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Wifey Wednesday: Forgetting About Long Lost Loves

It's Wednesday, the day when we talk marriage! I introduce a topic, and then you follow up either by commenting or by writing your own post and then linking up!

Last week we talked about why it's better to wait for marriage before you have sex with your husband. I know that's not a popular stand today, but it's one I very much believe in, and the research bears it out.

Today I want to talk to those of you, though, who didn't wait and now regret it. What can you do to banish thoughts of the other men--whether those memories are good or bad--and concentrate on your husband?

Photo by Mercedes

It's a hard one, isn't it? Some of us are burdened by feelings of guilt over sex because we gave ourselves away too easily when we were young. Now we have a hard time seeing sex as a positive thing. Or perhaps we're burdened by a quasi-guilt because of the things that were done to us. Many who are rape and incest survivors often report feeling guilty, though they weren't responsible. But the feeling won't go away.

And then there are those of us who had sexual experiences before that were physically very satisfying. And when we make love sometimes now, we find ourselves comparing. How come hubby can't take the time that he did? How come hubby can't make me feel the way he did? And we try to get hubby to do those things, and it doesn't work. Or we find ourselves flashing back to things that happened earlier in order to help with our arousal level during sex (sorry for being so graphic, but that's the reality of it). What can you do to make yourself totally and completely physically and mentally present while you're making love to your spouse, and keep all that other stuff far in the distance?

I think there's two parts to recovery: healing and commitment. So let's look at those in turn.

1. Healing

If you've been hurt in the past, and sex still has those negative connotations for you, go to God and ask Him to heal your heart from those scars. Confess any anger and bitterness you still have. Ask God to give you a new heart and a new mind when it comes to sexual intimacy. Ask Him to help you envision how He feels about what was done to you. Understand that there is justice, but that it is in God's hands, and you don't have to carry it around anymore.

If you have big issues in this area, sometimes you can't pray through this on your own. We aren't meant to be alone. Maybe you need a counselor, or an older mentor who can help walk you through this. Some counselors will see people for a fixed time for a fixed purpose. Maybe just six weeks, for instance, to work through this one problem. It's worth the investment. Or perhaps there's a church near you that offers counseling for free. Take the time. You may think you don't have the time, what with small children and work and your family, but you need to invest in your emotional and spiritual health. Talk to someone.

And if you want some encouragement, here's a quick take on how to recover from the past that I gave at a women's conference a while ago. It's got nothing to do with sex, but the point is the same:

Maybe you don't feel a lot of guilt, though. You wish you hadn't fooled around, but it's in the past, and you don't feel guilty about it now. That can be a good thing if you've taken it to God and already dealt with it. But perhaps you haven't. And you can't have it both ways. You can't feel guilt-free but also indulge in a lot of memories and comparisons. If you revisit those "positive" memories frequently, perhaps you don't recognize how ugly what you did actually was. Just because it felt good doesn't mean that it was good, and it's now having an impact on your marriage. And God never intended for you to do that. You may have to go to God for a different reason.

Ask Him to give you His mind about your past. Perhaps you need to see that it wasn't something that was good or fun, but it was something that wasn't pleasing to Him and wasn't ultimately satisfying. What you did was you changed sex to be only about the physical, and not also about the relationship and the spiritual connection. Ask God to give you His heart about sex; that it is more than just the physical. And then ask Him to take those memories and deal with them. Hand them over to Him, and agree not to keep unwrapping them when your sex life gets boring.

Remember, too, that just because something was exciting with someone once doesn't mean that it would still be exciting had you married him instead. You'd have the same challenges: children, exhaustion, work, bills. And he may not be as attentive towards you once the commitment had been made. Don't compare your husband to something unrealistic.

2. Moving Forward

Now that we've talked about healing, let's talk about what practically to do. To avoid flashbacks during sex, keep your mind fully engaged. This is a challenge for almost all women because our minds tend to wander. We're easily distractible. And we have to consciously keep our focus on our husbands and on what is going on in order ot maintain any sort of arousal, and in order to really bond with our husbands. So if you want to banish those thoughts, replace them with other ones! If you're used to just lying passively during sex, then start being more active! It's hard to have flashbacks when you're actually DOING something, because your brain is engaged.

Keep your mind focused. Think about what is actually happening. Think about what you want to happen, and make it happen. Talk to him while you make love. If you are moving and talking, it's harder for anything else to enter your mind, unbidden.

If you start making love like this, you'll find that it's a much more intense experience, and that it ends up being satisfying on a whole bunch of different levels. You're more aware of what's going on, which also helps you bond more with your husband. Not only that, but you're physically present during sex, so you're going to feel better. And instead of wondering why he can't make it feel better for you, you've now got the initiative to make it feel better for both of you. You can take some of that responsibility.

Make sex into something that you both can be present for and enjoy. It really is worth it! At times you may still have flashbacks, and that's okay. Just as soon as they enter your mind, though, banish them by starting to talk to your husband, look in his eyes, or refocus. Reject those thoughts and recommit yourself to your husband. If you've been struggling with guilt about sex or with discomfort, you'll likely find this helps, too, because it's strengthening the emotional bond with you while you're making love, so it doesn't seem like something "dirty".

I hope that helps! I know this is a huge struggle for about 60% of Christian wives, and I want you to know that God is there to help you, no matter what you've done in your past. And for those of you have a more pristine past, please try to understand what your sisters in Christ go through, and don't condemn. Instead, use this post as impetus to head on out to your church's youth group and start really laying it on the line about why they need to wait!

Now, what advice do you have for us today? Have you ever had to confront your fantasies and throw them aside? How did you do it? Or do you have something else to tell us? Write your own Wifey Wednesday post that links back to here, and then leave the link of THAT POST in the Mcklinky below. Thanks!


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School Dances in Middle School Are Ridiculous
I have a variety of family members and friends who just went through the "Grade 8 Graduation" rite of passage. It seems like that grad is getting almost as big as high school grad, at least if you take the thought that goes into the dresses into account.

I agree that it's fun to celebrate kids' milestones, but I would do it quite differently. Here, for example, is how we threw a blessing party for my oldest when she turned 13, and is pretty much exactly what we'll do for my youngest this summer.

But what they do at grade 8 grad doesn't celebrate these kids' talents and potential and gifts, but instead forces them into grown-up situations for which they are probably not prepared.

When I was in grade 7 & 8 I loved going to school dances. I had crushes on different boys, and the thought that I may actually get to dance with them was so exciting! But just because I enjoyed it as a kid doesn't mean it was right. I would have done far better not going and not getting so caught up in them. It was after one of those dances that I had my first "boyfriend", and that was a big disaster. Why bother when you're 13?

I don't blame the kids for wanting to go. In a way I don't even blame the parents, although more should be smarter and just say no. I blame the schools. As a parent, it is hard to tell your child they can't go to a dance when it is the social event of the year and everyone is going to it. Of course, just because it's hard doesn't mean you shouldn't do it, but I do sympathize with parents in that situation.

What I can't figure out is why schools insist on perpetuating this charade--that 12-14-year-olds are old enough to "couple off". Because that's what dances are for--they encourage coupling off. I know some of my 13-year-old friends who went to dances last week for grad who have now announced on Facebook that they are "going out". And they're going to movies, and they're hanging out together, and they're thinking of themselves as a couple. And 13 is too young for that.

Why force kids to think romantic when they would be more than happy being friends at that age? Why don't schools encourage kids to do fun things in groups, rather than allowing them to pretend they're grown up when they're not? Dating at 14 does few people any good, and does lots serious harm. The earlier you begin dating the earlier sexual activity is likely to start, even if it doesn't start with that relationship. You think of yourself as needing another half, and the longer you date, the more likely that you are going to take that relationship a step farther, because what else is there to do? It's not like you can get married or move in together at 15.

I'm not saying that everyone who dates at 13 is going to become pregnant at 15. Of course not. But it certainly makes it more likely, and given our school board is desperate to decrease teenage pregnancy, you'd think they'd figure out that encouraging young kids to date is stupid.

But that's not the only harm. There's also harm because kids are just not allowed to be kids anymore. They start wanting to grow up and wanting to do adult things, even though they are not emotionally adults yet. But they think of themselves that way, and they lose out on the fun that can come from being simply 13.

Am I being a fuddy duddy? I don't mean to be. I know a lot of the pressure for grade 8 dances comes from the kids themselves, who would rebel if the dances were called off. But I don't see why you couldn't do something really fun instead--a field trip to an amusement park, or a camping trip, or something other than a dance. And just because kids would complain doesn't mean that we're not right. We, after all, are the adults. They are not. And we should stop encouraging them to think that they are.


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God Cares About Direction More than Position

I'm currently recovering from a weekend where I fed 15 extra people every meal and snack they ate, and housed 8 extra people in my house. My kids were having a practice for the quizzing team they're on, and while it was great fun, it was also extremely exhausting.

Last night, as my oldest and I were snuggling and debriefing, we talked about a propensity she has to get mad at herself when she starts making mistakes. I told her she had to learn to curb that, especially in a team situation. She replied that that was who she was; and she couldn't fix it, no matter what. It was part of her personality, even though she didn't like it.

So we talked about that issue a bit, and I mentioned that last year she was way worse than she was this year. This year she rarely broke down; last year she did quite frequently. So even though the struggle is still there, it has minimized. And there's no reason not to expect it to continue to get better, with God's help.

It's like that verse in Romans 8:29: we are being transformed into the likeness of His Son. It doesn't say we ARE transformed; it says we are BEING trasnformed. We're not perfect, but we're moving in that direction.

That's one reason why I think God often sees us in terms of arrows rather than pinpoints on a map. If you remember your senior high school algebra, we're vectors, we're not points. We're people with a direction and a momentum, not with a static place in the circle of what it means to be saved. And what God is concerned about is whether or not we're moving closer to the centre of the circle, not where we are within that circle. He's happier with a person who is barely inside the circle who is moving towards the centre than with someone who is close to the centre but moving away.

Take a woman who is exploring faith, for instance. She knows she needs God. She's starting to pray. She's questioning the major things in her life. But she's still living with her boyfriend; she still swears; she still gets drunk occasionally. But she's seriously searching.

Isn't God more pleased and excited about her than He is with a woman who is married, with kids, who has known Him for years, but who gets her entire Christian identity from going to church? She rarely prays, can't remember when she last read Scripture, is judgmental in her heart, and is often short and frustrated with everyone around her. She's not demonstrating grace or love; she's coasting on being a Christian for decades. She figures she's safe, so she just doesn't think much about God in her daily life.

I wish we could stop thinking of people as points on the circle of salvation and instead think of people as arrows, as I think God does. Often we dismiss those outside the circle, thinking they're hopeless, because their lives look so wrong to us. But if their hearts are searching, they're moving towards God. But we think we are safe just because we identify with God, without actually trying to be transformed at all.

I'm not talking salvation; that's a separate issue and far too deep theologically for me after the big weekend I've had. I'm just saying that I think we need to be ask ourselves, are we moving closer to God, or away from Him? I can look at my daughter and see the changes that God has done in her over the last year, even if she can't see them herself. I can see how she's maturing in Him, and how she prays, and I can see how she's working out difficult issues of faith. I'm proud of her. Is she perfect? No, but neither are any of us. But at least she's aware of that, and wants to continue to move in that direction, now that she sees that God is changing her.

But God doesn't change us unless we open ourselves up to Him. We can't rest on our laurels, assuming that we have arrived. I know I will never be perfect this side of heaven. I can see all the things I don't like about myself. But I think God cares more about whether I'm growing in Him than whether those things are there. I don't think He wants me to beat myself up as much as He wants me just to continue to seek Him out.

So which way are you going? Towards Him, or away from Him? What trajectory are you on? Even if you don't look like the "typical" Christian woman, that doesn't matter one bit. The main thing is whether you're starting to look more like Jesus. That's what God cares about, and it's what we should be concerned about, too.

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Don't Follow Your Heart
Every Friday my syndicated column appears in a bunch of newspapers in southeastern Ontario. Here's this week's!

When news of Al and Tipper Gore’s split hit a while back, many newspaper pundits chose to put a happy spin on it. Deirdre Baer, writing in the New York Times, urged us “not to feel sad” about the end of the forty-year union. Instead, we should “rejoice” that they have decided to take the plunge and find themselves!

Self-actualization is the new god.

This line of thinking goes like this: if everybody pursues their own dreams and values and goals, then the world will be better off. We must be true to ourselves. To fail to do so is to betray our deepest convictions; it is to betray who we are.

This philosophy reminds me of a comedy routine on drug use that Bill Cosby did years ago. He asked a druggie why he got high, and the druggie replied, “It intensifies your personality!” Cosby looked confused. “But what if you’re a jerk?”, he queried, though he used much more colourful language.

Good point. What’s so great about doing what is true to you if you’re also a jerk? Won’t that just increase the misery in the world? Following one’s heart is only a good idea if one’s heart is first going in a positive direction. The heart is not a very reliable compass, because it is too often governed by feelings rather than real conviction.

Living by one’s feelings makes one into a liar. If you are going to live based on feelings alone, ensuring that you are always true to yourself, then you won’t be true to anyone else. Al and Tipper vowed at their wedding to love each other til death do us part, forsaking all others. At least one of them has violated that pledge. They vowed it once, but it doesn’t matter now.

Similarly, when you become a parent there is an unspoken pledge that you shall now put your child first, caring for that child and loving that child and nurturing that child until adulthood. If you one day feel that you would be better off pursuing your dreams away from your child, you’re true to yourself. But you’re not true to that child.

Feelings are not the best guide to right and wrong. Hitler probably felt very fervently that he was pursuing his dreams. Most criminals who now languish behind bars were letting their feelings get the better of them, too. The world is full of scars from people doing what feels right.

Our culture may celebrate feelings, but it needs conviction. Without people willing to work a double shift at the hospital, even though they shouldn’t have to, our health care would collapse. Without accountants willing to be honest, even though they could really use some extra money, our businesses would fail. No workplace would long function if workers only decided to do what they wanted to do, and not what they promised to do when they signed on. And no family can provide a shelter from the outside world if people aren’t really committed to loving each other no matter what.

I’d rather that people decided to follow something outside of their own hearts. I’d rather that people find a set of values that didn’t change—that we judged ourselves not based on whether we feel fulfilled, but on whether or not we are doing the right thing. I’d rather that people cared far more about honour and legacy than they did about fun and self.

To live in a world where everyone strives for their own fulfillment is to live in a world where nobody really cares about anybody else. And despite what the New York Times may think, that doesn’t really sound like anything to celebrate. That sounds like something to mourn.

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Making Your Web Surfing Pay for Itself

Working in the darkImage by bellissimac via Flickr

If you're like me, you berate yourself quite a bit for spending too much time on the internet. Why can't you do something productive?

But often the time I'm spending online is time that I would have spent elsewhere a few years ago. When researching my first book, I spent a lot of time in the library. Now I do all my research online.

I used to read cookbooks for recipes. Now I search for recipes on ingredients.

Everything is now online! And I've discovered a neat tool that can put some money back into my pocket for all the time I've spent.

But don't worry: I'm not about to launch into a big ad for some company that wants to sign you up. It's simply a company that lets you randomly win "points" whenever you search the web, which you can then use to cash in for Amazon gift cards, Starbucks cards, iTunes cards, or even electronics. Even if you only use it yourself, you should be able to earn about $50 in Amazon cards in a year.

It's called Swagbucks, and here's how it works. You sign up for it (totally free), and then download their toolbar onto your web browser. It's just like a Google toolbar. And then, everytime you want to search for something, you type the search terms into their toolbar. Every so often, about 25% of the time I think, you'll win some "Swagbucks". These stay in your account until you choose to redeem them.

In the last week alone, I've redeemed a $5 Amazon card and a $10 Starbucks card. I know other friends who have saved up all year and earned an iPad.

You can also earn Swagbucks by clicking through their links to online retailers. When you need to buy something at Target, if you click to Target through Swagbucks, you earn Swagbucks as part of your purchase. I've been trying to figure out how Swagbucks makes its money, and I think it just must be part of advertising for these companies. But it sure is a sweet deal!

Here's why I joined: I run one of the youth departments at our church, and we need prizes and incentives for the teens. So I'm going to save up all of my Amazon cards, and then go and do a big purchase of some Christian fiction soon so that I've got stuff the kids will like (our girls are really big on Beverly Lewis right now). And it doesn't cost me a dime!

If you want to earn something for your church library, you can do the same thing.

Then, if people sign up for Swagbucks under you, you earn the same Swagbucks that they do. If you've signed up under me, for instance, and you suddenly "win" 10 Swagbucks for a search you did finding a crockpot recipe for tonight's dinner, I get the same 10 swagbucks. So we both win! So if you are all interested in joining, sign up under me and then you help my youth program, too!

And if you get all your friends to sign up under you, you earn stuff from them!

I think it's a great way to help out our churches and schools, because we're earning things that we didn't have to actually pay for. Another friend of mine saves up all her Amazon gift cards to buy all of her Christmas presents.

I know things that sound too good to be true usually are, but I haven't found any downsides to this yet. I didn't have to pay anything or sign over any crucial information, and I don't have to give anyone my credit card. It really seems like they're just trying to get people to migrate over to Swagbucks so that they can get the advertising dollars from the retailers.

So if you're interested, sign up right here and see for yourself! And then we can both win!


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Wifey Wednesday: Why Wait?

It's Wednesday, the day when we talk marriage! I introduce a topic, and then you follow up either by commenting or by writing your own post and then linking up!

Wedding Rings #3Image by brtsergio via Flickr

Today I want to write a post that perhaps some of you could have better used five or ten years ago. But it's an important one, so if you like it, please pass it on!

As some of you may know, I've been conducting a "Wedding Night Survey". If you haven't had time to fill it out, can you do it for me now? It only takes 3 minutes, and even though it's rather personal, it's completely anonymous! You can find the survey here.

I've had about 700 people fill it out so far, and I've had what are, to me, some surprising results. Among those who are very committed Christians, only about 30% waited until they were married to have sex. Of those who did not wait, though, a tremendous proportion volunteered on the survey that they wished they had. So many said, "Why didn't we just wait the extra two weeks?" Many say they've been plagued with guilt since.

First, if you didn't make it until your wedding, and you did have sex first, you need to let the guilt go. Jesus died for that, and to carry around the guilt only hurts you, your marriage, and your sex life. To carry around the guilt is to say that Jesus' sacrifice wasn't enough for you, and that's just adding to the problem! So let it go.

But the real thing I want to talk about was this comment: One woman said,

"I grew up with everybody telling me why I should have sex. Nobody took the time--not my parents, not my teachers, not my friends--to give me a good reason not to. I should have waited, and I'm going to make sure my children know why."

I thought that was rather sad, but also rather typical. So in this post, I want to give you the reasons why you should wait.

1. God tells us to. It's a matter of obedience.

But He doesn't just do this to stop us from having any fun. There are good reasons to, like these:

2. Having sex can make your friendship less powerful. Here's a comment another woman made:

I wish we had waited until we were married, because our relationship became nothing but sex. We didn't know how to do anything else.
Sex is a powerful force. It is physically amazing (or at least it can be), and once you start, it's hard to stop. It seems like that's what you should be doing all the time.

And many couples, once they become sexually active, find that their relationship does now revolve around sex. Instead of finding other things to do, they stay in. Instead of socializing with other people, they jump in bed. And what happens? They lose their friendship.

A relationship can't survive on sex alone. You need other things to keep you going. One of the benefits of not having sex while you're engaged is that you're forced to find other things to occupy your time. You talk, and find out about each other. You find hobbies or sports you can do together. You go biking, or hiking, or you play golf. You volunteer together. You DO something.

Once you get married, you settle into a routine. You go to work. You come home. You have dinner. You watch TV. You go to bed. You have sex. The problem is that, for women especially, you're not going to want to make love unless you're also connecting on different levels. And sex should be the culmination of the relationship, not the basis of the relationship. Sex should flow out of your friendship, affection, and companionship; your companionship, affection and friendship can't flow out of sex.

We need to feel connected first. But so does he. For sex to be meaningful, it has to be two people who truly love and want to be together. But how do you know if you want to be together if you don't really know each other? You can have sex a ton and not really know each other, because you're not doing anything else.

That's why we have that period, in engagement, to get to know each other. And the habits we develop then will carry over. If you've been helping out at church together, you'll keep doing that. If you've been hanging out with your siblings, or with your friends, then you now have friends you can spend time with together. If you've been biking, you know you like doing that together.

But if you've been doing very little of anything at all, what is going to hold you together once you're married? You need to have a friendship; you need a reason for that connection. Sex can't be that. And couples who have learned how to build their friendship beforehand do much better in the long run.

3. Sex cements you together, when perhaps you should stay apart.

Another woman wrote, "I confused sex with love. I thought that since we were having sex, we were bonded and meant to be together. I was wrong. I shouldn't have married him." Sex gives you a false sense of intimacy. When we have sex, we release the "bonding hormone" oxytocin, which makes us feel close to the person we're with. We start to experience those fluttery feelings, and the wistful longing for that person.

But it doesn't mean it's based on anything real. Many people have "fallen into" marriage because they've been having sex and it seems like the next logical step. But while the physical side of their relationship accelerated, the rest of it didn't. And now their friendship is stunted and it doesn't look like they can build it up again.

One more thing on this point: the more people that you are "cemented" together with before you're married, the harder it will be for sex to cement you together later. Sex can cement you together; but if you have sex and then break up and have sex and then break up, you start teaching your heart not to bond. And that's setting yourself up for problems in your marriage, because sex becomes something distinct from love. You may still love your husband, but you don't do it through sex, because sex has become only the physical. That's sad.

4. Good sex before you're married does not mean that you will have good sex afterwards.

Many people make love to see if they are "sexually compatible". That's pretty stupid, because any two people can be sexually compatible as long as they love each other. Love should be the basis for sex, not physical prowess in the bedroom. But sex after marriage tends to be different from sex before. Over and over again, my respondents said, "I can't believe how sex changed. It used to be fun, but now it's a chore." Or, "he used to care for me; now he doesn't." Once the commitment is there, sex changes. And if you've been making love already, it often changes for the worse.

Sex used to be something forbidden, and that gave it excitement. Now that it's not, it's become hum drum. Or he used to care about you; now he doesn't. That's because you started having sex when you were courting, and he had to impress you. Now he doesn't.

But isn't that the way with any marriage? Not really. If you don't have sex until you're married, it's new, and you learn together. He learns how to please you. It's now part of your marriage. Have sex first, and it can easily become something that is treated in a more lacksadaisical way after you say your vows.

5. You don't know how to make love.

Sex is supposed to be about connecting you together on all levels. When you have sex without the commitment, you take the bonding part out of the equation. And it's very hard to get it back. So it means that sex, once you're married, won't be the powerful emotional force that it can be for others. It's still focused primarily on the physical, and not on the rest. The emotional is not the primary consideration.

And so, dear friends, I urge you to wait. It helps clarify your choice for marriage, and helps you to marry your best friend. It gives you a tool once you're married to cement you together. And, of course, waiting helps you obey God and not become pregnant when you don't want to.

Does all of this mean that if you did have sex before you were married that your marriage is doomed? No, of course not. It's just that you have some obstacles in your marriage that need to be talked through. You just have a few hurdles, and God can help you get over those hurdles. I've written before, for instance, on how to make sex about intimacy, and not just the physical, and perhaps we'll return to that next week again.

But if you're not married yet, my question would be this: why set yourself up for hurdles? Keep yourself pure; you won't regret it. Nobody said they regretted waiting in my survey; the majority of those who didn't said they did regret not waiting. Listen to those voices, and wait. There's a reason God did what He did, and it wasn't to punish you or rob you of fun. It was to protect you.
Do you have teens you know or engaged couples who would benefit from reading this? Why not share it to Facebook or Twitter?

Now, what advice do you have for us today? Can you think of other reasons to wait? Or do you have something else to tell us? Write your own Wifey Wednesday post that links back to here, and then leave the link of THAT POST in the Mcklinky below. Thanks!


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The Root of Judgmentalism: It's Not Always What You Think
Photo by vauvau

One of the reasons I love being a columnist is that I love telling people what to do. That's probably why I blog, too. My downfall is that at times others do not seem to recognize the brilliance of my insight, but I console myself in the fact that one day they might!

Hence, I know that one of the sins I struggle with is judgmentalism. Perhaps we all have it to a certain extent, but I have it in spades. I am constantly having to remind myself that I should not judge, for I too have faults. And I should not expect people who are not Christians to behave as if they were.

And this time of year is especially difficult for me, because of Father's Day. We had a wonderful Sunday celebrating with my husband and my father-in-law, with lots of card games, laughter, and barbecues to go around.

Nevertheless, I know that many did not have such good days, because the dads in their lives walked out on them. They had affairs on their wives. They abandoned their kids. I struggle when I think of these men.

It reminds me of a wedding I was at when I had to leave early because I had such a visceral judgmental reaction. The wedding was for two people who were closer to my husband than they were to me. While they were smiling and walking down the aisle, all I could think about was the fact that a year and a half earlier the bride had aborted their baby because she was still in school, and they wanted to finish their degrees first.

As I was seething in the pews of that church, I was also pregnant with my son, whom we knew had a serious heart defect, and whom we knew would likely not live long when he was born. We had been pressured to abort, and yet did not, because we wanted to give our baby whatever life we could.

That made the stark choice of abortion all the more vivid to me. And as I was thinking these thoughts, there was this couple, grinning from ear to ear, enjoying the wedding they wanted now that they both had landed jobs after they had received their diplomas. They had lived together for years, had aborted their baby, and had done everything so that their lives could be as convenient as possible.

And what was worse, to me, was that she had not kept the abortion secret. She had told people proudly that she was exercising her right to choose, so that she would not be burdened with a baby when she was not ready.

That was about fifteen years ago; I have no idea what has happened to that couple, or if they have gone on to have other children. Yet I have always almost hated that woman. At the time I refused to stay for the dance, and demanded that my husband take me home, because the thought of her being so happy after she had sacrificed everything that was good and pure on the altar of convenience made me physically ill.

I am not proud of my reaction, and yet I am getting the same tight feeling in my stomach when I think of that moment. I am not sure what I expected; did I want to hear remorse from her in her wedding speech? Did I want her to look miserable? Obviously the emotion I was feeling was not due to her. I was projecting on to this woman for reasons of my own that I still have not entirely figured out.

Perhaps it was easier to project because I did not really know this woman on a personal basis, and everything I did know about her was in such contrast to my own values that it was hard to feel any sense of comaraderie. Yet often it is in our deepest areas of pain that we are the most judgmental. I am most judgmental about men who leave their families, and about women who abort, because these are the big hurts in my life: a father deserting me; a baby I so desperately wanted dying. When others throw away what we would have done anything to keep, it makes us angry not primarily because of the hurt that they caused, but because we take it personally.

As much as we may be right in our assessment, though, we must stop this urge to personalize such sins. That couple did nothing against me; they did everything against God and against their child. It was to God that they owed an apology, and not to me. Yet I was acting the part of God in that story, demanding a penance that was not really mine to receive.

I wonder how often this dynamic plays a part in our own families. I know that I am far more sensitive to when Keith does something that reminds me of a husband leaving, even if he has no intention of leaving. Early in our marriage, when we used to have fights, I told him in no uncertain terms that he was not allowed to leave the house to clear his head, even if it would help, because that would be hurtful to me. I would interpret it too much as what my father did--even though it was nothing close to it. Similarly, when I sense a rift developing between Rebecca, our 15-year-old, and Keith, I immediately lay all the blame at Keith's feet and demand that he fix it, because I know what it is like to grow up a teen without a father. I am projecting onto Keith sins he has not committed, because they sit so close to the areas of my heart where the hurt is still a little raw.

Many people say judgmentalism is caused by pride; we think we are better than others. I think it is also caused by hurt. We are angry that things did not work out differently for ourselves, and when others seem to be replicating the problem, it is almost as if they are denying the hurt feelings that we ourselves have. The answer to judgmentalism, then, is not always to look at our own sin. I think sometimes it's to look at our hurts. Take those hurts to God. Often we stop telling God what we're really feeling because we're afraid that if we start all this anger will come pouring out, and it won't help anybody. We'll never be able to stop. Yet we need to be honest with God. He knows what you're feeling anyway, and He's the only one who can wipe away the tears.

When we don't go to God, we take it out on others. That pain is still there, and it is ugly and it is big and it won't be silenced. If you won't take it to God, it will emerge in obscure ways in anger; usually in the anger of judgmentalism. You will start projecting onto others because that way you have a seemingly safe method of exorcising some of the pain. But it doesn't work, because it doesn't really get to the root.

If you find yourself overreacting in certain areas of your marriage, or overreacting with your kids, ask yourself if they're touching a scab, or maybe even an open wound on your heart. And then ask God if He will start to heal that wound. Don't be afraid to touch it. Sometimes healing hurts initially. The alternative, though, is to live with the pain. And to me, that's not much of an alternative at all.

If you want to read more about how I walked through healing after losing my son, check out my book, How Big Is Your Umbrella: Weathering the Storms of Life.


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We Were Not Meant to Be Alone

Street hockey in Calgary, Canada.Image via Wikipedia

I know the speed limit is only 40 km/h, but I find myself itching to hit the gas pedal just a little bit more. But I know there are boys in striped T-shirts and shorts on roller blades just around the next corner, with hockey nets and tennis balls, teaching their little brothers how to play road hockey.

A little girl on a pink bike with Barbie streamers is tottering dangerously, her tongue off to the side of her mouth as she practices without training wheels, her mom right beside her.

I'm coming home.

And as I inch towards my house--it's easy to spot, as we're the only one with a bright red car on our street of all beige and black vehicles--I can't wait to jump out and hug my kids and hug my husband. One of the best things about coming home is having someone to come home to.

Last weekend I taught the speaking track at the Canadian Christian Writers' Conference in Guelph. It was a wonderful time, and I met some great people, including a few I'll likely introduce you to over the next few weeks. I always come back inspired and grateful for all the networking. Yet all the amazing people in the world cannot compare to the three wonderful ones who are waiting for me on my front porch.

It is good not to be alone.

At times I am so happy and filled to the brim with love that I think I will burst. But those times seem always sprinkled with sadness that others do not share the same joy. While on the road I ate at some fast food restaurants, I have to admit, and when there I did something I rarely do anymore--I picked up a newspaper and read it. And everything had to with tragedy--children who had been stabbed or shot, children who had been murdered by parents, children who had hung themselves, young women killed in a drunk driving accident. There is so much tragedy.

And among all the tragedy are the tawdry divorces. Just as tragic, really, but in other ways.

My mother endured a divorce. My father left for greener pastures, and my mother raised me alone. When you are a child, you don't think of what it is like for your mother to be alone. You only think of the hole in your own life, but you don't think of the hole that is in hers. This week our children went through something tricky with friends, and I had to make a decision on how we were going to handle it. But I didn't make it alone, because my husband was there to bounce ideas off of and finally to come down hard on one side. Had I had to make the decision alone, I likely would have vacillated for much longer. It is hard to raise a teenager alone.

I know another family whose 14-year-old daughter was just diagnosed with bone cancer. She also has small lesions on her lungs. They call it the "Terry Fox" cancer, a reference most Canadians will know. I have felt just sick for them for the last two weeks. And yet they are not alone. They have family; the parents are married; and many from Katie's school have shaved their heads in solidarity. When we go through difficult things, it is good not to be alone.

Almost all major tragedies are made so much worse when we endure them alone. And indeed, the root of many such tragedies is family breakdown. Those who grow up in a home without dads are far more likely to turn to crime; and those who grow up in a family without dad are far more likely to be victims of crime. Everything is exacerbated. And then, when something really bad does happen, you have far fewer resources to see you through.

When I was 16, I came home from my part-time job one night at 6:30 to find my mother in a ball, shrunken, on the corner of the couch. When I walked in the door, she straightened herself up, smiled a weak smile, and then asked me to come sit down beside her. And as I did, she told me that she had been to the doctor that day, and they had found cancer. She would be having a mastectomy in three days' time. It was a large enough tumour that they were sure it had spread.

I was an only child to a single mom, and my mom was telling me that she was likely dying. And what did I do? I sniffled a little bit with her, gave her a hug, and then fled that apartment, got on a subway, and went to my best friend's house to talk it out. When you're 16, you need a friend. And I left my mother in a ball.

My mother's cancer hadn't spread. A few years ago, for her twentieth anniversary, we threw a "Glad you're not dead" party. Some thought it was in poor taste; but Mom and I both thought it was hilarious, because I am very glad she's not dead. And yet there are images I will never forget of that time: her lying in pain in the hospital bed, trying to look brave, when I came in during my lunch break from high school. Her being wheeled into surgery, with her two sisters on either side of her bed before they had to turn back. Her talking to the doctor, by herself, because there was nobody else there to talk to the doctor with her. And my mother, all curled in a ball.

It is not good to be alone.

I watched the movie "It's Complicated" a while ago when my husband was away on business, and I found it actually quite sad, and true to life. It's not a very clean movie, and I felt it was too graphic in some of its conversation. But the emotion it portrays is so true to life. At one point, the 60-year-old woman, whose husband left her ten years ago, has finally built her life back up, and she is now remodeling her kitchen. After going over all the plans, she leaves the room, only to come back in quickly.

"One last thing," she says to the designer. "No his and her sinks."

He challenges her on this, asking if maybe in the future there may be need of a "his".

"I have his and her sinks now," she says. "And everytime I look at them, I feel sad."

It is not good to be alone.

God can bring people who are alone much comfort, and He can make them stronger and teach them to rely on Him. But I do not think that is His plan. We are meant to be live in community; ideally that means marriage, but if not marriage, at least some kind of close community. I sometimes look at the single people I know and wish so desperately to play Emma, to matchmake for some of these dear ones who live alone and should not have to.

Perhaps they are content with their lives, and I am reading too much into it. My mother has a rich life, though some would still call her alone. And death can steal those we love from us. Life happens.

And if we are alone because of death, at least we have memories. But to be alone because of betrayal and rejection is very difficult. And it is not His plan. To be alone because you have never found anyone to love I don't believe is His plan, either. It is getting so hard to find mates today, in our world where people have fewer and fewer social circles. It is hard to find close friends when people are increasingly moving to an online world. And so too many are stuck with being alone.

Alone in a world of roller blades and pink Barbie bikes. Alone in a world of hospitals and shootings and stabbings. And it makes me glad for the three waiting for me, on my front porch. I wish I could bottle this up and share it.


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To My Fathers
Last Father's Day I wrote a column to my fathers. It meant a lot to me, and so I'd like to post it again:

When I think of Dad, I think of belly laughs, and smiles, and choked back tears. I think of a proud grandfather, a fiercely loyal parent, a family man.

I think of a man who loves hockey but who loves his grand-daughters, too. I picture a man who is proud that his children have outpaced him in learning, if not always in common sense. I see a man who might worry about the practical side of life—health, money, or jobs—but not about family or friends, because he knows they are rock solid. And they are rock solid because he is. And though he may make fun of Mom and me talking clothes, or cooking, or gardening, or my daughters laughing about toys or dresses or flowers, he is secretly pleased that so much estrogen surrounds him.

Girls, you see, were once a rarity in his life. I was his first daughter, but he only inherited me at his oldest son’s wedding. And though he is not genetically my father, when I hear the word Dad, his is the face that comes to my mind.

Father’s Day, which must have been created by Hallmark and the people who make fishing poles, was my least favourite holiday as a child. I didn’t live anywhere near my father, so how could I celebrate him?

My relationship with my biological father has always revolved around heredity. Like many who should have a relationship but don’t, he is often trying to establish a connection, and the only one that exists is genetic. When I demonstrate some of his traits, he’s tickled pink. He can claim pride because he can claim me as his daughter. Now I do know that he wishes things could have been different, and that he does genuinely love me. But it is love at a distance.

This genetic type of love is valuable in its own way and I am grateful for it, but it is very different from parental affection, which is what I feel with Dad. As a child, it is what you desperately need, and when I looked around for it, I found it in my uncle. He wasn’t genetically related to me, either, but he did care for me, and fuss over me like a dad should whenever I gave my heart away to an undeserving boy. He picked up the phone to dispense advice or provide a listening ear when I needed it.

He walked through adolescence with me, delivered the “father of the bride” toast at my wedding, and made baby faces at my daughters. When Katie was two, though, I wrote him a good-bye letter, because the cancer had come back. In that letter I had the chance to tell him how much he had meant to me. And I told him that when I arrive in heaven one day, God will call him over and say, “Art, here is your daughter.” He was the father of my youth.

I will celebrate one more father this Father’s Day: the only father I actually chose. He’s the man I’m thrilled is the father of my children: a dad who is loving, and kind, and generous, and a true partner to me. Because of him, Father’s Day is finally a big production in my life.

It is difficult as a little girl not to have a Daddy that she is close to. And yet, as I’ve matured I’ve realized that many men have played that fatherly role, showing me what it means to be loved, affirmed, protected, and cared for. I have the genetic father, to whom I owe many of my gifts, as well as my lack of propensity to gain weight, for which I am eternally grateful. I have the father of my childhood, who is not here to celebrate except in memory. I have grandfathers who were wonderful to me. I have Dad, who delights over me today, and not only because he trusts me to pick the right nursing home one day. And I have my husband. And so I no longer dread Father’s Day. It takes me on a walk through memory lane, and I’m really quite grateful for those I have.

Happy Father's Day!


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A Graduation Speech
Every Friday my syndicated column appears in a bunch of newspapers in southeastern Ontario. Here's this week's!

Valedictorian SpeechImage by meganpru via Flickr

We are not preparing children well for the real world. Want proof? Here’s Exhibit A, the children’s soccer league in Ottawa, which made headlines recently when it changed its rules. From now on, any team five points ahead automatically loses if it scores another goal. It used to be that extra goals just weren’t counted, or that they removed players to even out the teams. Now you’re penalized for trying.

Then there’s Exhibit B, a local girl who intends to lobby the Ministry of Education over the forty hours of community service requirement to graduate. It’s a human rights issue. Personally, I’ve never been a fan of that requirement, because I think schools should focus on academics, but that’s another story. What I can’t figure out, though, is of all the things you could adopt as your signature issue, why pick that one? Our main focus today is on our rights, not on our responsibilities.

Neither of these attitudes is beneficial in the real world. And so, if anybody asked me to give a graduation speech, here’s the one I would deliver:

You are about to start your real life. You have now graduated from a false world. If you’re wondering what’s so false about it, look around at all of your classmates. Every single one of these students has likely earned a “Terrific Kid” award at some point. And yet you and I both know that many of these kids are not terrific. They’re bullies. But the system that you have been immersed in likes to tell everybody that they are special. You have been rewarded just for showing up. You have been allowed to hand things in late. You have been marked on a bell curve.

All of that is about to come to a screeching halt. In the real world there is only one thing that matters: doing your best. The work world does not give you bonus points for showing up on time. They fire you if you don’t. They give you a task, and they want it completed. There is no such thing as extensions. And what will determine whether or not you move ahead in your career is whether or not you do your best.

So do your best, but not only at work. Do your best at home, too. Most of you will marry, and most of you will be parents. The most important job you will ever have is raising your family. Work harder at solving problems at home than you have ever worked at anything in your life. Do your best at home, and your life will be so much smoother. Neglect home, and everything else will be harder.

But it is not enough to do your best. And so here is my second piece of advice: don’t obsess about whether or not life is fair. Of course it’s not fair! Some have more, and some have less. Some are smarter, prettier, and stronger, and some are not. You can spend your life feeling cheated, or you can be grateful for what you do have, and make a difference.

This world is not going to become a better place because the government makes it better. This world is going to become a better place because you make it better. Get to know your neighbours. Help out a single mom. Shovel an elderly person’s driveway. Give money to cancer research. Adopt a kid through World Vision. Stay humble.
You have your futures ahead of you. It is up to you how those futures turn out. I hope you embrace your future with enthusiasm, and jump in with both feet, rather than waiting for someone else to make your future bright. Your life will not always be easy, but it is yours. Live it, because nobody else can do it for you.

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Thursday Thoughts
My friend Terry sometimes writes Monday Musings, but it's not Monday, so I thought I'd write a "Thursday Thoughts" and fill you in on some of the things I've recently saved to my Delicious folder to read again soon.

1. Do you all need some encouragement today? Then pull up a coffee and read these posts--some funny, some poignant, but all will make you feel better about life:

You are more than your bathing suit.

2. The Future of Education: I don't know what education will look like in twenty years, but I know it won't look like it does now. It's too expensive, and it's not working. Kids aren't learning enough in school, and university, at least liberal arts programs, doesn't provide enough bang for its buck. My daughter takes online high school courses and earns credits for them, and I can just imagine how much money the school board is saving by not having a physical classroom. I'm sure we're moving in that direction.

But in the meantime, here are two articles that I found interesting together: First, Instapundit's Glenn Reynolds asks if higher education's bubble is about to burst. I say yes. And second, here's a guy who has millions of YouTube hits for his 10 minute educational videos on just about every subject. He really teaches. And it's not through a college. I love education, but the thought that it has to be delivered today exactly the way it was 200 years ago is crazy. And too expensive. This guy proves it.

3. A liberal writes about how peace activists may have blood on their hands. Interesting historical perspective. Some stuff there I didn't know about the 1930s. And it's interesting given that the author of this article isn't a "right winger".

I tend to agree with this. I find it amazing how many Christians, for instance, wear Che Guevera T-shirts, seemingly not caring that the guy murdered Christians. Just because he did it for communism, it somehow makes it okay. But do Christians realize that all communist regimes have targeted Christians? Do Christians realize that right now China does just that? Why is it that we don't hold people to account for making excuses for foreign governments who do horrible things?

I'm all for helping the poor and for social justice, but I think God calls us to do that on an individual basis. He doesn't ask government to enforce it, because then government becomes tyrranical. We should all be giving to others. We should all be helping those in need. Perhaps if we were busy do that, we'd stop silly political squabbling and actually fix the world.

smoke detector (05-04-08)Image by sun dazed via Flickr

4. Absence Makes the Heart Grow Fonder. My husband was away last week for work, and it reminded me why I so appreciate him. The fire alarm started to beep with a low battery warning, and do you think the girls and I could figure out where the battery went? After researching it on the web, I found where the battery case was supposed to be--and then couldn't open it. After much prying we finally got it open (with three of us balancing on a chair, not smart), and removed that horrid battery.

And the thing kept beeping. It's wired in electrically, so it beeps if there's no battery, too. I don't get that. If it's wired in electrically, why does it need a battery? So I had to go out and buy another nine volt, and then we tried to put it back in. And we did. And it kept beeping. We were doing it wrong. So Katie tried it. And I tried it. And Becca tried it again. Still beeping.

Then Becca figured out a miraculous way to disconnect the whole thing from the electrical system, and so the fire alarm now sits on my husband's bedside table, waiting for him to come home.

That same day I had a phone call from my bank telling me my credit card had been hijacked. And we can't get the window in our laundry room closed because the little mechanism for holding it shut is broken. And it was freezing and raining that day.

So I want my husband home! At least he can close a window and fix a battery.

5. Abigail Adams. We visited the homes of John and Abigail Adams when we visited Massachusetts a year ago, and I just finished reading a biography on Abigail Adams last week. It was really interesting. Not riveting, but interesting to see how tough her life was. They were separated so much, she and John, while he was a politician and she was caring for their farm.

This whole idea that we are to spend our lives under the same roof as our husbands at all times is really quite a luxury. When travel was so difficult in earlier times, men often spent weeks and months away from home. In other parts of the world, people travel for work. Last week, two of my friends left for tours of duty in Afghanistan. Again, it made me grateful for my husband and for the blessing of living with him, under the same ceiling. Even if said ceiling is temporarily missing a smoke detector.

She also reminded me how productive women had to be in other eras. You worked or things just didn't get done--and there was so much to get done. She spent so much time in correspondence, and planning parties (which she detested), and caring for her family, even once her children were grown. She made the most of her time on earth.

And even though I'm Canadian, I still get goosebumps when I read about John Adams' and Thomas Jefferson's death. To think they both died on the same day, 50 years to the day of the signing of the Declaration of Independence. God smiled on America; there can be no other explanation.

6. I've been writing a lot about wedding nights and honeymoons lately, and it's taken me back to my own. And to tell you the truth, they weren't that great. Life is wonderful with my husband now; it wasn't then.

And I've been thinking about how sometimes we have to get over these romantic fantasies that we have, that we build up in our minds. I think I'll write a longer post about this later, but too often we women build things up in our heads so much that we're inevitably disappointed. I'm not saying that we should never want something so that we'll never be disappointed; only that too often what we want isn't realistic, or has a great chance of not actually occurring. And then how will we react? We need to learn to be grateful for what we have, and not always try to get the romantic fairytale. Ironically, that makes the fairytale more likely!

That's about all I'm thinking right now, as I desperately spend the last day I have to edit my three chapters before sending them in. Pray that I make good decisions today so that my arguments and thoughts flow clearly on the page!

What about you? What's been up with you this week?
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Wifey Wednesday: Reconciling Your Sexual Past with your Marriage

It's Wednesday, the day when we talk marriage! I introduce a topic, and then you follow up either by commenting or by writing your own post and then linking up!

Today I want to talk about something rather personal. What do you do when you have quite the sexual past, but you watn to have a pure marriage, with a great sex life? Can you rid yourself of the baggage from everything you've already done?

Here's a letter that I received recently:

I am single, in my late twenties. In my earlier twenties, I did not live a Christian lifestyle. I had sex with two men. The first was a great friend, and we had fun. I really enjoyed it. The next guy, I was engaged to, and I HATED sex with him. I found ways to make myself unattractive or unavailable to him…. I have dedicated my life to God, and have been single for 3 years now. I have decided not have sex again until marriage… This is going to seem pretty childish to ask… But,… how do you bring this up with an adult? How many grown men are going to be okay with this? How much of my past do I tell?... .and then, what if I do meet someone, and we decide to get married? I have a fear of not enjoying sex with… How do make sure that doesn’t happen? Also, how do you learn how to connect sex and love together? Because of my past, I learned the two separately, and cannot seem to make the connection… I know this sounds crazy.. But, any advise on anything you can give would be greatly appreciated.

First, I don't think that does sound crazy. I think it sounds quite normal.

But let me relay another story to you that may help how we think about this. When I was in Kenya recently, my husband and I were asked to speak to the teens about adolescence. And one night a boy put up with his hand with a question. He asked, "Is there a disadvantage to being a virgin when you're married?" After beating around the bush and trying to figure out what he was really getting at, I finally asked, "Do you mean will sex be bad if you don't have practice first?" Everybody laughed, including that boy, because that is what he meant. And so Keith and I went on to answer him.

No, you don't need practice first, because sex once you're married is very different from before you are married. In the "wedding night" survey I'm doing (if you haven't taken it yet, please do right here), one woman wrote about how sex was very emotionally different afterwards. She and her fiance had already slept together before the wedding, but it was different. And she so wished that she had waited.

Here's the thing about sex once you're married: you have a lifetime to get it right. It doesn't have to be perfect right off the bat (and it rarely is). But when you love someone, and you're committed to someone, you've got a lifetime to figure out how to make it good for both of you. There's no hurry. And for women, our sex drives are very closely related to how loved we feel. When we feel cherished and loved in a relationship, we're more likely to feel rather energetic sexually, if you know what I mean. So just because sex was bad with other men before you were married has very little bearing on whether or not sex will be good once you are married.

The more thorny issue, I think, is how to use sex as a way to say "I love you" when it's only ever been a way to say "I want you". If you've had sex before you were married, you did it for purely physical reasons, because the commitment wasn't there. Once you're married, other dimensions come in to it. You truly are becoming one flesh. You're declaring your commitment to one another. And so it IS different, whether or not we think of it that way.

Many married women, though, have this problem. How do I think of sex differently? How do I turn it into something really beautiful, when it's only ever been something hurried, a little guilt-inducing, and focused only on the physical. I'd suggest that you just spend a lot of time with your husband. Have a bath naked together. Touch each other while you're naked. Spend time talking. Make it romantic. The more you love each other with words and with your eyes, the more you'll be able to love each other with other body parts.

Unfortunately, most women, even Christian women, do have sex before they're married, and when we do that, we rewire our brains so that our brains associate certain things with certain sexual feelings. And we stop associating love with that feeling. But that doesn't mean that we can't rebuild that again. This is the man you love. If you completely and utterly love him, sex can definitely be good because it's in the right context once you're married. So talk about how much you love him. Show him love. Show him how to show you love. And then the physical parts of sex, which can be very stupendous, too, will follow in a different context. And that's what really makes this beautiful.

I'm sorry I can't explain this much more because I'm really running late today, and have to prepare for a conference I'm teaching at this week. But I'd love to know your thoughts. How do you feel love through sex? How do you turn it into something beautiful? Or do you have other advice for us?

Write your own Wifey Wednesday post that links back to here, and then leave the link of THAT POST in the Mcklinky below. Thanks!


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Poise and Grace: Some People Have Them, Some People Don't

Queen LatifahQueen Latifah via

I wrote yesterday about the movie Secret Life of Bees, which I thought was wonderful.

But it pained me to watch it in one rather selfish way. Queen Latifah, in that movie, had such perfect posture, and such a quiet, wise way about her. I have always wanted both those things. It seems like posture and that quiet, wise old owl often go together. And the wise thing has nothing to do with age; I have a 16-year-old friend who always sits perfectly straight, who is also very wise. She just gives that impression.

It must have something to do with the way we carry ourselves. When we have good posture, we give the message, "I am ready to take on the world. I am strong." We also say, "I am sure of who I am. I am confident." Combine it with a gentle spirit, and you have such a beautiful mixture of virtues that people long to be with you.

Unfortunately, I slouch. Horribly. It's genetic. My father slouches, my grandfather was very stooped, and now I am, too. I did not grow up with my father, so it's not as if I copied him. But my back looks exactly the same.

I took ballet as a child, which was a good thing, because without that I'd likely be worse. But I did learn how to carry myself, which means several dozen times a day I notice that I'm slouching, and I correct it. But I can never stay that way very long. I've tried different chairs, different beds, different exercises, but nothing seems to work. I am destined to slouch.

All of that is a major problem for me, because I so want to be that wise, confident presence that I keep seeing all around me. I want to be that woman who looks like she can take on the world. I want to be the woman who gives off an air of peace, of stability, of strength. And yet I don't think I do.

Obviously there is a lot more to a confident, gentle person than not slouching. After all, some people who are ramrod straight are harsh and pointy, in more ways than one. So it's not entirely your body; but I do love that combination of outer grace and inner grace.

Maybe I focus so much on the outer grace because it's easier to cultivate than the inner grace. I'm not a very gentle person. I mostly say whatever comes to my mind, and often regret it later. I joke a lot. I can be rather loud. I'm the exact opposite of that character that I loved so much in the movie.

I suppose the answer is to start being grateful for who I am, and for trying to nurture the good that I already do have. I think I have the kind of personality that puts people at ease. I'm easy to get to know. I'm fun. And there's nothing wrong with fun. But every so often, I would just so much rather be confident and wise.

I have to go now because I'm slouching horribly in this chair, but I would really like to know if I'm totally alone, or if others of you have felt this, too. Have you ever wished your body would behave differently? Are there personality traits you're trying to cultivate? Let me know!


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About Me

Name: Sheila

Home: Belleville, Ontario, Canada

About Me: I'm a Christian author of a bunch of books, and a frequent speaker to women's groups and marriage conferences. Best of all, I love homeschooling my daughters, Rebecca and Katie. And I love to knit. Preferably simultaneously.

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