more physically attracted to your husband.

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. If you’ve always struggled to make sex intimate, and not just physical, why not embark on a journey with J 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.