Sleep: Why is it so Hard?

Sleep Header Before I begin this blog, I have to throw two disclaimers out there:

#1) Anyone who knows me will probably have a few good chuckles while reading this post. This is because anyone who knows me at all knows that I am a far cry from having a handle on the area of “sleep” in my own life. But I figure that makes me an expert on struggling to get enough...right?

#2) If you are currently living with a newborn (or a child of any age, for that matter) who is currently not sleeping through the night, you may want to skip this post. The following content has no words of wisdom or advice for those who literally cannot obtain a full night's sleep no matter how hard they try. If you fall in this camp, I'll pray for you. Truly. Those days and nights can be oh-so long.

So now that I've covered my bases, let's talk about sleep. Oh, glorious sleep. This period of rest, which has been referred to by scientists and doctors as a “fundamental human need” is something we truly cannot live without it. For when God created the world, He of course did so in a very systematic and organized way. And on that very first day, He created light and He created darkness -- and there was a reason for that. The Bible says,

And there was evening and there was morning – the first day. Genesis 1:3

But yet I've struggled with following this pattern of evening and morning for the majority of my adult years. I'd like to blame my lack of adequate shuteye on motherhood, but that wouldn't be entirely true. The truth is, the bedtime battle of getting into bed (and in turn, getting out of bed) on time is one I've fought for most of my life. Through conversations with numerous friends and the reading of many articles on the topic, I have realized that I am not alone. In fact, the first full week of next month has been set aside as “Sleep Awareness Week” (03/02/16 – 03/09/16). You think it might be something other people fight, too?

Bed

So why is it such a struggle? How can going to bed and getting “good sleep” feel so good but yet be something I put off and cheat myself out of on a daily (or nightly) basis? These are the questions I've asked myself over the past several months as I began to sincerely evaluate my lack of decent sleep patterns. And here are the answers I've come up with (perhaps you can relate to some of them):

  • The house is finally quiet and I can finally have my “me” time. This is HUGE for me. Living with a husband, four children under the age of 6, a dog and a couple dozen fish (ok, so the fish don't contribute to the chaos all that much but they do demand a few moments of attention now and then!), there's barely a minute of peace during the daylight hours. When the night falls and I can finally hear myself think, this is sometimes the first time I have truly sat down all day.
  • My husband and I are finally alone. I think this one speaks for itself, but in all honesty the “after bedtime” hours are sometimes the only time we have to discuss adult topics, such as parenting, other relationships, money, or even just the nitty gritty of the plans for the upcoming weekend. My husband and I also find great pleasure in having certain TV shows we “binge” from Netflix or Hulu together (it's kind of like an “in home date” almost!) and it's so tempting to watch “just one more”...
  • The later evening hours seem like the perfect opportunity to get stuff done. Somewhat relating to the above, it's nice to finally not have anyone else demanding my attention. My over-productive, Type A personality sees this as the perfect opportunity to make headway (or finish?) a project, whether it be something home-related, blog-related or even my latest knitting endeavor. Again, putting something down that I find so much pleasure in doing is tough.
  • I lack the self-control to just go to bed. Plain and simple. I want to stay up, for whatever reason and I'm too short-sighted to see just how much that decision to not go to bed is going to affect me (and others) in the days that follow.

I used to think that indulging in my "night owl tendencies" was a sign of how driven and motivated I was. And while that may be partially true, the physical and mental effects of consistently receiving too little sleep far overshadow any benefits I may be experiencing from staying up late. Once again, I know that I am not alone in my thinking. An article which appeared early last year in Newsweek says:

Sleep is perceived to be the enemy of efficiency: inescapable wasted blocks of time that can't be converted into anything of broader use to society.

Yikes. Do we really think like that?

I think we've all heard or read lists on the importance of sleep in our lives and the many benefits getting a good night's sleep can bring to us as far as health and well-being are concerned. But in doing a bit more “on purpose” research for this post, I was surprised to learn a couple more which really struck a chord with me:

  • Getting a good night's rest can actually assist in weight loss. There are multiple reasons for this but one of them is so simple: getting yourself to bed at a decent time eliminates late-night snacking when your metabolism is at it's lowest. Being well-rested all gives you better will-power and a clearer thought pattern when making decisions about what foods you put in your mouth the following day. Boosting fat loss and the burning of more calories also contribute to the weight loss factor of sleep. You can read further details about this in the article written by Women's Health magazine.
  • Recent research has shown that sleep actually aids in the flushing of certain neurotoxins out of the body. One of these toxins is amyloid beta which is an amino acid that can eventually contribute to the development of Alzheimer's. Many other conditions which lead to the loss of brain cells are also a result of the build-up of damaged proteins in the brain – proteins which may indeed be discouraged when your head spends an adequate amount of time on the pillow. You can read more about some of this research in this article which appeared on BBC News back in 2013.

Alarm Clock

But I have a feeling you already knew that sleep was good for you. And you probably already know why you're not getting enough. Right? But besides identifying the problem, what else can you do to help fix it? In my recent heightened awareness of my need for sleep, I've put my mind to trying to follow a few seemingly-simple (but really tough!) guidelines:

  • Committing to a bed- and wake-time. As difficult as it is, I've been making a conscious effort to keep the time I turn in and the time I roll out of bed as consistent as possible. As a part-time working mom, this is pretty tough since no two days during the week are exactly the same when it comes to schedule. But on the other hand, having 4 little “alarm clocks” in the house definitely keeps me from ever banking on being able to sleep in to make up for an extremely late night. When selecting a target time for hitting the pillow, I looked at what time would give me 8 hours of sleep but still allow me to set an alarm so that I could be awake and upright before I heard the pitter-patter of little feet. While it's oh-so tempting to lay under the covers until I no longer can due to the demands of my children, starting the day that way is not good for anyone involved.
  • Refusing to start a project that I know I won't be able to finish or put down partially done. I know myself pretty well and if I'm being honest with myself, I know which projects are going to be too tempting to stop halfway through. So if it's already 9pm? I don't get involved. Instead I'll look ahead to the next week or two or even month (depending on the nature of the project) and figure out a block of time that would allow me to make headway on it but not interfere with my much-needed shuteye.
  • Starting the “process” of going to bed early enough. I'll never stop being envious of my husband's ability to decide he's turning in and then successfully be sawing z's no more than 5 minutes later. But it's not that way for me. Getting myself between the sheets is an entire process that involves checking the locks on the doors, making sure the often-forgotten lights are turned off, making preparations for the next day, removing my make up, checking on the kids, and the list goes on. Therefore, if I'm aiming to be in bed by 10:30pm, I better not start moving in that direction at 10:25pm and expect to succeed.
  • Refusing to use my phone while lying in bed. Having always been just a tad behind on technology (I only acquired a smart phone within the last year or so) and just a bit "anti-social networking", I never thought this would be a problem for me. But is it ever. Again, I don't fall asleep nearly as fast as my husband. So while I'm laying there awake, my mind comes alive with articles I'd like to look up, things I'd like to shop for or friends I'd like to check up on. After all, when is a better time than midnight to do some email inbox housekeeping? That answer is pretty much anytime. The same Newsweek article which I referenced earlier says, “Research shows that every time we check our email, Twitter feed or Facebook timeline and find a new piece of information, we get a shot of dopamine—a chemical our brains release to simulate pleasure.” When talking to a friend about this the other day, she said to me, “Why don't you just keep your phone in a different room if it's an issue?” Well, of course I had my reasons: My phone is my alarm clock. We don't own a home phone so what if there were an emergency and someone needed to get a hold of me? I use my phone as a flashlight if I have to find my way to the bathroom or one of the kids' rooms. Despite all of my excuses, I managed to figure a way around them. I purchased an old-fashioned alarm clock. I keep my phone in our bedroom but NOT in reach of the bed. And I uncovered one of my many trusty flashlights and keep it in my nightstand. Problem solved – my cell phone is no longer stealing my sleep. (And I'm also paying more attention to my husband! ;)
  • Making a list of all of the reasons I need and want to get a good night's sleep. This list includes many of the things I've mentioned above but also some very simple truths, such as the fact that I have more patience with my kids when I'm well-rested, I feel better about myself, my skin looks healthier, I drink less coffee, and the list goes on and on. When I'm tempted to burn the midnight oil, I pull out this written list and remind myself just why it is so important not to.

As I stated above, I am definitely a work in progress. But progress is being made and I ask God daily to continue to help me fight this inner battle of mine. Do you share in this struggle at all? If so, tell me I'm not alone in the comments below. Have you found anything else that helps you stick to a sleep schedule? Tell me that, too – I need all of the help I can get! I'll be praying for you, too. And then I'm going to bed ;)

MelBioEdit

Chiropractic for Kids by Elite Sport & Spine // Sponsor Spotlight

Today’s post is written by Holy Hen House sponsor Dr. Zach Shiels, of Elite Sport & Spine. 

Have you considered chiropractic care for your kids?

At Elite Sport & Spine, we firmly believe protecting a child’s body by making sure they have the best possible functioning muscles, joints, and nervous system. It is well known that children bounce back quickly, but many parents don’t understand the long term effects of poor joint movement or improper movement patterns on the development of their child's health. Unfortunately, children do not always verbalize exactly what they feel when they are sore, uncomfortable or in pain. Just like with adults, if the underlying cause is left alone for too long it can develop into much more serious issues.

Chiropractic Can Help With Development

Chiropractic For Kids copy
Chiropractic For Kids copy

After development and birth, the physical stress and trauma continues when children grow into toddlers. They are faced with the developmental challenge of crawling and walking. While children are learning to overcome these challenges, there is a significant amount of falling, bumps, and other minor injuries. While growth continues, the child starts to be at the age where they become involved with organized sports and other physically demanding activities.

As kids grow, they often start playing sports, wearing heavier backpacks (sometimes the wrong way), and deal with the stress of more daily responsibilities.

As a parent myself, I fully understand the importance of regular doctor check-ups for my kids. The medical doctor checks the eyes, ears, nose, throat, heart, lungs, and abdomen. We also take our children to the dentist regularly once they have teeth and make sure they brush twice daily. How many parents regularly have their children’s joints, muscles, and spine checked to make sure they are functioning properly?

Sports Chiropractic Care for Orthopedic Injuries

Many injuries in children have been related to adult health conditions later in life. A growing body of evidence is now suggesting that kids who suffer sports-related knee and ankle injuries face a dramatically increased risk of early-onset osteoarthritis as adults. (1,2)  In a sample of high school athletes from 2005 to 2007, the ankle was the most common injury location (20.9%), followed by the knee (15.2%). (3) There is also research showing that 80% of people who experience low back pain will experience multiple recurring episodes in their life.

Chiropractic For Kids copy2
Chiropractic For Kids copy2

At Elite Sport & Spine, we make a point to ensure that all the falls, stress, trauma, and physical demands that your children endure do not stop them from being kids now or healthy adults later. We love treating children of all ages. As a parent you want to protect your child from pain and injury as much as you can. As a parent myself, I get that! Chiropractic care is all about protecting your body from harm. Our exams are extensive so even if your child is too young to communicate, or too shy, we will make sure we know exactly what is going on before proceeding with treatment if needed. Not only that, we will make sure you know what is going on every step of the way.

We are proud to offer functional movement screens for young athletes, which allow us to identify risk factors for ankle, knee, hip and shoulder injuries. These injuries are becoming more prevalent, particularly in basketball, volleyball, soccer and track & field, with a higher percentage occurring in female athletes. Once these increased risk factors are identified, corrective exercises can be prescribed to mitigate the risk. (4,5)

Call our Brookfield office today at (262) 289-9220 for a no-obligation consultation, and let us help your child on their way to a healthier, more active life. Be sure to ask about our Well Child Program! You can also visit our website for more information at www.elitesportandspinewi.com.

Follow for more on Facebook, Twitter, Youtube and Google +

Chiropractic For Kids copy3
Chiropractic For Kids copy3

Dr. Zach Shiels is the owner and doctor of chiropractic at Elite Sport & Spine in Brookfield, Wisconsin. He lives there with his wife and three daughters. When he is not at the clinic, he enjoys spending time with his family, running, and other outdoor activities.

Resources:

1. Marshall SW, Golightly YM. Sports injury and arthritis. N C Med J 2007;68(6):430-433.

2. Caine DJ, Golightly YM. Osteoarthritis as an outcome of paediatric sport: an epidemiological perspective. Br J Sports Med 2011;45(4):298-303.

3. Ingram JG, Fields SK, Yard EE, Comstock RD. Epidemiology of knee injuries among boys and girls in US high school athletics. Am J Sports Med 2008;36(6):1116-1122.

4. Abraham, A., Sannasi, R., & Nair, R. (2015). Normative values for the Functional Movement ScreenTM in adolescent school-aged children. International journal of sports physical therapy, 10(1), 29.

5. Paszkewicz, J. R., & Cailee Welch McCarty, D. (2013). Comparison of Functional and Static Evaluation Tools Among Adolescent Athletes. The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research.

Have a question for Dr. Zach Shiels? Feel free to ask below in the comments!

Pro-Life Egg Challenge

#prolifeeggchallenge  

What is the Pro-Life Egg Challenge? 

The Pro-Life Egg Challenge is an attempt to raise awareness and funds to support pregnancy resource centers as alternatives to Planned Parenthood.

This challenge is not a "holier than thou" snub at women that are currently pregnant without support or against women that have had abortions. We have friends and family that have been in challenging situations from unplanned pregnancies. Women are not hopeless! In any circumstance women need unbiased care and compassion, both of which Planned Parenthood has lost credibility to offer. Let's do something about it!

 

How do I participate in the Pro-Life Egg Challenge?

 

1. ACCEPT: Accept the challenge;

2. RECORD: Take a video of you or others smashing an egg over your head to increase awareness;

3. UPLOAD: Upload your video to social media, tagging/challenging at least three of your friends;

4. GIVE: Make a donation to a pregnancy resource center or home for single mothers. You can donate money, gifts, or volunteer your time. Find one near you here.

 

 

How did the Pro-Life Egg Challenge start? 

Undercover investigator David Daleiden has shared four (so far!) undercover graphic videos of Planned Parenthood leaders talking about harvesting fetal tissue for financial gain and some showing the process of selecting organs and limbs of a post-aborted baby. The videos have been accused of being edited to trap Planned Parenthood but the content is the same in the full length videos. In one video they even identified the gender of one baby. A boy! May his short life not be in vain. I have decided to not share the videos here because of their graphic content. If you would like to view the undercover videos click to see number one, two, three, and four.

I have seen requests for people to sign petitions and letters to defund Planned Parenthood. 48% of their funding comes from tax payers. There has to be something more that we can do.

One year ago Facebook was filled with 17 million videos of kids and adults pouring buckets of ice water over their heads raising awareness and donations for Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge was a trend in social media unseen like anything else before.

What if we could do something on a similar scale to the ALS challenge that can offer direction to women in need? a guilt-free future for herself? a life for her baby?

There have been over 58 MILLION abortions in the US since 1973: Roe vs Wade. In one year there are at least 300,000 abortions performed by Planned Parenthood. Our challenge is to match that number with the amount of Pro-Life Egg Challenge videos from those that support babies lives at all stages. Life begins at conception. The egg is either fertilized or it is not!

Will you submit a video and give a voice to one of the 300,000 voices unheard from this year?

 

Besides sharing the video what are other ways I can help?

 

1. Find a Pregnancy Resource Center to donate your time, money, or gifts to. Often, those that are pro-life are criticized for not having realistic solutions for women's health as an alternative to Planned Parenthood. If Planned Parenthood goes, where do women go? Time to put money where our mouth is. Join me in finding health centers that support life from conception and direct our money to them instead.

Women that are single and pregnant may feel guilty, afraid, lonely, and defensive. What we say online and in person has an impact on how they view Jesus. We should be a safe-place for them and shame on us for not doing a better job listening and supporting them.

Other ideas include: homes for single moms like New Beginnings help women finish their education and get an established job, help a Mobile Pregnancy Resource Center Clinic campaign, or the Open Ultrasound program for pregnancy centers in need of ultrasound equipment.

 

2. Do not be silent. Give voice to the unborn! Those that are for abortion seem to be in the majority. The media may ignore the issue in favor of Cecil the African lion. The President may choose to not watch the videos. It can be intimidating to even think of sharing a social media post in defense of the unborn. Our friends may not agree! They may not like us anymore. We may feel uncomfortable.

What is more uncomfortable? Feeling the push back from our social media friends or watching the video where true innocent lives are being pulled apart limb by limb? That baby was more uncomfortable than any of us. That baby didn't have a choice but we have a choice to speak up for them in their place. We are responsible to do something!

Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves,     for the rights of all who are destitute.  Speak up and judge fairly;     defend the rights of the poor and needy.

Proverbs 31:8-9

 

3. Send a letter, an email, or call your state's two senators here

 

4. Sign petitions to help defund Planned Parenthood. Here are several petitions from Planned Parenthood Exposed, American Center for Law and Justice, & Life Petitions.  

 

5. Consider foster care or adoption. "In the U.S. there are over 400,000 children living without permanent families in the foster care system. 101,666 of these children are eligible for adoption, but nearly 32% of these children will wait over three years in foster care before being adopted." Source: AFCARS Report, No. 21

You can do a great deal of research on the internet, but we found the best way to find out more was to go to an informational meeting. You can find these through your local Department of Child and Family Services (DCFS) in your county. These meetings give a good overview of what foster care is, what the different types of foster care are and what the next step in the process would be. For more information about getting started, read here.

 

6. Talk about sex with your daughters AND sons. Even when we don't expect a pregnancy, babies are not a punishment. How would the following impact a teen's attitude towards unplanned pregnancies?

"Don't have sex before marriage because you will get pregnant. If you have a baby you can't finish school. How are you going to work and support the baby? Consider your life over if you get pregnant!" Talking this way to sons and daughters makes a baby seem like a punishment and a hopeless future.

My mom was a teen mom. Far away from home and at seventeen she married my dad, gave birth to my brother and had my sister a year and half later. She did not finish high school but earned her GED later. She worked hard to help support us and still obtain her goals. My mom built her way up the mechanical engineering field starting from the factory floor, owned her own business, has her master's degree in education, and is a mentor to teen girls and boys as a high school STEM teacher. I am incredibly proud and honored to call her mom.

I have grown up with children being described as a blessing, a gift, a treasure. My mom chose the way that wasn't easy but the way that was right. She has been rewarded. She is a mother to three and a grandmother to six.

What would happen if your daughter got pregnant? Does she know that you would be supportive of her and the baby? Will your son have a say in seeing his child ever? Can they trust your reaction so that they can come to you instead of thinking they have to solve the "problem" on their own? You may not be able to control the world or even your own child but we can control how we respond to challenges. With judgment alone? or with grace?

 

7. Do not be overcome by evil. But overcome evil with good. 

Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.  Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord.  On the contrary:

“If your enemy is hungry, feed him;     if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”

Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Romans 12: 17-21

 

If Planned Parenthood can't be responsible we should be! Mothers and their unborn babies' futures depend on it. 

Will you submit a video and give a voice to one of the 300,000 baby voices unheard from this year?

Amanda2

taking care series :: move

We invited you to come alongside of us as Rachel chats about anything and everything *taking care* over the next few weeks. Pour yourself a cup of something and pull up a chair. So happy you are here.   Since ringing in the new year, I can count on one little hand how many days I have not worked out. The old me (cliche anyone?) would've hollered that it's a miracle of miracles, but the new me isn't all that surprised. The combo of  1) making the decision and commitment to move everyday and  2) knowing myself and what works best for me, have led me to a happy, sweaty place of truly enjoying and craving exercise.

What, what?!! I know.

My routine is very simple. I wake up early. This is key because I know how I tick. If I wait until the day and it's activities are well underway, I lose the motivation and may not fit it in. So while my hubs and son are still snoozin' away in warm beds, I rub sleep from my eyes and hop on the treadmill for a few miles while I catch up on all my favorite Netflix and Hulu shows. Another key! I've discovered that running + entertaining television = I keep moving. It's a win win in my book! Once the warm weather comes, I plan on taking my runs outside in the fresh air. The treadmill is a huge lifesaver for me in this bitter cold, but there's nothing like pounding down our open country roads, the sun on my face and good tunes in my ears.

When I'm done on the treadmill, I do basic strength training using my own body weight or hand weights 4-5 days each week for about 20 to 30 minutes. I use the Max Capacity Training App on my phone for this and LOVE it! Because left to my own devises, I can be a clueless mess. I need to be told exactly what to do (push ups, lunges, squats, yada yada) and exactly how long to do them (thank you, timer!). I also love using fellow hen Kelly's Summer Sweat Circuit or her HIIT for the Holidays. Every once in a while, I will pop in a workout video or follow a routine I found on Pinterest to mix things up, but the majority of the time I stick with my normal routine because it works for me.

taking care exercise hhh

If you're struggling, but it has been on your heart to make the commitment to move more often, I would suggest that you pray to God to help you and guide you! That is not a strange prayer at all. He is there for you in every single aspect of your life and maintaining a healthy body is a big part of it! He will give you the strength you need.

I'd also recommend discovering what works for you :: at the gym or at home. group classes or on your own. all at once or broken up throughout the day. jogging or Pilates. organized sports or walks around the block. outside or inside. morning or evening. I'm 100% convinced that in order to stick with a commitment to move, you must know yourself when it comes to exercise. What works well for others will not necessarily be the best for you! I know that I enjoy working out solo at home in the mornings. Knowing that about myself, it would be a silly move to get a gym membership and sign up for all sorts of evening group classes because I will dread going or not go at all. Once you know what works for you, you can build a routine and then eventually branch out from there, pushing yourself to maybe try something new.

So that's that! So simple, but so effective. In the last few months, I've seen great benefits from moving every day. I don't smile through every workout and I'm not perfect or hardcore or super fit. But I feel strong! I feel more energized! I've lost weight! It's almost like our bodies were made to move. : ) Taking care of this one body, this temple God has made is becoming more and more important to me. This is a wonderful way I can bring Him glory! And thank Him for His goodness. And not only do I feel good and confident, my positive mood is a benefit to my family and all those around me. All that from less than an hour of moving each morning? I think I'll keep it up. : )

A Taking Care Challenge For You :: Think about a fitness goal you would like to achieve (ie run for 2 miles) and then write down a plan to help make it happen (ie what time of day you'll run, how many days per week). And then do it!!

Read more chatter on taking care: taking care :: a series taking care :: fill me up, pour me out

RachelSignature

Sex + Barriers

God&SexSeries2.jpg I picture the garden of Eden and all of its beauty and perfection. It really was good. God said it was! Adam and Eve were in complete peace with our Father. Adam and Eve were both naked, and they felt no shame. Yesterday, Mel and Becky discussed sex being a taboo topic among Christians and I believe there is a reason why we want to hide the topic. The same reason Adam and Eve were hiding. Sin + Shame.

"Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden." Genesis 3:7-8

sexbarriers2.jpg

How has something that was good become so shameful? Sin. Whenever I look at our wedding pictures of me just shy of turning 20, I can't help but smile and shake my head at how naive I was. My future husband and I had been dating for five years and felt we had waited and waited and struggled and persevered for this special day - "my beloved is mine and I am his" - to be united! We had gone through the mad years of early infatuation, tempted by the adolescent mind that feeling trumps reason. We were under so much pressure to "don't have sex" that we thought once we were married all the physical aspects of sex that we were waiting for would just happen naturally. How couldn't they? That was our expectation. Was it realistic? We fell for the lie that we wouldn't have to work at our sex life. ever. It didn't take long after our honeymoon baby was miscarried that a wall of barriers were built to make me want to hide under the covers. I felt hurt, angry, and shameful. I certainly didn't want to get hurt again.

Sin has invaded all the good that God has created, including sex.

Can it be talked about in a positive way - absolutely! And please let's do. But today I will share some common barriers that separate us from this gift of sex that can be so good.

 1. Thinking that sex in marriage will come easily and does not take work or effort

The passionate letting 'one thing lead to another' kind of sex is great but will likely not happen every time (or most, sorry). With married adult life comes work, possible infertility, children, stress, postpartum depression, tired schedules, health concerns, distractions; all reasons that make physical intimacy difficult. You will likely have sex when you don't feel like it. If everything has to be perfect (shaved legs are nice but not a requirement ladies!) or a checked off list before you can open your heart to sex  - it will rarely happen.

Your husband may have a stronger desire to have sex than you OR you may have a stronger desire than they do. Learning how to communicate as a couple about your sex life in a positive way (without blame!) is essential for a healthy sex life. Words are powerful. Words can make another person feel secure to open up and be vulnerable or shut them down. Remembering that your spouse isn't there for your satisfaction alone but you also for them can bring you closer. There are some nights where we have to put what our spouse wants or needs before ourselves. This isn't whoever has the strongest feeling wins. Not at all. Does it take you awhile to get revved up for sex? Does a glass of wine, bath, text messages throughout the day, music, having sex at a certain time before you are exhausted help? Discuss this with your husband and see what helps him too.

"The husband should fulfill his marital duty to his wife, and likewise the wife to her husband. The wife does not have authority over her own body but yields it to her husband. In the same way, the husband does not have authority over his own body but yields it to his wife. Do not deprive each other except perhaps by mutual consent and for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer. Then come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control." I Corinthians 7:3-5

Communicate to each other your needs, insecurities, hopes, and expectations. If you still feel conflicted or talking about sex with one another is uncomfortable, pray about it together and seek counseling. You are not alone in this fight and it is so worth fighting for! 

 

Sexbarriers1.jpg

2. How sex was talked about or depicted to you as a child/young adult

Hopefully your parents talked to you about sex before your grade school friends did. Some of us hens did not receive 'the birds and the bees' talk from our parents and we missed out. Trying to flip the switch from thinking that sex is wrong to believing sex is good in one day of getting married is not easy. I'll never forget that the morning after our wedding my aunt came up to me at gift opening and asked in a hush, "So now do you feel like a married woman?" with a little smirk that made me blush to my toes. I felt shame. Where was the sex conversation before we got married?

Please, don't just tell them "don't do it!" but fill in the why beyond "God says not to!" Simply telling our kids to not do something because we or God say so is equal to telling a toddler not to touch the hot pan with fragrant fresh cinnamon rolls on it. Without building a relationship of trust and respect with our children, they will likely reach out and get burned. Lead sons to be men that respect women as sisters in Christ and not as objects of  physical pleasure. Dads, your sons are watching your example - show them! Tell daughters that they are worthy of love and are loved regardless of their appearance or sex appeal. Moms, your daughters are watching and listening to your words about yourself!

If we do not speak to your children about sex, their perceptions will be formed by someone or something else. There are plenty of sitcoms, music videos, songs, magazines, movies and even children cartoons and characters that are becoming more sexualized that sell to our sons and daughters every day. Someone tell me what happened to "My Little Pony" please! Let's be alert! We can't place our kids in a bubble but making good choices within our control as a family is important. Let's talk sincerely with them about the blessings and pleasures of sex along with the real threats and consequences of sex. There are plenty of bible stories that show direct consequences related to sexual sin. We should consider sharing with them our own personal stories - they will remember these and it may allow them to open up more to the topic as well. One of the biggest ways to show our children the blessings of marriage is by letting them see us kiss, hug, argue, makeup, and prioritize our marriage by dating after saying "I do!"

 

 

3. Past relationships In Naomi Schmidt's "The Proverbs 31 Woman" bible study I remember her calling attention to Proverbs 31:12 - "She brings him good, not harm, all the days of her life." Naomi makes the point that this passage isn't just talking about bringing good to our husbands once married but even before a woman is married we should consider our choices and how they may affect our future husband later on. Are my choices with this boyfriend honoring God? Will these choices honor my future husband? Even if the choice is to be physically intimate with your boyfriend that ends up being your husband there can be negative consequences. It can be more difficult to resist the temptation of sex and you may carry guilt into your marriage.

What if your spouse had several relationships before you that were sexual? How does that make you feel? Comparing yourself with the other women may affect your self-esteem and ability to focus only on your spouse during sex instead of his past. Let me encourage you to be honest about your past relationships with each other and remind each other that you are forgiven by Christ and by each other. Looking at each other through the eyes of forgiveness and love will create a better restart for your sex life. "Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins." I Peter 4:8

 

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4. Our health choices in eating and exercising

First let me say that talking about eating healthy and exercising in the context of sex is not to pressure women into stretching, running, or lifting weights to make themselves more attractive for their husbands. Not that it is wrong to be attractive to our spouses but that shouldn't be our sole motivation. Our identity isn't in what our husbands, media, or our mirrors tell us is beautiful but rather that God finds each of us beautiful in Jesus. We are daughters of the King!

"Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies." I Corinthians 6:19-20

Honoring God with our daily choices when it comes to diet and exercise trickles over into a myriad of aspects of our life. Eating a healthy diet and exercising increases a women's energy and desire to have sex. When we overeat or eat foods that are not good for us a woman can experience physical bloat, moodiness, and guilt which make a girl feel less than desirable and NOT anywhere near sexy. Women FEEL sexuality - meaning it has everything to do with our sense of self-image and little to do with the words our husband tell us about her beauty. If we don't FEEL beautiful, we will not be convinced we are, regardless of what is said to us. But most of the time, this lack of self-beauty of low self-image is not communicated to our husbands. So our husbands think, "She doesn't want to be intimate with me because of something I did or didn't do." When it actuality it had NOTHING to do with him.

Talk to your husband about making exercise a priority for yourself and if he isn't already exercising this could be an area where you could encourage each other. Even if you spend just three days a week walking with a friend, having a dance party with the kids (bust a move!), participating in a gym membership, or exercising along with a DVD at home - find something that you enjoy to get started towards a more healthy and energetic couple!

 

5. Unresolved conflict or abuse

oh boy. Here's a big one. Remember how #1 is about sex in marriage taking work. This is where it gets even more difficult. What happens when there are deep wounds or conflicts that haven't been resolved? Not only does our sex life suffer but the entire future of our marriage is at risk. God warns us about this, “In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold." Ephesians 4:26  Did you catch that?... Do not give the devil a foothold. The devil wants to destroy our marriages. Watch out for conflicts that start to add up: money, quality time, parenting, major life decisions, health, faith, in-laws and so on. Over time holding on to resentment and bitterness will lead to rage that will be destructive to our marriage and our children. If you or your spouse have done something wrong to hurt the other begin the habit of not only saying you are sorry but confessing your sins to each other and asking for forgiveness. Again, pray together! Ask close friends and family to pray with you. At the end of the day he will need to hear you say “I forgive you” and mean it. You will need to hear this from him too. There is no greater gift that you can give each other than the reminder of Christ’s forgiveness. 

"Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective." James 5:16

For large threats to marriage such as pornography, adultery, abuse and addiction - seek professional help. If your husband does not agree to go to counseling with you go on your own. You will need support. Again, going to counseling does not mean that you are failing at something but rather that you are working hard so your marriage can thrive and hopefully be restored.

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Sin has invaded all the good that God has created, including sex. Conflicts and barriers to sex in marriage can be overcome with the Lord's help (John 16:33) and can still be a blessing. Sex is not something we need to hide. Sharing our own sex struggles may let another woman know she's not alone and can get the help her marriage needs. 

Read more from our Sex+God series below: Sex + Taboo by Mel & Becky

Sex + Intimacy With God - by Katy

Sex Q+A (Part One) - - Sex just hasn't been the same for me since having a baby. Any tips? - My husband has struggled with an addiction to pornography for most of his teen and adult years. How can I get past that?  Sex Q&A (Part Two) - How did your religious education affect your view of sex? - What did your mom tell you or what do you wish she would have told you about your wedding night?

Sex Q&A (Part Three) - Is it normal for your husband to desire sex more than you? - I struggle with the sin of masturbation. I think there MUST be another woman or two struggling with this out there, and would like for them to not feel as isolated as I do. But how does one simply bring it up in conversation...? 

 

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