Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Building a Solid Inner Circle

I used to believe that certain people just had a "right" to be in my inner circle. Like, the fact that I've known them for 20 years, or the fact that they were my parents, or my siblings, or grandparents (and the list goes on). But over time I realized that family means so much more than just sharing a last name or the same DNA. And just because you've known someone forever doesn't mean they are healthy. It was probably in my late twenties I realized I have a choice on the matter. I decide who I want in my inner circle, and here are my guidelines for that position:

1. Can I share my dreams with you?

2. Can I share my victories and my failures with you?

3. Do you work as hard at being healthy as I do?

4. Do we share similar basic core values?

5. Do you have depth to you or do you live at the surface?

6. Are you trustworthy?

7. Can we run together or is one of us always running ahead of the other one?

8. Do you believe the best about me, even when everyone else doesn't?

9. Do you have permission to change my mind, and do I have permission to change yours?

10. Would you fly across the country tomorrow to help me if I needed it?

Sometimes you may only find one other person that really qualifies for that inner circle position. I can't imagine having more than 10 that would. This is an elite group of special people in your life. This is your core group. You can trust them with your life, and they can trust you with theirs. And every once in a while, your inner circle group may change. For example, the inner circle you build during your college years may need to be updated in your 30's. Sometimes there is a natural separation that happens due to life circumstances. And sometimes people start out safe, and then just drop the ball later on - it's sad, but it happens.

The most important thing to remember in building a solid inner circle is no one has an automatic right to be there, it is a position earned by someone who can carry your heart well. The choice is yours, choose wisely!

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

MARRIAGE CHALLENGE: Working to Understand Each Other Instead of Changing Each Other

I had a vivid dream last night about a young married couple I know. Basically, they were struggling with something I would say was a very common problem in relationship. The wife is a go-getter, capable in many ways. She is focused, organized and lives life fully. The husband is fun loving, out-going, always makes you laugh and is the life of the party. He is also responsible, but maybe not as driven as the wife. In the dream, they were beginning to get very disconnected because all his charm was now annoying her. She couldn't laugh with him anymore because her needs of being taken care of were not being met. She was starting to feel like the mom in the relationship, instead of the lover. He was beginning to feel resentful that he couldn't be himself anymore. It was like all of a sudden she wanted him to change personalities. Also, his parents were beginning to feel like the wife was trying to change their son, and they didn't like it one bit. They were feeling protective over him and they were accusing her of being controlling and bossy.

When I woke up I thought "what would I say to them if they were sitting here having coffee with me this morning?" And that's when I decided to write a blog to address this issue as I feel it is something that so many people struggle with.

When the honeymoon stage wears off, we suddenly realize that the thing that attracted us to our spouse to begin with is now scaring us. His fun loving ways now feel childish. You begin to wonder if he can ever take anything seriously? Why can't he keep a budget? Why can't he be on time? Why can't he grow up and drive this ship with me instead of me having to come behind him and constantly clean up his messes?

He's thinking why can't she be spontaneous? Why so serious all the time? All those things that irritate her are not a big deal. Let's save the nit-picking for things that really matter in life. I'm faithful, I'm a good guy, why can't I earn her respect? Why do I always feel like I'm in trouble?

They are both right, and they are both wrong. Bottom line for her is she needs to feel safe. She needs to know her husband is capable of leading. She needs to know that if she disappeared for a week, the house and finances would not crumble to the ground. She needs to feel like she can lean on him. And when those needs are met, she loves nothing more than to kick back and laugh and have fun with him. That is what drew her to him to begin with. She actually doesn't want to change his personality, she just wants her needs met. She needs to learn how to communicate need instead of lashing out in anger or communicating constant frustration. Here is a good tool to keep in mind when communicating a need:

Right way: "I need to feel __________."

Wrong way: "I need you to __________."

When you communicate what you need to feel, you are believing that he is capable of creating a game-plan on his own, which creates a culture of freedom. But when you tell him what you need him to do, it feels like orders, which creates a culture of control.

For a man the best response when you hear what your wife needs to feel, is to embrace her and tell her that you hear her, and you will do your best to meet that need. And then if you really don't know how to go about that, here are some good questions to ask her:

1. When I have not made you feel that way?

2. Can you think of things I've done in the past that have made you feel that way?

If you still need help in figuring out how to form a plan - call in reinforcements! Do you have sisters? Do you have older couples in your life? Do you have a pastor, counselor or buddy who seems to know what he's doing with his wife? Ask more questions until you get it right. Your effort alone will mean worlds to her and you might just get those needs met along the way.

Ladies, the best way to get a man to rescue you is to be a princess in need of rescue. One of my favorite blogs on this topic is "Princes Don't Rescue Dragons." If you want him to move towards you, you can't breathe fire! Often times we skip fear and worry and move straight into anger. Speak up before you become the fire breathing dragon. Learn how to be vulnerable and communicate need instead of demands. And do your best to stay out of the parenting role. You may think you have no choice, but the more weight you carry the less he has to do. Keep putting weight on him, he can handle it. He may not get it done the way you want, but he can get it done. Take a chance and loosen the reigns, this is a partnership not a dictatorship. You can either fight to get it done your way, or you can fight for a marriage, which do you choose?

I hope you gained some insight from reading this, and I'd love to hear your successes if you've tried some of these suggestions and they worked to get you connected again.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Passive Women & Pushy Men

My all time most popular blog was Passive Men & Pushy Women. Because there was so much interest in that scenario, I decided to flip it around and address the other side. Here we go...


I'd like to start with the strengths of a pushy/aggressive/ambitious man. He is a true leader, he doesn't take no for an answer. He is strong, he is powerful, and he demands respect. He is a producer, he can get results. You know he will get the job done. These are the CEO's of the world, the presidents, the leaders, the conquerers the pioneers and the winners. But along with that big personality can come some pretty big constraints.

Because a pushy man finds so much identity in achievement and success (and in being right), he will often leave relationships in the dust in order to pursue the next big thing. He most often chooses a nurturing, quiet, solid and steady woman as his helpmate because she is everything he is not. Early in the relationship she will try to set boundaries with him, and he will squash her efforts - which later on down the road will cause a painful amount of disconnection and disrespect. He is often critical of his spouse, children and friends. No one ever feels good enough around him because bottom line is nothing ever is good enough (in his eyes). A pursuit of excellence becomes a perfectionistic rigid way of life. His high standards leave him alienated and isolated. Pushy men will protect ideas instead of people. In many environments they are the predator and they hurt those around them often. They are obsessive about details which makes them good at their job, but a lousy family man. Often times he thinks that everyone in his family is thriving because no one ever confronts him. But what is really going on is people in his family are dying and they are retreating to silence. They have just given up hope that he will ever change and they have accepted the fact that he just can't hear the truth. Also, you simply don't want to argue with a pushy man. He will turn it around on you so fast that you end up apologizing to him for something he did wrong. Living with a pushy man is one big double standard. He can always do it (whatever "it" is), but you can't.


Ladies, I'm not going to let you off the hook even though you're in a tough position. Here's the thing about living with a pushy man. He acts that way, because you let him. Early on in the relationship he communicated to you that his needs were more important, and you believed him. It is in your nature to give and not ask much in return. But in doing so you have created a monster. I can't tell you how many women I know who ended up in a relationship like this only to find out 10 years down the road (when she finally explodes like a volcano) that she really did have a voice all along. And the moment she actually set a real boundary, that pushy man responded in love and respect. See, he is strong, and he will run you over if you let him. But what he really wants is for you to be strong too. He may fight it at first, but he will respect your strength. In fact, it will inspire him, intrigue him, bring him in closer. Because you are such a supportive personality you are a safe person when it comes to confrontation and boundaries. You can do "tough love" better than any other personality. You have an emotional compass inside of you. You know when things aren't fair, when he's pushed it too far, when he is out of line, and when he is out of control. But for so long you have ignored it, and some of you have defended it, even made excuses for it. "He works so hard, he has all these problems, I don't want to add to them." I've heard them all. So do you want to enable him, and lose any hope for real connection in marriage, or do you want to do the healthy thing, and teach him how to treat you well? Dr. Phil always says "you teach people how to treat you." I'm a firm believer in this.

Ladies, don't be the martyr. Don't be the victim. You may not carry the same drive he does in life, but if you don't develop the strong side of your personality you'll never see the results you want. A pushy man wants a safe, nurturing woman but he also wants a powerful helpmate that will run with him, at his pace.

Over the years you may feel like too much damage has been done. Some of the cuts may be too deep. But with the help of a counselor, you can heal. Your marriage can heal. You can develop the strength you need. You may need the help of a strong coach in the beginning who will pull your pushy man aside and say "hey, NOT OKAY!" Don't be afraid to pull in help in the beginning.

And my closing thoughts to a pushy man - you can be "right", or you can find love. Which do you choose? Which one will you find more rewarding in the end? You have the tendency to get out of control real fast. Will you have to lose everything before you learn how to develop your constraints? Or will you learn to value other people, and believe that they are just as important as you are? Your identity needs to be in what you bring to others, not what you can take or conquer. You were born strong, but not so that you could run all over people, it was so you could bring protection to the world. The world needs your strength, but in your strength you're called to serve, not dominate.

And for both men and women, no matter what your personality is, no matter your age or you circumstances please don't ever stay in a dangerous, abusive relationship. Get out, get help, and know that there is hope!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Some DOs and DONTs in Marriage

Today I'm just speaking from the heart. Jon and I have been coaching some couples lately and also hearing stories of marriages that seem to be crumbling as we speak. I'm not an expert, I'm just a woman who has been pursuing deep connection with a man for the past 11 years. And here are some things I've learned and observed along the way.

1. A good marriage is possible for anyone who is willing to work for it. I believe it's harder and more painful to not work for connection. People are always looking for an easy button, but the truth is short cuts and complacency often bring torment into one's life. It's easier to move towards each other than away from each other.

2. Stay connected to what made you attractive in the first place. Ladies - don't get frumpy!!!! I understand that life can get overwhelming and we all deserve days without makeup and high heels. A good man will love you through many different stages in life. But it is your responsibility to inspire your man with your beauty. Keep things exciting, reinvent yourself, put effort into being beautiful - inside and out! Guys - don't stop chasing your lady! You're a hunter at heart. If you become a bump on a log you are shooting yourself in the foot. Watch a few Brad Pitt movies to jump start some passion. That guy knows how to get a woman's heart beating! And, if you're already on that side of the spectrum - learn loyalty. Affairs and flirting may seem exciting. But long lasting covenant love is the stuff that truly satisfies.

3. Don't make the kids the center of your world. How many people have done that, and when the last one leaves the house the marriage is null and void? Your kids need you to be connected. They need to know that they have a solid anchor to settle into. They need a model of love that they can take into adulthood. Kids also need to know the world does not revolve around them alone, that is not setting them up for reality. Kids will feel more secure and happy if Mom and Dad are connected.

4. Create a culture of respect in your home. Last time I checked, sarcasm and disrespect were not on the list of aphrodisiacs recommended by sex experts. It should be you and him against the world, not you and him against each other. Fight for that! Don't let resentment and frustration and misunderstanding drive a wedge between you and the one you're meant to do life with.

5. Nostalgia can stir the embers of passion. One thing that always helped Jon and I during the "rocky" years of disconnection was to sit down and talk about what made us fall in love in the beginning. It's important to talk about those things often. It's important to remember what brought you together.

6. Learn each other's love languages. This is a great website and a great book to read: http://www.5lovelanguages.com/

7. Don't take your spouse for granted. There are broken people out there roaming to and fro, waiting to steal your spouse from you and prey on your marriage. You need a plan to make each other feel safe. Talk about your concerns, set boundaries with people who have the wrong intentions. The number one problem I see in this area is a "nice" husband who thinks he is just trying to help another woman, and then it comes back to bite him in the you-know-what. Husbands listen to your wives warnings. We have a 6th sense about women who are predators. The other problem I see running rampant is when you work too closely with someone of the opposite sex. I've said this before in previous blogs, under no circumstances do I think it's wisdom to spend that much alone time with a member of the opposite sex that is not your spouse. Men - hire male assistants. Women - hire female assistants. Why risk your marriage for something that is so simple to avoid?

8. Find things to do together. Have date nights. What you protect and invest in will flourish.

9. Bring in people who have a good connection, and ask them some dang questions for Pete's sake! A little humility will go a long way when it comes to learning about relationship. I know men who will spend hours studying for fantasy football, or hunting, or fishing, or some other hobby. But how many will pick up a book on relationships? How many will study their wife with the same intent? You find a man who will do that, you find a very happy marriage. Ladies, bring some intrigue to the table. Be an interesting subject to study.

10. And lastly, do something. Move one foot in front of the other, baby steps! There is always something you can do to cultivate an atmosphere of love and trust. Some have a lot more work to do than others but it is so worth it.

Monday, May 9, 2011

What is Your Unique Factor?

Before we can identify your Unique Factor*, we first have to define it.

A Unique Factor is, simply put, the thing that you do better than anyone else around you, and therefore makes you unique. Your Unique Factor (from here on out referred to as UF) should energize you and those around you. You will have lots of opportunities to practice your UF because people like to make room for you and give you a platform for your UF. Over time, you have the authority to lead in your UF and teach others in your UF.

Your UF is so close to you and familiar to you that you may not be able to appreciate it or even identify it by yourself. A great way to find your UF is to ask three of your closest friends or relatives to write three sentences about what makes you unique. What do you bring to the table that no one else does, or what do you do better than anyone around you? Once you have received all 9 sentences, you should see a common theme emerge. If you don't, it's ok, I still have other ways to help you find it!

For some a UF emerges by the time they are 4 years old. Justin Bieber would be a great example of this. I saw his movie "Never Say Never" and it was clear by his home videos that at a very young age, that boy knew he was born to make music, and to sing his heart out. If you read the book Outliers (by Malcolm Gladwell), you'll read story after story of people who ended up being highly successful in life, literally investing 10,000 or more hours into perfecting their UF. And many of them started investing those hours at a very young age.

However there are some of us that take a little longer to identify our UF. I'm in my mid-thirties now and I feel like I'm really just beginning to understand and define what I was born to do, and what makes me unique. I think some people know at a younger age because they have to start pursuing it sooner, and some people can develop it over time, even into their 50's and 60's and beyond! And let me add here that while your UF remains uniform through out your life, the way you manifest it can change from decade to decade. For example, if your UF is that you are a builder, at the earliest stage it may look like a toddler who's obsessed with legos. Then it may develop in your 20's as a career of building houses. Later, in your 30's and 40's it may change into you building systems that will transform your city. So at the core of who you are, you were born to build. But how and what you build may change through-out your lifetime.

There are so many personality tests out there to help us identify our UF. In many of them they even match you up with careers and hobbies, mates and parenting styles. Here are some of my favorites: (all of them are free and safe to sign up for)

Also, the book "Strength Finders" is very helpful in determining your UF.
Here are some questions I've learned to ask people along the way that helped point them to their UF;

1. What are the desires of your heart?
2. What things inspire you and move you to tears?
3. Who are your heroes?
4. What are your dreams?
5. Where do you have favor?

Now, if you are still having a hard time identifying your UF, I'd like to give you a possible reason why. A great number of people are born to play more of a supportive role in life. They don't have a strong passion or talent because they were born to help someone else's dreams come true. If this is you, in no way should you feel inferior or less than. Your role is just as crucial as the one who has the dream or the strong UF. For example, who would Oprah be without all those people serving her vision? Who would Steve Jobs be without the people serving his vision? Those who were born to support and serve are crucial to the process. Visionaries would never see their dreams materialized if it weren't for this amazing group of people.

As I begin to wrap things up, I want to talk about people who have spent time pursuing the wrong dreams, or the wrong UF. It can happen to anyone, and the reasons are numerous. It can be as simple as "I studied elementary education but now I feel called to high school students." Or, it can be as devastating as some of the catastrophes we see on the American Idol auditions. Some of those people are not only on the wrong track, they are terrible at what they are attempting to do better than anyone else. However people get off track, I feel the best way to protect yourself and stay true to your real purpose in life, is to surround yourself with people who will tell you the truth, to maintain a teachable heart, and to know thyself. Because you will not be great if you are pursuing the wrong dream or the wrong UF, but you will always be great if you can line up with your God-given destiny, the thing that you were created to do on this earth.
Lastly, I want to leave you with some examples of UF's other people have identified in their own life:
  • the ability to live extremely frugally and stretch a penny for all it's worth
  • the ability to preserve memories thru scrapbooking, video and photos and/or journaling
  • the ability to see patterns in mathematics that no one else sees
  • the ability to read people and have the answers they need for life's problems
  • the ability to know things that no one else can sense (sometimes people call this a 6th sense)
  • the ability to cheer people up no matter what they are facing
  • the ability to reach youth and communicate with them in a way that transforms them
  • the ability to write and inspire people with your written words
  • the ability to wait things out longer than anyone else, (endurance) therefore enabling you to get what everyone else gave up on
  • the ability to make people feel welcome in your home (hospitality)
And the list goes on, I hope these gave you an idea of what a UF can look like!

*The concept of the Unique Factor originated from a favorite teacher of mine, Lance Wallnau. Over time I have taught it and developed my own ideas to go along with his.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Beauty Blog #1 - I Promise To....

I just finished watching “America The Beautiful”, a documentary about America’s obsession with outer beauty. There wasn’t much that surprised me. I already knew things were bad. But it did inspire me to write.

I’ve written before about the myth of beauty, and the dysfunction of unrealistic beauty (photoshop-ing, airbrushing etc.). I think this time I really just want to talk about how we can change it within our own lives. I always considered myself to have a healthy self-esteem. But when I read a book recently called “God Loves Ugly, & love makes beautiful”* written by my friend Christa Black, I realized that I still have a lot of negative self-talk and negative energy surrounding the topic of my body. And now after having four children, it’s on my mind even more when I see my stretch marks and the scars of going through those pregnancies. So if I, who considered myself to pretty much like my body just fine, realized how much I still struggle….it got me thinking about those out there who have extremely low self-esteem, or worse, self-hatred.

Don’t get me wrong ladies. I know we all want to be beautiful. We like our fake nails, our colored hair, our MAC makeup, or a nice tan every now and then. Some of us have a few pounds we want to lose or 100 pounds we want to lose. Some of us have some cosmetic surgery we hope to get or some work with the orthodontist or the dermatologist. I understand that we all enjoy enhancing ourselves. And I’m not against any of those desires if they stem from a healthy place of “I love myself.”

What frustrates me so much about our culture is that the definition of beauty is so narrow and so unrealistic that it causes many women to have self-destructive behaviors. Listen to this short excerpt summarized by me from the documentary mentioned earlier: Prior to 1995 the country of Figi had not been exposed to television. Their body image was opposite of ours here in America. To have a larger body, and to have some significant size was a symbol of prosperity. It meant that your tribe was able to feed you well. Before exposing them to television, the young women of Figi were interviewed to find out how many of them had used vomiting as a form of controlling their weight, and none of them had admitted to such behavior. In 1998 after 3 years of exposure to television, that number rose from 0 to 11%. 11% is comparable to any high school here in America….shocking.

Also in the documentary, 3 minutes of looking at a fashion magazine makes 70% of women of all ages feel depressed, guilty and shameful. I can attest to that! Thankfully I have never purchased subscriptions to these magazines and therefore paid them money to make me feel depressed!

I think we’ve been fed lies for such a long time that we don’t know the truth anymore. One answer I propose for this problem is to promise something every week. The challenge is to choose something that bothers you, and vow to change your mind until your negative emotions change to positive emotions. So, here is my promise this week; “I promise from here on out, whenever I look at my stretch marks, to think fondly of each one of my children and a special memory I have of their birth.” (and nothing else, no negative thoughts!!!!) I’m going to practice thinking those thoughts until it becomes as natural as breathing. I hope you join me!! I would love to hear your promise in the comment section of this blog!

*I highly recommend this heartfelt book by my friend. Check out the reviews on amazon.com and order it, you won’t be disappointed!



Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Handling Stress in a Healthy Way

I recently received some ideas for new blog topics. One of them stood out to me as an important thing to address, dealing with stress. I think it's important to talk about stress because it is something that each and every person struggles with, no matter who they are, how old they are, male or female, rich or poor, we all deal with stress. Some of us deal with it better than others!

For me personally I have found that there are a few things to remember in order to be able to deal with stress well. The first thing I had to learn was how to live life from a powerful perspective, vs. a victim mindset. Just because you have a string of bad things happen to you, or even a series of horrible things that happen to you, it doesn't mean you are a victim for life. You can still be powerful in the midst of really difficult circumstances. Pain and hardships are not the end of the world. Learning how to stand and face my problems helped me feel powerful in life. Whenever I run away or avoid or try to cover up pain, I find myself acting like a victim. But when I stand my ground and ask for help, and deal with things head-on, I feel powerful, even when things don't go my way. Practice living life powerfully.

What makes you feel powerful?

Next, I learned to "know thyself." It is so helpful for me to have studied personalities for so long, that I not only understand what makes me tick, what motivates me and what scares me, but I also know those things about the people around me. Because I know myself really well, I know my limits. I know what I need, I know what will bring me joy. I've learned to listen to the signals my body sends me. When you develop habits of taking care of yourself, you are more prepared to handle stress well. I know that mundane routine wears me down. I know that I have a high need for change. I know that trying to keep my house really clean is near impossible with 4 boys. I know that I am no good to anyone before 9am. I know I love to cook but I hate to do dishes. I know that every once in a while I need a piece of bacon to feel satisfied. I also know that if I ate bacon every day I would be 200 pounds. I know that writing is an outlet for me, and I know that when I'm cooped up in the house too long with all my kids, I'm not the best mom I can be.

What do you know about yourself?

And lastly, it's important to know that no matter how hard you work on things, no matter how much you develop yourself, and no matter how many things you think you know there will be times of crisis where we are literally living in survival mode, just trying to keep our heads above water. In times like those I think it's so important to just give ourselves a break. Grace is what I cry out for in times like that. I give myself permission to temporarily melt down. I cry, I complain, and I say life is not fair. And at 34 years old, I still have weeks or even months when I live in survival mode. What do I anchor into when I'm in survival mode? I tell myself three things. The only thing that matters to me is that I come out of this season with my connection with God, my connection with my family, and my connection with my close friends in tact. Nothing else matters to me, not my weight, not my finances, not my goals, not my house, not a career, none of it is as important as my relationships. I lean heavily on others in seasons of survival, and I don't hold myself to high standards of performance. Survival seasons are not seasons to discipline yourself or accomplish new feats, or set new goals. It's not the time to evaluate yourself or grade yourself. It's simply a time to HANG ON, and GET THROUGH. Kind of like the song "if you're going through hell, keep on moving!"

Some people live in survival mode for years, and some people live there indefinitely. Take a look at your life. If you feel like you've been in survival mode for too long and need help breaking out - reach out and start pursuing something better for yourself. Our bodies were not designed to be able to handle the chemicals that get released when we are stressed long term. Not only will you feel worn down emotionally and mentally in extended or indefinite seasons of survival mode, but your body will start manifesting physical symptoms as well.

And lastly I'd say peace is my most effective weapon in handling stress well. When I focus on all that is going right instead of the things going wrong I feel peace. When I think about how much my husband loves me, I feel peace. When I count my blessings, I feel peace. When I slow down I feel peace. When I take a step back and look at things big picture, I feel peace. When I talk to my best friend I feel peace. When I cuddle with my kids I feel peace. And let's all just be real here, when I have a glass of wine, I feel LOTS of peace! All in moderation people, moderation!!!!! When I encourage people and counsel people I feel peace. When I make the world a better place, I feel peace.

What brings you peace?

Monday, March 14, 2011

Sex and Covenant

For generations people have been preached at about sexual sin and sexual behavior. But I think a new perspective and a new approach needs to be brought to the issue of sex and covenant. I want to take you back to the beginning, the original design, the template of what God had in mind when He started. We were all created for intimate relationship, with each other and with Him. It's what we yearn for and we are not complete without it.

If you read the bible as a novel and really take it in "big picture", you'd see that it is a love story between God and mankind. At it's most basic form it is a love letter to teach, inform, romance and protect us. But so many view it as a rule book, a book of judgement, a book of criticism, and a collection of stern warnings. I often think if I had to be separated from my kids, what kind of letters would I write to them? My letters to them would look a lot like God's letter (the bible) to us. And I know the tone they would hear when reading would be a tone of love, compassion, protection and hope. I have had to re-train myself to read God's word with that tone, vs. the tone I was taught to hear in the church growing up.

When I was young I had a distorted understanding of sex. I knew for certain I was not supposed to have sex outside of marriage but without the true understanding of why, that rule was easily broken. If your only inspiration for not doing something is because someone told you it's bad, it is terribly difficult to uphold that rule.

So, back to the beginning of the story...In the beginning God created Adam, and they walked together and had relationship. In that initial time they spent together, God could see that Adam needed a mate. He needed someone that was created like he was to share his life with, so God created woman. God took a rib from Adam's side and created Adam's counterpart, Eve. Then God gave Adam and Eve sex as a way to bring them back together as one. Sex was designed for two people to connect at an intense level, and it was given as a way to create life, and it was given as a way to manifest the love they had for each other until one of them or both of them were no more.

At the core of who we are as women we need to feel safe, protected, and committed-to, to really flourish in a sexual relationship. When we participate in casual sex or sex outside of covenant, we are betraying ourselves. In our quest to get love, we give sex, and that leaves us ravished and devastated. The feeling is strong in the beginning, it is a sick feeling that leaves you empty and vulnerable, unprotected and stripped bare. But if you try hard enough, you can ignore those feelings, or suppress them temporarily and continue betraying your heart. But...there are consequences. There are addictions that will show up, or therapy sessions, or silent cries in the night when you betray the original design. "No man can tell you who you are as a woman. No man is the verdict on your soul. (Dear sister, how many of you have lost yourself in this search?)" - quote from the book "Captivating, Unveiling the Mystery of a Woman's Soul" by John & Stasi Eldredge.

At the deepest core of who a man is he is wired to bring strength, protection and love to a woman. When he engages in sex outside of covenant and takes from a woman something that he did not pay for in commitment, he becomes extremely challenged in the ability to give all that he was born to give. He takes on either subconsciously or consciously the role of a predator, taking instead of giving. In doing this he betrays his heart and his design. As a result, men will either feel a deep remorse, shame and guilt, or, they will feel a deep resentment towards the woman who could not ultimately validate him. He does not feel like the hero, he feels like a failure. He will either run away and continue his quest with the next woman, or he will stay and make an attempt to "love" the woman he is with. But it is not a natural intimacy, it is all manufactured. It is "love" that comes forth from the will of the mind vs. love that is an unstoppable flow from the heart.

There is no question that God designed a man to be inspired by a woman's beauty. He created arousal, he created femininity, and masculinity. He created them to be primally drawn to each other. A woman can awaken a man's sexuality in a way that no other experience on earth comes close to. This is the stuff that wars are fought over. These are the feelings we all long to have. A woman wants nothing more than to melt into the strong arms of her lover. But our primary and core validation has to come from God first, until it does we can never be satisfied by sex or by the opposite sex. The second qualification of being in unity with the original design, is to understand and believe that covenant (or commitment) is vital to the health of a sexual relationship.

Sex inside of and protected by healthy, faithful covenant is one of the most beautiful things a man and woman can experience. Under the umbrella of covenant a woman feels sheltered, safe, completely open and known. In her heart she feels respected and cherished. There is no competition, no fear, no emotion of being taken from. It feels right, in order, in harmony with the original design. She knows she is beautiful, she knows she is worth fighting for. Under that same umbrella a man feels strong, inspired, romantic and motivated. He is powerful in what he can bring to the relationship. His heart is not tainted with thoughts of compromise and he is at harmony as well with the original design. He knows he has what it takes to be a man and he knows he is the hero in his story.

To abstain from sex outside of marriage because you are afraid of breaking the rules, or you're afraid of shame or condemnation, (or std's, or unplanned pregnancy) is very uninspiring and it is ineffective. But to protect that gift until you've found loving covenant for life is an electrifying challenge. To understand the original design for sex and to really embrace the very highest plan that God has for you is hard work, but the reward is unbelievable. For those who have engaged in promiscuous sex in the past, there is hope to have a different relationship with sex and covenant. There is hope to discard your old ways of thinking and betrayals of the heart, and there is hope to embrace a new way of life. I speak to you from the other side of a story that started out very painful for me. Despite many mistakes my husband and I made in the beginning of our lives, we are now experiencing God's original design for sex and covenant. What we are walking in now inspired me to write this blog today.

I challenge you to see that all those scriptures about sexual sin and sexual behavior in the bible are not there to take away from you, or to limit your pleasures in this lifetime. They are there to show you that sex within covenant is such an amazing experience that there is an intense war over it. The enemy of your heart would come to kill, steal, and destroy any joy that would come from sex. Our enemy has done everything in his power to pervert it, compromise it, disfigure it, and sabotage it. So wouldn't it make sense that the lover of your soul would leave you tons of advice, guidance and direction to protect it and keep it safe? Sometimes there is so much freedom released to us when we see things in a new light. I hope this blog has done that for some of you today. I hope it has brought some understanding, some freedom, and some peace to your soul on an issue that for some, can really be very sensitive and full of questions and confusion.

Resources for more on this topic:

Wild At Heart - Discovering the Secrets of a Man's Soul by John Eldredge
Captiviating - Unveiling the Mysteries of a Woman's Soul by John & Staci Edlredge
Love & War - Finding the Marriage You've Dreamed of by John & Staci Eldredge
Moral Revolution movement: http://moralrevolution.com/
Loving On Purpose Ministries: http://lovingonpurpose.com/

Sunday, January 23, 2011

The Three Stages of Love

Jon and I will be married for 11 years this year, that is pretty amazing. And I have noticed throughout the years that our love has evolved and grown. Looking back I can see there were different stages along the way.

First stage - Ignorance is bliss!

I love everything about you, because I don't know you! There are things that draw me to you, there are things I see that I like, but really you are a stranger to me. It's the mystery or the idea of who you are that I have fallen in love with. I have only begun to scratch the surface of who you are and what makes you tick.

Second Stage - What did I get myself into?

Most people are married by this stage, but some hit this stage outside of marriage if they remain dating or engaged for a number of years. This is when things begin to unravel and the mysteries begin to get solved.

Now, the thing that attracted me to you is driving me crazy! Our differences are painfully obvious, and most of the time I'm convinced you switched personalities on me! The things I thought were cute are now annoying. The things I thought were inspiring now scare the crap out of me, and most of the time I wonder how it's possible that we were so madly in love at one point, wondering if we can ever get it back. This is NORMAL. A lot of couples go through this stage. This is all a part of getting to know your spouse. It is so very normal to be attracted to a man because he feels safe, and loyal, only to find out on the other side that the constraint to that strength is passivity and disconnection. It's normal to be attracted to a woman's flare and passion for life, only to find out on the other side that the constraint to that strength is impossible standards and expectations. Relationships put pressure on us all. And when the pressure is on, we get to see what we're made of. When we were single these things did not necessarily manifest in our life, because living with someone everyday in the covenant of marriage shows you what's deep down in there. And we all have weaknesses deep down in there. We all have things that need to be developed, shaped, chiseled and transformed. It's a process to work through and unfortunately, a lot of couples lose hope in this stage and call it quits. They throw in the towel because they don't know what they are going through is normal, and they don't know about the third stage of love!

The second stage of love is the stage that requires endurance, commitment, understanding each other instead of demanding agreement, and it requires hope. This is where your vows kick in and you decide to dig deep, suck it up, and move forward even though it's not really fun or romantic. This is where you pull in help - counselors, pastors, friends, parents. People who have gone before you and been successful. People who have reached the third stage of love and know what it's like to conquer the second stage. This is the stage where you don't give up.

Third Stage - I've never known a love like this before, so complete and so rewarding. True Love.

This stage is what makes love worth fighting for. This is the stage where I love you because I know everything about you. I have seen the good the bad and the ugly and it makes me want to move towards you. We worked hard, we made it through the second stage, and now we know why, and it is SO worth it. Nobody knows me like you do. I don't have to hide who I am, and neither do you. I accept you and you accept me. We don't demand perfection from each other, but we do inspire each other to be better. I know you are for me, and I am for you. I have one person to live this life with, that knows me and fights for me, and believes the best in me....always. This stage is the stuff movies are made of. This is what some would call finding your soul mate. This is intimacy at it's finest. And this third stage does exist. I bet there are more people in the third stage of love than you would have first imagined. I made it, we made it to the third stage. And I want to spend my life encouraging other couples that they can make it too! Dream big for your marriage. If you're stuck in the second stage, let hope rise up. There is true love waiting for you on the other side, if you can just hang in there and work for it!

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Raising Up Protectors

I grew up in a broken home and experienced many hardships as a young woman. During my sophomore year of college I became pregnant with my oldest son, Nick. The guy I was casually dating at the time tried his best to convince me to have an abortion. Although I was wounded and disconnected in my relationship with God at the time, I knew killing my baby was not the answer. God met me in my decision to choose life. He sent me an amazing husband and blessed me with three more sons. Our boys are now 13, 9, 7, and 1 years old.

One thing Jon (my husband) and I have worked very hard at in raising our boys is making sure they understand it is their job to protect women and children. God created man as the stronger one, but not so he could dominate, prey upon, or “take” from his environment. God gave man strength so he could cover, protect, and give to those around him.

In our society today, many men have believed the lie that they need to look around them and receive identity and strength from things like girlfriends, "trophy wives", positions in sports, careers, and possessions. As a result, they become takers, sometimes even predators, looking to “get” what they need from their environment. What we are teaching our boys is they need to receive their identity and strength from Father God. When they spend time in the Father’s presence, they walk away full of love and strength. Then, they turn around and pour out protection and security to those around them who are vulnerable and in need. They are anchored into an unending love source, and they know who they are. They are learning to be givers and protectors, not takers or predators.

This cycle creates a culture of men who honor and protect the women in their lives, and a culture of men who understand what it means to father their children.

Young men, I challenge you to let Heaven invade your life and receive the revelation of going to God empty, in order to pour out love and protection into this world. Bringing strength to those around you will change an entire generation! The world is waiting for your strength.