Top 10 Reasons to Get Married

Are there good reasons to get married? Or is marriage just an outdated institution?

Top 10 reasons to get married--don't believe all our culture says about how awful marriage is!

I recently received this question from a young reader:

You’ve probably read that millennials really don’t feel the need to marry. I know this is a pro-marriage blog, but what would you say to those who just think marriage is outdated, pointless, and really only about God “approving” a sex life? With all the definitions of marriage changing (like gay marriage, etc), why does it even matter to be married anymore? As you well know through your blog readers, most marriages are unhappy (and saturated with adultery, porn, sexless, abusive) because everyone goes into them believing you can be in love with and sexually attracted to the same person your whole life. I just don’t know that it’s realistic no matter how much everyone wants it to be. So should we as Christians be striving to be more like Jesus and Paul instead of wasting time worried about sex drives and kids and not dying alone?

That sounds like my kind of challenge: showing people that marriage IS worth it!

She’s saying that since marriage is so awful, wouldn’t it be better for Christians to focus just on ministry rather than marriage and motherhood?

If God calls you to that–sure! But I don’t think God calls most people to be single.

So here we go, for Top 10 Tuesday: my Top 10 reasons to get married. Please share yours in the comments, too!

1. Most marriages are happy

The Good News About Marriage: Debunking Discouraging Myths about Marriage and DivorceDespite what our reader may see around her, despite what our news media says, despite the startling number of celebrity divorces–most marriages are quietly happy. In fact, here’s what Shaunti Feldhahn found when she did her research for her book, The Good News About Marriage:

When Shaunti asks people, “What percentage of couples do you think are happy in their marriage today? Not perfect, but not just so-so roommates either?”, she has never had anyone answer higher than 50%.

And younger people tend to answer lower.

The answer is 80%.

That’s right–80% of couples rate their marriages as happy. Surveys consistently find that between 92 and 95% of currently married people would marry the same person again.

And the divorce rate? It’s nowhere near 50%. It never has been. The divorce rate for first marriages is around 28%, and for Christians it’s between 25 and 50% lower than that. So for Christians, the real divorce rate is around 15-20%.

(I’m quite passionate that people need to understand that–read Shaunti’s book for all the reseach. Let’s get the word out about the real divorce rate!)

The idea that marriages are miserable and failing is a cultural myth. It is simply not true.

2. Marriage is most people’s greatest source of happiness

Not only are most people happy; most people, when asked “what is your greatest source of happiness?”, answer “my marriage.”

So if most people are happy, and most people would rank their marriage as their greatest source of happiness, why would you risk missing out on that because you believe a lie that our culture tells us that marriage is miserable?

Reasons to Get Married--marriage makes you happy!

3. We grow when we’re married

Just because something takes work and there are ups and downs and there are times when we are angry and times when we are lonely does not mean that marriage is bad. In fact, I think marriage is far more powerful because it takes work.

When I married I couldn’t hide my selfishness anymore. I couldn’t hide my pride. Someone else knew everything about me–and quite frequently it was my selfishness and pride that was the roadblock to real marital bliss.

So why did God make marriage? Maybe it was to make us more like Him!

4. We were born to want to be with someone else

When God created us, He created us for community. He said, “It is not good for man to be alone.” (Genesis 2:18).

I just finished reading Debra Fileta’s True Love Dates, which is a great book. I’ll be talking about it more later, but at one point she’s discussing the guilt that we often put on single people, telling them, “You need to let God meet all your needs.” Sort of the “let Jesus be your boyfriend” mentality. Here’s what Deb says:

Your longing for an intimate relationship with another person is something you were created to feel. It doesn’t mean that you are unholy or that you haven’t let Jesus fill your heart the way he should. It means you’re human, created in the image of God, a God who loves, who connects, and who longs for relationship himself.
Jesus can never be your boyfriend or girlfriend because we was never intended to be. A significant part of your heart was designed specifically for just him, but there is a part of your heart that was designed specifically for others.

Some people are called to be single; absolutely. 1 Corinthians 7 clearly says that if we are content to be single, we should be–in order to dedicate our lives to serving God wholeheartedly. But most people are not called to be single. And we were created with this intimate longing to be with other people. That longing is not bad. And marriage is the vehicle that God made to fill that longing.

5. You have someone who KNOWS every story

It is such a blessing to walk through life with someone who knows everything about you. Sure, it makes you more vulnerable. But it also means that you have inside jokes. You have someone who understands your pain. You have someone who simply notices you.

I think this is one of the most powerful statements on marriage in any movie, from Shall We Dance:

6. Great sex in marriage is God’s design

Certainly some people can turn off their sex drives, sublimate their sexual energy into service for God’s kingdom, and live a fulfilling single life.

But God did give us sex drives.

And His design is for great sex in marriage. In fact, that’s how great sex works! Sex is supposed to be intimate physically, emotionally, and spiritually. And here’s the neat thing: the more spiritually and emotionally close we feel, the more the physical kicks in and the more sex feels great.

Good Girls Guide My SiteThat doesn’t mean it starts out great. In the research I did for The Good Girls Guide to Great Sex, only 20% of women had “good” wedding nights. But by years 16-20 in marriage, things are really rocking for most of us!

Married, Christian women have better sex than single women–or even married women who aren’t believers.

We may not start out great, but as we get to know each other better and become more vulnerable with each other, sex gets much better.

So don’t believe the lie that we can be sexually incompatible. Great sex just takes work–and that’s part of how marriage makes us more Christlike, too!

7. Marriage opens up doors for ministry

Of course when we’re single we can do things for God that would be much harder when we’re married–and perhaps almost impossible if we’re parents. A close friend of mine was involved with rescuing child soldiers in an African country I won’t name. He couldn’t have done this had he not been single.

But that doesn’t mean that only single people can do ministry! The apostle Peter, after all, was married (and his wife was crucified with him). Priscilla and Aquila are an example of a couple who evangelized together.

Marriage opens up doors for ministry because sometimes you need to be a team.

My husband and I have been on missions trips to Africa together. We’ve led a youth group. We’ve led a ministry at church. We’ve taught Sunday school. We’ve spoken at marriage conferences. We’ve spoken at parenting conferences. We’ve done a ton together.

But we’ve also done a ton separately. And now he’s the one driving our RV while I speak around North America, because there is no way that I would drive that thing!

We’re all called to ministry, whether we’re single or married. Sometimes people read 1 Corinthians 7 and think that it means that only single people dedicate their lives to God. Not true! Married people can serve as well, and often in places where a team really is necessary.

8. You have someone to share the load

Parents get older and need care. The furnace breaks down and somebody has to be there to let the repair guy in. You slip on ice and break your foot and you can’t make meals or do laundry for six weeks.

Life is easier with another person alongside you.

When you’re in your twenties you don’t realize this as much. But as you get older and health problems come, and you own a home, and your parents start to get older–you realize how much being part of a team is easier than trying to do it all yourself.

9. Having children is the greatest blessing of most people’s lives

Do some kids rebel and make your life miserable? Sure. But most kids don’t rebel.

Just like we believe the lie that all marriages are miserable, we often believe the lie, too, that parenthood makes you chronically tired, miserable, and heartbroken.

Sure there are busy seasons. Sure it’s expensive. Sure it takes a ton of your time. But if you ask parents what their greatest source of joy is, they’ll tell you it’s their family. Even though it makes them tired, costs them a fortune, and makes them worry.

So there must be something there other than just the work. And there is! It’s the simple joy of being a mother.

Don’t discount parenthood because people around you seem to be frazzled. If they would do it again–if they keep having kids–there must be something profound that is worth all that work. And there is!

10. Marriage Is a Miracle

Finally, let’s explore this letter writer’s assumptions just a bit more. She believes that marriage makes you miserable. That addictions and adultery are inevitable. That life with one person is impossible.

But if that were true, then we would expect married people to show detrimental signs, and single people to be better off.

The opposite is true. Married people do better on every scale.

In the book The Case for Marriage, Linda Waite and Maggie Gallagher lay out all the research on marriage, and show that it has tremendous benefits.

For men, getting married has the equivalent health bonus of quitting smoking. It adds years to your life.

Getting married also drastically reduces mental health problems. You’re healthier. You report higher rates of happiness and lower rates of depression. Your kids do better on every scale. You live longer. You make more money. You have a lower chance of heart attacks and strokes.

In short, marriage is a miracle.

So why get married? Because it’s one of the greatest gifts that God ever gave us.

That doesn’t mean it doesn’t take work. It doesn’t mean you don’t have to be careful who you marry. It doesn’t mean that every marriage will be wonderful.

But it does mean that marriage, as an institution, is worth it.

Just because our society has muddied the waters when it comes to marriage does not mean that we should throw it out. On the contrary! Why would we miss out on one of God’s greatest blessings just because our culture has made it seem ugly?

I have not always been happy in my marriage. The first few years were tough. The last few years have been a hard slog. But I can tell you that my life is richer because I am married. I am a less selfish person because I am married. I have a bigger ministry because I am married. I have so much joy because I am married–and because I am a mom. And yes, I’m even sexually satisfied because I am married! So don’t believe everything out culture tells us. Believe what you know is true.

God made something beautiful for us. Let’s never dismiss it.

What do you think? What are some of the reasons to get married that you think are key? Let me know in the comments!

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When A Lovely Marriage Seems Like a Pipe Dream

The culture of marriage is eroding and we don't all share it anymore.

I was browsing through Facebook recently when a cute picture came up. It was a selfie taken by two pretty women in their mid-twenties trying to show off their baby bumps. They were cousins, pregnant at the same time. They both had on a bit of makeup. They both had long, lovely hair. They both had lovely maternity tops on. And they both were covering their baby bumps with their left hands, with little wedding bands on them.

They weren’t rich. But they looked lovely.

(It’s not the picture above; these were real friends and I didn’t want to break privacy!)

A few other scenes popped through my head: In one, I was speaking to a bunch of teen moms in downtown Toronto about how to save money as they tried to establish a life for their kids. In another, I was helping out at a crisis pregnancy centre. In another, I was at a ministry with former prostitutes, many of whom had babies of their own. And then I thought of some of the teenagers my girls know, who have never lived with their biological parents, but have a variety of step siblings and half siblings and complicated families.

To my girls, that selfie with baby bumps is totally something they can envision. They’d love to be pregnant together some day and take a picture like that! And I wouldn’t be surprised at all if they did.

But to all of those young women who raced through my head in that instant, that scene with the dual baby bumps would have looked like something from another world.

It’s as bizarre as looking at the magazine covers of celebrities. It’s something that happens to weird people “out there”, not to anyone I know. I can just hear them thinking, “It certainly would never happen to me.”

I know on Tuesdays I usually write a Top 10 post, but for some reason that one Facebook picture has been haunting me for a week, and I really want to write about it. So let me just rant for a bit, and then you can all chime in and help me make sense of what is going on.

First let me say something controversial, and please understand: I am not trying to make a value judgment here. I am just trying to report on the widening chasm between traditional families and nontraditional families. But these girls in the selfie had on lovely makeup and lovely tops. Almost all the girls I have seen who have come from difficult backgrounds and are trying to get back on their feet don’t dress like that. They often have very dark eye makeup. They wear clothes that are often very tight and that usually don’t flatter. They abound in tattoos and piercings. They don’t dress traditional “pretty”.

Why does that matter? Not because one is better than the other, but simply because increasingly we are becoming two different worlds. You can even see it in our appearance!

Now let’s go to something that’s less superficial. The girls from the crisis pregnancy centre or the former prostitutes have likely never lived in a family where they witnessed a healthy marriage–a marriage where people loved and respected each other, where they treated each other kindly, where the marriage was the centre of the family.

Instead, the only truly loving relationships they’ve ever had have likely been with a sibling or an aunt or a friend. The marriage–if there ever was one–was never the rock that held the family together.

And even thinking about those teenagers that my girls knew or worked with, or the ones I see outside the high school just around the corner from my house–most of them have never seen a marriage that has stayed together forever either.

Increasingly, then, we are dividing into two worlds: the culture of marriage and the culture of chaotic families.

I’ve written about this before–What if Marriage Really Matters? What if the real class difference today isn’t based on income as much as it is on family structure?

Statistics show that if two people with university degrees who each had parents who stayed married end up marrying each other, their chance of divorce is less than 10%. But if you have parents who divorced, suddenly your chance of divorce increases. And your chance of marrying in the first place decreases.

That selfie of those two cousins–they each came from intact families. They each had moms and dads and aunts and uncles and siblings who were thrilled about these coming babies. They weren’t rich, but because of their families, they looked wealthy. That’s their culture.

And I guess what I’m saying is that those of us who are like those two young women often have no idea how bizarre we seem to the rest of the world.

They have such a leg up on those struggling young moms at the crisis pregnancy centre, such a leg up on those women who were former prostitutes, such a leg up on those teens smoking outside my high school, with the heavy makeup and the attitude that masks the fact that they’re horribly lonely and don’t know who they are.

I want marriages to succeed.

I want people to have fulfilling relationships, to raise kids well, and to form strong families that become the backbone of our churches and our communities. But the whole idea of that typical, middle class family seems so bizarre and out of reach of so many people today because they have never experienced it.

Why should they wait to find a great guy to marry when they’ve never even met a great guy? Why should they want a husband before a baby when men are fickle but babies love you? Why should they wait for sex when no one they know ever has?

And so these young women encounter Jesus and come to Him, but all the rest of it–the family structure, the dreams, even the clothes for pity’s sake–seem so WEIRD.

For them, marrying well and having a strong marriage and raising great kids will be so much more of a challenge than it will be for my girls, for whom it will be natural. That’s all my girls have ever known. And yet so many of our young people have never seen it.

We’re becoming a society that doesn’t even understand each other. And increasingly the chasm is one of family structure.

When those young women encounter Jesus, it won’t be just a heart change. It’s a complete and utter culture change, much more than it ever was two or three generations ago when we weren’t divided like this. No wonder it’s so hard to integrate new believers into the church now! We really do seem like aliens to everyone else out there.

So what do we do? How do we help people who have not grown up with the expectation that marriage is good, that finding a good guy is possible, that waiting for marriage for children is worth it? How do we integrate them into a culture of marriage?

I don’t know. And it’s so sad, because I see so many who not only will never experience the love of family that my husband and I have, but don’t even believe it enough to even dream about it anymore.

What do you think of this two different cultures idea? Have you seen it? How do we help those who haven’t grown up with good families believe that a strong marriage is possible?

Cyberbullying: Why I Decided to Monitor My Teen’s Cell Phone

Today please welcome Amy Williams, who shares her wisdom about raising teens in a time, when cyberbullying is so prevalent.  It’s time to get armed with tactics to battle bullying is all its forms.

Cyberbullying- Why I Decided to Monitor My Teen's Cell PhoneDid you have any nicknames growing up?

Unfortunately, in the fifth grade I had the pleasure of earning the moniker “Dog” from a boy named Kenny. The name stuck and followed me until the middle of seventh grade. It was the cherry on top of a heaping dish that was already filled with adolescent angst and incredibly self conscious feelings about my red hair and freckles. After Kenny blessed me with this new title, things only got worse.

Did I tell my parents or seek help from a teacher?

Of course not! That would have been a wise decision on my part, but I struggled through this bullying episode alone. I relied on tears cried behind closed doors and I avoided Kenny and the other boys in my class at all costs. Looking back, I wish that I had stood up for myself or found a healthier way of dealing with this issue.

My own experience with bullying is one of the main reasons why we chose to actively monitor our teenager’s social media and cell phone activity. The early 90’s were a trying time for myself, but at least I didn’t have to worry about technology and cyberbullying. Today’s generations are growing up in a very connected and viral social media firestorm that can quickly escalate bullying into a full fledged assault of mean, hateful, and derogatory remarks.

The Prevalence Of Cyberbullying

My own children have had a few run ins with a class bully or two and, just like their mother, they avoided seeking adult intervention until we personally witnessed the bruising and tears. Granted these were isolated incidents, but with the information available on cyberbullying we couldn’t hide our heads in the sand and blindly hand over a cell phone or tablet without some safety measures in place.

Many experts believe that cyberbullying can have a devastating impact on our children. There has been proven correlations between victims of cyberbullying and the suffering from anxiety, depression, and attempted suicides. Even with the known problems associated with cyberbullying, teens and children still continue to digitally harass or embarrass their peers.

Here are four cringeworthy cyberbullying statistics that support our choice to monitor our teens:

  • One in every three children have been the victims of cyber threats.
  • More than 25 percent of teenagers were repeatedly bullied via their cell phone or the Internet.
  • Some studies estimate that over half of our children have experienced cyberbullying in some form with 20 percent experiencing digital aggression on a regular basis.
  • Only one out of ten children will seek help for cyberbullying!

Why Monitoring Was A Choice That Worked For Us

Our children have been secretive in the past about bullying and a recent study by McAfee noted that 70 percent of teenagers have hid online interactions from their parents. This creates a digital divide between us and our children, making our jobs of keeping them safe that much harder. To compound this problem, many teens use “dummy accounts” to keep their real social media activity a secret.

With all this secrecy and very real dangers lurking online, we knew we wanted to be aware of what our children were seeing, experiencing, or doing on the world wide web. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services found that bullying often stops within ten seconds 57 percent of the time when a bystander intervenes. That fact alone encouraged us to pursue monitoring as a viable choice in our parenting.

How To Monitor A Teen’s Cell Phone

We are open and honest with our children about monitoring their activity. There is no snooping and sleuthing occurring, but we do have regular conversations about social media etiquette and hot topics like cyberbullying. In fact, monitoring a teen’s phone has led to many heart-to-heart conversations and learning opportunities to prepare them for life.

Listed below are four suggestions to help monitor a teenager’s Internet and cellphone activity:

  • Be honest! I can’t stress this enough. We don’t hide the fact that we check in on them and they know there is always a possibility that we will see anything they post.
  • Know a child’s accounts, user names, passwords, and sites frequented.
  • Teach social media etiquette, talk about cyberbullying, and teach them about the potential problems associated with sexting. We avoid lecturing, name calling, and yelling while actively listening to our children.
  • Choose an app that allows you to keep all of our child’s accounts in one location. This helps us sift through multiple sites, text messages, and more with ease. We took advantage of TeenSafe’s free trial period and were hooked.

Cyberbullying is just one facet of the big puzzle of social media and cell phones, but it was enough to warrant our attention. I know that a lot of people don’t agree with our choice and it isn’t always popular with our kids, but this solution works for us.

As parents, we naturally want things to be better for our children. Bullying can leave scars behind, they just aren’t visible to the naked eye. I don’t wish that experience for anyone’s children, let alone mine. I feel that monitoring allows me to take a proactive approach and prevent unnecessary heartache down the road.

Would you consider monitoring a child’s cell phone? Why or why not?

Amy Williams Bio

Amy Williams is a free-lance journalist based in Southern California and mother of two. As a parent, she enjoys spreading the word on positive parenting techniques in the digital age and raising awareness on issues like cyberbullying and online safety.


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.


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 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.

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. :)


Top 10 Sex and Marriage Red Flags You Shouldn’t Ignore

Marriage Red Flags: Signs that something is wrong with your marriage--or your sex life

Marriage red flags–all of us have marriage issues, but how do you know if an issue crosses the line into dangerously weird territory?

Top 10 Marriage Red FlagsI receive many emails from women in crisis, and today, on Top 10 Tuesday, I thought I’d share 10 marriage and sex red flags that really shouldn’t be ignored.

Often we don’t realize when something is off, because we’re new at this whole marriage thing, and most of us don’t share personal and intimate details with our friends. So how can you know if something that worries you is actually a red flag for something quite serious?

What is a Sex or Marriage Red Flag?

It means that this is a situation which will not get better by you being nicer, by you being more understanding, by you trying to talk it through with him, or by you being more patient.

This is something which is a serious issue that will likely require a third party, like a trained counselor or a pastor, to help you.

If you ignore it, your marriage will only get worse, and your husband will only fall deeper and deeper into sin or more and more away from God and his family (depending on what the issue is).

In this post, I’m not talking about abuse–though this, too, will not get better on their own and will need a third party. Here’s a post specifically for information on emotionally destructive relationships. I want to talk more about sexual red flags in marriage.

These problems represent an issue that your husband has–not something that you have caused, and so you cannot make it better. You can, however, make it more likely that he will get the help he needs by taking it seriously. And that is the most loving thing you can do.

For information on how to involve a third party, read my post on being a spouse instead of an enabler, or check out the book Boundaries in Marriage.

My heart aches for women in these situations, because they often are so taken back with surprise that their husbands are acting this way, and they truly don’t know what to do. I’m sorry that some of these seem so extreme, but I’ve had multiple emails about each of these types of situations, and I know that there are women dealing with these things. So let’s get it all out in the open today!

Here are 10 Sex and Marriage Red Flags that shouldn’t be ignored:

1. If your husband says he enjoys sex, but he never wants to make love–Red Flag!

Men, in general, have a higher sex drive than women do. That doesn’t mean that if you have a higher sex drive than your husband that there is necessarily something wrong with him.

But if your husband never wants to make love, even though he says he enjoys it, then that is a red flag. Even if his sex drive is lower than yours, he should want to make love at least sometimes. Here’s a more in-depth series on what to do if your husband doesn’t want sex–and when this really is a red flag.

2. If your husband considers lack of sex to be a spiritual virtue–Red Flag!

One wife of a busy, hardworking pastor sent this in:

 About two months ago I was really feeling the abandonment and disconnect from my husband due to the demands of ministry. I was reading your blog and saw a comment where a woman stated that she never lets her and husband go more than two nights in a row without making love. I thought: how genius! Maybe this will help us stay connected even with his crazy schedule. This went on for a few weeks, then all of a sudden he started refusing. He would leave me laying in bed naked and alone. Again, confused and rejected, I voiced my concerns. He said, we’ve had sex more this month than we’ve had our whole marriage. He proceeded to tell me that our marriage is not based on sex but God. And he felt like I was trying to fill a void of rejection by having sex all the time instead of letting God heal me.

This marriage was already distant because this husband (and father!) was spending most of his time and energy away from the family. When the wife tried to bridge the gap with sex, he told her that she should rely on God instead (presumably like he does).

We do need to rely on God, but we also were created for intimacy with our spouses. When someone consistently rejects sex, while also rejecting an emotional relationship with their spouse, they are likely running from intimacy in general. In this man’s case, he may be lacking intimacy with God, too, thinking that activity for God is the equivalent of intimacy with God. It’s not.

He likely needs a counselor or mentor to sit down with him and talk through his priorities–and also a counselor who can walk him through why he’s running from intimacy and believes that self-sufficiency is the highest good. This attitude will make him an ineffective father and husband, but it will also ultimately make him an ineffective pastor.

3. If your husband has never been able to “complete the deed”, especially if he’s young–Red Flag!

I remember one woman who wrote me who married when she and her husband were quite naive and ignorant about how sex worked. She told me that she didn’t think she had ever had sex, and didn’t understand how it even happened.

After more questions, it turned out that her husband had never had an erection.

Young men should have no problem maintaining an erection. If he is unable to with you, then he has either major sexual issues or major psychological issues. Or, alternatively, he may have trained himself through masturbation to only respond to direct stimulation, as in this case:

My son-in-law has been unable to fully complete sexually. After a year and a half of marriage, during which they’ve never managed to “finish”, my daughter came to find out that he does masturbate quite a bit, and had looked at porn a lot. So my daughter has blocked the internet sites that she can and he is very limited to the time he is on the computer. He has been attending an accountability class at a Church that they are attending. He tried going without masturbating for 30 days and he thought things might have seemed better, but didn’t last long.  Oh, I know he was abused as a little boy by his older brother. Inappropriate touching and sodomy that she knows of. He doesn’t want to talk about that.

He asked and asked about seeing a urologist. Basically, my daughter came away thinking because there doesn’t seem to be a problem. He can ejaculate, therefore the urologists says everything is working fine. Could he have masturbated so long that he doesn’t get the same feeling inside her?

Masturbation could definitely be contributing to the problem–but so, likely, is the abuse that he won’t talk about it. Insisting that he go for counseling and get into a recovery group is so important. And you can retrain yourself to be aroused by a person, but it takes a while.

That brings us to this one:

4. If your husband chooses masturbation over intercourse–Red Flag!

I’ve had several women saying that they have been going for months without sex–but then one woman walked in on her husband masturbating in the shower. He says he does it every day, and suggests she does it, too, she they don’t have to be bothered with sex.

Solo masturbation is selfish and steals intimacy. If someone chooses masturbation over sex consistently, they likely have withdrawn in other ways and have stunted their emotional development, because they’re becoming self focused rather than relationship focused.

I speak more about masturbation in marriage here.

5. If your husband withdraws after making love–Red Flag!

Making love should bring you closer together. When you’re making love, you produce the “bonding” hormone oxytocin which helps you feel more affectionate. If, after making love, he becomes angry, distant, or disconnected, that’s likely a signal that he is fighting some sexual or psychological issues that need to be dealt with.

The next three sex red flags are quite common today, and often result from an addiction to pornography:

6. If your husband refuses to share passwords, let you see his phone, or let you on his computer–Red Flag!

A marriage should have complete trust and openness. If he is adamant that his phone and computer are private, that is practically a guarantee that he is doing something he should not do. If you ask him, he may end up attacking you: “don’t you trust me? Are you that insecure?”

I have never known a marriage where a husband or wife refuses access to their phones who isn’t also either texting inappropriately or watching porn. Never.

If he refuses to let you see things, that’s a definite sign there’s something wrong. One more tip: If you do find something on his phone or computer, take a screen shot or a picture with your phone, so that it can’t be denied later. Then insist on talking with a counselor about it.

7. If your husband is not interested in pleasing you, and seems almost disconnected during sex–Red Flag!

If your husband becomes almost a robot in bed, closing his eyes and refusing to talk to you, then he’s disconnecting, perhaps because he can’t become aroused without picturing something else–or someone else–in his head. If he were to talk to you, it would break the fantasy. If sex is impersonal, there’s something wrong.

Note: this may not be a huge sin issue. If a guy grew up masturbating to porn, but doesn’t watch porn anymore, he could simply be having a hard time getting aroused now because he’s trained his sexual response wrong (that’s one of the side effects of porn!). It doesn’t mean he’s watching porn now (though he could be). Talk to him about it and try to work through it together, though an accountability group or counselor may be necessary.

8. If your husband is not interested in intercourse, but only wants other sexual acts–Red Flag!

Porn depicts sexual acts that are more degrading, and thus often more “photograph worthy”, then simply making love. Add that to a porn habit which is self-focused with masturbation, and many men are not interested in actual sex because it requires mutuality. If your husband prefers other sexual acts (or consistently “degrading” things) to intercourse, he likely has a problem with porn.

Note: if your husband simply wants some variation in bed, there’s nothing wrong with that! But if a man only wants oral sex–red flag!

Finally, the last two red flags represent a man with a seriously disturbed sexuality, which really does need a counselor (and unfortunately I’ve had several of these types, too):

9. If your husband has to role play himself or get you to role play to become aroused–Red Flag!

The Fantasy Fallacy: Exposing the Deeper Meaning Behind Sexual Thoughts If sex has to be rough, or if he has to pretend to be very young, or that you are very young–or any variation on this sort of thing–that’s a danger sign. Many couples like to role play; but if the role play is necessary to his arousal, then there is something at work that really does need to be dealt with, as Shannon Ethridge talks about in The Fantasy Fallacy.

10. If your husband wears strange clothing in private–Red Flag!

One reader wrote in with this story:

I have a friend who basically walks on eggshells whenever her husband is around, so as not to disrupt his delicate moods. Yet then he expects her to want to have sex more! She does not keep sex from him, she tries her best even though her emotional needs aren’t being met, yet SHE is the one who has to initiate if they do have sex. Any time she tries to talk to him about their marriage, he ends up crying, and so she never really says exactly what she feels because she doesn’t want to hurt his feelings. Lately he’s done some weird things, such as he got a thong and began wearing it to bed. No explanation, no asking her what she thought about it. She asked him why and he said “I thought you might like it.” She told him it was a big turn-off for her, yet a month later he ordered 3 more on-line.

I can imagine how bewildered this wife is. She’s trying to have a good marriage, to be good to him, to be sexually available–but he’s crying, moody, rejecting her, and now wearing lingerie!

If a man starts wearing odd clothing, especially in bed, this is a sign of a serious psychological issue that needs to be dealt with.

I’m sorry to be so graphic or to talk about such distasteful things today.

I know that this is not what the vast majority of you deal with. But what scares me when I see some of these emails is that the wives don’t seem to realize how serious many of these things are, because it’s their “normal”. So I want to say, loudly and clearly, these things are NOT normal. They ARE red flags. And you really, really do need to get help, for the sake of his own spiritual growth, and that of your relationship.

Good Girls Guide My SiteIf you want to see what normal sex is, and what God created sex to be, my book The Good Girls Guide to Great Sex explains it all, and it may help you put words to what you instinctively feel is wrong.

My sympathy for any of you who are walking through this.

Please know that God is big enough to get you through–and your husband is never so messed up that God cannot redeem him and redeem your marriage. He may not choose to do so–we all have free will to reject God’s help. But God can do amazing things when we let Him, and I pray that this will be evident in your marriages!