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

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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! 

 

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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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the face of friendship

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There is a group of gals from church that faithfully gets together for lunch on a Thursday each month. Gather up these fifteen women and there is always a whole lot of laughter and good food and dessert. Always dessert.

Today as I was paying the waitress for my bill, she quietly asked me if there was a particular reason why I was with this group of women. Is one of them your grandmother? She looked across the table full of ladies with salt and pepper hair and deep set wrinkles.

At first glance, I may not look like I belong. The women around the table have 30, 40, and 50 years on me. They have been married for that long. They are widows. Grandmothers and great-grandmothers. They wear sweatshirts with bunnies and snowflakes and angels. They are Marilyn, Frieda, Judy, and Ann.

Our move to Michigan a few years ago meant forming new friendships. I felt as lonely as one can feel and without hesitation, these women befriended me. I am married to their pastor, but it goes deeper than that. They care and hug me tight and ask questions and remember tidbits and offer advice. They invite me alongside of them and learn my story as I learn theirs. One by one.

My entire life, I've been surrounded my ones dear to me. Best friends and family just up the street or in the dorm room next door. I never had to search hard for friendships. I was spoiled and didn't know anything else. And then we packed up and moved to a place where we didn't know anyone. For months after Josh, our little one, and I arrived in this tiny town, I prayed and prayed for a dear friend here. Just one, Lord. I've struggled with this. But He drew me closer and closer to Him and now, slowly but surely, he's blessing me with beautiful friendships. They are still blooming, but they are here and they are wonderful and they are with sweet ladies of all ages.

But all along, they have been here. The ladies with the gray hair and kind eyes and open hearts. They have been my first true friends here. And I adore them for loving me and showing me that age can be thrown out the window. For giving me a place to belong. For making me laugh until my side hurts. And for always, always saving me a spot at the table each month.

I turned to the waitress and answered her question.

They are my friends.

She nodded and smiled. I smiled back, a whisper of a prayer of thanks on my lips.

 

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Holy Hen House Workshop // Bethlehem Lutheran Church Germantown

HHH Workshop

Click HERE to register for this event!

Whether you are a stay-at-home mom, working mom, single woman, empty-nester or grandmother - this event is for you! Writers from Holy Hen House are gathering women of all stages (and ages!) of life to chat about the barriers that can divide women and how we can find unity and purpose through relationships that God has designed.

I believe Holly, from our Mentor Monday of this month, said it best - "Women need other women.  We mentor each other, challenge each other, relate to each other, and pray for each other. If women focus on Christ’s love, they judge less, support more, and model Christ’s love for each other."

Perhaps at first glance attending this event seems like another "to do" to add to your list of many things that need to get done but it is our hope and prayer that you can make the time to come. We will be talking about the challenge of contentment and the importance of making time to be still. Come and bring a friend!

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Bethlehem - Evangelical Lutheran Church has paid for this event and it is open to all women from the surrounding communities and churches.

If you have any questions or are interested in printing a flyer or bulletin inserts for your church please contact me and I will send you the pdf images.

And just in case you missed it - click HERE to register!

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Ten Ways to Bless and Encourage Your Pastor's Wife

It's been three years since my husband began his full time ministry. From the moment Josh stood in the pulpit on that first hot July Sunday, I've been know as "the pastor's wife" in our little town. In these three short years, I have been learning and growing so much as I serve alongside and support my husband! There have been struggles and hurdles, of course, but joy and blessings overflow.

Our wonderful church family has made my role an easy one by caring for, respecting, and loving me (and my family) so well. I am so thankful for that! I am truly in awe of their kindness and generosity. The heart of Jesus shines so brightly through them. After being inspired by that love, I created a list of ways I have been blessed and encouraged by the people of our church and I wanted to share it with you. Please know that these suggestions are not meant to be self serving. Perhaps they will help you to understand your own pastor's wife a bit better? And maybe even give you ideas for ways to bless her!

1. Give her grace. Here's a little secret - she's not perfect! : ) She is no different than you or anyone else sitting in the pew. She can't do it all, serve in every way, be at everything, and remember every single thing. She has struggles and hurts and insecurities. And if she's anything like me, she messes up sometimes and needs forgiveness.

2. Respect their family time. With meetings, visits, teaching, studying and sermon writing, Josh is pulled in many directions and can be working anytime from the hours of 6am to 11pm, seven days a week. His days and evenings are very full so when he is home, he is home. Our family time is a priority to him and he is intentional about scheduling in that time together. There are occasional calls that come in during dinner or in the late evening, but for the most part that time is spent without interruption.

3. Accept and celebrate her for who she is. She doesn't play the organ or piano? No biggie! She doesn't lead a ladies Bible class the same way as the previous pastor's wife? Not a problem! She runs into church at the bells with wet hair and a toddler on her hip who's cramming crackers in his mouth? Hey, she made it!! That last one certainly never happens me me. ; )

4. Spoil her a bit. It certainly doesn't have to be often and it doesn't have to be much - a sweet card in her mailbox, little present, tickets to a local event, gift card for a restaurant or grocery store, or bouquet of flowers are all things that let your pastor's wife know I'm thinking of you and appreciate you. I guarantee she will be oh so thankful and that you will make.her.day.

5. Don't involve her in church gossip. Not only is it wrong and yucky to spread rumors and such, it's also extremely uncomfortable and discouraging for the pastor's wife to be put in a situation when one member is talking badly about another member. I've only experienced this a tiny handful of times and I pray I've handled it in a God-pleasing way.

6. Invite her along. Whether it's meeting for a quick coffee, lunch with a group of gals, or a fun day at the lake, don't be afraid to extend an invitation! Pastor's wives are in need of and crave fun, friendship, and fellowship, too. Inviting her along opens up a door to get to know her on a deeper level. That being said, if she declines an invitation, don't get frustrated or take it personally that she has to pass this time!

7. Offer to do something/provide something. Baby-sitting for the evening. Veggies from your garden. Hand-me-down kids clothes. Dry cleaning the pastor's white church robe. Picking up a kiddo from soccer practice. Chocolate chip cookies. The list could go on and on! It's likely that your pastor's family doesn't live near relatives, so having people offer these simple, but wonderful things can definitely make them feel more at home.

8. Keep it positive. Please don't speak negatively about the pastor to her or complain about a church issue that is out of her control. Those are things you need to take directly to the pastor himself. I have not had to deal with this myself, but I can see how this would be extremely stressful, discouraging, and disappointing for a pastor's wife.

9. Praise her husband in front of her. What wife doesn't want to hear nice things about her wonderful hubby?! Hearing positive feedback about an event my husband planned, a sermon he gave, or an impact he made makes me smile. I am so proud of Josh and it's a terrific feeling when others acknowledge his hard work and dedication as well.

10. Pray for her. This is the most important thing! Feel free let her know that you are doing so. She loves you dearly and having you pray would mean the world to her!

Is there anything you would add to this list? Or if you are a pastor's wife, what is a way you have been encouraged and blessed?

Maintaining Relationships

One of my younger sisters calls my mother just about every day, even though she only lives 15 minutes away. My older sister, who lives in Texas, calls my dad at the same time every week just to keep in touch. My sisters call me probably 4 or 5 times for every one time I call them (although I am getting better). I am convicted by their dedication to family and grateful for their patience with me, the sub par communicator.

I also have one of those best friends who you can go weeks, months, even years without seeing, but you’re always able to pick up right where you left off. She doesn’t get upset if I forget her birthday or anniversary. We’re just not birthday card, Christmas letter, regular check-in kind of people. We usually see each other once a year around Christmas time, and maybe chat on the phone or exchange letters once a year besides that. I love having such low-maintenance friends. Despite of lack of regular contact, I really do count her as one of the dearest and closest friends I’ve had in my life. We treasure every minute together as we catch up on one another’s lives. I trust her with every detail. I confess to her all my embarrassing secrets and sins, and respect her thoughts on any of my personal struggles. I care about her life, and want to share in everything she’s going through as well. One of the reasons we’re ok with such little communication is that we know our relationship is solid. We understand each other. There aren’t conflicts we need to resolve. We’ve been through alot, and we know our friendship can stand through whatever else life may bring.

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Sometimes I treat God the way I treat my friends and family. I feel like “we’re solid”, so I don’t always feel the need to “maintain” the relationship as I should. I treasure the time I do spend building my relationship with God, but sometimes I forget how very different being a called daughter of Christ is from the relationships I have with those I’ve been blessed with here on earth.

If I’m being honest with myself, my lack of dedication to regularly maintaining my relationships with friends and family has its own very obvious repercussions. Even with my best friend I find myself wondering if we’ve grown apart at all since I’ve seen her last. When recounting important things in my life I wind up giving a brief summary of how things did happen, when her trusted support in the midst of things could have helped tremendously. There are only so many things you can cover in a limited time, and there are parts of my life and hers that we just didn’t have time to share. We’re still “solid” in our relationship, but a more constant presence in one anothers lives would obviously be more beneficial than our current “style”.

Too often I take my relationships for granted. I forget that just because I feel that a relationship is solid doesn’t mean that I am meeting all the needs of the other person.

Every once in a blue moon, when I have received 3 or 4 calls from my sister without calling her back, I’ll decide to finally do my due diligence and call her back. I’m often met with a sarcastic, “oh, you DO remember I exist”. Or I don’t call back for a while and I finally get a voicemail or text simply saying, “You’re a jerk”. She’s right, too. I time and time again fail in my responsibility of maintaining a relationship.

God certainly doesn’t depend on me for anything, but living with a casual attitude about faith, feeling that it’s good enough to sit on the back burner for awhile is an arrogant and detrimental outlook.

 

Romans 11:17-21

If some of the branches have been broken off, and you, though a wild olive shoot, have been grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing sap from the olive root, do not consider yourself to be superior to those other branches. If you do, consider this: You do not support the root, but the root supports you.  You will say then, “Branches were broken off so that I could be grafted in.”  Granted. But they were broken off because of unbelief, and you stand by faith.

Do not be arrogant, but tremble.  For if God did not spare the natural branches, he will not spare you either.

 

Fear is not the only reason to take seriously our responsibility in our relationship with God.

 

2 Peter 1:3-11

His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.

For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But whoever does not have them is nearsighted and blind, forgetting that they have been cleansed from their past sins.

Therefore, my brothers and sisters, make every effort to confirm your calling and election. For if you do these things, you will never stumble, and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

 

Romans 12:1-3

Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

 

When I place my relationship with God on the “back burner” because I think it’s pretty good where it is, I am not only “conforming to the pattern of this world”, but saying to Christ crucified that I’d rather go about living the life he bought for me my own way.

 

It is obvious that my relationships with friends and family would be better and stronger if I put more effort into maintaining them. As for my relationship with God, I cannot imagine a greater motivation than the words of Romans 8.

Romans 8

 

(select verses... but you should really read the whole chapter)

 

Therefore, brothers and sisters, we have an obligation—but it is not to the flesh, to live according to it.

The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.

I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.

For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God.

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